Docking Precinct A
[Day 1: 0730]
[Transport Omicron to Docking Precinct A, Starbase Bravo]
Three days on a transport off Starbase 157, and Rourke’s knees were still getting intimately acquainted with his chin. But that was fine, because he’d lost all sensation after eating and drinking this much badly-replicated food and especially coffee.
‘If those engineers sing that song again,’ he grumbled to his travel companion, ‘I’m going to find the evac hatch and space them.’
Doctor Vennik, he’d been told on day one, was a political analyst just stopping through Starbase 4 en route to Earth. That was as much as Rourke had been told about the man’s purpose or interests, and on day one, the lack of social engagement hadn’t been a problem. By now, it was starting to add to the crushing sense of isolation, and crushing.
Vennik pulled out his earpiece. ‘Sorry?’
‘I said, those engineers -’
‘Are they singing?’ Vennik made a face.
‘No, but they look like they might.’ Vennik’s disgust only grew and he went to put his earpiece back in, probably with the volume up, but Rourke snatched at the opportunity for social contact. ‘I mean, what are they even singing? It doesn’t sound like words.’
‘Roll the Old Chariot Along; it’s a classic naval song. I would have thought a military man would know.’
Rourke bristled. ‘I’m not a military man.’
Vennik looked him up and down in his red uniform and rolled his eyes. ‘Of course you’re not,’ he said, then put the earpiece back in. Rourke let him.
When the transport dropped out of warp ten minutes later, he thought he honestly might weep out of relief. When the pilot announced there was a delay of one hour before docking at Starbase Bravo, he considered force-feeding Vennik his own earpiece just for want of something to do.
‘I’m sorry,’ said Rourke, flagging down one of the attendants. ‘Could I get a cup of coffee while we wait? Milk and, if you’d be so kind, only one lump of pure despair this time?’
He did not get his coffee.
Docking Precinct A was the busiest and most bustling of Starbase Bravo’s arrival lounges, specifically receiving smallcraft ferrying personnel as a priority. To Rourke’s eye as he emerged out the airlock and into the lounge it was probably busy at the best of days, but he could make out the particular thread of bustle in the traffic that had to be from the conference. More ranking officers, more beleaguered security personnel, more civilians already bearing what he recognised as Starfleet-issue access passes.
And then he saw it, the beating heart of all his hate: the large, ad-hoc desk set up in the lounge with a ten-feet tall holodisplay above it to catch the attention of him and his ilk. That wasn’t the problem: large lettering saying, STARBASE BRAVO WELCOMES YOU TO THE OSIRIS INITIATIVE was reasonable enough, if not particularly evocative.
Rourke was less thrilled at the picture right next to it of the upper body of Commodore Beckett, arms folded, iron-tight smile suggesting he needed you - yes, you - to just step up and make the galaxy a better place and if you were very good you might get a treat at the end. Only one man could look quite so demanding of your time and commitment, while seeming so ready to give the minimal acclaim and respect afterwards.
But this was his heading, so Rourke slung his pack over his shoulder, and moved through the crowds ‘til he reached the desk of a frantic-looking administrator. ‘Commander Rourke, USS Endeavour.’
‘Hang on, sir.’ The administrator lifted a finger while the other hand scoured her holographic display of records.
‘Here for the conference, of course,’ Rourke added unnecessarily. ‘I just need a room allocation, if the Commodore’s got some welcome booklet it’s not -’
‘The information package will contain everything you need ahead of the briefings,’ the administrator said in a babble. ‘I’m just finding you on the list - oh.’
Oh, was not an unusual reaction when people found his records. ‘Yes,’ he sighed, ‘It’s only a temporary assignment to Endeavour.’
‘Oh no, sir! Everything’s fine!’ The sunny smile was not convincing, and she lifted her holo-display to transfer the files over to his PADD. His chirped in acknowledgement. ‘That’ll be everything you need for the conference, telling you the itinerary. At noon in the Main Conference Room, there’ll be an opening ceremony. You are encouraged to attend.’
‘Great, I’m sure the Commodore will -’
‘But I’m sorry to say that rooms on the starbase are at a premium right now.’
Rourke frowned. ‘How? This place is huge.’
‘Even command-level officers are requested to share with one other for the duration. This is not required but it would lighten the burden on our station, and we’re prepared to offer you a 1 hour guaranteed holodeck slot in recompense.’
I could spend all the hours I wanted on my holodeck back on Endeavour, Rourke lied to himself. Commander Valance would never let him spend his days on the holodeck. But the principle remained. Still, he rubbed his eyes. It wasn’t the petty officer’s fault. ‘I - sure.’
‘If you find an officer you are prepared to berth with, I can get you a room assignment.’
‘Find a - okay.’ He groaned. ‘Is there anywhere in this lounge I can at least get a coffee which doesn’t inherently make me longingly contemplate the heat death of the universe while I poach a roommate from these unsuspecting souls?’
‘Oh! Yes, sir. The refreshments panel over there will provide you all you need while we process your arrival.’ With a perky grin he didn’t trust, she pointed to what looked like a low bar by the wall, and Rourke knew was nothing more than a replicator with a staff member - probably to keep courtesy in queueing, and provide some facsimile of humanoid contact.
‘Cheers.’ With an unhappy nod, he trudged towards the promise of coffee, and swung his bag onto his other shoulder.
This conference was priming up to be Pure Beckett, and he already hated it.