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[Round 15] Pen Pals


Delinda Sharee
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(( Executive Officer's Office, USS Tiger ))

:: The door to her office split apart, and Lily took in the carnage

that lay within. She knew what had happened, in the essentials - she

knew that the bridge group had fled from the Reapers down to her

office, where they'd held it before storming back onto the bridge. The

ship hadn't been taken and the Reapers were gone, and while she didn't

blame Sidney or her group for the shambles of her office, she did

nudge her overturned aloe with her foot and feel a flash of annoyance.

The holo-cube had been turned on its side, and so the walls of the

office were their normal, boring gray-pink again. Her PADDs were as

scattered as ever, but the most annoying thing were her pictures: The

only one left standing showed an eighteen-year- old Lily and Ensign

Abby Roberts, huddled over a library table during Lily's freshman

year.

She took two steps into the room before she felt a crunch. She lifted

her foot for two smiling faces - her own, and Nick Parks's, just

before she'd been assigned to the Triumphant. They were on a Risan

beach, she saronged and he shirtless, with orange-yellow sand

spreading out to the waves behind them. A perfect, happy day. She

grimaced, picked up the frame, and set it on the desk. Things changed.

Ships fell apart, and relationships, friendships, childhoods. She made

sure the glass didn't cut her when she stepped back again. ::

(( The Black Tower, Starbase 118 ))

::After finishing up with her medical, Quinn took the opportunity to

locate and visit her office in the Black Tower. For once, it wasn't

to bury her head in work, rather she wanted the chance for a long

overdue catch-up with an old friend. Taking a seat in the comfortable

black chair, she looked at the black screen on the desk for a few long

moments before taking a deep breath and speaking.::

REYNOLDS: Computer, open a comm channel to Lieutenant Commander Lily

Ventu, USS Tiger.

COMPUTER: Working...

::Tapping her fingers lightly on the console as she waited for the

channel to be established and answered, Quinn leaned back in her

chair. It had definitely been a hell of a year, so far. All she

could do was hope that things were going to improve with her new

posting.::

(( Executive Officer's Office, USS Tiger ))

:: The broken glass had been recycled, and several more broken

pictures had joined Lily and Nick on the desk. Lily held another

shattered frame now, and looked down at herself, smiling not up at her

future self but at the others in the picture: Hayden Reynolds, who was

alone smiling for the camera, and his cousin, Quinn, who was looking

serious and away.

The incoming signal alarm rang off on her monitor, and she considered

ignoring it: The crisis was past, the crew was relaxing, and trouble

could wait. Still, she decided to ask: ::

VENTU: Computer, where's that coming from?

COMPUTER: Working.

:: While the computer figured it out, she dropped the broken frame on

the pile, and then it beeped again. ::

COMPUTER: Signal triangulated to Sector 118.

VENTU: The Trinity Sector?

COMPUTER: Affirmative.

VENTU: ::frowning:: Who the hell...?

:: She walked around the desk, sat down, and tapped the monitor on.

Her curiosity had outweighed her annoyance. ::

VENTU: Screen on.

COMPUTER: Signal parsing. ::beat:: Connection established.

:: The Starfleet logo snapped off, and a face swam into focus. Lily

blinked, rubbed her eyes, and then still didn't really believe it. ::

VENTU: Quinn?

REYNOLDS: Hey Lily. How are you doing?

:: Annoyance vanished: She was alive, and there was nothing to

complain about. She spoke quickly, curiously. ::

VENTU: Great, but where are you? Sector 118? Why are you there? How are you?

REYNOLDS: I'm fin- ::She smiled wearily and shook her head.:: I've

been better. But I think things are on the mend.

VENTU: Well, good. That's good.

REYNOLDS: So how's the Tiger?

:: To answer, Lily spun the monitor around, giving Quinn a 360 of her

office and its chaos. ::

VENTU: It's been better ... the ship, I mean. The crew's great ...

well, what's left of them.

REYNOLDS: Oh. Wow. That's... I'm sorry to hear that.

