Beast of Burden Vulcan November 5th 2392
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Kristopher Kerouac had found himself seeing a blinding light, the first natural light he had seen in several months. The hot humidity drew moisture from his body, causing beads of sweat to accumulate on his skin. As the hatch to the the transport opened, Kerouac found himself being pushed out of the vessel. His clothing was dirtied, torn, and tattered as though he had been homeless for quite some time. In a way, he had been. The only home he knew was a prison cell, his only 'employment' was his hard labor mining various ores, and his neighborhood was the entirety of the prison. He bore no resemblance to a man who no more than a half dozen and some months ago wore a crisp Starfleet Uniform, with Command division red, and the weight of four glistening solid gold rank pips to distinguish him as a Starfleet Captain.

Today, his 'uniform' was what used to be a white loose fitting thing that felt somewhere between a jumpsuit and a gown. It was also clearly not sized for him at all. It was broader in the shoulders and meant for someone larger than he was. Perhaps a Klingon or Nausicaan. Kris was pretty sure they had given him a woman's version of whatever he had been wearing the past several months. It had turned off white in many areas, brown in others, and an iron color from the spots of blood that adorned his attire. He had not been told where he was being taken, but when his bare feet hit the hot sands, Kristopher N. Kerouac knew instantly. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he raised his hand and shaded his face, looking out and matching the various ridges in the skyline to his memory. Vulcan he recalled immediately.

It was baffling to him why he would be taken away from the frozen hell of Rura Penthe, away from the prison, loaded onto a transport and then be brought to Vulcan. He looked around him to see who he was with. There were a handful of Starfleet security guards and no Klingons. It had been so long since he had someone guarding him that wasn't a Klingon. After the prison siege, Kerouac was not sure what would become of him. He had fought with honor alongside many Klingon guards and fellow prisoners against the Fek'lhri. Many lives were lost, but Kerouac and the rest were able to hold off the Fek'lhri for five days until the Federation finally arrived to provide aide and assist the Klingon guards.

The arrogance had been beaten out of him over the past several months. Therefore, Kerouac had not really been expecting any sort of reward for his actions except maybe some more respect around the prison and perhaps fewer Klingons trying to kill him on a daily basis. He had no idea that the Fek'lhri incident at the prison was a small portion of something much larger, and that he had in fact been part of a battle which was part of quelling a potential war within the Empire. All he received afterwords was a subspace transmission from an Admiral informing him that he would be leaving Rura Penthe prison and that he would be provided additional information when he arrived. But why here? Why Vulcan? pondered Kris as he was walked towards an approaching party.

As Kris and his escort of strapping young men with phasers were nearer to the incoming party, Kris could make out some command division red uniforms and a sense of admiralty. A gentlemen who bore the rank of Vice Admiral reached out and quickly extended his hand towards Kerouac, but Kris had become so skittish around quick movements that he jumped backwards and took a defensive stance. He was considering charging the Admiral, knocking him off balance and finding a weapon. I've become a savage while living with these Klingons thought Kris as he felt phasers being drawn on him. He gritted his teeth and looked over his shoulder at the security guards who were itching to fire upon him.

“NO!” shouted the Admiral. “Lower those weapons boys” added the man who slowly moved towards Kris. The Admiral extended his hand once more, though more slowly this time with added reassurance. “It's okay Captain Kerouac, you're safe. Nobody is going to hurt you. I'm here on behalf of Starfleet Command to talk to you.”

Talk? Now you want to talk...oh great. You did not seem too keen on talking to me during my trial. Just dropped the axe down on my neck from what I recall thought Kris though he was politer in his verbal response. “Talking would be nice, Admiral. It has been a while since I've really had to talk” replied Kerouac.

The Admiral smiled broadly. “Before you and I talk business, I believe you may be interested to know that you had someone inquiring about visiting you at Rura Penthe a few days ago. We informed them that you would no longer be at Rura Penthe and had them brought here. Perhaps, you should take some time and talk to them. They are in the next settlement” added the Admiral who gave the security guards a nod, a silent order to them to escort Kerouac to the Vulcan rural settlement.
A Noble Reunion Vulcan November 5th 2392
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Lifting her tiny daughter out of the bassinet, Jhu snuggled the infant to her chest, smiling as tiny fists grabbed at locks of her hair. Making no effort to free her hair from that tiny grip, she carried the little girl over to the couch and sat down with her. Bouncing the happy baby in her arms, she softly cooed to her in a language understood only between parents and their young children.

Safety and love. All any infant could possibly want.

For a while they were alone. Until a third person abruptly joined them, sitting down on the couch and reaching to rub the infant's tiny back.

Jhu froze, holding her daughter more tightly to her chest as she turned to look at the newcomer's face.


But Nathan couldn't be here. He'd died on Talos IV. She let out a startled squawk, and then she was at the cliff's edge on that horrid planet, watching as Nathan plunged to the rocks below.

A hand fell gently on her shoulder, and Jhu woke in such a startled state that she nearly tumbled off the bed onto the floor. Steady hands caught her at the edge of the mattress, carefully nudging her back and away from the danger of falling. "You called out in your sleep."

Not entirely comforted by the words or their calm tone, Jhu scrambled back to the middle of the bed, clawing herself free of the tangled blankets and looking around with a bewildered expression on her face. A Vulcan home. With a Vulcan woman sitting on the edge of her borrowed bed and giving her the most concerned look she'd ever seen on a Vulcan's face.

Right. She'd ended up on Vulcan after trying to visit Kris in Rura Penthe. Apparently he'd been brought to the desert planet, but no one had told her why. "I'm okay." She knew better than to think her host would believe her, but she also knew the other woman wouldn't question her.

The Vulcan woman nodded. "You have a visitor. He's waiting in the great room."

A male visitor. Wonder who that might be. Nodding a thank you to the other woman, Jhu quickly scrambled off the bed and into the bathroom, where she exchanged her sweat-damp pajamas for clean clothes and threw her hair up into a ponytail before going to see if her guest was who she thought it was.

Kris was nervous to see who had tried to contact him, who had tried to come see him when he was supposed to be locked away in Rura Penthe. He had sent many of transmissions to the USS Katana, specifically to M'rayr, but none of his transmissions were ever replied to. He had eventually come to suspect that either the Klingons never let the transmissions leave the prison or that sour puss was not taking any of Kris' calls.

The former Captain of the USS Katana sat on a futon in the old Vulcan home, drinking an iced Vulcan tea. It was rather calming with its gentle herbs and lack of spice. Everything in a Klingon prison was rancid and had more spice and blood than needed. Being a devout vegetarian, there was an additional sense of punishment for Kris. There were not 'vegetarian options' in that Klingon hell hole. He ate what he had to in order to survive.

He took another sip of his tea and swallowed hard when he caught a glimpse of his former Second Officer and Chief Intelligence Officer turned Chief Tactical Officer walk into the room. He starred at her in a daze at first, trying to reassure himself that she was really there and that he wasn't hallucinating again.

There was clearly something different about her. The Former Captain stood up swiftly and ran towards her as if he was being launched towards her. His arms quickly wrapped around her waist and he said nothing. He just wanted to feel her warmth to know that she was really there. When he was finally certain that she was, he felt tears trickle down his cheeks and sobbingly winced as he said her name..."Jhu" in the softest his voice has ever been.

"Who else would visit your sorry ass in a Klingon prison? Not the cat, that's for sure." By which Jhu meant M'rayr, not the curious Terran feline that spent most of his time firmly ensconced under the furniture in this home. She wasn't a touchy type of person, but she happily accepted the embrace. The warmth and tightness of it swiftly chased away the anxiety of her latest nightmare. "You're gonna have to let go of me eventually."

"I don't let go of family easily" muttered Kris with a soft sigh. Don't tell any of them I cried he thought to himself. He hoped that she wouldn't. He knew she wouldn't. He did, however, honor her 'request' and let her go after he was sure he no longer showed signs that he'd been crying.

No, of course not the cat. Not the cat nor Liam thought Kerouac with a tingle of bitterness and resentment. "Why come visit a convicted prisoner of the Federation and an ex Starfleet Officer stripped of his rank and dignity?" asked Kris.

"To apologize for being such a bitch after Talos IV. And during Talos IV, I suppose." Once Kris had let go of her, Jhu sat down on the low-set futon that graced what passed for a Vulcan living room. "I know I said some things I shouldn't have. I don't remember what all of them were, but you didn't deserve that."

Kris shook his head. "No" he said firmly. "No, Jhu. You said what you had to and you all were right about Talos IV. I should have never done what I did and if I didn't go there, Nathan would still be here" replied the skeletal man.

He took a deep breath and let out a airy sigh. "Why have they brought me to Vulcan? Are you alone? Is the Katana in orbit?" Kris askingly shot off a rapid fire of questions.

"Slow down." Jhu held her hands up in a gesture of surrender. "One question at a time. I just woke up." It took her a moment to backtrack through his questions, but she took a breath and continued. "I don't know why you're here, the only 'person' with me is Lydek who doesn't count, and no. The Katana is not in orbit. She's on mission... somewhere. I don't remember where."

"If Lydek is the only person with you...then what the hell is that?" asked Kris, pointing at Jhu's midsection. It saddened Kris slightly to hear that Jhu was alone and that nobody else had been able to come see him.

"My daughter." Jhu didn't remember if she'd ever told Kris she was pregnant. Either she hadn't or he'd forgotten. "She's not due for a while yet."

"WHAT?!" shouted Kris. It was the loudest he had been in a very long time. "Daughter? You're pregnant? Who or what is the father?" he asked. It was then that he remembered that shortly before his removal from Katana and sentence to Rura Penthe, Jhu and M'rayr had a physical altercation.

He gasped for a moment. "Oh my...It isn't M'rayr is it?"

"What? No!" Scowling at him a bit, Jhu lightly swatted his arm. "As if I'd have sex with the giant cat. Her father was Nathan, you dolt." As she said Nathan's name, Jhu felt tears pricking at her eyes, which she preemptively wiped away. The last thing she needed was for her Vulcan hosts to see her crying.

"I've missed you" he said openly admitting to her that he had truly missed their witty banter and jabs at one another. "Even if you hit me a few times" he added. Not that I did not deserve it he thought to himself.

Clearing his throat, Kris smiled at her. "How is everyone?" he asked with sincerity. He was terrified to hear anything bad. He was praying that nobody had been killed since his removal from command, and that the 'family' was still together.

"They're fine. Except... well. Except R'tame..." Jhu bit her lip, not sure how to explain R'tame's death. She still felt guilty as hell about it, no matter how many people told her it wasn't her fault.

Kris's eyes widened and his heart sank. He remembered the Caitian in Engineering. "What? The Caitian in Engineering? How did it happen?" asked the former Captain, desperately seeking answers to how the young officer had died.

"We were on a mission to Evora, to fix their tectonic grid... thing. I don't know the details. None of it made sense to me." Jhu decided to leave out the bit about not really paying attention to the briefing and then leaving early because she'd been so sick that night. "Apparently the Remans wanted to steal the planet, so they were trying to terraform it and they sent a few squads of troops to stop us... and R'tame got shot."

"Remans" groaned Kris, clenching his fist. "Subterranean pests. I am sorry for R'tame's death. Please pass my condolences on to the rest of the crew when you return to the Katana" said Kris, taking a moment to gather himself.

It had not occurred to him initially, but he had never asked how long Jhu had planned to be visiting. "How long did you plan to visit me? Do you have to leave anytime soon?" he asked.

"There's some Admiral here from Starfleet Command. He wanted to talk to me about something. I do not really understand what exactly or even how, but I've heard some of the security guards talking...whispering when they thought I wasn't listening. They were talking about me being released" added Kris.

"I... don't think I'm going back. I can't do Nathan's job anymore. It's too stressful, and then Tau left and made Whiskers the captain and that made me the first officer and I just can't." The anxiety she'd thought was gone gave Jhu's voice a rising edge that she made little effort to control. "I can't live in that cabin anymore. I wake up every morning expecting to see Nathan there and he's not." She didn't know anything about any admirals wanting to talk to Kris, especially not about his release. "You broke General Order 7. They were supposed to execute you."

Kris felt bad for her. She had gone through so much and he knew how much stress she had to be under. "They made you First Officer? Did they have a death wish or something?! You hate command" replied Kris. He was not about to let the the execution comment go.

"Yeah, well it is one thing to say something is the last law punishable by execution and actually punishing someone by means of execution in an otherwise peaceful society and diplomatic democratic government."

"Yeah, well. You'd have deserved it." Jhu's smile was shaky but genuinely sarcastic, a shadow of how she'd normally respond to Kris. "Whiskers was desperate, I guess. Under pressure to find someone. Anyone. I was the obvious choice." Her breath caught momentarily in her throat, and she inhaled sharply only for the sensation to repeat itself. Well that was just fantastic.

Really? Because Maica or Arivek were not better options? thought Kris. "I would like to have dinner with you this evening if you could? I do not want to keep the Admiral waiting."

Jhu nodded slightly, grateful for the sudden change in conversation topic. "I can do that. Can't promise I'll eat much of it though."

"I am just happy to have someone to eat with who won't try to eat my food" said Kris with a small smirk.
The Longest 87 Days Ever *Part 1* Talos IV A few months back
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"87 days...that's how long it took to reach out to Jhu. 87, my new least favorite number. That's how many days I have been held captive now. Maybe I should start from the beginning."


Nathan walked along watching his tricorder. He heard someone yell out and as he looked up his foot began to fall into nothing. He jerked his body as he tried to spin and catch hold of something to stop his fall but failed. He flung his arms helplessly as he fell into the abyss.

But suddenly, much too suddenly, Nathan crashed into the ground with a painful cry. Luckily he landed on his right side so his prosthetic arm took most of the force and broke his arm. He grunted and picked himself up off the ground.

"I'm ok!" Nathan hollered up but as soon as his eyes locked onto Jhu's, he knew something was wrong. The look on a loved ones face when they realized that they just watched you die is not something anyone should ever have to see.

"No no no!" Nathan shouted and waved his hands in the air, but they could not see him. But they did see M'Rayr who had also fallen but hit a ledge. It was just over an arms length from the top, and just a bit higher than that from where Nathan stood. He quickly made his way to M'Rayr.

Nathan could almost jump up and grab the side of the ledge, almost. At one point he actually grabbed the big cats tail and jerk it. But neither the tugging on his tail nor the yelling and pleading got anyone's attention. The lost look on Jhu's face, the scared look on Hayley and Jenny's face as they kept looking at where Nathan had fallen. Clearly his friends were well entrenched in what ever trick the Talosians were playing on them, and Nathan being dead was clearly the punch line.

Nathan fought for 35 frustrating minutes to climb up the ledge and join his crew, until he saw the shuttle lift off and jet into the sky. "They left me..." Nathan said in defeat.

His mind started to panic and his heart raced. It took every ounce of mental strength he had, but he took a seat right there and began to meditate. Never had he had such a hard time quieting his mind before, but never had he been stranded on an alien planet before. Let alone Talos IV.

But Nathan was very mentally disciplined and with in a few moments his breath turned to normal and his mind calmed.

"This is exactly why we chose you." Nathan was jerked out of his meditation from a voice. Before him stood a small female Talosian. Nathan was no longer at the bottom of a cliff but instead sitting in a bathhouse, one he was very familiar with. It was from a holodeck program he used often, both for fun and for meditation.

"Chose me?" Nathan asked the woman.

Indeed, they had chosen him. He was clearly the strongest of the group who came down, and they were not talking about his physical strength or size. "Your mental discipline and control singled you out among your peers." The woman explained. "We feel that you are the first visitor we have ever had who might be worthy of learning from us."

Learning? From the Talosians? This cause Nathan to take a moment and ponder what this could mean. The Talosian smiled her thin lipped smile and waited for him.

"So what you're saying is that you separated me from my group, made them think I was dead and had them leave me here so you could teach me?" Nathan said once he put everything together. He had a disbelieving tone to his voice. "You didn't even ask if that's what I wanted!" Nathan's voice started to pick up in anger as he pushed himself off the ground. "There is a woman I love up there! I have a family up there to protect!"

Nathan was yelling down at the little woman as he towered over her. Yet the woman never flinched. "Yes, the one who carries your child. We almost kept her as well for training, but her pregnancy would have been to much for us to handle we felt." She explained.

Nathan had just been hit up side the head in a way he had never had his bell rung before. His child? Jhu? And now she was alone to deal with that thinking he was dead. He stood rooted in place, his stomach and mind twisting.

"Once you are done being sick we can go." The female said to Nathan with a nod.

"Sick?" Nathan managed to ask right before heaving and throwing up his last meal. Even he had his limits as to how much stress he could take, and all this was a bit much.

*To be continued *
A Place at the Round Table Vulcan November 5th 2392
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Kris had nearly keeled over after his meeting with the admiral. He felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders and as though he had been unshackled from years of torment. Today, Kristopher Kerouac was once again a free man. He did not even want to get into a discussion about how or why at first, but as their conversation continued, Kris felt it necessary to know the details. Never in a million years did Kris ever think that he'd ever be walking around with a Federation PADD that had the signature of the President of the United Federation of Planets. Kris had been granted a full pardon for the most serious of his crimes.

Kerouac found himself scurrying off afterwards to meet with Commander Jhu t'Dharvanek as he could hardly contain himself with the information that he had acquired. Kristopher had time to shower, clean himself up, trim his beard and take a several inches of hair off. He was beginning to look more like the Commanding Officer that he had once been rather than the ragtag inmate that he had grown used to being. He was dressed for the hot climate and no longer in his tattered prison garb.

Arriving at the home of a Vulcan woman who was serving as a host for Jhu. By the time Kris had arrived, the meal was already set. Kris was shown into the home where he found Jhu waiting for him. “Good evening, Commander” said Kris with a sweeping smirk as he walked over the woman.

"Jhu. I'm on leave," she reminded him, raising an eyebrow at his sudden jovial mood. She didn't know what his meeting with the admiral was supposed to be about, but clearly it had put him in better spirits. "The family has already eaten... they seem to think this is a date. Even though I told them I am not your type."

He shot a smile in her direction. "I may not be yours, hun, but you are least the kind of woman I like to bring to my ship" he said to her. He sat the PADD down onto the table and slid it down her way.

"As you can see, I'm no longer a prisoner...and keep reading it gets good" he added.

"Ew. Don't flirt with me." Jhu snickered a bit, picking up the PaDD and expecting it to be a joke.

It was not. It was an official reinstatement of Kris's rank, with the privilege of choosing his own crew. "Congratulations. And I appreciate the offer, but last time I joined your crew I ended up in command. I can't do that again... not now."

Kris scoffed. "How the hell was I supposed to foresee that? Things would be different this time. I'm not as reckless as I once was and I've learned a lot of lessons, Jhu. I won't even make you my Second Officer if that helps ease your mind" said Kerouac almost pleadingly.

"Look, you are the best Intelligence Officer there is. It doesn't matter what universe we are in or what time we've been displaced. You are always on top of your game. When my back is against the wall, you are there offering me crucial intel that pulls me out of the holes I fall down."

"That might be true, but I'm also pregnant. I'm a huge hormonal mess, and I throw up every time I ride in a shuttle. I nearly passed out the last time I manned tactical during combat." All of which were valid reasons with plenty of video proof from the sensors. Somehow, Jhu knew none of it would make a difference either way. "I didn't mind 'second officer' so much. It was when Tegan went away and DeLancer stabbed you and I ended up in your chair that I didn't like."

Kris picked up a piece of fruit from the table and bit into the fleshy goodness. It was a fruit that the Vulcans did not eat due to the sweetness, but other species who could appreciate the sweet delight partook in. "I never thought that I would live to see the day that such a strong independent woman, an exemplary Starfleet Officer would turn so weak and...dare I even say a bit pathetic" countered Kerouac.

He shrugged. "I guess you have just gotten too soft to do the job. This is what I get for leaving you with the cat" added Kris.

Mildly annoyed, Jhu pointed her fork at him. "I have a sharp object in my hand. You might want to choose your words more carefully before this weak, pathetic pregnant woman stabs you in the face and then throws up on you for good measure."

Kris let out a hearty chuckle. "Now, that is more like it you spotted little bitch" said Kris with a small wink. "We leave in the morning. I'll help you pack if you need it....seeing as how I really don't have any belongings these days."

"I haven't said yes yet." As it dawned on her that he just might be up to something, Jhu narrowed her eyes at him. "You sneaky bastard. You've already got my transfer orders written and signed, don't you?"

He looked at her and sternly gave her a serious haze. Shaking his head, he took the PADD back. "Commander, I have a serious responsibility to my ship and my crew...even if I haven't met them yet. I do not go around forging paperwork and transfer orders just to get my way. I want the best Intelligence Officer that I can get."

Kris sighed. "I will be happy to just have a nice meal with you and be on my merry way if you have no interest in taking the position."

"I didn't mean forged, you ninny." Jhu snickered at him, amused by the situation despite her initial annoyance. After a moment, she sighed, pushing her barely touched plate away. "I need to get off the Katana anyway. No one else is offering me a chance anywhere."

"Oh good" he said with a sigh of relief. "And yes, I did already draw up your transfer orders. The Admiral has no problem signing off on them immediately. I do not know how M'rayr will take it, but he's got a thick and dense skull and a good coat of fur. He can rough losing you."

"I don't much care how he takes it," Jhu muttered halfway to herself, resting her head on her hand. "He's not been the nicest person lately... scolds me any time I start getting sick on the bridge. Not sure what has his tail in a knot."

Kristopher simply shrugged. "It's M'rayr. He's a brooding force of fur one day and practically purring in your lap the next. I never really tried to get a grasp on his emotions" admitted Kris.

"I guess that's true. Speaking of knots..." Jhu cast a final glance at her abandoned plate, wondering just when such inoffensive food - food she would have enjoyed only weeks ago - had become so unappealing. "My stomach's tied in one right now. I don't mind if you eat, but I can't."

Kris studied the food for a moment and then looked up at Jhu. "I haven't had a good meal since I left Katana. You can sit this round out, madam spots, but I'm eating!"

Jhu smiled a little. "Go ahead. It won't bother me... I just don't feel so good right now is all."

"Thank you" he said kindly. He poured himself some tea and sat down at the table to enjoy a quick meal of soup with what looked to be a sort of bread. It was all Vulcan food and though it lacked spices and flavor for his human tongue, it was definitely home cooked.

After taking a sip of the tea to wet his dry throat, Captain Kristopher Kerouac let out a sound of content. "They named her the USS Camelot. She's a new starship class. The Manticore. I've heard a little bit about the class back in our universe and time, but it was still in the developmental stages" added Kris. "I am going to need a damn good Chief Engineer. I am considering trying to contact Matthews and Arivek from the Katana" admitted Kerouac.

"I suppose that makes you King Arthur then." Jhu paused to think about what else Kris had said. "I don't know if Arivek is looking to leave the Katana. Jenni though..." She shook her head, sighing lightly. "I don't know all the details, but she was in a relationship with the grumpy cat... and he broke up with her. She might need a new place to call home."

Kris nodded. "Alright then, it's settled. I will try to contact Jenni and see if we can acquire her talents" said Kris. Little did he know however, that Starfleet Command may have been a little ahead of the game.
Ex-Q-municated some beach somewhere November 7th 2392
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Quintina was on a brief vacation, waiting for whatever else the Federation wanted from her on a desert planet she'd already forgotten the name of. It was good enough to go sunbathing in though. So there she was, spread out naked on a slab of marble, enjoying some filtered solar rays and sipping at some sort of fruit tea.

Captain Kerouac had been slowly building his starship from the ground up. He had piles of PADDs to go through containing service record after service record. However, when it came to one position, Starfleet Command had selected someone for Kris.

Thankfully for Kris and Jhu's sake it was not Lia Grae. In order to acquire his new Ship's Counselor, Kris had to take a small shuttle trip to the surface of a planet where after walking a few miles in what felt like blazing heat, he came across the naked being in question.

A Q? was Kris' initial reaction in addition to spitting his drink halfway across his Ready Room and nearly falling out of his seat. Oh the Q any Q was trouble. At least according to the great Captain's log readings from Picard, Sisko, Janeway, and several dozen more.

Kristopher could hardly believe they allowed a Q to be part of his crew and as ship's Counselor no less. However, when he found this Q, she was a lot different than he had anticipated. "Excuse me" he said making his presence known. "Are you Q?" he asked inquisitively.

