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Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

[PO3 Lillee t’Jellaieu | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03)  | USS Theurgy | Aldea Orbit ] Attn: @Brutus

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Another day, another mission. Having already completed a simple pre-flight on the shuttle, a small and angular type-9, Lillee was left to simply wait for her charge. Bored, the blonde Romulan simply sat on the port nacelle and watched the hustle and bustle of the shuttlebay. The massive space was thriving with people and spacecraft, both Starfleet and Klingon, a never-ending flurry of activity. The bay was loud and thrumming, the air thick with the smell of thrusters, metal and the scent of dozens of personnel. Though the Theurgy had been in dock for a full month, refit of such a large and technologically advanced dreadnought was a monumental and constant effort, especially given the horrendous damage inflicted on the starship across countless battles.

Including, Lillee mused, the phaser blast that had cut into the bowels of the ship two days after leaving Sol, very nearly killing her and putting her in stasis for months on end. She rubbed her left side gingerly, remembering the savage beating that Zyrao Natauna had unleashed on her a few days prior. The doctor on call that night had treated her injuries, but something unrelated had tweaked in her body during Zyrao's (admittedly justified) assault. Lillee knew that she had to return to Sickbay, this time for a more thorough check-up; regardless of the miracles of modern medicine, she knew that the damage to her body was not something that could be fixed within a few weeks, or even a few years. Doctor Nicander had been clear on that.

Of course, that evil raping monster was the precise reason why Lillee preferred not to go back, even if he had since been locked away. She wasn't one of the bastard's victims. but nevertheless, she had been naked and alone with the beast after being revived from stasis. The thought of the danger she'd been in at the time was deeply unsettling, at least after Lillee had begun to cope with the memory of the terror of fighting the Borg.

Still rubbing her side, Lillee spotted someone approaching the shuttle and she stood up, her hands behind her back. The officer approaching was familiar even if they'd only worked together briefly, during Vector 2's encounter with the Cayuga. Lillee half wondered if Stark even remembered her; those events had been over a month ago, and a great deal had happened during that week. Stopping a Borg apocalypse did tend to overshadow everything else, after all.

"Commander Stark," Lillee said with a smile, bowing her head briefly. "Petty Officer t'Jellaieu. They didn't tell me that you were using the shuttle, Commander, just that someone from Ops would be along. I only got the word half an hour ago, and that was just to prepare a shuttle for an excursion.  Is it just us?"

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #1
 [Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | USS Theurgy | Aldean Orbit ]Attn: @Griff  

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It was late in the alpha shift and Natalie was feeling the hours she had been putting in. The previous nights Senior staff mixer, held in the mid-evening hours and dragging over later than she had expected, combined with the effects of the drinks imbibed and the lack of foresight to rearrange her own schedule so that she could sleep in, had done a number on the Ops Chief. It had gone better than she had expected, which was a boon, but it still had gone longer than she had expected as well. Added to that, the past four days had been a flurry of new faces and names and personnel files to keep track of. She would not say that she was overwhelmed by the amount of work, or the social interaction. Not...overwhelmed. But she needed a change of pace, desperately. And she needed a bit of time alone. 

So when a comms relay maintenance request came into the OPS queue, Natalie snatched it up. She was the Chief of Ops and it was well within her purview to assign whomever she saw fit to the tasks. Yes, she could have delegated the task to one of her Assitant Chiefs, or even the assignment[ of the task to them to met out as they saw fit. One or two junior technicians could probably handle this just fine, or one more senior resource. It would have been an excellent opportunity to test the capabilities of some of her new staff. In short, Natalie was what one would call likely overqualified for the task as outlined in the request. She could almost hear the ghost of Carrigan Trent chiding her for what she was about to do. Conversely, it was the ghost of Sten Covington, and his sage advice about how sometimes you just needed to get lost in actual work, that won out the argument of dearly departed mentors,. Too much paper work, too many meetings, not enough actual work, and your head would get jumbled into a mess. Getting away from the ship for an hour or three, getting her hands dirty and letting her mind sift through the mess of the past few days was just what the Doctor - or Ops Chief in this case - ordered.

The ghost of Christian Hendricks just laughed at the mere idea of haunting Natalie. 

Having carried that morbid analogy further than she really should have, Nat shoved it all aside and continued her march across the shuttle bay, her tall boots clicking with each step as she reviewed the request again on a PaDD she held in her right hand. Her left hand clutched tightly to the strap of the general repair kit she had packed, adding a few odds and ends here that might be useful. If all went well, she wouldn't need half of what she brought, but it was always good to be prepared. Natalie was a decent enough pilot that given her druthers, she would have just taken the craft out on her own, but there were far too many standing protocols to prevent that. And recent experience showed her that not all was safe in the Aldean system.  So she had requested a pilot be assigned from the rotation of available small craft crew. 

Before she had been able to confirm who had been assigned however, another officer had interrupted her, and pulled her away, and so she'd left that little detail unknown, until now as she approached the  Higgs. The woman standing up looked familiar. She blinked in rapid surprise at recognizing both the officer, and more so, her species. She well should, after all, having shared a room for four years at the Academy with a Romulan, though not a blonde one. And sharing quarters with one for a time here as well, lest you allow yourself to pretend otherwise. A small smile formed on her face as the woman gave her a quick run down and apology. 

"I was somewhat circumscript in my request as to who would be boarding, Petty Officer," Natalie confessed, continuing, "And the request was a bit last minute. Finding myself with the time to tackle it and the desire to stretch my legs, I assigned it to just myself. And its...Lilly...er, sorry, Lillee, correct?" Her pronunciation of the Romulan version of the name was a little rusty, but more on point than the more Terran form that she had started with. She extend a hand to shake, and then gestured toward the door to the shuttle, allowing the pilot to go first as she would be the one handling the craft. 

Following in Lillee's wake, Nat flicked her fingers over the aft door controls, letting the ram rise up and seal in the ships atmosphere. She moved through the small rear compartment, ducking into the cockpit and taking the ops/co-pilot station, sliding into the seat with a soft sigh. The shuttle shut out the sounds of the busy bay, and the almost oppressive weight of the crew running about the massive vector. She swept her eyes over the read outs and nodded to herself. It felt good to be in the small, sleek craft. Which was odd, she admitted, if only to herself. Given her personal history with Shuttlecraft.

Now why did you have to go and think about that? she berated herself for more morbid thoughts and shoved all memories of meteors and explosive decompression out of her mind. "Everything looks in order to me."

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #2
[PO3 Lillee t’Jellaieu | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03)  | USS Theurgy | Aldea Orbit ] Attn: @Brutus

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"Yes, Lillee," the nominative woman said pleasantly, bowing her head. The 'e' sound was  emphasised compared to its Terran counterpart, and Lillee found herself moderately impressed by Stark's pronunciation. Given that Starfleet was a multicultural and multispecies organisation, its people tended to pick up on things like proper pronunciation of alien names quite quickly. Nevertheless, it was rare for Lillee to find a human who could pick up on the subtle Romulan sound without coaching, even if the pronunciation had been imperfect.

