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Thread: Star Trek RPG - Mission #3: "Some Other Side of Paradise"

  1. #51
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    Cooper smiles. "I think I know just the place."

    They shower and get dressed, and he leads her to the Nebula, a gleaming duranium-and-glass hotel a few blocks away. He reserves a bedroom for later. There is a stylish bar, not too crowded, on the top floor with a breathtaking view of the mountains. A neojazz combo is playing quietly in one corner. The couple settles into a leather banquette and Cooper orders a Saurian brandy.

    "And what'll you have, miss?" the waitress asks.
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 28 Aug 2013 at 02:44 PM.

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    Listening to Rangin's advice attentively, Kylah nods and lets him order the coffee and food, which makes her realize somewhat belatedly how hungry she actually is. She finds herself staring at the bartender in hopes that this might somehow encourage the meal to arrive more quickly. When it strikes her that Rangin asked her a question, Kylah reluctantly breaks her imaginary psychic link with the kitchen and returns her focus on her companion.

    "No, I do not drink very often. Some ceremonies require it... we have a lot of ceremonies, even more since my--since Aldaan became ambassador to the Federation." The word ambassador is oddly hard to pronounce and when she finishes she tests it a couple of times under her breath to figure out why it's so difficult. Shrugging, she continues: "But I just have some wine to fulfill my duty. I was relieved once we allied with the Federation in the end. Bloodwine is revolting. I could not bear more than a sip. I don't know how Aldaan manages it. Those he wishes so greatly to impress just laugh at his attempts. As do I. To myself, anyway. He may have grown better at it by now."

    She looks down at Rangin's glass. "You have not had much yourself. Do you not drink? Alcohol, that is? I know you drink water. Do you think the food will arrive soon?"

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    "Cosmopolitan, with Iotian vodka please." Collins answers the young woman. She turns to Ben "Should we get something to eat as well, Sweetie?"

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    "Food will arrive when it does, and a watched kitchen always produces food for another table." is Rangin's reply.

    "Oh, I know how to drink and I know when to drink, but as I have been regaling you with a variety of tales, I haven't had that much this time round. Thank you for listening by the way and I hope at least some of them were entertaining enough for you."

    Rangin checks to see how much longer they have before Kylah needs to return.
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

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    Ben says gently, "I'm not hungry, but do you think you should be drinking alcohol, with the baby...?"

    The waiter brings coffee to Kylah and Rangin. She is due to meet with T'Var in just under two hours. What did they order to eat?

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    "Yeah, about that." Collins was hoping to avoid this conversation until breakfast, but well, here it is. She holds Ben's hands in hers. "I do love you, but I am not ready for a family. We've been dating for less than a month. I don't know what kind of father you'll be - I barely know what kind of mother I'd be. Let's hold off for a while and get to know each other much better before we inflict ourselves on life dependent on us."

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    The waitress's eyes widen and she tactfully withdraws.

    Ben's face falls. "That's... aw, crap. I'm sorry to hear you say that." He squeezes her hand and pulls his own back. He sighs. "So... an abortion? Or would you put the baby up for adoption?"

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    "I'm going to Sickbay tomorrow when we get back to the ship." Jeremi senses Ben closing off to her. "I know you're disappointed, and I'm sorry if I have hurt you. This is the right decision for me. If you want to cut our evening short, I completely understand."

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    He seems stunned. "I don't... I just... well, come on, let's talk about this. Is there anything I can say to get you to reconsider?" He takes her hand again and looks deeply into her eyes. He pauses and thinks, then takes a deep breath. "I know you love me, and I love you. You know that, Jeri. You should... you do. I know it sounds corny. And please, forgive me for asking, but...," he hesitates, "is there any love in your heart for this new life we've created? This new life that's growing inside you, taking shape, even now?"

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    Kylah nods at Rangin, whose politeness is endearing. Many men she has known--and several women too--are happy to chatter on without a care of how much listening the other person must do as a result. "Yes, I found your stories entertaining," she says seriously. "And thank you for them. I have not been able to keep my mind occupied on much other than my duties and the mission. This was a much needed change."

    She can't help glancing toward the kitchen again, despite his playful words of warning earlier. "I am not good at waiting for food," she says by way of an apology. "Yet I don't even know what you ordered aside from the coffee. I hope it is something I can eat with my hands." Kylah lifts her hands up and mimes grabbing hold of the air in front of her. "That is one thing I do miss about our time before the Federation. Back then meals were so much more... physical, I suppose? None of these forks and knives and so on between you and your food. If we wanted a hart's leg we could just grab it from the tray and eat it at once. The experience was a treat for every sense, especially the one of touch. The moist softness of the meat in your grasp, the warm juice on your lips..."

    She sighs with almost dreamy nostalgia, absently running her fingertips along her mouth at the memories. Then her brow lowers with a slight frown. "But if I were to eat that way now? I would be called a barbarian. So I use the knife and fork, just as our Federation betters insisted. I suppose it is neater and offends fewer people, but I regret that eating has become less sensual. Sensory," Kylah corrects, dropping her hands back on the table and fiddling discontentedly with the soggy coaster beneath her glass. She suddenly squints and looks back at Rangin. "I am sorry, I cannot remember... have I already asked you what you ordered?"
    Last edited by choie; 29 Aug 2013 at 12:23 AM.

