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Part of USS Apollo: If You Give The Borg A Warp Core and Olympia Station: If You Give The Borg A Warp Core

1. Changes

USS Apollo
Stardate 2401.6
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Captain’s Log, Stardate 2401.6


The Apollo is a day away from Olympia Station, where we are scheduled for a week of maintenance and shore leave. We’ll also be making our final crew changes—including the unfortunate departure of Lieutenant Erik Schaeffer to take on a new posting at the station itself. I’ve yet to determine his replacement, but the squadron has forwarded several candidates for his position, as well as the vacancy in science. Before I deal with that, though, we’re celebrating Mr. Schaeffer’s service this evening.

The basketball court aboard the Apollo was both a luxury and a necessity—its synthetic wood floor, kept polished and waxed by specialty drones, was something that Sean Gaudain could never have justified aboard the ship’s smaller predecessor—but having a crew of 300 meant that this new Apollo had to have enough “real” recreation facilities to lessen the burden on the holodecks. There was still something a little ostentatious in how sneakers squeaked on its non-holographic decking, despite the overall savings in resources and the value it had in terms of morale. As the ship neared Olympia Station, Gaudain was in the midst of one last two-on-two game with three of his bridge officers, Lieutenants Stanton, Schaeffer, and Tasev.

Schaeffer was leaving the Apollo after two years under Gaudain’s command to take charge of a training squadron from Fourth Fleet Academy at Olympia Station, one of many junior officers who suddenly found themselves with much more responsibility than was normal for that stage of their career, thanks to Starfleet losing thousands of middle-ranked officers in the terror of Frontier Day. The young lieutenant himself had resisted leaving the Apollo, but Gaudain had encouraged him to take the promotion—you shouldn’t tell destiny to take a hike, after all—even though he was personally saddened by the loss. He was a good officer—as well as just a fun person to have on the bridge. Following their game, the agenda was beer, pretzels, and sauerbraten in the mess hall to celebrate the German’s farewell.

They were playing redshirts versus goldshirts, Gaudain and Stanton versus Schaeffer and Tasev. Gaudain was close in height to all three of his lieutenants, though their performance on the court was making him really feel the twenty-year difference between his age and theirs. He worked out twice a day and wasn’t struggling to keep up, but his joints were protesting the exertion. As he pivoted to try to keep the ball away from Shaeffer and pass it to Stanton, he felt something in his knee pop disagreeably. He winced but completed the pass and jogged off in a way that he thought concealed the pain well enough.

The captain lost his mask a few minutes later when he again needed to turn sharply. Gaudain buckled, gasping in pain as he went all the way down to his knee, which hurt even more. He managed to sink the basket, clinching a win for the redshirts.

“Good game,” he said, but when he turned to walk towards the bench where his water bottle was, he nearly collapsed. All three officers came over to his aid. Stanton and Tasev tried to help him up, but he found that he couldn’t put weight on his knee at all.

“I’m fine,” Gaudain muttered, trying to wave them off.

Definitely not fine, Gaudain slid down to a sitting position on the basketball court; having played organized sports all of his life, Gaudain knew that he’d definitely hurt his knee, even though he’d very much like to have concealed that from his much younger subordinates as a matter of pride. Normally, Gaudain reveled in being able to keep up with his young, peak-of-fitness shipmates, but that pride had quickly mutated into shame when his body finally failed him.

Schaeffer knelt down beside him and felt gingerly around the captain’s knee, which made him hiss from the tenderness. The contact was bold and unexpected but not necessarily unwelcome.

“I’m cross-trained as a medic,” Schaeffer explained, amusement glinting through the concern in his blue eyes. “Something’s definitely torn. We should get you to sickbay, sir.”

“Computer, prepare for site-to-site transport,” Tasev started.

“Belay that,” Gaudain grumbled. With Schaeffer’s help, he scrambled up to his feet, putting half of his weight across the lieutenant’s shoulders. “I may be old, but I can still get to sickbay on foot,” he quipped, his impending 48th birthday weighing heavily on his mind. “Really. You two don’t have to gawk,” he said to Tasev and Stanton, who gave each other an unsure glance and then left.

“It’ll be an honor to escort you as my last duty on the Apollo,” Schaeffer said before helping Gaudain off of the court and down the corridor to the turbolift. “I hope you don’t use this as an excuse to get out of my farewell party.”

