The Beginning of a Continuing Earl Grey Fiction Mini-Series
by Phillip Gilfus, with contributions from Daniel Proulx and Darren Moser
Captain’s Log, Stardate 44027.3: The Enterprise has completed its refit at Earth Station McKinley, following the Borg encounter. After six weeks of shore leave, repairs, and upgrades, we are ready to go underway on a mapping mission of the Arteline Sector, near Romulan space. In the meantime, we are conducting a crew rotation. As we say goodbye to some ship personnel and welcome new members, I believe we are ready to resume our continuing mission of exploration.
Ensign Hegg was running late.
The Bolian operations officer had arrived at Earth Spacedock almost a week ago, awaiting his new assignment onboard the Federation’s flagship. But a long discussion with his mentor via subspace comms this afternoon meant Hegg had not received the notice of his shuttle’s arrival. And now Hegg was only a few minutes away from missing his passage off the station.
Hegg brushed past several station personnel as he entered the main shuttle bay. He felt himself take in all the activity inside the bay; as a flight deck officer (FDO), shuttle bays were the places he felt most at home. However, Hegg fought the urge to examine the flight control ops panels beside him and instead stepped inside his awaiting Type VI shuttlecraft, the Justman.
Hegg look around the cabin and was disappointed that he didn’t immediately recognize any of the other six officers. He admitted to himself that he was equal parts nervous and excited. He had finally made it to theEnterprise! Hegg sat in the last remaining seat, and could see a young brown-haired human male ensign at the conn. The passengers were a mix of command, science, engineering, security, and operations personnel. Hegg took a moment to catch his breath, after all that running, and let his head fall back against the seat in relief. He absent-mindedly turned to his seatmate, and any sense of relaxation vanished.
“Oh no,” Hegg thought, “Why did I have to sit next to Ensign Chathway?”
Hegg tried to avoid eye contact, but it was too late. Seth Chathway, a 21-year-old baby-faced human in command red, had already earned an ill reputation at McKinley Station for being a brand-new ensign who talked everyone’s ear off, at the slightest provocation.
“So are you excited about going on the Enterprise?!” Chathway said, in his rapid-fire speaking style. “I’ve never had a chance to speak to a Bolian before! This is my first time onboard a Galaxy-class ship. It’s hard to believe I just graduated last month. Are you from Bolarus IV or V? I’ve never met anyone from Bolarus before!!”
Hegg decided to listen to his better angels and not immediately begin looking for a way to activate the emergency transporter. Hegg sighed. He knew from his few years in Starfleet that most humans regarded his species as being “chatty.” It seemed one of those typical Terran stereotypes he had constantly fought against since he was a first-year cadet. He knew it meant that most “chatty” humans gravitated toward Bolians. Hegg decided to play along with Seth since it would be a quick shuttle ride.
“Actually, I’m from Bolarus IX, as most Bolians are. Just because-“
“Oh wow, there’s nine planets?!” interrupted Chathway. “I can’t believe there’s that many planets in your star system. The gravitational forces of your home star must be fascinating!”
“Um, yes, well, something like that, I-“
Seth continued his verbal barrage. “So where are you going to be assigned on the Enterprise? I really hope I’m on Worf’s security detail. Do you know anyone onboard the ship?”
Several of the shuttle passengers turned and began staring at Hegg and Chathway, wondering where the source of all the excited chatter was coming from. Hegg felt the blue color slowly draining from his face. He knew, though, that he needed to remain diplomatic with Chathway. One never knew whom you would need to rely on in a new assignment. However, Hegg decided he could afford to add a slight bite to his response as a subtle hint to Seth to close the conversation.
“I assume you are referring to Lieutenant Worf, the ship’s security chief? Just a friendly reminder, you should probably address a superior officer by their ran-…”
Hegg was cut off again by the excited human, whose mouth seemed to travel at warp. “Yeah! I can’t believe he’s a lieutenant. How fast do you think he made lieutenant? I just arrived at Spacedock last week. I’m still getting used to this new uniform.”
Ensign Chathway took a moment to pull at his collar with his right index finger. Hegg thought his seatmate’s voice had finally run out of dilithium, but Seth continued with a loud, “So how excited are you about joining the Federation’s flagship?”
Hegg looked at the officers who were now blatantly staring at him, as if he were to blame for Chathway’s continued talking. Hegg, hoping that at least one of them was a functioning telepath, thought, I’m trying my best here. Any help would be appreciated!
“No, um, well, this, uh, this is a great opportunity. I’ve worked very hard to get here,” said Hegg. He paused for a moment’s reflection. He had worked hard to get here. While his first assignment on theU.S.S. Merrimac was a great learning experience, the Enterpriseoffered opportunities that couldn’t be found anywhere else in the fleet.
“I’m looking forward to joining this team and serving under Captain Jean-Luc Picard,” finished Hegg, hoping this would rally the other shuttle personnel to his side.
Chathway leaned slowly toward Hegg and locked eyes with him. In a stage whisper that Hegg felt was probably heard all the way to New Berlin on Luna, Seth asked, “Can you believe he was a Borg?”
