Roosevelt Station


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Post 7 - Coming Aboard

Posted on Sat Jul 25th, 2020 @ 10:15am by Commander Eden Starling-Enigma & Lieutenant Clara Knecht

Mission: In the Shadow of Thanget
Location: USS Dreadnought, Transporter Room 2
Timeline: January 15, 2399, 1330 Hours

"Coordinates set for the Upper Plat, Commander," Chief Quimby said as Eden entered the transporter room. "Ready to energize on your command."

"Thank you, Chief," Eden said before turning to the other woman who was gathering herself on the pad. "Lieutenant Knecht, shall we go down together?"

"Yes, Commander." Clara smiled, then looked to Quimby. "Make sure the other engineers take good care of Dreadnought for me."

"I can't imagine them not, especially with the new Captain bein' the way she is." Chief Quimby smiled back, but most of it was hidden behind a thick, graying mustache.

Clara's expression became the tiniest bit sadder, but Eden could feel how she had steeled her resolve over the last few days to prepare herself, and how, while it fazed Clara, she didn't shy away from the idea of leaving the way she had before. "You can tell the Captain I told her that, too."

Quimby chuckled, then asked, "Are you two ready, then?"

"I think so," said Clara. "Energize."

"Safe travels," said Quimby as his fingers slid up the panel, and the two women in front of him faded into neon colors, then disappeared entirely.

As quantum lock released her, Eden drew a breath and looked around. The Upper Transporter Pad of Roosevelt Station was located in a broad chamber, with only the pad itself - a massive forty-three person system, bigger than any personnel transporter Starfleet had ever built - overhung by anything but bare stone. The steel of the pad was tinged in green, its segments regular hexagons arranged in a honeycomb pattern, and the emitter structure above the pad was jagged and irregular. From her first visit to the asteroid, Eden had felt for the techs who had to maintain the beastly device.

The person tasked with that solemn duty today was a Tellarite man, who grunted at Eden and Clara as they dismounted the pad. The console he worked was ten meters away from the pad itself, on a raised platform protected by a heavy transparent aluminum alcove. When he spoke, his voice came through on speakers. "Hmph. Commander Starling-Enigma, Lieutenant Knecht. You'll get your ceremonial welcome in Ops, boss, but you'll get none from me."

"I'd be offended if you offered one," Eden said. "You summoned a car?"

"The Jenner Special's waiting in the tube," the Tellarite said. "Chief Brot. I'll be the first face you see when you come home."

"Thank you, Chief," Eden said before starting toward the lift.

"Thanks!" Clara replied as she tailed Eden into the lift. Once they had both entered, and the door slid shut, she let out a breath. "Fun welcome wagon. I hear it's a long ride down from here?"

"The longest turbolift ride in Federation space," Eden said. "Though that's just because what Jade Sky on Lagash and the Spire of Prosperity on Trill use different technology in their lifts." The lift began to descend. "The first time I was in this lift, I managed to, in a single sentence, insult three different command-rank officers, one of whom was also my father's best friend and another of whom was my own CO and mentor. That was one of the longest quarter-hours of my life."

"Well, I'll do my best not to offend you like that, Commander. I'd be interested in hearing that story, too." Clara grinned, leaning back against the wall of the turbolift. "Would it offend you if I sat down? Seems like an awfully long time to just stand around."

"Go ahead," Eden said, leaning back against the wall of the large lift. "There was a conference happening aboard Roosevelt to discuss plans to counter Thot Thanget's aggression along the Valoris nebula. I was asked to join in because I'd led the team from Sovereign's Strategic Ops that proposed Operation Anglerfish. So I'm in this turbolift car with Fleet Captain Jenner of Roosevelt, Captain O'Rourke - Ambassador, now, she's moved to civilian service to spend more time with her family - of the Kent, and Captain Surval of the Sovereign. Plus Commander Reese, Surval's XO, and Brigadier Li Ling, O'Rourke's first wife and Executor Li Ling an Hark's cousin. And Commander Reese and Captain Surval, as they did every time there was a moment of quiet, started quizzing the juniormost officer present - me - on Starfleet ideals and history and decorum. The Brigadier joins in with asking about the wearing of decorations on dress uniforms, and without thinking I give Captain John Harriman from the Enterprise-B's line about it. Captain Harriman didn't think much of the practice - saw it as vanity unbecoming an officer. Then I look around the lift. With my height and theirs, I was pretty much eye level with Surval's Starfleet Cross, O'Rourke's First Contact Merit, Jenner's Pike Medal of Honor, and Li Ling's Parliamentary Medal of Valor. The Captain... Surval... gives me a very long look before Commander Reese distracts him, and I spend the rest of the ride contemplating the taste of my boot leather."

