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SD241802.28 - Joint Log - Smith, Sha'mer - "Asking the Right Questions"

Posted on 241803.11 @ 16:55 by Lieutenant Commander John Smith & Lieutenant Ra'lin Sha'mer
Edited on on 241803.12 @ 19:31

Mission: Lacuna
Location: Cold Station Theta
Timeline: Midnight

=^= Masquerade Ball =^=

"And that ladies and gentlemen was our show! Two minutes until midnight!"

Ears pricking, the man in the black mask was certain he recognised the voice of his Wintery companion from earlier in the evening. It was coming from the source of the disturbance on the other side of the hall, where lots of waiters appeared to have crowded round. Perhaps some form of stage performance, though the realistic sound of weapons fire had been a poor choice, in his opinion. It was so realistic that several people near him had flinched at the sound, and he could only imagine what terrible memories their little game was invoking in the rest of the audience.

Whatever the show was, he wasn't sorry to have missed it.

In any event, the moment was over, and now it was almost time for midnight. Remembering what the young Doctor had told him earlier about midnight being a time for demasking, he idly swept the crowd with his eyes, seeking the tell-tale shimmer of her fiery ensemble.

She wasn't difficult to spot, standing next to a man who wore a lot of paint, a pair of antlers which made him nearly twice as tall as she was, and very little else. Due to her height, or rather her lack of it, she hadn't caught what had happened either, but she knew Rochelle well enough to pick up the stress in the voice few other people would've noticed. She wondered what had happened, but realised she wasn't going to find out right now. So, nothing she could do about it – whatever had happened, had happened, and was beyond her control. So she shelved it and waited for the official end of the night.

When she caught sight of the man in the black mask, she waved him over. "Hi!" she said softly once he reached her. "Thirty seconds."

"Indeed." he replied, taking a brief pause to consult the modest timepiece under his sleeve. "Do you happen to know what that was about?" he asked, investing a handful of the remaining seconds to indulge his idle curiosity. The popping, crackling, and gunfire had all felt real to him, which either meant a very thorough performance, or something had gone badly wrong. He disliked being out of the loop like this, and a part of him was still fighting the urge to rush over and engage with the problem. If there was one.

Ra'lin shook her head. "No idea. If it was a real show, it's fine. If not, the gossip mill will pick it up soon enough," she said. She had tried sending a short mental ping to her mom via the link they shared, thinking that Sha'mer, from her higher vantage point, might've noticed more. But there had been no reaction there, so her mom didn't know either or she didn't want to tell. Ra'lin shrugged.

Around them, people began to count down.

"Ten." mumbled a few introverts, glancing sheepishly at the big clock and feeling foolish for speaking first.

"Nine!" cried a gaggle of kind-hearted girls half to encourage the wallflowers, and half to encourage the drunken lads.

"Eight!" bellowed the drunken lads, keen to make any kind of noise.

"Seven!" cautioned a few of the older crowd, giving stern looks to the younger folk through their masks.

"Six!" screamed the more nasal of the girls, who hadn't twigged that they were far too loud.

"Fiiiiiiiiiiiivvvveeeee!" yodelled a streaker, wearing only a mask as he rocketed across the dance floor and disappeared into the shrubbery.

"Four!" shouted security, chasing the streaker into the bushes and catching up when the fellow tripped on a rope.

"Three!" sighed the crowd as the streaker was removed, rolling their collective eyes at the shenanigans and exchanging a few grins.

"Two!" cried those who had sought their favoured companion at the last moment, crying out joyously as they found each other.

"One!" yelled some, caught up in the moment. Others whispered the number as they gazed deep into the eyes of their paramour.

"Happy New Year!" cheered the crowd as midnight struck, the large clock marking the time with a loud series of *bongs*. Holographic projectors lit up around the hall as simulated fireworks streamed out of the flowers and burst overhead, surrounded by fountains of glitter from the tops of the trees. Around the hall hands were waved in the air as people celebrated, some holding masks and laughing with surprise and glee, others holding their partner in passionate embrace. More than a few wallflowers found themselves hugging each other despite themselves, caught up in the excitement of it all.

In one corner of the hall, the man in the black mask turned to face his fiery companion. Reaching up, the stranger gripped his disguise and drew it over his head; revealing a pair of kindly blue eyes, and a mop of curly brown hair.

"Hello, I'm John." he said, offering a warm smile.

