The Quarterdeck Breed
By Michael D. Garcia
Part One: Agamemnon
NCC-11638 (USS Agamemnon)
Docked at Deep Space Four, near the Romulan Neutral Zone and the Typhon Expanse
Transporter Room One
The shimmering blue column of the transporter beam brought the tall lieutenant commander into focus as he materialized on the transporter pad. He kept his dark brown hair cut short in the back with bangs coming down to cover his forehead just above his brown eyes. With his eyes, he scanned the interior of the transporter room, noticing that the chief petty officer standing behind of the transporter console was an older, short human female with long blonde hair and blue eyes; her hair kept up in a ponytail away from her face. Standing in front of that console was another human female; younger, almost as tall as he, but she allowed her shoulder-length red-brown hair to swing free around her ears. Unlike the non-commissioned officer, she wore the rank of a commissioned lieutenant and the mustard colored turtleneck of the support services portion of Starfleet.
Both women wore a rather odd variation of the gray-on-black Starfleet duty uniform. The chief's uniform top was not the normal jacket like his, but in fact was an unzipped vest. The Starfleet insignia/communicator was pinned to the left strap that ran up to her neck. Meanwhile, the lieutenant was actually wearing a gray jumpsuit with the zipper down around her midsection. To his eyes, they were far from obeying the standard uniform of the day he had become accustomed to. Despite his disapproval, he put his best foot forward with his warmest smile for them.
He stepped down from the transporter pad, satisfied that all of his parts were in good working order. Readjusting his weighty duffel, slung over his left shoulder, he extended his right hand in greeting. "Permission to come aboard, sir?" he said, in a soft tone.
The lieutenant offered a pleasant, but forced, smile, grasping the hand and shaking it firmly. "Uh, permission granted, I guess. Welcome aboard."
"Lieutenant Commander Richard James," he said as he retracted his hand.
She was only too aware of him, his rank, and especially his reputation. "Halley Gage," she replied. Tilting her head in the direction of the chief behind the console, she introduced her, "This is Heather Munoz. May I show you to your quarters, so you can have somewhere to put your duffel, Commander?"
Commander James bristled inwardly at her tone. Everything about her was forced; from her smile to the pointed address by rank and not "sir." Even her body language screamed hostility. He could see that she disliked him before he arrived. The look on the chief's face confirmed that, with her more than casual curiosity at the exchange. The fact that the chief would not even meet his eyes said volumes to him. Keeping things civil, he tried to appear oblivious to Lieutenant Gage's nature. "I would very much appreciate that, Lieutenant, but if you would have someone take this to my quarters, I'd like to report in to the captain."
Gage nodded, "Of course, Commander. If you would just leave your duffel here, I'll see to it it's delivered. Would you like for me to escort you?" Her tone was no longer masking her displeasure, making her sound as though being in his presence was taxing her last ounce of strength.
With a sidelong glance, James replied with a shake of his head, "No, Lieutenant. I think I can find my way, thank you." He did not wait for her to respond, twisting on his heel and making his way out to the corridor. Looking to his right and left, he determined the shortest route to the nearest turbolift and within moments, he was on his way to the bridge.
Unlike the bridge of the Excelsior-class heavy cruiser he had transferred from, the Apollo-class light cruiser Agamemnon enjoyed no ready room on the same deck. In fact, the bridge module installed here looked to be designed with the efficient use of deck space; the captain's chair was only a meter in front of the aft bulkhead, with all of the support stations lining the port and starboard sides. The ship's flight controller had a small half-circular station before the modest viewscreen. Where his former ship lacked in computer stations and consoles, his new assignment made up for. It was pretty obvious that the bridge's design leaned toward tactical operations than exploration duty. His first thought when stepping from the turbolift was about where he would sit during his duty shifts.
"Over here, sir. The executive officer usually has priority seating here at the auxiliary station to the right of the captain's chair," said the male seated at that very console. He had the single pip of an ensign, and he wore the same color turtleneck as James did, that of command. The ensign's eyes were huge, his black pupils seemed to only allow a little bit of the white to show, and his hair was jet black and shaggy; far outside the regulations with regard to personal grooming. Unlike the rest of the ship, however, this ensign wore the same standard duty uniform; the jacket's zipper was even in the upright position.
James approved inwardly, but tried very hard to push that thought aside quickly, as his earlier thought was obviously heard. "You're a Betazoid," he said, in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Yeah," he replied with a snicker in his tone. "I'm Rittian Low, your friendly neighborhood hotshot flyboy." He rose from the station, clearing himself off and walked over to greet James. As they clasped hands, Rittian smiled at him, "If you're wondering about the hair, well, the captain likes to keep his bridge informal. You get used to it."
