“Captain, I’ve got two Federation ships incoming. Transponders identify as USS Verity and USS Serenity.”
“Wonderful. We’ve been expecting them,” replied Captain Devreux with a smile. For the last five days, the battered squadron, scarred by the trials of a pitched battle, had done what they could to heal the broken planet beneath them. However, on account of the immense damage the squadron had taken, progress had been agonizingly slow, but finally they were now getting some reinforcements. The USS Verity was an Odyssey class variant outfitted specifically for humanitarian missions, and she would be a welcome relief. He wasn’t exactly sure what the purpose of the Duderstadt class USS Serenity was, but any additional hands would help.
Fleet Admiral Allison Reyes emerged from the turbolift almost on queue. She’d been troubleshooting a couple fixes to the reactor assembly with the engineers, but as soon as the computer notified her of the incoming ships, she took her leave and headed for the bridge. She was restless to get back out there. “I hear Commodore Jori is on final approach?”
“Alright, call Vox, Lee, Henderson and Balan. Have them meet us in the briefing room. I’ll take the Commodore in my Ready Room first, and then we’ll be right over.”
As Captain Devreux stepped away to place the calls, Admiral Reyes approached the main viewer to watch as the new arrivals emerged from warp. She breathed a sigh of relief as she took in the majestic sight of the Polaris’ sister ship, the USS Verity, and the sleek curves of her new boat, the USS Serenity. The USS Verity would be a massive step up for the rebuilding efforts on Nasera, and the USS Serenity would get her back in the fight.
“Commodore Jori says she’s on her way over,” Devreux offered after a moment.
Admiral Reyes nodded and made her way to the Ready Room. Once inside, she beelined for the replicator, excitedly placing an order: “Two coffees, one black, one with light cream and sugar.” For the first time in five days, a pair of coffees actually materialized. They had just gotten enough power pumping again to reenable non-nutritional meal replication.
Admiral Reyes carried the two coffees over to the sitting area and set them down on the coffee table. After her prior exchanges with the head of Task Force 93, everything about this setting was intentional. They’d sit at the couches for a more casual atmosphere than across a desk, and she’d even gone out of her way to pull the Commodore’s coffee preference to make Jori feel more at home. A couple minutes passed, and then a chime at the door alerted the Admiral to Jori’s arrival. She rose to greet her guest.
The walk from the transporter room to the bridge had given Commodore Jori an opportunity to take in the damage the Polaris sustained. Hearing about the losses, and now seeing the situation for herself firsthand, she was glad she had arrived to assist. Her heart ached in times like these. You could put on a strong face, but deep down it hurt.
Upon arriving at her destination, the tall slender Trill entered the Ready Room of Admiral Reyes. With a small smile she greeted the older woman. “A pleasure to finally be able to meet in person,” she said as she looked around the room and noticed two cups of coffee sitting on the coffee table near the couch.
“And you as well,” Reyes smiled back, gesturing towards the couch. “Please, have a seat. I trust the trip was rather uneventful?”
“You could say that,” Jori said with a chuckle. It mostly had been, except for that awkward conversation with the acting commanding officer of the Serenity about where they were headed. He was a young officer who had just gotten his promotion to first officer right before they had lost their captain. She tried to explain to him the plan, but with Reyes as cryptic as she had been about her intentions, Jori had probably left him more confused than not. Walking over to the couch, Jori took a seat, crossing her leg over the other before picking up one of the mugs. She smiled before taking a sip. Not only was it a cup of coffee, but it was just the way she liked it.
“What is the report of the current situation here?” Commodore Jori inquired as she brought the cup down to her lap.
“Well, on the plus side, we have food-grade replicators available again,” Admiral Reyes laughed as she raised a toast with her mug. It was funny how the little things in life could go so far. “But besides being able to make a cup of coffee once again, the squadron is still weeks away from being spaceworthy. And that’s far better than the planet. The Jem’Hadar did a number to it. If we hadn’t stopped them when we did…” Admiral Reyes shook her head just envisioning what would have happened if Commander Lewis hadn’t pulled off whatever it was he did with the Vorta.
“As it stands, there are half a million displaced residents living in a mix of tents and couch surfing arrangements,” Admiral Reyes continued as she handed Commodore Jori a PADD. “Rolling black outs, limited fuel, and most of the factories are still silent. Commander Cora Lee from the Ingenuity has been running the planetary rebuild, Captain Devreux has been coordinating shipside repairs, Captain Vox has been managing airspace logistics, Commander Henderson has been leading medical efforts, and Lieutenant Balan has been liaising with what’s left of the civilian government. I’ve convened a briefing for us all so you can hear the details directly from them. They’ll be remaining here with you while I take the Serenity on ahead.”
