Leaning his head against one wall in his sonic shower cubicle, Max found himself taking a moment of silence and reflection. He hadn’t slept that much during the night, which was the worst thing for him to do on his first day of his new job. Five, maybe six hours, off and on. All night he kept racing through his mind the conversation he had with the captain almost eight hours ago. He was going through everything into much detail. Hearing the shocking news of Commander Cambil’s resignation and then McCallister wanting him as his new ‘Number One’ was an immense piece of news to slap on him so late in the evening. Now he found himself debating if he had made the right call to accept the offer? McCallister had started the conversation asking him if he would ‘jump off a cliff’ and as he explained further what he meant, Max’s reaction was straight to the point with a simple ‘yes’. At the back of his mind he wondered if his parents would have been proud of his decision. He had planned to send a message to his mother later that day with the news. Being a Starfleet captain herself, he pretty much knew what she was going to say.
Yawning loudly, he eventually switched off the sonic shower and turned on the water feature. He didn’t need it but sometimes he preferred the warm water trickling down him instead of the tender warm vibrations from the sonic shower. The gentle stream of warm water helped him wake up further. He knew he had to be more alert for today. Once he was done and felt more like himself, the automatic dryer came on and the sensation was like he was almost being blasted by a furnace by its ferocious high speeds of heat.
Walking out, he pulled out his underwear from the nearby walk-in closet he had. As a senior member of the crew he had a pretty large set of quarters for one occupant. The glory of the Odyssey-class, unlike some other ships, meant that he had two levels to his home away from home. His bedroom, bathroom and walk-in closet were on the top floor and a small set of winding steps led him down to the living area. There it had a large living room area with sofas, armchairs, a decent size round dining table, a kitchen area and a desk for him to do work while off-duty. Furthermore it had its own small double-bed guest room that branched off from the living room with its own ensuite facilities. Living alone, some would have thought it was almost the perfect bachelor pad, but Max had kept it tidy and decorated it with private items. Many of them were photographs of close family and friends.
Looking at the uniform he wore yesterday, the one that he had slung on the floor after getting home from his meeting with the captain, he realised he would no longer be wearing the teal blue jacket that belonged to the science division. He would instead wear the maroon red for command. Walking over to the nearby replicator, he ordered it to create his new uniform. Within a few seconds his new uniform was ready for him. Pulling it on, he looked at the holographic mirror at his own reflection and realised he looked very different. Deciding that his new uniform required a new look, he went back into the bathroom area and restyled his hair so he had a thicker, larger quiff instead of a flat looking style. Pleased by his appearance he sat back down in the closet and pulled on his boots, again they were brand new. Feeling comfortable in what he was now wearing, he headed down into the living room and ordered the computer to make him his breakfast. As the replicator came to life with a mug of English tea and a plate with a buttered croissant, the door chime went off.
Sighing at nuisance, he took one more glance at his reflection before he called after his visitor. “Who is it?”
“Cline,” There was a pause as the security and tactical chief then added the word: “sir.”
Surprised to hear his voice so early in the morning, Max walked over to the door and opened it. “Yes, can I help?”
Standing before him was the tall muscular Tiburon lieutenant commander with two other members of his security team. One was Lieutenant Keli, Cline’s Coridanite deputy while the other was Ensign Trexx, a young Bolian who was almost as tall as Cline. Keli had a big smile on her face, which was normal as she always had a cheer disposition.
“Sorry to disturb you commander, but in accordance with the change in chain of command, it is our job to ensure your quarters are safe, secure and issue you with your new security clearance codes.” Lenjir said. “As per the captain’s orders.”
A bit startled that needed to be done, Max trusted the security chief and let him come in. The two security officers with him took a level each to scan; Keli upstairs while Trexx took downstairs and started in the guest room. While they did their job, Cline presented a PADD to Duncan, “If you can just place your hand on here.” He said. “And recite your current security clearance codes.”