"I'm noticing." James said this with a chuckle. "I was looking for the captain, actually. I wanted to report in and assume my duties."
"You just missed him. Since we're in dock, he doesn't spend much time on the bridge so much as he does in his quarters." Rittian leaned in, "Ships like ours often go years without seeing a starbase like this, so you'll find most of the officers scattered about the ship and the port, relaxing."
The lieutenant commander asked, "You're the officer of the watch, then?"
"To be honest, no. If someone from docking operations calls, it's pretty much whichever officer or non-comm that's up here when the call comes through acts as the OOW." The ensign noticed and felt the new exec bristle at the explanation. He tried to smooth things out by adding quickly and almost stumbling over his own words, "I mean, when we're underway, I stand a watch from time to time, but when we stand in to port, well…" He offered a shrug.
"Indeed." James smiled again. "Tell me, Ensign, about how long have you been assigned to the ship?"
Rittian replied immediately, "This is my first assignment from the Academy, sir. I've been aboard about eight months, now." He asked, "May I ask where you were posted before arriving here?"
James grinned, "I was stationed aboard the Fearless."
"That's Captain Simpson's ship," said Rittian with wide eyes. James could not help but look deeply into his large dark eyes and see if he could find the edges. The ensign asked, "I've heard stories..."
"I'm sure you have," replied James. "He's a pretty famous captain."
"Are any of them true?"
Rather than indulge the young officer, James chuckled, "Well, let's just say sometimes it's a good thing to have such a reputation."
Rittian smiled in return. "Yes, sir. I've always wanted to serve on an exploration vessel."
This seemed to amused James, "Who doesn't?"
"Most of this crew, actually," the ensign admitted, breaking off eye contact with James to look at the deck. "You'd be surprised how many of them are content to wander the border, sir."
"Is that so?" James asked, in a conversational tone. "I guess I'll be experiencing that wanderlust first hand." He continued on to tell the ensign that he was glad to have met him, but that he needed to report in. "We'll talk later, I'm sure."
Rittian appeared to like James, "Oh, absolutely, sir. I look forward to it."
Suppressing the urge to chuckle at the ensign's enthusiastic tone, he said nothing as he withdrew from the bridge and back into the turbolift. Proceeding downward into the ship's fourth deck, he had a little time to think about the sloppy nature of the crew he had experienced so far. As the ship's executive officer, he would be responsible with the carrying out of the policies of the captain. If the sloppiness stems from above, then he would feel very powerless at trying to bring a sense of order to the chaotic nature that the Agamemnon seemed to become accustomed to.
Arriving at the door to the captain's quarters, Commander James touched the panel to the side to announce his presence and request to enter. There was a drawling tone that consented to his entry, and once within the confines of the captain's quarters, he understood two things upon looking at the room and seeing his captain for the first time.
The cabin was well used and immaculate. This told James that his captain was someone who paid close attention to details. Every personal item within view was stored in an orderly fashion. The collection of old-style books were sorted within a bookcase, and to his amazement, were all in alphabetical order by author. Fresh uniforms, obviously from the station, were neatly folded and stacked by class on top of his bed. The model starships lining the shelf underneath the forward viewport were all secured with thin and transparent pieces of string, but ordered by armament. This impressed James, and he understood then that perhaps things got out of control over the years, but that his new captain was someone he could reason a return to protocol with, and not face resistance.
Master and commander of the starship Agamemnon, Commander Henry Grayum stood before his own reflection in a mirror wearing the standard duty uniform for Starfleet officers, the same uniform worn by James and Rittian. Though his uniform was very new, the officer was a much older gentleman. His blonde hair was giving way to silver in the fight against age, and losing badly. His hairline was receding, bringing it back to the top of his head. Unlike other officers, however, he was not even close to being described as physically fit. The two-piece jacket and pants was kinder to that fact, not drawing too much attention to the already noticeable waist. James decided it was a blessing that they had since stopped wearing the single-piece jumpsuits almost fifteen years ago.
Despite the man's physicality, he believed him to be an officer of a like mind. But to bring order to the ship, he needed to report in. "James, Richard T., Lieutenant Commander, reporting for duty, sir," he said, stepping forward and standing at attention.
Grayum did not turn, not wanting to acknowledge him just yet. His hands were both preoccupied with his uniform jacket, and taking a few moments to look at both shoulders and his back, he asked a single question of James, in a Southern drawl, "Are you here with the Admiral's office, son?" He seemed to not be expecting him at all.
