“Sorry I’m late,” Tikva said as she walked into the conference, her entire senior staff already assembled for a meeting that technically should have started five minutes ago. “Little issue that only I could deal with.”
“Oh?” Mac asked as he plated a cinnamon roll before sliding it in front of her as she sat down.
“Ensigns Williams and Tabaaha needed to speak with me in one of my many capacities as ship’s captain.” And she left any further explanation unsaid. She could always tell Mac more later after all. When there were fewer ears to hear and mouths to repeat.
“Ah.” She saw him nod his head, then a second nod and that taste she attributed to recognition as one and one equalled two. “Ahh,” he repeated.
“Now, Gabrielle, this is your show,” she said, turning on her chief science officer as she started to pull the roll in front of her apart by feel alone. “Something about wanting to change course to investigate a point of interest?”
“That’s right Captain.” Gabrielle got to her feet and brought the large monitor opposite the windows to life, set up as a star chart with DS47 on the far right of the screen, Atlantis smack in the middle and a large swathe of star systems spread out before them going to the left of the monitor, all in grey denoting their unverified status. The systems and initial information were provided to them by the Cardassian Union and while taken as a reliable source, Atlantis was out here to verify after all. “We passed Ultima Thule at 0737 hours this morning, but we’re still short of being the furthest Starfleet vessel out this far by about five lightyears at this point.”
“Someone got out this far before us?” she asked before anyone else could.
“USS Motu Maha made it to system GSC-9587 before turning back to Federation space. This was in 2370.” Gabrielle brought up a small window, laying over the portion of the map that was the Thomar Expanse, detailing the Motu Maha, an old Ambassador-class ship. “Well, made it isn’t quite right either. They were approaching GSC-9587 when they detected signs of,” she paused, looking down for a moment at the floor, then back up, as if the floor had held the useful information she needed, “use of weapons of mass destruction on a global scale.”
“Global scale?” Mac asked. “As in someone was bombing their world?”
“The reports stated that warp signatures were detected in the system, hence why the Motu Maha was heading there to make first contact. The signatures they did detect looked like intra-system warp drives, at least prior to what was thought to be a system-wide civil war breaking out. Captain Gunderson decided that making first contact at such a time would be a violation of the Prime Directive by interfering in their internal affairs just by being present.”
“And you want to divert Atlantis to go check the system out?” Tikva asked before popping a piece of the roll in her mouth.
“It’s been over thirty years, so hopefully they’ve resolved their internal conflict.” Gabrielle’s enthusiasm for this endeavour was written on her face. “Finish what the Motu Maha aborted, first first-contact past Ultima Thule and officially setting the distance record, all in one system.”
“At least until we get to the next system,” Rrr finally spoke up. “Gabs, every system we explore from now on is going to be the furthest away, the new frontier, the edge of the map.”
“It’s a slight detour,” Gabrielle said, changing the entire monitor to a zoomed-in local map. It showed Atlantis’ current course as a straight line to the far left. “Right here,” she tapped on the star system of interest, causing it to blink. By the scale of the map and the exaggerated icon sizes, it was less than a ship’s length off of their current course. Light months in reality, maybe a whole lightyear.
“We’re already at warp eight, so if we alter course, how long till we arrive?” Tikva asked.
“Two days roughly,” Gabrielle answered quick-smart. She’d prepared, that was evident by how fast she was to answer. But Tikva could feel it, taste it too. That shy, occasionally stumbling science officer she’d first plucked for her command team had grown. “And GSC-10248 will still be waiting for us when we finish. At current speed, it’ll take us a week to get there anyway.”
“Six days, twelve hours,” T’Val corrected from behind a cup of tea.
“I would like to see the scans from the Motu Maha for what ordinance they saw being used,” Adelinde spoke up from her seat next to Ch’tkk’va, who nodded in agreement. Splitting Tactical and Security had worked out pretty well for the Atlantis, allowing one to focus on the ship’s systems and the large regional concerns, while the other could focus on keeping the ship and crew safe and secure.