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    "That's a hell of a question," Jeremi is a little taken aback "If I say 'no', I sound heartless; If I say 'yes', then I am evil for not letting it grow" She shakes her head in disbelief. "How am I supposed to answer that kind of a question? This wasn't planned. We've not made a long term commitment to each other. I know myself well enough to know I am not ready for this. Being a parent is major commitment of time and energy. What's to say that after the baby is born, something happens to one of us, or we get reassigned to separate ships? No, this is not the right time for me to have a baby." In an effort to lighten the mood a little, she adds "Now, if you can figure out a way for you to carry it to term, I might reconsider." She smiles weakly.

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    "Oh good," replies Rangin, "Then I hope you like what I ordered. I wasn't going for anything fancy, but perhaps something more enjoyable. After all, we are meant to be relaxing and enjoying ourselves. I ordered two large flame grilled burgers with side orders of fries, or at least the nearest equivalent this bar serves. I wasn't sure you would enjoy the Coridan version at this point in time, so maybe another time. I hope they are acceptable."

    If she wants to use her fingers, and feel more comfortable that way, then Rangin is happy to join in. It's not something he would normally do, but he smiles back across at Kylah. "Now if I was Vulcan, like the good Dr T'var, she would probably be appalled by our eating habits while doing nothing more than raising an eyebrow, but I firmly intend on using my fingers as well. Formality may require utensils, but I don't think this is one of those occasions."

    He glances across to the kitchen while taking a sip of the coffee, realising his stomach is also letting him know just how hungry he is as well.
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

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    "It's a hell of a question," Ben says quietly, "because it's a hell of an important issue, Jeri. I'm not trying to box you in, but I wouldn't ask if I didn't feel I had to. This is important to me. It really is. We didn't plan it, but it's happened." He looks down. "I've thought about it, and you know, I would resign from Starfleet to raise our child if it meant we could be with you, or if it meant you could continue with your career. My career is important to me, too, but not like this. Not like a new life we can bring into the universe. That's the kind of commitment I'm willing to make." He looks up and squeezes her hand again. "I understand you're scared - hell, I'm scared too - but I don't want us to do something without really thinking it through, something we'd both really regret later."

    The waiter soon brings Rangin's and Kylah's burgers and enormous piles of fries. They dig in; it's delicious and filling. Across the room, Rangin sees Chief Engineer Edgardo Cheverez, his husband Lt. Joseph Bancroft (the Yorktown's astrophysicist), and a woman Rangin doesn't recognize, enter the bar and take a booth.
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 29 Aug 2013 at 10:13 AM.

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    Rangin doesn't pay the trio much attention, a lot of people are on shore leave from the ship. She might be someone they knew elsewhere or even someone new they have just met. He makes a brief mental note of what the woman looks like, some old Coridan habits die hard, but then tucks back into the food with gusto.

    "How are you finding it?" he asks Kylah between mouthfuls.
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

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    Graham can't help but crack a smile. "Faisal, are you kidding me?" He shakes his head, but steps forward to shake Mahmoud's hand and clasp his shoulder. "All right, now I know this Cmdr. Vargas guy is nuts. First he requests me, and now I see he's got a hardcore butt-kicker like you on this luxury liner. What made you leave the Invictus... you wanted soft beds? Loofahs in the sonic showers? Or did you lose the itch to constantly chase the lowest sort of scum through the worst sectors of the galaxy?"

    Mahmoud grins. "Vargas is a tough old coot, but he's all right. As for me, I made ensign two years ago, applied for the Yorktown and got it. Was I surprised! But don't worry, there's plenty of work to be done here. It's a good ship." They both sit down. "As it happens, this is my cabin, and my previous roomie was just transferred. Vargas checked your record and saw that you and I go back a ways - what's it been, seven years? eight? - and put us together, but you could probably get single quarters, if you want." He shrugs goodnaturedly. "You wouldn't, you know, hurt my feelings or anything."

    "You still snore?" Graham jokes. "Hell, it'll do me good to room with somebody solid...help keep me honest now that I have a shot to be back in the thick of things. First drink is on me wherever you can get one on this ship, when we have a chance to catch up. But first things first - obviously Vargas has bigger things on his plate than the day-to-day. What's our chain of command look like in Security? And then - where's Transporter Room 1? Some VIP I need to dress up nice for is coming aboard soon."

    "First off, new roomie, I never snored. Just so that's understood. Secondly, there's Vargas, who's both XO and Chief of Security, as you probably know, and then Lt. JG Jeremi Collins, who's Assistant COS. She's young and has some impulse-control issues, from what I've seen, but I think she's basically OK. Pregnant, scuttlebutt has it, which could definitely get interesting. We lost our previous ACOS a few months back - reassigned on very short notice, along with all the other assistant department chiefs, all at the same time. Some Starfleet screwup - don't ask." He shakes his head. "Third, Transporter Room 1 is on this deck. You'll want to check out the deck plans before too long, or just ask anybody. It's a big ship. I'll be commanding the honor guard. It's for an admiral and his flag aide we're taking to Omicron Ceti III."

    Graham smiles. "Uh oh, then I'd better not be late, boss." He stands and jauntily snaps to attention for a moment. "That must be the guy I saw disembark from the same ship that brought me here. I thought it was strange I didn't see him during the trip. Anyway, isn't Omicron Ceti III some kind of resort?" He looks through his bags for his dress uniform. "In any event, I like the universe's sense of humor. If you told me a week ago I'd get assigned to a Constitution-class ship I'd have said you were crazy. But now a motley crew including you, me, and a pregnant lieutenant is escorting some introverted big shot to his intergalactic full-body salt scrub appointment. I'm guessing we won't need to break out the phaser rifles on this one." He pauses. "Which may be just as well - I wouldn't want a demonstration of my superior skills to make my new roomie look bad."

