Master Chief Shane Holladay stepped up to her ready room just as Amaya Donners was leaving.
“You wished to speak with me, Captain?” he said, forgoing addressing her as ‘ma’am’ as would have been customary for a noncom addressing a female commanding officer. However Maya had made it clear to the ship’s senior NCO and quartermaster that she didn’t care for that from of address and the middle-aged Master Chief had quickly adapted.
“Chief Holly,” she said, using his preferred nickname and sounding slightly surprised at seeing him until she recalled the appointment she’d made with him earlier. “Of course, I apologize I did ask to meet with you today but it must have slipped my mind.”
He shot her a good-natured smile. “Understandable. I’m sure you have much on your plate. Shall we re-arrange?”
She quickly shook her head. “You mind if we walk and chat instead?”
“It’s my favorite way to chat, Captain. It’s effective and keeps you in shape.”
She smirked but doubted he needed the exercise, judging by his trim and muscular build which was quite impressive for his age. Maya headed for the turbolift and Holly fell into step beside her.
“Deck two, section eight,” she said and the lift set in motion.
Amaya considered Holladay for a moment. His skin was far darker than hers and his white hair and sharply cut beard were about the only physical hints that he had long since passed his 50th birthday. It also demonstrated to her that vanity was not one of his concerns which she thought to be refreshing. “I know we haven’t had much of a chance to talk,” she said as she faced him inside the lift.
“I didn’t expect you to. I have served with a number of rookie captains and their first few weeks on the job are usually the most hectic.”
“No kidding. How am I doing so far?”
He aimed an almost grandfatherly look at her. “You want my honest opinion?”
“I wouldn’t ask otherwise.”
He nodded. “You’ve been throwing yourself into work, which I think is a good thing for any officer. Most captains I’ve met, even those just starting out, prefer to delegate much of what you’ve been doing. I’m fairly impressed with your attitude but I’m concerned that you might be burning yourself out early on.”
She exhaled. “And here I was thinking you were going to cut me down to size.”
Holly smirked. “Wouldn’t dream of doing that to my captain. Certainly not in her first week.”
The turbolift reached its destination and the doors opened, allowing them both to disembark.
“I appreciate your honesty Holly and that you think I’m doing a good job. And no need to be worried; I have ways to relieve the stress of command. I don’t expect to burn out just yet.”
“If you ever want to take it on the phaser range or need a sparing partner, you just give me a time and a date.”
“I may take you up on that offer someday.”
They reached Donners’ quarters and she stopped in front of the doors to face the Master Chief again.
“My father served his entire life in the Border Service. Started out as a crewman and worked himself all the way up to command his own starship,” she told him. “Do you want to know the first thing he told me when I broke the news to him that I’d been promoted?”
“I would hope that he congratulated you and then cussed you out for accepting what he’d call a cushy fleet assignment instead of doing some real work as a Border Dog.”
The captain gave him an astonished look.
“I’ve done some tours over there myself, so I know how they like to think. And they’re not wrong, you know. They really do some mighty fine work which often goes underappreciated by the rest of the fleet,” he said.
“I need to introduce you to my dad. You two would get along famously. What made you decide to join the Regular Fleet?”
He considered her for a moment before responding. “I’m getting to old to wrestle with Orion thugs on a daily basis. I thought I deserved a cushy assignment myself for my last years of service.”
The twinkle in his eyes gave him away and Maya smiled. “Just for saying that I’m going to make sure you’ll be the busiest man on this ship.”
Holly nodded in response and she quickly understood that he wasn’t unaccustomed to hard work and probably even thrived on it. Maya was convinced that he was a long way off those retirement plans he had been hinting at.
“After my parents cussed me out, as you so well put it,” she continued her earlier train of thought, “they both imparted me with an important lesson about running a starship. ‘Make sure you treat your NCOs right’, they told me, ‘and have them whip your green officers into shape.’”
“Smartest damned thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Good. Because I expect you to help me mold this crew. Officers and crewmen alike. Many of them are young and inexperienced and on their first deep space mission. Some may have come to expect this to be a cushy assignment on their quest for fame and adventure. I’m giving you full authority to readjust those preconceptions. Make them work as hard as Border Dogs. Hell, harder if you can coax it out of them.”
The veteran Master Chief’s lips curled up into a devious little smile. “I think I’m going to like it here,” he said. “There’s nothing like a good challenge to get you out of bed in the morning.”
* * *
“So, first week on the job. How are you settling in?”
’s Ullian counselor placed a cup of sweet-smelling herbal tea on the coffee table and close to were Amaya Donners had made herself comfortable in one of her plushy lounge chairs, before he sat down in the sofa opposite her.
