UT: USS Shepard - "Recovery"

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Dulak, Sep 14, 2014.

  1. Dulak

    Dulak Commander Red Shirt

    Jul 6, 2007
    Pacific NW
    Here is a combed out version of what I had written of my United Trek story premiering the crew of the USS Shepard in their first mission together.

    The rest of the story will be up soon, but I wanted to get the re-written parts up to re-acquaint everyone with it, since it has been a while.

    Any feedback on whether the intended improvements on viewpoint and flow work is welcomed.
  2. Dulak

    Dulak Commander Red Shirt

    Jul 6, 2007
    Pacific NW
    Stardate 53300.7 (20 April 2376)

    A thin Andorian female wearing a light-blue civilian medical smock stood from checking for either primary or secondary pulse on the still figure in the hospital bed. She shook her head slowly. “I’m sorry, she’s gone. Would you like some time alone?”

    Master Chief Petty Officer, Starfleet Retired, Rexar Arthrun looked up from where he sat beside his wife of eighty-five years and nodded. Somehow, fifty plus years of ingrained Starfleet decorum won out over his desire to break down in front of the doctor and he clenched his jaw stoically until she left the room. He struggled for a few seconds, trying to speak, but his words were choked back with grief. His antennae pointed tentatively, reaching towards the lifeless body on the bed as words eluded him.

    His rational side tried to tell him that this was what had to happen considering their age difference when he came out of stasis. Besides, he did not want her to have to experience losing him twice in one lifespan. For her to go first was better for her. It proved of little consolation. Finally, as tears ran freely down his cheeks, he gave in, lay his head down on his wife’s chest, and sobbed.

    In the passageway outside the room, the female doctor stood quietly, keeping all other hospital staff at bay until the man was done. Once, caught in the man’s grief and hearing his crying, she reached up and wiped a tear from her cheek. Sometime later, the man came out of the room thanked her and with ramrod straight posture, left the hospital.

    In no real hurry to be anywhere, Rexar meandered slowly through a park. Uniquely alone while other Andorians walked or played in groups, he became reminded of a strange irony which had been largely pushed out of his awareness during his marriage. Most Andorians thrived on, or even needed the close company of a number of their fellows, preferably in the form of an extended family or close knit social group otherwise. In contrast, Rexar had in Andorian terms been somewhat of a recluse. He and his wife had never sought out another couple in order to create a mating bond, and had never raised children.

    Growing up had not been easy for him, forced into the plethora of social gatherings and family reunions typical of Andorian culture. It was not until joining Starfleet and being exposed to the wider range of social interaction practiced by humans and other Federation species that Rexar really felt, in a strange way, that he “fit in” only when surrounded by social chaos. To her credit, his wife had never forced the issue, accepting Rexar the way he was, and maintaining her own social contacts in a subtle and non-obtrusive way during his service.

    Reaching a bench where he would sit with her from time to time on their walks, Rexar slowed and turned as if to sit, then changed his mind and walked home in the same meandering manner he had used through the park.

    The small apartment seemed unusually quiet as he entered. He half expected to see Nalas come around the kitchen to greet him, but neither she, nor the smells of her cooking were present. Only silence greeted him. Walking into his minimally furnished study, he picked up and looked at various memorabilia of his life. He activated a moving holo-sculpture of Nalas and him dancing, taken after they had attended lessons years ago. He smiled as the gentle music drifted from the small projector’s base.

    Two-dimensional images decorated the walls, framed near other more tangible evidence of their life. A photograph of the two standing at the base of a huge glacier on the southern continent was framed with grooved cobbles taken from its terminal moraine. The cobbles were worn smooth by the tons of ice that had ground them against the bedrock and eventually spewed them from the end of the glacier. Another photograph, this one from his retirement ceremony, shared a plain metallic frame with his formal decorations and Master Chief rank insignia.

    Rexar sat behind his desk, clicking on his terminal and absent-mindedly looked through his messages. Nalas, always the one with foresight, had drafted a letter some months ago. She had even cued it up with all its recipients pre-assigned so that Rexar would not have to comb through her records to figure out whom to notify. All he had to do was press send. His finger hovered over the button for a full minute. Somehow pressing it would add a sort of finality to things that he was not ready for. His mail would wait, and so too would everyone else, whether they knew of Nalas’ condition or not.

    Rexar stood, turned the terminal off and shuffled to the bedroom. Dropping his clothes to the floor in an uncharacteristic manner, Rexar climbed between the covers and closed his eyes. The last thing he sensed before drifting off to sleep was the scent of his wife.

    A far-away chiming dimly intruded on his awareness. He ignored it and drifted back towards oblivion. The chiming came again, this time repeated more quickly, more loudly as he awakened. He thought briefly of silencing it. But now, clearly conscious and once again fully aware of his wife’s death, Rexar realized it could be important. He got up and stepped on his discarded pile of clothes. Considering simply putting them on again, he instead grabbed for a nearby robe and donned it before heading for the source of his annoyance.

    The fidgeting demeanor of the man that greeted Rexar as he opened the door belied the smiling face. He was also the last person Rexar expected to see today. It had been over ten years since he had seen Brem Slayton, the local Starfleet Retired Affairs Officer. The man hadn’t changed a bit, and reminded Rexar a little too much of a Starfleet enlisted recruiter. Rexar never stopped wondering why the middle-aged human had chosen to extend his assignment on Andoria time and time again. Brem always appeared in public looking uncomfortable, dressed in layers and layers of cold weather clothing when Rexar found the weather practically balmy. Holding out his gloved hand, which Rexar shook out of habit, Brem’s smile broadened, “Rexar Arthrun, don’t you ever check your messages? You’ve got a doozy from Starfleet.”

    Before Rexar could protest, Brem pulled out a message hard copy and started reading, “In accordance with Starfleet regulations pertaining to Retired Reserve reactivation, you are hereby ordered to report to Lieutenant Brem Slayton for initial processing no later than stardate 53298.4. You are then to proceed to Commanding Officer, Starbase 216, for further mobilization instructions no later than stardate 53315.6. Travel code 265553 priority AAA. Signed M.A. Brennan, Admiral.”

    Rexar stood still as if in shock for several seconds before simply slamming the door in Brem’s startled face. The door chime started ringing incessantly as Rexar walked to his terminal and scrolled down to his own copy of the message Brem had read. The messages were the same. He read it twice. Outside, Brem continued ringing the door chime, interspersed with knocking.

    When the door opened, Brem was just about to knock again, and had to pull back his hand to avoid hitting Rexar. “Lieutenant, there must be some mistake, the war has been over for almost a year, what could they possibly want me for now?” Brem was a bit startled because in all their years of casual association, Rexar had never before used his rank. “Well, Master Chief,” the protocol returned to him, albeit somewhat rustily. “I can’t tell you why they want you, only that they do. This message is genuine, I called and verified it myself before coming out here.”

    Rexar scratched his chin, looked down at the ground, then back up at Lt. Slayton. “Lieutenant, you are going to have to do better than that. My wife just died last night, so excuse me if I say that your timing has something to be desired.”

    Brem had been on death notifications before. They were hard, but at least they could be prepared for, and they were often further insulated by being delivered to strangers. This was different. Although he only knew both Rexar and Nalas through years of infrequent casual contact, they were still not strangers. He’d also had no time to steel himself against the news. Any remaining color drained from his cheeks and it was his turn to be shocked.

    “I’m so sorry Rexar, I really am. Let’s call Admiral Brennan. I’m sure there must be someone else they can take, under the circumstances.”

    Admiral Brennan was either less sympathetic or more callous. He all but glared through the view screen in Rexar’s study as Brem attempted to explain the situation to the Admiral. As Rexar stood back and watched, it only took the retired Master Chief thirty seconds to realize that Brennan was the type of self-important pompous flag officer whose primary leadership ability consisted of throwing his rank around to bully anyone lower on the food chain.

    Thirty seconds was enough. Rexar gently put his hand on Brem’s shoulder and said quietly, “That’s enough Son, let me talk to him.” Brem mumbled something that could have been “Excuse me sir,” and stepped back relieved.

    Rexar stepped in front of the view screen and the Admiral. “Sir, there is obviously some confusion here. I am not questioning the recall order. I merely want to know why I am being recalled, Admiral, after all six of my applications were denied during the Dominion War.”

    Admiral Brennan retained his smug demeanor, looking bored with the entire situation. But he did deign to answer Rexar briefly. “Alright, most of the details are classified, so they will have to wait until you get to Starbase 216. What I can tell you is this; your former ship, the Shepard has been re-located. Starfleet is sending a team to retrieve her, crew her up, and restore her to operational status. They need you because you are the only one still alive that actually worked on her engines.”

    If the Admiral expected surprise from the retired Master Chief, he was disappointed. If anything the Admiral was taken aback by the quickness and clarity of Rexar’s response, as well as it’s assumption that he could speak freely, an assumption that people never made around him.

    “Re-located my antennae! I told them exactly where she was sixty-five years ago, when that free trader found my stasis pod and magnanimously delivered me back to Federation space instead of disposing of my body and keeping the pod for scrap. The Shepard and her crew had been written off as acceptable losses. Now I’m not a bean counter, but let me guess. Starfleet lost a lot of ships in the war, and until strength is built back up someone has decided to augment the fleet with old mothballed ships and the like? So now it’s cost effective to go and retrieve the Shepard? I suppose somehow that whole ‘can’t risk violating the Prime Directive’ excuse has somehow disappeared as well. How convenient, I guess some things never change.”

