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Posted on Tue Sep 25th, 2018 @ 10:13pm by Lieutenant Commander Mnhei'sahe Dox & Commander Rita Paris & Lieutenant Mona Gonadie

Mission: Holographic Horrors
Location: USS Hera, Deck 4, Flight Control Office
Timeline: 2395

It was the morning after her first day aboard the U.S.S. Hera, and Lt. Junior Grade Melanie Dox was making her way down the corridor of deck 4 on her way to the Flight Control Office. She had an appointment at 0:700 hours with the First Officer, Rita Paris and Ensign Mona Gonadie to test her skills as a pilot on simulation.

As Dox made her way to the office, she was fighting off butterflies in her stomach. Her first meeting with Rita Paris was an emotional one for the new flight control officer. Emotional, but as she could see after a good night's sleep and time to think on it, a largely positive one. Last night, all Dox could remember was the mistakes she made and feeling embarrassed. Today, however, was a new day and Dox was committed to treating it as such.

The Runabout that delivered her to the Hera took 7 days to make the trip, and in that time Dox did her best to learn whatever she could from the crew listings for the Hera. She knew that Rita Paris wasn't JUST the ships XO, but also an incredibly accomplished pilot who was at the helm of this very ship not long ago. So, Melanie knew she would have to do her very best to pass muster today. And she admitted to herself that she really hoped to make a solid second impression upon Paris... even a little.

She approached the door planning to press the pad at the door, activating the melodious chime inside. Instead the door opened at her approach, as if she had been expected. Or the door was just set to open at the approach of authorized personnel- hard to tell.

Inside the spacious flight control office, the colorfully-plumed Ensign Mona Gonadie sat casually in one of the office chairs, while the ever-ebullient Lieutenant Commander Paris was leaning against her desk, half-sitting but mostly just leaning. Raising a cup of steaming something that smelled like coffee, Paris flashed a smile at the sight of the new pilot. “Well there she is, and right on time! C’mon in JG, don’t be a stranger. Coffee?”

At the door and standing at attention, Dox announced herself with a smile on her face. "Lieutenant Junior Grade Melanie Dox, reporting as ordered, Ma'am." Immediately afterwards, her posture loosened up ever so slightly as she stepped into the room, still smiling as she glanced around the office for a moment. "No thank you, Commander. I had a cup in my quarters."

That earned her a raised eyebrow, followed by a shrug. “As you like. Lieutenant Dox, may I introduce Ensign Gonadie. She’s my assistant chief at the moment, and the best pilot onboard the Hera, hands down. Gonadie, Dox. She’s the new gal, and Cap’n wants her up to speed for bridge duty since she has this crazy idea that running the ship for her is going to leave me too busy to sit in the pilot’s seat.”

It was clear from her tone and demeanor that the First Officer was being sarcastic. If she’d been scheduled for a bridge shift in the past three days, she would have been too busy to serve it. Now, with her schedule freeing up, she was more likely to need to be parked in the center chair than at the helm.

Raising her mug in greeting, Mona didn't move from her spot lounging. "Good to meet you. Stick with me and I'll get you flying this baby almost as well as the Chief."

“So, have you handled a nebula class before, Dox? Or will this be your first time?” Paris asked, framed by the view of the flight deck. The flight control office had floor to ceiling reinforced transparent aluminum aft walls, which enabled one in the office to observe all the comings and goings on the flight deck.

"No, Commander. At least, not for real, although as soon as I got my transfer order, I put in as many hours in the holodeck at Starbase 17 as possible on a standard Nebula Class." Dox started talking a little faster out of excitement. "Of course, you mentioned special control modifications and there was no record available for those for any of MY prior Sims. I have to admit, I'm excited to see them."

"Oh, you're gonna love this," the cheery commander crossed her arms but chucked a thumb toward the avian aviatrix lounging in the chair. "The genius born to fly over here didn't care for flying by button push. She wanted the pilot to feel more in control, guiding the vessel and controlling thrust and attitude, but also manipulating the inertial dampeners, internal to protect the crew and externally to drift. Computer, could you please produce a simulation the Hera bridge flight control station, with full interactivity engaged. Just the station, if you will."

As the bridge helm station shimmered into view, the computer chirruped several times, mimicking the sounds and lights that the station made. Suddenly the front and bottom of the station burst open and a pair of thrust and quad-axial vector controls slid out of the console. around where the hands and wrists of the pilot went as well as near the fingers appeared several holographic controls that looked like something far more futuristic than anything else in the fleet. On top of that, the readouts on the surface of the console popped out into 3D readouts. Even the normally minimally 3D nav sensors came to life in a full array.

