Without question, the third vessel she had now served upon in as many months was beyond impressive. Forty-two decks housing everything from an arboretum to the Bridge, engineering to a formidable medical department, and everything in between. Designed for deep space exploration, Starfleet had spared no expense ensuring the ship had state of the art specifications and updates in recent refits and – judging by transfer orders still coming through – making sure they had the best crew aboard, too.
”Deck ten,” the Chief Engineering Officer ordered as she entered the turbolift, the doors closing quietly behind her. As the journey began, she glanced down at the PaDD she carried, again skimming over the file she’d received regarding the final stages of the refit they were going through above Trill.
Shortly after it began its trip to the mess hall, it stopped and a new face entered the moving lift. A young man, only recently transferred from the USS Wishaw a short time ahead of the Temeraire’s journey to Romulan space. Prida had seen him around, of course, but not on any sort of personal level.
Dressed in pale blue ripped jeans and a tight red t-shirt, the Helmsman of the Ulysses smiled cheekily as he entered the lift and nodded to the Chief Engineer. “Evening Lieutenant,” he slid up beside the Bajassian and spun on his heels to face the doorway.
Prida closed her eyes and took a deep breath. A scent more beautiful than anything she had smelt for a long time. “Wow!” He smelt delicious, and he was quite something to look at too. Wait. Was she staring? She caught herself looking at the man and quickly turned away, her mottled skin threatening to turn a different shade of grey.
“Going anywhere in particular?” Henry asked, turning to look at the young woman, his most charming smile aimed in the Chief’s direction. ”Oh, ummm…” the engineer stammered for a second, finding herself lost for words for a moment, “I’m just going for something to eat,” she finally responded.
“What a coincidence! So am I,” Henry smiled as the lift resumed and sped towards deck ten. “Mind if I join you?” he asked, flashing his pearly whites at his companion.
“Of course not,” the woman smiled, running her fingers through her hair and tucking it behind her left ear. “How are you finding the Ulysses?” she queried, making small talk with the Helmsman.
”I still haven’t found out where everything is on this ship. It’s larger than some starbases I’ve been on,” Mitchell said with a smile. “Thirty-six decks? You could fit three of my old ships inside this one!”
”I know the feeling,” Prida agreed. “She’s certainly bigger than any of the ship’s I’ve served on. My first, the Tolstoy? Everyone knew everyone and we practically lived in each other’s pockets. This is a very different beast,” the engineer told, looking around the spacious turbo lift.
“Don’t let the Captain here you call her ship a beast,” Henry grinned, the tension between the two dissipating the more they chatted.
“Oh, I know!” the Bajassian grimaced, but one of mock humour at the thought of upsetting their Andorian commander. “The Captain and I have spoken at length about her love for the lineage, but I don’t think anything prepared me for how excited she was to have command of her own Galaxy. I mean, it’s the pinnacle of a career, isn’t it? Commanding such a ship?” the woman seemed far more relaxed now she was talking about a familiar subject, and she could feel the freedom with which she spoke.
“Maybe for her,” Henry shrugged, “but have you seen the Stargazer? What a ship! Surely, as an engineer, you’d love to get your hands on her ample nacelles, right?” the Terran was playful, probably more than the Bajoran-Cardassian hybrid could handle on a normal day, but today she was feeling… flirtatious.
“I have my own ample nacelles to take care of. You should stop by sometime, maybe have a play,” she suggested, a glistening in her eyes as the eye contact they enjoyed lingered for more than a few seconds until the lift stopped.
Prida was taken aback by the question which ended the intensity of the eye contact, so much so it took a moment for her brain to engage. “Favorite movie?” she asked. “We didn’t have access to those kinds of things where I come from. But I have friends who have been involved with the Bajoran Cultural Development Initiative. They’ve started to make some great stuff. There’s a great one called Into the Province. Might be a little weird if you’re not Bajoran though,” Prida trailed off, not wanting to sound ridiculous to her new friend. “I did enjoy Ghostbusters, though,” she added, referencing the movie night the crew had shared on their first night aboard the Temeraire.
“Ghostbusters is a classic. If you liked that, I’ve got plenty more we should catch sometime,” the man grinned, happy with his suggestion as they walked the short distance towards the mess facility.
“With or without the rest of the crew?” Prida smirked, walking alongside the man in lockstep.
Henry was about to answer as they crossed the threshold into the mess facility, but both officers were taken aback by the sudden appearance of the ship’s commanding officer, stood just feet from the door and glaring in their direction, causing the two to look rather sheepish and stop dead in their tracks.
“Captain,” they both greeted the Andorian in unison.
“Mister Mitchell,” Tharia nodded to the younger man, “I need to speak with Prida in private for a moment,” the mistress of the ship told, before quickly adding, “if I may?”
A commanding officer asking for permission to speak to a subordinate was almost unheard of, but in the event that it did happen, it rarely ended positively. Somewhat nervous, the Bajassian looked at the Flight Controller, then back to the Andorian. “Of course Captain. Whatever you need,” she agreed.
“I’ll be at the bar when you’re ready,” Henry smiled, jutting his head in the direction of the large bar that dominated the aft wall of the enormous, dual levelled facility.