The flames died down, and the fiery mask came off, revealing short, dark brown hair shot through with lighter strands, brown eyes and a grin like a pixie. Ra'lin extended her hand. "Ra'lin. Pleasure to meet you." She looked around, at people removing masks and taking off holo-emitters everywhere. Here and there were exclamations of surprise, laughter, and at least one startled shriek. Then she looked back again. "Yeoman on the USS Vindicator," she added. "I hope that's not too disappointing."

"Not at all." he assured her, touching her elbow lightly to indicate his sincerity. "I knew you were in a position of responsibility and influence, and it seems I was correct. Behind every great person is a great woman." he paraphrased, adapting the proverb to reflect the Vindicator's female CO.

Ra'lin grinned again. "Oh yes. I'm a killer when it comes to reading reports and summarising them. And I can make itineries or change them in a flash." She nodded. "Other than that, try to manage my CO and you'll find out quickly enough that she if doesn't want to be managed, she won't budge. So, what about you?"

"I was assigned to the USS Bachaanevaala as their Chief Diplomat. I'm sure I would have an opinion on the posting if I could actually find the ship." he groused, pursing his lips for a moment. All night he'd been mentioning his new posting to everyone who would stand still for five seconds, and he had yet to find a single person who had even heard of the vessel.

"My apologies. I was hoping to find some clue as to the whereabouts of my posting tonight, and found nothing. It was unfair of me to take that out on you." he acknowledged, taking a moment to breathe and regain his poise.

"Well, that shouldn't be too difficult to find," Ra'lin said. Her mind was racing. "You were sent here because that ship would come to Cold Station Theta, right? So all we need to do is check with all ships which are docked here within a certain period whether or not a Chief Diplomat is assigned to their staff. Maybe there was a mix-up in names or something, you'd be surprised how often that happens. And if that doesn't yield results, then maybe we can determine where the Bachaanevaala is, maybe it's docked with another Cold station somewhere else. I can run the check from the Vindicator, or even from here – we're docked, so umbilical to the station, so shared databases…" she walked over to one of the comm panels near the entrance of the arboretum as she talked.

The first thing John thought was an appreciation for the way Ra'lin had taken the problem and broken it down. His assumption that the name of the vessel was accurate had been challenged, along with several other assumptions centering around the infallibility of Starfleet beaurocracy. Since his main contact point had been Commander Bhatia, an officer he knew and respected, he had associated his trust in her with his trust in the information she had relayed to him. Ra'lin didn't have this emotional association, so she was free to think outside of his box.

Or perhaps she was just smarter than him.

That second thought was driven by the first thing John *felt*, which was a healthy dose of injured pride. Fortunately the yeoman's back was currently towards him, so the brief glower that darkened his features came and went where she could not see.

"You make it look easy." he said to her, striking an upbeat tone as the ego bruising started to fade, "I'm impressed."

"Thanks," Ra'lin turned around and smiled. "I'm just good with padds and databases, is all. It helps with my function. Anyway…" She turned back and began to manipulate the console, thinking aloud. "Well, I can't find any mention of the Bachaanevaala in the LCARS network, unless I misspelled it… No? Alright… ships docked with the station right now, Vindicator, of course, USS Endeavour… that's it. The rest are runabouts or shuttles or private stuff. Stenellis ships around the corner, that's not our concern… That narrows it down considerably. Lemme check Vindi's roster first, that's easy enough to access. For the Endeavour I'll probably need to prod my counterpart. Okay, position is Chief Diplomat, name is John…?"

Before her companion was able to answer, the computer gave a 'briep' which sounded annoyed. Ra'lin scowled. "Now what? Are you kidding?" That last was obviously not aimed at him, but at the computer. "Funny. The Vindi computer knows I have the night off and won't accept any queries until noon tomorrow. Probably because Rochelle knows that I'd have the reports on her desk by seven otherwise. Well, damn…" She flicked the screen off with a nail and scowled at it. "If you want me to try tomorrow, let me know."

"Certainly. Thank you." he replied, keeping it friendly. She had certainly opened up some avenues of inquiry for him, and perhaps he would contact her tomorrow once he'd cooled off with a good night's sleep. He noticed that many around them were bidding their farewells, and elected to do the same.

"Well tonight has been great fun. My appreciation for your efforts." said John, offering a farewell smile.

"It has been, indeed! Thank you for a lovely evening, and I hope to see you tomorrow, then," Ra'lin smiled at him and slipped away.

=^= End of Log =^=

Lt Cmdr John Smith
Chief Diplomat
USS Unknown


Lt. Ra'lin Sha'mer
USS Vindicator



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