Main Bridge | Deck One | USS Elysion
The ready room door slid aside and Elysion’s chief engineer stepped out onto the bridge, followed by her commanding officer. Hobbes turned to Ransom, gesturing to the padd in his hand.
“Leave it with me, Skipper. I’ll let you know if there are any problems.”
Ransom shook his head in response. “There can’t be any problems, John. None at all.”
Hobbes looked as if he was about to respond, then thought better of it.
“Aye, sir.” He ascended the steps to the upper level and disappeared into the turbolift without looking back. Ransom turned to survey the bridge and found his executive officer watching. The two men made eye contact.
“Commander Chivras,” Ransom spoke softly, his expression unreadable. “Join me, please.” He turned and walked back into his ready room.
Commanding Officer’s Ready Room | Deck One | USS Elysion
Chivras crossed the ready room, coming to a halt at parade rest in front of Ransom’s desk.
“Captain,” Chivras spoke the single word quietly, his face impassive. Ransom looked up at him from his seat.
“Commander. Please, take a seat.”
“Thank you, sir. I’d prefer to stand.”
“Sit down Thill, and stop being a prick.”
The Andorian officer’s jaw clenched in response but he did as he was ordered, slowly lowering himself into the seat opposite Ransom. The captain watched him silently for several moments as he considered what he was going to say next.
“Thill, we’ve been friends for a long time now…“
“Nine years,” Chivras interjected.
“Nine years. Feels longer, somehow.” Ransom grinned. Chivras didn’t. The captain continued.
“We’ve been friends for nine years… And you’ve been my XO for the last three of them. I’ve trusted you with the safety of this ship and her crew… hell, my own safety… on more occasions than I care to count. I’ve always trusted you.”
“Until now?” Chivras countered.
“No,” Ransom snapped back, his annoyance showing. He paused. “I’m sorry,” he said, his tone softening. “No. Not until now. That’s the point I’m trying to make – I’ve always trusted you. And I still do. That hasn’t changed.”
Silence hung in the air between the two men. Chivras folded his arms.
“Well, something’s certainly changed,” he noted.
“It isn’t you,” Ransom replied. “And it isn’t me. It’s the situation.”
“The situation?” Chivras looked incredulous. “Jack, I’m your XO. I’ve got your back whatever happens. We do this job together, in synchronicity. You just need to tell me what’s happening!” His tone rose once more, his emotions threatening to get the better of him.
“I can’t,” Ransom stated flatly.
“You can’t?” Chivras looked stunned. “What does that mean? Why can’t you?”
“Look… this isn’t personal and it isn’t by choice. I’m following orders.”
“Orders?!” Chivras almost shouted. “Captain… I’m your executive officer! Starfleet expects and requires us to be in agreement when carrying out every order they give us…” He gripped the arms of his chair tightly, his knuckles showing white. “I’m your back-up. Your right-hand. Your sounding board…” He hesitated before continuing, his tone softening once more. “Your conscience.”
Ransom took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“Thill. If I could tell you what was going on, I would. You have my word on that. But I’m sorry, my orders are clear, I cannot share what we’re doing with anyone.”
“You’ve just briefed Thorne and Hobbes though,” Chivras countered. “Separately and in private.”
“Yes, on individual tasks I need them to complete. To fulfill my orders.” Ransom’s patience was clearly rapidly wearing thin.
“Can you tell me their instructions?” Chivras asked.
“I’m sorry, but no.”
“Jack… Starfleet assigns a commanding officer and an executive officer to each starship to ensure that there are four eyes on every order. Every order. The decision-making process sits with a command team – it cannot and should not sit solely with one individual.”
“It can in this case,” said Ransom bluntly. “Look, we’re going round in circles here. I have received orders and I am unable to share them with you. I need to know… whether or not I still have your support as executive officer and whether you’re willing to back me on this.”
Chivras considered his friend’s choice of words. What would happen if he told him that he didn’t have his support? Would he attempt to remove him as XO in order to complete his mission? He leaned back in his chair and forced a smile.
“Of course, you have my support Captain,” he said, wondering just how true those words were. He supposed that they’d both find out together, one way or another over the coming hours and days.
Ransom smiled in response. “Thank you. That’s all I can ask of you.” He checked his chronometer. “Listen, we have about nine hours before we arrive at the Eskon system. I suggest we both get some sleep while we can. I need everyone to bring their A-game tomorrow.”
Chivras stood up. “Aye sir. Understood. You’ll have it.” He nodded once, turned, and headed towards the door.
“Thill,” Ransom called after him. Chivras turned and looked back at his captain.
“Thank you,” Ransom said. “I appreciate it. I know how difficult this must be for you. If there were any other way…” he let the words hang in the air.
Chivras gave his friend a sad smile. “I know. It’s fine,” he lied. “Good night, Captain.”
The ready room door hissed open and the Andorian officer stepped out onto the bridge, leaving Ransom alone.