Chapter 1 - Old Fashioned Samarian Sunset

Kyle wiped the tiny beads of sweat that had accumulated on his forehead, he’d forgotten just how much work it took to recreate the magic of his office. Feeling that a sense of personal touch really went a long way, not just for himself who would spend countless hours here, but also hopefully for those who entered his office. Contemplating the placement of a tall dark Walnut wood shelf, despite its seemingly simple five tier design, it weighs a good 9 kilos. After dragging it through different areas of his office, it finally landed perpendicular to the window/porthole, the local night sky a gorgeous backdrop to his work. Placing a small yellow ceramic pot on the top shelf, with a Kalanchoe succulent peeking its head out. 


Now all that was left for this was to organize and set up his various books, a wide spread from some fiction novels to psychiatry texts. He tried to supplement his library not just for him but for any clients who might need some light reading. It can be a bit of a rare sight, but like some of his other planned touches, sometimes something unexpected could help loosen their tongues and prevent that awkward stare and loss of speech.


Of course not everything is a calculated move, there’s a wonderful painting done by an old lover, of the Ocoee river; one of the first things he’d added to his new office. Kyle figures that the painting must’ve come into his possession about two decades ago, and still the swirling currents from thick acrylic paint catch his breath. The crashing white tides of a colliding mix of grays greens and light blues dashed against the red rocky terrain, in the background against the dark green forest display is a concession of Flags standing tall. It’s a fantastic shot of the Olympic section, a place he’s visited and traversed many times. And despite how long he’s had this painting before, he can feel his appreciation for it already heighten once away from Earth. Hung across from his desk, it may make it a bit inconvenient for others to see, but for him; it’s just fine.


Taking a deep sigh to see about half of his office is sufficiently finished, (he knows he’s gonna be fiddling with this until his brain can finally quiet down about it). There’s a couple more boxes to go through, but there’s a hint of twinge within his back and knees that beckons to less strenuous activities. Due to all the chaos about his sudden deployment he hasn’t had much of a chance for his usual workout for about the past three weeks, nor any of the stretching he typically does as well.


‘Sure we can fly all over the galaxy but back pain is just inescapable huh?’ He thinks to himself, shaking his head against his own sarcasm.


“Computer.” A familiar ding rings out, “what time is it?”


“1300 hours.” Oh he’s been at this for a few hours then, remembering when it was just 0800 hours when he had brought in the final box for his office. Huh, maybe he should go stretch his legs. Afterall he hasn’t been able to get anyone to (willingly) sign up yet for a session, much less been able to introduce himself to all those already here on the ship. With more bound for arrival before the Shakedown cruise, Hawthorne felt a small piece of pressure lodge between his teeth. Before quickly untightening his jaw, yeah maybe it’s time he went for that walk.


Leaving his office, he padded down the corridor for the turbo lift.

Jason had yet to scratch his itch on being in the science lab.  Attempting to settle into the routine aboard the ship and his first assignment, seemed to take more persistence over generally curiosity.  However, with more and more crew starting to board the ship, at least the days seemed to move quickly.  It was interesting getting to know the crew through their transfer requests, personal records, and digital headshots.  Even with all of the information that was virtually at his fingertips and the countless interactions confirming their credentials while boarding the ship, he felt as if he didn’t have any genuine interactions.


He missed his friend, who was on her first assignment.  Jason had sent her a message, but her ship was farther away on a deep space research mission.  He was sure that was having the time of her life or working herself to the bone, knowing her it was a combination of both.


Tapping the console downloading another list of arrivals for the next day, Jason started to walk towards the turbolift reviewing the information and studying.  This was his chance to make sure that everything went smoothly prior to the Shakedown Cruise.  After they engaged the engines there was no telling what would occur.


Turning the corner he almost knocked into another officer.  Quickly standing up straight taking his attention away from the data, “I am so sorry” quickly he took in the officer before him.  Within a moment he recognized the individual from their arrival and personal file while boarding the ship.


