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Old February 3 2013, 12:51 AM   #4
First Faster Than Light
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Re: Star Trek: Full Speed Ahead #4: "Milk Run"

Act Two

Lieutenant Abigail A. Atherton stepped through the airlock leading into the USS Farragut from the Starbase, along with many others looking to board for one reason or another. Since the ship departed the Antares Ship Yards with a little over a hundred of its crew, over seven hundred people awaited its arrival. She looked down the long line and idly wondered if all seven hundred were now trying to board at the same time.

"I don't think all of them are trying to get on board." The voice came from behind her, one she found to be soft and comforting. Abbie turned and found herself face to face with another lieutenant, also draped in the peacock blue Starfleet uniform.

The other lieutenant gave her a warm smile and stared at her with large, brown eyes beneath the feathery-looking black bangs of her hair. "I'm sorry, Lieutenant. It was just difficult to stand behind you and not hear your thoughts."

"You're Betazoid?"Abbie asked the obvious.

"Isira Otex, the new ship's counselor," replied the smiling woman. Abbie's eyes drifted down to take in the rest of her, and she noticed that unlike most other Betazoids she'd met in her short career, this one pushed the limits of Starfleet medical regulation. Although her face was lean-looking, her body was so generous as to be nearly out of shape.

She accepted the counselor's proffered hand and shook it gingerly. "Pleasure to meet you. I'm Abigail Atherton, science officer."

"But you prefer Abbie, right?"

Having someone read your mind on a whim became unnerving in record time. With a wary tone, Abbie replied, "Yeah."

Isira offered a guilty expression. "Sorry, it's hard to turn it off."

"No, it's fine."

"And lying doesn't help."

Abbie pressed her lips together and regarded Isira with a sidelong glance. "It's difficult to deal with telepaths."

"Just say what's on your mind. And I'll try to filter out the rest."

"So... are you a doctor?"

Isira nodded. "Of Xenopsychology, yes."

Abbie wondered, "Would you prefer to be called 'Doctor?'"

"If you feel more comfortable with that, sure. But my friends call me 'Isira,'" the counselor said while she gave a wry grin. "Otherwise, 'Counselor' will do. I haven't been called 'Doctor' since I graduated from university."

"You joined Starfleet right out of school?"

"Of course. It was either that or set up private practice on Betazed, or teach, I guess."

"I couldn't wait to join, either," admitted Abbie. "I nearly enlisted, but my father talked me into staying in school and getting my degree so I could become an officer."

Isira smiled wistfully. "I'm sorry," she said, reaching out to grab Abbie's arm gently. "How long ago?"

"Almost a month, now," replied Abbie without thinking, shrugging off the woman's touch. "I was an only child and he was beginning to show signs of Forrester-Trent Syndrome. I've just come back from settling his affairs."

Isira said nothing, but nodded her understanding of the rest of the story.

Abbie recalled the bitter details in a flash, which is how she preferred to think of them. How her father opted to end of his own life, due to the onset of the debilitating disease and its lack of response to treatment. How he matter-of-factly announced his decision to do so and gave her a final list of errands to run. How her mother made sure she knew that she went to great lengths to attend the funeral in the middle of her busy schedule.

"If you need to talk..."

"I'll be sure to call on you," finished Abbie flatly. It was clear to both she had no intention of doing so.

The line for entry began to move a little more briskly as more people were put on the airlock to process visitors to the ship. When Abbie reached the front of the line, she saw that everyone was presenting orders to one of the commissioned officers standing within the Farragut side of the airlock.

A security petty officer first class wearing her long blonde hair in a tight French braid nodded to her. "Welcome aboard, Lieutenant. Are you coming aboard to join?"

"I am," replied Abbie, already digging through her personal items for the PADD containing her orders.

"May I check your orders, please, sir?"

As soon as the petty officer said it, Abbie found the PADD and pulled it from the duffel. "Here you are."

The woman accepted it and scanned the display quickly. "Lieutenant Atherton, I have your name flagged by Commander Kincaid, the executive officer. He would like to see you as soon as possible."

"Flagged, huh?"

"Yes, sir."

