Location: Sahving Valley, Bajor
Daniela signed off on several personnel requests that her new department heads had sent her way before tossing the PADD off to the site and laying her head back against the bulkhead of the cramped quarters. She'd managed to hitch a ride on a Norway-class vessel headed to Bajor, a mistake she'd never repeat. Despite being a diplomatic vessel, there were far fewer creature comforts than she was used to. Her mind raced over the happenings of the last few days and how quickly she'd gone from being an instructor at the Academy to being the commanding officer of a starship. Her father still hadn't spoken to her since she took the position, but she knew the hurt feelings would fade eventually; she didn't care though because it was time for her to take charge of her own life.
The only thing that had irked her about the process was Admiral Reardon's insistence on taking Joseph Masterson as her XO. He was a nice enough man who'd had a tough go of it, but from everything she'd read, he was a capable officer. Still, she resented the admiral for not giving her a choice in who would run her senior staff. If not for severe warnings about the consequences of trying to push Masterson out after a few months, she would've already been scheming on how to get her own candidate into the right-hand seat. Fortunately, she hadn't had to go that far. A day and a half earlier, Masterson had tendered his resignation when he was offered and accepted the commanding officer position on a Federation freighter. It wasn't a glamorous position, but it was his own command and she sincerely wished him well (though she wouldn't admit that to anyone).
Her comm badge chirped to notify her they'd arrived at Bajor and were in standard orbit. She acknowledged the message and swung her legs over the edge of the bed, straightening her uniform before marching out of the small guest quarters. The computer's guidance led her to the nearest transporter room where she delivered a series of coordinates to the transporter technician and stepped onto the pad. The entire process of transporting was a surreal one that few thought much of now, but Daniela was always struck by the shock to her senses as she vanished from the sterile air of a starship to the lush, full scents from the surrounding flora and fauna of an alien world.
The scents that hit her nostrils were ones she was familiar with. As a lieutenant commander, she'd spent several months on a Starfleet facility on Bajor and in her (limited) free time, she'd explored some of the countryside for good places to run. It didn't matter how hard she tried, she hadn't been able to recreate the Bajor countryside in a Holodeck in a way that did it any justice. Daniela took a moment to take in her surroundings before she started off to her destination. Rising in front of her was a traditional Bajoran country homestead and the location of what she hoped was the executive officer she actually wanted in the right-hand seat.
Nestled within the historic Sahving Valley, the homestead was modest in size but boasted a homely beauty that was offset by its tranquil surroundings and well-tendered surroundings. Whilst the structure itself had evidently been put together in recent years, presumably after the Cardassian Occupation, it was of the utmost quality and evidently well-loved.
Situated in front of the main building and to one side of the dirt path leading up to the entrance was a small garden, numerous plants, herbs and vegetables at varying degrees of growth protruding from the fertile soil, each perfectly spaced apart and allocated their own areas. Some blossomed in bright bloom, whilst others were earthy or recently planted or picked; a few small holes sat stark against the rest, no doubt prepared for the new arrivals to the garden currently held in the calloused hands of a Bajoran woman reaching the latter years of her middle age.
Kind, pale blue eyes looked Daniela up and down as a small breeze tugged at the thick white hair that sat atop the woman's head, a few light blonde strands hinting at the rich colour that she must have once had. If not for the scars that marred one side of her visage, it would not be inconceivable to deduce she was once a very attractive young woman - something that was possibly robbed from her by the Cardassians.
A light and polite smile tugged at the corners of her lips after a few very short seconds, the crow's feet that accented her eyes became more pronounced, but only further added to her endearing and kindly outward appearance. "It's not often we get visitors out this far," she said kindly as she took a few steps forward, pulling a stained cloth from the fence between her and the Starfleet captain to rub away some of the fresh mud upon her hands. "Is there something I can help you with, Ms...?"
"Moreno," Daniela said with a genuine smile. It wasn't something very many people got to see, but she'd always felt most at home on Bajor. "I apologize for dropping in uninvited like this." A splash of color caught her eye. "Are those Feloran Bromeliads?" she asked in surprise. "I didn't think they could grow in this soil. I tried to grow some while I was stationed here, but I only managed to kill them within a few weeks. The only place I've ever seen them is in the Temple Gardens of the Capitol."
