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Dr Eritt concluded her meditations at the usual time and packed the last of her gear. The Nullabor had docked at the Starbase the previous evening and would be leaving in a day's time. The ship was still waiting for two of their officers to arrive from the Bajoran sector of the Cardassian border. They were expected in eight hours.
The doctor had filled in her two week stay aboard the Starbase familiarizing herself with the specifications and situation reports from Deep Space 2, where her fate was to be decided. She checked that she had packed everything. Once she was sure she picked up her case and left the quarters. The turbolift deposited her near the gangway leading to her ship. Captain Walker was standing nearby arguing with two crewmen about the loading of the cargo.
"... Just get it done!" he had clearly lost patience at this stage. Lucifrelle found the display distasteful. This sort of mood was not what she expected from the Starfleet she had heard of, in fact it reminded her more of the stereotype for men on her home world. Somehow she had expected more here, but she decided that she would reserve judgement for now. She did not believe in first impressions.
"Aye Sir." The crewmen left with their orders. Neither looked happy. Lucifrelle considered the possibility that this was due to their posting more than Walker. No-one joined Starfleet to man a Starbase. As a rule, the crew here would all prefer to be assigned to a transport or supply ship than be where they were. Walker was heading into the gangway by the time Lucifrelle reached him.
The Captain turned to face her. "Yes?" It was clear that he had no idea who she was.
"Dr Eritt reporting for transport to Deep Space 2, Sir. Permission to come aboard." She held out the transit orders on the isolinear chip.
The Captain grabbed the chip and fed it into his padd. He studied the padd for several moments before looking up. "Who the hell came up with this idea? We are not a passenger liner..."
"I assure you Captain, I am not looking for a berth with room service on board your ship, but I am meant to travel with you to DS2."
"Sure. Why not? I'm only the Captain of this ship, why should anyone tell me about these things?"
"I can think of several reasons..."
"That was sarcasm, Doctor." The Captain reminded himself to be careful what he said in front of this one. He also made a mental note to do some background research on Angel One before they left the Starbase. "Permission granted. Just one thing, though. We have a sick bay but we are supposed to make do with an EMH program as our medical personnel. Personally, I don't like the idea of some computer simulation treating my people, can I call upon your medical services if needed during this trip?"
"Of course, Captain. That goes without saying."
"Good. Welcome aboard. Report to Lt Cmdr Botha on board, he will organise you a cabin." The Captain left her there and headed towards the cargo loading bay.
Lucifrelle walked down the gangway and through the open hatch into the Nullabor. She took a moment at the entrance to savour the unfamiliar smells and vibrations on board a warp capable ship. This ship was clearly just off the line, everything was bright and still polished. It would take a couple of years to develop that worn in, used feel of the Lissepian ship, she thought. She strolled down the corridor looking for someone to help her find this Botha, but everyone was busy with something or other.
"You. What are you doing on board?" The accent was a thick South African accent from Earth. Dr Eritt turned to face the speaker. He had the two and a half pips on his collar that indicated he was of the right rank. He was also the only person on this ship who stood at an equal height to her. She found it refreshing not to have to look down on the person she was speaking to for a change.
"Lt Cmdr Botha?"
"I am Dr Eritt, travelling to DS2. The Captain asked me to find you and ask about quarters."
"Oh." It was clear that Botha was now a little embarrassed by his previous harsh tones. "May I see your papers, please?" Lucifrelle handed him the isolinear chip and he checked the details in his padd.
"Everything looks in order. I am the Chief Engineer on the Nullabor, sorry about before, but..."
"But you have a new crew to break in and the last thing you need is unnecessary people walking around sightseeing." Dr Eritt finished the sentence for him.
"Exactly." Phillip Botha had to admit that this woman had a nature that appealed to him in some ways. Like him, she was a no-nonsense person who did what she had to when up against it, whatever the policy types said. It was a lot to glean from one brief conversation he knew, but then he was used to having to size up people quickly. He tried a different subject. "It's a shame they don't consider us worthy of a medical officer. I have to admit I don't like the idea of a computer program treating me if anything goes wrong."
"The Captain has already spoken to me about that. I will serve as the ship's medical officer while I'm on board."
Botha smiled. Things were looking up for a change. "How about I give you a tour of the ship?"
"Do you have time?"