“Counselor…” he offered out with a small smile, “My apologies for not keeping an eye on where I was going”


The older man returned the smile, “ah, Ensign don’t worry about it, it’ll take more than that to barrel me over.” And quite frankly Kyle was stuck in his own head before being returned to his body, one part still going over the different renovations he could make to his office and another trying to figure out his plans after the renovations. But now the decision has been made for him.


“Are you settling in well” he wondered when he had become so bad at making small talk or having a casual conversation, it was something that he never struggled with back at the Academy or prior.


“Oh well enough, I haven’t been in a proper starship for quite a few years now and that new ship smell is still dazzling.” A hint of playfulness hid behind his words, his brain supplemented the uniform color, that the medallion yellow meant either Engineering or Security, both heavy jobs. 


“How about you? I’d assume you’re fresh from the Academy, is this your first starship?” Names to faces wasn’t his strongest suit, even after all these years of practice. Polite small talk to stall for time on the off chance he remembers… 


Jason had to smile a little, trying to think through his answer for how he was doing.  Giving away too much information removed part of the Security presence that had been drilled into him through some of the security courses at the Academy.  Bringing himself out his jumbled thoughts, “I would say that I am settling into a nice routine.  This is my first assignment from the Academy.  Where were you before this?” he inquired.  Although he had some idea from the record reading from the transfer aboard.


Noticing the almost clinical response from the younger man, that Academy speak still thick. “Oh I was in the Reserves, I had stationed myself up at Ocoee, Tennessee.” It actually reminded Kyle of his first assignment, he was so nervous to speak the wrong way that he almost never spoke at all. It took one of the senior officers asking if he was selectively mute and if he needed to see the Doctor for him to really try and reign his anxiety in. 


“What is on the agenda this evening?” he asked, “I personally was thinking of visiting the bar” he took a breath, why on earth was he having so much trouble separating the work from the personal and why was he almost tongue tied.  


“Oh to be honest I didn’t really have anything planned for after I finished decorating my office…” rubbing his stubbly chin, “I will say I haven’t had a chance yet to visit the bar.” 


Extending a hand his way, “if it’s an invite, I agree…” Damn, that’s right, I didn’t remember it. Oh well. “What is your name?” 


He almost let out an audible exhale, from the nerves that had built up from the interaction.  Shaking them off for the moment and hearing the calm reaction from the Counselor.  Jason smiled, extending his hand, “Jason Williams, Security Officer” he offered with an extended hand as well. 


“Mine is Kyle Hawthorne,” leaning down just a bit to make that eye contact. Noticing the blue, blue with gold Ensign, placing the connection in his mind. 


Taking a few more steps toward the turbolift Jason entered, “Deck 8” he had to admit that one of the benefits of being a Security Officer was an extensive knowledge of the ship layout, even with only have just arrived.  “You mentioned decorating earlier, I am assuming you are making your office more welcoming, compared to the normal starship atmosphere and aesthetic” he offered softly


Following him inside of the turbolift, Kyle pressed himself against the wall opposite Jason.  Unable to stop the laugh that jumps from him, “give Starfleet a lot of credit, but ‘welcoming design’ is not one of them.” Shaking his head, “you’re not wrong, I like to add my own flair where I can. Still a work in progress but…” 


“You mentioned being in the Reserves… what was that like?” he asked softly toward Kyle.  He had to admit the thought had never crossed his mind, the only struggle he had with his career was determining what department to join within Starfleet while attending the Academy.


“Well it had its ups and downs, I mainly kept up with my Counseling business with private clients and other Starfleet personnel.” Staying silent for a moment, his eyes move away, Kyle continues, “I spent a lot of time on or near the river, just waiting to either retire out or to finally be ‘reactivated’.” Returning back giving a big toothy smile, “it’s not that bad to be honest, unless you’re the type to just be chomping at the bit to be busy and flying off to the next mission.” A half nod at the Ensign, he can remember feeling the same way after graduating, it’s hard to make it through the Academy and not have this sense of desperation and readiness when you’re finally given your first assignment. 


