End of Shift Small Talk
Episode 1: A Lesson in Humility
Timeline: En Route to Rendezvous
Amelia Redgrave returned to the Armory not long before the end of her shift. She was notably out of uniform. Her thrice weekly sparring matches with the captain were having the desired effect, and she needed to try harder now to maintain her edge over Reynolds. Amelia still easily outclassed her, but it wasn’t the easy procedure it had once been. That was good. It meant it was working. It did mean she couldn’t keep sparing in her uniform though. She’d grown tired of cleaning it to keep the sharp lines she preferred. So she’d mimicked the Captain’s Defiant-issue tank top and yoga pants look. It was less professional than she preferred, but more practical.
Throwing her towel down on her station, she proceeded to check on progress reports for her teams. Emergency preparation drills had been coming along well, but some of the lower decks still had slower response times than she’d like. She couldn’t have that among the NPCs, her people. They needed to be in top top shape to keep the officers on their toes. She’d need to get them in gear.
Scrolling past one more update on a sprained wrist, she noticed that Ensign Pierce was in the Armory as well. He’d been a difficult one for her to read. Always too quiet, never contributing much. She wasn’t exactly talkative herself. But compared to Colby, she looked as social as the redhead in sciences. Feeling a little awkward about the silence, she decided to break it. “Pretty quiet day on shift, huh?”
Colby turned around and looked at the petty officer. He had seen her before, but now he noticed that she was very pretty. "It sure has been. I've been checking all the weapons, and replacing any worn parts. Guess grunt work falls to the new guy."
"You know, that probably is something you could assign to someone else. Though I get it. I prefer to take care of a lot of these things myself as well." She swiped past one more review of an internal sensor glitch that led security on a wild goose chase. "Up to anything in particular for the rest of the day?"
"After I'm finished this, I thought I would go to the mess and get myself dinner." He looked at her. "Interested in joining me?"
Amelia shrugged, finishing up her checklist. "Sure, I've got nothing else planned for the day."
Colby nodded. "Good." He picked up his padd and sketchbook. He walked to the door, waited for her to exit first, then followed her to the mess.
A brief turbolift ride later, they arrived at the mess and shuffled into line behind several waiting officers. Amelia had never excelled at small talk, especially if it wasn't mission related. So she decided to stick to what she was good at. "So this mystery object we're headed towards. Everyone is excited to see it, but I imagine its got the security side of your brain going crazy. I know mine is."
He smiled at her. "My security brain is trying to come up with security related scenarios. What are we going to find....is it a threat to the ship and crew? That's how my brain works. What peeks your interest in it?"
"Basically everything about it, honestly. Its place of origin, the fact that it seems to be operating under its own power, its size. The whole situation is fascinating," Amelia said finally retrieving her meal and waiting for Colby to get his.
Colby got his meal and followed Amelia to a table. "I try figure out the security side of things, while you think of place of origin, what's the power source. And how big it is means that I have to try and figure out their weapons capabilities."
"We're not going to know much until we get closer and can run deeper scans. For now, I think we just need to make sure Defiant is ready for anything," Amelia said, taking a few bites of her food. "You get up to anything during shore leave?"
Colby sliced off a bite of his steak and put it in his mouth. "I decided to skip shore leave this time. I spent the time catching up on some paperwork." He took a sip of his drink. "You went on leave?"
Amelia nodded. "Yeah. Took the opportunity to visit family while I saw in the system. Mom was particularly glad to have me home, after us being on the frontlines and all. Any reason you didn't get off ship?"
Colby shrugged. "No real reason. Just felt like staying on the ship." He got up and got them some desert.
Amelia finished her plate, and watched Colby for a moment. The man was a difficult one to read. Stayed on the ship for long hours, avoided shore leave. She wondered what the man did with his time. She wasn't sure that she bought that there wasn't a reason, but she didn't push. "Fair enough. Though I doubt you'll get much chance to get off ship for a while."
"I'm happy getting some away mission time. Shore leave, to me, can dredge up some unhappy things. I'm happy doing my exercises in my down time, or reading, painting and during my duty time, figuring new security plans." He took a bite of his dinner. "How was the visit with your family? Where are they?"
