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JAN/FEB The Masks of Duty


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Katrina glanced over her appearance in the strangely plain mirror and adjusted the clip in her hair so that two long tendrils fell to either side of her face without obscuring it. Dressed in her best, the reporter was preparing for what might just be one of the most exciting days of her life. As part of a special program, she had been chosen along with nine other up-and-coming journalists, to participate in an in-depth look at just how things were done on a ship in today's Starfleet. The project was half a recruitment ploy and half an effort to bring those out on exploration missions closer to home, but to Katrina, it was the job of a lifetime.

Ensuring that everything was in place and perfect, the dark haired woman leaned backwards so that she could see around the side of the door frame to check the time. There was still ten minutes before she needed to leave for the media relations office in the Command Tower. It would be just enough time to touch up her makeup and ensure that every last detail of her appearance was perfect.

For her, the call to join Starfleet had come too late. It was only after the accident that took her leg that she realized it would have been a fine way of life. By then, she was already a well renowned journalist anyways, and leaving the profession she had excelled at to take a stab at something she probably wouldn't be able to do on account of her life-long injury, well, it just didn't make sense. But today, all of that was just water under the bridge. Today she would be in the middle of everything with access to every member of the senior staff and it was a day that she had been looking forward to since the project had been announced.

Another glance at the clock told her that it was time to go. With one final look in the mirror, Katrina grabbed her PADD and recorder before confidently walking out of the temporary quarters they had assigned her the day before. The day was waiting and she wasn't going to be the one to hold it up. So, it was with a huge smile on her perfectly made up face that she set off for her assignment.

((Later, Aboard the USS Endeavor))

Things had happened quickly inside the office of the press secretary; so quickly that she hadn't even sat before the details of the day were revealed. She was to be deployed to the USS Endeavor to mirror and interview the senior staff throughout the course of an entire standard day. It would be a test of her time efficiency as well as a test of the officers who she would be speaking with. There was the ever present promise of trouble in the air, along with a dash of awe and wonder, as Katrina had followed the junior officer that had been assigned as her guide. Without many words, he had quickly led her to the transporter and now she was no longer on the Starbase. Instead, she was surrounded by the plain grey bulkheads of a ship based transporter room.

"So. Where did you want to go first?"

The voice floated up to her ears from the ground in front of the transporter pad. Realizing that she had little time to waste, Katrina quickly stepped off the pad herself and started towards the door. Her guide fell in step next to her.

"I thought we'd go by sickbay and engineering first if it's all the same to you," she said as she offered him one of the smiles that she was so well known for. What kind of a journalist would she be without a great smile? This one, like so many others, was just a part of the persona.

"Sounds good to me," he said as he shrugged, "I've got nowhere else to be."

He made an attempt at taking the lead, but Katrina was already on the quickest path to sickbay. She had spent much of the night before looking at maps and charts so that she could maximize the time she would have with each of the officers she was to interview. That was, at least, one thing that no one could ever accuse her of; being unprepared. Content that she knew where she was going, her guide fell back into step next to her in silence.

((Sickbay, USS Endeavor))

It wasn't a busy day in sickbay, at least not yet. The ship probably hadn't left the Starbase yet, but Katrina was well on her way towards completing the assignment. In an attempt to be as little of a distraction as possible, she simply stepped inside and began watching as normal events began to unfold.

Towards the other side of the room, there was a single occupied biobed with a man on it who looked as if he was meant to be anywhere but there. His clothing indicated that he had been doing some kind of exercise. Katrina would later find out he had been playing tennis on the holodeck. She pulled the small recorder from her pocket and hit record just in time to catch a simple exchange between the doc tor and the man.

"I know you won't heed this advice," the doctor began as she pressed a hypospray to his neck, "but you really should take it easy for a week or so. That elbow won't heal if you keep pushing it."

The smile on the woman's face made her seem overly friendly and only trying to help. The man responded in kind with a friendly look and a shrug.

"I know. I just can't sit around," the man said as he laughed.

"Well, you should be good to go now," the doctor said as she felt the area around the man's elbow. "I'll see you tomorrow."

The man hopped off the biobed and waved. Turning just before he made it to the door, he stopped.

"Perhaps not," he said just before disappearing beyond the sliding doors.

Katrina watched him leave before walking towards the doctor, who had literally plopped down in the chair behind the Chief Medical Officer's desk in the half enclosed office to the right of the biobeds where she had just been. The smile was gone from her face and she rubbed her temples before noticing the journalist standing in the doorway.

"Oh, hello," the doctor offered her a small smile as she spoke, "you must be that reporter."

Stepping forward with an outstretched hand, Katrina introduced herself.

"That's me, and this is my first stop."

The smile returned to the doctor's face as she sat up a bit more and nodded thoughtfully before speaking again, "Welcome to the Endeavor."

Not sure what she had just witnessed, Katrina took the cue to sit in a chair on the other side of the desk. With a quick glance around the small office, she thought of the best way to ask just what it was that she wanted to ask.

"Rough day already?" was all she could muster.

The doctor shook her head no, "I'm just a bit tired, but not enough to interfere with my bedside manner."

Katrina made a note on the PADD in her hand; bedside manner.

The conversation continued without any trouble and soon the excited journalist had the first of her interviews completed. With a quick thanks to the doctor for taking the time to speak with her, she stood and led her guide out into the corridor. Her mind was already on the next place they would be visiting; Engineering. As she got closer to the moment she would step onto the bridge of that starship her heart seemed to get faster. It would be the crowning moment of the entire day.

Not wanting to get ahead of herself, however, she forced one or two deep breaths before the pair arrived at the overly large door to the Engineering department.