“I didn’t start off in the Reserves though, so maybe that’s what made the waiting easier.” His voice is almost quiet, the humming of the turbolift and it’s non feeling of movement but still moving- taking a deep breath, an almost surreal feeling of the past replacing the future as he realizes just how much he’s grown since being an excited Ensign on a new ship. 


Jason nodded intently, listening to the counselor share some of his personal background.  He had to admit that this was refreshing compared to the personal files that he had brushed up on while reviewing the ship’s crew.  He felt himself relaxing and enjoying the conversation.  It was almost as if he had known the counselor for a few years as compared to a few moments during their first interaction aboard the ship.  “Do you mind if I ask what made you want to be a Counselor?” 


The thought of being a Counselor had crossed the young ensigns mind, but there was something about the unknown elements of the job that seemed to push him away, Science could explain things and Security/Tactical there was hardly any time to drift into your thoughts, it was a pretty black and white scenario, for the most part it seemed.  However, those were all textbook scenarios and simulations, this was going to be the real deal and something told Jason that the hours of studying and coursework were only a fraction of what would prepare him for the universe.


Kyle tilted his head to the side, a fairly common question but one he still has some trouble answering. In a way he always felt like this was his destination, maybe not so literally with the Tanjura, but to be in a position to help others. 


“Well I guess the most straightforward answer I can give is that it’s the job that fit me best.” Kyle started, but before he could finish his entire thought, the turbolift came to a gentle stop and the doors opened. 


“Let’s finish this thought inside the bar, shall we?” Extending his arm to allow Jason to leave first, a part of him wondering if a Security officer prefers to take lead or stay in the back to look for threats. If that was even on the young man’s mind. 


Nodding, “Thank you” he offered walking out of the turboflit and allowing Kyle to join him.


Kyle following right behind him until they were walking side by side again, heading towards the double doors at the end of the hall. 


Walking through the doors it was nice to see the crew using the lounge and getting to know one another.  Jason had done numerous patrols through the ship’s decks including the Lounge moving over to one of the high top tables, and smiling as one of the attendants noticed them walking over.


“Welcome to the lounge, what would you two like this evening?” she inquired looking between both officers.


“Samarian Sunset for me, please.” Figuring a small drink wouldn’t hurt, the bitter taste would prevent him from indulging too much. Besides, he was sure he had more to say. 


“Old Fashioned please,” he offered softly.  “Why do you think that it is the job that fits you best?” he inquired and settled back into the seat while they awaited their beverages.


So he’s actually interested, a part of him was wondering if Jason’s question was just a polite small talk in the turbolift, but Kyle can admit to being a little self deprecating in order to try and save pride. A horrible habit with mixed results. 


“Well it fulfills that basic need inside of almost all Starfleet members: it allows me to help.” His eyes flittering about the room, before moving back to the relaxed younger man sitting in front of him. “And it’s always been something I’ve been fascinated with, that within everyone is their own world, their own perspective. It’s a bit like a mystery novel,” planting his elbows on the table, his hands outstretched towards Jason.


“The mystery of the client before me, and why they’re in there, most of the time it’s their own volition but I do have some that come in with orders on their PADD to meet me once a week.” He notices another crew member come in and sit at the bar, then back to the sea blue before him. 


“It’s a collaborative effort, whether or not they intend it to be. I can’t just read their mind and spit out an empty platitude or anecdote to ease their troubles. I have to figure out their troubles first, just what is underneath their skin and refuses to leave, and then see how to evict it… or live with it.” His arms crossing down in front of him on top of the table, he could feel the material of his uniform rubbing against each other and against him. He notices the same attendant making her way over with two glasses, her pleasant smile shone in the dim room with the golden rings embedded in her hair.


