<Nifty Star Trek Doorbell Sound>
Jeff looked up from his breakfast table and towards the door. He rarely had any visitors, much less any that came by at ten after six. For a half-second, he considered ignoring the chime as he had a large breakfast that needed his attention, however, he could sense a lot of sadness nearby.
He was all but certain it was coming from whoever was standing outside of his door.
“Come in,” he called.
The doors slid open and Usagi walked in. Jeff stood and began to walk towards her.
“Am I bothering you?” Usagi asked.
“No,” Jeff said, motioning for her to sit down on her couch.
Usagi complied and basically fell onto the couch. The same kind of couch that JC had in his quarters. In fact, Jeff's quarters, excluding the wall decorations, were nearly identical to JC's.
Usagi didn't really take into account the fact that nearly all the junior officer quarters looked alike with the same furnishings – or that her quarters looked exactly like Minako's and Makoto's, but in the state she was in right now, small details were irrelevant.
One detail she did notice, however, was the meal sitting on Jeff's table.
“Oh, I interrupted your breakfast,” she said, beginning to stand.
Jeff shook his head and motioned for her to stay seated as he pulled up a chair and sat across from her. “I've got plenty of free time and it's replicated. I can eat when someone doesn't need to talk to me.”
Usagi smiled at the councilor. “I'll cook you something later to make up for it.”
“I've heard about your cooking,” Jeff smiled back. “That will make missing breakfast totally worth it.”
Usagi smiled a bit more before the smile faded, the blonde sinking into the couch.
“What's the matter?” Jeff asked.
“I'm not supposed to talk about it, but...” Usagi sighed.
“Anything you say to me stays between you and me.”
Usagi sighed before continuing. She explained to Jeff about the incident next to the anti-proton turret casing and how JC slapped her. She then told him how she was very angry at JC at the time and went and reported the incident to the Captain.
“I...” Usagi looked to Jeff, a sad, but not 'crying sad' look on her face, “I really regret what I did.”
Jeff drummed his fingers on his armrest for a minute. “Well, first off you should not be blaming yourself for anything. Regardless of how he meant it, he did hit you.
“Secondly, maybe if we got the two of you together, we could-”
“No,” Usagi said, shaking her head. “He's so angry at me...” Usagi sighed. “I...” Usagi closed her eyes and allowed herself to fall across the couch. “I've given up on that. I understand that he is no longer my friend.”
Jeff watched Usagi for a couple of minutes before finally speaking again. “Then I guess I am not quite sure what you want my help with.”
Usagi sat back up and looked to Jeff, again sadly but determined. “I don't want to feel bad anymore.”
“Oh,” Jeff said.
“You helped Rei,” Usagi said. “Help me.”
“Well...” Jeff said, clearing his throat and moving from the chair to the couch next to Usagi. “Rei's problem was a bit different, and Rei was a bit different. Regardless, guilt, regret, whatever, it's not something that you can simply wash away. It takes time.”
Jeff put his hand on Usagi's shoulder as she looked towards her hands. “And it's even harder when the person involved is someone you interact with on a day-to-day basis.”
Usagi thought about this for a while. She then looked up to Jeff, a couple of tears now starting to form in her eyes. “So, what do I do?”
“Well,” Jeff said, “I think you need to not dwell on what's happened and concentrate on the future.”
Usagi was uncertain. She really did not think she would be able to not dwell on this, but she was willing to give it a shot.
“Also,” Jeff continued, “Lt. Devall is a reasonable person. I think he just needs to have some time to cool off. I think we should give him a couple of weeks, then if things haven't normalized, we all have a talk.”
Usagi was very uncertain about this. “I don't know,” she said.
“As I said, nothing leaves this room,” Jeff said, reassuring her that he wouldn't do anything behind her back, “but in my opinion, that might be best.”
Usagi reluctantly nodded. Sorta. “Maybe.”
Jeff smiled at her. “Well, for now, just do your best to be you. And I mean the real you.”
Usagi laughed. “No one wants me to be the real me. It's dangerous.”
Jeff blinked. “Okay. Well, but the you that is always smiling, no matter what. Move forward.”
Usagi stood. Jeff stood as well. Usagi hugged him before turning towards the door. “Thank you.”
“Any time you want to talk,” Jeff smiled.
Usagi nodded, waved, tripped, and fell, which caused Jeff to run towards her and help her up. She sheepishly waved again and headed out the door.
Jeff returned to his table and looked to his large breakfast.
“Cold,” he sighed as he placed it back in the replicator and ordered a simple bowl of oatmeal.