At the Commander's prompting, Lillee moved into the shuttlecraft, settling into the pilot's chair on the right with a smooth movement. She worked the controls, bringing the thrusters online  as Stark glanced over everything. Once, as a junior pilot, such unnecessary oversight and redundant check-ups would've irritated Lillee to no end (and had, on more than one occasion), but with age came wisdom...or at least, less stupidity. Lillee instead found herself grateful for Stark's professionalism; it would, after all, be profoundly embarrassing to actually have a problem with the shuttle, no matter how unlikely that was.

"Shuttlecraft Higgs to Theurgy Flight Control," Lillee said over the comm. Her voice instantly seemed to lose its melodic accent, the words carefully enunciated and slowly spoken. "Requesting departure clearance for scheduled flight."

The comm's reply was immediate. "Shuttlecraft Higgs, clearance is granted," the flight controller replied through the comm, his voice just as accent-less. "Be aware of heavy Klingon traffic at present to the aft of the Theurgy."

"Acknowledged, Theurgy. Higgs out." With that, Lillee went about the process of launching the shuttle, a simple enough task. They moved out of the aft shuttlebay into a throng of Klingon support craft flying around the dock, but the shuttle was small enough that there was no real danger; it would probably have taken considerable effort to hit something on purpose, in fact. Soon enough, they passed out away from the Theurgy and the docks.

"Settling into standard orbital traffic lane," Lillee said. "Identity countermeasures are holding, and our warp core is...yes, set to to the altered signature of a Klingon shuttle." The blonde Romulan glanced at Stark. "Ready for you to lay in the course and destination, Commander."

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #3
 [Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | USS Theurgy | Aldean Orbit ]Attn: @Griff  
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As with seating on the bridge, the pilot/co-pilot, or pilot/ops lay out for the shuttle craft mirrored that of larger starships. Main flight controller was on the right hand side, and pretty much everything else, from sensors to weapons to power flow regulation was jammed into the left hand console. Though the Type-9 did contain additional side facing auxiliary consoles that could be configured for a myriad of uses, set up behind the main cockpit seats, neither of those would be in use during the flight that afternoon. Unless something went wretchedly wrong, or if Natalie found an excuse to utilize them. And she could do anything she really needed to from the seat she had currently eased herself into, so she wasn't too concerned. For now, the aux stations sat dim, their panels currently in power save mode. 

The quiet beeps and hums of the consoles began to fill the cramped - Natalie might call it cozy if she were feeling generous (and at the moment she was) - cockpit, and the low thrum of the engines soon added to the background noise, settling Nat. Having been in the dockyards for such an extended time, the engines on the Theurgy's massive vectors had all been powered down for repairs, only humming to life for tests, otherwise left entirely off, or, as with the aux consoles behind her, in a standby mode. She was surprised, in that first week, how eerie it had been. Now, feeling the engines of the small craft with all of her body, it was almost like coming home. 

Thus settled, Natalie watched as the Petty Officer took them through the departure clearance with Shuttle Bay Flight Ops. She couldn't help the small smile that curled at the edges of her lips at the smooth, almost routine exchange. There had not been all that much that the younger officer would have called 'routine' for the ship and her crew since November of the previous year. This at least was...Satisfying. 

What was not routine was the sheer amount of small craft traffic in the local space. As Lillee deftly navigated the shuttle up and away, Natalie let out a low whistle. "Is it always this busy with small craft, or is it just because of the extra ships that arrived with our reinforcement officers a few days ago?' Other than a few trips out to deal with the pirate issue plaguing the sector, Natalie had spent almost the entire duration of the ship's stay at Aldea aboard her various vectors, or on the Dockyard itself. The myriad buzz of small craft moving between the vectors, and other sections of the ship yard complex was enough to make her head spin, if only for a moment. 

"Hmm? Oh, right. Can't go anywhere without those, can we?" A small, sheepish smile accompanied her words as Natalie pulled her eyes away from the open display ports and down to her console. Biting her lip for a moment, she referenced her PaDD, and then tapped in the coordinates, comparing it to the local traffic lanes, and sent the course that would get them there quickest without pissing off any irate KDF Traffic Control officers. It was not quite as fast as just laying in the most direct course and rocketing off - they did have to follow local rules and regulations pertaining to all in system flight. This included no fly zones, mandated flight patterns, and speed limitations within the orbital area.

"That should do it. Best possible - well, legal - speed, Ms. t'Jellaieu," Again, it wasn't quite perfect, but the pronunciation made it clear that Natalie had considerably more practice with the Romulan's native language than the average officer, even given that the ships last official mission on behalf of StarFleet had been as part of the Diplomatic Envoy lead by Captain Riker's Titan to the Romulan Empire the previous year. Belatedly, Natalie realized she was unsure if "Ms" had been the proper honorific, but it was a standard default and so as long as the Petty Officer had no issue, then that was that.

Once on their way, Natalie eased the chair back from her console and angled it slightly too look first back over her shoulder, confirming she did remember what came in a Type-9 shuttle, and then back over to the Romulan pilot. "Since this is going to take a little while to get where we're going, would you like anything from the Replicator? I'm due in for my afternoon coffee."

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #4
[PO3 Lillee t’Jellaieu | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03)  | USS Theurgy | Aldea Orbit ] Attn: @Brutus

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At Stark's question about the heavy traffic, Lillee nodded. "It has changed recently," she commented as she maneuvered them through it all. "When I was flying patrols with the Wolves, there were days when I only saw a handful of shuttles outside the shipyard. The Klingons have been very busy as of late."

She didn't comment further, focusing on flying the shuttle and moving the shuttle onto its course. At the offer of coffee, though, Lillee half-turned in her seat, smiling. "Yes, thank you, ma'am," she said politely. "Kavfhir coffee, white bean."

A few moments later, Lillee gratefully accepted a steaming mug from Natalie, taking an indulgent sip before setting the mug down. "Thank you. I do not know who designed shuttle consoles to accommodate drinks, but to my mind, that person is a genius who cannot be praised enough. Romulan shuttles still don't have that functionality, even though pilots like me having been asking for centuries." Checking her readouts, she added lightly, "We should get to the comms relay in just under an hour, with these Klingon speed restrictions."

It was a thoroughly routine and boring mission, enough so that Lillee briefly missed the exhilaration of flying a Valkyrie, but nevertheless, it was at least safe. Relatively safe, anyway. Having good company was also a pleasant change, if Lillee was honest herself, even if she hardly knew Commander Stark. Conscious that some officers weren't fans of small talk, Lillee didn't try to start a conversation, content to let the other woman decide how she wanted to spend the time.

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #5
 [Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | USS Theurgy | Aldean Orbit ]Attn: @Griff  
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The double take was subtle, but it was there. "Kavfhir coffee, white bean," she repeated the order, her finger depressed on the button that would call up the input for the order. The replicator did seem to have the recipe on file, which was a bit of a surprise, but sure enough, the white light swirled in the small alcove and the cup appeared. She picked it up - sniffed, her eyebrows rising higher - and then passed it over to the pilot with a small smile.  Then returning to the device, she ordered up one of her own blends. "Coffee, Nat brew #7, with honey," the ops chief ordered and took her own mug from the enclosure a moment later. A lighter brew, easier on the stomach for later in the day, with a pleasing aroma that was rich and malty. She sniffed this too, eyes shut, and sighed, before turning and walking back to the co-pilots seat and settling into it once again. 

