‘A VIP Event'
VIP Lounge, Deck 4
After storming off from the grouch that was Sebastian Templar, Jex began to bounce in her step as she neared Cutler's cabin. She knew her unbridled enthusiasm annoyed him but it also tended to help his withdrawn character to come out. She reminded herself again that she was so sugary sweet with him because it was all in a good cause and to help out a friend.
Moments later, Jex was hauling Cutler out of his shared berth quarters. "But Jex I wanted to meet my cabin mate. I don't know who it is it and it's probably bad form not to wait around and introduce yourself."
He looked back considering whether he should have deleted his message.
Jex seemed not to mull over his delaying tactic long as she continued to pull him by the arm, "But whoever it is they are probably going to be here at this meet and greet. Anyway, just check with the computer and you will soon know who it is you're bunking with. I hope he's cute and then I'll have an excuse to sneak a look at him whenever I want."
"Yeah, that was high up on my list of priorities for cabin mates. So long as they keep you entertained!"
She patted his shoulder in mock gratitude, "How very considerate of you Noah."
"What about you?"
"Mmm? Oh no, I don't have a room mate. I have my own private quarters."
"Oh that's lucky."
"Hardly, or should I say there's hardly room to swing a cat. All very basic and low key. Trust me your crewman quarters are the better choice. I can just about sit on the end of my bunk."
"What, are you used to more luxury?"
"I had been. Koedi Jex was a Lt Commander and rated her own private quarters. The fact that her last posting was onboard a Galaxy class only served to give her even greater space and luxury. Even with that, all my previous berths on the quarterdeck have been shared. So I'm more use to sharing than cramped privacy."
"I suppose a Trill has to be use to sharing."
They started to climb the stairwell from deck six to the VIP lounge on deck 4. "Hey you're right! Gees you are funny times Noah. Much more than can be said for my neighbour."
"Sebastian, Mr Crack-a-smile, of course. Imagine he didn't want to come to this party! He said something about, ‘I've had my fill of meet and greets to new ships and of parties'. Obviously, some sort of history there. He was rather elusive about giving anything away."
"Not everyone is an open book Jex. Remember you're a Trill so you are used to sharing your life experiences with others."
Jex mocked, "Oh we are getting all profound and knowledgeable about Trills."
"Hardly, the concept still makes my head dizzy."
Musing to herself aloud she said, "I must look up his record and check him out. Don't look at me like that Noah. It is only natural to be curious and only professional to know a bit about whom you work with. Mind you we only learned a little from others on the transport to Starbase 49 about the Captain and it painted a fairly accurate picture of him."
"You think so too?"
"Yeah Noah, he's definitely irascible and unpredictable but he appears very experienced. Think about our tour and his in-depth knowledge of the ship. Trust me when I say you want that in a Captain. I'd love to be like that some day."
Noah stopped his climb up the stairs. She laughed at him. "Not personality wise Noah but you know experienced and commanding." She thought of Deodzi and her most recent previous host Koedi and the authority and command they had worked so hard and long to achieve. Would Leoini achieve such success?
"You're a con-joined Trill, how much more experienced can people get?"
She considered his point as very valid as she already felt she carried a certain natural authority derived from the Jex symbiont.
"Touché Noah. Look here we are."
Upon entering the VIP lounge, Jex smiled exuberantly as she took in the small crowd gathered around circular tables of finger foods and harmless drinks.
She did note that the hall was a rather small affair and it brought home that she was back serving aboard a Miranda. Fond memories though the class of ship held it did remind her of cramped conditions and a yearning for space and the thrill of getting to planet-side in an away team mission.
Looking about they spied a great number of the senior crew from the bridge mixing throughout the informal gathering. Gardner was there but was chomping through the appetisers as if they were his evening meal; which in fact they were, for he was soon about to leave. The engineer's report did not make for pleasant reading and the Captain's reaction even less so. The party was merely a pit stop to refuel and then charge back at the list of lists of jobs to be completed.