"I'll make time. Besides this crew would benefit from not being able to run to me with every little thing for a while."
The Doctor nodded in agreement. "Very well." Botha led them to the turbo shaft and headed up to the top deck.
"This transport ship is the first of the new Hercules class ships to come off the line. They are designed for midrange cargo capacity long-haul jobs. They have a warp core of equal capacity to those going into the new Intrepid class destroyers, so they're fast as well." The turbolift halted and the doors slid open. "This is the first of four decks. As you can see, the forward component of this deck is the bridge. Behind us is the briefing room, the Captain's quarters and his ready room."
"This is interesting. Why does the turboshaft lead directly onto the bridge? Isn't that a security risk?"
Botha smiled once more. "Perhaps, but this is not a Starship. We do not meet Ambassadors or negotiate treaties with enemy nations here. Besides, there is only one turboshaft for the ship and there is nowhere else for it to go."
"That makes sense." Botha wished the designers had been that easy to convince. It had taken him weeks to demonstrate to them that you can't just put bends in a turbo shaft on a ship this size. They descended to level two.
They stepped out of the 'lift into a central corridor with doors leading off it on both sides. "This is Primary Quarters. Most of the crew will have cabins here. Behind us is the shuttle bay."
Dr Eritt looked at the doors. "These cabins look a little small."
Botha laughed. "They are not what you would be used to from the Starbase. The quarters on this level are equipped with bathing and sleeping areas, but little else. They do not have replicators in them. We have a central mess and rec area. For twenty-seven people, that's a good arrangement."
"What about the officers?"
"Well, that's different of course. If we are expected to keep a discrete distance from our crew, then we need something different. Officers and guest quarters are down on the third level. I'll show you." They stepped into the 'lift and descended one more level.
"Behind us is the top of the warp core in engineering. As you can see, we have a similar layout here as on Deck 2 except that the cabins are larger and include small living areas. Also forward of the cabins on this deck is the central mess and recreation area."
Dr Eritt looked down the corridor to the panelled doors at it's end signifying the entrance to the central mess. "So what's that called?"
"We are thinking of Three Forward." Dr Eritt raised a questioning look and Botha explained the Enterprise reference.
Dr Eritt laughed. Under the circumstances, maybe it is a good name for it. She told the Chief Engineer about the fact that the Enterprise was the only Starfleet ship to visit her home in a long time.
"Well, then Three Forward it is. We can put you up in cabin 3-8 if you wish to drop your bag off before continuing."
Dr Eritt did so and they were shortly on their way to the final deck. "Well, this is deck 4, home to Engineering behind us. Behind that there is the rear ninety-five percent of the ship that comprises the cargo bay."
"It's that big?"
"It is. Four storeys high and enough space to put a hundred runabouts and some spare parts in there. In front of us is most of the systems not related to propulsion which will draw power from the Warp Core. There is a small science lab, unused for the time being. There are also the transporters, holodeck, and sick bay down here."
"May I see the sick bay?"
"Of course." he led her into one of the doors leading off the central corridor. As they entered he realised that the room had not been touched after the initial equipment stocking. Most of the gear was still covered in plastic wrapping or sitting in crates. The place had the smell of a warehouse.
"It looks like I have some work to do." Eritt started moving to the nearest crate.
"I'm sorry about this, Doctor." Botha had that embarrassed look on his face again. "I'll send someone in to do this for you..."
"It's quite alright Mister Botha. Your team is busy and I have a fair idea what is supposed to go where."
"Well, thank you. I'll come and check in when my shift finishes."
"Thank you. For that and the tour."
"You are welcome." Botha left the room. He headed back to his crew in engineering, this time with a smile on his face.
Voraak keyed the comm system and requested docking clearance at Starbase 73. It had been a long trip. Cmdr Kelsey, now to be his superior officer, sat beside him in the runabout's co-pilot's seat. He was still having trouble coming to terms with this assignment. He was a computer specialist, not an Ops handler. It didn't make sense. Commander Kelsey had not been the fountain of knowledge he had hoped for. All he could do now was wait to be filled in. The captain had been quite reticent when he had first been asked to pick up Kelsey, maybe with the entire crew on deck he may be more forthcoming about their mission.
