The Discovery jumps and the sensation is incomprehensible, unfamiliar, and nauseating. Nothing like the last time the Klingon prison ship warped.
The transporter room is wide and brightbrightbrightbright before Captain Lorca snaps a “Two to medbay” and the world momentarily disappears again.
Ash opens his eyes to clean, screen covered walls, medical officers on standby rushing in towards him and the captain-most of them swarm him wielding scanners and hyposprays. The Captain is glaring at the doctors nearing him and waving them away.
A flush from a painkiller suddenly cuts off feeling in Ash’s ribs-hip-leg-chest-head and it feels like being dosed with mood enhancers. He doesn’t realize they’re lifting him onto a bed until he’s already laying on it.
Ash gets his bearings back as a med tech starts healing up the worst of the injuries they’re sure to find on medical scans: cracked ribs, fractured hip, dislocated knee, multiple broken toes, a gash in his side teetering between barely healing and infection, a network of bruises and contusions. Perhaps a concussion.
Just a few feet away, Captain Lorca is sat on another bed, trapped by (Ash counts the pips on the doctor’s badge) the chief medical officer, arguing.
“Damnit- I’m fine. They didn’t have me long enough to give me more than a couple bruises.”
The Captain’s scowl, here on his own ship, is no less fierce than the ones Ash saw him throw around the Klingon cell, but the CMO seems unfazed by the hostility and just fiddles with something until lights on the captain’s side of the medbay dims. Lorca’s glare only grows more severe.
“Captain. You know its standard procedure. Your scans are showing severe solar retinopathy and if we don’t address that immediately, we could be looking at permanent damage.”
“What I say about coming at my face with those lasers.”
Ash’s attention is jolted back as a med tech moves around his side, efficient and professional, offering a companionable nod and a mild sedative to help him sleep as the machines knit the rest of his bones back together. He doesn’t hesitate long before accepting. The captain is still arguing as he blacks out.
It’s impossible to wake up in the Discovery’s medbay and mistake it for a Klingon prison cell, even disoriented after 17 hours of sleep. Ash opens his eyes feeling pain free for the first time since he can remember. The lights are soft but bright, the air smells of nothing in particular, and the hum of the ship is quiet and unobtrusive, jarringly different from the floors he’s slept on.
They feed him before the debrief and they ask their questions gently: Name, rank, Starfleet history. Anyone he’d like to get in contact with? When and how quickly would he like transfer back to earth?
Ash’s abruptly firm “I’ll stay on the Discovery” results in raised eyebrows. It may have burst out of him too strongly. Ash doesn’t know if he should volunteer an excuse: “I don’t want to leave the fight against the Klingons” or “I don’t want to get on a shuttle to fly across space” or “I need to stay under Captain Lorca’s command.”
They don’t push for an explanation though, and calmly inform him that they can find him berth on the Discovery after official approval.
They do, however, schedule him mandatory sessions with the ship counselor: Standard Starfleet protocol after traumatic circumstances.
As the questions gently lead back to more medical concerns, the doors slide open and Captain Lorca sweeps into the room, scowl on his face. Ash had thought the captain had presence before, on the Klingon ship. On his ship, Captain Lorca wears command like a second skin.
Ash looks around to stand but Captain Lorca waves him back down with a casual flick of his hand and crosses his arms as he turns to the doctor.
“I need a full report of what exactly Lt. Stamets’s done to himself in the past 48 hours.”
Dr. Culber makes a face, practically an eye roll, right in front of his captain.
“I’ll send you a copy Sir. I put a biomoniter on him this morning. It’ll let us know if anything changes or he does something else incredibly stupid.”
They make matching frustrated sounds.
Then the captain’s attention falls to Ash.
“How is he.”
Captain Lorca inspects Ash but addresses Dr. Culber.
“Physically, as good as new. We’re expecting to release him by soon. Lt. Tyler’s requested to remain on the Discovery, so he’ll need your approval and signoff from Dr. Hann after the mandatory evaluation.”
Captain Lorca’s expression twitches momentarily, lifts, before smoothing back out into stern again. He briefly glances down at Dr. Culber’s PADD as he swipes in an approval.
“Notify the Quartermaster to get him settled. Keep me updated.”
Captains turns fully back to Ash as he crosses his arms again.
“The admiralty’s expressed interest in a report when you’re fit to write one. I’ve passed their request along to Dr. Hann. “
He nods at Ash and finally offers a smile, a genuinely distinct expression from his default stern stare.
“Welcome aboard, soldier. Good to have you here”
The captain sweeps from the room and Ash settles back in his seat.
