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[2004: JUL-AUG] Changing Plans

Robert Falcon

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((U.S.S. Victory; Conway's Quarters))

::Jaden Conway walked into her new quarters on the Victory. For the past few months, she'd shared a room with Akira Nasori. Now, with a few missions under her belt, she finally rated her own room. She let her gaze travel across the room to the boxes on one side.::

CONWAY: oO Well, time to unpack again. Oo

::She started with the easy things: clothes, toiletries, etc. The second box would take a while longer. She reached in, found a familiar shape, and pulled it out. It was a piece of wood shaped like an ancient shield with a hinged metal plate at the front. She looked around, finding the best place to put it, then walked over and pressed it against the wall. After stepping back to ensure it was in the right place, she went back to the box. From it she pulled a pair of leather sheathes, each one holding a short metal sword; replicas of a pair back home. Every now and then she'd go to the holodeck to practice, but that she would worry about later. Jaden took the swords back to the wood shield and opened the face plate. Into an inset pair of diagonal groves she placed the swords, then closed the plate. Another look. Yep, the swords looked just fine in their holder.::

::Jaden walked back to the box. She called it her 'trinket box', as it held those incidental things that she always dragged around with her. Things to remind her of home. She pulled out a framed picture. Three smiling people stared back at her as she gazed upon it. She couldn't smile back. On the left was her father Henry; always kind, honest, strong. A great man who loved to brag about his kids. He would be back on Earth then, working on some new engineering project. It was because of him she became an engineer. On the right was her mother Mala; lovely, wise, and always there to clean up the scratches her kids got while out exploring the forest near their home.::

::In the center was Jake, her brother. A good man, always sticking up for his little sister. Had his opinions and stuck to them. Jaden sighed, and set the picture on a nearby table. It all came back to her in a flood... All the memories she'd tried to bury...::

((Five Years Ago))

JAKE: Jaden, don't go! You can't go! It's too dangerous!

::Jaden was eighteen, Jake twenty-three. He was back home after the latest cargo run of the ship he piloted, the S.S. Camelback. Jaden had wanted to tell him something important: her desire to join Starfleet. They were out at their "fort"; a couple walls they’d built out of sticks where they spent hours fighting off imagined Klingon, Romulan, and Borg attacks. Much to Jaden's dismay, Jake hadn't taken the news well.::

CONWAY: Jake, how can you say it’s dangerous. You're out in space all the time making those cargo runs. There might not be many pirate raids now, but what if things go downhill all of a sudden?

JAKE: Yeah, but we're not out there at the edge of known space poking around 'where no one has gone before'. You never know when you'll poke at the wrong bush and stir up a hornet's nest big enough to tear you to shreds.

::He sighed.::

JAKE: Jaden, all I'm trying to tell you is that I'm worried. Ok? You're my sister, and I love you. It's my job to worry. And I don't think you're taking me seriously.

CONWAY: But I am, Jake. Really, I am. I know it could be dangerous, but it's what I want to do. Mom and Dad are with me. Why aren't you?

JAKE: If you really were taking me seriously, you'd think about it more. And to trade 'what ifs', what if there's another war? Wolf 359, 39 ships lost. The Dominion War, who knows how many ships. You join, you'll be on the front line.

CONWAY: If that happens, then that's my fate and I accept it.

::Jake sighed again, shaking his head.::

JAKE: Fine. But I'll have no part in it. Let me know when you'll actually listen to reason.

::Without another word, he walked over, kicked an opening into the short wall of their old fort, and left.::

CONWAY: Jake? Jake!

::He didn't look back...::

((U.S.S. Victory))

::Jaden tore her gaze away from the picture.::

CONWAY: oO Maybe I should turn it face down... Oo

::She seemed to consider it for a moment, then shook her head and walked back to the box. Jake hadn't spoken to Jaden again for more then a few words at a time. Usually a "Please pass the salt" at dinner or a simple "Good night". He was away when Jaden actually left, and never responded to Jaden's messages. She still missed him. For a time she'd forgotten it, as she'd started her time at Starfleet Academy...::

CONWAY: ::Mutter.:: Starfleet Academy...

::Now there was a mix of the good and the bad. She reached in and pulled out a PADD. On it was a technical manual. A shuttle, designed and built by one of her instructors. It had lost to the Argo class of shuttle, but he'd been allowed to keep the prototype. He'd used her as an example in one of his classes. He was Commander Robert Falcon, at that time on loan from Starfleet R&D. Thinking of Commander Falcon brought a slight smile to the corners of Jaden's mouth. He'd been her favorite instructor at the Academy, and her one of his favorite students. And his shuttle was one of the most fascinating she'd ever seen.::

CONWAY: oO I owe him so much... Oo

::She really felt it was because of him she'd gotten through the Academy.::

