Atlantis Logo

Log of the Month for April, 2011

Key Changes
Posted on April 6th, 2011 by Douglas McKnight and Kathryn Harper

“Key Changes”
Doug McKnight and Kathryn Harper

“Care for a drink, or am I just having a double?”

The friendly gesture brought a smile to Kate’s face, and she thought to ask for the liquor she had liked best during her time on Earth. “Is there any spiced rum?”

With a grin of his own, McKnight nevertheless shook his head in the negative as he withdrew a bottle a little over two thirds full. K’tarian Brandy, year 2344. “Next time. This being my first official time as ready room host, I feel the occasion calls for the good stuff You remember Major Drake, I assume?”

“Yes. I did not cross paths with him often, since I was on beta shift back then, but I do remember him.”

“Ah. Well, I had quite a few run ins with him, back in the day, and in all honesty, there was more than one occasion when I would have gladly traded places with you. We had kind of a tendency to butt heads. But I have to give him this much; there was one wholly creditable attempt at making peace on his part, and you’re looking at it. Now, Drake has since moved on, of course, but I still try to honor the intent of this gift. I only ever drink it to commemorate something significant, and never alone.”

Kate watched the amber liquid fall into the glasses, the import of the moment not lost on her. “I am honored. This is certainly significant, I would say.”

“And one way or another, the next few weeks will also be significant. At least for me.” McKnight replied as he replaced the stopper and put the bottle away before sitting back down. “Figured I’d start it off on a positive note. Omens and all, since I know human navies at least have a long and proud history of superstition. And until Blackthorne gets back to resume his command, I guess I’m part of that. Speaking of which, now that we’re settled, maybe it’s time to get down to business.”

At this point, McKnight stopped to take his first sip of brandy, just to make it clear that in this particular case, there was no problem mixing business with pleasure, just a little.

“It occurs to me we’ve never actually worked together before. Not like this. And while some of my off duty passions may overlap with his a little, I’m not Blackthorne. His style is not necessarily my style. So I think it’s only fair, to both of us, that we get an idea what our priorities are right at the start.”

Following suit, Kate took a tentative sip of the brandy, having never sampled this variety of drink before. The flavor was complex, like an artist’s spontaneous creation of a new color by mixing individual paints on his palette. Like the new color would go on canvas to become part of a pleasing finished product, the myriad of flavors combined nicely on her palate. She swallowed the drink with a brief exhale of satisfaction.

“That is a good thing; we do not need two Admiral Blackthornes aboard. I have served in the capacity of Acting XO to both he and Captain Shelev, and I am sure that you would agree that their styles could not be more dissimilar. I will adapt to your methods as well.”

“Adapt.” McKnight repeated thoughtfully as he swirled the contents of his tumbler around a bit before concluding whatever silent ruminations he chose to keep to himself with a more generous second pull of his glass. “Good word. And it’s encouraging to think you may be good at it by now, because I’ve got some horizons to broaden myself. I’ve been running things down in security for years now, and in all that time, my job description’s been pretty darn clear. Take what action or make what recommendations necessary to ensure the safety of this ship and its crew. And for awhile, I figured hey, NOT getting his ship shot away around him is certainly on any decent captain’s to do list, and I specifically promised Blackthorne I’d see to it. So, it was still my job; I’m just working with broader authority to see it done. But as I thought on that, and recalled the last few times I’ve found myself with a particular opinion how this ship was being run, it occurred to me that no, for the next few weeks, my focus has to shift if I’m actually going to be doing the job I’ve been asked to do.”

At times like these, when there was some deep thinking to be done, McKnight was given to understand captains liked to stare poignantly out their windows and consider the vastness of the cosmos…or something. Doing it now, McKnight had to frown softly; so far, it looked surprisingly like every other time he’d ever looked out a window while the ship was at warp. But ah well, he was committed now, so he simply rested his free hand against the bulkhead and continued.

“See, back in the marines, some of my officers talked about the duty of any soldier both to the mission, and to the lives under his command, and to the inevitable conflict between the two. Both duties were sacred, but when the two are in conflict, the mission has to take priority. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but I always accepted it. But see, a marine’s job is frankly pretty simple, or straightforward anyway. That, and serving among the best, were the two reasons I enlisted in the first place. The whole ‘are we a military force or aren’t we’ dilemma never applied to us. We’re trained as a strike force, and barring specialty cases like embassy security on volatile planets, that’s usually how we’re deployed. But Starfleet in general…the mission is more complex, more broad in scope. So it’s more crucial than ever that I remember the mission is more than just the next job we’re given. It’s the manner in which we carry it out. When we swear the oath, when we put on the uniform, we pledge that we won’t just be stronger than the other guy, but better, and if that sounds damn arrogant, then at least we’ll earn the right to say it anyway with a straight face. So, my focus, my priority? I figure it has to be to this ship’s integrity, its honor.”

Kate took a few moments to reflect on his words in light of the tumultuous times that she had personally witnessed in her six years of service aboard Atlantis. Taking a long drink of the brandy, she remembered the times she had been in command during the turmoil, and in hindsight, was proud of the way she had carried out her duties. There had been times while not in command that she may have disagreed with the actions of her commanding officers, but Kate felt that she had upheld her own convictions despite whatever situation was at hand. McKnight’s statement was gratifying to hear, and answering it was easy.

