By Christina Moore, with Jack Elmlinger
Master Chief Petty Officer Wayne Hollis walked toward the admiral’s quarters feeling mildly concerned. It wasn’t like Admiral Tattok to be late for breakfast—in fact, he was usually the first one at the table, a PADD in one hand and a cup of hot oolaberry tea in the other. Two or more other PADDs would be sitting around his plate awaiting his attention.
But when twenty minutes had gone by and they’d not seen or heard from him, Amber Stone—his administrative assistant—had tried to contact him over the comm system. Neither her commbadge nor the Embassy’s internal comm system had received a response. After another ten minutes had gone by, the admiral’s personal security attendant, Hollis himself, had been dispatched to check on him. Hollis had tagged another of the security officers on staff, one of the young Cardassian military recruits assigned to the Embassy as part of his diplomatic training, to accompany him.
When the two reached Tattok’s quarters, Hollis pressed the chime. There was no response. He repeated the process two more times to no avail, and after reporting this to Commander Stone, she authorized him to enter unannounced. And so, after engaging the computer to accept his security code, the doors swished open and he moved forward.
Wayne Hollis had taken but two steps when a strangled cry was heard and a large, blurred object came flying at him. He had just enough time to register that it was the admiral, to see a flash of light that was a reflection of the hall light behind him glinting off of a wicked-looking steel blade, before that blade was plunged into his chest.
Vice-Admiral Tattok sat up sharply in his bed, his little chest heaving as though he’d physically exerted himself. Thank the Goddess that it had only been a dream. A horrible, horrible dream.
But for how long will it remain a dream? a tiny voice in his head asked. This was not the first such gruesome nightmare he had had in the last two months. His conscience asking that question confirmed the fear that it would not be the last unless he accepted the truth and did something about it. He’d had very few restless nights since that day in early June when his most trusted subordinate had planted a bomb on his runabout in an attempt to kill him. His only consolation from that was that Cen had, in time, shown true remorse for his actions, and had even turned himself in after his escape.
Unfortunately, that didn’t help Tattok now. The bad dreams which had happened just a night here or there in the beginning were now occurring every night, and each always ended with him plunging a ceremonial dagger—one that had belonged to his great-grandfather and which he kept in the drawer of the nightstand on the right side of his bed—into the chest of one crew member or another. How many would he have to go through before he lost his mind completely and actually committed the act depicted in his devastating nightmares? He had no desire to hurt these people! They were his colleagues, his friends. Some of them, like Amber Stone, he thought of as a surrogate child, he cared so deeply for them.
The Roylan sighed deeply. This simply could not go on. He couldn’t live or work like this, sleep deprived and frightened of actions he committed in his subconscious while he dreamed. Glancing at the chronometer on the bedside table, he calculated that despite the local time of three in the morning, it was about one in the afternoon on Earth. Sliding to the edge of the bed and dropping to the floor, he padded into the bathroom, where he took a quick sonic shower before returning to the bedroom and donning a fresh uniform. He then walked into the living room, climbed into the chair behind his desk, and switched on the computer.
Instead of vocal commands he used his fingers to engage the communications system within the Embassy, which would relay through the transmitter on top of the building to satellites in orbit of Cardassia, which would then transmit the signal through subspace to the same setup on Earth. While he waited for a connection to be established, he hopped down from the chair and went over to the replicator, where he ordered a cup of oolaberry tea.
The computer signaled ready as he was returning to his desk. Once he had settled in his chair again, he took a sip of the tea, and the briefest of smiles came to him as the rich flavor came in contact with his taste buds. Taking one more sip of the relaxing beverage, he set the teacup aside and reached forward, pressing the control that would bring the comm signal up on the screen.
“Admiral Tattok, how may I help you, sir?” asked the young lieutenant who answered the call.
“Is Admiral Necheyev available?” Tattok countered. “I must discuss with her a matter of some importance.”
“I’ll see if she’s free to speak with you, sir. Give me a few moments.”
