| Southern Glory
Alternate Universe (Star Trek - Little Ezra)
Captain Natalie Scott needed to get her mind back to the present and checked the manifest one more time trying to find one person she could move around to do the odd jobs that kept popping up. She'd had a good basic crew of thirty and hired on twenty more, that twenty seemed to change after each run. Deckhands were the nomads of space, shipping out on whatever vessel that was going in the same direction as their wanderlust. For the most part they were good hard working people from nearly every space going race with a hankering to see what was out beyond the next star. They were too independent a group to joint Starfleet with all its rules and regulations. But each had the same desire to see all the new and wonderful worlds out there.
The Southern Glory when fully manned had a general crew of fifty and six officers. Scott expected each of them to be able and willing to step in and take over any and all duties that needed to be done, even the officers. Not that there were that many unexpected tasks, she ran a tight ship. Though lately there been a run of requests for assistance from unexpected sources.
Doctor Daniel Deforest, the ship's doctor had asked for help with counting his supplies and checking the ship's air and water filters. As the closest person able to cover the tasks of what a science officer did on a Federation Starship he also had the duties of analyzing anything they came across to decide if it was dangerous or safe to salvage. Doctor Deforest had asked for assistance in dealing with extra supplies that came with these duties too.
Even the ship's cook had asked for help as well. Not only for unskilled chores in the kitchen but in the hydroponics garden as well. While the crew enjoyed the fresh vegetables and herbs, no one wanted to help in the mundane job of maintaining the plants. Busing tables and loading dirty dishes in the washers wasn't a popular job either. The cook's helper was threatening to jump ship if he didn't get more help soon.
Neither of these jobs required full time assistance or were they duties that needed to be done each shift. There were more requests just like them coming in from other parts of the ship. A static noise reminded Captain Scott that she might need an extra body on the bridge. The communication system was acting up again, the static coming from it would mean getting someone to run messages between decks till it was fixed. The moans coming from the junior crew-persons on the bridge let Scott know errand running wasn't a popular task either.
Ezra had a harder time getting down from his hideout than he had getting into it. Managing the ladder one handed had been difficult, for his shoulder and arm were numb. It hurt when he tried to move them so he hung his arm close to his side as he slid down the ladder one rung at a time. Finally down, he made his way to Engineering and Maggie.
Chief Maggie McNally looked up when the talking around her in engineering stopped, turning around toward the door to see what had everyone's attention. Her eyes grew wide as she took in the sight before her. There stood the young boy Maggie befriended over a year ago when she first set eyes on Ezra P. Standish lost on the lower decks. But that child had been a cheerful boy, well groomed and polite. He'd apologized for bothering her and asked if she could direct him back to the deck with the living quarters on it. His ready smile and sparkling green eyes shining out from under a mop of chestnut curls had stolen her heart and unlocked nurturing feelings she never knew she was capable of. Maggie McNally was going to harm the person who caused Ezra to look so bedraggled and hurt as he stood in the doorway of Engineering.
The child looked as if he had slept in his clothes and they were filthy. Scared green eyes looked up from a pale too thin face that had a bruise darkening one cheek. Oh someone was going to pay for causing that, this Maggie swore to herself, as she dropped to her knees beside Ezra. It was then she noticed that he was holding his arm to his side and that his shoulder didn't seen quite right. When she raise her hand to touch him the boy flinched.
"Ezra listen to me, you are not a nuisance, you are not in anyone's way. I want you here, do you understand me?" Said McNally trying to reassure the child that it had been all right for him to come to her.
Ezra eyed the woman and saw the sincerity there, with a sob he fell into her arms and told her all about Ranney. Maggie sat Ezra in her lap and rocked him as he told her his story. When he had finished Maggie picked him up planning to carry him to sickbay. Jeff Cooper, the second best engineer on board stopped her.
"I'd like to be with you when you take care of this problem."
"Right now I want you to high tail it up to the bridge and tell the Captain I want her to meet me in sickbay. Than find that sorry son of a..." Maggie stopped herself from continuing upon thinking of the child in her arms. "Take Fenster, find and hold the problem till the Captain can deal with the matter." She started to leave but stopped. "Cooper, the problem doesn't have to be in perfect working order."
"Yes ma'am." Cooper acknowledged with a grin.
First Officer Matt Hunter spoke to Cooper who had just come up from engineering. Turning to the captain he said. "Captain, Chief McNally would like you to meet her in sickbay."