Chief of Security.
The thought had. Never crossed Ash’s mind. He’d hoped for an actual posting when Captain Lorca accepted him onto the ship and Dr. Hann cleared him for duty. If pushed, he could have admitted to wanting a piloting assignment if the captain had been impressed during their escape.
The promotion comes with access. To Captain Lorca.
To Captain Lorca’s office.
The décor in the room is a bit… Klingon.
Not in style exactly, but a little in tone.
The dim lights don’t help.
There’s a display of bones in one corner, disgusting dissected creatures, there’s deadly weapons lining the walls and tables.
And there is the bat’leth.
Clamped to the shelves. Not a functional display.
The line of his stare must be obvious. He’s acutely aware of Captain Lorca coming to stand next to him in the dimness. He can feel the man’s presence prickling at this skin. Ash is technically taller than the captain, but it doesn’t feel that way.
“All I took away from the Buran.”
The captain leaves Ash to fill in the blanks, like he’s done before.
And the blanks don’t seem difficult to fill in.
Common Klingon guards don’t carry their bat’leths around. And Ash can’t imagine Captain Lorca stopping to pick up souvenirs during his escape. The Klingon must have died on the ship Captain Lorca escaped on. A high ranking one.
Ash has seen the captain storm through a Klingon ship. He’d known where to keep on guard. Where to turn. How quickly he’d found the docking bay. Maybe the Captain had memorized the halls they’d dragged him through. Maybe Starfleet’s training simulators are very very accurate. Possibly, prior experience helped.
Ash huffs a laugh and feels the captain’s gaze turn on him.
“I’m glad that you got thrown into that cell with me, Sir. Don’t think anybody else could have made it out.”
Captain Lorca’s silence is pointed but not unsympathetic and Ash turns away from the Klingon ceremonial weapons to stare at the remains of some dissected clawed creature.
“My last chief of security killed that on an away mission. Poison sacs like you wouldn’t believe. Couple of the scientists are playing around with it now.”
Ash nods along.
“If I come across something dangerous, Sir, I’ll be sure to bring it to your attention.”
Captain Lorca looks inordinately pleased for a moment and claps a firm hand on Ash’s shoulder. It startles him, shocks him still for a moment. Only a moment.
He relaxes between one heartbeat and the next.
The Discovery comes out of black alert and shifts immediately into red alert. They’ve jumped right in the middle of a fleet of Klingon ships. As planned.
They have the element of surprise. Two birds of prey are destroyed nearly immediately.
The Discovery rocks a couple times as the klingons lands a few hits but Captain Lorca is ready with orders. He’s at the front of the bridge hands raised, conducting battle. The crew seem focused and calm: orders and implementation are seamless. It’s a hundred percent clear that the Discovery has the field.
Ash monitors his station, responds to orders, but he’s still training on integrating into Captain Lorca’s bridge, and his role currently allows for slightly more observation than he’d usually get.
The captain doesn’t waste shots. He orders maneuvers and calculations before the Klingon ships fall right into the Discovery’s line of fire fall victim to photon torpedoes, almost anticlimactically.
The shut off of red alert alarms is near jarring as the crew sound out their action reports, but Ash barely processes what states the shields are in as he watches Captain Lorca spin around, shoulders settled, eyes blazing.
The communications officer wraps up by stating that all potential outgoing beacon signals have been successfully jammed when Captain Lorca fixes his stare on Ash.
His voice practically booms and echoes off the bridge walls and Ash sits up straighter at attention.
The captain gestures at one crippled Klingon ship out the front view screen without looking behind him. The engines of the ship have clearly exploded, half the ship is exposed to space, and the remainder doesn’t look close to being worth their weight in salvage. It’s the only partially intact Klingon ship left.
“We’ve located Starfleet’s missing shipments of stattenheim circuits. It’d be nice to retrieve them before reinforcements show up.”
“Sensors indicate they’re located in the cargo hold, but we can’t get an exact lock. That end of the ship is still pressurized, and there are two remaining life signs. Reinforcements are estimated to be 40 minutes away.”
Lt. Saru is quick on the report.
Captain gives a brisk nod claps his hands.
“Let’s get this wrapped up in 30. Lieutenant Tyler. Make it happen.”
The captain’s tone isn’t demanding or challenging. Just the tone of a man used to giving orders and expecting results.
Ash calls in one of the security teams on his way to docking bay.
He technically doesn’t have to go with them over to the Klingon ship. Captain Lorca never ordered him to. Ash could debrief them and monitor them from the Discovery.
