Disclaimer: I own none of it, of course!
He stood uncertainly for a few seconds before sitting, on his face the look of one prepared for intense suffering. His eyes were worried, his posture slouched in admittance that he could not, at the moment, do anything to countermand Starfleet's stupidity, at least for the moment. Hopefully, desperately, he thought that maybe it wasn't complete stupidity. Maybe they were right, maybe…
He shook his head slowly and smiled at the man across the table, waiting so patiently for him to sit and begin the game, accepting that his companion would no doubt be looking for someone to talk to, to confide in, someone that could possibly rationalize everything out until it was okay.
He sat down, studied the object on the table between the two of them. After a moment, he lifted his hand, moved a piece, and waited. The other moved a piece of his own, and the game began.
They went on this way, playing, for the moment, in silence, waiting for the right moment to breach the unspoken subject, until the move was made, the piece captured easily.
"You seem distracted, Captain." His companion said calmly, one eyebrow raised. It was the Vulcan's way of asking what was wrong, and Captain Kirk sighed heavily.
"Have you heard anything about our new Chief Navigator?" Kirk asked easily, more easily than he felt. What he really wanted to do was call Starfleet and demand to know whose pig-headed idea this was, anyway.
Spock was silent for a moment, thinking. "It is not logical to place one's beliefs in rumors, Captain."
"But you've heard something." Kirk pushed.
"Indeed, Captain, I have. However, there has been nothing more substantial than Lieutenant Reilly's emotional outburst this morning."
"Emotional outburst?" Kirk asked skeptically.
"I believe his words were something similar to 'Put a kid in charge? Why don't you just kill us all now and be done with it?'" Spock said calmly.
"He is just a kid, Spock. Barely out of the Academy."
"He would not have graduated if his performance were not satisfactory." Spock pointed out.
"Well, maybe." Kirk replied. "But there's still a huge gap between what they teach you at the Academy and the reality of being out here, Spock."
"Starfleet would not give him the position if they did not believe he would be efficient in it."
"But is what they believe reality? How many times has Starfleet given people more than they could actually handle?" There was no need for Kirk to mention any names, they both knew enough of those men.
"He is posted here, Captain, therefore our only choice is to wait and see how he performs."
Kirk sighed, but was slightly less tense. "I guess you're right Spock." He moved a final piece, a glint in his eye. "Checkmate." He said with a smile that Spock does not return, instead curiously studying the chessboard.
"Indeed, Captain." He replied at last, looking up to study Kirk. "Well played."
"Illogically played, Mister Spock?" Kirk asked softly, taunting, a smug expression threatening to reveal itself completely.
"As usual, Captain." Spock affirmed. "However, it is a strategy that seems to work."
McCoy, of course, had his own opinion on the matter, as most of the Senior Officers did. He glared at Kirk as if it were his fault that Starfleet had put a mere boy in the position of Chief Navigator, with an entire section under him.
"He's just a kid, Jim!" McCoy glowered, stabbing a finger in the direction of the picture from the Navigator's personnel file. "Look at him! Do you honestly think he's going to be able to handle that kind of pressure, that kind of responsibility? A whole department under him, and you can bet they're not going to be too happy about it. I'm not too happy about it myself." His tone softened near the end, but Kirk threw his hands up in desperation.
"It's not my decision, Bones, and you know it. If I could do anything about it I would."
"It's that bad, huh?" McCoy asked sympathetically.
Kirk simply shrugged, reluctant to admit aloud his helplessness in the matter.
"Well, maybe it'll turn out alright, Jim." McCoy said with false brightness.
"I don't know, Bones." Kirk replied, shaking his head. "Spock overheard Reilly complaining about having a kid in charge of Navigation, and he's a bit young himself. What happens when the older members find out about it? And how are the Senior Officers going to feel about having a mere boy as their equal?"
"Well, how are they taking it so far, Jim?" McCoy asked curiously. "That might give you some idea of how they'll handle it."
"Spock's content to wait and give him a chance." Kirk replied lightly. "My Commanding Medical Officer doesn't seem particularly thrilled, though."
