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Old June 1 2015, 05:07 PM   #1
Rat Boy
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Starship Essex #1 - Take Notice

To D.C. Fontana for coming up with a name.

To whoever* created a wall chart for coming up with a number.

To Greg Jein for matching a name to a number.

To Michael and Denise Okuda for publishing a book with a name and a number and setting one young man’s imagination to the final frontier and beyond.

* = Sadly despite multiple searches across the Internet I could not find a reference to who specifically created the now famous wall chart from the original series episode “Court Martial” and didn’t want to make a mistake in giving credit.

Author’s Note:
Hard to believe it’s been five years since I took a stab at self-published writing, but here we are now. I’ll spare the readers drowning in (or mouse-wheeling past) a long winded explanation. Suffice to say, when I first read the first edition Star Trek Encyclopedia back in the early 90s and specifically the article on Constitution-class starships and the list of them within, one name jumped out at me. It was a name that was never used in the original series, but later on a name of a much older vessel in the subsequent spin-off series. A starship that was the sister of the Captain Kirk’s Enterprise, but one whose story was largely unknown; a ship standing on the shoulders of the past and serving in the company of future legends.

This is the story of the Starship Essex

Note: This story begins in January of the year 2266.

Chapter One

Space; the final frontier. Vast, infinite, and mostly empty; after all, most definitions of the term not pertaining to the void between worlds and stars refer to “space” as an interval, an area between things that was generally unoccupied. Oh, certainly there occasionally points of varying interest within the unlimited Stygian sea, such as a few stray beams of light, dust, or even a rogue comet. But if one were to examine almost any given square cubic kilometer of space, one would find almost nothing at all. One would wonder why anyone would raise a fuss over something as simple and blank as space, but just as land and water was fought over for countless generations on countless worlds, so too are lives lost in the conquest of space.

For the human race, said conquest began partially as a metaphorical one; the drive to defeat the grip of gravity of their homeworld Earth and ascend into the heavens using crude and flimsy chemically-propelled rockets. Lives were lost due to failure and accident, but humanity persevered on, ultimately crafting vessels capable of traveling faster than light. During these initial journeys, they often encountered other species, some who had been traversing between the stars for decades or centuries, others only just figuring out how to make the simplest of tools. But, as occurred before within the confines of Earth centuries before, an unfortunate thing tended to happen: someone would want something that humanity had and was quite willing to kill for it.

Though these conflicts constantly tested and harmed the people of Earth, they never lost their drive to explore strange new worlds no matter what threat they might find out there. Through dedication, patience, perseverance, and the uncanny ability to make friends in the unlikeliest of places, humanity helped to forge the United Federation of Planets; an interstellar alliance of space faring species joined together in peace, fellowship, and the mutual drive to explore. In the century or so that has elapsed since its founding, the Federation and its member worlds have sought out new life and new civilizations, though not all of them were friendly.

Were one to turn one’s gaze to a particular aforementioned cubic parsec near the fringes of explored space one would see for a fleeting second one of Earth’s Starfleet’s proudest examples of the word “starship.” Her hull a flawless white-gray, with a circular main hull like the flying saucers of old Earth myth, a strong but thin neck below it connecting to a cylindrical secondary hull with a massive dish on the front end and a hangar bay for smaller craft at the rear. Held aloft to either side from this engineering section on long, thin pylons were two more, smaller cylinders; that of the warp drive nacelles, which could propel this vessel far faster than the speed of light than was thought possible when the technology was first invented on Earth. Proudly emblazoned across the front end of the saucer hull in large, black lettering was the ship’s name, U.S.S. Essex and her registration number with Starfleet, NCC-1697. She could take her crew of 430 souls beyond the frontier for upwards of five years, to boldly go where no man had gone before.

Certainly serving on one of these mighty vessels carried a certain level of prestige, like the original Earth astronauts or even the earlier feudal knights and samurai. But all the fame and chances of exploits couldn’t completely overshadow the very mundane reality of the massive amounts of preparation, planning, and bureaucracy inherent to keeping a ship like the Essex out in space for half a decade at a time. Something that Captain Sean Thorton found himself neck deep in at the time he hated the most: ten minutes after getting out of bed while in the middle of his first cup of coffee and breakfast.

