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Kendra Eberhart

Reality of command

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Reality of command

"Yes Admiral, I did disobey two sets of direct orders and through my negligence to my duty as a Star Fleet officer I caused the deaths of three crew members as well as the destruction of my ship." Commander Arden Cain said without a trace of pride in his voice.

The truth of course was more complicated or at least more detailed but the essence of the story was correct. And while he knew that he faced court marshal and even prison for his actions, right then in the Admiral's office wasn't the time for Arden to start defending himself. In a way, as far as Arden knew, the admiral was only the messenger not to mention the one that rescued Arden and his crew off of that sorry excuse of a planet. For that Arden was deeply grateful so he showed a little extra appreciation. Although that "extra" appreciation was quickly fading in the face of an unnecessary and annoying line of questioning. It seemed as though this Admiral was taking the whole incident personally even though she had no stake in the issue as far as Arden was concerned. He, like the rest of his crew was tired so all he wanted to do was to see to his crew’s well being and then get some much needed rest on the ride back to Star Base 75, even if that was to take place in a brig. After a week in a wet and overcrowded cave, the prospect of even staying in a brig felt like being in a Risian hotel.

"And yet you still disobeyed your orders. I have review the logs and I can't help but get the impression that you planned on disobeying. Is that accurate Commander Cain?" the female Trill Admiral asked pointedly.

"If I had planned anything Admiral, the rescue and subsequent escape might have gone smoother. No, planned, isn't a word I would use. I knew very well before I even heard the distress call that my career was hanging by a thread and yet that had nothing to do with my decision. I would have made the same call no matter what my personal situation was because I was in a position to help those civilians and I was able to do so, so I did." Arden said keeping irritation from his voice but not caring what else slipped through.

The Admiral simply stared at Arden but this was the part that Arden didn't care about. While he deeply regretted the fact that the Altamira was destroyed and devastated at the loss of those crewmen despite not really knowing any of them or showing his grief, Arden was absolutely proud of the fact that he and his crew had saved all the civilians that were still alive when they had arrived on site. What's more was that because of his decision; a supposedly renegade Klingon war bird had been destroyed. That too was a little regrettable to Arden but he hadn't lost any sleep over the matter.

"Out of interest commander, do you have the slightest idea why you were ordered not to engage the, at the time, unknown hostile?" The Admiral asked in what Arden was quickly seeing as her typical manner.

"Because I was ordered not to deviate from the Altamira’s assignment being that of cargo hauling. The other reason, which I would be more inclined to follow, was because the 'unknown hostile's' apparent technological superiority meant that it would have the clear tactical advantaged. Statistically speaking of course." Arden replied.

Arden then paused for a moment deciding how best to continue as it was apparent that that was what the Admiral wanted. He didn't quite know what the woman opposite him expected Arden to say or which answer she wanted to hear but it didn't matter as Arden had already had the time to think through them all. Ultimately though in that moment Arden decided to approach the matter as he had been trained and not as rashly as when he made the decision in the first place.

"Somebody at Sector Command probably looked at the stats for a Miranda class vessel and came to the conclusion, based on that alone, that any attempt would fail probably in a dozen different ways.” Arden said before calmly continuing. “Tactically speaking such an assessment isn't wrong especially considering the outcome. If I did follow either of those orders, however, I would have condemned two dozen civilians to their deaths and Star Fleet would have been none the wiser about supposedly rogue Klingon activity."

"As distasteful as it is to face, being a Star Fleet command officer sometimes means having to do things that run counter to the principals that our organization represents. And by extension there are times when we must set aside personal opinions and instincts. That is the reality of command and not some fanciful notion of doing what’s right. I would have expected you to have learned that lesson before now." The Admiral told him.

Even though Arden didn’t take his eyes off the Admiral or say anything aloud he sighed inwardly. In a very real sense, it was that same reality that the Admiral spoke of that was the reason why the Altamira had been reassigned as a cargo freighter in light of another decision Arden had made. Another poor decision if Arden was to judge against the Admiral’s “reality” of command.

