Here is Act I of "The Better Part of Valor"
Diverting from our scheduled visit to the New Providence Colony on Jouret IV, the Potemkin is travelling at maximum warp to the Turkana system, in response to a code one-alpha-zero originating within. According to our chief operations officer, the signal's signature matches a Federation distress beacon. The identity of the vessel remains to be seen, but preliminary indications suggest it to be a civilian craft, rather than Starfleet.
Along with our intentions to investigate the source of the distress signal, Starfleet Command has requested an update to their records on the status of the colony on Turkana IV; a colony that shed its Federation protectorate status nearly nine years ago. The latest available information appears to have been collected just after the severance of communication and supplies to that colony.
On a positive note, my executive and chief operations officers have received their promotions to Commander and Lieutenant Commander, respectively.
The sound of the intercom did not wake her, but the voice of the captain did. "Bridge to Commander Leone."
Leone reached out with her hand to touched the commpanel to the side of her bunk. "Leone, here, sir."
"Commander, I'm sorry to wake you, but you have an incoming transmission from Starbase Two-One-Two."
"Two-One-Two?" Leone stalled from time to shake off the grogginess of a late night coupled with an early morning subspace call.
"Yes. It's marked personal."
She sat upright in the bunk. There were only a handful of people she knew enough that could get a live personal subspace communications link from the Starbase. "Uh, thank you, sir. I'll take it down here." She swung her legs out and touched her bare feet to the floor. All she had on was an Academy t-shirt from the class of 2350 and a set of very worn underwear.
"Of course. Stand by."
The call waited for her at the desktop terminal in the living area of her stateroom, where she sat back and took a moment to wake herself up. "Computer," she called out to the air, "place personal transmission on screen."
The insignia of Starfleet appeared, along with the Starbase Operations logo and various and sundry information about the transmission, including the date and time. The screen blinked and her husband and son replaced the information with a crystal clear quality.
"John!" she exclaimed, happily. "Dom!"
"I'm sorry, love. I always forget about the time difference between here and there," said John with a wince. In his lap was their son, Dominic. Every now and again, he would bounce up to peek up into the screen.
Krystine smiled through her tired sigh. "It's all right," she assured him. "I figured it might be you."
"Hi, Mommy," Dominic said in his high-pitched voice.
"Hello, Dom," she replied with a wave. "How're you doing?"
His smile dropped. "I want to go play."
"Well, then go play," she told him, no trace of disappointment in her tone as he climbed from his father's lap and ran out of range of the visual pickup. Once he left, she continued, "I don't get to see you guys too often, anyway. I'm surprised you were able to send a subspace transmission, though. What's on Starbase Two-One-Two?"
"The usual. Power system overhaul for the next six months."
"And I assume that you thought that it was a good idea to take our son to a Starbase so damned close to the Klingon border," she glared at him with her arms folded over the t-shirt she wore to bed.
John avoided her glare. "I wanted to spend some time with my son, y'know? I'm going to be here for a while, and I figured that he could use a little vacation before he starts primary education."
She could hardly blame him for that. It's more than she did for him since he was born, and the guilt of that flared up resulted in her anger of taking him out of school for the sole purpose of letting him play on a Starbase for six months. "Fine," she said, letting it go.
"By the way, your mother told me you made Commander."
He beamed at her. "That's great news, Krys. I'm so proud of you."
"Thank you," she said as she felt the blush rise to her cheeks under his words of praise. "The captain presented me with the new insignia just before the Wetting Down. Ariel got her promotion, too."
"Well, tell her I said 'congratulations.'"
"I just wish you'd told me yourself."
"I was going to write, but-"
"You got busy. I know," he finished for her. "It's the life of a fast-track Starfleet officer, such as my lovely wife."
She gestured to her unkempt hair and state of dress. "Not so lovely at oh-five-hundred."
He reached out with his hand and touched the screen. "Always lovely, to me."
"Aw, so sweet. How are you
"I'm fine. I miss you."
"Do you miss me?"
"Occasionally," she said as she looked down at her hands. "In the middle of the night, when I'm in the bunk by myself."
