Loyalty and Truth
Episode 1: The Maelstrom Awaits
Location: XO's Ready Room
Timeline: Day 6 at 1100
Ekal tapped the door alert, scanning the bridge for her seat. There it was. Navigation. It wasn't manned at this time, but it would be hers when she was on duty and she looked forward to flying this beautiful ship. She rocked slightly on her feet, hoping she was in the right place. Everyone had to check in, of course, but there were always bad times to visit superior officers.
"ENTER!" a voice beckoned from within.
With that, Ekal stepped right on in, keeping her head low.
"Ensign Dreisor here, checking in after boarding."
Stood just near her desk, PADD in hand as she read a status update from engineering, Commander Adams' attention was drawn to the door as she watched the curious approach of the young officer. Ensign Dreisor. The Cardassian. Whilst not totally uncommon these days, it was still rare to come across a Cardassian in the service of the Federation, and the Ensign was the first that Shelby would work with.
"Welcome to the Nogura, Ensign. Hope you found us ok?" she smirked as she gestured to the chair at her desk.
She plopped into the chair, then swung her feet. Her eyes took Shelby apart methodically, even as she smiled innocently. Dutiful. Smart. Potentially a threat. Probably a good officer. Probably not one to toy with. So the move was to play the naive greenhorn and the rule-loving fool, but not too hard, that'll make her suspicious.
"The Nogura isn't hard to find, Commander." a chuckle, "She's a lovely ship." As she spoke, she kept her eyes trained directly on the XO's face.
"She's a bucket of bolts compared to some of the newer designs," the Commander shrugged as she took her own seat behind the desk, her opinion being both honest and true. "The Captain wouldn't thank me for that opinion mind," she smirked.
"I understand, at least you know I can keep a secret. You'll forgive me if I'm a bit excited to fly a classic." She leaned forward, making herself even smaller, still wide-eyed. She wasn't very tall to begin with, so when she tried to look smaller she looked absolutely tiny.
"Is that why you wanted this assignment, Ensign?" Shelby asked, the prying beginning in earnest at last.
"I won't deny that fascination over the lost vessel reclaimed was part of it, but I would've taken this assignment if it was any vessel at all." She tucked her hands under her thighs, "The chance to lead the navigation and flight teams is a welcome challenge."
"I see," Shelby nodded along slowly. "And what about Starfleet? How exactly did you come to serve? Cardassians are still somewhat a rarity in our organisation," the Terran folded her arms across her chest in a subconscious effort to shield herself whilst she leant back in her chair, desiring to demonstrate comfort during the line of questioning. In truth, she was far from comfortable.
Ekal leaned back, giving the Terran her space, and dropped her broad joyful smile into a softer plain one, her standard polite mask. "I joined Starfleet to explore the galaxy, like anyone else here, I suspect. I applied to the Academy the moment I completed my early schooling, and I left my home for this." She was used to people trying to hide their discomfort at her, and she knew exactly how to respond. Adams was going to be one of those superior officers, then. "There aren't many of us who would dare to leave. I may never be welcome back."
Shelby regarded the youngster for a few moments. She'd never served with a Cardassian before, but she had worked alongside them during the rebuild after the war. Every experience had been an interesting one, and she was sure this one would be the same.
"You don't really want to know why I left, though, you just want to be sure I won't betray you." She predicted, "You know we are dutiful people. I'd die before I betray the Fleet. Is my word satisfactory to you or do you require further assurance?"
After a further moment of silent consideration, the Commander shook her head slowly. "Although I am intrigued as to what further assurances you could possibly give me, I'm more than happy to take you at your word," Shelby responded, but an inward 'For now' threatened to creep out for a split second.
"Talk to me about your on the job experience, Ensign," came the next line of questioning from the XO. "It is unheard of for such a young officer to be granted the sole responsibility for the entire Flight Operations department of a ship this size, so what's helped the Captain make that decision?"
"I have been flying cargo and passenger vessels solo since I was 12, and warp-7-capable vessels since I was 16. I made the jupiter red-eye on my second attempt, and I have the photographic memory typical of my species. I've memorized every star chart I've ever gotten my hands on and could draw the current positions of nearly every mapped system, as well as map and add any system we come across." She recited quickly, masking her discomfort with excitement and confidence. "While I may not be the most experienced team leader or officer, I am a competent organizer and methodical record-keeper. I can't exactly say why the captain chose me, of course, I've never had the pleasure of meeting her."
As she grew more agitated, she spoke slightly more and slightly faster. It was something her mother had warned would betray her when she needed to lie. She plastered a smile over her fear and held still, only moving her head from side to side occasionally to emphasize her points. Honestly, she was a little proud of herself that she hadn't grown any louder since her first greeting.
Shelby listened intently to every word that the Cardassian had to say. Every. Single. Word. "I'm sure you'll get an opportunity to meet the Captain in due course," the XO smiled as she spoke, an almost sickly smile. "As your immediate line manager for the time being Ensign, is there anything you need from me?" the Terran asked.
Ekal internally cringed. "There is not." This was going to be fun.
"I'm told the Shuttlebay will be taking ownership of several new craft this afternoon. I'd like you to give the ship compliment a once over and see if there are any additions or changes you would like to make. Better to do it now while we are here than further down the line," the XO instructed, "and then you might want to liaise with engineering about the adjustments to the propulsion systems. The refit teams have been busy."
"Yes Commander." She did want to go to engineering again. It would be a good idea for her to memorise the ships' accompaniment. She rose to leave. "Let me know if there's anything else I can do for you."
"One more thing," Shelby stopped the young Cardassian in her tracks. "I wonder if you might do a little digging for the Captain and I?" the Human asked, inviting the Ensign to resume her seat.
"A little digging, Commander?" Ekal stopped and stood still, but did not return to her seat. Any distance between herself and Lt. Commander Adams was good distance. "On what?"
"I wondered if you might have any contacts inside the Union. Anyone who might have heard anything about the Nogura and her previous mission," it was a long shot, but considering the ship had been found by the Ferengi adrift near Cardassian space, having drifted out of the Maelstrom, she was entitled to be curious. Right?
Ekal dropped even her polite smile, to a flat-mouthed stare. "I can call my mother, my brother, maybe some old crewmates, but none would know much. My mother is an ecologist and my brother an architect, and my old crewmates who still like me are still freighter pilots for asteroid mines." She was quite offended that Adams seemed to be under the impression that she would have higher-ranking contacts, especially after informing her that she wouldn't be welcome back home. She wasn't even the right person in Starfleet to ask the Cardassian Union for information. "The government doesn't trust me, Commander, I left Cardassia for an alien organization. You know how nervous Starfleet makes them. I will not ask my family to poke about what would likely be classified."
Rising to her feet, the Commander couldn't help but smile. "Then, our meeting is over," the Terran nodded slowly, holding out her hand towards the door.
Ekal was out of the door only barely faster than was strictly appropriate. Her scales were crawling. By the time she returned to her quarters, she was scratching at the scars near the nape of her neck, and hissed when she pried a scale loose. Time to file her claws again.