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Old Souls

Posted on 15 Nov 2022 @ 8:56pm by Commander John Reynolds & Captain Harvey Geisler

Mission: Regrouping
Location: Ship's Ready Room
Timeline: Day 2 || Morning

John had to meet with the Captain of this new-old ship before he could start moving his things into his quarters. Lots of questions as to why he was occupying the Executive Officer’s room would be easier answered if he actually were the XO. Besides, there were authorizations and things that needed to get taken care of first. And then there was his new office he had to get set up. Going to a new ship meant lots of unpacking.

He exited the turbolift and stepped forward just enough for the doors to close. He expected to find the bridge of the uprated Akira-class busy with technicians and engineers doing last-minute diagnostics and visual inspections. But that wasn't the case this time; just a plain old Akira bridge. John had heard starships described as sleek and sexy or elegant and refined. But this class of Akira would always remain a workhorse in his mind. No matter how many bells and whistles the Corp of Engineers put on her. He walked to the Ready Room door and touched the chime, hoping it was already working and not a last-minute detail.

The doors parted almost immediately, bidding entrance to the new XO. Inside, the ready room was littered with various crates, indicating that the Captain was in the process of unpacking. In fact, the Captain was behind his desk, unloading a few personal effects from a small carry case.

Captain Geisler looked up to see who had entered the office. Not only did he not recognize the person in the doorway, Harvey assumed that by the red shoulders and the three solid pips on his breast that the gentleman was none other than his new Executive Officer. "Come on in, Commander," Harvey greeted. "And don't mind the mess."

John walked in and grinned at his new Captain's comment. "If I messes bothered me Sir, I'd have been out of Starfleet years ago. Come across quiet a few of those in one form or another. Besides, it kind of looks like my quarters will soon look like. Might as well get used to it. Commander John Reynolds, Sir, your new First Officer."

"Harvey Geisler," the Captain greeted, extending a hand despite not using the rank. "Normally, I'd say welcome aboard, but I'm debating whether or not to tell you to turn and run the hell away. If you think this room is a mess, just wait until you see the ship's manifest."

John shook Harvey's hand. "Huh, well, I don't have any place to run to at the moment. So I guess you're stuck with me, whether I like it or not." He chuckled a little and continued. "So the ship's manifest looks worse than this? Jumbled around or lots of missing things?"

Harvey chuckled at the mention of being stuck with Reynolds, and in that brief moment, his long list of XOs flashed in his memory. "Don't make promises you can't keep, John." He released John's hand and gestured for the man to have a seat. "Would you like a drink before we get started? I'm sure we have a lot to talk about."

John grinned and nodded. "I'll try to remember that about promises. As far as a drink," he continued as he took the offered seat, "I have my tastes. And right now, those are calling for a cup of Keemun black tea."

Harvey instructed the replicator to produce the XO's request, and selected a cup of Darjeeling tea for himself. He returned with both beverages to the desk and sat down. "Tell me, Commander, what have you learned about the Black Hawk and its crew prior to this meeting?"

John sat back with his cup of tea. "Well, I make some rounds yesterday to the various departments so I could meet the leaders in their natural habitats. I met a wall that told me to read the mission reports and approve security measures. I met an Operations Chief that seemed relaxed and knowledgeable about his job and teams. I met a scientist that likes organization. Not much of a surprise there. I met your wife in Intel. She's got a good handle on what's happening out there and in her department. And I met a most interesting Betazoid-Vulcan counselor." He took a sip of his tea before he continued. "I haven't read that mission reports yet, but I heard some interesting descriptions yesterday."

The Captain chuckled before drinking his tea. “Interesting is an apt word choice. Those that remain might use other descriptors like hell or demonic or torture.” He leaned back in his chair and continued. “This is my third Black Hawk I’ve commanded in three years. We fought in the Consortium Crisis. We looked over our shoulders last year in the Convergence Zone. And our last ship was put through hell in its short life. My penance is keeping less than ten percent of my last crew, and only two members of the senior staff. The good news for you is that this ship is a blank slate.”

John chuckled a little at the other descriptors as he listened. “That’s quite the round of ships. Blank slates are good, though, lots of building to do there. But it’s the permanently carved etchings on the slate that tend to be set in their ways.” He paused and took a sip of his tea. “The Convergence Zone sounds like interesting reading. But the Consortium Crisis….” John visibly shuddered. “I was on the USS Infinity when it was dispatched to help in the aftermath of the Battle of Deep Space 11. Hell of a mess, that station.”