    Mahmoud laughs. "Not a chance, buddy. Not a chance. So... which bunk do you want?"

    Graham chooses and then finishes unpacking, and they are soon both in dress uniforms and on their way to Transporter Room 1.
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 29 Aug 2013 at 03:23 PM. Reason: Graham's dialogue by general_urko; Mahmoud's by Elendil's Heir.

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    The somewhat sloppy burger is exactly what Kylah wanted, and the combination of protein and the starchy fries seem to help solidify her dizzy mind. She turns to Rangin with an appreciative nod and an "mmm hmmm" since she's too busy enjoying herself to take the time to tell him that she's enjoying herself. Her stomach thanks her, even if her waistline won't. She couldn't possibly care less--the meal, the continuing warm glow from the alcohol, and Rangin's comfortable presence are all unbelievably relaxing.

    When she's finally stuffed herself as much as she can, she uses her napkin and wipes her fingers with a small, contented sigh. "Thank you, Velir," she says quietly. "You have helped me more than you know. Not just for the meal, but... for taking me away from Starfleet for a few hours. You have been very kind."

    She glances down at the napkin in her hands, folding it contemplatively. Now she must face her plans with Dr. T'Var. As important as the discussion is, and as much as she knows she needs it, it would be a relief to spend one pleasant night unmarred by dark thoughts.
    Last edited by choie; 29 Aug 2013 at 08:49 PM.

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    Rangin polishes off the last of the fries with a contented sigh. "You're welcome, Kylah. It has been an very enjoyable and relaxing evening and I'd love to do it again. One last thing before we leave though. This isn't kindness, me just being nice to you to for the sake of it. This, I would hope, is friendship. Two people just getting along and enjoying themselves for a while. Having fun with the little things in life, while the big things can go hang."

    It may be a little bit of a white lie, Rangin did feel like Kylah could do with getting out and it was one reason he asked if she wanted to go down on shore leave. After the events on the station, they all could have done with it. But he's glad he did, she has been great company for the evening.

    "Come one, time to head back to the ship. You've got a meeting, and I'm gonna crash out."

    Rangin stands up and looks around the bar. If he catches the eye of Cheverez or Bancroft, he will give a polite nod, one crew member to another in recognition, before heading to the exit.
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

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    Collins stares at Ben "Why do you want this baby so much? Why is it more important to you than I am?" More than anything right now, Jeremi wants to run away, but that would only delay finishing this conversation. "I'll think about it one more day, but then you have to respect my decision." she says assertively.

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    T'Var awakens from a fairly restful sleep. She feels refreshed and ready to handle whatever Ensign Kylah wishes to discuss with her.

    The doctor hopes she can be of assistance. T'Var is not a counselor of any kind, but she is a good listener and usually gives sound advice to those who seek it from her.

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    The waiter comes over and Rangin thumbs the checkpad, deducting 27 Federation credits from his shipboard account. The Chief Engineer's party doesn't notice him and Kylah as the younger officers leave.

    Cooper says, his voice tight, "I want this baby because it's a helpless new life that I helped create. Children are very, very important to my family. I tried to run away when you first told me you were pregnant, but now I see how wrong I was. That was cruel to you, and unworthy of... of the kind of father I want to be. You're important to me, Jeri, of course you are - please don't ever doubt that. But we're grownups. We can take care of ourselves. This baby.. well, it can't."

    Graham and Mahmoud are approaching the doors to Transporter Room 1 when a slim, beautiful young woman in a yellow Command dress rounds the corner ahead. "Hello, Faisal," she says in a refined English accent. She smiles, and Graham finds himself a little dazzled. "And you must be Booker Graham!" She sticks out her hand. "I'm Cecilia Bennett, a navigator and the New Crew Liaison Officer. I'm so sorry I wasn't there to greet you when you beamed aboard. Lots going on today, you know. Anyway, any questions you have, any Yorktown trivia to which you absolutely must know the answer, any bad advice from Mr. Mahmoud you need rebutted, just let me know." The brunette bears the half-stripe of a lieutenant junior grade on her cuffs.
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 30 Aug 2013 at 08:49 PM.

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    Graham prides himself on having made good security practices second nature, including assessing every crew mate he meets for the first time: handedness? Any behaviors that suggest combat or martial arts training? Any apparent physical strengths or weaknesses? In a crisis, could they be deployed as an asset, or would they need a little extra help?

    He completely forgets to do this at the moment. “Uh…me too.” He shakes her hand and quickly adds, “I mean, Faisal and I used to serve together. Maybe we should find some time when I can set the record straight on all the tall tales I’m sure he’s been spinning.” It takes him a second to process the rank insignia. “…Sir!”
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 30 Aug 2013 at 07:25 PM. Reason: added handshake

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    Jeremi is feeling very overwhelmed at this point, not to the point of tears but close. She gets up from the table "I need some time. I'm going back to the ship. I'll see you tomorrow." She leaves quickly; once outside, she opens her communicator. "Collins to Yorktown. One to beam up." and awaits the tingling sensation of being transported.

    Once on board, she messages Doctor Noel to set up another appointment.
    Last edited by anyrose; 30 Aug 2013 at 02:07 PM.

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    Rangin's thoughtful words about friendship finally elicit a small, almost bashful smile from Kylah, and she thanks him warmly for paying for their meal. Only as they walk out does she suddenly wonder why he would pay for both of them; perhaps it is a Coridian custom? She inwardly promises to pay if they again take a meal together. Credits are certainly not a problem for her.

