Copyright © 2016 by Zach Caldwell
All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved
U.S.S. Excalibur NCC-75864
5 Hours to Departure
Dr. Elders just finished rounding out her medical staff and slotted the newest members of her staff into the duty roster displayed on her computer. After tapping the end key on the computer she stood up and was about to walk around her desk when she spotted Ryan standing at her door. "Well, hello there Lieutenant. What can I do for you?" Her smile an indication she was very happy to see her friend.
Ryan took a step into her office and moved a step to the left. "I was merely escorting a visitor to see you." A sense of dread flooded her body when she saw Dr. Wells, dressed in his starfleet issued uniform with fresh Captain pips on his collar, walk into her office. "I'll leave you two to talk."
Dr. Wells gave a nod to Lt. Knight, "Thank you Lieutenant." From behind Dr. Wells, Ryan caught Katie's eyes, giving her a smile and a nod before he exited sickbay.
"Dr. Wells, please let me apologize…" She was interrupted by Wells holding up his hand. Looking around his old office he could see little touches which made this office reflect its newest owner. It dawned on the man how much more inviting this office was compared to his own. He turned his attention to the young lady before him and gave her a half smile. "I accept your apology doctor. But I also owe you one as well." Dr. Elders felt the dread she had felt previously begin to slip away. She motioned to a couple of chairs in front of her desk and they both sat down, each half facing the other.
"I'm sorry my oversight with the requisitions made things more difficult for you and your staff and I am sorry that you had to waste as much time as you did to try and sort out the problem."
"Thank you, Dr. Wells, apology accepted. I'm a bit ashamed of how I acted in your office the other day."
Dr. Wells let out a laugh. "I will admit that was not the best way to have handled the situation. But you reminded me of me when I was about your age and just starting my first assignment. I want to thank you for waking me up. I had gotten caught up in the politics and had forgotten what my true purpose is. Because of you, I plan to bring some changes to Starfleet Medical and get us back to the basics of caring for the patients and politics be damned."
Katie was touched by the good doctor's kind words. "Then I can think of no one better to do it than you, Doctor."
Their attention turned to the computer beeping on her desk. Katie reached across her desk and turned the computer around and pressed the activate key.
"If my guess is correct, that should be about your medical supplies." He smiled broadly as she gave him a glance and looked back to her computer. Her eyes got a bit larger as she read the manifest. The supplies were four times larger than the original requisition order.
"This is far more than originally requested?" She looked to the doctor who was still smiling broadly.
"Aye, I talked to Captain Knight and learned you would be patrolling some of the outer colonies. I would be very surprised if some of them did not have adequate medical supplies. So after a few words with the Quartermaster's office, I got you all that was currently stored on ESD."
"I had not realized I could have requested more than was necessary for ship board operations."
"Oh, normally that would be the case. But due to the nature of your mission exceptions can be made. This was not something I learned until I was already out on deep space assignment."
"Thank you for teaching me this lesson before I even left spacedock." They both shared a laugh. The two officers spent the rest of their visit discussing the ins and outs of medical operations aboard a starship.
The turbolift opened, allowing Ryan to see the bridge. The circular command center was bathed in warm lighting indicating the day shift. Stepping out of the turbolift he had steps to his right which led up to the second level holding science stations along the back wall. The Security and Tactical station was positioned at the center of the second level above the Captain's chair, flanked by the XO station to the right and another chair to the left. An Engineering station was located to the right of steps on the second level. Another auxiliary station was located directly opposite the Engineering station on the other side of the bridge. In front of the main view screen sat two stations, Operations on the left and Helm on the right.
Taking another look around the bridge, he saw Jace at the Engineering station, Syvok at a Science station, Caleb at tactical. Looking to the Command area he saw Commander Hunter and Captain Knight looking back at him. The stern look from Commander Hunter spurred him to move. The smile and nod from his father however, calmed his nerves and gave him the confidence to assume his post at the Ops station which was vacated by an Ensign as he approached. He quickly logged his access into the computer and information from throughout the ship began to flood his board. A few taps and his station became a hybrid interface both manual and holographic. This allowed him to better access the information that was coming in.
