Posted on Fri Sep 18th, 2020 @ 2:22pm by Lieutenant Jaro Antos

Mission: Boldly Forth
Location: Venice, Earth
Timeline: A few days before MD 01

The past few days of Antos’ extended leave had been one adventure after another...perhaps some of them ill-advised. He had been camping, exploring, racing and orbital skydiving in and around Earth’s solar system. He had even been so close to trying a tri-elliptical jump for the first time, if it were not for the fact that his companions had bailed last minute.

Even then, he had been tempted to go ahead without them, but he thought the best of it...more like Aiko forbade it. And that had effectively put an end to any implementation of that desire.

Still, there was something excitingly terrifying about making three complete orbits around a planet before coming in for re-entry with nothing but a glorified spacesuit on. Perhaps one day, if he wore down his betrothed enough with incessant pleas, then Aiko might let him do it.

One day…

As he entered the final hours of his…vacation, for lack of a better term, Antos had found himself in Venice. For someone born and raised initially on Bajor, then primarily Earth, but really on a multitude of other worlds including Betazed, Vulcan, Andor and even for a brief while on Kronos, Venice seemed the odd choice to spend the last few hours he had of his time before he returned to active duty.

But nevertheless, here he was in Venice, seating back in the gondola that lazily threaded the Grand Canal. His gaze shifted along the buildings at the banks of the canal absently recalling which ones he had yet to visit, which were far and few in between. These structures were ancient, some dating as far back as Earth’s thirteenth century.

He had always loved this city and its people. It also held a special place for him as it was in this city…a few miles from his present location that he had first declared his love for Aiko Kato.

He had loved her since they were children but had been too afraid, and in some ways busy to say it. Plus their relationship had been complicated in childhood, as her mother had been his guardian, and it seemed more appropriate to call her sister than girlfriend.

However, war had a way of shifting one’s perspective. Surrounded by so much death, one tragedy after the other, and the constant reminder of the frailty of his own mortality, he had told her how he truly felt. He had done so largely out of a fear that she might never know should he be forever silenced.

He remembered the day like it was yesterday even though it was over four years ago. They were in Piazza San Marco or St. Mark’s Square as it was frequently referred to. The sun was high and bright in the summer sky and there were more people gathered than usual in the Square. She wore a white dress with prints of red flowers, and she looked stunning that afternoon. She held his hand as they walked through the crowd and smiled at him, her brown eyes gleaming. It was right there and then, without thinking, he had let his feelings known. He had done it so quickly too before his rational side could silence him as it had many times before.

“I love you,” he had muttered, half whispered fearing her response and secretly hoping that the noise from the gathered crowd had masked his confession.

She had paused, searched his face no doubt seeking to assess if this was one of his many pranks. Realizing he was serious, she had pulled him close, kissed him for what seemed like an eternity and simply said. “I know you dork…took you long enough. I love you too.”

And that was the beginning for him – a second birth of sorts. He had been so ecstatic that he had publicly declared right there and then, in the Square, in the presence of the large crowd, his love for her, much to her mortification.

"A penny for your thoughts?"

Antos was pushed from his deep thoughts and glanced at the woman who had asked the question. She was to his left, seated so closely that he could feel the warmth of her body against his, and felt strands of her long dark hair blow against his face. He right hand was interlaced with left arm and her head gently rested on his shoulder.

"What's a penny?" Antos asked.

"Really Antos? You don't remember learning about old Earth currency in history class with Professor Mathias?"

Antos smirked. "Nope. Was that important?"

The woman laughed. "That's unlike you," she responded. "You were always so into old Earth history."

"You forget that class also had Natalia Oporska in it," Antos replied still smirking.

"Oh gods...if I hear that name again, I'm going to punch you in the ribs to spare you from your love sickness."

Antos laughed. "Fair enough. But you know she occupied all my thoughts every time we were in that class. It was just that damned smile, and those legs-"

Antos felt a dull pain in his ribs. "Ow!" he exclaimed. "That hurt Aiko!."

"I warned you," Aiko responded grinning.

“But I didn’t say her name,” Antos protested.

“It was implied,” Aiko shot back with her tongue sticking out in jest.

Antos rubbed his rib cage to massage the pain away. "I suppose it was. What is she up to these days anyway?"

"She was here on Earth for a while. She was posted to McKinley, then she shipped out to DS9 I think. After that, I lost touch with her. You should probably know she married, had a child…although I think she lost her husband in the Dominion War."

