Uss Vindicator

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[JL] Capt Irelle, Cmdr Drei | "Flash of a Smile"

Posted on Fri Apr 14th, 2023 @ 3:02am by Commander Saagran Drei & Captain Eirlys Irelle

4,545 words; about a 23 minute read

Mission: Genesis
Location: Observation Lounge - USS VINDICATOR


The words echoed off faceted chambers left unseen before being swallowed by forgotten fathoms long since darkened and forsaken by any sun or star. Usually, the sound of her own voice booming those fated words was enough to wake Eirlys from her sleep, but - for whatever twisted and macabre reason - the sanctity of consciousness refused to embrace her. Instead, the sandman kept his hold over her, leaving her stuck with her eyes rapidly moving beneath closed lids as her brain switched into overdrive. With whispered bits of unheard lullabies, dreamland allowed her to bear witness to her own frantic motions during the last fated moment’s of the USS Proxima.

In both reality and in her memory-addled dream, sweat rolled down Eirlys’ spotted brow, following along bits of bright copper hair that had plastered itself to her damp, clammy skin. Her eyes had grown dark, defiant, and stormy with determination - her jaw had set tight, leaving no room for the science vessel’s second in command to even consider betraying his Captain’s final orders.

It was clear… The young, spirited woman had every intention of going down with the ship now that she’d identified the sequence that would set it off like a stack of Roman candles. The moment the vessel met a certain part of its geo-syncronous orbit around Ganymede, the entire thing would go up - the explosion designed to positively destroy the colony below. The scientists living and working at the station below had already begun evacuation procedures, having heeded the young Captain’s warning. The last thing she’d seen before departing the ship’s bridge had been its view screen lighting up with indications of shuttles fleeing Jupiter’s largest moon for the safety of open space - avoiding their own clash with destiny.

“I hope you know what you’re doing, Eirlys.” Gustav had growled, looking down at his diminutive boss. So little. He could have just swept her up and carried her off, taking her to safety instead of leaving her to try and diffuse an impossible situation on her own. His words, however, conjured forth a bright flash of warning across her impossibly blue eyes. Sure. He could carry her off, but he’d likely be badly injured in the process and the repercussions of defying his superior officer would likely mean his death regardless.

This was Ravnsson’s Starfleet. Ravnsson’s Federation.

“I hope so too.” She replied, “Now go!”

With only moments to spare, the hulk of a man had simply nodded and left her where she stood in Engineering.

The next five minutes were a blur. Fingers flying across controls, wires being cut, systems going down. A coruscate of sparks as emergency stops were pulled and then… A moment of sheer bliss and relief when one piece of the puzzle finally fit and all hope wasn’t lost.

Eirlys’ shoulders drooped, her nose tipped towards the ceiling as she allowed herself to finally breathe and laugh as relief washed over her and left her features twisted in no small amount of mirth, maybe even genuine happiness, as she felt the vindication she had so desperately wanted to achieve.

Ravnsson’s plan had fai–

A scream of a klaxon and bark of the computer talking about antimatter containment failure was perhaps the most sobering thing that Eirlys had ever heard. The laughter silenced immediately. Her face fell to something far more somber - but rose again with savage determination as she began doing what she could to solve the problem at hand - to stop the catastrophic failure and explosion that was about to happen. It wouldn’t impact the moon below nearly as badly - not by a long shot - but it would spell her death and the end of the Proxima and likely any number of escape pods still within a certain distance of the ailing ship.

In the end, the result was what was to be expected. An explosion. One that blinded her and, in an instant, changed her life as it tore through the very fiber of space and time and took her along for a ride that dear old Stephen Hawking would have found absolutely fascinating - considering it unlocked a series of doors that ultimately deposited her on the stoop of another universe entirely. A lifetime far far away. A much different Ganymede, and in someone’s rose garden no less.

Of course she woke with a start, flailing briefly against her blankets and pillows until the steady hum of the Vindicator’s systems caught hold of her frayed and tattered senses. For several seconds she sat there in the dark, soothed by the ship's steady life force as she regained control of her racing heart and ragged breathing. "Logan's gonna love this…" Eirlys finally sneered with a groan, wiping stray hair from her face and detangling herself from her sheets.

