Starship Essex #1 - Take Notice

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Rat Boy, Jun 1, 2015.

  1. Rat Boy

    Rat Boy Vice Admiral Admiral

    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…”
  2. Jamee999

    Jamee999 Commander Red Shirt

    Feb 10, 2007
    Very nice start. Interested to see where this goes.
  3. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    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.
  4. Rat Boy

    Rat Boy Vice Admiral Admiral

    Thanks for the reads and the comments. And yes, CeJay, I for the most part actively sought out diversity among the cast members and sometimes I just happened to unconsciously stumble upon it, both in terms of gender and ethnicity.
  5. Jamee999

    Jamee999 Commander Red Shirt

    Feb 10, 2007
    Do you have your other writings centrally gathered anywhere?
  6. Rat Boy

    Rat Boy Vice Admiral Admiral

    Other than what you'd find here on Trek BBS, not anymore. And considering the interval in publication dates, I consider SSE to be a fresh start compared to what I've done before.
  7. Rat Boy

    Rat Boy Vice Admiral Admiral

    Chapter Two

    The call for a red alert aboard a starship like the Essex wasn’t uncommon. Crews often trained for emergency and tactical situations on a frequent basis to the point one might be forgiven if the blaring of the siren and the flashing of the emergency beacons be regarded as a minor annoyance akin to a grade school fire drill, though superior officers probably wouldn’t be completely forgiving of that opinion. Coupled with both Sean Thorton and Ortiz calling all hands to battle stations with the serious caveat that this was not a drill added a sufficient jolt of energy to the 430 souls aboard the Essex. Crew members in the ship’s maze of corridors picked up their pace briskly and within minutes the hallways were all empty. Additional personnel crowded into the engineering spaces to be ready in case the Essex took damage. Weapons crews began powering up the ship’s array of phaser weapons and loading launch tubes with even deadlier photon torpedoes. The Essex’s medical wing prepared for potential casualties or worse. All 430 people aboard the starship Essex were at their battle stations seemingly before the captain and communications officer’s words finished echoing; they were all precise and professional, though there was the added sense of concern because this call to stations wasn’t a training exercise.

    So too was the sense on the main bridge. As the warship from the Klingon Empire continued to close on the Essex, there was a cacophony of noises. Additional crew members arriving to man stations that were typically not used under normal operations along with a two-man armed security detail standing by the turbolift doors in the event the ship was boarded. Status checks from other compartments being relayed to the appropriate supervising bridge officer filled the bridge with layer upon layer of conversations. At the center of it all, a silent void in the agitation was Captain Thorton, confident in his crew’s ability to ready themselves for whatever the intruder vessel had in store for the Essex.

    “Confirmed, Captain,” Thalla reported, now sitting down as her head turned and tilted to take in data being displayed on multiple screens and indicators. “Target is a Klingon battle cruiser, D7 class.”

    “Deflector shields up and at full power,” reported Boone.

    “Phaser crews ready,” Fatima added. “All banks energized and torpedo tubes loaded.”

    “All decks report battle stations manned,” Ortiz reported.

    “What could they be doing this far out?” Dumont asked.

    “Starfleet Command reports that the Klingons have been annexing sectors along their frontier borders again over the last several months, but those were on the other side of Federation and Imperial space,” Thorton explained. The update he had received and just read minutes ago had contained recent information on that topic; the captain just didn’t think that it’d end up being relevant to the Essex’s journeys. “If they’re expanding out this way…”

    “He’s altering course, Captain,” Thalla reported. “Now heading 000 mark 359; speed is increasing to warp 6. He’s seen us.”

    “Great,” Yang half-grumbled. “We’re barely three months out of Spacedock and someone’s looking to break the ship already.”

    “Not exactly how I envisioned our first trip out to the frontier going,” the first officer remarked.

    “Captain, technically we’re within interstellar space; there isn’t a Klingon planet for light years,” the navigator warned. Of course, just where Klingon territory ended and Federation territory began was a subject of debate between the two powers for nearly fifty years.

    “Mr. Ortiz, try raising them,” ordered Thorton. “Mr. Boone, maintain course and speed.”

    “Aye sir,” the helmsman answered. “Maintaining warp factor 5.”

    “Sir, we’re well within their weapon’s range,” warned Thalla. The Klingon D7-class (a designation given by Starfleet; what the Empire called it was anyone’s guess) was their top-of-the-line battle cruiser. First deployed fifteen years ago as a counter to starships like the Essex, they had become a rather common sight in engagements over the years. Thorton himself ran across them a few times in the past, both as first officer of the starship Potemkin and as captain of the frigate Tokyo. This, though, was his first encounter with one as captain and as commander of a ship that was considered on par with the D7. Not only did he not have a more experienced commander to lead him, but also on the other hand he wasn’t aboard a ship that was so inferior to the Klingon cruiser to the point where his first instinct was to fall back.

    “If they wanted to fire first, they would have when we first detected them,” the first officer said. “Lieutenant, any response to our hails?”

    “Getting a reply now, Commander,” replied Ortiz. Of Thorton’s senior officers, the head of the communications department was obviously the least experienced. Sometimes that inexperience showed, but fortunately under battle conditions he was being as calm and professional as the rest of them.

    “On audio, Ensign,” said Thorton.

    An angry, guttural male voice flooded the speakers. “Unidentified Federation vessel, you have ventured into territory claimed by the Klingon Empire. You are ordered to depart immediately.”

    The captain let out a quiet sigh as he stroked the chin portion of his beard. As the bulletin indicated and as his personal experience over the last couple decades indicated, this wasn’t an atypical encounter out in frontier territories, whose boundaries had yet to have been agreed upon by treaty, so while the Klingons suddenly now regarded this area as theirs, their claim didn’t exactly hold water in the eyes of the Federation. And arguably the latter aspect was part of the problem as well. “Ship to ship, Ensign.”

    “Aye sir.”

    “Klingon vessel, this is the Federation starship Essex,” he announced. “We are conducting lawful and peaceful operations outside of claimed space in accordance and with due regard to interstellar law.”

    “Federation ship Essex, you are violating the territory of the Klingon Empire. You will withdraw immediately. This is your final warning.” And that too was generally the Klingon response under these circumstances. While one supposed that the two ship captains could have traded the same almost scripted statements back and forth for hours, Klingons weren’t known for their patience.

    “Klingon vessel now at one million kilometers and closing, Captain,” reported Thalla.

    “Have they locked weapons?” Dumont asked. Although energy and projectile weapons could be manually fired to surprise an enemy vessel, the best way to guarantee a hit or at least convey the intention that a ship was trying to hit said enemy vessel was to use active scans to assist the fire control computer. In the parlance of the Ancient American West of Earth, locking weapons could be interpreted as placing one’s hand on a holstered revolver. However, depending on the temperament of the other commander, it could also be easily interpreted as akin to drawing the revolver or even cocking the hammer back as a prelude to firing. Naturally, situations like the one now brewing between the Essex and the Klingon cruiser were contentious and could easily escalate into a skirmish. Unfortunate, but that was how things happened between the Federation and almost any threat force in this day and age.

