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Lt JG A'ern Zerxes: Conspiracy Victim


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(( Banquet Halls, Twilight's Edge, DS17 ))

:: Sitting at a table with fellow ensigns such as Jorey and Malik, Zerxes was
ready for this event to be over. Dinner had come and gone and he'd avoided
conversation as much as possible. There were few on this ship that he yet knew,
and even fewer that he trusted. So far, his time on the Tiger had been mostly
negative. ::

:: By nature, Al-Leyans were a suspicious people. It bordered on paranoia at
times. They were fiercely loyal once it was earned, but there was little in
between the two extremes. In the weeks since Bilire IV Zerxes had not been asked
once about the incident with Mannin. He knew that she'd met with the commanders,
but that was as far as it had gone. He hadn't been asked a single question by
Riley, Clack, even Atimen. His best guess was that they were trying to sweep the
incident under the rug, hoping the fresh-faced ensign wouldn't know enough or be
willing to pursue the matter. Stewing on these thoughts for a few weeks had left
Zerxes fairly jaded. ::

Riley: Attention everyone...

:: The projected voice of the captain pulled Zerxes from his thoughts. He looked
in her direction with feigned interest, for appearances sake only. As she began
the usual jargon about their accomplishments, and introduced some guests,
Zerxes' mind quickly drifted to his plans for finally flying the Dagger again on
the holodeck. He started thinking about what mission to set up for the first
simulation. Getting lost in thought to pass the time was an old talent. He'd
done it throughout his childhood while his father had tried to teach him how to
run the company. ::

Riley: Our first award recipient is a member of the Security Department. Her
expertise and feats are well known amongst the crew. Chloe Mannin, please come
forward.

:: That snapped Zerxes back into focus! ::

oO The award for Best Friendly Fire goes to... Oo

:: He listened as Riley commended Mannin for her recent performance on Bilire
IV. Zerxes had actually come to forgive Mannin in some ways after their talk in
his quarters, but his resentment toward the commanding officers was splling
over. He felt like the victim of a small conspiracy, while Mannin appeared the
beneficiary. ::

Riley: Congratulations Mannin, well done. At this time I am also promoting you
to full Lieutenant with all the privileges and duties thereof.

:: If he could have gotten away with it Zerxes would have walked out of the
room. He started to slump into his chair, feeling completely wronged. However,
he quickly considered how many were aware of the incident and were likely
looking for his reaction. He straightened up and joined in the applause with a
token clap. ::

Riley: At this time would Lieutenant JG T'Mihn Ah'myghan please come forward.

:: As she called various other up and bestowed their new titles and accolades,
Zerxes' attention was long gone. He looked over at Ari, barely seeing her over
the back of Alex Blair's shoulder. He was glad to see she was smiling, hoping it
meant she was doing better in her recovery from the Reaper abduction. Since
they'd talked a few days back, he'd fought the urge to find her and make a
dinner invitation. He wanted to give her time to figure things out and seek his
companionship when it felt right to her. ::

:: Expecting to be alone, he started thinking about how he would spend leave. He
planned to spend plenty of time in Black Jendorvak, hoping it would present some
opportunities to burn off some steam. While Starfleet was not allowed there, he
figured casual clothes and enough credits would get him through the door. He'd
already heard of some of the card games. ::

Riley: Ensign A'ern Zerxes and Ensign Bradon Jorey please come forward.

:: At first, Zerxes hadn't even heard her. He noticed Jorey standing up from
their table and started to nod to the man. Then, some behind him gave him a
congratulatory slap on the back. He looked around and noticed plenty of eyes on
him, then shot out of his chair. He swallowed, wondering if anyone had noticed
his lack of attentiveness, as he followed Jorey onto the stage. ::

oO Raise shields... Oo

Riley: Gentlemen, your performance this last mission was one of great dedication
and duty. For your efforts to help the Romulan Colony and protect those in
Starfleet I am pleased to promote you both to Lieutenant JG with all the
privileges, benefits and duties thereof.

:: She motioned at Clack, and the First Officer approached Zerxes with the new
insignia. Their eyes met as he attached it to new Lieutenant's collar, and
Zerxes nodded his acceptance. There was no interaction between them before Riley
moved in and took his place. She held her hand out to Zerxes, wearing what he
perceived was a genuine smile. He tried his best to return it. ::

Riley: Congratulations Lieutenant, well done. I look forward to seeing your
progress as you continue.

Zerxes: Thank you, sir. I am... surprised.

