Waiting is the Hardest Part
by Justine Norton-Kertson
Captain’s Log: Stardate 64985.3
There is an old Earth saying. I believe it goes something like, “the waiting is the hardest part.” I remember Chief O’Brien frequently used that phrase during tense moments when impatience started to settle in. It also describes our current situation perfectly. Ship operations are running with ease. The crew is ready. The fleet is ready. We’re just waiting.
Yesterday the Undine fleet stopped. Literally. It just stopped a couple light-years from Alpha 441 near the Badlands. So we’re on standby twiddling our thumbs in anticipation of the inevitable attack. From the stories I’ve heard of encounters between the Undine and the Borg and… well let’s just say that If we thought the Dominion was tough, then we’re then we’re in for a very rough ride.
Additional crew are being assigned to the Tycoon today, as well as to other Starfleet ships in the Alpha Armada. The reinforcements are welcome as we stare war in its ugly face. I only wish they had come a little sooner so the newbies would have more time to acclimate to their new assignments and crewmates. But I learned long ago that you shouldn’t ever expect everything to go smoothly.
“Ah, right on time.”
The new crew members filed on board through docking port four after their unusually brief layover at Deep Space 9. With war on the horizon, there was no time for shore leave between assignments. Nog gave the new crew a once-over before introducing himself.
“Welcome to the Tycoon. I’m Captain Nog. I know you’re normally greeted by the First Officer when embarking on a new assignment, but these are not normal times. We’re on the precipice of what may very well be one of the most difficult times of your careers.”
Most of them knew what they were getting into. He could see it in their eyes. Some of them were veterans of the Dominion War. They were easily identifiable by their steeled demeanor that was tempered with the weariness of what they knew was coming. Then there were the real newbies, fresh out of the academy and on their first assignment. Fear leaked from their eyes like tears for not yet fallen comrades. They had no idea what to expect and they knew it. For the inexperienced, the mystery and fear of war could be as traumatic as the battle itself.
“With that in mind,” Nog continued, “I thought it was important to greet you myself to welcome you, thank you, and make sure you know how much I personally appreciate your service aboard this vessel. Without you, this ship would be dead in the water, so to speak. Don’t ever forget that.
“AMEN to that!” The outburst came from somewhere among the new crew. Nog was pretty sure he knew which of them it came from, but chose to ignore it. Now wasn’t the best time to berate them for what amounted to enthusiasm.
“Now I’d like to introduce you to Commander Talas Sh’Koth, who will assign you quarters and hand out duty schedules. Commander.”
“Thank you Captain.”
The captain left the docking port and headed toward Ops as Commander Sh’Koth began calling out the names of the new crew. Nog hoped they would be ready. He told himself he had no reason to worry. He had faith in his crew. They would help their new shipmates prepare for what awaited them.
“Yes sir, Lieutenant Muvar reporting for duty sir.”
“Welcome, Lieutenant. I’m sure your groundbreaking work at the Vulcan Science Academy on subspace transporter technology will be invaluable to our engineering team. Your quarters are in Corridor H-6, Section 23 Epsilon. Here is your duty schedule.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Next up, Crewman Nguyen?”
“Yes SIR! Operations Specialist Will Nguyen reporting for duty-y-y… SIR!”
“Are you wearing a command uniform, crewman?”
“YES sir! I was cosplaying with Davies over on DS9 and lost track of time, SIR. I didn’t have time to change, SIR.”
“Are you being sarcastic with me, crewman?”
“SIR no SIR! Just excited to be here, SIR!”
“Crewman, are you aware that Starfleet Regulations list sarcasm as a form of insubordination?”
“Um, yeah… no, I don’t think that’s true, sir. No offense, but I’m pre-e-etty familiar with Starfleet regs, and I’m about 98.762 percent positive that isn’t one of them.”
“No, actually, I’m really sure it’s in there, crewman.”
OS Nguyen pulled out a Personal Access Display Device containing an updated version of Starfleet General Orders and Regulations.
“If you look here, SIR, you’ll see that…”
“Alright, alright that’s enough. We don’t have time for this nonsense. But you can bet I'll be keeping a close eye on you crewman Nguyen.”