That fact caught James by surprise, stammering a little bit before being able to form a response. "No, sir. I…"
Another voice, this one female, came from the bedroom. She was an enlisted rate; wearing command red and the single curly brace of a third class petty officer. "No, sir. This is Commander James, remember?" She had a pleasant alto voice, and like the captain, wore a very nice-looking duty uniform. James found her instantly attractive, with her winning smile, and long blonde hair. He did not even care to note that her hair was outside of regulations, reaching near her posterior.
"James?" Grayum still did not seem to understand.
"Your new executive officer, Captain," James spoke up, not quite sure of how to handle this. He felt a little slighted by the lack of attention to the schedule.
"Oh!" The captain turned away from the mirror to bring his hand out and his best smile. "Damn, I'm glad to see you here, son. Why don't you have a seat, here, and Missy'll fix you up a cup o' coffee or something."
Missy, James noted, was obviously the name of the petty officer. Her relation to the captain suggested something of a more intimate nature than was probably acceptable. As this was a new posting for him, he decided to bite his tongue until an explanation was offered. No need to step off on the wrong foot. However, the accusatory glance toward the woman adjusting the captain's uniform made James shift uncomfortably in the chair he seated himself in. He brought his hand up toward the young woman, and smiled at her, "That's all right. I'm fine."
Grayum nodded, "All righty. Fix me a cup, then, Missy. Then go get me the kid's service record on my display."
"Right away," she said, moving off toward the replicator, while Grayum sat down behind his desk and faced James.
"Welcome aboard the Agamemnon, son. I'm Hank Grayum," he rose form his seat, realizing he forgot the gentlemanly nicety of shaking hands. "Sorry if I seem a little off my game, but there's this meeting at the port admiral's office, y'see, and I have to get ready for it."
James made an attempt to be sensitive to his captain, his tone concerned, "Sir, if this is a bad time, I can come back later."
"Shit, son, call me Hank. Everyone else does," Hank said, smiling widely at his new exec's dropped jaw. "I had a chance to chat with your old skipper last night about you. He said you're one of his best officers." Missy had returned with the cup and set it on his desk atop a coaster she provided.
"That's very kind of him to say, sir. I had the good fortune of serving under Captain Simpson for three tours of duty," replied James, as Missy pulled up the requested service record for the captain. Three tours of duty equaled over six years of service, which was often the mark of a good ship captain within Starfleet.
"Yeah," Grayum said. "B. J. and I are old friends. We graduated from the Academy and did our first tours together. I know when a CO is bullshittin' me about a person, but if you get Simpson's good word, then that's more than okay with me." Missy disappeared, moving into the captain's bedroom and remaining there.
Inwardly, and with great outward strength preventing the desire to drop his jaw once more, James was shocked. Captain Simpson wore four pips on his collar and commanded a crew of over eight hundred. Hank Grayum, while captain, only wore three pips and appeared to be much older than Simpson. Maybe it was just time not being as kind, but the polar opposite styles of command gave James a great deal to think about. Had he made the wrong choice, here?
Commander Grayum continued, "But what I wanna know is, why would a fireball like yourself want a transfer to a bucket like this?"
The truth was, he had been told that Grayum would soon be transferred to a shore assignment, most likely within a year or two. With time in grade and an exemplary service record, James would find himself promoted to full Commander and holding command of the Agamemnon. Deep Space Four's port admiral made that clear to him. While the Border Patrol was not exactly the most prestigious service within Starfleet, it still had the ability to make James look exceptional. As he was told, there were many captains and admirals in Starfleet who boasted a few tours of duty on the border. Officers who can handle themselves at the front lines with distinction were officers worth noting. But in the case of Commander Grayum, it seemed as though he was overlooked. His vessel never seemed to stand out from the others. His reports were mundane and uninteresting. The gossip aboard the station held that he would retire at his current rank. It was this opportunity that encouraged James to send in for the transfer.
"Well, sir, I've served aboard the Fearless for a while, and before that I was on the Venture. I'd really had my fill of exploration duty and I wanted to round out my training with an assignment out here on the border," James lied, trying to prevent the customary blush from appearing on his cheeks.
Grayum gave a succinct nod, "All righty, then. I'd say that the move benefits us both. Welcome aboard the Agamemnon, son."
"Thank you, sir." The exec did not know how to tell the man that the constant derogatory use of "son" was beginning to irritate him. Was it better to let it slide and ensure stepping off on the right foot, or would it be better to clear the air now and save himself the trouble of undoing a habit? "One request, I do have, though, sir."
