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Meeting the New Pilot

Posted on Tue Nov 21st, 2023 @ 11:05am by Ensign Maxine Mckull Ms. & Captain Gary Taylor

Mission: MISSION 0 - History Speaks
Location: XO's Ready Room
Timeline: Several months ago
2900 words - 5.8 OF Standard Post Measure

Gary sat at his desk and looked at the small mountain of PaDDs on his desk. Work orders. maintenance requests and incoming transfers. He had read through several when he got to one that he reread. Ensign Maxine Mckull. The new assistant flight control officer. Miraj would be thrilled to have an assistant. Looking at her file he saw that her last assignment had been on a starbase. Deep Space 4 to be exact. Piloting the Elysium was a whole different story. That she was competent but not outstanding. She had potential as well as her own views and opinions. He smiled at reading that. She was going to fit right in.

The orders had come as... more than a little shock to her. After that little incident with some Ferengi privateers some years ago, the CO of the Ajax was more than happy to get rid of her. In their words, her little maneuver was 'insanely reckless.'

That might have been true, but all was fair in combat, wasn't it? Rather, all was unfair. She had been shipped off to DS4 and had plenty of nothing to do as a nurse on a space station on one fringe of Federation space. She hated it... how could she make any progress finding a treasure world while she was standing still?

Even so, she wondered who changed their mind about her as she rode the turbolift up to the bridge from her assigned quarters. Rather than unpacking, she had carried her luggage out with her once she noticed she would clearly be sharing the room with someone. For multiple reasons... she needed to bring that up at some point. As the lift hummed along, she mulled over what had happened.

'Oh well,' she thought as she rang the chime. 'I guess I'll find out. It will be good to be on the move again.'

As Gary continued to read Mckull's bio he saw she had been assigned to the Ajax and been transferred to DS4 by the Ajax's captain for an "insanely reckless" maneuver. The Ajax's captain's words. That intrigued Gary and he wanted to find out just what maneuver she pulled. Might be one Miraj didn't know. Further reading showed he worked as a nurse on the station, her wings clipped, well clipped until now. Now she could fly again, and Gary had never met a pilot who didn't love to fly.

As the chime on his door sounded, he put the PaDD aside, straightened his tunic and stood up behind his desk. Satisfied all was as it should be he called out "Enter!"

Her presence acknowledged, Max stepped forward, and the doors slid apart with the barely audible hiss of hydraulics. She stepped inside wordlessly, setting her suitcase down next to her. Her posture was straight, her expression unreadable as she took in the room and its occupant for the first time. Strangely neutral, in the manner only most Vulcans could pull off. She stood at attention, but seemed to tense barely perceptibly.

"Ensign Mckull, reporting for duty, sir."

The words were hers, yet one could easily be thrown off by them. They were almost completely flat. They sounded robotic, in the way nothing did... or should, in this century. Not with the advances in vocal simulation. To add to that, as she spoke, her lips didn't move in the slightest.

Max always dreaded meeting people. The reaction to her implant tended to vary wildly. Some people ignored it and shrugged it off. Others were unnerved by it. Others still were intrigued, and asked far too many questions about it. She wasn't sure what camp this Captain Taylor would fall under, but she hoped, desperately, he wouldn't say anything about it.

Gary heard the words, and they sounded flat, similar to how Borg talked. Gary pushed the thought aside and waved a hand to a chair in front of his desk, "At ease Ensign and have a seat. Oh, before we get started would you care for something from the replicator?" Totally ignoring her implant. He wanted to know about her, the person and not a piece of technology she wore.

He appraised the new officer. She was tall, slender with black hair and brown eyes. her eyes were alert as they swept his ready room. She held herself stiff, rigid. Some sort of inner rigidness. Perhaps in their talk he would find out why.

Max gave a slight nod of her head as she let her hands fall to her side, dropping her attention stance. She took another step into the room, watching, listening, taking in every detail. Her hands went behind her back, clasping each other, another way Max tended to hide her true emotions from others. The less they saw, the more difficult a judgement would be.

Max's eyes settled on the man in red once more as he spoke. She thought about it for a moment, then dipped her head appreciatively.

"Cold water, please."

Again, the voice was almost entirely flat. The implant was capable of a little modulation, but only so much that one could (probably) tell the difference between a statement and a question. Though even that wasn't always accurate. She didn't understand how it worked... she only knew that it did... sort of.

Max stepped forward, letting herself drop into the indicated chair. Her hands came to rest in her lap as she seemed to relax, if only very slightly. So far, Taylor hadn't seemed to react to the crown at all. But would he?

