Tales of the USS Bluefin: "The Old Man and the Stars"

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by TheLoneRedshirt, May 13, 2020.

  1. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Tales of the USS Bluefin: “The Old Man and the Stars”

    Author's Note: This short-story takes place in July of 2376, between my first story, “Semper Paratus,” and “Storms and Shadows.” Captain Joseph Akinola is the veteran C.O. of the Border Cutter, USS Bluefin, and Commander Inga Strauss is Executive Officer, still very new to the Bluefin and the Border Service.

    Stardate 53561.2 (24 July 2376)

    USS Bluefin (NCC-4458)
    Patrolling Sector 342 near the Molari Badlands

    Commander Inga Strauss, the 30 year-old Executive Officer of the Border Service Cutter, Bluefin, tried without success to adjust her position in the command chair so that her feet touched the deck. Petite, with blond hair and blue eyes, the young woman of German descent was the polar opposite of their commanding officer.

    Captain Joseph Barabbas Akinola, by contrast, was a tall, dark-skinned Nigerian, approaching his 60th year. The command chair was a perfect fit for the legendary cutter C.O. Not so much for the diminutive Strauss.

    Strauss and Akinola were opposites in other ways as well. Akinola was a mustang officer, working his way up through the enlisted ranks of the Border Service until receiving a “battlefield” promotion to lieutenant, ultimately rising to captain. Strauss was an Academy graduate, who rose quickly through the ranks of Starfleet due to heavy losses during the Dominion War. Akinola tended to be somber, while Strauss was perky. Akinola was a seasoned veteran; Strauss a novice within the Border Service. Akinola exuded confidence and gravitas; Strauss could be socially clumsy.

    Despite their many differences, a bond formed quickly between the two senior officers. Strauss demonstrated both courage and cunning in their first mission together, facing off against a renegade Klingon. While the differences remained, Akinola admired the steel that underlay the youthful, sometimes naive woman.

    The days since that terrifying mission flowed into weeks. The routine of border cutter life settled in, as did Strauss' ongoing education as a very young Executive Officer.

    She sipped at a tepid cup of coffee as she watched the star-field stream by on the viewscreen. Strauss missed Raktajino, as she also missed replicators, holodecks, and having a cabin where she could reach out and not touch both walls.

    But Bluefin was from an earlier era, built at the turn of the 24th century. Unlike her previous billet, USS Thunderchild, the Bluefin was designed for short duration missions, not exploration or defending against the Borg. Still, the cutter was up to her calling – a vessel capable of navigating through ion storms, chasing down and interdicting pirates and smugglers, and towing much larger vessels. She had teeth, too, carrying an impressive array of phaser banks and torpedo tubes. While not a war ship, Bluefin could hold her own against ships of equal and larger size.

    She was also fast and maneuverable. Bluefin's impulse engines provided as much power-to-mass thrust as the much newer Defiant-class ships. At warp, she could attain well over factor nine. Novice helm officers quickly learned that she was a handful and a joy to fly.

    “Commander Strauss?”

    Strauss straightened, chagrined that she'd been wool-gathering. “I'm sorry, T'Ser, say again?”

    The Vulcan Ops officer favored Strauss with a tolerant smile. “We're receiving telemetry from subspace relay 4774-Gamma. Readings indicate power fluctuations and it's going into shut-down mode. I recommend we divert our course to check on it and effect repairs.”

    “Yes, of course. Mr. Bralus, alter course along the heading provided by Ops.”

    “Aye, ma'am. Speed?”

    Strauss mentally chided herself for not providing complete instructions. “What's our ETA at warp 6?”

    The Bolian made the adjustments and checked his board. “Two hours, twelve minutes.”

    “Very well, ahead warp 6,” replied Strauss. She opened an intra-ship channel. “Bridge to Engineering.”

    Engineering. Gralt here, what do you want?”

    Strauss silently counted to ten. She was getting a bit tired of the Chief Engineer's attitude toward her. He was churlish, even for a Tellarite.

    “We're en route to repair a Gamma class subspace relay, ETA just over two hours. Please have a repair crew on standby.”

    Acknowledged. Gralt, out.”

    “Nice to talk with you, too,” she muttered, but not low enough to escape T'Ser's hearing.

    “Don't mind Gralt,” said the Vulcan. “I think he's warming up to you. He didn't curse a single time.”

    “I'm flattered,” replied Strauss, dryly. “Honestly, I don't get why he doesn't like me.”

    “Gralt doesn't like anyone to my knowledge, the Skipper being an exception.”

    “Well, of course, he's nice to the Skipper, I mean . . . he's the Skipper.”

    “It's more than that,” continued T'Ser. “They have a long history. It's . . .”

    Strauss grinned. “For God's sake, please don't say it's 'complicated.'”

    “More like convoluted. You'll need to ask the Skipper about that.”

    “Hmm, like that's going to happen.” Strauss was still a bit intimidated by Akinola. Engaging him in conversation about his past with Lt. Commander Gralt was not on her short-list of things to discuss.

    With nothing else to talk about, the bridge settled back into companionable silence. Strauss gave up on trying to touch the deck with her feet, instead crossing her legs and swinging them slightly to a song that popped into her head.

    * * *

    A little under an hour passed before Captain Akinola appeared from his ready room off the bridge. Strauss wondered if he ever slept in his quarters on deck four.