Doing as he was told, Max placed his hand on the PADD, which he noticed had the captain’s authorisation on it to have him noted on the ship’s official records as first officer. “Computer, this is Commander Max Duncan, confirm security clearance Duncan-four-seven-delta-romeo.”
“Voice authorisation confirmed. Chain of command has been updated, this vessel’s executive officer is now Commander Max Duncan.” The computer said.
“Congratulations sir.” Lenjir said with a smile. “I don’t think anyone else knows, but the captain has called for a whole crew briefing at oh-seven-hundred hours in the auditorium.”
“What?” Max said, sounding surprised. “I didn’t see that on the schedule.” He groaned as he reached for a nearby PADD that had the crew roster and the day’s assignment on it that McCallister had given him last night. He then saw an update to the agenda. There it was, McCallister must have added late last night. Damn, he thought, he needed to make sure he read the schedule the moment he woke up.
“All clear up there.” Keli said as she came off the last step and closed her tricorder. “I’ve updated the computer terminals with the latest security updates as well.”
“Likewise around here.” Trexx added, as he finished off his last scan. “The transporter inhibitor is also active.”
“Transporter inhibitor?” Duncan questioned the Bolian.
Nodding to confirm, Trexx explained to Duncan that everyone who was higher up on the chain of command required extra security features in their quarters to prevent any compromises to the ship’s security.
“For what it’s worth sir,” Keli said, still grinning, “when we found out that Commander Cambil had resigned and you were taking over, we all agreed you’re a worthy successor.”
Max smiled at the compliment and looked at Lenjir who nodded in agreement.
“Obviously we’ve not told anyone else,” Lenjir added. “But yeah Keli is right. You’re the right person for the job.”
“Thank you.” Max said. “If that’s all for now, then I suppose I best rush off and see the captain before this gathering.”
“Indeed.” Lenjir agreed as they all exited the commander’s quarters. Max then hurried himself down the deck and to the nearest turbolift to make his way up to deck six, where the captain had his quarters.
Almost running down the corridor, Max was approaching the doors to the captain’s quarters when he saw Court standing outside them. Along his journey he had passed a few crewmembers who had stared at him for his new uniform but didn’t say anything to him.
“Tobi, is he still in there?” Max asked as he slowed himself down to reach Court.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Court looked up from the PADD he was reading at the approaching figure and smiled. “You look good in red, sir.” He commented before answering the question. “And yes, I’m just waiting for them to answer.”
“Is this normal?” Duncan asked the captain’s yeoman and the chief of the boat.
Nodding, Court explained how the captain’s routine normally went. “Most mornings he is out by oh-seven hundred hours, but this morning I’d imagine he will be up and read-” Court paused as the doors to the McCallister family quarters opened.
Standing there smiling at them both was Alfie McCallister, the teenage boy beckoned them. “Dad said for you both to come in and make yourself comfortable.”
The teenager was already up and dressed, the sight impressed Max as he was never that organised as a teenager. Following Alfie in they were warmly welcomed by Commander Reyas, who was sipping on a mug of hot coffee, while behind her Alfie’s brothers were finishing off their breakfast. “Good morning Max, morning Tobi.” Reyas said.
“Morning ma’am.” Tobi said and then he went over to greet the boys, his godsons.
Tobi was more at ease in the presence of the McCallisters, especially as he spent so much time with them off duty.
Karyn approached Max and quietly spoke to him. “So now you’re my superior, I insist you call me Karyn.”
“Of course ma-” Max paused and smiled at her, “thank you Karyn. And likewise back, I don’t want our relationship to change.”
“Sounds like a deal.” She said with a smirk and a wink. “You’ll make an excellent first officer to James.”
“As you would have.” Max replied quickly. “I don’t think it’s fair that Starfleet won’t allow it.”
Shrugging her shoulders, Karyn didn’t appear bothered by the new arrangement. “I’ve got a few more centuries in my life before I need to worry about such things.” She beckoned for him to come in further and away from the door he was stood at. “Listen Max, it’s not that we didn’t see Bexa every morning as she had her own family to sort out but I want you to know you are more than welcome to join us for breakfast, dinner or a midnight snack. There’s always an extra space for you.”
