Venteris New Frontiers, Inc.
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An Inconvenient Protest

Posted on Sunday September 29th, 2019 @ 6:17pm by Simone Langford & Tabitha Vale Ph.D.

Mission: #1 Prelude
Location: Earth, Paris - Venteris Corporation Building
Timeline: FLASHBACK - 2241.10.19 11h50

Summary: Tabitha has an appointment with her potential future employer, but is somewhat derailed by a protest against the Earth-Mars war.

= BEGIN

"Mama, I'll try to be there, but there's only so much I can do. Paris has been all but shut down since yesterday because of the protests and the authorities closed down all air traffic this morning. Yes, yes-- I'll do my best to be there. I know it's important, I know... Please give my love to daddy. I'll keep you up to date. Bye."

Simone Langford sighed as she ended the call with her mother, dropping her earpiece on her desk before walking towards the large floor-to-ceiling windows of her officer. She didn't know what she was more frustrated about: the protests or her mother being on her case... although few things could frustrate her as much as her mother.

She crossed her arms and looked out of the windows over the sky scrapers at the Eiffel Tower. Her office in the Venteris building was high enough that she could catch a glimpse of the Eiffel plaza where the anti-war protesters were gathering. It was a rainy and cold day, with wisps of fog winding its way between the tall buildings, but that didn't stop millions of people turning up for the protests. From this distance they looked like little more than ants to her.

Paris wasn't the only city affected. Several other major cities across the globe were seeing similar protests, all by people who had grown tired of the war between Earth and Mars, the constant threat of mutual destruction hanging over every citizen's heads. Sentiment for the red planet and its suit for independence had been steadily growing over the last decade, but the UN General Assembly still wouldn't budge on the issue. For Simone it didn't matter either way whether or not Mars was independent, what mattered was that while the two planets were at war, Venteris could not legally do business on Mars and any ventures into the outer solar system required heavy security escorts, running the risk of blowing up into skirmishes between the Martian Navy and the UN Starfleet.

Her attention turned to the far end of her office where a large screen displayed news reports covering the protests. It had been on in the background for most of the day and she had glanced at it every now and again to get an update, especially when the word broke that the protest had turned violent when protesters clashed with riot police. She glanced towards the large transparent office doors when she saw her assistant, Amiyah, approach. Transparent from the inside out, the doors were opaque on the reception side, allowing for privacy while Simone was still able to see what was happening outside.

"Come in," Simone said before Amiyah announce herself, and the left door swung open.

"Miss Langford, your appointment is here," Amiyah said.

"Appointment?" Simone said, confused for a moment. "You mean Tabitha Vale? I didn't think she'd make it here with the protests going on."

"It looks like she did," Amiyah replied. "Should I send her in?"

"Yes, please. Thank you, Amiyah," Simone said as her assistant left.

Tabitha looked up as the assistant re-emerged from the office and informed her, with a polite smile and quiet voice that Miss Langford would see her now and to please go in.
"Thank you," Tabitha replied getting to her feet and unconsciously running a hand across her grey uniform. Amiyah inclined her head a little as she indicated the open doorway.

Simone continued watching the protest report for a moment, and then turned to Tabitha as the door swung close behind her. "Lieutenant Commander Vale, welcome," she said, walking to Tabitha and extending her hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you in person. Please, have a seat where you feel comfortable. Can I get you anything to drink?"

"Miss Langford," Tabitha replied taking the offered hand to shake briefly but firmly. "Perhaps plain water? Thank you," she said as the handshake ended giving a quick glance around the room.

A seating area to her left offered comfortable sofas and a view of the city whilst to her right was a more formal arrangement of wide desk and upright chairs for a visitors. She chose that soon taking a seat and sitting with hands on her lap. It had been some time since her application had been sent in and after the acknowledgement of it there had been no word at all so much so Tabitha was beginning to think she had been unsuccessful.

Maybe not though she thought now, her attention drawn to the large screen and a protester angrily waving a placard.

Simone followed Tabitha's gaze towards the screen. "I just told my assistant I'm surprised that you managed to make it with all of this going on. Most of my appointments have already been cancelled for the rest of the day."

"It was quite a trip. My flight was delayed to begin with then diverted to Amsterdam. We had a long wait there and eventually were told to disembark and spend the night in an hotel only to be woken at 04.15 with the news we would depart in twenty minutes," she smiled with slight amusement as though the chaos had been nothing to bother about.

Sweeping her long, straight red hair over one shoulder, Simone walked over to a small bar and pulled two bottles of mineral water from a refrigerator. Picking up two glasses from the bar counter, she walked back to her desk and placed a glass and bottle in front of Tabitha. Instead of sitting down behind her desk opposite Tabitha, she chose the chair next to her. It was an attempt to make things feel less formal, although she came to learn over the years it could also make people feel intimidated. Since then she regularly did it to help her figure out people: were they more comfortable with formality or informality; were they easily intimidated or confident in themselves.

