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Cmdr. Aron Kells & Lt.JG Didrik Stennes (Drake): The Date‏


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(( Bridge, USS Drake ))

::Many of the Drake's crew were down in the holodeck attending Lt. Shryker's wedding, leaving the bridge looking rather sparse. Sparse enough, in fact, that Didrik craned his neck to quickly survey the area. He wondered whether he was the ranking officer at the moment, and thus in temporary command of the Drake. He couldn't be certain, however, because of what Starfleet pilots called the Miranda-class "blind spot," an area of the bridge nearly impossible to see from the Conn without actually getting up out of the seat. Satisfied that he was, at the very least, 'acting second officer,' he returned his attention to the viewscreen, where a live feed from the holodeck was broadcasting the wedding in its entirety.::

::Commander Rogers walked Jade down the aisle, to an arch of flowers positioned at a precipice over a wooded valley. It was at that point that Didrik admittedly began paying less attention to the ceremony, and more attention to the officiant: Aron Kells. It was the first time he'd seen Aron since they'd parted ways on Alpha Centauri. He was surprised to have gotten the brief message from Aron that morning, inviting him to meet on the holodeck after the ceremony was over, but pleasantly so. He was looking forward to getting the chance to reconnect, even if it was with a holographic transmission of the Drake's former science chief in lieu of the real thing.::

::The brief ceremony drew to a close, and soon after, members of the Drake's crew who'd attended slowly repopulated the bridge. Didrik relinquished the helm to another officer and entered the turbolift, deliberately keeping a steady pace.::

(( Holodeck One, USS Mercury ))

:: All the guests had left, the bride and groom had retired, the captains and officers from the other ships had walked through those double doors, back to their lives. Aron was left alone on the Mercury’s, and he simply stood for a moment, surveying the detritus of the wedding and the reception. He was glad that he wouldn’t have to clean up. ::

Kells: Computer, end program.

:: There was the grid, back again. He waited a moment, as he had said he was going to, as presumably Didrik was doing -- waiting for the emergence of Will from the holodeck, so he could transform it. The program was set to start immediately when Didrik called up its corresponding program on the Drake, though in the long moments when the yellow grid ruled the day, Aron felt each breath and each heartbeat as though it were the longest he had ever experienced. And then there was another. And then there was another. And then, finally, the holodeck transformed. ::

(( Outside Holodeck, USS Drake ))

::Didrik waited until he was certain the holodeck was empty, then activated the control panel on the outside bulkhead. The link between the Drake and the Mercury was still active, and the transmission was still stable, something he wasn't certain the old girl's circuitry could maintain. He accepted the transmission, and the doors opened.::

(( Holodeck link-up, USS Mercury/USS Drake ))

::Didrik entered, and saw Aron standing amongst the yellow-and-black grid in the split second before the surroundings came to life. The setting was nothing special; a nondescript café with windows overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, no doubt based upon any of the hundreds of such establishments in the vicinity of Starfleet Headquarters. Didrik smiled at Aron, pleased that the holodeck recreated him faithfully. He closed the distance between them.::

:: Aron had the presence of mind to swipe some of the real flowers before he’d come to the wedding, and though he’d played them off as being as holographic as the rest, he was left with the dozen khesuris in his hand. The flowers were vaguely lily-like, though they sparkled with a natural luminescence unlike any flower from Earth. Aron offered them to Didrik, and watched as holo-hand took true-stems. ::

Kells: Happy birthday.

::Didrik took the holographic flowers, which were unlike anything he’d ever seen. His smile widened, the glow from the flowers reflecting in his face.::

Stennes: Thank you for remembering. ((beat)) We were mid-mission on the actual day, so I hadn’t really stopped to think much about it until things quieted down a bit. Twenty-nine...

::Didrik paused, not certain how he was going to finish that sentence.::

Stennes: Not so much an ominous birthday, but it puts me in reflective mood nonetheless.

Kells: And what have you been reflecting upon?

:: Aron didn’t wait for an answer; instead, he waggled his finger at the space on his face that matched Didrik’s glasses. ::

Kells: These are new. How has it been?

Stennes: I’ve been okay, recovering well. ::adjusting the thick black frames of his eyeglasses:: Still not used to corrective lenses, but I’m hoping I won’t have them much longer; there’s a specialist on Starbase 118 who is interested in researching my particular... condition.

Kells: Ah, say no more. I understand: A subject is a subject is a subject.

Stennes: Speaking of Starbase 118, I understand you’re not there anymore. What happened?

Kells: A promotion. You’re looking at the valorous commanding officer of the deep-space explorer Mercury.

::Didrik nodded, his assumptions confirmed. When Aron first contacted Didrik, inviting him to this holo-reunion, the message originated from the USS Mercury, with a Starfleet Command signature that indicated he was either the ship’s CO or XO. That, coupled with watching him officiate at Jade’s wedding, connected enough of the dots that the news wasn’t a complete surprise to Didrik. He gestured to a table near the window of the unpopulated café. As they sat down, a holographic fog crept eastward toward the bay.::

Stennes: Is there more to that story? How’d it come about... Captain?

