Location: The fine line between continuity and fanwank.
Re: Excelsior Technical Manual - Revived!
That was what I was thinking, sojourner
Well, here's the next chapter, and here comes some a heavy dose of healthy speculation:
Chapter Eight - Proliferation
Sulu and Excelsior saw the end of the twenty-third century together, and the dawn of the twenty-fourth. Talks between the Federation and the Klingons were making slow progress. It was a time of increasing peace and prosperity for the universe, and optimism was high. The Federation agreed to various concessions as part of their ongoing peace talks with the Klingons. Some were relatively significant, while others were more semantic. In part, Starfleet ageed to decommission all of their existing dreadnoughts and battleships, to disarm and repurpose several destroyers as scouts or light cruisers, and to also limit the number of heavy cruisers it kept in operation as the primary instrument of its exploration and defense programs. Starfleet was left with a decision that proved a relatively easy one. The inability to graft Excelsior-developed technology to the Constitution class refits had proven problematic not only with the Enterprise-A but with all members of the Constitution class, and each Excelsior was ton for ton a bigger and more powerful ship. The Admiralty finally agreed to decommission the Constitution class to replace them with Excelsior class ships. As part of compliance to the Klingons' stipulations, over seventy percent of these ships were scrapped, while almost all the others were placed in reserve fleets at various Federation surplus depots. By 1 January, 2300, there were fourteen more Excelsior class starships in service, and over a dozen more under construction, with fifty more under contract. Starfleet was continuing to expand and explore.
Within the next couple of decades, several variants based on the Excelsior class were pioneered in shipyards across the Federation, from the Mediterranean-class frigates to the Shelley class through-deck cruiser/transports to the Medusa-class experimental deep space cruisers. The Excelsior had pioneered a revolution in Starfleet technology and exploration, and was truly building a legacy to be admired. However, the same period of prosperity that allowed the Excelsior class to thrive would also bring about its successor at the forefront of Starfleet exploration and defense: the Ambassador class.
The Ambassador class had been a gleam in her designers' eyes since before the Excelsior left dry dock in 2284, and was quite simply the most logical decision of the expansion of the role of the heavy cruiser that the Excelsior had begun. A number of officers at the ASDB long saw the niche for a massive multi-mission vessel capable of an unprecedented, and indeed fantastic, level of independent long-range missions and extended deployment that they termed an Explorer type starship. Since the ship was technically of a new type, it was exempt from limitations imposed by the Klingon treaties. The ship that became the Ambassador class was long backburnered by Starfleet, given the ship's massive concept and seemingly unachievable technology specifications, particularly in the wake of the Excelsior class's near-failure, but in the era of peace that came about in the early twenty-fourth century, the concept was given more consideration. A number of Starfleet officials were concerned by Starfleet's new 'supership' idea, much as they had been when the Excelsior was under construction, but by 2310 the Ambassador design process was fully underway and making great strides. As outlined by the ASDB, U.S.S. Ambassador would not, as initially feared, replace the Excelsior, but rather augment her in missions of long-range exploration and defense, and ultimately relegate Excelsior to the role of fleet workhorse, much as Excelsior had done to the Constitution and Miranda classes. Ironically, the Great Experiment would thus become the fleet's tried and true ship of the line.
Meanwhile, the Excelsior and the members of her class were enjoying their prosperity. Excelsior served with distinction under the command of Sulu, participating in a number of extensive missions of exploration and scientific research in both the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. Her crew became a family, and many of her officers grew reluctant to accept promotions or transfers to other vessels. The Excelsior had become a staple of the Federation fleet, dubbed "Old Reliable" by the officers who served on her. She endured many dangerous missions, sometimes seeming to escape only by luck. In reality, it was a measure of the skill of her crew and her commander. The Excelsior class stayed ahead of modern technology, thanks to the modularity and adaptability of their design. However, by 2325 Excelsior would be due for a major refit to keep her at the forefront of the fleet.
In 2311, the event Federation historians call the Tomed Incident occurred. That year, a prototype Federation starship malfunctioned catastrophically along the Romulan border, destroying the ship and severely damaging a large region of space. The suspicious Romulans, already feeling somewhat cornered by the fledgling peace between the Federation and the Klingons, believed the destruction of the ship to be proof that Starfleet was developing weapons for use against them and began a military deployment that quickly threatened to develop into full-scale war. The Enterprise-B was present at subsequent events that culminated in a new treaty between the Romulans and Federation, a ban on development of any Federation cloaking technology, and was coupled with a renewed period of Romulan isolation that would last for over fifty years.
