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Outpost Phoenix: Personal Com-Net image
The Retirement Fund, Part Two

Outpost Phoenix: Personal Com-Net


by Commander Noah Masterson
[Stardate ]

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Cool, grey light streamed in through the Shack's windows and informed Noah of dawn's arrival. He lay in his bunk for several moments, savoring the ability to wake up on his own terms instead of having to jump out of his bunk and start his day. Here, now, Noah dictated the course and pace of the day. It was an alien feeling, to be sure.
After a leisurely 30 minutes, Noah crawled out of his sleeping bag and dressed for the day. He used some of the water he brought from the Outpost to brew his morning tea. He could have used the replicator, but sometimes he needed the real thing. Against the wall opposite the environmental controls, built into the countertop, sat a small heating element. Noah filled the kettle from his canteen and then placed it on the heating element. He poked the controls into life and made sure the element was set to high. He then moved to one of the windows that looked out to the rear of the Shack. He could barely make out the low rise where he'd surveyed everything yesterday. Instead of being just rain, a low-hanging fog had also formed.
Noah thought how much TW IV, right then, reminded him of a certain little Andorian village he had visited in his youth.
He chuckled mirthlessly and wondered where the memory had come from. He hadn't thought about that place or that day for...
The kettle's whistle told Noah that it was time for his morning "cuppa". He dug through his ruck and found the battered stainless steel mug he'd had since his Academy days. He also pulled out a small, airtight container and moved to the kettle. He pulled the vessel off the heating element, removed its top, opened the airtight container and dug out three, small round objects. These he dropped into the kettle and replaced the container's lid. He set it aside for the moment and closed the kettle up. He looked out the window again and let his mind wander to a place it hadn't gone to for some time....

