Episode 5: Better Angels
Location: USS Defiant
Timeline: MD 3: During Defiant's Passenger Transfer
Jace wanted to ask the yeoman to slow down, for fear of losing track of his directional sense within this impossible maze that was the corridors of the Defiant. But the young enlisted officer kept his pace, gracefully moving past oncoming personnel, making sharp turns, marching ahead with more speed than an office worker storming through Canary Wharf on a tight schedule.
It got to the point where it seemed ridiculous. The dizzying stairwells and winding corridors were flashing past far too quickly, and it felt as if they'd traversed the entire length of the massive starship twice already.
"Oi, mate!" he called out, and the yeoman practically screeched to a halt in the middle of the narrow corridor. "Slow down a bit, yeah? We aren't in that much of a rush, are we?"
The man seemed taken aback, but softened immediately. "My apologies, sir." He said plainly, before continuing ahead, slower this time. But turned out their journey was just about complete, as within seconds they arrived outside the doors leading to the CO's office.
Jace thanked and then dismissed the petty officer, before straightening himself in front of the door, as if it was a mirror. It'd been some time since he donned the charcoal-grey service uniform, its collar grasping uncomfortably against his neck. His boots, being new, felt more and more rigid the longer he waited.
He wasn't sure where the faint anxiety came from. "Right," he whispered to himself. "Just stay..."
The doors opened abruptly. Jace instantly closed his lips and looked ahead, suddenly confronted by a lady who appeared remarkably young to be the commanding officer of such a vessel of such prominence within its fleet. Blonde hair, pale eyes, a bit of a stern look to complete Jace's first impression of his new boss.
Captain Reynolds looked up, somewhat surprised. She'd been thinking of checking in on their target's status. Defiant had stopped briefly in her pursuit and handed off their wounded and civilian passengers to the USS Giffords, which had met them along their path. They'd been stopped for some time and she didn't want the Indomitable getting out of sensor range. However, upon opening her door, she'd been startled by the sudden appearance of a man in a service uniform. It took a moment for it to register in her mind. "Oh, Doctor Eldridge. I apologise, I didn't know I'd be receiving you so soon. Uh... please come in." She gestured to the seats by her desk as she reentered the room herself.
Jace also give a rather dumbfounded look. The yeoman had been the one who arranged the appointment... perhaps there'd been a mistake in scheduling, or some sort of oversight. He stepped forward a little, but stopped short of getting comfortable in the chair she offered.
"Oh, it's... all right, Captain," he said. "I can come back a little later on if that suits you better."
"No, it's fine. I've been giving orders like crazy for the last few hours. We only have so much time to pull off this transfer. I must have given him the idea that your arrival needed to be rushed too." She took a seat with a sigh, pointing to her chairs again. "Your timing is fine, Doctor. Please have a seat. There's not much for me to do out there but wait impatiently anyway."
Jace took a moment before nodding and taking a seat. He looked around briefly - a fairly large office for a ship, but that was as expected. He hadn't had a chance to wander through sickbay just yet, only his own quarters, which he found generously spacious.
"Thank you," he finally said after settling onto the chair.
"I apologize for the rushed nature of your arrival. As you may have heard, we're in a bit of a crisis situation. However, I appreciate the brief change of pace," she said, allowing herself to slow down for a moment. "So welcome aboard. This is your first posting aboard a starship, if I recall."
"Thank you, ma'am. And yes, that's right. First time living in space for a prolonged period," he nodded. "My quarters were much nicer than I had expected, which was a pleasant surprise."
"We still have civilization up here," Charlotte said, teasing the man slightly. "You'll be in for a fairly rude awakening though. Combat, rare epidemics, spatial anomalies, parasites taking over officer's minds and bodies? You don't see a lot of that on the surface. Especially Earth's surface. Sure you're up for the challenge?"
Jace wanted to shrug and reply with something along the lines of 'suppose we'll find out', but decided that was perhaps a little less appropriate. "Starfleet wouldn't have assigned me here if I wasn't," he said instead. He was confident with military protocol, comfortable with close-quarters marksmanship and defence, but knew he wasn't a career soldier.
Charlotte was less confident in the assurance. Not that this individual was necessarily unqualified. Doctor Eldridge's record was strong. But she knew Starfleet was hard-pressed to find doctor. The longer their conflict continued, the more injured there were, and the more doctors they needed. Her crew would be served well, but she worried that others would suffer. "I suppose that’s true," she said. "However, I know there will be a lot of new experiences coming at you. If you find yourself unfamiliar or overwhelmed, lean on the rest of us. We'll be happy to help you along. And I'm sure you'll be used to it in no time."
Jace nodded again. "Thank you, I appreciate the support. And you're right, I've had a number of new experiences already whilst en route on the Agatha King. Still trying to get used to the shakier bouts of warp turbulence and inertial re-calibrations. It's easier each day, though."