"I guess I shouldn't be surprised by that. Thank you, Petty Officer...?"

"Master-at-Arms First, sir," corrected the woman. "My name is Laurence."

"Of course," replied Abbie with a grin. "Thank you." Time was of the essence for the both of them. As soon as the conversation deemed over, both women immediately turned back to their duty; the petty officer to receiving the next person and Abbie to find the location of Commander Kincaid.

=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=

The Nebula-class multi-mission heavy cruisers exhibited different color schemes. Every ship within Starfleet made use of the full spectrum of color available to the naked eye to give each ship a sense of identity. Farragut's navy blue carpets carried the standard Starfleet taupe trim that spread out over the curved corridors of the saucer section. Unlike his previous assignment, the Ambassador-class USS Valdemar, the smooth black interface panels ran the length of the corridors in between the upper and lower portions of the bulkhead access covers.

He fought the temptation to play with the LCARS panel and continued on his way toward the turbolift. With all of the new personnel coming aboard, the wait for the turbolift seemed longer than normal. On any other day, the lift might have arrived much sooner than the minute and a half he spent standing before the doors. Once the doors parted, the lift's car presented a full house, though he managed to squeeze himself in amongst the nearly a dozen people standing inside.

"Main Bridge," he ordered, adding his destination to the queue. He could have used his new authority to override the queue and have the lift take him to his destination first. The problem with such selfishness, he decided, would be eleven sour opinions of the new executive officer spread out amongst a crew of eight hundred-fifty people. Even on a ship of this size, gossip traveled faster than warp speed.

Instead, he exercised patience and smiled at the people coming off, giving the departing officers a respectful nod as they came abreast of him. He lost track of time when the doors finally parted to reveal the aft stations on the bridge. The crowd parted for him and he gave them his thanks for doing so before stepping out and leaving them behind.

The design of the Nebula-class provided the sharing of modules with some of the other, newer classes of ship. The Galaxy-class explorers featured a bridge module similar to this, one he had personally seen aboard the starship USS Odyssey. Though, Odyssey's colors had been a deep sea green with beige trim.

The standard watch while in port appeared to be maintained, he noted with approval. Three people at the key consoles, with the officer of the deck within earshot in case their attention was required. What was unusual was the chief warrant officer at the tactical station. There were not a whole lot of warrant officers serving within Starfleet, as many opted to attain commissions. He decided to make himself known to that person, as warrants were highly sought-after experts in their designated fields.

As he stepped down toward the trio of command chairs in the center of the bridge, he noticed a strikingly beautiful woman seated in the center seat. Her two-piece mustard Starfleet uniform managed to diminish a majority of her curves, but not by much. He doubted any garment she'd wear could hide her obvious sexuality from anyone with eyes. The two solid and one hollow pip on the right side of the neck told him that she might be the lieutenant commander he wanted.

"Commander Elannis?" he asked, standing before her.

Her heterochromatic eyes lifted up from the PADD in her hands to peer into his soul. "Yes?"

He momentarily lost his mental balance as the weight of her attractiveness hit him in full force. He recovered himself as quickly as possible, even managing a charming smile of his own. "I'm Commander Jesse Kincaid."

She knew that before he said; he could tell. Her eyes betrayed her recognition of his features before she returned them to her PADD as he introduced himself. "I assume you're here to relieve me of my acting duties?"

Though her tone suggested joviality, it was clear she held a little resentment at his presence. Their most recent incursion might have been classified, but it was clear that Elannis bonded with the position. Remembering the captain's words, he decided to take a gentle approach. "With your approval, of course," Kincaid said with a grin. "I was hoping you could bring me up to speed, first."

"I am aware that you accessed the declassified logs," she replied, rising from the captain's chair. "I'm sure you're as up to speed as you're going to get."

No fooling her, he realized. "I suppose that's true."

"Then I'm ready to be relieved, sir," she said, invoking the traditional phrase.

"I relieve you, sir," he responded in kind.

Ariel nodded. "I stand relieved. Computer," she called out, waiting for the acknowledgment sound, "note in the ship's log this stardate, Commander Kincaid has assumed his position as executive officer."

The computer's soft feminine voice responded, "Acknowledged."

