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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.

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

Reply #5
 [Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Counseling Department Offices | Deck 08 | Vector 1 | USS Theurgy ]Attn: @Nesota Kynnovan  

Home, Natalie thought, was so very far away. She tresused the holographic walk down memory lane she had been blessed with by Lt. Havenborn during their stay over at Aldea. But it wasn't quite the same thing as being there. Even as she tried to dredge up her own memories of her homeworlds history - they all had to learn about it in primary school after all - Natalie felt that familiar note of melancholy that home now brought. Branded traitors to the Federation, seeing home was not a likely fate for Natalie. Certainly not of her own free will. Still, they had allies now, real allies that could aid them. They weren't the lonely starship against the galaxy any more.

Maybe home wasn't that far off after all. 

Brightened by that notion, Nat found herself smiling as she nodded along with Ashby's assessment. "The Bread Basket of Mars, if I remember correctly. Some seriously impressive off world agricultural advancements came out of Bellerose Terrace. It really was a cultural melting pot of farmers, in any event."

That smile became a huge grin and Nat let out a short bark of laughter. It was as if the smell and taste of the slow cooked, melt in your mouth tender meat came back to her across years and lightyears. She closed her eyes for a moment and just smiled. "Saturday's were the best. He did goat on Saturday, and it was always amazing. He never would tell Daddy what was in the spice rub mix, no matter how many times he asked." 

A truly unexpected memory surfaced in her mind then, as the two women connected over a shared experience. Food, bringing people together as it always seemed to be able to do. A day at the market, riding on her fathers shoulders while her brother dragged her mother toward the very stall that Amanda was recalling, near the university.  Her mother had to go in that day to oversee a thesis review and they'd decided to make a trip of it around the market first, before her father would take Natalie and Eric out to watch the boat races on Lake Cassini.

God, I haven't thought of that day in years, she realized, smiling softly now, the laugh gone, replaced by memories. Intentionally or not, the young counselor barreled right into the heart of those memories with as large an impact as ...well, a stray asteroid. The mirth sucked right out of Natalie's face, her whole countenance shutting down in a moment, replaced by something almost totally devoid of emotion. A mask, if ever there was one. Amanda had asked the question, the one everyone eventually asks, and Natalie always hated. But before she could open her mouth to properly answer, the physiologist switched tacks, cutting across the open wound like a boat on a river and changed her approach. It took a moment for the more senior of the two officers to process the course correction.

Letting out a slow breath, Natalie leaned back in her chair, as if to put some distance between herself and the original question, while she pondered the latter barrage. Advice for the junior officer. An interesting change of tactic. She pursed her lips and ran her thumbs over the top of the teacup, which she still clutched in her embrace. "It takes some getting used to. Being on Theurgy is almost like being on a small, mobile starbase. We're certainly larger than many of the smaller research outposts, and I think we still cap in as the largest space frame in the fleet. In some ways that helps make it feel less like we are on a starship at times, but in others...not so much. For what it was worth, I find the Arboretum to be a delight. Reminds me of the gardens Boothby kept at the Academy. Another Martian of renown," this at least, Natalie was happy to mention. The groundskeeper of Starfleet Academy was a man of legend, and came from the same red world as both Amanda and Natalie.

And her brother...

"Look for the green spaces aboard and spend time in them. We have a smattering of lounges around the ship, far more than your average Intrepid or even Akira class would manage. Make time to just be in them, surrounded by others. Obviously there is the holodeck as well, if you really miss home. Lt. Havenborn has a particularly detailed recreation of Mars. If homesickness ever becomes to bad, I can reach out to him for you."

She was dodging the first question, and doging hard, and she wasn't so sure she was doing a great job of hiding that fact. It wasn't as if she hadn't come to terms with the accident. And she had grown much since that moment. And yet, right on the heels of such an unexpectedly happy memory, to have herself reminded of why she was in Starfleet was...painful. This certainly wasn't how she was expecting this first meeting to go. Shot through the heart, and whose to blame? She let out a sigh and forced a smile onto her face.

"Mostly, just don't isolate yourself like I did when I first came aboard. I buried myself in my work and responsibilities and didn't take the time to make friends. That was a huge mistake." Even if some of those I did make along the way have died since. Its a brutal mission...but that's not what she needs to hear. Is it?

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

Reply #6
[Lieutenant JG Amanda Ashby | Counseling Department Offices | Deck 08 | USS Theurgy]
Attn: @Brutus

For a brief moment, Amanda found herself taken completely off-guard and unsure of how to really respond to the woman sitting right next to her. While the blonde-haired Psychiatrist had suspected that Natalie’s reasons for joining Starfleet were possibly rather painful and personal, it was a logical follow-up question after reminiscing about their childhood experiences and, quite honestly, not addressing it would only have turned that particular topic into the proverbial elephant in the room. At least for her. It would have only grown larger and possibly even awkward if they had chosen to avoid talking about it and, as the Executive Officer’s assigned Counselor, Amanda hadn’t been willing to do that. Not to herself and not to Commander Stark either; at least not on the mere assumption that it could be painful.

Yet now she knew for certain that it was and, as she listened how Commander Natalie Stark aptly avoided the first question and instead answered the second question in great detail, Amanda couldn’t help but to feel a little bad; especially upon seeing the Executive Officer’s forced smile upon the conclusion of her answer. It actually amazed Amanda a little how fast things had changed. Just mere moments ago they had been reminiscing about their childhood memories and they were rapidly building rapport while doing so. In fact, Amanda had been quite pleasantly surprised to see how Natalie’s smile evolved into a bark of laughter over her memories of barbacoa –then again, who wouldn’t laugh over the memories of good barbacoa?- and the mere sound of it was refreshing enough to have brought a smile onto her own lips as well. With only one question however, they were back to forced smiles and the entire atmosphere in the office suddenly felt much more reserved as well.

A soft sigh escaped Amanda’s own lips as she regained herself. While she considered to apologize, one look at Commander Stark told her that she shouldn’t; the brunette had already avoided the question in the first place, and an apology would only focus more attention to the topic. Regardless, the blonde knew that she had to salvage the conversation. ”I appreciate the advice, thank you.” As she spoke, Amanda’s voice once again accentuated the genuinely kind look on her face in the hope that it would take the edge off a little bit. ”I managed to find the Public Baths on my very first day, and that definitely makes this ship an improvement over my previous assignment. The USS Aurora didn’t even have a Holodeck, let alone an actual fresh water pool.” Nor Fighter Pilots who took pleasure in skinny dipping, but Amanda knew that this was something probably best left unsaid.

With a grin, partly over the memory of Lieutenant Junior Grade Lance, Amanda reached out for the half-empty cup of tea on her desk and allowed for a brief silence while she drank the remainder of her tea. It allowed her a couple of seconds to plan what to say next and, as she put the now empty cup back down on her desk, the blonde-haired Psychiatrist turned her blue eyed-attention back to Natalie. She had an idea on how to salvage this. ”Would you mind to show me the Arboretum? If it is on par with the work of the legendary Boothby, I would absolutely love to see it!”

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

Reply #7
[Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Counseling Department Offices | Deck 08 | Vector 1 | USS Theurgy ]Attn: @Nesota Kynnovan 

Try as she might, Natalie could feel the dark despair sinking its claws into her once again. Deep black dread that had been a companion, on and off, since that shuttle accident reared its ugly head again. It twisted and coiled in the pit of Natalie's stomach, lapping up the sorrow of friends made and friends lost in the wake of the mission to Romulus and the flight of the Theurgy from the Sol system. Her home system. Where her brother had died.

Spirals like this were not an uncommon occurrence for Natalie, and they were not something just easily shaken off. The best she could manage was to lock it away down there in her stomach. Flooding it physically with the slowly cooling mug of tea she'd been given. Battering it down, metaphorically, as she scrambled to force her attention onto the advice she was giving instead of allowing herself to dwell in the deep, unwelcoming corners of her psyche. Some days were easier than others, but this was a strong flare up, in a situation designed to drag memories into the light, regardless of whatever Natalie might desire.

All in all she thought she managed well enough. She hadn't. If she gave it any real thought she'd see that. But giving it real though was counter to the purpose of what she was trying to do. Having latched onto the life line offered, Nat could do nothing else but see it through. Follow the course she'd swiftly charted out of those turbulent waters of personal grief, long buried and those whose graves were freshly dug in the walls of her heart.

While her smile was still somewhat fragile, it wasn't as brittle as it might have been not even six months ago, before...everything. There was a certain irony in her putting up a front to try and reassure the counselor that she was fine, and that the junior officer hadn't done anything to upset her when, well, she absolutely had been upset. But heaven forbid she allow the woman - who was just doing her job, after all - to feel bad about it on Nat's behalf.

Despite herself, she found her eyebrows rising up on her forehead. "I can't imagine serving on a posting that didn't at least have one holodeck. Even back on the t'Zahn we had one." The aging Miranda-class ship had been buit before Holo-technology had been refined to the point of being installed on Sarships, having first released its moorings in the 23rd century, but even that ship had been refitted to include one Holodeck in the 2360's. The ship should have been mothballed, but between conflicts with the Cardassians, and then the Dominion, it had seen its centennial before being decommissioned. "I'll grant that only the Lexington had a real pool as part of one of the gymnasiums. They were supposed to get a cetacean-ops deck but that got set aside during the Dominion War.