Vej had been the civilian counselor at Deep Space Five during her entire posting at that station and the two had become close friends over the four years they had known each other. And while a great many Starfleet officers and captains had reservations about opening up to a counselor, Maya had found his advice and support indispensable. It gave her the opportunity to open up to somebody she trusted implicitly with all her thoughts and concerns. Most of the time it wasn’t anything serious and she simply appreciated the sounding board for her own musings. On other occasions his insights helped her to make difficult decisions or overcome troubling thoughts.
Ullians of course were also skilled telepaths but just like physicians, they had a strict code about using their abilities without permission. And Vej took his code very seriously.
“I still have this surreal feeling that this is all just a dream and that I’m about to wake up on DS5 to go back to work as being the station’s first officer,” she said after taking a sip of her drink. “And I don’t mean this in the sense that I cannot believe that I’ve been given my own command. I think it has to do with how things happened and how quickly. How I was Glover’s attaché one morning and the captain of the Agamemnon
He nodded. “You haven’t had time to catch you breath. To take a step back and let it all sink in.”
“That’s right,” she said. “It’s been nonstop since Glover practically hoaxed me into my captaincy. It’s been like a rollercoaster ride and I’m not complaining. I’m loving it,” she added with a big grin on her face.
Vej responded in kind. “You know the trouble with rollercoaster rides though, right?”
“Wait a minute, they have rollercoasters on Ullius?”
He frowned at that. “How come humans always believe they have a monopoly on having a good time?”
Maya raised her hands defensively. “I guess I’m a human snob.”
“Glad we agree on something.”
“The problem with rollercoaster rides,” she continued, “is that they go up as well as down, I get that. But your analogy doesn’t work. Going down on a rollercoaster is much more fun than going up,” she said and looked at him suspiciously. “Are you sure you’ve been on a rollercoaster before?”
“You got me, alright,” he responded with a sheepish look. “But analogies aside for a moment, there are ups and downs to most things. You are undoubtedly running on a high of excitement at the moment, and that’s good. In fact I’m very happy for you –“
“But you’re worried that once things settle down I’ll crash into some sort of manic depression?” she interrupted.
He scowled. “I’m the counselor here. Leave the psychological buzzwords to me. That’s what I get paid for.”
“Oh boy, if you were hoping for a paycheck did you ever join the wrong ship.”
“What I’m trying to say is that being a starship captain also means carrying a great deal of responsibilities. You have over 500 men and women on this ship looking at you for guidance and leadership and to keep them safe from the doubtlessly numerous dangers we are bound to face out here. I’ve seen how you’ve thrown yourself into work and how you’re attempting to connect with your crew on a very personal level. But you will have to be prepared to make the hard choices down the line even if that means that somebody you care about could get hurt.”
She considered that for a moment, taking another sip of tea and then made eye contact with Vej again. “Did anybody ever tell you that you are a regular downer? I bet you don’t get many party invites.”
“For your information,” he said. “I’m considered to be the enfant terrible at the annual psychologist’s convention.”
“Is that like being the coroner at the morgue?” she said with a smirk.
He aimed a displeased look at her.
“You’re not telling me anything I haven’t already considered,” she said in a more serious tone. “I’ve done my Kobayashi Maru no-win scenario at the Academy and I’ve sent people I knew and respected to their deaths in holographic simulations.”
“Simulation beings the operative word there.”
She sighed. “So what? You want me to keep my distance from my crew because I may have to doom anyone of them at a moment’s notice, is that your advice? You want me to become one of those sourpuss captains that made me want to pull out my own hair while I was on DS5?”
He quickly shook his head. “No, not at all. In fact I tend to like your command style and I wouldn’t want you to change anything about it. It is who you are. But I also want to make you aware of the responsibility which now rests solely on your shoulders. I want you to be able to deal with a difficult situation when it sneaks up on you from seemingly out of the blue without it leaving you paralyzed.”
“Jeez, thanks for your vote of confidence in my abilities.”
“You know that’s not what I meant.”
She glanced out of the windows of her quarters and at the white streaks of the stars caused by the distortion of the warp bubble surrounding the ship. “I’d be lying if I said that it hasn’t been nagging at me. Intellectually I know that I’m ready for my own command. That I can handle it and that Starfleet was right to trust me with this awesome responsibility,” she said and looked at him. “But there is that tiny little voice in the back of my mind that wants to doubt all the evidence to the contrary and yell at me that I have no business being in that chair.”
“Congratulations,” he said, causing her to give him a somewhat perplexed look. “You are human.”
“Why does that almost sound like an insult coming from your lips?”
He shrugged and gave her a playful grin.