She handed over her PADD. "Starbase Operations is fitting us with a tactical pod for our upcoming mission. Petra's assigned an engineering team to oversee the installation."

As he accepted the PADD, Kincaid recalled the data from memory. "A tactical pod gives us eight torpedo tubes and an additional six phaser banks." His eyes drifted down to the latest ship's status report.

"Yeah," she responded.

He bristled at the lack of respect in her tone. There was no 'sir' or even a 'Commander' within her phrase. Captain Leone ran an informal ship, indeed. However, as the executive officer, he would be placed in charge with the overall discipline of the crew. He wouldn't chastise her in front of the other officers, but he made a mental note to bring this up at the next meeting of the senior staff.

"All right. How long until they're finished?"

"Three hours, and then another hour for the tactical systems test."

"Four hours, give or take thirty minutes, I'm sure."

The doors to the forward turbolift opened and out came Lieutenant Abbie Atherton. "I'm sorry I'm late, Commander," she said as soon as she saw him. "I had to wait ages for a turbolift that didn't already have a herd inside." Her eyes drifted over to Ariel in surprise.

Kincaid's eyes lit up at the sight of the science officer and he even smiled. "No problem, Lieutenant. I'm glad that you made it at all." He gestured toward Ariel, "This is Lieutenant Commander Elannis, the ship's chief of operations."

"Lieutenant Atherton, sir. A pleasure to be working with you," said Abbie, extending a hand.

"Likewise," replied Ariel. They shook hands briefly.

Abbie continued to look at her with some unreadable expression before Kincaid caught her attention by clearing his throat. "When did you return to active duty, Lieutenant?"

The chief warrant officer at the tactical station interrupted to report, "Incoming communication from Starbase Ops, sirs."

Ariel automatically responded, "Thank you, Mister Reynolds. On screen."

The visage of the Vulcan commanding officer of Starbase 310 appeared upon the screen. The sheer size of the screen made Rear Admiral T'Cirya loom over the bridge as she gave the barest nod and greeted, "Good morning, Commanders."

"Good morning, sir," replied Kincaid quickly, hoping to cut off any response from Ariel. He needed to assert himself quickly. "What can we do for you?"

"Your mission to join the starship Phoenix on patrol of the border has been rescinded until further notice," T'Cirya informed them, in what was almost a barely perceived tone of apology. "Complete the installation of the tactical pod and stand by for a new assignment. Please be sure to inform Captain Leone of this change in orders."

"Of course, sir," Kincaid started to say. Arielís question cut him off, abruptly.

"Admiral, is something wrong?"

Abbie blanched at the lieutenant commander's insertion of herself into the conversation.

"I fear that the preliminary reports from your investigator have prevented any tactical assignments for the time being. I am attempting to find more information from Starfleet Command, but there is a subspace delay with which to contend."

Kincaid maintained his composure through his shock at the casual discussion being conducted before him. Admirals usually weren't given to entertaining questions from subordinate officers unless they were ranked captain or higher. Having a third-in-command lieutenant commander question the change in orders from such a senior officer was unheard of from his perspective. "Uh, we've taken enough of the admiral's time, Commander," he tried to end the conversation quickly.

T'Cirya stared at him. "It's all right, Commander Kincaid," she said in a colder tone. "Commander Elannis' question was valid."

He blanched at the reprisal. "I apologize, sir. I meant no offense."

Ariel again talked over him. "Iíll let Krys know, Admiral. Would you happen to know if we'll be utilized in any fashion, or are we to be content with cooling our heels in port?"

"I will find a use for Farragut, Commander, rest assured."

"Understood, sir."

The admiral deemed the conversation completed with a simple nod. "T'Cirya, out."

"I'll go let her know," said Ariel as she started for the turbolift.

"Commander Elannis," called Kincaid quickly. When she turned to look at him, he pointed toward the observation lounge with two of his fingers. "A moment of your time, please." He shared a brief look with Abbie to show her that the situation with Ariel would soon be rectified.
Michael D. Garcia
Head Writer, Star Trek: Full Speed Ahead (United Trek)

Visit my writing blog or my fanfic profile at Ad Astra.
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