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Reynolds, Nicholotti, Kells: Promotion


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(( Physical Sciences Lab, Deck 29 -- USS Mercury ))

:: One of the major advantages of the Cave -- the 3D projector sensor apparatus in the Mercury’s physics lab -- was its ability to directly connect to a user’s body, eliminating the few nanoseconds the computers took to relay information from system to system and then route it to the particular console and alarm. Therefore, when the unknown ship entered the sphere in which the Mercury’s short-range sensors were actively pinging, Aron was the first, by several thousandths of a second, to see it. In that time, his brain was well on its way to processing the known profile of the ship in question: Defiant-class, though he couldn’t make out the name or the registry until he zoomed in on it. NCC-75692, USS Triumphant. Hmm. Well, it didn’t mean anything to him, but the Mercury definitely meant something to the owner of the Triumphant, as it was making right for them. Perhaps it had been assigned as an additional escort, now that Jaxx was incapacitated? He shook his head; there was no way to know, outside of asking. He sent a quick message up to the bridge, instructing his officers not to busy themselves with it; he’d taken a break, so he would handle this strange circumstance. Still plugged into the Cave, he ordered the computer to open a channel, and the viewspace appeared directly in front of him, holoprojected by the Cave. In it was someone he had not expected to see. ::

Kells: Captain Reynolds. What the hell are you doing here?

::Time had carved a few more lines into her freckled face, and her hazel eyes had hardened, but there had been few other changes. Still painfully thin, she stared at him with a piercing gaze, eyebrows raised, her head tilted forward as if to ask “did you really just talk to me like that?”. If that *was* what she was thinking, it wasn’t vocalised.::

Reynolds: Surely you can guess. Half of Starfleet has been sucked into the recent Klingon shenanigans.

::Even after all her years in space, her voice still carried the tell-tale lilt of someone born in the Martian colonies.::

Kells: As are we. But we’re on our way to a Romulan colony on the other side of the sector. Where are you heading?

::She smiled, the expression holding little real humour, and made no attempt to reply.::

Kells: Fair enough. Intelligence business?

Reynolds: It does seem to be what I’m best at.

Kells: I’ve been learning to embrace it. My intel officer -- maybe you know him, Isaac Bale? -- has become something of another appendage for me. I don’t know how I’d deal without him.

Reynolds: I’ve read his file. ::She shook her head.:: Commander, as pleasant as this is, I don’t really have the time to spend on idle small talk.

Kells: No, that’s not why you’re here. (beat) Why are you here?

Reynolds: I need to pay a visit to your ship.

Kells: Of course. Just you, or a team--?

Reynolds: Just me.

Kells: Directly here? All right. I assume you’re going to tell me why when you arrive?

Reynolds: That’s the plan. I’ll see you shortly.

:: The channel snapped off, and his holo-view returned to that of the sphere of space around the Mercury, now not only occupied by the larger Apollo but by the smaller Triumphant as well. It was the work of a thought and a moment to engage the transporter beam and sync in with the Triumphant, but in the second before he could, he received an urgent bleep from the bridge. He opened the message at once, before he transported Reynolds, and was glad for it. ::

Kells: (muttering) What’s going on?

:: A shuttlecraft was on its way from Starbase 118, and its registered occupant was a single human female: Captain Kalianna Nicholotti. The day of the former COs, Aron thought: But why was Kali coming in via shuttle when he’d just spoken with her? Unless her destination wasn’t the Mercury? She might be going to see Jaxx aboard the Apollo-- But, no. The flight plan specifically stated that her destination was the Mercury, and that she would be arriving within the next thirty seconds. Speaking of “next,” the Triumphant was signaling him again: Why hadn’t he beamed Captain Reynolds over? He put the confusion from his mind for a moment, and engaged the transporter.

The room was a full-sized laboratory, unoccupied except for Aron in the Cave; he stepped away from it as the transport cycle completed, as he was less than thrilled to greet his first CO while strapped into the ghoulish-looking device. A moment later, there she stood: Captain Quinn Reynolds, no longer in command burgundy but in intelligence black, still as short and intimidating as ever. ::

Kells: Captain.

::She didn’t say anything for a moment, her face impassive as her eyes travelled over the connections between man and machine. Her eyes lingered far longer on the technology than the person plugged into it. When she finally deigned to speak, her voice was as dry as the Vulcan desert.::

Reynolds: Very fetching.

Kells: I assume you know about my, uhm, accident?

::Her eyebrows twitched upward and a worn, fleeting smile pulled at her lips.::

Reynolds: I’m not sure ‘accident’ is the right word.

Kells: Well, I guess I got used to calling it what other people did. And it was certainly accidental. One day, maybe I’ll figure it out-- But that’s not why you’re here. (beat) Is it?

Reynolds: No. Extract yourself from that device, would you?

:: Before he could reply, there was a chime at the door, and, too late, he realized that he had locked it when he’d entered the Cave. He realized, too, that Kali’s shuttle would have arrived and she wouldn’t have found him waiting -- not that, apparently, she had taken it upon herself to wait. ::

Kells: Computer, unlock door. (calling) Come in.

