|USF Personal Log|
by Captain T'Ashal & Timir Traore
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byAnnoying SFI agents, copper pox, SFC operatives, poisoned science officers, Romulan assassins, pushy Security Chiefs, double-personality Chief Engineers, monumental confessions.... what else could possibly happen in the next few days? T'Ashal didn't want to think about it. She decided it was time for some rest and relaxation.
Captain T'Ashal and Timir Traore
Inspired by Isato's invitation to use that mare from the holodeck the other day whenever she wanted to take a ride, she had donned the riding attire again and was heading out of her quarters. Destination? Holodeck 2.
Timir exited his quarters, bound for a destination unknown. He'd barely gotten anywhere in his last attempt to explore the ship, and he was determined to make some sense to the maze of corridors and decks. Per advice from one of the ship's engineers, he had asked the computer for assistance, and sported a basic map of the ship.
As he started down the corridor, his eyes were glued to the screen as it displayed where he was on the deck. A bit amused by the notion of it tracking his every move, he tried to trick it out by reversing the opposite direction. He knew they were able to track his location since they had reactivated the chip in his hand, but he was a bit surprised at how accurate it was.
T'Ashal's mind was somewhere between her morning meeting with Josh and the prospect of an exhilarating ride as she exited the turbolift on Deck 3.
Timir had stopped outside one of the doors on deck 3 and tapped the button to open them. He peered into the room and found nothing but dark walls covered with yellow lines. He frowned at the oddity and backed out. "Strange," he muttered to himself and headed back down the corridor.
The sounds of boot heels on the floor announced her dynamic stride before he could see her coming around the curve of the hallway. She saw him about the same time he saw her. Her step slowed as her face took on a more serious expression.
"Captain." He approached her and cocked his head to one side as he studied her attire and demeanor. She didn't look pleased in the slightest to cross paths with him again. He needed to change that somehow if he was going to keep an eye on her. "What an interesting outfit," he commented without his usual tone of mockery.
One of her full brows arched slowly. She came to a halt and crossed her arms. "Go ahead. Say what you wanted to say," she remarked, just knowing there had to be some jest on his lips.
Nothing got past her, did it? He mused to himself before replying, "I was just curious if this were a new style of uniform for you Fleeters."
She looked at him a bit dumbfounded. "And I am curious what back-galaxy place you grew up on?" she couldn't help but let slip.
"With Romulans, Captain. I'm sure it would seem very backward to someone like you." He was placing her in the same position he held the rest of the Federation in; spoiled, self-entitled, and the set standard for everything in the known universe.
"And you have never heard of horses?" T'Ashal continued in the same snippy tone.
"It's some type of domesticated Earth animal." Heard of them, surely... maybe even seen one before, but the intricacies of attire needed simply for the sake of riding, no.
"Well," she gestured to her clothing, "this is what one typi... actually, no. Typically is not true." She began again, "This is what some people wear when riding a horse. It is my outfit of choice."
Timir frowned inwardly. He needed to cease this petty bickering. It seemed second nature to argue with this woman, to make her agitated. He shoved aside his initial response for a level reply. "I see. Do you have a moment? There's something I wanted to ask you about," he questioned, tucking the map display under his arm.
"I do hope you are not already lost again," she replied, still a curt tone to her voice. Unlike him, she saw no reason to be more friendly. He was, after all, still a liability that was forced upon her. "We are still on the third deck, where your quarters are located, you know." She motioned to his gadget, "Who gave you that?"
"I.. no, I'm not lost." He was lost for words, unsure how to reply without a smart remark. "One of your officers told me about it. Ralins, Rawlinds.. something like that." He shook his head, skirting off the subject. "No, I wanted to ask you about Achernar, and what you plan to do there. Does it have anything to do with the two colonies in the system?"
"I am off-duty right now, Mister Traore," she began walking, to emphasize she had somewhere to go, "and I was on my way to the holodeck for some much needed relaxation. If you do not mind." Of course, she didn't care if he did mind, it was just a thing to say.
He didn't follow after her, but called out as she walked off, "You're putting your ship in danger if you go there," and waited to see if she'd stop and listen.
T'Ashal sighed and did indeed stop. Turning back to look at him, "Look. We have put our ships in danger the moment we crossed the Neuteral Zone. I have survived an attack on my life at the first colony we came to," she explained, "There are not a whole lot of times in my day right now where I do not think of the dangers. I just want to be able to enjoy something I have not done for a long time. And you are keeping me from it."
"Forgive me for wasting your time," he shot back, annoyed with her complacency. "But you'll be wasting your own if you try to approach those colonies in Achernar. They are very unfriendly, downright hostile to outsiders. They'll never accept help from you, even if it's the difference between life and death," he warned her.
She sighed again. Her shoulders slumped slightly. "Can we at least discuss this in the holodeck, while I am getting things ready?"
"Enjoy your ride, Captain," is what he said, but the words fell off his lips like a vile curse. She didn't want to listen to him, and he wasn't going to bother trying to convince her the sky was blue when she insisted it was green.