“Of course not,” Gaudain scoffed. “I’ll miss having you around, Erik. Captains aren’t supposed to have favorites…”

Schaeffer chuckled. “There’s no need to flatter me. I won’t drop you,” he teased. He swallowed, his expression getting more serious. “I’ll miss the Apollo a lot. It’s never been boring serving under you,” he said.

“You’re going where you need to go, but I’ll have a helluva time replacing you,” Gaudain said.

The doors to the turbolift opened, and Schaeffer helped Gaudain hobble down the hallway to sickbay. The lieutenant helped his captain into the semi-reclined exam chair. Schaeffer then wheeled a nearby stool over so that he could sit next to him, reaching over to massage the area of Gaudain’s leg right above his knee.

“I’d always considered that physiotherapy might be an interesting career if the whole tactical thing didn’t work out. I minored in kinesiology,” Schaeffer noted.

“You must not have been at the top of your class because that’s the wrong knee,” Gaudain replied, his voice catching slightly in his throat.

Schaeffer smirked. “Oh, really? I bet it distracted you for a moment, though, sir,” he teased. He stood up and squeezed Gaudain’s shoulder, making the captain wonder how much of the flirtation was real or how much was really meant as a distraction from the pain. “I’ll see you at the party,” he said before leaving Gaudain there.

Lieutenant Schaeffer passed Doctor Sarama on his way out of sickbay as she emerged from her. Though Romulan, she’d been raised since adolescence by Vulcans, and Gaudain was never sure which facet of her personality would come out more strongly in any given interaction. As she approached, her eyebrow was arched in typical Vulcan fashion.

“How can I be of assistance, Captain?” she asked, grabbing a tricorder from a crash cart.

“I twisted my knee playing basketball,” Gaudain replied.

Sarama frowned at him. She was relatively new in her role, but Gaudain had already found her to be strident in her role of protecting his health.

“According to my tricorder, you’ve torn your lateral collateral ligament and sprained your anterior cruciate ligament,” Sarama said. “Were you in a collision?”

“No. I just turned to pass the ball,” Gaudain replied.

“That’s not the type of activity that would cause this level of trauma. Have you been experiencing pain or tenderness in that knee before this?” she asked.

“On occasion,” Gaudain admitted.

“You should have said something earlier, Captain. If I had to describe the etiology here, long-term stress has been finally exacerbated by your ballgame, resulting in a tear,” Sarama said. “We could have avoided that if you’d informed me.”

Gaudain sighed. “Well, what can you do for me now?”

“I can regenerate both ligaments now, but you’ll need to wear a brace for at least six weeks to ensure that your knee continues to heal properly,” Sarama said.

“Is a brace really necessary?” Gaudain asked.

Sarama arched an eyebrow again. “It is if you’d like to ensure that both of your legs remain the same length, Captain,” she replied.

“Alright, alright,” Gaudain relented.

“It’s curious to me how Humans seem to prioritize vanity over their own health,” Sarama noted, reaching for one of the many tools on the medical tray. “Especially considering that this temporary sartorial inconvenience will prevent long-term damage to your mobility.”

The procedure took about twenty minutes, during which time Gaudain’s thoughts wandered back to Lieutenant Schaeffer. They were due in port in less than eighteen hours, so he had to assume Schaeffer’s newly revealed interest was coming out due to the sense of freedom that leaving a ship came with. It’s not likely they’d be awkward on the bridge or anything if something were to happen between him. Still, the juxtaposition of Schaeffer’s youth alongside Gaudain’s age-related injury made him reluctant to consider any possibilities in much detail. He also had to wonder how much the young man might be reacting to stress over the transfer and, thus, maybe not be in a good headspace.

“How do you think Schaeffer is handling leaving the ship?” Gaudain asked Sarama as she worked.

“I’m not that kind of doctor,” she replied. “His physical health and fitness remain optimal.”

Gaudain chuckled. “Today’s a Vulcan day, huh?”

Samara rolled her eyes in a decidedly non-Vulcan response.

“With respect, Captain, my Vulcan side wouldn’t point out that I saw you staring deeply into Lieutenant Schaeffer’s eyes while he touched your leg and then followed his gluteal muscles all the way out of sickbay when he left,” she replied, pointedly. “So, you probably have more insight into his state of mind than I do.”