    When they prepare to beam back to the ship, the thought reminds Kylah of a question she's been meaning to ask one of her fellow mission team members since they returned. "Before I forget," she begins, placing a light hand on Rangin's elbow, "May I ask... Do you happen to remember the young male human transport technician who sent us down to the laboratory? I believe his name is Ferguson?"
    Last edited by choie; 30 Aug 2013 at 02:55 PM.

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    Rangin can't quite believe his ears. A good time spent relaxing, Kylah getting perhaps slightly closer than she should and out of nowhere a question about some other guy from the ship. What is she playing at?

    Naivety? Something cultural? An attempt to make him jealous or get a reaction, she is hanging off his arm after all. Perhaps she just wants some information and actually feels confident enough to ask, but then why him instead of someone like Dr T'var and why now?

    He's disappointed, more in her lack of tact than anything else, but he's not going to let it ruin the evening. But there's probably a good reason for her asking, don't worry about it. Hey, she might be nervous and just need a boost to her courage to go up to him. Live in the now and so on. Shame he doesn't know much about him.

    After the slight pause while these thoughts run through his head.

    "Ferguson. I know vaguely of him, but don't know him personally. But I'm sure it won't take you too long to find him on the Yorktown. I guess you'll be looking him up after your meeting. Good luck to you, hope it goes well."

    He flips open a communicator with a free hand, "Rangin to Yorktown, two to beam up."
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

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    The instant stiffening of Rangin's arm muscles is evident just from Kylah's light touch, as is the coldness emanating from him in waves. Astonished by the change in his demeanor as a result of her question, she backs away slightly and falls silent as they wait for the beam-up.

    Does he dislike this Ferguson and resent her bringing him up? Kylah supposes she should have just gone the direct route and confronted the engineer himself, but the memory of Ferguson's unpleasant, hostile attitude toward her, so clear even in the few seconds when he addressed her prior to beaming her off the ship, still gives her a chill. Perhaps Rangin feels the same way about Ferguson. But if that's true, why suggest she seek the man out? That seems almost... cruel.

    Hurt and indignation battle for supremecy within her. And a sense of loss, too. Rangin had actually seemed willing to be friends with her. How could she have ruined things so quickly?
    Last edited by choie; 30 Aug 2013 at 06:59 PM. Reason: god forbid I should be able to get through one short post without editing.

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    Dr. Noel replies within a few minutes, and suggests Collins come by her office at 0900 the next day.

    Rangin and Kylah are beamed up at once.

    Bennett laughs and Graham's heart seems to skip a beat. She says, "Call me Cecilia, please, or 'ma'am' if you really must."

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    “Of course, ma’am. Cecilia.” Graham feels acutely aware of being scarred and old, but smiles gamely. “Ah…we may need to have dinner urgently—“ He glances at Faisal. “To rebut all that bad advice. For example, our New Crew Liaison Officer is clearly not a Gorn. And my current understanding is that Commander Vargas really loves practical jokes.“

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    Once she rematerializes on the ship, Kylah automatically glances over at the transporter controls. Having just spoken of Ferguson she's now alarmed that he might be there, as if she's invoked him.

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    "I think you were misinformed on both points," Bennett says with a smile, as Mahmoud rolls his eyes at Graham behind her back. "As to that urgent dinner... you certainly don't waste any time, do you, Mr. Graham? I think I'll have to get back to you on that. Good afternoon, gentlemen." She leaves, and Graham and his friend enter Transporter Room 1, where five other Security officers, also each in dress uniform with white gloves, are waiting. One has a bosun's whistle on a lanyard. You are each issued a phaser-2.

    Kylah and Rangin have come aboard in Transporter Room 4, and the Elasian sees to her relief that the woman behind the controls is not who she imagined - or feared.
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 31 Aug 2013 at 01:44 AM.

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    Graham takes a deep breath.

    OK Booker, donít be an idiot, he says to himself. In twenty-four hours youíve gone from expecting to be ground-bound indefinitely on crap assignments to serving on a top-of-the-line ship, and from managing to not get thrown off the boat by a tough department chief to tripping over your own tongue like a randy Academy plebe.

    Point one: stay frosty and get focused on your damn job.

    Point two: doing your damn job doesnít change anythingóneither what youíve done nor who you are.

    Point three: there are things that need to get done that are bigger than you. You may never get a better chance at that than right now. So see points one and two.

    In order, Graham wants a drink and to punch his fist through a bulkhead. But, he reminds himself: Faisalís in charge of the honor guard and Iíll be damned if I let my old friend down.

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    Ok, now Rangin is really confused. Kylah's heard his comment about looking Ferguson up, and she backs away and goes all moody and silent. She obviously didn't like the answer given, though Rangin was trying to be as neutral as possible about it, because she would still be on his arm if so, wouldn't she?

    What is going on in her head? Has something happened between her and Ferguson he doesn't know about and isn't quite as friendly as he first thought? Maybe she isn't as confident as he thought.

    No matter, it was a good evening and even if she is going to be like that, he's going to remain friendly. If she doesn't want to be friends, let her say it first.

    As the transporter beams them up, Rangin wonders what to do next and by the time they materialise, he knows any action he takes will either be seen either by Ferguson or one of his colleagues and will obviously get back to him in five seconds flat.

    On the transporter pad, he turns to Kylah with a reserved smile. "Well, thanks for the excellent evening, it really was good fun and we should do it again. By the way, if you're not doing anything in the next couple of nights, you mentioned teaching me how to play poker properly. Still interested?"
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

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    Kylah is at a loss to understand the changing emotions she's sensing from Rangin, but she's relieved enough not to see Ferguson--and to find Rangin a bit less icy toward her--that she is glad to return his not-very-enthusiastic smile with a warmer one of her own. "Yes, of course. I was not so drunk that I forget my promises, Jeril."

