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Throwing Empty Words

Posted on 26 Feb 2019 @ 5:45am by Captain Abigail Rhodes & Lieutenant Gabriel Walker

Mission: Prologue
Location: Captain's Ready Room
Timeline: Day One

Gabe came to a stop before the door.  His PaDD chimed the hour of the appointment, but also that another new message arrived.  He looked at the sender tag and then slid away the notification.  He didn't have time to reply at the moment, so why even read it?  It seemed he found himself not have a lot of time for the messages coming from that sender.

Instead of dwelling on that, however, he reached out and hit the door chime and waited, his hands folded behind his back, dark eyes straight ahead on the door, waiting for the panels to slide open.

"Enter," Abby said as she tapped the door control that granted the visitor access.  She didn't like having a lock on her door, but being in dock at the moment, it was prudent.  Once they were underway that would change.  She'd know her entire roster by then.

"Ah, Lieutenant Walker," she said, standing to greet him.  "At ease, please.  Can I get you a beverage?"

"No," he answered, simply, avoiding a testy issue as most, he discovered, preferred the more colloquial expression than its actual meaning.  As captain, he was going to have to give her some leeway on being...imprecise.  While he make it obvious, he was visually scanning the office, noting her decor and objet d'art, as well as how she organized.  This information was being filed away for future comparisons.  He waited for her to resume the meeting as was her perogative as the captain.

Abby nodded and sat, extending a hand to invite him to do the same.  She would have gladly provided his choice of beverge, but his response wasn't a surprise given what she had read in his file.

The Ready Room was pretty spartan, given the limited space.  Other than the mural of the Mark Miller, her small case of models of the Task Force ships, the few random objects spoke to her previous life as a scientist.  A model solar system here, a Daystrom database terminal there.

"Have you settled in yet, Lieutenant?  How are you liking the ship so far?"  The questions were basic, but a way to break the ice.

"I reviewed the logs left by the transport security crew," he said after sitting, his gaze going back to her.  "They report a possible target sensor variance of up to one degree.  Once we leave drydock, I would like to test the target sensor system to discover if that is the case and if so, correct it.  Additionally, there is some maintenance work that needs to be finished in brig cell two - one of the sink/shelf units were not properly installed and will not function as necessary.  I'll get with Ops to get that fixed before that cell is needed."  He looked at his PaDD.  "Other than that, at this time, I find the ship adequate to its purpose."

"I'm glad to hear you're already becoming familiar with the systems," she said.  "Our first mission will likely be a shakedown of sorts.  We'll be able to work out what gremlins might remain from the refit.  Keep your eye out for anything else that might need attention before we need it in a pinch."

"Yes, sir," he said after pausing for several moments.  That did seem to be the most responsible thing to do.  "What are your expectations of security aboard this ship, sir?  As a scientific research vessel, I do not believe we will be sent to to hot zones, nor will there be need for heavy tactical considerations. As reflected in my department compliment of..." he raised his PaDD, only so that it seemed like he needed to check.  "Six."

She nodded, "That is the expectation.  Of course, no plan survives first contact."  She leaned back a bit, her eyes absently passing over objects in the room.  "The Klingons are active out here, but we're not a warship.  We just need basic tactical support for away teams and such."

"Yes, ma'am.  And what do you expect of your officers?" he asked, watching her as if memorizing data.

Her eyes returned to him and considered his blank, almost Vulcan-like expression.  "Integrity and excellence," she answered simply.  She could tell he didn't need a lengthy diatrabe about The First Duty to Starfleet officers.  "Follow orders, and speak out when you feel a mistake is being made.  I'm no deity, I'm just as flesh-and-blood as anyone else."

Gabe shifted in the chair, his eyes moving away from her for a moment while he seemed to struggle with something.  Finally, he glanced back.  "On that note," he said, drawing it out, as if he didn't want to have this conversation.  "I was born Betazed," he said, "apparently.   But I was raised on Earth and I do not like crawling in other people's minds."

Abby nodded in understanding.  "Thank you for telling me.  I won't ask you to do anything you feel uncomfortable with.  To be honest, I don't particularly relish the idea either.  There are other ways to get information."  Her distaste wasn't just voiced, but in her expression as well.  As a scientist, she preferred study and research to get answers.  Just reading minds was not only cheating, but a gross violation of privacy.

"Thank you, Captain," he said, speaking as if reading from cue cards, as if something as simple as expressing gratitude needed Cliff notes, "for understanding.  Of course if there is a real need for it..." he trailed off, not wanting to spend the energy on the remainder of the thought.  "Otherwise, you will find my work to be thorough, objective and complete before it is submitted."

