“Commander Porter. You’ll excuse me for not standing.”
The tall, thin Commander nodded curtly before he visibly forced himself to relax.
“No problem, Admiral.”
“Sit, sit.” Kendra waited for him to get comfortable. Leda didn’t swarm over for attention; she was fast asleep on a perch for once and Kendra was grateful for it. This was going to be tough.
“How have you been?”
Porter started to rub his left arm, stopped, and gave Kendra a sour look.
“The medics have finally cleared me to return to duty. More like the damn programmers,” he clarified, extending the arm and then pulling it back. “It’s been a hell of a thing.”
“I hadn’t realized the difficulties involved in an artificial arm.”
“And leg,” Porter added.
Ken Porter, then Captain of a converted Solarian cruiser, the TFS BonHomme Richard, had nearly died during the final battle of the Artemis War. His ship had been literally blown in two during the fighting, shattering just forward of the bridge. Half of the officers and crew with him in the compartment had been sucked into space by the sudden decompression.
He hadn’t been so fortunate.
The debris from the damage had mangled his left side, arm, and leg. As it was his skinsuit had barely managed to keep him from explosive decompression long enough for his XO to drag him out of the vacuum into a less-damaged corridor. There his nanobots had started working on repairs on their own but they were crippled almost as much as he was.
His implant had been destroyed. The combination padd, comm unit, Q-Net link, and factory was mounted in his jawbone; his was on the left side. Much of that side had been badly injured or missing.
Without the implant to link with the Q-Net and convey commands to the tiny robots, the nanobots were left to their integral programming. It wasn’t much, certainly not enough to save his arm and leg and only just enough to save his life.
His rehab was complicated, to say the least. Once he had been recovered and evacuated, the first task of the doctors was to improvise a new external Q-Net connection for the nanobots. The Defender II’s version of Doc Zimmerman did most of the programming, being an AI, and then the ‘bots could begin to really do their jobs. Much of the damage, though, was beyond even their capabilities.
To save his life, Porter’s skinsuit had cut off all circulation to the damaged and exposed limbs. While they had remained attached to his body they were effectively amputated, simultaneously flash frozen and boiled by the vacuum in the long minutes he was exposed. By the time he was back in pressure, it was too late.
Over the next months he suffered through reconstructive and restorative surgeries while the ‘bots labored on the inside. Then came the even more challenging task of integrating his new limbs.
Kendra forced a smile.
“Maybe I can improve your day,” she said.
“I certainly hope so, Admiral.”
“I have a position for you on the Exploration side of Starfleet.”
Porter’s eyebrows rose. Starfleet had been divided into two branches, Exploration and Defense, and Kendra had retained direct control over Exploration as well as overall command. He’d been on the Defense side prior to his injuries and assumed he’d return.
“A command?” he asked.
Her smile faltered. “Sort of.”
“I don’t understand. How can it be ‘sort of’ a command?”
She launched into her explanation of the Explorer program and the uniquely challenging nature of the command structure.
“So I’ll be Captain but not in command? All due respect, Admiral, but I have way more time in service than Chloe.”
“Which I’m sure is true, but most of it was in the Artemis navy, not exploration vessels, and not commanding. She’s been in charge of Defiant since she left the dock, so she knows the Starfleet way better than most. And you’ll command the Christopher J. Pike; she’s in charge of the mission, not the ship.”
“I still report to her.”
Kendra’s tone hardened. “And if you were commanding a new ship under Admiral Whitmore, you’d report to her. Is this going to be a problem? I have other candidates; I chose you because I think you’re the best option and I thought you’d be up for it.”
Porter hardly hesitated, but there was a hard edge to his voice when he spoke which worried her. “I’ll take the position, Admiral.”
She forced another smile. “Good! Hecate. Official log. Kenneth Porter appointed Captain, Christopher J. Pike, this date and time.”
“Congratulations, Captain Porter!”
All Hecate’s enthusiasm got in return was a grunt.
This may be a mistake.