A new CO to get to know
Neutral Zone Neutrality
Location: Captain's Ready Room, Main Bridge, USS Hera
V'lera kept her eyes closed as the turbolift ascended towards the bridge allowing it's soothing hum to wash over her. She loved the hum of the ship and its moving parts. It was soothing and calming. After her meeting with the XO, she'd checked on her little pet and then grabbed a tea. Once that was all done she headed to the bridge to meet the CO. The ride itself did not take long.
The eerie hiss of the door had her snapping her eyes open. She stepped onto the bridge and her eyes widened slightly at the sight of the bridge. She quickly schooled her expression as she took in the velvet blue of the doors and the padded seats. The bridge was buzzing with energy and the emerald and sapphire lights of the panels gave it a glow that was both soothing and wondrous.
A wave of nostalgic sadness washed over her as she recalled her stop on Vulcan and the same emerald and sapphire lights that lit up the statue of her mentor and confidant as a child. Being made of Stone the statue was sure to keep her secrets.
Shaking off her momentary laps she headed towards the ready room. The same velvet blue doors greeted her. She took a breath and drank the chime clasping her hands behind her back to keep from fidgeting, a nervous habit she'd picked up.
"Come in," called the spotted Trill woman, looking up to see the emerald Vulcanoid woman as the doors opened. Enalia clicked off her desk terminal and leaned back in her chair with a hint of that lopsided grin of hers as she motioned towards the chairs across from her. "Please, have a seat. Would you like some tea? My wife made a Miradonian blend today that... Honestly, I can't even begin to pronounce... But it has a beautiful bouquet."
As Enalia spoke, she pulled a pair of her ornate teacups and saucers and a large thermos out of her desk in preparation, her eyebrows raised questioningly.
V'lera gave a nod. "Thank you. I would very much appreciate a cup." V'lera ventured into the room and slowly made her way towards the chair that the woman had motioned to. By doing so she'd set a somewhat informal tone. The Trill's open invitation was issued before V'lera could snap to attention in proper Starfleet manner. She sat down and awaited the captain's next words and the fascinating tea blend.
As Enalia poured the tea in both cups and slid one over towards V'lera, the purple-tinged liquid steamed slightly. "I take it you're our new counselor? Lieutenant JG V'lera? Not many people spot the Hera in the assignment rosters, let alone actually request us for an assignment. So if I may ask, what drew you to us?"
V'lera gave a nod of thanks and accepted the tea. The sent was interesting. She wrapped her hands around the cup allowing the warmth to run through her. She'd left Vulcan all those years ago and could never get used to the cold. Her quarters she kept a little on the warm side. Her pet, Surak seemed to like warmth too. She wore special thermal clothing underneath but she still felt the chill.
"I am indeed the new counselor," she said started answering the first of the captain's questions. "To be honest there were several factors that drew me to the Hera. Not much is known about the ship. It is shadows and mystery. I know of the nature of the ship of course and I know that existing in the shadows can be difficult and lonely in some respects. It can take a toll on the crew. I wish to be of help. Counseling is about maybe not escaping the shadows but embracing them, learning to function within them and bringing light to the darkness." She was about to reach for her little notebook to check mark the 'darkness and light 'saying but realized she'd forgotten it in her quarters. A small vein of frustration shot through her but she covered it well and made a mental note to keep her notebook closed and maybe avoid the fun Earth sayings for a while. "I was also fascinated with the turnover rate. Aside from that, I felt that perhaps being counselor here would provide me with a challenge and allow me to grow, both professionally and personally. Most of all I wished to be of help here if I can be."
"And that is a perfect segway into my next question, actually," The spotted captain chuckled softly as she sipped at her tea, barely noticing the flash of frustration and wondering what it could have been about. "What are your professional and personal goals for your time aboard? Is there something more than seeking out challenges, growing from them, and helping people? As a pirate queen and a Starfleet captain, I've heard those same words hundreds of times and while acceptable... I'm hoping for something a bit more... unique."
She sipped her tea while the captain talked. As she did she reminded herself of the Commander's warning of not calling the captain 'sir'. "Of course. Well, professionally I do want to help people here. I want to learn from them. I think that counseling can do so much for people not just when there is a problem but to prevent it. I also think that ships with...purposes like the Hera ships that are forced to work in the grey area have a lot to teach me as a counselor. The people here are unique and will have unique problems and will require unique solutions. I hope to advance my knowledge in that area and to stretch myself as a counselor. I also hope to do some preventative work to help the crew in times of stress. My personal belief is that one can never know too much and if someone says they know it all they are in need of not one but twenty counselors. I don't have all the answers but I will do my best to ensure that the members of this crew are cared for and feel valued and know that Starfleet wants them and cares for them. I spent a month on the USS Eden Child a while back, it is one of the ships, that like the Hera, is very much kept busy by intel and diplomacy and a lot of the crew felt...distant from Starfleet. No officer should feel that, no person should feel that."
