His hands were shaking, but his face was locked in a calm, friendly smile as he walked up the three steps and onto the stage set up for him. It was small, and had a little podium, but other than that, it was bare.
This was hardly the first time he had been in front of a crowd. Yes, he preferred to be a part of it, and sure, he usually just stood beside his siblings and behind his father. Yes, he had spoken in front of people before.
But, for some reason, every single time he had to speak, it was almost impossible. It was made worse by the fact that the people standing before him were either a part of his crew, or their loved ones.
It was strange, in a way, to think that it had only been just over a week since he had been told by Lt.C. Svin about his sudden, ehem, promotion. He had been expecting to have more time to prepare, maybe enough time to speak to each member before today, but it didn't happen that way. He had been in meetings, most of them not even with his crew, and basically bullied into moving up the launch date.
The first time he had been pulled into a meeting with his admirals, he had expected Sin to be right there next to him, but no. He had faced them by himself. Rowan Sinclair was a bit busy with who knew what, and currently mostly ignoring him. It was enough to make him want to hit his so called Second. He had been expecting to face this challenge with his crew by his side, but he had learned the hard way that wasn't going to happen.
As captain, he had to find a way to accommodate every single person in his crew, which had moved from himself, Keira, and Sin to a still relatively small four hundred and twenty-three people. Almost half the people that had graduated in the last two years were suddenly under his command. He had to worry about things he had never thought to. Who would stay with who? How many people did he want to put per room? What ranks were allowed to have their own rooms?
He hadn't even known the name of his ship until yesterday. He had, luckily, gotten a small exploratory vessel, recently built, named Spatium Stella, or, apparently, the Space Star. It wasn't massive, like most of them, it was small, built for speed and stealth rather than room and supplies.
Damien had gotten up early that morning and walked it for hours until he remembered most of it without having to use his eyes. He knew that he would spend several hours every night doing the same exact thing. He knew it would soon become both something to do on the nights he wouldn't sleep, as well as a comfort.
He was certain that his crew would think he was strange for doing so, but he didn't mind, he was strange anyway.
There had also been another benefit to doing what he had done. He knew where his rooms were and had already moved all of his stuff into either a storage compartment near enough to the academy that he could get to it if he needed it, or to his rooms.
That's right. He had rooms.
A part of him was more than fine with having a receiving area, a bedroom, a small kitchen, and a bathroom. After all, he had grown up as royalty, and it had been surprising to move into a dorm and suddenly, he didn't have his own space. He knew for a fact that most of the lower crew was two to a room, and four to a bathroom. The mid-level crew had their own rooms, but there were two people to a bathroom. Those in command, or those who were the leads on their own departments had their own rooms, and their own bathroom, but that was it.
He had been slightly surprised when he had walked into his rooms and found more of an apartment than a small dorm. It was kind of nice having his own space. He could admit that, but it didn't mean he had asked for it. He was the captain, that was true, but he would have been fine if he had to share a room.
Well, maybe not, he would have gone insane without a bit of privacy after a while.
He watched the crowd for a moment, scanning it for the familiar faces he knew would be there. Sure enough, anti- social Sin was standing in the front, calmly waiting for him to start. Keira was the next person he spotted. When she met his eyes, she gave him a thumb up.
The gesture, while making no sense, was appreciated.
He cleared his throat and straightened his spine. He could do this.
"Good morning, ladies, gentlemen, and honored guests." He started. His voice, he was surprised to note, was stronger than he felt. It was only the start, though, and after a moment's pause, he allowed himself to continue. "Most of you already know me, and I'm sure many of you have several stories you would love to share." That was true. He had gone out with several of them every now and then to get drunk, or to watch them do so. Several chuckles spread from the crowd. Most weren't uncomfortable but created from genuine amusement. Good. "Now, sadly, isn't the time for them. For those who don't know me, I am Captain Damien Cyril of Alhabor."
So far so good, he told himself, he could do this.