"Engineering to Bridge!" Sounded the voice of Commander Oclum.
Captain Knight touched a key on the arm of his chair. "Go ahead Commander."
"Captain, the last of the spacedock crew have departed the ship and all systems are good for go, sir."
"Very good Commander, thank you. Bridge out." He looked over to Commander Hunter, who gave the Captain his undivided attention. "I think it is time Number One."
"Aye sir." He replied with a nod and stood up and took a step forward. "Lt. Knight, ship status?"
A quick review of the information displayed before him allowed Ryan to answer, "I am showing green across the board. All cargo bays hatches are closed and sealed. Station causeway is retracting. Station umbilicals are severed. We are now under our own power sir."
With a look over his shoulder to the Captain. "Ready sir."
Speaking to no one specifically, as he knew the right officer would carry out his order, Captain Knight spoke. "Open a channel to ESD Control."
Caleb, already anticipating the order, pressed a key on his holographic control station. "Channel open sir."
"This is Excalibur to Station Control. Requesting permission to depart. "
"Station Control to USS Excalibur. You are now cleared to depart Earth Space Dock. Safe journey Excalibur."
"Thank you, Station Control Excalibur out. Take us out Commander."
Commander Hunter nodded and turned his attention to the young female ensign sitting at the Helms station. Ensign Kriger, set departure course, one quarter impulse."
Her fingers flew across her station. "Aye sir. Course set."
"Very good. Take us out, Ensign."
The USS Excalibur began to slowly move away from its docking berth. The attention of everyone on the bridge was drawn to the main viewer. Berthed next to the Excalibur was the USS Agamemnon, the flagship of Fleet Admiral Caldwell. The Agamemnon was a good four times larger than the Excalibur and the size difference began to grow more pronounced as it came closer to the Excalibur.
Commander Hunter noticed they were starting to drift toward the Admiral's ship. "Ensign, watch your drift." The Ensign suddenly broke out in a sweat as she quickly adjusted her course.
"Aye sir, flight path adjusted." Everyone watched as the Excalibur continued to drift toward the Agamemnon before she began to shift more to starboard. Captain Knight was holding his breath, which he let go once his ship cleared the Agamemnon. He reminded himself these were all new academy graduates and it would take them a little bit to settle in and become comfortable with their new duties. He trusted the officers and crew under his command, even if it meant he would have moments like these for the first week or so of the cruise. He glanced over with a raised eyebrow, to Commander Hunter, who had a look of relief on his face.
"Now approaching docking doors, sir." Ryan continued to monitor ship systems as well as those of the helmsman.
Commander Hunter caught sight of Ryan's holographic display. He moved so he was standing behind the Lieutenant and could better observe the information. He was a bit surprised to find the Lieutenant tracking ship operations as well as making sure the helmsman maintained course and speed. "Overachiever", he thought to himself.
Everyone watched as the ship began to pass beyond the docking doors and slip out among the coldly shining stars.
Ensign Kriger checked her display. "We have cleared Earth Space Dock. Distance from station 300 kilometers and increasing 400..500..600."
Captain Knight stood up and moved to the Ensign. "Increase speed to full impulse, Ensign."
"Aye sir, increasing speed."
Ryan watched as the Ensign input the speed change. He instantly saw that she had set the speed to only ¾ impulse. He choose not to say anything. He did send the correct math formula and speed correction to the Ensign's station. The Ensign, getting the information, instantly corrected her error and with a side glance to Ryan, whispered a thank you, to which Ryan nodded.
The entire exchange was observed by the Captain and Commander. Commander Hunter was about to speak when he caught a shake of the head from the Captain, who returned to his seat with the Commander in tow.
Both men took their respective seats when Commander Hunter leaned toward the Captain and spoke in a soft whisper. "The Ensign should have been reprimanded for her error as should Lt. Knight, Sir."