CONWAY: oO All because of Brad... Oo

::She shook her head, banishing the thought. He wasn't worth the neurons. She set the PADD on the computer terminal, then went back to the box. A PADD of other data; holodeck and replicator programs. Also on the terminal. A bag of small items brought from home. Onto the bed until later. Her clarinet and some sheet music. Also on the bed. Well, for a moment. She grabbed the clarinet again almost as it touched the fabric. She looked at it for a moment before moving her hands to their oh so familiar positions and bringing her reed to her mouth. After ensuring the reed was intact, she brought in a breath of air and blew into the instrument, filling her quarters with the clarinet’s low tones. Her mind started to wander again to another time she'd played...::

((Three Years Ago))

::A Starfleet Academy dorm room. Jaden's room, with her roommate Elizabeth Gorman. She'd finished her work for the day and had decided to just relax with her trusty clarinet. She didn't play in front of others often, but anyone who heard her said she sounded great. There was a knock on the door. Jaden abruptly stopped playing.::

CONWAY: Come in!

::Elizabeth was still in class, so it couldn't have been her. Sure enough, through the door stepped Brad Mitchell, a friend of hers from her engineering classes. Nothing beyond that, but it was a good friendship.::

BRAD: Hey, Jade.

::The first day of class he'd called her Jade instead of Jaden. The nickname stuck.::

CONWAY: Hey, Brad. What's going on?

BRAD: Got a favor to ask you. Tomorrow's gonna be a little jammed for me. I know there's some lockers in the engineering building., and I was wondering if I could store some stuff in yours. It's right next to one of my classes. Mine is way away from it.

::She shrugged.::

CONWAY: Sure. Not a problem. I don't use it much anyway. Prefer to carry my stuff with me. But yeah, go ahead.

::Brad smiled in relief.::

BRAD: Thanks, Jade. You're a lifesaver.

::He turned and left the room, Jaden simply going back to her playing. The next day, she'd been sitting in Commander Falcon's class when the call came in. The call to report to the dean's office immediately. Confused, and a little worried, she went. Waiting for her was the dean of students and a pair of security officers, both Commander in rank.::

DEAN: You want to explain this, Cadet?

:: On his desk was a piece of equipment. Jaden, standing at attention as ordered on her arrival, was cautious yet professional in her reply.::

CONWAY: I wish I could sir. I don't know what that is. I've never seen it before.

DEAN: It's a remote computer interface unit, Cadet. Custom made, it appears. Over the last three weeks we'd been seeing an increase in computer access. We'd figured it had to do with major projects being issued. However, over the last week we saw unauthorized access to cadet records and grades, with alterations being made. We tracked this unit down this morning. Guess where we found it?

::Jaden didn't answer.::

DEAN: That's right, your storage locker.

::She now spoke quickly in hopes of not being cut off.::

CONWAY: Sir, I haven't been in my locker all day. I doubt I've visited it more then twice in the last month.

DEAN: The computer logged someone opening that locker at least once daily.

CONWAY: Well... I allowed Cadet Brad Mitchell access to it. He wanted to place something into it today. Was there anything else there?

DEAN: Yes. His project for Professor Sarmik's class. He brought our attention to the unit.

CONWAY: But.... Sir, I've never seen this thing before today.

DEAN: We'll see. We're still conducting our investigation. I'm placing you on probation and confining you to your dorm until further notice. Dismissed.

::Giving the dean a shaky salute, she turned and left his office, an dagger of ice cutting into her stomach.::

CONWAY: oO What am I gonna do now...? Oo

((U.S.S. Victory))

::Ah, the good old "What am I gonna do now?" question. Kinda applied to present Jaden too. She'd typed out a message to her parents letting them know she was still all right and was looking forward to some leave time to come visit them. She'd looked over some engineering reports to get a jump-start on tomorrow. She'd found a new piece of music to learn. Now what?::

::She walked over to the bed and laid down, staring at the ceiling. It had worked last time. After long enough, something happened to make things work out.::

((Three Years Ago))

::Jaden Conway probably looked pretty pitiful right then. Lying on her bed staring at the ceiling with a blank look on her face. She tried to cut off her emotions, not wanting to feel anything.::

CONWAY: oO I should've been a Vulcan... Oo

::There was a knock on the door. Jaden slowly turned to look at it.::

CONWAY: Come in.

::The door slowly opened, and a head appeared in the opening.::

FALCON: Hello. Mind if I talk to you for a bit?

::Jaden's mood improved a bit. Her favorite teacher was there to say hello.::

CONWAY: Of course, Commander. Please come in.

::Robert Falcon, still in his uniform, entered and shut the door. He grabbed a chair and sat down.::

FALCON: You haven't been to my class in a couple days. Something wrong?

CONWAY: oO Well, Commander, you certainly know when to be blunt... Oo Yeah.

FALCON: Want to talk about it?

::She sighed.::

CONWAY: The dean thinks I've been using a remote computer interface terminal thing to get access to the Academy computers. I haven't, but they don't believe me. And according to what they've told me there's a lot of evidence pointing at me. Access to my grade files and signs they've been tampered with and the like. They're thinking of expelling me, but they've got to finish their investigation first.