    “Right now, I need to bury my wife, who died last night. My wife who, unlike some at Starfleet, refused to give up hope while I drifted in stasis for twenty years after the Sheppard was lost. For twenty years, she was told by Starfleet that a rescue mission was simply infeasible, and even a survey of the location of loss was precluded due to circumstances they couldn’t go into. No thanks to Starfleet, I was found quite by accident and returned to her as she continued to wait. Twenty years for her, wondering if I was alive or dead, but refusing to give up hope. Now I have to bury her. I believe I deserve that, at the very least.”

    The stunned look on the formerly smug Admirals face pleased Rexar greatly, as did the pause that followed. When Admiral Brennan spoke again, his smugness was gone, replaced by trepidation. While a little flustered at being talked to in a way he was not used to, Admiral Brennan tried to re-assert himself when he replied, “So, I take it that you are not onboard with this plan, Master Chief?”

    Silently, Rexar wondered just how much Admiral Brennan knew about the Shepard’s engines, as he hadn’t even been born, much less in Starfleet, when the Shepard was lost.

    The intensity of the look Rexar gave him as he replied, even though the view screen, caused the Admiral to push his chair back from his desk. “Admiral, with all due respect, you couldn’t keep me from being on that team.”

    With that, Rexar merely clicked the view screen off, looked at the puzzled Brem and smiled. “I believe Lieutenant, that we have some paperwork to do.”
  3. Dulak

    Dulak Commander Red Shirt

    Jul 6, 2007
    Pacific NW
    Chapter One

    Stardate 53315.5, (19:00)
    Starbase 216
    Docking Hub B

    Master Chief Rexar Arthrun walked down the passageway behind several other officers who were disembarking at the starbase for various reasons. Choosing to travel lightly, he carried only a small duffel bag over the shoulder of his newly issued Starfleet uniform. The gold ‘support division’ turtleneck still chafed his neck, but all in all, he liked the new black pull over jacket and comfortable black pants. Somewhat of a departure to what he was accustomed to, Officers and Enlisted personnel now wore the same uniforms, with rank insignia the only distinguishing feature. Perhaps the jumpsuit he had worn years ago was a bit more practical, but it seemed he could never get away from the turtlenecks. At least the new ones were smaller, and of a lighter weight fabric.

    Reaching a T intersection, Rexar saw a crowd of personnel, both civilian and uniformed, exit from the opposite side and turn into the larger corridor. A group of three officers, all Lieutenants Junior Grade, walked separate from the others, two of them talking animatedly, the third a Vulcan female, listening. Then the oddity struck him. While the male looked human except for curious brown spots running down the side of his face, the other female beside the Vulcan was green with dark hair. An Orion in Starfleet? Rexar was quite used to the cultural diversity the Federation offered but had never heard of the Orions, a non-member world, producing anything other than slaves, smugglers, and traders who always operated at least a bit outside the law.

    His thoughts were cut short by a commotion at the T intersection, now several paces behind him. “Hey spoonhead, are you lost?” Looking over his shoulder, Rexar saw a man in a loose fitting tunic with his arms on his hips staring at an Ensign who had just walked out of a side passageway.

    The gray skin tone, the ridges running around the orbits of the ensign’s eyes and from his neck to his shoulder identified him as a Cardassian, although Rexar had never seen one in person. And yet another example of an officer in Starfleet from a non-member world, this one recently at war with the Federation. Things must have changed more than he realized since his retirement.

    As the man in the tunic started walking towards the ensign, Rexar half expected the young officer to back into a wall. Instead the Cardassian took a step towards his antagonist.

    Most of the crowd watching the scene unfold saw only a Cardassian. The species that had subjugated the Bajorans for decades, the Cardassians had also been at war with the Federation twice in recent memory. More than one of onlookers had lost family members in conflict with the Cardassians, and none had ever known one personally. Rexar saw a Starfleet officer. He turned around and started walking towards the confrontation.

    Rexar had only taken one step when the green Orion Lieutenant brushed past him.

    The two men were standing in a now clear area, the human clearly a little confused by the resilience of his intended insultee. “Back off, if you know what’s good for you!” He said, his voice edgy.

    Calmly, in an almost soothing voice the Cardassian started to reply, “I assure you, I…” when the tuniced man pushed him backwards with a shove to the chest.

    Bolstered, the human stepped forward as if to continue his attack. Suddenly, a green hand slapped the side of his head, hard, and he was vaguely aware of his feet flying up into the air over his head. The deck came up hard, and for some reason he was unable to cushion his fall with anything but his face. A knee pushed down on the back of his neck, and he almost passed out.

    Eventually, as his vision cleared, he noticed a green face, a female face, looking intently at him from very close. He noticed the insignia of a Starfleet Lieutenant, Junior Grade, on her collar. The voice that came into his ear, silky-smooth, almost a whisper was strangely incongruent with both the look on her face and the pressure of her knee, non-abated, on his neck. “I don’t know who you are, but if you don’t get up and apologize sincerely to the Starfleet officer you just assaulted, I will tire of playing Mr. Nice Guy. Am I clear?”

    To his credit, the prone figure seemed to realize he was in a thoroughly no-win situation. Assuming the gurgle he managed was a “yes,” or something similar, Lieutenant Junior Grade Tara released the pressure on his neck and hoisted the man to his feet.

    Facing the Ensign, who looked genuinely surprised at the turn of events, he tried to sound sincere with “I’m sorry.” Lieutenant Tara had still not released the man’s arm, “Sorry what?” she said into his ear. “I’m sorry that I shoved you,” the man corrected. She squeezed, just a little, somehow managing to find a nerve cluster that sent a jolt up his arm. “And?” She hissed. He winced, and then replied, “I’m sorry I called you a… spoonhead.”

    “Maam,” a deep voice from behind her caught Tara’s attention. She turned, leading the apologetic individual around, still by his arm. “Maam, I’m Lieutenant Howard, station security, we’ll take it from here.” Seeing the two somber-looking, rather large security officers behind Howard, Tara didn’t doubt they would. She unceremoniously pushed the man towards them and turned to check on the Ensign.

    Rexar had stopped short when the Orion Lieutenant became engaged in the fight, watching her skill appreciatively. A few feet away, he stood and followed the young officer’s conversation until he was assured the Ensign would be taken care of before continuing on his way into the station.

    “Are you hurt?” Tara asked, sympathetically. He shook his head. She noticed that her two companions had finally reached her side.

    Arjal Brak, the Trill whom she had met while transiting to the starbase, spoke first. “I guess we’re in good hands.”

    T’Noor, the Vulcan female Tara had known from her previous assignment spoke coolly in reply, “I believe I stated that Lieutenant Tara was highly skilled in unarmed combat. If that is what you meant by ‘good hands,’ did you doubt my veracity?”

    Arjal stammered, “No, I, um…” But was interrupted by Tara’s melodious laugh, “Don’t worry, Arjal, you’ll get used to it.”

    T’Noor was not finished and turned to address her friend, “Tara, you really must learn to control your temper. Stopping a fight is one thing, but throwing an unarmed civilian to the deck will garner unfavorable attitudes towards Starfleet among the witnesses.”

    Tara shook her head, “That man is Starfleet, or at least he used to be. He had a Senior Chief insignia tattooed on his arm above where uniform sleeves would cover. It had been removed, but poorly. I’m surprised you didn’t notice.”

    T’Noor’s only reply was a slightly raised eyebrow.

    Tara continued, “In any case he should have known better than to assault a Starfleet Ensign, and I didn’t damage anything except his pride.”

    The Cardassian Ensign, now feeling a bit awkward with three Lieutenants Junior Grade having a conversation in front of him stood silently, unsure of whether to salute or not.

    Tara turned to him, offering to shake hands, “I’m Lieutenant Tara, and you are?”

    The surprised Cardassian clasped her hand and was surprised at the firmness of grip, “Dulak, Ensign Dulak. Thank you for the help.”

    “Ensign Dulak, this is Lieutenant T’Noor, and this is Lieutenant Brak.” Arjal Brak quickly shook Dulak’s hand while T’Noor merely nodded in greeting, saying only “Ensign,” as she did so. Tara continued, “Are you here on orders?”

    Dulak nodded his head, “Yes, I am to report to the Commanding Officer, Starbase 216 for further assignment.”

    T’Noor interjected, “The three of us have the same directive as you, Ensign, perhaps we should proceed together to avoid any further difficulties.”

    Dulak spread his hands to his sides and said, “That sounds like and excellent idea Sir.”

    The group of four junior officers followed, unknowingly, Master Chief Rexar’s path into Starbase 216.

    Starbase 216
    Brig Medical Unit

    Lieutenant Howard decided en-route that not only did the bump on his charge’s forehead look potentially serious, but his stumbling walk was also a concern. At his direction, the two security officers escorted the worse-for-wear troublemaker directly to the BMU before processing him in.

    “Hey Doc,” Howard said casually as they entered the examination area, “check out this bump.” The person who came around the end of a partition was not the ‘Doc’ Howard was expecting. This one was Female, wearing Federation Marine Fatigues, and had rank insignia matching his own. He tried to remember Marine rank equivalency. Lieutenant translated to Captain, he hoped.

    She smiled, the prettiest smile Howard had seen in a long time, then walked over to the subdued patient on the exam table. Talking to Howard while starting a cursory examination of the injured man, she said, “I’m Captain O’Connell and I’m helpin out your ‘Doc’ this afternoon.”