"I was selected from the Grey program to be the captain of the very first prototype crew. Now, I'm not going to lie, we're in for experiences that I can't even dream of. We are all new graduates, but that doesn't make us any less intelligent, powerful, or creative. It does, however, mean that none of us really understand what we're getting into. To be honest, I know that we aren't prepared for the things we may see, or the decisions we may have to make. I know just how much each of you have to lose if we fail. As it is, I also know that the people I have in front of me were carefully selected, and the very best possible choices myself, or anyone else, could possibly make. I can't promise that everything will always go smoothly. No captain ever could, but each of you should be aware that, as part of my crew, I will do everything in my power to make sure we succeed." It was easier when he focused his attention on Sin. Sin, who looked far too amused for his own good. A quick, slightly cruel plan formed in his mind. Well, if Sin was going to laugh at him, it was only fair that his second in command had a chance to humiliate himself as well, wasn't it? "I am sure that each of you is about as tired of my voice now, as I am of hearing it, so I will end with this, our crew is different than most of the others that are moving through space, but that doesn't mean they are any more prepared than we are. I have faith in each of those I have chosen to lead beside me. And, most importantly, I have faith in all of you. Don't worry, family members of the crew, I will do my best to bring them back in one piece." He joked a bit, getting another small round of chuckles. He didn't understand how most of the jokes he made were actually funny, as it was a human joke.
Personally, he wasn't sure why things like that were funny, but as almost half of those who graduated in the last five years were human, he knew he needed to learn more simple jokes like this.
Most people had been surprised when the majority of a class was human, and there were more than three humans per every non- human. The more interesting fact, in his mind, was that more non- humans were dropping out than humans. It didn't make much sense, as most of the humans he knew were relaxed and less likely to care about their scores.
He mentally shrugged at the applause and remembered to bow his spine slightly. On Alhabor, there was only one person he bowed to, his father and king. Bowing, on earth, had a far different meaning, he couldn't help but notice. His body hated it though, and that was to say nothing about his mind. He understood the necessity, but that didn't make it any less nauseating.
Sure enough, the moment his spine straightened, his stomach rolled. He wanted to go and throw up somewhere, not that anyone would notice. He considered, for a moment, going through with his plan of calling up Sin to speak, but he decided against it. He needed to get on the ship as soon as possible.
"We will commence boarding of the Spatium Stella in the next hour. For now, please feel free to say your goodbyes and mingle amongst yourselves. Myself, my second, and my third will be available for questions momentarily." He mentioned, a bit as an afterthought. He never understood that either.
But, as usual when it came to things he didn't understand, he didn't bother thinking too hard about it. He scanned the crowd as soon as he left the stage, easily locking his eyes on Sin. One interesting fact about the other was that he was, supposedly, happily married, and had two-year-old twins. His wife, Erica, was an upcoming surgeon, who Damien was ninety percent sure was cheating on her husband. She was beautiful, in her own way. Her skin was the color of fresh coffee, and, funny enough, neither of her children had her coloring, while her hair was perfectly straight and tied back in a messy pony tail.
Thewins both looked almost exactly like Sin did. They, like he was, were naturally tanned, with light brown eyes, and dark blonde hair. His oldest, and only daughter, Daphne, clung to him with tears in her eyes. His son, Maddox, was clearly trying not to cry.
Sin let go of his wife and knelt down to speak with his children. Both kids' eyes moved to Damien, and he waved lightly. He wondered, for a moment, if they would hate him for taking their father away from them for a while. This mission, they were only supposed to be gone for a month, no more or less. Sometimes, they would only be gone for a week or so, and others, they would be gone for much longer periods of time.
He felt bad, slightly, for pulling his friend, metaphorically, away, from his family, but he reminded himself that this was Sin's choice, not his. Either way, Sin was going to be off earth for a while. If it was under his command, or someone else, there was no way Sin could stay here for much longer.
Sin had a horrible need to keep moving. He never stayed still, and he craved the unknown darkness of space. He had been for years. Damien remembered listening to Sin several times, telling him about the planets he had been to, the people he had met, and so on and so forth. He loved his family more than anything, and usually took his children with him, giving his wife a break, but with where they were going, Damien had told him that they would be safer with Erica.
He hadn't told the other yet, or his crew, but their first mission included traveling to one of the prisoner planets and trying to break in, save as many lives as they could, as it was being overrun by the prisoners. They had to put down the lesser members of the rebellion, and capture their leaders, before bringing them for justice on another galaxy.
It was going to be messy, and dangerous, but they could do it.
Shaula wasn't a place he wanted Sin to go, let alone his children. He adored both of the children, and wanted to make sure they were kept safe, and he knew far too well that Shaula wasn't somewhere that was child friendly. Every person locked on the planet was either a criminal or a guard, and, of course, it just so happened to be a maximum-security planet, so everyone on the prison planet would, most likely die there.