"I think they first rolled it out on the Runabouts. Makes sense of course - if you're going to have sleeping cabins you probably need to be able to replicate up a meal as well.  Those runabouts are meant for longer use than the standard shuttle," Natalie noted, nodding to the other woman as she gave a time estimate. Klingon speed limits, there's an oxymoron. Lillee's calculations matched her own calculations, the brunette having run the numbers in her head briefly. "I want to say they took off so well that the fleet added them to the Type-8 shuttles, though I heard rumors of many engineers retrofitting older Type-6 and Type-7's with them as well. I'm surprised Romulans didn't go for installing them. It only seems logical. Oh, Hell." Her face colored. 

"Sorry. It seems after all these year's I still suffer foot in mouth syndrome. My roommate at the Academy gave me a small lecture about Romulan's and uh, anything that can make it seem like you're comparing them to Vulcan's. Didn't mean anything by it  but..I'm going to dig myself into a hole at this rate." She shook her head and laughed a bit. "At the risk of digging my hole deeper, Kavfhir is a Romulan coffee, right?"

Small talk was not Natalie's strong suite, but sitting around for an hour in silence didn't exactly sound appetizing to her either. Provided, of course, she didn't make an ass of herself in the process.

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #6
[PO3 Lillee t’Jellaieu | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | Epsilon Mynos System ] Attn: @Brutus

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Lillee couldn't help but smile in amusement at Stark's tentativeness as she sipped her coffee. "Yes, it is...but I'm afraid that you're still in in the hole, Commander. Kavfhir beans originate on Vulcan. The first Romulans, my ancestors, took some when they left the planet in the great ships. It's just as well. If they hadn't brought coffee with them, I can't imagine them surviving a century in space without it. I will never comprehend why it isn't more popular with Vulcans."

She paused, running a quick sensor scan with one hand, read the results for a long moment, then turned back to Stark. "Truly, ma'am, I don't know what your roommate told you, but most Romulans don't mind discussing our connection to Vulcans. The only ones who get offended at that are idiots and fools, so...Senators, Tal Shiar, admirals and generals, Praetors. Those kind of people. You need not worry about...um...putting your foot in your mouth. I have never known humans from Mars or Alpha Centauri to get offended at being compared to Earthers."

Lillee settled in her chair facing Stark, crossing her legs, although she kept a weather eye on her display nevertheless. After the experience with pirates, Lillee was distinctly paranoid about being caught in a small shuttlecraft. "Your roommate was an exoanthropologist?

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #7
[Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | USS Theurgy | Aldean Orbit ]Attn: @Griff 
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Stark pursed her lips for a moment, and then blew out a puff of air and sagged back in the co-pilots chair slightly. Swing, and a miss, she thought to herself, needing a minute to place the reference, and tracing it back to a former crew member on another posting with an inappropriate love of the archaic Earth pastime of baseball. It seemed fitting. Looking over at the pilot, she felt her eyebrows rise up. "Well, looks like I'm going to learn quite a bit today. I'll admit when I think of Vulcan's, I tend to think tea, and not coffee. Nice to see that isn't quite the case."

Given the amount of human coffee that Natalie consumed on a daily basis, she couldn't imaging lasting a week without the stuff, let alone traveling for a hundred years across deep space. The thought of living that kind of existence, possibly being born, and dying, on the same ship, in between worlds in the galactic void on the way to a planet you might not ever see was...incredibly brave and incredibly bleak. She shuddered. Setting aside those thoughts for the time being, Natalie rolled her mug around in her hands, the handle slipping from one set of fingers to the other, before she took a sip of the warm brew and addressed humanity and its own journey out to the stars.

"You have the right of it there. In general terms, as a species we've only been out and away from home for maybe three hundred years, give or take. Aside from a few marked exceptions, that hasn't been enough time for there to be a drastic change on a biological or cultural setting from the average human born and raised on Earth. There was some steady drift between humans on Earth and Alpha Centauri, but not so marked that you couldn't tell they were the same origin species. Terra Novan's however, having undergone such a radical reaction to the radiation on the planet, you could easily consider them an off shot branch of Humanity. They consider themselves that, after all." That was perhaps a longer counter point than Lillee was expecting to get from Stark. There we're a few other noted exceptions from the norm, long term colonies on worlds that had shaped the descendants far from the origin of their species. Some by choice, some not so much.

By this point she had turned her chair as well, so that the two women were chatting across the small cockpit interior, and trusting to instrumentation to carry them on to the comm's buoy that needed some serious attention. It was, all in all, a fairly pleasant change of pace for the Lieutenant Commander. The conversation was certainly more engaging than she had any right to expect. She pressed on, getting to the point of her meandering. "I suppose I just assumed that, given the Sundering - that's the name right? - happened over 2000 years ago, that the feelings might be a bit different." She gave a small shrug of her shoulders. "Nice to see that politicians are mostly fools regardless of species. One galactic constant I suppose."

She had raised her mug up in a sort of half assed toast to the notion, and then just taken a sip of her drink when Lillee asked after Nat's roommate. She coughed a little bit, swallowing, and then covering her mouth for a moment with her hand before setting the mug down on the console next to her and letting out a nervous little chuckle. "Well, I'm sure that was one of her courses of study at the Academy, or before hand I suppose, given her history. But she ah, spoke from a place of some limited experience. She was a Romulan herself. Though, in her own words, she wasn't exactly the norm for your species." There was a sense of understatement and wry amusement in the Ops Chief's tone.

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #8
[PO3 Lillee t’Jellaieu | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | Epsilon Mynos System ] Attn: @Brutus

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Her curiosity piqued, Lillee sipped her coffee, considering Stark. "I suppose many Romulans in the Federation fall into that category. My people rarely cross the Neutral Zone unless they are abnormal themselves. A childhood of being taught to fear the Federation is very difficult to shake, far more than you know. Films about Starfleet invading the Empire and bombarding Romulus are very popular, actually, usually with some Romulan hero defeating the Federation in that last moment. There was one trilogy that I loved as a child, full of special effects and dramatic acting. Six heroes, all romantically intertwined as they fought to save the Empire from the evil Federation. My friends and I spent hours debating who would end up with who, and who would die in the end."

Lillee glanced at her display for a long moment before returning her attention to Stark, smiling. "To be honest, Commander, you remind me of one of the main villains of those films. She was a lieutenant commander as well, a human woman named Natalie, first officer of the Enterprise, the Galaxy-class. Intelligent, attractive, devious; tricking the Cayuga was the sort of thing that character would've done. Did your Romulan friend ever tell you about those films? You look nothing like the actress, but the resemblance otherwise is remarkable."

Then Lillee winced, bowing her head briefly in apology. "Oh, I don't mean to imply that you are a villain, I am sorry. On the Theurgy, you are one of the heroes of this war, yes?"

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #9
[Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | USS Theurgy | Aldean Orbit ]Attn: @Griff 
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Natalie wondered just how much detail to go into when it came to the currently absent Romulan roommate. Vanya did serve now on the Theurgy and to the best of Natalie's knowledge, the fact that the science officer was an Android was no longer some sort of top secret/classified matter that needed to be handled with the utmost secrecy. She had made mention of Vanya's less than organic nature to Lt. Frank Arnold two days ago in her office, when the subject of Artificial Intelligence came up. In the end she decided that should there be a natural and organic way to slip that bit of information into the conversation, she would do so, and it wouldn't cause any real harm.