Jori nodded. Although she still didn’t agree with the Admirals decision to go off again, she wasn’t going to argue the point anymore. “So tell me Allison, what are your plans upon leaving with the Serenity?” she asked, looking at her with concern. She cared about those who served under her command, and although Reyes was as stubborn as anyone, she was still part of Jori’s task force, and that meant she cared about her.
“The Duderstadt class is fast and nimble, and the Serenity is fitted with its recon configuration,” Admiral Reyes explained. “Have you ever heard of the Scythians, Commodore?”
The Trill Commodore shook her head. She had not.
“The Scythians were nomadic equestrians of a great steppe on ancient Earth. Three millennia ago, their lands were challenged by the massive armies of the Achaemenid Empire. In any head-to-head battle, the Achaemenids would have swept the floor with them, and both sides knew it, so the Achaemenid leader sent a letter to the Scythian general Idanthyrsus insisting that either he meet him on the battlefield or he surrender. Idanthyrsus did neither. Instead, he peppered the Achaemenids with hit-and-run attacks, crippling their capabilities and breaking their will,” Admiral Reyes explained. “We’re going to be like Idanthyrsus’ horsemen.”
Commodore Jori looked at the admiral with a blank stare, thinking she was utterly mad. She puffed out her cheeks only to let the air out slowly. “You just better come back alive and in one piece…” she said as she stared at the coffee cup in her hand for a long moment.
An awkward silence settled over the room.
“Well let’s not keep the others waiting too long,” Jori finally said, interrupting that quiet moment, before taking another sip from that cup she had been just staring at.
“Alright, let’s get to it,” Admiral Reyes replied, happy to see they weren’t going to relitigate her decision.
Admiral Reyes rose from her position on the couch and led Commodore Jori from the Ready Room across the Bridge into the Main Conference Room. When they arrived, the team was already assembled, sitting at the table beneath the sweeping windows that gave them a wall-to-wall view of Nasera II. Present were Captain Gèrard Devreux, Captain Dorian Vox, Commander Cora Lee, Commander James Henderson, and Lieutenant Emilia Balan, each of whom played a key role in the rebuild and recovery efforts of the squadron and the planet below.
“Thank you for joining us this morning folks,” Admiral Reyes offered. “As you’re all aware, Commodore Imya Jori, Task Force 93 Commanding Officer, arrived a few minutes ago with the USS Verity and USS Serenity. She is here to assist with our relief efforts.” The Admiral smiled as she yielded the floor to the Commodore. This was now Jori’s show to run.
Commodore Jori took a moment to study everyone in the room. “I know the last few weeks, and the last few days especially, have been tough on all of you,” Jori began as she took a seat near the head of the table with all eyes on her. “You have all fought for these people, and they are now free because of you.”
Around the room, there was a mix of pride and fatigue.
“I am here to help ease the load that has been placed on all of you,” Jori explained while adjusting in the chair. “The Verity is an Odyssey class ship specifically designed to handle humanitarian missions such as this.”
“That assistance will be greatly appreciated, Commodore,” offered Commander Lee, getting straight to business. “Industrial replicators, fuel reserves and provisions for the displaced colonists are our most pressing needs.”
“And medical staff down on the surface,” added Commander Henderson, piling on with his own challenges. “The medical staff have been working double, and sometimes triple, shifts to try and meet the need, but we’ve got thousands of colonists who sustained severe or critical injuries down there. We have neither the staff nor the equipment to tend to them all.” There was disappointment in his eyes at that admission, along with a profound exhaustion from the weight on his shoulders and the long shifts he himself had been running. “And that’s not even to speak for the wounded we still have up here.”
“We’ve been triaging logistics to the best of our abilities, but our ships did not come equipped for the sort of crisis we now face down on the planet,” Captain Devreux added, bringing his own challenges to the fore as well. “Especially with the level of damage we sustained during the battle.” That battle still haunted him, how close they’d come to losing it all, and how many they had lost along the way.
Commodore Jori took in the updates, nodding along as the overworked senior officers gave their brief summaries of their most dire issues. “Commander Lee, you will remain in charge of repairing the damages down on the planet,” she instructed after the barrage of updates subsided. Commander Lee’s engineering prowess and the fact the Ingenuity had sustained the most limited damage of the whole squadron made this make sense. “My engineering team and industrial replicators are at your disposal.”
