Part of USS Aquarius: Unstable Weather

It’s a Small Galaxy

Mess Hall
December 2399
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Elizabeth was still rubbing the sleep from her eyes following her first night on the Aquarius.  In a near zombie-like fashion she shuffled to the replicator and got her a coffee and some toast with some strawberry jam.

She turned to find a seat.  It was busy this morning.   There was overlapping of shifts so those going into work and those calling it a night had found their way into the mess hall.

Then her gaze fell upon a face she recognized. Bourne? Baker?  No, neither of those, she thought to herself.   Then the pieces clicked into place. The USS Ajax. She  had spent two weeks on the ship with her cousin  trying to get home for leave.

His name is Bates. For the life of me I can’t remember his first name,  she thought. He was an Ensign then, now a full Lieutenant. 

She approached Zane and gave him a warm smile, “Fancy meeting you here.”

Zane was sitting there at one of the empty tables with a bowl full biscuits, few slices of bacon, all smothered in sausage and gravy, along with a mug of Raktajino. He also had a couple pads over to the side and one out in front of him, going over various security protocols, seeing if any of them needed to be updated. However, a familiar voice grabbed his attention that he looked up to see a Lieutenant standing by the table.

“Lieutenant…Kyle? Good to see you, please.” He pointed at the seat across from him with his hand.

Elizabeth sat down across from him and smiled, “You remembered me?  It’s been nearly a decade.”

Zane smiled right back, “Photographic memory. Saw your face and your name just popped right up.” He told her before he took a bite of his food, while checking off some things on his padd in front of him then took a drink of his Raktajino to wash the food down so he can speak freely.  “So I see we’re the same rank.”

“Uh yeah… so it would seem,” she replied.   Where’s he going with this? Elizabeth asked herself.  Is he flirting?  No, surely not.  I’m pretty sure he has a girlfriend.   Probably a wife by now.  “I honestly thought I’d be a Lieutenant Commander by now. Maybe even a full Commander if I were lucky.  But you know how it goes. When we make plans, God laughs.”

He heard the confusion in her voice when he brought that up. He just shrugged, “Just saying, last time I remember, you were at least a rank higher than me when you were on the Ajax for a short while.” He told her with a smirk as he took a few bites while she spoke. He took a large gulp of his Raktajino to clear up once more to speak. “Yeah, I know that feeling. Get into a relationship with a woman who has plans on being Captain, completely ignoring the complications and risks behind it. And then the ship gets called into action against some band of misfit Klingons in the Archanis Sector, get jumped by a squadron of birds of prey, fend off over half of them before most of our systems were taken out. Then a flippin K’t’inga comes in to board the ship but what do I do? Restore power to the weapons terminal and used up the one torpedo in the tube and what energy we had left stored in the phaser array, disabling the bastard, and end up saving the crew. Of course, another ship came in and scared off the rest of the BoP’s we didn’t get rid of. And what do I get? A commendation. What does my girlfriend get? A promotion and a seat to being the new First Officer. And then I get kicked off the ship.” He leaned back into his seat with a heavy sigh. “So, yeah, you’re right. God laughs. If there is a god. All the plans I had went down the shitter.”

 

He stared at the bowl of his on the table for a moment, if there was to be an awkward moment of silence, that be it. He took a sharp, deep breath and looked at her with a smile. “Sorry about that. Must of been holding it in.” He chuckled and then grabbed his Raktajino and took a long sip.

 

“It would seem I struck a nerve,” she said sipping her own coffee. “Let me ask you this: if it was you being offered the XO job would you turn it down for her?”

 

Zane shook his head, “No nerve was struck. Just happen to had the right words to yank that cork out of the bottle.” He chuckled before he took another sip of his coffee when she asked. He shook his head again, “I would have done my damnest to convince the Captain, whom we had served for roughly thirteen years, that we would keep work separate from personal life. And if that didn’t work, then yeah, I would have turned it down.” He grabbed his bowl and finished off what was left inside before setting it back down on the table and used his napkin to clean up.

