Part of USS Cygnus: A Failure to Communicate

Officially Meeting the XO

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It had been almost four months to the very day since he had last been face to face with the door he was looking at. Last time he was here, he had gotten the official nod from Commander Pope that he would be doing the remote extension command courses through Starfleet Academy. It had been a proud day for Lisald, and he still got butterflies in his stomach because of it (and truth be told, because of his attraction to Pope, which still resonated today). 

Now however, he was standing here because he had been called here. Lisald had only the briefest of encounters since the new Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Erik Larsen, had come aboard. All he knew about the man was that he was a Science Officer prior to being posted to the Cygnus and that he was good to have around in a crisis. At least, that was according to Ensign Robinson, who had served with him. As the doors slid open, Lisald more or less just stuck his head in, far enough that it looked like a floating, disembodied head. “You wanted to see me, sir?”

Erik looked up and saw Lt. Lisald’s seemingly detached head almost floating in the doorway and stifled a laugh. “Yes, Mister Lisald. Please come in.“ Erik stood and gestured toward the empty chairs placed before the desk. “Would you care for something to drink? I have fresh brewed coffee, non-replicated.“

Lisald smiled and made his way into the room when the Executive Officer invited him in, then eyes got wide at the offer of coffee. “I’ve never had coffee before, replicated or otherwise, sir. What is it like,” he asked, lowering himself into the offered chair as he responded.

”As most describe it, coffee is an acquired taste,” said Larsen in a matter-of-fact tone. “I tend to drink mine noticeably stronger than most. You are certainly welcome to try a cup if you like.”

Lisald shrugged his right shoulder. “Sure, why not!” A few moments later, he was handed a hot up of coffee, the steam coming off of it visibly. Gingerly, he brought it up to his lips and blew on it softly several times before sipping it. Almost immediately, he gagged. “Oh, the Prophets,” he exclaimed, both from the disgusting bitter taste as well as from the scorched tongue. “This is terrible!” He looked up at the Executive Officer, and realizing he may have offended the second-highest ranking officer on this ship, he amended, “Uh, sir.”

Erik had to stifle a laugh when he observed the Lieutenant’s reaction to coffee. Truth be told, it was sort of what he had expected to see; most Bajorans Erik had known in his life had found coffee quite unpleasant. Still, as he had stated earlier, it is an acquired taste. “I don’t stand on ceremony very much, Lieutenant. You can call me Erik when we are off the bridge if you would like. Your decision.” Erik folded his hands on the desk. “Tell me, Mister Lisald…are you happy in your current position?”

The Bajoran had a profound sense of deja vu. Just yesterday, he had said the exact same thing to Ensign Robinson about not standing on formality when not in front of higher-ranking officers. It seemed the Executive Officer and he had a lot in common. As for the question…”Eh…” he said and trailed off. He had hoped that Larsen would change the topic, but after an awkward silence (maybe a solid second, two if he was being generous), Lisald answered. “Not really, sir. I’m a scientist. I got into Starfleet to be able to pursue my passion, Archaeology and Anthropomorphic Studies. I came aboard as the ships Archaeologist, and before I knew it, I was the Chief Science Officer. Commander Pope, your predecessor, said she thought I would eventually be a good command track officer, and after some consideration, I felt like that is what I wanted. As a result, I got put in this position.” He took a breath, then continued. “I mean to say, I like the job, but I wish I was back in Science again. Many a time I’ve envied Ensign Spangler and the role he now holds.”

Erik listened to his younger colleague intently. ”I appreciate your candor, Mister Lisald. I asked you mainly because I have reviewed your service dossier, and your scientific credentials are impressive. I just want to have peace of mind knowing that those that report to me are in positions that not only play to their strengths but that satisfy their needs as well.” Erik let out a long breath through his nose before continuing. “Five weeks ago, I was making plans to take the Bridge Officer’s Test. Then the disaster of the Ascension relaunch happened, and here I am second in command on one of our premier scientific platforms. Sometimes we get thrust into positions that we are forced to be ready to take.”

