Missions - Episode 8: A Greater Power

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Mission Synopsis

Location: Iota Cassiopeia System
On: Day 177 at 2345

They say time heals all wounds, but three days after the startling revelations regarding the Nihari mind simulations, the crew are still struggling to come to terms with events. Holding position in the Iota Cassiopeia system, the Nogura has received a haul of supplies and replacement personnel to help deal with the aftermath of the firestorm that came with the Nihari first contact. Among the new crew, Idra Kizohl returns to the ship to assist with counselling the affected personnel, but soon enough, demons are let out of the closet that are very hard to contain.

Meanwhile, Nogura is soon drawn to Psi Pergonae, a system with a Blue Hyper-giant at its centre, is unremarkable to say the least. With no inhabited worlds, no historic ruins, not so much as a sign of intelligent life, past or present, its no surprise the system is located in the Wastelands. Until a strange signal is detected near the stars corona, a signal powerful enough to draw the attention of not only the starship Nogura, but also adversaries from both the Cardassian Union and, disturbingly, the Nihari Ascendancy.

As each power tries to investigate the nature of this strange signal, a race against time ensues which will have drastic consequences for all… win, lose or draw.

Day 1, Minute 1, Second 1

Location: Bridge of the USS Nogura
On: Day 178 at 0045

The comm chime went off...again.

Over the span of an hour, it had gone off half a dozen times, blinking once with only half a trill of its alert tone, before going dead. Never even data on the screen to make a guess at what was happening, just the Starfleet delta beginning to unfurl followed by the blinking 'Incoming Message'. And then it would die, cut off at the source before the message header could fill out.


At least Marley had had the common decency to come wearing chains and actually deliver a message. But this time the chiming continued, the message header filled out, and an actual destination, not a broken checksum appeared on the screen. 'Subspace Relay. From USS Lexington (TOB), to USS Nogura (COO)'.

Laki had been hard at work dealing with the crew shifts and the other departmental needs. He had heard that Commander Zar had been pulled from duty, perhaps the stress of what happened was getting to him. He silently hoped that his department head was okay, and just as he was about to sign some more crew quarter updates he received an incoming transmission from the USS Lexington as he pressed the button to accept the incoming communique.

The screen fizzed for a moment and then became quite clear, revealing a face of scales, teeth, and a 'Go Thunderlizards!' woollen cap punctured by a number of tan coloured chitinous spines. The golden eyes that looked out of the screen narrowed, their knife cut slits widening a little as the figure in a gold engineer's undershirt peered out of the screen.

"You're not Bolian..." he said, a frown bunching up a few scales on his forehead. "Starfleet records show a Bolian as the Chief Operations Officer of the USS Nogura."

Laki was slightly taken back as his eyes enlarged as seeing a giant lizard on the screen. He had witnessed some strange things in his career but he had never seen a species like this before, and instantly as his eyes widened he remembered his training and quickly returned to normal. "That is correct a Bolian Lieutenant Commander Zar is the Chief Operations Officer of the Nogura. However Commander Zar is not available at the moment, but I am his Asst. Chief Operations Officer Lieutenant Udri...how ummm can I be of assistance?"

The lizard on the screen looked taken aback for a moment, looking off the screen at something he had scrawled there on a padd or something. A flickering tongue whispered out from between some very needle-like teeth. A lot of needle-like teeth, come to think of it.

"I don't know if you can," he said with genuine regret in his voice. He then reached towards the screen and the commlink disengaged with its unhappy little 'bing'. Then a few seconds later the screen lit up again with the blinking, and the chiming, and the flashing of a subspace relay from the Transitory Officers Berth of the USS Lexington to the Chief Operations Officer of the USS Nogura.

Laki stared at the screen with his mouth gaped wide open as he had been just disconnected on. This was the most strangest of call that he had received, he was going to see if he could have the comm channel pulled when the comm line rang again. Taking a deep breath and forcing his mouth closed with his hand, he answered the line and their was lizard man looking dead at him again.

"No-no-no, I must be put through to Chief Zar, it is of the utmost urgency!" the lizard enthused. "I am Lieutenant Hask Ral'kesh Rassak, and I have been assigned to the USS Nogura as your new chief of engineering. And I have been tapping into the maintenance feed from the TOB on the USS Lexington, and I have seen worrying diagnostic reports! Systems operating beyond their specifications that could lead to disaster for the ship!"

Hask waited for a moment before adding. "And the crew, of course, of which you are a part and I too shall soon be a part thereof. It is most troubling."

"Ah, well Lieutenant Rasssssk," he said trying to be polite. "Commander Zar is not available but however I can help," he said as he started processing everything the lizard said. Boy his teeth were sharp at least they looked like it, and he wondered if he might be related to the pet iguana he kept in his quarters. "What do you mean worrying diagnostic reports? All systems are reading green across the board, and are operating at peak efficiency?"

"Ras-sack," the reptoid said, Holding up one finger of each hand. "Ras...sack. Rassak. I understand that pronouncing a name with vowels spoken on an inhale and a exhale can be troubling to most bipedal mammals, but I really must insist on proper pronunciation. And as for the worrying diagnostic reports, huum...one moment."

The screen darkened again, only for the work terminal on the desk to light up with the reflected glow of the continuing conversation now happen on the other side of the room.

"I've been tapping into the engineering diagnostic stream the Nogura is generating, and both the tertiary and secondary cooling vanes for the aft port fusion reactor are showing micron level tarnishing effects on their heat sinks. That's increasing their surface area by 2.4% of nominal levels! I...I can't quite seem to see you at your work station," Hasks voice spoke up. "I assure you these are pressing concerns, and if you cannot deem them worthy of your time and effort I would appreciate you getting me Chief Zar!"

Laki felt like he was dealing with a preschooler at this point in time, not only was he being corrected on how he pronounces a name; but he also despises the fact that this..engineering officer kept putting him on hold and taking him off of hold. "I am at my operations station lieutenant," he said as he stepped away and allowing the bridge of the Nogura to open up before him. He slowly maneuvered back into position to the reptile could see him. "I assure you I can monitor all engineering and operations from this terminal," he added as he pulled up the information that the lieutenant was talking about.

"2.4 percent of nominal levels is still within the operational parameters of the fusion reactor output. Besides the fusion reactors had to be increased to a power level of 103.568 percent in order to give additional power that we use to send to other ships systems. Also the micron tarnishing effects do dissipate lieutenant when the impulse engines are not being used however," said Laki as he pulled up the figures. "The 2.4 increase will still allow the fusion reactors to be functional for another twenty to thirty years unless Starfleet engineering comes out with a more efficient design."

"They have already come up with the most efficient design when it is used in a proper way. I have gone over the design spec's for that model of fusion reactor, and it is clearly stated for a maximum operational mode of 80-90%. But moving it into an operational mode dynamic where it runs past 100% of capacity, not only are the heating vanes tarnishing and thus losing their efficiency, but you are also shortening the operational life spans of all material components!" Hask said, hissing a little angrily. "Do you know how much heat is required to turn a superconducting magnet into a regular magnet? Clearly, this is not known to you, or you would not be so flippant when discussing the operation of a fusion reactor. Why a failed magnet in the torus of a fusion reactor tokamak could lead to an uncontrolled fusion excursion event!"

Hask looked off-screen, frowning again.

"And you say Commander Zar is unavailable? Is he in surgery? Or the brig?" he asked.

Laki closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose, gently rubbing his ridges back and forth to ease the stress. If this officer was going to be the Nogura's new Chief Engineer then they would have some serious problems going forward. He could see the arguments between operations and engineering growing out of control. "Lieutenant Rassakk, I assure you sir that when the ship does go into reduced power mode for Gamma and Delta shifts that the reactor gets the rest that it needs. The reactor is only operational at 103 percent for only 12 hours, and we find that in those twelve hours it is fine," he said as he took a brief pause.

"As far as Commander Zar goes he is currently not on duty sir, and as the ranking officer in charge I lead the Operations Department while he is away and not able to tend to his duties. Also sir due to the Starfleet medical code under the authorization of the HIPPA code I cannot release a person's information without their consent; and I assure you Commander Zar would not consent to his....private affairs sir."

Something resembling a high pitched constrained growl, or high pitch warble seemed to grow at the back of Hask's throat.

"Very well Lieutenant Junior Grade Laki. Then we will move onto line item two," Hask said, looking off-screen again and nodding. "Atomic spallation effects from the particle wash given off by the warp core. When was the last time the Nogura was swept for the neutrino build up? I've checked the logs, but I can't see the mentioning of such a subnuclear cleaning taking place. I'm sure I don't need to tell you how important keeping such a build-up to a minimum is important for the continued good operation of the ships inertial compensators. Given those devices are the only thing keeping the crew from turning to jelly and/or paste when the helm answers 'full impulse'."

"I agree with you on that Lieutenant Hask, I have only been aboard the Nogura for a short while along with Commander Zar and the entire operations staff; however the former Chief Engineer should have made sure of it that it was done while we were docked at Starbase," he said as he quickly moved his fingers over the console as well. "I am looking for those log activities as well but they are not popping up quick enough. I promise that I will have one of my technicians to personally pull those files and go through them with a fine tooth comb. What OTHER line items will be discussing before you make your....delayed arrival on the Nogura?"

