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[Age of Mouldwarp]   

Eyes of Fire
He wasn't going to take "no" for an answer.
     "Captain, I want off this ship.  Not later, not when it's convenient for you or for Starfleet.  Now."  Crewman Douglas Velar's duty aboard the U.S.S. Copernicus was transporter operations.  He beamed people up. He beamed people down.  But he never saw anyone for very long.  For an enlisted man, this was a posh position, since he actually had a task to perform that people depended on, but this didn't accomplish anything in the way of respect or dignity.  His father had been an enlisted man as well, but had never risen above positions of mediocrity, such as "guarding stuff" or "third-party away team member" -- in other words, the black hole that was security.  Doug had been headed in the same direction until he demonstrated enough technical competence to warrant posting in the more simple engineering utilities.
     Captain Robin Matheson's reaction was immediate and authoritative: "Like hell.  You are hardly in a position to give orders.  I'm the captain.  I make the rules.  And you aren't playing by them."
     "When 'the rules' don't make sense, I think that I shouldn't be expected to follow them.  If you were truly worthy of that rank you'd see this.  You wouldn't even have gotten us in this situation.  I'm not trying to bail.  I'm saving myself," Velar explained.  If he were being entirely truthful, he'd mention that his friend Derek Parkes, a civilian traveling with the crew as part of a research assignment for the Galactic Times, had influenced his present decision in more than compromising fashion.
     "You work in security.  You know as well as I do the implications of your tone.  Right now I don't have time to debate this.  There's a Jem'Hadar ship out there with one goal in mind.  If we don't prevent it Starfleet will calling wondering why, and I don't want to tell them that I got mixed up in a petty instance of squeamishness when I should have been fulfilling my mission," Captain Matheson continued.
     "Does that mission include the mindless slaughter of innocent lives?"  When Parkes had arrived, it was two weeks before the Copernicus had been called upon to defend the inhabitants of Haley Minor, a planet of recent Federation membership application still with a population that was still embroiled in class strife.  To Parkes this had been a goldmine of an opportunity; a chance to feature the underbelly of the era's dominant political body by focusing on one of it's most controversial edicts, the notorious Prime Directive.  How would it apply in a wartime situation?  He had convinced Velar to transport him to Haley Minor for an intimate encounter with the answer, but his timing proved horribly miscalculated. Matheson had ordered a photon shower on the very city he'd elected to visit.
     "You know what the situation was.  If I hadn't fired on the Pasterns the Jem'Hadar would have had an easier target on the surface to attack," Matheson argued.
     "If you hadn't angered the Macrons, we wouldn't have been in that situation to begin with," Velar retorted.  When the Copernicus first appraised the Phalli of the imminent Dominion attack, Matheson's approach was to bring representatives of both the Pasterns and the Macrons onboard her ship and inform each at the same time.  Parkes, an amateur xenosocial science student, had immediately pointed out that this had been a mistake, but the highest ranking officer he'd been allowed to speak to was Commander Franzoni, who had elected not to relay Parkes' concern to Matheson.  Velar was his only confidante within the crew, so the two quietly formed a secret mutiny.
     "Command decisions are often hard.  They seem confusing to those outside the circle, but that doesn't make them any less valid."
     "What about objectivity?  Where does that come into play?"  In truth, Parkes was the last person to count on for objectivity, and Velar knew it.  He also knew that innocent lives were innocent no matter how tough the decision was to eradicate them was.  His family had risen from the middle class of 20th century human culture, which had helped to give Velar a perspective the oftentimes elite-born command officers regularly failed to display.
     "When you're facing the phaser banks of a Jem'Hadar ship, that's when.  If I hadn't acted when I did, the Dominion would have finished with their assault on Haley Minor and moved on to another target."
     "The Jem'Hadar ship deserved your attention more that the 'petty squeamishness' of a few mindless natives."  Velar had snatched Parkes and a handful of panicking Pasterns with a swift transport soon after Matheson had started her bombardment to scare off the Macrons.  The sudden arrival of the Jem'Hadar had thrown them all for a loop, causing the officer at tactical to fire a last round of misplaced fire.  In the ensuing hysteria Velar and Parkes made their pact and Matheson damaged the Jem'Hadar vessel bad enough so that both ships had to crawl to safe harbors.
     "A Starfleet officer's job is to look out for the well-being of every sentient life form.  It's a detail that cannot be overlooked and cannot be undervalued.  But when the going gets tough. even the tough are forced to blink before moving forward.  Mistakes are made, but if we concentrate on them we'll only create more problems."
     Velar stood before the Captain's desk.  He wanted nothing more than to get off the ship.  Parkes had shown him that there was more than Starfleet or the Federation to live for in the 24th century.  His dignity demanded him to stay this course.  "Maybe I can't live by your rules anymore," he said.
     "Then leave on your own time.  You are concerned for the future of the Phalli?  Right now there's a war going on that could mean the end of more than just the Pasterns or the Macrons.  Haley Minor might not survive long enough to be approved for membership let alone have time to worry about a few mistakes a Starfleet vessel made in defending it.  Objectivity demands that we do everything in our power to complete our mission.  If you can't handle the messy details then how do you expect to face a world outside Starfleet, Dominion War or otherwise?"
     "I..."  Parkes had shown him a way of life the Velar family line had never known, but what if wasn't enough?  Velar sat down in the chair he had been neglecting for the past five minutes.  Behind the Captain was a purview of the stars as seen from Phalli space.  So many pricks of light but not one answer to the question he most needed an answer to.
     "Stress under extreme pressure?" Matheson offered.
     Velar remained silent.  He thought of Parkes, of his father, of the Macrons, of the Pasterns.  Of the Jem'Hadar ship.  "Stress...under extreme pressure.  It won't happen again, sir."
     "If that is all, you are dismissed.  We have a war to win."

Events take place during an unspecified period of the Dominion War as seen in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

continue on to "Cool Heads" or skip to "Silent Running"

the fiction herein is © copyrighted 2001-2003 by Sean "Waterloo" McKenna