"Oh, wow." Clara chuckled from her spot on the floor. "That sounds...horrible. Absolutely astonishingly awful. I can see what you mean." She fiddled with her combadge - a habit she'd picked up in the Academy; if she didn't have a tool in-hand to fiddle with, one hand automatically moved to her chest - then shrugged. "I don't think I've done anything remotely on that level. Your career is much more storied than mine as a quiet engineer."

"If you don't have an overabundance of ambition, Lieutenant, I suggest you do what you can to keep it that way." Eden turned her eyes toward a spot on the back wall of the lift car. "And I'll do what I can to keep it that way for you. This border will never be the safest place in Federation space, but... people live here. And the more the Breen stay on their side of the border, the better off those people are."

"I understand. If it helps, my primary ambition these days is to just be really good at the work I'm already good at, which will hopefully put a lot of work toward protecting the people who live on the border and, in turn, helping to keep the Breen away." Clara's demeanor became more serious, despite the fact she was sitting cross-legged on the floor in the corner of a turbolift. "Look, I know that what you've seen of me so far has been...distracted. Maybe a little bit airheaded. But I promise you, I'll do everything I can to make sure things run smoothly and safely, to keep everyone aboard and hopefully everyone nearby as safe as possible. I'll make sure it's done, even if I can't explain to you or anyone else exactly how I did it. I'm not ambitious, I'm just a girl who is very, very good at her job."

"I've read your files," Eden said. "And you came with recommendations from both Captain Garcia and Admiral T'Vrell. You were the person I needed for this job, and that was obvious to me early on." She exhaled. "One would think an empath would be better at people than I am, but... that has never been a talent of mine. Would you be uncomfortable if I said something personal?"

Clara nodded along with Eden's words, then her eyes softened. "I wouldn't, at all. Getting senior officers to get personal with me is apparently another thing I'm good at."

I am not going to respond directly to that. "Lieutenant... I was in love with Captain Reese. She was... is... the most brilliant combat officer I have ever known, the kind of dashing that shows up mostly in princes from fairy tales, thoughtful, determined... breathtaking. When Admiral Pinna asked for me to take my post in Starfleet Intelligence, it meant leaving behind not only my dream of commanding Enterprise and the family I'd built for myself on Sovereign, but also someone I loved as much as I could imagine loving anyone. I took the posting, and I don't regret it. I never have, even during the nights when I was crying myself to sleep for missing her." She sighed. "The pain fades, Lieutenant. It does. But that doesn't mean you're wrong to feel it now, and it doesn't make it any less real now. Captain Surval, the last time I spoke to him, told me about his wife on Vulcan. She's a poet, Pa'ren. Surval was Vulcan to his core, all logic and dignity and duty, but there were tears in his eyes... not enough that he cried, but his eyes sparkled with them. 'Cadet,' he said. 'Remember the gain in the sacrifices you make. Remember the worlds kept safe, the knowledge unearthed, the betterment of all sentientkind, because those sacrifices can be cruel some days. But we make them so others do not have to. We choose to come here, where we have to make sacrifices, so that the rest of the Federation can live without sacrifice.' He gave me a book of Pa'ren's poems that day... one that she never said was about him, but that talked about the empty chair in a half-full home that kept other homes full, and the many children from a dozen worlds that chair brought her." Eden closed her eyes. "Let yourself hurt, but don't forget the joy you've had, and don't push away other joy to make room for your hurt. That's the advice of an empath Commander who is, honestly, very bad at relationships."

