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Healing and Friendship

Posted on 14 Jan 2017 @ 11:47pm by Ensign Kelly Khan & Lieutenant JG Ian Beckett

Mission: Endgame
Location: Recreation
Timeline: md 11 || 1900 Hours [Backpost]

Once she had gotten off duty, Ensign Khan headed back to her quarters to change out of her uniform and took a moment of pride to shine HG before she carefully stored it in a special transparent aluminum case she had gotten while at the Academy for the day she earned her first pip. After her sonic shower, she changed into a pair of black pants and a blue shirt that had the outline of a hawk in flight with the words "Wild & Free" on the wings, and a pair of black running shoes.

She left her quarters with no real idea of where she could go, but decided to wander until she found a spot that would get and hold her attention for a while. The holodecks were offline and she had learned that Talon's was temporarily shut down until they got stocked up on food stuff again and she was still wandering until she heard a bunch of voices nearby. Looking up, she saw that she was near the recreation rooms and decided to stop in one and see if there were any games going on she could join in on or someone she knew who would be up for a bit of chatter.

Ian had been ridiculously busy with his little part of the computer reboot all day long. As had everyone else in Operations. He'd even heard a few of the junior enlisted refer to the 'Taskmaster' and chuckled. They were being worked hard, but it was necessity. When his relief came at the end of his shift he was more than thankful. He told the Andorian what he was doing and where he stopped. After answering a few questions, Ian headed to his quarters for a sonic shower and change into a grey t-shirt and a pair of jeans.

With everything either offline or empty, his only choice had been one of the recreation rooms. It was a little louder than normal, but that was due to there being more personnel than usual. Ian had been watching a game of kadis-kot when someone accidentally brushed up against him. He turned and the Bajoran smiled and apologized. Ian smiled and nodded in return, then left the game he was watching. There weren't too many people here that he knew. But then again, at this point, not too many people seemed to want to get to know a transfer from the Chimera. Still, he didn't let that deter him from looking for a game to play when the doors opened and short brunette walked in. He politely nodded, just in case she saw him looking, and then headed for a dom-jot table. Maybe there would be an opening soon.

Kelly saw a man with dark brown hair and blue eyes that had a startling intensity to them nod her way and wondered where she had seen him before. She returned the nod, an unconscious frown flickering over her lips for a moment before curiosity got the best of her. Granted, it was probably the darkly handsome aspect of him that got her attention, but a corner of her mind nagged at her that she had seen him somewhere before and she knew she would get no rest until she figured it out.

With her usual straightforwardness, the petite brunette made a beeline towards the man and stepped up to him near the dom-jot table. "Excuse me," she said as she looked up at him and studied his features. "Don't I know you from somewhere?"

Ian turned and saw that it was the girl from a moment ago. He looked at her a moment and considered; petite, brunette, brownish colored eyes.... "No, I don't believe I've ever met you," he said. He was certain that he would remember someone who didn't have a problem walking up to a complete stranger.

Kelly took a step back and looked at him again from top to bottom, but there was nothing flirtatious about it. She bit her bottom lip and struggled to recall the past several days and then she gave a nod. "No, I remember you even if I don't know you. You were on the Chimera, weren't you?"

Ian watched her as she took in his appearance like someone who was searching her mind. "Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I was. I was an Operations officer there." He wasn't sure where this conversation might be going, but he was prepared for anything either way.

In the background an industrious Ensign broke out a PADD and loaded it with a selection of music that hadn't been stored in the main computer and Aint It a Sin? began to play.

"I was there, too," Kelly said. "Ensign Kelly Khan, but I was a cadet at the time I was assigned to take command of the Chimera in the final battle with the Valdore." She hesitated for a moment as a look of sorrow crossed her features and the look that flashed in her eyes made her look older. "I'm sorry if you lost friends there."

Ian looked up as the music began to filter through the rec room. He looked back at, Kelly was it, and nodded. "Lieutenant Junior Grade Ian Beckett. So that's where you recognize me from." He paused a few seconds as he thought about the orders that had come down to him after the skirmish. She was their origin. "I lost many friends there. And some that I thought were my friends. But one of the best friends I lost...I had to hurt myself. Being an Operations officer with orders to dismantle and salvage the ship..." he shook his head.

