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Old September 1 2011, 05:44 PM   #104
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Location: Langley
Re: June Challenge 2011 - "Liberty"

Re: August challenge: "Dramatis Personae"

"Dramatis Personae"

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Starbase 136, Location [Classified RECURVE ARBOR]

CAPTAIN GABRIEL FROST stood to the side, arms folded across his chest. He’d done his part, and now it was out of his hands. Chief Engineer R’riel tapped a string of commands into the master systems access terminal – the so-called ‘pool table’ – that more often than not served as the hub of activity in Challenger’s Main Engineering. As he typed, Commander R'riel’s clawed fingers echoed in the unusual quiet that hung in the air. After an interminable pause, his efforts were rewarded with the computer’s pleasant contralto stating:

Flow sensor operating within normal parameters.

Several of the engineering crew broke into smiles and high-fives, and Gabriel breathed a sigh of relief. Finally… He looked over at the stocky, muscular Tas-Bestonian.

“Commander, at your leisure.”

“Aye, on your word, sir,” R’riel replied. “Computer, begin warp core initialization.”


Within moments, the familiar rhythmic thrum of Challenger’s mighty warp core permeated Engineering, more felt than heard. Once the core warmed up to full power, the thrum would be noticeably more audible. Gabriel tapped his combadge.

“Commander Taylor, please advise the Harbormaster that initial startup was successful. Challenger will be ready to depart in one hour Standard.”

“Aye, sir.” Connie, on the bridge, quickly enabled the captain’s chair’s comm protocols. “Challenger to Dock Command, come in please.”

“LCDR Bahri Kumon here; go ahead, Challenger.”

“Engineering reports warp core initialization and startup successful, advises departure in one hour.”

“It’s about damn time,” LCDR Kumon said, not quite under his breath.

“ExCUSE me?” snapped Connie, putting the full weight of her rank and years of service into her voice (and her frustrations with Gabriel, for good measure). The Harbormaster visibly recoiled.

Challenger is, um, cleared to depart, all departure lanes are clear. Starbase 136 out.” The Harbormaster cut the channel before Connie could really lay into him. She growled in frustration, then took a deep breath and went back to her pre-launch duties.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Slightly less than one hour later, various umbilicals detached from Challenger, retracting back towards the dock arms. Challenger’s running lights came up, followed by jets of ionized plasma from her RCS thrusters, pushing her away from the station. As Challenger picked up speed and backed away from the berth, another starship hove into view, tended reverently by a Bulldog-class tug and several heavy-lift shuttlecraft. Despite the catastrophic battle damage she wore, she was instantly recognizable. There was only one ship of that class still in service, only one ship with that unmistakable profile.

Enterprise,” whispered Gabriel. “Gods above and gods below.” Everyone on the bridge stopped and stared at the main screen as the shattered ship was oh-so-gently moved into the berth next to the one Challenger had just barely vacated. Acting on a gut feeling, Gabriel used his internal connection to Challenger’s computer to direct a power spike to the starboard lateral sensors, all but one pallet. Everyone on the bridge winced at the screech of feedback.

The face of LCDR Kumon abruptly appeared on the main screen. “Challenger, what the hell was that?”

Gabriel turned to the MSD at the back of the bridge while Connie consulted the Sciences station; it was Connie who responded first.

“Some sort of power surge in the EPS grid.. not sure why. No effect to ship systems, though, other than some audio feedback. Anything on your end?”

“No. Did those sensors record anything?”

That’s an odd question, Gabriel thought. “Just a bunch of static,” he said. “I can send you the data-tracks.”

“That won’t be necessary,” LCDR Kumon said. “But make sure you, um, delete them.”

“Delete them?” asked Gabriel. “On whose authority?”

“Adm. Durham’s,” Kumon responded, a little too quickly. “That ship was involved in a classified engagement, and, um, per his orders – which we received just 15 minutes ago – no records of any kind pertaining in any way to the, um, incident are to be kept. You’re not even allowed to talk about it. The authentication code is, um, Durham Tango-Six-Four-Epsilon.” He paused and glared in a feeble attempt to appear menacing. “You saw nothing, Captain.”

“You’ll excuse me if I call the Admiral to verify this.”