"Still...the baths' are something wholly unique to Theurgy, though I suppose when her sister vessels launch they might also include such a place."
She shook her head softly. That wasn't her kind of scene, but she knew many crew members enjoyed relaxing there after a long shift. She'd heard through the proverbial grape vine that all starships seemed to possess, that their resident time traveler had taken to practically living there off duty.

Well, our first time traveler, I suppose, she thought to herself, feeling another headache coming on as she remembered the Theurgy now contained two men from the future as well as at least one temporally displaced crew member from the past. As was the bane of all command officers in the fleet, she loathed time travel and all its implications. She couldn't begin to fathom how Ives dealt with it. They never mentioned having to be responsible for that at the Academy, even if the mandatory 'what to do if you're displaced in time' lecture series they all had to attend.

(Hearing Montgomery Scott give one of the lectures had been the highlight of that year).

Having briefly been set adrift along the tangent of problematic time travelers, Natalie blinked slowly, replaying what had been said to her in her head. She tilted slightly to one side of the seat, a look of contemplation on her face. She wasn't about to presume to tell the other woman how to do her job - Lt. Ashby was the trained psychologist, not Natalie. It seemed a bit odd but...She gave a rolling shrug of her shoulders.

"I can do that. Did you wish to leave now, or after the session or...?" She was slightly confused on the timing of the request, and felt asking was the best course of action, not assuming. Something she had struggled with all throughout her career, if she were being honest with herself. Which...was the point of these sessions, wasn't it? She kept coming back to that thought. 'The point of these sessions.' She'd have to ponder on that - later. For now she awaited the other officer, while plotting out the best course to get from where they were on Deck 8, down to the Arboretum proper, the 'ground' level as it were, on deck 22. Given that the enclosed space was actually three decks tall, she had a few options, but presumed, correctly or otherwise, that the junior Lieutenant would want to actually wander among the copious variety of plant life that filled the space, rather than contemplate the memorial to the dead, or huddle up in the overlook above (most) of the trees that the cafe offered.

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

Reply #8
[Lieutenant JG Amanda Ashby | Counseling Department Offices | Deck 08 | USS Theurgy]
Attn: @Brutus
[OOC: I asked Brutus for permission to move Natalie as well!]

While it wasn’t difficult to hear the brief hint of confusion in the Commander’s voice as she spoke up, Amanda had already expected it and knew that the confusion was a good thing. There was a generally accepted assumption that Counseling sessions were supposed to be boring and often highly tedious affairs restricted to the confines of a dull office and, at least judging from the brunette’s confusion, Amanda concluded that Commander Stark also believed that common misconception as well; to the blonde-haired Psychiatrist, this presented the perfect opportunity to subtly move on from the gloomy atmosphere that was developing in her office.

With a signature smile that only seemed to further accentuate the friendly tone of her voice, Amanda began to stand up. ”Yeah, why not now? These sessions don’t have to be boring, and I’d much rather talk to you in an environment that makes you feel at ease.” As she spoke, Amanda reached out for the PADD on her desk before straightening her back and gesturing towards the door of her office to invite Commander Stark to lead the way. ”I’d like to get to know you after all, and the environments where people are at their most comfortable often say more about them than even a thousand words possibly ever could!” In all fairness, Amanda hadn’t been able to practice those kinds of methods back aboard the USS Aurora because the slender Nova-class Light Research Cruiser had lacked the space to take those kinds of strolls in private, and not even possessed the crew complement to make Psychiatry a full time occupation in the first place; aboard the USS Theurgy things were entirely different, and as the blonde-haired Martian followed the Executive Officer out of the office she couldn’t help but admit to herself that she was really looking forward to trying out this method as well.

”About holodecks though…” As they were making their way down the hallway towards the turbolift, Amanda spoke up once more. ”I really didn’t miss them aboard the USS Aurora, if I’m really honest. I mean, we would visit either a Starbase or a Member World every three months to resupply, and most of the crew would be allowed to go on shore leave if their duties would permit them. In between those supply stops, the crew would often find other means to keep themselves entertained.” The smile on Amanda’s face only became larger as she remembered sports night aboard the USS Aurora; their Chief Operations Officer, Lieutenant Junior Grade Hailey Bennion, had installed an entertainment system in the Officer’s Mess and, at set evenings in the week, many of the off-duty officers would gather to watch movies or pre-recorded sports games. ”Oh! We actually found ourselves in orbit around Risa during our previous supply run four months ago.” While she spoke, the memory of that particular shore leave made Amanda’s voice almost infectiously enthusiastic. ”Two of my friends, Amber and Hailey, visited Chiffon Beach. You know, that big beach near the Equator which is famous for its chiffon-coloured sands? I was supposed to join them until our Chief Medical Officer came down with the flu and I was tasked with overseeing the resupply of Sickbay, but they brought me back a holographic program of Chiffon Beach.” In hindsight it hadn’t been an extremely thoughtful gift,  especially given how the USS Aurora didn’t have a Holodeck, but during the refit of the Nova-class ship three months later -now a little over two weeks ago- Amanda nevertheless managed to briefly try it aboard Starbase 24 and the program turned out to be pretty good. ”I actually brought it with me so… since you’re taking me to the Arboretum to show me where you recharge your batteries, you’re more than welcome to join me when I visit Chiffon Beach to recharge mine.”

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

Reply #9
 [Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Counseling Department Offices | Deck 08 | Vector 1 | USS Theurgy ]Attn: @Nesota Kynnovan  

There was a certain logic to what Lt. Ashby was proposing, and Natalie found it hard to argue with the notion of changing location. She was feeling confined in the room, even after the abrupt subject change. Clearly there was merit in the proposition if she felt herself looking forward to the notion of being down among those trees, walking the paths of the Arboretum instead of sitting in the small, if nicely adorned office of the blonde psychologist. Perhaps the woman knew what she was about. Or perhaps Natalie was so rattled that even an amateur could tell there was a need to change things up if anything useful was going to happen. 

To her credit, Natalie chose to presume the former, over the latter. 

With little more preamble than that, the two women found themselves standing up and exiting the room. Nat passed by the replicator, dropping off the half drunk mug of tea to be recycled, and exited into the hallway proper. Even on a ship as large as Theurgy the corridor wasn't completely abandoned, but no one paid the duo much mind, other than the acknowledgements of Nat as she passed from on duty officers and crew. Just little nods, as the duo made their way to the lift.

Life aboard a smaller science vessel would be much different than serving upon Theurgy, Natalie reasoned, though she'd never been posted on a ship so small as to not have a holodeck for recreation and distraction. At the same time she knew that most sentient species were capable of finding ways to keep themselves entertained, and Humanity had been doing so for years on starships before holodecks came around. The ship she was on now could go for months and months - years really - without making a port call if need be. Almost completely self sustaining. A blessing, all things considered. She couldn't imagine doing what they were doing on a ship as small as the Aurora, even if the junior Lieutenant seemed to be fondly remembering her postings. Nat supposed she might as well had she been in Amanda's shoes. 

"I've ah, never been to Risa," Natalie confessed as she listened, "Odd really, that in all my time in the fleet I've never been on leave there. The Lexington was scheduled to stay t here for a fortnight, but I transferred off before that." It had been a bit of a shame, but at the same time, with all the stories she had heard, Nat wasn't sure she would have enjoyed Risa all that much. She almost thought 'far too hedonistic for her tastes' but then remembered just what she'd gotten up to on her last shore leave. A blush crawled up the back of her neck and settled in about her cheeks. 'Too Hedonistic' wasn't a claim she could really make any more. 

Coughing a bit as the lift began to move along the deck, having dropped quite a few during their chat, Natalie pondered the offer from the counseling officer.  She didn't suspect the woman of some ulterior motive, beyond perhaps preferring to hold sessions in more comfortable accommodation than an office, and decided it was a genuine entreaty to Nat. And she had never been to Risa, after all. Even holographic Risa might be nice. "That must have been nice of them, even if you had to wait to use it."

Unlike the friends, Nat was easily able to put two and two together and realize that it would take some time for an officer who didn't have access to an on ship holodeck to make use of a gifted holoprogram when the ship was just leaving orbit of their quarterly shore leave. Shrugging her shoulders, she added, "It might be nice to visit your Chiffon Beach program. I don't usually go to many beaches mind you, but I do love the water."

The doors swung open a little ways away from the Arboretum. Instead of a long walk along the deck, the computer had brought them to the nearest unoccupied lift alcove, though it was a few junctions away from the closest. Natalie supposed that the alcove was down for repair. She had forgotten to program the lift properly to drop them off in a place to give a tour of the deck. "It always seems like it should take longer to get here than it does given how large this ship is. Fastest lifts in the fleet," it was a poor joke, but a joke none the less as she stepped out and gestured down the hall way. 

"Third junction on the left will lead us to the Arboretum," she informed the other woman, taking the lead. Even though she knew it was not the case - the ships air reprocessing systems were top notch - Natalie liked to think she could feel the slightly more humid, warm air of the Arboretum pouring out into the corridor, welcoming them along.

