Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Arapaho: For Better or Worse

Scene: Starbase Epsilon

The bleak neutral grey walls of Starbase Epsilon's guest officer's quarters threw a dull light all around. Even in the small office nook, ambient sounds and natural light coming from local system's sun were cast down and disregarded before reaching the senses of the occupant. The brightest spot in the room was a small potted plant hanging from the ceiling, struggling to survive.

Captain Zachary Russell sat oblivious amidst the barrenness. Feet propped on the edged out desk drawer, he sat back in the grey chair with a large PADD, reviewing its contents for the nth time. He skimmed over dozens of pages of personnel reports, schematics, service updates, technical data sheets, flowcharts, and logic diagrams. He'd seen most of it before; he'd even written some of it, having once been considered an expert on Akira class tactical systems. But that was years ago. What he wanted was at the end, only a few hours old.

Finally he reached the Poseidon's logs. Captain O'Banyon's report on the incident in the Crosant system, a savage, pirate-infested region of the Neutral Zone, was painfully detailed. Holoimages were professionally and technically rendered in blinding 56x128k resolution, showing even the minutest hull fractures. The engineer's report on Arapaho's condition was sterile but impressive. Repairs were underway, and she would be operational upon arrival at Epsilon. Good enough...for now.

Russell sighed inaudibly and set down the PADD. He reached for a stark white coffee mug bearing a faded Starfleet emblem and put it to his lips, only to find that it was empty. He cursed quietly and set it back on the desk, next to another PADD. Eyeing this with a sidelong glance, he scowled and stood. On the display, the face of a middle-aged man stared back at him, a summary of his service record running in a slow-rising column at the left of the picture. As it scrolled, Russell watched until the last item was displayed:

Memories of Gene Cook flooded back into Russell's mind. They had graduated from Academy together. They shared their first assignment on the USS Tiberius. They got matching tattoos on Risa. Their careers were almost mirrors of each other. Until the accident.

Gene's injuries kept him from duty nearly a year. He'd even considered retirement before being offered a sweet spot on a Nova class. By then, Zach was XO on the Deltron. Eventually the war brought them together again. Afterwards, Gene went on to Arapaho as COO, while Russell was in recovery.

Russell picked up his orders, a few weeks old now, and read.

[As of Stardate 30401, Captain Zachary Russell is hereby assigned as Commanding Officer of USS Arapaho. Lieutenant Commander Eugene Gook is hereby promoted to full Commander and is assigned as Executive Officer. (Signed) Fleet Admiral Douglas White.]

But now Gene was dead.

Russell rubbed his temples and stood. The reports would wait. The messages would wait. The dispatches and requisitions and decisions would wait. At least a little while.

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