The Captain rested his arm on his armchair as he eased himself closer to the Commander. "We should allow for some errors Commander. If the error is repeated then there is cause for censure. As for Lieutenant Knight, I think his action was commendable and his actions, I suspect, will be the basis for the respect and loyalty he will gain from those under his command." The Captain straightened himself in the chair and adjusted his uniform with a tug as he directed his attention to the main viewscreen.
Commander Hunter, with a raised eyebrow in question, decided not to push the issue and turned his attention to his command computer just to his right.
Commander Hunter looked up from his computer. "Yes, Ensign?"
With more confidence in her voice, "We are now leaving Sol system, sir."
"Very well, Ensign." Turning to the Captain, "Just as good a time as any to test the new engine sir."
Captain Knight rose from his chair and walked over to the Engineering station.
Jace caught movement from his right and he felt himself tense at the approach of the Captain. "Ensign Brackett, status of ship engines?"
"The engines are operating at 96.7% efficiency sir. All systems are reading normal."
Nodding his head, the Captain leaned into the railing near the steps to the second level. "Very good, Ensign." A quick tap of his communicator, "Commander Oculm, are you ready to put the new transwarp drive through it paces?"
"Aye Sir! We are ready down here."
The Captain clasped his hands together in excitement as he moved back to his chair. "Very good. Time to see what this lady can do. Helm, set course 325 mark 187 by 27."
Commander Hunter sat straighter in his chair. "Attention to crew. Set condition blue. Standby for transwarp drive." With the announcement the bridge lighting changed to a blue hue as activity on the bridge and throughout the ship increased.
Ensign Kriger was the first to speak. "Course and speed set sir."
On cue Ensign Brackett reported in. "Main warp drive to standby mode. Transwarp Drive initiated. Available at your command sir."
Ensign Aguilar from his Tactical station was next to speak. "All systems secured sir."
Lieutenant Knight was the last of the bridge officers to speak. "All decks report ready, sir."
Anyone standing at their stations made sure to sit and secure themselves. Commander Hunter, along with the Captain, closed their armrests across their laps.
With a wave of his hand and a steady voice the Captain spoke, "Engage!"
With a single press of her finger Ensign Kriger engaged the Transwarp drive.
A few hundred meters in front of the ship a vortex of kaleidoscopic greys and blues began to form and within seconds an aperture formed stretching into a tunnel, also bathed in greys and blues. Seconds later the ship appeared to jump into the tunnel with a flash of light appearing for just an instant where the ship once was and empty space now remained.
All eyes were transfixed on the viewscreen as the ship cruised through the coalescing energy ribbons of greys and blues. The sight of the transwarp tunnel was a marvel to behold for the new Academy graduates. That fact Captain Knight and Commander Hunter noted as they looked at their faces around the bridge. Glancing between them, both men smiled.
The Captain gave his crew a few moments to take in the breathtaking view before he broke the spell of the moment. "Helm, time to the Beta Agnee system?"
The Ensign snapped her eyes from the viewscreen back to her console. "At present speed we will arrive in approximately twenty-one hours, sir."
The Captain smiled. "Not too bad for a trip that would have taken us a month to reach at maximum warp. You have the Bridge Number One. I'll be in my ready room."
"Aye sir." As the Captain entered the ready room Commander rose from his seat and sat in the command chair.
Ryan was making his way down the corridor when he heard a voice from behind him.
"Lieutenant?" Slowing his pace and looking over his shoulder, he could see Ensign Kriger rushing to catch up to him. The Ensign catching up, fell into step with him as he resumed walking.
"I wanted to thank you for what you did back there. I can't believe I made that kind of mistake."
"You're welcome Ensign Kriger. We are all a bit nervous being on our first cruise and duty assignment aboard ship. I'm certain it's a mistake you will not make ever again." He smiled warmly at the young lady who Ryan guessed to be maybe a year or two younger than himself.
