USS VINDEX - NCC-2474-A
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Roads Untraveled

Posted on Fri May 5th, 2017 @ 9:57pm by Commander Akiva ben-Avram & Ensign Asher Maddison MD & Lieutenant JG José Muñiz & Lieutenant JG Nealey Snowdon & Sergeant Bella Zaltin & Elsie Cusack
Edited on on Fri May 5th, 2017 @ 10:03pm

Mission: S1E5 - Unknown Territory
Location: USS Horsa
Timeline: Mission Day 82; 18:00

José had reported as ordered to the shuttlebay to prepare the Horsa for the away mission down to the surface. Keen to make sure the checks were done in advance so they could take off once everyone was aboard José was meticulously going through his pre-flight checks - and was already well through them when the first member of the away team arrived.

When Akiva finally arrived on the flight deck, he was surprised no one else was there yet except for the shuttle pilot. The plans for the comm buoy project had been worked out and put underway, and he had hurried as quickly as possible to begin the away mission.

The new planet was not yet close enough to see with the naked eye, but that meant nothing when traveling at high warp. Time was of the essence, and they needed to be ready.

Bella arrived with three other marines in tow, the group in tight formation as they advanced the short distance from the shuttlebay entrance to the Horsa. The three members of Alpha Squad each had brand new rank on their collars, promoted before the MCO left; Bella subconsciously thumbed her own pip, a new ground beneath the chevrons indicating her own elevation to Staff Sergeant. It still felt wrong and despite her protestations to Maj Garlake, he refused to relent and promoted her anyway. The 2/5's First Sergeant was proud that she had been recognized, sure enough, but with a new MXO on the scene, she felt that it wasn't necessary.

Thinking back, the conversation seemed to have come directly out of a SFMC manual, though it seemed so natural at the time...

***MD 73, MCO's office***
"No sir, I can't accept that," Bella said, holding a hand out vertically to Major Garlake, the wisp of a smile crossing his lips.

"Whether you accept it or not, Staff Sergeant Zaltin, is immaterial. You're my First Sergeant, you performed admirably and more than shown that you are ready to serve at the next higher rank. You've also been holding this position at a grade lower than authorized for some time now, also a testament to your leadership and technical competence." The MCO leaned back, steepling his fingers as he cast a look over his shoulder at the head of the Klingon Jackal Mastiff adorning his wall alongside two other animals and the 2/5 banner.

"You know," Garlake began before turning back to Bella, his eyes meeting hers with a steely gaze, "several hundred years ago there was a written promotion examination for new lieutenants. The lieutenants were in charge of a 10 man work party, lead by a Sergeant, and their task was to raise a 75-foot flagpole. No matter how hard the LTs worked, nor how accurate their calculations and planning was, they failed. Do you know why?"

Bella shook her head. "No sir, though I might know where this is going."

Storr's grin widened. "Then you know why you're here. The reason they failed is because the correct solution was to simply give the order 'Sergeant, put up that flagpole.' I depend on you for much more than simply flagpoles but without you, this unit would simply fall apart, and that's a fact. Besides, I need someone to break in Mrazak while I'm gone and you need the rank to back it up. Sergeant, on your feet!"

Bella popped to a standing position, knowing what was coming next.
Despite that knowledge, it still gave her butterflies in her stomach as Storr raised his right hand, prompting Bella to do the same. "Repeat after me:"

"I am a Staff Noncommissioned Officer in the Federation Starfleet Marine Corps. As such, I am a member of the most unique group of professional military practitioners in the world. I am bound by duty to God, Country, and my fellow Marines to execute the demands of my position to and beyond what I believe to be the limits of my capabilities.

I realize I am the mainstay of Marine Corps discipline, and I carry myself with military grace, unbowed by the weight of command, unflinching in the execution lawful orders, and unswerving in my dedication to the most complete success of my assigned mission.