Anyone serving on a ship with a fully sentient AI surely had no issue with inorganic beings, right?

All the same, Natalie was fairly certain that Vanya's experience was vastly different, even from all the other Romulans on 'the wrong side of the neutral zone,' as it were. Which did nothing to detract from the sense of fascination she felt listening to Lillee lay out just what it was like to view the Federation growing up as a Romulan citizen. The shows she spoke of reminded Natalie of something similar she had watched, the adventures of the USS Vendetta which, now that she was older, she could see how it might have had a simplified view of right and wrong and who were the bad guys and who weren't. She'd enjoyed it all the same, however. "We had some holodramas along similar lines on our side of the boarder, though the Fed's were always the good guys. The whole romance angle always seemed to be really over played, but I ate it up as a kid."

Point in fact, she still ate up trashy romance novels, when she had the time to read, or partake in a holodrama. Hadn't had time for that in ages.

The Ops chief had just raised her coffee mug to her lips again when her pilot dropped the little bomb about one of the villains in the Romulan dramas. She coughed and swallowed and swiftly set the mug down less she spill some of it, eyes wide as she tried not to laugh at the notion. There was no way that Vanya could have seen that growing up, or back when they were in the Academy the Android would have teased Natalie mercilessly. A heat crept into her cheeks when Lillee called her a 'hero' though, and she felt that her face could do a good impression of a command red tunic right about then, as she looked down at her lap.

"God no, I'm not a hero. That's the kind of thing you call people like Wenn Cinn. I'm just doing my job." She deflected, having been quite terrible with handling praise for quite some time now. And Cinn, being dead, could not argue the exact same point that Nat made against her calling him a hero. Flustered as she was it took a moment for her to press on and address all that was said. Eventfully she did find some words to work with.

"I promise I didn't read anything negative in to what you were saying, Petty Officer. Being compared to a clever villain by a Romulan is something of a compliment, though that probably speaks more to the views of how Romulans are seen in the Federation. A habit I had to come to terms with very, very swiftly at the Academy. My roommate did not at all live up to the stereotypes that I had been lead to expect. Sadly, many of our class did not live up to the ideals that we like to hold ourselves to when it came to their treatment of her." Nat scowled.

"Vanya was by her own admission, very atypical from the Romulan norm. She grew up sheltered, so to speak, part of some shadowy project and thus while she academically knew very much about other Romulans she had very little practical experience as she tells it. I'm almost positive she never saw the show you did, or I would have never heard the end of it. As it was you can imagine her surprise to finding out I was the one that came to the rescue of the Cayuga, disguised or no.

"Still,"
a wry smile passed over her face, "First officer of The Enterprise would be a heck of a gig. Oh well!" She found herself laughing at the notion, even if not all that long ago she had been staring in the mirror of her borrowed quarters in the bowels of the Stallion, wondering if she'd have to exchange that yellow tunic for red if the other vectors didn't make the next rendezvous.

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #10
[PO3 Lillee t’Jellaieu | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | Epsilon Mynos System ] Attn: @Brutus

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"Right now, I think that your present...ah...gig...is better, yes?" Lillee commented with a wry smile. "We are the ones saving the Federation, not the Enterprise. It is less glamorous, I think, but much more rewarding. Captain Picard is probably being kept far away from us." She hesitated, her smile fading. "Of course, if we met the Enterprise, we'd probably have to fight them. I hope they're kept far away. That...that is not a battle any of us would want."

Then something occurred to Lillee, and her crenelated brow furrowed as she drank some coffee. It was still scalding hot, but Lillee welcomed to searing sensation as the liquid burned its way down her throat. "You say she was on the Cayuga? I remember...was there not a Vulcanoid woman there, with Captain Zeigler? I had thought her Vulcan, not Romulan. She was so...poised. She certainly made a better Vulcan than I was pretending to be, even when she wasn't trying."

Then Lillee sighed. "And by shadowy project, I assume you mean the Tal Shiar or Starfleet Intelligence. That's awful. The stars only know what kind of life she had before escaping whatever hell she was in. Did Vanya escape on the Cayuga?"

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #11
 [Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | USS Theurgy | Aldean Orbit ]Attn: @Griff  
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The younger officer bit down on her lip for a moment, comparing the positions. What might it be like to serve under an officer like Picard? Ives was their own creature after all, and she respected her captain's methods. She was loyal to them, but that did little to stop her from wondering what it might be like all the same. Of course, Lillee lit upon a very nasty point - there was every chance that the Enterprise would be out hunting them. "God I hope not," she murmured, dry swallowing, and then following that unpleasant sensation with an actual mouthful of the coffee she'd replicated. "If we're lucky they're still out exploring somewhere on the frontier."

The idea of having to face down the flagship of the fleet was more daunting than the task force that she and the crew of the Theurgy had been dodging for months now. Natalie shook that off with a quick glance at her console, checking the read out. Still on track, no issues. Good enough for her. She settled back in the chair again, still facing her shipmate, and watched the other woman. While not an expert at reading other's features, it was easy enough to see when something occurred to the Romulan, and she tilted her head to one side. 

A wry grin formed over the rim of her mug as she sipped and set it back into her lap. Relaxing into the topic, she replied, "She is a very precise woman, though if you ever catch her smiling it's usually enough to remove the impression that she's a Vulcan. I'm not sure if she used it as something of a coping mechanism for interacting with others or not, but she greeted me with a wide smile the first time I met her and I could not for the life of me decide which notion scared me more: that she was a Romulan, or that she still might be a Vulcan." The old saying 'beware a Vulcan that smiles' was still very popular, even if it was something of a dig at the V'tosh ka'tur. Infinite Diversity indeed. 

Licking her lips idly she thought back to how it was all explained to her by Vanya, years before, and nodded, her smile falling to something more serious. "The Romulan side of the equation, I'm afraid. I can't say for sure if it wast the Tal'shiar or some other off shoot of Romulan intelligence services. What I do know of it was... distressing. Not many survivors and the like, though in full fairness that should be a discussion that you have with her, and not me.

"Which you can do,"
Natalie continued, answering the second question. "She ended up left aboard the Theurgy along with quite a few others from the Cayuga when Ziegler was forced to flee the nebula before we could transfer her people back to her. Given what happened there, that might have been for the best for all of them. Vanya is working in our science department now. Assistant Chief. We've been...getting reacquainted." That was certainly one way of putting things, she knew. The woman had promptly appropriated part of her quarters soon after they departed the Azure Nebula. Natalie had been less than inclined to kick her out, though by now she had access to a place of her own. It has been...enlightening.

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #12
[PO3 Lillee t’Jellaieu | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | Epsilon Mynos System ] Attn: @Brutus

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"Reacquainted?" Lillee repeated, an edged eyebrow quirked up in askance. She caught the hesitation in Stark's voice, smiling in response as she sipped her coffee. Clearly there was more to it, although Lillee couldn't fathom what that might be. Some sort of tension? Sexual attraction? Drama? Lillee pondered the possibilities, finding herself enjoying the silly nature of it. There was something quite liberating about such teenage gossip.