"Good," the Captain said, sitting back a little. "I know you just briefly saw them, but how were your quarters? I know some people have very specific needs in terms of the side of the ship they're on, especially if they aren't used to being aboard a vessel. Are the stars 'moving the right way?'"
Jace let out a small chuckle. "Yes, they're moving the right way. My quarters are great. I didn't realise them to be so accommodating, although I can imagine shipboard racks for enlisted personnel are more compact and less private. I'm looking forward to spending a bit of time doing a bit of re-arranging in my living area."
"Excellent," the woman replied. "Well, let the Quartermaster know if you need anything."
"So..." Jace continued, allowing for a pause to indicate a change in subject. "Have you always been in Starfleet, ma'am? Since leaving school?"
Charlotte nodded. "Every day since I went to the Academy. And in some ways, before that even. Starfleet's been my life path since I was a young kid. Not much ever shook me from that."
"So you're saying at least one of your parents was in Starfleet?" Jace deduced.
Charlotte nodded once more. "My father currently is an Admiral. My mother wasn't an officer herself, but frequently worked along side the diplomatic officers. And her mother served in Early Starfleet as well. So it's in my blood."
"Everyone in the family, hey," Jace nodded. "I'm the only one, really. Didn't intend to initially, but it was a bit of an opportunity to grab at the time to experience new things. Haven't looked back since - at least not yet." He let a small grin rise from his lips. "You sound like you're from Earth, but I'm guessing you might not have grown up there?"
"Off and on. I spent a decent amount of time on Earth while I was growing up, but I also spent a lot of time off world. A parent in Starfleet tends to do that to you. So I'll call it an old-school Earth upbringing with an awful lot of spice from off-world," Claire said. "What about you? Sounds like you've basically never left the Sol System. Have you had much experience with non-Human communities?"
"A bit," Jace said, then admitted, "But quite obviously not as much experience as, for example, you may have had yourself. At least not some of the more recently admitted members to the Federation. But Earth is becoming increasingly diversified, particularly in the more populated cities. The difference is quite clear, as I've experienced when I moved from my hometown of Perth to London for my training."
"Yes, I can see how that would be jarring," Charlotte said. "So I imagine you have some questions. Anything I can answer for you?"
Jace shifted his weight in the chair. "Yes, a few, actually," he began. "This Indomitable, and the infectious agent that has plagued Arcadia Station... I've only read a few reports, but nothing with much detail yet. I was told I'd be briefed appropriately about the situation, and presumably given access to whatever data we have on the contagion?"
"It's a good question," Charlotte said, preparing her answer. "IT's not a contagion per se. We've kept the details fairly classified, but there are parasitic beings which attach themselves to the brainstem and control the host. They're not exactly small, so we've kept the details as under wraps as possible. If anything, it's to protect the victims' families."
"We actually have a few specimens on board which I'd recommend you familiarize yourself with. One we recovered from a Tholian station where they had attempted a take over. The other came from a Defiant crewman who actually made an attempt on my life in this very room." She looked around, still visibly a little disturbed by the incident. However, she didn't linger on it and pulled up one of Defiant's internal reports. "Lt. Sheffield, Arcadia's CMO actually assisted us with the removal of one from our Strategic Operations Officer, Lt. Commander Kenna Wolff. She could tell you first hand what its like having one of them in your head."
Jace couldn't tell whether the mild chills he felt when the Captain described the parasites was due to the slightly cool air in the office, or his own subconscious fear of what they were up against. He, however, showed none of it outwardly.
"I'll have a read through the analyses," he said. "How soon until we intercept the Indomitable?"
"A few days," Charlotte said as she kept her own eyes off the screen. "We've been shadowing them for about 48 hours now. Our sensors have just a little more reach than theirs, so we've been able to follow them without announcing our presence. The main problem is that we need to get the drop on them. They took damage on the way out of Arcadia, so they've only been traveling at warp six. We could accelerate and overtake them now if we wanted, but that's not really a viable option. If we simply engage them at warp, the fight won't go well for us. There's not much we can do, other than wait for them to put themselves in a compromising position. Until then, we're lingering just outside their sensors."
Jace had a small suggestion of his own, but then again he wasn't a military tactician of any kind, and was sure the rest of the bridge crew had substantially more experience than he did. "Well then," he nodded. "I shall use the time we've got to get my department ready."
"Sounds like a plan," Charlotte said. "Well you'll want to stop by the Quartermaster and get yourself some uniforms. The medical crew is actually already fairly prepared due to what we've been through, so that will save you some time, but I'd suggest you introduce yourself to them. In the meantime, if you need anything else, let me know."
"Sounds like a plan," Charlotte said. "Well, you'll want to stop by the Quartermaster and get yourself some uniforms. The medical crew is actually already fairly prepared due to what we've been through, so that will save you some time, but I'd suggest you introduce yourself to them. In the meantime, if you need anything else, let me know."
"Of course," Jace nodded, standing up. He straightened up to attention briefly, and gave the CO a quick nod, before being dismissed.