In an instant, Dox's desire to remain professional and controlled flew right out the nearest window. Dox stepped forward toward the holographic console with her eyes wide and her jaw wide open. Her hands floated above the controls as she took in all the information of the controls. "Oh my... I... This is just... Wow!"

Realizing her glee was completely unrestrained, Dox jerked back slightly with her hand on her chest. She turned to the statuesque First Officer with a slight embarrassed but wide, toothy grin. "Uh... Sorry Commander. I got a little carried away."

The big blonde Valkyrie first officer shook her head and chuckled. "No no, I did that out here because I wanted to see the reaction live. Gonadie here is a genius at flight control systems, make no mistake. Listen to her and she'll never steer you wrong. So," clapping her hands and rubbing them together, Paris eyed the new pilot with mischief in her eye. "Why don't we see just what you can do with the Hera, Miss Dox?"

After the briefest mention of taking the station, Dox slid into the seat. She ran her hands over the controls gently as she paused over each individual control. "Attitude control. Pitch and yaw. Interactive holographic manual..." Her voice trailed off slightly as she moved across the displays. "Thruster control, impulse, warp. 360 3-D navigational interface. This is amazing, Ensign Gonadie. There are bits and pieces similar to other flight control systems I've studied. Fighters developed during the Dominion war... The Delta Flyer modified Runabout. But this integrated system is just... Light years beyond that."

"I just took my own people's flight controls, current Federation tech, some tricks from Intel, a few things we learned from the recent war, and threw them together." Ensign Gonadie was humble in her accomplishments, if not in her piloting abilities. "The next step is to throw you in a simulator with them. Would you prefer to start with a runabout or the big girl herself?"

After the briefest of pauses, concerned for only a moment with coming off as overeager, Dox responded rather enthusiastically, "I do think I'd like to jump in the deep end."

Grinning mischievously, Mona got up and headed to the nearest unused simulator. "Deep end it is." Setting it for the USS Hera bridge, she programmed the simulator for a battle they had some time ago against a series of Cardassian weapons platforms that were left over from the Dominion war and used to defend a bio-research facility. "In this scenario, you have to keep the Hera safe for fourteen minutes while the away team launches, takes out an asteroid facility, and returns. The enemy is fifty seven Cardassian weapons platforms. Commander, I've heard you're good with weapons. Would you like to take the tactical station? I think I remember how Enalia commanded this particular mission, if you don't mind if I take the center seat and give some basic direction."

"A chance to play with guns? I'm in," the first officer clasped her hands and rubbed them together. "I've always wanted to try out this ring phaser system. Multiple targeting with focused capability for more power all computer coordinated in a realtime tactical display? With fifty-seven platforms. Multiple targets in a mobile mission with an established timeline?" The excitement of the emotional executive was evident, but she brought herself up short. Standing up almost at attention, Paris bowed slightly. "To be fair, Miss Dox, this is your first time. So if you have no objection, would you care for a navigator, the way we did it back in my day?"

"I would very much appreciate the assistance, Commander." Dox responded, still smiling. "It sounds like we'll have our hands very full here."

The lost navigator beamed that million-watt smile that made you wonder why she hadn't been a model at Dox, as she stepped behind the tactical station. "You drive and I'll shoot," Lt. Cdr. Paris offered as the displays sprang to life as she logged in. "So on your call, Ensign. Miss Dox... are you ready to fly?"

"Aye, Commander." Dox turned toward the center seat and Ensign Gonadie repeating the First Officers words with eagerness. "Ready to fly, Ma'am."

Sitting in the center seat, Mona tapped at the console to bring up the controls. "Then let's get this show going. Computer, begin simulation." With a chirrup the sim sealed and began, popping them out of warp right in front of 3 large asteroids in the middle of the badlands. Around them were arrayed 57 weapons platforms armed with hundreds of torpedoes and dozens of phasers each. A holographic Ensign shimmered into view at the ops and science stations to help run them. "Take us in towards the central asteroid and prep the Selune for launch. Let's distract as many of the platforms as we can so they don't get a lucky hit. Begin scans for the power source and target freely."

"Aye, ma'am." Dox replied, her smile now replaced with a blank, calm expression of increased focus as she leaned into the controls. The simulated Hera leapt to life, banking sharply to port as the nearest two arrays opened fire with a volley of high-powered phased fire. There was a slight tremor as the blasts fell behind the Hera, which arced in a wide figure eight dancing just ahead of the enemy fire. "Brace yourselves." Dox exclaimed matter-of-factly.

