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Goodbye For Now [CD]

Posted on Mon May 7th, 2018 @ 8:58am by Petty Officer 1st Class Kipp Lak & Lieutenant Kedra Nema & Lieutenant Laree Desai & Lieutenant JG Soto Gantt & Lieutenant Jackson Smith & Warrant Officer Arlan Harlan & Chief Warrant Officer (Grade 2) Amara Vaun Jr. & HALP & Lieutenant JG Luka Stern

Mission: Interlude 1
Location: Mess Hall
Timeline: 23 June, 2394 - 1900 Hours


Luka helped straighten Kreeketh's bowtie. For many of the crew, this would be their first time seeing its new spider-body. In truth, she looked forward to their reactions. She hoped those reactions would keep her from crying as her crewmates said goodbye for now, and wished her well to she and Kreeketh's new assignment at the Daystrom Institute, puzzling out the finer points of Tholian language and culture.

Kedra had received a note summoning her to a party. Apparently there was to be a going away party for Kreeketh. Arriving in the Mess, Kedra walked towards the horrifying body she had helped create. "Hello Kreeketh, how's the body working for you?" She glanced to Luka and extended her hand.

Luka shook Kendra's hand warmly, a nonverbal thank you for coming, while Kreeketh did a tapdance on his eight legs and tipped an imaginary hat while "Hello my honey, hello my darling, hello my ragtime gal" played from his speakers.

Kedra tried to figure out exactly what the feelings that were elicited by watching the odd collaboration she had helped create dance. She looked back to Luka. "We will miss you both. Take care of yourself and him," she gestured at Kreeketh, "I'm sure that he will need quite a looking after."

Luka laughed, but looked fondly at Kreeketh. "Yes--Kreeketh's going to shake up those stuffy academics, I think. Thank you for all your hard word to get this body up and going. I'll be sure to tell everyone about the skilled engineer behind it's construction." Luka leaned forward and whispered, "and to keep it out of trouble. As much as possible."

Kendra nodded, shook her hand again, and walked towards the table set with a rather large spread.

Amara Vaun, Jr. waited in a quiet corner of the Mess Hall for a break between Luka and the Tholian she knew only as the banshee of SciLab 1. When the six-foot tall spiderbot moved away from Luka with quick tinks of its pointed feet on the deck, Vaun picked up the ceremonial potting box from the table where she sat and hurried to her former labmate. "Luka," Vaun said warmly. She held a box of flowers out to her. "I hope you find everything you're looking for at Daystrom." Three small flowers of different ages grew spritely from the dark soil. The first was a thin sprout, curved like a shepherd's crook under the weight of a small green bud at the tip. The second flower was in full bloom. Four stacked rings of finger-like petals surrounded a white center, colored with burnished yellow and orange like a sunrise. The third was a thick stem, curved again like a shepherd's crook but from the weight of a fat crimson berry. "It's a Cardassian Gerbera. The ages represent the potential of curiosity, the bloom of knowledge, and the fruit of discovery. I know you like Cardassian culture, so I thought..." Vaun was at a loss for something profound to say about Luka leaving their little science team for bigger and brighter stars. She spoke better through gifts than through words, so she just held the box out for her erstwhile crewmate. "I hope you like it."

"Oh! Thank you." Luka immediately buried her face in the petals of the blooming flower and breathed deeply, perhaps to hide being overcome by emotion. After a longer sniff than was perhaps necessary, Luka surfaced. "Hadar loved Gerbera. He was my guard... my friend." Luka's voice started rough, but then steadied as she smiled, because remembering Hadar didn't hurt. How you've grown, little hekant.

Harlan walked in awkwardly. He was never the sort to really get emotional over people leaving his ships as long as they were still breathing. Luka seemed different though after having heard her break up with someone else while he was in the Tubes. He walked up to the bubbly individual.

"Well, Stern, I suppose you'll be doing big things for Starfleet out there. Just keep you nose clean and don't expect old Harlan to bail you out of any tough situations. I think you'll be fine though. Good luck out there."

Harlan tried to say all that and then end with his customary scowl, but he just couldn't pull it off this time. Maybe Harlan was getting soft in his old age. There was just a hint of old-man twinkle in his grizzled gaze. He then walked off to find something to eat, this was his breaktime after all.

Luka grinned sheepishly at Harlan, and then, as he turned away, she wrapped him in a big, warm giggly hug.