Less than ten minutes later, clad in a green sweater that was easily two or three sizes too large for her frame and a pair of leggings, the Eirlys took to the Vindicator’s hallowed corridors. The fingers of one hand toyed with the little gold rose blossom hung from around her neck, idly tugging it slowly back and forth along its delicate chain. Each step offered gravity and levity, rerooting her in the present instead of the past. It promised her the future, reminding her of her survival even in the face of such bewildering adversity - and, of course, her success at having exposed Ravnsson and leaving him in ruins in another universe and timeline far far away.

That part always brought back the light in her eyes.

At least it all hadn't been for nothing. The people weren't still suffering.

She hoped.

By the time Eirlys had come upon the observation lounge, she'd damn near been ready to follow her feet back to the warmth of her own bed. However, the promise of an unfettered view of the stars far better than her own windows could offer managed to draw her in… Or was it something else entirely? She'd never be entirely sure. The only thing she was completely certain of was her surprise at finding her XO standing near one of the deck to ceiling windows, gazing out at the very celestial bodies that had beckoned to her.

"Good…" much to her chagrin, a quick glance towards a faintly glowing wall-mounted chronometer revealed the less than wholesome time of two A.M., "morning." She greeted him nonetheless. Her voice was hushed, still rough and smoky from sleep and trauma, and low as she spoke and settled in near the window a short distance from him. "Insomnia?"

Oh my captain. What a quaint notion to have, even for a Trill. "Not quite. Sometimes I just find myself wanting to look out at the stars." The last was said with a gesture to the window and a look of intense self-satisfaction on his face. As if he had produced the most wonderful gift of all. "You know sometimes I don't think we realize how lucky we are. To be out here. Aboard this ship. In this place and time."

Eirlys' initial response was to allow her head to cant gently off to one side in consideration of the Betazoid, his points, and the fact he had chosen to trade sleep for stargazing. "You might be right." She conceded with a small nod, speaking slowly as she sorted through her own thoughts and allowed herself to follow his gesture with her eyes - taking in the expanse of the starfield beyond. "Some of us may take the entire thing for granted." Did she? The question blinked in her mind like some sort of computer prompt, begging for an answer of Y or N before she could proceed back to her regularly scheduled programming. In some ways, maybe she did take the fact she was standing there, alive, at 2 o'clock in the morning, stargazing and conversing instead of being... Well... Dead in some other dark universe practically devoid of hope and light. It was a cruel thought. One heavily laden with guilt. "Do you?" She asked, not daring to look at him - as if not denying him her gaze would hide her mood and thoughts.

There was a moment before he replied. As if the question had prompted him to think. "I'm an old soul," he finally said as he found another seat and settled himself down. The almost boyish eagerness was gone, for some inexplicable reason. As if her question carried a great weight to it. "I believe in the miracle of being here each and every day, and with it I get to see great and marvelous things. There's no such thing as taking the world for granted when there's a miracle outside your door every day. Unless you go out the door expecting daily miracles. In which case you might be in the wrong business." He leaned back, tenting his hands, watching her.

"Or not expecting much any anything." She shot back with a mild snort, finally granting him her gaze, "I think... Maybe... Some people grow too comfortable with the monotony that is day to day life." She shrugged, knowing the answer was hardly fitting, "Meanwhile, there's some of us who have no idea what our reason is or how we fit in." Eirlys shrugged, offering a small, uncertain smile that turned into a sigh, "Of course, there are some that are completely cocksure and think they've got it all figured out and the details mean nothing."

"If we knew what our reason is and how we fit into the grand scheme of things, well, that wouldn't be much fun now, would it?" The tone was back, albeit diminished, and an eyebrow wagged at her. "Imagine going through life with it all mapped out, all predictable. Stale. Uninteresting. You might as well be a single cell on a petri dish for all the good it would do the world. But out there - there's where the adventure is. Where the trail of discovery keeps on going, and you can find your place."

The eyebrows wagged again, before the corners of his mouth rose around the sides of the tented fingers. He lowered them as he spoke. "You haven't seemed to have done too badly on that score. Jumped timelines. Jumped dimensions. And look at you. Still managed to land on your feet in the end. Oh sure, maybe a stumble or two along the way, but you're still doing well - all things considered."