The Hera took a sharp turn towards the gap between the two firing arrays, narrowly avoiding a blast of phaser fire that was aimed just ahead of where the ship would have been had Dox not turned. As the arrays continued firing, Dox slid her fingers on the acceleration controls. "Increasing velocity to maximum impulse." The Simulated Hera shot between the two arrays. Behind the path of the massive nebula-class ship, the two arrays fire had been turned on each other.

A ready indicator began blinking on Mona's readout so she tapped the control. "Runabout Selune is away. Fourteen minute countdown started." On her terminal another timer was counting down. It was three minutes in when they pinpointed the location of the power supplies for the weapons platforms and roughly eight minutes in when they were able to destroy the first one.

Tapping away at the panel in front of her, the buxom blonde bombardier laid out a sequence, then sent the navigational coordinates and impulse speed calculations to time it. "Here's a sensor scrambler for when you need it, Lieutenant. Just ride in following the collapsing shockwaves and you can use it to get inside their shields if you are feeling particularly bold. Ready on your mark- this kind of trick seldom works more than once in an engagement, though. Shields are modulating at 93%, phasers rotating through frequencies and firing at 50% power with no appreciable drain to the ship's systems. We are officially laying down cover fire like a spastic Sulamid at a rave," Paris reported.

A slight chuckle slipped out of the otherwise steely demeanor of the new pilot at the First Officer's comment. "That should keep their attention off of the Selune. But let's make doubly sure they have a smooth ride." Dox swung the Hera back along the path of the Runabout, launching the simulated vessel well over and in front of the smaller craft. "That's right, fire at us." Slamming back on the advanced controls, Dox put the Hera into a tight spiral, spinning the ship on it side to avoid the counter fire.

"You do make targeting resolutions a challenge, Lieutenant Dox," the gold-clad commander called cheerfully from the tactical console. "Here's a little treat for you boys," Paris muttered as she launched a sequence of six torpedoes, all of whom seemed to overshoot the mark, exploding just behind one of the asteroids all in a coordinated and circular sequence. But once all six had exploded, creating a circular shaped shockwave, there was a cry of triumph from the tall tactician. "Hahahhh! How do you like your stable targeting resolutions when I've started your asteroid moving and rotating, huh? Eat my physics, Oh Ye Of No Impulse Drive!"

Clearly the first officer was rather enjoying herself.

Since the weapons platforms were highly mobile, self-targeting and only relied on the two oddball asteroids for remote power, they were able to keep firing, though the interruption to the power delivery of about half of them was noticeable. The simulation recalculated a few things based on that maneuver and made the person at the science station chime in. "Captain, I think I have resolution on one of the power plants thanks to that."

Then the Ops station chimed in just like in the real mission, right after. "I think we can punch through the asteroid's shields with a modified phaser harmonic and disable at least one of them. We'll only have about half of the platforms to deal with then."

The counter to that discovery was well ahead of schedule, which was impressive. Mona grinned as she hit a mark on the count. "Get on it using the pod arrays. Prepare a full spread of quantums from the aft launchers to follow it to make sure it stays dead." She had her part to play as well after all, and that was the order that the captain had given.

"That sounds like our cue," the navigator of a bygone age plotted the course to include the photon disruption spread, then sent the telemetry to the helm. "Are you game, Miss Dox? This is going to take some rather spectacular timing, and we really want to be good and away when the aft spread blows."

"Aye, Commander." Dox responded. "On your mark."

There was tension on the bridge for what seemed like an eternity, as the navigator who had never manned such a console marveled at just how much easier things had become in the century and change she had missed. Long manicured fingers danced lightly over the console as below decks fictional tactical personnel scrambled to load torpedo tubes, with reloads ready for the demands the first officer was placing upon them. As the tension built, it was escalated by the distinctive sound of photon torpedoes being launched, heard in rapid succession from multiple launch points, followed by a tense few seconds before Paris ordered, “Mark! Course and speed Miss Dox- if we blow ourselves up the captain will be most put out!”

"Then let's not blow up. Matching course and trajectory." Dox laid hard into the velocity controls and the simulated Hera accelerated to follow the just fired torpedoes as planned. Glancing momentarily down at the console to check their proximity to the torpedo spread, Dox was running the numbers in her head. For this maneuver to work, they had to be precisely outside the detonation radius of the torpedo, but close enough to ride the shockwave past the asteroid’s shields during the hit. Rita Paris' calculations were precise, and there was zero room for error.

