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Informal meetings.

Posted on Mon Nov 15th, 2021 @ 8:44pm by Commander Ael t'Laris & Captain Thomas Ward & Lieutenant JG Aira Milani, PhD

Mission: The Story of a First Contact Launch Day
Location: Ten Forward, USS Titan
Timeline: 2411.03.13 1230 Hours

The USS Titan sat idly in drydock over the orbit of Earth, her warp core empty and phaser banks still waiting for their full charge, lit only by a scant number of interior bulbs and the large overhead lights of the orbital drydock’s mainframe. Almost two weeks have passed since the initial arrival of parts of her main crew, and whilst they still remain a skeleton without muscles or organs, the body that is the crew of the USS Titan was slowly beginning to take shape.

Like many post 24th century starships, the Titan class features a well stocked bar on the tenth deck of her forward saucer in section one. Known colloquially as Ten Forward, the lounge has become a favored place for crewmen and officers alike to relax and socialize. But whilst on a regular day, one may find the lounge packed with the sound of chattering and the exchange of intergalactic stories, such was not the case today onboard the USS Titan. The place was empty, save for a few members of the janitorial bots and the holographic barmaid that stood as nothing but a ghostly projection of an early 21st century ‘alt-girl’ from behind the counter. A soft melody of a forgotten mid 20th century Earth song played from an unspecified location whilst a pale cerulean glow flowed through the large windows on the other side of the lounge, basking the entirety of the locale in a dim, nihilistic shine. It was indeed all very creepy and created quite the liminal space.

Having little else to do while waiting for her crew quarters to be ready, Aira wandered into the crew lounge, hoping for some quick and easy companionship. Looking around at the deserted space, she sighed. "Tasar wasn't kidding," she muttered. "This isn't even a skeleton crew. It's a dust-and-cobwebs crew." Shrugging, she slid over to the bar and ordered a rum and coke from the holographic bartender. Alcohol didn't have the same effect on Selkies as it did for most humanoids, but she still enjoyed the taste.

“Ugh whatever loser,” The hologram said with a scoff and a roll of its eyes before materializing the requested drink from a replicator behind it. It was obvious that this was nothing more than a caricature with the most basic of programming, and soon, a rum & coke as requested slid before Aira. “Enjoy your crappy drink, loser.”

After a few moments of idle silence, save for the ambient noises that filled the lounge, a Vulcan slid into the room, or what appears to be a Vulcan. She was dressed in the usual command red, though her sleeves were rolled past her elbows and the front collar of the uniform jacket was unzipped, revealing an undershirt of the same dark maroon. To add further unorthodoxy, this supposed Vulcan’s hair was far from the usual sharp bowl cut seen on pretty much every Vulcan. Instead, it was a messy bob with flare hair. Approaching the bar, she slid into one of the unoccupied stools next to Aira, giving the Lieutenant a courteous nod as she did so.

“Wow this place really is dead huh?” She said, her eyes looking past the Selkie and to the empty booth behind her. “Never thought I’d have the privilege of seeing a starlounge devoid of life, but I guess that’s what you get for coming onboard when the ship is still in drydock.” Turning her focus to the holographic barkeep, she snapped her fingers. “Hey hologram! Vulcan spiced tea, Raal province blend and don’t make it too hot. I don’t wanna burn my lips.”

Aira perked up when she heard the other officer walk in, and started a casual wave that turned into an awkward semi-formal Vulcan salute when she saw the commander's pips. "I guess a lot of the crew has yet to actually show up," she said, trying to strike a balance between a casual attitude that fit the setting and showing respect for a superior officer. "I, uh, guess I should introduce myself. I'm Aira-- Lieutenant junior grade Aira Milani, the new A&A officer."

The hologram served the officer with the same attitude as it had with Aira, though she didn’t seem to really mind. Picking up the piping hot mug, she took a whiff and after finding the aroma to her satisfaction, took a slow sip though that was a mistake as she quickly recoiled back. “Ah shit,” she cursed under her breath as she set the mug down and gave the hologram a glare. “They really should program these things to be less hostile.” Turning to face the Selkie, she gave an amused grin as her eyes caught the semi-formal Vulcan salute. “Nice attempt Lieutenant. Commander Ael t’Laris, pleasure to meet you. So, you’re our resident Selkie? I’ve read about your kind before, though I can’t say I’ve had the opportunity to actually meet one in person. Have they made the changes to your quarters yet?”