Antos nodded his mood suddenly somber. It was strange how that one war managed to have such far reaching impact. Antos himself had lost his adopted father and sister in that war and he knew Aiko had lost both her parents in the conflict. They had both been orphaned by the Dominion War. In Antos’ case however, it was an eerily familiar situation, having now been twice orphaned as his biological parents had perished in the Occupation of Bajor.

Antos' gaze shifted to the canal's banks once more, glancing at the buildings. He shook his head as if that would snap him out of the turn the conversation had suddenly taken. "Hell of a thing war."

Aiko nodded. "That's why we have people like you out there making sure it does not happen again, right?"

Antos smiled. "With my charm and good looks? We have nothing to worry about."

"Dear gods," Aiko retorted with a laugh. "Maybe we should start worrying if that's all we are relying on."

Both Antos and Aiko laughed for a few seconds, breaking the tension between them, and dissolving the somber mood. He hoped they could stay like this forever – forget about the galaxy and its myriad of problem and continue this gondola ride for all of eternity, reminiscing about the good and bad of the past.

"So," Aiko said tightening the grip of her interlocked right arm in his left arm. "Tell are you feeling about the Komorks and getting away from all of the politics and conflict in the Alpha and Beta quadrants?”

Antos paused as he gathered his thoughts. These past few years had been difficult but blissful. It was no secret he had become disillusioned with all the fighting, which surprisingly after the end of a major war, seemed not to have abated. In some sense, it seemed to have escalated. With virtually all the major powers a fraction of their former strength, there was a power vacuum in some of the more remote sectors. And it was to this region he had been sent.

Antos had grown tired of fighting pirates and quelling rebellions that he took nearly a year now off. In that time, he had experienced what it would be like to be a civilian, unencumbered with war, or the rumours of war. He was betrothed to Aiko now; they had a house in Bajor they had purchased together. They were going to start their family…but the Prophets it seemed did not wish him to leave Starfleet yet.

Antos had increasingly become more comfortable with resigning his Starfleet commission until his experience with the Orb of Contemplation. He was convinced now that it was the will of the Prophets for him to remain in the military, but rather than a soldier, he would return to exploration and discovery.

And that was where the Komorkis came in. The Prophets had guided his path to the Luna class starship that was about to embark on a five-year mission to explore and chart the Gamma Quadrant. The ship needed a Chief Flight Control Officer and Antos had applied and his candidacy had been successful.

“Excited,” Antos finally responded to Aiko’s question. “Nervous…but mostly happy because you will be coming with me.”

Aiko nodded and smiled. “Uh-huh…well you get bonus points for that last part.” She paused. “I am actually really looking forward to it. Diplomatic Attache seems a fancy title for a civilian on board a Starfleet vessel, but I like it. And let’s not forget I’ll continue to spend more time with you rather than having to share you with the stars.”

“Better them than Natalia Oporska, right?”

As he expected, Antos felt another stiff hit to his side ribcage. “Ouch…okay, yes, I deserved that.”

The two laughed again and after that ended and a comfortable silence descended on them, Aiko asked "Are you genuinely happy? The truth now Jaro Antos."

Antos paused for a moment really thinking about the question. His mind thought back to the devastating losses these past few years, and indeed for most of his life. He now had no other family left save for Aiko. Even friends…Academy friends, many had not made it through the Dominion War.

He thought about the past year without the obligation of Starfleet and how he had blossomed in the arms of his betrothed. He thought of the home they had built on Bajor that would now not get settled in. He thought about how the past few days had been spent in the company of friends and strangers who reminded him what it meant to live, and not merely just be alive.

He thought about his fears about being back up there in space again, about those that might be lost on his watch. However, he also thought about the scientific wonder and discoveries that awaited him in the Gamma Quadrant.

He thought about the dreams and hopes he had for both his and Aiko’s future…their talk about one day starting a family. Then he thought about his experience with the Orb and the will of the Prophets, and the words of Vedek Frenair…

He turned to Aiko uncertain of how to answer the question. Still, he smiled caressing her arm and said simply, "With you at my side, I will be."

Aiko smiled and blushed. "Good enough for me," she responded.

She laid her head on his shoulder, "How about that tri-elliptical and me together; our parting gift to the past and this new future in a new quadrant?”."

"Are you serious?" Antos asked bewildered.

"Of course I am."

"Deal then!" Antos retorted.

"Aiko Hinata Kato," Antos said. "You are simply the best."

“Oh I know…you don’t deserve me, but I settle for you nonetheless.”

Antos smiled. “And I’m the happiest man for it.”

He kissed his fiancée deeply, yet again wishing that the gondola ride would continue onwards on its peaceful path for all eternity forgetting everything and everyone outside…