His fierce chewing and deportment made the other engineering personnel nervous and on edge as they understood the mood and the extent of the report's findings. They therefore were under no illusions that they would find themselves called back by the Chief to engineering one by one, as the evening wore on.
Holding centre court of the whole proceedings was Cartwright. Checking everyone had a drink and making small talk with passing crewmembers. She held a champagne flute in her hand but drank nothing from it. She was engaged in telling Gardner to slow down before he did himself a disservice or end up with indigestion. He looked up at her as he continued to chew ignominiously and then as if in defiance of her. She decided to ignore his petulance.
Spying Cutler and Jex she started to make her way over to them bidding a yeoman carrying a tray of drinks to follow her.
As she traversed the room, she passed Stanley stood espousing to a science ensign about some interesting fact or other. He turned to see where the Commander was headed, smiling benignly when he saw whom.
"I'm glad our almost guests of honour decided to show up. We were beginning to think the Captain had waylaid you on the way back from Engineering or left you stranded on the hull." She proffered two glasses of champagne and thanked the startlingly beautiful female yeoman who smiled demurely in reply before slinking away.
"Oh the Captain thought to show us another route to auxiliary control via the conduits."
"How very considerate of him."
They laughed politely. "That said take it all onboard. An intimate knowledge of the vessel you serve aboard is vitally important. Not to mention the Captain is a stickler for it. It will also be very useful knowledge in the next coming days as the engineer's report is less than satisfactory."
With that, Gardner with two of his comrades glumly in tow retreated from the mess hall. "Hence the foul mood of our dear engineer - his excuse on this occasion at least. Not to worry you dear." She placed a hand on Jex. "He's a whiz in the engine room if not in the personality stakes. I never said that mind."
She laughed softly, winked and then by turn serious again said to Cutler, "And Mr Cutler you'll find yourself crawling through those Jeffries and conduits over the next coming weeks as we chase down one errant system after the other. The operating systems are one of the Captain's priorities. So that will be our priority, understood?"
Cartwright turned them into the room and pushed them forward. "Let's go meet some people. Where's Templar at?"
They shrugged in unison. "Ah well his loss." She reflected on the reasons for the ensign's absence and inferred much from the jacket she had read on him but mentioned none of this to Jex or Cutler of course.
She steered them towards the mysterious navigation officer. "Stanley our new ensigns. I would also like you two to meet Matt Duffy. Chat to him a bit and you'll find that even the new ensigns eventually find their feet with us." She raised her eyebrows as she added with mock severity, "If they survive."
Cutler laughed nervously. Matt shook his hand then. "Not to worry guys it is a fine ship with a great crew. You'll soon get to grips with the way things work around here. The first thing to learn is that when a party is being held take full advantage of the fact!"
Cartwright raised her glass and merrily added, "I'll drink to that!"
They all raised their glasses in good spirits and mirth. Even as they did, another crewmember from engineering tapped his commbadge in response to a call from Gardner. Gardner hadn't even made it to Engineering himself before starting to call personnel back.
More to herself but not quite quiet enough for them not to overhear Molly said, "Eddie I despair of you at times."
"So Miss Jex how many hosts have you had?"
In matriarchal tones Cartwright scolded, "Stanley!"
"Eh ... oh it is ok Commander Cartwright."
"Why did I say something offensive? I merely enquired..."
"We know what you enquired. It is not exactly good protocol to ask a Trill such a question."
Cutler added without thought, "Besides if you give it long enough they will soon tell you!" He then looked appalled at his slip but Jex happily laughed at his good-natured and in her case at least observant barb.
"Cutler might have a point there. It is always an honour to be accepted into the Trill initiate and often it is a real thrill. As a girl, I, that is Leoini, but always dreamed of being accepted and becoming a host. There hadn't been a host in our family for three generations for one reason or another. So it was an absolute thrill to be accepted especially as I was almost halfway through my training at Starfleet. Everything fell into place at the one time and I guess ever since I have been joined with Jex all I can do is talk about her and her past lives. It truly is life altering and no doubt once I got back to Starfleet Academy all I could do was talk to friends like Noah about it."
