As with the previous Act, this also holds some strong language
Ariel kicked her feet and brought her arms over the top of her head, one at a time in a windmill fashion as her body cut through the water of ship's swimming pool. She placed her hands above her in an apex shortly before touching the side of the pool and somersaulting under the water to move in the opposite direction.
She continued this motion until the number of times she touched the wall reached two hundred, and then lifted herself out of the pool so someone else could use the lane. The moment she reached for her towel, she knew most of the eyes were on her. In the middle of the day, the number of personnel using the pool and the surrounding area topped at just over fifty, with people coming and going. Unlike the other swimmers, however, the one-piece swimsuit she wore did very little to conceal the genetic gifts of her Orion mother; even in spite of being tempered by the genes of her human father.
As she peeled off the thin cap and allowed her hair to flow freely over her shoulders, she heard a voice speak to her from her right.
"How's the water?"
She turned to see the lean, muscular physique of Wilson. His dark skin contrasted against his light blue swim briefs. Ariel smiled. "Warm, as usual. Are you going to do a few laps?"
"I was thinking about it, but then I saw you pull yourself out of the pool, and about half the heads in this place snapped around so fast, I thought I might have to call sickbay..."
Ariel's lower lip stuck out in a pout. "Only half?"
Wilson smirked. "I didn't want to give you a big head or anything."
"I haven't had a big head in quite some time," muttered Ariel, as her hands moved the towel around her suit to dry it. "In spite of the rumors alluding to the contrary."
He sat down on the bench next to her. "Yeah, you have been unusually... uh, celibate, lately."
"I didn't know you were keeping that close an eye on my sex life, Willie."
"I usually don't, but it's hard not to notice when you go from your usual activity to none at all."
Her gaze lifted from him and away toward the pool. "I can see how that would surprise some people." Ariel turned her head back toward Wilson and smirked. "It's not by choice, I assure you."
Wilson's eyebrows moved up to wrinkle his forehead. "Orders?"
"No," she sighed in reply. "Some friendly nudging by those close to me made me reconsider things."
"Ah. The captain, I assume?"
"Actually, no. Our new executive officer."
"Really," he replied, matter-of-factly.
"Really," she confirmed with a nod.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
She placed the damp towel over the bench and sat down upon it while crossing her legs. "It was when he first came aboard and tried to show me how big his dick was." Before Wilson could open his mouth, she put up a hand and cut him off, "Not literally, of course. But... I tried to put him at ease when we were speaking in private."
The weight of Ariel's admission altered his facial expression to one of shock. "You used your special little power on him?" Wilson admonished her with his tone, "Ariel..."
"Before you get up on your high horse, you should know that he was being an asshole to me in front of Admiral T'Cirya; in front of the bridge crew, no less."
Wilson looked at her in askance. "Come on, I know you're not that naÔve, Ariel."
"I could be," she flippantly replied.
"Ariel, be serious."
She puffed air at her bangs. "Fine, yes. I know he what he was trying to do. That doesn't mean there weren't better ways to go about it."
"Uhm, we seemed to have wandered off the point a little bit, here. What did he say to you?"
"He didn't say anything to me. He called me on my behavior and took me to task for it," she replied with a wave of her hand. "I kept it up before he got upset, and made it clear he wasn't going to put up with it. First man to ever keep a tight control on his own hormones when I really press my advantage."
Wilson whistled, then enunciated each syllable of his explicative: "Holy shit."
"Makes me think that he's telling the truth when he says he didn't sleep with that woman on the starbase."
"Yeah. I saw a picture and she was something of a looker herself."
"So... what? You hit a brick wall and all of a sudden youíre a nun?"
"Of course not. When you experience a limit, you become very aware of it. Let's just say I'm not looking to press my luck where Commander Kincaid is concerned."
"Especially since he's not really your target."
Ariel fixed him with an angry glare. "You want to go down that path, right here and now?"
Wilson sincerely replied, "I apologize."
He dropped his tone and leaned in so only she could hear him. "Eventually, you're going to need to tell her how you feel."
"Just like you're going to have a frank conversation with Sephon about the importance of your career eventually," Ariel retorted, only to instantly feel remorse. She gave him an apologetic half-smile. "Sorry."
All he could do to respond was simply give her a nod. They spent the rest of their time at the pool in silence; Wilson watched the divers while Ariel had nothing left to say.
Kincaid waited patiently for the communication to be accepted from the other end. Within the privacy of his office on deck two, he stared into the Starfleet insignia on the small screen atop his desk. The screen flashed the words, "transmission connected," twice before the screen blinked to show a young woman in her late teens staring back at him.