Lillee was sorely tempted to press Stark further, but a quick glance at her readouts forestalled her. "We've left the no-warp zone, ma'am. Engaging at warp 2. Arrival at destination in ten minutes. No other ships on sensors along our course." She worked the controls with one hand as she held her coffee with the other, the fingers dancing on the touchscreen, and at the command, the shuttle smoothly accelerated into warp. As the shuttle settled in, Lillee finished off her coffee, setting down the cup.

"I suppose you and Vanya are both fortunate that we found the Cayuga, Commander," Lillee commented casually. "She sounds special to you, if you forgive my impertinence. When fighting a war, I think, such friends are invaluable. I was fortunate to find friends in the Wolves, when I flew with them, although fighter pilots make for...ah...strange comrades. Sex, drinking, sex, fighting, sex, partying, more sex...when we were fighting the Borg, a couple of them were flirting even as they were dodging weapons fire. A scientist is a more comfortable friend to have, yes?"

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #13
 [Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | USS Theurgy | Aldean Orbit ]Attn: @Griff  

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A faint blush crept into the Ops Chief's cheeks at the tone employed by her pilot, over Nat's own word choice. Reacquainted was a perfectly acceptable and applicable word to describe the situation. A rather fluid situation that had Natalie charting a new course in her personal affairs in waters previously unventured. It was...complicated. And disparate duty shifts and assignments away from the ship had not allowed her to have as many face to face conversations on the way things had been changing as she might have liked. 

Not that she disliked the interactions with Vanya so far. Ohhh, no. Far from it in fact. 

Which was part of the...well, problem was the wrong word. Part of the confusion. Still, it could have been worse, and having Vanya back was worth any realigning of world views that might accompany her. 

She was saved by the mission itself, and she sat up a bit straighter, nodding in understanding. "Proceed, Petty officer," she said, as if it needed saying. Sometimes you followed formalities because they were useful and served a purpose in the moment. Sometimes you followed formalities because they were formalities. In any event, she watched as, around the cockpit, the world distorted into the streaks of warp speed. Nat glance at the pilot and noted the speed at which she worked, all with only one hand. An eyebrow rose up on her forehead and she smiled just a little bit, privately impressed. Nat was fairly certain she would not have been able to do that single handedly. Or at least not that fast. 

The blush that had started to fade rose back into her cheeks, flooding them with color. She thought for a moment about the pilots she knew, Ravon and Havenborn, primarily, and weighed them against Vanya. This wasn't to say that the later was not also a shameless flirt, and one that took a perverse pleasure in making a certain second officer blush at any and every given opportunity. A very un-officer-like snort slipped out as she tried and failed to hide a laugh.

"Oh, God, I had no idea there was that much of it going on. I'd heard rumors of course. You can't avoid it when your department is in charge of the mechanics that work on the fighters themselves but...that sounds intense. I guess it comes with flying a tiny rocket with weapons strapped between your legs."

She ran a hand over her face, thinking of some of the...experimentation that Vanya liked to work with and bit her lip. "I imagine having a scientist friend is somewhat more ...methodical about it all, than say, fighter pilot friends.But as long as they've got your back, that's what matters." She watched Lillee for a moment, idly wondering just how much of the 'and sex' she got involved in, versus how of much of all the other stuff. Hell, she wondered what it might be like for her to cut lose like that. Hard to imagine, so much so that she couldn't really picture it.

"There certainly haven't been any wild parties or fist fights for me, in any event. And no Borg related flirting either."

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #14
[PO3 Lillee t’Jellaieu | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | Epsilon Mynos System ] Attn: @Brutus

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Smiling in companionable amusement, Lillee stood up with her empty cup, collecting Natalie's as she went and recycling both in the replicator. Returning to her chair, she adopted a more proper working position as the shuttle approached its destination, although she glanced sideways at Natalie anyway. No wonder the Commander had wanted to "stretch her legs". As Chief of Ops, the poor girl was probably so overworked with the refit that she hadn't had the chance to let loose at all.

"Fist fights and flirting around Borg cubes are ill-advised, I suspect," Lillee commented with thick irony, "but a little fun is good. Not necessarily wild parties, unless you enjoy such Commander, but just...something. An afternoon on a beach, a little dancing, some time at a spa..." Lillee paused awkwardly, biting her lip, before clearing her throat loudly. "Hm hm. Perhaps not...the spa. Or...um...oh, I'm sure that you're smarter than me, Commander. The spa is wonderful, and I absolutely recommend one near the equator in the far west of the largest continent. Just watch your hands when near hard objects with angry friends."

Plainly trying very (very) hard not to giggle, Lillee focused on her display. "Still nothing on sensors other than the comm relay, Commander. Decelerating out of warp...now."

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #15
 [Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | USS Theurgy | Aldean Orbit ]Attn: @Griff  
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The Ops Chief watched as the shuttle pilot took care of the now empty cups with out being asked. Natalie smiled faintly, and nodded her thanks, noting a sort of grace in the woman's movements that she herself lacked. Quietly she pondered the nature of that; was it the training and life experience that the Petty Officer had compared to that of Natalie's own growth and life experience, or was there some sort of alien quality, in the nature of her very species, that lent a sort of grace and beauty to something as simple as a stride across the small confines of a shuttle craft? She thought about the other Romulans' she encountered, and decided it was probably as much nature as nurture. 

There and back again, the little side trek could not have lasted more than two minutes at the most, and once Lillee had sat back down, Natalie had turned in her chair again as well to take a look over the readout, checking sensor output and energy levels. Power consumption was nominal, not that she expected otherwise. Then she let her blue eyes dart back over to her companion, and listened attentively to the response. Bemusement flashed across her features. There was a story there, Natalie could tell. The idea of going to a spa was... well, it was delightful she supposed, were she alone, or with select friends. 

"I have heard a few rumors here and there that the Aldean's have wonderful spa's. My own trip down to the planet," your own forced weekend exile and banishment from the ship, you mean, "Was spent sailing, for the most part. She smiled fondly, and then set those particular thoughts aside. "If I get the time to go down to a spa before we leave I'd imagine I'd be going alone. Vanya does not do well submerged, and I doubt I'd have any other angry friend tagging along. I can't for the life of me imagine what kind of hard objects there might be lying around a spa that would cause such problems though. Must be something uniquely Aldean."

As brilliant as she obviously was, Natalie could be very, very dense sometimes. 

Work coming to the rescue again, Nat sat up straighter in her seat and ran her eyes over the sensors as they dropped out of warp. "Bring us in line, 5 meters distant from the relay, an start a counter clockwise orbit." She was already initiating contract protocol's with the relay, exchanging standard friend/foe identification and access hand shake protocols with the object that hung in space before them, its trefoil solar panels spread out wide and glistening in the relative darkness. A second program was punched up, to do a scan of the object itself, while she queued up a standard self diagnostic command with her right hand. 

Her eyes, however, were glued not on her console, but on the view port, as she took in the sight of the relay. "Let's have a good look at her. Sometimes the eyeball sees something the sensors miss."

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #16
[PO3 Lillee t’Jellaieu | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | Epsilon Mynos System ] Attn: @Brutus

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"Aye, counterclockwise orbit, five meters, slow," Lillee answered, her accent fading as she focused on her work. The commands were easy enough to program, the computer handling the simple instruction with ease. With time to spare, she ran yet another scan, breathing a sigh of relief when she saw nothing. The encounter with the Tal Shiar still haunted Lillee, and even with the scans showing clear, her left hand stayed close to her preferred preset hotkeys in the bottom corner: shield activation, phaser power-up, automatic fire. Just in case.

