Part of USS Pathfinder (Archive): Go Your Own Way

Go Your Own Way – 4

Bridge, USS Pathfinder
February 2401
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His knee twinged as the turbolift oozed to life, the faintest shift in pressure from below enough now. Not to make it hurt, exactly. But he was keenly aware that his left knee existed, and that was enough to have him on edge with the old injury.

The bridge doors sliding open drew his attention, though, and Dashell straightened both posture and gait as he stepped into the beating heart of the USS Pathfinder, still berthed at Starbase Bravo and thus far quieter than he expected it to be soon. But it was not only their docking that made the bridge quiet, he thought with a tight jaw. Stations were manned by low-ranking officers or completely empty, and he got a rather blank look from the ensign at ops as he passed with a brisk, polite nod. These were not the faces he expected on a ship of this calibre. But then, neither was he. At least, not like this.

He drew a sharp breath as he hit the door chime to the captain’s ready room and stepped in at the muffled call. ‘Commander Dashell Antedy reporting for duty, Captain.’

Commander Valance, ship’s captain, had been caught staring at a blank wall. Considering the bareness of the room, still in its default configuration with a plain desk near the door and a bland seating area elevated by the window, he assumed she hadn’t had the chance to think about decorating, let alone getting started. She turned, stern gaze landing on him. ‘Commander Antedy. A pleasure.’

Dashell raised an eyebrow at the curt gesture to the seats at the desk rather than the comfy sofa but obeyed. They both sat. ‘Likewise, Captain. It’s a pleasure and an honour to be aboard a ship like Pathfinder.’

Valance’s lips thinned. ‘I don’t want to start on a sour note, Commander, but is that pleasure and honour why you objected to the assignment?’

He winced. ‘I object to my billeting, Captain. Executive officer duties on top of my science officer duties. I’m not sure it’s appropriate for both tasks to be rolled together on a ship of this level of scientific focus.’

‘And you’d rather just be my science officer.’ She was tall, taller than him; wiry and muscular and precise in her movements. Dark hair was tied back neatly to show off strong features and, particularly, the gentle forehead ridges betraying her Klingon heritage.

Dashell scratched his salt and pepper beard. ‘I’m a scientist, Captain. I’ve spent a long time studying to be the Starfleet scientist. I hold multiple degrees, I’ve taught at the Academy…’

‘I know your record. You sound perfect to be my XO.’

‘Because you have a background in starship management, piloting, diplomacy.’ He lifted his hands with another wince. ‘I absolutely mean no disrespect. Your record is stellar. And I am happy to provide additional experience, especially as neither I nor – so far as I’ve read – most of the senior staff have spent as much time in troubled frontiers like these. But I’m not a commander.’

Valance watched him for a moment, then her gaze flickered down. ‘I hear you, Mr Dashell. If you must know, it was not my choice for your positions to be combined. Even on a ship of this size. But if you’ve read the records of our officers, you have to have spotted we’ve had… staffing problems.’

‘I know,’ sighed Dashell. ‘A Chief Engineer who seems allergic to departmental positions. CMO and Comms both fresh out of the Academy. Have we even filled Security and Helm?’

‘My first choice for Chief Flight Control fell through,’ Valance said in a clipped voice. ‘I’ve dispatched Lieutenant Thawn to rectify that situation. I know Command has furnished me with a tactical officer, but I don’t know who, and at this point I’m not sure I have much right to argue.’

Dashell leaned forward, shaking his head. ‘How did this happen? Pathfinder is a highly-advanced scientific ship. Our crew seem qualified but for the most part untested. Officers should be fighting among themselves for this assignment.’

‘I have my suspicions,’ Valance said but didn’t elaborate further. Her gaze flickered across him, and he knew the tell-tale look of someone trying to figure out his injury. ‘I’m sorry, Commander, but you’ll have to stay on in both roles. I’ll do what I can to alleviate your workload.’

