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The Queen of Wishful Thinking

Posted on 17 Feb 2019 @ 9:34am by Lieutenant Gabriel Walker

Mission: Prologue
Location: Starbase 13
Timeline: Day One

Gabe stood at the plasteel window, hands held in front of him and gripping his personal PaDD.  He’d been standing for some time and was beginning to fill the tinge in his lower back.  Two days in medical took care of most of the injuries incurred on the planet.  But, as he was told upon his discharge this morning, there would be some residual soreness for a few days more.  He was offered a few days of sick leave, which Gabe declined.
He didn’t imagine he would have need to delay reporting to the Miller due to an occasional bout of soreness.  Especially not when it was a newly launched exploration and research vessel.  He didn’t feel as if he was going to be very busy at all on this assignment.  A perfect way to start his time in service as a department head.
Staring out the window he saw the sudden flash that was the wink of distant starlight on the hull of a ship dropping out of warp.  He quickly glanced at the chronometer on the PaDD display then continued staring out the window.  Until a tall cup entered his frame of vision.
“It’s not coffee,” she said.  “Because you don’t drink coffee,” Anna said with him, smiling.  He turned to look at her, noting the hesitant smile.  “It’s tea.”
“Thank you,” he said, taking the cup and feeling the warmth of the liquid inside seep into his hand.  He glanced back out the window, watching the dot growing larger.  They were out of warp and heading toward the starbase under impulse power.  It should take some minutes for the display to switch from the exterior video view to a live view.
“I wasn’t sure what kind you liked, I just asked for it to be fresh,” she said.  Anna realized only after she ordered the tea to make the gesture that she had no idea how he’d take it: milk? Sugar?  A special blend?  Did he even drink tea?  She knew he didn’t drink coffee and that was it.
“Are you the kind that doesn’t answer his messages in a timely manner?” she asked, noticing the notifications that were on the screen of his PaDD.  Somehow she got the feeling he was a bit more methodical about ensuring that business was done.
He remained quiet but did glance at the screen.  She saw the notification number then and realized it must me something he was either avoiding or just letting lie fallow.  A twitch in his jaw, indicating anything from anger at the question, or even possibly the messages, or just a desire to avoid the entire situation was enough to tell her to drop that line of inquiry.
“Is that your ship?” she asked, nodding to the display before them.
“I believe so,” he answered, seeming slightly more relaxed.  “I got the notice they were ahead of schedule.  I guess that’s good, otherwise I’d get back from my hike already late to report.”
He was back in his uniform, replicating a fresh set as the station’s medical staff was preparing his discharge.  His bags were packed – base security was kind enough to have returned his backpack from where it was left on the planet after their raid on the Black Hole Sun camp.  It was with the rest of his belongings at the quartermasters, waiting to be loaded onto the ship and delivered to his quarters.
“Are you doing okay?” she asked, wondering about the way he was standing.  Already she was getting used to his casual dismissal.  Mostly because she noticed how he dismissed most everyone around him.  As if humanity was merely something that happened around him.  But it also registered that he did check his messages, just maybe not all of them all the time.  Which meant the messages he was dismissing, like they were people, must be personal.  Just another piece in the blank, gray puzzle that was Lieutenant Gabriel Walker.
Her question, however, earned a rare direct look.  It didn’t last long, but somehow it felt like a victory to her.  Not for the first time she found herself glad of his brusque dismissal of her advances back on their transport.  As she got to know him somewhat better over the last few days, she realized there would never be a romantic connection between them.  But that didn’t mean she couldn’t find a friend.
“What do you mean?” he asked, distracted as he sipped from the to-go cup. He didn’t complain or set the cup down, so maybe he liked it.
“Physically, I’m not a medical doctor,” she said, wanting to laugh at her own little joke.  No, her doctorate studies were in exobotany, not medicine.  “But you seemed pretty injured on the planet.  Maybe you should have taken a few more days off?”
“That is not my decision,” Gabe answered, “but that of my new captain.  Since I was unable to seek her approval prior to accepting the offer, I could not do so.”