"I see. And is it the case with other Trill hosts? I must admit ensign to never meeting a Trill host before."
"Well for what it is worth I have never met anyone from your species!" There was a pregnant pause and a vacant look from Stanley at this statement. Jex continued, "I dare say other hosts have exercised a greater discretion than me but I see myself as an extension of the Jex personality too therefore it seems only reasonable to talk about myself like anyone would. In answer to your question, this is my fourth co-joining Stanley."
"How very exciting. And has Jex served in Starfleet before?"
"Oh yes, twice. Deodzi was the first to as a lieutenant when she was joined, rose to the rank of Commander, and served for twenty-three years. The Jex symbiont found the experience rewarding, especially as one of the first joined Trill in Starfleet, though at the time it was something we tended to keep rather guarded."
"Anyhow, after that experience Jex really enjoyed and got a lot from being a part of Starfleet. It's a great way of experiencing new worlds and people and cultures. As a symbiote, experiencing new things is part of the joy. That's one reason why ‘Jex' chose ‘Leoini' because she was already signed up to Starfleet but was starting out. In fact, Jex's first berth was also a Miranda vessel so history is repeating itself. Mind you it was when the Miranda was the cutting edge of Federation technology."
"And how did Deodzi die?"
"Now that is inappropriate Stanley! Sorry ensign Stanley sometimes does not have the same tact as the rest of us at times. He means no offence he is just naturally inquisitive and quite innocent of malice of any kind."
Stanley did not appear to be embarrassed or annoyed at his own indiscretion but blinked blankly. Jex stared at him for a whole minute with him not responding. When she realised nothing was forthcoming Jex decided to change tact.
This however, prompted Stanley to speak. "I apologise ensign. My manners are not always what they should be. Hardly surprising when one considers my upbringing."
"As you alluded yourself ensign, you have never seen another of my species before. That is hardly surprising. I am the only one of my kind."
Molly sagely and sympathetically nodded her head. "I'm afraid our Stanley is a one of a kind. No records. No other specimen of his kind ever seen." They all looked at Stanley in a new light. Sympathy held in those looks. Stanley grinned widely at the attention unsure of the correct response. "He was discovered by of all people the Captain, alone on a desolated craft devoid of life or evidence of where it had come from."
"That is correct Commander. The good Captain found me as a small child. I was probably in my teens. I cannot say for sure as I have no memory of my existence before this time."
"Wow brain freeze! And did they ever glean information from the craft they discovered you from?"
"No, alas it was destroyed in the Event."
Cutler frowned. "The ... Event? What do you mean?"
"The time shift event that threw us both into the future by sixty years."
"Time shift?" Cutler asked disbelievingly.
"Sixty years!" exclaimed Jex.
Ensign Matt Duffy expressed his astonishment at their not knowing. "I'm surprised they didn't fill you in on the details at assignment detail. By means of making duty on an aging Miranda in the back of beyond border patrol shift seem that bit more appealing."
"You mean to tell me Duffy that that was your only reason for appreciating your posting aboard the Kestrel. I am sorry to hear that or should I say you are going to be sorry that I heard that." The small party laughed at the Commander's joke. Matt hoped it was a joke.
"Er ... no actually they just sent us packing without explanation as to our posting. Said something about it being a requested posting."
"I dare say! The Captain, more than any other, hand picks his crew. For whatever reason he finds in your experience, Academy record or personal background an asset he can use aboard the Kestrel. He has an uncanny talent spotting ability."
"Kinda blowing your own trumpet there Duffy."
"Oh sorry Commander I didn't mean ... I mean ... well ..." He petered out unable to explain himself.
"Yeah whatever. Duffy has a point; the Captain often has his reasons for posting you aboard. However, any Captain tends to carefully review the staffing of their ship. Duffy here is a whizz from his Academy days at manipulating the deflector and lateral shields for any number of purposes. He uses his scientific knowledge to great effect making even hardened engineers like Gardner blush at his ability to strengthen communications, sensors and shields."
