Part of USS Century: 1. Videre Invisibilium

Return of the Routine

USS Century
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The USS Century slipped through warped space, its course bring the ship ever closer to Federation space. A week had slipped by for the crew as they stood vigil just inside Romulan Republic space, attempting to glean what little information they could regarding the sudden and inexplicable incursion of a Borg vessel through both Federation and Republic space in the days prior to their arrival in the area. While their sojourn had not been completely fruitless, they hadn’t managed to glean any overtly useful information, nor had they been able to track the strange intruder any further than the first hostile engagement it had fought against Romulan opposition forces. With little to show for their efforts, the Century retreated from Republic controlled space to return to their original task, patrolling the Federation’s border with all the Romulan factions. 

Despite the Century not being a patrol vessel by design, it had the longevity required to conduct prolonged sweeps of the border without the need to resupply, making it an excellent platform despite its lack of specialization in the area. And after the somewhat disappointing ending to their last foray, a welcome if not functionally routine mission to tackle. It was with that in mind that the Century’s Captain concluded his status report to Starfleet Command.

“…I hope that the continuation of our original patrol assignment will help the crew readjust to a less tense state of operations. The heightened level of alertness and hyper focus they were expected to maintain throughout our encounter with the Borg Scout has likely taken a toll on their mental health, something that I will need to address with the ship’s medical officer soon. End of log.”

Captain Gar’rath leaned back in his chair and slowly drummed his clawed fingers against the left armrest of his chair as he mulled over the things he had just said aloud for the report. In his younger years, considerations such as stress levels would have been an alien concept to him, given that his mind didn’t work in the same way as his mammalian counterparts. In fact, it was only once he had assumed command that he had to give any real consideration to such things. Even as a department head, his focus had been on mission readiness, leaving his deputy to handle the psychological issues that came with being in the security field. 

As he mulled over his past positions, he recalled one of his former commanders point out such a deficiency in his leadership. His old CO had told him that his “dismissal of mammalian emotional states gave his subordinates the impression that he viewed them as objects and not at thinking, feeling beings.” The Gorn had scoffed at the notion at the time, but after it had been pointed out to him, Gar’rath had noticed that his interactions with his staff always followed a very brief script of noncommittal responses and sour expressions. It took nearly a year for Gar’rath to climb his way out of the deficit he had inadvertently found himself in simply by not giving any thought to the emotional reactions of those around him, both positive and negative. In the end, a Saurian on the ship had to explain to him in terms that were comprehensible to a reptilian before he truly grasped the damage he had done. After that, his improvement in interpersonal relations was evident, though far from perfect. Even as he sat behind the desk having such retrospective thoughts, he still made mistakes.

One such instance that could be labelled a mistake happened only a few days prior, when his Executive Officer made an impassioned plea to wade into the wreckage of the Borg attack on a secret Romulan station to attempt to rescue survivors, only for her emotional appeal to be denied almost as soon as it was made. Despite the fact that his decision was supported by his superiors, it left his XO in a rather foul mood, making interactions since then rather glib if not outright nonexistent. It wasn’t the first time they hadn’t seen eye to eye on things, but this particular case seemed to upset the Commander a fair bit more than previous cases, and while the Captain had come a long way in dealing with his crew since his youth, he couldn’t nail down the reason for her continued ire.

Gar’rath glanced up to the corner of the display he had open, catching a glimpse of what time it currently displayed. His official bridge shift had ended nearly an hour ago, according to the display, which meant that he had once again allowed his thoughts to carry him far beyond where he normally was by that time of the duty day. The Gorn growled softly in annoyance at himself before pushing himself away from the desk and plodding slowly for the door of his Ready Room. On the Bridge proper, the night watch had already taken over and was keeping themselves busy with the continuation of the plan for their day. Gar’rath exchanged a nod with the Watch officer, not bothering to approach him as he made his way up the small stairway before making his way inside the turbolift. 

The hum of the lift droned on in the background as the Gorn continued to ponder the events that had taken place over the last few days. His habit of dissecting encounters, interactions, and reactions driving his mind to replay things over and over while he struggled to make sense of them. Had someone been in the lift with him, they might have seen the slight shifts in his brow, or the slight parting of his maw sporadically as he contemplated things. Most non-reptilians would have found such micro-expressions to be rather unsettling, even when coming from someone they knew fairly well. It was lucky, then, that Gar’rath rode the turbolift alone, his countenance unseen by his crew.

When the turbolift slid to a halt, the door parted, allowing the Captain to exit. His destination drew closer as he walked slowly down the corridor, the small glinting of passing stars catching his attention for a fraction of a second as he approached the doors to the large lounge that dominated the forward section of the ship. As they parted, the view within was one of general merriment, with many of the crew sitting together at the many tables in the room, enjoying a drink and a conversation with their peers. Unlike when he had first taken command of the Century, no one looked his way in shock, there was no cessation of conversation, no indication that anyone in the room had taken notice of him at all. Gar’rath nodded his head just once in acknowledgement of the lack of change the room took on before making his way to the large wood paneled bar further inside the space.

