Episode 1: The Maelstrom Awaits
Timeline: Day 14 at 0600
Ekal liked to wake up early the first day anyone new was joining the crew, partially to see how early they woke up and partially to avoid them for a few more hours. She didn't have shift for a while longer so she could take her time scoping them out. To her surprise, one of these new people was already in the mess hall when she got there. What, did he have shift already? Maybe he did, after all, he was in the science department- they seemed understaffed.
"May I sit with you?" Even sitting, a klingon was intimidating to her. Oh and he smelled like mud. She smiled wide, though, and tilted her head just so. No point in dropping the niceties- and in fact perhaps a few more reasons for them.
Everyone knew Klingons hated Cardassians, even today. She'd better get in his good books quickly. He probably had lots of stories to tell and she likes listening anyway. "You're new, aren't you?"
A sleepy eyed and groggy Dr. Klas Doplahr looked up from the mug of raktajino. whisps of steam clung to his shaggy mop of still un-brushed hair. He didn't expect to be greeted by anyone this morning, let alone a curious looking Cardassian.
"Oh of course! Feel free. it was beginning to get a little lonely in here this early in the morning." He spoke with a warm smile as he motioned towards the empty seat. It struck him that after all of the demonization and animosity towards Cardassians he'd been fed in his youth, that in the end what sat before him is a person just the same as him or anyone else. 'after all, aren't I running from all that in the first place?' He thought to himself.
Ekal sat carefully, setting her tray down and pulling her tea mug closer to start reflecting some of his body language. He’d be more comfortable if she echoed him. Everyone always was. “I wouldn’t want to interrupt if your lonesomeness was intentional, of course, but since it isn’t I’m happy to provide a bit of conversation and company. I’m Ekal Dreisor, the CFOO. I’m glad to see some of the additional crew made it aboard.” She sipped her tea. Klingon science officer. Say what you will about the species, Klingons weren’t stupid- just often unconcerned with complex abstractions, and really who could blame them?- but it was still unusual to see one in science blues, rather than tactical or security. “I think I’d have noticed you, no offense.” Not to mention she would’ve noticed any klingon aboard. Her mother’s warnings about them bounced in her skull like beads in a rattle- loudly and incessantly.
"You're perfectly fine. It's always nice having someone to talk to over breakfast. I'm Dr. Doplahr. Klas Doplahr. And I think about everyone has noticed me. I must be an odd sight." he chuckled and took another sip from his mug. "My compatriots are rarely interested in the inner workings of the universe save from new ways to weaponize it" he spoke with mild distaste regarding the Klingon regime. "Or perhaps this shade of blue clashes with my eyes. though to answer the question, I am new and am loving it here!" Klas always had an odd sense of humor and he knew it. he often found it getting him out of nasty situations... most of the time. "Have you got anything interesting on the table today?"
She sipped her tea for a moment after she sat, humming. Blue was an attractive color for Cardassians, and she wholeheartedly approved of its inclusion among the colors of uniform. Maybe not on him. But then again, it would look good on anyone. "Yes! Redleaf tea, Phlomeek Broth, and a roll with Rulot seeds. As for metaphorically, no. Today is going to be spent primarily in transit, along the route we've had planned, so my professional 'table' is clear. As for my personal 'table', I was thinking I'd visit the arboretum after my shift." As for a klingon being a scientist, well, not only was he klingon, he was male, and neither gave her confidence in his logical prowess. Neither entirely discounted the possibility, though, so she was trying to keep an open mind. "What about you?"
"Sounds like a lovely day and a lovely breakfast!" He chuckled. "I considered getting some myself but anything substantial disagrees with me this early in the morning. More of a lunch person myself, but I digress. About all I had planned today was surveying the main laboratory to see what sort of new and interesting equipment I can try not to break. That being said, I didn't know there was an arboretum on board and my take a look myself!" If there was one thing that Dr. Doplahr loved more than lizards and amphibians was a wooded area that may contain them. "Real trees always felt nicer than a holodeck image." He took another sip of his raktajino and frowned at the little bits in the bottom. He'd never been able to get the replicator settings to his taste.
"Lunch is a lovely meal. Culturally relevant to many species. Often, in my opinion, the most flavorful and satisfying meal of the day, if lacking the work put into a large dinner or the completely empty stomach of a good breakfast." She pondered the strength of good lab equipment and the cultural relevancies of lunch in cardassian society, then smiled wide without teeth, "I'd be happy to show you the arboretum if you have time." She neglected to mention that holodeck images felt entirely like real trees, but whatever he felt was real was important to him.