Tattok nodded and the screen flashed to the UFP symbol. He reached for his tea again, and was taking a third sip when the screen changed again and Fleet Admiral Alynna Necheyev came on.
“Admiral Tattok,” she greeted him with a nod.
He nodded as well. “Admiral Necheyev. It’s good to see you again.”
“But apparently not good for me to be seeing you,” Necheyev replied. “My aide told me you had something important you wanted to discuss with me—I assume it has something to do with fleet activity in Cardassian space? To be perfectly blunt, Tattok, I’m afraid I haven’t time to handle a petty squabble between our ships and theirs. That’s what you’re there for.”
Straight to business, as always. It was one of the traits Tattok had always admired about her. Starfleet’s Commander-in-Chief was nothing if not a shrewd politician. He had no doubt that had she gone into civilian politics instead of the military, she’d have made one hell of a Federation President.
Tattok sighed and set his teacup down again. “About a ‘petty squabble’ this is not, Admiral,” he said solemnly. “I presume you are aware by now that Counselor DeMarco—prior to his departure from the Veritas—diagnosed me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?”
Her eyebrows rising slightly was the only change of expression on the other admiral’s face. “I am. And I believe you had some follow-up sessions with Counselor Roijiana on Sanctuary, isn’t that correct?”
“It is, Admiral. But…” Tattok sighed heavily. “I don’t think it’s enough. The dreams I’ve been having lately are more like nightmares—terrible nightmares. And they’re getting worse.”
He watched her as she studied him as well as she could through the subspace link. After a long moment of silence, Necheyev spoke. “Answer me honestly, Admiral Tattok: Would assigning a counselor to your staff permanently help you, or do you believe it would be best to take a leave of absence? Do you feel that you are capable of proper command and administration the Eleventh Fleet?”
The diminutive admiral looked the woman on the screen squarely in the eye and said, “Regretfully, Admiral Necheyev, my answer is no. At this time, I can no longer command the Eleventh Fleet.”
Tattok broke the news of his imminent departure to his staff at breakfast a few hours later. It broke his heart when tears fell from Amber Stone’s eyes.
“Commander, it isn’t my intention to hurt you,” he said gently. “However, for my health and the safety of every officer in the fleet, I must take this time away. In my condition, I’m a danger to everyone, even myself. I must… deal with my demons, as I’ve heard many of your species say, but I cannot do that here. It’s a hard truth I’ve have had to face, and so must you all.”
“And the staff?” the younger officer asked with a sniffle. “What will happen to us?”
“Most of us will probably be reassigned,” spoke up Wayne Hollis. “In a situation like this, when there is a changing of the guard at the top of the chain of command, the incumbent brings in their own hand-picked people. As we were hand-picked by Admiral Tattok.”
“Do not worry about me or yourselves,” he told them, looking at each and every woman at the dining table. These were some of the people he trusted most, those that had been closest to him since his arrival in Cardassian space. “None of you are going anywhere—I’ve made my recommendation to Admiral Necheyev that Commodore Markham command the fleet in my absence, given that she is already XO of the fleet. As such, there’s no need for a changing of the guard.”
At this, Stone smiled. Tattok noticed that Hollis’ shoulders drooped with relief, and that others of the staff appeared relieved as well.
“And you, sir?” Stone queried. “What will happen to you?”
“This afternoon, the Naxovah will be taking me to Bajor, where I’ll be spending the time I need to get my head in order,” he replied. “I can’t say how long I’ll be gone, but it is my hope that we’ll all be together again soon.”
Stone reached a hand over and gripped one of his as she smiled a teary smile. “We will be, sir,” she said firmly. “We’re all rooting for you. So you’d better take care of yourself. And keep in touch, please. I’ll be sick with worry if you don’t let me know how you’re doing once in a while.”
He gave her hand a gentle squeeze and offered her a smile of his own. “Fear not, Commander. I will definitely be in touch.”