Welcome to the Pandora
Location: USS Pandora
Timeline: Prior to Looking After Family
As the trio made their way back through the station, Krysia was feeling only too glad to be heading back to the ship. This was the longest she’d been on her feet since her Caesarean and she was certainly feeling it. As they approached the docking port to the ship she offered a warm smile to her two companions. “Welcome to the USS Pandora.”
Aenardha, using the public vision of Krysia and Briya, was able to take note of their glances out of the viewports lining the docking ring. She could ‘see’ the Pandora and it was truly something to be seeing it in person as opposed to images and holograms.
“It appears to be a magnificent ship,” Aenardha said.
Krys smiled and nodded. “It is indeed.” She didn’t ask how Aenardha was seeing the ship. She had heard of the way her people used their senses.
“She has beautiful curves,” Briya agreed. She reached out to lightly touch Aenardha’s hand, hoping the contact would direct the Aenar to the exact imagery Briya was seeing and trying to convey. “I particularly enjoy this section here, where the hull thins down between the saucer section and the shuttle bay.”
With the captain off the ship, it was up to the first officer to see to the running of the ship. And since the first officer's responsibility was to the crew, he had to welcome new arrivals. Given that along with the arrival of a Federation diplomat the newly assigned crewmember was an Intelligence ensign, Lieutenant James Smith tagged along.
Owen had made his way into the docking port with a couple of minutes to spare, knowing that the new arrivals were to board. With her appointment aboard the Pandora coming before the crew had decided to return home, it was some time ago that he'd received her confirmation and was glad to finally get her aboard. He looked across at his brother-in-law, James, and smiled. "See, you're doing well. Not only do you have the twins to guide and nurture, but you also finally get to have Ensign Sh'vastarth aboard as well," he offered.
James nodded, “It will be nice to have the Ensign onboard. There is so much work that my staff has been doing, it will be nice to have a fresh set of hands that can assist me with sifting through the Intel that is constantly coming through my department.” James signed as he continued, “Krys and I are tired most of the time right now, but I’m glad they are finally here.” James turned to look at the Docking Port.
As the Port Doors opened, Owen stood to attention before seeing Krys escorting the Pandora's two newest crew members aboard. He looked at both Ensign Sh'vastarth and the ship’s new Chief Diplomatic Officer, Briya Valriya, and smiled as Krys walked them over the threshold to the Luna Class Starship.
It felt good to at last place the bottoms of her footwear on the padded carpets of the USS Pandora. Briya assumed - perhaps falsely or naively - that members of Starfleet, from cadet to Admiral, automatically embraced some vagabond mentality always unsettled and shifting from one home to the next. She, on the other hand, did not care at all for the trekker life and was happiest when she could establish herself in one place for a long while. Oh, she enjoyed vacations and travelling, but not relocating. So the trip to Carnwennan Station, taking up guest quarters for some few hours, being separated from her aide and smuggled onto Qaraq’s ship in a box with the briefest of stopovers on Paradise Station to now be on the Pandora…well it had the atmosphere of being the last stretch of a journey even if her adventures with this crew were only just beginning. But Briya did not make these ideas evident on her face or in her manner; she was a diplomat after all with a background in Law - meaning one thing and saying something all together disparate was practically her life’s work. Briya smiled at all and sought out their eyes with her own. Only…the Commander’s were unavailable; clocked up as they were with the shorter Aenar at Briya’s side.
Once aboard, Owen was trying not to be too taken with how Ensign Sh'vastarth looked, having not encountered a member of the Aenar before, however, he admitted to himself that he did find her look very stunning.
Aenardha did not just feel those eyes on her, she could see through his vision that Owen was taking her in, top to bottom. It was not unexpected when it came to introductions but she certainly hoped she was not going to attract any unwanted attention from the XO.
Pulling himself back to normal, Owen welcomed them aboard. "Ensign Sh'vastarth, Chief Diplomatic Officer Briya Valriya, welcome aboard the USS Pandora," Owen began. "I'm Commander Owen Nash, Chief Executive Officer and this is our Chief Intelligence Officer, Lt James Smith." Looking at Krys and her smile, it was clear that his step sibling was enjoying all the pomp and circumstance. "I see that you both found yourselves an excellent chaperone to bring you aboard," Owen added.
