Arrival - Part One
3,327 words; about a 17 minute read
Location: IGS Stras - In orbit around the Zyte Colony
Timeline: After Staff Meeting
Tags: 2397, Character Introduction, Character Development, Mission Post
== IGS Stras - Lower Decks ==
Commander Oscar Vladinchi sat, clenching his PADD, as he reviewed his standing orders. It had been a long road from where he had begun his journey in Starfleet on the USS Poseidon during the Dominion War. A longer road still, despite however short the actual interim was, after his death on the USS Pennsylvania in the Delta Quadrant and his miraculous appearance back on the USS Poseidon in the Alpha Quadrant. His time as a humble Security Officer had allowed him to gather himself again, to remember the days when he fondly led.
He had spent four years as the Executive Officer of the USS Tennessee, a Norway-class Starship, and had during that time fought tooth and nail to find himself again. His voluntary demotion to board the USS Pennsylvania, a Nebula-class Starship, had been expected and desired as a change of pace. It had unfortunately been where he had met his initial demise and gathered a hitchhiker on board his body. He sorted all this nasty business out back on the USS Poseidon, the Miranda-class Academy Training Vessel. Oscar found himself again, but it felt like it took decades instead of a few short years.
The I.G.S Stras had picked him up along its route as a courtesy to Starfleet. Oscar had finally accepted a Promotion from Starfleet, insisted by Commodore Gregory Paladin. It was he who had pushed Oscar to take up the role as XO for the USS Horizon, a newly refitted Century-class Explorer in desperate need of leadership. The Commodore had known very keenly Oscar's history and finally gave him a choice. Either take the role or retire from Starfleet, and since Oscar had no one left to go back to, he chose to continue forward.
It had initially been a harsh break-up of friendships between Oscar and Gregory, but soon the two had talked with one another. Oscar showing appreciation for the push and Gregory expressing confidence. Good lucks had been shared and that was that. Now, as a Starfleet Commander, Oscar was expected to uphold his experience and training to support his new Commanding Officer.
Captain James Phoenix had a very prestigious career in Starfleet that greatly warranted his posting as Captain to an advanced vessel like the USS Horizon. Commander Vladinchi had nothing but high expectations for their first meeting. He had waited on the Andorian vessel for a time, a passenger of importance, though not so important as to deserve luxurious quarters. There was a situation brewing on the Zyte Colony directly in Andorian Space that had delayed his intended rendezvous with the USS Horizon, however his Andorian hosts had assured him that the Horizon was enroute to their position. He had been handed an Andorian Datapad that had, thankfully, some manner of translation capacity to become appraised of the situation.
Apparently the Zyte Colony, one of the most successful Andorian colonies in this sector, had been under a delicate and considerate natural balance with its home planet for some time. This balance had been maintained by careful population management, keen observation of the planets subduction zones and tectonic plates, and an ever watchful eye on the massive asteroid field nearby. Something, most likely a meteorite strike, had disrupted that delicate balance. Governor Vyte Zh’Kennis of the Zyte Colony had, to her credit, immediately sent out a distress signal moments before the SOS had cut due to likely violent earthquakes. As a guest of the Andorians, and regardless of his rank at Starfleet, Oscar had been requested to remain in his quarters "for his safety" until the arrival of the Horizon.
That was fine for Oscar. He had time to catch up on some critical news abroad. As he sat at his personal desk, he opened his terminal and after reviewing the current situation with Zyte began to search up some old friends who had been on the Poseidon.
== USS Horizon ==
Not for the first time Devin wished she liked the taste of coffee, because she felt as if she could use a liter of the stuff. She and the staff had been working long hours to insure every transporter was ready, and they had drilled endlessly to insure they would be able to move victims as quickly and safely as possible. But she supposed what truly made her nervous was if during a crisis she did or said something monumentally stupid. She was used to being at the top of the command structure, not middle management. And in a critical moment what if...
She grimaced, then thankfully something took her mind off her ruminations, "Vessel on long range sensors, Captain. Transponder identifies it as the Stras."
