SIM:JP: LtCmdr. Sky Blake and Cmdr. Zhou Tai-Sheng: Dark Clouds

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This SIM was written and presented on January 20, 2019 (corresponding to the IC stardate 239601.20), but the events in this SIM take place in late 2395 while the USS Veritas crew is stuck in a temporal bubble on the moon Limbo.

((New Risa Resort & Spa Campsite, Limbo - Day 122))

::Despite the wave of optimism that had spread throughout the camp leading up to the departure of Delano’s team back to the powerless Veritas up above, there still remained a lot of work to be done on the surface -- not just with the construction of the relay that would be instrumental in Teller and Ukinix’s plan to dissipate the strange temporal effect of the moon but also just the practical survival of the crew for the next few weeks, possibly months it would take for the ship team to actually accomplish their mission.::

::And if they failed… well, then those on the surface would have to ensure the camp would be sustainable for far longer.::

::Zhou walked through the “main street” of the town that the crew had constructed, helping Captain Rahman and the other senior officers oversee upgrades that the crew were constructing to the camp’s structures when he heard some raised voices from behind one of the repurposed escape pods. He made a detour to see what was the commotion.::

::For Blake, the last two weeks - since her incident out in the forrest - had been a form of personal hell she’d only been familiar with during her time on Ornara. Not only was she now being haunted by these experiences that were her own, yet *not* her own, sensations that she knew were not of her own feelings, but she was also keenly aware that the crew had just sent her 100 year old son, whom wasn’t in a great condition to begin with, up to a ship which (in their perspective) was about to be destroyed in three hours of their time.

::To say that she was stressed out and tired was an understatement. And Lieutenant Maravosh had been the stick that broke the dam.::

Blake: If you cannot handle a simple task, than get out of the way. 

::The Risian helmswoman didn’t take that suggestion too kindly. She stepped up into Blake’s personal space just a bit, showing she wasn’t going to be pushed around like any old crewman. This was the woman after all who’d been mentored by a Nausicaan mercenary before she’d joined Starfleet. A grumpy Brekkian Betazoid was nothing she was intimidated by.::

Maravosh: You got a problem, commander?

::The thing about Sky Blake was that she never really yelled. She actively avoided doing so. Instead, officers baring the brunt of her anger were greeted with a soft yet incredibly icy reception, complete with clenched teeth and harsh emerald eyes. Today, she’d risen her voice just a bit - enough to be noticeable to anyone that knew the commander well. And it was incredibly out of character.

Blake: Maravosh, you’ve ignored directives *twice*! If I had my way, you’d be out doing nightshifts.

::Heads turned towards the tense exchange going on between the two women. Maravosh raised her shoulders a bit, almost as if getting ready for an actual physical confrontation.::

Maravosh: And what exactly are *you* doing around here lately, Blake? I haven’t seen you making the rounds -- night or day.

Blake: Fixing your mistakes, evidently! ::She pointed at the woman.:: You’re talking to a superior officer, one who’s done a hell of a lot for you during our time here. So start acting like it.

Maravosh: *Excuse* me? ::She shook her head.:: I’ve been in the fleet ten years. You do *not* talk to me like a first-year cadet.

Zhou: Maravosh! ::He looked over at Blake, furrowing his brow.:: Sky... please. Let’s not let things escalate.

::To say that Blake backed down would be false, but she remained silent at the directive - habitually following her friends recommendation. But her eyes were still cold, glaring daggers at Maravosh.::

Zhou: What’s the issue here?

::Finally, her glare snapped from Maravosh to Zhou, and Blake pulled away from the table she was leaning against, snapping her response as she began to remove herself from the situation, turning her back on Maravosh.::

Blake: Nothing. Nothing at all.

::As the tall blonde began to walk away, Zhou looked over at the helmswoman. His old friend from his days assigned to Starbase 301 gave a final glare at the security chief walking away before she looked back at him.::

Maravosh: Must be the heat, Tai.

::He took a deep breath as he shrugged before letting out a sigh.::

Zhou: All right, just get back to your duties then. ::He turned to address the gawkers as well.:: That goes for all of you. Come on, we’ve got a lot of work left to do!

::As people began to disperse, Zhou called out to Blake, who was starting to head off.::

Zhou: Sky… ::When she didn’t stop, he called out louder.:: ...Commander Blake!

::Finally, she spun to snap a response at him.::

Blake: What? What do you want?