Gary moved to the replicator got the cold water Maxine asked for. Returning to her, he handed it to her. "One cold water." He announced as he returned to behind his desk and sat down.

For a moment Gary didn't speak and then he finally did. "Ensign, why are you carrying a suitcase with you? Don't you have assigned quarters?"

Max had intended to bring that topic up for discussion near the end of the meeting. So, when the XO remarked on her suitcase it caught her slightly off guard, though the only tell was a slight twitch of her eyes. She brought the water to her lips and sipped from the glass, using the moment to consider her response.

She balanced the glass on her knee, holding it in one hand as she looked across the desk. "Shared quarters, sir. Something I had intended to discuss with you."

"Now is the time, Ensign. Please discuss away." Gary replied. "You are against having a roommate?"

Tis time, the pause was longer. Max shook her head, her face blank, void of any significant emotional tells as she brushed her finger over the cold glass she was holding. "Yes, sir. Though not for the reason you may believe."

She let out a little huff, casting a glance downward. "How much do you know of my implant, sir?"

She knew there was some information about it in her file, but undoubtedly, there was much information that wasn't. The lessons she took as a child, while formative experiences for her, were doubtfully in her record. It was, however, a critical part of how her implant functioned. Without her mental barriers, it would broadcast anything and everything she was thinking, and it would not cease until she took control. This was, unfortunately, not something Max could do, say, in her sleep.

Gary looked at her. "And you know what I am thinking Ensign?" He countered. I know about your implant it takes your thoughts and puts them into words. I know you were teased mercilessly as a child over it." He held up a PaDD. "It is all here in your file."

Well that was a little more than she had been expecting. Max nodded slowly.

"Quite literally, sir," she stated simply. "When I received the implant, it was necessary to train my mind on Vulcan. Without the training and the mental barriers I was taught to erect, the implant will start broadcasting my thoughts, and it will not stop. However, the barriers can not be maintained while I am sleeping, or... otherwise incapacitated."

She didn't think she needed to go into detail about what potential that had to cause embarrassment, or create otherwise awkward or even disruptive circumstances.

Gary listened to Max and what she said. When she had finished, he nodded slowly. "I see where having a roommate could cause you and them problems Ensign." He pulled out a PaDD and wrote on it. "When were done. Go to the Quartermaster, show him this. It is authorization for new quarters for you. Single occupancy."

Max watched him work the PADD, accepting it once he had finished entering his input. "Thank you, sir."

She was extremely grateful and relieved that she didn't have to spell out anything further. She was not someone who liked to give away more than necessary, most of the time.

There was a moment of silence from Max as she tucked the device into her uniform pocket and let herself take another sip of water. She paused, seeming to think something over, tilting her head and allowing a small look of uncertainty to cross her features. "If I may, sir?"

Gary nodded his head, "Ask Ensign. What is on your mind?"

Permission given, yet... how could she ask what she wanted to without sounding ungrateful? Max was very much glad to be off the station, and yet... she had been left with the impression all those years ago that she had been shipped off so she would be, and remain, out of sight. How was it then that she was noticed, just one name among who knew how many candidates?

Max mentally shrugged before finally asking, "How did I end up here, sir?"

Gary countered with a question of his own. "Would you rather be back on Deep Space four Ensign? Accept that you are here. needed and wanted and leave it at that."

Maxine paused, her lips twitching ever so slightly. She had been hoping for something more definite. After all, wasn't it in anyone's nature to wonder why they were anywhere if they'd been plucked from a familiar environment?

Even still, she supposed she could go on not knowing. She was glad to be here, on the move, at least. That held more promise.

Max finally gave a little nod.

Gary could see his answer hadn't satisfied Maxine and he couldn't blame her. "Ensign." He spoke again. "You are a special breed. You respect the chain of command, but you think outside the box. You stand out from the crowd and don't ever think otherwise. You are an outstanding pilot and you belong here."

And someone, possibly the Captain himself, saw that?

Max closed her eyes for a moment and was silent. Thinking outside the box was part of it, yes. Max didn't believe that a no win scenario existed. There was always a way out, no matter how risky or insane it seemed. She just wasn't afraid to bridge the gap between her insane ideas and reality.

But crossing that bridge once had gotten her shipped away to nowhere. Would it happen again?

"Thank you, sir," was all Max could think to reply in the moment. "I did-"

Max cut herself off. She had to remind herself that this wasn't a dream, that she was actually on a starship again. In a position to take the wheel at times, to do whatever was necessary.

