Part of Starbase 415: New Home

The Replacement

En Route // First Officer's Office
Feb 2401
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A month ago.

“Enter.” Said the Gallamite Captain, Burick.

The door split apart to reveal a young man with a face full of stubble, messy style short hair, and dark blue eyes. He stepped through the doorway and as the door reconnected with its other half behind him, he stopped a couple of feet short of the desk with his hands clasped behind his back. “Lieutenant Damien Hill, reporting as ordered, sir.”

Burick stood up from his seat to take a step towards the long slender viewport to take a glance at the stars. It was only a brief moment, as he then turned to look directly at Damien. “How long have you served under me, Mr. Hill?”

Damien grew concerned and began to think back to try and remember if he had done something wrong. “Five years, sir.”

Burick chuckled. “Five years, four months, and twelve days. You were assigned here as the assistant to our former chief tactical and security officer, Mz. Viam. Then you replaced her a year later when she became my second officer.”

Damien nodded his head. “Of course, sir. After your first officer was promoted to captain and given command of their own ship, you had to adjust the roster to fill in the gaps.” Damien began to feel his anxiety grow more. “Have I done something wrong, sir?”

Burick shook his head. “Of course not, Lieutenant.” Burick then approached Damien and stood right before him just to extend his right hand out to Damien. “Or should I say, Lieutenant Commander?”

Damien blinked for a moment as he tried to process the information. He wasn’t in trouble as he had thought and he received a promotion? When? But instinct had him reach out and grasp the captain’s hand, which was given a couple of shakes. “I don’t know what to say, sir.”

Burick took his hand back only to make his way back around his desk and slowly sat back down in his chair. From there, he pressed a couple of buttons and a holographic display popped up. One more button was pressed and the display was flipped so that Damien could read. “I hate to lose you, Mr. Hill. You’re a fine officer and excellent at your job. But it seems that your reputation has preceded you and you’ve been requested to be the new Chief Strategic Officer on board Starbase 415.”

Damien had skimmed over the orders several times until he decided to read it more slowly to absorb the information and then shook his head. His right hand searched for a seat and once it found the backrest of one, he subconsciously guided himself into the seat as he processed this information. There was a moment of silence before Damien finally looked at Burick. “I had never planned on leaving the Muyushi, sir.”

Burick nodded his head. “I know. I had reached out to this, Lexie Ward,” He said with slight annoyance in his tone. “But she insisted that she wanted the best and she was right. You are a fine tactician, Mr. Hill. The station is near the Talarian Republic and Tholian Assembly borders. I think your skills will do justice there.”

Damien took in a deep breath before nodding his head. “I suppose then, my assistant will be replacing me.”

Burick chuckled. “If you recommend her for the position, then yes, she will be.”

Damien smiled. “I trained her well, sir. She’ll serve you well, almost like I never left.”

Was a heavy sigh from Burick with a small nod. “I certainly hope so, Damien.” He said with sorrow. “I hate to lose good people. But I also know that if you take this job, your career will grow exponentially. I look forward to seeing you with a captain pips on your collar.”

Damien chuckled and stood up from his seat. “I look forward to standing by your side as a fellow colleague, and not as a subordinate.”

Burick stood up with him. “You’re already a fellow colleague to me, Damien. And a good friend. I wish you the best of luck in your new endeavors.”

“Thank you, Captain!” Damien then took his moment to depart from his captain’s ready room and immediately head straight for the turbolift so he could go to his quarters and pack. All he could do right now is think about how much he wanted to contact his parents and let them know that he was moving up and now assigned to probably the most important station in the galaxy. Perhaps not as important as Deep Space 9 or Starbase 72, but from what Damien read on his way back to his quarters, Starbase 415 is a diplomatic outreach to both the Talarian Republic and Tholian Assembly. It was a big deal, huge, in his opinion. He was quite excited that he was going to be the Chief Strategic Officer there, where he will get to help decide on the best course of action for any mission.

As Damien was packing his bags, he heard the chime ringing throughout his quarters, indicating someone was at his door. He smiled and figured it was Ashley, his assistant that will no doubt be his replacement and likely came to give him crap for leaving. “Enter!” He said with much enthusiasm.

The door split open and there was a woman who stood in the corridor, a woman that Damien did not recognize at all. And they were a crewmember, judging from the rank on their collar, a petty officer. Strange. She had a uniform that indicated she was in security but he knew all his security personnel. “May I help you?” He asked as he was determined to answer his curiosity.