"Glad to hear you sleep alone."
John grinned. "Of course. I'm glad to hear that Ariel hasn't yet convinced you to enter her den of ill repute up on deck three."
"Who says she hasn't?"
The grin dropped off his face, along with the color. "What?" he asked, darkly.
She could not hold in her laughter any longer, a let loose with a broken chortle. "You're too easy a mark, love," she said. She leaned on the desk that held the terminal screen and let out another chuckle. "The surprising fact is that you're the only male in the universe that wouldn't consider girl-on-girl action a good thing."
He let out a laugh of his own. "I know; something's wrong with me."
"But all joking aside, you know that I know, right?"
"And yet you joke about it..."
"Because nothing will ever come of it. We're friends."
"She wants more."
Her eyes glanced down at the desk. "You don't trust me?"
"I do," he said quickly.
"The thing is..."
He looked away from the screen again, unsure of how to proceed. "I don't entirely trust her. She's always so..." He trailed off with a shake of his head.
"I was going to say something nicer, but we can use your word, sure."
She brought a hand to her forehead and sighed. "John, we can't keep having this conversation."
"No, I'm sorry. I just don't want to keep talking about it. We're posted together, and I'm in love with you. Not her."
He nodded. "I know, and I love you, too. Very much. I guess I just miss you."
"I miss you, too."
"Where are you, now?"
"In my quarters."
John shot her a frown. "You know what I meant."
She chuckled softly. "We're going to be in the Turkana system, soon. Another hour or so, last time I checked."
The conversation stopped, there. They sat and stared at each other with meaningful glances. Finally, John gave a slight inclination of his head. "Well, take care of yourself, Krys. And tell me when you plan on taking some leave."
"I will," she promised. "My love to Dom."
"What about me?"
She leaned forward closer to the screen and smiled. "My love to you, too."
---- SCENE CHANGE ----
Captain T'Cirya often felt that Starfleet erred in their redesign of the uniforms from the maroon jackets to the one-piece jumpsuits. The form-fitting uniforms left very little to the imagination. The junior officers and crewmen who lacked emotional control often allowed their hormones to run away with them when duty should come first. While a human woman might have felt flattered by the attentions received while wearing it, all she could do is curb the annoyance she experienced when it happened. She believed that the undue attention appeared as a form of punishment to her daily attention to maintaining her physical fitness as prescribed by Starfleet.
To that end, she had a command version of the two-piece medical tunic replicated. The added cover removed the annoyance from her daily life on the bridge. When the bridge maintained order, she felt as though the universe maintained order. There were times when during the long hours of flight, she could almost mediate within her seat, attuned to the stars around her ship. In the early morning hours before the forenoon watch, when the bridge's personnel numbered in the minimum to maintain regulation for a ship in flight,
And then, Lieutenant Commander Elannis would arrive and ruin everything.
Unlike T'Cirya, Ariel reveled in the attention she received. Merely reveling understated it; she absolutely wallowed in it. The captain suspected that she deliberately replicated her uniforms one size too small, to ensure that no matter where she went on the ship, all eyes locked onto her as though the Orion-accentuated curves of her body were an energy source that fed them just by being in the room. To add injury to insult, her zipper tended to be pulled down to allow the bare skin of her chest to be seen until the hint of cleavage appeared.
It happened every morning when she reported for her duty shift, like clockwork. The turbolift doors opened, and T'Cirya felt the room flood with pheromones.
Not Ariel's, of course, as Doctor Romanova ensured that their hybrid operations chief received her weekly injections of pheromone inhibitors. It was a part of her contract to serve on a ship full of unsuspecting Terrans, much like the oath of celibacy for Deltans. Ariel seemed to combat the inhibition of her natural tendencies by exuding sex with every step she took to get to her duty station.
Though the crew often felt they were being surreptitious in their off-duty hours, T'Cirya maintained an awareness of their activities through observation and overhearing gossip on the bridge. Ariel's reputation aboard ship reflected her demeanor perfectly, and while another officer may have taken care to preserve an air of formality and professionalism, she cared more for the opposite.
