Checking in with the XO
Curing the Black Blood
Location: XO's Ready Room
Mal sat in the XO's Ready Room, preparing for his day. The recent mission had been very difficult, and wasn't entirely over. Clio, T'Pral, Aewia, Nexi, Daytona, and Cato still needed to be cured of the black blood infection. A cure had yet to be found. To sooth his troubled thoughts, Mal picked up his lyre and began to play.
While the sound was dampened because listening in to the command staff was decidedly frowned upon, she could nevertheless make out the unmistakable sounds of music. She smiled, cocking her to one side, as she took in what she could of the melody, and felt more than a little reluctant to disturb whoever was playing. Still, it was an appointment and it was with the second in command of the ship and that all meant, being late, however good the intentions, was not an option. So, she pressed the chime and waited, tucking her hair behind her ears as she did so.
Mal stopped playing for a moment when he heard the chime. He touched a control on his desk console and an image of the area right outside the doors to his ready room came up. He recognized Lieutenant Raintree from her file photo.
"Enter," he said, then went back to playing his lyre.
Elle entered and moved quietly to the desk. It almost felt wrong to speak though she knew that was what was required. "The music is lovely, Sir," she said softly. She had this sudden image of dancing right there in his Ready Room and smiled at the thought. "I don't play an instrument myself but I think there's nothing better than listening to someone else play." Or, she amended silently, dancing while someone else played. That was good too.
"You're too kind," Mal said. "Please, sit and relax. We're docked and with our nacelle in the middle of being replaced, we're not going anywhere too soon. The crew are on a liberty rotation except for those off on a mission. So we'll talk, get you caught up on the happenings around here. I've already seen that Starfleet was kind enough to get your clearances squared away before you got here, so I don't have play silly spy games with you."
She dropped lightly into a seat, automatically folding one leg beneath her as she did so, and settled in. "Yes," she said as she offered a somewhat sheepish grin. "It might have gone otherwise except that I made a point of visiting the individual responsible every morning since I arrived. Things started moving very quickly once he realized I wasn't going away any time soon." She laughed at the thought of the clerk's expression. "I've found that direct eye contact tends to provide motivation."
"Yes," he said. "I'm ashamed to say I've pulled the angry satyr stare on people from time to time. Works on people surprisingly well, considering I'm usually wearing a utilikilt like I am now. It really is quite amusing how many people seem to be afraid of an angry six foot satyr in a skirt."
"A physically imposing male with rank and position?" She cocked her head to one side and pretended to give it serious consideration then smiled. "Not that surprising. Now, me ... I've had to learn other techniques since I rarely intimidate anyone ... by shear presence anyway."
"Well, most of the time I'm just a friendly neighborhood satyr," Mal said. "What's the Human phrase? You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar? It can be annoying how true that saying is. So, what have you heard about the Hera?"
"Not much I'm afraid which is why I sought you out. Anything you can share would be of help. The state of the crew, anyone that I should pay particular attention to, that sort of thing."
"Well," Mal said. "This will be a bit of a long, somewhat unbelievable, story. Would you like some refreshment before we start?"
"Tea would be good, thanks." She shifted slightly as she considered the many kinds she liked and then added in a way that a replicator would understand, "Vulcan Spice Tea. Hot."
Mal stood up, still plucking his lyre and walked over to the replicator. He ordered Elodie's drink and stopped playing long enough to bring it to her before sitting down in his chair again. Once there, he began to play again.
"Your assignment here will be far from ordinary," the satyr said. "I joined at the tail end of a series of missions intended to eliminate what we determined was an Iconian 'demon' who called himself, I kid you not, 'the Master'. He conducted horrifying genetic experiments and created monstrous creatures. His blood infected Staff Warrant Officer Nexi first. Commander Enaes, Commander Jordan, Chief Warrant Officer Ral, Warrant Officer West, and a civilian member of the crew named Aewia Larani were recently infected as well. The 'Master' had enhanced regenerative abilities and was very difficult to kill. We were only able to do so because we acquired special weapons from the alien who posed as the god Hephaestus on Earth a few thousand years ago. We encountered him through the alien who posed as the god Hermes. Hermes is the father of the alien who posed as Pan. Pan is the progenitor of my people. He and a nymph created our race. This is not Starfleet's first encounter with this race. Well before Starfleet encountered my people, the USS Enterprise under the command of James T. Kirk encountered the alien who called himself 'Apollo'. According to the mission logs, Apollo possessed highly advanced technology that would have made him seem godlike to the Humans of Ancient Greece and Rome. The mission logs state that these 'gods' left this plane of reality, and that Apollo had stayed behind. They came to collect Apollo and that was the end of that...until they encountered my race. Recently it was discovered that a courier that did odd jobs for Starfleet Intelligence was, in fact, Hermes, who had also stayed behind. My people had an encounter with Hera's forces early in our development. so we know she stayed behind as well. What we learned from Hermes, however, was a surprise. All of these godlike aliens have returned, Lieutenant. Some are harmless, some are benevolent, and some are cruel or at least have little respect for 'lesser' beings. They are not quite 'Q', but they are formidable. So, Lieutenant, have I scared you off yet?"
