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Day 02 [1000 hrs] - The Commander's Confidant

Stardate 57659.19
April 20, 2381
10:00 HRS

Attn: @Brutus

[Lieutenant JG Amanda Ashby | Counseling Department Offices | Deck 08 | USS Theurgy]

It had been two days since the fighting, and a sense of normalcy finally seemed to return to the USS Theurgy. After a thorough search of her office the previous day to check for any hidden surprises that might be left by the hostile boarding party –the Operations Ensign who had performed the sweep claimed to have an uncle who’d lost three fingers to a booby trapped drawer during the Dominion War- Lieutenant Junior Grade Amanda Ashby spent the remainder of the day cleaning her office and throwing the occasional suspicious glance at her desk drawers while doing so. While it had been relatively tedious work, it allowed the blonde-haired Psychiatrist the much-needed opportunity to stop thinking about the death of Marija Ferik and, after a long day of working with an almost worrisome obsessive compulsion, the Psychiatrist’s Office was completely clean again; broken furniture had been replaced, stains were scrubbed out, and the room no longer smelled like a combination of Targ excrement and something much worse which Amanda didn’t even want to think about.

As she leaned back in the cool leather of her seat, Amanda briefly turned her attention away from her desktop computer to reach for a piece of candy. It was a freshly replicated batch of candy in a brand new bowl, a replica of a replica of the original family heirloom which was probably still on her desk aboard the USS Aurora. The original replica had somehow ended up falling off her desk and subsequently shattering during the Battle and someone, either a Targ or one of the hostile Klingon boarders, had helped themselves to the candy inside; it had apparently given them acute bowel issues and the results had been all over the floor of her office. For the sake of her own sanity, the blonde-haired Martian assumed it had been the Targ. With a slight shiver, caused by a combination of that thought and the sourness of the piece of candy, Amanda turned her attention back to the computer on her desk and resumed reading the personnel file it displayed. The file of Commander Natalie Stark.

When Lieutenant Commander Hathev had initially sent her the message that she was assigned to the case of their brand-new Executive Officer, Amanda quite honestly felt rather elated. Under normal circumstances the Chief Counselor would’ve personally attended to the mental wellbeing of a Starfleet Officer as important as Commander Stark but, with Hathev still recovering from injuries sustained during the Battle and thus limited to light duties only, the Vulcan had seen it fit to assign Natalie’s case to her instead. While Amanda knew that she was up to the task, she considered being entrusted with the mental wellbeing of Commander Stark to be an incredible show of trust on the part of the Chief Counselor and the blonde-haired Martian relished the challenge.

From what she’d read in the personnel file of Commander Stark, Amanda expected it to be a rather nice assignment. The woman –a fellow Martian- was only three years younger and already a Commander, which told her that Natalie Stark was both very ambitious and highly competent; an assumption which was further backed by the fact that she apparently graduated from Starfleet Academy a year early. While it already pleased Amanda to read that Natalie was the kind of woman she’d most likely get along with, the knowledge that the Commander was born and raised in Bradbury Point only further excited her about the prospect of meeting Natalie Stark. After all, Bradbury Point was mere hours away from her own place of birth, Bellerose Terrace, and the faculty of Sciences of their Bradbury University had been Amanda’s second choice in case she wouldn’t have been able to enrol into the prestigious Hillcrest Medical University.

The sudden door chime brought the Martian Psychiatrist out of her concentration and, as she looked up from the computer screen, her blue eyes came to rest on the door. Given the time it could only really be one person and, while she normally just told people to enter, Amanda now rose from her chair and approached the door to personally welcome Commander Stark.

Re: Day 02 [1000 hrs] - The Commander's Confidant

Reply #1
 [Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Counseling Department Offices | Deck 08 | Vector 1 | USS Theurgy ]Attn: @Nesota Kynnovan  

Two days had past since the series of running battles across Klingon space, ending in orbit around the Homeworld of the Empire itself. And Natalie Stark was wondering when - or even if - things would go back to normal. Or what passed for normal. Two days of waking up, and putting on red, instead of yellow. Of snapping three gold pips, instead of two gold and one black. Even that had been something she'd only come to terms with a month ago, if that. There was a lot to process. There had been ever since she and the rest of the crew of the USS Theurgy had started this mess.

