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David Gold, captain of the U.S.S. da Vinci, liked his morning routines. He'd pamper himself a little as he got out of his bed and prepared for the new day. He would always make sure to check his computer for official communiques then personal notes as he sipped a hot cup of coffee, usually humming a little something. Most mornings that meant there was something from home. After all, with a wife, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, someone was usually sending him a note to stay in touch. Everyone seemed to be leading such busy lives; he longed to be beside them all, especially his wife, Rachel.
There was also the thrill of command and profound responsibility that came with it. It gave him a thrill and fulfillment like nothing else. When people questioned the long-distance marriage between him and the Earth-based rabbi, he explained that it was both his family and his command together that made his life worth living. He couldn't imagine life without both.
The last part of the routine, and in some ways the best, was the short walk from his cabin to the bridge, accompanied by his first officer, Sonya Gomez. He was not sure how this developed but it pleased him that it had continued mission after mission. She was shorter than the captain and her smile seemed to make the corridors a little brighter.
As usual, she was promptly by his door and greeted him with that electric smile. He always returned it, good night's sleep or not. He gestured for her to enter his small cabin as he shut down his desktop screen.
"Chatter from the fleet looked light today," he commented.
"Calm before the storm," Gomez said with a shrug.
"Oy, I hope not," he continued. "We've got an overdue shore leave coming up in two weeks."
"And you're having that big family gathering, right?"
"You bet," the captain said, warming to the notion of going home. "But first, we have quarterly roster review coming up and I was hoping to use the lull to spend a little more time with the crew. For example, I've barely talked to Hawkins since he returned from shore leave."
"Sir, that was just two days ago," Gomez said. She stood expectantly, and Gold was obvious in his hesitation.
Gold considered that Vance Hawkins, of all his personnel, had been the most banged-up, complete with various wounds and concussions, the last on the Ferengi vessel Debenture, which earned him the much-needed shore leave. But he was merely stalling and finally turned to his first officer.
"Which reminds me," the captain said, trying to sound casual. "I've been meaning to ask you...has Dr. Lense seemed all right to you?"
She knitted her brows together in thought. It lasted only a moment and then she shook her head. "Elizabeth seems fine to me. Why?"
Now it took Gold a moment before commenting. Such talk always made him uncomfortable, especially without hard facts. "I'm not sure. But she seems awfully reliant on Emmett these days."
"Sometimes we do get busy and isn't that what the EMH was for?"
"Perhaps," he replied, clearly unhappy with the notion. Emergency Medical Hologram or not, the captain was certain Lense had a problem.
Then he shook his head. "Never mind, Commander, let's get under way." He gestured toward the door and she went through first. Together, in companionable silence, they wandered toward the turbolift.
"You should know that we did receive one note that Starbase 92 intercepted a squad of Nausicaan raiders trying to stop a Cardassian relief convoy."
Gold slowed and looked in surprise at Gomez.
"That wasn't in the official report, this morning. How did...wait, Starbase 92?"
They stepped into the turbolift and Gomez nodded in confirmation. "Right, the one where Anthony is stationed."
"So we know this from Lieutenant Commander Mark, not official channels?"
"Right. Anthony was heavily involved in the mission and sent off a note to Bart last night."
"Nice to have boyfriends in all the right places," Gold said with a smile. "Is he all right?"
"A little shaken to see such heavy action after a long lull," she replied. "But Bart says he's fine."
The doors snapped open and Gold hurried to his chair, eager to see what the day held. As always, and despite Gold's best efforts to get him to stop, his by-the-book tactical officer David McAllan said, "Captain on the bridge."
"Good morning all," he said as he settled into the command seat. Alpha shift was in place and all seemed serene on the Saber-class starship's bridge. A flurry of replies came his way and then mostly silence.
Minutes later, a beep behind him indicated an incoming transmission. Be careful what you wish for, he reminded himself before swiveling about to face McAllan. He cocked an eyebrow and looked expectantly at the lieutenant. McAllan looked directly at him, his brown eyes intense. "It's Admiral Ross, sir."
Most of their communications came directly from Montgomery Scott, the Starfleet Corps of Engineers' liaison to the admiralty, so having an admiral call was unusual. Gold straightened himself in the chair and signaled for the main screen to be activated. In seconds, the hangdog face of Admiral William Ross faced him. Ross was an excellent commanding officer, with one of the best reputations at command. In the wake of the Dominion War and the Iconian gateways incident, Gold had hoped Ross would get a break, but apparently not. Although the captain was older, Ross seemed the more worn down, but the admiralty could do that to anyone, Gold thought.
"Good morning, Admiral," Gold said with a smile.
"Captain, it's nice to see you again," Ross replied. "I need to divert you to Evora, which is approximately half a day from your position."
"I can't place the world," Gold admitted.
"It's a protectorate, brought in toward the end of the Dominion War. They've had warp capabilities only a few years and are still getting to know their galactic neighbors."
"How can we help?"
"Their society has been through a lot in a short time, Captain. First, they discover they are not alone in space. Then, they come to us for protection during a rather bleak time. Now, their faith has been shaken."
Gold's eyes narrowed. "How so?" he asked.
"A few days back, one of their archaeological digs came across something high-tech but dating back over one hundred thousand years. It's clearly not from their civilization, and probably not from their world. It's got some of them scared, and the regent, a woman named Cuzar, has asked for our expertise in finding out the truth. You're the closest in the sector, so you're up. Tread gently here, David. Depending upon what you find there, it could rewrite their history."
"Of course, Admiral, we'll be careful. We'll study up on them en route to be prepared."
"There's not a lot documented," Ross admitted. "Once the war ended, they kept to themselves and we've been stretched so thin that we haven't had time to send another envoy ship. That is, until now."
"We won't disappoint you," Gold said by way of closing. Ross nodded and cut the transmission from his end. The main viewer reverted to an image of the streaking stars as seen in warp space. The captain looked around the bridge to see that Carol Abramowitz, the ship's cultural specialist, had joined the normal bridge complement. He presumed Gomez had summoned her the moment the mission became clear. The trim, dark-haired woman turned her attention from the viewscreen to the captain.
"He's right, sir," she began. "The computer has little more than technical specs. The only Federation personnel to actually meet with them were Captain Picard and the Enterprise crew, right after their induction a year and a half ago. Even so, it was a very brief meeting -- the Enterprise had to cut the ceremony short for another mission. Everything prior to that was handled via subspace."
"Okay, one thing at a time," Gold said. "Mr. Wong, set course for Evora, warp six."
"Aye, sir," said the conn officer.
"Gomez, put your team together."
"Sir," Abramowitz said before Gomez could speak, "I recommend you be on the initial team. The Evorans are big on protocol, and I think the captain should be present for the first meeting."
Gold looked at Gomez and smiled. "Think Duffy's ready for the big chair again?"
"I'm sure he'll be fine," Gomez said, returning the smile. Kieran Duffy, the da Vinci's second officer, had been left in charge of the ship during what should have been a routine salvage mission that almost turned into a war with the Tholian Assembly.
"Good. Have Corsi send someone from security -- but not her. With you and I both off-ship, I'd rather she stay on board with Duffy."
Copyright © 2002 by Paramount Pictures