"Good morning, Commander Elannis," said T'Cirya, as though Ariel had always been a lieutenant commander. No emphasis was made toward her promotion within her tone.
Through the curly strands of raven black hair that fell from her face, she peered at the captain with only her right eye visible. Ariel smiled. "Captain." She slid into the vacant seat and logged into the console with a flick of her wrist.
Shortly after, Commander Leone entered the bridge from the turbolift, carrying a padd under her arm. "Oleg assures me that we will make our timetable, sir. He promised he would tow the ship with his bare hands, if need be."
T'Cirya lifted herself from her seat and placed her hands at the small of her back as she met her executive officer to speak with her. "Inform Commander Johansen that his dedication to duty is laudable."
"He will appreciate that, sir."
As her ready room resided two decks below the bridge, the captain opted to hold an impromptu conference on the bridge. She lowered her voice as she spoke, "Starfleet has requested a nominal update for Turkana IV."
Leone winced. "Really?"
T'Cirya said nothing. She knew Leone's conversational style enough to know that it was rhetorical.
"Well," sighed Leone, "it looks like we'll be plenty busy in the system. Might as well, since we'll be in the neighborhood. How would you like to proceed, sir?"
T'Cirya replied, "Given the less-than-stellar reports from the last starship to visit Turkana IV, I'm reluctant to send an away mission to the colony without the full support of the ship in orbit. The colony will be there after we've completed our rescue operations."
"Now entering the Turkana system, Captain," said the petty officer at the helm.
"Aye, sir," said Leone with a quick nod. She turned to address the helm, "Full impulse power, helm. Ariel, let track down that signal."
As the stars reformed into specks of light in the distance, Leone moved away from the captain to hover over Ariel's duty station.
While she was within earshot, Ariel muttered, "You just love
to breathe down my neck, don't you?"
"Only way I can get an honest days' work out of you," retorted Leone as she grinned. "Find anything?"
"I'm trying to pinpoint the exact source of the signal..." said Ariel, with her voice trailing off. "Here we go. Looks like a ship of some kind in orbit of the third planet. A decaying orbit, too."
"Helm, take us to Turkana III," ordered Leone.
As the ship's bow turned toward the present location of the planet, T'Cirya added another order. "Set condition yellow, Commander."
"Yellow alert," agreed Leone. "Dawk, raise shields. Weapons to hot standby."
The ship's alert status indicator flashed a solid amber glow onto the main bridge. From the tactical station, Lieutenant Dawkins nodded. "Aye, sir. Shields are up. Weapons energized and ready."
"Long-range sensors are picking up several craft in the vicinity of Turkana III," reported Ariel, her voice clear as her fingers worked the console in front of her. "I'm washing the silhouette through the computer to identify them."
"Are we within visual range?" asked T'Cirya.
Ariel replied, "Long-range sensors have a visual lock, sir."
Leone peered at the viewscreen as the image of several non-descript craft presented itself. "Can you magnify?"
The screen shifted once more to close in on the ships. A large vessel without visible lighting lay adrift amongst several smaller craft that operated under their own power. The outline of the larger vessel remained unclear to the officers on the bridge.
"The computer has a match on the large ship," reported Ariel. "It is the source of the transmission, but it's the only thing I'm reading off of it."
"What about the smaller ships out there?" asked Leone. "Dawk, you love old school ships, don't you?"
Dawkins supplied the information with a wide grin, "Old-style sub-impulse fighters. I would say, the Remora-class fighter. First production, 2172."
"What are those typically armed with?"
"Dual phaser mounts only. The standard armament of that day were the type-zero-fives." He added, "Single-seat craft, max speed of one hundred thousand kilometers per hour. They're pretty maneuverable, though."
"If they were to turn hostile, we could at least outrun them."
"Absolutely," replied Dawkins.
Ariel announced, "Sensors reporting a total of eight fighters and one small supply hauler, it looks like. Four are in operation, but I'm showing four landed on the exterior, with the hauler docked at the airlock."
"Any exterior markings to identify the origin of those craft, Commander?" asked T'Cirya.