Tapping a separate control with her right hand, the shuttle's powerful spotlights lit, illuminating the relay. Lillee examined it too, her eyes flicking down intermittently at the sensor scan and diagnostics that Stark was running, but in truth the Romulan was out of depth. For all her expertise as a pilot, she hadn't attended the Academy, and lacked a broader education. Still, that was why Stark was there, so Lillee simply had to wait for the human to figure out what was wrong.

A small niggle formed at the back of Lillee's mind, nevertheless, a familiar tension kneading the small of her back. It was just paranoia, and she knew it. The Klingons had thoroughly swept the region for pirates after capturing the frigate that had captured her and Hi'Jak. Nevertheless, waiting as she was for Stark to troubleshoot the problem, Lillee couldn't help but feel profoundly vulnerable in so small a shuttle, so exposed and naked in interstellar space.

Without saying a word, she subtly plotted a course back to Aldea, assigning it as another quick command. There was no harm in being prepared, right?

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #17
 [Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | USS Theurgy | Aldean Orbit ]Attn: @Griff  
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When it came to sexual innuendo, Natalie was as relatively clueless as she was inexperienced with the act itself, though she could no longer claim quite the same level of inexperience as could have less than a year ago. Her ability to pick up on subtle subtext in social context was almost abysmal. But on duty, when focusing on a task at hand, Natalie was more than perceptive. This analytical acumen had been evolving into a sense of not only the instruments around her that she bent to her her will, but the people around her that she worked with. The more shifts on the bridge that she covered as watch officer, or simply keeping the center seat warm for Ives while they were in their Ready Room on some important matter or another, the more Natalie developed the nascent command skill set into something reliable in nature. 

So while the implications of what Lillee had said earlier in regards to the rather risque nature of her interactions in the local spa on Aldea sailed clearly over Natalie's head, the petty officers agitation and increased level of apprehension did not go unnoticed. That, combined with her noting the subtle shifts in power distribution, caused Natalie to glance over at the pilot and give her a questioning look.

"Steady as she goes, Petty Officer." She eased the words with a small hint of a smile, before turning her attention back to the trefoil communications satellite hanging in space before them, slowly rotating. It was an optical illusion of course. The small shuttle was what was moving, the satellite remaining stationary, relative to the rest of the solar system.

The 'Mark-1 Eyeball' was still one fo the most highly advanced and sophisticated forms of detection known to humanity. Which was convenient, as by and large it came installed stock for humans. Thus, even as there were scans running on the device, it was Natalie's eyes that noticed something off. "Full stop," she snapped the words, a sense of concern in her voice. Her fingers danced over the controls before her. A yellow lined square traced itself into existence on the view port, and the contents within flashed twice, before magnifying before them. A frown creased her face, and she shunted the visually enhanced image to one side, comparing it with the actual view of the unaltered, naked display. The enhanced image looked perfectly fine. The view through the transparent aluminium however.

"I'll be damned," she whispered, following it with an open mouthed, louder, "Huh." Natalie typed in a few more commands, running a new series of scans on a lower band. Nodding to herself, as if she'd just confirmed a theory, she took a breath and ordered Lillie, "Take us in closer. As close as you can get to that point."

Again, she fiddled with something on her controls to superimpose an image on the view port. The holographic display interfaces that had been rolled out across Starfleet since the Dominion war, allowing for such precision was something of a godsend, at least in Natalie's book. A red flashing dot began to blink in and out of existence on the otherwise clear panel, indicating the point that Natalie wished to observe closer. "I want to be close enough to reach out and touch it."

This of course was something of an impossibility, but the point got across, and Natalie found herself ignoring the sensor read out entirely, focusing solely on what she could see in the view port. And the closer they got, the more readily apparent things were. One of the small panels near the secondary reactor core was ajar. But when Natalie enhanced the image, using the crafts sensors, what she got in turn was a perfectly sealed access panel. 

"Well damn. Someone has very carefully, very thoroughly sabotaged that Communications Relay." Natalie wished she felt half as calm as she sounded. There was the thrill of solving a puzzle. But then there was the realization that this wasn't some simple system fault or stray asteroid collision. Someone had come out here and done something, deliberately, and then, more impressive still, gone well out of their way to cover their tracks to the point that so far at least, Natalie had not been able to get around the sensor masking. Now the question was hot to sort out what had been done to the thing, and how to disable the masking. Likely from the source.

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #18
[PO3 Lillee t’Jellaieu | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | Epsilon Mynos System ] Attn: @Brutus

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Maneuvering the shuttle was easy enough, even for nudging forward in increments of centimeters, leaving Lillee with little to do. She waited for Stark to do her work, forcing herself to relax. Lillee had flown endless patrols in fighters without her nerves cracking, not to mention flying the Allegiant for hours on end in the Azure Nebula, when they had been expecting to meet a Borg cube at any moment. By comparison, this was child's play, the threat far more mild.

Right up until a warbird full of Tal Shiar decloaks and captures us....again.

When Stark finally isolated the anomaly, it oddly helped. Lillee leaned forward, frowning through the viewport. With a deft touch, she rotated the shuttle up  until the 'top' of the craft was nearly parallel with the relay. The open panel was now quite literally within touching distance of the two women, if not for the thin viewport that separated them from hard vacuum.

"Impressive," Lillee said quietly, looking directly up and examining the open panel. "I have never seen anything like this...camouflage? Sensor masking?" She glanced down at sensors again for a long moment, examining the readouts with a paranoid eye, before glancing at a separate sensor readout of the relay. "The Tal Shiar had a team here at one point, but the Klingons killed them weeks ago. Besides, if Romulans did this, we would never have identified the sabotage..."

Lillee bit her lip, not liking their ignorance. She was a simple pilot, and as a rule, she despised professional mysteries. Social mysteries, such as Stark's potential feelings for her friend, were fun. Professional mysteries such as this, however, far too often led to panic, screaming and mild cases of death, all of which Lillee found quite inconvenient.

"We could tow the relay back to the ship," she suggested mildly, glancing at Stark, flicking a strand of blonde hair behind an ear. "Otherwise, we'll need to go out there to repair it. We do have EVA suits."

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #19
 [Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | USS Theurgy | Aldean Orbit ]Attn: @Griff  
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One dark eyebrow arched up on Natalie's forehead at Lillee's declaration that, had her people done the damage to the senor array, there would have been no trace at all. Nat would have countered that the masking that was being generated was a very good way of covering ones tracks, and that perhaps we are just a might bit prejudiced in favor of our people's skills and inflating their supposed prowess. Then again, there was no need to ruffle her feathers, and seeing the pilot focus on the task at hand also allowed Nat to pick up on how some of the tension bled away from the other woman.

Besides, the Ops Chief suspected her pilot was right. She'd read the reports about Tal Shiar involvement in the area. It seemed everybody had an interest in the Aldean system. Klingons, Romulans, pirates associated with the Orion Syndicate; pirates not associated with the Orion Syndicate. Even that Borg conduit they'd hitched a ride out of the Azure Nebula in had been in the relative neighborhood after all. Of the culprits at hand, Natalie was more willing to suspect that some form of piracy was at play, rather than trained Romulan agents. Though with her luck, maybe it was the Cardassian's, making a play in the system, or possibly the Ferengi. Not that they were near either of their territories. 