“That’s very kind of you, Karyn, thank you.” Max said, showing his appreciation for the gesture.
“God knows, I’ve got to put up with Tobi winding up the boys so another body won’t make a difference and I know James sometimes likes to go over the schedule in a more informal setting sometimes.” Karyn shared. “So you ready for your first day?”
“I hope so.” Max answered sincerely.
“You look it.” Karyn remarked and gave him a brief hug. “I’m loving the new hairstyle, very leadership-like.” she whispered before taking a sip from her mug.
Walking down a similar flight of stairs like his own room, Captain McCallister soon appeared. “There he is.” He said, putting on his jacket and zipping it up.
“Morning sir.” Max said back to his superior.
Smiling as he tugged on the end of his jacket, McCallister reached the bottom step and spoke. “Excited?”
Nodding once, Duncan confirmed it. “Absolutely.”
“You’ll be great.” McCallister said as he walked past his new executive officer and headed to the table to pick up something to eat. As he made his way over, he looked to his wife and yeoman, “He’s gonna be great.”
Both officers agreed with his assessment and then the captain gestured for them to leave. As he turned, he looked at his sons and called after them. Wishing them a good day and that they’ll see them later for dinner.
The four officers walked down the corridor and towards the nearest turbolift. “You’d think when the designers made this ship with how huge it is, that they may have considered installing either a private turbolift for the captain or an exclusive site-to-site transporter. The amount of walking we do, I’d be surprised if I’ve not walked the same amount of distance it takes to get up Mount Seleya and back tenfold.”
Just one step behind him, Max looked at Karyn who just rolled her eyes at her husband who led their pack. Looking at Max, she gestured for him to ignore the comment. Eventually they got into the turbolift and James ordered for it to take them to the auditorium. They had only a few more minutes left until the briefing that he had arranged would start.
“Tobi, make sure everyone on the senior staff is aware that I want a full meeting at oh-nine hundred hours and make sure you have a selection of coffee, tea and some pastries out.” James ordered.
The yeoman nodded.
Max instantly knew what that meant, “I take it that the senior staff meeting is going to be long?”
“Yep,” James answered quickly. “How’d you know?”
“You always have Tobi put out drinks and pastries when it’s going to be a long one.” Max answered. “The pastries are for Doctor Slyvexs while the coffee’s for Tremt. Both of them moan when our meetings go on longer than expected.”
Pleased his first officer recognised the tactic, James smiled before speaking. “And the tea is for Lukiz, one of his previous hosts found drinking tea a soothing way to help them listen.”
“Sir, do I invite someone to represent the counselling and diplomatic departments?” Tobi asked as he took notes on his PADD.
James looked at Max, “We need to discuss your replacements at some point. Your thoughts? Do we have someone who can do a dual role?”
Considering the idea for a moment, Max eventually shook his head. “I don’t think we have anyone else on the crew who is qualified for both roles sir. I suggest you promote both of my deputies. Samris is an excellent counsellor, he has strong links with the civilian representatives on the ship and Flemen is a superb diplomatic and contact specialist.”
“Which one would sit in your old chair though?” Karyn asked.
James looked at his wife, “Lieutenant Flemen. It will be rare that we’ll need a counselling session on the bridge. Between him and Tomaz, they’ll be taking on the role of being our mission specialists now.”
It was true that James had been fortunate to have Max in both roles as chief diplomatic officer and chief counsellor. Many captains on the larger explorer ships were given the opportunity to have specialist trained officers to sit to their left in both roles, but now they were too far away from Starfleet to get anyone else quickly to replace him for both roles. Nevertheless he was confident that both men could do the jobs they were planning to elevate them to without any issue. “Do you want them at the senior staff meeting?” Max asked, noticing that James hadn’t clarified that point for Tobi.
