The sounds of a string quartet mingled with indistinct snippets of conversation as Lieutenant Commander Najan Osho navigated through the captain’s passed hors d’oeuvres reception, a glass of champagne in one hand and a very passable hasperat puff in the other. All of the ship’s senior staff were present, along with most of the department heads and a few sundry others who’d made the invite list for whatever reason. Everyone was dressed in their Starfleet best, breaking out the stiff-collared white mess dress uniforms for the occasion.
The stated purpose of the event was to welcome new senior officers aboard the Arcturus. Still, she could tell from the way her new comrades were fully indulging in the cornucopia of food and beverages around them, laughing and swapping stories in the process, that there was far more catharsis present than you’d expect at a welcome reception. The crew was tired, and they were ready to let their hair down, white tie dress uniforms or not.
After finishing the second of two bites to consume the tiny morsel of Bajoran comfort food, Najan decided to hone in on one of the few wallflowers, the ship’s head physician.
“Dr. Anjar?” she asked, approaching him as he seemed to be studying some sort of antique nautical instrument in one of the display cases. “Examining our auxiliary navigational equipment?”
“It’s a sextant from a naval ship that bore the same name as this one, apparently,” Anjar replied, looking up with an arched eyebrow. “Humans almost have the Bajorans beat for sentimentality, Mister Najan. We’ve got the wheel from another one over there, too. Imagine holding onto this junk for almost four centuries, just to shove it in a display case.”
Najan chuckled. “You know who I am, sir? I’m flattered. Najan Osho, Starfleet Intelligence,” she said, offering her hand.
Anjar accepted the handshake with a perfunctory squeeze, not seeming annoyed by her per se, but rather with the social nicety in general. He clearly would rather have been somewhere else. Evidently, even being a captain himself wasn’t sufficient to find an excuse to skip the evening’s social festivities.
“There aren’t that many Bajorans on this ship in the first place, and you’re the only one in the latest rotation,” Anjar replied, studying here. “Given that you called me by the correct name, I’m sure that you already know who I am as well. You intelligence officers really make introductions much more efficient.”
Anjar wasn’t exactly famous, but the Bajorans hadn’t been in the Federation that long, either, so there was still a pretty finite number of command-level officers of their race in Starfleet. Beyond that, though, he was well known to be the son of Anjar Morin, an influential vedek. He’d left all Bajoran customs behind, including the order of his names to become Alenis Anjar on joining Starfleet. The why of all of that was not in his personnel file, though.
“I think medical officers and intelligence officers both put their shipmates at a certain disadvantage, sir,” Najan noted. “I’ve read some of Vedek Anjar’s writings, though, beyond just familiarity with your file.”
The doctor stiffened noticeably. “I wasn’t aware that he’d ever written anything that would be of interest to Starfleet Intelligence,” he noted, his eyes narrowing.
“I don’t believe he has, but I was interested purely for self-edification,” she replied, reaching involuntarily to the bare ear. She had stopped wearing her earring when she was embedded on alien worlds for intelligence gathering, and she’d found that hiding her religious affiliation made it harder for people to make assumptions about her. Anjar himself wasn’t wearing the traditional earring, either.“Are you religious?”
“Absolutely not,” Anjar replied without hesitation. “Growing up with a vedek in the house does that to you, though,” he quipped.
“I find great comfort in the ritual of religion, myself, sir,” Najan replied.
“Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much time with humans, but I don’t even really think of myself as culturally Bajoran anymore, Commander,” Anjar noted, crossing his arms. His expression flickered slightly. “Which isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with being culturally Bajoran or religious; it’s just not for me.”
Osho chuckled. “I spent three years on Vashti with a surgically-altered nose and ears to blend in with the Romulans there, so I empathize with the idea of cultural disconnection,” she offered.
Before Anjar could respond, there was the sound of a knife tapping against a glass, and they both turned to see Captain Lancaster standing near the ship’s wheel, apparently ready to address the group.
“Thank you all for coming. For those of you who have been aboard for our whole mission, I’m sure you know how reluctant I am to host these sorts of social events, so credit where it’s due to Dr. Sheppard, who was quite… persistent about us doing this,” Lancaster started, earning laughs from the crew as he looked over at his husband.
“For those of you that are new, welcome aboard. The Arcturus is a special assignment, not just because of her size but because of the unique mission we get to tackle: exploring further than anyone else in history has ever managed. 2399 has not been an easy year for this ship or her crew, but I have some good news: we will be moving into 2400 with a full survey of the Omicron Torrensis system. Long-range scans and the Vulcans’ reports indicate that the fourth planet is pristine and suitable for shore leave, so we’ll have a chance to catch our breath and indulge in a little pure science. The first officer will have duty assignments for each of your departments. Thank you. Please, enjoy the party.”
When the captain was done speaking, the crowd’s murmur picked back up immediately, and Osho could sense the excitement in the room. A system survey wouldn’t typically be conducted by such an important ship, but the Arcturus had earned the break after a year of combat missions.
“I hope you won’t be too bored,” Anjar replied. “I’ll see you tomorrow bright and early for your physical. Try not to drink too much,” he added, clapping her on the shoulder before moving off into the crowd.
Towards the edge of the room, though, there was another anti-social party-goer. Lieutenant Commander Evandrion was easily recognizable, being the only Deltan aboard the Arcturus. He was scanning the room, which made Najan wonder if it was social apathy or a heightened sense of awareness that was relegating him to the corner by the service entrance.
“Not a fan of parties?” she asked, snagging a glass of champagne from a passing waiter as she approached him.
“I would prefer not to have such a high concentration of the ship’s senior officers in one location,” Evandrion replied, though he offered her a small smile. “I take it you are our new spook?”
Najan chuckled. “I suppose you could say that. Najan Osho, Starfleet Intelligence,” she said, offering him her hand.
“Evandrion, Chief of Security,” he replied, accepting the handshake. The contact was brief, but Najan noted a slight tingle, likely because of the inescapable potency of the Deltan nervous system. “How do you find the Arcturus so far?”
“She’s a marvel, surely. Perhaps less heavily-armed than I imagined for Starfleet’s largest ship out this far, but it sounds like she held her own with the Kazon,” Najan said.
The majority of the reports she’d read about the Arcturus’s previous missions had been relatively routine until she ran into massive redactions and limitations placed on the ones from the last month and a half or so. Whatever the origin of their conflict with the Kazon, Starfleet hadn’t felt the need to loop her in, which did intrigue her, but she also knew that Starfleet didn’t keep secrets without a very good reason.
“I believe the intent is that we should be able to defend ourselves, but not so apparently powerful that we’d risk unifying threat forces in the area,” Evandrion explained. “I will sleep more soundly knowing that we will have a full intelligence department aboard, though. This is not a safe or accommodating quadrant.”
“Happy to be a source of solace, if I can. Though, I see my role as much anthropological or diplomatic as tactical in nature,” she replied. “I’m… intrigued at the idea of providing perspective based on a set of decades-old reports.”
“The reality that we’re some of the first explorers to be out here does temper the danger somewhat,” Evandrion agreed. “Have you met the captain yet?”
“I have not yet had the pleasure. Any tips?”
Evandrion chuckled. “No, that would not be fair. They say you’re an expert in sapient intelligence collection, so I am sure any advice I could give you would be… redundant,” he said, looking past her towards where Lancaster was standing near to the ship’s wheel. “Good luck, for what it’s worth.”