"I was," the nude woman replied, peering up at the newcomer. "Are you here to demand something of me or to kill me?"

"No sweetheart" he said with a scoff. "I came to put you back in your bottle" he added jokingly. "Honestly, I do not know what I am doing here. I'm Captain Kristopher Kerouac and you are....Q. Well, a Q or whatever. Don't ask me. When it comes to you Q I have no idea and not nearly a high enough IQ."

The Captain shook his head and crossed his arms. "I was told to take you back with me...that you'd be serving under my command."

Making her way to her feet, Quintina stared at the man before her for a few seconds before grabbing a light robe lying nearby, donning it and an accompanying pair of sunglasses, finally covering her pendulous mammaries. "First of, I'm no longer Q. If you came out here just to find me, you'll know that my name is now Doctor Quintina Q Quinzel, PhD of psychiatrics and diplomatics. Second off, aside from a second heart, I'm as human as you are. Third off, what does serving under your command offer me that's worth interrupting my brief vacation?"

Lady Q, how the hell am I supposed to know? I just got out of prison and tossed back into a command. My life has gone from trying to not get dysentery to polishing up on my authoritative and motivating speaking voice. I am just thankful that Klingons rarely ever made me a hell of a a lot safer when it came to 'don't drop the soap' in prison thought Kris.

He stood there staring at her blankly. "Um I really wasn't expecting to have to give you a freaking sales pitch here. I'm a Captain, not a weapons dealer....I mean given my history, you'd be exposed to unsafe work conditions, murderous mad men, hostile invaders, and gigantic space whales...hell, maybe even a culture or two that have no verbal language beyond singing. How's that sound to you? The whole harrowing adventure full of strange new worlds and civilizations with death around the next corner?"

Thinking it over a moment, Quintina nodded. "Yeah that does sound fun. I can imagine you'd have a lot of tortured souls on your ship, begging for the sweet touch of a good counselor. Physically and mentally. Ok, I'll cut my vacation short for you. Where's your ship?"

Kris winced at that thought. Don't count me or Jhu as coming to see you any time soon he thought to himself. "The finishing touches are being done to the starship. She's still in dry dock above Vulcan at the Vulcania shipyards" replied Kerouac.

"Excellent," Quintina noticed the wince but ignored it for now. She'd get to know this man well enough in the future. She knew he was interesting and had no interest in women and that was enough for now. "I was scheduled to be picked up by a supply courier in 12 hours, but if you have a faster way to get there, I'm all for it." she continued, picking up her small pack and slinging it over her shoulder.

"A shuttle brought me here. It can get us to the shipyard before your transport even arrives here. Do you have anything else you need to pack? Like clothes for example..." said Kris shaking his head.

"Everything I own is in this pack," Quintina replied as she tied her robe closed. "Do you mind if I change in the shuttle? I only have one uniform and I'd prefer to not get it sweaty just yet."

Kris threw his hands up in defeat. "No, not at all. A nudist Q without her powers as my Ship's Counselor. Just when I thought they were done surprising me with this sort of crap."

Quintina had to laugh at that/ a deep belly laugh that sounded more haughty than amused. "As long as no one on the crew tries to either kill me or worship me I'll be happy. Please, lead the way."

Can't promise that he thought reflecting on his own desperation. "Whatever you say. I think you'll be safe...the only person I would have been concerned about is a hypersexual green android. If she were aboard, she may have worshiped you for your knockers, love."

"Green android... Why does that sound familiar..." Quintina mused as she started walking with Kris. "And I guess worshipping me for that isn't bad."

Kris just chuckled and blushed as he and the Lady Q walked the 'beach' which was desert sands, heading for where he had sat the shuttle down.
The Longest 87 Days Ever *Part 2* Current
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That was almost 3 months ago. During that time I have lived and trained with the Talosians. Honestly they are not that bad. Except for the whole being held against my will part. That sucks.

I have learned to notice when I am being tricked by an illusion. There is this...shine to it. If you know what you're looking for it’s easy to spot. I was not surprised to learn that almost everything on this planet is an illusion. Thankfully the food is real.

I will never be able to project images on a couscous mind like they can, but I have learned to master the art of breaking the illusion, and have begun to astral plain.

Astral planing, as i have learned, is the art of entering other dreams. This is how I managed to contact Jhu. It was slow, and hard to convince her sleeping mind that what she was seeing was not a dream but me reaching out to her. Once I had managed to reach her, it took time and caution to tap into her psychic abilities. But once I did, I was able to make the connection.


Getting into Jhu’s dreams had become easy enough. But it had become a frustrating task to gently guide her into accepting that Nathan was not actually a dream. Night after night he entered her dreams and night after night it would turn into a nightmare and she would wake. He was sure he was causing her hell, but knew it would be worth it when he finally made the contact.

As Nathan slowly entered Jhu’s dream he was not shocked to see the dream as it was. She had this one a lot. She was on Katana, but was wearing a yellow uniform. That part was odd but Nathan never dwelled on it. She was in the room that they shared, but it looked different now. Some of Nathan’s things; like his Buddha statue, had been placed on display around the main living room. There were also pictures of him that had not been there before. Clearly Jhu was grieving.

But there was something else, a bassinet in the living room. It was soft pink and rocked. But there was nothing in it, because the baby was currently in Jhu’s arms.

She sat on the couch holding the little thing wrapped in a tiny soft pink blanket. He just watched for a moment as Jhu bounced and cooed to the bundle. The whole scene brought a smile to Nathan’s lips. He knew it was just a dream, but he had always knew that Jhu would be an excellent mother.

After a moment of just watching, Nathan moved over to the couch and took a seat next to her. “ How can I possibly convince you that I am actually here with you?” he asked her, his hand moving up to gently rub the baby’s back.

In the dream, Jhu froze as Nathan appeared from seemingly nowhere and sat next to her. She didn't know why the nightmares returned now, but it was unnerving to say the least. As the pleasant dream began to crumble around the edges, she pulled her daughter closer to her chest, slowly sliding away. "Why must you put me through this? Isn't it enough I had to watch him die?"

"Putting you through this is the last thing I want Jhu." Nathan said gently pulling away from her. He leaned back, hoping she would relax if he did. "You always end up having to save me, you realize that? We first met when you saved my life in engineering. It was my 3rd day on the job or something like that." Nathan mused to her.

In that moment, Jhu stopped her slow retreat and looked at him, tilting her head sideways like a puzzled animal. "You weren't even the security chief yet... you'd barely gotten here. I didn't even know who you were."

Nathan chuckled. "I had that crazy dream about you being a wood elf, and you had a horse." Frankly even if she didn't realize what was going on he was just happy to see the nightmare starting to retreat. Maybe they could just have a nice evening talking at the least.

"Right... you told me about that." Despite the nightmare halting, Jhu was confused. How could Nathan be talking to her when she'd seen him fall over the cliff to his death? "What... what exactly is going on here?"

“Do you remember how the Undine reached out to you in your dreams?” Nathan asked, hoping this might make her understand. “Imagine how easy that would be if you have been pregnant with one of their children…”

Hearing that, Jhu's eyes went just a little wide. "If you mean to suggest that you aren't a figment of my imagination, I watched you die on Talos IV."

“Think about what you just said for a moment.” Nathan suggested to her.

Jhu shook her head slightly. "Maica pulled me out of the illusion... she saw you fall too..."

“I never saw Maica look over the edge of that cliff. She snapped you out of the illusion she knew about, not the one the girl was doing. If there was any place where watching me die might have been the figment, it would be Talos IV.” He pointed out to her. “M’Rayr fell also, landed on a ledge. You and Jenny and Hayley pulled him up.” He added to try and emphasize his point.

"No, she was too busy threatening the Talosians." Jhu had never seen Maica that angry before, and she shuddered slightly remembering it. "M'rayr wanted us to drop him." Even in the dreamscape, she stumbled over the Caitian's name. And she knew the Talosians hadn't seen them pull the big cat up. "I don't understand."

“It’s important you try and stay calm as you realise the truth Jhu, if you get upset you will wake up.” Nathan cautioned her. “I didn’t die Jhu…”

Dreams were odd things, even more so when you are aware that you are in one. They were still on the couch and Jhu still clung to the baby; who was oddly quiet, but the background changed. As Jhu remembered the incident on Talos IV, suddenly they were there watching the whole thing. Though this was from Jhu's perspective so Nathan could clearly see his crushed and dead body.

Not something Nathan exactly wanted to see, he leaned forward again, focusing on Jhu. He hoped the move would not startle her again. They were finally making progress. It was taking every bit of self control Nathan had to not get overly excited and wake himself up.

Jhu wasn't quite sure what to believe now. She dearly wanted to trust Nathan's claim of still being alive, but she couldn't shake off seeing his crumpled body at the base of that cliff. Somehow, the dream stayed in place, but with the sudden change of setting, she was quickly getting unsettled.

Nathan hadn’t spent the better part of a week trying go get Jhu's attention without coming up with a few tricks of his own. "Would you like to see what I saw?" He asked her.

Feeling a bit shaken, Jhu nodded quietly. She still didn't quite know what was going on, but she was starting to believe him.

" I need to warn you first. Seeing the look on your face when you thought I was dead...well it was the worst thing I have ever seen." Nathan said casting a glance over at his broken body in the dreamscape. "Ever... so I want to tell you two things before you go through that if I may?"

"Uh... okay?" What could he possibly say to make that any easier to see? Jhu had no idea, but she trusted Nathan, a trust that ran pretty deep. "Tell me."

"You are probably going to wake up, so know that I will be here waiting for you when you fall back asleep." Nathan said first, then he held his hand up and pointed at Jhu's chest. "Second is that I didn't get that to have it hanging on a chain."

"This?" Waking up was no big deal. Jhu had been doing a lot of that lately. Slipping the chain off over her head, she let the ring sit in her palm. "Nathan, I can't wear it. You didn't give it to me... I found it."

"Then I guess you had better hang on to it for me." He said with a nod. "Now...this takes some concentration on my part, so you will be on your own." Nathan explained. "Ready?"

"Not really," Jhu confessed sheepishly, not ready to face Talos IV by herself again. "Do it before I chicken out."

"Ok..." Nathan said as he leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. Projecting his Thoughts into Jhu was a completely different task from entering her dreams. It took everything Nathan had to let her into his side of how things transpired. But slowly the dream around them changed to his perspective. Thought the dream Nathan vanished along with the scene around Jhu.

The dream held together long enough for Jhu to see the lost, horror-stricken expression on her own face before she was jolted awake by the blaring sound of her old-fashioned alarm clock. For a moment, she forgot where she was, until Lydek jumped up into bed to lick her face and demand his breakfast. As she shoved the blanket back to get up and feed the cat, she found herself wondering how Nathan had even managed to reach her in a dream... and contemplating how she might rescue him from the Talosians.
Pulled from the landfill Vulcan
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Commander Stratford Brooks. It sounded rather lofty. The man fit the name, large and muscular with startling blue eyes and handsome features. But he'd pissed off his previous Captain (never sleep with the CO's barely legal daughter). Once the dust had settled he'd been politely asked to take a sabbatical. It was better than beating the CO to death and taking a court martial, so Stace, as he preferred to be called, found himself on Vulcan.

The Ferengi run brothel he'd been more or less living at was a goddess send. It had nothing to do with his sexual appetite, which was healthy but certainly not obsessive, and everything to do with his monophobia.

As long as they were being paid, the prostitutes didn't care if he was sleeping with them or just sleeping with them. Stace had availed himself of both, and found the women to be remarkably interesting people. At some point he'd have to return to Starfleet. The organization had rescued him from the hell hole of a colony he'd been raised on, and he owed it to them, one bad Captain was beside the point. At the moment though, he was happy to nap, a woman curled up on each side of him.

Seras had just been dropped off on Vulcan when she got the orders to secure her soon to be First Officer before heading over to the spaceport. According to the reports he was... in a brothel? In and out of a number of them, apparently. Seras didn't even know Vulcan's had brothels, but then she read the name of one of them, clearly a Ferengi name, and suddenly it all made sense. Great, she had to go dumpster diving on her first day back to duty...

The Cairn woman hefted her duffle over her shoulder and headed towards the Ferengi district, flashing an image of Commander Brooks on a PaDD around at the various establishments until she found one that yielded a positive result. She got the room number and made her way up to the door and rang the chime. Why would a Starfleet Officer even be in a place like this?!

Stace wasn't even aware that the room had a chime. But he had a more or less Pavlovian response to the sound. "Enter." He called out, sitting up in bed. His two companions making soft grumbling noises as they rearranged themselves, both still dozing.

Seras entered the room and upon seeing the naked man and his two sleeping companions she frowned. It wasn't like she was shy or embarrassed, she was simply under the impression that Starfleet Officer were... what was the saying, cut from a different cloth? Seras didn't entirely understand it, but understood the gist that Starfleet Officers were supposed to be better than this.

"Sir, it's time to report in. There's a transport headed for the spaceport in under an hour, we have orders to be on it," Seras said formally, even though she wasn't on duty or in uniform yet, though the Starfleet communicator on her moss green tunic gave away that she was definitely Starfleet.

Stace's eyes lit up. He was being put back on duty. It would have been nice if somebody had bothered to tell him. Well actually somebody was. He went to get out of bed, but then remembered that for many nudity was a taboo. "I'll be right out." He told her.

It only took him a moment to pull on a pair of simple linen pants and a long sleeved light cotton shirt. He padded out barefoot to meet the woman who had been sent to fetch him. "Commander Stace Brooks." He introduced himself. "You are?"

"Lieutenant Seras," came her reply, the synthesized tone of her voice echoing unpleasantly in this room. "Do you require time to get ready? I can meet you in the bar when you're ready," Seras offered politely. And she was completely unbothered by having seen him naked. She still didn't understand why humans got so upset over a little exposed flesh, what was the big deal?

"Sounds good. I just need to grab my stuff and settle up the bill. I'll meet you in the bar in ten minutes." It only took him eight to pack his duffle, it was only half full, all he had was two sets of civilian clothes and two uniforms. He'd quickly changed into one of the uniforms and then settled his bill before meeting the Lieutenant in the bar.

"Water please." He ordered as he pulled up beside her at the bar. "Do you have a copy of the orders?" He asked, now very curious.

Seras found her PaDD and pulled up the orders she'd received, then slid the PaDD over to him. "I just arrived from my world and transported down to Vulcan from my transport when the orders were transmitted," she stated, not really know what to say only that it seemed socially appropriate with these humans to fill empty space with words unnecessarily. How terribly inefficient!

"Camelot?" Stace remarked. He'd never heard of her, and wondered where the name came from. Probably some pompous Admiral naming a ship after himself. It wouldn't be the first time. He'd never heard of this Kerouc either, and wondered if his sabbatical wasn't being put to an end just so he could be shoved off onto a no-name, going nowhere ship. "Are you familiar with the ship or the Captain?" He asked. Seras being his best, and only source of information at the moment, until he got a chance to access the computers at the local library anyway.

"I have the specs for the ship here," Seras replied, taking her PaDD and searching through it for the file. "I don't know much about our Commanding Officer, I'm just off of an extended Leave of Absence, but I did hear some scuttlebutt about the Captain," she continued, finding the specs of the Manticore-Class vessel and handing the PaDD back to Stace. "Did I say that right? 'Scuttle-butt'? Anyway, I heard he just got released from Rura Penthe and that he had violated Starfleet General Order 7." Of course, by heard she actually meant telepathically overheard since she had a tendency to forget her boundaries, but that still counted as this scuttle-butt thing, right?

"Yes, that's the word." Stace answered, without looking up. His nose was already buried in the PaDD. It definitely seemed that the manticore class vessel was being filled with some less than standard officers. "So what did you do to get sent to time out?" He teased. "At least they gave us a damn nice ship."

"Time out?" Seras asked curiously, not really understanding his meaning. "If you mean my leave of absence, I requested it. I was taken hostage by Cardassians and brutalized, and since my people have no concept of war or that kind of violence, it was a very big shock to experience that sort of thing. I went home for a while to sort out my feelings," she explained candidly.

"Oh." Stace answered. "I didn't mean to be offensive. I was born on a colony who's mayor decided to form a wolf worshiping commune. I don't exactly fit it with most humans. If you ever want to talk about it, or anything. I'm available." Then he decided to explain his initial comment. "Time out is an expression for being forced to think about your bad behavior by sitting with your nose in a corner of a room, or something along those lines."

"No, my leave was certainly not a 'time out', and I am not offended," Seras replied. She picked up her drink that she had been sipping on while waiting for him and finally finished it off. Having paid for her drink earlier, she simply got up from her stool and picked up her duffle. "I appreciate the offer to talk. If I need to, I will come see you. For now, I would like to get out of here. There is a Ferengi that has been staring at my.... assets," she paused to shudder at that thought, those slimy brained little trolls, "for far longer than I am comfortable with. May we go?"

"Sure." Stace finished off his water, than found said Ferengi and gave him a glare. It was small satisfaction to watch the little man cringe and suddenly find someplace else to be. He then picked up his own duffle. "Do you want me to get that?" He asked, motioning to her own duffle. It was no sense of chivalry that made the offer, simply the recognition that she had a much smaller stature and the duffle was probably heavy for her.

"I've got it," Seras assured him and hefted it over her shoulder without a problem and made her way out. She may have been a shortie, but she could still handle her stuff! Also, she didn't want to risk him touching her in the exchange. Since the ordeal with the Cardassians she didn't like people touching her, and so far she had been careful not to make contact with him when sharing her PaDD or touching anyone else when she began walking through the crowd. In fact, the more people that were around, the more paranoid she seemed to be, jumping skittishly at even the slightest brush against her by those passing by.

It was the exact opposite for Stace. His gate become more relaxed as more people were around. He was observant though, and noticed Seras' reaction. He attempted to act as a buffer for her, but he couldn't be on all sides of her at the same time. With what she'd told him, her reaction wasn't surprising. "I take it you prefer not to be touched?" He asked, strictly as her Executive Officer now, these were the type of things that were important to know about other officers.

"N-no," Seras said uneasily. "I've learned to tolerate people I work with, but this place is so busy, and so many strangers, I do not like it here," she continued, her vocal synthesizer was even able to recreate the sound of shame in her tone. She knew she was supposed to be over this kind of stuff, she was a Starfleet Officer and she should be stronger than this! But she was still so terribly uncomfortable in this setting, and for being so weak she was ashamed. Thankfully though, they were finally leaving the district and entering the area that was more Vulcan, with wider passage ways and the Vulcans themselves walked more calmly with a greater respect for personal space. Seras seemed to calm considerably once they were clear of the Ferengi district. "Ferengi also make me feel very uncomfortable. Their minds are very slimy," she admitted as they continued walking.

Stace nodded. "They are at that, and the way they treat each other is revolting. It's hard to remember IDIC around them. I'll try and respect your personal space. I'm pack oriented though, so if I slip I apologize." Stace was just as relaxed in the more Vulcan area of Vulcan. He appreciated their logic and had found comfortable companionship with a couple while he'd been here. It was illogical to let a man who required sentient interaction be deprived of it after all. But it wasn't quite the same when it was all logical. "Are you familiar with the Manticore class?" Stace asked, deciding to change to subject to a work oriented one. They were almost on their way to their new post after all.

"Pack oriented?" she said, looking over at him curiously. "Oh, right, wolf worship," she added once she remembered that detail he mentioned earlier. Knowing that now, she could see how he would be so comfortable in a crowd.

Stace just nodded. Obviously he didn't need to answer the question that she'd just figured out for herself.

"I managed to study the specs of the Manticore class on my way to Vulcan, but that's about it. I've never seen one before, so I'm excited to get in there and see what I'm working with."

"I look forward to going over the specs as well. The Sovereign was getting a bit stale, it's nice to see something different."

"I hear the manticore class has issues overheating when overly stressed. I look forward to the challenge of finding a balance in the power output to mitigate those factors," Seras said, grinning in anticipation. She really liked ships! They arrived at the shuttle depot but the transport hadn't arrived yet, so she checked her chrono to see they still had a few minutes. She set down her duffle and looked over at Stace. "So... I apologize if I am being nosy, privacy is an unknown concept to my people so I tend to get overly curious about some things, but... Why were you sleeping with so many women?" she asked while they waited.

Stace smiled, he didn't mind the question. Humans often jumped to the conclusion that is was strictly sexual, and many other races as well. "I have severe monophobia. The whole pack thing. I can sleep alone for a night or two, but then I start to go a little nuts. Vulcans make very logical sleep partners, but they aren't very stimulating unless you want to have a deep conversation. I just needed a few good nights of sleep, and whores are surprisingly interesting." He told her honestly.

Seras took in this information with an understanding nod. Seemed completely reasonable. "Though I do not care for contact, I do not like being alone either. If it is simply companionship and conversation you require, I would not mind providing those for you," Seras offered with a chipper smile.

"Then I'll be glad to keep you company any time. I'll need somebody to answer some questions once I go over the specs anyway." Starfleet may have pulled an oddball group together, or maybe that was Kerouc's doing, but either way, at least it didn't appear that it was going to be boring.

With a cheerful smile, Seras nodded. About that time, the transport was pulling up into the station and began loading up passengers headed for the spaceport. Picking up her duffle, she loaded up with Stace, giving him another smile as he stood protectively in front of her so none of the other passengers would touch her. She'd had some misgivings that she was ready to return to Starfleet, and maybe she wasn't, but at least she had one person who was on her side and willing to help her out...

Cmdr Stratford Brooks


Lieutenant Seras
Chief of Operations
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In a million years, she never would have expected to be here so quickly. Hell, she hadn't forseen anything that happened this year. It was nearly a year ago she'd been forced out of the engine room to be Tul Zaanar's XO. Jenni could not blame the Andorian Captain, rather the madman who had been in the center seat before him, a man with the surname Kerouac.

Sitting in the shuttle, Jenni closed her eyes and shook her head, forcing the bitter memory from her mind. It had taken her a long time to get over the guilt of taking command once Zaanar was killed as the ship was brutally attacked and all but nineteen of the crew sacrificed to a Breen warship.

Poetic justice then delivered a new meaning as her savior was a man also with the surname Kerouac. The surname was not all that was shared. Aside from their personalities, the two men were identical.

Jenni shook her head again. She didn't need the replay once more, though she feared it would haunt her for the years to come still. What she couldn't believe was Starfleet's actions in the last few days. All she did was request a transfer. In a whirlwind, Jenni found herself on a runabout bound for Vulcan and an extra solid gold pip on her collar. She didn't know at all what she did to deserve the double-rung promotion.

All she cared about was that for the first time in a year, she'd have an engine room to call home. She'd heard for years about the shipyards in orbit of Vulcan as well as the Manticore-class in development in orbit. Jenni never thought she'd get the chance to operate its engine room though. For the last few days, Jenni had devoured every manual, every schematic, every log that she could get on the Camelot.

What an odd name for a vessel. I wonder if they put a round table in the conference room, she thought, glancing down at the PADD she was holding. That's when she felt it. Rather, the absence of it. The slight vibration in the deck plating disappeared, as did the soft hum above. The runabout had left warp. It was time for her new adventure.

Jenni rose, leaving the PADD and the rest of her belongings in the room she shared with another passenger. It was a joy, being one of several people in transit to Vulcan, though she was the only bound for the Camelot.

As she stepped into the cockpit, she could hear the three-person crew exchanging status updates. Vulcan took up most of the window space, though she was able to instantly spot the shipyards they were quickly approaching.

"Commander," spoke the Vulcan Lieutenant in command of the runabout. "We are one hour overdue for our delivery on the surface. We'll have to transport you and your belongings aboard the Camelot as we pass.

Though she was disappointed that she wouldn't get an up close look at the Manticore-class before boarding, Jenni brandished a smile. "That's alright," she told the lieutenant, her voice laced with excitement. It just meant she could get into her new engine room all the more sooner.

"I'll be right back!" she exclaimed, moving back to her cabin to retrieve her duffel and PADD. She had a couple crates in storage that were promised to be delivered not long after her arrival, but there was one item she couldn't bear to entrust to the crew. It had been right where she'd left it, and Jenni carefully lifted the item, a violin case, from inside the top crate. After losing her last one to the Breen, Jenni vowed not to let her new instrument to stray far from her sight. By the time she returned to the cockpit to use the transporter, the rest of the passengers, mostly enlisted personnel bound for service on the planet below, had arrived as well to take in the planet's view.

