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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.

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