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Postcards [CD]

Posted on Fri Aug 14th, 2020 @ 1:18pm by Captain Malcom Llwyedd & Lieutenant Commander Rhiana t'Aegis & Chief Petty Officer Charles Stephens JR & Cadet Freshman Grade Gianna Djokovic

Mission: Interlude 4
Location: Various
Timeline: 17 April 2395 and 18 April, 2395 - Various times


Rhiana was sitting at the small dining table in the small common area of the family quarters she and Xavi had been occupying since he had joined her aboard the Firebird. She was updating her diary while the boy was doing his homework in his bedroom. The silence in the quarters was absolute if one could ignore the barely audible humming of the ship's engines. Rhiana savoured the silence. While she did not exactly regret having taken in Xavi, it had nevertheless had repercussions, not the least of which was a loss of privacy and an invasion into her personal space.

The Romulan sighed and continued to write, complaining to her diary how obstinate the boy had been again over some seemingly trivial matter. She sighed again and was about to begin a new paragraph when the small workstation that was tucked into a corner chimed. An incoming communication request. Rhiana frowned and rose from her chair to walk over to the workstation, pondering. Who could possibly be calling her?

The screen on the workstation flashed up the Starfleet Academy logo and 'CONNECTING...' for several seconds as imaginary lines in subspace were routed through complex communication relays out to Terok Nor and then eventually on to Firebird itself.

The logo went away and was replaced by Gia's tensive expression. She wasn't entirely sure she wanted to call on Rhiana, but she somehow felt she needed to out of a sense for respect for the woman she had thought of as a mentor. She had no memory of the last time they'd been together, the several nights that Rhiana had spent in vigil over her dying body, but she couldn't help but feel some kind of bond between them.

"Commander t'Aegis?" Gia sat a little straighter. "I hope this is okay. Is this a good time?"

While the Starfleet Academy logo had been somewhat of a hint, Rhiana nevertheless did not want to get her hopes up. It might be a random cadet wanting to ask some questions for a course assignment. It had never happened before, but it would not necessarily surprise her. Starfleet cadets could be strange that way.

But when Gia appeared on screen Rhiana's expression brightened and a smile flickered across her face. "Cadet Djokovic. You are not disturbing me. How have you been?"

"I've been well. Thank you, sir," Gia replied, lacing her fingers together in her lap. She wasn't at all surprised by Rhiana's adherence to decorum and, in fact, would have been suspect had Rhiana not been so formal. There was a certain comfort in knowing that while situations and relationships changed, some people would remain reliably steadfast. She didn't ask how Rhiana was, not because she didn't care, but because she couldn't imagine a scenario in which Rhiana would describe being anything other than agreeable or adequate.

"I wanted to just tell you that my combat instructor was genuinely impressed at some of the maneuvers you taught me. He wanted to know where I had learned such a Romulan technique," she smiled, proud of that particular memory and glad she'd had the chance to relay it to her mentor. "I wish I had executed it more effectively on Far Wanderer," she admitted quietly.

"You cannot continue blaming yourself for what happened on that world, Cadet," Rhiana replied in a calm yet authoritative voice. "You reacted, you defended yourself and that is all that matters. Now," she continued, her voice changing subtly to a slightly lighter tone. "That does not mean that you can simply stop with your training. Quite in the contrary. In a situation of urgency and distress, we react according to our instincts and reflexes, not according to some training we may have received at one point. To change this, you have to continue training - for as long as it takes for you to transform intellectual knowledge into reflex and muscle memory. Then and only then will you be able to use these techniques in dire situations."

Gia started to cut in a few times in disagreement, "I--" "But--" She ended up biting her tongue and listening when she realized Rhiana was saying something different than the counselors had. She gave a slow nod of understanding when Rhiana had finished. "More training, then. Well, that is good because that is about all we're doing here."

"These first few months at the Academy are important. While Starfleet does not require you to be in perfect fighting shape once you graduate, all cadets have to reach a certain basic level of fitness and combat proficiency," Rhiana explained. "You may find it tedious because you have served under me. But I am certain that there are cadets in your class who have spent most of their lives until now studying and the initial training regimen at the Academy is a real challenge for them." There was no reproach in her voice, she was merely stating a fact, then fell silent for a moment. "I will send you a holodeck programme I have created for Xavi. It will teach you llaekh-ae'rl," The automatic translation embedded in the console rendered this as 'laughing murder' on Gia's side, "From the very basics to complex sequences. You do not have to use it, but if you need more challenge than your instructors can give you, this may help."

