Log of the Month for June, 2023
Posted on June 15th, 2023 by Nico Slate
There was just silence; other than the repetitious thudding of footsteps.
There was trepidation; other than the mutual understanding between the Starfleet officers, President Walora and her last remaining bodyguard, and the Trinoran soldiers. There was uncertainty all around. For now, however, that awkwardness was alleviated by the obvious direction they were walking. They were heading to the Starfleet command center.
Carlos was limping and in obvious physical pain. Quent’s pain was more mental at the loss of his friend. Walora’s came in the form of not knowing what would come next. She was a leader still contemplating what would become of her people and her ability to rule in what was supposed to be a pleasantly nice society. Nico walked with focus: get from point A to point B. Everything else would flesh itself out. Or, so he hoped.
The command center’s open main doors were a welcome sign of relief as they rounded the last corner of the many darkened streets that had traveled. Medics ran out to grab the injured lieutenant, random Rylanan forces greeted the President, and weapons were drawn for the Trinorans who were, without any fault of their own, the reason for this disaster of a situation. Tensions were running high and there was an uncertainty that wasn’t spoken, but just expected.
He saw the Colonel in charge step through his forces that were prepared to defend Starfleet’s stronghold in the capital city. “Get Mr. Ramirez to the infirmary. Madame President, we have some diplomatic envoys that would like to speak with you. Your bodyguard can accompany you… for the time being. For the rest of you, please remain here. Hands off your weapons.” The stern intention in each word was evident. With a fuse that could be lit at any time, the Colonel was being measured and proactive in his preventative measures to avoid any hostilities on his own doorstep.
Carlos hobbled away. Walora stood upright, shifting back from her guerilla soldier persona she had exhibited before into the world leader she was. Quent stood at her side, appearing slightly haggard but still dedicated to his duty. Nico didn’t move as he hadn’t been addressed. He didn’t know where it all was going, but there were policies and procedures to follow. So, he waited.
The Colonel moved to Nico and pointed. “Third room on the left, down the north corridor. Leave your weapon at the door. Sit quietly until I get to you.”
There was still action happening. There was military activity in the distance and the night sky occasionally brightened with what could only be thought of as explosions. All hell hadn’t broken loose, but purgatory’s gates were open. The assault on the Presidential Residence wasn’t to be balked at. But Nico had had one simple duty and the rest was unbeknownst to him. He could gather what was happening and the actions being taken, but without being privy to those decisions and orders, he was as in the dark as anyone else worried about the sudden change in the planetary negotiations.
The walk down the hallway was a long one. He saw some glances of concern, observed nods of condolences and non-verbal appreciation for his work, but there was an air of edginess lingering in the air. He could feel from his fellow marines that something was amiss. He could sense… well, he didn’t know what he sensed. But it wasn’t good. Orders were orders and they would be followed. He put his phaser rifle in the holster mounted next to the door and moved through the doorway, traversing the small room to the single chair placed behind the steel table at its center.
And, he waited.
An eternity seemed to have passed since he sat down and clasped his hands on the cold metal in front of him. His mind had raced to the events of the evening, the moments of loss and triumph of escape, but his mind had since shifted to the reason of his being sequestered like this. He had been breathing deeply, contemplating who he knew would inevitably walk through the door mere meters from his current location and what the conversation would behold.
At last, the Colonel entered with vigor and determination. The man didn’t look happy, but if he had looked joyous in any shape or form there would be additional cause for alarm. “Tell me what the hell happened, Lieutenant.”
“It’ll all be in my report, sir.” Nico said simply.
“I don’t have time for your god-damn report. Talk.”
Nico took the brash retort in stride, “Sir, with all due respect, I know that the situation must be still ongoing. Anything in my report won’t serve any of the next steps in countering this brazen act of aggression.”
The Colonel connected his hands firmly in front of his body and leaned forward menacingly. “Oh, is that so? And what are the next steps, Mr. Slate?”
Nico experienced a moment of uncertainty. With that came reflection and a standard drawback to tactical assessment. He was bewildered. It may have been about his rank grade that he would never presume to correct a commanding officer, but he wasn’t stupid. “I trust in my leadership, sir.”
“Okay, so riddle me this: we have more than a dozen Starfleet marines wounded, unaccounted for, or dead, a member of the Rylanan guard in pieces on the grounds of the Presidential Palace, a head of state who wants to shift from diplomacy to all out annihilation, and a group of the adversaries who are showing goodwill in the form of escorting your sorry asses to safety.” The Colonel was sweating as each word lashed out with more and more disdain. “And you were the leader of the escape. So, what do you know?”
“Have you talked with President Walora, Colonel?” Nico stated with a specific tone and cadence.
“Don’t play cute with me.”
“She was just as present as I was. And as the leader of this free state her input carries more weight than mine ever could.” Nico wasn’t attempting to be combative, but he hadn’t had a moment to put into words what had happened or what would happen because of it.