"Her back was broken," Kelly said softly. "Nothing short of a starbase space dock would have fixed her again, Lieutenant Beckett. I didn't make the call and I worked as hard as everyone else trying to her up and running again, but the command came down and there was nothing that could be done."

"I appreciate your efforts, Ensign Khan, in trying to save her," said Ian. The music seemed softer even though the volume hadn't changed. "I know, you were following orders. I was following orders. They were following orders. I don't hold it against it you or even the command that they came from. I saw how broken she was after we started dismantling her. But I hoped beyond all hope that we could still save her."

"Thanks. Call me Kelly," she said before deciding that the topic of conversation was just too depressing. "I'm not on duty at the moment and I don't want to be on duty now. Are you up for a game of cards, chess or whatever? I promise that I'm no pro."

Ian smiled. "Kelly it is then. And you can call me Ian. We will leave duty at the door. And as far as any of these games, I'm far from knowing what I'm doing, either. I prefer the outdoors and the games there over anything in here. But I'm up for seeing who knows more about cards or whatever."

"Then let's go find some cards and see who's worse, Ian," she said with a laugh. "All I know about the outdoors is animal lore and medicinal treatments for them. Just don't ask me to give you a hypospray. I suspect Doctor Road is still mad at me about that."

Ian fell in step with Kelly. "Animal lore and medicinal treatments, huh. I don't believe I've ever met anyone outside of veterinary practices that knew about that kind of thing. I'd like to hear about that sometime. But right now I'm more interested in what you did to a doctor with a hypospray. That sounds like an interesting story." He kept his eyes open for possible tables with cards.

"Well, it goes back to duty..." Kelly started as she eyed a table of a few Ensigns she had seen before playing cards and gave a nod in that direction. "Remember when everything when dark on Chimera? I had woken up on the bridge and saw Doctor Road laying there, too. Of course, everyone was in the same state but I figured if I got the Doctor awake first, she could help with the others. So I found a medkit and gave her five cc's of Tricordrazine. I didn't know that that much could get a Klingon on his feet and alert after a hard night of drinking in about two seconds."

Ian chuckled a bit, but held back a full laugh. He started moving in the direction that Kelly nodded. "I remember that all too well. I suffered a rather bad knock on the head myself. But," he grinned, "you gave your Doctor enough medicine to wake a drunken Klingon? That had to be a fun sight to see, her jumping up or however she came to." He found an empty seat and sat down. Then gesturing to Kelly, he pulled a chair out. "Have a seat and let's see what we've gotten ourselves into."

"She jumped up like someone stuck a Klingon pain stick where it was least wanted," Kelly laughed as she took a seat and gave a nod to the others. "Mind if we sit in a game or three?" she asked them.

"It's your credits," a Bolian male said. "Ten to get in, no more than twenty-five a bet, no double downs and when you're out, you're out. No credit, no cards and keep it friendly."

The others around the table, a human male and female who could be twins, a Vulcan female who merely gave a nod and a Betazoid male.

"I'm Adot , the wonder twins are Jayda and Jayden," Adot said as he went around the table. "T'linna, and last but not least is Musam. Trust in him never to read your mind because he won't even when it could save his own hide."

"I'm Kelly," she said. "And this is Ian." She pulled a chip out of her pocket and inserted it into the reader sitting on the table and withdrew a hundred credits from her account before she pulled her chip out and pocketed it again.

Ian nodded as each of them was introduced. "A pleasure." Though for you when I start losing, he thought. Ian pulled an chip from his back pocket and withdrew a hundred credits as well. He had a feeling that he would go through them pretty quickly. Assuming Adot to be the leader of this group since he had spoken up, Ian turned to him. "Thanks for letting us join you. What are we playing?"

"Five card stud, deuces and one-eyed Jacks wild," Adot told him as he began to shuffle the cards. "Ante up, gentlebeings." He pushed ten chips in to the center of the table and the others did the same as he began to deal.

