Location: XO's Office
Initial physical? Check.
Security clearance? Check.
Inserted into the duty roster? Check.
It seemed Aenardha had covered all her bases and was fully in-processed as a crew member of the USS Pandora. She had formally met almost all the senior staff except for the Captain and the XO whom she had only met briefly. Meeting the captain would take a little more time. His duty was to the ship. It was the XO whose duty covered the ship’s personnel. And, now that Aenardha had completed her in-processing, she was to finish it off with a one-on-one with the XO.
Whilst at the Academy, Aenardha was told to be prepared for new arrivals to be invited to dinner with either the Captain or the XO, or both. She was also told to be prepared to not be invited or for said meet-and-greet to not even occur. Commanding officers differed from person to person. Aenardha was just glad to finally be a part of the crew. She wanted to maintain professional working relationships with all her colleagues, even make some friends, close friends, people to consider family, etc.
Public vision got her all the way to the office of Commander Nash. She stood before his door and adjusted herself somewhat, making sure her uniform was straight, her hair was to regulation, her appearance immaculate. The uniform was a bit hot for her taste but her extended time at the Academy got her habitualized to increased temperatures. She certainly did not want to be sweating when she finally had a chance to sit down with the man.
Taking a breath, she pressed the door chime.
Having caught up on his duties whilst the Pandora was docked at Paradise Station, Owen decided to catchup on some paperwork whilst he had some time, especially with Mindo having put good use to the time he had given him and the extra resources they could spare to help get the ship back to a respectable status for once the time came when the Luna Class vessel would leave the safe haven.
He'd also had some time to think about how he had acted as he met Ensign Sh'vastarth and helped her aboard the Pandora. He chided himself to begin with for acting like a giddy schoolboy with a crush on the newest teacher at school. But as he thought about her more, Owen found himself intrigued about the ensign in a way that was different to anyone he had been close to before.
Hearing the chime, Owen snapped out of his thinking and looked up and called "Come in." As the door opened, he saw that it was Ensign Sh'vastarth and straight away he made a conscious effort to stand straight and look professional.
"Please, come in, Ensign," Owen said as he watched her walk into his office. Having done his homework since their first meeting, Owen now understood that she could use the sight of others which helped Ensign Sh'vastarth to see around herself. Because of this, Owen guided to a chair.
"Please feel free to take a seat," he offered. "Can I get you a drink?"
“Thank you…yes...sir,” she managed as she lowered herself into the chair across the desk from him. “Water please.” But Aenardha had to remind herself what she meant by that. She had already programmed her own replicator to produce what she specifically wanted when she asked for water. “Andorian Arctic Brine fortified with a trace of liquid oxygen,” she followed up her request.
Her definition of water was actually her go-to beverage for when she needed to unwind or to let its cold properties help calm the fire in her nerves. And meeting the XO was not a time for unwinding as she felt the first glint of perspiration from beneath her uniform. Not due to the uniform but her desire to remain calm whilst meeting the first officer. This was definitely a measure to calm the fire of her nerves.
Owen paused as she explained what her flavour of water was and smiled. He wasn't surprised as he ordered a glass of water for himself and then a glass of Andorian Arctic Brine fortified with a trace of liquid oxygen. Once both drinks appeared, Owen made sure he gave the right drink to Sh'vastarth.
"I'll remember that for next time," he said before taking a seat. Looking around, Owen also remembered her request for colder quarters. "Would you like me to reduce the temperature in here for you? Would help make you more comfortable?" he asked.
Once again, Owen tried to make sure that he remained professional whilst they were in the same room. Once more there was something intriguing about her and he wanted to know more.
“I am quite comfortable, sir. Thank you.” Aenardha picked up the glass of Andorian Arctic Brine and set it back down with a bit of force. It was nowhere near the point to break the glass but enough to cause a disturbance at the bottom of the liquid. A pale blue arc flashed and vanished, but resulted in more similarly coloured arcs worming their way throughout the liquid medium. The only sound was of a dull effervescence as the sparse particles of liquid oxygen interacted with the sodium chloride contained within the brine. The entire process left the liquid slightly translucent with a hint of the colour blue.
Aenardha took a sip and gave an ever so slight shiver as the liquid ventured forth.
“This stuff helps cool your core,” she said. “Sucks the heat right out of you. It is served cold, but it feels even colder. And…uh…” she drew his attention to her uniform; showed off the jacket sleeve, what was visible of the undershirt. Her entire uniform, in all its articles, was moisture wicking. It was obviously Starfleet issue, but, because of the material, it did appear slightly different in its color and the way it looked in the light. “This uniform is approved for Aenar in uniform to wear. Again, it helps keep the wearer cool.”
