Chapter Two

5 hours prior

"Captain's Log, Stardate 87101.817 (15:55). The Aqours is currently escorting a large convoy of unarmed bulk freighters across the Solanae Dyson Sphere, on course for the Iconian Gateway to the Delta Quadrant orbiting the Solanae Star. When Command gave me this assignment, Admiral Quinn described it as 'A shakedown cruise in all but name,' and I was informed that this assignment was intended to give the crew a chance to become accustomed to the new ship before we're assigned to the Kobali Prime defense fleet." After Commander Kurosawa assumes command for her shift, I will be meeting Chika-cha-, I mean Commander Takami for a dat-briefing! I mean briefing! Over dinner. Sigh Computer, delete log."

Captain Yō Watanabe leaned back in the command chair and pinched the bridge of her nose between two fingers. Another flubbed log entry, dangit. She glanced around the bridge, from Ruby and Hanamaru at the Conn and Ops stations, Riko hard at work at the primary Science station, to Yoshiko quietly berating one of the junior officers near the Tactical Station.

Actually, Yō took a closer look at her Security Chief. Is that a Raktajino [1]stain on her uniform? At this, the young Captain struggled to contain a laugh. The poor kid must've tripped over the step up. By this point, Yō's Vulcan-Human Security Chief had been chewing the junior officer out for several minutes, and she decided that it was probably time to intervene. Lest the terrified man request a transfer to a different ship, one where the Security Chief wasn't a chuuni Vulcan. The Fallen Angel's curse strikes again.

"Yohane-sama," Yō began in a faux-servile tone, "have you sent me the Security report for this shift yet? Dia's gonna be here to start Beta Shift soon, and she'll want those reports on her PADD before I turn over command."

Yoshiko, her train of thought thoroughly derailed and mood definitely soured, responded with an irritated grunt before dismissing the crewman and returning to the mundane task of preparing the end-of-shift report.

Yō's attention was suddenly drawn to the sensation of something small and firm being gently placed on her head, eliciting a bright smile and a fond greeting. "Thank you for the mikan Chika, but you do remember we're having dinner together after my shift, right?"

"Eeeehhhh~? But scurvy is a real threat to any sailor!" such was the teasing, more-than-a-little silly response of Yō's First Officer, closest friend, and longtime girlfriend, Chika Takami. Aside from the other senior officers, their relationship was kept off the books due to Starfleet regulations regarding conflicts of interest. Though if Yō was completely honest with herself, she wasn't sure how they'd managed to keep it under wraps with how affectionate Chika was on a regular basis.

"Bu-Buu, vitamin C deficiency has never been a major concern for Starfleet, Takami-San" And there was her relief! Several steps behind Chika, following at a far more sedate pace, came Dia.

The dark-haired engineer looked up from her personal PADD and greeted Yō with a regulation-perfect salute and a professional: "Good afternoon Captain, are you ready to begin?"

"Hello to you too Dia-san." returns the greeting, then continues. "And I will be as soon as Yohane-sama completes her shift report." Yō throws a grin towards the Tactical station, just to make sure the officer in question knows that she's teasing.

Apparently her effort was wasted, as Yoshiko's response was a snapped: "I'm almost done! You try writing up a report with a fresh coffee stain down your front!" Yō inwardly whistled in surprised amusement when Yoshiko pauses in her frantic typing to shoot a baleful glare towards the three officers around the center seat, amethyst eyes practically glowing in annoyed frustration.

"Tsushima-san, carry on." Dia cuts in, clearly annoyed by the unprofessional display. "Captain, I'm sure you have plans" she turns to face Yō, then continues. "so shall we begin?"

Yō gives Chika a faux-exasperated eye-roll before standing. She tugs her uniform shirt down, takes a short look around the bridge, then replies. "Alright, sounds good."

Dia nods once, "In that case," she comes to attention, snapping off a sharp salute. "I relieve you Captain."