“Fair point,” Gaudain replied. He cleared his throat. “Both sides can keep that to themselves, though, right?”

The Romulan shrugged. “It’s not my place to spread gossip. I’m not sure what the headline there would be, anyway. ‘Two Homosexuals Flirt’ or…?” she asked, finishing using the regenerator and switching it off.

Gaudain laughed. “How about ‘Captain Creates a Hostile Work Environment’?” he asked.

“That would be inaccurate, as I don’t think you started it,” Sarama said, standing up. “I need to fabricate the brace. I will be right back,” she said, leaving Gaudain alone while she went to the replicator.

Five minutes later, Gaudain was equipped with a light, flexible brace that kept his knee exactly aligned. Everything still felt tender and sore as he went back to his quarters to change for the party, but he thankfully managed to avoid running into anyone who might see him in his new accessory.

Dubbed Tranquility Base after the Apollo 11 landing site, the senior officers’ lounge on the Apollo had a double row of windows right on the ship’s center line, along with memorabilia from the Apollo Program and prior starships to bear the name in display cases built into the port and starboard bulkheads. Captain Gaudain was standing near the windows with Lieutenant Schaeffer, the man of the hour.

All of the ship’s senior staff and as many of the other officers who managed to get the evening free were packed into the room, most of them with glasses of German beer in their hands. Gaudain had a glass of bourbon, though, as beer just had never been his thing, German-themed party for the lieutenant notwithstanding. That was one thing he was willing to ascribe to being set in his old age after close to half a century of life.

“We all know who we’re here to celebrate: Lieutenant Erik Schaeffer has been a member of this crew for two years now, and he’s the one whose aim has kept us on the winning side against the Dominion, the Borg, the Klingons, and a whole bunch of others I couldn’t even begin to list,” Gaudain started, once he’d gotten his crew’s attention. “Tomorrow, a group of Fourth Fleet cadets is going to be in excellent hands, and Vice Admiral Hayden has given me the privilege of pinning one more pip on Mr. Schaeffer myself,” he continued.

A yeoman handed Gaudain the pip, and he pinned it to Schaeffer’s collar. It was something he’d done many, many times in the past, but their earlier flirtation made him blush slightly when his fingers brushed against the other man’s neck.

“Congratulations, Lieutenant Commander Schaeffer,” Gaudain said, extending his hand for a handshake.

“Thank you, Captain. It’s been an honor,” Schaeffer said with a glittering smile.

Gaudain raised a toast to the new lieutenant commander, and then, once the eyes were off of him, he melted through the crowd. Pretending to study a moon rock in one of the display cases, he focused on his bourbon. As much as an extrovert as he was, he was still smarting over the knee injury he’d suffered—not physically, though it was still a little tender, but emotionally, as for him, it was a reminder of his age and, ultimately, his mortality. The volume of music in the lounge cranked up several degrees once his speech was done, which helped him avoid the attention of almost everyone, but not everyone.

“I didn’t expect you to be a wallflower, captain,” Commander Aida Nasirian said, sidling up to him.

His first officer for all of two months, Nasirian, was a former JAG officer, and Gaudain had quickly found her to be efficient and effective—though JJ Rhodes’ departure to lead a science team had been difficult to swallow. He still hadn’t named a permanent chief science officer in his stead, as the next two in line had transferred off, either to take new postings or to return to tend to family, like Schaeffer was about to. While the Fourth Fleet itself hadn’t been hit as hard as the First, there was still a wave of promotions that had to happen to ensure Starfleet as a whole was staffed at sufficient levels. They would be feeling the ramifications of Frontier Day for years.

“I think that it’s best to give our lieutenants their space—captains tend to bring down the mood in any party,” Gaudain joked. “I’m hoping this will be the last one of these we have to do for the foreseeable future.”

“Agreed, sir,” she said, sipping from her glass of champagne and then clearing her throat.

One thing Gaudain was still getting used to about Nasirian was her height—though she possessed a commanding personality, she only came up to Gaudain’s chest, and he found himself having to look down more than he was used to. In some ways, her being short made her seem even more brusque and made Gaudain think of whatever the feminine equivalent of a Napoleon complex was.

“To that end, I did send you the three finalists for each of the two remaining senior staff positions a week ago,” Nasirian reminded him.