Ash flies over with the security team.
They send the pilot back as they advance through the hallways. The layout looks familiar.
Of course they encounter the two remaining breathing Klingons who, with zero chance of escape or survival on their destroyed ship leaking air, seem determined to go down fighting.
Ash shoots down one of the Klingons like he’s back in Captain’s Lorca’s training simulator, without hesitation. Half an instant later, a shot flies past his shoulder to take out the other.
The worst injury amongst the Starfleet team is a large bruise one officer has from being thrown against the bulkhead. Ash doesn’t even look down at the bodies as they advance past them into the cargo hold.
Back on the Discovery, everyone beamed safely back on board with recovered tech on hand and 15 minutes to spare, Ash calls it up to the bridge.
The radio comes alive in response with a “Good job, Lt. Tyler” then black alert sounds.
Ash has his back turned to the crew so they don’t see his expression.
It’s the middle of what should be Ash’s night shift and he’s walking the halls.
The officers on duty don’t give him a second look when he passes by, and the duty shift is a relatively quiet one, but there’s still the general hum of people at work.
He turns a corner and stops short to keep from barreling into someone- Captain Lorca coming from the direction of the labs.
Ash comes to attention as the captain notices him there, makes eye contact.
“Couldn’t sleep, Lieutenant?”
At this time in the ship’s cycle, the captain seems more relaxed. He’s not standing ramrod straight, and even his tone sounds casual.
Ash tests the waters and tries offering a self-deprecating smile.
“Felt the walls closing in a little, Sir.”
Captain Lorca leans back, studies Ash for a brief moment, then claps Ash briefly on the arm.
“Do you drink?”
Captain Lorca doesn’t repeat himself, just waits to Ash to get over being startled by the question.
“Come with me.”
Captain Lorca leads Ash through the halls, doesn’t push for converation. And Ash is fully conscious of the trip, but has a bit of trouble understanding how he’s got to sitting in the captain’s dim quarters, accepting a mostly full tumbler of whisky and watching the captain ease back in his own chair, fully relaxed for the first time that Ash has seen. There’s still no mistaking him for a leader
Ash takes a sip from his glass and looks up to see the captain watching him.
“Not that I’m advocating unhealthy coping mechanisms,” Captain Lorca says, gesturing with his glass, “but if you need it to sleep once in a while, there’s a thriving moonshine economy on this ship.”
At Ash’s startled look he chuckles.
“There’s enough scientists on this ship that the strange experiments are inevitable. You just have to know which ones to ignore and which ones to put a stop to before they get too dangerous. They think I don’t know about the repurposed lab unit on deck 4. They’re making some pretty decent gin down there if you have a taste for it. I just prefer the classics.”
The captain pointedly sips at his whisky and Ash shrugs. He doesn’t want to give into the captain’s assumptions.
“It’s sometime just nice to know can leave my room when I want to, Sir.”
Captain Lorca waves his half-drained glass in casual dismissal and a “We’re off duty, Tyler”, then fixes him with a discerning alert stare.
“Counselor Hann still has you under mandatory evaluation.”
Ash decides to take the captain at his word about being off duty and lets himself slump back into the seat, discarding posture and his on-duty attitude. He groans.
“She thinks I’m going to have a breakdown any day now. Says I’ve compartmentalized badly.”
Lorca looks mildly amused.
“You started out too strong. You gotta let them see improvement.”
Ash watches the captain knock back the rest of his drink and takes a large gulp of his own.
“Is that how you were cleared after the Buran?”
“It’s very predictable what therapists will take credit for when they think they’re fixing you. You decide to act like you’re ok, you gotta be smart about it”
Ash pauses for a moment and Lorca waits him out.
“Next time we run into Klingons, I’ll tell the counselor that I felt anxious.”
Lorca snorts as he sits up straighter for a moment to snag the half empty bottle of whisky and pours himself a refill before offering one to Ash.
“Tyler, you’re on the wrong ship if Klingons make you anxious. We’re here the win the war. By whatever means necessary.”
Ash looks up to lock eyes with Lorca, lets some of his control slip and a little of his his true feelings bleed through the cracks.
“I’m counting on it, Sir. And I’d like to be here to see it.”
Lorca studies him for a moment, gaze like he’s trying to bore through Ash’s skull, then seems satisfied with what he sees.
The captain smiles- it doesn’t reach his eyes, it’s more of a snarl- then drains the rest of his drink.
“Like I said, soldier. Good to have you on board.”
Ash sits and revels in Lorca’s regard.