Erika Hernandez fumed.
She had been in a foul mood long before entering the captain’s mess –personnel problems continued to plague her and ongoing difficulties with Enterprise’s ever-temperamental engines had already thoroughly ruined her day – but the antics of her commanding officer and the Vulcan liaison as they fenced over Junior Lieutenant Mayweather were making her see red.
For the first time in her career, Erika wanted to smack a superior officer.
“Have you given any thought to the admiral’s offer, Travis?” Captain Archer asked. His plate was loaded with foodstuffs clearly intended to annoy Ambassador Soval – scrambled eggs, bacon, ham, and pancakes dripping with syrup – but he was only playing with his fork and seemed barely interested in actually eating. “Teaching at Starfleet Training would do wonders for your career.”
“Such a course of action would be highly illogical,” Soval interrupted. “Lieutenant Mayweather’s career would be ill served by choosing to relocate at this time.” The Vulcan placed his fork atop his empty plate. “He should instead focus on acquiring diplomatic instruction that would aid him in future promotion.”
“Instructing young recruits is hardly a waste of time,” the captain said. “And while he’s on Earth, he could always look into continued development courses.”
Fury flared within Mayweather’s eyes and he glared at his plate. He visibly swallowed and Erika knew he was a heartbeat away from exploding. She acted first, not willing to let him throw away such a promising career because of a pair of idiots who were more interested in making jabs at one another.
“Lieutenant,” she said, her voice cutting through the tense silence that had enveloped the mess as the two combatants waited for his response. His eyes came up, meeting hers, and she gave him an understanding nod. Relief was visibly stamped upon his face. “You may go.”
He was up and through the door before Archer or Soval could react. Both of them turned on her with identical expressions of muted outrage, but Erika felt her own temper explode.
“Lieutenant Mayweather is off limits to the both of you,” she snapped harshly, “effective immediately.” They stared at her with shock as the anger that had been building for weeks surged. “If the two of you had bothered pulling your heads out of your asses,” she growled, “you might have noticed that Travis hasn’t been himself since before we broke orbit.” Archer blinked, glanced away, and frowned; at the same time, Soval leaned back in his seat and narrowed his eyes.
“He has been … distracted,” the Vulcan remarked.
“That’s because his father just died!” Erika hissed. Both men recoiled in dismay. “But the two of you were too damned busy trying to one-up each other.”
“That will be enough, Erika,” Archer said, a disgusted expression on his face.
“No, sir, it will not,” she retorted. “Both of you should be ashamed of yourselves. He’s just a kid and you had to drag him into this pissing contest of yours!” She slammed her hands down on the table. “Well, enough! If either of you so much as looks at him outside of duty hours, I will forward a report on your actions to Earth and Vulcan.” Erika balled up her fists. “And trust me, gentlemen, you do not want this critique to get out into the open, not after what I’ve seen you put that poor boy through.”
“Are you threatening me, Commander?” Jon asked. He seemed stuck between shock and anger, disgust and outrage, and Erika knew him well enough to recognize that it was all directed inward in this moment. As well he should, she mentally snarled.
“No, sir,” she replied sharply. “I’m promising you.” Erika stood, vibrating with anger, and gave the two men glares. To her immense satisfaction, both of them broke eye contact first, glancing away. A flush of green even crossed Soval’s face. “If you want to speak to the lieutenant while not on duty hours,” she said coldly, “you arrange it with me. Is that clear?”
“Perfectly,” the ambassador stated. “I would like the opportunity to convey my condolences to Mister Mayweather,” he added. Erika crossed her arms.
“I’ll check with him to see if he’s interested in hearing it from you.” She cut her eyes to Jon. “Either of you,” she added. “This bullshit between the two of you ends now,” Erika ordered. “I don’t care whether you have to lock yourselves in a shuttlepod or seal off the gym to beat the crap out of each other or break out the pistols at ten paces, but it ends now.” Without pausing for a response, she stormed around the table and headed toward the door but paused before triggering it. “You’re supposed to be responsible leaders to this crew,” she pointed out. “For God’s sake, try and act like it.”
A moment later, she was out of the captain’s mess and into the main dining facility.
Dozens of eyes were on her, suddenly reminding Erika of how pathetic the soundproofing was for the small dining facility, and she flushed in momentary embarrassment at the realization they had likely overheard her entire rant. Petty Officer Rostov gave her an approving smile before turning back to his meal; it seemed to be a signal of sorts, as every other officer or crewman present followed suit, and Hernandez made careful note of this. She had suspected that Rostov was more important in the social hierarchy than he appeared to be, and this only confirmed it. Idly, she wondered whether he held such a prominent role before Tucker died or if this was new.
Erika was halfway to the door leading to the rest of the ship when she caught sight of Lieutenant Sato and instantly altered her trajectory so she could join the communications officer.
“Good morning, ma’am,” Sato said as Hernandez approached. The younger woman’s eyes sparkled. “And on behalf of Travis,” she added, “thank you.”
“No,” Erika replied as she sank into a seat across from the junior lieutenant, “thank you for bringing this to my attention.” Sato shrugged as if she hadn’t done anything worth merit and it only intensified Erika’s suspicion that the communications officer was closer to Lieutenant Mayweather than was entirely appropriate. With her own history, though, Hernandez didn’t think she could really throw stones and she’d always thought the no-frat policy was intrinsically flawed in the first place. It was like asking humans not to be human. As her thoughts momentarily flashed to the past and the aftermath of breaking regs, she shot a scowl in the direction of the closed door leading to the executive dining facility. “It will not happen again,” she said. “Not while I’m the first officer.”
“Good to know, ma’am.” Sato’s smile grew. “Travis will be glad they’ve backed off. He was getting a little desperate.”
“I wish he’d have come to me,” Erika said. “Let him know my door is always open if he needs someone to talk to who isn’t going to pull this crap.” She jerked a thumb in the direction of the captain’s mess.
“Will do, Commander,” the communications officer said before leaning forward. “And may I be the first to say, ma’am,” she added with a broad grin, “that was awesome.” Erika laughed.
“You just need to know how to handle them, Lieutenant,” she replied. Sato grinned.
“It’s Hoshi, ma’am,” she said. Erika smiled.
“I’ll keep that in mind, Miss Sato,” she said as she stood. “But if you’ll excuse me,” Hernandez continued, “I’ve still got a ton of paperwork to deal with before my duty shift begins.”
“Ma’am,” Hoshi said by way of goodbye before returning to her meal.
No one stopped her as Erika made her way to the door, though she could feel everyone’s attention on her nonetheless. The moment of relative isolation gave her the chance to reflect on what could have been a very dumb move on her part. She had been blatantly disrespectful to her commanding officer, refused a direct order, and insulted an ambassador of a foreign power, all before breakfast was over. Maybe I should go down to sickbay and punch Phlox, she mused darkly, just to round out the list of charges. Shaking her head, she stopped before the turbolift and pressed to summons button. A whisper of movement announced the arrival of Petty Officer Rostov as he took up a waiting position beside her.
“I know you’ve already heard it before, ma’am,” he said, “but welcome to Enterprise. I think you’re going to do fine.”
Erika had never heard more beautiful praise.