    Because of her dark brown hair, Howard had not expected her lilting Irish brogue. Luckily, O’Connell had not asked for either his first born child, or all his worldly belongings because right then, he would have gladly given her either, just to hear her speak again or to be graced with that winning smile. Instead Howard managed to croak, “Well, you are definitely easier on the ears.” He felt instantly foolish, but was relieved when she smiled at the comment.

    “Does this one have a name?” O’Connell asked pointing to her patient.

    One of the previously silent security officers held a pocket ID in front of Captain O’Connell’s face and pushed the open button. The ID slid upward from its holder and she read it in surprise, “Well well, Chief Petty Officer Anthony Marconi is it? Tell me Lieutenant, why is the good Chief here?”

    Chief Marconi was still a bit dazed, but at the mention of his name he attempted to answer Doctor O’Connell’s question. “Ma’am, I…”

    But O’Connell cut him off. “Chief, I did not address you. Kindly remain quiet until you are asked a question.”

    Marconi clamped his mouth shut, abashed and somewhat surprised at the Marine Officers’ brusque manner.

    Howard took advantage of the silence and answered O’Connell’s question. “Well he um, started a fight with a spoo… a Cardassian and wound up getting his head bounced on the floor.”

    Captain O’Connell wiped the abraded bump on Marconi’s forehead with antiseptic before producing a dermal regenerator and slowly passing over the area repeatedly. “So where is this Cardassian? You didn’t let him walk away injured now did you?” Her tone took on just a hint of bossiness and Howard responded the way any well-mannered mid-western boy would, “No Maam, he wasn’t injured; in fact he didn’t throw any punches. It was some Lieutenant JG, an Orion I think, she flipped the Chief right over like he didn’t weigh a thing and he landed head first as I recall. As far as the Cardassian Ensign, he….”

    Captain O’Connell cut him off sharply, the dermal regenerator shutting off suddenly in her hand, “Did you say Ensign, as in Starfleet Ensign?”

    Howard answered, also quickly, “Yes Ma’am, I believe it was a group of Junior Officers reporting here for duty assignment.”

    O’Connell’s face went serious as she shined a light into each of the Chief’s eyes, then away quickly. For the first time, she spoke directly to him, “Let me guess Chief, you’re here on orders to?” Chief Marconi winced as he nodded. “I would say it’s a fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into, but there’s nothing fine about it.”

    The smile O’Connell directed towards Howard was much cooler than those previous, “He’ll be ok in the brig till his new command figures out what to do with him. I’ll let Ops know he’s staying with us for the time being in case anyone asks. Just call me if he starts vomiting or flopping around on the deck like a fish out of water.”

    The three men escorted Chief Marconi out of the room. Howard looked back as Captain O’Connell began to straighten up the exam room, “Thank you Ma’am.” She paused and looked up at the Lieutenant, “Just so you know, I prefer Sir or Captain while on duty Lieutenant,” but she smiled as she said it, all bossiness gone. Lieutenant Howard just gave a smile of his own, said “Yes Sir,” and followed his men out.

    Starbase 216
    Docking Hub Lounge

    Seated in a booth which allowed a panoramic view of not only the space-side docking ring, but also the deep star-field beyond, two Starfleet officers, one male and one female, both human, sat in comfortable yet non-intimate conversation. Their drinks had the requisite assortment of paper umbrellas, plastic swords holding maraschino cherries, and rainbows of liquid color, but to the female’s chagrin none of the alcohol or even synthahol.

    The male wore Lieutenant Commander devices on his collar, below a neatly cut head of brown hair and blue eyes. The female, wavy blond hair reaching well past her collar had green eyes and the collar devices of a Lieutenant. Both were awaiting the official report time on their orders to the Starbase, and both had no idea what those orders might entail.

    Lieutenant Beverly Townsend of Australia spoke, in the middle of a conversation already in progress, “Yes, but I don’t see why all the secrecy.”

    Lieutenant Commander Ryan Ridgeway answered, as if the two had already been over this part, “Really Lieutenant, a little patience, in less than thirty minutes we report, and I’m sure all your questions will be answered. There is honestly nothing worrying will do until then.” With that Commander Ridgeway picked up his drink and polished it off. Standing, he smiled at the perturbed Lieutenant, “Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to freshen up, before the big news.”

    Lieutenant Townsend held up her glass and smiled in lieu of a wave, secretly wondering why she had let the young looking Commander talk her into the non-alcoholic kind. After Ridgeway left, she took a sip from her drink, set it down unfinished and exited the lounge herself.

    Starbase 216
    Commanding Officer’s Briefing Room

    Seated around a large round table in the austerely decorated briefing room sat eight officers. All, with the exception of Lieutenant Junior Grade T’Noor glanced surreptitiously around at the others, no one daring to break the silence. T’noor merely sat with her outstretched fingers touching together, making a triangular shape commonly used by Vulcans deep in contemplation.

    No one had presumed to sit in the somewhat larger chair that seemed to indicate the ‘head’ of the table. To either side of it sat Lieutenant Commander Ryan Ridgeway and Lieutenant Beverly Townsend. Next to Lieutenant Townsend sat Marine Captain Shelly O’Connell followed by Master Chief Rexar Arthrun, then an empty chair. Going the other way around the table sat the three Lieutenants Junior Grade, Arjal Brak, T’Noor, and Tara. Finally, next to Tara sat Ensign Dulak, with the empty chair between him and Master Chief Rexar Arthrun.

    Through a door at the end of the briefing room, a full Commander entered, calling “Attention on Deck.” As a group, the eight stood to attention as their chairs slid back. Following the Commander into the room was a Vulcan Admiral, old enough to have some gray hair around his ears, and wrinkles on his face. Presumably, he was the Commanding Officer of Starbase 216. He walked all the way to the larger chair, which the Commander pulled out for him, and sat down before saying simply, “Take your seats.”

    He had not said, “Sit at ease,” but apparently this distinction was lost on all in the room with the exception of the Andorian Master Chief, who sat to a position of rigid attention. T’Noor, noticing the difference in his posture as the others placed their arms onto the table or shifted their chairs to more comfortable positions, decided to emulate the Master Chief’s posture. She noted, disconcertingly however, that the Master Chief was struggling mightily to keep a torrent of emotion hidden below his rigid demeanor. She even noticed him start a slow-breathing exercise taught to Andorians at a young age as a self-control mechanism.

    Approaching the age of one hundred and sixty years, and over one hundred twenty of them in Starfleet, Admiral Selak had seen many Starfleet careers come and go. He had seen changes in policy and procedure. He had seen numerous illogical uniform changes. Whole classes of starships had gone from prototypes to obsolete, with full lifespans and upgrades in between. He had never married. Being the second son of an obscure family whose father tailored ceremonial garments for rituals old-beyond-memory had made him an undesirable arraignment for any un-betrothed girls. Not of an overly academic bent, the Vulcan Science Academy had not been an option for him. He was unable to convince his parents of the logic in joining Starfleet, where the rigors of its Academy would be only a moderate challenge to him, but that is what he did anyway.

    When many of his contemporaries had gone on to other careers after Starfleet, such as the Diplomatic Corps or Vulcan Science Academy, Selak had stayed. He had twice been admiral, and after his first demotion had to wait forty years until everyone presiding over his courts martial was either retired or dead before being promoted again.

    Obscure post after obscure post followed his demotion. But while such a setback would have troubled an undisciplined and less logical mind, Selak merely continued doing whatever tasks Starfleet assigned him with stoic determination. While he considered the decision to demote him largely politically motivated and illogical, he held no malice towards either the people responsible, or the fact of his demotion. That would have been an emotional response, and that he did not allow himself.

    Looking over the briefing table he simply noticed which of the seven had followed his order and which had not. Just one more change he was having to adjust to was the relaxing of discipline and protocol within Starfleet itself. While wartime situations typically degraded both traditions, usually they rebounded a bit when the conflict was resolved. He was not sure if that was the case following the Dominion war.

    To her credit, the Vulcan Lieutenant was following the correct example shown by the Andorian Master Chief. Perhaps being removed from Starfleet during his retirement had insulated him somewhat. No matter, there was a briefing to attend to.

    “Sit at ease.” Selak said finally. T’Noor turned her head to look at the Admiral, but Master Chief Rexar relaxed only slightly and only his antennae pointed towards the Admiral. “I know you are wondering why you were ordered to report here with incomplete details.” Several of those present nodded.

    “The reason for this is simple enough. The security and intelligence divisions of Starfleet remain unsure of our current internal security status following severe weakening and compromise during the Dominion war. Your orders involve classified and sensitive information restricted to anyone with a direct need to know.”

    The door chime buzzed, interrupting Selak. The commander who had taken up a position near the entrance leaned to the intercom, muted irritation in his voice. “What is it?”

    Through the speaker an apologetic voice answered. “Sir, its Lieutenant Howard from Security. I’ve got Chief Marconi here on the Admirals orders.” The Commander looked at Admiral Selak, who nodded. Pushing a button on the door access panel, the Commander opened the door, “Enter.”

    Chief Anthony Marconi walked slowly through the door, hands in restraints behind his back, but in uniform. Howard followed, showing surprise at several recently familiar faces, and smiling at the Marine Captain who nodded in reply, but kept a serious look about her.

    “You may remove the restraints Lieutenant, I do not believe the Chief will be any further trouble. Am I correct?” The Admiral looked directly at Chief Marconi.

    Marconi, still fighting a combination hangover and borderline concussion, paused at the verge of opening his mouth to accuse Lieutenant Junior Grade Tara of assaulting him. The Chief swallowed his accusation, replacing it with “No Admiral, I will not cause any more trouble.” The looks he got from the Marine Captain, Arjal, Tara, and Dulak did not do much to assure the Chief there would not be trouble, but at least this time, he wouldn’t start it.