Gia had not heard the term laughing murder before, but somehow it fit her impression of what Rhiana's Galae training must have been like: some kind of sadomasochistic hell. She smiled. "Of course, yes. I'll give it a try. Thank you, sir."

She looked over at something off-screen. "I'm under a tight deadline for an assignment and so I should to go," she said, looking a bit forelorn as she looked back and met Rhiana's gaze directly. "I hope... if you're ever on earth... that you'll visit?"

Rhiana offered a Gia an uncharacteristically warm smile. "I will. When I do, I expect stellar reports about your behaviour and performance, cadet. t'Aegis out."

Charles was getting moved back in. When he had left on assignment he had torn it all down not knowing if he would get a chance to be back. He was glad that his quarters and office had not been moved into in his absence. He hung up a picture on the wall of a wolf leading its pack in the snowy woods of Canada. It reminded him that we don't do this alone and those in leadership where trusted to do just that lead. His silence was broken when his console chirped letting him know there was an incoming message. He walked over and pushed the button to accept it.

The logo of Starfleet Academy, Ft. Ord Campus, flashed briefly on the screen as the communication connected. Gia's familiar smile framed with dramatically shorter hair greeted him and she lit up when she saw her former Chief of the Boat, someone she looked up to like a father. "Chief! I wasn't sure if this was a good time, but it's so good to see you." The homesick was probably visible in her eyes. What she wouldn't give to be back on the Firebird right now, playing cards in the mess hall with everyone again...

Charles had no idea who was calling so when Gia came on the screen his heart smiled. He missed the young scrapper. "Gia, it is always a good time you never worry about that. How are things going?" He started to go a mile a minute.

She wanted to tell him that everything was great, but the smile faded from her lips and she shook her head. "It's so hard, Chief," she admitted with a deep breath as she pinched the bridge of her nose to keep a tear from forming. "Not physically... not anything like Commander t'Aegis' trainings or anything, but just.. most of these people haven't seen anything. How do I relate to them? They look at me and they see me as competition. I just want to come back home."

"You can't quit. I won't allow it. You are a Firebird. You raise from the ashes and there is nothing that they can throw at you that you haven't already handled worse." Charles started in his angry father voice. "You not only represent yourself but all the enlisted out there. You can I know we are the backbone of the Fleet. Use your actual experience and run laps around those bookworms." He soften his voice but maintained his conviction. "You left here with big dreams so suck it up buttercup and make them happen."

She didn't like his words. They weren't what she was hoping to hear, certainly, though somewhere deep down she knew him well enough to know he was never going to tell her what she wanted to hear. She took a deep breath, squared up her shoulders and gave the Chief a nod of acknowledgement.

"Do you feel like I betrayed you?" Gia asked directly. Because I do, her thoughts and guilt written in the expression on her face as she watched him. His loyalty to his crew had never faltered, but she felt like she turned her back on them by looking for a higher station in life than brig duty and cleaning sidearms. "I feel like I should be there with you as you launch again. Maybe this training that I've gotten is enough. Maybe that's where I'm supposed to be. Maybe I was wrong and it's enough."

"Betray me??" Charles scoffed at her. He remembered when he was younger second guessing himself all the time. "I am gonna tell you something few know. I to had an opportunity to leave the ranks of enlisted early on. I was tapped by Intel to go through Officer program and move up. They had big dreams from me. Bigger then my own. I second guessed that call and I regret it to this day." He paused for effect. "I love being a grunt always will, but when you are given an opportunity to better yourself and in turn better those around you, take it."

The story connected. She cracked a small smile and nodded at his personal revelation. It made her miss him and the ship even more, but it was also exactly what she needed to hear. "I am," she said, more for her own sake than his. "I'm not going to waste what I've been given. Thank you, Chief."

Emily had been surprised when her mother told her that Gia was going to be calling her. Emily had missed her surrogate big sister every day since she had left. But the little girl was used to people leaving all the time. So many people had left the Firebird since she'd moved on board, some of whom she actually liked a lot. Yumi was one of those. Gia was another. But Yumi never called her. Yumi sent her computer puzzles with the messages hidden inside. Emily liked those. She was also learning to be a bit of a hacker, which Yumi said she shouldn't do but she was anyway.

She sat in her room, waiting and eager to talk to her friend with whom she had shared so much. She couldn't wait to hear about Gia's time at the academy!