But the arrays were still firing, and Dox had to keep those blasts from both damaging the Hera or forcing her off course. The ship’s manual controls made evasive maneuvers easier to achieve rapidly, but not foolproof. With a slight roll to starboard, a volley of phaser blasts skimmed just over the shields of the starship, with the last slapping the shields hard. The shields held and the ship maintained its course and speed, but Dox was momentarily shaken. "Dammit!"

The habit of gripping nearby surfaces, particularly when under stress, was a habit born of years of being immaterial. It served the first officer well now, as she managed to remain upright at her post despite the pounding the Hera was taking. “Stay the course, Miss Dox, or we won’t make it through and all those aft torpedomen will be so disappointed! Get those torpedoes strongbacked across my deck, you roustabouts!”

"On it!" Dox exclaimed intensely. "Impact in 3... 2...And with that, she braced herself slightly and tightened her grip on the controls in anticipation. The torpedoes exploded against the asteroids powerful shields, and the Hera began rattling against the shockwave, threatening to push the massive Nebula-Class starship up and off course like a stone skipping across a lake. Dox adjusted the ships heading manually, dipping the bow down slightly to tuck under the shockwave and into the shielding as planned. The simulated Hera shook hard, but punched through as planned.

"Look at you, Miss Thing," Rita muttered under her breath as her fingers deftly danced across the console, dropping a collection of quantum torpedoes off the edge of the flight deck to complement the three being dropped by the aft launchers as the Hera screamed through the shields of the power generator, leaving behind a collection of black torpedo casings that would wrought wholescale devastation in their wake.

At that close range, the Hera's shields would not be capable of withstanding the explosion of multiple quantum torpedoes and Dox knew it. In an instant, there was a brilliant flash filling the edges of the main viewscreen from the intense explosion behind the ship. Dox pulled her hand from the manual controls, deciding in that instant that maximum impulse wasn't enough and executed a one second, warp one jump that threw her back in her seat but cleared the Hera with ease.

The ship exited warp just under 200,000 miles from the detonation as Dox hit the thrusters hard, putting the Hera into a tight horizontal spin that aimed her bow back at the action like a massive skid out in space. The explosion was brilliant enough to still fill the screen and Dox laid hard on the impulse speed to bring them back towards the weapons arrays. "We'll be back in range in approximately 5 seconds!"

While gripping the command chair tightly, Mona checked the mission timer and status readout. Less than five minutes in, and just over half the platforms were disabled, one power plant was completely destroyed, the main asteroid was drifting into the other one, and the shockwave had scrambled the sensors on about a quarter of the remaining platforms. These two could definitely get into some trouble, especially pulling a stunt like a micro-warp jump in the middle of combat in the badlands. Together, they were probably better than she was, though she'd never tell them that.

That trick wouldn't work twice for the second power station though. The shields on it was auto-calibrating to prevent it just like it had in the actual mission. "You'll need another trick to knock out the other generator. Any ideas?"

"Buy me thirty seconds of peace, Miss Dox, if you please, and we're going to forge ourselves a juggernaut. With your permission," Paris called to Gonadie in the captain's chair. "Captain Gonadie? I'll be lowering and raising the shields, with considerable power to the forward. They won't expect us to be able to take the amount of punishment we can, and we don't have to worry about our rear shields, because they have no fighter craft, just emplacements. What do you say we go shoot ducks in barrels, ladies?"

"Aye, Commander!" Dox exclaimed with a very slight smirk, absolutely loving how remarkably agile the Hera was for such a massive vessel, darting ahead of the array fire.

“Keep us clear of fire for eight seconds, Miss Dox,” the long-lost lady lieutenant, a real original series gal from a generation long ago worked out the play from the tactical station. Dropping the shields, the atomic blonde relied on the natural talent manning the helm to keep the Hera out of danger long enough for the Hera to be defenseless at red alert in active combat. Raising them again, the aft shields were now at ¼ strength while the forward shields were now formed at 300%. As the phaser banks were fully charged and the torpedo tubes were loaded, they might run into power demands from Engineering if they pushed too hard after dropping and raising the shields. But it was a calculated gamble, as targeting resolutions appeared onscreen.