Without a real need for Strategic Operations, Atlantis after all wasn’t a flagship, making Tactical separate meant it could fill in those shoes as required. In the end though Lin and Ch’tkk’va keep each other appraised and cross-trained, able to take over the other’s department in a heartbeat if needed.
“Already in your inbox,” Gabrielle replied. “Navigation scans are with you Lieutenant,” she said to T’Val. “All details are in yours Captain, Commander, with a few highlighted parts from myself and my teams.”
“Ra,” Tikva turned on her chief engineer after giving Gabs one more smile, “we’ve been running the engines at warp eight for a week straight now. If we get to this system and shut down, how long are you going to want before we start off again?”
“Unless something happens over the next two days, no time at all. This young lady,” Velan reached back to pat at one of the window frames, “thrives at this speed.”
“Long-distance runner is our girl?” Tikva asked and got a chuckle from Velan.
“That she is ma’am.” He settled briefly as he corrected his seating. “We’ll be able to go to warp at a moment’s notice, but I’d be happier if you give us an hour or two at least just to run around and check a few things as they cool off.”
“Guns, Rrr,” Tikva said, using a professional nickname she’d somehow found herself using for Adelinde’s role, and using for anyone who was at Tactical at any given hour to be fair, “keep an eye out so we don’t have to go sprinting off without some warning.”
“So, this means we’re changing course?” Mac asked as he turned back to Tikva.
“For now.” She looked down the table at T’Val who was already typing away on her own padd, sending orders through to the relief helm officer with the revised course. “I’ll read over what you’ve sent out Gabrielle, but I want an update in twenty-four hours with everything we can tell from long-range sensors and anything the Cardassian dataset has.”
“Understood,” Gabrielle answered, the joy radiating off of her.
“On that note then, Mac, Rrr, can you both stay behind, the rest of you are dismissed.” Tikva waited until everyone had filed out, a couple of conversations starting as people left, cut off by the closing doors. “Rrr, need a favour from you.”
“Of course, ma’am.”
“Arrange, quietly and discreetly will you, for as many of the science department as possible to be in Port Royal this evening, eighteen hundred. And Gabrielle’s wider social circle as well too please.” She watched the Gaen nod their head once. “That’s all.”
“Yes ma’am,” Rrr replied and then being able to read the room, departed after a head nod to Mac as well, leaving the two senior officers in the conference room alone.
“Sounds serious,” Mac finally said, breaking the silence after Rrr’s departure.
“Deadly,” she answered, then brought up a holographic display between the two of them over the conference table, then flipped it so he could read the text. “Three months of follow-up survey work, our own first scans, that very interesting find on Felkten Minor. Not to mention being right about following those energy signatures and finding a pod of gekli.”
“And then this?” he waved at the map still on the large monitor.
“Icing on the cake really,” she said with a shrug. “She deserves it.”
“Young though, and light on time in rank,” he challenged her. As a good XO should. “She’ll end up stuck in rank for quite a while you know.”
“Unofficially Mac we’re on a five-year mission. Well, Atlantis is at any rate.” She offered him a knowing smile, having spoken with him a few times now over the last few months about his career expectations. “But Starfleet still has its isolationist running around in various places of authority, hence the short leash.” If the Thomar Expanse, then running to the far end and disappearing off the maps, was a short leash. “Relatively short leash that is. But I’m not planning on letting Gabs run off any time soon, so by the time she’s ready for something new she’ll have made up that time. But she’s running a department and has a lot of very smart and talented people under her. Just being the senior most lieutenant is only going to let her win arguments for so long before someone pushes back on her and I don’t want to see her losing ground to someone who thinks they know better.”
He nodded as he listened and read the data on the holographic display, stopping more to read the headers on reports and communique in regards to Gabrielle. Including a report that he had written and which Tikva had forwarded along to command in its entirety with no editing or foreword.
“So it’s been approved?”
