Missions - Twist in the Tale

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Back To Gold

Location: Main Engineering
On: Day 7 at 2000

Elias stepped into Main Engineering with a smile on his face. Officially his being placed back to Chief Engineer was seen as a demotion, however, he couldn’t wait to get back to keeping the Ulysses fully functional. It oddly felt good to be back wearing the Gold uniform.

“Petty Officer 1st Class Chan, status report please.” He said as he strode through the engine room.

Alex looked up, and his eyes went wide as he took in the uniform behind the voice he'd just heard. He recovered quickly however and began to give the man the report he'd requested. "All systems operating within acceptable limits, still trying to track down a problem with the starboard power relays, but it's nothing to worry about. Just a pet peeve, really. I want them to be perfect, and well, they aren't..." he said.

Elias put his hands on his hips, “I see, you sort everything before a new CEO arrives but when I’m put back down here you let a pet peeve loose. There’s a word for that, Mr Chan, sabotage!” He said with a smirk. “Peeve‘s we can work with though.”

"Good to hear sir, and good to have you back..." Alex replied, still quite confused by the turn of events. He hadn't heard that Elias was returning to engineering, and was completely, and totally floundering.

“It’s good to be back, if I’m honest, Alex. I enjoyed my stint as First Officer but Starfleet want me working of the M.A.R.S system so it makes sense that I step aside. Hopefully, it’ll be temporary but if not then I’m happy all the same.”

Alex was completely blindsided. He'd been so busy today he hadn't even really paid any attention to any of the gossip going on, so he had no clue a change had been made, or if it had even been discussed. He quickly recovered his equilibrium, and nodded, "I think it will be temporary, sir. You may not have done the job for long, but if I know you it was still an impressive job you did. They won't be able to ignore that."

“I appreciate that, Alex, I really do. I also appreciate you stepping up as you did when I was transferred. The Engineering staff needed a leader and you stepped up. Something I told the Captain on more than one occasion.” Walker said as he patted his friend on the back. “Now, let’s get to work.” He added with a smile.

Hit The Gym

On: Day 6 at 2200

Morgan was still settling in aboard the Ulysses, but at this point in his career one ship wasn't that different from the last, not to mention his last had also been a luna-class making the similarities even more apparent. He had finished his paperwork and had a bite to eat with a few of the other senior MaAs as they discuessed the training drills for the next few weeks. More and more he was starting to think about what he wanted to do with his career, the suggestion from his last CO to take the COB training seemed to be in his thoughts more and more.

Now he was in the gym getting a workout in before calling it a night. The gyms on the Ulysses always seemed to be empty, half the time he felt like he was on the only one on the ship who apparently worked out. He threw his earbuds in and threw on some music as he hopped on a spin bike and quickly put the resistance to near max.

Doctor Hill entered the gym and headed straight for the punching bag. Elleese had suggested meditation to help him sleep better but while Hill had the necessary training in Vulcan meditation techniques, he found them incredibly boring. Thus, he decided to hit the gym in another effort to tire himself out. He noticed the other gym user but paid him little attention, focusing on starting his workout.

Morgan watched the CMO enter, admiring the way the tight t-shirt clung to his body, with new ships came the very quick assessment of new crewmates. The Doctor had topped several peoples list of the better eye candy on board. Morgan also caught Ensign Cantarella a security officer who had made several passes at Morgan already practically drooling from the weight bench. The Chief was certainly no counsellor but working security for as long as he had he'd gotten pretty good at reading people, the Doctor looked both like he had something very heavy on his mind, and that he didn't particularly want to be talked to. Which was a shame in the Chief's opinion although his mind was definitely thinking of more that just talking.

Jonathan could feel a pair of eyes burrowing into the back of his head as he worked out. He was being watched. No, it was more than that. He hadn't felt this way since the War; he was being hunted. Except the hunter in this case wasn't an enemy trying to kill him, they wanted something entirely different. He considered moving around the punching bag to get a better look at the person watching him but the lack of sleep had made him more irritable than usual.

"Something I can help you with?" He asked, turning around the face the man on spin bike. The man in question was unfamiliar to him. Removing the gloves, he tossed them on the ground beside the punching bag.

Morgan smirked, "Possibly, but probably not" Pulling his earbuds out, "Morgan McKinley." He replied.

"Jonathan Hill." Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Ensign Cantarella watching them but he ignored the Ensign for now. "So, what was so interesting about me beating the shit out of the bag that you felt compelled to watch me?"

"Just enjoying the scenery." The Chief replied with a grin, "Most of the doctors I've meet wouldn't fo for a heavy bag, too hard on the hands, and even that is too violent for some of them, but I'm willing to wager you're not like most doctors, I would say either marines or police?"

It was a well known fact that the Chief Medical Officer had once been a Marine NCO so he wasn't impressed by the man's 'deduction'. "Third Force Reconnaissance Company." Jon confirmed. "But let's not pretend you worked that out by watching me work out. Everyone knows that I was a Marine once upon a time. I like that you're trying to impress me with your Sherlock Holmes routine though."

"I actually didn't, and I don't always believe everything I hear on ships when it's just rumour." Morgan said, the man certainly seemed wound tight. "And for the record if I was trying to impress you it wouldn't be by asking you a question about your background."

Jon didn't believe that McKinley had no previous knowledge of his Marine career and he let that be known. "Uh huh." Was how he chose to verbalise his doubt. "Just out of curiosity, if your Holmes impression isn't how impress people, just what is it you do to impress?"

Morgan got off the bike and closed most of the distance between the two, "There are several ways, but most of them would likely get us written up if I showed here. Why don't we go to your quarters?" He said with a wink.

Hill couldn't suppress his surprise at what McKinley was suggesting. His eyes went wide an his eyebrows shot up into his forehead. Was he serious or was he just screwing around? Jonathan couldn't tell. "You don't waste any time, do you?"

The Chief shrugged, "Not usually, offers there, feel free to take me up on it sometime." He said hand on the doctors shoulders for a moment, he gave it a tiny squeeze before turning and heading to weights."

Jonathan was left standing in the middle of the gym in shock, not quite believing that that had just happened. Shaking his head, he returned to his workout. His focus, however, was no longer on the punching bag but on the man who had propositioned him within thirty seconds of meeting him. McKinley was older by a few years, handsome and obviously liked to keep himself in good shape. 'Maybe you should take him up on his offer.' Some part of him counselled. 'It would be a more fun way of burning off this energy and might help you get a good nights sleep.'

Morgan for the most part had put the Doctor out of his head, he had caught the man off guard and had elicited a rather cute dumbfounded look from him. He put back the weight he had and went up a few pounds heavier as he moved into a chest fly.

His better angels finally losing the war with his demons, Jonathan removed the gloves once more and threw them on the floor. Not quite believing what he was about to do, Jonathan approached McKinley where he was now working out.

"Something I can do for you Sir?" Morgan asked his eyes meeting Jonathan's in the mirror across from the bench.

Jonathan held McKinley's gaze in the mirror silently for a few seconds. Finally, in a firm tone, he said, "My quarters, now."

Morgan rose a moment later, put his weights back and wiped down the bench he was using before following Jonathan out of the gym a few paces behind him. Cantarella's jaw practically on the floor as the passed.

Look Before You Walk

Location: Sickbay
On: Day 6 at 1930

Peter was walking down the corridor with a small cloth wrapped in some ice pressed against his face. It was cold but it felt good against the slowly swelling lump of his nose. He squinted to make sure he was going into the right room. At least he was pretty sure this was medical. He could be on the wrong deck. It was either Sickbay or the lounge. If the latter, he was getting a drink. It had been a long day he thought as he walked in.

Doctor Hill noticed movement out of the corner of his eye, someone had entered the small waiting room. He glanced out to find Ensign Wilson standing there, his head tilted back and holding something against his nose. Jon pushed himself out of his seat and walked out to greet the younger man. "You look like you've been in the wars, Ensign."

"In a manner of speaking sir, I was. I was running a holodeck simulation of one of the Dominion ground battles. I wanted to get some more sim time without bothering security." Peter said looking out of a eye that was attempting to swell shut.

Hill placed a hand around the Ensign's wrist, the one holding the ice against his face, and slowly pulled it away so he could get a better look at the damage. There was a wealth of blood. "How the hell did you manage this?"

"Well, there was a lot of yelling during the sim and I heard someone call for help behind me. I turned to run and, well, ran face first into a tree." Peter said sheepishly.

The Marine turned Doctor choked back a laugh. He'd seen his fair share of accidents during his Marine training but never had he seen someone run into a tree. Placing the makeshift ice pack against the Ensign's face again, he took Wilson by the elbow and led him to the nearest biobed. "Dare I ask why you thought it was a good idea to turn the holodeck safeties off when running a simulation like that?"

"Well, I put them to minimums and figured if I've got some skin in the game the lessons would sink in faster. I think this one was something about paying attention to your surroundings." Peter answered as he let himself be led and then sat onto the biobed.

Hill reached for a medical tricorder, activated it and pointed it at the Wilson's face. "I think this lesson was not to disengage the holodeck safeties when running a battle simulation from the Dominion War, not matter what setting you're using."

"Yeah, I'm pretty confident your right there Doc. Amazing how a little personal injury can help you learn a lesson so fast like that." Peter said and chuckled a little. "Long term lesson in 3 seconds or less."

Doctor Hill deactivated the tricorder and set it to one side. "There are less painful ways of learning lessons." The CMO pointed out. "You've managed to break your nose learning this particular one."

Jon turned to a Corpsman working nearby. "Corpsman, grab me an osteo-regenerator."

"So what the hell possessed you to run a Dominion War ground battle sim?" Hill asked.

"Well, I was handing out the new uniforms and the new phase pistols and thought 'If I was asked to personally hand them out, we must be going somewhere hot.' So I figured since we still had a little time before we reach our destination I would try to get some training." He paused a moment. "Apparently I'm a bigger liability than I thought I would be."

Jonathan accepted the osteoporosis-regenerator from the returning Corpsman. "You were handing out new phasers and I didn't get one? I'm hurt." He gently took the makeshift icepack from the Ensign and set it aside. With the blood and the black eye, it looked worse than it really was.

"If you wanted to get in some target practice with the new weapon, why not hit the phaser range. I'm not sure running a holodeck simulation with the safeties off was the right course of action." Pointing the small device at Wilson's nose, he activated it and began slowly repairing the bones.

"You're right there doctor. I was trying to get as much experience in as quickly as possible. Kind of a crash course if you will, I just got the crash part down." Peter joked.

Jon chuckled. "You certainly do." A small display on the device showed that the bone was almost healed. Just a few more seconds would do it. "Maybe next time if you want a crash course in ground combat, you'll call someone who actually knows what they're doing to teach you." He suggested as the device began to beep.

"Yes sir. You won't have to worry about that. Next time I'll make sure I find someone to help me and leave the safeties on for a while." Peter responded, feeling the cartilage in his nose heal. It felt weird, but good at the same time.

Doctor Hill set the osteo-regenerator on a nearby equipment tray and picked up a dermal regenerator to take care of the Ensign's black eye. "Probably for the best. Not everyone is cut out for ground combat but that doesn't mean you can't improve your skills with the phaser. It's just about identifying the skills that you can improve and knowing when you're out of your depth."

Peter sighed. "And I'm pretty sure I'm out of depth. I think I'll just focus on trying not to be a liability if I go out on an away mission and stick with operations and logistics."

"That's not what I'm saying, Peter." The black eye took only a few seconds to heal. "You're thinking too big. The chances of us encountering a combat mission on that scale, even on this mission, is slim to none. Think smaller. Focus on improving your phaser skills for now. After that I can come up with a few simulations of the kind of ground combat scenarios that you'd be likely to encounter."

Jonathan patted the younger man on the shoulder. "I'm not trying to put you off. Just trying to give you a little guidance."

"Thanks Doc, I appreciate it and will take you up on those simulations, after I spend a few sessions in the phaser range. I'll try to not bite off more than I can chew going forward." Peter replied as he could feel the swelling going down.

Returning the dermal regenerator to the equipment tray, he picked up the tricorder once more. A quick scan told him that the repairs to Wilson's nose had been successful. "Well, you're all set."

"Thanks Doc, hopefully you have to see me for this again. Peter said as he got off the biobed and made his way for the doors.

"Oh, Peter. Could you do me a favour? Requisition me one of those new phasers. I'd like to get to grips with it on the range before we beam down to the planet."

"You bet Doctor, I'll have it ready for you with the quartermaster at your convenience. If you need a range companion I'd be glad to learn." He offered and made a mental note to call the quartermaster on his way out.

Doctor Hill smiled as he returned to his office. "Appreciate it." He called after the Ensign as the young man left Sickbay.

Final delivery

Location: Ready Room
On: Day 6 at 1650

Peter made his way across the bridge to the Commanders ready room. He was holding his crate that everyone on the bridge was already familiar with. He came up and pressed the door chime.

Commander sh'Elas was getting ready to call it quits for the evening after a few long days. Tomorrow, they would arrive at their destination and she wanted to be as fresh as she possibly could be in order to deal with the situation they were going to face, including dealing with the Commander of the Rhode Island who was going to be an interesting character to interact with by all accounts.

She was just in the process of gathering a few data PADDs together when the door chime rang. She looked at the door as she worked and called out for the visitor to enter.

Peter walked in with his crate far enough for the doors to close. "Evening ma'am. Sorry to bother you just as your ready to take off. Do you have a quick minute for your delivery and verbal report?"

"Delivery?" the Commander questioned as she stopped and gave the young man her full attention. With a smile, she lightened the mood. "It's not my birthday, Ensign. What delivery could you possibly have for me?" she chuckled, gesturing for him to take a seat on the nearby sofa. "Drink?" she asked him, opting to take a more positive approach to this meeting considering the mood she had been in when they last had a meeting like this.

"Yes ma'am that would be great." Peter said and sat down on the sofa. "The delivery is from Starfleet actually," He said and placed his hand on the crate which unlocked a moment later.

Tharia returned to the sofa area with a tray of tea and the usual accompaniments, placing it on the table before them, pouring away without a care in the world as she looked at the crate with great curiosity. "Come on then, man! Don't keep your Commander in suspense... it's not good for your career prospects," she smiled as she poured a little milk into each of their cups.

Peter smiled. "Yes ma'am, it wouldn't be good at all." He said and reached in and pulled out one of the new red uniforms. "Your new uniform ma'am, they are actually kinda comfortable for once." Peter offered smiling.

"I've been waiting for this," she smiled as she took possession of the uniform jacket and rose to her feet, holding it in front of her torso. She held out one of the arms at length and peered down at it. "Comfortable you say?"

"I thought so at least. Of course, I only had it on for about an hour to check sizing. Tomorrow will be the full test but it was nice while I had it on." He replied.

"Okay then," the Commander nodded in satisfaction as she draped her new uniform over the back of her chair. "Distribute one fresh uniform to everyone on alpha shift tomorrow. We'll begin wearing them then. Everyone else should get access to the replicator pattern and can get their own uniforms in time for their next shift," she nodded as she returned to her seat and took a sip of her earth beverage.

"Yes ma'am. I have already distributed initial ones to the senior staff. I'll make sure Engineering gets the pattern uploaded ASAP. This was the final item in the crate for you ma'am. It appears Starfleet believes were going into a very hot zone." Peter said and pulled out the final item. Checking it's settings, he handed it to her.

Tharia let out a whistle of appreciation as she took ownership of the new phase pistol in its grey and black colour. It was bulkier, it was smarter and it harked back to a time that she could remember. Her father had owned several phasers that all looked similar in lineage to this one. It was clear, first with the uniforms and now with the weapons, that Starfleet was going back to days of old, but meant business at the same time. The weapon had a distinctly militaristic feel to it; if it was half as powerful as it looked, they'd be in safe hands.

"Tell me about it," she looked at the Ops Officer briefly before holding it out in front of her at arms length, first one handed and then clasping it with both as she aimed.

"It's a new take on some old tech. A modified phase pistol. It's bigger and bulkier than the originals or a type 2, but from what I can gather at the range, it is putting out over 10 mega-joules more per shot. Why the bigger size? For increased power cell size. Auto-modulating frequency, full range of settings and modifiable for attachments." Peter said as he rattled off more specs. "Of course, this is just my observation. No details were given with any of this, so I assume I'm not high enough to get the good info. At least not without bending more rules." He smiled.

"We need to schedule the senior staff in for a weapons training certification then," she smiled as she gently placed the new phase pistol in the crate, careful not to set off the new weapon by mistake. "In the meantime, see to it that the armoury and the weapons lockers across the ship are well stocked."

"Can do ma'am. I'll make sure they get distributed and start scheduling certification training with Security. They also stocked us up some new compression rifles as well. Based on the unit count I got from my inventory, there are enough compression rifles and pistols to arm a Garrison." Peter said as he closed the case and recalibrate the hand scanner for the Commanders.

Once the Commander had tested her hand imprint on the scanning device, she took ownership of the box and placed it behind her desk. "Is there anything else you need from me, Ensign?" she queried, standing behind her desk with her hands on her hips.

"No ma'am. I think that was everything I needed. I'll make sure everyone gets some practice in with security." Peter said standing up.

"Excellent work Ensign," the Commander nodded, "thank you for assisting Ensign Udal with this, in the absence of a Chief Tactical Operations Officer. Your good work has not gone unnoticed," she assured him with a friendly smile. Ever since that first meeting in her ready room, where she had been a bit brash, she had felt more of a duty to guide and protect the younger officer - and that started with praising him and building him up.

"Thank you ma'am. I appreciate it. Have a good rest of your evening." He said with a smile as he straightened up to an attention salute and left her ready room. He had some planning to do before he went off shift.

Something new.

Location: CSO office
On: Day 6 at 1535

Peter walked around the science labs. He had not been in the labs yet even though he enjoyed the sciences. This was his first trip in and he was looking at everything he could. He reminded himself not to touch anything, but the crate he was carrying made that an easy thing to do.

He reached the Chief Science Officer's office and pressed the door chime.

Standing beside his chair, and taking a sip of the amaretto coffee he'd just retrieved from the replicator Javorian glanced up over the top of the PADD he was holding at the door to his office. He hadn't been expecting anyone, and so was confused as to who it could be. Setting the coffee mug down he placed a hand on the back of his chair and spoke, "Enter."

The door opened and Peter walked in with the box. "Good afternoon Lieutenant, I hope I'm not interrupting anything important." He said moving aside so the door could close.

Javorian's eyebrows rose as he saw who was entering his office, and the crate he was carrying. He hadn't expected a visit from the chief of ops at all. The two departments rarely needed to interact, other than the one small problem that required his own visit to the COO's office. "Not at all, Ensign. If I had been busy I wouldn't have answered the chime," He said with a slight smile. "Set that down and have a seat Can I get you anything to drink?" he added, waving towards his own coffee.

"Yes please if you don't mind. I've been running around all morning delivering these little crates. Been light on coffee intake today." Peter said sitting the small crate down.

