The door chimed. Ensign Kurios looked up, drawing a breath slowly through his nose before placing his PADD on the desk. He did not even bother to look at the door. “Enter.”
The door opened to reveal the usually stiff form of his Romulan second in command. The other ensign looked between her commanding officer and the PADD before him. “I am sorry sir, was I interrupting something?”
“I was just reviewing a particular riveting account. It’s really kind of an old earth thing. Tale as old as time. She’s an engineer working in the bowels of an Constitution Class, he’s a strapping, recently promoted Tactical officer with a dark past. She spends all this time working the innards of a ship, but now can she put aside her job to learn to plumb the innards of the human heart?” The captain looked wistfully off into the middle distance before seeming to snap back to the moment. “I could lend you the PADD later, if you like.” He gave her a rare smile, his tone flat.
The ship’s executive officer looked between the PADD and her captain. “You are reading a romance novel?”
“Oh well, you know, there are just so many things to focus on at one point.” The mocking tone built with each word before returning to a near deadpan. “I find little bits of joy where I can.”
“Yes.” Etan struggled to restrain her reaction, but an impulsive glance from the PADD she was holding and her captain served to betray her. There was some mirth evident in the Trill’s eyes. Shaking her head very slightly, the executive officer handed over the PADD as though she had noticed nothing. “I have some reports from engineering in regards to a slow leak from the warp core. Ensign Puhr has been unable to resolve it and is requesting an extra shift from the other engineers.
“Granted.” Kurios looked at the PADD’s surface, scrolling down as he examined the contents. “Let the ensign know that I expect the issue to be resolved by 0600 ship time tomorrow. What else do we have?”
“I have been reviewing the intelligence provided by Task Force 93 command. There are several Romulan colonies that are dotted around our intended path of travel. I have them noted with a small dossier on each for you to review at your leisure, of course. The colonies designated Rho Omega, a settlement in the Orian Beta Phi system, and a stop near the Rho Gamma Psi system are among the earliest on our itinerary. Issues have ranged from simple supply drops and trade to a few issues more suited to one of your particular expertise, sir.”
“People need a kind soul like myself to show them the bright side of life?” The mirth was back for a moment.
“Some of these people need a doctor.” Etan tilted her head to the side, looking the Trill over. “Isn’t that why your people go into medical practice? Isn’t your purpose to heal the body?”
Kurios waved a hand in the air, deflecting the question. “So, have you been in contact with some of the locals, ensign?”
“A few passing ships have hailed us, but little has been of particular note so far. Task Force Intelligence has informed us that there has been some communications about a retrovirus outbreak in the area. It seems particularly virulent among Romulan populations,” Etan paused, “but even some of the Orion ships have been giving Romulan colonies a wider berth than normal.”
“Are you concerned about your own susceptibility?” The Trill’s eyes narrowed as he watched his second in command.
“Sir?” Etan could hear the confusion in her own voice. She paused for several moments. “Even with a first generation EMH on board, we are better equipped than some of these colonies and places in their current state, sir.”
“Sometimes things aren’t as simple as they seem.” Kurios leaned back in his chair. “Even old earth history is filled with some accounts of terrible damage being done by viral infections. Sometimes even our most trusted safeguards were not sufficient to prevent a seasonal permutation from ravaging a population. It is an eternal struggle.”
The Romulan officer thought she saw a wistful twinkle in the Trill’s eyes. That couldn’t be right. “What do you mean by that exactly, sir?”
“The medical field is always plagued with problems, always being challenged. There is always something to resolve, something to puzzle out. As often as it seems we demolished disease on Earth, the Federation still faces medical emergencies with a nearly frightening regularity.” That odd twinkle was back again. “There is always something to puzzle out.”
“Yes, sir.” Etan let the silence stretch out for several moments. “If you can approve our plotted course, and review the departmental reports, I have one other issue to bring to your attention.” Etan continued, even as Kurios thumbed through several reports. It had taken a few days, but she had learned there was a certain irreverence for protocol demonstrated by the doctor as regularly as some sentients ate. It was of little wonder he had so long remained an Ensign.
“While I was in contact with one of the ships leaving the Kappa Rho colony nearby. They seemed very interested when they realized that I was a Romulan, sir.” There was a pause in her commanding officer’s movements. He was mildly interested now. “They implied they were local, even though most local ships are captained by Romulans. These Orion were leaving the planet, claiming to be a trader. They seemed very interested in knowing what we were bringing to the surface. They seemed to imply we should leave more on the surface. The big Orion on the other end of the transmission even implied that the system would become more dangerous if we didn’t leave something extra for the people of Kappa Rho.”
“You are sure he wasn’t local?” The captain was no longer scrolling, even if he was looking at the PADD.
“I am pretty confident, sir.” The Romulan raised an eyebrow. “In fact, it was almost implied that we would be taking up some side in a conflict that resides outside of our jurisdiction. Should we report this incident to Captain Maxwell and Fourth Fleet Command? I don’t believe that Starfleet would want us to get tied up in a local conflict.”
Cimozjen Kurios put the PADD down and stepped from behind his desk over to the viewing window. He stared out into the stars. This continued for several minutes, to the point that the Romulan ensign began to wonder if her captain had forgotten to dismiss her. Finally, he turned around and locked eyes with Etan. “Do what you feel you need to with regard to Maxwell. You can draft a report and send it off. I will sign off on that report. I will also sign the departmental reports so I can get back to my story. If the situation with the locals or the non-Starfleet ships changes, report to me. If there is nothing else you are dismissed, Ensign.”
As Etan turned around and exited the small ready room that her captain had fashioned for himself, she began to ponder on what had just happened. She was starting to get little glances into her captain, but each encounter seemed almost manufactured to confuse or frustrate her. It was a wonder that this Trill had ever left Earth, let alone get assigned to command anything even as small as a Raven-class. For the moment, however, she had the authorization that she needed. She still had a lot of work to do negotiating with the colonists of the Rho Kappa colony without having to worry about making her captain like her.