"You would? That sounds lovely! The superiority of lunch aside, a nice stroll through the woods is a far better way to spend an afternoon." He made an attempt to subdue his genuine excitement and failed. "I wonder if I'll make any additions to the fauna there on our excursion. Cap'n probably wouldn't be too keen on bringing ETs onboard, but it's all in good science!" so far Doplahr had been enjoying life on Nogura and Ekal was making the welcome that much warmer. He knew about Cardassian interactions and in this case still elected to take things at face value. In the end there is truth in untruth, kindness in a smile, and more importantly to him, an offer to explore trees on a spacehip.
"The fauna? There are no animals in the arboretum but a few earthworms for fertilization. It's mostly flowerbeds and a few small trees. As for bringing any alien life aboard, it would have to be approved first by the science department head- your boss- then the medical staff- Doctor Anjol- and, I'm sure, require rigorous testing at a starfleet facility before being allowed to free-roam. If you're excited to play with alien animals, you're probably in the best position in the science lab, but it's unlikely they'll be welcome into the general environment." She tore her bread into pieces as she spoke, keeping an eye on his shoulders. People usually watched eyes or hands to predict attacks, but she'd found that most strikes were telegraphed in their shoulders more than their faces. "And any flora we bring aboard will be kept in biology labs rather than the arboretum."
The only action Klas's shoulders broadcasted was a hint of sadness as they dropped slightly. his eyebrows scrunched together as he considered what he'd just heard. It all made sense but was mildly disappointing.
"That's no fun. But I'm sure it would be far less fun to have little woodland creatures running amok around the ship. That's my job." He chuckled as the smile returned to his face. "And regardless where any creatures I find end up, I am excited to find them in the first place! I can scarcely imagine what sort of flora, fauna, and whatever else I might find out there. Hopefully they can get me beamed up before I get eaten."
She laughed. It was one of her better laughs, practiced for years on her older brother. Just embarassing enough to be mistaken for genuine, but retaining the idea of a harmless younger sister. "I'm sure they will be careful to beam you up at the first sign of danger- or, before the last one." She took the time to calm her breathing before sipping her tea, "You sound like you're out here for the same reason I am: to expand your horizons. In my case, more literally, but in yours it's in a more academic sense." She spoke with her hands when they were free, gesturing clearly with soft grey fingers, first out ward in an expaning motion and then finally to her head, tapping beside her brow ridge.
Ekal's gestures appeared genuine enough that Doplahr stopped considering them all together and began to open up. "Nailed that one you have, and what horizons they are! I've always wondered what lies in the heart of these nebulae and soon I will have even more questions about them. In the end science doesn't answer questions, it just creates better ones." He chuckled into his mug. It was cool enough to hold by more than just it's handle. "Though as for questions here, what do you mean by expanding your horizons literally? Just travel or something more? if you don't mind me asking of course."
“You say ‘just travel’ as though- well no, you have always had the option, haven’t you? Cardassians who do not join the military do not have the option of simply leaving cardassian space on a whim. Military-aligned cardassians see the outside of our space but rarely, and mostly to guard incoming shipments of supplies or defend our borders as peacefully as war makers are able.” She hummed along, “my mother was a scientist and my father was a military pilot. He died soon after I was born, in the war, and she wanted me to avoid his fate- even if we are not at war, his fate included what our military does to their soldiers. When I say I joined Star Fleet to expand my horizons literally, I mean just that. In the time it took to complete my training- which was, of course, no challenge for me- I have expanded the limits I am able to explore ten hundred fold. More than that, if you count outer limits and the non-allied regions of space that Star Fleet regularly flies through.”
Her tone made it clear that she was at least mostly sincere. “You’ll have to forgive my poetry- I know that’s a masculine trait for a female- but as a pilot, the stars are my swamp, and I’m not the kind of vole made for a small pond.” She figured since he was a male scientist he could forgive her for being a bit of a female poet, since they both dabbled in the opposite gender’s ‘realms’. Her mother would have stern words for them both- or more than words, in Doplahr’s case, unless someone stopped her.
Doplahr considered the significance of poetry but was caught more by the relation of voles to swamps. he was not particularly familiar with Terran wildlife and questioned the safety of what he knew as a small burrowing creature to a wet environment. He paused for a slightly uncomfortable amount of time as he made his considerations.
"Oh, I take no offence form other's poetry. It's nice seeing other's creative side." He took another sip. "And I'm sorry for your loss and the effects wartime has had. I don't blame you for escaping. we all seem to be in that sort of boat. Or at the very least, you and I."
