|USF Personal Log|
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He stepped off the turbolift and walked silently toward the dining room at the end of the hall. The doors parted for him and he leaned forward to peer left and right into the space. Running lights had come on with his entrance into the small dining area but otherwise it appeared unoccupied. Coleric grinned as he stared out the wall of windows and he slid his hands into his pockets as he sauntered further into the hall. Cerulean blue irises shifted to take in the rest of the scene while he stood in the middle of the room. “Still empty. This is what I’m talkin’ about,” he murmured with a nod. The operations officer noted the replicator and his strides carried him to the panel in the wall. He focused on the menu as he scrolled through the options. Once his requested meal appeared on the tray, he picked it up and carried it to one of the tables next to the curved windows. The Denevan dropped onto the comfortable cushion and released a low groan at the ache that moved through his body.
Her hand settled on the side of her neck, her eyes fluttering slightly as her fingers pushed into the knots that had appeared under her skin. The last thirty hours had been hellish at best. Her training had saved her from the bulk of her exhaustion, but the stress and lack of sleep was starting to pull at the threads of her dwindling patience. She could feel a headache starting, the pain lingering just beyond her senses. She carried a PADD in her hand and she glanced at the contents as she crossed the threshold into the space that was designated her private dining space. “Computer, mint tea, eighty degrees centigrade,” she commanded. Her strides carried her towards the replicator and she picked up the mug the moment it materialized.
His gaze followed the woman as she walked, his body still to prevent her from seeing him. His mind raced with the explanation for his presence in the once restricted space. If he was being honest, he was looking to get away from the influx of crew. Tensions were high and dinner time meant the mess hall was packed beyond capacity. Coleric had been sneaking into the captain’s dining hall morning and night since the restrictions were temporarily lifted. He figured no one else would dare to do so, but also that the captain would remain holed up in her ready room. The operations officer forced himself to relax and he lifted the bottle of nearly black beer to his lips.
The mug was raised to her lips and she took a tentative sip. A rare sigh fell from her lips as she pretended, for one moment, that she was not suddenly stuck in a foreign universe. It didn’t matter that the reprieve would have been short, it was enough to refresh her. Her chin lifted finally from the device she carried as she lowered the mug at the same time. Anderson had entered into her private dining space to see if she could use it as a possible cargo space instead of opening it to the crew. There was the slightest twitch in her eye as she caught the silhouette by the wall of portholes and she found herself rooted in place at the audacity. “Explain yourself, officer,” came the command, her tone flat and telling of her lack of amusement. The dimmed light hid him from her.
Coleric smiled as he sliced into the thick steak he’d ordered. “The mess hall was beyond capacity and I figured that since the restrictions were lifted, this dining room was available to use.” There was no mention of the two other times he’d visited the space. He lifted the bite to his mouth and took it between his lips. The Denevan was careful not to voice his pleasure in the savory flavor of the Risan deer steak. He couldn’t help the slight roll of his eyes as he thanked the gods for perfection in replicating.
Her mouth dropped slightly and she found herself stunned into silence. Her steps were muffled by the carpet as she made her way towards him. His voice was familiar, but it didn’t mean she believed that it was possible anyone would dare to cross the threshold into a space that was designated as hers. Anderson stood by his table and cold eyes swept over his face. Coleric Falkner. Her operations officer. The tablet was thrown onto the corner of the table with a bit more force than she had intended. She remained eerily calm when his free hand quickly moved to silence the clatter of the device. The mug hit the table with just as much force and she didn’t even wince when the hot liquid splashed on her skin. “You are in my private space, Lieutenant Falkner,” she started very calmly. Between the giggling Japanese woman who was to be her first officer and the man seated so calmly before her, the Betazoid was sure she was about to lose the calm that had been savagely trained into her.
“I’ll be quiet, Captain,” he assured her as he lifted his cloth napkin to dab at the tea from the table and her hand. Coleric raised the mug slightly to ensure he’d dried underneath it before setting it back down. He failed to notice how Miaka’s irritation rose steadily.
“You’ll be-” Her eye twitched and she reached forward to grab the man by his collar. Momentum assisted her in pulling the Denevan from his seat, her body twisting to throw him down towards the ground. The sound of his chair falling and clattering was lost to the Betazoid woman. Her knee pressed into the center of his chest to keep him pinned to the floor. Muscle memory had her hand closing into a fist and lifting into the air, poised to strike. “I’m starting to wonder if I had made a mistake in allowing you to step foot onto my bridge, Lieutenant.”
He was stunned by the sudden change in his position, even more so that the petite woman had managed to toss him like a rag doll. His dark eyes shifted to the raised fist and he raised his hands both in surrender and to ward off any strike. “I’m sure my trespass is a grave offense to you Captain, but it’s not quite as bad as assaulting an officer.” Coleric glanced up to meet her eyes and he raised a brow. “Can’t we just share a meal and call it even?” A small grin managed to pull at the corners of his mouth. “I’ll be very quiet, I promise. Won’t even notice I’m here.”
