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Part of USS Endeavour: The Widening Gyre

Looking at New Rocks

Main Lounge, USS Endeavour
August 2399
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‘So, uh, guys, this is my roommate, Nate.’ Ensign Athaka gave an awkward gesture as he pulled up a chair at the low table in the lounge.

‘You don’t need to sound apologetic for bringing me along, pal,’ Beckett said with wry amusement, and refused to feel apprehensive about joining the gathering. ‘Nate Beckett, here to interrupt your day and ruin your delicate social balance, apparently.’

The stern-faced human let out a low scoff. ‘Don’t mind Athaka. He apologises for breathing. Rightfully.’ She gave him a nod. ‘Tes Forrester, Engineering. That’s Harkon, Flight Control.’

Harkon, a bright-eyed Ktarian, sat forward with a wicked smile. ‘We hear you already butted heads with Lieutenant Kharth.’

Beckett cocked his head. ‘Is that hard?’

‘She can be prickly, but she’s not as bad as she seems.’

‘She absolutely is,’ grumbled Forrester. ‘It’s like a minefield dealing with that woman; do one invisible thing wrong, and she’ll hate you forever.’

Harkon’s smile softened affectionately. ‘Can’t imagine what dealing with someone like that’s like.’

‘Nate is also part of our, uh, training team,’ Athaka chipped in. ‘The one Rhade’s putting together.’

‘You mean the enormous distraction,’ said Forrester.

‘I mean,’ said Beckett, ‘the chance for some really cool away missions.’

She looked him up and down. ‘You’re Science. What exciting away missions do you get, looking at new rocks?’

‘Hey, I’m A&A. I like people. Even dead ones. What day trips do you get in Engineering?’

‘If I leave the ship, something’s gone wrong or I’m dealing with some wretched last-generation piece of junk from whatever backward society needs help today.’

‘Bastion of Federation enlightenment you are, Forrester,’ Beckett observed good-naturedly.

‘Don’t mind her, either,’ Harkon assured him. ‘She’s just in a mood because we left dock sooner than she’d have liked.’

‘What I’d have liked is a chance to double-check the redundancies in the EPS conduits they replaced on Starbase Bravo, seeing as we blew a whole section. And, you know, almost lost our damn chief.’

‘Sounds like a great story,’ Beckett said sincerely, even as his eyes were drawn away from the pool of ensigns to a figure approaching the bar. ‘But I gotta ask you to put a pin in it; need to catch up with someone.’

Forrester was grumbling even as he left, Athaka and Harkon obviously relieved she’d been stopped in her complaining tracks, but he didn’t look back as he approached the bar, making sure to straighten his shirt. He recognised his target from her personnel file even if they’d never met, even if she was now out of uniform, blonde hair let down, casual in a dress and jacket. His PADD beeped inside his jacket, a quick glance showing a non-urgent summons from Airex that he was sure could wait until he finished here.

He leaned against the bar beside the woman, bright smile ready. ‘Hi. You clearly have plans, but mind if we lightly chat work and flirt until those arrive?’

Lieutenant Elsa Lindgren shifted on the bar stool, looking him up and down with a gently amused, raised eyebrow. ‘Is the flirting light, or just the work talk?’

Beckett made a show of checking the time on his PADD. ‘I don’t know how long we’ve got, so I don’t want to over-promise.’ His grin turned easier. ‘I’m Nate Beckett. And I do actually have a spot of business, Lieutenant.’

‘I know who you are.’ Lindgren leaned over the counter to order a drink, and pushed her hair back as she looked him over. ‘Neither of us has a pip in sight, so I think it’s “Elsa,” not “Lieutenant,” but what can I do for you?’ She smirked. ‘Work-wise.’

He slid onto the bar stool next to her, hiding his grin behind a quick swig from his bottle. ‘You’re the best-qualified on the ship on the languages of former Romulan vassal races… and have new records to go through on artifacts and texts hitting the old Neutral Zone black market I want to give a once-over before we get to Teros. So I was hoping A&A can borrow your very pretty eyes.’

‘They are almost a linguist’s best friend,’ Lindgren said with amusement.

Beckett leaned in, and made sure his grin was sufficiently over-the-top to soften flirtation with self-aware good humour. ‘Second, I expect, only to the tongue?’

Nate.’ Her expression lifted with mock-outrage, and she swatted him on the arm. ‘I’m obviously talking about my ears.’ Her drink arrived, and she stirred it as she watched him laugh. ‘1100 hours tomorrow, your lab. I’ll take a look at what you have and we can plan from there.’ She had a sip and straightened. ‘So, that’s work talk done; when does the light flirting begin?’

He laughed again, but couldn’t stop the flutter of unwelcome, serious apprehension. ‘Did my reputation precede me that much?’

‘I don’t know much about you,’ Lindgren admitted, ‘but when the son of the captain’s favourite admiral is assigned to Endeavour, I pay attention.’ Perhaps she caught his tension, or perhaps she wanted to keep the mood light, moving swiftly on. ‘I did hear you already upset the captain’s yeoman.’

‘Oh yes.’ Beckett shook his head wryly. ‘Rumour has it that he’d be even more upset to find me here, flirting with you.’

She raised an eyebrow at him. ‘Why do I get the impression that’s why you’re doing it?’

‘It might be why I started, but I carried on because, what can I say? I had an attractive reception.’