Still six hours out from Cardassia, the Sisko crew was getting to the point where they could officially list this as their most uneventful trip ever. In fact, it even seemed like even subspace variances were moving out of the way to avoid the ship.
This meant that more and more tests and diagnostics would end up being run on the ship's equipment. It was slightly annoying to the crew as they assumed the Captain was only having them do it since the Admiral was on board; making sure he didn't think they just sat around when they were not out shooting people.
At the same time, it was also a good thing, since it was allowing them to get everything in perfect working order.
Makoto and Amanda had gotten the weapons and shields well above the normal expected operating levels. Minako and Kaii had refined the targeting sensors, as well as the short-range and long-range detection array to the point that they could detect and target a moth if they needed to.
Engineering, to their credit, had not only undone the chaos from 'Hell Day', but they had managed to increase the efficiency of the warp engines by another 102 percent.
On the bridge, JC happened to be performing some work at the engineering terminal while Usagi was working on taking Jeff's advice and was chatting with Minako at the operations station.
Makoto's eyes moved from her own terminal to the engineering station. Her attention, equally divided between JC and the two or three ships within short-range sensor distance.
Once JC stood up, Makoto quickly typed up a message into her instant messaging console and sent it before allowing her eyes to follow JC.
“Commander,” JC said as he walked over to Usagi. Usagi turned to him and nodded, maintaining her smile, despite it being one of the hardest things she has ever done in her life.
JC was not unaffected by Usagi's seeming 'reset'. He wasn't sure if it was for his sake, or if she was just trying to keep up some level of 'Usagi-ism' on the bridge, so he ignored it.
“We've managed to fix the variance in the coil alignment, but we need to make adjustments in the matter-antimatter flow for the fix to show itself in the warp field.”
Usagi nodded, despite not having a clue what JC just said.
“I'll need to go down to engineering to supervise that.”
“Sounds good,” she replied.
JC eyed his boss suspiciously before he nodded and headed towards the turbolift.
Makoto quickly looked at Amanda. “You have tactical,” she stated. Amanda looked towards where she assumed Makoto would be, but before she had the chance to say anything, Makoto was gone, zipping into the turbolift with JC just before the doors closed.
“I am glad to see you took my advice about not getting stressed out over it,” Minako said to Usagi.
Usagi nodded as she looked towards the turbolift. “Yeah.”
Neither of them noticed that Makoto was no longer on the bridge.
“Engineering,” JC called to the turbolift.
Makoto stood there in silence.
“You going to engineering too, Commander?” JC asked.
Makoto inhaled deeply. She had made her decision. They both had. What needed to be done, needed to be done. Their friend, someone, for as long as they could remember, they had been sworn to protect.
She had been harmed.
There was punishment, however, more needed to be said.
Ground rules need to be laid out.
There were some things you just do not do.
Makoto exhaled. JC felt something poking him in the rib and looked down. His eyes went wide when he saw Makoto's phaser pressed up against him.
“Just keep quiet, we only need to talk to you,” she stated. “Security override, deck D.”
The lift slammed to a stop and changed direction.
“I don't know what she told-” JC started but was cut off as Makoto poked him with the phaser.
“Shhhhh,” she shushed, holding one finger to her mouth.
JC gritted his teeth and looked straight ahead.
The ride took about a minute and a half; what would be fair to say was the longest minute and a half of JC's life. Finally, the lift came to a stop and the doors opened. Greeting the pair was Rei, who quickly grabbed the front of JC's uniform and pulled him out of the turbolift.
Rei dragged him down the corridor, even though JC did not put up any resistance as he knew Makoto was following right behind him with her phaser still pointed at him and took him into a vacant office. Once there, Rei handily tossed the engineer into a chair.
“Look,” JC once again objected, “I didn't-”
Both Rei and Makoto put their fingers in front of their mouths and shook their heads.
“Lieutenant,” Makoto said, lowering herself to where she would be eye-level with JC, “We all know she's dumb. We all know she does not belong where she is. We all accept that without you in the position you're in, we'd likely have died of a warp core breach a long, long time ago.”
Rei nodded and lowered herself as well. “That said, nothing...” Rei scooted a little bit closer, making sure JC could feel her breath on his face. “And I mean nothing gives you the right to punch her because you're angry at her.”
JC shook his head feverishly. “I didn't punch her! And I certainly didn't hit her out of anger!!!”
“Be quiet!” Rei ordered.
“NO!” JC yelled, standing. He was quickly shoved back into the chair by Rei, a shove that instantly told him that it was a bad idea to try to be physically confrontational with the two women again. Nonetheless, JC was determined to be heard.
