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Posted on Wed Nov 3rd, 2021 @ 2:47pm by Captain Björn Kodak & Lieutenant Commander Karim & Lieutenant Commander Emni t'Nai & Lieutenant Serana Zhaan
Edited on on Fri Nov 5th, 2021 @ 11:01pm

Mission: The Place of Skulls
Location: Main Shuttlebay, Decks 4/5, Long Range Shuttle
Timeline: Mission Day 24 at 1830

[Main Shuttlebay - USS Sojourner]
[MD24 - 1820]

It was fortunate, Emni thought, that the Main Shuttlebay’s control tower was on the same floor as her quarters. Not because of the proximity per se, so much as her distinct desire to pace the floor--something she was certain the Shuttlebay Control Tower personnel would prefer she not do in their space. Had she been further away she might have been tempted to be earlier than she was, nervous energy keeping her from sitting still.

“They’re not going to be early,” she had informed Kyi’i at one point who, not caring at all about the likelihood of the shuttle arriving early, had merely found Emni’s nervous energy annoying and had mrowled for more food. She had scritched his ears, putting a fresh bowl of wet food out to convince him to purr. She’d read somewhere in learning how to take care of Karim’s cat that purring was a healing thing and so she had, for a moment at least, just sat on the ground in her quarters petting the cat and hoping that information was true.

Finally, she had paced her own quarters enough, coming close enough to the type of early that could at least, reasonably, be considered polite. She stood in front of the large double doors to the Main Shuttlebay now, a deck lower on Deck 5, just out of sensor range.

“You’re the XO,” she muttered to herself. “You greet incoming senior officers all the time. That’s your job.”

And it was. She wasn’t just meeting Karim, but was meeting the intriguing new Rumari Ops Chief who would be replacing Chaali as she returned to Bolarus for the remainder of her pregnancy. Emni had heard of Rumari, but had never met one. She was curious about the woman who had grown up without a home world. From the perspective of someone who had once had a home world and then lost it, she wondered what it must have been like to never have one in the first place.

"Mine too," came a soft rasp from behind. The Captain had made his way to the shuttle bay as well, though like Emni, he now stood in front of the double doors without triggering them. Hands clasped behind his back, the burly Chameloid looked uncomfortable to be there. "I daresay this is a little different than the norm, however. It'll be good to see Karim," Kodak nodded, "and I'm looking forward to meeting our new science officer. But I'd be lying if I said this felt routine." Coming off him in waves, the man's emotions reflected the meaning in his words: he was anxious and a little unsure of himself, though whether that was because of Karim, Zhaan, or a combination of both might be hard to tell.

Stiffening, the Captain put on his best smile and gestured toward the doors. "Shall we make our way in? It won't be long now."

Emni offered the Chameloid a small, but warm, smile as he approached. His own uncertainty flowing over her and pooling with her own. "I'm glad we're both greeting them today," she offered, wanting to reassure him, and perhaps herself, that this was closer to routine than it actually was.

She took a deep breath, in through her nose, using the motion to begin to build her own mental defenses. She wasn't sure what state they would find Karim in, but she wasn't prepared to let his emotions overwhelm her in front of the Captain. Finally, nearly all emotional background noise blocked from her mental view, she nodded, stepping into the sensor and triggering the doors to open, revealing the broad expanse of the shuttle bay.

The incoming shuttle could be seen from beyond the shuttle bay forcefield, doors already open in preparation for her arrival. Emni stepped in and to the side, mentally aware of the Captain beside her. From there she settled in, feet shoulder width apart, arms crossed over her chest. It wouldn't be long now.

[Long Range Shuttle]

If someone had asked Lieutenant Yuri Harukami she would have said that the long range shuttle was purring like a kitten. As they dropped out of warp the shape of the USS Sojourner filled her view screen. The engines shifted smoothly to a low impulse, moving toward the larger, Rhode Island class, ship as if riding a slip stream that would take her right in to land, light as a feather, in the warm embrace of their shuttle bay.

She tapped a button to open the shuttle-wide comm, intent on rousing her two passengers to readiness.

“This is your pilot speaking. We have begun our descent into the USS Sojourner shuttle bay. We ask that you secure your bags and take your seats. We’ll be on the ground…” the woman couldn’t help a chuckle at the joke, “in 5 minutes.”

A series of rapid commands were entered into the shuttle’s navigational control then, setting the right course and sending vital landing data to the Sojourner’s Main Shuttlebay control room.

USS Sojourner to long range shuttle. The disembodied voice of the shuttle bay chief crackled across her comm.

“Long range shuttle SB2 Mark 5 here,” Yuri replied. “Requesting permission to dock.”

We see you Mark 5. Permission granted.