Again she laughed, but her gaze slid past him and landed on the red-headed woman approaching the bar, looking rather more tired and worn in comfortable, dressed-down civvies. ‘And here are my actual plans for the evening.’ Lindgren slid off the stool to welcome her with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. ‘I thought you’d never make it back aboard, Rosara.’

‘I got back before we set off, but I have a lot of work,’ Rosara Thawn grumbled, but returned the hug. ‘Why do you have to make me look frumpy even at catch-up drinks in the bloody lounge, Elsa?’

Beckett gave her a warm smile, mind racing through his recollection of Endeavour’s senior staff records to put two and two together. ‘I think you’re selling yourself short on how good you look when you’re comfortable, Lieutenant.’

Lindgren put a hand on her arm as Thawn gave him a suspicious look. ‘Rosara, this is Nate Beckett, he’s a new A&A officer in Airex’s department. And he is trouble.’

He drained his synthale and hopped to his feet. ‘I promised to only be an interlude. I gotta check in with Commander Airex anyway. You ladies have a delightful evening.’

He got a grin and a wink from Lindgren as he left, the two women clearly committed to a catch-up of old friends he wouldn’t have stuck around for even if he didn’t have work. It was one thing to be playful with a pretty colleague in the lounge, but Beckett knew better than to out-stay his welcome. He also knew better than to show up at the lab without working through even the very faint buzz of the synthale, and walked to a more distant turbolift so he was clear-headed by the time he arrived.

The archaeology laboratories had significant facilities for safe study and storage of relics, but the adjacent anthropology lab was more of a planning space. The small chamber offered extensive displays for showing, recording, and organising information input or drawn from Endeavour’s databanks, and it was at the main holo-display that Commander Airex stood, brow furrowed, when Beckett arrived.

He looked him over. ‘Ensign. You’re out of uniform.’

Beckett raised his eyebrows. ‘You messaged me after my shift, Commander; I was in the lounge. Should I have stopped off to change?’

‘It doesn’t matter,’ accepted Airex, immediately proving himself the kind of officer Beckett found endlessly frustrating. He gestured up to the lit display. ‘You’ve made progress with the Institute’s reports on black market trade.’

‘Some, yeah,’ said Beckett, padding over to join him. ‘But if we want to really know what’s going on there, we should check it out ourselves. Freecloud would be best.’

‘That’s not our job,’ Airex admonished. ‘Understanding the scope of this trade will help Security and Strategic Operations assess how significant it is for the Romulan Rebirth movement. The higher the stakes, the greater the danger to Doctor T’Sann.’

‘Sure, and I’m on it, sir. Just made plans for Lieutenant Lindgren to help get a handle IDing some of what’s being peddled – there’s some Yuyati artifacts in there, records from Inxtis… Romulan worlds and cultures we still don’t know much about.’ He couldn’t fight the rising enthusiasm, and grimaced at Airex’s chiding glance. ‘This helps us quantify the value of the market, and so far as we know, this kind of recon was what Doctor T’Sann was doing when they picked him up.’

Airex sighed, but nodded. ‘Understood. When you have to prioritise – not if, because you will run out of time to study all you want, Ensign – focus on operations and trade which could be flowing to and from Teros. Captain Rourke is going to leave Endeavour at the periphery of the system and send a runabout team to the surface to investigate without the potential disruption of putting a Federation starship in orbit. I’ll be leading the mission and I want you there. Just remember that Doctor T’Sann is the priority. This isn’t a trip to the shops.’

Beckett made a face. ‘Respectfully, sir, while this might be my first time in this sector, I know how things go on border world digs and purchase operations.’

‘Yes, I’ve seen your record, Ensign, but a year on the research teams from Starbase 514 isn’t -’

‘Oh, wow, no.’ Beckett straightened at Airex’s expression upon his interruption. ‘Sorry, Commander. Everyone’s really quick to connect me to my father, but, uh, I don’t know how hot you are on archaeological research, or if you just know about it from a past host or -’

This host is the xenoanthropologist, Beckett, spit it out.’

‘Right, uh – my mum’s Doctor Yvette Banks. So I basically grew up on archaeological research expeditions. I spent two years before the Academy in the former DMZ which, sure, isn’t as dangerous as the old Neutral Zone and – wait, you’re Davir Hargan, aren’t you?’

Airex looked faintly pained. ‘I am. I was.’

Beckett laughed. ‘Wow, I read your ethnography on Farius Prime at the Academy, that was some great stuff; the thickness if you’ve got any field notes that didn’t get published I’d love to -’

Ensign.’ Airex’s gaze by now was chilling, cold water on any of the young officer’s glee or excitement. ‘You have your orders. Prepare for an away mission to a potentially hostile world beyond anyone’s jurisdiction, with locals likely be very unwelcoming to Starfleet.’

‘Sure. Sir.’ Beckett deflated. ‘I still reckon we should take any chance we get to help Doctor T’Sann’s project. No Starfleet ship’s been here in almost five years, and huge swathes of Romulan culture’s being stolen from its people to be flogged to the highest bidder. We can serve a bigger good.’

‘Teros IV isn’t a place for that.’

‘I’ll have to defer to your experience.’

Airex looked away, up at Beckett’s scrolling analysis, then shook his head. ‘I’ve never been. Anyway, you have your instructions, Ensign. Good evening.’

Beckett stared at the back of his department head as he left, then turned his eyes to the ceiling with an exaggerated sigh. ‘Yeah,’ he groaned. ‘That was really worth calling me in after my shift. This bloody ship.’