Kipp stepped into the room, his eyes scanning all the familiar faces. He'd had some work to finish up, processing new crewmen in and out plus handling a few details related to the Marines' exit. He saw Luka hovering near a table full of Kalstri's food. He wove through the crowd, exchanging hellos with many people, and stopped by Luka.

"Hello, Luka-san," Kipp said. "I wish I could have been here earlier. To ease the sting of my tardy arrival, I bring you this gift," he said and held out a small package wrapped in simple brown paper. The entire package was no bigger than his hand.

Luka bowed to Kipp. Of all the people on board, he'd been the one she looked to for calm, healing solace. He was like a reflecting pool in a deep green somewhere, and she would miss him very much. "Arigatō, sensei," she said, gently taking the package and opening it.

The paper had been wrapped in an intricate petal pattern and as Luka unwrapped it, the brown paper revealed it was pink on the opposite side so that when it opened, it looked as if it was a flower in bloom. In the middle of the flower was a small jade pendant in the shape of a bird rising from fire.

"You will take the fire bird with you, wherever you go," Kipp said.

"Thank you," Luka managed, her eyes filling with unshed tears. She put the necklace on. "Arigatou, waga tomoyo."

Be generous, Desai told herself as she stood in front of the doors to the mess hall. She really, really did not want to go in there, but not attending this soiree would look petty, however inaccurate that impression might be. Desai didn't like Luka, but she did wish her well, in an abstract, as-far-away-from-me-as-possible kind of way. The ungenerous part of her thought that this party was self-indulgent and yet another bid for attention, but she knew that wasn't fair. Luka was popular with the other members of the crew and it was completely natural that there would be a going away party. Desai just wished that she wasn't required to attend.

The problem was that Desai hated playing pretend, and she was a terrible liar, so going in and pretending that she wasn't uncomfortable and pretending that she and Luka were besties, as Luka would insist she do... well, she was going to fail. She was going to be uncomfortable. And she and Luka were not besties. And the pretending was going to make her sick to her stomach.

But this sort of thing came with the territory--chief of whatever, part of the job was the social interactions. A member of her staff was leaving and she was obligated to appear at the going away party. Put your big-boy pants on, Desai. She would stay the absolute minimum required time, and beat a hasty retreat once the speeches started. The speeches, she knew, would make her vomit.

So she took a deep breath, told herself, be generous, and walked through the doors of the mess hall.

Kalistri had gone all out, and multi-colored food platters decorated the entire room. Desai was sure that to everyone else the smells were rich and luscious, but to her, the fruit jello and cheese casserole and fried bacon and ten other dishes smelled cloying. Like someone had drenched the room in cheap perfume, trying too hard, and she felt a wave of nausea rise up from her stomach. She turned to the bar and ordered a scotch from Kalistri, who provided it without comment or judgement.

Desai scanned the room and spotted Luka almost instantly, surrounded by her fan club groupies admirers whatever. And as Desai watched, she realized that "trying too hard" described the scene exactly. Luka was so young. She had no idea who she was. She was faking it till she made it and praying to whatever gods she believed in that no one would notice. She had no idea that of course everyone noticed. Or, maybe some people didn't, but the ones who did all had a higher tolerance for bullshit than Desai did. Which was to their credit, and a character flaw of Desai's.

But watching her there, performing for her audience, Desai saw someone terribly insecure. Luka was afraid, all the time, and she tried to hide her vulnerability behind a facade of overblown emotion. Desai had never been afraid of the things that Luka was afraid of, but she had been afraid of other things, and understood fear. Luka was just another person, doing the best she could to navigate through the worlds. Everyone is a work in progress.

And with that thought Desai found her generosity, and decided to act before it deserted her again. She drained her scotch and walked up to the little clump of people around Luka. They made space for her, and the science chief waited politely for a break in the conversation. She held on to her contemplative mood and didn't get caught up in the details of what they were saying, but at an appropriate pause she caught Luka's attention and reached out to shake hands. "Good luck, Lieutenant." She meant it, and she hoped it came through in her voice.

