Author: Anthony Butler
Star Traks: The Lost Years #14
The Replacement Captains
“This better be good,” Lt. Cmdr. Patricia Hawkins said as Travis Dillon led her into the bare holodeck. “I’m on duty in two minutes.”
“I promise it will be,” Commander Dillon said resolutely. “Computer, activate Dillon Omega Nine.”
The holodeck walls shimmered as the program activated: Hawkins suddenly found herself in a dense forest, complete with cawing birds and tittering squirrels.
“Well,” Hawkins said, looking around. “It’s not exactly Blackbeard’s ship.”
“Even better. Same general era a little earlier.” Dillon led Hawkins through the dense forest until the pair reached a clearing, at the center of which stood a castle that stretched hundreds of feet into the air. Hawkins could barely see the top.
“It may not be perfectly to scale,” Dillon said, mumbling some calculations to himself. “But it fits the general idea.”
“The general idea of WHAT?” asked Hawkins.
“Camelot.” Dillon grinned. “Guess who you get to play?”
Hawkins put a hand over his face. “I have no idea, but I know enough Earth history to know who YOU get to play.”
“Ah, King Arthur, and his fair Guinivere!”
Hawkins turned toward the strange voice, which came coupled with the sound of horse-feet clopping. A metal-armored knight atop a regal horse galloped out of the woods, dressed in blue and gold with fancy tassels. She had to give it to Dillon; he had a definite eye for detail.
“Report, Lancelot!” Dillon ordered, winking at Hawkins, who sighed.
“The perimeter is secure. No one will threaten Camelot’s stately battlements today!”
“Nor ever,” Dillon said, throwing on a fake (and shabby) British accent. He winked again at Hawkins, who sighed again.
Lancelot climbed down from his horse and removed his helmet. As he removed the helmet, he shook out his long, flowing locks of auburn hair. He was definitely not a Secondprize crewman. Too damned handsome. Too damned striking.
Lancelot took Hawkins’s hand and kissed it.
Too damned polite, too.
She smiled, and immediately found Dillon standing in between her and Lancelot. She was amazed at how quickly and gracefully he’d done it.
“Now then, Lancelot, that’s quite enough of that.” Dillon smiled weakly back at Hawkins, when suddenly the comm sounded.
“All hands, this is Captain Rydell. How’s everybody doing? In case you were wondering, I’m just fine. Anyway, in just a few short minutes we will be in orbit around Hujinor II. You may remember that, when ‘The Suburb’ was a prison overseen by a whacko named Zero, I was captive there. Now I’m going to be running it! As you’ve all read in the ship’s newsletter, my new girlfriend, Karina Durham, and I will be leaving for a month or so to oversee the Zenedron Construction Group’s work on the new and improved ‘Suburb Spa and Resort,’ set to open sometime next year. Meanwhile, you will all be in the care of a competent officer who is more than capable of seeing this ship through whatever missions she may encounter. Have a great day. I know I will!”
Dillon beamed, turning his back on Lancelot and looking at Hawkins. He affectionately wrapped his arms around her. “This is it, Patricia! This is when it gets good!”
“Oof!” was all the reply Hawkins could muster.
“I say, chap, what’s all the ruckus?” Lancelot asked as Dillon yanked Hawkins back toward the holodeck arch.
“No time to chat!” Dillon called back. “Computer, end program!”
Dillon ran the entire way to see Rydell and Durham off at the transporter room.
“It’s funny, you know,” Dillon said, slowing to a jog as he and Hawkins neared the transporter room. “We’ve talked about Rydell’s leave of absence dozens of time over the last month, and he’s never once sat down and talked to me about what he expects me to do while I’m in command.”
“You don’t say,” Hawkins mumbled. “Let me ask you this. Did the captain ever say, specifically, that he’d be leaving you in command?”
Dillon stopped walking and blinked at Hawkins. “Who else would they put in command? Jaroch?”
Hawkins shrugged. “It’s just funny, you know, that you and Rydell never met about that.”
“I tried to get an appointment with him, but he always had something else come up.”
“Sort of like he was avoiding you?”
Dillon glared at Hawkins and kept walking. “Why would he do that?”
The pair arrived at the transporter room where a small group of senior officers had gathered to see Rydell and Durham off.
At the center of the group, Rydell was already wearing khaki shorts, sandals, a straw hat and a Hawaiian shirt. Beside him, Karina Durham was wearing a beige sarong type dress and sunglasses. Rydell looked at peace with the world, and Durham looked just plain excited.
“Don’t get too f***ing comfortable down there, sir,” Commander Scott Baird muttered, staring at the deck.
“He’s going to miss you, isn’t that sweet?” Lt. Cmdr. Emily Sullivan said, wrapping an arm around Baird’s neck.
Commander Jaroch handed Rydell a padd. “Sir, you may appreciate this study of the poisonous life-forms that are indigenous to that moon, and whose habitats you may be disturbing during the construction process. I would hate for one to attack you, or “ Jaroch cast a small, menacing grin Dillon’s way. “Attach itself to your head.”
Rydell took the padd. “Thanks, Jaroch.”