Setting aside that particular notion, Natalie chuckled softly and idly rubbed at her neck, where a few weeks prior, a Klingon blade had nearly taken her head off. "Our hosts can be ruthlessly efficient at times, or so I've noticed. I'm not at all surprised that their response to an incursion in one of their protectorate systems was to kill them all as fast and as violently as possible, I'm sure." It was far better to have them on her side, than against her, as far as Natalie was concerned, though she wondered what that said about her sensibilities and Federation idealism. Perhaps she was becoming more of a realist. She wasn't sure if that should trouble her or not. 

She considered the options before her, glancing back over her shoulder to the currently concealed compartment in the wall of the shuttlecraft where a pair of EVA suits were stored. "I think we should tow this back. I want to get a full crew to take a look over not only what sort of damage and modifications were done, but the sensor masking as well. Its... better than I would expect from some of the pirate groups we've seen out here so far. I share your assessment of the Tal Shiar's capabilities, I don't think this was them, but I want to know as much as I can, and we can drop this in the shuttle bay and work on it there."

Having decided to do just that, Natalie ran a few more scans'. Now that she knew about the masking she had a few ideas. "Get us into a position to engage the tractor beam and tow this in our wake. I just want to make sure there are no explosive charges or anything wonderful like that." She tried for a bravado but the smile just didn't reach her eyes. Pursing her lips, she readjusted and tweaked, until satisfied. "I don't think we have to worry about that at least. Petty Officer, about how fast can we safely go with this thing communications relay bouncing around behind us in the tractor beam?" This was the kind of thing she aught to know herself, but it honestly hadn't come up all that often, and she hadn't planned on needing to bring something back to the ship. She'd just wanted to get away from the influx of new officers for a little while and focus on a problem that wasn't personnel related.

She listened to the estimation, and nodded. Well, there wasn't anything to do about it but get on with it. "Very well. Engaging tractor lock," she stated, and watched as the rear facing projection showed the beam wrap around the anchor points of the relay. "We'll just have to find something to do to pass the time. Best possible speed, Petty officer. Let's get this thing home." The question was, what would they talk about?

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #20
[PO3 Lillee t’Jellaieu | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | Epsilon Mynos System ] Attn: @Brutus

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"Explosive charges?" Lillee repeated, raising an eyebrow, catching Stark's forced smile. She glanced at the comms relay, wincing, remembering a very similar situation that had ended quite explosively. "Yes, Commander. One bomb is enough for me. I truly dislike booby traps." She reversed the shuttle and spun it round, the small craft moving fluently from one maneuver to another. Lillee then tapped the thrusters, propelling the shuttle away from the relay while Stark ran her scans.

Then Stark asked about warp tolerances, and Lillee's answer came without pause, having done the math earlier.. "Warp 2.8, Commander. At that speed, it'll take just under three hours to get back to Aldea." At Stark's order, Lillee duly turned to the shuttle towards the distant bright point in the dark that was Aldea's sun. It was still one of the brightest points in the sky given that they weren't that far outside the system, astronomically speaking. Without ceremony, Lillee tapped the control that engaged the warp drive, the shuttle dragging the bulky comms relay into FTL.

With that, Lillee settled into her chair, crossing her legs. She glanced at Stark, a question dancing in her eyes. "Commander, I hope you'll permit me some curiosity. Why do some humans call such things like explosives 'booby traps'? I have never understood that in English. In your culture, do humans find breasts to be particularly dangerous?"

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #21
 [Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | USS Theurgy | Aldean Orbit ]Attn: @Griff  
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Three hours was not the worse flight time ever, but it would be considerably longer than their trip out, and more so than she'd originally planned. But that was fine. She had two assistant chiefs to hold down the fort, and they could manage without her for a few extra hours. That was the point of having an assistant chief, after all. And three hours in a cabin with the Romulan pilot was considerably more relaxing than three hours stuck behind her desk on the ship dealing with staff assignments and duty rosters. The flight out hadn't been all that awkward after all.

No sooner had she thought that, then the flight controller had the shuttle on course. The lights around them began to stretch, distant systems elongating as the warp field snapped into place around them, and the tractored relay behind them.  They lept forward, though considerably slow than before, falling back into course for Aldea and the safety of the cloaked Klingon dock-yards that concealed the Theurgy. One she got in closer she'd put in orders to her department, and maybe someone from tactical, to be on hand to get to work on the relay. She'd over see that. For now, maybe a bit of relaxation. 

Lillee swung around in her seat, drawing Nat's attention. Conversation seemed in order, and she supposed she could have put an end to it, but in truth, she didn't mind. She moved to match the blonde Romulan, easing back in her own chair, with the console off to one side, laying her arm on the edge of the console and resting her jaw against her fist. She'd just gotten relaxed as the pilot opened up with a heck of a question that had Nat's eyes going wide and her eyebrows rocketing up toward her hair line. "I - are they what?"

She couldn't help it, she glanced down at her chest (the subject of a decent amount of childhood teasing), and then back up and over at Lillees. Swallowing, she let out a little laugh, shaking her head, and then dragging her hand over her mouth. "You know, they just might be. When I was at the Academy I noticed a lot of men - overgrown boys really - put a lot of stock in a pair of boobs. They could be in awe of them at times." Given her recent shift in relationship preferences, she supposed she had zero stones to throw. Coughing, to hide that particular revelation, she rubbed the side of her nose with one finger, stalled, glancing out the window, and then back to the pilot. 

Wondering if Lillee was pulling her leg, she continued on under the assumption that it was genuine curiosity. "There was a time when even talking about these," she rested her hand atop her bust, "Was quite taboo. Mostly we've become better about such things. But women were often shamed depending on the size and the shape and how much or how little they showed and so forth and so on. But!" she raised a finger as she fell into lecture mode.

"The word Booby apparently used to be an ancient English insult akin to idiot, or stupid. Booby trap there fore was a trap that an idiot fell for. Why we started calling these," again she tapped her bust, "Boobies, I'm not sure. That came later." She tried not to blush at the open discussion of the etymology of breast related slang. Leaning back in her chair and biting her lip, she added, "Even centuries later we still seem quite fascinated with them, I suppose. Is it like that among your people?" Tit for tat and all of that, she thought with a suppressed giggle, she might as well ask. For the moment at least, rank was out the window.

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #22
[PO3 Lillee t’Jellaieu | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | Epsilon Mynos System ] Attn: @Brutus

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There was something about Stark's officious tone when she explained the true origin of the phrase that made Lillee giggle, unable to help herself. She reflected that it served her right for relying on a translator program rather than her brain. No wonder Jiang had laughed himself silly all those years ago, although Stark's amusement seemed more honest than mocking at being asked the same question.

"No, not as much," Lillee answered, grinning conspiratorially. "There are always some Romulans who have a fondness for breasts, but no more than other parts of the body. They are just...there, yes? For a Romulan, especially in the colonies, there is little practical difference between a man's chest and a woman's chest. A woman needs to nurse her babes, I suppose, but there is little difference culturally."

