Obsidian Command

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The Whole Truth

Posted on 06 Mar 2022 @ 10:03pm by Commander Calliope Zahn & Admiral Zavareh Sepandiyar
Edited on on 19 Mar 2022 @ 11:08pm

Mission: M3 - Into the Deep
Location: USS Alexander
Timeline: Backpost, sometime following "Healing Strategy"
3081 words - 6.2 OF Standard Post Measure

The walk to Admiral Sepandiyar’s office felt to Calliope like a slowly spinning twist with her stomach in zero G. The people she passed in the corridors of the Alexander appeared to leave strange drawn-out traces of themselves in their wake. She blinked to try to clear the worm like after images from her vision, but it wasn’t her eyes causing the effect. The closer she came to her destination the harder her pulse ran. She’d never been so affected by Admiralty, confident in herself and her work and content to allow her superior officers worry about the larger implication of Fleet activity and politics. But today was very different.

When she arrived at the lower bridge where the computer had indicated the Yeoman to be, she was security cleared for entry with her appointment credentials and the first person that seemed solid in her vision was Naomi St. John, who was focused on another call at her yeoman’s station. Naomi had been instrumental in organizing and carrying out the supply run with Rhian and Calliope had been relieved that the need had been met by someone, since she herself was barred from delivering on her promise. She could barely swallow as she thought of Dr. al Havash and her heartless attitude. But it wasn’t about al Havash, Calliope reminded herself, her fingers sliding inside her partly open duty jacket over something close to her heart as she reassured herself she was here for the right reasons, even if it was a long time coming. She was sweating in the jacket and wishing the feeling would stop threatening to gag her from within.

“Hello.” Calliope waited for Naomi to finish her call before announcing herself and trying to get control of her heart rate. “Thanks for fitting me into his schedule today.” She said, knowing that there were far more pressing matters than her own.

“Don’t thank me yet,” Naomi frowned, “I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know you’re on the schedule. He hasn’t commented on any of the appointments he has today,” she explained. Still, she logged Calliope’s arrival and queued it up for the Admiral who would indicate when he was ready to receive his appointment.

Naomi had purposely squeezed Calliope into the first slot available after lunch in hopes that the Admiral wouldn’t look too hard at who was up, and would be in a more congenial mood. He always seemed friendlier in the early afternoon.

The Admiral’s Yeoman didn’t specifically have an ‘office’ per se, just a little slice of administrative space on the Lower Bridge not too far from the auxiliary Engineering terminals and the secondary tactical terminals where the reserve staff waited. She always felt a fair bit out of place as the only Yeoman amongst true bridge officers but the Admiral seemed to think she was capable of more and kept sending her to the CoNN to relieve Lieutenant Peabody when her workload was light. Ever since their away mission to Amiras III to visit with Vice Admiral Isfahani, when she’d inadvertently shown off some flight control skills she didn’t know she had, he’d taken to that. She was not grateful, but didn’t dare tell the Admiral.

“Ok, so, do not go through that door,” she said, pointing to the door to the right of her little alcove on the bottom of the lower level. “That opens into his living space. You want to go up the stairs here, across to the other stairs that go down.”

Calliope motioned to the stairs to make sure she had the right direction. “Should I go up now?” Up and then down again. She hadn’t prepared for stairs.

“Yes,” St. John nodded absently, her eyes on the screen in front of her, not Calliope.

“Right.” Calliope tucked the cane under one arm and paced herself up the stairs.

“Do you need a hand?” Naomi whispered when she was halfway up, moving slowly.

Gripping the railing, Calliope paused for a moment in her embarrassment before putting another foot on the following ascending step. “No, I’m alright, thank you Yeoman,” and then mumbled something about the unreasonable design, going up to go down again. She worried she was going to be late at her rate but kept on steadily to the top. Down promised to be a little easier, as long as she kept to the rail. She tried not to be perturbed as others moved around the inconvenience she presented. When she came to the Admiral’s ready room door she checked her uniform and rang.

“Come,” the Admiral’s voice piped through the comm.

Taking the cue, Calliope entered, pausing inside the threshold to allow the doors to close and take in the room, but not least of all pausing to manage her dizziness. Some from her condition, no small part from the effort of the stairs, but mostly from the growing symptoms of her anxiety. The first thing to strike her was that the Admiral looked shorter in person than she had expected from his hologram.

Cup of tea in one hand, saucer in the other, Admiral Zavareh Sepandiyar was standing before his large holo-table, quietly reading an engineering report on the larger screen so that he didn’t have to try and squint to read a tiny data PaDD. Chief Barmeadow was nothing if not thorough and he liked being able to bring up ship schematics on the holo’s next to it so he could truly understand just what the hell she was trying to tell him. He had come up in Operations, not in Engineer and while he had a better understanding than most, Barmeadow outstripped him every which way on the subject.

