Athena Eastwood sat alone in the Observation Deck aboard Daran IV-D,
still in shock. Outside the window, in the cavernous docking bay of
the Type-79 starbase, USS LEXINGTON rode at her mooring. Such a
beautiful ship! Pride in the "Lady Lex" and her crew, and the
thought of leaving, brought momentary tears to Athena's eyes. She
shook the feeling off, still wondering if she was in a dream. For
the umpteenth time, she thought back to the scene in Fleet Admiral
Ken Brannon's office earlier in the morning.
The LEXINGTON had barely finished moving into place at
Mooring Buoy 23 inside the starbase's docking bay when Athena received a message
from Fleet Admiral Ken Brannon to report to his office "as soon as possible." In
the language of Admirals, that meant immediately. One does not keep a Fleet
Admiral waiting, especially the always impatient Brannon. Curious as to the
reason for the summons, she hurried through passageways until she got to the
office marked "Third Fleet Operations Center." She had no sooner walked through
the door when Vice Admiral Alisha Black, who was standing in front of the Aide's
desk, grabbed her arm and steered her toward Brannon's inner office. VADM Black
hadn't said a word. FLTADM Brannon looked up from his desk at the two officers,
one with a "the canary that ate the cat" look on her face, the other very
confused. He stood, holding a message form in his left hand. Alisha Black
released Athena's arm and stepped to one side.
"Alisha, Athena," Brannon nodded to each in turn, his
eyes lingering on Athena's.
"Admiral…" Eastwood began, but Admiral Brannon held up
his hand to silence her.
"Athena, this message just came in from Headquarters.
It affects you personally. I asked Vice Admiral Black here as a witness." His
voice was emotionless.
Eastwood looked from Brannon to Black. There was a
ghost of a smile on Brannon's face. Black had an outright grin on hers. I don't
understand what's going on here! Athena's heartbeat was so loud she was sure
they could hear it.
"Upon receipt of these orders, you are immediately
relieved of duty as Commanding Officer, USS LEXINGTON (NCC-2003). Report to
Commander Third Fleet for duties to be determined."
Athena Eastwood shuddered. The wording of the message
was boilerplate verbiage which almost always preceded the investigation portion
of General Courts-Martial. Although she had absolutely no idea what she had
done, it seemed obvious that her career as an officer was over. She tried to
talk, but no sound escaped. She simply stood there, her mouth agape.
"Wait a moment, Athena; I have a second message here
that you need to hear as well." Brannon lifted up a second sheet and glanced at
'With the advice and consent of the Federation
Council, the Flag Officer selection list is approved. The promotion of Captain
Athena Eastwood to Rear Admiral is effective as of this date. Permanent Change
of Duty orders will follow." Fleet Admiral Brannon finally broke into a smile
and offered her his hand.
"Congratulations, Rear Admiral Eastwood. I am proud to
have you as a member of my operational staff."
Athena was numb, but she managed to grasp Brannon's
hand. Alisha Black put her arms around the new Rear Admiral and hugged her.
Black held Athena out at arms length and inspected her carefully. "I believe,
Admiral, that you are out of uniform." She reached to the corner of Brannon's
desk and picked up the collar devices that lay there. "I would be honored if you
would accept my original collar devices. They brought me a great deal of luck,
and I hope they'll do the same for you."
Numb, Athena could only nod as Alisha Black removed
the Captain's insignia and pinned the stars of a Rear Admiral onto Athena's
Black stepped back from Athena and, as though it were
well rehearsed, both Vice Admiral Black and Fleet Admiral Brannon saluted her.
She returned the salute mechanically.
'What's the matter, Admiral, cat got your tongue?"
Alisha Black was still
"Perhaps our newest Flag Officer would like to sit
down?" Brannon moved a chair into place behind her. Eastwood collapsed in it.
Brannon pressed a button on his desk. "Commander,
please bring in the refreshments."
"Right away, Admiral."
A moment later, Brannon's aide entered and sat a tray
with three full glasses of Champaign on Brannon's desk. "My congratulations,
Rear Admiral Eastwood," Commander Williams said as he turned to leave the room.
Brannon handed Athena a glass, gave the second to
Alisha, and picked up the third. He raised his glass. "To your flag, Admiral
Athena Eastwood. May it always bring you honor and success."
That was four hours ago. Four hours of moving in a
fog, trying to believe that it wasn't a dream. She looked at the time. The
official reception was to begin in the starbase's ball room in an hour. It was
just enough time for her to change into her new uniform. Athena shook her head.
If Daddy could only see me now! She rose and took a final look at the ship that
had been her home. Goodbye, Lady Lex. I'll miss you.
Behind her stood a tall, muscular man who, like her,
was staring at the LEXINGTON. His brown hair was turning grey around the
temples, giving him a distinguished, scholarly look, but his blue eyes shone
with the excitement of a youth He looked away from the LEXINGTON and at Athena.
"Admiral, I promise to take good care of her, just as
you did." His voice was deep and resonate.
"Captain Stryker?" Athena assumed this was the new
commanding officer of the LEXINGTON.
He nodded, his eyes going back to the window and the
ship which filled it.
"May I offer my own congratulations on your promotion?
I think both of us have been given a valuable treasure today."
Eastwood smiled and held out her hand.
"Congratulations to you as well, Captain Stryker. She's a good ship with a good
crew. She'll take you far and bring you home again. She did me. Now, Captain, if
you'll excuse me, I have a party to go to."
Stryker returned her smile as he shook her hand.
"Although I haven't taken formal command of the LEXINGTON yet, I've notified the
Officer-of-the Deck to allow liberty for everyone but a skeleton crew so they
can attend your party. I'm not positive, but do I believe I heard a cheer in the
background. Your party will be well attended, I'm sure."
"Thank you, Captain. That means a great deal to me.
Until the party, then?"
The observation deck doors opened silently for her.
Behind her, Captain Wolphbayne Stryker turned back to look at his new command.
Except for her tunic, Rear Admiral Athena Eastwood was
ready to leave her quarters for the reception room. She took one last look in
the mirror to make sure everything was in place. It would be embarrassing if she
wasn't perfect in every respect. You don't get promoted to Rear Admiral every
day of your life! Her grin was decidedly impish. As she reached for her tunic,
the door chimed. "Come in," Athena called out, and started to slip on the
remaining piece of her uniform. The door opened and she turned to see who it
was, the tunic half on and half off. A shadowy figure stood outside her door.
Athena blinked, trying to focus on the strangely blurred outline.
'Who are you?" she demanded. She suddenly recognized
what was pointed at her. "What are you doing?" she grabbed for the weapon. It
was too late.
A bright flash and Rear Admiral Athena Eastwood
crumpled to the deck, a gaping hole in her chest.
Silently, the figure stared down at the body, reached
into a pocket, and placed a small, white card next to the body. There was
nothing on the card except a big red 1. The door closed silently.