It was her turn to raise her brows, and she did so with a dip of her head in his direction, "Ah so you've been reading through my records too." Of course he had. She'd thumbed through his, and found it remarkable if relatively 'normal'. Nothing fantastical had stood out, leaving her the lone duck 'weirdo' of the pair. "There's a lot in there that was left out for the sake of brevity, you know. I think it's a combination of those parts and those that you were able to read that leave me questioning to stability of the ground I've landed on."

Eirlys' weight shifted from one hip to another, and her fingers stilled against the gold rose, letting it settle into the hollow of her throat, "Maybe that's also the fun part."

"You know, I didn't know that fascinating human predilection for dancing had reached Trill. It makes me curious about how good of a dancer you are, captain. You certainly seem to have a talent for it if you've stayed on your feet for this long." The eyebrows wagged again. "And yes, I quite agree: it certainly can liven things up."

"Dancing?" She questioned, and then it immediately dawned on her. "Oh! Yeah no... I mean.. Maybe. I'm not quite as good a dancer as you'd think." Taking a seat, the tired little Captain couldn't help but smile in embarrassed amusement, "I'm only half Trill, and from what I gather, my father definitely knows how to dance. Either the Trill engage in the art, like they do every other art, or he learned it during his Academy days." Stars alive, she was tired and now babbling on about dancing with Betazoid. Dancing and stars and belonging. A very very strange combination if there ever was one.

Or maybe it was his way of getting her to take a seat. Clever.

"As far as livening things up? Yeah... Sure. You could say that." Her head bobbed lightly in agreement as she tucked her legs underneath herself and settled in for deeper conversation, "So... Here, in this universe or dimension or whatever you want to call it," A single hand made a grand circular gesture as if to encompass everything around them as she spoke, "Ravnsson failed pretty damn quick, right? Thwarted by my mother and her tribe and all that, disappeared and never to be heard from again. Right? Right." She nodded as if to cement her own thoughts, "In my place of existence..." Eirlys paused briefly before shaking her head, "Previous place of existence. Whatever. Ravnsson succeeded and ruled as a tyrant for close to twenty-six years before I pulled the stunt that landed me here. So... Here? I technically should only exist as a little girl, but here I am and the little girl version is still toddling around being raised by parents I never got to meet... Until recently. It's pretty screwed up." She chuckled. "Lively, though."

"The fact that you can even acknowledge it is progress, though, captain. Why there must have been a counselor or two who about swore off seeing you, after you first crossed over. Such a radiant story of pain, loss, and victory. You know what," he said, eyes wide as he snapped his fingers. "You should write a book! Give the people something to really read about, instead of that drivel coming out of Earth these days."

Silence won for a minute, maybe two, as she straight up stared at him and tried to convince herself that he really had said what she thought he did - and maybe. just maybe, he was being genuine and not trying to yank on her chain, "Y'know... I think I'll pass on that idea. Thanks though."

He made a tsk'ing sound and mournfully shook his head. "And thus did my time in the writing industry come to a sudden halt. Dead before it started. Why my dear Aunt Betty will be so crushed." He looked positively forlorn for all of three seconds. In the end the quiver in the corner of his mouth gave him away, and he settled back into the chair. "I suppose there are advantages to being you, though, and also having little you around. Just think of when she's older! The trouble you two can get into!"

"Oh yes... Because she'll really want to hang out with a fifty-something year old clone when she's in her early twenties." Eirlys tried her damnedest to stifle the laugh that threatened to bubble over, "I'm starting to think your dear Aunt Betty is going to lament your career as a counselor as well." She almost regretted sending the barb in his direction, but something warned her that the man's thin was thicker than the Vindicator's hull plates. He'd bounce back just fine - and while she may, on the off chance, have pushed him a touch off kilter with her little verbal assault against his ego, she chose to worm her way a bit deeper.

"Since we have a microscope over my life and oddities. Why don't we swing it on over towards yours," Leaning closer towards the Commander, Eirlys expertly scooted her chair a couple inches in his direction, "Betazoids almost exclusively have black eyes," She continued, "You, however, have heterochromia which suggests there's more than just dark eyes in your genetic makeup. Any ideas there you got those dazzlingly different peepers?"