((Engineering, USS Endeavor))

The first thing that Katrina noticed about Engineering was the noise. It wasn't an unpleasant noise, but it was loud enough for you to not be able to speak in a normal tone if you wanted other people to hear you. In fact, she could hear a few people speaking loudly over the din of the core itself and the many different computers that were all making sounds of their own. One voice stood out above all others though; one voice that quickly exclaimed in surprise upon seeing the journalist and her guide.

"I'm that far behind?!"

The man in the gold collar turned, regaining his composure, and issued orders to the group of officers in front of him. He was calm and calculating, directing each of the officers in a firm and commanding manner to the jobs that needed to be accomplished before they went to warp. There wasn't much time, he explained. They were about to head out on their day-long mission and he didn't want to be accountable for the entire ship running behind.

As the group dispersed, the man himself found the closest ladder and slid all the way down to the place where Katrina and her guide stood waiting. Extending a hand as she had at the first interview, she half expected the man to take it and lead them to an office. Apparently he had other things to do just then, however, and he walked right past her.

"If you want to talk to me, then you've got to walk with me," he said as he moved by in a hurry, "I've got to realign the field before we can engage the warp drive."

Scurrying to keep up, Katrina followed the man as he seemed to dart from one station to another. His hands flew across the consoles as if they weren't human but something much more...machine-like. She tried to ask a few questions, to which she got varying short answers, but it wasn't until she asked him if he was always quite so 'in a hurry' that he actually stopped and turned to her.

"Ya know, I don't think I'm like this unless I'm here in Engineering," he said with a soft tone behind it, "I'd say I'm normally pretty laid back and lazy."

To that comment he laughed heartily before becoming the swirl of activity he had been only moments before.

Much like her interview with the doctor, this one went quickly and sooner, rather than later, she was on the move again. This time, however, she would be taking her recording device and her PADD to the bridge. Her excitement must have shown too, because the man next to her seemed to be widening his step just to keep up with her. It didn't matter to the journalist though. This was a dream come true in many ways, and as she approached the lift that would carry them to the center of activity on the ship, her face betrayed the girlish giddy excitement that raged within.

((Bridge, USS Endeavor))

Her first step out onto the bridge after the lift stopped was like walking into a dream. She had never gotten the chance to be on a real bridge, especially on one of the most well known starships in the whole of Starfleet. The smile that was plastered on her face was almost too much, but the bridge officer's didn't seem to mind. Her escort took her around the bridge and showed her each of the stations while introducing her to each member of the senior staff. They each offered her a welcome before the first officer stood and gestured towards the ready room door.

"I think we have the perfect place for you to conduct your interviews," he said as he smiled, "right this way."

The grin on her face got even bigger; who knew she was going to be allowed in there! Nodding excitedly, Katrina followed the much taller man into the small room. She looked around and took in everything, burning it in her mind. This would likely be the one and only chance she would have at an experience like this. After a moment, she finally moved towards a sofa sitting in one of the corners.

"Will this be alright?" she asked as she looked up at him. He had been watching her take it all in, giving her the chance to really feel the power of the room. With a smile, he replied.

"Perfect. I'll send in the first victim."

The look on his face told her he was joking and she laughed as she nodded. Without a wasted moment, the man left the room and she gathered her wits as best she could. This was the moment she had been waiting for; she had the chance to sit and really see what made each of the officers on the senior staff tick. It was exciting and it was an amazing assignment. She was more than happy it had fallen to her. A moment later, the doors of the room slid open and the first of many officers walked in.

Katrina greeted them each as they came and went, spending about fifteen minutes with each of them. The process took a few hours, but now all that was left was the Captain. She saw her day winding down and her time aboard the ship drawing to a close as the almost regal man walked through the doors. As she had the others, she greeted him with a smile and gave him a moment to settle. He took up a spot on the sofa a few feet from her with a mug of warm tea. Content that he was ready, she began the same line of questions again.

Before she knew it, she found herself towards the end of the questions, and with an almost sad smile she looked up at the man.

"That's all I have, Captain," she said, "I do want to thank you for this opportunity. It's been amazing. You have a very nice ship here."

She was almost rambling, and she realized it, so she stopped there and forced her lips closed.

"Not a problem," he replied with a warm smile back in her direction, "We do enjoy a change to the daily routine sometimes."

Pushing back a piece of her hair that had fallen at some point during the interviews, Katrina nodded.

"Everyone was very cooperative and nice," she stated as she tapped a few keys on the padd in her hand. It was a true statement and she was glad that she had gotten the information she had. A few feet away, the Captain nodded and smiled knowingly.

"Good. Then perhaps you'd like to do it all over."

"What? Why?" Katrina looked up with a very confused look and nearly stuttered the response.

The man stood and walked to his desk where he sat his mug down.

"There's a get together in our lounge tonight if you'd like to join us," he turned slowly until he faced her again as he spoke, "and perhaps in that environment, you'll get to see everyone as they really are. You know, without the masks of duty."

He walked over to her and handed her a padd before giving her another nod.

"We'll see you there," he said without waiting for a response.

Turning on his heel, he moved back out onto the bridge only to be replaced by her escort. Katrina knew now that it was time to go, but the words of the Captain kept running through her mind. Absentmindedly following the escort, she almost didn't notice she was going anywhere until she could feel the lift start moving.

Looking up at the escort, who had been watching her, she grinned, "I guess I get to stay a little longer."

With eyes that glowed with childlike excitement, Katrina turned her attention back to the padd as she compiled the information into one file and made room for new. If she was right about what the Captain had said, she was going to need a lot more room for the second time around.

---

Commander Kalianna Nicholotti

Commanding Officer

Starbase 118/USS Victory

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