"Hello," she said. A wisp of her black hair fell into her eyes. "Commander...?"
"Kincaid," he replied immediately. "I apologize for disturbing you, but it's urgent that I speak to Master Chief Montoya as quickly as possible. Official business."
"'Official business?'" The girl turned her head and called, "Daddy! Starfleet is on the comms for you!" She turned back to him and smiled. "He's on his way, sir."
Before he could utter his thanks, she departed from view. The living room of the Montoya home fell into his focus, now, and he could see the framed holographs of the family on a partial view of the wall on the right side. To the left, a bay window looked out onto a green mountain range.
Master Chief Montoya's midsection entered suddenly, and then he sat down. His salt-and-pepper hair framed a weather face; a deep scar ran down the length of his left cheek from the tip of his eyebrow down to the jawline. The wrinkles around his eyes formed as he gave him a genuine smile. "What can I do for you-?" He stopped speaking and his eyes betrayed their recognition of the caller. "I thought I told you never to call me," Montoya said in a voice tinged with anger.
Kincaid felt the taste of bile in the back of his throat. "I'm afraid it was unavoidable. This isn't my idea of a fun afternoon."
"What do you want?"
"I'm the executive officer aboard the starship Farragut
"Good for you," snarled Montoya as his head swiveled from side to side to ensure their privacy.
"We're presently docked at Starbase 310, and there's a four year-old boy named Jacob Reardon aboard."
"Reardon?" Montoya's voice lost its edge and his eyeline moved away from Kincaid's. "He's... Cassie's son?"
"That much wasn't in doubt," Kincaid ignored the change in demeanor. "However, given that Cassandra Reardon died-"
?" Montoya's hand went to his forehead in surprise.
"Yes, approximately two weeks ago. Her son was left in the care of the starbase's personnel, and there was a question as to his father."
Montoya gave Kincaid his full attention. "Oh, you're loving this, aren't you?"
Kincaid exhaled through his nostrils, making them flare. "I can honestly say that I'm not happy about any of this. Except to say that it's pretty clear you don't give a damn about Jacob and only care about what's going to happen to you."
"I already told you. I have a wife and a family, here." Montoya lowered his voice considerably. "I cannot have this conversation, right now. He's not my responsibility."
Kincaid scoffed as he averted his eyes to the bulkhead, "What a piece of work you are."
That drew a furious response from Montoya. "Hey, you can't talk to me like that!"
"No, Master Chief. It is you who cannot talk to me
like that," Kincaid replied menacingly. "You forget that you're addressing a full Commander. I'm not that timid midshipman you turned away at your front door seventeen years ago."
Montoya leaned back. "Hiding behind your rank? You're definitely no Montoya."
"Forgive me if I'm not crushed by that thought. You really think I want your name?" Kincaid dropped any further pretense of courtesy. "You're a fucking disgrace to the uniform, Master Chief!"
"I'm a medal of honor winner," Montoya fought back. His scowl accented the fury in his angry whisper. "Have some respect!"
"Then I assume that as a medal of honor winner, you'll do the right thing and take in Jacob," Kincaid said with a decisive nod. "I can have the base's JAG officer make arrangements to transfer him by shuttle."
"Wait!" Montoya barked in his full-throated voice.
Kincaid narrowed his eyes. "I beg your pardon, Master Chief. What did you just tell me?"
Montoya cleared his throat. "If you would please wait one moment, sir
"Better." Kincaid looked down at a PADD that he brought into view. "I can only presume that you're going to weasel your way out of custody."
"I cannot possibly provide him with a home. It's out of the question."
Kincaid made a show of entering in information on the PADD. "You're unable to provide for him?"
"That's not it."
"Oh... your current posting does not allow you to have your family with you?"
"I'm assigned to Starfleet Headquarters. You know that, already."
"Yes, I do. So, I'm having a hard time coming up with a good reason why you can't assume your proper custodial rights as his confirmed biological father."
? When the hell did that happen?"
Kincaid raised a finger and wagged it, then tapped his three pips. "Watch it." He returned to his PADD. "Jacob's father was originally thought to be me, given that we share consanguinity. A full scan revealed that we were related, but I'm not his father. I'm his half-brother."
"Yes. Starfleet has transmitted their findings to the United Earth government and I'm sure you'll be contacted by someone, soon."
Montoya's eyes widened at the thought. "Uh, hold on a minute. They can't come here... what happens when they tell my wife...?"
"You have me confused with someone who gives a shit about what happens when your wife finds out you can't keep your dick in your pants, Master Chief," Kincaid replied calmly. "As I told your daughter... my half-sister, I'm guessing... this is official business."
