‘Welcome Aboard, My Young Kestrels'
USS Kestrel NCC 31967: Currently docked at Starbase 49, the Gan'hoar System
"Miss Jex, Mr Templar and Mr Cutler, welcome aboard my fine vessel."
The man spread his arms expansively around the breadth of the bridge. Jex would admit to his having rugged good looks but there was no denying the cragged face or the slightly greying hair. The Captain also wore jowls adorned with a healthy growth, not quite a beard but with all the appearance of having not been shaved for several days, but it also appeared to be a permanent fixture always in this state.
With no apparent evidence to support it the three ensigns, stood arrayed in front of him by the turbolift entrance, believed that their commanding officer was of a mean temperament, quite likely moody and prone to an acerbic outburst. His cragged features attested to this fact, owing more to his continence rather than his age, his eyes dark, expressing his foreboding nature.
"Of course it will be a fine vessel if Gardner here, ever manages to pull his thumb out."
Eddie Gardner stooped over an open engineering station scowled at his captain asking himself, yet again, why he had signed up for another stint with his Captain. His demeanour was no less discomfiting. Rather dour and with a heavy petulant lip his thick but trimmed beard swept up to a baldhead. A baldhead that he rubbed briskly in frustration whilst working at the engineering station with engineering tools and parts strewn at his feet.
"I," he paused for an egocentric dramatic effect, "am Captain Gregory McGregor. I know my parents were cruel and I was teased something awful as a child. Thankfully, it didn't affect me in the slightest and I remain a well adjusted, rational being. Mind you, my parents were another story but I dispatched with them some years ago." Pantomime like, he stage whispered one hand raised as if to cover his words, "Made it look like a turbolift accident. I suppose I could have tried something much more reasonable such as ... say ... change my name. So just imagine what I might do to three nobody ensigns who disappoint or step out of line."
Cutler gulped, Jex laughed half-heartedly something telling her the Captain was not entirely joking, while Templar folded his arms in pretence at nonchalance.
Having arrived at the docking ring, Jex and Cutler met Sebastian Templar with duffle bag slung over his shoulder obviously awaiting their arrival. He was tall, fair-haired, and strong with a clearly cold disposition all of which marked him out as atypical security officer material. Jex had been about to introduce herself profusely and thank him for waiting on them when she noted his demeanour with the displeased mood upon his continence as he glanced at the imposing form of an African woman in her fifties stood by the docking entrance.
This woman, her brown dark curls gathered up adding greater height to an already imposing stature, had begun the introductions with a curt and rather formal, "Ensigns Leoini Jex and Noah Cutler? I am Commander Molly Cartwright, ship's Executive Officer. This is Ensign Sebastian Templar. Now that you are all here, might I personally welcome you aboard the USS Kestrel NCC 31967. I wish you all good fortune aboard but I will leave your official welcome aboard to the Captain. This way."
With that, she turned on her heel and walked through the hatchway and the three ensigns had no option but to follow her through onto the decks of the Kestrel led as they were. First, they walked up the small ramp area from the docking hatch that led to the air lock. Being as the Kestrel was docked at the station the environment was equalised so they had a clean sweep through onto the deck.
A notice indicated their arrival on deck 6, which housed crews' quarters and the crews' mess and mess hall. In total, the Miranda class could hold up to 163 dual-occupancy cabins and 89-shared bathrooms to house the 326 Ensigns and NCOs it was able to hold. But the Miranda was easily outfitted and changed to meet any number of mission briefs and parameters and so many of the statistics governing the class were changeable and the Kestrel did not quite enjoy such a high number of crew personnel assigned as it was to the Border Service.
As they progressed along the main gangway, they hardly saw anyone other than two scrutinising security personnel at a small reception room just inward of the hatch monitoring the egress of any crew. Sebastian surveyed them closely sizing them up. They saw a few technicians at the airlock station but they were so involved in their work peering into open panels that they did not notice their passage.
Cutler took in the doors and corridors labelled in Federation Standard print numerating the different rooms. He noted the muted grey carpets and similarly the detail of the bulkheads with some panels popped exposing their innards of spaghetti wiring and blinking lights. Propped against the bulkhead the panel covers lay with tool boxes left beside for the technician to return to no doubt.
Although he was no aficionado like Jex, he smiled as he spied the old-fashioned comm. links located at points in the corridor they walked through. After four years of training in the Academy, assignments, drills, simulations, lectures and a raft of information to take on board he was now actually onboard a starship, or should he say his starship.
Jex swam in a bubble of swirling memories and almost gasped aloud at seeing the old intercom somehow still retained on this vessel. With two previous hosts having served with Starfleet her past life experiences came to the fore but combated fiercely with the enthusiasm and excitement of Leoini stepping onto her first post.
For Sebastian Templar, the emotional roller coaster was no less. Excitement and in trepidation went hand in hand as he considered his position and this new chance to start afresh. This was not his first posting and so he dreaded his career failures and mistakes becoming public knowledge which they soon would for that was life onboard a starship, scuttlebutt gossip that spread faster than warp.