“I’ll get to it,” Gaudain replied. “We’ll be in spacedock for a week,” he reminded her.

Nasirian bit her lip, frustration evident. Gaudain just wasn’t ready to rush on selecting new officers—given that he was still getting used to the idea that he had to replace them in the first place—or to just give her permission to select them herself.

“Of course, sir,” she relented. “Well, in the meantime, I’d suggest that you join the party. It looks like you’re moping,” she added before leaving him alone.

After tossing back the remainder of his drink, Gaudain went over to the bar to get another. Before he could order, Schaeffer sidled up next to him.

“How’s the knee, skipper?” the new lieutenant commander asked.

“Good as new,” Gaudain replied. “You saved me from needing an amputation.”

“All part of the service, sir,” Schaeffer said. He glanced around, then turned to Gaudain. “Was I too forward earlier?” he asked.

“I don’t think it’s possible to be too forward,” Gaudain replied, taking a deep drink from his new glass of bourbon as soon as it appeared in front of him.

“Oh. Well, it seems like you’ve been avoiding me tonight,” Schaeffer said. “I should’ve taken the rumors about you and Captain Bancroft more seriously.”

Gaudain scoffed. “I don’t know where you get your information from, but Bancroft and I are… complicated but also irrelevant to this discussion. I just don’t make it a habit of encouraging that sort of flirtation from my officers,” he clarified.

“Interesting,” Schaeffer replied, running his finger around the rim of his empty beer glass while he waited for another. “So, what you’re saying is that I should try again in 24 hours when the Apollo is in dock, and I’m no longer one of your officers?”

“You’re welcome to make an attempt,” Gaudain said, trying to sound aloof.

“I prefer instant gratification, honestly,” Schaeffer replied, grinning. “Make an exception for me. I’ll make it worth your while,” he goaded; while begging was a turn-off, Gaudain perceived this as something else: desire.

Gaudain looked at the younger man and felt all of the eyes of their shipmates on them, even if only in his own mind. Schaeffer had always been attractive, but his sudden spike of confidence was an unacceptable aphrodisiac. It had been longer than the captain would have liked to admit since the last time he’d indulged himself, and he felt his resolve weakening now that Schaeffer’s cryptic advances were now confirmed as an on-the-record come-on.

“I’m sorry I can’t stay longer, but Fleet Captain Lancaster wants an update on our repair schedule tonight,” Gaudain said to Schaeffer in a loud enough voice that everyone around them heard it, too. “Congratulations again,” he added, extending his hand.

When Schaeffer took Gaudain’s hand, the captain pulled him in for a half-hug and whispered into his ear. “Meet me for a nightcap in my quarters after midnight,” he said before leaving his drink on the bar and exiting the Tranquility Base Lounge.

Back in his quarters, Gaudain did write a perfunctory report for the fleet captain. Once that was finished, he pulled up Schaeffer’s file. The newly minted lieutenant commander had just passed his 28th birthday, making his promotion a full seven years before Gaudain himself had managed to make it past lieutenant. That was common, though—Gaudain’s career had never matched the golden boys in Starfleet, as he never was one to follow all of the orders he was given or adhere to every sub-section of Starfleet’s rules. Even under the patronage of Admirals Knox, Dahlgren, and Hayden, it had taken him until his mid-40s to finally earn his own command after decades of being a source of ire for his superiors. 

Lancaster wasn’t like that, though. Young, ambitious, and talented, he was one of the golden boys that Gaudain had spent a career resenting. He had the unmittigated gall to be right almost one-hundred percent of the time and rarely had any humility about that. If you were wrong in his presence, you were going to hear about it. They’d served together before briefly on the Sagan, and he was a jerk back then, too. Gaudain found it funny that he’d end up serving directly under him, but before he could get too far into that though, the door chimed.

Fittingly, Schaeffer darkened Gaudain’s door precisely on time—officers like him were never late.

“Come in, golden boy,” Gaudain offered, stepping aside to let the lieutenant commander enter his quarters.

The lights in Gaudain’s cabin automatically began to turn on at 0515 hours, glowing steadily and steadily brighter until the captain began to rouse. He rolled over to see that Schaeffer was still sleeping, looking perfectly at ease in the simulated morning light, even after a very short night of very little sleeping. There were mere hours left before they’d be at Olympia Station, and it was probably one of the last times Gaudain would see him. He reached over to brush his thumb along the smooth skin of his cheek. Schaeffer’s blue eyes fluttered open in response.

