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I'll Always Be There

Posted on Mon Jan 30th, 2017 @ 10:53pm by Captain Claudia Ainscow & Lieutenant JG Nealey Snowdon & Commander Akiva ben-Avram

Mission: S1E3.5 - Interlude
Location: Captain Ainscow's ready room
Timeline: Mission Day 26; 16:00

Claudia was sat minding her business in her ready room with the plan to call it a day soon and get an early dinner before a planned date with Rebecca at 19:00 that evening. With the end of her mountain of paperwork in sight she made a start on that after replicating herself a fresh cup of tea and a small plate full of chocolate digestive biscuits.

Akiva passed through the door without buzzing permission first. "Captain, may I speak with you? It's... it's urgent."

Claudia put her PADD down and looked up at Akiva who had almost startled her by entering her ready room unexpectedly and without pressing the chime to ask if he could enter. It must have been urgent.

"What is it?" Claudia asked.

Akiva sighed, his eyes darting around the room before settling back to Claudia. "Not long ago, I had an altercation with a junior officer. I'm not proud of how events unfolded, Claudia." His Adam's apple lurched along with the muscles in his neck. "In fact, I feel ashamed of the whole thing."

With a concerned look on her face Claudia dreaded to think what had gone on - but she wasn't prepared to jump to conclusions straight away and wanted to hear what had happened first.

"Sit down and talk to me Akiva" Claudia replied.

He nodded and complied. With his elbows on his knees, he dry-washed his hands together and forced the words out in an emotionless monotone. "I was passing by a turbolift when I noticed it was undergoing some routine maintenance." He paused for a moment and bit his lip. "I..." Another pause. "Well, at first I was going to compliment the officer on a job well done, but..." He looked down at his feet. "Ah, I didn't get around to that because my eye lingered on them in an inappropriate way."

Once the words were out, they broke the floodgates. Akiva spilled his guts in a rapidfire confession. "I'm very sorry, Captain. I don't make a habit of ogling others, especially while on duty. It was truly an oversight, Captain, and I swear it will never happen again. Kusamek, but Nealey was angry. She raised her voice at me, then insulted me, and I was so out of sorts I responded in kind. And she slapped me, and I threatened her, and..." He trailed off with a downcast expression.

The whole situation had Claudia deeply concerned. Nealey was already very fragile and although she wasn't going to place the blame of the incident entirely in Akiva's court - she wanted to know the full extent of it so Claudia could work out how to try and rescue the situation and hopefully calm Nealey down before she did something she couldn't reverse.

"What happened next Akiva?" Claudia replied.

"Nothing, really. She kept taunting me for... my indiscretion, and I threatened to retaliate for her slapping me. Then she ran away. Crying." He stared vacantly at his hands. "I don't know what to do about it."

Claudia nodded. "Alright - we need to find her. There is however something I must tell you about Lieutenant Snowdon and it may open your eyes to why I'm so keen to keep her close and protect her from falling off the rails"

"Go ahead," Akiva said without looking up. "I'm listening."

"Alright. Sadly - Nealey lost her parents when she just two years old and because she had no other family she was taken into foster care. She moved from home to home one of them in particular...she had a particularly hard time. I won't go into the exact detail of what happened because that's for Nealey to choose whether she's comfortable with anyone else knowing - but it has affected her in a lot of ways - particularly mentally. The reason I took her under my wing was because I saw a lot of potential in her and I didn't want her to fall by the wayside. I genuinely fear for Nealey if she were to lose her career and I am trying my utmost best to get her the help she needs. I will be arranging a counselling session with Counsellor Maera as soon as we've found her - that is very important" Claudia said.

Akiva considered her words and nodded in grim understanding. "My parents were far from perfect, but at least they loved and protected me," he said. He closed his hands into fists and looked up at Claudia with an earnest look in his eyes. "Tell me what to do, Claudia, and I'll do it."

"We need to find her. I would strongly advise that I come with you because Nealey only seems to respond to me in these situations - if I know Nealey then she'll hide herself away as best as she can so my guess is she'll be on the lower decks. Come on - let's go" Claudia said.

Akiva nodded without saying a word. He steeled himself for whatever may come, and then followed the captain.

After a half an hour of searching it was finally fruitful and Claudia found Nealey hiding in the same room as the antimatter storage pods - although it was a little more sparse than usual after donating some fuel to the Renown and Brandenburg a couple of weeks ago.