While she was Vulcan like in her speech this last point hinted at an emotion. While V'lera didn't notice the emotion she put in there it would be clear to anyone that she spoke as if she knew what it felt like to not belong or to feel left out.
"As to my personal goals. I...have found a certain stagnation with my life. I have hit a ..... roadblock, as humans say." And again she wished she'd brought her notebook but this time she let it gloss over knowing that her first stop after that meeting would be to her quarters to get her interesting phrasebook. She felt simply naked without it. She also realized that her OCD about things like this was kicking in. "As a counselor, I go through regular evaluations myself and several of them have...indicated that I avoid living life by losing myself in my work. I wish to learn how to....change that. I have...a lot of growing to do."
Enalia nodded thoughtfully as she listened and sipped her tea, attentive as V'lera spoke. "I think there are a few people aboard you'll get along wonderfully with. There's also one VIP guest that, when the time is right, I think you'd enjoy meeting. Once you've settled in I might even ask you to do a psych eval of them. This ship is further in the shadows than Intel lets on and I really hope you don't get burned by it. On the flip side, I think you'll find what you're looking for here."
With a full-on lopsided grin spread across her face, Enalia nodded once more. "Yes indeed. Welcome to the USS Hera family. Welcome aboard. Do you have any questions or comments? Anything you'd like to know about myself or the ship?"
V'lera drank more of her tea finding that she was enjoying the taste. She gave a nod at the captain's welcome. "There is much, actually, I have, thus far, only met the commander and yourself. I have my medical to complete but I have been impressed with the ship. I...am afraid that while I have questions I would be unable to ask them at this point as I would like to sort them into categories so that I am not asking them out of order." She gave what could be termed as a sheepish shrug. "Orions have chaotic minds and Vulcans like order...I like categories and colour codes and am...." she paused. "Frustrated that I left my notebook in my quarters. If you are open to it I can ask at a later date. I do, however, wish to find out more about you and your expectations. I want to know your expectations for me, what you dislike, and like in an officer. I also wish to ask a question that is not often asked at these introduction meetings."
"A possibly unique question? That sounds absolutely delicious," Enalia couldn't wait to hear it, but calmed herself long enough to compose herself. "But first I suppose the more mundane should be handled. I expect you to comport yourself as any Starfleet officer with one caveat. Aboard this vessel we place all forms of freedom first and foremost. As a member of Starfleet, there are limits on us, such as wearing the uniform, but as I'm sure you've seen from Commander Paris, allowances are made for variances. If there's a cultural, religious, or temporal desire for you to amend your uniform, please feel free to let me know. We also fight tooth and nail to protect the freedoms of others, even going so far as to bend the prime directive a time or two. We've also bent the temporal prime directive for that reason. I like officers that I can give general instructions to and they can do things their own way in an ethical, moral manner. For example, in combat I don't call out maneuvers, I let a pilot I trust decide how best to maneuver. Weapons spreads, same. Health care, If the patient and physician both approve and deem it necessary, I'm ok with it."
"So, basically..."As she finished off her tea, Enalia did her best to summarize what she was trying to say. "I think what I'm trying to say is that due to my upbringing and training to manage a pirate fleet, I'm the polar opposite of a micromanager and I look for people that can do things in a unique and interesting manner while still maintaining ethics."
"Fascinating." She looked at the tea cup realizing she'd drank it all. "This is an amazing blend. I would love to procure the recipe." She thought a moment, "You've touched on the point of this being a unique ship and I will to my best to ensure I do not let you down in your expectations. I will do my best to be worthy of this ship and crew." She paused a moment. "My question is not so monumental...I simply wish to know how you are doing. These preliminary meetings are always expectations and ceremony. You walk in, you are told what is expected of you, you walk out and on to the next item. It is... logical and I find logical logic quite refreshingly logical." She gave a brief smile that she wiped off quickly, "Nobody is ever allowed to say, 'hello captain, I'm the new counselor and I wish to know how you are doing is there anything you wish to speak about. I guess...I wish to ask that."
And there it was. A question Enalia was rarely asked seriously. The last of her grin faded as she set aside her teacup and saucer. "That's a bit of a loaded question... Normally, Commander Paris and I talk things through but she's facing the same stress I am now. We just discovered that two of our intel agents were programmed Tal'Shiar sleepers, my holographic wife isn't taking to motherhood as well as we'd hoped so my maternal instincts are the ones we have to rely on, we just lost a massive amount of data to a possibly very dangerous faction of Tal'Shiar, my old adjutant is getting married to the literal Asgardian god of thunder and I may not be able to see her much more at all, the reunification delegation went well, but now we have to coordinate setting up a colony? I'm stressed to say the least."