Yuri grinned, running a hand across the console where it wouldn’t accidentally trigger any controls.

Like a kitten… she purred like a kitten.

Sat further back in the shuttlecraft, Karim looked over to his companion for the past few days, Lieutenant Serana Zhaan. Whilst their introductions had been difficult, the pair of them had soon discovered one another to be deeper thinkers. For what it counted towards their future working relationship, however, was yet to be seen.

"I will welcome the greater space afforded by the Sojourner," he stated. "Although, I do not expect that 'spacious' is a descriptor often ascribed to the vessel."

"Personally, I'm looking forward to the chance to be up and moving, working," Zhaan said. "But I do agree. From what I've seen, the Sojourner is not a large vessel. Shared quarters for everyone but the Captain and First Officer."

There was no reply from Karim to that, in spite of a slight visibly stiffening. As Zhaan had noticed on the few occasions they had interacted on the journey to the Sojourner, the commander's armour of emotional restraint had chinks, as his conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings betrayed his Vulcan facade.

"Indeed," was all he said.

One of Yuri's few regrets as a pilot was that she never did get to partake of any of the routines of landing a shuttle as a passenger. Sure she had been in shuttles as a passenger before, but for some reason those experience always felt muted--detached as her brain evaluated the craft they were in, the skills of the pilot, the angle of approach. Even as a passenger her brain wouldn't let her stop piloting.

The open space of the Sojourner's shuttle bay loomed ahead of them growing rapidly as she pulled them into the right trajectory. Panels lit up on her console, landing protocols automatically coming into play as their proximity to the ship diminished.

"Here we go," she said to herself finally as she tapped some controls, the nose of the shuttle pressing through the opening, her tail following shortly behind. Yuri coaxed the vessel onto the circular landing marker, slowly setting her down, the effect barely a whisper of a bump.

"Good girl," she said affectionately, patting the console before opening the shuttle's comm again.

"All passengers we would like to welcome you to the USS Sojourner where it is a sunny indeterminate computer-controlled temperature. The time is 1830 Hours. On behalf of myself and the crew..." Here she chuckled lightly at her own joke, "thank you for flying Starbase 2 Air."

She made a face at the end, not liking the airline name she had magicked from thin air.

Zhaan loved it when individuals peeked out from behind their titles and uniform, became real, and so, she was smiling as she gathered up her gear, made sure that her journal was tucked into an outer pocket. She made her way to the front of the shuttle, leaned in, and said, as she caught the pilot's eye, "Thanks. You're a credit to your ... umm ... airline? That's the name right, airline?"

Yuri looked up as the visage of Serena Zhaan appeared in her peripheral. A surprised shy smile spread across her features along with a slight pinking of her cheeks. "Yes," she said with a chuckle. "Airline." The smile broadened out to a full grin then. "Thanks."

Zhaan smiled in return, waved, and then headed out of the shuttle. A list of things to do lined up inside her head. Starfleet required her to report for duty so that would probably be first on the list and then after that, find out where she'd be quartered and stow her gear. Maybe call the home ship if there was time later and she had some privacy. If not in her quarters, at least in her office. She'd probably have an office. Ooh, and something hot to drink would be good. Something that didn't involve proximity to a grumpy Vulcan.

Karim followed behind after, still scorning his uniform in favour of a dark-grey suede-leather jacket and black trousers, and he had his opaque travel case slung over his shoulder. With his unruly hair and unkempt stubble, the man gave a distinctly unprofessional but intense impression, as he had throughout the journey.

"The pilot faced no adversity confronting her duties," he remarked, loudly enough for both women to hear, although his attention was immediately diverted to the two recognisable figures standing a short distance before them, waiting to greet them; Captain Kodak, and-

"Doctor t'Nai," the former counsellor stated as he and Zhaan reached the pair, although it was not a greeting so much as a statement of fact, and almost awkward at that, even by Karim's standards. Compared to the Rumari lieutenant beside him, his presentation and greeting was far less formal, but also far more stilted, especially as he said nothing more to either figure in front of them.

The Romulan XO's emotional defenses were high, to say the least. A small part of her brain told her that the last time she had so deliberately kept everyone's emotions out she was saying goodbye to the two most important people in her life. The effect of her efforts, however, wasn't whole--more like a dampening of sound until everything around her was a murmur, one voice indistinguishable from another. Even Kodak, whose emotional fingerprint she knew well, was muted next to her.

Serena Zhaan came first, the Rumari woman's gait light, striking Emni as someone who understood and appreciated movement as she came down and stood before them. And then there was Karim. His appearance at the shuttle's door came across to her a bit like someone shouting while underwater. Months of time with him swam back to the surface, his emotional fingerprint immediately and easily recognizable despite her defenses.