The Starbase replied stating that clearance had been granted. He guided the ship to the docking pad specified. The last two days had been quiet on the runabout, Kelsey had been spending more and more time in the holodeck familiarizing herself with the operational and tactical aspects of her new post.
"You think I know something about all this, don't you?"
Voraak realised that this was not an accusation, merely an observation and an accurate one at that. "I did. I think that no longer." He glanced at her. She was staring at him in a manner he recognised as meaning he was under tight scrutiny.
"If you knew anything you would have let slip something by now."
"Maybe I'm just good."
"I don't question that. You are one of the best covert operatives I have ever met but you are not as good as me."
Kelsey actually laughed. "Make no mistake, Voraak. I don't underestimate you, but we have carried this too far. We are on the same side, Lt Cmdr." She said the last sentence with a serious intensity. It was important that they finish this now.
Voraak stared for a moment. Kelsey realised he was weighing the import of her words. That was a good sign, he was taking her seriously. Finally he spoke. "You are correct of course. From this moment on we shall pool our resources rather than use them against each other."
Alexis eased inside. She had hoped for this. It would not have been good for them to carry their tests of each other onto the ship. Both of them had active starship duty logged on their records. They knew who the real enemies were. "Good. Besides, I think this time we are both owed some answers." She turned forward once more as Voraak set the ship down on the docking pad with the lightest of touches.
They began the shutdown checklist and established the moorings and the gangway connection. It was another half an hour before they were carrying their bags out of the ship. The airlock door rolled back revealing Thomas Walker staring back at them. Alexis was not surprised. He would want to deal with this immediately. Besides, he knew she would leave him no choice.
She stood where she was and smiled. "Captain Thomas Walker. It has been a long time."
"It has been at that." He smiled back. Maybe this would not be as difficult as he had thought it would be. He was about to continue when he felt the fist strike his jaw. He hadn't seen it coming, Alexis had lost none of her speed. Her smile and good humour had been a front to put him off guard, he should have remembered that tactic he thought.
"You son of a bitch! Do you know what I had to do in the last three months to establish that cover of mine? Now it's all for nothing? You better start giving me answers, Thomas."
Voraak stood immobile. Striking a superior officer was a court martial offence, but he did not miss the use of his captain's first name either. They weren't hiring him as a security officer, he decided that the best course of action was to sit this one out and watch where the pieces fell. The Captain would order him to take action if it was necessary, he realised.
Walker chuckled. "Knock it off, Tinkerbell. You didn't have to come, you know that. Perhaps you should have stayed." Walker noted the flash of irritation wash over her face. She had disliked that nickname ever since he had first explained it's historical literary context. He had conceded long ago that she did not have that pixie-like innocence no matter what she looked like.
"You know I wouldn't do that." Her voice softened, a point not lost on Voraak. "Just tell me why I'm here."
"I need a good First Officer. Can you think of anyone else I should have asked?"
Alexis chuckled. "I can think of plenty of people, it's not like you need a lot of star quality for the job. You're now the Captain of a transport. Why do you need me beside you for that?"
"Maybe I just wanted you beside me."
Alexis exploded. "Bullshit! You're not that selfish, you proved that on the Menalaus. Now tell me what's going on!"
"I don't know. That's the truth." Walker spoke with a simple and subdued voice. Neither Voraak nor Kelsey harboured any doubts about the honesty of his answer.
"Well, Captain, your new First Officer has a point. Why are we here? Surely Starfleet does not require trained combat and infiltration specialists for transport duty." Voraak decided that his presence in this situation should no longer go unnoticed.
"That is simple, Lt Cmdr. I was asked to take this command and I was given instructions to select for myself the finest crew I could. I put all your names together on a wish list and handed it to Admiral Dekker. I thought he would laugh at it. I thought I was being assigned this command as a punishment. I thought the three months of infiltration you had been conducting Commander and your three years as a Systems Engineer on the Essex would shield you and I would get a straight answer from the flag brass. It would appear that I was wrong."
"So you let it ride?" Alexis was clearly seething underneath her practiced exterior control.
"Yes. When I was given my first orders, it became clear why they decided to let me have anyone I wanted."
"Just what were those orders and what do they have to do with us?"
"I am to take some cargo to Deep Space 2."
Alexis burst out laughing. "So?"
