Part of USS Ulysses: Wings of Salvation and Bravo Fleet: Sundered Wings

CH11 – Family Ties

Various
May, 2400
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Zinn had been packing his belongings for approximately thirty-four minutes, and of those thirty-four minutes, he begrudged… all thirty-four of them to be fair. He, unlike his comrades, was not remotely enthused at the prospect of serving on the old rustbucket they had been summoned to, even if only temporarily.

Even now, as he strode purposefully down the corridor, his face a stoic mask hiding his seething annoyance, he contemplated just how often the universe tended to conspire against the best laid plans of mice and men, and then had to suppress a smile as he realized just how very old that tiny bit of literary observation was, and just how very much he’d gotten from his wife in regards to ancient Earth literature. The woman was light years away, and they saw each other in person at most once or twice every couple of years, but still, she was able to get stuff stuck in the Deltan’s head.In his hand was the compact grey holo-platform for a game. It was a silly thing, really, but important to him. Since he’d packed what little belongings he had, he had decided to have a large cup of coffee, extra sweet, double cream, probably more cream and sugar than coffee if he was completely honest, and play a few games of Scarlette’s favorite game. It wasn’t until he sat down at the table to enjoy the coffee and boot up the antiquated piece of machinery, that he realized something was terribly wrong.

He’d pressed all the right buttons, and he’d even checked to make sure it was connected to the ship’s wireless connection, but still, it wouldn’t load the upload menu that would ensure his game progress was saved to the game servers. It seemed that sometime in the last few months, during the few moves he’d made, something in the file system had been corrupted and was not activating the software that would allow the up-link. He could play it just fine without that, but they’d both agreed never to do that. It was just one of those little things they did to keep themselves feeling connected, even when they were sometimes months apart at maximum warp. So, he’d finished his coffee, sitting in stony silence, illogically glaring at the offending piece of technology, and wondering if he could design a way to make it feel pain. Finally, after he’d drained the last of the drink, he sighed, and picked up the game, heading out into the corridors of the ship to find the one person he felt would be able to help him the most.

Walking into engineering, sleeves rolled up and bald head shining uncharacteristically bright in the lights of the room, he looked around, taking note of the few people he could see working, and then, headed for the Chief’s office. Approaching the open doorway, he rapped his knuckles firmly against the duranium frame. “Lieutenant Prida, might I trouble you for a few minutes?” he asked, his deep voice as toneless and inflection-less as it usually was.

Prida had spent approximately ten minutes packing her belongings upon her return to the Temeraire, and then hightailed it back to engineering to take care of a few things before she left for the Ulysses. She’d run through some orders for her staff, leaving a raft of instructions for various sub-departments, and guides for how to monitor and adapt the sensor platforms in order to keep the tachyon grid working at its peak. She was in the middle of recording her last duty log when the sound of knocking drew her attention away.

”Of course Commander, come in please,” she waved him into the office, “Please excuse the mess, I’m arranging some things before we leave.”

Zinn gave her a slight smile, a concession to the fact that it was his first time meeting her one on one, and he’d been told countless times over the years that people truly reacted better if one tried to start off more warm than his usual. Glancing around, he noticed that what she considered a mess wasn’t honestly all that bad. “Not at all,” he replied. “And please, call me Zinn. I’m not on duty, so rank is really not necessary. I actually came to ask you for a personal favor. I hope you don’t mind?” he added.

”Of course not… Zinn,” the Bajassian replied, running a hand through her black hair, pausing with mild trepidation about using his first name. “What can I help you with?”

Holding up the rectangular holo-platform he tilted his head towards it. “I went to sign on to the game server a few hours ago, hoping to play one of the games my wife and I both enjoy playing from time to time, and it wouldn’t connect to the wireless connection. It will play offline, but it won’t let me connect so my information will be available if she wants to play a match to try to beat me…” he said, suddenly feeling silly about the whole thing.

‘Well, that was unexpected,’ Prida thought, but thankfully her facial expressions failed to relay the feelings inside. Thank the Prophets Zinn wasn’t a Betazoid. “That’s really sweet,” Prida commented, taking the console with a smile. “What do you both play…if you don’t mind me asking?” she was gentle with the machine, observing the main screen, her eyes intent on exploring the inner workings of the software.

”Mostly logic games, a few different forms of chess, one of them we actually have going in real time. It saves our moves and we have been playing it for about two years now. I think I’ll have her in check sometime in the next few months,” Zinn replied, watching the woman tinker with the device.

“In that case,” Prida replied, pulling a PADD from the lower drawer of her desk, “I am going to back up these files before I go any further.” She found his explanation endearing and sentimental. And totally unexpected from a man who seemed so distant, and so anti… well, anti-everything of late. Something she should have thought about long ago for her family. “What a great way to keep in touch with loved ones,” she added, cloning the existing system and datafiles, transferring them to the PADD.

