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Old August 15 2007, 04:09 PM   #30
Lieutenant Commander
Location: Pacific NW
Star Trek: Shepard; Recovery, chapter 3 (part 1)

USS Persepheron
Commander Ridgeway’s quarters

Ushering his XO and Master Chief Rexar into the cramped stateroom, Ridgeway wondered briefly if the Persepheron had some sort of briefing room. He remembered his quick trip through the mess deck, and conjectured that any meetings or training onboard would likely happen there. The mess deck was definitely not a private enough space for what they would be discussing. The cramped quarters at least had a door. It would have to do.

Ridgeway motioned towards the chair next to the small desk, “Master Chief, have a seat please.” The seating choices became rapidly more limited as the Master Chief sat. Lieutenant Commander Townsend took three steps across the room and sat on the bottom bunk. When she unzipped the duffel bag that lay next to her and pulled out a PADD, the mystery of whom Ridgeway’s roommate was vanished.

A mental objection played at the edge of his awareness. Based on years of tradition, the Captains quarters were separated from the Executive Officers quarters for safety reasons. If a ship took damage, the chances of both officers being eliminated at the same time were lessened. Then Ridgeway realized they were still in transit to his ship. In any case even opposite ends of a boat as small as the Persepheron would make little difference in an emergency.

Thankfully, the potential awkwardness of sharing living space with a veritable stranger, and a female at that, didn’t intrude on his awareness yet. Looking around futilely for a place to sit, Ridgeway opted to stand.

“Alright, pleasantries aside Master Chief. We have been in the dark about this assignment from square one. I’m afraid that our little heart to heart with Admiral Selak raised more questions than it answered. Since the Admiral wasn’t in the mood to sit around and answer them, please tell me that you can fill in the blanks.”

“I am hoping that somewhere in the data we have been given, something will be of help. But I do want to be ahead of the game when we start sifting through what Starfleet sent us. So what can you tell us about the Shepard?”

Master Chief Rexar Arthrun took a deep breath, closed his eyes and rubbed his eyelids with one hand before speaking. “I was onboard the Shepard for four years before she was refitted with an experimental warp drive. More specifically transwarp drive.”

Never one to be good at sitting until the end of a lecture to ask questions, Townsend interrupted, noting the look of disbelief on Ridgeway’s face. “If I remember my history correctly, transwarp testing was abandoned when the prototype drives melted down on the Excelsior? It was deemed a failed experiment. That was years before the Shepard was lost.”

Rexar shook his head. “I’m afraid I won’t be able to answer many of the big picture questions. I was only a Chief in Engineering at the time, and even a Master Chief doesn’t become privy to all the decision-making that goes on at Starfleet Command. What I was told during the refit was that upon careful analysis of data collected during the transwarp drive failure on the Excelsior certain scientists believed that the failure was not a design flaw but deliberate sabotage. It was decided to perform additional testing in full secrecy to lessen the chance of further tampering.”

“I think some design changes were also made. When we began helping with the refit, Commander Tolleson, our Chief Engineer started having us review the specs from the Excelsior. One of the scientists overseeing the install got into it with Tolleson, tried to chew him out for having some initiative. Apparently the scientist didn’t want us simple-minded engineers getting confused with different specs. As a result, we got to see the modified specs on the new engines during workups. They were quite impressive actually.”

Ridgeway pulled out of his shock, holding his hand up. “Wait a second Master Chief. Just let me catch up here. Just wait.” His brain was racing around a myriad of conflicting emotions and information. Questions poured in as well, each one only partially forming before another intruded. ‘Get a grip Ryan!’ He told himself. Ready or not, he was going to be the Captain of the Shepard. He knew he would need to be able to remain calm under much more stress than this. His control returned. “OK Master Chief, so the Shepard was a test platform for transwarp drive. Did it work?”

Master Chief Arthrun smiled, bitterly. “Yes, and no. We did a few short hops and the relative velocity was astounding. The onboard systems never gave an accurate reading but we made externally calibrated jumps to warp 19 plus.”

Townsend managed a surprised whistle, and then asked “I’m not really good at warp conversions, what’s that in modern scale?”

The Andorian didn’t pause long, he had done the calculations long ago, but immersed in the memory as he talked, he had inadvertently used the old warp scale. “….Um something faster than 9.985 in modern scale.”

Ridgeway cut in, “That’s almost as fast as we think the Borg can go, how did Starfleet ever sign off on just abandoning that technology, quirky or not?”

Rexar sighed, “Sir, I’ll try to answer that, but I think this chronology is important to us being able to successfully salvage the Shepard. Pardon my assumption but I think the most important thing here is getting the Shepard back, not why, ultimately, she was left out there.”

Ridgeway nodded, clearly still curious but willing to bide his time, “Very well Master Chief, go ahead.”