She shook her head. "No, sir. Nothing on the hull of the fighters or the hauler. But the freighter is NGR-88190, which the computer has associated with the SS Delilah's Deed
, a Minuteman-class medium freighter belonging to the Rock Hound Shipping Corporation based on Galorndan Core."
"Lifesigns?" asked Leone.
Dawkins reported, "I'm reading five on the freighter, but I'm not reading any life support. We'll be within weapons' range in sixty seconds."
"They've seen us. The fighters are powering up thrusters and moving to intercept. I'm showing weapons are arming," said Ariel, quickly.
Leone rolled her eyes, then shot a glance toward the captain. "You've got to be kidding me. Four sub-impulse fighters versus an Excelsior-class starship? That's suicide."
T'Cirya was unfazed. "Identify fighter armament, Lieutenant Dawkins."
"Scanning, Captain," replied Dawkins. "I'm showing phasers, but I can't be sure they're the standard payload. I'd imagine they might have upgraded them; the power distribution indicates a higher transfer than the type-zero-fives."
"Hailing frequencies open," said Dawkins. He called into the audio pickups of the communications system, "To unidentified fighters on approach, this is the Federation starship Potemkin
. We intend you no harm. Please respond."
"Captain, fighters are now within weapons' range," said Ariel.
Dawkins shook his head. "No response to our hail, sir. Also, no change in sensor readings on the fighters. They're flying at us, weapons-hot."
"General quarters," order T'Cirya. "Repeat your hail, Lieutenant. Add that we will defend ourselves, if necessary."
As Dawkins did so, Leone leaned over to speak to her captain. "They don't really pose much of a threat, sir. Do we really intend to fight?"
"Starfleet regulations are quite clear on the matter, Commander," replied T'Cirya, matter-of-factly. "I'm without recourse, should they open fire."
The executive officer grimaced and shook her head. "Seems pointless."
"No response," report Dawkins. "I'm reading weapons locks. Those are definitely not the older models, sir. The tactical systems didn't allow for sensor guided phaser emitters."
Leone frowned. "Captain, recommend we disable only."
The captain agreed with a nod. "Mister Dawkins, decrease phaser power accordingly."
"Sir, it's going to be difficult to disable. Fighters of that class were built for speed, not bulk. I'll do the best I can," he promised.
"See that you do," replied T'Cirya.
"They're firing," Ariel announced.
The ship rocked under the combined phaser hits from the four fighters.
"Shields down to eighty percent!" Dawkins exclaimed, more surprised by the firepower than anything else.
Nearly everyone on the bridge looked at the tactical station with shock. Only T'Cirya and Ariel appeared to maintain a professional air.
Ariel commented, "Definitely not the old model phasers."
"Return fire," ordered T'Cirya. "Target weapons and propulsion only."
"Ariel, find out what we're dealing with."
The phasers lanced out to make contact with one of the fighters, but missed as it banked out of the way quickly. Again, they retaliated with another barrage, this time taking special care to target the underside of the engineering hull.
Dawkins shook his head and in an incredulous tone, he told the bridge that "Shields are now at sixty-three percent."
"Engineering to Bridge," called Commander Johansen. "What the hell is going on up there?"
"Not now, Oleg," replied Leone through gritted teeth, as the ship took another shot. She moved over to the tactical station and looked over Dawkins' shoulder for up-to-the-moment information.
"I got a read on the weapons systems," said Ariel. "Type-five phaser cannons. And they're overpowered, for sure."
"Jesus," breathed Dawkins.
"Captain!" called Leone. "I think it's time to take the kid gloves off."
T'Cirya pressed her lips together and nodded. "I'm afraid you're quite correct, Commander. Lieutenant Dawkins, full power to weapons. Return fire."
"Aye, sir. Firing weapons at full power."
The deck lurched beneath them again, and the shield status indicator dropped below fifty percent. Leone watched as the computer continued to miss its targets. "No, Dawk. Switch to manual targeting. Lead them a little. Dogfight with them."
(continued in next post, cut for post size limitations of vBulletin)