'Give them some slack and they won't fight you so much.' The gist of Isato's words to her a couple of days ago came to her mind again. Was she handling Timir too roughly now, too? Granted, the circumstances of him being here had been anything but pleasing to her, but he seemed to want to help, she had to admit.
She took a few steps back toward him. "I am... sorry. I should not so easily dismiss your advice just because I feel stressed and need some time off," she said with as much genuineness as she could muster.
"I couldn't give a fig if you want to fly headfirst into danger, that's your business. But you happen to be stuck with me on board as well, and I haven't survived this long by being careless. Brute force and impressive technology won't win over the Romulans, Captain. W-- they want nothing to do with you." He wondered if she'd take to heart his warnings at all.
T'Ashal nodded, despite bristling inwardly at his tone, and glanced around. Her keen hearing picked up voices in earshot. Someone was coming their way. Unwilling to have anyone overhear the heated remarks Timir shot her way, she implored him again, "Can we please take this to the holodeck?"
Timir relented with a sigh, "As you wish," and motioned her to lead the way.
She made an about face and marched down the corridor, in the opposite direction from where the voices were coming. A few doors down, she turned to her left and entered the holodeck.
He followed along behind her, pausing to glance down the corridor and see who was approaching. Seeing no one appear, he stepped into the holodeck with her, his eyes drawn to the yellow lines along the walls and floor.
After the door had shut behind them, T'Ashal commanded, "Computer, play program TA-EG 001."
In an instance, their surroundings changed dramatically. The bland walls vanished, and they found themselves standing atop a large hill that was partially covered with rocks and partially with low growing vegetation. A breeze ruffled their hair.
Down below, where the hill ran out into a green meadow that ended at a sand-covered beach, the azure waters of the ocean lay. The brilliant blue swirled with patches of turquoise along the stretch of beach. A little ways out, two small islets stood their ground in the brilliant waters like sentinels, their white rocks in stark contrast with the deep color of the ocean.
Beyond that, the ocean stretched out to the horizon, where the waters seemed to touch the sky. Though the misty color that caused any clear dividing line to vanish between them, made it look more like they merged into one entity.
Timir surveyed the new surroundings with a critical eye. He was certain the Captain wasn't trying to flaunt their technology in his face, but he couldn't help but be reminded of the simple life he'd been forced to survive in. It looked nothing like this well painted landscape. He would have lived here, with the simulated breeze and fake grass.
He swallowed the bitter pill and turned to the Captain. "Very nice," he replied dryly.
"It is modeled after a real place on Earth... in Greece," she felt compelled to elaborate. "A friend lives there." She pointed to the house sitting nestled in between the surrounding hills to their left. Just below it, on the much gentler slope that ran out into the meadow leading to the beach, lay some fenced-in pasture land. "Come." She motioned him along.
Earth. He had so few memories of that planet, and none of them were pleasant. He walked behind her on the narrow path as she led him inward. "The Achernar colonies, Captain," he reminded her, not wanting her to get distracted from his concerns so readily.
"Yes," she nodded, carefully making her way down the winding path toward a barn by the pasture, "please continue. Why do you feel so strongly that they will reject us?"
"They're Romulans, Captain," he said, thinking it was an obvious enough reason.
T'Ashal halted so abruptly, she almost made him walk right in to her. She turned to face him and had to look up more than usually since he was on higher ground than she was. "And Romulans are automatically hostile?"
He got the sudden notion of being on very dangerous ground, and he carefully chose his next words. "Not at all, but they're a proud people. They don't need your help even if you think they do. And if they did need it, they still wouldn't ask."
"Well... the colony leaders on Rator III were glad for our assistance and the supplies we brought," she countered. "They were swamped with refugees."
"Well, of course Rator would," he scoffed at the comparison. "But this isn't Rator, this is Achernar. They aren't displaced merchants forced into farming... they know what they're doing. You'll insult them by assuming they need your help."
"I have my orders," she simply replied and turned to continue descending the path.
Timir got the feeling that would be her reply even if he told her they were flying right into the middle of a black hole. "If you insist on going along with this fool's errand, then I hope you're prepared to meet with hostility and a well earned 'I told you so' from me."
The path's slope began to ease, as they were almost at the barn, and then flatten out completely across the grassy pasture that led up to the building. T'Ashal stepped off the path and onto the green pasture land, taking a few steps down toward the fence. She raised her hand to shade her eyes and gazed across the gently rolling meadow.
"Well," she spoke without looking at Timir, "my plan was to send Commander Trellis with a team to the colonies to offer them assistance and if they refuse, it is their choice. But I am not willing to simply assume they do not want the supplies." She glanced at him, "I have to consider the political implications as well, Mister Traore. Meaning, if I offer help to one colony, I must offer it to all. Otherwise, the Federation could be accused of favoritism."