She enjoyed their excitement, however small her window to partake in the view. The Vulcan lieutenant, ever emotionally detached from the situation, kept his eye on the engineer. As soon as she was on the platform, he established the connection with the Camelot's transporter room. Jenni's eyes looked once more out the window towards the shipyard as the transport began. Her grip instinctively tightened on the case's handle while blue shimmering light surrounded her for a moment before fading away to reveal the transporter room of the USS Camelot.

"Seems shorter," she commented out loud as she stepped off of the platform. Looking at the transporter chief, she asked, "How were you able to increase the processing power to the pattern buffer? I thought the new Heisenberg Compensators were still a year out from deployment."

The Chief behind the platform gave a shy smile in reply. He wasn't sure how to respond to the senior officer other than, "We installed them yesterday."

Jenni flashed a slightly embarrassed smile. It didn't occur to her that the last time she'd read that report was nearly a year ago. And as much as she'd consumed the schematics of the Camelot, she hadn't the chance to look at the transporters. "Of course," she said, still smiling.

An Andorian entered the room, also collared in yellow, but bore the insignia of a non-commissioned officer. "Commander Matthews," he greeted.

"Permission to come aboard, bosun?"

"Granted," he said with a blank expression. "Shall I have your things taken to your quarters?"

"I can manage," Jenni said with a smile, keeping her grip tight on the violin case. "Just point me the way. Oh, has Starfleet assigned a Captain yet?" With all of the information available to her, the only thing she had yet to learn was the names of the senior staff. Either they were all last-minute assignments like Jenni was, or there was some greater plan afoot.

Jenni really hoped it was the former.

"Scuttlebutt says they have, ma'am," he said, leading Jenni into the corridor. "But they haven't told us his name."

She nodded, following him in the corridor. To her, that probably meant only one thing: a quick departure.

Smiling, Jenni thought that she wouldn't have it any other way.
Wolf Psychology
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Quintina was sitting at her desk when a few alerts came in. New personnel files. Opening them up, she grinned rather like a wolf staring at a meal. This was what interested her. She knew too much about too many things but this... this was what was random and unpredictable. These people where the Schrodinger's cats of the world she was previously in. she knew a lot about where hey could be in their lives but until she observed them, they could still be anything and anyone.

The new XO, Engineering Chief, Ops Chief, and Science Chief.

Best schedule this XO first - he sounded interesting and there was something about rank she should prioritize. He was overdue for his annual, anyway.

Sending out appointment schedule requests to all four, she put a priority on the XO's. With any luck he was available immediately. If not, she'd track him down and see him anyway. With a little more luck, he hadn't glanced at her records yet either. She could have a little fun, in that case.

Stace was trying to arrange his office when his console beeped. At this rate he was going to be arranging his office forever. He hadn't gotten a break longer than five minutes yet, but he loved it. He decided to contact the Counselor right away. "Brooks to Quinzel." He called out after tapping his combadge.

"Quinzel here, I see you got my request. Are you available for an appointment now?" The woman's voice had a slightly amused tone to it that was clearly heard even over the comm line.

Stace took a look around the disaster area of his office. What the hell, it wasn't going to get fixed anytime soon. "I'm on my way." He then cut the call and asked the computer to lead the way. He was going to have to have that talk with Seras and memorize the ships layout ASAP. It took him about fifteen minutes, not because of the size of the ship, she was actually very modest. But Stace stopped and talked to everybody he saw, both officer and enlisted. It wasn't the most efficient way to gather information, but that wasn't really the point. Not only did he need the interaction, but he wanted to establish from the beginning that the crew should see him as the 'go to' man for anything they might need. When he reached the Counselors office he simply sounded the chime and waited to be admitted.

"Come in," Quintina called out. She had been pacing and thinking for a few minutes while she waited. "Ah, Commander, please make yourself at home."

Stace smiled a greeting as he came in and looked around. He was instantly jealous. Her space already felt, well not homey, but at least like it belonged to somebody real, not the grey sterility of standard Starfleet. His curiosity sated, he took a seat.

Sitting down in an opposite chair, Quintina smiled back warmly. "I'm Doctor Quintina Q Quinzel, your new counselor. I've already looked over your profile and found it almost useless so let's start from scratch, shall we?"

"Fair enough. I haven't looked over yours yet, but personnel files are still coming in, I'd rather tackle them all at once. You can't really learn anything you want to know from those files anyway."

She knew one thing he'd want to know from her file. Quintina wouldn't say anything about it for now though. This man was her chosen topic. "Very true. I am curious about the comments about you having a wolf pack mentality though. Care to shed some light on that?"

"Sigma Omicron II is a human colony. But about thirty years ago the Mayor developed an obsession with wolves. I don't remember much about him. Myself and several others were raised as a pack. He was always experimenting with stem cells and wolf DNA. I'm really not sure if part of it is actually physiological, but it doesn't really matter. I have to have people around." He decided to leave the initial explanation brief, to allow for her to ask whatever details she was interested in.

"And this has led you to sleep with a lot of different people?" Quintina prodded.

That seemed like an odd thing to focus on, but it was simply a fact of life for Stace. He did much better sleeping in groups, but a single partner was enough to keep his mind calm. "I'm not sure led is the correct term. As long as I can remember I've had the need to sleep in groups. My last ship had a group of binars and three Caitans as well as a handful of Betazoids and Vulcans. It wasn't a problem."

"Fascinating. This is not typical prudish human thinking and I must say, I approve." Quintina replied, grinning a bit like a cheshire cat. "Has this affected your professional relationships or duties in any way? Has it made things awkward, or is it just that natural for you?"

"For me, it's completely natural. I understand it's not human norm though. It's caused a couple of faux pas, especially when sex entered the picture. I've learned to better judge compatible partners though. It hasn't been a problem in years. In fact I usually speak to the counselor, there are usually cases where sleep and or sex therapy are needed. If it's mutually beneficial, that's usually the most efficient route."

"Do holographic partners help any? I' know some people aren't interested in them and claim they feel hollow, but I figure a warm body is a warm body, you know?" Quintina didn't sleep around that much, and rarely partook of mating, but she did enjoy the comfort of the proximity of another person as she was forced to rest by her own weariness.

"It helps, but about as much as a band aid to a phaser wound. It's not just body heat. There is a sentient aura is the best way I can describe it, that you just don't get from the holodeck."

Quintina mused that over a moment. "I wonder if that's true for holographic lifeforms considered sentient as well..."

Stace raised a brow. "I've never encountered one, It would be an interesting experiment though."

"I've met one... He barely passed my administration of the Turing test, but to be fair, a lot of humans don't." Quintina was grinning again, the irony of a test to see if you're human being failed by humans amusing her.

Stace chuckled in amusement. "Well it's nice to know you are on the cutting edge of psychological examination." He joked. He knew enough about the Turing test to know it was four hundred and fifty years old, almost as old as computers themselves.

"Yeah, I know it's pretty old. The newer versions are at least up to date, thanks to me. Now we can make proper tested determinations in sentience that even the admirals can agree on for synthetic life forms." Quintina had rewritten them and they had been accepted just last year, thankfully. This may have been one field she couldn't overburden with knowledge in a week, but she had still made some interesting contributions.

Stace found her statement fascinating. It wasn't often that you heard achievements spoken of with what appeared to be no bragging or ego. It appeared to him to just be an innate self confidence and self assurance. "What about non corporeal beings?" He asked curiously. "Surely some are sentient, but their thinking is so unlike humanoids."

Chuckling softly, Quintina shook her head at that thought. "That version of the test is still being reviewed. I expect it will be for quite some time as well. Not many people can wrap their heads around that sort of thing. Besides, they need beings to test it on and there simply aren't that many in the Federation's range of experience handy." No, she had left behind her ego when she decided she enjoyed living as a human. She did take some pride in her achievements, but more so in baffling the Federation's brightest with a simple 4 page paper rather than the completion of that paper itself.

Stace nodded. "An interesting mental exercise, I'm sure. I just wouldn't want to commit my career to it."

"I'm sure they don't either." Quintina chuckled softly. "So have you found anyone aboard yet that might fit with your needs?"

"No, I figured I'd go back to the surface until I get a chance to go through the personnel files. Unless you have any recommendations?"

"That depends on if you mind sleeping with a potted plant with me." Quintina replied.

"Does the plant steal the covers?" Stace asked. "If not, I'm good."

"He gets his own blanket, actually." Quintina replied. "And a protective field in case he falls out of bed."

Stace was about to laugh, but then realized something. "Wait. You are serious aren't you?"

"I am," she replied, completely serious.

"Well this is a plant I have to see." He commented. "And thank you. I'd much rather stay on board."

"Excellent then. I tend to go to bed a bit late, if that's ok. And some nights I'll need some alone time." Quintina made a waving motion with one hand while she spoke. This was all basic information to her so she wanted to skip through it as best she could. "Oh and apparently the quarters of a counselor rates a bed the size of a small country for some reason."

Stace chuckled. "Senior Officer and all that. it's not that large. I understand, I'm sure other options will avail themselves. Anything else you want to know?"

"Nothing that really interests me at the moment. Do you feel there's something I should know?" Quintina queried questioningly.

"No, I can't think of anything. All my relevant information is in my file."

"Anything you want to know about me then?" Quintina pressed. "A lot of pertinent information is in my file as well, though it only covers the past four years."

"Why only the last four years? I can read about that anytime." He was more interested in what wasn't in her file.

"I've only been human for the past four years. Before that, I was Q." Quinzel replied calmly, resting her head on one hand and watching him closely.

"Well that makes sense." He smiled. It really did, her serene confidence and self assurance. Her immediate willingness to sleep with him without all the questions and hangups humans usually had. "Do you miss it? Being Q?"

"I do." Quintina replied immediately. "But I'm human now. And I have two hearts. There's no changing that fact so I enjoy it as best I can."

Stace understood that all too well. There was no changing your fate. "It's not all bad after all, right?"

Quintina nodded. "Yeah it's not bad. Interesting people keep me entertained."

"Well if there's nothing else. I need to find myself a yeoman and organize my office. I'm not quite sure in what order yet."

"Good luck then. And thank you for seeing me on such short notice." Quintina replied.

"It was nice to meet you." Stace stood up and walked over. It was his natural inclination to hug rather than just shake hands, and with Quintina he didn't withold himself. He briefly embraced her.

Quintina enjoyed the embrace, Finding it much warmer than the normal handshake or salute. "The pleasure is mine. See you tonight."

"See you tonight." Stace smiled, then made his way out. He still had a great deal of work to do.

Cmdr Stratford Brooks

Quintina Quinzel, PhD
Chief Counselor
Synthesized Voices Counselor's Office
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Quintina had sent a message out a while ago for the new Ops Chief to see her but as they hadn't left drydock yet, she expected her to be very busy. Hence her patience with getting Lt Seras' new healthcare provider appointment over with. This was another of those mandatory initial psych-eval things she'd been tasked with and she only hoped this person would be interesting.

Seras was interesting, alright! Cairn, a whole world of people who had evolved without vocal chords and relied solely on their telepathy for communication. Just the concept of language itself was a mystery to them, they would share entire chunks of raw experiences with each other in mere seconds! Nothing was kept secret with these people, everything was shared! Until Seras left their world...

Seras had been part of a foreign exchange program to help Cairn better understand human communication and social mores. Not all Cairn appreciated this gesture, most were indifferent, but Seras had the support of her family and went off with a family on Earth in a place called Montana. She was young and adapted to her vocal synthesizer and verbal language well. Learning to understand concepts like privacy was a challenge, but she eventually got there. It was this host family that sparked her interest in Starfleet, and after she had returned home to share what she learned, she decided that Starfleet was what she wanted to be.

Only Starfleet was a lot harder than she anticipated, she did well in the environment. Other Cairn attempted to join as well, and while their technical proficiencies were more than enough to secure them a place at the Academy, their inability to adapt to the vocal communication ensured they never became officers. Seras, to her knowledge, was the only Cairn able to successfully earn her commission. Well, it's been a few years, there might be more now, who knew...

Starfleet was good to Seras, she learned so many things she would go back to her world to share. But not all of it was good. She saw some bad things, and while she tried to soften the edges of how bad some of it was, she always shared everything she experienced, until the run in with the Cardassians while serving aboard the Stargazer. That had been... madness. When she went back home to heal after that ordeal, she refused to share anything from her capture. Her people did not need to know that kind of violence. She talked with Starfleet counselors and had to go through extensive therapy to recover from that ordeal, so it was no surprise that she was required to take a psych eval for her new counselor now that she was back on duty. She knew she'd have to jump through some hoops, so she made time to see this counselor even though she was swamped with work.

Though as she stood outside the door of the Counselor's office, all Seras could do was stare at the door. There was too much on the other side of that door... Too much mind! Humans had relatively simple minds, she could only read them without harming them because she had learned how to be gentle with the simplicity and fragility of human minds. Betazoids were better, but still so fragile. Vulcans were sturdy, but even they could not keep up with the speed with which Cairn communicated telepathically. But this mind, whatever it was, was massive, she could sense capabilities far supplanting her own! Whatever this person appeared to be, she knew before she even rang the chime that this person was no human.

Quintina, however, was no mind reader. It was a trick she had never really been interested in as a Q and now had no aptitude for now that she was human. Not that human DNA even supported it beyond the barest hint of a flicker of empathy... Thus she had no real idea that anyone was outside her door, peering into her thoughts as she reminisced about Q knows what.

Seras wasn't trying to peer into the thoughts of this mind, she was merely blown away by how massive and complex this mind was. After a moment of contemplation, she finally reached out and hesitantly hit the chime.

"Come in," Quintina called, her thoughts folding back in on themselves to focus on there here and now. As the door opened, she recognized the person on the other side, though she looked rather pale compared to her picture. Standing, she motioned for the woman to come in. "Lieutenant Seras, I presume? I'm Doctor Quinzel, your new counselor. Please, have a seat."

Seras entered hesitantly and took a seat in one of the comfortable chairs. "I'm sorry if I'm a bit late. We're pressed for time trying to get the Camelot ready to leave spacedock, but I'll do the best I can to make sure I have time for any further meetings you might require," Seras said politely, her synthesized voice relaying her sincerity.

Quintina waved off the apology. "It's fine. I feel like I'm the only one not working on something like that. As for future appointments, from the nearly useless notes in your file, the frequency of future visits will be up to you as long as you come see me at least once a year. Do you have any questions for me first?"

"Why is your head so big?" Seras asked bluntly. Then she blushed. "I'm sorry, I try not to be so forward, but my people... well, we're very different from humans. What I meant to say is that your mind is very complex and I have never felt anything like it before."

"And with luck, you'll never feel it from anyone else. I was a Q, if you're familiar with the race. I'm now human... Mostly..." Quintina replied, watching Seras's reaction closely.

Q? Seras felt like maybe she should know what that was, if only from rumors, but it was escaping her. What was peculiar to Seras was that whatever a Q was, it could become human, or mostly human anyway... Interesting. "I do not know what a Q is other than 17th letter of the human Standard English Alphabet."

"It's a rare being indeed that doesn't have knowledge of the Q Continuum. If I'm correct, you can read my mind, at least on a basic level? If you'd like, I could share that knowledge directly. It would take a lot less time." Quintina offered, knowing that even the briefest definition by her could be more than this girl could comprehend.

Q Continuum? Now that sparked something in her memory. "Oh, you are the ones who have been harassing a number of Captains and playing... uh..." Seras blanked for a moment trying to remember the varying concepts and names for god. "God! Your people are incorporeals who like to play with the lives of the corporeal universe."

"Yeah several members have been known to do that... But please bear in mind that if you weren't worth contacting... or playing with... we wouldn't have, even given the trillions of years of boredom..." Quintina was glad that she at least remembered something about the Q, even if it was the actions of one particular scoundrel.

"That makes sense," Seras said with a nod and a grin. "So, you said the notes in my file are nearly useless. Is there some reason you feel this way?" she asked curiously. "Or is it simply that you prefer to draw your own conclusions rather than rely on the conclusions of others?"

"As per the norm for these things, there's not a single distinguishing detail in the records. Nothing truly personal. Hence I have very little to go on other than a brief description of what you went through, your PTSD, and your treatment. I do prefer to make my own judgement calls though." Explaining it all, Quintina mentally reviewed said records. "Which means that as difficult as it might be, I need you to explain to me your side of the story and your experiences. It may take days or even months, but I do need at least enough to help you. If you're willing to take help from me."

"Since your mind is of a complexity that surpasses my own, I think I can show you without harming you," Seras offered. "I have been told that Cairn telepathy is very overwhelming and most other telepaths have trouble of understanding the stream of information we relay, but I feel confident you will be able to do it."

"Then please, feel free." Quintina motioned for her to proceed, leaning back in her own chair.

Seras sat forward in her chair slightly and focused her gaze on Quintina's striking shade of green eyes as she opened the connect from mind to mind. Cairn telepathy didn't involve any words, but rather a direct stream of thoughts and ideas and memories, and it happened at such a rapid pace that most other telepaths simply couldn't keep up with. Even the talented Lwaxanna Troi required a moment to sort through the information she would received from the Cairn delegates while they were still applying for Federation membership. Seras intended to give Quintina so much more.

Seras began at what she felt was a natural beginning, relay memories and feelings of growing up on her world, among a people so innocent that privacy and violence were unknown concepts. She felt that the Counsellor needed to understand just how unknowing her kind were of the sort of trauma that Seras had endured, so she would have a frame of reference of just how much it hurt Seras to experience her capture.

Now they were on a shuttle, just leaving the stargazer to search a debris field for clues. There was another, a betazoid pilot, taking them around. Suddenly, they were not alone, both Seras and Brier reacted before the sensors could alert them to the Cardassian ship that was firing on them. They were beamed out and after that all Seras could remember for days was pain. Their captor was taking great joy in hurting Seras because Seras had caught on to some sabotage while the Cardassian woman had been under cover as a Bajoran Starfleet Officer. Brier tried to protect Seras from as much as he could, and eventually their captor learned it tore at Seras more to see Brier getting hurt.

Seras had lost any sense of time between her bouts of consciousness in these memories, she had no idea how long they had been in Cardassian hands, but it felt like ages. She and Brier had both realized they had reached their end, they could take no more. Her thoughts had become so rattled, she was phasing back through strange memories with her boyfriend, she was having trouble remaining in the present, but she knew Brier wasn't moving. She tried to rouse him, but he would not move. Then there were boots approaching and Seras rose to her knees to face her captors with some dignity. All she got in return was mockery and shame. Brier was finally starting to come to, and suddenly the guards were returning to torture them some more. Brier tried to fight them, to protect Seras-

I love you...

-but he wasn't strong enough and he earned a disruptor blast through his chest. As he fell, a rage filled Seras unlike anything she had ever felt before and she too began to fight back, but in mind not with her body. The guards were completely unprepared for the psychic assault that assailed them and it was only by a well placed strike to the head that knocked Seras unconscious that saved their lives. She didn't remember much after that; The Stargazer had come to rescue them, but in the end they had to escape in escape pods when they drove the Intrepid-Class starship into the star-destroying weapon the Cardassians had built. Seras lived in perpetual fear and nightmares after that, and she barely slept. When she did sleep, she began projecting her experiences to other sleepers unintentionally, not that any of them were ever able to understand the stream of information being forced into their minds, let alone over the brain damage she was inadvertently causing. It was then that she chose to go back to her world, where she wouldn't hurt anyone, but once there she felt even more alone... She could never let her people know what she had been through, they were so naive and innocent... She stayed at the Federation Embassy where she could talk to the Starfleet shrinks, but she never told her family or her people what had haunted her. it was then that she truly valued the necessity of a secret.

All of the information took a matter of minutes to relay; it would have taken days to relay it all verbally. In fact, it had taken years for Seras to talk through all of this and reach a point where she felt functional again, and yet this exchange had felt even more cathartic for Seras. Once she was done, she realized that she had started crying and sheepishly wiped at her eyes, looking away from Quintina for a moment so she could recollect herself.

Quintina had a brief bit of trouble with the exchange, simply due to her brain now being genetically human. It wasn't anything she couldn't handle though. She simply mentally bypassed that part of herself and used her vast mental capacity to directly process the emotional stream. When it was over, she was surprised to find a wetness on her own cheeks. She'd never cried before so she experimentally touched a finger to her cheek and looked at the moisture, her eyes wide. "Fascinating," was all she said at the moment.

When Seras finally looked back to Quintina, she saw the mostly human woman looking as some wetness on her fingers. Seeing the evidence of tears, Seras looked a little downcast. "I am sorry, I have caused you distress," Seras observed meekly. "I have not damaged you, have I? I can call for medical assistance if you need it."

"No, I'm ok. I've just never cried before is all." Quintina was still in utter amazement. "I've been many things and done many more, but over the entirety of my existence, this is new to me."

"I am still sorry," Seras reiterated. "If you are absolutely certain that you are alright, I would like to be excused now. That was... very difficult for me to do and... I think I would prefer the distraction of my work for now." Though she would comply and stay if the Counsellor insisted on it.

"I think there's one more thing we need to do first, before I let you run off." Quintina said as she stood and came towards the smaller woman. Pulling her up and out of the chair she was sitting in, Quintina wrapped her arms around her in a tight embrace, squishing her warm boobs into Seras' face. "I'm here whenever you need me, ok?"

Seras grew painfully still as Quintina embraced her. Seras didn't mind the boob squishing part of it, it was just a body... But Seras just didn't like physical contact! Fear and panic set in as her eyes darted about looking for an escape and tears sprang to her eyes again. "Please let me go," she pleaded softly, trying her best not to outright cry.

"Oh my..." Quintina released her and took a step back. "Sorry, most humanoid sentient beings enjoy a hug... I've found it enjoyable as well. But If you don't, I'm sorry. I won't do it again."

Seras collapsed back into her chair shaking slightly as she tried to catch her breath. After a moment, she had calmed and looked up at Quintina. "I believe there is a notation in my file of haphephobia, resulting from my trauma. I'm learning to cope with this and even to tolerate some casual contact with familiar people, but a hug is beyond my ability to tolerate right now," she explained in a shaky voice.

"Ah, sorry. It said you had made positive progress with that. I should know better than to trust human notations." Quinzel replied sheepishly as she sat back down. "I kinda needed a hug too..."

"I am sorry I cannot be the one to hug," Seras replied, sincerely apologetic. She felt bad that she had caused Quintina enough distress that she felt the need for a hug, and even worse that she could not hug the woman. "May I go now? I think I will require a moment in my quarters to recollect myself, then I would very much like to get back to work." They were, after all, on a tight schedule.

"Please. If you need me, I'll be here thinking." Quintina replied, already lost in thought.

Seras nodded and quickly made her escape, rushing through the corridors to the lift so she could get back to her quarters and cry.

Dr. Quintina Quinzel
Chief Counselor

Lieutenant Seras
Chief of Operations

Seras' memories make reference to an event on the sim USS Stargazer (now the Lexington). the pivotal post can be read here.
Meeting the CEO Main Engineering
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One thing Stace had learned through Starfleet was to accept his weaknesses. One of which was his knowledge regarding engineering. Oh, he'd passed the required course at the Academy, but he certainly was never going to be useful in that field. Instead he made a habit of establishing a good relationship with the CEO. He had to put a lot of trust in them to keep him informed, so that Stace could make the call if an issue needed to go up to the Captain or not.

He made his way down there, and just looked around for a bit. It was the most impressive engineering he'd ever been in. He didn't want to disturb anybody just yet, so continued to wander, just making sure to stay out of the way and not touch anything.

Jenni wasn't far from the warp core, standing near an open maintenance hatch on the wall with another engineer. Somehow, final systems checks always revealed more problems than what should have been taken care of during construction.

"Careful now," she instructed the crewman as she held a tricorder in one hand and a flux distributor in the other. As she slowly increased the tool's intensity, her partner used a spanner to adjust an energy flow regulator.

Though she was focused on the task at hand, it was hard not to spot the man in the red collar snooping in the engine room. The pips on his collar told her that this was not a man to ignore or otherwise shoo out of the room, especially while she was manipulating energy that could easy overload the conduit and burn her. "What can I do for you, Commander?" she called out loud as he approached.

"Take your time Commander. Whenever your free." Stace could tell she was busy, and knew better than to interrupt an engineer.