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

Reply #10
[Lieutenant JG Amanda Ashby | Counseling Department Offices | Deck 08 | USS Theurgy]
Attn: @Brutus

As the turbolift began to move, Amanda shrugged indifferently in reply to the brunette Executive Officer standing to her left. While it was definitely true that she’d been annoyed upon learning that Lieutenant Harper came down with the flu and that her shore leave was cancelled, there had been various other opportunities for shore leave during her stay aboard the USS Aurora that were just as fun. If not more fun, if she’d have to judge Risa by the various sunburnt colleagues she was confronted with during their brief stay. At the time however, she definitely grouched over her misfortune at every available opportunity.

Biting her lip as not to smile at the thought of how silly that had been, Amanda clasped her right hand around her left wrist behind her back and began to tip-toe while the turbolift descended towards their destination. The urge to smile quickly left her as she thought about Lieutenant Amber Beale and Lieutenant Junior Grade Hailey Bennion though; while the USS Aurora had been at Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards for a routine maintenance that would take the better part of three months and most of her crew found themselves temporarily reassigned to other postings, they would have heard about her ‘defection’ to the USS Theurgy. Maybe Starfleet hadn’t exactly told them that version of events, but Amanda nevertheless caught herself wondering what her friends would have thought about that. With a soft, barely audible sigh Amanda turned her blue-eyed attention back to the Executive Officer and presented the woman with a friendly smile. ”Yes, very nice indeed. You’re more than welcome to borrow it if you please, it’s a very good program, especially if you like the water!”

When the doors of the turbolift opened in front of them, it actually surprised Amanda how fast their descend had been. The surprise was probably visible on her face, because Natalie picked right up on it and joked that the ship was equipped with the fastest lifts in the fleet. Following the woman out of the turbolift and into the corridor, Amanda briefly turned her attention to the left, in the general direction where Natalie was pointing at, before turning her attention back to the other woman and moving to follow. ”Well, a turbolift is only as fast as the Chief Operations Officer who programmed it.” She knew only too well that Commander Natalie Stark had been the previous Chief Operations Officer, and Amanda suspected that she came off as overly coy while trying to compliment the brunette. ”Must be that we also had the best Chief Operations Officer in the Fleet.”

The joke wasn’t even cold yet by the time the two women arrived at a set of large doors and, when they opened in front of them, Amanda’s breath caught in her throat. Not only because of the humidity, but mainly because the Arboretum was well beyond anything she’d expected. When Natalie had initially mentioned it, Amanda had used it as an opportunity to draw the other woman’s attention away from the painful memories which they’d came upon; even a pile of mud with three barren branches would have sufficed at that moment. This was beyond beautiful however and, as Amanda stepped through the doors and into the Garden, she realized that Natalie’s comment about the Arboretum being on-par with Boothby hadn’t been proud boasting.

If her astonishment hadn’t been obvious enough already, Amanda turned around to face Natalie and presented her with a huge smile. ”You weren’t exaggerating about the beauty of this place! Are you sure Boothby hasn’t defected along with us?” She hadn’t personally known the man but, judging from his reputation, he would have definitely taken the fight to the Infected; armed with his trusted trowel and watering can. It made for a mental image that only further added to Amanda’s smile and, as she turned around once more, she gestured towards an empty place beneath a tree. ”Do you want to get comfortable?”

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

Reply #11
 [Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Counseling Department Offices | Deck 08 | Vector 1 | USS Theurgy ]Attn: @Nesota Kynnovan  

Raising an eyebrow at the obvious flattery, Nat allowed herself a small, amused chuckle. "You don't have to try and butter me up, Lieutenant," she gently chided. She wasn't sure if it was a consoling technique at play or if Amanda had served with officers that liked to have their horn tooted and accomplishments toted by their subordinates. "I ran a talented department. By the time I was Chief of Ops if I was the one in the bowels of the lift system making updates something had gone horribly wrong."

Which wasn't to say that she never found herself down a turbolift shaft during her career, even when coming aboard the Theurgy But the last time she'd been outside of the car and in the shafts themselves hadn't been for repairs - she'd been sneaking through one of the lift tubes to get between decks without getting caught, and only after power had been disabled to that shaft, as an attempt to bypass some of her fellow crew that had succumb to what the crew would later call the Niga Virus. Not exactly a pleasing memory, as some of what she'd experienced still gave her nightmares, though these were far less frequent and she was better interacting with Captain Ives in their male form than she had been in the immediate aftermath of...everything. 


A wide smile replaced the raised eyebrow and mildly amused expression the ship's Executive Officer had been wearing as she watched the taller woman get her first view of the Arboretum. In truth she understood why the blonde immediately made the jump to asking about Boothby as if the man had joined their cause and crew. The gardens here were well-loved and maintained by a small group of assigned arborists and a dedicated slew of well-intentioned amateur hobbyists from all divisions of the crew. She had seen plenty of officers and enlisted helping with replanting, potting, seeding and weeding as need be. There was a small zen garden nestled away that changed daily - almost hourly - as one person or another would mediate while raking patterns around rocks they'd dropped into the sand. 

Natalie herself had even helped with the installation of a rosebush at one point early on in her assignment aboard, back when she was still the Assistant Chief of Operations, what seemed like a lifetime ago at this point. But she was far more likely to be curled up on one of the numerous benches with a book or sketchpad in hand, than she was to be down on her knees digging in the dirt. Even if she had done more than a bit of that back at the Academy. Anyone that Boothby took a shine to ended up digging in his gardens.

It seemed that Lt. Ashby followed the old Martian gardeners line of thinking as she made her way over to one of the towering trees that were contained within the massive, 3 deck tall space. Why sit on a bench when you could sprawl out on the grass. There were plenty of cultivated spots to do just that in the room, and Nat gave a small shrug of her shoulders as she stepped off the path and meandered the short distance over to the tree. Carefully tucking her skirt under her less she have it ride up and leave her with hard to explain grass stains on the backs of her thighs, the younger woman settled in next to the tree her therapist had suggested and waited for Ashby to do the same. 

"I have to admit I've never had a counseling session in such an environment," she mused, allowing the natural  beauty of it all to keep her mind from the darker thoughts that had soured earlier moments in the Lieutenants office. Thankfully there were enough other trees to make it difficult to see the ringed observation balcony that wrapped around the middle deck of the chamber, with its memorial placards and holographic pedestals. While Natalie thought this to be a much needed addition to the ship, a place for people to come and remember in quiet tranquility, she had no intention to dwell on those long gone if she could avoid it. Not being able to spot the raised tribute to the fallen above them was a blessing in her book. No reason for her to further mar what could be a lovely, relaxing moment with memories of the dearly departed. She had too many friends up on that wall for reflections to be anything but painful at that point, and she was certain the younger officer wasn't ready to delve into that morass during their first session. Bad enough someone might make comment about the ships XO lounging about in the Arboretum, though plenty of other officers did the same. It would do no good for her to visibly wallow in grief in such a semi-public setting.

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

Reply #12
[Lieutenant JG Amanda Ashby | Arboretum | Deck 22 | USS Theurgy]
Attn: @Brutus

A smile began to adorn Amanda’s face as she listened to Commander Stark’s comment about never having experienced a counselling session in the Arboretum. In all fairness the smile wasn’t totally on the Executive Officer though; while she listened to the brunette Martian, Amanda had leaned back against the trunk of the large tree and the feeling of actual wood against her back genuinely made her happy. While she absolutely enjoyed her service aboard the USS Aurora and sometimes caught herself longing back for those good old -and definitely much less complicated, at least in Starfleet terms- days, the USS Theurgy was definitely equipped with the kind of luxuries to which ‘her’ old Nova-class ship really couldn’t compare at all.

”Well, that’s because this technically isn’t a counselling session.” As she spoke, Amanda ran the palm of her hand against the trunk of the tree and her Martian-accented voice couldn’t hide her astonishment over the amazing feeling of actual wood. For a brief moment she turned around and focused her blue-eyed gaze onto the trunk behind her, quietly admiring the luxury of an Arboretum such as this, before the blonde-haired Martian turned her attention back to Natalie with a smile. ”My apologies for trailing off just now, I’m just so amazed by the beauty of this place. Anyway, as I was saying…” The tone of Amanda’s voice changed a little and her amazement made way for a friendly kind of professionalism again. ”This is a preliminary session to build rapport. There are currently four Counselors, myself included, and if it turns out that we really don’t match you can request a different Counselor with Lieutenant Commander Hathev.” Likewise, Amanda could recommend a different Counselor as well. However, despite the earlier setback in her office, the blonde-haired Psychiatrist noticed that she began to take a liking to Natalie Stark; the other woman was friendly and their reminiscing actually brought home just that little bit closer.

”That, and I just like to see which places make you comfortable and at ease.” While she spoke, Amanda crossed her ankles and cradled the back of her neck in her hands to make herself comfortable as well while she leaned back against the tree. ”We might eventually come across memories that might be painful or things that you’d rather forget about. At that point we might have to discuss them, if not for anything but to find out if they are negatively affecting you or holding you back in some way. If I know what kind of environments make you feel comfortable, it will make such talks a lot more easy for me to prepare and, as a result, much more pleasant for the both of us to sit through.” It was a somewhat… unconventional technique, but it definitely worked. Tried and tested! ”Take me for example. I definitely felt stressed out after the battle two days ago, and it really helped me to load up that Holodeck program I mentioned earlier. Knowing that I’m sharing an experience with two of my friends, even though they are not really there, really helps me to sort my thoughts and puts my mind at ease.”

