The tour had been mostly uneventful so far, except for a small tense moment in a forward torpedo bay when an anti-grav lift momentarily failed and nearly dropped a Quantum Torpedo directly onto the deck-plating. The rest however, had gone as smooth as possible.
This had allowed for Q’orvha to reach the current stop on the tour, the Main Bridge, in record time…she had rarely been this fast when escorting a new comer on board in the past. The black and red uniformed pair now stood on the bridge’s main level, between the Captain’s Chair and the Master Situation Table behind it, as technicians and engineers worked tirelessly at various stations around the bridge, making sure all was functioning well and fixing what wasn’t.
The Klingon gestured to the table at the back of the vessel and the chair that sat at the starboard side of it. “This is where you will usually find me when I am not commanding the Night Shift.” She stated, as she walked over and activated the table’s horizontal display, causing its sleek glassy black surface to erupt in the colours, codes, and texts of a full LCARS user interface. The centre of the table itself, became a display of the ventral Master Systems layout, showing the long body of the Aquarius as viewed from the top, and then cross-sectioned to show the various power disturbution and generation networks that across the vessel.
Q’orvha then took notice of a new function that had shown up next to this display and when she pressed it, a semi-translucent cross-section of the Aquarius in profile, deck by deck, materialized and hovered above the table, directly over the previous ventral cross-section. ”…and it appears that we are now upgraded with the same holographic display and console capabilities of the more newer vessel designs in the fleet. Excellent.”
Daniel watched in awe as the console came to life and displayed the holographic image hovering over the table, he couldn’t help but be impressed. “I’ve heard of this… my last ship was scheduled to receive this technology upon our next layover at a starbase. Remarkable.” He continued to study it closely as he noticed in his peripherals Q’orvha beginning to move away.
The Klingon turned around and walked towards the Captain’s chair at the center of the room and then past it, stepping down a level into the central pit and placing a hand on the integrated console/chair that was positioned to the right and was mirrored by another such chair and console combination on the left half of the pit.
”I know on most Starfleet vessels, this might considered the Helmsman’s position…however here, the Helm is actually that long bunker of consoles at the front.“ She answered, gesturing to the triangular station that sat on the bottom level of the pit and had only a walkway and the main viewer at the fore of the bridge, in front of it. Then, moving to the side and rotating the seat on the right console around to face the other Lieutenant Commander, she continued: “This, is the Tactical Control station, with Operations Management opposite of it …I believe however, this is your spot when you’re not running a shift yourself, yes?”
Daniel nodded, “Yes, I’ll be manning the tactical station when the captain is on the bridge. The chief of security will oversee most of the department, including the tactical oversight, personnel, and maintenance, I’ll mostly just be manning the station during bridge shifts. My primary role will be executive officer, there is many responsibilities to see to in that regard, especially on a ship this large.” He knew that it was common on several classes of Starfleet vessels that the executive officer perform a role instead of having a seat next to the captain. In fact, he often preferred it this way since he was the type of person that liked to keep his hands busy.
“A fine ship, I’ve always admired the Excelsior class vessels. To have the opportunity to serve on board one as executive officer is a great honor and personal accomplishment.” He continued looking around the room until his gaze paused on the captain’s chair. “Hoping someday that seat will be mine, maybe not on this vessel, but hopefully one just like it.”
Daniel turned towards Q’orvha who was still standing near the tactical console and said, “When can we expect the captain? I’d like to be able to greet her as she comes aboard.”
”Unknown.” Q’orvha replied. “From the reports and orders I have processed recently, I would assume sometime soon. Several encrypted command-level transmissions have gone through K-8’s subspace relays of late…and a Romulan woman in a Starfleet uniform has been reported to be on K-8 itself.”
In truth, Q’orvha had not just been passively monitoring communiques and gossip…as soon as she had seen the transfer orders from Starfleet Command and whom exactly was about to take over the Aquarius, she had been actively dropping macro-surveillance programs and placing tripwire notifications throughout every system she had been able to gain access to. Captain Vaelana’s commbadge signature had been detected on internal sensors exiting the station’s Holocomm Booth about an hour before the First Officer’s arrival.
