Posted on July 5th, 2017 by Kuari
Marine Captain Kuari trotted down the empty but familiar Atlantis corridor on all fours, bright-eyed, resolute and projecting a new sense of purpose. While she knew that being Executive Officer of a Starfleet vessel was no easy task, she had not been aware of just how versatile the role required one to be. It was always clear to her that knowing how to be in command was required, and Kuari had done a fair amount of commanding squads of marines for several years, so the concept wasn’t new to her. When Captain Harper had offered her the position if she could pass the tests, she was sure she could expand on her knowledge and improve in this way, and she had been ready to embrace the challenge.
Knowing how to command subordinate officers was just the beginning, however. While the Bridge Operations test didn’t require her to be an expert in every department represented on the Bridge, she did have to know basic operations of each station. Kuari skipped sections such as “How to Fire Quantum Torpedoes” since she had manned Tactical many times before, but she paid careful attention to other topics like “Rerouting Power to Main Deflector” and “Navigating ‘A’ to ‘B’.” Overall, this wasn’t a difficult test, as many functions were cross-trained from the station she was already familiar with.
First Contact Procedures was fairly simple, too. For example, concerning more primitive cultures, just don’t do it. For situations where a more trained diplomat and xenobiological team can’t be arranged, first impressions are key and you do your best to represent the Federation in a positive and sensible way. The test was a subcategory of the Diplomatic Law test, which was more challenging in its complexity, but with Kuari’s experience as an officer, she was able to pass it. She had learned about the Federation’s treaties and alliances as a cadet many years ago, but this test challenged her practical knowledge of each one so that she would be able to recall their details when necessary and know what agreements between peoples had worked in the past and what had failed and should probably not be repeated.
The Engineering test had to be the most difficult of all the tests she had to study for. The ship’s layout was familiar to her as a Security officer and she was aware of key areas that intruders might target with boarding parties, but the complexity of ship systems, where they can be found and the connecting paths they took throughout the decks overwhelmed her. Not only did she need to memorize procedures for dozens of scenarios from Main Engineering, she had to perform them in a time-sensitive holographic simulation.
None of these tests were anything like the screening test that preceded them all, however. As Kuari turned into her quarters and the doors swished closed behind the trailing end of her tail, she came to a stop and peered around the dark room. That first test, she would never forget…
“Shields!” Kuari bellowed across the shuddering holographic bridge of the USS Atlantis.
“Down!” the holographic Major Wolfe character yelled back from Tactical.
His response elicited a frustrated growl low in Kuari’s throat, and it carried through her response. “Weapons!”
“I’ve got nothing!” Wolfe growled back in his human way, his English accent bleeding through with his raised voice. “Well, I’ve got a few torpedoes left, but no way to bloody fire them!”
The image of the damaged unknown enemy vessel floating adrift on the main viewer flickered, simulating a power interruption across the ship. It had gone for her weapons and engines first. They were hunters, they said, and intended to kill everyone aboard her ship. No prisoners. The enemy crew outnumbered hers three to one. While Kuari stared at the image from the center of the Bridge, her mind was awhirl with decisions and the tip of her tail flicked from side to side in agitation. What was the answer? There had to be one, unless this was meant to be another Kobayashi Maru scenario used to throw cadets into a no-win situation.
Kuari had not been instructed to study for this test, but she couldn’t help but wonder if a more prepared officer would have an advantage over her. If she had time to study ahead, learn more about command from the tests she had yet to take, would she have passed already?
With a quick shake of her head, she dismissed the thought. Kuari had to trust Captain Harper and those running the test to know what they were doing.
“Boarding parties on decks two, ten, twelve, sixteen…”
“Seal the Bridge!” Kuari commanded, her security background kicking in instantly. “Marines, respond to those decks, especially Engineering!” At least she could make a decision quickly about something during her moments of uncertainty as it seemed the battle was definitely not in her favor. If Wolfe’s likeness was anything like the real person she knew, however, the program would have already done so before she gave the order.
“Multiple hull breaches, decks five, eight through twelve, fourteen through eighteen, twenty-two … “ Wright’s character from Operations reported.
“Emergency force fields!” Kuari replied, imagining her holey holographic ship resembling a notable Earth cheese.
“I’m trying, sir, but power is failing…”
“Right. Reroute power, from…I don’t know, somewhere!” Kuari hedged lamely, suddenly feeling overwhelmed. Was she really the right person to command a starship? If only she could have studied before this test!
“More incoming transports, deck sixteen…two…eleven…”
Kuari pulled in a deep breath, filling her lightweight chest cavity and closing her eyes. Make a command decision with the information she had. No one was going to tell her what to do this time, but she would never give up and always fight to the end. Her ship couldn’t move or defend itself, but neither could theirs. Power was partially compromised, hull breaches were everywhere, and enemy crew members were transporting more and more onto her ship. She still had the advantage of numbers, but eventually they would overwhelm her defending Marine force.
She had to stop them. What had Wolfe said? There were a few useless torpedoes left down there, but there was no way to use them. Kuari turned her head towards Tactical. “You said there was no way to fire torpedoes. Did you mean the guidance system is down?”
“Aye!” Wolfe confirmed. “But I don’t even have telemetry. I can’t even aim manually at a set of coordinates. Control from the Bridge has been severed.”