Javorian nodded and then walked back towards the replicator. "Computer, access Ensign Peter Wilson's replicator orders for coffee and produce his most common choice," he said, and then waited for the replicator to complete its cycle. Reaching out he grasped the drink and returned to the desk, handing the other man his drink, and then settling back on the side of his desk. "What can I do for you?" he then asked.

Peter took a long drink and set the cup down. "Well, if you'd be so kind as to sign this for me," Peter said handing over a PADD that had an equipment requisition acceptance file up with the signature file loaded. "It's accepting the package." He took another drink.

Reaching out Javorian took the PADD from the other man and did as he was asked. "That was simple enough," he said, handing it back with a smile. "But you didn't have to bring that down here, I could have come to get it."

"And for most of this crate, I would have let you except for one item that requires a signature and the Commander asked me to personally hand them out," Peter said putting his palm on the plate for it to scan his hand. "For example, these slick new uniforms would be easy enough to pick up but since I have to make the rounds with the rest, I figured I would just add this with it and save you a trip," Peter said laying a uniform out.

"Well, I guess I can't complain then," Javorian replied, picking up the uniform the other man had indicated. He'd heard they'd be receiving new ones, but he hadn't known when. Picking up the jacket he held it open and noted that it had a much more modern, and clean appearance to it. "Thanks for bringing them down," he added.

"You bet. Now here is what you signed for." Peter said pulling out a type 2 phaser. "Starfleet beamed them aboard just before we launched. Came from on high and enough for all hands. Commander wanted me to issue them. Starting with Senior officers." Peter handed the phaser over after double-checking it.

While the younger man was excited about this revelation Javorian had to struggle to keep his distaste from being too evident. While it was true that he was required to be proficient with the use of weapons as a Starfleet officer, it was also true that he was highly averse to the idea of using violence, except in extreme circumstances. He looked the small device over, checking to ensure it was in proper working order, and then nodded, "Thank you, Ensign. I will keep it in good working order, though I do hope I never have to use it."

"That makes two of us Sir. I'd rather not, but if we're going in somewhere hot, I'm glad they gave us enough." Peter said as he laid the last uniform out and closed his box. "Hopefully we are just cleaning up and whatever it is that is so hush-hush is long gone."

"I share that same hope, Ensign. But it's not likely to be any easier, even if they are. So these might come in handy regardless of how either us of feel..." Jovani replied, looking down at the device in his hands again. "But," he added, looking back up, "no matter what, it will work out the way it's supposed to work out, I'm sure. Was there anything else I could do for you?"

Peter drained the last of his coffee. "No sir, the coffee was great. Gives me a little pick me up for the rest of my rounds. If it helps sir, a good portion of the staff said the same feeling. Would rather not have to use these but recognize what we might be getting into."

"I think you'll find that is a fairly common opinion, Ensign," Javorian replied, and then, taking the coffee cup up from where the other man had placed it, he returned it to the replicator and activated the recycle function. "Thank you again, for bringing me these," he added.

"You're welcome, Lieutenant. Sorry I couldn't bring something a little more positive. Anything I can do for you while I'm here, sir?" Peter asked as he closed the crate.

Javorian picked his own mug up and took a sip of the strong, dark, slightly fruity coffee, "No apology is needed, Ensign. You have a job to do, and so far as I have seen you do a very good job of it. As for anything else you can do, I honestly can't think of anything," he said with an apologetic half-smile.

"Thank you, sir. Always nice to here. Well, I've got a few more rounds to make before we come out of warp. Have a good rest of your day Lieutenant." Peter said and straightened up before he headed out.

Javorian watched the young man leave his office and then turned to go back to his reports, taking another sip of his coffee while he got his attention back on track.

Physician Heal Thyself

Location: Counselor's Office | Deck 06
On: Day 6 at 1030

Jonathan needed to talk to someone. One of the first things he'd done after arriving onboard the Ulysses was to seek out Counselor Elloyia. Many of his colleagues feared the Counselor but as a man who'd hit rock bottom, Doctor Hill was only too aware of the benefit of having a mental health professional to talk to. He'd talk about his war experiences, or what he was allowed to, his battles with alcoholism and his recurring nightmares.

The night before the Ulysses had left Deep Space Five, Jonathan had suffered a nightmare. The following day he'd been part of the Admiral's briefing on the holodeck; she'd shown them sights that took him back to his experiences during the Dominion War. And then he'd learned about their guest. In the days since, he'd only had one good nights sleep and that was last night. Reaching out, he pressed the chime and waited.

Sensing the troubled presence on the other side of the door, Elleese knew that the good doctor had arrived. This appointment was one she had a...shadow of concern about, since she had the impression--though it was only an educated guess--that his troubles may echo similarly to her own.

Of course, that would never stop her from helping someone. "Enter," she called.

When the door parted in front of him, Doctor Hill stepped into the now familiar office of the ships Chief Counselor. "How you doin' Doc?" He asked as he stood by the door, waiting.

"Please come in," she said, waving for him to follow her into the office. "Make yourself comfortable wherever you like." She took a seat in her usual arm chair. "I am doing reasonably well," she said. "Although am...naturally concerned about this mission. How are you?"

He gave the Counselor a wan smile as he sat down opposite. "I've been better, Doc." Rubbing his eyes, he let out a sigh. "I haven't been sleeping well."

She smiled kindly as she nodded. "I can see that," she said gently, gesturing to her own eyes to explain how. "Do you know what has been disturbing your sleep?"

"Nightmares." Jon replied matter of factly. "Usually the same one. Never for this many consecutive nights." He sat back in the chair and sighed. "I think everything that's going on at the minute is keeping those memories as the forefront of my mind."

"Yes," she said, nodding solemnly. "We have seen and learned of some very disturbing things." She paused. "Can you tell me about your nightmares?"

Jonathan smiled grimly. "I can tell you about them in broad strokes." He told her. "The dream is usually the same one over and over. I relive the events of one particular mission." Falling silent for a few minutes, Elleese said quietly and waited for him to continue. "I mean the nightmare looks a lot like what we saw on the holodeck yesterday. Villages destroyed. Bodies strewn all over. Though the Jem'Hadar didn't chop up the dead and burn them on pyres, they just left the dead where they fell," he paused before adding bitterly, "Unless they were able to use them as bait."

The Jem'hadar, Ell thought with an internal sigh. Outwardly, nothing changed. Her expression was still calm and soothing, open and actively listening. "Many people have nightmares from the war," she commented gently.

"I know." Jonathan nodded, leaning forward with his elbows on his legs. "I'm not unique. A lot of people saw things during that war that will stay with them." He sighed and rubbed his eyes in frustration. "I slept last night but only 'cause it was medically induced." He let out a hollow chuckle. "Like I said, I guess those memories are just at the forefront of my mind with everything going on right now."

"That is understandable," she said kindly. "Before these past few days, how long has it been since you had had one of these nightmares?"

Hill thought about that question for a moment. "About a month? Month and a half?" He wasn't certain. "They pop up every few months, last a night or two and are gone."

"I suppose what we witnessed by way of introduction to our mission was pronounced enough to bring them back," she said with sincere sympathy. "How are you managing throughout the day? Any issues with memories or flashbacks while you are awake?"

Jonathan shook his head. His days were busy enough that he rarely had time to dwell. "No. I'm usually too busy to think about the past. On the rare occasion that I do, the focus is on the good memories."

"That is fortunate, then," she said, leaning back slightly in her seat to better observe the good doctor. "Have the dreams ever been this persistent? I imagine perhaps right after the events that inspired them?"

Doctor Hill nodded. "They came most nights in the years after the war ended. That's where my drinking started. I'd have a drink before bed, telling myself that it helped calm me and would keep the nightmares at bay." He began speaking quicker, "One drink led to two, two became three, three became..," he trailed off and when he spoke again, his pace had returned to normal, "well, I'm sure you can guess how that story ends." A grim smile crossed his lips.

"The only other time the nightmares have been this persistent was about five years ago." Hill was reluctant to bring this up but he did himself no favours by hiding anything from the Counselor. Besides, she had access to his medical records and would know all this anyway. "An old buddy of mine died. Took his own life."

Jon took a deep breath and let it out audibly through his mouth while the Counselor sat patiently, waiting for him to continue. "The nightmares returned with a vengeance. And the only way that I could see to get through the night without having to endure them was to drink. So I did. On duty, off duty...I drank. Could have ruined my medical career before it had a chance to really begin. Luckily the Nobel's CMO was sympathetic and recommended a six month 'Leave of Absence' but what was, in fact, rehab on Vulcan. I've been dry ever since."

It was rare that anything surprised Elleese, and so it was here. She did know what his record was, but she was glad he came to it himself. That was always the best way. "Have you been feeling the urge to drink lately?" she asked, but it was a gentle tone. Not judgmental.

"I feel the urge to drink every damn day." Hill replied with a humourless snort. "But I'm in control of those urges, they don't control me. I refuse to allow myself to relapse again. They should have discharged my ass from the service back in the 2370s or even five years ago. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who cared for me, who loved me, and who protected me. The fact that I've made Chief Medical Officer is nothing short of a miracle and I know that this is as far as my career will take me, but I'm happy with that." He was unaccustomed to doing quite so much talking but it felt good getting all this off his chest.

"It helps to have a strong self-awareness," Ell said. "Just like you keep the desire to drink from controlling you, it is possible to keep the nightmares from doing the same. It does better if you can sleep, of course." As a doctor, she knew he knew that as well as she did. But sometimes care-providers needed to hear it as well as say it. "Aside from the medication, have you been trying anything else to try to sleep better? Meditation, perhaps?"

Jon shook his head. "No. During my rehab on Vulcan, I learned a few meditation techniques but I haven't put them to use for quite some time."

She smiled kindly. "Perhaps you should," she suggested. "After all, Vulcan techniques are fairly well known and effective with practice. You may be able to...quiet your mind enough before going to sleep that the nightmares do not come, or are less pronounced, and allow you to sleep without needing medication."

"You're probably right." Jon sat back in his chair. "I'll give it a go and see how, or if, it works for me."

"Trying our best is as much as can ever be asked of someone," she agreed. Her pale eyes watched him for a moment, taking in as much by her sense of sight as her sense of emotion. "If they seem to work somewhat but not entirely, I also know many useful meditation techniques that may be able to help bolster the effectiveness. But best to start where you already know."

Jonathan nodded in agreement. It was worth giving the meditation techniques a try. "I appreciate your time, Elleese. This has been good."

She smiled warmly. "Of course," she said. "And if you need anything, please do not hesitate to call upon me at any time."

"Thanks." Jonathan stood with a smile. "I'll see you around."

Friendly Advice

Location: Deck 8 | Gym
On: Day 5 at 2035

Lieutenant Hill wasn't happy with his performance. He knew he was better than that. The lack of sleep was no excuse. He'd done better after longer periods of sleeplessness in the past. Jonathan let out a sigh as he exited the Phaser Range and holstered the Type-II Phaser at his left hip.

After returning the Phaser to the Armoury, Jon continued to the gym where he changed into his workout gear and made a beeline for the punching bag. He hoped to tire himself out enough, after an already long day in Sickbay, so that he would get a decent night's sleep, though he doubted it would work the way he wanted.

Javorian walked into the gym, dressed in a pair of high-top sneakers, baggy basketball shorts, and a wife-beater, which hugged his skinny torso. He had a basketball held against his left hip as he walked, and a pair of wireless earbuds in, pumping a selection of music from his private music library. He had originally intended to just come for a run, but at the last second, he'd seen his ball and felt like he may as well bring it along. Sometimes shooting hoops helped him to clear his mind, and with the mission at hand, he felt that was most definitely a necessity.

As he made his way towards the basketball court he caught sight of someone else in the gym. As it was later in beta shift, and a little early for those on gamma, he hadn't expected to see many people here, so he was a bit surprised. Without the uniform, it took him a few moments to place the individual, but he finally realized it was the ship's CMO, Dr. Hill. Raising a hand he waved noncommittally and then continued on his way, not wanting to interrupt the other man's work out.

"Javorian," Hill called out before Travis could get too far. The Chief Science Officer had been onboard for roughly as long as Hill had been and, while not close, they were on a first-name basis. "You got a minute?" Jon removed the gloves and reached for his towel, wiping sweat from his face.

Stopping as he heard his name called out Javorian turned back to look in Hill's direction. "Yes, of course, Jonathan, how can I help you?" he asked. His personality had always been a bit aloof, and stoic, and he often wondered if people thought he was a bit hard to get close to, but he and the doctor had seemed to be growing towards a friendly acquaintance, though he'd been surprised when the man had insisted on his calling him by his first name. Stepping closer, his curiosity piqued, he waited for the man to answer him.

"Y'know, I feel like just getting you to use my first name was a big win for me but I keep telling you, call me Jon." Hill replied lightly. "Only my mother calls me Jonathan and even then only when she's pissed at me." His smile faded and he lowered his tone before speaking again, making sure they couldn't be heard by the other gym users. "I wanted to see how you're handling what we saw yesterday."

Javorian gave the other man a slight smile, "I will do my best, Jon," he replied, and he would, he would make every effort, though he would make no promises at how effective they would be. Unlike nearly every member of his family, Javorian was an incredibly formal person, and he truly struggled to overcome it on a regular basis. Turning his attention to the doctor's question, however, the slight smile faded, to be replaced with a thoughtful frown.

"It was... difficult if that is an adequate word to describe it," he replied. "I have seen scenes of destruction before, there are images from our own past on Earth that probably rival those we saw yesterday, but at least we have some context to put those images into. This, with our incredibly frustrating lack of information, just feels so much more horrific, and wrong. With no data to go on it just seems like completely senseless violence on a massive scale."

Doctor Hill nodded, completely understanding Javorian's frustrations. "The lack of context for what we saw is frustrating but I fear that even when we do understand the context, that it will only make this whole thing even more horrifying."

"Viewing historical images, hell even the simulation yesterday, is one thing. Coming face to face with the reality will be a whole different thing." Hill sighed. "I just wanted to say that if you ever need to talk, I'm here for you. So's the Counselor, the other senior officers, the XO," he trailed off. "The only way any of us come out the other side of this mission with our sanity intact is by talking to one another, leaning on each other."

The CMO continued, "I know you're not an," he paused and searched for the right word, "open guy. I get that. But if things start getting too heavy, you need to talk to someone. Trust me, bottling shit like this up will consume you." Jonathan hadn't intended on that becoming such a lecture nor did he want the younger Lieutenant to feel like the CMO was condescending to him.

Javorian nodded throughout the other man's speech. He was absolutely correct, and Javorian acknowledged that the man's advice was also spot-on in regards to his own proclivity to compartmentalize his life and hold things in. "I appreciate that advice, Jon. It is especially cogent for me, as I'm sure my psychological profile will show."

"I've had a peek at it," Jon told him with a mischievous grin. The grin quickly faded once more as his tone became more sincere. "I just," he paused briefly, "I just wanted you to know that I got your back." That smile returned slightly. "I'm the Chief Medical Officer," he said, "I got everyone's back. My door is always open."

"Thank you, Jon, that means more to me than you might understand," Javorian replied, and held out his hand in a rare gesture of friendship for him.

Jonathan grasped the younger man's hand firmly. When he pulled his hand back, he did so only slightly, leaving it extended and pointing towards the basketball. "Think you could teach this old dog some new tricks?" Jonathan asked, a self-deprecating smile on his lips. He'd played a few pickup games of basketball in his time but the last time had been a number of years ago.

"I'd be willing to try, at least..." Javorian replied with a grin. He hadn't taught someone else how to play basketball since he was a teenager, and wasn't entirely sure how well it would work, but you never knew until you tried something. "Let's get to it," he added and headed off towards the court.

Doctor Hill followed, ready to bring his A-game against Javorian. 'You'll need to, old man.' His mind helpfully told him.

Launching at last

"A dark blanket, contrasting with blacks and yellows, and the occasional white, which is shaped as a circle and sometimes a crescent. There are stars which dot the blanket in an intricate pattern. This is space."

Words of her grandfather, words that had stayed with her for all her life, and would be passed to her children if she would be lucky to have any.

"In the ancient time, men used the magical symbols above the night sky for navigation. These star patterns saved a lot of lives in the old age," he would say as they as she looked up and saw the stars from beneath the ice caps of Andoria. They illuminated the darkness and her fears crumbled to dust beneath her feet as she listened to his words. "Some stars fade and some shine brighter with each passing day. Each of them has its own unique shape, level of brightness and size. Some stars are bigger than others, showing they are the king of the heavens..."

"Sometimes, many stars appear at once above the dark, sombre sky, and they look like flakes of snow flowing out into the galaxy," he would say, always finishing with the same wise words, no matter how often they shared these moments, and she'd never remind him of their earlier conversations because they would always bring him great joy, and there was nothing she loved more than to bring her grandfather such happiness. "As we watch these dust like particles slowly swimming above our head, we begin to raise our hand, yearning to touch them and be swept into the heavens..."

Ready Room, Deck One
Stardate 71010.38, 2294

Tharia's eyes opened suddenly as she dragged herself, metaphorically kicking and screaming back to the late 24th century. Gone was her beloved grandfather's voice and in its place, there was a calming silence as she stared beyond the bulkheads of the Ulysses and out into the ocean of space. Whenever she felt particularly restless, she'd enter an incense-induced state of relaxation and she'd call out to her grandfather, to hear his words and to bring her clarity and focus. It never failed to work.

Turning from the window of her private office, the Commander pulled her uniform jacket from the back of her chair and slipped it over her slender frame, pulling her arms through the sleeves until it comfortably engulfed her. Pulling the zip up to her collar, she let out a sigh as she ran her hands down the front of her jacket, then over each of the red coloured shoulders in turn. When she was content that she looked her best, like a leader of men should, she left the sanctuary of her ready room and entered the command centre of the ship.

"Captain on the bridge." Paxton called from the helm as the CO stepped out. The formality wasn't usually enforced as an every day thing, but shipping out for the first mission after such a large crew change warranted it in the Lieutenants opinion.

Hearing the the call, Peter slipped out of his chair and stood next to his station at attention. The time was drawing close and he was as ready as he could be.

Glancing up from the science console Javorian noted that the captain, was in fact on the bridge, as had been called out. Standing up he assumed an at attention stance and nodded to the Andorian commanding officer as she walked onto the bridge.

A few stations away Udal did the same, a sparkle of excitement in his dark eyes as he considered that they were about to actually leave on a mission.

Tharia nodded in thanks to the new Flight Controller, and then at her scientific friend nearby. "Ensign Wilson," she addressed the Ops Chief at the front of the bridge, "sound departure stations and have all senior staff report to the bridge," the Commander requested as, for the first time in what felt like forever, she took her seat at the heart of the bridge.

"Aye ma'am." Peter replied and a grin slowly crossing his face again. This was it, it was really happening. He tapped a couple quick commands on his console. "Attention all hands, prepare for departure. All decks, report readiness and departure status." There was a soft chime that followed, toning that alerted the ship it was time to depart. A second whistle tone followed. "All senior officers, report to the bridge." He said and closed the comm.