Hask tapped a command on his keypad, and a text file appeared on the operations work terminal. The fact the machine did not let out a strained 'OOF! as the text file began to upload multiple pages, in multiple files, was a testament to the fine folks at the Gamma Quadrant shipyards.

"I have sorted them by severity and need, whilst also cross-referencing blatant infractions that I will be personally overseeing once I am aboard and have spoken with JAG council," Hask smiled happily. Maybe the thought of militant paperwork, slogging through a trench of memories and bard wire meeting minutes was the little reptiles 'happy place'. Maybe it was just Hell. Or maybe it was just a word. "Subspace buckling on four of the nineteen forward retention pins holding the number 45 hull plate in place? Not to mention particle desegregation on the main defector array's pattern analyser I-"

He held up a clawed hand.

"I'm sorry, I only just noticed it is nearly 0100 hours for you on the Nogura," Hask said warmly. "The Lexington is still on Benzar time after their diplomatic mission there. You must think me quite the rude soul for blathering on like this at such late hour. So to that end, I will focus my attention on file headers Able 1 through Casper 19, which I think you will agree are the more notable and worrying cases of material negligence."

Laki rolled his eyes and just shook his head at the lieutenant who was going to be their new CEO. He literally pulled out a slide show presentation, he hadn't seen that done since he last report on proper warp core and fusion reactor maintenance and proper control. He wondered if the lieutenant served under Professor Bocha, that would explain a lot if he did; that old man was strictly by the book kind of engineer. It was a good thing he learned that everything does not go by the book or can be applied by the book.

"Yes it is a bit late Lieutenant Rassak, however I can make sure that if you want to continue speaking with someone I can give you Ensign Bahr. He is very much in agreement with your form of practice, just out of the academy and we raved about Professor Bocha's lectures on normal applied functions for standard starship engineering practices?"

"I have one of his signed monographs" Hask said, a note of genuine excitement in his voice. "But I would not want to leave you without a better understanding of how the best practise policy can be applied to starship power utilisation requirements. I can well see that I have much work to do when I arrive, and I see this opportunity as a way of starting that work whilst we are still light-years distant."

"Oh no lieutenant, now that I know you had Professor Bocha I have a clear understanding of where you are coming from," he stated as he gave a look of satisfaction on his face. "The one thing I remember from the professor was that he quizzed us over and over again of the normal practices that Starfleet engineers must employ while on deep space assignments; especially when they would be away from a Starbase or a dry-dock for a while. I remember how he would talk endlessly on hours about the procedures that Captain Montgomery Scott drummed up for current engineering practices. Or how Lieutenant Commander Stavitz discovered the efficient and safe way of not only rebooting a warp core but also making sure that the injectors, the coils and the nacelles were clear free of all particles before starting them back up." replied Laki as he started to try his best to drive home his understand theories and practices from that old gas bag professor.

"Did you manage to also attend his bi yearly lecture? He would explain the effects of subspace applying stress modifications on the hull of a starship; and the proper way to re-calibrate the Structural Integrity Field to how to negate those stress modifications. I am impressed at how he would also talk about properly aligning the subspace deflector dish to the correct warp field frequency so that one system was not overcompensating for the other; which would cause gaps in the performance enhancement subsystems installed on the warp core? If you didn't you missed a sleeping...I mean a vigorous treat."

Hask's woolly hat had risen slightly as more of the bards atop his head a perked up, warming to the conversation.

'Alas I could not attend last years lecture, as I was stationed on Andoria," Hask said, saying the word the way you might speak of something found on the bottom of a shoe. "Had I been freer in my ability to travel I would have done so, but the geothermal energy taps Starfleet is designed for its long-range Class L outpost programs demanded my attention more than my academic curiosities. I still sometimes feel a shiver, just thinking about that inhospitable ice ball. A miracle of life to find firm footing there for one of the founding species of the Federation no doubt."

He let out a sigh and then clapped his hands together.

"But where were we? Oh yes, file Alpha 1! As I said the 90 files I will speak to you of from the Alpha to Casper series are the most outlandish abuses, merely the tip of an iceberg. Why if I were to begin to discuss all of the factory settings that have been mishandled I do not think we would be finished before I arrived," Hask stopped short, looking around. "One moment. I must prepare something to ward off the chill coming from the atmosphere handling vent. A tea yes...a tea. I shall return in a moment, do not leave your terminal."

And with that Hask zipped away from the screen, revealing...well a wall. But perhaps a chance to escape? Take a hammer to the Nogura's communications array and beg temporary insanity to the CO?

Laki saw the quick brief pause in the long conversation, he looked around and found no one. He began to sweat and was nervous, how long would it take for the lizard to get his drink and return; hopefully the cold air that he was complaining about would slow down his movements; and just as he began to truly get nervous Ensign Bahr stepped onto the bridge. Crying a soft wonderful joyous cry to the Prophets he quickly stood up from his chair and grabbed the young ensign and sat him down in front of the screen.

"Ummm sir, I haven't reported in..." he was trying to say before he was quickly cut off.

"Don't worry I'll sign you in myself, I have been..." said Laki thinking of a valid excuse to get away from the lizard man. "waiting to use the restroom. Do you know anything about Professor Bocha?" he said and the obvious look on Bahr's face indicated that knew who he was talking about.

"You mean that pompous ass that says that everything must be regulated and operational according to the design specifications of all equipment issued out by Starfleet to a Federation starship or even a base," he said with a strong dislike on his face, if Laki didn't know better; he would have sworn that the young ensign would have swallowed lemon juice with an cod liver oil chaser.

"Yes the very one, our new Chief Engineer is fond of him and you will be taking my place," Laki said as he was in a near panic mode

"The hell I will, I am not sitting down with someone that believes the same way as that stuck up ass hole professor."

"Oh yes you will ensign, and you will sit here and like it while I.....go to the bathroom and then my lunch break...and my two fifteen minute breaks on top of that," and as quickly as he said that he left the room. "Also enjoy the 90 point slide presentation."

"A slide presentation!!!" said the young ensign.

"And I'm back! Vulcan sand stone tea, very good for the lungs," the comm's panel before Ensign Bahr informed him. "Now, File Alpha one. As you can see from the header file, this focuses primarily on the laser ignition system from the warp core. It also connects with files Baker 4 and Casper 28, but we will get to those in time. As you can see the array of laser ignitors used in the primary fusion chamber are set to a 3-4-3 latency period, whereas anyone with even a layman's appreciation of magnetohydrodynamics knows a pulse variance of 3-6-3 is required for a more efficient power generation model. Anything else, I am sure you will agree, would be an utter waste of time."

Bahr sighed as he listened to the lieutenant go on about his slides, and mentally he blocked out the lizards talking thinking about the revenge that he was going to plot against Laki. This was war from here on out, he was thinking of a plant to see if he could entrap Laki with lieutenant lizard in a face to face encounter. An evil grin appeared on his face as his thoughts turned to evil diabolical planning.

Olive branch

Location: Zar's Quarters
On: 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.

Written All Over Her

Location: Holodeck 2, Deck 5
On: Day 179 at 1045

The lights in the fabricated environment of Holodeck Two were dim, except for a single lamp with its intense circular glow focused on the woman sitting in the chair.

Brynhild Keil sat in the chair, hands laced together on top of her head and arms hanging loosely over her slightly angled form. She was dressed only in her "duty style" bra, her shirt hung over a chair so her midsection was exposed. A stereotypical gristly looking gentleman with long black hair in a ponytail sat hunched over her side. If she was feeling any pain from the hyper-speed needle driving into her flesh over and over, she didn't show it. She did feel the pain, of course, but it was nothing compared to what she felt emotionally...so the pinpricks didn't matter.

Little seemed to matter except getting this tattoo. It was important. Her psyche couldn't process things until the loss had been properly commemorated.

Mid process however, the tatoo artist was disturbed by the sudden and rather curt chime at the 'door' to the holodeck.

"Enter," she called when he heard the chime, curious as to who it was.

Only supreme self-control kept her from jerking when she saw the captain walk in. "Computer, freeze program," she said, and the dark man froze with pen hovering and she got to her feet like the good Marine she was. She saluted. "Sir."

Over her ribs was the nearly-finished image of a ship's upper half over the words 'USS Roehampton' followed by a number: the crew complement, minus the few who had survived. Herself included. This singular area was clearly just one in a long history, since there were names scrawled over her visible skin on both hips, her other side, shoulders, and down both arms. If she was self-conscious about either her state of dress or the ink, she didn't show that either.

And to that, she wasn't. She just waited at attention for the captain to speak.

Drayton observed the woman's art work for a second and then nodded approvingly. "That's an interesting way to remember people," he mused before walking over to the wall of the 'shop' to have a look at some of the artists other designs, "I thought these things went out of fashion centuries ago?" he asked.

She took that as her sign to be "at ease" and so she moved into that pose, hands behind her back as she watched him walk over to the replication of the tattoo shop she favored. "Out of fashion but not out of existence, sir. I got my first one when I was a teenager and have kept the tradition."

"If you don't mind me asking," he queried as he turned and tried counting the tattoos that he could see, "how many do you have?"

"There are seventy-three names, sir," she replied stoically, her gaze and stance remaining steady. Inwardly, she wasn't sure how she felt... But she wasn't ashamed of the words and art on her body. It was a part of her, and a coping mechanism. Something she needed right now. "The first eleven names were when I was sixteen."

