Copyright © 2016 by Zach Caldwell
All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved
U.S.S. Excalibur NCC-75864
Stardate 87013.99 Three Days to Earth
Captain Kyle Knight, leaned against the conference table, stared out the windows lining one wall of the conference room. Absentmindedly, he crossed his arms and with his right hand began to stroke his chin.
Commander Thomas Hunter walked into the conference room and noted the Captain appeared deep in thought. It was only three weeks ago he met the Captain for the first time. If he was honest with himself, he would admit not wanting to be part of this crew. He was quite content to remain at his post at Utopia Planitia Fleet Yard, overseeing the construction of the new Pathfinder class starships. Thomas's thoughts drifted back three weeks to when he was given the news. Captain Shonval had called him into the office.
"You asked to see me, Sir?" Thomas, standing six foot three, filled the doorway of the Captain's office.
"Ahh, yes Commander, please come in. Have a seat." He motioned to a chair opposite his own and smiled at the Commander as he approached.
Thomas sat in the chair as his stomach churned with that ever familiar sinking feeling. Despite the feelings in his stomach, his outward body language was one of calm and confidence, two things he often wasn't.
"Commander, your service on the Pathfinder project has been outstanding."
"Thank you, sir." Thomas shifted in his chair as he leaned just a little towards the Captain.
"If it had not been for your efforts, Commander, the Pathfinder project would still be in the middle of the construction phase. As it is, the project is well ahead of schedule with the U.S.S. Excalibur ready for her shakedown cruise in three days, and two additional ships soon to follow. Most impressive and it has caught the attention of Starfleet Command."
This news certainly caught Thomas's attention and he sat much straighter in his chair. This is not going to be good he thought. "I am pleased I have impressed them. I'm just here to do a job, not seeking any fame or glory, sir."
Captain Shonval's blue antennae twitched in humor and he let loose a boisterous laugh. It took a moment for the Andorian captain to compose himself.
Thomas's eyebrows furrowed at the Captain's outburst. He was puzzled as to what the Captain could have possibly thought was funny.
"Sorry, Commander. It's just you said that with such sincerity I almost believed it. You might fool others with that spiel but not me. Anyway, Starfleet Command has decided you are to be assigned to the USS Excalibur as her new Executive Officer."
The shock easily registered on the Commander's face. "But sir? I'm needed here, I want to stay here."
Captain Shonval was a bit taken aback by the Commander's reaction. "We all joined Starfleet with the understanding we will not always get the posting or assignment we want. Do you not care about your career? If you do not accept this assignment, you will most likely never get a command of your own." A voice quickly pulled Thomas out of his memories.
"Yes, Number One?" Commander Hunter snapped out of his thoughts to find Captain Knight looking at him across the conference table. Captain Knight, by all accounts, was an average looking man. The Captain stood a good four inches shorter than the Commander, yet somehow the Captain never appeared to look up to the Commander. His demeanor and stature always seemed enough to put people on the same level as himself. Experience, he supposed. "Sorry, Captain, a bit of daydreaming, just wanted to give you the status report on our shakedown cruise thus far." He handed a PADD to the Captain who accepted it and quickly tapped it to bring up the data.
"Hmm, the deuterium exchange issue is not resolved, why?" He looked up to the Commander briefly and returned to looking through the data.
"Commander Oclum and her team determined the deuterium tank is slightly out of alignment. For the issue to be corrected, we need to put into dry dock so the deuterium fuel can be siphoned out. Once the tank is empty, the dry dock crew can have the tank aligned within a few hours."
The Captain nodded in understanding. "Very good, it would appear Number One, the Excalibur is an outstanding ship, with only a handful of issues on her first shakedown cruise. I am most impressed with yours and the crew's efforts on this cruise. Please give my compliments to the crew." He handed the PADD back to the Commander once he signed off on the report and transferred the data to his command computer.
"I'll be sure to do that sir. If I may sir?"
The Captain looked to the Commander with a raised eyebrow. "Of course."
"Why has the Excalibur been assigned to first cruise detail? We are the newest ship in the fleet and could do with a more seasoned crew to continue to get her into tip top shape."
The Captain sighed as he pulled down on his uniform. "You have heard the news, the war with the Klingons is pretty much over and a peace conference is underway. With the discovery of the Tau Dewa Dyson sphere and the formation of Alliance Command has diverted a large portion of our fleets to that aim. As you said, we are the newest ship in the fleet and need to go through its paces a while longer. Since we're not yet ready for combat duty on the front lines, we get to smooth out the edges of not only the Excalibur but also the newest officers the Academy can produce."
