You Called, Sir?
Location: USS Exeter, spacedock, Castor System Shipyards
“Because I am running on a very tight schedule. Yes, I understand that we are not your only concern, Commander... yes, I realize... yessir. I’ll be right over,” Lieutenant Commander Rita Paris snapped the communicator closed with an irritated sigh. Of course he couldn’t spare fifteen minutes for her to walk over, catch a worker bee and zip over to his office. Instead if she wanted time with the quartermaster in charge of human resource allocation, one Commander Bruce Tibbits, Rita would have to be in his office in three minutes. Which meant she had to beam over, which meant that she was going to be a wreck for the meeting.
“Why does the universe hate me so much?” Rita grumbled as she strode quickly into the Exeter’s main transporter room on deck seven, a bottle of aged Kentucky whiskey in one hand and her ever-present tablet tucked close to her ample chest with the other. The transporter technician was surprised to see her- most of the command staff was vacationing and she had not come aboard via transporter, and amongst the transport techs Paris’ rather extreme reaction to and preference for avoid transporting had already long since made the rounds as scuttlebutt.
“Where to ma’am?” Crewman Ritter asked pleasantly as Paris strode straight onto the platform, facing away from him.
“Spacedock transporter platform seventeen,” she replied over her shoulder as her nails bit into her palms, the cold icy hollow pit of fear balling up in her stomach as every instinct in her body told her not to do this, even as she forced herself to act against her own survival instinct. “Energize.”
As it always did, the conversion of matter to energy began to take hold, and Rita Paris squeezed her eyes shut until the process broke down her eyelids and she couldn’t help but see, even as she felt herself being disassembled bit by bit, her corporeal form being metamorphed into pure energy that was then aimed and fired through space, a slipstream of energy particles that would be reassembled upon arrival at her destination. The itching that came with reassembly, the horror of wondering how much of herself would not make it through this time, the desperate impatience of just wanting it to be over with though it stretched for an eternity, though in truth it was just 3.2 seconds.
For Rita Paris it was always far longer than that, spent in a hell that apparently only she experienced.
Arriving on platform seventeen, heart pounding, sweat collecting on her brow immediately, she stumbled slightly, feeling slightly light-headed. No no no, stay calm, keep it together Paris, come on, a simple matter of willpower Sonak would say, be stronger than your fear, fear is the mind killer... She wished she hadn’t thought of Sonak, for fear that he might feel what she was feeling, and she mentally berated herself for missing him as she tried not to think about him because she was pretty certain that the distance didn’t really matter- to some degree he could feel her longing. He would be back, she just had to be patient, though work was not really helping as much as she’d hoped in her quest to keep herself occupied while awaiting the return of her lover.
Stepping off the transporter platform she smiled as pleasantly as she could muster while she willed her knees not to buckle beneath her and was about to ask the transporter technician for directions to the quartermaster's office when her communicator chirruped.
“Oh for the love of logic, I’m coming,” she muttered in irritation, snapping open her communicator though subconsciously she was grateful for the distraction from her imminent anxiety attack. “Paris here.”
“Lieutenant Commander, you have a message to contact Captain Stuart at your earliest convenience,” the comms officer on the other end reported, as Paris realized she did not even know who was on duty on the bridge right now. Setting aside another mental kick for herself that she should have known the duty roster, Rita replied. “Acknowledged. Paris out.”
Take the call now or give it a few minutes? she debated. The chief engineer was hoping for those reinforcements, and it it was desperately important Captain Stuart would have put a call through directly to her. Captain can wait, one crisis at a time...
Twenty minutes later she was through with the quartermaster, who had accepted her flirtations, her bribe and her request all with the best of humor and offered the Exeter twenty additional techs along with four power systems management specialists who would likely come in quite handy, she suspected. Exiting his office she took the wiggle out of her walk and returned to her usual no-nonsense stride (which contained roughy half the sashay of when she was trying to turn it on) before pulling out her communicator once more.
“Lieutenant Commander Paris to Exeter, please put me through to the captain,” she requested as she made her way down to the docking bay to catch a shuttle or worker bee back over to the starship that was her home.
Michael sat at a small round table at Tucker’s Cafe observing the pink and blue dancers at the center, eating butterflies with their long reptilian tongues. The amber blue juice he was drinking along with his exotic sandwich that he couldn’t pronounce. The establishment had been founded by Admiral Malcolm Reed in 2185 when he retired from active duty. Apparently Reed had wanted to remember his comrade whom he shared an adventure or two on Risa, or so the story went.
Plastered around the walls were photographs of the crew of the famed NX-01 Enterprise. Tucker, Hoshi, Flox, Merryweather, Reed, T’pol, and the man himself; Jonathan Archer. If any other reason Tucker’s was one of the most famous attractions on Risa, people would come here just to look at the memorabilia on the walls.
He took another bite of his sandwich when his communicator beeped next to his plate. He reached for it and flipped it open.
“This is the starship Exeter, I have Lieutenant Commander Paris returning your previous call, sir.”
“Very well.” Michael said. “Put her through.”
“You’re through, Captain.”
“Ms. Paris.” Michael began, his tone cheery, despite the news he was about to bring. “Status report please?”
How in the nine hells did he know I wasn’t still on vacation?!? Paris thought to herself as she wedged the communicator between her ear and her shoulder so that she could bring up data on her tablet. “The repairs and refit are proceeding apace, Captain. Chief Engineer Ragez seems to have things well in hand and the shipyards at Castor have been the very model of cooperation. We should have her ready to sail right on schedule sir. Forty two percent of the crew are still on shoreleave scattered about the cosmos, we’ve had two minor incident reports of unruly crewmen on Risa that are already processed and ready for disciplinary reviews when you return. As of this moment I am the highest ranking command staff aboard, sir, and I can report that as of 1430 all is well, Captain.”
Knowing Michael Stuart as she did, Rita knew he was calling for a reason, but he wanted to test her as always to see if the junior executive was still doing the work of three officers when no one was watching. Which of course she was, but still she waited for him to get to the reason for his call in his own time out of due deference to his position.
“Rita, I’m afraid I have to recall what’s left of shore leave.” Michael began gently. “Recall every crewman nearby to report within twelve hours. Also, get a precise estimate from Mr. Ragez about the warp engines, Lieutenant Marcus should have left things in good standing. We may be returning to Earth sooner than expected.”
Michael knew Rita would want an explanation, but he wasn’t going to give her one over a standard comline. “One final thing..” He added. “...status of our security personnel? I know we have phaser rifles aboard and I want to know just exactly who are permitted to use them.”