"Nealey sweetheart? Can I come in?" Claudia said.

Nealey had cried that much her throat was sore and she'd made both of the cuffs on her sleeves soaking wet with wiping the tears from her face. As it was Claudia - the only person she could trust - Nealey looked over at her and simply nodded.

Claudia slowly approached Nealey and sat down next to her. Almost immediately she felt the younger woman's arms wrap around her tightly. Claudia reassured her and did her best to keep Nealey calm.

"Hello, Nealey." Akiva didn't know what else to say, so he stood near the door fully ready to leave if necessary.

Nealey did her best to blank Akiva out. She wasn't sure after what had happened that the working relationship between the two would ever be the same again - so much so she was considering leaving the Vindex for another starship.

"I...I want to leave...this ship" Nealey sobbed.

Claudia sighed. "I'm not going to let you go Nealey. You know you won't be as safe as you are here anywhere else - I might not be your mother but when I first met you last year I saw a younger version of me and I promised myself I'd never let you get into trouble. I'm not going to let that happen now Nealey. I promise you - you're going to be safe here sweetheart"

"You're as good as my mother though" Nealey replied.

Claudia smiled. "All the more reason to stay then. I know you've got a lot on your plate but believe me I am so proud of you and what you've achieved in the past year or so of your career. I'll always be here for you and that is a promise"

"Nealey... I am sorry," Akiva said. "I deeply regret what happened. Not only in the turbolift, but also in general." He began to pace in small, measured steps. "I just... I have strict expectations because I don't know any other way. The way I was raised... my family, my culture. It's not so dramatic as only the strong survive but... all the same, failure was never excused. Only excellence was tolerated." His eyes began to glaze over in recollection. He shook his head to clear it away. "I don't want to be my father."

Akiva came closer to Claudia and Nealey in their corner huddle, then fell to his knees.
"If I can be honest, I don't know what I'm doing. I took my first posting as department chief only to end up as first officer. I completed my life's ambition of creating a bio-neural synthetic lifeform which is as close to biological as can be only to end up as a father. I am doing the best I know how, and it's not good enough."

He clasped his hands together in a pleading gesture.

"I know I can't relate to you, Nealey, but I can offer you an olive branch. You're already a better Ops Chief than I am an Ex-Oh, even as interim. I have every confidence in your ability to serve under Lieutenant Kaz with distinction."
He paused to chew his lip and wonder what else he could say. "I could retract my review if that would help you believe me, but I expect and would prefer that you prove it wrong."

Nealey listened as she continued to embrace Claudia. She wasn't sure what to make of the situation but it was all too recent for her to simply just walk away from it and forget it ever happened. She was appreciative of the gesture but Nealey was very fragile and any damage done to her would take an extremely long time to repair. Without the woman she was holding right now Nealey knew she probably wouldn't even be alive anymore.

"I...I'll my...job. I won't...bother...anyone...again" Nealey sobbed.

Claudia spoke. "If you want to take some time out you can do. I know you're a very delicate young woman and things can get too much for you sometimes - believe in saying this however when I am so proud to have you here and even more proud that you said I'm as good as your mother. I'd be lying if I said I didn't love you as my own Nealey"

Nealey nodded to confirm that she wanted to take a break from things for now and return to duty when she was ready. The recent stresses had made her realise that she did need help.

"I love you too...mum" Nealey whispered.

Claudia smiled. "Do you want me to come with you to see Counsellor Maera?"

"Y-yes...p-please..." Nealey replied.

Akiva slid back before rocking to his heels and standing up. He didn't want to tower over them, but he felt out of place in such a tender moment as well. Nealey didn't seem to have responded to him. He just looked to Claudia for direction, then pointed at himself, the door, and then back at himself. He raised his eyebrows and shrugged.

"Please arrange for Counsellor Maera to report to her room and clear her schedule Commander - this is important. Unless she's got something extremely important then I want her to be ready to see Nealey in the next ten minutes" Claudia requested.

"Aye, aye, Captain," Akiva said with a dip of his head. He left the room before contacting anyone.

Claudia kept hold of Nealey for a good few minutes before confirming that Counsellor Maera was ready for Nealey to join her. Slowly standing up and offering a hand out to her friend Claudia was pleased to see Nealey accept it and slowly get up. With that the two women left the room they were in and headed for Counselor Maera's room.


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