"Why captain, you flatter me. I had no idea you were so interested in eyes. Mine, specifically." The comment was followed by a lean in her direction, as if confiding a great secret. "In truth, I have no idea. It came down from my mother. Who it came from before her, I don't know." He shrugged his shoulders and made a face. And if you decide to get inquisitive, well, that's nothing that can't be fixed. "I hope this doesn't portend some macabre fascination with eyeballs. I'll be sorely disappoint in the vetting process for captaincy if my eyes wind up in a cabinet."

The conspiratory lean continued and with a whisper, she killed any and all idea of harvesting the Commander's eyeballs for any weird collection, "I think that's another idea I'll pass on. Calm down." The very idea made her nose wrinkle in abject disgust. "No such cabinet and no such desire exist... But curiosity certainly does. I suppose the weirdness in me recognizes and honors the weirdness in you. At least yours is a lot more interesting."

"I can't say that I've ever been told that I'm weird before. Which is surprising, because there was a period at the Academy where I was known for hijinks." He looked at his hands for a moment, then back to her. "I don't think Boothby ever forgave me for switching the labels on the plants. He had so many inquiries about the new species of 'cactus' that looked like a pine tree, that day."

Biting her lip to keep from laughing, Eirlys gave a rather exaggerated nod as she processed the mental images his words conjured. Pine cacti. "You... Switched the labels." The nod continued until she couldn't contain the broad smile and exasperated laugh that escaped, "Of course you did. And now you're here at two in the morning, engaging me in a philosophical debate or sorts." Her hands slid along her thighs, wrinkling her leggings beneath the pressure of her fingers as she sighed, "Because... Why not?" If there was one thing Eirlys knew for absolutely certain, it was that she couldn't and wouldn't be taking the strange fellow for granted. One slip up and she'd wind up with some other version of pine cacti.

"Why not indeed," he said with a wink, in a rather self-satisfied sort of way. As if the question was the answer. Or maybe the laugh that had been the answer he was looking for. A moment later he continued, albeit with a slight apologetic tone in his voice. "Now rest assured captain, I will not unleash terror on hydroponics. I'm sure they have enough problems to deal with. Without my special blend of weirdness getting in the way." There was a slight jab there. As if returning the sentiment from earlier.

"Why not indeed..." She repeated with a soft snort and a good humored sigh. "Listen... You tell me you won't screw around with hydroponics and I'll take it at face value. You wouldn't want to disappoint me, would you? That would be totally against the weirdo code of ethics."

"Why do I get the feeling that you doubt me?" he asked in an almost-shocked voice, leaning back only slightly. "I would never want to disappoint my captain. Like you said, it would be completely against the code of ethics. And we couldn't have that happening now, could we? I'd be paying penance for years to come."

"Decades, truly. It's a really bad look and no one wants that." The redhead's voice drawled. The fake scowl remained long after the final note disappeared between them, and she considered him and the rhetorical question he'd dropped. The choice to pick it up was hers alone and while she should have left it to die, the curiosity she felt was absolutely insatiable. All of the 'what if...' that comes with poking something dangerous - and the adrenaline laced thrill that accompanied - ran wild through her sleep deprived system.

She stole the space he'd rescinded, allowing her arm and body to drape across the arm of her chair as she raised an eyebrow and looked him up and down. The scowl faded, leaving her mouth resting in a far more neutral position that refused to give any hint of her thoughts, "Do I need to doubt you, Commander Drei? Have you something far more insidious in store for me than swapping labels on my plants?"

"Insidious? I would never dream of such a thing," he said in a voice that almost scoffed at the possibility. A moment later he leaned in, invading the recently-retaken space. "Why? Did you see something that caused you to doubt me? Do you want me to surprise you, to confirm your suspicions? Because I think you'll find that I'm more than up to the challenge."

Someone more experienced at these games of cat and mouse, and communicating in general, likely would have given the space back to him and retreated out of his bubble. Some would have even feared the thinly veiled threat and flex of power and taken him in ways far darker than perhaps intended.

Eirlys didn't even consider it. Instead she remained perfectly poised in her chosen roost, considering him as he came close enough that should feel the energy of his life force radiating off him and interacting with her own. "Have I challenged you?" She asked with a nearly imperceptible tilt of her head, "Or have I called your bluff?" Her eyebrows rose in inquiry, choosing to poke at him further, testing uncharted waters that should have been left for times far more civilized.