Rexar continued. “Between two of the tests, I heard the navigator complaining that he had expressed concerns about navigational errors creeping in, and that he was ignored. Apparently, someone had something to prove and wasn’t going to let a little drift while in warp mess things up.”

“For some reason things were different in transwarp and we were flying blind. The course had to be laid in before jumping out of normal space because the sensors didn’t function normally in transwarp. Then, even when he double-checked his calculations, we never came out quite where the navigator expected. None of that seemed important enough to stop, or even delay the testing, to those in charge anyway.”

“Then we did a longer duration test.”

Ridgeway still couldn’t help interjecting, “And ended up in trouble?”

Master Chief Arthrun chuckled, “You could say that. We were kind of puzzled when all the scientists left the ship after the last short duration hop. They had been taking readings and re-calibrating the engines up until that point, then they just left. To their credit it seemed like not all of them wanted to leave, but they were ordered off anyway. You can make what you want about that. I later found out that following the Shepard’s loss the scientists quietly went on to other work.”

Rexar noticed both senior officers fidgeting, intrigued but not wanting to wait through the minutiae before finding out what happened to the Shepard. So, they had no patience for a good story it seemed. Rexar grinned, pausing his narrative. “You want the long version, or the short version? There should have a copy of my debriefing down in the cargo area with the other records. It will probably have some details I have forgotten in the last sixty-five years.”

Ridgeway shook his head. “I think the short version will suffice for now. If we have any questions, we’ll ask.”

“The short version then, Sir.” Arthrun began again, telling the same story he would have in either case.

“We were in the Federation’s warp test corridor, near Alpha Centauri as I remember. There’s ten light years of the clearest space inside the galaxy. Deflector grids only get fifty or less micro impacts every hour at warp one.”

“The scientists had all disembarked, and the Shepard was going to do one final run that day, one light year long. It was only supposed to take an hour based on the Shepard’s transwarp speeds up to that point.”

“The run started normally. Everything seemed to be running smoothly, from Engineering anyway. Thirty minutes into the test core power readings started fluctuating wildly. Diagnostics showed that the nacelles were drawing variable amounts of power, yet power output seemed constant.”

“Commander Tolleson muttered something about ‘not enough juice,’ then called the bridge and asked permission to ‘open up the engines.’ Captain Clampett gave the go ahead and we gradually ramped up the core power output. Tolleson didn’t seem surprised when the power fluctuations stabilized and the ride smoothed out considerably.”

“The remaining fifteen minutes in transwarp were for the most part non-eventful, that is until we started slowing down. It turned out to be a good thing that Commander Tolleson was so interested in gathering data on the test runs. He wanted to get power gradient readings before we dropped out of transwarp. As soon as we had dropped power by fifteen percent the ride got rough again. By twenty it was straining the structural integrity field.”

“Lieutenant Commander Sanchez, the Science Officer, called down from the bridge, frantic. She said that some sort of ‘subspace wavefront’ had built up behind us, and dropping out of transwarp would likely destroy the ship.”

“Commander Tolleson had her send down the data, and we stayed in front of the wave for another three hours before figuring out a way to save the Shepard. It took Commander Tolleson another hour to convince the Captain that his solution was plausible, and the only one we were likely to come up with.”

To his satisfaction, Rexar noticed that both Ridgeway and Townsend no longer looked like they had to immediately get to the punch-line. Ridgeway even prompted, “So what was the solution?”

Rexar actually smiled, “We engaged the warp drive, pivoted around and cut the transwarp simultaneously, heading right through the subspace wave. The helmsman really should have gotten a commendation for that one.”

The incredulous look returned to Ridgeway’s face. “What do you mean engaged the warp drive? You were already at warp.”

Rexar nodded, “Of course, you wouldn’t have known. We were in transwarp. The Shepard was fitted with a tandem system so we could get around at normal warp speeds when not testing or using the transwarp. The warp and transwarp systems weren’t designed for simultaneous use, but Tolleson managed to hold them, and the Shepard together.”

Ridgeway remained confused, and Townsend wasn’t much farther up on the comprehension scale. “So, you were at warp, and transwarp at the same time?” Ridgeway asked.

Rexar thought for a few seconds before replying, “We may have been for a few microseconds, but then we lost power completely. The Shepard came out of warp just inside of a star system, doing a bit over full impulse, with nothing working.”

He was about to continue when a warbling siren sounded in the small cabin. At the same time a series of red lights started blinking in the light panel. The voice that came over the ships intercom only served to verify what the three were already thinking. “Red Alert! Red Alert! All hands to stations. Secure all interior doors.”
DULAK (AKA E. Patrick Dorris)
United Trek Author (Star Trek Shepard series)
and writer of the John Smith, World Jumper at
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