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Part of USS Hathaway: Episode 13: Back in the Habit and USS Hathaway: Season 4: Into the Expanse

CH1: For the Uniform

Stardate 24011.1, 0900 Hours
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Standing in the centre of the room he had been unceremoniously dumped in, Vasoch Gor couldn’t help but let out a loud sigh as he took in his surroundings. Plush carpet, multiple wall ornaments, Bajoran artefacts. A United Federation of Planets flag. Especially the United Federation of Planets flag. All indicated that this room was far more than a simple private office; this was a workspace of someone proud of their work, and who spent a lot of time in it. Although, not today it seemed. No, today the room’s usual occupier was almost thirty minutes late for the meeting they had scheduled and the Tellarite was growing impatient.

Standing still was not in his nature, so he took a few steps over to the window that looked out beyond the Canopus-class station and into the Lioh system beyond. Whilst any normal person would have been drawn to the sight of the dazzling blue giant star at the system’s center, or one of the enormous gas giants that orbited it, the Tellarite’s gaze fell on some objects a little closer to the station. From the safety of the office he was frequenting, the guest could make out the familiar nacelle styling of a Prometheus-class starship (all four of them in fact) jutting out from beneath his standing place, while just a few hundred feet away, an Intrepid-class ship was in lockstep with the station’s manoeuvring thrusters, giving the illusion she was, in fact, stationary.

“Magnificent view, isn’t it?”

Vasoch spun around at the sudden sound of a familiar voice behind him, moving to take a step away from the window until the approaching owner of the voice gestured for the Tellarite not to worry.

“I’ve passed through this system on numerous occasions in recent months, but until I actually stopped here and took the chance to look beyond the bulkheads of the station, I never realised how beautiful the system is,” Captain Romaes Anjin smiled, sidling up to the shorter man and putting his hands on his hips as he took in a deep breath. “That’s Lioh Three, the largest of the gas giants. Her orbit brings her past my window but twice a year,” the Bajoran nodded towards the planet in the distance, the grin on his face betraying the sheer joy he found in his new surroundings.

“Then I guess I have visited at the right time,” the gruff-voiced Tellarite nodded in response to the Task Force Executive Officer. “I want to thank you for taking the time to see me, Captain. I can’t imagine it was top of your to-do list,” Vasoch smiled, finally walking away from the window to take a chair offered to him by the room’s permanent occupier.

“Don’t be silly,” Romaes frowned, pulling out his high-backed chair and slumping into it. “Captain Kohl and I will always have time for you, Vasoch. But, I will admit that we were surprised to hear from you. Last I heard you were off climbing some mountains on Andoria?” the Bajoran lent back in his chair, clasping his hands in his lap and giving his full focus to the diminutive figure opposite.

“It’s because of that mountain that I’m here,” Vasoch smiled sheepishly, knowing how strange that might sound. “I know it is cliche to say, but climbing those mountains gave me the focus and rejuvenation I needed. Not to mention the epiphany I had at the top,” he continued, somewhat economical with the truth. The epiphany had not been at the top, it had been when he was dangling upside down from the edge of the mountain and had to be rescued by his companion on the climb. Not that he would ever admit to that in front of anyone. Ever.

“Oh?” Romaes sat forward, inching towards the edge of his seat and placed his clasped hands on the surface of the desk. “And what epiphany might that have been?” the blonde, wrinkle-nosed man asked.

“I want to reinstate my commission.”

Secretly, the Captain had hoped that would be the case and the purpose of their conversation, but the experience of events in recent years had taught him to never take things for granted. He feigned surprise with raised eyebrows. “I see! Well, that’s certainly a change from when we last spoke. What changed up there?” the TFXO queried, making reference to the top of the mountain.

Vasoch echoed the Captain’s stance and inched forward. “I realised that not only did I miss Starfleet, but that I needed Starfleet,” the Tellarite confessed. “Starfleet has been my life for as long as I can remember. It’s changed along the way, but so have I. I don’t know how to do anything else. After Tharia’s death, I thought I needed time away from the fleet, maybe never return, but I soon found that, if anything, it proved to me how special the unity of serving with a crew is, and how it feels to be needed by others.”

Romaes nodded in all the right places as he took in the words of the man opposite. He struggled to empathise with him on the death of his captain, having been fortunate enough to never find himself in that situation. He could see from the expression on the elder male’s face just how much he needed this. The conversation went on for several minutes until the TFXO reached into the drawer of his desk, and the Captain pulled out a small box. “If I return these to you, I need to know that you’re not going to be handing them back in a few weeks because you have changed your mind,” his words probably came across a little harsher than intended, but the message had to be clear. “It would be unfair to any crew to put them in that position.”

“I assure you, sir, I’m here to stay,” the Tellarite smiled a tooth-filled grin, appreciating the candid nature of the conversation.

Romaes tossed the small box across the tabletop. “Then these belong to you,” he smiled, watching as the Tellarite opened the red, velvet box.

