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A Non-Optional Social Convention

Posted on Mon Jun 10th, 2024 @ 10:53pm by Commander N'Garzi Zora & Lieutenant Didrea Zade

Mission: Into the Qniverse
Location: Zora's Office
Timeline: Before The Party
1591 words - 3.2 OF Standard Post Measure

The birthday invitation sat bitterly in the back of Zade's mind as she worked in the security offices. The invite had sat on her computer for about an hour before she considered looking at it. Such events brought back unpleasant memories, so she hoped that her response would be the end of it. Zora summoned her a few hours later, however, and she debated telling the Commander that she was busy at the moment before deciding that it was better to deal with this now. It's what prompted her to currently stare at the Commander's office door, her hesitation coming from the urge to say that something came up and leave. Mentally telling herself to stop being a coward, Zade pressed the chime.

After being invited in, the Trill entered and stopped in front of the desk, hands clasped behind her back. She had a feeling that she knew the purpose of this call, but she knew better than to make assumptions. As such, Zade's expression was neutral, though hints of 'why was I summoned for this' lingered faintly. "You wished to see me, Commander?"

Zora looked up a wide smile on her face. It still felt tight where the muscles and flesh had been repaired from the Gorn attack but maybe that was in her mind. "Di... Zade," she quickly corrected, remembering that the Trill didn't like the use of her given name. "Take a seat," she waved her arm at the chair on the other side of the desk. "I was just brewing some tea, would you like a cup?" She started pouring two cups from the teapot sat on her desk before Zade could answer. "It's a blend from Trill," she said as she slid one of the cups in front of Zade. "Great work with the hostages."

Obliging, Zade took the seat offered to her, confused and a bit surprised by Zora's display of niceness. Given their history, it put her even more on edge. She didn't quite believe that the Commander had invited her just for tea. "Thank you, Commander," she responded. There was no motion toward the tea placed in front of her, instead Zade's attention was focused on the woman in front of her, trying to decipher her wide smile.

"I read your report," Zora said as she stirred a luminescent green blob into her cup. It had the consistency of honey except when it found its way into the steaming cup, it solidified and dropped to the bottom like a stone in the ocean. "In hindsight, I could have used your expertise on my team."

The Trill kept her hands laced together politely in her lap, unsure of what to say. There was a point, but Zora was taking her time getting to it. "It was nearly impossible to anticipate what each team would face. Your fight could have easily been ours. I'm relieved that you all made it back, though." Her tone was genuinely sympathetic; the report from the other team made the fight with the pirates seem like a walk in the park.

"So am I Lieutenant," Zora said sincerely. She brought the cup to her lips and took a sip, savouring the floral taste on her tongue before swallowing. Noticing that Zade hadn't tried hers she nodded towards the steaming cup. "It's good," Zora said, still smiling. "It's not replicated either, fresh from the Vortix Valleys on Trill."

Zade glanced down at the tea in front of her. Suspecting that this conversation wasn't going to continue until she accepted the offer, she conceded. Lifting the cup, Zade smelled the tea, her nose crinkling slightly at the sweet floral scent, before taking a small sip. She did the same as Zora, letting the liquid sit on her tongue for a moment before swallowing, then politely put the cup back on the desk. "It's a little sweet for my taste, but still nice. It's a quality selection, Commander." The tea certainly wasn't bad, it tasted far better than anything replicated, but Zade just didn't like sweet things.

"You tried it," Zora replied, still smiling, "and that's the main thing." She placed her cup back on the table and turned it so that the handle would be facing 3 o'clock had the table been a clock. Eventually, she looked up at Zade. "I suppose you're wondering why I called you here? You have served your punishment magnificently," she continued without waiting for an answer. "You still have a few days left but I'm happy to waver that, see it as parole."

Zora was being too nice, and Zade was skeptical. Nobody just waived restricted duty like that. "On what conditions?" She asked. Over the last month, Zade kept to a strict routine of working her shift and then occupying her time in her quarters. She had spent most of it reading, even reorganizing the space a couple of times for the hell of it. In a way, she started getting used to it.

"Conditions?" Zora repeated, her eyes narrowing slightly. "Is it a prerequisite that security officers are paranoid or does the job turn you that way?" She mused. "I think maybe you should be wearing grey instead of gold."

"Apologies, Commander, let me rephrase" Zade answered. She wasn't fond of information being dangled in front of her, something Zora seemed to favor in their discussions. It wasn't the worst test of her patience, however, so she remained collected. "I'm curious as to why there's a change of heart. As you're aware, changing the conditions of restricted duty isn't a simple matter of changing the date based on good behavior."

"It actually is," Zora said, her grin spreading. "Being XO carries a lot of weight, Lieutenant." She sighed as she rested her chin on her interlaced fingers. "Restricted duty isn't just about punishment Zade. It's a chance for you to reflect on the type of officer you want to be, a little course correction for lack of a better term. I believe you have achieved this, am I wrong?"

Zade took in a slow breath. The time in her quarters while off duty had given her a lot of time to reflect, though some of it took the form of sulking early on. "No, Commander. You're not wrong."

"Perfect, I'm glad that we both agree," Zora said, her smile returning as she leaned back in her seat. "Then you are dismissed Lieutenant, go and enjoy your new found freedom." There was a twinkle in the El-Aurian's eyes and it grew brighter as she watched a look of confusion pass over Zade's face.

It was strange for Zora to be so cordial to Zade, but maybe it was a product of the time of year. "Thank you, Commander," she said, standing.

"Just one more thing," Zora said right before Zade had got close enough to the door to trigger the sensor. "It would be lovely to see you at my party tomorrow evening, I'm sure you have no other plans, already." Her tone was sweet but there was an underlying implication to it.

Zade paused near the door, silently dreading this conversation. Slowly, she turned to face Zora again, her expression tense but neutral. "Respectfully, Commander, I don't do birthday parties. I hope you have a good time, but I would like to respectfully decline the invitation." Her tone was quiet and reserved, a noticeable tension wrapping around her shoulders. She generally avoided birthday celebrations, especially her own, because they were bittersweet. It should be a happy occasion, and the Trill didn't want to bring down the atmosphere with her own feelings.

"I'll be honest with you Lieutenant, neither do I," Zora replied truthfully. "I know you haven't been a department head for long so I'll share a little secret with you, the troops need to unwind. Sometimes they need to do that away from their superior officers and other times they need to do it with them. Our crew need this and they need us to be there. Do it for them."

The attempt at an emotional appeal didn't sit well with Zade. She clasped her hands behind her again, this time a bit tighter than she normally would in a parade rest. "My team spends enough time with me, Commander, I doubt I will be missed. Besides, someone needs to keep an eye on the ship while the crew is planetside."

Zora sighed. "I won't order you to go Zade but the Commodore wants everyone there and so do I." She smiled again but it had lost its spark. "Think about it. You're dismissed... for real this time." She added.

Zade waited for another moment, looking to see if Zora had anything else to add, before turning and leaving the office. She lingered after the door shut, weighing her options in the corridor. While not attending would be ideal, Zade realized that it could also cause more problems if she didn't attend. The last thing she wanted as to be asked questions about why she wasn't there, or worse, cause problems for Zora. A sigh came from her as she made her decision, finally walking away from the office door to return to her own office.

Zora finished the last of her tea and was about to recycle the cups when her terminal beeped. She smiled as she read the one sentence from the security officer. I will offer security on site, that's it. -Zade. "That'll do, that'll do," she said to herself before heading over to the replicator.


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