It had been a relatively light day in terms of what he had to do. The days had been getting lighter and lighter as of late, leading him to the conclusion that they weren't going to be able to remain here in OC space all that much longer. The crew was getting stir crazy and, if he was honest, so was he. He took a sip of his tea and looked expectantly at the door as it opened and admitted his first guest of the afternoon. He hadn’t bothered checking the list today. Things had been so light and uneventful he couldn’t figure there’d be anyone or anything to deal with that warranted being prepared. As he saw who his guest was, he realized how wrong he was.

Sepandiyar set his cup on the saucer and set the whole thing down on the edge of the huge table. “Commander,” he greeted her flatly.

“Admiral.” She straightened her back and shoulders and moved less awkwardly into the room, towards his table to present herself. “I wanted to clear up a matter. The report you received from Dr Llywd, it was incomplete.”

A sliver of a reaction flashed over his face, but only someone who had worked for him for years would have been able to see it, or his sons who were so good at getting any kind of reaction out of him.

“Was it?” he asked quietly.

“Yes, through no fault of Dr. Llywd’s.” She said, her voice shaking as she moved to draw a slim personal pad from her lining pocket. She looked down at it, her heart driving through her ears as she extended it to him, her hand trembling. “The full account is here. To the best of my recollection, over the years.”

Sepandiyar accepted the PaDD and rather than squint at it too, sent it to the holotable and began to read it quietly while he left her standing there, not offering another word as he quietly made his way through the list. He skimmed more than he read in detail, but the essence of it was obvious. It was a confession, for lack of a better word. A detailed one at that.

He looked away from it finally, over to her and shook his head slowly. “I’m uncertain what it is you’re trying to accomplish,” he said quietly.

She nodded, her voice quiet, pressed through a hotly parched throat. She knew it could end her career, but she couldn’t keep working with all of these bones trailing behind her. “I know I can’t take it back. I can never take it back. I condemn my own actions. I’ve been living two lives, one where I believe in every high moral of starfleet and another, where I excuse myself. I had all the right reasons for doing all the wrong things. The only thing I want to accomplish now is to put it all in the light so I can really recover, Sir.”

Sepandiyar looked at her, then back to the thread of data and read some more, letting a silence fall between them again. Finally, at length, he said. “I commend your crusade for clarity, and healing,” he declared plainly, turning off the feed. He picked up his tea again, “I still do not understand what it is you’re trying to accomplish here. With me,” he said, picking up the cup and taking a sip.

Calliope folded her nervous hands behind her, pressing around the cane and considering. She was dumbstruck that he hadn’t excused her already. She’d done what she had come to do, but he believed there was more. Her eyes seemed to search the pattern in the engineering display as she worked out what she wanted to say, to express what she really wanted. It just seemed like too much to ask in the face of everything she had just confessed to— years of breaking code and practicing dodgy ethics to get the doses she had convinced herself she needed. But if it was a lost cause and she was about to be drummed out of the fleet entirely, what was lost by saying it? “I want to have another chance, Admiral. Another chance to do the job I was called to do here, on Obsidian Command.”

Zavareh just took a sip of tea rather than reply. If he was quite honest with himself, he wasn’t sure how to take this all. Corvus had ignored his list of top candidates, of which Commander Zayne was the number one choice, to bring Commander Zahn clear across the Federation to take this command. While he understood the desire for people to bring in familiar, trusted faces, he still didn’t agree with her decision to do it. Thaddeus was a top contender for the posting, not only by virtue of his skillset and experience but because he had been aboard the starbase when she went into the void and before that had been with Falkirk dealing with the Strategic resources of the entire sector. He was the perfect candidate.

But it was obvious Corvus preferred Zahn. It was obvious that the crew did as well. From what he had been able to gather, Thaddeus was absolutely effective but nowhere near as welcomed in the posting as his predecessor was. He knew from hard-gained experience that efficiency was not nearly as effective as cohesion.

“And you believe your confession negates all that you have done? Both historically and currently?” he asked, setting his tea on the saucer and using that free hand to bring up a new report which he had turned on the display towards her. It was a detailed report from Commander Zayne on the incident on Obsidian III and attached, as a subscript, was a formal complaint from Captain Hawthorne of the Ardeshir regarding his First Officer. He didn’t say anything further, just let her read. Though he did highlight the passage in Hawthorne’s complaint regarding the ’reckless nature of an unstable Officer willing to risk hers and others lives for the chance of redemption. By whatever means necessary’

It was Calliope’s turn to squint. “Sir, that’s untrue.” She was taken aback by the claim. “I didn’t take any of my actions in the interest of redemption. I’m unsure how Captain Hawthorne, or anyone, could claim to know my motives. My only interest was in helping to recover the people I witnessed being abducted.”