“If you're going to bring me up here and threaten me, the least you could do is listen to my side of things.”
Makoto sighed. “Well?”
“She was freaking out about radiation, dehydrated because she doesn't know how to use an EVA suit, rolling around on the ground, and I slapped her to bring her to her senses,” JC stammered. “That's all!”
Rei looked to Makoto.
“Quite frankly that she's making a deal out of this hurts,” JC said, looking to his feet.
“You hit her,” Rei reminded him.
“Yeah,” JC, visibly upset, said, looking to Rei. “Yeah, I did. Anyone else would have had her kicked off this ship two and a half years ago, instead of mentoring her and busting their ass to cover for her.
“Should I have done it? No. Of course not,” he grumbled. “But this,” he continued, waving his arms around, “implying I beat her like some kind of disobedient slave, is a bunch of crap.”
JC again stood, knocking the chair over. “Now hurry up and shove me out the airlock or send me back to engineering. I have work to do.”
Rei again looked to Makoto before Makoto escorted JC to the turbolift and ordered it to main engineering. To say the ride down into the bowels of the ship was quiet and awkward would be a massive understatement.
As the lift came to a stop and the doors opened, Makoto grabbed the back of JC's collar.
“I understand how you feel, Lieutenant, but don't ever, EVER, lay a hand on her again,” Makoto said quietly. “Engineering can be very, very dangerous.”
Makoto let JC go. JC quickly walked out of the turbolift, never turning around as the doors slid closed.
The three NSO rifles barely made a sound as they fired round after round of supersonic ammunition at their target. Nearly simultaneously, Kio, Ian, and Anthony dropped the magazine out of the rifle, inserted a new one, and began firing at a new target.
They repeated this three more times till a buzzer sounded. Each soldier set their rifle on the ground and walked backward, looking at a numerical display on a board as an older gentleman, dressed in a standard Starfleet uniform with a provisional lieutenant rank insignia, rather than the NSO jumpsuit, walked up.
Kio smirked at her score of 2,951.
Anthony sighed at his mere 2,533, while Ian smiled at his 2,731.
“That's what happens when you always shoot for their groin, Tony,” Kio laughed.
“I didn't like the way he was looking at you,” Anthony retorted.
The three, as well as the lieutenant, Lt. Clay Dowis, laughed.
“I don't really have a purpose here anymore,” Dowis chuckled.
“Not so, Lieutenant,” Kio said. “You provide moral support.”
Dowis laughed a bit. “Well, maybe. Luckily, you can get that over subspace.”
“Subspace?” Anthony asked. “Where are you going?”
“To the new NEO ship,” Dowis responded.
“Huh?” Kio asked, vocalizing the dumbfounded look on both Anthony and Ian's faces.
“They didn't tell you why we're going to Cardassia?” Dowis asked.
The trio shook their heads.
“Hrm,” Dowis said, turning around and quickly walking away.
“Lieutenant!!” Kio called after him. He did not respond and shuffled out of the gun range. Kio quickly ran out after him but found the corridor empty. She turned to Anthony who had followed her out.
“I'll get to the bottom of this,” Kio promised.
Anthony grinned. “Going to go work your contacts?”
Ian watched in amazement as Kio sent Anthony flying down the corridor and into the bulkhead about fifty meters away. Kio then turned to Ian. “I'll be back in a bit.”
Ian nodded, then went to go check on Anthony who was upside down and appeared to be bent in half.
Rei looked out of her office window after hearing a knock to see Kio. She smiled and nodded, silently granting permission for the young lieutenant to come in.
Kio entered and stood on the other side of Rei's desk. Rei grew worried about the look on her face. She had not seen that look in a while, and it wasn't one that usually came with anything good.
“Something wrong?” Rei asked, motioning for Kio to sit down.
Kio slowly sat in one of Rei's chairs before getting right to the point.
“Are they getting rid of us?”
Rei blinked. “No. Why?”
“I've heard there is going to be a new NEO ship.”
Rei put her face in her hands and sighed. “Dammit.”
“Ma'am?” Kio asked.
Rei looked back to Kio, an expression of regret on her face. “This is my fault. I've had other things on my mind and forgot to mention it to you guys.”
Rei dug through her PADDs before finding the right one and handing it to Kio. “They are building a new NEO ship, but it's not going to replace us, it's going to supplement us.”
Kio looked up to Rei in shock. “So, there will be TWO NEO teams?”
Rei nodded. “Yes.”