Jenni smiled in reply. So this definitely wasn't a casual visit. "Steady now," Jenni said, turning her full attention back to her tricorder. "Almost... Right there!" Jenni thumbed the power switch on her instrument to off and kept her eyes fixated on the readouts. Showing the results to the crewman, she continued, "Looks like we got it this time. Run a Level Four Diagnostic to be sure."

He nodded in response and pulled out his own tricorder to begin the diagnostic.

Jenni slipped the tool into a small pouch on her belt and closed the tricorder. "I take it you're the XO," Jenni said, extending a hand. "Jenni Matthews." Somehow, sharing her rank seemed unimportant, especially since he'd already acknowledged it.

Stace immediately shook the offered hand and smiled. The fact that Jenni was an attractive woman did not escape his notice, but duty came first, and he was here on business. "Stace Brooks, yes the XO. Do you have a few minutes to talk?"

Jenni smiled at Stace and nodded. "Of course. Do we need to head somewhere a little less crowded or...?"

"No, this is actually fine. I don't have anything sensitive to discuss. I just want to make sure that you have everything you need. Do you need supplies, specialist, I want to make sure you are set before we leave."

"Any chance we could get more time?" Jenni asked, her tone serious though she was completely joking. She was no stranger to what was currently happening, but she knew first hand what happened whenever engineers were forced to rush a major launch.

"Probably not. But I could get you more temporary hands. There's a planet full of engineers who would love to experience a Manticore class." Stace answered. "But I'll give the time a shot anyway, just for shits and grins."

Jenni cocked her head to the side just a bit, surprised at the possibility he'd be able to gain even a single second. "You know," she said with a coy smile, "I could use another miracle worker down here. Could help save a lot of time."

"Well don't look at me." Stace grinned. "If I even looked cross-eyed at the warp core it would probably explode." He joked, but then turned serious. "Are you thinking long term though, or just to get launch ready?" Stace needed to know who and what he was going to go off looking for.

"Long term we'll be fine," Jenni said, keeping her smile, though it started to fade. "To get launch ready, ideally, I'd like another week. Of course I know that's an unrealistic request and I'll make sure we're good to go come launch time. An extra hour or two wouldn't hurt though."

"Right ok. Well I can't make any promises about the time. Starfleet gets set in their ways about launch times. But I can get you another team of engineers who know which end of a plasma diverter to use."

"I'll take what I can get." Jenni glanced around the room, taking note of everyone else's progress and thinking of where she could best utilize the extra engineers. "Anything else I can do for you, Commander Brooks?"

"No no, I'll let you get back to your work. Just let me know if you think of anything else." Stace smiled.

Jenni smiled and nodded. "Will do."

Cmdr Stratford Brooks

Cmdr Jenni Matthews

Command Team Meeting November 7th 2392
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As soon as he was informed that the First Officer had arrived, Kristopher was eager to meet the man. Though Starfleet Command had filled some positions for Kris with personnel of their choosing, they had left some of the larger positions for the Captain to decide. Kris had already recruited Jhu t'Dharvanek for Chief Intelligence Officer.

The First Officer position was one that had been sitting vacant and felt like it would remain so. Kris was having a hell of a time finding someone he liked. There were candidates that he hated and some that he hated less, but few that he could see himself liking.

Some of them just downright did not meet what he felt was reasonable for an XO. At least two of the candidates that Starfleet Command had given him to look at had been Chief Medical Officers before switching to Command. No physicians and no shrinks he told himself. He did not want an XO who would move heaven and earth to inform him that he was under physical or emotional duress.

Starfleet Command was providing him with many candidates but they all had something about them that Kristopher hated. They were clean. Their records were spotless, polished so cleanly that they left him with a bitter taste in his mouth. By the book PaDD pushers.

Kris did his own digging for candidates right where he knew to. The bottom of the barrel. A few hours of research and Kris had found his man. Commander Stratford Brooks.

Stace had given up on his office for the time being, and had been talking with the quartermaster. There were several options for a yeoman, so Stace would just have to go over their files and perhaps conduct some interviews. But that would be a project for another day. Before he could get ahead of himself he needed to have a sit down with the CO. The computer informed him that Kerouc was in his ready room, so Stace made the short trip there and sounded the chime.

Captain Kristopher Kerouac had spent that past several minutes breaking in his Ready Room by moving around furniture and making a list of things he wanted to take out and what he wanted brought in. He had also prepared to meet with his First Officer.

The door chime rang and Kris swung around the corner of his desk and headed to the door to answer it himself. The doors parted and Kris found himself looking up at a tall glass of of something. Okay...he's taller than I expected thought Kris to himself.

"H..huh-hi" Kris said, his voice cracking like a pubescent schoolboy. Catching himself, Kris cleared his throat. "You must be Stratford" added Kris, his face touched with a rosy warmth.

"Yes sir. But I prefer Stace, if you don't mind." He smiled, hoping to put the CO at ease. The man was slight of stature, even for a human, and Stace was on the other end of the spectrum. He had about eight inches on the man if his guess was correct.

Kris looked around his Ready Room and welcomed the man in. "Please, come in and have a seat. Can I get you anything? whiskey, rum, vodka, gin? Um" added Kerouac.

"Water would be great, thank you." Stace automatically excepted the offer. A gift of food or water wasn't one you turned down. "Doing some redecorating?" Stace noted, the COs office was about in the same shape of his own.

Kris nodded and went to get the man a glass of water. "Oh you noticed?" said Kris with a small chuckle. "I do not know who they had design this Ready Room, but it does not suit me. I need to do the same to my quarters."

Stace nodded. "I feel the same about my office. Nobody got the feng shui memo apparently." He took a seat then, waiting on Kerouac to start. He didn't know what kind of CO he was dealing with yet, but hopefully this meeting would get them on the same page.

"Apparently not" replied Captain Kerouac as he took a seat at his desk and picked up a PaDD sliding it towards the man who would be his XO. "This just came in from Starfleet Command. It looks like we are going to be spending our time in the Beta Quadrant" added Kris.

"There's still plenty of unexplored areas." Stace took the PaDD, but instead of diverting his attention to it he simply asked. "Did they give us anything more specific than that? Or is it all here." He held up the PaDD he's just received.

Kerouac had to agree. There was a lot of uncharted space left to explore and so many cultures and civilizations that had gone undiscovered or remotely untouched by the Federation or other powers. "Well, standing orders are classic. Seek out new life and new civilizations" stated Kris.

"However," Kris said with an interesting uproar in his voice as he leaned over his desk and touched his XO's PaDD. "We are to eventually set course on this route here" announced Kris and he ran his finger up the PaDD, moving the map. "We would be heading into the great unknown...the Beta-Delta border."

Stace's eyes lit up at that. Truly uncharted areas, it was what every Starfleet Officer dreamed of. Before he started drooling over the possibilites though, he needed to address the mini elephant in the room. "So why us? or more specifically why you? Understand I don't have a problem with it, my record is hardly spotless. But Starfleet doesn't usually make a habit of second chances with COs."

"I take no offense Commander and it was your hardly spotless record that got you this position. I wanted someone with a bit of an authority problem, someone perhaps with a temper and a little reckless at times" admitted Kris.

He looked at the man with a smirk. "Yeah, I know Starfleet doesn't make a habit of giving second chances to Commanding Officers. Especially not ones who served hard time. However, Starfleet does not have too many COs jumping at an assignment to go into knowingly hostile areas or into the unknown alone...they needed someone reckless and arguably medically deemed insane" joked Kris.

"If you'd ever met Captain Greystone, you'd understand." Stace smirked right back. "And I don't consider myself reckless, I just take some historical lessons to heart. I don't believe in no win scenarios."

"Rule breaker" coughed Kerouac teasingly. "You don't believe in no win scenarios and I don't believe in scenarios that you can actually win. Sounds like our days together shall be interesting, Commander."

"At least it won't be boring." Stace grinned. "Why don't we get some basics out of the way, so we aren't arguing on the bridge. Are you a CO that insist on leading all Away Missions and trying to get himself killed?"

"Oh I won't argue with you. I'll downright deck your ass if need be" jested Kris with some sense of seriousness. He pretended to have to think hard about that man's questioning. "Not First Officers have tried to stop me in the past. It did not work out too well for them. I waited until they were asleep and gathered my own away team and left before my XO awoken."

Stace laughed. "Well that's one way to go about it. I do tend to sleep like the dead. As much as I'd love for you to run off and get yourself killed. I do have ambitions after all. I'd like a few more years of experience first, so let's hold off on that for awhile."

Kris waved his hand downward dismissively. "Commander, you do not have to worry. I am turning over a new leaf and will not be running off to lead some crazy away mission. I'll leave the starship as needed, but only as needed unless I deem it necessary. You will lead most away teams unless I assign them to someone else."

Stace nodded. That was good to hear. It really was the only pressing question Stace had. So he took a drink of his water and waited to see what the Captain might ask of him.

"So...tell me about yourself, Stace. Do you have a wife? Any kids?" asked Kris, looking to see what he was dealing with in a First Officer.

"No, haven't found a woman I'd want to settle down with yet. No kids that I know of." He grinned, the joke was horribly old, but he still found it amusing. "I've always been focused on my career. For the most part Starfleet's been very good to me."

Kris raised his water glass "Perhaps one day, Commander." The Captain took a deep breath. "We will have our work cut out for us. The Beta Quadrant is a big wide open backyard that the Klingons and Romulans have had range over for many years. The Federation hasn't been able to explore much of it...and there's hardly anything known about the Beta Quadrant regions near the Delta Quadrant."

Stace just nodded, raising his glass in return. "It's a perfect opportunity to make a name for ourselves. The ship should certainly be up to the task, and I've got a good feeling about the crew."

"Trust me, Stace, the crew is exceptional" said Kris. "Our Chief Intelligence Officer is the best there is. I've served with her aboard the previous command" added Kris.

"I look forward to meeting her and the rest of the crew I haven't gotten to yet." Stace replied.

Captain Kerouac looked up at the man and gestured towards the door. "Go out there and be social, Commander. Mingle with the crew and get a sense of who they are. That's one thing that I learned from the Katana. A crew can be a family."

"That won't be a problem sir. You make a pack where you can find one." Stace finished off his water, then put the glass back on the replicator pad to be recycled. "It was nice to meet you." Stace commented right before he exited.

"You haven't seen the last of me, Commander" said Kris with a smile.

Capt Kristopher N. Kerouac

Cmdr Stratford Brooks
The Way to Camelot USS Camelot - Shuttlebay / Bridge November 6th 2392
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The journey from the surface of Vulcan up to the Vulcania shipyard was nothing more than a quick jump by shuttle. When all was said and done, it took more time to wait for docking approval inside Camelot than it did to make the short trip to the ship yard. Vulcania was a massive new shipyard which saw completion while Kris was rotting away in Rura Penthe. The USS Camelot, registry NCC-81002 was a gorgeous starship. She was longer and wider than the Intrepid-class Katana, but her height appeared to be similar. However, it did not take Kris much time to realize how heavily defensible his new starship was. She looked as if she could go a few rounds with even the toughest Klingon battle cruiser or even warship and make it through relatively in tact.

Kris looked over at Jhu who was sitting near him. “I think I'm in love” he said with a small chuckle. “She may be small, but she looks like she could go a few rounds and perhaps even win some. That's an underdog starship right there if I had ever seen one” he commented.

"Manticore class. A bit bigger than the Intrepid with more firepower. She's small, but she can take out a Valdore with no problems." Jhu might not be overly fond of her recent stint as a security officer, but she did like knowing her ship's strengths and weaknesses. "And yes, they are very pretty." She hadn't looked directly at the Camelot in dock yet, but she'd seen pictures of the ship. While she wasn't as enamored as Kris was, she had to admit it was impressive.

"You are starting to sound a little like Nathan" commented Kris. "I do not really want to think that we will need all that bite, but the fire power may be beneficial all things considering."

"I had to learn his job pretty damn fast. Some of it stuck." Contrary to Kris not wanting to think they'd need the firepower, Jhu rather liked the idea of it. It didn't feel that long ago that she'd been facing off with Species 8472 in a science ship, which hadn't exactly been fun. "Please tell me we're landing soon."

Kris shrugged. "Don't ask me. I'm not flying this thing...Ensign, how long until we get there?"

Soon after, the pilot of the shuttle announced that they were approaching Camelot's bay. Kris had wanted so badly to take helm controls and pilot the shuttle into the bay of his new starship himself, but Starfleet Command was against it. They also advised that in the next few weeks, he have a helmsmen aboard the Camelot give him some piloting lessons as a refresher. All Kris could think about was that he had only been in prison for a handful of months. It wasn't like he had forgotten how to pilot.

Kerouac knew that the starship was not anywhere near fully crewed yet. It only had a skeletal crew overseeing the finishing touches to the engines and other key systems. Starfleet Command in fact had handed the starship over to Kris to finishing staffing. He would need to find a good portion of his senior staff, including a First Officer. After the shuttle landed, the hatched door opened and exposed the shuttle's occupants to the shuttle bay.

The shuttle's pilot left his station and gave a simple nod towards Jhu and Kris. “Captain, Commander, it was a pleasure to take you to the Camelot and I wish you well on your voyages. Please wait in the shuttle bay. The Chief Science Officer is on his way down to meet you two. "Lieutenant Nichols is the current officer on watch" added the man.

Gideon Nichols had been on the bridge, overseeing the hustle and bustle. He spent his time looking over padds, and going from station to station. He didn't say much to the engineers and operation personnel that were around him, but he really didn't have to. They all knew their duties, and what needed to be done. He was then informed that Captain Kerouac's shuttle had landed.

He exited the bridge and a few moments later he was entering the shuttlebay. He approached the two, a hand extended his hand right away. "Captain Kerouac, Commander t'Dharvanek, welcome aboard. I'm Gideon Nichols, pleased to meet you."

Kris leaned over and whispered to Jhu. "Look at him. He's so proper and formal...I am going to break him. Just give me time" he said to her.

"I'll help," Jhu whispered back. "Just looking at him makes my back feel stiff."

Captain Kerouac was given very little information before hand about the dynamics of his starship. He knew that she was still in drydock but that Starfleet had assigned her a temporary Commanding Officer to oversee everything and the transitioning of Kerouac into the Captain's seat.

Lieutenant Nichols, serving as Chief Science Officer had also been the present Officer on watch. Captain Kerouac felt as though this Chief Science Officer towered him and looked like a brick wall. "Thank you Lieutenant" replied Kris nervously.

That's a whole hell of a lot of muscle thought Kris. He cleared his throat and brought his attention back to the man's face. "I was told you were the officer on watch presently. Is the Captain they assigned to watch over this skeleton of a starship in their Ready Room?" asked Kris as the trio had left the shuttle bay and had journeyed to a near by lift.

Gideon situated himself on the other side of the captain, hands clasped behind his back. He nodded. "She is, Captain M..." before he could finish saying what he needed to, the lift came to a slow halt and the doors parted.

However, before the Chief Science Officer could provide Kris and Jhu with the details, the temporary Commanding Officer in question made her presence known no sooner had the lift arrived at its destination. The Bridge.

The door of the Ready Room swished open and the enigmatic Ba'Ku woman stepped out, a knowing smile hidden in her eyes as she drew closer to the collection of Officers on the bridge. Her eyes met Kris', and though Merith said nothing, her gaze communicated more than words ever could: sadness, disappointment, joy, relief, and so much more. Finally, she was face to face with him again, the man who once broke her heart and left her at the alter, the man she had been trying to save from himself for so long, and finally she could see the lesson written into his fatigued features and she released a soft sigh.

"I see you've finally made it here," Merith said softly, her tone lacking any of the feisty 'bite' that had always been present in their relationship and subsequent friendship. Truth was, she was tired, and picking up the pieces after the transwarp debacle and then the Talos IV incident had left her weary. Life outside her world moved much too quickly for her liking, and she felt dirty for having to play the political game to help get Kris out of prison. Maybe... maybe once she turned over command here, it was time to retire and return to her world...

Startled by her appearance, Kris took a few steps back. It was more than just the surprise of seeing his former fiance once more that had caused this response. The woman before him was not the same woman he had last seen. She looked as though she had aged some and that was saying something for a Ba'ku.

She must of had some hand in pulling me out of that Klingon hell hole surmised Kristopher. "I have you to thank for my freedom?" he asked her, already fairly certain of the answer. Had she done it all on her own or had Commodore Larkon aided her in my fight for freedom?

"Me and about a dozen others," Merith replied. "Even after what you did at the prison, it was not easy getting you out of there." It would be a long time before he was in Starfleet's good graces, but at least he was here, free, and able to prove his worth on this new ship. "Are you ready to assume Command of the Camelot, or would you like to settle in first?" she asked.

"I am ready to relieve you, Captain Merith" said Kris in a calm yet commanding tone. "You look like you could use a good rest" he added.

"Then I stand relieved. Take good care of this one, Captain," Merith said with a nod. "When you are done familiarizing yourself with your ship, come see me in my quarters, we have something important to discuss." And with that, she excused herself from the bridge. As she passed by Jhu, she subtly brushed her arm and paused, speaking in a low tone so only Jhu could hear, "Come see me before I leave, dear, I can help you." Then she was gone, disappearing down the turbolift to take a well earned rest in her quarters.

Captain Kristopher Kerouac turned and faced the Chief Science Officer. "Lieutenant, have we received word from Starfleet Command? Do we have our orders yet?" asked Kris.

Gideon shook his head. "Nothing as of yet, sir," he replied. "Command wanted to be sure you boarded before speaking with you. Captain Merith was just here to keep the seat warm." What he didn't say, was that Captain Merith had her doubts that Captain Kerouac would even show up. She had a tinge of something in her voice, but he chose not to question it further.

Kris nodded. "A reasonable decision. Please inform Starfleet Command that I have and assure them that I'll be staying, Lieutenant" ordered Captain Kerouac.

Gideon nodded as well. "I'll let Command know right away, Captain."

The Captain turned to look at Jhu. "Commander t'Dharvanek, we do not presently have a Security Chief nor Deputy. Could you please make sure that the Security Department is at least ready?"

Jhu didn't like that idea much, but she nodded anyway. "I'll take care of them until Starfleet assigns a security chief. But first I have a question... is the closest bathroom out on the bridge or in the ready room?"

Kris had not spent much time of the Bridge yet and hadn't even been to his Ready Room yet. He looked at the Chief Science Officer for assistance. "She's pregnant" he added.

"There is a head right through those doors," Gideon said as he pointed to a set of doors that led to the briefing room. "The doors say briefing room, but actually there is a short corridor before you reach the actual briefing room. Once you enter the corridor, the head is on the left." He turned his attention to the shorter man. "Your ready room is fully equipped with restroom facilities as well."

"Thanks." With a grateful smile, Jhu slipped off the bridge into that short corridor.

"I'll be in my Ready Room" announced Kris before heading off into his office.
A What Counselor?! Counsellor's Office
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Dr Quinzel was sitting at her desk peering at her screens, each one scrolling things she thought she knew but found fascinating to now see from her new perspective. These quaint mortals she now resided with amazed her in how they dealt with their daily routines and sciences. Clicking the screens off one by one as they ended their information display, she leaned back after the last one was off, closing her eyes and contemplating what she'd barely had time to absorb. This frail human body was so limited, but even so, she had found ways of absorbing information that worked better than most.

And having two hearts helped. Extra blood pumping to her protean brain meat was a boon she couldn't have imagined the usefulness of. Though it was a joke at her expense, she was grateful for it.

Jhu had no intention whatsoever of speaking with any counselors. Her experiences told her that counselors assigned to starships had little likelihood of actually being of any help. Unfortunately, when the transfer orders to the Camelot had come through, they included the words 'mandatory psychological check in' in bold red print. Grumbling about it under her breath, she found the counselor's office and rang the chime to request entry.

"Come in," Doctor Quinzel called out as she opened her eyes and looked towards the door. "Ah, Commander Jhu t'Dharvanek I presume. I received your file just yesterday. Please, have a seat and we'll get this over with." Tapping her desk terminals, the popup screens folded back into her desk so she only had 2 visible. "I assume you know why you've been ordered to visit me?" she asked questioningly, hoping to dispense with at least some of the normal explanations.

"As part of my transfer from the Katana. As for the exact reason why, there are likely several." None of which Jhu was going to offer unless she was asked. There were several chairs available, so she picked the one that looked the most comfortable, easing herself into it.

Lacing her fingers together and leaning forward on her desk, Quintina had her most smug look on her face. She should have known. "Specifically, someone in command is worried that with your pregnancy hormones in your system, you're going to kill someone and they'd prefer it not be a crewmember. I'm Doctor Quintina Q Quinzel, by the way. I'm your new emotional punching bag."

"Six months. Haven't killed anyone yet." Jhu had to smirk a bit at that. Everything she'd been through and it was hormones they all worried about? It was actually kind of funny. "Besides, I only kill people who deserve it. The last one had poisoned two of my friends and was actively trying to kill me."

"Then it sounds like they deserved it." Quintina replied with a flash of her best Q smirk. "From your file, I see that you've had a varied and checkered experience with death and varying degrees of avoiding it. Your significant other is currently deceased, is he not? Frustration from being separated at this critical juncture is another concern that comes to mind. Especially after the very same captain of this ship allegedly got him killed. You have my condolences on his loss, as well."

"No, I don't blame Kris for that. That was the Talosians." To Jhu's surprise, her voice stayed remarkably level, despite the threat of breaking down into tearful sobs at the sudden mention of Nathan's death.

"And another member of that team immediately collected justice for that action, didn't they? An android that was immune to their mind control? At least it'll take a few thousand years for them to recoalesce, if I remember my Talosian physiology correctly." Quintina was intentionally being blunt and pushing Jhu to see how she'd react, but so far she was getting (to her opinion) positive results. She was almost done, thankfully.

"Maica is my best friend, and she was very fond of Nathan. Besides, she'd warned them only moments before to let us all go. They chose to keep control of him, and they suffered for it. Rightly so." Jhu wasn't quite sure where this line of questioning was going, but she'd learned a long time ago not to interrupt once a counselor got going.

"A very healthy response for a mortal mind. Not exactly Starfleet, but I'm happy with your responses." Quinzel remarked, relaxing and leaning back in her chair. "Do you have any questions for me?"

"Starfleet and I tend not to agree on such things, but it was their own Section 31 that taught me this attitude. Not here, mind you. The other timeline Kris and I came from." Their brief travel through time - and dimensions for that matter - was public record by now, and Jhu had no issue with talking about it. "I don't have any questions, just one request. If I come to you it's because I want to talk. I don't want to be 'fixed' or 'helped.' But sometimes I need to talk so that I don't do something stupid. I need to know I can do that without being psychobabbled."

"I'll warn you that I might give you some odd advice, then. But I'll only psychoanalyze you once a year. Paperwork is annoying and there are a lot more fun things to do than type up reports like some simpering monkey caged to a slab of wood in a cave." Quintina replied with a grin. "And I've gotten good at listening, but don't expect me to always listen sober."

"Sobriety's no fun. At least one of us should enjoy the experience." Jhu perked up a bit, somewhat pleased that this ship actually seemed to have a counselor who wouldn't try to 'fix' all of her issues. She paused for a moment, reflecting on that and realizing she didn't know how much of her psychiatric history had made it into the Camelot's computer.

Quintina nodded slightly before moving on to another subject she was wondering about. "I haven't asked the captain about this yet, but are there Q in the universe you come from?"

"Well, yeah. Pranksters of the universe, always causing trouble." Not sure why Quintina would ask that, Jhu gave her a puzzled look. "Why?"

"Ah... Just wondering if I had a counterpart over there... No way to know for sure now though, right?" Quintina replied with her best Q face.

"I haven't dealt with many Q, so I don't suppose there is a way to know." Jhu knew her own counterpart in this universe was dead, but she also remembered what it was like to wonder. It took her a moment to catch up to the conversation mentally, and when that lightbulb went on she stared at Quntina with an expression of shock and something akin to terror. "Wait, you're one of them?"

"I was." Quintina replied immediately. "I hope that doesn't bother you. I was banished from the continuum for having feelings for humans and mating with one. They gave me two hearts as a joke and kicked me out."

"Fire and Ice, woman! Don't do that to people!" Finding out that Quintina was more human than Q did nothing to slow Jhu's heart rate or settle her stomach after the initial shock, but she did relax. A little. If anyone could call it relaxing.

