Word had spread rather quickly among the junior officers of Yanrel’s assignment to the Nova, and already many of the station’s personnel were checking their PADDs and posting bulletins to see if they had received a position onboard. The ship herself may have been small, but she carried with her a significantly larger reputation. The namesake of her class, the Nova had been a spearhead of scientific discovery alone in a black sea of warfare and expansionism. With the war against the Dominion changing the face of the Federation almost irreparably, and tensions rising among the Romulan Free State, Cardassian Union, Breen, and Tzenkethi, and now the crisis of the Tkon only just passing, it was indeed a welcome sight amongst Starfleet to see a scientist heading a science vessel on a journey of exploration and discovery within the Federations own borders.
At last, after several days of reshuffling and miscommunication, Vex’s intrepid crew of 81 had been assembled in to a full manifest. With such a small crew under one’s command, Yanrel was afforded the rare opportunity to get to meet with all of them on a single occasion, and foster a sense of unity that would seldom be possible aboard a much larger vessel. To that end, he had called for a gathering of his new crew at the gazebo by the lake of quadrant C in the arboretum.
He of course was first to arrive of the Nova’s personnel, and sat patiently on one of six chairs set out upon the gazebo for himself and his senior staff, a symbolic gesture to be sure; Though it was likely that the crew would almost certainly come together to be a tight-knit group of daring explorers, the boundaries between senior staff and junior officers had to be maintained and a level of respect and authority among the departmental leaders remained vital for the operation of the ship.
Little sooner had Yanrel arrived and begun to flick through several notifications on his PADD than the first of his senior staff showed up. A Vulcan woman, dressed in Starfleet’s blue scientific colors, approached the gazebo and stood firmly at attention.
“Captain Vex.” She began.
Vex offered her a smile and a polite nod as he rose to his feet and set the PADD down.
“Doctor Isong, USS Nova, Chief Medical Officer.”
“Good afternoon, Doctor Isong,’ Vex replied, offering her a hand, ‘there really is no need for all this formality. This is, after all, a casual meeting of the Nova’s crew. Please, at ease if you would.”
Doctor Isong’s stance did not alter in the slightest, her form still rigid and immovable in ceremony.
“Permission to speak freely, captain?” She asked.
“Speak your mind.” Yanrel replied.
“This meeting is a most illogical use of the crews time, captain. With a vessel of such small size, would it not seem likely that the entire crew will eventually meet with each other anyway simply due to their proximity to one another? This meeting here at the arboretum seems like an unproductive use of your crew’s attention.”
At this, Yanrel laughed a little under his breath. He was glad that his crew was to include at least one shrewd and emotionally cold Vulcan amongst its complement. Their apparent vacancy of personality and infinite pool of curt advice, whether it was welcomed or not, certainly helped balance out an otherwise ambitious and passionate crew.
“Doctor, this event today is more than just a simple meeting of personnel. It’s an occasion, an event that we’ll hopefully all remember, something that’ll bring us all closer together. It’s a chance for us all to bond over this exciting new thing that we’re sharing in. It’s about establishing morale and working on building an understanding between the entire crew. I’m sure you can understand the need for us to enjoy at least one nice moment all together, can’t you?” He asked her.
“Perhaps not, but as my captain, I will put my trust in your judgement, however illogical it may seem.” She replied passionlessly.
Yanrel merely offered her another smile. She took her seat in the gazebo and the two sat quietly for a short while, merely looking around the arboretum and experiencing the day it offered, not saying a word more to one another.
It relaxed Yanrel considerably to be surrounded by so many growing things and he sighed contently as a gentle simulated breeze rolled through the green fields, carrying on it the scent of fresh flowers and pine wood. Isong remained unmoved, but he noticed her eyes occasionally stray from one area of their surroundings to another. He didn’t make mention of it, but he almost felt as if she was registering her own emotional responses to the stimuli around her.
Several officers began to arrive on the green, each saluting Vex before he motioned for them to be seated on the grass. A few officers even brought picnic baskets and blankets, which pleased their captain to see.
The next to step up to the Gazebo was a rather relaxed looking younger Denobulan man.