::The commander was silent for a while, thinking. Finally he spoke.::

FALCON: Conway, I've come to know you pretty well after speaking with you before every class. I believe that you're innocent, and I'm going to make sure the others believe that too.

::Jaden was a little shocked. After a couple days of constant attack, having a defender was a little... odd...::

CONWAY: Are you sure, sir? You may be stirring up quite a hornet's nest here...

::She suddenly wondered if her using her brother's old line here was ironic or not. Falcon waved off the comment.::

FALCON: Not a problem. My good work at R&D has given me some power here, and protection. People listen to me. It can actually be kinda fun once you get used to it. Still, don't worry about me. I'll be fine.

::He stood and walked for the door.::

FALCON: And in a couple days, you will be too.

::Falcon left, leaving Jaden in solitude.::

((U.S.S. Victory))

::True to his word, Commander Falcon saved her. He got access to the Academy computer and sifted through all the data until he found what he was looking for. In the end, he found the true culprit and broke the frame around Jaden. She was allowed back into her classes with time to make up lost work..::

::Who was the true culprit? Brad. He'd been sifting through the main computer on that remote unit of his and suddenly started fearing he was being traced. So, he hacked his way into Jaden's locker and started opening it now and then, making it look like Jaden was using it. He stayed her friend so he could get his stuff in there on the proper day, then set up Jaden to be his patsy. He framed her shamelessly. If not for Falcon, her career wouldn’t have survived. She would've been expelled from the Academy. But she'd made it. She was a Starfleet officer.::

::Though the incident had left her hurt. Scarred, in a way, inside. She couldn’t bring herself to trust people beyond duty. Commander Falcon was the closest she had to a friend. She needed more people she could trust.::

CONWAY: oO And I think I know what I need to do now... Oo

::She stood and walked over to sit at the computer terminal.::

CONWAY: Computer, begin recording. Delivery to Jake Conway, S.S. Camelback.

::The computer beeped and gave a red light to show it was recording. She gave a slight smile.::

CONWAY: Hello, Jake. It's been a while. As you can see, ::gesturing to the uniform:: I made it. It was a bit of a squeeze, but I made it in. And you know what, you were right. Starfleet can be dangerous, but in a way you never thought of. Sometimes you need to watch out for those around you. Can't always know what they're planning. I don't really want to go into it now, but it's no big deal anymore so it's ok. I'll tell you someday.

::She leaned toward the screen, propping her head on her hands.::

CONWAY: You know, everything been going well so far. Don't get me wrong, the missions did get dangerous at times. But I find I enjoy it. It's what I want to do, just like you wanted to go fly a freighter. But there's only one thing that could make things better: knowing that I've got my brother's love with me. Please send me a message. Let me know how you are.

::She kissed her hand and pressed it to the screen.::

CONWAY: I love you, bro.

::Jaden reached over and tapped a button, ending the recording and sending it on its way. Short and sweet. She could only hoped he listened and replied. For now, she had a shift starting soon. But before that, she had one last memory to go through.::

((Five Months Ago))

::The [...]pit/cabin door of the shuttle opened as Commander Falcon stepped aft. Jaden sat at a computer terminal.::

FALCON: Well, we're about an hour out from 118. Problem is, the Victory has already left. You'll have to catch another shuttle to meet up with them.

::Jaden nodded.::

CONWAY: Thanks, Commander. I'll talk with 118 ops when we get there.

::Jaden was now an ensign and on her way to her first assignment. It was now day three of her career. So far, nothing had blown up on her. Falcon sat in another chair. As he had buisness on Starbase 118, he offered to ferry her there in his shuttle. He was one of the few people she would trust to be alone with for that long, so she accepted.::

FALCON: Jaden, I want you to promise me something.

CONWAY: What is that, Commander?

FALCON: I know that what happened two years ago still bothers you today. Try to find a way to leave that back on Earth. The Victory is a good ship with a good crew. I'm sure you'll find them worth your trust.

::He smiled.::

FALCON: Oh, and have great luck and success in your job. If you fail, it looks bad on both of us. We don't want that, do we?

::She smiled back, one of her now very rare ones.::

CONWAY: No, sir, we don't.

((U.S.S. Victory))

::She still hadn't fully meshed with the crew. Hadn't allowed herself to.::

CONWAY: oO I promised Commander Falcon I would... Perhaps it's high time I tried? Oo

::After the next shift the senior staff was holding a party in the mess hall. Sort of a "congratulations to ourselves for getting through that last mission alive" party. She hadn't planned on going... but maybe she would change her mind? Something to consider during her next shift.::

::Jaden took one last look around her new quarters, pausing over the family picture.::

CONWAY: oO Write me, bro. I need your support. Oo

::Slowly, she left her quarters. She felt that reliving her memories had given her a sort of boost. She knew what she wanted to do now. Now to see how her new plans would work out...::

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