"I have learned that Admiral and it’s something that I have accepted because I could see the reasons why those distasteful things, as you put it, had to be done.” Arden replied plainly. He could have gone into more detail or give dozens of examples on either side of the argument but there was no point. There was no need to be drawn into an ideological debate over something that couldn't be changed at that point.

"Was there anything else you wanted to know Admiral?" Arden asked reluctantly.

"Well you certainly seem eager to be done with me which is rather rude to begin with. But to want to leave before listening to my request, well that is something else." The Admiral said in a slightly playful tone. Or at least her tone wasn’t as stern as it had been up until that point.

That knocked Arden off guard. He didn't understand what he was doing there in the first place or even why an Star Fleet Admiral had come to his crew’s rescue, let alone what request could possibly be made of Arden at that point. Surely it went without saying that the Admiral could get whatever she wanted from people that weren't about to be court marshalled. Arden couldn’t help but be intrigued if for only a few of those reasons. He wasn't foolish enough to think that the admiral represented a way to bypass the consequences faced. Just like many times before curiosity got the better of him so he stood silently and patiently.

"Before we get to that though I would like to know how you got to the surface of that planet." The Admiral stated leaving the question implied but not expressly asked. "I have read the preliminary report but I want to hear it from you."

Arden gave a sigh; he had had plenty of time to draft the report while waiting to be rescued but knew that he wouldn't escape having to retell the story. Some part of him did hope that he wouldn’t have to though. Whether he was proud of certain portions of the outcome or not, this particular story wasn’t one that he wanted to dwell on more than necessary. Taking another breath he began to speak in order to describe the events in the most concise but thorough way he knew of.

"The idea was to drop out of warp in system just inside of transporter range and start beaming the civilian survivors out. We kept our distance from the civilian ships but did what we could to shift the attacker's attention to us. And all that worked until we made our escape from the system by jumping back to maximum warp." Arden said pausing for a moment to think before continuing. "The Klingon's closed the distance quickly and started taking pot shots at the Altamira's shields. They must have got in a lucky shot to because one of the EPS conduits running directly from main engineering blow out and I was told that it wouldn’t be long before we'd lose stability in the warp core. Firing the last of my photons torpedoes and detonating them early to hopeful blind the enemy's sensors I had my pilot drop us out of warp, we then dumped the warp core and ran like hell before it too detonated. We weren't far from the planet when the shock wave caught up with us and we went crashing into the planet below. "

Arden paused having told the Admiral the first half of the story in order to give her a little time to process what he had said. In a way Arden also made use of that time to consider how he managed to take a string of the hairiest moments of his life and condense them into a minutes worth of dull story telling. Something in all that just didn’t sit right with him.

"It goes without saying that the Altamira's landing was rough but she held together long enough to touch down on the planet’s surface with quite a few minor injuries. In that regard we were extremely fortunate. That fortune however didn’t last as after we recovered from the landing we couldn't have been planet side for more than twenty minutes when we spotted the war bird coming in for an emergency landing a couple kilometers away. After that we followed standard procedure: tend to our wounded, find better shelter, open lines of communication with the Klingon which was shot down almost immediately, and then activate a distress beacon as soon as it was safe to do so." Arden concluded listing each item off one by one.

"I also read that after you defeated the last of the Klingon that you investigated their crashed vessel and proceeded to destroy what was left of their communication system. It strikes me as odd that you would destroy something that could speed up the time it took for rescuers to find you." The Admiral said completely unfazed by what Arden had said before that.

"By that point we had a functional beacon and a shuttle that we could get into orbit if need be so I wasn't concerned about being found. What did concern me however was the very real possibility of more Klingon showing up and recovering what little data was left in those systems. My Klingon is a little rusty, but it wasn't hard to work out that the data that survived detailed attempts at improving the Klingon cloaking device. If I had to guess I would say that the Klingons were having a lot of success with those efforts. As much as I am sure that there are those in star fleet that would love that data, I felt it best that it didn't survive to be found. Off the top of my head I can only think of one other planet that I have been to that was as bad as that one. The last thing it needed was more Klingon." Arden said speaking honestly.

