Brian wiped his eyes and yawned. He leaned back in his chair, pushing on the desk in front of him for extra leverage, trying to stretch as much as he could. The chronometer on the computer monitor in front of him showed 2206; he had been working to reassign as much of the crew to new quarters for the better part of three hours now, as well as trying to fit as many refugees onto the Whiston as was safe. It was exhausting and brain-numbing work.
Brian stood from his desk, walking over to where a coffee pot was staying warm on the small counter that made up the kitchenette of the room. He poured himself another cup - he couldn’t remember how many he had had so far - and walked back to his desk, taking the time to stretch out his legs.
Tellarites couldn’t bunk with Andorians. Males and females had to remain separate. Try to keep people on the same shift together. Try to keep people in the same departments together. Ranking officers can only go two to a room. Max of four people in one room except bunk areas. Only ensigns could go into the bunk areas with enlisted. Brian’s brain whirled with all the conditions he had to consider as he moved almost half the crew from one of the two under-slung secondary hulls that made the Newton-class unique to the other. His goal was to separate the refugees from the rest of the crew in the port-secondary hull; there were far fewer labs and working areas in that hull, the recreation area and gym were located there, and the shuttle bay was larger, allowing for a quicker and easier escape for them should the Whiston come under attack. The DV suites were also in that secondary hull, which made it easier for Mayfield to relocate the larger families into private quarters.
He yawned again, then shook his head, trying to clear himself from his tired state.
The conditions on the Horizon hadn’t been nearly as bad as Abuela had feared, but they weren’t wonderful. There were multiple people who were very ill, and the doctor had them taken to sickbay immediately for treatment and quarantine; a disease could spread like wildfire in the close quarters of the freighter. Elderly Vulcans were suffering from Bendii Syndrome, and emotional transference was rampant in a few areas of the ship as a result.
As for the Horizon herself, Hadley had been hard at work finding the cause of the engine trouble. Brian was certain it was because, as Rebecca had said, the ship was almost a century old. Federation starships couldn’t last that long, even with an incredible maintenance and refit schedule. Already, Rebecca was planning on upgrading the communication system on the ship, and to rebuild and upgrade the jury-rigged transport inhibitors. Her engineers had jumped at the task; a new transport inhibitor-system was being built even now.
The door chime sounded, destroying the silence in the room and startling Brian. He glanced at the chronometer again. 2235. When did I doze off? “Come in,” he called out, stretching again.
The door slid aside, and Brian smiled. “sh’Aleen.”
The blue-skinned Andorian at the door smiled as she walked in, the door sliding closed behind her with a soft sigh. Her white hair spilled over her shoulders and down the front of her uniform; no doubt, Brian reflected, she had just gotten off shift. Two antennae curved forward from the back of her head, slowly bending towards him and then resuming their normal curve; it was her sign, as he had learned, that she was very happy to see him.
sh’Aleen grinned wider once the door was closed, kicked off her shoes, and hopped over to where Brian was sitting. She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him; her antennae dipped lower, so that they were resting on the top of his head.
Brian returned the kiss, all exhaustion instantly disappearing as he wrapped his arms around her.
She released him, her face a brighter blue than normal. “Where were you, Brian? We were supposed to have dinner tonight.” She glanced at the computer monitor next to him, then looked back at him. “Captain?”
Brian winced; he had completely forgotten about dinner in the hours he had been working. He nodded. “Captain. I need to rebunk the crew and find quarters for the refugees.”
sh’Aleen frowned, and her antennae stood up behind her in annoyance. “I have to move?” She rolled her eyes, walking around to the other side of the desk. She plopped down on Carl’s bed. “What are the Vulcans coming on board for?”
Oh lord; here we go. “sh’Aleen. Now’s not the time.” Brian leaned back in his chair, rotating the monitor so that he could see her better. “You know why we’re doing this.”
“That doesn’t mean I have to agree with it.” She swung her head to get her hair out of her way, then reached back to unclasp the neck of her uniform. “Whatever the green-bloods did to deserve this probably doesn’t even matter.” She stripped off her uniform top, revealing a black tank-top and more of her blue skin. “They can’t claim they’ve never been conquered anymore.”
“sh’Aleen!” Mayfield looked at her in disbelief. “I can’t believe you’re voicing this!”
Her antennae curled down low in an apologetic display, and she lay back on the bed. “I’m sorry, I just…I don’t trust them to begin with. Now I have to give up my space to them because some psychotic Romulan went on a murder spree for no apparent reason. It’s not my fault; why should it be my problem?”
“Because they are Federation citizens, and you’re a Starfleet officer,” Brian snapped, turning the monitor back in front of him to block her body from view. He pressed a button on the display to begin working again. He stopped, then turned the monitor again. “What if it had been Earth? Would you have the same thoughts?”
“Humans have always…intrigued Andoria. You were with the Vulcans, but you also stood up to them, proved them wrong, forced them into doing things they wouldn’t do.” She propped herself up and shrugged. “You pink-skins are a lot more trustworthy to us.”
“So ancient grudges prevent you from helping today?”
She rolled her eyes. “How poetic.”
“I hope to God the rest of your people don’t think like you do.”
“Obviously not; already a few colonies have offered to take refugees in.” She frowned. “Andoria even offered to allow P’Jem to be officially colonized, despite how close it would put the Vulcans to our borders.”
Brian hit the table with his open hand, causing sh’Aleen to sit up straight, her antennae going straight up in surprise. “What borders?” he asked. “The Andorian Empire ended when they joined the Federation almost a century ago, sh’Aleen!” He shook his head, frustrated. “What made you so hateful of Vulcans?”
