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Part of USS Mackenzie: Mission 13 – The Edge of Hope and Despair and USS Mackenzie: Mackenzie Squadron : The Edge of Hope and Despair

EHD 002 – Into the Woods

Colony Gladas
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“…and then there was this story where Kirk and Spock…”  Commander Park was regaling the Chief Diplomatic Officer, Charles Hargraves, with her studying of Starfleet history.  She had been studying various command teams that had gained cult status among officers over the years.  He listened, giving the requisite ‘Uh huh’ and ‘Interesting’ feedback while tracking the readings on his tricorder, pushing through the overgrowth.  He’d studied them, of course.  His interests were more on the diplomatic side, and he’d dug into plenty of his heroes.

He came to a clearing, “Let’s break for lunch.”  She gave a tired nod.  They’d been tracking their errant Cardassian for over three hours.  They were getting closer to her trail. He slipped out his meal, “You seem to forget the work at Camp Khitomer.  And don’t Kirk me on it – a lot of work fell on the diplomatic teams to make that deal work.  There was still plenty of shouting before the famous signatures got attached.”

Park bit into her sandwich, amused.  “You got something against those famous signatures, Charlie?”

Hargraves polished off his salad, “No.  I…it’s just that once the high and mighty get done saving the galaxy or universe, it falls to the diplomatic corps to get the treaties and paperwork across the finish line.”  He sipped at his flavored water before he continued, “The Delta Quadrant is still a work in progress with piles of PADDs.  I was afraid I was going to get put there eventually.  I had enough on our last visit to last a lifetime.”

She was getting a new view of their diplomatic officer, and she wasn’t about how she saw him.  There was a curious depth to him and something more.  She wasn’t sure what it was, but she was also sure what it was.  She chuckled, “The worst part is that our Task Force’s mission includes the place in our operating theater…so, never say never.”  She hadn’t found their experience in the Delta any better than he had.  She’d felt challenged, yet the month-long disconnection from home had tested her.

He relished the potato chips and grunted in response, “I’d rather transfer than face that place again.  I know, it’s the coward’s answer, but it’s a hard place to take a stand for the values of the Federation, never mind having to sharpen the edge of your negotiations and swing it around if needed.”  He sighed, “The stuff here in Alpha makes sense to me.  I can figure out histories, backgrounds, language, meaning…context.  It’s straightforward…okay, most of the time, it’s straightforward.”  He gestured to the sky, “Out there, you’re operating on Voyager’s background and whatever recent intelligence has been put together.  It’s like a puzzle game in the middle of a Klingon battle for honor.  Eventually, you’ll be spattered with someone’s blood.”

The XO packed away her container, “Well, thank goodness we’re in the middle of the True Way and everybody else.  Little chance of blood spilling in such a safe little bubble.”  She smiled, sarcasm bleeding through her words.

Hargraves stood, his bags packed.  “I’m aware of the risk, Park.  I’m not unused to it.  It’s just more predictable here.  I’m not a fan of surprises.”

She chuckled, “You’re in the wrong business, Charlie.”  She pulled out her tricorder and began leading them down the path again.  Hargraves tried to make sense but failed as they continued to walk through the forest.