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Check-Ins | Step 1: Bug the Captain

Posted May 10, 2021, 3:37 p.m. by Lieutenant Tal Abara (Senior Researcher (Cognitive Science)) (Trinity Fister)

Posted by Captain Zachariah Cobb (Commanding Officer) in Check-Ins | Step 1: Bug the Captain
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Posted by Lieutenant Tal Abara (Senior Researcher (Cognitive Science)) in Check-Ins | Step 1: Bug the Captain

Posted by Captain Zachariah Cobb (Commanding Officer) in Check-Ins | Step 1: Bug the Captain

Tal hadn’t expected the question. Leviathan and fun resonated on opposite sides of the spectrum, but she understood their dependence on one another. On ships like Leviathan, she suspected a work-life balance – or work-fun balance – was as much as a necessity as food or sleep. Without it, she couldn’t begin to consider the damage it would have on the crew’s psyche.

“If you’re asking whether I people-watch? The answer’s a hard no.” A flicker of humour infected her otherwise sober cast. “I’ve never been one for idle fun. Hand me a novel, and I’ll probably lose interest by the third chapter. Challenge me to a spar– different story.” Abara, though branded by her intuition and composure, came from restless roots. “I guess you could say my mind is best tamed by a rush of adrenalin or instability curiosity.”

“Oh, you’ll find your home on this ship surely enough,” Zachariah grinned in reply. “It seems a hallmark of almost all my female officers that they can hold their own in a fight. You should talk to our Security Chief, Lt Surda. She runs the most innovative physical training sessions. I have even been known to take part in a few of them myself,” he added with a wry glance to his own physique, as if daring Abara to doubt him from age or rounded belly.

It tickled her to imagine Cobb – whiskey on his breath and a crooked grin cemented to his lips – engaging in a game of parkour and broken bones. Tal dared to expose her amusement with a smirk. A soft, breathy chuckle followed soon after and infected the air with mirth and reverence in equal measure. But she made no mention of its source.

“If I get a wild hair,” an impish tune lurked about her, “I’ll give Lt Surda a holler.”

“I used to kayak and scuba dive,” Tal admitted. “There’s nothing quite like the spray of river water on sunburnt cheeks or the feeling of wonder when you’re 15 metres below. Of course, most of the places I’ve served don’t have rivers. And the holodecks were always too dangerous to bother.” A glint in her eye suggested it hadn’t for lack of trying. “So, I guess the only way to answer your question is to say.. if it sounds fun, I’ll try it.”

“Scuba dive?” the captain echoed, blue eyes sparkling with unrestrained delight. “Why, I hail from the coastlands myself and share with you a deep love of the ocean. I must show you the Leviathan’s lounge, if you have not had call to visit already? There is a wonderful homage to the sea installed in there.”

“A deep love and reverence,” Tal resounded, “I have never met a more fickle love than the ocean.” Cobb’s offer ignited her gaze with fervent interest. “Cerenity acquainted me with the lounge and its residents — one Angel in particular — but I couldn’t decline an excuse to return.”

“Oh, she did now, eh?” Cobb laughed, a genuine fondness swimming quickly through those cerulean eyes. But it was drowned almost instantly by a current of anxious unease.
“It was never in my plans to house children onboard this vessel,” he admitted. “Already you have glimpsed enough to accept that the Leviathan is no ordinary ship. And our cargo no innocuous load. I worry daily for the safety of every member of my crew. But none more than our growing clan of children. And Cerenity seems laden with more troubles than most.”

Abara’s eyes smouldered with fervour. Her intimate knowledge of the universe’s innate cruelty irked her lips not with a pout but a scowl. She stood a witness to its constitution. Born of tragedy and sustained by an inhospitable balance that sought to trivialise magic and miracles, it sickened her. But there were few tragedies so enraging as those that burdened young children, like Cerenity. In what deranged reality was her suffering instrumental to balance? And if the universe existed in equilibrium, why did it seek to lay its iniquity on her shoulders? Tal exerted no control over the harsh, guttural growl expelled from the back of her throat.
“Forgive me, Captain…” she pinched between her eyes ‘…but I find it utterly egregious that Cerenity must endure troubles people our ages haven’t and may never see. She is nothing if not courageous, but I do not wish her tribulations on my worst enemy.”

Some insisted Tal was woefully incapable of consistency – that its permanence terrified her – but she contended her restlessness was fundamental, intrinsic. Tal refused to let habit stop her from enjoying a fleeting existence. So, from mok’bara to Battleships and line dancing to Klingon Opera, Tal pursued, however impetuously, whatever sounded fun. Caution was for the office.

“Beyond playing ‘52 pick-up’ with Vulcan rods..” Her grin enlivened her features, scaling the sides of her flat nose until it reached her eyes “..what does the captain of people do in his downtime?”

