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Souls

 

Previously: Dramatis Personae

Sarina Gates stared aimlessly out the windows of Ten Forward. Despite the countless stars whizzing by as the Enterprise hurtled through space as warp, the endless black of space appeared an abyss, and every bit a reflection of her career.

Mindlessly, she lifted her glass without looking down or blinking. She sipped without tasting, registering neither cold nor warmth, sweet nor tart.

"Rough day?" a familiar voice interjected. Sarina didn't need to look up to know she was being addressed by Tianna Palmer, a newly minted lieutenant (if only junior grade).

"Just the usual," Sarina murmured, eyes never wavering from the window.

"I see Rager's running late," Tianna chuckled, taking a seat and waving over a server. She was a tall woman dressed in the black and gold of engineering, even if all she did was operate a transporter and run diagnostics. Like Sarina, she was brown-skinned and black-haired. Unlike Sarina, however, Tianna was younger and had nabbed a promotion seemingly without breaking a sweat.

"Rager's always running late," Sarina murmured, eyes narrowing slightly even as she continued to stare. Ten Forward was rarely empty and yet it always felt that way to her. Perhaps it was the way the lounge was so dimly lit and people most came there to drink and unwind.

It could be full of people, but it would always seem empty to Gates.

Ten Forward

"Two Kobheerian champagnes," Tianna ordered when the server arrived. That caught Sarina's attention. She finally turned to her uninvited dining companion and raised an eyebrow.

"Another promotion, Lieutenant?" she asked, with just the slightest hint of acidity.

"More like a transfer," Tianna grinned. "I'm about to join the crew of the Crazy Horse." heir drinks arrived in two big, tall glasses, no doubt to show the many colors of Kobheerian champagne. It started off deep blue at the top, then medium purple, then rose gold, then pure gold at the bottom.

And it tasted like heaven.

Sarina blinked in surprised, as though wakened from a deep stupor. The champagne was very light, almost evaporating as soon as it hit the tongue, but it was also very sweet with just a sour-tinged edge, like candy.

"How the hell did you discover this?" she gasped, staring at her glass in dismay.

"Replicators, Gates," Tianna laughed. "I keep telling you to broaden your horizons." Her cheery demeanor stayed, but there was a flicker in her dark eyes. "You never know what you might discover."

"Yeah, but...Kobheerian? That would've never crossed my mind."

Tianna sighed. "A lot of things never cross your mind. Now," she said a little more seriously, "you can't be an ensign forever, Sarina. What are you doing to move your career forward?"

Sarina gave her look. "Really? You're gonna 'advise' me? They might have kicked you up half a notch, sis, but I've still got years on you."

"Exactly," Tianna nodded, fully serious now. "You've been an ensign for a long while now, and if you're not out saving the galaxy in some grand display of heroism, Starfleet has no problem letting you fall through the cracks." She shrugged for emphasis.

Despite her annoyance, Sarina was intrigued. "I don't recall you rescuing anyone, Lieutenant. Hear tell, those transporters are straight up death traps and it's a wonder anyone comes out alive after a 'malfunction'."

"It's not just about the heroics, Sarina," Tianna patiently replied. "It's not just about the years of experience or having a spotless record. It's also about making the right friends in high places."

Sarina raised a slender dark eyebrow. "You made a friend?"

"I did," Tianna nodded. "And you could make one too."

Sarina snorted, smirking, "Let me guess: you sold your soul to some Admiral or Ambassador or whoever, and agreed to be their little errand girl, didn't you?"

"I did some favors for a friend," Tianna corrected her. "And now I'm a lieutenant."

"Junior grade," Sarina scoffed.

"And I'm moving to a new ship."

"Off the Enterprise!" Sarina laughed. "People work their asses off for years to serve aboard Starfleet's flagship. I literally had to graduate at the top of my class. Fucking Commander Riker would rather take orders aboard this ship than give orders aboard his own ship. What does that tell you?"

"It tells me the Enterprise is a very nice ship," Tianna nodded casually. "But unless your name is Picard, Riker, Data, or La Forge...nobody gives a fuck." She paused before flashing a small, rueful smile. "It's hard to shine in the shadows of titans, Sarina."

The ensigned gritted her teeth. The bitch is right, she begrudgingly admitted to herself, but refused to say aloud.

"So...," Sarina mused slowly, "you made a friend."

Tianna nodded again. "I made a friend."

"And now you want to make an introduction."

Tianna lifted her champagne to her lips. "She'll call you."

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