It sounded true, bureaucratic and like how Starfleet operated.  But…despite the truth there was a ring of not complete truthfulness behind it.  “Uh uh,” she said simply.  Silence fell between the two of them.
“Do you ever smile,” she asked in order to fill the silence.
“Yes,” he answered.  Only that and nothing more.  The display before them blinked as the view switched from the exterior video feed.  Without the feed active, it was just another piece of transparent plasteel, but it allowed for a view of the exterior of the station.
The starship was visible with their own eyes now, still small but growing as it continued its docking with the station.
“It’s a research vessel isn’t it?” she asked.
“That is my understanding,” Gabe answered. 
“Do you think they could use a botanist?”
Gabe took a longer drink then turned slightly to look at her.  It appeared as if he was gazing at her, through her and in several different wavelengths as well.  He took another drink from the cup.  She wished she were the Betazed in this conversation so she would know what he was thinking at the moment.  “I’m not in the Science department,” he said, finally, “so I would be unable to answer that question.”
He pocketed the PaDD and wrapped both hands around the cup before turning back to the window.  Despite it being an ordinary occurrence on a starbase, this particular ship would become his home once it docked and he reported aboard.  “I thought you were here on the planet?  Helping to catalogue and identify plants here?”
It was her turn to remain silent while she stared out the window.  Finally, after a few long moments of collecting her thoughts she spoke.  “I don’t think the research facility will be too happy with me sticking around.  No one has said anything, but I know some blame me for what happened to us.  That I cooperated might be seen as less victimization and more partnership gone bad.  Its not like I can’t find interesting new plant species as part of a starship crew though.”
“The starship is Starfleet.  It is a Starfleet vessel.” 
She noticed he stopped short at pointing out the less obvious statement – she wasn’t Starfleet.
“They have civilians working jobs on the station that could be done by Starfleet personnel.  And really, how many Starfleet officers are also exobotanists?  That come up very often?”
“Oh, yes, all the time.  My last mission was to go arrest a sentient, homicidal plant that had a penchant for eating dentists,” Gabe said, his tone as level and dry as anything else he’d ever said to her.
“Re-“ she started before noticing the change in his body language and how it seemed he was trying very hard to keep back a smile.  “You’re an ass!”
“So I’ve been told all my life,” he said, losing the battle with the smile.  Then, as he watched, he stiffened while the ship came into full view.  He could just make out the registry across the hull.  “That’s my ship,” he said, noting the appearance of ‘new’.  He wondered how long the hull would go without scorch marks from some alien ship or some ding from some other calamity.
“Are you leaving then?” she asked, sounding very much afraid of being left behind.
“Soon,” he answered, finishing his tea and looking around for the reclamat.  “The ship needs to dock and offload its current crew and cargo before it can begin onboarding new personnel.  That could take a few hours.  I’m not due to report for several hours.”
“Oh,” she answered, looking away from the ship.  Just because it was Starfleet didn’t mean she couldn’t try to get aboard the ship.  At least on that ship she’d know at least one person in this sector of the galaxy.  If she could get aboard, maybe then she’d have a change to discover some thrilling new species of plant unlike anything before known.
“I hear the Arboretum on the station has been working on incorporating the orchid vines from the planet into known flora climes.”
She faced him, unsure what that was supposed to mean.  Was it an invite to spend more time with him or just some weird factual observation that he thought might interest her.  Why would he even care to interest her anyway?  He made it very clear her presence was barely tolerated.
“I’d rather visit the arboretum then reject your idea of going to Babel for ‘window shopping’.”
“I wasn’t going to…” she said, before realizing he was offering to spend more time with her.  “The arboretum sounds nice.”
“We can’t stay too long,” he said, “you’ll want to try to convince the captain to take on a civilian scientist early, before she’s being swarmed with her duties.  Exhaustion makes it easier to say no.”  Gabe pulled a small hypospray out of his pocket and hit himself in the side with it.  The tight, soreness in his back began to feel looser, letting him think he could take a walk through the arboretum.  He was sure, as well, there would be benches or other places to sit for a while if necessary.
