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Stranger Here Myself 
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Post Stranger Here Myself
Part 1 - Arrival

[Mballa Nethepe Memorial Building, Manhattan, Earth - May 26, 2384]

New York didn't appear to have changed much over the years. A few buildings had been built or torn down, the manufacturing district was more tastefully concealed underground, and the Long Island Reclamation Project had finally reached its end and the nature preserve could be toured without a rad badge, but to a tourist's eyes the physical differences were all but unnoticeable.

Looks were deceiving, though. Anyone who skipped a century or so of history could tell you that. Style changed for everything from clothing to art to body modification, language and slang in particular shifted despite the linguistic quasi-stasis brought about by mass media and standardized translators, attitudes towards work and wealth shifted because of new technology. The question was how much of that change was superficial and how much was fundamental.

Ash certainly couldn't even start to figure the answer to that out. For that matter, he couldn't tell how much things had really changed. He knew that he felt out of place just walking from his transient apartment in Greenwich to the Starfleet personnel annex near Battery Park. He just couldn't say whether that was because everything had changed drastically or if he was just imagining it all. He supposed that was the entire point of the appointment he was going to, the latest in a long series of briefings, debriefings, and meetings that he'd gone through in the week since Mariner arrived at Earth.

He arrived at the annex and took a lift up the eighty-first floor, which held the innocuously-named Office of Transition Management. There were a number of people its waiting area, some in uniform and some not; Ash nodded to one Saurian who looked vaguely familiar and just as out of place as he did. He checked in with reception and before he could even sit down he was approached by a tall, dark-skinned woman. She was wearing civilian clothing, although whether it was formal or semi-casual he couldn't tell, but there was a Starfleet insignia on her chest that marked her as a civilian adjutant.

"Lieutenant Griffith? Doctor Tawhaki Pomgia," she said in a thick Australian accent. "I'm your case worker. It's nice to meet you."

"Likewise, ma'am," Ash replied, shaking her hand.

"Please, come into my office."

Ash followed her inside. It was reasonably spacious, although the window looked out at the neighboring tower, and while there were the usual office furnishing there were also a low coffee table with a couple of armchairs and a couch around it. There were also some colorful potted plants and abstract paintings on the walls. It was all deeply suspicious, especially when Pomgia waved for him to sit at one of the comfy chairs instead of by the desk.

"So, uh. What sort of doctor are you?" Ash asked, sitting down uneasily on the couch.

"Sociology," she replied with a laugh. She picked up a pair of PADDs from her desk and sat down in one of the armchairs. "I used to work for the Bureau of Refugee Affairs before taking on this position. I'm not a counselor or psychiatrist, if that's what you're wondering."

"Thank God for small favors," Ash muttered. He'd spent enough time with those to last a lifetime after the Battle of Greenwald.

"I'll leave the therapy sessions to the professionals," Pomgia continued. "I'm hear to act as an advisor and help you sort through all the different issues you're going to be facing. Even if I can't help you directly, I can put you in contact with professionals who can."

"I see," Ash said. "I guess it makes sense for one person to manage everything."

"We've found that it's a lot easier for everyone this way," Pomgia said. "Now, there's a number of legal and financial documents that we need to go over regarding the disposition of property, resettlement funding, and similar concerns, but first I'd like to discuss what your plans for the future are."

"I can't say that I've got anything you could call a plan," Ash said. "There hasn't been a lot of time to think, you know? I mean, I'd like to stay in Starfleet, but..."


"I don't know if that's really an option. I'm a little out of date, you know. Don't take this the wrong way, but I don't want to get stuck in a yard or a starbase. Design work might be interesting for a while, but honestly, it's a starship or nothing in the long run."

"Even after what's happened on your last two shipboard assignments?"

Ash shrugged. "I figure that it's got to be uphill from here. But like I said, is that even a realistic option?"

"Of course it is," Pomgia assured him. "Starfleet has plenty of experience getting displaced persons back into the saddle. We had a case not unlike yours about a decade ago -"

"The Bozeman," Ash interjected. Everyone aboard Mariner had heard that story by now.

"Yes, exactly. A number of her crew are still serving today in a variety of positions." Pomgia glanced at one of her PADDs. "Starfleet Academy has a number of career extension programs available, and I don't think you'll have trouble catching up. I'm not an engineering expert, but the basic principles haven't changed all that much. Alternatively, there's also the option of changing career tracks. Starfleet is always looking for proven young leaders, and not only are you command-qualified but you have experience that a lot of officers your age lack."

Ash chuckled and looked out the window. "Okay, I can agree that the engineering might not be hard to do. Physics is physics, after all, and there haven't been any really fundamental changes in design principles? But commanding?" He shook his head. "You have no idea how out of place I am out there. People are different. How can I lead people I don't understand?"

"I think you'll find that, once the shock has worn off, people won't seem as different as they do now. Yes, there have been changes, some of them fairly large, but when you get right down to it humans are still humans, and the core values of Starfleet and the Federation haven't changed that much."

"Are you positive about that?"

"I suppose I could be wrong," Pomgia admitted. "I might be too close to the subject to see it clearly. What does a raindrop know of the storm?"

Ash looked at her sharply and studied her for a few seconds, eyes slightly narrowed. "Is this the part of the session where we break out the poetic metaphors? Can a tree describe a forest? What is a thought compared to the mind? That sort of thing?"

"No, I'm afraid that's about as far as I can go with poetry," Pomgia said with a laugh. "And I'm out of platitudes, for that matter. But I honestly think that you won't have much trouble adjusting, Lieutenant, and even if you don't fit in perfectly that's not necessarily a bad thing. Different points of view are always valuable in Starfleet. Rest assured, there is a place for you here and now."

"I see." Ash relaxed a little, not completely at ease but more comfortable than he had been. For one thing, she had a point. If Starfleet could find ways to integrate dozens of species, some with decidedly different biologies and social systems, it could probably manage to fit in a slightly-outdated engineer. For another, she'd reminded him that there were still other places he could go. Of that he could be assured. "Well, in any case, you probably have more to tell me before I can even think of making any kind of rational decision."

"Of course." Pomgia handed over a PADD. "We'll start with your options if you remain in the service. As you can see, career-wise it's mostly a matter of reeducation. You were already on the fast track for promotion, and given some of the points you've racked from performance reviews, commendations, and the time-in-grade adjustments that will likely made, you may well be on the next list for lieutenant commander...."

Commander Ashton Griffith
Commanding Officer, USS Minoru

Sun Nov 28, 2010 10:59 pm
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