“Your ‘Good Luck’ fruit basket has already been beamed down to your temporary living module, sir,” Transporter Chief Monica Vaughn said, adding “and there are a few special somethings in there from me.” Karina glared at her.
Rydell smiled patiently. “Those special somethings wouldn’t happen to be images of you naked, straddling the primary power coupling in engineering, would it?”
“How’d you know?”
“You left your f***ing bra hanging on it,” Baird muttered.
“And you left the imager down there, with the images freshly stored on it, for all to see,” Lt. Cmdr. Hawkins said. “Disgusting.”
“If anyone is curious, the images can be found in this month’s edition of the ship’s newsletter,” Jaroch said. He looked at the dumb glances from around the room, then muttered something about “public record.”
“Thanks, but no thanks,” Rydell said, taking Karina’s hand. “I don’t think the future missus would approve.”
Karina rubbed her chin. “Come to think of it, hon, I’m a little curious about how the pictures turned out myself.”
“There’s a discussion to start off our vacation with,” Rydell said lightly. “Monica, you know what to do.”
Vaughn opened her mouth to say something, then sighed. “Hell with it. Energizing.”
Dillon shouldered his way through to the front of the group as Rydell dematerialized. “I’ll take good care of her, Captain!”
Rydell smiled weakly as he and Karina were beamed away. “You do that, Dillon.”
“Computer, access all files on ‘planned management ideas and implementations during Rydell absence’ and put them on my viewer,” Commander Dillon ordered, sitting in the command chair on the bridge of the Secondprize as it orbited Hujinor II.
“File size is too large for your current viewer,” the computer replied crisply. “Please upgrade your hardware or report to the computer core to access the information.”
“Six long years coming up with ideas,” Dillon said, rubbing his hands together. “All that information, just waiting to be implemented!”
From behind him, at the tactical station, for the third time that day, Patricia Hawkins sighed. “It’s only going to be one month.”
Dillon stood and turned to face Hawkins. “Yes. A WHOLE MONTH!”
Dillon hurried toward the foreward turbolift. “I’m going down to the computer core to look at all my ideas and try to organize them into some sort of presentation. Call a ship-wide staff meeting. We’ll use the Turbojitsu arena on Deck Nine.”
“Um okay “ Hawkins said uneasily.
Dillon stepped into the turbolift, just as a soft chirp sounded on Hawkins’s panel.
Instantly, Dillon squeezed himself between the closing turbolift doors, scrambling out of the turbolift. “What’s going on, Patricia? Report!”
“We just got a proximity report that a starship is approaching off the port bow,” Hawkins said. “It’s a Starfleet ship, so I doubt we’ll have to call for a Red Alert.”
Dillon giggled giddily. “Fantastic, then! A fellow commander approaching to congratulate me on my temporary command status. By the way, Patricia circulate a memo to the crew. In accordance with Naval tradition, I’m now to be addressed as ‘Captain.’”
“CAP-tain,” Hawkins mumbled. “The ship is hailing us. It’s the U.S.S. Orleans.”
Dillon rubbed his chin. “Orleans Orleans Orleans. That’s Captain Woodall’s ship. He’s a real hard-case. A stickler for details and regs. Miserable, lonely man. No sense of crew camaraderie. Nobody likes him “ Dillon stopped talking when he realized everyone at every station on the bridge had stopped working and were now staring at him with ironic, brow-furrowed looks.
“What?” he finally demanded.
They all went back to work.
“Put Woodall on-screen,” Dillon ordered, and hurried over to the command chair.
Grayed and stocky, sturdy-looking but not quite yet grizzled, Captain Jack Woodall appeared on the viewscreen, standing on his bridge, hands clasped behind his back.
“Commander Dillon,” he said, his eyes droopy and unexpressive.
“Captain Dillon,” Dillon muttered under his breath, then smiled at Woodall. “Yes, yes, Captain. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you. Guess news travels fast, huh? At ‘warp’ speeds, you might say?”
“Whatever. You stand relieved, sir. I hereby take command of the U.S.S .sheesh Secondprize, as of this date. Computer, transfer all command codes to me.”
The computer didn’t even ask Dillon’s permission.
Dillon felt his stomach plummet down to Deck 32.
“B-b-b-b-but,” he stammered. “But I thought you called to congratulate me!”
“Congratulations,” Woodall snapped. “Now get the hell out of my chair.”
“Hon, come out of there.” Lt. Cmdr. Hawkins pleaded as she pounded on the doors to Dillon’s quarters. He’d locked her out, which was funny, because they were her quarters too. Dillon apparently had access codes that defied even Hawkins’s security clearance.
“No,” came the muffled voice from behind the doors. The normal “voice-announce” function had been deactivated because apparently Dillon and the computer were no longer on speaking terms, after the whole incident with the computer not bothering to ask Dillon’s permission to transfer command codes to Woodall.
“You’re being immature about this, Travis,” Patricia said softly, but sternly. “I’m sure there’s a good explanation.”
“There is a good explanation,” came Dillon’s tormented, muffled reply. “Captain Rydell doesn’t think I’m capable of looking after his ship for even a month. If my own captain doesn’t trust me, what hope do I have of earning the trust of the rest of this crew, or of any crew?”