"Take a look at the route I am expected to take." Walker tossed her a small padd. Alexis was still chuckling as she caught it and looked. Every trace of a grin disappeared when she saw the flight path.
Captain Walker decided that he would resurrect an old tradition on board his ship; Dinner at the Captain's Table. All the officers on board his ship had been eating alone at nights up until now. There was a natural respect among them for the privacy of the crew so they had not been assembling in the central mess. Thomas Walker had a large enough table in his quarters to handle his complement of officers so that night they all sat around it together for the first time.
The Captain gazed over the group. His First Officer the elfin like Betazoid, his chief Engineer the surly South African, his Operations Officer the stocky Vulcan, his Helmsman the young Bajoran. Then of course there was Dr Eritt, their Angellian passenger. The six of them looked quite a motley sight together, he decided.
The beginning of dinner had been a subdued affair. Thomas Walker had considered this a risk so before the dinner he had smuggled a small supply of Romulan Ale aboard the ship. When he broke it open, no one said no and no one asked where it came from. The night progressed a little more casually from that point.
"So tell me Doctor, " Botha asked casually, "How is the sick bay shaping up."
"It's fortunate that you didn't need medical attention on your journey here, Lt Cmdr. The sick bay is still missing a number of critical supplies. I believe you should put in a request for these before we set out for DS2 tomorrow morning."
"Just let me know what you think is appropriate and I will sign the requests myself." Walker was glad to have a real organic flesh and blood physician aboard his ship. "How's the cargo loading progressing, Ensign?" he had assigned his Helm Officer the task of overseeing this function. It was a natural conclusion that whenever they were loading or unloading they would not be simultaneously travelling anywhere. Besides, there was something to be said for a pilot of Sai Falar's finesse knowing exactly how the weight on board was distributed.
"It's all happening on schedule. No problems. I just wish that I knew what I was putting in there. It's not as easy working with sizes and weights as it would be working with objects I know. This is all a little too theoretical for me."
Walker was still concerned about this young man. He had taken this assignment without complaint much to the Captain's surprise but the incident after the first training exercise still bothered him. This young Bajoran would have to learn to trust those around him quickly. "I'm afraid I can't do anything about that at the moment, Ensign." He turned to Voraak. "What about Operations?"
Voraak answered. "I have finished my familiarization with the ship. There appears little for me to do. There is no tactical or security station, there is minimal science sensors, it appears that the bulk of my time will be spent monitoring communications."
Walker laughed. "I think we will be able to find some tasks other than that for you. We'll keep you busy during this voyage. How did you go assisting Mr Botha with his system glitch in the secondary computer core?"
"Found and eliminated."
"Good." The conversation continued with discussions about the ship and their work for nearly half an hour before they started discussing other things like hobbies, interests, previous adventures. Walker watched, waiting for the slightest sign that they would not be able to work together. He found none. It would take some time for them to function together as a team, but he believed he had picked well.
It was an hour later that they cleared away the dinner things and he produced the deck of cards. The six of them played some poker and shared jokes. Yes thought Walker, he had picked well. They played for nearly two hours before they split up and left their captain's quarters. Voraak was the last to leave.
"Captain, may I have a word?"
"Yes, Voraak. Please." The Captain indicated a sofa chair. Voraak sat.
"It's about you and your First Officer, Sir. It does not bode well when the two commanding officers of a ship are having a relationship. Are you sure that it was wise to bring her here?"
Walker bristled. "My relationships, or those of the First Officer for that matter, are none of your business, Voraak."
"I did not mean to imply otherwise. Nevertheless, if there was something happening on board this ship that could affect its operations you would expect me to tell you about it would you not?"
"Of course." Walker could see where he was headed.
"Then Captain with all due respect..."
"Okay, Voraak. You've made your point." Walker stood and walked over to the bottle of ale and poured himself another drink. "So you want to know the gruesome details. Well. A little over four years ago I was at the Parisee Squares court on Starbase 6 while the Manalaus was docked for repairs. She was serving on the Hood at the time. We played a match on opposite teams. Eventually, it came down to her and I. The match went for nearly an hour. She was good, but then so am I. In the end she tried a fancy speed rush at me but I saw it coming and deflected her thrust knocking her off balance. I had won. I helped her up and she stared at me and I could see something going on behind those black eyes of hers but I didn't know what it was.
