1130: The Black Box

by Paxton Briggs, Salvek, and Zanh Liis
Stardate: 110109.15
Time: Current

=0700 , USS Alchemy – Bridge=

The bridge of the Alchemy was shut down, except for a few important systems that were needed to run the diagnostics and security programs. Accent lighting along with the few panel lights provided all of the illumination on the bridge.

Still, it was enough light for Paxton Briggs to perform his diagnostic work. With a PADD tucked under one arm and both hands working a tricorder he made his way from station to station checking various thresholds and variances as he fine tuned the systems.

It was a habit he had gotten into when assigned to the Border Station Indigo. He had found the station interfaces were not often part of regular maintenance projects and that there efficiency was sometimes off by as much as twelve percent. Not really a lot of time when you are considering the nanoseconds it takes for the controls station to relay messages, but in a life or death situation it might make a difference.

He heard the door to the bridge slide open behind him.

“Ensign Carmin I presume?” Paxton called out without turning around.

“Ah… yes sir.” Came a shy voice from behind him.

Paxton turned around and smiled. “Right on time.” He tossed the PADD that was under his arm to the Ensign. She caught it cleanly. Paxton nodded to the tactical station. “Have a seat.”

Eliza Carmin came aboard the Serendipity just over a year ago as a communications officer, and while she had performed her duties admirably during that time and her performance reviews where good she wanted to do more. Tactical had always been her weak point and she had asked Commander Briggs for help.

“I’ve loaded some test scenarios into the PADD for you. Take them down to the holodeck and run through them when you get the chance.” He crossed his arm in front of him. “See what solutions you come up with.”

Eliza nodded, “Yes sir.”

Paxton walked over by the tactical station. “I wanted you to come down here this morning because I think we can improve your reaction times at the console. Go ahead and pull up the tactical layout.”

She touched the blackened console and it came to life asking for the users bio-signature. She placed her hand in the location and it confirmed her identity. The panel unlocked and displayed all of the controls and settings laid out in a neat fashion. Each of the panel's layouts were configurable by user. As it was her first time at tactical, the computer displayed the basic template.

Paxton looked at her layout. “Well I see that you have the standard Starfleet template setup. There is a lot of information here that you will not need in day to day tactical operations of a starship. Everything is necessary but not all of it needs to be at your finger tips.”

Ensign Carmin nodded. “So you think I need to streamline it?”

Pax nodded. “Yeah. There is too much to looks at.” He touched the panel and logged her out and then logged himself in. “See, how basic my panel is. My base screen has all of the information and controls I would need for basic operations. I’ve setup quick links up here in the corner for different situations. Such as combat, damage control, planetary survey, etc.”

Eliza nodded again and smiled. “Thank you Commander. I’ll design something when I run through these holodeck trials.” She held up the PADD.

Paxton smiled. “No problem, Ensign. Happy to help.”

=0930, USS Serendipity - Afterthought Café=

Paxton sat at one of the tables near the windows that looked out aft of the Sera. Normally there would be streams of stars streaking past into the dark heavens. But now there was only the bright blue and white orb of the Earth slowly turning in a sea of stars.

The café would usually be a buzz of activity this time of the day as the morning shift filtered in to get their coffee and breakfast. But with the ship in orbit over Earth, there were very few patrons in the café, which made for a quiet place for Paxton to complete his crew evaluations.

He took a sip of the hazelnut crème coffee that he had ordered before sitting down then turned his attention to the PADD in front of him when his combadge chirped to life.

“Commander Briggs, please report to my ready room.” The Captain’s familiar voice beckoned.

He tapped his badge. “I’m on my way.” He took another long pull of coffee from the mug and picked up his PADD. He pushed away from the table and made his way to the nearest turbo lift.

-= 0947, USS Serendipity – Captain’s Ready Room=-

Paxton touched the chime on the door to the ready room and waited for the captain to answer.

“C'mon in.”

The doors parted before Paxton and he entered and room to find the Captain leaning on her desk. Her arms folded across her chest a PADD in one of her hands. Over her right shoulder, Salvek stood with his arms clasped behind his back.

“You wanted to see me Captain?”

”We wanted to see you, Commander.” She did little more then shift her eyes in Salvek’s direction, and the Vulcan knew she wished for him to step forward and continue. Salvek circled around from behind her desk, and stood a few meters from Briggs.