"Always prepared, that's good to know," Owen said as he could see that she was well catered for. Taking asip of his water, Owen decided to get things underway.
"So,. how are you finding your time aboard the Pandora, Ensign? Are there any issues or queries you want to run past me? Is there anything I should be aware of now that you are aboard? I want to make sure that you are as much at home on the Pandora as everyone else is," he offered.
"In fact, with all the time we've spent in the expanse, we've almost become like a family unit more than a crew at times. the perils of being the lead starship of the expedition out here..." he added. Owen managed to stop himself from asking if she had a partner or cute boyfriend and once again internally chided himself for not staying on course.
“Everything is fine so far, sir,” Aenardha spoke up in his stead. She did not want to pry any into her request regarding her quarters so she skipped that question. “I know I am the newest crew member aboard and I know it will take time for me to be accepted by all. Some, however, may view me as an outsider.” That was how her time at the Academy was spent. She was something of an outsider. Partly due to her presence meaning the creation of a new PT standard and partly the people she was frequently seen with outside of hours of instruction. They were not exactly what parents would want their offspring to associate with. “In uniform, sir, you can rest assured I will strive to be an integral part of this crew.” Aenardha was not certain of the ‘out of uniform’ part.
But this crew seemed to have been through a lot. And they were cut off from the safe harbour of Federation Space for so long. For some, aside from sleep, there was no out-of-uniform time. For some, there was no room for outsiders. This reprieve at Paradise Station could have only been the eye of the storm for many; a mere break before being thrown into the fray once again. For some, an outsider was a welcomed change; a new ear that will listen. Aenardha thought about not bringing it up, but, “You will see in my record that I am trained, and qualified actually, in counselling. I studied that before I was for…um…changed my focus to Intelligence. Should the ship’s counsellor become overwhelmed or if someone wants a new ear that will listen, I am willing to pull double duty.” Aside from the promise to pull double duty, Aenardha realized another reason she partially did not want to bring that up.
If the commander perused her file, paying special focus to her training in counselling, he would see a particularly disturbing incident that occurred during the Phases on Stun Student Exercise (aka POSSE); something that even she needed counselling for.
Owen nodded as she made her suggestion and realised that it would come in handy to someone else bolster up the counselling staff in what had been a difficult time recently and that having that access would offer some respite. "I appreciate the suggestion Ensign and I'll take that to the Captain," he said. "It would be good to be able to offer an extended service to the crew, goodness knows with all that we have been through in the Expanse."
"We do have several counsellors aboard, however, I can put you in touch with them and see what plans can be put together to assist," Owen said. He paused for a moment. "Hell, there are days I wish I had an ear to bend...which isn't easy when you are the Executive Officer of a Federation Starship...I have plenty on my plate."
Owen stopped for a second and suddenly realized how inappropriate he must have sounds. "I'm sorry about that, Ensign, ignore me...I was thinking out loud. But It's a good idea, I like that in a Starfleet officer, cross-training and all that. It's good to have a second occupation where possible."
“I like to think that I will make myself indispensable, sir,” she said. “And, I agree. It is not always easy for the XO or the captain to confide in someone like that. I am sure you know that counselors and telepaths alike are all obligated to hold to their vow of confidence. Should…you,” she said as an example, “come to me with anything in confidence, then I cannot tell anyone. Unless it is a direct threat to Starfleet, the Federation, or to the well-being of a crew member. I cannot use said information against you or for my own gain.” She knew he already knew all that. Nash would not have been the XO otherwise.
“My reason for calling at your office, sir,” she placed her PADD on his desk and tapped on it. It lit up and the braille dots raised so she could ‘see’ what she was doing. “…is this.” Bringing up her in-processing form, she spun the PADD around, to let him see the bulleted list of stops aboard the ship she needed to do for her in-processing. Every stop was green, every check box was filled in and every signature line had a name. Save for one. “I have completed my in-processing aboard the Pandora except for the Commander’s interview,” which was, of course, the last thing to be done.
Owen took the PADD from the Ensign and could see the only task left to be completed and smiled. "So, I'm the final task on the to do list eh? Thats been a while," he said with a smile. Taking a sip of his drink, Owen foused for a moment.
"Very well, then let's begin. First of all, ensign, what made you choose the Pandora as an assignment? We're a Luna Class vessel that has spearheaded the exploration of the Inconnu Expanse for quite some time now and we've not always endeared ourselves to either Starfleet Command nor the Alrakis Pact that's out here...It can be a dangerous assignment, so I'm curious to know why this was your choice," Owen questioned.
