SEASON 3: EPISODE 03
THE ONLY THING NECESSARY: Part Twenty
Nikki Whitechapel entered her father’s quarters. The lighting was dim within the spacious room and her father sat in a chair facing towards a window in the room, watching as the ship made its way towards the edge of the nebula. The ship had remained only long enough to deposit a probe to monitor the planet before it started to head for the edges of the nebula and to make its report to Starfleet Command.
“Are you alright, dad?” she asked, concern filled her voice.
“I’m better then the Echlans will be,” he mumbled. “Do you want a drink? I have some Scotch.” He held up a half full glass. She spotted a bottle on the table by him and noted that it was nearly half empty. She had to wonder if he had managed to get through that on his own in this sitting.
She made her way to the replicator to get a glass when she heard a tapping noise. She looked over to her father and saw him tapping a clean glass on the table in front of him. She went and took a seat on the couch that was located under the window so to face him. Her father had poured her a drink by the time she sat down. “Why do you have two glasses?” she inquired.
“So even when you’re drinking alone it feels like there’s someone else with you,” he said mockingly jovial. “What of Echla?”
Nikki took a small sip of the drink before she passed on the unpleasant news. It was neat and she preferred it with water or ice so to take some of the edge off it. It burnt its way down her throat and she waited a few seconds for the sensation to ease. “The planet is all but irradiated from nuclear fallout. Once their long range missiles were in the air both sides militaries used very nuclear weapon in their arsenal. They pretty much wiped out their armed forces within an hour. We also know that both sides utilised weapons specifically designed to destroy hardened and fairly deep bunkers. We detected a device hit the Totality defence headquarters. After that we haven’t detected any more communications from that site and we believe that General Qual and his staff are dead. The death toll is nothing short of catastrophic.”
Her father’s head dropped and a hand came to his head and massaged his temples as he let out a long and mournful sigh.
“There was nothing you could do. The situation just got out of control,” she said after half a minute of silence.
“Part of my job is to keep the situation under control, dear. I definitely failed on that note, thanks to your captain.”
“Captain Masters was just doing what he thought was best,” she replied quickly and defensively. She had a great deal of respect for her commanding officer partly due to his history and also from serving under him for the past two years.
“It is a sad reflection when the best you can do is nothing.”
“Look, dad what did you want him to do? Shoot down those nuclear missiles?”
“That would have been a nice start,” he replied argumentatively.
“What about the tactical weapons?”
“Where does it stop? Does he then destroy their air forces and ground units to keep the peace? Once we started interjecting ourselves we couldn’t just go half way, we would have to fully impose our will on the planet.”
Her father let out a long sigh. “You know I do understand why he did what he did, I have been in this business since before you were born, Nikki,” he said, lightly chastising her. He brought his glass to his chest and continued, “The problem is my heart believes that we could have done more...that we should have done more. I don’t know, maybe if I had just been open with him from the start he would have paid more heed to my voice when it mattered.”
That was a nice segue to the question she had wanted to ask him for days. “Why weren’t you, dad?”
He waved his hand dismissively. “Orders from above. They decided that it would be best if some things were kept quiet. I don’t why I let them put me in that situation. It’s pretty obvious that there would be little chance of containing that information from your captain. I guess I thought I could handle it if it got out.”
“Not everything can go to plan.”
“Very true. This isn’t the first time I’ve had failed negotiations and it must likely won’t be the last. That’s why I never go anywhere without a good supply of alcohol to wash away my sins,” he toasted to himself and finished the rest of his drink and quickly poured himself another hefty measure.
They returned to silence, Nikki slowly continued to sip her drink while her father seemed more interested in staring into the opaque liquid as he slowly spun the glass in his hand.
“Once we are clear of the nebula I’ll contact my superiors. Most likely they’ll order me back for a full debriefing. The USS Zambezi can take us back; no point diverting the Swiftfire any more than is needed.”
“Despite this outcome I am glad that you were here, if only for a week.”
He looked up to her and smiled sweetly. “Me too, sweetheart. I’d give dozens of successful missions to spend some time with my daughters. Shall we toast to something...obviously not to a successful mission,” he joked with little humour.
“How about to better times?” she asked.
He tilted his head in a half shrug, half nod. “Why not? To better times.”
“To better times,” she repeated and clinked her glass with his.
Her father downed the entire contents of his glass and let out a sigh as the alcohol burned its way to his stomach. He spun the glass in his hand, his gaze fixated on it. Nikki just took a more generous sip then before. She watched her father closely and could not help but feel deeply moved by what she saw. Despite all the years he had been in the diplomatic profession he still cared deeply about how things turned out. That said a lot about the man he was and she was proud to be his daughter. She silently toasted to that thought and downed the rest of her drink.
