Episode 8: A Greater Power
Location: Zar's Quarters
Timeline: Day 178 at 0900
Quite why Lt.Commander Winters had found herself outside these particular quarters was something of a mystery even to her. Perhaps it was that old adage about ripping off a band aid quickly (or something like that). Or perhaps she knew the abolished may - yet again - disapprove of her continued presence on the ship as XO.
And maybe it was because, at the end of the day they had gone through hell and she was genuinely worried about how the crew would deal with it all. So, for better or worse, she pressed the chime.
Zar was sitting down in his dressing gown that he had received from his last commanding officer as a parting gift, on the table was a steak dinner salad with a nice Greek olive salad dressing on the side of it, along with some fresh berries and a dish of clotted cream. He was about to sit down and enjoy his meal when he heard his doorbell ring, Zar released a slight heavy breath out; signalling his annoyance at being disturbed before eating. He slipped on his house shoes and closed his robe a bit tighter together, his white undershirt exposing through the opening, and he opened the door to his quarters. As the door opened their standing in his doorway was Commander Winters, which was highly unexpected. "Ummm good evening Commander," he said in a startled tone. "Uh to what do I owe the pleasure of your company on this evening?" he asked her in a polite manner.
It did not take a detective to realise she had well and truly disturbed him. From the way he was dressed to his meal laid out on the table. “I just thought it was time for a proper real world introduction,” she explained, “but I didn’t intend to disturb you while you were eating. I can stop by another time.”
"There is no time like the present Commander," he said as he took a few steps away from the door. "Please come in, I can replicate you something to eat as well if you have not eaten," replied Zar as he moved over to the replicator just in case the Commander was indeed hungry or thirsty.
“Vulcan spice tea would be great, thank you,” she said, not wanting to seem rude. While his food smelled amazing, her appetite was still missing in action.
"One Vulcan spice tea," he said to the replicator and within a moment her tea appeared in a spiral of lights in the replicator. Picking up the tea by the handle and carefully walked over to her and handed her the cup. It was a good thing that he had a nice dinner room table to entertain guest, and so he pulled out her chair for her to get comfortable.
“Thank you,” she said with a grateful smile as she took the drink, taking the offered seat. Nursing the glass in both hands she took a sip, savouring the taste.
Zar walked over to his own chair and sat down, pouring himself a glass of ice cold water with a sprig of mint in a glass. "So as you can see I look the same in the flesh as in the simulation," said Zar with a smile as he took a sip of water. "So tell me Commander what is on your mind? I was told recently that since I am not a counselor I shouldn't be giving advice, however I think my experience in life might curtail that somewhat."
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with advice if it is given with good intentions,” Aria reasoned. “And my mother says there is no substitute for experience. My father, however, says that is just her way of feeling good about being older than time.”
She took another drink. The familiar taste and smell was comforting. “So many things are on my mind, but as I said, I wanted to come by. I know you did not approve of Captain Desai-Scott assigning me the XO position. I’m also fully aware it was not an entirely logical decision. Whatever her reasons, she made her choice.
She paused, wishing she had her mother’s way of just knowing the right way to say something. “I know you do not know me, Commander. So I do not blame you for challenging her. I’d have perhaps have done the same. Equally, I do not know you either. So, what I would like to propose is a fresh start.”
“Before you say anything,” she added, “in the interest of full disclosure I should tell you that the Captain has asked me to stay aboard. As first officer. And if you are not okay with that, I will understand.”
Zar sat their a moment in silence, internally he was grinding his teeth without moving his outside jaw muscles. He knew that incident in the mess hall had just cost him a promotion. He un-clenched his jaw and took a sip of water, before exhaling deeply. "I don't blame you Commander Winters, you couldn't have predicted the future; because if you could have you would have informed the Rhode Island's CO not to go into the Wastelands to begin with," he said as he pushed away briefly from his chair and stood up, and folded his arms behind his back and looked out the window.