:: As she moved on to continue the ceremony, Zerxes walked off stage. Various
people extended hands or raised glasses as he passed, and he returned their
gestures while still wearing a blank look of shock. Before he could get back to
his seat, the captain called up the next recipient. ::

Riley: Ensign Aribelle Tagren please come forward.

:: Still standing, Zerxes looked over at Tagren and watched as she left her
chair and joined Riley on stage. He go back to his own seat and remained
invested, hoping for an uplifting moment for his only real friend among the
crew. ::

Tagren: Fleet Captain.

Riley: Doctor... yYou are a shining example of what a medical officer should be.
Your efforts on the colony to save the Romulan Colonists, your work with
infectious disease...your gallant efforts to protect those on the crew. I am
honored to have you as a member of the crew. It is my honor at this time to
promote you to Lieutenant JG with all the privileges, benefits and duties
thereof.

:: Zerxes smiled for her, not surprised she was being promoted if he and Jorey
had been worthy. Her work in the last mission was far more impressive than his.
::

Riley: I am also honored at this time to promote you to Chief Medical Officer,
with all the privileges and duties thereof. Congratulations Lieutenant Aribelle
Tagren, I know you will make the crew proud in this position.

:: For the first time all night, Zerxes felt truly happy for someone. He never
got to know Firestarter and perhaps he was a great CMO, but he knew that Ari was
fantastic for the job. His mood lightened, he remained attentive for a while.
Riley began to hand out the Service Ribbons, which Zerxes found somewhat
trivial. He knew he'd receive a couple only for having been there, not for any
exemplary performance. ::

Riley: For the injuries sustained on Bilire IV, the following officers are
recipients of the Purple Heart: LtCmdr. Tracey Townson, LtCmdr. Lance
Firestarter, Lieutenant Chloe Mannin, Lieutenant JG Aribelle Tagren. For the
injuries sustained in defense of the ship, Lieutenant JG A'ern Zerxes

oO What?! Oo

:: He looked around, as if the eyes of the entire crew were going to be on him.
::

oO A Purple Heart? For being shot by a crewmate? Oo

:: His good mood didn't get to last long. The promotion had caught him by
surprise, but he found it slightly defensible based on his close proximity to
the captain for much of the mission. But now this just seemed excessive. Was
this part of their plan, smothering him with a promotion and awards to try and
avoid the issue? ::

:: He felt hot, and his throat tightened like that new Lieutenant's pip was
squeezing him at the throat. He would've paid plenty to be out of that room and
back on Bilire fighting an army of Klingons. That was where he belonged. It was
simple. It was everything else was more complicated than he'd ever imagined. ::

Riley: This bring the awards portion of our celebration to a close.
Congratulations to all those who received award for 2389! Great work Tiger crew!

Firestarter: Cheers to everyone!

Wilde: Three cheers for the Tiger! Hip hip!

Blair: Hurray!

:: As most of the assembly joined in the cheer, Zerxes remained silent. He
started to look for the fast way out of the crowd and to freedom. It wouldn't be
easy, standing several inches taller than nearly the entire crew. He located Ari
and thought about engaging her, using their conversation to get close to the
exit. ::

Atimen: Congratulations, Lieutenant.

:: Suddenly, he heard Atimen's voice come from the side. He turned and met his
department head's smiling face, trying not to look as panicked as he felt. ::

Zerxes: I... thank you, Commander.

Atimen: Your work last mission was excellent, I'm glad to have you in Security.

:: He wasn't able to force a smile. He tried to look serious, hoping it would
mask the swell of emotions. ::

Zerxes: I just wish I could have done more.

:: Fortunately, Atimen seemed to be overwhelmed by his enjoyment of a piece of
cake to really take notice of Zerxes' mood. ::

Atimen: Is this your first time at DS17?

:: He was worried that if this kept up he wasn't going to be able to keep the
charade going. He needed to get somewhere else, and fast. ::

Zerxes: Yes, it is. Any recommendations?

Atimen: Sure, but that would ruin half the fun. I'd recommend
wandering around the Promenade, especially the less frequented areas.
Excellent food down there.

:: He tried to make eye contact with Ari, but she was engaged with T'mihn. He
looked back at Atimen and waited for him to finish. Before he did, an idea
popped into mind. ::

Zerxes: Sir, can I have a word with you in private?

Atimen: Oh?

Zerxes: I would rather not wait, if you do not mind stepping outside for a
moment.


Lieutenant JG A'ern Zerxes
Security Officer
USS Tiger-A

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