Amelia nodded, still not entirely convinced. She herself didn't care too much for casual down time. But she took advantage of shore leaves when they came up. Otherwise, she'd eventually burn out. "My family has been living in London recently. I hadn't really been before, so it was a fun experience. Was nice to see everyone again. My mother is always worrying. I don't think she ever got over the fact that I decided to go into Sec/Tac. My red uniform causes a lot more stress for her than a blue would have."
Colby nodded. "That's what parents do...worry. They know we will face dangerous situations most of the time. That's why sometimes we should take advantage of any chance we have for....friendship or companionship. We can be here one day, then gone the next." He snapped his fingers.
Amelia raised her eyebrows and looked a little absently into her glass. It was a rather dark take on things. "That's a grim way to look at it, but you're not all that wrong." The idea made her second guess her lack of social interactions when off duty. But it also triggered her curiosity. "But that's pretty out of step with you not wanting to go on shore leave. I know you grew up on Earth, but for some reason you didn't want to visit friends or family, even after surviving the end of the war. There's gotta be a story there."
Amelia sat back, giving him room. She figured there was something there, though she hoped she wasn't hitting a soft spot. She'd never been that good at being subtle in conversation. She had a bad tendency to just say things she was thinking.
He looked at her and smiles. "You're in the wrong line of work, you should have been a counselor." He drained the last of his drink. "My family and friends are not happy with my choice of careers. My father was in Starfleet, he was in security. She was a counselor, they were on the same ship, fell in love, got married and had me, then he got a promotion and transferred to a new ship, but now that he was away, she was afraid that Starfleet will come to her door one day informing her of husband dying in the line of duty. I didn't want a career in Starfleet, but that changed when my mother died. So I came out here for the adventure, if I didn't have that, I'd be miserable." He stood up and got them both a drink, this time, an alcoholic one, and placed them on the table. He lifted his glass, "To better days."
“To better days,” she returned, downing her drink. “You’re wrong about my career path though. I’d make a lousy counselor. I’m just nosy and too judgmental. I don’t have the gentle approach for that. I just pester people until they talk.”
"Like you're pestering me, now, right?" He smiled at her and got up and got them another drink. "Can't just accept that I don't like really care for shore leave?"
Amelia took the second drink from him, a little surprised to have another already. She shook her head. “No, I think I pestered you enough on that. Family can be a little complicated to deal with, especially if they disagree with your career choices. I can understand wanting to stay away.”
"So....tell me something about yourself...dreams, ambitions, dislikes......boy or girlfriends,” Colby said.
Amelia let a stifled laugh out. “Starting with the small stuff, huh?” She shot him a suspicious look, but relaxed in her seat a bit. “Not a ton to tell. I’ve been Very career focused since I joined Starfleet. It makes me good at my job but also interferes a bit with my personal life. So I don’t have much to speak on regarding the last part of your question. Been a few years since I’ve been in any real sort of relationship.” She’d been working on her work/life balance as of late. The fact that she was very far along the rank latter for NCOs took some of the pressure off. She debated about adding that the counselor had advised her to lighten up a bit, but decided it felt too personal. Even if she did think he needed the advice even more... “As for goals, I plan to keep climbing the ladder and making myself the best officer I can. Maybe get myself a chief of security position someday.”
"Not a bad goal, but first you'll have to get through me and Lindholm." He laughed. "Seriously, you have to make time for yourself. You keep putting things off and one day you'll look back and find you missed some things along the way. I mean, look at me, I'm driving myself cause I want what you want, and I know I'm missing out on things."
Amelia couldn’t help but laugh, poking some fun at her department mate. “Look who’s talking! You’re the one who literally skipped shore leave. Hell, even I went to Lafayette’s beach party thing.” She leaned back in her seat, loosing up a little. She wasn’t sure if she was speaking too freely, but that never really stopped her “I think you need to take a little of your own advice.”
He looked at her with a serious look on his face. "Yea...you're probably right." He looked at his drink in his hand, swirling the contents around. "I didn't go on shore leave, because my father and me aren't talking much anymore cause of my mother's death." He was surprised he told her that, but there was something about her that made him want to open up.
Ah, a grain of truth, she thought to herself. She gave him a sympathetic look and nodded. “That sounds pretty difficult. Was she ill?”
"She was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Towards the end of her life, she decided to.....kill herself....drug overdose. When she died, my father came home and retired and got a contracting job with Starfleet. We tried to live together, but we blamed each other for her death, so we stopped talking. Then I was able to get into the academy, and when I graduated, I asked him not to come."
