Into The Void
Location: Sickbay, Bridge, Ready Room
Lt. J.G. Alia 276 Fitzgerald beamed aboard the USS Lionheart with nothing but her uniform, a guitar case and a older-model datapad. The USS Daikyu moved fast, cutting every corner to give them just a little bit more speed and sometimes this meant minor things like luggage had to trail behind as best they could. Alia calculated that, emergency missions aside, she would probably get the rest of her possessions over the next few months.
She nodded to the transporter chief after she fully materialized, slightly relieved. While she had great confidence in the abilities of all involved, extremely long-range transporter locks were not for the feint of heart. "Thank you chief, requesting permission to board." She knew that the technology that brought her here confirmed her identity far better than any paperwork but there was something comforting about the protocols from centuries earlier.
The man nodded amiably. "Granted, Lieutenant. Welcome aboard."
"Thank you, chief." She exited the transporter bay and said, "Computer, can you please guide me to the ranking officer on duty? And who is it right now?"
"Captain Devin Hadenbeer is the current duty officer and is on deck ten, Sickbay."
Alia nodded and moved to a turbolift. She debated briefly about dropping her things, few as they were, in her cabin. In the end, that seemed like an unnecessary waste of time as there were literally only two things and one was tucked inside the other.
After spending a year aboard the Daikyu, coming aboard a fully-functioning standard model starship was a bit of an adjustment. Wiring and ductwork was properly kept behind walls and bulkheads, there were no half-emptied crates of equipment in the corridors and, most of all, there wasn't a sense that everything she saw was a 'work in progress'. People in the corridors moved purposely but without a frenetic sense of haste. She felt herself already relaxing a touch though it was slightly unpleasant to be near so many people she didn't know. In time, of course, that feeling would go away.
It always did.
Alia entered the Sickbay and looked for her new C.O. Spotting a woman that matched the image she had retrieved when she had gotten her transfer paperwork, she approached with what she hoped was the proper attitude. She saluted and said, "Lt. JG Fitzgerald reporting for duty, Captain."
The woman who was presumably Captain Hadenbeer was standing beside an examination table a cane in her hand as she seemed to be in a heated discussion with a woman in medical blue who stood with stoic calm, judging by her ears she was a Vulcan. The other was a grizzled older male wearing a version of the Starfleet medical uniform that was almost a hundred years out of date.
"-or the other," the man said, clearly frustrated, "So-" he turned to Alia as she stepped forward.
"Who the hell salutes these days?" he asked irritably.
"Computer, end program," the woman with the cane said. The man glared at her as he faded. She smiled and said, "Lieutenant Fitz-"
"This is not over, Captain," the Vulcan murmured.
"-gerald. What a pleasure. Come, walk with-"
"I will find you."
Alia nodded and followed the Captain, "Yes, ma'am. I hope I didn't interrupt anything important." She glanced at where the hologram used to be and the Vulcan still was, mind wandering over the possibilities. "Say, was that an EMH? I've never seen one functioning before. Is this a new initiative?"
What Alia was trying hard NOT to do was speculate on what she had overheard. The Captain had a cane... a cane? A medical officer was insisting on seeing her again and add to that an EMH... the pieces just didn't fit together! She pushed aside thought of specially programmed computer doctors and focused on her new CO.
"What, Leonard?" Hadenbeer replied without glancing over her shoulder as they exited into the corridor, "He is not a new model, he was a holdover from the Lionheart A. Bits and pieces of the "A" are all over the ship, really, especially in the pub."
Hadenbeer did not seem to need the cane to walk as she strode briskly down the corridor, as she walked she said, "So, The Daiku. I read up on the specs. A test bed is nothing like working on a fully functioning ship like Lionheart. You are going to have to deal with personnel assignments, logistics. Captain Wulf speaks highly of you, I know him from the Academy so I trust his judgement."
They paused at the turbolift, Hadenbeer turned to her, "The question is, do you trust your own?"
A year ago, she would have hesitated to answer affirmatively. But her last tour really expanded her concept of what she could accomplish. She really owed her advisor many thanks for 'guiding' her to a position that really challenged her on a near daily basis. "Honestly, ma'am, I can't claim I'm the ideal officer for you right now. What I do know is that I'll get there eventually and I'll never stop learning while under your command."