"I am relieved, Commander." Yō returns the salute, then shifts her attention upwards, and she lightly taps the commbadge pinned to her uniform. "Computer,"

They hear the multi-tone chirp signaling the computer's attention. "Update Ship's Log," here she pauses to steal a glance at her wrist device, then continues. "Stardate 87103.197, at 1600 hours, Commander Dia Kurosawa assumes command for Beta shift, authorization Zebra-Zebra, Four-Watanabe. End Log"

Change of command complete, Yō spins around and marches for the turbolift hatch in the back corner, snagging her First Officer by the elbow as she does. Calling, "You have the conn Dia-chan!" over her shoulder as she drags Chika into the lift behind her.

The doors cycled shut, and Yō ordered the lift to take them to "Deck three, Senior Officers Quarters." As the small compartment smoothly slid into motion, Yō finally allowed herself to truly relax, shoulder's drooped, posture slumped, and she dropped her head to lean on the shoulder of her closest companion with an exhausted sigh.

"eh? Yō-chan? What's wrong?" the sudden change in the atmosphere surrounding her girlfriend prompted a worried inquiry from Chika, as this sort of exhausted neutrality was completely at odds with her usual energetic optimism.

"I'm okay Chika, just…" A long, slow breath before she continued. "feeling a little drained is all. Being the captain is way harder than I ever thought it would be." The two officers felt the lift slide to a stop, and Yō resumed her previous poise and posture, in the off chance there was a junior officer waiting outside the lift. Wouldn't do for the Captain to be seen leaning on her First Officer after all. Fortunately, the corridor directly outside the lift was unoccupied, allowing the pair to continue their conversation unobserved.

"It's just…. I'm responsible for so many lives." Yō continued. "not just mine, but yours, Riko-chan's, and everyone else." As the couple continued both their leisurely walk towards their shared quarters, and this surprisingly heavy conversation, Yō clasps her hands together behind her back and leans into a stretch.

A period of companionable silence follows Yō's stretch, broken only once the door to their quarters slides shut. "Captain you may be, but you're also My Yō-chan." Chika punctuates the last part of her statement with a fierce hug from behind and a kiss to the cheek, before continuing in a softer tone. "You have me, Riko-chan, Dia-chan, Kanan-chan, all of our friends. You can always rely on us a little more."

In the next moment, it's as if a switch is thrown, and the serious mood evaporates like a morning fog in the light of the sun. Chika releases Yō from the hug and gives her a light shove towards the closet. "Now! You go get out of that uniform while I get dinner."

Recovering from the mild mood whiplash took only a second or two, time in which Yō thought to herself; what did I do to deserve such amazing friends? She watches her First Officer, closest friend, partner, and (apparently) now her personal cheerleader skip over to the wall mounted replicator unit.

"Thanks, Chika."

5 Hours later…

Yō drifts into awareness with a familiar mop of orange hair directly beneath her nose, the comforting sensation of falling asleep in the embrace of your lover the last thing she remembered before falling asleep.

She blearily looks over to the old-fashioned digital clock on a table across the room, the peaceful green glow informing her that she'd woken up three hours early, a rare occurrence.

Just as Yō decides upon returning to sleep, she feels it. A rumble in the decking below the bed; a minor shift in the tempo of the ever-present hum that is felt more than it is heard. She lifts herself from the mattress into a reclined position, not entirely awake, but certainly more alert. Then the light panels lining the floors and ceilings switch on of their own accord, illuminating the Captain's quarters in an eerie red glow.

Not even seconds later, the shipwide communications channel opened, broadcasting the voice of the Aqours' second officer to every corner of the vessel. "Red Alert! All Hands, General Quarters!" the announcement was followed by the shrilling wail of the General Quarters siren[2], punctuated by the constrastingly calm voice of the ship's computer repeating the call to arms. "Red Alert, All hands report to your combat positions, This is not a drill. Red Alert."

The last vestiges of sleep banished by the alert siren, Yō scramble's out of the covers, stopping only for an instant to shove the still-sleeping Chika out of the bed with a harried "Chika, Get up!" before hurriedly shrugging on her black and royal blue uniform jacket, and dashing out the door; Chika a few seconds behind still struggling to pull her own jacket over her pajamas.

They're halfway to the turbolift shaft when their badges chirp, signaling an incoming hail "Senior Officers to the bridge, we're under attack."

Yō reaches up and gives her badge a firm thwack and replies "This is Watanabe, I'm on my way."

[1] wiki/Raktajino

[2] youtu DOT be/Gy-90IFwppM