Tapping his thumb against the interface of a desktop computer terminal aboard the USS Tolstoy, a Starfleet service record scrolled slowly on the display screen. Tumaini Calumn’s dark eyes narrowed on the words Space Station K-7. He stopped his scroll and he breathed out a, “tt.” He tapped a button to close the service record. Leaning back in his chair, Calum pulled open the front flap of his red uniform jacket and then he secured it even tighter than before. It would look better that way while he was seated — more formal.
Calumn took a deep deep breath, and then he said, “Computer, open a subspace channel with Lieutenant Commander Eline Liebenberg aboard USS Johannesburg.” After a chirping telltale, a Starfleet insignia appeared on his display screen to indicate the computer was working.
Eline stretched in her cabin on the Johannesburg. It was barely a day into the cruise to Starbase 211, and she already was feeling the effects of being on one of the smallest ships in the fleet. She wasn’t used to the utilitarian accommodations of the Centaur-class, having been assigned to posts that always had spacious quarters and crew areas. Even when she was on the Cairo, she still had comfortable quarters. To be fair, they were her quarters, and the Captain gave his crew autonomy to do as they wished, as long as the work got done. But these quarters…it didn’t feel like home. It felt more like a hotel room; in fact, the entire ship felt like it was foreign. Pushing the unpleasant thoughts out of her mind by bringing up the pleasant memories of leave on Earth, she was pulled out by the soft chime of the com-channel aboard the ship.
“Lieutenant Commander Liebenberg, this is the Bridge. Please acknowledge.”“Liebenberg here.”
“Ma’am, we have a communications request from the USS Tolstoy, coded personal. Would you like to take it in your cabin?”
Eline was puzzled. Usually, the personal meant that it was her partner, checking in with her, but she was back on Earth. She didn’t know anyone on the Tolstoy, at least, that she remembered. “Transfer it to my cabin. I’ll take it on the monitor.”
“Acknowledged. Bridge out.”
Eline stretched her back and put on her red uniform jacket over her sleeveless dress that she had on. Technically, she was off duty, but it was a small touch of home in the vast emptiness of space. Once she sat down, she swiveled the monitor towards her. It had the Federation seal and the words Incoming Transmission: From Lt. Tumaini Calumn, USS Tolstoy.
‘Calumn…’ she thought as she tapped the desk and read the screen. ‘Where do I know that name from? I know that name.’ Suddenly, it dawned on her who it could possibly be. “Is it possible it’s that…there’s no way” she muttered to herself, as she tied her hair back into a ponytail. She tapped the console, and accepted the transmission. The monitor beeped, and then she was face to face with Lt. Calumn. A pleasant smile graced her lips, and she said, “Hello Lieutenant! It’s been a long time.”
“Good evening, commander. Yes, it’s been a very long time,” Calumn replied. On the screen, his facial expression was relatively neutral, but there was a warmth conveyed behind his words. He tilted his head back slightly, looking up at the overhead with a momentary look of concentration. His brows furrowed for a heartbeat. Meeting Eline’s eyes again, Calumn said, “Six years, in fact! Please let me know if this is an inconvenient time, commander. I had hope to speak with you about your destination.”
Eline blinked with surprise at Lt. Calumn’s formality. “Six years? Has it really been that long?” she questions, arching an eyebrow. “It’s not inconvenient, just surprising is all. Of course; what did you want to speak about, regarding my destination?”
A smile began to curl on his face at the mention of surprise. “Judging by the crew manifest, I believe we share a destination: USS Achilles,” Calumn said. He said the name of their ship with some bravado; his own service record would show he had never served aboard anywhere as prestigious as an Ambassador-class starship. “To keep from striking up a conversation with the bulkhead,” Calumn said, gently teasing, “I thought you might like to meet your new chief security officer.”
Eline laughed gently, and shook her head. She remembered perfectly his playful nature when she had met him on K-7 a long time ago, back when she was assigned to JAG. “Of course! I’m happy to know that I’m working with someone I already know. Though, I wanted to ask…you transferred out of JAG Corps for a place in security?” She smiled cordially as she made conversation.
That question. That question was loaded like a phaser on setting eight. As much as Calumn had tried to mentally prepare himself for meeting Eline –after they had only met in a courtroom before– he hadn’t considered how to frame that story. His eyes went on the down and he scraped his teeth across his lower lip. “As much as I loved the hearings, I love the research and the preparation more. I loved it too much. It was eating my whole life; all I wanted to do was frame and reframe arguments. It was starting to feel too much like school back on Betazed; everyone around me was engaging telepathically and I couldn’t hear any of it. Too much time alone with my thoughts.”
Eline nodded. “I can understand that. Though if you were content, you could have transferred into the appellate division; most of what they do is research and preparation. Being a trial officer is always complicated, yet it was always rewarding. I loved that about JAG. There was always a lot going on.” She smiles fondly remembering all the good times she had in JAG.
Calumn shrugged, and he said dryly, “I thought it was time to try breaking the law myself.”
Eline let out a gentle giggle, and shook her head, composing herself. “Breaking the law is addictive, Lieutenant. Besides, you might be breaking more bones as a Security Chief than you will the law.” She quipped back with him, lending her sense of humor to him. “You know, we’re going to be working quite well together, given our background.”
“I expect so,” Calumn said. There was some relief in his tone; the expression on his face revealed he was realising that probability only as when said it out loud. “Most other officers haven’t seen what we’ve seen. We probably understand the roles and responsibilities of Starfleet in a similar manner,” Calumn acknowledged, but his lips quirked into a mischievous smile. “Except for that one time, on K-7.”