That said, he wasn't allowing anyone other than the crew on for this.
He hated the thought of risking anyone's lives, but he knew that if a child got hurt under his command, he would never forgive himself.
He knew perfectly well what this mission wasn't telling him. It was their first test. This was the first time almost half of his crew had ever been doing their jobs on an actual ship. It was extremely frustrating to know that the smallest mistakes could cost most, if not all of them, their lives.
He couldn't be everywhere at the same time, and he was placing a lot of trust in those he had picked to help him lead each section. A part of his mind couldn't help but wonder if these people were aware that even the smallest mistake on their part could be deadly for the entire crew.
This entire test flight would be exhaustingly worrying. He knew that no one would be expecting the first test to be something like this. He knew he hadn't been. No, he had expected to have to pick up supplies, or something along those lines. Something simple to just give them a bit of a test. Something to see how the crew would work together.
Unlike a mission like that, this mission had no room for error. If they messed up, people died. Well, more people would die. As far as he was aware, there had been approximately forty- seven deaths thus far, most of them were wardens or guards, but there had been a few inmates that were no longer among the living.
"Captain?" A voice asked, pulling him out of his thoughts. He tilted his head slightly, looking at the officer that had gotten his attention. The male was a bit shorter than him, with darker hair, and slightly bigger, bug like eyes. There was also a thick accent that he recognized, but couldn't place, that colored the man's voice. He was dressed in a long sleeved green sweat shirt and ironed black slacks.
Next to him was a woman, probably from the same place that he was from, with black hair sprinkled with specks of what could have been blood. He doubted it though. She bowed slightly to him, and the man next to her copied the motion, except he fell into a deeper bow.
"My name is Indivar, sir, from Corona Borealis. I am to be your Chief Navigator, sir. This is my wife, Karimah. She is to be in the Science Sector. We are grateful that you allowed us to be on the same ship, as we have not been able to see each other as often as we prefer to." Indivar and his wife bowed again.
He inclined his head slightly. "Of course, green Indivar. I'm trusting you to make sure we get where we're going as quickly and as safely as possible." He hoped that would work as a reply. He wasn't exactly good at speaking with people. Well, that wasn't true. He could easily talk to anyone he wanted to, normally, but he didn't remember much about the people from Corona Borealis, and figured it was less likely that he would offend someone if he didn't say a lot. "Are the two of you ready for our trip across the galaxies?" He asked, trying to make light small talk, and still curious about if they, or anyone else, had any idea what they would really be doing over the next month.
"I must admit, sir, we are both more than ready to see the beauty of the stars once more." Karimah told him with a soft smile. He wanted to shiver a bit. He really wasn't cut out for this.
"We should probably start making our way towards the ship, Captain." Indivar said with a calm look that probably was as well created as his own. "I know this is strange, but would you care to join us for the evening meal? On Corona Borealis, it is traditional for someone of great power, such as yourself, to join the people they lead at least once."
He thought for a moment. Damien knew that tonight wouldn't be a good idea. He had so much to do, with making sure everyone was comfortable, everything was running smoothly, and every other thing that no one warned him about. "Perhaps tomorrow." He replied after a moment. "Tonight, I'm not sure I will have time to eat by myself. If that is alright with the two of you."
Karimah bowed again. "We understand Captain, and more than agree. Until tomorrow night then."
"I will see you on the bridge in a few hours, sir. Have a good afternoon." And with that, Indivar headed towards the shuttles with his wife by his side.
That was such a strange interaction, he couldn't help but notice. He wasn't sure who was more uncomfortable at that point, but he supposed the crew would get used to him soon. This was nothing like he had been expecting. Not really. He was supposed to be distant, cool, and calculating, or at least, Damius was. Damius was a better leader, than Damien would ever be. Damien was a bit more approachable, and probably would always be a bit awkward.
It would be interesting to look back in a few decades and see which the most effective side of his mind was. Both would be useful, and yet, he couldn't be half of himself. He wondered if that was part of the reason he felt so off balance. It probably was, but there wasn't anything he could do except adjust to the situation.
People blended together after the first set of introductions, and although he made a note of every name and face, he wasn't really paying attention by the time it was time for the last of the crew to board one of the shuttles that would take them to their ship.