"I think that ship has sailed, Captain." He didn't want to discuss this matter with her. 'Shut up,' he told himself. "You Fleeters already play favorites. You claim to hold to such lofty ideals and morals but it's all lip service. When it comes down to it, you're no better than the criminals you prosecute."
"Well, that should make you feel right at home with us then," she replied with sarcasm.
Not waiting for his reply, she walked a few meters to the fence and climbed on the bottom railing. Looking toward the group of horses grazing to the far side, she called out, "Akhi!!"
He was surprised she didn't deny the claim, or at least defend against what he'd said. Seeing her attention turn back to the holodeck, he turned to look for the entrance they'd come in from. It had vanished, and the landscape seemed to go on endlessly. He knew better, but he didn't know how to find the exit. "If you'll show me the door, Captain, I'll leave you to your play time."
T'Ashal didn't react to his request. Her attention was on the black stallion that was making his way toward her location at full speed. "Akhi!" she called out again, her voice much more joyful now.
Hearing her repeat the name, Timir turned back towards the fence line and gazed upward at the approaching animal. He'd never seen one in person, but honestly he favored the waka over this jittery looking beast.
The raven beast whickered repeatedly as it approached, as if answering her calling. It slowed its stride just short of the fence, eagerly pacing about, its head bobbing as if in greeting. Then it moved right up to her, so close it looked like it was about to knock her off her perch.
"Akhi," she exclaimed, overjoyed. She nuzzled the horse back. It had been a long time since she had run this program. And an even longer time since she had visited the actual animal on Earth.
Timir watched the Captain carefully throughout this interaction, curiously studying her sudden outpour of emotion over this pet. His eyes drifted over the horse again. "Rh'e akhiy," he agreed. <"Indeed, black.">
"Au'rh mnekha," she replied with a sideway glance to Timir, while curbing the eager nudges of the horse. "Ssuej-ay t'lhim khei doaege?" <"You're correct."> <"Do you know any other languages?">
"Kyrr'lep, merht arham lloann'mhrahel doaege aeim kaefh." He slowly approached the fence and extended his hand towards the horse to see what reaction he would get. <"Several, but my Federation standard is a shame.">
The stallion barely sniffed the outstretched hand before he stamped a hoof and flattened his ears. His loud whinny almost made Timir jump, and the chorus of replies from the pasture brought a smile to his lips. "I don't think he likes me," he commented, stepping back from the fence.
"How ironic," T'Ashal noted, "he seems to see you as a rival." She patted the stallion's neck. "Akhi, you are silly," she spoke softly, "he is just a visitor."
She turned to Timir and stepped off the railing. "Funny how even holo re-creations show strange behavior at times." Her eyes met his. "Is there anything else you wish to say in line with your warning lecture?"
'A rival for what?' he wondered, but turned his attention back to the Captain. "No, I'd only be wasting my breath and squandering your spare time," he stated with a wry grin and none of the earlier mockery in his voice. He gave her the information. What she did with it was her decision. At least he'd done his part.
"Well, if it makes you feel any better, you will be able to make sure that Commander Trellis will only offer the help, not give any cause for them to think we are trying to force it upon them," she said with a smug smile.
A look of pure shock came across his face. "Me?" he asked as he pointed to himself. "You're not seriously asking me to go along with your crew when you meet these colonists?"
"When they will meet the colonist," she corrected, "I have no plans of accompanying you."
"I don't want to go down there. It's bad enough you're sending your crew, let alone me. Besides, your Commander would shove me out the shuttle and fly away if he had the chance." There was a whole list of reasons why he didn't want to venture out with the others, but those were the first to come to mind. That, and the looming fear of being found out.
"I need somebody with them that speaks the local language without the use of the UT, just in case," she insisted, "and knows and can read possible dangers they might not be aware of." She narrowed her eyes and poked her finger into his chest. "You are suppose to function as our guide. Well... guide then."
Akhi stamped his hoofs and whinnied loudly behind her, when she touched him.
Timir sighed heavily, eyeing the loud horse a moment. "I was envisioning something less life threatening. Locating resources on star charts, steering you clear of hostiles... that sort of thing." But he supposed the Captain could elaborate on her definition of a guide in any way she saw fit. Who would tell her otherwise? He almost, almost... missed prison.
"Locating resources is our Chief Ops Officer's job," she educated him. "Of course, you can assist him with that." She crossed her arms and continued on with a more stern expression, "And as far as Commander Trellis is concerned, he heard Admiral Sauer just as well as I did. He is an honorable officer, and would not go against SFC's orders malevolently."
"Guess I'll have to get used to working with a phaser in my back." He turned to walk back down the path, but stopped after a single step. "The exit?"
"Arch," T'Ashal called out. The entrance way promptly appeared just a few meters over from them by the barn. She made a sweeping motion with her hand toward the exit.
"Khlinae Arhem," he said as he walked towards the doorway, ignoring the triumphant whinny from the stallion. <"Thank you." (formal courtesy to superiors)>