"Do what?" Quinzel asked curiously. "Tell people I was a Q? It's in big red letters at the top of my records so it's not like it's a secret or anything. Besides, I can't even conjure a glass of water anymore." To prove her point, she snapped her fingers and looked out across her desk. "See? Nothing."

"I haven't seen any records. I thought you were human!" Even to Jhu, the statement immediately sounded rather silly. "I mean... you look human. You act human. And then out of nowhere you drop on me that you're a banished Q..."

"Other than 2 hearts, for all intents and purposes, I am human. I just happen to have previously been an immortal being that enjoyed cavorting through the time space continuum." Quintina sighed heavily before continuing. "For what it's worth, I'm enjoying myself as a human. Yes, it's limiting, but overall there's a satisfaction I never would have found otherwise. If you can believe that."

"I... guess I can believe that." Somehow it made sense, even to Jhu. "I'm sorry. I... don't handle shock very well."

"Actually, your reaction was better than many. I havn't been stabbed or hit in any way. You didn't whip out a tricorder. You're actually relaxing. Thank you for not stabbing me, by the way." Quinzel said with a genuine smile.

"Um... you're welcome?" Stabbing Quintina hadn't even crossed Jhu's mind. Sure, she was armed. She nearly always was. But using a weapon hadn't occurred to her. After all, she'd been surprised, not threatened. "I don't make a habit of stabbing my crewmates."

"You wouldn't be the first if you did." Quintina replied with a wry smile.

"Wow, really? That's kind of... well, not cool." Jhu could understand being scared but stabbing seemed like overkill.

"So then... The good news is that you've passed any psyche eval i could give you. The bad news is that for the next year you'll still have to come see me regularly. How regularly is up to you, at least." Quintina declared, shifting the topic to a hopefully lighter tone.

Jhu made a face at her. "Fine. I'll look at my schedule and see what I can do... but I can't promise much in the way of what Starfleet Psych would call 'progress'." It wasn't something she was proud to admit, but no amount of counseling had ever 'fixed' any of her psychiatric quirks.

"In my estimation, the Federation has made very little progress in Psychiatry since its creation. Don't worry about progress. Talking is what's important." Quintina said with a slight scoff.

"Okay, that's fair." Jhu nodded slightly. "Well. I hate to be rude, but I'm on the baby's schedule, and this is usually when she wants me to nap... I know that probably sounds weird..."

"Not at all," Quintina smiled brightly, standing and moving around her desk to finally be face to face with her new patient, offering a handshake. "There's a species of whale in the Ceti Forensa galaxy that allows the baby to completely take over the mother's body for almost a year before birth so it'll learn how to survive once it's born."

Jhu blinked in surprise at that fact as she accepted the offered handshake. "I think I can live with napping when the baby demands it then. Not nearly that extreme."

"I think that's for the best." Quintina giggled slightly, obviously amused. "Have a good nap and whenever you need me, I'll be here."

"Thanks. I'll keep that in mind." Smiling a bit, Jhu carefully got up from the chair, taking a moment to make sure she wasn't going to suddenly fall over. Then with a cheerful wave she made her exit.

Heartfelt Reunion Bridge
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That didn't take long at all. Jenni had been aboard for maybe thirty minutes when word from the boatswain came 'round that the Captain had arrived.

Under normal circumstances, Jenni would have elected to settle into Engineering, just as she had done on every prior assignment, before reporting into the man or woman collared in red.

It was the circumstances regarding her reassignment, however, that drove her to immediately drop what she was doing and head for the turbolift. Just a few days prior, when starting to feel around for reassignment that Jenni had received the most unusual set of orders to date.

Report to USS Camelot, Commanding, immediately upon arrival...

The rest didn't matter. Cryptology was not one of her strong suits, but if this assignment had the potential to turn immediately sour, she was certainly going to take it up.

Now, as she remained in the turbolift, taking the jaunt from the belly of the beast to its brain, Jenni could not help but to fantasize about what was about to happen. No one knew who would be assigned to this ship. Either it was a legend...

No. A legend would have been advertised. The Federation News Service would have been on site with flashbulbs and ink. This had to be someone else.

But who?

The turbolift came to a stop, depositing Commander Matthews on the bridge. Not a single person with less than two pips could be seen, leaving Jenni one last place to look. "You can do this," Jenni muttered, crossing the bridge to tap on the door chime beside the ready room door, all the while wondering who the hell was behind Door Number One.

Captain Kristopher N. Kerouac had stepped outside his Ready Room half an hour ago in order to take the turbolift down a handful of decks in order to check out Main Engineering. It was not as though he could really do any good down there. All he wanted to know was how things were coming given the lack of Engineering staff.

There were a dozen crewmen and other enlisted personnel swarming around Engineering. Kris had been able to find a meek looking Ensign who actually was able to provide him some reassurance that things were going well and that they would be on schedule.

Kris had left Engineering after receiving notification from a transporter operator that a young woman had just come aboard with orders stating that she was the Chief Engineer.

He knew nothing of the woman who had come aboard. No name, no age or rank. Of course all of the would be a moot point as soon as he saw who had been assigned to him. Captain Kerouac had been able to track down the woman's route. She's heading to the Bridge he observed as he just missed her taking the turbolift up.

As soon at the lift was free, Kris called it back down to him. In a matter of a few moments, he was in the lift and heading straight up the the Bridge. The doors parted ways and he stumbled out onto his Bridge and saw the woman's shorter stature and vibrant youthful hair. She's young he thought quickly before calling attention to himself.

"Excuse me Miss" he said in a slightly raised voice to stop her from wasting her time standing outside his Ready Room. "You're looking for me" he added and watched as she turned around. His face went pale and his body stiff. Jenni Matthews he thought to himself but could not even utter her name.

Before turning, Jenni cocked her head slightly to the left. That voice... Holding on to every shred of doubt, Jenni slowly turned to face the owner of the voice.

Her mouth fell open, albeit slightly, as her eyes shot wide open. The last time she'd seen Kristopher Kerouac was behind the forcefield of a brig cell. "How...? What...? When...?"

And, on impulse, Jenni did something she hadn't expected herself to do. She wrapped him in a tight embrace as she laid her head on his chest. No words rolled off her tongue as there was no other way she could express how happy she was to see him again, no matter how hard the reasons for why he was behind that forcefield tried to enter her mind.

"Hey Kiddo" said Kris as he welcomed the woman's embrace. He could not help but to take in the scent of her hair, the shampoo and body wash. It smelt wonderful. It smelt human.

He smiled broadly and squeezed her tightly against his body. "I've missed you" he said to her softly before the embrace was over. He looked at her and of course noticed the rank increase...a significant rank increase. "Geez, someone is moving up fast. What the heck did you do? Save a planet from destruction?"

Jenni pulled back, thinking again about the mysterious orders. "Something like that," she said, looking up at him. "Of course, now that I see you out of a cell, a lot more makes sense."

"Cell?" repeated Kris with a scoff. "I haven't been in a Federation or Starfleet holding cell in months. Do you even know what happened to me after the trial? They sent me to a Klingon Prison Jenni, not just any damn Klingon Prison, the worst place they have" added Kris.

He shook his head. "I tried to contact you and the others. Any chance I got to send a subspace transmission, I sent it to my the Katana. I never heard anything back from M'Rayr or any of you."

Jenni shook her head as well. "Nothing ever came through, Kris." Was that the first time I ever called him by name? "As the Ops Chief, I would've known." Jenni smiled, hoping to prepare him for the next part. "Not that there would've been many to answer the call. Most of the crew has left the Katana in the last few months. Something about exploring strange new worlds?"

"So I have learned" replied Kris with a nod. "They should come join us. I just met with my First Officer recently to discuss our orders. We'll be doing a lot of that with the Camelot."

"A lot of discussing...?" Jenni asked, grinning at the comment. "Or exploring? I miss exploring. Where are we going anyway?"

"Exploring" Kris said with a scoff. "Where? Oh Command has us cruising around the Beta Quadrant backyard looking for new worlds and civilizations. However, we eventually will be making our way to the border between the Beta Quadrant and Delta Quadrant."

"Finally heading for the Delta Quadrant I see," Jenni said with a smile. "Just as long as I can keep you from violating General Orders or blowing up planets, we should be all right."

"The cusp of it, Jenni. We will be doing our best to stay grounded in the Beta side of things. Command is ready for us to explore the regions of the Beta Quadrant that have gone relatively untouched or are entirely uncharted. However, they aren't ready to send us straight into the Delta Quadrant" answered Kris.

Of course Janeway and a few others had done it before, but this was different. This would be by space travel through the Beta wormholes or caretakers to cause an involuntary journey. "We have very little idea what is out there. We'll be well outside Klingon or Romulan territory."

"So how exactly are we supposed to get to the Delta Quadrant?" Jenni asked before quipping, "Have any more Borg Transwarp gear laying about?"

Damn girl. Are you hyper about going to the Delta Quadrant? pondered Kris. He cleared his throat. "As I said...we will not actually be going to the Delta Quadrant. Maybe flirt with the border a bit, but we have not been given any orders to cross that border. However, this starship is equipped with a slipstream drive. We just haven't brought it online yet" added Kris.

Jenni had noticed the slipstream drive in the schematics, as well as the differing parts laying around the ship. She knew sooner or later she'd have to start work on that, just as soon as she got caught up on the specs... "Right," Jenni said. "I'm just happy to be tinkering again, and you know you won't be able to keep me away from that slipstream just yet."

Kerouac chuckled. "Yeah, I bet you can't wait to get yourself all greased up and crawl through some Jefferies tubes and get that slipstream up and running" said Kris. "However, they did make you a Commander and that changes things a bit, Jenni."

Here it comes... "Of course it does," Jenni said. She had expected there were strings attached with the new solid gold pip. The engineer just didn't know what those were.

"I don't know if you've noticed, but Jhu is aboard. She's staying too. She will be serving at Chief Intelligence Officer. You know how she feels about command positions...I want to keep her away from the big chair" explained Kris.

"Jhu's here!" Jenni said, her eyes wide and a smile on her face. She hadn't seen Jhu in months. Jenni might have to make a detour on her way back to Engineering.

"Jenni, I will be naming you Second Officer of the Camelot" added Kris. "It seems right and I know that you can perform the duties."

"I guess someone's got to keep an eye on you," Jenni replied with a coy smile, feeling the actual weight of that third pip for the first time. Despite the pressure, she actually welcomed the idea of having another round in the center chair, just so long as weapons weren't ablaze.

Kris smiled. "Well, you may need to keep an eye on the First Officer as well. I hand picked him myself. He's got some rough edges."

"I'm not surprised," Jenni said with a chuckle. "Something tells me we'll all need a little grace around here."

"She may not be Katana, but we'll make this place our home" said Kris reassuringly. "You had better get down to Engineering and meet your grease monkeys" added Kris with a nod.

Smiling in reply, Jenni nodded. "It's good to see you, Captain." With that, she turned and made her way to the turbolift, smiling as she went.
Finger Snapping Turmoil Counselor's Office before launch
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Jenni exited the turbolift and stepped out into the busy corridor. She could tell as she passed various crewmembers that they were lost and disoriented. While the Camelot did not sport an unfamiliar internal configuration, it was normal for any newcomer to get lost.

She was in the same boat. Though she'd studied the schematics for days, it wasn't enough to know exactly where she was going. That would at least explain the PADD with the map that she had. As she navigated the corridor, occasionally glancing down at the PADD, Jenni wished she didn't have to do this. She had a ship to prepare for departure, but somehow the Counselor's request for an appointment didn't seem like that. It felt like an order.

After her year of turmoil, counseling wasn't the worst idea. At least that's what her last Counselor said...

Finally, she found the door to the Counselor's office. Inhaling deeply, Jenni lowered the PADD and tapped the door chime. Let's get this over with.

"Come in," Quintina called out. Recognizing the woman from her records. "Commander Mathews, I presume? Please, come in. You got my appointment request, I see." Finishing up a line of typing, she clicked her desk screens off so she could devote her attention to Jenni.

Jenni stepped inside with a smile (more so for her own reassurance than anything). "I did," she said, noting the taller woman's... features. The fragile smile on her face was instantly fortified as her mind thought of a missed friend.

Having noticed the look, Quintina smiled brighter, to better match the woman's own smile as she rounded her desk to the main area of the office. "Please, make yourself at home. What do you think of this new ship so far?"

"It's incredible!" Jenni exclaimed as her hands thumbed the power switch on the PADD to the off position. "It's quite the change from my last assignment, but I'm happy to be working next to a warp core again." She eyed the nearby couch and then the chairs in front of the desk, debating where, or if, to sit. Her reservations about the entire ordeal prevented her from making a decision.

"That's good to hear." Quintina noticed the hesitation and plopped down into one of the comfy chairs herself. "Is everything ok? If you don't like the seating, I could request that you replicate me a chair you do enjoy." she commented jokingly.

"What?" Jenni asked, her mind snapping back to reality. "No, no... It's just... It's been a while. A long while. In fact, I should have done this a long time ago."

"If it helps, think of me as an old friend that you can dump your problems on and will still help you bury the bodies." Quintina said, still smiling.

Jenni chuckled at the remark as she finally chose to sit on the couch. As she did so, she could feel her heart race, a nervous reaction prior to pouring her feelings out to a complete stranger.

"So how have you been lately? Anything interesting happen?" Quintina asked as if she really were an old friend.

Exhaling, Jenni said as she looked around the room, "Oh, I don't know. Just in the last few days, I was bumped up a couple steps in rank, got a divorce, and some mysterious transfer orders." Smiling, she looked back at Quintina. "And that was all in a slow week."

"I'm sure I could put in a request with the captain to make things more interesting, if you like." Quintina offered with a grin. "He seems like the kind of person that can provide such things."

Jenni chuckled in return. "Be careful what you ask for. You just might get it."

"I'm counting on it. If half the shit in his file is true, he's known even in the Continuum by now." Quintina replied, also chuckling.

"That doesn't surprise me at all," Jenni said. "Though, I'm 100 percent sure he's why I'm here."

"Either way, I'm looking forward to soothing the weary minds and bodies of my fellow crewmembers. If you ever need a warm body to cry on and fall asleep against, please let me know." Quintina replied. "I am curious though. I found our captain's name in your records. Are you ok with serving under him like this?"

Jenni shrugged. "He's not the one who nearly killed me, so that's a plus." Jenni flashed an awkward smile. "It's strange really. I had one Kerouac threaten to kill me, but then I get rescued by his doppleganger. They really mean what they say to expect the unexpected out here."

Sighing, she added, "But somehow I think my relationship to the Captain isn't why I'm here. Well, I have a good feeling it's why I was assigned to the Camelot, but not why I'm here. On a couch. With a shrink." Jenni nearly shook her head. "No offense."

"None taken. You're here so I can tend to your mental health, the one thing any Q would historically suck at and the only department I couldn't shut down. Besides that, it entertains me." Quintina said, matter-of-factly.

"Wait?" Jenni said, fighting the urge to back away from the woman. "You're Q? As in the ones with the magic snapping fingers that can do anything?"

Quintina snapped her fingers expectantly and glanced around the room. "No? Nothing still? Ok... I was Q. I'm human now."

"It's not a terrible thing," Jenni said. "Being human. What do you think now that you're one of us?"

"Having two hearts is nice, even if it was a joke. Other than that, I try to enjoy it. I have a lot of knowledge I could share, but I've chosen to selectively follow my own version of the prime directive on that. The Federation is far too young for some of what I know." Quintina replied. "What about you? Do you enjoy being human?"

"Aside from dealing with your occasional bout of disappointment, sure." Whatever remained of Jenni's smile disappeared in that statement.

"After a few trillion years of boredom, you learn to deal with disappointment." Quintina sighed heavily. "So... Who were you married to and why did you get a divorce?"

Jenni knew it would have come back to her eventually. She looked down and pulled up on the yellow-cuffed sleeve of her uniform and the long-sleeved shirt beneath it to reveal a purple tattoo. "M'rayr," she said, looking down at the reminder to have and to hold on her wrist. "The Caitian Captain of the Katana. He's a good man. Helped me through a lot after my... last assignment was blown to bits."

"Medical could probably remove that for you pretty easily. As for your romance, I've seen similar situations. Something traumatic happens, 2 people hook up to comfort each other, one or both aren't who they seemed to be, and it explodes. Good experience and gets you through a tough time, but... Some debate if the pain of that loss is even worth it. Personally, I think that if it keeps you from sliding down a self destructive path and somehow makes you stronger, it's worth it." Quintina explained.

"It wasn't that he wasn't who he seemed to be," Jenni explained, looking up and leaving the tattoo uncovered. "We're both career minded. At the end of the day, there just wasn't room for two Chief Engineers. We're still good friends. Always will be, I hope."

She held the wrist up between them and added, "I actually don't plan to remove it. Kinda stylish I think."

"Fair enough. It does suit you in a way." Quintina nodded slightly. "As for recovering from the loss of your ship... and rescue by the same ship... How are you coping with that?"

Jenni bobbed her head and clasped her hands on her lap. "About as well as any officer losing 130 people under her command can do. It's been a while since I've really thought about it, but I still have nightmares about it."

"I'd like to say that it gets easier, but that would be a lie. The nightmares will get further apart at least. And there are coping mechanisms to help with easing the impact of those nightmares, if you're interested. For now though, since it hasn't been that long, I recommend meditating on it to help understand that it's now a part of who you are." Quintina paused a moment. "Lots of information, I'm sure. And you could already be past that point. Who knows. Either way, I'm here for you no matter what you need."

"Thanks," Jenni said, her tone very much sincere. "I would like to get past all of this, one day. To be honest, I'm new to this whole counseling thing. M'rayr was a great sounding board for a quite a bit, but even a husband can only go so far."

"I've not had much experience with them, but I do know that living with someone to that extent, you would need someone on the outside looking in now and then. Hence why there are counselors on so many ships." Quintina commented. "And in my opinion, just from this brief exchange, I feel that you are healing normally so there's that."

"That's good to know," Jenni said. "So... what's next? I come back every few days and lay on the couch while you take notes?"

"If you want to. I prefer talking though. No need to take notes then." Quintina said with a wide smile. "And as for how often, that too is entirely up to your needs."

"Sounds fair," Jenni said. "How about we set something up for the second day out of dock? That'll give me some time to focus on the ship."

"Sounds perfect. Would you rather meet on the holodeck or in one of the rec areas?" Quintina offered, already having had some holodeck time scheduled that day.

Jenni considered it for a moment. The thought of discussing private matters in open areas was quite disconcerting to her. "Let's go for the holodeck. If that's all right?"

Quintina smiled brightly. "I already have a couple hours scheduled in the afternoon. Do you enjoy sandy beaches?"

It had been a while since Jenni had worn a swimsuit. Who was she to refuse? "Who doesn't?"

"Do you prefer them with or without water?" Quintina added. "I tend to prefer them without the water. Easier to think."

"Growing up on the moon, there was always sand without water," Jenni recalled. "I think the first time I ever saw an ocean was when I first arrived at Starfleet Academy."

"Excellent. I've been trying to recreate a human safe version of my favorite sunbathing spot so that's where we'll be. The Dwingalo system. Trinary stars are so amazingly warm, even when one is a dying blue dwarf." Quintina was somewhat excited now, having been wanting to show this off for a while now. After all, what's the fun in knowing about a system in another galaxy if you don't share it with others?

Jenni chuckled. "You certainly try to make your patients as comfortable as possible, don't you?" Nothing beat a warm sun and a swimsuit.

Quintina giggled slightly. "I suppose so. I just wish I could take you to the real place. The local crystal formations resonate magnificently when all three suns are in the sky."

"Maybe one day." Jenni smiled at Quintina's thought. "Well, is there anything else that you're dying to know before our next session?"

"There is, actually." Quintina paused a moment to figure out how to phrase it so it could be understood easily enough. Then she realized, there was an even simpler question that would tell her what she wanted to know. "What do you think of the slipstream projector assemblies as well as the drive itself?"

"I think it's an incredible way to travel," Jenni said with a smile. "I'm surprised Starfleet's letting us launch with non-functional hardware giving us a couple more weeks in drydock to continue working out the bugs that've crawled into the system. Then again, I wouldn't get the chance to write a paper or two on slipstream theory as we work out the issues." It was fun being back on the front lines of technology, she'd have to admit.

"If you need advice on anything, let me know. As a former Q, I'm not about to hand you the keys to all of space-time, but as a mortal member of this crew, I'm interested in not dying from the shearing effects of a miscalibrated field projector while the ship is travelling dozens of lightyears per second. The laws of physics in this universe are annoying, but still pertinent."

"Trust me, I'm not willing to die as part of a failed experiment either. I'll definitely take you up on that though. No one's going to be happy if it sits unfinished and collecting dust, especially me."

"You know where to find me," Quintina said with a smile. "Is there anything else you wanted to discuss today? Or shall we wait for later?"

Jenni shrugged, not really sure if there was anywhere she could start that wouldn't take too much time. "Later it is."

Standing, Quintina held her arms out, offering a hug. "Then until we meet again, stay safe, ok?"

Jenni stood and accepted the hug, not realizing until she did so how far back she had to stand to do it. "Will do."
Cleaning Up Someone Else's Mess... Main Engineering
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It had been five years since Jenni had been in a drydock and the last time she'd found herself frankly working to finish a troubled refit. While this situation was quite different, preparing a brand new starship for launch, she was quite enjoying herself. Thousands of details still needed to be squared away, especially all of the problematic systems that had yet to be tamed. Her expectations were realistic and she knew there would be no shakedown cruise. The more that could be solved out of spacedock, the better everyone would be.

She couldn't do it alone, and while she had plenty to do for the next month, Jenni understood the value of teamwork, especially so thanks to her last assignment. That was why Jenni was now preparing to find the Chief Operations Officer. All she had was a name, Seras, and nothing else to find her fellow senior officer. And, while she was about to step outside the door, a stray voice beckoned her elsewhere. Something about another imbalance in the antimatter injectors. Her search would have to wait.

It was Jenni's good fortune that the Operations Center was still under construction, as that meant Lieutenant Seras found herself on her way to Main Engineering to work on balancing the ship's power load. Not wanting to intrude on Engineering's terf, she sought out the Chief Engineer to make sure that nothing sensitive was going on so she could work. So she started asking around to find Commander Matthews.

An enlisted crewman pointed the Lieutenant towards the rear of Engineering. "She should be back there with the warp field specialists," he told the shorter woman.

And conferring with the specialists Jenni was. "Have you tried rolling back the firmware?" she asked, noting the injector's tendency to lock open after the first ten packets of antimatter pushed into the magnetic constrictors. Seeing their negative response, she added, "Looks like we'll have to tear them apart and check for obstructions in the casing."

Looking up, Jenni noted an unfamiliar face approaching, appearing to be heading right her. Jenni excused herself to walk over to the newcomer and introduced herself. "I'm Commander Matthews. What can I help you with, Lieutenant...?"

"Seras," the Cairn woman supplied cheerfully. "Commander, I was hoping to make use of one of your stations down here since the Operations Center is still a bit in pieces. I would also like to run some simulation on the sustainable power load under extreme performance conditions, but first I need to know what, if any, work or calibrations currently underway that could affect the results," Seras rattled off as she looked over some data on a PaDD.

Jenni smiled at her introduction. "Pleased to meet you, Seras. This way." Jenni gestured towards a nearby vacant console before starting to walk towards it herself. "I'm actually glad you came by. We're having some difficulty integrating the auxiliary power leads into the magnetic constrictors. And, of course, we're running final checks on nearly everything, from life support all the way down to waste extraction. It's surprising how much there is still left to do."

"Oh, I know! I've seen how hectic refits can be, but I've never been part of the building process. It's a bit overwhelming, but quite exciting at the same time," Seras replies with a knowing nod as she walked along with the Chief Engineer. "I would be happy to assist with the auxiliary power leads, then we can run final checks, after which I'll require a considerable amount of resources to run my simulation. Reports from the drawing board note that the engine is at extreme risk for overheating when pushed too hard, not to mention the power drain over shipwide systems. I need to get a feel for these extremes so I can better anticipate when to cut vital systems to prevent heat damage to the core or how often we will need to refuel."