Clara was, by the end of Eden's speech, feeling a lump in her throat, and doing what she could to blink back the tears threatening to spill out of her eyes. "Damn it. Damn it. Am I gonna start crying every time we talk?" While the tears began to flow, she wiped them away with a sleeve as she stood up, taking a breath to steady herself and stop the crying from overtaking her. "That's good advice. Really good. And I appreciate the story, too..." She cleared her throat, and while the emotions remained, the urge to cry, for the moment, passed. "Thank you for that. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. For a while, I was tempted to treat my career the way Sue did. She refused to let Starfleet get in the way of her and her love. I'm truly glad she pushed me to move on." She chuckled. "Whether or not you're bad at relationships, your advice is at least better than Sue's. 'Just do it, you have to, no I will not explain why you have to even though I didn't.'" Her laugh got louder, and she edged closer to Eden as she spoke.

"Captain Garcia and Admiral T'Vrell are... something unique," Eden said. "The closest thing I've seen to them was Captain Jenner and Executor Li Ling an Hark... Zetian." There was warmth in Eden's eyes as she said the given name of the former Executor. "Starfleet is hard on people's relationships, but Admiral T'Vrell and Captain Garcia have such a powerfully complementary set of skills that they work almost as a single unit, and how close they are makes them even better at that. If they're as similar to Bill and Zetian as they seem to be... the two of them held Thanget out of Federation space during the Dominion War and kept his fleets, and Varprem's and Ren's, from joining the main Dominion fleet at Cardassia, and they did it by knowing one another well enough to be one mind with their combined brilliance. That's what I see, when I see the Admiral and the Captain." She looked at Clara. "You'll find your place here, Lieutenant, and my office is always open to you."

Then the turbolift door opened, and Eden stepped out into an open, ampitheater-like space. Three levels of balconies jutted out from the stone above them, and the main floor before them was a cacaphony of color, with stands and little shops opened up in a display of well-regimented chaos - everything organized to maximize flow of foot traffic and create a surprisingly pleasing pattern that still seemed haphazard. Along the walls of both the main floor and the balconies, larger shops operated in wide alcoves. A few spaces over from the Long Shaft lift doors, one of the largest commercial spaces opened onto the main floor, a huge sign reading in English, French, Lagashi Mandarin, Betazoid, and Bajoran, "The Stone's Throw." Further, on the opposite side of the chamber, another large space was marked with a tasteful branding hologram in Mandarin, "The Sparkle in the Void." Other shops spread between the two largest. Midway between them, the orb-and-torch sigil of the Betazoid religion hung over an ornate archway; opposite the temple was an unassuming set of doors that Lagshi security officers occasionally walked in and out of. Four lifts and two sets of stairs provided access between the levels of the chamber, and it would be a long walk past stalls selling footstuffs and silks and children's toys and Lagashi holoentertainment datarods to the bank of lifts that allowed access to the rest of the station. As Eden and Clara passed one stand, Eden stopped to order a Jumja stick; as she did she sighed, taking a paper book from a Lagashi child who held it up to her.

"Miss Starfleet!" the child said, his eyes wide.

"Just one," Eden said with a smile. "And tell your friends that if they want their books signed they'll need to wait until I've settled in here. I've had a long trip, and I need time to call my family and tell them I arrived safe." Then she signed the inside of the book's front cover, placing a stylized Starfleet delta above her signature, and passed it back to the child. "Go tell your mothers I said hello."

The boy grinned. "I will. Bye, Miss Starfleet! Tell Mr. Earth my sister and my brother hope he stays safe!" Then he looked down. "And... sorry about Mars."

Eden knelt, taking the boy's hand. "It hurt us very badly, but when we hurt, we hold our families tighter." Her voice had a different inflection now - strident and careful, at once, the voice of a hero in children's entertainment. "The Federation will be safe, and we'll make sure you are too."

"Thank you, Miss Starfleet!" Then the boy ran off, and Eden offered Clara an apologetic smile.

For the majority of that interaction, Clara stood, utterly perplexed at what she was seeing, waiting for what she hoped was an explanation.

"While I served on Seldon, a group of Lagashi educational program producers contacted me for help with a new holoseries they were working on to teach the history and ideals of the Federation. I offered to help, and ended up voicing one of the characters." She looked after the boy. "That's probably going to happen a lot, the next few days..."

At that, Clara nodded, then laughed. "How bad would it be for me if I started calling you Miss Starfleet regularly?"