    “Not yet, Commander, however I am detecting an increase in power generation consistent with the arming of Klingon disruptors.”

    “Shall I lock our weapons, Captain?” asked Fatima.

    “Negative, Lieutenant,” Thorton ordered. If the Klingons weren’t about to overtly provoke the Essex, then he wasn’t about to, either. While both ships were in legally neutral territory, Starfleet rules of engagement limited his ability to respond against the approach of a potentially hostile vessel. Firing warning shots was about the limit of overt action the captain could take, but in his experience Klingons reacted differently to such gestures. Some took the hint and wisely backed off; others interpreted warning shots as weapons fire that missed the target and responded in kind. While Thorton would be well within his rights to put one across the other ship’s bow, he wasn’t willing to escalate the situation to potentially a full-on conflict just yet.

    “Entering optimal firing range, Captain,” warned Boone. Of course, optimal firing range was a floating figure based on the ship and its weapon systems. Klingon torpedoes had a longer firing range and warhead yield than their Starfleet equivalents, though their accuracy suffered. Conversely, their disruptors, which were their energy weapons akin to Starfleet phasers, lacked the range and accuracy of phasers, but were more powerful. But as Thorton believed, the fact that the Essex passed within the optimal firing range of both forms of Klingon armaments without a single shot fired suggested to him that they weren’t going to fire either unless provoked. They were willing to let him and perhaps goad him into making the opening salvo and he wasn’t about to do that if he could help it.

    “Stand by.” The Klingon ship continued to close on the view screen to the point where it almost enveloped the whole thing. Either Boone manually or the computer automatically reduced the magnification scale, but even then the cruiser loomed large as it closed on the Essex.

    “They’re coming in close, Captain!” Fatima exclaimed as once again the Klingon ship filled the view screen. It almost appeared to be on the verge of impacting the Essex when it suddenly veered sharply to its port. Based on what the screen was showing, the Klingon ship continued its turn away from the Essex to the point where its stern was presented to the starship and even then continued to bring themselves around as if to take another pass.

    “What are they doing?” asked Dumont.

    “Any closer and we’ll be swapping paint like we’re in the Rigel Cup,” quipped the engineer.

    “They’re just trying to rattle our cages, Cass,” Thorton noted tersely, fighting the urge to give his beard another manual combing. Again, it was something that he was all too familiar with and all too willing to try to put behind him now that he commanded a starship on a five-year mission. And yet, it seemed the Klingons weren’t about to let him go just yet. “What’s he doing now?”

    “Moving to a parallel course and slowing to match our speed, Captain,” said Fatima.

    “Maintain course, Mr. Boone. Increase to warp 6.”

    “Aye sir,” he replied before he also pressed the appropriate buttons. “Warp 6.”

    “Engines answering fine, in case you were wondering,” said Yang while the warp drive hummed even louder. “Just how long are we going to keep playing with these guys?”

    “I wasn’t planning on turning around and going home, Cass,” said Thorton.

    “Klingon vessel is coming about, Captain,” Thalla warned. On the view screen, the cruiser brought its boom and bow around and started to come at the Essex at a faster velocity.

    “Are they trying another fly-by?” Dumont asked.

    “Unlikely, Commander, since they’ve now locked weapons.”

    “Helm bring us around to intercept and reduce speed to warp 4,” Thorton ordered. While the Essex had multiple weapons covering most of the angles of fire around the ship, her most powerful phaser banks and her main photon torpedo tubes were on the forward side of the primary hull. “Lock phasers and photon torpedoes on target.”

    “Coming around,” said Boone. “Slowing to warp 4.”

    “Weapons locked,” added Fatima.

    “Klingon vessel is matching speed,” Thalla commented. And that in Thorton’s mind confirmed his counterpart’s intentions a split second before he acted on them. Two green bolts of energy shot out from the Klingon ship’s warp nacelles towards the Essex. They collided with the starship’s shields, causing the bridge and no doubt every other deck to shudder.

    “Return fire, standard phaser barrage!”

    “Phasers, fire!” Fatima barked at the weapons control crew through the intercom. The whoosh of the actuators echoed across the bridge and twin electric blue beams shot out from the underside of the Essex’s primary hull. They struck the Klingon vessel’s main hull, but did not appear to cause any significant damage.

    “He’s breaking off,” Dumont noted as the hostile battle cruiser banked slowly to its port into what appeared to be a wide turn away from the Essex. “Shield status?”

    “Hit to our number 4 shield, forward, Commander,” Thalla replied. “It is stable and readings indicate the other ship suffered a similar blow.”

    “He only fired once,” commented Thorton. “Sounds to me like they’re hoping that’ll be enough to get us to break off.”

    “I agree, Captain,” said the first officer, “but at what point do we consider leaving?”

    He smirked thinly. “I don’t know about you, Exec, but I’m not near that point. Mr. Boone, increase to warp 6, close to point blank range.”

    “Aye sir,” he replied. “Accelerating back to warp 6.”

    “He’s coming around for another attack run,” Thalla reported as the cruiser banked around, seemingly turning on a tiny point in space. Another reason getting into a close-range fight with the Klingon warship wasn’t advisable was that it had a severe advantage in maneuverability, since it wasn’t “encumbered” with the additional mass of equipment dedicated to science and exploration. The cruiser fired again and once more the Essexshuddered, though not severely again. “Shields still holding.”

    “He’s altering course, Captain,” Fatima stated. The hostile battle cruiser banked slowly to its port into what appeared to be a wide turn around the Essex.

    “They’re trying to slip in behind us,” Thorton concluded. “Mr. Boone, match his turn rate.”

    “Aye sir,” the helmsman replied. “Fifteen degrees right rudder.”

    “Shield status?” asked Dumont.

    “Another hit to our number four shield again but it’s holding,” Thalla replied. “Same with him.”

    “Captain, Klingon vessel’s increasing his turn rate,” Boone reported.

    “I don’t think we can outturn him, sir,” warned the science officer.

    “We don’t have much of a choice; Helm, hard over,” the captain ordered. “Let’s return the favor.”

    “Right full rudder, sir,” the helmsman replied. The engines hummed loudly again as the ship struggled to come about, a dance that was playing out visually on the screen. The star field spun about rapidly while the battle cruiser seemed frozen in place. Both ships were trying to steer to gain an advantage and yet neither was yielding just yet. However, the Klingon ship was starting to inch around ever so slightly. “He’s sliding in behind us, Captain!”

    “Reverse engines! Slow to warp 1 and then bring her around! Then back to warp 5.”

    “Aye!” The Essexdropped to the mere speed of light, thus shortening her turn rate. Her bow whipped around, but the Klingon vessel seemed to anticipate that maneuver a hair too late. Both ships were now bow-to-bow and closing on each other.

    The Klingons fired again, which prompted the captain to immediately order a countering salvo. However, after the Essex’s discharge, this time neither ship was making a move to maneuver away. The helmsman quickly whipped his head around back towards Thorton and asked, “Uh…sir…?”

