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Part of USS Apollo: Ready for Launch and USS Arcturus: Return to Farpoint

9. Minor Larceny

ex-USS Apollo
Stardate 2401.3
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On scout ships like the Rhode Island class, the atmosphere was often noisy and frenetic in the hallways, thanks to the close quarters. With powerful engines and delicate sensor systems, they had relatively large crew complements for their size just to keep everything working as it was supposed to. A few days after the decommissioning ceremony, Captain Sean Gaudain was expecting to find salvage crews aboard the now ex-Apollo when he boarded for his final visit, but it was completely deserted. After he passed the bored chief guarding the gangway Avalon, he was entirely alone on the ship he’d called his own for over two years—a fiefdom that had taken decades to acquire and which he felt a strong sense of loss over, even as this Apollo was docked next to a brand-new, much more capable Apollo thanks to the success of his time there.

A veteran of the Dominion War, Gaudain had spent far longer than most of his classmates working his way through the ranks to finally take the center seat on Apollo in 2399, even with a mentor and benefactor like Vice Admiral Jonathan Knox on his side. He’d spent a full ten years as a lieutenant commander, as executive officer on three different ships before he’d been tested, tempered, and molded enough to please the brass enough as an upstanding, rule-mostly-following officer.

His natural bravado, which had led him to pursue a career as a pilot, had mixed with staggering losses in his early life: first, Alexander Durand, his fiancé, in front of his eyes in the last months of the Dominion War mere hours after proposing, then the loss of his homeworld, parents, and brother all in one fell swoop when Mars and Utopia Planitia were incinerated just a decade later when he had finally started to move on from Durand’s death. Gaudain had just been promoted to lieutenant commander and tactical officer for his second five-year mission on the Agincourt under Knox when Mars happened. They were in the Gamma Quadrant, and it took a week for them to even learn about it, which meant that they had no chance of participating in the recovery efforts, not that there was anything for him to recover. Knox had been able to steer him along the right path the first time, but he struggled to cope with more pain and a greater tragedy.

Four years into their mission, Gaudain had followed Knox to a science ship, the Sagan, for a special project to stabilize the Barzan Wormhole. This time, he gave Gaudain the ultimate vote of confidence by naming him as his first officer. Following that, Knox was promoted and took command of then-Deep Space 38 over Barzan. Knox offered Gaudain several different roles on the station, but in the end, they both knew that he needed to stay on ships and spread his wings under another captain. First came three years as executive officer on the Spartan, under a Vulcan who valued Gaudain’s talents but couldn’t stand his loose relationship with regulations. There was no love lost when he transferred to the Ramilles at the end of that cruise, back at the helm in what was technically a demotion but on a much larger ship. Under the command of then-Fleet Captain Liam Dahlgren, he found the second of his major career benefactors.

Knox had been patient and paternal with Gaudain, urging himself to find the serenity with himself that would let him live up to his potential. He stressed duty, honor, and the therapeutic value in crisp hospital corners on one’s bed linens. He was compassionate but never from a place of pity. Dahlgren was not like that at all—his strategy was much more transactional. If you made him look bad, he’d get rid of you. If you made him look good, he’d have your back. In Gaudain’s case, that was the kick he needed to step up his game. In turn, when Dahlgren was promoted to rear admiral, he made Gaudain the first officer of the Ramilles, still his flagship, over the more experienced chief science officer who hadn’t made as much of a name for himself.

On an upward arc, Gaudain was selected two years later as first officer of the Opportunity, succeeding Michael Lancaster under Fleet Captain, and later Commodore, Elizabeth Hayden. She had qualities of both of the other senior officers that had made their marks on him; while nurturing, she wouldn’t brook shenanigans. She helped Gaudain mellow and find his voice as a commander. Finally, Hayden offered Gaudain the Apollo in 2399 as part of her mission to the Delta Quadrant. It was a role Lancaster had turned down in order to serve as her first officer again, or at least that was the rumor, but Gaudain was happy to take the silver medal: he had a ship of his own, at long last.

 “Bridge,” Gaudain ordered, stepping into the turbolift for the five-second ride up to deck one, where his quarters and ready room had also been located for his tenure on that iteration of the Apollo.