    “In this instance, any disciplinary action taken will be up to your commanding officer. For now, you may be seated.” When Lieutenant Howard finished removing the restraints, Chief Marconi rubbed his wrists and moved towards the empty chair, sitting uncomfortably between Dulak and the Andorian Master Chief, not looking at either of them.

    Admiral Selak looked at Howard, “Dismissed Lieutenant.” As the security officer turned and left the room, Admiral Selak reached down and typed a brief memo to his XO. It read ‘Lieutenant Howard was late two minutes delivering prisoner from brig, contact my adjutant for details.’ He finished, sent the memo and looked up at the now complete group.

    “As I was saying, your orders involve classified and sensitive information restricted to anyone with a direct need to know. Everything in this briefing concerning your assignment from this point forward is classified and not to be released to anyone, including the rest of your crew.”

    Lieutenant Commander Ridgeway raised his hand to ask the obvious question, but a look from Admiral Selak and he lowered it. The Admiral would take questions when he was good and ready, if at all.

    “As some of you may already be aware Starfleet took heavy casualties during the recent war with the Dominion, both in personnel and in fleet strength. We are still far under desired strength in many areas, and have had to seriously curtail colonization, exploration, and scientific survey missions.”

    “Emergency measures have been taken to replenish manning levels, such as delaying of retirements and stop-loss measures for personnel wanting to resign. Unfortunately, Starfleet has also had to shorten some of its training programs and promote at a faster rate than usual. It has also been forced to keep certain persons who would have been discharged for disciplinary reasons.” The Admiral gazed over the group seated at the table, pausing as his eyes met Chief Marconi’s. Then, strangely avoiding the Rexar, he continued speaking, “There have even been retired reserve call-ups, although as I will cover shortly, Master Chief Arthrun is a special case.”

    “Replacing lost ships is not so easy. Even with industrial replicators running non-stop, shipyards can only produce new ships so fast. As a temporary measure, a number of ships have been brought out of mothballs and minimally refitted to enable them to assist Starfleet during the rebuilding phase.”

    Watching the Admiral, trying to project his usual upbeat, confident demeanor, Lieutenant Commander Ridgeway felt a big ball of dread building in the pit of his stomach. He had half expected some nice post as a department head onboard a Nova or Galaxy class. Maybe it had been ‘wishful thinking’ after all. ‘What did I do to deserve some old relic?’ He thought silently to himself.

    Lieutenant Townsend had much the same thoughts running through her head. Risking a quick glance around, she noticed that none of the junior officers had a clue they were getting the short end of the stick, they were all intently soaking in what the Admiral was saying. They probably felt excited about getting their first real assignment.

    The newly arrived Chief Marconi had his head in his hands, whether from his injuries, or a bit more of a reality based take on where the Admiral was going with his speech, Townsend couldn’t tell. The Andorian Master Chief, she couldn’t get a read on at all. He just sat still, as if carved from stone.

    The Admiral continued, “All of the mothball fleet in recall class A or B have already been reactivated. However, as fleet strength is still low, that is where you come in.”

    Chief Marconi vaguely remembered through his splitting headache that class C mothballed ships had been so completely stripped of parts, often with whole sections simply cut away, that they were, for all intents and purposes, scrap. If he hadn’t been brought in restraints facing Captains mast at the very least, if his head wasn’t pounding, if he hadn’t already narrowly survived a potentially career ending incident with ‘only’ a demotion, he might have voiced what he was thinking. What, you going to issue us Vac suits and backpack thrusters and call it good?

    Admiral Selak activated the main briefing room view screen. The room lights dimmed slightly. A star map of Sol, neaby Alpha Centauri, and the sector surrounding it appeared on the screen. The Admiral remained seated and began narrating.

    “Eighty-five years ago the USS Shepard, an Oberth class science vessel disappeared while doing work-ups in the Federation’s warp test corridor, near Alpha Centauri.” An extensive search and rescue operation was conducted throughout the corridor and adjacent sectors turned up nothing so the Shepard was presumed lost with all hands.”

    The graphic glowed in highlight of the warp test corridor, a box delineating its extents.

    “Twenty years later a free trader transiting sector 8572, ninety-one light years from Alpha Centauri, found a Starfleet escape pod jury rigged with a stasis chamber, and inside that stasis chamber was a single survivor from the Shepard.”

    A two-dimensional map grid slewed rapidly in one direction, stars moving across the screen until stopping over the sectors adjacent to and surrounding Starbase 216. The nearby boundary of Cardassian space was clearly delineated, as were several outposts and inhabited systems. One sector, outside the boundary of Federation space and farther than Cardassian territory was presumed to extend, lit up and expanded to fill the screen, showing more detail as it did so.

    That survivor was a Chief Rexar Arthrun,” and he has been called out of retirement for this mission.” The Admiral nodded towards Rexar, addressing him by his current rank, “Master Chief.”

    Rexar raised his chin slightly in acknowledgement. At that, a murmur of surprise went through the group, only silenced when the Admiral raised his voice slightly, “Excuse me!”

    “Remote long distance probes confirmed an extensive debris field surrounding the coordinates where the escape pod was allegedly located, and no signs of other survivors. The trader was well compensated for the return of a valuable Starfleet member, and for star charts of the area surrounding the presumed location of the Shepard.”

    “Upon examining the limited cultural data contained in the trader’s database of the area, AND factoring in information from the survivor’s debriefing, a further recovery or destruction operation was deemed too risky. The available data indicated no substantive components or structure from the Shepard remained intact.”

    “Additionally, several star systems in sectors 8572 and 8573 had independently, or otherwise, started developing primitive space programs. All of them were busily listening, looking and collecting data on nearby space. None were close to developing warp drive and some remained highly warlike. The entire area was designated a no-contact zone.”

    “Six months ago a long range survey probe operating on the border of sector 8573 sent telemetry which, with a ninety-eight point seven percent chance, indicates that the USS Shepard is indeed intact three point six parsecs from where the Master Chief Arthrun was rescued.”

    The sector map changed to highlight and zoom on sector 8573, and then switched to a grainy visual image, from a distance, of an obviously worse for wear Oberth class explorer. No hull designators were visible, and the warp nacelles were of a non-standard configuration. Several large breaches were visible in both the primary and secondary hulls. Even the intact portions of the hull were damaged by plasma leaks or other energy discharges in multiple locations.

    The reality of the Shepard’s existence, despite his claims and assurances over the years that it indeed was so, proved overwhelming from Rexar and he slammed his balled fist against the table, hard enough to rattle anything loose on its surface. “I KNEW it.” What he didn’t say was, and this same smug, uptight bastard sat there at my debriefing and practically called me a liar in his logic-speak with his “You must be mistaken Chief, all available data indicate the Shepard was destroyed. To ignore the evidence…”

    Admiral Selak forestalled a barrage of questions with an upheld hand. “A recovery mission has been authorized, and you nine have been chosen as lead recovery team. Ascertain if the Shepard is salvageable and perform field repairs sufficient to return her to Federation space. The warp tug used for transit will be employed to tow the Shepard only as a last resort if sufficient repairs cannot be made on site. The expansive subspace field and highly visible sensor signature generated in a warp tow are undesirable given the local conditions.”

    “Of course, and I am not expecting this, if the Shepard is not salvageable it will be molecularly disassembled.”

    Admiral Selak did not mention the method of that disassembly, and still wasn’t taking questions. Chief Marconi shook his head at the implication, nanites, I bet its nanites. I Hate nanites!

    Directing the meeting back to the salvage portion of the operation, Admiral Selak continued. “Once the Shepard returns here, she will be made fully space-worthy. You will be given a crew compliment and mission assignments to follow. Once en route, further information, including the probe data and ship specification files will be made available.

    It will take three weeks to reach the Shepard’s location, so you will have sufficient time to generate tentative repair plans and learn how to operate her. Holographic simulations as well as technical manuals will be available aboard the warp tug Persepheron, which departs dock 6, hub 2, in one hour. Commander Swanson will brief you on your duty assignments, dismissed.”

    With that the Admiral pushed his chair back, flipped the wall display off, and stood up. Commander Swanson called out, “Attention on deck!” causing everyone to stand to attention, and also forestalling any questions. The Admiral turned and walked out, into the same door he had entered, leaving a puzzled crew in his wake.

    No sooner had the door swished shut behind the Admiral than Commander Swanson refocused their attention, everyone that is except for the Andorian Master Chief, “At ease. Listen up.” Swanson began, picking up a PADD from the table. “Commander Rigeway, CO; Lieutenant Townsend, XO; Captain O’Connell, Medical Officer; Lieutenant Brak, Operations/Helm; Lieutenant T’Noor, Science Officer; Lieutenant Tara, Security/Tactical; Master Chief Arthrun, Chief Engineer; Ensign Dulak, Tech Division; Chief Marconi, Engines Division.”

    Swanson was so intent on reading the roster that he failed to notice Rexar stand up from the table and walk to the Admiral’s door until Rexar pushed the chime. Stunned he started after the Master Chief, but the door opened and the Rexar stepped through into the room beyond before Swanson could stop him. Stepping through the doorway before it closed, Swanson started dressing down the senior enlisted, “Just a minute, Master Chief, you can’t…” but was interrupted in turn, surprisingly, by Selak. “It is not necessary Commander, you may leave.”

    Swanson backed from the Admiral’s ready room, mystified. Turning towards the remaining officers and the chief, he said simply, “Dismissed.” Then he walked to the exit, keyed open the door, and waved them into the hallway.