“Ah, you must be Captain Vex, eh?” He asked with a broad grin and an incredibly warm tone. He leaned forward and offered Vex a hand, which the Trill took before having it firmly shook.
“Lieutenant Brot, sir. I’m your new chief of operations.”
“A pleasure, Mr Brot.” Yanrel replied.
“You know, I’ve never worked aboard a Nova before sir. My last posting before this was the USS Odyssey. I mean I don’t need to tell you what a gorgeous ship that was, sir. It was state-of-the-art and you could get lost in its Jefferies tubes for weeks at a time. I mean even it’s main engineering bay was the size of a small factory. But a Nova sir, that’s gonna be a whole new challenge, isn’t it? I’ve got barely a handful of engineers and limited resources to work with. I’m gonna have to get real good at wearing a lot of hats, I reckon.” Brot said.
“I think that’s true for all us, lieutenant. I’ve never been much of an engineer myself but I reckon I’ll have to learn a few tricks before my time aboard the Nova is through. Yes, I believe that ship will make a well-rounded crew of us all.” Vex replied.
Brot took his seat and the two spoke casually whilst Isong read over files on her PADD, quite content to ignore and be ignored by all other conversation. Brots enthusiasm and relaxed attitude helped the captain feel at ease as he continued chatting with him on all manner of subjects as more officers began to pour in to the gathering. Like the two senior staff, the crewmen who had arrived were now talking with each other too and Yanrel could already see budding friendships and work relationships forming between the various members of his small congregation of officers.
Vex and Brot’s conversation, which had drifted in to the realm of their favored vacation destinations, was finally interrupted abruptly by the loud clearing of a throat next to them. Both turned to see a tall Andorian woman looming over them, her arms firmly crossed and a scowl upon her face.
“Captain Vex?” She asked.
“Yes indeed; and whom might you be?” He replied. Brot simply continued to stare vacantly.
“Lieutenant Perial Sh’atia sir, chief of security.” She said bluntly.
Yanrel stood up to greet her. Both were of an exceptional height, and on an occasion rare for him, they locked eyes at an even level for a moment. She had a commanding presence about her, almost threateningly so, and she seemed to dominate the space. All within the gazebo visibly shrank around her, even the otherwise impassive doctor, and for a moment there was an awkward silence.
“Shall I take a seat, sir?” She finally asked.
“Ah, yes. Yes, of course.” Yanrel replied, as if breaking out of a trance.
Perial gave a quick nod and then, without looking at the others assembled, took a seat near the edge of the structure and sat, starring out in to the gardens unmoved with her arms still crossed.
Several more officers arrived, lead by a rather talkative human man of clearly east Asian descent.
With a parting laugh, he left the group and stepped up to the captain.
“Ah, you must be Captain Vex. Name’s Man sir, Man Sun-Woo. I just found out today that I’ll be your chief science officer for our upcoming assignment to the Nova. I’m looking forward to sir, I gotta say. I’ve always wanted to serve on a Nova. Can you imagine it sir, our brave, curious crew heading out there on our own, just waiting to see what we can discover!? It’s gonna be great, I can tell! Oh sorry, I should probably shut up and let you talk.” He blurted out.
Vex laughed. The spirit of his young science officer was infectious and he couldn’t help but feel more alive around him.
He motioned towards the one free empty seat, save for the one to the captain’s left hand, and Sun-Woo proceeded to take it. He was sat next to Brot, and the two immediately greeted each other and began talking as if they were old friends, despite only having just met for the first time.
A single detail of the gathering had not gone unnoticed to Vex. Practically all of his crew were present at the arboretum save for a slight number, one of which was his apparently elusive first officer. He had read her file just a couple of days prior, as soon as she was assigned to the Nova. Raksha Chandra was her name, a Human from New Deli, Earth, and an officer praised for her engineering genius and can-do attitude. He thought it odd that she wasn’t present already, and it left him feeling concerned; Concerned for the integrity of his second-in-command and her willingness to engage with her crew and with him.
He stood from his seat and raised his hand. The crew, whom were talking amongst themselves rather loudly and enjoying various ensembles of picnic food, wine, and other potables (alcoholic or otherwise), one by one started to settle down quietly and look up at him, with others audibly hushing their compatriots as conversations drifted in to a few silent chatters.