Starfleet Academy - 10 years before

"Did you see the posting," Eris chided. Noah looked up from the weights he was working out with and looked her in the eye.
"No. What are they," he asked, excitement working into his voice.
"Oh, nothing special, Masterson" Eris joked. Before Noah could reply, she turned on her heel and walked away.
Noah was in the middle of taking weights off a barbell; he thought about just walking away and checking the postings. But he finished his task and rushed out of the gym and to the Cadet Common Area. He punched up his current Training Schedule. Noah saw the next day's training mission roster. He was assigned to one of the two shuttles and a notation that more details would be in his personal comms box.
Noah looked to the gym. He hadn't missed a workout yet, but this was different...
Noah ran back into the gym, dodged several lower classmen and ducked into the locker room. The thought of changing into a uniform briefly flashed across his mind. He decided against it. Instead, he grabbed his duffel and made for the dorms.
He took the five flights of two stairs two at a time and slid to a stop in front of his room. He punched in his code and was through the door before it was fully open. He tossed his bag at his bunk and moved to the computer terminal, not caring that his bag missed his bunk completely.
Several nerve-wracking moments later, Noah was into his comms box, reading the mission briefing. He was assigned to one of two Away Teams, as Engineer, and would double as shuttle's crew. His crew was being led by T'Pala, a Vulcan cadet of his cohort. Eris was assigned to the other shuttle as Pilot, which explained her smugness. He was happy for her; she had worked hard to receive the high marks in small craft piloting that her transcript showed.
The mission was a scaled-up version of one they'd performed before: the two shuttles would warp to a point designated by the Training Cadre, land on an uninhabited planetoid or asteroid, carry out a predesignated mission and return to the Academy. This time the crews would take a pair of Danube-class runabouts out to a point near Orion, plant live explosives on a ship's hull and then act as boarders on the ship, a retired Saladin-class destroyer.
Noah read and re-read the orders. He was excited; he was going to be in charge of not only the explosives but also the well-being of his shuttle. This was what he was training for. As he started to read the orders a third time, his door chime went off. He turned off the terminal and went to the door. On the other side stood his mission commander, Cadet T'Pala.
"Greetings, Cadet Masterson. I am Cadet T'Pala. Do you have some free time to discuss our impending mission," she asked formally.
"Uh…sure," Noah replied, turning to look at his computer terminal suspiciously.
"I hesitate to mention this but regulations state that cadets shall only wear PT attire when engaged in PT," T'Pala said pointedly.
Noah looked down and sheepishly grinned.
"Can we meet in the common area in say…," Noah began.
"Fifteen minutes," T'Pala finished.
Noah merely nodded and chuckled by way of reply.
Fifteen minutes later, Noah entered the dorm's common area attired in a cadet's Duty Uniform and looked for T'Pala. He found her seated at one of the many tables, sipping what looked like water and reading a PADD.
"Thanks for waiting," Noah said walking up.
"Don't mention it," T'Pala said. She gestured to one of the unoccupied chairs and Noah took a seat.
"I asked you here because I don't know much about Engineering," T'Pala explained.
"While I am familiar with many of the formulae, theories and principles, I am quite ignorant to the practical applications of them," she continued when Noah said nothing. Noah nodded his understanding, prompting another explanation from T'Pala.
"This is my first mission in command. I have chosen the Command division as my major and getting good marks on this exercise would have an impact later in my career."
"Ok. Where would you like to start," Noah asked politely.
"The explosives: how much will we need to merely breach the hull and not destroy the hulk," T'Pala asked.
For the next thirty minutes, Noah patiently answered T'Pala's questions and she noted the answers on her PADD. She rapid fired questions at Noah and to his credit, he answered them. They covered everything from which detonators he would use (and why) to the best ways to reroute power from non-critical systems to critical systems, both in nominal and emergency situations.
"Thank you for sharing your knowledge," T'Pala said after looking at her wrist chronograph.
"My pleasure. Hope it helps us tomorrow," Noah replied optimistically.    
Noah politely excused himself in order to make his next class but his mind was focused on the next day's exercise. Later that evening, Eris stopped by. She mentioned that even though she was piloting her shuttle, the crew leader (a junior to Eris's sophomore) was overconfident and usually wrong on many things.
"T'Pala stopped by and grilled me about the Engineering aspects of the mission. She said it was because she didn't have any practical experience but I wonder if it wasn't also to see if I knew my stuff," Noah opined.
"Could be," Eris said, rising from her chair and moving to drape her arms around Noah's neck and chest from behind him.
"But either way," she said resting her head against his back, "you know Engineering. You're crew's going to be fine."
"Who's your Engineer," Noah asked cringing inwardly because he'd forgotten to ask until now.
"A Klingon freshman by the name of Klaaj," Eris said.
Noah briefly choked on some water he was sipping. After sputtering for a moment, he regained his voice.
"Keep well clear of any explosives Klaaj places," he warned. The look of worry and disease on Eris's face drew a further explanation.
"He's a firm believer in solving any of life's problems with a improper amount of explosives," Noah explained.
"It can't be that bad…" Eris said, her voice trailing off when she moved around the desk and saw Noah's expression.
"Oh, it can be that bad, huh" she said.
Noah proceeded to regale Eris with a tale from the Engineering range about young Klaaj. An hour later, Eris understood Noah's trepidations and her face must have showed it.    
"Hey, don't worry about it," Noah said, an easy smile forming.
"You're gonna be driving the runabout. Klaag may have a tendency to overcompensate with explosives but you'll be clear of it," he reminded her.
Noah got up and moved to sit beside her on his bunk. They embraced for a quick moment, a reassuring squeeze and then Noah pulled away and stared into Eris's ice blue eyes. She nodded her thanks and then stole a quick kiss.
"Almost lights out and I have to get back" Eris reasoned. She gathered her things and they quickly kissed again, this one much hungrier than the previous.
Eris playfully pushed off of Noah and whisked out the door. Noah spent the next twenty minutes putting together his mission gear and then setting out his uniform for the next day. After stifling three yawns in a row, Noah gave in and climbed into bed. He barely turned off the lights before he succumbed to sleep.

To Be Continued
   
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