"From then on we ran into each other fairly regularly. I would be lying if I said I didn't look forward to her company but we were friends, nothing more. Eight months ago she was assigned to the Menalaus as Tactical Officer. We saw more of each other but we were still friends, or so I thought. Six months ago she was assigned to Tac Ops, promoted and offered special intelligence and infiltration training. On her last night on the Menalaus she came to me and told me that she would stay on the Menalaus if only I asked her to."
"You said No." The Vulcan made it a statement. The logic was clear.
"Yes. I nearly didn't, mind you. I have to admit that a strong element of me wanted her to stay more than anything."
"Given all this I still do not understand your reasons for having her as your First Officer. Surely there is a risk."
"Of course there is a risk, Voraak. There is a risk simply in being out here in the first place. We put our lives on the line every time we fire up a warp drive. Know this, though. I did not bring Kelsey here because of our history. I brought her here because she is the best. I put you on a runabout with her so that we wouldn't have to discuss this, so you could see it for yourself."
"And I did Sir. That does not mean I didn't have to ask the question."
Voraak was right of course. "Maybe not, but my first duty is not to you, not to Kelsey and not to myself. It's to this ship. Anything I do will be in that context. I will not be questioned by you on this again, understand?"
"Yes Sir. I shall take my leave now. A pleasant evening to you Sir." Walker waved at him in dismissal.
As Voraak walked from his quarters, Walker felt his irritation rise. This was none of Voraak's business. What did his history with her have to do with it? As far as he was concerned there was no history, anyway. Still, Walker could understand his Operations Officer's concern. All the signs were there. There was no telling what Alexis had told this Vulcan on the trip here. Seven days in a runabout was a long time.
Walker dismissed the thought from his mind. His Tinkerbell was not the talkative type. He decided to visit her and see if there was any impediment to their serving together. It would be better to find out now. He left his quarters and got into the turbolift which deposited him on deck 3. He strode the several paces down the corridor to her door and hit the chime.
When she heard the chime, Alexis called "Enter." The doors slid apart to allow the entry of her new Captain. She had changed out of her uniform and into a loose bed robe before she had curled up on her small sofa with a book. She had not been expecting a visit, least of all from Thomas.
"Thomas, please come in and sit down. This is a surprise." She had that mercurial smile on her face. This would be interesting.
"Alexis, I need to know something." Kelsey knew whatever it was involved something personal. Walker rarely used her first name.
"If I can answer it, I will. You know that."
"Alexis, why are you here? I expected you to say no."
Well, well. At least he had come straight to the point. As usual. "Are you saying you don't want me here?"
"No. I need your talents. I just want to know why you said yes."
"What do you want, Thomas? If I said that I was here because it was a great career move, neither of us would believe it. If I say I came here for you, we both know the ramifications of that statement. What am I supposed to say?"
"I just need to know that you are here to serve this ship, not for personal reasons."
"Dammit Thomas. You know better than to ask that." The question irritated her. That Vulcan must have rattled him, she realised. She wanted to tell him more, but this was not the time. It was important that they get used to working together. She needed a change of subject. "So aren't you the least bit interested in what I've been up to in the last six months?"
Walker smiled. He was happy for the change of subject as well. "Of course I am. We have some catching up to do." They spoke for over an hour about their adventures over the last six months. They laughed together and chatted like good friends. When Walker finally left Alexis hugged herself. She would have to tell him the truth soon. She doubted she could hold it in much longer anyway.
Walker was still in the corridor when Lucifrelle approached. "Captain, here is the list of supplies I would recommend you procure for the sick bay." She handed him a padd.
The Captain looked it over for a moment before speaking. "I didn't mean you had to put this together straight away, Dr."
"Maybe not, but I had the time and it is an honour to serve."
Walker smiled. "Thank you. I'll put in the request immediately."
"Thank you Captain. Good evening." Lucifrelle turned and strode to her quarters. Walker just shook his head and studied the padd in more detail. There was a great deal of material on this inventory that was cutting edge. The doctor was asking for equipment rarely seen outside starships or Starbases. It was her Angellian background he guessed. He couldn't help suspecting that she was attempting to curry some favour for herself among the Starfleet officers she met so that they may have an impact during the hearing on Deep Space 2. Still, he realised she must be highly competent to know what some of this stuff was, let alone how to use it.
