Historian’s note: This story takes place just after the events depicted in Typhon Pact #1: Zero Sum Game, in which Captain Dax and the U.S.S. Aventine escorts Julian Bashir and Sarina Douglas to the border of Breen space.
2382 — U.S.S. Aventine
Seated in her ready room, Captain Ezri Dax counted the number of padds lined up on her desk. Sixteen. She pulled the first one from the top and read the screen: Due at 1600 hours: Captain’s report pertaining to the recent incursion along the Breen border. Starfleet priority order six.
With a sigh, Dax picked up the next padd on the desk. “Why can’t they consolidate these report requests into the same padd?” she asked, although no one was around to hear the question, much less answer it. Placing the device back down, she stood and took a moment to stretch. Her body felt like a collection of aching, knotted muscles loosely held together by skin and bone.
The Trill woman studied the interior of the captain’s ready room. Her ready room. A painting on the wall opposite caught her eye. It was a replicated copy of Picasso’s famous ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’. Five nude human women, contorted and abstracted, stared fiercely back at her. It had belonged to Captain Dexar, the man who’d previously sat in Aventine’s big chair. She thought of him often. Aventine’s former Captain’s long shadow loomed throughout the ship’s decks.
During the bloody conflict with the Borg, Dax had found herself the recipient of an unexpected field commission to captain. How many months had it been now since her promotion? Ten, or twelve, or fourteen — had Dax lost count?
A low rumble rose from her stomach, and the tug of her body’s primal need for food pushed the morose thoughts aside. She approached the replicator and said, “Cottage pie and gravy, hot.” The dish whirled into existence. Dax picked up the plate and set it on her desk.
Another dinner alone, a padd in one hand and a fork in the other, she thought. And those five women in that ugly Picasso staring at me the whole time.
The desk-mounted terminal chimed, interrupting her meal. Dax tapped the keyboard a couple of times and pulled up the notification. It read: Holodeck time reminder: 1200 hours. Klingon calisthenics program. Duration: one hour.
During these periods of relative quiet, the holodecks came under heavy use from the crew. But unless there was an emergency, she never missed her daily exercise regiment — Lieutenant Commander Worf’s infamous “Klingon calisthenics program.” As a starship captain, she needed to maintain her fitness and combat skills. But there was something else to it… she needed to feed the warrior inside of her. Dax was a person of peace, dedicated to peaceful exploration. But as captain of the Aventine, she needed to know that when the time came, she could be a warrior too.
One hour per day, sweat pouring down her face, heart pounding. And at least a couple of bruises.
The pile of unfinished and overdue reports stared at her from her desk. The responsible thing to do would be to sit down and finish those damned things, one by one. Starfleet H.Q. didn’t like it when they were sent late or if they were light on detail. Dax picked up a padd and studied it for a moment. Then she looked at the door.
I need some excitement in my life.
After quickly gobbling down a bit of cottage pie and changing clothes, she headed to the turbolift and then down to holodeck 4. Her step lightened as she strode along the corridor, but when she reached the doors, she stopped short. It was taken.
Dax was a person of peace, dedicated to peaceful exploration. But as captain of the Aventine, she needed to know that when the time came, she could be a warrior too.
One of the few perks of being a starship captain is that people generally didn’t try to pinch your holodeck time. She placed her hands on her hips and huffed. “Computer, please tell me who is rude enough to be currently using holodeck 4? I might have some crew demotions to give out.”
The ship’s computer answered, “Holodeck 4 is currently occupied by Commander Bowers, Lieutenant Leishman, Doctor Tarses, Lieutenant Commander Helkara, Lieutenant Kedair, Ensigns Hockney and Riordan…”
“Computer, stop reading out names,” she said. The computer silenced itself.
The entire senior staff are all on the holodeck… without me.