Walker stood from his seated position at the Captains right and placed his arms behind his back. “Ready to get this show on the road, ma’am?” He asked with a proud smile.

"I was ready the minute we arrived here," the Andorian spoke as her antennae dipped atop her head and she looked up at the now standing XO. "Going somewhere?" she smirked.

“I’m ready now we’ve worked out the bugs.” Elias replied with a smile. “Not at all, I’m just ready to assist anyone if they have problems, ma’am.”

Lieutenant Hill emerged from the port turbolift, unsure of what purpose he could possibly serve on the Bridge as the ship departed. He'd rather be down in Sickbay doing actual work but the Captain felt it important that he be there. "Medical's good to go." Jonathan reported when he caught the Captain's eye.

With no specific place for him on the Bridge, Doctor Hill followed the horseshoe rail that held the Tactical/Security console and stood beside the Tactical Operations Officer, making sure to give the officer enough room to work. He had an unobstructed view of the screen and was out of everyone's way.

Peter gave a nod to the doctor as he walked in and then took his chair at his station and started making his final checks on all systems.

Given the proximity of sickbay and the counseling offices, it was not surprising that Elleese entered the bridge not long after the CMO. She wasn't sure what would be needed of her just then, but it was less surprising for the chief counselor to be called to the bridge than the chief of medical. After all, counselors were often advisers as well.

"Captain," she greeted politely before moving to stand unobtrusively to the side--in sight of command but out of the way of everyone at work.

"I thought you might want one last look at the station," the Commander told as she looked at her lead medical professionals. "One we leave this station, its going to be a long time before we visit another one. You're going to be the senior most medical professionals in our task group; no relying on support from Starbases once we arrive at Xendi Sabu, so I hope you're ready," she advised them, knowing almost certainly that they would be more than ready.

“No pressure, Doc.” Elias commented with a chuckle.

Jonathan gave a wry grin. "Nothing like a good pep-talk to put a guy at ease."

Grinning at the Doctor, the Andorian shook her head a little as she tapped her commbadge. "=/\=Bridge to engineering," she spoke, "status report."

"=/\=Engineering here Captain," the voice of Lieutenant Timud declared over teh comm, "all systems available at your request, but we'd appreciate it if the engines were run in slowly. No sudden jumps to maximum warp from impulse... if you get my drift?" and there was an audible smirk on the end of the line which drew a smile from the Commander on the bridge.

"=/\=Understood, Lieutenant. sh'Elas out."

With the report from engineering, the Commander was finally ready to take the ship out and into the unknown for the first time. With the bridge crew at their stations and a few visitors present, she called the ship to order. Pressing the small pad of controls built into the arm of her chair, the Andorian opened a ship wide communique. Mere seconds later, the trademark boatswain's whistle sounded across the ship.

"=/\=All Starfleet personnel, this is the Commander," she began as she rose to her feet and stood at the heart of the bridge. "Today marks a momentous occasion in our short history. In a few short moments, this vessel will depart for its first true mission. What we do from this moment on will have lasting repercussions for the fleet and for the greater United Federation of Planets that we so willingly serve," she paused for a moment as she looked out at the stars via the view screen. "Out there, among the stars of our galaxy, a new threat looms; a threat with the potential to be as dangerous as the Dominion, and as devastating as the Borg. Less than a week ago, this new, nameless foe, made their presence felt on the edge of Federation space," she didn't know if telling her people was the right thing or not at this point, but she didn't feel comfortable keeping the details from them. "We have been tasked, by the Director of Starfleet Tactical himself, with leading an investigation into an attack on Federation soil. It is my intention to follow this investigation wherever it may lead in an effort to find out everything possible about this new threat. Usually, a commanding officer would give a speech about how they need nothing but the best from their crewmates, but it's not me who needs your best; the entire Federation is counting on you to be at your very best in the coming weeks," she looked around her people's faces. "sh'Elas out."

Peter kept his eyes on his controls. Something combining the worst of the Dominion and Borg? Peter thought to himself, "Well, that explains why we were issued enough phasers and compression rifles to arm a small planet." He made a mental note to see security and schedule some range time.

"Ensign Wilson," Tharia called out as she retook her seat, "clear our departure with station operations. Mister Paxton; bring the impulse engines online and prepare to take us out," she requested.

"Clearing for departure, aye ma'am!" He said a little louder then he wanted. He was getting excited and had to take a beat and calm himself. "I mean, Aye ma'am." He said and tapped his console a few times. A light turned green. "DS5 is green for departure." Peter said and fed navigational data to Paxton.

"Aye impulse engines online, departure trajectory plotted." Paxton said as he brought the impulse engines to hot standby and prepared thrusters to take them out. "Ready on your order ma'am."

Tharia savoured the moment for a few seconds. This would likely be the last time the ship would be so deep into Federation space for quite some time. They had a mission to carry out and she would push the crew as fr as she could in order to carry it out. "Take us out," the Andorian eventually commanded, looking ahead at the Flight Operations Officer, and then at the view screen.

"Aye, reverse thrusters at one third." Paxton said as the ship cleared the station, "Coming about bearing 180 mark 45. Heading Captain?" He said, still yet to 'need-to-know' where they would be going.

"Set a course for the Xendi Sabu system," the Commander requested with a stern tone to her voice, "start us off at warp three and gradual cycle to maximum warp," she ordered before looking at the XO. "Number One, monitor the engines from the aft engineering display if you wouldn't mind?"

“Aye, ma’am.” The Commander said before he headed to the rear of the bridge. He activated the engineering console and stood ready to monitor the engines.

"Setting course for the Xendi Sabu system." Paxton said, "Taking us to warp 3." He said a moment later. "Warp 4, warp 5, 6, 7, 8, 8-5, 9, 9-2-5. Max cruise warp 9.5 and holding." He reported as the ship levelled out at its top cruising speed. "ETA to Xendi Sabu is just over forty-nine hours, give or take."

"Sensors online and calibrated. Nothing on long-range sensors. Course is clear." Peter announced.

With the ship now cruising along at high warp, the stars were streaking past the main view screen at incredible speeds. It felt so good to be back among the stars again as the Commander of the ship took a deep, satisfied breath and relaxed back into her command chair, thinking back to her grandfather once again.

"A dark blanket, contrasting with blacks and yellows, and the occasional white, which is shaped as a circle and sometimes a crescent. There are stars which dot the blanket in an intricate pattern. This is space."

Down the Rabbit Hole

Location: USS Ulysses - Stellar Cartography
On: Day 4 at 1025

Javorian left his office, PADD in hand, and a determined look on his face as he moved down the corridor towards stellar cartography. He'd called his team together and requested a meeting, and then he'd spent almost an hour trying to figure out exactly what he was going to tell them to prepare them for what they were going up against. He'd finally decided the truth was the best option. Striding through the doors to the lab he noted that the team was gathered, and waiting. Nodding to Nisha and Robin both he then glanced around at the handful of others he had on hand, and began.

"This morning, at oh-eight-hundred hours I and a select group of other officers were called to the holodeck and given a glimpse into the mission we are undertaking. There are aspects of that I cannot share with you, and I ask only that you trust me in the same fashion you have always trusted me before. Nisha, please pull up the star charts for Xendi Sabu," he said, looking to the Cardassian woman.

"Of course Lieutenant," the Cardassian Ensign nodded as she moved to the side console and tapped away, bringing up a display of the Xendi Sabu system on the edge of Federation space, somewhere near the Ferengi and Cardassian borders. She stepped aside then and looked at her senior officer.

"This is our destination," Javorian said as he approached the display. "As the Captain stated during her address there has been an attack on Federation soil, namely this particular bit of Federation soil. There were, apparently no survivors, and no clear clue as to who the attacking party might have been. Our task is to investigate and come up with some answers."

Turning to face them all again he began assigning tasks. "Nisha, you will be my second in command when it comes to this, so I'm going to need you to take command of a few teams, I'm thinking along the lines of biology and geology, see if you can find anything that could have invited the attack. Think mineral wealth, biological specimens of high value, things of that nature."

The one thing that Cardassians prided themselves on the most was their loyalty to their people and, in this case, Nisha's people were the Federation that had so graciously welcomed her family after the Dominion War. "You've got it," she nodded in acceptance as she looked around at a few of the assembled people and made a note of who it was she would need to work with.

Turning to his Alien A&A officer Javorian spoke again, "Robin, I want you to start analyzing anything and everything you can get your hands on about the attack, cross reference anything you can think of that might correlate with any species known to the Federation. Every species has certain things they leave behind, and if we can track something down maybe we can get some answers faster."

"Yes, sir. I'll get right on it," Robin replied, his deep, heavily accented voice fairly booming in the large room.

Javorian nodded and turned his attention back to the rest of the teams, "The rest of you, I'm going to be giving you some more information as it becomes available, but I want you to align yourself with one of the three of us, and let's get down to business. You are all dismissed, be ready to join any team you are pulled for, and get to work. You two, stick around, let's discuss this a bit more before you get started."

There was a smattering of chatter around the fleeing crewmembers as they left stellar cartography in an effort to get to work, but they all had a great many questions that they hoped to get answers to. As they filtered out of the room, Nisha made her way over to the Chief Science Officer and awaited the start of their discussion.

Once everyone else had left and it was just the three of them Javorian spoke, "Look, this is not going to be an easy assignment. Even if they've done some cleanup by the time we get there it's still going to be horrifying. I want you to understand that right off the bat. Now, this is what I can tell you. Xendi Sabu is gone. There is no sign of any survivors anywhere on the planet. Every settlement was attacked, and all of the citizens were butchered. Starfleet has put the Ulysses in charge of a task force to investigate the attack, and do everything in our power to figure out who it was. That's where we come in.

"When we arrive we will be joined by a task force of other ships, and their crews, but Ulysses is heading that task force, so we take point on this work. I'm going to want to use every tool at our disposal to get this done and get it done fast. The longer it takes, the more chance the people responsible for this are going to get away with it. I'm going to be overseeing the science teams across the task force, and so I'm going to be relying on the two of you to keep things running smoothly here. Do you both think you are up to that?" he asked.

Robin had a bit of a surprised, possibly even scared look on his face, but he stood up a little straighter, and nodded, "Yes, sir. You can count on me, and my team. Do we have any information available that we can start running through the databases?" he asked.

Javorian nodded, "Yes, we do. I'll get it sent over so you and your team can start analyzing. Once we get there I'll want boots on the ground, though. The data we can provide is going to be less useful than the data you can gather in real-time, so be prepared to take a team down and start doing some digging."

"Understood, sir," Robin replied.

Nisha listened to the exchange between the two other occupants of the room, staring blankly at the animated schematic of the planet which currently filled the large, interactive wall. "It reminds me of Cardassia, after the war..." she spoke quietly, almost absent-minded and without any recognition of who she was with.

Javorian felt a sudden pang of remorse for having to drag the woman into this situation. It truly did mirror much of the carnage left behind by the Dominion when they finally left Cardassia, and for that, he truly regretted having to have her as part of this team. The fact that she was one of the best scientists on the ship made it impossible not to, but still, given the circumstances, that felt like a cop-out. Turning his attention to her he nodded, "Yes, it does bear similarities. I am sorry I had to bring you into this, but from what I've come to know about you I doubt you'd have been willing to stand idly by anyway."

"No," Nisha shook her head furiously, "don't be sorry. It's the fact that this reminds me so much of Cardassia that I am one hundred percent behind you, and the Commander."

Robin nodded emphatically, "I agree with her, I'm with you guys one hundred percent as well. Whoever did this has to be found."

"Good to know, from the both of you. I won't keep you any longer, both of you will find the necessary data already uploaded to your private partitions. I'd suggest you give it a read over and then come up with a plan on how best to utilize your teams. If you need anything at all, please don't hesitate to ask," Javorian replied, giving them both a slight smile that did not reach his haunted eyes and then turning to leave.

Nisha watched the Lieutenant exit and then shared a concerned glance with her enlisted colleague. What they had heard was a lot to take in, but she was certain there was more waiting for them on their data PADDs. "How about we grab our stuff and meet in The Traveller in, say, fifteen? We can try and make sense of this stuff together?" she suggested to Robin.

"Sounds great! I'll meet you there!" Robin replied with a smile. He picked up his PADD and took off at a quick walk to get his things together for the meeting.

A Watched Pot Never Boils

Someone once said that 'a watched pot never boils' and Commander sh'Elas had decided that, after spending the half an hour since the briefing sat in her ready room, that said person was correct. She'd paced her way around the small office so much that she swore she could see scuff marks and wear and tear on the new carpet. No matter how often she blinked, paced, doodled on her PADD or tried reading, time never seemed to speed up.

She had, at last, settled on her sofa with a good book just as the door chime went off. She spun herself, planting her feet on the floor as she looked at the entrance. "Come in!" she beckoned.

Walking through the doors of the ready room, Javorian's eyes still had a haunted look that was not familiar to most who knew him. Usually, his emotions were well buried, but what he'd just seen had been far too much for him to push it aside. "Good morning, again, ma'am," he said as he approached.

"Come in, come in," the Andorian smiled the best smile she could in the circumstances, the look on her Science Officer's face not exactly one that screamed happiness. "All of you, pull up a chair," she offered as she remained seated on the sofa.

"Captain," Elleese greeted with a voice that was even softer and more subdued than usual, which was saying something for the soft-spoken counselor. Inwardly, she was still reeling from the overload of dark emotions, but outwardly, it only showed as a slight bit of distraction. She walked in and found a seat as she was invited to, but she said little else.

Commander Walker followed those in front of him into the ready room. The constant changing of rooms reminded him of an old black and white movie he’d once seen, however the name escaped him. Upon the offer to sit by the Captain, Elias headed for the Captains desk and lent against the edge. He remained silent wanting to hear the views of the rest of the senior staff.

Doctor Hill was the last to enter the room. He said nothing but simply gave the Captain a curt nod by way of perfunctory greeting. Rather than accept the offer of a chair, he remained standing near the door. He didn't feel like sitting. Hill's unmoving features gave away nothing of what he was feeling, though between his nightmares last night and what he'd just seen he would need a few minutes of the Counselor's time but that was for later. Now, he waited to see what else the Captain had to add.

"I apologise for not being able to fill you in on the details before you went in there," a look of guilt encompassed her blue face as she looked around each of her officers in turn. Each of them looked more than a little scarred by the revelations they had been witness to. "Admiral Azulas felt the need to show you exactly what we are facing, just as she showed me... and I am sure you can now appreciate why I have brought forward our departure," she added.

"I believe we can all agree it was an understandable decision," Elleese said levelly, her blue-silver eyes glancing around the room at the faces of her fellow officers.

Javorian nodded in agreement with the counselor. "Agreed, ma'am. I don't think any of us can fault you for following orders, and honestly, seeing it that way certainly galvanized us."

"The Admiral felt that to put you there, even in a holodeck recreation, would make a statement about the true gravity of the situation," the Andorian responded as she lifted her head, a bit relieved that they didn't seem to be at all annoyed by the briefing or the reason for moving forward their departure. "Do any of you have any questions?" she then asked, opening the floor to her subordinates.

“Do we have any information on who did this and why?” Walker asked, still reeling inside from what he’d just seen.

"Not a clue," the Commander frowned as she shook her head of white hair, "I've looked at the intelligence data received so far from the first vessel to respond and they've so far been unable to ascertain anything that could give us any indication of who or why," she revealed, more than a little frustrated at the lack of information she could provide. "It will take us a few days to get to Xendi Sabu, so in the meantime, I have orders for everyone..." she trailed off as she passed around several data PADDs that had sat on the coffee table in front of her, allowing them a little time to read their tasks.

Elleese took the PADD and read it over. It was pretty much what she would have expected, and she nodded a little. "Sir, might I ask..." she began, lifting her eye's to the commander's. "I want to clarify... Were there any known survivors of this tragedy? I find my memory a touch hazy amid all the information given us in the holodeck about whether the admiral said there were or not." She felt fairly certain there weren't, but she had to ask.

"According to the updates from the Rhode Island, there have been no survivors found, but we're not ruling out finding any," the Andorian responded, looking briefly at Javorian, "...apparently whatever weapon was used left some form of radiation in the atmosphere which is affecting sensors but it should have dissipated by the time we arrive," she added.

Accepting his own PADD Javorian gave it a quick scan. It was filled with the various sensor scans from the Edison, and his orders were clearly laid out clearly, instructing him to use all tools at his disposal on the Ulysses to analyze the data and find anything that might be of even the slightest help. "Understood, ma'am," he said.

Walker took his PADD and began to thumb through its contents. “From what we’ve just seen, we’ll be lucky to find any.” Eli commented.

Doctor Hill accepted his PADD silently and quickly scanned through it's contents. He remained silent. This mission would see the medical department focus on studying the dead instead of assisting the living. Learning what they could from what was left of the planet's inhabitants. The department would be geared towards pathology. It would be a grim job. Jon was glad that Counselor Elloyia and her team would be on hand.

"We'll be departing later tonight. I'm giving you all some time to process and make sense of what you have seen and heard, but I'd like you all on the bridge when we depart," the Andorian nodded slowly and surely as she looked around her people, "I know it wasn't easy to see, but I accepted the assignment knowing full well that each of you would believe the same as me - that the people of Xendi Sabu deserve the very best investigation and that we ensure nothing like this happens again," she told them confidently as she rose to her feet and placed a reassuring hand on Javorian's shoulder. "Together, we will find justice for those poor souls, or we'll die trying."

Glancing up at Tharia, Javorian gave her a warm smile and nodded, "Understood, ma'am."

"Right, you're all dismissed. Go and take some time to rest, do whatever it is you feel you need to do, and I'll see you all on the bridge later," she smiled as reassuringly as she could, standing to the side to let them depart at their leisure - whatever they chose to do, the rest of the day was their own.

Jonathan was the first to leave the Ready Room. The next hour of his life would be spent in the gym beating seven different colours of shit out of a punching bag. He needed to vent and it was either that an hour on the phaser range and the phaser range just wasn't going to cut it today. After that he would regroup and brief his staff on what their task would be.

Javorian stood, and with a brief nod to the Commander, he made his way out of her office. His head was still reeling slightly from all the information, most of it utterly horrifying, that he'd been exposed to in the last few hours. He needed some time to think, and put together a plan of action on how best to get the science team arranged to make sure this was all taken care of as quickly as possible. With that thought in mind he began to make his way to his office, and towards a cup of coffee to calm his nerves.

The counselor also stood, feeling a little unsteady on her feet but she hid it well. She offered a faint smile to the commander. "If you need to talk, sir," she said quietly, "you know where I am." She inclined her head respectfully and then departed behind the others.

Elias gave the Captain a curt nod before silently leaving the ready room. The mission ahead was a big one, he knew it would take the resources and man power of all three starships, however, they would get justice for those that had been killed.