"Besides the ionic disturbances that prevented my ship from locating you initially, the planet didn't look all that bad." The Admiral commented.

"You forgot to mention the frequent and long lasting storms as well as the incredibly dense jungle. That planet certainly wasn't Risa but definitely survivable if you don't mind dark and foreboding environments." Arden commented almost in a sarcastic manner.

"It’s of little consequence but since you brought it up, what planet do you think is so much worse than this one?" The Admiral asked curiously.

"It was a small mining colony known as Dusters Range. Well that was until an unidentified Borg variant appeared there. More to the point, between those Borg-things and sand storms common to that world it goes without saying that I don't have pleasant memories of my time there." Arden told her.

This time Arden didn’t wait long to continue. The events of Dusters Range were long behind him but that didn’t mean that Arden wanted to spend any amount of time reliving those memories after the last few days that he had had.

"My life in Star Fleet has never been dull," Arden said pausing briefly. "even when it was meant to be. I suppose that is one thing that is never really covered at the Academy."

"Yes one of those concepts that needs adding or revising but all things have a time. Perhaps it is the way it is for a reason." The Admiral said dismissively. "Speaking of time, the time has come to end this conversation which means you have a decision ahead of you. Orders from sector command are that you are to be held in custody pending a formal trail and court marshal. In light of certain facts it is highly improbable that you will be imprisoned for what happened but your career will be over. Have no illusions to that." The Admiral told him so plainly.

Arden of course had come to the realization that it probably would come to such an outcome but found it a little hard having someone else say it. Before Arden could comment the Admiral spoke again.

"That however would be an unfortunate and wasteful end in my opinion as I happen to be looking for a few good commanders for my task force. Given everything that I have learned about you, I'd say you'd fit in well.” The Admiral concluded.

"And if I work for you, you make these charges disappear. As lovely as that sounds it doesn't sound legitimate." Arden replied almost instantly. As much as the offer sounded appealing and even desirable, it wasn't Star Fleet that taught Arden not to be taken in by something that sounded too good to be true.

"It is absolutely legitimate, political but legitimate none the less. It is much the same as the formal hearing that you will attend, it’s all political. In that case though someone is using politics to get rid of you. I'd be interested in finding out why but that is a conversation for another day. I am not a member of Star fleet Intelligence nor is this a setup." The Admiral told him with more conviction then Arden had seen in the woman previously.

"So what would you have me do in this task force of yours?" Arden asked seriously.

"See that ship being towed out the window?'' The Admiral asked to which Arden stood up to get a look at it.”That will be your ship if you accept the position."

"And get it operational by the looks of it" Arden commented.

"The USS Cressida is a ten year old nova class but has been in dry dock collecting dust for the last two. More importantly is that she is yours if you still want to be on the front lines exploring the galaxy, making it a better place and all that." The Admiral told him but even though her words might have seemed more than a little sarcastic, her tone and face told a completely different story.

Arden certainly had more questions in mind then he possibly wanted to deal with at that moment, the least of which was whether or not he wanted to accept the offer. Whether or not he should accept considering recent events also came to mind along with why a rescue ship would be towing a Nova class vessel during a rescue mission. As he took one more look out at the USS Cressida though Arden knew that perhaps the first of those was the easiest question to answer just as it had been when he was first offered the USS Altamira. So he turned back to the Admiral and spoke knowing that at least one question had been settled.

“When do you want me to start Admiral?” Arden asked.

“My crew will be set to leave this area in six hours. You have that long to get your ship operational or to arrange for another ship to tow the Cressida back to the Star Base.”

“Of course Admiral, I will get it done.” Arden said simply.

Ensign Atherton Grix

Counselor

USS Gemini

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