A Pleasant Surprise
Episode 0: Maiden Voyage
Location: Upper Hangar Walkway, Deimos Station
Timeline: Sometime prior to Deck 6, Room 115a
Celebrations were underway for what remained of the Project Defiant team. The refit had concluded that morning with each of the Senior Engineers submitting their final reports, Niamh had represented the modular development team for the past couple of years and just like that they had finished. The following morning the USS Defiant, NCC-1764 was scheduled to leave the Diemos facility to join what had been constructed thus far of Arcadia Station. With that considered Command had deemed it appropriate for a small party to be held within the hangar that housed the now complete vessel. Given the mood, it was no surprise that the lower level platforms as their location for the party. From their position, the edge of the vessel's saucer section was a couple of hundred feet above the group.
It had been a couple of hours since the party started. The Engineers had hit the refreshments hard, and other than the few who escape for something more relaxed, most of the Engineering team was still present; at least the ones who hadn't left throughout the project. High above the scene of merriment one of the Senior Engineers had squirrelled themselves away to the outer track of upper hangar walkways. From this position, Lt Commander Niamh O'Donoghue had been granted a breathtaking view of the Defiant's saucer section. When she looked down, she could see the enormous, yet precisely painted, name and registry of the ship. She knew every nook and cranny of the Defiant, and despite that, she regularly forgot just how large the vessel was. Each letter could have landed a transport shuttle on them and still have had space to be discernable. However, Niamh's attention was elsewhere.
Directly ahead of her, barely more than a bright white rectangle with a slight red hue emitting from the lower half, was the Defiant's viewscreen. The Senior Engineer had been fixated on the area for the better part of an hour. It hadn't taken long for some of the younger engineers to get a bit too merry for Niamh's comfort, soon after which she made her escape. She knew only a select few people would find her up here, plus almost everyone would check the Defiant first. As she reflected on the work she had completed over the last few years, she couldn't but wonder who would be taking care of the Defiant's maintenance? Who would be responsible for any on the fly reconfigurations?
That hadn't entirely been her job before, nor had she anticipated wanting it at the start of her journey. Originally she had hoped that her time with research and design would have more permanence. That stuck for a long time, but the more time she spent working on the Defiant, the more attached she became. A knot of feelings only exacerbated each time a silhouette passed the distant viewscreen. She wondered if the shadows were as eager to get underway as she would have been?
With a sigh, she pulled herself out of her pity party.
An easy smile crept on the Irish woman's face once she realised who it was approaching her. Admiral Gavin had been her sponsor throughout her time with the Defiant project. Their contact had been limited, but Niamh had grown to appreciate the flag officers wisdom. "Admiral," Niamh said once Gavin was close enough, snapping sharply to attention respectfully.
"Commander," Gavin replied, "Perhaps you should relax a little, looks like you are about to strain something," he added with a brief smile as he joined her.
"I'm sure I'll be fine, Admiral" Niamh replied with a smile of her own, "I was just thinking about the Defiant and her future. It feels strange to be handing over to strangers after so many years working on her," Niamh explained her demeanour with a nod of her head towards the hulking ship below them. "But, that's the job," she said before clearing her throat, "what can I do for you, Sir?"
"Let's take a walk, shall we?" The older man said, sweeping his arm around and indicating that she should precede him out of the hangar bay. "I'd rather it just be us, and the corridors are deserted," he added as they started to walk.
"Of course, Admiral" Niamh accepted as she moved to meet Gavin and match his pace. Deimos Station was essentially an enclosed drydock with the Defiant nestled within the centre. Depending on which zone you were in there were either 32 or 5 decks. To the left and right of the Defiant where the two walls that housed Decks 1-32 A & C. Above and below the Defiant where decks 1-2 B and 4-5 B respectively. Technically Defiant's area was Deck 3-30 A & C or Deck 3 B depending on your location. It took some time to learn the station orientation.
Exiting through the first door, Niamh and the Admiral entered onto Deck 3 A. Unlike the Defiant, the station was mostly bare aesthetically. Looking more like a frame than a product of federation design. Thanks to the conclusion of the project, everyone who'd worked here was currently occupying the lower walkways of the main hangar with the rest of the party-goers.
"So, what's wrong Admiral?" Niamh finally asked as they passed the Replication Sciences suite.
