((Room 04-3417 – G’var/Ukinix quarters, USS Veritas))
Standing in the mirror with only a towel wrapped around his waist, Wil rubbed his fingers over his jawline to ensure his skin was completely smooth after shaving. As he observed the deep blue eyes that were staring back it him, he came to a realisation.
((Flashback - Terra Tanunda Vineyard, Barossa Valley, Australia, Earth – Stardate 237312.10))
Little Wil was sitting on his grandfather’s lap, shielded from the hot dry sun under the back veranda of the refurbished estate cottage.
Astrad: So, young Wil, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Ukinix: Ummmm… Starfleet occifer. In space!
Astrad dropped his jaw and smiled in pretend shock, while tickling Wil’s chest.
Astrad: (Giggling) In Space, just like Mummy was! (Cheekily) Are you sure?
Wil clasped his little hands together, and looked up at the veranda roof, before nodding and looking at his grandfather’s perfectly black irises again.
Ukinix: (Excitedly) Yeah!
His grandmother who was sitting nearby sipping a glass of cold Adelaide Hills Pinot Gris spoke up.
Hayley: But Wil, it might get dangerous in space! (Teasingly) What if you fall out of a starship?
He clasped his hands together again and turned his head to look at Hayley.
Ukinix: Buuuuuuuut, naaaah, but, it’s OK, cos, cos, you might have to wear a special suit, a viralmental suit, and (shrugging) it means you can do breaving! So you can do breaving, OK?! Mummy said that’s what occifers on a starship do, OK Grandma?
Hayley: I’d be worried about you, Wil! You’re my grandson, I want you to be safe.
Ukinix: (Hand on cheeks, half laughing) Grandmaaaaaaa, I’ll be safe in my viralmental suit!
She leaned forward and tickled him under his chin, which made him move his head down and lean back to avoid her hand.
Hayley: You’d better be, Master Ukinix!
Wil squirmed on his grandfather’s lap, giggling and squealing in delight.
He watched himself smile in the mirror at the fleeting memory of that moment. He was now a lieutenant, and becoming an experienced Starfleet officer. The one thing he had set out to do from a young age had actually *happened*. He had overcome the huge speed bump of becoming strongly empathic in his teenage years which had threatened to derail that goal. And there he was, staring back at himself on a starship, that contained a full crew, some of which he considered his good and close friends. One of which who, despite being in many ways the opposite of him, shared quarters with him. And he adored her immensely.
As he moved back into the bedroom to get dressed for the day, he realised he’d been through a hell of a lot since he joined the Veritas. So had many of the crew, which meant he wasn’t alone.
Ukinix: (Under his breath, singing) Dun-dun-dun dun-dun-duuuuun… dun-dun-duuuuun… dun-dun-duuuuun…
After getting dressed, he picked up his combadge, and breathed on it before giving it a polish against his gold uniform. He placed it on his chest, then lifted it up slightly to inspect it. As big smile came to his face.
Ukinix: (Quietly, smiling) I bloody did it.
Every day brought new challenges and new opportunities to smile. Even on the “bad” days, deep down he knew he loved being part of Starfleet. And being part of the Veritas was the huge layer of chocolate icing on top of the already impressive rich chocolate cake.
As he left his quarters and entered the corridor, his smile got bigger as he made his way down a corridor towards the turbo lift entrance on Deck 4, still singing very quietly to himself.
Ukinix: (Under his breath, singing) Dun-dun-dun dun-dun-duuuuun… dun-dun-duuuuun… (interrupting himself)- wait
Before a few seconds later back tracking, and then turning the other way instead, towards the turbo lift entrance on Deck 4….
Ukinix: (Under his breath, singing) dun-dun-duuuuun… (inhaling) Dun-dun-dun dun-dun-duuuuun… dun-dun - (interrupting himself, looking back)- hang on.
…only to stop himself, gently slap his forehead, and back track *again* to turn back the way he was originally going towards the turbo lift.
((Main Engineering, USS Veritas, about an hour later))
The “ear worm” that he had given himself several hours earlier while he was getting dressed wouldn’t go away. Not that he minded, it was a song from his collection that he liked fondly. The lyrics were depressing, and he thought reflective of a time on Earth that, by all accounts, wasn’t great. There were even some dark were times in his life when he identified with elements of the song. Thankfully not anymore - he even felt a little guilty for even still liking it.