    “Ten degrees down angle on the bow!” barked Thorton. The Essex ducked and the Klingon ship thankfully made an evasive move on an opposite angle of the Z-axis. His boom and command section tilted upward and the entire cruiser sailed over the starship’s primary hull. Just how close they were to each other the captain was willing to wait until later to find out. “Level off, Helm. Reduce speed to warp 3, left full rudder.”

    “Left full rudder, aye,” answered Boone almost breathlessly. “Warp factor 3.”

    “Captain, he’s been tapping us on the shoulder so far,” Dumont commented. “Maybe we should punch him in the nose to make him reconsider continuing this?”

    “Agreed, Exec,” the captain concluded. The other ship executed a wide turn to port, clearly trying to reorient itself after the near miss. However, the Essexhad her or him dead to rights in terms of weapons arcs. “Lieutenant Nourredine, set main phaser banks to full.”

    “Aye Captain,” the weapons officer replied before pressing several buttons. “Phaser capacitor fully charged; ready to fire, Captain.”


    “Phasers, fire!” A more concentrated burst of the Essex’s primary weapons now red in color thanks to being set to the point of nearly overheating struck the D7’s stern and lingered momentarily as the banks were discharged completely. It was definitely a lot stronger than a standard phaser burst, but the drawback was that it completely exhausted the capacitors that charged the banks and took far longer to build up enough energy to fire again. Fortunately, Fatima was on the mark.

    While it was hard to discern the level of damage just by eyeballing it, the Klingon ship quickly accelerated away from the Essex, making a slower turn towards them. Thalla added, “They’ve lost their forward number 4 shield, Captain. Minor damage to their number 3.”

    “They’re swinging around again,” noted Boone. “Not quite as smooth as before; looks like we might winged him a little.”

    “Let’s give him further incentive to break off,” the captain commented. “Lock photon torpedoes on target, but hold your fire.”

    “Aye Captain,” Fatima replied. “Firing solution locked.”

    Due to the yield of photon torpedoes and due to the fact that the antimatter required to supply half of its payload was drawn from the tanks that fueled the warp engines, they were sparingly used in combat. Occasionally the implementation of the torpedoes was jokingly referred to as “The Photon Option” similar to the “Nuclear Option” of ages past. With the Klingon shields partially compromised, a direct hit with even one torpedo would severely damage the battle cruiser and they would more than likely notice that the Essex was preparing to fire them.

    And the Klingons clearly realized it as the ship suddenly reversed its turn, presenting its shielded stern section as it began to accelerate away at a high rate of speed. Dumont commented with a smirk, “I think we got their attention, sir.”

    “Target appears to be withdrawing,” Fatima remarked. “Speed, warp factor 6.”

    “This was a skirmish, not a battle,” concluded the captain. “Helm, give us some distance from the Klingons. Hopefully they’ve taken the hint. What’s their course now, Lieutenant?”

    “Course 213 mark 4, sir. That’d take him out of the sector and in the general direction of actual Klingon space. Must have lost his appetite for a fight.”

    “Or he may be reporting our presence to his superiors and requesting reinforcements, Lieutenant,” commented Thalla.

    “Either way, we gave him a serious enough blow to force him off,” remarked the first officer. “Damage report?”

    “Minor buckling here and there, Exec,” Yang replied. “Run-ins like this almost make me nostalgic for the old days, Sean.”

    “And here I was hoping to leave things like this back in the past,” the captain said wistfully, adjusting his wedding band slightly, an even more serious tick than adjusting his beard. “Mr. Boone, get us back on our original course and slow to warp 4.”

    “Coming back to original course, sir. Warp factor 4.”

    “Lieutenant Thalla, have all long range sensors trained on our friend and on that general bearing to make sure he’s not alone.” The science officer’s head suddenly whipped around with a look of disappointment on her face. Having every sensor on the ship focusing on the cruiser and the area of space around it would severely impact the science department. However, after the encounter caution was warranted.

    Rather than protest the hassle the re-tasking of the Essex’s vast suite of long range sensors would cause, Thalla merely nodded with a polite, “Aye sir.”

    “Well, that was entertaining,” the hemlman remarked. “Nothing like setting out to seek out new civilizations only to have one you’ve known for over a century pop on by for a bit of a visit.”

    “Get a lot of visitors trying to throw rocks at your windows, Boone?” Fatima asked with a wry smirk. Some commanders might have found the banter a little inappropriate but Thorton took it as a sign that they were coping with the stress of combat.

    “Sometimes. Sometimes I had it coming.”

    “Mr. Ortiz, update Starfleet about our status,” Thorton ordered. He jabbed the ship-wide intercom toggle with his right thumb and waited for the artificial boatswain whistle to sound throughout the Essex. “This is the captain. All hands stand down battle stations and go to yellow alert. Department heads, submit reports to the first officer before the end of the watch. Thorton out.”

    “Think we’ve seen the last of them?” asked Dumont.

    “I certainly hope so, Exec.’” Thorton glanced down and saw his cup of coffee was still resting on the left arm of his chair even after all the excitement with the Klingons. Cautiously, he picked it up and attempted to take a sip finding it had gone completely cold. As his father was fond of saying, coffee is served hot to conceal the flavor. “And someone get the yeoman back up here with a fresh cup...”
  8. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Well, that was a nice little dance with the Klingons. I for one don't think that bloodying their nose a bit will actually discourage them. On the contrary, Essex might have to deal with these Klingons yet again. And the cavalry is a long way off.
  9. Rat Boy

    Rat Boy Vice Admiral Admiral

    This was actually one of the hardest chapters to write so far, at least in terms of how severe things would get between the Essex and the Klingons. Up until a few weeks ago, there wasn't any conversation between the two ships until I read articles about confrontations between the US Navy and the Chinese Navy in the South China Sea and decided to borrow from their radio transmissions for Thorton's dialogue with the Klingons.
  10. Rat Boy

    Rat Boy Vice Admiral Admiral

    Chapter Three

    Engineers had to deal with the maintenance and operation of a starship. Medical personnel had to deal with the health of the crew. Command officers had to deal with managing the ship’s company and the mission at hand. Science officers, though, had to deal with the entire universe. Stars, planets, new species of everything, and even once in a while something that defied all explanation; Thalla, child of the Line of Naya of Clan Za, would contend that the captain, first officer, Doctor Parker, and Yang had it easy. The primary mission of the starship Essex was to explore the unknown and the only personnel on the ship qualified to make sense of the unknown was Lieutenant Thalla and her science department. And with what could potentially lurk in the unknown and could pose a danger to the Essex, her job was just as vital as keeping the engines running and the crew healthy. At least under normal conditions.

    The bulk of her science department was presently huddled in the primary lab on deck four which also doubled as Thalla’s office area. Similar in style to the bridge, she had a desk with a computer terminal at the center, lower section of the room with consoles on a slightly raised outer level along the two side walls and the wall that had the lab’s entrance. Directly opposite of that was a large view screen which reminded the science officer of the kind that was used on the bridge before the recent refit. Presently due to the captain’s orders those members of his department trained in stellar sciences were using the Essex’s long range sensors to monitor for Klingon activity in wake of the earlier encounter with the battle cruiser.