She stayed silent for a heartbeat. “Is that all? You have, unceremoniously, had the burden of Atlas dumped on your shoulder and you are expected to float across the lake of fire as if carrying a tissue and skipping through the water.” She shook her head. “To qualify that as stressed is a little light.” She sighed. “I am sorry all this is happening. There is an old Earth saying that says when it rains in pours.” She put both her hands on her knees and stood. “Captain I cannot wave a magic counseling wand, even though I wish to, and make all this go away however if you have the time and if you will allow me I can attempt to help shoulder the burden and perhaps open an umbrella to keep some of the rain out. When one is bogged down with this much stress it feels as if there is not enough air. Two follow up questions will you allow me to help and may I use your replicator to replicate some supplies?” She had seen enough of the captain to see she was unorthodox and if she could pique the captain’s curiosity maybe she could truly help.
The Trill woman motioned towards the small replicator, the weariness truly apparent now that she'd dropped the facade of command. "Please, feel free."
She brought them back to the table and moved her chair so that it was closer. “Alright. First,” she uncovered the silver dish to display round dark chocolate. “Blood orange jelly candy wrapped in dark chocolate. I could give you a long explanation of citrus, vitamin C importance after pregnancy, the obvious health benefits of dark chocolate, but the short of it is they are good, they help release happy hormones not only in Humans but Trills and they do have medical benefits.” She pushed the dish towards the captain. “Now then, a plan of attack and a dissection of problems is the best way to help alleviate stresses. Ready?” She held up a purple pen as she opened the old-style paper notebook. "Using these items I would like to try and exercise, with your permission. I know it seems a bit ... unorthodox but if you will stay with me. We'll take a bite out of the burden and see what we can do to chase some of the stress away."
"I got to skip the pregnancy... But I am breastfeeding, so..." It was obviously an admission Enalia wasn't entirely comfortable making, but she pressed forward as best she could, nodding and taking a deep breath. "So let's do this then."
V'lera gave a nod. She stacked the chocolate to a precarious height. "Alright. Think of these chocolates as your burdens. The stresses. As we go through this exercise each time we come up with a way to tackle an issue or a plan that you think will lead to the lightening of the burden we will each eat a chocolate."
She used a pen to write down motherhood on the page. "Let us start with the new baby." She wrote down the phrase that the Captain had used 'my holographic wife isn't taking to motherhood as well as we'd hoped so my maternal instincts are the ones we have to rely on'. She pushed the page over to Enalia and handed her a pen. "Talk me through this. Tell a little about how this came to be, about the pregnancy, your feelings regarding it and how your wife is not taking well to motherhood."
Enalia sighed heavily and leaned back in her chair, closing her eyes for a moment before replying. "Where to begin with that particular can of worms... Well, Moira is actually a failed modified clone of my mother which we had to use an injection of DNA from myself and the original model of Maica, my wife, to save before she... Ah... reverted to goo? I didn't catch what would happen, but she was saved in time. My mother tried to use her against me during the tribunal and power struggle for control of the Artan pirate family, of which I'm now queen. She nearly took over my body and had a clone... hundreds of them... ready so she could rule the family indefinitely. Thankfully, she's no longer with us."
"Moira is safe, the Artan empire is in good hands, my mother is no longer trying to pester me for an heir and sabotaging our efforts, and though one of the men that helped save Moira turned out to be a Tal'Shiar sleeper agent and Maica is still trying to figure out which cry is which, I'd say we're moving along relatively well."
As for Maica specifically, she has a tap into the ship's internal sensors around her and she has the combined knowledge of hundreds of thousands of cultures of childcare... But she's having to learn everything really from ground zero and it's just like when she was first activated. She knew all these amazing recipes, but it took her three hours to learn how to boil water properly for tea. Now she can have a tiramisu ready for lunch in twenty minutes."
"But child-rearing is a bit more complex and I'm worried that the way her AI is written, Moira may be a toddler before she gets the hang of it. Which is one of several reasons I asked Jaeih Dox to be Moira's godmother. She's reliable, we trust her with our lives, she has three grandkids on the way, I've known her since I was running my first pirate operation..."
V'lera resisted the urge to let her mouth hang open. She simply blinked a few times and resorted to her favourite word. "Fascinating."