Again, she found herself unable to speak. She was astonished, bamboozled, confounded, thunderstruck, dumbfounded, stumped, and flabbergasted. He had dared to enter her private space, dared to take claim to space even after being found, and dared to subtly remind her that she could be held accountable for touching him. Anderson’s eyes narrowed slightly as she stared down at him. “I believe this is the sort of behaviour that has marred your record, Lieutenant.” She remained kneeling on his chest to keep him pinned, but her weight had eased back slightly to lighten the pressure.
“Some things we never grow out of, I suppose?” Her knee dug into his sternum but he gave no indication that it was painful. A soft grunt slipped from his throat in acknowledgement of the shift in her weight over him. “That’s much better,” he muttered to himself as he relaxed on the carpet. He sighed quietly and glanced around the dining hall from the new perspective. “Could you at least pass me my beer? It’s going to get warm.”
“That’s much-!? Could I pass you-?!” The captain of the Ares finally leaned back and pushed to her feet. “Has the Academy gone soft in the years of my stasis?!” A rare outburst slipped past her lips and she threw her hands up into the air. “Explain to me why I am surrounded by such insubordination?!” She growled softly at herself and took in a deep breath to center herself. Her shoulders pushed back as she straightened and settled a glare at the man at her feet.
There was half a moment in which he furrowed his brows and questioned what in the world she meant by ‘years in stasis.’ The thought was fleeting as her outburst brought upon him the gravity of his situation. Coleric sighed heavily and pushed to sit up. “I’m too old for this shit,” he grunted as he shook his head and lifted his chin to meet Miaka’s glare. Whatever he had to say was lost when he finally saw the dark glacial blue that ringed her hazel eyes. His brows furrowed and his lips remained slightly parted.
“Our records say that we are of the same age, Lieutenant,” she turned and pulled out a chair. “Get up, pick up that chair, then sit.” There was no room for argument in her tone. The Betazoid lowered into her seat and picked up her mug of tea. She was not surprised to find it half-full.
He figured he was already in deep trouble. Nothing else he said could make it any worse. “Do I get to eat too?” Coleric turned so that he could push to his feet. As he remained bent over, he picked up the chair and righted it. The operations officer dropped into the seat and sighed quietly before adjusting the tray in front of him. He took a long pull of the bitter beer.
“I’ll let you use your best judgement,” she murmured before finally taking a sip of her tea. There was some pleasure at finding it still hot. “You said the mess hall was full?”
Coleric picked up his knife and fork and began to slice off another bite of the deer steak. “Beyond capacity. Standing room only. I would have had to use Terai’s head as a table,” he muttered before lifting the fork to his mouth. The meat was cold but the flavors remained. He hummed softly as he enjoyed the bite.
She nodded in understanding before glancing around the room. She took in a deep breath as she placed the mug onto the table and reached for the tablet. “The mess has a capacity of fifty,” she murmured to herself as her fingers tapped on the PADD. “My private space only has the capacity for fifteen.” Her lips formed a thin line. “I can have this space converted into a storage space but leave the kitchen- No. It would be best to convert the multipurpose common space into a second mess.” Anderson’s hand lifted to massage at her neck in hopes of alleviating the quickly approaching headache.
“That’s a shame. We won’t have our dinners anymore.” The junior officer shook his head with his disappointment and slipped another piece of the steak into his mouth. The utensils clattered gently on the edge of the plate as he relaxed back to pick up his beer.
She blinked a few times, his voice forcing her from her haze of thoughts. Her chin turned and she silently studied the officer by her side. “You’re not afraid of me.” The very notion was surprising. “I can’t decide if you’re simply insubordinate or dumb.”
Coleric chuckled quietly and sipped from the bottle. “Fear is useless. If you intend to run this ship by inspiring fear, you’re going to find some difficulty.” He set the glass on the table and shook his head. “That’ll make me insubordinate and I should just go report to the brig, huh?” The Denevan winked and lifted the beer to his lips to drink again.
His words forced the familiar memory of the admiral’s advice upon her assignment. ‘Learn to be personable, Anderson. It’s the surest way to keep from having your crew mutiny and from having to walk the proverbial plank.’ The woman grunted softly. “I do not intend to inspire fear. Junior officers typically fear their captains.” She sipped her tea and returned the mug to the table before she tapped on the device. “Sacrifices must be made, Lieutenant. If I’m not to turn this room into a cargo space, what do you suggest we do with it?”
He hummed quietly and turned his chin to glance around the space. “Well, if you turn it into storage, will our dinner be moved to your quarters?” A wry grin pulled at his mouth and mirth twinkled in his eyes as he studied the captain’s reaction. It seemed that he’d gotten out of the trespassing charge and he couldn’t leave well enough alone by just departing the space.