Perhaps she was just working herself up into a paranoid frenzy for nothing…but paranoia was a requisite for her job. The Klingon had a diverse career and she had been a gin’tak, a retainer, an assassin, a spy, an engineer, an officer, and captain of a bird-of-prey both in the KDF and as an independent pirate after her exile…all of these most pivitol roles in her life had a singular requirement to not just be successful, but to stay merely alive in: paranoia and the over abundance of thorough awareness and labrynthine thought processing that it engendered.
Daniel nodded towards Q’orvha, non-verbally acknowledging her response before saying, “Alright, please let me know the moment you are informed she’s come aboard.” He picked up his things that he had been carrying with him this whole time and threw the strap over his shoulder once more, “I’m going to take my belongings to my quarters, then come right back. You have the bridge in the meantime, Commander.” He smiled at her slighty, then proceeded towards the turbolift.
The lift doors hissing shut, Daniel issued his command, “Computer, deck six.” As the turbolift began to move, his mind began to wander, mostly about his previous conversation with Q’orvha. If he was being honest, though it did cross his mind, he really didn’t put too much faith in the idea that he was somehow sent or diverted to this posting by Starfleet Intelligence.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time he found himself on a mission that he had not been briefed on, but somehow he sensed this situation was different. Well, at least he hoped it was. He decided to reserve any further thought to the subject until after he had a chance to meet with his new commanding officer. With the lift coming to a halt, the doors hissed open once more and Daniel stepped out and continued on towards his quarters.
As the doors to his quarters opened, Daniel put the container on the desk and took a little tour around his room. “Very nice.” He said aloud to himself, noting how much improved his accommodations were compared to his room on the Avalon. Feeling thirsty, he decided to grab a quick drink before returning to the bridge. Walking over to the replicator, he said aloud, “Raktajino, hot.” He watched the drink materialize before his eyes before grabbing the cup and taking a sip.
Continuing to sip his beverage, Daniel decided to check once more on the whereabouts of the captain, “Computer, scan both the station and the Aquarius and tell me the current location of Captain Vaelana.”
”Current Scans for Captain Vaelana indicate-“ The Computer began to answer, before being interrupted by an emergency comms chirp.
Daniel tapped his comm badge and said aloud, “McKnight, go ahead.”
”Commander McKnight.” Came the now familiar whispering voice of Q’orvha over the comms. ”According to internal scans, Captain Vaelana has arrived and is making her way up here to the bridge at a blistering pace.”
“Acknowledged, on my way.” Daniel replied as he set his cup back in the replicator to de-materialize. Leaving his quarters, he continued down the corridor until he was finally back in the turbolift, speaking the command to the computer, “Bridge.” He stood in the middle of the lift with his hands behind his back as it sped along towards his destination, thinking to himself ‘Well, here it goes.’ The lift finally came to a halt and the doors hissed open, revealing the bridge he had just left a few minutes earlier.
The bridge itself was a buzz of frenetic activity, as personnel in engineering jumpsuits worked on the finishing touches of the systems refit the Aquarius had been undergoing. One figure did stand out though from the rest…both figuratively in their mannerisms, as well as quite literally in terms of their height and appearance.
Towering over the situation table near the aft of the bridge, loomed the tall and statuesq figure, still clad in an eclectic mix of a black and red duty Starfleet duty uniform and hooded sleeveless robes of a clearly Klingon-designed style. The Klingon woman underneath, from her PADD-laden table, seemed to be reviewing reports and directing the functional chaos around her.
As McKnight stepped through the threshold of the room, Q’orvha turned and called out. “Commander McKnight, welcome to the bridge…you’ve managed to beat our quarry here.”
Daniel, his hands held behind his back, tilted his head slightly as Q’orvha reported. He walked over to her as she went on.
”She seems to be taking the scenic route, according to the internals.” Q’orvha replied, gesturing to the surface of the table, where a deck layout and cross-section of the Aquarius was currently displayed admist all the interface buttons and systems review data. ”I believe she just inquired the computer about where her assigned quarters are located.”
