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Stopped at the Gate

Posted on Wed Jun 12, 2019 @ 1:23am by Admiral Zachary O'Connell & Commodore Michael Aravan

Mission: Refits and Reviews
Location: Docking Port
Timeline: MD 5 || 1000 Hours

It did not take Admiral O'Connell long to navigate the Cardassian-built station to find his way to the lower docking pylon where the mighty Triumphant was berthed. What he hadn't expected, however, was the close scrutiny he was now undergoing at the docking portal. "Petty Officer, I have already given you my credentials," Zachary said with a frown. "And I know I'm not on DS10's travel or personnel manifests. What more do you need for me to board this vessel? A signed affidavit from the President himself?"

"No, Sir," The Petty Officer said. "However, I'm waiting on approval from Commodore Aravan, Sir. You know how deep the red tape goes when you get higher in ranks, Sir. I'm sure it'll just be a minute or ten."

To say that the Admiral was insulted was to be an understatement. "You do know that I can have you reassigned to a garbage scow, Petty Officer?"

The Petty Officer was confused and started to say something to that effect when his combadge beeped, saving him from a life on a garbage scow. =^=Send him up, Petty Officer=^= The Commodore's voice said.

=^=Yes, Sir=^= The Petty Officer replied quickly and looked at O'Connell. "The turbolift is through that door" He pointed to the left. "Deck Eighteen, Sir."

"Thank you," Zachary chided through a forced smile. Briskly, he stepped past the portal and into the nearby turbolift, following the Petty Officer's instructions to get to Deck Eighteen. The journey was short, but long enough for the Admiral to get a sense of the ship's size via the schematic that updated as it passed every deck. He stepped out into a corridor and quickly found his way to the Admiral's ready room. Zachary tapped a control stud to sound the chime.

"Enter," Michael called as he cleared the files from the large conference LCARS table and came to his feet.

The doors parted, allowing Admiral O'Connell to enter. He stopped just inside the doorway, and took a critical look of the large space. "I know of some brass members that would almost kill for an office this size," he remarked.

"It's not just my office, Admiral," Michael said. "It's also my briefing room and my war room for when things get hairy. I also hold holo meetings here with Starfleet Command. How can I help you?"

Zachary blinked at the Commodore's response, though he was not one to talk at all. He'd used his office on Starbase 72 for as much, if not more, variety. Alas, he was here for business, and business it would stay. "I'm here on official business on behalf of Starfleet Command, Michael."

Michael bristled at the Admiral using his first name as if they were familiar with each other, or friends. "Starfleet Command sent a full Admiral to discuss official business instead of a communique? Computer, seal Ready Room and discontinue monitoring until authorized."


The Admiral could not help himself but to chuckle at that response. "I've read your file, Commodore. I can't say I pegged you for the untrustworthy type." He remained standing despite any yet-to-be-delivered invitation to sit. "Breckenridge certainly didn't mention it either."

"I'm not untrustworthy," Michael said. "You said this is official business. Please have a seat, Admiral. Would you care for some coffee or something else?"

Zachary stifled his chuckle this time, as well as an inclination to jump straight to the chase. "Coffee would be excellent, thank you." He hoped it would be excellent, considering what he'd seen of the starship so far. "I'm impressed, Commodore, thus far. You run a pretty tight ship. So tight, I have half a mind to give you a better job protecting our outlying bases."

The lower ranked officer went to his personal coffee pot and poured a fresh cup for the Admiral. "I have creamer, sugar and milk, if you prefer," he said. "As for protecting the outlying bases, I'm at Starfleet's whim. It wouldn't be the nastiest job we've been sent on."

"Straight black is fine," Zachary replied, slowly walking around the briefing table, taking a moment to admire its form and function. "I am also aware of this ship's history. Your history. The Triumphant is among the best and brightest in the Federation, something likely owed to all of those nasty assignments you've been on."

Michael offered him the cup of Hawaiian Kona coffee. "You'd think with our Science and Medical departments, we'd be sent on more exploration missions," he quipped.

Zachary accepted the cup and took a sip, taking a moment to savor the flavor. "Times are changing," he simply told Michael. "Life's never been the same since the Dominion War, and everyone's vying for a piece of the proverbial pie. Starfleet's stretched thin, but you already knew that. There's two schools of thought at play, being reactive and being proactive. Starfleet's retired of reacting."

"How proactive are we talking, Admiral?" Michael asked as he activated the LCARS tabletop and brought up a holographic map of the Alpha and Beta Quadrant and the Federation's borders. The computer filled in the map with key enemies of the Federation along the borders. "We have a lot to choose from."

"Indeed we do." Zachary set down the coffee and began to manipulate the map, not fixating on any one region in particular. "We're nearly surrounded on every side, but that didn't stop the Dominion or the Borg. There's more to this galaxy than politics and wondering what the Cardassians are going to do next. If we're going to be ready for the next big threat, we have to look beyond the horizon."

"Beyond the Borg and Dominion?" Michael asked with a raised eyebrow. "You couldn't get more beyond the horizon than the Undine. Or is there something else you know of?"

"Nothing specifically." Zach continued to manipulate the map. "The minds of the best and the brightest are needed at the forefront. Only they'll be able to seek out the next allies or antagonists."