“Our dinner doesn’t exist,” she informed him flatly without looking up from the tablet. “Your dinner will be eaten with your fellow crewmates and mine will most likely be in my quarters with that giggling-” She stopped herself before she could continue, realizing that she’d been about ready to complain about the executive officer to a subordinate. It was not a slip she’d ever made and she could only gather that she was far more tired than she had originally anticipated. “Mine will be eaten in the sanctuary of my ready room.”
His brow raised and he hummed quietly to himself. The captain was quite frigid and he wondered if she always pushed people away. A streak of curiosity bit him in the butt and he decided he’d like to know more about Miaka Anderson. “Steak is cold but it’s still good. Bite?” Coleric sliced off a portion and offered the fork to her.
Her irises swept to the side to stare at the offered morsel before settling on the man. “You must be joking.” She made no move to reach for the fork and simply stared at it. She wasn’t sure if she’d ever met a junior officer who so easily ignored the norms of decorum. Anderson studied him carefully as she tried to remember his record. Those who were able to step foot on her bridge had been given special permission. She recalled the recommendations that were attached to his file, but she was starting to wonder if her peers had dared to leave a few key points off the record simply so they could transfer him.
“Most people laugh when I joke and you don’t- So, I suppose not.” He shrugged the shoulder opposite her and waited several more moments with the fork outstretched.
Her stomach growled and she silently berated herself for not having the control to silence it. Anderson shook her head to decline the bite and instead took a sip of her tea.
“Shame,” he muttered as he straightened and directed the bite to his mouth. Coleric hummed quietly as he enjoyed the taste all over again. He cut the last bit of the deer steak into three pieces and picked up one onto his fork. As soon as he’d swallowed the first bite, he ate the second.
The captain stared at him as he made noises that were far too loud to be just out of pure joy. She took a moment to debate with herself before letting the stringent mental walls drop ever so slightly. She simply wanted to know if the junior officer beside her was simply that foolish to remain confident despite his many infractions or it was a well-practiced cover to his real emotions. Her eyes fluttered shut at the sudden assault to her senses. The raw emotions of the crew were tangible - fear, frustration, anguish. It was near stifling. The colour from her face drained with each passing second as she tried to sift through the muck of negative emotions.
His brows furrowed as he watched the woman beside him. Coleric swallowed down the bite and gently lowered the fork to his plate. Concern moved through him and he reached to place his hand over her forearm. Thick and calloused fingers squeezed her gently. “Hey, are you okay?” The emotion was easy to hear in his voice, his smooth tenor dipping to a worried baritone.
His touch was enough to ground her, to find him through the torrid emotions of the crew. ‘Confident. Almost stupidly so. At least he’s not a coward.’ It reaffirmed her choice to have him assigned to the bridge and there was no doubt in her mind that he would remain there. She swallowed a thick lump in her throat and she forced the mental walls to return. “Fine,” she murmured. “Just- tired.” The Betazoid shook her head and slowly moved to her feet. “I expect to see you on the bridge at 0800 hours, Lieutenant.” The harshness in her voice had disappeared, leaving her sounding more human than anything else. “I don’t want to see a crumb on this table.”
“I will lick it clean.” He had leaned back into the chair when she pulled away from his touch and he casually picked up the fork from his plate. Coleric picked up the third piece of steak and it hovered near his lips as he watched the captain. Concern still colored his dark blue hues but he didn’t let it creep into his voice. “Is that after my stint in the brig?” He took the deer meat from the fork and chewed quietly.
“No, but I’ll be watching you closely, Lieutenant.” She picked up her cup and the PADD then made her way towards the exit. The cup was placed on the replicator tray and she disappeared into the hallway when the doors hissed closed behind her.
He lifted to his feet once the doors closed and he shook his head. The entire interaction baffled him. Coleric picked up his clean plate and empty bottle and made his way to the replicator. The plate was placed on the tray but he kept the bottle. The operations officer turned to make his way back to the table he’d occupied, just to be sure there wasn’t a single crumb to be found. A smirk pulled at the corner of his mouth and he glanced over his shoulder toward the door. “You’re watching, huh?” An imagined synthesized riff was hummed in his throat and his head started bobbing as he played the chords. “I’m just an average man, with an average life,” he spoke the lyrics, using the bottle as a microphone, before getting into the chorus. “I always feel like- somebody’s watching me,” he sang.
Outside, the captain leaned against the wall after a few steps and pressed her fingers to the bridge of her nose. Since the mess of events, she had been so focused on the immediate problems they were about to face that she had failed to realize - until that moment - the troubles she would have in her near future. They were far from home, meaning she was far from Outpost Renaissance. There was no one she could trust aboard. Jonah Arkinson, the Chief of Medical officer who had managed to evade his fate, had been the one person assigned to both vessels with the clearance to treat her. “Crap.” Slowly, she made her way to her quarters.