“I know your record, Lieutenant. I know the ingenuity you possess, I know what happened tonight was a miracle in every definition of the term. Plus, the letters of recommendation that are attached to your file are exemplary, but I can’t help but think that what came before has affected what has happened in the here and now.” The Colonel’s words stung fiercely. What they meant was lost on Nico, and so he didn’t respond. “Lieutenant Slate, you’re a Betazoid, are you not?”
“I am, sir.”
“What am I thinking right now?”
“My abilities rests in realizing emotion, Colonel; I avoid trying to dive into people’s minds. Especially if they’re a soldier of higher rank than myself.” It wasn’t as if Nico had the know-how to actually do that, but the pre-conceived notions that all Betazoids could do it as easily as blinking was always something he found… bothersome. So, in the meantime, he’d ride out the stereotype.
The Colonel smirked, “So tell me what I’m feeling.”
Son of a bitch. Nico looked at the man before him, opened himself up to what he could in his uneducated prowess of Betazoid mastery, and sighed. “You’re angry. You’re confused. You’re scared. And, for all intents and purposes, suspicious of me more than anything else. Which, to be honest, that last one is a little insulting given the events of the evening. If, of course, I may be so plain.” Nico knew that he was guessing on most of it, to an extent. The suspicion was an emotion he had never been able to nail down. He hoped he hadn’t jumped the gun too far too fast.
“You may be. And all of that means that I have a job to do and you are currently carrying the most knowledge of anyone in this conflict. So, again, I ask with a professional request you stow your dedication to duty and tell me what you fucking know.”
“It will all – ”
“Do not make me wait for your report, Lieutenant.”
Cornered. His blood started to boil. Nico wasn’t one to lash out. With everything in his life that led him to Starfleet and this posting, he wasn’t about to jeopardize it on a flash of insubordination. “Sir, my duty was to protect President Walora. The initial attack obviously breached the front line of our defense of the Presidential Residence. Technical superiority from the Trinorans limited our ability to communicate with any sort of reinforcement. So, we ran.”
A questioning nod followed the end of his sentence, “You ran?”
“Sometimes the best offense is a strong defense. Or, in this case, retreat. Thankfully, President Walora and her people are adaptable. Also thankfully, Lieutenant Ramirez was resourceful and followed orders. And, by grace of a sheer stroke of luck in my opinion, we only suffered one casualty.” Nico folded his hands in his lap, content with his answer. “Other than that I know of a potential coup within the Trinoran hierarchy. One line from an officer who saved us, and who under any other circumstances could’ve executed us all on sight if he was lying. All the in-between details will be in my report.”
The Colonel bobbed his head, “YOU only experienced one casualty.
“I don’t know what else you want me to tell you, Colonel. I can give you a play-by-play of the entire night, but it’s just details of the escape and nothing that will tactically serve you, the Rylanans, or Starfleet.” Nico was growing tired of the misplaced interrogation. He didn’t want to have to regurgitate all the details of their abandonment of the Presidential Palace. And, as smart as he felt he was, he didn’t know what purpose it served.
He watched as the reality and sincerity of his words washed over the commanding officer. There was a brief explosion of anger that he felt, then a solace of understanding, and then a remedial calm. The Colonel stood back to full height, returning to his proper form as a leader of the masses, before he addressed Nico again. “Thank you, Lieutenant, I look forward to reading your report.” The Colonel did an about-face and exited promptly.
“Indeed, yes, sir.” He wasn’t sure if his final words were heard or not.
And then he was alone again. His mind raged about the officer’s conduct. It was borderline unfounded, but called for in a certain sense. He wasn’t happy about the pressure put on him, but crazy times create crazy situations. He recounted mentally the events of the evening once again and realized that he’d repeat his actions given the same circumstances. Very few people would ever experience what Nico and his comrades had experienced that night. They were all forthright in their execution of escape, collaboration, and creativity. The information recalled in the details would be provided in due time and with diligence.
Nico had to take a couple of breaths to steady his nerves. This wasn’t just an ‘everyday in the life of a Starfleet Marine’ situation. This was war. But from years of dealing with random events and horrific days, traumatic nights of running and unavoidable restlessness, and a constant foreboding sense that his future could be stunted at any second, he had developed a keen sense of finding a mellow in the non-mellow.
The doors parted again with a hiss that drew Nico’s gaze upwards. A young female Marine stepped across the threshold and pointed down the hallway that he couldn’t see. “You can head to the barracks, Lieutenant.”
Without a word, Nico stood and headed back to a place where he could rest. Finally.
“Didn’t they teach you to tuck and roll at the Academy?”
Carlos Ramirez laughed, “Of course, I guess my posture could use some work.”
Nico smiled, “Sounds like you’ll be fine in a couple of hours. Thanks for your work tonight. Did they question you?”