“My apologies for disturbing you, sir. But I was just assigned to the ship and I was told to report to you,” She said. “May I enter?”

Damien sighed in relief, and did his best not to show it as he gestured with his arm for her to come in. “Please! I do apologize, I had no idea that we had an addition added to the security team.”

“It was very sudden, sir,” she said as she stepped into his room. Although the moment Damien’s back was turned, she stepped to one side to cover the door panel and reached behind her to press several buttons without missing a beat. The door then closed and locked.

Damien turned to look at her to see her standing right where she was when she first came into his quarters. He had not a single clue of what she had done. “Well, I hate to make you have to run around the ship some more but I will no longer be the Chief of Tactical and Security on board this ship.”

“I know. You’ve been reassigned to Starbase 415 as the Chief Strategic Operations officer,” She said with a flat, emotionless tone in her voice.

Damien frowned at her with a slightly confused look on his face. “How did you know that? Did Ashley send you here to mess with me?”

“Not exactly. I am here to replace you,” in a split second after she said that, she pulled her arm back and then reached out at him, only a long tendril of a strange organic matter reached out and wrapped around his neck. She made one slight grunt look on her face and the tendril around his neck only grew larger and the grip tightened while Damien had grabbed at the tendril around his throat, desperately trying to pull it away as it was cutting off the airflow to his lungs.

Damien began to think that maybe if he tried to step away from her, he could get to his phaser under his pillow but before he could do that, he could no longer feel the deck under his feet as he was being lifted into the air. When his attempts to pull the tendril away from his throat failed, he tried to claw at it, and dug his fingertips and fingernails into the organic-like fleshy tendril to try to harm her or it so as to let him free. But the more he struggled, the more he tried to free himself, the more he exerted his energy and the more his body demanded oxygen, oxygen that he could no longer provide with his airways completely constricted shut. Then the realization of what she was dawned on him when he witnessed her entire body change into him and fear swept over his face before the inevitable death claimed him. His eyes rolled up into his skull, his mouth hung open from the last attempts to try to force air into his lungs, and his limbs went completely limp.

Before she had come to enter his quarters, she had placed a program in the ship’s computer to fake Damien’s life signs, so that when she did kill him and become him, there would be no sound of an alarm. Next, now that she, or they, is him, all they needed to do was dispose of the body properly. First, they packed everything that Damien had planned on packing, so as to not set off any suspicions, and then they found a way to force Damien’s body into a large duffle bag, even if it meant bending some limbs in ways they weren’t meant to bend. Then they slipped a device into the bag so that if the bag were to be scanned, the device would project the usual contents, more clothing, and personal items. Now it was just a matter of patience until they were transferred to a personnel vessel that was already en route to Starbase 415.

As Damien carried one bag off the vessel, he followed the ensigns to the turbolift but instead of joining them in the Galleria, he remained on the lift until it reached the accommodations section, where he went to his assigned quarters and unpacked his things. The other bag, the one with the body, was immediately disintegrated the moment Damien had the chance to do so. He simply needed no loose ends to cause an alarm and potentially reveal his true identity. For now, he stood there in his quarters, itemizing his tasks in his mind. He knew the first thing that needed to be done was to report to the station commander and assume his position. He needed to play the role for now, at least until an opportunity arises or when the order is given.

There were many options for him to choose from to cause chaos in this region. He could take the auxiliary vessel attached to the station and cross into Tholian space, fire on some Tholian vessels and start a war between the Tholian Assembly and the Federation. The best option to do that is to detonate a powerful enough bomb to destroy one of the Tholian worlds near the border. Of course, that was a difficult option. So far, no changeling knows any other worlds besides Tholia in Tholian space and neither does Starfleet. But it was simple really, he could just locate a world similar to Tholia, which would have a very high probability that the Tholians have it colonized, and just destroy it. That would certainly fuel the Tholians rage to go to war with the Federation.

The other option was to start a war between the Talarian Republic and the Federation. But he needed more information first. As far as he knew, the Talarians were not very technologically advanced, and throwing them into a war with the Federation would cause little distraction and devastation. This meant that Damien would have to impose as a Talarian scientist and try to speed up their technological advancements to make them equal to the Federation and by some chance, a worthy opponent.

Another option is to just sabotage the station. Impose as a Tholian, caused some trouble to ensure that security systems had recorded enough footage of a Tholian on board the station and overload the reactor. He could certainly combine this option with the first, to cause some serious chaos in the region. But for now, he needed more information and he needed to wait for the signal and when that signal does come, by that time he will know exactly what needed to be done.