“It was she who found us, Commander,” Briya responded, beginning to feel like something of a fifth wheel. There was obviously some sort of connection between the Chief Intelligence Officer and their escort, and the appreciation Nash’s eyes lavished upon Aenardha - whether or not the Aenar was aware of it - was almost clumsy. It may have been the time she’d spent consuming drinks in Rognerek’s company, but Briya was almost prepared to admit that she was feeling…jealous? Not for the attention of their First Officer in particular, but that the attention of any man should fall on another before lighting first upon her own shoulders. But those were contemptible thoughts, and Aenardha did not deserve such negativity from Briya. Aenardha had been nothing less than perfectly kind since she and Briya had met and she was an absolute doll of an Aenar. Feeling shame for even thinking the first sprouts of envy, Briya decided then and there that she would make efforts to absolve herself of the transgression by working with the Aenar to see her happily paired or grouped or clustered with whichever man or woman and as many of either as the Aenar should desire. The gift of love would fix everything. It always did. Resolved and content once more, Briya clarified her reply to Nash. “We came upon the Captain and his landing party, and the Counsellor was kind enough to show us onboard.”
Krys smiled at her brother and her husband. She was indeed enjoying her trip off the ship as well as escorting her new shipmates aboard. At the same time, she was starting to feel the strain of being on her feet so long so soon after having the twins. “If you don’t mind Commander, I’d like to return to my quarters? I need to put my feet up.”
Owen nodded as he understood that she was still getting back to normal after the birth of the twins recently. "By all means, Counselor, we'll take it from here," Owen said as he looked at James before turning back to both Sh'vastarth and Valriya.
Krysia nodded and turned to her two companions. “If you’ll both forgive me, I’m currently on maternity leave and I’m definitely feeling it!” She offered a smile.
“Ah, yes,” Briya answered as if it should have been she who had suggested the respite to Krysia. “How thoughtless of me. You must be exhausted.”
“Please feel free to drop by my quarters once you’ve had a tour with the Commander and Lieutenant Smith.” She smiled at James. “I’ll see you later.”
James smiled at his wife and said, "I'll see you later, give the twins a kiss for me and I'll check in before I head back to my office."
Krysia nodded. “I’ll do that, see you later.”
Aenardha had every intention of seeing her later. Despite her own training in counseling and the education she had, there was a lingering and troubling feeling within her. Rest and meditation only helped it to subside, but not go away. “Commander, Lieutenant,” Aenardha regarded them both with a nod as she spoke their ranks. “It is good to finally be coming aboard. I look forward to diving into my work once I am settled and in-processed.” Gripping the handles of both her duffles, Aenardha pulled and dragged them along as she stepped closer to the lieutenant. He was her supervisor after all and they were going to be working closely together. She assumed it would be him to show her to her quarters.
Owen could see that Ensign Sh'vastarth had two duffels and decided to try and be of some help to her after realizing that he'd stared at her a bit too long as they arrived. "Can I be of any help with those, Ensign?" Owen asked, hoping he hadn't already made a terrible first impression.
Briya smiled knowingly and diverted her eyes to the extremely interesting wall paneling.
“Commander, yes. You are too kind.” And she meant her ‘kind’ remark as her only prior interaction with a commander (in this scenario; a student commander) was during the POSSE which she took twice during her time at the Academy. Said commander believed that if he was liked then he was not doing his job. Commander Nash seemed to have a different approach to the position. She attempted to hand him one of the duffel but managed to move it only an inch or two closer to him. From having to carry it this far already, she was not able to find the strength to get it off the floor. "I do hope it is not too heavy," she said with a little bit of strain in her voice." And, with the duffel secured by Commander Nash, Aenardha felt a little ashamed as he managed it easily with one hand.
Once he had secured the duffel, Owen turned around to Valriya. "As well as welcoming you on board, Chief Diplomatic Officer Briya Valriya, you'll need to follow me as I can show where your quarters are and also bring you up to speed on current events within the Expanse..."
“It would be my great pleasure,” Briya enthused. She took up position between the XO and Lt. Smith.
Owen paused for a moment as he led the way down the corridor and towards the nearest turbolift. "We've had quite the ride so far and it's not going to be the easiest trip we've made. But it will go easier with any edge we can get against those who wish to stop us," he explained.
Aenardha had her other duffel on her back, bound and determined to carry it herself to her quarters. She short-stepped so as to ensure balance and stepped speedily to keep up with the others. She worked to mask heavy breathing; not wanting anyone to ponder at her lack of strength.
"Ever since we completed a previous mission in the Expanse, we believe that the Alrakis Pact is now targeting the Pandora and trying to stop us at all costs from reaching Federation space...we've already had one such altercation and we expect more once we leave Paradise station... that's where your talents as a Diplomat will come in handy," Owen explained as they walked.
