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Posted on 27 Feb 2019 @ 3:10pm by Captain Abigail Rhodes & Lieutenant Commander Atven Dantarno

Mission: Prologue
Location: USS Mark Miller
Timeline: Day One


Commander Dantarno loitered in the airlock, admiring the small fraction of the ship's external structure currently visible to him where the airlock umbilical made hard seal against the Mark Miller's hull. Someone had once told him that the hull plates were darker, more grey than the near-white that starships had sported back when his eyes had been able to perceive conventional notions of colour. It made no difference to Atven in the grand scheme of things: whatever the colour of this starship's hull, it was the exact same as the last Nova-class he had served aboard, nearly two decades before. Yet, to his augmented eyes, the hulls appeared very different. The hull of the Zodiac had been pockmarked and scored at a microscopic level, subtle variations in the surface texture and reflectivity that altered the way it interacted with the other bandwidths of light and radiation that Atven could perceive. The Zodiac had carried a muted glow, subtle shifts of ionisation and charge that lingered like an aura, cracked and broken every time a section of hull was repaired and replaced, or not, battle scars looming like literal scars within the ship's flesh. The Mark Miller carried none of those, or at least few: from the Starbase windows, Dantarno had seen the telltale brightness of cosmetic scars, of surgery upon the hull to replace and augment whatever Starfleet had deemed to modify to bring the Mark Miller to her current state.

Up close though, seeing only the few square feet that surrounded the Miller's airlock, Dantarno saw none of that: just the familiar sleek form of a memorised hull composition. He reached out, his fingers pressing against the surface duranium, the input of his eyes translated into temperature and texture. Though the way that Dantarno saw and heard the world was processed through some form of digital approximation, rendering it fake and synthetic, his sense of touch still remained pure and organic, one of the few natural ways Atven possessed to interact with the world around him. That physical contact persisted as Dantarno stepped aboard, transitioning from the external hull to the panelling of the interior bulkheads. For a brief moment, he hesitated, and considered tugging off his boots for a chance to feel the texture of the deck beneath his bare feet, to feel some sense of real connection to the ship that was about to become his home. He thought better of it, an indulgence best saved for a more private moment, and a time where wandering barefoot through the corridors was less likely to adversely impact the first impressions the new CFCO might leave.

Fingertips tracing idly along the walls, Dantarno advanced the short distance along the corridor, tugging a little on the canvas strap that slung the crude duffel of his belongings over his shoulder. The doors of the turbolift slid open to greet him, and Atven stepped inside, turning on his heels to face back the way he'd come.

"Computer," he stated aloud, "Where is the Captain?"

"Captain Abigail Rhodes is in her Ready Room," the computer flatly replied.

"Then take me there," Atven confirmed, with a subtle nod to himself. "Deck One."

It was a strange transition for Abby.  The ferry flight to DS13 was three months of virtual silence.  Just a skeleton crew to ensure the ship didn't tear itself apart on it's first warp jump after refit.  It seemed that the moment they hit dock, the ship became a hive of activity.  The skeleton crew departed, and dozens of Mark Miller assignees came aboard.

She relished it.  The ferry flight afforded her an opportunity to catch up on some light reading.  Between the various reports on the sector, to a few novels that had been on her to-read list for the better part of a decade.  Now, though, excitement was high, and the anticipation for their upcoming mission was palpable.  She felt the same.

Abby sat in her Ready Room, going over a tactical report, a cup of coffee largely ignored on her desk.  She had met so many officers lately that she seemed to live in the office space.  It was fine, she'd find time to wander around later... right?  On a whim, she checked her calendar.  No appointments left?  Well, maybe she could sneak out...

Then the door chimed.  Abby was standing when she uttered "Enter," shaking her head in amusement at the ancient Murphy and his law.