"Has she been hurt?" Scott had known McNally for a long time. First meeting the woman when Scott was fresh out of officer training. The seasoned engineer had taken the green ensign under her wing and helped her through the first year, keeping her from making the usual mistakes that green ensigns made. They had become friends and somehow managed to be assigned to the same ships since then. McNally was the one person Scott trusted never to steer her wrong. McNally had been by her side through the whole Champion mess.
"No ma'am, but there is a problem that she wishes to speak to you about."
Captain Scott studied her first officer. By the look on Matt's face he must have had some inkling of what was going on. Matt Hunter had been one of the rising stars in the freight line regiment of officers. A refusal to turn a blind eye toward questionable shipping practices had cost him his place as first officer. He had jumped at the chance to join Maude's and Natalie's crew of mavericks. Natalie often wondered why he stayed when time had diminished the memory of his indiscretion. If he chose to he could go back to the regular freight lines, though he would have to start over and work his way back up to his former first mate status. Sometime she must ask him why he stayed.
"Mister Hunter you're with me." Turning to the navigation officer she said. "Mister Johanson you have the bridge." As she headed for the turbolift Matt fell in step. When the doors closed she asked. "Alright what's going on?"
"A great deal as usual, which matters do you wish to discuss Captain?" he asked cheekily. Knowing he'd get it from McNally if she wasn't the one to apprise the Captain with the topic of the boy and a wise man never got on the bad side of his engineer.
Knowing when she was getting blindsided and why, Scott changed the subject.
"I've been meaning to ask why you're staying with the Glory. I know of Atwater's offer to take you on and reinstate you as an officer of the fleet." Atwater owned one of the smaller freight lines but it would open the door to getting back into favor with the other line owners.
"As a junior ensign in everything but duties. Atwater wanted me to run one of his ships as the First Officer but not give me the ratings that goes with the job or pay me scale to do it." Matt looked his Captain and smiled. "I got a better deal here and a better chance of getting my own ship to captain sooner."
"How did you come to that conclusion?" asked Natalie truly curious.
"Maude has made a name for herself out on the edge and is building a following of loyal customers. The other lines haven't bothered to establish a footing out here because they can't see the profit in it. But the Federation is growing and in the not too distant future parts of what is now the edge of inhabited space will be within their borders and Maude will have cornered the market."
"And this is going to get you a ship how?"
Matt Hunter smiled as he said. "When was the last time the Southern Glory went out with empty cargo bays? The way Maude's working we've got almost more jobs than we can handle and that means she's going to need another ship. I want to captain that ship with the same deal you got for the Glory."
"Are you sure Matt? Maude can be a major pain in the butt at times." Natalie told him thinking at the shouting matches the two women had had in the not too distant pass.
Matt shook his head. "You don't realize how much you're envied by the other captains in the line. You have freedom to run your ship your way, freedoms that they can only dream about. You also own part of the Southern Glory so you can't be threatened into losing her and if I'm not wrong your making more credits this way too."
Natalie Scott hadn't thought of that. She did have the last word in what went on with the ship. That was something the other captains of the fleet couldn't say about their commands. They were hired to run the ships and do what the owner dictated. It didn't matter if they agreed or not.
As part owner of the Glory (admittedly a small part) she got a percentage of the overall profits from each trip. Even after sinking most of her pay back into the ship she still had a small nest egg that could see her through any hard times ahead. It was much more than she would have had if she had stayed on the fleet's payroll. The door of the elevator opened and they stepped out and headed toward sickbay.
Scott walked into the sickbay and saw McNally and Deforest standing next to one of the beds, the sleeping figure on that bed surprised her. It was Maude's son Ezra, what had happened to the boy?
Scott walked over to the bed and looked down at the pale form lying there. "Doctor Deforest, how bad?"
"Shoulder dislocated, bruises and under weight, I'd bet the ship that he hasn't been eating regularly for a while. I gave him a mild sedative to help him sleep."
Natalie reached out and brushed the hair away from his eyes. He looked so helpless lying there. "How?" she demanded.
"More of a who, the tutor who came onboard the last stop." McNally told her.
Scott looked up at that. "Ranney, the station security cleared him, they verified his references."
"They must have lied or he fooled them as well. Either way Ezra has been terrorized and hurt by that monster." McNally told her Captain, her words heated.
Scott stared at her Engineer. "What else Maggie?"
"All the time the Doc was resetting his shoulder he was worried he was being a nuisance. Afraid he was going to make trouble for his Mother. Seems he overheard you two arguing, he latched on to the part where he wasn't your responsibility and not to get in the way. Took it to heart and hasn't complained about the people who were supposed to be taking care of him. Keeping himself amused and out of sight from all of us. I didn't realize things had gotten this bad till he came to me this morning." Maggie McNally looked her Captain in the eyes and sadly asked, "What kind of shipmates are we to let a child get hurt before we notice that something is wrong?"