"Wow..." Drayton trailed off as he perched on the edge of one of the parlour's beds. "I hope this isn't in place of a visit to the Counsellor?" he queried, hoping he wouldn't have to reiterate his orders for the woman. It wouldn't make a great start for their working relationship if she had disobeyed his orders.

Brynna's brow knit slightly. "Certainly not, Captain. I've already made an appointment to see the counsellor." She may not like the idea, but she certainly understood the need for it and she would not disobey. "This is just something I do for myself."

"We all have our ways of dealing with things, just do me a favour and avoid getting any on your face," he grimaced as he pointed at her head and wiggled his finger with a laugh.

That made her smile slightly, a faint laugh escaping her. "Never on the face, sir," she said. "I just don't like the look."

"So, I've been meaning to talk to you for a few days, but I have been conscious about giving everyone some time to recuperate but there is much to be done," Drayton told as he decided it was time to get down to business. "You indicated the other day that you wanted to stay aboard and help with the Nihari investigation. You still up for the job?" he queried, out of hope rather than expectation.

Brynhild straightened her back a little further and lifted her chin. "Yes, sir," she said. "I owe it to my wing. I owe it to myself. I want to help."

"Excellent," Drayton grinned as he rubbed his hands together, "why don't you carry on with this tattoo business and we can carry on talking? I'd love to watch it done, if you have no objections?"

"No objections, sir," Brynna said easily. She relaxed her stance and then slipped back into the chair, moving carefully between the seat and the frozen-in-place needle. She eyed the placement of the needle and the new tattoo and then settled back as she was before. "Computer, resume program." And then just as if nothing had happened, the artist began his work again.

"So," the Captain began as he sat back and watched the artist at work, "I'm sure you know that we don't have a Fighter Wing aboard the Nogura, but, that needs to change if we are to really defend this area and investigate the Nihari threat, we're going to need multiple weapons in our arsenal," he told as he moved his head around to look at the tattoo in progress. "So, I'd like you to draw up some suggestions for how we can adjust or reconfigure our auxiliary craft complement to cater for your needs."

Brynna turned her head enough to meet his gaze, although without moving her body at all so she didn't throw off the ink-in-process. "I'm hoping we'll be able to requisition some actual fighters and I don't have to modify shuttles to shoot better, sir," she said with a wry, half-smile.

"Well, if we get our order in quick enough, the Lexington is heading out this way in a few days with our newest personnel. I'm sure they could drop us off some fighters at the same time," he told, diverting his eyes from her body and back to her face. "Any idea how many you would want? What class?"

"That depends on how you see us best fitting into the ship's new mission... Are we scouts? Interceptors? Or more likely to be straight-out dogfighting?" she asked thoughtfully.

"We don't need scouts as such, our sensor suite is magnificent. So, our need is more likely in an interceptor, space superiority and control role," he advised her as he finally gave her more attention, and not the tattoo. "I want to make sure that the next time we come up against any threat out here, we have resources to strike, and strike hard and strike first if necessary."

Brynna rolled through her memory of various fighter craft and their roles. "We could probably fit in a greater number of quicker strike craft, interceptors, or maybe a smaller number of heavier hitters. They're bigger and a bit slower but would pack a bigger punch. Downside, we have limited room. Probably a single twelve-plane squadron at most, but I'll have to get a better look at the space we'll be allocated."

"I'll make sure that you have access to the shuttlebay and anything else you need," the Captain nodded as he made a plan in his head. "I want an effective combat unit. If you think heavy hitters would be better, we'll go that route. But, if we are to get what we want, we need to get our order in ASAP," he continued.

"I'll get right on it," Brynna said. "I'll make sure you have a strong sword-arm, Captain."

Rising to his feet, the Captain nodded. "Once that's done, back to taking some time. Counsellor Kizohl will be expecting you," the Captain reminded her before adding, "I'll leave you to your tattoo."

The major figured in this case, he would forgive the lapse in protocol if she didn't stand up. She nodded once from where she say. "Thank you, sir. I won't let you down."

Unwinding at last

Location: Captain's Quarters
On: Day 179 at 2350

The hour was late and the only source of illumination in the Captain’s quarters was that of the stars out beyond the hull of his ship. Oh, and the data PADD he held for late night reading. It was hard to switch off at the best of times, but after recent events he had really struggled to find the time to unwind, to the point that he had to order the bridge to not contact him unless there was an emergency or some update on the personnel transfers that would be arriving any day now.

With his newfound time, the Captain found himself laying in bed, a hot chocolate in one hand and a data PADD in the other. On the PADD, a whole list of news articles from the Federation News Service, articles that would help him get updated on what had been happening around the alpha quadrant and beyond. He could have opted for a novel, a classic like Shakespeare or Stephen King but, aside from the fact he actually wanted to sleep at some point, he wasn’t one for long winded books. He rarely had the time to sit and finish them, so it seemed pointless getting engrossed in them anymore. No, a few short stories about the galaxy would be perfect right now.

The first article he had read was about the Denobulan Dodgers Ice Hockey team and how they were set to face the Antaran Athletes after a rousing victory in the first division of the Galactic Ice Hockey Tournament. The action was ramping up at the tournament as the Denobulan Dodgers were off to a flying start after topping their first division and set to face old enemies in the next game. Losing only one of their games in the group – their game against The Gallant Grazites – the team missed a last-minute goal, making the score 2-1 in favour of the Grazites. The loss was a shock to everyone, apparently, as they were last in the group with the one game to go. Sadly, the Grazerites stayed in last position but showed performance to be proud of for their fans.

According to the article, other teams in the league displayed rousing feats of power as well. The Blessed Bajorans came second. While they didn’t lose any matches, they drew two and only won the singular game, coming in position behind the Denobulan Dodgers by only a couple of points. In third was the Haliian Heroes. They lost all their games bar one against the Gallant Grazities, which came in at 4-1. Their opponent came in dead last, losing all their games bar the surprising win over the Denobulan Dodgers, and coming in under the Haliians due to scoring fewer goals in the group. They only managed the three goals by full-time – two against the Denobulans, and the one against the Haliians – they failed to score against the Bajoran team, thrashed 7-0 by the unit from Bajor.

The highest scoring match in the group was the Denobulan Dodgers vs. Blessed Bajoran match, culminating in a thrilling 8-9 win for the Denobulan Dodgers. Every fan in the stadium was up on their feet for almost the whole match. It was quite something to watch, or so the article claimed.

The Captain had briefly watched one of the linked interviews from members of the Denobulan team and couldn’t help but feel excited for them. “My guys and gals did amazing out there,” commented Captain Arax – of the Denobulan Dodgers – how she felt about her team’s success in the group. “I’m extremely proud of them and I know that they did our planet and people just as proud.”

Receiving the “Denobulan of the Match”, Krez Carlson scored four of the nine goals against the Blessed Bajorans. A Denobulan Human Hybrid, Carlson was permitted to play for the team due to his Denobulan heritage.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” top goal scorer Carlson had added, regarding his performance in the matches. “I’m just happy I can show off how much we’ve developed as a team since the last tournament. We didn’t do too well then and we’ve all been training almost day and night for the past three months for this. So yeah, it’s amazing!”

The Denobulan Dodgers would next play the Antaran Athletes in the next stage of the competition following their decisive victory in their group. According to the author of the article, the game was set to be an interesting one due to the history between the two species. Drayton had made a note to try and catch it if he could.

He’d only glanced at the next article, although he’d made a mental note to tell Idra about it when she arrived. The next series of the Galactic Bake Off was to be filmed on Ferenginar. Ferenginar of all places! Entrants from Qo’nos and Earth were to be joined by a Talaxian, Romulans, Cardassians, and Bajorans in an epic struggle to win the grand title of Galactic Bake Off Champion. The competition was rapidly building for this year’s Galactic Bake Off. Ever resourceful, the Bake Off team had apparently thrown in extra challenges. Zero-G baking and assimilation baking were on top of the list.

Though Zero-G baking speaks for itself, he was relieved when it pointed out that no Borg were used in the assimilation heat. The simple rule being that their creation had to be baked and assimilated into another recipe, creating a whole new recipe.

“Today is a good day to fry!” reportedly exclaimed the great Klingon chef Krohong Juc. No, time to skip the rest of that article, the Captain had decided.

The next article on the list had piqued his curiosity far more than the Ferenginar-based baking contest. The Federation Cultural Society had supposedly named Andoria as the “Best Planet to Visit”

According to the article, the Federation Cultural Society had announced the Andorian homeworld as the winner of their annual travel contest. Once each year, the Federation Cultural Society featured a system that is often overlooked or underestimated as a vacation spot. In the past, they had focused on such diverse locales as Cestus III and Nimbus, the Planet of Galactic Peace. This year’s spotlight went to what many have called the “Icy Jewel” – Andoria!

Reading on, the Captain nodded and smirked as he took in the words on the PADD. ‘Don’t let its frosty reputation fool you,’ the author wrote. ‘The Andorians are a warm and welcoming people. You are sure to find an abundance of rest and relaxation at this travel destination among the stars.’ Andoria? A place for rest and relaxation? That was something he had never considered, but maybe next year he’d head there to watch the Galactic Ice Hockey tournament he had read about earlier.

