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Posted on 23 Feb 2019 @ 10:29pm by Lieutenant Commander Atven Dantarno & Ensign Cheyenne Hidatsa
Edited on on 01 Mar 2019 @ 8:34pm

Mission: Prologue
Location: En Route
Timeline: Day One


Starfleet interiors were grey.

It was memory that told Commander Dantarno this, not sight. For him, the world was rendered in a kaleidoscope of conflicting colours, as the ocular implants grafted directly into his eyes struggled to render the complex range of overlapping radiation and energy signals in a form that his visual cortex could comprehend.

Why he was forced to endure such an overwhelming onslaught of data was a question to which he had never received a satisfactory answer. It was a technology that was both too advanced, and not advanced enough, designed to grant sight to those born sightless and merely adapted to his specific circumstances. Over the years, alternatives had slowly begun to present themselves: the last physician to whom he'd spoken had been an enthusiastic hologram who'd expoused the potential benefits of Borg-derived technology to replace his damaged eyes and nerves in entirety. Dantarno had refused, perhaps out of stubbornness, perhaps out of paranoid fear, perhaps out of a questionable desire to continue enduring the unpleasant hand that the cosmos had dealt him, as if it was something he somehow deserved. At least his current implants made some attempt to salvage his hampered physiology; that was how he justified it to himself. Better to endure the visual noise and hold on to a piece of himself, than replaced the damaged tissue with something artificial, surrendering a fragment of his humanity in the process.

At least his salvaged hearing was easier to contend with. Perhaps the subtle metallic protrusions tucked behind his ears were more unsightly than some of the potential alternatives, but Federation technology had at the time lacked the sophistication to control his auditory implants via a neural interface, and the prospect of incorporating such technology now was once again a step too close to Borg for Dantarno's comfort. Besides, the protruding interface was too invaluable to be without: Atven reached for it, a subtle motion with an electron stylus adjusting the decibel range that the implants filtered out, allowing him to ignore a little more of the ambient noise and conversation that droned through the air of the runabout's passenger compartment. The implants were far from perfect, sucking the warmth from the words he heard, as if he were listening to the world through a communicator; but that detraction came paired with an ability to literally shut out the world when he chose, descending into the muffled deep of near-silence as if he was submerging himself in an ocean of peace. It proved useful more often than it didn't, allowing him to work in relative tranquillity almost anywhere, screening out the small-talk that he'd rather not perceive. Of course, at times it had the opposite effect: at times his settings were off, and he heard too much, or the wrong thing. That at least was something he was somewhat prepared for, however, his Betazoid heritage making it all too common that he knew more about people than they would have liked him to.

Atven shifted a little in his seat, carefully finishing the final recalibrations to the dismantled combadge arrayed in an orderly fashion on the table in front of him. A minor realignment and reset of the circuits changed the device into a relay, incoming transmissions bypassing the badge's speakers and instead making their way via short-range signal to his implants. It was a subtle thing, almost inconsequential, the words of any comm signal finding their way to his ears directly rather than being heard aloud. To him, however, it was invaluable, ensuring that even when he chose - or was forced - to bury himself beneath a shroud of silence, he was never truly unreachable, especially when it mattered.

Carefully slotting the dismantled components back together, Atven tapped the reconstructed combadge, a satisfied smile tugging at the corner of his mouth as the friendly and familiar chirp echoed inside his head. The badge was carefully returned to the magnetic attachment points woven into the fabric of his uniform: a uniform that Dantarno was finding decidedly uncomfortable. It was the fourth iteration of Starfleet standard that he had lived through over his career, and so far it was his least favourite. He understood the psychology behind it, harkening back to a simpler time for Starfleet, before wars and invasions and collapsing civilizations had driven them deeper and deeper into grim practicality. Bright colours dominated once more, the stark black and grey of the Dominion War rendered a thing of the past. Unfortunately, some questionable decisions with colour blocking brought to mind the high-waisted fashion stereotypical of frail old men, and that was a comparison that Dantarno couldn't unsee. It was fitting though, he supposed, a uniform befitting the old man he was rapidly becoming.

