Ensign Cassandra Stillwell looked out at forward viewport in awe. The shuttle Cruikshank
was on final approach to Utopia Planitia, where Starfleet’s largest shipyards were located, so amid the vast webs and spidery legs of dry-docks and construction bays, the tall domed hubs of the stations that accommodated the engineers, designers and technicians, there were dozens of ships, of every class imaginable; from small Valkyrie-Class scout ships through to immense size and power of the Excelsior-Class explorer. Upon seeing the vast array of ships, the excitement level in the shuttle blossomed.
Since she had gotten to the shuttle earlier than the rest, Stillwell had the distinct pleasure of sitting in the co-pilot seat, whilst the rest of her classmates had to crowd around behind her and the pilot, Chief ch’Paahr. The Andorian was simultaneously half amused at the reaction and half annoyed at being crowded by fifteen eager and excitable ensigns. Seeing the poor non-com’s state, Stillwell tapped the stabiliser control and the shuttle rocked slightly.
She looked over her shoulder. “Spatial turbulence, you’d best take your seats and buckle in.”
There were a few gripes and moans, but when the turbulence returned a moment later, rougher than before, they heeded her advice and took their seats. When she turned back to the controls, she noticed a wide grin on the face of ch’Paahr. Struggling to hide her own amusement, she gave the shuttle one more slight rock, before resetting the stabilisers back to normal.
“There’s the Exeter
!” one of her former classmates called out as they neared the Constitution-Class ship.
—I heard they’ve heading out on a deep space mission beyond Argasso Point!”
“And guess who’ll be flying her into the unknown,” another added in a cocky tone.
“You got the Constellation
? How’d you manage th—”
“Look!” an excited female voice squealed. “The Enterprise
There was a reverent silence, mixed with gasps of wonder, as the rest of them took in the Excelsior-Class U.S.S. Enterprise
NCC-1701-B. Stillwell glanced at it, took in the elegant lines and design of the ship, the long graceful nacelles, the quad of impulse engines on the flat saucer, the staunch neck and deep body of the drive section. Technically she was a beauty, and Stillwell could appreciate that, the stories of her first seven years in active service were already well known and well-read at the Academy. As an engineer, Stillwell would have loved to have taken a look around the ship, but that was where it ended. She saw and appreciated its technical marvel, but there were other ships out there in the fleet that she wanted to get aboard and really sink her teeth into.
Which was why, when all the other ensigns had their eyes glued to the Federation flagship, her eyes were drawn to another ship in the opposite direction, almost obscured behind the short, barrel-like hull of a half-finished Miranda-Class. The vessel she had her eye on looked complete, just missing the finishing touches: pennants to adorn her bright white hull, as well as name and registry number. It followed the standard design, with a circular primary hull, a long secondary hull and two nacelles, which were attached with redundant pylons (one set connected with the engineering hull and contained the primary power transfer conduits from the core to the nacelles, whilst the second set joined to the saucer just forward of the powerful impulse engines). The ship had numerous tractor beam nodes, as well as twin-mount phaser banks, and three torpedo launchers, all of which merely highlighted the ships function as a cutter.
The Albacore-Class wasn’t as large or glamorous as many of the other ships docked at Utopia Planitia, but was designed to be tough, durable and agile; she was a scrapper. She was meant to handle many hard and seemingly impossible feats, which would make mincemeat out of other ships, but that she was ideally suited to handle.
One of Stillwell’s professors had told his class once that, there will come a time in ever engineer’s career, when they fall in love with a ship—it may not be the first one they serve onboard, or even the first one they are Chief Engineer of, they may only ever get to look upon her and admire from a distance without ever setting foot onboard, but every engineer worth their salt would have that one great love of the career. For Cassandra Stillwell, the moment she came across the specs of the Albacore-Class cutter, she knew she’d found her one true love.
Unfortunately, she’d been unable to secure a posting to the Border Service, let alone an Albacore-Class. Instead, her first assignment was as junior diagnostics officer onboard the Akyazi-Class U.S.S. Artemis
, a decent posting by anyone’s standards and she knew the ships technical readout inside and out, but as long as she had breath in her lungs, she would do her damnedest to get a billet onto one of the new cutters.
Ch’Paahr looked at her and then out towards where she was staring. “She’s a beaut, isn’t she” he hissed quietly, dragging her attention away from the latest Albacore.
“You can say that again, Chief,” she admitted.
“I don’t know many rookies who pay such close attention to cutters, sir.”
She gave him a faint smile. “That’s because most don’t know where they will end up, Chief. It may take a couple of years,” she began, looking back out the viewport, “but that’s where I’m headed.”
“Good luck to you.”
Stillwell looked back at the non-com and saw a supportive smile on his face. “Thank you, Chief.”
Cruickshank, this is Utopia Planitia C-and-C. You are cleared for hanger eleven.”
“Acknowledged C-and-C, proceeding to hanger eleven. Cruickshank
out,” ch’Paahr confirmed over the comlink. “Would you like to do the honours?”
She gave him a nod and after one last longing look, focused on the controls and aimed the shuttle towards their designated shuttlebay. Their futures awaited, and hers was only just beginning.
* * *