Harris closed the communication channel from Starfleet Command. They’d been ordered back into their operating theater to return to their Task Force 47 duties. The time in Montana had helped him, and those had come with him. The rest of the crew had taken their shore leave in various ways and places. Ambrose sighed as he went to work on the PADD, where the information on their next mission had been sent. He was reconciling the death of his cousin and the crew they had lost while in the Delta Quadrant. The weight was still there and still heavy. He’d met with his chief counselor twice a week since they’d returned to the Alpha Quadrant. He was making progress. That was his consolation. There was forward momentum.
He shifted his focus to the mission at hand. There had been an unusual development in the Thomar Expanse. The former Palasa Transport Company, now Palasa Syndicate, had sent a message to Starfleet Command at Deep Space 47. They needed help. Ambrose had asked his briefing officer to repeat it three times until he finally believed it. Something was out in the expanse that the Palasa group was suddenly worried enough about that they had reached out to Starfleet.
The door to the ready room chimed, and he called out, “Enter.” Okada Katsumi stepped through the door and took a seat across from her commanding officer. She handed him a PADD of her own. He accepted it and read through the official document. “I know we’ve talked about this a lot…but I need to ask again…you’re sure about this?”
Okada smiled thinly. She’d had time to think about their many conversations since returning home. It wasn’t an easy decision. But it was necessary. “I can’t serve you and engineering well at the same time. The Mackenzie is a big boat captain…, and she needs a XO that is devoted to the job.”
Ambrose tapped at the console, accepting her resignation as executive officer, “I know it wasn’t easy, Okada.” Something had changed in his time since returning to the Alpha Quadrant. He’d spent more time getting to know his command team. He’d stopped referring to them by rank in conversations outside of the bridge.
“I’m still commander, sir. You can’t take that away from me.”
An impish smile crossed her lips, and he chuckled, “I wouldn’t dare to try Chief. Thanks for all you’ve done for her and us.” He stood and extended his hand, which she shook before heading back to the bridge. Harris sat back in his chair. He had reviewed several applications for the executive officer position. He had contemplated giving it to another one of his department heads but had come to dismiss the idea. The position needed someone who was dedicated full-time to assisting with the command of the starship and working together with the captain to ensure everything was working from stem to stern. Each member of his command team was busy with their duties. He glanced at his chrono. He had an interview in 30 minutes on the station.
The tall Vulcan woman sat delicately on the bench outside Starfleet Command’s personnel office on Deep Space 47. T’saath was 40 years old in Earth years, but she was just beginning her Vulcan life. Her commanding officer on the USS Post Alley had nearly ordered her to apply for a new position. She had become complacent, he had said. She needed to up her challenge. The Post Alley was a small ship with a small crew. She needed to challenge herself, he had told her. The logic of it rang somewhat true to her, but it was hard at times to understand the emotional predilections of humanity. There was more ‘gut’ feeling from some of them than actual critical thinking and logical examination of the issue at hand. It didn’t offend her as it did some of her people. It was more of a fascination and a curiosity – a longstanding point of contention between the Humans and the Vulcans. There were plenty of studies regarding the long-standing relationship between the two alien species. Despite the volumes of information available, humans continued to surprise her. Perhaps it was a case of the logical mind expecting logic given the years of relations between the two worlds…and finding that humanity continued in its headstrong stubbornness of being, well, themselves.
“Commander T’saath? He’s ready for you.”
She stood and walked through the doors into the corridor to her interview room. A medium-height man sprang up from his chair, “Captain Ambrose Harris, USS Mackenzie. Glad you were able to make it here.” He extended his hand, and she copied it, shaking his hand firmly. They both sat, and he tapped at his PADD, “You’re coming from the Post Alley and the Moldova – both are smaller ships. What has you considering the USS Mackenzie?”
T’saath answered plainly, “It was the recommendation of my commanding officer that I seek additional command experience outside of my current command.”
Harris had worked with Vulcans before but in a limited fashion. What he had learned was their responses were not meant to annoy or aggravate. It was simply the most logical statement they could make with whatever was being asked. He tried another tact, “Your path to Starfleet was an interesting one. You were part of an exchange program early in your career…and chose to return to us later. Why?”
T’saath held her default answer. That answer was the logical one, and it was the answer that was in her file that the captain had access to. Humans had the interesting habit of thinking there was more to the simple nature of the original answer as if something hidden was held within a deeper answer that would be brought out with additional questioning. In a general sense, they were wrong. In some specific Vulcan and Human-centered situations, it had been advantageous to ask the question several times and in different ways. “I am vested in the future of Human and Vulcan relations. Through my work at Starfleet, I will continue to build bridges between our two people while learning more about how we work together.”
Ambrose read through the file that he had studied extensively. There was one other candidate on his docket, but he’d done some research on the woman and discovered there were many reasons she was wanted off the ship she was, and none of them would do the Mackenzie crew any kind of favor. “I sent you a general overview of the crew, their relationships, the culture of the ship, and our mission logs. Your evaluation?”
She cocked her head to the side, “There is a great deal of emotional….variables within the crew. I would be concerned about their ability to handle a high-stress situation that would revisit the trauma they’ve experienced. Emotions are illogical and unpredictable – they would need to be tightly controlled and managed.”
“They meaning the emotions, or they meaning the crew?”
“They meaning emotions, sir. A crew needing to be tightly controlled and managed suggests larger concerns beyond brushes with trauma and tragedy.”
He resisted the unintentional poke that had come across the table. “I’m aware of the emotional liabilities that exist within the command team – that includes me.” He grasped his hands together on the desk, “You are someone we will need as we continue the work of the Mackenzie with our current crew. We’ll need an outside eye and voice to hold us accountable…and to balance us when we lean too heavily into feelings and emotions.”
T’saath gave a slight nod, “That is surprisingly logical, Captain.”
Ambrose stood and extended his hand again, “Welcome aboard the USS Mackenzie, Commander T’saath. If you’ll come with me, I can brief you on the way about the mission we’ve been given.” She followed him out the door and into the station as he began to explain what they were facing.