“I witnessed this signal you allude to, Commander. It will draw trouble to us, no doubt. Have any of the adversaries encountered within the Expanse shown themselves to be open to peace talks?” Briya sounded genuinely concerned that in the absence of such conditions, she’d be of little use.
“In my studies so far,” Aenardha spoke up as she worked to keep up with them with the weighty duffel on her back, “it seems their only measure of peace comes from the destruction of the Pandora.” She could sense a level of concern from Briya. It dominated her thoughts. Aenardha had studied and combed over much information while a passenger aboard Qaraq’s ship. In all that information, she came to one conclusion; “We are like a parasite to them. One that must not escape. Once we do…” She did not know all the secrets the Pandora had, so she could not fathom a guess at the fallout once the Pandora made it back to Federation space, once a debrief had been conducted. “Then the Pact will have two options.” And one of those options was going to be peace and talks. Aenardha did not yet want to explain that she felt that Briya’s diplomacy was going to have to be one of strength and vehemence.
Owen decided to chime in at this point. "Ah, well, there may well be a chance of talking and discussing with others out there about making sure we can get some sort of safe passage and that's where you come in, Miss Valriya," Owen began as they walked.
“Please Commander, it is just Briya; at least until we find ourselves in trouble. Then you may name me in whichever manner you wish.” There was a frolicsome tone to her invitation; somewhere between coyishness and outright flirtation. “If peace is to be had, I will find it. If words and promise alone are to bring allies to our side, it will be done.”
"We were lucky enough to come by some intelligence from... an unexpected source and after some crude negotiating, we were able to get to Paradise Station without too much trouble...but have no doubt, your abilities and experience will be needed and a big benefit to us as we head home. Where possible, the Captain wants to avoid going into combat where we can, despite having the Palatine out here somewhere as well." Owen was clear in his tone and wanted to make sure that he was understood in the situation they were facing.
“I understand, Commander.” Briya wanted to say that it was unfair to apply the label of crude to any negotiations with hostile species that didn’t end in outright combat. But she had to consider the Commander may be using crude negotiations to refer to combat itself. Unlike the as-one Aenar arrival, Briya did not have the benefit of telepathy and would need to come to know more about the Command Officers the old fashioned way.
"I can go into more detail once we have you both settled in your quarters on board," Owen added.
“Are the quarters by any chance located near Engineering?” Briya sounded quite hopeful.
"Indeed, they are," Owen confirmed. "We received your request regarding quarters locations and I've been able to accommodate you in that area as well. You'll be located on the same deck as Engineering, hopefully, that's satisfactory?"
“That is most agreeable, Commander.” There was a twinkle in Briya’s eyes.
Once they arrived at the turbolift, Owen summoned the car and then it arrived. He moved in and made room for the others to join him. Once everyone was in, Owen called for the deck where Ensign Sh'vastarth would be located for quarters. "Once we've dropped off the Ensign here, I'll take you to your quarters," Owen said to Briya. "I'm sure that we can speak more along the way and also allow Lieutenant Smith to catch up with his newest addition to the team."
It was only a few second’s ride to the deck containing Aenardha’s quarters. The door slid open invitingly. “Commander,” she said as she stepped out and turned back to him, “I thank you for the warm welcome. Rest assured, I will complete my new arrival in-processing and will be ready to work before you know it.”
"My pleasure, Ensign. I hope to...see you soon? In the meantime, I'll leave you in the capable hands of Lieutenant James," Owen said, feeling that starstruck feeling coming over him again.
Aenardha could see herself through Owen’s eyes. She brightened before him to a small degree. In fact, everything brightened. His pupils dilated as he looked at her. She could not help but to give a genuine smile, as short-lived as it was. She gave a wave to Briya.
Completely forgetting in that moment that Aenardha was blind, Briya waved cheerily back at her new friend then while the men were looking elsewhere, raised her eyebrows and twirled just her eyes towards Commander Nash - and encouraging indicator that there may just be something there between him and the Aenar; something relationshipical.
The doors slid closed and, though Aenardha could still see through Owen’s eyes if she wanted, she cut herself off from his vision as the turbolift began carrying them away. She still had the duffel on her back and Lieutenant James now had her second duffel in hand. He was going to show her the rest of the way toward her quarters.