She smiled. "If you're asking if I think I can do the job right now, I'd say yes. After all, I can't make a liar of Captain Wulf, can I?"
Hadenbeer smiled at that, "Now if you were fresh out of the Academy your answer would have been 'Yes, sir!'. I see that a lot; you will find a great many ensigns are-"
The turbolift doors swooshed open, it was empty save for a cat. A small, red cat that had been in the middle of walking around in a circle. At the sight of the captain it exited the turbolift and excitedly rubbed itself against her calves. Hadenbeer's smile faded at the sight of the cat, she sighed.
"Hold my cane," she murmured as she held it out to the lieutenant, eyes on the cat. After a pause she added, "Please."
"Yes, ma'am." Alia took the cane that was, apparently, not for any physical handicap. What was more interesting is that most turbolifts and doors were programmed NOT to allow pets to operate them. Yet here it was. Alia had little contact with pets. Certainly not on Felicity or on the USS Daikyu. Even at the academy, they had been rare. ::I suppose shipboard here is like a long-term assignment so they might be more common. Still, to have one wandering the ship is another matter.::
"What is its name?" ::That's the right protocol with someone's pets, right?::
"Her name is Marta," Devin replied as she knelt down and scooped the cat up in her arms. It's purrs were audible as it...she settled into the Captain's arms, "How did you get out of our quarters, hmm? And how did you know to find a turbolift? And how did you know where to find me? Who helped you, you little thing?"
The cat gave a questioning "meow" in response. Smiling, Devin led the junior lieutenant into the turbolift, she said, "Bridge," and as the 'lift rose said to Alia, "We have a practical joker on board the ship."
"I see. Shall I find out who they are, Captain? It seems too small an issue for Security unless you think they pose a threat. Something like this, assuming this has been going on for some time, suggests someone with advanced computer skills."
Hadenbeer did not respond, at least not right away. After a moment she said, "My brother read your paper on Vulcan and Romulan music. He called you a 'talented amateur'," she glanced at the lieutenant and smiled slightly, "He is a bit of an elitist snob, truth be told."
Alia blushed a bit at being called talented and wasn't at all offended at being called an amateur. "I'm a little shocked that anyone outside of Starfleet's music department read our paper! Honestly, though, my contributions were all based on practical observations. How one style of fingering was awkward and they probably meant THAT instead. My partner did all the heavy intellectual lifting."
The Captain glanced down at the guitar case, "You have a preferred style of music to play?"
"Oh, I'll play some of anything if it strikes my fancy. My friends said I was a living example of brownian motion on a macroscopic scale. Which isn't completely fair! I guess I get *passions* for awhile and then I move on to the next one. The past year I've been working on 20th and 23rd century hard rock ballads... lots of passion and lighter on the technical finesse. But now I'm moving toward more lyrical works now... I'll need to replicate a Spanish guitar and work on my fingering." She held up one hand, "I'll need fingernail supports for that, though!"
Devin nodded and the turbolift doors swooshed open, revealing the bridge. Hadenbeer regarded the ensigns on duty as they all glanced in her direction. Hadenbeer said, "That's your seat, to the left of helm. You are lucky; I had wanted all the chairs removed but the engineers explained they would have to raise all the duty stations to compensate."
"Aye aye, Captain!" She took a very deep breath and settled into her new station, will engaged for the next big journey of her life.
Mildly bemused, the ensign on duty there quickly slipped out of the chair to allow Alia to sit. At the moment there was not a lot going on. The ship was running on minimal power and it seemed the young(er) man had been going over supply requests.
A lot of supply requests. Such as a request for more quantum torpedoes and three times more rations than standard for a ship of this size and crew compliment.
"I appreciate your eagerness, lieutenant," Hadenbeer said as she retrieved her cane, "But there are one or two things of note I would like to go over with you," she waved towards the rear of the bridge to a door, "If you don't mind...?"
"O-of course Captain!" She got up quickly and nodded to the ensign to resume his tasks. She was blushing from every patch of skin from her head on down and honestly wished she could just sink into the bulkhead and be ejected into space. She walked smartly to the indicated door trying not to run and enhance her image as a complete ditz on her first day.