The Andorian system, also known as the Kay’va system, is located in the Beta Quadrant within Sector 006. The homeworld of the blue-skinned Andorians was actually a moon orbiting a ringed gas giant which made for outstanding visuals in the clear night skies. The planet has a long and storied history but has flourished since its people helped birth the Federation as a founding member. The rotational period of the world is 32 hours – a bit longer than the Federation standard. But the Federation Cultural Society believes that will only allow for more daylight to enjoy the sights on this cool planet. Blah, blah, BLAH!

Speaking of “cool” – definitely pack your thermal jacket. The surface temperatures stay well below zero centigrade, though rare heatwaves can send the temperature soaring above this. Because of low temperatures, most settlements are located in subterranean tunnels and caves. A true winter wonderland!

“No shit,” the Captain smirked as he shook his head and decided that enough was enough. Putting the PADD face down on the table beside his bed, the Captain placed his glass of hot chocolate down too and snuggled under his duvet and, almost effortlessly for once, drifted off to sleep.

It would be the last time for a while that sleep would come so naturally…

…if only he had known that when he had set his alarm for the early hours of the morning.

Setting An Example

Location: Counsellor's Office
On: Day 180 at 0935

The orders had been perfectly clear; without exception, everyone had to have medical and psychological evaluations. The crew had reacted with the typical mix of reactions.

In truth it was the same for Aria Winters, yet the newly appointed XO had decided to lead by example. She had thankfully been allowed to shed her crutches for short periods of time. She was taking advantage of the situation to now visit their counsellor. Go in from a completely false position of strength, that was her game plan.

Taking a deep breath, she touched the door chime and waited on an answer.

Being a Counsellor required a personal touch in order to make a rapport with people, and that started with first impressions Even though she was only on the Nogura as a favour to her 'partner', Commander Kizohl knew more about Captain Drayton than anyone, and if he needed her help with his crew, she couldn't say no. She'd spent her journey back to the ship reviewing reports that had been made available to her and had reviewed the profiles of every affected member of the crew; some familiar, some not so. Appearing at the door, the Commander pulled on the bottom of her uniform jacket and smoothed out any creases, plastered a warm smile on her face and pressed the button to open the door.

"Commander Winters, is it?" she asked with a smile as she stepped aside and welcomed the XO into the office, "Lieutenant Comander Idra Kizohl," she introduced herself before walking over to the replicator. "Can I interest you in some water?" she only ever offered water as a way to help hydrate the body and the mind and, hopefully, help the healing process.

Stepping into the office, Aria returned the smile. Like most, she was never one to sit in a room and bare her soul and right now it wanted wrapped in cotton wool. “No, thank you. I just had some tea.”

As she spoke she settled down on the couch, inwardly grateful to rest for a few minutes.

Idra took the opportunity to replicate a jug of cold water and two glasses anyway and carefully carried the tray over to the table between the XO and where she would position herself. "So, Commander," she smiled as she poured herself a drink of water, "you've not had an easy few days..."

“Me and a lot of others,” she conceded. The counsellor was as an air of calm, as if this was just a casual talk. “Which is why the Captain was clear this was mandatory. I didn’t think it fair to order people here if I didn’t come myself.”

"Ah, so you are not here by choice but out of duty to your crew?" Idra questioned as she sat back in her chair and closely regarded everything before her; the looks, the demeanour, the mannerisms... everything and anything that could help her in her conversation with the executive officer of the ship.

“I didn’t quite say that,” she countered. “But of course that is part of it. The Captain has offered me an opportunity to stay on board and I don’t plan on failing him or them.”

"Why?" the Counsellor questioned as she lifted her glass and took a sip of water, "They aren't your crew. You're an outsider. Why should it matter to you what they think?"

“It’s what I think,” Aria corrected calmly. “Captain Drayton has asked me to stay on board as his XO. So they are my crew, just as much as the crew I lost.”

"And how does that make you feel? Taking on responsibility for another crew, a crew considerably larger than that you have been in charge of before?" the Counsellor mused softly, her gaze transfixed on the Commander.

Aria considered her answer with care. “A little terrified,” she admitted with a rueful smile. “It isn’t just a lot of people, it is people I know but don’t really know. Which sounds insane. And humbled. He doesn’t know me but the captain has trusted me. It humbling and daunting. But I also feel...”

She stopped, her breath this time a little ragged. “Two months of my life are just gone. My ship gone, my family for five years. For some reason they picked me, out of 150 people. I don’t know why. Am I meant to be grateful? Angry? Guilty? I honestly don’t know.”

"Survivors guilt is more common than you could possibly imagine," Idra responded as she sat forward in her chair and started to earn her latinum. "It is not for us to question why these things happen, why fate happens to choose us. It is for us to remember those that are gone and to ensure that they are never forgotten. And to be thankful that you are alive and well. You have a new role, a new path to take," she advised of the senior officer, "I am a firm believer in fate and things happening for a reason."

“Maybe in time I will be thankful,” Aria observed. “But that isn’t today. I think I need to be able to say goodbye properly to them. Did they suffer? In fact no, I’d rather not know. I don’t even think I want to know what happened in that month between my capture and the others being taken.”

Even if the last question troubled her when she had finally slept.

“So... aside from all the death, abduction and testing, it’s all good,” she declared with the most cheerful smile she could muster.

Idra feigned a smile for the Commander, who was trying her best to deal with things, but she clearly had a long way to go. "Let me ask you," the Counsellor smiled, "What bothers you the most? That they are gone, or that you weren't there with them?"

Several times Aria seemed about to answer and then changed her mind. It was not something she had stopped to weigh up. They were almost equally bad. “That I wasn’t with them. I know it wouldn’t have changed anything but my place was on that bridge. We all accept the risk and the danger. I never imagined being the only one left. And I’ve lost them over and over again.”

She straightened, releasing a deep breath, “but as my mother always says, we are a people who survive. And she always said I have my father’s stubbornness. The best of both worlds.”

"If you had been there, you would probably be dead now, just like them," Idra told bluntly, "but now you're here. Think of the positives! You have experience of Nihari technology, you know what they are capable of and that experience will be crucial in any investigation or counter strike Captain Drayton will lead. You've been entrusted with the lives of nearly a thousand men, women and children. Why?" she stopped for a minute as she lent further forward, "Because Captain Drayton knows that he can trust you to do the job and he needs you to do that job."

The Counsellor took a sip of water and relaxed back into her chair. "Survivor guilt needs processing, you need to deal with it in a way that suits you, but try, however hard it may seem, to see the positives. You are here, alive and well, to make sure that no one goes through what this crew did ever again."

“They won’t,” Aria vowed, her voice laced with determination. “And I will take your advice, thank you.”

"We can leave it for today Commander," the Counsellor smiled, "but I expect to see you at least two times a week until further notice," she told with a look that said it was not optional.

“Understood,” Aria answered, too grateful for the reprieve to argue. Particularly if the woman had read her file. She climbed to her feet, “if anyone avoids coming to see you, please let me know?”

"Oh, don't you worry," the Counsellor smiled as she rose to her feet, "I'll be straight on the comm."

Doesn't everyone hate Counsellors?

Location: Counsellor's Office
On: Day 180 at 1640

Alexander hated Counsellors. 'Doesn't everyone?' He thought sourly as the approached the office of Lieutenant Commander Kizhol. But given recent events, he was glad of the chance to speak to someone. Ordinarily, he preferred to deal with things on his own, in his own way, but this was different. He'd died...but he hadn't. Yet, the memories of his death were still vivid and he replayed them every day. Sleep had proved elusive since learning the truth of what had happened. A deep breath helped him steel himself against what was about to happen. After a moment, the pilot reached out and pressed the door chime.

Her second victim had arrived. Commander Kizohl had already replicated the water this time, and it sat on the table in the centre of the seating area as she rose to her feet and made for the entrance. She always liked to welcome her visitors in with open arms, and so, she pressed the chime and stood aside as the doors parted. "Ah, Lieutenant Mitchell. I've been expecting you," she smiled as she held out a hand an gestured for him to enter at his leisure.

"Thanks." Xander stepped hesitantly into the room, rubbing a sweaty palm on his trousers.

"You can relax Lieutenant," she smiled as she placed a gentle hand on one of his shoulders and gestured to the seating area, "I'm not here to make things difficult for you. We can talk about anything you want. Anything at all," she smiled before heading for her own seat, "but we do have to talk," she added, referring to the order of their new commanding officer.

The Lieutenant let out a mirthless chuckle. "I don't suppose I could let you do the lions share of the talking?" He was joking, but only partly. Though there was no way that was going to fly with the Counsellor.

"Afraid not," the Counsellor smiled as she relaxed in her seat, a glass of cold water in hand, "So. How are you feeling?" she queried, interested to hear how he would respond. Would he respond in the typical way, with a joke or smart comment, or would he respond with the truth? His decision would set the tone for their meeting.

Alexander took a deep breath and let it out along with a sigh. "That's a good question." He fell silent momentarily. "I dunno. I'm struggling with this, Counsellor. That simulation seemed so real. Those memories...," he trailed off before finishing his thought, "...I just can't believe that none of it really happened."

"I can understand that," she nodded slowly as she played back everything she had read in the reports received from the Captain. "The brain is the most complex and powerful organism in a humanoid body, which is why it is often pushed to the limits of what people can endure. Alas, that is also why it makes for a particularly effective torture tool. If a foe wishes to know more about their opponents, there is no better way than to, literally, get into their head." This was probably all quite logical to the man opposite her but she hoped she was helping in some way. "Whilst the body heals itself, the brain and its memories linger for a long time, to make us remember, to make us learn and to make us adapt. I know that it probably doesn't feel like it now, but you can turn this into a positive experience," she smiled sweetly, to try and put him at ease.