"You're not the only one who's feeling guilty, I need to have a long talk with Maude. There's no need to hire tutors or nannies when there are enough capable people on board this ship who can help educate the boy and keep an eye on him when she's not on board." Scott looked at Matt and asked. "Where is this tutor?"
"I can answer that." spoke up Cooper. He had just come into the sickbay and had been waiting for a chance to report.
Cooper found four pair of eyes locked on to his. He was suddenly nervous with the ship's most senior officers waiting for him to speak.
"Uh we that is crewman Bob Fentster and I found Ranney stuck head first in the vent in the boy's room. Ezra must have used the ducts behind the vent to escape Ranney and when the moron tried to go in after the kid he got trapped. Found him passed out, stinking of booze. When we woke him up to ask him why he was in the vent he just started yelling for us to get him out."
"Where is he now?" asked the First Officer.
"Still in the duct, didn't think it our place to remove the bas the problem before the Captain got a chance to see for herself."
"Very good crewman, go back and keep an eye on the problem and I'll be there shortly." Captain Scott told Cooper.
Maggie McNally stepped to intercept Cooper by the door before he left. "How did you wake him up?" she asked softy so not to be over heard.
Equally as soft he answer her. "With a few good kicks to his ass."
With a pat on his back she smiled and told him. "Well done." Then rejoined the others at the child's bedside as Cooper left to carry out his Captain's orders.
"You know it was smart of him to use the ducts and conduits to avoid Ranney. Bet he'd been using them all along to explore the ship and not get caught." Said Matt. "Probably knows the insides of the ship better than we do."
Doctor Deforest added. "Be a shame to waste all that knowledge and energy by not putting it to use. I could use some of that energy here with logging in my supplies."
"I know there's a few minor jobs in engineering that could used a small helper that would free up a crewman for bigger jobs." Added Maggie.
"There's always a need for an errand runner when the intercom systems goes out." Put in Matt.
Scott was about to answer them when a sound from the bed brought all their attention back to the person in question. Ezra was waking up. He had heard his name and fought against the drug in his system to wake up. With a moan he opened his eyes and saw the four grownups staring down at him. He tried to get up and found he couldn't, as a cool hand caressed his forehead. He looked up into Captain Natalie Scott's brown eyes.
"Lie still Ezra, everything's all right now, you're safe," she told him.
Oh no, the Captain knew he was being a nuisance, he had to get up and prove he wasn't a bother. Ezra struggled to get up all the while apologizing. "Sorry sorry Cap...tain Nat sorry, didn't mean to be a nuisance, please don't be mad at Mother."
Captain Scott was shocked. Where had the child got the notion that he was responsible for his Mother and her arguments? She'd put a stop to that right now. She cupped his face with her hands and told him so.
"Ezra Standish you are not now or have you ever been a nuisance. In no way are you the reason your Mother and I argue."
Ezra looked at the Captain, not sure to believe her, "Ah'm not your responsibility, Ah'm not part of the crew." He said the last wishfully. He wished that things were different and he was part of Glory's crew, that he belonged to the ship in some way.
"An oversight that I'm going to correct as soon as you're stronger." Glancing up briefly at the other three by the bed she went on. "It has been brought to my attention that this ship is sailing without a cabin boy, a state of affairs that cannot be allowed to continue. As Captain of the Southern Glory I need a full complement of crew persons to operate the ship at maximum efficiency. Will you Mister Standish agree to take the post of cabin boy as soon as Doctor DeForest says you are fit for duties?"
Was he hearing the Captain right, he was going to be part of the crew? Just to be sure Ezra asked. "At what rate of reimbursement?"
This brought a laugh from the others. "You're your Mother's son alright." Smiled Natalie at the sleepy eyed boy, "If we can reach agreement will you take the position?"
"Yes ma'am, Captain Nat ma'am" a yawn stopped Ezra from answering the Captain with her full name. Now that he was part of the crew he felt safe, safe enough to go back to sleep. A sleep that would be, for the first time in a long while, one without worries.
The Captain of the Southern Glory walked into engineering to speak to her head of Engineering, Chief McNally. She wasn't surprised to find her cabin boy assisting a crewman refitting one of the control panels. What did surprise her was Ezra was conversing with the Trill crewman in his own language. She continued on to where Chief McNally had made her workstation.
"When did Ezra learn to speak Trill?" she asked the engineer as she stood just inside the cubical that was McNally's workspace.