Early mornings and their accompanying sunrise were quite special out here, even on the holographic representation of Xendi Sabu . Newcomers had to learn to appreciate them. They often forgot what it was like to wake up early and just sit back and enjoy the moment of a fresh start of a day. People tried to stay in bed as long as possible, because they didn’t want to get out in the cold. When they finally managed to get out of bed, they’re too busy preparing themselves to get ready for the days duties. When they didn’t have to work, they tended to sleep in until the day had almost passed. Such was the life of a Starfleet officer.

But not today.

At zero-six hundred her Yeoman had dispatched orders for the senior staff of the Ulysses, what there was of them anyway, to meet her on the holodeck at zero-eight hundred. There had been no other orders, no other communiques. All they had to do was meet her there by oh-eight hundred. And they had two minutes left.

The briefing with the senior staff had concluded with only minutes to spare, the Commander and a select number of the gathered officers that she had deemed appropriate for this simulation, had made their way from the briefing room to holodeck one. She'd told them nothing, but knew everything after the events of the night before. Leading her group towards the holodeck, she stopped just short of the doors. "Alright," she spoke to the gang, "when you get inside, Rear Admiral Nilani Azulas will be waiting for you. When you are done here, I want to see all of you in my ready room," Tharia declared with a stern expression before departing the gathering and leaving the team under the command of the XO.

Judging by the puzzled looks on their faces, neither the Counselor, Chief Science Officer or XO knew any more than he did about their purpose there. That was of small comfort to the sleep-deprived CMO. He hated being kept in the dark and his current mood only made this situation all the more irritating. Protocol dictated that Lieutenant Commander Walker lead them into the holodeck. "Shall we?" He suggested

Javorian had been up for a few hours, and was wide awake, but still completely out of the loop as to why the team had been assembled here. When the doctor took the initiative he was more than happy to follow his lead. "By all means, sir. After you," he said.

“Let’s see what all the fuss is about.” Walker stated before approaching the holodeck doors. The large doors noisily opened, Walker waited for them to fully open before entering. He saw the Admiral up ahead and lead the group towards them. “Admiral Azulas?” He asked, as the group got closer.

"I appreciate you all being here," the Admiral smiled at the Ulysses command team as they approached, "I want to just take a moment to introduce myself to some of you before we get underway," she informed with a smile, trying not to give too much away early on. Their reactions later would be important to her objective. "My name is Nilani Azulas and I used to command the Nogura, until Starfleet saw fit to put me behind a desk. Now, I tend to stay here at DS5 until the powers that be decide I get to go elsewhere." she smirked, "so usually I have to make do with holodeck simulations such as this one this morning."

With the introductions over, she stepped aside. "Anyone know where we are?"

Walker shook his head, it looked familiar but couldn’t place the setting.

Elleese wasn't really a fan of surprises. And all things being equal, she suffered fewer of them than most, given her rare neuro-physiology. Now, though, she was very uncertain of what was going on, and that was unsettling to her. Still, she kept it in and her expression remained neutral as her eyes looked around and took in everything...from the artificially-created surroundings of the holodeck to the equally unsettled feelings of her crewmates to looking at the admiral--using her abilities to determine whether the admiral really was there or just another holodeck creation.

To the question, however, she just shook her head.

Looking around at the surroundings Javorian took note of a few things, from the look of the plant life, and the geological formations, and even looked up to see the colors in the atmosphere as the sun began to rise, as well as the few stars that were still visible. He had a good idea of what area of space they were in, but it could be one of a dozen or more planets he could think of off the top of his head. "No, ma'am, not with any certainty."

Jonathan was growing more and more irritated with every passing moment. He was in no mood for guessing games. 'Just tell us, or show us, what you need to and let us get on with our duties.' Was the thought that occurred to him in that moment. Rather than put voice to that particular thought, he remained silent and gave a slight shake of his head.

Nilani nodded slowly. "I wouldn't have expected any of you to know as we are nowhere particularly special by usual standards. We are on the colony world of Xendi Sabu, on the edge of Federation space, near to the Ferengi and Breen borders," the Trill revealed as she looked around the area."Last night, I met with Commander sh'Elas and showed her what you are about to see. I want to impress upon you that what you see here, stays here, until Commander sh'Elas gives you permission to share it with the rest of your crewmates. Is that understood?" Nilani queried, looking at each of the officers in turn. When she was satisfied, the Admiral moved on. "Computer, advance to Kendara Mountain range, Xendi Sabu, spectator mode. Time index 447 mark 112," the Admiral requested of the computer..

The first orange hued rays of sunrise kissed the dust laden path to the top of the hill that they had appeared on once the computer enacted her wishes, the soft rays brought a warmth to the new day as it burnt away the morning fog. "Okay, now we walk..." the Admiral told as she pointed to the top of the hill and began to lead the gathered group up the slope of the hill.

Javorian hesitated only a fraction of a second, something in the back of his mind telling him they weren't going to like what they were about to see. Pushing the thought aside he moved, following the Admiral as she made her way towards the top of the hill.

More unnecessary stalling. Biting back a sigh, Doctor Hill followed Javorian. 'Why didn't the Admiral just advance the program to the place and time that she wants us to see?' He asked himself. 'No, that's not dramatic enough for this Admiral.' Was the answer that he immediately came up with. 'I wonder if a transfer back to the Corps is possible?'

With an inward sigh, Walker followed the Admiral along with the rest of the gathered senior staff. If this was a mission Briefing then it was a first being given in such a way.

As the gathering of Starfleet officers made their way down the hillside towards the village below, the view was quite astonishing; a small village on the edge of a sea front that glistened in the morning sun as street traders began to set up for market, fishermen came ashore with their early morning catch and others made their way to their offices and places of work. Even at such an early hour, the village was a hive of activity. Quaint, and almost lost in time, the village felt like it was something out of nineteenth century Earth almost. It was significantly different to how she had seen it the other evening, and to how she had shown it to Commander sh'Elas only several hours ago. It was significantly different to how the crew she was with would see it shortly.

“How picturesque, Admiral, but I’m not sure what we’re meant to be looking at.” The Executive Officer stated.

In silence, she stopped in her tracks and looked down the path that lead the group towards the village idyllic looking scene below. "Computer," she spoke as they approached the bottom, "advance to time index 448 mark 185."

In an instant, the entire scene changed. At the bottom of the path to the valley, lingering clouds of fog blanketed the village. It had turned grey and bitterly cold as they descended the pathway further and reached the outskirts. The village, no longer distant, was quiet as they quickly worked their way down the dew sodden grass and dirt towards it. Eventually, together, they stood at the start of a gravel road that cut its way through the heart of the village like a knife. Small cottage like houses intermingled with the odd shop like establishments that lined each side of the gravel track, as a church-like building rose up far in the distance; only, unlike before, now they were burning husks of buildings with plumes of suffocating smoke rising into the air. before their visitor's eyes, each one. The silence was most deafening, interminable, restless. The insurmountable stench of rotting flesh and burning wood engulfed the air.

Azulas slowly turned to her companions and looked at them with a solemn expression. "Don't let your eyes deceive you. We're in exactly the same place, just twenty-four hours later," she told them. "Xendi Sabu was a hive of activity, of life. There were cities, towns, villages across the planet, all thriving and all a delight to visit. And now, all gone. Replaced by despair, destruction..." she paused as she turned back to the village and then concluded her speech, "...and death."

Javorian was rooted to the spot. As a science officer, he had had to see and deal with some gruesome situations, however, nothing in his previous experiences could have prepared him for this. Looking around he felt a wave of horror and sadness crash over him, and he turned, looking at the Admiral, eyes wide. "What happened here?" he asked.

Azulas looked at the science officer and simply ignored his statement; not out of rudeness, but because she had more to show them.

Doctor Hill felt like he'd been punched in the stomach. The scene before him was like something out of a nightmare, one of his own nightmares. He'd encountered scenes exactly like this on Betazed during the Dominion Occupation. During one covert mission to gather intelligence they'd come upon a few villages that closely resembled the scene before him. It was heartbreaking. Stepping slowly and silent past the Admiral, Jonathan studied the death and destruction. For a moment, it was like the years since the war hadn't happened.

Elleese almost wavered on her feet. The adult woman wearing the teal-collared uniform was almost slingshotted back to the same place and time as the doctor. She was unaware of it, since she did not read someone's thoughts without permission, but there was a similarity to the hue of his thoughts that she could feel meshing with hers.

Young Elleese had not seen for herself the destruction of her home planet, but she had seen it through the eyes of others--of victims, of comrades, and of oppressors. Memories of things she had known, had felt, had done, all flooded in fast and hard, and she nearly lost her breakfast. She licked her lips, rapidly blinking her blue-silver eyes as she lifted them to the admiral and waited--almost holding her breath--for the answer to Javorian's question...

"I know you're frustrated with the 'dramatics' of the situation," the Trill Admiral frowned as she looked around them, "but there is more. It's unpleasant viewing, but you need to see it..." she trailed off, leading them towards the market place in the center of the town. The queasiness they felt before was only exacerbated by what awaited just a short distance later in the village square.

Gathered together in the heart of the village, the people had clearly been summoned to their final resting place. Given the sheer stench of rotting flesh and the bodies that were piled high, whatever had transpired had done so quickly and without warning. Among the cobbles, a river of blood flowed through the market square; the blood seemed fresh, yet the bodies that lay nearby appeared to be ancient. The depravity of the situation soon became devastatingly clearer. Nearly every single body had been separated from each limb, one by one, before being piled and burnt in mass funeral pyres.

Doctor Hill studied the horrific scene presented to them for a few minutes before finally breaking his silence by repeating Javorian's question, which had still gone unanswered, and adding a few of his own. "What happened here? Who did this? And how does this pertain to our new, highly unusual, orders?"

Nilani lowered her head to look away from the devastating scene; she'd seen it several times now, but it never got any easier. "We have no idea," she told honestly, “The Rhode Island received a distress call from the planet three days ago. By the time she arrived, who, or what, had done this was long gone. The entire planet has been ravaged; most of the larger settlements have apparently been subjected to a form of orbital bombardment, but the smaller towns and villages… well, there are similar scenes to this across the planet.”

She moved on to the second part of his question. "Your orders come straight from the Director of Starfleet Tactical himself. We're sending the Ulysses to investigate this atrocity and head up a task group including the Rhode Island and the Ushiro. Commander sh'Elas has been given full autonomy to follow her investigation wherever it may lead and I've personally assured her that whatever help she might need, whatever support you need, will be available," the Admiral told as she looked around the group. "An officer from Intelligence has also been transferred to Ulysses and will be here to support in any capacity possible, but I chose to brief you four because you are the ones who are going to have the biggest part to play in this investigation. Tharia is going to need each and every one of you at your best, so, if you don't feel like you are going to be able to cope, then now is the time to say..." she trailed off. This was the unpleasant part, but she wouldn't think any less of them if they said this wasn't a mission for them.

Javorian turned to the woman, an uncharacteristic display of emotion plainly visible on his face. There were tears, just barely contained, and he was obviously attempting to keep his lips from trembling. "Forgive me, Admiral, but there's no way in hell I won't be going. Whoever did this has to pay, and that won't happen unless we can find out who it was. I'll be there, doing my best to track them down and make sure justice is served," he said, his voice quavering with outrage and horror.

Elias now understood the natural of the mission and why the orders were such. “I agree with the Lieutenant. Whoever did this must be stopped, as quickly and effectively as possible.” It looked like he would now be playing the role of task force liaison as well as first officer.

This mission would probably force him to revisit old memories, memories that continued to haunt him, memories that he'd worked hard to bury, . There would be no shame in stepping off and allowing the Ulysses to depart on this mission without him. His staff was more than capable. But it wasn't in his nature to allow himself to be controlled by fear. Javorian was right; these people deserved justice and he would play his part in that. "Count me in." Jonathan added.

That was three of them on board. All she needed now was the input of the ships Counsellor,probably the most important one of them in the group, before she would terminate the program. If the Ulysses crew were to get through their upcoming assignment, she was certain that they would need strong psychological support more than anything else.

Elleese's small, slender hands were shaking, but she laced them behind her back to hide that fact from anyone else. The horror and revulsion she felt was compounded exponentially by what everyone else was feeling, and it was hard to fully shield against it so she was just awash in disgust and sorrow...

But when the admiral turned to her, she lifted her head and leveled her blue-silver gaze at the Trill. "I am with you," she said simply.

With the Counsellor on board, the Admiral gave the best, most reassuring smile and nod that she could muster. "Alright then," she spoke quietly, before looking back at the village, for one last time. "Computer..." a deep sigh later, she gave her final order.

"...End program."

The First of Many

Early morning starts tended to be a lot more bearable when one's starship was in dock since no one really cared or monitored where anyone was - even CO's had been known to indulge in the odd lie in from time to time when there was nowhere for the ship to go, but when orders had been received, taking such liberties was no longer an option. That was certainly the case on the fourth day of the Ulysses' layover at Deep Space 5. Commander sh'Elas had been up since the break of day as she contemplated the disturbing events that had transpired the night before. She had been advised that Admiral Azulas would tell a select number of her crew about the ship's impending mission, and the rest would have to find out after their departure, but last night's goings-on simply didn't sit well with her. So, as advised, she had called her senior staff to their first briefing at zero-seven-thirty; she, of course, would be fashionably late as she was taking her time to come up with the exact words to share with her people. For now, they would just have to wait for her to arrive.

Observation Lounge, Deck One

Paxton entered the briefing room and made a quick pit stop at the replicator to get a coffee, the one he had at breakfast already seemed to be wearing off and he made sure to order something stronger. He took a seat along one side of the table in the middle and waited as the others took their seats.

Peter made sure he was not the first to enter but was early. He entered with his coffee and two PADDs. One for taking notes and the second for referencing ship information as needed. He was doing his best to not let his enthusiasm show too much. He took a seat at the end of the table. "Good morning Lieutenant." He said to Paxton as he sat down.

Lieutenant Commander Walker walked into the briefing room and took his seat. “Morning everyone.” He said as he adjusted his final seating position. “So, early morning briefing must mean something important has come up?”

"It had better be more than another month of damned convoy duty," Doctor Hill groused as he entered the Briefing Room hot on the heels of the XO. He carried a cup of herbal tea, mango and pineapple infused with ginseng root, and took the seat opposite Lieutenant Paxton. Sleep had eluded him for most of the night, giving way to a more cantankerous than normal Chief Medical Officer.

There was a familiar, if slightly more intense, aura to the observation lounge as the ship's counselor made her way to it. She was a few moments behind the good doctor, though not enough to be on his heels. Elleese had to wait for the door to swish open and permit her entrance, where she stepped inside then paused to smile politely at everyone. "Good morning," she said as she moved to the table. She sat next to the CMO and set her mug of tea on the table after taking a sip.

Striding through the doors into the briefing room, large PADD and stylus in hand, Javorian noted those who had arrived before him, and gave them each a nod as he made his way to a seat close to the end of the table, where he'd be able to see everyone while giving the captain his full attention. Once he'd taken his seat he activated his PADD and brought up the note-taking function, ensuring the stylus he was grasping in his left hand had fully linked up, and then sat back, an alert, and curious look on his face.

“I have to agree, Doctor. We need a proper mission, something to get our teeth into.” Walker said, in agreement.

Just as the XO finished his sentence Ensign Udal walked in and took his seat. Looking around the table he nodded to those present and then turned his attention to the tactical information he'd brought along, in case it was relevant and waited for the meeting to formally begin.

Adam took another sip of coffee as his eyes did a circle of those present, most of the senior staff he knew from their files, but had yet to meet them in person, or at least anything more than in passing on the bridge. It seemed like most were here, absent the lady in charge.

Finally, after what no doubt seemed like an eternity to those that were awaiting her arrival, the starboard doors to the observation lounge parted and the Commander of the ship entered the room. Weary looking and anxious, she made her way swiftly to her seat at the head of the table without pomp or fanfare, hell, even without an introduction. "Let's go around the departments for a brief update. Who wants to begin?" she queried, looking out at the gathered group.

Javorian raised his hand to indicate he'd like start, and sat forward, bringing up his latest report, "Science department is fully operational, and all sensor pallets have been fully tuned and prepared for the impending departure. As I was not knowledgable of the mission at hand I have all sub-departments ensuring their people are prepped, and equipped for all eventualities moving forward," he replied.

"Flight ops is good, all of our auxiliary craft have been checked and certified." Paxton said with a slight nod to the XO. "Navigational sensors have been fully tested and aligned, all engines are cleared."

Doctor Hill went next. "Medical facilities are fully staffed, fully stocked and ready to go." He shifted in his seat. "The last of the physicals were completed last night and I'm pleased to report that the crew is in good health."

Tharia turned her attention to the woman responsible for the crew's mental health and wellbeing. "Counsellor, anything to report?"

Elleese smiled politely and inclined her head in acknowledgement. "I am pleased to report that I have nothing to report. Despite so many changes so close together, the crew is handling it well. I am almost fully caught up on the evaluations, and things are stable on the emotional spectrum."

"Ops is running smoothly. Power and system distribution is all running normal. All cargo bays are at capacity and then some. No reported malfunctions and all crew is present and accounted for." Peter said reading down a list on a PADD.

"Ensign Udal?" the Andorian looked over to the Orion sat at the opposite end of the table to her. After his update, the last thing of note would be the mission at hand.

Sitting up a bit straighter Udal replied, "All security and tactical personnel are ready. Weapons systems and targeting sensors are functioning within acceptable parameters. I have several drills set to occur during the next few days as well, just to double-check efficiency. It should in no way affect the regular running of the ship."

“Most of the ships complement have now reported on board, however, we are still lacking a number of senior officers. Something I intent to contact Starfleet about.” Walker reported.

"I wouldn't bother," Tharia shook her head slowly as she let out a frustrated sigh. "Last night I received two official visitors with regards to our new mission," she began to reveal, the staff seemingly on tenterhooks for more information. "Rear Admiral Azulas visited us again, with a very explicit set of orders for us. A short while later, the Director of Starfleet Tactical himself arrived and delivered a special package," she told, somewhat sarcastically.

Walker couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow, “Are we being pushed out earlier than expected, Captain?”

"I'm not at liberty to divulge any details about the mission at present," the Andorian confirmed with an apologetic nod to her XO, "but yes, we're to depart the station no later than twenty-one hundred this evening. We go, with or without any last minute additions to the crew, and we go at maximum warp. I am also told that in the event that we should receive any calls for aide or assistance that do not pertain to this mission, we are to reject any and all requests that do not represent an immediate, serious risk of to life." Such a statement was highly unusual, but it was hopefully a sign to them that even though she couldn't tell them anymore at present it was a worrying situation they found themselves in.

Javorian's head jerked up at the words he'd just heard and felt like he'd been slapped. "We are to ignore distress calls?" he asked, not even bothering to mask the utter shock in his voice.

Tharia nodded in response to the Lieutenant's question, noting the almost outraged look on his face.

