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Informal Introductions

Posted on Tuesday October 10th, 2017 @ 3:22am by Lieutenant Commander Damien Blackford

Mission: Mission 0: Crew Arrival
Location: Aft Crew Lounge

The crisp air of the lounge hit Scott's face like a splash of cold water as the doors opened to reveal an active ship lounge, much to his surprise. He had assumed, incorrectly, that the crew would be exploring the station and its various shops and bars. However, a mixture of departments, species, and ranks encompassed the room giving it a sense of life, the first true feeling of energy Parker felt since being on the ship.

On the right side of the room spanned a long bar with two or three bar keeps behind it. He slowly shifted his way through the people, giving slight grins and nods as they noticed the pips on his neck. The same thoughts quickly came to him, I wonder if they know me, know the past? All passed, though, as he stepped up to order.

"Scotch neat," he requested. Whether they were new or simply quick to impress, he quickly had his drink in his hand. Turning to lean his back against the bar and raising the glass to his lips, he finally received a good moment to gaze upon the crew present. Many were young, probably inexperienced. Starfleet had given him a gem with many new officers straight out of the academy. The familiar warm taste rushed down his throat as he scanned the crowd. A Vulcan, multiple humans, an Andorian.

Finally his eyes rested on Damien Blackford. The meeting earlier in the day hadn't gone as bad as Scott had expected. Nonetheless, he understood they would be working together the next few months, whether he was fond of the idea or not. He cut through the crowd over to the table where the XO sat.

"Mister Blackford, may I?" He asked.

With the arrival of the man in charge, Damien quickly got out of his chair and replied with stiff respect and formality, "Please, sir." He gestured at the other seat, across from where he'd been drinking his mug of synthale. Yet, once again, the same as before when they'd spoken in Parker's ready room, there was a sense of standoffishness that came from the younger man, and a look in his blue eyes that was cold.

"Relax," Scott said as he sat down. "Please," he added when the Executive didn't sit down right away. "We're not on shift. Take a load off."

"Aye, sir," Damien took his seat at least, but ordering him to relax - as he certainly took the statements as such - didn't mean he could manage that. He placed his hands around his mug, but didn't drink, and he looked tense. "Was there something I can do for you, Captain?"

"Specifically, no," Scott replied between small sips and let the anticipation simmer.

This time around, Damien seemed a little more unsure, caught off guard by Parker when he'd been relaxing and observing the new crew getting to know one another. He didn't squirm, but he did try to fill the silence, "Everything is on schedule for the launch, Captain. Delivery of our compliment of torpedoes has been moved up to Tuesday as well."

Perhaps it was the alcohol, perhaps it just a growing nag in the bottom of his gut that caused Scott to jump to his main point, the reason he stepped over. "Captain Michelle Blackford, who is that to you?" He asked.

Damien let out a heavy breath, and said with an almost wry tone, "That didn't take long." He stared at his synthale for a moment, quiet, then up to meet Parker's gaze. "Michelle Blackford is my mother." Damien lifted his mug and started to drink.

While he already knew the connection, Scott felt better that he heard it come from Damien himself. He quickly suppressed flashbacks to the court marshal and kept steady on the XO. He chose his next words carefully, given the strong chance the man was a spy, in some sense of the word. "I nearly lost my career, you know," he said more metaphorically rather than a question.

"Yes, sir, I do," Damien said flatly, keeping any hint of tone and judgement out of his voice. Even his face had gone very still, hiding whether he might agree with his mother's judgement on that case; she had been aggressively diligent in trying to see Parker thrown in prison.

Surprisingly, there was no anger under the looks Scott was giving. He was smart enough to know that Damien wasn't involved in his career's near demise. Still, he truly hadn't thought of how to proceed with this inevitable conversation. He just continued to gaze on the Executive and his glass, back and forth, waiting for him to proceed.

"You know, I knew this was coming eventually," Damien said, and finally he let his guard down somewhat around his new superior. He gave a wry smile, the sort that was frustrated at the circumstances but finding some dark humor in it as well. "The moment I received my orders, I was dreading this conversation where you'd bring up who my parents are, and what they tried to do to you."

"That's understandable," Scott replied. He was constantly reminding himself of the usual clichés, the past is the past... live in the present. He also realized that he was making some progress with his Executive, albeit small. His number one goal was to protect the Ark Royal and all those onboard; working well with Blackford only furthered the completion of that goal.

Damien took a sip of his synthale, and settled the mug back on top of the table with both hands wrapped around it once more. It seemed logical that Commander Parker wanted more from him than just this admission, perhaps even wanted to know where his first officer stood on the whole sordid situation. His attention was on his drink for a moment as he put his words together as diplomatically as possible.

"Captain," Damien began, lifting his gaze to meet the other's eyes. "I want you to understand, I don't approve of how I wound up under your command. I think I've earned the right to be here, that my record speaks for itself." He was almost admitting out loud that his assignment was more than the usual, that he had been placed here with an ulterior purpose.

Nodding in agreement, Scott already knew that Damien was as displeased about the current situation as he was. "Yes Blackford, you do deserve to be where you are; I can't argue with that. You understand that I have my reservations, though. You being assigned to me isn't coincidental," he said. The question was whether the assignment was to prepare Blackford for a command of his own one day, or to report back to Starfleet Parker's every move.

Damien nodded too, confirming that, "Yes, sir, I do." This was not how he had ever imagined his life would be like when he finally managed to reach the position of executive officer of a starship. Unthinkingly, he lifted a hand so that his fingers could touch the new, gold-rimmed black pip at his collar. A month ago, he'd been a lieutenant. Was his promotion too just a part of his parent's manipulation?

