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USS ANGEL – FLIGHT DECK OPERATIONS OFFICE
September 11th 2371 – 1420 FST
Dan seated himself as best he could in the cramped office, cramped only because it was now holding more than its fair share of people. Along with Dan and the two ground chiefs was his first officer, Kat Gray; the two Valkyrie
pilots, Mo Martari and Homer Richmond and his Chief Engineer Andi Machilveen.
They all looked tired and Dan was well aware that it was because of their round the clock efforts to prepare the new launch system. When he’d looked out over the hangar deck a short while ago, he’d seen little change and wondered just how the new system would work. He was about to find out.
Spider stepped forward to lead the presentation smiling broadly at their achievement.
“OK Sir, a little background first. The problem we had was that the computer simulation showed any severe manoeuvre made by the Angel
in an operational environment would adversely affect the launch of small craft. Normally, at least until now, they would never be launched during evasive or combat manoeuvres. It’s always been Starfleet’s directive that they remain hangared until it’s safe to launch.”
He began the simulation on the monitor. “Our mission dictates otherwise. You can see here that the more aggressive the manoeuvre of the Angel
, the longer the lag with the structural integrity fields and inertial dampers. It’s like when you’re on the bridge and we take a hit, that brief moment when the systems trying to compensate? Add to that an impact from an outside source and you get this.”
The screen showed a computer simulation of the hangar deck, a Valkyrie
sitting at rest. “OK, I’ve slowed the playback. We order a launch just as the ship enters a high rate turn.” The Valkyrie
lifted from the deck and slowly edged towards the open hangar bay door. “This is where the Angel
’s manoeuvre begins.”
Outside the door, the stars began to wheel as the big starship entered a max rate turn. “Now watch the Valkyrie
. The fields lag behind the ship’s turn momentarily so the fighter drifts. Not drastically, but enough to do this.”
The graphic of the fighter hung motionless for a moment before sliding sideways as its forward movement continued.
“A second manoeuvre, all part of pre-programmed evasive patterns, and this happens.” Now the fighter had gained a vertical vector in its motion, heading forward, up and sideways at the same time. The impact was plain to see coming and Dan winced as the fighter smashed cockpit first into the overhead door supports. “Now watch it in real time Sir.”
The simulation ran again, but this time it was over in seconds. “No pilot, and I realise we got the best here, but no pilot has the time to react to that. Even allowing for computer input to the launch, it would have to anticipate random manoeuvres from the conn.”
“Not good.” Dan looked expectantly at the Chief. “So your answer is?”
“History Sir.” Seeing Dan’s puzzled look he invited Dingbat to take over.
“Chief Tarrant and me like naval history sir is what he’s trying to say.” He leaned forward and ran a holo of a twentieth century nuclear carrier in heavy seas. “Much like Starfleet, the old navies on Earth weren’t keen on launching aircraft in adverse conditions unless the situation genuinely warranted it. But when they did, this is how they did it.”
The image showed a sleek fighter jet sitting on the deck, a blast deflector raised behind it and steam being whipped away from the channel where the catapult would run.
“As well as providing the initial launch velocity, the catapult provides control of the launch in two dimensions here sir; laterally along the deck stopping the bird from sliding sideways and, in a sense, vertically. You see the bird stays on the deck as long as it’s attached to the catapult. Once up to speed she’s free to fly. We’ve taken that concept and brought it kicking and screaming into the 24th century.”
“A catapult launch?” Dan couldn’t believe something so simple could be the answer.
“In effect yes sir, but no clunky old steam cats to spoil the nice new ship. Come and look at this.”
Spider led the way down to the hangar floor then took them into the starboard launch bay where Mo’s Valkyrie
, the USS Hildr
, sat looking lethal in repose.
“You see where we’ve laid lengths of maglev tracks into the deck forward of the craft here?” The job was neat and Dan struggled to spot the twin lines of the newly installed track, but eventually nodded.
“OK, now look under the Valkyrie
. She’s attached to a sled which will keep her in control both laterally and vertically till she exits the hangar bay. But just to make sure, we installed micro tractors just below the flight deck ops office. They’ll restrict the bird’s movement to a straight and level launch until it clears the bay.” He pointed up to where semi-concealed tractor emitters poked out from the superstructure. “The only thing I can tell you for sure is when this bird launches, there’s only one direction she’s going and that’s straight forward and out and the sled stays right here.”
