Negotiating for Crew
Episode 6: War Crimes
Location: CO's Quarters
Timeline: MD135, 1630 Hours
In the intervening time since the conclusion of the inquest and Admiral O’Connell’s decision to grant him command of the Sovereign-class starship sat in the starbase’s internal docking arena, Colby Drayton had made his way to the Nogura and begun the process of replicating new items to adorn his new quarters. Everything he had owned previously had been obliterated when the Ulysses had been lost, but he had been able to replicate some of the items due to having replicator patterns on file in the Starfleet LCARS database. The room had been stripped of all trace of its previous occupant by Starfleet Security which meant he had a blank canvas with which to work and so far, he had done a lovely job. The advantage of being at a starbase was that using replicators for a large number of personal items like he was meant no drain on the ships resources. There was no way he would be replicating vanity items such as large paintings, new, non-standard issue furniture or even curtains if they were underway in some far off region of space.
He’d taken a break for the last fifteen minutes to make a head start on the work that he would be pairing with Neprem to complete and so far, he had found it tough. Trying to sort through which of the Ulysses personnel he wanted to bring aboard was like choosing which child should get a present and which wouldn’t. They were all his crew and he wanted all of them, but at the same time, he had to remember that this was the Nogura and she had a crew already. The Ulysses personnel had to supplement what was already in place or, in certain circumstances, replace some people - but even then any such decision would have to be justified. It was not going to be easy for the pair of them.
Tara was on her way up from Engineering with similar thoughts running through her head. She wanted to be loyal to her crew and keep them all, but then there was the torn loyalty with Arjin’s memories, she wanted to keep all of the crew from the Ulysses as well! Working through the Nogura’s manifest in her head, she made a mental note of people she definitely wanted to keep, but there were a few exceptional individuals who were ready for bigger and better things, which would give her the opportunity to write some recommendations that would take those Officers off ship and open positions for a few from the Ulysses crew. But it wasn’t enough, and she knew merging crews would be an agonizing process for her, and Drayton as well. Arriving at his door, she gave the chime a ring and continued to ponder the potential transfers while she waited for entrance.
A few short seconds passed before a relaxed looking Colby, wearing simply his uniform undershirt and pants, appeared at the doorway with a giant smile on his face, stepping aside to grant the woman entry to his new quarters. “Come in Number One,” he smiled, gesturing inside with his left arm. “Forgive the mess, I’m in the middle of un packing,” he added swiftly.
Tara stiffened at ‘Number One;’ that was going to take some getting used to… again. Tara quickly cleared her throat. “Can you maybe hold off on calling me that, just for a while?” Tara asked cautiously as she stepped inside. “I mean no offense, it’s just that Hunter used that for me, and it’s, uh, a little awkward given the circumstances,” she explained awkwardly.
“Uh, sure. Sorry, I didn’t realise,” the Captain looked sheepish as he ran a hand through his mop of hair nervously. A great start to their new working relationship. “Can I get you a drink?” he asked quickly in an effort to change the subject as swiftly as possible.
“Tea, please, whatever is loaded in your replicator is fine,” Tara said, wringing her hands nervously. “Unless you’ve already started with the alcohol, then I’ll have whatever you’re having.”
“No, no. Tea is just great,” he lied as he went over to the same replicator he had replicated a small scotch from earlier to congratulate himself on the findings of the inquest. He replicated a pot of fresh tea and accompaniments before walking to the sofa area and setting them down on the small coffee table. “Milk? Sugar?” he queried as he started to pour.
“Just tea,” Tara replied with a smile to help alleviate some of the awkwardness as she sat down with him. Although in hindsight, asking for bland tea might make things more awkward, but she liked what she liked! Taking a cup he offered, she held it in her lap while it cooled. “Sorry if I’ve made things awkward, that was not my intent; Nathan’s death is still affecting me and hearing you call me ‘Number One’ was like a gut punch. But you didn’t know, so it’s… it’s ‘all good’ as Arjin would say,” she offered with a smile, finally taking a sip of tea.
Listening to her words as he poured the milk into his cup, the Captain nodded along slowly, adding a sugar cube and stirring until it melted. At the conclusion of her apology, the Captain sat back and smiled. “Not awkward at all,” he nodded to her. “So, what are your initial thoughts regarding the merger of the crews?” he asked.
“That’s a tough one,” Tara said, relaxing in her seat now that some of the tension had been released. “Nogura and Ulysses both boast some very talented Officers, choosing who to keep on the Nogura will not be easy. Though I think I figured out an interesting way to start; we isolate all Officers who are ready for advancements that would take them off ship and see what kind of vacancies open up as a result. We fill all the voids in Nogura’s crew, then start comparing the overlap and choosing based on competency and performance reviews rather than our loyalties,” she went on to suggest.