Peter's eyes grew wide in surprise. Javorian speaking out loud what he and probably the rest of the table thought. This must be a pretty high level mission for this much urgency and priority. He started scrolling through his info PADD. He had everything but the kitchen sink in the holds and now he was concerned that would not be enough for this kind of mission... whatever it was. He would have to review other contingency plans and run as many level 1 diagnostics as he could before launch.

"What can you tell us about where we're headed?" Paxton asked, despite what some thought ships weren't actually designed for prolonged periods of maximum warp. The Ulysses was a new ship and no doubt could handle it, but he wanted to know what they were flying into.

"Nothing," the Commander responded bluntly, "I'm afraid you'll know when you need to know, and not before," the Captain advised before moving on. "Now, before anyone else asks; following this meeting, Admiral Azulas has requested that Lieutenant's Hill, Elloyia and Travis meet her in holodeck one. The rest of you, go get your houses in order and let's get ready for departure as quickly as possible," she requested.

"Aye, Captain." Peter responded.

Paxton didn't like the situation but he knew how these things went. "Yes ma'am."

“Just to confirm, we are to ignore all distress calls and continue with the mission. They are some strict orders, ma’am, I think the senior officers and I need a little more information if we’re to ignore Starfleet regulations.” Walker asked, concern evident on his face. He understood orders were orders but he’d never heard of orders like this before.

The Chief Medical Officer chipped in before the Captain had a chance to respond. "Orders like this are unusual but not unheard of. Sometimes the mission at hand takes precedence over all other considerations. Clearly Starfleet feels that this is one of those times, Commander."

"As I said," the Commander spoke a little sterner, "unless the distress calls indicate a high risk or probability of loss of life, our orders are to pass them on elsewhere. The mission we have been tasked with comes from the highest echelons of Starfleet Command and we will carry it out to the very best of our ability," she remind them all as she rose to her feet. "Those of you requested by the Admiral, you come with me now. The rest of you, you're dismissed." And with that, she headed for the port side door which led to the nearest turbo lift.

Paxton rose and headed to the bridge to check, yet again, that the ship was ready for an extended period at maximum warp. He knew it certainly would be, but know there was knot in his stomach, and he knew there was nothing he could do about it.

Peter grabbed his padds and made his way to his office. He needed to confirm reconfirm every last soul was onboard, double check every sensor diagnostic report and triple check all inventory. He had a feeling that after this briefing, there would be a list of requisitions to cram in before the deadline as each department tried to predict what this was and what could go wrong.

With a brief nod, his eyebrows pulled together in concerned concentration, Javorian stood and gathered his PADD and stylus. Walking out, he headed for the holodeck where he was scheduled to meet the person who was apparently going to explain why this ship was flying into a situation that required them to disregard many of the principles Starfleet was supposed to uphold at all costs.

Walker didn’t like this but he had no choice. He picked up the PADD which was in the table in front of him and stood. He now wondered what the Admiral wanted with them.

Jonathan returned the now empty mug to the replicator and had it recycled before following the Chief Science Officer and XO out of the Briefing Room to attend this mysterious meeting with the Admiral. No doubt it would tie in with their mission, whatever that was, and the unusual orders Starfleet had issued.

As the briefing room emptied, it was certain that events were about to transpire that meant stardate 71010.107 would be one that would leave in the memory of all on the Ulysses...

Arrival in the Night

Location: Observation Lounge
On: Day 3 at 2335

The day was nearly over and it had been more eventful than the Commander had anticipated when she had first woken up. She had intended it to be a quiet one by her standards, with little for her to do but continue to trawl through reports and personnel files after the mad few days of changes. Instead, not only did the ship now have a new mission, but it was one that would shake the Federation to its core, if the truth were to ever be revealed - and it was down to Engineering to get the rest of the ships systems working before the launch deadline in a few days.

Tharia had spent the last hour in her ready room whilst she had been reading some intelligence files regarding the mission she had been assigned to Xendi Sabu when she had been informed that a prominent member of Starfleet Command (and Admiral Azulas' direct superior) would be stopping by that very night. Vice Admiral Mitchell Hanson of Starfleet Tactical had contacted the ship and would be beaming aboard shortly. Tharia had dropped everything and made her way to the Observation Lounge where she would meet the Admiral in just mere moments.

Standing at the window, her right hand braced the window frame as she looked out at the stars and other vessels moving around the system. In the distance, the Andorian could make out the frame of an Akira class vessel gliding high above the planetary installations of the nearby moon. The Akira, odd in design compared to many Starfleet vessels, was one that Tharia had a particular fondness for, considering she was in the Luna-class' design lineage. Engrossed in her own thoughts, the Commander almost missed the sound of the doors parting and granting entrance to the older Admiral, a security officer of hers and a third officer she had never met before. She stepped away from the window and offered a hand to the Admiral as she nodded to the security officer for to wait outside.

“Admiral Hanson,” she welcomed him with a polite nod and a firm hand shake.

“Commander sh'Elas, a pleasure,” Hanson responded in his gruff voice before releasing his subordinates hand and gesturing to the Bolian beside him. “Commander Tharia sh'Elas, may I introduce Ensign Mailar Adislo,” the Admiral revealed.

Mailar gave the woman a measured look, one of the more annoying traits his race possessed as if sizing her up and seeing if she measured up to standards only he would know. After a few moments, he apparently felt that she did. Reaching out a hand the tall, muscular Bolian spoke, looking her directly in the eye, "It is a pleasure to meet you, ma'am."

“A pleasure,Ensign,” Tharia nodded as she completed the round of welcomes and stepped aside, gesturing for both to join her around the large conference table that dominated the room. She took her usual seat at the head of the table, with Hanson pulling out the nearest chair to her. “So, to what do I owe this pleasure? Its not every day that one welcomes the Director of Starfleet Tactical aboard their ship,” the Andorian quipped at last as she opted to try to get to the bottom of their presence on her ship as quickly as possible.

"Ensign Adislo and I are here with regards to the mission you have been assigned by Admiral Azulas," Hanson began as he relaxed back into his chair. "To be quite frank, we have virtually no leads regarding the attack, or the perpetrators, so we want Ensign Adislo to accompany you as the liaison to Starfleet Intelligence," the much older Terran revealed as he glanced across at his companion.

Mailar took up his cue quickly, picking up a small, discreet PADD he'd been carrying with him. "I have several years of specialized training in areas such as this, Commander. I'm experienced in multiple areas of intelligence gathering, analysis, and infiltration, and will work with all of your departments to ensure the proper information is being fed back to SFI so we can make sure we are as on top of this situation as we can be."

"I hope you're not going to be some sort of SFI spy," the Andorian smirked as she lent forward in her chair, "I'll be expecting you to put your tools to use helping my people investigate as well as learning information for intelligence purposes," she told the Ensign in no uncertain terms, but also the Admiral.

Mailar looked at the woman with a blank expression, "I assure you, ma'am, had I any intention of being a spy on your vessel you would not know why I was there. With that being said I am to be here as much to help you as to help SFI," he replied.

""Well, in that case,I think we're pretty much ready to depart Admiral," Tharia revealed as she sat back again, "we're missing one or two department heads, but I am confident that the officers we have in place in an acting capacity are more than capable of doing their job in the interim," she advised the Terran. Engineering would be annoyed with an early departure without a Chief at the helm, but there was nothing going on that they couldn’t complete en-route, and with the acting Chief in place they were in a better place than they had been. Not having a Tactical officer was probably going to be her biggest issue, but the crew would cope in the face of greater adversity elsewhere.

"Ensign Adislo will report directly to you and your executive officer during his time aboard," Hanson told as he mimicked the Andorian's earlier stance and sat forward in his chair. "His security clearance grants him access to virtually everything you are likely to need in this mission Commander, so I am sure he will not mind if you use his talents freely," he smirked as he looked at the much younger Bolian.

Mailar smiled, "I would welcome it, actually. I have spent the last six months here on Earth and I'm very much looking forward to having something a bit more challenging to do," he said, looking to the ship's commanding officer.

"Then I suggest you go and get settled in, Ensign. Let Ops know to give you some quarters," the Commander nodded to the Bolian before looking at the Terran again, "with your permission sir, we'll depart tomorrow, after the briefing by Admiral Azulas."

"That will be acceptable," the Admiral agreed as he rose to his feet with a creek that he was sure the others would have heard. "If you need anything in the meantime, or while out there, let me know."

"Aye sir," the Commander nodded.

As the other two began to discuss more important matters Mailar did as he was instructed. Standing he nodded his farewell to the Admiral and to the Commander, and then made his way out of the room to find someone in ops.

With the Ensign dismissed, the Admiral and the Commander made their way to the Andorian's private ready room to further discuss the mission at hand in the privacy of her office. Their conversation would take some time, but upon its conclusion she was left with the strongest belief that her crew would be the right ones to deal with the mission parameters.

At least if they made it through the briefings tomorrow, anyway...

Casual Interaction

Elias quickly walked into the lounge. He hated being late, he always took pride in his timekeeping but being First Officer seemed to be making this much more difficult. He quickly scanned the room with his eyes looking for Crewman Chan who’s he had promised to meet 20 minutes earlier. Upon changing a glimpse of his friend he headed over.

“I’m so sorry I’m late. Why is it everyone needs you when you want to clock off?” He said with a smile.

Alex's eyes drew down as if he was pondering something deeply, and he replied, "Hmm... Must be a command thing, that never happens to me," he said jokingly.

“Didn’t happen to me until a few days ago!” Eli replied with a chuckle. “Want another drink?”

"I've never turned one down in my life," Alex replied with a smile.

Walker chuckled, “I’ll get you another.” He said before he headed towards the bar to order their drinks.

Paxton entered the lounge having spent that last four hours reviewing crew files for his new department. With the exception of himself and an Ensign Madux the few other officers assigned were all new grads on their first posting. Their support staff was pretty green as well other than a Chief Petty Officer who was running the shuttlebay and maintenance sections. He nodded to the XO as he approached the bar to order a drink.

Peter walked in with his usual grin. They were getting underway and he was thrilled. He had gone over requisitions, requests, staffing accommodations and stockpiling for the unknown. He had to make some friends, shake some hands and buy some drinks and a few other things but the cargo hold was full of extra ship supplies for as many problems as he could come up with. Now he was off duty and ready to relax some.

He entered the lounge and saw it filling up. He was glad he got there when he did so he could get a spot. "Evening Lieutenants, Commander." He said with a smile and headed up to the bar for a drink and a meal.

"Ensign," Paxton replied with a nod.

"Lieutenant uhh..." Peter trailed off for a moment as his mind went blank. He ran through his list in his mind until it came to him. "Uhh Paxton." He said returning the nod and ordering a beer.

“Hey, you guys fancy joining us for a drink? We’re just sitting over there.” Walker said pointing to where Chan was sat.

"Sure," Adam said accepting his drink from the bartender.

"You bet, thanks." Peter responded and followed Adam over once he received his drink.

Morgan entered the lounge and nodded to Adam at the bar, they had both transferred from the Kumari and it was nice to have a familiar face around. The two had had a very casual romance as well that the Master-at-Arms wasn't opposed to continuing at some point. He ordered a beer from a waiter as he took a seat at a table with several other senior noncoms from the Security department.

Udal walked through the doors into the ship's lounge and noticed that quite a few other people had apparently had the same idea. Ordering a quick drink from the bar he took it in hand and then looked around the room once more. Noting that there were a few members of the SecTac department he made a beeline for their table and paused as he approached, "Room for one more?" he asked.

Morgan nodded to the empty chair, "Help yourself, Sir." The Chief replied.

Taking the proffered seat Udal swung it around and sat backwards on it, leaning forward on the back of the chair, and setting his drink down. "Thanks, and drop the sir, please," he said with a smile, "It's tedious enough on duty, much less when we're all just hanging out."

Alex was waiting for Eli to return with the drink he'd offered to get him, and had noticed a few other's joining them, and sitting at a table close to the one they were at. Looking over he nodded in greeting to them and then turned his attention back to the lounge at large.

Eli returned to the table with Alex’s drink, his own and a few bowls of nibbles that he set out for everyone to reach. “So, how’s everyone settling it then?”

Turning his attention back Alex accepted the offered drink, and smiled, "Thanks," he said. Then, after he'd greeted everyone else that was approaching he answered, "Settling in just fine, actually, and yourself?"

“I had settled in as Chief Engineer but this First Officer position has thrown me. I’ll be fine though once I find my feet a little. Just trying to stay on top of the paperwork at the moment.” Walker said with a smile.

At the bar, two young women had been watching the gathering group of males with great interest. One, a scientist by trade, wore a beautiful red dress so bright that it accentuated her grey, Cardassian skin perfectly. The other, wearing a more casual pair of jean shorts and a blouse with a floral print the same colour as her Trill spots. The pair had not known each other long, but had hit it off from the get go.

The Trill, an engineer by trade, was the far more confident of the two and, with fresh drinks in hand, she dragged her companion over to the gathering of males.

"Hey there gents," Jesi grinned, "My friend and I figured this testosterone-filled gathering could use some female input. Mind if we gatecrash?" the Trill engineer asked whilst her Cardassian companion, much more reserved when out of uniform, lurked behind her nervously.

Alex glanced up as the two females approached, and blushed slightly as he saw how pretty they both were. 'Great... Now I'm gonna make a fool of myself,' he thought to himself. He had always been awkward around pretty girls, ever since he'd first started noticing them. Looking up he tried his best to put on a confident smile and waved lamely, "HI there..."

Peter stood up. "Evening ladies. Of course, one of you can take my chair." He said scooting it over next to Alex. "I can bring over two more chairs."

Jesi stood aside and made way for her new friend to take the offered seat at the table, but she rejected it at first. "I'm Jesi," the Trill smiled as she took a second chair that appeared thanks to the kind Ensign. "This is my friend, Nisha." The Cardassian simply smiled at the men around the table, clearly nervous about being with the group.

Peter smiled. "Welcome, Jesi and Nisha." He said and took a seat next to Nisha. "I'm Peter, this gentleman is Alex." He said with a nod and offered a nod to the other men to allow their introduction.

Standing, Udal smiled, "A pleasure to meet you both. My name is Udal," he said, his voice deep and somewhat accented.

"Thanks," Nisha Kedam smiled sheepishly and gave a quick glance at each of the handsome men around the table. "So," she chirped up when she felt a little more confident, "what do each of you do?"

Returning the woman's smile with a slightly goofy grin Udal answered first, "Tactical," he replied.

Alex looked a little uncomfortable, but he always did in social situations. Powering through it he gave a slight smile, more just a little quirk of his lips, and replied, "Engineering," he said, a bit lamely.

Peter responded at the end. "Operations."

"I guess we'll be working together then Alex," Jesi the Trill grinned as she offered her glass out for a familiar 'chink' of cheers. "I'm the new Acting Chief Engineer!" she told excitedly.

"Oh, thank God..." Alex replied, and then thought about how bad that would likely sound. "Don't get me wrong, I have always loved herding cats as much as the next fellow, but it will be nice to be able to get back to just doing my job again," he added with a chuckle.

"What about you Nisha?" Peter asked.

"Me?" she asked with an almost shocked expression, "I, um, I'm down in Stellar Cartography," she revealed. It was likely that no one knew since she kept herself to herself most of the time, and would probably still be down there if her new friend hadn't dragged her to the lounge.

"Oh neat. We sorta work together. I send the sensor data." Peter replied with a smile that then turned to a confused look as soon as he finished speaking. He took a long drink of his beer. It sounded a lot better in his head, now he felt pretty dumb and the beer would keep his mouth shut for a moment.

Nisha gave her new colleague a smile and together, they 'chinked' their glasses in friendly acknowledgement.

"So, any word on what our first mission will be?" Adam asked.

Turning his attention to the ship's helmsman Udal shook his head. "Nope, they seem to be as tight-lipped as possible about it, honestly. I haven't even heard any rumors, and we all know how strange that is.

"I've heard some rumors that Personnel is still trying to find us people to fill the empty slots, especially in the senior staff. We might be delayed shipping out." Paxton replied.

"That would make sense to me. They must be shipping senior staff in to DS5. I've been on Gamma shift for two years and my new orders just said I'm Chief Ops now. Must mean as a temp until the rest arrive," Peter said running through the list in his head. Rumor makes sense to him.

"Well," the far more confident Trill spoke up, "between you guys and me, a short while after I came aboard, I saw a Trill Admiral beam aboard and she was hurried off to meet the Captain," she grinned. She loved gossip, and loved being the one to spread it even more.

"I heard from a transporter operator that the head of Starfleet Tactical was here too. That's a lot of Admirals." Paxton said, "Something big must be coming."

Udal sipped his drink, "Two Admirals in a row... I'd take that bet. Whatever it is I have a bad feeling about it."

"They don't usually send the brass in person for good news..." Paxton said.

The Wayward Traveller, Upper Lounge Area: Deck 5

High above the main lounge, the much quieter upper level of 'The Wayward Traveller' was almost deserted, save for the lone figure who stood in the darkness observing those below her. For the Andorian, whose antennae bobbed freely atop her head as she observed her crew, this was the first chance to enjoy some peace in what felt like an eternity. She was glad to see so many of her people, especially the newer senior staff, mingling and getting to know one another. Developing such a camaraderie and a bond would be crucial for them to work well together as a unit.

For now though, it was not the time or place for her to join them. She still had to maintain that mystical air of authority that all ship commander's seemed to have and for her, as a mere Commander, it was more important than ever to maintain that distance. Although she was Captain by name to some of them, the three gold pips on her collar clearly showed she hadn't earned the rank or privilege of using the name, which was why she never referred to herself as 'Captain'. The rank of Captain came with not only a fourth gold pip, but rights, responsibilities and most importantly, a greater respect from those around you. Not that anyone had disrespected her, or made comment about the fact she was a Commander sitting in the big boys chair, but she felt it; the Great Pretender - that was what she called herself in private. It was her first command and until she earned that fourth gold pip, she would not deem herself worthy enough to be called Captain, or rest on her laurels. Until that day came, her command could be taken in an instant. Until that day came, she would maintain those established boundaries and she would strive to earn the title from those under her command.

Downing the last of her Andorian ale, the Commander turned and left the upper level, placing the glass on the table nearest the door. Tonight was about her people. Tonight was a time for them to be free from the rigours of preparing a starship for departure. Tonight was about fun, for the serious nature of Starfleet and their job meant that such times were to be savoured at all costs.

Twisted Depravity

Location: Holodeck 1
On: Day 3 at 2220

“You sure she’s waiting here?”

Commander Tharia sh’Elas was growing tired of being summoned to discussions and meetings with members of the Admiralty, especially after finding out that the mission her crew had been assigned had since been given to another ship and grew by Admiral Drayton. Her latest summons had come from someone a bit more familiar, but that didn’t make it any easier to swallow given the mood she was in.

“Yes ma’am,” Chief Petty Officer Dazia Kiaol confirmed with a nod towards the holodeck, “I escorted her here myself when we received word she was to transport aboard. She then insisted that I get you, and bring you down here,” the Trill security officer concluded with a glance at the large bay doors.