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

Reply #13
 [Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Counseling Department Offices | Deck 08 | Vector 1 | USS Theurgy ]Attn: @Nesota Kynnovan  

Breathing in air that wasn't heavily filtered and reprocessed due to the high amounts of oxygen the plants produced, Natalie felt her shoulders relaxing. She couldn't be sure if the air truly felt better than that of the rest of the ship, or if it was all in her head. She supposed that the other woman next to her could actually tell her, but she liked to think that air which wasn't scrubbed and recycled would be just that bit more better. She was lucky enough to live in a part of Mars that no longer needed enclosed dome's and heavy air recyclers, though the air there was thinner than that of most places on Earth, which had been an adjustment during her Academy days, to say the least.  Now, when she visited Mars she needed a bit of an acclimation period before she could go swimming laps in Lake Cassini.

Not that I am visiting Mars any time soon, if ever again, she reminded herself, hardly for the first time, and she doubted for the last. She knew it was best not to dwell on that point though, and tried to set aside the sense of loss that came with the thoughts. Her head tilted to the side as she listened to Lt. Ashby, but nodded a bit as she took in the words. "That makes a certain amount of sense."

Natalie had understood the logic involved in switching her sessions with Hathev to one of the newer junior councilors, for a variety of reasons. Hathev had undergone some of her own ordeals lately, and could not - or more accurately should not - have as large work load, at least temporarily, as she had been managing with prior. Also, Natalie was now Hathev's direct superior, though she doubted that mattered all that much. Councilors were seen as outside of the chain of command, by and large, unless certain circumstances merited it, and thus there wasn't really any issue there. All the same, now that Hathev had a small staff, but a staff none the less, passing Natalie on to Ashby was only logical, especially given that the two had a common point of origin between them. It would offer up insights that Hathev might not have. 

Conversely, the difference in experience between the Vulcan and the Martian might be a factor down the road. There would only be one way to find out. 

"Well for the time being I am content to see where this goes between us, professionally speaking," Natalie agreed. "So far you have shown yourself to be fairly insightful, and you're doing a great job of toing the line given the disparity of our rank versus the requirements of your position and calling. I have seen some councilors and doctors struggle with that dichotomy and I commend you on the effort so far. Now I just have to remember to relax and not constantly think 'but I'm the XO, I have to present a certain image' the entire time we're talking."

She favored the other Martian with what she hoped was a relaxing smile and shrugged her shoulders. "I am glad that having the program you mentioned was something of a boon to you after everything that's happened lately. The last few days have been...intense," she allowed, thinking of how it all felt to sit in the center chair, her Captain off ship, leading her crew into a battle they might not have won. The boarding actions that had taken place, violence erupting across the bridge yet again. She shut her eyes for a moment, breathing in the sweet smells of the Arboretum with its warm, inviting air, feeling the humidity on her bare legs, and breathed out again, expelling some of her demons. "Given everything the crew of this ship has suffered through to date on their mission, I only wish we had more such facilities to help in coping with the aftermath. 

"Thankfully we have a friendly port of call for the time being, and I hope that there will be more opportunities for the crew to feel like a regular Starfleet crew for a bit, and not renegades constantly on the run for their own lives. We had that at Aldea and it was wonderful."
There was a lot wonderful at Aldea, and it was hard to actualize the fact that they'd only left a short time ago. After the hectic dash to Qo'noS and the raging battle they'd fought, Aldea seemed like a lifetime ago.

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

Reply #14
[Lieutenant JG Amanda Ashby | Arboretum | Deck 22 | USS Theurgy]
Attn: @Brutus

It was rather refreshing to hear that Commander Stark was content with the progress of their preliminary session and, in all honesty, even more invigorating to receive a compliment from the brown-haired Executive Officer. Especially because Amanda had read up on the other woman prior to the start of their session and knew what she was about; Natalie Stark was a woman who put the bar quite high for herself, and getting a genuine compliment from Natalie could only mean that one was on par with the standards she’d set for herself.

The blonde-haired Psychiatrist almost failed to notice how the smile on her face became a little bigger as a result.

As she continued to listen to the Executive Officer, Amanda began to think of a way to make things a little easier for the other woman. While Natalie most likely didn’t knew about this, she had unwittingly pointed out one of the more strenuous challenges that could present themselves to Counselors throughout Starfleet; ‘simply’ convincing Command-level Officers to relax. Even back at Starfleet Academy Amanda was taught that it were these kinds of Officers who were subject to the highest levels of stress imaginable, yet were also some of the most difficult patients because it was incredibly hard to get them to unwind. It was even an important part of Academy course material, and Professor Cornell had actively encouraged creative thinking to solve that issue. Some of the resulting ideas were highly unconventional, but Amanda now found her mind racing back to those much simpler days.

”And if you don’t mind me asking,” As she spoke, Amanda’s friendly voice only further accentuated the smile on her face. ”When was the last time you took a moment to relax since the ship departed Aldea?” The way in which Natalie had mentioned Aldea triggered Amanda, and she was fairly certain that the Executive Officer hadn’t taken a single moment to truly relax since the USS Theurgy departed that relatively safe harbour; it didn’t fit the psychological profile of Natalie Stark to do so, and the almost reminiscent way she’d just talked about it only further confirmed that notion.

On the bright side, if Natalie truly hadn’t taken a single day off since the ship departed Aldea, the Executive Officer solved the entire problem of relaxing all by herself. That was one good thing about Command-level Officers; while they were problematic patients in a sense, they also had an innate tendency to solve the problems themselves. With a smile, Amanda focused her blue eyes onto Natalie’s blues. ”If you’d like, I can show you around my holodeck program! It gives us more privacy than the Arboretum, and it will allow you to let go of that sacrosanct image which you’re quite honestly imposing on yourself.” As she spoke, Amanda’s Martian-accented voice gave away a hint of enthusiasm, but the look in her green eyes was somewhat accusatory; albeit in a teasing way. There was truth in her words though, especially since Natalie had spoken favourably of the program; it would allow them much more privacy than the Arboretum, so the only thing the Executive Officer would have to worry about was her sunscreen.

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

Reply #15
 [Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Counseling Department Offices | Deck 08 | Vector 1 | USS Theurgy ]Attn: @Nesota Kynnovan  

Hardly befitting a command rank officer, Natalie let out a snort in response to the other woman's question. She knew that - or more accurately presumed - Lt. Ashby was being quite serious. But at the same time, she herself had barely been in her new rank and position for a scant few days (from acting to official XO, and Lt. Commander to Full Commander). While at times it seemed to Natalie that months had past, in truth they had hardly left Aldea before finding themselves where they were now: on the other side of a brief civil war in Klingon space, a spat over control of the Empire, having further cemented a new ally for the Theurgy and her plight. Mastering her inappropriate amusement at the question, Natalie rolled her shoulders into a lazy shrug, her hands still behind her, braced in the grass. 

"Does sleeping count? I did a bit of that last night." Though not as much as she should have, she realized even as she said it. There was a lot on her plate. There had been for the last week, easily. Leaving Aldea had opened up one can of worms after another and it seemed like there was always some fire that the Martian needed to put out. Even the brightest point in her life currently, the bubbling relationship she had fallen into, was probably not getting as much attention as it deserved, no matter how devoted she and her girlfriend were to each other.  Even she could guess what the counselor was hinting at, and the blonde wasn't wrong; Natalie was working around the clock and probably not taking the same advice she had so willingly dished out to others. 

Hence why I agreed to start seeing a counselor in the first place, she admitted, if only to herself. 

All the same, Natalie was hesitant to take the Lieutenant up on her offer. She bit her lip for a moment, and forced herself to take a step back. Recalling a conversation she had with the previous XO, the now late Ranaan Ducote,  she let out a sigh. He had ordered her off ship in the middle of their layover in Aldea, damn near threatening to beam her down himself. That had lead to a rather fruitful trip with Vanya, full of growth, discovery, and sailing. While she doubted anything she got up to in the program that Amanda wanted to show off would be quite as life changing as the shore leave on Aldea was, she could never the less imagine Ducote telling her to listen the her bloody counselor and go take a break. She might argue that she was currently taking a break now, and he would have given her the same kind of look she had tried out a few times on obstinate subordinates in the past week herself. 

Letting out a resigned sigh, she shrugged her shoulders again and looked around the park. There were a few mid morning types, working their way through the arboretum during a break in their shift work, or some that were off duty from the night shift, centering themselves before bed. She could feel the eyes on her, though no one openly stared. Perhaps the blonde had a point. It felt odd to take a holodeck break, but at the same time, the mental health of the XO was just as important as anyone else's, and not every appointment happened during off duty hours for the appointee. 

"Well if that is your professional recommendation, Counselor, far be it from me to argue."

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

Reply #16
[Lieutenant JG Amanda Ashby | Holodeck 04 | Deck 21 | USS Theurgy]
Attn: @Brutus

[OOC: I was allowed to move Amanda and Natalie towards the holodeck!]