The Academy logo flashed onto the display in Emily's room as the communication finally connected at the appointed time. With a chirp, the image faded and Gia was there, sitting on the edge of the chair with a tidy bunk room visible in the background. She took a moment not to say anything, just taking in the image of the girl. She hadn't seen Emily since Far Wanderer and so much had happened then that most of it, especially after the dagger-to-the-eye incident, she couldn't recall easily anymore. Emily, however, she would never forget -- without Emily, she never would have made it off that god-forsaken planet.

It was hard for Gia to look at her without emotion welling up in her heart. She pulled herself together though and coughed before saying to the screen, "Have you made Commander yet? I keep watching the announcements and I haven't seen it so I didn't know if I missed it somehow."

"Gia!," Emily squealed. "I'm sooo happy to see you. I'm not a commander yet but I am going to beat you to it, I think. I've been on two vacations with mommy though and that slowed me down," Emily said. "What have you been doing? Are you learning officer stuff? That's what the captain told me when I went into his ready room the other day."

Hearing the young girl's reaction, Gia burst into an instant smile and a soft laugh. "I bet you will," she replied proudly of Emily's declaration of making Commander before her. Gia took a breath and nodded. "Yeah... officer stuff.... It's not just all about ordering people around, did you realize?" The fact that Emily had talked to Llwyedd about her made her even happier for some reason, though she wasn't really surprised. She knew there was a special bond between the Captain and the youngest member of the crew.

"I am so bored here, studying all these things and listening to people talk... So tell me what you've been up to," Gia pressed as she learned forward toward the screen, "Catch me up. What's the dirt? Where did you go during the repairs? How's your mom?"

"We went back to Alpha Centauri and visited some old lady that my mommy knows. It was sooo boring. They lived in the middle of this forest. I liked that part. I climbed a lot of trees, dug up some cool alien stuff that my mommy and the lady wouldn't let me keep and I played with a big dog," Emily said. "I got a lot of dirt there." Emily leaned forward. "Are you ok? You've kinda got that one look where you are tired from working too much."

"It's so much work, but I'm ok. I'm pretty good, actually," Gia admitted, letting out a singular exhaustive breath. She was in a much better mindset now after talking with Chief Stephens, though, so she hoped tiredness came across more physical than emotional.

"And that doesn't sound boring at all. I would rather go dig up forest treasures with you than go to class, as long as we don't have to cook eggs by ourselves," the cadet smirked. "Oh! You haven't seen my new eye. Isn't it so cool?" She leaned close to the video screen for a better shot. "You can't even tell and now I'm like part machine, technically."

Emily's mouth dropped open. She, of course, knew that Gia had lost an eye but the possibilities with a cybernetic eye were endless. "That is... AMAZING!" Emily shouted. Her mother yelled from the other room, telling Emily to quiet down. She cast an annoyed look in her mother's direction and then looked back to the screen. "Does it ever itch? I mean, inside where the eyeball goes? Cause I get itches on my back sometimes and I can't get them and it drives me crazy."

"I get those sometimes too! You have to find the corner of a console at the right height for back-scratches," Gia said, laughing at Emily's sheer exuberance, "and the eye only itched at first, but now it feels completely normal. No itches at all."

"Hey," Gia said, dropping her tone to a more serious level. "I have to go. They're calling us to the quad. Can you tell everyone I said hi?"

Emily sighed. She let her head drop so that she was staring at her hands, clutched in her lap. "I miss you Gia. It isn't the same here without you and Yumi. Can you call again soon?" Emily said in a small voice.

Gia smiled strongly for both Emily's sake and to keep that tear in her eye from running down her cheek. "I will call you every chance I can and you can also send messages. You know it goes both ways."

"Love you, sis," Gia said before reaching up and disconnecting the comm.


Cadet Freshman Grade Gianna Djokovic
Starfleet Academy

Lieutenant Commander Rhiana t'Aegis
Chief Security/Tactical Officer
USS Firebird NCC-88298

Chief Petty Officer Charles Stephens Jr.
Chief of the Boat
USS Firebird NCC-88298

Miss Emily Mox
Little Sister par Excellence
USS Firebird NCC-88298
NPC by Llwyedd


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Comments (1)

By Lieutenant JG Owen Woodhouse on Tue Aug 18th, 2020 @ 10:12am

Had so much fun writing this with you guys and I think it turned out really well! Thanks! -Liam