Daniel nodded and said, “Very well, let her get settled in and see her quarters first. We will wait for her here on the bridge to make our introductions.” He looked towards the the officers on the bridge and said, “Alright people, we only get one chance to make a good first impression, let’s make sure we make a good one here and set the proper tone for the ship and its crew. I want all stations to report their current status so we can give the new Captain a proper introduction to the Aquarius.”
As everyone acknowledged his orders, Daniel looked towards Q’orvha and said, “Well, time to see what we’re in for.” He smirked a bit before he moved towards the tactical console to get a report together on the ship’s current status on repairs and upgrades.
A few minutes later, the turbolift doors opened once again, and this time deposited the svelte figure of a raven haired Romulan woman. Sapphire blue eyes stared out from a face marred by a scar across the left cheek and her pointed ears twitched briefly as they adjusted to the busy din of the Aquarius’s command centre.
As she stepped through the threshold and on to the deck, she caught the attention of Q’orvha who stood up from her table. The Klingon’s eyes narrowed, studying the Captain clad in a freshly pressed and meticulously positioned red and black starfleet uniform…which only served to contrast with the one item on her person that was not part of the standard Starfleet Uniform Dress Code.
The Romulan was carrying a sword…a one-handed weapon with a thin curved blade, sheathed in a polymer scabbard: The blade of a Romulan duelist.
“Captain on the Bridge!” Q’orvha called out, standing up straight with precision that was only foiled slightly by a subtle grimace as the light penetrated the shadow of her cowl reached her sensitive eyes directly.
Officers and crew around the room also followed suit, halting what they were doing and turning to face the Romulan woman as they stood at attention.
Daniel stood to attention with the rest of the crew, looking on towards the new Romulan woman and observing her closely.
”I am Captain Vaelana ir-Aehallh t’Kaeyn…for those of you unfamiliar with High Rihannsu naming conventions, Captain Vaelana will do fine.” The Romulan stated, her voice crisp and her tone coldly professional. She walked over the Captain’s chair and placed her hand over the control panel on the left-hand arm. “Computer, complete transfer of starship command and all relevant codes and clearances, command code Vaelana-2-2-Alpha.”
“Command Codes recognized. Captain Vaelana Kaeyn is now recognized as Commanding Officer of the Aquarius.” The ship’s computer chirped back.
Vaelana then activated the shipwide broadcast intercom from the right-hand panel.
”All hands, this is Captain Vaelana. As of this moment, by the order of Starfleet Command, I have assumed command of the USS Aquarius, NCC-87003. I understand that this vessel still has some repairs and loading required, but I still expect status reports from all deck chiefs and department heads, sent to the ready room on deck one. You have two standard hours to comply. Bridge out.”
With all that done, the Romulan captain finally took a seat, placing her scabbard sword across her lap, balanced upon the arms of the command chair.
Daniel looked towards Q’orvha and raised his eyebrows slightly before making his way to his station. He knew he just met her a short while ago, but he already felt a connection with the Klingon woman. He couldn’t explain why, other than he had just grown comfortable around Klingons after living among them for as long as he had during his intelligence days. Of course he had also lived among Romulans for a few years, but something about the Klingons appealed more to him. Mostly because Klingons always made their intentions known, with the Romulans, it was always a game of great risk and reward.
As he took his seat, he turned to Vaelana and said, “Captain, departments are preparing their reports for your review. I have sent the tactical report to your ready room for your attention. Additional reports are starting to come in from around the ship, routing those to your console as well.” He thought about introducing himself to her, but given his experience with Romulans in the past, he felt she would approach him when she saw fit, after asserting her dominance on the bridge.
”Good…” Vaelana responded, resting her right hand on the scabbard whilst her left proceeded to scroll through the reports that came in. She then paused and looked over to the meet the First Officer’s gaze.
“…red uniform, rank of Lieutenant Commander, human, presents as the male of the species…manning weapons control…” The Captain stated as if running through the details of a clinical dissection. “…you must be Lieutenant Commander McKnight…my new sub-command-”
The Romulan suddenly paused, catching her slip. Almost a century of military conditioning was rearing its head and had led to a brief crack in her armour of command infallibility. “…my new executive officer.”
