“Captain's personal log, stardate 93471.03”
“I'll never get used to numbers that high, even if I spend the rest of my life in this universe.”
“Or these uniforms. And while I'm on the topic of things I'll never get used to I can add that sanctimonious...”
*Deep breath and explosive exhale.*
“I can add Captain Dralia. I'm sure she's logged a protest about my behaviour earlier today. Well it can serve to counter mine about Starfleet's whole involvement not just on Kobali, but our entire campaign against the Vaadwaur in the Delta quadrant. I agree with Captain Kim, if the Prime Directive ever applied to this situation it has long since been rendered irrelevant by our own actions. By stepping in and protecting the Kobali from being wiped out by the Vaadwaur we have already interfered. Maybe we have no right to try and change the Kobali's customs of Rebirth, or their use of Vaadwaur bodies to create new members of their own kind, but by that standard neither did we have any right to interfere in this conflict in the first place, nor in any of the other assaults that the Vaadwaur have committed against the inhabitants in the part of space. Kobali is not a Federation world: none of the planets in this part of space are. It's not even an allied world. It is, at best, the acquaintance, of an ally, of a friend.”
“It wasn't that long ago Starfleet refused to interfere when remnants of the Romulan Star Empire tried to reenslave the Remans, claiming it was an 'internal matter' until there was proof that outside forces were interfering. But here-”
*Chair creaking, soft grunt, footsteps, voice growing slightly fainter.*
“-here it seemed that we couldn't wait to get involved. Yes, the problem of suddenly opening a gateway between the Beta and the Delta Quadrant and becoming next door neighbours overnight with species mostly unfamiliar to the Federation, obviously needed to be dealt with in some fashion, but jumping into a conflict, the premise of which we knew little about seemed... unwise to begin with. I am not objecting to aiding the Kobali as such, given how aggressive and bent on conquering everything in sight the Vaadwaur are; I doubt that the Delta Quadrant would suffice for them and if left unchecked they will eventually go through the gateway and into Beta. So assisting the species here in countering them is helping ourselves as well. And I do agree with Seven of Nine, their rapid technological advancement is... disquieting, but the hypocritical use of the Prime Directive as defence against the dilemma we now find ourselves in, that we may indeed have 'backed the wrong horse' in this, is moral cowardice. Notably in the light of prior behaviour.”
*Footsteps approaching, voice getting louder once more, chair creaking.*
“Maybe I just see things in a clearer light because I didn't grow up with most of these conflicts, or maybe this Starfleet is so blinded by its own ideology that it can no longer tell right from wrong.”
“Either way, I'm sure I'll end up arguing my case in front of the Admiralty soon enough if Dralia has her say in this. End personal log.”
Uhura stared at the small computer on her desk. Another thing she had not quite got used to in the intervening years, purely voice activated technology. She still found herself reaching out for a button, switch or handle only to belatedly realise that there wasn't one. At 38 she would hardly call herself old and set in her ways, but the habits of a lifetime were hard to break. Of course, if Temporal Investigation came through and they ever made it back to their own universe, she might find herself wishing that she hadn't.
The thought brought a wry smile to her face, but it fell away far too quickly.
Going back? It seemed no more than a fading dream these days, or sometimes a nightmare.In fact, there were times where she wondered if she was hallucinating everything. The pursuit of the Klingon ship and their encounter with the anomaly that pulled them through not only time, but space as well, to this slightly strange version of their world, with a Starfleet desperate for help, stretched thin as it was between too many conflicts on too many fronts. Her and the crew’s subsequent borderline drafting and reeducation, not that she had protested to it – she hated being idle for long and so did most of her crew. The new ship she and the crew had been offered. The far, far too many confrontations, with the Klingons, the Tal Shiar, the…. to be honest she had lost track of them all.
Though there was now a peace of sorts between the Federation and the Klingon Empire with the newly formed Romulan Republic playing the balancing middle factor, the ongoing conflict with the Cardassian True Way as well as this new development with an open gate to the depth of the Delta Quadrant had left Starfleet stretched thin and even with the assistance of Temporal Investigation it had few resources to figure out a way to send back an errant ship to whatever universe it came from. So if indeed it was all a dream, it was not one she was likely to wake up from any time soon.