“That’s a great idea,” he nodded in response, picking up a data PADD that was on the table and sorting a list of the Ulysses crew by rank and length of service in post to try and assist him. “Okay, you go first,” he suggested.
“I didn’t happen to keep a PADD on me today; may I?” Tara asked as she extended her hand in request for his PADD.
Colby passed the data PADD to his companion.
Tara took the PADD and pulled up the Nogura’s manifest and began picking out the Officers and even a few NCO’s that she had made a mental note that were in a prime position for career growth with a transfer. As she compiled this list, she went through the manifest to pick out a few more names, then finally handed the PADD back to Drayton.
“You may notice that I’ve put a member of the current Senior Staff on that list,” Tara said as she watched Drayton review her selection. “Lieutenant Yole is a exemplary Officer, and her skills are wasted here; she needs to be on an exploration/science vessel, not a tactical vessel like the Nogura. She is so innovative, I certainly don’t want to see her go, but if she isn’t in a position where she can push the boundaries of her skills, her career will stall out.”
Whilst the look on his face suggested that he would be sad to see such an experienced officer go, deep down that made one thing less difficult; it meant he could keep Akaria Okan at Ops and she too was a more than competent officer. “I understand that and I’m sure she will appreciate your consideration. That would free up Ops for Lieutenant Okan,” he told, passing his original data PADD over for her to see the profile on the Cardassian. “Tactical?”
“I made a notation of a number of Security and Tactical personnel that could benefit from a transfer if we need to free the space, but for the moment I’m fine with our Chief Tactical Officer; Franklin is green, but he’s got good instincts, and with a bit of mentoring and good support within his department, he shows remarkable promise,” Tara briefed as she looked over the personnel file for Lieutenant Okan. “I don’t immediately recall Okan, but I like what I’m seeing in this service history, so she’s a keeper. Now Strategic Operations, I was torn about whether to add Garen to the transfer list; he’s originally from the Ulysses, it seems natural we would both want to keep him, and I have become quite fond of him, but I’m not entirely certain he’s suited for a tactical vessel. He is brilliant, but he struggles with combat situation so he might find he fares better on a station,” she continued, passing the PADD back with a few more names shuffled around. Garen’s name wasn’t on the list, she wanted to keep him, but her recommendation still was what it was.
So far, the Captain agreed with everything that she had said, except her judgement regarding Commander Romaes, however with only one Strategic Operation spot, he had a problem that needed remedying. “I know there is a position on Bajor that may be right up his street. I have another strategist, Lieutenant Commander Ithythao zh'Vhiahren who is under the care of our Chief Medical Officer, Commander Durrell. I’d like to keep them both aboard if possible. While we’re at it, I see a vacancy for the science team. I’d like to suggest Eza Bergen. He has proven to be very useful to us in the recent months,” the Captain told as he relaxed into his own chair.
“Lovely, more Andorians…” Tara replied with an eye roll and a very Arjin smirk. “Ah yes, science, medical, and counselling are wide open, so bring over everyone you have available.” And now came the big discussion, Engineering. Tara had already cleared some room in Engineering to make space for Ulysses crew, but they still had to assess the Chief Engineer. “For Engineering, I think we should keep Meibei zh’Khessi; she’s a little... odd, but when it comes to keeping this ship going there’s no one I trust more. Although, in the interest of full disclosure, there is something going on between us… I-I have no idea what this ‘something’ is, all I know is that I, um, feel… things… a-and I think she’s been trying to get me to explore these things but I’m not… Well, I’m not Arjin and he would have me diving face first into her-” Tara abruptly stopped when she realized what she was stammering and she blushed crimson, with even her spots darkening in hue. “I think you get the idea, so I’m going to shut up now,” she mumbled with embarrassment.
Drayton listened to the ramblings of the Trill who was clearly a lot less comfortable in such situations than his old friend Arjin had been. He also understood the need for companionship and love, so wouldn’t begrudge the Commander the chance to explore whatever was occurring between her and the engineer. That being said, he did have someone as equally as brilliant on his team. “I’ll agree with Lieutenant zh’Khessi but I’d like Commander Millarini to remain as a propulsion Specialist and oversee the installation of the new slipstream drive. That was why she came aboard the Ulysses and I think she feels like she has a point to prove. Engineering is such a massive department I’m sure there is room for both,” he smiled, moving on from the awkwardness she had felt. It was not in anyone’s interests for her to feel awkward or uncomfortable around the new commanding officer for long so it was better to get it all out now.