“Yes SIR! Thank you. I accept, SIR!”
“Wait, you accept what? What are you talking about?”
“Your offer to ‘keep an eye’ on me and be my new mentor, SIR! Thank you, I emphatically accept your offer and am honored to be your new protege, SIR!”
“Oh geez,” the commander’s eyes rolled into the back of her head in her own expression of sarcasm. Chuckles erupted among the new crew, but silence swiftly followed closely behind Sh’Koth’s icy Andorian stare. OS Nguyen could see the frustration on her face and realized he might have pushed it a little too far too fast.
“Here’s your bunk assignment and crew schedule. And as a little added bonus, I’ll give you a piece of advice: work hard, follow orders, and keep quiet. If you can manage to pull that off, then maybe—just maybe—you won’t get stuck scrubbing plasma vents for your entire career.”
“SIR yes SIR! Thank you SIR!”
“Alright,” Sh’koth sighed. “Next up… Ensign Kimari?”
“You know, after all these years, I still don’t understand the attraction of this darts game when you could be enjoying a good holosuite program or spinning the dabo wheel. But for whatever reason, you Hu-mans enjoy it.” Quark was starting to look his age, but he was still as greedy and curmudgeonly as ever.
“It’s a fun game, Quark. You should try it. I’d be happy to play a round with you anytime.” Ensign Davies had been on the station for about a year now and seemed to have something of a rapport with the Ferengi. OS Nguyen could help but chime in.
“He’s probably not a fan because it’s harder to profit off a dartboard than holosuite rentals and rigged dabo wheels. It’s a typical capitalist mindset. If they can’t profit from it, then at best it’s a useless annoyance.”
“Rigged dabo wheels? HA. Please. Quark's Public House, Café, Gaming Emporium, and Holosuite Arcade has locations in all four quadrants of the galaxy. This particular establishment also happens to serve as the Ferengi Embassy to Bajor. I’m one of the richest Ferengi alive, not to mention married to the captain of this station. I don’t need to rig dabo wheels, crewman…?”
“My name’s Will Nguyen.”
“I don’t need to rig dabo wheels, Crewman Nguyen.”
“Hey Quark,” Davies interjected. “He didn’t mean anything by it. Why don’t you get us a couple of Andorian Ales, and we’ll all just relax and have a good time.”
Quark glanced from Davies to Crewman Nguyen and back again.
“Two Andorian Ales, coming right up.”
“He really isn’t your typical Ferengi, Will.” Davies' throw came as close to the bullseye as either of them had so far that evening. Fourteen points. “I mean he used to be, at least if the stories he tells have any merit. And don’t get me wrong, he still isn’t what I would call trustworthy. But he’s changed a lot. He’s not a petty thief anymore, and his family has done more for Ferengi society in terms of women’s rights and democracy than any other in Ferengi history.”
“His family, sure. But how much did he have to do with that?” Anyway, We’re all complicated. I’m sure his mother loves him just like most do.” Will’s dart landed down and to the left of Davies’. Seven points. “He’s still a greedy capitalist, and it’s hard to respect that.”
“Can’t argue with you there.”
Davies geared up to toss his third dart at the board, but was cut short by a short series of explosions that ripped through the Plaza. A thick cloud of black smoke and dust choked the air as it spread outward from ground zero. Rubble flew across the corridor and smashed its way into nearby businesses before rolling to random stops and settling in piles specially sculpted for twisting ankles. The trembling floor knocked Crewman Nguyen off-balance. Quark tripped over toppled chairs and dumped the Andorian Ales all over a Lukari customer who was more shocked by the blast than the ale.
Screams and shouts rang out. Emergency crews rushed to the chaotic and confusing scene. Pulling out the injured, and likely dead as well, the corridor in front Quark’s became an impromptu triage facility. A number of Bajorans gathered on the fringes to offer prayers to The Prophets on behalf of the victims and their families.
Davies and Nguyen jumped up and began darting around Quark’s with purpose, making sure everyone was okay. It seemed no one inside the bar had anything more than minor injuries, scrapes and bruises mostly, but a gashed head and a broken arm here and there as well.