    “Uh…I’m having a bit of an issue here,” complained Ensign Simon Rupp, who was seated at one of the aforementioned consoles. “I can’t even get a reading on the Toh’Kaht system at this range. There must be some kind of ion storm causing interference…at least I think so…”

    “Did you try checking the circuit?” asked Wanda Gregg wryly, an ensign. Obviously, Thalla was the only one of her species aboard the Essex and was one of a handful of non-humans on top of being the only non-human to run a department. In addition to her upbringing being vastly different than what her human colleagues had been through, it made acclimatizing difficult even all these years after first joining Starfleet.

    “That never works,” said Grof, a Tellarite with the rank of crewman.

    “Pretty sure I already tried that.” Most of Thalla’s kind chose the Imperial Guard over Starfleet. Andorians, while founding members of the Federation and signatories to the Articles of Federation and the federalized Starfleet Charter, were still prideful and nationalistic. Her people even rejected Starfleet’s offer of having a starship like the Essex crewed exclusively by Andorians, but by the same token the only non-human race that had exercised that option was the Vulcans. Oddly enough, from what she understood, the bulk of Andorians in Starfleet opted for a career in the sciences; the irony of the department color being close to the hue of Andorian skin wasn’t lost on her. “Maybe if I tried…”

    With her patience running out, Thalla got up from her desk and walked over to Rupp’s console, and pressed a few buttons on it. The cartographer flashed his superior an annoyed looked then turned back to his station. “That’s…how did…?”

    “You need to compensate for the ionization distortion by boosting the gain on the…” she said in muted exasperation before shaking her head, her mind unable to come up with the words to explain exactly what she had done. Again, she lacked the patience of her human colleagues and still had to fight to hold her innate impulses back. “…by doing that. Getting a fix?”

    “I am,” the junior science officer replied. Rupp jabbed several buttons at his station and after a pause added, “Thank you.”

    “Just remember that the next time we pick up ion storms on the long range,” the science officer said with a sigh before heading back to her desk. Thalla resumed burying herself in department reports. While not every member of her staff depended on the ship’s sensors to do their jobs, they were still needed to perform a significant amount of the work done aboard the Essex. Then of course there were science personnel whose specializations, like biology and geology, had little to do since the ship hadn’t visited a planet. Trying to keep everyone busy and happy (science sadly was not without its share of egos) was definitely an exhausting job.

    “Lieutenant?” Gregg asked before moving towards Thalla’s desk. She flashed a rather infectious smile across her dark skinned face. “Need you to sign something for me.”

    “Sure…” she replied cautiously. “What am I signing?”

    She set down a data slate on the desk. “Authorization to run another experiment on the Denevan seed stock. The biology lab’s running low, but they really want to see if they can duplicate their results from last week.”

    “All right, permission granted.” Thalla signed off on the data slate. In addition going out into the galaxy to find and analyze the unknown, the crew of the Essexconducted a variety of scientific experiments just as the astronauts of old Earth had. If anything, she had learned more about the human race since joining Starfleet than before. “The way they keep growing these things, they’re going to turn a deck into a forest.”

    Gregg took the data slate back to her station or Thalla assumed she did since her attention was squarely drawn to her desk monitor. She tended to be heavily focused when her mind was dedicated to a task to the point where minor distractions escaped her notice. So consumed with her assignment was Thalla that she failed to hear the door to the science lab open and equally failed to notice who just casually strode up to her desk.

    “Hey there, Thalla,” said Fatima with a sly smirk, hovering over the science officer’s desk. “Got a minute?”

    “Yes,” she replied with a slight smile. The navigator was the closest thing she had to a friend aboard ship though they did end up socializing with Boone and Ortiz while off duty on occasion, likely due to their similar ranks. “What can I do for you?”

    “Just wanted a cross reference our navigation charts for this sector with anything you might have picked up,” she replied. “Just in case there are more Klingon surprises out there.”

    With a frown, the science officer punched up a few relevant items on her computer terminal, commenting, “Our sensors down here haven’t picked up anything major, but I’m compiling all the rest for you.”

    “Thanks. So…things quiet down here?”

    “For the most part. Why do you ask?”

    “We just had a battle with a Klingon cruiser…”

    “I believe the captain qualified it as a skirmish.”

    “Whatever,” Fatima said with a shrug. “Just thought your people would be talking about it.”

    “We are busy with monitoring for additional Klingon activity,” the science officer explained. Perhaps this was another difference in species and culture. Coming from one of the more militant clans on Andoria, Thalla had been indoctrinated with the mentality of a soldier even though she chose to pursue a science career within Starfleet, she had been trained in combat arts for far longer than Fatima. A military encounter, while rare for a starship, was something she had prepared for so often that it felt rather common (she wouldn’t dare use the term “routine”). For humans, especially those still new to Starfleet, the encounter with the Klingons was no doubt more emotionally distracting. Andorians had been fighting the Klingons for generations; long before a lone Klingon pilot crash landed on Earth and triggered a series of events that few could have predicted.

    “…Right. Joining the gang for dinner tonight?”

    “Possibly.” She then transferred the information Fatima wanted to a data card, removed it from her terminal and handed it to her.

    “Possibly?” asked the navigator. “Do you have something more important to do?”

    “Not really,” she replied. True, which her department had been charged with keeping an eye out for further Klingon activity, most of that work was either automated or being handled by her subordinates directly. If anything was detected, she’d be notified immediately whether she was here, on the bridge, or in the officer’s mess.

    “Then hang out with your friends before we all start going stir crazy.” Socializing had been difficult for Thalla considering how she was the only one of her kind and the only times she ever really interacted with her shipmates was at Fatima’s prodding. She supposed that if she didn’t acquiesce she’d be forced to put up with more of her urgings.

    “All right, what time?”

    “End of beta shift?”

    “That would work for me,” Thalla remarked.

    “Good,” Fatima said. “See you back on the bridge.”

    While the navigator departed, Thalla started to turn her attention back to her work. While camaraderie among Andorian shipmates was quite common, it was also quite different among her people. Striking a balance between what she was used to as Andorian and what was expected of her as a Starfleet officer was a constant struggle, both on duty and off…
  11. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    I do like me a little bit of starship routine and I especially appreciate Thalla's fish out of water subplot. It makes sense, after all this is an era in which alien races still felt, well alien, on Starfleet vessels, as was evident with Spock on the Enterprise. It be interesting to see how an Andorian will cope with being the only one of her people surrounded by humans, and consequently, how her human colleagues respond to her.
  12. Rat Boy

    Rat Boy Vice Admiral Admiral

    What I'm hoping to do with this series and why I called it Starship instead of Star Trek was to portray life on a starship even at the more mundane times; to go with a more character driven focus rather than plot. And Thalla's an interesting character and obviously plays the outsider alien role we're used to seeing other other series. And yes, I know Andorians have been science officers in the TOS era in the past (TAS and Star Trek: Lexington spring to mind) which is why I lampshaded it in this chapter. And while the Spock analogue is also rather obvious, I think Thalla shares a lot in common with Worf and I hope to some day explore the interpretation of the Andorians in the Essexverse. And hopefully come up with a better name in the process.
  13. Rat Boy

    Rat Boy Vice Admiral Admiral

    Chapter Four

    “How’re we doing?” Cassidy Yang said in a quiet tone of voice that one could have easily assumed was being directed at the engineer’s significant other. In a way, it was; as much as starship captains were stereotypically married to their ships (the captain of this particular ship being an exception), chief engineers were involved in a similar love-hate relationship with the propulsion systems. Evaluated for their performance and health, occasionally pushed to the limits of what they were capable of like earlier in the day and all the while being worried and doted on and the reciprocal reward being the promise of the engines and ship someday bringing the engineer and the rest of the crew home in one piece. So far since the captain recruited her to be chief engineer, the starship Essex had yet to let her down and thankfully the engine room thrummed loudly with each bit of matter being collided with antimatter within the safety of dilithium crystals.

