The Deuterium Argument [Rebooted]
Location: USS Highlander, Executive Officer's Office
Timeline: Backpost - Just after completion of refit
Esmé Dumont walked through the deck two corridor of the Highlander still somewhat in awe of the starship. Though the Intrepid class wasn't Starfleet's latest design, its sleek, clean lines were a marked improvement over the last ship on which she had served.
Finding herself in front of the doors lead into the executive officer's office, Esmé shifted her shoulders slightly. She hadn't been in uniform in 12 years, but her shrugging had nothing to do with discomfort; in fact, Starfleet uniforms were designed to be exceptionally comfortable. Rather, it was a reflex of the symbolic change she had made by consciously returning to Starfleet. That, and she wanted to make a good first impression.
With a breath, Esmé reached out to sound the door chime.
Vincent looked up from his PADD, checking the time he realised he had been reading for over 3 hours straight, he needed a coffee. Not being sure if he imagined the door chime going off he hesitated.
"Come," he said, wiping his eyes.
The doors slid apart to reveal the figure of a fairly tall female officer. Dark hair and eyes contrasted with her warm beige skin tone. She wore a standard Starfleet uniform, the departmental color of which was teal. Upon her right label were two solid gold pips and one that was hollow, indicating her rank of lieutenant commander. The woman took two steps into the office and straightened her posture, though not quite at full attention.
"Good afternoon, Commander," she began. "I am Esmé Dumont, the Highlander's new diplomatic officer." Her voice was warm, though it was fairly deep and had a certain raspy quality. Though she spoke in English without the use of a universal translator, her words had distinct French phonology to them, including the uvular trill that was customary of native French speakers. "I thought it important for us to become acquainted before too much time had passed."
Vincent stood, "Commander, pleasure to meet you," Holt rounded his desk and outstretched his hand in welcome. After exchanging a handshake, Vincent then gestured to the seat infront of his desk, "Please take a seat."
A warm smile extended across her face, and as she did, small lines at the corners of her eyes revealed indications of her age. With a gracious nod of her head, Esmé offered, "Thank you, Commander," and she moved to sit in the offered chair.
"Vincent is fine, we hold the same rank," Vincent said cordially, walking toward the replicator, "I was just about to get myself a coffee, can I interest you in a beverage of some description?"
"That is kind, Vincent. Likewise, Esmé will do," she said as she smoothed her uniform pants with her hand. "Yes, thank you. Café au lait, for me, please," she requested simply. Her eyes glanced around the office, and then she offered, "I must say, Highlander is a fine starship."
Vincent let out a slight sigh, still thinking of the ship he helped build, the Kurkri, and of which for a long time he was set to command. He realised his company and replied, "Oh very much so, already so much history, she is in her prime," Vincent said, surprised as to how honestly he said the words.
He delivered the drinks to the desk and sat down behind it, taking in the aroma of the caffeinated beverage before him. Once again remembering he had company he directed his attention to his guest, the rather striking woman with an exotic accent.
"Now Esmé, let's get to know each other," he said with a smile, "How long have you been in Starfleet?"
Esmé took the steaming mug and dipped her head once more, lifting the mug to her lips where she, too, enjoyed the aromatic nuances of the beverage. She let soft stream of air escape of her lips as if to cool the first sip, which when she took, brought a gentle smile to her eyes. "Excellent coffee," she observed.
After the first sip, she leaned forward to rest the mug atop the desk. "The path that led me into Starfleet was a bit... unconventional," she said, the slightest smirk tugging at the corner of her mouth. "But, to answer your question, I graduated from a direct commissioning program in 2367, so this would be my twenty fifth year in Starfleet if I hadn't taken a leave." She admitted somewhat reluctantly, "I've only just returned to active duty after 12 years on reserve. I resigned about 5 years after the Dominion War ended," she explained. Though it gave him few details, a gradual reduction in Starfleet's size after the war had not been uncommon.
"How about you?" she asked, any signs of reluctance or hesitation fading from her voice as she leaned in slightly.
"You seem glad to be back in uniform, and it suits you," Vincent explained, seeing someone very confident in her stride and how she carried herself.