Ian slid his ten chips to the center to start. "Okay." Then he slid five more to follow.

Adot took a look at his cards after putting the ten chips in and put in the max bet of twenty-five. Jayda put her ten in and looked at Adot, then matched him on the bet and Jayden did the same. T'linna put in her chips, then looked at her hand and folded while Musan looked at his cards, put his chips in and folded as well.

Kelly put her ten chips in after looking at her hand and matched the twenty-five. "Call," she said.

"Read 'em and weep, gentlebeings," Adot said and revealed three Aces. Groans came from Jayda and her twin and they tossed their cards down.

Ian put his cards down on the table and looked at what he had left. Eighty-five credits wasn't bad, but the game was just starting. He looked around the table and finally at Adot. Lucky one, he was. Ian expected him to be the winner. But who knew, the way this game could go.

Kelly groaned as she found herself down to sixty-five credits, but it was a friendly game. She glanced at Ian. "Well...looks like the first round is on Adot. Deal 'em and let the squealin' begin!"

The others laughed and the game progressed for the next hour with Ian winning two hands and Kelly winning three before the others decided to bail out one by one.

Finally, Kelly looked over at Ian and down to the seventy credits she had left. "I think I've had enough. What about you?"

Ian had watched as the others left and realized that he was really not good at this sort of game. But winning two hands was just about what he had expected. He turned to Kelly. "Oh, I'm finished as well. Believe me." He scooted his chair out and stood. "Let's see if we can't find something else to do."

"That sounds like a plan to me," she said. "It wasn't all bad, but I'll leave the gaming to my boyfriend and I'll stick to flying. What's your forte?"

"I've never thought about a forte, per se," said Ian. "I'll try almost anything outdoors, though. But I gather yours is flying. What do you like to fly?"

"Anything capable of flying," Kelly answered him. "When I say forte, you're an Operations officer, but that's a very big department with a lot of roles. What part of it caught your attention?"

Ian smiled; she was an inquisitive one. "As you pointed out, it's a very big department and has a lot of officers of varied skills and disciplines. I saw an opportunity to learn a little about the various disciplines without actually locking myself into one particular department. One has to know a little about Engineering, for example, if something isn't right with your transporter."

"One also has to know Engineering if something isn't right with your ship, too," she countered. "Are you saying that you're just a jack and not a master?"

"Indeed," he said, as they continued walking, "one does need to know it for a number of things. There's a quieter section over there if you'd like to have a seat at a table." There were a few people already seated at the various tables. Some were playing games while others were just talking. "What do you think?"

"About the table or Engineering?" Kelly asked as she headed for the table. "I know a few things about Engineering that have already came in handy, but I was born to fly. You seem to know a few evasive maneuvers yourself."

"I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about, Kelly," said Ian. He tried very hard to hide a smirk, but wasn't fully successful. "At any rate," he said, taking a seat, "born to fly. How did you come by that?"

"I think you do, Ian." She had no problem at all smirking as she sat across from him. "I was a little girl looking up at the night sky and decided that that was where I was meant to be, flying the great birds of the galaxy. I pestered my Papa and Mom until they agreed to let me join Starfleet and spent two years prepping before I took the entrance exam."

He then let his smirk go full board and die down. "Two years...wow. When you set your mind to something, you don't give up do you? But that's a good thing. Tenacity is something you don't find too much anymore. As to your question a moment ago, at this point in my career, I'm a jack."

"I never give up," Kelly said, then giggled. "Here I thought you were an Ian, but if you want to be called Jack, I can do that. What made you decide to sail the celestial sea, Jack?"

"Hah! Alright, Tenacious!" Ian laughed. "Very good. Well, it's nothing as romantic as yours, that's for sure. I'm a middle child, but it never made me bitter. It made me independent. I wanted to get out and DO. And Starfleet was my option. Little did I know I'd get this far out."