Lisald dropped his eyes. “Yes sir.” He wasn’t entirely sure he believed it. “When Commander Pope offered to help me through my command track extension program, I thought that maybe someday I would be in command of this ship.” He then blushed, stepping over the line. “Ah, sorry Commander. With you and Captain Bane here now, it is, I think, a permanent thing. If I request a transfer, or get transferred, chances are high that I would go to another Operations position, and it could be on any ship. A Captain ship. A Man o’ War. A Cruiser. It could even be on a Logistical Support Ship. I’m interested in the science! What are the chances I would go to another science ship, or get put in a position, like you, where I could be on one of the leading science ships in the Fleet?”

Give me a PADD with a built in calculator and I could tell you the exact probability of that happening, Erik thought to himself. “The Captain has vastly more experience than myself, and I think both of us can learn from his command style. I am willing to advocate for you, to help you get a position in the future that you want. One that meets your needs and those of the Fleet at the same time.”

Lisald looked back up to his Executive Officer. He really did like Erik Larsen already, even though they had just really met. “I sincerely appreciate that, Commander.” He still couldn’t come to terms with calling him ‘Erik’ as he had said. Lisald now understood how Ensign Robinson felt, now that the shoe was on the other foot. Feeling it was time to change the topic of conversation from himself, Lisald asked, “How about you? I’ve heard you are useful to have in a crisis. What did you do on the Ascension before you became Executive Officer here?”

”I was the Chief Science Officer,” Erik explained, leaning back slightly in his chair. “I don’t know how much you know about the Ascension’s history, but we took a trip through time…a zero-point device ruptured the fabric of spacetime and pulled us into a temporal rift, displacing us ten years into the future. We were given a new ship, and suffered a critical malfunction that disabled us and caused a massive hull breach. Ensign Robinson really earned her wings that day, I tell you. We were able to stabilize systems enough to get the warp core ejected and most of the crew to the escape pods.”

Lisald furrowed his brow. Despite being a scientist, Temporal Mechanics still confused him. “Wait, you’ve been to the future, or you are living in the future now? I had not heard anything about your ship, other than it was lost.”

”I came aboard the first iteration of the Ascension in 2389, and we were displaced a few months later,” explained Erik. “So I am living in the future. I would show you my calculations as to how it happened exactly, but that has been classified. Sigma Eight clearance and higher.”

Lisald’s eyes grew wide. “That is higher than the Captain’s clearance,” he exclaimed, truly amazed. Lisald also had the sneaky suspicion that he had already been told too much. But damn was he curious! “Still, incredible that you are living in the future. Was it hard to make the adjustment of being alive again? How did your family react when Starfleet told them you and the rest of your crew had been found?”

”Starfleet was, naturally, suspicious,” began Erik. “We were intercepted and boarded by Titan, whose crew verified our identities and escorted us to the nearest starbase. After extensive debriefing, life began to normalize for us. And from a personal standpoint…my home colony joined the Federation while I was away, and two of my six brothers are in Starfleet now; it’s funny to see them in uniform, looking all grown up, when the last time I had seen them they were struggling with middle school algebra.”

Lisald had never heard of the Titan, but he was glad that ship was there when the crew of the Ascension needed them. After all, it led to the Commander being here on the Cygnus now. “I bet,” Vaat said, smiling. He was positive there was a great deal more left unsaid, about missing all those years and all that life missed. Maybe over time, Larsen would share more. Until then, Vaat would not push him. “I appreciate you calling me here to get to know me, sir. It’s been nice, like some sort of barrier or wall has been taken down a little.”

Erik gave his younger colleague a broad smile  “I was thinking the same thing, Mister Lisald. Unless you have anything else, you’re dismissed. Thank you for taking time to meet.”

The Bajoran officer stood, curtly nodded his respect. “Sir,” he said, in way of salutations and thanks, turned on his heel, and headed back to the Bridge.

OFF

Lieutenant (junior grade) Lisald Vaat

Chief Operations Officer

USS Cygnus

&

Lieutenant Commander Erik Larsen

Executive Officer

USS Cygnus