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Command School: Lesson Zero

“Command School: Lesson Zero”

Scott Coleridge



The air on the bridge was acrid, scrubbers working overtime to erase the stench of overloaded components and strained ODN relays. A distant shudder passed through the spine of the ship as something—the port impulse engine?—finally gave out.


“Captain, they’re coming around for another volley. Our shields will not hold!” There was a grim note of panic in the tactical officer’s voice. Despite being an experienced veteran, he clearly was not ready to face death.


“The Ventar ambassador is still insisting we’re in violation of their space, Captain. She is refusing to call off the attack vessels unless we retreat.”


“You must get to the planet and rescue our people! As a representative from the Federation Council, that’s a direct order!” The pompous but no-less-imposing Federation Ambassador was red in the face from bellowing orders.


“What are your orders, Captain? Captain Coleridge? Captain? Captain, we need your orders...”


The ship shuddered again, this time in reaction to more weapons fire from the Ventari cruiser. Alarms went off as the shields collapsed and the warp core overloaded. Everything flashed a horrible, final white …


… and then the holodeck reset itself, the bridge emptied of crew. Scott collapsed into the command chair, his pose one of resigned defeat.


“You are really terrible at this, you know that, right?”


The voice came from the only other person on the simulated bridge—though “person” was a misnomer. The nondescript middle-aged human male was a hologram like everything else around Scott. But this hologram had attitude.


“Hey, I tried. Isn’t the whole point of the Kobayashi Maru test supposed to be character or whatever?”


“This isn’t the Kobayashi Maru simulation. This one is supposed to be solvable! You’ve tried it nine times now, and each time you’ve actually done worse than the last. You’re regressing.”


“So what would you suggest I do? Give up?” Part of Scott wondered if that was even an option.


The hologram gave a little “harrumph.” “Me? Give up? I will have you know—”


“Uh-oh. Here we go.”


“—I am the premier Distance Command School Training Hologram. I was created by the—”


“—the best and brightest, yes, I’ve heard—”


“—best and brightest holo-engineers Starfleet could find; my algorithms were trained on the decisions made by Pike, Kirk, Garrett, Picard, and even a few captains of ships not named Enterprise. I am the training program of choice for officers on long tours of duty away from the Academy.”


“I know. You’ve already given me that speech. Twice.”


“Be. That. As. It. May.” Scott could almost swear he saw the hologram gritting its teeth with each word. “Suffice it to say that you might be my most challenging student. I have literally seen cadets perform better than you. But you will not be my last student. If there is any training program that could possibly forge you into even a mediocre commanding officer, it’s me.”


Scott hopped out of the command chair and paced the bridge. “I just don’t think I’m cut out to be ‘command material,’ Napoleon.”




“You need a name. It will make you more approachable.”


“I’m not here to be approachable. I’m here to teach you how to lead.”


“Maybe I’m not meant to lead, hmm? Like you said, nine tries, nine failures. And that’s just this simulation. We tried those easier ones first, and even those were difficult.” Scott stopped at this bridge’s engineering station. He ran his fingers along the console and its frozen read-outs.


“How did you ever manage to command the engineering department with that attitude?”


“Hmm?” Scott looked up. “Oh. I don’t know. I didn’t really ‘command’ it. People did things, and I signed off if it looked reasonable, or suggested alternatives if it didn’t. But they were really responsible for any success.”


Napoleon narrowed his eyes. “I want to say you’re being modest, but the last two hours suggest otherwise.” He brought a hand up to his chin. “Why are you so set on being a command officer, then, if you are so dismally unsuitable for such a position?”


“Oh I’m not. I just sort of … stumbled into the job.”


“Stumbled … oh, please. Don’t tell me I’m trapped on one of those Starfleet vessels that got stranded halfway across the galaxy. You’re not going to keep me running all day until I develop strange ideas about holographic rights and liberation, are you?” Napoleon began to get a slightly desperate look on his face. “One uppity hologram is enough for the fleet, don’t you think?”


“Whoa, whoa,” Scott held up a hand. “Slow down, Nappy. We haven’t gone full Voyager, no. But Aegis is … unique. Ramson could have imported an XO from somewhere else, but I guess she feels that no one she could get would be as good a ‘fit’ for the station as I am. Mind you, I think at this point she might be restarting her search.”


Napoleon mumbled something about how that would be a prudent course of action but didn’t repeat it at an audible level. Instead he said, “So you are a reluctant XO.”


“You could say that.”


“Fine. Get over it, then.”


“Excuse me?”


The hologram pointed to the turbolift door with one hand, and then to the command chair with the other. “There’s the exit; there’s your chair. Which will it be?”


“I don’t follow.”


“Look, you’re in Starfleet, not the Super Happy Funtime Space Exploration Scouts. You’re a Commander in Starfleet. Commanding is your job. And if you don’t want to do your job, then you can either shut up and do it anyway, or you can resign.


“Now, if you take the latter option, I can’t help you,” Napoleon continued. “But if and when you decide you want to stick around, sit in that chair and shut up, and we’ll start talking about how you can be a good XO.”


Scott sat in the damned chair. And shut up.


“OK, we’re going all the way back to Lesson Zero here. Don’t worry, I’ll speak slowly and use small words….”

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