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Old September 12 2011, 03:31 AM   #6
Lieutenant Commander
Re: Star Trek: Pathfinder #1 - The Siren's Call

Star Trek: Pathfinder
The Siren's Call - Part Three

Phobos Orbital Yards
in orbit around Mars, Sol System
May 6, 2163

"There she is, Commander."

Isobel Beaumont looked toward the front of the shuttlepod and set aside the data slate. She had been reviewing the crew roster since they had boarded some twenty minutes before, though her attention kept wandering. She moved forward to just behind the pilot's seat and craned her neck up to look through the transparent aluminum dome.

Bathed in the glow of a dozen spotlights and suspended in a web of girders, the U.S.S. Pathfinder was the center of attention for the always-active Phobos Orbital Yards. Dozens of spacesuited figures and construction pods swarmed around her graceful lines like insects, hard at work maneuvering the final missing components into place and covering them with duranium hull plates.

Already Beaumont could see the differences between the Pathfinder and the NX-class that had preceded her. The saucer was thicker, more stoutly built, with an underslung pod containing the wide navigational deflector dish, and the impulse engines were far larger. But the most obvious difference was the spike trailing down the centerline of the ship between the warp nacelles, the warp-field stabilizer that allowed the Pathfinder to reach speeds of Warp Six.

Theoretically, at least.

As they approached the ship, differences in the construction pods became clearer. Many had been adorned with colorful nose art harkening back to the early days of flight, with names like 'Black Jack', 'Damned Yankee', and 'F-Bomb' . One pod sported a colorful cartoon cat sticking out his tongue with a pained expression, the word 'Sourpuss' emblazoned beneath.

Lieutenant Tegan Webb pressed the comm switch. "Pathfinder, this is Shuttlepod Five, requesting clearance to dock."

"Shuttlepod Five, this is Pathfinder Hangar Control," a tinny voice said through the speaker. "Clearance granted. Slaving control to us in three, two, one, mark."

Webb sat back as the shuttlepod glided on its path toward the Pathfinder, its controls now in the hands of the ship's automated landing system. "Never did like this part," she said, folding her arms across her chest, her lips curled downward.

Beaumont looked down at her, bemused. "Don't tell me you're sulking already."

"Just makes me nervous, ma'am," Webb replied. "I like being the one in charge of my own ship, even if she's just a shuttlepod." Webb idly pulled the seven-sided coin from her pocket and rolled it across her knuckles with practiced ease.

"What's that?" Beaumont asked. She had never seen a coin quite like it. Even though the United Earth government was slowly phasing it out on the homeworld of humanity, money was still needed among the colonies and when dealing with other spacefaring species. "A good luck charm?"

"Sort of," Webb replied. It's a Rigelian twenty-one dulac piece. It's the first money I ever made as part of the crew."

"Is it worth much?"

"Not as much as it was when was twelve, ma'am," Webb said, flipping the coin into the air and catching it with her other hand on the way down. "My dad always said nothing beats and honest day's pay. This is how I remember that advice."

"They must start you working pretty early on those long-haul ships," Beaumont said as the shuttlepod eased up to the belly of the Pathfinder.

"There's always work to do on a Boomer ship. This was for my first solo docking." Webb held up the weathered coin, watching it glint, remembering the feel of the ancient controls beneath her tiny hands. "That was the day I knew I wanted to be a pilot."

The shuttlepod trembled as the docking arm lowered and made contact, locking in place. "Good contact," the hangar controller said over the comm. "Retracting now."

The docking arm slowly drew up into the Pathfinder, bringing the shuttlepod with it. As the pod cleared the edges, the doors slid into place and sealed, followed a few moments later by the rush of air as the hangar bay repressurized. As soon as the pressure equalized a trio of technicians entered the bay and began hooking up hoses and cables to the shuttlepod, replenishing its fuel and consumables.

Webb stood and went to the hatch, swinging it open and gesturing for Beaumont to go first. "Privilege is yours, Commander," she said.

Beaumont nodded and stepped through. As soon as he boots touched the deck, she could feel the vibration of the warp reactor, so intense it was almost ticklish - which was unusual because while in spacedock the reactor was normally kept at minimum output.

Webb looked around as she closed the shuttlepod's hatch behind them. "Power's way above normal for spacedock," she said, confirming Beaumont's thoughts. "Vibrations are way to strong. Warp engines are already hot."

"We're not scheduled to depart for another three days," Beaumont said.

From behind them a woman's voice said, "Indeed. Our departure has been accelerated." Beaumont and Webb turned to see a tall woman with sharp features standing aft of the pod, her hands clasped behind her back, the tips of her Vulcan ears just visible through her straight black hair. The three bars on her right shoulder, two silver and one gray, were set in a flash of red. "I am Lieutenant Commander T'Vril. Captain Teague has tasked me with escorting you to his ready room." She looked at Webb. "Stow your gear and report to the bridge, Lieutenant."

As Webb hurried away, Beaumont said, "Must be important. How long until we break orbit?"

"Within the hour. The captain will brief you in full." And with that, T'Vril turned on her heel and strode toward the nearest turbolift, leaving Beaumont scrambling to catch up and wondering what could have changed to make the Pathfinder's departure so urgent.

To Be Continued...
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