Archive for March, 2011

It was my last day in sickbay when I awoke to see Himself standing above me.  As it turns out, it was only himself—that is, Admiral Quinn, the other old man—magnified by the last of the drugs in my system.

“Good morning, Lieutenant,” he said, in that deep voice of his, hands behind his back, looking down at me dispassionately.

For a moment, I considered replying with an entirely appropriate hello sir, nice to see you sir, how are you doing today sir, but I’d been confined to that bed for far too long and was feeling restless.

“I’m sorry, sir.  But the wake’s been postponed.  On the positive side, Admiral, you can relieve me of command of the Ardent while I’m still alive.”

He sighed at that and, in the too-bright lights of the sickbay, he looked a little old.  Something seemed to sag.  “Let me give you a piece of advice, Lieutenant, because, somehow, against all odds, I actually like you.  And this is it: sometimes less is more.  I know you have a reputation to maintain, and reputations are important, but you don’t always have to push so hard to be so clever.  If you push too hard, you’ll end up right back in this bed, not because an Undine put you there, but because you didn’t know your own limits.”

I wasn’t totally certain what that last point had to do with me, but it was the most the old man had said to me in one go since we met.  I took it in with the reverent silence it deserved.  “Yes, sir.”

He smiled and suddenly looked as solid and enduring as ever.  “If I had known a speech like that could shut you up, I would have tried it before.”  He leaned back against the adjacent bed.  “I’m not here to relieve you of command.  Far from it.  We were very pleased with your performance.”

“If I had known my getting nearly killed made you so happy, I’d have tried it before, sir.”

“Indeed.”  He straightened up, looking down at me with one eyebrow raised.  “I’m here to give you your next opportunity.”  He held out a PADD.  “You’re to proceed to Argelius II.  The details are in here.”

I took the PADD but barely glanced at it.  “Argelius II?  That brings back some memories…”

“You’ve been there before.  We know all about it.”  He paused for a moment and I thought I saw the corner of his mouth draw up in a slight, ever so slight, smile.  “All about it.  That’s why we’ve chosen you for this assignment.  That and it may call for your unique brand of…diplomacy.”

That ellipsis was probably the biggest compliment the old man could have given me.

Over the next several days, now up and around, I supervised the repairs to the Ardent, confined to her own sickbed within Spacedock.  I was back to cajoling, prodding, and occasionally cursing the bureaucrats infesting the Starfleet Supply Corps.  And I took every opportunity I could to visit an observation lounge and spend some time looking up at the Ardent, framed by spotlights and gantries.  Gradually, her wounds disappeared and I thought I sensed the same growing restlessness in her that had begun to gnaw at me in sickbay.

Reviewing the briefing for our next assignment—making contact with an Orion servant of one of the Klingon Great Houses who claimed to have special intelligence on her masters’ war plans—I also found myself making additional forays into the past.  As I’d told the old man, I had been to Argelius II, or more properly the mongrel, corroded, lawless chaos of a scrap heap trading station that orbited it.  During my days on the Death Star, it was one of our ports of call for the same reason that it drew most of the other independent and often struggling traders in the quadrant—there was plenty of latinum and few questions.

The last time I visited Argelius, I’d left under…less than friendly circumstances.  I’d made it back to the Star with most of my person intact.  Later, I’d heard a few stories about my hasty exit and the circumstances that lead up to it, though none as good as the ones I told to rapt audiences myself.

Of course, I omitted this bit of history from my application to the Academy.  The old man must have had his own source of information.

Now, tomorrow, I’ll be going back.  But who exactly is returning?  The engineering mate on a third-rate freighter, or the captain of a Starfleet vessel?


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