Dax felt her heart sinking into her stomach. Here she was, neck-deep in reports and Starfleet red-tape, seeking only a single hour for herself — and the entire senior staff were on the holodeck, having fun. She checked the name of the program: Bowers_gettogether_1
Her hands formed a fist. Sucking in a deep breath, Dax tried to release the tension curdling throughout her body. It would seem that no one wanted to hang out with the captain. Then, she sighed and let it go. Dragging her feet on the regulation grey Starfleet carpet, she started the long walk back to the turbolift.
From behind, she heard the dull hiss of doors opening. Turning, Dax saw Commander Sam Bowers, her X.O. and friend — or so she thought — coming towards her.
“Captain,” he said, his eyes not quite meeting hers. “Aren’t you coming in for your regular fitness class? What is it again? Worf’s Killer Klingon Cage Fight or something?”
Dax forced a smile. “I was, but when the sign says occupied, it’s usually best not to enter.”
“We were just finishing up,” Sam said. A smile moved across his handsome, ebony face. “All this business with the Borg and now the Typhon Pact… Some of us are just blowing off a little steam.”
Dax folded her arms. “Sam, how about this? You guys can extend your steam-blowing session for an extra hour. I’ve got a hundred reports due, all of them annoying.”
“There will always be reports that need doing. Heck, I’m neglecting a couple of reports myself right now.”
“Listen, I know you’re trying to be the nice guy. But I get it. It’s no fun having the Captain at the cards table, because suddenly no one wants to bet against her in case they win. It feels like the day before yesterday, I was nothing more than a ship’s counsellor, lieutenant junior grade. I’m still adjusting to my new role.”
Sam pinched his eyebrows together. “Really, please join us. It’s a very informal, fun little thing on the holodeck. Come for five minutes.”
Dax made a face.
“Come for two minutes?”
“I don’t want to be a third wheel,” Dax said. “Or eighteenth wheel, judging by the number of people already in holodeck 4.”
“Come on, please? For me?”
Dax felt her shoulders hunch tight, and then relax. What was the point in arguing? “Sure,” she said.
Sam proffered a toothy smile and led the way. Walking side by side, Dax wondered if Sam might be up to something… The doors to the holodeck slid open, and a dozen people jumped in the air and yelled, “Surprise!”
In a split second, a breath caught in Dax’s throat. A huge white banner with bright red letters hung from the artificial ceiling. It read: Happy Anniversary Captain. Balloons floated on strings, and a long table topped with bottled champagne stood before her.
Dax placed a hand on her chest. “I think giving the captain a heart attack is a serious offence.”
Sam placed a hand on her arm. “It’s been one year since you took command of this vessel. And Captain, I think I speak for everyone here when I say, it’s been an honour and a privilege.”
Lennoc Keddair walked over, a bottle of champagne in one hand and a fluted glass in the other. She poured Dax a drink and said, “Here is to many more years.”
“Cheers!” everyone said in unison.
Clapping and laughter filled the room. One by one, each person came around to congratulate her. A whole year since that awful day, when her former captain and X.O. were killed in action. During that time, the Borg were everywhere. Death was everywhere.
To think something as beautiful as this could grow from terror and tragedy.
For a moment, she wondered if it were appropriate to be celebrating, considering the circumstances of her promotion. But all those happy smiles on all those lovely faces… They need this just as much as I do, she thought. Perhaps more. We need to celebrate life. We need to live.
As Dax took a long sip of her champagne, the music kicked in.
Sometime later, two or three hours perhaps, Ezri Dax found herself back in that dimly-lit ready room. She collapsed into her chair and was, once again, alone. Nothing but a pile of padds and overdue reports for company. Luckily they’d only knocked back a few glasses of synthehol, so her mind was quick to refocus.
Dax picked up a padd and looked up. There they were. Picasso’s five nude women, twisted and transfigured, strange in their hollowness — as if the artist had stripped away all their love and humanity. She could appreciate the genius of Earth’s famous Picasso. But that didn’t mean she had to like it.
With steady hands, she lifted the painting from its hook and placed it behind the small blue couch. She let out a long breath and said to the room, “Sorry, Captain Dexar, but I don’t much care for your taste in art.”