The woman's eyes clearly alighted at the mention of the flower, and she immediately shifted herself over to the plant, looking down affectionately on her impressive collection. "Yes, I would love to say it was all thanks to my magical hands and tender loving care, but the Prophets look down on such deceit," she said with some mirth, before looking back to Moreno. "I have to admit to being lucky enough to being friends with a former vedek who lives just a little way away further into the valley," she said, "and he's the one I owe this beautiful selection to."
The Bajoran placed her hands on her hips, once more looking down to the Bromeliads with a glint in her ageing but very astute eyes. "I would offer to help you with your own and put in a good word for you, but something tells me that you're not here to discuss flowers," she added, a friendly smile on her face as she focused upon the human with a knowing expression.
"I wish it was," Daniela said with a sigh as she took in another deep breath of the idyllic country air. It had been an incredible struggle when she was forced to say goodbye to Bajor; it had quickly become one of her favorite places in the galaxy. Thoughts had often floated through her mind to make Bajor her permanent home, but commanding officers of starships rarely see a permanent home. She refocused on the woman. "Sadly, work brings me this way. I was hoping T'Vel was around and that I could speak with her, ma'am," the captain said, returning to the business at hand.
Although her faced dropped just for a second, the Bajoran composed herself again, warmth returning to her expression. "Of course, and please, call me Caris." With that, she now turned towards the house, calling in a louder but still soft and careful voice, "T'Vel, sweetie! A Ms. Moreno from Starfleet is here to see you."
Only a few brief seconds passed before the sound of careful footsteps could be heard reaching the open doorway, soon followed by a woman's lithe form. Just a couple of inches taller than Moreno, delicately pointed Vulcan ears poked up either side of a head of pulled-back dark hair. Her narrow but not unattractive face betrayed no emotions, despite the nasal ridges that highlighted her mixed part-Bajoran heritage stark against the rest of her visage.
Pausing for just a moment, T'Vel arched a very Vulcan eyebrow at the newcomer before taking the few short steps down to step over to Moreno. "Thank you, Aunt Caris," she said, almost kindly, to the Bajoran before looking to Moreno. Although she was not dressed in a Starfleet uniform, instead garbed in traditional Bajoran clothing, she walked in a precise military manner and politely extended a hand towards the human woman.
"Lieutenant Commander T'Vel," she greeted, "and apologies for my lack of appropriate attire, Captain."
Daniela waved dismissively. "You're not on duty, Commander."
A slight flicker of non-Vulcan confusion and wariness flitted across her face. "Might I ask as to the purpose of your personal visit?" Seeing the line officer here at her home, her mind had immediately brought up concerns over whether something had befallen her mother, who remained a Starfleet officer. Regardless of their current relationship, she would never deny her unconditional love for her, and had no wish to see harm come to her.
"I'm here with a job offer, Commander," she said. A lot of things could be said about Daniela Moreno, but not being a straight-shooter wasn't one of them. She watched the woman's face carefully for any sign of a reaction. Admittedly, it was more difficult with Vulcans, but she was hoping the woman's half Bajoran side won out a little bit and gave her some indication of what was going on underneath the surface.
That hope was then returned as a slight frown creased T'Vel's brows. Obviously seeing Moreno's rank and the approach of the woman, she immediately began drawing conclusions about this possible job.
Before she could answer, Caris interrupted. "A ship posting, Captain Moreno?" She asked quickly, her smile having dropped and her expression now replaced by one of concern and worry. Whilst T'Vel knew her aunt was in particular rush for her niece to leave her, having grown very fond of her brother's daughter and reliant on her help around the homestead, her concern was certainly not entirely selfish.
After all, it was only within the last year that T'Vel's previous assignment as security chief and second officer on board the USS Thelian had resulted in her almost losing her life, when a Cardassian terrorist organisation had succeeded in destroying the ship and all of those serving on board. Since then, Caris had done her utmost to try and convince T'Vel to leave Starfleet and stay with her on Bajor; taking up the assistant's position within the local JAG office had been a compromise, but T'Vel had always felt that position to be temporary.