“I’m so sorry. I had no idea,” she said, her eyebrows furrowing in sympathy. “I’m sorry I pushed so hard. I wouldn’t have made you talk about it if I’d known.”
"Not your fault. You asked, and I finally answered you." Colby looked at her.
"Well, I appreciate you telling me," Amelia said softly, but she let out a little laugh. "My therapist thinks it's a good idea to open up though, so maybe it's a good thing I kept pestering you."
"Okay...your turn...deepest, darkest secret you have hidden." Colby pointed at her when he said 'you'. "An unrequited love, a first crush, first time with someone, lover who hurt you."
A little on the nose, she thought to herself. There wasn't exactly much ambiguity in the question as to what he wanted to talk about. "Hmm...let's see. I maybe or may not have had a little fling with the guy in charge of booking the training grid at the Academy. That wasn't why I dated him, mind you, just an unforeseen benefit. And it wasn't exactly a cheat sheet for a test, but I definitely was able to go a little over on booking allotment for training on the training grid."
Colby laughed. "That's cheating! Dating the person in charge of the training grid???"
“That’s not why I was dating him! It was just...convenient,” Amelia said, laughing, though blushing a little. “Besides, I’d like to think the extra hours of training made me a better Security Officer. Gave me time to hone my skills a little.”
"And what, pray tell, were those skills you honed?" He laughed. "No...don't tell me...I'll just let my imagination run wild."
“Tactical skills,” she said, scowling at his tease. “The skills that let me take out a moving target at substantial distance. The same skills that let me fight you to a draw, if not beat you, despite the fact that you’re bigger and stronger than me.” She teased him back, making sure to remind him of the time they’d sparred to let her guard the captain. “I take my training very seriously. If I get extra training grid time, I’m going to put it to use on real training. Plenty of time for other stuff when I’m not able to get access.”
He opened his sketch book and started sketching the mess and the people in it. "You need a hobby, or you might burn yourself out. This is my hobby." He slid the book over to her. "Been sketching and painting since I was a teen. This may not be for you, but it works for me." He sipped his drink.
Amelia looked through the book. The images were impressive. It was something she certainly hadn’t expected to hear from him. “Oh wow! These are incredible.” She leafed a few more pages. “I never would have guessed.”
"Painting takes my mind off my problems. I sketch first, then I decide what I want to paint and then I throw myself into that project." He looked at her. "I'd like to show you what I've done."
"I'd love to see it," she said, genuinely. The art was beautiful. Some were practically lifelike. Others were more vague, but it added a dream like look to them. She could only imagine what it looked like finished. "Do you have them on ship?"
"I have some in my quarters. One I'm very proud of...probably the first real painting I've done to date." He looked at her. "The sketches are more of an exercise, but if I find a truly worthy subject, I usually start a painting of it. Would now be a good time for you?"
"Yeah, I'd love to see them!" Amelia said with a broad smile. "And given how good these sketches are, I'm curious to see what exactly counts as one that you're proud of."
Colby stood up. "No time like the present." He started to wonder if she would make an excuse not to go to his quarters today.
"Works for me," she said with a smile. "As long as you're done with that plate."
He picked his plate up and put it in the replicator to be recycled.
It was a few minutes later that they arrived at Pierce's Quarters. As the doors opened, Amelia gave an admiring whistle to the size of them. "Solo quarters, huh? Very fancy. I guess they didn't stick you in shared quarters like most of the other Ensigns. I know Claire and Thyra have a joint set."
"I had a roommate, but he requested a new room assignment. Guess my late nights painting didn't set well with him...….he couldn't get any sleep." He watched her walk around the room, looking at some of his paintings.
"Light sleeper, huh? Either he had incredible hearing or you must paint very loudly," she said with a laugh. Her eyes roamed around the room. There were quite a few works hanging on the walls, both painted and sketched. "Alright, how about you show off a few favorites. I like to know the stories behind them."
He pointed to a painting hanging in the living room. "Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco. I saw this everyday out my window while I was at the academy. On my off days, I would go and find different places to sit and sketch the bridge. When I decided that I had enough perspectives of the bridge, I started this painting. Took me 6 months to finish. I think this is my favorite."