Atven winced in immediate apology as the doors slid open, and an involuntary wave of emotion bled out into the corridor, like the equilization of pressure when a shuttle hatch first cracked open in a new environment. Like most partial Betazoids, his telepathic insights were linked to emotions only, and they were a strange mix of voluntary and involuntary: some things you couldn't help but feel, while others required a concerted effort. After years of practice, Atven had learned to ignore and filter out much of that emotional information, the same way the brain learned to ignore the constant pounding of it's own heartbeat, of the various background hums and rumbles that accompanied every aspect of life aboard a starship. Sometimes though, you perceived things that you didn't intend to. It wasn't deliberate, but it was his fault: there were times when Dantarno became so wrapped up in himself, so focused on perceiving the world around him, that he forgot to dial things back enough to respect the privacy of those he encountered.

With practised ease, Atven strugged off his thoughts, and adjusted his expression into a subtle but easy smile. "Commander Atven Dantarno, here to report in." He let his expression take on a note of the apologetic, making a slight gesture towards Rhodes' mid-way standing posture. "Did I catch you at a bad moment, sir?"

Abby stood straighter and waved her hands dismissively.  "No, Commander."  Her expression was amiable, with no hint of any of the expected embarrassment.  Her emotions stabilized to more amusement than anything. "If it was I wouldn't have bid you enter."  "While I'm up, would you care for a beverage?"

"Nothing for me, thanks." Carefully, Atven slid the duffel off his shoulder, letting it settle neatly against the deck before stepping far enough into the office space that the doors could close behind him. "My taste buds and my adenosine receptors say yes, but my affinity for insomnia says dear gods please no."

He shifted a little, letting his oculars drink in the details of the space. He had no real insight on the kind of aesthetics the Captain might be striving towards: it was nostalgia more than anything else that guided his eyes, comparing the space to the one he remembered from years before. His vision settled on the metallic shapes of starships displayed in a cabinet on one of the walls. His head gestured over in that direction. "Former postings of yours? I can't imagine there are quite that many previous starships carrying this particular name."

Abby's eyes turned to where he was looking and she shook her head, "No, I've served on a Sovereign, but not the others.  These are the memebrs of our Task Force."  She stepped over to the display and pointed out each.  "Sovereign-class Discovery-C, Intrepid-class Francis Drake, Saber-class Zheng He, and of course, the M&M."

Atven quirked an eyebrow. "M&M?" he echoed, delving into the depths of his memory for context. "I feel like that's a 21st Century composer we studied in Earth History back at the Academy."

He pushed the half-remembered notion aside. "I've only served on a Sovereign out of these myself. Was a bit of a shock to the system, coming off the back of a Nova billet immediately before." His hands flexed idly by his side, a subconscious desire to reach out and study the model starships more closely, curious at how the material might feel. He fought the urge, turning his attention back to his new Captain. "I guess that makes us the small and plucky member of the Task Force, then. Are we going to be operating as part of the larger formation, or will Command have us operating individually? There's all kinds of trouble we could potentially stumble into this close to the frontier."

Abby smiled, "Small and plucky, yes I suppose we are."  She shifted back to her desk and sat, extending a hand in invitation for him to do the same.  "M&M is my nickname for the Mark Miller.  Like the little candies they had on Earth.  It's little, they're little... it's dumb, but it makes me laugh."  She shrugged and shifted to more pertinent matters.  "We will be on our own for the most part.  The Task Force will have their own missions throughout the sector.  I imagine we will be able to call on them if we need assistance, or vice versa, and the Admiral may have a mission or two that requires more than one."

Atven nodded to himself as he settled into the invited seat, making a mental note to consult with a replicator about the confectionaries that the Captain had described. It was one of many holes in his knowledge of Earth culture, the product of an isolated upbringing on a remote colony and a slap-dash approach to learning about the human aspects of his heritage in the years since their reunion with the Federation. History and popular culture had been his personal obsessions, which had apparently left voids elsewhere in his knowledge.

"Admiral Petrovich, right?" The question kept Atven's overt focus aimed towards the conversation at hand. "A few mission reports of hers passed across my desk back while I was at Starfleet Tactical. Do you think her being out here is routine career progression, or should I be concerned that Starfleet has a commander of her calibre out here in this particular patch of space?"