Kio went back to reading the PADD as Rei continued speaking. “We're heading to Cardassia now to pick up the person that Starfleet is planning on having lead this team.”
“They're having a Cardassian lead a Starfleet strike force?” Kio asked, again staring at Rei.
Rei shook her head. “No, Lieutenant. She's Trill. She's just stationed on Cardassia.”
“Until her ship is ready, they want her to work with us so she can learn how to do things...” Rei smirked a bit, “...the right way.”
Kio looked back at Rei for a moment before she started laughing. Loudly. Rei eyed her, slight annoyance crossing her face.
“Deja vu, huh?” Kio asked her.
Rei smiled, remembering the very similar thought she had when Admiral Saotome had told her that she would be taking on an inexperienced hotshot soldier.
Kio stood, setting the PADD back on Rei's desk. “Well, as long as we're not going anywhere, then all is well.”
Rei nodded and resumed what she was working on as Kio walked to the door. Kio stopped just short, however.
“Even if you're not loud and mean anymore, I still think you'll do a fine job teaching them, Commander,” she said before leaving the room.
Rei looked up towards the door. She blinked a couple of times, pondering if Kio just insulted her, complimented her, or both. She decided to take it as a compliment and smiled before she returned to her work.
The Sisko dropped out of warp near the yellowish-brown Cardassia Prime. Five or so years ago it would have been a vastly different story for a Federation ship to be this close to what was essentially the heart of the Dominion in the Alpha Quadrant.
Even a little over a year ago, the Sisko's predecessor was tasked with making sure the Cardassians understood exactly where the Federation-Cardassian border was located.
Now, one of Starfleet's most powerful warships was moving into a standard orbit over the planet. None of the three dozen or so Hideki class frigates or the larger Galor and Keldon class ships even batting an eye at them.
Ranma watched the viewscreen as the Sisko crawled towards the planet. The memories of the war were still somewhat fresh in his mind. He had lost many shipmates in battles with Jem'Hadar backed up by Cardassian soldiers.
He was not sure if he held a grudge, however. One of Starfleet's top admirals had commented that the Cardassian entry into the Dominion was an act driven by weakness and fear.
He did not quite understand that. He did not understand why they would choose to be a part of those who, at least in Ranma's opinion, were destined for defeat, over joining the coalition consisting of the Romulans, Klingons, and the Federation, but desperation and the belief that extinction was inevitable was something that can drive not only a person, but society to do strange and otherwise inconceivable actions.
Genma walked out of Ranma's office, stopping just outside of the doors to look at the planet he seemingly had just left.
“Have you contacted the base yet?” he asked Ranma.
Ranma shook his head. “I assumed you'd want to.”
Genma nodded, pleased at Ranma's decision. He walked to Kaii's station, a certain 'spring' in his step that did not go totally unnoticed by either Shampoo or Ranma, and placed both hands on the top of the console.
“Please hail Starfleet F-O-B Sark,” he instructed Kaii.
Kaii nodded and opened a channel. He nodded and motioned towards the viewscreen. Genma bounded around the COMM, disappointment spreading on his face when Admiral Barret appeared on the screen, and not Jitsia.
“Good to see you again, Admiral.” Barret smiled.
“Yes, you too,” Genma lied. “Where is Commander Gras?”
Barret, quite aware that Genma seemed to have caught the same 'bug' he had regarding the young Lieutenant Commander and that he was rather upset that it was him on the screen instead of her, smirked. “She had heard that your ship had entered the system and did not want to keep you waiting. She's on the transporter pad waiting to beam up.”
“Ah!” Genma beamed. “Thank you!” Genma began to turn around.
“Admiral,” Barret called to Genma.
Genma, annoyed, turned back around as Ranma and Shampoo curiously watched the exchange.
“Take care of her,” Barret ordered.
Genma looked to him for a moment before nodding. “I will.”
Shampoo looked to Ranma a bit disturbed. Ranma, feeling the same way, gritted his teeth as he stood up.
“You have the bridge,” he whispered to Shampoo as he hurried to catch up with his father who had already moved to the turbolift.
“Commander Gras is asking permission to come aboard,” Kaii called to Ranma.
Ranma nodded at Kaii as the turbolift doors closed.
Two suitcases appeared on the transporter pad next to the materializing Jitsia. Once the cycle was complete, the leggy blonde, dressed in a red and gray command uniform looked around at what would be her home for the next six weeks.
Jitsia was about average height for a humanoid woman, about 170cm, 52kg. Average proportions, though the one thing the transporter chief noticed right away was her very long legs. He was quite thankful that the new arrival was not Betazoid, otherwise he would be in lots of trouble.