    She hesitates, uncertain how Coridanites handle greetings or partings, and decides on the human custom of hand-shaking as a neutral enough option. Before she does, however, Kylah still senses something strange, almost irritated, as Rangin looks back at her.

    Likely she overstayed her welcome with him--two hours, most people never spend such a long time with her. Perhaps he was just being kind after all; it wouldn't be the first time someone told Kylah a polite let's have lunch sometime or the equivalent, only to dodge further invitations. Humans did this all the time at school. She learned to stop paying attention to such false rituals of manners.

    Then again, perhaps his motives are less politeness than avarice. The poker reference... perhaps he just wants hints on how to win credits from others? Oh, what a fool she was to brag about it, a loose-tongued boast in a silly attempt to gain friendship! Has she not learned from past experience that her skills are easily taken advantage of? That is one of the many things her guardian warned her about--even while doing so himself.

    Rangin does not seem the sort to use Kylah in such a way; he's been gallant and charming and gracious. Yet does Aldaan not appear that way too, in public? she thinks in dismay. She's never met a Coridanite before, as there were none in her Academy class; maybe she is not good at reading their motives.

    All this runs fleetingly through her mind as she extends her hand to Rangin. Kylah has more than enough pride that she doesn't wish to impose herself on someone who might not like her after all, but merely tolerates her presence long enough to benefit from it. She lifts her chin and says, "I too enjoyed the evening, and look forward to repeating it--if you wish to," she adds, unable to keep a hint of longing from her tone.
    Last edited by choie; 31 Aug 2013 at 11:50 AM.

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    Collins returns to her quarters and gets ready for bed. But she's not sleepy and her mind is racing. She throws on some civvies, goes to the Observation Room and stares out at the planet and stars.
    Last edited by anyrose; 31 Aug 2013 at 12:38 PM.

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    Rangin can't believe the response he just received from Kylah. Did she just call him Jeril?! Not drunk enough to forget her promises, but his name, oh that doesn't count at all. He tries to control the irritation and anger inside masking his face politely.

    Her hesitation gives him pause for thought, something else is wrong. She seems so sincere, and yet so tactless, but at same time something does come to mind...

    Without reaching across he asks gently, "Kylah, who is Jeril and are you still drunk?"
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

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    Jeril? Kylah's eyes widen in mortification. Did she really get his name wrong? Blood rushes to her face and she has the sudden instinct to flee--to run as fast as she can and hide in the nearest crawlspace. But she's not a little girl anymore and there's nowhere to run, even if it were the appropriate response for such a gaffe. She can almost hear her childhood tutor clicking her tongue and sighing that this, this is yet another reason others do not like her.

    She takes a deep breath. "Please forgive me. I--I would blame the drink but that would be false. I am distracted and... I think you misunderstood..." Face burning, she flicks an embarrassed glance around the room before returning to Rangin. "Can we be alone for a moment, so I may explain? Just the corridor would be fine if there are no others around."

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    Collins's thoughts are interrupted when the Observation Room door opens. "Oh, I'm sorry, ma'am," says Masum TopÁu, the Captain's Yeoman. "I didn't know anyone was in here. The door wasn't locked." Collins had met him only briefly once before; he is a Turk, tall and proud in bearing.

    The transporter tech, Chief Belinda Brady, is carefully not paying any attention to Rangin's and Kylah's conversation, but they step out into the empty corridor anyway.

    Graham checks the stun setting on his phaser-2 and has just been introduced to the other members of the honor guard by Mahmoud when the doors whoosh open. Vargas enters with a dark-skinned woman of late middle age. She is stocky but fit, with a plain face and black hair just going to gray. She wears a Command-yellow dress uniform shirt with a dozen triangular decorations across the left side of her chest; Vargas is also in dress uniform - Security red, of course - and has an equally impressive array of decorations.

    "Fall in... Atten-hut!" Mahmoud says, and the honor guard quickly lines up at at attention.

    "Thank you, Mr. Mahmoud," Capt. Sundri Parvinder Singh says. "At ease, gentlemen." She speaks in a cultured, New Punjabi-accented voice, and has a friendly, easy manner and bright eyes that seem to miss nothing.

    Cmdr. Vargas says, "Captain, may I introduce you to Ens. Booker Graham? He just came aboard earlier today."

    "Ah, yes." The first woman named to command a Starfleet vessel shakes Graham's hand. "Welcome aboard, Mr. Graham. The First Officer and I expect great things of you."
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 02 Dec 2014 at 03:50 PM.

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    The massive blush and indrawn breath from Kylah shows her error was sincere. Rangin nods at her request gesturing for her to lead towards the door.

    As they enter the corridor, he smiles ruefully. "Ok, I guess this time round, you get to do all the talking. Let's find somewhere quiet and you can tell me what I'm missing about Mr Ferguson. If we get disturbed we can go and find somewhere quieter, I guess."
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

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    "No problem, Yeoman, I was just leaving anyway" Collins walks slowly back to her quarters. Cooper's attitude seems odd and borderline obsessive. I wonder if he'll be as obsessive with the child's development or if he's just really anti-abortion. Jeremi never thought about the pros and cons much herself - she never imagined being pregnant and having to make that choice. But this isn't a hasty decision. I know I am not ready to be a mother.

    Once back in her cabin, she gets into bed, lays back, and stares at the ceiling until sleep overtakes her.