James nodded before answering, “Yes, but I’ll leave it down to you Number One to inform them of their promotions.” He paused as he realised something else. “Also I’ll leave it to you to offer Tremt the position of third officer.”
“Thanks sir.” Max said, not sure if how his friend and their chief engineer would respond. Happy, he hoped.
The turbolift came to its destination and the entourage left it.
Entering the auditorium, Max noted how quickly things looked different to how it normally appeared in the mornings. Normally the breakfast rush was in motion, but it felt like almost everyone was present. A holographic podium had been set up at the front of the huge room.
“Captain on the deck!” shouted Court as they entered and everyone stood to attention to face the captain.
Moving swiftly, McCallister made his way across to the podium. As he approached it his combadge activated the ship’s speakers and the intercom came to life as his voice could be heard across the ship.
“Good Morning,” McCallsiter greeted everyone and gave his typical boyish warm smile. Though his boyish charms were slowing decay with his age, he still had a unique charisma about him. “After a long and heartfelt discussion, I’m announcing today a change in our ship’s chain of command. Commander Cambil has decided to leave the service for reasons that are private and that only she shared with me. Though she will always be a very valuable part of this crew, this family, I must respect her decision and choice. I wish her all the best, but I’m pleased and terribly proud to announce that, effective immediately, the position of the Odyssey’s first officer will be filled by Commander Maxwell Jack Duncan.”
The room was eerily silent and then a round of applause, followed by cheering filled it. The captain called Max up to the podium and shook his hand. “Congratulations, Number One.” He said and then joined in with the applause.
Turning to face his crew now, Max just smiled and waved to everyone that was rallying behind the captain’s decision in making him their new executive officer.
In the far distance, in between many people, he could see his predecessor standing with a huge smile across her face. Cambil clapped with pride for her successor before quietly leaving the large crowd.
Stepping down from the podium, Max went over to the rest of the senior staff that had assembled together.
“You kept that one quiet last night Maxie.” Hunsen said as he stepped forward and gave his friend a bear hug. “So proud of you, well done mate.” He said before letting go.
Sylvexs stepped forward, “Congratulations, sir.” She said as she bowed her head in respect. Being a Denobulan she did not like touching others in an affectionate manner.
T’Rani came up to him next. “You are an excellent candidate to succeed Commander Cambil, sir.”
“Thank you, T’Rani. She’s left some big shoes.” Max replied.
Laughing slightly, Jen hugged Max as well. “Shoes you’ll easily fit into.” He added. “Well done Max.”
“Thanks Lukiz.” Max said, appreciating everyone’s kind words of support and encouragement.
“We have forty-five minutes before we need to report to the bridge. What does everyone say to you all joining me in the captain’s private dining room for a proper breakfast?” McCallister offered to his senior staff.
A round of acknowledgements followed and as they headed to the private room that sat off from the upper level, Max passed many of his crew congratulating him as he went by. He was super overwhelmed, but he couldn’t shake off the image of seeing Cambil from a far. It felt weird that she was no longer a part of this group. He planned to see her before she left Odyssey; he needed to speak to her, even if it was for his own closure on the whole matter and for some sort of transition to take place.
The counsellor in him also knew that knowing Cambil, she was beating herself over something and if it was something that would affect him in his new role, then Max was determined to know as well.
One week later
“Commander, we’re approaching the Burbidge cluster.” T’Rani announced, from the helm.
On the holographic viewscreen, the view of the large group of stars appeared. Each one had its own unique properties, but they all had one thing in common: all of them were orbited by gas giants or solid balls of rock. None of them could sustain life, except for one. A Class M planet orbiting a F type star. Being the odd one had peeked the captain’s curiosity. The ship was finally doing some exploring.
“T’Rani, lay in a course for the Class M planet.” Commander Max Duncan ordered from where he was sitting in the captain’s chair. “Engage at full impulse.”
“Aye sir.” T’Rani said.
