Chapter 4 - Filling the Seats

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USS Hou Yi – Multipurpose Office Space


“So why do you want to be an Operator on the Hou Yi?” Was T’Shan’s first question to each candidate. She’d slotted in five separate interview sessions in one of the spare departmental offices, one after the other.

“I think as a first-year Ensign I’m best suited to a smaller, more versatile class of ship. There’s less chance of combat and I heard the bigger ships get really cliquey. Not that I think anyone here is going to be like that. Or that people aren’t generally nice throughout the fleet. It just seems.. like a good jumping off point.” Was the response from Raam Tilla, a mousy and nervous young Bajoran Ensign.

“For the glory of my pond!” Ensign Gengall was a Morbian, a species of grandiloquent, squat amphibians from a high-gravity world in Imperial space who spoke in a bombastic Klingon-inspired fashion.

“You lack an Operator with experience on the new power systems and the subtleties of the new modifications. Yes. Without me many could be injured or die. Catastrophic. Yes.” Ensign Freg-Zitron was a Betelguesian with a shrill, disagreeable voice that always just a bit louder than the space required. He was a tall blue being with a long conical head and a long golden plumage, his avian eyes were dark black, and his beakflaps and beak were bright red.

“May I first say, live long and prosper, T’Shan-kam.” Came the response of the Vulcan candidate, Ensign Sutark. She interrupted him before he could get to his answer.

“Excuse me Ensign, I do not believe that particular term of endearment is appropriate, we are not acquainted.” T’Shan corrected him with the appropriate force.

“That is not the case. I am of the family line of your brother, through his mother T’Ret. He and I are distant cousins. So too could you be if you prove worthy of the honour.” Sutark told her.

“T’Ret’s family issued a public condemnation of my acceptance to the Vulcan Science Academy and denial of affiliation with me.” T’Shan responded, remembering it well.

“We cannot be held responsible for the errors of our forebears, can we cousin?” Sutark asked, before continuing. “To answer your question, I have had a number of transfer requests declined. It seems my current department head has an irrational jealousy of my superior abilities, and has reviewed me negatively. I know a Vulcan, particularly one with whom my own family’s honour is so entwined will see the logic in having me as an operator.”

“She looks like a fine ship. And I’ve spent my whole career in the home quadrant. About time I saw this one.” Came the charmingly British response of Chief Thurman, the only Enlisted crewmember to make the shortlist.

“What has been your greatest achievement in your career so far?” T’Shan asked next.

“Graduation. Honestly, there were times there when I felt like I’d have been better off training to be a Vedek. I had to retake basic medical twice. But I got good grades in Ops. That’s why I’m still here.” Ensign Raam explained, her confidence slowly building, until she realised what she had said. “I mean. The grades. Focus on the grades. I got straight A’s in power systemics. And I had Commander Kerlin, both senior years.”

“The Battle of Polauvu, USS Hercules. We had lost two of three nacelles, so I manually reconfigured warp power to phaser arrays, allowing the shot that disabled the Reman pirates attacking us and saved the ship. No greater glory have I or any of my kin claim to!” Gengall announced with boisterous joy, inflating noticeably to nearly twice his size.

“I have logged more star hours than any of my fellow graduates from the class of 2396. Yes. I do not take personal time and perform voluntary work in all waking hours. Yes.” Freg-Zitron explained. His way of speaking seemed to suggest his awareness of the experience of others was minimal.

“Any opportunity to see my fellow Vulcans doing their jobs to the best of their abilities has been an inspiring and unforgettable experience. I know however that to serve with you, cousin, will be the greatest opportunity available to any young Vulcan embracing the future.” Sutark said, causing T’Shan to squirm slightly.

“We struck a gravitic mine off the Bassen rift, back when Hobus first went up and things were all pear-shaped. Don’t know how I was the only one still conscious. With the help of the EMH I managed to pull everyone into escape pods. Miracle we survived at all.” Thurman responded.

“Where do you see yourself in five years time?” T’Shan asked to round out her questioning.

“Junior Lieutenant, hopefully. Married. Maybe a kid. Oh, but you meant professionally. Assistant Chief? No, that’s too optimistic. Senior Operator maybe?” Raam responded in her meek but eager way.

“The patriarch of a fierce swarm of young, and a highly respected operator with a vast and heavy clutch of service medals.” Gengall explained.

“Serving diligently. Yes. With twice the star hours of any member of my graduating class. Yes.” Freg-Zitron crowed.

“I will be commander of my own vessel in that time. Our family is uniquely placed to ensure our skills are quickly recognised. If you prove worthy cousin, I will consider you for first officer.” Sutark said.

“Retirement, I think. This’ll be my last cruise. Got grandkids to dote on back on Alpha Centauri.” Thurman said.

“Thank you all for your time.” T’Shan said as the five candidates stood to attention in the waiting area as T’Shan finally emerged. “I have come to a decision. As you know there are only three Operator positions available, feedback can be provided upon request in the event you are unsuccessful.”

Raam looked nervous enough to chew through her fingers. Gengall inflated himself proudly. Freg-Zitron held his clawed hands together in a droopy, predatory fashion. Sutark looked quietly confident. Thurman looked as though he would be happy either way.

“Gengall.” Was the first name T’Shan called. The small frog-man inflated immediately. She liked his moxy.

“Freg-Zitron.” She said next. “Sensible. Yes.” Was his response. She already dreaded all future conversations with him, but he was undeniably useful.

“Thurman.” The sturdy old human non-com looked quite chuffed. He had decades of experience, T’Shan had chosen him first without hesitation.

“There must be some mistake, Lieutenant. I am the only Vulcan available. None of these beings have my advantages as an Operator.” Sutark said with minimal self-awareness. Raam looked disappointed, but understanding.

“Because there were four outstanding candidates, I have also decided to appoint an assistant from those present.” T’Shan said, quieting Sutark. “Ensign Raam Tilla, I wish to appoint you as the Assistant Manager of Ops, on what will be a rotating basis. Thank you all for your time, I will communicate with your XO to confirm your reassignments before 0 hundred hours. Please have your preferences for available quarters to me before 0600 tomorrow, which will be the start of your first shifts.”

The four successful candidates thanked her and left, leaving her alone with Sutark.

“And what role do you have for me, cousin? I understand you may not wish to disclose it to the others. They may suspect nepotism, in spite of the obvious.” Sutark said.

“You will be remaining aboard the station in your current capacity, Ensign. I wish you the best in your future endeavours.” T’Shan responded with finality.

Sutark was silent for a moment as he realised this was not some sort of jest. “You are no cousin of mine, Andorian. You will regret this decision.”

“I do not expect to ever think of you again, Ensign. Dismissed.” T’Shan said, moving towards the door, her mind already moving to her next task.