    She was presently standing by the power transfer conduits at the rear of the main engineering deck; a grill screen separated them from the rest of the compartment. What Yang was presently engaged in wasn’t exactly a prescribed diagnostic technique in the Starfleet handbook: she was listening and obviously talking to her engines. It had been quite a number of months since the Essex had traveled at speeds at or exceeding warp factor 5 and while there was no rational reason to think that there could possibly anything amiss, Yang’s healthy sense of caution when it came to her engines always won out. And after the run-in with the Klingon battle cruiser, she was willing to whip out a magnifying glass and go over every centimeter of the ship to find out if anything was wrong with her.

    “Boss?” a male voice asked him from behind him. Yang turned and saw her number two for this shift, Lieutenant Lester Henson, standing behind him with a data slate in hand. “Something wrong?”

    “Uh, no…” she half lied to the tall and husky engineer. “Just…running my own diagnostics again. How’re the injectors?”

    “Running a little hot since the maneuvering we did during the battle, but other than that we’re doing fine.”

    Yang made her way over to the primary diagnostic panel near the entrance to engineering on the opposite end of the compartment. “Well, I want to make sure that we’re making sure down here in case that happens again. Run a level four on the deflector shield relays. Might want to talk with Nourredine about the phaser capacitors and…why are you holding that?”

    “Maintenance report from the hangar deck,” Henson replied with a slight smirk. “They want to take the Stiles off the alert twenty line to run another check of the starboard thrusters.”

    The chief engineer let out a loud sigh before her shoulders sagged, saying, “Good thing we’ve got three more. Swap places with the Hernandez.”

    “Right, Boss.” Yang tended to run a laxer outfit than most of her peers. Ranks were barely uttered in engineering unless the captain and first officer popped in and even then things were still handled fairly loosely. It’d probably take an admiral’s inspection in order for the engineers to strictly adhere to the protocols of Starfleet.

    She checked a few more indicators and spoke without looking at Henson. “So, level four on the shields…a couple of level threes on the phaser relays and…”

    “Boss?” he interrupted.


    Henson smirked slightly. “Gamma ran a full diagnostic on the phasers this morning. I think they were bucking to get on your good side. Or they’re psychic.”

    “Oh…” she said with a surprised blink of her large eyes. “Well, scratch that last one, then. So, the shields and maybe a couple level fives on the IDF. That ought to cover all the bases.”

    “Bases?” he asked.

    “You’ve never heard of baseball? Old Earth sport? They had an intramural league back at the academy when I was there.”

    “I played lacrosse; beat Northwestern for the collegiate title,” he remarked. “If you’ll excuse me, Boss.”

    Yang merely nodded and barely noticed the door open and shut as Henson departed with the data slate. The chief made her way over to the large bank of consoles on the starboard side of the engine room that controlled the ship’s matter/antimatter reactor that powered the warp engines and pretty much every other primary system on the ship. Four of her team were standing watch there; mostly human, but all males. Yang was used to being in a primarily male department; while she supposed there were other engineering staffs on starships and bases that were more gender balanced, she seemed to be one of a few if that many females in all her prior postings. Random luck, she supposed.

    “So, Boss, how was watching us taking pot shots the Klingons?” asked Chief Liviakos, a warp engine technician. Ordinarily during battle conditions Yang would have been down in engineering with the rest of them, but with everything happening as fast as it had she didn’t have time to leave.

    “Why would a Klingon use cooking implements as projectiles?” asked Sorek, a Vulcan ensign who was also a specialist in warp propulsion.

    “Figure of speech, kid,” Yang replied as she looked over various gauges and readouts that probably appeared to be a wall of gibberish to the untrained eye. “And try not to dwell on that brou-hah-hah; it happens more often than you think.”

    “Oh that’s a comfort, Boss,” remarked Ensign Malone in his thick Irish brogue. “One ought to last me for the next five years.”

    “We’re not that lucky,” quipped Crewman Tsien wryly. “My father served in the war and he never spoke about it, so he probably had more than his fill…”

    “So did my dad, but he never shut up about it…”

    “And I was a cadet back then too, you know, so try not to remind me of my age,” Yang said dryly though with narrow eyes. Staring at one gauge in particular, she added, “Is it just me or is there something off with the flow sensor readout?”

    “It does that occasionally, Boss,” Liviakos commented. “Been like that since the battle.”

    Sorek added, “Perhaps it is related to our holding at warp 4 for three months and the strain brought about by the sudden maneuvers during the battle.”

    “Well, hopefully you’re right and it’ll correct itself soon,” Yang said. “If not, we’ll find time at the next stop to pull the whole thing and run a level 1.”

    “Level 1, Boss?” asked Malone. That was the most intensive diagnostic in Starfleet and sometimes required hours of work. Levels 5 and 4, like the ones Yang had prescribed earlier, mainly involved using the computer to perform a check on a ship’s system or component in seconds or minutes. Level 1 didn’t utilize the computer in case it was giving back false results and required a physical examination of the system or component in question, which in turn meant shutting it down and any other system hooked into it. “Isn’t that a little extreme?”

    The chief engineer chuckled. “Call me old fashioned, and I’d rather you didn’t, but growing up my uncle and I didn’t have a fancy duotronic computer to handle automated diagnostics. I prefer to find out if something attached to my engines is faulty by hand.”

    “In your day, Boss, I bet you used wrenches to bang things until they were working right again,” Liviakos quipped. Yang’s uncle, who raised her after her parents were killed when she was young, was an engineer for a civilian shipping company who also maintained a collection of antique Earth vehicles at their home. Tinkering with them with her uncle was around to assist her and later on by herself started her love of engineering.

    “You’d be surprised what a little percussive maintenance can get you, Chief,” he countered. “My uncle could cold-start an old turboprop in the middle of a Toronto winter with a couple swings of a hammer.”

    “Give the rest of the crew fair warning if you try that with the antimatter pods, Boss,” Tsien commented.

    “Hardly logical,” said Sorek. “If the antimatter pods required servicing, then striking them with a tool would be…”

    “That’s a joke, lad,” said Malone.

    “If it was a joke, would it not have generated laughter?”

    “All right, you comedians,” she stated as she finished her quick read of the status displays. “I’ll put in a request to the bridge to schedule time to pull the flow sensor the next time we make a stop. If it keeps acting weird, log it and call me.”