”It was all her idea,” Zinn responded as stoically as usual, “but it works for us.” The Commander watched for a few seconds before nodding to the woman. “I should visit sickbay before beaming back to Ulysses, so I will leave the game with you, if that is acceptable, Lieutenant?”

”YeaH, sure thing,” she replied focused on the console in her hands. “I’ll make sure it gets returned to you as soon as I can.”

She watched as the Deltan left the Engineering bay, and thought about checking in, after her duty shift was complete, on the the games her cousins might be playing. It certainly seemed like a great way to stay connected to the clan. She exited her office, console in hand, tapping it against her free hand. She would take the device with her to the Ulysses, as something to do in her spare time if nothing else.

Taking one last look around the engineering bay, she tapped her hand on the pool table and headed for the door. A new engineering bay awaited just a few thousand meters and a transporter beam away.

______________________________________________________________________________

“Oi, remember where your elbow is,” Akaria scolded gently, then gave a count to 4 to resume the lesson. They may have been bound for a new ship, but Noli still wanted to ensure that Marley continued to practice his cello; she had made a holo-device to create a travel-light cello they could take along whenever they moved around, and Marley was seated in a chair with the cello now, with his mother playing accompaniment on her violin. With the count, a mellow tune began to spill from the large body of the cello, with the violin joining soon after. Noli smiled when she heard the clean, clear notes resonating together, an improvement to the boy’s earlier slip ups.

On the nearby sofa and watching with great interest and a massive smile, Matheus Ren couldn’t help but beam with pride at his son. It was the first time that the he had heard his son play the giant instrument in quite some time, and he was massively impressed, especially with the improvement he had made.

Then of course, there was Akaria. He knew she played but he had forgotten what wonderful tunes she could tease out of the instru… wait a minute. What was that? Had he… Yes! He’d caught himself looking at her in a way that he hadn’t for a while. Judging by the fact that she hadn’t changed her facial expression one iota, she clearly hadn’t seen him. But he had definitely caught himself looking at her in that way… the way that always spelt danger for ex-partners. Perhaps it was the thought of just being together, as a family, with no work and no commbadges. Maybe, just maybe, there was hope for them yet? As the smile returned to his face, he slowly swayed to the sound of the beautiful music.

After another pause as Akaria gave some instruction to Marley, the music began again, this time from the beginning so ‘Junior’ could play the piece straight through without any help. Akaria hadn’t caught the gaze Matheus had given her, but Marley had, and he grinned as he worked through the tune, doing his level best to hide his smugness as he focused on the music. He wouldn’t get to the end of the piece as the door chimed.

“I’ll get it,” Akaria offered, since she was already on her feet. “Take a break, we’ll finish in a bit,” she said to Marley as she strode over to the door and opened it.

Once the doors parted, the Risian was faced with the busy-beard, wrinkle-faced Tellarite executive of the Ulysses. “Sorry to bother you both, but we need to talk…” he told in his stern, gravelly tone.

“Who’s we? You and me? Matheus, you and me? Or just you and Matheus?” she enquired quizzically as she stepped aside and allowed the short, hairy man inside.

“All three of us,” Vasoch replied.

“Oh…” Akaria said as her expression fell; she had a feeling she knew what this was about, but she said nothing, not until she heard the bad news for herself. She stepped aside with a gesture of her hand to invite the XO to take a seat, then went to the dining table to set her violin back into its case. “Marley, we’ll pick this up as soon as we can,” she said to her son, with Marley knowing this was code for ‘Go to your room so the adults can talk’, so he shut off the holo-emitter and pocketed the small device, then went off to his bunk.

Vasoch took the offered seat across from the two Lieutenant’s now and watched as the boy dutifully, yet begrudgingly, left the room. “There’s no easy way to say this, but Captain sh’Elas has rejected your joining the Ulysses for this mission, Matheus. You and your son are to stay on Temeraire,” the Tellarite revealed, much to their collective chagrin.

“We’ve only just got the family back together…” Akaria said before Vasoch could go into any further detail. “Dammit!” she exclaimed, then sighed. “Sorry, not mad, I’m not mad,” she said, trying to convince herself more than convince them, with such attempts only resulting in one of the dining chairs being kicked away from the table. “Ok, I’m mad, but not at anyone in this room.”

“She does realise how long we’ve waited to get a posting together, right? How much of a struggle it’s been to bring the boy up,” Ren leant forward, elbows on his knees as he addressed the Tellarite. “You know how much we fought for this,” he reminded the Tellarite.