After crossing the corridor, Gaudain stepped through the starboard doors onto the bridge. It wasn’t the original module. Despite being less than a decade old, Apollo had spent her career beyond the edges of the Federation and in regular conflict with some of the Federation’s most aggressive enemies. She’d been patched up dozens of times, and the whole bridge was replaced a few months before Gaudain took command. It was cramped, packing in extra intelligence and tactical displays to handle Apollo’s reconnaissance duties. Resembling the spartan starship architecture of Dominion War-era ships, it had served Gaudain and his crew well.

He was there for three last souvenirs. Unclipping the engineering kit from its holster on the aft bulkhead and setting it on the deactivated helm, Gaudain retrieved an autoratchet. He got down on all fours and quickly unfastened the four bolts holding the base of the command chair to the deck plating. After feeling around for the access panel, he reached into the hidden utility trunk to pull the ODN and EPS connections that served the consoles, managing to only shock himself a little bit in the process. He stood up and pulled out his tricorder, targeting the chair and activating the transporter. His new chair on the new Apollo was much more comfortable, but he’d rather his first command seat end up in a corner of his quarters rather than the scrapyard.

Apollo was still space-worthy, but she needed critical repairs across multiple systems. In the end, Starfleet decided that her lineage would be borne on by a new Duderstadt-class scout-cruiser, and she would be scrapped for parts to repair other Rhode Island-class ships. The fact that she could be repaired but Starfleet was choosing otherwise left a sense of resentment in Gaudain’s stomach—brand new toy or not. He put the tool away and the toolkit back on the wall. The next item wouldn’t need it.

Over on the port side of the bridge, Gaudain found the ship’s silver and gold-plated dedication plaque. It was just hanging from a pair of clips, so it was easy enough to take off of the wall. He was sure someone would have received it at some point, but he was going to make sure it went right on his ready-room shelf. Just as he was tucking the plaque under his arm, the door to the bridge opened.

Taller than either of his parents and stunningly beautiful like his mother, Cody Knox-Stanton had stopped using his full surname in recent years and just went by his mother’s name. Gaudain was thankful that little of his father’s looks made it into the boy’s genes, as that would have been an unwelcome reminder of his dead mentor on the bridge. Admitting that to himself made Gaudain’s stomach twist, as did the relief he felt in not having to address him as “Lieutenant Knox.” Admiral Knox, his father, had been killed when the Hephaestion was destroyed—the admiral was a hero, as he stayed behind on an otherwise empty ship to ram a Breen dreadnought and Save Starbase 38. Guadain had been on that very bridge when he saw it. Stanton was on the station. He knew it was something that had hit the lieutenant hard, and seeing him brought back his own feelings of loss.

“Someone noticed I was missing,” Gaudain said, chuckling through the moment of discomfort he had been feeling on seeing him. They had spoken briefly the day prior when Stanton came aboard but otherwise had not had a conversation, let alone one in private. “Unless you’re here to steal shit, too, Lieutenant?”

Stanton’s eyes got wide for a moment, and then he saw the plaque Gaudain was carrying and smiled.

“Commander Rhodes sent me to remind you that our departure is scheduled in one hour, sir,” the lieutenant said.

“Are the comms on our brand new ship offline?” Gaudain teased.

“No, Captain. The Commander just thought that you would… be more apt to be on time if the reminder were sent in person,” Stanton replied; he was more adept at spin than Gaudain realized. “I volunteered. I’ve never been aboard a Rhode Island-class ship before,” the young man added brightly.

“You visited the Sagan at least once. That’s not close enough?” Gaudain asked. He pushed the plaque into Stanton’s arms and went over to the science station. He placed his palm flat on the control surface. “Computer, initiate shutdown sequence,” he ordered.

Giving the order sent a spear of ice through Gaudain’s guts; he’d gone through the ceremony, but actually pulling the physical plug on his own ship was heartbreaking.

“Shutdown sequence initiated,” the computer reported.

“That was a Nova-class ship, sir. Totally different,” Stanton replied, stepping back to make room as Gaudain walked off of the bridge for the last time into the corridor, which was now lit only by emergency lighting. It would all turn off when they left. “I didn’t think you’d remember that. Or, well, me.”

Gaudain laughed at that. “I served under your father for fourteen years, Cody. I definitely remember you and your sisters, but you were the only one he brought aboard the Sagan even for a visit,” he said. He looked up at the young man scarcely believing that the boy who’d dangled his legs in the captain’s chair was now even taller than Gaudain’s own impressive 185 centimeters. “Come on; I have one more thing to make you an accessory to.”