A Reptilian Sojourn
In the Aftermath
Timeline: Mission Day 3 at 0600
Lieutenant Gar’rath stared out of the main view screen as the universe passed by all around the shuttle. The chirps and warbles that indicated that everything aboard the vessel was in working order filled the compartment the Gorn sat in and provided the only bit of noise other than the sounds of Gar’rath’s own breathing. The journey from the Pathfinder Station out to Talbeethia Prime had been relatively routine, if one discounted the fact that not a bit of the space being traversed belonged to the Federation. The route the shuttle had taken had been blissfully empty of traffic, and soon the shuttle would reach the designated rendezvous spot.
The sound of shuffling behind the Gorn pulled his attention away from the endless streaks of light toward the rear of the shuttle where Gar’rath caught sight of the other occupant of the craft and more to the point, its pilot. The spindly mammal that was Gar’rath’s sole company had muttered something about being tired after having been awake for some absurd number of hours. When the man walked fully into view and caught sight of Gar’rath, he flinched backward as if he’d caught a glimpse at something disturbing. When his brain had gotten a chance to parse what was staring him down, his shoulders slumped a bit as he pulled himself together.
“Sorry about that, Lieutenant…” the young Junior Grade said as he slowly approached his console and slid down into it.
“It is fine,” the Gorn intoned in a deep, gravelly voice, “It would not be the first time someone flinched when they saw me after having taken a nap.”
An apologetic and self-deprecating look flashed on the man’s face upon hearing that he wasn’t the only one to act so inconsiderate toward the Gorn. While he could understand that it hadn’t been particularly malicious of him, it still made the young pilot feel bad that he hadn’t been able to keep his shock hidden even when he knew who his passenger was.
The man was about to make another attempt at amends when the console in front of him screeched several times, an indication that they had entered the predetermined warp drop out distance. The pilot’s brain shifted gears almost immediately and he began tapping away at the console, bringing the small shuttle out of warp. The scene before the pair shifted dramatically as soon as the craft slid to a much slower speed, the starfield now static around them. For his part, the Gorn had already begun the sensor sweeps required to pinpoint their target and relayed the subsequent bearing and heading information to the adjacent console.
Soon enough, the small craft saddled up to the considerably larger Rhode Island-class vessel. When it finally came to a relative stop, Gar’rath used the shuttle’s communication network to send out a hail to their target.
“Lieutenant Gar’rath to the USS Sojourner, please respond,” the Gorn said briskly, his eyes shifting toward the small screen that was dedicated to visual transmissions.
“Lieutenant Gar’rath, this is Sojourner,” the voice of the officer operating the Ops console from the bridge confirmed. “Standby for shuttle bay landing sequence. Transferring communication there now.”
There was a short silence and then a new voice, this one feminine, though businesslike, filled the space. “Pathfinder Shuttle, we see you. Sending routing coordinates now.”
Gar’rath looked over at the shuttle’s pilot, who nodded once and began inputting the approach vectors. The view shifted as the vessel slowly banked and pivoted until it was in line with the large doors that had receded enough to expose the ship’s interior to the void of space. The shuttle’s pilot took his time moving the craft within the ship, and the completed evolution was heralded by a small vibration of the deckplates.
The Gorn rose from his seat and laid a clawed hand on the young pilot’s shoulder, “Thank you for your company, Lieutenant. May your return home be just as uneventful.”
“Uh… thank you, sir…” the young man squeezed out, his face awash with confusion over the rather thoughtful parting words that he hadn’t expected from the rather intimidating reptile.
The corners of Gar’rath’s maw rose in what approximated a smile before he dipped his head down once and departed the craft, his belongings already making their way to the cargo hold thanks to a time delayed transport order he’d left with the computer before getting up. As his bare feet left the carpeted interior of the vessel, sharp clacks sounded from beneath him, his clawed digits striking the hard metallic surfaces with each step.