"Captain?" the ensign with the cat said uncertainly, holding up the cat, "Um..."
"If you have to move the ship then toss the Marta onto my chair," Hadenbeer replied without turning, "She thinks she's in charge, anyway."
Hadenbeer's ready room was more or less normal, save for the fact that she had a display of canes on one wall, set in what looked like some sort of large wheels. She took her cane and slid it into a slot in the wheel, then slipped behind the desk and into what looked like the most decadent command chair ever conceived. High backed with a large neck/head rest, with arm rests full of controls, Hadenbeer touched one and closed her eyes. On the desk was a holo of an attractive Bajoran woman in a Starfleet uniform, it cycles through images of her laughing, looking annoyed, looking pensive, various other moods.
"This chair was from the original Lionheart," Hadenbeer explained, "The chair it replaced had a hole blown into it, I told the Operations officer to get me a new one. I have no idea where she found it..."
She caressed the arm rests almost lovingly.
"...but I swore it would go wherever I did. It is the very definition of command decadence."
She opened her eyes and smiled, "So, lieutenant, where do you see yourself in ten years?"
"Honestly, ma'am, if you had asked me a year ago, my answer would be completely different. Back then, I would have said that I was destined for a teaching spot in StarFleet somewhere, maybe at the Academy, working on my umpteenth degree. So anything I say may be very different twelve months from now!" She took a deep breath. "Right now, I'd like my own command, eventually. A research vessel of some sort, leading a team or at least high enough that I can have dedicated subordinates."
She tilted her head in thought for a second. "The Daikyu opened my eyes in a lot of ways. It's a bit of a mess... they break about every protocol of decorum, are habitually out of regulation in countless areas. But they are out doing important things, meaningful work. Maybe I'll take a tour lecturing or sitting in a research lab in the future, but not permanently." She laughed lightly, her former embarrassment gone. "I guess it doesn't hurt that a ship like that is the one that saved me and my sisters."
Devin pondered that answer, she replied, "Well if you need some advice my door is always open. Not literally open, mind you, but...Never mind. The point is, part of my job is to help you in your career," she smiled wryly, "I can at least tell you what not to do. Do you have any questions for me, lieutenant?"
The young woman looked around. "This is really more a home to you than an office, isn't it?"
Hadenbeer snorted, "This?" she glanced around the room, "This is not home. Home is a cottage on Deneva. When Starfleet decides they are through with me that is where I will go. It has a lovely view of a verdant valley, with this stunning waterfall, high and narrow, the water glistening white as it smashes down on the rocks below. I will probably hate it."
She sighed, "This...is just a place I keep my canes and hold private conversations."
"I thought I'd have a million more questions but everything I need so far, the computer probably knows. I'm sure I'll have a lot more personal ones in the future." She paused. "Well, I am a little curious... why are we ordering so many food supplies? And other things including quantum torpedoes? The logical inference is that we might be going somewhere where supplies are uncertain."
Hadenbeer stared at the wall for a long moment, then quietly she replied, "The Lionheart A was supposed to go on a brief mission. We were assured we would be back quite soon. It...did not turn out that way. We were gone for three years. The harsh lesson it taught me was, there are no certainties. So whenever I leave port the ship is full of supplies, like some ancient seafaring u-boat prepared for a long tour at sea."
Alia looked relieved. Though she knew the Lionheart could fight, she didn't relish going pell-mell into a new war. "That's good news, ma'am. One thing I'm fond of is being prepared... food being high up on the list. I had the quite the reputation at the academy for my skills though not quite as good as my sister Eleanor. She could make a tasty meal from dirt and photons."
Hadenbeer did not at first seem to hear the young lieutenant, then she blinked and forced a smile.
"Well, then," she said, "You may be coerced into preparing a meal for the senior staff, some time. Nothing brings people together like food. Now I am quite certain you will need to settle in, meet your staff. Welcome aboard, lieutenant."
"Thank you, ma'am! I'm looking forward to my time here!" She left smartly, hoping that her future performance would erase the memory of past stumbles.
As Hadenbeer watched her new Operations officer depart she frowned. She had a feeling she was forgetting something...
On the bridge ensign Toelau sat with the captain's cat in her lap, it had circled twice and had settled down to take a nap...