Everything had changed that day, in orbit of Earth, when the truth had been discovered. And it kept changing, all while Natalie kept trying to adapt to each new twist or turn. Were she to be objective about it, she would have to admit that she had clearly done just that: adapted. Captain Jien Ives would not have trusted her with the position of First Officer if they had not believed in her ability to do the job. Sure, she could rationalize that being promoted to Operations Chief was because Ives' had no other real choice. Nat was the Assistant Chief and most familiar with the department, even if some might have considered her young for the position. And maybe even when s/he made Natalie Second Officer, a part of her thought that it had been due to lack of options.

Those ill notions, Natalie had mostly dissuaded herself of,  just in time for Ranaan Ducote to die and leave her in charge of the ship as Captain Ives went off with Martok of all people to ensure the Chancellor could defend himself to the Klingon High Council and put stop to an attempted change in power. What followed had been as intense a crucible as when Natalie had been left in charge of the Stallion in the immediate aftermath of Theurgy's first encounter with their now allies, the Savi.

Even just thinking about it sounds crazy, Natalie noted, with a bit of dry amusement, considering she was off to meet her new counselor. Then again, the fact that she kept reflecting on all of it, the swift rise in responsibility and authority clearly showed she had some issues to work out about the reality she faced. Even if she did seem suited to the tasks and challenges.

The events of the last week sounded like a farce. Or something that ought be attributed to a ship named Enterprise, certainly nothing that someone like Natalie would be serving on. Nevertheless, this was the story of the Theurgy. And of Commander Natalie Stark. Not even thirty and I've got three pips. Not a record by any means, but not exactly standard track. Less than a year ago she'd been a full Lieutenant and was quite pleased at the fact. Sure, some of her classmates had risien the ranks swiftly during the end of the Dominion War, and yes, circumstances were...unique. But still, she wondered if she really deserved the pips. 

"You need to believe you deserve them," she told her reflection, having paused to sort her hair out in one of the numerous 'refresher closets' that were stationed on every deck, for crew use at any time. On a ship this large it was only practical. "If you believe it then no one else will believe it, and then the whole chain of command falls apart with you. No pressure."

Leaving the room, she reflected on what was about to happen. When they had arrived in the Aldean system, and had begun folding in officers from a myriad of ships, Natalie had agreed to see Lt. Commander Hathev,  recently of the late USS Bellerophon. A noble ship whose fate was anything but. Hathev had agreed to take on the role of Department head for the Counselors aboard Theurgy. And Natalie had agreed to begin keeping appointments with her. For one, she'd been through a ringer and probably needed to have her head analyzed. For another, she felt a need to set an example. If she were - as part of her duties - going to be pushing crew to see counselors, then she aught to do the same. 

Now, Hathev not only reported to Natalie, as XO, but the woman had taken some rather extensive injuries, and needed to off load some of her workload onto her subordinates in the department. That was saying something, as Hathev was just as proud a Vulcan as any that Nat had met, and she imagined that, logical or not, a part of the older woman was loath to have to acknowledge the need here in. So Natalie made no comment on that, simply thanked her, and stated that she would take the Lt. Commander's recommendation for replacement with full trust in their abilities, and the Department heads opinion.

Thus, she found herself standing in front of the office of the junior counselor. Per her file, the woman (a fellow Martian, and graduate of Hillcrest Medical, a university Natalie recognized) specialized in psychology, having seen plenty of practice as a civilian auxiliary during the Dominion War. Her joining Starfleet after that affair accounted for the fact that Lt. (jg) Ashby was older than Natalie, but not nearly as far along in her Starfleet career, though perhaps more experienced in her profession. 