    The C.O. wore a suede burgundy jacket over a gray turtle neck shirt. It once was a popular combination for Starfleet captains, but the ubiquitous black jumpsuit had made the combination obsolete. However, Strauss had noticed that the Border Service allowed more flexibility in uniform choices for their senior officers. Thus, bridge crews on cutters might see a mix of older Fleet styles, utility coveralls, and the newer jumpsuits. Strauss preferred the new black with gray shoulders uniform.

    She rose, allowing Akinola to sit in the chair that was really his. Strauss saw herself as the care-taker when Akinola was off the bridge. God help her if she should rip the faux-leather upholstery or spill coffee on it.

    “Report, XO,” he began without preamble. His rich baritone voice was both commanding and reassuring, but lacking in a defining accent. Though his ancestors hailed from the African continent, she knew he grew up on a freighter and spent little of his childhood on Earth.

    “We adjusted course to check on a malfunctioning subspace relay. ETA is approximately one hour, twenty minutes.” Strauss handed him the PADD containing her shift report, one of the duties she always enjoyed.

    The Captain perused the report, scrolling through and making grunting noises of either approval or disappointment: Strauss had not yet learned to tell the difference.

    Finally, he affixed his thumb to the PADD and handed it back to Strauss. “I have the conn, XO. Get some rest.”

    “Thank you,” she replied. She was still adjusting to the less formal interactions on the bridge of a cutter. No one announced, “Captain on the bridge,” or followed any formalized rituals. It was different, but perhaps in its own way, more efficient. Everyone seemed to know their jobs, and they just did them well and on time.

    At that moment, the turbo-lift doors slid open and a harried young officer hurried to the Ops station.

    Well, mostly on time,” thought Strauss.

    “Glad you could join us, Mr. Bane,” remarked Akinola, dryly. “I hope we weren't interrupting anything important for you to get to your station in a timely manner.”

    “Ah, no sir. Sorry sir. Bit of trouble with my chronometer . . .”

    “Lieutenant, I don't recall asking for an explanation,” said Akinola, fixing him with a stare that would give a Klingon warrior pause.

    “No sir, sorry.” Bane quickly busied himself at Ops, logging in and probably feeling the Captain's stare between his shoulder blades.

    T'Ser wore a smile of amusement as she joined Strauss in the lift. “You may have noticed that our Alpha shift Operations officer has a tendency to be late,” remarked the Vulcan.

    “Hmm? No, not really.”

    “Indeed?” T'Ser cast a sideways glance at Strauss. “From my observations, you seem to 'notice' Mr. Bane on a regular basis.”

    Inga felt her face redden. “That's ridiculous.”

    T'Ser wore her slight, maddening smile. “As you say.”

    It was strange to Inga that the first person on Bluefin with whom she formed an immediate connection was a Vulcan. But T'Ser was not a typical Vulcan; she followed the path of V'tosh K'tur. It was a pejorative term used by Vulcan elders, meaning “Vulcans without logic.” It was inaccurate in that T'Ser was quite adept at logic, but she also embraced her emotions.

    T'Ser was raised on Earth . . . Seattle, North America, to be exact. Her father was a professor, her mother a diplomat. They believed that the Vulcan philosophy of IDIC, Infinte Diversity in Infinite Combinations, should apply to Vulcans as to any other race. Thus, they allowed T'Ser to follow her own path, leading her to explore the paths of logic and emotion. In the end, she found she could follow both.

    They arrived on deck four and made their way to the Officer's Ward Room. This was another anachronism that both troubled and charmed Strauss. On Starfleet capital ships, eating areas were integrated with no separation between officers and enlisted crews. Yet even that was something of an illusion, as officers often met in special conference rooms.

    T'Ser had quoted some obscure Vulcan philosopher when Strauss first broached the subject. “A difference that makes no difference is not a difference.”

    The Ward Room was across the passageway from the crew's mess, another anachronism, in that there was an actual galley and cook. Cullinary Specialist First Class Tony “Cookie” Marino was an artist when it came to tempting food. Inga had stepped up her workout routine to avoid gaining weight.

    She followed T'ser into the mess, where a few crewman coming off shift had stopped for breakfast. Cookie was behind a serving table, laden with breakfast items from four different worlds. Strauss chose Rigellian Funti-melon and toast. T'Ser loaded a plate with scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, and toast with butter and jam.

    They crossed back to the Ward Room to find Dr. Calvin Baxter, the ship's CMO, in conversation with the Bluefin's Assistant Engineer, Lt. Delta Simms.

    Strauss liked the kindly physician and had been surprised to learn he was once the head of Starfleet Medical at Atlanta on Earth. He'd retired from Starfleet, only to seek reinstatement when the Dominion War began. Rebuffed by the Fleet, he threw his lot in with the Border Service.

    Simms excused herself, leaving Baxter with T'Ser and Strauss.

    “It strikes me as patently unfair,” began the CMO, indicating Strauss' breakfast selection, “that you can choose a sensible diet, exercise regularly, yet you won't live half as long as T'Ser, who insists on eating the most unhealthy diet imaginable.”

    T'Ser smiled and lifted her mug of coffee in salute. “Here's to a high metabolism and excellent genes.”

    Strauss smirked. “Aren't you pushing your luck, eating all that? I mean, that's a lot, even for a Vulcan.”

    “I'll let you know when I hit my two-hundredth birthday.”

    * * *

    “Skipper? Transient contact bearing 12 degrees, mark 20,” announced Lt. Nigel Bane.