“Two days ago,” she answered, a hand gesture causing the window to scroll immediately to the bottom and the response there from the Fleet Captain. “Been waiting for the right moment.”
“Promoting her a day before we hopefully make first contact, that she recommended. She’s going to be unbearable for days you realise,” he said with a smirk.
“Isn’t she just!”
The harsh, demanding and piercing whistle of the bosun’s pipes cut through the noise of a congested Port Royal, the ship’s premier social space, as if no one had been talking at all. No one had noticed when Lieutenant JG Fightmaster had entered, as was intended, the space lively and packed with a significant portion of the ship’s blueshirts. No one had noticed that all he’d done is park himself against the wall by the door, allowing it to close, and turned just enough so he could see through the window and down the corridor.
Some nearby had noticed when he raised a hand to his mouth, caught the glint of the pipe’s and briefly turned as best they could to preserve their hearing as the doors slide open and Fightmaster, with the power of a mere whistle, brought all conversation to a halt in Port Royal.
He also woke the dead, caused every dog within five lightyears, despite the vacuum of space, to start barking and ruined the hearing of everyone in the confined space.
“Attention on deck!” was then barked out, and for everyone present, Tikva and Mac included, it was an absolute shocker how forceful his call was. It wasn’t loud, his volume perfect for the room, but it carried a commanding authority with it.
Boy has lungs!
Geez, remember when we had to do that?
We were never that young, shut up.
Zillia’s exact words were ‘squeak squeak’. Can’t say that about Fightmaster.
We’re going to end up working for him one day, aren’t we?
As Tikva stepped over the threshold in Port Royal there was a bit of a clamour as people were still getting to their feet. The bosun’s pipes had been shock and awe, the call to attention had been the finishing touch. The fresher faces in the room, those only a few years fresh of the academies across the Federation, had been quicker to respond, likely without realising it at first. By the time she’d stepped in far enough, with Mac at her side, for the doors to close, the room was quiet, everyone was at attention and the tension was delectable.
Nervousness, curiosity, and concern from more than a few in the room. Mischievous glee from her immediate right was echoed by the hulking form of Rrr on the far side of the room. Trust her operations chief to figure things out. She couldn’t read Adelinde’s emotions over the wave of everyone else, but the facial expression said everything.
‘What are you doing bug?’ it read and while she wanted to respond, just a wink, she kept her face impassive as she strode further into the lounge, the crowd parting, then clearing to give them a semi-circle with the bar as the base.
“Lieutenant Gabrielle Camargo, front and centre,” she ordered, after a pause, turning her attention in the direction of movement as people moved to let Gabs through. No one wanted to be between an officer and the captain when things were sounding this official.
If the crowd was nervous and concerned, it all washed away, but Gabrielle’s concern ramped up in response. The young woman had exactly no idea what was going on. So, Rrr could keep their mouth shut.
As she stepped into the semi-circle, the crowd moved back from her even further, isolating her even more in front of the ship’s two most senior officers. No one had any idea what was about to happen and were afraid to be in the splash zone if something terrible were to happen.
“Commander MacIntyre, if you please.”
“Aye ma’am,” Mac replied, raising a padd to read off the screen, not that he needed to. “Lieutenant Camargo, you have knowingly and willingly performed above and beyond the call of your duties and responsibilities since assuming the position of Chief Science Officer aboard two starships Atlantis. You have earned the respect of the ship’s officers and crew, the captain and myself foremost amongst them. You have led your department in a manner befitting the best traditions and practises of Starfleet and the academic community. Your continual promotion of your staff’s work, your dedication to their successes and your ability to motivate your people to the best of their ability is a testament to your leadership.”
Finally Tikva smiled as she stepped forward, looking up just a touch as she carefully produced the silvered pip, showed it to Gabs, and then affixed it to her collar. “I hereby promote you to the rank of Lieutenant Commander, with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities that entails.”
