~~~ ~~~~ ~~~
The star field blurred on the main view screen as the Patrol Cutter Magnum
dropped out of high-warp. Lieutenant Commander Isenberg watched as Star Base Thirteen came into focus in the distance. “Magnify,” he ordered. The screen wavered, then steadied. A cluster of little dots clouded around the base. “Again.” This time the dots became a fleet of ships.
There were two Star Fleet Destroyers, or perhaps they were Scouts -- it was impossible to tell from this range -- along with a Light Cruiser and a Tug docked to the base. A flotilla of about twenty civilian craft orbited nearby. The three largest were bulk-cargo freighters: cylinders forty meters across by two hundred meters long with impossibly tiny warp engines attached to the sides near one end. There were several tramp freighters, much like Madre Chavez’s Santa Maria
, and similar sized Armed Priority Transports.
“My, my, my. Looks like we’re having a convention,” commented Lieutenant Ryan Kingsley, Magnum
’s second-in-command. Isenberg followed his gaze and noted four Police Cutters, sister-ships to his own, looking small and vulnerable close in by the base. The cutter had two distinct halves: the aft portion was a lengthwise cylinder roughly twenty-seven meters in diameter with warp drive engine mounted to either side, the forward section was as wide but only dozen meters thick, with beveled sides and pointed bow. End to end, the entire ship was a little longer than the saucer-shaped Burke
-class Frigate but had half the deck space.
Isenberg had forgotten how awkward they appeared on the outside, looking like a roll of paper with a garden tool sticking out one end. It was often described as ‘the ugliest ship you’ll ever love’, but he’d been the skipper of this one long enough to know that while one might grow to love the ship, it was the people that made the assignment special. Close quarters and a small crew made conditions ripe for forming close friendships.
A voice came over the speaker, “Patrol Cutter Magnum
, this is Star Base Approach. Please stand by for vector and parking instructions. Message for Commander Isenberg follows: your meeting with Captain Littleton has been moved up, see her in one hour.”
. Message acknowledged, standing by for vector.” He clicked the control off, then stood up and announced, “Well, it's a good thing we're early. Pat, you have the con. Let’s grab a quick bite to eat before we go, Ryan.”
Thirty minutes later, Isenberg, Kingsley and Chief Guzman beamed over to the base’s central command section. Isenberg asked directions to where he might locate Captain Littleton, then led them down the indicated corridor. On the way, someone shouted, “Hey, Kingsley! Ryan Kingsley, is that you?” They turned to see two men and a woman, all wearing Police uniforms, several meters down a side hall. The two men wore the same rank as Kingsley; the woman was a full Commander. “Jake, you old dog!” Ryan responded, walking towards them with his hand extended.
Isenberg shrugged, then continued to his destination with the Chief in tow. “He’ll catch up.” They found Captain Littleton’s officer vacant, so they stepped across the hall to another office. There was a woman in a Star Fleet Captain’s uniform standing behind the desk, sorting through stacks of files and papers. Isenberg knocked once and entered, “Excuse us, Ma’am, but we’re looking for ... Lieutenant Jones?”
“Not here,” she replied without looking up.
“No, Ma’am, that’s not what I meant. Aren’t you, weren’t you Lieutenant Amanda Jones? You were my Company Commander at Boot Camp.”
She paused and looked up, “It’s Littleton now, Commander. And if you’ll forgive me, I have a briefing in ... twenty minutes. I don’t have time for old home town reminiscence.”
“Of course not, Ma’am. I’m Thomas Isenberg, commander of the Cutter Magnum
. We have a meeting scheduled for noon.” He cocked his head to one side. “I didn’t know you married into the Littleton clan.” There were several families that were legendary within Star Fleet. If you asked for Chief Norwood or for Commander or Captain Littleton, you had to be sure to specify which one. It was even getting to the point you had to specify which Admiral Littleton you wanted to see.
She shook her head as she continued sorting, “I didn’t ... I divorced back into it.”
“Huh? I don’t understand, Ma’am.”
She started to say something, then a smile crossed her face. “Chief Guzman can explain it to you. Good to see you again, Chief. And it’s a briefing, not a meeting, Commander, down in Room Five Alpha dash Thirty-two in ... eighteen minutes. Now, if you’ll please excuse me.”
“Aye aye, Ma’am.” They turned to leave the office.
“Wait. You’re from the Magnum
? Didn’t you stop a tramp freighter on a drug bust yesterday?”
They turned back around. “Yes, Ma’am. The Santa Maria
, Madre Chavez commanding. It was a red herring, but her cargo is several tons of small arms and ammunition bound for Rio Verde.”
“Ah, yes. I read your report. Good work. So, how is Rosalina Chavez doing these days?”
“Fine, I suppose,” Isenberg replied. “She seems like a ... rather interesting lady.”
“Yes,” Captain Little said slowly, “Yes, she is at that. Were you able to pull the undercover out safely?”
It surprised him a bit that a senior Star Fleet officer would be in the loop on what he presumed was a Police operation, and he wondered if it had anything to do with the sudden recall. “Yes, Ma’am. Turns out, he’s my own Marine Lieutenant. A small world, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it’s smaller than you know,” she replied with hidden humor.
“Briefing. Sixteen minutes. Go,” she pointed towards the door, “Get out of here. We’ll talk later, if there’s time.”
“Aye aye, Ma’am,” as they turned and departed, side-stepping as a pair of enlisted entered the room.
A moment later, a full Commander entered the office. “What are you doing to my desk, Ma’am?” she asked, her South-Asian complexion darkened as she forced her temper down.
“Trying to get ready for our briefing in fifteen minutes. How the hell do you find anything in this mess, Risha?”
“I have a system, Ma’am.” Well, she had a system, she thought, until the good Captain attacked it.
“Well, if your system is so damn good, why can’t I find the briefing folders?” The Commander pointed to the table at the side of the room. The two Yeomen were gathering up the prepared folders. “Oh,” Captain Littleton said contritely.
The Commander changed the subject, “I thought I just saw Roger Guzman.” She started restoring her filing system.
“You did,” Littleton replied as she sat down, relieved that the crisis with the briefing material was over. “Do you know who that was with him?” Risha shook her head. “You know Rosalina Chavez, right? Do you remember me telling you about the day I met her?”
Risha paused, then nodded. “Was that him?”
“Yeah, that’s him. Thomas Isenberg. He’s commanding a Cutter now. Yesterday, he pulled Rosalina’s ship over.”
“Oh, I’ll bet that was fun.” She stopped, turned around and looked at the Captain. “He didn’t remember, did he?”
“What do you think?”
“Men.” She said it as if it was a swear word, but in all the years they’d known each other, Amanda had never once heard Risha curse.
“You say that like you’re some sort of expert on the subject.”
“Me? I’m not the one that’s been married and divorced five times, thank you very much, Ma’am.”
“Risha, we’ve known each other for over twenty years now. How many times have I told you: you can call me ‘Amanda’ in private, you know?”
“Yes, Ma’am. I’ll get right on that, Ma’am.” She moved a couple more stacks around. “Okay, done. Ready to go, Ma’am.”
Littleton looked at the desk. “That was fast.”
“I told you, Ma’am: I have a system.”
~~~ ~~~~ ~~~