    “Can you get an ID?”

    “Stand by . . . definitely a vessel . . . Galdax-class freighter, ID code MV Moon Shadow.”

    A smile played on Akinola's face. “Lindy Beauchamp's ship? Hail them, Mr. Bane.”

    It took a few moments, but soon the image of a Human woman with silver hair appeared on the main viewscreen. She smiled when she saw Akinola.

    Captain Akinola, my goodness, I am so happy to see you.”

    “Alana, this is a pleasant surprise. Where's that scoundrel of a grandfather of yours?”

    Her smile faltered. “In has cabin. Joseph, he's not doing well, though he'd have a fit if he knew I told you that. The old cuss won't go to a medical facility and he's starting to decline . . . won't eat hardly a morsel, can't sleep worth a damn, and he's getting awfully forgetful.”

    The Captain nodded. “Where are you headed, Alana?”

    Molari IV. We're hauling a load of industrial replicators and atmospheric scrubbers.”

    “How about we rendezvous. I could beam over with our CMO for a quick visit and Dr. Baxter could check Lindy. How old is the cranky goat, anyway?”

    Just turned 115. Joseph, I hate for you to go out of your way . . .”

    “Nonsense. It's part of the job, besides, you and Lindy are old friends. We'll head that way and hail when we're in transporter range.”

    She smiled. “I would be grateful. See you soon.”

    With the channel closed, Akinola opened an intra-ship channel. “Bridge to Engineering.”

    How can I get any work done with all these frelling interruptions?”

    “Change of plans, Gralt. Get your repair team to the hangar deck. I'll have Lt. Fralk ferry them to fix that relay. We've got a minor emergency on a freighter we need to check out.”

    Some Yarliq-brained pilot come down with Andorian hemorrhoids?”

    “Not quite. Lindy Beauchamp is having some health issues. We're going to rendezvous and have Dr. Baxter check on him.”

    The channel was quiet for a moment. “Lindy Beauchamp you say? Master of the Moon Shadow?”

    “The same.”

    Another pause. “I'm going with you. These youngsters can handle fixing a subspace relay with their eyes closed. A ride in a Stallion will build character. Let me know when we're in transporter range. Gralt, out.”

    Akinola smiled. “I thought you might say that.”

    * * *
    To be Continued.
    Sgt_G, CeJay, mthompson1701 and 4 others like this.
  2. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    I love this. I feel like I've back in time to when I read your first Bluefin story and I cried over how beautiful it was. Keep up the great work or I'll sic Admiral Tattok on the Border Service. lol
    TheLoneRedshirt likes this.
  3. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Vice Admiral Admiral

    Sep 28, 2009
    The old gang back together. Feeling almost misty eyed.

    As always, you have mastered the characters and how they bounce off of one another to make them feel very real and lived in, these people have been through hard times and make it through together.

    I've got to remember that nice line of Vulcan philosophy :bolian:
    TheLoneRedshirt likes this.
  4. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    An OG Bluefin tale! Yeeeessssssss! I've missed these characters together and I can't wait for you to take us into this 'hidden tale' of their adventures.
    TheLoneRedshirt likes this.
  5. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Chapter 2

    After breakfast, Inga returned to her cabin, intending to change for a workout in the ship's gym. Actually, “gym,” was an overly grandiose name for an unused cargo space fitted out for martial arts training . . . wooden floors, mats, heavy bags, along with weight-training and cardio stations filled the room. It wasn't a generous space, but it could accommodate about eight crew members at a time fairly well.

    Strauss had just put on shorts and a t-shirt when her terminal chimed. She tapped the screen, and Captain Akinola appeared.

    XO, I'm sorry to bother you; are you headed for a workout?”

    “Yes sir, just need to burn off some excess energy,” and calories, she didn't add.

    We're about to rendezvous with a freighter, the Moon Shadow. The ship's master has some health issues and I'm transporting over with Dr. Baxter and Mr. Gralt. I was going to invite you to come along, but since you're preparing to work out . . .”

    “Not a problem, sir. Actually, I'd like to tag along. I can work out later, and I'd very much like to see this freighter and crew.”

    Very good. Meet us in transporter room one in ten minutes. Akinola, out.”

    It was a small matter to change back into her uniform and check her hair braid before making her way to the transporter room. She arrived in under five minutes, beating Akinola and Gralt. Dr. Baxter was there, med-kit in hand, but to her surprise Senior Chief Brin was at the transporter controls, a duty usually carried out by Chief Deryx.

    Brin nodded as Strauss entered. “Ma'am,” he rumbled, his face impassive and yellow eyes inscrutable.

    Solly Brin was the one member of the Bluefin crew that intimidated Strauss more than the Captain. The Red Orion stood nearly two meters tall and the muscles in his arms, chest, and shoulders, strained the crisp uniform coveralls.

    Beyond his size, though, there was something about his presence that was disquieting. He was absolutely courteous and professional toward Strauss and the other officers. But there was a dreadful potential for lethal violence
    that lay beneath the calm surface.

    She'd only glimpsed it once in her brief time with the Bluefin. Just two weeks earlier, they had stopped a ship operating far from the normal space lanes. Strauss accompanied Lt. Fralk, Petty Officer Steiner, and Senior Chief Brin as they boarded the vessel for an inspection. All had gone well until Fralk discovered hidden panels revealing packets of a dangerous, illegal, and highly addictive drug, commonly known as “Brain Blast.”