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    The empty corridor is a blessing to Kylah, as is Rangin's agreement to speak with her. His mood has subdued somewhat, she can tell, and when he offers to take her somewhere even more private, Kylah feels less afraid of his response when she shakes her head. "This is fine," she says with another glance around them to make sure no one is around. "I must get ready for my meeting with Dr. T'Var, but I cannot leave things the way they are now."

    She tries to gather her words in a way that won't make her sound paranoid or flighty--or drunk, which is apparently a harder task for her than expected. Rangin's expectant face seems patient but she is still so wary of revealing too much...

    "Velir," she says softly. "You seem to have been upset ever since I asked about Ferguson, and I admit I do not understand why. But I apologize for it anyway. And now this stupid mistake with your name..." She still so embarrassed about that she has to look away, aiming her gaze somewhere near his Starfleet insignia. "Regarding Ferguson... the fact is that I do not know him. Indeed, I have only seen him once--the first time we all beamed down to the research station together. He was the technician on duty that day.

    "Until we were about to leave there was no indication that he knew me whatsoever, and I did not even notice him. Then, before I stepped onto the transporter pad, he said--well, he merely said 'Up you go, princess,' and that was all. I know it sounds inoffensive. Of course, I am not a princess, merely a minor member of the royal family, but that is not what bothered me. In truth it is not what he said but how he said it."

    Though Kylah can still see Rangin's insignia before her, she's easily able to evoke the image of the technician's face and his unpleasant expression. "He purposely said it quietly, to me alone, and there was this strange insinuation there. I cannot explain it. Then when I turned back to him, he gave me this disturbing smile--bitter, even hostile."

    She shakes her head, wishing she could express herself more fully but of course, that is impossible. No doubt she sounds as if she's reading too much into a mere smile, and without explaining more she can't rectify that. All she can do is whisper: "It frightened me. So much so that I did not even want to let him beam me down."

    After a pause Kylah lifts her gaze to Rangin's again. "In truth, I have not thought of this man for some time; the mission has been haunting me far too much. It was only when you and I were about to beam up again, when suddenly I realized that he might even be there--" She lifts a hand weakly toward the transporter room entrance. "I wish he had not entered my mind again. But he did, and I thought perhaps you might know something about him. I know I should not have said anything, I should not have brought a personal matter to you like that; clearly you were affronted. Besides, I may have mistaken the whole incident anyway," she adds, trying to sound convincing. "Tomorrow I will find him and ask him directly what he meant. Surely it was a misunderstanding. I seem to be very good at those."

    Kylah bows her head ruefully. "So that is it. I was just... letting myself get distracted and worried, likely for no reason, and I ruined a pleasant evening with you by doing so. Again, I am sorry."

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    Rangin leans against the wall as Kylah talks to him, and listening carefully to what she has to say and waiting for her to finish. Once she has, he speaks up.

    "Ok, regardless of the missteps and misunderstandings, I had a good time tonight. Yes, I would like to do it again, when we feel up to it."

    Rangin composes his thoughts and continues.

    "Personally, when you mentioned him tonight, I thought he was someone you were interested in and were asking more for information so you could get to know him better and I apologise for misunderstanding your intentions towards him. However, that kind of question is not normally asked when you are holding on to the arm of someone else who you have just spent an evening chatting away with, hence my reaction."

    He pauses and fixes her gaze. "However, if you want to talk about it as a friend, I'm quite happy to listen. Any advice I may give should probably be taken with a pinch of salt though. As for the person in question, I would have suggested talking to your room mate, as if anyone is likely to know if Ferguson does have a problem - it will be Security. Like I said, pinch of salt."

    He ponders for a moment "Of course, if Dr T'var is your friend, then mention it to her, and I'm sure she can give you better advice than I ever could. Now with that said, thank you very much for the evening. I hope your meeting goes well and I'm sure I'll see you round. Remember, poker lessons."

    He steps back slightly holding a hand out to be shaken.
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

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    Graham tries to both remain fully at attention and reciprocate the Captain's handshake. Perhaps a little stiffly he replies "It's a privilege to be on this ship, Captain. I won't let you down."

    Inwardly he kicks himself: in spite of his background research on Vargas, he hadn't bothered to find out that the captain was a woman. Not that it mattered either way--rather, it made him feel he'd been lax doing his homework. Glancing at her medals, he felt conflicted: for a moment, he imagined his daughter as a Starfleet captain. He had no doubt she had it in her. But better she stay on Earth, he thought, clenching his jaw slightly. Where her father's mistakes can't hurt her..

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    "Thank you, Ensign," the Captain says, nodding. "It's good to have you aboard."

    The transporter tech, the same man who beamed Graham aboard earlier, says, "The starbase signals that Vice Adm. Hardin and his aide are ready to come aboard, ma'am."

    "Thank you, Chief," Singh replies. "Mr. Vargas, are we ready?"

    "Yes, ma'am," he says, after a confirming glance at Mahmoud.

    "Very well. Beam them aboard, if you please, Mr. Nguyen."

    "Aye, Captain." As the hum of the transporter fills the room, Mahmoud again says, "Atten-hut!", and Singh, Vargas and the honor guard snap to attention as one. Graham sees the same older human man from the Swift and his Tellarite assistant shimmer into view. "Present... arms!" The honor guard bring their phasers up to shoulder height, arms tight against their sides. The yeoman pipes the guests aboard with the ancient, shrill, rising and falling tone of his bosun's whistle.

    "Permission to come aboard?" the vice admiral asks in a jovial voice.