The master chief settled into his chair, defeated. He raised his hand to cover his face, and then wiped hard from his forehead to his jaw before letting it fall down and out of view. Montoya sighed heavily. "I know that you're upset and you've no reason to help me, but is there any way possible that we could come to an arrangement?"
Kincaid nodded. "Luckily for you, I want what's best for Jacob." He leaned forward, ready to listen. "What exactly did you have in mind?"
Leone sat down at the table in the observation deck and looked at the JAG officer to her right. Kincaid was seated on her left.
"Well, Jesse was right. He wasn't the father," she declared succinctly, motioning to the PADD with the test results that was sitting in front of her.
"Yes, sir, that's true. However, Master Chief Petty Officer Montoya has requested that his son, Commander Kincaid, be given full custody of the child. He has already signed the paperwork to that effect." Okugo looked at the executive officer.
Kincaid turned towards the captain. "Sir, I hate to put you in this position after you've just selected me to be your XO, but I'm going to step in and take custody of Jacob. His life's been hard enough and to allow him to go and live with a man who just really wants to deny his existence just isn't something I could do."
"I understand, Jesse," Leone replied with regretful smile. "I'm definitely sorry to see you go, but I can see that your family needs you at this time." She turned to Okugo. "Commander, thank you very much for your attention to this matter. As you can see, we've but to file paperwork at this point. I don't want to keep you."
Okugo's eyes shifted between the captain and Kincaid. "Er, yes, of course." He rose from his seat and smiled. "Thank you, Captain, Commander."
Once alone, Leone noted, "I hate to ask you so soon after, but before you go on leave, I'm going to need your assistance in locating your replacement. If you can spare the time."
"I think that it will take some time for all the legal red tape to be taken care of, sir," Kincaid replied. "I'm sure I can use the time to recommend someone, but..."
"I'm sorry, I just thought that Commander Elannis would be my successor."
Leone sighed. "I guess I understand why you would think that, but let me ask you... would she be your recommendation?"
"There you are. She's a fine operations manager, but she has a long time coming before she'll be named an executive officer," Leone explained. "Even by me, and I've known her for years."
Kincaid did nothing to hide his surprise. "I just assumed, given that you tend to include her on some of the briefings... I mean, even the one regarding this situation..."
"You thought I was grooming her to have her take over at some point."
"Well, in light of your family matters, I felt it was prudent to have her present. Regardless of your status, she's going to have to step in an acting capacity until a permanent solution could be found. She's third-in-command, after all."
"I don't mind telling you, sir... I felt more than a little exposed by that. But I understand why you did it."
"I apologize if it made you feel uncomfortable, Jesse. I know it was a sensitive issue and I also know Ariel can sometimes be pretty abrasive, but she had to know what was going on and prepare accordingly."
Kincaid nodded once. "Getting back to the matter of a new XO, I'll take a look through the available pool and have a short list for you by the end of the day? Four or five names?"
"I appreciate that," she said softly. "Look... I know that your time here wasn't exactly what you had hoped for..."
Leone held up a hand. "Let me say my piece, please. I know you were expecting something else when you came here, and I wanted to say that in spite of all that, you did an outstanding job with the position. You're a good officer, Jesse. I know wherever you end up, they'll be lucky to have you."
Kincaid could only blink in response at the captain's words. "I..." he paused to search for the proper reply. "Thank you, Captain."
, Jesse." She held out her hand to him.
He took her hand in his and suddenly felt very uneasy about his leaving the ship. To cover, he gestured with his open hand toward the exit. "Sir, I was going to make a call to my mother to tell her I was coming to visit, since I thought the first step would be to use some of my accrued leave time and take Jacob home while Starfleet sorts out a good posting for us. If you'll excuse me?"
Yvonne Colby brightened considerably when Greg joined the table that she shared with Iris Wu. As had become their custom very quickly since coming aboard, the three of them often met after the end of their respective shifts in Ten-Forward.
"Good evening, ladies," Greg said as he took his seat. "Have you ordered, yet?"
Iris inclined her head slightly toward him, and used an annoyed tone when she spoke, "Yvonne insisted that we wait for you."
"You didn't have to do that," he replied quickly. "You know the most dangerous place to be in the universe is between Iris and her next meal." Greg lifted a hand to call the attention of the nearest waiter.
Yvonne laughed dutifully. "So true-OW!" She reached down to her shin after Iris made hard contact using her booted foot.
Iris said nothing to Yvonne, choosing to ask Greg, "Are you sure you won't join us tonight? We could really use a third."
Greg smiled. "Nah, it's all right." He looked up to the waiter to order his dinner and then continued after his departure. "I'm looking forward to catching up on some sleep. Thank you, again, though." He noticed Iris' eyes were no longer on him.