 

“But that’s just me. I have no interest in being a Captain. I have enough responsibilities now. Plus, new ship, new possibilities but it does make you think that this must be a small galaxy, because I had no idea you were serving on board this ship.” He chuckled.

 

“Or… perhaps it’s a small fleet,” Elizabeth suggested. “Either way, I can see your point  but I do want to be a captain.  It’s precisely why I haven’t had a serious relationship. For a career with ambition of making it to the top you don’t enter into a relationship knowing it will never last. But, that’s just me.”
Zane finished off his Raktajino before setting the cup back down on the table. “Long as you know how to keep it separate from work, so that it don’t cause any unprofessionalism, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t start one. But if you can’t keep work and personal life separate, then no, definitely shouldn’t.”
“It depends,  but as a direct supervisor,  I don’t think I could be objective,” Elizabeth replied finishing off her coffee. “Maybe you can, I don’t know. But, somehow I doubt you would order your loved one to her death, and that is sometimes an unfortunate byproduct of command.”
Looking at the remains of her breakfast she sighed.  “At any rate; what’s done is done.  So, tell me, what is it you do when you are not on duty?”
Zane shrugged his shoulders, slouched in his chair and replied to the question before taking a step back to her response about relationships and professionalism, “Being Chief now means more work, more reports.” He told her. “But, I do have a very enthusiastic Ensign in my department who is determined to take the Assistant spot. But she went and did things without coming to me first, hell, before I even came on board when the ship was still docked.” He smirked. “So, normally, I’ll ether play a poker game with some of the Earth’s best leaders of their nation, or being lazy on the couch, drinking beer and watching some random entertainment show I found in the old Earth database. There’s this one called M*A*S*H* that I’m watching right now, absolutely hilarious.”
Then he cleared his throat, now taking that step back. “About your, as a direct supervisor, response. See that right there is where people have trouble keeping work and personal life separate. I ain’t saying that I wouldn’t try to change a ‘No Win Scenario’ and win it without any loss of life, because if I was down there with them on the same away team, I sure as hell would. Even if it meant my life over there’s, I’d do it in a heart beat. But if I was on the Bridge, and say I was in charge, and I had to order them to do something that would potentially end their life. If it is a matter of saving others on the away team, or a hundred…thousand…a million lives…then yes, I would take the consequences for the relationship and order them to do their job as a Starfleet Officer, to save as many lives as possible. As the saying goes, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” He paused for a moment to let it all sink in as an old memory cropped up, something he had not thought about in years. “The reason why I am capable of accepting that, is because my mother made that exact same decision to my father.”
He licked his lips and sat up in his seat before leaning forward, resting his arms on the table. “Near the end of the Cardassian War, my mother was the First Officer of the USS Okinawa and my father was the Chief Flight Control Officer. There was a threat of Cardassians launching a biogenic weapon on one of the Federation colony worlds, but what really happened was that they deployed a very large infantry. So while my father was assisting with the evacuation, him and his team were forced to defend the pads from an overwhelming force of Cardassian troops. One group of Cardassians were setting up an artillery piece to shoot down the evacuating crafts and my father was the closest one to it. My mother ordered him to take it out. As much as she didn’t want to, she knew it needed to be done or the transport would of been shot down.. He did manage to destroy the weapon system, and at the cost of his life, he saved hundreds. I have no problem doing the same, whether it was me being ordered or vice versa. My mother doesn’t regret her decision, but she absolutely does wish that the Cardassians had never brought such a weapon onto the field, otherwise she would of never had to make that order and he would still be alive today.”
Zane leaned back into his chair and sighed. “Sorry for ruining a perfectly good conversation.” He pursed his lips and then rubbed the bridge of his nose.