"And you want the Triumphant at the head of it?" Michael guessed.

The Admiral shook his head. "The Triumphant is too important to be pulled from where she's assigned now. Those around the Federation need to see a familiar name and face along the front lines." He took a sip of his coffee and held the mug in the middle of his chest. "I've already received an ample supply of starships from Command, but they lack command crews while I also lack some key infrastructure for the new division. I'm here to pick up some of the best and the brightest, and that includes a few members of your command crew."

Whatever the Commodore had planned to say flew right out the nearest airlock and he stared at the Admiral for a moment while he composed his thoughts. "With all due respect, Admiral, I've worked hard to assemble the crew that I have and most of them were specifically assigned here by Starfleet Command. I also cannot spare any of my Command team in the near or far future unless they decide that the Triumphant is no longer desirable to them."

Zachary responded quickly, having had time to prepare for such a statement since his talk with Breckenridge. "Michael, believe me when I say that I completely understand and respect your position. No one enjoys major decisions being made for them. This is why no orders have been cut, no surprise transfers, and so on. Even the crew of the Enterprise breaks up after several years. And it's nothing personal. Times change us all."

He took a quick sip of his coffee. "I'm seeing you today as a courtesy. To let you know that I'm here and that I will be making offers to several of your crew. Whether they accept it or not is up to them. And you'll have an equal chance to convince them to stay."

"You're certainly welcome to try," you vulture, Michael said and thought but kept his expression neutral. "May I ask who you have in mind?"

"It's a short list," Zachary remarked before finishing his mug. "I'm in need of a qualified Master Chief, whom are already in short supply. And, I believe you have a freshly-minted Captain at your disposal. There's a few others too, but as I said. Short list."

"I seem to recall both Master Chief and the new Captain making the choice to stay on Triumphant once already," Michael said. "Maybe I'm saving them for when I make Admiral status so I don't have to, go look at other crews."

Zachary arched at eyebrow at the Commodore. He could understand Michael being defensive, but his tone was inching towards something unpleasant. Zachary would let that go for now.

Or not. "I see," he said rather plainly, choosing not to point out how quickly Michael had practically volunteered his ship for this new operation. "Word of advice, Commodore. Wearing boxed pips means that the game has changed for you. Captains have a lot more freedom, flexibility. Brass... we bear a hefty measure of accountability. No matter what happens today, I'm in a position to help you. Don't turn off people who can be of help to you later."

"My apologies, Admiral," Michael said a bit quietly. "I've worked hard ever since the day I joined Starfleet and harder after I got made the Commanding Officer of this ship. I've seen my share of crew come and go and the ones that stayed are the ones that have seen hell and stayed for more. I wish you all the best in talking them into going with you, but for the record, Sir, I plan on offering them everything I'm empowered to in order to get them to stay."

"I should expect nothing less, Michael," Zachary stated. "Anything less than your best would be a disservice to them just as much as yourself."

"And that's one thing that I'll never do to them," Michael said. "Just for the record, Sir, why my crew? I've never crossed any lines."

"Am I to assume that you are viewing this as some sort of punishment?" Zachary plainly inquired.

"How could I not?" the Commodore asked. "I've take my ship and crew through some very hard missions in very unfriendly places and now I have Command wanting my crew."

"Dross does not become silver until it is refined by the fire, Commodore," the Admiral pointed out. "Gems are polished in the tumbler, and diamonds are produced by impressive pressure on coal. I am seeking the best and the brightest. The Triumphant has seen the worst of the worst, and it continues to defiantly stand and overcome despite the odds.

"Are you aware of the first run of the Constitution class starships, the only one to survive was the USS Enterprise. Its crew established the model we all still follow today, and even they spread out over time. This is anything but punishment, Michael. I can understand how it feels like it, but this is all part of your success story. This crew is the best and the brightest because of you."

"I really have to deny that," Michael said. "They were already the best and brightest when they were sent here. I merely gave them tools to improve themselves and led the way."

Zachary chuckled, albeit softly. "Another piece of advice? Don't sell yourself short. Be proud of your accomplishments and what you've done with these people. If you don't... you may find yourself looking for replacement members for your command crew."

"Permission to speak freely, Admiral," Michael requested.

The Admiral simply nodded, granting permission in a non-verbal manner, hoping all the while that he didn't regret it.

"I've busted my ass with the missions we've had thrown our way," Michael started. "We won through at incredible odds and we've fought our way through one nightmare after another. Just once, fucking once, it would be nice to get a cushy mission where no one is trying to kill or betray us. Is that too much to ask?"

Zachary smiled, fighting the urge to chuckle once more. He'd had his share of terrible assignments, not to mention the struggles with the Dominion and the Consortium, and all of the challenges he'd faced when in charge of an entire Task Force. "I'll see what I can do about that. In the meantime, Commodore, I must wish you luck. The game's afoot."

With a smile, the Admiral took a step back from the table and moved towards the exit. "Thanks for the coffee," he called back.

"Good luck, Admiral," Michael said, feeling a bit better, but knew he had to warn Barnes and Maddy as soon as possible. "Computer, resume recording and unlock doors."

The doors opened and closed quickly, allowing the Admiral to disappear into the belly of the whale. The game had now truly begun.


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