Kuari could operate the Tactical console as was expected of her, but she trusted Wolfe behind the console even more. Without automatic targeting, however, his manual aim was far better than hers as it required mathematical precision, something he excelled at. Even his expertise was useless, though, if the torpedo launchers wouldn’t point where he wanted them to go.
Then, it came to her. He could do something Kuari would never think to do herself.
“Could you manually target the enemy vessel from the torpedo launcher itself?”
Wolfe looked up at her from his useless console. A small smirk brightened his face. “Certainly, I can.”
Kuari’s finned ears perked upward with the glimmer of hope on the horizon. “Transporters! Are they functional?”
Her tactical officer was nodding. “Yes, but a site-to-site transport would take more power than we can spare.”
“We can spare it. We have to.” Kuari was now facing Wolfe from the other side of his console. “Take it from life support, if you have to. It’s just one transport!”
“Captain,” Wright interrupted almost apologetically while she studied her console and shook her head, “I’ve run an internal scan of the torpedo bay. The hull surrounding it is highly unstable. Wolfe could beam in and probably target something, but the firing system would no doubt collapse its support structure to that part of the deck.” She met Kuari’s eyes in defeat. “Even if Wolfe survived exposure to the vacuum in his suit, he would certainly be crushed.”
Her ears dropped, betraying her lack of confidence to her crew. It had seemed like such a good idea, too. What other options did she have, if not the torpedoes? Perhaps she should concentrate on getting enough power to the shields instead to stop more boarding parties, but then, she could barely get enough power for one transport…
She needed Wolfe alive, Kuari told herself, to help deal with these boarding parties. As she spoke, they were no doubt attempting to infiltrate the Bridge from just one deck below.
No, she couldn’t let him die. The memory of the monstrous gorn on top of him, of her leaping onto its back and twisting its head in her jaws until the neck snapped, flashed through her mind. Wolfe had been so close to death then, and she had saved his life with a moment’s decision. If she could do it then, she could do it now.
Atlantis shuddered around them. She was Kuari’s responsibility, and every crew member aboard her. The decision had to be hers, and it had to be now. Every minute allowed for more enemy transports, bringing them closer and closer to being overwhelmed. They would kill every last member of her crew if she didn’t act now.
Kuari shut her eyes in defeat, opening them to take one last look at Major Wolfe, her friend and colleague she had trained with for many years.
Wolfe gazed back at her and nodded curtly. His dark eyes were hard and determined, proud to do his job and do it well. Glancing down, he initiated the transport. The beam swirled around him, and he was gone.
A moment later, the bridge scene vanished as well, revealing an expansive grid pattern that covered the cube-like room she had been in the whole time. Kuari lowered her hindquarters to the floor and drooped her head. Footfalls alerted her to someone approaching, and she looked up out of duty. It was Captain Harper. Time to face the consequences. Would she be able to take the test again?
“What did I miss?” Kuari asked, determined to know the answer.
“Not a thing,” Harper replied, her voice level. “You passed. Congratulations.”
Her eyebrow ridges furrowed in confusion. “Passed? But…certainly that wasn’t the best solution!”
“Your duty is to the ship. You did what you had to do to save it. Sometimes, that means making a difficult choice. It is one of the necessary requirements of being in command.”
Kuari looked at the floor in thought. Even though it made sense, she didn’t have to like it. The decision had been very difficult. The idea of losing Wolfe felt real, and she had almost forgot she was in a simulation. She had made the right decision in the end, because really, she had already known what had to happen. Her experience as a Marine taught her that sacrifices must be made sometimes for the good of the many. It didn’t mean that the decision had felt right, however.
“Come on,” Harper encouraged with a knowing smile of compassion. “You have some studying to do if you want to pass the rest of the tests. Shall we get started?”
Kuari raised her head and stood up, pulling herself out of her troubled thoughts. “Yeah. Yeah, I do!” She grinned at Harper and began to walk alongside her out of the room. “I passed! The rest should be easier, right?”
Captain Harper nodded thoughtfully. “No doubt they will be.”
Kuari stood within the darkness of her quarters aboard Atlantis, this time not in a simulation at Starfleet Academy on Earth, but on the actual ship she called home. She had really done it. The idea that she was now qualified to command this entire vessel filled her with awe and apprehension, but she knew by experience that the troubled feelings would pass and she would fall into the role once she became accustomed to it. She could do this!
Walking to one wall, Kuari sat in front of it and stared at the blank space for a moment. Shifting her weight and reaching one paw into the pouch at her belly, she pulled out a small ornate plaque and carefully placed it on the wall in front of her. Leaning back, she gazed at it in the darkness.
“Computer, lights to thirty percent.”
The computer chirped acknowledgement and raised the lights, which caused her sensitive eyes to squint at first.
Starfleet Academy hereby grants Kuari the qualification of Bridge Officer, capable of taking command of any Starfleet vessel. Sponsored by Captain Kathryn Harper.
Kuari took in a deep breath of accomplishment. From what she understood, a promotion would soon follow for her to meet the necessary rank requirements of Executive Officer, and she would be moving the plaque to the quarters that used to belong to Harper before her promotion to Captain. For now, though, this wall would do.
A new adventure awaited Kuari. All the heart and effort she put into the Marine Corps to protect her crew she would now carry with her into this new, no more important but certainly more prestigious role, and she was determined to make her crew proud.