Part of USS Horizon: Episode 3 – The Unexpected Stranger

Chapter 1

San Francisco, Earth, Alpha Quadrant
September, 2399
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With lunch taken care of, a succulent braised lemon chicken and risotto, Sumiko tidied her dinnerware to be collected and then proceeded back to the condo to prepare herself for the afternoon keynote address.

She would have preferred to wear something more comfortable and feminine, but given that the conference was work related, she recycled her dirty uniform and replicated a fresh one before hopping in the sonic shower to freshen up. She could have stayed in there all day letting the vibrations break away all that dirt and grime of the day, including anything from her tumble earlier. She couldn’t help but think of that Vulcan man that ran into her. Who was he? Was he Starfleet?, she thought to herself.

As the sonic shower finished, Sumiko wrapped herself up in her towel and proceeded back to the bedroom to put on her uniform. She stood there for a moment wishing she had packed her favorite perfume, but in her haste to leave the ship, it was one of the luxuries that she felt she could do without. Not to mention, ship protocol often meant going without scented products in the workplace.

She quickly went and replicated herself a small vial and applied a small amount to her wrists and rubbed them together before applying another small amount to her neck. Now she had that sense of femininity that she desired, even though she was still in uniform.

Now feeling set to go, she reached for her carry case containing a PADD with her work notes and questions she would have for the panelists and headed out the door.

It was a lovely walk to the Conference Centre. The sun was still shining as it had been previously and the sound of birds chirping was very melodic and soothing. For a moment Sumiko had forgotten that she was on a work related trip, but seeing the crowd of people attempting to gain access to the building, snapped her back to reality at the realization that it would take her several minutes to finally get inside.

Ruvok had decided to take a nap before the conference which was slated to begin around 15:30 that afternoon. After the embarrassing accident earlier Ruvok couldn’t seem to get the stranger out of his head. The face kept flashing before his eyes as he tried to sleep. After trying to fall asleep for an hour he decided to just wake up and get ready for the conference.

After another quick shower and putting on his uniform he decided to head for the conference location and see at which panel he would be a part of. He hadn’t planned on being a part of the conference, but he was asked to participate in a panel.

He arrived at the conference location already seeing a queue forming, but with the pass he was given he got through without having to wait, as he made his way into the conference center the room opened up into a huge foyer and hallway. The center was bathed in pure white, but with many holographic banners hanging to show what was currently happening. The echo of voices reverberated through the halls like an alarm on a starship. A slight scent of refreshment hit Ruvok’s nose. His stomach growled at the thought of eating, but was quickly quiet again.

Ruvok was walking towards the auditorium, which had soft music emanating from it, as if it was a distraction to the throng of people present. He stopped for a second after he looked over and thought he saw the human female from the earlier accident, but before he was able to tell the female turned her back to him.

Ruvok felt a lump in his throat. He was Vulcan, but he was also human and emotions were always a problem for him. On the one hand he knew it wasn’t logical to feel emotion like he was over someone he didn’t know. He started to walk over towards the female when he was interrupted by a former academy mate who was attending the conference. Ruvok wasn’t wanting to be rude, but ended the conversation as quickly as he could with an excuse that he needed to find the event staff. When he looked up the female was gone after looking all around him he could not spot the stranger and decided to walk towards the auditorium spotting an event staff member.

The staff member smiled at Ruvok as he approached. The staff member was tall and decently built. A feeling of power came across as Ruvok approached.

“How can I help, Sir?” The man asked.

Ruvok pulled up his identification card “I am trying to find out where I need to go and when for this panel.”

The man opened a PADD and looked before smiling again “Ahh yes Lieutenant Ruvok! Head through that hallway to the backstage and find stage director Krevok. He will get you all set up.”

Ruvok nodded and glanced at the man’s name tag “Thank you, Nrian.” He said, trying not to butcher the name.

Having finally reached the interior of the conference hall and locating the auditorium in which her specific panel was to be held, Sumiko entered to see an aisle separating two large groupings of chairs with a podium and microphone at the head of the aisle for people to ask questions to the prospective panelists. A stage with a long rectangular table with chairs and microphones for seven individuals, each with a nameplate before it was at the furthest end of the room. She proceeded down the aisle and took an empty seat about four rows back from the front between some Bolians and a Human delegation.

The main reason for Sumiko attending the conference this particular day was that Reginald Barclay was supposed to deliver the keynote address. However, it was rumored that he was out sick with some kind of ailment and a Commander Steinbeck was to be delivering it in his stead. Sorely disappointed, she still attended anyway.

Over the next several minutes the auditorium continued to fill up with more and more guests from various Federation delegations across the quadrant, all looking to hear the latest and greatest developments. As soon as the room was seemingly at capacity, the lights dimmed and the main stage lighting kicked in. The room grew silent as everyone waited for the event to commence.

Ruvok had followed the hallway that he had been urged to go down, finding himself backstage and quickly stopped by a gruff voice “What are you doing back here?”

Ruvok jumped slightly as he turned to see a well built Klingon looking at him. Ruvok smiled and handed the man his id card. “I was told to find Krevok. I am a part of the panel taking place after the keynote speaker.”