“Good morning,” Gaudain said. Schaeffer scooted closer to rest his head on the older man’s chest, shielding his eyes from the light in the process. “Do you think being cute is going to save you from the alarm clock?”

Schaeffer chuckled before kissing Gaudain’s chest. “It was worth a try,” he said, moving further up to kiss Gaudain. “Too bad we weren’t doing this the entire time.”

“I thought I made myself clear ‘bout my feelings about fucking subordinates,” Gaudain replied. “So, it was last night or never.”

“Well, I’m glad I took my shot when I did,” Schaeffer said.

“I am, too,” Gaudain whispered before running his fingers through the young lieutenant’s hair. “Even though you make me feel so old.”

“Whatever,” Schaeffer said, rolling his eyes. “No one except you looks at you and sees an old man.”

Schaeffer sat up and yawned, stretching while Gaudain considered those words. It was difficult to take the sentiment seriously with so much of Schaeffer’s lithe, youthful beauty on display, but it wasn’t something he hadn’t heard before—mostly from therapists. The younger man leaned down to kiss Gaudain, lingering for a moment.

“Don’t worry. I know how this works. You don’t owe me a date or anything now. But maybe look me up on the starbase before Apollo turns back around,” Schaeffer suggested before moving to leave the bed.

Gaudain took hold of one of Schaeffer’s wrists to stop him.

“You’re not going to let me give you the speech about how I don’t really do relationships?” he asked.

“Nope. If there’s any latent trauma you want to unpack, we can do that over dinner, but otherwise, I don’t want you to feel like you have to coddle me or that I’m going to smother you,” Schaeffer said, smiling. “I don’t do needy.”

Gaudain’s nostrils flared, finding Schaeffer’s attitude both a little confusing and very attractive. That was the moment where Gaudain finally made the connection to another golden boy, Lysander Durand—Gaudain’s academy sweetheart and briefly his fiancé before his life was cut short during the ending days of the Dominion War. He, too, was an ambitious rising start, and he knew how to handle Gaudain’s personality quirks and rough-and-tumble exterior. They were even both blond.

“Bridge to the Captain,” came over the intercom before Gaudain could say anything.

“Go ahead,” Gaudain said, releasing Schaeffer’s hand so that he could go pick up his clothes from their various places around the bedroom.

“We will be arriving at Olympia Station in fifteen minutes, sir.”

“Understood. I’ll be right there,” the captain replied.

Gaudain got out of bed, thankful for the reprieve the call had given him. He looked at Schaeffer and considered his options carefully. He had the opportunity to let the young man leave with no consequences and no strings attached, as he had with literally hundreds of others.

“Save a spot for me on your dance card, Erik,” he said.

Schaeffer smirked. “Yes, sir,” he said while pulling his clothes on. “Be seeing you.”

When Captain Gaudain stepped foot out onto the bridge from the turbolift, the ship was falling out of warp and returning to impulse speeds. The streaking stars and swirls of the ship’s bow shock were replaced with an image of the slender, blue mushroom-shaped silhouette of a Federation starbase. The Olympia sector was on the most distant edge of the Federation’s territory in the far Alpha quadrant, in an astropolitical “harbor” between Tamarian and Sheliak space. Intended as the last way station for ships on their way out for exploratory missions, Olympia Station was about as far away as you could get from the Federation’s core, and it was exactly where Sean Gaudain wanted to be. He thrived as far away from Starfleet Command as he could get.

“It’s hard to believe they managed to tow her all the way out here,” Gaudain said, whistling as he took his seat.

“I heard it took a dozen starships a year to make it happen,” Lieutenant Tasev said from the operations station to Gaudain’s right. “A true logistical marvel.”

“Ensign Knight, open hailing frequencies to the logistical marvel and request docking instructions,” Gaudain ordered.

“Aye, captain,” the communications officer replied from next to Tasev. He reached up to hold his earpiece closer, then turned around with a frown. “Captain, we’re being instructed to enter a parking orbit and proceed with our crew transfers immediately. Fleet Captain Lancaster is beaming aboard.”

“Great. What have I done now?” Gaudain muttered.