“I very much appreciate that, Commodore,” the young Commander replied with relief washing across her face. She’d been trying to work miracles with what little they had, but the Verity would change the game for them. “It would also help if you’ve got officers that could coordinate ongoing support for the displaced persons.” Those half million residents who had lost their homes during the occupation had been a serious pull on her attention, and the humanitarian aspects of this operation were not the engineer’s core strength.
“We have supplies and extra fuel for those on the planet,” Jori offered with a soft smile in hopes she could make things easier for Lee. “And my team can manage efforts around the displaced persons.”
“Thank you Commodore.” It was a breath of fresh air for the young Commander who’d felt like she was six feet underwater for the last five days. Reyes had been helpful to keep them pushing ahead, but the Admiral never seemed to fatigue or recognize how they were fatiguing, and she couldn’t invent replicator capacity out of thin air.
Looking at the doctor next, Commodore Jori could see the exhaustion in his eyes. It made her concerned. “I will be taking a good majority of the injured off of the Polaris,” Jori began as apprehension overtook Dr. Henderson’s face. “The Verity was designed with extensive medical facilities including two infirmaries, three surgical suites and three recovery units. I will also be sending over some extra staff to help you and your team with those who remain.”
“Respectfully Commodore, the Polaris is this crew’s home, and I am their doctor,” Doctor Henderson replied. “I would prefer to keep as many of them here as possible.” It wasn’t a logical request, but it’s where his tired and stim-riddled mind went. “What would be most helpful is if your medical teams could bolster the Starfleet and civilian doctors down on the planet’s surface.”
She looked at Dr. Henderson, studying him for a moment, before responding. His request seemed illogical given the current state of things aboard the Polaris. “I understand that Commander, but remember your ship is damaged and one of your infirmaries is still inoperable. You are overflowing with injured crew, far more than you and your medical staff can care for,” Jori insisted as she looked at him. “Let the Verity take some of them off of your shoulders, especially the more critical patients.” Dr. Henderson did not look convinced. “Don’t worry. We will be sending our remaining staff down to the planet as well. We have more medical staff on hand than most other ships in the fleet due to our designation as a humanitarian ship.”
The doctor looked split between relief at her assistance planetside and frustration at her instructions pertaining to the Polaris.
“And doctor, I am relieving you of duty for the next twenty four hours to get some sleep. I don’t want you to become a patient next,” Commodore Jori then ordered.
Dr. Henderson opened his mouth as if to protest. He could do this. He knew he could, just as he’d been doing the past five days. He didn’t need the sleep. He needed to get back to work. There were so many to save, and he had the stims to keep him going.
Admiral Reyes shot Dr. Henderson a look, speaking for the first time since Jori had taken center stage. “Doctor, I would not argue with the Commodore on this one,” Reyes cautioned sternly. “Commodore Jori is dead right. Don’t make me pull the entry logs for your quarters to see how many hours you’ve actually been sleeping.” So focused on the mission, it was the first time Reyes had truly noticed how bad Dr. Henderson looked, and while she was the first to push her people to their limits when it was necessary, it simply wasn’t necessary with all the new support they’d just gotten with Jori’s arrival.
The Commodore could see the hesitation in the Doctor’s eyes, but she chose a more sensitive tact than the Admiral. She got up from her chair and walked over to him. With a soft caring smile, she placed a hand on his shoulder. “We are in this together. My Chief Medical Officer will take over for the next twenty four hours. I trust her with my life. She will take care of your patients. You need rest.” Jori tried to give him that reassurance that everything will be alright, even if it didn’t feel like it at the moment.
Dr. Henderson looked conflicted, but he knew he wasn’t going to win the battle against two flag officers so he relented. Commodore Jori then turned to address Captain Devreux. “Captain, you are to focus on getting the ships of the squadron in a position where they can limp back to a starbase,” she said as she walked back to her seat at the table. “Our industrial replicators are at your disposal as well.”
“Yes ma’am,” Devreux replied energetically. With the help of the Verity, and no longer having to ration every last joule of power for their most essential needs, things would get much easier. “Recommend Captain Vox also continues as our de facto airspace controller too,” he said, looking over at the CO of the Diligent who had been exceptional at making sure everything ended up where it was supposed to go. With the Verity now in orbit, that airspace would just get more complex.
