Wardroom, U.S.S. Silverfin
Docking Berth Four, Star Station Freedom
Stardate: 54571.1 (July 28th, 2377)
With the cutter enjoying forty-eight hours liberty as they transferred the seized Boslic ship and crew, took on supplies and were debriefed on their latest engagement, Susanna Leijten took the opportunity to enjoy the relative quiet. Most of the crew were on Freedom, making full use of its holodecks, shops on the Bazaar, fully-equipped sports facilities, or even just a peaceful walk in Central Park (the station’s terrestrial enclosure). She would join them later in Viggo’s Tavern, the watering hole favoured by most of the Silverfin
’s complement, where their first round would be on her (as it always was), but until then she wanted to just enjoy the quiet of the old border cutter.
At some point in the Silverfin
‘s service someone had decided to have a couple of couches added to the wardroom, located just under the windows, which allowed for low-key meetings (and the obligatory gossiping sessions) to be undertaken in a more relaxed manner, as well as freeing up the table for those needing to eat. She now sat on one of the couches, her boots on the deck and feet tucked underneath her as she turned the page of her latest novel. Despite the paper medium, the thriller had only been printed three months ago, the latest work of a quirky author on Deneva who insisted his work was only released in hardcopy (a biography she’d read of him said he actually used a typewriter from the early twentieth century). As with every new book she bought, she made sure to take her time and read each word carefully and digest each page, looking for hints or clues as to what was coming next. She had to admit that despite the unnecessary expenditure of resources, actually holding a book and going through the physical act of turning onto a new page made the experience more enjoyable.
She was nearing the end of chapter seven when the doors opened. Tearing her eyes away from the off-white page, she glanced at the entrance and saw Doctor Mbeki enter. He was so engrossed in his own datapad that he never realised she was in the room, but headed over to the replicator and ordered a redbush tea. It was only when he turned towards the couches did he look up and notice her.
“Oh, hello Susanna. I never saw you there.”
“So I noticed. It must be a good read,” she said with a nod towards the PADD.
He chucked as he sat down opposite her. “If only. It’s the latest diagnostic report of the EMH. I swear that thing seems to spend more time active for maintenance than it does for medical care. Who thought that a bunch of photos and forcefields was a good thing to have working in a sickbay?”
“R&D, the S.C.E., Starfleet Medical, headquarters, so a considerable number of admirals rubberstamped the project.”
He scoffed. “Shows what they know.”
Leijten chuckled. She had heard Mbeki’s thoughts on the ship’s holo-doc many times before and they never changed. He only ever used the EMH in actual emergencies, but the rest of the time it remained stored in the computer unless it was being checked over by an engineer.
Before either of them could return to their reading and enjoy the quiet company, the doors parted again. Leijten looked over in time to see Petty Officer Illan Edris duck under the doorframe and continue into the room, a PADD engulfed by his hands. Edris was the ship’s admin specialist and handled all the paperwork that came through; ensuring it was logged in, distributed to the right officer, then filed and sent back to Squadron Command. The young Trill however looked like he belonged in Security, being one of the tallest onboard, with a powerful build that filled out his uniform to its limits. Edris however was a gentle giant, never losing his temper and had only ever fired a phaser in training. As he approached the couches, a lopsided smile made him look boyish and almost coy—it was no surprise he had many admirers onboard.
“Good morning, Captain, Doctor,” he said in greeting, his voice soft.
“Morning Illan,” she replied, setting her book in her lap. “I’d have thought you’d be on Freedom enjoying some downtime.”
“I’ll be at Viggo’s tonight, but my ‘In’ pile always increases whenever we put into dock, so I’ve got plenty to keep me busy.”
“Don’t overdo it, PO.”
“Overdo it, sir? I live for it,” he quipped, his grin getting a little bigger. “But there is one thing I can get off my desk right now.” With that he handed the PADD to her. She took it as he told her, “The latest crew evaluation reports are due in a week.”
She small frown appeared on her brow as she looked at the display. “It can’t have been six months since the last lot.”
“Afraid so, sir. Shall I pass them on to Commander Amorin?”
Leijten thought about it for a moment then shook her head. “That won’t be necessary, I’ll do them,” she glanced at Mbeki, “if the good Doctor doesn’t mind me cutting in.”
He shook his head. “Captain’s prerogative,” he said simply, a look of good humour in his eyes.
“Thank you for that ringing endorsement, Tunde.” She looked back up at Illan. “Anything more you want to offload?”