Jitsia had steel gray eyes that somehow managed to turn the chief into butter when she looked to him. He smiled stupidly, the thought wandering through his mind exactly how far down her the very defined and pronounced spots on both sides of her neck went.
Jitsia smiled at the chief. “Hello!” her high, yet not annoyingly high-toned voice greeted him.
The chief nodded to her. “He-hello, Commander.” He quickly tried to shake off whatever the hell it was that was causing him to act more like a high-school boy and less like a Starfleet officer and stood up straight.
“The Captain, Admiral Saotome, and Commander Hino are on their way. They weren't expecting you so soon.”
“Well,” she smiled, “it would have been rude to make you all wait for me.”
The chief nodded as the transporter room doors opened and the two Saotomes and Rei walked in.
“Commander Gras!” Genma smiled, walking up to the pad and shaking her hand. Rei looked to Ranma, a slight look of concern on her face before turning to the new officer.
“Admiral! Good to see you again.”
“Commander, this is my son, Captain Ranma Saotome,” Genma nodded to Ranma who walked up and shook Jitsia's hand.
“Nice to meet you, Commander,” Ranma smiled.
“Likewise!” Jitsia smiled. “I've heard so many good things about you!”
Ranma grinned as Rei walked up and shook her hand. “And this is Commander Rei Hino, commander of the Sisko's NSO forces,” Genma introduced.
“Commander!” Jitsia beamed. “It will be a pleasure working with you!”
“With,” Rei mumbled to herself as she walked back to stand next to Ranma.
“Oh yes, before I forget,” Genma smiled, pulling something from his pocket. He quickly dug around and then handed a single gold pip to Jitsia. “To replace the hollow pip, Commander.”
Jitsia smiled and shook Genma's hand as Rei looked on, slack-jawed. She turned to Ranma and whispered in his ear, “She's twenty-five.”
Ranma continued to smile as he nodded, less concerned about Rei's issue as he was about his father's behavior.
“Well, shall we go see your quarters?” Genma smiled.
Jitsia nodded and began to pick up her bags. Genma vigorously shook his head and grabbed the young commander's hand. “No need.” He turned to Ranma. “Boy, grab the Commander's bags, will you?”
Jitsia looked to Ranma, somewhat apologetic as Genma dragged her out of the transporter room. Ranma sighed as he went to go grab the bags.
“Sir, I can get those,” the transporter chief smiled.
Ranma shook his head. “It's okay. Besides, we're going upstairs.”
“Oh,” he said, sadly. He knew he did not have clearance to go into the NSO command center. He knew that what would likely be his only chance to gloat about being in Jitsia's quarters was now just a fleeting memory.
He sighed and went back to his station and sat down as Ranma and Rei both grabbed a bag and moved to catch up with Genma and Jitsia.
JC slid the door to his office closed. He looked around quickly, making sure no one was watching before he left. He gripped tightly to his chest three objects: two pictures frames, one with his wife and daughter in it, the other with just his daughter.
The third object, a screen that rotated between both his master’s degrees from Starfleet Academy and his officer's commission.
He quickly snuck through the corridors, making sure he took the longest way back to his quarters as he could to avoid Usagi and especially-
“Hey man,” Kaii called towards him.
“Shit,” JC mumbled before turning around. “Hey,” he smiled.
“What's up?” Kaii asked, walking up to him. “I haven't seen you lately. It's pretty rude of you to get me hooked on Aio Sur-” Kaii paused as he looked at the items in JC's arms.
JC looked to Kaii before motioning for him to come with him. Kaii complied, a feeling of both concern and confusion filling him, and followed JC down the corridor towards JC's quarters.
“What's going on?” JC's Bajoran friend asked.
JC sighed as he opened the door to his quarters. Kaii nearly fell over backward as he looked in. All the wall decorations had been taken down. The small, one-room apartment was bare. While JC was not a drapes and wallpaper type of person, he did want to make his quarters as much of a home as he could, which meant plenty of anime posters, wall scrolls, and plenty of pictures of his family.
Now, the walls were stripped, everything having been placed in a few small boxes that sat neatly on the floor near the door.
JC pulled Kaii inside with him, allowing the doors to close before he opened one of the boxes and set the items from his office in them.
“What...” Kaii mumbled.
“I can't stay here,” JC stated bluntly.
“Don't you think you're overreacting?” Kaii asked, looking at the boxes placed around on the floor.