"I like the way you think," Jenni replied, leading Seras now to the upper level of engineering. "I have a feeling the designers spent more time on looks and teeth than actual performance. It's going to take everything we have to straighten it out. By the way, that's an interesting voice box you have there." Jenni didn't want to ask why it was required, at least not in a public setting.

"Oh, thank you," Seras replied with a smile as she followed Jenni to the upper level. Wow, what a view! She always liked these upper levels that allowed a different view of Engineering and the Warp Core. "I don't like it as much as my old synthesizer, but it was damaged a few years, so I had no choice but to finally make the change to a newer model. I was able to get the sound close to my old voice, but it just not the same," she continued with an adorable pout.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Jenni said, thinking of her prized possession that had been lost on a previous assignment. "I'm sure that if given enough time we could figure that out. If you don't mind an extra pair of hands, that is."

She was offering to help? Seras didn't mind, she could always use the help. She unzipped the top part of her yellow collar just slightly to reveal a small device pressed to her throat by black strap. She removed the device and handed it to Jenni so she could get a look at it. It was a fairly straightforward device storing the complex sound files and synthesizer algorithms that would resonate with the implant in her throat so the sound would actually come from her and not the device.

Jenni was taken by surprise at how fast her offer had was accepted. She had to lean against a nearby console to get a good look at the shorter woman's neck. "Looks pretty simple. Do you have a sample of what it's supposed to sound like?"

Seras looked thought for a moment then nodded, tucking the device against her neck and zipping up her collar again. "Yes, but I will have to find the files. Once we are done here, I will find the references for you," Seras answered. "Now, what seems to be the problem with the magnetic constrictors?" she asked.

"By my best guess," Jenni said, turning to call up the readouts on the panel, "everything should be working, but it's not. It almost seems like there's a polarity conflict that immediately overloads the constrictors and forces them to shut down the moment we switch over."

Well that was certainly unusual! Seras looked over the readings, even went around and took a look at the constrictors and the auxiliary power leads, but everything looked fine. It was rather baffling. "I have never before encountered this problem," Seras said bluntly and utterly confused. "Have you tried switching out the lines or testing with only the primary power leads?"

Jenni nodded. "We've worked our way all the way back to the auxiliary power generator. The lines are fine. Primary power seems to do the same thing, so I'm wondering if there's a fault in the firmware. It wouldn't surprise me though. I've been on board for an hour, and I've already found nearly a hundred firmware faults. The trouble is, there's nothing to roll back to. These are a completely new design, something I've never seen before."

"Show me," Seras said with a nod. Uhg, firmware issues. Could this problem get any worse?! It made her wonder what these designers were thinking when they let these kind of errors our of the labs and into the field. This was how people got hurt!

Jenni called up the firmware code on the console. She was excellent with a toolkit in her hand, but dealing with code was something else entirely. "I'm betting someone didn't proofread before releasing this," Jenni remarked.

"This is appalling!" Seras said, dumbfounded by the sight. "I am going to need a chair and some time, and when we are done here, I think we should go find the idiot who wrote this a piece of crap and give him a piece of our minds!" Finding a chair was easy enough and once Seras was seated, she began typing to make corrections in the firmware. "This is disgusting. How would you say? Obscene?"

Jenni tried to stifle a chuckle at the woman's outburst. "So much for getting straight to diagnostics," she commented softly, seeing how many corrections Seras was making.

"And I had so much I planned to get done today too..." Seras grumbled with a pout. "Okay, it's not pretty, but lets give that a try," she said with a glance to Jenni.

Nodding to Seras, Jenni called down, "th'Dazne! Cortez! Stand by to switch the mag constrictors to auxiliary power."

Their confirmation came back quickly. Jenni promptly tapped a couple buttons on the console, muttering, "Here goes nothing." She looked back up to the warp core where the magnetic constrictors were already active, though not guiding a single iota of matter or antimatter into the dilithium chamber. A timer had been set for the switchover to occur in a matter of seconds.

"Three... two... one..." Jenni softly counted down in unison with the time. There was a burst of extra intensity in the blue glow of the constrictors before fading back to their normal color. Her eyes darted down the console to verify that auxiliary power was indeed active and holding.

"I'll find that name for you," Jenni said to Seras. "I'm sure there's some kind of... souvenir we can find him or her from the Camelot. Is it too early to find a clogged drain pipe?"

"Forget the drain pipe, I'm going to load this rubbish into his personal systems," Seras said, making a few more alterations to the code. "I'll continue working on this to improve performance and efficiency. Send any other code to me that you're having issue with and I'll do what I can." She was probably going to need some help, though she could probably enlist some of the spaceport staff, there must surely be a computer specialist in there somewhere!

"I'll make sure you get it," Jenni said. "Just the critical ones for now. Let me know when you're ready for your big tests. I'd like to work with you on those." Any chance she could prepare for extreme circumstances was always welcome.

"Well, with this and final checks, I think I've got a pretty full day ahead of me. If nothing major crops up by tomorrow, then I think I'll devote tomorrow to the simulations," Seras said after some thought. "You know, we should take stock of what's left that needs to be done and prioritize, then organize teams to knock things out more efficiently."

"Fair enough," Jenni said, leaning against the console and crossing her arms in front of her. She removed a hand and began to count using her fingers. "Warp drive, of course, is one of my top priorities." She then pointed at Seras, indicating for her to reveal what was her most critical task.

"Operations nerve center," Seras replied with a nod. "I can't even do emergency overrides on the power grid or divert power, the master override system hasn't been installed yet so adjustments have to be done manually!"

"How the hell is the Ops center not done?" Jenni asked. There wasn't a way for her to know that as she'd been in Engineering this whole time. "Commander Brooks is getting us a few extra engineers to push us out of dock. I'll be sending them you way then." Sighing, she added, "Let's not forget structural integrity. For some reason, I can't get the field generators past 80 percent."

That had Seras groaning as she ran a hand over her face. "How do they expect the ship to function with only 80% on the structural integrity fields?! She'll shake apart!" Wow! At first glance, Seras hadn't thought things would be THIS bad, but she found herself being surprised constantly. "Okay, we get the extra dock staff to finish the Operations Center and then the Warp core. I think I saw something about the field generators in some of the firmware code earlier, so I'll double check and fix the firmware. After that... well, lets see how things are after that."

"The bright side is," Jenni said with a coy smile, "we have job security. Leave it to Starfleet to build imbalanced ships and leaving us out here in the field to even things out. Any other red flags on your end? I know I have a few other problem areas, but nothing we can't handle once we leave dock."

"Navigational sensors," Seras said with a look of dread. "But I think I got that handled. I'll be checking back with my people here shortly to see if they got sensor pallets working. But at least the deflector dish is working; I think I might actually scream if that decided to stop working."

"I have a feeling we could be at this all day," Jenni stated. "I'm just hopeful the bussard collectors won't clog up seeing how much R&D shrunk the intake manifolds. The price of progress, I guess."

"Yes, but aren't there more of them?" Seras pointed out. "They went with the back to back nacelle design on each side, so now aren't the 4 instead of 2 bussard collectors? Oh please don't tell me that the doubled collectors feed into the same intake manifolds...." What were these people thinking?!

Jenni grimaced. "I'm pretty sure each nacelle has its own intake manifold, but the central hardware per pylon is shared. So, we'll see how that works."

"What a mess!" And yet Seras smiling; what an adventure! "Alright, I'll get started on the firmware, see if you can't... what's the phrase, 'light a fire' under Commander Brooks about the extra hands to help out."

"Will do." Jenni pushed herself off of the console. "In the meantime, I'll send over whoever I can spare. I'm sure there's a non-essential system or two I can put off."

"Great, thanks. And I think I'll use this console since my territory is still under construction," Seras said with a grin, taking a seat to continue working on the firmware.

"I'll send up a couple of strong men and we'll put up a wall to make sure you're not bothered." Jenni smiled, clearly joking. "Somehow I just don't think a forcefield will work as well."

Seras laughed with a shake her head as she typed away. A wall... actually, that might not be a bad idea...
Nightmare in a Box Counselor's Office
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As nice as Quintina had been, Jhu still wasn't eager to go into that office and admit to how lost and scared she'd been feeling lately. Despite having made contact with Nathan - even if she wasn't telling anyone yet for fear of imagining it - she still woke up drowning in sweat most mornings. Some mornings - like this one - she shrieked upon waking, a situation her new neighbors likely wouldn't tolerate for long. If she had new neighbors yet, anyway. With this most recent incident so fresh in her memory, she'd quietly scheduled herself for a meeting with Quintina as early as possible in the day.

Now that the time came, Jhu lingered outside Quintina's door, hesitant to push the button. Going inside might mean she'd get the help she clearly desperately needed, but it also meant admitting to needing that help. She wasn't sure if she was ready to admit that just yet.

Quintina was just on the other side of that door, sprawled out across a fainting couch she had just received from the station's services. The faux mink fur lined plushness was almost as comfortable as it looked with proper lumbar and neck support for most common heights. That's when her appointment reminder on her PaDD went off. Jhu should be here by now... Standing from the couch, she called out to the computer. "Computer, please locate Commander t'Dharvanek."

"Commander t'Dharvanek is outside your office door." was the computer's reply. That told Quintina that Jhu probably wasn't willing to admit she needed help, though her request for an appointment said otherwise.

Her scheduled time for arrival came and went and still Jhu thought she might change her mind and walk away. After a few more minutes of this silent debate, she finally decided she was being silly and - before she could change her mind - swiftly tapped the doorchime button. There. No turning back now.

As soon as she pressed the chime, Quintina pressed the door release on the other side, smiling brightly. "Glad you could make it. Please, come in and have a seat. Can I get you anything?"

Jhu shook her head slightly as she came inside. There was plenty of seating, so she picked a chair that looked like it had the best support for her back, sinking into it. "Can't eat or drink anything for a while... too soon after I wake up and it just doesn't stay down."

"Ah the joys of pregnancy. Not something I'm entirely interested in for myself but it's still a wonderful thing." Quintina said, picking a nearby seat to sit in. "So what brings you here today?"

"Same thing that should have had me talking to counselors months ago," Jhu semi-grumbled, not entirely happy with being there even if it was her choice. "I've always had issues with sleeping. But since Talos IV it's not been the usual problems. It's... not something I like to talk about."

"Nightmares? Reliving the incident?" Quintina guessed.

It wasn't like it was terribly hard to guess, but Jhu nodded politely. "Not every night. But most nights."

"Including last night, I assume. I'm pretty sure I'm your neighbor." Quintina nodded sagely. "Do you feel up to telling me about it?"

"Guess I woke you up then. Sorry." If anything, that made Jhu feel more sheepish than simply coming in to see Quintina, knowing the other woman could hear if she yelled in her sleep. "It's... not so different from the official record of the incident..."

"Records rarely portray actual events well. I looked up the reports of a Commander Maica... Hers were very detailed and gave me a good idea of everything that happened. I'd still like to hear it from your point of view though, if you're willing." Quintina spoke softly in an attempt to soothe Jhu and encourage her to open up.

"I watched him fall," Jhu said quietly after a long pause, not quite looking at Quintina as she spoke. "I got to the edge of the cliff too late to catch him." For now, she'd leave out the part where sometimes the dreams turned into Nathan talking to her. It still sounded crazy, even to her.

Quintina had a few ideas on that though. "Does the dream ever vary? At what point does it force you awake?"

"There's... a few different ones. Sometimes it's just Talos IV... other times it starts off like a normal dream and then Nathan will be there... and it's like the whole world shatters and I'm really on Talos IV the whole time." Yeah, that totally made Jhu sound sound and stable.

"From the sounds of that, I think you're going to be one of my favorite friends." Quintina had a fascinated smile on her face, preferring 'crazy' people over normal ones. "Does he ever say anything?"

"Not always. But lately... well. It's difficult to explain." Jhu chewed slightly on her lower lip. "A few nights ago he told me he wasn't dead. Which I want desperately to believe... but I'm not sure. I mean... he even showed me what it looked like from the bottom of the cliff."

Quintina thought this over for a moment, calculating the odds of something she didn't want to mention... It might give her hope that he is still alive... "Your heritage is half Romulan, right? Interaction with Talosians have the possibility of unlocking mental abilities in many races. Or break their minds... Either way..." She didn't want to say more than that - she still probably said too much already.

"No, that happened with Species 8472," Jhu muttered a bit crossly, though she did admit to herself that what Quintina said did make sense. "If it weren't for them, I'd have nothing to go on though, as far as the dream thing goes."

"Then you're primed and ready to communicate telepathically. I recommend you meet with Seras, our Ops Chief and discuss that with her. For now though, if he's telling you in a dream that he's still alive, there's a distinct possibility that there's a chance his mind is still active."

Jhu didn't know Seras, but she nodded slightly. Working with a telepath sounded like it just might solidify whether she had any natural talent there or not. "You don't think I'm crazy then."

"On the contrary, I think you're very crazy. Just in a very wonderful way that will make you a better person and much more amazing overall." Quintina declared bluntly.

Jhu stared blankly at her for a moment and then giggled quietly. "Okay. I can live with that."

"Excellent," Quintina smiled brightly, satisfied so far. "Is there anything else in those dreams that you feel might be important?"

"Maybe... in the dreams I still wear security yellow. But I haven't worn yellow since I left the Katana on leave, and here I wear black." Jhu wasn't sure if that was significant or not, but it sure was strange.

"Hmmm... Foreshadowing, perhaps?" Quintina would have to think on that and even then, who knows if she could come up with the answer. "If I had full access to the Continuum, I could tell you but we'll have to figure it out ourselves."

"Who knows? But it's weird... I mean, sure. I'm still keeping an eye on that department until we get a chief of security assigned but it's not my department." Jhu wasn't entirely sure why she'd agreed to that either.

"Maybe you're subconsciously taking care of it for Nathan..." Quintina mused. "Or perhaps you feel beholden to that department for similar reasons."

"Maybe. I don't know." Jhu wasn't sure if she liked either of those possibilities, but at least if it was because she was doing it for Nathan that wasn't so bad.

"I think Intel black looks better on you. Command red maybe, but black is definitely better. It brings out your eyes." Quintina was off on a bit of a tangent now, in an attempt to lighten the mood in the room a little. "I wonder what you'd look like in a pale blue silk jumpsuit..."

"No. I don't do command... I left the first officer position on the Katana to be just a department head here. Command is too high stress... I can't take it." Jhu ignored the musing about the pale blue jumpsuit.

"Yeah, you're under enough stress as it is." Quintina said, still imagining Jhu with varying clothes. "And that's what I think is called a professional assessment."

Only if a professional assessment includes undressing your patient in your mind. Jhu kept that thought to herself, but she was no stranger to that sort of look. "Is there anything else... pertinent to why I came in?"

"One thing I'm wondering..." Quintina began, imagining Jhu in an EV suit. "Do you wear a sleep mask at night? If not, I highly recommend it."

"Haven't tried one... but I tend not to like things that mimic being restrained or blindfolded. I'm worried it would trigger my anxiety and then I wouldn't sleep at all."

"Ah, that would be an issue. Do you at least wear something comfortable?" Like a robe of furs? Quintina was definitely off on a tangent by this point. "I tend to sleep in soft robes myself. My tree seems to like it more."

"Your tree." Jhu had no idea what that meant and was not going any further than that. "Sweat pants and a loose t-shirt usually. Sometimes a sweatshirt if I'm really cold."

"That sounds pretty comfortable. And yes, I sleep with a tree. Is that so unusual?" Quintina blinked a few times and tilted her head to the side. "Or is it more unusual that a former Q would put even the happiness of a plant over her own desires?"

"I sleep with a cat and a tribble. I guess I can't judge." Jhu smiled a little.

"Everyone has their own thing. Have you ever worn a shawl?" Quintina asked curiously. "You don't seem the type, but you never know."

"I haven't. But I've been known to grab a blanket and wear it in that fashion if I'm trying to work or eat and I can't get warm." Jhu didn't want to admit it, but keeping warm had been a problem since she'd gotten pregnant. Other pregnant women were always hot, but she was always freezing.

"Probably from your half trill side. The warmest people I know with the coldest hands. Trill massages are like ice." Quintina commented offhandedly. "How about a heated uniform then? They're practically undetectable."

"Hadn't thought about that... I imagine it's less obvious than wearing a jacket over my uniform though." Jhu wasn't sure when she'd last seen anyone wear one of the heated uniforms - or even one of the thermal cold weather uniforms. They didn't seem popular, even among officers from warmer planets.

Quintina nodded knowingly. "They're a bit stiff at first, but the new ones are a lot lighter at least, thanks to a few Borg inspired innovations I'm told." Undoing the collar of her uniform and flipping it outward, she showed off the thermal seams inside of her own Starfleet issue teal civilian uniform. "Just be sure you get the arm measurements right."

"I might try it. It's taking a hell of a lot of willpower not to shiver miserably all day."

"If you get any guff for it, tell them I prescribed it." Quintina buttoned her uniform back up, her attention turning back to Jhu. "So... feel any better after having talked about things a little?"

"A little. I don't feel as shaky... and my stomach isn't so upset." It wasn't until she'd talked to Quintina that Jhu was able to link some of her morning sickness issues to the anxiety over losing Nathan and raising their daughter alone. At least now she knew that.

"That's good." Quintina said happily. "Is there anything else I can do to help?"

"No, I think I'm okay." And for once, Jhu meant that. She did feel okay.

"That's good," Quintina could see the change from when Jhu came in earlier and it warmed the cockles of one, if not both, of her hearts. "I hate to kick you out, but I think I might need a little time to prepare for my next appointment."

"Oh, that's okay. I need to try to eat something before I go to my office." Jhu got up from the chair and flashed Quintina a grateful smile as she headed for the door. "Thanks, by the way."

"You're very welcome. Come by anytime, ok?" Quintina said as she stood as well and offered Jhu a hug on her way out.

Jhu was not a touchy-feely sort, but something about Quintina's face told her that rejecting the hug would be a bad idea. "Sure," she said cheerfully, accepting the embrace and leaning into it for a moment. Just for that moment, it was like she was visiting Maica again.
Glimmers of Hope CO's Quarters After "The Longest 87 Days Ever" series
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Quintina hadn't thought she was totally insane for mentioning Nathan's apparent messages to her, and that had been encouraging. Now, Jhu had to convince Kris of something that would likely sound - to him - like she'd finally lost it for good after watching Nathan die. Still, she was determined to try.

Having tracked Kris down to his quarters, she jabbed multiple times at the door chime and knocked on the door for good measure.

Kristopher rolled out of his bed after being woken up so suddenly from the little bit of sleep he had been able to get. Groggy, Kris groaned as he approached the door. "Whaaaat?" asked Kris as he opened the door, looking up to see the dark hair and ivory features of his Chief Intelligence Officer. "Jhu?"

"Let me in. We need to talk." It looked like Kris was getting even less sleep than she was, but Jhu politely ignored his sleepy and unkempt appearance. "It's about Talos IV."

"Oh no no no" said Kris shaking his head. "You can come in and have some tea with me, but there's no way that I am discussing Talos IV" added Kerouac firmly.

Jhu glowered at him, the 'glare of death' that Merith had told her she was so good at. "Then you will listen to me talk about it."

"I'm a Captain not a therapist" countered Kris instantly. However, after what felt like a cold minute of silence, he put his arms around her and hugged her. "Come on in. Tell me what is on your mind, Jhu."

"I don't need a therapist. I need someone who trusts me." Jhu hugged him quickly and stepped inside, hoping and praying silently that Kris would not just listen. She needed him to believe her. "Don't ask questions. Just listen."

"I may not be a Ferengi, but I'm all ears" replied Kris with a warm smile. "I'll listen to what you have to say."

"Good." It was customary to sit when talking to someone, but Jhu was far too wound up for that. Pacing made her look like a crazy woman, but she felt like a rubber band that someone had pulled until it was about to snap. Pacing was about the only way to keep from doing just that. "I have dreams about that place. Not every night, but most nights. They're terrible... I wake up screaming, drenched in sweat. Sleeping in that twin size bed on Vulcan, I nearly fell out of it a few times."

Kris nodded. He understood and he could relate on some level. "Jhu, I have sleepless nights too. I think about Talos IV often, I thought about it a lot when in prison. The fact of the matter is it was a horrible experience for us especially."

He placed a hand on her shoulder and looked into her eyes. "I know that that Nathan is dead, but part of me has never accepted that. Part of me still tries to tell myself that he is alive. I haven't fully accepted the fact and it will take me a lot of therapy too."

Therapy?! Jhu gave him the deathly serious sort of look she'd learned from her mother. "He's not dead."

"What the hell do you mean he's NOT dead?" asked Kris. "Jhu, you and I both saw it. The others saw it too. Nathan died on Talos IV and it was MY fault. I served time in a Klingon prison for going to Talos IV and was held responsible for his death."

"Okay, think about what we saw for a moment and where we were." Jhu crossed her arms over her chest, holding her ground and - somehow - maintaining her composure well enough not to smack some sense into Kris's head. "How hard would it be for a single Talosian to convince us that Nathan's broken body lay at the foot of that cliff?"

Captain Kristopher Kerouac absorbed that information for a minute. It was all he needed. Fucking Talosians he thought to himself as he scurried across his living area and into the bedroom to grab his robe. He wrapped the warm deep red wine colored robe around himself took Jhu by the hand.

"Not hard enough" he said in a gruff and agitated tone. "He isn't dead is he? Come on, we're going to the Astrometrics lab!"

"They're teaching him things, how to use his brain more effectively and other nonsense like that. But it backfired on them... he reached out to me." Jhu wasn't fond of Astrometrics; she'd spent far too much time in there trying to figure out where Shira had come from, and it didn't bring back fond memories. Still, she was willing to put up with the headache - and any other unpleasant symptoms - in order to find Nathan. "It's hard to explain... he can only do it if I'm asleep. And I don't sleep much these days, between the nightmares and having to pee or throw up every half hour."

"Detour" he said as they began to walk down a corridor side by side at a brisk pace. Kris, gently veered her down one of the corridors sharply. "To Sickbay" he said firmly.

"But I'm not sick," Jhu protested, trying to pull free.

"Starfleet Command has supplied us with orders...there's a situation that we need to take care of in the Mus system near the Klingon Empire. The Camelot will be heading towards Kzin and to Hamelin. I wanted to consult the star charts, but I believe the two of us can make a detour. The Camelot can stop at K-7 and then proceed to Kzin while we take a shuttle to Talos IV" rambled the Captain.

"Okay, so we do that. But it doesn't have to be some big secret... I happen to know an admiral who will happily cover our asses to get his son back." Jhu finally managed to shake free of Kris's grip, retreating a few steps. "I don't see how going to sickbay is going to make that happen."

Kris sighed. "We need to get you into Sickbay though...we need to make contact with Nathan."

"It won't work if you sedate me, you ninny." Jhu sighed back at him. "I don't dream when I'm on a sedative. I need to dream for Nathan to get through... he needs a place to go."

Kris stopped like slamming on the breaks. He threw his hands up. "Don't they teach you anything in Starfleet. Sedatives suck...but Sickbay tends to have excellent hallucinogens" said Kris. "Not that I've ever broken into a medical bay in the dead of night and got" added Kris.

He looked at Jhu. "Drugs are bad and stay in school."

"You can't give me a hallucinogen! I'm pregnant!" Suddenly a bit worried for her daughter's health, Jhu retreated a few more steps, reflexively covering her rounded belly with her arms. As if that would somehow protect the baby from an injected substance, if Kris somehow produced one. "And I've never done drugs anyway. Caffeine and alcohol maybe, but getting high? Don't need it. I climb cliffs for that."

Kris sighed. "Damn it Jhu, why did you have to go and get yourself knocked up? It takes the whole fun out of things" added Kris.

It was then as though a light bulb went off in his head. "Ah! The Talosians won't just give up Nathan. We'll have to come up with a plan. He is too valuable to them by what you tell me. They like their little lab rat way too much."

"It wasn't intentional," Jhu groused at him. "And no, they won't give him up. We'll have to take him by force." That idea would have appealed to her before the baby entered the picture, but now just thinking about forcing their way in or starting a fight made her woozy. She swayed slightly, putting her hand on the bulkhead for support.

Kris did his best to help stabilize her. "Like I said, Nathan is their lab rat. He's an elite specimen for them to study, but what happens if the rat longer useful for their experiments."

Jhu gave him a wounded look at the mention of killing Nathan. "No. No, I'm not doing that. Come up with something else."