"That boy's got an ear for languages." McNally told her with a smile, "Give him a few hours listening to a person and he picks it up. Been assigning him to different crew persons, they get a kick out of teaching him their language and having someone who they can speak it with. He can now curse in at least ten different languages."
"Maggie!" Natalie tried to sound outraged. "That's not what I promised Maude when she agreed to let the crew take over Ezra's education."
Captain Scott and Maude Standish had had that long talk and came to an understanding. Ezra would be both their responsibilities and as cabin boy he'd always be under the watchful eye of the crew. Therefore there'd be no longer a need for nannies or tutors as there were knowledgeable people on board who would be happy to pass on that knowledge.
As for Austin Ranney, Scott had hailed the nearby Federation Starship Enterprise. Captain Pike had taken him off her hands after she had explained why she wanted to be rid of the man. While Starfleet ran a check on Ranney, Scott had a chance to visit with her cousin Monty Scott. This was his first posting after graduating from Starfleet Academy at the top of his class in engineering. Montgomery Scott had been glad to see his cousin though not for the reason that brought her on board.
"Lassie, I thought you could judge people better than that." Monty gently scolded her. The report on Ranney had just came through and they found he was wanted on several worlds for theft and taking off without paying his bets.
"Your right Monty, I may not have hired him but I'm the Captain and therefore just as responsible for making sure what kind of person he was. Maude and I are going to have more than a few words with the head of security on Deep Space Seven, as well as filing a formal complain against the station.
"Rest assured Natalie, knowing Captain Pike as I do, Ranney will receive the treatment that he deserves." Monty told her.
It was a good thing Ranney wasn't on board when they met up with Maude. She had murder in her eyes when she learned what had happen to Ezra. If Ranney had been still on board she would have taken him apart with her bare hands. As it was the crew's treatment of the man hadn't been gentle, he had been barely walking when they turned him over to Starfleet.
Maude Standish had been thankful Ezra hadn't been more seriously hurt. Her blood ran cold at the thought of what might have happened to her baby if he hadn't been so resourceful. She and Captain Scott had come to an understanding on Ezra's supervision, it would be all for the good if it kept Ezra safe. Natalie's plan of making Ezra a cabin boy and letting him work at odd jobs would keep him under the watchful eye of the crew. When she wasn't on board Natalie would make sure Ezra ate, got his rest and did his school work. She had been surprised that the crew was willing to help and that Ezra's welfare was as important to them as it was to her. Maude also had a suspicion that she was being judged on her ability as a mother. That was a subject Maude was feeling inadequate on at the moment and was glad for Ezra's sake that Natalie was now watching over him as well.
Natalie and Maggie looked out to where Ezra and a crewman were refitting the control panel. Ezra was now hanging from a support bar a few feet off the floor, hanging by his knees swinging back and forth as he watched the Trill crewman run a test on their handy work.
"It's working out isn't it Maggie, I mean he is getting the attention he needs and being kept safe?" asked Natalie.
"Not only that, he's getting an education unequal this side of Vulcan. Our crew has more than a dozen different space traveling races mixed in it. All of them are delighted to pass on not only their languages but some of their cultures as well." Chief Maggie McNally told her Captain.
The test on the panel was a success and the crewman started packing up his equipment, Ezra let go of the bar did a flip and landed on his feet beside the Trill. Together they packed up and went off to the next job. The young boy was talking all the while, the patient Trill answering the child's questions and occasionally laughing at something Ezra said.
Captain Scott gasped when Ezra let go of the bar and started to fall, only Maggie's hand on her shoulder kept her by the workstation.
"Didn't Matt tell you that Tu has been teaching Ezra gymnastics?"
"No, he didn't, I'm beginning to believe I'm not getting enough information on what Ezra's being taught."
"Don't sweat it Nat, he's going to have a well-rounded education and for a child as bright as our Ezra it's going to take an unusual teaching system to keep him interested." Maggie looked at Natalie's skeptical expression. "It's going to work Captain Scott, you have my word on it."
Natalie relaxed a little, Maggie didn't give her word lightly and only called her Captain in public. In private it was always Natalie or Nat. The use of her title was an indication that things had turned serious. If Maggie sincerely believed that the crew could educate Ezra then she could too. She would have to. Maggie's next statement though got her worrying all over again.
"We took a vote and agreed there is one teaching job we considered you should take on personally." Smiling at her now serious Captain.
McNally smiled and took a step away from Natalie.
"When the time comes to teach Ezra how to fly the shuttles, that's definitely going to be a job for the Captain."
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