At first, the Tellarite’s smile shone through his beard, but the grin soon dissipated, to be replaced with one of confusion. “There has to be some mistake?” he asked, looking over the desk at the Bajoran.

“No, no mistake,” Romaes clarified, reaching out to the edge of his desk and sliding a data PADD across the surface. “Task Force Command had approved your promotion the very morning you took your hiatus. Congratulations Captain,” the grin stretched from ear to ear as Romaes rose to his feet.

Stunned silence was not an attribute ever previously associated with Vasoch, but this was a special occasion after all. When he finally closed the box and rose to his feet, he shook his superior’s proffered hand. “After forty years I’d almost given up hope of getting the fourth,” he smiled wistfully. A lifelong pursuit which he thought had evaporated without a trace had not only been renewed but achieved with little more than a conversation with a colleague.

“So I guess the next question is where am I sending you?” the Bajoran shrugged, slapping his hands down against his thighs. “Come this way,” he jerked his head to the very same window they had looked out of a little earlier.

Dutifully falling in behind his superior, Gor joined the taller man at the window. Deep down, he hoped for the Intrepid he had seen orbiting the station earlier. It was much smaller than anything he had served on before, but it matched his desire for Starfleet more than a battlecruiser like the Prometheus.

“Normally we’d start a new commanding officer on something smaller. A Reliant, Rhode Island, or even an Intrepid for example. But out of deference to your loyal service and years of experience, Command has seen fit to break from tradition and give you something a little… bigger,” the Bajoran’s smirk and raised eyebrows looked past the Tellarite, urging the newly minted Captain to turn and look behind him.

Emerging from beyond the outer bulkhead of the slow-moving station and into view with all the grace of a swan on a calm millpond, the elegant, streamlined spaceframe of a Sovereign-class starship appeared and caught the Captain entirely by surprise.

“I know she’s not quite the Ulysses,” Romaes dropped his tone a little while they stared at the ship beyond the viewport, “but I’m told that the Proxima is a fine ship. And most importantly, she’s yours if you want her.” Turning his body from the window, the Bajoran glared at the Tellarite until a silent nod from the mesmerised Captain gave him the confirmation he needed.

“Good, but there are two conditions to this offer,” the Bajoran told, returning to his seat and the formalities of their business.

“Conditions?” Vasoch queried, rounding the desk and returning to his seat.

“Conditions,” the TFXO confirmed. “One; we’ve got a Commander Giarvar Kauhn outside that we want to keep in the Task Force. He’s a talented and respected officer, and we want him aboard Proxima as your first officer,” he told, sliding a second data PADD across the table.

“As you wish,” Vasoch confirmed, taking possession of the data PADD and noting the contents – the personnel file for this new executive officer of his.

“And two,” Romaes sat back in his chair, “I know you’ll be wanting to recruit several of your former colleagues. We’ve preempted this and granted you authorisation, but a number of them are out of our jurisdiction and thus, out of the question. Their names are included in a file on that data PADD. We also feel it would be wise not to make wholesale changes to the ship’s crew. Many have gone through the recent refit process and will be key to navigating new systems and equipment.”

“Fair enough,” the new commander of the Proxima nodded, listening intently. It was natural he would want to recruit some of those people he was most comfortable serving with, but he could understand the need to balance it with people who knew his ship. His ship. Oh, how good it felt to say that, even in one’s head.

“Well, in that case, congratulations on your new command, Captain. Be on the lookout for orders coming in the next few days. For now, I’ll leave you to get your team sorted,” Romaes rose to his feet and offered the stout man his hand. “I look forward to working with you properly Vasoch,” he concluded.

“And I, you, sir. Thank you,” Vasoch grinned from ear to ear, echoing his superior’s sentiment.

And with that, the meeting between two like-minded individuals came to a close. Vasoch left the office of the Task Force Executive Officer and made his way to the guest quarters he had been assigned upon arrival a day earlier. Once there, the commanding officer of Proxima used his time wisely: reviewing the personnel list from the TFXO; reading up about his ship’s refit; a stop at the station’s barber to get a trim of his bushy beard and scraggly hair; and lastly, a visit to the tailor to requisition a number of new uniforms appropriate to his station.

Standing in front of the mirror in the tailor’s dressing room, Vasoch looked on with pride as he twisted and aligned his new commbadge on his chest, and attached the four silver insignia pops to his black collar.

He was back in the habit and ready to go.

“What do you know about the new Captain?”

Dropping the data PADD upon the ready room desk, Commander Giarvar Kauhn exhaled loudly and raised his eyebrows. “Not a lot really,” the Trill confessed, looking across at Lieutenant Tuca, a grey-skinned, blue-eyed, bald Alzek strategist.