    One of the crew members came at Fralk with a knife. Before Strauss or Steiner could react, Brin slammed into the crewman, wrenching the knife wielding hand in a direction for which it wasn't designed.

    Strauss still winced at the memory, the sound of breaking bones and the shrieks of pain from the attacker. The Senior Chief followed up by throwing a massive fist into the hapless crewman's face, whereby he hit the floor as if he'd stepped onto a live EPS junction. At least the shrieking stopped. For a moment, Strauss thought the man was dead.

    The Senior Chief wasn't even breathing hard. He merely gazed around at the other crew-members and told them to line up against the wall and prepare for wrist restraints. “If anyone has any objections, you can take them up with me.”

    He didn't raise his voice. He didn't have to. Strauss saw abject terror in their eyes.

    They complied with no further drama. Steiner and Lt. Fralk applied restraints to the drug runners and Corpsman Rice beamed over to check on the unconscious but still living perp. Senior Chief Brin merely looked on, as relaxed as if he were enjoying shore leave on Risa.

    Strauss appreciated how swiftly the big Orion had reacted, saving Fralk from serious injury or worse. But it had also unnerved her. She was glad he was on her side . . . or at least hoped that to be the case.

    Akinola and Gralt entered the transporter room. “Doctor,” greeted the Captain. “XO, glad you could join us. I think you'll find the Moon Shadow and her crew interesting to say the least.”

    The four ascended the transporter platform. “Senior Chief, where's Deryx?” asked Akinola.

    “He's accompanying the repair crew headed to the subspace relay,” explained Brin.

    The Captain nodded. “Very well. You do remember how to operate this thing, don't you?”

    “If I accidentally beam you into deep space, I promise to be very remorseful.”

    Gralt said something obscene under his breath and Strauss swallowed. Akinola shook his head.

    “Leave the comedy to someone else, Solly. Energize.”

    * * *

    They materialized in a commons room aboard the Moon Shadow. A rather large Human woman approached, a smile of pleasure on her lips. She had silver-gray hair that was pulled back in a pony tail, a broad, friendly face, and kind eyes. Her yellow coveralls were somewhat faded from time and usage, but were clean and neat. There was a tantalizing aroma of coffee and baked goods . . . cinammon rolls, perhaps.

    The woman stepped forward, greeting Akinola with a hug and, to Strauss' amazement, she also hugged Gralt. The Tellarite reluctantly accepted the gesture, although it was obviously awkward for the Chief Engineer.

    The woman then turned toward Strauss and Dr. Baxter. Akinola made introductions.

    “Alana McCabe is First Mate of the Moon Shadow,” began the Captain. “Alana, this is Lt. Commander Inga Strauss, my Executive Officer, and this is Dr. Calvin Baxter, our Chief Medical Officer.”

    McCabe shook hands with Strauss and Baxter. “Welcome aboard,” she gushed. “It's wonderful to meet you. Captain Akinola, Mr. Gralt, and I go way back, but they go even farther back with my grandfather.”

    “Yes, please tell me about your grandfather, what seems to be troubling him and how long has it been going on?” queried Dr. Baxter.

    Alana's smile faded. “He just seems to be winding down, Doctor. Lindy has never been one to complain, so this may have been going on for some time. But for the past couple of weeks he's eaten hardly anything and he's sleeping most of the time. That's very unlike him. Then, there's a persistent cough that worries me. We've only basic first aid supplies aboard, so I can't tell you more, other than he's absolutely refused to go to a medical station.”

    “Stubborn as a rutting Yarliq,” mused Gralt with uncharacteristic fondness.

    “That's God's own truth,” agreed the woman. “Tough as a Horta with a head as hard as Duranium.”

    “I'll be happy to check on him,” said Baxter, “If you think he'll allow it.”

    “Oh, he'll allow it!” she promised. “You made a special effort to come aboard and see to him. I won't allow the old cuss to say 'no.'”

    Another crew member entered the commons area. He was a younger Human male, perhaps twenty-five or so. Strauss could see the resemblance to Alana, the shape of his eyes and mouth, for sure. But he was taller and well-built, his hair dark and he wore a neatly trimmed beard.

    “Mom, Grandpa Lindy is awake, I think. He's muttering something in his cabin.”

    “Thanks Jer,” she glanced back toward the Bluefin contingent. “Where are my manners? This is my youngest son, Jerrod . . . Chief Engineer, Navigator, Helm Officer, and a pretty fine cook. He also handles our business accounts and marketing.”

    Akinola smiled and shook the young man's hand. “And what do you do in your spare time?”

    Jerrod grinned. “Finishing up a Master's degree in Quantum Resonance Theory.”

    The Captain shook his head in admiration. “I'll take your word for it.”

    “Jer, why don't you give Commander Strauss the grand tour of the ship while Joseph, Mr. Gralt, and the Doctor, check in on Lindy.

    “Sure,” agreed Jerrod McCabe with a smile. “This way, Commander, we can start with the flight deck.”

    * * *

    Akinola, Gralt, and Baxter headed aft, down a narrow passageway. Crew quarters lined both sides. They came to a tiny cabin, roughly the size of junior officer's shared quarters on the Bluefin.

    The lights were set low, giving the room a yellowish cast and the compact space was uncomfortably warm. Alana apologized. “I know it's hot as blazes in here, but Lindy constantly complains about being cold.”

    “Just a few questions,” interjected the Doctor. “Has Mr. Beauchamp had any nano-therapy, organ upgrades, or any life-extending procedures?”

