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Josie No Longer
Posted on February 10th, 2016 by Ian Blackthorne and AJ Zuriyev

Cadet Alexis Josephine Alexiovna Zuriyev was a squared-away academy senior with a bob of dark chocolate hair and eyes to match. Officially, her assignment on Atlantis was to satisfy the in-the-field portion of her final year at the Academy, but she had another motive for choosing this particular ship beyond her family’s history with it. That motive would soon become apparent as she confidently approached the ready room door and rang the chime.

Vice Admiral Ian Blackthorne sat behind his desk attending to a never-ending stream of Third Fleet business. He had noticed Cadet Zuriyev’s arrival for temporary duty near the end of their stay at Vinland, and had not been surprised when she had requested a meeting, nor was he surprised when she arrived five minutes early. “Come in,” he answered, and couldn’t help smiling when the girl he had known for what seemed like an eternity walked into his office, now a grown woman and almost a Starfleet Marine.

She approached his desk and proudly stood at attention. “Cadet Zuriyev, reporting as ordered, sir!” He could easily hear much of Brooke and not even a hint of Alexi in her English accent.

“At ease, Cadet.” Ian clasped his hands in front of him on the desk and offered a welcoming smile. “Please, sit down.” She obliged, and he continued, “I expected that I would see you sooner. Should I be offended, Josie?”

Her face erupted into a wide grin. “No, of course not! It’s just that I didn’t want anyone to think I expected special privilege, you know. And by the way…” She hesitated a bit before continuing, hating to have to say what came next, “No one really calls me Josie anymore. I suppose I’ve outgrown it, yeah?” Apologetically, she added, “Maybe someday I’d let a special someone in on that, but I’m called AJ now.”

With a chuckle, he answered, “Alright, AJ it is, then. So long as you remember that when it’s just us two in the room, I’m still your Uncle Ian. Oh, and thanks, by the way.”

“For what?”

“Making me feel positively ancient.” They shared a laugh, and then Ian leaned back in his seat and regarded her, sensing something amiss. “Now, I get that Atlantis was your dad’s ship, and that you did a fair bit of growing up here yourself, and also that you might even think enough of me to want to do your field duty here. At least I hope the part about me is true, and I know the other two are. At any rate, why are you really here, AJ?”

“Can’t hide anything from you, can I? But yeah, it’s Dad. I’m not certain retiring was the right thing for him to do. He’s just so… bored now.” She shook her head and frowned. “That’s not all of it, though. Dad’s just not himself anymore; he’s withdrawn and sullen.”

He didn’t need to be empathic to know that she was holding something back, but it helped, since Ian could certainly sense that there was more to this story. “I can believe that, but it doesn’t really seem to warrant you going to all this trouble to arrange a face-to-face with me.”

She let out a long sigh, unsurprised that he was able to see through her so quickly. Still, this was the real reason she was here, the sentimentality notwithstanding, so AJ decided to get to it. “Ian… she can’t prove it, but Mum isn’t even sure that it was his choice. She can explain her hunch better than I can, but I don’t think she would actually seek you, or anyone, out about it on her own. At least, not yet. So, here I am.”

Ian had never known neither Brooke nor her daughter to be alarmist or paranoid, and what he could sense from Zuriyev was genuine concern for her father. AJ was only one-quarter Betazoid, and while she may have been capable of more complex shielding of her true feelings, he believed her motives to be pure. However, he couldn’t expect the Cadet to truly understand the implications of what she had told him. “That’s pretty significant, AJ. Did Brooke tell you this?”

“No, I overheard her and Dad talking. She was prying for more information to support her theory, but his responses were just odd. There were things it seemed like he should have known, but didn’t, and even though my empathic abilities aren’t strong, I could sense that he really didn’t know and wasn’t just hiding it from her.” She searched his eyes for any sign of a decision, before continuing in a more pleading tone, “You’re all flag officers, and I’m just a cadet, so maybe I don’t know just how serious this is, but Mum clearly does. Please, talk to her.”

Ian looked away for a moment, and his gaze fell on the wedding portrait of him and T’Kirr that sat on his desk; Alexi had performed the ceremony. It was one of a million reasons that he owed it to his friend and former boss to at least look into this matter. “Alright, I can’t make any promises, but I will at least give her a call.”

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