JC laughed. “Yes,” he sarcastically replied as he began laughing even louder. “Yes, 'I' am the one who's been doing all the overreacting.”
Kaii did not understand what JC was going on about. He moved to JC's chair and sat down on the arm on it. “What happened now?”
JC went to his replicator and ordered two drinks, a non-alcoholic Bajoran tea for Kaii and some weird mixed drink for himself. After handing Kaii his, JC flopped down on his couch, exhaling angrily.
“Usagi's thug friends essentially threatened to kill me if I ever touched her again.”
Kaii blinked. “What?”
JC took a big gulp of his drink before leaning back more. “I'm not going to live my life on this ship constantly looking over my shoulder, in fear of what might happen because of a slight misunderstanding between us in the future.”
Kaii looked to his friend with concern. “We should probably speak to Captain-”
“No,” JC said, shaking his head. “There are better things I can be doing than this.” JC drank some more before sitting up. “Besides, what good would it do? Get them in trouble? They probably wouldn't get kicked off the ship, then I'd be in no better shape than I was before.”
Kaii sighed. He was not happy about the idea of losing his best friend. However, he understood. If he was not happy here, if he did not feel like he belonged here anymore, and certainly if he didn't feel safe here anymore, then he wouldn't try to talk him out of it.
“Will you still send me anime?” Kaii asked.
JC smiled and nodded. “Only the best.”
Kaii stood. JC stood as well. They looked to each other in what was likely the most awkward minute of both of their lives. Finally, they both realized that they had to say 'goodbye' at some point and both men hugged each other, a tear coming to JC's eye.
“I'm going to miss you, Jaxon,” he said.
“Make sure you let me know where you end up,” Kaii said. “I want to be able to visit you, Lana and Bri.”
JC nodded. “Of course.”
Kaii nodded, the pair fist-bumped, and Kaii slowly left the room, lingering just outside the doorway before stepping outside and allowing the doors to close.
JC quickly finished his drink, made sure he had everything packed up, then looked towards his clock.
“Computer,” he called out. “Where is Captain Saotome?”
<Nifty Star Trek Doorbell>
Ranma looked up from his couch as Akane walked towards the door. Ranma, who had spent the last thirty minutes getting the strange images of his father swooning over the new NSO officer out of his head, had just sat down and was getting ready to watch a football match between the Earth and Denoblia he had recorded.
It was the Federation Cup qualifiers, and he didn't really want to be disturbed by his father. Especially if he was coming to tell him how awesome Jitsia was.
Akane opened the door to find JC standing there.
“Lieutenant?” she asked.
Ranma looked towards him and stood.
“I'm sorry if this is a bad time,” JC said, “but may I speak with you privately, Captain?”
Ranma nodded and walked towards JC. “I'll be back in a bit,” he informed Akane. Akane nodded, a little distressed by the look JC wore on his face.
JC and Ranma walked down the corridor till they reached one of the deck two observation lounges. JC walked in and had a seat, the window overlooking the planet behind him. Ranma secured the door, so they would remain undisturbed, before sitting across from him.
“What would you like to talk about?” Ranma asked.
“May I be direct, Captain?” JC asked.
“What I said before, I meant it,” JC said, sitting totally upright and looking Ranma straight in his eyes. “I have nothing but respect for you. Because of you, I have grown so much as an engineer and as a person.”
Ranma understood they were not just having this conversation so JC could stroke his ego.
JC sighed. “But…” JC began to struggle for the right words. “But I find myself now in a position where I can no longer function on this ship.”
“Is this about the incident with Commander Tsukino?” Ranma asked.
“Essentially,” JC nodded, “But it's gotten more complicated than that.” JC slid a PADD across the table to Ranma. Ranma began to read it over as JC continued to speak. “I can depart immediately to Cardassia. I have the means to return to Earth on my own, so-”
“Lieutenant,” Ranma cut him off, “why are you doing this.”
JC shook his head. “It's in the ship's best interest if you just accept my resignation and leave it at that.”
Ranma shook his head. “I can't do that.”
“Sir,” JC said, leaning forward, again looking Ranma straight in the eyes. “I am quitting, regardless of whether or not you accept my resignation. However, if I have to go over your head and resign through Starfleet I will have to explain everything and that WILL bring unwanted and unneeded scrutiny on this ship and her crew.”
Ranma looked JC over. The look on his face made him want to pity the engineer, but at the same time, his cryptic stonewalling of Ranma's questioning made him quite pissed off.
“You're quitting to protect the ship?” Ranma asked.