Hegg knew from his experience that the shuttle’s oxygen pressurization was at normal operational levels. Nevertheless, it suddenly seemed as if all the air had just been let out of the Justman.
“I’m, um, not, uh, privy to all the details of that mission…” Hegg said, as he hopelessly trailed off.
Hegg tried looking in the faces of the other passengers for verbal assistance, but everyone collectively flinched at the mention of the word ‘Borg.’ Everyone, that is, except one officer. His only reaction was his twitching blue antennae. Hegg was caught in Chathway’s verbal tractor beam since his arrival that he had failed to notice the Andorian science officer sitting in front of him. As Hegg looked up at the appendages facing above him, they almost seemed to scan him. Hegg helplessly stared. Chathway instantly noticed Hegg’s attention had waned from their conversation and followed the Bolian’s gaze.
“Whoa,” Seth said, in his trademark stage whisper. “Have you ever met an Andorian before? See what his name is. I bet a duty shift that it probably starts with a ‘B.’”
Hegg had finally reached the limits of his professionalism. “Look, not all blue-skin races have names that start with…”
Chathway pulled back quickly. “Oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to offend! I’ve never been off Earth before. I didn’t mean…that is to say…look, I’m sorry, do I…is there some Bolian apology that would appropriate in this circumstance?”
Hegg felt his face flush and was sure he appeared a dark shade of blue. The human ensign seemed a nacelle short of creating a stable warp field. Nevertheless, Hegg knew an opportunity to play a practical joke when he saw one.
“Yes there is a, um, Bolian ritual apology you can perform. You have to perform one favor of my choosing in the next solar day,” answered Hegg.
Chathway squirmed around in his shuttle seat. “Oh, okay. So, is that an Earth solar day? Or … look, I didn’t do great in my astrophysics class.”
Hegg sighed. “Let’s say one crew rotation solar day and-“
They were interrupted by a loud clearing of the throat in front of them. The pair of antennae turned around and revealed the face of the male Andorian ensign, who had his left eyebrow raised at them in either amusement or derision.
“Excuse me, excuse me, both of you,” he said, with an air of someone who was pleased at the sound of his own voice. “I have to point out, it is extremely clear to everyone that you must have flunked out of astrophysics. If you are talking about a ‘solar’ day, that is, of course, in reference to Sol, the Terran system star.”
The Andorian looked at both of them as if he were lecturing a group of kindergartners. He continued, “I’m Thovin, and if you look out the port window, you’ll see it right there, as its gravity…”
“Hey, can everyone keep it down back there!” yelled the ensign at the conn. “Now if everyone will look out the starboard side, you’ll see her. It’s the Enterprise.”
The shuttlecraft banked as it approached McKinley Station, allowing everyone a view of their new starship. The U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-D, hung in space, its size and majesty making the shuttle’s passengers feel suddenly incredibly small. Everyone could feel the collective thought: This was the flagship of the Federation. The ship that had fought and destroyed the Borg. And they were all just minutes away from being official members of its crew.
The shuttle conn officer, Wesley Crusher, hit a few controls and eased the Justman towards the starship’s main shuttlebay. The passengers felt the Enterprise’s tractor beam take their vessel under its control. It was time for their new ship assignment to begin.
Ensigns Hegg, Thovin, Chathway, and the rest of the newly arrived officers left the shuttle bay and, after squeezing into a turbolift together, reported to a crew lounge on deck two to receive their specific assignments. They sat down, looked around the room expectantly, and discussed what awaited them. They were soon interrupted by the arrival of the ship’s security chief, Lieutenant Worf. The Klingon walked into the room and stopped in the center of the crew lounge. The scattered conversations ceased as all eyes focused on him, awaiting to hear what their fates would be on the starship.
Worf took a moment to eye all of the new officers and then said, “Everyone pay attention. I am Lt. Worf. I will be your commanding officer during your orientation phase on the Enterprise. For the remainder of the week, regardless of your assignments and commanding officers, you will report to me, is that understood?”
A few audible gulps could be heard from the younger ensigns, who contemplated having the Klingon as their commanding officer. The more experienced junior officers quickly answered, “Yes, sir.”
Worf glanced at the PADD he was carrying, and then continued, “Now I will assign you to your respective sections of the ship. It is important that you report to your section chiefs in a timely manner. I will also be giving out quarters assignments. Since everyone here is a junior officer, you will be assigned shared quarters.”
The Klingon handed out assignments for the various officers in the room. Ensign Hegg discovered he would be assigned to the main shuttle bay, which came as little surprise. Ensign Thovin learned he would report to the astrometrics lab. Worf then started listing pairs of names, followed by quarters’ locations. Hegg and Thovin learned they would be bunkmates in quarters located on deck 9, section 16.
Worf completed his recitation, deactivated his PADD, and took one more opportunity to glare at the junior officers surrounding him. “You may now proceed to your quarters or your assigned ship section.” He began to walk to the doors of the lounge. He then paused a moment and turned around. “If you are assigned to security, I am sure I do not need to state which is the preferred option.” Worf then exited, leaving the new officers to introduce themselves to their new bunkmates.