== IGS Stras - Lower Decks ==
The pervasive mood in the tight crew quarters of young Ensign Sh'rythok Tetho was one of mounting tedium. Her frustration with her assignment, aboard an aging vessel of war forced to languish in peacetime, was reflected and compounded by her temporary bunkmate.
The ensign shot a disapproving look at at the starfleet officer across from her. The alien woman sat upright in her cot, devouring the datapad in her hands. She looked enough like a pink-skin, but the eyes... they were a piercing blue just like hers. Exactly like hers, in fact. But she could swear they were green when they'd met only a few days ago. Their rendezvous with the Horizon could not come fast enough.
"What?" The Lieutenant asked, harshly, startling Tetho out of her thoughts.
"Nothing" the Ensign lied, and turned to her book.
Tetho tried to ignore her houseguest's deep sigh, hoping to lose herself in the epic of Voyage of the Kumari.
"I'm sorry, Ensign" said the starfleet woman, more softly this time. "I didn't mean to snap at you." Her eyes, Tetho noticed, had returned to their original shade.
Lieutenant Inara Ziro had been quite let down by this whole trip. Eager as always to immerse herself in another culture, to make friends and connections, she had tried to spend as little time in her temporary quarters as possible. She wanted to tour the ship, learn the systems, be a part of the crew in any way she could for their short journey.
But the Imperial Guard had other priorities. Even as a part of the Federation, the operation of their ships were closely protected from any outside the order. Her access to the ship was strictly limited, and her every activity had been closely supervised by her "roommate", a junior security officer who had only just graduated, and already seemed jaded by her career choice. Instead of immersing herself in another culture, she was stuck developing cabin fever with her Iotian instincts causing her to absorb her jailor's nasty attitude. She hadn't been permitted to introduce herself to her ship's new First Officer, who was joining the Horizon at the same time. At least he'd been afforded a certain level of clearance.
Every day, Inara and Tetho became more alike. And every day, their mutual resentment had grown. However, Inara had the benefit of experience. She'd managed to keep the peace and appeal to the Ensign's code of honor, finally convincing her to requisition her a (heavily redacted) datapad with enough ship specs to keep her occupied for a few hours.
Inara had hoped to salvage this relationship once more, asking the ensign about the clearly well-loved leather-bound book in her hands. Something in Tetho's icy-blue eyes appeared to soften at the question. But before she could answer, unfamiliar klaxons brought them both to attention, the Stras groaned and creaked as it changed direction mid-warp. The inertial dampeners whirred beneath the floor plates, not quite masking the hard turn for its vulnerable passengers. Moments later, the ensign had been called to her station.
"How can I help?" she asked, but the ensign was already out the door. Inara's eyes returned to their Andorian blue as she groaned in frustration, falling back into her cot with a painful thud. She was cold. She was shut out. And now, her own honor was being denied!
For a few minutes, the lieutenant indulged in the unfamiliar blizzard of indignant fury within her. Then, she breathed, calming herself, reminding herself of who she really was, until her eyes were hers, and she could clearly tell what she wanted to do. It was time to meet the boss.
"To hell with it." Inara tapped her combadge. "Lieutenant Ziro to Commander Vladinchi."
Commander Vladinchi had been happily reviewing the exploits of those he had known on the USS Poseidon. Lieutenant Lazarus Kord, for example, had accepted a commission on the newly constructed Starbase Frontier as a Chief Engineering Officer. Oscar always knew the towering Gorn had it in him to pursue his ambitions. The two had often talked and discussed their equally traumatic past and, subsequently, Oscar had discovered through those conversations just how brutal Lazarus' past had truly been. He admired the Gorn Starfleet Officer and, making a mental note, intended to call him soon to see how he was doing.
He also discovered something else. Lazarus and Eradaar had hooked up! Eradaar had been a bright-eyed Gorn Cadet pupil to the USS Poseidon through the Starfleet Academy Training Program. He read that, naturally, Lazarus had taken Eradaar under his wing but - surprisingly! or ... perhaps unsurprisingly? - the two had developed intimate feelings for one another. Eradaar seemed to have a considerably bright future ahead of her, already being promoted to Lieutenant JG and apparently expecting younglings of her own! He'd have to congratulate her!