Curiosity was coming over him as he listened to the explanation of the Counselor.  Could there be any chance of making the wrong choice in his position?  Shaking out of his own thoughts for a moment, “But some officers take multiple assignments in order to truly find where they belong at times, right?” 


“Oh absolutely!” Before stopping to allow her to place the drinks down in front of them, his Samarian Sunset almost glowing before him. Giving a polite nod of thanks, he continues “I personally find it rare for someone to know and find where they belong instantly. Especially within Starfleet itself, there’s so many possibilities you can take.” 


“In fact I wasn’t always a Counselor myself,” Taking a swig of his drink, warmth radiating from his throat despite the coldness of the drink. “In the Academy I was first studying Security, but I got told from the Instructor that I was… too nice.” Biting back a grin, he was an eager student but too much of a pushover and bleeding heart to even properly interrogate his classmates. 


“Switched over to a more Medical study, and graduated, but there was a very, very brief assignment I took as a Cadet to try out Engineering, very minor but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try… I still don’t think Chief Engineer Phoenix has forgiven me- hell the ship itself either.” Shaking his head at himself, chuckling.


“It was a mess, but it did allow me the opportunity to figure out that Counseling was where I belonged.” Finishing out his thought, he could feel more words pressing against him, the urge to explain more but he didn’t want to bore his talking partner, relaxing back into his own seat, cushioning a nice comfort to his back. 


Swirling the amber brown liquid in the glass listening to the words of the man before him.  He took a deep breath and allowed his thoughts to wander in and out of the conversations.  Jason had to smile a little, his personal fears, about his selection of department washing away slightly.  Kyle had definitely picked the right profession, having the ability to navigate conversations easily and almost magically.


“I have to admit I think I have stumbled into Security …” he couldn’t believe he had admitted those words aloud, “Don’t misunderstand me, I have a great appreciation for my post and role aboard the ship.” he wanted to be clear considering on some level he was speaking the ship’s counselor.  


His nerves had crept back up, pressing his lips the glass, tilting back allowing the liquid to run over his tongue.  “I myself enjoyed the sciences during my time at the Academy, and so did a friend of mine, she was assigned on another ship as a marine biologist” he chuckled, still having not heard from her for some time.


“I think it is interesting that we make the connections we do while at the Academy, but then we are split and shipped off to different ships, stations, and sectors to join another family” taking a deep breath and realizing that he had gone off on his own tangent for a moment.  Sitting back up, “What about yourself, do you know anyone else aboard the ship?” he inquired


Kyle kept a small smile on his face listening to the younger man, his sudden insistence on his ‘appreciation’ for his post made him bite back a small laugh. Surely making sure that the ship’s Counselor wouldn’t try to pick it apart over drinks, he understands why Jason would feel that way. Afterall his profession can make others uncomfortable to open up lest they end up in an impromptu therapy session. Swirling around his glass, the liquid gently sloshing around like waves of a whirlpool. He never really gave the sciences a shot, but he found it interesting the security officer did. 


“Not on this ship, no, most of the people I know are back on Earth with a few exceptions like your friend who are already exploring this great beyond.” A hand wave to the windows exposing the calm quiet of space surrounding them. Can you even get sick of a sight like this? 


“Although I have had the pleasure of running into the Chief Engineer, Tomaasz. As well as a few others such as yourself, but I essentially came alone to the Tanjura.” Tilting his head at the admission, when said out loud he was facing a small stripe of loneliness- small, but still there. His fingers gently tapping on the side of his glass 


“But I do agree with your earlier statement, the Academy and the body of students really changes you before you even head out. There’s still a couple people I make sure to keep in touch with from there, one been on a space station for about a decade now and the other is about halfway through their own five year exploration on a Starship: USS Coldwater.” Small nostalgia still warms his heart knowing them from bright eyed cadets to now grown officers in command of their own posts. I should write them again, I know I already did just a couple weeks ago before I left Earth but it never hurts to let them know I’m thinking of them… 


“But I’m curious,” leaning forward from his relaxed position. “What made you choose Security over Science? Any particular reason for it?” Students flip flop all the time over their majors, especially when they’re young and bright and the galaxy feels so small that you can just step right over it- but the decision itself is seeped in stone like the foundational brick in the wall of their life. Kyle always finds it interesting which brick they decide to place down first. 