Only twenty minutes had passed since the initial proposal was made to move their little counselling session down to the Holodecks. If there had been any doubt in Amanda’s mind whatsoever, it completely vanished after Commander Stark asked whether or not sleeping could count as a form of relaxation; while it could definitely be taken as the joke it most likely was, it just happened to fit the picture of Natalie Stark being a terrible workaholic a little bit too well for the blonde haired Martian to let it slide. After all, prodigy or not, Natalie Stark wouldn’t be the first Executive Officer to burn out under the burden of command and Amanda was not about to let that happen.

Especially not because the Commander was already showing the signs of being too overworked for her own good and, if the woman was to burn out, no one would stand to gain whatsoever.

As a result, the two women now found themselves standing in front of the large doors leading to Holodeck 4. According to the reservation log, which Amanda quickly skimmed while loading her Beaches of Risa-program from the library, the Holodeck would be free for an additional hour; allowing them plenty of time to relax and -hopefully- entice the Executive Officer to take some time off a little more often.

”Welcome to Risa, Commander.” As she spoke, Amanda turned her attention to the brunette Martian standing to her left. The Martian accent of her voice, which was only made worse now she was talking to a fellow Martian, accentuated the friendly smile on her face. ”This is where I go to unwind when things get a little too much for me.” With those words, she took a step forwards and allowed the doors to open in front of them; presenting the duo with a splendid view of the entrance to Chiffon Beach. Or rather, the interior of the changing rooms. ”I hope you’ll enjoy the experience as much as I always do.” When Amanda crossed the threshold and stepped into the Holodeck, she was met with the pleasant feeling of walking into the air-conditioned room. It featured a set of changing rooms on the left-hand side of the room, several lockers on the right-hand side, and a beautiful view of Chiffon Beach through the glass sliding doors built into the far wall. Since it wasn’t her first time, the blonde-haired Psychiatrist began to walk towards the lockers and opened it before turning around to face Commander Stark. ”So, contrary to the real Chiffon Beach where you have to bring your own swimwear, there’s a variety of various swimming attire in these lockers. If you pick a set that is to your liking, the others will disappear so you’ll have an empty locker for your uniform and other belongings.” It had actually taken Amanda an amusingly long time to figure that one out when she first tried the program and, while she wasn’t about to tell Natalie about that particular anecdote, her smile returned to adorn her face once more as she thought about that. ”The rest is rather obvious, really. You can change in the changing booths over here, and I’ll see you when you’re done? Unless you want to walk out onto the Beach in our uniforms, but I can guarantee you… we’ll probably melt before we hit the bar.”  

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

Reply #17
[Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Counseling Department Offices | Deck 08 | Vector 1 | USS Theurgy ]Attn: @Nesota Kynnovan 

Mildly apprehensive and trying to hide it from her fellow Martian (with like as not no success, given Ashby's profession) Natalie found herself following the other woman out of the Arboretum proper, and back through the corridors of the Theurgy. Soon enough she was standing, looking up and down the hallway to see if anyone was watching as the taller blonde punched in commands to pull up her private holoprogram. Welcomed as she was, Natalie followed Amanda into the holodeck, looking around. The view that welcomed her was...not quite what she'd expected.

Though well done and clearly high end, a changing room was a changing room was a changing room. A ghost of a smile curled over her lips. Eventually she did see the view beyond the glass doors. It looked inviting, as far as beaches went, and it was hardly as if Natalie had not enjoyed some time in the surf and the sand. Again, her time down on Aldea came back to mind, the air coming off the river and then later the sea, blowing through her hair, the swaying of a boat under her feet, the sun on her skin and a broad hat on her head. She closed her eyes, breathed deep, and gave a small nod of her head.

Still a tad wary, she looked over to Amanda and shot her a mostly steady smile. "I'll take a look and see what the options are then."

Her last aquatic outing had involved - most of the time - a black and yellow one piece that was vaguely stylized after her uniform. It had been form fitting and supportive and covered quite a bit while leaving her arms, legs and shoulders mostly bare. She'd managed not to get burned, but that was as much due to Vanya's insistence on applying sun lotion as anything else.  Shelving those thoughts, she went over to the locker, opening it and beginning to sift through the options before her. "I know our uniforms are designed to help regulate temperatures in a variety of climates but that would be a bit of a stretch, I'll grant you. And hardly relaxing."

Even as she spoke, she began to cycle through the options before her. Unsurprisingly, most of them were far skimpier than the like that she would normally choose. Her lips were pursed, as she worked her way through. Her head tilted to the side as she looked at a particularly shiny, and very skimpy g-string style bottom. That would get swallowed by her ass and would hardly cover her front. Not at all worth trying. She had to wonder however at the selcection of options. Had they all been ones that Lt. Ashby prefered? Did they come stock from her friends that provided the program? How did that work?

Deciding that if this was the normal attire for Risans, that the whole planet really did live up to its hedonistic reputation, Natalie eentually found a black two piece that both covered her ass and provided some support for her bust, the top looking as if it wrapped around her midsection, and the bottom the kind of outfit that would tightly hug her hips. Having made her decision, she took a moment to divest herself of the trio of golden rank pips and her communicator, as well as the various other accoutrements of her job from pockets and her belt. She set aside her boots and socks as well, before padding toward the changing alcove, still in her uniform.

"This will take just a moment," she informed the counselor, and then pulled the curtain shut behind her. Giving a little sigh, and deciding there was no putting this off, Natalie quickly and efficiently stripped out of her uniform, folding each piece as she went. As a Starfleet officer, she needed to be able to dress quick in a pinch. Or undress, as the need occasionally arose. One by one the pieces were piled up on the small bench in the alcove, and soon Natalie found herself holding the swimsuit top out in front of her naked form. She bit her lip, then sighed, and in less than dignified fashion, pulled the top on over her head and snuggled it around her breasts, tucking each into place. She ran her hands down her stomach, smoothing the straps there, and over her pelvis, past the neatly trimmed patch of hair between her legs, and bent down, pulling on the bottoms one leg at a time.

Mustering her courage, she stepped back out into the other room, wearing the swimsuit - a rather tasteful bikini she supposed - and padded to the locker, sealing away her folded uniform, and sweeping her hair back behind her ears. "And me without a hair tie..."

OOC: The swimsuit:

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

Reply #18
[Lieutenant JG Amanda Ashby | Holodeck 04 | Deck 21 | USS Theurgy]
Wearing: [Show/Hide]
Attn: @Brutus

Since she’d already used this program several times before, Amanda already knew which locker contained her preferred bikini. While the Commander was still cycling through the available bathing attire in the lockers, the blonde-haired Psychiatrist had already moved over to ‘her’ locker and retrieved the bikini of choice and was now making her way towards one of the changing booths. By the time that the Martian brunette had chosen a suitable bikini and called out that it would take just a moment, Amanda was almost done getting changed. In response to the other woman, Amanda couldn’t help but smile at the thin wall that divided their booths. ”No rush, this experience is all about relaxing and enjoying the moment!” With those friendly, cheerfully spoken words which only further accentuated the smile on her face, Amanda opened the curtain of her changing booth and walked out; tying up her bikini top behind her as she did so.

On the right-hand side of the changing room, opposite of the changing booths and placed in between the rows of lockers, were several large wall-length mirrors. As Amanda walked to the mirror opposite of her and Natalie’s changing room in order to check her bikini, a soft, content sigh escaped her lips as she felt the cool wooden floor boards underneath the bare skin of her feet. Too much time had passed since she last visited the Beaches of Risa program, and just being here in the changing room already made the blonde-haired Martian feel relaxed and happy.

The bikini which Amanda had chosen for today’s visit to Chiffon Beach, or rather the one she always chose, was an exact replica of the bikini she had in her Quarters. Or actually, the bikini she had in reality was replicated after the schematics of the bikini she was wearing right now; she liked it, and the reflection staring back at her in the wall-sized mirror proved her right. It was a blue bikini with a red and white-striped pattern, which accentuated the natural curves of her body and allowed for just that subtle hint of ‘daring’ which Amanda liked to pull off, all while still being modest at the same time. Of course, the good people of Risa, Betazed and Ferenginar (just to name a few planets) would still disagree and call her bikini a shameful example of being overdressed for the occasion, but that aside.

When she noticed movement in the mirror, Amanda turned around just in time to notice how Natalie emerged from the cabin. She quickly looked at the woman’s chosen attire and couldn’t help but being impressed. ”Nice bikini, Commander!” The smile on the blonde-haired Psychiatrist’s face was further accentuated by the happy tone of her Martian-accented voice, especially because seeing the other woman in a bikini seemed to have the result Amanda had been hoping for; the Commander looked like the weight of the entire ship had dropped from her shoulders in those last couple of minutes. Getting the woman out of uniform and into a more relaxing social setting seemed to be the right move to get her to relax a little bit. ”It looks good on you! Let’s toss our equipment into the lockers and see what’s out there for us!”

With those words, Amanda quickly moved to her changing booth to collect her bag. Since they were no longer supported by the tight confines of her uniform, Amanda’s 34E-sized breasts jiggled with each step she took but the blonde-haired Martian chose to disregard it. It wasn’t like Natalie was going to care anyway.

Several minutes later, the two women were finished in the locker room. When they walked through the glass doors and left the cool airconditioned room behind them, Amanda immediately felt how the warmth engulfed her like a thick blanket. They were standing on the slight downward slope of a sand dune, and the wooden path in front of them guided them down towards the beautiful beach itself. Even though they were on a sand dune, the path was flanked by thick vegetation and several large overhanging palm-like trees offered the two Martians some welcome protection from Risa’s dual suns.

