Who: Commander Timothy Rouse and Lieutenant Arthur Reynolds
Where: USS Portland - Deck 10 - Ten Forward
When: Presumably shortly after Portland leaves Trill
"Here you go, sir. Two replicated beers, although I still don't know why you would drink that when I have real beers on tap." The bartender said to Tim.
Tim laughed at the look on the man's face as he gave him his drinks. "I know they taste better," he said. "But with the Captain off ship I'm on duty." He didn't mention his sister's reason for staying of alcohol as it was none of his business. He took the drinks and headed for his sister.
"Now all we need is a good game and it's almost like were at home." Judith said as he put the glasses down. Smiling at her he asked. "How are you feeling? Now that everything is over with your Klingon.”
She looked up to him, but before she was able to answer the Portland’s Chief Tactical Officer.
"Am I interrupting?" Arthur had entered after asking the computer for the whereabouts of whoever was in command in Alenis' absence. Now he stood by the table in Ten Forward with a PADD held in a hand which hung loosely by his side.
Tim raised his eyebrow. Even though he was on duty he hadn't expected to be interrupted in person. "What can I help you with, Lieutenant."
Arthur certainly may have looked as awkward as he felt. He never met Timothy before this, at least not as far as he could recall, and he barely even spoke to the captain outside of briefings. On the other hand, he didn't really know anyone that well. "I'd... rather not talk about it here, Commander. Though if you insist--" Without another word, he quietly handed his PADD over to Timothy. Even at first glance, Arthur felt Timothy would at least recognize it. It was a letter of resignation. "I doubt word will get around. But I just wanted to be sure."
After quickly glancing over the padd's content Tim quickly stood up, finished his beer and said "follow me to my office," turning to his sister he gave her a kiss on the cheek and said. "We'll talk later." After Tim and Arthur had left ten forward he asked the Chief of Tactical. "You really want to resign? Why?"
It took him some time to think of an answer as he followed along, but in the end, Arthur merely answered with a regretful tone, "It's a long story."
USS Portland, Arthur's quarters
Shortly before the arrival at Trill
Discretion. The term felt too familiar to Arthur, who spent much of his life being discreet. That wasn't in the sense of actions, but more in the sense of words. He'd covered up the truth about his childhood from Starfleet all these years, or at least evaded it. But even he had to admit, those experiences defined him - and he couldn't hide them in his shadow forever. What worried him, however, was the fact he made it so far already. It was as if he were being watched over by some kind of guardian angel.
Arthur didn't believe in divine intervention. The only person he could ultimately count on was himself. He could take himself out of his home on Orion, but nobody could take the home out of Arthur. There were few examples of people like himself in Starfleet, but most were dead or in prison. He even read about one particular Bajoran who ultimately defected and joined the Maquis long ago. That's all he'd been doing for the past day or so: sitting in his quarters, checking over Starfleet records of fellow officers with a resistance toward rank and formality.
It was grim. People like him were frequently ostracized or worse. All he could hear in his mind was those words his former taskmaster, Kesuma, left him with: Paradise isn't for you, Arthur. It never was. Arthur deactivated the console on the desk in front of him, then turned away in his seat. He leaned forward against his legs, hands clasped together as he wondered about his next move. You don't belong with them, the voice reiterated. You belong with me. Those words reminded Arthur why he wore this uniform.
Because he'd hoped he would never have to go back to the way things were.
Trill, Kural, Devritane Museum
Shortly after the arrival on Trill
'Within each of us lie a million voices.
Each a single branch on a vast and intricate tree.
Heed their words, as wisdom and warning.
For they watch over everything you see.
~ The Master of Tarquin Hill'
While Arthur admired the naiskos exhibit in the Devritane Museum on Trill, he didn't notice the 'Trill' woman who'd stepped up beside him, a fair distance away. "Elegant, isn't it?" She said with a hint of sarcasm. "But a lie. A perverse and probably hypocritical lie. There are no voices. There's only memories, signifying nothing. There's no reason, no truth hidden in those creatures. It's nothing but a soulless parasite."
"I doubt that," Arthur stated without outright objecting to the stranger's analysis. "You know what a real parasite is? The kind that doesn't need a host to control the mind. All they need is the right words, the right leverage, and the right opportunity. Cause and effect, right? Make one choice, and someone else will make another. Every action is the result of another action."
"We prepare the script. You repeat the lines." The stranger stated simply before addressing him on another topic entirely. Neither of them looked the other in the eye, however. "Maya sent you to me."
"He convinced me that it was a good idea," Arthur claimed defensively, but Bel merely chuckled. "Laugh it up. Now why don't you tell me what you're doing here? Since when did a Bajoran need to go undercover as a Trill?"
"You could say I'm making a life for myself out here." Bel snorted. "Though I'd rather be living on Ferenginar if I have to keep looking at these disgusting symbiotes."
"So why'd he send me to find you?"
