|Valerie Markham by Bossco. Tattok by Gazomg. |
Sovereign and background courtesy of Paramount.
Text by Christina Moore.
Tattok felt at peace.
Of course, anyone sitting in the middle of the Remzok Monastery's gardens would too. It was beautiful—with roses, dahlias, daffodils, and a variety of other flora. For the last three months, the dwarfish Roylan had meditated in that garden. At first, it had been with his therapist, Prylar Breya, but soon after when his nightmares subsided, he was allowed to meditate alone.
His mind was clear and without worry except for one matter: returning to duty. Starfleet Command had allowed him time to heal from his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but in these turbulent times he was still needed. Rear Admiral Penelope Roquefort herself had come to his retreat on Bajor to discuss his options. She had sat across from him, drinking Tarkalean tea while they spoke. Three options were presented to him: Taking over at Starfleet Command as Deputy Director of the Starfleet Diplomatic Corps, command of a Starbase, or a command of a planetary base.
Tattok had haggled some, hoping for a fleet command. There was only one available for a man of his talents. The one he had just left.
The Eleventh Fleet.
The Eleventh Fleet, he thought. My old bailiwick.
From what he heard over the Starfleet grapevine, Commodore Valerie Markham was doing a fine job as his replacement. But it seemed that Command only saw her as a temporary substitute; possibly they were grooming her to become Deputy Director of the Starfleet Diplomatic Corps when Rear Admiral Tomok retired… though it would be a few more years before anyone in military service could retire thanks to the Stop Loss order.
"Admiral? Admiral Tattok?"
Tattok opened an eye to see his new administrative aide standing before him. Amber Stone—his previous aide—had been promoted to Chief of Staff after his leave began, and her replacement under Markham had been pulled by Starfleet for another assignment. Wayne Hollis, his bodyguard, he knew had specifically requested to remain with the 11th Fleet Command—the master chief petty officer had spoken to him privately about it, expressing his hope that he would one day return.
"Yes, Mister ch'Dahni?" he asked, opening both of his eyes to look at an Andorian. Of course, Lanatyr ch'Dahni was unlike any Andorian that he had ever met before. He was a dwarf, an extreme rarity among his species, and like Tattok, had been forced to overcome a number of obstacles presented by his diminutive stature to join Starfleet.
"Sir, I'm sorry to disturb you. Our travel arrangements have arrived," ch'Dahni informed him.
Tattok looked up at the tall Bajoran woman in purple robes next to him, who was accompanied by a dark-haired woman with dusky skin.
"Our path has ended here," Prylar Breya said, the white-haired woman bent down to her knees. She grabbed his head on the right side and closed her eyes. "Your pagh is strong, Admiral. Always look forward and your path will always be clear."
"Except to turn around once in a while for possible assassins," ch'Dahni quipped.
Breya offered a small smile. "What he said."
Hugging Tattok, she rose and left, leaving them with the woman. She wore captain's pips on her crimson collar and she carried a regal essence around her.
"Captain Leila Nazari, at your service, sir."
"Nazari," Tattok said, taking a moment for the name to roll around in his head. "I remember a Nazari from when I was a captain. Was he a relative of yours?"
"My Uncle Eli served on the Bowie. He was one of the senior non-coms."
"Ah, yes. I remember now." He looked over at ch'Dahni. "This is my administrative aide, Lieutenant Commander Lanatyr ch'Dahni. Like myself, he takes some getting used to."
"And unlike the admiral, I'm not a doddering old fool."
"I may look like a fool, but I'm the maddest fool in Wonderland," Tattok said with a smirk. "Have our belongings been moved to the ship?"
"Already floating in space and burning up on re-entry, sir."
"Why you don't leave him here with the prylar is beyond me, sir," the captain said. "He seems like trouble."
"I'm trouble. He's a happy little nuisance."
Nazari giggled before tapping her commbadge. "Nazari to Tortuga. Three to transport."
"Acknowledged, Captain. Energizing."
Before Tattok could draw breath to express his surprise, the three of them disappeared into pillars of blue light.
Tattok opened his eyes and found himself in the transporter room of a Federation starship. He looked around for some display of the ship's name and identification, finding it on a nearby display:
USS Tortuga, NCC-71132.
"Permission to come aboard," the Roylan asked, looking at the Vulcan commander facing them.
"Granted, Admiral. Welcome aboard."
"Oh, a Vulcan. Check him, guys," ch'Dahni said. "He might be packing a tiresome argument."
The Vulcan ignored the miniature Andorian and bowed his head to the admiral, his hands clasped behind him. "I am Sanol. If you have any questions, I will endeavor to provide you with an answer, sir."
Tattok nodded. "Thank you, Commander." He looked at Captain Nazari. "I'm all yours, Captain."
"If you'll follow me, sir." The Jordanian captain led the way out of the transporter room with Sanol and ch'Dahni following them. "The Tortuga has been refit since her last mission under my predecessor. Our ablative armor has been improved and—"
"Armor, yes," Tattok interrupted, "but what about sensors? Your scientific facilities?"
