The holodeck scenery reconfigured again, leaving the quartet standing in a place Etta easily recognized. It was, after all, a standard Starfleet Bridge, with a big viewscreen forward, command chair in the center and control stations around the perimeter. Only the architecture - which included two upright stations behind the command chair - made it stand out, but this configuration was standard for a Sovereign.
Etta was suspicious. “Okay, what does the bridge do?”
Bush shrugged and said innocently, “What do you mean? It’s just the Bridge.”
“Right. And it doesn’t turn into a phaser robot or something.”
Bush chuckled. “Don’t be silly! ASDB would never let me do anything that
“Okay...so what’s special about it then? Don’t tell me you completely redesigned the Engine Room and left this place alone.”
Bush glanced at Rob. “Should I make her guess?”
“Oh, absolutely,” Rob said, deadpan. “Make her guess until her head explodes.”
“My hero,” Etta said. “I suppose you already know what she did.”
“I have no idea. I’m just standing here waiting to be pleasantly surprised.”
“You’re impossible sometimes.” She turned to Bush. “Edwina, please. You know you’re dying to tell me, so just tell me already.”
Bush grinned and looked up. “Computer, state location of Main Bridge.”
“Main Bridge is located on Deck Eight, Center Deck,” the computer’s voice responded.
Rob pumped his fist and said, “Score!” Post shook his head.
Etta looked hopelessly confused. “Hold up. Wouldn’t that put the Bridge in the middle of the saucer?!”
“Smack in the middle!” Bush said. “I did for the Bridge what I did for the reactors. I put it deep in the hull so that it’s protected...”
“...by the rest of the saucer! I would think people who work in other places in the saucer would find that a problem!”
“Any Saucer spaces that have to be occupied during a battle are located on Decks Seven, Eight and Nine, all of which are protected by internal force-fields and reinforced armor above and below. Any deck not similarly protected will pretty much be empty during a Red Alert anyway, so, no big deal if something is actually lucky enough to break through the external defenses.”
“Sure,” Etta said, “because nobody’s ever been that lucky against a Starfleet ship, right?” Her anger was starting to build up. “You think you’re so brilliant. Well, what do you do against an enemy that has weapons that can tear through shields and armor? How brilliant will your deck plan seem then?”
Rob reached out and gave Etta’s shoulder a little squeeze. He knew where this was coming from. She’d been with him aboard his ship when it was destroyed at Wolf 359. Neither of them had dealt with the experience well over the intervening years, but simply resigning from Starfleet had alleviated most of his demons. It had been harder for Etta. She still had vivid nightmares.
Dr. Bush softened a little and came close to Etta. “You really wanna know what I’d do? I’d run. Run hard and fast. That’s one of the reasons this thing has two reactors, because a good run is better than a bad stand and I wanted enough power to leave a threat like that standing around looking confused. I never claimed this design was perfect. Just more survivable than the average starship.”
Etta wasn’t mollified. “I’m just worried that you’ve got it in your head that this creation of yours will survive anything. Too many people have lost their lives because some engineers thought they could plan for every possibility.”
Suddenly Dr. Bush got very serious. “I know that. Believe me, I know. I was on the design team that created the Defiant.
The bridge was silent in response to that revelation. Rob tried to lighten the mood with a jibe. “So that thing was partially your fault, huh?”
Bush offered him a sad smile, but addressed Etta. “We thought we were brilliant back then too. ‘We’re gonna build a battleship!’ We said. ‘It’s gonna rough and tough!’ We said. ‘It’s gonna be our ultimate weapon against the Borg!’ We said.
“Have you ever studied the Defiant
’s combat record? We turned the prototype over to Starfleet and that thing proceeded to get its ass handed to it in practically every adverse situation. It was a horrible warship. It got stolen and blasted and crashed all over creation, but we kept building ‘em, and those other ships got their asses handed to them too. And then, just to put the exclamation point on the whole story, the Defiant finally met up with the enemy it was meant to beat: The Borg. Remember a while back when that cube got into Earth orbit? You know how that one went?” She mimicked an explosion with her hands and a sound effect. “PKKKKKKRRRRRRRRRRRR!”
She shook her head and continued. “I’ve spent the intervening years going over the Defiant
design again and again trying to figure out all the mistakes we made, and I ultimately realized that our biggest mistake was thinking we could build a fighting ship when the majority of our experience came from building pretty cruise ships for diplomats and scientists. Defiant
wasn’t a warship. Defiant
was an oversized runabout that had a couple of big ass pulse phasers hung off its sides. A real warship, one whose purpose is to kill people and break stuff, is a balance of characteristics; size, speed, stealth, defense and offense. Defiant
never had that balance. It was too small, too slow, only stealthy at certain times and all of those things contribute to a ship’s defensive capabilities, and beyond that the defenses on the ship were limited to say the least, and its most powerful offensive weapons weren’t powerful enough by themselves to accomplish its primary mission. You’d need an armada of Defiants just to make one Borg cube slow down. Forget destroying it.”
Suddenly the grin came back. “But now, I give you the Jason Bourne.
Size and mass of a Sovereign,
protected by a double-thick armored hull, passive and active stealth characteristics that don’t require a full-up cloaking device, so fast it would make an Intrepid
captain cry in his Romulan Ale, enough power to create shields that would protect it from the outer layers of the sun - You could eat frozen yogurt in the lounge while we’re cruising through the corona and it wouldn’t melt - energy weapons that can be used as active defenses against other energy weapons, and, aaaand
-” She turned and walked over to one of the LCARS stations, activated it and configured it to Tactical. Then she invited the others to the display with a sweep of her hand. “Et Voila!”
Rob and Etta walked over to the display, which showed the ship’s offensive capabilities. “Day-um,” Rob said with quiet reverence.
“Pulse phasers?” Etta said. “I thought you said those were one of your mistakes?”
Bush shook her head. “The only mistake in that case was making the ship too small to carry more than four of them. The Bourne
“Along with Type 11 phasers,” Rob said, “a full tricobalt array, a full load of quantum torpedoes...what’s this?” He looked closer. “What’s a ‘Cochrane Torpedo’?”
“Our big secret,” Bush said. “Warp-capable torpedoes.”
Etta’s head whipped around. “Excuse me? Warp
torpedoes? Aren’t those illegal?”
are illegal,” Bush clarified. “These are simply warp-capable probes with some of their hardware replaced with quantum warheads. No treaty bans anything like that, and it gives the ship a powerful, fire-and-forget, one-shot-one-kill weapon.”
“That will suffer a warp-core breach
on impact with the target! I’m pretty sure that violates the spirit
of the warp warhead ban!”
Bush shrugged. “Not if we don’t tell anybody...”
Etta turned to her husband. “B.C.! Say something!”
Rob was just studying the Tactical display, lost in thought. Finally he sighed and said, “There’s only ten.”
Now Post shrugged. “That’s all we were allowed to build for testing, and this crisis has completely circumvented the test program.”
“So we have to learn how to use these on the fly?”
Rob smirked. “Fine by me. Computer! Save program and exit!”
The Jason Bourne and Utopia Planitia disappeared, leaving the deactivated holodeck behind. Rob was the first one through the arch and back in the residence. “We’re not finished the tour!” Bush protested.
“I’ve seen everything I need to right now,” Rob said. “I’ll see the rest when we get to the actual ship.” He suddenly stopped short. “You promise
everything I saw actually exists?”
Bush nodded. “That program was composed from updated internal sensor footage and log entries retrieved before we left the facility. It’s all real.”
“Then you’ve got your captain. Let’s sit down and discuss the details.”