    "Permission granted, Vice Adm. Hardin," says the Captain, stepping forward to shake his hand. "And welcome aboard the Yorktown. We're honored to have you here. This is my First Officer and Chief of Security, Cmdr. Vargas."

    "A pleasure, sir," Vargas says, shaking hands in turn.

    "Likewise, Commander. This is my flag aide, Lt. Cmdr. Ebling."

    "My pleasure."

    They briefly converse and Graham quickly observes that the admiral seems tired but cheery; the young Tellarite woman is considerably more reserved and says little.

    "When did you plan to break orbit, Captain?" Hardin asks.

    "I still have some crew enjoying shore leave, sir, and we're almost done loading supplies. We could be on our way in two hours, if that suits you."

    "Fine, fine. Let me inspect this impressive honor guard of yours, and then I'd like a word in private with you and Mr. Vargas."

    "Of course, sir."

    The admiral walks down the line and looks them over briefly, nods his approval and says, "Thank you. Excellent, as expected. Shall we go to your office, Captain?"

    "Certainly, sir. Right this way." She leads him and the Tellarite out. Vargas nods his approval to Mahmoud and goes with them.

    "At ease, gentlemen," Mahmoud says after the doors have closed behind the brass. "Thank you for your assistance - dismissed. Mr. Nguyen, please beam up the admiral's and his aide's baggage, and see that it's delivered to their cabins."

    "Aye, sir."
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 01 Sep 2013 at 01:38 AM.

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    Kylah takes Rangin's hand and shakes it, grateful at least that he is no longer angry with her. "Thank you for your advice, and for letting me explain myself," she says somewhat weakly. She then echoes his own words: "And yes, I am sure we will see each other around."

    Realizing she had better leave before she gets more upset and things grow more awkward--if possible--she bids him a good night and quickly walks away. She waits until she turns a corner before brushing aside a few tears, which she doesn't understand at all. Why is she crying?

    Perhaps because despite his politeness, Rangin still seemed so... she can't explain it... Remote? Dismissive? Not at all how she thinks he would have been if she'd never told him about Ferguson. She should never have brought him up in the first place, and once she did, she probably should never have told Rangin the truth about the situation. It gained her nothing except a feeling of... of not being cared for.

    As she heads to Dr. T'Var's cabin--it's too late now for her to take a shower as he'd recommended earlier--Kylah tries to imagine how she would react if Rangin had told her he was afraid of someone. She doesn't think her first reaction would have been to talk about their enjoyable evening and to lightly remind him of the etiquette against mentioning someone else in her presence. She would probably have offered sympathy. Indeed, she'd probably even get angry on his behalf.

    But all this is hypothetical. She is obviously over-emotional, and has been told this many times. And perhaps Rangin's reaction is simply the way of Coridanites. Are they as cool and logical as Vulcans? Or was it typical of male behavior? Her knowledge of such things is... not exactly very broad. On the one hand Rangin almost seemed jealous of her bringing up Ferguson. On the other, after her honest explanation, he told her to tell her problems to others, emphasized that they were friends, said he'd 'see her around' and seemed no more interested in anything further than he would with Pourtash or Delaney.

    The more she thinks on it, the less like crying she feels and the more annoyed she gets. Telling her to talk to Collins! After the mission, Rangin should know precisely how she feels about Collins by now, as well as how Collins feels about her. And what would she tell the Security officer, anyway? About a man telling her to hop up onto the transporter pad? Collins would probably respond with sarcasm or telling her to stop being a brat. Perhaps someone else in security... but no, even that seems unlikely to reap any benefits. The man didn't threaten her. Not in any way she could relate to anyone, at least. Except T'Var.

    Kylah shakes her head and by the time she arrives at the doctor's quarters, she is past thinking of what had been a pleasant evening turned into a strange, inexplicable mess of emotions. One crisis at a time. Rangin was certainly right about one thing: T'Var is as good a person to talk to as anyone else on this ship. Wiping her eyes again to make sure her face is dry, Kylah presses the panel by T'Var's door.

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    Pourtash is on the Bridge, enjoying a turn in the big chair, when the Captain calls from belowdecks. "Vice Adm. Hardin and his aide are now aboard, Mr. Pourtash. Have Mr. Thalen pass the word to all shore parties to return no later than one and a half hours from now. All cargo loading should be completed by that time, as well."

    "Aye, Captain. I'll see to it."

    "Thank you. Singh out."

    T'Var hears her door buzz. Kylah is right on time.

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    T'Var greets Kylah at the door.

    "Please come in, Kylah," she says with an even tone. "I have been expecting you."

    The doctor can sense Kylah's turmoil. Her Vulcan nose can smell alcohol as well.

    "How may I assist you?" T'Var asks as she offers Kylah a chair. "And please speak freely. Anything we discuss is just between us," the doctor says with a reassuring smile.

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    Kylah thanks T’Var for seeing her and sits down in the offered seat. With so many issues troubling her, Kylah has to focus for a moment. She did not ask for this meeting to discuss Rangin’s confusing behavior or her own ineptitude in dealing with others; nor to talk about a transporter technician who may or may not have some grudge against her. And it certainly wasn’t anything to do with Aldaan and his plans for her.

    She looks into the older woman’s eyes. “Doctor. After our telepathic communications… both on the ship and back during the mission… you know a little of what I am about to tell you. If this were not completely confidential I wouldn’t say any more, but I know you are trustworthy.” She takes a deep breath. “As long as I can remember, I have been… different. I am affected by others around me. Their emotions. Their thoughts, to a certain degree, though only those that are particularly powerful. It is like… being battered by a constant wave of subspace transmissions. I try to tune them out but I cannot.”