Commander Hunter scratched his ear as he contemplated his response. "It feels like a babysitting mission sir. I would feel much more comfortable if we kept more of our seasoned officers on board."
The Captain allowed a slight smile to tug the corner of his lips. "We'll only be conducting patrol missions to some of the outlying colonies to let them know the Federation has not forgotten them. I doubt we will have very much to worry about, other than making sure those babies, one of which happens to be my son, know how to perform and carry out their duties." He looked to the Commander with a raised eyebrow.
Commander Hunter snapped to attention. "Aye, sir. Understood." With that he spun on his heels and exited the conference room mumbling 'shit' under his breath as he went.
Captain Knight smiled broadly as the Commander left the room. The smile quickly disappeared as he thought about his son and the reunion which was only days away.
Three Days to Graduation
Five figures, each wearing combat environmental suits trimmed in red, moved in formation down the hallway. Their target destination was still a deck above them and the turbolift that would take them to their target was just ahead. The figure leading the group held up a hand and went down on a knee. The others quickly followed suit. "This does not feel right." The voice was heard inside the helmet of each member of the assault team.
The team lead nodded his head in agreement. "I agree. It has been too easy to have reached this far undetected. Syvok, are you detecting anything ahead of us?"
The figure in the middle of the five man team slung his phaser rifle across his back and removed the tricorder attached to his belt. Opening the device, he tapped a few controls, lifted the device and pointed it down the hallway. A measured controlled voice emanated from within every one's helmet communication system, "Tricorder readings show nothing between us and the turbolift, sir."
The team lead shifted his weight as he looked toward his science officer. "I don't buy it. Check for any subspace disturbances." The leader turned his attention back down the hall as he waited for a response.
Syvok adjusted the settings on his tricorder and with the changes, blips showed up on his screen. "Confirmed, twelve subspace proximity mines between us and the turbolift."
"That is what I figured. Caleb, can they be set off remotely?"
The figure behind the team lead looked over his shoulder. "Not with anything we have with us. If I were to guess, I would say those mines are triggered when they are near a person, probably even with a delay to take out more than the first poor sap to walk near one."
A female voice, from the person who was second to last person in the group spoke up. " Ryan, the science lab is across from us. It might have some biological samples we could use to set off the mines."
The man guarding the rear spoke up. "Let me guess, you expect me to devise a way to get the biologics to the mines, right?"
Ryan chuckled. "That's why you were named MacGyver, right?"
Though it could not be seen through the blackened out visor on his helmet, Jace was sporting a million dollar smile. His parents, after finding he had escaped his play pen, many times it seemed, started to call him MacGyver after a TV character from Earth's mid 1980's, who could escape out of just about any jam he found himself in. Kind of odd to be nicknamed after a character from an entertainment show, but then again, his mother is a Cultural Social-Archeologist and at times seemed to live more in the past than she did in the present. "Aye, I'll figure something out."
Ryan nodded and stood up with his weapon still pointing down the hallway. With his right hand he pointed to the door marked science lab. Syvok and Katie moved from the middle of the group towards the door and were quickly followed by Caleb, then Jace and last by Ryan, who stopped in the doorway so he could look both up and down the hallway.
Katie, with a sweeping motion of her rifle saw the small lab was free of hostiles, and she quickly slung her rifle and moved to the paneled wall lined with various storage lockers. It took her only a few moments to find what she wanted. She began to work on accessing the locker.
Jace meanwhile, surveyed the room to see what he had to work with. It was a small support lab and it did not appear to be as fully stocked as it should be. Nonetheless he began to look through the lab equipment to see what, if anything, he might be able to scavenge parts from.
Ryan, Syvok and Caleb were covering the door while Jace and Katie worked to rig up a device to neutralize the subspace mines.
Caleb spoke with a slight edge to his voice."When those mines go off, they are going to know we are here."
Never taking his eyes off the hallway, Ryan answered. "Yes, and they will be pretty sure we're dead or injured badly enough to be of no or little resistance. If we are lucky, they will let their guard down enough for us to storm the command center."
Caleb had his doubts but he learned a long time ago to trust his friend. "Well, setting off those mines is going to block access to the turbolift, we can't use the transporters because of the inhibitors, so how are we going to get to the command center?"