Luka shook Desai's hand. "Thank you, ma'am." She knew the woman didn't like her, but she was happy the Lieutenant had come to wish her farewell and seemed sincere. She hoped whatever she'd done to offend Desai, she didn't repeat in her new post with her new boss. Luka thought about all the people who hadn't liked her growing up, and the ones that inevitably would dislike her in her future, and realized the why of it didn't matter. She wasn't a telepath. She had no idea what was going on in other people's heads. Her only duty was to be herself, do the best job she could, apologize for things that were her fault, not apologize for things she had no business apologizing for, and love others as openly as she could. It wasn't her job to win over everyone she knew for the rest of her life. The revelation, to one who had spent her life trying so hard to live up to her parents' legacy, set her reeling just a little.

She really had learned a lot on the Firebird. She was so unlike the awkward new ensign she'd been when she arrived... the good and the bad, the painful and the joyous... she was grateful for her time here.

Desai looked Luka in the eye as they shook hands, across the gulf of time and circumstance that separated them. There was nothing more to say, so Desai turned and made her way through the crowd to the mess hall doors. She had work to do.

Jackson had been tucked against the wall, trying to be as invisible as possible. He had considered not even coming to this thing, he was having a hard time letting his anger go. The loss of Nici had hit him hard. They left on terrible terms and there had been no communication since then. He had given up his life on Earth for these people and now two of the most important people were leaving him. He knew he should be happy for Luka, he knew that this was a great opportunity for her. Still as he watched her flit from group to group and seeing the admiration that the crew has for her, he couldn't help but feel that the Firebird was losing something special. He was losing a special friend. Jackson didn't trust himself to say the right thing and so he stayed out of sight in the shadows of the corner of the room.

Gantt entered the mess in no particular hurry. He expected Luka to be busy talking with someone. He stood by the food table munching slowly on whatever random tidbit his hand found. He didn't much care what it was; Kalstri never failed to make good food.

The news of Luka leaving had hollowed out a part of his stomach that refused to be filled. Even though the Daystrom Institute was a great opportunity for her there was a part of him that wanted her to stay. Jackson and Luke had been steadying supports and now one of those was being pulled out. Gantt ate slowly until he heard Desai wish Luka luck. They sounded almost finished. Gantt walked slowly towards them, rubbing a black velvet pouch absently in his hand. When Desai turned away he smiled.

"Good evening, Luka. How are you doing?"

Ouch. Luka was ambushed by a sudden surge of complicated feeling. He was her friend, and she loved him, but there was still pain for what might have been. No matter what happened, who she meet in her future, in her heart, Ensign Soto Gantt would still be her first boyfriend. Even if he didn't want that title. Remembering what she'd just been thinking about the pains and joys of the Firebird made her smile, then grin, then giggle. There was so much, she couldn't put it into words.

So, instead, she hugged Gantt hard around the neck, then stepped back and smiled at him, the same smile of pure happiness she had while playing with baby hekants.

"I'm sad to say goodbye, scared for all of you as you go into danger, happy to go to Daystrom and use my linguistic skills, mad that it will probably make both of my parents' happy, nostalgic about all the experiences we've had together and... well! You know. I'm a big ball of emotional spaghetti. Same as usual."
She took his hand. "How are you? You okay?"

Now it was his turn to pull back the curtain and, taking her hand, he pulled her back into an embrace. She had stood with him in fistfights and phaserfights. They had healed emotionally and physically. In another time, maybe, he could have given her more of himself. He had to be true to what his heart called him to do but that should not diminish the experiences and emotions that held her deep within his heart.

"I'm going to be okay. Counselor Savin helped me remember there are some wounds that go pretty deep. My need to connect with my mother isn't just about finding her but healing myself. I suspect the next year could be pretty tough. However, I am learning a lot, too. I just will be hard to adjust to walking the halls knowing you won't be here, too. Working at the Daystrom, though, is an incredible opportunity. I pray it's incredible for you."

He stepped back and held up his left hand. In the palm sat a crystal ellipsoid, perfectly smooth and clear, encasing a vertical spiral of drit flecked with white. "I wanted to send something with you. Inside is soil I collected from Bajor, Quinor VI and Earth. The white chips are from the rock in the soil where the bonsai tree is planted. I wanted it to symbolize that you have many homes, but that you have the power to make things grow no matter where you are." His face was flushed deep red by the time he was finished.

"Oh!" Luka took the stone into her hand. It was warm. It was so thoughtful. She knew that she would treasure it forever. "Thank you, Gantt. Please, be safe. Don't rush into danger, no mater what Yumi and Jackson do, and no matter what you find out about your past and who you are. Who you are is pretty darn great, and don't forget it." She hugged him around the neck again, a little too tight, a little too long, as if she could shield him from what was coming, even though she knew she could not.