Hank Grayum reiterated, "Call me Hank, son. What's on your mind?"
"Yes… Hank," the younger officer tried on for size. "If you don't mind, suh... er, Hank, I would really appreciate it if you would call me something other than ‘son.'"
"Sure thing, sport."
"Preferably something less casual, sir."
Grayum grinned. "Is Rick okay or do you like Richard, better?"
"Rick is fine… Hank." He bit off the automatic "sir;" it appeared they would both have to make adjustments. "What should I attend to, first?"
"B. J. tells me you're a whiz kid when it comes to paperwork." Grayum leaned forward, "MISSY! Get in here!" He bellowed, scaring James enough to make him jump while seated.
Missy appeared from the bedroom, "Yes, Captain?"
"The ship's paperwork. Pile it up and give it to Rick, here," the captain nodded his head toward James.
"Aye, sir," smiled Missy. She walked across the captain's sitting room and leaned over to retrieve a stack of PADDs sitting within a drawer underneath the model starships. As she did so, James noticed that the captain was most definitely leering at her behind. Disgust and outrage overwhelmed the executive officer, his mouth opening just slightly to express it all. That poor woman, he thought to himself.
She returned with a stack of ten devices, all of them filled to the brink with overdue items of a clerical nature. He looked up at her with an apologetic smile, and she rewarded him with one as well. Seizing the initiative, he asked her, "I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to introduce myself to you earlier…"
Grayum interrupted, "Shit, Missy, I'm sorry. I'm being rude. This here is my yeoman, Missy Davies."
Missy smiled, "Missy is a nickname they call me around here. My given name is Melissa. It's a pleasure to meet you, Lieutenant Commander." Her tone was warm and inviting; he was affected by it immensely.
"Indeed," said Rick. "A pleasure. Thank you for the PADDs."
"I don't believe you'll be thanking me later, sir," she quipped.
"That'll be all, Missy," Grayum said with an annoyed tone.
"Aye, sir," she said. Instead of retreating to the bedroom once more, she headed for the corridor.
Once they were alone, Hank sighed. "She's a damn fine yeoman. She took this tornado I called a cabin and organized it. ‘Course, now I have no clue where anything is, but I don't know what I ever did before she came aboard."
"How long has she been your yeoman?"
"Going on nine months, now."
James decided to change the subject, looking down at the stack on his lap. "Were you without an executive officer long enough to create a pile like this, uh, Hank?"
"Something like that. I mean, let's face it; we're not a high priority ship like your darling Fearless. Our requests for someone with your experience usually fall on a wish list, not a necessity list," said Grayum, his drawl getting a little more pronounced.
"Understandable. Did you appoint an acting first officer?"
"I sure did," replied Grayum, thumping the desk. "Halley Gage did a bang-up job for what was asked of her. She pulled her butch in engineering as well as on the bridge and she came out with flying colors. Gave her a letter for her promotion jacket."
With his eyes moving away from his captain's, he looked at the stack as another piece of the puzzle fell into place. As this information was coming to light, the exchange in the transporter room began to make sense; Gage's attitude was no longer dismissed as being a small part of the whole. She had a personal problem with his presence aboard the ship. "I'm sure she did. However, it would appear to me that she neglected a rather important aspect of the job."
Captain Grayum frowned, his brow furrowing, "Under the circumstances, Rick, I think she did pretty good. I know all that paperwork looks like a lot, but let me tell you something; out here on the border, paperwork don't mean shit. Sure, we got the forms and the reports to do just like everyone else, but the different between a patrol ship and the Fearless is that we're not under that gun to dot and cross every I and T."
James sighed. It was a losing battle he was facing, now. Not to mention that it would be in the poorest health of his assignment to criticize an officer who obviously has the captain's favor. "I think I see what you mean. Now that I'm here to dedicate myself wholly to the job, I'll make sure that all of the ship's paperwork is caught up with Starfleet as soon as I can."
"That's the spirit, Rick!" Grayum thumped his desk once more, to express his enthusiasm.
He smiled in reply, not only because he was amused, but also because it was the only way to express his irritation at the captain's inadvertent patronizing act. James said, "If you don't mind, then, sir…"
"Hank," interrupted the captain.
"Hank," James followed up quickly, realizing his mistake.
"Go on and get out, Rick. I'll be off the ship for a few hours to meet with the port admiral in thirty minutes. Have a look around; make sure you meet the senior staff. I have a feeling that our leave here at the station is going to be cut short."
Lieutenant Commander James stood up from his seat, cradling the stack under his arms in preparation to leave, "Understood, Hank."