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Office Hours

Posted on Apr 09, 2021 @ 6:34am by Commander Ethan Dobbs
Edited on on Apr 09, 2021 @ 6:35am

Mission: Black Sun Rising

= Office Hours =

(cont’d from “A Little Talk”

LOCATION: Shuttlecraft
SCENE: Cockpit
STARDATE: [2.21] 0408.2141
TIME INDEX: Long ago

First came the pain, and the sensation of hanging. The world, it seemed, had gone upside down. Shouldn’t have been possible in zero-g, not with the shuttlecraft’s artificial gravity, and yet…

Next came the smell. Blood, and ozone. Rich and reeking.

His mind fumbled for a thought, seized on one - **shuttle leaves at 0700** - and recoiled. Awareness cut like a knife. He shouldn’t have tried to think. Too late now.

Last came the memory. Smiling faces. Screams and fire.

The fire was all around him. He was dimly aware of it, chewing away at the edges of his reality - and that had become so small, so fractured, that it hardly seemed to matter.

But the scream… that was inside him.

And it tore its way out.


SCENE: Eve Dalziel’s Office
TIME INDEX: A few days before “Preparations”

Ethan Dobbs’ posture seemed a contradiction. Casual, at ease, and yet one could not deny a certain stiffness, a tension. It was as if Dobbs, having found the place the place in life where he was most comfortable, now existed in the perpetual fear that someone or something might come along and knock him out of it. His smile was pleasant, but not overbearing. Eve thought he was trying very hard like he wanted to be here, but he hadn’t quite succeeded.

“I have to say, this is unusual,” Eve said, trying to put Dobbs at ease with a reassuring smile of her own.

Dobbs’ own smile was inscrutable. “How so?”

“Most high ranking officers seem to have an aversion to the care my department can provide,” Eve said. “Especially on this ship.”

“Oh?” Dobbs asked. Something about the way he said it made Eve uncomfortable.

Dobbs smiled on, the moment passed.

“You know how it is,” said Eve. “Can’t make it to the top without nerves of steel, and once you’re at the top, can’t admit what getting there cost you.”

“I imagine that might make people wonder if the climb was worth it,” Dobbs said.

“More or less,” Eve said, fixing him with calculating look. “So. Was it?”

Dobbs seemed to consider the question. “I like where I am.”

“That isn’t really what I was asking, Commander.”

Now Dobbs looked away – not at anything in particular, just… away. Eve took the moment to study him more closely. Dobbs was tall and wiry, his long limbs snaked with lean muscle. His hair was short and black, with early signs of grey dusting his temples. His eyes were dark, and though they were difficult to read, Eve thought they reflected traces of sadness… though she supposed she could be imagining that based on what she’d seen in the man’s file.

“I assume you’ve read my file,” he said, as if plucking the thought from her mind. He wasn’t even looking at her, and yet he’d seemed to know exactly what she’d been thinking. It was an impressive trick, though one Eve had seen before – a result of many hours of sitting in rooms like this, having conversations like the one they were currently having.

“I’ve seen it,” Eve said. “Standard practice for new patients.”

“If what happened…*hadn’t* happened… would I still be here?” Dobbs asked, sounding like the question was more aimed at himself than at her. “No. But it did, and so I am. That simple.”

“And yet you asked for this session,” said Eve.

Dobbs looked back at her again. “Standard practice when taking a new command position,” he smiled. “Make the locals feel comfortable with me.”

“I’m not sure everyone would agree with you on that,” Eve laughed.

“What happened isn’t a secret,” Dobbs shrugged. “FedCom covered it. Accidents like that are rare, with all the safety tech we have these days. Of course you can’t always account for pilot error.”

“Which pilot?”

This question, at least, seemed to disarm Dobbs. The polite grin crumbled, and he looked away again.

“I see,” said Eve.

“I don’t want rumors spreading amongst my subordinates,” Dobbs said, looking back her now. The smile was still gone. “It’s dealt with. It’s been ten years. I’ve moved on.”

“And you’re here,” said Eve. “On the PHOENIX.”


“In the counselor’s office.”

“I don’t need counseling,” Dobbs said. “I already had it, years ago. I’m here to help you, Captain Kane, and the other senior staff comfortable. I am aware of the circumstances under which your former First Officer was relieved. This is my first ExO posting, I wasn’t the first choice, and I’m not the guy everyone wishes was here. But I intend to earn your respect, and I don’t want my history hanging over us while I do it. Fair?”

“Fair,” Eve said. “So! I’m sure you’ve heard it all before…. That the investigation revealed you were not at fault.”


“That it’s natural to feel some guilt anyway.”


“That the pain never really goes away… but that it’s possible to forget it for a while.”


“And that forgetting comes with guilt of its own.”

Dobbs looked down. He hesitated.


“Okay,” Eve nodded. “Then I won’t go over all that again.”

Dobbs looked up again. For a moment, Eve thought the man had looked surprised, as if he’d expected to have go around all the same old circles once more. Eve doubted there was much to be gained from that – Dobbs had obviously come to some kind of accord with the deaths of his wife and daughter, or else he wouldn’t have reenlisted in Starfleet, wouldn’t have been cleared through the dozens of interviews like this one that had come before, and wouldn’t have just been assigned as second in command of the Federation’s flagship. Whatever the man was still grappling with on the inside, he wasn’t about to hijack the ship in a fit of irreconcilable grief.

**Not like Jake,** Eve thought. Dobbs had been right – that pain, the pain of Jake Crichton’s arrest, was still fresh. Eve pushed the thought away.

“Instead,” she continued, “I will simply tell you that by all accounts your record is exemplary, you’ve earned this posting on your own merits, and you are officially cleared for duty.”

Dobbs quirked an eyebrow at her. “That was never in question.”

“Figure of speech,” Eve smiled. “And one last thing… my door is always open, Commander.”

Dobbs took this in quietly for a moment, then gave her a sharp, respectful nod.

“Thank you, counselor. I look forward to working with you.”

“Likewise, sir,” Eve smiled.


NRPG: Short and not very “plotty” I know but didn’t want to wait any longer. Still breaking this new guy in, seeing how he fits. His bio should be up on the website presently!

Shawn Putnam
Ethan Dobbs
Executive Officer


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