Sighing again she rose from her chair and instantly groaned as her sore muscles protested. She considered herself adequately fit, but being constantly faced with combat situations on Kobali for a full month was not something her body was used to. It hadn’t exactly helped that she had barely be able to see T’Pring, or even talk to her lover in that month. As long as she had been groundside and had to be on constant alert, she had been able to ignore the aches and pains of both body and heart. But back onboard, the toll of the physical and mental stress she had endured had reared its head and not even a hot shower had helped that much, though it had got rid of the blood and grime.
Rubbing one aching shoulder she considered getting a cup of Raktajino, a drink the KDF liaison officer on ground had introduced her to and that she was growing to like. The Klingon too, oddly enough. She'd never thought she'd grow fond of one of them, but B'Ellra was not what she had come to expect of one. Most of the KDF troops on the ground hadn't been.
That was another thing she would have to learn if the alliance lasted for more than the duration of this campaign: to work alongside Klingons and Romulans.
The sound of the door buzzer made her straighten up, groaning softly again. She could go maudlin on her own time, right now she was a captain.
The door slid open and Commander T'Pring stepped through. Nyota smiled. She could never help but appreciate how well this new, odd uniform fit the lean Vulcan, its black cloth matching her hair, and the blue undershirt and stripe across the chest signifying the Science division setting off her brown eyes.
“The ship's status report, Captain.”
Uhura took the data chip the Vulcan held out.
“Thank you, Commander.”
T'Pring nodded, but remained where she stood.
“Yes, Captain. I spoke with Lieutenant Commander Jamal, she said you had an... altercation with Captain Dralia.”
“Zahra has a gift for understatement, we had a 5 minute yelling match. Well, I yelled, she mostly stood there looking smug.”
Uhura sighed and went to the window. Outside it hung the violet and magenta orb that was Kobali Prime.
“Sometimes... I feel so-” She put one had on the bulkhead next to the window. “T'Pring, if you could go back, back to our own universe I mean, would you?”
“That can only be an academic question as it is currently impossible and there is no evidence of it becoming an option in the near future.”
Turning to face the Vulcan, Nyota leaned against the metal wall, feeling the cool seep through her uniform and into her back.
“I know, but if? Sometimes I feel so out of place here, but still. We've been here for more than 2 years now. I've made friends here, the crew have made friends, partners even.”
She sighed and leaned her head back against the metal, closing her eyes.
“Sometimes I don't know where home is anymore.”
She heard the soft tread of boots approaching, and then T'Pring's strong fingers curled around her shoulder.
“I believe there is a human saying that 'home is where the heart is'.”
Uhura turned her head as she raised one hand to put over the Vulcan's and looked up into her lover's tawny eyes.
“There is,” she answered with a little smile.
“Then perhaps you need to figure out where your heart is.”
Nyota raised her free hand and let the fingers trail along T'Pring's hairline. At the temple her fingertips caught the smooth patch of almost invisible scar tissue that not even a dermal regenerator had been able to remove. She remembered all too vividly how the Vulcan had received it. The towering Gorn tearing up a slab of concrete, hurling it towards the team. Strong hands grabbing her and throwing her clear, rapidly followed by the sickening sound of stone hitting flesh and crushing bone. The hours she'd spent hovering about Medbay pestering Christine for an answer about her First's prognosis, an answer the CMO couldn't narrow down to more than 'We have to wait and see when she wakes. If she wakes.' It was then Uhura started to question if her feelings for the Vulcan were purely those of a friend.
“You know where my heart is,” she muttered. “I think... that was why I asked.”
“If I would return?”
“And I can give you no answer beyond the one I already provided, until it becomes an actual option the whole subject is academic.”
The captain sighed.
“I suppose that will have to satisfy me,” Nyota replied as she ran her thumb across the scar.
The unexpected sound of the door buzzer made them both start. Uhura stepped back and lowered her hands, clasping them behind her back.