On his approach, the Captain took notice of a figure that stood out from the others around him, namely that of his Security officer, Lieutenant Khar, sitting at one end of the bar with a pewter mug filled with what he could only assume was some version of blood wine. Taking the absence of other company around the Klingon as a sign, Gar’rath stalked over to a stool next to Khar and slid onto the seat.

“Captain,” the man acknowledged his new bar mate, “I don’t see you here very often.”

“I tend to visit the lounge when I find myself at an… impasse. The liveliness of this place sometimes helps me to find the answers I seek when solitude denies me wisdom,” the Gorn remarked as he flagged the bartender down to order a drink.

“I do not pretend to know what might go on in the mind of your kind, Captain,” Khar said, taking a shallow swig of his drink, “The few I’ve met beside yourself have been arrogant, boisterous creatures that fight well, but lack a sense of honor. They are as alien to me as I’m sure Humans are be to the both of us.” The Klingon let out a hearty laugh at his own words.

“It is a struggle to figure out what they are thinking at times, I agree,” Gar’rath nodded, though he intentionally left vague which species he was referring to. Once his drink was delivered, the Captain tossed a bit down his gullet before replacing the vessel back on the bar’s surface. “I seldom see you here when I do come in. Do you prefer to drink in your quarters?”

“Hardly,” Khar sneered at the thought, “Most of my off duty time is spent training… either in the holodeck or in the gymnasium. A warrior’s body is a weapon, one that must be honed daily if it is to be of use. Only when the mood strikes me do I come here to enjoy a bit of drink. Sadly, the artificial blood wine is… well… lacking…”

Gar’rath grunted in agreement, “It is one thing I’ve noticed about Federation culture… their synthahol leaves much to be desired…”

“True,” the Klingon agreed, “But you being the Captain affords you certain… liberties when it comes to that. I’m sure you have a personal stash of the good stuff somewhere.”

“I do not,” the Captain replied, in direct opposition to the twinge of hope that had laced Khar’s words, “I do not imbibe alcohol with enough frequency to want to have my own stash, as you put it. While the flavors of them are novel, they do not affect me in the same way they do a mammal, and what affects they do have I don’t necessarily enjoy overly much. I use my privilege as the Captain in other ways.”

“Oh?” the Klingon turned to look at his Captain fully.

“I have a small stash of non-replicated meat that I keep in cold storage,” Gar’rath said, turning slightly to regard his companion, “Every so often when we visit a planet for a few days of crew rest, I partake in a bit of game hunting and bring back a little of my catch.”

Khar let out another boisterous laugh, “Hunting is a fine past-time! Perhaps the next time you do so, I could join you. I would enjoy a good hunt with real prey!”

“I’m not sure you could keep up…” Gar’rath said, a hint of smugness in his voice.

“Ffah!” the Lieutenant exhaled in feigned annoyance, “No Klingon would impede a hunt, the very idea is laughable! If that was meant to be a challenge, I will happily prove just how great my prowess is at hunting down prey!”

“I wasn’t doubting your prowess at a hunt you were used to, Lieutenant,” Gar’rath responded, “But my people carry out hunts in a markedly different manner. While you use a wide assortment of weapons in your hunts… I am the weapon.” The Captain clacked the bar’s surface loudly to emphasize his point.

The Klingon squinted at the Gorn’s claws for a moment before looking back up with a fearless, toothy smile, “A hunt with just our bare hands sounds like a glorious challenge! I shall look forward to it.”

“As will I,” Gar’rath said with a firm nod. After a short silence, the Gorn picked up his drink glass and imbibed the remaining liquid in a large gulp before returning it to its former place. Once his hand was free, the Captain pushed himself back on his feet and gave his drinking partner a firm clap on the shoulder. “Have a good evening, Lieutenant.”

“Leaving already, Captain?” the man looked up at the reptilian with a look of slight disappointment.

Again came a nod, “I still have some reports to send out before I seek sleep. It is the curse of being a ship captain… there are never enough hours in the day no matter which clock you use to mark time.”

The Security officer let out a sharp laugh, “I haven’t heard you make jokes before, Captain. Today must be a special day indeed.”

“Not especially,” Gar’rath shrugged the comment off, “I have spent enough time around mammals to have picked up a few things about what they find humorous.”

“So you have,” Khar chuckled and lifted his mug in salute, “Good night, sir.”

The Gorn waved in response as he trudged back toward the entrance of the lounge, his form soon disappearing into the corridor. Lt. Khar snorted at the sight and returned his attention to his own thoughts as he mulled over his odd interaction with his commander.