((Main Hall, Atlas Base))
With the boxes laid out upon the small table near the podium, and with the conversations Shayne had engaged in at least partly placed on hold, Shayne finally took the stage, and proceeded to clear his throat. The muffled sound was amplified throughout the room, and the attention quickly turned toward the commander as officers found seats in front of the stage. Shayne waited patiently for a moment, and then began.
Shayne: Welcome, all- I am pleased to see each of you.
He’d fought himself on whether to indulge in prepared remarks, or to simply wing it. In the end, he’d decided upon a topic list, and nothing more, leaving him to speak from the heart in the moment.
Shayne: Before we begin the proceedings this evening, I feel it is important to recognize the absences that have been left in our ranks.
He swallowed hard, and continued, determined to stay clear-eyed and level-headed.
Shayne: In the course of the events that brought us to Atlas Base, Crewman Gonzalez was killed by a malevolent being of great power.
He’d never had trouble writing before. Writing that matched his high standards was harder to bring to bear on a whim, but he wasn’t even seeking a good speech in the moment. He just… wasn’t sure what to say.
Shayne: I could tell you about his family and his career, about his training and ambitions. I could read you letters of commendation. But those things are anecdotes. They’re convenient ways of avoiding the fact that most of us never got the chance to meet Crewman Gonzalez.
He paused again, unsure if it was for effect or simply the need to stop.
Shayne: If you like, feel free to look up his public file. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with his achievements. But we will not do that for the moment. For this moment, accept the vacuum, the darkness. The chances that never were. Recognize what was lost, so that we may all recognize what we have now.
He took a long moment to gaze at each of his crew members in the eye, scanning the room silently from one end to the other. If it had been a larger crew, it would have taken whole minutes. As it was, he was able to continue without much delay.
Shayne: I’m afraid I also have some… alarming news. Most of you are well aware of the events leading to our current situation. What we encountered was but a part of the whole. As we speak, the Sheliak Corporate is continuing its push into adjacent star systems. Federation space is not being violated, but other worlds are less fortunate.
He couldn’t imagine anyone telling him what he was about to tell his crew. They didn’t deserve this. But they did deserve the truth.
Shayne: Starfleet Command has begun, and is continuing, negotiations with the Corporate in order to stop their push into occupied territories, and to permit unrestricted transport between previously unclaimed space. As it stands now, however, Theta 122 is surrounded on all sides by Sheliak forces. A buffer zone of ten light years around Theta 122 has been put in place, and the Sheliak have agreed to not attack any ship within it. Moving out of it, however, places any vessel currently in the vicinity of Theta 122 in jeopardy.
He allowed the information to settle in, for any that might not have been privy to it.
Shayne: Starfleet Command has assessed the situation, and they’ve determined the following; if hostilities were to break out between the Federation and the Corporate, the Federation would almost certainly prevail. But the cost in lives would be well into the millions, and could forever alter this quadrant. Therefore, in accordance with my purview as Arrow’s commanding officer, and at the suggestion of Starfleet Command, I volunteered Arrow and her crew to stay in the vicinity of Theta 122 until a peaceful solution to this crisis can be found. Our goals will be to assist any ship we can in accordance with general orders, facilitate diplomacy, and protect the ships and people within the safe harbor of Theta 122 from whatever threats we can mitigate.
He paused until the understandable murmuring died down somewhat.
Shayne: This is not the information I wanted to tell you. This is not the mission I thought we’d be tasked with. But it is, and we must each of us work to accomplish it to the best of our abilities. If you have any questions, please submit them to your department leader, the first officer, or myself. We will do our best to answer.
No amount of good news would be able to retract what he’d said, but it was needed now more than ever. Fortunately for Shayne, and the crew, there was much of it to appreciate.
Shayne: And yet, we prevail.
Shayne addressed the first boxes to his left, and picked up the small stack, already familiar with the weight and size.
Shayne: As Arrow is the first Starfleet vessel to spend any appreciable amount of time in this region, I’m delighted to award all hands with the Explorer’s Ribbon.
Generally, the blue and gold ribbon, adorned with a large “E”, was among the first ribbons a new officer would earn. Shayne’s “E” was covered in a silver star, denoting five previous presentations of the ribbon.
Shayne: In keeping with the bluish palette, I’m pleased to award all hands the Legacy Ribbon.