But damn, the tune was good. And the classical string instruments made for a catchy intro riff. Which he kept repeating quietly over and over as he stood at the impulse monitoring board.
Ukinix: (Under his breath, singing) Dun-dun-dun dun-dun-duuuuun… dun-dun-duuuuun… dun-dun-duuuuun…
In fact, the riff was so good he reached for his nearby PADD, and made a few taps to access his personal files. After a few more taps music started playing quietly out of the device’s crystal-clear speakers, enough for him to hear it but not enough to distract everyone else.
As the beat started, he tapped his hands on the board in front of him in perfect time as he monitored the impulse engine’s diagnostic readouts.
PADD: // ‘Cause it’s-a bitter-sweeet… sym-pho-nyy-yy, that’s liiii-hiiife… //
A smile came to his face as his friend and Chief, Lieutenant Geoffrey Teller, entered main engineering and gave him a nod. When Wil realised Teller was possibly heading towards him, he reached up to the PADD and tapped it to stop the playing song.
But instead of walking towards him, Geoffrey simply gestured with his head in the direction of the office while still walking. Wil got the message, and left the monitoring board to walk behind him, following him inside. As the doors closed behind him, his Chief hurriedly sat down at his desk, working his fingers at the console that was mounted there, while somehow also managing to gesture for Wil to sit down.
Wil could strongly feel Geoff’s sense of urgency, as he seemed to be flicking between different screens on the LCARS display.
Teller: Sorry Wil, just a minute, need to do this before we talk. I promise it's important.
Ukinix: No worries.
Wil placed his elbow on the desk, then rested his chin on his palm. He looked up at the small shelf on the wall behind Geoffrey, and the unsealed bottles of Romulan Kali-fal sitting on it. The brightness of the blue liquid inside was mesmerising.
Teller: Well, that's done...but now I'm in the wrong chair.
Wil eyes darted back to look at Geoffrey, who leaned forward to rest against his side of the desk. There was a small smile on his Chief’s face, which made Wil furrow his brow.
Teller: Wil, you know you have my complete trust, right?
Ukinix: (Quizzically, confused)…. Yyyyyyeah… where is this going….
Teller: Good. Do you know that every man and woman in this department respects the hell out of you, both as an officer, and as a colleague?
Wil’s face brightened as a smile came to his face.
Ukinix: Ah! That’s because (raising finger) I slip them latinum every now and then.
When his Chief ignored his joke and just kept looking at him, Wil furrowed his brow, this time squinting his eyes. He still didn’t know where the conversation was going. He rested his chin on his fist.
Teller: Well, they do. A lot. They know you're fun to work with when things are calm, and a rock solid professional when things have gone pear shaped. They trust you. You're going to find that valuable.
Ukinix: Thank you. (Smiling, sitting up) Sorry I didn’t realise it was performance review day. That’s valuable information for when the time comes-
Teller: When you're leading them. Which starts the minute those doors ::Teller nodded towards the closed office doors:: open. As of about 15 seconds ago, you're acting Chief Engineer of the Veritas.
Ukinix: You what?
Wil’s face turned to one of concern.
Ukinix: Wait, are you OK? Chief, you’re my friend, is something going on?
Teller: Don't go getting all sappy on me, this is just temporary. Commander Delano asked me to join him for a few weeks at the shipyards here, working on some new ship that's still mostly in the transport crates. Apparently everything that's gone on lately has impacted productivity at the Livernois Shipyards....who could've guessed?
He swivelled in his seat, and looked at the adjacent wall with a neutral expression, apart from his widened eyes. What Geoffrey had said had half sunk in, but so had the shock.
Teller: Look, I know it's a lot to take in. When I got promoted to the acting Chief role, I was still an Ensign. You had barely been off the shuttle five minutes and we had just finished getting shot at by a bunch of grouchy windchimes. I had no idea what I was doing, but between you and I, we've forged a hell of a department in the last year.
He nodded slowly in agreement, looking at a lower part of the wall he was staring at.
Ukinix: (Quietly) We have.