Both my professional and personal demeanor shall be such that I may take pride if my juniors emulate me, and knowing perfection to lie beyond the grasp of any mortal hand, I shall yet strive to attain perfection that I may ever be aware of my needs and capabilities to improve myself. I shall be fair in my personal relations, just in the enforcement of discipline, true to myself and my fellow Marines, and equitable in my dealing with every man."

Bella shook Garlake's hand and, while quizical at the coolness of the touch, upon taking it away had two SSgt pips in her palm. The Caliasian returned her MCO's smile and offered a snappy salute, which he returned.

"Make me proud, Staff Sergeant," the Major said, again his hand out for a shake. Bella nodded and shook his hand heartily. "I can do no less, sir. That's why you have me here".
****

Her mind back on the present, SSgt Zaltin led the fireteam up to the XO. "Reporting for duty with the away team as ordered, sir," she said, smartly saluting Lt Cmdr Avram.

"Where's Lieutenant Mrazak?" Akiva asked with a bit of surprise.

"The LT will be remaining on board due to his...sensitivity to daylight operations," Bella replied, retracting the salute, cracking a nearly-invisible grin as she did, "so I'm afraid that you'll only have us for security and manual labor."

"I saw the Lieutenant's signature on the away mission, so I had assumed he would be present," Akiva explained in a hasty backpedal. "But I am pleased that you could join us. Your squad could prove essential yet again."

SSgt Zaltin nodded in a silent thanks and jerked her head towards the Horsa, the four marines quickly entering the runabout and taking their seats.

Laena walked up to the group that was standing around the shuttle. "Are we expecting trouble?" she asked, eyeing the Marines that were gathered.

Elsie arrived with Laena and she was glad Captain Ainscow had agreed to let her go along. What was more of a reward was Claudia giving Elsie a Science division uniform - albeit with no rank or commbadge - as a reward for discovering the planet they were about to visit. In silence she stood next to Laena with her trusty backpack held in her hand.

"I hope not senorita. This planet is supposed to be uninhabited" José commented.

Nealey stood patiently whilst reading a PADD containing details of the mission. She had been drafted in at the last minute - again - and she wondered what this meant. Nealey certainly wasn't planning on another stint as Chief Operations Officer if she could help it after last time.

Last to arrive, Asher shuffled up nervously to see if Martha was present, breathing a mental sigh of relief to find she wasn't. Asher didn't dislike Martha, but she still had a lot of anxiety around her new friend, so found it best to avoid her where possible until it had settled.

"Okay, I'm here now, sorry I'm late." Asher said, hoping Akiva wouldn't give her a telling off for her tardiness.

"An ounce of prevention is a pound of cure," Akiva quipped, then gestured toward Bella and her squad. "We have four ounces of prevention on hand so we can focus on discovery without having to worry about any surprises." He smiled at his own humor. "Now that everyone is here, does anybody have any questions before we board? Now's the time."

José shook his head - he was ready to get going now seeing as all of his flight checks were now completed and the Horsa was cleared for departure.

"I don't think so," Asher replied, "Commander."

Akiva smiled at the young doctor. The acting Chief Medical Officer had advocated taking the bull by the horns in the senior staff meeting, and that same vigorous energy presented itself now.

"Very well," Akiva said, gesturing toward the shuttle. "Ladies first."

In silence, Laena walked past the Executive Officer without even looking at him.

Elsie followed Laena and once they were inside the runabout the away team's observer - sent along to shadow Laena - she started to look through her bag. It was clear they were going to be down on the planet overnight and in truth Elsie was a bit nervous - but nevertheless she was excited to be off the Vindex for a short while.

"I hope the tents are warm. Last time I went camping it was far too cold" Elsie commented.

"We won't be sleeping in tents tonight," Akiva interjected, hoping to catch a word with Laena. The Stellar Cartographer gave him the cold shoulder, though, so he continued talking to Elsie.
"We'll have a temporary structure with four corners and a roof erected before local nightfall."