Zhou: Walk with me. ::He beckoned with his finger for her to follow him.::

::Once they were out of earshot of the rest of the crew, he shook his head as they continued out towards the beach.::

Zhou: Leave it to you to find a way to upset a Risian.

Blake: I don’t care who she is. She knows exactly what she did.

::This was an all-around awkward situation for Zhou he hadn’t had before. Maravosh had been Zhou’s closest friend on 301. She’d even personally piloted the shuttle to drop him off at his new assignment of the USS Tiger-A when he left the starbase to become that ship’s new security chief. And Sky was the person Zhou was closest to on Veritas. He’d personally recruited her after all, not just to the ship but to Starfleet.::

Zhou: You know I served with her for two years on Starbase 301, right? She was my wingwoman -- and I’m not talking as a pilot.

Blake: That’s nice and all, but that’s not exactly making me feel any less pissed off at her.

Zhou: ::sighs:: My *point* is that I know Maravosh pretty well. She’s not one to get easily riled up. And honestly, that goes for you, too.

Blake: Zhou, I swear, I’m five seconds away from actually hitting you.

::And not in the fun way. The warning was heeded - Zhou quietened for a few moments.::

::After a minute to catch her breath, still walking along, her pace finally begun to slow. Zhou spoke again.::

Zhou: everything all right?

::Emerald eyes flickered to him before they chained back to her feet, walking along and focusing on not tripping on any rocks or stepping on any foreign snake that could be seconds away from killing her.

::That was the issue, wasn’t it? She’d had a near death experience that had led to some . . . weird stuff happening. She shook her head at the question.::

Blake: I don’t know.

::As they approached the beach where they’d said goodbye to Ekal only days earlier, Zhou gestured to a few large boulders that sat in the sand.::

Zhou: Let’s just have a seat for a moment.

::It was actually an easier suggestion for Zhou to make than to actually do. The braces on the sides of his legs made it difficult for him to easily settle back onto the rock, but once he had, he took a moment to admire the view before looking back over at Sky.::

Zhou: Something’s troubling you. We don’t need a counselor to see that.

::But they *did* have a counselor with them, even now, and Zhou was wondering if he should somehow find a way for Orrey to get involved. As a former security chief himself, he knew how tight-lipped those in gold could sometimes be about their personal turmoil and trauma. Maybe speaking “gold-to-gold” (despite his current red collar) would help.::

Blake: You know I’ve been totally sober for a hundred and nineteen days?

::Blake was not what one generally considered an alcoholic. Did she drink often? Yes. Did she arrive to the duty shift still affected from alcohol consumed the night before? No. Never. Would never be caught dead doing such a thing. But the fact was, whenever she was faced with a traumatic thought or experience, she retreated. To a bar, to her quarters. She wasn’t *dependent* - she didn’t consider herself dependent, and Noree knew she hadn’t had an issue without access to vodka during their time here. However, she felt herself at a crossroads.::

::For the first time in . . . ever, really, she’d have to face an issue head-on. She couldn’t run from ghosts any longer, or hide from them behind a coping mechanism.::

Zhou: You’re gonna blame it on the alcohol, or the lack thereof? Seriously?

Blake: It would be a hundred percent easier if I could.

::She sighed, rubbing her eyes, still rattled from what had honestly been a minor argument with Maravosh that somehow fell into a situation she lost control over.::

Blake: Something . . . *happened*. In the bushland, after that damn snake.

Zhou: You mean before you were brought back to the medical tent?

Blake: Yeah. ::beat:: There was a moment where . . . I thought I was gonna die. And that sounds . . . stupid, and corny, and so many ridiculous words, but . . .

Zhou: I mean… couldn’t have been the first time right? But I don’t suppose it gets any easier when those kinds of moments happen.

::It just came with the job, Zhou had always tried to insist to himself, perhaps in the hopes that such cold detachment would make it more acceptable. It didn’t.::

Blake: Yeah, but . . . this was different. I was alone, and then I wasn’t. Generally, when it comes to life or death situations, you fight your way out of it or resign to it. But this time . . . ::She gave a huff of frustration.:: Every time I think about it, I feel like a crazy person. Since the snake, I saw . . . things. Memories, feelings, stuff I didn’t know before that I do now for reasons I’m not sure of. People I didn’t recognize before that I do now.

Zhou: Are you talking hallucinations? ...or just… ::He struggled to find the words of what she was describing.:: ...bad dreams?

Blake: . . . I think both? ::She shuddered.:: I don’t dream, Zhou.