Slowly, a smile formed on Wil’s face, before he swivelled back to look at Teller, and stood up.
Ukinix: (Nodding) Yes, we have!
Teller: More than that, Wil. You're my best friend, and there's nobody in the galaxy who I hold in higher regard. You're ready for this. You have been for a long time. Congratulations, Chief Ukinix. ::Teller stood and offered his friend a hearty handshake which quickly turned into a fierce hug::
Wil put his hand in Geoffrey’s and shook it vigorously, before he found himself wrapping his other arm around him, giving him several firm slaps on his back.
Ukinix: (Muffled) Mate, thank you, I don’t know what to say! (Cheekily) Except that I promise not to blow anything up… And I consider you my best mate too.
Teller: Alright, alright. ::Teller turned away and surreptitiously wiped at his eyes.::
A beaming Wil took a step back to pat Geoffrey’s shoulder, while shaking his head in disbelief at two pieces of news that he didn’t expect. He was now the acting Chief Engineer of a Starfleet Starship, and his Chief considered him his best mate. Wil wasn’t always great with words, and there were times he wished he could project his emotions on to others, so they knew how he felt. This was one of those times.
Ukinix: (Still patting Goeffrey’s shoulder) You’re a legend, Chief. (Chuckling) Wow, this came out of the blue.
There was a moment of happy silence between the two.
Teller: Well, back to business - Skipper told the XO that he'll have pick of the litter if we end up needing more staff, so I may have to poach a few people from you for a few weeks, but I won't know who till I get there. I'll keep it to a bare minimum.
Ukinix: (Playfully rolling eyes) Chief, they’re your people, I’m just minding them. You take who you need, we’ve got things covered here. (Lifting finger, smiling) Except for Char, she’s awesome. She stays.
Teller: Other than that, you know the shop status as well as I do, so there's no sense going over that. As for standing orders - Take care of the crew, take care of the ship, and take care of yourself. In that order. Beyond that - it's your department to run, Chief - enjoy yourself. I know I have.
Wil stood up straight, and placed his hands behind his back, giving Geoffrey a nod.
Ukinix: Aye sir. Good luck, mate.
Turning his head to watch his Chief leave, Wil looked around the office before he almost jumped as the doors shut. He looked out of the window and watched the crewmembers of the engineering department diligently working away, blissfully unaware of the temporary personnel change that had just happened.
The gravity of what he had just been told sunk in. He placed his hand over his mouth, and felt a wave of excitement and fear roll over his body. He slowly let out a breath through his lips, before adrenalin coursed through his veins.
Ukinix: (Quietly) Oh boy.
He leaned forward and placed his hands on his knees, to regain his composure. He was now a department head. Even if it was only temporary, he was now charged with a responsibility he didn’t think he’d have for a long time.
Ukinix: oO Am I ready? Oo
His thought was broken by a voice over the office’s speakers.
Phan'ta'Go: =/\= Hello Lieutenant Ukinix? =/\=
Wil closed his eyes, and exhaled through his nose, before tapping his combadge.
Ukinix: =/\= Yes, Crewman, can I help you? =/\=
Phan'ta'Go: =/\= Not really, I’ve got some information for you. =/\=
Ukinix: =/\= (Sigh) OK… =/\=
Phan'ta'Go: =/\= Can you hear me? =/\=
Wil stood up straight, and placed his hands on his hips.
Ukinix: =/\= Yes, C’lem, actually I can hear you, and in fact, looking out the window of the Chief’s office, I can even see you a few metres away across the other side of engineering, looking at a console! =/\=
Without turning to look back at Wil, C’lem continued speaking.
Phan'ta'Go: =/\= Well that’s good, because there’s been a personnel change. Apparently, you’re now Acting Chief Engineer of the (console beeping sounds)… USS Veritas. =/\=
Ukinix: =/\= Funny that. Chief Teller just told me about a minute ago. =/\=
Phan'ta'Go: =/\= Do you mean Lieutenant Commander Geoffrey Teller, First Officer aboard the USS Diligent? How could he have told you. =/\=
Wil closed his eyes and placed his hands on his temples, before smiling.
There was nothing bitter about this moment. It was just “sweet”.
Lieutenant Wil Ukinix
Acting Chief Engineer