Lillee sighed at that, glancing purposefully down at Stark's chest. "I envy you humans for those. Your species can nurse far easier than mine. When my twins were nursing, I had to stick to a special diet, do certain exercises, use special equipment to get the milk flowing each night...so much hassle. I didn't sleep well for months. You, on the other hand, can just...go. Any time, anywhere. No need to spend an hour getting ready while the children cry. If you ever have children, treasure that ability."

She drifted off for a moment, reflective, than glanced back at Stark, smirking. "No, for my people, our...strangeness, I suppose you can say? It's hands." At that, Lillee wagged one of her hands playfully. "We aren't telepathic anymore but our hands are still very sensitive, especially the fingertips, since that's where the touch telepathy flowed through. It varies, of course, but most Romulans now find good hands attractive. Some prefer slender, some prefer powerful, some prefer certain shapes and sizes. I have heard it said that every manicurist in the capital on Romulus is a Tal Shiar spy, since every senator, praetor and important individual get their hands treated daily. More political business gets done in the average salon than in the Tricameron, or so the dramas would have us believe."

Lillee glanced at her hand, reminiscing, then giggled abruptly. "When I was...oh, fourteen? Fifteen? I knew a boy, Velok. Cute boy, very clever, but not very worldly. A few of us were on the coast one night, on a cliff, just before sunset, and I was knitting a hat by the fire as I was talking to my friends. Trying to knit a hat, anyway, I was useless. My hand was going back and forth, making all sorts of movements. Then I noticed Velok staring at me, and I thought there was something wrong with me, like I had a bug on my shirt or something. He was looking at me with such intensity, I'd never felt anything like it before."

Lillee leaned forward, grinning, struggling to contain her laughter. "Then I noticed that he was...um...a little excited. Visibly excited, if you understand. Very excited. He didn't even realise until I looked down at the...um...what do you call it? A bulge? A tent? Poor Velok looked like he'd explode from embarrassment. I learned to be more careful with my hands after that, at least when around Romulans and Vulcans."

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

Reply #23
[Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | On return vector to Aldea ]Attn: @Griff 
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What could have been a terribly awkward moment came off more as girlish amusement and giggling, almost as if they were two teens sharing a laugh and not two grown women. It seems that her explanation was good enough for Lillee, and that made Natalie pleased on some level. Having remembered the archaic bit of knowledge, she leaned back after venturing an attempt at her own curiosity. The pilot had brought the subject up, after all, so she was clearly comfortable discussing the matter between the two of them as they made their slow trek back to the concealed dockyards at low warp. And...Nat was curious. She had plenty of reason to be, now.

While they were both smiling, Natalie was taking the conversation very seriously.  Not only did it prove a suitable distraction from the journey ahead, but she was gaining some important insight. Her head cocked to one side as the Romulan explained that the obsession with mammary glands was smoothing more of a human obsession than a Romulan one. She'd never imagined that there would be regional differences in bust size. She was unable to resist a glance down at Lillie's décolletage, covered though she was by the same standard Starfleet over jacket that Natalie wore, save of the trim on the wrists. There was a difference, and the blonde went so far as to elaborate on it, sending Nat's eyebrows rocketing high up on her forehead as she tilted her chin down to get a better view of her own bust. She even played a few across the top. 

"I will admit that I've not given any serious thoughts to having children. The...timing isn't exactly great, and there haven't been many men that I've been drawn to lately that would uh...be considered father material. But should the moment ever arise, I'll try to remember that." Wow, was that an understatement, perhaps the understatement of the century. And that wasn't even taken into account where her relations currently lay, and the impossibility of a child in the usual sense of the matter. How they might go about such a thing, if things progressed far enough that they were looking at that kind of life together...adoption? Artificial....Ooof.

Dearly hoping none of that showed on her face (it was) she debated briefly if she should ask after Lillee's children. But the other woman had moved on swiftly to the things that Romulan's did obsess over, and Nat felt a look of surprise, followed by understanding blossom over her features. Again, she glanced down, but this time, at her hands. She turned the mover once, twice, curling the fingers in toward the palm of one hand and then spreading them out, before having the sudden, childish urge to tuck her hands under her rump and hide them from sight. She was remembering a dinner shared on the shored of the main river that cut through the capital city, Aldea Prime, two weeks prior. Of holding hands on a walk along the promenade. Of the seemingly endless excuses for small, light touches. She felt like such an idiot for not having put two and two together.

Her attention focused back in as Lillee explained the plight of poor Velok, and she guffawed, covering her laugh with one of her hands as her shoulders shook and her eyes lit up with mischief. "Oh God that poor boy. He must have been mortified," she managed, taking a large gulp of air and making sure she didn't descend into out right peals of laughter at the expense of a (now) man lightyears away from her. Swallowing a bit, she shook her head and smoothed her hair back, tucking a few stray strands behind her ears and then looking back down at her finger tips. She did a slight little wave with them, shaking her head in a mix of embarrassment and amusement.

"For humans, touch is a pretty big deal too, though I don't think we fixate on fingers and hands to quite that extent, more so the act of physical contact. Most societies have some taboo or another about nudity among humanity, and what is and isn't appropriate to do in the view of others. It's really impossible to paint us all with one brush, but over the centuries we've become less prudish about things as imply hand holding. And yet, there is a connection there...heh." A small giggle, rubbing her fingers against her palm once more before smoothing her hands over the legs of her pants. "Holding hands are usually one of the first public signs of affection one might see between a couple, at least for humans. Especially when we're younger. Though, I suppose it holds a novel sort of fascination even as adults."

Taking a deep breath and letting it out in a long, low sigh, Natalie again looked back at her first real 'date' night with Vanya, on Aldea, in a new light. With the knowledge she'd just gained, the whole evening had taken on a slightly different tone. It was as if Natalie, and Vanya had been nearly brazen with flirtation, all silent. And,  Natalie reflected, she had been the one to start it, holding out a hand to the statuesque Romulan android when they'd descended the transporter station above the promenade. Right from the start of the trip. "Oops," she said, then realized that she'd said it aloud and blushed a bit.

"Er, sorry. Just...looking at something in hindsight that I should have realized before hand." Before hand. Now I'm making puns. Crap. Realizing she couldn't just leave it like that, the senior officer sagged forward a bit, arms resting on her knees. "That's a bit cryptic of me, isn't it?"

Re: Day 32 [1330 hrs.] Fly Me Away...To That Comms Relay

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[PO3 Lillee t’Jellaieu | Shuttlecraft Higgs (NX-79854/03) | Epsilon Mynos System ] Attn: @Brutus

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Lillee's curiosity was well and truly caught now, an sharp eyebrow shooting up, her smile seeming almost devilish. She glanced at her console as it beeped for attention, making some small adjustments to the warp field and checking sensors, but Stark wasn't getting away that easily. There was a story there, and Lillee was feeling particularly impish today. Something about Natalie Stark's cute awkwardness drew it out of her, and gosh, it was just so much fun!

"That's okay," Lillee said reassuringly, finishing her work before turning back to Stark, noticing the human's blush. She waited a moment, biting her lip as she thought back to what they'd been talking about earlier. "There's nothing wrong with cryptic, but now I'm dying to know. What happened? Was it with your friend? Vanya?"

At that, Lillee hesitated again, unconsciously running a hand through her hair. "If it helps, I promise not to say a word to anyone, on my honour. And..." She considered, looking up as she thought. "...And one embarrassing story deserves another from me. It's a fair trade, yes?"

 
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