There were a few other names he had looked up, but overall everyone he had known seemed to be doing just fantastic. This satisfied Oscar immensely. He was about to turn off the terminal when his combadge chirped.
=/\= Lieutenant Ziro to Commander Vladinchi =/\=
He blinked. Lieutenant Ziro? He quickly dipped back into the terminal and found the name. She was apparently another Starfleet Officer that the Stras had picked up, unbeknownst to the Commander. Inara Ziro was her full name. He mentally chided himself for not looking on that first. His eyes wandered over her dossier and finally her species; Sigma Iotian. They were very rare in Starfleet due to numerous circumstances and situations from past centuries. He also took note of her expected position as Assistant Security Officer.
Satisfied with the review, he tapped his combadge to reply on a short few moments after Ziro had initially called.
=/\= This is Commander Vladinchi. Lieutenant Inara Ziro, correct? I apologize we haven't discussed anything up until this point. I had been unaware another Starfleet Officer had been on board. Would you prefer to meet in person? =/\=
=/\= I... yes, absolutely! Where can we meet? =/\=
=/\= I'll meet you in your stationed quarters in fifteen. Commander Vladinchi, out. =/\=
Oscar rose. This was a decent change of pace. He finally had someone from Starfleet to discuss things with. He freshened up quickly then, ensuring his uniform was tidy, left his quarters. The security guard outside briefly gave the Commander a questioning glance, but once Oscar explained where he was going, he offered to escort. Oscar accepted and within twelve minutes was at the quarters offered to Lieutenant Ziro. The Andorian Security Officer allowed him entry.
Walking in, the Commander glanced around. "Lieutenant Ziro?"
The Iotian jumped. She'd been frantically tidying her quarters. Or her temporary roommate's, anyway, as she'd been living out of a duffel bag for the last few days, her personal affects kept in storage.
"Eep!" She eeped. "Commander! Welcome! I'd say pull up a chair, but uh..."
She trailed off, looking around the small spartan quarters of an andorian warrior, sans the loose clothes she'd spent ten minutes squirreling away. Awkwardly, she opted to remain standing and shook his hand.
As she made eye contact, her pupils discreetly dilated as she subconsciously tried to read him. It would take days to mimic his personality, which she had no intention of doing. But he had an unmistakable air of discipline about him that was helpful for her to focus on to calm her nerves.
"Thank you for coming to see me, Commander." She said.
It was sadly deplorable the way the Andorians kept themselves. Then again, this to an Andorian could be seen as historic or perhaps luxurious. The Stras was an old and famous ship to the Andorian people, so perhaps being on board could be considered an honor or privilege. Oscar allowed himself to consider that, perhaps, his negative opinion about their situation was not shared among their Andorian friends.
"It's no problem, Lieutenant," Oscar said, sporting somewhat of a gentle smile on his expression. It was only here that his accent could be deciphered. His universal was well spoken and fluent, yet despite that there was still the hint of some Slavic influence to his speech - perhaps Russian - that hinted at a mother tongue. "It has been a long journey and I was, admittedly, very eager to meet my new crew."
Oscar took a moment to glance at her uniform briefly. Then he looked back at her, careful to respectfully avoid too much eye contact due to her unique situation. "I took the liberty of looking up your file briefly before I came here. You originally started out as an engineering officer on the USS Intrepid, but then manage to rise the ranks in tactical on the USS Blackfish as Acting Chief of Security. May I ask what prompted the division change?"
"You may, sir!" She responded cheerfully, glad to be starting off with these formalities. Part of her dreaded the unseen pressures of an informal meeting with a new superior officer, wanting to make a good impression without coming off as too ambitious, too awkward, and especially too alien. But for her it was a chance to calibrate.
"I always liked to tinker. I thought I was pretty good. But it was never really my passion. I joined Starfleet so I could explore. Meet new people and cultures. And help where I can."