    “That’s assuming we find some place to stop,” Liviakos said. “In the old Daedalus days, they could go out for a year and not find anything to shuttle down to.”

    “If those death traps even got out that far,” Malone scoffed. “And people whined about the Einstein-class; at least there isn’t a half dozen of them missing and unaccounted for.

    “That’s because they could barely get past the Phalanx without having to put in for an engine overhaul,” said Tsien, referring to the line of outposts and starbases along the main border of Federation and Klingon territories. It was also several weeks behind where the Essex was presently traveling.

    “Ach, that’s what you get when you design a ship by a government committee. It’s a starship, but it’s also a cruiser, a surveyor, a fancy-pants transport…”

    “By definition, starships are capable of carrying out all of those functions,” Sorek commented evenly.

    “Aye, but she does it far better!” commented Malone. “She’s faster than a frigate, more heavily armed and shielded than a cruiser, and we’ve got way more endurance and scientific capabilities than a surveyor. Face it; starships these days are leaps and bounds better than the old Daedalus and Einsteins…”

    “Gee, forgetting about the Farragut?” Tsien quipped, referring one of the Essex’s sister ships that had been lost in the line of duty. “Or the Kongo.”

    Yang tolerated the banter to a point and due her natural superstitious nature being an engineer felt that last one crossed the line. “Stow that talk, Crewman. All right, since nothing here’s about ready to fall off the ship, I’ll let you boys get back to making snarky remarks out of earshot.”

    “Right, Boss,” said Malone. Yang headed back to the main diagnostic console and took a seat at it, returning to her usual task of keeping an eye on things until they broke or needed to be pushed past their limits. Such was the life of a starship engineer…
  14. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    It struck me the other day that I don't think I've ever seen a female engineer in TOS. Then again of course we also didn't see female doctors or security officer. Sign of the times. But this is addressed nicely here with Yang being surrounded by an all-male staff. An interesting environment for her to be sure. Of course by now she may have gotten used to it.
  15. Rat Boy

    Rat Boy Vice Admiral Admiral

    Chapter Five

    “…and just how much longer do I have to do this?” asked Captain Thorton as Doctor Quentin Parker smirked with suppressed glee as his friend and commanding officer aboard the starship Essex laid on an examination table while repeatedly pumping two pedals embedded into the upper wall of the central suite of the main ward of sickbay. The benefit of those pedals were dubious at best as far as Doc was concerned, but they just so happened to be a portion of the required quarterly physical his captain, shoeless and sans his command tunic, was forced to endure by medical regs, so up his legs pumped.

    “Don’t worry, I’ll stop you before you lose all feeling to your feet,” Parker commented, jotting down a few relevant facts on his data slate. They were both alone in the examination and surgical ward of sickbay even though having a duty nurse here might speed up the captain’s physical. Thorton, though, insisted against it, saying that it was improper for a starship commander to be seen like this in front of his crew even if “crew” would only constitute Parker’s top nurse, who just happened to be a Vulcan. But, Doc knew captains had their egos to consider and he was willing to grant him that level of dignity for now.

    “Just who in the hell invented this?” the younger human grunted, sweat clearly visible through his black undershirt if not for the healthy stream coming off of his brow. It didn’t take much for Parker to notice that Thorton was wearing down in the face of the last exercise Doc had to put the captain through under Starfleet’s outlined physical parameters. Parameters that had changed recently along with the installation of these pedals.

    “An old colleague of mine from Med HQ,” Doc explained. Parker had served at Starfleet’s main hospital and medical research center on Earth for a number of years before Thorton recruited him for the Essex for another romp among the stars.

    “Were they a sadist?”

    “Worse. A bureaucrat.” Doc made a few more notations on his slate. “Little bit more, Captain.”

    Thorton let out a few words that sounded like he was cursing but in the end didn’t sound like any language Parker ever heard before. “Your friend’s on my short list of…gah!”

    “Sorry, didn’t catch that last bit.” While the exercise itself had dubious goals, it was a somewhat effective means of stress testing the patient’s cardiovascular system. And certainly starship captains had a lot of stress put on them by both physical demands and psychological, both of which Doc was charged with keeping track of. He’d concede, though, in the company of fellow physicians and after a few drinks that Thorton’s constant delaying of this examination might have added motivation to extend the stress test to its limits.

    “I’m going to find this person and given them a scathing review of this medieval torture device,” Thorton grunted, straining even more with each syllable.

    “Just a bit more…” Parker said, turning away from the exercise machine to conceal the smirk that was curling the sides of his mouth. “All right, I think that ought to do it.”

    Thorton’s legs quickly dropped as if they were once attached to now severed marionette strings. The captain remained on the examination table for a moment before asking between deep breaths, “…so what next? The rack? An iron maiden…?”

    “I think I’ve made my point.” Doc then picked up a small medical scanner and held it before the captain’s bare chest. “Interesting…”

    “…Interesting what, Doc?”

    The short-sleeved surgeon smirked as he jotted down further information on his data slate. “Interesting that for a 41 year old human male whose profession is starship command, I can find almost nothing wrong with you.”

    “Almost?” Thorton asked.

    “Well, you do show signs of agitation and stress, but I’ll write that off to the Klingons for now, Sean,” Parker commented as he jotted down a few more notations. “If it makes you feel any better, you’re in better shape than most of your peers.”

    “Most of them are a lot closer to 50 than I am.” The doctor had to concede that point; starship command was reserved for only the most experienced officers in Starfleet, captains who had spent decades distinguishing themselves during the course of their careers. “Hell, only three of us are below the age of 45.”

    “Well, you don’t want to give the keys to a hot rod to someone who just got their learner’s permit,” quipped Doc. “Anyway, back on the subject of the ‘almost,’ early analysis also indicates a bit of a modified diet for our intrepid captain. Less of the more delicious breakfast foods of our acquaintance; sausages, bacon, corn beef hash…”

    “Noted,” Thorton as he sat up on the examination bed and reached for his boots that were sitting on the floor next to it. “So that mean I’m in the clear?”

    “I’m crossing the Is and dotting the Ts as we speak.” Parker signed his name on various lines of his data slate and was actually using proper punctuation in spite of his intentionally joking assertion; some days medical paperwork struck him as tedious as trying to requisition a shuttlecraft so sometimes he felt the need to inject a little humor. “You’re all clear to beam down to negotiate with new alien species, collect plants, get shot at…”

    “…well, if I get shot at by an alien plant species that I’m trying to negotiate with for the right of the Federation to collect them, I’ll be sure to remind you of this conversation, Doc,” Thorton remarked after putting the last boot on. Both men entered the surgeon’s office next door, where the captain had left a towel draped on the desk along with his gold tunic.

    While Thorton was drying the sweat off his brow, the doctor sat at his desk and activated his monitor screen that was flanked by framed images of his wife and three adult children, idly commenting, “Oh, by the way, I got word that Commander Cox is finally entering physical rehab.”