Almost immediately upon leaving the changing room, a woman approached them. The first time Amanda had seen this woman she’d been happily surprised and, following her ‘defection’ to the USS Theurgy it had simply brought tears to her eyes to see Lieutenant Junior Grade Hailey Bennion again. Knowing that the cheerful Chief Operations Officer of the USS Aurora was quite a tech savvy, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to find that the woman had edited herself into the program as Chiffon Beach’s greeter. ”Hey Mandy, welcome back to Chiffon! It’s so nice to see you again!” The holographic version of Hailey Bennion was wearing a large white sunhat with a wide brim from which a few loose strands of her bright blonde hair had managed to escape. Her outfit further consisted of a loose-fitting white shirt over a yellow bikini top, beige-coloured shorts from which long, slender legs emerged that seemed to go on almost forever, and white sandals. Even the look in her blue eyes seemed to radiate pure happiness. ”It’s a lovely 95 degrees Fahrenheit out here today. Please don’t forget to wear sandals and remember to use sunblocker!” Out of nowhere, a small bag which contained two pairs of sandals and a bottle of sunblocker emerged, and Hailey handed it to Amanda. ”It’s so nice to see that you brought a friend today! Hi, my name is Hailey and I hope you’ll have a lovely day out here!”

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

Reply #19
[Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Counseling Department Offices | Deck 08 | Vector 1 | USS Theurgy ]Attn: @Nesota Kynnovan 

Unsurprisingly, being told to 'just relax' rarely had that effect on Natalie, usually prompting the opposite. But part of the arrangement in seeing a counselor was to help ensure her mental health and well-being. As the ship's Executive Officer, perhaps second only to Captain Ives hirself, Natalie needed to occasionally 'just relax.' If she couldn't do that she couldn't make progress with any of her other hangups and issues. In defense of the blonde lieutenant, she hadn't actually told Natalie to relax, but the gist was close enough that the brunette felt her shoulders bunch up for a moment, before she forced out a short breath of air and eased the tension back out of them.

This was a holoprogram after all. It wasn't like she was actually going out into the beaches of Risa in an outfit that was a little skimpier than she liked and grossly over dressed by local standards.

Crossing her arms just under her bust, the darker haired Martian eyed her lighter haired companion, and the attire she had chosen. Certainly more revealing, it was of a proportion that Nat could easily see Vanya wearing (though the Romulan android would wear nothing at all, given her choice and preference). It fit the junior counselor quite well, and the colors worked with Ashby's hair and general complexion. It was also considerably more revealing than Natalie's own attire.

"Thank you," she carefully replied, fighting down the urge to blush or fidget. AShe had nothing to be ashamed about after all. And there was no reason to feel awkward (or so she told herself). "Not quite as shapely as yours perhaps, but closer to what I wore down on Aldea." she just managed to stop herself from saying 'something actually in my comfort zone.' But it was a near thing.

The blonde bounced about the room, and a pair of blue eyes followed, momentarily distracted by that sway and jiggle. Nat shut her eyes, mentally chastising herself, before she adjusted the straps of her own swimsuit and followed after the other woman, padding across the room. Ever since she and Vanya had decided to explore a relationship, Natalie was questioning all sorts of previous assumptions, and was allowing herself to appreciate the female form, if only to sort out whether or not she had an attraction to all women, or if it was simply the fact that Vanya, being Vanya, was what they would call an exception to the rule as far as her sexual preferences were concerned.

She could hardly deny that she did prefer the Romulan. And faced with the scantily clad form of Amanda Ashby, she found herself appreciating some of the similarities and differences on display. You really do learn something new every day, she mused, uncertain as to if she was pleased by this realization or not.  She was spared any further mental debating by the sudden blast of warm air that greeted them outside the glass doors. Her own air left her lungs with an audible 'whump' as she managed not to trip, but only just. Not quite like walking into a wall, it took the XO a moment to center herself, feeling the warmth seeping into her skin.

Shadows danced on the board before them, and Natalie looked up, shielded her eyes briefly, as she took in the canopy and the bright sky above. It certainly felt like a beach, and she started to document the visual differences between the shores on the river in Aldea, and the beaches here on the simulation of Risa. A holographic avatar did quite a bit to distract Natalie, pulling her attention away. Mandy? she wondered, belatedly realizing that the program was designed to recognize repeat users - or at the very least, one repeat user - Lt. Ashby. Properly greeted, Natalie felt a little bit of whiplash at the cheery greeting, and the sudden appearance of the bag with the aforementioned gear inside of it.

When on Risa, she thought, and stuck her hand out, shaking the holograms in turn. "Thank you. My name is Natalie," she introduced herself, ever polite, especially to holograms, given the nature of the ship she lived in. "I take it you know...uh, Mandy was it?" The brunette glanced at the other Martian as she took the sandals from the bag, and then braced herself against one of the alien palms that boarded the wooden path to slip her feet into them without falling ass over teakettle.

"I have to agree, it is certainly a beautiful day out. A little warmer than what I was used to at home, and certainly much more so than where we just were," this was as much to the hologram as to Amanda, "But it's a wonderful change of pace." She began to move down the path, following the junior lieutenant and the hologram, who was leading them up, over the crest of the dune, and down toward the welcoming shoreline. Her own swimming attire did not offer as much opportunity for her bust to bounce about as the counselor’s did, but as tight and well fitting as the outfit was, her bum certainly had a pleasing buoyancy, evident with every step she took down toward the beach proper.

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

Reply #20
[Lieutenant JG Amanda Ashby | Holodeck 04 | Deck 21 | USS Theurgy]
Wearing: [Show/Hide]
Attn: @Brutus

As Amanda slipped her feet into her sandals, she overheard Natalie talking with the holographic Hailey and couldn’t help but smile. It had been quite obvious that Natalie was -understandably- somewhat apprehensive throughout their preliminary session, and it was nice to see that the brunette took to the Chiffon Beach program and allowed herself to relax a little bit.

When Hailey began to direct them down the path towards the dunes, the blonde hologram happily answered Natalie’s comment and chattered on in her usual way. ”I’m glad to hear that you approve, Natalie! It is a little warm today, but the water is an amazing 71 degrees so I can definitely recommend going for a refreshing dive. Also!” Amanda saw how Hailey now turned her blue-eyed attention to her for a brief moment. ”Do ask Mandy to show you the beach bar while you’re here.” In response to that statement, which actually came over to Amanda as if she had some kind of alcohol problem and spent most of her free time at the beach bar, as opposed to the handful of times she really -briefly- visited the place, the blonde-haired Martian just raised an eyebrow. Hailey seemingly disregarded it however and just smiled before turning her blue-eyed gaze back towards the brunette who was following them up over the crest of a dune. ”We have live music tonight, so it’ll be a blast!”

While Hailey was chattering, the three of them crested the dune and were presented with a stunning view of the Chiffon Beach shoreline. Every time Amanda visited the program and began her descend down towards the beach, she came to regret that she hadn’t been able to visit the actual Chiffon Beach when the USS Aurora spent a couple of days in orbit around Risa. Hailey and Amber had been kind enough to bring back the holographic program, but it just wasn’t the same. A soft sigh escaped Amanda’s lips at the thought, but Hailey spoke up once more and masked the sound. ”Okay, since Mandy comes here more often I’m fairly confident that she won’t get lost between here and the beach. We’re having barbecue tonight, so I’m heading back to the beach bar to help with the preparations. Have fun, and I’ll definitely check up on you two later!”

With those words, Hailey happily waved them goodbye and turned towards a different path that branched off from their own; while theirs lead directly towards the beach, Hailey’s path snaked down the dune and lead to a classic tiki bar with a thatched roof supported by thick wooden beams, which was located a little further down the beach. Amanda just looked at the woman as she walked away and, with a smile, spoke up herself. ”It’d better not be Klingon again!” Hailey briefly turned around while walking and raised her shoulders while laughing, but that was the only reply Amanda managed to get from the cheerful blonde. A sigh escaped Amanda’s lips at that and, shaking her head, she turned around to face Natalie. ”Hailey is amazing.  She’s the Chief Operations Officer of the Aurora, so we could say that she used to be your counterpart. She wrote herself into this program to make up for the fact that I couldn’t visit the real Chiffon Beach when we spent time in orbit around Risa.” For a brief moment Amanda turned around to look at the other blonde woman as she made her way down the path, and once more shook her head. ”She’s pure happiness incarnate, that one. Anyway!” Amanda turned her attention back to Natalie once more and gestured down the path. ”Let’s head to the beach! With temperatures being like they are, I’d love to hop into the water.”

By turning around to shout towards Hailey, Amanda noticed that she had fallen behind just a little bit and she was walking behind Natalie now as they made their way down towards the beach. As she fastened her pace to catch up however, her blue eyes noticed the highly evident shape of Natalie’s behind and the blonde-haired Martian allowed her gaze to linger there in appreciation for a moment. It was obvious that Commander Stark had a really lovely bum, and that bikini only further accentuated that with every step she took. After several moments Amanda tore her gaze away and quickly caught up with Natalie however; fastening her pace, albeit in such a way that her ample breasts (which already proudly bounced with each step she took) now jiggled even more, and taking up her place at the other woman’s side just as the path ended and they stepped onto the warm sand that lead to the shoreline.