Daniel nodded, “Aye, Captain. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Vaelana spun her chair around to view the table and the Klingon who manned It. ”And I need no such analysis to coax your identity out…Q’orvha.”
The Klingon stopped managing the influx of the logistics and intelligence information that was streaming in for her report compilation. She stood up from her seat and spoke, her voice laden with cautious intonation. “Captain Vaelana. It has been some time since our last encounter.”
The Captain narrowed her gaze and her hand involuntarially gripped the scabbard with the white knuckled strength of her Vulcaniod ancestors.
“McKnight! Q’orvha!” She called out, rising from her chair. “Ready Room, now.”
Daniel stood up from the tactical console after logging his credentials out and made his way over to the captain’s ready room as ordered. He waited at the doors for the captain to enter first, out of respect for her position. He didn’t know what to expect from her, but if she was anything like the Romulans that he had encounter in the past, he knew he was in for a challenge. Romulan commanders, after all, were not always the most trusting individuals you could come across, but Daniel had nothing to hide, and he was eager to prove himself in his new position.
Q’orvha followed swiftly behind the First Officer, the hem of her monastic robes twirling and twisting as she sharply turned towards the Ready Room door and power walked in quick step to reach it.
The doors to the ready room hissed and slid open to reveal a currently spartan room that was still fresh from the recent alterations of the refit. A protective sheet lay drapped over the newly replicated and installed couch, desk, and chairs, prompting the Romulan Captain to grab and tear them off both the desk and the large cushioned chair behind it, before she took her seat and placed her sword and it’s scabbard on the desk in front of her.
“Feel free to sit, the both of you.” She curtly offered, gesturing towards the two, still shrouded, chairs in front of the desk.
Daniel nodded, taking the captain up on her offer. He pulled the chair out and sat down, all the while continuing to study their new commanding officer.
“If it is all the same, Captain, I would prefer to stand.” The tall Klingon woman intoned, her arms falling behind her back as she began to stand at attention like an officer under command inspection and dress review.
“Of course you do, Q’orvha…easier to swift respond to threats…or to generate some by launching into a suprise attack.” Vaelana coldly replied, her gaze narrowing once more on the Klingon ex-pirate. “I still remember our previous encounters well.”
“I would like to remind, with all due respect to you and your position, Captain…” Q’orvha replied, her voice naught but a deep whisper. “…that I am no longer a pirate. Starfleet has granted clemancy in return for service and acts and intelligence rendered…as I assume they have, to you.”
Vaelana leaned back in her chair and ran a finger across her own left cheek, in thought. Given their shared previous history, the Klingon was being particularly calm and self-controlled…but Q’orvha had always been uncharacteristically openly cagey for a Klingon.
“…and that would bring us to the matter at hand, Commanders.” Vaelana said as she redirected her eyes to study her new first officer.
Daniel turned from facing Q’orvha back to Vaelana, most likely with an expression of surprise on his face. He knew that O’orvha had met the captain previously, but it was something different to hear the tension between the two. He crossed his leg in his chair, putting his hands on his lap as he continued to listen on, keeping quiet until addressed.
“I’ll be straightforward and blunt, damn the tact and any veiled meaning given to displays of passive aggression.” The Romulan woman stated, leaning forward onto the desk once more, her hands clasped together on the table suface, just behind the laid out sword. “Starfleet Intelligence may have been my crew and mine’s saving grace, and it may have had a hand in my rapid ascension back into a captaincy of a starship…but I have always held and intense dislike for, as the agents might say, ‘spooks’.
“Having only just found out about this assignment this morning, I have had not time to review, nor even download a copy, of the dossiers of the Aquarius’s senior ranking crew…but I do know of Q’orvha’s circumstances and history…and I grew up on a Tal Shiar vessel…so I can spot a Federation intelligence officer from 20 kliks away…and you reek of that spook stench, Commander McKnight…so I want to know…I want to establish where we stand…are you currently on assignment here from Starfleet Intelligence? A minder and handler for Q’orvha or myself?”