And of course she has her own connection to the ship. Her brother, Lieutenant Ethan Ashby,Natalie thought, keeping the frown off her face when she thought of the Theurgy's former complement of Diplomats, when compared to its current roster. Not many had made it. At all. 

As those thoughts wouldn't be terribly productive for what was to come, she set that aside, and reached forward. Taking a deep breath, she pressed the notification indicator to the left of the officer doors, and listened to the small chime, broadcast both through the control panel itself (as a way of letting the guest know their request had been sent) as well as behind the doors of the office (though with Natalie's human ears, that she could not actually detect). A short moment later, and the doors split apart to reveal the short haired blonde woman that Natalie was scheduled to meet. Repressing the urge to sigh, Natalie looked up at the taller woman, and offered her what she hoped was a warm smile. 

"Lt. Ashby, I presume?" It didn't hurt to be sure, after all. "I believe we have an appointment?"

Re: Day 02 [1000 hrs] - The Commander's Confidant

Reply #2
[Lieutenant JG Amanda Ashby | Counseling Department Offices | Deck 08 | USS Theurgy]
Attn: @Brutus

While the picture in the woman’s personnel file had been slightly oudated, showing her wearing the yellow undershirt of the Operations Department fitted with the rank pips of a Lieutenant Commander, it was unmistakable that the dark brown-haired woman in front of her was Commander Natalie Stark. The Executive Officer didn’t look a day older than the picture in her file and, if Amanda wouldn’t have read the woman’s service record, she could have believed that the picture was taken just the day before; given how fast Natalie Stark had made her way through the ranks, it wasn’t even a very bold assumption.

”Ah, Commander Stark.” As she spoke, Amanda’s slightly Martian-accented voice only further accentuated the friendly, disarming smile on her face; returning the warm smile Commander Stark offered her while their blue eyes met. ”Welcome, please come in.” The blonde-haired Lieutenant Junior Grade stepped aside, allowing the Executive Officer to enter the office while she gestured towards the two seats on the business end of her desk. ”Feel free to make yourself at home and help yourself to the candy bowl.” Whether Amanda was completely oblivious to the fact that most people absolutely vilified the contents of that candy bowl on her desk or rather took some perverse pleasure from seeing their reactions was something that remained up for debate aboard the USS Aurora, and the genuinely innocent smile on the resident Psychiatrist’s face wasn’t exactly a tie-breaker either.

While Commander Stark made her way to a seat, Amanda turned around and approached the replicator before looking back over her shoulder. ”I was just about to get myself a fresh cup of tea, would you like some as well?” Upon hearing the answer, the blonde-haired Psychiatrist turned her attention back to the replicator in front of her. ”A pot of blueberry tea, hot, and two cups.” The replicator beeped in reply and, within a matter of mere seconds, Amanda turned around and approached her desk while carrying a small tray containing their hot beverages.

”So,” As she put the tray down on top of her desk and helped both Commander Stark and herself to a glass of hot blueberry tea, Amanda turned her attention to the dark brown-haired woman and that same friendly, disarming smile returned to her face. ”It’s a pleasure to finally meet a fellow Martian, and aboard the Theurgy of all places.” In an attempt to build rapport and establish a friendly conversation over a nice cup of tea, Amanda sat down in the unoccupied seat on the business end of her desk instead of in her own seat on the other side of it. While this wasn’t exactly a habit, the Martian Psychiatrist genuinely enjoyed finally meeting someone who grew up only mere hours away and, in all honesty, she knew that she really needed some friendly conversation after everything she’d been through only two days ago; if the same applied for Natalie, then this was a welcome distraction for both of them. If not, then they could always get down to business and proceed. “I grew up in Bellerose Terrace, so… I guess that practically makes us neighbours, doesn’t it?”

