Main Shuttle Bay
“No good hunting Commander?” Lt. Shashlik asked as soon as Donar’s boots touched the deck. The tall, bronze Kaylar stood eye-to-eye with Tai. Her frame was leaner, but no less muscled.
“Things were quiet,” Donar said, “How about here?”
“No ships came through the corridor, or probes for that matter.” The younger woman didn’t hide her disappointment. She was still so fresh that she wore her feelings on her sleeve. Emotions had long been pounded deep into Tai, buried so deep that it took him a long time to reconnect with them. Juanita had been a big help with bringing them back to the surface, but she had also reminded him how painful those feelings could be.
He eyed the shuttles Greenaugh and Oyekan, being prepped for disembarking. Assembled with Shashlik were Science Officer Ramlo, and Ensigns Kittles and Fryer. He nodded tersely to the rest of the quartet. “Good luck out there, and don’t take any unnecessary chances.”
“Yes sir,” they all answered before heading to their respective shuttles, Shashlik and Fryer, and Kittles going with the Arkenite.
A long, slender arm reached up and clapped Tai on the bicep. “I’m parched. I’m heading down to Birdland, care to share a drink?” Lt. Commander A’nurd looked up at him.
“I still have some unpacking to do,” Donar replied. “My apologies,” he added quickly. The Munzalan shrugged.
“Well the offer stands,” he said before pulling away. Tai nodded in understanding, but allowed the man to go on. Lt. French sleep walked by him, followed by Ensign Haile, who had had the likely misfortune of sharing the Carruthers with the effusive Munzalan.
If he ever did decide to venture into the jazz themed recreation lounge, he was going to have to order a beverage for the long suffering ensign. Shaking his head at the thought, Donar stepped out into the passageway.
First Officer’s Quarters
Though the Angosian had taken detours to the holodeck and then the gym, Tai hadn’t been lying about unpacking. He had been on Erickson for a month and had long since stored away the most of the sparse belongings he brought with him. Except for a few items that he had left boxed up.
He had wrestled with this decision aboard the Aegis as well, because he knew that unpacking the items would mean he was planning to stay for the long haul. With Aegis, he had largely accepted the assignment as a favor to Ivan Cherenkov, a fellow brother-in-arms, and being on a ship with a multi-vector assault mode didn’t hurt either.
However he hadn’t really been able to make Aegis a home, a suicidal Cardassian militant had taken that decision away from him.
The loss of that vessel and the crewmen aboard still burned him, in part because he hadn’t been there to prevent it. It was no idle boast on his part, he knew. He had been designed to win wars, and he was confident that he would’ve been able to gauge the Cardassian’s intent and enacted an appropriate response.
He had been languishing at Jaros II at the time, his personal effects in one of their storage compartments. That’s the only reason they had survived the ship’s destruction. And he had kept them packed up since his release from the stockade, as he sought to find a way in a suddenly chaotic universe.
But now a sense of stability had returned, and he was ready to establish some roots. He placed the box on the coffee table in his living room, and looked over at the imitation fireplace. A photonic fire was roaring. He opened the box and carefully unwrapped the first item. He held the archaic silver picture frame in both hands. He smiled down at his parents, Tiwaz and Caith. The sepia-toned picture had been taken in happier times, before the Tarsian War.
He placed it on the mantle above the fireplace. He returned to the box and sighed before removing the second picture. A beautiful, dark skinned woman, the corner of her left eye marred by the same green and black tattoo strip on Tai’s face, smiled back at him. Her thick, braided hair reminded him of Lt. Shashlik. The two women wore it in a similar fashion.
Come to think of it, Shashlik reminded him a lot of his ex-wife. “Andraste,” he muttered. Tai shook his head. He hadn’t met Andraste during the war, or at the Lunar V prison moon, where many of the veterans had been discarded after the war.
He had met her after the prisoners had been released, thanks to the intervention of the Federation. Both had been undergoing counseling in an attempt to undo their psychological conditioning to make them better able to handle civilian life.