"Of course Stanley here is a somewhat personal charge of the Captain's ever since he discovered him but he also proved to be an expert linguist and a very shrewd intelligence operative even if he has an amazing lack of tact and inability to read people at times."
"And yourself Commander? If that's not too impertinent."
Jex thought she noticed the Commander hesitate, but it was so quick she could not be sure; nevertheless, she found the commander appeared to evade details as she answered, "I'd served with the Captain before. When he saw I was available once more he offered me the post as his executive officer."
"That doesn't explain how you served with him before."
"He was a lieutenant aboard the Kestrel before I moved on to my next assignment. He must have liked what he saw. Speaking of which on your ship's tour did you like what you saw?"
"Oh yes. As I said I'd served on a Miranda class before so it brought back great memories. From the stairwells to the library to the knocking shop bubbles!"
Molly laughed aloud as Jex realised how frank she had been. "I see your previous time aboard was put to good use! You didn't perchance call the viewing galleries on deck nine the knocking shop bubbles in front of the Captain?"
Blushing slightly Jex demurred, "It may have accidently slipped out at that point in the tour."
"And how pray tell did he react?" Molly enquired teasingly knowing full well how debauched McGregor was.
"Rather ... cheerily. In good humour."
"I'm sure. I'm surprised his eyebrows didn't fall off! Don't encourage him so though ensign. He's a tough, smart and deadly Captain but he's not exactly professional ... or chaste."
"No I had gathered as much. But he definitely knows the ship inside and out! I might have fond memories of the Miranda class but I never got such an up close and personal view of a ship before. It looks very majestic when you're stood on the hull overlooking it all."
Molly nodded her head too in appreciation. "She's a tough bird the Kestrel and a beauty in flight. I take it he showcased his upgraded tractor beams."
"If we get nothing else out of this refit those tractor emitters will be his joy and blessing. They were always a source of pride for him. He likes the idea that for the little vessel we are we could swing a Galaxy class around like a cat by the tail. So upgraded and strengthened he is going to be cock a hoop about them. He's just itching to try them out."
"Yes I think he was going to demonstrate them by grabbing a passing runabout but we managed to dissuade him. Isn't that right Noah?" She turned to her friend who had remained studiously quiet throughout.
But Noah was miles away in thought. Brought to, he blurted out without consideration for the current conversation, "Mnu Subreliqui? Sorry how do you know that to be your name if you have no memory?"
"My, Cutler you have been puzzling over that."
"Sorry it just puzzled me."
"No offence Ensign. It is easily explained. When the Captain discovered me, those were the words I was found to be repeating, ‘Mnu Subreliqui, Mnu Subreliqui' and for want of knowing my name the rescue team decided to call me that. The Captain however, did not necessarily believe it to be my name and so he named me Stanley."
"It does make sense that it may not be my name but rather my stating hunger, coldness or loneliness. I might even have wanted to go the bathroom. So my name, Mnu Subreliqui, might well translate as ‘Can I go to the bathroom?' Alas I will probably never know. "
Jex asked curious, "And so how did you learn to speak Federation Standard?"
"I have amazing linguistic talents. I soon picked up the basics of the language within twenty-nine hours. The Captain tells me the crew was most impressed."
"Such a gift has he that Starfleet was eager to have him use his talents in more applicable sciences when Stanley decided to join Starfleet. But he would have none of it."
"I owed my life to Captain McGregor. I was bound to him."
"Oh right." Curiosity was getting the better of Cutler so he was compelled to ask. "And what was the Event exactly?"
Excitedly Matt began to answer. "Ah! As to that! ..."
"Gardner to Duffy. Please report to Engineering to offer assistance."
He tapped his badge in response though no choice was implied. "Will be there shortly Chief."
Stanley good humouredly offered, "At least he said please."
Commander Cartwright pointed out though. "Only because Duffy's not technically part of his department."