She thought for a moment, lost briefly in memory. "I'm an adequate engineer, I think. But I was always below decks. And I really didn't want to be. I wanted to be on the bridge, or out in the field. And eventually... I want a command. A.. friend of mine helped me see that I was stagnating. I didn't want to lose myself in a job I wasn't passionate about."
"That friend, he saw something in me that I couldn't see in myself. And now that I know it's there... I want everyone to see."
Oscar smiled a tad more. He stood by Inara at a professional distance and leaned against the wall as he listened to her. Crossing his arms, he relaxed, memories of his own time below decks on a Starship coming to mind. Not all of them were unhappy, but most was from those days. He had better control of his PTSD since his time on the Poseidon so the flashbacks were more benign and nostalgic for him now.
"I started my time in Starfleet in 2368 on board a Miranda class of starship, the USS Poseidon," Oscar explained after Inara finished. "I was a Security Officer. I tinkered with Engineering here and there, but that was in all honesty so I could fix my station myself. After that it was just all business. Security all the day. I even briefly served on the USS Hood, of that name rings a bell. Same role, same station. Wasn't until after the Dominion War..."
Oscar briefly trailed off as memories of that time flashed before his eyes. He took control of the moment seconds later. His thousand yard stare dwindling. It was a brief moment of vulnerability, one that had been trained and conditioned to be allowed to flow through. He allowed it, regaining what composure he may have lost.
"After the events of the Dominion War," he continued, this time not stopping, "I served on the USS Tennessee, Master at Arms that time, and it was pretty interesting to dive into logistics. Made XO there too. Four of the best years of my life. Made the mistake of going on board the USS Pennsylvania as Chief of Security briefly before returning to the USS Poseidon. Just a regular Security Officer there."
A moment of silence as Oscar remembered those events. This time his stare into the distance wasn't as intense, but he was dealing with some past demon that wasn't as vicious as it used to be. His eyes returned to those of Irana's as he continued.
"The Security Division helped me find myself again," Oscar said. "It gave me discipline and structure at my earliest points and lowest points of my life and career. It gave me a chance to find rigidity when the world around me wasn't, when everything crumbled to dust but the foundations I stood on there. It also helped me find the courage to move beyond and get back on my feet. I took time to heal after the war, Security offered that and more. Now I'm back as an Executive Officer, arguably where I should of been all along. I think you made a fine choice to be here and I am very impressed you took the courage to make that considerable change. It takes bravery to find that truth in yourself, that something is wrong, and to act to change it - no matter how difficult that process is."
Oscar smiled, this time genuinely and wider. "If you ever want some tips, ever need any advice, I'm always available to help."
"Thank you, sir!" Said the Iotian, taken aback by the sudden show of warmth. She could see in his eyes kindness colored by pain.
"I do have one question right now, if you don't mind, sir." She gestured to the flashing indigo klaxon behind them. "Do they really expect us not to help here?"
"It's not my ship to assist," Oscar said, bluntly but respectfully. "If the Andorians ask, I'll absolutely help. Otherwise I undertake the objective of the respectful guest. As for the Horizon? If they order me to, I will also. It's some funny business here."
Oscar thought a moment, rubbing his chin briefly.
"From what I gather the Zyte Colony is undergoing some massive catastrophic changes. To what extent I'm unsure," Oscar said. "Andorians are as much a part of the Federation as anyone is, so naturally my urge is to assist. I admit I'm not particularly sure how until we get into communication with the Horizon."
Inara crossed her arms, digesting the news. "We weren't far from the rendezvous point..." she thought out loud. "If the Horizon decided to answer the distress call as well, they'd be closing the gap by now... They could be in range now..."
The Iotian snapped to attention, her mind made up. A gamble on the instincts of a captain she'd never meant. But her gut told her she was right.
"Sir, I believe it's likely The Horizon did answer the distress call as well." She hypothesized. "In which case, I believe Captain Tys could use someone familiar with Starfleet rescue operations to coordinate with the Horizon!"
"Permission to report to the bridge?"
The quick thinking of Inara caught Oscars attention and appreciation. He nodded to her.
"Permission granted," he said. "Let's head on up there then together. Lead the way!"