Dan shook his head in wonder. “Chief, you and your team just earned a pay rise. I just can’t believe that ASDB couldn’t come up with something this elegant.”
“Sir, I don’t know much about designing a vessel, I just fix ‘em and keep ‘em flying but my guess is they were blinkered with Starfleet’s old doctrine of launching before entering combat, or grounding the birds until safe to launch.”
“Blinkered or not, it could have cost lives.” Dan found himself torn between anger at the desk bound designers who missed the flaw and pride in his team for rectifying it. The latter won out. “Ladies and gentlemen, you have no idea how proud I am of what you’ve done here. You might think you were just doing your jobs, but I’ve seen a team solve a problem that could easily have put the Angel
back into dry-dock while they hummed and hawed about it.”
He nodded his thanks to each one of them. “I want you to pass that on to every crew member who took part in this, thank you. Now all we have left is the test of the system.”
“Well, Lt Martari here tells me we’re ready to go right…”
Dan held his hand up cutting Spider short. “No way. For now you’re all ordered to take 24 hours R&R. You can do it on the ship or ground side, but none of you will set foot in this hangar until you’re rested. Much as I appreciate what you’ve achieved here, all of you, you now need rest.”
Seeing the crestfallen look on Spider’s face, Dan added “If needs be, I’ll get the CMO to back me up, although I’m sure that won’t be necessary will it?”
They all shook their heads and Dan was sure he some of them bravely attempting to stifle yawns.
“Glad to hear it, now go get some down time, you’ve all earned it.”
As the team filed out of the hangar bay, Dan stopped Spider and Dingbat.
“Chief, this was damn fine work, thank you to both of you especially.”
Spider grinned lopsidedly at the compliment. “What makes it even better sir is that everything was legit, though it would be nice if a personal letter of thanks could be sent to a Mr Ganyol of Haskan Industries. Couldn’t have done it without him.”
“Consider it done Chief.”
“I’m sure he’ll appreciate it Sir. Now me and Dingbat are gonna take your advice and investigate a small bar on Zethander that escaped our last visit.”
Spider and Dingbat’s planet side activities were legendary but Dan wasn’t about to begrudge them the chance to let off steam.
“Promise I won’t have to bail you out?” Dan grinned when they both had the grace to look embarrassed. “You’re still here Chiefs, beer’s getting warm.”
As they left Dan standing alone in the hangar bay, his renewed sense of pride and anticipation put him in just the right frame of mind for his next task.
USS ANGEL – TRANSPORTER ROOM 1
September 11th 2371 – 1500 FST
Two figures materialised on the transporter platform in front of Dan and Kat, and it was immediately obvious which one was Guinan. Dressed in a floor length purple smock and matching hat, she was every bit the master of her environment. Stepping down from the platform she greeted Dan with a beatific smile and a firm handshake, and then hugged Kat warmly before turning and introducing the young woman who was with her.
“Captain, Commander, this is my daughter Melista.” The resemblance was obvious from the dark brown eyes that had obviously seen more than most, to the warm chocolate tone of her glowing skin. Her outfit was, however, slightly more contemporary.
“You’ll be glad to know she’s inherited her mother’s brains as well as her looks Captain.”
“Which knowing my father,” quipped Melista, “is a good thing trust me.”
Dan smiled at the impromptu double act. As he escorted them from the transporter room towards the crew lounge, they fell into companionable conversation regarding the Angel
, her mission and her crew.
“Seems to me,” said Kat eventually, “that you’ve inherited the El-Aurian capacity for listening as well Melista.”
“Yep, mom has a lot to answer for as far as the El-Aurian side of me’s concerned,” chuckled Melista. Her smile and general demeanour was infectious to the point that Dan was slightly shocked when they both halted abruptly in the doorway to the crew lounge.
“Captain, I need to ask, has there been any hints of mutiny amongst your crew?” Guinan said it with a half smile but her distaste at the state of the crew lounge was obvious.