His only other thought in light of his own predicament was why a woman of the Commander's age was still only a commander and not yet achieved a rank of captain. And he considered too why she, like Sebastian himself, was relegated to work in the Border Service
They passed a number of corridors and signposts. Commander Cartwright did not detour though to show the three ensigns these sights but did explain, "The Captain will personally show you around the ship so you'll excuse me if I lead you straight to the bridge. As you can see, we are busy continuing our recertification and repairs. You'll find yourself hard at work soon enough." She turned and gave them all an encouraging smile. "But hey that's why you're here."
Without further ado, she stopped in front of a pair of doors and in a short moment, they opened to reveal the turbolift. With the Commander, the ensigns and their duffel bags it was somewhat of a tight fit. The doors swished closed and Cartwright hid a smirk as all three ensigns looked upwards in the direction the lift ascended, towards the bridge whereupon the Captain presently introduced himself.
"My Captain, that is probably your most welcoming welcome you have ever given new recruits."
McGregor turned to the helm position to a blue-skinned officer web hands raised in greeting to the three and the gills at his neck fanned.
"Why thank you Stanley. I thought I would show them my sunny disposition." He gave the three a garish smile of little sincerity other than secretly enjoying any discomfort they displayed.
Jex just remarked to herself that the helm officer looked little like a ‘Stanley'. She stared at him unwittingly.
Stanley's large black egg like fish eyes blinked slowly, a thin black membrane that slipped over his ovoid eyes, as they returned the invasive stare. He lolled his head slowly to one side returning the inquisitive look.
Jex felt herself measured up in that long piercing look. In her long years as Jex, she had never encountered someone of Stanley's race before. She wasn't even sure what species he was.
"Don't apologise, revel in the unfamiliar, Lt. Commander Mnu Subreliqui is all that. Is he aquatic, amphibian, transgender, a circus freak? None of these, just one of the wonderful oddities out there in that great big universe and that we might find ourselves accidently tripping over on our travels. Of course, Mnu Subreliqui is a bit tricky to get your tongue around, or maybe I'm just too lazy to, but he doesn't mind. Do you old boy?"
Cutler and Jex looked a little appalled but tried to hide it as best they could. "Fear not my little ones I find the name Stanley a term of endearment."
"I told you the old boy doesn't mind it! Mind you we're not exactly sure he is a boy." With a pretence at bashfulness McGregor again pantomime-like stage whispered, "I didn't like to look. People might think me a bit funny if I did that type of thing. Tell me Ensign Jex would you hold it against me if I said something lewd about your body?" He gave her a restrained leer and with mock gusto raised his eyebrows up and down. Jex replied demurely with a smile and pushing a lock of hair behind her ear.
Shaking his head slowly from side to side, the brooding form of the ship's tactical officer offered what seemed to be a helping hand. "Perhaps you should give them the whole on the edge of the frontier and the rules don't apply speech."
A clear North American accented Federation Standard held a certain degree of scorn, though not necessarily malice in its tone. Noah liked to think he detected a Chicago accent but he could not say so with certainty. His dark features matched his dark mood, he was certainly no ray of sunshine. He wore a thin moustache and his hair was closely cropped to his scalp and he stood feet apart, hands held behind his back and held his chin up, his eyes measuring like a hawk hunting.
Addressing his security chief stood near tactical station situation on the right hand of the bridge's curving wall. "Why thank you Tac. See they really are the best crew in the world. I know, I know, every ship's Captain says that but most of them are idiots so that can't be saying much for the crews of their ships. Me though, I'm a brilliant genius so it really is true and there go a real compliment."
"By the way, that dangerous criminal looking type guy behind the tactical station is the ship's tactical and security officer surprisingly enough. A bit gun ho but whom better to catch a thief - than a thief I say. Sorry I should be fair and honest; I think someone else actually may have used that phrase before me."
Tac crossed his arms in a huff but said nothing other than to let out an exasperated sigh.
"Where was I? Oh yes - the speech! This ... is my chair."
Jex looked to Noah who looked to Templar and even he looked to Noah and Jex in puzzled return. This was not the starting point any of them expected the speech to take. The Captain himself took delight in surprising them so. For others on the bridge this was the old familiar starting point and they rolled their eyes.
"And when I sit here," He sat accordingly. "I am not just in a seat I am a seat."
McGregor turned and looked back smiling delightedly at Cartwright and Tac at the aft of the bridge. "I love this bit; it makes the newbies think I'm crazy."
He voice changed back to his serious heavy tone as he continued, "I am the seat of Federation power not just of this ship but in our region of space. It is our patch. Our patch and we are the Federation's sole representatives. We are the rule and law. We are the line in the sand. I think someone may have used that one on me before too."
"There are deep space missions that have more support more available to them than us. And lest we forget it, the fact is the Admiralty send us to the frontier on our own expecting us to do the job on our own. So we can't be calling in the cavalry at the drop of a hat. We are the cavalry. We stand the line, we duke it out, we shout them down, we clean their windscreens, and we set out the welcome mat. It's not all bad you know.