::Zhou returned a confused look, complete with a furrowed brow. He and Sky had been known to share the same bed on a number of occasions where he knew for a fact she’d gone to sleep. She’d never dreamt once during those nights?::

Zhou: What do you mean you don’t dream? That a Brekkian thing?

Blake: I used to - with Sabor around, I always experienced *colour*, experienced *motion* and imagination, but since his death, it’s just been a black void. For years, now. Daydreams, real dreams - there’s nothing. It is an empty space, that I just . . . exist in, until I come out of it again. And for a while it was unsettling, but I got used to it. The longer I sent alone on Ornara, the easier it was. ::She shook her head.:: It’s hard to explain.

::Generally when she found herself dwelling on the matter, she’d find a nice bottle of vodka or something of the like to settle down with and exhaust herself to a point where she no longer cared she slept without dreaming.

::Now, she was wishing she had access to that same bottle, so to knock herself into sleep without fearing the sudden murky colours she knew she was about to experience - to the point where she was actively avoiding sleeping (somewhat unhealthy for her) lest a dream occurs.::

Zhou: Maybe just harder to digest.

::He looked back out at the ocean for a moment, the sun glistening off of the waves.::

Zhou: So now you’re dreaming again?

::There was silence for a moment - and she never intended on being overly dramatic about any of this - she hated center-stage, hated airing out her problems. She avoided it, quite deliberately. But now, having to talk about this and explain what was happening, she looked terrified. She was terrifying herself.::

Blake: I saw Sabor. When I was awake, and coherent. 

::Yeah, that’s not normal, Blake. He held his tongue, though, and tried to reassure her.::

Zhou: That must have been very… unsettling.

Blake: “Unsettling”. ::She huffed a laugh, glancing back to him.:: I don’t know *what* it was. Since then I’ve . . . everything’s *changed*. I sleep *well*, and I . . . there’s *things* to experience. The void is gone. And before you freak out, no - he’s not here. It was attached to the snake, I think. Whatever it was.

Zhou: Did he say something to you that you remember?

Blake: I remember everything. With his . . . ::she sucked in a deeper breath:: with his *help*, I called attention to myself. Otherwise, Teller wouldn’t have found me in time. But he was there. And it . . . *felt* like him.

::He empathized with what she was telling him. Though he’d had a few brushes with death during his career, most recently of course while in command of the Montreal, he’d never experienced what Sky described, but he’d heard of similar things.::

::He reached out and put a hand gently on top of her thigh.::

Zhou: You know it’s not unheard of… what you described. Especially in near-death situations.

Blake: Does that include having an influx of experiences I didn’t recall before, but apparently am aware of now? 

Zhou: Are you talking about your memories? From before…

::Before she’d forgotten everything from her previous life.::

Blake: They were flashes. Of people, primarily. Herrera, David Whale, Captain Vetri - I can list a dozen or so people that I recognize now that I had barely heard of before. 

Zhou: Did you tell Doctor Maxwell about these flashes? Or Counselor Orrey?

Blake: No. Because I’m worried the second I admit that I had them, I’ll lose them just as quickly. And that’s the stupidest part about this whole thing - I don’t *want* to remember these people! They were from *before*, they have no relevance to me whatsoever. 

::She stood again, abruptly brushing Zhou’s arm aside as she walked away, pacing a few steps to calm herself down. She’d riled herself up again - which was again, out of character for her.::

::He looked over towards her, talking to her as she stood with her back towards him and staring out towards the water.::

Zhou: They are still a part of you -- a “you” that you might not remember, but still very much relevant to the complete person that is Sky Blake. That’s not stupid at all for not wanting to lose these memories a second time.

Blake: But I don’t want to live as two people! I am not that person - I am *me*. I’m the Brekkian who woke up six years ago with two kids and a weird psychic bond to a Vulcan my entire being begged me to trust. I’m the one that had to be taught everything from scratch on a starship where the crew tried so damn hard to include me even when they were questioning my being there - I proved myself, time and again, that I am different, that I am worthy of myself and my two kids!

::Her voice was raw, as if she were shouting at the sea. She turned around, looking back at him.::

Blake: To then have all that brushed aside, to be replaced with the life I *may* have had before, is an insult to myself. It’s a slap in the face of everything I have worked my *ass* off for during the last six years.

Zhou: If I may be so bold… I think you’re frightened.

::He'd been prepared for a defiant rebuttal, but it didn't come.::

Blake: You’re right. I’m scared out of my wits. 