She looked at the image for a moment. It was impeccably well drawn. But what really caught her eye was the angle it was drawn from. Unlike most images, it seemed to be from a different angle. She was impressed "Hey were you out on the water for this view?"
"Good catch. Yes, I rented a boat to take me out and stop at different points. The captain of the boat asked me why I didn't just use a holocamera instead of sketching. I told him that was a very good question. I told him that I didn't like the camera, that I preferred to use my eyes and my hands to capture the essence of the subject," Colby added.
"I'd say it was worth it," Amelia said, as she admired the piece. "It turned out beautifully. Just an image wouldn't stand out as much."
Colby bowed slightly, "Thank you." He led her to his work area. "This is what I am working on now. It's not actually of something, just trying to stretch my imagination." He lifted the canvas up and showed her the picture. It was a painting showing a planet, looking up at two planets in the sky and two suns.
“Oh wow,” she said, as she admired it. It wasn’t exactly scientific, but that was the whole idea. The dramatic display highlighted more colors than she would have thought you could without looking ridiculous. “If you can paint like this, why are you always avoiding the lounge then? You’d have an audience practically any night of the week.”
He looked at her. "I've never painted in front of a crowd.....so I don't know if I can." He got 2 glasses of water. "I know it's probably silly, but I guess I have a fear of failure."
"I think we all feel that sometimes. But seriously, I don't think you have much failure to fear here. Do something easy. Everyone will still be impressed and you don't have to worry about it being too hard to do," she said, taking the glass and plopping on the seat. "I know I'd watch."
Colby gave something a quick thought. "I could sketch people...that doesn't take much time." He looked at her, walked over to her, cupped her chin and moved her head from side to side. "That's what I thought....you have classical features....I'd like to sketch you sometime."
She squinted and tilted her head a little, giving a mischievous smile. "Classical features?"
"The classic features you'd see in ancient paintings of women....a timeless beauty," Colby responded.
Amelia barely avoided snorting out a laugh at that, before giving him an accusing look. "Does that line work on all the girls?"
Colby gave her an "who me" look. "It's not a line if it's the truth."
"Mmhmm," she replied with a smirk. "Any other truths I should know? You know, just for my information."
"Your eyes are like 2 stars in the night sky. Your lips are like an oasis in the middle of a desert." He starred at her eyes.
"Yes, I'm sure that one had all the ladies swooning." She laughed and rolled her eyes. "You don't need to try so hard, you know. I feel like you always do that. Overreach. But you don't need to. You can just...be you."
"Just be me?" Colby leaned over and kissed her. "That's me being me."
"I stand corrected. Maybe you should try harder then," she laughed as she teased at him. "Seriously though, you don't need cheesy lines. Just...I don't know..." She scooted a little closer. "Tell me more about your paintings or something."
He liked that she moved closer to him. "I don't know why I paint. But I always remember me holding a brush in my hand. I've never had what they call "an outgoing personality", so probably painting was an outlet for me. Sometimes I will paint things I see with my eyes," pointing to the Golden Gate painting, "sometimes I paint what I see in my mind." He absently studied her features again.
"Well, I think they're lovely. I wish I had that kind of artistic talent," Amelia said, as she admired the paintings again, aware of the fact that he was looking at her. The situation felt a little silly, but she couldn't help herself. He was cute, if a bit cheesy. And she certainly didn't mind the attention at the moment.
"I'd be willing to give you lessons, in exchange for you posing for me. You are beautiful. Brilliant eyes. I can almost see your soul." He was fascinated by this woman. And it wasn't just attraction.
Amelia laughed a bit at the idea of her doing any sort of artwork. "I'm afraid any lesson would be lost on me. But I'll give it a try. And in exchange, maybe you do a little bit less of those little pick up lines. You're not doing yourself any favors." She gave a light punch to his arm to punctuate the joke.
Suddenly, he leaned closer to her, and gently kissed her lips. Then he stopped, and backed off, a little. "I don't know why I did that, but I had a sudden impulse to kiss you."
Amelia pulled him back in for a second kiss. “More of that. Less of the cheesy lines,” she said with a smug grin.
Colby pulled her towards him, wrapped his arms around her, and kissed her, hard.
She pulled away for a moment and made eye contact, a serious look on her face. "You tell anyone about this and I will literally kill you. And you know I could do it."