Abby nodded.  Why wasn't she surprised Dantarno was already familiar with the Admiral?  "From my conversation with her, she sees Task Force Commander as her next career step.  This sector likely holds enough interest in Starfleet to warrant a two-pipper."  She shrugged noncommittally, "I wouldn't worry, from the reports I read, this sector is no more... interesting... than the Bajor sector."

Atven let out a chuckle at that. "Back in my day, the Bajor sector was pretty damn interesting," he countered. A younger Dantarno might have faltered as his mind turned towards that particular era of his history, but two decades on and the memories left him mostly numb. Time healing all wounds, he supposed. "But that's good to hear. I've had a little too much interesting in my career over the years. A nice quiet assignment pointing a starship in the right direction is exactly what I need right about now."

"Well, hopfully not too quiet," she said in turn with a grin.  "Would be a pretty boring cruise otherwise."  There was a point in her career when she also needed a quiet assignment; though it was for completely different reasons.  Now that was in her rearview (for the most part) and she wanted an adventure.  "Other than the occasional nostalgic Romulan or individual planet, the Klingons seem to be about the only threat out here.  Otherwise I'm sure the Task Force would be equipped with a bit more firepower."

"Klingons, huh?" Atven let out a small chuckle. "Your Federation just can't seem to catch a break with those guys, can they?"

He winced a little as the pronoun tumbled out. Your, not our. A subconscious slip, a subtle reminder from the dregs of his mind that he wasn't quite part of the Federation, not in the way everyone else was. The Federation was something he had needed to learn, needed to adopt, needed to practise being and invest time in knowing about. The Federation's history was someone else's history, aligned with his only in certain parts, in certain centuries. The wars of the 23rd Century were ancient history to Dantarno's people, barely remembered fairytales from the first survivors on Tau Cygna V past down from generation to generation with increasingly less realism, and while he had lived through the 24th Century encore to that conflict, it was hard to disintangle those events from the Dominion War that followed them. The history was meant to be his, but just like the world around him, muted through synthetic senses, Atven found himself feeling slightly removed.

Abby smirked, "Yeah, even when we were at peace, it was a strained one.  Power vaccuums always get filled, and once the RSE collapsed, Klingons saw an opportunity."  Abby was a teenager during the Dominion War, safely ensconsed on Earth.  The conflict was so far away that while she did learn of it, it was in a detached way.  Her brothers both served in Starfleet at the time, but away from the front lines.  Her priorities at the time were more related to school and boys.   By the time she entered the Academy after the war, the tentative peace with the Klingons was just a memory. 

"Honestly, I hope we don't have too many run-ins with them.  This ship isn't a warship, so our default stance will probably be 'run and hide'."  Her smirk turned into a wider grin, betraying the overly simplistic summary of that particular tactic.  Thank goodness we have a diplomat, she mused to herself.

It was a fair assessment, but old habits died hard among Starfleet officers, and a kneejerk flash of protectiveness sparked from the corner of Atven's mind that still remembered being a Tactical NCO aboard a Nova-class ship, years ago. He smoothed it over in his thoughts, like the bristled fur on the raised hackles of a cat. "You'd be surprised what you can get away with on a ship like this, if you've got the right kind of crew aboard. The Nova and the Defiant have a common ancestor, and the Defiant didn't exclusively get all of the good genes."

His brow furrowed slightly. "Do we have an ETA on when we'll be underway, Captain? I heard that the goldshirts back at Utopia Planetia have been tinkering, and I'd prefer to stumble across all the surprises they have in store in advance, if there's time."

She nodded, "Yeah, our first mission will be largely a milk run so we can work out what gremlins might remain," she agreed.  "I have to confer with Admiral Petrovich, but I imagine that given how rapidly we are getting ready it will be a matter of days."

"Then I've got some work to do," Atven replied, half way through the requisite motor functions of standing up from his seat, before proper decorum caught up with him and aborted the attempt, merely shifting his posture to a more opportune position closer to the edge of his seat. "If you'll excuse me of course, Captain."

"Of course, Commander.  Dismissed."  She wsn't one of those captains who immediately turned their attention away, rather she nodded to him and folded her hands upon the desk while he stood to leave.


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

Captain Abigail Rhodes
Commanding Officer
USS Mark Miller


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