    She shook her head. “None. He won't hear of it.”

    Baxter' looked amazed. “None at all you say? And he's 115 years old?”

    Alana nodded with more than a little pride. “He's 100% original parts. Lindy is of the mind that you're granted so much time in this life, so what's the point of adding spare parts?”

    “Simply incredible,” murmured Baxter, shaking his head in wonder. “Typically, a Human without life-extending intervention, will last about 100 years, tops.”

    “Don't tell him that,” said Akinola, quietly.

    “Stubborn old Frelok,” added Gralt. “He's probably downed enough bottles of Janx Spirits to preserve his scrawny ass for two-hundred years.”

    Alana chuckled. “You may be right, Mr. Gralt.”

    The figure in the bunk stirred under the covers and coughed. A gravelly voice said, “Who's there? Can't a man take a frelling nap in peace?”

    “Lindy, you've been sleeping all morning,” chided his granddaughter, her voice raised to compensate for the elderly man's hearing loss. “Wake up, we've got company.”

    Gralt stepped into the small cabin and peered down at Lindy Beauchamp. The old man yawned expansively and rubbed at rheumy eyes, his thick silver hair was tousled from sleep.

    “Wake up, you sorry pile of Yarliq dung.”

    Beauchamp struggled up on his elbows and peered at Gralt, blinking to clear his failing eyes.

    “Well damn! . . . I've died and gone to hell.”

    * * *
    To be Continued.
  6. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    That's a hell of a reunion! :hugegrin:

    Love the close-knit freighter crew, and the deference Akinola and Company are showing them (deservedly so). Again, getting to see all these characters back together gets me right in the feels!
    TheLoneRedshirt likes this.
  7. CamSPD

    CamSPD Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Oct 1, 2011
    Space, the final frontier.
    Aw, man -- so many feels! This is a great "lost tale" of the old Bluefin crew. Love how it is shaping up, and can't wait to see more.
    TheLoneRedshirt likes this.
  8. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Commodore

    Jul 9, 2001
    The Hub of the Universe
    And I've died and gone to heaven. Always enjoy revisiting one of my very favorite ships and crews of the Expanded Universe. Thanks for putting a smile on my face this afternoon. Looking forward to following the development of this story.
  9. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    You know, I laugh and shake my head when people go on about nostalgia and the good old days. (Although, I fondly remember a time where people where free to go outside and ... do things). And then I read this and I'm all like, man, remember Bluefin and Akinola and all those guys? Those guys where the best.

    So yeah, loving this and looking forward to take a stroll down memory lane with old friends.
  10. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Chapter 3

    MV Moon Shadow

    Commander Strauss followed Jerrod McCabe forward through a narrow access corridor that led to the Moon Shadow's flight deck. Like most Denobulan-designs, the Galdax-class freighter was built for durability and ease of maintenance. Aesthetics were secondary, or simply ignored. Conduits and pipes snaked overhead, unhindered by panels. No carpeting covered the deck, just a mix of metal grating and an-echoic tile for some degree of sound-deadening.

    They paused for McCabe to open a manually operated pressure hatch. He turned and offered an apologetic smile. “Sorry. We don't have automated doors on Moon Shadow. We keep the flight deck isolated in case we lose atmospheric pressure in another part of the ship. Wouldn't want the pilot to pass out or worse.”

    Stauss returned the smile. “No apologies necessary, Mr. McCabe. That's a wise precaution.”

    “Jerrod, please. Mr. McCabe is . . . was my Father.”


    “He died when I was a kid.” A shrug. “Space is a dangerous place to work.”

    She nodded in agreement.“Yes, it is,” she replied, thinking of how she and her crewmates on the Bluefin had come close to death three weeks earlier.

    Not knowing what else to say, she followed McCabe onto the flight deck.

    The control center of the Moon Shadow was utilitarian and rather cramped. Two small transparent-aluminum viewports overhead provided a view of the stars and the nearby Molari Badlands. They appeared to be later additions, with conduits rerouted to proved them space.

    Longer than wide, the flight deck tapered forward as it reached the helm station. Virtually every square inch was covered with monitors, gauges, and switches, intertwined with conduit and a few light panels. No LCARS panels were in sight. Strauss was reminded of interior images of early 20th century submarines.

    As if reading her thoughts, McCabe said, “It is snug, isn't it? Grandpa Lindy has a touch of claustrophobia, so he installed the viewports when he acquired the ship. Not that it helps all that much.”

    Strauss had to agree on that point. She was feeling just a bit closed-in herself. “How old is Moon Shadow?” she asked.

    “We're not quite sure; the original builder's plate is missing. It was purchased third-hand on Rigel IV about 30 years ago, before I was born. This model was produced for twenty years beginning in 2320. There were two other ships named Moon Shadow, an L-Type, then an Antonov. The L-Type was badly damaged by Orion raiders and the Antonov was a bit small for a family ship.”

    The pilot turned from the helm and faced them. The Trill host was female, with chestnut hair and the spots unique to hosts along her neck and the sides of her face. She favored McCabe and Strauss with a smile.

    “Who's your friend, Jer?”

    “Commander Inga Strauss, this is Jeela Vek. Don't let her good looks fool you; Vek is older than Grandpa Lindy. ”

    “I believe you Terrans would call that a 'back-handed compliment,” said the Trill. “Nice to meet you, Commander.”