"Middle? You got lucky," she told him. "I'm the oldest of seven. I always had to watch out for all my little brothers and sisters growing up. Of course, I was the only until I was eight and Papa met my adopted Mom, then they started coming fast and furious."

Ian's eyes widened. "Wow, oldest of seven? That's a lot of brothers and sisters. I don't know what I'd do." He sat back and relaxed. "Did you get to see them before you came all the way to the Gamma Quadrant?"

"I did," Kelly said. "We...well, the cadets going on the senior cruise...were all given a furlough before we shipped out and I spent all two weeks with them. I love my family, even the ones that say I get on their nerves with how hyper I can be at times. I've always been this way and I can't see myself changing. There's always something to get my attention and gets me going again. You said you're the middle child. Does that mean you only have one older and one younger sibling?"

"That's really great, getting to see them. And yes, I have an older brother and a younger sister," said Ian. "It's a small family. It was interesting to say the least, growing up like that. Many of our friends had larger families and when we would spend time with them, we saw a completely different world."

"Oh, it's different alright," she said. "Such as who gets the bathroom first or is last in line to the replicator. In order, there's me, then my brother and sister Sigmund and Signy who are twins, then Liam and Tori who were adopted, Layne, and my half sister Lea as the youngest."

Ian shook his head. "You sound like Attis Mivi. He was my best friend growing up and he said something very similar. When our parents got together, all of us kids would usually go to the nearest park. The oldest always seemed to end up watching the rest of us. But we were pretty safe. Granted there were some rough parts of Rixx, but we didn't live in those parts of the city."

"Where is Rixx?" Kelly asked him, curious. "I grew up on Earth for the most part and didn't really get to see the stars and other planets until I joined Starfleet."

"Ah, Rixx is the capital city of Betazed," said Ian. "My father, Liam as it were, taught at the University of Betazed. He had only been there for two years when I was born. So there were a lot of new things happening in my parents life at that point."

"I've never been there," she told him. "I've seen holodeck programs of some of the places on Betazed and they're beautiful. What was it like growing up on a planet where everyone could read your mind in a second if they wanted to?"

"It wasn't easy," he said. "They have that code they live by. But kids are kids, they're going to push the boundaries wherever they can. I eventually learned how to put up mental shields or fill my mind with something innocuous. It drove them crazy. Holodeck programs get pretty close to it. But if the Black Hawk ever, for some reason, makes it near there, you and your boyfriend should visit. I'd recommend the Opal Sea."

"They wouldn't want in my mind," Kelly said. "At times, I'm not sure if I want to know what's going on in it. The Opal Sea, huh? I've heard about the Janaran Falls, and want to go there, too. I bet you saw all the best places on there. Did you live anywhere else?"

"No, I didn't. I grew up only on Betazed. But I did get to see all the best places. Went on vacation with the family to some of them, too," said Ian. "But yes, the Opal Sea. It's beautiful." It really was beautiful, but it held a not so happy for the young man. Ian had taken his girlfriend there after graduating high school to tell her that he was joining Starfleet Academy. He even had plans during the two weeks of leave after he graduated the Academy, four years later. But as soon as he had mentioned Starfleet, she backed off. And kept backing off. Ian never saw her again. The last he heard, she was still on Betazed and married to someone at the University. "But the Janaran Falls are nice, too."

"I spent the first eight years of my life moving from one place on Earth to another before my Papa settled down in a place called Bend, Oregon," Kelly told him. "After that, I spent most of my time exploring the Three Sisters in the Eastern Cascade Mountains."

"Oh, so you're also a mountain climber in addition to a flyer. Sounds like you were trying to get as close to the stars as possible," he said. "So here I am, a human born and raised on Betazed and never been to Earth and you, a human born and raised on Earth and never been to Betazed. The universe has a terrific sense of humor."

"I really want to go to Qo'noS," Kelly said. "I'm fascinated with the Klingon culture. I learned to speak it when I was in school and took every chance I could to disgust my siblings with their cuisine that was compatible with humans."

Ian chuckled, "I bet you did, Tenacious. I have to say, I've never really had an interest in the Klingon culture...or cuisine for that matter. What brought you to that point?"