Once Damien had finished processing his thoughts, he immediately left his quarters and headed for Operations. From there, he found an officer to make his inquiry. “Where can I find the station commander?”

She turned to look at him and then smiled lightly. “I’m sorry, but Captain Hunt is not here yet. The first officer is. Would you like to see her?”

Damien nodded his head. “I would, as I need to report in.”

Her smile grew. “Of course, sir! She’s in her office,” she gestured towards the door to which Damien thanked her and headed right through said door which led him right to a room with a few doors. He checked the name tags on each door until he found one that said ‘Executive Officer’s Office’. He then pressed the chime button and waited patiently to be granted access.

“Come,” said Lexie while she was going over reports from a few PADDs on her desk. She then looked up to see a man step through the door way and approached her desk. “May I help you…,” She looked at his collar and saw the ‘Lieutenant Commander’ pips. “…Commander?”

“Commander Damien Hill, your Chief Strategic Officer, reporting for duty, ma’am,” said Damien.

Lexie frowned for a second then smiled when she finally remembered the name. She stood up and held out her hand. “I’m glad to have you here, Commander. Welcome to Starbase 415.”

Damien reached out and shook her hand as he smiled back. “It’s good to be here, ma’am. I was a little surprised by the request.”

Lexie chuckled softly as she took her hand back. “Well, I saw your service record and thought you would be a great asset here in our current situation.”

“Situation, ma’am?” Damien asked with a concerned look on his face.

She waved her hands to put him at ease. “I meant where we are. You know this station just finished construction only days ago?”

Damien nodded his head. “Of course, ma’am. I’m sure the Tholians and Talarians made their concerns to Starfleet.”

Lexie sighed. “They sure did but it’s a good thing we got professionals who know how to handle them. They were able to put their concerns at ease and now, we’re a hub for future diplomacy with both factions.”

Damien nodded his head again and brought his right hand up to his chin, his index finger over and his thumb under his chin as he was in thought. “What about the Sheliak, ma’am?” He asked.

Lexie raised a brow at him. “The Sheliak? I mean, we don’t have a station with the resources to support diplomatic procedures with them in that area and even then, we’re doing fine as it is with the Sheliak. Why would they come here?”

Damien shrugged his shoulders and chuckled. “Was just a test, ma’am. I like to know all of our guests before I get to work.”

Lexie stared at him and then made a small smile. “I see. Well, feel free to view your station and make yourself right at home. Captain Hunt won’t be here for at least another few hours or so, the Kyushu is bringing him here and they’re taking their time.”

“Ain’t that Captain Hunt’s ship, ma’am?” Damien asked.

“Was his ship, Commander,” Lexie corrected.

Damien nodded with a small chuckle. “Of course. I guess the Kyushu has nothing much else to do.”

“It’s the least that they can do, for a crew who served with him and under him for many years,” She added.

Damien sighed with a small nod. “Of course. Only wish my ship could have done the same but they were tasked to chart an unexplored region of space and altering course would have added days to their mission.”

Lexie nodded, “Then yes, Kyushu currently has nothing else better to do. But I’m sure Starfleet Command will give the new captain something as soon as Captain Hunt arrives.”

“Of course, ma’am. Permission to go to my station?” He requested.

“Granted,” Lexie answered and then spoke up before he made it to the door. “Looking forward to working with you, Commander.”

Damien turned and smiled at her, “You too, ma’am!” And then he was gone.

For some reason, Lexie felt a chill run down her spine when she saw that last smile of his. ‘Was it a crooked smile?’ She wondered to herself before she just shook her head and sat back down in her seat. ‘No, with so many reports already coming in, my mind is playing tricks on me.’ She thought. ‘Perhaps I should take a small break, clear my head a little before I get any more strange vibes from anyone else who reports in.’

As Damien returned to the Operations Command Center, he slowly walked around as he examined each and every station, familiarizing himself with the layouts of each one, as well as where they were all located in the room. He made it so as if he was just doing his job, with a few small smiles and head nods to each and every officer and crew member he came across and made eye contact with. Once he had absorbed it all, he made his way to his station and while he stared at the holographic display before him to make it look like he was reading something, he processed the information he had visually gathered. He wanted to make sure he had everything memorized to the letter, for he would need to use all the time he had to set up his plans. Everything has to work perfectly, there can be no mistakes.