Duffy left without regaling them with the story and before Jex and Cutler could restart the conversation, he called back over his shoulder. "Hey I thought there was a third of you guys to come."
"Ah yeah he decided to opt out of the party."
To which Stanley answered. "Oh you might find the young gentleman can change his mind." They turned in the direction of the doors Stanley was directed. There entering unsure of himself was Sebastian Templar. Jex exclaimed her surprise causing Sebastian to look in their direction. In response, he frowned slightly. Stanley moved off to the last remnants of engineering personnel not yet called away.
"Not the warmest of welcomes. Leave him be Jex."
Sounding much more sympathetic Jex countered. "Now Cutler I didn't take you to be a meany. He's probably feeling awkward being a newly promoted ensign despite serving in the service before this."
Her various lifetimes had given Jex a certain leeway in the chances she gave other people. She felt she could afford to give them another chance and not go by first impressions alone despite highly toning her dissembling talents in that area.
"How do you know that?"
"When he said he'd been to any number of these things, obviously it meant he had served before on a starship. In just what capacity I don't yet know." Noah gave her a querying look. She also was using the look of recognition on Becca's face as further evidence.
"No need I can tell you all about him." Noah turned to Becca Swift whom they had met following their tour of the warp nacelle. She had seemed friendly at that time but her tone was much less civil now.
"And what I can tell you is that he is bad news. It took me a moment to place him but once I realised who he was I thought to myself ‘Becca give those ensigns a heads up on that sleazy crook. Give them the warning you wish you had been given' So that I am duly doing. Steer clear of him guys. He is bad news."
Becca's look of recognition was becoming apparent. Perhaps she had served with him prior to this. Perhaps on the Jonah? Jex eagerly stepped forward to ask her discreetly the story. Instead, she found Becca moving off towards Templar. A confrontation in the offing. Jex went to follow but found her elbow held by Cutler.
"Leave them to it Jex. It is none of our business." Jex gave Cutler a disappointed look but before she could argue, Stanley came up to them again to reintroduce them to Lt Berkley.
The Lieutenant greeted them profusely. "Yeah it is a nice party." Cutler was replying to a comment he had made when Jex returned her attention to them after having tried to cog what was happening between the ensign and slender NCO.
Becca sauntered up to Sebastian. He with the help of his security training noticed her hostile approach. He folded his arms. She placed a hand on her hip and placed a foot out to her side. "So if it isn't the great and wonderful Sebastian Templar."
"What is it to you?"
"I don't look familiar?"
He gave her a careful but not quite leering look over. "You're not that pretty. Excuse me."
She grabbed him forcibly by the elbow. "You don't walk away from me with a quick line like that!" His security training kicked in automatically and he grabbed her hand roughly causing pain to her. But Becca bit through the pain. "I know all about you and your sordid little past Sebastian. Or should I call you ‘Bastian the Bastard'."
He withdrew his face at the tag name that haunted him these last few years and from the vehemence in her face. "Yeah so I've got a past history. Get over it, I did."
"Wow do you just sweep it under the carpet like that?"
"That's right. It was no big deal. I woke up one morning and decided ‘hey how's about turning my life around' and I haven't looked back since."
"Somehow I find that hard to believe. Most of us have worked hard and earned what we have achieved."
"I've earned my position twice over. I don't know who you are. I don't care how it is you know about me. A quick look up in the LCARS would suffice but you've a bitch attitude so that means it is something personal. Well fuck that! You got a problem with me - it only means one thing - that you've got a problem. Me, I'm content. I'm smiling all the way."
"All the way to your court-martial? All the way down memory lane? Do you remember the lives you claimed? Do you remember my cousin? Or are the faces of those you killed just a blur?" he released his grip on her hand. She thought her words had inflicted a hurt upon him.
"You know, you're lucky that you are so perfect." Becca simply smiled in response. "As to whether I remember the face of your cousin? I guess she wasn't that pretty either." Bastian turned promptly and stalked away from her before she had a chance to retort leaving her mouth agape.