"The only logical choice would be to access the refuse hatch we passed 4 meters down the hallway. Once inside we can ascend to the next level, which should place us approximately twelve meters from the entrance to the command center."
Caleb groaned. "Well, in that case I'm glad we are wearing CEV's. I can only imagine the stink that could be in there."
After what seemed like ten minutes Jace and Katie joined the group at the door. "I found the DNA storage locker and secured enough DNA material to simulate an adult size being. Jace took care of the delivery system."
Jace held up a small device looking like a hodge podge of parts. The center of the device was cube in shape and from each corner of the cube were arms ending in circular discs with blades inside of each. A patchwork of microcircuits criss-crossed the arms to join with the cube which had a small port holding a vial of pinkish fluid, presumably the DNA material. Jace pulled out his tricorder and worked the controls; after a couple of tries the contraption began to levitate into the air. It was not the smoothest of flights but it remained in the air. After a quick flight around the room, Jace announced he was ready.
Ryan and his group exited the science lab back into the hallway and made their way partway back towards where they originally came. With the refuse hatch only a meter away Ryan patted Jace's shoulder. Jace directed the aero-contraption down the hallway toward the turbolift. Everyone braced for the shockwave of the explosion but there was nothing. Jace looked at his tricorder and was a bit perplexed and was about to lean around the corner when Ryan pulled him back, just as a bright flash of light and loud boom ripped down the hallway. The group could feel the heated air as the shockwave rushed past them. Quickly the team opened and entered the refuse access hatch. Activating the magnets on their boots and hands, they were able to climb to the level holding the command center.
Once Ryan's team cleared the hatch, they moved as one to cover the hallway and the large double door that was the entrance to the command center. With a nod of his head and forward motion of his hand, Ryan signaled for Caleb to proceed with his part of the plan. Without a word, Caleb slung his rifle over his left shoulder and pulled a pack from his right and moved to a kneeling position in front of the large door. Reaching into a side pocket of his pack, he removed a tricorder and scanned the door and the results confirmed what he had expected, the door was a composite of Diburnium and Rodonium with a crystalline submatrix for added durability. Closing the tricorder and slipping it back into his pocket, he removed a circular device and placed it at the center point of the door. Reaching into another pocket of his pack, he removed sticks looking like modeling clay and proceeded to work the clay-like material into string-like shapes he then attached around the edges of the circular device. Once satisfied with his work Caleb grabbed his pack and rushed back to the team. He again removed the tricorder, flipping it open and patted Ryan on his right shoulder. A cue to Ryan he was ready for his command which came in the form of his helmet moving up and down in a singular motion. Caleb pressed the detonate key on the tricorder display. Instantly, a four meter section of the large door blew inward, causing injuries and confusion to anyone who happened to be in the five meter blast radius of the door.
Ryan's team swiftly moved as one unit into the command center. Ryan moved into the room sweeping the room as he moved. Caleb followed and moved to the left with Syvok entering and moving to the right. Katie was next as she moved in following after Ryan but had her weapon pointing to the right between Ryan and Syvok. Jace was the last into the room but he kept his focus back out into the hallway as well as facing toward Caleb.
Ryan could see through the diminishing smoke the crew and officers of the command center were dazed, injured or dead. His attention quickly zeroed in on his target, the base commander. The man was on his knees having trouble keeping his balance and blood trickled from his ears and nose. Seeing the assault team, the commander tried to get to his feet but stumbled back to the floor. Ryan quickly moved forward and pointed his weapon at the man's face. "Surrender?" Waiting for an answer, Ryan heard over his helmet comm Caleb yell, "Look out!". Before Ryan could even react he saw a phaser beam streak pass within inches of his helmet face plate. The closeness was enough for Ryan to lean backwards out of both shock and instinct to save his own life. The phaser blast that missed him by mere inches hit its intended target, a security officer who had come out from behind his station to take aim at Ryan. The momentary distraction allowed the base commander enough time to reach for his own weapon. The movement was spotted by Ryan who sent his rifle butt into the face of the commander, sending the man crashing to the ground unconscious. BEEP….BEEP…..BEEP. A voice seeming to materialize from everywhere spoke. "Combat simulation complete. Eagle Team, stand down and report to Commander Jeffers for mission debriefing." Ryan and his team watched as the command center disappeared and was replaced by the yellow and black grid of the holodeck.