"So, Commander Vale, I assume you're wondering why you're hearing from us now following the months of silence after the first round of interviews and applications," Simone began. "The truth is we had the crew positions filled already, but your application stuck with me and I decided to keep it for a rainy day, just in case. It turns out that rainy day has come since one of my psychologists had to drop out of the project, unfortunately. That means a spot is open on the Aquila 4 crew for you as a psychologist." She paused for a moment to let it sink in, studying Tabitha's face. "Would that interest you?"

A series of emotions passed Tabitha's face, surprise being the longest lasting.

"Yes it would indeed," she replied with a pleased smile which she tempered to one more serious given the setting. "I admit I was expecting a rejection, so this is... well... its good." She took a sip of water wondering what had stuck in Simone's mind long enough to bring this about.

"Fantastic, that's what I like to hear," Simone smiled. "Can you tell me why you want to go to Proxima Aquilae? I know it's a question everyone has to answer in the application and the preliminary interviews, but I like to ask it too. People sometimes give a different answer face to face."

Tabitha gave a nod of understanding as she placed her glass onto the desk before remeeting Simone's gaze. "In a nutshell, it's simply because there is nothing to keep me here. I know that's the most common of answers but it's true. I'd like the challenge that this offers me and I know I'd do well with it."

"We're already a few months into crew training, but since you have Starfleet experience there won't be much catching up for you to do," Simone explained. "Ideally I'd like you to start immediately, but I realise it's not that simple with Starfleet. What's the soonest that you'll be able to finish your service?"

"Two days?" came the response and, seeing Simone's expression, Tabitha explained that her length of service was complete and that - although still technically able to wear the uniform - she had only two days left to officially be able to do so. After that she reverted back to reserve status.

Unable to hide her pleasure at this change to her future, Tabitha couldn't help but smile at the perfect timing of this offer and all that it entailed.

Simone was surprised that Tabitha would be available so soon, but took it as a fortuitous coincidence. Her mother always told her never to question good luck and she wasn't about to. "That's fantastic," she replied. "You'll be able to jump right in, then. I'll have--"

The conversation was interrupted by a sudden dimming of the lights and an alarm that signalled something was not quite right. A look of annoyance crossed Simone's face and she looked towards the door as her assistant Amiyah opened it and hurried stuck her head inside the office.

"We've just received a bomb threat," she spoke quickly. "The whole building is being evacuated. We've been ordered to head up. I have your shuttle standing by for you on the launch pad; emergency services have given us permission for air travel."

"For crying out loud," Simone muttered under her breath as she stood up and rounded her desk, grabbing her purse and quickly trying to gather her things. She looked then at Tabitha, almost as if she'd forgotten for a moment Tabitha was there. "Do you mind coming with me? We can have a chat in the shuttle and I'll make sure to get you where you need to go after that."

Amiyah's words caused Tabitha's heart rate to increase not from fear for her own safety but at memories of another bomb. So stunned was she that for a second or so she didn't realise that Simone was offering her safety and looked at her blankly before her offer sank in.

"Why, yes… yes please," she replied standing up. " I only have my hotel to return to." she added following Simone's hurried pace towards the door.

"It's the second one this week... third this month," Simone explained as they passed Amiyah's desk, which was already empty. "It's usually a false alarm, but we have to follow regulations and alert the authorities and evacuate. Better safe than sorry, don't you think?"

"Absolutely," Tabitha replied. " A few minutes’ inconvenience that could save your life."

"This way," Simone indicated with her head to a private elevator, separate from the one which most of the other personnel were making use of. "This one goes up to the executive shuttle pad. Every now and then being the boss has its perks."

Tabitha nodded and gave a small smile when Simone glanced at her. "Where are we going?" she asked stepping inside and turning to face the door as it slid shut.

"Spain," Simone answered as she pressed the button for the elevator to take them up. "Catalan coast, to be more precise. My family’s estate is there. It might be a bit out of the way for you, but I'll have the hotel send your things over as soon as they're able. That all right?"

Tabitha shrugged and smiled properly this time. "Of course. It’s very kind of you, Miss Langford," she replied.

"Please, call me Simone. Once you're officially employed here, I turn into Director Langford and then you'll probably hate me within a week," she replied with a coy smile of her own. "But for now, you're still a guest and it's my job to make sure you're safe."

"I'll make the most of it then," Tabitha replied, "and thank you again."

The lift stopped and the doors opened up into a covered landing pad with space for two quadcopter shuttles. Only one was present, its sliding doors open and awaiting its passengers, the rotators already primed and spinning. Rain lashed the transparent roof of the pad, which was slowly retracting to allow the shuttle to leave. The women hurried across the pad and climbed into the shuttle, taking their seats.

“Here we go,” Simone said to Tabitha as she fastened her seatbelt and entered her launch code, which signalled the autopilot to close the doors and activate lift-off. The shuttle slowly began to ascend until it was clear of the bay doors, then maneuvered itself away from the building and picked up speed as it flew over the city, leaving Paris behind.

= END

Simone Langford
Aquila Program Executive Director
Venteris New Frontiers


LtCmdr Tabitha Vale, Ph.D.
Psychologist
UN Starfleet Medical Corps

 

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