"I don't think they had enough time to prepare-- I only just met with Lieutenant Tasar, and she said she'd look into getting it set up after I gave her my specifications. That's why I'm here-- my quarters aren't ready yet, and the aquatics lab has a bunch of technicians in it working on things." Aira took another sip of her drink, her curiosity piqued at the commander's obviously Romulan naming style. "I'm curious... I thought you were Vulcan, but your name is in the Romulan style. Are you a bit of both, then?"

“Yeah you can say that,” Ael responded, though this time taking a slower and more measured sip of the tea. “My mother is Vulcan and my father is Romulan, I spent my entire childhood on Romulus before the uh… you know. Anyway, don’t worry about it. People make that assumption all the time and it’s not like I really help them either with my lack of ridges.”

Aira nodded, her hydration suit making a slight squelching noise as she shifted her position on the barstool. "Yeah, I know that some Romulans don't have those. And no Vulcans have them, which always gets me thinking about when that trait must have arisen after the Romulans left Vulcan, if there was like an insular subpopulation of Romulans that settled in one region of Romulus and just with time and evolution developed thicker brow ridges--" She stopped herself just in time from going further down the rabbit hole. "I'm sorry, I'm rambling-- but I study other cultures and civilizations for a living. These little things tend to get stuck in my brain and I find myself thinking through the possibilities for hours."

Ael chuckled as Aira rambled on about her theories regarding the aloof forehead ridges of her ancestry. It was always good to see the ancient explorer’s passion among the officer corps in Starfleet, a reassurance that the ships aren’t crewed by psychopaths. “You know my father actually has those ridges. My brother Aev has tiny indentations on his forehead; you can barely tell unless you look very closely. I suppose it’s a matter of genetics, maybe mine was just lost in the gene pool. Anyway, I get where you’re coming from Aira…” She paused, her eyes searching for any response from the Selkie to being called by her given name. “You don’t mind me calling you that right? Protocols can be very tiring sometimes, especially off duty.”

Aira visibly relaxed. "No, not at all! Selkies are generally way more casual about interpersonal relationships than most people, and protocol can definitely get tiring at times. And I'll just call you... Ael? I hope I'm saying that correctly." Aira did a fairly reasonable imitation of Ael's pronunciation of her own name. "I've always thought Romulan names were very pretty, but they're not always easy to pronounce for non-Romulans. I have a lot of practice though, since in xenoarchaeology you're always trying to pronounce words from civilizations that might have been dead for thousands of years, and there's no one around to tell you what they actually sounded like. It's like a puzzle where nobody has the answer key." She chuckled and took another sip of her drink. "I can't wait for this ship to finally launch. It's gonna be great to get to do some exploring."

“That would be great wouldn’t it? Finally something to do instead of just sitting around all day.” Ael said with an audible ugh. “April 5th is our intended launch date, at least that’s what Captain Ward has told me but I have a feeling we might not make it. Manpower really has been stretched thin within the fleet these past few years, to the point where I’m even considering promoting some of our more junior officers to departmental head positions.”

She paused for another brief moment to take a sip of her tea, her eyes fixating on the thin blue stripe on Aira’s hydration suit. “You know I used to wear blue myself, before all the pew pew pew business. I studied linguistics in the Academy and was pretty good at it, though I’ve never really messed with any of the dead ones like you. I almost got on one of those specialized archeological ships that was leaving for one of those failed early Vulcan colonies.”

"Yeah, I toyed with linguistics too for a while there, but ultimately I wanted to look at whole civilizations, and language is just one teeny part of a greater whole. I went on a lot of archaeological expeditions like that one when I was getting my doctorate, but for the past five years I've been lucky to get a peek at some old ruins from orbit while we're dealing with whoever we were fighting at the time." Aira sighed and turned her cup around in her hands. "What made you switch to command?"

“I didn’t switch to Command right off the bat, actually did most of my time in Intelligence and that was mostly field work.” Ael said as she swiveled 180 degrees on the stool, leaning her back on the counter whilst she stared out at the empty tables and booths that made up the remainder of the lounge. “But to tell you the truth, I can’t exactly think of an authentic reason as to why. My mother says I’ve spent too much time with my father growing up. My brother blames my katra. My father says I should forget this whole Starfleet business altogether and go independent with him!” She gave the Selkie a wry laugh, before turning to her with a smirk. “So we’ve established that you’re an absolute nerd for dead things. What made you want to poke around all that stuff?”