    Once outside the room, Lieutenant Beverly Townsend turned to her new Commanding Officer, Ryan Ridgeway and said, “One hour or not, I’m going to have a real drink now. Are you coming?” Ridgeway merely nodded, then remembered something. Turning towards Chief Marconi he summoned the man over with a wave, noting with satisfaction that the four junior officers were moving off, purposefully down the corridor. “Chief, I don’t know the particulars of why you got into trouble. I suppose I will have three weeks to learn what happened and then figure out what to do about it. Right now, I just want to know if you can get off this station without getting into any more trouble. Can you do that, Chief?”

    “Yes Sir.” Chief Marconi said, assuming a close approximation of Attention. Commander Ridgeway relaxed, “Very well then, carry on.” The Chief nodded and walked off down the corridor in the opposite direction the junior officers had taken.

    “What about that drink?” Townsend pressed the issue. “Oh yeah, right.” Ridgeway responded.

    The doors to the briefing room opened and Master Chief Arthrun exited. Walking up to his new CO and XO, he looked somehow relieved. “Had some old bones to pick I take it?” Ridgeway asked.

    Rexar smiled and looked casually down at the empty knife sheath at his waist, “Sort of.”

    Both the officers jaws dropped in disbelief, “You didn’t?” Both asked in unison.”

    Rexar actually managed a laugh, “Of course not. I merely asked the Admiral to hold onto it for me until I got back.”

    Ridgeway became even more incredulous, while Townsend was simply puzzled. “What?” She asked.

    Ridgeway shook his head, “The Master Chief has called out Admiral Selak to a duel, and apparently the Admiral has accepted.”
  4. Dulak

    Dulak Commander Red Shirt

    Jul 6, 2007
    Pacific NW
    Chapter Two

    Lieutenant Commander Ridgeway felt out of place. After Lieutenant Townsend had left him at the station lounge he had lingered, perhaps longer than he should have, considering his situation. Walking through the “working” part of the starbase was quite different than the passenger disembarking area where he had arrived. In fact, it was unlike anything he had experienced in Starfleet.

    This part of the station apparently missed out on the many upgrades and refits the starbase had undergone during its lifetime. It seemed to be of a low priority for even regular maintenance. It probably wasn’t a safety hazard, but appearance definitely was not high on the list either. The panels lining the walls seemed to represent every trend in Federation design in the past hundred years, often old and new next to one another.

    Colors did not match, dark panels butted against lighter colored ones. Some were even scarred from plasma leaks or even what looked like phaser or disrupter discharges. Power conduits, visible running on the outside of the ceiling and wall panels showed signs of being repaired. In some cases they were bypassed with emergency damage control lines pressed into service for far longer than intended.

    Only two people that he had passed on his way to this particular docking hub had been in regular Starfleet uniforms. Coveralls were far more common. People actually gave him strange looks as he passed, as if something so bright and shiny didn’t belong in this part of the station.

    He almost missed the side passage leading to the tug’s docking berth because the designator numbers were faint and smudged with something dark and powdery. Obviously not intended for cargo, the passage was not quite two meters wide, and just as filled with conduits as the bigger corridors. One of two spacetight doors along the passageway was blocked open by a damage control hose which bypassed a broken water pipe.

    Two questions bounced back and forth in his mind as he walked down the narrow access. First, how long had it taken things to deteriorate this much? Second, why had it been allowed to get this way.

    Then he reached the ship, if it could even be called that. The open access hatch to the Persepheron was unguarded. Ridgeway looked around for a second before stepping through it. The inside of the warp tug, while clean, showed a degree of wear and tear that Ridgeway was unused to on any of the vessels he had served.

    His footsteps sounding on the metallic deck plating, Ridgeway made his way forward, or what he guessed was forward. Ducking through a narrow hatchway he could only assume provided atmospheric isolation in case of decompression or fire; he wondered how people served for any length of time on such a vessel.

    A gruff Tellarite in dirty coveralls rounded a corner ahead and walked towards him. The Tellarite squinted at Ridgeway, made a snorting sound Ridgeway could only assume was a chuckle and said, “You must be the Commander I’m waiting for. I’m Chief Prak. This is my tug.”

    The Chief did not offer to take the duffel bag from Ridgeway’s shoulder. “All your other people are aboard. The ‘grand tour’ will have to wait until we leave spacedock. Chief Prak pushed a button on a small intercom panel. A double beeping tone sounded and he spoke into the box, “Bridge, I have the Commander onboard, proceed with underway detail.”

    A voice answered out of the small speaker, “Yes Chief,” and the box gave a single tone. Chief Prak looked at Ridgeway, “Follow me, Commander.”

    The voice from the speaker, amplified this time, sounded over the ship’s address system, “Now secure all hatches and disconnect from all station services. Notify the bridge when preparations for getting underway are complete.”

    Ridgeway followed the Chief through the narrow passageway. At one point they actually came to a steep stairway, practically a ladder, going down. Instead of walking down the ladder, the Chief grabbed the smooth handrails and slid down them. Ridgeway followed, walking gingerly down the steps. Disconcertingly, Ridgeway noticed that handholds were spaced at regular intervals on the walls and overhead. Were they a contingency for zero-G operations?

    “Throw your bag in there. We’re going to the bridge.” Chief Prak pointed through a door into a closet to the left of the passageway. Ridgeway stepped halfway into it and slung his duffel off of his shoulder. Then he noticed a pair of narrow bunks, complete with bedding, against the far wall. A small metal sink, shower stall, and fold down desk with a single chair completed the décor.

    Ridgeway tossed his duffel bag onto the upper of the two bunks, noticing a similar bag already on the lower. He briefly wondered who his roommate was. Shaking his head, he stepped back out of his ‘stateroom’ to find Chief Prak already walking away down the corridor.

    He had to actually jog to catch up. Although Ridgeway had a much longer stride than the shorter Tellarite, the Chief was walking at a quick clip, and had a head start. They walked through what Ridgeway assumed was the mess deck, although it sported only four small tables with six fixed swivel chairs each, and a series of decidedly retro looking replicators along one wall.

    Forward of the mess deck the passageway continued for another fifteen meters or so, before terminating in a ‘T’ intersection. Chief Prak walked up to a door on the far wall and pushed a button on an access panel before the door hissed open.

    Stepping through after Chief Prak, Ridgeway saw that the bridge was as cramped as he had expected following his brief walk through the rest of the tug. What he hadn’t expected was the forward viewing area. While most starships utilized a single large viewscreen, the warp tug had five smaller screens, set up in a + pattern. One sat above the central screen, one below, and one each to the right and left respectively. The center screen currently showed a standard view oriented from front of the tug, but the others showed various other aspects, one towards the starbase, another spaceward from the tug. Currently the top and bottom screens were displaying graphics of what looked to Ridgeway like various power levels and engine efficiency stats.

    Chief Prak stomped over to a crewman in coveralls, a human with curly black hair above his tanned looking neck. The crewman was seated at one of two control stations in the center of the bridge. “Davis, is this pile of Denebian slime devil dung ready to get underway?” He barked his question.

    Ridgeway was a bit taken aback at the brash demeanor, but then realized it matched that of most Tellarites he had encountered.

    The crewman in any case seemed unfazed at the Chief’s tone, replying calmly “Yes Chief, all station services disconnected, all hatches secure. We have clearance to transit, flight path gamma.”

    Chief Prak went from brash to genuinely angry in an instant. “Flight path gamma? Last I heard they still hadn’t cleared up the debris from the damaged Ferrengi freighter last month, the one that had a plasma enema on final approach. Get me control, I don’t want to be dodging duranium bearings the whole way out.”

    Petty Officer Second Class Davis, still calm, replied as he punched buttons on his panel, “Yes Chief, right away.” Then, speaking over ship to station opened a communication channel to the starbase, “Starbase 216 control, this is Warp Tug Persepheron.” The voice from control came over the bridge speakers, sounding monotone and bored. “Go ahead Persepheron.”

    Davis answered, voice professional without sounding bored or monotone, “Control, I have Chief Prak here.” He had barely finished when the still irate Chief began talking over him, “What’s the idea sending us out on gamma? It’s still strewn with debris from that freighter explosion. Send us out on Delta.”

    The reply came back, sounding a little more alert, “Hold on Chief, I’ll have to check on that.” By the way the Chief started pacing, Ridgeway could tell that patience was not among the Chief’s virtues. “What’s the problem Davis? There’s no traffic scheduled for two hours.” Davis merely shrugged his shoulders.

    The laconic sounding voice returned to the bridge speakers, “Persepheron, flightpath gamma was inspected last week and cleared for traffic. You are cleared for transit via that route only.”

    Chief Prak clearly didn’t have any spare points with station control. Resigned, he had Davis close the channel. Shaking his head, the Chief said to no one in particular, “Fine, but I’m sending you the bill if I hit anything.”

    Regaining his composure Prak snapped at Davis, “Take us out on thrusters, bearing two-four-nine, zero mark fifteen.” Davis repeated back the command as he operated the helm controls, “two-four-nine, zero mark fifteen, aye.”

    The tug lurched slightly as the docking clamps released, matched by a clunking sound that traveled through the tug. The boat’s thrusters kicked in. Davis announced the obvious as the forward viewscreen began to show motion, “Clamps released, course two-four-nine, zero mark fifteen.”