"Oh, you can be sure that is one mistake I will not repeat. I am glad neither the Captain or Commander noticed, that would have been too embarrassing. But I am curious as to why you did not speak up when you noticed the error?"
"It was clearly your first cruise and a case of first day nerves. In the grand scheme of things, it seemed rather trivial to get you in trouble. Plus I know how demanding the Commander can be and I did not want to see you reprimanded in public for something like that. You can bet he would have made sure the whole bridge heard it." He gave the Ensign another smile.
A giggle of sorts escaped the Ensign whose face flushed red. Ryan could not help himself as he laughed.
"Where are you heading, Lieutenant?" She asked as she tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear.
"Please, when we are off duty you can call me Ryan. I'm heading to Ten Forward."
"Cool, I am Darcy by the way. Can I join you?"
Ryan cocked his head a little in surprise. "Sure, if you like. You can meet a few of my friends."
"Oh, I did not realize you were meeting friends. I don't want to intrude."
This got Ryan's attention. "You are not intruding."
"Well, uhm…" she let out a sigh. "Might as well just get it out. I'm not good around people. Well, I am okay around people, just not lots of people, ya know, like groups."
Raised eyebrows showed Ryan's doubts. "Really? You seem like a very nice and friendly person. I find it hard to believe you would have trouble around people."
"Well, I do try to be less shy than I am. I mean, I have to be to carry out my duties. But socially that is a different story altogether."
"Darcy, you seem to be doing pretty well with me right now. Why do you think that is?"
"Oh, you are easy." Her eye got wide as Ryan snapped his head around to give her a shocked look. "Oh dear. I meant to say that it is easy to be around you. Something about you seems approachable and you don't seem as stiff as some of the other graduates."
As the pair came to the doors leading into Ten Forward, Ryan smiled. "Thank you for that Darcy. Please join me and my friends. If you want to get over your shyness, the best way is to just jump right in. It's easier when you have an approachable friend like me."
She could not help herself and laughed. "How could I argue with that logic."
Ryan laughed as they walked into Ten Forward. "Syvok might have something to say about that."
The laugh, Caleb would have known it anywhere. He looked up from his drink to the entry to Ten Forward and saw Ryan with Darcy Kriger, the helmsman. He felt his chest drop at the sight of the two laughing about something. His attention was drawn away from the pair when a warm hand touched his arm.
"Caleb? You alright?" Katie looked from Caleb to Ryan with a young lady and back to Caleb who was now looking at her.
In a bravado voice, "Oh yeah, of course. Just a bit distracted, sorry."
Katie knew better and had her suspicions but decided to leave it for now as Ryan and his lady friend approached their table. Both stood as Ryan spoke.
"Guys, I want you to meet Darcy Kriger, our helmsman. Darcy, this is Dr. Katie Elders, Chief Medical Officer and Ensign Caleb Aguilar, our Chief of Security and my best friend."
Caleb smiled and shook Darcy's hand. "Nice to meet you."
Katie also shook hands with Darcy. "Very good to meet you Darcy, please have a seat."
A waiter approached and Ryan looked up, "I will have a Tarkelian Tea, please." The waiter nodded.
Darcy thought for a moment and stuttered out, "I'll….I'll have a, uhm... The same please."
Katie, a bit bemused by the young lady, shared a look with Caleb who appeared a bit put off by the newcomer.
Caleb pushed his feelings down, looked at the young lady. "You gave us all a bit of a scare this morning."
Darcy's face flushed bright red and she quickly picked up her cup of tea when the waiter set it down, and downed half its contents before she returned the cup to the table.
Katie, knowing she was out of the loop about something, was curious to learn more. "Oh please, I am sure you scared everyone just by walking onto the bridge."
Caleb looked at Katie with false indignation. "I'll have you know they were not scared. Terrified perhaps, but certainly not scared."
Darcy was thankful for the diversion but decided to take a leap of faith. "Well, to be honest I was a bit scared myself. Ugh, can you imagine the hell I would have gotten if I had scraped hulls with the Agamemnon?"
