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A Mountain to Climb, Part One

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Elisa turned off the PADD. Got to her feet, slowly. Calmly. Really, she was calm. She took a deep breath. So very, very calm. A few steps away from the door, she realized she'd left the PADD on the table. She retrieved it and continued back towards her quarters. She had half a mind to demand answers, but she had no idea whatsoever what questions to ask. What was she supposed to do—go up to Manim and ask, "So I hear you're secretly an admiral; what are you doing slumming it here, of all places?"

And besides, she'd already found out enough horrifying things by asking questions. Maybe she shouldn't ask some, for a change. Yeah. She'd try that. The door to the turbolift slid open, and Elisa'd selected a deck on the manual controls before she noticed that she'd sent herself up to the bridge without even realizing it.

 

Apparently she was going to go check on the third watch. Which was probably a good idea, come to think of it. It would be back to the first watch in not too long, anyway, so she might as well arrive early. It was better than writing reports, and much better than dwelling on the question of What Exactly A Trill Admiral Is Doing Here. Because she probably didn't want to know, and Elisa had had enough unpleasantly illuminating realizations for one night. Early morning. Whatever.

The turbolift opened back up on an unpleasantly familiar scene. The red alert was flashing and proclaiming imminent disaster, the third officer was yelling orders that were being sporadically obeyed, which was unsurprising; given the general chaos Elisa had just walked in on and the fact that the red alert siren had somehow gotten stuck on max volume, she was more surprised that anyone could hear anything at all.

The current science officer on duty—male, human, and panicking about as much as Sparks had been—still managed to notice her arrival on deck. His expression changed from mere panic to outright horror as he watched Elisa step out of the turbolift. "Crap!" he yelped, loud enough to momentarily divert the third officer's attention.

"What is it this time?" she snapped back. Elisa quietly sympathized.

The science officer pointed at Elisa. "It's her! She's here! It's real!"

The third officer looked. Her eyes widened. "Oh, crap!" She hopped out of the captain's chair. "Captain! We thought you couldn't come to the bridge—thought you were trapped on deck four—we thought this was a sim, sir. A test, like before," she half-babbled. Elisa glanced at her collar—the third officer was a lieutenant, presiding over a bridge full of ensigns.

Well, better late than never. Elisa attempted to look commanding. "Situation report!" she ordered, cutting off whatever the third officer was going to say next.

"Yes, sir!" The third officer—Lieutenant Ramirez, that was her name—saluted. "A Klingon Bird of Prey decloaked right in front of us! We were handling it alright, really, until they got the power regulation system with a torpedo. But now half the time we're sitting ducks, and half the time we can't shoot, and the other half the time the shields are down."

"That's three halves, Lieutenant."

"I know, sir. We're losing two at once. That's how—"

Elisa held up a hand. "Enough," she said. "I get the picture. Science!"

The science officer looked up from his console. "Yes?"

Elisa stepped into position in the middle of the bridge, right in front of the captain's chair. "Calibrate our internal sensors to focus on the power flow! See if you can predict where it'll go next!" Hope dawned in the science officer's eyes, and Elisa spun to point at the ensign manning the engineering station. "Engineering! What's our hull integrity?" All the stations had the hull readout, of course, but engineering had the most detailed information.

"Overall structural integrity at sixty-seven percent, Captain, but most of that damage is near engineering. It's a wonder we have any engine power at all, sir."

Elisa watched as the Klingon ship's cannons sent bursts of green light towards the Everest. Not even light, really—but if she was going to get handed a do-over, she wasn't going to let a little thing like that ruin it. "Next time we get shields back, rotate frequency. And tell me! Tell me when we've got engines, too! Brace!" That last because a green torpedo was spiraling towards them, and the shaking the bridge would get was as real as the combat wasn't. Miraculously, everyone kept their footing.

"Got it," said the engineer. He frowned at the console. "Integrity at fifty-nine percent."

"Helm," Elisa said. "When I say 'now,' turn left hard and take us to warp." The helmsman nodded. Elisa spun, still on her feet, to look at the tactical ensign. "Tell me when we've got weapons."

"We have them right now, sir," she said.

Elisa grinned. "Good! Pour all the power into weapons—it's hardly going anywhere else—and fire everything you've got! Even the aft banks!"