One thing was, he wasn’t looking forward to the next few days of duty and standing at the tactical station.
“What do you think my chances are?” she asked as she put her cup through the reclamat.  “I mean, honestly?  With what happened.  It wasn’t my fault, I didn’t want to cooperate with them.”
“I don’t know,” Gabe said as he led away from the viewports and to the nearest turbolift that would allow him to avoid the “Babel” entirely.  The arboretum wouldn’t be devoid of people, but he was sure it’d be less crowded than the station’s commerce center.  Especially with the several ships that docked recently.  “I don’t think that incident is going to be the problem though.”  He hit the call button for the turbolift.  Several others were gathering as well, waiting for the car to arrive.  “I think it’ll be more a lack of Starfleet experience.  But, maybe,” he said, shrugging, “you could become and acting cadet or something.”
“Cadet?” she asked, mocking offense.  “I’ll have you know I’m a doctoral candidate, I think I could do more than acting cadet!”
He just shrugged again.
Rolling her eyes, she joined him in the turbolift, completely unaware of who might be listening on their conversation.  “Would it be worth it?” she said after the various destinations were spoken to the computer and the car began zipping through the tubes across the station.  “Starfleet?  I’ve always been a little afraid of joining Starfleet.”
Gabe stared at her for a moment, his dark eyes seem to swallow some ethereal essence of her being.  “Yes, it is,” he said, his words becoming clipped, formal and reserved.  “It’s the only place where I ever felt like I belong.”
Another gray puzzle piece.  Like she was putting the puzzle together with the picture side of the pieces face down.  Family problems.  That seemed like a natural given after what little she has learned about him.  “Then, if that’s what’s required of me, maybe I’ll do it.  But I expect you to help me study for the exams.”
“You might want to find someone else, someone a whole lot smarter than me.”
Anna watched the security lieutenant until the turbolift came to a stop on the arboretum level.  Even after all those carefully scrutinized moments, she wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be a factual statement or a self-deprecating attempt at humor.  He didn’t even look to see if she followed as he exited the turbolift and made his way to the arboretum.
“Yeah, there’s not a chance with him,” she reminded herself.  Still, she followed after him anyway, planning to keep following after him.  At least until she was aboard the ship and made other friends.  She only briefly wondered, as the crowd thinned from the turbolift but several others continued in the same direction, inadvertently following Gabe, if it was Starfleet that made him so isolated and reserved.  She had no doubt he was completely sincere in stating Starfleet was the only life he had but was Starfleet what made him so sadly isolated or was there something else?
She made a conscious effort to hurry to catch up without appearing to hurry as he waited at the entrance to the arboretum.  “The orchids will most likely be in the temperate forest portions of the arboretum,” she said as she took one of the small PaDDs from a cradle just inside the entrance.  It contained only a small bit of information, wasn’t connected to the computer core in any way and was useful only in the arboretum.  “Look, there’s several food carts near that section.  Maybe I’ll let you buy me lunch.  That, by the way, Lieutenant, is a bit ‘maybe’.”
“As long as you remember that I survive on the salary of a Starfleet officer, so hopefully they have a value menu.”
Again, he spoke so neutral that what he just said could very well be nothing more than the solid truth but…there was just the barest twinkle in his eyes that made her believe it was meant as a joke.  “And I make unemployed botanist pay,” she shot back, “so of the two of us, you’re the Grand Negus here, pal.  Better try a better excuse.”
He shrugged as he led the way across the large, opened space full of flora from numerous other worlds.  Following slightly behind, Anna began to wonder why he was in Starfleet at all.  He seemed much more relaxed, much more at ease, when surrounded by the natural world.  Or, she wondered as she glanced around, was it that she didn’t see any other people around?
I’m able to follow rules… she began mentally practicing what she could say to convince the ship’s captain to let her come aboard.


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