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Where Angels Fear to Tread

Posted on 25 Apr 2019 @ 9:40pm by Senior Chief Petty Officer Alexander Rylan & Lieutenant Camila Di Pasquale

Mission: The Kalisa Conundrum
Location: Security
Timeline: MD 2 || 0800 Hours

Alex had asked to see Camilla earlier and she'd agreed to meet with him. He didn't really feel that he owed Camilla an apology. He made a joke that any Senior NCO would make with an officer, particularly one that was under the rank of lieutenant commander. Chiefs were called Chief, and Ensigns, JGs, and Lieutenants were called Mister. That was tradition and Alex tended to stick to it. If he'd wanted to be an officer that badly after having his application to Starfleet Academy's full officer's program, he would have tried for Officer Candidacy School after earning a degree part-time. He didn't have much interest in being an officer at the moment. So he made a joke. Most officers would have just laughed it off and moved on. Senior NCOs were always cracking wise with lower ranking officers, sometimes even with more senior officers. Most officers had the sense to realize that Chiefs ran the fleet. Everyone else just worked there. But, whatever. Camilla seemed to get bent out of shape over it, and since Alex hadn't intended his joke to be taken as disrespect, he figured an apology wouldn't kill him. If she wanted to remain bent out of shape afterwards, that was entirely her decision. He intended to send a written recap of this meeting, recapping what had occurred, and thanking the lieutenant for her time. He'd keep a copy just in case.

He rapped his knuckles on the door frame of Camilla's office. "Lieutenant Di Pasquale? Thanks for making time for me. Okay if I come in?"

The Yeoman at the entrance to the Security Complex had informed him that Lieutenant Di Pasquale was available when he entered, and watched in amusement when he rapped on the door frame instead of tapping the chime. "You may want to press the chime, Chief," the Andorian thaan said. "The office is soundproof."

"Right," Alex said. He hit the chime.

"Enter" came the voice of the Security Chief as the door slid openly silently. She said behind a desk with her terminal up and a look of frustrated concentration on her face. The look intensified when she looked up and saw who it was, but she had invited him to come talk to her. "Ah. Chief Rylan. Please, have a seat," she said as she indicated one of the two seats in front of her desk. The desk itself was cluttered with PADDs, a see through coffee tankard, and a holo of a city with canals for streets.

"Thank, Lieutenant," Alex said, taking a seat. He looked at the holo. "Venice, ma'am? The holo, I mean."

"That's correct," Camila said, but didn't elaborate on any meaning it may have had to her.

"My parents went there for their honeymoon," Alex said. "I always wanted to go there myself, but I just haven't made the time I guess. Okay, so, I apologize. Senior NCOs crack jokes like that all the time. It's more a sign of respect than a sign of disrespect, but clearly you didn't take it that way. I was raised to believe that if you're joking around with someone, and they don't find your sense of humor amusing, then you owe them an apology. So I'm sorry. I meant no disrespect, and I hope we can learn to work well together in the future. Also, I didn't mean to step on your toes down there. I was a corpsman assigned to the regular Marines at first, then to the Marine Special Operations Command, to the Raider Regiment. So I've got a lot of experience with small arms and small unit tactics in general. On those small teams, even the corpsman has to pull their weight when the shooting starts. So I was just trying to help. I wasn't trying to get in the way. I'll hang back more next time, if that makes you more comfortable."

"A joke is one thing, Chief Rylan," Camila said. "They usually involve humor that isn't crude. What you did was imply that I am illegitimate in a manner that was unbecoming an officer of any rank. I understand that you may be used to such things when you were in the Marines, but you aren't now. You're a Medical Senior Chief and more is expected of you." She was still in a quandary if she should throw him under the Captain's purview with a formal report, if she should take him to the firing range to use as a target, or if she should accept his apology.

There were a lot of things Alex could have said in response, but, ultimately, he decided that his apology wasn't about Camilla Di Pasquale's response to it. It was about him righting something he felt was wrong. He hadn't intended his joke as disrespect, but Di Pasquale had taken that way, so an apology was owed. Whatever else she said about him or implied was pretty much irrelevant. He knew who and what he was, and that was really all that was important. So while he could decide to find Di Pasquale's tone and implications insulting, he accepted that those were more about her than him. So he let his annoyance and other negative emotions pass through him without taking root.