“Duck and weave, but like a claymore mine, front toward enemy Lieutenant… let’s go see what she can handle,” Paris called as she launched a burst of quantum torpedoes in a slow launch series, taking advantage of the distance to space three launches to the same location that would hammer their target’s shields repeatedly in the same spot, one immediately following the next with a precision only a machine could accomplish… or a navigator who’d been doing it by hand and eye and instinct for her entire career.

"Aye, Commander!" Dox called back, tucking the nose of the Hera down so the now-reinforced forward shields would take the brunt of the assault from the array, adjusting to keep oncoming fire from hitting the pod, nacelles or engineering hull. The still raw pilot braced herself slightly for the impacts from the enemy fire about to begin pounding the ship.

The three torpedoes exploded, one after the other in a synchronized display of battery, even as the Hera’s phasers lanced forward. First two beams played across the shields, then they were joined by two more, then two more added in as they wove and scattered across the shields, attempting to align in one focused location to devastate the shields.

Even with computer assist, the young pilot was dancing the starship about to minimize the direct pounding on the shields, which was making targeting difficult for the full-figured first officer. But Paris wasn’t complaining- the shields of the power plant were weakening despite the amount of power the Cardassians were pumping into them.

“Shields at 68 percent, she’s holding up… keep us on course, Miss Dox, and there might just be a commendation in it for you,” Paris called, admiring the inexperienced pilot’s native skill. Damned if she isn’t a better pilot than me, Rita thought to herself, a rueful smile on her face. Here’s to the next generation.

Completely lost within the reality of the simulation, Dox lost track of herself and bridge protocol for a moment. "If I don't smear us on that asteroid!" She let out with a slight chuckle. "Uh... Sorry, Commander."

“Eyes on the road, hotshot,” Paris rejoindered. “Those emplacements are finding your range, let’s see some evasion, shields at 53 percent, but we’re almost through theirs…”

"Aye, Commander." Dox repeated, crunching her face up over getting complacent and falling into a predictable evasion pattern. She readjusted her settings slightly and powered the ship forward chastising herself internally.

“Why yes, I would like to target one locale since we’re on a steady course… phasers at 60% power aaaaand,” Paris muttered as her fingers danced across the tactical display, then a holographic option popped up before her. Grunting in amusement, the old-school officer set the phasers manually… because she could. “See how you like this…”

All six of the forward phaser banks aligned, from the dorsal end ventral of the starship’s saucer section, bringing the bright golden beams into two tight lances of light that met on the Cardassian power station, powering through the remainder of the shields and lancing into the power station itself, resulting in a rather impressive explosion.

“Six phasers. Very impressive,” the throwback officer from the days of two forward mounted phasers remarked. “Let’s keep harassing those weapon platforms, Miss Dox. Pave the way for the Selune’s escape, seeing as how they still have some time to complete their mission, and we’ve time to waste. Unless since the fancy flying portion of the program is concluded, you’ve had enough?” It was clear from the tall tactician’s tone that she was easy either way, although the junior officer might well be looking for a hidden agenda.

But Dox didn't give her tone a second thought. "On it." She replied quickly, while scanning her instruments for the positions of the remaining weapons platforms. "Let's give the Selune a clear path." With possibly the broadest smile she had allowed herself since the exercise had began, Dox slid the power up on both the internal and external dampeners and took the simulated starship into a barrel roll in space, bringing the nose of the Hera back around towards their targets, beginning a zig-zag pattern to allow Paris ample shooting opportunities.

An alarm sounded on the command chair signaling mission goals completed. Mona silenced it and addressed the two. "Congratulations. With both power plants destroyed all the weapons platforms are disabled and the Selune can complete their mission in peace. Unfortunately, due to the shockwaves that hit the central asteroid, they might not make it back inside the expected window now, if at all... But hey, you did incredibly well."

"If at all?" Dox sat back with a jerk, toward Ensign Gonadie, a concerned look across her face. She was still so caught up in the simulation that her heart sank, concerned that her over-aggressive piloting might have jeopardized the away crew. She knew there WAS no away team, of course, but the fear of that possible failure played across her face.

“If there’s fault with that specific outcome, it lies with She Who Got Excitable About Torpedoes, not in the piloting, Miss Dox. Let’s not have any defeatist talk now after your helmsman debut was such a smashing success,” Paris shot a meaningful glance at Gonadie.

"Yes, ma'am." Dox replied, her eyes focused slightly lower. In spite of the first officer assuring her she had done well, she had began replaying the simulation in her head wondering what she could have done differently. Defeatist talk was like a second language to Dox, and she was her own worst enemy.