Afterward, she stepped back and smiled, ignoring the tears leaking from the corner of her eyes, because they weren't something to be embarrassed about this time. "There's Jackson. Let's go talk to him together."

Jackson glared at Kalstri who had nearly backed into him forcing him to move from his shelter of darkness. "Oh Jackson, pardon me I did not see you there!" Kalstri beamed at him and Jackson almost thought he saw him wink as he strode off in the opposite direction. Before Jackson could react, he caught his name coming from across the room and saw both Luka and Gantt coming his way. He slowly took a deep breath, be happy he told himself. He let a smile cover his anger and sadness. He unloosened his crossed arms and waited for their arrival.

Luka took one look at Jackson and didn't buy his cool exterior for a minute. She flung her arms around him and held on tight. "Promise you will visit me. Promise!"

Emotions ran through Jackson from anger to happiness to sadness. He returned her hug, knowing that this could very well be the last time, but despite that thought he let go and gave her a big smile, "Promise."

Luka looked at Jackson, evaluating him with all the wisdom she'd grown during her time on the Firebird. Then turned to Gantt. "You'll make sure he keeps that promise, yeah?"

"We'll both visit you for a night on the town." Gantt chuckled and, assuming his a half-menacing tone, said, "The Daystrom won't know what hit it."

Late that night when Luka returned to her quarters her communicator buzzed in her pocket with a new message.

[;_;] I will miss you, 🦄
(^.^) Oh HALP!!!! I'm going to miss you too. Is there any way you can visit me at Daystrom sometimes? Can we write? You were such a help with Kreeketh, we might still need you.
[._.] I don't think I can leave the ship on my own. Maybe we can be pen pals?
(^.^) Yes, please. I would like that very much. I want to hear about all of your adventures! And also keep me up to date on Emily. Who knows, we might also send Kreeketh to visit from time to time and gather more data for us. It's not a prisoner, and I bet it would like to visit you.

Halp's predictions for the interaction were undershooting by a wide error. Luka spoke as though she thought of Halp as more than just a software tool for mining sensor archives and cracking security systems. In fact, Luka was as open as she had been with her biological friends at the party. It fueled a mirroring process deep in Halp's emonet.

[0_0]7 Yes, Lieutenant! I will forward her unclassified mission reports.
[o_o] I hope Kreeketh will rebuild its trade empire in this sector, and you will build a linguistic empire at Daystrom. friend.
(^.^) My friend. Yes. Goodbye and keep everyone out of trouble for me 🦄


Lieutenant Junior Grade Luka Stern
Xenoanthropologist/Translation Specialist
USS Firebird NCC-88298

Lieutenant Junior Grade Jackson Smith
Chief Flight Control Officer/Covert Operations Specialist
USS Firebird NCC-88298

Petty Officer First Class Kipp Lak
USS Firebird NCC-88298

Lieutenant Kedra Nema
Chief Engineering Officer
USS Firebird NCC-88298

Chief Petty Officer Arlan Harlan
Assistant Chief Engineer
USS Firebird NCC-88298

Lieutenant Junior Grade Soto Gantt
Structural/Environmental Specialist
USS Firebird NCC-88298

Lieutenant Laree Desai
Chief Science Officer
USS Firebird NCC-88298

Chief Warrant Officer (Grade 2) Amara Vaun Jr.
NPC (by Yumi Han)

Intelligence Analyst
NPC (by Yumi Han)


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Comments (3)

By Cadet Freshman Grade Gianna Djokovic on Mon May 7th, 2018 @ 7:20pm

A more fitting going-away post would be hard to find. Luka touched so many people. I hope we haven't seen the last of her! -Liam

By Commander Yumi Han on Sat May 12th, 2018 @ 9:05am

Luka is one of our bedrock characters from the founding of the sim. Her departure is a victory for her as a character--she has grown so much and will continue to grow at Daystrom. (And finally find her true love?) I hope we get to see her in many future guest roles! I would feel much more sad, but I know Luka is going on to do amazing things and Max is still here with us, thank goodness. :)

By Jillian Mox on Tue May 29th, 2018 @ 7:43pm

This was a wonderful reminder of the relationships formed on the Firebird. Everyone stayed true to their characters and plots. I think that is wonderful for a closing post which (I can assume from watching many sitcom finales) can get a little dramatically emotional. This was nicely done! Thanks everyone!