“How can I be certain?” he countered. “By your own admission it has been quite nearly a career that you’ve been under the influence of this drug. How am I to know that your recent episode is not a desperate attempt to prove yourself worthy of the return you’re seeking?” he asked, “You may have saved many lives, but you cannot possibly believe that it was not a reckless course of action,” he shook his head. “Put yourself in your Captain’s shoes. If you were to judge the same series of actions. You would come to the same conclusion you’re offering me? That you were acting logically, carefully and within the expectations of a Starfleet Officer to recover the people you witnessed being abducted? That there was no other course of action possible?”

Calliope stood back, shifting her cane back into her hands in front of her while absorbing the blow of the assessment. In her estimation, everyone was being an after-the-fact armchair quarterback about her moment of decision. She knew it, but she could also see his point. Their reviews were clouded by her reputation. "Maybe not…” She admitted, conceding his point.

She had come to his office with the intention of being completely honest, whatever the consequences would be for it, but it didn’t have to include crippling self doubt in her skills and capacities. If no one else would advocate for her, she knew she had to be true to herself in spite of the pressure to either fight all of the accusations or cave in to them. She straightened her spine again and relaxed on an exhale.

“…But it’s no less true for being difficult to believe.”

“Perhaps,” he answered solemnly.

The Admiral set his tea down, then turned about and picked up the teapot resting on the shelf behind him. When he turned about he had another cup and saucer in hand and poured for both of them, setting the new cup towards the corner of the table in silent offering.

Calliope marveled for a moment at the unspoken invitation before leaning her cane against the table to take up the cup, unwilling to trust just one of her nerve ridden hands by itself. She brought the warm cup close enough to appreciate the aroma and try to draw down her anxiety. You didn’t offer tea to someone you planned to run out.

“Presume I believe you,” Sepandiyar said finally, returning his cup to his hands and taking a bracing sip. “How would I justify this? Your request.”

Her lips twisted and she took a long, cautious sip of the tea, thinking. “I’m not sure how to justify it on paper, Sir. I’ve had an otherwise good record and excellent career. I have plenty of other references.” She thought about all of the name dropping she could do within the fleet but it just didn’t seem to wash. “But, to be honest,” She paused at the word, her theme for the day, “I hadn’t expected you would even speak to me after the confession itself. Mercy isn’t justified.”

“It isn’t,” he agreed. “Nor is punishing an exemplary officer in Commander Zayne by removing him from this posting,” he added with a shake of his head. He took another drink of tea, letting his mind wander off now as he considered all of the information; the old and the new. He turned away from the holo and walked away towards the couch that faced the viewport, walking to the viewport to look out at the void. In the near distance you could see the Stardock station dominating the far left hand side. A silent sentinel in the dark. He heaved a slow sigh. After what seemed like an eternity, she shook his head and said to the glass.

How could he possibly remove Zayne and reinstate Calliope without destroying his credibility as a leader, or Zayne’s career. It would stick with him for the length of his career in Starfleet, that a Fleet Admiral in 9th Fleet removed him from a command with no good reason at all. How did he justify that. Even if he could find a way of justifying Zahn’s return to power. Even if he wanted to return her. None of those questions were ones he could answer - not yet.

“I do not know the answer,” he admitted plainly. “Or if there is one…” he trailed off. Sepandiyar turned around to face Calliope and drew up with an air of finality. “But I will think about it. Certainly not what you wish to hear, but that is my answer.”

Calliope looked a little confused by the long and silent conundrum over Commander Zayne, but didn’t comment right away. She just digested her realization that whatever the outcome of her request would be, it sounded very possible the Admiral wasn’t interested in the easiest way out of the problem— taking an ax to her with the ammunition she had provided.

Her relief was palpable and difficult to contain. “Thank you for considering my request.” She took another sip of the tea and set it down half-full on the saucer again, sensing that the Admiral might be done with the conversation and ready to think it over. Anticipating dismissal, she gathered her cane before looking up again, thoughtfully. “Commander Zayne is far more deserving than I am for the assignment to Obsidian Command. But if it weren’t for his set back in the Void, he should have been considered for a command of his own by now. Or an associate director position in the Fleet’s Strategic Operations Division.”

Sepandiyar didn’t register a response to the statement other than to offer a simple nod. “Good day, Commander.”

"Admiral." She acknowledged before seeing herself out.

Calliope stood for a moment at the lowest stair and just shook with relief before beginning the climb back, no less slow, but far less burdened.


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