::It was a rare admittance of vulnerability that most didn't see in the security chief, especially those who didn't get past a first impression.::

Zhou: You’ve always been uncomfortable when you’ve met people from that “other” Sky’s past. The familiarity foreign to you.

::In this regard, Zhou had been lucky. He’d never heard of or met Sky Blake before his mission to go find her on Ornara and recruit her help when Veritas had been tasked with dealing with Brekkian drug smuggler pushing felicium into the Shoals. Perhaps that was why she’d been willing to let him get so close.::

Zhou: I don’t think this is as much about being offended as it is you worried you’re going to find out more about who you really were once… and maybe not living up to that.

::He shrugged.::

Zhou: Or maybe just finding out how much you’ve changed.

Blake: I’ve heard about the woman I was. ::She shook her head.:: I didn’t like her very much.

::He cocked his head slightly.::

Zhou: Really?

::When he’d finally met Sky almost four years ago, he had to admit that she wasn’t quite what he was expecting after he’d read her file. The exact reason why of course he’d soon learn, but still, even in that first meeting, he hadn’t necessarily thought she was entirely incongruous with the woman he’d read about.::

Zhou: I thought she sounded like quite the officer from her file. And she obviously made a big impact on those who knew her… her friends.

::She looked away, a frown crossing her brow.::

Blake: Who’s side are you on, Tai?

Zhou: Yours, of course. And yes, I’m talking about *you*, the Sky I met at that filthy bar on Ornara who saved me from having a severe stomach ache later, and the Sky who honestly made my last few years on Veritas the most fun yet.

::He gestured for her to come back to the rock, inviting her to sit again.::

Zhou: I just don’t want you to feel like you’re alone with what you’re going through. That it’s weird, stupid, or whatever else. And whatever you ultimately want to do, that’s your choice. But even if you’re conflicted, that’s not stupid either.

::He offered a warm smile, and she took a seat again next to him on the rock.::

Zhou: Surprise, Sky, you’re a complex woman. Congrats, you’ve found out something we all already knew.

::Exhausted, she gave a mild huff and leaned her head on his shoulder. He reached over and put his hand over hers.::

Blake: I have a five-year-old to look after. Having an identity crisis during his early years isn’t exactly recommended in Vulcan parenting books.

Zhou: He’s just as much a Vulcan as he is a non-Vulcan. And honestly, as a hybrid yourself, you know coming to grips with who exactly you are, which cultures of your heritage do you embrace and make a part of you, is something he’s going to have to face himself as he grows up.

::Unexpectedly, however, Blake began to laugh at his, a knowing smile growing at the notion.::

::Zhou turned his head, looking over at the giggling woman and chuckled. This was the Sky Blake he especially enjoyed getting to see in these private moments.::

Zhou: What? What’s so funny?

Blake: “Jhalib Ekal”. It’s a Rigelian name.

Zhou: So?

::Species borrowing names from another wasn’t exactly unheard of in the 24th century after all. The Veritas captain herself had a human name despite not being one. Zhou just figured there was more to Ekal’s backstory he wasn’t privy to.::

Blake: Rigelians don’t have nose ridges like the ones Ekal does. But a Brekkian would. ::Her eyes flickered back to him.:: Turns out my son’s a time traveler.

::He frowned.::

Zhou: ...wait, what?

::With that goofy look she gave him, Zhou’s mouth dropped a little.::

Zhou: Wait, you knew this whole time?

Blake: Not this whole time. I put it together last fortnight. There were clues that I missed, that he was hoping I’d miss.

::Zhou shook his head, pinching the bridge of his nose.::

Zhou: By the Great Bird, I’m getting rusty…

Blake: And you call yourself a security officer.

Zhou: Never claimed to be a particularly good one.

::He laughed and then put an arm around her, bringing her in a little closer to him.::

Zhou: Are you going to be all right?

::There was silence for a few moments as she considered the question.::

Blake: I’ll get there. 

::He nodded.::

Zhou: You will.

::He reached over and gave her a gentle kiss on the top of her head as they sat and watched the ocean, rolling onto the shore of the beach. And behind it, dark looming clouds began to shift towards them. A sudden cold breeze moved across the sand, kicking up a few grains.::

::They just had to get through this one obstacle first. Then she could focus on putting herself back together.::

LtCmdr Sky Blake

Chief of Security, USS Veritas


Cmdr. Zhou Tai-Sheng

Former Commanding Officer, USS Montreal