“You know,” Harvey pointed out, “Both my wife and Commander DiPasquale helped to save the station. If it weren’t from them, it would have been vaporized.”

“No, I didn’t know that they were involved at the station,” said John. “It sounds to me like they’re a couple of heroines with guts. Hard to find that old mentality in Starfleet today. The one that’d draw the lines out here and defend them. Seems like everything is being moved back to the Alpha Quadrant.”

“Pretty much,” confirmed the Captain. “I met with Admiral O’Connell last week, and the Starfleet elements out here are standing roughly at 70 percent capacity. We ourselves will be lucky if we can hit 80 by the time we receive our assignment.”

John took a drink of his tea and shook his head. "That's not encouraging news for any starship captain. I guess it was bound to happen though. The Federation expanded to the point that it couldn't sustain it all. Do you think there's even anything left out there to discover? Or are we just trying to keep it together?"

Harvey smiled and laughed at the question. “That’s just the thing, John. The Gamma Quadrant is an explorer’s dream. It is, however, the source of nightmares. For example, my last mission involved my prior XO being possessed by an alien spirit. Another mission involved a large part of my crew used as puppets by another species. We also once tore a hole in space-time and wound up in a parallel universe where Starfleet had never arrived in the Gamma Quadrant.”

The Captain waved his hand away. “Those, of course, are just a few examples.”

John shook his head and whistled. “Maybe a little bit of both, then.” He sipped his tea again, not wanting it to get too cool. “Those sure sound nightmarish to me; possession, puppets, and parallel universes. But I’m glad to hear that the Gamma Quadrant still has some exploration and discovery to it. I’ve also heard rumors of an unwanted element out here, pirates.”

Harvey chuckled before taking another drink. “Those rumors are true. In fact, that’s our primary assignment, hunting down these pirates. I currently pull double duty as Commander, Task Group Belvedere. That means I spend extra time in my ready room conferring with other ships. That’s good news for you, especially if you’re wanting to log a good amount of time in the center seat.”

“I guess pirates never lose interest,” he said. “But it sounds like you’ve got your work cut out for you with Task Group stuff knocking on your door. I’ll log whatever time you need me to, Captain. Oh, back to the pirates, have any of your Task Group ships run across them before? If I’m going to be reading mission reports in my spare time, I might as well as add those to them.”

“There’s been a few encounters, but not much.” Harvey placed his cup of tea on the desk. “We’ve only been at this for a couple months, and we have surprisingly few leads to work with. I’ll make sure Joey gets you a copy of the last few briefings, as well as dossiers on notable figures we’ve identified.”

“I look forward to reading them. Should be pretty interesting…the reports and life on this ship. A life of mystery, misery, and adventure.” He chuckled and put his cup on the table, too.. “But we’ll make a difference somewhere. Probably lots of places if we can disrupt enough pirates.”

“I certainly hope so.” Harvey leaned back in his chair. “Standing mission orders aside, you and I will have our hands full getting a new ship and a new crew shook down. I will, of course, be there to lead the way. As critical as my role is in Belvedere, I’m a starship captain first. I’m at a point in my career where I can’t afford to lose another ship, much less any more reputation. I plan on setting up a session soon with our Chief of Security to review and implement new security measures. I did have a chance to read your file, and I know you were once security. I not only value your opinion, but given how easy it will be for both Di Pasquale and I to go to the extremes, given our Gamma experience, I’ll need you to help us find the balance between practical, extreme, and appropriate.”

“Here’s hoping our first cruise will be an easy one for shaking down the crew and ship,” said John. “Get everyone used to working with each other and see if any of these new upgrades fail. I’ll do what I can to help you keep this ship around for a while, Captain. And build that reputation back up again.”

John leaned to the side and rested his elbow on the arm of the chair as he listened. “Yeah, the Chief of Security told me yesterday to just approve whatever she requested for security. I told her that I didn’t think it worked like that. At least it didn’t for me and probably wouldn’t for her. Sounds to me like the security of the ship has fallen on the extreme side of things a lot. Which is probably why she was adamant about me reading the mission reports. But I’ll try my damnedest to keep you two balanced between practical, extreme, and appropriate. I have a feeling it won’t be as easy as it sounds.”

“She’s looking for someone to help knock down a wall,” Harvey explained, then pointed at himself. “I’ve always tried to be an optimist out here, no matter how much against my nature it is. We fly the Federation flag, and our actions have to be in line with that. It’s so easy on the frontier to be guarded and gated. And I’ve always worried about giving the wrong impression.”