“War leaves scars on the society as much as its’ people.” She had never once felt like she was escaping her people, only flying in a larger territory with the same nest to return to if she was welcomed, but if he wanted her to reflect his need to escape his people she could do that for him. She could be a little mirror for him. But to reflect she also had to point out the flaws in his analysis- even if he was right in some regards, any misconceptions he had about the person she was pretending to be or was simply couldn’t stand. “I have never known my father, nor his loss, only his absence and the sorrow my mother felt. Do not apologize to me for things you did not do- nor for things I do not feel. I appreciate and welcome the sentiment usually ascribed to such platitudes, but I feel I must correct any notion that I have lost someone in my father’s death. He was a soldier. He died to the decisive photon blast of a Star Fleet vessel while my species saw fit to fight them. The fight was fair on Star Fleet’s end, no escape pods were destroyed and negotiations had been offered. The only people to blame for my father’s absence in my life are his captain, a fool at best, and himself, who chose both to join the military and to remain at his post when even his captain fled.” She didn’t sip her drink nor her broth as she clarified, her hands folded neatly near her bowl. Her gaze was as steady as it always was, with no wavering or even frequent blinking. Whether or not she was lying or telling the truth was, as always, both indecipherable and beside the point.
Doplahr grimaced slightly at the thought of being hit with a blast designed to punch holes in a starship. "Starfleet? Interesting to say the least. And I will agree with you on the captain being foolish. I'm glad it didn't cause any tensions between the Cardassians and Starfleet. Or I assume it didn't. I've been wrong before. I'm a scientist not a military analyst." He chuckled. "And I hope to avoid any military interactions on our five year mission." He waved his hand across to suggest that 'five year mission' was a tagline. "though knowing my luck I'll end up in medbay with an arrow stuck in me after a surprise encounter with native peoples."
“Cause tension it did not. It was during the dominion wars. It was the result of tensions. As for our mission, whatever we come across we will come across and we will have to take it as it is. Military missions are part of the job, as much as the federation prefers peaceful exploration and cooperative efforts. If we are shot at I’ll try to keep the ship steady for you.” The translator caught a little on ‘federation’ like she’d said it with unknown accenting or inflection, “as for primitive projectiles from unknown life forms, well, that’s just a job hazard. I’m sure Doctor Anjol will have to right in no time.”
"I doubt a steady ship would help much." Klas chuckled. "I never excelled at marksmanship to say the least. Not to mention evasive maneuvers will keep the lovely paint job from getting marked up!" he finished his mug. "although unknown atmospheric composition and potentially mucky terrain will likely ruin that before a fire fight. To be honest I am very exciter to be part of that mucky terrain. I can't wait to set foot on an unexplored world."
“What is that lovely human warning? ‘Be careful what you wish for?’ Because we all know away missions are the most dangerous part of our jobs.” She smiled over her tea, barely emptied despite the many sips, “and the only paint job I’d worry about is our shuttles’, the Nogura herself isn’t likely to land often. More of an orbital ship, you understand. She can! Land, that is, but it’s not recommended to be frequent or for long periods of time unless it’s an emergency situation.”
It did not pass unnoticed to Ekal that he sidestepped the discomfort of military missions, of any further discussions of the recent wars, and changed topic onto part of her job that would force her to say more than him. It was a clever turn of events, if a little blunt, but only piqued her interest. “A steady ship would keep your lab in order, and no one would expect a science officer to fire the phasers or torpedoes unless we had many many more problems than simply being in battle. Not to mention, paint isn’t even what evasive maneuvers protect. It’s to keep the shields from losing power. How many times have you been on the bridge during a battle?”
"Ha HA! only in the simulations." He feigned humor. "somehow being attacked on a large formidable ship scares me more than a little dogfighting in a shuttle. at least that can avoid being hit. larger craft just have to take it." He frowned as he finished the sentence. And I have to agree with you when it comes to bringing a ship like Nogura into atmosphere. I've spoken to the engineers and their comparison to 'tin foil' does not instill confidence. plus it looks better in space. makes the ship look as small at it feels in the grand scheme of things. next to a structure she appears almost comically large." Klas's frown faded into an inquisitive expression as he considered Nogura's likeness to a mote of dust in the cosmic wind.
"I assure you the ship is safe, at least safe enough. It's safer than some colonies and ships who are looking for a fight, but as with all spaceflight into uncharted territory there are going to be risks." She scratched the nape of her neck, "A ship is a ship, though. Only as sturdy as it has been built, and only as free as the rules that govern its crew. I'm afraid I'll have to leave you soon, I have an appointment to keep. It has been delightful to speak with you, and I look forward to our next talk."
Doplahr glanced at his watch. "As do I, they will be missing me on the bridge if hang around too much longer. And it was wonderful speaking to you as well! I'll definitely take you up on your offer at the arboretum." He chuckled before collecting his dishes. Klas was happy to have made a new friend on the ship. or he hoped he was considered a friend.
"Until then!" Ekal smiled brightly and slipped out of the room quickly, stopping only momentarily at the reclimator.