Oh captain, how I do delight in this little exchange of ours. "Well," he said, with a slight twist of his neck and a look on his face, before his eyes went back to looking at hers. "I suppose there are some that might think that. But I suppose it wouldn't be fun knowing right away, would it? After all, a little mystery can be a good thing. I've heard that's a popular human idea."

"Oh, so you think you're mysterious?" This time the Captain’s question came with a rather sardonic quirk of her lips. To her, he appeared to have yielded a bit of psychological ground, trying to ease away from the prodding she provided - and rather than accepting his white flag, she persisted just a bit further. "I fail to see you picking up a challenge which means I've called your bluff and it was, indeed, a bluff." Eirlys dug further, enjoying the chance he'd granted her to really study those eyes of his. They were unfathomable, offering little of his secrets, but proudly boasted the intensity of his intelligence, the quiet calm of his demeanor and his amusement. No anger or cruelty resided within them, and that was enough for her.

"Maybe you were right about taking things for granted after all." She all but whispered.

I was mistaken. It's not an exchange. What an interesting game you're playing tonight, captain. I haven't been this intrigued in years. His eyes continued to stare into hers, as if searching for something of their own there. "Maybe I was, and maybe I wasn't," came his response, with not an inch of ground being given. His voice was low, the volume pitched at sufficient volume to reach her ears and only just, with barely enough force to wash across her face. "But you won't know until you decide to find out for yourself."

How they'd gotten to that point, where the posturing and philosophy based teasing had turned into a rather intriguing round of 'chicken' between two rather stubborn forces, eluded her. She'd later give it more thought than it was due, trying to dissect what had happened. In the interim, her eyes dipped briefly from his to encompass the rest of his face, gauging the distance - or lack thereof - between them.

The years had been kind to him, granting his features a stately maturity without marring them with unnecessary lines. He was, to say the least, easy on the eyes. More than easy on the eyes. She'd be remiss if she said he was anything less than downright delightful. Up close and personal, perhaps even more so.

"Audentes fortuna iuvat." Eirlys murmured the old Latin in response, knowing that it played off the crest of the very ship they stood in Command of. It was a quick reminder that there was a playback to be followed verbatim - or so the Academy demanded. Was it ever? So many names and instances strongly suggested that those rules were more like suggestions and guidelines than solid and finite barriers.

The corners of his eyes crinkled, as if in faint amusement. It was as if he recognized the inner struggle and could somehow see it unfolding. Maybe he did. Maybe he'd been there before, where she stood now, at the crossroads. Whether or not he saw the words for being a reminder, however, wasn't so clear. Eyes could only go so far in expressing inner feelings, after all.

While one would like to have said that the moment continued in time, alas, it could only go for so long. Eyes could only search a face and other eyes for so long. The chair creaked in protest as he leaned back without choosing to push the matter further. "It does indeed, mon capitaine."

And all at once, with an almost audible pop, the spell was broken. Eirlys brought her fingers to her mouth, covering a small throat clearing cough as she nodded and ducked away from him, sitting up properly in her seat with a nod, "As well it should always."

Great cover.

The hand at her mouth dropped until its fingers curled once more about the rose at her throat, worrying it yet again as she navigated unsettled waters, "Anyway," she forced a polite smile, "We have to be on the bridge in just a few hours. I should let you get your beauty sleep."

"Beauty sleep? But we're in Starfleet. I believe they took that away at the gangway." The smile was back, as was that attitude. The smile was perhaps just a tad broader, though. Or was it? "But I'll see you on the bridge, captain. In a few hours."

She could have said any number of smart assed things in return, something smug about how he needed that beauty sleep more than most. It would have been a lie, but he'd left the goal wide open for her to take the shot - and she didn't. Eirlys smiled as she found herself getting to her feet and offering him the smallest goodbye wave, "Something like that. Sleep well, Commander. I'll take into consideration what you said about... Well... Everything."

There was another flash of the smile, and then he was gone out the door.


Captain Eirlys A. Irelle
Commanding Officer

Commander Saagran Drei
Executive Officer, Acting


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