"Hey, it's not the greatest plan, but it will work. We can bring him back from the dead. The Talosians would have no use for a corpse...they'd probably just let us 'claim our dead'" explained Kris.

"I don't like it." Violence was usually right up Jhu's alley. She was starting to think her baby must be a pacifist.

"You don't love aren't overly thrilled with the thought of killing Nathan and bringing him back form the dead" countered Kris. "However, let's face it...we either take him away from there non-violently or we cause a huge mess and draw lots of attention on ourselves, perhaps cause a war that the Federation cannot afford."

Kris looked at her for any sort of counter. "I don't know about you, but I am not looking to be put in prison...again" added Kris. "If you want to go lead some sort of private assault on Talos IV, I never heard or saw anything...but I can't go with you."

Jhu rolled her eyes at him. "I'm not quite that stupid, and I'd never survive an all-out assault right now. I can't walk down a corridor without getting dizzy and nauseous."

"So...Can we kill your boyfriend?" asked Kris way too gleefully than any sane person would have been.

Jhu groaned a bit but nodded anyway. "Yes. Now please stop talking about it or I might have to puke on you."

"Great, now we do need to go to Sickbay. I may need to also swing by the Science Labs. I need to brush up on my toxins...primarily ones we can deliver by air"

"No, I'll be okay. I just need to sit down." Familiar by now with these seemingly random waves of vertigo and nausea, Jhu had figured out that sitting down for a minute went a long way toward making her feel better.

"Sit then. Take whatever time you need...catch up with me in Science Labs?" asked Kris as he wanted to get down there as soon as he could.

Jhu nodded slightly. "That's fine. I'll catch up in a few minutes."
The Longest 87 Days Ever *Part 3* The night after part 2
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*The next night*

Nathan sat in the lotus position in a familiar setting, Vara's bath house. This holodeck program had been something that him and Jhu had used a lot at the beginning of their relationship.

Immediately this dream was different. Instead of one of her usual dreams about the baby, Jhu found herself wandering into the Lagashi bath house simulation... and of course Nathan was there. Strangely, she was aware of the dream, but there were no glimmerings of nightmares lurking beneath the water or behind the rocks. "Okay... this is new..."

When he was aware that she was there, Nathan opened his eyes. When his eyes fell on her he smiled brightly and stood. "You found me. That was unexpected." He said as he made his way over to her. But he didn't move too fast or make a move to touch her, he just stopped about 2 feet in front of her. "That must mean you believe me. I was so worried it would take to long to convince you and we would lose our connection."

Jhu nodded slightly. "Yeah. I believe you. It's just... weird, you know? Watching someone die but then they find you somehow."

"You don't really think I would let a fall do me in did ya?" Nathan said with a chuckle. He was nervous to reach out to her, so instead he opened his arms to her hoping she would take the invitation.

"In my defense it looked real," Jhu protested, smiling a little. Though she was still mildly wary that this could be a Talosian trick, she went to him, accepting the embrace she'd longed to have since Nathan's apparent death.

Nathan's arms wrapped around Jhu and held her to him. He buried his nose in her hair and breathed in deep, he had longed for this moment as much as she had. "Can we make a deal?" He asked into the top of her head.

"Sure," Jhu murmured back. "What kind of deal?"

"Next time I get to rescue you." Nathan replied with a bit of a whine to his voice.

Jhu blinked as she absorbed the request, and then she laughed. A bright, cheerful REAL laugh. "Okay. I can live with that."

Nathan leaned back a little and looked down at her. "Good cause I do not make a very good damsel in distress." He said to her with a slight chuckle.

"I don't know... you seem pretty good at it to me..." Jhu grinned broadly at his expense.

"Anything to make you feel needed." He teased back. "I know this is a dream and all, but what's with the gold uniform?" Nathan finally got to ask the question he had been wanting to ask since he broke into Jhu's dreams.

"Oh that... that part's not a dream. It's real..well. It was real anyway. After you 'died', Starfleet combined Security and Intelligence on the Katana." As she answered him, Jhu's voice became uncharacteristically soft. "I wear black again on the Camelot." Honestly, she wasn't sure why she still wore yellow in the dreams.

"Well they had better have put you in charge." Nathan said, but he was joking. Who else would take one such a task. "At least they had the most capable person leading the way."

"You're sweet, but I hated it. It's not what I'm meant for, you know?"

"Yeah I know. I'm sorry." Nathan said to her as he gently rubbed her back. But there was another topic that excited and scared him more then what was going on around the ship. "So... we're going to have a baby huh?" With everything that had been happening around Nathan, the simple weight of that fact had not really settled onto him yet. But for the first time since he was left behind, Nathan was starting to feel relief now that he had contacted Jhu. As he spoke the words he could feel a weight come crashing down onto his shoulders, but at the same time he felt a tingle of excitement run through his body.

Smiling a bit, Jhu nodded. "Found out right after Talos IV, but Maica had known for days without telling me, sneaky little green brat." Of course, Jhu wouldn't have believed her if she'd said anything.

Nathan smiled a bit also and leaned back into her. His hold on her tightened as he embraced her. "I love you Jhu." He simply said. Then he suddenly pulled back and looked down at her again . "Camelot?"

"Yeah..." Jhu bit her lip, not sure she wanted to tell the story of how she'd ended up on a different ship with none other than Kristopher Kerouac. "I was really terrible at being the chief of security."

"I don't understand...." Nathan said with a questioning look on his face.

"Well." Jhu sighed a bit, not at all fond of retelling this particular story. "We went to Evora to stabilize their tectonic grid thing. I don't know specifics... none of it made sense to me. Some crazy Reman woman in a half-built Scimitar tried to keep us from going to the surface, we went anyway, and she sent her security people to stop us. I didn't make sure R'tame got under cover... I knew how dedicated he was and that he usually had to be physically dragged away. But I didn't do it, and he got shot. And then the crazy Reman bitch tried to blow up Whiskers and Jenni."

"Slow down..." Nathan said with a worried look. "Are you safe?" After Jhu's and M'Rayr's spat where he almost killed her, Nathan never trusted the cat. "Where is Kris?" was the next question. Even through his own anger at the man, he was still one of the very few people he would trust to be looking out for Jhu and their unborn child.

"Of course I'm safe. As for Kris... they sent him to Rura Penthe. However." Jhu grinned a bit. "You'll never guess who the captain of the Camelot is."

"Kris.." Nathan said, a little more of a groan then he meant to have touched his voice. Kris was very lucky that Nathan had a lot of respect for him and trusted him, but it was time to Nathan to find out if the feeling was mutual. " Good, you two can come get my ass." He said with resolve.

"I have to convince him I'm not crazy first," Jhu grumbled, though she grinned a bit wider all the same. "If he won't listen, I'll call your dad."

"Oh! My dad!" Nathan exclaimed. "Good call Jhu." Nathan was practically vibrating with excitement at the thought of getting off Talos. He actually had to take a moment to focus on his breathing, and gain control of his emotions, otherwise he risked waking himself.

"I figure he won't care about us breaking general order seven to rescue his oldest son..." Jhu giggled a bit, wondering how she'd convince Kris that all this was real. "And if anyone objects, he can set my mom loose on them."

"You have been in Star Fleet long enough to know that Admirals do not get told no very often." Nathan said, settling himself back against Jhu. "I don't want to think of the fuss your mother could stir up. If shes anything like you..." Nathan trailed off.

"She's worse," Jhu replied cheerfully. "Where do you think I got it from?" Already she could feel the dream fading, and quite suddenly Nathan was out of reach. "I'll talk to Kris," she called to him. "Please stay safe..."

The Arrangement Lounge November 2392
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It was rather late, but Stace was still in the lounge. For the first time, Quintina wasn't available to sleep with. He had been busy and hadn't made other arrangement. Rather than go to his empty quarters, he decided he'd just stay in the lounge and maybe doze for a couple of hours. He could deal with lack of sleep a lot easier than he could deal with isolation. The lounge was mostly empty, and the one group of enlisted were so nervous that the XO was right there that he'd moved a table away. So he was now alone and working on paperwork, a glass of warm rice milk beside him. He had a distaste for most carbs, but as a human he couldn't be strictly carnivorous, regardless of his preferences.

On the other hand, Captain Kristopher Kerouac's dietary preferences were tried and true vegetarianism. He was a devote herbivore before being sent to the Klingon Prison, but while in prison, he had to eat meat in order to survive. This was much to his displeasure. However, now free from prison, Kris immediately returned to his meat free and blood free diet.

Kris had tried to sleep in his quarters, but it was too quiet and too empty. He had never had the problem before, but after being in prison where the Klingons made hellish noises at all hours and Kris was never alone...things were different now aboard the Camelot. He had tried to play music, even Klingon opera to get to sleep, but it did not help matters. In the end, Kris had found himself wandering the corridors until he came into the lounge.

Entering the nearly empty lounge, Kris quickly spotted a big meaty lump of First Officer at a table with some sort of milk. Kris first went to the replicator and ordered himself a tall glass of ube boba. He then walked over to the table and sat down. He looked at his First Officer and smiled.

"Bar of latinum for your thoughts?" asked Kris jokingly. "Shouldn't you be tucked in and asleep at this hour, Commander?" added Kris.

Stace smiled in return. "My thoughts are very dull. I was contemplating a serving of chocolate cake, and I didn't want to sleep alone. My sleeping partner had other plans for the evening. What about you? Captain needs to be bright eyed and bushy tailed and all that."

"You good Sir have me mistaken for the Captain of the Katana or our Chief Flight Controller, they need bushy tails" joked Kris with a chuckle. "If my eyes get any brighter, the crew will begin to question my sobriety" added Kris.

Stace chuckled in amusement.

Kris held up his drink. The lilac purple liquid and the eggplant to black colored balls floating around and settling to the bottom. "This is my dessert for the night. It also happens to be serving as my beverage. Multi purpose...just how I like it" said Kris. "Sleeping partners? Seeing someone already, Commander?"

"It looks vile by the way." Stace commented light hearted. "No, but being pack oriented means I really don't do well sleeping alone. It's simply a sleeping arrangement, nothing more. I usually cultivate several options so I don't end up in the lounge in the middle of the night, I just haven't had the time yet."

Kris considered the man's explanations and then weighed his own words carefully. "This sleeping It isn't romantic or sexual in any nature? Does it matter who you make the arrangements with? Whether they be female, male, or even other?"

Stace assumed the man was asking out of curiosity, so explained. "It can be. I mean I like sex as much as the next man." He grinned impishly. "But the sleeping partner, no there doesn't have to be a romantic or sexual connotation attached to it. The more the merrier, but just sleeping with somebody keeps me sane."

In a lowered voice, Kris looked at Stace. "I..uh..I know someone who is having a difficult time getting to sleep since being released from a Klingon prison" said Kris.

He kind of shrugged and took a deep sip of his boba. "Would you be interested in being his sleeping partner or he yours?"

Stace was silent for a moment as he digested the new information. It made sense once he thought about it. "I would be fine with it, but it's completely natural for me. Would you be ok with it?"

"YES!" shouted Kris, his voice cracking quite a bit. The few people who were in the lounge had drawn all eyes on him. He lowered his voice again. "Yeah, sure. Why not? I can't sleep and I think it frankly is because I am not sharing a room with anyone."

Stace's grin widened at the shout. "I understand that completely. You ready for some sleep, and you better not hog the covers, that's my job."

Kris nodded and smiled. "I am ready, and I'll try not to hog the covers. Though I have a tendency to do so and to...well, kind of cuddle. The prison that I was at, Rura Penthe is basically a frozen tundra. It gets extremely cold there...mentally, I still am kind of conditioned to try to keep warm."

"I have the same problem. Winters were harsh and body heat was really the only way to stay warm." Stace downed the last of his rice milk with a childish face then stood up with a yawn.

"To bed with you, Commander. That is an order" said Kris jokingly as he too finished his drink.

Stace just smiled and headed out of the lounge.

Kris followed after Stace.
Fatherhood Captain's Quarters November 2392
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The starship Camelot had been mostly crewed by now. Only two essential spots were left vacant. Chief Medical Officer and Chief Tactical Officer. Captain Kristopher Kerouac knew that he would have to fill the positions soon, or risk having to leave drydock with two Department Heads short. It was something that he may have to live with.

In his quarters, Kristopher was still settling in. He was unpacking, but not things that were of any significant value to him. He had lost everything when sent to prison. All personal items were left on Katana or had been 'misplaced' over the past several months. The holopictures he had of the crew, or Shira and of his Katana family. He had none of them. He did not even have anything to remember his ex boyfriend, Doctor Liam Cohen by.

All he had these days were his memories, and those were questionable at times. Over the years, he had multiple concussions due to some sketchy piloting incidents, having been tortured by the Breen, the Cardassians, and Romulans, mind fucked by the Talosians, somewhat possessed by a Pah-Wraith after touching a Bajoran Orb, and brutally beaten by Klingons. His mind was never the same. There were times that even though he saw Nathan Tonkin die on Talos IV, part of him never could accept that. Part of him still felt Nathan was alive.

As he sat in his quarters drinking a hot cup of hojicha and reading through the Camelot's orders. His experience a helmsmen and navigator was coming in hand as he himself was plotting the Camelot's course to later run by his Chief Flight Controller and with Jhu. Soon, the door chime rang and he sat the hot tea down on the coffee table and put the PaDD aside.

"Please, come in" he called out welcomingly to the unknown guest.

Merith entered the quarters looking much better than she had on the bridge. After some much needed rest, she looked and felt revitalized, yet there was still this weariness that hung about her, like she was tired tired of carrying some secret and was ready to get it off her chest. In a way, she had been carrying something with her, and even now she was second guessing whether this was the right thing to do, but she had set this course for a reason and she would not be deterred.

"Kris, are you settling in alright?" she asked as she approached the man where he sat.

Kris lit up slightly when Merith entered his quarters. "Oh Wonderful now that you're here, Merith" replied Kris with a small smile. "Come over here" he said, patting the seat on the 'love seat' next to him. "I am settling in just fine...but I could use some advice with plotting a course" added Kris.

Merith smiled warmly to see such enthusiasm in him. She sat beside him, smoothing out her dress as she peered over to what he was doing. "Shouldn't you be doing this with your pilot?" she asked teasingly.

Kris flashed a playful glare at her. "I am just drafting it up. I'll discuss it with him when I am ready. Then we can finalize things." He pointed to the screen on the PaDD "They want us in the Beta Quadrant. There's a lot to explore out here and we eventually will be heading towards the Delta Quadrant border."

Merith nodded with a small smile in her eyes, then she continued looking over the flight plans. "Looks straightforward enough," she commented idly. "I would, however, take a detour around this sector," she continued, pointing out a spot along the path he had plotted out. "In our universe, I did a study of dark novae in this sector, caused some unusual warp field fluctuations. I don't know if the phenomenon exists in this universe, but best to play it cautious until you've run your engines in properly."

The Captain shook his head and scoffed. "You know me well enough to know when you tell me to avoid somewhere to to stay clear of an area...that I am likely going to head directly for it."

"Oh really?" Merith said with a sideways glance. "Then you shouldn't go by Sickbay, there's nothing there for you to see," she stated simply.

Kris looked at Merith curiously. "Did you bring me something? You didn't happen to smuggle Doctor Cohen aboard with you, did you?"

"Hmm, what? I didn't do anything," Merith said far too innocently.

"Okay...I can tell when something is on your mind, Merith" said Kris shaking his head. "I almost married you once upon a time. So, tell me what is on your mind."

Merith sighed and took the PaDD from his hands and set it on the table. "It would be easier to show you," she said softly, taking his hand in hers and leading him out of his quarters.

"Well, then...lead the way" added Kris as Merith was already doing it. They would eventually end up in Sickbay. What is she going to show me wondered Kris. When they did arrive in the Sickbay...Kris was dumbfounded.

He looked at Merith a pointed at the strange sack like pod attached to another leafy plant. It was clearly alien and Kris was unsure of what was going on. He then turned to Merith and backed away from her slowly. "What the HELL is THAT THING doing on MY SHIP and WHAT IS IT?! Do I need to call security?"

Merith held a finger to her lips with a gentle shush and approached the pod. "Keep your voice gentle, she can hear everything going on around her," Merith informed Kris as she gently touched the pod. The strange plant seemed to respond to the touch with almost a shiver of its leaves. "You must be very careful not to stress her too much, she is quite delicate and not in the best of health right now..."

Throwing his hands up the air in a sign of defeat, he lowered his voice and approached Merith. Kris reached out and grabbed her by the arm and yanked her towards him, turning her around rather forcefully. "I don't have time for the cryptic old mysterious Ba'ku woman routine, Merith. What is it and what do you mean by she?"

"This is the second stage of gestation for the Arboreal race you encountered in the Gamma Quadrant. And 'she' is the life inside that you are now responsible for," Merith informed him softly yet firmly. She pulled her arm free and returned to the pod where she began speaking to it in a hushed tone. "Don't worry, little one, he'll come around..."

"Responsible for?" muttered Kris unsure what the hell Merith meant. " this is Shira's child? If that's true then why isn't she taking care of her offspring?"

"Because she is dead," Merith said sadly. "She and her mate took a shuttle to Dakala for some personal time, but they ran into a plasma storm and were forced to crash land. The rescue teams who recovered their bodies said that Lieutenant Verak most likely died on impact, but Shira lived long enough to give birth and grow the pod for her child before her strength failed her. Starfleet wanted to transport the pod back to Starfleet Medical on Earth, but when I found out about what happened, I interceded. This little one deserved better than some unfeeling lab where she would be poked and prodded and studied..."

Dead? Kris' heart sank as his body instantly grew weaker as he stumbled towards the pod and collapsed down onto his knees and rested his hand and head against the pod. He sobbed and whimpered as tears ran down his face. He could not look at Merith.

"She was so young, Merith. They both were. How can something like this happen? Verak was excellent pilot...he should have been able to keep them safe. Oh God. She died so alone...away from Katana and all the people who loved her. She must have so scared...seeing Verak die and then-" Kris could not finish. His throat tightened and he struggled to even breathe.

He turned his head and looked up at Merith with his eyes red and puffy. They stung and were irritated. Tears were still streaming down his face. "Why didn't anyone tell me? I should have been there...her body. No! What did they do with her body, Merith? Her people! Her people...they won't even know what happened to her."

"You forget, Kris, her people would never know what happened to her, they are in another universe," Merith reminded him. All she could do for a long while was kneel beside Kris and put her arms around him to offer him some comfort as he processed this information. It brought tears to her eyes to see him so torn up about little Shira's death. He really had adored her, and that's why Merith made the choice to appoint him as the child's guardian, because she knew this child would be adored in his care.

"They were young, and it's not right that they should die in this way, it never is... I sent you a message myself, but I later found out that messages to and from the penal colony were being blocked, I never learned who was blocking them or why," she said softly as she held him, rocking gently as she ran her fingers through his hair to help soothe him. "Their bodies were taken to Vulcan to be honored in Vulcan traditions. Verak's parents never got together in this universe and since Shira couldn't go back to her world, they had no one to claim them, but he was still Vulcan and she was his mate, so the Temple accepted the honor of interning their remains. The funeral dirge was beautiful, I think Shira would have liked it."

Kristopher found a little comfort in Merith's words. "Were still in orbit of Vulcan" replied Kris, he wiped his eyes and looked at Merith. "Do you know which temple? Could you take me?"

"Yes, I will take you there," Merith said, holding him tightly. "But first, I need to know that you will take care of Shira's child. If you can't do it, that's fine, I'll take her back to my world with me, but I think you are what she needs, and she is what you need right now."

"Merith, why? Why are you leaving and going back to Ba'Ku?" asked Kris. "Of course I will take care of Shira's child."

"I am tired, Kris... You know how much I hate politics and I have had to do enough of it recently to last several lifetimes. The universe outside my world moves much too fast for my liking and I am tired," she confessed softly. Then she sighed and let him go, dusting off her dress as she rose. "I will stay, for a while anyway... Once I'm sure you won't go off and do something stupid that requires me to save you again I'll retire, and once Shira's baby makes it to term then I'll go back to my world."

"Oh shush" countered Kristopher. "You are young and spry. There is absolutely no reason for you to retire now or anytime soon. You should not be going back home. You should not be waiting around here for me to make should be back commanding a starship."

"Despite what my ranks says, I'm no starship Captain, I'm a scientist at heart and I always will be," she replied as she adjusted a small sensor on the pod that was recording the child's heart rate, brainwave patterns, and other vital data. "Although maybe I will retire and go back to school... I could get my Doctorate and go around the galaxy without a care in the world, bossing around poor ship Captains like yourself... that could be fun."

Kris crossed his arms. "You already go about bossing me around. You just choose to be more playfully coy and manipulative about it, Ma'am" replied Kerouac.

He could not see Merith just going into retirement. "I've read your logs, Merith. You were a fine Commanding Officer of the Pandora. You should take another command and for longer this time."

"Need I remind you that I would still be in Command of the Pandora were it not for our little transwarp jump," Merith said with a somewhat strained tone. 'And why was I even on the Katana? to get you out of trouble, big surprise! I could be with Will instead of here.... But then who would be here to keep an eye on everyone else? Who would have saved Shira's baby? "Look, see how her brainwaves react when you spoke? I think she likes the sound of your voice," she said to try to get onto another subject. "You should try talking to her. She needs to get to know her father's voice."

Kris chuckled. "Yes yes yes, I know you saved my ass a hundred times over and I appreciate it very much. All hail Merith, Goddess of ass saving. And Of course She likes my voice...Chicks dig me!"

"Stars above, I'm regretting this decision already..." Merith replied an exasperated sigh. "Just make sure you take time to talk to her often. I know it's strange talking to a plant with a baby pod, but she can hear you and I think it's actually part of her development at this stage, I think she needs the audio stimulation."

Kris looked at Merith with a seriousness that he rarely ever showed anyone. "Merith, I promise you that I will take care of this child. I will do everything in my power to ensure the child is safe and grows up knowing love and knowing that Verak and Shira were beautiful people who would have been great parents."

Merith smiled, knowing the truth and sincerity of his words. "I do not know how long she will be inside this pod. Thankfully, Shira had the forethought to speak with the Chief Medical Officer about how things work, so I have an idea of what to expect in the coming days, but I do not know how long it will be until the child emerges from the pod."

"I'll make sure the pod is watched round the clock" said Kris.

"I've also taken the liberty of setting up a nursery next to Sickbay. It's still being finished, but you and Jhu will have a safe place for your wee ones while you're on duty. And a nurse specializing in early childhood development should be arriving any day now to tend to them in the nursery," Merith added to assure him that she had covered all the bases.

"Wonderful, Merith. Just smashing. You have already done the hard work for me" replied Kris with a chuckle. "If you don't mind...I'd like some alone time with the child."

"Of course," Merith said with a nod. "And when you're ready to go to the Temple, come find me and I'll show you the way." With that, she left Sickbay to give Kris and his child the privacy they needed.

"I will. Thank you, Merith" responded Kris as he gently touched the pod.
Old and new stomping grounds
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One bit of paperwork Stace was glad to see cross his desk. The Chief Security Officer had finally arrived. Stace finished the glass of water on his desk and headed down to main security to meet the man.

An audio recording of a sports broadcast played quietly in the office as TJ sat behind his desk shining his boot. It had scuffed sometime during the last drill. Looking up from his handiwork he notice Commander Brooks had entered. TJ stood quickly and at attention. "Commander," he announced.

"Captain." Stace nodded. He'd only worked with Marines once, but he'd found them to be a pretty formal lot. "I wanted to welcome you aboard the Camelot. How are things standing with Security so far?"

"My predecessor trained them well, sir. Permission to put my boot on," TJ asked.

Stace poorly suppressed a laugh. The man really was a marine. "Of course Captain, at ease please."

TJ sat down and pulled his boot on. "As I said my predecessor trained them well. However there is room for improvement as with all things."

Stace sat down as well, giving TJ a nod. "I've looked over the personnel files for Security. I think you have a good staff, but is there any position you feel needs extra people, or a specialist? When I was Chief Security, I liked having my own yeoman. Paperwork is like a giant leech."

"I am not accustomed to having a Yeoman, I think I can manage." Jake looked over his own manifest list. "Our Master-At-Arms retired last week, I could promote some one but I would prefer a more seasoned officer at the position. They would make a better assistant when I can't be around to train personnel."

