By Jack Elmlinger
“Spies, traitors, and secrets,” Tattok said. “There are too many of them.”
The Roylan was stepping off the transporter platform in Sanctuary’s Ops Center as he addressed Captain Synnove Natale. The Orion woman smiled at him politely, pleased to see the admiral safe.
“Indeed, sir,” she said.
“This is the second time that my chief of staff has been revealed to be a traitor!” Tattok went on. He walked purposely towards her office, nodding his greetings to the officers and enlisted personnel working in Ops. “Has the Columbia found Cen?”
“Yes, sir. Captain Regan is transporting Cen and his liberators to Garon II as we speak, and a couple of her officers are on their way here with some interesting technology that they found.” She asked him then if he would like a drink and he asked for tea. “So, how were things on Cardassia?” she asked, waiting for the replicator to work.
“I sent you a full report…” He paused for a moment. “Which I gave to Buchanan to send.”
“Do you think that Tobiaston, Buchanan, or San are still alive?”
“Of that, I'm uncertain. I have, however, dispatched the Veritas to investigate. For now, command goes to Lt. Commander Thalkav.”
“You’re staying here, Admiral?”
“I am until my new ship arrives.”
“Yes,” he said, accepting the tea from her after he climbed up onto a chair in front of her desk. “I prefer a smaller ship.”
“You’re transferring your flag off of the Veritas?” she asked him, curiously as she sat down behind her desk. “I thought you liked that ship.”
“Too many bad memories would haunt me there. For now, Thalkav will command the Veritas. Her new captain will arrive soon.”
“New captains and new ships. I guess the fleet’s starting to show some sense of organization since Buchanan, uh…”
“Went missing. Rest assured, we'll find her,” Tattok said, taking a sip of his tea. It was Orange Spice Black Tea, double-sweet, just how he liked it. “This new captain will be my second-in-command.”
“I see. Do I know her? Or him?” Natale asked, curious in spite of herself.
“Maybe you do.” Setting his teacup on her desk, the admiral took one of the many PADDs off of it and inserted an isolinear chip he had drawn from his pocket. He then handed the PADD to her before picking up his cup again. He watched her while she looked over the information on the PADD. She almost couldn’t believe what she was reading.
“You requested her because of what happened with Cen and Buchanan, right?” the Orion asked.
“Correct. This fleet needs stability,” he said, sipping at his tea again. Somehow the replicators aboard Sanctuary were able to produce a cup of tea better than the replicators aboard the Veritas. He suspected that it had to do with the endless drive of the station’s chief engineer, Lieutenant Commander Grafydd.
Natale perused the PADD some more and nodded. “I’ve heard a lot about Commodore Gibbs, Admiral. Not all of it flattering, I admit, but for the most part it’s been good.”
“Unflattering, you say?” the admiral queried.
She looked at him. “I don’t know anything specific, sir. I just heard in some scuttlebutt a while back that described Laura Gibbs as something of a ball-buster, if you’ll pardon the term. Someone who does not suffer fools at all.”
Tattok nodded again. “Indeed,” he said over the rim of his teacup. “I know her as well, and no, she most certainly does not suffer fools as I have.”
The next day, the doors to the anteroom outside of Vice-Admiral Tattok’s office on Sanctuary opened and a brown-haired woman just over average in height walked inside. Commander Amber Stone, the admiral’s aide and secretary, looked up from her paperwork and smiled at her. The new arrival wore commodore’s pips on her crimson collar and she ignored the younger woman when she walked past her, keying the door into Tattok’s office without an invitation. The commander was almost tempted to summon station security but with all the martial arts that she knew that the admiral knew, she wasn’t worried.
With the door sliding shut behind her, Laura Jacqueline Gibbs stepped forward to see Vice-Admiral Tattok sitting cross-legged on a meditation platform in the middle of the room. A stack of PADDs, a teapot, and a set of teacups along with cream and sugar containers sat on a cart beside him while the room was dimly lit. Sensing the interruption in his meditation the woman created by her presence alone, the Roylan’s eyes opened to frown at his unexpected visitor.
“You should learn to use the chimes, Gibbs,” he said, taking a deep breath before he turned to put them tea. “Can I interest you?”
“Unless that’s coffee, you can keep it, Tat.”
“It's your loss.” He poured himself a cup of tea, adding two lumps of sugar to the hot beverage before he looked up at her. “So, you're finally here. Do you understand the reasons for your assignment?”
“I can tell you what you want to hear or what I think you should hear. Which one is it? Sir?”
“The truth, always, Jacq,” the admiral said, using the name that her friends called her by. “My only interest is in the truth.”
“Ok, then here’s the truth. Starfleet gave you some pretty shitty terms for running this operation. You’ve built your house of cards on muddy ground and because of it, the top people on your staff have been either replaced by members of the True Way or coerced into joining the Maquis—the latter of whom escaped.” There was a hard, detached look on her face when she said this but she was only saying what she had been ordered to say. “Your primary space station has a saboteur that hasn’t been caught yet. Do you want me to say anything else?”
“You've hit your mark, Gibbs.”
“And the next thing, have we heard anything from Columbia about Cen?”
“Captain Regan has caught him and they're transporting Cen and his accomplices to Garon II as we speak,” he informed her, his tone of voice telling her that her leave to speak her mind had ended.
It was some minutes before either of them spoke again. “It was a difficult decision to get you assigned as my second-in-command,” the admiral said at last.
“But you wanted someone who you’ve gotten results from?” He nodded. “Ok, what’s my first mission?”
“You're eager. I like that, but hold for now,” Tattok said, standing up from the meditation platform. Picking up the PADD from the top of his stack, he took a few steps forward and handed it to her. “You should get to know your ship and crew.”
Gibbs accepted the PADD and gave it a brief overview. “I see that the crew’s pretty much picked out for me. Who’s the XO?”
“That position is unassigned.”
“Then I want Lucas Donovan,” Gibbs said.
“Since he left the Ranger after the war, he hasn’t been able to find a XO position anywhere. He was slated to be first officer aboard the Ernst Ruska,” the commodore explained, looking straight at him, “but that project was shut down because of the current situation. When construction ended, he wasn’t reassigned anywhere else. Also not too many commanders trust him because he's an Augment from Celestra IV.”
“Hmm… that's a waste of resources. Request any personnel that you wish, Gibbs,” the Roylan said with a nod.
“Of course, Tat.”
“I know that you won't fail me on this.”
“Of course, and may I make another suggestion?”
“With this Cen situation, just remember Rule 10.”
“I remember Rules 6 and 18.”