Elizabeth took a moment to take all of that in.  Folding her hands in front of her she smiled.   “Ruined? No, I don’t think so, but I’m not a ship’s counselor so you’re not likely to get good advice from me so I won’t offer it.  However,  I will say; maybe you can separate it, but I cannot, and somehow I don’t think I am a minority in that regard.”
Zane nodded his head, “Yeah that sure seems to be that way.” He drummed his fingers on the table for a moment, “So you asked, now its your turn. What do you do when you’re off duty?”
“I am a musician, and when I’m on leave I’m also an equestrian.  However,  I will ride from time to time on the holodeck,  but when there’s no cred…  uh latinum on the line compeating isn’t quite the same.”
Zane smirked some, “If we ever stop by Deep Space Nine, I know a trick with Quark’s Dabo table that will allow us to walk out of there with pockets full of latinum.” He chuckled.
Elizabeth laughed,  “Barrel racing is not the same as gambling… you win more gambling.”
Zane chuckled, “Suppose that’s true. But it is quite enjoyable leaving the bar with that Ferengi with a confused look on his face.”
Elizabeth shrugged, she had never met the man, but his reputation preceeds him.  “I have met worse on Terra Alpha, the planet I grew up on.  To you we are are just a bunch of backwater hicks, even if Capital City has a population of fifty million.   To us you are a bunch of idealistic hippys, but capitalism does have its drawbacks,  people like Quark for example.   It’s probably not ideal, but it’s what you are used to I suppose.”
Zane shrugged as well. “I was born on a transport heading for Earth, a bit ahead of schedule as my parents weren’t expecting me until they got to Earth. But then I was raised by my grandparents for several years, because my parents had to return to the Okinawa when my mother was ready to return to duty, as the war was still going. But after the Cardassians finally accepted a truce in twenty-three sixty-six, my mother was promoted to Captain, given command of USS Larius, a Galaxy Class starship, she came and picked me up. I believe that they were designed to house families for the purpose of the fact that those class of ships were so large, back then in the twenty-three sixty’s, and very much capable of doing what the Constitution Class starships were designed for, for longer periods of time. So…Earth never really felt like home to me, the Larius did only because my mother was there to be with me, even though she was the Captain. Point, is that, I would not see you as a backwater hicks or whatever.” He chuckled. “Should take a shore leave to Deep Space Nine once and a while, not just because of the shops or beating Quark at his own games but also the fact that Bajor is an incredibly beautiful planet.”
“So you never really grew up on a planet? I can’t imagine that.   As nice as these ships are, they are…” she hesitated looking for the right word, “they are confining.  The top of Mount Archer is over 4,000 meters,  and from the top you can see a 160 kilometers.  You would see farther from Mount Ryder at 7,600 meters,  but it’s usually above the clouds and climbing it… well that’s not something I want to do. It takes your own oxygen and skills I do not possess.”
Zane shrugged, “I mean, I did live on Earth with my grandparents for a few years but after that, yeah I pretty much grew up on a starship. And they’re not that bad, I don’t think my mother’s ship had any issues with the holodecks like some ship we know but, when I was old enough, I did get to be an Acting Ensign for a while before I was old enough to apply for the Academy. So that was pretty fun.”
“That sounds like fun,” Elizabeth said with a smile. “Or at least beneficial to the future. “
Zane smiled with a nod, “It indeed was. Got to learn a lot and do a lot of things that a civilian wouldn’t be able to do. Well, things that we can do I mean.” Zane sighed softly with content, having rather enjoyed the conversation but when he saw the time, he knew he had to get going. “I appreciate this catch up, Elizabeth but I have a meeting with my department along with Commander Q’orvha’s Department. Going to be quite interesting, I do believe.”
“Have a good day Zane,” Elizabeth said with  smile.  “Nice catching up with you.”
Zane stood up from the table. “You too, Elizabeth!” And with that, he took his tray and cup to the replicator to be dematerialized and then headed off to the departmental briefing room.