He was making damn good points. “Listen,” Hawkins said. “This is certainly a punch in the face, but I’m sure the captain didn’t mean it as such. Talk to him. Find out why he made this decision. I’m sure there’s a rational thought process behind it. Captain Rydell would never do anything on purpose to hurt you.” Why did Hawkins suddenly feel like she was giving Dillon relationship advice?
There was silence on the other side of the door. Then the sound of Rydell’s voice over a comm channel.
“What do you want, Dillon? We haven’t even had time to unpack!”
“I didn’t mean talk to him right now!” Hawkins muttered, pounding on the door. “We have a staff meeting to get to!”
“To hell with the staff meeting!” Dillon called out. Hearing that phrase from Dillon turned Hawkins’s blood cold.
On Dillon’s desktop terminal, with a sandy beach behind him, sun streaming down into his face and reflecting off his sunglasses, Karina Durham sunning on a chaise lounge in the background, Alexander Rydell looked visibly taken aback.
“Did you just say ‘to hell with’ a staff meeting?”
Dillon nodded. “I want to settle this here and now, Captain. Why didn’t you put me in command of the Secondprize?”
Rydell sighed and collapsed down into the chaise lounge beside Karina. A waiter walked by with a tray of drinks but Rydell waved it away. “No pina coladas, no margaritas. Just cherry icee, fella. Got it?”
“And a margarita for the lady!” Karina called out without looking up.
The waiter nodded, looking perturbed, and turned on a heel.
“I love it here!” Rydell said, then looked around conspiratorially. “They already have waiters! Isn’t that fantastic? This place is already terrific and the new buildings aren’t even up! It’s like a module park down here right now, because of all the renovations to the main buildings, but it’s so relaxing! People will come from all over the galaxy to relax here!”
“Captain “ Dillon said, feeling in need of a vacation of his own.
“I’m going to go take a swim in the ocean in a few minutes. I’d love to hunt for sand dollars but they aren’t indigenous to this planet. We’ll have some shipped in, just like we had to have salt added to the water. Hmmm…”
“CAP-tain!” Dillon said shrilly. “You’re not listening to me!”
“Right, right,” Rydell said. “The whole command thing.” He sighed, just as the waiter returned, frowning, with a clear glass filled with a thick, red, icy substance. “Thanks, Boswell.” Rydell took the glass and gulped. “Ahhh perfect! So anyway, I was going to leave you in command, not a problem until my personnel report crossed someone’s desk at Starfleet Command.”
“A very influential Admiral.”
“This, this Admiral “ Dillon said. “Didn’t think I could manage my own command?”
“He put it in slightly less generous terms, but yes,” Rydell said.
Dillon smiled. “Well, then. I’ll take care of this mishap right away. I’ll call my Uncle Matt. He’ll talk to his Admiral, find out what’s eating at him and Captain Woodall will be on the next shuttle out of here.”
“The Admiral WAS ‘Uncle Matt,’” Rydell said, exasperated, and finished off his icee, calling for another. “It was Admiral Dillon. He didn’t think you were suited to command. Not yet, maybe not ever.”
Dillon’s mouth gaped, his face paled. “EVER?”
“You don’t have many fans in Starfleet, Dillon. You know that.”
Rydell chuckled. “Of course. You’d have to be an absolute moron not to realize…” Rydell stopped chuckling. “Commander, I can’t change Starfleet’s mind. My only advice to you is to be a good Number One to Captain Woodall. Show Starfleet you can work well under anyone, no matter how hard of a hardcase they are. That’ll count for a lot.”
“Right, right,” Dillon said absently. “Show Starfleet my hardcase. Work under Woodall’s lot. Commander Advice’s changed mind.”
Dillon reached out blindly for the terminal and slapped it a couple times, until finally his hand came down on the “disconnect” panel. A confused-looking Rydell disappeared from the screen.
Commander Travis Dillon looked completely at peace when Patricia Hawkins returned from the staff meeting.
Hawkins, on the other hand, was anything BUT at peace.
She stormed through the doors, at least glad that Dillon had unlocked them. Otherwise, she would have smashed through.
“Hi honey,” Dillon said, slumped in the couch, staring at the blank wall opposite it.
Hawkins stared, cock-eyed, at Dillon. “‘Hi honey’? I assumed your talk with Captain Rydell went well?”
Dillon nodded dumbly, his face looking vacant. “He’s having a great vacation.”
Hawkins stared out the slatted windows of she and Dillon’s quarters, just as the stars turned to streaks as the Secondprize jumped into warp, and as Hujinor II disappeared in the distance.
“He’s having a great vacation,” Hawkins said. “That’s it?”
“What about his decision to make Woodall the acting captain?”
Hawkins placed a hand gently on Dillon’s forehead. “Hon, are you okay? I was worried about you before, but at least you were acting consistent. This is you’re just too damn calm!”
“What good will worrying do me?” Dillon asked placidly. He took Hawkins’s hands in his. “Life is grand.”
“That’s good I guess.”