“I'm quitting to protect myself,” JC said, sighing. “The way I am doing it is to protect the ship.”
Ranma rubbed his temples. “I think you should know, having worked with me as long as you have, how much I dislike this 'secretive' bull-crap.”
JC nodded. “Yes sir.”
“And you're still going to do it?”
JC nodded slowly. “If there is one thing I don't want to see happen, it's the mistakes of a few cause this ship any grief.”
Ranma rolled his eyes. “You're leaving. You don't think that will cause grief?”
JC had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. “I'm sorry.”
Ranma shook his head again. “Look,” he said, tossing the PADD back to JC, “I think there is a better solution than you leaving Starfleet.”
“Sir, I really-” JC started, but is cut off by Ranma.
“Your permission to speak has been retracted,” Ranma smiled. “And since you're so good at keeping secrets, I suppose I can tell you this.”
JC grinned a bit as Ranma continued. “There is a second ship being built just like ours. The U.S.S. Miyazaki. It is an absolute waste to allow talent like yours to not be used in the engine room of a starship.”
Ranma leaned back cracked his knuckles before continuing. “I am certain I can convince my father to assign you as chief engineer. While the ship will not be ready for several more weeks, if you so desire, you can leave with him in a couple of days and go to Chii and assist in her construction.”
Ranma laughed. “I am sure they'd love your input.”
JC stared wide-eyed at Ranma. Ranma finally nodded at JC, giving him permission to speak again.
“Even with that black mark on my record, I can get a C-E position?” he asked.
Ranma laughed again. “The records of our time on this ship are classified and sealed. Short of a court-martial, what's in them is irrelevant.”
JC suddenly felt incredibly stupid. While he was still angry at Usagi for the betrayal he believed there was, the fact that there wasn't really any negative consequence to it, at least professionally, suddenly made his own reaction – and subsequent three-day bender – seem silly.
“I see,” JC simply said.
“I'll talk to my father tomorrow and let you know, but I doubt it will be an issue.” Ranma scowled. “He already tried to poach Shampoo, so...”
JC nodded and stood. Ranma stood as well and escorted JC to the door. He paused, however, before unsealing it.
“I would like for you to recommend someone to take over the assistant chief engineer position before you go, please,” Ranma requested.
JC slowly nodded. “You mean someone...”
“...Someone who is basically a chief engineer already, yes,” Ranma finished.
JC nodded. “Yes sir.”
Ranma was displeased with his father. Not only had he blown him off for breakfast, but he had essentially locked him out of the ability to come and speak to him in the NSO command center when he wanted to confront him about it.
'That woman,' Ranma thought to himself, shaking his head as he stewed in his chair.
“Sir,” Makoto called to him. Ranma turned slightly, acknowledging her. “We now have fifteen of the Cardassian defense ships shadowing our orbit.”
“They probably want to know why we're still here,” Ranma scowled.
“Why are we still here?” Shampoo asked.
Ranma shrugged. “I don't know where to go.”
“Good answer as any,” Shampoo mumbled.
Ranma rapped his fingers on his armrest for a while, Shampoo, for once, making no attempt to get him to cease. The rear turbolift door opening got the bridge crew's attention, most of them turning to see Genma and Jitsia walking out.
“And this is the bridge,” Genma smiled, bringing the young Trill towards tactical. “The Trinity class is a bit different from most Starfleet ships as her bridge stations have the priority stations manned by two officers.”
Makoto and Amanda nodded to Jitsia. “Commander Gosnell and Lt. Jansen here both work the tactical station. It allows one officer to focus on,” Genma grinned, “shooting, while the other can handle incidental stuff like alarms and whatnot.”
Jitsia nodded. Makoto cleared her throat as Amanda grew a displeased look.
“Actually, Admiral,” Makoto smiled, pushing Amanda further back into the station to keep her away and quiet, “we tend to split the 'shooting' responsibilities.”
“Hrm,” Genma said, a bit perplexed. “That's not really how it was designed to work.”
Makoto shrugged a bit. “Maybe not, but it does.”
Ranma chuckled from his chair before yawning, drawing an irritated look from his father.
“Well,” Genma conceded, “it is a test platform, so I am glad to see you guys have made improvements to it.”
Makoto smiled brightly at both Genma and Jitsia as he took her over to operations.
“Operations works the same way,” Genma said, looking to Minako. “I assume you guys have made adjustments to how the designers expected you to use the station, Commander Hibiki?”
Minako smiled at Genma. “Slightly,” she said. “For the most part, Lt. Kaii handles communications, astrometrics, and science, where I handle sensors and shipboard operations.”