After a week in his new job, Commander Duncan was finally getting used to the perks that the new job brought. He still had a lot to learn and he was quietly using the holodeck on the side to refresh his memory of areas that he wasn’t completing an expert in – this mainly covered engineering, starship operations and tactical analysis.
Tapping the intercom in the captain’s chair, Duncan hailed the captain who was currently in his ready room with his wife and her deputy from the science department. The trio had been meeting to finalise the plans for their exploration efforts. Within a few seconds they all walked out, Reyas at the front with McCallister behind walking out with Lieutenant Abbej. He was in deep conversation with the Boslic woman, whose dark purple hair bobbed just inline with her shoulders.
“Have we arrived?” Reyas asked as she approached the centre pit and looked over to the main viewer.
Standing up from the captain’s chair, Max answered with a simple nod. “Our mystery cluster awaits us.” He added.
“Excellent.” Reyas said, sounding excited as she turned to look at her fellow scientist. “Abbej, we best get those probes ready for launch.”
“Indeed ma’am.” She said after excusing herself from the captain’s presence as she made her way over to the science stations with her department head. As the head of the ship’s astrophysics division, this expedition of the cluster would rely on a lot of her expertise.
The entire science department was extremely eager to get started on their exploration of the cluster. The ship would start at the mystery uninhabited M class planet before they would go on to map the other systems in detail. The whole project was estimated to last almost three weeks.
McCallister joined his first officer and turned to look at the image on the main screen. “Any sign of any other ships nearby, Number One?” He asked.
Shaking his head, Duncan reported a clear no. “We’re the only ones here. Long range sensors are still monitoring the Kraylor ships from before, but they appear to be keeping to themselves and extremely far away from us. Tomaz is going to brief us on other nearby species we should be aware of later this afternoon, but he’s already said the list isn’t long and it’s not truly inspiring.”
Chuckling at the Barzan’s repertoire of descriptive words for a report, McCallister knew his chief strategic operations officer preferred to be meeting other new species. He and only a few others may find themselves a bit lost as to what to do while the ship explored the cluster. Everyone else though would be super busy. “Good, it’d be nice to get back to basics and do some exploring without anyone looking over our shoulder or us having to worry that we might be attacked.” McCallister said as he sat down and Commander Duncan followed in the same action a few seconds afterwards. He leant in to his right-hand man, “any sign of what Starfleet wants us to look out for?”
Since their senior staff meeting over a week ago, Max and everyone else had been surprised by the captain’s announcement of Starfleet’s latest orders. They were to investigate any leads they had on the Tkon Empire. It was a stretch for them admittedly, especially this far out in the Delta Quadrant, but who knew? They were the closest Starfleet ship to the border of Delta and Beta Quadrants. They could find something, especially as the Tkon were so advanced and were known to have mainly occupied large areas of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants.
“Nothing yet, sir.” The new first officer answered. “However, from what I’ve read about them, it wouldn’t surprise me if this cluster was built by them. It almost appears too artificial from long range sensors. Plus knowing our luck, it will turn out to be one of their lost home worlds.”
“Care to place a wager on that, Max?” McCallister asked quietly. “As I’m pretty certain Admiral Beckett back home would appreciate your insights too. Name your price!”
Smirking at the captain’s playful sarcastic nature, the commander nodded. “If I’m right, I get to find a decent vacation spot on that planet and be left alone for two days.”
“Deal, but if you’re wrong then you have to endure joining me taking my sons on a camping trip.” McCallister countered with. “Karyn is desperate to get them off the ship, as much as I am. I’m sure her hints also include her wanting some alone time.” He paused for a second and considered an idea that entered his train of thought. “Actually Number One, that planet may provide the crew with some decent short R and R. I can’t see why enjoying ourselves would be such a bad idea”
“I’ll look into it, sir.” Max said and then looked at his captain. “And by the way that’s a deal, either way taking a break may do us all some good.” Shaking their hands on it, the Odyssey continued on its journey towards the uninhabited planet for a closer look.