Past - Part 1 "Bad Memories"
Episode 4 - Truth, Justice, and the Federation Way
Location: Officer's Mess, USS Arcadia
Timeline: 1232 Hours, MD 2 (March 4, 2393)
Despite the brief mayhem caused by the Klingon riot in the morning, Lieutenant Commander Nola Elbrun was feeling pretty good. She didn't screw up anything this time, and that calls for some small celebration, so the ship's second officer ordered for herself an extra large sized Kohlanese stew from the kitchen. Normally she was a lot more careful with her diet, but she would make an exception for the occasion.
Jackson entered the officer's mess, reading a report, of unit readiness, on his unit, on a PADD. He didn't seem to notice the other person in the mess, although he did in fact notice her. Grabbing a coffee and a small plate of Bajoran shortbread, he then turned and moved over to the other person in the room. "Mind if I sit here?"
Nola looked up from her stew and saw a clean shaven man in the uniform of a Marine captain standing by her table. On any ships the Marines were always a tight knit bunch; sometimes it's almost as if they lived in their own separate world. In fact, she hadn't talked to anyone from the Marine detachment outside of work since the Arcadia left the space dock. But of course, there's first time for everything.
"Not at all, Captain Werner." said the Betazoid officer. "Please." She gestured at the empty seat on the other side of the small table.
Jackson nodded a polite nod, then sat in the chair opposite of the other officer. "So," he began. "You know my name and rank. You have me at a disadvantage, Commander..."
Nola set her spoon down next to the bowl. "Nola Elbrun. I'm the ship's second officer." she said simply.
Now usually a ship's second officer was also a department or a division head since the second officer's position was somewhat nominal and was rarely involved in the day-to-day command operation of the ship, but in her case, that was very much her primary job title with the added function of serving as a liaison to the sizable civilian population on the ship, a rather dreary task. Not that she was complaining; after what happened on her last post she's lucky that they allowed her a ship board assignment at all. In fact, she still wondered how Captain Lee managed to bring her to the Arcadia. They had planned to send her off to a backwater listening post after the Board of Inquiry concluded its investigations.
Jackson smiled slightly, then, his brows knitted, as he seemed to be trying to remember something. "Pardon my asking, but, were you assigned to the USS Martok?" He had heard some whispers of some kind of crisis that had taken place, however, as he was constantly on the move, going from one mission to another, he rarely gave much credence to idle gossip.
Nola was about to savor another spoonful of the stew when the question struck. She paused the spoon in midair for a noticeable second before sending it on its way. As her mind raced to find a suitable response, the once savory delicacy tasted rather bland.
"Yes. I was her XO." she said tersely.
What else could she say? There was no escaping what happened; nor could she sugar coat it. It was an unmitigated disaster. That's what it was. And she was the one responsible for it. But that didn't mean she wanted to talk about it.
Jackson picked up on the vibe. "My apologies. I didn't mean to dredge up bad memories. I spend most of my time out in the sticks, so my personal etiquette can sometimes be a bit rough." As he sat down, he added, "For what it's worth, from the little information I have on the episode, as far as I'm concerned, you weren't at fault." His voice was both soft and full of friendly tenderness, both of which seemed to be a screaming contradiction against who he was on the outside.
Nola prodded the stew with her spoon for a moment before looking back up at the Marine.
"Then your information must be faulty, Captain." said the ship's second officer. There was an ever so slight tinge of irritation in her voice. The one thing she liked even less than talking about the Martok incident was being patronized by a well-meaning person who thought it would make her feel any better. How could she possibly feel better about it? People died because of her. But he was well-meaning.
"Are those Bajoran shortbread?" She asked, without giving the Marine a chance to respond to what she had just said earlier.
Jackson caught the irritation in her voice as she replied to him. He responded with only the briefest eyebrow twitches. Realizing that it was a much more sensitive subject, he quickly decided to let the matter fall away and allowed her to change the subject. "Yes they are. Would you care for one?" He lifted his plate and moved it closer to her.
Nola nodded and took a piece from the plate. "Thank you."
She dipped the biscuit in her stew and munched on it. It had been a while since she tried Bajoran shortbread, and it tasted just as good as she remembered it. But she couldn't risk the conversation sliding back to the Martok.
"Weren't you stationed on Bajor at one point, Captain?" she asked, remembering that detail from the Marine's personnel file. Without any serious and time consuming responsibilities on the Arcadia, she had developed a habit of reading through everyone's personnel files, both Starfleet and civilian.
Putting the plate back down and taking one of the treats for himself, he savored the sweetness for a few brief seconds before replying. "Yes," he wiped his mouth as he spoke. "I was there for about a year, back in the early eighties. Also, back when I was still enlisted." He took a sip of his coffee and then asked, "You ever been?"
Nola shook her head as she pick up another piece of shortbread.
"When I was on the Discovery for my senior cruise, we docked at DS 9 for resupply at one point. I had been planning on going to the Southern Islands for months. They had one of the best seafood restaurants in the entire sector. But as soon as we got to the station, I came down with a really nasty case of Ankaran flu, so they had to quarantine me in the sickbay for a few days. Needless to say, no Bajor and no Bajoran shrimp cocktail for me."
A small sigh and another shake of her head.
"I was really looking forward to it."
Jackson chuckled softly. "Tell you what. Next time we go to Bajor, I'll take you to the best seafood restaurant in the entire Lorsta Island chain." He didn't mention that he had spent several years of his childhood on Bajor as well. He always found it best to not divulge all details at once.
With a feigned hesitation Nola asked, "Hmm, what's it gonna cost me, Captain?"
Jackson chuckled. "Nothing but your company, Commander. It's rare when I can just relax and enjoy myself. If I can do so, while at the same time helping a fellow shipmate accomplish a goal, then I'm in."
Nola broke into a smile. "You got a deal then." She paused briefly to have another spoonful of her stew. "I have to say, I don't know too many enlisted who aspired to be officers and made it as fast as you did, Captain. You must have made quite the impression on the brass."
Jackson shrugged nonchalantly. "All I've done is do the job that was put in front of me. I have had successes. I have had missteps. All along the way, I've done my best. At the same time, I've always had a competent group of operators with me, either leading me, or following me. Most of my operational success stems from their dedication and loyalty."
"I think you should give yourself more credit, Captain." said Nola as she picked up one of the last pieces of the shortbread and dipped it into the stew, but before she could continue, they were interrupted by a young Andorian woman in civilian garb.
"I'm so sorry to bother you," she apologized to the two officers. Then turning to the Marine, she asked, somewhat nervously, "Captain Jack Werner?"
Werner looked at the young woman and nodded. "Yes ma'am."
The woman's eyes lit up, but then she quickly reminded herself that Jack Werner might be a common name among humans. "Did you by any chance serve on the Yorktown about eight years ago when the ship responded to a distress call from Ardola, Captain?"
Sitting up a little straighter, Jack nodded again. "Yes, Ma'am, I am. How may I help you?"
"Oh, my," the girl could barely contain her elation. Looking back, she waved excitedly at a younger human girl sitting nervously a few tables away. "Teresa, it's him!"
[To be continued in Past - Part 2 "Guardian Angel" . . .]
Captain Jack Werner
USS Arcadia NCC-89015
Lieutenant Commander Nola Elbrun
USS Arcadia NCC-89015
(NPC - Roger/Oliver)