Even Sin had already passed him, with a slight smirk. He would find a way to pay back his friend for this. They had about an hour before they were supposed to leave, and there wouldn't be much time for those still earth side to unpack before the first shift started.
The first day was likely to be the most irritating. The first shift, the alpha shift, was the one that he would normally be working with. They would be working for the first eight hours, before beta shift took over. Then, eight hours later, gamma shift would be working the rest of the night until it was time for alpha shift to take over once again. For the first day, he would be sitting with each shift, and he wouldn't get any time to rest and rebalance his mind until beta shift the next day.
He had to make sure everything ran smoothly, and because of that, breaks were unacceptable. There were probably a few captains that didn't do this, but this was his first time with the crew, and he knew that it would take a few days before he was actually able to relax. Until then, he would be carefully adjusting his crew.
If everything went correctly, he would probably assign Sin to the beta shift, and his third, a human named Cassandra Merritt who somehow managed to get third place in their class rankings, would be responsible for gamma shift. They would find him at the end of their shifts, and report. He was looking forward to seeing Sin's face when he told the other what his job would entail.
He knew that whoever had the seniority usually took over each shift, but they were all new, and he didn't want bickering to make his crew less effective. If he was on world, then Sin would be captain on the ship. If both of them were gone, then Merritt would take over. It was a simple concept, one that he had very carefully thought about. He had a list of twenty people who would take over if something happened to whoever, someone else would easily be able to take their place. He hoped the order would make it easier for his crew in times of greater stress.
He strode calmly towards a shuttle. The moment he stepped inside, the people went silent. There were only seven of them, each with their luggage in front of them. One, a man in his mid twenties with silver hair that rested near his shoulders, a large, muscular frame, and harsh neon green eyes stood suddenly, and saluted him.
"Captain on board!" The man announced, as if everyone didn't already realize it.
Damien nodded at the man and leaned against the wall. "You can relax people." He joked after a few more minutes of Damien- staring. He folded his arms in front of himself and scanned the small metal ship. The man who had saluted him stepped away from the controls, and Damien sighed mentally, before walking to take over the controls. He knew how to fly the shuttles, who but that didn't mean he particularly wanted to. He took the seat offered to him and started the shuttle with little more than a thought.
To most, it would look like he was simply moving his hands over the controls, but only part of it was actually something he was physically doing. He was sure the man standing behind his shoulder thought he was being stupid, but he was more than capable of not using his hands at all. He was a telepath, after all. He could, and often did, use his powers instead of doing everything by hand. As long as he was careful, most people didn't notice.
It wasn't that he hid his power or strength. He just didn't bother changing the opinion of people once they formed it. If they just so happened to assume he could do a lot less than he actually could, well, that wasn't his fault.
He also knew that he probably relied too much on his powers for the human's comfort. It always did make human's uncomfortable when someone proved that they were more than just physically different.
The trip to the port was smooth and not worth thinking about, but the moment he had parked the shuttle in the first available space, and attached it to the ship, he almost fell over.
This wasn't his first time seeing his ship, but it was the first time he saw the ship teeming with life. The thought that this was his crew circled around in his head. He waited for a moment for the people to move to the actual ship, but after a moment of silence and stillness, he realized what they were waiting for.
He stood with a small sigh, and nodded to his crew, before stepping over the small metal hatch and opening it. It expanded as the metal bent itself backwards, and he rolled his eyes a bit, before stepping onto the ship.
His eyes widened slightly at the amount of people everywhere. He knew that there would be a bit of chaos at first, it was not only expected, it was encouraged, but this… this was so strange.
He had expected to see the same ghostly ship that welcomed him with silence. But, no, that wasn't exactly how this worked. Now, the ship was full of life, excitement, and determination. He ducked his head a bit, hiding a small smile, and headed through the main entry point further into the ship.
"Captain on board!" Someone yelled again. The entire room stiffened and saluted him.
Well yes, he thought sarcastically, he was in fact, on board. He knew this was supposed to be a respectful gesture, but he had only heard it twice so far and he was about ready to cut someone's vocal cords.