It couldn't hurt to be prepared, especially where they were headed. When he was back inside his own quarters he keyed into the Starbase Quartermaster's office and transmitted the request. Before retiring for the night, he keyed up the Federation files on Angel One.
Dr Eritt came to the bridge as requested. As she stepped from the 'lift shaft she heard a remotely familiar voice coming from the view screen. Botha was yelling at it.
"I don't care what you think is appropriate, Ensign. That request was signed by my Captain and he is going to get those supplies."
"Is there a problem, Mr Botha?"
Botha turned. The look on his face was not pleasant. "I'm afraid so. This little paper pushing defender of beaurocracy seems to think your medical requests are excessive."
"As I was saying before you arrived Dr Eritt..." The voice from the view screen made her turn and she realised why the voice was familiar.
"Aren't you the same Ensign that assigned me quarters two weeks ago?"
The Betazoid Ensign was taken aback by this. "Well, yes but that has no bearing on..."
"You were being officious then and you are being officious now. I have made a personal recommendation to the Captain and he has authorised that request. You will now fill the requisition and make the supplies available." Dr Eritt had decided that a firm hand would be required with this young man. He clearly thought he was king of this hill. This reaction came instinctively to her and she realised that despite her rationalist views on her home planet, she still had to work at accepting men taking an equal load of responsibility.
The face on the screen turned smug. "Well, Dr. As you are no doubt aware I would have to fill this order if the recommendation was made by the ship's doctor, but as you are merely a passenger..."
"Now listen up son." Botha's rage was brewing. "Dr Eritt is providing her medical services for the duration of our trip to DS2. If she says we need something, then you will haul arse over here with it immediately. I've heard enough from you about this. Get the supplies here now." Botha was becoming harder to understand as his rage brought the accent of his homeland out to the full in his voice.
"Request denied." The Ensign smiled as he killed the comm line. Botha roared with frustration.
"Of all the damn arrogant pieces of..."
"I still recommend we get those supplies, Mr Botha."
"Don't worry, Dr. We'll get them now whether we need them or not. It's the principle of it. Come with me." They both stepped into the 'lift and headed down to the lowest level.
Ensign Sai and the Captain were both in the cargo bay overseeing the last of the loading as the two walked in and marched over to them. Walker could see that something was bothering his Chief Engineer.
"A word, Captain?"
Walker sent Sai off to the cargo transporter to handle the next load. He was glad to comply. Whatever was up, he didn't want to know about it, not if the Chief Engineer looked that riled. "What's up?" The Captain had asked after he was sure that the Ensign was out of earshot.
Botha and Eritt related their experience with the young Betazoid ensign. As they continued, Walker rage grew and grew. When they had finished, he asked in a controlled voice, "Where is this Ensign?"
Botha smiled. He gave his Captain the details and watched him march from the cargo bay. Botha nudged the Doctor. "Tag along, this looks like it could be fun." Lucifrelle did so, a smile playing across her lips. Maybe these Starfleet males were different after all.
Walker strode through the corridors of the Starbase with his face set in a visage of grim determination. All the Starbase crews stepped from his path as he swept through. Botha and Eritt followed in his wake, a smile beginning to form on Botha's face. The young Ensign was working in the Quartermaster's Stores this morning. His face was buried in a padd and he nearly didn't see the Captain until it was too late. He looked up to ask one of the crewmen a question and saw the man marching toward him with a terrible look in his eyes...
The Ensign's face turned ashen. "By the Rings, it's the Wizard."
Walker heard the phrase and it only served to heighten his irritation. He had never heard himself called that before, but from the chuckle he heard behind him it must be something that was well known. The Ensign turned to move away and Walker called after him. "You! I want to speak to you, Son."
The Ensign froze. To everyone in the room it looked like he had been petrified by fear. Botha knew there was nothing the Ensign could do to avoid the Wizard of Oz. No Betazoid was safe around this man, so they said. He could almost feel the irritation in the Captain threatening to engulf the poor Ensign himself, and he was the least empathic person he knew. Not counting Vulcans of course.
"Look at me when I am speaking to you Ensign! Now, why are you refusing me the medical supplies I've asked for?"