At times the sessions had had Tai longing for boot camp, but both had endured them, often relying on each other. Tai had thought that model might work for their marriage, but in the end, the Tarsian War had still claimed souls long after it had ended, and Andraste had never been able to make the adjustment. After their marriage had dissolved, she had left Angosia III to make her way in the universe. He hadn’t heard from her, or about her since.
If she was still breathing she didn’t want to be found and eventually he had learned to respect her wish. He placed the picture on the mantle beside his parents. “One more,” he muttered, now a little troubled that he was talking to himself. He pulled a round disk from the box and place it between the pictures. He touched it and a hologram of Juanita appeared. He smiled at her, thinking of what she had meant to him, and what he hoped she would mean to each other in the years to come.
Donar was still admiring the photonic likeness when his door chimed. “Enter,” he said offhandedly as he turned to greet his visitor. He hunched his shoulders and took on a more businesslike demeanor. He hadn’t been on the ship long enough to make friends, at least any that he wanted, and he was hoping that the chief engineer wasn’t dropping by.
Captain Wyoma Redfeather strolled into the room. The woman was striking, tall for human, with reddish tinged skin, and shoulder length, obsidian hair. She had an aura of command about her that wasn’t heavy handed or suffocating. Tai’s posture became even more ramrod. She smiled at him, her almond eyes crinkling with warmth. “Putting up your personal effects I see, so you are planning on staying for the long haul?”
“Of course sir, I mean yes captain,” Donar had to restrain himself from shouting the affirmation. The captain laughed.
“At ease Mr. Donar, please, I entered your residence,” she said, taking a moment to inspect the room. “Not a microbe of dust in sight I see. I think I’ve got you in the wrong position,” she said. “You should be head custodian.”
“I-I,” Tai looked perplexed. “I’m not sure how to take that sir.”
Redfeather’s smile widened. “As a joke, which is what it was Mr. Donar, or at least a feeble attempt. And please, I already told you about the ‘sir’ stuff. Ma’am is fine. Captain too.”
“Understood captain,” he remarked. After an uncomfortable silence threatened to set in, he asked, “Would you like a seat?”
“Thanks for asking,” she replied, “but no, I was just paying a visit, on my way to Birdland.”
“Commander A’nurd?” Tai’s lips drew into a tight line.
“Very perceptive,” she chuckled. “I swear the man can’t stand to be alone, and I decided since I’m the captain, I’ll take one for the team. You guys just don’t know the sacrifices I make for you.”
Tai’s lips curled up a tick. “After spending an extended amount of time with him along the Caldera Expanse, I think I can sympathize.”
Redfeather’s eyes glittered with devilment. “I think you’re going to fit in here alright Mr. Donar.”
“I hope so, sir-I mean captain.”
“I’ll let it slide, this time.” She chided good naturedly. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to join us in the lounge? This is crew performance night, and somehow A’nurd has convinced to Lt. Commander Kalnath to treat us to some Andorian Blues. It’s not to be missed.”
“Commander A’nurd is a persistent man,” Tai observed.
“Among other things,” Redfeather replied, “So what’s your answer?”
“I…uh,” before Donar could finish, both of their combadges beeped. The captain tapped hers first.
“Redfeather here,” she said brusquely, the levity jettisoned from her voice. “What’s up?”
“It’s the Greenaugh sir,” the bridge officer answered, “Their long range sensors have detected a distress call, alien in origin.”
Both senior officers raised their eyebrows as they looked at each other. “Where is the call originating from?”
“Lt. Shashlik said just outside of the Caldera Expanse.” This prompted a questioning look from the captain and Tai shook his fist in disappointment. If he had stayed he might have been able to lend more immediate assistance.
“Inform Greenaugh and Oyekan that they are to proceed to the expanse, but they are not enter under any circumstances.”
“Also inform them that we are on our way.”
“Finally alter our course and inform Engineering that we are to go to maximum warp.”
“I’ll be on the bridge shortly, Redfeather out.” The woman shrugged. “I guess we’ll have to get a rain check on those drinks, eh Mr. Donar?”
“Absolutely ma’am,” he replied.
“Let’s go make first contact,” she nodded toward his door.