    Chief Prak waited several seconds before ordering, “Ahead one quarter impulse, and Davis, set deflectors to maximum.” Davis pushed a few buttons, answering, “Aye Chief.” An audible humming sounded through the tug as she sped up to the ordered velocity. Davis hailed the station without prompt from the Chief, “Starbase control, Persepheron here, we are clear from docking clamps and proceeding on flight path gamma.” The voice from control came back over the speakers, bored once again, “Control copies, out.”

    Davis turned slightly towards Chief Prak and asked, “Set normal underway condition Chief?” The Tellarite frowned, “No, not just yet Davis. Let’s get clear of the wreck site first.”

    They were under their own power, and soon to be headed towards the Shepard. Ridgeway wondered how much the Chief knew about their assignment, and then realized that he knew little enough himself. He remembered he had been intending to pick Master Chief Rexar’s brain once they were en route, so he addressed Chief Prak. “Chief, where are the rest of my crew? I’d like to get started on some planning once we get settled in.”

    Chief Prak looked at Ridgeway as if he had forgotten that the Commander was even on the bridge, “Planning? You’ve got three weeks, sir. I was hoping your engineers could help me out with some minor problems I’ve been forced to live with on this rust bucket.”

    Commander Ridgeway laughed, hoping it wouldn’t be taken wrong as he imagined the kind of ‘minor problems’ the tug might be having. “I promise Chief, I’ll have my people help out in whatever way they can. For now, just point me in the right direction and I’ll get out of your way.”

    Chief Prak turned towards the viewscreen, “Fair enough Commander. Just follow the passageway back to the first ladder going up. At the top, take a right and then a left into the wide corridor. It leads directly to the cargo area. There are some crates there that Admiral Selak ordered stowed aboard prior to your arrival. All of your people except the Marine Captain seemed anxious to examine what it was the Admiral sent. That’s all I know.” When he finished speaking the Chief simply ignored Ridgeway and went about his duties as Bridge Officer.

    Ridgeway pondered the curious sensation of being dismissed from the bridge by a Chief. No quick comeback entered his mind. Not wanting to make waves, he let it slide. Turning he walked out of the bridge and followed the Chief’s directions to the best of his ability.
  5. Dulak

    Dulak Commander Red Shirt

    Jul 6, 2007
    Pacific NW
    UT: USS Shepard - "Recovery", chapter three

    Chapter Three

    USS Persepheron

    The engineering section on the Persepheron was, without a doubt, the largest contiguous part of the tug. The Persepheron housed impulse engines powerful enough to move a sizeable asteroid. She was also equipped with an oversized warp drive system, including a somewhat unusual variable-geometry, quad-nacelle configuration. Added to that were three tractor beam emitters, positioned separately to provide a high degree of load stabilization. Persepheron also boasted a complex array of portable subspace field generators. The tug was a small vessel, but one with a big inertial punch.

    Chief Marconi had arrived before the rest of his newly assigned shipmates. Not one with a large amount of patience, he had gone straight to engineering and offered his services. Marconi figured that if his new captain, ‘Ridgefield’ or whatever his name was, wanted to get a hold of him he’d able to figure out where to find him. The tug was a small vessel anyway.

    He’d immediately noticed many of the systems were out of tolerance, at least in a by the book interpretation. But Marconi knew better than to mess with another engineer’s configuration without first finding out why settings were out of spec in the first place. For now, he just made himself useful making sure there were no wild fluctuations in anything, and familiarized himself with the engines. More thorough work would have to wait until they were well clear of the Starbase, and the crew had gained his trust.

    Chief Marconi had a remarkably one-track mind. He spent no time dwelling on what trouble might be facing him because he had shoved that Cardassian Ensign. Truth be told, he hadn’t noticed the Starfleet uniform on the Cardassian until Tara had pulled him unceremoniously from the deck. No matter, until he was called on the carpet to face discipline, he simply thought no more about the matter.

    As far as actually working with the Cardassian, that would be more difficult. Chief Marconi was not inherently a racist, but years of having friends killed and hearing stories of Cardassian atrocities had taken their toll on his less than enlightened tolerance. The freshest and perhaps strongest scar on his psyche was a meeting two weeks prior, with his brother in one of the many post-war hospitals set up on Earth. Ben had always been smiling and upbeat, but the hollow eyes and lackluster demeanor of the former Starfleet Ensign, one of the innumerous survivors of an unnamed Cardassian POW camp, proved he had been beaten finally, on the inside. That meeting was after six months of intensive therapy and treatment, when the doctors had actually deemed Ben well enough to have visitors. His mother had left in tears, but Anthony had actually been hardened by the experience.

    An alert buzzer one panel to the left attracted his attention and Chief Marconi stepped to investigate. The forward deflector had been knocked out of calibration by the impacts several minutes ago. What made the situation worse was that somehow, a feedback loop had been started in the automatic power shunt, causing a larger than normal power drain from the deflector array in an effort to compensate.

    The computer monitoring circuits should have caught this problem and fixed it before it even became noticeable. Chief Marconi made it a point to run some more comprehensive diagnostics once he had the chance. While the tug was still transiting to warp distance from Starbase 216 Marconi knew that Prak wasn’t likely to be in the mood to stop long enough to do a restart on the whole deflector system. Thinking quickly the Chief, who had spent more than fifteen years in and around engine rooms, decided to do a flying restart of just the power shunt in hopes that it would clear up the feedback loop.

    Shutting down the power shunt was only risky if they hit something large, and Chief Marconi only planned on having it down for seconds. Besides, Chief Prak had temporarily slowed to a crawl while he made sure they were clear of the debris field. Marconi looked around. The First Class, supposedly in charge, was so busy flirting with a new dark haired Second Class that he hadn’t even noticed the alert buzzer on the deflector panel. Chief Marconi deftly bypassed the alarm signal that should have sounded at the loss of deflector power shunt power and proceeded.

    Ten seconds later, an indicator light turned green and deflector power levels all read in the normal range. Chief Marconi let out his breath and walked away to check on other stations.

    Unbeknownst to the smug Chief, when he had taken the power shunt offline, the deflector itself had flickered, for no more than half of a second. In that blink of an eye, an errant cylindrical bearing made from duranium, half a meter in diameter and a full meter long, drifted gently onto the surface of the deflector dish and lodged itself between two emitters. The deflector powered back up then, pushing several more drifting bearings out of the way.

    USS Persepheron
    Cargo Area

    The ‘cargo area’ was just that, no doors separated it from the rest of the “wide” corridor which was all of two meters across, if that. It was demarked by a black line painted on the deck from wall to wall, with the word CARGO stenciled below the line and twin arrows pointing towards an underwhelming area of perhaps three meters by four meters. The area contained various crates, boxes, and most of Ridgeway’s assigned crew. Only Captain O’Connell and Chief Marconi were absent.

    Folding his arms across his chest and leaning against a bulkhead, Ridgeway watched his crew. A grin grew on his face. So intent were they at opening crates and examining the contents that they failed to notice him.

    Lieutenant JG T’Noor was helping Ensign Dulak and Lieutenant JG Arjal Brak lift a large piece of equipment from one of the newer looking crates. The three set it on the deck. Dulak pointed at the device and spoke while T’Noor nodded. The other junior officer, Lieutenant JG Tara was busily going through another crate filled with small items.

    Ridgeway decided to join in the inventory and had moved away from the bulkhead when the tug lurched noticeably and a metallic clunk reverberated through the superstructure. He caught his balance with one hand against the bulkhead as the others grabbed crates or just fought to keep upright.

    Lieutenant Townsend looked up from the crate she had been examining with Tara, noticed Ridgeway and asked, “What was that Commander?” Before he could shrug, the tug lurched twice more. Each time a clunking noise followed a lurch.

    Surprised that no alarm claxons sounded, Ridgeway walked to a wall intercom and pushed the button, “Bridge, this is Commander Ridgeway, what just happened?” The circuit opened and Ridgeway could hear Chief Prak swearing at the other end. “Cleared this flight path last week? I’d bet my prickly porcine posterior they didn’t.” Someone far calmer than the Chief answered Ridgeway’s question, “Sir, the Chief thinks we just ran into the Duranium bearings that Station Control insisted were cleared out. There’s nothing to worry about.”

    “Very well, thank you.” Ridgeway clicked off the intercom, walked over to Townsend and placed his hands on his hips, “Just some debris in the flight path. I think they have it handled. What do we have here?”

    Lieutenant Townsend shook her head as she answered. “It seems like we’ve got caseloads of spare parts for an Oberth Class Explorer, Mark One. Most of this stuff has been stored for decades. Pretty outdated if you ask me.”

    Ridgeway decided not to mention that the Shepard might very well need these ‘outdated’ parts.

    Townsend continued as she motioned T’Noor over to her. “On a positive note, it seems like we also have a portable holo-station and a bunch of data files on Oberth Class operation, maintenance, and repair.”

    Out of the corner of his eye, Ridgeway noticed Master Chief Rexar Arthrun thumbing through some files on a PADD. Without warning, the Andorian hurled the PADD at a nearby bulkhead with a crack. “Brainless Intelligence lakeys!” Rexar fumed.

    Ridgeway walked over to the upset Andorian. “What is it Master Chief?” Rexar shook his head. “In their infinite wisdom, the bureaucrats at Starfleet Intelligence have apparently deleted all files on the Shepard’s warp drive. They were deemed perpetually too sensitive for declassification.”

    “But Master Chief, according to Lieutenant Townsend, we have extensive data files on the Mark 1 Oberth class.” Ridgeway replied, totally missing the point.