“You can’t just flip a switch and expect centuries of animosity to just disappear! I can’t help the way I was raised; I’ve never had a good reason to trust them, or take them at face value, or not think that somewhere in those pointy-eared heads of theirs that they were plotting.” She stood up, grabbing her uniform. “Why are we even doing this; can’t they take care of themselves?”
“There’s less than ten-thousand of them, sh’Aleen! They can’t take care of themselves, not anymore!”
She frowned and huffed, like a child about to start a tantrum. “I’m sorry.” She walked to the door to leave.
“Wait.” Brian was on his feet, and he grabbed sh’Aleen by the wrist, pulling her back to him. She frowned and pulled her hand away from him, but not before Brian managed to wrap his arms around her. They stood like for a moment, neither of them saying a word.
Finally, slowly, sh’Aleen let her head rest on his chest, her body relaxing as she reached around and held him as well. “I’m sorry. I hate what happened to them, but I hate them just as much. I can’t change that.”
Brian sighed, and gave her a squeeze. “I wish you could.” He let her go enough to look down at her; she recognized the move and looked up at him. “I’m not asking you to like it; I’m asking you to do your job.”
She nodded. “I can do that, sir.” She winked playfully at him, prompting him to roll his eyes at her. “I’ll keep my comments to myself, too.”
“Thanks.” He leaned in and kissed her again, and suddenly the previous minutes’ argument melted in the affectionate display.
“If we enable this plan, I can have the ship’s crew in the primary hull as well as on the starboard side; the refugees will be able to move into the port-secondary hull and enjoy some privacy. We can move three-hundred over; any more than that and we won’t be able to evacuate everyone in the event of an emergency.” Brian handed a personal display to Harrison and a second to Talak. “I’ve taken the liberty of going through the list of refugees I was provided and choosing the best candidates for relocation to the Whiston. With your approval, of course,” he added, addressing the Vulcan.
Talak activated the personal display and scrolled down the list. “I will make a few changes to your list - there are some who deserve better accommodations for their status - however, this will work. I can begin the necessary preparations immediately. Will you require security checks for people coming aboard?”
Brian glanced at his captain before he replied, shaking his head. “Unless the captain has any issues he hasn’t voiced to me, I have no need for security checks. I’ll be posting security details to the access points to your side of the ship, as well as to any sensitive areas, but otherwise you’ll be left alone, if you want.”
“Thank you, Mr. Mayfield.” Harrison nodded his approval, indicating for Brian to take his seat. Rebecca stood up next, pressing a control in front of her to activate the triangular monitor in the center of the conference table.
“We’ve come up with a solution to upgrading the transport inhibitors on the Horizon. I also have engineers installing similar systems on the Whiston. The only issue now is installing the new inhibitors on the Horizon.” She motioned to the monitor. “In order to get around the massive jury rig the Horizon crew set up, I need to turn the entire system off, strip it down, and then re-install it with the upgrades.”
Paul Mayweather frowned, shaking his head. “No way. Not a chance. You need to find a way to do it with the system on.”
Hadley put her hands on her hips and frowned. “Then please, by all means sir, give me another way.” She pointed at the small display monitor again. “I don’t know who the hell you got to install this old-ass system, but it wasn’t designed for your ship to begin with. If I try to do anything to it, it’ll crash anyway, and then it’ll be offline for even longer than what I’m asking for.”
Raal growled softly in the back of his throat, in warning to Hadley. “How much time do you need, commander?”
Hadley shrugged. “Two, maybe three hours. Four max. If I’m not allowed to take it offline and the damn thing blows, it’ll take me two days to get a brand new system installed instead.” She crossed her arms. “It’s your call, obviously, but this is my recommendation. Sir.”
Mayweather frowned again and shook his head. “I can’t do that. Even with half the refugees protected on your ship, I can’t risk the inhibitors going off-line, not in this area of space.” He turned to Harrison. “I’ve made this run enough times to know where the Orions lurk. The moment they get a sniff that our cargo isn’t protected, they will raid us.”
Harrison looked at Mayweather, confused for a moment. “The Orions are neutral; they wouldn’t dare risk conflict with the Federation.”
Mayweather shook his head. “That’s a load of bull. The Syndicate is heavily active in this area, and they’re pirates by every definition of the word. Can you imagine how lucrative a market there would be for Vulcan slaves?” He leaned back in his chair. “The system stays online.”
Harrison frowned, and then sighed as he turned to Hadley. “Be careful.” He threw her a warning glare. “This isn’t the time to prove a point; make it work.”
Rebecca sighed, the frustration apparent on her face. Brian knew what the warning meant to her; he had witnessed firsthand her “antics” to prove people wrong.
She had warned Harrison on an earlier mission that, in order to safely make upgrades to the plasma-injectors, the ship’s core would have to be offline for two hours. The task could be done with the core online, but it would be slower work and there would be more risk to her crew if something went wrong. In the end, Harrison had ordered her to make the upgrades with the core online. Three hours into the process, a warp core breach began; Hadley was “forced” to eject the core to save the ship, leaving them stranded near the Klingon border for three days before another ship could reach them and tow them back to spacedock, much to her satisfaction. The general consensus among the engineers was that, until Hadley joined in to help that day, everything was going fine. Nothing could be proven, but they were sure she had simulated the breach and ejected the core on purpose.
Harrison knew it too, and had busted Hadley back down to lieutenant commander because of it. Brian could only imagine what one of her tantrums would do to the Vulcans.
Rebecca took in a deep breath and nodded. “Aye, sir. We’ll begin as soon as the Horizon is ready.”