"Probably because he knows you?" For the first time that day, she turned and faced him, but only briefly. Soon after, she started to walk past him, subtly gesturing with her head that he walk with her. They'd stay deep in the confines of the museum, where it seemed nobody from the Portland would be. "Before I got these spots, I started out a believer. Kesuma envisioned a Bajor without the Federation or any other power in control over it. He called his planned 'government' the 'Ascendancy'. You should have heard him. 'The Bajoran people are destined to ascend to the heavens and become the next Prophets'. It's no wonder he ended up a kohn-ma. No other Bajoran would dare speak to him after that.
"When I was younger, I joined Starfleet. They were... are the galaxy's biggest hypocrisy. They tolerate religious and cultural diversity only as long as it meets their approval. Wear a Bajoran earring? You're in violation of dress code. Pray to the Prophets in public, even at a whisper? Get told by your CO that you're 'disturbing' others. They offer paradise in this world, but demand you give up paradise in the next."
"What, that's it?" Arthur asked incredulously. "I had to give up more than that. I needed to get away from Rigel, find a place to call home."
"So you gave up your home."
"No..." Again, Arthur sounded fairly irked. "I had to give up everything I learned to join Starfleet. It was like... like I didn't exist before."
"Yet here you are, all dressed up in your nice, cozy uniform." Bel actually smirked and gave him a brief look, to Arthur's surprise. "It looks a bit big for you. You remind me of myself when I joined Starfleet. It never really did fit on me anyway."
"Alright, look - can we get on with it?" Arthur looked away with a frown. "So you left Starfleet and went to join Kesuma, right?" Before she could continue her little story, he impatiently interrupted, "How about you get to the good part, like... why am I here?"
Bel shook her head in disappointment, noting, "You humans are the least patient species in the galaxy, you know that?" Arthur could only stop and look her in the eye, to which she responded in kind only after taking a few more steps. "I think... he wants you to meet someone else who stood where you're standing now." That gave Arthur pause, but Bel continued undisturbed. "But more importantly, he probably knows who I'm working for. And in the end, he's hoping you'll work for them too."
Perturbed, Arthur asked, "Who?"
"A number people like us tend to be affiliated with."
Back in the present
By the time they'd arrived, Arthur had already related the basic story, minus certain details like his discretion about his past. The last thing he needed was trouble. Then again, he didn't know how Timothy would take the story as-is, so he braced himself as they stepped into the XO's office.
"That is a story indeed," Tim said after sitting down in his chair. "I can't accept your resignation right now. With your situation as is, the Captain needs to be notified of it and make a decision. Unfortunely she won't be back for a few days. You'll have to wait until to get an answer to your resignation."
"Commander, I don't think you understand. I'm not resigning because I want to go kick back and live it up on Risa. As long as I'm in Starfleet, I'm a liability. I don't care what Bel said, there's no place in Starfleet for someone like me." Arthur sounded desperate. He clearly didn't want to make a mistake that would cost Starfleet its reputation, even if he wasn't that important. "Maya was right. I grew up on Rigel alone. Have you ever been to Rigel?" He narrowed his eyes. "Crime is rampant. The Syndicate rules everything. It's a damn miracle I made it out alive." Finally, he quieted down and slowly lowered himself down into a chair across from Tim. Then, in a hushed whisper, he asked, "Do you believe in fate, Commander?"
"What do you want me to do then?" Tim asked. "I can't sign on your papers and the Captain isn't here for now. If you consider yourself really a danger to Starfleet all I can do for now is order you to stay in your quarters without any access to outside communications."
"This may sound like I'm contradicting myself, but I wouldn't knowingly do anything to hurt the ship or the crew. The problem is, I doubt I can avoid falling back on my instinct in a pinch." Knowing he'd have to illustrate his point, Arthur reluctantly parted with the secret he'd kept since he arrived. "When I was sent to DS9, it was because I'd made a mistake. In my former post, an Yridian ship that stole some kind of data from a nearby Starfleet Intelligence outpost got away. When I found out another had docked at DS9, I took the liberty of tricking security into holding them there while I went in to download the missing data. All I got was some navigational chart, some of it badly corrupted. I don't even know if they were the culprits. They could've just been innocents for all I know.
"I keep telling myself I did it for Starfleet. I did it for the Federation. But you know why I really did it? I wanted to make up for a mistake. I wanted to save my reputation. Save face, you know? Then the next thing I know, someone steals the data I stole, then I go and lie to you. Those scans you asked me about... that was me. I scanned for an ion trail of a shuttlecraft that followed the Yridian's trail."
At that moment the voice of Ina Nap, Tim's PA, sounded through the intercom. "Commander, you asked to be notities of the Captain came back on board and she just arrivé back."
"Thank you, Chief." Tim replied theblooked up to Arthur. "I guess that solves our probleem. If you go to her rignt away, i'll make sure shenis up to date before you arrive."
"Right," Arthur finally answered in a somewhat bitter voice, but he didn't make anything more of it. Instead, he quietly stood, gave the Commander one last uncertain glance, then walked out the door to meet with the Captain.