    Rexar spoke slowly, as if to make sure Ridgeway heard what he was saying. “Sir, the engines on the Shepard were not like the ones used on the Oberths, or any other Starfleet vessel for that matter.” Comprehension started across Ridgeway’s face as Rexar continued. “Those warp drive specs,” he said, pointing towards the worse for wear PADD where is lay on the deck, “are worthless.”

    Ridgeway’s face got serious, “I think, Master Chief, that we need to have a talk. Lieutenant Townsend, if you would accompany us. The rest of you, see if you can get that holo-station working, and clear some area. We’ve got some familiarization to do.”

    Ridgeway walked off in what he hoped was the direction of his ‘stateroom.’ Townsend and Arthrun followed him.

    When they had disappeared around a corner, Tara brushed her green hands together, “Well, you heard the man, let’s get to work. If we’re lucky, we might even be able to finish without any more interruptions.” The other junior officers nodded affirmatively and continued working.

    Ensign Dulak reached into the insulated standard packing crate and pulled out another part. Looking it over, he placed it onto the deck next to several others. Lieutenant Junior Grade T’Noor looked up from the PADD she was studying intently and addressed the Cardassian, “Ensign, are you certain you can assemble this device without schematics? It appears quite complex.”

    As Dulak smiled his eyes widened in his gray face to show more of the whites surrounding the pupil than normal. While some friends at Starfleet Academy confided in him that the gesture was somewhat disconcerting, he found it a hard habit to break. “I assure you Lieutenant, it will be no trouble. My practicum at Starfleet involved a range of portable computer devices, archaic technology, and exo-technology. This device was designed to be easy to assemble after minimal training and in less than optimal field conditions.”

    T’Noor thought for a second before replying, “Very well Ensign, you may proceed.”

    Dulak replied “Yes Sir,” before walking over to the same open crate and continued removing pieces. Looking over his shoulder at T’Noor, he suggested, “Perhaps you could help Lieutenants Brak and Tara in their inventory?”

    T’Noor raised one eyebrow. She had not even thought of physically inventorying the crates when the PADD she held provided a perfectly adequate accounting of their supplies. As for the Trill and the Orion, T’Noor understood that if their first thought was to rummage through things, then they probably needed to see and touch what was in the crates to learn what was in them. It was a trivial task, but they would have to learn to work closely together in order to successfully salvage the Shepard. Perhaps doing a physical inventory would provide some of the ‘bonding’ that emotional species often felt they needed to work well together.

    Walking over to Arjal and Tara, T’Noor asked neutrally, “Do you require assistance?” Tara, a looked up from the crate she and Arjal were inventorying and laughed in the quiet and reserved way T’Noor had grown used to during their last posting to science station Crenshaw. The laugh had a musical quality to it that T’Noor found not unpleasant, but that most males found apparently hypnotic.

    Arjal had seemingly not heard the laugh before. As Tara laughed he looked from T’Noor to Tara with the same look of longing T’Noor had seen in the dining facility on the science station. When the laugh stopped, it took Arjal a few seconds of blinking to regain his composure. He had no clue what had happened to him, but knew that he liked hearing Tara laugh.

    T’Noor realized laconically that she needn’t have been concerned with ‘bonding’ between her two crewmates. Hopefully she would not have to take steps to prevent Arjal from following Tara around like a newborn Selat, the somewhat misunderstood animal some Vulcan children kept as pets. From her prior experience, T’Noor knew that Tara would only encourage Arjal further if she liked him. However, from the smile Tara showed at Arjal’s confusion, she was definitely headed in that direction.

    “We would be glad for your help!” Tara replied cheerfully.

    T’Noor looked over the crate for an id label, which she scanned into the PADD. As the readout appeared she read off the items. “Five Mark II plasma welders; two cases power cells, twenty each; six plasma welder protective suits…”

    USS Persepheron
    Aft Overflow Berthing

    The Persepheron didn’t have what was traditionally known as ‘Officer’s Quarters.” Most of the senior enlisted shared staterooms, if they could be called that, with one or two others. The junior enlisted lived four to a room. Since she was not designed to be underway for more than a month or so at a time, this was deemed acceptable to its designers. Nine square meters of space seems a lot bigger on paper than it does in actuality. The designers thought on paper, the Persepheron’s crew was left with the reality.

    On one of four bunks, the other three strewn with duffel and garment bags, Starfleet Marine Captain, and Doctor Shelly O’Connell slept soundly. Learning early on in her career that in the field that sleep could easily become a rare commodity, she had learned to take advantage of cat naps in apparent downtime. She had never forgotten that lesson.

    Besides, after a combat tour planet-side treating casualties from remote field hospitals and ships, being underway with the gentle hum of impulse engines was soothing. Now that the suspense of what her next assignment might be had been eliminated, she felt a certain sense of relief. The crew of the Persepheron probably wouldn’t start asking her to cure them of various ailments for a couple of days at least. Until then, she figured, there probably wouldn’t be much to do. The impacts against the deflector shield and hull hadn’t awakened her either, being nowhere near as loud as the anti-orbital fire she had learned to sleep through during her first tour aboard a Puller Class Marine Transport.

    USS Persepheron
    Commander Ridgeway’s quarters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Apparently transwarp physics are substantially different than normal subspace physics and the external sensors didn’t give meaningful readings. In effect we flew blind every time the transwarp engines were engaged. The ship’s course had to be laid in before leaving normal space, and any adjustments were just guesses. Even when Lieutenant Bronson double-checked his calculations, we never came out quite where he expected.

    “None of that seemed important enough to stop, or even delay the testing, to those in charge anyway. Then we did a longer duration test.”

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

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

    Rexar noticed both command officers fidgeting, intrigued but not wanting to wait through the minutiae before finding out what happened to the Shepard. So, they had no patience for a good story it seemed. Rexar grinned, pausing his narrative.

    “You want the long version, or the short version? There should be a copy of my debriefing down in the cargo area with the other records. It will probably have some details I have forgotten in the last sixty-five years.”

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

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

    “We were in the warp test corridor near Alpha Centauri, ten light years of the cleanest space inside Federation territory. Deflector grids experience a negligible fifty micro impacts every hour at warp one.

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

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

    “The ride was noticeably rough, not bumpy or jarring, but more like a series of gradual accelerations and decelerations the inertial dampeners couldn’t quite keep up with. I have no idea what was happening, as ships in normal warp don’t move per se, but we were definitely not stationary by all indications, unless space itself was distorting around us in a perceptible manner.

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

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

    “Lieutenant Commander Sanchez, the Science Officer, called down from the bridge, frantic. She said that some sort of ‘trans-space wavefront’ had built up behind us, and dropping out of transwarp would likely destroy the ship. She must have managed to tweak the sensors enough to give us that short range data, and it probably saved the Shepard from total destruction at that point.

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

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

    Rexar smiled, “We pivoted one hundred eighty degrees, engaged the warp drive, and cut the transwarp simultaneously, heading right through the trans-space wave. The helmsman really should have gotten a commendation for that one.”

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

    Rexar nodded, “No Sir, we were in transwarp. The Shepard was fitted with a tandem system so we could get around at normal warp speeds when not testing or using the transwarp. The warp and transwarp systems weren’t designed for simultaneous use, but Tolleson managed to hold them, and the Shepard together.”

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

    Rexar thought for a few seconds before replying, “We may have been for a few nanoseconds, but then we lost main power completely. The Shepard came out of warp doing, as near as we could calculate based on visuals, a bit over full impulse with minimal auxiliary power.”

    He was about to continue when a warbling siren sounded in the small cabin. At the same time a series of red lights started blinking in time with the oscillation. The voice that came over the ships intercom only served to verify what the three were already thinking. “Red Alert! Red Alert! All hands to stations. Secure all interior doors.”
  6. Dulak

    Dulak Commander Red Shirt

    Jul 6, 2007
    Pacific NW
    UT: USS Shepard - "Recovery", chapter four

    Chapter Four

    USS Persepheron
    Cargo Area

    The red alert siren startled the four junior officers from their inventory. Tara began to bolt out of the cargo area, but was stopped short when T’Noor grabbed her arm. “Stand fast Lieutenant. Not only do we not know where to go, we haven’t even been assigned temporary duty stations onboard. If our presence is required somewhere, I believe someone will arrive as our escort. In the meantime, we should secure any loose items here.”

    Tara looked at Arjal and managed to roll her eyes just enough so only he noticed. “Do you mean put everything back?” Tara asked, resigned to the answer she knew was coming.

    T’Noor, deadpan, answered the question. “Yes, I believe that is what I said.”

    Dulak merely smiled and began re-stowing the various pieces of the portable holo-station generator, quickly and efficiently returning each part to where it had been removed from, reversing the order of their handling.

    USS Persepheron

    Chief Marconi looked up, expectantly puzzled at the red alert klaxon sounding while no rush of activity overtook the engineering section. The Second Class in charge looked at him and shook his head. “Don’t worry Chief, we never do that formal red alert thing unless it’s for the benefit of someone new. If there was any real problem, Chief Prak would have already called down here to make sure the engines were ‘ready to rumble,’ as he puts it.

    Of all the obscure and barbaric forms of entertainment, Marconi was initially taken aback that the tug Captain knew a phrase that came as close to representing twentieth century Earth boxing as anything else. Then he remembered that Chief Prak was a Tellarite. Nothing a Tellarite chose to call entertainment surprised Marconi. He’d known too many Tellarites. Chuckling both at Chief Prak’s sense of humor and the fate he figured was in store for the rest of his fellow passengers, Chief Marconi resumed going over the engine systems and learning as best as he could how the tug’s engine room operated.

