Posted on Thursday February 18th, 2021 @ 7:24pm by Captain Nilani Azulas & Captain Shelby Adams & Lieutenant Commander Deila Fargold & Lieutenant Ziq Chura & Lieutenant Caspar Matero 'CJ' & Lieutenant Anjohl Gaden & Lieutenant JG Dadora Jecia & Ensign Ekal Dreisor & Ensign Helin Lahm & Lieutenant Commander T'Mia & Lieutenant Javorian Travis & Lieutenant JG Noli Auru & Lieutenant JG Conrad Murphy & Lieutenant Alexandre Levett
Episode 1: The Maelstrom Awaits
Location: The Wayward Traveller
Timeline: Day 9 at 2000
Standing on the upper level of the ship's lounge, nicknamed 'The Wayward Traveller', Captain Azulas surveyed the excellent job carried out by her Yeoman and some of the lower decks personnel. They had put together a significant buffet spread, from a wide variety of cultures, and had organised the platform level so that there were places where people could sit and converse around a table, or where they could sit on sofas, or even stand if they so preferred.
It was perfect for what she had envisioned as a get together with her people and allow them one last chance to blow off some steam, to get to know one another and be themselves even, before the mission kicked off the following morning.
Her invitation to the senior staff, and some other key personnel from across the ship, had specified smart casual and twenty-hundred hours as the official start time of the function, and as that time approached, she stood waiting to greet her new family.
Chura wasn't one for big social gatherings these days. His time onboard Nogura during her refit had made him accustomed to the quiet life. Of course, he knew it wouldn't last forever but gatherings of 3 or more people gave him a headache.
Ekal didn't know what 'casual' meant, exactly, so she wore her thermals and a tunic that only revealed some of her ridges, and her mother's necklace. Since it was so bright and cold, she hung in a corner that was a little more shaded and observed everyone, holding a warm tea. This event was going to be a bit of a balancing act, but it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
Charlie liked large gatherings. He liked the chance to watch people and how they acted, sometimes looking for small conversations with people. He was wearing a lumberjack's shirt and a pair of cargo pants, his idea of casual. His eyes scanned the room as he looked for his next conversational companion. He looked to a corner and spotted a Cardassian. A female Cardassian. The perfect conversational partner, it seemed. He casually strolled over and stopped about 2 meters away.
"Hello!" The Vulcan chimed. He raised a brow. "How are you?" He looked at her as he awaited an answer. He always thought that Cardassians are master conversationalists.
She scanned him up and down, sipping her tea to excuse the pause. Vulcans were at least two things, invariably, logical and curious. Sometimes the latter outweighed the former. This one already seemed far too excited-or may be happy to be a Vulcan. Maybe he was of mixed heritage. "Hello." She smiled sweetly, "I'm just fine!" She lied. She was cold and he was off-putting. She'd never seen a Vulcan smile, or style their hair like that. He wasn't mixed, upon second inspection. Maybe he was sick. "How are you?"
"I'm doing well." He sighed and looked at her more. Perhaps, as it always happens, he was scaring people away. Oh boy. "I'm simply doing very well. I've never seen you around before..." He struggled to make conversation, so he went silent. Let the Cardassian talk. That's the smart path, he thought. He folded his hands behind his back and awaited her response.
"That doesn't surprise me. Not only have I arrived only recently, when I am not on duty I am often in my quarters. Unless of course I've been invited to socialize with someone." Ekal would never miss a date. That would be the height of discourteousness. Rudeness might be flirting, but being discourteous was a sincere insult. He seemed uncomfortable, so she kept talking, and asked a simple question: "This is a lovely ship, with a lovely crew, and I enjoy exploring it and them, but I would simply rather be comfortable when I have the chance. Have you been aboard long?"
Counselor Helin Lahm had given 'smart casual' some serious thought, wondering what it even might mean to such a diverse crew. He had settled on a mustard yellow floor-length traditional kaftan-like outfit, something that would certainly have blended in on Trill, but now seemed to be something of a stand-out in the subtle colors of the lounge. He met Azulas' gaze as he approached and gave her a sincere nod of greeting before moving into the seating area to mingle with the others.