They sat for a moment in silence, chewing their lunch quietly, watching the crew as they laughed, joked, and carried on over their lunches. A door opened, and Scott entered the Mess Hall. Kirk and McCoy watched as he ambled over and got his lunch, sharing a pleasant word here and there with various members of the crew, before coming back and joining Kirk and McCoy at their table.
"How're you doing, Scotty?" McCoy asked as the man sat down.
"Aye, pretty well, Doctor." The Scotsman repliet cheerfully, before frowning ever so slightly. "Heard sommat about the new Chief Navigator we're supposed ta be gettin'." He said to Kirk, his expression serious, and possibly slightly concerned.
"What about him?" Kirk replied, his heart sinking. So Scotty had heard, and wasn't too pleased about the choice, either.
"I heard we were goin' ta be gettin' a mere child and placing him in charge of the entire Navigation Department." Scotty said, watching Kirk closely.
"You heard right then." Kirk replied. "He's not very old. However, Starfleet assures me that he's good–very good. That he can handle the job."
"Aye." Said Scott knowingly with a skeptical grin. "And they say we're not at war with the Klingons, either."
Kirk sighed. This was not promising. "Just give him a chance, Scotty."
"Of course, Captain." Scotty replied almost instantly, and Kirk had to smile. His Senior Officers may have had their reservations about the new Officer, but they would still be professional about it.
Uhura was next to join the group for lunch, but if she had heard anything or had any reservations, it was not readily apparent. She talked and joked with them as usual, lightening the mood a bit as she did. If she noticed the concern among the three, she did not comment on it.
But then, Kirk thought, how often did the Communications Officer readily broadcast what she did and didn't know? How many times did she share information not relevant to the performance of the ship? And how often was she taken by surprise? Almost never, he thought as he laughed at her latest humorous story.
Sulu joined last, friendly, easygoing, willing to talk, but not to be pushed. He talked of many things, his latest hobby, the newest book he was reading, his past, his dreams, his passions, but if he did not care to answer a question, there was no getting it out of him.
He would smile, laugh, shrug, and change the subject before you knew what was happening. You didn't realize until later, after he was gone, that he had never answered your question. He didn't take offense, he just didn't answer, didn't care too, and everything was fine.
Kirk posed the question to the two when they didn't bring it up. "Heard anything about our new Chief Navigator?" He asked, and Uhura allowed a knowing glance to indicate she probably knew more about him that Kirk did.
"He's young, isn't he?" She responded vaguely.
"I'm afraid ye won't be the youngest o' the bunch anymore, lass." Scott said with a sad shake of his head.
"How young?" Asked Sulu curiously.
"Barely out of the Academy." Kirk replied. "Only has about seven months of service experience."
"That's not very much." McCoy said sharply.
"Depends." Said Sulu. "If he adapts well, learns quickly, it'll be enough."
"To head the Navigation Section?" McCoy asked incredulously? Sulu simply shrugged.
"What else do we know about him?" Sulu asked Kirk.
"He was head of his class." Kirk replied. "His name is Pavel Chekov."
"Hmmm." Said Sulu, frowning and staring out into nothing.
"What?" Asked Kirk, but there was no reply from Sulu. "Sulu?" He asked, and the Helmsman started and turned to face Kirk.
"Sir?" He asked.
"What about Chekov?" Kirk asked.
Sulu shrugged. "Sounds like he's Russian." He answered evasively. He would always try evasiveness before changing the subject.
"Russian?" Kirk asked "What has that got to do with anything?"
Again, Sulu shrugged. "Nothing, I suppose. Nothing more than Scotty being Scottish or me be Japanese or Mister Spock being Vulcan or Reilly being Irish, I suppose."
"Uh-huh." Kirk said, unconvinced.
Sulu shrugged yet again. There was a lot of that going on today. "Funny how we still note differences like that." He sighed. "Of course, some people still think it matters." He said, and Kirk frowned. "Really, I knew someone at the Academy who had trouble because several teachers assumed he couldn't speak English."
"Really?" Asked Uhura, inviting him to continue.
"Really." Sulu affirmed. "Then when he aced his exams, they tried to protest that the only way he could have passed them was to cheat."