VENTU: But where *are* you? The Independence hasn't been reassigned, has it?

REYNOLDS: No, just me. I've been transferred to Starbase One-One-Eight.

VENTU: Oh. ::beat:: With Captain Rocar? He's still there, isn't he?

REYNOLDS: Yeah, he's still around. All of him. ::Absently.: : Are

all Ktarians that huge?

VENTU: ::shaking her head:: I've only ever met him, so I couldn't tell

you. ::beat:: Are you their new engineer?

::Quinn blinked then, and shook her head, looking sheepish.::

REYNOLDS: No... I'm, uh... I've been assigned to the Black Tower.

Starfleet Intelligence.

VENTU: ::wide eyes:: Wow. How'd THAT happen?

REYNOLDS: I can't really talk about it. ::She shifted awkwardly.::

How's Hayden?

:: Lily smile-frowned, and turned her head to the side for a moment.

She wasn't really surprised that intelligence positions were hard to

talk about, but she was curious why Quinn would've gotten such, unless

there was something she didn't know. Her friend was brilliant, but SI?

Didn't that imply some sort of ... moral turbidity?

And then they came to Hayden. She hadn't been avoiding thinking of him

by any means, but there was a large difference between cycling it in

her mind and voicing those cycles. ::

VENTU: Right. Hayden. ::beat:: He had an accident during our last mission.

::Quinn's expression immediately turned to one of concern and she shot

forward in her chair.::

REYNOLDS: What happened?

VENTU: He was attacked by one of the Reapers, and spent a couple of

weeks in a coma.

REYNOLDS: Coma? Is he alright?

VENTU: ::too loudly:: He's fine, he's fine. I mean, physically.. ..

::Leaning back again, the Intelligence officer looked suddenly relieved.::

REYNOLDS: Don't scare me like that.

VENTU: But he's been promoted-

REYNOLDS: ::She beamed a smile:: That's great!

VENTU: -and reassigned.

REYNOLDS: ::The smile fell off her face.:: Oh.

VENTU: Yeah. That's about it. "Oh."

REYNOLDS: Where's he being sent to?

VENTU: The Antares, a medical ship. ::twisted smile:: It's a command

position. What he's been waiting for since he returned.

::Quinn visibly flinched, then shook it off as quickly as it had appeared.::

REYNOLDS: But... What about you? I mean... The two of you?

VENTU: Yes. Well, that's the question, isn't it? ::beat:: There's a

phrase, usually only used by people in security positions. "Holding

action."

REYNOLDS: I don't think it's supposed to describe couplehood.

VENTU: I know. But it still fits. ::another beat:: He - we, sorry, we

- never had a date. It was always after this mission or that mission,

after we made some new rank, in two or three or six months. It's all

come and gone, now. And where are we?

::Quinn managed a wan smile and shook her head.::

REYNOLDS: You've gone nowhere, yet everything's different?

VENTU: Exactly. We, neither of us, are who we were on the Independence

last year.

REYNOLDS: ::Quietly.:: Tell me about it.

VENTU: ::shrugging: : People change. It isn't an end, and I'm not ...

you know, angry. Just disappointed. Not in him, either, just in

general. ::staring into the distance:: You have all these perfect

ideas of how life is going to be, and then life itself comes along and

plays hell with all of it.

REYNOLDS: I'm sorry it's not working out the way you hoped.

VENTU: ::back to the screen:: But enough about this nonsense. Tell me

about how you're doing!

REYNOLDS: ::She frowned.:: I'm not sure what to say...

VENTU: I know you can't tell me how you got into it, but can you ... I

don't know. What *can* you tell me?

REYNOLDS: I guess... Ask and and find out.

VENTU: ::small smile:: Well, what about *your* love life, Miss

Reynolds? Cody isn't coming with you, is he?

REYNOLDS: David- ::She glanced down with wince.:: David chose to

prioritise his career.

VENTU: Oh. I see. Uhm.... All right. How's life been these past few

months? What's the Independence been like?