“How was your day?” Dillon asked, but didn’t look as if he cared all that much.
“Take one guess!” Hawkins said, throwing up her hands and collapsing onto the couch next to Dillon.
“NO!” Hawkins replied, kicking at the coffee table fitfully. “Captain Woodall is absolutely impossible! He’s completely revising my job description so that I’m only in charge of tactical and not security.”
Dillon arched an eyebrow. “Really.”
“Because, apparently, according to Starfleet regs, a starship must operate with a full-time tactical officer, and a full-time security Chief. But very few captains follow that rule.”
“So he’s selected his own Security Chief. A Lieutenant Vansen, from the Orleans. A real hardcase in her own right.”
“You wouldn’t believe it. Woodall’s pissing everyone off. He lengthened duty shifts, reduced breaks, added responsibilities, moved around department heads, prohibited food in the conference room. In forty-five minutes he’s turned this ship from the loosest to the tightest ship in the fleet.”
“I see.” Dillon rubbed his chin
Hawkins nodded. “Even Jaroch, who you wouldn’t think has a problem with discipline, was about to go J’Ter on Woodall’s ass.”
“You don’t say.”
“Scott just about kicked a hole in the hull.”
“Apparently, according to regs, Starfleet requires a Level One diagnostic on the engines be submitted every quarter. We missed the filing deadline, so Baird and Sullivan have to spend the next three days straight catching up. There are hundreds of tests that have to be run and verified in-person. They had to cancel their holodeck reservations!”
“Well, that is a shame.”
Hawkins watched, dumbfounded, as Dillon shuffled off to the door.
“Travis? Where are you going? Travis?”
Hawkins would have searched for Dillon, but she was running late for her shift. She’d only been given a five minute break between the staff meeting and going on-duty, and she’d already been informed that demerits would show up on her permanent record if she didn’t arrive on the bridge promptly at the start of her shift.
Maybe she’d been around Dillon too long, but Hawkins actually found herself caring about her permanent record.
When she arrived on the bridge, she found Woodall in the command chair, Vansen standing next to him reading from a padd.
“Ensign Bailey will have to be reprimanded for having his uniform zipped halfway down. This is NOT an approved style. Lieutenant Monroe in Astrophysics has a non-standard nose ornamentation that must be removed in order for her to return to duty. Crewman Crissell was seen making obtuse advances on Ensign Park in the crew lounge…”
“What is this?” Hawkins demanded, stepping down to the command chair area.
“‘This’ is a private briefing,” said Vansen. “Stay out of it.”
Hawkins looked to Woodall. “Captain!”
“You heard her,” Woodall rumbled. “Man your post. I may have been stuck with babysitting this ship, but that doesn’t mean I have to tolerate the ridiculous behavior of its crew.”
Suddenly, Vansen’s padd bleeped and she glanced at it. “Captain, Alpha Shift’s PT drill is slated to begin now.”
“Excellent.” Woodall glanced around the bridge. “Jaroch, Carr, Hawkins. You’re up first. Sullivan, you, Prescott and Ghali will have the second rotation.”
“Rotation of what?”
“Physical training,” Vansen muttered. “You know, what you do to your body to ensure it doesn’t get flabby.”
“I’m vaguely familiar with it,” Hawkins grumbled.
“Get a move on, then,” Woodall said, and Vansen darted to the turbolift, jogging in place in front of it.
“You heard the Captain!” Vansen barked. “Everyone form up!”
Jaroch and Carr grudgingly shuffled up to the turbolift, Hawkins reluctantly following.
“The crew will observe a regular fitness routine,” Woodall snapped as Vansen loaded the trio of officers into the turbolift.
“Must have been all those…damn…buffets!” Lt. Carr wheezed as she trudged after Jaroch and Hawkins. Vansen was a good ten meters ahead of them all.
“It is unfair for one captain to stuff us full of food at meetings, and for the other to force us to engage in humiliating physical training,” Jaroch said. He didn’t seem to be breaking a sweat as he jogged, but he didn’t look happy.
Carr, for her part, was dripping, and gripping Hawkins’s shoulders. “Don’t let…don’t let it end this way, Commander Hawkins!”
Hawkins shook Carr loose. “Don’t let Vansen beat you, Andrea. Show her you’ve got what it takes to be a Starfleet officer!”
“But I DON’T!” Carr moaned breathlessly.
“I really wish one of my past lives had been an athlete,” Jaroch muttered.
Hawkins was sweaty and exhausted when she got off-shift. Not only had she endured an endless string of meetings with Vansen on ship’s security protocols, but she’d had to take the ship through a series of grueling phaser targeting and response time tests, coordinating with weapons and engineering departments, all of which left very little time to rest from her four kilometer sprint through the ship.
When Hawkins returned to her quarters, she was shocked to see Dillon hadn’t returned yet. She’d been gone seven hours.
“Computer. Find Commander Dillon.”
“Commander Dillon is in Holodeck Three.”
“Figures,” Hawkins mumbled, and slogged off toward the recreation deck.
“I understand you requested an audience with King Arthur,” Dillon said, sitting erect in his throne, fingers steepled together. He was back in costume: the big feathery, blue and red thing complete with robe and staff. It made Dillon look like a Playing Card reject.
