The Night Before
Location: Deck 1: Corridor
Timeline: After "What's Not to Like?", 22:00 ship time
Nyx was leaving his Ready Room after a very long day. Ensign Sh'vastarth had come up with a risky plan to get the Pandora back home sooner while travelling through the Renata Nebula and those preparations were now being made. Paradise Outpost was preparing for the Resistance's confrontation with the Alrakis Pact, which the Pandora would use as their cover to leave the area and travel back to Federation territory. Both sides had said their final goodbyes, with nothing left to do but wait for the moment to arrive. Launch time was set for ten hours from now. Nyx was incredibly tired; the events from the past few months, weeks, and days weighing upon him. He was heading back to his quarters in the hopes of getting some sleep before the big day.
As he headed towards the turbo lift, the doors opened before him and Ensign Milkovich was standing inside, a look of urgency on his face.
"Captain! I'm so glad I caught you." He said breathlessly.
"Ensign, aren't you on Alpha Shift tomorrow?" Nyx asked with a fatigued frown. "You need to get some sleep."
"I was going to until I saw this memo." Ian replied, holding a PADD out to show the Captain. It displayed Ensign Sh'vastarth's plan for the Renata Nebula. "Is this real?"
Nyx was taken aback a little but he nodded, "Yes, the Intelligence department has come up with a provocative idea to get us home sooner. The senior Command team discussed it and we're going with it."
"We can't do this." Ian firmly insisted, eyes glowing with intensity.
Nyx looked the young officer up and down. He looked like a man on a mission, but there was a scared vulnerability to his tone as well. Was it a case of an inexperienced officer fearing for his life, or believing he knew better? Nyx couldn't tell.
"What? Why not?" He asked.
"It won't work." The Ensign simply insisted; if he had a reason, he wasn't going to explain it. "It's just too dangerous."
"Ensign, their calculations are sound. We've had Engineering, Operations, and Science go over them." Nyx said, trying to keep his tone calm. He felt like the officer was beginning to over-step his boundaries. "This is our plan."
"YOU CAN'T!" Ian cried out in frustration.
"Ensign, lower your tone." Nyx said threateningly. "You've gotten into a habit of questioning my choices. You've done so a few times now, including while on the Bridge. Now, I've made some allowances because of the situation we are in, but I actually don't take kindly to junior officers speaking out of line. It's inappropriate and well-outside of your position. If you have a concern, take it to your superior officer and she will bring it to me."
"But Captain," Ian sighed, "This is dangerous! You don't know what damage it could do!"
"Damage?" Nyx shook his head, "What damage could we cause? The Ensign's modelling shows the flame dissipating in our wake. It's no more than a temporary trail."
Ian put his hands to his head, rubbing his temples roughly. "You're not listening."
Nyx regarded the Ensign once more, not quite believing he was being spoken to this way by an Operations officer. He wanted to believe it was coming from a good place, but he couldn't see where Milkovich was coming from. He was spouting conjecture, but not a lot of facts.
"Ensign, you appear to be overworked and stressed." Nyx said through impatient, gritted teeth. "Perhaps promoting you to Alpha Shift was too much for you? It's a shame, because I've been speaking your praises to Lieutenant Alani. This is disappointing."
"Why can't you just listen to me?!" Ian huffed. He disagreed with the plan so vehemently that he couldn't understand why the Captain wouldn't reconsider adopting it completely; he had come up with reasons and theories of his own, but in the moment he was too heated and frustrated to convey them correctly. He realised he was coming across as impertinent and disrespectful, but he couldn't find the words to explain his objections.
"Because you're not making sense." Nyx quickly replied. "I will give you the benefit of the doubt, one last time, and believe that it's just stress related. I'm recommending that you go to your quarters and sleep for the next eight hours. You will need to pass a medical exam from Sickbay before being allowed on the Bridge tomorrow."
"Captain!" Ian protested. "I... know what I'm talking about. Why can't we find an alternative? Why does it have to be this?" He shook the PADD in front of the Captain.
"Because we've already decided, Ensign." Nyx said firmly. "And unless you can provide me with evidence to contrary, this is the plan we are going with. I don't know why you're so dead-against this idea but you've given me no reason to doubt the planning and calculations already completed by Ensign Sh'vastarth. I welcome alternatives, but you've given me none."
Ian opened his mouth to speak but then shut it again. He shook his head in anger.
"Then don't waste my time." Nyx retorted. "Because next time you confront me like this and speak to me like this, you'll be demoted and removed from duty for insubordination. Is that clear?"
"Yes, Captain." Ian looked to his feet, ashamed. He was feeling a sense of unfairness and rage flowing through him but he couldn't express himself.