Arrow was by no means a young ship, but that made her survival, spirit and history all the more impressive and inspiring. Shayne put aside the boxes, which would be appropriately distributed in the aftermath of the ceremony, and turned his attention to a number of smaller, somewhat more ornate items.
Shayne: Ensigns R’Ariel, Wilde, Nakada and DeBarres, please step forward.
Shayne waited a moment for the four officers to step unto the stage. Shayne’s eyes were stern, cold. Uncompromising. Liam Frost would be proud.
Shayne: Ensign R’Ariel, your swift actions and selflessness prevented further harm from coming to any member of this crew during and after the Sheliak’s telepathic assault. For your immediate courage, I am pleased to present unto you the Silver Lifesaving Ribbon.
It was at this point that Shayne would have softened his features and extended his congratulations, but there was still more to announce. As such, the unfriendly gaze held for a little longer.
Suddenly, Shayne’s eyes went wide, and he scowled darkly. Moving in slightly closer to R’Ariel, he took on the tone of an indignant instructor.
Shayne: What have we here? Counselor, I dare say you are out of uniform! Truly shocking.
Shayne reached for a nearby box and pulled it into his grip.
Shayne: Then again, I suppose that I can’t blame you for this situation, seeing as the rest of your uniform has yet to be presented.
Shayne opened the box. Within it was a single black pip with a gold border, visually identical to the one Shayne had been given all those years ago, when Captain Liam Frost took him to task for his own uniform “violations”. How the wheel turns. With careful movements, he moved to affix the dark pip to the counselor’s collar.
Shayne: Congratulations, Lieutenant Junior Grade R’Ariel.
The commander extended a hand to the counseling officer, allowing the warmth he felt to display in his newly softened expression.
Shayne moved quickly so as to avoid a premature round of applause, snatching up three more boxes and addressing the remaining ensigns with a renewed icy disposition.
Shayne: Mr. Wilde, your first day on the job was an education in chaos theory. Even my first day was not that chaotic, and I… Well, that’s a story for a different time. The point is, Mr. Wilde, that you showed conspicuous gallantry in the face of overwhelming circumstances, and as such, I am pleased to present to you the Good Conduct Ribbon.
Shayne opened the box for Wilde, but didn’t stop there.
Already, the commander had brought about another box.
Shayne: Hmm. I see Lieutenant R’Ariel is not alone- you, too, appear to be slightly lacking in terms of uniform compliance, Mr. Wilde. Let’s see what we can do to fix that.
The second box was quickly opened, and the pip was quickly attached, finishing off with a solid handshake.
Shayne: Congratulations, Lieutenant Junior Grade Wilde.
The desire to applaud was building in the surrounding officers- he could feel it in himself as well. But Shayne forced himself to permit no respite as he moved to the third officer in the line.
Shayne: Mr. Nakada, as a former chief engineer, I know just enough to know how much I don’t. So long as there are engineers as innovative as yourself amidst our ranks, I should never fear for the state of my ship, and nor should anyone else. For exceptional inventiveness in the pursuit of avoiding further damage to your ship and crew, I am pleased to award you with the Innovation Ribbon.
As the bit was getting just a bit stale, Shayne restrained himself to a simple inspection of Nakada’s collar and a subtle “tsk tsk” sound before smiling subtly and cracking open another box, containing the engineer’s newest pip, which he then fitted onto the ensign’s neck carefully.
Shayne: Congratulations, Lieutenant Junior Grade Nakada.
Now Shayne had to hold up a hand to dissuade his crew, though he too was grinning with them. There was yet another person on the stage who required his attention.
Shayne: Ensign DeBarres, your work at Ops was instrumental in allowing us to survive the crises we experienced- so instrumental that I’m willing to supply you what you need to fix that uniform of yours.
The fourth and final hollow pip box was opened, and presented to DeBarres with a momentary fumbling about the collar.
Shayne: Congratulations, newest lieutenants of the Federation Starship Arrow!
With that, Shayne began ramming his hands together in a forceful round of applause, one that was joined almost immediately by the surrounding crowds as the four ens- lieutenants exited the stage. Shayne waited until the sound died down, and then, now feeling a certain livening of spirits, adopted a mischievous grin.
Shayne: But wait! There’s more…
Commander Randal Shayne