Emni had made it to the shuttlebay early enough to see the shuttle’s entrance and landing–one of the perks of being stationed on a small ship; there were only so many decks to traverse to get anywhere. For a moment it occurred to her that she had been doing this exact thing upon Serana’s arrival, the occasion a bit overshadowed by Karim’s own inclusion in that party. And now, Serana would be departing on a vessel not unlike the one on which she arrived.
The willowy Romulan shook her head, eyes coming up to focus where the shuttle’s ramp had unfolded. There would be other times to consider Serana’s tenure and the symmetry of her arrival and departure. As with all new arrivals, Emni felt the man before she saw him. Unlike all other new arrivals, this one was a bundle of intensely physical reactions. Almost as if his emotional state was tied to his physicality. Her eyes narrowed slightly as she tried to sort them rather unsuccessfully, before the reptilian visage of Lieutenant Gar’rath appeared on the ramp.
She shot a glance over to the console where Irynya had been dispatched to manage any incoming and outgoing flow of traffic. A bit of a quiet gig and an unusual one for the Risian to be posted to. The responding wide-eyed expression, though, reminded her that few were aware that their new Ops Chief was a Gorn and she quickly pulled on the doctor-neutral mask she’d developed over the years.
“Lieutenant Gar’rath,” she called over the surprisingly loud clack of claws against the shuttle bay floor. “Welcome to the Sojourner.”
“Thank you, Commander,” the Gorn’s deep voice seemed to resonate around the compartment, “I believe you are the Executive Officer, yes?”
Gar’rath’s predatory eyes scanned the massive shuttlebay as he spoke, taking in the area as any predator might. His emerald orbs finally rested on the woman he’d just spoken to, as if satisfied that there wasn’t anything around him of more immediate concern.
Hands clasped behind her back Emni’s head tilted up slightly to look at the tall reptilian. “I am, yes,” she commented. “Lieutenant Commander Emni t’Nai,” she added, by way of introduction. She extended her hand to the Gorn, not entirely certain he would take it though the greeting was customary among enough officers that it seemed a fair guess.
Gar’rath’s head dipped down to look at the offered hand. He’d experienced the mammalian ritual of grasping hands many times on his own homeworld and found the practice to be rather amusing. The Gorn reached out with his clawed hand and practically engulfed the woman’s much smaller appendage. His maw parted a bit to better reveal his sizable and deadly looking teeth, a mimicry of the smiles he had been shown by the humans on Cestus. Gar’rath did all of that knowing full well how out of place it looked on a reptile such as himself, a bit of ‘pay back’, so to speak, for all the flinching and hesitation he got from the mammals around him.
“It is a pleasure to meet you,” the Gorn released her hand after applying just enough pressure to it to be considered firm, but not enough to actually physically harm anyone.
Shaking hands with a Gorn, Emni decided, was a singularly unusual experience. Had she not already encountered a range of unexpected species aboard the Sojourner, she might have found it alarming. The feel of claws against her wrist and scale against her hand while not unexpected were certainly… different. Hands freed she gestured to the door of the shuttle bay. “Would you prefer to stop in your quarters or your station?” she asked.
“I have no preference,” Gar’rath replied, maw still pointed down toward the woman, “Whichever is more convenient for you.”
“It’s a small ship,” she offered with a warm smile. “Neither is terribly inconvenient, but I’ll drop you at your quarters if that works for you. Give you a chance to get situated before we put you to work.”
A few steps forward set the sensor on the doors off, the whoosh of doors sliding open revealing the corridor beyond. Emni didn’t wait, stepping out into the corridor and turning in the direction of the nearest turbolift. “Senior crew share quarters with another officer,” she commented as they walked. “At the moment Lieutenant Zhaan has the luxury of not having another officer assigned to the second room, so you’ll have the run of the space for the moment.”
“That will be good,” Gar’rath said as he ducked under the doorway into the corridor, “I prefer a more humid and warm climate for sleeping than mammals are used to.” As the Gorn followed the woman, his slightly hunched over form gave him the distinct impression that he was somehow stalking his way through the space, a fact that was not lost on the Gorn himself.