"Yes, Ma'am," he said, his tone respectful. He said nothing else. Why give her more ammunition to attack him with? He'd acknowledged that his joke had backfired. Most other officers he'd dealt with would have just laughed it off. She didn't. She choose to feel insulted. That wasn't really Alex's fault, but since he'd had an effect he hadn't intended, he felt he could cop to that with no loss of dignity. Besides, he was required to show respect and be respectful. There was no Starfleet regulation or Federation law in existence that required him to have actual respect for his superiors or like them. He'd asked around about the Security Chief. She was good at her job and kind of hardass, and she apparently came by the latter honestly. Alex hesitated to make much out of talk, preferring to deal with what he saw in person. But if he was expecting Di Pasquale assess him on the basis of his record, Alex supposed he could tentatively do the same for her. If she didn't like his sense of humor, so be it. It would make life less interesting, but if dealing with officers like Di Pasquale was the price of being with Jayla, he'd pay it... for now.

"Then there's the other thing," Camila continued. "While I appreciate your expertise in such matters that you learned while in the Marines, you going ahead of the team down there superseded anything I would have suggested and you put yourself in danger. I'm the Chief of Security for this ship and ultimately responsible for every person on it, be they on the ship or on an away team. If you had gotten killed, I would have been responsible." Her voice softened. "And I don't need any more deaths on my conscious than is already there."

"Yeah," Alex said. "I feel that way sometimes, too. I understand both the sentiment and its futility. I was a field medic in a Marine Expeditionary Unit for about 18 months of it. Eight years in the Raiders after that, doing stuff I'm not allowed to talk about, but that still gives me nightmares sometimes. You?"

"Yeah," she admitted after a moment. "I spent two years on Deep Space Eleven before my transfer to Black Hawk. Well, the first Black Hawk. It's a monument on New Bajor now." She took a breath and shook her head. "During the Consortium crisis, it was having to fight my fellow officers and fire on Federation ships. I don't know how many personnel were killed. I lost some of them from my own department. One was a young man named Xavier Hernandez. Fresh from the Academy with a lot of potential. He was killed when Consortium boarders came aboard the ship."

She sighed again. "Then it was the boarding of Deep Space Eleven where I had to fight officers I had served with just to get a message out. I still wake up at times hearing the phaser fire and people screaming. I went back to the station after we lost the ship and alternated between working myself half to death and spent my free time trying to drown the memories in booze until Captain Geisler shanghaied me back on the new Black Hawk."

Alex nodded. "If you're like, let's see, everyone else that's ever tried pickling their pain in booze, I'm guessing the drinking wasn't really doing it? You don't have to answer. I know it hardly ever does. Eventually, if you plan on keeping your friends, your family, and your job, you have to sober up, and then it all comes back, worse now, because you've been avoiding it. But Lieutenant, for me, for almost everyone who wears this uniform, no matter what the department color, a day full of risk and danger is just another day that ends in the letter Y. I accept that risk. I have to. Or I wouldn't be able to do my job. But... I'll tell you what. I'll hang back and let you charge in first, but you're going to have to accept that I might just be right on your heels covering your ass. It what I was trained to do. It's how I was trained to operate. But I am very happy to know that when I have to do something tremendously stupid and run into the weapons fire to recover wounded or injured personnel, that I can count on you to cover me."

Camila gave a weary smile, but it was an honest smile. "Thank you, Chief," she said. "You're right about the booze and I got off of it when Captain Geisler brought me back, except for one time. I'll have everyone's back regardless because that's what I'm trained to do, but please let me take that risk first. I don't have a death wish, but I've seen what this quadrant can throw at us and I don't want another body on my list. They get too heavy in every way."

"Like I said, Lieutenant," Alex said. "I'll step aside and let you rush in where angels fear to tread. But I'll be on your heels." Alex grinned. "Someone has to be there to patch you up and get you back on your feet again." Then he sobered.

"Then I'll make sure you're in good enough shape to be able to do that," Camila promised him. "Do you want some coffee?"

"Yes, please, ma'am," Alex said. "If it's not too much trouble."

Camila got up from her desk. "Regular or Raktajino, and how much sugar, milk or creamer?"

"Raktajino," Alex replied. "A teaspoon of sugar and a roughly a tablespoon of light cream."

She grabbed her transparent mug and put it on the replicator platform. "Computer, one Di Pasquale in present container and one Raktajino, one sugar, one light cream." When the liquid materialized, his in a stand mug of Klingon design and hers in her tankard, she collected them and handed the small mug to him. "jagh pa' maHvaD Hegh," she said, which the universal translator interpreted as 'to our enemies dying before us.'

Alex laughed. "jaj vIghaj!" he said. Which the universal translator interpreted as 'own the day.' Alex took a sip of his raktajino and sighed. "Even the idea of most Klingon food makes me want to retch, but their coffee analog is damned good."