The engineers arrived together, deep in conversation, Murphy insisting on accompanying his boss and wearing the loudest shirt that CJ had ever seen. CJ grimaced as he recalled his agony over selecting the right attire, remembering his mother's stern exhortation that 'civic dignitaries in Lacon City and their families should dress like it'. Thankfully he wasn't a mid-level member of a municipal organisation, but the lesson had clearly taken hold as he had picked a smartly cut white shirt (his ex-girlfriend had remarked that it contrasted with his dark hair), conservative shoes, and black trousers. He had debated wearing an old-Earth style jacket and in the end carried it slung over an arm, ready to be donned or ditched as required. As Murphy peeled away to chat with someone he knew, CJ made for a seating area, hoping that the encouraging feelings he was developing for this ship and crew were justified.
The ship's Bajoran doctor was next to arrive and he'd decided against wearing scrubs. That would have been a little casual, but he wasn't going to wear a uniform either.
He was dressed in a pair of dove gray slacks and a maroon Mandiran shirt It wasn't technically fashionable, but, he didn't mind that. He liked it and that was all that mattered.
Once inside the lounge, he approached the bar and grabbed himself a moijito.
Ekal observed the newcomers over Charles' shoulder, pleased to see a few people she'd met. This would be easier with a few known variables in the mix.
When Deila received the invitation, she had smiled gleefully for a full ten minutes, imaging the fun she'd have with the rest of the senior staff. A dinner like this didn't come along every day, so she had to dress right to make a good first impression. Smart casual wasn't exactly a specific category, so she went with her gut. She'd put on a slim and black pair of what older earth called "jeans", a white long-sleeve shirt, topped with a black jacket. She also replicated a pair of short black heels.
When she arrived at the lounge, she saw that several people had already arrived, including her newfound acquaintance, Counselor Lahm. She strode over to him, heels clacking lightly as she walked.
"Helin! A pleasure to see you again!" She called smiling.
Helin picked a fluted glass of syntheholic champagne off a table, grinned up at Deila when she called to him, and picked up another one for her before striding over in her direction with the offering in an outstretched arm. "Commander Fargold, good to see you again."
She took up the flute of champagne in her real hand with a graceful motion, taking a small sip before replying.
"My, you are looking rather sharp in yellow I must say," She said, putting a hand on her hip and looking him up and down. Her cybernetic arm was barely visible with the clothes she was wearing, the hand being the only definitely non-organic part of her you could see.
"Thank you," Helin grinned at the compliment, then took a sip of his own champagne. "It looks like it was a good turnout. Have you met everyone? I see a few familiar faces, and more than a few that I haven't."
Deila looked around the lounge, eyes roaming over the guests that were present. "Well of course I've met the captain, and you," she replied with a grin, "oh and Lieutenant Chura as well, and I've spoken to several of the others, but I've not yet had a chance to formally introduce myself to them."
Chura stood with his back to the wall as he observed the evening. He hadn't had much to do with the crew since their arrival, he was sure he'd have medical knocking on his door and maybe the counselor to update his psych evaluation. He was content to watch and make sure everyone stayed safe while they enjoyed the evening.
Dadora had spent the past hour rummaging through her closet trying to figure out what to wear. And it wasn't as if she had an extensive wardrobe. There were probably a dozen dresses at best in her closet, but she had gotten the impression that she should avoid wearing her uniform. She had settled on a light blue dress, that was cut at her shoulders and fell just above her knees. A short ride in the turbolift and she eventually found her way to The Wayward Traveller.
Quietly, she plucked up a champagne flute, her eyes scrutinizing everyone's attire. Wondering if she had overdone it for the evening. She noticed their Chief of Security alone, near the wall. "Not a fan of these?" she asked as she settled nearby, turning to look out at the others. "Neither am I." She brought the flute to her lips and sipped. It wasn't that she was a social recluse, but she hadn't expected this.