Aira shrugged. "They don't seem dead to me," she replied, looking off into the distance. "When you really dig deep into the roots of a civilization, the lives of the people who built it, their hopes and dreams and the forces that led to their downfall, you can really learn a lot about current civilizations, and you start to see the patterns that tell you in what direction they might go. Studying past civilizations keeps them alive, and someone needs to do that. It's useful to be able to observe major societies and events with some degree of distance. Distance gives you perspective, making tragedies seem smaller and placing them in a wider context. It's..." she faltered, seeming to run out of words. "It's just what I'm meant to do. Preserving the knowledge of civilizations past is valuable work, and I find that I'm very well suited for it."

Ael gave her a heartfelt smile. “Well I’ll be sure to give you a special memo whenever any archeological missions land in our lap. It’s good to know the past year hasn’t turned everyone into husks.” She took another sip of her tea. “The Titan is a deep space explorer anyway, just with more guns than any deep space explorers you’ll find… but I guess we’re still technically a science vessel. Our crew complement is only 350, not like the average size of a cruiser though have you seen some of the labs? They’re huge! I served on a Sovereign retrofit prior to this position and the astrometrics lab cannot compare.”

The Titan's Commanding Officer strolled into Ten Forward and immediately saw Ael and a Selkie, who he presumed to be his new A&A officer. "No they cannot compare, Commander. Respectfully, our crew complement is actually is actually 450, but still not as big as most cruisers" he corrected in a jokingly manner. "I'm not complaining though. The Titan is a fine ship."

Thomas then looked at Aira. "I'm Captain Thomas Ward by the way, your Commanding Officer. I apologize if I got ahead of myself back there" he said looking at the two officers.

Aira automatically sat up straight when she saw the captain's four pips. "Uh, hello, Captain. I'm Lieutenant Aira Milani, the A&A officer. I checked in with Lieutenant Tasar earlier, and I thought I'd come down here while I waited for my quarters to be ready." She nodded her head in Ael's direction, the hydration suit she wore squelching and bubbling slightly as she did so. "The commander and I were just talking. Did you want to join us? I know some of the captains I've served under have their own ideas of how appropriate it is for them to fraternize with the crew, but since there aren't that many of us yet, it might be nice for us to get to know one another."

"It would be my honor. Before I captained the previous Titan, my CO was similar to that" he smiled. "He was very similar to Picard in some ways."

He turned his attention quickly to the holographic bartender. "One Coffee with cream please" he said as he watched the hologram walk behind the counter and replicate the warm drink. A few seconds later the bartender set it in front of the Captain rather snottily.

"Who drinks coffee in the middle of the day?" the hologram said under it's breath as it moved away from the counter.

"Personality still needs some work" he said taking a sip of the caffeinated beverage. "Anyways, unlike my former Captain, I take a different approach to that sort of thing. I feel that people should at least get to know who their CO is, at least from a command and personal standpoint."

Aira nodded, bobbing her head excitedly. "I totally agree, sir. My people tend to take a more casual approach to these things, anyway. I look forward to interacting further both on and off duty- that is, if you'll permit me to infodump on whatever archaeological problem has seized my attention at the moment." She chuckled. "Like most science officers, I guess I'm just a nerd at heart."

Ael shifted herself to an adjacent stool to make room for her commanding officer. “Well I’m sure the Captain wouldn’t mind. And if he does, you can always come to me if you feel an excessive need to lay your findings onto another sentient ear.” Giving Aira a small wink, she turned her attention to the Captain. “Are we still due to launch on First Contact day?” She inquired, whilst taking a sip of her tea. “The Lieutenant and I are both…” She paused, searching for the right word. “Eager? To get underway.”

"If my understanding serves correctly, then we should still be slated for First Contact day, but we are behind schedule and we are still lacking personnel. But, once we get more crew, we'll be able to work faster to get the ship ready for launch" he answered Ael's question as he sat down.

Aira grinned. "I can't wait to get started. It'll be great to have more crew on board, so that this place won't always be so deserted." She gestured around the cavernous lounge. "Maybe we'll get someone who can even give the bartender a personality," the Selkie added while glancing sideways at the sour-faced hologram.

Ael bowed her head, "We'll probably have to tap into the reservists won't we? Not that it really matters I suppose, they're just as qualified as us active duty folks." Talking a slower sip of the nearly depleted mug of spiced tea, her eyes caught the sour-faced hologram. "Neither of you find it charming?" She asked, her tone showing amusement.

"It called me a loser before you got here." Aira scowled and finished off the last of her drink. "If it were sentient I would have been deeply offended."

Ael let out a snort as she drained the last bit of her tea. "Well this was a fun interlude, but I'm afraid duty calls."

The other officers agreed, and after their farewell pleasantries were exchanged, each left for their designated area of inspection onboard the Titan.


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