"State of the art, sir. Isn't that right, Sanol?"
"If I may be truthful, Admiral," the Vulcan said,"the ship was built for a devotion to war during a time of war. Her scientific facilities are small and her sensor packages are of a military grade."
"Well, that won't help you finding all of the boogymen out there, will it, Mister Sanol?" ch'Dahni quipped.
"No, it will not, Mister ch'Dahni."
Nazari paled with embarrassment, her eyes glaring at her First Officer. "I apologize, sir. We're in the middle of converting—" She was silenced when he raised a hand.
"I'm just here for a ride to Sanctuary, Captain. I leave any problems with the ship or her personnel in your capable hands." He took a deep breath and exhaled. "If I could be shown to my quarters, I would appreciate it."
"Of course, sir. We planned a reception for you at 1900..." The captain's voice trailed off and Tattok's mind wandered to the ship. As he walked beside the captain, his hand touched the bulkheads occasionally. He could sense her pain like she was a living creature.
You've been used badly, he mused, as if his thoughts could be heard by the ship. Hopefully, we can return you to the glory you deserve for your service to us.
“So… that’s Cardassia?” Lanatyr ch’Dahni asked the next day, as he and Tattok stood on the Tortuga’s bridge. “It looks so… so…”
“Devastated?” offered Tattok.
“Actually, I was going to be kind and say, 'recovering,' if I’m allowed to use the vernacular.” The Andorian held up a PADD and looked sharply at the Roylan. “I have the morning schedule for tomorrow if you’d like to look at it.”
“I presume Commodore Markham is chomping at the bit, as the Humans say, to return to the Veritas?” The Roylan smiled, taking the PADD from his aide. “Veritas is a good ship, but without her captain for six months, I ponder as to how she can function.”
“With a good chief engineer keeping her from falling out of the sky?” Captain Nazari asked, joining them by the port side of the main viewscreen.
“Exactly. How is your Chief Engineer?”
“Syern?” Nazari asked. “He's no Montgomery Scott, but he gets the job done well.” Her chief engineer was a Zakdorn and he could be as obstinate as a Tellarite when it came to his engines.
Ch'Dahni raised an eyebrow. "So, he is no miracle worker?"
“Miracles are left to God and to the Divine, Mister ch’Dahni.” The captain turned towards her helm officer, a Xindi-Insectoid. “ETA to orbit, Kree’daka?”
There was a buzzing from the pilot as her translator said, “Four minutes, Captain.”
"Captain," the operations officer said, interrupting them, "Cardassian Traffic Authority is hailing us."
“They don't sound nice.”
"Strange," Tattok spoke up. "I thought our flight plan had been cleared by Fleet Operations."
“Someone apparently dropped the ball and forgot to inform our Cardassian friends.” The way that ch'Dahni said ‘friends’ made the Roylan wonder if the Federation could ever truly be friends with the Cardassian Union.
“On speakers,” Nazari said, resting a hand on her hip and another on the front of the ops console.
“Frequency open, ma'am.”
“… and I repeat, state your identity and your intentions or we will blow you out of orbit! You have ten seconds!” the traffic operator’s words came in clear over the intercom.
Nazari frowned and said, “This is Captain Leila Nazari of the Federation starship Tortuga. We are carrying a senior member of Starfleet aboard en route to the Federation Embassy on Cardassia. To whom am I speaking?”
There was a pause. Then…
“We are the True Way! We will neither bow, nor obey any commands from any member of Starfleet or its United Federation of Planets! Take your ‘senior member of Starfleet’ home and leave Cardassia to its true sons and daughters!”
“I'm detecting a weapons lock, Captain,” the Tortuga’s tactical officer reported from his station behind the command area. “A volley of photon torpedoes from seven-nine-two, mark eleven!”
“Raise shields and sound battle stations,” Nazari ordered.
“Wait!” Tattok shouted. “This is an attempt to provoke us—raise shields but do not return fire.”
The torpedoes struck the shields just as they activated. Tortuga shook slightly but received no damage.
“Is that an order, Admiral?” The captain walked over to her command chair and sat down. Looking at the Roylan, the Jordanian woman said, “Because I believe I'm still in command here.”
“And I am your senior officer,” Tattok barked back before he turned to the tactical officer. “Scan those coordinates, Mister Hoffley.”
Hoffley looked at his captain, who nodded. The tactical officer looked at his display, conducting a scan. “Nothing, ma'am, sir… Except…”
“Could it be a cloaked vessel?” ch’Dahni asked. “The True Way and the Maquis have both acquired cloaking devices from the wrecks of Romulan and Klingon ships at numerous battle sites.”
“Or traded with the Orion Syndicate,” Commander Sanol spoke up from his place beside Captain Nazari. “I believe that circumstance could be put to them.”
“We're receiving another transmission, Captain, from Cardassia.”
“Put it through,” Nazari told her operations officer. She looked at Tattok for a second before looking ahead of her. When she had assumed command of the Tortuga, she had been given a lecture from Harrison Dodge of Starfleet Operations about the Roylan admiral and his disagreement with many of the policies that Tattok's administration of the Eleventh Fleet had made.