He couldn't stop the bitter laugh from escaping. "Good luck convincing me of that, Counsellor." She could read up on what they'd been through all she wanted. She hadn't been there, she hadn't lived through what they had lived through. How the hell could she convince him that it could be turned to a positive experience?

"Well, you're alive aren't you?" she spoke bluntly, "Isn't that a positive? What about the fact that you've been through all of that, and still you sit here, ready to go on and carry on with life. It's shown how mentally resilient you are. What about the fact that its strengthened bonds between you and the people who will now be your colleagues? Or the fact it has further strengthened bonds with friends you had established before hand?" she offered out these pointers to the man in hope that he would be able to see something positive come from this sorry mess.

It was difficult to argue with most of what she'd said. The only part that he felt was inaccurate was the strengthening of bonds. He'd only been on the Roehampton a matter of weeks before the 'Borg Encounter', he hadn't had a chance to form any bonds or friendships. While their shared experience would tie them together for the remainder of their lives, he didn't feel that it had brought him closer to anyone. In fact he felt isolated and alone on this ship. Not that he was going to share that information with the Counsellor.

"I," he paused, "I hadn't thought about it like that." What they'd been through had been traumatic. Facing the end of the Federation, being able to remember their own deaths and yet they were still alive. The Federation was unchanged from how they'd left it more than 30 days ago. "Maybe there are some positives here after all." He still didn't know what the future held. Starfleet was yet to issue him new orders and he wasn't sure if he'd even be remaining in Starfleet. But for now he was alive and for that he was grateful.

"Then you have taken a giant leap in getting past this," the Counsellor grinned. "You can see positives where previously there were none. You've been given a second chance at life Lieutenant. What are you going to do with that chance?" she quizzed him now, not wanting to relent while they were making progress.

She was right. This was a second chance, a chance to start fresh. "I've thought about requesting a JAG billet on Earth. Maybe it's time to move away from a front line exploration billet. But if this is a chance to start fresh, then why not really make it a fresh start? Maybe I should resign my commission and make a clean break." The latter option would mean giving up flying, his first love, but he'd already moved away from flying fighters so maybe now it was time to leave flying behind altogether.

Idra listened intently to the man's musings and there was certainly merit in seeking a fresh start. "I can understand why that would appeal to you. A fresh start is a chance to move on and get away from the events of the past. But why give up something you enjoy and are good at?"

That was a good question and not one that he had an answer for right away. Why was he considering the change? Was it really a fresh start that he was looking for, or was he really just looking to run away and hide back on Earth. 'If that simulation taught us anything, it's that even Earth isn't safe from enemies who are determined enough.' He told himself. Eventually he just shrugged. "I dunno." Clearly he had some thinking to do with regards to his future.

"So, why not stay in Starfleet, do what you are good at, and help with the investigation?" the Counsellor posed to him, "I understand there is an open offer from Captain Drayton to all personnel that were rescued, so why not take him up on it?"she suggested.

The thought had occurred to him. He'd spent six months training to qualify on the Quantum Slipstream Drive and Nogura was one of the few ships in the fleet currently fitted with the latest in FTL drive technology. It seemed a waste to wind up being assigned to a ship without a QSD. "I'm sure Captain Drayton would prefer to choose his own Chief Flight Ops Officer." Xander told her. "But I'll consider it."

"Talk to him," she smiled as she shifted in here seat and moved forward a little, "he's a reasonable guy. If anyone can help, he can," she told him honestly. Not because she was the Captain's 'partner', but because she genuinely believed it.

Alexander nodded slowly. "I won't make any decision until I've spoken to Captain Drayton."

"That's a good call," the Counsellor nodded slowly. "We'll schedule a follow up appointment next week Lieutenant, but should you wish to see me before then, don't hesitate to stop by," the Trill smiled as she rose to her feet, "but I don't think it will be long until we see stark improvements," she added as she held out a hand to the man.

Xander shook her hand. "Thanks. You've given me a lot to think about."

"It's what I do," the Counsellor smiled as she let go of the man's hand, "a pleasure to meet you Lieutenant."

He looked around the room. "This hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be." Xander smiled, "It was nice to meet you too, Counsellor. Have a good day." He stepped out into the corridor and started down the corridor. His future was no more clear than before the meeting but having spoken to the Counsellor, he was leaning towards remaining in Starfleet and possibly even on the Nogura.

Fly Boy Talks

Location: Holodeck
On: Day 181 at 1200

Lieutenant Mitchell was a man without a home. Like most of the Roehampton's crew, he was in limbo while awaiting new orders. Most of his time was spent holed up in his guest quarters, trying to find ways of distracting his mind from dwelling on his memories of fake events. On those occasions when he did venture out, scuttlebutt was running wild regarding an incident in the Mess between the Captain and Nogura's Chief Ops Officer. They had never been able to see eye to eye and now it seemed that the reasoning for that had come to light.

Today he'd managed to venture out of his quarters once again, this time to spend time in the water. If flying was his first love, and it was, then swimming was his second. He loved spending time in the water. It had always helped him unwind, and he needed to unwind now more than ever. He reached the end of the outdoor pool, the sun high in a cloudless azure sky. He turned in the water and kicked off the wall, sending himself back in the opposite direction.

It wasn't long before the door to the holodeck opened with the loud rumble and hiss usually associated with the massive entrance way, and a man in relaxed clothes entered and stood at the edge of the pool. It was not his intention to get the swimmers attention yet, not until he was ready, but he wanted a conversation and there were certainly conversations to be had.

Xander didn't notice the new arrival at first. For the first time since he'd been brought out of stasis, he was at peace; his mind was clear. He could pretend that the rest of the universe didn't exist. Deciding to take a break, Xander swam towards the edge of the pool. As he did, he could see a pair of legs belonging to someone standing at the the edge. When he pulled his goggles off and looked up he found the Nogura's Commanding Officer standing there. "Sorry Captain. I didn't realise that anyone had this Holodeck booked."

"Don't worry Lieutenant," Drayton smiled as he shook his head, "I just wanted to have a little chat with you about something if that's ok?"

Alexander nodded. "Yes sir." He climbed out of the pool and reached for a towel he'd left nearby. As the Captain began to speak, Xander began drying himself off.

Drayton walked over to some pool side tables and took a seat, looking around the holodeck program with interest. There was so much that he never tried but would have liked to experience. Perhaps he would ask for the Lieutenant's programme some day. "So," he started, "it's been a couple of days and I hear you've spoken with Counsellor Kizohl," he smiled.

"As ordered, yes sir." Xander replied as he dropped the towel and pulled on the white t-shirt and board shorts that he'd left beside the towel. He'd made it sound like the only reason that he'd spoken to the Counsellor was because of orders. That was far from the truth. "I'd needed to speak to someone so even without those orders, I'd have been seeking out the Counsellor's services regardless." Alexander sat himself down in the chair opposite Captain Drayton.

"Rather you than me," the Captain smirked as he shook his head and lent back in the chair, "don't get me wrong, Idra is a fabulous Counsellor, but man alive... I can't stand people probing into your thoughts and feelings," he laughed, before realising he probably sounded very hypocritical and corrected himself, "but I felt that in this instance, with what everyone went through, we had to provide some concrete support."

Xander nodded in understanding. "Starfleet needs to make sure that this experience hasn't broken us. Or that it's not going to trigger us a month, six months, a year from now. I understand the need for the psych evals. I went through something similar not too long ago." He'd had to undergo a mandatory psych eval following his mishap more than a year ago.

"Well," the Captain took a deep breath before going down the route he had actually come to discuss, "I'm told that one of the biggest hurdles to overcome after things like this is to decide what to do next. Have you given that any thought?"

He'd already talked about that with the Counselor and been thinking about it. "I've been thinking about resigning my commission," he paused before adding, "again. After my mishap, I strongly considered requesting a JAG billet or resigning my commission. But I love to fly, and what's more I'm a good pilot. That's why I re-trained to fly capital ships and qualify on the QSD. Maybe the Counselor's right; why give up something that I love and that I'm good at? What we went through recently was horrible...traumatic even, but if I resign, I'd just be running away to hide on Earth. The Dominion War taught us that even Earth isn't the safe haven we often think it is."

Opening up like that to anyone was unusual for the Lieutenant. That it was a Captain, and one he barely knew, was downright weird. "You offered those of us displaced a chance to serve on the Nogura." Sitting back in his seat and looking the Captain in the eye he asked, "Got room for a Flight Ops Officer?"

"I have myself a capital ship. I have myself a quantum slipstream drive," the Captain nodded slowly, "what I don't have is a Chief Flight Operations Officer," he confirmed with a smile. "Jobs yours if you want it?"

Part of him was still reticent to take the job, worried that remaining on board the Nogura would constantly remind him of what happened. But that could be true of any Starfleet vessel he wound up being assigned too. At least here he was surrounded by people who'd been through the same thing; a support network that he wouldn't find anywhere else. Finally he provided an answer, "I'd like to remain aboard sir. Would be a shame for my talents at the Helm go to waste."

"I entirely agree," Drayton grinned as he offered a hand to the man in congratulations. "I'm delighted to have you with us Lieutenant. Take whatever time you need to adjust and let me know when you are ready to take to the bridge," he informed, in reference to the previous order for those involved in recent events to take some time to readjust.