She listened quietly, sipping her tea at first and then leaving it forgotten as the Commander continued. "I remember reading about the Enterprise's mission back at the Academy. A race that likes to style themselves as deities, exhibiting what sounds like extreme narcissism, coupled with power and technology beyond our own, is indeed dangerous. Their choice to leave, to move beyond the need for worshipers, was seen as a positive step. The fact that these beings have returned ..." she shrugged slightly as she continued, "... not so much. A narcissist needs worship, adoration if you will, and his or her demands are essentially insatiable." She took a long sip of her tea then set the cup back down, an act that she used to give herself a moment to think. "I'm not scared, Commander, but I'd be foolish not to be concerned especially for the members of the crew who have suffered as a result."
"That's good to hear," Mal replied. "This crew needs someone looking out for their mental and emotional well being. Your work will be stressful. You may hear things you wish you hadn't and things that you will not be able to unhear. You will have limited support from your professional community since anyone you'd want to discuss a case with would have to be cleared to even know about some of what we do here. Some of the people here may not be what you've come to think of as Starfleet material. But if you can see past their exterior, you will see what I see in them: the potential to do great things."
She nodded as she listened; she'd been a ship's counselor before and understood much of what he was saying. That is, until he reached the last part. "What you mean about 'not Starfleet material'?"
"Some of our personnel are very unconventional," he said. "Mister West has worked in covert operations for most of his career. Over the past four hundred years or so, Mister Ral has been everything from a monk, albeit not a celibate one, a police inspector, a mercenary, served on merchant vessels, and spent the last hundred and thirty odd year working for Starfleet Intelligence. He has spent a large portion of his four centuries of life knee deep in the seedier parts of the Galaxy. Staff Warrant Officer Nexi was raised as a Ferengi slave, then worked as a liquidator and bounty hunter. She was only recently brought into Starfleet at her current rank and what training she received you would not call conventional. Our Captain is the head of the Artan Family, whose areas of expertise include salvage, privateering, smuggling, and even outright piracy. Our Captain's wife is a hologram...and the ship's masseuse. Our Operations Officer is not more than four months old. Until recently, she was a photonic lifeform, a sentient hologram. Now her program inhabits an Iconian android Herald that she was able to modify to resemble her current form. I'm descended from an alien who once posed as a god on Earth. One of our nurses can transform into a wolf. Very little is run of the mill."
"I see," she said softly. And to think, she amended silently, on Betazoid I'm unusual because of my eye color. "Well, it will certainly make things interesting. I'm looking forward to getting to know the crew and to being of any assistance I can."
"Good to hear," Mal said. He set down his lyre and tapped at the controls on his desk console. "There. I've sent you a list of who I think will need the most attention due to recent events. If anyone gives you a hard time about sitting down with you, let me know. If I have to, I'll order them into your office."
"I'll certainly keep you informed. For some, speaking about what's wrong makes it more real, more unavoidable. It wouldn't the first time I've dealt with that particular behavior."
"Well, I've read your record," Mal said. "It speaks for itself. It says you are both highly competent and extremely compassionate. I expect good, possibly even great, things from you. But don't let me keep you. Between settling in and finding some time to enjoy some liberty before we leave, I'm sure you're busy."
"Its more than a job," Elle said as she stood up. "I know the price that some pay for a career in Starfleet and I really do want to help but you're right, I have a lot to do today. I'm sure we'll talk again soon."
"Of course," Mal said. Rising, he walked Elodie out of his office. At first, he went to return to his lyre, but changed his mind and picked up his flute. Sitting down at his desk, he began to play, feeling the tension evaporate from his body.