“This isn’t a game, Travis. Snap out of it!” Hawkins said.
“And why ever would I want to do that?”
“Because this ship is in trouble,” Hawkins said, rubbing her back. It ached, along with her legs and just about every other part of her. “Do you have a place to sit down?”
Dillon clapped his hands. “Merlin, make a chair appear for m’lady.”
The bearded wizard sighed. “Your highness, surely there are more wondrous feats you’d like me to perform.”
“No, just the chair for now, my good man,” Dillon said haughtily.
“Oh, very well,” Merlin said, and pointed just behind Hawkins. “Alllakazoo, allakazam, make me a chair, fast as you can!”
Indeed, a soft, cushioned chair (not as nice as Dillon’s throne, but not bad) appeared behind Hawkins. She gratefully sat.
“Now, as you were saying…”
“As I was saying…wow it feels good to sit down.” Hawkins blinked, clearing her thoughts. “Travis…we…we need you.”
Dillon cocked his head. “You…the crew…need…me?”
“Well, yes, I guess.”
“I hardly call that a resounding affirmation.”
“Stop talking like that.”
“Like you’re British.”
“That’s it, right there. Stop that!”
Dillon folded his arms. “My dear, that is not the way to get me to do anything for you.”
Hawkins stood. “God damn it, Travis, you know you are the only person on this ship with enough gall to stand toe to toe with Woodall and make him ease up on us. You are the only one who can annoy Woodall enough to make him give up and cut us all a break.”
Dillon rubbed his chin. “Perhaps you’re right.”
“I know I am. Now get out of here and go see Woodall.”
“Then again, I don’t want to give up my kingdom.”
“You can have your kingdom back after you talk to Woodall.”
“The job of King, much like the job of Captain, is not part-time. Send Captain Woodall my regrets. And be sure to come back soon.” Dillon clapped his hands again. “Guards!”
Two knights in gleaming armor appeared as if from nowhere on either side of Hawkins. They took her by the arms.
“Now, wait just one…”
“Ta-taaaa…” Dillon called, waving at Hawkins.
“The Secondprize Resistance Movement has officially come to order,” Lieutenant Commander Jaroch, the group’s appointed Secretary, said, shifting uncomfortably in the easy chair in Dillon’s quarters, where Hawkins had set up the Resistance’s base of operations. “Let it be known for the record that Commander Dillon’s cabin smells like mold.”
“Strike that,” Hawkins snapped, standing at the front of the group, which consisted of Carr, Sullivan, Baird, Jaroch, Counselor Claire Webber and Doctor Beth Aldridge. “Now, you all know why you’re here.”
“I don’t,” said Aldridge.
“I don’t either,” added Webber.
Hawkins rolled her eyes. “Aren’t the two of you fed up with Captain Woodall, too?”
“Captain who?” Webber asked with a rosey smile.
“Captain Woodall. He took over for Captain Rydell the other day and will command the Secondprize for the next month. He’s been driving the crew nuts with increased duties, physical training, stupid protocols, and asinine demerits.”
“The name sounds familiar. I remember hearing something about Rydell leaving in the ship’s newsletter, but I only skimmed it,” Aldridge said with a yawn. “Anyway, this Woodall character hasn’t done anything to Sickbay yet, so can I go?”
“He doesn’t sound nice,” Webber said, as Aldridge got up to go. “Not nice at all.”
“So you’re in,” Hawkins said tiredly.
“I’d love to,” Webber said, and stood. “But I’m supposed to be leading a pottery class in fifteen minutes. Let me know how everything turns out.” She grabbed Hawkins in an excruciating hug. “Be strong!”
Hawkins’s tired bones barely felt the intense pressure of the hug. She collapsed into one of the vacant chairs as Webber and Aldridge left. “Well, then, I guess it’s up to us.”
“I suggest we f***ing kill him,” Baird spoke up.
“Real smart, honey,” Sullivan said. “Way to use your head.”
“The threat of being sent to a penal colony would seem to preclude that solution,” Jaroch said. “I have no wish to destroy my career simply to get rid of an annoyance. If I did, I’d have done so years ago…” he added, sounding distant.
“Then we need another way.”
“Honestly,” Sullivan said. “He’s not THAT bad. I mean, this is kind of what I expected when I graduated from Starfleet Academy. This is what I thought Starfleet was like back then.”
“How wrong you were,” muttered Carr.
“Someone has to reason with Woodall,” Hawkins said. “Can we all agree none of us are up to the job?”
“F***ing A,” muttered Baird. “Unless you want him killed.”
Jaroch produced a padd and handed it to Hawkins. “I have calculated that a neutrino-based brain induction sequence would either make Captain Woodall nicer or render him a brain-dead vegetable.”
“Fascinating,” Hawkins snapped. “But it’s not an option. Nobody’s killing Captain Woodall, OR zapping his brain.”
Jaroch took his padd back, frowning. “You didn’t even consider my idea.”
“That is because it is ridiculous.”
“Perhaps your judgment is simply clouded because you are in love with the man Captain Woodall is replacing.”