“Only from my first officer and I’ve learnt to ignore that now.” Kat poked him in the arm. “I assume you’re going to tell me I’ve had a lucky escape?”
“And then some,” Melista said wearing exactly the same expression as her mother. “I don’t know who, far want of a better word, decorated this place but you should ask for your deposit back Captain. I’ve seen better…”
Guinan raised a hand. “Hey, don’t insult the Captain’s ship Melista. You haven’t got the job yet.”
Dan managed a self conscious shrug. “Actually, I couldn’t agree more Melista, which is one of the reasons I’d really like somebody who can change it into the place it should be. Job’s yours if you can handle it.”
He knew he’d sold it with that last seemingly throw away comment and Melista’s reply.
“Captain, there isn’t a lounge or recreation room in the Federation I couldn’t turn around, though this one’s quite the challenge.”
Dan knew she was right. The outgoing hostess had seemed more interested in simply working her passage home to Zethander after three years at the Academy campus than turning the crew lounge into a respite for off duty crew members.
Melista looked to her mother. “Does Afron still owe you a favour mom?”
“Most people do hon, why what do you have in mind?”
Instead of answering her mother straight away, Melista turned to Dan. “Captain, I’d love to take the job if I can have a relatively free hand in here?”
He turned to Kat with a questioning look and she shrugged.
“Hey, it can’t get any worse than it is and I get the feeling that the hostess gene has been passed on with the good looks.” Guinan rolled her eyes.
That was good enough for Dan. “In that case, welcome aboard Melista. It’s all yours.”
“Thank you Captain.” She hesitated. “Just one thing, might I ask if you could close the lounge for the next 24 hours while I do a little tidying up?”
Dan considered that for a moment. He knew they weren’t scheduled to break orbit for at least that long and with excellent facilities available dockside, he felt the minor inconvenience would hopefully be worth it and nodded.
“I’ll advise the crew.”
“You won’t regret it Captain trust me.” She turned and took her mother’s arm, leading her inside the lounge and the last thing he heard her say before the doors closed with a hiss was, “That thing has definitely got to go.”
Dan had no idea what ‘that thing’ was and Kat obviously saw his look of apprehension.
“Too late to worry now brave Captain, you’ve just given away the keys to the Kingdom.”
“Oh that makes me feel so much better, thank you. However,” he said turning on his heel with a cunning look, “as I’m now delegating responsibility of the crew lounge to my trusted first officer, I’m sure I have nothing to worry about.”
“You’re what?” Kat found herself having to jog to catch up with her laughing commanding officer.
USS ANGEL – JUNIOR CREW QUARTERS
September 11th 2371 – 2010 FST
“So how is Adreman?” LJ smiled as always as he spoke to his fiancée.
“I get the feeling you wouldn’t recognise the place LJ. I mean there’s a brand new infrastructure here; accommodation, admin, the whole works. They even have a duty ship assigned to the unit now.”
LJ nodded remembering his one and only visit to Adreman when it was little more than a backwater unmanned training reserve with a small science outpost. The events that led to the loss of the Covington
combined with Starfleet’s increased training regimen had now made it much more.**
“Then your stay there is likely to be much more comfortable than mine was thank goodness.” He grinned sardonically at the gross understatement. “By the way Vonny, Anya and Misaki say hello.”
“So how are they taking to the new rank?”
The orders hadn’t officially reached Adreman yet so Jo was still wearing her standard cadet uniform.
“Like chickens to water my love.”
Jo shook her head. “Ducks LJ, that’s ducks.”
Keeping a straight face with some difficulty, he replied “I know exactly what I meant to say thank you. Oh and they have armfuls of souvenirs as well so be prepared!” A small chime came over the comm to indicate that their allotted comm time had once again run out.
Jo heard it on the comm at her end as well. “I have no idea who sets these time limits but I swear one of these days I’m gonna hack the system!”
“Tut tut, on an open channel as well.” He shook his head dramatically. “Even worse, confessing the crime before it is committed to a member of Starfleet security. This doesn’t look good Ms Wickes.”
“Oh shut up ya big lunk.”
Turning serious, she blew him a kiss which he returned. “Take care out there please?”