"Learning tlhIngan Hol or falling in love with the Klingon culture?" she asked him.

"Falling in love with the Klingon culture," he responded.

"I guess it would have to be their codes of honor," Kelly said. "They're a very proud race of warriors and they always stand up for what they believe in and never back down. Did you know they didn't have a word for surrender until they met Captain Kirk?"

"Uh, no, I didn't know that. That's pretty impressive. I can see where their warrior codes would be attractive. But I'm not much of a warrior. I'm more of a tinkerer. I'd rather be down in Ops trying to figure out why the Science department is pulling so much power and why Security's phaser range hasn't got enough," he answered.

"That's why I love flying," Kelly said. "The warp core and impulse engines always have the power needed for that. It's pure, simple, and uncomplicated. Even our shuttles, runabouts and fighters only need minimal maintenance and they're ready to go, too."

"Agreed. The smaller craft have less maintenance, but give me a ship of the line any day," said Ian. "So, coming from the Chimera, I'm not very familiar with this class. When power gets fully restored, is there some place to get real, non-replicated food? We had a small restaurant sort of thing over there, but what have you guys got?"

"That would be Talon's," she replied. "They serve some really good food, but when we had no power, they didn't want everything in stasis to go bad, so they broke everything out and hauled it all over the ship to make sure everyone got at least a sandwich or a piece of fruit. The owner is also a real life Princess."

"Okay. I'll be waiting until resupply wherever, I guess. But a real life princess? Yeah, right," said Ian. "That sounds fanciful."

"It's true," Kelly said. "Go find her. Her name is Selah Eireanne and she's from Yegorah. That's what she told me at any rate."

"I think I'll probably just meet her in passing rather than search her out," said Ian. "I think I'll be spending quite a bit of time there anyway, trying to fit into this crew. Unless of course we stop somewhere for resupply. Then I'll explore. That's always fun. You never know what you'll run across."

"You have that right," she agreed. "I've only been on the ship for a few months and haven't had a chance to visit many planets, but we did make a stop on New Risa and I got to go camping, kayaking and vectorboarding with my boyfriend. I even ran into my idol, Joel Cherno. He's a vectorboard champion and I have a board from his line."

"That sounds like it was lots of fun. Any place named New Risa had to be, though. But I've only heard of vectorboarding, never seen it," he said. "Though I'd imagine that meeting a champion in the sport was really nice. I prefer good old fashioned horseback riding and cycling. Pretty boring compared to being on a vectorboard, though."

"It's amazing," Kelly said. "It's almost like flying without anything around you except for a board under your feet. I also practice Aikido and Jiu Jitsu, swim, run, do gymnastics, sing and practice with a kusari-gama. What else do you like to do?"

"Well not quite as much as you do," he replied. "But to answer your question, archery and phaser rifle shooting. Basically, if it's got a target, I like to hit it dead center. If it's a hologram, I like to go for the kill shots."

"I should get some practice in on that," she said. "I admit that I'm not the best shot and barely passed the requirements for phaser training at the Academy. My instructors said that I should get in front with a wide beam and point it at the enemy if I really wanted to get lucky."

"Heh, not everyone is a good shot with a phaser," he said. It was nice getting to know someone from the ship that had attacked them. Maybe not everyone over here was one-sided after all. "All it takes is lots of practice. So what are kusari-gama and what do you use them for?"

"It literally means chain-sickle," Kelly said. "It's a traditional Japanese weapon that consists of a kama, which is the Japanese equivalent of a sickle on a kusari-fundo – a type of metal chain called a kusari with a heavy iron weight called a fundo at the end. Attacking with the weapon usually entailed swinging the weighted chain in a large circle over one's head, and then whipping it forward to entangle an opponent's spear, sword, or other weapon, or immobilizing his arms or legs. This allows the kusarigama user to easily rush forward and strike with the sickle."

"Oh wow. If we're ever in something other than a fire-fight," said Ian, "I'm teaming up with you." He laughed and leaned back some more. "How long have you been practicing with weapons like that?"