“…and then there’s the security drill scheduled for 1400,” explained Yeoman Magda Eriksdottir, a young woman who was usually the first person the captain saw at the beginning of the ship’s day. He had previously commanded a frigate up until the middle of last year, obviously a much smaller ship with a much smaller crew, so the yeoman’s position was unnecessary over there. It took awhile for Thorton to get used to have a de facto secretary.

“Right,” he said out loud, trying to say something to let Eriksdottir know he was attempting to listen, even though he was more focused on his cup of coffee and sausage-biscuit sandwich. The yeoman with pale white skin and an almost black mane of hair at least was wise enough now to humor his inattentiveness. They had after all repeated this routine for the three months that the Essex had been in away from her home port of Mars. Even she had to get bored of monotony of a starship that had yet to explore a strange new world.

“And Doctor Parker’s been leaving messages about You Know What,” she stated in her Scandinavian accented voice, reading off a data slate and quite quickly a raised eyebrow. “…what’s ‘You Know What,’ sir?”

“Take a guess.” He looked up from his meal and saw the yeoman’s eyes narrowed curiously with a lifted eyebrow that’d almost make a Vulcan proud if one was capable of such an emotion. When she didn’t reply immediately, Thorton added, “My physical.”

She blinked, then commented, “Sir, shouldn’t you have had that done already? The quarterly physicals were last month.”

“And there are 430 other people on this ship that also need to get checked out by medical every quarter,” the captain explained dryly before stroking his groomed dark brown beard. “And that takes time. Lucky for me my name was fairly far down the list, but I’m guessing Doc’s patience is starting to run out. Anything else?”

“Only a few messages marked personal,” Eriksdottir replied. Thankfully she respected his privacy even though she was one of the few people on the ship who was a regular guest in his quarters. Thorton wondered that even with the Essex’s size no one had thought to put in a private office for the captain. “So…what do you want me to tell the doctor?”

“I’ll handle it.” Eventually. Obviously medical science had advanced quite markedly since the days of knives and leaches, but Thorton was not fond of taking time out of his day to be subjected to every scanner and sensor in the medical department. “Is that it?”

“…your log, sir?” Eriksdottir asked as she nodded towards a device next to the captain’s desk. With all the paperwork that faced him in the morning, making an entry in the official records of the Essex slipped his mind entirely.

Sighing, he turned to the log recorder and activated it. Quickly glancing at a chronometer, Thorton then spoke into the audio pick-up, saying, “Captain’s Log: Stardate 1519.5. We continue on towards our designated patrol station. So far no contacts of note. Thorton out.”

“Succinct as usual, sir,” the yeoman remarked. The captain’s log served as an official record of the events of the ship, so naturally if heaven forbid anything bad happened, the higher-ups in Starfleet would have an account of the events leading up to it. The computer recorder in the captain’s quarters automatically encrypted any entry made into it to prevent alteration or tampering with a back-up recorded and encrypted in the ship’s auxiliary control room. In the event of a landing party mission that required the captain to make supplemental entries, logs would be recorded in specialized tricorders. Assuming Thorton and the Essex found themselves in that situation.

“It’s preferable to keep it short when you’re telling the same boring story over and over again. Dismissed, Yeoman.”

“Aye sir,” she replied and exited without another word.

Once she was gone, Thorton flicked on the computer monitor on his desk to peruse the messages the yeoman had spent the last five or ten minutes explaining verbally. The messages from the ship’s chief medical officer, Doctor Quentin “Doc” Parker, all came in the span of a few seconds, as if he accidentally sent it multiple times. Computers never were his strongest suit. The personal ones at the top of the list from overnight mostly bordered on the mundane; messages from old friends serving on other ships, an update or two from extended family spread across Earth’s solar system. The usual things one would expect on an average day during a five year voyage.

As he finished off his breakfast and cooling coffee, Thorton started to wonder if the gravity of this expedition had sunk in yet. Those people off of the Essex who sent other similar messages to the entire crew: they would not see them for half a decade, barring something that would force the Essexback into the core sectors of the Federation. Five years was a long stretch, with time enough to marry, have children, get promoted, or even die. The captain understood from personal experience why the five year program for starships didn’t appeal to everyone, particular those who didn’t feel like putting their personal lives on hold for so long and those that did. And yet…sometimes someone like Thorton managed to find a way.