“Not for just now, but I can have another look if you’d like, Captain.”
She chuckled and shook her head. “The evaluations will be enough for now.”
“I’ll leave the two of you to them then,” Edris said with a nod to the two senior officers, turned on his heel and headed for the exit. He ducked back through the opening and left them alone in the wardroom once again.
Slipping a bookmark in between the pages and closing the novel, she set it on the armrest and looked Mbeki in the eye. “You free to get started on these now?”
“If we’re going to be working on them for the rest of the day, I prescribe some good coffee and maybe a plate of Venrillan mint wafers.”
“You’re the physician,” she told her friend as she headed for the replicator to place their order.
* * * * *
The Bazaar, Star Station Freedom
Tamsen System, Talarian Border
The handover of the renegade Boslic ship and crew to the secure facilities on Star Station Freedom had gone smoothly, just as it had done on dozens of occasions in the past. Lieutenant Commander Ling-Na had worked with Master Chief Syva to ensure things went as they should on their end, followed up by the customary reports and transferral of records, after which they were officially on leave.
Ling-Na had contacted Harriet and agreed on where to meet, then made her way through the bustling corridors of the base towards the Bazaar—the commercial zone on Freedom. She was always surprised at the old station, given the fact it wasn’t the largest or newest facility in the sector, it was always heaving with activity—even six months after the Incursion. But with the Silverfin
all in dock, as well as a colony ship the Obion
had towed in with engine problems, a pair of freighters and a Daystrom Institute surveyor, there were several hundred extra people onboard all looking for some entertainment. At a hair over one-point-five meters, Ling-Na was smaller than most, so was subject to some jostling, but she went with the flow and let the crowd carry her towards her destination.
As the throng of people reached the open space of the Bazaar they quickly dispersed, individuals, couples and groups heading off in a variety of directions, taking in the shops, stalls, eateries and bars the base had to offer. Ling-Na kept her pace steady and her wits about her as she headed for the Replimat on the second level—even though Freedom was a Federation base, picked pockets and petty thefts were known to take place.
She took in the sights, sounds and smells of the vendors, smiling to herself at the sheer diversity available in such a small space, but with the thought came a pang of sadness. Had she followed the will of her father she would never have left the ground of Sino, the staunchly traditionalist colony where she had been born, let alone fly between the stars. He would have seen her married and with a family at her age, but she had always known she wanted more. It was when she announced she was leaving, with her bags packed and passage to Earth booked, did he disown her. Since that day she hadn’t used her family name, which was why her Starfleet personnel file had her listed just as ‘Ling-Na’.
Both she and Doctor Mbeki shared the fact that their families hadn’t accepted their choices, but whilst she knew where her parents were he didn’t have that luxury.
“Ling-Na,” a voice called from above, derailing her train of thought.
She looked up and spotted Harriet Llewellyn-Smyth, smiling and waving at her from over the balcony railing. She gave the Englishwoman a wave and headed for the stairs, climbing them quickly to join the younger woman. Llewellyn-Smyth was also in uniform, but her hair was loose, draped over her shoulders and surrounding her beautifully delicate features like a mahogany frame, in contrast to her alabaster skin.
“I can’t remember the last time the Bazaar was this busy,” the lieutenant stated in her Cambridgeshire accent. “Fortunately it looks like most like most are leaving the Replimat alone for now, so we can at least get a decent table.”
“Good, I’m famished.”
Leading the way towards the bank of replicators, Ling-Na made it through the small crowd with ease, well aware that the pilot was right behind her—Harriet was an expert at getting through tight spots. They both ordered, picked up their trays and then headed for a table on the outer edge of the eatery, from where they could watch the world go by. Ling-Na took a moment to take off her uniform jacket and hang it on the back of her chair before sitting, she may have liked her uniform and it may have been designed for comfort, but she was on leave after all.
She had just sat down when Llewellyn-Smyth leaned forward slightly and asked outright, “So what’s this I hear about you and Ram?”
She was so taken aback by the abruptness that she didn’t have a chance to compose herself, and by the look on her companion’s face she’d never be able to lie her way out of it. Lieutenant Ramdev Sholi was the Watch Officer on beta shift, a man she’d known for the last couple of years since his arrival and found to be interesting, charming and handsome. Though she knew she had little chance of deflecting the issue, she had to try at least.
“What about me and him?” she asked, picking up her fork and knife and studying the Tellarite craff
steak on her plate.