REYNOLDS: I actually wouldn't know.

:: Lily's left eyebrow went up unbidden, and her right eye narrowed

considerably. ::

VENTU: You ... wouldn't?

REYNOLDS: Lily - I haven't been on the Independence since the accident on TE-IV.

VENTU: ::almost laughing:: What?

REYNOLDS: The explosion, it was a cover for the Breen to take me and

replace me with... Well. Suffice to say, no one could tell the

difference. And I hear she gave you and Hayden an interesting trip

down my memory lane.

VENTU: That ... wasn't you?

:: But even as she struggled to assimilate what Quinn was telling her,

her mind was already connecting the pieces: A Deltan, especially a

Deltan hybrid, should have had no way to mind-meld with a full human,

as Quinn ( oO The fake Quinn! Oo) had done. Odd behaviour, strange

powers, and now logical connections. ... ::

VENTU: So, then the memories I saw-

::Absently, Quinn rubbed her right temple.::

REYNOLDS: Oh, they were all real. She had pretty much on-demand

access to my memories, thanks to a modified version of one of their

cortical implants.

VENTU: ::quiet:: What happened with the Breen?

REYNOLDS: They, um.... They wanted... ::Fumbling for the words, she

sighed and shook her head.:: They weren't gentle with me. It...

::She grimaced and rolled her shoulder awkwardly.:: You know what,

it's a little raw. I'd rather not talk about it. ::She paused for a

moment, a wry smile creeping on to her face.:: It's driving the

counsellors nuts.

:: Lily leaned forward in her chair, until her nose was at most three

or four inches from the screen. ::

VENTU: Then I won't ask you about it. I want you to remember me as

your friend, not your therapist.

REYNOLDS: ::Vaguely amused.:: You're on a different ship, Lily.

You're not dead.

VENTU: ::frowning:: "Remember"'s the wrong word. That's not what I

meant. I want you to *think* of me as your friend. If you want it

dropped, it's dropped.

::Looking visibly relieved, Quinn nodded and sank a little further

into her chair.::

REYNOLDS: Thank you.

VENTU: But maybe you should think about kickboxing with some holographic Breen-

REYNOLDS: Lily!

VENTU: All right, all right, it's dropped!

::The Intel Officer's mock scathing glare was followed by a soft

chuckle and a small grin.::

REYNOLDS: Old habits die hard, counsellor? ::She glanced at something

out-of-view, then looked back to her friend.:: It's nearly time for

me to head off. I have a... thing I have to attend and I need to get

ready.

VENTU: Yeah, I can see that you're getting close. ::beat:: Listen,

Quinn, I want to make this more of a regular thing. I know you'll be

busy, and so will I, but I....

:: She trailed off. "Don't want to lose you" was poking out of her

mouth, but she couldn't say it, exactly - she'd already lost Quinn

several times, to the ether and to her own fears. What else was there

to say? ::

VENTU: Just ... keep in touch, all right?

REYNOLDS: I will. And you make sure that ship of yours stays intact.

Or, you know. Strategically break it where you can put into the

Starbase for repairs.

VENTU: ::Wavery smile:: If she breaks up, I'll know who to take her

to. ::stronger:: Unless being an intel woman goes to your head.

:: Lily ended it with that and a smile. No goodbyes, because it

wasn't, really, just a pause. Intermission, maybe. But not an end. ::

::In her office, Quinn reached a hand forward and tapped the

communication channel closed. With a heavy sigh, she hauled herself

up and out of the chair. She wasn't the first Starfleet Officer to

lament the way Starfleet had a tendency to wrench friends (and

sometimes more) apart, and she wouldn't be the last... But that piece

of knowledge didn't make it the slightest bit easier.::

--

Lieutenant Commander Lily Ventu

Executive Officer

USS Tiger

&

Lieutenant Quinn Reynolds

Intelligence Officer

Starbase 118 Ops

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Simply. Brilliant.

5 stars, easily. Loved the conclusion.

Edited by Salak
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