Hegg, who had accidentally sat next to Chathway again, jumped up quickly and walked over to Thovin. Hegg gave the science ensign a Vulcan salute, which he often used as a universal greeting with different species.
“Ensign Hegg of Bolarus IX, a pleasure to meet you,” said Hegg.
“Hello, Ensign He…Hegg? Is it Hegg? I see we will be bunkmates,” responded Thovin, as his antennae stood straight up. “At least, that is, for the foreseeable future.”
“Yes, I believe we should examine our room before departing for our respective stations,” said Hegg. “If…if that’s all right with you, of course.” Hegg hoped to start off their relationship on a cooperative note.
“Oh yes, makes sense. Though, you don’t suppose they assigned us together because we’re both blue, do you?” said Thovin, as his left eyebrow slowly arched.
Hegg had been around Andorians on his previous ship, the Merrimac, and found their conversational style to be direct and sardonic.
“Ah, um, well, since I’m operations, I consider myself more of a yellow than a blue shirt,” said Hegg. “And since you have hair and I don’t, I doubt we’ll be confused too much.”
Thovin smiled at his new bunkmate, appreciating his humor, and they departed for their shared quarters.
They entered their quarters. Hegg and Thovin saw that their respective crates and belongings had already arrived. Ensign Thovin noticed a small gleaming object sitting on his biggest container. As he took a closer look, a smile spread slowly on his face, baring his teeth. It was a finely sharpened ushaan’tor, an Andorian ice miner tool. A handwritten note accompanied it. Thovin saw it was written in Andorian. It read, “I know you always like to have one where you can reach it. Your continued mentor, Dr. Paul Stubbs.” Thovin had no idea how Dr. Stubbs had gotten this onboard, but the quarters started to feel like his new home already.
Hegg was slightly unnerved by his companion’s smile, as Thovin held the ushaan’tor in his hand and began to wave it around. But the Bolian operations officer was soon distracted by a PADD that was on top of his clothing crate. The Bolian activated the device and saw that it was a new message from his Academy classmate, Ensign Megan Smeeth, who was stationed on the U.S.S. Hood. The letter said:
Congratulations on getting the Enterprise! I know you were trying for it after the commendation you got during the Merrimac evacuation incident. Captain DeSoto enjoys talking about your first officer, Commander Riker. You’ll have to let me know if he lives up to all the tall tales we hear about him. Let me know if you play a hand of poker with him!
The Hood is currently on assignment, ferrying medical supplies to Deep Space Six. I’m sure such an assignment would be too menial for the Federation’s flagship. But don’t forget, we keep the fleet going while the Enterprise hogs all the glory!
All joking aside, what’s it like over there after the Borg attack? People are still shook up here, and we didn’t see the action the Enterprise saw. I don’t think anyone has even begun to process Wolf 359 yet. I don’t know if I could serve under Captain Picard, knowing he helped the Borg. I know his service record is legendary, but all those deaths!
Enjoy settling in, and I look forward to hearing from you,
Hegg smiled. He and Megan had been great allies at Starfleet Academy, and he hoped to run into her again sometime. Hegg walked over to the single replicator unit in the quarters and said, “Water, 32 degrees Celsius. Tall glass.” Hegg reached out with his right hand for the glass, as he started to reread the letter. He instantly pulled his hand back when he felt it get burned.
Looking at the replicator tray, he saw what appeared to be a bowl of Terran tomato soup. He glanced back at Thovin, who was unpacking a small crate of clothes.
Hegg looked back at the replicator in disappointment. “Flagship of the Federation, huh? Computer, take this food back.”
He heard the computer register his request, but instead of the bowl of soup instantly disappearing, another bowl materialized right beside it.
“You might want to get that unit checked out,” said Thovin distractedly.
Hegg nodded and tapped his comm badge. “Hegg to ship maintenance.”
A despondent voice answered, “Ship maintenance here.”
Hegg responded, “I’m in my quarters, deck nine, section…”
“Wait, is this Ensign Hegg?!” came the, unfortunately, familiar and now excited tone of Ensign Chathway.
Both Hegg and Thovin let out a simultaneous annoyed sigh.
“I can’t believe you’re my first call! How are your quarters? Have you reported to your assignment yet?” came the voice across the comm channel.
“Yes, um, I tried to order water from my replicator unit here in my quarters, and instead got two bowls of soup.”
“Oh, okay! I’ll be right down! Look forward to seeing you!”
“No, that’s all right, I…” Hegg realized the comm channel had already been closed.
Hegg and Thovin looked at each other for a moment. They seemed to silently communicate the same thought. Thovin stopped unpacking, and they both walked out of their quarters to report to their respective stations.
“It’s going to be interesting serving on this ship,” said Hegg to Thovin, as much as to himself.
“You can say that again,” responded Thovin, as they went their separate directions, ready to see what their new assignments had in store for them.