After he spotted a header that caught his eye towards the end of the messages he had received during the ship’s night, he flicked a button and immediately a wide-eyed young girl appeared on his monitor, shouting, “Daddy!”

Thorton couldn’t help but laugh while at the same time fighting back a few bitter tears as any father of a daughter would in his situation. His daughter Charlene or better known as Charlie for (slightly) short held up a piece of paper in front of whatever device was recording her; a piece of paper marked every which way with the old and patented Earth artistic implement of crayons. There were two stick figures; one by Thorton’s trained eye to be her, right down to the black curls. The other was taller, with instead of the standard stick-figure torso had a much bulkier upper body colored gold and a filled in black band around the chin indicating a beard. Below them was a bluish-green half of a globe that was colored in with naturally blues, green, and a splash of brown. Above the two figures was what appeared to be Charlie’s rendition of a starship, though the proportions of the ship’s hulls and nacelles wouldn’t pass muster with a nitpicker.

“Look at what I made, Daddy!” Obviously there was the temptation for him to respond in some fashion, but the message had been recorded some time in the past three days and had taken as much time to work its way through Starfleet’s array of censors and subspace relays to make its way to the fringe of explored space. Charlie then put down the drawing and held two more in front of the screen on her end. The second and third were more…abstract, at least Thorton hoped that was what his daughter was going for. Then again, she was only five. “And this one! And this one!”

“Charlie?!” asked a female voice in a stern tone, one that on a bad day would make the starship captain stop what he was doing for a moment. “Stop playing on the comm! You better not be…!”

The screen went blank for a moment before another face appeared. Clearly related to Charlie though obviously older, it was her mother and the captain’s wife, Kelly. Clearly being the primary contributor to their daughter’s appearance, Commander Thorton had slightly tan skin, dark eyes, and a mane of hair that might as well have been transplanted atop Charlie’s head. “…Sorry about that. Don’t know how she figured out my password. Ordinarily I’d’ve deleted it and not waste the call, but somebody’s also turning into quite the little arm twister. ‘Fraid not much has happened since the last one except I’m still waiting to hear from the board on that grant. Sometimes I feel like they’re the ones a thousand light years from here. Anyway, talk to you soon. Love you, Sean.”

And with that, the missive from home ended. Charlie must have been very convincing to Kelly for her to spend a valuable weekly non-emergency subspace call (real time calls in non-emergency situations were allotted once every two months, conditions permitting) to the Essex for something so abrupt. Of course text messages could be sent with more frequency, but they lacked the personal touch the captain found himself needing more and more as the distance between him and his family widened with each passing day. Once he skimmed the rest of his messages for important details, he shut off the monitor, stood up and straightened his bright gold command tunic.

Thorton exit his cabin out into a brightly lit corridor that was predominantly white with bright reds on panels here and there and along the ceiling and a few doors, as well. Prior to leaving Earth’s solar system, the Essex had undergone a refit to bring it up to par with other starships of her class. That and the new uniforms made Thorton wonder if someone in Starfleet thought everything looked too bland for the last decade or so and was seeking a way to rectify that error.

Making his way towards the nearest turbolift stop on Deck 5, Thorton exchanged nods and good mornings with various crew members who were making their way from one destination on the ship to another. Thorton’s position was akin to being the governor of a small colony and even if his uniform didn’t have the two and a half stripes to indicate his rank, everyone on board probably knew his face and name even if he didn’t know the reverse. The captain had made it to within two meters of the ‘lift stop when suddenly he heard a voice call out to him from behind in a manner far more familiar than anyone else he had come across.

“Hold the door, Sean!” Thorton turned to see his chief engineer, Cassidy Yang, jogging towards him (how she managed to do so in those boots was beyond him). With slightly tanned skin and large brown eyes, even she would admit she had trouble keeping track of the various Earth ethnicities that made up her ancestors’ bloodlines, though they were mostly from the Asian nations of the Eastern Coalition and portions the United States. Yang was several inches shorter than the captain, who himself stood at just below six feet Imperial (even with the standard issue female boot heels) and had a petite frame. Although Yang had a similar shade of dark brown hair, hers was in a cut that was slightly longer than her captain’s and was completely devoid of the gray hairs that were starting to slowly take hold at his temples and along the jaw line of his beard.