Daniel smiled, knowing all too well the intense paranoia of the Romulan people. He recalled it vividly during his time in their empire on his various assignments, it seemed as though they were never satisfied until you gave them the answer they wanted to hear, regardless of if it were the truth or not. He looked down to his lap, then back up to Vaelana, “You are correct, Captain. I was with Starfleet Intelligence for many years and have spent a great deal of that time working within Romulan-” Daniel then briefly turned his look towards Q’orvha, “-and Klingon territories on various assignments.”
He then stood up to a relaxed attention, focusing on Vaelana before going on, “However, the answer to your question is no. I have not been with Starfleet Intelligence for some time. I decided to leave the organization to pursue my career as a Starfleet Officer. I was good at my job and did my duty to the Federation, but serving aboard a starship was always my ultimate goal for my career, and I decided it was time to finally give myself that opportunity.”
Daniel then put his hands behind his back, “I realize the extreme irony of all three of us being assigned to the same vessel, and frankly I don’t believe that it is a mere coincidence myself. But if I was transferred to this vessel by Starfleet Intelligence, I have not been made aware of it.”
”What’s the old saying? Once a spy, always a spy?” Vaelana mused.
”In Klingon, it’s ;a spotted targh cannot change its spots to stripes.’” Q’orvha added, allowing herself a small smirk.
“Though for all three of us to work together, we better hope it’s not true.” The Romulan replied. “I choose to believe your story for now, Commander McKnight…It’s not like you could tell me otherwise if were not the case…understand though.
”I grew up with the Tal Shiar…I served with political commissars of the Tal Prai’ex…I have tangled with changeling shapeshifters, Orion Syndicate agents, Breen turncoats, Starfleet spies, Klingon assassins like Q’orvha here, Yridian infobrokers, and most recently, Zat Vash triple agents…turning myself over to Starfleet Intelligence as part of the amnesty and asylum deal for my warbird crew was a last resort, not the desired course.”
The Captain stood up and leaned over over her desk, tonwards her two officers. “In short, I do not care much for intelligence agencies, nor their operatives. I understand the necessity for them and the work they do, but I also know it to be a necessary evil and that it can cut both ways. Do your duty, complete your work, serve this ship…but do not give me reason to even suspect that you have orders from some shadowy beuracrat and are not telling me. If I am to command this vessel, I need to know everything that is going on, especially with my senior staff. Is that understood?”
“Aye, Captain.” Daniel replied, giving a slight nod to the captain.
”Understood, Captain.” Q’orvha said simply with a nod, before adding a response straight from the Klingon Warrior’s code. “Your will is iron and my honour follows.”
Vaelana studied the faces of the two commanders, looking for signs of betrayal and sincerity alike. “Acceptable.” She finally stated. “Commander McKnight, I want a summary of those department reports before the end of the shift…track down the department heads on foot, if you have to…and Q’orvha, the latest intelligence and strategic status of all known assets and players of note between here and the Romulan Free State, especially the independent Neutral Zone border colonies.”
“Acknowledged, you will have those reports as ordered.” Daniel replied.
”Understood, Captain.” Q’orvha replied in her whispery voice.
Vaelana sat back down at the desk and activated the LCARS terminal built into it. “Good…now I have some catching up to do with these crew assignment files. You are both dismissed.”
Daniel gave a quick nod to the captain before turning around and exiting the ready room, leaving to complete his first orders from the new captain. He still wasn’t too sure what to make of her, but he was definitely optimistic about the future after that brief meeting.
Q’orvha turned swiftly on her heels and made straight for the exit only waiting to speak once they were both back on the bridge and the doors shut tightly behind them. “Well, that could’ve gone worse.”
“Agreed, I was actually surprised that we didn’t take more of a dressing down from her. Not at all like I had expected of previous Romulan commanders and operatives.” Daniel replied to Q’orvha.
”It‘s been reported that when Vaelana and her crew went rogue back in the day, the first thing she did was immediately and summarily execute the Tal Shiar minder on her warbird…and apparently, she actually liked the guy.” Q’orvha answered quietly. “…we still have both of our heads…maybe that spotted targh now has stripes after all?”
“I don’t know about you, but I look forward to keeping my head, Commander.” He smirked, then left and made his way to carry out his new orders.