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“To what do I owe the pleasure?” asked a stern, wide face as the subspace monitor flickered to life. Admiral Robert Beilson was a stocky human male in his middle-to-late sixties whom Meashka disliked immensely. He’d once been a strapping soldier and valiant infantryman who’d fought so bravely in the Dominion war, but had grown greatly fat in his waning years. He wore several flabby chins underneath a flat face, and overly greased, excessively combed, thinning salt-and-pepper hair. The desktop monitor seemed to highlight the large, dark circles that time had so considerately drawn under his eyes.
The Ferengi savored a grim satisfaction at that fact. As Meashka liked to remind him, she and the Admiral had been born the in the same year, though she herself looked easily twenty to thirty years his junior. Benefits of a long stasis nap.
“October-1a,” Meashka replied, simply, as she leaned forward in her chair.
Beilson’s eyes rolled and he exhaled a deep, almost wheezing groan. “I should've known.”
“Yes,” Meashka agreed. “You should. I’m fully aware that you’ve been in closed-door meetings with keys leaders of the Civil Authority, the Merchant Marine, the Corp of Engineers, the Daystrum Institute, and Colonial Command to discuss the feasibility of constructing a permanent settlement in or around the October-1a system to facilitate scientific explor –“
“And you think that – what, you? Should be in charge of the colonization efforts?” Beilson interrupted Meashka, his tone souring, almost scoffing at the idea.
The Ferengi, however, was undaunted and continued on as if he hadn’t spoken. “—exploration, and I feel that Task Force Argo,” she said, with emphasis, “is most ideally suited to that task.”
The Admiral leaned back in his seat, where he planted his thick elbows firmly on the arm rests of his chair and steepled his sausage-like fingers in front of himself. “Pray tell?”
Meashka summoned as much restraint as she could muster before continuing on. “Argo discovered October-1a,” she began, but again the Admiral interrupted her.
“Mhn. And that gives Argo some kind of special rights to it? Like it were derelict salvage?” Beilson mused, canting his head a bit. “How very Ferengi of you.”
“Excuse me?” Meashka bristled.
“Just an expression,” Beilson replied, spreading his hands in faux apology, though the faint smirk he wore suggested otherwise. “I can appreciate your stance, Captain, however, I intend on recommending that the Commander K’lix and the Fifty First Theta oversee –“
“THETA?! You can’t be serious, Bobby,” it was the Ferengi’s turn to interrupt, and the Admiral’s to bristle. Meashka knew just how much he hated that nickname, and so took great pleasure in calling him by it whenever opportunity allowed.
“Quite so,” Beilson said, failing to hide a scowl.
“Outpost Theta is hardly more than a Tier-2 settlement itself – they don’t have the experience or the resources necessary to tackle something important as an extragalactic rogue star system. October-1a has the potential –“
“October-1a is important. I agree,” the Admiral nodded. “And that’s exactly why I don’t believe Argo should be allowed to continue handling something so potentially valuable. Once the discovery becomes common knowledge, every government in the Alpha and Beta quadrants are going to want to get their proverbial fingers in the October pie. And let’s be honest, Captain, you people over at Argo haven’t exactly had the best track record when it comes to matters of safety and security.”
Meashka shook her head, almost dumbstruck by the audacity of it. “You can’t possibly mean…”
“The lax preparation and security of Task Force Argo very nearly oversaw the assassination of the President of the United Federation of Planets. And to be perfectly honest, I have my doubts about you, what with the debacle surrounding the destruction of the Rowling…”
If the Admiral were trying to provoke the Ferengi, he succeeded. Meashka stood suddenly and slammed her hands against the desk. “That isn’t what this is about, and you know it! You know what, Bobby? You don’t like me, and I don’t like you. And that’s fine. But how dare you – HOW DARE YOU - besmirch the fine officers I work; the men and women who have put their lives on the line day after wraith-cursed day so that you can sit smugly behind that desk. And why? Because… you want to punish me? Fine. Punish me. But don't you dare punish Argo. Argo researchers discovered October-1a. Argo has collected bulk of the data gathered thus far. We have boots on the ground as we speak, and we have the fullest understanding of the situation at hand. Deep Space 13 boasts some of the greatest scientific minds in the fleet, and the largest Colonial Command staging point in the quadrant. We have the greatest availability of resources to facilitate both the scientific endeavors necessary to properly study October, and to construct and fully support a permanent settlement should one be deemed necessary. To claim otherwise would just be fallacious.”
Meashka’s voice had grown steadily louder as she spoke. Steadily more passionate, more animated. “And to take this from Argo – because, our personalities conflict? Because you and I detest one another? That’s disgusting and petty, and ill-befitting the conduct of a Starfleet officer, let alone an Admiral! I can’t imagine what your peers must think of you.”
The Admiral’s face flickered between various sheens of anger and rage, before it finally settled in on a kind of exasperated resignation. He held up his hands before him in a vague gesture of surrender. “Fine. You’ve made your case.”