"So what happened?" Asked McCoy.
Sulu grinned. "He convinced them they were wrong."
"How?" Asked Scott, leaning in.
"He goes to speak with Administration, accent gone, not even the slightest indication that he spoke anything other than English. His professors simply stood there, mouths agape."
"So what happened to your friend?" Uhura asked.
"He graduated, I guess." Sulu replied easily.
"You didn't keep in touch?" Kirk asked.
"We did." Sulu answered. "Just not much in work related matters. I doubt I've even mentioned where I'm posted."
"You didn't brag that you were on the USS Enterprise?" Uhura teased, a twinkle in her eyes.
Sulu smiled. "I don't know if it would impress him much." He said. Picking up his tray, he stood, and prepared to leave, before looking back at Kirk. "So am I correct in assuming he's going to be assigned the quarters next to mine?" Kirk nodded.
"Sorry son, you'll have to start sharing the bathroom with someone again." McCoy drawled, and Sulu chuckled before moving on. "I think he knows more than he's letting on, Jim." He said as Sulu moved out of earshot.
"Don't we all?" Uhura asked innocently, and Kirk was again grateful that she' was on their side.
Kirk waited, impatiently, for his new Chief Navigator to beam aboard. He was now ten minutes late. Mister Spock would say ten point five three minutes, but Kirk tried not to let himself get tense enough to be that specific.
Finally the man from the personnel file beamed aboard, not in uniform, but in a ragged brown coat, dark jeans, and boots that were not regulation. He carried a satchel with him but that was all, and his dark eyes revealed embarrassment mixed with amusement and a hint of irritation as he ducked his head and stepped down from the transporter pad.
"Report for duty, Keptin." The boy said with an accent so thick Kirk could hardly understand him. He saluted Kirk as he spoke. "Sorry am late, papa see me off and vas misunderstanding."
Kirk decided not to try to puzzle out the garbled excuse and stared at the Ensign – they had given him a mere Ensign! The boy met his eyes, sheepishness and good humor meeting Kirk's own serious eyes.
"Welcome aboard, Ensign." He said, stern and commanding. "This is First Officer Mister Spock, also Head of the Science Department."
Chekov raised his hand in the Vulcan salute and nodded to Spock. "Live long and prosper, sir." He said thickly, and Spock returned the greeting.
"Do you have anything else you need to beam aboard?" Kirk asked, and the boy looked at him, polite confusion evident in his eyes. Had Kirk ever met anyone with such expressive eyes?
"Is all, Keptin." He said after a moment, gesturing towards his satchel.
Kirk was surprised, usually people brought more with them, even with the limited space available on the Enterprise. "Very well, then. Shall I show you to your quarters?"
The boy himself looked surprised this time. "You, Keptin?" He asked. "Is proper?" Kirk wondered how he could have graduated from the Academy without speaking better English, but shrugged the thought away for now and smiled.
"Why not?" He asked easily. "We're both here, aren't we?"
"Yes, Keptin." The boy replied, his uncertainty plainly evident.
"Well, then. Shall we?" Kirk led the boy from the Transporter Room, telling him a bit about different areas they passed, and wondering why the boy had chosen not to arrive in uniform. He was surprised Spock hadn't said anything.
The boy was silent, looking around, listening intently, his eyes bright with eager excitement. As they reached the Ensign's quarters, he realized that the boy hasn't spoken more than two words since leaving the Transporter Room, merely nodding occasionally. Kirk wondered if he was even paying attention.
"Well, here are your quarters, Ensign. You'll be sharing a bathroom with our Helmsman next door." The boy nodded. "You'll need to check in with Doctor McCoy in Sickbay for a physical before going on duty tomorrow."
"Aye, Keptin." Chekov said.
"Well, then, if you'll excuse me, I'll see you on the Bridge tomorrow."
"Aye, Keptin. Thank." The boy saluted before turning sharply to enter his quarters, leaving Kirk alone in the hall and not entirely confident that this boy had what it takes to succeed as Chief Navigator. He shook his head and made his way to the Rec Room for another game of chess with Spock.
Funny how they could always tell when the other wanted a match.