Captain’s Log, Stardate 77928.1,
After wandering the Gradin Belt for over a month, the USS Sarek has missed the first opening of the Barzan wormhole back to the Alpha Quadrant. Our renewed negotiations with the Holy College of Abbots were still too fragile at the appointed time. That means it will be nearly another month before we can catch the next opening of the wormhole.
Our negotiations have proven fruitful. The Kadi remains we discovered on Burleigh Minor have been laid to rest on the Kadi Home Colony. To enrichen our blemished relationship with the Holy Goddess Mother’s Great Kadi State, Commander Elbon has agreed to the Supreme Abbott’s request that we investigate one of their colony worlds that has gone silent ten days ago. The Kadi called this planet Withheld and it’s located a couple of lightyears from the outer reaches of chaotic space. Neither the government of Withheld nor any of its citizens are responding to subspace hails.
Although Sutherland-class starships have been equipped with beautifully sensitive long-range sensor capabilities, they weren’t truly designed for venturing headlong into the unknown. Despite the dangers, none of us can ignore the Kadi’s request. I had a hand in the disrespect done to their history. I owe them this much.
I’ve consulted with Commander Elbon and he has decided to join the saucer and stardrive sections to prepare the Sarek for any eventuality we may find at Withheld. Commander Rayco has transferred all of our blood dilithium onto the runabouts Kalev and Darial, which will follow the Sarek at a distance of twenty-thousand kilometres to limit the potential impact on our telepaths. At least the runabouts are nimble. If we encounter danger, they can run and hide more effectively than the saucer section alone.
The day the Sarek‘s saucer and stardrive sections rejoined:
Gripping the armrests on her chair, Captain Taes braced herself for the deck to shake as if the Sarek was about to be struck by a torpedo or a shockwave. This was the first time she had experienced her Sutherland-class starship undergoing a reconnection of the saucer and stardrive sections. As the stardrive made its final approach, Taes monitored the sensor readings as the computer took automatic control of fitting the hulls together smoothly and reconnecting the docking latches. It was only the data on her LCARS panel that told Taes that joining was complete. She felt no shaking, no vibrations through the deck.
Ultimately, it had mostly been uncomfortable for Taes because she was sitting in the executive officer’s chair on the bridge, as an observer. To her left, Lieutenant Commander Kellin Rayco sat in the captain’s chair, as the saucer section’s commanding officer. To Kellin’s left, Science Officer Flavia had taken up the mission specialist’s chair, instead of her more customary place at the science hub.
Scant minutes later, Commander Elbon Jakkelb bounded out of the dedicated turbolift from the secondary bridge. In one hand, he was carrying what looked like a transparent cylinder filled with rocks.
As soon as Elbon stepped onto the bridge, Taes noticed Kellin shift his weight in the chair beside her. He suddenly looked as uncomfortable as she felt. She could sense he was about to stand up, but then Elbon winked at him and waved his hand through the air. It looked like a nonverbal message for Kellin to stay comfortable in the centre chair.
“Did you bring me a souvenir, commander?” Taes asked. She affected a heckling tone to distract from any awkwardness Kellin was feeling.
Elbon’s brow furrowed at Taes’ question. The gold chains linking his earrings swung when he bobbed his head from side to side in a gesture intended to communicate, ‘it depends.’
“A gift from the Kadi,” Elbon said. “I haven’t mastered the rules just yet. I thought I might need it for my retirement cabin on Bajor. No one lives within a dozen acres. An obscure game with too many rules might make for good company.”
As he strode to the foot of the command platform, Elbon proffered the cylinder to Taes.
“We can share it for now,” Elbon proposed. “I thought it would look fetching with the rest of your collection in the observation lounge.”
As Taes rose to her feet, she caught a movement from Flavia in her peripheral vision. Flavia was looking right through Taes to raise an arched eyebrow at Kellin. Taes thought she saw Kellin turn his head to receive that look when she descended the stairs of the command platform.
“You’re not planning for retirement already, are you?” Taes tauntingly asked. “Kellin did remarkably well in your stead, but I’m not sure his first taste as Number One was entirely appealing.”
It surprised Taes that Kellin didn’t join in with a self-deprecating joke about the challenges he faced on the bridge the past weeks. If she wasn’t mistaken, Kellin was still staring at Flavia.
Elbon’s eyes also followed Taes’ gaze in Kellin’s direction. When Kellin still said nothing, Elbon replied.
“You’re stuck with me a while longer, captain,” Elbon said. “I still have a taste for Starfleet’s fully automated luxury. My cabin has no electro-plasma system. Wood-fired everything. Hopefully, you’ll retire me off while I still have the strength to keep chopping wood.”
Behind her, Taes vaguely heard Flavia say, “Are you really so afraid of being alone?”
By the time Cellar Door fluttered by Taes and took the Kadi game away to the observation lounge, Flavia had excused herself to the science-one console, making space for Commander Elbon on the command platform.
Kellin had moved over into the executive officer’s chair and Taes took up the mission specialist chair that Flavia had vacated. As she sat down, she leaned over to question Kellin softly.
“What just happened?” Taes whispered.
Kellin blinked, staring into the middle distance.
“Those questions I had about Flavia,” Kellin said distantly. “Those things you said–“
“About trusting Romulans to be Romulans?” Taes asked.
“…Yeah,” Kellin breathed out. “I think I can trust Flavia.”
The day the Sarek‘s saucer and stardrive sections had separated:
Kellin could smell the fragrance on Elbon’s neck as he came closer. It was still the same scent Elbon had been wearing the day Kellin met him, all those years ago, and it still set Kellin’s nervous system aflame. Some distant part of his brain wondered if he should feel embarrassed that the executive officer was leaning his warm body into the crook between Kellin’s neck and shoulder — considering it was all happening on the bridge. Elbon planted a kiss on Kellin’s cheek and Kellin ignored those thoughts at the back of his mind. He enjoyed Elbon’s scent and he grabbed Elbon’s wrist to steady himself.
When Elbon put a hand on the side of Kellin’s face, Kellin completely forgot where he was. Elbon’s hand dragged through Kellin’s beard on its way to grab Kellin’s earlobe in that funny Bajoran religious gesture Elbon would do sometimes. Kellin was left standing in his memories of the previous times Elbon had fingered his earlobe, usually in a state of undress. It wasn’t until Kellin noticed Flavia was standing beside him that he remembered where he was. And Kellin only noticed Flavia when she began to shout.
“Goodbye! Fly safely in your oddly shaped half-ship!” Flavia proclaimed to Elbon.
Elbon rolled his eyes at Flavia, as he backed into an open turbolift car.
“Uh, thanks,” Elbon said. He offered Flavia a formal Starfleet salute to bid her farewell and then he offered Kellin a fond look before he ordered the turbolift to take him to the “Secondary bridge.”
Kellin started to pivot on his heel when he felt a rustle at his sleeve. Kellin turned his head in Flavia’s direction and he watched her tug at the sleeve of his uniform jacket.
“I need to tell you something,” Flavia said. She tugged at his sleeve again.
Given Flavia’s short physical stature and the incessant tugging on his sleeve, Kellin crouched down obediently. Flavia cupped a hand over Kellin’s ear as Elbon’s turbolift doors closed.
“Have you ever noticed,” Flavia whispered, “whenever Elbon talks about his future, it never sounds like you’re in it?”