Three minutes late, the story of Nisha’s life for the last few months, and it didn’t seem to phase her in the slightest as she sauntered along deck seven, headed for the science lab. She had been caught red handed, along with her best friend, planning to dupe the well-respected bar keep and friend of the Captain. Her punishment? To work on the most menial task the new Chief Science Officer could find her. At least, that was her guess. Maybe if she was lucky the new chief would try a different tactic, but she wasn’t hopeful.
The lab was filled with faces staring back at Mara. Her heart fluttered. Her palms perspired. Before her was a view the new Chief Science Officer was not accustomed to. She cleared her throat and wished she had stopped by the bar earlier. “Don’t feck this up” went through her mind again and again and again.
“‘ello. Me name is Lt. Mara Shepard. Am yer new Chief Science Officer and te-deh, I jus’ wanna ge’ teh know ye an –”
An ensign, his expression perplexed, raised his hand.
“Ye ‘ave a question?”
“My apologies, Lieutenant, but I can’t understand half of what you’re saying.”
Mara, red faced, doubled over as she began to laugh. “S’rry. I went ‘ome fer leave an’ I’m still stuck in Ir’lan’ in me head.” The Science officer cleared her throat. “Let’s try that agin … Hello, my name is Mara Shepard. Today, I want to get to know ye and yer stations. Before I do that,” she said, “are we all here today?” Lt. Shepard glanced around the room, nodding, silently taking roll call in her head. “Seems we’re missin’ one.”
The gathered team mates looked knowingly at each other, entirely unsurprised by the absence of one particular officer. But, right on que, the Cardassian Ensign strode into the lab, stopping only when she realised the entire science department appeared to be present, staring right at her. “Ummm, hi?” she chirped up eventually. “Sorry I’m late,” she lied.
By the expression on everyone’s faces, it seemed Ensign Kedam was already well known. Mara thought it might be because the woman was a Cardassian as there weren’t many of her kind in Starfleet. The Lieutenant felt a sudden flush herself, a reflex from a Cardassian so close in proximity. She took a breath and reminded herself that there were many victims in the Dominion war.
“‘ello Ensign …” Shepard glanced at her PADD. “… Kedam. Yer a wee late, but don’t concern yerself too much this time. However, since ye seem to have the floor, mind telling me a bit about yerself and yer station?”
‘Oh the joy! I love talking about myself!’ the Cardassian remarked inwardly to herself, before nodding slowly. “Sure, I guess,” she took a breath, leant against a nearby console and folded her arms across her chest. “Nisha Kedam, transferred over from the Santa Fe some time ago. Stellar Cartographer by trade, but branching into the field of biology in my spare time.”
“Stellar Cartographer? Grand. That was my first station as well.” With the first introduction out of the way, Mara went around the room. For the time being she only wanted names and stations. A more personal introduction would come later.
“Tank ye all fer yer — oops. I went back to Ireland again. Let me start over.” Mara laughed at herself and continued. “Thank you all for ye cooperation. It may take a bit for me to get yer names right, so please bear with me.” Shepard placed her PADD on the desk behind her. “I’m generally hands off, but for today, I’d like to see how ye work.” Mara Ensign Kedam over. “Fer being late, you are the lucky winner for today. Walk me through yer process, please.”
“My process?” Nisha queried. “What do you mean?”
“Yer job. How do you do it? Do ye go by the book or do ye have your own way of stargazing?” Mara walked with Nisha toward stellar cartography. “I went by the book when I had that assignment, but developed me own process eventually.”
Nisha gave the question some thought, and found herself letting out a slight smirk and a smile in her first ‘real’ shared moment with her chief. “Back when I was on the Santa Fe, Commander Travis would often remind me of protocols and guidance on how to do things…” she shook her head slowly, bowing it while reflecting on her time with her dear friend, “but he’d always encourage me to be me, to do things my way.” Reminiscing about her colleague, the man who had trusted her on so many occasions, always brought a tear to her eyes, and this time was no different. “Look, I may not do things the way you like, and we will clash from time to time, but I always get results,” she concluded.
Shepard’s thumb rubbed the bottom of her chin while Nisha recalled advice from a former Commander, a friend, from the Cardassian’s mannerisms. Mara was relieved to hear that Kedam’s process was self-developed. That Nisha found her own way on the advice of a friend made sense. She had a similar tale from her last ship. The new CSO’s only quibble was with Kedam’s insistence that they would clash.
“Fair enough. Ye have yer own style, that’s good by me. I mean, if ye come to work butt-ass naked or take a piss on the console, then I know we’ll have some problems. Like, invite me to the party next time.” She gave Nisha a wink. “Get yer job done on time and we’ll have no worries.”
Mara moved to the console as she glanced up at the star chart. “What made ye interested in this field? Do ye mind sharing that with me?”
Nisha was still a little taken aback by the comment from the Chief, and only once she had shook that off did she finally offer some response to the question. “Did you never just lay back as a child and look at the stars, dreaming of what might be out there?” she asked of the Chief.
“Aye. Many a time, I would lay back in the tall grass and look up at the stars, but fer me it was a teacher who turned me on to physics that lit the spark.” No doubt Nisha would find Mara’s story boring, so she left it there. Shepard leaned against the console and gazed up at the star chart. She briefly recalled her duties as cartographer on the Empress, how impressive and intimidating it was to take charge of such an operation. A smile touched Mara’s face before she returned to the Cardassian.
“I think ye’ll do fine Ensign, so I won’t torture ye any longer. If ye need anything, let me know. Otherwise, thanks for the briefing. See ya around.”
Watching the science chief depart, the Cardassian pursed her lips. She’d been a little lost since Javorian’s passing aboard the Santa Fe, she would happily admit that to herself, but maybe this new woman would give her the same reassurances and faith her friend had?