:: To see the two of them together was to engage a Venn diagram made tangible. He respected the hell out of both of them, but where Quinn Reynolds entertained a neutral look that verged on the dour (if you were unkind), Kali Nicholotti was beaming at him. ::

Kells: Captains, I have to admit, I’m a little confused. Why are we meeting in the Mercury’s physics lab? (beat) I’m sorry I wasn’t there to meet you, Kali.

::Kali waved her hand to dismiss the concern, still smiling.::

Nicholotti: Don’t worry about it. I’m not.

::She moved closer and leaned on a nearby console, somewhat of a knowing smirk on her face. Reynolds shifted her position to stand opposite her, on the other side of him, as though Nicholotti’s cheerfulness was somehow an anathema.::

Nicholotti: Besides, this is completely off topic anyways. With everything that’s going on out there... ::A momentary look of seriousness passed like a ghost across her face before the smile returned.:: We thought it important enough to do this now, rather than later.

Kells: Well, then … if it’s not the current crisis … then, what?

::It would have been nicer to have had something bigger. While she wholly agreed with Jaxx on allowing promotions to be close knit and one on one, there was something about the milestone that Aron had attained that simply called for more. But what she knew about the situation out there was that things were dire. The ship and her friends were heading into more danger than she could stand to think about, and if he was walking into that, he deserved to do it knowing he’d reached that level and met that goal.::

Nicholotti: I know I would have loved to have had more time with you, but when they called for you to go, to command the Mercury...::She sighed and recalled the orders.:: I knew they were getting the best man for the job.

Kells: You’re kind, Kali. In this case....

:: It was unfortunate that they had both boarded while he was trying to hide -- no, gather his thoughts. Yes, gather his thoughts for the difficult times ahead. Their appearance had, then, and against odds, helped him achieve that goal: Because he was suddenly in the midst of his -- peers? As strange as that sounded, yes. ::

Nicholotti: Now you’re walking into one of the most volatile situations possible. And you’re doing it because they need you to.

::She gestured as if to mean ‘they’, as in ‘out there’, somewhere. Finally, she shook her head, sending her raven black hair flying before leveling her gaze at him and holding it there.::

Nicholotti: No one in the fleet is more deserving of this Aron. You’ve met, and exceeded the expectations that anyone could have set forth for you, and you’ve shown everyone that you were made to lead. This crew couldn’t ask for a better captain. Starfleet couldn’t ask for a better captain.

::Her voice trailed off as she thought once more about the hornet’s nest he was about to walk into, and she decided, ultimately, that now may be the only time she had to say everything she wanted to say.::

Nicholotti: I couldn’t ask for a better friend.

::Perhaps the outward pouring of emotion had reached some kind of breaking point for the aloof intelligence officer, or perhaps she really was short on time. Either way, Reynolds stepped forward, her hand dipping into her pocket.::

Reynolds: I’m sure you’ve realised by now that this isn’t a social call.

::She held out her palm in front of him, a solitary gold pip shining against her pale skin. She let that sink in for a moment, before continuing.::

Reynolds: I should recite the attention to orders, but that belongs in a full ceremony. So I’ll just say this: It’s my pleasure to appoint you a captain in Starfleet, to rank as such from this day forward.

::A smile tugged the corners of her mouth upward, and for the first time, the expression reached her eyes. Even the dryness in her tone couldn’t quite disguise her pride in him and his achievements.::

Reynolds: And may whatever gods you believe in have mercy on your soul. Congratulations, Aron.

::She passed the pip in her hand to Nicholotti, for the other captain to conduct the actual pinning, and then moved aside. Nicholotti, for her part, couldn’t help but smile as she reached out and attached the fourth pip of his new set. Before she stepped back, she hugged him, then moved back a few feet.::

Kells: You guys are crazy. The brass, too. Starfleet in its entirety. I don’t understand--

:: His voice broke, if slightly, and he cut himself off. Several deep breaths. He nodded. ::

Kells: But thank you.

Nicholotti: Our time is short. ::Her voice got quieter.:: But I wanted you to have that. Just...

::Looking away, she hid the fear, the concern, and the worry until she was able to compose herself once more. Then, she continued.::

Nicholotti: Just come back, Aron.

Kells: Me? Not come back?

:: He smiled the confident smile with which he’d first beamed onto her bridge. Architect knew where it had come from, as he hadn’t felt it a moment before. ::

Kells: I really am indestructible.

Reynolds: Before I go. ::She reached into her pocket and offered him a cobalt-blue isolinear chip.:: You may find this useful. Your destination has more than a few skeletons in its closet.

:: Aron met her eye, then glanced over at Kali. He wasn’t afraid of the knowledge that the chip contained, just as he hadn’t been afraid of Brokar’s; he was only hesitant about the intervening moments in which he would have the information but not know it yet. ::

Kells: It’s encrypted, hm? Any clues as to what’s on it?

Reynolds: Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies. Lieutenant Bale should be able to decrypt it for you.