”Well, to make it official… welcome to Chiffon Beach, Natalie!” With the first steps she took onto the warm sand, Amanda managed to immediately scoop her slippers full of the scorching hot stuff. As always. Sighing, the blonde-haired Psychiatrist shook her head and turned her attention into the bag she was carrying. ”So, I have beach towels, a beach umbrella and a collapsible windscreen in here. Let’s go find a place to set up?”

A couple of minutes later they had found the perfect spot; not too far away from the beach bar, but also not so close that they would lose their privacy to any of the guests. While Amanda began assembling the windscreen, she turned her attention to Natalie and nodded in the direction of the bag. ”Would you mind to spread out our towels and plop down the umbrella while I put down this thing?”

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

Reply #21
[Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Counseling Department Offices | Deck 08 | Vector 1 | USS Theurgy ]Attn: @Nesota Kynnovan 

Slowly but surely Natalie was allowing herself to get caught up in the moment, and starting to forget that they were in a holodeck, on a ship in orbit of the Klingon homeworld. What beaches Qo'noS had, did not look like this. And that was okay. She was sure the planet had many natural wonders and she might try to see some. It wasn't everyday one was in a position to visit the seat of power of the Klingon Empire. And even less so, as a hero of said Empire. But nothing would quite compare to Chiffon Beach - expect the possibility of going to the real location on Risa.

As it stood, the holographic avatar that was functioning as a friendly guide and greeter was doing a good job of putting Natalie at ease. Learning that the hologram was based off the likeness and memories of the woman that designed the program filled in a few blanks for Natalie about its - her - carefree attitude and teasing nature in regards to Lt. Ashby. Assuring the hologram that she would remind 'Mandy' about the bar, and knowing that she was unlikely to do just that, she gave a wave and watched as the blonde avatar bounded off toward said Tiki Hut. 'Live' music was an amusing notion for a holoprogram but the idea was still nice. She recalled that there was going to be a concert the next day in one of the other holodecks - junior officers only, an amusing notion for someone whom that moniker would have applied to less than six months prior.

Shaking off thoughts of just how far she'd risen and how fast in the ranks, Natalie started down the path, not realizing that Amanda was taking a few moments to do the same. The brunette Martian was not quite as enthusiastic about ending up in the water as her blonde companion, but she had to acknowledge that the temperature of the ocean was warmer than the river had been on Aldea, and she'd ended up in that on vacation. So why not the beach on the holodeck? Nat glanced back as the other woman caught up (again taking note of a certain amount of pleasant jiggling that was probably inappropriate for her to admire) and asked, mostly in a rhetorical fashion, "Just what would a Klingon barbecue entail? They don't cook their meat?"

"Thank you,"
she replied a few moments later as the two stood in the sand proper, having left the boarded walkway behind them. She did a decent job of padding out to the shoreline, kicking up sand around her and basking in the simulated light of Risa's suns. They tromped along in the sand, finally settling on a space that Natalie deemed private enough for her to feel comfortable wading out into the water without attracting a crowd. She'd learned that this could be an issue when she was younger, and no reason to think that had changed.

Not like any crowd you draw here is real. The only other sentient person that might see something is your counselor. Honestly Nat, you're worrying too much. Thus chastised, she turned back around to answer Amanda and caught sight of her stretching up on her toes as she worked to deploy the umbrella. Her head tilted to the side as she watched, nodding slightly. No point in denying that she liked what she saw. With a soft sigh she moved over to the bag and said aloud, "Let me dig the towel out."

Said tote bag had tilted over onto its side, threatening to spill its contents out onto the sand. Pursing her lips, Natalie shuffled over and leaned over, pulling the bag up and smashing its bottom into the sand so that it would provide a bit of support. Still bent, she pulled out the towel and rose up, giving it a quick snap to spread it wide, before getting down on her hands and knees and smoothing it out. She took the time to weigh the ends down as best she could, all the while facing toward the surf. The bottoms of her bikini rode up a bit, between the cheeks of her bum, and she had to stop at one point to re-adjust the way they sat lest she leave them like a piece of floss jammed up where things would be uncomfortable.

It never once crossed her mind that she might have just (ever so briefly) accidentally flashed her companion as she hooked a finger under the edge of the bikini bottom and pulled it back into place. After all, Amanda was surely still dealing with the umbrella.

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

Reply #22
[Lieutenant JG Amanda Ashby | Holodeck 04 | Deck 21 | USS Theurgy]
Wearing: [Show/Hide]
Attn: @Brutus

There was absolutely nothing in the known Galaxy that was as annoying as the umbrella which Amanda found herself struggling with. It turned out to be one of those big two-piece umbrellas; the lower part of the shaft could be planted into the sand, and the upper part of the shaft, which contained the umbrella itself, could be tilted and turned in any given direction to account for the position of the sun without the need to redeploy the entire umbrella. All with the help of one simple twist-lock system that literally the simplest being in the Quadrant would be able to use. While this was an invention that surely worked amazing, the blonde-haired Martian was quick to find out that it was utter pandemonium when one accidently unlocked the twist-lock right at the very start.

With the upper half of the umbrella wildly flaying from one side to the other, Amanda nearly found herself knocked on the back of the head not once, but twice while she attempted to plant the base of the umbrella into the warm sand. As she struggled, the blonde could hear that Natalie said something but, at that moment, she was too preoccupied with not getting hit in the face to pay close attention to what the brunette was saying. It wasn’t until several seconds later, when a frustrated Amanda planted the umbrella into the sand with much more force than was strictly necessary and a soft sigh escaped her lips, that she could turn her blue-eyed attention towards Natalie Stark.

And what a sight she was treated to.

Natalie Stark was sitting down on her hands and knees to smooth out the large towels. Just as Amanda’s blue eyes came to rest upon the brunette, Natalie hooked a finger under the edge of those black bikini bottoms and flashed her something she never expected to see. It was a sight Amanda could very much appreciate and, as a result, her body reacted accordingly; while she looked at the brunette her 34E-sized breasts began to firm up, and her hardening nipples and perking areola began to visibly press against the thin material of her bikini top in the process.

In an attempt to distract Natalie from that sight, Amanda reached for the windscreen and began to plant it around their towels for some additional privacy against curious onlookers. ”Nice job on those towels, Natalie! Do you know if there’s any sunblock in that bag?” As she spoke Amanda pushed the windscreen into the sand with a little more force than was strictly necessary, similar with how she’d planted the umbrella earlier, but now out of sheer embarrassment. By doing so however, she only allowed her breasts to jiggle even more proudly and probably only drew attention towards them.

Regardless, Amanda managed to deploy the windscreen within seconds and soon found herself joining Natalie on the large beach towels. As she sat down, she presented the brunette with a content smile and spoke up happily. ”Well, I guess we’re all set. We have towels, shade and all the privacy we need.” While she spoke, Amanda turned her attention towards the bag where Natalie had found a bottle of sunblock and retrieved a blue bottle with an orange cap. It turned out to be one of those old fashioned spray bottles but, given how she’d made the mistake of not using sunblock on the holodeck before, the blonde wasn’t going to complain about spray-on sunblock and instead began to spray it onto her arms. After she’d rubbed it into her skin she moved on to do the same with her long, slender legs, her shapely hips and butt, and her slender torso before moving on to her shoulders; all while reminiscing about the one time she’d forgotten about using sunblock on the holodeck.

”But yeah, it turns out you can actually get first-degree burns on a holodeck if you turn off the safety protocols. Most people do that so they can get a tan and keep it when they walk out the doors, but I can tell you… it hurt so much to walk around like a lobster for a week.” While Amanda spoke she sprayed the sunblock onto her shoulders and the visible parts of her breasts before she began to rub the sunblock into her skin. As she did so, the blonde-haired Martian also slipped her hands beneath her bikini top to spread the excess spray-on over her ample breasts; in doing so accidently giving Natalie the chance to see a part of her now perky rosepink-coloured areola in the process. ”So I’d be careful to not burn yourself. Do you want to do my back if I do yours?” Completely oblivious to the show she’d accidently given Natalie just now, Amanda turned around with a smile and laid down on her stomach to allow the brunette to rub the sunblock onto her back. ”Just be careful around the knots of my top or I’ll end up drawing us an audience when we go swimming.”

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

Reply #23
[Cmdr. Natalie Stark | Counseling Department Offices | Deck 08 | Vector 1 | USS Theurgy ]Attn: @Nesota Kynnovan 

Being none the wiser as to the ramifications of her quick adjustment, Natalie continued to deal with the beach towels until she was satisfied that they would do their job and stay in place reasonably well. She leaned back for a moment, into a kneeling position with her hands on her knees and her bum resting on her heels as she looked out toward the sparkling waves. All her discomfort about bathing suites aside, the view of the rolling waves a short distance away from their current perch was simply stunning. She got lost in the moment, and only just realized that Amanda was asking her for sun lotion.

