Rebecca sat in the nearly empty observation lounge with Denver’s tactical pod looming large in the windows. Starbase 1 filled out the rest of the view as ships of all sizes darted about carefully orchestrated by Orbital Control.
Rebecca sighed and tossed her PADD to the table and it clattered against the black-tinted glass of the surface. “The War has stalled. The Dominion is licking its wounds in Cardassia.” She pinched the bridge of her nose, “And Starfleet is acting like we’ve won the damn war by retaking DS9. So, what are the crew rosters looking like?” She asked Cheon looking for a break from reading the intelligence reports Riandri had prepared for her.
Cheon was deeply thought as he reviewed the Alpha, Beta, and Delta crew rosters. Creases had already formed deep furrows in his brow as he attempted to rearrange the teams so that the new crew members would be placed on both the Alpha and Beta teams, allowing them to learn from the more experienced members of the crew. He was about to speak when he looked up from the PADD in his hand.
The doors from the bridge suddenly parted washing the quiet of the room with the hum of standard bridge operations. An officer stood at the entrance that Rebecca hadn’t seen before. He wore Lieutenant’s pips on a red dickey and the typical features of a man from Asia, possibly China.
Marcus Ming made a quick visual assessment as he entered the room and saw both Captain Talon and Commander Kyo. He was glad he’d taken the time to review the record overviews of the senior staff and those in the fighter wing. It was a habit he got into early on as felt it was sensible to do so when reporting to a new assignment. It wasn’t usually the complete story of each officer but it provided a baseline of information that was sometimes if not often useful. The lieutenant paused once he reached what seemed like an appropriate spot, came to attention while tucking the PADD with his official transfer orders into a minimally intrusive position, and formally said, “Lieutenant Marcus Ming reporting for duty.”
Rebecca stood to formally greet the officer, “Captain Talon. Nice to meet you, Mr. Ming.”
Cheon sat there in silence, taking a quick glance at the new Lieutenant before returning his gaze to the PADD in his lap. He quickly lifted it up, retrieved the new crew members, and accessed Ming’s personnel file.
As he read through the file, he nodded inwardly at the officer’s accomplishments and accolades. Setting the PADD back on his lap, he returned his gaze to Ming as the CO began her introductions.
Ming started to make detailed mental notes of the senior officer’s reactions, mannerisms, and wording. He’d likely have attributed it to his tactical/strategic skills had he fully realized he was doing it.
As Cheon sat there in his silence he noticed how the new Lieutenant was analyzing both of them.
Without missing a beat the pilot said, “Likewise captain. The Denver seems to have a rather impressive track record. That is an absolute credit to her crew and the command staff. I am eager to lend anything and everything that I can to that success in the future.”
Rebecca eyed the Lieutenant unsure how she felt about his eagerness. “We’ve been lucky. We lost a lot of crew along the way including our captain.” She picked up her ever-present coffee cup, sat back in her chair, and took a sip. “Commander Kyo here saved us all l, otherwise we wouldn’t have survived the first month of this war. This assignment here protecting Earth has been our longest stint off the front lines since hostilities broke out.”
“You don’t miss anything do you, Mr. Ming?” Cheon’s tone was both inquisitive and in a manner of fact way.
While keeping his eyes on the Lieutenant he addressed his captain. “Let’s hope that our orders come quickly.”
Rebecca smirked, “I’m not looking to get shot at. If you want to you can always request a transfer.”
“Oh come on you know as well as I do that things would go to hell in a handbasket and everyone would be hunting me down if I left,” Cheon stated with a smart-ass tone.
Ming paid attention to the exchange for a moment before speaking first to the ship’s executive officer, “I try not to miss anything if I can avoid it, Commander. Doing anything less, especially these days, can be quite expensive.”
A smirk crossed Cheon’s mouth as he heard what Ming had said. “Luckily we don’t have to pay for it in the long run. If as you say we all pay attention to the details.”
The pilot shifted his gaze toward the ship’s commanding officer he said with sincere earnestness, “Captain, I’m in this for the duration. I have lost too many close friends and I’ve had my ass nearly shot off more times than I like but thinking about, quitting is no longer an option. We’ve all lost more than we care to lose….If we fail we will lose so much more. I’ll be happy when we get to go back to peaceful exploration. Between now and the war’s end my goal is to do everything possible to make that peaceful exploration an option again.”