The man stopped and cautiously observed the ID before handing it back and nodding “My apologies Lieutenant Ruvok. This way please.” he said, motioning for Ruvok to follow him. After a small walk, he found himself in the dressing room where a worker applied makeup before his appearance. He could see the main stage through the monitors in the dressing room, as the conference kicked off he could see the auditorium was packed and started to feel a few nerves emerge. This was one of the first times he had partaken in such a big event.

He was interrupted as the worker combed back his hair and nodded “You ready Lieutenant?”

Ruvok nodded as he looked to see the keynote speaker take position and began their speech. He was quickly rushed to the area where he would walk on stage. He listened to the keynote which was disappointing since it wasn’t the original planned speaker. He was given an earpiece and put in the line with the other panelist. He didn’t know any of them personally just through professional means.

The audience applauded showing the keynote speaker had concluded and Ruvok along with the other panelists were rushed onto the stage, the lights blinding him as he walked to his seat. He sat down putting down the PADD he had with him. As his eyes adjusted he looked out at the crowd not really able to see the faces. He smiled and waited.

Sumiko just about gasped and her heart nearly skipped a beat when she saw the panelists take their places. It’s the Vulcan from earlier! She thought. She never expected him to be a panelist at the conference. There were questions she had planned to ask during this panel, but now realizing that the man she suddenly became infatuated with could potentially be answering those questions made her nervous to her core. Suck it up Sumiko. It’s just another officer in uniform. Think of him as a colleague when you’re addressing him. She said to herself as she attempted to psych herself up.

One by one guests made their way up to the podium and asked their questions, and in turn, one of the panelists would inevitably speak up and answer. Finally building up enough courage to speak up, she stood and snuck past the two Bolians to her left to get in line. A Tellarite and a Denobulan stood ahead of her.

Ruvok patiently listened to the questions from the audience, each member answering in order. The answers were all professional and determined to show the knowledge of the members. Ruvok was next to answer and he began to wonder just what question he would be asked.

When Sumiko’s turn finally came up, she placed her PADD down on the podium and cleared her throat. She felt like she was going to throw up, but she knew inside she could do this. She glanced up at the seven individuals on stage and began to speak “Good after…”

Her voice crackled in a slightly higher pitch than normal from her nervousness. She paused and then continued. “Ahem…Good afternoon. Lieutenant Commander Sumiko Tamura of the USS Atlantia. I have two questions I’d like to ask the panel. Regarding the issue surrounding the shield frequency degradation in the upper EM bands, have there been any breakthroughs in nominalizing such power losses and maintaining shield strengths?”

She gazed upon the stage as she waited for one of the panelists to speak up, all the while hoping it would be the Vulcan to answer her question. She simply could not take her eyes off of him.

The voice was not what Ruvok expected and it shocked him. It was the girl he could hear the voice just like he did earlier that day. His heart jumped and he tried to stay composed from the revelation she was present.

Ruvok cleared his throat and began to answer the question. He made a mental note of the girl’s name Sumiko Tamura before speaking.

“In most cases it is still an issue, though some ships have tried some experimental ideas. For instance the Engineering Officer on my ship The USS Tesla has begun to test the minimization of degradation in the EM bands by finding any spare power and applying it to the system, in doing so it has been simulated to help the shield strength by continuing to harden the strength and maintain a steady power flow.”

Sumiko was pleased that the Vulcan accepted her particular question to answer. She eyed the nameplate in front of his microphone and made sure to document not only his answer, but also his name into her PADD before readying herself with her followup question.

Looking back up at the lieutenant, she spoke up, “My second question is during times of combat, we’ve been able to increase the range of shield modulations using redundant systems as an alternate power source to feed into the primary shield grid as well as using their inverses. Are you aware of any blueprint redesigns, short of feeding power directly from the warp core to increase the power capacity of the shield generators on a more permanent basis?”

Ruvok waited as he expected another panelist to answer the question, but all the panelists looked his way. He stared blankly at the group So this is what it feels like being put on the spot.

He turned back to the crowd and put on the face that would be expected and he began to answer Sumiko’s other question. “Combat is a tricky situation and for engineers even more so. I’m constantly being fed information from the engineers. Shield modulations can vary in range, yes, but sometimes depending on the atmosphere it is not possible to increase the ranges. That being said redundant systems are often used just for the purpose of an alternate power source and on my ship the Captain feeds the shield grid depending on the situation. I can’t give you a redesign l, but if I recall from reading, the USS Aurelius did a similar redesign so that the shield generators had a permanent increase of 7%. It may not seem like much, but when needed it can be a big help.”

Sumiko absorbed every word the lieutenant said in detail and thanked him for his answers before returning to her seat. She was impressed with the level of detail he provided and she planned to take this knowledge to the chief engineer as soon as she was back on the ship.

The event continued with the remaining delegate representatives posing their questions and in turn getting responses. Sumiko was nearly oblivious to what was going on. She couldn’t get that Vulcan out of her mind. Ruvok, she thought. She had to meet him, but she would have to wait until the conclusion of the panel, otherwise she might appear disinterested if she was noticed.

Ruvok continued to answer questions from other members of the audience, but in the back of his mind he kept thinking of the girl. Sumiko, he knew unlike most Vulcans he wasn’t the same and his parents always told him don’t be ashamed of who you are. Ruvok was his own person, but he was good at his job and to most of Starfleet that was all that mattered. He had to meet her, but he did not know when. His mind reeled back to the panel and he waited for his next question.