“I’m not in love with Captain Rydell!”
“I was referring to Commander Dillon.”
Hawkins looked thoughtful. “Oh. Yeah. Him.”
“Isn’t that why we’re here?” asked Carr. “To try to find a way to get Commander Dillon to stand up to Woodall?”
“Yeah, sacrifice Dillon,” Baird said with a grin. “Kill two birds with one f***ing stone.”
“The idea isn’t to sacrifice him,” Hawkins said. “The idea is to get Dillon to show Woodall that he’s a competent officer. Let him make the personnel decisions. You’ve got to admit, incompetent or not, life under Dillon is infinitely preferable to life under Woodall.”
“I do not think Commander Dillon has the intellectual capacity to convince anyone of anything,” Jaroch said, “unless of course he is trying to convince an Elaysian eel that water is wet.”
“Well, in the absence of any GOOD ideas,” Hawkins said, prompting Jaroch to grimace, “we’re going to go ahead with the plan to get Travis to stand up to Woodall.”
“And how do you propose we do that,” Jaroch muttered.
“We appeal to his ego.”
“At least it won’t be hard to find,” Sullivan giggled.
“And how do you propose we appeal to his ego?”
“Get the person Dillon hates most, who hates Dillon most, to beg for him to come back.”
“And who would that be,” Jaroch said. Hawkins smiled at him. “Oh, no.”
“I’m here to see his…ugh…exalted majesty,” Commander Jaroch said, staring up at Dillon’s throne with folded arms.
“Ah, one of my loyal vassals, come to tell me of life in the fiefdom,” Dillon said. “How I love talking to the little people. You know, everyone in my kingdom is important to me.”
“Right,” Jaroch mumbled. “King Arthur, would you mind letting Commander Dillon out to play?”
Dillon blinked. “I am playing a role, Mister Jaroch. I am not crazy.”
“That is debatable.”
“You’re not even trying to get into the part.”
“Yes, you are correct.”
“Well, then why are you here?” Dillon asked, narrowing his eyes at Jaroch. “Are you trying to destroy my program?”
“No,” Jaroch said patiently. “I am coming to…to…”
“Yessss?” Dillon asked, leaning forward.
“I am here to ask for your help.”
“Oh, do tell.”
“We need you to talk to Captain Woodall. To get him to stop the senseless fitness regime, the long hours, the sign in/sign out padd on the bridge.”
“And what makes you think I can do that?”
Because you are expendable, Jaroch thought. Then, he said, “Because you have a keen understanding of people, and we think you are the best man for the job.”
“WE?” Dillon asked. “WE think?”
“That’s right, we think you are the best man for the job.”
“What do YOU think?” Dillon asked interestedly.
“I think you are a…” Jaroch said, and all sorts of images floated into his head. Finally, he let out a long, tired breath. “I think you are a consummate diplomat. I think you are the only one who can help us.”
“So, if you were to, I don’t know,” Dillon said, tracing his finger on the arm of the command chair, “say that you needed someone. Who would that someone be?”
“Say it in a complete sentence.”
“Forget this!” Jaroch snapped, and stormed out of the throne room. “Exit!” he called, and the holodeck doors appeared before him. He stomped out, to be greeted by Lieutenant Vansen out in the corridor.
“Commander Jaroch! Just who I was looking for,” Vansen said. “We’ve found your science reports of the last few years lacking in detail. Captain Woodall would like them all to be done over, from memory if necessary.”
Jaroch whirled on a heel and marched back into the holodeck.
“Commander?” Vansen called after him, but he didn’t reply.
Jaroch stomped back into the throne room, up to Dillon’s throne. “I….NEED…YOU… TRAVIS…DILLON!”
“Well, why didn’t you just say so in the first place,” Dillon said, and slid off the throne. “I’ll just go see Captain Woodall and take care of this mess right away.”
“Very good,” Jaroch said, as Dillon left. “And while you’re doing that, I am going to go vomit, then rinse my mouth with benzolyne.” Jaroch doubted he would ever quite recover from telling Travis Dillon that he needed him.
Having just returned from the lower decks, Lieutenant Nell Vansen was outside the ready room door, looking impertinent, ambivalent, and obtuse. A standard-issue facial expression for a good Starfleet Security officer, thought Dillon.
“I would like to see the Captain,” Dillon said calmly. Behind Dillon, the bridge crew worked at their stations, busily entering data and making adjustments, all the while grumbling to themselves. The bridge had never looked so busy.
“That’s enough with the grumbling,” Vansen said aloud. “Bridge protocol, under Starfleet Ordinance 0012, sub-section A, clearly states that all verbal communication be made clearly and be addressed to a particular person. If you have a problem, say it aloud, and to the person you have a problem with, got it?”
“I think you are an unbearable, loathesome bitch and a shabby excuse for a human being,” Lt. Carr called out from ops. “Did you get all that or should I send you a memo to that effect?”
Vansen cleared her throat. “That won’t be necessary, Lieutenant. As you were.” She turned to Dillon, who was waiting patiently beside her. “Are you still here?”