Esmé offered the faintest chuckle. "Thank you, Vincent." She repositioned herself to sit back slightly in the chair, eyebrows lifting with curiosity, encouraging him to go on.
"I joined up in 2370, billeted as a Marine Corps Infantry Officer, just before the Dominion War. I can honestly say that I joined for all the wrong reasons, but I've stuck with it. Got my Naval commission in '76 after the restructuring of the Corps," Vincent explained, but hesitated for a moment, "I was set to take command of the Kukri, but was told I needed more experience."
Vincent winced at his revelation, but for some reason he felt like he could say anything to the woman who sat before him. He straightened his uniform and sat slightly more upright in his chair, a wave of caffiene induced awakeness slowly starting to take shape.
Reaching forward, Esmé lifted her coffee mug again, which was still hot but able to be held without burning her hands. She offered an simple affirming nod. "That must've been difficult to hear," Esmé replied gently, her lips pressing together in gentle understanding. "And so, here you are." There was a soft pause. "How are you finding it?" she asked tentatively, in a way that invited a response only if the man was comfortable.
"Well it gives me an opportunity to be a better XO and gain some more experience, and if the Mission logs of the previous missions are to be believed, both you and I will have no trouble with that," He smiled. It did still bug him to be turned over, but it was a relief overall, "Are you settling in ok?"
Wrapping her hands around the mug, now more for the lingering warmth of the mug than the beverage itself, Esmé gave a quiet smile. "I suppose you could say that, although I still find myself in the wrong direction on some of the decks." She chuckled in good spirit, "But, that will pass in time, I am sure."
Esmé was quiet for a moment as her gaze settled into the remaining coffee in her mug, then she looked up, "In all honesty, Commander, I'm not sure what to expect when we get to the Delta Quadrant, particularly in this position. Do you know what awaits us?"
"I always say plan for every outcome, especially when I have no idea what is going to happen. Being informed is the best way to be, I would suggest going over Voyager's mission reports," Vincent said "I know thats not what you really want to hear."
"That's okay," Esmé offered. "I don't mind the reading. I remember when Voyager returned from the Delta Quadrant. I never thought we'd be sending ships back to expand upon their work." She shook her head in slight disbelief. "It's funny how things change over time, isn't it?"
"Definitely didn't think I'd get to see it in my lifetime that's for sure," He joked, "I do hope though that we dont get stuck here for seven years."
Esmé lifted both of her eyebrows at that. A sort of deadpan expression followed, as the reality of that possibility hadn't been something she had considered. In a fleeting second, she realized he was joking, and the appropriate smile followed on her face. "Yes, let us hope." Esmé chuckled. "Outside the realm of diplomacy, what are we anticipating in terms of hostility?"
"Particular concerns would be the Hirogen, the Kazon and the Borg, we really dont know what their current political or territorial stances are, and these are races that have been outright hostile in the past, those are just the ones we know about. The ones that I can't train for are the ones I'm more concerned about," Vincent said, standing up and taking his and Esmé's empty cup and placing it back into the Replicator, "But I imagine that is where you come in, to make sure we dont end up in a war or prolonged conflict. No pressure," He chuckled.
"Is that all?" Esmé asked with a wry grin, referring to the number of hostile species the first officer mentioned within just a few breaths. "I'll begin reviewing the Voyager logs and corresponding Starfleet files for each of these species and any others in the vicinity. We'll be ready," she said with a simple and sure nod of her head. "Well, Commander, thank you for the coffee. I suppose I should leave you to work. I have quite a bit of reading to do."
"If you get bored or want someone to discuss your findings with please let me know. It was my pleasure to meet you Commander, welcome aboard," Holt said standing up and extending his hand to the Diplomatic officer.
Esmé gave a broad grin, taking the first officer's hand in her own. As she stood, she offered a single, firm shake and said, "Thank you, Commander. I certainly will." With a dip of her head, she offered, "Good day," then turned and headed from the first officer's office.
Lt. Commander Vincent Holt
Lt. Commander Esmé Dumont