"Yes, sir." Phaser beams flared across the Klingon ship's bow, followed immediately by a volley of torpedoes. The Klingon ship's shields winked out, and one of their nacelles was subsequently reduced to scrap. "We've lost weapons power."

"We have engines!" came a yell from the engineering station.

"Pour everything you've got into them! Except life support, I mean." Elisa watched as the ship abruptly sped into a collision course for the Bird of Prey. "Helm!" Elisa yelled. "Now!"

The Everest tilted sideways as far as it could. "We're losing engine power," the engineering ensign said.

At the same time, the helmsman yelled, "We're not going to make it!"

Elisa eyed the angle of the Everest. Eyed the trajectory of the Klingon ship. "Go to warp!"

The helmsman paled slightly, his hands poised over the necessary controls. "But—"

Elisa slammed a hand down on the side of the captain's seat. "Trust me!"

They went to warp.

---

The bridge shook. Elisa was getting used to the shaking. The various ensigns obviously weren't, however, from the number that lost their balance. Or perhaps they'd just forgotten to brace; Elisa didn't know. She surveyed the area.

Tactical was on her feet, if only barely, clutching her console with white-knuckled effort. When she turned to face Elisa, however, her face was near-glowing with elation. Elation and admiration, with a starry-eyed look Elisa knew quite well.

It was the same look Elisa'd had when the Lagarto's new commanding officer had saved them all from the Borg sphere that had assimilated the entire senior staff. In that moment, Elisa had felt like something better than herself, and even the guilty part of her that pointed out that this time it hadn't been real could not truly quell the feeling of victory running through her body. No, not against the nonexistent Klingon ship, but the trust she knew she'd begun to regain was much more valuable.

The stars streaked past, and the Everest's warp field was as clean and stable as any, showing no sign of the stress that the engines had supposedly just undergone. The engineering ensign was smirking like someone who'd just beaten the odds—probably with a stick, from his self-satisfied demeanor. At the science station, its operator was shaking as he heaved himself back into his chair—the jolt as they'd entered warp had knocked him down. He looked half-dead, half-queasy, but there was a determination about his movements.

The helm had discarded trepidation in favor of adrenaline-fueled mania, grinning widely despite his ragged breathing. The comm and sensor officers were nowhere to be seen. And Lieutenant Ramirez sat on the floor, braced not quite well enough against the first officer's chair. Elisa looked between them all, feeling the room's expectation thicken.

She stood, and they all looked at her. Finally! she mentally crowed, unable to help feeling as if she'd won her own battle. Though not, she reminded herself, the main victory. Yet. That thought was sobering enough for her to quell the grin attempting to manifest on her face. She stood a little bit straighter and cleared her throat.

"Would someone turn off that damn red alert?" she asked. The klaxon finally died away, and Elisa rubbed her forehead in the vain hope that it might make her ears stop ringing. "Thank you," she said, and she swept her gaze across the room. She took a deep breath, and then words spilled from her. "We're all on this ship for the same reasons," she told them, "whether it's our first chance or our last. And it'll be a while until we figure out which one it is, but we're on our way now. Whatever happens next"—and Elisa gestured towards the star-filled viewscreen—"we're going to face it together. We're all the crew of the Everest now."

Silence greeted her, and then Lieutenant Ramirez clapped, once, looking halfway between triumphant and defeated. "Well said, sir," she said quietly.

Elisa smiled down at her. "Lieutenant Ramirez, you have the bridge." And she walked into her ready room without another word.

---

Resisting the urge to record another log entry, Elisa pulled up the comm on her screen, leaning back slightly in her chair. It squeaked satisfyingly. "Captain to Quartermaster Manim," she said. It took a few minutes before the Trill's face finally appeared on the screen. Manim was wearing a white bodysuit, the sort designed to go under a uniform if an emergency should happen to occur during one's night-cycle.

For a brief moment, Manim looked nearly irritated. Then the expression was gone, and she was back to cool neutrality. "Yes?"

"I need a list of the modifications made to the ship. For the tests." The request would strain to breaking the fiction that Elisa could ask such things of Manim, but it had to be made.

"What do you plan to do with it?" Manim asked, her eyebrows lifting.

Well, she'd probably been around enough Vulcans over the years to pick up the expression. Elisa smiled. "What if I told you that I'd like to run some tests of my own?"

"That," said Manim, "is something we shall discuss."