“I have made her aware of this, but ultimately, it is her decision,” the XO retorted calmly, “She has no choice with the civilians on the Ulysses already, but she is unwilling to put anyone else in harm’s way, and I can’t say I blame her,” the Tellarite told honestly, and fairly. “We’re going deeper into Romulan territory, at great risk to ourselves. It isn’t the place for a boy.”

Akaria sat on the edge of the table. “So, she’s happy to take a mother from her son, again?”

Sensing that the conversation was not going to get any better, the XO rose to his feet. “Command wants you. She’s doing what she thinks is best for all parties,” he told the Science Chief. “I’ll see you on the Ulysses in thirty minutes, Lieutenant,” he then nodded towards the man on the sofa. “See you when we get back, Matheus.”

Both Science division officers watched the stout man depart, and then exchanged glances once alone. “Look,” Matheus said as he rose to his feet and wandered over to the woman, “It’s only until Starfleet decide you guys aren’t needed anymore.”

“Yeah, but how long until we’re ‘not needed’, or until we can get back to our vacation plans? We were supposed to be arranging some time for the three of us to bond again,” Akaria pointed out, eyes now trained on the room her son was in.

“As soon as the situation has been resolved, we’ll head straight for Risa. I’ll even get us passage on another ship that won’t be anywhere near a Starfleet mission,” Ren told as he returned to the sofa. “You never know, this bunch might be so competent they don’t need you for anything other than a briefing,” he smirked with a shrug of his shoulders.

With a grin, Akaria folded her arms across her chest. “I hope so, because I was promised tropical drinks and deep tissue massages on the beach and I intend to collect, even if that means finding a nice piece of eye-candy to drag to the holodeck.

“I’ll ask the XO for you,” Ren grinned, lifting his feet up onto the sofa and getting relaxed.

“Not my style, but in a pinch he’ll do,” Akaria said with a chuckle, before heading off in the direction of Marley’s bedroom. 

Akaria entered Marley’s room to find him lying on his bunk, playing a hand-held game. Around his wrists were a pair of wristbands, a suggestion from the Counsellor to make him more aware of when he was scratching his wrists, and peeking from under those wristbands were signs of fresh irritation.

“You’re scratching again?” she observed with concern as she sat down on the edge of the bunk.

“I stopped before I scratched too bad,” Marley said with a shrug. The bands around his wrists did make him self conscious, but it was working for the most part. “Something happened, didn’t it?” he asked in return.

“Yeah…” Akaria admitted reluctantly. “Captain sh’Elas needs me for a mission, but you and your father are to stay here. While I’m gone, he will find a transport to take us to Risa. Our plans ain’t changed, they’re just delayed a little,” she tried to assure her son.

“If you say so…” Marley replied with a heavy sigh, his attention thus far remaining on his game.

“Look, I know it sucks,” Akaria said in an attempt to relate to what he was going through. “My parents were both Officers, so I know what it’s like to have them choose work over me. Now, I think we’ve done a pretty decent job of balancing our time between work and spending time with you, but we’re both important people. It’s nobody’s fault.”

“I know,” Marley said, finally lowering his game to look at his mother. “Just really, really sucks…”

“It’s okay to be disappointed, I am too, just try to give us some slack, ok? We’re both doing the best we can and I know he’ll make it up to you as much as I will,” Akaria tried to assure him. “And until then, there’s no reason you two can’t have some fun. Why don’t you both go down to the holodeck and you can show him that game you’ve been wanting me to play, the one with the zombies and the magic bees?” she suggested.

“Really?” That had Marley’s attention, although he pretended to contemplate the offer seriously. “I guess I could be convinced to show him,” he said with false disinterest, causing Akaria to chuckle.

“Would an ice cream float afterwards help seal the deal?” the Risian asked. Again, Marley made a show of considering the offer before finally nodding.

“I accept these terms,” the youngster said with a grin, then hopped up to go find the program amongst all the other games he had collected. Akaria smiled at his resilience, she just hoped that there wouldn’t be too many delays to their plans to test that resilience further.

Now all she had to do was tell her ex that he owed their son an ice cream float and some holodeck time. That was going to be an interesting conversation.

Comments

  • I was pleasantly surprised by the choices you made for unexpected, collateral damage caused by the sudden change in mission and ships. Given the need for specific skill sets for a dangerous mission, it does seem only natural for Starfleet families to be separated through a time like this. You did well at tugging at the heartstrings even more from the bittersweet fact that they'd ALREADY been separated, and had only just barely managed to reunite recently. It's such an important character beat to consider in these long-form Starfleet dramas. Zinn's video game was also a quirky little character piece. It so efficiently summed up some of his anxieties about this ship and crew, let alone what it means for his long-distance marriage. It was satisfying to read that his difficulties with connecting didn't lead him to isolate even more, and was rather a first step to reaching out to his peers.

    June 20, 2022