“Morning, Cass,” he said with a slight smile, entering the turbolift and holding the doors long enough for Yang to enter. They had met several years ago when they were both posted to the starship Potemkin; their friendship over the years meant that she was only one of two people on the ship granted the permission to address him by his first name in almost every situation. Thankfully, Thorton had yet to encounter a situation where the “almost” proviso would have to be invoked.

“Mornin’,” Yang replied as she entered the turbolift. Once inside, the doors closed and Thorton grabbed one of several manual throttle handles and verbally ordered the ‘lift to take them to the bridge. Since the engineer did not state a destination, the captain assumed she was headed there, as well. “So, how’s things?”

“Apparently my daughter’s figured out in the past three days my wife’s password, along with how to record and save messages on the comm unit. By the time I get home she’ll probably have figured out to hail the Delta Quadrant.”

Yang leaned against the ‘lift’s wall and flashed a bright smile. “And she’ll drive Kell’s hair to sheet white at this rate. You know, you could install a biometric lock on the comm to keep Charlie from doing that. ”

“They’re on campus housing, remember?” Thorton asked with a smirk as the turbolift slowed, likely making a stop for someone else to get on. His wife was also a Starfleet officer, however she served as an instructor at the academy on Earth. “It’ll take a month for them to answer the requisition and then they’d only send a couple trainees desperate for extra credit…”

The doors opened and revealed the very person Thorton was trying his best to avoid: Doctor Parker. The ship’s surgeon was quite a bit taller than with captain, with dark brown skin and closely cropped hair, which was mostly gray save for spots of brown and the bright white at the temples. He also wore a blue, short sleeved shirt; a variant for medical personnel that Doc almost exclusively wore once the uniform code aboard ship changed late last year.

“Just the very man I was looking for,” he said in his baritone voice; his tone and his smile being both warm and akin to someone who just located the proverbial buried treasure marked on the map by the letter X. Doc stepped inside and Thorton gave the throttle another twist to get the turbolift going, if for no other reason than to hasten what was about to happen. “Get my message?”

“All five of them,” the captain said dryly. “Having issues with your computer terminal again?”

“Again?” Yang added with a smug grin, likely sensing what this meeting was about. Parker too served with them aboard the Potemkin years ago, hence why he and Yang were among the first people he recruited when he was awarded command of the Essex.

“I didn’t get a doctorate in computer programming,” Parker commented. “And don’t change the subject, Sean. Sooner or later you’re going to have to get around to it. Can’t hide from medical orders forever, even if you are a captain.”

Unfortunately, Doc had a point and Thorton knew it. About the only authority higher than a captain’s on any Starfleet vessel was that of the chief medical officer in regards to the crew’s health. Feeling trapped, not just by the situation but also the setting, he interrupted with, “Fine, you got me. Does 1600 sound fair enough to you?”

The surgeon was still grinning widely, adding cheekily, “On what day?”

“Today, Doctor,” Thorton commented with a clenched jaw.

“Fine by me."

“All right, with that settled, let’s stop using the turbolift as a briefing room, please? I haven’t had my second cup yet.” The turbolift slowed and for a moment Thorton thought they were having another interruption into their trip to the top of the ship. However, the doors parted, revealing one of the most beautiful sights in Starfleet outside of an exterior view of the Essex though Yang might disagree.

The main bridge was a bit different than what Thorton had seen when he was first installed as captain seven months ago prior to the refit, let alone during his days as first officer of the Potemkin. Like the rest of the ship and indeed how the crew was clad, it was brighter, more vibrant. Even the sounds made by the controls, indicators, and scanners gave the bridge the feeling of being alive. Even the light bar at the bottom of the view screen, which was the recording unit for the flight recorder and visual transmissions, seemed to blink akin to a heartbeat. Other than that, it appeared to be standard Starfleet design; helm and navigation console along with the captain’s chair in the center, lower section of the bridge, stations and monitors lining the outer bulkhead of the upper level, and a view screen at the front. But the upgrades were natural; if the ship was home, then the bridge was akin to the living room that were remodeled and redecorated over the period a family lived there. One might as well be comfortable in this space for the next five years.