“And there’s no one else coming?” the Andorian commander of the Ulysses queried anxiously.

“No ma’am, no one,” Kiaol answered swiftly.

Taking a deep breath, the Commander took a few steps towards the door, the massive bulkhead parting to reveal the Admiral standing motionless just a few steps inside. Coming to a halt beside her superior, Tharia made note of the familiar hissing sound as the doors closed and disappeared, leaving the two program participants to their own devices.

What greeted her was an incredibly eerie sight.

Dense fog gathered in the centre of the moor that they stood in. It was bitterly cold as they stood in silence, looking out across the moor as the fog slowly crept its way towards a village in the distance; tendrils, like fingers, clawed its way closer, quickly smothering it from view. A grey afternoon chill descended upon the surrounding hills, as slowly the sky began to darken. The village was distant, quiet, as the Admiral began to walk, without so much as an acknowledgement of her companion. Together, the two officers dressed in command red quickly worked their way down the dew sodden grass towards their destination. The sky had darkened further as they approached the village from a far; it had taken only a few minutes, even though their ragged breathing suggested otherwise, but soon they were stood at the start of a gravel road that cut its way through the heart of the village like a knife.

Small cottage like houses intermingled with the odd shop lined each side of the gravel track, as a church rose up far in the distance. They all looked so old as they appeared to be withering before their eyes, each one helpless and crippled by age. If only the Andorian had known what her Trill counterpart did, then the harsh reality would have been far worse.

The silence was deafening, interminable, restless. The insurmountable stench of rotting flesh and burning wood engulfed the air. Nauseated, the pair moved further down the gravely street.

The duvet of dark and threatening clouds was soon disturbed as the first glimpse of moonlight shone through the trees that encircled many of the houses. They were dead, with dark trunks and thin branches. Glass windows once stained now lay shattered, every window representing the life of those who had once lived there.

The sky was navy blue as the sun sank beneath the horizon. Coming to a stop outside one of the buildings, Tharia looked at the Admiral for orders. Still, they said nothing to each other as the eerie silence continued. Eventually, the door opened with a creak. A pungent, unexplained odour filled the Andorian’s nostrils, mixed in with a whiff of stale tobacco that shrivelled her taste buds. The door opened directly into a small sitting room. Layer upon layer of dust lined every inch of the room, hiding layers of secrets and darkness. What on Earth had happened here?

Feeling more than a little queasy, she swiftly left the house and crouched to her knees, her hands supporting her on the floor as she took in deep breaths. Her attention was diverted from her breathing, only briefly, as the Admiral slinked by, silently moving away from the dark cottages and towards the nearby marketplace. The queasiness she felt before was only exacerbated by what awaited in the village square. A scene that answered one lingering question – where was everyone?

Gathered together in the heart of the village, the people had clearly been summoned to their final resting place. Given the sheer stench of rotting flesh and the bodies that were piled high, whatever had transpired had done so quickly and without warning. Among the cobbles, a river of blood flowed through the market square; the blood seemed fresh, yet the bodies that lay nearby appeared to be ancient. The depravity of the situation soon became devastatingly clearer. Nearly every single body had been separated from each limb, one by one, before being piled and burnt in mass funeral pyres. The horror of seeing severed heads on stakes, lining the sides of the village church, finally made the Andorian succumb to the nausea she had so ably kept at bay.

“Nearly two thousand people…” Nilani eventually whispered as she found her voice again, standing above the Andorian and looking around the devastating scene. “There are scenes like it all over the planet,” the Trill spoke a little louder now, as deep breaths calmed her anxious state and she remembered that this was only a holodeck representation.

Wiping her mouth on her uniform sleeve and stumbling to her feet, the blue-skinned Andorian tried her best to compose herself; tear stained cheeks and bloodshot eyes, not to mention antenna that had drooped lower than ever, was a clear sign that she was anything but ok. “Where…” her voice cracked. Letting out a little cough and rubbing her neck, she tried again. “Where… are we?”

“Xendi Sabu,” the Admiral responded, turning on her feet to look at the Commander directly. “The Rhode Island received a distress call from the planet three days ago. By the time she arrived, who, or what, had done this was long gone. The entire planet has been ravaged; most of the larger settlements have apparently been subjected to a form of orbital bombardment, but the smaller towns and villages… well there are similar scenes to this across the planet.”

Placing a gentle arm around her colleague’s shoulder, the Admiral turned the Andorian on her heels and they started back along the gravelly path.

“Who could have done this?” Tharia questioned as she glanced over her shoulder at the scene behind her.

“We have no idea, and the Rhode Island crew isn’t big enough, or experienced enough to lead such an investigation…”

Tharia shook her head quickly, “No, no… you can’t…”

“We want you to go and take up the lead on this,” Nilani told her, placing her hands reassuringly on the Andorian’s shoulders as she held her tightly. “You’re trained for this. You’re ready for this,” the Admiral continued firmly, “I need you to do this, Tharia. I need someone that I can trust to take a lead and follow it, wherever it may go.”

sh’Elas continued to shake her head in disagreement as she listened to the Admiral’s words. “There has to be someone else…”

“I know you,” Nilani smiled, “when something gets to you, you follow it through with dogged determination. I need someone that will see this investigation through to the bitter end and get the people of Xendi Sabu the answers they deserve...”

The village looked relatively small, cradled like a baby in the arms of the surrounding hills. Tharia stood, shivering, until night surrounded them, the moon struggling to penetrate the cloudy canopy above. The leaves were unyielding, hanging on firm in the sudden chill that succeeded sunset. The sounds of unseen creatures and the sound of the creeping dead chilled her to the bone as she slowly breathed in the dark mustiness. The earth laden chill filled her nostrils, burning her insides. Darkness had fully set in now, only the waning glimmer of light from the moon illuminated their path out of the village. They walked out down the treaded gravel road and up back into the hills from whence they came. Feeling empty, with a wretch inside her stomach, Tharia looked back one final time. Only the thin rays of moonlight illuminated the village and it made her sorrowful to know that this was once a thriving village... now turned into a desolate consummation of filth and misery… and death.

“Alright Admiral,” the Andorian finally nodded, looking back at the Trill with steely determination, “I’ll do it.”

Nodding slowly, and with a smile on her face, the Trill was satisfied at last. “After your morning briefing tomorrow, I’ll tell your people. Keep it to a select number of your more trusted senior staff. You can tell the rest when you are en-route to Xendi Sabu. Computer,” she paused briefly, “end program.”

With a beep in response, the computer carried out the Admiral’s command and the dark, bitter night that had engulfed the two of them was soon replaced by the ever familiar black and yellow of the holodeck grid and the entrance way to the rest of the ship.

“Try to get some rest,” Nilani suggested as she patted her subordinate on the shoulder gently, “you’re going to need all your strength in the days ahead…”

Tharia watched as the Trill left the holodeck and shook her head again for what felt like the umpteenth time. 'Try to get some rest...' Spoken like a true outsider, far from the realities of the unfolding situation. It wouldn't be that easy for Tharia or, she supposed, the rest of her crew once the dark reality of the situation became clear.

Readiness Report

Location: Ready Room
On: Day 3 at 1000

Commander Walker approached the Captain’s ready room with a PADD in hand. He had the daily readiness report but was eager to present it to Commander sh'Elas. He actually had some good news for a change. He pressed the door chime and waited for permission to enter.

Four hours. Four damn hours.

Commander sh'Elas had spent the first four hours of her duty shift in the sanctuary of her ready room and in that whole time she had not read a single personnel file or status report that cheered her up. And now she had received a message from Starfleet Command that had ruined the day for sure. When the door chime rang, she beckoned to the waiting entrant in a way that would have probably sent shivers up the spine of a Klingon warrior. "Don't even think about coming in here unless you intend to put a smile on my damn face!" she yelled at the top of her lungs before running a frustrated hand through her mop of silver hair. What was usually a pristine haircut was somewhat unkempt for a change.

The door slid silently open to reveal Walker standing there. He slowly walked in and allowed the door to close behind him before speaking. “That depends on what type of good news you’re after, Captain?”

"Anything," Tharia declared sternly, "anything that will cancel out the conversation I've just had with Admiral Drayton," she frowned, her tone much lower the second time as she collapsed onto the sofa at the side of her ready room.

“Orders, ma’am?” The Executive Officer asked, he was eager to get out of spacedock and get on with a mission.

"Not quite," the Andorian shook her head and gestured for her XO to sit beside her on the couch. "Drayton has reassigned our mission to another starship and crew due to the ongoing staffing situation," rubbing her temples didn't seem to alleviate the pain she was feeling, "we are not to leave Deep Space Five until our senior staff is complete, which could be weeks," she concluded.

“What?!” Walker said unexpectedly raising his voice in surprise. “That’s crazy, I get Starfleet is having staffing issues but we could still be doing something rather than sitting on our ass’ twiddling our thumbs.” Eli headed to the couch and sat down beside his Captain. “The crew are going to get rather bored being stuck here for that long.”

"Which is why I want to do something about it," the Commander grinned as she almost leapt to her feet and sauntered over to her desk, picking up one of the data PADDs she had been reading earlier. "They won't let us go without someone at Tactical and Engineering, so, we need to find someone," she surmised as she made her way back to the sofa, "at least temporarily. So, I've been trawling through the personnel roster and came up with a temporary solution," she passed him the data PADD.

Eli took the PADD and thumbed through the proposed duty roster. It would leave them light in some areas but it was doable.

"We appoint two Acting Department Heads. I reckon if we transfer Ensign Udal over to Tactical from Ops with the suggestion he will get experience, it might appease him after he was overlooked for the Ops Manager role," the Andorian suggested optimistically as she tapped the data PADD with one of her long, blue fingers. "As for engineering, I picked out three candidates that I think would do a good job from your current team, but I also found a Trill who is on Commander Millarini's team, overseeing the Slipstream installation on the Roehampton. She's only a junior Lieutenant, but I think she could be loaned to us until we find a more permanent solution," she advised, ever more optimistic.

“Experience is always good for young officers, I’m sure Udal will jump at the chance to play with Tactical.” Walker replied before looking back down at the PADD. “As for Engineering, my first choice would be Petty Officer Chan, however, he really does want the job. I’ve heard good things about this Lieutenant though, if Commander Millarini would be willing to loan us the Lieutenant could be beneficial to him having a more experienced officer working under him.”

"At this point, I don't think I'm ready to point a non-com to oversee engineering, especially one who isn't a senior non-com," the Andorian grimaced at the idea, "but I think he could make an ideal candidate for Assistant whenever we get a Chief Engineer appointed," she offered in a conciliatory tone, hoping it would appease her executive officer.

Walker nodded his agreement. “He will be a big help for an incoming Chief. He knows the ship and engineering staff well, Chan will definitely help with the transition.”

Phew! That could have been awkward. "So, what updates did you have for me?" the Andorian quizzed of her XO as she moved the topic along somewhat.

“Well, Crewman Chan and the rest of the Engineering team have finally got to the bottom of our gremlins. The ship should function as it should from now on.” Eli said with a hint of pride in his voice. “Also, the new Flight Control Chief and myself have cleared the latest shuttle craft arrivals for active service. All this is detailed in my report, Captain.” He said passing the Andorian a PADD which contained the report.

Tharia took possession of the status report and gave it a brief once over, nodding as she noted the content. "So, we'll be getting the yard engineers off our ship soon then?" she asked optimistically.

“It looks that way.” Walker replied with a nod. “I’ll be glad when they’re gone, sometimes they do more harm than good.”

"About time!" the Commander sighed in relief, "maybe the end of our terror is nigh?" she smirked with raised eyebrows, her antenna no longer drooping as her mood took a bit of a lift at last.

“Hopefully,” Eli said as he crossed his fingers on his right hand. “That’ll be the last of the teething problems. Oh, and we’ve installed the latest updates for the targeting array and navigational sensors too.”

"Sounds like we have everything in hand at last," the Commander nodded as she rose to her feet. "I should hear back later today about what our new mission will be, but don't hold your breath, Number One," she frowned as she made her way over to the desk and stood behind it, looking across at her XO. "I can't imagine we'll get anything as exciting as dealing with the Rihannsu..."

A Not So Urgent Request

Location: USS Ulysses - Deck 5 - COO's Office
On: Day 3 at 0745

Javorian had barely been able to escape the microbiology lab with his sanity intact after an encounter with one of his most troublesome team members, Petty Officer Talbot. Sometimes he thought the man was literally only around to test his patience, and today had been no different. Stepping into the nearest turbolift he advised it of his destination and then leaned against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest, and took a deep breath to calm himself.

Once the turbolift had deposited him on deck five he made his way down the corridor to the chief operations officer's office and pressed the call button to let the man know he was there. Clasping his hands behind his back he then settled in to wait.

Peter was at his desk looking through a stack of PADDs and requisitions and running through his work terminal. Most people thought it was a monotonous task, and the whole operations thing was frightfully dull. Peter enjoyed it. He was a bureaucrat at heart, paperwork made sense to him. The latest complicated forms Starfleet came up with we're a challenge, and he enjoyed it.

He heard the door chime but dismissed it, thinking it was for someone else. The second chime reminded him that this was his office. He smiled a little at the thought of "his" office. It was a new idea to him and he was glad it was a good change.

"Come on in." He said.

As the doors parted Javorian took a couple of steps in, surveying the room. He then approached the desk, behind which sat the man he was looking for. "I am sorry to bother you, Ensign, but do you have a few minutes to discuss something?" he asked.

Peter stood up quickly seeing him walk in. "Of course Lieutenant, have a seat. What can I do for you?" He said offering him the chair opposite him of his desk.

Javorian let out a sigh, "Honestly, you can help me squash an annoyance," he said, handing the other man the PADD he'd been carrying. "In case you need to know why, I'm formally requesting an immediate reallocation of resources to the microbiology labs starting at 2350 hrs tonight, and lasting until 0430 tomorrow morning. Apparently one of my people decided to start an experiment they would need a large chunk of computer core access for, without clearing it through me, or requesting access in advance, through you."

Peter started tapping on his workstation and glancing at the PADD. "About how much of an increase in computer power are we looking at during this time?"

"He's asking for a 37.68 percent increase in processing allocation for the duration of that time," Javorian replied. "I'm authorizing a partial, or full denial of that request, however. The project is important, but not critical, and if he can't get what he wants it might teach him to start doing things the right way, instead of expecting people to scramble to meet his needs."

Peter leaned back in his chair and ran his fingers through his hair. He glanced back and forth from the PADD to the terminal. "Well," he started. "The good news is that we are underway and just leaving the station so there is no maintenance scheduled during Gamma shift and most departments are still getting sorted out." He tapped a few more keys. "The bad news is I do have a regular deck running for usage right now. Best I can run on short notice would be around 25% with occasional dips as preallocated demand requires. This soon after departure it should stay about 25 for most of that duration."

"Sounds great," Javorian said. "I am sorry to have to drop that on you on such short notice. It shouldn't happen again."

"No problem Lieutenant. We're all still trying to figure out how our departments will run on this cruise. I figure there will bound to be some hiccups here and there. I appreciate that you're going to remind him though. Will help make my job easier in the future and I'm sure less of a problem for you too." Peter said with a smile and started making some notes on the pads before giving it back.

"Well, I won't keep you, have a great day, Ensign," Javorian replied with a slight smile.

"Thanks, you too Lieutenant. Office is always open." He stood with a smile. After the Lieutenant left, he started working on his terminal. He needed to get those reallocation codes entered soon and then get back to his stack of reports before he took over on the bridge.

To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.

Location: Conference Room C, USS Ulysses
On: Day 2 at 1515

The journey to Deep Space Five had, eventually, been pleasant enough. It had proven appropriate to remain in isolation for the majority of the trip, remaining in her assigned quarters and only leaving when it was time for her to leave the ship. In this way, she avoided any risk of conflict. She had learned this the hard way and the now expertly repaired broken cheekbone had been an excellent teacher. She had passed the time reading, exploring the seemingly infinite library she had access to.

Now standing in a nameless conference room she gazed out into space, unfamiliar stars gazed back at her. Somewhere inside an anxiety that had been festering since she had first spoken to a human at the start of her journey, now built to a constant feeling of unease. She turned when the door opened and gave a tight lipped smile. She forced her body to relax and took a step forward. "Captain sh'Elas, I presume?"

“Commander,” the Andorian bristled at the mention of a rank that she had not yet earned, at least in the eyes of Starfleet. “Welcome aboard the Ulysses, Wylia. This is my XO, Commander Walker.”

Walker gave the new comer a respectful nod. However, he was on edge, a Vorta on a Starfleet vessel as a member of her crew would only cause more problems. He decided to remain silent for the moment.

"I was under the impression that the title of Captain was given to one who was in command of a starship, rank notwithstanding. However if, Commander, if you are more comfortable being referred to by your rank, I will make a note of it," Wylia replied smoothly. She did her best to maintain an air of professional courtesy., She was there as more of a diplomat and she wanted first contact to go smoothly. She knew how the humanoids of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants were primitive and more likely to hold a grudge, even to the point of starting a conflict. "It is well to make your introduction as well, Commander Walker."

“Welcome aboard the Ulysses. If you have any problems or queries please don’t hesitate to contact me.” Elias said in a professional tone. He knew he had no right to distrust her but at the same time she had done nothing to earn his trust either.

"You join us at a rather dull time I am afraid," the Commander began as she pulled out a chair at the table, and offered their guest one at the side opposite the XO, "we're not scheduled to depart for a while yet and we're busy taking on new crew and conducting minor retrofits. I can't say you are going to particularly see us at our best," she advised the Vorta as she got comfortable in her chair. She, perhaps, wasn't as against their guests presence as some of the other crew would be, but she certainly understood their likely positions on the matter.

"My purpose is not to observe extraordinary times aboard your ship, Commander," Wylia replied flatly as she took the offered seat. She had gotten used to having to do negotiations both standing and seated, she knew well enough to let the host take the lead, to give them a sense of authority in the situation. She could flex Dominion muscle if the need arose, but she was well aware that her mere presence carried with it an implied threat. She spoke for the Founders, she spoke for the gods themselves. "I have been sent here to observe the normal operations of your vessel and assess the cohesion of your crew, with a special interest in how Starfleet crews react to Dominion personnel."

"Well," the Commander paused for a minute as she contemplated the Vorta's words, "I am sure there will be no issues with the cohesion of this crew. Some of them may be new, but they are gelling with the rest of us well and we'll be a well-oiled machine by the time we launch," she smiled as she looked across at the XO for backup.

“Indeed, these are some of Starfleet’s best and brightest. I’m sure you’ll be impressed with how well they perform.” Elias said with a proud smile.

"It is amazing how many solids claim to be among the best. Surely most of your crew is simply average," Wylia replied with an odd little smirk. "If I understand your Bell Curve correctly, if you have some of the best, it is likely there are plenty of under-performers within your crew. I look forward to seeing what variables in loyalty and range of capabilities does to the kind of cohesion found on starships." The Vorta spoke in a smooth, almost condescending tone. "Jem'Hadar do not suffer from such disadvantages. It is amazing your ships are not populated with the clones of your best and brightest. There are many advantages to reducing the number of variables."