"Who's that?" asked Iris, suddenly. Her eyes stared beyond Yvonne's head and toward the long bar against the aft bulkhead.
Yvonne turned to look at the subject of Iris' question. A command lieutenant entered the lounge and ordered a drink from the man standing behind the bar. She'd never seen her before. "I don't know. Is she new or something?"
"No idea," Greg admitted, taking a long look. "I know most all the command officers."
Iris shot Greg a quick glance that turned into a double-take. With her left hand, she lifted one of the cloth napkins from the table and offered it to him. "Would you like to wipe the drool from your chin, sir?"
"Get away from me with that," he expressed his annoyance with a quick wave of his hand.
Yvonne reached forward to touch his arm. "Hey, was everything all right with Lieutenant Atherton earlier? I felt like maybe we upset her with what we said."
Iris scoffed. "You felt? I
Greg smirked at both of them. "I'm sure she's fine. She and the Exec go way back, so naturally she's quick to defend him. And let's be honest, we weren't being very kind with all our gossiping."
"It was just harmless talk," Yvonne tried to defend herself weakly. "We do it all the time."
Iris replied, "Perhaps it's time we changed that, then."
Greg nodded. "I agree."
"Should we go find her and apologize, then?" Yvonne folded her arms across her midsection.
"I don't think that's a good idea. She made her point and left, and anything more would just remind her of how upset she was earlier," Greg said after some thought. "Best just to improve our conduct."
"Would you mind if I joined you?" said a new voice. All three officers lifted their heads toward the source. The attractive lieutenant that entered earlier now stood at their table, drink in hand.
"Not at all," Greg said immediately, getting to his feet quickly. "Please."
Yvonne said, "Yes, join us. We were just saying that you must be a new addition to the crew."
Greg smiled widely. "A welcome addition, all the same."
The lieutenant grinned at him. She moved her drink from one hand to the other and offered it to Greg. "I'm Leftenant Victoria Waltham, transfer from the starship Repulse
. I've come aboard to join the personnel department."
Greg felt her soft hand in his for a moment, and the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end again. "Lieutenant Gregory Aspinall, chief helmsman."
Iris and Yvonne mouthed "Gregory" to each other.
"Yes, I know," Victoria replied. "You're Admiral Aspinall's son, correct?"
For once, Greg did not hide or evade the question. Instead, he confirmed it. "Yes, I am. Do you know my mother?"
"Not personally, no. It's difficult to not know about the current vice-chief of Starfleet Operations, however." Victoria looked down at her hand and smiled. "You prefer the extended handshakes, I see."
Greg quickly jerked his hand back. "Sorry!"
"Not at all." She offered her hand to Iris and Yvonne, and completed the round of introductions. Greg offered her the empty seat at the table, and Victoria accepted. "I must say, this is an impressive vessel."
"First time on a Nebula-class starship?" Yvonne asked.
Victoria set her glass upon the table and looked at Greg while answering Yvonne's question. "Yes."
Greg's eyes executed evasive maneuvers as he suddenly found his glass very interesting.
"I've only been in Starfleet for eighteen months. My first assignment was in the personnel office on an outpost for six months before I got my orders to report to Repulse
." Victoria added, "Though, I did get to step aboard a Galaxy-class ship for all of twenty minutes to hand-deliver some orders."
Iris' attention immediately shifted to their guest. "Oh? How was it?"
"Boring, actually. I saw the airlock and a bit of a corridor."
"Oh," Iris replied, disappointed.
Yvonne smirked. "Forgive her. She is unnaturally fascinated with the Galaxy-class ships."
"I can understand why. They're beautiful ships," affirmed Victoria, as her eyes returned to Greg. "These new ships being turned out follow a new architectural concept; graceful and majestic. The press says they're the twenty-fourth century equivalent of the launch of the Constitution-class."
Iris tilted her head. "For a personnel officer, you sure know a lot about ships."
"I joined Starfleet because of the ships in the adverts," Victoria presented Iris with a smile as she spoke. "I just think there's something beautiful about them. I read all I can on them It's kind of a hobby of mine."
"Well done, Lieutenant," Greg chuckled, while Iris absorbed the new information with a chagrined nod. "Iris, you shouldn't be so suspicious all the time."
"She's only doing her job, Gregory
," Yvonne fired back.
"Indeed," agreed Victoria. "And I took no offense."
Now, Greg wore a chagrined expression on his face. "Then I'm sorry."
Victoria placed her hand on his shoulder and asked, "Now that we're all friends, I was wondering if you might be kind enough to show me around?"