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Cmdrs Stacker & Merlin | New Beginnings

Posted on Sun Mar 3rd, 2019 @ 8:31pm by Commander Evan Merlin & Lieutenant Commander James Stacker

Mission: Permutations
Location: Cold Station Theta
Timeline: SD 241903.03

The new commander was unpacking when the chime rang. He carefully set down the glass ball in its holder on his desk before turning around and pushing an errant curl of hair away. "Come in," he said, and surprised himself again by feeling nervous.

Not very surprisingly, the person who entered was Commander Stacker. No doubt he would've had a message from the Fleet Admiral about his new position, in addition to the new CO's own message. He wondered how it would go. Not only this conversation, but their whole cooperation from now on. They had been working together for some time now, but their paths only rarely crossed. They'd have to start to change that. And get to know each other better wouldn't hurt either.

"Good evening sir." A straightforward-enough greeting from the grey collar as he quickly sized up the office from over by the doorway. What he saw didn't faze him in the slightest; truth be told he'd seen it a hundred times before. Unpacking was always ... interesting, to say the least. He made a thoughtful sound as his eyes went back to the CO. "I received an interesting message from Fleet Admiral Blyx. Captain DiAgessi no longer assigned to the starbase."

"Indeed." The new CO set down the next item, an empty bottle which had once held Romulan Ale, memento of a marvellous celebration on his graduation night. At least half of the class of '07 had looked less than perky and bright the following day during the graduation ceremony. A few of the notable exceptions had been his former Denobulan roommate, two Vulcans, a tiny Tellarite who had been until yesterday had been mostly known for his bookish demeanour and love for complex mathematics, but who had polished off half a bottle of ale on his own, and he himself. These days it served as a vase and he made a mental memo to buy or replicate some flowers. "That's correct. She has requested and gotten a position closer to where her family lives." He strolled over to the replicator and added: "Would you like something to drink?"

"Coffee, please. Cream and two sugar." It occurred to him how thoroughly he disliked the process of getting to know new senior officers. Too much jockeying and verbal dancing when he'd rather be on the job. But now you're one of them, James. How do you like it? The thought alone made his thoughts want to darken; his job as intelligence officer was about to become far more complex, now that administrative affairs for an entire starbase were about to crash-land in his lap.

Despite his private musings, though, he at least had the presence of mind to accept the coffee gracefully. The thoughts that had threatened to distract him were temporarily shoved back into the corner of his mind from which they had sprung. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Having ordered something himself without really looking what it was, he grabbed the cup blindly and leaned against his desk. Sitting behind it seemed too formal, and too daunting at the same time. "So... Captain DiAgessi won't be coming back, and Starfleet cannot spare anyone else to lead this station at this time. The Fleet Admiral, understandably, is too busy to manage both the fleet and the station itself. So, we're the new command team." He took a sip of his drink and raised an eyebrow in surprise. Somehow what he'd ordered ended up being some kind of strong coffee with what tasted like honey, and something else, something more spicy. Surprisingly, it wasn't bad.

Time to come to the point. "Are there things I need to be aware of?"

The visitor was suddenly and acutely mindful of a meeting that had happened once before, in this office, and the coffee seemed to turn bitter in his mouth. Was it history repeating itself, or was he just being overly-sensitive? With some effort he stamped on the first words that came to mind, leaning back on old lessons from long-ago days of leading marine platoons. And trying not to look to see if the long-departed Commander Satie had somehow crept back aboard the station. "That's a rather broad question, sir. I'm not sure what you're asking."

The words of Fleet Admiral Red, earlier today, resurfaced with startling clarity in his mind. "I don't trust you. Never have." He was suddenly, bitterly aware that the Intelligence department most likely had similar misgivings. Stars beyond, given his unknown background, if he had been in Intel he wouldn't have trusted someone with his background. He sighed. "Are there things going on which you as Chief Intelligence Officer know which I, as station CO, need to be aware of?" he specified. "And are there things going on for which I need to know only that they are ongoing, but not the details. Things which need to stay out of formal reports."