“A question, if I may,” Gar’rath said suddenly.
“Of course,” Emni responded, glancing quickly to the side before her eyes tracked upward, remembering how much taller he was than her. “Ask away.”
“Are the replicators of this vessel configured to allow for my unique dietary requirements, or will I have to modify my personal replicator to do so?” the Gorn asked pointedly.
Emni’s lips pursed slightly at the question. She had read the man’s dossier, so she was aware of the specifics. She made a mental note that she probably ought to give Debbie a heads up, just to be on the safe side. “I’ll check with Mr. Balsam about that to confirm, but I believe the programming was sent ahead of you. I’d suggest you confirm once we get to your room. Just to be on the safe side.”
“Very well,” Gar’rath said with a bob of his maw as they continued their walk through the corridors to his new accommodations. The remainder of the journey to Gar’rath’s new quarters was spent in silence, the Gorn having exhausted all the relevant questions that had come to him upon his arrival. When the woman he had been following stopped just passed a doorway and turned to face him, the Gorn halted and turned to face the door, reaching out a clawed digit to tap on the door unlock command. The all too familiar swishing sound of the doors sliding apart granted the Gorn a view into the interior. The only thing of note that Gar’rath could pick out was that there was a chair against one wall and a door leading into what he could only assume was the shared facilities. He had read up on the vessel’s schematics prior to his arrival but hadn’t actually grasped the sheer lack of space that the hull provided its crew.
While keeping his displeasure to himself, the Gorn entered the antechamber, taking note that the replicator was just inside of the compartment. Without so much as a word, Gar’rath’s claw tapped at the console as he called up the menu protocols that should have been forwarded ahead of him in a data package that had contained his orders of transfer. Short, angry pulses issued from the device, followed by an intonation of ‘Unable to comply’ from the unemotional computer intelligence. Despite being reptilian, his facial features were discernible enough to even someone who had never met a Gorn before. In other words, he looked angry.
“For all the creature comforts the Federation can offer, it baffles me that providing sustenance to someone other than a mammal seems to escape them,” Gar’rath growled deep in his throat.
It was an interesting sensation to feel the shift in Gar’rath’s emotional state and for a quick moment Emni’s eyes tightened at the corners and her lips pressed into a thin line. It was brief, though, as she erected mental barriers. The training of her skill had been largely ad hoc as few Romulans were empathic and those that were weren’t generally looked kindly upon. Had she been raised on her father’s homeworld it might have been a different matter, but as it was she had little experience on which to draw and so, for now, she simply kept the defenses high letting the somewhat primal reactions slide off of her walls.
While Gar’rath had entered the space, Emni had remained just within the doorway, not entering the room, but not yet leaving as the Gorn checked the settings. The confirmation that all was not in order was quick and a tap to her combadge sent the telltale signal of the open comm line chittering through the room.
“t’Nai to Balsam,” she said, eyes looking up at the ceiling as she did. The answering reply was prompt and the voice on the other end professional despite a slight stuttering hesitation within his speech. “Mr. Balsam, it seems that the packet of replicator data for our new ops chief either hasn’t been installed or isn’t working properly. If Chief Basheer can spare you for a few would you mind taking a look?”
Request confirmed, Emni signaled the end of the conversation and tapped the badge, closing the line. “Easily fixed,” she said to the Gorn with a practiced smile. “Mr. Balsam is one of our most talented systems technicians. If anyone can get everything sorted quickly, it’ll be him.”
She turned then, taking in the small space. It was odd how quickly she’d become used to the larger XO’s quarters when these had felt sizeable enough not that long ago. “If it’s alright with you, I’ve a few things that need doing. I’ll leave you here? I don’t believe your duty rotation comes up for a few more hours.”
Gar’rath slowly turned to face the woman, “That is acceptable. I will wait for this… Balsam… and get the temperature in here to my liking. I am grateful for your assistance, Commander.”