Episode 1: The Maelstrom Awaits
Timeline: Day 8 at 1405
Deila took a deep breath, drawing on her years of Starfleet training to quell the flurry of emotions she felt. The shuttle that had carried her from Starbase 210 finally docked inside the Nogura's shuttlebay, a final reminder that her life was heading in a new direction.
She knew that as a Starfleet officer, it was her duty to follow the directions of her superiors, but she was still unprepared to leave the Panama. She'd spent six years building relationships with the crew, especially the Captain and first officer.
Sighing, but straightening up and slinging her bag over her shoulder, she stepped out of the shuttle, into the spacious shuttlebay of the old Sovereign-class starship, the Nogura.
Stood just a few feet away, an auburn-haired woman in command red waited, her hands clasped together behind her back as she watched the newcomer exit the shuttlecraft. Making eye contact with the woman she was here to meet, the Commander gave a polite smile and waited for the distance between them to close before speaking.
"Welcome aboard, Commander Fargold," the XO spoke, "Shelby Adams, ship's XO."
Deila began analysing the XO as she approached and as Adams spoke. She seemed rather professional, but that was only to be expected when officers were on duty. She hoped she'd could make her acquaintance off-duty sometime.
She saluted quickly to the Nogura's first officer. "Reporting for duty sir."
"The Captain awaits," Shelby smiled, stepping aside and gesturing to the doors of the shuttlebay. As they began walking, she engaged the newcomer in small talk in order to pass the time. "How was your journey from the Panama?" Yes, she had done her research just as any good XO would.
"Rather uneventful," Deila replied as they walked down the corridors. "We encountered a small ion storm about 2 lightyears from here though," she continued, smiling a little at the nervous young pilot who almost had a panic attack when they went through that ion storm. "Thankfully it wasn't strong enough to cause any damage to the shuttle, but it was quite a bumpy ride for half an hour."
"Our sensors monitored the storm," Adams nodded along, "a useful tool to allow us to fine tune some of the sensor grid. Captain Azulas will be in her ready room, Commander. I'm headed down to Stellar Cartography but we should meet later to discuss priorities for our trip through the Maelstrom," the XO suggested as they stopped at the turbo lift, where they would part company.
"I'll make time to do just that," Deila replied, before stepping into the turbolift, watching Adams turn to walk away as the doors slid shut.
"Bridge," she told the computer. The turbolift began speeding upwards, and Deila was alone with her thoughts for a few moments. She'd heard of Captain Azulas, how she was once an officer aboard this very ship before it had gone missing. It made sense to put her in command of it, considering she was the only one left who had any connection to it.
The turbolift arrived at the bridge, which was empty. She looked around a bit before exiting the turbolift. It was quiet, and a bit unsettling. She shook herself and pushed those thoughts to the back of her mind, making her way over to the door of the Captain's ready room, pressing the buzzer.
"Enter!" the voice from within beckoned, granting the visitor entrance to the Captain's private office.
Deila braced herself for the worst as she stepped through the door. She'd heard of Captain Azulas, yes, but she had no idea what kind of person she was. She could be mean and demanding, or kind and forgiving, so Deila had to mentally prepare for anything.
She slowly walked into the room, keeping her attention on the captain. "Lieutenant Commander Fargold reporting in, Captain."
Seated behind the large desk that dominated much of the room, a pristine looking Trill with brunette hair in a tight bun, looked across at the newcomer who stood before her. After regarding the woman closely for a few moments, the Captain finally rose to her feet and offered a hand in welcome. "Nilani Azulas," she smiled as they shook hands, and she gestured to the vacant chair opposite her with the other.
Shaking hands, Deila smiled a little at the Captain's promising welcome. So far, so good. Nodding slightly, she stepped over to the chair and scooted back into it, folding her hands in her lap and straightening her posture.
"It's a pleasure to be aboard, Captain," she began, trying to sound as excited as she wanted to be, but it was difficult. Reassignments always were.