There was a brief moment of very loud silence, in which Meashka resumed her seat and the Admiral lowered his hands while he gazed harshly away from the screen. It was Bielson who spoke first.
“I don’t know what the hell Godfried ever saw in you,” Bielson said, quietly, still looking away. Meashka tensed. Admiral Kelso Godfried had been the flag officer of Task Force Wolfpack, the first fleet she'd been assigned to. He’d been Meashka’s dear friend; a father figure, and mentor. Right up until his passing the year prior.
He’d also mentored Bielson, some many years ago. She still found that hard to believe. The two men couldn't possibly be more different. “I often think the same thing about you,” the Ferengi replied.
Some ties bind. Whether you want them to, or not.
Bielson turned back to the screen, a faint smirk hanging on his lips. “It’s good to see you showing some ambition again, instead playing doctor all the time.”
“I don’t play doctor,” Meashka said, her tone more even, though somewhat defensive. “I am a doctor. And my shifts in the Infirmary have never interfered with my duties --”
“Aye. You were a doctor,” the Admiral interrupted her one last time. “And an entrepreneur. And an engineer. And a scientist. And a starship captain. And sometimes a politician, if it damned well suited you that day.” He exhaled a deep breath. “But from the moment Godfried introduced you to me, you were career Starfleet. I’d never met anyone so single-minded about climbing the chain of command as you. It was the one thing about you I actually respected. You were all ambition; you knew what you wanted, and you were on the road to getting it. ...And then you started doubting yourself.”
He paused, but Meashka didn’t quite know how to respond, so Bielson continued. “Your ship blew up. Get over it. Stop futzing about with all these civvies – merchant marines, colonial command, feh, nonsense – and playing with all those hyposprays and such. Because, let me tell you, if want the stars on your collar? You can’t be fooling around with all of this – other idiocy. A jack of all trades is master of none.”
“Well, maybe you can’t do everything, Bobby,” Meashka said, with a faint smile. Her tone still a bit barbed, though far more gentle than before. “But I can. Maybe I’ve got more focus? Or maybe I’ve just aged more gracefully than you.”
Bielson shook his head and exhaled a deep breath. “You not... wrong,” he said, as if it pained him somewhat to do so. “Argo does have the best available resources to undertake a settlement operation, and the best current understanding of October-1a. It would be… inappropriate not to suggest to the committee that Argo be allowed to continue oversight.
“But that is all I can do,” he added, looking sternly into the monitor. “Suggest. It still has to be voted on by the general committee and approved by the Civil Authority before it can be passed on to Colonial Command.”
Meashka nodded and held up her hands. “That’s all I ask.”
Bielson sighed again, and was thoughtfully silent for a moment, before he asked, “How in the world did you hear about these meetings, anyway?”
“Captain Carlisle’s assistant and I were… acquainted,” Meashka replied with a mischievous little grin and a vague shrug.
“The Bolian – of course,” Bielson chortled. “What is your fascination with blue women?”
“I’m honestly not sure, but it’s likely the same as your fascination with holographic gorn,” Meashka whipped back.
Admiral Bielson lofted a brow and cocked his head a bit, “Captain,” he warned.
“Sir,” Meashka added, crisply.
There was another brief pause, and Meashka found herself wondering why exactly the communique hadn’t ended yet.
“I take it you two aren’t still… acquainted?” Bielson asked, as if he were genuinely interested. Which surprised the Ferengi more than a bit.
“No... Not for… some time. I taught at the Academy briefly, after the – before being assigned to Colonial Command.” Get over it, he said. Like it was that easy. Like she could flip a switch, and suddenly the Rowling would be gone from her memory forever. All those dead faces... “I… she didn’t think I’d remember her. I guess I should've called?”
It was an odd moment for Meashka. To be screaming at this man who she genuinely abhorred with nearly every fiber of her being felt completely natural, but to suddenly be talking to him… opening up to him, felt bizarre. And yet, here she was, telling him something deeply personal. Something she probably would have even told her counselor.
Why did it also seem so curiously appropriate?
“For the love of…" Bielson groaned and shook his head in exasperation. "...some people. Captain. What I just said; to forget the -- other. Just, don't forget that part, not that. Not... acquainting yourself, with others. That's... important. Just… make an effort, hmn? You’re not the sort whose fit to grow old and lonely.”
Meashka blinked. It was oddly similar to something Admiral Godfried might have said. As if speaking his name had somehow, however briefly, invoked the connection through him that they shared. “Aye.”
Bielson cleared his throat and deepened his voice, changing the tone sharply back to business. Seemingly as unnerved by the brief window of intimacy as Meashka. “You should probably send your best survey vessel to October-1a and start adding as much as you can to the data collection. It will give your Argo's claim more weight. Multiple ships, if you can spare them.”
The Ferengi nodded, still somewhat stunned by the moment two had just shared. “I already have. The Kissammee is en route. The Stan Lee and the Mary Fields will follow suit as soon as they finish escorting a relief convoy to the Minoran colony on Veta 7. Sir.”
“Very well. If there’s nothing else,” Bielson said, closing the channel before Meashka had a chance to reply further.