“That’s the problem, isn’t it? The strong always prey on the weak. Greed is one constant among all sentient life. There’s no need for the Dominion to expand into the Federation other than they want it. We’re all in this for the duration. The alternative is Dominion rule and something tells me we don’t want to find out how that goes.”
Cheon remained silent as the captain spoke about Dominion rule. He had once seen something close to that in the eyes of the refugees that had been a part of an evacuation after the Cardassian rule of Bajor.
Ming’s face adopted an even more sober expression than before for a moment. The captain had just expressed a few sentiments he’d had as well even if not in the same words. The idea of the Dominion winning was an abhorrent concept to him. He said, “Quite. I’ve never liked bullies or tyrants. Frankly, the Dominion is a bit of both and is one of the ugliest sorts. I’m able to fight…I’m actually fairly decent at it despite the fact I am not overly fond of it. I learned those skills out of necessity. One detriment I have been told that I have is that I never learned the concept of surrender. Oh, I could tell you the definition of it of course. The concept never quite made it down here though.”
With that last Ming tapped his chest over his heart a couple of times. His head tilted slightly as he continued, “It’s been a more useful trait than not it seems. As they used to say….I had my last squadron, crew, and Captain’s back. Now that I am on the USS Denver under your command I have your back, the back of this crew, and the back of my flight. If need be I will die defending you all and the Federation along with all the best ideals it represents. To be honest I aim to live for all the above and to do everything I can to ensure all of the above come out of this intact…”
The pilot sighed and added, “As intact as possible anyhow. Even if we win this war I hope we, meaning the Federation, can go back to the way we were. What worries me is that I have to wonder if that is even possible. The only way to go is to do our damnedest to win this thing and rebuild things as best we can.”
After another pause he looked a bit sheepish, “Sorry Captain…Commander. This isn’t quite the light and cheery ‘Reporting for duty’ scenario I am used to.”
Rebecca gave Ming a weak but honest smile, “These are not cheery times.” Her fingers danced over the control pad on the table and the wall monitors on either end switched to a list with hundreds of names. “That is the list of killed in action over the last month. I know at least six names on that list. We all know names on that damned list.”
Sighing she set her coffee aside. It was cold now anyway. Leaning forward she shuffled through some pads finding one with the new crew transfers she pulled up Ming’s information. She didn’t read it closely. “Well, Mr. Ming everything looks in order. If you haven’t already been assigned quarters speak with Commander Kyo. Shuttle bay two has been expanded into surrounding cargo Bays and science labs. It probably isn’t purpose-built like you are used to but it is all yours. I am not sure when the rest of Bravo Flight will arrive especially your Crew Chief, but I expect soon.”
Ming studied the names on the panel for a moment. He looked at the captain when the moment passed and, as he did so, grief flashed across his features for maybe two heartbeats before he schooled his features again. The Bravo Flight Leader nodded and said, “I’ll get on it and coordinate with the necessary departments to get that situation squared away in jig time. I shall also keep an eye out for my wayward flight as it were.”
His eyes diverted toward the XO for a moment, “It seems my quarters were already arranged for. For that, I am glad as the so-called downtime transitioning between commands has mostly been anything but downtime.”
“Use your ”Down-Time”,” he air quoted, “for training your skills on the holo-deck, that is my suggestion,” Cheon said as he looked at Ming. “Other than that get to know your fellow crew members.”
Marcus nodded glancing at both officers, “Thank you both. It’s been good meeting you both and I look forward to working with the two of you come what may.”
“You are dismissed Mr. Ming,” Rebecca said with a nod. “If you need anything let me know.”
The Lieutenant came to stiff attention and nodded to the two senior officers ever so slightly before turning on a heel and exiting the lounge. The encounter wasn’t quite what he’d planned however that seemed, he realized, to be an apt sign of the times.
Cheon looked at Rebecca for a moment before handing her his assessment of the Lieutenant. “He’ll do just fine in my opinion, Captain,” he stated, “As long as he hones his skills as a fighter pilot and can follow orders I don’t see there being too much to worry about.”