Though this assignment was kind of forced upon her, she did answer matter-of-factly. "I found the assignment intriguing, sir. There is a ship, far from home and in a place surrounded by enemies. The crew only wishes to return home in one piece. I saw that the Intelligence team seemed to have been lacking. Intelligence was my focus of course. Given my already existing training in counseling, given the crew could probably be overwhelming the ship's counselor with their issues, I saw the Pandora as the greatest opportunity to display my traits, abilities and my training, giving everyone the hope and strength they need to get home."
That little speech was something she had been practising for some time and only hoped that little factoid did not come across in her words. On top of all that, she had issues of her own. "It is not only my desire to help or to lead, but to become an integral part of this crew, to look to my peers for answers to my own issues, to better myself and to see this crew as more than a crew, but a family." That too was rehearsed, but it was truthful. "Sir." She finished.
Owen considered the answer that she gave and was impressed that Ensign Sh'vastarth had done her homework about the Pandora and her time in the Expanse as well as picking up on areas of the ship that required assistance as well as support whilst aboard. she also showed a clear willingness to progress as well and that was always something looked for in any junior officer.
"Very well, it's clear that you've put through into this and that you are committed to applying your skills as best you can whilst aboard," Owen said. "Knowing that you are trained in both Intelligence and Counseling means that both areas will be gaining a valuable officer to their ranks and I for one applaud that."
Taking a sip of his water, Owen decided to press on with his questions as part of the interview. "So, being trained and capable of or working in two different departments, I must then ask: Are you capable of keeping these two different types of work separate without affecting your own personal judgement? Will you be able to cope with one day working on Intelligence objectives and tasks and then the next working as a counsellor helping a member of the crew with difficulties they wish to overcome?" he asked.
"I certain can do that, sir," Aenardha said. "Of course you know, if someone were to, in confidence, approach me with anything that I deem to be a direct threat to the Federation, Starfleet, this vessel or her crew, then I will have to report that up the Chain of Command and perhaps even to Intelligence, LT James and myself. When it comes to personal issues, however, I certainly can and will keep the two separate. I want to be the person you can turn to, in trust, in times of personal need and in times of duty, sometimes in the same conversation. Do know that there are two aboard the Pandora that I cannot read telepathically. One whose race I naturally cannot read and one who has been trained or has otherwise been blocked from telepathic links. So, my skills as a counselor will be diminished upon those two...that I know of that is." Aenardha finished her little speech and almost forgot the, "sir."
"Very good, that's good to know, Ensign," Owen said. "To be able to separate both types of work as well as being able to perform your duty either in times of peace or crisis is an expected trait of a Starfleet officer and so far, from what you've said to me, I'm convinced that you are very capable of doing both." He smiled as he felt more confident in speaking with her.
"As for not being able to read others, I'm well assured that part of being trained as a counselor is the ability to be able to read others without the enhanced sense of telepathy or empathy. So, therefore, when you are holding counselling sessions aboard, I take it that you would not be either intimated or challenged were you approached by one of the senior officers on the crew...or even as far as to say that you could be approached by either the Captain or myself? Would...that be an issue for you?" he asked.
Aenardha was already shaking her head. "That would not, sir. I take my job and my oath very seriously. Anything spoken to me in confidence stays with me in confidence. In fact," she also felt more comfortable and confident speaking with him, "one of our assignments at the Academy was to counsel a ship's former first officer. She was a lieutenant in an XO position. The telepaths in the class were unable to read her, so we had to rely on our textbook knowledge. I, admittedly, was not very effective. It was a learning experience though. I found only my inability to read her intimidating...a challenge at least. I would not be intimidated...I will try to not be intimidated...if you were to come upon me in confidence. In similar fashion, I would not be intimidated if LT James had me bring any new Intel to you in his stead."
Owen took a sip of his drink again and nodded his agreement afterwards to her answer. From what he was hearing so far, Owen was impressed with the Ensign and felt that she would be a good fit in with the crew.
"Ensign, you've said a couple of times that you have found various challenges with your senses both in the Academy and in previous assignments, yet I haven't seen anything since you joined the crew to suggest that these challenges have affected your ability to meet and complete your duties aboard," he pointed out before carrying on.
"I know when you spoke to me as I greeted you aboard that you were looking to challenge yourself and improve upon these issues. How will you be going about this and what goals have you set yourself to improve?" he asked.