"You're giving him a hard time." Becca came to, startled at the presence of the Captain by her side. "People have pasts. Some try to learn from their past and the mistakes they have made. That guy has made plenty which means he might have learned a lot. You have to forgive a guy his past sometimes. The future is what counts. I should know. If you doubt me Becca ask our resident Trill."
"No buts. I should have warned you he was coming aboard. It was more than remiss of me. It was cowardly. But that's my fault and it is my prerogative."
"Your prerogative is to hire murderers?"
He gestured a downward waving of his hands to quieten her. "Voice Becca. Don't imagine bandying about terms such as murderer is going to be of any good for the morale of the crew."
"Well what happened to the great McGregor's talent siphoning skills in accepting Templar for a position?"
"He has skills aplenty that will be of use to us. Not to mention his dubious past will serve its purpose too."
"You plan on having him kill some of the crew once we get bored half way through the tour."
"That strikes me as a really good idea!" He coughed to clear his throat and tried a softer tone with the NCO. "Becca normally you know I would riposte with a clever darkly laced comment such as say, ‘That strikes me as a really good idea', however, in deference to your issues with Templar I will forgo the requisite smart arsed comment from my good self."
He gave a stern look to Becca whilst also placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Becca take it from me, if there were some other way but my hands are tied. And rarely are any of us guilt free. The past is past. Trust me on that."
Becca gave him a bewildering look. But McGregor was no more forthcoming. She knew he alluded to some great secret. Many rumours circulated about Gregory McGregor and his appearance in the twenty-fourth century after his disappearance sixty years previously. Before he could move off she said, "Surely then that means the past is not past! Don't expect me to trust him."
"I expect you to do your duty Becca. What I will say is Gardner is looking you back in engineering. Go take ..."
She rolled her eyes with exasperation, "Berkley!"
"... Berkley with you. Oh and we might as well get the Trill to work too. She looks the eager enthusiastic type."
She remained standing in front of him weighing up the present circumstance. She knew she had taken liberty talking to the Captain so and she knew too that it was only because he extended her leeway in light of the circumstance that she got away with it. Becca was one of the very few people McGregor showed any kind of human side to and it secretly pleased her that he had taken her under his wing.
In fact, McGregor had done so ever since he had rescued her from Orion pirates who had virtually destroyed the Jonah and stolen Becca to sell her in one of their slave auctions. Now he was offering her the chance to have him forget the occasion ever happened and show her professional hard working nature once more. She accepted it out of her loyalty to the Captain. It was true that she had learnt more from the Captain and Gardner than she ever could have aboard the Jonah. Therefore, she had no option but to assent. "Yessir."
She departed after retrieving Berkley and an ecstatic Jex. McGregor made his way over to his XO. She was standing beside a bewildered Noah, a lost sheep now his shepherd, Jex, had skipped off to Engineering. "Might I enquire whom you left in charge Captain?"
"Molly we are docked in a space station. It's not as if we are going anywhere."
She drilled a look at him. She worried for a brief second that he had abandoned the bridge entirely. He simply replied, "Monroe kindly looked in on the bridge."
With mock indignation he retorted, "Don't be so insulting Commander. Just because Monroe is a doctor doesn't mean she's a complete hack! She has a rank too Molly. I could hardly let the pretty Yeoman Harris have the conn because you would have complained then."
"The doctor was supposed to be here for the party."
He looked around the room exaggeratedly. "It doesn't look like she's missing much. Suppose it doesn't help Gardner is pulling all his engineers out."
"She had only come aboard Captain."
"And what nicer welcome back can she get. Get right back into the saddle after her little break. She was happy to do it."
Molly frowned disapprovingly. "I'll go and relieve her."
"Take Cutler with you. He can take the conn instead, letting you and the doc to come down and party." He turned to Stanley and threw and arm over his shoulders, "Stan, let's get drunk."
He waltzed off with Stanley. Commander Cartwright set her drink down on a tray. "Come on then Cutler. You might as well start working."
"Ok." He gulped.
* * *