“I said,” Dillon said cooly, “I’m here to see the captain.”
“It doesn’t concern you.”
“I’m Chief of Security. Everything concerns me.”
“I outrank you.”
“Only in the strictest interpretation of protocol.”
“The strictest interpretation of protocol is what we’re all about, LIEUTENANT,” Dillon said. “Now step aside.”
Stymied, Vansen took a side-step to the left. She punched the door-call. “Captain Woodall. A what was your name again?”
“Commander Travis Dillon.”
“A Commander Travis Dillon is here to see you.”
“Hrm,” replied Woodall’s voice. “I don’t suppose you’re permitted to shoot him, are you?”
“Not unless he strikes first, sir,” Vansen said, sneering at Dillon.
“Any chance of that?”
Vansen looked at Dillon, sizing him up. “Doubtful.”
A long sigh. “Send him in, Vansen.”
“Yes, sir.” Vansen punched another control beside the ready-room door and it slid open.
Dillon smiled amicably at Vansen and patted her on the shoulder. “Thanks, friend. Get the captain and I a cup of coffee. We’re going to be a while.”
Vansen’s shoulders fell and her head sunk into them. “You…that…um…right.”
The last thing Vansen saw as the doors to the ready room closed was Dillon’s smiling face.
“…actually a subsection of paragraph 12 of the Starfleet Code of Carpet Styling, which indicates that, although stain-master is not an approved carpet type, it is allowed in certain emergency circumstances,” Dillon was saying, as Vansen walked in sullenly with two cups of coffee.
She handed one grudgingly to Dillon and another to Woodall, who looked like he really needed it. Woodall had his chin propped in his hands and stared out of the ready-room window into space.
“Thanks, Ms. Vansen,” Woodall said distantly. “That will be all.”
“I said,” Woodall murmured. “That will be ALL.”
“Right, sir.” Vansen backed out of the doors, keeping an eye on Dillon.
Dillon leaned forward, smiling. “Well, sir, I’ve certainly bored you enough with my deep knowledge of Starfleet codes of conduct.”
“Bored isn’t the word for it,” Woodall said. “But your knowledge of regs is impressive. No, that’s not the word for that, either. It’s…”
“Listen, Dillon, I’ll be frank,” Woodall said, leaning back in his chair. He stared across his desk at Dillon. “I don’t like you.”
“I don’t like you either, sir,” Dillon replied, in such a calm way it stunned Woodall.
“Really?” Woodall leaned forward.
“I don’t like a good many of my crewmates, and I suspect that the feeling’s mutual. But we work together effectively, and I think the same can apply to you and me. You need me, sir.”
Woodall folded his arms. “For what?”
“To implement policy.”
“I can do that.”
“In such a way that the crew still respects you.”
“They respect me now.”
Dillon tapped his comm badge. “Dillon to Carr.”
“Do you respect Captain Woodall?”
“I’m sure that’s an isolated example,” Woodall muttered.
“Computer “ Dillon said. “Please contact a random crewmember.”
Woodall rolled his eyes.
“Particle Engineering, Deck 20, this is Ensign Arnsparger.”
“Ensign Arnsparger,” Dillon said, “Diane, do you respect Captain Woodall?”
“I haven’t met him yet, but nope.”
“Thanks.” Dillon tapped his combadge again. “So, as I was saying, Captain, you need me.”
“You don’t care if the crew respects you?”
“Oh, they respect me enough to allow me to do my job. But you have to be the diplomat. You’re the captain. You have to be the one they like.”
“And you can make that happen for me?”
Dillon nodded. “Oh, yes sir.”
Woodall nodded. “Interesting. But I don’t care.”
“I don’t care if people like me. That should have been obvious, even to you.”
“Okay. Well, you can’t say I didn’t try diplomatic methods first.”
“What are you talking about?”
“If that’s all, Dillon, you’re dismissed…”
“Of course,” Dillon said, and strolled out of the ready room.
Shortly thereafter, Lt. Vansen stepped into the ready room. “Sir, if I may ask, what was that all about?”
“I have no idea.” Woodall leaned back in his chair. “Vansen, I think that Dillon person is a certified nutcase.”
“You’ll get no argument from me, sir.”
“I didn’t expect one,” Woodall said, then passed out.
“Sir, are you all–” Vansen said, then passed out.
“Acting Captain’s Log. Stardate 54329.8. We’ve just departed the Larameides Nebula, where we’ve successfully completed a tricky mapping mission. All ship’s departments operated above par. Maybe I was wrong about this ship.”
Captain Woodall and Lieutenant Vansen walked out onto the bridge, meeting the stoic faces of Hawkins, Jaroch, Dillon, Sullivan, and Carr.
“Captain on the bridge,” Dillon announced cordially.
Woodall sat next to him. Vansen sat in the unoccupied chair beside Woodall. “I have to say, Commander Dillon, that after that confusing discussion we had, you’ve all really shaped up. I don’t know what you said to the troops, but whatever you said really did the trick.”
“It was my pleasure,” Dillon said, patting Woodall on the shoulder. “This is a good crew, and they respond well if you motivate them properly.”
“We owe everything to you,” Jaroch told Dillon.