Letting out a small sigh, Dantarno reached for the waiting glass, allowing a generous mouthful of the carbonated beverage - the name eluded him at the moment, the drink having been chosen at random from the replicator menu - to wash over his tongue. Glass held in one hand, Dantarno carefully ordered his tools off to one side with the other, before reaching for the PADD that had been left waiting for him. As the screen flicked on, the text assaulted his vision, the tiny variations in photon density about as legible as cyan font on a bright white page; but it was a handicap he had adapted to, and quickly he found his place, continuing to read through all the information he had been able to find on the ship that awaited him at Deep Space 13. Arguably, much of the information was need to know, and Dantarno didn't: a chief helmsman didn't need to know the ship's scientific or tactical capabilities, and yet the Commander's curiosity demanded otherwise. Perhaps it was force of habit, some residual from his years with Starfleet Tactical, or a holdover from his service almost two decades ago aboard a different example of the Nova-class. Whatever his motivation, Dantarno had merely surrendered to the impulse, allowing it to stand alongside his vision, hearing, and empathy as pathways for him to know more than he was supposed to.

He paused, thinking back to those days aboard the USS Zodiac, wondering how much he had changed since then. Back then he had been fresh from rehab, his implants still new, the incident that had caused them still fresh in his mind. The searing light and sound of the Dominion device that had severed those natural connections to the world had still waited for him in every silent moment back then, and every time he closed his eyes. He did so now, eyelids only partially obscuring the implants' perception, proving to himself that he'd moved beyond those residual demons. He'd been a different man back then, a different version of himself, angry and on edge, eager to fight back against anyone and anything as a form of displaced vengeance, antagonised by the frustrating reality that the Dominion War had ended before his healing had, leaving him adrift and incapable of a satisfying revenge. That anger had cooled, but had been slow to fade, and had fuelled more than a few questionable choices over the years. It had urged him to walk the path of a soldier, urging him to approach problem-solving with a more violent skill set than the technician's tools he'd relied upon before. Atven wouldn't go so far as to regard those choices with regret, but there was no denying that those steps, those transfers to increasingly martial assignments, had led him down the path to where he found himself now.

For a moment, he allowed himself to wonder how differently his life might have unfolded if he'd refused that first promotion, that commission as a Lieutenant. What kind of man would he be? What career might Chief Dantarno have built for himself that his Commander counterpart currently found beyond his reach? The indulgence lasted for only a moment however: Dantarno knew where dwelling on such things could lead.

At the edge of his field of view, Atven glimpsed a shift in the thermal background, as the recycled air of the runabout interior shifted in advance of an arriving warm body. Deftly grabbing the electron stylus, Dantarno tapped at the exposed plate of his implants, resetting his hearing a little closer to normal levels, just in time to catch the words that he might otherwise have missed.

"We're on our final approach to Deep Space 13," the young officer explained, with a confusing mix of positivity and respectful caution. Dantarno felt the apprehension roll off her in a wave: more to do with his rank and seniority, most likely, but for a fleeting moment, he allowed himself to believe that she was merely intimidated by the cantankerous altitude of his waistline. "You asked to be notified when we were almost there, sir?"

Atven made sure to offer her a smile, subtle but warm, one he maintained even as the Ensign began to visibly relax. "That I did -" He hesitated, deliberately, a performance of fallibility, as if he hadn't effortlessly memorised her name the first time he'd heard it. "- Cheyenne, was it?"

The Ensign offered a small nod, and a small smile. "Yes, sir."

The Commander let his own smile grow a little more. "Well then." With more effort than should have been necessary, Dantarno heaved himself from his seat, the protests of his legs and joints leaving him wondering just how long he'd been sat there. "I don't know about you, Cheyenne, but I've had just about enough of being cooped up in this runabout. Let's go get ourselves the hell off this boat, eh?"


Lt. Commander Atven Dantarno
Chief Flight Control Officer
USS Mark Miller


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