"As far as Captain Desai-Scott goes, she is an arrogant, egotistical, self-righteous woman, who clutches to her indestructible starfleet record to put other people down. I rejected her because I questioned her emotional state as a commanding officer and I still stand by my convictions on that; and that was because of what I observed from my own eyes," he said as he started out at the stars. "Captain Drayton must have his own personal reasons for bringing you in Commander Winters and placing you in that position besides me. However I already know why he made the choice that he made, and that was because of what happened a few days ago, I have no one to blame but myself."
Zar leaned over to the table and picked up his glass of water and took another sip of it and held it, slowly swirling the ice in the crystal glass that bore the words Nogura across it. He let out another breath and then returned back to the table and sat down; he reached for a bottle of red wine, and after popping off the cork he poured himself a small amount in a nearby wine glass. "Honestly Commander Winters I do not hate you, I don't know you well enough to hate you or dislike you at all," he said as he mulled over his wine and took a small sip.
“We cannot change what happened in those simulations."
"Oh I agree and I do not hold that against you at all, we were placed in a situation that was different. Honestly I knew something strange was going on but I couldn't put my finger on it; the way the Borg react is not the way they acted in those simulations," he said to her. "Truthfully, we were looking at the way the Nighir or whatever they call themselves would react in a warlike situation with us. They also let us know that they will be able to handle the Briar Patch as a natural hiding place. So Commander, tell me a bit about yourself so that I can get to know you better, and I in turn will do the same thing; and hopefully after this conversation we might find that we have more in common."
Aria’s smile in response was bright, one of the first she had genuinely shown since they woke from stasis. She raised her tea, “the beginning is a good start. This, is my favourite beverage. I was born and raised for the most part on Vulcan. I am allergic to berries - should you ever decide to get rid of me - and am a terrible cook. That aside, I was a science officer before Captain Leighton... before I was promoted to XO.”
"My turn I guess," he said as he placed the wine glass down and sipped on the water clearing his pallet. "I graduated from the Academy in 2367 and was assigned to the USS Hood under Captain DeSoto. I served on the Hood throughout the Klingon/Federation War and the Dominion War as his Asst. Chief and then Chief Tactical/Security Officer. I transferred to Starfleet Academy were I served as a Professor of Advanced Tactical/Security Tactics, I then transferred back to the USS Hood and served as First Officer for three years under Captain DeSoto. I then transferred to the USS Rutherford where I served as First Officer Under Captain Dubois where eventually I took command and served as her Captain for four years. I was stripped of command, transferred to a penal colony for two years. I was then released and served on a distant outpost for two years before transferring to the Nogura," he said as he sipped his water.
"I love coffee, and anything sweet. I enjoy all forms of music, I love to cook but I hate to clean; but being stuck in your quarters for five days will force you to clean. I am allergic to stupidity, "he said with a slight laugh. "That's the quickest way to get me to disappear, and at times I suffer from terrible allergies and sinus infections from time to time. You can ask me any question you want, I'm not shy of holding back anymore; well I really don't have a choice in the matter so to speak."
When he mentioned being allergic to stupidity she actually laughed. “Duly noted,” she said after a moment. “I like music, but not Klingon opera. I play a little. Piano mostly. It can be cathartic. I prefer listening. But then I am half El-Aurian.”
She looked out at the stars, not going down the obvious path of asking about his past. In time she would.
“Do you ever wonder what the other simulations were?” She asked him curiously. “I try not to, because I had almost two months with them and remember nothing. But it keeps niggling at me.”
"I think they were one trying to find out who the Federation was and what Starfleet represented. I also believe they wanted to see what kind of threat we posed and to see how we would react in a war like situation...so I think they ran different scenarios to that end, what they found out I am not sure. I am surprised that they chose the Borg in the simulation verses another species of power to engage with."
Aria considered it. “Did you always want to command a starship?” She asked him suddenly. Wanting to change the subject. She hoped he wouldn’t take it the wrong way. She was genuinely curious, it was her nature. But she reasoned it could be taken as a reminder of the command he had lost. “You don’t have to answer. It’s the scientist in me. Pressing big red buttons and all that.”