    “Thanks. Jerrod is giving me a tour of your ship. I like the additions of the viewports,” Strauss remarked pointing upward.

    “Yeah, it's great for star-gazing,” Jerrod agreed “Grandpa Lindy even taught me celestial navigation. There's an observation bubble topside, too. Fortunately, our nav computer is modern, so it's seldom used.”

    “They introduced celestial navigation in Nav 101 at the Academy, more to anchor us in the history than for practical use. I couldn't work a sextant now if you held a phaser to my head.”

    They left the pilot to her work and moved aft. McCabe pointed out an alcove where the subspace communications and computer interfaces were housed. The galley was adjacent to the commons area (complete with a food replicator). A small rec-room included a holo-tank that he'd refurbished to view holographic movies. Stationary grav-cycles, and a bank of computer terminals where Jerrod carried on his university studies rounded out the space.

    As they moved on towards the engine room, Strauss stopped, causing McCabe to turn, a questioning expression on his face.

    “Jerrod, can I ask a somewhat personal question?”

    His eyebrows rose in surprise, but he smiled. “Sure, why not?”

    “You obviously have a lot of skills; you can handle virtually every job on this ship, you can rebuild holo-projectors, and you're pursuing a Master's in Quantum Resonance Theory. Have you considered what you could do with all of that experience and talent? I mean, you would be a shoe-in for an appointment to Starfleet Academy.

    He smiled. “Sure, I've thought about it. But I'm fourth-generation Moon Shadow crew. It's a family tradition . . . I've wanted to do this since I could walk. Honestly, there's nothing else I want to do.”

    She studied him. “You know, I really admire that. And honestly, I envy you, too.”

    He looked surprised. “You've got to be kidding! I mean, look at you . . . a full Commander and you're, what? 25? 26?”

    She felt the blood rush to her cheeks. “You, sir, are a flatterer with poor eyesight.” Strauss sobered. “No, seriously. I'm third generation Starfleet, but it wasn't really about family . . . just tradition.”

    McCabe frowned. “I don't follow.”

    She gestured around. “You . . . here, with your family. That's what I envy. My grandmother and father both served in the Fleet, but I seldom saw them. Grandmother was basically a myth and Father was a legend. My Mother tolerated his service but truly hated living on Starbases while he was off on missions. When he died, she moved back to Earth. To be honest, I believe she resents my service. My brother left home to join the Marines, less out of desire to serve and more to get away from her.”

    Strauss glanced up at the young man. “Jer, I'm sorry . . . I didn't mean to unload on you. I'm glad you have a place with your family. I think it's special.”

    He leaned against the bulkhead. “No, I don't mind. It's . . . well, kind of nice to talk with someone who isn't family. Don't get me wrong . . . I truly love being a part of this, but it gets lonely sometimes.”

    They lapsed into an awkward silence. McCabe straightened, “So, I guess we can check out the engine room. What's your specialty, anyway? I'll guess operations.”

    “Tactical, actually,” she replied with a shy smile.

    “No kidding? Did you see combat during the war?”

    Strauss' mind drifted momentarily as she remembered the last time she was on the bridge of the Thunderchild. The strobing red lights, the clamor of orders shouted, the vibration of the ship when enemy fire impacted their dwindling shields. How the gravity coils faded and she had to hang on to her console to maintain fire at the Cardassians.

    The smell of burning transtators and polymers.

    And charred flesh.

    The moans and shrieks of the injured.

    The memory of Commander Th'Shelev's blood flowing onto the carpeted deck and his sightless, dead eyes staring at her.

    “Yes, but it's not something I like to talk about.” She swallowed the bile in her throat and forced a smile. “Let's go see that engine room, Jer.”

    * * *

    “It's congestive heart failure,” announced Dr. Baxter after he'd completed his examination of Lindy Beauchamp. The old boomer had protested vigorously but finally relented when a fit of coughing left him breathless. Baxter administered Tri-Ox, which eased the old man's breathing for the moment.

    Still eyeing the Doctor with suspicion but able to speak without coughing, Beuchamp asked, “What's that?”

    “It means you've put a lot of miles on your heart without any upgrades. If you had listened to your granddaughter, you could have added years to your life.”

    Beauchamp harrumphed. “I was born all Human. Gonna die the same.”

    Baxter frowned. “Having an artificial heart or limb or any medical device doesn't make you less Human, Mr. Beauchamp.”

    “I've managed to live 115 years without any damn devices put in me. I reckon that's good enough.”

    The CMO sighed. “And an amazing number of years it is. But you . . .”

    “But nothing! I should have died a dozen times before. Ask Akinola or Gralt. They could tell a tale or two about some of the scrapes we got into back in the day, when they were still wet behind the ears.”

    The old man shook his head. “I've lived a good life, Doc . . . but I've outlived two dear wives and two of my children. I'm tired and wore out. The Moon Shadow is in good hands and I'm at peace. All I want is to finish my days among the stars.”

    Baxter sat back in the bedside chair, stroking his beard as he regarded the ancient boomer. “Mr. Beauchamp . . .”

    “Lindy, dammit! I ain't talkin' life and death with anyone who won't use my given name.”

    The CMO smiled. “Fair enough, Lindy. Call me Calvin.”

    He grunted. “Calvin . . . that's better.”

    “I'll be straight with you, Lindy. Without intervention, your heart will get progressively weaker, while at the same time it will try to work harder. Fluid will build up around your heart, and you will struggle to breathe. You will smother to death, and that's a hell of a bad way to die.”

