Chapter 19 - An Unexpected Promotion

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Njessa reviewed the crew files one last time, there really was only one choice for this.  But would he see it that way?  She tapped the com, “Lieutenant Tomaasz, this is Ajzure, please join me in my office as soon as you are free.”

Tomaasz pulled himself out of the Type 9 shuttle’s access panel and tapped his combadge. “Acknowledged, Captain. Give me fifteen minutes to close up here and I’ll be on my way.” Quickly checking to make sure the diagnostic had finished properly, he returned the system to sleep mode and dogged the hatch.

Leaving the secondary shuttle storage area, he patted the hatchway with a wry smile. A purposeful stride carried him to the turbolift. He took advantage of the 25-deck ride to straighten his uniform and smooth down his fur. The Captain didn’t seem to stand overmuch on formalities, but sloppiness would be ill-becoming an officer in her crew. Two minutes shy of the promised fifteen, he rang the admittance chime for the Captain’s office.

“Enter,” said Njessa, waiting behind her desk, a hologram of the local star systems idly floating nearby.  She looked tired but alert.

“Can I get you anything to drink?” she asked and gestured for him to take a seat.

“A mug of The would be delightful, thank you.” Tomaasz pondered the Andorian drink as he sat. He had developed a fondness for it, and found the light cobalt taste bracing. Though for long sleepless projects he still preferred Tellarite kaff.

Banishing such distracting thoughts, he focused on the Captain. His ears perked forward attentively, belying the tired circles under his eyes.

“Tomaasz,” she said without preamble, “you have had a most interesting career in Starfleet.  Are you willing to make it more so?”

One ear twitched back for a moment. “Interesting is… a polite way to put it. However, after nearly two decades of stagnation, I think I am ready for things to be interesting again.”

“To say that this shakedown cruise has not gone as planned is an understatement,” Njessa continued.  “I pushed for it with a minimal crew because things needed to move forward.  But circumstances have changed the situation.”  She paused.  “The Starfleet Office of Personnel kept promising to assign an XO to the Tanjura but they never arrived.  As we need to have a clear chain of command, therefore I am offering you that post.”

Both ears snapped back, in shock too great to conceal. That was in no way anything he could have anticipated hearing. “I… Not to imply doubt in your judgment, Captain, but are you sure you want someone with my… colorful history as your XO?”

She smiled.  “I like colorful.  You have a wide range of experience both across departments and across the Fleet.  You are good with people and good under pressure.  So, if you are willing to take it on, I would welcome having someone to rely on.  And if you do not want to commit to it as a permanent posting, I will be willing to accept it as a temporary posting until we can return to Esquimalt Station.  Sadly, I cannot, at the moment, offer you a promotion but if you accept the position and once we get back, I will do my best to get you moved up in rank.”

His ears slowly raised as he considered her words. She had clearly been sizing him up, as any good captain would, since he arrived onboard. As, he admitted to himself, he had been sizing her up. Though he could hardly say he knew her true depths so quickly, he had a solid sense of her mettle. There was steel there, and compassion, and humor. He had trained himself to assess quickly and act decisively where offering his loyalty was concerned. This was a captain he could follow without reservation, he felt.

But did she really know what she asked of him? Was he ready to be responsible, not just for one department, but for the entire ship and crew? What if he failed them, as he had so many times before?

He took himself firmly to task. He had already given himself that responsibility in his heart, if he were honest about it. Failing again was simply not an option. He knew the answer he must give, now that his doubts had been raised and faced.

Keeping a calm, professional expression that hopefully concealed his inner turmoil, he replied. “You can rely on me, Captain. With no half measures. For as long as you want me, I am your man.”

Njessa smiled and stood. She offered her hand, “I am pleased to hear that, Tomaasz.  It is a great weight off my shoulders.  While I am fully confident in my abilities,” she said with an amused quirk of her antennae, “it is good to know there will be someone to take over should something to happen to me.”

Taking her hand in a firm clasp, he smiled in return. “May the White Cat allow that I never need to.”

“So, can you carve out an hour sometime in the near future to join me in fighting swamp pirates on the holodeck?” she asked.

One ear swiveled sideways as the other twitched upright in a Caitian equivalent of a mild double-take. “That sounds entirely too intriguing an offer to decline. I could stand to dust the ionization off my blade skills. I haven’t found as much time lately for practice as I should.”

Njessa nodded and sighed.  “I know the feeling.  I was once near the top of the Academy in swordsmanship.  But what with time, the duties of command, and having children, all have rather blunted that once sharp talent.”

“And who knows?” she added with a smile.  “Perhaps our swordsmanship will be needed in the near future.  Stranger things have happened.”

“It is a very strange universe, after all. Thank goodness.” Tomaasz’s tail looped into an amused curlicue. “Our present situation is a perfect example of that.”

“Indeed,” agreed Njessa.  “Now, I will let you return to your tasks and me to mine.  We will discuss the state of the ship in more detail soon.”  She smiled.  “And thank you.”

“Thank you, Captain.” With a brisk nod, Tomaasz withdrew to the corridor. His head was awhirl with the unexpected development and the possibilities it held for the future.