The captain sighed. “I see now that I’ve been too relaxed. It’s not that we need to show the hard side of the Federation, but being too lax and weighed down by our own struggles has made life harder for civilians and smaller powers. If the quadrant becomes too unstable, the Dominion will step in, and that’s the last thing anyone wants. It’s a fine line we’ll be towing.”

John nodded…what was it with walls on this ship? “The Federation has always been optimistic. Romulans, Borg, Dominion…I think it was the Consortium that finally brought a little more reality into their thinking. And then Mars and now pirates and the Dominion again. Hell, I was optimistic until I got the crap beat out of me at my first assignment right out of Academy. That was my reality moment. Caution, looking over my shoulder…it affected a lot.” He paused as he thought about his divorce.

“But that doesn’t mean we toss optimism out the airlock,” continued John. “Just, cautious optimism. Question everything. Take the struggles that weigh us down and turn them into our strengths. It takes hard people to build in a hard land. You called this the frontier, ancient Earth had frontiers…unexplored places on the globe. And it took a certain kind of people and law and order to hold things in place. Don’t show the hard side of the Federation, show its determination on this frontier. Show the smaller powers how to turn struggles into strength and let them build.”

Harvey couldn’t help but smile. He’d had so many XOs since arriving in the Gamma Quadrant, and so far, it seemed like Renoylds was the first person in the role who actually understood him. “You know, Commander. I think we’re going to get along just fine. Well, I don’t want to keep you too long from your duties. We’ll be talking a lot, you and I, over the next few days. For now, is there anything you need from me?”

John grinned; his rough-edged ‘cowboy’ mentality seemed to hit it off pretty good with his new Commanding Officer for their initial meeting. “I think we will, too. There is something I need, though, since you mention it. I need to transfer my command codes and authorizations so I don’t find myself locked out of something. Pretty sure you’ll need to verify it.”

Remaining in his jovial mood for a moment, Harvey offered a light-hearted laugh. “You mean, I need to actually accept you on board as my Executive Officer? I suppose I could.”

Harvey leaned forward in his chair and called out, “Computer, access the ship’s manifest and pending transfer records. Accept Starfleet’s orders to transfer Commander John Reynolds aboard in the position of Executive Officer. Authorization Geisler gamma epsilon zero nine.”

The computer beeped and whirred before declaring over the concealed loudspeaker, “Transfer orders have been accepted. Command codes and authorizations are ready to be accepted.”

With a flick of a finger, Harvey activated the holographic desktop terminal and swung the screen around to face the XO. The nature of the holographic device and the sensitivity of the information kept the backside of the screen opaque so that John could input his new codes in private.

John laughed out loud. “I like you,” he said. And then waited for the computer to finish. When the holographic display was swung around, he whistled. “Now this is something to write home about.” He manually input his new codes and authorization and then placed his entire hand on the holographic display rather than this thumbprint. “Cautious optimism,” he said. And then chuckled. “Rather have the whole hand and all the fingerprints on record.”

A few beeps later, “Command codes and authorization accepted. Welcome to the USS Black Hawk, Commander Reynolds.”

“Uh, I can turn that off, right?” asked John. “Somebody can turn that off…that’s just not right.”

“You know what they say, Commander,” Harvey said, still smiling. “Go big or go home. We’re fresh off the assembly line, and that means we’ll get to play with a few cool new toys.” Harvey flipped the screen back around, entered a final command, and had the monitor disappear.

“From the looks of it, yeah,” he said as he watched the whole thing disappear. “And we’re too far away to go home. So I guess it’s go big. But other than that, I don’t think I have anything else right now. How about you? Anything you need from me?”

“Not at this point,” Harvey stated. “Aside from this that is. Engineering and Medical are our most deficient departments. I could use help identifying a couple supervisors until the department heads can be assigned by Command.”

The Exec scooted forward in the chair. “I can take a look at the manifest, for what it is, in those two departments and see what we have,” said John. “I’ll get back to you with a couple of recommendations soon. Will that be all, Captain?”

The Captain nodded, rising from his own chair. While he normally didn’t stand when it was time for others to leave, Harvey still had a fair amount of unpacking to do. “For now, Commander. Welcome aboard.” As a formality, Harvey extended his hand for a shake.

“Thank you, Captain.” John stood up and firmly gripped Harvey’s hand in a solid handshake and nodded. He turned and headed out the door with a list of things to work on.

 

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