"Just a second," she said, going after the bag and finding the bottle with little struggle. She turned, and blinked a bit, watching as the other woman went to work on the windscreen. Which was nice to have, even if the breeze wasn't strong just yet. Not having sand blown across her would be a welcome relief. But she had a job to do and set aside thoughts of sandy wind and jiggling...distractions and went to look in the bag. Why the sunscreen was asked about was beyond Natalie, though she found the bottle in the bag all the same. "Yeah, there's a bottle here. I've set the bag down near you."

Surprise flashed over Nat's features as she found the answer to her unasked question, and tilted to look up at the holographic sun. Artificially enhanced tanning was nothing new - human's had been doing it for centuries now, from tanning beds and spray on tans in the past to, apparently, holodeck sunshine. Nat had not realized this was a thing, and frowned slightly, looking back. She was about to ask as to the wisdom of disabling the safeties but stopped short, the words catching in her throat.  The flash of rosy skin caught her eyes, fabric pulled away from a plump orb. Not quite full on nipple, but enough to tease the imagination and send a blush creeping into Natalie's cheeks. Another sign that she had some serious introspection to do.

I guess that makes this counseling session a success, she mused, somewhat sarcastically. Just not in the ways I imagine the counselor intended. Bugger.  Having averted her gaze again, she rubbed her arms, goosebumps prickling across her skin despite the heat in the air. One more glance at the sky above, and the Martian forced herself to look back at her fellow native of the red planet, who was now laying on the towel. Her legs and arms glistened (as did her bum, but Natalie was making a point not to look at that), in a pleasing fashion, but her back did not.

"Since I doubt either of us wants to go down to sickbay and explain how we got sunburnt in the holodeck, I suppose that is an equitable arrangement."Who speaks like that? Nervous much? She was simply being polite and helping a colleague. There was no reason it should be awkward, but reminding herself of that didn't help matters. It wasn't at all like what she'd gotten up to with sun lotion on Aldea. Completely different.

Taking the bottle and scooting forward, Natalie knelt by Amanda's rump and leaned forward, spraying the lotion across the blondes back. Once she was pleased with the coating, she set the bottle aside and readjusted her position. Having practiced this somewhat recently, she put her hands to warm skin, and began to rub the lotion in across the other woman's back. She did her best to mind the thin straps of the bikini top the Lieutenant had chosen, sliding her slick fingers under the band across the back. But she was distracted by the feel of the other woman's skin beneath her palms, and the mental comparisons she was unable to prevent herself from making, between Amanda and Vanya, the differing shades of color to their skin, and how the Romulan woman ran hotter in body temperature, despite the sun warming the Martian.

She pulled back too fast, loosening the straps without realizing. Everything looked in place, as she turned to look out to the water again and started applying the lotion to her arms and chest. "That should take care of that. Just give me a minute and you can return the favor," she was pleased at how nonchalant she sounded as she studiously applied the sun block. Naturally pale, she knew just how bad she could burn, and now that she was aware of the risk, she was diligent in her efforts. With her back to Amanda, she spared the woman any opportunities for more unintended peep shows, though her actions were less about shielding herself from any errant gazes and more about needing a moment to collect herself instead.

Shortly however, she turned, one hand pushing her hair back behind her ear, the other reaching over to hand Amanda the bottle. "If you don't mind?" she asked, staying seated, but leaning forward so that her bust squished against her knees, which she had drawn up, offering her back to the junior officer.

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

Reply #24
[Lieutenant JG Amanda Ashby | Holodeck 04 | Deck 21 | USS Theurgy]
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Attn: @Brutus

As Amanda was laying on the towel, she figured she might as well make herself comfortable and chose to rest her head on her arms while listening to Natalie’s reply. She couldn’t help but chuckle in response, both at the mental image of explaining to Amy Rez how they ended up getting sunburnt in the holodeck, but also at the brunette’s obvious nervosity; which the blonde-haired Martian completely misattributed. She imagined that Natalie was so focused on maintaining the ‘perfect image’ of the trustworthy Executive Officer, which completely made sense given her meteoric rise through the ranks and her young age, that the mere idea of those kinds of small fallibilities immediately made her nervous. To Amanda, that only made Natalie even more sympathetic and the blonde couldn’t help but smile.

Now she knew what the problem was, she could definitely help Natalie with it.

It was at that moment when the brunette began to spray the lotion onto her back. Amanda had been so caught up in her thoughts that the cold lotion caught her by surprise, and she inhaled sharply for a brief moment. With another soft chuckle, this time over her own startled reaction, Amanda spoke up once more just as Natalie began to rub the sunblock onto her skin. ”That stuff is cold!” Especially in contrast with the brunette’s warm hands. As Natalie began to slide her soft hands over the skin of her back, Amanda closed her eyes and just enjoyed the combined feeling of both the warm sun and the attention she was now getting.

When Natalie pulled her hands back, Amanda felt a gentle tug at her bikini top. Knowing that the brunette would’ve spoken up if something had happened to the straps, the blonde-haired Martian thought little of the tug and chose to disregard it as insignificant while she got back up into a seated position. While she waited for Natalie to finish, Amanda turned her attention to the bag and began to rummage through it; curious to see what else Hailey had prepared for them. She managed to find two pairs of diving goggles and flippers, a large floating ring -sadly not big enough for both herself and Natalie- which would automatically inflate itself once she’d pull the cord, two bottles of water and a tabloid magazine. To give Hailey credit where it was due, she had definitely assembled a bag aimed at making their stay as perfect as possible.

Knowing that Natalie, as their prodigal former Chief Operations Officer, would love these kinds of details, Amanda was about to turn around and call Natalie’s attention to the tabloid magazine, some older edition which had most likely just come out when Hailey started editing the Chiffon Beach holodeck program, when the brunette instead spoke up herself. The blonde-haired Martian turned her blue-eyed attention towards the Executive Officer and noticed that the woman had reached over to hand her the bottle of sunblock, and a friendly smile immediately began to form on Amanda’s face in reply while she took the bottle. ”Not at all!”

With those words Amanda scooted over towards Natalie and began to spray the lotion across the other woman’s back. While she had chosen a relatively easy bikini top, it just now occurred to Amanda that Natalie had chosen one of a much more intricate design; instead of strings, the bikini top looped around her front before returning to her back, where the entire whole was held together by a single knot. It wasn’t a bad design, but it was a lot of fabric which the blonde now had to work with and it made spraying the lotion across Natalie’s back somewhat more challenging. As a result, it took Amanda a moment to figure out how she could best deal with it before she decided to, instead of spraying the sunblock onto Natalie’s skin, spray it directly onto her hands before slipping them beneath the brunette’s top.

While Amanda was rubbing the lotion onto the back of the Executive Officer, she noticed just how tense her muscles felt beneath her fingers. It was obvious that the brunette was under a lot of stress and, in an attempt to help, the blonde-haired Martian chose to rub the lotion across the other woman’s skin a little more tenderly; almost massaging it onto the skin instead. ”You should really relax more often, Natalie. You’re so tense!” While she spoke, Amanda remained so focused on the task at hand that she failed to notice how the knot that held Natalie’s top together became looser and looser in the process.

After a little while however, even though it was somewhat tedious due to the top, Amanda managed to finish relatively quickly. She rubbed what little lotion still remained on her hands onto Natalie’s lower back. ”And that’s that!” With those words she stood up and held out a hand to offer the brunette up to her feet. ”Now that we’re both protected from the sun, I’d say that we hop into the water and take a refreshing dive. What do you think?” As she helped the brunette get up to her feet, the blonde-haired Martian couldn’t help but grin in a playful way before speaking out once more; not even waiting for an answer. ”I’ll race you!”

And with that, Amanda quickly darted for the water. After only a couple of steps however, she realized that Natalie wasn’t following and held her pace before turning around to check up on the brunette. It was at that moment, when the Executive Officer passed her, that Amanda realized that the woman had followed after all; albeit at a jogging pace instead of an all-out dart. With a grin, Amanda sped up once more to catch up before matching Natalie’s pace.

The result of all this movement was that Amanda’s breasts jiggled even more with each step she took but, as opposed to earlier, the straps of her bikini top were now much looser than they had been before. It all proved too much for the bikini top to handle and, as the blonde-haired Martian jogged to the water, the straps came more and more undone with each step; by the time Amanda’s feet reached the water, the upper straps had come fully undone and were only loosely hanging over her shoulders. ”I won!” As she spoke up, just when the water already came up to her hips, the lower straps became completely undone as well. At the same time, the loose upper straps slipped off her shoulders and fell forward, and the only thing that kept Amanda’s bikini top in place at that point was the sunblock that lightly glued it to her ample breasts. Not realizing that her bikini top was gradually coming undone and started to slip off, Amanda threw both of her hands up in victory before diving head-first into the water.

When Amanda came back up for air,  the cool, refreshing water was now coming past her hips and she threw her arms back up once more; throwing water everywhere around her. ”Oh, I definitely needed this!” As she called out, her voice was as enthusiastic as her movements and the blonde arched her back; pushing her ample breasts forward while turning around to look at Natalie. At that moment she hadn’t even realized that her bikini top was gone and she was now flashing her breasts to the brunette. Now freed from their confines, Amanda’s bare 34E-sized breasts jiggled proudly in defiance of gravity and began to visibly firm up as her rosepink-coloured areola, which were roughly three inches in diameter, grew perky and her nipples hardened in response to the cold water.

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