    She swallows, her throat very dry. “This is not an ability known to my people—or at least, no one seems to have made such things public. When I was little, my parents thought I was just strangely perceptive, but soon they realized just how much I knew of what they were feeling. Then they knew I was a… a freakish abnormality. They forbade me to tell of this to anyone. Especially when I was young, a possible successor as Dohlman; they could not allow such a deformity to become public. And I had to keep silent even after I was supplanted by the birth of their natural son. Indeed, I would have to do so even if I had nothing to do with the royal family. On Elas, there are many old superstitions and myths. We are a private people. If the truth were known, my parents feared I would be put into a hospital, or even imprisoned—subject to scientific studies like a lab animal.

    “Which brings me to why I am here—the Sakathian mission,” she says, now turning her head away from T’Var to face the windows and the stars beyond. She has to hesitate to gather her strength and recover. The enormity of what she’s just revealed—after an entire life of hiding—feels both like a weight lifted from her shoulders and a new, utterly unknown burden replacing it. Because there is so much more to tell, and so much risk for her—and in a way, for T’Var, if she keeps this secret from her superiors.
    Last edited by choie; 01 Sep 2013 at 02:58 PM.

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    T'Var takes Kylah's hand and gives it a gentle squeeze. "You have nothing to fear from me," the doctor tells her. "I would never betray any confidence -- as a friend or as a physician."

    The doctor sighs. She thinks back to a time when her own emotions were a chaotic swirl of restlessness and irritation.

    "You may find this hard to believe, but I have also struggled with strong emotions. Even with the proper study and meditation, I still struggle with this from time to time."

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    “Nice to see you, Mr. Nguyen.” Graham says, nodding toward the transporter chief. “Well Faisal, VIP on-boarded without a hitch. He seems friendly enough.” He claps his roommate on the shoulder. “Not the most hair-raising mission we’ve ever completed together, but you know what? I like a ship without drama. There’s nothing bad about a ship where everybody—you, me, visiting brass, New Crew Liaison Officers—all get along like one big happy family. “ Graham pauses and shrugs his shoulders. “Not that the opportunity to put some rowdy Orions in their place at a random bar wouldn’t be unwelcome once in awhile. Speaking of bars—I’d better get something to eat. Want to come along?”

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    "We were on an anti-Orion-piracy patrol not long ago, as it happens," Mahmoud replies. "Didn't get to zap any greenies, though. Dinner sounds good. Let's check out Mess Hall 3 - best coffee on the ship."

    Collins sleeps on.

    Rangin checks in at the Xenobiology lab but sees that all's quiet.

    Hayes drops by Sickbay to sit with Fujishiro for awhile. Dr. Bucci is on duty and gives her a friendly wave.

    Pourtash monitors the return of those on shore leave and the completion of the Yorktown's cargo loading, mainly foodstuffs and supplies for the Omicron Ceti III colony.

    Delaney is wrestling with a recalcitrant deuterium fuel pump on the lower decks.

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    Moved by T’Var’s kind touch, Kylah peers anxiously into her eyes. “I cannot imagine ever having control such as you do. You and I are opposites in many ways—you take command of your emotions, and I cannot even protect myself from others’.” She bites her lip, looking down again. “That is what caused me such problems… causes me such problems… about the mission.” A wave of claustrophobia hits her and she stands up, needing to pace.

    “Doctor, I—I cannot express how tormented I was during our time down there. I still am. The altered Sakathians…” Kylah swivels to face the stars again. “Many of us called them ‘zombies.’ But they were not. They had thoughts and feelings—raw, barely sentient, but absolutely real. And I felt them. Mrs. Porr… everything she was going through, I felt too, like an echo. I tried to reach out to her, mentally, hoping to understand what was experiencing, to see if there was any her left. But it was too much. That is why I was so desperate for you to put her to rest, Doctor. She was suffering so greatly and I could not bear it.”

    The stars are obscured by Kylah's tears. “In the transporter room, when all the Sakathians were coming toward us… there were so many…” She halts, knowing she has to explain it all but afraid of continuing. Her entire future in Starfleet could be destroyed if T’Var, despite her reassurances, is duty-bound to report what she’s about to reveal. Without Starfleet Kylah will have to return to Elas, return to Aldaan, and the thought terrifies her.

    But this is what prevents her from sleeping at night and she can’t keep it inside any longer. She slowly turns to T’Var, though she aims her gaze somewhere above the Vulcan’s head. “When they attacked us, I had to fight back. I know it was the only thing to do. But every Sakathian who rushed toward me, I felt. With so many in such close quarters I could not block them out. I sensed the rage, the hunger, the madness. And when our phasers struck them…” Her eyes close. “I felt that too. Their shock. Their fear. Then… nothing. These same sensations, over and over again until the very last one lay dead.”

    After a staggered breath, Kylah stares at the floor in shame. “I had never killed anyone before. On Elas we are taught to use throwing knives at a distance. At the Academy we were taught to defend ourselves in hand-to-hand combat, and to shoot at targets. But this? This was nothing like I had ever expected. This was my first mission. And suddenly I was not just killing, I was being killed—with every shot of my own phaser.”

    She lifts a hand to her eyes, wiping them angrily, and then sits down to stare in naked desperation at T'Var. “How can I forget this? How can I sleep without remembering what it is like to kill, and to be killed? And how can I trust I’ll be able to defend myself or anyone else again?”
    Last edited by choie; 02 Sep 2013 at 02:22 AM.

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