Jori smiled as she looked at the Captain. “Of course.”
“It would be my honor,” replied Captain Vox simply. For as much credit as Captain Devreux had given him, this was easy work. Still, it was necessary, and with his ship far from being ready to get back into the fight, it was the best he could offer.
Commodore Jori looked over at Admiral Reyes for a brief moment, and the Admiral jumped straight in. “I recommend that Lieutenant Balan, the Polaris’ diplomatic attaché and cultural affairs specialist, also continues her current responsibilities liaising with the civilian authorities,” the admiral said as she gestured at the young Lieutenant who had sat quiet during the exchange of the more senior officers. This was not the sort of meeting she was accustomed to being a part of, but she had an important role to play. “She has built strong bonds with the civilian authorities and the people of the city.” There was also another angle the Admiral had for Balan, their secret little mission, but she was not going to allude to that here with the Commodore. She was keeping that quiet from everyone.
Commodore Jori smiled at the young Lieutenant who seemed out of her element at this briefing. Jori had been in her shoes more times then she could count over the years as she’d risen through the ranks. “I think that is a perfect idea,” she replied. With all that the people of Nasera had been through, having someone they could turn to was wonderful. “If you need anything please don’t hesitate to ask,” Jori added with another smile. Though times like these were really not smiling matters, Jori tried to keep positivity going externally even if she was feeling the total opposite inside.
Admiral Reyes was pleased to see Commodore Jori in her element. They had clashed a bit in their prior exchanges, but war could do that to you. In a situation like this, Jori seemed perfectly at home. “If it is not clear by now,” Admiral Reyes then said, addressing the elephant in the room. “Commodore Jori is relieving me as head of the Nasera recovery operation, effective immediately.”
There was a stunned silence around the table. No one doubted the Commodore’s competence, but they felt a certain attachment to the woman who had led them into battle five nights prior.
“Where are you going?” asked Captain Devreux. He knew her better than the others, and he was worried about what her answer would be. Something had changed in her since the Lost Fleet had returned, and never in the past seven years had she seemed so distant from him.
Admiral Reyes looked out the wide sweeping windows at the stars beyond. They looked so peaceful hanging there in the vastness of space. “The Dominion threat still lurks out there,” Reyes answered. “Commodore Jori has graciously ceded the Serenity to me, and I’ll be departing on it within the hour to get back in the fight.” There was a dark and menacing look in her eye, that same spirit that a quarter century ago had led her to sign up with a black ops kill squad during the Dominion War. She would not rest until the only Jem’Hadar that remained in the galaxy were those in the Gamma Quadrant. “Commander Lewis and I are going hunting.”
“Allison…” Devreux began to say. He didn’t want his partner to go. This was crazy. They’d just barely survived the Battle of Nasera, and now Reyes was going to get right back at it? You could only get lucky so many times.
“Gèrard, don’t,” Reyes said, putting up her hand to stop him. “There are eight million people here on Nasera that depend on what we are doing, but I’m redundant. You all, and Commodore Jori, can do for them what needs to be done. Where this washed up veteran can make a difference is out there, sticking it to the monsters that did this to these people, and who continue to inflict pain on our people all across the sector.”
“Good on you, Admiral,” Captain Vox said from his quiet corner of the briefing room. He respected her for the way she continued to answer the call, day after day. If the Diligent had been in fighting shape, he would have asked to go with her, but as things stood, that just wasn’t possible.
As for the rest of her team, they looked unsettled with a mixture of disappointment and concerns. Still, they said nothing more as it was clear the decision was not up for debate.
Commodore Jori still had her feelings about Admiral Reyes’ decision, but that argument had already been had, and she wouldn’t press it any further. “I wish you the best Admiral,” she said, looking at her with concern for a moment before she turned back to the rest. “I am excited to work with all of you over the next few days and weeks. To continue to rebuild and help these people,” Jori said with a genuine smile. “Oh one more thing, you may call me Imya or Jori you don’t have to use my rank. I might be a flag officer, I am no different than any of you.” She would rather them call her by her name than her rank, and it humanized her as a member of the team.
Never had the contrast in leadership styles been more clear. Since the Lost Fleet had arrived in their space, Admiral Reyes had pushed her team to their limits, risking it all and paying a steep price for victory, but now, with Commodore Jori taking the reins, the team finally felt supported. Admiral Reyes, for her sake, departed promptly. War waited for no one, and she was ready to get back at it.