The Ensign turned but kept his eyes focussed on the floor. "I'm sorry Sir. I didn't realise the order from the Dr and your Chief Engineer was for your ship..."
"What are you saying, Ensign? You organised Dr Eritt's passage on the Nullabor. The request came under my authorisation..."
"I'm sorry Sir. We've had a lot of unusual requests lately. I'll fill the requisition immediately..."
"That's not good enough!" Walker grabbed the chin of the Ensign. His failure to look him in the eye had infuriated him. He lifted the chin, forcing the hapless Ensign's gaze to meet his own eyes. The Captain immediately recognised two things: The Ensign was a Betazoid and he looked terrified. He smiled as he continued. "Why do I have to come here and sort this out personally? Why did my crew have to suffer your arrogance and condescending manner? Why did I have to come down here and teach you some manners?"
The Ensign could feel the cold steel of an Australian mind producing chaos within his own psyche. There was something about this particular breed of human that made them dangerous to his kind. The young Ensign could feel the practical nature of this man punctuated with the random creative streak that made him an ingenious and resourceful officer. This man would be dangerous without the discipline of Starfleet flowing through his veins. He could feel his grip on reality slipping, it was being wrenched from him by the thoughts from this Captain, from the Wizard...
Walker could see the Ensign was in trouble. He released him to see the young man collapse on the ground. He was jibbering something about the black arts, wizardry, and the damnation of his soul. Walker was concerned. He had only intended to scare the kid after all, teach him some respect. This was not supposed to happen. Dr Eritt rushed past him and knelt beside the prone mass on the floor. She had her med kit out in seconds and was scanning him with her tricorder.
"Is he going to be alright, Dr?"
"Yes. He's just suffered a neural shock. He seems to have gotten himself quite worked up over your presence. His fear was out of all proportion." They both became aware of the laughter originating from behind the Captain.
Walker turned to see Botha in stitches leaning against one of the crates for support. There were tears streaming from his eyes. He caught the Captain's gaze and it instigated a fresh round of belly laughs from the large South African. It was two full minutes before the Chief Engineer regained his control. "Oh that was good. Well done, Captain."
"I know, I know. The boy collapsed and it is not good to make fun of other's misery but you have to admit he had been asking for it."
"Maybe he was, but I didn't intend for this to happen. He just freaked out on me."
"He got himself worked up is all. He's been listening to all the stories about you."
"What stories? What is going on here? What is all this Wizard stuff, anyway?"
The mention of his nickname almost sent Botha into another fit of laughter but the look on his Captain's face made him control himself. "There have been some stories floating around about you for a while, and that recent incident with the Breen has only heightened them. People think you have some kind of supernatural ability, that you are no longer fully human. This has grown faster in the Betazoid community for obvious reasons."
"I'm not fully human, I'm Australian."
"Well, it's statements just like that which perpetuate this sort of legend. After the Breen, people started calling you the Wizard of Oz, based on an old human story..."
"I am familiar with the story, Lt Commander, and I am also aware that my home is often referred to by the first syllable of it's name, we started it for heaven's sake. Why wizard though?"
"Why not? There has always been a perception among those who do not understand a process that the originator of those processes must be using some arcane powers."
The Captain considered this. He looked down at the prone Ensign. "This is not going to help quash those stories, is it?" Botha only laughed in response. Walker shook his head and turned back to the Doctor. "How is he?"
"I've given him a sedative. The local medics are on their way here, I will remain until they arrive."
"Well, I won't. I don't want to have to explain this. Can you organise one of these crew members to arrange the delivery of the medical supplies?" Walker indicated with a brush of his arm the several crewmen who were standing and staring at the scene in total shock.
"Of course Sir." Eritt watched Walker turn and stride out, followed by a still chuckling Botha who gave her a wink as he turned to leave. She turned on the nearest crewman. "You." He jumped. "Organise for these supplies to be delivered to the sick bay on the Nullabor without delay." She handed the crewman a padd.
He stared at it for a second. He looked up, careful not to make the Ensign's mistake. "Yes Sir. Right away Sir. Anything else Sir?"
"Very Good Sir." The crewman turned and mobilized the full complement of staff in the Quartermaster's Store. They began to assemble the materials with a speed which bespoke their fear. Lucifrelle could understand their reaction now. There were clearly advantages to being thought of as the assistant of a demon, she realised.
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