He knew the question would arise at some point during his time with the Counselor, be it in a more formal setting or during casual conversations such as this.  “Honestly, I think that I enjoyed the formality of it, compared to the unknown of science.  On the other hand” taking a small swig of his drink, “the unknown of science is alluring at the same time:” shaking his head for a moment.  It was a complicated subject, but also, he enjoyed his post, well the post he had been in for a matter of days.  


“I do plan to become friends with the Science Officers, maybe sneak some time in a few of the science labs on my downtime” chuckling a little, “Plus I think it will be good to keep my mind occupied away from work at times”


Kyle following with his own grin, raising his glass in agreement with the statement. “I couldn’t agree more. A good balance is needed to not only keep ya sharp but also in tune with yourself. I can’t tell you how many I’ve talked to, professionally and unprofessional, who end up stuck because they just don’t know anything other than their job.” Finishing his words off with a sip of his drink.


“What about yourself, do you have any hobbies that take up your downtime, when you are not helping the crew with all of their troubles?” Jason had to admit that Counselor’s were truly unique people who had the strongest longing to help others over themselves.  Did they ever talk to anyone?


“Oh well back on Earth I did spend a good chunk of my time traversing the Ocoee river, specifically white water rafting!” His glass left on the table as his hands slightly shook with excited energy. 


“There’s nothing like it, especially when you’re there. No disrespect to the holosuites, afterall I wished I gotten a copy of the Ocoee to traverse while here. But it’s simply enough to keep your hands and your mind occupied.” Tipping his hand toward Jason before slipping back closer to himself when he noticed the slight shake.


Like a leaky faucet… his body just couldn’t stop the irresistible energy spike and consequently need to be rid of it when certain topics came up. Like his hobbies, his other loves that would consume his mind- besides his Starfleet duties.


“But I do have some hobbies I brought with me, like reading. I must’ve brought about a quarter of my library, physical and PADD, and a few audio logs to mix it up.” Tilting his hand side to side, imagining half in his office and the other in his quarters. 


“I also do a bit of writing myself, nothing serious but sometimes you read something and you just can’t help but try and imitate it. See if you can find the pulse yourself by creating it… which I have been told my works are more metaphorical ramblings…” Awkwardly trailing off, as the energy spike suddenly left him and his hands dropping like weights to safe positions on the table. He completed it with a swig of his drink, bigger gulp than the ones before.


“But what about you? Got any other hobbies besides Science?” Let’s focus the attention away from me, he thought.


Jason had to laugh a little, it did seem that the Counselor had a moment where he was excited to share his passions.  He had never been white water rafting, and the thought did sound intriguing.  Focusing back onto the question at hand, “I think that I do have some very low key hobbies … I just enjoy hanging out with some friends, grabbing a drink, playing some games, doing some cooking” Wow, am I that boring compared to the white water rafting?


Although he might not be as adventurous as his colleague, he thought back to all of the times even before his time at the Academy, where he had just enjoyed spending time with friends and having small get-togethers.


“Have you had any time to meet with the rest of the crew?” he inquired softly knowing that they only had a skelton crew assigned for the Shakedown and engineering would have more interactions occurring with the hologram crew then the organic crew.


Kyle smiled, Jason certainly sounded more social than he was, good for him. And hobbies that could be continued here, he noted. 


“Hmm… not all of our crew yet. I’ve definitely made my acquaintance with the medical staff, but some crew has still eluded me. Like yourself, until a few minutes ago.” Flicking his wrist in a point towards Jason, he’s met a fair amount of both holo and organic crew but he knows there’s a few that’ve just always been on the other side of the ship.  