"But it is a serious business and we have a duty to uphold. The Federation in small ways depends on us. As a border patrol, a law enforcement, a first line of defence, intelligence gathering, immigration control, customs, search and rescue etcetera, etcetera."
"We might not face down an armada of hostile aliens but ... then again you never can tell and technically we are the frontline defence; we will face sneaky little bastards chancing their arm, or tentacle or some type of manipulator, trying to enter illegally the Federation for criminal purposes, possibly terrorist or the like. Mostly petty criminals trying to play space pirates and because we're on the frontier some out there think they can get away with it and we need to make a point of showing them no."
"But being on the frontier away from the pomp and ceremony of the Admiralty extends us a little latitude. Things might not be exactly by the book on this fair vessel." Over his shoulder he hollered, "Have you fixed that yet Chief? Sometimes these guys are a little less than professional. I try to lead by example but there's only so much a man can do." He cocked a leg over the arm of the chair. "By the way never sit in this chair. My golden rule."
"You might want to write that down. And my many other rules. Well to be honest they are not so much rules as guiding principles. No. No, I change my mind. They are rules. They are not to be broken. They are never to be disputed. They are indispensible. They can wait till later."
"You'll pick them up as we go along. Anyway ... where was I? Oh yes!"
Sprawled in his command chair, the Captain continued, "We have a different standard shift of duty hours. We always wear arms in case we need to repel any boarders. Oh how scary and exciting."
At this, he pretended to bit his nails. "Often we double up on our jobs. One of the reasons I selected you from the Academy is because your profiles exemplified the ability to multitask and specialise across the spectrum of ship systems and duties. You might be an engineering specialist Miss Jex but I might ask of you to man the guns. Or girl it. Or worm symbiont it. Whichever term you find to be most politically correct."
"Cutler you, supposedly, are Operational Systems therefore I expect you to know the ship inside and out - and use it to equip me with information whether tactical, scientific, or otherwise. And I might just use that information to kill somebody or save the ship."
"Mr Templar you've specialised in security and I need that specialism to keep my ship and crew safe and safeguard the weakest and most vulnerable of our Federation. But you might have to get your hands mucky and bloody in the line of duty for there are more ways than one to protect others."
"Consider this my cannon fodder. The Common Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus), impressed by my latin?, as found on ye old Earth, are diurnal and prefer an "open country" habitat for their hunting ground. Now we on this vessel have the wide-open country of the Federation border to hunt in. When hunting, the kestrel will hover, almost stationary, about ten or twenty metres above the ground searching for prey."
His hand hovered in front of their faces having become the kestrel in their minds. Their eyes locked on its stationary hold whilst their ears were hooked, savouring the hypnotic voice of the Captain.
Suddenly his hand snatched out at them, causing all three to stumble backwards as he barked out with feral energy, "Sighting its prey, the Kestrel makes a short, steep dive toward the target. It is efficient in its killing. It is a dispassionate hunter. But secretly it delights in the hunt diving with its shrill call ‘kee-kee-kee'."
"We too are to be an efficient and dispassionate hunter. Always ready, always waiting; and if you want you can call out a shrill ‘kee-kee-kee' too! Put your Starfleet ideals at the doorstep for ours is a serious business of cutting actions, espionage, merciless dogfights and determined hunts. Welcome aboard my young Kestrels."
The three ensigns blew out softly. The captain was ridiculous in his speech but the force of his words, the dark menace of his eyes, conveyed the very seriousness of what he was about.
Quick as a flash he changed tone, his grin no longer quite as macabre, "Ok then stow your stuff, Molly here will look after your trinkets until you return, and we will have a quick tour, then duty."
Molly Cartwright stepped forwards from the alcove she had stood back in while the Captain had introduced himself and took the respective duffle bags. Stanley smiled and blinked at the three as they filed past him, then the tactical station. As they trooped after, the Captain headed towards the turbolift whistling. "You have the Conn Molly. Gardner have that station fixed by the time I get back."
The three ensigns with certain reluctance entered the turbolift and almost grimaced as the doors slid shut.
Molly stepped up to the centre of the bridge looking back at the closed doors. "God help those kids. Why he does it I never know."
"Correct, it does seem strange Commander that the Captain takes a certain delight in making the new personnel feel ill at ease and on edge. Do you suppose there is a method ..."
"To his madness? No, it is just plain madness or perhaps a degree of malice."
From his security station Caleb ‘Tac' Dexter remarked, "Yeah well, those kids had best learn that this is no comfortable luxury cruise or Academy simulator, the Captain's right to make them feel uneasy."
"Really Caleb, there are other ways." She looked back at the closed turbolift doors and sighed, "Even if it is effective."
Sealing up the panels of the station he had finished repairing, for now at least, until another problem showed up, Gardner groused, "I'd best get to engineering, no doubt when the Captain reaches it he will want me to conduct a tour of the engines whilst simultaneously knocking me for not having everything ready for departure. He won't consider that conducting a tour will be eating into the time I could be getting the ship ready."
"You know him so well Gardner."
He grumbled as he picked up his equipment, "All too well. Sixteen bloody years of effing ..."
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