– Tal Abara, Cognitive Research

At the reminder of his prior suffering, Cobb unleashed an agonised howl. “Oh, I have neither the precision nor the patience for that damned thing!” he sighed. Then as a roguish smile danced across his lips, added, “But I shall have my revenge on Mr Logan. Tomorrow, twenty-hundred hours, I have plans to meet him on the holodeck and teach him my kind of game. You are most welcome to join us, if you are free? I suspect you might prefer experiencing a novel to merely reading one.”

Tal drummed her fingers against her knee, lips pursued in an intrigued ‘o.’ Her subconscious was piqued by the fleeting nature of Cobb’s patience, leaving her to suspect his concept of games was anchored in sensation over logic. And that alone was enough to say ‘yes.’ Once more at the whim of her curiosity, Tal nodded. “I’ll check my calendar.”

With unhindered glee did the captain clap his hands at Tal’s reply. Clearly his plans for the following evening promised a rare measure of excitement.

The captain drained the remnants of his drink, his mind considering Abara’s question. What indeed does the captain do, when not tormenting Vulcan medics for their unfathomable taste in games?
“I, for one, do like to read,” he decided at last, as if discovering the notion for himself. “And to drink. Alone, usually. Although it does seem as if the crew appreciate my presence in the lounge after hours. On an occasional evening, at any rate.”

  • Captain Zachariah Cobb

Reflex tempted Tal to pose the question of why. Why did he feel the crew was drawn to his company? And why did he prefer silence and solitude to chattier drinking buddies? The restraint apparent in her expression, Tal nodded. “It seems you’ve got a taste for whiskey,” she jabbed her thumb at his emptied glass and paused to down what remained of hers, “did you happen across it, or is there a story?”

She didn’t buy into the notion of alcohol as an extension of the personality. But she knew everyone had a different reason for their tastes. Some being no reason at all.

Without request, Zachariah refilled their glasses, never one to let slip an opportunity for easy conversation.
“Always there is a story,” he began. “From the casual ales of my academy days to the refined liquors and wines of a promising career. In those days I drank for celebration. For contentment. For pleasure and taste and the sheer enjoyment of it all.”

He paused and swallowed his own measure of transient calm.
“Chin’toka, 2374. The Alliance’s first real advance into Cardassian space. I was a rookie back then, an engineer with a battle command and a ship that denied me the anonymity of a jefferies tube. Front and centre on the bridge, somehow I made it through that first battle. Even landed a few casualties of my own. But when I returned to the station with hair almost as white as my face, hands trembling like I had been juggling with live grenades, Admiral Mapple sat me down and forced upon me my first ever shot of whiskey.” He laughed, a dry bark torn from his sandpaper throat. “It took less than a year for me to lose the taste of triumph in that sweet, amber drink, and find the flavour of apathy instead.”

Raising his glass to eye level, Cobb swirled the liquid to a maelstrom, circular current teasing answers to every one of Zachariah’s current woes. But it was a lie as bitter as the drink within and, exhaling from the bottom of his soul, the captain shrugged and slurped down each churning drop.

Tal examined the glass cradled in her palm, intrigued by the sentiment it aroused. There was a time when it’d boggled her to consider the refuge bobbing amid its ambered tide. Now, she observed it with a degree of resignation — a mutual understanding born of disenchantment. When Tal lifted her guileless eyes to Cobb, it was without pity. She would never face the demons he’d conquered, nor those he carried with him, but she could appreciate his fortitude. And whatever semblance of peace he found at the bottom of his glass.

“Pastimes and alcoholism aside,” she shot him a facetious grin that tapered into calm, “what are your expectations for your officers? And is there anything I should be aware of moving forward?”

– Tal Abara, Cognitive Researcher

Her question tore through his introspective gloom, Cobb as prophet of misery replaced in a breath by Captain Cobb in all of his resplendent glory. Or…almost. For still, the nature of her query demanded an answer such as only Zachariah could phrase.

“I expect you not to die,” he replied with utmost sincerity. “And that can be a tall order on a vessel such as this. But I also have no desire to waste that brilliant mind of yours. So while we remain at the starbase, if there is a project or an anomaly that you wish to engage in study then I shall endeavour to furnish your lab with whatever equipment, and test subjects, you may require. All you need to do, Miss Abara, is ask.”

  • Captain Zachariah Cobb

Tal nodded slowly, deliberately. She absorbed his words, digesting them in such quiet that it dared to consume her. “…Understood,” she spoke calmly, her poise disturbing any confidence in whether she was genuine or merely a skilled actress. “I appreciate your consideration, Captain, and I’ll be sure to provide you a brief statement by the end of this week.”

Her poised tempered into sincerity, a fleeting struggle between her trained and pure natures staggering her. Something lingered on the tip of her tongue, but Tal shook it away, favouring a smile. “I cannot pretend serving aboard Leviathan will be easy,” she assured, “but I pray it’s not too naive to say I’m… eager to start.”

— Tal Abara, Cognitive Researcher


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