Cr. 01.12 – At 07:27hrs, Alyxx entered the Mess Hall and noted who was currently in residence, which happened to be most of the skeleton night shift crew along with the lounge manager one blue Bolian – Chell; he was in deep conversation with the ACEO Lt. Kenneth Dalby. Her green eyes rested briefly on everyone present as she made her way over to the laid breakfast table near the main view ports. As she sat down facing the main entrance, two very distinct males entered through those doors almost side by side; their expressions making her smile as they both made for her table.
“Good morning gentlemen. Please take a seat,” she greeting them, indicating the two vacant places laid out either side of her own placement. “Chell!”
“Ma’am! Coming right up,” he responded and left his mate and soon returned from his kitchen/galley with a tray loaded with three steaming meals. The first he placed in front of her announcing its contents with a flourish; the second he put in front of the new XO a Dutch based meal and the third of cornmeal toast with scrambled eggs in front of his former XO, along with a large pot of Talakrian tea.
“Thank you, Chell,” she acknowledged him, thus he smiled and left. “Well gentlemen, please eat,” she said, picking up her eating irons and tucking into her favourite Anza. “Eat or it’ll go cold,” she encouraged as they sat silent and hesitant, as if wondering why they were there. Alyxx hid her smile as Chakotay shrugged his shoulders and tucked into his meal; he knew from past experience she’d reveal her intentions soon enough and it did smell really good, his stomach rumbling in anticipation. The nervous looking XO hesitantly put a fork into his meal and found to his surprise it was a favourite of his and it tasted better than he could recall his Grandma’s version. He sensed his CO’s smile of approval and relaxed to enjoy the fare and the company.
“Well gentlemen, do I need to make introductions or have you already done so on your way here?” she asked once she’d finished her meal and eyed the pair over a fresh cup of tea. Both looked at her and then each other, but said nothing, which told her a lot. “I see. Silent ride?” Two heads nodded whilst they finished eating. Although he had started last Charles put down his knife and fork and sat back in his seat to regard her pensively and quietly accepted the cup of tea the tattooed male had poured for him.
“In that case, Professor Chakotay meet Cmdr. Charles Izaak Whyte.”
“Whyte!?” asked Chakotay trying not to choke on his tea.
“Yes, that’s me, Professor.”
“Please just Chakotay will do, Commander,” his tone dark.
“Fair enough. Have we met?”
“Not exactly,” he answered defensively, aware that all of the current Mess Hall patron’s were listening to their every word; as the quiet talk that had been buzzing earlier was now distinctly absent.
“Care to enlighten us?” Alyxx enquired, her tone almost intimating that perhaps she knew the reason or at the very least had an inkling of an idea. Her green eyes regarded her friend with polite innocence, yet he knew she could be anything but at times. “My Security Chief wasn’t very forthcoming. He said to ask you,” she informed him casually, shooting down the notion that she knew. Charles looked puzzled, whilst Chakotay muttered a few choice curses under his breath at one said SCO and possibly what he’d do to said person.
The soft look he received from the female at their table had him letting out a soft almost resigned sigh; he looked at his fellow officer and began with a soft question:
“You recall Valo?”
“As if I could forget,” Charles responded bitterly.
“My Maquis Raider was hiding nearby, so we saw what happened to you and your ship. If we could have warned you we would have.”
“Of course you couldn’t do that,” his tone still bitter.
“It wasn’t that we didn’t want to, it’s that we had no choice. Our communications system was down, although there had been nothing wrong with it up to that point. Then other systems malfunctioned or shorted out as if someone didn’t want us to get involved. That someone turned out to be a Cardassian spy of the top order disguised as a Bajoran. Something we didn’t discover until we were in the Delta Quadrant.”
“Seska?!” queried Alyxx quietly.
“Yes,” he agreed. “We also wanted to present evidence at your Court Martial, but we’d have been arrested ourselves even before we’d reached Earth and as for our evidence – who knows what would have happened to that,” pausing as his thoughts turned inwards; he then looked directly at Charles. “You took the only course of action open to you with the minim loss of life, Commander and a wise one at that. Alright you had to give over yourself and your ship, but at least the crew were safe,” pausing again to gather his thoughts once more. “I read the transcript of your trial, once you’d been handed back by the Cardassians; your XO was of no help to you and he had the backing of the whole crew or at least those that mattered, you didn’t. You dealt with the situation the way you’d been trained to, Charles. There’s no shame in that,” he said with firm quiet conviction.