Once the doors had closed leaving Briya and himself alone inside the turbolift, Owen ordered for Engineering and felt the lift move again. The Risian loathed silence; or perhaps it was the various patterns of detachment that she struggled with. Be it what it may, Valriya was not one for taciturn turbolifts. “I read that Human civilisation at one time piped in music to their chambered lift systems. To be fair, the lift systems were much slower back then, so occupying such an interim was of larger concern than it is today. Still, it’s a shame that the experience has fallen out of embrace Earth-side. If there are no specific regulations within Starfleet preventing it, I’d be happy to champion the cause for the return of this incorporation of soothing musical track.” From her position at Owen’s side, Briya glanced at him and smiled. She looked away then glanced again, more carefully this time. “You have a very memorable face, Commander. I’m sure you get that all the time. But I can’t help but feel that I’ve seen you from some non-Starfleet arena. Have you done any modelling work for holo novels?”
Owen smiled as the turbolift doors opened once more; this time on the main Engineering deck. "Oh? Have we met before somewhere that I'm not aware of?" Owen asked as they walked along the deck. He was aware that he'd been posted in different locations and that it was always possible that they had met and he'd not recalled Briya.
“I’ll cross-reference your service record and my personnel file, and we’ll see what comes up.” She gave him a playful smile as they navigated the halls.
"As for the holo novels? Well, I've never been approached for holo novel modelling before, but they do say that there is a first time for everything, regardless of where you are and who you are with. I have enough fun with the holo novels I get involved in as a player... modelling is another matter," he said with a small chuckle.
“I suppose some first times are more memorable than others. I certainly don’t recall each of mine. But if you’d like to see my first time modelling for the Federation Holographic Imaginarium, I’m sure at least a few of the crew have a copy in their private stash. I only ask that you keep an open mind and…perhaps it would be best if you were alone when you enact the program for the first time. After that, bring a friend or two. But not Aenardha,” Briya quickly added.
Owen took a moment to let what Briya had said sink in before he realised and replied back. "Oh... I see. Well there's no judgement here, I can assure you," he said quickly. Then he thought for a moment. "There’s a program? I wasn't aware... I guess I really must be slipping...its been sometime since I was active in that way, I guess the job has kept me occupied."
“Oh yes; both private and patented holo-programs make use of licensed holo-modeling. Most would-be program designers throw in the towel after one or two failed attempts to write a steamy holo-adventure from the ground up. It’s much more difficult than it looks. Computers can render and extrapolate, but true sex appeal is often species-specific. That’s where holo-modelling comes in; vast arrays of anatomical figures and vacillating templates built and sampled from actual men, women and non-gendered individuals - men, women and non-gendered individuals who are compensated for their services. Which is for the best because nothing is as lifelike as the real thing, I assure you. Even organisations the size of Starfleet pay for the rights to access these body templates. It’s not widely discussed for obvious reasons, but it can be a lucrative profession.”
As they walked, Owen suddenly stopped as he picked up on something else Briya had said. "Erm, why wouldn't I bring Aenardha... er I mean Ensign Sh'vastarth? She's only just come aboard and there's nothing between us... I don't really understand," Owen added.
Valriya considered Owen then nodded. “I only meant that if you came across a holo-adventure in which my personage is featured; I would rather our Aenar not be exposed to it in your presence. She has a way of reading into things,” and here Briya tapped the temples of her head, “and I would not want her to confuse and stirrings you may have. Aenardha is an exquisite Ensign; that her merits are recognised at first sight is almost to be expected. So it does not surprise me that she has only just come aboard and already stands out to her Commanding Officer. If I’m not mistaken, it’s part of your training and responsibility as the ship’s XO to recognise and encourage the potential in each addition to the crew, yes? I think we can both agree that there is much potential in the Ensign; as a friend, as a member of the crew, or something more should it become something more. Risian’s and Diplomats just like to keep all options on the table, but I did not mean to offend you in any of these blatherings.”
Owen took a moment as he relaised what Briya was saying and then made himself look as professional as possible. "Of course, no offence was taken," he replied, wondering if she'd already picked up on his interest with the new ensign.
Briya abruptly laid a hand on Owen’s arm and pointed at the doors to Main Engineering. “Is that it?!” She asked in an excited pitch. “There’s a warp core beyond those doors and a room full of nothing but Engineers…” She sounded as if she’d discovered the night scene’s hottest new venue on the streets of Paris. “Please tell me my quarters are nearby, Commander. I should very much prefer the opportunity to freshen up before I…before I familiarise myself with the physical arrangement of the ship.”
Owen stopped just at a doorway just past Engineering itself. "This is you; hopefully that's close enough to Engineering for you," Owen explained as he keyed in the unlock code and allowed Briya to enter.
“Simply grand,” Briya certified without more than a cursory glance into the accommodations. She popped her head back out into the corridor and peeked over the short ways to Engineering. “Simply grand.”