"Excellent, I expect nothing less," Abby replied approvingly.  "And do inform me if there is anything I can do to make your job easier.  I can't approve every request, but they will all be given due consideration."  She took his blank visage in, looking for anything that spoke to how he felt about his posting.  It seemed most of the officers she had spoke to had a hunger for adventure.  They were very excited to be here, sir.  She didn't worry much about them; they'd be tested and proven on their first outing.  Like all young officers, they'd either come out stronger, or they'd break.  Walker, however, was a mystery.  She'd get to know him in time, she knew, but in the meantime it would be nice to know... something.

"The ship is small, your department is small, and we're a long way from Earth... or Betazed," she observed.  "It's going to be a pretty intimate cruise, with eighty people aboard.  Be honest, Lieutenant, how do you feel about the assignment?"

Gabe took several long moments, looking at something off to the side of her desk.  Not to think, that wasn't something he needed to consider.  What he had to consider did he answer the question?  What was she looking for and, was this a test?  He didn't want to be removed because the captain found him incompatible with her command style. Sure, he could protest and fight the removal of the posting, but why remain in a post where the captain had already tried to remove him.  It was his first time in charge of the department.  Finally, in the end, the only way he could answer was to be honest or be damned.  "I think your question is invalid, Captain.  It requires the idea of something intangible and ill defined, arbritrary and meaningless.  What do my 'feelings' of the assignment matter?  If I were unhappy with my orders they would remain the same as if I were happy about them.  Starfleet assigned me here, without consultation of my wishes or desires, and that is their perogative.  My options then are to do my duty to the best of my capability or to resign.  I can choose to be miserable or I can choose to accept that which is beyond my ability to change, namely Starfleet's orders.  Feelings, Captain, in this, as in all things, are irrelevant.  Only that which can be quantified matter."

He sighed as he looked away again, "I'm...actually better...with smaller environments.  With less people."  His voice seemed different, further away, almost wistful.  "Then people have a greater chance to get to know who I am rather than what they hear about me.  Then, at least, when they come to dislike me, it's actually me they dislike, not some concept of me.  So, Captain," he said, looking back at her, but there was more ice to his expression, not cold and uncaring but...wrapped around him.  "I 'feel' as if I'm here to do my duty to you, the other officers and this crew.  And that duty is whatever is in my power, authority and ability to make sure they get to go home to their families at the end of every cruise."

because that's the only way I'll ever know what going home to family feels like the thought, especially the sending, was completely unintentional and unknown.

Abby blinked a moment at the unexpected words in her head.  She wasn't even sure whether it was a manifestation of her own making, or something else.  "That's what I was looking for, Lieutenant," she said with a smile and a nod.  "Some people just can't deal with it, and it affects their performance.  Starfleet does make mistakes sometimes," a small grin seemed to cross her features but disappeared quickly, "and sometimes they need to be reminded where people best fit.  All I care that this assignment is the best fit for you.  Because that's the best situation for us." 

She leaned forward again, reclasping her hands.  "And to be honest, feelings always matter.  Sentient beings are, by and large, emotional creatures; even Vulcans.  It can make or break a mission.  Or an assignment."  She leaned back again, her expression understanding.  "I'm a scientist.  Rationality is my nature; I prefer it.  But feelings always come into play.  The idea is balance." 

She waved her hands in a motion to dismiss the entire thing.  "No matter, I am glad to hear you have a good outlook on your assignment."

He disagreed, wholeheartedly, that feelings always mattered. They mattered only when it was rational.  But, she was the captain and he found that most people found feelings to be 'comfortable' and 'necessary' instead of little more than small daggers piercing the heart.  "I will tell you, Captain," he said, searching for something positive and honest to say.  "Tactical has a very comfortable chair."

She had the tact to not laugh out loud, though his Betazed empathy would surely tell she was amused.  "I'm glad to hear.  It hasn't had any prior occupants to really break it in yet."  She thought back to a few Tactical Officers she had known through her career... one a Klingon who didn't believe in cushions, and another a rather stocky Bolian who went through chairs at the rate of about two per year.  A small smile threatened to break into a grin and she shook her head to dislodge the memories.  "Did you have any additional questions for me, Lieutenant?"

"I do, Captain," Gabe said, with a ghost of a smile, "but none of them are pertinent to the here and now.  With that, I will consider myself dismissed."  He stood as he spoke, "And sent back to my duties.  Which, at this time, requires a uniform change."

She nodded once, "Indeed.  When the time comes, my door is always open.  I won't take any more of your time, Lieutenant."  She chose not to question a uniform change; his attire was fine.  It didn't matter too much, she allowed a certain leeway for her Department Heads.  If it got out of hand she'd step in, but in the meantime she was happy enough to let him get to work.

"Thank you, Captain," he said then turned and left the ready room.  He crossed the bridge to the tactical station and stood, touching the panel with one hand and the chair with another, almost as if communing with the station.  Then he turned and left the bridge, headed for his quarters.


Captain Abigail Rhodes
Commanding Officer
USS Mark Miller

Lieutenant Gabriel Walker
Chief Security/Tactical Officer
USS Mark Miller


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