Admiral Gavin continued walking, hand clasped behind his back, and looked sideways at Niamh, "Hmm...," he said, and then, his face becoming animated he chuckled, "There's nothing wrong, my dear. You worry too much," he added as if he were speaking to a grandchild. Funny thing, that. She was probably younger than his own granddaughter, if he was fully honest, so that wasn't far off at all.
As they continued their stroll he gave a few more moments, letting her stew, and then added. "So, what have you been thinking for the future of your career?" he asked.
The engineer stopped in her tracks. She'd honestly expected to get another R&D assignment, all things considered. She'd worked well for the last three years, this seemed like an ideal place for the fleet to have her grow roots. "Honestly, sir, I haven't" the engineer admitted with a slight frown, "I figured that since this one had been selected for me and it worked out well you or R&D would find something for me; failing that I'd likely grab the nearest cruiser" she shared, feeling slightly embarrassed. She imagined her lack of preparation wasn't exactly inspiring for the Admiral.
"Why?" she asked curiously, nodding politely at a passing Ensign who's she could never quite recall but had seen her often enough over the years.
Gavin nodded and slowed as they approached a massive viewport that looked out over the cavernous bays that housed the ship's currently being worked on. Leaning forward on the conveniently placed rail that ran the length of it, he smiled faintly. "They are so beautiful, aren't they?" he asked, more rhetorically than in any expectation of getting an answer. "They just inspire a sense of adventure and exploration, no matter what they are really designed for..." he added.
Then, coming back to the present moment he chuckled. "Sorry, I got a little maudlin there, didn't I. I asked because your name came up in a meeting yesterday. A pretty important meeting, actually."
"Positively, I hope?" Niamh replied with a questioning look.
"Would you have reason to believe otherwise?" Gavin asked, looking at her sideways, eyes squinted slightly in mock suspicion.
"Not really, It was just an unexpected revelation, sir" Niamh replied honestly.
Gavin looked at her, smiling his grandfathered smile as always. She was a refreshingly honest woman. She didn't much care to toe the line and do what it took to ingratiate herself. She liked her work, and that's what she took pride in. At least that's the impression he had always gotten out of her. Leaning back on the railing he chuckled.
"As a matter of fact, it was positive," he said, smiling at her and glancing out of the corner of his eye, "you are about to get a wish you may not have realized you even had, but maybe not in exactly the way you were expecting. I'll expect you to be ready to ship out aboard the Defiant within the next few days. You won't be leaving the project behind after all. In fact, you'll be getting a little bit better acquainted than you'd have imagined unless I miss my bet. How's an ex oh spot, and run of the engineering division aboard her sound?"
Niamh's face dropped for a moment as she processed, uncertain how to feel. This hadn't been expected, not by a long shot. It wasn't so much the Chief Engineer aspect she struggled with though, rather it was the opportunity for command. Despite her role within the project Niamh had never really been put into a position of power such as XO, it felt like a huge promotion, "First Officer? Are you sure, sir?" the Irishwoman asked shakily.
"Wouldn't be here if I weren't," Gavin replied. "I think you'll do a fine job, and I think it will be a good experience for you as well."
Niamh's hand came to her chest as she swallowed deep, a physical manifestation of her processing the surprise. She'd be staying with Defiant. As that sunk in a broad smile filled her face and tears threatened to spill from her eyes. "Thank you, sir. I'll give it everything I got" she promised her voice thick as she tried to hold back the intense emotions she was feeling. After a quick survey of their surroundings to make sure they were alone Niamh launched herself at Gavin. "Thank you very much" she muttered as she gave him a tight hug, withdrawing just as quickly, her expression a hint embarrassed, it wasn't typical behaviour.
Gavin chuckled, patting the woman on the back while she hugged him and then beaming at her when she stepped back looking embarrassed. "It's been a while since I got a hug like that," He said, shaking his head. "Not since my granddaughter Abigail went off to college a few years back." He was glad to see how happy Niamh was. She was a wonderful officer, and he was excited to see what she would accomplish in her new posting. He also knew it would help out Captain Reynolds to have someone so well-versed in the various systems they'd have put into the Defiant.
Patting her on the shoulder he smiled once more and then finished. "Well, I figure you'd probably like to get back to your celebration. I won't keep you. You'll receive formal orders sometime tomorrow, so be on the lookout. Have a good night, Commander."
"Of course, sir" Niamh replied, her tone formal, "Thank you for this, sir. I won't let you down" she promised, and she meant it. She fully intended to give the Defiant her everything, just like she had been doing for the past several years.