Yang edged past the captain and began inspecting the manned engineering station immediately to port of the turbolift. Parker didn’t exit, probably because he had achieved his objective. Thorton, meanwhile, stepped down to his captain’s chair, which was vacated rather quickly.

“Good morning, Captain,” said Commander Astrid Dumont, first officer, in with a faint accent in her voice of her Belgian heritage. She was about ten years the captain’s junior, stood about two inches shorter than him, and had light blonde hair and eyes as blue as Thorton’s was brown. She smoothed out her gold mini-dress and took her usual position standing to the right of the captain’s chair.

“Good morning, Commander,” he replied. “Status?”

“Still on course for Sector 046 and maintaining warp factor 4, Captain.” The Essex was operating close to the fringes of explored space, areas beyond which was territories that hadn’t been scouted by ships at all, by probes only, and/or by ships decades if not a full century ago. “No sensor contacts and no reports of any disturbances overnight. We did get a message from Starfleet about an hour ago flagged for your attention.”

“Very well, let’s see it,” the captain concluded before taking his seat. Almost as soon as his rear hit the chair’s leather cushion, the Essex’s communication officer got up from his station directly behind the captain and approached with decryption device and data card in hand. Ensign Rodrigo Ortiz had almost black hair and olive skin and while his file indicated he hailed from the nation of Peru back on Earth, his English had almost no trace of a native Spanish speaker. If Thorton had to guess, Ortiz almost spoke with a colonial inflection, similar to the captain’s Martian accent. This was also his first tour of duty as an officer, let alone a senior officer, which spoke to his talents.

“Captain,” he said, handing both of his items to the captain. Major coded transmissions of various classification levels were routed through Ortiz’s station, whereas intership and personal messages from the proverbial shore were routed through the main computer. Even a Vulcan would have trouble managing every communiqué aboard the starship Essex.

“Thank you, Ensign,” he said, inserting the data card into the decryptor. “Have the yeoman send up the second cup of coffee now. I think I’ll need it.”

“Aye sir.” Thorton then started looking over the information being displayed on the decryption device, but none of it of relevance to the Essexand her present situation. At least nothing he could divulge to his crew based on classification issues.

“I’m guessing nothing major has happened back home, sir,” commented Lieutenant Iain Boone, the helmsman with light brown skin who hailed from London. And it was rather easy to figure out he was from there since he mentioned it often.

“Nothing of note, Lieutenant.”

“I’d say it’s for the best, Captain,” added Lieutenant Fatima Noureddine, the navigator who sat on right side of the console she shared with Boone. Similar to Yang, she was of mixed heritage though from multiple locales in the Middle East and North Africa. Her black hair was tied up in a bun at the back of her head. “If there was, Starfleet might order us to turn around and come home.”

“I sure hope not; I can’t remember the last time we orbited a planet with a breathable atmosphere that wasn’t Earth or a starbase, Weps,” said Boone, the nickname referring to the fact Fatima’s duties also involved targeting the Essex’s weapons. In the three months of the Essex’s current five year mission of exploration, there indeed hadn’t been an inhabited or at the very least habitable planet worthy of exploration encountered, but on the other hand this was the first time they were venturing out beyond known space.

“I don’t think any of us signed up to explore plain old worlds, Boone.”

“I certainly didn’t,” Thorton mused.

“Technically, habitable planets are quite old,” remarked Lieutenant Za’Naya Thalla, an Andorian woman who stepped down towards the captain’s chair with a data slate in hand. Almost as tall as Parker, she had bright white hair that hung around the back of her neck, blue skin a shade lighter than her uniform, and the characteristic antenna coming out of her forehead. While Starfleet had officers and personnel from all Federation worlds, humans still were the predominant species and Andorians were somewhat rare as well given how their government still maintained their own, separate space force. “Science department report from overnight, Captain.”

“How about just the short version?” The heavy science wasn’t his strongest suit, so it was probably beneficial for his sake to have it all condensed.

“We’re continuing to monitor the S’Tek nebula to stern.” Even though the Essexwas traveling at warp speeds in the direction of parts unknown, the ship’s science officers and personnel nonetheless had a duty to study whatever interstellar points of interest were in range of the sensors. “Everything’s in line with earlier studies; standard gas cloud with nothing really out of the ordinary.”

“That sounds about par for the course,” said Boone. “Hopefully we’ll run into something we can beam down to soon. I think we all might get a little stir-crazy before too long.”