She needed a little more information so she simply asked, "How does your wife feel about all this, about the child and about her efforts? Is she relying solely on what can be downloaded and processing information that way or is she capable of learning by imitating or by direct education?"
The Trill woman chuckled softly, having expected a bit more of a reaction than that. "Well, as far as we're concerned, she's our daughter through and through. Since the DNA of the woman that Maica was modeled after was used to save her, Moira even looks a bit like her, so... Yeah, she's as close to blood-related as a holographic life form can get."
"As for how she learns..." Here, Enalia was a bit less sure of herself. "I know her learning and growth subroutines are based on a five-point system. Documentation, study and adaptation, experience, mimicry and imitation, direct education, and what she calls guestimation. How it all works and how effective it is varies by the task and how much she can process. Her core unit isn't as big as it could be, after all. Her software is more advanced than Doctor Power, our EMH, but the hardware she's using has a lot more shielding and she says it's not nearly as powerful as what he's running on."
"But she's slowly getting it. She can change diapers and cloth Moira just fine. Playtime is good for the most part. She's still having issues with bottle temp and feeding times and types of cries, but in time..."
"So it is safe to say that while this is slightly stressful both she and you are putting in an effort to ensure she learns. Would your wife benefit from speaking with me. I know you've said she's a hologram but many make the mistake of assuming that holograms do not have stresses and needs to talk. I however to not. Perhaps she might benefit from learning some stress coping benefits." Where was so much more she wanted to suggest. "Also with the child being there are you and your wife taking the time to be with one another without the child to feed your connection as spouses?"
"I'll see if she wants to chat with you. It might help her find another perspective. As for time off, yeah, she talks with her siblings most nights..." Here again, Enlia had to pause for a moment and tell a bit of a side story. "Ah, she's the forty-seventh variant of the third iteration of the original Maica... Some of her siblings decided to become some pretty odd combinations upon activation. One even went so far as to become a pure column of light, studying knowledge and the arts in a Vulcan library."
"Anyway, Jaeih is Moira's godmother and babysits for us regularly so we get plenty of time to ourselves, thankfully. Plus there's the ship's nursery, but they keep complaining about Moira bringing her sword to play with. I keep telling them that as my daughter she needs to know how to defend herself, but..." The spotted woman then stopped herself, realizing she was going off on another tangent. "Ah, but you asked about our connection as spouses. Yes, we've found it a bit more challenging, but we're still going at it. We still talk through our problems and we still... Yeah."
V'lera gave a nod. "Being together is important for both of you. Learning to integrate a child into your relationship will take time but you will get there." She tilted her head to the side. "Captain may I make an observation?"
"Please," the Trill woman replied, motioning for the counselor to continue. "There's no need to hold back."
She gave a nod. "You have a fascinating amount of things going on. You have many stresses yet you seem to have an ability to categorize and tackle that I have not seen. I think we will need more than one session to cover it all. Are you alright with booking a few now, before we continue?"
Regularly see a therapist of any sort? That would have been seen as a weakness in the Artans of old. Thankfully, she was turning them over towards a new leaf, as it were and after a moment of thought, Enalia nodded. "I'm guessing that part of those coping skills are from being joined. Which is likely another thing you'll want me to talk about, I'm sure." With a soft chuckle, Enalia brought up her calendar on her desk terminal and brought it around so that both of them could see the screen. "So... How often do you want to meet?"
"Well you have brought up quite a few stressors today so I would say maybe a flexible once a week but if we need to push it then we will push it to two weeks." She noted that they hadn't used the chocolates she'd replicated. "Perhaps the chocolate exercise can wait for a few days. Shall we meet again in a few days and then we can delve into it fully?"
"Yeah, things should be relatively quiet for a few days. Planning for weekly with flexibility for fortnightly is a good idea. Things tend to go off the rails around here pretty often. It looks like I have openings here and then here? Sorry, Yeoman Dedjoy normally does this." Enalia grinned a bit sheepishly as she motioned at the schedule of her time.
She pulled out another notebook and made a few notes. "I shall hold those appointments for you."
"Thank you," replied Enalia, marking the dates and times as best she could in her own schedule. "I guess if there's nothing else... I admit that this is the most unique initial meeting I've ever had with someone. I'm not sure now if I should be dismissing you or if you should be telling me if we're out of time." With a light chuckle, the Trill woman turned her desk terminal back off and leaned back in her chair.
"Unusual can be good sometimes. It breaks the routine." She thought a moment. "How about we just say until next time?"
With that, Enalia stood and offered her hand for a handshake and one of her piratical lopsided grins. "In that case, until next time. It's been a pleasure."
She shook the captain's hand. She was gratified to see that the greeting on her previous ship was...not the normal here. "I look forward to our sessions."