Re: Day 02 [1000 hrs] - The Commander's Confidant

Reply #3
[Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Counseling Department Offices | Deck 08 | Vector 1 | USS Theurgy ]Attn: @Nesota Kynnovan 

The blonde addressed Natalie with a welcoming enough greeting, and the faint, familiar tones of home hit her ears. Ashby's accent was far closer to Natalie's own, than that of Daniel Havenborn's, another fellow Martian and former classmate of Natalie's, whom she had found herself back in contact with when the Theurgy made its disastrous run on Starbase 84 and encountered the long lost USS Resolve. Havenborn's accent was rather unique, given his upbringing, and had a harder edge to it than the tones that colored both Lt. Ashby's and Cmdr. Stark's more soft spoken Martian-tinged Federation Standard.

A welcome sound, in any event, that brought an easier, less professional and more genuine smile to the shorter officer's face.

Taking in the small office with a sweep of her eyes, Natalie nodded in approval. She always felt a bit off in places that had no personality. She knew some counselors preferred it that way, to have no personal touches in the room, lest they distract from matters at hand, but Natalie had always found such sterile locations far too drab to put her at ease. This perhaps was why her own offices had always been festooned with various knick-knacks and trinkets from her home and her travels. She felt it made others more at ease. Gave a place a feeling that it was well used and lived in. Of course she was still in the process of setting up her new office, having had to move all the items from her suite as Chief of Operations to the XO's office on deck 1.

That was neither here nor there, and Natalie knew as much as she reached into the bowl and took a candy, fiddling with the wrapper. She tucked her skirt under her legs, and then rested one atop the other, crossed at the knee, in an attempt to get comfortable.  "It's good to see your settling in nice," she noted, rolling the candy in her fingers without really making any effort to eat it yet.

Leaning further back, Nat pondered the offering of something to drink and gave a shrug. She was a coffee girl at heart, but she'd had a few cups already and tea might make for a welcome change of pace. If not, she could always rinse her mouth out later. With that amusing notion settling in her head, she nodded. "I'll have a cup of whatever you are having."

A short moment later, and Natalie found herself turning the chair slightly, mug in hand, candy forgotten, as Amanda sat in the other chair stationed in front of the desk, instead of across from Nat. She was sure this was some sort of technique to put her at ease, and it would probably work, as long as Natalie made an honest effort not to cross examine the junior lieutenants every action. Right now she wasn't the ships XO evaluating a subordinate officer's performance; she was a patient. Plain and simple.

"There are a few of us stationed here on the Theurgy," Natalie pointed out, sipping from the tea. A fruity tartness was prevalent in the mixture, certainly at odds with her usual beverage of choice, but far from unpleasant. Satisfied on that front, Natalie continued, cradling the warm cup in her hands. "Not all of us end up working in the shipyards, even if that's what my Dad did. You might run into Lt. Havenborn at some point. He's another Martian, though he comes from the secluded domed colonies on the far side of the planet from you or I."

Reflecting back on her childhood, a smile spread over her face.

"We would take the occasional trip out to Bellerose Terrace from time to time when I was growing up. A nice change of pace from the culture that developed around Bradbury Point. Less Mesoamerica influences, though I will say we had better street food vendors than you did." There was a playful smile dancing on her lips now, clearly teasing. In truth, Bellerose Terrace was a beautiful settlement on the Martian planet, though Natalie could never remember which of the two were older. She knew her own home town, built into a canyon that had one bordered a crater, that was now a massive lake, was one of the earliest colonies, and used to have a full dome over the canyon proper, though that had been removed some time in the mind 2330's.

Re: Day 02 [1000 hrs] - The Commander's Confidant

Reply #4
[Lieutenant JG Amanda Ashby | Counseling Department Offices | Deck 08 | USS Theurgy]
Attn: @Brutus

As she leaned back into the soft, cool leather of her seat while Natalie mentioned the secluded domed colonies, Amanda couldn’t help but to smile warmly. When she was still a child, her older brother Ethan often told her scary bogeyman stories about the far-off colonies; at one point he unintentionally scared her into being afraid of being alone in the dark, or so Ethan told her many years later, and he ended up invoking the ire of their mother because of that. If there were people aboard the USS Theurgy who grew up there, like this Lieutenant Havenborn, Amanda’s curiosity dictated that she should eventually have a chat with him to find out what those colonies were really like.