Ryan, removing his helmet, looked to his team mates and friends as they too, removed their helmets. He felt good about their performance and was confident they had passed their final combat test. He smiled at everyone who in turn smiled back. "Let's go to debriefing. I want to get it out of the way so we can relax at Zandu's tonight." Everyone followed Ryan as they headed victorious out the holodeck doors.
After spending a good two hours with Commander Jeffers for the after mission debriefing, Ryan and Caleb finally slugged their way into their shared living quarters. Neither really cared as they pulled off sections of their combat suits and let them fall where they might as they moved toward their own beds and fell into them with a soft thump due to the impact of their weight. Ryan, tired and still a bit dazed from how close the phaser beam had come to hitting him, looked over to Caleb, who was laying face down on his bed. "Caleb? What the hell were you thinking? That shot could have taken me out."
Caleb opened his eyes to see the concerned ashen look on Ryan's face. It caused the acids in his stomach to rumble and threaten to rise. "Sorry, Ry. It was a spur of the moment thing. I saw the guard drawing a bead on you and I reacted. It was not until afterwards I realized just how close I came to taking you out."
Ryan chuckled and shook his head, looked to the ceiling with a slight smile on his face. "Damn good thing you're a crack shot."
Caleb felt the tension in his stomach melt away as he smiled at his friend. "I would be a damn lousy security officer if I were a bad shot..." Both of the young men laughed in shared camaraderie.
Ryan stretched his arms outward as his eyes fluttered open and discovered the room was darker than he remembered. Looking to the chronometer on the desk between his and Caleb's bed, he realized they had both fallen asleep and it was already early evening. In fact there was only an hour before they were due to meet up with Katie, Syvok and Jace at Zandu's. With that realization he swung his legs over the edge of the bed and stood up. Spying Caleb sprawled on his bed, Ryan got a sneaky smirk on his face as he jumped on the bed, pinning Caleb and attacking his sides with his fingers. Caleb became alert in shock and then bursts of laughter due to the attack on his ribs. He did his best to fight off the tickle attack but his bouts of laughter and squirming made resistance almost impossible. Finally, Ryan laughed and hopped off the bed. "Rise and shine. Got to get ready and meet up with the gang in less than an hour." With that Ryan walked into the bathroom. Caleb, lying on his back, tried to calm his rapid breathing when he realized he was aroused. He felt a rush of heat through his body as he thought about Ryan being on top of him. If only it could of been something more he thought. With a sigh and resignation that nothing would ever happen, he got up from the bed and opened his closet to pick out his clothes for the evening.
Caleb removed the last of his outfit when he heard a swoosh sound letting him know the door to the bathroom had opened. Caleb picked up his clothes and made his way past a scantily clad Ryan. He let out a quick breath when the door closed and he quickly prepared for a sonic shower.
Ryan dropped his towel to the floor as he opened his side of the closet. After a quick look he decided on black pants and a mid-blue silk shirt. Grabbing the desired items he dressed and turned his attention to the mirror mounted on his closet door to comb and style his hair.
Ryan and Caleb walked up to a large Gelotian bouncer standing by the door into the Zandu club. Gelotian's are a species who look like a cross between an earth snail and an octopus, only man size. The lack of eyes, made it difficult to know if a Gelotian was actually looking at you or not. This, along with their appearance, makes for an intimidating bouncer. Ryan and Caleb were well aware of just how deceiving their appearances were. Gelotians, while appearing slug like, were every bit as fast as a human and twice as strong and could emit a slime that could easily immobilize their target.
The Gelotian bouncer turned towards Ryan and Caleb as they approached and its milky translucent skin slightly rippled with waves of blue bio-luminescent light. Caleb smiled. "Hey Reyjivarik. Is it busy tonight?"
Reyjivarik's skin again began to ripple with various colors and a garble of sounds emanated from the alien. There was a slight delay as the universal translators built into their communicators processed the sounds. "Greetings Caleb and Ryan. It is a, what do you call it, a packed house. Jace said you would be coming. So head on in. A tentacled arm raised up and grasped the door handle and pulled it open. "Have fun." Ryan and Caleb made their way through the door and stepped into a small lobby with a see-through blue force field. The force field acted as both a security measure and sound barrier. They could see people beyond the field dancing and strobe lights flashing with the beat of music - music they could not currently hear. Both men stepped through the barrier as the blue lights flashed rapidly indicating no contraband was detected. As soon as the men were through, the wave of music hit them as they could suddenly feel the thump thump of the music in their chests. They stood there for a moment as they allowed their eyes to adjust to the lighting.