"Well, I am certainly not limitless. I am sure my limitations and any shortcomings will eventually come to light. My goals are to see to the safe return of this ship and crew back to Federation space, to face any limitations and shortcomings and to power pass them and beyond without any impact upon my performance. The Aenar, you know, are not known for physical strength or endurance. I have already met with Lieutenant Comman...erm...Mr. Cailus Griffin to help me build and enact an exercise routine. I may never be up to par with, say you," she said with an approving nod, "but I do aim to pull my weight when some pulling needs to be done."
Owen tapped a few comments into his PADD as he listened to the Ensign before replying. "Well, you've chosen a fine teacher in Mr Griffin, he'll soon have you in good shape," he admitted.
"What Mr Griffin doesn't know about fitness, exercise and routine isn't worth knowing and he'll make sure that you meet the goals that you've set yourself in that area. Whilst we all strive to be the best that we can, the beauty of being a Starfleet Officer aboard a starship or starbase is that that we all bring different qualities to the table and you yourself will add to the impressive array that we already have aboard the Pandora."
Owen paused for a moment. "What I like even more, Ensign, is that one of your goals includes seeing to the safe return of this ship and crew back to Federation space and that's exactly what our primary mission objective is. Its good to know already that you are focused on being a part of that journey and I welcome you in being part of the crew that will all play their part in getting us home."
Owen stopped as he thought of being back on or near Earth again and for a moment, that niggling feeling of loneliness came back to him. Shaking it off quickly, he looked at the Ensign.
"So, finally, one more question. Is there anything that you would like to ask of me or require from me, Ensign?" he asked.
Aenardha thought briefly of her request for her quarters but decided it was best to leave that alone for now. With the ship in the middle of a hostile environment, it seemed beneath her to inquire about modifications to her quarters. She did feel warmly welcomed by all and wanted the many requests for others to assist her when going to and fro to end, but she knew that would all go away in time once they saw her blindness not putting her into any disadvantage at all. She did however want to inquire about any crew gatherings so she could get to know her colleagues a little better but perusing the various schedules in the computer would provide her with the answers she needed. There was little to nothing else she could think of, except, of course for, “Just your signature on that last line,” she said. It was unintentional of course, but she, perhaps in her comfortableness, forgot to end with a ‘sir.’
Owen picked up on the lack of a sir once again but decided to let it slide as he saw this as more of an informal meeting for now. He happily took hold of the PADD and put his thumb against it, sealing his signature on the document.
"Well, that's it, Ensign, you're fully onboarded and a member of this fine crew and family," he said. Standing up, he reached out to shake her hand. "Welcome aboard the Pandora and may you serve her with honour and distinction during your duties here," he said.
“Thank you, sir,” Aenardha said as she stood in kind and shook his hand. She managed to see his extended hand through the lower fringes of his periphery and did grip it on the first try.
Also, Owen felt glad that the interview had gone well between them both. He was very confident of the Ensign's abilities and looked forward to seeing more of her. "Does this leave you with a final task of meeting the Captain?" he asked.
“It does not, sir,” she said. “His duty is to the ship. Yours is to the crew. Captain Temple only needs to see this complete In-Processing form.”
They each reclaimed their hands. “I do look forward to working with you and this crew. And, please, if there is every anything you need, that I can provide, I shall try to avail myself.”
Owen nodded as the Ensign made her polite offer. "Thank you, I appreciate that very much," Owen began. "Whilst being the Executive Officer onboard a Federation Starship can be a very difficult job, it's also good to let off some steam now and then. If possible, I may just take you up on a chat sometime. It would be good to get some things off my chest."
"The only issue I find of late is that with my step-sister being the chief Counselor on board, it would be sometimes easier to speak with someone else and release the tension that I often carry with me," he added.
“It is actually recommended that one should seek a completely objective viewpoint as opposed to someone familial, sir.” In the situation Nash found himself in, Aenardha felt he was actually duty-bound to do just that. She did not want to vocalize that though. She felt that information was too obvious, insulting his intelligence; an Ensign giving a Commander an order even.
"Thank you, Ensign, I'll keep that in mind," Owen said before smiling.
"Is there anything else, sir?"
"No, I think that's it, you're all good as far as this interview goes," Owen said, putting his thumbprint on the PADD he had been using. "You're free to return to your duties Ensign."
"Thank you, sir," she said. With another hurdle out of the way, perhaps the final hurdle, she could feel like a genuine member of the crew. A small formed on her face; a genuine smile, something not too common with Aenardha. She retrieved her PADD and started away. "I will not let you down, sir." Aenardha turned and made her exit.