The room was still deadly silent, which is probably why the quiet call from the back of the room, a voice Tikva couldn’t place, was able to carry. “Three cheers for the Lieutenant Commander. Hip-hip!”
“Hooray!” The chorus shattered the quiet, the repetitions pulverized it, and with it broken, Tikva stepped back quicly, back against the bar, as the crowd took the hint and moved in to congratulate Gabrielle, who was still looking like she’d just seen her life flash before her eyes.
“Nicely done Captain.”
“Well done Commander, about time.”
“She deserves it.”
These were just samples of some of the feedback she and Mac got as the crowd passed them, the roiling mass of a seeming majority of those assembled trying to congratulate their division leader.
“That was mean,” came a voice from Tikva’s left and she turned to see Blake Pisani sidling up beside her at the bar. Mac had departed only moments ago, pushing through the crowd to deliver a drink to Gabrielle and Blake was looking in his direction. “Poor girl still looks like she’s ready to faint.”
“Yeah, but where’s the fun in a boring promotion ceremony with just the senior staff.” She waved the barkeep over, ordered two drinks, and then turned to face Blake. “I take it you’d like me not to pull a stunt like this when it comes your time?”
“Preferably not. Just send your courier boy with the pip to my office,” Blake said, nodding in Mac’s direction. “I’m sure he’ll make it interesting.”
Tikva threw her hands up in surrender. “I don’t need to hear anymore!” she exclaimed. “Nope, nope, nope. Keep it to yourself.” As the drinks arrived, she felt the hand on her back, then Lin’s reaching hand as she took hers off the counter.
“Torturing the captain again Blake?” Lin asked.
“I was waiting for her to start drinking before truly torturing her,” Blake answered. “But now you’re here, I’ll leave her to you. Don’t fancy fighting you.” And with that, she pushed off the bar and dived into the crowd after Mac.
“How long?” Lin asked once they were alone.
“How long what?”
“How long have you and MacIntyre been planning that stunt?” Lin clarified.
“Just after the staff meeting this morning.”
“So you just gave me my pip, but you terrified Gabrielle?” Lin parked herself down on the stool next to Tikva. “How much commission does Gavin have you on?”
Tikva had stopped flinching whenever the counsellor’s name had been invoked, having had plenty of time to get to know the man now, even discovering a few shared hobbies and a taste for fine beverages. “I get a voucher book to let me out of sessions for every crewmember I scare into his office. Panic attacks get me ten extra chits. Besides, how would I scare you? Suddenly beam a Borg onto the ship and tell you afterwards your pip was inside it?”
“Ch’tkk’va and I have a plan for that,” Lin replied confidently before sipping at her drink. “Incoming.”
Tikva barely got out a “wha?” before Gabrielle burst through the crowd, Mac and Blake on her heel.
“Ma’am, I just want to say thank you so much,” Gabrielle started straight away, catatonia a thing of the distant past. This was all bubblegum and fizzy drinks and candy rolling off of Gabrielle, her emotional high just verging on unbearable for Tikva.
She really needed to sit down with a full Betazoid and talk things out, her mother had been somewhat lax in educating her, seeing as their home town had always been so calm.
“You deserved it, Gabrielle, truthfully. Of course, you have to live up to it now. We arrive at GSC-9587 in eighteen hours, so don’t overdo it out there,” Tikva said, indicating the crowd with a head nod.
“Oh ignore her,” Blake spoke up, her somewhat lax attitude to command, which Tikva had been warned about, and heard about from Terax often enough. “Celebrate, enjoy, drink real alcohol, just swing by sickbay in the morning and I’ll set you right.”
“I, uh, I’ll keep that in mind.” Gabs sounded unsure of Blake’s response. “Again Captain, thank you so much. I won’t let you down.”
“I’ll hold you to that, now go,” she ordered around a laugh as the celebratory mood of the room was pulling at Gabs, her friends and co-workers wanting to celebrate.
“Right,” she then said to Mac, Blake and Lin. “Captain’s Mess for a quieter drink?”