He lifted his head, pushed his shoulders back a bit, and watched the room for a moment with calculating eyes. "At ease, ladies and gentlemen." What exactly they were expecting from him, he didn't know, but he knew he still needed to do something else before he was able to leave. "By now, most of you should know where your bunks are. Maps are on the north and south stair cases, and at the east and west most parts of the ship. We are currently on Deck B, each one is given a letter, not a number. Please place your belongings in your rooms before heading towards your assigned positions. We will be taking off soon. I will, of course, be making the official ten-minute warning soon." And with that, he strode out of the room.
Augh, he couldn't help but think, this was going to take forever, and it was going to be miserable. He was already changing the way he walked, and the way he talked. That would have been fine, if he hadn't already been using another mask. Hopefully, he would be able to shift his persona so that this became normal for him. He wasn't the most respectful person ever, so all of this was going to drive him insane sooner or later.
He really wasn't sure what everyone expected of him, but that didn't stop him from straightening his spine a bit more and nodding to each of his crew men. It would be a few more days before he could remember every one's name and bring it up in his mind perfectly, but that was alright. He was in no hurry. Even if it seemed like everyone else was.
Thanks to his late-night walks, he managed to get to the lifts on the south east quadrant, and entered it. This wasn't one of the more used lifts, or it wouldn't be when everyone figured out it was here. It only went to decks B, D, and F. That was it. Thankfully, he knew this before he decided which lift to use, and the bridge was on deck F. He knew that there were, officially, nine decks, ten if you counted the smallest captain's deck, or deck J.
The moment the doors closed, he leaned against the wall and let out a long breath. This was going to be a long twenty four hours, and an even longer month.
It was going to take eleven days at speed 3 to get to the prison planet of Shaula. They had a maximum of eight days to get everything settled on the planet before they had to head back. They were expected to be gone a maximum of a month.
He wasn't sure why they expected it to take so long, he had a simple plan as of this point, that wouldn't take more than three days. If he managed to get through this without letting any of his crew die, then he would count this as a success.
That said, he would need to make a stop in the training rooms soon, to get a better feel for the security officers he had on his crew. Hopefully, he would be able to find a small number that he could use to infiltrate the planet. He also knew that he needed to get together with the medical team and try to get some type of emergency plan together, in case things went wrong.
Damien nodded his head slightly and straightened his back again as the doors whirled open. It took him only a few minutes to cross the ship, as the bridge was in the north quadrant. He passed the mess hall, as he assumed it would still be rather empty, and crossed over towards the bridge. His steps lightened a bit, this, at least, was going to be fun.
He was more than ready for the first lift off. He knew that this, at least, was going to go perfectly. A small smirk tilted his lips as he stood outside the bridge. He took a moment to revel in the fact that this was his ship and his crew, before he let his usual calm smile take over his features.
The doors opened with a quiet series of clicks, and he strode in the still, thankfully, empty room. He would need to make the announcement soon, but for the moment, his eyes were locked on the captain's chair. His chair. This was so weird.
He moved gracefully over to the chair and stared at it for a moment. It looked like an old-fashioned recliner, plush and slightly bulky. It was black and grey, like his uniform, and the arms were covered in controls. There were several dozen screens surrounding the chair that he knew would react to the controls. Each one did something different, some were detachable, some stayed in place, some were connected with the weapons, and some were for announcements only. Either way, it was slightly daunting to sit down.
That didn't stop him. Of course, it didn't. The moment he touched it, he was shocked lightly, as it adjusted to his biological chemistry. No one would be able to take his place in this chair. It wouldn't allow it. Even Sin or Merritt would be unable to take his spot should they be acting captain. No, there were special places for his second and third in command, but they were not here.
Their seats were behind his own. His lips quirked a bit. This was so strange, but it was good, strange. He settled in his chair and watched as it lit up around him. The screens moved so that he could see them but was blocked in a bit. He could see the security camera's from around the ship, in the brig, and even around the outside of the ship. Every bit of information that he would need was just within reach.
Maybe, this would actually work. He hid a smirk, this was going to be fun!
He couldn't help but remember how he got here in the first place. It was so weird, thinking about how, just a few years ago, he had been nothing more than the heir of a planet. He snorted, just the heir of a planet, no big deal.
To him, though, it wasn't. He had been raised knowing that the crown was quite possibly going to be his, as he and his sister, Lillith- Noirka, were the strongest of their family. His memories floated in his mind, just out of reach. Seeing as he had a few minutes to think, he allowed the memories to overtake his mind. Just for a few moments.