Kells: Yes, he does have a talent for that.

::She hesitated for a moment, lips parting as though to say something more. Then she shook her head, changing her mind.::

Reynolds: Watch your back out there, Captain.

:: He hesitated, then, but only for a moment: he recognized the end of the thought when it came. There was more that he wanted to say, but he wasn’t sure what it would sound like, and so he, too, said nothing. ::

Kells: And you. We’ll see each other again. Soon.

:: He stepped back; there would be no embrace there, not as with Kali. A moment later, she had vanished in the transporter sparkle, and Aron was left alone with Kali. He couldn’t quite meet her eye. ::

::And just like that, it was all over. A strange bout of silence descended over the room as she looked at him, a new Captain, ever aware that he didn’t seem to be able to quite return the gesture. It had to be overwhelming though, just as her own ceremony had been not all that long ago. Finally, in the dimly lit silence, he spoke.::

Kells: You came over here? Just for this?

Nicholotti: ::Nodding.:: Yes.

::Sometimes, more words weren’t always needed.::

Kells: You have your own concerns. This was trivial. I mean....

::Both eyebrows shot up at that, though she shouldn’t have been surprised. Their minds were all on the crisis. Which was why a simple reminder of why they were fighting, and why they were out here doing what they did was so vitally important.::

Nicholotti: This was far from trivial. On the contrary, it was more important now, in the middle of this mess, than ever.

Kells: (quietly) Do you know what I was doing here? Why I wasn’t on the bridge?

::Remembering so many days where she wanted, and attempted, to fade into the background, she could wager an educated guess. Her thoughts drifted to a voice that echoed from earlier in the day and she repeated Cody’s words in an almost incorporeal manner.::

Nicholotti: The masks of command...::Having looked away for a moment, she returned her gaze to him.:: From my experience, there’s always at least one shadow in the closet.

::Her eyes said the rest, offering him a moment to just put it out on the table and say what needed to be said. With the slightest bit of questioning in her look, she let him collect his thoughts and say it.::

Kells: I was hiding. I’ve tried to hide from that truth, too, but (beat) I was. Hiding. I know what you’re going to say: A career of pluses isn’t negated by one moment of minus. I agree. It’s of no statistical significance. But (beat) … another but. I wish I felt more confident. That’s all.

::A bit of a nostalgic smile washed over her then. It felt like she had just had this conversation not long ago, though she had been in his shoes. Perhaps the universe was working towards the ever elusive goal of balance once more and bringing them all full circle.::

Nicholotti: Just be who you are, Aron Kells. When the dust settles, that’s what will matter. Your officers respect you, and I know they have a great leader. Just try to avoid getting into too much trouble out there.

Kells: I know. And I will. Like I told Reynolds, I will see her again. And you. (beat) Do you want me to walk you back to the ‘bay?

::Holding up and waving her hand dismissively again, she shook her head.::

Nicholotti: I can find my way. Besides, you have somewhere more important to be.

::Her gaze leveled at him now and she tried to impart the confidence he would need to jump start the process of creating his own with one simple look. Perhaps it wouldn’t work, but knowing that someone had no doubts in your abilities, well, that had always helped her. And for a brief moment, she wished that Jaxx could have been there, but it was fleeting and her attention was quickly back on Aron.::

Kells: No, I suppose you’re right. To the bridge I’ll go, then. ::sigh:: They’ll probably want to have a party.

::To that, she grinned.::

Nicholotti: What are you talking about? *I* want a party. ::Then she got quiet and nodded.:: It’s as much for them as it is for you. You are the epitome of what they will strive to be, a face to their collectiveness. You and I, we are the manifestation of what they do every day, of dreams, and hopes, and so much more. Yes. They’ll want a party.

::Turning the tide back towards something less serious, she smiled again.::

Kells: Well, I’m not going to be dancing with any Pahkwa-thanh, anyway.

Nicholotti: ::Shaking her head.:: No, though I have to admit, that looked rather humorous. At least you didn’t get in the way of the tail, yes?

Kells: Not for lack of trying, anyway.

::With one final look over him, she extended her hand to shake his, now as a fellow Captain.::

Nicholotti: Welcome to the future. Just remember, I’m always a subspace call away.

Kells: I know. (beat) I do know. And I’ll use that. Believe me.

::Winking at him, she gestured towards the door.::

Nicholotti: I’ll see you, Aron. I know you’ll make it back. And in the meantime, I’ll be plotting for that party.

::And with that, she disappeared on the other side of the doors. Pointing herself towards the shuttlebay, she forced her feet to move, though she kept her mind, for the moment, back in that room with her friend. For all the confidence she showed, there were still some very deep set fears that plagued her thoughts. But that too was just another one of the masks of command.::

Captain Quinn Reynolds

CLASSIFIED

&

Captain Kalianna Nicholotti

Commanding Officer

Starbase 118 Operations

&

Captain Aron Kells

Commanding Officer

USS Mercury

__._,_.___

Edited by KNicholotti
removed ooc note
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