“Go ahead. Just, um, get out of the system before you do.” Just as suddenly as he’d appeared, LCDR Kumon was replaced by the view of the starbase as Challenger continued to back away.

“Helm, set your course for the star system’s outer edge, one-half impulse.”

“Set my course for the star system’s outer edge, one-half impulse aye,” Lt. Mokul replied crisply. “On your word, sir.”

“We’re just going to run off?” Connie asked, incredulous. “Sir, that was the Ent…”

“I know exactly what that was, Commander,” said Gabriel. “Once we get out-system, I’m calling Unified Command and getting answers. Until then, we assume the orders are valid. No one talks about it.

“Helm, execute.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Cut and print,” the director said. “OK everyone, that’s lunch. One hour, people!” The cast and crew of Star Trek: Flight of the Challenger began wandering off in various directions, though most of them headed for the craft tables or the restrooms. A couple of stagehands headed for the bridge set with cloth rags and Windex in hand, to make the set look perfect for the impending round of press photography. The director stood and stretched, looking over at the visitors to his set that were trying to remain as unobtrusive as possible.

Which would include me. I’m here representing the website, one of a handful of Trek fan sites selected to visit the set of the newest television incarnation of Star Trek. Unlike previous versions of Trek, this newest show was picked up by the cable network Starz, and that means significant differences from when Trek was on broadcast TV. For starters, the season is comprised of six two-hour-long episodes; only one season is on order, but the fans are already clamoring for more. Considering that this is the pilot that’s filming now, the clamor is a bit premature, but we can hope.

Also, the show has a significant budget increase over broadcast TV; in fact, the pilot’s budget is near feature-film levels. Not to mention, due to the show being on cable, the stories are promised to be more “mature”, “deeper”, that sort of thing. From what we’ve been teased about the scripts, it looks like that’s the case. And if that wasn’t enough, the production has been able to land some big – and I mean big – name talent. We’ve been promised a few minutes with the cast who are on set today, which unfortunately means no one-on-one. Still, I’m very excited. Who wouldn’t be?

First on the list is David Tennant, who plays Captain Gabriel Frost. David is no stranger to sci-fi TV, having played one of the most well-regarded Doctors in the history of the record-setting run of Doctor Who. Some chairs are set up in a relatively quiet corner of the set for David and those of us from the various websites. After a round of introductions, the first question is posed: why Star Trek?

“Ah, you see, I had just finished shooting the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special with Matt Smith, Christopher Eccelston, and Paul McGann, and had gotten that old science-fiction itch.” It’s amusing to hear David drop Gabriel’s American accent for his natural light Scottish brogue. “I read the script, loved it, and besides, to be part of one of America’s biggest sci-fi franchises? I couldn’t pass it up.”

The next question came from me: what drew you to the character of Capt. Frost, and what can we expect from him?

A knowing smile crosses David’s face. “There are things I know that of course I can’t tell you. Spoilers, to borrow a phrase.” We all share a chuckle. “Gabriel is a very conflicted man. He’s thrust into this position he doesn’t want, but for reasons as-yet-unknown is forced to keep. Not to mention, his superiors seem to be involved in a nefarious plot, and Gabriel wants to be in a position to stop it.” David puts his hands up to forestall the rush of questions. “Sorry lads, I think I said too much.”

One of the assistant directors indicates that there’s time for just one more question. Someone asks about the chance for romance between Captain Frost and Commander Taylor, Challenger’s XO.

“Oh, I’d have no idea about that,” David smiles. “What are the Starfleet rules on fraternization?” Another group chuckle. “Still, Kinoshita-san, I mean, Commander Taylor is rather attractive. I’m sure Gabriel wouldn’t mind…” David stands, indicating our little Q&A is over.

“Thanks so much,” he says, flashing that million-dollar smile. “Enjoy the show!” David heads for the bridge set for some publicity photos. We all stay seated; we’re supposed to talk to Kinoshita Ayumi next. She’s no stranger to science fiction either, having starred as the Yellow Ranger in the sentai program Dekaranger (mangled for US audiences as Power Rangers SPD). After a couple of minutes, though, the director pops by to say that she had to take a call from her family in Japan and would be unable to talk to us. He indicates that we should follow him to another part of the set.
"Understand, Commander: That torpedo did not self-destruct. You heard it hit the hull, and I was never here."

-Admiral James Greer
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