Though he addressed her as he stopped next to Zhaan, she remained silent, deferring to Kodak's rank in this moment.

"Commander Karim," the Captain offered warmly, despite not being addressed by the half-Vulcan. "It's good to see you again, friend." After a pause in which his eyes underscored his sincerity, the Chameloid turned to the second arrival. "Lieutenant Zhaan, I'm Captain Kodak," he said, reaching a hand forward for shaking. "It's my pleasure to welcome you both to the Sojourner. She's a small ship," he commented, "but well outfitted for the kind of work we'll be doing." Certainly more so than the Adelphi had been. Their previous ship had been mothballed into retirement some months prior, with the Sojourner being her replacement.

"I imagine your trip has been quite long indeed," Kodak continued. "My acting First Officer Emni t'Nai," he said for Zhaan's benefit, since Karim already knew the Romulan, "has arranged quarters for you both. We'll be happy to have any belongings you've got in tow transferred there. And, of course, you're welcome to get settled in before attending to any duties that may be needed." An awkward look came Karim's way then, as if the Captain were momentarily unsure how to proceed. It passed, however, and the Chameloid said, "Commander, we're very glad to have you back."

Zhaan accepted the handshake and, feeling at the moment as though she were in the way of something, said politely, "Thank you, Captain. If you'll excuse me, I'll go check in with my department."

"Of course," Kodak nodded. "I look forward to syncing up once you've had time to settle in," he nodded to his new Chief Operations Officer.

Once the captain assented, Karim watched as Zhaan stepped away from the group. There was a hint of coldness to his expression that went beyond the expected Vulcan stoicism as he did so, but he gave no voice to whatever he was thinking of the operations officer. Instead, he finally looked properly at Björn Kodak.

"I do not believe your sentiments will be shared by many others, Captain," he said, his contact with the Chameloid's brilliant golden eyes flitting a little as he spoke, although he now seemed to purposely avoid looking towards t'Nai. "And it is not an illogical conclusion to draw. I am impersonal and confrontational, yet without construction to it. And, currently, I am a liability." Karim now examined Kodak carefully, as if seeking to understand his former-and-current colleague's reactions to his commentary. "I can therefore presume your sentiments are personal in nature; I am otherwise redundant to you and your crew."

"I won't deny," Kodak nodded slowly, "that my feelings aren't partly personal in nature. I've missed you, Karim." He shrugged at that, not apologizing for what the half-Vulcan might scrutinize as over-sentimentality. "But I also understand that it's important to take our time with returning to duty. I'd disagree that you're a liability, though. We might need your acumen sooner than you think." He left the comment at that, though, not wanting to overburden the man with ideas of First Contact with a lost colony of Chameloids. If they did, indeed, find his people, Kodak was sure that Karim's expertise would prove useful. "There'll be plenty of time for that later, though. Perhaps a walk to your new quarters?" he asked, eyes shifting to Emni.

As Emni watched the exchange she had begun, very slowly, lowering her emotional defenses. She regretted that she hadn't been able to do this with Zhaan was still in the room as she was looking forward to knowing her better, but the potential volatility of Karim's state had warranted the extra caution. Even now, as the muddiness of the underwater muting cleared, it was as though he was mentally shouting at her. Or perhaps, it was more that she had grown so accustomed to his emotions months prior that to have them returned to her space after so much quiet felt like yelling. Either way she took a deep breath, carefully focusing on the words the Captain was speaking.

She nodded to Kodak understanding his suggestion and gestured toward the shuttle bay doors. "Welcome to the Sojourner Karim. It's good to see you again." she said, her voice betraying nothing of the rapidity with which she had tuned into his emotional state. "I'll walk you to your quarters. With your leave, of course, Captain," she said, her voice making it clear that whether Karim wanted her company or not he was getting it.

"Of course," Kodak nodded. "I've got to get back to the Bridge but I'll see you both later," the Captain smiled kindly. And with that, the Chameloid was moving off through the shuttle bay, picking his way back along the path he'd come. The doors groaned open to admit him, then sealed behind with a mechanical hiss, leaving Emni and Karim to their own machinations.

Emni turned to Karim, neutral doctor's expression failing her as an complicated series of emotions ran across her features. She said nothing of it, though, and gestured for the door. "Shall we?"

=/\= A Mission Post By =/\=

Captain Bjorn Kodak
Commanding Officer

Lieutenant Emni t'Nai
Acting Executive Officer

Lieutenant Serana Zhaan
Chief Operations Officer

Lieutenant Commander Karim
First Contact Specialist

and guest starring...

Lieutenant Yuri Harukami
Starbase 2 Shuttle Pilot


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