Bella snuffed, Fleeters, she thought. Always living in the lap of luxury, unable to endure even a little hardship for a short while. Turning to face the other three ounces, she met their eyes and the same message carried across from them loud and clear, the leers on their faces making it doubly apparent.

"See, there you go," Laena said to Elsie, giving the girl a smile and completely ignoring Akiva. "No need for us to rough it."

José boarded the shuttle and moved into the pilot's seat. Giving everyone a couple of minutes to get ready he continued reading a chapter of the book he was currently reading - with only a couple of pages left he was confident he could finish them before Akiva gave him the order to get underway.

Making herself comfortable, Asher sat as close to the front as possible, hoping to get a couple of photos when the shuttle approached the planet. Flying wasn't something she had done very much of, so Asher was looking forward to the experience.

"Does anyone want any sick bags before we go?" Asher asked, deadly serious.

After a moment of silence from everyone else, Akiva shyly raised his hand. "Yes, please. Thank you."

Pulling a sick bag out of her equipment bag, Asher passed it over to Akiva and then zipped her bag back up again.

José powered up the Horsa and expertly navigated the Horsa out of its designated space in the shuttle bay. With the craft now underway it would be a few minutes before the planet which would become known as Nova Mercia came into view. That few minutes felt like an age as the craft finally entered range of the planet and José took a long admiring glance at it.

"Here we are everyone - that's our planet," José commented.

"It's beautiful." Akiva let his voice taper to a murmur.

Laena leaned closer to the window she sat near, a hand resting on Elsie's shoulder. She smiled, "Look, Elsie. There's your big discovery."

Elsie couldn't say anything - she was mesmerised by her discovery and couldn't wait to set foot on it. After a few moments or so Elsie regained her focus and decided to ask where they were going to start exploring.

"Where are we going to land on the planet?" Elsie asked.

José smiled. "I think that should be down to you - providing the Commander is in agreement of course"

"Somewhere we can set up by the shore. I like the sea but I haven't seen it in so long" Elsie replied.

José turned to Akiva to seek his approval on finding a suitable landing site as per Elsie's request of setting up base camp near the shoreline. José thought it was a good idea and hoped Akiva was in agreement too.

Little Elsie's request made Akiva smile. "I love the sea, too. Where I come from is rather desertous." He turned to José. "Find us a promontory well above sea level. That should give us a secure position with a view."

The Spaniard piloted the craft down to the planet's surface and landed in a suitable spot - with Elsie's approval - before powering down the craft. It had been a smooth and steady flight and José was glad to be getting some more flying experience with the Horsa - a craft he was becoming quite fond of.

"Here we are" José announced.

Laena stood, glad the flight was over. She hated small craft flying, but luckily the Lieutenant made the ride smooth.

"Well, here we are," Akiva said.

Asher stood up, slinging her bag over her right shoulder and waiting for the door to be opened. She hated being in confined spaces like a shuttle for too long, although the length of this flight was within Asher's tolerance levels.

Akiva hung back a moment to speak with Nealey. There was no explanation for Laena's cold shoulder, but maybe he could patch things with Nealey before they rolled up their sleeves.

"I know we've had our disagreements in the past, but I'd like to think this is an opportunity to start fresh. It's been a rough few weeks for the both of us, and we've got a lot of work to do before dark. We'll be stronger working together instead of avoiding each other." He stuck his hand out. "What do you say?"

Nealey turned and faced Akiva. A rough few weeks was an understatement but she was ready to move forward and prove her worth to the Vindex. She was getting professional help to cope with her anger and emotional issues so Nealey was now confident she could use her potential and become the best Starfleet officer she could be. She reached out and shook Akiva's hand firmly but gently.

"I'm all for that sir" Nealey replied.

"You don't know how glad I am to hear that." Akiva smiled warmly. "Let's get to work."

 

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