    “I won't have no little metal robots runnin' about my innards,” he said, with a note of finality. “What about that hypo you gave me? Tri-X? That worked.”

    Baxter shook his head. “Tri-Ox. It added a concentrated dose of oxygen to your blood stream, but it's only temporary. It will wear off in a few hours and you'll be back the way you were . . . and it will get worse.”

    The old man was quiet for several moments. He stared out the cabin's small viewport, as if communing with the stars beyond.

    “Can you leave some of that Tri-Ox here? Alana could give it to me.”

    A nod. “Yes, and I can go one better. There are a couple of additional drugs you can take. They've been around in one form or another for centuries, no nanites involved. One will alleviate the fluid build-up in your body, the other will help your heart work as best as it can. But make no mistake, Lindy; these aren't cures. They'll make your remaining time more comfortable.”

    The old man inhaled and exhaled slowly. “Good enough.”

    * * *
    The Moon Shadow's Engineering section was every bit as tight as the Flight Deck. Like the rest of the ship, the equipment was old-school but well-maintained, with a hint of cleaning fluid and conductive grease in the air. It was considerably warmer than other parts of the ship. The main fusion reactor took up a fair amount of the space.

    Jerrod pointed to a large blast door in the aft section of the compartment. “The warp core is back there. I guess the builders thought the blast-doors added a margin of safety. You and I both know if the containment failed, we'd be reduced to sub-atomic particles in a moment.”

    “The illusion of safety,” murmured Strauss. “We traverse the cosmos in little metal bubbles, mere centimeters from the vacuum of space. You can't dwell on it or you'd go crazy.”

    McCabe regarded Inga with a cocked eyebrow. “That's almost poetic. It's definitely disturbing.”

    She smiled. “Ergo, why we shouldn't dwell on it.”

    He chuckled. “No argument there.” Glancing around, he said, “And that's the end of the five credit tour.”

    “Thanks! You really have a wonderful ship, Jerrod.” She paused. “The crew's pretty great, too,” she added, demurely.

    “Wow, you just saved five credits.”

    “Why, thank you, sir. I guess we should head back to the commons. Dr. Baxter has probably finished examining Mr. Beauchamp.

    McCabe's smile faded. “Yeah, you're right. After you, Inga.”

    * * *
    The quartet from the Bluefin joined Alana and Jerrod McCabe at the large table in the commons. Alana produced a carafe of coffee and a mug of root tea for Gralt, along with a platter of cinnamon rolls. Inga sighed, shrugged, and took one of the rolls, mentally calculating how long she would have to stay on the grav-cycle to burn it off.
    Dr. Baxter conveyed his findings to the McCabes, who took the news in stride, though their expressions grew somber.

    “Doctor, how long do you think he has?” asked Alana.

    Baxter shook his head. “Difficult to say. The meds I'll leave with you will help with the symptoms but won't slow the decline. He could have a few days, weeks, or even months. I don't see him lasting more than six months.”

    She nodded, but Strauss noticed tears forming in her eyes.

    “He should stay fairly comfortable,” added Baxter. “It's unlikely he will experience any pain. Most likely, he'll go to sleep one time and simply not wake back up.”

    The elder McCabe forced a smile. “Can't ask for a better way to leave this mortal coil.”

    “May I ask how Mr. Beauchamp came to know the Captain and Mr. Gralt?” asked Strauss, hoping to change the mood.

    Alana looked at Akinola and Gralt. “I think one of you should answer that one.”

    “You're the Captain,” grumbled the Tellarite. “Privilege of rank, and all that frallop.”

    “I was just a kid when I first met Lindy,” began Akinola. “Lindy was about my current age back then. He and my parents were good friends. We'd often convoy together, especially in regions with pirate activity . . . safety in numbers and a longing for companionship, I suppose.”

    “That was when Lindy was married to his first wife. Tyna. He married my mother some years after Tyna died of blood fever," added Alana.

    “That's right,” agreed Akinola. “We saw them frequently, until my parents died and my sister and I went to live with my grandparents on Earth.” He glanced at Gralt.

    “There's more, of course, but I didn't see Lindy again until I joined the Border Service. Go ahead, Gralt . . . that part predates me.”

    The Tellarite harrumphed, but nodded. “I was still a green Ensign on the Pugnacious the first time I met the old Yarliq. He seemed old to me, even back then. Anyway, the Moon Shadow . . . not this one, the first one . . . came under attack by Orion raiders. He gave as good as he got, driving them off, but not before his ship was heavily damaged. We heard his distress call and went to assist. The freighter was still space-worthy but needed repairs to make it back to the star station for further repairs. Our Chief Engineer assigned me to help Lindy keep the Moon Shadow together.”

    “Why didn't you just tow it back?” asked Strauss.

    Gralt rubbed his snout in thought. “Hmm. Good question, Commander. I honestly don't recall, but I bet the stubborn coot refused a tow. He was a prideful son of a whore.”

    Alana smiled. “That would be just like him.”

    “We made it back to Echo in one piece, but not before we were jumped by another Orion raider. Or maybe it was one of the two that attacked in the first place. Pugnacious had gone to assist another vessel, so we were on our own. Somehow, we survived to tell about it.”

    Gralt stopped speaking and began to drink his root tea. As the silence continued, he stared around at the expectant faces. “What?”

    Akinola made a “go-on” gesture with his hands. “And? . . .”