Security quickly arrived on the scene, which of course put Quark instinctively on the defensive.
“I have no idea what just happened, but I expect this to be cleaned up immediately. How am I supposed to run a business like this? People can’t even get inside because they’ve turned the front of my bar into a hospital. My daily margins will be ruined if this establishment isn’t back up and running before the evening rush!”
“Sorry Quark,” Jidal walked in and everyone immediately knew who was in charge, “but your profit margins are the least of our concerns at the moment.”
Jidal came to the station about five months ago. You’d never know by looking at him that he was the station’s security chief. Short and bit on the scrawny side, his receding hairline and its grey tint hinted that middle age had begun to settle in comfortably. Upon first meeting him, most people wondered how he ever managed to become a security chief in the first place. Most also had the courtesy to be satisfied with speculation. The fact is, he was good at his job, and that quickly became apparent whenever you were around him.
“If the only reason you’re here is to harass honest businessmen Jidal, then you might want to look around, there’s an emergency.”
Jidal rolled his eyes. He looked around the now dilapidated establishment and spotted the reason he came into the bar in the first place.
“I’m not here to address your needs, Quark. Call a clean up crew. I’m here to find out who did this.”
“I told you I’m an honest businessman. I had nothing to do with this. Why would I blow up my own bar?”
“Believe it or not Quark, the reason I’m here has nothing to do with you.”
“Well, all I have to say is that I’m hurt, Jidal. I thought we were closer than that.”
Jidal turned away with a grunt and walked across the rubble to where Will and Davies were helping tend to minor lacerations and head bumps.
“Yeah what is it?”
“Excuse me?” The incredulity on Jidal’s face could have stopped the room if it wasn’t so pandemonious.
“What is it? If you can’t tell, I'm busy.”
“Crewman I am Chief of Security, Commander Jidal. You will address me as sir, and you will look at me while I’m speaking to you.”
“Oh, sorry SIR. I’m sure you have something more important for me to do right now than help injured people.” Nguyen knew he was pushing it, but his adrenaline had kicked in and he was feeling more caustic than usual.
“As a matter of fact I do, CREWMAN.” Jidal wasn’t below a bit of verbal mocking himself. “You’re an operations specialist, are you not?
“Yes, SIR. OS Will Nguyen at your service, SIR!”
“Commander Sh’Koth informed me that you were on the station and suggested that I make you part of the investigation team.”
“Me? Why? I’m just lower decks ops crew. I fix stuff and clean things. I’m a laborer, not a detective. There’s gotta be plenty of officers around here who are way more qualified than me for something like this.”
“Hmm. I have no doubt you’re right about that. But I suppose your commander wants to see whether you’ll sink or swim if we throw you into the deep end. Either way, your smartass gets to come with me. We’re going to figure out what caused this explosion.”
Captain’s Log: Stardate 64988.9 - We’re still waiting. The Undine fleet is still holding their position in open space near the Badlands. Representatives of the various species in the fleet are debating whether to wait and see what move the Undine make next, or head out and take the fight to them. While I’m in no hurry for war, I’m also going stir crazy and I haven’t slept in almost forty-eight hours. I’m beginning to be swayed by those who are ready to go.
Sh’Koth put the new crewman, OS Will Nguyen, to the test with a surprise assignment during his time off-shift over at Deep Space 9. Commander Jidal reported that Nguyen’s performance was exemplary. However, it seems his sarcastic disrespect for authority is going to be an ongoing problem. We’re either going to have to figure out how to solve that problem, or else transfer him. We can’t have a breakdown in the chain of command in the middle of a war.
What Jidal and Nguyen found during their investigation into the explosion on the Deep Space 9 is disturbing no matter how you look at it. It appears that the explosive device is undeniably Dominion in origin. We don’t know much more than that. We don’t know if it was a Dominion attack, or if someone—possibly the Undine—acquired and planted it here on the station. The Undine have disguised themselves as humans before, and quite convincingly. We can’t assume they aren’t doing so now. The fact is, we just don’t have enough information yet. All I know is that if the Dominion is back, and if they’re allied with the Undine, then we’re all in a lot of trouble.