The main screen lit up and a Cardassian woman in military armor appeared. “This is Glinn Delak of the Cardassian Traffic Authority. We have had transmission difficulties due to anti-lepton jamming at our primary transmitter. Please accept our apologies and those of the Detapa Council. The words of the True Way are not those of the Council.”
Nazari rose from her chair. “Understood, Glinn Delak. This is your world. What do you recommend?”
“Please stand down and allow the Cardassian militia to locate and punish the True Way.”
Captain Nazari looked at Tattok who nodded in agreement.
“Acknowledged, Glinn Delak. We're standing down from Red Alert. If we can be of any assistance…?”
“We shall make such a request through your chain of command, Captain.” Delak turned her head towards Tattok and ch’Dahni. “Welcome back to Cardassia, Vice Admiral Tattok. Your arrival is much anticipated at the Federation Embassy.”
Tattok nodded his head to the Glinn. “We come to serve. The welcome of Cardassia is encouraging, Glinn Delak. I will beam down shortly.”
Delak nodded, disappearing from the main screen.
Nazari turned towards the admiral. “What just happened here?”
“A two-sided welcome,” suggested Lanatyr ch’Dahni. “One from the True Way and one from the Cardassians.”
“I shall order an investigation into them as soon as possible. The True Way is the wrong way.”
Admiral’s log, supplemental;
I have returned home. That is, if the Eleventh Fleet can be described as ‘home’, but for now, that's what it is.
The welcome by the True Way concerns me, and their influence in Cardassian society needs to end if the Cardassian people are to flourish and stand tall in the galaxy again. How can they undermine their own people? I don't understand the reasons behind their actions, other than national pride. Could it be insanity?
Commodore Markham was happy to see me return. And I was happy to see my friend. Hopefully, she will enjoy her return to the Veritas.
End log entry.
Tattok stood in his office, pausing in his movements after entering the room. His office at the Federation embassy seemed different than before he went to Bajor for medical leave. It had the essence of Valerie Markham in it.
“We're going to need a lot of solvent to get rid of the Human smell.”
The admiral smiled, turning to his administrative aide. “It's my office.”
“Yet she has made it hers while you were gone. Time to reclaim it.”
“Indeed,” Tattok told ch'Dahni. He went behind the desk and sat down in the chair. “Have Quartermaster Services reset this office to my previous requirements, please.” He pointed to the fish tank. “And remove that, if you would.”
“The commodore is waiting?”
“Yes, Admiral, as you requested.”
Tattok nodded. “Send her in, then leave us.”
Ch’Dahni nodded, leaving the room. Tattok picked up a PADD and began reading one of the reports that had been waiting for him. It was about an incident with the Klingons on a Cardassian world that the Veritas crew had handled. Interesting, he thought as the door opened and a red-haired Human woman walked in.
Commodore Valerie Markham stopped in front of his desk and snapped to attention. She had been used to using this office for the past six months. Now she was on the opposite side of the desk.
“Welcome back, Admiral.”
“Thank you, Valerie.” He surprised her with the less formal manner. “Did the situation get better or worse without me?”
“The diplomatic situation improved every day, according to the ambassador.”
“And the military situation?”
“More problems arise from the Maquis and the True Way with our humanitarian supplies to the affected worlds. There have also been a couple of incidents with the Klingons and the Romulans.”
Tattok set his PADD down. “I was just reading about one of those ‘incidents’ that the Veritas encountered. Commander Haywood handled it well. He must have had a great teacher.”
Markham smiled. “I can't take credit for that. Jabari is his own man.”
“Indeed, he is.” Tattok climbed out of his seat and walked around the desk towards her. “We have a decision to discuss.” He pointed towards a nearby couch and the two officers sat down. “You can either sit here and run the fleet and I report aboard the Veritas as Commanding Officer, or you go and I stay. What are your thoughts on this?”
To her credit, Markham took a moment to think. She smiled and said finally, “Sir, with all of my heart, I think you're better suited to being here. I would rather be on a ship, handling what I'm trained to handle there, not here. I appreciate the chance to learn during your absence, but I think I should return to the Veritas.”
“Then your promotion to Commodore was a mistake?”
“Yes… And no. It does give me a greater latitude of authority over our captains, but it also made me realize that all I ever wanted to be is a starship captain.”
“Then that’s where,” the little alien said, taking a small isolinear chip out of a pocket, “you should be.” He handed her the chip.
“You already anticipated this?” she asked him.
“Yes, and I saw something of you in Captain Nazari during my transit from Bajor. You both belong on the bridge of a starship. Who am I to deny you of that privilege?”
“Thanks, Admiral!” Valerie leaned forward and hugged her friend. He returned her hug, then moved off of the couch and back behind the desk.
“I want you to investigate the True Way between fleet assignments.”
“Aye, sir. They need to be stopped.”
“Proceed at your own discretion.”
Markham rose from her seated position and nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“Thank you, sir,” the commodore said, heading out the door.
“And good luck,” the Roylan said after she left.