Nodding her thanks to the man, the Captain held out an arm and gestured to the ramp that led to the upper level, an area usually reserved for private functions or family gatherings. “Shall we?” the silver haired woman directed, not waiting for any further response from the Bajassian, simply heading up the ramp and assuming she was being followed. Upon reaching the top, the Captain noted a smattering of people and stopped in her tracks. “Give us the deck,” she instructed sternly, causing those who had been enjoying some free time to vacate the level, swiftly.
All the while, Prida watched with a sense of great anxiousness, right up to the point where Tharia pulled out a chair and gestured for the young engineer to take a seat, then sat in her own seat opposite the grey-skinned miracle worker. Once they were seated, the Captain took a moment to get comfortable, putting off the difficult conversation they were required to have.
“What can you tell me about your brother, Lieutenant?” she finally asked.
‘My brother?!’ Prida thought, more than a little confused at the randomness of the question. She’d never hid her brother from anyone, she had just shied away from the subject whenever siblings came up in conversation with anyone else.
On the lower level, Henry perched on his bar stool, nursing his syntheholic beverage of choice and watching the upper level with interest. He could just make out the faces of the two officers, who were deep in conversation. Prida’s expression changed several times, skirting the line between unease and total discomfort on more than a couple of occasions. “Whatever could they be talking about?” he pondered.
Then, suddenly, the Captain’s face changed, and so, too, did that of the Chief Engineer, who looked as if she had just witnessed her favourite pet being killed and fed to her for her lunch.
Tharia had contemplated how exactly she would break the news to her subordinate, but had ultimately decided that it was best to simply deliver it truthfully, and to the point. She couldn’t let there be any ambiguity about such news. “We’re not sure if there were any motives other than to prevent his arrival at the penal colony, but he murdered a Starfleet security officer and has, apparently, taken a second hostage,” the Captain broke the news as sensitively as she could. “He fled to the Ashalla spaceport on Bajor, at which point he vanished. He could be anywhere, but traffic out of the sector is being detained and searched.”
Gobsmacked to say the least, the Bajassian lifted a hand to her mouth as she listened to the words of her Captain. Her brother had always been a bit of an outcast, and his incarceration had caused a massive rift in the family, but this was far worse. She would never have imagined he would be capable of any of his crimes, but murder? For a member of Starfleet, it was unconscionable to think that anyone, let alone her own brother, was capable of such a thing.
“Are we to search for him?” Prida finally and quietly asked, dropping her hand to her lap.
Shaking her head, the Captain revealed the plan. “No. We were scheduled to head to the Thomar Expanse, but Starfleet Command is dispatching us to Starbase Seventy-Two to reinforce the task force there,” the Andorian revealed, “I’ve asked to be kept informed of any developments, and should the need arise, we can intervene. Until we know more, it would be like searching for a needle within the McAllister nebula,” she concluded.
“I understand,” Prida nodded slowly, wiping her runny nose on the sleeve of her uniform before abruptly rising to her feet and looking down at the Andorian. “I… I need to get out of here, Captain. I’m sorry,” and without waiting for permission to leave, the Bajassian swiftly made for the upper level exit.
Noticing the woman flee from her Captain, Henry downed the rest of his beverage and slammed the glass on the bar behind him. He hardly knew this woman, but she was clearly upset. If he was a decent human being, he’d go after her, right?
“I’d go after her if I were you,” a voice from behind him took the Flight Controller by surprise. The bartender had a subtle smirk on his face, one that betrayed the fact that he had most likely read the man’s mind. It was all the guidance he needed, the flyboy striding up the ramp, passing the Captain with a nod of acknowledgement and pursued the engineer out of the mess facility.
It took him a little while of traipsing along deck nine, but he soon found the young woman, huddled in a corridor, hugging her knees and sobbing gently. Usually when he felt uncomfortable, the cocksure youngster would use humour to try to defuse the situation, but something told him that his usual tactic wasn’t the most appropriate for this situation. Instead, the Terran crouched on his haunches and placed a gentle hand atop that of the woman and gave the softest of squeezes.
It took time, time he was happy to give to his new friend, but eventually he took her by the hands and guided her back to her feet. She took a moment to steady herself, and then she asked her new friend to escort her home, to which he dutifully agreed. For a while, they walked and they talked. She shared what the Captain had told her, all about how her brother, a convicted criminal, had apparently fled captivity from a maximum security transport, but in doing so he had committed the ultimate sin and took another’s life. How the hell was she supposed to make peace with that? He had, of course, been unable to answer her rhetorical question, but he had been that all important shoulder to cry on in her moment of need.
Upon reaching the engineer’s quarters, the Flight Controller bid his new friend farewell, refusing to accept the Bajoran-Cardassian hybrid’s apology, and even opting to be chivalrous in the face of the anticipated ‘coffee invitation’. Instead, they agreed to a raincheck and breakfast the following morning, with the flyboy taking his leave and letting the young lady retreat to the sanctuary of her quarters. As he strolled along the deck, deep in thought, he made a pledge to himself. A simple pledge, one that even he could stick to, right?
A pledge to assist his new friend in any way he could. Easy, no?