Part of USS Denver: Mission 3: War is War

The OPS Chief Crawford Arrives

USS Denver: Captain's Ready Room
February 26, 2374 14:00
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Shuttle

The shuttle shuddered as it dropped out of warp and the gathered officers and crewman glanced forward to see the view.  It was filled with damaged ships, medical ships, and swarms of others as the battle-weary and worn were repaired and readied.  Peter slipped his PADD out and clicked through the specifications on the USS Denver.  She had been at the front and taken her share of loss and lumps.  The shuttle swooped down and slid into the shuttlebay.

“Crawford, Peter.  This is your stop.”

The operations officer stood and followed the man’s gesture to the busy world of the USS Denver’s shuttle bay.  He scampered off as the shuttle departed and onto its next destination.  He approached the officer of the deck, “Ensign Peter Crawford, sir.”  The woman scanned her PADD and nodded, “Welcome aboard, ensign.  We’re a bit busy at the moment.  I’ll notify the captain of your arrival.  You’re scheduled to meet with her and the XO in an hour or so.”  She motioned to his PADD and she tapped hers to his, “This will give you directions to your quarters and grant you access.  Whatever you had stored on the shuttle has been transported for you.  Your scheduled meeting information has also been transferred.  Congratulations on being assigned to the USS Denver.”  She gave him a nod and he was pointed towards a turbolift.  A few decks later, and a corridor or two walked…and he was safely behind the doors to his quarters, the silence of the room bringing some comfort in the moment.

He unpacked his clothes and found the stash of uniforms.  He opened the various boxed he had carried with him since Starfleet Academy and began to place his things around the room.  The Crawford Ranch belt went up on the wall, a reminder of his past.  He adjusted the case, wondering what his parents were doing now? They’d told him in no uncertain terms he would never step foot on the ranch again and ownership would go to someone else in the family.  It hadn’t hurt as much as he’d expected but it still left a hollow hole where something should have been.

The next was his worn and dusted cowboy boots.  He set them next to the door.  They’d been through a lot with him from home to Academy.  He wondered what adventures they would guide him through on the USS Denver.  A few pieces of memorabilia soon sat on shelves and walls.  His first and only bull riding championship.  The menu from his first date with Tran.  A few books that had always been his favorites.  The handmade rope he’d used on the ranch and in holodeck at the Academy.  He finished his unpacking, took a quick sonic shower, and changed into a fresh uniform.  Checking his chrono, he had timed it perfectly.  He headed for the bridge.

Bridge

Rebecca was standing behind her desk with a cup of coffee in one hand and the other resting on her hip.  Across the desk from her sat a young woman with hair nearly the same shade of red as the captain’s holding a PADD.

 “Warp engines are still off-line.  There is some sort of integration issue with the new core,” the Ensign explained. 

“It’s a brand new core,” Rebecca replied letting her mask slip for a second to show how tired she really was. Sighing she continued,  “It will get sorted I suppose.  It will have to be.”

Ensign McKenzie simply nodded, “Work on deck 5 is ahead of schedule.  The final installation of crew quarters will be complete by the end of the day.”

“That’s a relief,” Rebecca replied.  ‘It’s been a bit crowded around here with a whole deck gone.  Let’s just hope the ghosts aren’t too angry and let us sleep.”

“Ghosts ma’am?” Aoife asked confused. 

“Nevermind,” Rebecca said with a dismissive wave. “Let’s get Commander Lovecroft to inspect the EPS relays.  They took a beating at Tyra, and we all know what it looks like when they overload.”

He stepped to the door of the Captain’s Quarters and pressed the door chime.

Rebecca sighed again. It’s never ending.   I hear that damned door chime in my sleep now, she thought in a moment of self pity.  “Enter,” she said out loud as she faced the door and set down her coffee.

Crawford stepped into the room and found the captain and an engineering officer finishing up a meeting.  The engineering officer left and he stepped forward, “Captain Talon, I’m Ensign Peter Crawford, reporting for duty.  I’ve been assigned as your Chief of Operations.”

“Welcome aboard,” Rebecca.  She pulled out her chair and slid gracefully into it.

The new OPS gave her a nod of thanks.  He had read her service jacket.  It was quite impressive.  The USS Denver was a ship of great talent and skill.  He hoped he would fit in with the men and women of his first assignment.  “I’m looking forward to it, Captain.”

Rebecca nodded, “Your marks were very good.  Not the best of the best academically but, one of your professors said you were one of the best cadets to come through his class in a long time.” Her expression turned dour, “We are short on officers around here to be honest.  That young lady who was just here is our new Assistant Chief Engineer and at the beginning of the war an enlisted crewman.   You’re replacing an officer I served with for two years and was third in command of this ship.  This isn’t the Academy,  and neither is this the ranch you grew up on. I wish I could give you the option to back out, but qualified people are in short supply. ”

Peter resisted the urge to smile and kept a straight face.  The challenge on the ranch and even in the academy had been an incredible motivator.  As much as his family frustrated him, he still was proud to carry the name.  They didn’t back down from the tough stuff in life.  “There’s a quote I latched onto when I was in the Academy.  I think it’s a Captain Kirk one…’Risk is our business. That’s what this starship is all about. That’s why we’re aboard her.’  Given the history of the fleet and your assignments, I don’t expect a ride without turbulence or challenge, Captain.”  He allowed a frown, “What happened to my predecessor?”

“Console exploded after we dumped the core to destroy two Jem’Hadar fighters that were pursuing us. We lost a lot of good people in that battle and the fall-out afterwards. Including our captain.”  She picked up her coffee and took a sip and frowned.  It was now cold.  Setting it aside she folded her hands in front of her. “I think I understand cowboys pretty well myself.   After all I married one. My husband owns… well, the Talons own one of the largest cattle ranches on Terra Alpha Colony with about 3,000 head cattle and another 5-600 head of horses. You cowboys are a tough breed, but this is war.  You need to learn to be a willow branch in the face of the gale, not the oak. The willow flexes and bends, but the oak cracks and breaks.”

Crawford spoke quietly, “I’m sorry for your losses, Captain.  Loss and grief are monsters.”  He finally allowed a small smile, “As for learning to be a willow, I’m sure your husband understands having to be flexible in the ranching business.  Technology can only get us so far.  We’re still taming a land and creatures that were wild…and sometimes show us those wild roots run deep and wide.  You have to learn to be ready for anything…and willing to roll with the punches…literal and metaphorical.”  He contemplated sharing the story of his first bull ride compared to his last but decided that tale could wait for another day.  Her frustration with her coffee clued him in – it had been a long day for his commanding officer.  “Is there anything you need me to start work on immediately, Captain?  I suspect your day has been filled with many of us and the ships final repair schedule…I don’t wish to monopolize your time.”

Rebecca shook her head, “Not at the moment Mr. Crawford,  however if you like to check in with Commander Lovecroft he could possibly use some help with the warp core.”

The new OPS chief made a mental note.  Warp cores were a fascinating subject, even to a farm kid. “Aye, sir.”

“Dismissed.”

With that, Peter left the ready room and headed back out to the Denver’s corridors.  His first assignment.  There was plenty to prove and plenty to learn – and he would need to do both.