“You too my love. We will speak soon.” The screen faded to the familiar UFP logo and LJ gave a heartfelt sigh. He loved the job he did and the posting he had aboard the Angel, but he never realised just how much he would miss Jo being this far apart.
(** The story of the previous events on Adreman is covered in the STARFLEET ACADEMY series of stories available on my site!)
THE EVENT HORIZON CLUB
September 11th 2371 – 2100 FST
Spider and Dingbat had spent the better part of the early evening simply wandering the busy thoroughfares of Coral City, occasionally stopping into a bar or shop along the way. The atmosphere was almost like being on Risa, without some of the more exotic options of course.
As the second of the three moons rose above the distant horizon, Spider breathed in the briny air and smiled contentedly.
“It’s times like this my good friend when life seems good.”
Even Dingbat’s usually pessimistic attitude seemed absent this evening.
“Couldn’t agree more; in fact, I’ll go as far as to offer the first round at The Event Horizon.”
Spider studied his friend closely. “There’s a catch right?”
“I sir,” said Dingbat clutching at his chest, “am wounded by your evident mistrust.”
Spider held his hands up in surrender. “Whoa, far be it from me to cause a rift in our perfect working relationship. Lay on MacDuff and spend some credits.”
The Event Horizon was a night club and restaurant owned by Ganyol and he’d sent an invitation to the crew of the Angel to attend an open mic evening following Dan’s communiqué of thanks. So it was no surprise that when they eventually arrived, there were many familiar faces already there enjoying the sumptuous atmosphere.
Spider and Dingbat sidled up to the bar just as a young crewman from engineering was leaving the stage, accompanied by good natured catcalls about his inability to carry a tune in a bucket.
“There ya go Dingbat, your chance to impress the ladies.”
Spider indicated the stage with a grin.
“Oh ha ha. If I remember correctly, the only reason Antoinette used to ask you to sing at the Red Dragon was to clear the place at the end of the night. Now do you want a drink or sarcastic repertoire?”
“Ok ok, surprise me, as long as it comes in a normal size glass and no umbrellas.”
As Dingbat ordered up the drinks, Spider watched a group of young women at the far end of the bar obviously trying to coax one of their number up to sing. Eventually she relented, and with much cheering and applause the young woman climbed up on to the small circular stage and spoke to the leader of the small backing band. After a moment he nodded and she took a seat on the stool at centre stage.
Spider was sure he recognised her from the science department on the Angel, a serenely beautiful young woman with the mirrored eyes of the Sezdati.
As Dingbat handed him a shot glass of extremely smooth whiskey, the lights dimmed and the band launched into the quiet opening of George Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’. As the haunting chords lulled the audience to quiet, the young woman spoke.
“I’m not quite sure why I agreed to do this, so you need to blame my comrades at the bar for inflicting me on you tonight.” The group of women once again gave a small round of applause. “I chose this song because it takes me back to when I was a child. It was something my mother was always humming around the house and it’s stayed with me ever since.”
As the music faded, she closed here eyes and began to sing…
“Summertime, and the living is easy…”
All conversation in the bar ceased as the pure tones of her voice sailed above and around the audience, the band taking a quiet counterpoint in the background. Spider thought it had to be the most beautiful rendition of the song he’d ever heard and became lost in the weaving melody and soaring talent of the young woman.
“…so hush little baby, don’t…you cry…”
As the final chords faded, he realised that, like many of those around him, he’d been lost in the beauty of Kara Asheen’s voice, oblivious to the drink in his hand or indeed anything other than the slight girl on stage. There was silence for several seconds and then as if the spell of her voice had been lifted, a roar of approval and calls for an encore lifted the roof.
Realising that she wouldn’t be allowed to leave the stage without at least one more song, she spoke once again to the band leader who turned with a smile and launched into a catchy upbeat version of ‘Beyond Antares’.
Heads bobbed, people smiled and couples danced. Spider was certain that should Kara Asheen ever give up her career in Starfleet there was a quadrant that would pay good money to be entertained by her. He knew that this would be one of those evenings that would live in his memory for a long time.
Little did he realise just how prophetic that thought was to be.