Genma nodded, seemingly less displeased in the changes there. He and Jitsia moved over and looked at engineering before walking to the helm, the rarely – if ever – manned science station, then taking a look at the master situation display on the aft wall of the bridge before he showed her the main conference room, where the restrooms were, the route to the nearest lifeboats, then walking towards Ranma's ready-room.
“Where are you going now?” Ranma asked.
“I'm going to show her the captain's ready room,” Genma said.
Ranma sighed. “I need to talk to you when you're done.”
“Is it important?” Genma asked, annoyed.
“Yes,” Ranma answered, even more annoyed.
Jitsia watched the exchange, then turned to Genma. “There are things I can be doing if you want to deal with this, Admiral.”
Genma shook his head. “We're almost done, Commander,” he smiled.
The bald Admiral walked into Ranma's office. Jitsia turned to Ranma, gritted her teeth, and mouthed the words 'I'm sorry' to him before following Genma in.
“Wow,” Shampoo laughed.
Ranma looked at her, still quite annoyed.
“And you think Shampoo was clingy,” she continued to laugh.
Ranma was not amused.
FIVE HOURS LATER
Genma and Jitsia stepped out of the turbolift and onto deck A of the NSO command center. Genma, who was still laughing at his own joke he told Jitsia in the turbolift, came to a frozen stop when he saw Ranma standing in the corridor, glowing red.
Jitsia blinked a couple of times before sliding past Genma and then tip-toeing her way behind Ranma.
“Admiral, thank you very much for breakfast, the tour, lunch, and the briefings,” she smiled. “I promised Commander Hino I would talk to her this evening.”
Genma simply nodded as Jitsia scurried off, not really interested in seeing what kind of horrific father-son confrontation was about to commence in the corridor.
Ranma sized his father up. They had had their moments, but end the end, he was certain that there was some level of mutual respect between them. At this moment though, Ranma felt disrespected. Disrespected on his own ship.
He would not allow that to stand.
“I told you I needed to speak with you,” Ranma growled.
“I had things to do,” Genma replied.
“What I need to talk to you about is far more important than your idiotic crush on a new officer,” Ranma snapped.
Genma turned blue. “How DARE you.”
“No,” Ranma said, walking right up to his father. “How dare YOU. First off, you're putting my ship at risk by leaving us in orbit of, while not an enemy planet, not necessarily a friendly planet for God knows how long because your mind is,” Ranma turned and looked down the corridor in the direction that Jitsia went, “elsewhere.”
He then turned back to Genma who was fuming, “Secondly, I have a real problem on my ship regarding one of my crew that I need your assistance with, but I can't get any time with you to deal with it.”
“Do you think just because I'm your father that you don't have to show me any respect?” Genma asked, his blood boiling.
“I think that goes both ways, eh?” Ranma asked. “Do you think that just because I'm your son, that you don't have to show me any?”
Genma and Ranma glared at each other for a good minute before Genma finally stood down.
“Yeah, I guess I do think that,” he admitted.
Ranma face-planted into the deck. “What?”
“I shouldn't, but I guess sometimes, I do forget that you're not only my son but a Starfleet Captain.” Genma sighed and turned away from Ranma. “A damned good one at that.”
Ranma sighed, understanding that there would have to be some give and take here. “I guess that I disrespect you as well, forgetting that you're also a Starfleet Admiral. A mediocre one at that.”
Genma turned to Ranma and hissed at him before Ranma laughed. “I'm kidding, Pop.”
Genma smiled. He led Ranma back to the turbolift and ordered it to the bridge.
“For what it's worth,” Genma explained, “I've not kept us here because I've been distracted. I've kept us here because we're going to rendezvous with another ship, and I wanted to give them time to get closer before we headed out.”
“Well, we should probably leave soon anyway,” Ranma said, sighing. “We have about thirty ships shadowing us now. I think we've overstayed our welcome.”
Genma blinked. “Okay.”
“Who are we meeting?” Ranma asked.
“It's a surprise,” Genma smiled.
Ranma looked to his father, a displeased look on his face. “I don't like surprises.”
“Yeah,” Genma nodded as the lift doors opened and he started to walk out and onto the bridge. “I don't blame you.”
Ranma was unsuccessful in getting any more information out of his father than where the rendezvous point was. He sighed and looked to Shampoo as the second shift bridge officers began to take over for the main bridge crew.
“Can you get us going before you leave?” Ranma asked. “Warp seven.”
Shampoo nodded as Ranma and Genma walked into Ranma's ready room.