"I'm sure we can find somebody on the shipyards or on the planet." Stace commented. Anything else?"

"No that is it," the Novan answered. "But I would like to make sure that all rank officers are up to date with their certifications. It would make my life easier when everyone is on board."

"Of course. and I'll set the example for you." Stace grinned. "Phaser or hand to hand?"

"Phaser proficiency. Your hand-to-hand is okay."

Stace raised a brow. "Oh? just ok?" He teased. At least the Marine didn't have a problem speaking his mind, Stace respected it.

"Well I mean it doesn't need to be updated," for the first time the Security Officer smiled. "You scored higher than most officers in your field so I won't need to go tumble around the holodeck."

Stace smiled in return, but got back to business. "Whenever is convenient for you, I'll make the time. I could actually use the practice, it's been awhile."

"Good," Jake then shifted forward in his chair. "So you are a CSec too?"

"Well I was. I started in Security before I started wearing red." Stace responded.

"Well red suits you. Yellow can be very, alarming if you ask me. That's why I like green. It reminds me of Christmas." Jake smiled again this time it felt awkward to him as if it was something foreign.

It took Stace a moment to get it, the red and green of Christmas. It wasn't a holiday he'd grown up with. "You think the mustard of security is more alarming than marine green? speaking of which, how do you think it's going to go with naval officers under you?"

"So far there hasn't been any problems. I think there is mutual respect. Besides, they haven't gone through a 2 A Day Training with me yet. By then I think they'll be willing to jump on a grenade for me." Thomas laughed.

Stace laughed. "We joke, but it's probably true. One thing I miss about Security is the camaraderie."

An officer walked into the room. He stayed by the door waiting to be ordered to walk further in. "Ensign Wylde you have that report for me?"

"Yes sir," Wylde said. Jake called him to walk in and put a PaDD on his desk. Once the young officer left Jake turned to Stace, "one thing I miss is having a door to my office. But then again, if an emergency should arise I'd hate to be locked up in here."

"It's a trade off for sure, but I think it's worth it. I'd like to remove my door, but it's not an option. Anyway, I'll let you get back to work, but if you need anything, just let me know."

"Thank you, sir." He quickly returned to his feet. "I will get in touch with you I am sure." He reached out to give the officer a handshake.

Stace immediately shook the offered hand. "Good day Captain." He smiled, looking around the security department before leaving. It was his old stomping ground after all.

When in need
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Stace checked his messages regularly, it was a fact of life that most of his job was paperwork, normally he was fine with it . He'd eventually gotten a knack for it, and simply muddled through it. But dealing with this space station put a whole new level to red tape. He didn't know if it was the proximity to Vulcan, or fear of getting involved with the fledgling Manticore Class, but whatever it was his request for an extra engineering team hadn't even been looked at.

"Oh Faldercarb, I don't think so." He cursed out loud, even if only to himself. He marched out of his office, calling Lieutenant Seras as his office doors closed behind him. "Brooks to Seras." He tapped his combadge, already on his way to the turbolift.

"Seras here," her synthesized voices chimed out over the comm. She pushed away from her console and leaned back in her chair with a stretch as she rubbed at her eyes. If she had to look at one more line of code, her eyes were going to bug out of her head!

"Would you like to help me get us some more engineers?" Stace asked with a mischievous grin you could almost hear over the comm.

"Umm.." Seras sat up straight. But Jenni had only just put in the requests for more Engineers, he was already working on it? And why did he need help? And what did that tone mean? Somehow, she got the sense that trouble was afoot. "I'm game," she said, not 100% certain she'd used that term correctly or that she was ready to cause trouble, yet she found herself logging out of the computer terminal and heading out of Engineering. "Where should I meet you?" she asked.

"Transporter Room One." Stace replied. "Oh, bring an extra PaDD please." He realized he'd taken off without one.

"Got it!" Seras replied and tapped her communicator off. She requisitioned a new PaDD and hopped a lift straight for Transporter Room One.

Stace grinned when he saw Seras. "Just follow my lead." He was already standing on the transporter pad. He pulled back his shoulders just a bit and puffed out his chest. Accentuating his already large build.

Seras couldn't help but cut a glance at him as he made himself look impressive. He was already quite nice looking, but he looked sharp once he'd puffed up a bit, really quite intimidating. Not that she was actually intimidated, but she could see how others might be. She made no attempts to make herself look more impressive; at 5'3" with a ponytail and a chipper grin, there wasn't much to be impressed about.

They beamed down and Stace led them straight to the engineering area of the the shipyards. "Petty Officer!" He barked, finding the quartermaster. Before the petite Deltan could get a word out Stace bulldozed on. "Where's my engineering team?" He held out his hand imperiously towards Seras, hoping she'd play along.

At first, Seras had no idea what was going on or why he was holding out his hand, but he looked really mean and intimidating towards that poor Petty Officer! It was actually kinda cool, for a moment she could have sworn he actually barked with the force of his yell. Then she remembered the PaDD he asked her to bring and made the connection with his outstretched hand. Oh, okay! She quickly snapped it out hand handed it to her superior in a very aloof manner. She still had no idea what was going on, but this was kind of fun!

"Propulsion Specialist, Slipstream Beta Team, the list goes on Petty Officer. This team was requested some time ago, The USS Camelot is waiting. This oversight is going to push their departure time back, so I ask again, where are my engineers?!"

The Deltan started pushing buttons on her PaDD furiously. "I have no such request sir. It seems that."

Stace cut her off. "Oh never mind that! Point me in the direction of your boss's boss!"

"No no that won't be necessary. Ensign Pohl and his team are between assignments. The Deltan Petty Officer gave them the teams location and Stace marched off in that direction, only glancing back to make sure Seras was following.

Seras was right at his side, and as soon as they were out of earshot of the Deltan, she couldn't help but giggle. "Well that was fun! Are we going to do it again with Ensign Pohl's team?" she asked.

Stace had withheld his own chuckle until they were out of earshot. "That was fun, but I wish I'd know the quartermaster was a Deltan, I'd have taken a cold shower first." Stace took a deep breath and squared his shoulders again. He then took the team data that was now on his PaDD and signed off on it. He wasn't technically assigned to the shipyards, but technicalities. "Now that we greased the wheels though, Pohl's team should be easy. Do you want to give them their new orders?" Stace asked with a grin.

"Oh, but you do this 'intimidation' and 'authority' thing so much better than me," Seras said sheepishly. "But I'll give it a try if you think I can do it."

"Go for it, I bet you'll be great." Stace followed her, then stopped a few feet shy of the engineering team. He stood tall and crossed his arms across his chest and just gave off a cold look, not even really a glare, more like an iceberg. Let Seras have some fun, he was here for backup.

Seras paused for a moment, uncertain how to approach the group of Engineers. She couldn't do the icy, intimidation like Stace could, but she had her own ways of leaving people flustered. Ok, so no sense in trying to be like Stace, just play up her own strengths! With a small nod, she took the PaDD back from Stace and marched right up to Pohl and station crew.

"Ensign Pohl," Seras said somewhat sharply. "You are Ensign Pohl, yes?" she asked, but gave him no chance to answer. Next came the lying part. As a Cairn, she wasn't all that good at lying, so she just went as fast as she could hoping no one would notice. Well, not as fast as she could, that would obviously look fake, but briskly, fast enough to ensure they didn't have too much time to think about what it was she was saying. "I have you and your team down as scheduled to report to the Camelot to assist in the construction," she said, pretending to read her pad with non-existent transfer orders. "Please tell me one of you is a computer specialist because the station has been saying they would send us one for weeks and we really needs some help sorting out some bugs in the firmware."

"I am Ensign Pohl ma'am, but I am unaware of any orders." Pohl stood looking at Seras.

"Well, you have orders," Seras assured him with a nod, accessing some specification files on the Camelot to make her look busy. "Seriously, one of you had better be a computer specialist or I'm going to be filing a complaint with the station Commandant. If we can't resolve our firmware issues, we're not getting out of spacedock on time."

"Petty Officer Gre'Ton is a computer specialist. Where is the Camelot docked?" Pohl asked.

Seras looked up from her PaDD, casting him a dubious glance. "Wow, you really didn't receive the orders!" she said, sounding surprised. "The Camelot, the Manticore-Class ship near completion in the primary drydock. Even if you weren't assigned to work there, you should at least know which ships are in drydock. That kind of irresponsibility would never pass on Utopia Planitia..." she grumbled as she turned on her heals and marched away, sending a crooked grin to Stace.

Stace waited until they were well out of ear shot then chuckled. "I bet they show up on Camelot within the hour. That was perfect. Well done."

"I was worried I would slip up. Dishonesty is a foreign concept to Cairn, and while I grasp the concept, I was worried I would not be able to... sell it?" Seras said, the last part with uncertainty as it was another one of those idioms she often got confused about.

"Yes, that's the saying." Stace assured her with a smiling. "Don't tell anybody your XO encouraged any dishonesty." He quipped. "It's not like the stardock can't spare a team of engineers, we just encouraged them into the right direction."

"And that's why I didn't mind playing along," Seras replied with a smile. She held her hands folded behind her back with her PaDD as they walked. "I wasn't lying about the firmware issues; they're bad enough that if we can't get them resolved then there's no chance of being cleared to leave drydock. But now that we have at least one computer specialist ready to report in, I feel confident we can make our deadline."

"With Matthews heading the work, I'm sure engineering will be fine now."
Stace smiled. "Now, we need to celebrate. I'm starving! You want to go grab something to eat?"

Seras glanced at the chrono around her wrist to check the time. Yeah, she could spare a few minutes for a celebratory bite to eat. "Yeah, I could stand to eat," Seras said with a nod. "Commander Matthews is doing an exemplary job considering what she has to work with, but we definitely needed the assistance."
wolves and cats oh my Lounge
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A busy lounge was just the kind of place Stace liked to be. He had a plate with a truly impressive steak on it, and a glass of water. As he looked around he spotted a Caitan. Ensign M'aarra, he put a name to the face. He hadn't finished going over personnel files, but he had finished the Senior Officers and Department Heads. He headed towards the man. "Good evening Ensign."

Atom had been leaning way over the lounge bar and nitpicking about his drink, his long, tufted tail swishing back and forth behind him, when he heard what he thought might be directed at him. He turned his head slightly to catch the human in his peripheral. When it registered that it was his executive officer he yanked himself back from the bartop and turned smartly, his ears laid back in embarrassment. "Sir, yes sir..." The long tail never stopped moving, and Atom saluted his senior officer. The man was cute. Adam did not usually find himself all that attracted to humans, but this one was definitely easy on the eyes.

"We're both off duty. It's Stace. Care to join me? The replicator makes a damn good steak. I'd offer you some of mine but it's cooked."

Atom made a noise that sounded like a mix between a laugh and a purr and a wide, toothy grin spread across his muzzle, making the short fur on his nose stand on end. "Steak... sounds like just what I need." He reached behind himself and snagged his drink from the bar. "And thank you, Stace. It's Atom." Cute or not he was still Atom's senior officer. "I'd very much like to join you... but do not want any of your overcooked steak. I will order one of my own." His grin never changed, ears lifted slowly to a more relaxed position, and his tail continued to flick back and forth behind him. "Much prefer it raw and it's better for me that way. Did you know that cooking the meat is actually bad for a Caitian and is the leading cause of heart disease among my people. My own mother had heart replacement surgery last year," Atom rambles.

"I actually did." Stace smiled in return. He switched to Caitian for a moment, because the concept didn't quite translate to Standard. "I was pack cousin to a matriarchal pack on the Ticonderoga. I prefer meat myself, but I am human, and it needs to be cooked. Though I get away with it as raw as I can."

Atom's ears twitched and for a moment his tail bobbed frantically. His grin widened and he too switched to Caitian. "You have a good accent, Sir. Most humans find our tongue difficult, but I do say most."

"Thank you. I've had quite a bit of practice with it." Stace commented.

Atom made his way to the replicator and ordered his steak, raw as expected. Once his plate was in-paw he turned back around to the human. "Where were you sitting?"

"Nowhere yet. I'm not picky." Stace looked around.

Atom looked quickly around the room, his ears laying back a little, the tufts at the tips bobbing with the movement. "Over there?" He headed for the table he selected without really waiting for an answer, but he did turn a little to see if Stace was following him. When he turned his tail flipped and knocked both of the drinks off the neighboring table. He growled softly and looked sheepish. "Sorry... so sorry... goddess I'm so sorry..."

Stace saw it coming but wasn't fast enough to save either drink.

He turned again, to face the table whose drinks he spilled and his tail made it's way in Stace's direction. The people with the spilled drinks were understandably upset, but not making a huge deal out of it since none of the liquid landed on anyone's lap.

It took a few moments of scrambling to get the mess cleaned up, both Atom and Stace helping, but eventually Atom found his way to the table he had selected before and slumped down in the chair, covering his face with one dark paw.

Stace sat down very close to Atom, closer than he would have had the man been human. He was well within the man's personal bubble when he reached out and patted Atom's shoulder. Then he asked quietly. "Are you nervous about something?" He asked. The Caitian's he'd been pack cousin to tended to have the same problem with their tails, but only when stressed or nervous.

Atom looked at the human through his fingers. "No... I mean, only as much as this is my first assignment and it appears that I'm no more less clumsy then I always am." He chuckled and lowered his paw. "My tail has always had a mind of its own. I'm apologies Commander, if I embarrassed you as well as myself and thank you for your help." He sat up and seemed to shake off the event, staring for a moment at the steak on his plate before picking up a knife and fork to cut it up with.

"You're very welcome, and I'm not that easy to embarrass, you're fine. So fresh from the academy, what do you think about the Manticore Class?" Stace asked, wanting to get the Caitian relaxed. He'd have to find out just how high strung the young man was. There was nervous and would grow into the position, then there was nervous and needed more direct intervention.

Atom speared a chunk of meat with one claw and popped it into his mouth. He looked at Stace and grinned toothily. "I'm going to sound like a total newbie, but I'm very excited to be on this ship." Emphasis on the "very". "I mean I can't think of a better place to be than on an experimental ship with a whole new set of propulsion engines and what not. I'm still in a little bit of awe, but I've logged a lot... and I do mean a lot... of time in simulators for this vessel specifically. You have to tell me about the Enhanced Dynamic Technical System. I really must know. I've seen it in simulations, but I'm not so sure about how it works in reality. I mean five tactical consoles is amazing, as well as the ability to switch modes in a heartbeat. Before it always took so much time and all that separating things to get a ship to be battle ready, but this one..." He bounced a little in his seat, his tail flipping around again. He'd obviously recovered from his little accident.

Stace grinned. The man's enthusiasm was contagious, and he obviously had a love of his chosen field. "We'll go over it on the bridge tomorrow. I've wanted to test it out myself. My background is in Security, not flight control, but still the tactical advantages are numerous, so I've done a bit of studying." Stace cut off a large piece of his own steak and popped in into his mouth. Barely taking time to chew and swallow before continuing. "What about the slipstream drive. Have you logged simulator time with it? I have a feeling we'll be putting it to the test sooner rather than later."

"Goddess I hope so... I think we need to test it when it's not necessary too, to make sure it's going to function. I have a lot of questions about how the ship fluctuates or compensates for phase variance." He continues to eat and talk at the same time, apparently not having any compunctions about talking with his mouth full.

It didn't bother Stace at all. His manners were all for Starfleet show, he still had to remind himself. His next bite of steak he didn't even bother to cut off, just gnawed at it. "Yes, well hopefully between you, ops, and engineering we won't end up on the other side of the Delta Quadrant." He took another bite. "Enough shop talk for the moment. We can go over the details of everything on the bridge tomorrow. What do you do in your free time Atom?"

Atom actually tipped his head back and laughed. "Free time?" He eyed the human, but he was obviously joking. He still followed it up with a shrug. "I read a lot of parts manuals and I do some art on occasion. I have a rather... obsessive... habit of wanting to know what everything is made of. Mostly machinery. I do like to build things as well. I've built everything from flux capacitors to children's toys." He grins. "What about you?"

"Hunt, swim, rugby, those are my favorite, but I'm pretty much up for anything my pack wants to do." Stace let out a little sigh. "In between packs at the moment, I was the only one transferred off my last ship. I'm not really that much into art, I can't tell art from a children's drawing." He smiled. "It all looks the same to me."

"It was encouraged when I was a kit, so it's more like a habit then any actual dedication to art. I mean, I appreciate it, but it's far from an all consuming desire to make art. Most of what I do is scribble on napkins..." He laughed again, his ears twitching, and leaned back in his chair, mostly done with his food. "... and most of what I scribble on napkins are schematics. I find my time with machinery to be much more rewarding. So, do you have a bond mate somewhere?"

"No, I'm not married, and I am human, just raised differently, I do have some junk wolf DNA floating around, but not sure if it's really active. On my last ship the Pack cousin was out of necessity. What about you? Do you have a mate?"

Atom leveled a gaze at Stace. "Goddess no. I think my parents wanted me to have a bond mate when I reached maturity, but that just sort of never happened. Not for lack of trying on their part." He chuckled a little bit, but there was not a lot of humor in it. "With all my distractions and desires I don't really see how that would be fair to a family. I've never really wanted to stay at home and raise kits and my career path hasn't really allowed me room to do so. I mean, maybe if I'd stayed at the university, but I've always got my eye on the next big thing." This time he did laugh and mean it. "I guess I could apply that process to my relationships as well."

Stace chuckled. "You are lucky you didn't get stuck in an arranged marriage and get grandkids demanded of you. Starfleet doesn't make it easy to have a family, but I have seen it work for a few."

He shakes his head. "This might be a personal question, but how did you end up with rogue wolf DNA?"

"It's ok. I was born on a colony world, a bit far out, the mayor had this obsession with wolves, and started doing genetic experiments, only he didn't really know what he was doing. He didn't end up with wolf/human hybrids, just humans."

Atom wrinkles his nose in distaste, making all the fur on the end of his nose stand up. "That... that sounds... no okay. I mean you seem to be fine, no weird smells, but why would he want to do that? I mean, was there a goal in mind? Please stop me if I'm prying too much, but that's a lot strange. Genetic manipulation usually doesn't end well."

"I was too young to really remember him, so I have no idea. Obviously he was a little crazy, mad scientist rarely end well." Stace smiled. "It's good to know I don't smell weird. I may have gotten the social aspects of wolves, but I certainly didn't get the nose."

Atom chuckled. He felt amazingly comfortable with Stace, considering the man was his superior officer. He leaned over closer, which was practically touching him and sniffed around his head and ears. "Nope... no weird smells. I do like your aftershave though. It's got a nice, sort of woodsy scent. It reminds me of the forests back home.

"It's pine based, you do have a good nose. I try not to go overboard with it."

So, how long did you spend in a pack? I've never really been too much for tradition, so having packmates is something I've not really experienced before and I'm nosy."

"The first thirteen years of my life in a true pack. I had to make due after that, until my last ship. It wasn't quite a pack, but being pack cousin was close. I didn't have to worry about finding sleeping companions. I take it your engines are all the pack you need?" Stace smiled.

Atom tipped his head back and forth a little. "Eh... yes and no. I do like to share bed space, but I can be comfortable anywhere really. I have no problem falling asleep. Of course, only at appropriate times. It's not like I suffer from narcolepsy or anything. That would make me a very bad pilot." He chuckled again. "Although when you invite some people into your bed they tend to get attached and I'm not really an attached sort of guy... if you get my drift."

Stace nodded. "I've had that problem as well. Humans especially tend to form attachments after sleeping together, even if it's just sleeping, you add sex into the picture and they can get downright clingy." Stace stopped. "Did that sound bad?" He chuckled slightly. "I didn't mean it in a bad way, it's just different than how I grew up."

Atom laughed. "It doesn't sound bad to me. I think humans call it casual sex, but sometimes even if you agree that it's going to be causal they can still get clingy. And it's different than how I grew up as well. Although, most of the time when people have formed bonds they don't participate in casual acts anymore, unless their bond mate is involved too. That can be very interesting."

Stace smiled as he listened to Atom talk. They were going to get along just fine. "The Caitians I was pack cousin to were a mated quartet, all females. Apparently that's rare."

"It is rare. Very rare, but also very interesting." He wiggled his brows with a big toothy grin on his face. "So, when should I expect this briefing?"

"Mission briefing?" Stace asked. "Soon I'm sure. The Captain hasn't given me a time yet, but I'm sure it will be within the next couple of days."

"Excellent. That should give me enough time to get really settled. I still need to transfer a lot of my data library to my console here. One of these days I'm going to write my own technical manual. How's is the Captain? I mean, how is he personality wise? I've read his personnel file but those are always so... what's the word... soulless?"

"Yes I know what you mean about personnel files. You can't really learn anything you need to know from them. So far I like him, he's straight forward, doesn't seem to be conceited. There's something to be said for someone who's hit rock bottom and gotten up again."

"It's true. I've heard that it makes people..." he searches for the right words. "... a lot more durable. I'm glad he's not conceited though. I can't stand that. I mean, I could be that way. Brag about how much I know about engines and mechanics, but what's the point in that. When you act that way it becomes really hard to learn anything new and all of our fields are constantly changing, rapidly. I can't, with a good conscience, proclaim myself an expert just because I know all the part numbers by memory..."

"It does at that." Stace agreed, he knew that from personal experience. "My last Captain was the conceited full of himself type, we didn't get along at all. It didn't help that we were both Alpha Males trying to share a bridge. He didn't understand that being Alpha doesn't mean steam-rolling over people. Anyway, you'll have to keep me up to date on engine stuff. I came up from Security, I was never very good with engineering."

"I'd be happy to!" Atom grins and makes a little purring sound. "I don't think humans will ever understand what it means to be Alpha... even though they claim to know so much about animals, they still don't get it. Sometimes I feel sorry for the humans who don't understand. I mean, it has to be a very strange place that they live in, and sort of scary, surrounded by all that unknown. Fear makes some people stupid and brash and defensive. I can totally help you understand engines though, if you want that is. I'm pretty good at explaining things so people understand. If this assignment hadn't come up I would probably be teaching at the Academy."

"I can see that, but just think of how much more you'll have to offer the academy with a decade or two of real experience under your belt." Stace smiled. His features changed then. Turning colder and more internal. "Fear brings out the very worst in humans, and often more so in those who are suppose to be their leader. They tend to be so isolated. They band together out of fear, resort to pure violence, then break up again. I don't know how they do it. We do it I should say."

Atom laid his ears back and showed his front teeth. "It's true and I wouldn't be so fast to count yourself among those types. You had a very different upbringing. It changes your view of the world and how you react to it. One thing I can give humans is that they're amazingly adaptable and resilient. Don't get me wrong. I get what you're saying and their capacity for violence is... astounding... but who among the civilized worlds can really claim that their past is not filled with violence. Even my own people nearly drove some of our own kind to extinction."

Stace nodded. "It does seem that coming out from that violent past is a right of passage to higher civilization. I mean even the Vulcans, as much as they don't like to admit it, come from a violent history. Humans have overcome their past, for the most part. I'm speaking from experience with a small group all things considered."

Atom nodded as well. "Although when that small group has a profound effect on you, it's very hard not to judge their entire species on a few examples. I remember the first Ferengi I ever met was a most distasteful little bastard. He took my father for a lot of gold pressed latinum that almost drove his business into the ground. It was long time before I could really even think about Ferengi without a bad taste in my mouth, but Starfleet helped me with that. I met all sorts of people at Academy. It really opened my eyes and it turned out that I ended up with a very close friend who was Ferengi. He changed a lot of my opinions, but those are opinions." He looked at Stace, his ears still back. "Forgiving yes... forgetting no." Atom shook his head and showed his front teeth.

"Good philosophy." Stace was enjoying talking with Atom, and the time had gotten away from him. "I need to go, I've got a meeting, but I enjoyed talking with you Atom." Stace stood up, and rubbed cheeks with the Caitian. "Hopefully we can continue the conversation soon."

Atom was startled by the goodbye rub, but he was happy to get it and returned it the best he could in the time it took him to adjust. "I look forward to more meetings like this one Commander." He stood and straightened his uniform with a yank and grinned broadly, then he winked at Stace. "Hope the rest of your day goes well, Sir." His grin was amused and pleased all at once. He felt not like he could relax. A good senior officer in place could make or break this assignment for him and Stace was a good senior officer.