Having lost her family to the Cardassians and her brother later to idealism, Caris' point of view was well understood by T'Vel, which is how she managed a small and weak yet sympathetic smile for her aunt. "Please, excuse my aunt, Captain." she now said to Moreno. "Following my previous assignment, she simply has my best interests at heart." Even so, she was surprised by her own inner keenness at what the woman might now offer, although that was still something she struggled to communicate through expressions.
Daniela shook her head quickly. "No apology necessary. I completely understand." The tone betrayed the sincerity Daniela actually felt. Yes, she wasn't keen on the idea of tearing a family apart, but T'Vel was a Starfleet officer; this is what she signed up for. "Let's take a walk," Daniela said, motioning at anywhere away from the woman's aunt.
When the two women were outside of earshot of Caris, Moreno broke the silence. "I know your last assignment was... difficult... but you served with distinction aboard the Thelian and that hasn't gone unnoticed, Commander. I need an XO who understands what's at stake out there and knows how to keep their composure when the going gets tough."
"XO?" T'Vel immediately queried, the slightest rise in the pitch of her voice conveying her surprise. Given her past experiences and record, she had expected another security posting, and certainly not an elevation into the command ranks. "That is a most... generous offer, Captain," she said as they continued walking, T'Vel now looking entirely forwards as she considered Moreno's suggestion.
"I am very flattered," she went on, striding purposefully alongside the other woman, "but I must admit, ascending the chain of command has never been a particular ambition of mine." Although fate has often appeared to have other ideas, a voice within her head reminded her, and she immediately thought of the Prophets her aunt held so dear to her heart and the supposed plan they had prepared.
T'Vel thought now of the time she had spent on Bajor with her aunt, of the connections she had made with her and how well she had been helping her to develop her emotional side, as well as teaching her about her Bajoran heritage and the father she had lost whilst still young. When Aunt Caris had asked her to resign and stay with her permanently, T'Vel had been tempted, also partly because she knew her aunt had no one else and had no wish to leave her all alone once again.
Slowing their pace to halt, T'Vel looked across at the Sahving Valley beyond them, a beautiful landscape dotted with many other homesteads, farms and wonderful vistas. Unlike her mother's homeworld of Vulcan, Bajor was a verdant planet, lush and alive. She loved it here, but she had quickly made her decision.
"If I am to accept this position, Captain Moreno," she then began, now turning to face the human as the part of her who wished to stay working its way to the fore before declaring her acceptance to the woman, "you must realise that I will not hesitate to question your decisions, and whilst I continue to endeavour to improve my emotional competence, I cannot promise to make friends with you or the crew."
"I'm not looking for a 'yes man', Commander," Moreno said quickly. "I expect you to question my decisions, but I also expect that it be done in the appropriate manner. Admittedly, I'm hoping your Vulcan side shines through there," she said with a small smirk that vanished after only a moment. "This is my first command, so I need the best people around me. You may not think you're one of those, but I do."
"And whilst I may not prize experience over logic, I may well be willing to concede that point to you," T'Vel remarked, the barest hint of a smile threatening to turn up the corners of her mouth, although looking now at the captain and the prospects awaiting her, she saw only new challenges and chances for development, and yet further opportunities to uphold what she believed in. "I accept your offer, Captain Moreno," she said as she extended her hand to the woman, "and I wish to thank you for your confidence in my abilities. It is my hope, for the sake of all of us, that I can live up to them - just as I hope you do to Starfleet's."
Daniela nodded approvingly. She'd ended up getting who she wanted in the right-hand chair, despite what Will Reardon had said and she hadn't even needed to go around him.
T'Vel excused herself to return to her aunt, but Daniela stayed to soak in as much of the countryside as she could in the few hours she had left on the planet. She took in the landscape for a few moments and breathed in the fresh air. Bajor felt like the home she wanted, but couldn't have right now. She'd have to settle for as much time as she could manage until her transport back to Starbase 414 departed in the morning. Until then though, she was home.