He placed the cup down on the desk and resisted the urge to produce the twin to the glass ball on his desk and twirl it around, instead wove his fingers together. "We'll need to work together if we can succeed as a team, Commander. Right now, I know two things about you: you're the CIO and Commander Valeese considers you a friend." Not that Valeese had ever outright said so, but an observant person could still tell. "I think you know about as much about me as that. So we'll need to share things with each other, inasmuch as our positions allow. That's all."

Oh, if only I could introduce you to all the bureaucracy I have to deal with ... "No, there's nothing going on. And no, I'm not running secret off-the-books operations." Why does every commanding officer think we're playing fast and loose with the law? "I have no desire to start dealing with the Judge Advocate General's office, or inspectors from Starfleet Intelligence. All our paperwork is in order, and correct reports filed: if there's something going on that you need to be aware of, you'll find it already on file," James said, gesturing to the computer on the desk. "But on the whole, our corner of the galaxy is relatively quiet." With effort, he restrained an instinctual urge to wince as the words he had not thought about escaped his mouth. And now I've gone and jinxed it. Well done, man!

The small, somewhat ironic smile that briefly appeared on the other man's face, quite odd-looking in the place of the man's usual grin, seemed to echo that thought. And indeed, he said: "Let's hope it stays that way." He took another sip of his weird coffee and glanced at the pile of PADDs. "I'm sure I'll find it somewhere tonight." The smile which replaced the ironic twist was more genuine now. "Good thing I need little sleep… every time you think you've caught up on things, there is always more waiting." In addition to his own merry little pile, the day to day working of the station, there were also the reports which had been marked 'For Commanding Officer's Eyes Only' and that was new. "Anyway. Starting tomorrow, I would like a daily meeting together. Just to go over the PADDwork, schedule and so on. They probably won't be long, but we'll see how it goes from there. What time would work for you?"

That, at least, was a simple answer. No, not 'never'. Be kind. Only one of you has command experience, and the lieutenant isn't it. He's eager. He'll even out in time ... I hope. "Zero eight-thirty, sir. I have a department meeting before that." Christ. I'll probably have more than one once all the dust settles. All those personnel and administrative matters to deal with. A vague feeling akin to horror suddenly presented itself, deep inside; realization and momentary recollection of those stories where too much public exposure ruined an intelligence officer's career. Diplomatic functions would decidedly not be within his bailiwick, he decided. This eager buck could deal handle those.

Not that the buck seemed very eager at this moment. Again, he fought back an urge, this time to rub his forehead. Not even a day since his new appointment and already he felt weary. What didn't help was Stacker's attitude of cool professionalism with a touch of… what? Exasperation, perhaps, or maybe even resentment? It was hard to define, and he wasn't about to ponder what could be no more than his usual aloofness, his 'spookness' as people generally called it. "There's no need to keep calling me 'sir', especially behind closed doors," he said, setting his cup down with an inward sigh. "Which reminds me. You are long overdue for one of those." He handed a small box to his colleague. "Trade for the black one?" he said.

Judging by the raised eyebrow, it was clear that yet another attempt to knock down the barrier between them had been less-than-successful. Why? There were a number of reasons, in all possibility, the single largest one being because James was one of those types who came equipped with a permanent state of 'naturally guarded.' It could have also been that a long-ago encounter, about an Empress and then-Starfleet lieutenant, had poisoned the well. Yet at the end of the day that single raised eyebrow, and the differences between them, did not stop him from accepting the box. In fact there was overall very little commentary.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome." There didn't seem to be much more to say. Maybe because it was late, maybe because there was still a mountain of work ahead of him, with so many things thrust upon him by a few curt, simple words… he felt drained, exhausted. Out of touch with himself, with the station, with the universe. With sudden fierceness he missed Xue. She, more than anyone, would have understood.

He extended his hand towards the new Commander. "I hope our collaboration will be a fruitful one," he said, mustering a smile as warm and sincere as his tired mind could conjure.

The hand was enveloped by one which still bore a few callouses, although it was notably smoother than when its owner had first arrived aboard the station. "One can only hope."

Commander James Stacker
XO and Chief Intelligence Officer


Commander Evan 'Weirdo' Merlin
Commanding Officer


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