“Balance of Power”
Stardate 74583.9; August 01, 2397
Written by Chris Adamek
“So,” said Neelar Drayge, “Today’s the big day. Are you ready?”
Walking briskly beside her Bolian friend through the Starlight’s myriad corridors, Erin Keller gave the question only a moment of consideration—really, there was nothing to consider in the first place. “Of course I’m ready,” she chirped, allowing a quirky grin to fall upon her face. “I’ve only been waiting for this day for a couple of years…”
Years… Erin shook her head at the very notion, for she found it rather difficult to believe that years had passed. It seemed like just yesterday she set foot on the Starlight for the first time. Perhaps it was a testament to an old adage—time flies when you’re having fun. And in retrospect, Erin Keller could not deny the fact that she had enjoyed the past several years of her life. Nevertheless, Erin had the distinct feeling that once she and Neelar entered the mess hall, her overall enjoyment of life would increase exponentially…
“…And I’m not going to let anything to mess this day up,” she continued. “So if you see an armada of Breen attack cruisers on sensors, you had best tell them to go away!”
Drayge nodded readily. “And on the authority of Erin Keller, the Breen will no doubt retreat,” he quipped. “But I highly doubt we’ll be running into any Breen today.”
“We can only hope,” said Keller.
The Starlight was many light years from Breen space, and for the enigmatic species to be this far from their frigid home would bring nothing but bad news to the entire Federation. The situation with the Breen had deteriorated considerably in recent years—from the invasion of the Sineron Cluster to an attack on the USS Berlin—and even a small encounter this deep inside Federation space had the potential to spark a devastating war. In fact, many factions within the Federation were predicting war within the next five months—and with the Romulans still breathing down the Federation’s neck, the future looked bleak. Nevertheless, Erin maintained her optimism—her future was as bright as ever.
“Don’t you think we should be wearing our dress uniforms?” Drayge asked as they rounded a sharp corner. “It’s not every day we have such a grandiose celebration…”
Erin shook her head. “Admiral Grayson insisted we dress down. He knows we’re not a very formal crew…”
“But this is a formal occasion,” Drayge continued as they approached the doors to the mess hall. “It almost feels wrong.”
“Trust me,” said Erin coolly, “we’ll manage.”
The mess hall doors promptly slid apart, thrusting Erin and Neelar into the midst of a considerable crowd. Though every face was familiar, it took only a moment for Erin to pick out some of her closer friends—Kendall, Lucas, Bator—but everyone on the Starlight was a friend to her in some way or another.
The one exception was Matthew Harrison—and as he approached her position, Erin couldn’t help but cringe. Harrison was the vilest person Keller knew, and as far as she was concerned, he had no redeeming qualities. He was an uptight, humorless, individual with no social life to speak of—and of course, there was that small matter regarding the Phoenix, which resulted in the death of Keller’s parents. She had yet to forgive him for that. Over the years, they had learned to tolerate one another, and little more—and as Admiral Grayson fell into step beside Harrison, Keller immediately went into “toleration mode.”
“Today’s the big day.” Though Grayson attempted to sound pleasant, his voice had a far more diplomatic tone than anything else. It was obvious he wanted to make sure civility ensued. “I would think the two of you would be a little more excited.”
Harrison’s presence was enough to stifle anyone’s enthusiasm, and though she very much wanted to speak her thoughts, better judgment prevailed, and Keller simply nodded. “I guess reality has yet to sink in,” she lied. “So, where is our fearless leader?”
Harrison promptly shrugged. “I have not seen the Captain,” he admitted. “Perhaps he is tardy?”
“He wouldn’t miss this for the world,” said Keller. “He’s waited years for this day… In fact, I would be willing to bet he’s just as excited as I am.”
Grayson chuckled, obviously amused by Keller’s understatement. “He has spoken of little else in recent weeks,” he said, stroking his trim white beard. “I, for one, will be glad when this is over with.”
“Likewise,” said Harrison. “Perhaps then this vessel will return to a level of normalcy.”
Keller immediately arched an eyebrow. “Normalcy? On this ship? I don’t think so,” she mused.
Moments later, the doors slid open, the crowd grew hushed, and a warm smile fell upon Admiral Grayson’s face. “Captain Greene!” he greeted. “It’s about time. We were beginning to wonder if you would show up at all!”
“And miss my own retirement party?” asked Greene pleasantly. “Never.”
Keller smiled, and turned to the Captain. “Actually, we thought you might have fallen asleep playing shuffleboard on the holodeck,” she quipped.
“If you keep that up,” said Greene lightly, “my last official act as Captain of the ship will be to bust you back down to Ensign.”
The smile on Erin Keller’s face widened. She was going to miss David Greene. When her father died, Keller did her fair share of wandering—and when Captain Greene took her under his wing, she immediately looked to him as a father figure. While that relationship was certain to continue, Erin knew she would miss the daily interaction with Greene. “And if I were an Ensign, who then would serve as first officer?”
Greene alluded to Harrison. “That would be up to the Captain,” he said. “Now let’s get this ceremony started. I’m ready for a little R and R.”
Admiral Grayson smiled, and turned to the rest of the crew. When he was confident he had their attention, he reached into his pocket and withdrew a sleek black padd. He quickly gleaned its contents and then handed the padd to Captain Greene. “The honor is all yours, Captain.”
Greene graciously accepted the padd and—with a considerable smile upon his face—approached Commander Harrison. “To: Commander Matthew Harrison,” he read.
“From: Starfleet Command.
“You are hereby promoted to the field rank of Captain, and are requested and required to take command of the Federation Starship Starlight, effective stardate 74583.9.
“Signed, Rear Admiral William Grayson, Starbase 241.”
Greene slowly lowered the padd and allowed a proud gaze to linger upon the newly christened Captain Harrison for a long moment. “Computer,” he said slowly, “transfer all command codes to Captain Matthew Harrison, authorization Greene-Sigma-2-1-1.”
The computer promptly bleeped. “Transfer complete. USS Starlight is under command of Captain Matthew Harrison.”
Harrison afforded Keller a brief—but utterly victorious—gaze before turning his complete attention to Captain Greene. “I relieve you, sir,” he said extending his hand.
Greene nodded politely, and shook the new Captain’s hand. “I stand relieved.”
As she watched Admiral Grayson place a fourth pip on Harrison’s collar, it was a bittersweet moment for Erin Keller. She was now first officer of the Starlight. It was the position she had longed to possess while Captain Greene was in command. But fate often worked in strange and twisted ways, and now that the position was finally hers, the Captain was now her mortal enemy. “What an unusual universe we live in,” she mused.