Returning to her seat, the Trill adjusted her positioning until she was comfortable enough and then the inquisition began. "So, tell me about your journey to my ship Commander. Tell me how you came to settle on strategic operations as your career path," she enquired.
"Well, like I told your XO when I first came aboard, it was rather uneventful. Only change of pace was a minor ion storm we had to go through to get to the Nogura on time. We were shaken up, but the shuttle came out without any damage."
She thought about the second part to the Captain's question for a few moments, tilting her head back just a little, staring off into nothing. Why HAD she chosen Strategic Ops?
"In regards to my career sir, I suppose I just wanted to do something I knew I was good at. I spent about five years as a security officer, first aboard an old California class, then aboard the Panama. I always had a knack for seeing things no one else did, seeing solutions about tactically difficult situations, but I was never physically strong or had enough endurance to make it far in the security division. So about four years ago I transferred to Strategic Ops, where I knew I could put my mind to something it would excel at, namel tactical analysis and strategic advisement. It's been a rather rewarding past few years in Strat Ops, and I'm glad I chose it."
"I never really appreciated the need for a good strategic operations officer until I was thrust into command the first time," Nilani confessed, "when you're in a design lab or down in engineering with the warp core, strategy, tactics and politics is probably the furthest thing from your mind. But when you're let out to play, up on the bridge, it's a...." she paused as she tried to recall the phrase one of her former colleagues used to say, "I think the phrase you would use is a whole different ball game?"
Deila chuckled at the Trill captain's use of a distinctly human phrase. "Among others, yes. I wasn't used to command situations for a long time after my transfer to Strat Ops either, but being in this red uniform means that, more often than not, we're put into leadership positions we might not necessarily appreciate or want."
She tilted her head ever so slightly, looking at the captain with a bit of a quizzical expression. "If you don't mind me inquiring sir, what do you think about being put in command of a ship that you used to serve on, and are probably the only crewman left who has any connection to it?"
That was a tough question. With the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the previous crew, the Captain was indeed the only person with any attachment to the ship. But, to her it was a no brainer. In fact, that made the answer to the question decidingly less tough. "It's simple... I owe it to the crew to discover their fate. Whatever fate that may be. Some of those who disappeared were friends, colleagues, even family. Wouldn't you do everything you could to help your family?"
"Anything at all," Deila answered, more serious than she was before. "If I were in your shoes I'd do the same thing. Do we have any leads at all as to what happened? A large crew like the one of the Nogura can't just vanish into thin air. The Maelstrom may be dangerous and unknown, but surely there's some sort of clues?"
"We have access to the logs of the Ferengi cruiser that found her," the Captain frowned as she rummaged around on her desk for a data PADD. "We also have a copy of the last transmission the ship sent, referring to a specific location in the Maelstrom. We're going to head there," she told the strategic operations officer, passing across the PADD once she had found it.
The blonde took the PADD, looking through the data stored on it. "I still find it hard to believe that the entire crew just vanished. Based on reports I've read, the Nogura itself was in rather good condition when the Ferengi found her. That rules out a ship-to-ship attack. It could be possible the crew was killed by an unknown bioweapon, and their bodies removed from the ship, or perhaps even the crew themselves abandoned the ship for some reason. Maybe they-"
Interrupting herself, Deila looked up from the PADD and up to the Captain, wincing slightly. "Oh, sorry sir. I was rambling."
"That's what I need you to do, Commander," the Captain shrugged as she waved away the woman's apology. "I need you to work with anyone on this crew to figure out what the hell might have happened. Anything at all. We have Ferengi sensor readings from when they scanned the ship, we have comms. Everything we have has been made available to you. Use whoever, whatever, to try and make some inroads before we reach DS12," the Captain looked stern as she reiterated her instructions.
Deila nodded gravely, the gravity of the captain's words impressing her. From this first impression, she could tell Captain Azulas would be an excellent leader to serve under.
"Affirmative Captain. Whatever happened to the Nogura, Strat Ops and I will discover it."
Nilani rose slowly to her feet and smiled as she offered out her hand once more. "Then welcome aboard, Commander," she responded.