By 2315, the design for the Ambassador was finalized, and construction well underway. In 2322 U.S.S. Ambassador, NX-10521 was launched and began her space worthiness testing and shakedown. Many Starfleet officers were astonished by the mere sight of Ambassador; at 526 meters long and 3,700,000 metric tons in mass, she was the biggest Starfleet ship ever built, as well as the most technologically advanced. Her flight test crew, however, were less impressed. While a marvel, the Ambassador was "nothing special," in the words of her flight test captain, and many felt she was not the design revolution that she promised to be. The design was nonetheless a success, and introduced a number of technological advances, including collimated phaser arrays rather than turret phaser banks, and was one of the first Starfleet ship classes to allow families aboard (although only in limited capacity). In historical perspective, the class was a mere stepping stone in starship design rather than a pioneering benchmark. With over one hundred Excelsior class starships in service, and more under construction, the Ambassador class was in no way endangering Excelsior's status as backbone of the fleet.
At the end of the same year, Hikaru Sulu was offered a promotion. At 78 years old, Sulu began seriously considering whether he wanted to spend the rest of his life on a starship. Sulu reluctanctly accepted promotion and reassignment. Ultimately, Sulu would retire from the Admiralty in 2326 and run for Federation President. Excelsior would continue without him, and Sulu would serve an impressive three terms in office. Sulu was succeeded in command of Excelsior by Captain Leonard James Akaar, who began his Starfleet career on Excelsior as chief of security under Sulu nearly thirty years earlier.
As Excelsior sat in drydock for a major modernization and refit in 2325, the Federation made official first contact with a civilization that would help shape its future for the next fifty years: the Cardassian Union. The Cardassians were a technologically advanced but economically poor species from the Alpha Quadrant who, at the time, sought to secure claims on multiple worlds rich in natural resources they desperately needed. Peace overtures from the Federation were met with suspicion and even contempt. Over the next twenty years, the lack of dialogue between the two governments would lead to a series of bloody, and some believe unnecessary, conflicts. A military buildup was present on both sides. For its part, Starfleet paced up its production of Excelsior and other starships by nearly thirty percent, increasing each production block of Excelsior class ships by twenty ships each.
In 2331, the Enterprise-B was lost in the line of duty though most of the crew survived. As a result, the under-construction Ambassador-class starship U.S.S. Alaska was redesignated U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-C. The Alaska/Enterprise-C was to be the pioneer of a new sub-type of the Ambassador-class. Launched in early 2336, the Enterprise-C would ultimately play a crucial role in the history of Federation-Klingon relations, sacrificing herself to protect the Klingon colony of Narendra III from Romulan attack in 2344 and opening the door for a new era of communication between the Federation and Klingons that would eventually solidify their previously established uneasy peace into real friendship and cooperation. It is interesting to note that many Federation historians speculate that had the Narendra Incident and ensuing relationship development not occurred, once the Klingon economic recovery had been a success there would have been little incentive to maintain the delicate truce between the Klingon Empire and Federation, and could have led to a period of renewed hostilies and even eventual war.
No matter the historical signifcane of the incident, the loss of the Enterprise-C also cast a questionable light on the success of the Ambassador-class program. The Enterprise was, by all subsequent accounts, far more maneuverable than her Romulan counterparts. Klingon intelligence indicated the Enterprise was outnumbered six to one, but tactical simulation indicated the Enterprise should have been able to survive the assault. Starfleet review boards were unable to concretely assign blame, but this and other factors would later ensure Starfleet's previous determination that the Ambassador-class production run would be brief, and Enterprise-C would be among the last of her class constructed in favor of more reliable, relatively inexpensive ships such as the Excelsior class. By that time, Starfleet had already begun initial design work on the Galaxy class, a bigger and better replacement for the Ambassador class. Starfleet had already realized, however, that while they had been forced to decommission their dreadnoughts and battleships that a multi-role Explorer-type ship such as the Ambassador could easily double as a battleship, while still having something useful to do in peacetime.
"If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross; but it's not for the timid." - Q