“Yes, you are the best commander ever,” Sullivan said, not sarcastically.
“We are all in Starfleet because of you, Commander Dillon,” said Carr.
Vansen leaned over and whispered in Woodall’s ear. “Don’t you find this peculiar, Captain?”
“They may be a little eccentric, but as long as they get the job done, I don’t see a problem with it. Loosen up, Vansen.”
Dillon switched off the desktop view in the captain’s ready room. “Looks like they’re having a great time in there.”
“Did you have to program us to sound so…corny?” Hawkins asked.
“Respectful was actually what I was going for.”
“We sounded ridiculous.”
Dillon shrugged. “The point is, they’re tucked away, out of our hair.”
“Good idea gassing them with anesthezine. They probably barely realized they blacked out by the time they woke up in the holographic ready room.”
“I’m good for something around here after all,” Dillon mumbled.
“And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“Just that Starfleet doesn’t trust me to command.”
“Well, now you have a month to prove them wrong, right?”
“Except they can’t really know I’m commanding. I can’t do anything spectacular that would call attention to the fact that it’s me running the ship and not Woodall.”
“Were you planning anything spectacular?” Hawkins asked lightly.
Dillon shrugged. “Not really.”
Hawkins extended her hands across the desk to clasp them with Dillon’s. “Then lead us through a completely standard, average, unexciting month, O captain of captains.”
“I think I can handle that.”
Twenty-six uneventful days later, the Secondprize arrived back at Hujinor II and entered standard orbit.
Commander Travis Dillon sat in the center seat. “Good job on that orbit, Sullivan.”
“Stuff it, Commander.”
“You know, you’d think a month of me commanding would soften you people to me just a bit,” Dillon mumbled.
“Perhaps you should just give up and try another line of work,” Jaroch suggested.
“Or you could go back into counseling. How is that going, after having to say you needed me?”
“Counselor Webber and I are making great progress,” Jaroch said stiffly.
“Captain Rydell and Karina Durham have been beamed aboard,” Hawkins observed from her station behind Dillon.
“Good,” Dillon said, standing. “It will be great to have the captain back. Have you transported Woodall and Vansen from the holodeck to their quarters…er…quarterses?”
“Five minutes ago,” Hawkins said with a small smile. “They will wake up in a few minutes feeling rested and never realizing they’ve spent the last month in a holodeck.”
“How did you cook up a detailed simulation of the Secondprize on such short notice, anyway?” Sullivan asked.
“I already had one lying around,” Dillon said, glancing at Hawkins. “I just needed to populate it with characters from the crew profiles. And…a few other places.”
Hawkins sighed. “We should go meet the captain. And see the other captain off.”
“Good idea.” Dillon stood and walked to the turbolift with Hawkins. They stepped into its opening doors and commanded it to go to Transporter Room Two.
After a few moments’ silence, Dillon looked at Hawkins. “I assume you told the crew that Woodall and Vansen have recovered from their terrible bout of the Tarkalian flu?”
“Yes. And put a little notation in their official medical records if it ever comes into question. We can explain everything away as a hallucination.”
“That should hold up just fine in court,” Dillon said, staring at his boots.
“I’m sure it won’t come to that.”
“Do you feel a bit guilty?” Dillon asked Hawkins.
“Not at all.” Dillon briefly kissed her on the cheek, and they walked out of the opening turbolift doors into the corridor.
Where they found Woodall and Rydell chatting amiably, with Vansen and Durham observing.
“…spectacular crew!” Woodall beamed. “And here’s my good man Commander Dillon right now!”
Dillon smiled weakly. “Captain, how are you?”
“Fine, just fine. Don’t know why I feel so rested after our all-night poker game.”
“Well, they say the average human can survive on three hours…” Dillon began, but Woodall interrupted by slapping him on the back.
“What a kidder! This guy is really a wild man when you get to know him.”
“He is?” Rydell asked with interest, looking at Dillon.
Woodall nodded. Then looked at Hawkins. “And this one, Lieutenant Commander Hawkins. Boy, does she keep a cool head during a battle.”
“The Secondprize was in a battle?” Rydell asked, looking concerned.
“Well, we can’t really go into details. Right, folks?” Woodall asked, nudging Dillon and Hawkins in the stomachs.
“Um…right.” Dillon looked at his boots again. The problem with open-ended holosimulations is that you couldn’t always predict how they’d unfold.
Vansen, who’d been silent up till now, glanced sheepishly at Hawkins. “Commander… Patricia. I’m sorry for doing…you know…that…to you.”
“Apology, um, accepted,” Hawkins said, as Vansen and Woodall walked into the transporter room.
“Fine crew, Rydell! A fine crew! And you be sure to put that Lieutenant Lancelot in for a promotion! He’s one fine soldier!”
Once the doors had closed, Karina looked on with furrowed brow as Rydell turned his gaze on Dillon and Hawkins. “Lieutenant who? Would one of you please tell me what…” He paused. “You know what? Nevermind. I have a feeling I don’t want to know.”
“That’s a good bet,” Dillon said, as Rydell and Karina stepped into the turbolift.