“Have you had the opportunity?” He asked over the rim of his glass. 


Looking at his beverage, and then motioning for another, “Would you like another as well?” he inquired.


Kyle looked down at his half empty drink, contemplating for a second before declining. 


Shaking his head, “No I have not had a chance to meet anyone other than the Command Office, during my formal report to the ship.” he admitted, “Eventually I will make my way down to the Science Labs and hopefully make a friend or two.  I don’t think I know any of the current officers that were assigned, and I doubt that the holograms are looking ot make a personal connection.” shifting looking at the counselor.  “Wait… are the holograms programed with a higher level of emotional connections?  I know that they had been testing with that for long and deep space missions” he bit his lip accepting the beverage, could they have personal connections between holograms?


“I know they have the possibility of different programming, but I don’t believe it’s been implemented yet. So far the ones in the Infirmary are friendly enough, but I can’t say… I know the Captain asked me about it, but I feel that since we’re in a sector of space that’s damn near uncharted, that’s a higher possibility of running into a species that uses lower emotional responses and it could be useful for us to be used to that.” Remembering his brief chat with Captain Ajzure and his interactions so far with the Holograms. Most of them with Andorian skin, but nothing to say he’d wish their social skills were more refined. 


“What do you think about the use of holograms in a ship like this?” He asked in pure curiosity, taking a small sip. He wondered if there would be an issue or if the use of Holograms has become more widespread than he realized. 


“I think that it makes complete sense to utilize them as a backup to the crew” he commented, “However, one could think that with them being treated as almost second class in that regard.” he offered swirling the liquid around the large ice cub in the glass.  “It would be interesting to have a member of the senior staff being a hologram in some capacity, I feel in order to show an equality in some regards” he offered softly.  He was sure that there was a level on unease about his statement from some, giving a hologram a commanding role aboard a starship.


However, if you thought about the intricacies of a starship so many systems were run without the interactions of crew.  Coming back from his thoughts and looking at the Counselor, hoping to not have offended him in anyway, “I think it would be nice to have a small get together sometime though for anyone that wanted to attend, in order to get to know one another for the ship.” he offered, wondering if that was something that the Counselor would endorse.


Kyle raised his eyebrows, it had never crossed his mind of giving one of the holograms any official powers. But it was an interesting proposition, although there were several flaws he could point to, he didn’t want to dismiss it immediately either. He filed it away for later discussion.


“That sounds like a wonderful idea, I think having regular to semi-regular events for the crew can really help with morale during these more… backwoods expeditions.” He smiled at his little reference to his home, but was also delighted to see a younger officer taking an interest in crew relations. Now as Security it could be argued to be part of his job description, but Kyle prefers when Security doesn’t see everyone as just potential threats. 


He smiled sipping the drink again, “It is a great opportunity to get to know people outside of just what department they are working in.” he offered out and sat up a little, “I am really happy that I have had the opportunity to meet you, outside of my initial intake” he offered with a little chuckle holding up his glass toward the counselor.  Jason couldn’t believe that he was so at ease so quickly with the other officer across from him, not to mention the fact that it was a counselor.


Kyle followed suit with his own glass, just a half inch of liquid left. “The feeling is mutual,” Before finishing his drink. A larger gulp than before but he found he didn’t mind the stinging taste so much. 


“And if there is something I can do to help with these events, let me know.” He offered to the younger man before placing his empty drink back down. He found himself more invigorated after this discussion than when he had left his office. 


Nodding to the Counselor, Jason stood up and smiled walking toward the exit.  Who knew that a Counselor could be so down to earth or relaxed?  Walking through the sliding door toward the turbolift he wondered what the future would hold.


Kyle took a few seconds before leaving himself, smiling at the stars through the view port before returning to the ones in his half-finished office, finding himself excited to be back in the thick of it, he follows suit.