Nilani had been silently, but respectfully, watching her crew mingle and the small talk begin. To hear the sound of conversation fill the Nogura again, actual non-work related conversation, pleased her no end. Much had changed in the last nine days, including the appointment and subsequent reassignment of her Chief Science Officer - but this night was about what lay before them now.
Picking up a nearby glass of Bajoran spring wine (one of the only alcoholic beverages that Azulas could stomach), Nilani tapped a spoon gently against the side of the glass to gather everyone's attention.
"Good evening everyone," she began, smiling and nodding in different directions and towards the different clusters of personnel. "I want to thank you all for taking the time to come together this evening and I urge you to enjoy this opportunity to get to know your new colleagues. For most of us, we are all unknown quantities; most of us have never been on the same starship at the same time, let alone served together, but in just nine short days, we've come together as a unit that, given time, will surely become a force to be reckoned with."
Holding her glass with two gentle hands, the Captain looked down at the floor somewhat solemnly. "Nogura has a storied history which, until recently, we believed was consigned to the history books. She was, to all intents and purposes, lost..." she let out a soft sigh as her head tilted upward and her gaze travelled with it. "Now, we have the chance to write a fresh new chapter in that history as we seek to find out what happened to this fine ship's former crew, and I just want you all to know that I am proud to have you all here for that mission." She smiled once more as she raised her glass. "Eat, drink, make merry... but be prepared to start writing that chapter tomorrow morning."
Dadora raised her glass to meet the Captain's toast. The woman certain had a way with words. Of course, one didn't become a Captain without being able to connect with her crew. "A new chapter," she said softly to the toast before sipping from her flute.
Deila had broken her conversation with Helin to listen to the captain, her words inspiring a fresh note of determination in her. She nodded slowly as the captain continued. When the captain had finished, she glanced over to Helin. "Sounds like we're in for an interesting ride," she said quietly.
CJ had listened to the Captain's words, wondering what they would find tomorrow. As ever tense, he frowned as he realised that he was being hesitant in getting to know his new shipmates. He decided that he would work on that, starting now. Seeing the new Strategic Ops Officer with the Counsellor (another officer he had yet to properly meet) he overrode his natural instinct to hide and went to say hello. The glass of Romulan Ale may, he thought wryly, have helped him overcome his reserve.
"Commander, Counsellor, I am CJ Matero, the new Chief Engineer, we've not properly met."
"Easily fixed. Helin Lahm," Helin replied lightly and offered a cold hand to CJ. "I've thought once or twice about coming down to engineering to see everything and meet the team, but then of course it hasn't yet happened. Of course I'm always afraid I'd be in the way somehow, too."
Deila switched her glass to her left hand took a sip, watching the Chief Engineer curiously. He seemed more than a little on edge, as if he was uncomfortable talking to them.
CJ nodded. "Actually, Counsellor, you would be more than welcome in Engineering. The team are very proud of what they do down there," there was an affectionate, pleased tone to his voice, although his expression was still shy and reserved.
Helin smiled and inclined his head at the engineer. "As they should be. And I will take you up on that welcome. Thank you."
"Have you made any remarkable breakthroughs in scientific discovery yet?" Deila asked teasingly, smiling warmly at CJ. "Seems every notable and famous ship in Starfleet has a genius engineer, always on the verge of a technological miracle."
It was all CJ could do to refrain from blushing. He found the attention unpleasant and wanted desperately to slink into a corner. "Er," he mumbled, "I think I am merely pleased to support this crew," he said humbly.
Meanwhile, off to the side and enjoying a glass (or two) of Bajoran Spring Wine and Romulan Ale, Nilani and her first officer were engaged in light conversation as they surveyed the gathered group. Conversation and humour was rife, the gathering continuing in the lighthearted nature the Captain had hoped for.