“Yeah, but nothing really of consequence.” Carlo’s facial expression shifted from humor to intensity quickly. “Why?”
The specifics weren’t important. Nico just wanted another perspective of how leaders were handling the situation. So, he shrugged it off. “Nothing, just a simple question.” It wasn’t simple and it wasn’t just a question. In that fleeting exchange, Nico found himself unhappy that Starfleet personnel were being treated differently. Obviously. But, this wasn’t the time or place to have that conversation as the conflict continued. “Rest up, Carlos, you did great tonight.”
The relaxation in Carlos emanated from him with a fierce emotional wave that Nico took head on. The man shifted slightly on the medical bed and grinned again, “Protecting a President is probably the best thing I’ll ever do with my career.”
Nico shook his head, “You have a long career ahead of you, Carlos. I imagine that the accolades to follow you will fill your evaluations and staff reports for years to come.”
Both Lieutenants turned to the officer at the infirmary doors; it was a major of rank, and her disposition exuded as much authority as the star on her collar commanded. “The colonel requests your presence, please.” She nodded curtly, motioned for Nico to follow her, and disappeared into the corridor.
“Duty calls.” Nico said, smoothing out his uniform.
“I’m just going to close my eyes for a bit.” Carlos placed his hands on his chest and closed his eyes.
Nico patted his friend’s hands, “You earned it.”
“We have reason to believe that the Trinorian leadership is experiencing some… upheaval.” President Walora was standing, pacing just enough to show her mental processing but not enough to show a sign of prolific uncertainty. “We aren’t sure who to negotiate with.”
The Colonel sat steadfast in his chair, “I have an option, if you’d entertain it, Madame President.”
“I’m all ears.”
The Colonel glanced to Nico, who had been asked to join the conversation. “Lieutenant Slate here is a Betazoid…”
The cut off was quick and efficient. There was a hand raised with a single finger that, while diplomatically poignant, was carrying a hint of scolding a child for making a bad decision. “Absolutely not.”
“Colonel, the Federation and Starfleet are here at our request with a mutual confirmation from the Trinorans. We are grateful for the assistance you have provided. We are profoundly appreciative of Lieutenant Slate and Ramirez for their heroics tonight. With that said, our negotiations will restart, and we do not need the assistance in the manner in which you’re mentioning.” The politician had returned. Moreover, compassion had returned. The person who had been on the brink of wanting to wipe out an entire population so her citizens could return to normalcy had vanished. The President had returned to her office.
Nico didn’t budge. Just in the few words the Colonel had uttered, he knew what his superior was thinking. He didn’t really like it and he didn’t really feel that he was capable of providing the information that he knew would be requested of him. The times they were facing, this debacle of foundering diplomacy, was weighing on all of them. He could step up… albeit at less than the strength the Colonel was suggesting. “I have no problem sitting in on these talks, ma’am, and giving my feedback.”
“No, Lieutenant. You’ve done your duty. They may not have played by the rules, but we will.”
“You listen to me, Colonel.” The words sliced the air like a knife through warm butter, “I have made my decision. Peace will always come when both sides find it amicable. The actions of the Trinorans tonight were deplorable, yes. However, if there is something going on behind the scenes that we are just now learning about, it just adds a level of frustration to our talks. I will not, under any circumstances, take advantage of that. I will not use a biological gift – and it is a gift, Mr. Slate – of an officer to take the upper hand in a situation that is so volatile. Peace has to be equal otherwise conflict will continue to persist. Do you not agree, sir?”
Nico had to suppress three different reactions. He had to not laugh that the Colonel had just been put in his place. He had to fight muscle memory to change the smirk that was tugging at his lips into an emotionless façade of unresponsiveness. And, finally, he had accept the overwhelming honor of someone of such power defending him.
The Colonel had no response. He listened and was reacting. Nico wouldn’t comment on the feelings that he felt being exuded from the leader of the Rylana VII contingent. With a slow simmer, the officer turned and looked at Nico. “Thoughts, Lieutenant?”
Nico felt Walora wanting to continue her speech, but he saw her hold short and match the Colonel’s gaze. He tried not to flinch; the weight of this conversation and decision wasn’t the worst he’d experienced, but it was the most important given his new professional career. After a pause, he just nodded, “I’m here to serve at the pleasure of President Walora. And, with a sworn oath, to serve Starfleet and the Federation. I will provide my skills for those that ask.”
“You’re dismissed, Mr. Slate.” Walora’s words were firm and substantial.
Being a Starfleet officer, he looked to the Colonel who nodded in confirmation.
The severity of the situation wasn’t something he understood. He did get most of it, but he was just doing his duty. He didn’t know what was coming – combat-wise or within the confines of a bargaining room – but Nico knew that he had done what he was there to do. It was back to the barracks for him and, hopefully, a good night’s sleep.
He wanted sleep of any kind.