"About five years," she told him. "But I'm a green belt in Aikido and a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu. I've been practicing both of those on and off since I was thirteen. Do you know any martial arts?"

"That's quite the resume you have there, Kelly. But as for me, unfortunately not," he said. "I don't know any martial arts. At all. Which is why if I'm ever off the ship, I try to always be armed."

"What if you lose your phaser?" Kelly asked him. "What would you do in that situation?"

He looked at her and smirked. "I guess I'd die. Or go down fighting at the least. I can fist fight. But that might not work as well I think." He took a deep breath. "I suppose I should find a teacher or instructor in Security. Do you know if they have a program for beginners?"

"I think so," she said. "I know the Chief of Security was or is holding classes for Search and Rescue, but I think it's only open to department chiefs. It couldn't hurt to ask....or I could teach you when we have time."

"You'd do that? I mean, I couldn't ask you to do that in your spare time," said Ian. "I'm sure that there are other things you'd rather do than teach a complete stranger martial arts."

"I did say spare time," Kelly reminded him. "I don't have a lot of it, but I could help you and set up a program in the holodeck for when I can't be around. As for you being a stranger, I know your name, what you do, what you like to do outside and the fact that you haven't tried to kill me yet is a major bonus."

"Well, alright," he said. "You make some valid points, too. And I don't know what kind of people you usually meet on first contact, but I try not to kill people right away." He laughed and continued. "I appreciate it, Kelly. Thanks."

"I'll keep that in mind," she laughed, but a part of her did actually wonder if his words would be true or not. Then again, if he did try, she had her martial arts and the gift of running at her disposal if he did try to kill her. "I'll let you know when I can get a schedule worked out. Would you rather learn aikido or jiu jitsu?"

"Seeing as how it is all is brand new to me, I'll say jiu jitsu," said Ian. "Just don't hurt me too bad. I just wish there was something I could do for you now. Pay you back for your kindness and help improving myself."

"I'm easily pleased with chocolate," Kelly replied. "The more, the merrier. White, dark, milk, it doesn't matter as long as it's real. It can come in solid or liquid and any shape."

"Real chocolate, huh. Well, I'll keep that in mind the next time I'm in a shop," replied Ian. "Perhaps when we get back to our time and dock, I'll do a little shopping and see what I can find. What about your boyfriend? What does he like? Because I'm sure he'll miss you while you're instructing me or setting up the program. I'll owe him, too."

She thought about that for a minute. "Hmm...breaking bones, crushing skulls with his bare hands, busting people up who cross him."

Ian eyed her for a few seconds. "Fine then. I'll get some spare chocolate for him." He wasn't an idiot. "Maybe he and I could practice on the holodeck. I'd like to take my training and go up against someone like that. Good practice."

Kelly laughed. "I'm kidding," she told him. "He's an outdoor enthusiast. He's the one I went camping and learned to kayak with. He also likes to play poker, but I've seen you play so that might not be a good idea. Maybe you should just talk to him."

Ian smiled and laughed. "I'll do that, talk to him. If he's an outdoor enthusiast, I may not have much of a difficulty finding something for him. And don't worry, I'll leave poker to the ones that know how to play. I've learned my lesson with that".

"I know I can't play, but I did it for fun and we got to meet a few new people," she said. "That was my intention the entire time. Quinn works in Operations, so you might see him before I do."

"Quinn in Operations...." Ian thought for a minute. "I don't recognize the name, but then as the Chief Transporter Operator, I'm in and out of the main Ops department a lot. But an Ensign by the name of Quinn... I take it that's a first name?"

Kelly shook her head. "He's a Cadet Senior Grade," she said. "Quinn Mackie is his name. Sorry, I should have elaborated a bit more than I did."

"That's quite alright," said Ian. He'd managed to get the information he was looking for without directly asking for it. Yeah, he still had it. "Cadet Senior Grade Quinn Mackie, I'll have to keep an eye out for him, then. Thank you. So, how does a Cadet and an Ensign meet up?"