"At first no I did not want to command a ship, actually I was only suppose to be in Starfleet for a little while. My family wanted me to move into the direction of serving on the Bolarus Council that heads up the government Executive Branch; then eventually serve as a representative on the Federation Council," he said as he picked up his fork and took a bite out of his salad, he was hungry after all. "My family dates from an old line, we were once Kings and Queens from an Human perspective; and when Bolarus unified we served for many years as the ruling presidents. My family were also chosen as diplomats when we first encountered the Vulcans people, "he said as he took another bite of his salad, this time tearing into a piece of steak.
"However that all changed when the Federation went to war with the Klingons, I saw it as my duty to continue serving; and then when the Dominion War happened I kept on serving. I had no idea that I would one day be thrusted into the center chair like I was. I was serving as XO for a year and before the year could end; my CO on the Rutherford accepted a promotion to Commodore and I was suddenly placed in command. What about you? Did you ever want to get as far up as you did in Starfleet?"
“No, definitely not at first,” she admitted. “My first assignment was classified but after I returned to duty, I was a science officer first and foremost. I was assigned as chief science officer and second officer aboard the Rhode Island. Captain Leighton was always one to push us. It was a deep space mission, we were gone for years. And then our XO was lost as I was promoted. Baptism of fire. I never looked back.”
"Truthfully, my happiest years was when I was serving as a first officer on the Hood, my most stressful moments was when I was a captain; yet I would never trade it for anything in the world," he said as he bit into his salad and chewed on it for a little while. "So tell me about your family life? Married? Kids? Siblings?"
“No, no and no,” Aria informed him. “You?”
"No I am not married yet," said Zar putting emphasis on it. he did want to get married and raise a family. "I have a brother and a sister. My brother Polzar serves on the Virginia as her CTO and my sister Zajula just graduated from the academy and she is a cargo shuttle pilot for Starbase 12. Also I have no kids but I do want them," he replied as he sipped now from his wine glass and then shoved another piece of his salad in his mouth and slowly chewed. After he was done he wiped his mouth and said "Are you sure you aren't hungry? I know stress and shock affects everyone differently, but if you don't mind me saying Commander; you should use some nourishment."
“Starfleet runs in your family,” she observed with a smile. “I am fine, thank you.”
"Yes it runs on my father's family side, he is a Commodore with the 9th fleet, truthfully I believe anyone who is going into politics should first serve in Starfleet; it does help to build emotional character and also helps you to understand other cultures that are out there," said Zar as he quickly polished off the rest of his salad and then slowly started working on his dessert.
"So anything else on your mind Commander?"
“Other than saying I hope we can work well together, Commander,” she told him as she climbed to her feet. “I know you care about this ship and crew. I promise you, I do not intend to let them down. That includes you.”
"That remains to be seen Commander," replied Zar as he rose up from his chair while picking up a glass. "However I will lift my glass to you," he does so and downs the rest of the wine. "For your success, and do not focus on trying to let people down; focus on the fact that you will try your hardest to succeed in your role, because we all fail sometimes," replied Zar.
“That I know,” she replied and it perhaps did not take a mind reader to know the directions her thoughts were heading. She put the brakes on that. “I’ve taken enough of your time and apologies again for interrupting dinner. Goodnight, Commander.”
Zar started walking the Commander to the door and he lightly put his blue hand on her shoulder and applied some pressure to her shoulder to get her to stop for a moment. "I want you to know that you are not a failure in what happened to the Rhode Island, it is not your fault at all. Remember things beyond your control placed you in a terrible situation, and remember Lieutenant Commander Aria Winters: you are built to take this, and you still have a role to play in the greater events of this universe and this life as well."
“As do you,” she countered with a smile. “I look forward to working with you Commander and if you ever need anything- even just to bend an ear - please let me know. In the meantime I’m off to work on my poker face. Goodnight.”
"Goodnight," he responded as he opened the door and escorted her out of his quarters. Zar closed his door and let out a deep breath, and surprisingly it was followed by a pure genuine smile. He couldn't remember the last time he actually smiled, as he walked back to his dinner table to finish his dessert he requested the computer to play upbeat Smooth Jazz; as he finished the night in the best mood he had been in ages.