“Well I do,” Tuca revealed, standing from his chair on the opposite side of the ready room desk, walking around it to stand beside the Commander, tapping on the computer console. “He’s a forty-year veteran; served throughout some of the most delicate and dangerous situations in Starfleet’s history. Highly decorated for his service during the Dominion War, he’s spent the last ten years as an executive officer on four different commands,” the strategist revealed, taking a step back and folding his arms across his chest. Knowledge was power, and the sharing of knowledge was his business.

“And the unofficial stuff?” Kauhn queried with a cheeky smile as he looked up at his grey-skinned colleague.

Tuca’s arms dropped to his side, his tone dropping. “Rumour has it he was hit hard by the loss of Captain sh’Elas and he took leave,” the blue-eyed alien shrugged, “but who wouldn’t be in those circumstances?”

Using his hands to propel himself to his feet, Kauhn gestured to the door. “How goes the installation of the new strategic ops suite?” the Trill asked as they made their way onto the brightly lit bridge.

“It’s bigger than I expected,” Tuca frowned, no easy task for a species without eyebrows. Thankfully, his larger-than-normal ears were a giveaway as they flapped a little. “They’ve had some issues linking up the computer systems to all of the required departments and getting a live uplink to Starfleet Intelligence hasn’t been easy. It looks fabulous. Gor will love it,” the grey man smiled.

“He’ll get to see it sooner, rather than later Lieutenant,” an approaching voice called from the back of the bridge, the owner making a beeline for the two officers. The voice belonged to Lieutenant Bellurr, the officer currently assigned to tactical.

“What do you mean?” Giarvar asked, almost afraid of the answer he expected.

“Transporter room one has had confirmation of an unscheduled priority transport,” the Klingon-Terran hybrid officer elaborated, coming to a halt near the two red shirts.

“That’s got to be him. You don’t get priority transports like that unless it’s something or someone, big,” the strategist surmised. “If it was anything else, there is a very good chance I’d know,” he added since intelligence was literally part of his job.

“When?” Kauhn asked, hands on his hips.

Bellurr knew the Commander wasn’t going to like her answer. “Five minutes time,” she replied.

“Frak me,” Giarvar frowned angrily, making his way diagonally across the bridge and headed for the turbo lift. “Gather anyone and everyone in the mess hall. If he’s anything like previous commanders, he’ll want to parade himself in front of his new crew and proclaim great things,” the Trill was seething as the doors to the turbolift shut around him.

When he eventually arrived in the transporter room four minutes and thirty-five seconds later, the Commander was already late. The transport process was in the final stage of completion with the last blue embers of the transporter beam dissipating as he slid to a halt.

“Welcome aboard Proxima Captain,” the Trill wheezed, “apologies for my tardiness, but Command neglected to inform me of your arrival,” Giarvar explained, watching as the Tellarite marched down from the transporter pad.

The tension in the air was palpable as the Captain glared at the much taller man in front of him. Tardiness was unforgivable in the Tellarite’s eyes. ”Effective immediately, I’m to assume command and begin recruiting operations. This data PADD contains a list of personnel I want aboard this ship by fourteen hundred. They’re all in the area, so it shouldn’t be a problem for a man as… talented… as you,” the Tellarite huffed, before wandering away and out of the transporter room.

Giarvar stood in awe, or was it shock? Either way, he stood motionless, watching the Tellarite leave, hand grasping the PADD that had been shoved in his direction.

“Are you coming or not? Don’t be late again, Commander…” the stout man’s voice called from behind the bulkhead, gradually fading.

Exchanging a look with the transporter chief, the Trill simply held up a finger that said all it needed to. “Computer,” he called out, “transfer all command codes to Captain Vasoch Gor. Voice authorization: Kauhn-Alpha-Three-Six.” Then, for the second time today, and without waiting for the response of the computer, Giarvar found himself running along deck four.

As the door closed, the computer spoke to the only remaining occupant. “Transfer complete. Starship Proxima now under command of Captain Vasoch Gor.

“I think he knows that, computer…” the transporter chief laughed, shaking his head and returning to his work.

Approaching the turbo lift at the end of the hall, the Commander finally caught up with the new commanding officer. “I’ve summoned all of the available staff to the messhall for the change of command ceremony, Captain. Would you like to head there now?” the Trill asked, hoping to endear himself more than he had so far. In vain, it transpired.

“Ugh! No thanks. I’d much rather those people get to work and do what’s needed. Those that don’t know me by now will eventually. And those that do?” Vasoch paused as they entered the lift, “well, they best be working their backsides off already or they’ll be getting your boot up them. Understood?”

Giarvar smirked as he followed the Captain into the turbo lift and stood behind his new commanding officer. Tellarites were known for their attitudes, stubbornness and their penchant for argument. Gor was already proving every stereotype true. And Giarvar was loving every second of it, in a sick, sadistic kind of way. Captain Vasoch Gor was certainly no Captain T’Prynn, but perhaps, just perhaps, Gor was what this lacklustre crew needed to get them back in shape.