Katie was puzzled till it dawned on her. "You mean, the Fleet Admiral's ship?"
Darcy nodded in the affirmative.
"Well, I am certainly glad we had you at the helm to keep that from happening." She smiled and winked at Darcy.
Ryan smiled and was a bit surprised that Darcy had taken his words to heart so quickly. But then again, these were his friends after all. "Hey, where are Jace and Syvok?"
Caleb put his glass of synthale down. "Jace said something about pulling an extra shift in main engineering. I think he is working overtime to impress Commander Oclum."
Katie grunted. "He would. If he keeps this up I'm going to have to order him to not work. As for Syvok, I passed him on my way here. For a Vulcan he seemed distracted. Said he had some messages to attend to in his quarters."
The news caught Ryan's attention. "I'll check in with him later and make sure everything is alright."
Ryan's thoughts, throughout dinner with his friends in Ten Forward, kept drifting to Syvok. It troubled him that Katie said he appeared distracted. Of course he trusted Katie and knew she knew Syvok as well as he did, so it would have been easy for her to pick up on the subtle cues. Finding himself outside of Syvok's quarters, he pressed the announce key on the pad to the side of the door. "Enter." The doors parted allowing Ryan to step inside a room dimly lit with candles of various sizes. His nose twitched with the smell of earthy Vulcan incense. As his eyes adjusted, he could see Syvok dressed in traditional Vulcan robes kneeling before a meditation table littered with various candles and instruments.
Syvok, eyes still closed and unmoving, spoke softly. "May I be of assistance, Ryan?"
Ryan took a cautious step forward. "I wanted to check in with you. Missed you at dinner."
"I explained to the Doctor that there were some urgent messages requiring my attention. It is regrettable I had to miss dinner with colleagues. Your concern is noted."
Ryan would have taken the comment personally if it had been said by anyone other than his Vulcan friend. "Yes, I know. Katie said you seemed distracted. Anything I can help with?
Syvok opened his eyes and stood to his full height of six feet and turned to face Ryan with a raised eyebrow. "I find it most peculiar that Humans insist on seeing emotions when there are in fact none."
Ryan smiled. "Well, that is in our nature, I guess. But to your point, we have all gotten to know each other during our time at the Academy. Part of our training was about being able to read each other. Suffice it to say, we know when something is not exactly right with you. As your friend, we care and want to be there to support you or help you, if needed."
"Then I shall endeavor to perfect control of my emotions."
Ryan shook his head with a slight laugh. "Nice try Syvok. What's going on?"
"Computer, lights, standard." A chirp sounded as the lighting in the room rose to standard levels. Syvok picked up a Vulcan ornamented candle snuffer and began extinguishing the flames on nearby candles. "Vulcans are not in the habit of asking friends for help when it comes to matters of a personal nature."
Ryan's gut was telling him there was something more going on than a personal matter. He was about to voice those doubts when he and Syvok were violently knocked to the floor as the ship shook and the Red Alert klaxon sounded.
The Captain's voice sounded throughout the ship. "All hands to battlestations." Another impact shook the ship as Ryan and Syvok managed to get to their feet and headed for the door.
Ryan and Syvok managed to keep their balance as they exited the turbolift, each going to their respective stations.
"Mr. Aguilar, enough of this. Full spread of quantum torpedos. Fire when ready!"
Caleb deftly plied his computer. "Torpedos away sir."
Ryan tracked the torpedos on his station as they raced toward their intended target. His readouts showed an unidentified vessel that did not match any known configurations in Starfleet's extensive database. A glance to the viewscreen showed a black hull lined with stripes of blue. The general shape appeared to be triangular and bat shaped. He quickly squinted his eyes as the torpedoes exploded.
Caleb's eyes got wider as he read the information coming into his station.
Captain Knight along with Commander Hunter stood up both in a state of shock. "SHIELDS MAXIMUM!"
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