“Commander, since the time you decided to stay here and we assembled the on-call command crew for the Alchemy, it has not gone unnoticed the work you have put in keeping the vessel fully functional and prepared for duty at a moment’s notice. I have commanded the ship by rank but the reality is I believe you know its intricacies even better than I.”

“So… is there a problem?” Briggs asked, a bit confused as to why he was being hauled before he Captain and XO for a pat on the back.

“Yes, there is a problem,” Salvek continued. “While your vigilance to the ship itself is exemplary, Starfleet judges its leaders on how they handle their crew. The Alchemy staff has come to trust you, and even emulate you. At her last review Ensign Carmin informed me that she would be seeking you out personally to assist her in learning the tactical controls. She felt there was no one better to instruct her. I believe her judgment in that regard to be impeccable.”

Salvek continued to speak as he moved back behind the Captain. “Our problem, Commander, is that your talents, in our opinion, would best serve Starfleet in command on a day to day basis. The Alchemy simply does not receive enough mission time to warrant keeping an officer of your caliber in this position. That is why, when Admiral T’Mira sent out an open request for recommendations to take command of the newly commissioned USS Cairo-A, with Captain Zanh’s blessing, I submitted your name for the position. I believed, given your service to

The Alchemy Project, as well as your history aboard the first vessel to carry the name Cairo, that you were the best fit to Command the new vessel.”

“I’m being offered my own command?” Briggs asked, wanting to be perfectly sure he was really hearing what he was hearing.

“That’s right,” Zanh said, rising from her chair. She pushed a small box towards Briggs, and opened the lid to show Briggs the new pip inside. “The Admiral gave me permission to make your promotion official. That is, if you want it.”

Pax stared for a moment in stunned disbelief at the box and the shining gold ornament inside of it. It wasn't that the idea of taking command gave him pause- he was used to being responsible for the lives of crew and civilians alike in his years in Starfleet. It was that as he watched the light bounce off of it, he glanced up at Zanh and observed the four pips all in a row upon her collar.

He thought about having seen them on Salvek at points, as well, and even on Keiran O'Sullivan.

Suddenly, he felt the full weight of the responsibility of the title, 'captain' settle upon his broad shoulders. The moment passed quickly though, and then he almost, but not quite laughed. He shook his head, thinking that this had started

out as any other morning- he'd never expected it to be the day that his dreams for his career were suddenly handed to him the shape of a small black box.

Zanh's eyes twinkled with pride as she pushed the box a little closer, giving him a lopsided grin. "So what'll it be, Paxton? Is it time for the longest ever detour in the history of a Starfleet career to come to an end?" The smile disappeared from her face now, and their eyes met for a long moment. She could see in him a readiness, an absolute certainty before he even opened his mouth to speak.

"Yes. I guess it is." He shook his head. "Not that I am looking to get away or anything like that. Well...maybe I am." He smiled to signify that he was indeed joking.

In a moment of unusual sentimentality, Salvek spoke. "You will be missed."

Paxton grinned. "Isn't that you will be missed, Sir?"

"Hey, this is still my boat." Liis warned raising an eyebrow. "Get a little dust on that pip before you start teasing the Vulcan."

Salvek nodded to Zanh. "Captain, if that is all, I have duties to attend to."

"Yeah, go on, get out. My coffee's getting cold so somebody has to get to work around here so I have the time to finish it." Zanh nodded to him, and then Salvek was gone.

Paxton had picked up the box and continued to stare at the pip. Zanh sighed wistfully. He had, in many ways, no idea quite what he was in for yet, but she knew that he would rise to any challenge that command presented to him.

In a rare moment of complete seriousness and sincere respect, she reached out a hand toward him- toward the box he held. "May I do the honors, Captain Briggs?"

"Of course." He looked at the floor. "Please call me Paxton." To him having someone who he had come to admire as a leader and a fine example of what a captain should strive to be should never have to be so formal.

"I expect you to remember this moment someday when you outrank me and I do something that lands me in your office." Zanh joked, as she affixed the pip in its proper place. The immensely tall man before her suddenly stood, if possible, just a little bit taller still.

"I will do that, but I expect that your first and second officers would never let it get to that point." He smiled. "Thank you, for everything."

"Salvek was right, Paxton. We really are going to miss you."

"The feeling is mutual." He grinned as he touched the new pip on his collar...just to make sure it was real.

Captain Paxton Briggs
Commanding Officer
USS Cairo-A

Commander Salvek
Executive Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


-=/\=- Zanh Liis O'Sullivan
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012