"Individuality," Tharia responded bluntly, her antennae dipping to signal her annoyance at the remarks of the guest to her ship. "We pride ourselves on being individuals and using our individual experiences to guide us through life." She never thought she would have to explain the importance of individuality to anyone other than the Borg, but here she was, reminding the Vorta of the importance of individuality.

“Cloning is illegal in the Federation. Forgive me, but a Jem’Hadar ship must be very boring as they don’t sleep, drink or have fun of any kind. Being individuals and different helps make this ship tick.” Walker stated.

"In the Dominion, reliability is more important than amusement," Wylia replied, but quickly raised her hands in mock surrender. "But I am not here to argue about which arrangement is better. I do believe we would both fail to fully convince each other. I am here to observe how this individuality affects group cohesion and how your peculiar system of starship management functions. My goal is to find common ground so that further joint endeavours between your Starfleet and the Dominion may be undertaken."

“Are you seriously suggesting joint missions with the Dominion? I can’t see that happening for a long time,” Walker said, perhaps a little to bluntly.

"Even so," the Commander interjected as she looked at Elias, "this is an agreement put in place to ensure that the stepping stones for such endeavours are created," she reminded them both. "While you are on my ship, you'll report directly to the XO, Wylia. You'll have access to most of the ship, but there are some facilities, such as engineering, that will be restricted without clearance from one of us, as is the case with all civilians aboard," she advised of their guest dropping the bombshell on the XO too that he would be dealing with the Vorta far more than he probably hoped.

Walker didn’t like this one bit but orders were orders. He gave the Commander a curt nod that he understood her orders.

Standing from her seat, signalling her desire to cut the meeting short, the Andorian offered a hand to their guest one more time. "Glad to have you with us, Wylia. Commander Walker will assist you in getting settled. Should you need anything, please let him know," she told with a smile.

Taking the offered hand, Wylia gave only a loose gripped handshake. "I hope my time aboard your ship is highly productive. I do believe our cultures can find common ground, even if there are certain eccentricities that must be taken into account," she said with a polite smile before releasing the hand of the captain. "Though for now I require nothing more than quarters, preferably something similar to that which your crew enjoys, and access to one of your replicators. I have heard much of the unique dishes solids in your Federation enjoy."

“I’m sure that can be arranged for you, Wylia. Have you been shown your quarters yet? I’d be happy to help you find them if needed.” The Commander said in a polite manner.

Tharia watched with interest as the Commander and their Vorta guest exited the observation lounge together, deep in conversation, amused at bizarre posting of the Dominion Observer. What on earth did Starfleet have planned for them that made them think the Observer would do well to watch such a new crew?

Surely only time would tell?

Reading the Stars

Location: USS Ulysses - Astrometrics Lab
On: Day 2 at 1415

It was dark, quiet, and very cool. As the doors closed behind him sealing off the light coming in from the corridor and leaving him standing in the entrance to the main astrometrics labs, looking at the wall to wall consoles and displays being manned by various members of the astrometrics team. He was, however, looking for a very specific individual, Ensign Kedam, the teams only Cardassian.

Spotting her at one of the main consoles Javorian began to make his way towards her. His hands were folded behind his back, a PADD securely clasped in his left hand. As he approached her he glanced around the labs, taking in the various things he was seeing, and marking those which were of an intriguing nature for him to look into more closely when the progress reports for the projects were submitted.

Finally approaching her station he stopped an appropriate distance away and then spoke, "Ensign Kedam, may I have a moment of your time?"

Nisha couldn't help but roll her eyes as the Chief of her department interrupted her analysis of the cloud of stellar debris that had, for reasons unbeknown to anyone, appeared around the third planet in the Kaus Borealis system. She was just starting to get somewhere! Pressing pause on her analysis so that she didn't miss anything crucial, the pale Cardassian turned on her heels. "Yes, Lieutenant?"

Noting the tone of the woman's voice, and the body language she was employing, likely subconsciously, Javorian had to suppress his urge to smile. He'd heard she had a bit of a temper and could be somewhat feisty at times, and apparently that information had been quite correct. Turning his attention back to the reason he was here he brought the padd out from behind his back, holding it out to her.

Once she had taken it he began to explain, "I understand that you are a very busy woman, Ensign and that you already have a project you are working on, however, you are also my most talented team member when it comes to gaseous anomalies, and I have just received word that we will be passing incredibly close to one in the coming days. I would like you to put together a small team, get some probes ready, and get a station set up so you can study it," he said.

"From what I've read so far, it seems to be fairly unusual, and Starfleet is wanting as thorough an investigation as we can supply. There's even talk of sending a science vessel out to study it depending on what Ulysses finds. I've seen initial scientists pulled to head up such assignments before, so that isn't outside of the realms of possibility if you find something truly impressive," he finished.

"That'll be..." she paused as she noted the expression on her superior's face, and also channeled the reminders of her parents when she had told them of her intentions to join Starfleet. Patience and tolerance would be virtues required in extreme amounts on a Federation starship. Instead of her intended response, the Cardassian nodded slowly, "that'll be exciting sir. I'll put a team together immediately."

"Thank you, Ensign. Now, before you do that, please, tell me how you are finding your time here on the Ulysses? Are you happy with your assignment? Is there anything I can do, short of interrupting your work, to make things easier for you?" he asked, unable to resist at least a slight playful dig.

'Ah, crap! she cursed inwardly; he'd rumbled her irritation and was now mocking her for it. It was time for her to make amends in the eyes of her superior or her assignment to the Ulysses would probably be quite brief. "Don't get me wrong sir, I am loving my time on the Ulysses, and as a member of your department specifically, it's just..." she trailed off as sat back on the edge of her console and folded her arms across her chest in a protective stance, "every time it seems like I'm going to get my research done, or I'm going to complete a project, something else comes along. Like last week, for example. What was supposed to be a quiet time where I could get my research done, was interrupted by Petty Officer Jackson hogging all of our sensor time," she moaned, no doubt sounding like a petulant child in the process.

Waving his hand to the console Javorian asked, "May I join you?", and then leaned against the console as well, hands clasped at his waist. Looking out over the room with a smile he pondered how best to address this with the woman beside him. Finally, looking over at her he nodded, "I get it. Trust me. You have every right to be frustrated. When I first started out as a science officer I was the exact same way. I'd get something started, something I really, truly cared about, and suddenly something else would be thrown my way, and the old project would have to be put aside. Sometimes I never got to revisit them. Sometimes they got reassigned. But do you know what I discovered?" he asked, and waited for her to reply.

"That once you became Chief you had your pick of the assignments?" she smirked as she loosened up a little. Maybe he wasn't so bad after all?

Javorian gave the woman a sideways glance and then chuckled, "You are going to be one very disappointed woman if you ever make it to my position and expect that to be the case..." he quipped, and then turned serious. "Actually, what I discovered was that so long as I was able to contribute in any way, even if it wasn't as the person who got to start and finish a project, it still let me be of service to my people. Once I realized that it got a little easier to accept that sometimes I wouldn't get to do exactly what I might want, or get to be the main contributor on a project. It let me understand that I still mattered, and I was still doing important work to further the knowledge of the Federation."

"But I want to do a doctorate," she admitted to him, the first time she had told anyone of her desire to fully commit to the sciences for the rest of her career. "To do that, I need to start and complete research and studies. If I never get chance to do them now, it'll be too hard when I come to do my doctorate," she frowned sadly. She had been in love with science since the first time she had scanned the stars with her fathers telescope and it made her sad to think that she'd struggle to get where she so longed to be.

Javorian gave her a sympathetic look. He knew exactly how she felt, and he was very glad to know he had someone on his team that had such a drive to succeed and reach her goals. "How about this, keep your spirits up, keep focused on your work, and I will ensure that you get as many assignments as I can that you will be able to complete. That sound good?" he asked.

"Thank you sir," she nodded in acceptance, "I'd appreciate it." Perhaps the Terran wasn't so bad after all?

Moving to stand back up Javorian nodded, "Good, glad that's settled. Now, I'll get out of your hair. Remember my door is always open, so if you are having any problems, or you need anything at all, just reach out. I don't sleep a lot, and I'm not very social, so odds are you'll find me in my office, or in my quarters working just for a change of scenery," he said with a smile.

"Why is it that most scientists are... what was it my father said?" she mused, before a light bulb moment triggered by a memory, "ah, yes! Antisocial gits..." she added."Something he learnt from the Federation Ambassador if I remember rightly," she smirked.

"I really don't know, actually. I think it's because that particular personality quirk makes it easier for us to be dispassionate about things, and look at them more logically. We aren't as sentimental, so the social niceties often elude us, or seem silly. That's just my hypothesis, however," Javorian said, answering the question he'd often wondered about when he wasn't busy doing other things.

"And a sound one I am sure, sir," the Cardassian grinned before sheepishly pointing to her research. "I should get back to this before it gets delegated elsewhere..." she trailed off, waiting for permission from her superior.

"By all means, Ensign. Enjoy the rest of your day," Javorian replied with a smile, and then turned to leave.

Nisha watch the Lieutenant leave and, when she was content that she was alone again, she let out a sigh and shook her head as she turned back to her research. If she ever got promoted, she would make sure she got all the best assignments. But, for now, she was the junior and she’d just have to hope that whoever picked up where she left off would be competent enough to finish her task.

If there was someone to take over, anyway...

Nature Abhors a Vaccum

Location: USS Ulysses - Engineering Bay
On: Day 2 at 1400

It had been only a day since the promotion of Lieutenant Commander Elias Walker had left the Ulysses without a permanent Chief Engineer. Somehow, confusingly, that had led to Petty Officer 1st Class Alex Chan having to step up to fill the role until a new Chief could be found. The problem with that was, while Alex had more than enough experience to do the technical parts of the job, he had absolutely no experience with leading people. So far he'd managed well enough, but he was very nervous about the state of the department moving forward.

Stepping to the replicator in the chief's office, where he'd been sat, reading over a few reports from the previous day, he grabbed a cup of unsweetened green tea and moved to get the day started. Out in the main bay he looked around and saw the familiar sight of the engineering team hard at work. Approaching the propulsion department's main console he looked over a few of the readouts and smiled warmly to the young officer assigned there. From there he made his way to a few of the other stations as well, checking various readouts before beginning work on the various things he'd had reported that absolutely needed to be looked at.

Just as he was about to call the team together for the morning briefing he heard the doors open behind him and turned. "Commander, aren't you a sight for sore eyes?" he said, with a broad smile. "What brings you down this morning?"

Eli smiled, “Hey Alex, I’m guessing by that comment your still struggling with the gremlins?” Walker said referring to the constant small glitches and problems they had during their first short mission/shakedown. “Anything I can help with?”

"I meant that more as you are missed, sir," Alex replied. "But as long as your here..." he added with a grin. "But no, in all seriousness we've been getting a handle on the issues we've been monitoring. Unless you've got more to let me know about that is."

The Commander shook his head, “Actually, I haven’t which is nice to know. Perhaps this bucket of bolts and bulkheads might actually be starting to behave.” Walker said resisting the urge to walk round and take a seat at his old desk. “Did you manage to realign the port phaser array?” He asked.

"Had to do it myself, but yes, we got it taken care of. Found a couple of sheared off support struts that look like they might have been damaged during installation and just couldn't support the weight. The targeting sensors could only do so much to compensate. I had new struts replicated and took a team to get them all in place yesterday afternoon. Should be good as new," Alex replied.

“Nicely done. I couldn’t remember if I put in on the to-do list. This change in job has left my mind swimming, but I’m sure I’ll get there.” He said placing his hands behind his back. “So, how have the team taken to the transition? I’m guessing it was a shock for them as it was for me.”

Alex shrugged slightly, "It's been a bit of a challenge, but it hasn't in any way impacted the job getting done. I've been very proud of the team, honestly. I was a bit surprised that they took to my taking over in the interim, but so far we've had no problems at all," he replied.

“I’ve been proud of you, stepping up as you have. Can’t be easy for an NCO to step up and take temporary charge of a large engine room like Ulysses. I’ll be mentioning it to the Captain in my report.” Eli said with a smile.

Alex returned the man's smile, "Thank you, sir. And no, it hasn't been easy, but I have enjoyed the challenge. It's given me the opportunity to really see what it's like for people that have those pips on their collar," he said with a chuckle.

“Has it changed your mind about maybe one day wearing the pips yourself?” He asked with a cheeky grin. He knew what the answer would be but there was no harm in asking it.

"Nah, not really. I have enjoyed the challenge this has brought, but I won't mind one bit handing the reins back to someone else when the time comes. I like to get my hands dirty, and be in the thick of things, not dealing with schedules and figuring out who should be doing what all the time. Gives me a lot less time to do some actual engineering," Alex replied.

“That’s the hardest thing I found with taking the Chief Engineer role. I enjoyed getting stuck in with the work. Getting your hands dirty was the best part of being an engineer. I always tried to keep my hand in, but having to be in charge of multiple teams makes that difficult.” Walker replied. “However, you do change your mind, I will gladly sponsor your application into the academy.”

Knowing that the other man had such faith in him made Alex smile, "Thank you, sir. I will keep that in mind. How is the right-hand seat treating you?" he asked, changing the direction of the conversation. He couldn't ever see him taking such a position, it was part of the reason he had gone the enlisted route, and he was glad of it. When he considered things like command he suddenly just felt like he wouldn't really get to do much of what he had a real passion for, so he planned to avoid it at all costs. He was still quite happy for the man he'd worked with, however. It was a huge step up for him, and one he truly did deserve.

“It’s been a massive step up. You wouldn’t believe the paperwork I have to do along with other stuff now. It’s honestly been an eye-opener but I have relished the opportunity and am enjoying it so far. That being said, we haven’t actually done anything yet so I’m sure it’ll get a lot harder as time goes on.” Walker replied.

Chuckling slightly Alex clapped the other man on the shoulder, "I'm sure you will do an amazing job no matter how hard it gets. After all, it can't be any harder than running an engine room full of fussy engineers," he quipped.

“Trust me, an engine room full of fussy engineers would be welcome right about now. I’ve got lists upon lists sitting on my desk. I think every department on the ship has asked for everything that’s impossible to get, plus new crew being fussy about where their quarters are.” Eli said with a sigh. “However, as you say I’m sure I’ll get the hang on it.” He paused for a moment. “Fancy a drink after clocking off time later?”

Alex smiled, "You buying?" he asked, and then chuckled.

“Maybe...” He replied with a small wink. “I’ll let you get back to work, great job Alex.”

"Thank you, sir! Enjoy the rest of your day!" Alex replied, and then turned back to his work.

Excited Preparations

Location: Captain's Ready Room
On: Day 2 at 1355

Peter walked across the bridge as carefully as he could. He was holding a stack of PADDs that had the various requisition approval forms on them from different departments and general ship needs. As he neared the Captain's ready room, a PADD slipped from the stack. He juggled it a couple times before managing to catch the PADD before it and the rest of his stack fell to the ground....for the 3rd time.

He double checked the order of the stack and nodded to himself, alphabetical by department and sub sorted by rank. Might make things easier for the Captain to approve, at least he hoped. He double checked his uniform and happy with it, pressed the door chime.

"Enter!" the voice from within beckoned.

Peter walked in with his stack and did his best to come to attention without spilling the stack everywhere. "Sorry to bother you Captain, but here is the last minute stack of requisitions the departments have asked for. Most of it standard supply with a few specific requests but nothing out of the ordinary I believe."

"No!" the Commander almost flew out of her seat and threw her arms outwards in protest. "I swear to the Ice Gods of Thalos, if I see one more data PADD I will kill someone," she fumed. "I'm sorry Ensign, but they'll just have to go to the XO or I am liable to bury someone beneath the ice caps of Andoria..."

"My apologies Captain." He said backing up toward the door, trying not to rattle the PADDs. While he would like to see Andoria first hand, he was pretty sure that was not a spot he wanted to be in. "I'll find Commander Walker and redirect any future PADDs to him first before moving any forward to you."

Tharia let out a sigh and collapsed back into her seat. "I'm sorry Ensign," she apologised with a slight, weary smile on her blue face, "it's been a hell of a day." She held out a hand and waved him back in, "let's see what I can help you with, shall we?"

"Sorry to hear that Captain. I can funnel the personal preference requests to the Commander for you. That will leave just the department heads and most everything is standard." He said and picked off the top one. "This is tactical. Standard allocation of torpedos and a couple new phaser rifles plus replacement parts. This one is engineering, standard replacement parts and some extra tools. Science has a few new test pods they would like added and Medical was pretty minimal with their needs."

He paused for a moment to ponder if he should add one more to the stack or not. He fingered a PADD from the bottom of the stack and placed it on the table behind the others. "This is operations. It is pretty standard, new sensor pallet to replace one with a test fault on it. I also added an extra container of replicator matter. There has not been a formal briefing yet other than we are pushing off earlier than we expected too, so I thought extra matter could be useful for a lot of 'just in case' scenarios."

He took a breath, "As you know Captain, this is my first time being COO and I'm fairly inexperienced, so with your permission I would like you to review my request in Operations so I can get it right by your standards, not mine."

"Ordinarily, such requests would be run by the XO as he will largely be in charge of mission operations," the Commander advised the Ensign, but she reached out and took the Operations PADD, "but I'll look over it this once," she winked reassuringly. Reading through it, she nodded slowly and made several grunting noises until she eventually looked up again.

"We'll take the extra replicator matter. I think it makes sense to convert Cargo Bay 8 into a spare parts storage. We'll dedicate it to Ops and Engineering," she nodded in agreement. "Beg, borrow or steal everything you possibly can from the Quartermaster. Bio-neural gel packs, optic cable, spare deck plating. Anything that will make repairing the ship easier in a tight situation."

Peter grinned. "Understood Captain. I'll make it happen." He said picking up the PADDs that were approved. "And thanks for reviewing this information. I'm trying to learn what you all want from my department and figured I better run it all by you and have it delegated to the XO or have me self manage then to skip you in the loop on something you actually need to see."

"Well, thank you for being so diligent Ensign. Carry on in such a way and I am sure you will be a great asset to the crew," the Andorian tried to reassure her junior most department head.

"I won't let you down Captain. Is there anything else you need from me?" He asked picking up the approved PADDs to take away his clutter he brought to her desk.

"Just make sure that all of the quarters reserved for new personnel are ready. Last thing I need is people coming aboard to find out they haven't got the things they need to set up home," she smiled, "as harsh as it sounds, I need them to be able to come in and focus on their jobs as quickly as possible."

"Absolutely Captain. Is there anyone on the manifest you want me to take extra care of or everyone equally at discretion?"

"Everyone equally," the Commander nodded in confirmation.

"Then consider it done Captain." Peter said with a grin coming from youth and excitement bubbling out of his face. It was a simple task, but was being entrusted to him by the Captain herself not a department head. He quickly did his best to reign in his grin. "Uh, yes Captain. Is there anything else?"