“Even Starfleet is finally admitting that, also, Charles.”
“You were led into that Cardassian trap and there was not a thing any of us could do about it, except hope and pray that you’d make it.”
“Captain, Commander,” spoke a new voice respectfully. “May say something, Ma’am?” Kenneth Dalby asked the owner of the new voice having moved closer to their table. Alyxx quietly nodded as did his former Commander and Captain. “When we discovered Seska’s true identity what had happened aboard our ship that day made a lot more sense than it did at the time – the malfunctions of key systems, scanners not working properly, etc. Every time we came up with a new way to warn you it would sudden develop a fault, or go off-line or short out. It drove poor B’Elanna mad,” grinning softly at the recalled image of the half-Klingon’s temper. “We did manage to record what transpired and even downloaded it to the computer systems of Starbase 310. You’re a good officer Cmdr. Whyte and we’re more than happy to serve with you, Sir.”
“Thank you, Dalby,” Chakotay acknowledged softly. “We believe it was Seska who sent your co-ordinates to the Cardassians but we can’t verify that as our ship’s logs were lost when our vessel was destroyed in the Delta Quadrant.”
“Charles, what this crew is trying to tell you, myself included; is that you’ve been given a second chance here with no bad past to hinder you,” Alyxx added having been watching his face carefully as it morphed through different emotions as he’d listened to the words and explanations offered of that fateful day near the DMZ. “I read that report and the trial notes, also. Many feel that you were unjustly punished for something that was beyond your control. You have done nothing to be ashamed of, Charles,” she smiled, whilst he took a moment to take in her words. “I think the Rogue’s crew would agree,” her smile widening, noting that the man before her relaxed a little. She also noted Chakotay relaxing as if he thought he’d been let off the hook so to speak, but her next words were to disappoint him. “Right that’s one problem out of the way,” her tone telling both men that there was something else on her mind. “Now then, Professor,” stressing the title. “Like to explain why you dislike that ranked title?” she queried mildly. The tattooed male looked anywhere but at her. “I expect all in my crew to respect each other’s positions aboard this vessel and they can only do that if the ranked person respects their own.” What she’d said was a fair comment, even Charles Whyte looked expectantly at him.
“Er… teased?” he asked as if speaking from experience which following his Court Martial he might have well have been, Chakotay thought.
“In a manner of speaking,” he reluctantly agreed, heaving a deep sigh.
“Students? Peers?” she asked after a moments silence on his part.
“Superiors?” Whyte added.
“No. If it had been, maybe it wouldn’t have been too bad,” he admitted quietly, looking at Alyxx and her knowing green eyes. “They weren’t my ranked peers, but my higher ranked peers.”
“Persons who should have known better. Ouch!” noted Charles quietly with understanding.
“You know what they say about bulling and teasing, Chakotay; in one ear and straight out the other. You are now going to have to un-lodge it from your brain – where it has obviously taken up residence and throw it out the other side, permanently,” she quipped, making him smile.
“Can I work on it, Captain?” he asked grinning.
“As long as you do, work on it, Professor/Captain!”
“Captain?” queried Whyte puzzled.
“Provisional ranking as I did command Voyager for a short while.”
“I see; and now?” feeling a little out of his depth as he still hadn’t managed to check the crew manifest yet.
“Head of the Aston Labs, science deck under Chief Science Officer Lt. Marks, Commander,” he informed politely, inclining his head towards Alyxx.
“Starfleet vetoed me from having him on my command team, but they said nothing about a civilian posting,” she acknowledged feeling a little rebellious over the matter.
Charles Whyte looked from his new captain to the older tattooed male and wondered:
a – What he’d let himself in for in accepting this posting – not that he had much say in the matter – new orders. b – What was the history between these two people, and c – he wondered if he’d ever find out, but it might prove for an interesting tour of duty here in The Reach.