By Christina Moore
The pace as they walked toward the nearest lift was brisk, though Synnove Natale mused that a fast march was a better description of what Eton Kirek was doing. She made no comment, however, having no intention of giving him the impression that she couldn’t keep up.
At the lift, Kirek turned so abruptly that Natale almost ran into him. “It just occurred to me to ask—are the lifts even working?”
He then noted the presence of Jordan Kelley at her side—Zram had stayed behind with the engineers without even being asked, most likely so that he could keep an eye on the Cardassians. Natale made a mental note to have an appointment for the Bolian scheduled with their counselor as soon as they had one, as Kirek looked Commander Kelley up and down.
“Your bodyguard, Captain? Surely you do not fear to be alone in my presence?” Kirek asked with a sneer.
Kelley stood straighter, and Natale noted a scowl had come to his features. To counter the Human’s expression, she smiled pleasantly. “Of course not, Mr. Kirek. But Lt. Commander Kelley is our defense officer, and he is eager to get the station’s weapons systems online.”
“What better place for me to start than where the fire button is?” Kelley pointed out.
“And yes, Commander, the lifts are working,” Natale added. “The station’s lights are on as well, as you surely have noted. Auxiliary power systems were already running when we arrived, and no doubt have been since last there was anyone here, though we soon discovered that only the doors, lifts, lights and life support were operational. All systems will be checked for operational readiness before we go to full power.”
“You Starfleet types,” the Cardassian said with a snort. “So efficient.”
Natale merely nodded and stepped in after him when he moved into the lift, Kelley following to stand beside her.
When they reached the Operations center, Kelley went immediately to the “pool table” in the center of the room, upon which the tactical controls were located. Natale watched for a moment as he attempted to bring one and then another of the consoles to life, each effort resulting in failure. Kirek snorted from his place behind Natale, and though she saw a muscle in Jordan’s jaw twitch, he said nothing.
The Human man then went down into the recess below the viewscreen and pulled off a piece of paneling, examined the circuits inside, then tapped his commbadge.
“Kelley to Grafydd.”
“Grafydd here, Commander.”
“Looks like I’m going to need some help up here. Think you can spare a pair of hands?”
Grafydd evidently took the commander’s unintentional pun as a joke, for he replied, “I’m afraid both pairs of my hands are quite attached to me, but I can send a whole person to help you out.”
Kelley grinned. “Better than just sending a pair of hands, yours or someone else’s, Commander. I appreciate you sending someone, as I know you guys are busy. Kelley out.”
“As amusing as this little display is, you and I need to talk.”
Natale was hard-pressed not to jump when she felt Kirek’s breath on her neck, his words spoken quite close to her ear. She nodded and led the way around the upper level to the office. The door opened sluggishly, and stayed open when they stepped inside. The captain noted she would have to have the controls examined whenever one of the engineers had the time.
Stepping behind the desk, which was apparently the original left behind by the last prefect of the station, Natale sat down in the chair. It was uncomfortable, having most likely been designed for a Cardassian wearing armor and not someone in a simple cloth uniform, but she decided to deal, and plastered a benign smile on her face as she looked up at Kirek.
“What, in particular, would you like to discuss, Mr. Kirek?” she asked.
Kirek leaned forward, placing his hands on the edge of the desk. “Let’s get one thing straight, Starfleet. This is a Cardassian space station—”
“Which was abandoned by the aforementioned Cardassians,” Natale pointed out.
“Be that as it may, it belongs to us, and I can assure you that Starfleet will not be here long.”
“If you’re afraid that the Federation’s involvement in turning this station into a functioning starbase is going to sully the reputation of the Cardassian people, I’d say you’re a few decades late for that. At the very least, you’re two years late for it.”
The dal’s expression darkened. “Is this your idea of willingness to work together?” he bit sharply. “You hurl insults at me?!”
Natale took a breath, telling herself to remain calm. “I didn’t hurl an insult, Commander, I told you the truth, though since you took it as such, allow me to offer my apologies. However, if you want to discuss insults, might I point out that you are the one who has been snide and abrupt from the moment we first met on the comm channel, and you are the one who referred to several members of the Starfleet crew as children?”
“They are children!” Kirek thundered. “Most of them looked barely old enough to hold a phaser!”
“Be that as it may,” she said, unable to resist throwing his own words back at him, “they are members of this station’s crew, and if you wish to retain your position here as executive officer, you will treat them with the respect they are due.”
“Do you think to replace me already?” Kirek asked.
Natale shook her head. “No. Your government selected you for the assignment and I must accept their decision. However, if this attitude of yours continues—if you insist on being disrespectful and insulting to the Starfleet contingent—you will leave me no choice but to request a replacement. I don’t believe your people will look too favorably on you should I be forced to resort to doing so.”
The perpetual sneer remained fixed in place as Kirek straightened. “If I may be so bold as to speak my mind, I don’t think I like you, Captain,” he said.
Her gaze remained steady as she looked up at him. “Noted, Commander. Now why don’t you take a seat, and we can discuss the combination and disbursement of our staff?”
A few minutes after Natale and Kirek had gone into the office, a young, nervous-looking ensign appeared on the lift. Kelley waved her over.
“What’s your name, Ensign?” he asked cordially as he looked up.
“Um, Ensign Felicity Bowman, sir,” she replied, her accent telling him she was from England.
Kelley raised an eyebrow. “Felicity, huh? I wonder why that name sounds so familiar to me.”
“I…I wouldn’t know, sir,” Bowman replied. “I’m actually on temporary assignment to Commander Grafydd’s staff from the Triumph. Captain Wallace sent a few of us over before they departed on the security tour to help out.”
Kelley smiled, hoping it would help the young lady relax. Goodness, he mused silently. I think I’m old enough to be her father.
Aloud, he said, “Believe me, Ensign, we certainly appreciate the help. From the looks of things, this place needs a lot of work.”
Bowman looked around. The lights were on, though they were dim, but none of the consoles were lit. Looking back at Kelley, she hefted the tool kit she had brought with her. “What would you like me to help you with, sir?”
He motioned her down into the pit and waved his hand at the circuit board. “This,” he said simply.
Bowman sat the tool kit down on a step and peered closer at the mess of wires and fuses. It was a good thing she had studied a schematic of the Nor-class station, or even she wouldn’t know what she was looking at.
“You’re wanting to get the weapons systems online, sir?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he replied. “I can’t even run a diagnostic of the operating program, let alone the entire system.”
Just then they heard a shout from the office, and Bowman jumped, gasping.
“Don’t worry, it’s just the first volley,” Kelley said. “Given what I’ve seen of those two, I’d say the battle is far from over.”
“Are…are you sure that you should be saying something like that, sir? E-especially to me?”
He laughed, amused by the stuttered lecture on propriety from an ensign who should still be studying at the academy.
“I suppose you’re right, Ensign. Forgive me,” the commander replied. He then patted her on the shoulder and gestured toward the open panel. “Why don’t we get to work?”