Admiral Maxwell Forrest gazed at the Enterprise's senior staff from the communications terminal in the Briefing Room. His eyes reflected the emotions of all present: exhausted and saddened by the Altarran situation, but he glanced at Hoshi with a neutral expression.
“The Earth Council reviewed all the information you've gathered,” he said. “In light of the current situation, Altarra's been placed under Interdiction Two-One-C.”
At the puzzled looks, Hoshi clarified, “No further contact until the conflict resolves itself, although we will continue to monitor the situation.”
There were sighs of relief all around the table. So Earth wasn't going to completely abandon the Altarrans. Travis's features were sober. “This isn't completely out of the goodness of our hearts, though.”
Forrest nodded. “Not completely, Commander. Altarra's still in a strategic area of space, so the Council's still interested in opening trade relations...eventually. As far as the cultural 'differences'--” he glanced at Hoshi again; she pressed her lips together in silent agreement, “-- hopefully things will change, but we'll have to wait and see. They have to want to change; we can't force them.”
“Admiral, I've alerted the Boomer Network about what happened on Altarra. They're spreading the news; the planet's trade is going to take a hard hit.”
“Unfortunately, Commander, that's unavoidable. Better safe than sorry; at least your people will have some sort of forewarning that they didn't have before. Have the Boomers discovered how many of them might have fallen victim to their 're-education'?”
Travis shook his head. “There's no way to tell, Admiral, but they're doing their best to find out. Doctor Reed passed along some of the medical information he acquired--”
“The comparative brain scans,” Malcolm added, “so their medics know what kind of damage to look for. I hope it will help them.”
“I'll be curious to know if it does, Doctor. You and Commander Mayweather keep me informed of that.” Forrest glanced at Malcolm. “How are Commander Phlox and Lieutenant Trace?”
He leaned forward in his seat and answered, “Lieutenant Trace will recover, although he will need to be off duty for some time yet. Commander Phlox is still in his hibernation cycle. He should wake up in six or seven days.”
“Will that adversely affect him, Doctor Reed?”
Malcolm smirked. “Only in the fact that his hibernation schedule will be thrown off for the year, but other than that, no.”
Forrest sighed in relief and nodded at him. “That's good to hear, Doctor.” He glanced back at Hoshi. “This has been a stressful four months, Captain. I'm authorizing some leave for you and your crew.”
Hoshi's smile became genuine and she said, “Much appreciated, Admiral.”
“I can't guarantee more than a few days, but I think we can spare at least that,” Forrest replied. “I'll draft the orders immediately. I'll be in contact again soon. Starfleet Command, out.” His image vanished from the screen.
There was a beat of silence, then everyone started talking at once. Hoshi sat there quietly, musing over the unexpected offer. Then again, Max has been there. He knows how rough it can be to watch his crew take a hit to their general morale. A bit of shore leave will be good for them.
Travis said it for all of them. “That was rather nice of him. I really wasn't expecting that.”
“Admiral Forrest surprises people now and then. I have to agree with him...the crew's had a rough transition time since we've launched. I think they deserve a little R&R.” She glanced at T'Pol and Kov. “Any suggestions for a relaxing place in the neighborhood?”
“Risa,” T'Pol answered immediately. “It is known in this sector for their hospitality.”
Jon smiled. “The natives are very hospitable. Beaches, oceanside restaurants, Nuvian masseuses...”
“Nuvian masseuses?” Trip asked.
“They have ten fingers on each hand,” Travis said helpfully.
Trip's choked on his drink. Laughter rang out, a definite stress reliever. Kov's face turned a pale shade of green, while T'Pol gave Hoshi an expression of tolerant amusement. Hoshi bit back a smile.
T'Pol, unruffled by the turn of conversation, said, “I can provide the coordinates.”
Trip grinned at her. “You've been there yourself?”
She turned to him and replied, “I have, but on official business. I had no opportunity to take advantage of the various forms of entertainment.”
“You were actually working on a pleasure planet?” The question was out of his mouth before his brain caught up. Suddenly, he realized how that sounded and flushed crimson. It was Malcolm's turn to choke on his tea, Jon smirked and Travis's smile widened. Kov raised an eyebrow, but still looked confused.
T'Pol only gave Trip an inscrutable look. “I was on official business, yes. This time, it will not be the case.”
Hoshi cleared her throat and regained everyone's attention. “All right, we'll be heading to Risa as soon as Admiral Forrest's orders are received and confirmed. Until then, I'm expecting you all to keep up the good work, all right?”
There were a chorus of “Aye, Captain” as Hoshi adjourned the meeting. She was relieved to see new energy in their steps and smiles on their faces. This had been a difficult mission for everyone involved, including her.
“Nothing is ever a complete failure, Captain. There is always a silver lining.”
She glanced at Malcolm, who had paused by the door. How had he read her mind? Then again, that was one of his unique talents. Is that with anyone, or just me? She shied away from asking him that question; she wasn't prepared for the answer.
“There is,” she said softly, “but it never gets easier, does it?”
His eyes brimmed with sympathy. “No, but that's how we grow, Hoshi.”
She smiled. “That's very true, Malcolm. Very true indeed.”