Kells: It just sort of (beat) happened. I’d only been on the starbase a few weeks when I received the new order. And then, bam, straight into my first mission. I thought, you know, it’d be perfect, that sort of ship and me, but no, not that first time.

Stennes: What happened?

Kells: The Borg.

::Borg. Even the name was terrifying. Anyone living on Earth in the 60s and 70s knew enough of the Borg to know that only by sheer chance and perhaps a bit of good timing did their planet narrowly avoid assimilation, not once, but three times.::

Stennes: It’s the first I’ve heard of a Starfleet ship crossing paths with the Borg in a while. I can imagine it’s not what you expected out of your first command.

Kells: Well, we got out of it alive, and that’s a plus in my view. (beat) Since then, things have been a little more, hm, normal. We just finished exploring an old space station. (beat) But, hey, I’m talking too much. What about you?

Stennes: Nothing as substantial as all that, I’m sure. Still flying the Drake, still working my way through the Klingon military analysis that Lt. Commander Danzia gave me last Christmas.

:: Aron watched him field the shadow of a smile, and at once he was frustrated. Sure, their lives were interesting, but they were talking about the monoliths, not the minutiae they’d once shared. What were they skirting around? ::

Kells: Let’s go back to the reflection. Tell me what you’re thinking.

::Didrik hesitated, not because he felt uncomfortable articulating what he was thinking, but because choosing the right words was a greater challenge than he’d expected.::

Stennes: I’ve thought a lot about my job. When Dr. Mike told me that he couldn’t repair the damage to my vision, I was afraid I was going to lose my job. It’s not exactly a tactical advantage to have a pilot who can’t see without a piece of millennium-old technology.

Kells: But it’s definitely better than having no pilot at all.

:: This time it was his turn for an awkward smile, which Didrik -- no pun intended -- barely seemed to see. Aron lost the levity. ::

Kells: It was a scary thing.

Stennes: That fear made me realize something. (beat) I actually like my job, and I want to keep it.

Kells: You should! You’re [...] good at it--

Stennes: Considering how I felt about my job when I first came here, it’s like night and day. I had this (beat) vision of who I thought I was supposed to be when I finally graduated from the Academy, and being a pilot on the Drake wasn’t at all what I imagined.

::Didrik couldn’t help but be ashamed of the contempt he had for his job when he first reported for duty aboard the Drake. It was only last year, but remembering himself at that time was like looking back at oneself as an adolescent. This past year had matured him, and provided him with invaluable perspective into who he was.::

Stennes: You remember the map I kept when I was a teenager? Tracking the progress of the Dominion War?

Kells: Yes. I do.

:: But he had to think, and if not hard then at least for a moment, as the faces of the new men and women he knew -- of Arden Cain, Alexander Matthews, Velana -- fought him for a recollection from a different time, a different place. He saw the memory, at last. ::

Stennes: I think the decisions I made–enrolling in the Academy, choosing Tactical as a focus, the topic of my honors thesis–were all based on what I thought I knew about myself back then. And for ten years, I never tried to grow, or challenge myself, or understand what I was really supposed to be. (beat) But I’m doing all of that now, and I don’t think it was a mistake anymore, that I was put on the bridge of a starship.

:: Aron shrugged. ::

Kells: There are no mistakes. You were put in a situation you weren’t prepared for and you responded. You responded well, which is perhaps what no one expected; but then again, maybe they did expect that, and maybe that’s why you were there, yeah? (beat) There are no mistakes.

Stennes: And then there are the weddings. Three couples, all getting married back-to-back; I can’t help but think about my own relationships. And you.

Kells: (too quickly) I think about you, too, out in the black. Seeing the marriages … I mean, marrying two of my staff, that’s something -- two friends, I never thought. Well. (more slowly) I think a lot about that day. You know, the last day.

::Didrik thought about it too. On the surface, it seemed perfect; the Centaurian sunset, the way their fingers interlocked into each other. Except that it wasn’t “the last day” for no reason. It was “the last day” there existed any potential for them to get closer. It was “the last day” they served together. It was “the last day” they’d spoken to each other, until now.::

Stennes: I think about it too. Retrospect provides some perspective, but it was still...

Kells: Wonderful, and terrible. Because I didn’t want to go, and I wanted to go, and I never wanted to go. So what did I do? I went. And now I’m a CO.

::Didrik looked across the table at Aron, still in dress uniform from the wedding. His brown eyes met Aron’s green ones.::

Stennes: It suits you.

Kells: (quietly) There are no mistakes.

:: He looked away, afraid to meet Didrik’s eye. ...Was that right? Afraid? But he thought he was -- knew he was. And so he looked away. ::

Stennes: So tell me more about your new command. A ship like the Mercury would bring out the scientist in just about anyone. It would appear the two of you are well-matched.

Kells: That’s what I thought, especially since it was last captained by two men without science backgrounds. Why me, and why now? But it’s like the perfect ship for me: A flying laboratory. (beat) Perfect.

Stennes: How does your departure from Starbase 118 leave the Jaborrhik planet? What kind of a role will you have in that now?