It wasn’t hard to miss the playful smile that danced on Natalie’s lips as she spoke of home and a similar smile began to adorn Amanda’s face while they reminisced. While it had been a while since Amanda last visited Mars, it wasn’t until she joined the crew of the USS Theurgy less than a week ago when she truly began to miss home; even though she was used to being away for prolonged periods of time, the knowledge that she couldn’t go home made it a particularly tough pill to swallow. The blonde-haired Psychiatrist knew that it had to be even harder on Natalie and the rest of the crew.

”I don’t know, I love the cultural influences of Bradbury Point.” As she spoke, Amanda’s voice only further accentuated the smile that was adorning her face. ”I mean, correct me if I’m wrong because it’s been a while since I sat through Martian History 101, but Bellerose Terrace was initially designed as the agricultural hub that was to support the surrounding colonies. The colony never developed around a native cultural influence as a result, not like the Mesoamerican influences of Bradbury Point or the British influences of Hillcrest, and those unique cultural fingerprints add character to the colonies. I do miss that in Bellerose Terrace.” To say that Bellerose Terrace lacked a cultural fingerprint altogether was doing the colony an injustice, and even though she’d just said it Amanda knew that it was partly wrong. While the colony definitely lacked a native cultural influence, Bellerose Terrace had elevated crop cultivation and animal husbandry into a form of art over the many years and, as a result, Bellerose University had become one of the leading agricultural institutions in the Sol System; on-par with the older and established agricultural universities in Chilliwack and Wageningen on Earth. ”I quite enjoyed our visits to Bradbury Point when I was younger though. My brother would always take me to play in the canyons just outside the city, and we could spend hours and hours just exploring and wandering around the place.”

The smile on Amanda’s face became genuinely happy for a moment as she remembered the childhood memories, and a content sigh escaped her lips as she leaned back in her chair. Pausing just briefly, the blonde-haired Psychiatrist took a sip of her tea before speaking up once more; now with a teasing grin. ”But I absolutely enjoyed the street food above all. When I was still considering which university to attend, I visited the introduction days at Bradbury U. There was this vendor across the street from the main campus and he sold this dish…” For a brief moment, Amanda took her blue eyes off of Natalie and looked up at the ceiling as she tried to remember the name of the dish. ”Ah right, barbacoa!” When Amanda turned her blue-eyed attention back towards the Executive Officer, there was an enthusiastic look in her eyes that once again accentuated the smile on her face. ”That dish was absolutely amazing, one of the best kinds of street food I have ever had.”

After taking another sip of her tea, Amanda put her now half-empty mug on the desk before speaking up again. ”So, if I may ask, what has gotten you off the Red Planet and into Starfleet?” While the smile on Amanda’s face was still warm as she spoke, the enthusiasm that had just previously adorned her blue eyes was gone; instead replaced with a careful, somewhat apprehensive caution. Despite having read Natalie’s personnel profile, along with one of the additional relevant files which Lieutenant Commander Hathev had forwarded earlier that morning, the blonde-haired Psychiatrist still didn’t had the full picture yet. She did find very subtle signs that, depending on how one chose to interpret them, could lead to the conclusion that Natalie’s reasons for joining Starfleet were a rather sensitive subject, so she spoke up once more to rephrase her question. ”Let me quickly rephrase that. I figure that you’ve been aboard the USS Theurgy for a while now, at least much longer than I have. How have you experienced your time aboard the ship? Could you offer some advice to a fellow Martian to help her survive aboard this immense behemoth of a ship?” Amanda reasoned that, if her suspicions were correct and the subject was indeed painful for Natalie to discuss, it would allow the brunette to easily avoid the question if she didn’t want to talk about it.

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