"Probably best not to do it in front of any NCOs. Or cadets. Or Admirals... enough of them disapprove of my work on the show already. But senior staff? Go ahead." Eden laughed quietly, offering a second jumja stick to Clara before continuing toward the lift. "My first bunkmate aboard Sovereign was Bajoran, and she got me thoroughly addicted to these. I've been passing the habit on ever since. I usually dislike sweets, but Bajoran desserts are wonderfully complex." She stepped into the lift. "I need to get to Ops and chase whatever midrank officer has taken my office over out of it. You're free to visit your quarters before you report there."

Clara chewed on the jumja stick as Eden spoke, and as she finished, she swallowed. "Good luck with that, Commander. I'll quickly stop by my quarters, then report to you once the officers are already out of your way." She smiled. "It was nice talking to you, Commander. I hope we get to have more conversations like this, when time permits."

"It was good, Lieutenant," Eden said. "And I'm sure we will. Just make sure you find time to talk to me when my station's not about to rip itself out of the timeline." With that, she stepped out of the lift and into Ops, leaving Clara with that reassuring thought and the rest of her ride to the residential levels.

Ops was a broad space, its consoles placed a bit high for the comfort of humans of average height. Eden smiled at the raised platfom on which the aft command throne sat. That the seat had been built to accomodate the bulk of Thanget's armor and place him above his subordinates made it sweeter - Thanget's defeat in Valoris had been as much her work as anyone's, and there was a visceral satisfaction in literally taking an old enemy's throne from him that she was certain she would never tell a promotion review board about. There were other stations arranged before the throne on tiered layers - Tactical and Communications on the uppermost level, with a seat and overawatch console for the watch's second officer between them, Operations and Logistics one below, and, on the bottommost level, Sensors. Breen design, with Breen priorities. Each console was a brutal trapezoid with sharp corners. At the front of the chamber, hung at a height that could be comfortable for both the officer in the throne and the officer at Sensors, was a Starfleet viewscreen that replaced the Breen holodisplay. Its silver accents and smooth curves added welcome warmth to the cold brutality of the rest of the chamber.

Beside the command throne was the door to the office, and Eden stepped through it. A Lagashi woman in deep crimson robes sat before the desk; the seat behind it was empty.

Unexpected. Eden offered the Lagashi woman a shallow bow. "Arbiter, I am Lieutenant Colonel Eden Enigma, daughter of Jay Enigma and of Arianna Starling-Enigma, bonded by family to Li Ling Zetian an Hark, and her husband Li Ling William an Hark an Jenner, and her wife Li Ling Wen an Hark. It is my honor to host you."

"And Lagash's to host you, Commander," the woman in red said. "I understand that the Federation will be more comfortable if we use your Starfleet rank, and the law allows that, so we will offer comfort to our brothers and sisters on Earth." She smiled a thin smile. "I am Hark Shen, Arbiter for the Republic assigned to Roosevelt Station and the Valoris Sector. Zetian is my great-aunt twice removed through my birth-mother."

A Hark. Our local Arbiter is a member of the second most powerful family in the Republic. "Then we can tell stories of family together, Arbiter, when we are not working. Can I offer you help today?"

"I am nearly as new to this place as you are, Commander Enigma," Shen said. "And it is important to me to get the measure of the woman who will be my counterpart in military affairs. Your history is... fascinating."

"I'm not as familiar with yours, Arbiter Hark," Eden said. "But I'll be sure to rectify that. And... if you want to offer comfort to our brothers and sisters on Earth, remembering that Starfleet is not a military service would help."

Shen raised a very eloquent eyebrow. "Commander, civilian vessels do not carry quantum torpedoes or phaser cannons, nor do system patrol craft, and neither of us is naive enough to think otherwise. But that is neither here nor there." Her stern look was gone, replaced with warm welcome. "I will invite you to my quarters soon for dinner. In the meantime, be safe, Commander."

Then the Arbiter took her leave, and Eden moved around the desk - her desk - to take her seat. "Paperwork... note from my father, letter from Alexandria and one from Admiral Reese, Emperor Kahless's wife asking after my well-being..." She paused. "Priority from Dreadnought sickbay?" She opened that last, then blinked. "Injuries consistent with full-contact sparring with what? Computer, place a note for Commander Shinnick and Lieutenant Kroz that they need to report to my office once they are aboard and settled."


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