    “What’s his prognosis?” They were speaking of the first officer of the Essex who held the position up until a near-fatal skiing accident two weeks prior to launch; Dumont was brought in as an 11th hour replacement. Parker recalled having a nice quiet dinner with his family interrupted by a call from the hospital that had taken the former first officer in. Once there and once the local physicians explained the situation to him, Doc called in Thorton. Needless to the say that in spite of the fact that Commander Cox was in a medically induced coma, the captain was more angry than sympathetic to the commander’s plight.

    “Figure maybe a couple of months before he can start walking again. And maybe six total before he’s not making daily visits to the hospital, but with the nerve damage and brain trauma he may never be certified for space duty again. Even at best he may require the use of a cane.”

    “What a waste,” Thorton said before leaning up against the side of Doc’s desk. “I left him a message before we left Earth that he could use me for a reference, but if he’s not going to be able to qualify for space duty…”

    “Somebody’s got to do ground assignments,” Parker commented, “unfortunately, half of those are staffed by people who lost their shot at space.”

    “Maybe if I hadn’t insisted he take time off he wouldn’t have wrapped himself around that tree.”

    Doc finished logging Thorton’s file before getting up from his chair and leaning against his desk opposite of the captain. “Oh, don’t beat yourself up about it. If you hadn’t ordered him to take time off, I probably would have given how hard he was pushing himself. You’d think landing one of the top assignments in the fleet would have encouraged him to not take any crazy risks the week before you’re scheduled to ship out.”

    “Starfleet likes risk takers,” Thorton commented, once again adjusting his wedding band. After the captain married, figuring out his poker tells became infinitely easier.

    “There’s a difference between risk takers and thrill seekers, Sean,” Parker noted. “One gets starship commands, the other sometimes gets sent home in a casket.”

    “Never skied myself,” the captain remarked as if to comment on Doc’s claim without refuting his claim directly. “Something about falling down a perfectly good mountain never really appealed to me.”

    And Doc wasn’t about to let his commanding officer side-step the very valid point he had just made. “Look, maybe the warning signs with Cox were there and we were both too busy getting this ship and crew ready to go to see it. I’d hate to say it, but maybe his little accident was a blessing in disguise. Imagine if he did something extremely reckless during a landing party mission or even with the ship.”

    “Cass probably would have killed him before then. Hopefully the Exec’s idea of taking time off is curling up with a good book.”

    “I’d hope for her sake her shore leaves are slightly more interesting than that,” said Doc. “Dinner tonight in your mess?”

    “Well, that depends,” Thorton said wryly. He, Parker, and Yang routinely dined together along with Dumont in an attempt to get her to fit in with the group since she was still (relatively) new to the ship. “Is the menu getting an overhaul?”

    “Oh, think I can hold off on changing your diet card until tomorrow.” Doc was certain that this was dubiously ethical, but if he changed Thorton’s dietary restrictions, that’d in turn change the meal the galley would serve in the captain’s mess later on this evening, thus punishing the other diners. “Wouldn’t want your top senior officers to mutiny on you. I imagine the topic of the week will be that little business with the Klingons from earlier.”

    “No business with the Klingons is ever considered ‘little,’ Doc.” Of course, Parker didn’t need to be told that; he had his share of run-ins with the Empire over the years including several times in Thorton’s company aboard the Potemkin. This was old hat to the senior medical officer and it should have been for the captain, though his muted reaction seemed to indicate otherwise.

    “What’s with you?” he asked cautiously while the captain put his gold shirt back on. “Thirteen years ago, you would have laughed the whole thing off.”

    “Thinks look different from the center seat, Doctor,” Thorton remarked. Before Parker could get in another word, he slipped out into the corridor.

    “I suppose they do,” he muttered before returning to his monitor and resumed the tedious duties inherent to his post as the chief medical officer of the Essex
  16. dief25

    dief25 Ensign Newbie

    Jun 29, 2015
    I just signed up specifically so that I could tell you how good this is. This is awesome! And exactly right up my alley! You're style is extremely similar to mine. I love it! Keep it up!:):):):)
  17. Rat Boy

    Rat Boy Vice Admiral Admiral

    Wow! Thank you!
  18. Rat Boy

    Rat Boy Vice Admiral Admiral

    Chapter Six

    “Another fun day out here, wouldn’t you say?” asked Iain Boone dryly as he led Thalla, Fatima, and Ortiz into the officer’s mess hall. Even a month after the ship launched, there was still a palpable sense of excitement and camaraderie aboard the Essex, one that still had a little more buzz to it thanks to the close encounter with the Klingon warship earlier in the day. Although the past three months (on top of the two that comprised the refit) was a tiny percentage of the five years they’d be spending together in deep space, enough of a level of bonding had been built up to the point where even a close call against a hostile vessel was now a cherished, shared experience.

    “It…had its moments,” said Fatima as they made there way over to the wall of food slots, each taking one and inserting a data cartridge to requisition their preferred dinners. “I think that intercept course was the first new one I’ve plotted in weeks.”

    “It is nice to have something to scan for other than things that had been scanned for decades,” added Thalla. Within seconds, the food slots dispensed their ordered meals, each tailored to their personal preferences and dietary restrictions. Thalla’s obviously was the most unusual; a plate of some substance that appeared akin to a shattered pane of glass. Fatima retrieved a salad, Ortiz a plate of rice topped with grilled chicken, and Boone receiving a plate of standard-issue food cubes. Hardly appetizing, but it was at least nutritious; Boone grew up with arguably worse.

    “That’s sounds more fun than what I’ve been doing all day,” Ortiz remarked. “Try spending ten hours with a Feinberg in your ear hoping someone out there will speak in Klingon.”

    “Well, ladies, I think George here has us all beat,” the helmsman said with a smirk. An old naval tradition had it that the ensign with the most recent date of commission aboard a ship was to be derisively known by that name. Ortiz was it, until a more junior ensign was posted to the Essexor the current George was promoted to lieutenant, junior grade. “They didn’t exactly mention that in the brochures, did they?”

    “I believe at the academy they called it ten weeks of boredom followed by ten seconds of terror,” mused the science officer as the quartet found a free table. The four of them ended up spending most of their free time together, owing to their similar ages (Ortiz obviously being the youngest), ranks, and that they were all bridge officers. “Still, it would be a welcome change to perform studies on something new.”

    “I know,” said Boone. “Even vid night’s starting to get a little tedious.”

    “What was it this time?” asked Fatima. Every week or so members of the crew gathered in the recreation deck to screen a video, though the navigator on those nights had always instead decided to serve as the officer of the watch on the bridge. She always struck Boone as someone who was shooting to set some kind of speed record on her way to the captain’s chair.

    “Part eight in a sixteen vid series. Not much better than seeing the same thing over and over again. I don’t know how people back in the 21st didn’t get bored with remake after sequel. I think I saw Gorf…Forg…that Tellarite from your section dozing off, Thalla.”

    “Working him too hard?” Ortiz asked with a smirk.

    “He is Mr. Grof and up until today, I was unable to barely work him too little,” she replied. “Half of my department is devoted to studying things found on planets, after all.”

    “So what have they been doing the last three months?” Boone inquired. At least he had something to do while on duty regardless of where the Essex was.

    “Experiments, mostly. Reports. Studies. Basically the same work they’d be doing at a lab on a starbase or on Earth.”