"We went to Academy together and I was just promoted to Ensign after the Chimera," she said. "In fact, me and Captain Geisler were coming back from there on the last shuttle and I was wearing a Command uniform because my cadet uniform had basically been destroyed. He said that I was out of uniform and I thought I was in trouble...then he took one of his own pips off and promoted me on the spot."

"That's pretty amazing," he said. "And pretty nice that two Academy friends got assigned to the same ship. Most of the people that I knew Academy went elsewhere. Though, there was this Trill on the Chimera that I knew from Academy days. We hung out quite a bit. But.... Anyway, that's nice that you're both here. I can't wait to meet the man who tamed Tenacious."

Kelly laughed again. "I'm hardly tame," she said. "And we didn't really know each other at the Academy. We were both there at the same time, but I was busy taking Flight, Engineering and Command School while he was doing his thing. We ended up on the ship together for our senior tour and started dating on New Risa."

Ian chuckled. "Heh heh, sounds like you and Quinn have a lot of fun. That's great. And I can't imagine a better place to start dating someone than on a planet named after the Risa of the Alpha Quadrant. Maybe someday I'll get there and see if it's anything like it's namesake. Or what I've heard about it's namesake. Never been to Risa, either."

She shook her head. "I'm never going back there," she said. "The Consortium launched a probe at Yolvanda II and turned it from a paradise into a graveyard. It had a virus on it and infected everyone, even if they didn't show symptoms. We lost a few of our own crew before the cure was found. Yolvanda II lost a lot more."

"The Consortium... they've wrecked a lot of things. But I never would have guessed they'd stoop so low as to release a virus on a planet. I'm sorry to hear about that, and the loss of your crew. Maybe it's not so much like it's namesake after all. I imagine that it'll take a while for them to bounce back from all of that."

"I don't think they'll ever bounce back," Kelly said sadly. "I didn't go back, but I knew a guy in Security who had to go back as part of the investigation and said they were doing mass graves."

"Mass graves...," he paused and ran his hand through his hair. "That's just unreal. Do we know what they were trying to do? Wipe out the planet? Take out you guys?" Ian just shook his head. The Consortium had lied to them on the Chimera and now this.

"I don't know all the details," she said. "No one tells cadets all the details. We had our own rumor network that was even less than what the enlisted use. All I know is that it was deadly and it caused sleeplessness and hallucinations in the victims before death."

He shuddered. "Well, enough about all of that then," he said. Ian found himself wishing for some water, but pushed it aside for now. Supplies were low enough as it was. "So you mentioned vectorboarding and getting to meet that Cherno guy. Have you ever gotten to compete in any vectorboard challenges or competitions?"

"No," Kelly responded. "I got caught up in Starfleet and my dreams of being a test pilot for the newest ships of the line one day."

"I see," he said. "But if I were you, I'd call it a goal instead of a dream. Dream makes it sound like something far off and unattainable. Goal brings it down to where you can grasp it. And that's a good goal to have too, Kelly."

"You're right," she acknowledged. "It is a goal, but at this point in my career, I'm lucky to even get some helm time in on Delta shift."

"But that's a first step," said Ian. "And we all have to start somewhere with out first step. And you do get some helm time in. It takes time." Then he laughed. "Coming from the officer that's just one rank higher than you. You know, I used to be a full-fledged Operations Officer on the Chimera. Now I'm back to Chief Transporter Operator. It just means I'll have to work harder to prove myself to this ship, crew, and my new department head."

"You're still a full fledged Operations officer, Ian," Kelly said. "That didn't change unless you were a department head and from what I've heard, that's nothing but PADDwork, reports and finding time to still be ready when the Captain calls you. We all have to prove ourselves. Even Captain Geisler has to prove himself to his superiors. Just like the highest ranking Admiral in Starfleet has to prove themselves to the President and Council of the United Federation of Planets, who have to prove to each other that they are doing the right thing with each other and the one hundred and fifty member worlds that they represent."

He smiled. "I know, Kelly. And thanks for keeping it real. You're right, everyone has to prove themselves to someone above them. No matter who or where they are. But not everyone has to deal with the Consortium leaving a question mark on their character and record."