Camila smiled at his return in Klingon and hefted her mug towards him. "Qapla!" she said before she took a big drink.

"Nice mug," Alex said. He knew more Klingon, but a lot of it was bawdy jokes told to him by Klingon Marines. A barrel of blood wine later, Alex had been surprised he had remembered any of them.

"Thanks," she said as she set it on her desk. "I got it when I went back home to Venice after the first Black Hawk went down. I wish I had been able to find one with the canals on it, but I didn't have a lot of time before I reported back to duty."

Alex yawned. He'd had an early morning. "Thanks," he said. "This coffee hits the spot. I think tonight I'll sleep like the dead, though. Yesterday was a damned long day."

"The days are only going to get longer until we get back home," Camila said. "Better get used to casualties coming into Sickbay, too. I need to go there soon because I was having weird dreams about alien ads last night when I went to bed."

"Casualties, I can handle," Alex said. "They're kind of my thing." He looked at Camilla. "What kinds of 'alien ads'? Aliens as in non-Humans you recognized? Or as in non-Humans you didn't recognize?"

"Non-humans I didn't recognize," she said. "Things like ads for vacation rental places on planets I've never heard of, stations I've never been to, and space cruises I wouldn't want to be on. All from the Gamma Quadrant. I had them last night after we got back from the archive planet."

"The ads were in Standard?" Alex asked. "And it was clear it was the Gamma Quadrant? Sorry, curious. I mean, we often dream of things we've seen before, even if we didn't realize we saw those things at some point in our lives. Sure, they can be distorted version of what we've seen, but usually they relate to something we've seen before. So if you'd never seen them before, the question is, how did you know they were in the Gamma Quadrant?"

"No, but I recognized the context of them," Camla replied. "And my mind more or less filled in what was missing, I guess. How did I know? I've never seen some of the species that I saw in my dream, or the planets or vessels in the Alpha or Beta Quadrant, or in my studies at the Academy."

"Sorry," Alex said. "I'm not trying to be pushy. Just--so you didn't recognize the aliens, and you made the leap that they were from the Gamma Quadrant, and not, say, some unexplored area of the Alpha or Beta Quadrants or from, say, the Delta Quadrant, from the context. Can you explain to me what the context was?" Alex wasn't entirely sure why he was asking, but Camilla's dream seemed... curious. "I know I'm being nosey. Could you maybe bear with me just a moment longer? I'm not sure if the answers to the questions I'm asking are important or not, but they might be. Weird dreams could mean any of over a dozen things I can think of off the top of my head, and that's just my head. Commander Kij and Lieutenant Stuart could probably think of more, most of them harmless. But I'd like to ask the others if they're experiencing anything like this, so I'm hoping you can give me a really good idea of what 'this' is."

"One of them was a Triosian. Tripedle species exclusive to the Gamma Quadrant. I fought some of them on Alpha Trios IV when we were there," Camila said. "Now then, how do you explain me having very specific dreams, all of which seemed like advertisements? Oh, and no Doctor Stuart. Ever. "

"I don't know," Alex said. "Not yet. I need more information. Would you be willing to stop by Sickbay after your shift today? I'd like to have Jayla--Commander Kij--take a look at you and run some more in depth scans than I was able to run in the archive or in the runabout on the way back."

"Set the appointment after you get with her. I suggest you have them run on Ensign Mackie and Lieutenant Parks as well," Camila said.

"Yep," Alex said. "That's why I'm 'inviting' them to Sickbay by way of Commander Kij suggesting that said invitation might just possibly be an order. I'll request a small battery of ocular and cerebral scans for all of you. That sounds worse that it is. Most of the ocular scans can be taken simultaneously and a lot of the brain scans can be, too, and if not, they don't take long." Alex drank down the rest of his coffee. "I suppose I should get back to work and let you do the same. Will there be anything else, Lieutenant?"

"No, well, yes," the Security Chief said. "When we're on away missions....try to be the Chief you've demonstrated yourself to be here. I like this guy. The other guy's an asshole."

"Right," Alex said rising from his chair, a genuine smile on his face and absolutely zero evidence of his disappointment in Camilla in his voice. She'd just made a cardinal officer error by essentially ordering him to do something he'd already agreed to do, making it seem that she was just arbitrarily throwing her weight around. Still, she was kind of likable otherwise, and still worthy of the genuine respect she'd earned in this conversation, so he let it go. "I'll see you later this afternoon then. Have a good day. I'll show myself out."

"Until then," Camila said with a smile before she pulled up another file and began to review what was next for her day.

 

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