“My friends, the crew of the USS Nova,’ he began with his loudest voice (which is to say, not much louder than his regular speaking voice), ‘it is my greatest pleasure to welcome you to—”
He trailed off as his eyes caught the sight of a face he knew hurrying along the grass. It was Chandra, and she nervously stepped her way through the crowd before reaching the gazebo and standing behind him, a look of utter embarrassment in her awkward expression.
“It is my greatest pleasure to welcome you here this afternoon. I am Command Yanrel Vex, your captain for this assignment. I have brought you all here today not because I needed to but because I wanted to. I wanted to see the faces of each and every one of you, the people whom one day I might call a friend, an ally, and whom might someday be responsible for my life.”
At this, a moment’s silence followed as the murmurs amongst the crowd resumed until the Trill’s speech recommenced.
“You would not be on this assignment if you were not the greatest that Starfleet has to offer. As a member of this crew, I expect the absolute best from each and every one of you, just as you ought to expect the best from myself. Look around you now.’ he said, and a number of the crew complied, ‘each one of you is responsible for every other person you see around you, and a time will come when each one of you will be called upon to assist your colleagues, your comrades, as our journey of exploration continues. We’re only a small complement, and though our ship is small, it falls on all of us to ensure it runs smoothly. This means that my tactical officers will undoubtedly find themselves in engineering from time to time, handing hypo-spanners to our engineers and conducting much-needed maintenance in the Jefferies tubes. Engineering officers, I don’t doubt I’ll find you in sick bay when times are tough, conducting tricorder scans and dealing with minor injuries and non-life-threatening issues our crew may find themselves in. Helm officers will be found in the science labs, and our science officers might be found at the helm. Each of you will be expected to be the barer of many titles and to bear the brunt of many duties if it means assisting your fellow crewmen; but make no mistake, you will come away from your time aboard the Nova, our Nova, a greater officer than you could’ve ever imagined. Not only will we discover new and incredible things about our universe, but you might yet discover something new and incredible about yourselves. You will unlock talents you never knew you had, and I have full confidence that you will become a Starfleet crew worthy of story and of legend! Never in my four lifetimes have I ever been so humbled and so honored to be charged with leading such an incredible group of people in to the great black beyond. Please, enjoy this afternoon with one another. Get to know one another and share in this experience. My thanks go out to you, crew of the Nova.”
At the conclusion of his speech, a Benzite stood up with a glass of wine in his hand.
“To the crew of the USS Nova.” He said aloud, and held his glass high. Those gathered with drinks in their hands toasted them with a series of clinks and the chatting slowly began to recommence, along with a few rounds of applause.
Yanrel slumped back in his seat and turned his head towards Chandra, who had also quietly sat down, as if trying to shrink to the point of being unseen.
“Glad you could join us, commander.” He said with no small hint of sarcasm.
“I’m sorry sir,’ Chandra began excitedly, ‘there was an issue with the dilithium power sequencing matrix that needed to be addressed! I didn’t trust those dullards to half-ass it so I went and oversaw the maintenance myself. I didn’t think it’d take as long as it did, I’d planned on being here before you!”
“Commander, I appreciate your attention to detail and I know that particular quality was the reason you were given this assignment, but you’re the executive officer of a starship now. Your duty is more to me and to your crewmen than to a warp core and EPS conduits now. If you were really that concerned about it, you could’ve had Brot oversee the fix while you were on your way here.” Yanrel said.
“Huh? Someone say something about me?” Brot responded, turning away from Sun-Woo.
Yanrel chuckled and raised his hand dismissively.
“Yes sir. I understand sir.” Chandra responded.
“Well! We’re all here now, I suppose. We’d best enjoy it while it lasts. Tomorrow’s our first day of work, and the first voyage of the Nova with it’s new crew, not to mention my first day as captain.” He said.
“You’ll be fine, sir. Besides, I’ll be there to kick some ass and point angrily for you if things go awry.” Chandra responded.
“Yes, that’s what I’m afraid of.” He smirked.