"Good. Now return to your quarters and get some sleep." Nyx said firmly as he continued walking towards the turbo lift.
He walked into the lift and turned around, eyes fixed on the defeated-looking Ensign, staring ahead blankly until the doors closed.
=== Senior Crew Quarters ===
Nyx entered the quarters with a deep sigh, seeing Emilie on the couch asleep with baby William in her arms. He dimmed the lights and moved over to the couch. With the quiet precision of a warp core repair, he carefully extracted William from Emilie's arms and held him close. William stirred a little, giving a yawn and a brief cry before falling back to sleep. Relieved, Nyx walked down into the sleeping area to put William to bed. He saw Katrine in her room had fallen asleep while reading and smiled to himself. After putting William down in his crib, carefully covering his son with a blanket, Nyx returned to Katrine's room. He took the book away and placed Katrine in the bed properly and pulled the quilt over her, before turning off the light.
Once back in the living room, Nyx prepared a cup of tea for himself and Emilie, in case she woke. He tried to be as careful as he could as the replicator brewed up the drinks. It wasn't until he was carrying the hot mugs over the couches that he saw Emilie's eyes were open. She yawned and rubbed her face.
"What time is it?" She asked, blinking rapidly.
"After ten." Nyx smiled as he placed the cups on the coffee table. "You hungry?"
"No," Emilie replied, as she reached for the tea. "This is good. Thanks." She sipped it softly, savouring, "You've put William in his crib?"
"Yeah, and Katrine's off too." Nyx nodded, sitting down next to her. "You were all completely out when I came in."
"Good, it's been a long day." Emilie smiled, "I've been trying to wear them out earlier to get onto some kind of schedule, but I think I wore myself out too."
Nyx leaned over and put his arm around her, "You do so much, I'm not surprised you're tired." He took a sip of his tea.
"You do, too." Emilie replied, raising her eyebrows to him. "Late meetings?"
"Yeah, kinda." Nyx sighed, "Not a great one, either."
Emilie looked to her husband with a gentle frown, studying his expression, "How so?"
Nyx considered what had happened for a moment, going over it in his head a few times. He was still trying to understand what had happened, or why the Ensign acted the way he did, but he still couldn't. He hoped Emilie would provide some clarity, because he still had none.
"I just had a junior officer in my face questioning our plan." Nyx shook his head, "It was ridiculous. I would never have done that as an Ensign."
Emilie rubbed his leg, "That's odd. And what did you say?"
"Ehh, I tried to be fair and not too harsh." Nyx shrugged. "I mean, I made it clear he was overstepping, but I didn't reprimand him. I wanted to, but I know everyone's been working over time and they're super stressed. Maybe that's why?"
"Who was the officer?" She asked.
"Ensign Milkovich." Nyx responded, looking seriously into his tea before taking another sip.
Emilie frowned again, trying to remember the name. There were so many officers on the ship, and she didn't always come across every department. But she realised Milkovich was the tall, ginger young man who once fixed the replicator in their quarters. During that time, he had also spilled the beans about Nyx's decision to free Sasha Vieers on Hesiod Green. At the time, she was more angry at Nyx's actions to realise that Milkovich had likely overstepped his place then, too.
"A good kid," She merely said, "But you're right, perhaps a little too ahead of himself? Or feeling overwhelmed?"
"Maybe. As I said to him, I've been talking him up to Lieutenant Alani and Senior Command. He's put in a lot of great work while we've been travelling back through the Expanse. He's been a real stand out, seemingly came out of nowhere from the Ops department to the main Bridge shift. It's so disappointing, I thought he had potential."
Emilie leaned over and kissed his cheek, "You're probably right, everyone's just stressed. Once we're away from Paradise and heading back to Federation territory, everyone will be able to relax. It's too tense."
"That can't happen soon enough," Nyx agreed. "We won't have long to wait. Where will you be, tomorrow?"
Emilie shrugged a little, "I hadn't thought about it. Do we need to stay somewhere else?"
"The quarters will be fine," Nyx answered, "But we'll need to keep the shutters closed once we hit the nebula. And distract the kids as much as possible."
"The usual." Emilie laughed, "We know the drill."
Nyx smiled for a moment but then felt a pang of guilt that he had put his family in this situation once again. He reached out and held her free hand in his own, "Thank you, for everything you do."
Emilie leaned into his chest with a smile, "You, too. I know you're doing this to keep us safe. All of us. Even those who don't fully believe it."
Giving a nod, he rested his cheek on the top of her head, "We'll find out tomorrow, I guess, if we're doing the right thing."
"I know we are." Emilie said firmly, gripping his hand.
The two sat quietly on the couch, not saying anything more, just enjoying this moment of peace on the night before the final push.