"I have a question for you. When you were told that we were Consortium and that we were the ones hunting the weapon...how far were you willing to go to stop us?" she asked him.

"When we were told that, we were ready to do whatever was necessary to keep you from getting it. Even if that meant getting to the weapon first and using it on you," Ian replied.

"Does that sound like something Starfleet would do, Ian?" Kelly asked. "We sent a single person to each ship while we fought off boarding parties and everything else. My roommate's boyfriend was killed by someone from one of those ships while defending us from the boarding parties."

Ian slumped over the table and rested his arms on it. "I, I didn't know," he managed. "I'm sorry, Kelly. They had us believing that you guys were Consortium and that you would try to board us. Then our alarms went off. And then, whatever that was that came through our combadges... We thought we were done for." He paused a moment. "And some of them were."

"I'm sorry, too," she said. "We had Consortium infiltrators on our ship, too. From what I heard, the former Chief of Security and our Operations Chief. The Security Chief went so far as to stun Captain Geisler according to the rumor mill. The Operations Chief was drugged or something and coerced mentally from what I heard."

"Aw man, Kelly. "I had no idea they were on this ship, too," said Ian. "It sounds like they had a few infiltrators everywhere. We just need to get powered up, get back to where we should be, and get them taken care of somehow. They've already done enough damage from what little I know of the Chimera and what you've told me of the Black Hawk." He stayed leaning forward on the table.

"They're everywhere," Kelly said with a sigh. "Trust is a really big issue even though no one talks about it now. People were walking in groups of two or more just so they felt protected, even as they were thinking about who the people they were walking with might turn on them."

Ian shook his head. "We need to get that trust back among ourselves, as hard as that's going to be. Our mistrust of each other just gives them another wedge to drive between us. Another indirect tool that they don't even have to be around to use."

"I'm sitting here talking with you, aren't I?" she asked. "I think that's a step towards pushing that wedge out. The current Chief of Security is even dating the Operations Chief or so I heard after she had a fight with him on a freighter. That is trust. We'll heal, but it'll take time, one person at a time."

"Yes, that's trust, most assuredly. And you know something, Kelly? If we had a couple glasses of water I'd toast to that. To healing the trust, one person at a time," said Ian, as he held an imaginary glass in the air.

"Let's get some," Kelly said as she raised an imaginary glass of her own. "Supplies aren't that low that we can't get some basic, simple H₂O."

Ian laughed. "Good point, my friend. Let's." He stood and looked for the nearest source of plain old water. "Do you want a tall glass or a short glass?"

Kelly stood up with him. "Look at me," she said. "I'm five foot three inches. Do you really think I want a short glass?"

"Well, then," he said, looking at her from his five foot, eight inch height, "a tall glass of water for the five, three pilot that needs a medkit on her helm chair so she can see over the console."

"Is that so?" she asked him with a challenge in her eyes. "Maybe next time I have the helm, you better find a place to get secured because I might just decide to do it with my eyes closed and without a medkit."

"Oh, I might just have to lock myself in the pattern buffer if you do that," said Ian. "I can't think of a more secure place than that. Already broken down into molecules and what not." He started grinning.

"What, do you think you're Montgomery Scott now?" Kelly asked as she headed for the replicator. "Don't forget, I'm also an Engineer. What if the EPS conduit that feeds power to the buffer fails?"

Ian started laughing as they walked to the replicator. "If you can sit your little backside in that helm chair, not move it, and manage to wreck one particular EPS conduit..." he shook his head. "I don't know what I'd do. But you'd be out a new friend."

"I couldn't have that," she said as she requested two large cold glasses of water and handed him one when they materialized. "Friends are hard to come by."

Ian took the glass that was offered to him. "Thank you, Kelly. You're absolutely right, friends are hard to come by. Especially in times like these." He held up his glass amidst the music and said, "To healing the trust one person at a time and building friendships."

"You'we welcome, Ian." Kelly touched her glass to his. "To healing and friendship."

 

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