    He snorted. “I'm an engineer, not a frelling narrator.”

    The Captain shook his head. “We both served on the Albacore after that, and then the Bluefin. We've run across Lindy and the Moon Shadow many times over the years.”

    Alana glanced at her son. “In fact, it was the Bluefin's Chief Medical Officer at the time that delivered Jerrod.”

    “Yep. Dr. Bortha,” agreed Akinola.

    “Lucky you survived, kid,” groused Gralt. “Bortha was an idiot.”

    “Gralt,” warned Akinola. “Just because he couldn't treat your Camtarian mites . . .”

    “I don't want to talk about it.”

    They continued on in conversation until Akinola stood, signaling the need to return to Bluefin.

    Alana gave hugs all around, adding a kiss on the cheek to Akinola.

    “I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am you came aboard. Doctor, thank you for checking on Lindy. At least we know what we're up against.”

    “I'll beam over the medical supplies you'll need. Have you ever used a hypo-spray? You have? Good. The Tri-Ox is preloaded and ready to use. The other meds are oral and I'll send over enough for three months. You can get more at the star station or just send me message via subspace.”

    She nodded. “Thank you, I will.”

    Strauss spoke quietly to Jerrod McCabe. “Thanks for the tour, Jerrod. I'm glad we had the chance to meet.” She extended her hand in farewell.

    He surprised her by taking her hand and kissing it. “Enchanté,”

    She blushed. “Well, damn. They don't do that in the Border Service.”

    “See? There are perks with boomer life. You should consider it, Commander.”

    “Um, maybe I should.” Smiling, she gave him a quick hug and joined Akinola, Gralt, and Baxter for beam out.

    “Whenever you're ready, XO,” said Akinola, dryly.

    “Semper Paratus, sir.”

    He tapped his commbadge. “Akinola to Bluefin, four to transport.”

    The transporter effect engulfed them, and they were gone.

    Sgt_G, CeJay, Gibraltar and 2 others like this.
  11. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    This was a great story. I loved reading about the Bluefin and her crew again. I hope that you have more stories in you, TLR.
    TheLoneRedshirt likes this.
  12. CamSPD

    CamSPD Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Oct 1, 2011
    Space, the final frontier.
    Ah, man... Such sadness, such truth... A highly enjoyable conclusion.
    TheLoneRedshirt likes this.
  13. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Vice Admiral Admiral

    Sep 28, 2009
    Great to see the Bluefin back at it once again.
    TheLoneRedshirt likes this.
  14. tax1234

    tax1234 Ensign Newbie

    Apr 22, 2011
    Belgrade, Earth, just left of Antares
    Some years ago, Tales of the USS Bluefin got me hooked on Trek fan fiction. I generally didn't read fanfics before, I've read a lot of them since, and I still consider these stories to be among the best. And I am very, very happy that we got another Bluefin tale :)
    TLR, this was a lovely story, thank you for it, and I hope that there will be more.
    Gibraltar and TheLoneRedshirt like this.
  15. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    A very moving tale about family bonds and traditions, and the nomadic lifestyle shared by Boomers and Fleeters alike. Lindy may be ancient and curmudgeonly, but you have to respect his wishes to die in his own way and time. His family clearly doesn't want to see him die, but they and their Border Service friends understand the inevitable outcome.

    This was a wonderful visit with old friends, both for Akinola/Gralt as well as your readers.
    Bry_Sinclair and TheLoneRedshirt like this.
  16. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Very nice, indeed.

    Funny thing, I was thinking submarines too, just before you made the comparison.

    Besides an awesome call back to the Bluefin era, this story also gives us quite a bit of history on the characters, particularly Strauss, Gralt and Akinola, which is great.

    You also managed to weave some heavy themes in here, life and death stuff such as, do you have an obligation to carry on with your life if you can do so with technology or should you have the right to decide to end your life naturally? And what about the people and/or responsibilities you leave behind? These might be the kind of ethical questions we'll face in real life more frequently as medical technology continues to advance.

    Anyway, more Bluefin and/or Pugnacious please. Last I heard, this pandemic ain't over yet.
    TheLoneRedshirt and Bry_Sinclair like this.
  17. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Thank you all for the kind comments! It was fun (and a bit strange) to return to the early days of the Bluefin. It's hard to believe it's been 13 years since I wrote the first installment. There are still some tales to be told in the gaps between established stories.

    I have a short-story idea featuring the Pug. You may have picked up a clue in chapter 3 of this story ;). I'm also considering a short-story in another "unexplored era" featuring the USS Zephyr, the last Daedalus-class vessel built, and the last of her kind still in service. (I can't help it; I have a thing for old ships. :))
    Gibraltar and Bry_Sinclair like this.
  18. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Vice Admiral Admiral

    Sep 28, 2009
    Love the Daedalus-Class, now really looking forward to what you do with one :bolian:
    TheLoneRedshirt likes this.
  19. Sgt_G

    Sgt_G Commodore Commodore

    Jul 5, 2013
    Love the story. For a moment, I thought Jarrod might ask Strauss for a dinner date. :luvlove: :adore:

    Some thirty years ago, I had friends who were big into the SCA. One of them went by "Moon Shadow" in his SCA Viking persona. He was a real character, both in the SCA and "real" life.

    Thanks for bring those memories up. :beer:
    TheLoneRedshirt likes this.
  20. pio1776

    pio1776 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Jan 9, 2017
    I agree
    and loving Gralt