"Captain, permission to speak freely?" Damien had lowered his voice and glanced around to make sure none of the crew enjoying themselves in the lounge were close enough to overhear their conversation.

“Go ahead,” Scott replied while lifting the glass back up.

"I'm here to a do a job, sir," Damien began, opening up with more honesty than he had so far, but still holding back slightly. Somehow he hoped he could figure this out, how to do this job right, but couldn't see around the fact that he was going to piss someone off. "My first duty is to Starfleet, and that means I'll serve this ship and this crew to the best of my ability. I'll carry out your orders that way as well. But...I know about the Fearless, and I have orders from other superiors as well. I just hope you can understand that."

With all the events of getting the Ark Royal ready for departure, Scott was irritated that he was having to deal with a conversation such as this. He heard the words, I have order from other superiors as well, as Damien spoke and they stuck to him as he continued to shift his gaze from the Executive to his glass... back and forth.

"Other orders?" He finally asked.

A longer silence this time, as Damien grew even more visibly uncomfortable with the whole conversation. It wasn't right, being placed in this position, but even if he felt a little sorry for himself he was going to do his job. "I suppose it's just a...reiteration of a responsibility that any first officer has, Captain, but not one I think anyone looks forward to." Damien finished his synthale and looked up again, steeling himself. "I am to obey all Starfleet regulations concerning any situation in which the commanding officer of this vessel should be relieved of his duty."

Flashbacks reminded Scott of his days on the Devore and Demeter as Second and Executive Officer. "I suppose that's only correct of an Executive," he said giving a shrug. He truly didn't have any hard feelings against Damien; he was only doing his job and anything less would be subpar.

"Look, Captain," Damien continued, making an effort to defend himself though it might not have been needed. "I'm not going to go out of my way to challenge your authority, regardless of what happened on the Fearless, and no matter what Admiral and Captain Blackford implied by putting me here. I just wish..." He shook his head. "This isn't at all how I imagined my first time as part of the command team of a starship."

"Well," Scott began, "things aren't always rosy. I'm sure you are aware of what happened on the Fearless, the details. I froze under the intense pressure that we have the possibility of facing tomorrow. I was wrong in my actions; not ready for the responsibility, actually." He decided to take another sip of his drink, realizing he hadn't spoken these words since the court martial itself. "However, I wouldn't be here if numerous people above our grade felt as if I was ready. We are both where the Admiralty want us to be. Agreed?"

Of all the ways he expected this confrontation to go, having Commander Parker open up to him, be this honest and frank about himself and what had led to his court martial wasn't one of them. From what he'd heard from his parents, Damien had figured the man would be defensive, would come down hard on him because of the way he'd gotten this assignment, maybe even file an official protest with Starfleet Command that would get him thrown off the Ark Royal.

For a moment, Damien wondered if maybe his folks had been wrong, that Parker really had learned from past mistakes, as the man had a point too. Command wouldn't have given him this ship, no matter how old, and this crew, if they didn't think he was capable. If his superior could be this open to him, maybe Damien could give him a chance.

"I agree, sir," Damien said in answer to the question. Then, hesitantly, obviously uncomfortable still, he added, "And...I want to offer my apologies. I tried to stop the Admiral and Captain both from using me like this, against you, but there's only so much pushing one can do with them."

"Against me?" Parker asked, with a slight onset-drunken chuckle. "I'm not going down again without a fight, Blackford, and you can take that however you wish."

The elixir had now taken a strong enough affect on his smaller stature that he could feel it loosen him and the mood. Perhaps opening up to his Executive would be the right thing for the future of the Ark Royal, or maybe Scott would be kicking himself in the morning. Either way, he tried to keep the internal conflict from showing. He was gaining some sort of rapport with Blackford and he knew it might help bring the ship back in one piece, with everyone onboard, and keep him from seeing the mans mother again.

For the briefest of moments, Blackford stared at Parker and the drink the man had been nursing throughout their conversation. The first officer was far too uptight to be much of a drinking man; the slight and easily-banished effects of synthehol were good enough for him. He wondered just how much Parker's past still haunted him here on this new ship, this new mission...and maybe, just maybe, if his parents might have been right to have him here to watch.

"I would expect nothing less of a Starfleet officer, Captain," Blackford replied diplomatically, not bringing up any of his suspicions and uncertainties. "And I promise, you'll get the same effort from me and your crew, sir, regardless of...past events." Damien wouldn't tolerate the crew showing Parker less respect than he deserved.

The assurance, given any preconceived notions that Damien may have but didn't explicitly state, was one slight step of many needed to break the wall between the two command officers. Nonetheless, Parker was still at odds in his own mind; suspicious that the Executive may be more of a spook than he was letting on. "Thank you, Commander," Scott said before finally finishing off what was left in his glass. "I hope to see your preliminary readiness reports in the morning?" He asked while standing.

As the ship's commander got up, so too did Damien, still with the same adherence to formality he'd come on board with, "Yes sir, you will have them before then." There was visible relief in the younger man's face though that this meeting was over, however unofficial it seemed in parts. He couldn't imagine that Parker was any happier about this than he was, but he'd try and make do.

A nod was all Scott replied as he turned and left the lounge, passing through the junior officers and crewmen while exchanging nods and wry smiles. He was still unsure about Blackford and chose to keep his reservations moving forward.

Commander Scott Parker
Commanding Officer
USS Ark Royal

Lieutenant Commander Damien Blackford
Executive Officer
USS Ark Royal


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