Masters opened his door to find Core standing there holding a bottle of alcohol.
“Scotch?” she asked, holding up the bottle.
Masters smiled and let her in.
“Rachel not in?” she asked.
“No, she’s on duty for another couple of hours.”
Core replicated two glasses and sat on the couch located under one of the room’s windows. Masters took a seat next to her as she poured them a drink.
“So have you come to admonish me for my actions today?” asked Masters.
Core shook her head and passed him his glass. “No, I just thought you could use a drink. But I can if you want me to.”
“So you agree with me?”
Core picked up her glass and took a sip of her scotch before leaning back into the couch. “My head does because you were right about our duty and the consequences of any of our actions. As for my heart…well, my heart is glad that I didn’t have to make the decision.”
Masters took a generous sip of his drink and let out a sigh as the alcohol burned its way down his throat. “Have you ever had to make a decision like that before?” he asked. His gaze was solidly fixed on the glass in his hand as he slowly rotated it.
“No, I have to say if I get a command this is not a part of the job that I look forward to. What about you?”
Masters nodded solemnly. “Yes. Back in ’64 when I was just a lieutenant.”
That brought a surprised look from Core. “Care to elaborate?”
Masters knew Core too well; even if he did not want to elaborate she would draw it out of him, slowly and painfully if necessary. “It actually occurred not far from here on a non-aligned planet called Lanzling in the Neethia system. The planet was suffering the effects of global warming caused by the indigenous species, the Krojen. A Federation scientist on a Starfleet mission was on the planet and was breaching the Prime Directive and aiding them in their situation. They were a pre-warp race and he was introducing much more advanced technology into their society, so I was put in charge of a small team to extract the scientist. During the mission the scientist offered me an option other than following my orders; I could disregard them and leave him to do his work to save this species and their planet. Or I could complete my mission and condemn their world to its fate, which might mean the extinction of a sentient species.”
Masters paused as he recalled the events. Core finally spurred him to continue his tale. “What did you do?”
He broke his gaze with his glass and its contents to look directly into Core’s eyes as he replied, “I followed my orders and I extracted the scientist and destroyed the advanced technology he was planning to offer them.”
Core held his gaze silently for a few moments. “Afterwards, did you doubt your decision?”
A humourless smile came to his face and he broke his gaze with Core to return to looking down into the discoloured depths of his glass. “Yes. The scientist said I had bought the apocalypse to Lanzling. After a couple of sleepless nights I had to get the doctor to prescribe me sleeping pills, which came with a side order of counselling.”
“Do you still doubt your decision?”
“I’d be lying if I said no,” he admitted. “But I stopped losing sleep over it a long time ago,” he replied before downing the last of the contents of his glass.
Core picked up and bottle and poured a healthy measure into his glass. “Do you know what happened to Lanzling?”
Masters shook his head. “I’ve never had the courage to find out for certain.” He paused as he once again stared into his drink, as if it could offer some sort of answer from its murky depths. He held up his drink as if to toast and with mock enthusiasm said, “As they say, ‘ignorance is bliss!’.” He drank half his glass in one mouthful and was glad that the alcohol was starting to take effect as it seemed far more tolerable going down. “That was one of the saving graces I’ve held onto in the odd moments I think about Lanzling. I can still tell myself they might have made it through. That they are the better for it and I didn’t doom an entire people. However, this time I can’t hide behind a self made blind spot. The consequences of my actions were laid out bare before me, silhouetted in a nuclear firestorm.”
“They might still make it through; Earth did,” pointed out Core.
Masters glanced over at Core. “Do you believe that?”
Her pause gave him the reply he expected. Core finally said, “I guess if I want to sleep at night I’ll have to.”
Core finished her drink and this time he filled up her glass.
“Given the Dominion War you’d think we’d have more important things to lose sleep about,” he said off the cuff as he poured her drink.
“Jono, when the day comes that I don’t lose sleep over something like this, that’s the day I’ll leave Starfleet.”
“I guess you’re right,” he said with a false smile.
“To better times,” toasted Core, which Masters returned.
Masters knew his close friend had misread the situation. As Core had done in the past she had arrived to help ease his mind from a contentious decision. The only thing was that she had misread why he would take to alcohol to ease his conscious. He did not have any issues with his decision; it was the right one to make. It was just the opposite; he was drinking because he knew he would be able to sleep peacefully that night despite his decision, that the death of millions would not haunt his dreams or weigh on his mind. As he downed his entire glass he had to wonder, what did that say about the man he had become?