‘I’ll do whatever the ship needs. But please, Captain, do believe me – I was delighted to be assigned to Pathfinder.’ He paused at her expression. ‘It’s the right leg.’

She looked caught out. ‘I don’t…’

‘I don’t want a prosthetic. So it does slow me down. Not around and about on the ship, not really in everyday life. Though some days are better than others.’

‘Forgive me,’ said Valance, but it was the tone of someone who was about to plunge on, not back off. ‘How are you in the field?’

‘Don’t ask me to outrun someone,’ Dashell sighed. ‘Heavy carrying, the kind of fieldwork with a lot of standing and kneeling repeatedly… I’ll make sure our new doctor gives me a full assessment so you can make what informed decisions you need for assignments.’

‘I need your expertise,’ she said firmly. ‘But I hope you understand if I want to be a little more hands-on in away missions than policy would like.’

Dashell swallowed. It was the worst taste of indignation – the kind where he didn’t have significant grounds to object. So he did what he was best at in these circumstances: looked at the bright side. ‘We’re on a mission of exploration, Captain. Uncovering secrets in lands the Romulans never let us near. I would hope that, rather than plunging you into danger as my commanding officer, having you with us on away missions will only demonstrate the importance of our spirit of exploration. As it was in the Starfleet days of old.’

Valance’s expression flickered at that, and Dashell just smiled. He was not unaccustomed to younger officers, officers who had spent more of their career under the shadow of Mars than not, to finding him naive at worst, embarrassingly sincere at best. ‘That is important,’ she agreed at length. ‘I may be a hypocrite, fresh off serving as first officer and often stopping my captain from going in the field. But I’ve no intention of leading from the rear.’

His smile didn’t fade. ‘Then I hope Commander Riggs will be happy to babysit the ship a lot.’

‘I think he will actually hate that,’ Valance said, not without amusement. ‘I appreciate your honesty, Commander, as well as your cooperation.’ The door chime sounded, and she looked up with a frown. ‘I told the bridge I didn’t want to be interrupted.’

‘Something might be wrong,’ mused Dashell, pushing his chair back.

Valance checked her console. ‘Oh. Apparently, our new Chief Tactical Officer is here. I suppose this is how I find out who they are.’

‘That’s most fortunate.’

‘Indeed.’ They both stood, and Valance straightened her uniform. ‘Come in!’

The doors slid open to admit a mountain of a man – of a Klingon. He swaggered in as if he owned the room already, and Dashell blinked with curiosity to see the Starfleet uniform he wore. But if Dashell was curious, Valance looked stunned, her jaw dropping.

Gov’taj?’

‘Karana!’ Lieutenant Gov’taj paused and hunkered down, arms outstretched like he might charge the captain for a tackle of a hug. ‘It has been far too long.’

As Valance reeled, Dashell stepped in with a deep incline of the head. This was no moment, he knew, to speak a greeting – he was injecting himself into this exchange, and thus saying ‘nuq’neH,’ more literally translated as ‘what do you want?’ was inappropriate. Better with a Klingon, even one in Starfleet uniform, to cut to the chase. ‘I am Commander Dashell, first officer. You know the captain?’

Gov’taj turned to him and reached out a hand. Dashell did the same, wincing in anticipation of the tight grasp of his forearm, a gesture he was accustomed to Klingons using as their effort to accommodate the Federation – human – greeting of handshakes. ‘Know the captain?’ he echoed. ‘Far more than that.’ He looked at Valance and gave a toothy grin. ‘How are you, Sister?’

Comments

  • Now I need to know more about Valance and her brother! I'm intrigued to see how this new dynamic will change her and what would that mean for her first command. Is he going to be the annoying brother or the supportive brother? Also, I get the feeling the Pathfinder, once she gets underway, is almost going to be like the old Constitution-class where the crew double up into roles, like XO/Science chief and also the exploring of this new Romulan frontier is going to create some great opportunities to boldly go. I wonder if a certain himbo may return to us to become chief science officer :P

    January 28, 2023