A man sitting at a table on the second floor, overlooking the entrance and dance floor appeared to be in conversation with a couple of people at his table. The man stopped talking when he glanced toward the entrance and saw who had just entered. The man stood up and walked over and placed his hands on the railing. Another man dressed in black slacks and shirt stepped up behind him and leaned forward as the man holding the rail said something. Seconds later the man in black nodded his head and left the man who turned back around and returned to his guests at the table.
Ryan stretched out his arm and pointed a finger towards a table left of the bar. "Over there. I see Katie." Caleb looked and saw Katie sitting at a table talking to a man he did not know. "I wonder who that is?" Ryan shook his head. "Don't know. Let's go find out." They began to carefully make their way through the throng of people who were mingling or dancing, often brushing away a stray hand here and there. After what seemed like ten minutes, but only a couple of minutes, they reached Katie's table. Katie looking up, was both happy to see her friends but could feel the flush reach her face at being caught with her newest beau. Ryan noticed her reaction and chose to ignore it, taking a seat to her left and across from the unknown Andorian male. Caleb quickly fell into a seat next to the Andorian. "I'm Caleb. So you and Katie dating? What's your name? You're treating her right, right?" Katie was horrified and Ryan tried to suppress the smile threatening to cross his face. Leave it to Caleb to jump right in to security mode when his friends were involved, well just about anyone really, unless he happened to know you. The Andorian's antennae lowered and twitched, which often indicated distress. Taking pity on the guy Ryan reached his hand across the table. "Don't let Caleb bother you. He can be like that with most people till he gets to know you. I'm Ryan." The Andorian's antennae rose slightly and he reached out to shake hands. "I am Thran and I know who you guys are. Very well known around the Academy."
Katie, recovering from her embarrassment, reached across the table and popped Caleb on the ear. "OUCH! What was that for?" Reaching up and rubbing his ear and he gave her a dirty look. "Behave and do not embarrass me like that again." Caleb let a smirk reach his lips and with a knowing look to Katie, "But then it would be no fun." Katie with a warning smile, pointed a finger at Caleb. "Need I remind you, you are to report for your physical when you arrive on the Excalibur." Caleb quickly put his hands up in a sign of surrender. "Aye aye, Doctor". Ryan smiled at the banter between his friends. Thran was trying to figure out if these two people were actually friends given their actions. Clearly he thought, there is still much to learn about human interaction.
A few hours later and a few too many drinks; the group made their way out of the club and made their way down the side walk, talking and laughing animatedly. A shadow from a side street barreled into the group knocking Katie into the Andorian, who stumbled backwards, taking her to the ground with him. Much the same happened to Ryan as he fell back into Caleb, who was alert enough to keep them both from crashing to the pavement. Both looked up and down the street to see a shadowy humanoid running away and out of sight as the figure turned a corner. Caleb was about to give chase when Ryan stopped him. "Don't bother, Caleb. No harm done. We might of startled him as much as he startled us." Thran and Katie getting up from the ground walked up to Ryan and Caleb. "You're bleeding!" She grabbed Ryan's arm and quickly went into doctor mode as she looked at what was only a small cut. Everyone along with Ryan looked down at his arm. "You'll be fine. Just a superficial cut. It's already clotting. When you get back to your room, use an antiseptic spray and then a dermal regenerator and you will be good as new." Caleb was quick to jump in. "I will see to it personally, Doctor." Ryan mumbled about being babied but inwardly he was elated to have the support and care of his friends.
Inside a deserted building a man turned as a door creaked opened enough for a dark clothed figure to slip in. "Is it done, Alvera?" The man stepped out of the shadows just enough for a stray beam of light to fall across part of his face.
"Yes sir, Mr. Weston. I did as you ordered. They suspected nothing and none even bothered to give chase." He opens his palm and extended it toward his boss. Mr. Weston looked at the device and picked it up with his fingers and examined it, making sure its contents were completely discharged. A smile crossed his face as he looked back to Alvera. "A job well done, Alvera. You are dismissed now." Alvera beamed at the praise from his boss and turned his back to leave the building, an action which sealed his fate. Mr. Weston slipped a hand into his jacket and removed a disruptor pistol and aiming it at Alvera, pulled the trigger. He watched as the man disintegrated from the inside out leaving nothing but a few bits of ashes scattered among the dust already on the floor. He slipped the weapon back into his pocket and left the building, a satisfied smile on his face.