Alexander smiled as he shook the Captain's hand. "Thank you, sir. After speaking with the Counsellor, I think its best that I get back in the saddle sooner rather than later. I'll be back on duty first thing in the morning."

"Excellent news," the Captain nodded with a thumbs up. "I expect you to keep up with your appointments though," he grinned.

He knew that he still had some things to work through and had no intentions of attempting to duck his appointments with the Counselor. "Aye sir."

The Five D's

Location: Medical Complex | U.S.S. Nogura
On: Day 181 at 1730

“Next time, don’t forget the five D’s of dodgeball; Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive and Dodge.” Doctor Murphy advised as he led Petty Officer 1st Class Hill out into the Medical Complex’s reception. He patted the confused Petty Officer on the arm and sent him on his way.

About to head back in to resume his regular duties, the Doctor stopped when he spotted a familiar face. “Ah, Lieutenant Mitchell. You got my summons.” Doctor Murphy’s cheery tone stood in contrast to the scowl that adorned the Chief Flight Ops Officer’s face.

Alexander let out an audible frustrated breath through his nose as he stood. He’d been waiting in the complex’s reception for almost fifteen minutes and was in no mood. “What do you want, Doc?”

“Doctor Kizhol has signed off on psych eval and declared you fit for duty. That just leaves the physical exam.” He motioned in the direction of the exam rooms. “Come on. We’ll get it done now and I can clear you for duty too.”

The last thing Xander wanted to do at that moment was to submit for a medical. Part of him considered just going with the Doctor but he decided against that. He hated Doctors almost as much as he hated Counselors.

“I’m afraid I don’t have time right now. I’ve just received orders officially assigning me to the Nogura.” Xander explained. “I have to get up to speed with my new department before my first Bridge shift in the morning. Pencil me in for some time next week.” The pilot turned and headed for the door.

Doctor Murphy wasn’t going to let the Lieutenant off the hook. Mitchell had played his own version of dodgeball with his physical since boarding the Roehampton, no more. “Alright, you’ve left me no choice.” Raising his voice, he announced, “Lieutenant Alexander Mitchell, I hereby relieve you of active duty.” It was a little theatrical and over the top but apparently it was going to take that to get Lieutenant Mitchell’s attention.

Alexander stopped just a few steps from the door and hung his head. Apparently, he wasn’t getting out of his easily. He turned to face the Medical Officer. “You’re not going to relieve me of duty.” In retrospect, he should have known better than the challenge Doctor Murphy, especially in as public a setting as this but in that moment, it seemed like a good idea.

“Try me.” The Doctor replied seriously; his cheery mood ruined by this pain in the ass Lieutenant. “Walk through the door and see what happens.” With a nonchalant shrug he added, “Roll the dice and take your chances, Lieutenant.”

The next few moments passed in silence as they stared each other down, trying to figure out what the other would do from the look in his eyes. Finally deciding that Doctor Murphy wasn’t bluffing, Xander had to admit defeat. “Fine. I’ll submit to your physical.”

“Good.” Doctor Murphy gave a satisfied smile. It wasn’t like he’d left the Lieutenant with any other choice. “If you’ll follow me, we’ll get started.” He quickly added, “This won’t take long.” That was the part that Doctor Murphy couldn’t understand. The physical would take between five and ten minutes to complete. Why was the Lieutenant so hell bent on avoiding it?

The pair walked through to the empty exam room where Doctor Murphy had just finished treating Petty Officer Hill’s black eye. The medical complex onboard the Nogura was such that there were two exam rooms, which allowed for privacy when diagnosing and treating patients.

“Just hop up on the biobed.” Murphy instructed as he retrieved a medical tricorder. “Any problems crop up since your last physical? Any new aches, pains, recurring issues that you haven’t sought treatment for?”

Xander shook his head. “No, no new problems to report.”

“Okay.” He studied the readout on his tricorder for a moment. “Any problems sleeping? I’ve seen a lot of it going around recently, given what happened to us.”

Knowing that the Doctor would see through his lie if he denied it, Xander answered honestly. “Yeah. At the moment, my night’s sleep is a little broken. Usually accompanied by a nightmare.” He studied the Medical Officer for a moment and asked, “What about you? Have you had any nightmares?”

“Sure I have,” Doctor Murphy told him honestly, looking up from his tricorder, “I’d be worried if, after what we’d all been through that we didn’t suffer from nightmares. If they continue, I want you to come see me or speak to Doctor Kizhol.

Reluctantly, Xander nodded his agreement. “I will.”

Doctor Murphy smiled as he deactivated his tricorder and set it to one side. “Good. I’m clearing you for active duty. Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“Well you’ve a more pleasant bedside manner than some of the Doctor’s I’ve encountered in the past.” Xander shrugged as he jumped down off the biobed. “Sorry for giving you the run around.”

Doctor Murphy smiled as he returned the tricorder to it’s rightful place on the equipment tray. “Just don’t let it happen again. You’re good to go.”

Xander didn't need to be told twice. He was out of there without so much as another word.

Planning Ahead

Location: Shuttlebay
On: Day 182 at 1230

If anyone was looking for the Nogura's squadron leader, they would find her in the shuttlebay.

This was where Captain Drayton had said her fighters would be housed, and she was given clearance to look it over and figure out what modifications were needed. She wasn't an engineer by any stretch of the imagination, of course, but she knew what a squadron needed. There was still a lot to consider, and thus the six-foot tall woman was standing in the middle of the cargo bay--fairly heedless of those working around her--with her hand on her chin as she stood...silent...and thought.

“A penny for your thoughts, Major?” Commander Winters called out as she crossed the shuttle bay. Coming to a stop near the other woman, the first officer smiled, “how goes your plans to make this your squadrons new home?”

"It goes, sir," Brynna said, her tone a faint drawl as she turned to face her new executive officer and saluted. "It's going to be a tricky fit, so I hope all my new pilots like each other." Her brow arched slightly with her dry humor.

Aria grinned, "well, you will soon find out. Is there anything I can do to help?"

To this, the Marine pilot chuckled. "I don't suppose your executive powers allow us to just make this bay about a third bigger than it is?" She met the commander's gaze sidelong. "That would be particularly useful."

"Defy the laws of physics? I'm good, but not quite that good," Aria replied with a grin, "but if anyone asks, naturally, I did not say that."

"My lips are sealed." The pilot smirked. "I'm not really sure there's much else to be done but...get some techs up here to make some changes, then get the birds and pilots in here. It's not going to be pretty, but I'll make it work. I promised the captain a good sword-arm, and I intend to give him one."

"While I'd love to never have to use you talents out there, I am glad you are here," Aria confided. "And how are you Major?"

Brynhild turned her head to look around the bay again, giving a heavy sigh after a moment. "I suppose I am as well as can be expected, Commander," she replied simply. "You?”

“I could probably eat a hundred chocolate sundaes but a diabetic coma does not fit into my plans for today.” Aria confided, stepping aside as two technicians moved equipment towards the far side of the bay. “Are you sure there is nothing you need?”

"Not at the moment, Commander," Brynna replied. "But that will probably change soon."

Walking away, Aria paused. “If you were potentially launching in waves, perhaps it would be wise to consider having a few craft housed in another bay? That saying about all your eggs in one basket... just a thought.”

The major nodded. "I'll see if anything is available, sir," she said with a wry smile.

“Just shout out if you need anything or have any problems getting anything you need,” Aria told her. “Do you ever watch old movies? I was thinking popcorn and a movie tonight. And now I’m in the mood to watch Top Gun. If you’ve never seen it, you are welcome to join me.”

Brynna's brows rose slightly in surprise, but she smiled. "I don't watch them often, but I have from time to time. I think I'd enjoy joining you tonight. Thank you, sir."

"Leave the sir at the door when you come by," Aria grinned, "say, 2030 hours?"

"I'll be there, sir," the Marine replied. Her lips quirked up. "Not through the door yet."

"Quite," Aria grinned. "And give me a shout out if there is anything relating to your planning - or anything really - that I can help with. Good luck, Major."

And with that the XO headed back out of the bay, inwardly glad to have something else besides reports to look forward to.

Her Biggest Challenge to Date

Location: Counsellor's Office
On: Day 183 at 0950

It had been nearly a full week since Zar had been 'isolated' within his quarters to rest, yet rest was the last thing that he was able to do. He felt like he did back when he was in that penal colony, isolated from everyone and everything that he knew; except the counsellor. It was one of the reasons why he strongly disliked them in the first place, not that they did not know their profession, but it reminded him of a period in his life where he would much rather push beyond. Life has a funny sense of humor and irony as he would find himself now forced to re-live this experience and more than likely over and over and over again, until finally he cracked within himself. As he walked into the counsellor's office, he saw that a couple of people were already sitting down waiting, their eyes looked him over; and as quickly as they stared at him, they all shifted in their seats as if he was some sort of infectious disease. He knew what they were all thinking in their minds, and Zar had every right to leave and return to his quarters; but he was mandated to either go through this process or leave the Nogura. Hell, it would have been easy to leave the Nogura if Captain Drayton had accepted his resignation, but even he denied the Bolian his chance to escape. Zar himself knew that he was on the edge, no sleep in four days; it was his mental training and conditioning that barely kept him sane. Yet what was sanity? For everyone sanity was something expressed on a totally different level, but for him: his sanity was other peoples insanity. Zar scanned the room briefly and took a seat next to an officer, who scoffed as he sat next to her. She rose out of her chair and walked out the room, and others themselves started whispering, Zar let out a heavy sigh as he was not mentally ready to handle this. He was barley keeping himself together as it was and he felt more of himself die to the ever growing insanity that was brewing deep within; straining and climbing its way to break free. He stood up as quickly as he had sat down and started walking towards the door towards freedom; towards his solace, his piece of his lonely quarters, to his precious mental training to keep the darkness away.