A stormy looking Chapel stepped through the door, briefly eyeing T'Pring before nailing Uhura with a stare.
“Why aren't you in Medbay?”
“I told you I needed to finish the report first, and given the state I was in I opted for a shower first.”
“Yes, I remember how you looked: like you had walked through the underworlds of several mythologies. Which was why I wanted you down in Medbay asap, you need a check-up. No, no arguments. You've already had over 90 minutes, you're not that slow a writer with or without a shower included.”
Uhura gritted her teeth. She understood Christine's worry, both personal and professional, for her captain and friend, but she wanted to finish talking to T'Pring. Given how things were progressing who knew when they would find the time again?
“Give me ten minutes.”
Chapel looked about to argue when T'Pring interrupted.
“I shall escort the captain to Medbay myself when we are done here.”
“If she's not down there in thirty minutes I'm sending up a security escort to do the job.”
Whipping about on her heels, the CMO stalked back out.
Uhura looked back at her desk. Suddenly the office seemed far too small and cramped, and her head was buzzing with a dozen things she wanted to say, but she didn't feel there was enough time to say any of them. Not properly.
The touch of a hand on her arm brought her back to herself.
“You should let Dr Chapel examine you.”
“You think I'm about to keel over as well?”
“While the doctor does have a tendency to worry unnecessarily, I would say that in this case her worries are not unfounded. I too saw what you looked like when you beamed back on board.”
Nyota smiled softly.
“If both my CMO and my first officer agree it'd be discourteous to argue. I just... We've barely seen each other in nearly a month. And now that we've finally pushed the Vaadwaur off Kobali I'm sure Admiral Tuvok will be eager to discuss the next stage of the campaign before the dust even settles.”
“Vulcans do not-”
“Feel eagerness,” Uhura finished the sentence with a tiny smile. “I know. And you know damn well what I meant.” Her face fell. “I just would like for us to have some time alone, even a few hours where we aren't constantly interrupted.”
T'Pring tilted her head slightly as she often did when considering a problem.
“You have been off the ship for nearly a month, Captain. I think it is necessary to schedule a meeting so that you may be brought up to date.”
Uhura eyed her suspiciously.
“When and where did you plan on having this meeting occur? And how long do you expect it to take?”
“As soon as possible and as you have nothing scheduled this evening I would like to use those hours unless you object.”
The captain suppressed a grin.
“No, no objections Commander. We can't have a captain out of touch with her own ship. How long do you think it'll take?”
“Possibly several hours. There are multiple areas I wish to cover.”
“I suppose we'd better eat while we... cover those things. Humans don't concentrate well when famished.”
Not smiling was becoming harder. There was no way it would take T'Pring several hours to cover everything if she pursued it in her usual efficient fashion, so Nyota wasn't sure why she didn't simply say that she planned to use her rank to hijack her captain for a few hours’ downtime that evening. Maybe she thought Uhura would object?
Had circumstance been different she might, like the Vulcan she tended to put the professional before the personal, but tonight she couldn't give a damn about it. She had seen too much death and misery and it was far too long since she had had more than a few spare seconds via comm to talk to her lover, so she would gladly authorise any plan that could give them a few hours together.
“Very well, Commander. I suppose I had better go have my health check-up, but after that I'm all yours.”
“That would be agreeable, Captain. I shall bring the relevant reports with me to your quarters.”
“I shall see you there then.”
“Captain, I believe I promised to escort you to Medbay.”
“Well we can't have you going back on your word.”
T'Pring stepped towards the door, but Uhura reached out and touched her arm, detaining her. When the Vulcan turned, Uhura rose up on tiptoes and planted a firm kiss on her lips.
“Give me half an hour, it can't take Christine more than that to run her check,” she whispered against T'Pring's lips.
The Vulcan let the kiss linger for a moment then pulled back.
“In that case I see no logic in postponing it further.”
“Me neither. Lead on Commander, we can't keep the CMO waiting. She might make good on the threat of the security team.”
Following her First down the corridor, Uhura felt a good deal of the aches and weariness that had dogged her steps for the last month fall away, and the uniform began to feel like a comfortable fit again.