Tharia rose to her feet and offered a hand to the Ensign. "Nothing else Ensign. Keep up the good work," she responded in her unofficial dismissal of the young officer.

"Thank you ma'am, I will." He said carefully manoeuvring the stack of PADDs while reaching a hand out to shake hers. After he found his stack stable again, he turned and left the Ready Room mentally getting a list going of which reports he needed to run first and how he was going to fill the cargo bay with supplies.

Psych Talk

Location: Counselor’s Office
On: Day 2 at 0900

After his medical the day before, Commander Walker decided he’d take the bull by the horns and get his psych evaluation done and out of the way before he had the Counselor chasing him for it. He had checked Lieutenant Elloyia’s schedule and notice she had a space first thing so booked the slot.

Now he stood outside the Counselor’s office with clammy palms as he waited for permission to enter.

The thread of anxiety standing outside her door was impossible to miss for a woman like Elleese. She sighed softly, wishing people would want to see her more often than just had to. Still, she smiled politely and called through the door, "Enter."

Eli quickly dried his calmly hands on his uniform before entering. He wasn’t sure why he was nervous but psych evaluations always made him on edge. The doors parted and stepped in and smiled. “Hi.” He said awkwardly. “I’m here for my psych evaluation.”

Elleese smiled kindly and inclined her head in acknowledgement. "Of course, Commander," she said. "Please, come in." She waved to the door behind her which led to her private office space. "Have a seat wherever you would be most comfortable," she continued as she followed him into the room. "Can I get you something to drink?"

“Erm...I’m fine.” Eli said as he followed the Counselor into her private office. He glanced around, seeing the usual furniture which came with the Counselor’s office. A sofa, an arm chair, a coffee table. He mentally chose the arm chair and headed towards it before sitting himself down.

She made herself a cup of tea before sitting on the sofa. "I know that these evaluations can always feel a little awkward at the start," she said with understanding.

“You’re telling me.” He said with a nervous laugh. “I have know idea why, but I’m absolutely scared of these evaluations.” He said honestly.

"I can promise you that you are not alone in that," Ell said easily, sipping her tea and then setting it on the side table. "It seems like almost everyone who comes to see me is scared to be here, but I do not believe I am really all that frightening." She smiled with humor that bordered on the impish.

“It’s not you, it’s the just the words Psych Evaluation.” Walker said with a shrug. “Shall we get started? The more we talk about it the less I’m wanting to be here.” He smiled, “Hopefully getting started will elevate that.”

Ell inclined her head in agreement. "To get started, then, I usually like to ask people to tell me a little about themselves. Wherever you want to start or whatever you would like to tell me."

Eli let out a puff of air as he thought, after a few moments he shrugged. “I’m not sure where to start.” He said slowly, surprised by his own words. He really didn’t where to start when talking about himself.

"I know that it is a very broad question," the counselor said with understanding. "I understand that you have accepted the role of first officer aboard now. How does that feel?"

“Excited and nervous.” Eli said honestly. “I always wanted to get into command but didn’t expect it to happen so soon. The role is massive, I’m sure I’ll grow into it but still, it’s a big challenge to take on.”

Elleese smiled kindly. "It is, most assuredly. Being nervous is understandable, but being excited is good. The two help balance each other out so that neither overwhelms the other."

“I think as it’s still a fairly new vessel it needs to find its balance. Most ships that have been in service a while are well oiled machines, we will get there, it may just take a little bit of time.” Walker said with a smile.

"I believe you are right," the counselor said with a nod. "And there have been so many other changes aboard and so recently. It will make things take a little longer to all come together, do you think?" Of course, she knew the answer from the psychological perspective, but this meeting was about his thoughts and not her training.

“I agree, the change in first officer will no doubt be a big game changer for the crew plus the other changes going on. It’ll be a difficult couple of weeks for everyone to adjust and find their groove aboard the ship.” Eli nodded in agreement.

Elleese nodded as well. "Indeed it will," she said. "Are you looking forward to working more with Commander sh'Elas?"

Walker smiled, “Yes actually. I have a lot of time and respect for the Captain. I think she will be a good teacher as I make the transition into command.”

"That is a very good thing," she said. "That sort of confidence and understanding will go a long way to help you settle into your new role."

The Commander smiled, “I’m looking forward to the challenges that Command will bring. I maybe a little slow to begin with while I find my groove however I think after a few weeks I should be confident in the position.”

She nodded. "There will always be a period of adjustment, and do not be surprised if maybe there are still some moments that pop up after those few weeks. Remember that it is natural for it to happen, but it sounds like you have a good handle on your outlook."

Elias nodded his understanding, “I expect to hit some bumps along the way and I’m ready to deal with them as and when they happen.”

"Good," she said with a smile. "I will let you get back to your new duties then, Commander. Everything seems well, though please do come see me if you have any need to."

“Thank you, Lieutenant.” Walker said as he pushed himself to his feet. He was glad the Counselor hadn’t brought up about his wife. She passed away a few years ago and it had been difficult but talking about it made it seem worse. He gave Lieutenant Elloyia a small smile before turning and leaving to get back to his duties.

Fly Boy Lands

Location: Ready Room
On: Day 1 at 1920

Adam stepped onto the bridge and smiled, while he was sad to be leaving the Kumari the fact that his new posting was also a Luna-class made it a little easier to bear. The first thing he noticed was a slightly different bridge module than the Kumari had had. It was a bit more compact, the standard CONN and Ops at the front, presumably tactical in the wrap around railing console similar to a Galaxy-class, and a pair of rear stations on both sides.

The centre seats were currently vacant and the CONN station was occupied by a very young looking Ensign. 'She's not that young, you're just getting old.' He thought to himself, as he made his way to the ready room door and chimed.

Lost in a world of her own, with a little time to herself for what seemed like the first time in weeks, the Andorian commander of the Ulysses was stood in front of her fish tank, observing the free moving fish that seemed to be so content swimming around in the same bubble from day to day without a care in the world. An entirely different proposition to that of the Andorian, of course, who seemed to have the weight of the entire galaxy on her shoulders at times.

When the chime went, she was pulled from her day dreaming and simply turned her neck to look at the entrance to her private office. "Enter," she called out.

Adam entered and offered his new boss a smile, "Good morning ma'am, Lieutenant Paxton reporting, I'm your new Chief of Flight Control." He said.

Tharia looked the man over, her antennae dipping as she walked back to her desk and took a seat behind it. Offering the seat opposite her to the newcomer, the Commander began speaking. "Welcome to the Ulysses Lieutenant. I received your transfer orders from the Kumari. Captain Colburn was most displeased with me for poaching you," the Andorian smirked.

"It was a hard choice to leave but I thought it was time for a change." He said, "I'm looking forward to this assignment though."

"You are joining us at a time of great change," Tharia revealed as she visibly relaxed, "even for such a new ship, most of our personnel have been poached for roles elsewhere," she told.

He nodded, "It seems most people I talk to are new to the ship, the veterans seem to be those that joined a few weeks back." Paxton replied.

Tharia shuffled uncomfortably in her seat as she thought about the ships situation. "Starfleet seems to think that because we are new, we don't need an experienced or reliable crew that have worked together," she frowned, "instead, they have transferred most of my people to ships of the line such as the Nogura. So, to get new officers with your experience is very useful," she finally smiled, hoping she hadn't come across as too bitter.

He could understand the Captain's annoyance at staffing, he still often thought of himself as one of the young inexperienced officers despite the fact that he was getting close to 10 years in service. "Well glad to help." He said with a grin. He had to admit from his experience most department heads on the Ulysses were Lieutenants, in fact other than the XO, he wasn't sure he'd even seen any Lt Commanders abroad.

"We're due to depart in the not too distant future, but without a Chief Engineer, we wont be going anywhere," the Commander sighed, more than a little frustrated at the ongoing situation. "I'd like you to head down there and help with a diagnostic of all propulsion systems. We've got yard engineers in, but I'd like the opinion of someone who is going to be using the engines frequently when we get out of here," she asked of her newcomer. It wasn't an unusual request, other than for the fact that there was no incumbent engineer to lead the show.

"Understood ma'am." Adam replied, "Is there anything you need from me pre-launch?"

Tharia shook her head, "Not me personally, but you'll have to have medicals with both the CMO and the Counsellor if you haven't done so already... and you might want to check in with the XO too," she suggested.

"Yes ma'am, I need the XO to sign off on the inspection of the newly delivered support craft anyway." He said with a nod.

"Then I'll look forward to an update by this time tomorrow Lieutenant," the Commander advised as she rose to her feet and offered a hand to the Flight Operations Officer. "Glad to have you with us, Lieutenant."

"Thank you ma'am. I'll have that report to you." He said.

"Excellent," the Andorian grinned as she held out a hand in gesture for the door and informally dismissed her new Flight Operations Chief; one of several new officers she would be meeting in the coming days.

Adam stepped out of the ready room and headed to his office. There was much to be done.

Check Up

Location: Sickbay
On: Day 1 at 1810

Adam was slowly getting all the tediousness of a new ship out of the way. The last things were the medical and psychic eval. He made his way to sickbay and entered, it was fairly busy and several other crew appeared to be getting their medicals out of of the way with various medical staff. A nurse was set up at what appeared to be a make shift reception station, "Here for your medical?" She asked smiling at him.

"Yes, if someone is free, if not I can come back later." Paxton replied.

Doctor Hill approached the nurses station and handed a PADD to her. "Ensign Ryan needs to keep his hand in that dermaline gel bath for the next half hour or so and to learn not to get too close to a malfunctioning EPS tap when he doesn't know what he's doing."

He turned his focus to the young Lieutenant standing at the nurses station. "Lieutenant Paxton." Jonathan extended a hand. "Doctor Jonathan Hill. Here for your physical I assume?"

The pilot nodded with a smile, "Yes, wanted to get it out of the way so you didn't have to track me down."

"Excellent. Why don't you take a seat on one of the free biobeds while I grab a copy of your medical file and I'll be right with you." Jonathan returned to his office and downloaded a copy of the Lieutenant's medical record onto a PADD.

Adam hopped up on the end of the biobed and waited.

"Okay, so anything to report since your last medical? Any new aches or pains? Back pain, muscle spasms, vision problems, recurring headaches?" Doctor Hill asked as he glanced over Paxton's medical records once more for a quick reminder. "That's not an exhaustive list by the way."

"No everything seems to be in working order. Other than stubbing my toe really hard last night." The pilot replied.

Doctor Hill chuckled. "Yeah, we generally advise you not to do that. Hurts like hell." His smile widened. "If you've done any serious damage, it'll show up on my scans and I'll have you rushed to surgery to repair the damage."

Adam smirked, "I'm sure it's fine, my last posting was a Luna-class as well, and as such I'm in the same cabin as the previous ship, same layout but I swear the bedroom is 2 cm more narrow and I keep hitting it on the end of the bed." He shook his head slightly, "I'm sure I'll like, no need to book an OR."

"Okay, first I'm gonna run a series of in-depth scans and then I'll take a blood sample so why don't you go ahead and lie down and we'll get started." One thing about such a large influx of new crew was the number of personnel in need of an updated physical. This was his third or fourth of the day and it was becoming repetitive. But on the upside it did give him a chance to meet two of the new senior officers.

Adam laid down, staring at the ceiling as he heard several beeps, assumably the Doctor beginning the scans. "Are you new to the Ulysses as well? It seems like almost everyone is."

"The Ulysses herself is fairly new." Hill told him as he monitored the scan data readout at the head of the bed. "I came onboard just prior to the beginning of her convoy duties so I've been onboard for about a month. A little strange for there to be such a large turnover in personnel so quickly but I guess Starfleet has their reasons." Starfleet always had their reasons, the Doctor mused, but they seldom gave much insight into their reasoning.

"Starfleet's reasons often allude me." Adam joked, "But I don't have nearly enough pips to understand their logic, that's how that works right?"

Jonathan nodded and smiled. "Ours is not to reason why, Lieutenant." The words had come so easily to him, as well they should; he'd heard them enough times. Gunnery Sergeant McWilliams loved the Tenneyson poem, so much so that he could recite the entire thing by memory and recite it he would, just before they went into combat. It had gotten so that Jonathan could still recite a large portion of it from memory himself almost twenty years later.

The computer's beeps drew him back to the present, his memories tucked away in the box he kept them in once again. "Okay, Lieutenant. Everything looks much as it did during your last physical. I just need to grab a blood sample and we'll be done here."

Adam nodded, "Help yourself."

Doctor Hill retrieved a hypospray and pressed the nozzle against Paxton's arm. He watched for a few seconds as the vial filled with the deep red oxygenated blood of the Human Lieutenant. When there was enough, he pulled the hypospray away. "Okay. I think we're done here."

"Great, thanks Doc." Adam said, getting to his feet.

Jonathan handed the blood sample off to a nurse before turning back to the Lieutenant. "Anytime. If you need anything more, you know where we are. Welcome aboard."

Adam smiled and headed for door. 'At least the CMO is cute.' He thought as he headed for the Bridge.

The Dreaded Medical

Location: Deck 6 | Main Sickbay
On: Day 1 at 1700

Doctor Hill busied himself in his office while waiting for Lieutenant Commander Walker to arrive. He'd summoned the new Executive Officer to Sickbay as a matter of some urgency, which was true...from a certain point of view. The former Chief Engineer turned XO had been dodging his physical since arriving onboard and Jonathan could let him get away with it no longer.

Walker quickly walked into Sickbay, tool kit in hand, after being summoned in what sounded like a very urgent call. As Ulysses was without a Chief Engineer, the Commander would fulfil any Engineering emergency’s that cropped up to allow the rest of the Engineering staff to concentrate on the other toothing problems which had come about since leaving space dock.

“How can I help, Doctor?” He said, sounding a little puffed after rushing to sickbay.

Hill stepped out of his office with a PADD in hand, the small device holding the Commander's medical record. He pointed towards the row of biobeds and instructed, "You can take a seat on one of the biobeds."

Eli frowned, “Erm, I beg your pardon?”

"You can take a seat on one of the biobeds," Doctor Hill repeated as he again pointed at the row of biobeds, "I'll have you out of here in a few minutes." He added.

“I thought you had a problem, Doctor?” The Commander said still confused.

That was one way of putting it. "I do." He told the XO. "The ships Chief Engineer has been dodging his mandatory physical ever since he came onboard and my patience has run out. Not to mention scuttlebutt has it that said Chief Engineer has just been promoted to Executive Officer and should really now be leading by example. So, with all that in mind, if you'd have a seat on one of the biobeds then we'll get this over with."

Walker smirked, “Nicely done, Doctor.” He said with a nod before slowly walking over to the nearest biobed. He set down his tool kit before hopping up onto the bed. “Well, do your worst.” He said with chuckle.

"I always do." Jonathan shot back before shifting gear. "Any issues to report since your last physical?" He asked, glad that the Commander had seen sense and decided not to argue.

“Apart from the stresses of command, no.” Eli replied with a smile.

Doctor Hill smiled. "I hear the stresses of command can be a bitch but I'm sure you're more than capable of dealing with them." He placed the PADD on the empty bed behind him. "Now, if you'll lie down on the biobed then I can start my scans. Once that's done I'll need a blood sample and you'll be good to go."

“Of course.” Eli replied as he slowly laid back down on the biobed. “I’m used to running busy engine rooms so the stress I can cope with but I never imagined just how much paperwork is involved with being first officer.”

Jonathan chuckled as he activated the biobed's scanners. "If there's one universal truth in life it's that the higher up the chain you move, the more paperwork lands on your desk. Do you get a Yeoman to help you out with that or is that privilege reserved for the Captain?"

“Captains privilege I believe, but your right. The higher up you move the more paperwork you get. I’m a hands on man myself, but I’ll rise above the challenge.” Walker replied.

Hill smiled. "I have full faith in your abilities to master the mountains of paperwork." As a Doctor, mounds of paperwork were part of the job no matter the rank or billet so he fully understood the XO's frustrations. The computer indicated the scans were complete. "If you sit up again I'll grab a blood sample and we're done."

Eli nodded before sitting himself up and offered the Doctor his arm. “So, have you settled in aboard the Ulysses?”

"Yeah. I've been with Starfleet for twenty-one years. Settling into new duty stations is second nature to me by now." Hill replied as he pressed the hypospray nozzle against the Commander's arm and pressed the activation control.

The Commander nodded his understanding. “Served on a Luna Class before?” He asked.

"No sir, first time." Hill shook his head. "The Ulysses is the third ship I've served on. I was on the Nebula-class Oxford prior to this and the Olympic-class Nobel before that." With the vial filled, Jonathan withdrew the hypospray and handed it off to a nearby nurse.

“I’m guessing that the medical facilities are a lot better than on a Nebula or Olympic class?” Walker said with a smile.

The XO wasn't wrong. "The Olympic-class ships are more hospital than anything else and even the Nebula-class has medical facilities that are considerably more expansive than those of the Ulysses. The difference is that this is my Sickbay. That makes the Ulysses' medical facilities a lot more special to me."

Eli understand what the Doctor meant. “I totally understand, I’m the same with Engineering rooms. I’m honestly not sure how I’ll feel once we get a new chief engineer.”

"It'll be weird to begin with." Jonathan told him, some understanding of how the Commander would feel. "It'll be weird to see someone else running your engine room. It'll be a while before you can even begin to think of it as their engine room. You may even find yourself looking over the new Chief Engineer's shoulder a little too much. In time you'll learn to let go."

“I think I’m going to find it difficult not to look over their shoulder. I mean, I’m more than happy to help out but I’ve just got it ticking to how I like and they’re going to change it. I understand that that’s the way things are but I’m going to have to bite my lip when I feel the urge to interfere.” Walker replied.

Doctor Hill had been through something similar when he was promoted to Platoon Sergeant. Watching someone else take command of his squad, men and women that he'd led through the final stages of the war, had been difficult. It had taken a conversation with Major Reynolds before he'd been able to really let go and stop constantly looking over the shoulder of his replacement. "it won't be easy but you have to accept that it's not your job anymore. Your responsibility isn't to make sure the engine room is running how you want it, but to make sure that the entire ship is running as it should be. You have bigger fish to fry now."

“Oh yeah, I know that. But as they say, ‘old habits die hard’.” Walker said with a shrug. “I’ll get there, just need to adjust. I’m sure I’m not the only one in history that’s found it hard to let go of their old job.” He smiled. “Thanks for the ear, Doctor. I appreciate it.”

Jonathan gave the Commander a nod. "Anytime, XO." He typed a command into the display at the head of the bed that would transfer the scan data to the terminal in his office.

“Am I done?” He asked as he slipped himself off the biobed and gave his uniform a tug to straighten it out.

Doctor Hill nodded and flashed a smile. "You're done. You are cleared for duty, Commander."

“Thank you, Doctor.” He said with a curt nod. “Perhaps just ask me to report here instead of using a ruse.” He added with a smirk as he picked up his tool kit and headed out of sickbay.

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