“I joined Starfleet not only to be a scientist, but to use my abilities for a cause greater than any single world or species. The former goal may have changed, but the latter has not. We have principles to which we must adhere, clearly laid out for us the moment we put on the uniform and claim our actions to be in the name of the Federation.”

“Well said.”

He let it stand there a moment, while he silently halved the remaining volume of liquor in his glass. Certainly, stuff this good and this potent was not meant to be rushed through, but all the same, he’d told Percy ten minutes, and given her obvious trepidation in taking the big chair, it would be just shitty of him to ramble on about honor and integrity and all the rest while he left her waiting.

“I’m glad you feel that way; I’m sure your experience will be invaluable to me in all kinds of ways, but experience mixed with undiminished idealism? That’s a precious mix. With this ship and this crew at my command, I’ve got all the traditional resources I could ever ask for. What I need is…call it a second conscience. That has to be you. If I forget what we’ve talked about here, you need to call me on it. Privately if possible, but publicly if necessary. Are you prepared to do that?”

She had never dared to publicly question a superior, but this time he had requested it in advance, so she would do it if necessary. Nevertheless, one thing about what he’d said stuck with her, and she felt the need to clarify. “I am, but just one thing: please do not mistake my idealism for naivete. Principles, in many people, are discarded when faced with certain death. I would rather die with mine than live without them, and…” she paused, involuntarily touching her abdomen, “I have a few new internal organs to prove my convictions.”

This latest turn of philosophy left McKnight feeling damn foolish that he hadn’t anticipated the bad taste it left in his mouth. Certainly, he’d knowingly steered this conversation from the start into dangerous proximity to a subject he tried not to think about too much. Well, nothing for it now. Sitting down, he attempted to at least banish the ill taste, and if the remainder of his brandy could do nothing for the metaphor of it, it was at least something a good deal more pleasant to focus on.

“Commander Harper, I’d prefer not to dwell too long on things best left to the past, but suffice it to say, I’ve seen just the confusion you’re talking about before. I frankly thought of it then, as now, as behavior unbecoming a Starfleet officer. Believe me, if I thought the ideals we’re talking about could be put aside for the sake of military necessity, I sure as hell wouldn’t be inviting you to question my command over them. So if we’re clear on that, then I suggest we move on to some smaller points of business.”

Satisfied, she nodded and took another drink. “Yes, let us move on then.”

Leaning back in his chair a little, he nodded and moved on to his next point.

“Okay. Two things more I want to cover. First of which is this: within minutes of receiving command of this ship, I made myself a promise. I would not, when put in their shoes, become the sort of starship captain with a history of giving me a goddamn migraine as I try to do my regular job. And even before that, I like to think I try not to be a hypocrite. So, let me say this right now. As of this moment, I do not consider myself a potential member of any away team. Not until the area in question has been examined by security and whatever other specialists may be appropriate. Not until they can assure me there are no hidden pirates, no old booby traps, no temporal anomalies, and especially nothing I’m failing to consider right this moment.”

That drew a chuckle from Kate, as she’d witnessed a few disagreements over that topic in her time at the helm. “May I have that in writing?”

“Don’t push your luck, Harper. Nobody likes the taste of crow. Besides, I already prepared reading material for you. I call it item number two.”

Item number two came in the form of a PADD which had been lying unobtrusively on McKnight’s desk as they talked. He pushed it silently across now for her perusal. As she read, she tried to keep from looking surprised; the PADD contained details of a basic intensive training regimen in hand-to-hand and knife combat for the entire crew, along with more advanced instruction available for those showing satisfactory competence. These sorts of things had never been a personal strength of hers, but thinking back upon how often, relatively speaking, they had been boarded lately, she came to the conclusion that it was probably a good idea.

“Mmmm, yes, I believe this would be beneficial to the crew as a whole,” came her measured response.

“Just what I was thinking…for the past seven years.” Not that this was or had ever been any point of frustration for him or anything. “But if nothing else, we can thank the Klingons for making the point better than I ever could: security can’t be everywhere at once. Admittedly, the Klingons are damn good, but…well, I don’t need to tell you. It was bad, and you can only blame so much on the element of surprise when we’d already gone to red alert. We all need to be better next time, and we will be. Obviously, I’d like to do this with the least disruption to our regular duties possible, so I’m making that your first official duty. I’ve already assigned Lieutenant O’Grady to assist you with this, but it’s hardly a small thing to manage with a crew this size, so take whoever else you may need. I’d like a preliminary schedule on my desk by, say…1400 tomorrow, if that’s doable.”

Kate swallowed apprehensively, fighting back memories of her trauma at the hands of the Klingons, but glad to see someone doing something preventative. And even though she had never been very good at physical combat, it’s not like McKnight was asking her to teach the class, just to schedule it. That, she could do; most of her job at Operations was scheduling and power allocation. “Yes, yes, of course. Easy. Like shooting fish in a pond.” She finished the last drink of her brandy to reassure herself.

“Gosh, I hope not. I’m afraid I actually got drunk enough to try that once.” The tension in her face vanished and was replaced by curiosity, and before she could ask him to tell the story, some semblance of either professionalism or simple self-respect (really, the two were nowhere near as different as officer training tried to make it seem) managed to re-assert itself. “Never mind. Easy is good enough for me. Now, I have a feeling that if we don’t get back soon, Percy’s either going to suffer a panic attack, or go mad with power. Either way, I don’t want to see it.”

“There, I can not fault you.”

“Right. Well, let’s boldly go back to work, then. After you.”

Trek Logo Divider

No Comments

Leave a Reply