It had been 9 hours since the Nova had departed from Starbase 72 and begun its course to the Ventiri system. The journey had thus far gone off without a hitch and had been otherwise entirely uneventful.
Ellen Rees, the ship’s chief helm officer, had just finished her duty shift and swapped with one of the other crew members whose job it was to keep the ship on course. She was a slightly portlier woman with dark brown hair that sat upon her shoulders like a feathered curtain. Her pale skin had hardly been tested by the sunshine in San Francisco, and still remained as porcelain as it had been when she had left Wales for Starfleet Academy five years ago.
Stretching as she stood up from the helm console, she straightened out her red and black uniform and left the bridge with commander Chandra’s permission. She’d hoped to get some rest in her new quarters several levels down but decided to stop by the mess hall first for a light snack or something to drink before bed.
Having gone down a level to the second deck, she stepped into the mess hall and was greeted by a most nerve-wracking sight.
Sitting right in front of the replicator was none other than Yanrel Vex, captain of the Nova. Though he had been quite a relaxed and almost solemn character on the bridge, she didn’t know him at all really. She had seen him talking with a few of the other crew members at the meeting at the arboretum on Starbase 72, but she never got the opportunity to actually chat with him one-to-one.
She headed in through the mess hall and cautiously stepped around the Trill captain, who was busy reading a hardback book the title of which she couldn’t quite see. Pressing the button on the replicator in the wall she called out her order.
The computer responded with a bleep of recognition and created in its receptacle with a flash of light a white mug filled to the top with a warm, thick brown liquid.
Ellen took the mug with both hands and cradled it between her palms. It felt so warm and comforting after a long shift.
The mess hall of the Nova was somewhat cozy compared to that of most other starships. It only had seven tables and most of those only had two chairs. The room looked busy even with just a handful of officers in it. All the same, it had an intimate feel to it, as if the collective crew was somehow drawn together in that room.
The option was there for her to sit alone, but Ellen realized that an opportunity had presented itself for her to ingratiate herself with the captain, something that could potentially help take her a long way as her career continued.
She stepped around him and stood opposite.
“Excuse me, sir? Mind if I sit with you?” She asked.
Vex said nothing but gestured to the seat with a polite smile as if to welcome her to do so.
Ellen pulled the seat from under the table and sat down with a sigh.
“It’s been a long day sir. Don’t you need to rest?” She asked.
“No,’ Vex began, looking back down at his book, ‘I tend to sleep in the later hours. It’s a habit I’m afraid to say I picked up from Kirvad.”
“I see, and who’s Kirvad?” she asked, inquisitively.
“He used to be me, once upon a time. That was quite a while ago now though.” Vex replied.
“Ah, I see. So you’re joined then, huh?” she continued, taking a sip of her cocoa.
“Yes indeed. I would be the fourth host of the Vex symbiont.”
“Huh.” Ellen trailed off.
There was a moment of awkward silence before Vex finally closed his book and set it down on the table.
“What about you? Do you always stay up late too?” Vex asked.
“Oh, not always sir. When it’s an exciting or nerve-wracking day such as this one though, I’ll stay up a little later and give myself some time to unwind. Watch, I’ll sleep all the way through Beta shift tomorrow if I’m not careful.” she replied with a nervous laughter.
Another awkward silence passed. Ellen began to get a little uncomfortable as she felt as though she was boring the captain.
“Uh, I’m Ellen by the way. Ellen Rees. I’m the chief helm officer.” She said.
“A pleasure, ensign Rees. You’re from Wales, have I got that right?” Vex asked cautiously.
“Yes, well remembered sir! I’m from Swansea, originally.” She replied
“I see, and that is in the United Kingdom, correct?”
“So what made you want to leave your home and join Starfleet?” Vex asked, taking a sip of his own drink, which Ellen could smell to be some kind of herbal tea.
“Well,’ Ellen began, relaxing a little, ‘you see all those stars out there, sir?”
She pointed out of the viewport, to which Vex humored her by following her finger and nodding.
“It doesn’t matter where we come from, sir. Whether it’s Wales or Iran or Trill or Bajor or Cardassia, we all look at those stars and we all wonder. We all wonder…”
She paused for a minute, thinking to herself what it was she wanted to say.
“We all wonder what’s out there, you know? We all think about something bigger than us. Something distant and unknown. It’s what brings us together, I think. It’s what unified Earth and brought the Federation together. Even serving onboard a Nova class in our own borders, there’s still so much to see and do, you know? There’s still so much out there that we don’t know.”
Yanrel smiled a full and touched smile, before taking another sip of his tea.
“And you?” she asked.
“Oh, well you know. It passes the time I suppose.” He smirked back at her.
She bowed her head in mock frustration at this answer, lifting it only after a moment to take a sip of her cocoa.
“Are you always this inscrutable, sir?” she asked him bluntly.
“No. Sometimes I don’t say anything at all.” He remarked.
Ellen was left speechless. She could only cackle to herself at this response and continue her drink.
“Is that a book, sir? I didn’t think anyone read an old-fashioned paper book anymore. It seems dreadfully cumbersome.” She said, looking down at the cover of the book, the title and author of which were etched in indiscernible Trill script.
“There’s something about old things like this that grabs me, ensign. That’s probably why I became an anthropologist and archaeologist to begin with. I feel drawn to the past in some way or another, you know? Maybe because I’ve experienced so much of it myself but maybe also because, perhaps, things were a little more romantic back then. In place of all science and knowledge, there was mysticism amongst the various cultures when dealing with the unknown. In many ways, I’m jealous of the Klingons for being able to embrace that sense of magic and divinity within their own culture into the modern-day, you know?”
“I kinda follow,’ Ellen replied, ‘but doesn’t that ceremonious and religious attitude come with some drawbacks? Persecution comes to mind, particularly. I know amongst the people of Earth, religion was used as an excuse for hate and prejudice as much as it was for hope and spiritual wellbeing.”
“Perhaps, but it cannot be denied that we are all spiritual beings in our own way, are we not? To be alive is to experience the spirit itself, and why not embellish that experience with a little extra something? Without the spirit, one could argue that life is not worth living.”
Ellen didn’t respond to this, simply taking another sip of her cocoa that remained cradled between her palms. Yanrel tutted with sigh.
“I’m beginning to sound like my parents. Viba and Burza would’ve rebelled aggressively against such talk. I can imagine Burza now hearing this. She would’ve told me to save all that for the holodeck and to get it together.” He laughed.
Ellen laughed with him.
“And Burza and Viba were…-”
“Previous hosts, yes.” Yanrel finished her trail of thought for her.
He tipped back his mug and drained the rest of his drink before grabbing his book and standing.
“Well, I’d best at least try and get some sleep. I’ve got a busy few days ahead of me, I reckon. We all do. See you tomorrow Ensign.” He said.
“Until tomorrow, captain. Sleep well, why don’t you?” Ellen replied with a broad, warm smile which remained eclipsed somewhat behind the cocoa in her grasp that she continued to nurse.
Slinging his book under his arm, Yanrel strode out of the mess hall. Ellen exhaled in relief as she continued to drink her drink. The captain was right, the next few days were going to be exceptionally long.