"I do whatever is necessary to keep control of a situation."

Without realizing it, Max had summed up more than just her tactics in a crisis. She had summed up her entire life. Control was something she prized above all else. She had to. After all, if she lost it, her implant would start broadcasting indiscriminately. She kept control of her thoughts, she kept control of her emotions. She tried to keep control of unfamiliar situations.

Gary nodded slowly. His remained focused on Max as he spoke. "No need to thank me, Ensign. You earned being here." He paused for a heartbeat maybe two before going on. "You will find once you've been here a little longer that the Elysium is more than your standard crew. It's a family from the Commodore on down. We care for and look out for each other. This is a crew that goes above and beyond in all aspects of their duties." He paused again for a moment and then continued on. "You have a problem, you come to me. I'll get it taken care of. On the off chance I can't, we'll take it to the Commodore. My point being that never feel you don't matter or that your problem isn't important because that is not true."

Maxine listened to the words of Captain Taylor and let her head nod along slowly. Outside of her home, a sense of family wasn't something she'd felt in a very, very long time. Granted, that was mostly her choice. But what was it out of, really? Fear? Embarrassment? She didn't know why the defense mechanism, she only knew it was there.

"I will keep that in mind," Max responded simply. The glass of water came to her lips and she took another sip of it, noticing the glass was just over half empty.

Gary nodded slowly. His eyes never leaving Maxine's. "Good. You do that. never forget you are a member of the best crew in the Fleet."

"I will remember that, sir," Max stated. Her head bobbled a little in affirmation as she lifted the glass to her lips, sipping the rest of her water. She held onto it for the moment, her eyes searching the XO's face. "THank you, sir. I appreciate the accommodations."

"You are welcome, Ensign." Gary replied and paused and he had an inner debate with himself. Then looking at Max he spoke. "One question Ensign what was the tactic that your former captain called reckless and got you banded to a space station as a nurse?"

Max's lips twitched slightly. She had expected this to come up, and on reflection, she was surprised it wasn't the first thing that had when she walked in the door. She set the glass down on Garry's desk and clasped her now free hands atop it.

"We were on patrol near the neutral zone when the Ajax picked up readings we could not identify coming from a nearby star system. The captain gave the order to change course, and as soon as we dropped out of warp, we were attacked by three Orion cruisers. Our port and starboard quarters had taken the brunt of the assault. Power couplings to most of the weapon systems had been severed."

Max paused for a moment, uncertain how the maneuver she was about to detail would be received. Then she continued.

"We had little room to maneuver. Pirates on three sides, a gravity well in close proximity... so I skipped it."

A beat, then...

"I took the Ajax as close to the atmosphere as I could, and bounced the ship off of it. As soon as the ship was clear I used a short burst from the warp engines to put us to their aft. We were able to disable two of the pirates and the third fled.

She looked down and huffed faintly. "The Ajax suffered moderate damage as a result of the atmospheric entry, but when considering the alternative, that seemed preferable."

"And this is what the Ajax's captain called reckless? I call it inspired. You'll fit right in here Ensign. Not a doubt in my mind." Gary replied.

Max blinked. Once, twice, three times. Inspired... that was what she thought, at the time. She did what she had to.

While she had, of course, heard of bouncing shuttles off the atmosphere, as Captain Picard had done during the attempted rescue of a runaway Cadet over forty years ago, she'd never heard of such a thing being done on a scale as large as a starship. Atmospheric entry? Certainly. But not gravity skipping.

She paused, and dipped her head faintly in appreciation. "Thank you, sir."

"You are most welcome Ensign. Your type of thinking and piloting will be most welcome here." Gary replied.

Max paused. She wasn't used to such attitudes as Captain Taylor was displaying now. She wasn't used to being praised. Despite her attempts to control her emotions, she felt... touched. She offered a weak smile, though it was still a smile, the most expressive she had appeared to be since entering the first officer's office.

"Thank you, sir," she droned, pangs of sadness briefly tickling the edge of her consciousness. Yet again, her voice couldn't express just how much what had been said here today meant to her.

"Is there anything else?"

Gary shook his head and offered her another smile. "Nothing else Ensign other than to again welcome you onboard. You are dismissed."

Max bowed appreciatively and offered a small smile. Perhaps this assignment would be something special... maybe she could make a home here, on top of finding what she set her eyes out on. But for now she offered a simple, "Thank you, sir."

Permission given to go, Max reached out and retrieved her suitcase. Her next order of business, she decided as she left the room, would be to check in with her immediate superior, Ensign Miraj.


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