“Are you really going to try that one?” Llewellyn-Smyth challenged with a smirk. When Ling-Na didn’t justify her question with a reply, Harriet pushed a little more. “Well, Elak had heard through Claudia, who been talking with Blue, who’d been told by Timod whose quarters are just two down from Ram’s, that he’d seen you leaving the Lieutenant’s room early one morning last week.”
Ling-Na could feel her hackles rise. Though she knew there was no malice in the gossip, she thought they’d managed to get away with their private meets. “I may have to throttle Ensign San,” she stated bluntly. “You’d think that someone with four lifetimes worth of experience would know when to keep his mouth shut.”
“Oh come on, Ling-Na, everyone knows Timod is the biggest gossip onboard—not much gets by him.”
Sighing heavily she had to agree. It was hard to keep any secrets on a ship with one hundred and twenty-three others constantly around, especially with the narrow corridors and cosy quarters that featured on the Albacore-Class. But still, she’d need to have words with Timod San next time she saw him—surely there had to be some reg that prohibited spreading rumours about senior officers.
“So everyone knows then.”
“Most of the people I’ve spoken to seem to.”
“Do they know about it before or after you started talking to them?” Ling-Na asked with a raised eyebrow.
Llewellyn-Smyth took that moment to take a very large forkful of her spaghetti carbonara, then just shrugged her shoulders. Ling-Na had to chuckle and shook her head as they both ate quietly for a moment.
After she swallowed, Llewellyn-Smyth continued. “We’re all just happy to see you happy, I mean it’s been a while since your last...dalliance, so it’s about time you found someone.”
“Speaking of ‘dalliances’, is anyone new in your life that you’ve neglected to tell me about?”
“Good morning ladies,” a deep voice interrupted.
They both looked in the direction it originated and found Lieutenant Commander Kolanis Daezan approaching their table, an easy smile on his naturally tanned face and a slim redhead on his arm. From the corner of her eye she noticed Llewellyn-Smyth’s posture stiffen slightly, then she glanced down at the table for a moment before refocusing on the Silverfin
’s Ops Manager.
“Morning Kolanis,” Ling-Na replied.
“Hello,” added Harriet, her eyes flicking to the redhead.
“Enjoying all the Bazaar has to offer?”
“We’ve just got here really. The plan is have an early lunch, hit the shops, then get ready for tonight,” she explained. “Will you be joining us?”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” he told them. A second later he suddenly seemed to realise he was with someone and looked at the woman who was with him. “Sorry, where are my manners. This is Lieutenant Quinn Burke, the Operations Chief from the Bonito
. Quinn, this is Lieutenant Commander Ling-Na, our Second and Tactical Officer, and Lieutenant Harriet Llewellyn-Smyth, Senior Conn Officer.”
“Hello Commander, Lieutenant,” Burke said, her voice sounding far younger than her years. “It’s a pleasure to meet some of the infamous crew of the Silverfin
, other than Kolanis of course.”
“It’s nice to meet you too.”
“We met a couple months ago, when we were here on Freedom for that demonstration on the new trans-spectral sensor array. Neither of us seemed overly enthused about it, which put us in a minority of two, since then we’ve been corresponding back and forth when we can,” Daezan explained.
“You techie types have to stick together,” Llewellyn-Smyth quipped, her smile more polite than amused. “Will you be joining us tonight?”
“I wish I could,” said Burke, soundly truly disappointed, “but we’re due to depart at sixteen hundred.”
“So we don’t have a lot of time today, and we’ve still got that Bolian place to try, as well as our holodeck reservation,” Daezan interjected.
“We’d best not keep you then,” offered Ling-Na. “We’ll see you tonight Kolanis and good luck out there, Lieutenant.”
“Thanks and you too, Commander.”
“Cheerio,” Harriet added as the couple headed towards the stairs.
Ling-Na watched them go for a moment then turned back to find her friend tearing through her meal, as though it was the first thing she’d eaten in days. There was a sullen silence hanging over the table, the jovial nature of their banter had been lost. Ling-Na ate quietly for a few minutes, studying the younger woman intensely and kicking herself for being so blind.
After five minutes, she’d had enough of the unnatural stillness and leaned forward, seeking a little payback, but also wanting to see what support she could give her friend.
“So what’s going on between you and Kolanis?”
Harriet Llewellyn-Smyth’s face turned brighter than a red alert klaxon and Ling-Na had to bite the inside of her cheeks to keep from laughing.
* * * * *