"I have to agree," replied the brightly plumed Miradonian, checking the simulation's status on the away team. "And it seems the away team is going to pull through only twenty seconds late with the same casualties as in the actual mission."

Relaxing slightly at the report, relieved that her piloting hadn't compromised the mission, Dox turned back to her workstation. "Rendezvous coordinates set."

"Since there's literally nothing left for the simulator to throw at us..." Mona relaxed as well, slouching in the plush and comfortable command chair. "You both did much better than I expected. However, as a Miradonian, I will never admit that either of you are my equals in flight, nor will I admit that you may have a chance at someday besting me. I will however... Consider you nest sisters... I will fly with either of you any day." She had her pride and that was as close as it would let her come to telling the two of them that she was damned proud of them and considered them far and above any normal pilots. This was a rare honor from a Miradonian whether they knew it or not.

"Thank you, ma'am." Dox had never encountered a Miradonian before today, but was still as happy with the compliment as she knew how to be in the moment. Dox was raised until she was 14 on a smuggling freighter where she learned to fly under very demanding parents who had only two forms of feedback: "You failed" and "That should have been better".

Confronted with praise, the insecure officer always expected a "but".

“That’s a darned high compliment there, Ensign,” Paris remarked, subtly reminding Dox of the rank structure, of which she was higher rank than Gonadie, thus 'ma'am' was inappropriate. Stepping out from abound the tactical station, the cheerful commander came around to rest her rounded rear against the far port side of the flight control station. “Color me duly humbled, Miss Gonadie. Although I daresay hotshot here has more chops than I do. I never would have tried that warp hop on the fly- that was gutsy. You followed your instincts, and you improvised a solution that might have saved the ship from an overzealous navigator’s overkill.”

“I think we’ve found your call sign too, Miss Dox. Hotshot suits you,” the commander offered with a wide, cheery grin. “I see big things in your future, Lieutenant. If you aren’t careful, you might end up as one of the great ones.”

Now standing at attention at her station, Dox felt her cheeks go flush, which added to her anxiety. "Thank you, commander. I... hope to live up to your expectations." Dox was certain that there's was some failure she was unaware of that was waiting to be revealed, which made her already stern posture even tighter.

“Well, in order to do that," the well-traveled cosmonaut sighed, then waved her hand a bit. "For starters, stand down, at ease. I, of all people, am a firm believer in military etiquette and discipline- in their time and place. This was a just a simulation test to see how you’d do with the Hera, and I will tell you honestly, Dox- you did spectacularly well. I know I can feel confident leaving her in your hands,” the taller woman clasped the junior officer gently on the shoulder and offered her the experienced smile of the older woman, to the woman two years older than she.

“Far be it for me of all people to discourage good habits. But when we're working with one another in the fleet, no need to come to attention unless a superior officer calls you to attention. The captain denies 'attention on deck' when she takes the bridge, not even 'officer on deck'. It bucks tradition, but you're an adult, you know everyone's rank. So if you aren’t a cadet and you aren’t in trouble, at ease. Respect the rank, use it to address as a guaranteed correct form of address. Just don’t come to attention for the captain unless she’s mad at you." Paris turned to move away, then came back with an upraised finger. "Do yourself a favor and never call her ‘sir’.”

Leading the two pilots out of the simulator, Lieutenant Commander Paris returned them to the flight control office, with its majestic view of the flight deck spread out before them.

“Piloting you have down, I daresay, Lieutenant Dox. As for the officer part… that you’ll learn over time, and it’s partially my job to teach you. But for now, what do you say we crack open a few cold root beers to celebrate your success?” There was no guile, no hidden agenda from the first officer nor any prideful jealousy- instead, she seemed to be genuinely happy to have seen how well her subordinate had performed. The Hera was quite the starship, and she attracted rare and talented pilots.

Allowing herself to relax was not something that came naturally to Dox, but in that moment, she raised her eyes slightly realizing that there was no shoe about to drop. Paris and Gonadie were genuinely impressed with her performance in the simulation. The Hera wasn't the bleak smuggling ship she left behind years ago. This crew wasn't her parents. And in that moment, Melanie Dox exhaled and her shoulders relaxed. She had never been comfortable letting her emotions be known, but she was feeling something warm in her gut as it unclenched and she liked it.

She did well. She could do well. And that thought and even the idea that she might have found a place on the Hera put the slightest of a smile on her face, and she let it live there for a while.

"Yeah. Yeah, that sounds great, Commander."


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