“I have no objections,” Tara replied in a subdued tone, still recovering from her bout of embarrassment, hastily finishing off her tea and setting the cup aside. “Sorry for my ramblings, I don’t usually indulge in much socialization; people tend to find me to be eccentric and rigid, and for the most part I’ve been okay with that. Honestly, I’m not sure what she sees in me that makes her so persistent,” she confessed, this time much more calmly.
“We all deserve to have someone Commander,” the man opposite her smiled as he passed over another data PADD. “In the light of recent events it has been suggested that we reactivate the Nogura marine and starfighter units. We’ll need to be on the lookout for unit commanders. We’ll also need to have engineering and operations make arrangements for them,” he told.
“I don’t disagree; with recent developments we could definitely benefit from the added muscle, but starfighters?” Tara replied, taking the PADD and giving the proposal a read. “Of course, tactics haven’t been an area of strength for me, so I will defer to your expertise, however the arrangements may take some time; Master Chief Carter is still doing her inspection, and Lieutenant zh’Khessi brought up an issue that I believe deserves further investigation, some fluctuations in the power distribution. Individually these fluctuations are minor and inconsequential, but together they do form a rather unsettling pattern, one that suggests that not all of th’Zorati’s sabotage has been undone, and I would prefer this situation is dealt with before we start bringing on starfighters.”
“I do not want to risk being caught with our pants down like we were in the nebula,” Drayton responded in reference to her first question. If they had been able to launch fighters in the nebula, there was a good chance the enemy would not have escaped. Whilst hindsight was a wonderful thing, he could do his best to ensure that they would not be as helpless in the future. “I’d rather have them aboard and them never see action than lament their absence at a time when we need them,” he added before responding to her later advice. “As soon as Lieutenant zh’Khessi is done with the engineerings issues will be fine,” he smiled and nodded in agreement. So far, so good. The discussion was more than amicable and there had been no major disagreements. Yet.
“It’s been over two weeks and we’re still finding evidence of his sabotage… What was he trying to do?” Tara said with a sigh and a dismayed shake of her head. “But it’s a good thing the Lieutenant caught it before we left the station; talk about getting caught with our pants down!” she added with a wry grin. “But you do make a fair point about the starfighters, and I’ll see to it that the additional personnel are accommodated right away.”
“Anything else we need to agree?” the new Captain queried as he took a sip of his tea.
“Duty rotations?” Tara suggested. “I’m partial to four six hour shifts, but the crew is currently-”
Tara’s words were cut short when they felt a rumble through their feet, followed quickly by the klaxxon of the red alert.
“=/\= Neprem to Bridge, status report!” Tara called out with a tap to her commbadge.
Colby looked at the woman with concern etched on his face and listened to the words that followed intently.
“=/\= It appears an EPS manifold ruptured. We’re dispatching repair teams now,” an Officer from the Bridge informed them.
“=/\= Stand down on the red alert. Where is this rupture?” Tara asked, her intent to investigate this rupture as a possible point of sabotage similar to what Meibei had observed earlier.
“=/\= Deck 6.”
The color drained from Tara’s face. “Meibei…” she said, her voice barely a whisper. Then she looked at Drayton. “Meibei said she was going to check out the manifold on deck 6 before she turned in for the night,” she recalled, completely forgetting all sense of propriety by using Meibei’s name instead of her rank or surname.
Drayton rose from his seat and tapped his commbadge in order to join in the conversation, “=/\=Drayton here. Scan for life signs,” he ordered, picking up his uniform jacket and waving Tara over towards the door.
Tara quickly rose to follow. She felt like she couldn’t breathe, like all the air had been sucked out of the room, but through sheer force of will she didn’t let her panic show, maintaining her composure as she and the Captain left his quarters.
“=/\= We’re seeing one Andorian life sign in the vicinity of the rupture; Medical is being informed,” the Bridge Officer reported.
“=/\=Balls to that, beam her there already!” Drayton demanded as he slipped his jacket on whilst striding down the corridor. “Commander Neprem will get a report from sickbay. I’m headed to engineering. Get on the comm and let the Admiral know that Nogura isn’t going anywhere until we get to the bottom of this and any support he could grant us would be appreciated,” the new Captain ordered sternly, stopping only to look at Tara to see if she was okay with his order. He assumed she would want to be down their with Meibei, but perhaps he had assumed wrongly?
“Thank you, Captain,” Tara said softly, grateful that he had made that call for her; she wanted to be in Sickbay, but if it had come down to her making the decision, she would have gone to deck 6 like a good Engineer should. Then she cleared her throat. “=/\= Wake Master Chief Carter as well and have her report in,” Tara ordered, assuming that the explosion hadn’t woken her already.