“You mean run into something other people get to beam down to, don’t you?” asked Fatima wryly. “I bet you pray every night before you go to bed that the transporter breaks down so you can shuttle down landing parties, Boone.”

“If that does happen, I might make him fix it,” Yang noted with a smirk.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea, Commander?” Thalla asked wryly as she returned to her station. “There might be a good reason why he’s only a helmsman.”

“Hey!” Boone protested.

“The helm position can be upwardly mobile, ladies; where do think I got my start?” Thorton asked wryly, his statement appearing to end the ribbing. “ETA to Sector 046, Ms. Nourredine?”

“Thirty-two hours, present speed, Captain,” the navigator replied.

“Let’s increase speed to warp 5 to shave some time off the trip,” the captain ordered, but then looked towards the engineering station. “Unless you think the engines can’t handle it.”

“If they can’t, you better find a new chief,” Yang replied with a friendly wink.

“One of these days I might follow through on your suggestion, Cass. Helm, ahead warp factor 5.”

“Warp 5, sir,” Boone replied. A couple button presses later and the engines of the Essex hummed louder as the ship picked up speed. “Let’s just hope 046 is a little more lively than 045.”

“It should be,” said Thalla as Eriksdottir entered the bridge, holding a tray of several cups of coffee. Obviously not all of them were meant for the captain. “Reports indicate multiple systems with the potential for habitable planets and life forms, though none of them have been surveyed by any vessel that we know of.”

“Thank you, Yeoman,” Thorton said as he took a cup. He took a sip and it was only then did he start feeling the caffeine kick in; that his work day could truly begin. After a second sip, he then added, “Helm, steady as …”

Before he could finish issuing an order that really didn’t need to be ordered in this day and age, the master caution light on the console ahead of him between Boone and Fatima’s stations started to flash and emit a beep. The navigator leaned closer to one of her displays and reported, “Captain, the automatic deflectors just kicked on. Object on approach, bearing 250 mark 1.”

“Readings?” asked Thorton as he turned towards the science station. Thalla was already out of her chair and peering into the sensor scope.

“Definitely a ship of some type, sir,” she replied, the light blue glow of her scope barely altering the tint of her skin. “On course 321 mark 2. Speed is warp 5.”

“What are the odds it’s one of ours?” Yang asked cautiously.

“We’re the only starship in this sector, Cass,” Thorton remarked.

“That we know of, sir,” Dumont remarked dryly.

“Whoever they are, they’re entering visual range,” noted Boone.

“On screen.” The helmsman pressed a couple of buttons on his station and the image on the screen ahead switched from a view of space directly in front of the Essex to that just slightly to port. It was still space, however at the dead center of the screen was a small, gray object whose identity was difficult to discern. “Magnify, factor 6.”

“Factor 6, sir.” The display rippled as the view screen enhanced its view of the other ship to a point where it was almost immediately identifiable to Thorton. It was definitely an advanced vessel, but unlike the Essex, its lines were not graceful. While its bulbous forward section had curves, the rest of the ship was dominated by harsh, jagged angles, particularly the larger engineering hull at the stern, linked to the forward section by a long boom. Its flat, rectangular warp engine nacelles were fixed below the ship’s hull, not above, giving it the aggressive appearance of a predator; a gray creature who stalked through the vacuum of space.

“Klingons,” the first officer remarked.

Thorton immediately tapped the intercom toggle on his chair’s right armrest and ordered, “Red alert. All hands to battle stations…”
Starship Essex: "Take Notice" now showing.
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Old Yesterday, 08:08 AM   #2
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Re: Starship Essex #1 - Take Notice

Very nice start. Interested to see where this goes.
"Social occasions are only warfare concealed"
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Old Today, 10:26 AM   #3
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Re: Starship Essex #1 - Take Notice

Oh I like this.

The TOS setting really shines through here with these characters, the mood, the Klingons and even a triumvirate at the center of it all. Also kudos on bucking the trend with the high number of female characters on the senior staff, something we didn't get to see on TOS for obvious reasons.

Like the idea of a five year exploratory mission, all to often starships end up going boldly where other had gone before. But first of course there are the Klingons to deal with.

Quite eager to follow this new tale of yours.
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