    “Same here,” said the communications department head, who then looked to the two members of the group in gold. “Except you two at least always have work to do out here.”

    “Hey, not much for me to do if we’re in orbit of a planet or starbase,” Fatima protested sarcastically.

    “But at least we’re doing nothing out here instead of back home doing nothing,” Boone pointed out. “Can you imagine how bored we’d all be if we were stuck patrolling along the Phalanx or the Neutral Zone outposts?”

    “Actually, my department would still be conducting surveillance scans,” Thalla noted.

    “And mine would still be intercepting hostile message traffic,” added Ortiz.

    “Okay, bad example then,” the helmsman said with a wave of one hand in dismissal.

    “Still…better out here than back there,” said his counterpart. “At least out here we have a chance of finding something new. And we haven’t even gone past explored space yet.”

    “True.” Even though Boone was trying to also maintain high spirits, he was also starting to feel the bit of…restlessness permeating through the rest of the ship. Three months and change into a five year mission and the Essex hadn’t even gone where no man had gone before, even if they haven’t quite reached unknown space yet. He shoveled a few more food cubes into his mouth and gulped them down with his glass of water. Although nutritious, the cubes left something to be desired in the terms of taste, though at least human physiology could digest them as opposed to whatever it was Thalla was munching upon.

    “It’s certainly taken us a while to come out this far,” Ortiz mused absently. The senior staff of the Essex had been recruited around about four months before the ship left port three months ago; Captain Thorton and former first officer Command Cox had gotten the top echelons of the starship’s chain of command committed almost immediately from the start. A year ago at this time, Boone was piloting shuttles between Earth Spacedock and various Starfleet and Federation locales on the planet’s surface. He was obviously in a better place now, but yet it wasn’t as good as being a starship’s helmsman could be given what had not happened so far.

    “There are multiple reasons for that, Rod,” said Thalla. “Thanks to our conflicts with the Klingons, most starships have been relegated to same duties as frigates and cruisers over the last twenty Earth years. This forced Commodore April’s Five Year Mission Program for starships to be delayed for…”

    Ortiz raised his hands up. “I was referring to us specifically, Thalla. We’ve been on this ship for close to half a year and we’re still a day away from getting out beyond anyone else has explored. And now we’ve got Klingons.”

    “We always seem to have an excess of bad guys, George,” Boone speculated. “Today’s it’s Klingons, tomorrow it could be some new people we’ve never even heard of before, so why worry about it? Like the bloke from China said, ‘He who defends against everything defends against nothing and so forth.’”

    “I believe the proper form of that statement was also attributed to Kahless the Unforgettable,” the science officer remarked, a reference that was lost on the helmsman.


    “Kahless was a Klingon warrior from ancient times. After overthrowing the tyrannical overlord Molor, he forged the Empire that has stood more or less to this day. Many Klingon martial, religious, and philosophical practices can be traced back to his teachings.”

    “Knowing what I do about Earth martial, religious, and philosophical practices, I bet the whole lot of it was made up.”

    “Boone, all doctrines are ultimately made up by someone,” Ortiz pointed out.

    Boone conceded, “True that, George, but I meant that a lot of what this Kahless fellow, if he was actually real and not their version of Father Christmas, said’s been reinterpreted and reinterpreted over and over again for however long he’s been dead. Whatever he taught the Klingons long ago may not be what they teach the little Klingons in Klingon School these days.”

    “I will concede that, however, they, like my people, are predominantly a warrior culture,” she replied. “They are an empire, but are ruled by a parliamentary government composed of the heads of large families similar to the nobilities of your Earth during its Middle Ages. Pursuit of the sciences is seen as a means to expand territorial holdings and improve weaponry instead of for the sake of knowledge. We are not always in keeping with the ideals with the Federation, but we do see the wisdom in working together.”

    “Well, Thalla,” Boone noted dryly, “the way you talk, the Andorians might as well have joined the Empire instead of the Federation.”

    Thalla smirked and even though the navigator knew it was a painfully bad pun he had to characterize it as cold. “No one has ever joined the Klingon Empire willingly, Mr. Boone. My people centuries ago made first contact with them in the hopes they would join our efforts against Vulcan; obviously those efforts failed. And if they had, your recent human history would have been far bloodier. And shorter.”

    Boone, Fatima, Ortiz exchanged a look, all telling each other without using words that they didn’t know if she was being serious or joking. It certainly was rather unsettling.

    “That was a joke,” she said. “Mostly.”

    “Right…” the communications officer said uneasily.

    “And some people say humans have a dark sense of humor,” Boone remarked with a faint chuckle in an attempt to lighten a mood.

    “So…the Klingons think they came up with one of Sun Tzu’s most famous lines first?” Fatima asked.

    “They think they invented Shakespeare, Weps. They’ll take any good thing we humans created centuries ago and pass it off as their own. Next thing you know, they’ll have stories about a detective who can solve crimes with deductive reasoning or a spy with a high sense of fashion and women.”

    The navigator smirked at him. “Some how I don’t picture a Klingon spy being rather smooth with females.”

    “And if I understand your reference, Sherlock Holmes engaged in abductive reasoning, not deductive,” Thalla countered. “He made an observation, created a hypothesis based on his observation, and used that as the most likely explanation for the observation.”

    “You’ve read the Holmes stories?” asked Ortiz.

    The science officer’s antenna sloped backwards; her species’ version of raising both eyebrows based on Boone’s observations. “I merely learned this through a philosophy professor at the academy. Obviously there are applications to this method in the field of science, at least in terms of making quick assessments for the captain.”

    “Seat of the pants science,” Fatima quipped, “even though some of us don’t wear pants anymore.”

    “Dare I inquire as to your thoughts on Starfleet’s latest wardrobe?” asked Boone. He had plenty of opportunity to over the last few months, but the navigator’s forthrightness in just about everything and the science officer being an Andorian dissuaded any such thoughts. Arguably, he had just stepped upon a rather potent gravitic mine.

    Fatima seemed to be on the verge of making a retort that’d be as explosive as the helmsman feared, however Thalla managed to get out just as the navigator was opening her mouth, “It does thankfully make the temperature aboard ship tolerable. Frankly I find standard atmospheric settings too hot for my liking.”

    “I…didn’t think of it like that,” the only other female at the table remarked. Crisis averted.

    “Perhaps the males on this ship should consider the same change in wardrobe if they find conditions as intolerable as I do…”

    Boone nearly spit out a cube as Ortiz also nearly returned the food in his mouth to his plate. Fatima started letting out a laugh that clearly originated deep within her belly. Thalla merely blinked repeatedly, unaware that she may have just made a reference that’d continually come up during the five year mission and for decades to come…
  19. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Yeah, regretfully the ladies will have to wait a century or so until they get to see the male crewmembers showing off their legs too. And even then it was, mercifully, a very short time that that fashion faux pas was tolerated on Starfleet vessels.
  20. Rat Boy

    Rat Boy Vice Admiral Admiral

    It's definitely been something that's been commented about on all levels of Trekdom in the modern era, so approaching it as others had felt like telling the same story yet again, so this time I tried something a little different.