"Leaving so soon Commander?" a female voice from behind called out, stopping the Bolian in his tracks. Although they had not met before, Idra Kizohl felt like she knew this man. She had ready report after report on countless different incidents and postings regarding this man. He was clearly troubled and had things to work through. Today was the start of that process.

Zar grunted and nearly had his foot out the door, all he had to do was continue to walk out, but something was keeping this grown man from doing so. He was free to make his own choices in life, but he wasn't free to choose the consequences. "Honestly, yes I planned on it," Zar replied as he kept his hand the wall. All he need to do was use his arm to push himself forward and his feet would do the rest.

"I wouldn't advise that Commander," a stern, male voice spoke from behind as Captain Drayton appeared in the doorway next to the Counsellor. "We need to talk," the Captain frowned before disappearing back into the Counsellor's office.

"Very well," replied Zar as he walked back into the counsellor's office and walked into the private office.

Idra stepped aside and allowed the Bolian to enter, flashing him a smile as he walked by. Once everyone was inside, the Counsellor pressed the chime and closed the door, leaving them alone from the outside world. She looked at Drayton as she took her seat.

"Alright, what do we need to talk about? " replied Zar as he stood in the now closed doorway.

"I want to play you something and see what you think," the Captain told as he perched on the edge of the sofa and picked up a data PADD. He pressed the button and looked at the Bolian.

"I have honestly thought of killing myself now more than ever. Captain Desai-Scott has pushed me to that level," the voice began, much to the dismay of the Captain and the Counsellor, no doubt to the Commander as well since it was his log. "I no longer care about this uniform (tears and ripping audible on the recording), I no longer care about my rank, (now sounds of metal bouncing everywhere could be heard) I care not even for me, I have nothing. I am nothing and when you are nothing you will never be missed (the sound of a heavy object being tossed onto a nearby table was heard mid-recording) but no matter how hard I try, I cannot remove the darkness, I cannot bring myself to end my own life. I am in my prison once more, I am being tortured for my decisions..." the Captain pressed the button on the PADD and stopped the recording, watching the Bolian in silence.

Zar sat their with a calm, emotionless, glazed look on his face, another thing he learned from his childhood; sometimes in diplomatic matters it is good to display your best 'poker face' as the humans call it. "The question is not what I think, but rather what it causes you and the counsellor to think?" Zar replied as he stood their with his hands folded.

"To say we are concerned, Zar, is an understatement," Drayton revealed. Gone was the angry look of a few nights before and now, one of sheer concern for his colleague. "I'm not going to talk through this with you, that is Idra's job. I'm here, officially, to remove you from active duty, permanently, until such a time as you are deemed fit to return to service. You will be under the care of the medical department until then. If they decide that you need more specialised care than they can provide here, then you will be transferred to a medical facility. Likely, Starfleet Medical itself," the Captain told the Bolian quietly. "You are under orders to co-operate fully with any and all requests made by Counsellor Kizohl and the rest of the Medical department. Do you understand?"

"Great, so not only am I removed from active duty; it is a possibility that I will have to go back to the same people that said I was fit to return to duty before? Perfect," he said as he stood their with his arms folded. "I honestly do not know if it will help, eventually word is going to spread across this entire ship of my disgrace. Did you not see the reactions of those people in the waiting room?" he said as he felt his whole world fall apart.

"When you make statements like you did in your log, we have no choice," Idra finally intervened quietly. It was her expert medical opinion that the Bolian was a danger to himself and, possibly, the people around him. She could not, and would not allow him to harm anyone else, let alone himself. "We need to talk through your issues Commander and deal with them. Suicidal thoughts are not something to be scoffed at."

"I can handle it when captain's or the admiralty didn't trust me or gave me those looks, but them!" he said as he pointed at the door. "Those are the ones who," he said as he started getting a bit choked up. He had tried so hard to put the events of the past behind him, his prison sentence, his dishonor and rejection from his family; now he was being removed from active duty. "You don't understand my position....this is all I...I..have. I don't have anything else," he said as he stood their and forced back his emotions.

"We're not taking this away from you Commander," Drayton told as he rose to his feet and looked at the man opposite, "as soon as you are well enough, the Counsellor will pass you fit to return to duty."

"I'm," he said as he stopped talking.

"Sit!" Drayton ordered as he headed for the door, "...and talk. I need my Chief of Operations back." He gave one final look at the Bolian and then left the Counsellor's office.

"So..." Idra smiled as she gestured to the vacant chair, "shall we get started?"

"Might as well," replied Zar as he slowly walked over to the chair and sat down. "I am going to be honest with you Commander, I do not like counsellors and I have my reasons for that; not saying I do not like you personally, but I do not like the profession. It is not that I do not believe that people should not have guidance to deal with emotions and traumas, but some people who are in your profession; do not care about the individual in my fair and my honest opinion, because I have witnessed it first hand."

"If that's the case, I apologise for my colleagues' misguided approach," Idra tried to reassure him as she sat forward in her chair and made sure he knew he had her full attention. "How about we start at the beginning of that log and talk about Captain Desai-Scott. I sense a lot of animosity there," she informed before opening up the floor for him to talk.

"What is there to talk about? I hate the woman, and I think she is the worst captain in Starfleet history." Said Zar as he crossed one leg over the other and leaned back, granted he did not feel comfortable about this. For all Zar wanted to do was bury himself in his work, in his job and hide the rest of his feelings away from the world; but he knew that was not going to happen.

"Why?" the Counsellor queried of her new colleague.

Zar rolled his eyes half way, he knew that she knew why he didn't like her; after all it was written in his after report to Captain Drayton as to what had happened. "There are too many reasons as to say why, however, just to narrow it down. The way she handled the Nogura during those simulations shows what kind of a captain she really is, and it further solidified my position with how she exposed my personal business to the entire crew of the Nogura. At first it was a strong dislike a kind of loathing, but now I hate her and see she is unfit to command a starship in my eyes. Maybe not Starfleet's but certainly in my eyes."

"Let's deal with the simulations first, shall we? I've read the reports on them," the Counsellor nodded. "Captain Drayton tells me that the affects of the simulation amplified everyone's responses, reactions and the like. I also have it on good authority that the Captain is a very competent, highly decorated officer. I understand that in the last simulation she did not cover herself in glory, but from what I've read, from various people's recounts, neither did you," Idra revealed as she sat back, a data PADD on the table recording their conversation for the official record. "Is it possible that you have taken this far too personally?"

"No I do not think I took this too far, and frankly there are conversations that were had that the crew was not privileged too; they wouldn't know how she reacted when I refused to transfer command to her. Now how she treated me in the Ready Room during a tactical meeting that was on her, and also how she accused me of causing a mutiny when that was far from the truth. Ever since she read my file she wanted me removed from command even her ship because I do not fit the profile of a model Starfleet officer. Tell me counsellor, if the Borg had invaded like that had in those simulations; wouldn't you suggest tactics and plans that very well would attempt and try to save the Federation?"

"Actually, those on the outside monitoring the simulation, Captain Drayton, Commander Brenn and the like, saw everything that you saw; that she saw; that every member of the simulation saw," the Counsellor revealed. There were no secrets from the simulations. They had been monitored and monitored thoroughly, especially the final one. "I genuinely think that the amplified effects of the simulation caused you both to react very differently than you would usually. I cant tell you what I would do in such a situation as it is something I have never had to comprehend. What YOU need to do right now is move past your hatred of the Captain and focus on YOU."

"How do you propose that dear counsellor?" replied Zar as he looked at her. "Because if you haven't noticed, this entire ship has nothing but disdain for me."

"Actually, the thing I have learnt about starships is that things quickly become yesterday's news," the Counsellor responded through pursed lips, "I haven't heard a single person talk about you in the time I've been aboard."

"They may not say anything verbally especially when I am around due to my rank, however I get the strained looks. I get the sudden departures when I walk into a room or an area. Just because it might be yesterday's news to the crew does not mean it is yesterday's news to me or to them."

"I understand your feelings Commander," the Counsellor nodded, "but I assure you, as soon as you do something good, something to remind them of who you really are, they'll forget the nonsense. After all, look at the former Maquis that served on Voyager. If terrorists can be forgiven, so can you," she smiled, trying to reassure him somewhat.

"We shall see counsellor, because if I am correct; it took them a good long while for them to overcome those apprehensions." replied Zar.

"You are not, nor ever have been, a terrorist Commander," the Counsellor responded with a somewhat sterner tone than she had used so far, "give your shipmates some credit and let people make up their own minds. So what if a few of them look at you differently for a while? Your job is to protect them, and you can only do that by being well enough to be on duty. To be well enough, you need to let go of all this... misplaced hatred... of Captain Desai-Scott, put aside the supposed beliefs of your crewmates, and focus on you," she advised the Bolian. She was beginning to get the sense that maybe, just maybe, he didn't want help. Maybe he was actually happy with his situation?