Ekal excused herself from Charles' side to approach the captain and the first officer, slowly and along the wall. She wanted to keep an eye on everyone else. In her head, she kept repeating that most captains in the Federation welcomed crew input, that this probably wouldn't be seen as an insult.
"Captain." She smiled, pulling her arms close, "This is a welcome diversion, thank you for arranging it."
Nilani nodded respectfully to the Cardassian, raising her glass in mock salute to her. "I'm glad you are enjoying yourself Ensign. Getting to know your colleagues?" the Trill enquired between sips of the beverage, watching as the XO made her escape.
"The ones who don't flee at the sight of me." She sensed she had, in fact, overstepped some social boundary, "Is it traditional to celebrate before a large mission?"
Gaden had been mostly keeping to himself and listening to what was going on. More of an introvert than an extrovert, which made him a good listener, but not an avid talker. Except perhaps with his patients.
He sipped his drink, a glass of Bajoran Green Wine, and leaned against a bulkhead.
"It is under my command," the Trill smiled towards the Cardassian, forgiving her faux pas, before nodding at the Bajoran physician. "For me, these early days of a crews first mission are crucial. Our people must bond if they are to entrust each other with their lives," she told a little more seriously. To her, bonds of fellowship were everything aboard a starship and it was here, in the social arena, where they would first be forged.
"A party is an interesting way to bind your crew together." Ekal admitted, hovering rather than taking a seat, "But the binding is the important part."
Nilani couldn't have agreed more with the Cardassian if she had tried. "So, if you were to get one positive thing, one positive experience, out of this assignment Ensign, what would it be?" the Trill enquired, hoping to take their conversation to the next level.
"You'd be surprised how much this assignment has already shown me." She finally took a seat, debated lying to the captain, and decided not to lie too much. "Curiosity is not typical in my race. We prefer to guard ourselves and conquer when we need more resources. Even asking for help was too much, after the Dominion. I, however, am rather curious- whether that is my natural inclination or due to my..." she seemed to search for the words, "-abnormalities... Is up for contention." With her statement complete, she sat back and sipped her drink.
"I see," Nilani nodded slowly, lifting her glass to her lips and taking a sip. "Cardassia has come a long way since the war. If you would have asked me back then if I could have imagined serving with Cardassians in Starfleet, I'd have laughed. Since then though, I've worked with several and they have all had that curiosity in common," she told as she too took a seat. "A good friend of mine, Akaria Okan, has just been promoted to executive officer aboard the Adriatic. She's one of the finest officers I have ever served with," the Trill added.
"Maybe." She conceded, "Maybe Cardassia has come a long way. Some believe the state's new policy should be curiosity. Others believe that by cooperating with other races we are conceding our sovereignty over our own people." Her voice remained passive, like she was reading a textbook, "Starfleet opens up a great deal of the universe to the curious few, and once a Cardassian has given their loyalty it is given forever. I'd wager Okan feels the same way."
"Almost definitely," the Captain nodded. She and Okan had shared many a conversation over the scientists decision to join Starfleet and her experiences since, and whilst not all had been pleasant, a lot of the time the Cardassian had been full of joy and wonder at the freedoms and experiences afforded to her.
“Joy and wonder are all we can ask when our curiosity is sated. I’ve already found the people of the federation to be as welcoming as can be expected, with few exceptions, and the experiences I’ve had to be enlightening in a way my mother- she is a curious scientist- could never have dreamed. I like to think she would’ve joined Starfleet if she had understood who you were.” She didn’t dare say any more. Too much and people start to think they know you. “I look forward to working with you and this ship.”
"And this ship and her Captain look forward to working with you," the Captain smiled as she raised her glass in a toast before adding "Ekal" with a smile.
Ekal bowed her head as she stood, then turned and wandered off calmly.
For the rest of the evening, the staff of the Nogura mingled and enjoyed each other's company. With alcohol flowing freely, the gathering was much smoother than the Captain's most positive outcome predictions could have been. But tomorrow the real work would begin.