Kells: I’m still in charge, even though I won’t get back as often as I’d thought -- but there’s this holoconferencing, which I’m still getting used to. Actually, speaking of that....

:: Aron didn’t like what he was about to do, but he did it anyway. ::

Kells: Computer, load the [...] things.

:: And while it should have balked at this request, the computer beeped: It knew exactly what Aron wanted. The awards appeared a moment later: The Daystrom Award in Biosciences (2389) on his left, and the J. Bruce Award (Bioengineering) on his right. He picked them up and held them out to Didrik as though they were rotten fish. ::

Kells: I have the real things in my office, of course. Ostentatious -- enough gold that a Ferengi would bemoan the lack of latinum -- and of course I was devastated to receive them. All for bringing an experiment back to life.

::Didrik studied the awards, conceding that they were somewhat gaudy, and not at all something he’d expect Aron to have displayed prominently for all to see. They weren’t the real articles, just holographic re-creations of them, but Aron’s body language gave the impression that even the simulacra carried infectious disease.::

Stennes: They certainly are... ornate.

Kells: You like ‘em? They’re yours if you want ‘em. Why not hang ‘em in your quarters?

Stennes: ::laughing:: Are you serious? ::beat:: I’ve been promoted y’know. I’ve got my own quarters now, so I’m no longer actively looking for ways to annoy Ensign Mouthbreather. However, I It’d be nice to have something that reminds me of you. Are you sure you want to part with them? They don’t just give these things away.

Kells: I think I am, too. (beat) But, listen. I’m coming back towards 118 in the next few weeks. We’re taking a Cardassian dignitary and her staff in on a humanitarian mission. Maybe, if the Drake swings by, we can manage a little actual time together.

Stennes: ::grins:: I might be able to make that happen. I do fly the thing, after all. ::glancing down at the awards:: Plus, now I’ve got some belongings to pick up at the Assay Office. ::beat:: I’d love to get some real time with you, and not just a force field that looks like you.

Kells: Me, too. (sudden laughter) It’s ridiculous. I can talk about anything -- anything -- but I can’t talk about this.

Stennes: ::feeling the tone of the conversation change somewhat:: Talk about what?

Kells: Us, of course. Is there anything more frightening and more wonderful? I’ve seen everything, Didrik, and I don’t think there is.

Stennes: I’m hoping we’ll both get to experience more wonderful as time goes by. Because I believe there’s more to come.

:: Aron opened his mouth, let out a breath that was meant to be a word, and closed it again. He gave himself a moment, then tried again. ::

Kells: I want to believe that, too. I mean, I suppose I do. But I wish, I do wish that I knew. The same way when we first met. Not for the power, just for the feeling that we, you and I, could make everything right again.

:: But he caught himself before he went on: That, Aron, is power. He shrugged. ::

Kells: There is more to come. I do believe that.

Stennes: It’s not impossible; the Drake has a lot of officers who’ve served together previously. Who knows? Maybe someday we’ll end up assigned to the same ship again. I’d be okay with that.

Kells: And I believe (beat) we will.

::The tranquility of the empty holographic café was disturbed by flickering lights and the sound of malfunctioning circuitry. Didrik turned to see a corner of the wall vanish in a field of energy, replaced momentarily by the yellow-on-black grid, then reappearing.::

Stennes: That’s probably me. I’m surprised the Drake’s holodeck lasted the entire wedding ceremony, let alone our whole conversation. I’d better go soon, unless I want Lieutenant Pandora to come after me for breaking the ship.

:: Aron laughed -- guffawed, really -- that half-choking sound that recognizes the previous life. Not that the Drake was really a previous life -- he’d been there only six months ago -- but, well, things had changed. Obviously. ::

Kells: You’re right. You should go. (beat) But I don’t want you do.

Stennes: I don’t either. I miss you. And I don’t want months to go by before I see you. I’ll start bringing up 118 to people; plant the seed, as it were. Hopefully soon, we can make some concrete plans.

Kells: Definitely. And, hey, if you need any help convincing anyone, just remember that you’ve got a CO on your side.

::Didrik stood up, suddenly sad, and already feeling lonely again.::

Stennes: I don’t know how one says goodbye in a holo-conference. Do we wave, can we touch each other?

Kells: The tech’s not-- I mean, if we do....

:: He held out his hand, and Didrik took it. But there was nothing there, no reassurance that each felt the other that he’d left behind. Didrik’s hand was the same cold holoflesh, devoid of intention or emotion, that Aron had felt one hundred times before. ::

Kells: It won’t be you. It’s just the hologram.

::Didrik let go::

Stennes: It’s not how I want to remember it.

Kells: It’s incentive! No, it is: To meet again, to see each other again soon. Really.

Stennes: We will.

Kells: Until then....

Stennes: Goodbye.

::Didrik exited back onto the deck of the Drake, still able to see holo-Aron standing inside the holo-setting. He waited for the doors to close before he ended the program::

Lieutenant JG Didrik Stennes

Helm Officer

USS Drake

Commander Aron Kells

Commanding Officer

USS Mercury

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