"Just because I am not a terrorist does not mean that people won't be watching me closely dear counsellor. As far as protecting anyone, and being well enough to be on duty, it is at a mute point. However if you want reassurance that I won't kill myself then I give you my word; as far as this misplaced hatred of Captain Scott, that will not go away," Zar said as he gave a pause for a moment and thought about what he was going to say next. "Overnight, it will take quite a bit of time; and I literally mean quite a bit of time for my anger to subside of the drunken captain of Starfleet. As far as the rest of my problems I guess multiple sessions are in my future. Anything that you are going to give me to work on?"

"Yes," Idra smiled as she reached forward to the table and picked up a data PADD, holding it out to him. "I have a holodeck program for you. It is configurable, to a certain extent, but the basics of it are simple; calming, quiet place to focus on breathing and relaxation. At the end of each visit to the holodeck, I'd like you to record your thoughts in the old fashioned paper and pen way," she revealed before relaxing back in her chair again, "you need to take some time to yourself, away from the stresses of duty and requirements. I'll attend whenever you need, but there are some far more skilled holograms that can help with meditative techniques."

"It has been literally years since I've been on a holodeck. The outpost I was on just had one installed the same week I was departing so I never got to break it in," replied Zar as he accepted the PADD from the counsellor. He applied his thumb print to the PADD and scanned down the electronic device and read over some of the things that she was suggesting. "A lot of these techniques I learned when I was a CTO on board the Hood, I usually practice them in my quarters; it will be a first to try them in a holodeck," he said as he continued looking and scanning over the PADD. He was looking forward to getting back to his mediation regimen and was strongly thinking about instituting some of the counsellor's techniques as well. "When will our next appointment be?"

"You tell me," Idra smiled as she drew up her schedule for the coming days on her own data PADD. His response would tell her everything she needed to know about his attitude to the situation he was in.

"Well my schedule is pretty much open since I've been pulled from active duty, so if you want to see how I am doing a week from now that is fine; if you want to see how I'm doing three days from now, that's fine too." replied Zar. "However I doubt three days won't be enough time."

"Three days will be just fine Commander," the Counsellor nodded in agreement as she recorded the information in her calendar. "If you need anything in the meantime, and I do mean anything, please let me know," she added.

"Not a problem counsellor," said Zar as he pulled out a personal PADD and inputted the time and the date of when he would be meeting back with the counsellor. "I have everything logged and I keep my word, you won't have to send security after me." he said with a slight laugh and with that he rose and stretched a bit; and then turned and walked out of her room.

Idra watched the Commander depart from her room and typed on her data PADD, making some additional notes about the session, about the Commander himself and even about the diagnosis she would assign to him.

Until he showed more progress, there was no way she would be clearing him for active duty.


Location: Holodeck
On: Day 183 at 1900

Eza was tired of running, literally, he had always been a bit of a runner but it seemed since the incident that he was doing it more and more. He'd be great shape if he decided to run a marathon anytime soon but today he needed something else to expend the nervous energy that seemed to keep him up at night.

Opting to swim he had made his way to the holodeck and not really having a program in mind he browsed the 'Recents' list and found one that had been used a few days earlier. He activated it and entered, the sunlight, even if only a simulation was nice and after diving into the water he floated his eyes closed for a few minutes before starting some laps.

Wearing a plan white v-neck t-shirt and a pair of red board shorts, Lieutenant Mitchell approached the holodeck's control panel. Foolishly, he hadn't bothered to check if the holodeck had been booked. When he found it in use, he almost walked away to find one that was free. However, he noticed that the program running was one of his. Intrigued to find out who was using his program, he decided to enter.

When he stepped inside, he found a familiar vista. The sun hanging high in the sky, the green verdant foliage surrounding the setting. In the pool he could see someone swimming back and forth. He walked up the edge of the pool and sat down, dangling his legs into the water in the next lane.

Eza finished a lap and realized there was someone else in the holodeck, he surfaced and saw the Roehampton's CONN Chief who had recently been assigned to the Chiefs billet on the Nog. "Hey." Eza said with a smile, "Sorry for borrowing your program, I saw it in the recently program list and thought I'd try it out."

"No problem." He told the younger Lieutenant. "It's there for anyone to use." Xander could certainly understand Bergen's desire to swim. He had always found it one of the most relaxing things to do. It was one of the few places that he could completely switch off and leave the problems of reality behind. Right now, it was the only place and taking a break from reality for an hour or two was a necessity. "How're you finding it?"

"It's great, the water is a bit cool for Trill standards but it's a nice change." Eza said pushing himself up and out of the water to sit on the edge of the pool. "How are you adjusting to life on the Nogura? Now that you're actually assigned here." He added with a small laugh.

Alexander smiled. "I think the best way I can describe it is to say that...it's a little weird." He looked up at the clear blue sky as he formulated an explanation, though he was sure that Lieutenant Bergen understood on some level. Looking back down at the Trill in the water he explained, "I've met you before. I remember sitting in a mission briefing with you. But really this is the first time we've met." Xander shrugged. "I dunno. This whole thing is a little weird."

"Weird is putting it mildly," Eza replied, "I'm trying to put it all in the past, move forward." Eza said softly. "I guess in that case, Eza Bergen." He said extending a hand.

Xander shook Bergen's hand. "Alexander Mitchell." His hand was wet when he withdrew it, to be expected given that the Trill was currently submerged in water. "You may be right." Alexander wasn't sure if he'd even told the Counselor what he was about to tell Bergen. "I just keep dwelling on what happened...or what I remember happening." He paused for a moment. "Maybe what I need to do is put it all in a box and move on...otherwise I'll get stuck in the past and miss living in the present."

"What do you remember?" Eza asked.

That was the problem. "I remember everything. Engaging the Borg for the first time onboard the Roehampton, beaming off the Roe just before she was destroyed to seal the Transwarp conduit, the briefing that you and I attended, engaging the Borg for the second time at the Nogura's helm," he paused and swallowed hard, "dying."

Eza put a hand on the man's shoulder. "I thought we weren't suppose to be able to remember dying. I don't at least, but knowing it happened is bad enough, I can't imagine what it must be like for you."

"It's," Alexander chuckled, "a little weird." The pool was where he came to escape from reality and here he was allowing it to intrude on his safe space. Standing up, he removed his t-shirt and board shorts, revealing a pair of speedos underneath. "I'm bumming us both out and that's not what this program is about." He jumped into the water, in the lane next to where Bergen had been swimming. Submerging himself under the water for a few moments, he popped back up and wiped the excess water off his face and ran his hands through his hair, pushing it away from his eyes. "No more talk of Nihari simulations or Borg invasions."

"Deal." Eza nodded before standing on the edge of the pool and doing a backflip into water. "Race ya!" He said swimming off towards the other end of the pool.

Xander watched as Bergen dove into the pool and took off down the lane. "Son of a-" He ducked into the water and kicked off the wall of the pool, powering through the water with a a breaststroke that had won him medals in his youth. Bergen had a head start but he was confident that he could still catch the Trill up.

Both men's hands hit the opposite side wall at the same time, but Eza was far more out of breath than the other man. "Call it a tie." Eza said laughing, knowing he would have lost without the head start.

"A tie." Alexander agreed, nodding and breathing heavily. "I'm so out of practice when it comes to competitive swimming." He lay back in the water and allowed himself to float for a few moments, eyes closed against the holographic sun. "I love this place." Taking a deep breath and letting it out audibly, it was so peaceful there. He could hear a light breeze rustling through the foliage that surrounded the pool, and Lieutenant Bergen as he continued to recover from their race.

Eza took a similar position floating, his eyes open watching the simulated sky. "It's beautiful, I could spend hours here." He said, glancing over towards the other man. "Company isn't too bad either." He added with a chuckle.

Most people would have said that Xander was increasingly irritable and distant. He'd never been the sort of person to make friends or open up to people easily. He'd already shared more with Bergen than was normal. "Yeah, it's nice to have some company in here for a change."

Eza rolled in the water and began another set of laps, much more leisurely than the race moments earlier, he cut through the water and hit the other end before doubling back, repeating it several times. "I hope you don't mind but I intend to keep using this program." Eza said breaking the near silence. "I admit I haven't felt this relaxed since the whole shit show happened."

"No objections at all." Alexander swam to the end of the lane. "The only time I've felt truly relaxed since, was in here. The water's always felt like home for me." He climbed out of the water and turned around to sit on the edge again. "And feel free to use the program as much as you'd like. Mi casa es su casa."

Eza smiled, his eyes lingering on the other man a moment longer than he should have let them. "I may take you up on the that." He ducked back under the water and completed another lap. Before emerging from the water and grabbing a towel. "I really should get going though." He said towelling off, "If you want a swim buddy sometime hit me up, or if you do want to talk."

"Thanks, I may take you up on that." Alexander replied with a smile, making no move to leave. "I'm gonna stick around a little longer and enjoy the tranquility. So long as no-one else has this holodeck booked for use after you." He chuckled.

"Be my guest." Eza said with a lingering smile as he headed for the door.

Alexander watched the Trill Lieutenant go. When the holodeck doors closed behind him, he lay back let his arms fall on his chest and closed his eyes. He wanted to enjoy a few more minutes of peace before returning to reality.

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