    Stopping when he didn’t understand a particular bypass, he called over the Second Class, Thompson by his nametape, and asked, “Why do you have this relay jumpered?” While Thompson seemed bored with the question, at least he seemed to like being asked for his knowledge of the warp and impulse systems. “That one, Chief, is because the secondary impulse induction coil kept overloading and tripping the relay. The coil is within specs and the relay was tripping at only twenty-eight thousand mega-joules. I’ve got a replacement on order, but Chief Prak got tired of only being able to go one quarter impulse.”

    Marconi frowned and asked, “Spare parts hard to come by?” Thompson laughed, “Hard to come by would be a generous way to put it, since about a year into the Dominion war anyway.”

    Chief Marconi decided to save some time, “Any other safeties bypassed?”

    Thompson thought for a moment, “No, but the whole hull contact sensor system is down, and the food replicators are only serving neutro-gel. We’ve got some other problems that could use some work, but unless you want to enjoy the absolute zero of taste and texture for three weeks, I’d suggest prioritizing the replicators. Besides, there’s at least one bottle of Romulan ale in it if you get them working.”

    Never one to pass up on a lucrative opportunity Chief Marconi realized his leverage, “Romulan ale? I’ve got three cases of the stuff in storage I can’t get rid of even at a loss now that they lifted the embargo. Now if you could get me some Orion Whiskey?”

    Thompson shook his head, “Hey, we’re just a little ole warp tug, not a crew of Ferrengi ‘merchants.’ You’d have to defer getting paid until we both end up back at the starbase.”

    Marconi continued wheedling, “Well, in that case, I’ll take the Romulan ale... as a down payment! Now, where are those replicators?”

    USS Persepheron

    Lieutenant Commander Ridgeway slowed to a walk and apprehensively approached the doorway to the bridge. Lieutenant Townsend and Master Chief Arthrun followed him closely. Interestingly, out of the three, only the senior enlisted Andorian was not breathing hard from the obstacle-course-like run from the lower deck.

    Ridgeway pushed a button on the access panel, but instead of the door opening, the panel just buzzed annoyingly at him. Ridgeway resorted to the age-old custom of knocking on the door. It slid open quickly, revealing Chief Prak and several crewmembers Ridgeway did not recognize.

    “What’s going on Chief?” Ridgeway asked, unable to ascertain anything from looking at the unremarkable star-field on the main view screens.

    Chief Prak turned and strode quickly to Ridgeway and his trailing crew. “I’m sorry to get you worried, but we received an immanent power loss message from Star base two-fourteen’s outer nav marker. The initial tone is just like a standard distress call, and Davis here put us at alert before verifying the signal. Unfortunately, one of our duties is to replace the power cells on the nav markers when they go out. This one must have been much closer to failure before sending the maintenance call, because it’s now gone silent. We’ll have to find it visually. Once they lose power they are too small for our limited sensors to locate.”

    “I’ve got the coordinates plotted, but I need someone with sharp eyes to go up to the forward observation bubble with some oculars and spot for me. Any volunteers? Chief Prak asked, sounding unusually pleasant, while he smiled right at Ridgeway.”

    Looking towards the center console, he barked, “Secure from Red Alert, set the special recovery detail.” Someone, Ridgeway thought it was Davis, said “Aye Chief.” The red flashing lights and warbling alarm stopped, and the word was passed over the intercom, “Now secure from Red Alert, set the special recovery detail.”

    Ridgeway, failing to notice the rather large grin on Rexar’s face, held out his hand to Chief Prak. “Alright Chief, give me the oculars and show me how to get to the observation bubble. I would be more than willing to help out.”

    Marine Captain Shelly O’Connell, fully awake but only partially dressed, stepped onto the already crowded bridge. Her pant cuffs hung, un-bloused over her black boots while her uniform blouse was conspicuously absent, only the skin-tight black undershirt covered the upper half of her body. Quickly sizing up the lack of emergency footing on the bridge, she leaned back against the doorway, crossing her arms. “Well, If I must say so, that’s an interestin way to invite someone to a party. What’s the occasion?” At times, O’Connell slipped from her almost neutral sounding standard to a lilting Irish brogue. This was one of those times.

    Chief Prak didn’t miss a beat. “Got a nav marker out, turned it into a red alert drill. The commander was kind enough to offer his services in locating it.

    Ridgeway managed a shrug, “Not really much else going on.”

    O’Connell stepped towards Ridgeway and felt his forehead with the palm of her hand. “Are you feelin’ alright Commander?”

    Without waiting for an answer, she turned towards Chief Prak. “Do you have a medic onboard? I’d like to run routine physicals on my crew, but I’ll be happy to help out your people as well.”

    Chief Prak snorted, “Nothing wrong with my people that a good kick in the pants won’t fix. Our ‘Doc’ is just aft of the mess deck in the first office to port. Can’t miss the sterile smell. You can run your physicals there.”

    No Maam, no Sir. Chief Prak clearly wasn’t big on protocol. O’Connell reminded herself that it had probably been quite some time since any commissioned officer had set foot on the Persepheron.

    Addressing the future Shepard officers and crew, O’Connell, in doctor mode said simply “I expect the three of you to report for physicals by 10:00 tomorrow. Do not make me come looking for you.” With that she simply turned and walked out of the bridge.

    USS Persepheron
    Cargo Area

    O’Connell had intended to make her way to the mess deck in an attempt to scrounge up something to eat before turning in. Instead, still not totally familiar with the layout of the tug, she ended up in the cargo area. The three Starfleet Lieutenant JGs and the Ensign were fiddling with what looked like a field-hardened portable holo-generator. The air around the device shimmered briefly as Ensign Dulak attempted to activate it, but the display field failed to materialize.

    All four junior officers seemed frustrated. O’Connell realized that if they had been working on the device since the Red Alert drill earlier, and probably longer from what she remembered about young eager Starfleeters. Sometimes you kept working on something until it worked, sometimes, when you could afford to, you got some rest and came back to the problem fresh. This seemed to O’Connell like one of the times where a fresh perspective after some rest would produce better results.

    Without preamble, O’Connell simply walked a few steps closer to the four and said, “Why don’t you secure this for the night and start again tomorrow, that holo-generator isn’t going anywhere and I’ll bet Master Chief Rexar will be more than willing to help you out.”

    The Ensign seemed on the verge of balking, with the other three not far behind, despite their fatigue. Admirable dedication, but sometimes stubbornness alone didn’t produce useful results. “Doctor’s orders, all of you get some rest.”

    “Yes sir.” Four voices answered, if not simultaneously, then close to it.

    “Now one more thing,” O’Connell smiled as she asked “Where is the Mess Deck?”
  7. Dulak

    Dulak Commander Red Shirt

    Jul 6, 2007
    Pacific NW
    UT: USS Shepard - "Recovery", chapter five

    Chapter Five

    USS Persepheron
    Forward Observation Bubble, 0015 hours

    A panoramic view of the local star field combined with gentle thrumming from the impulse engines lulled Commander Ridgeway into a doze for the second time. He had been unable to locate anything remotely resembling a nav marker. This was despite being given a detailed description by Chief Prak before climbing the short Jeffries tube to the isolated observation bubble.

    Unbeknownst to Ridgeway the rest of the Persepheron slept, well, most of the crew and passengers did. A skeleton crew manned the bridge, and a mere two engineers stood watch in engineering.

    USS Persepheron
    Chief Prak’s quarters

    Master Chief Rexar Arthrun had tried to sleep in the cot Chief Prak generously placed in his own less-than-spacious private stateroom, but Prak turned out to be a heavy snorer and sleep elusive. Thoughts of his wife played inside Rexar’s head. Images of her, laughing, young, and happy. But she was gone now. He would never see her again as she had been, never see her again at all. Instead of surrendering to melancholy, Rexar arose quietly, dressed and slipped out of the cabin.

    Unsure where to go at first, even on the small tug, Rexar remembered Commander Ridgeway, and the prank played on the new CO. Despite having been out of the loop for a while, deducing that since they were still at impulse Chief Prak’s joke was probably ongoing was not difficult. Enough was enough. Some light-hearted fun was no problem, but staying at impulse for several hours, just to satisfy Prak’s smug sense of humor was too much. It was delaying their arrival at the Shepard.

    With direction behind his step, Rexar walked through the quiet tug towards the observation bubble. When he reached the ladder he called up, “Commander Ridgeway?” A sleepy grunt came back down the tube. Rexar started climbing up the tube, “Sir, Master Chief Arthrun here, I’m coming up to you. There is something I think you should know.”

    Ridgeway shook himself further awake, “Alright Master Chief, it’s cramped, but the view is spectacular.”

    Rexar climbed easily up the ladder and pulled himself just far enough out of the Jeffries tube to rest his elbows on the padded ring that surrounded the entrance to the observation bubble. “Sir, you are the victim of a prank, there is no nav marker.”

    Ridgeway chuckled softly, “I know, Master Chief. I was curious to see how far Chief Prak would take this, and I didn’t want to ruin his fun.”

    A loud clunk interrupted the conversation. But it was the cracking noise that filled the air around both men which concerned Rexar. Spidery cracks suddenly spread out in the clear dome behind Ridgeway’s head. A dark object tumbled rapidly away and off into space. The cracking noise continued, growing louder, and was accompanied by the telltale hiss of an atmosphere leak.

    Thinking quickly, Rexar was unwilling to risk their lives on the assumption that the tug was equipped with emergency containment shielding. He reached over, grabbed Commander Ridgeway by his shirt and unceremoniously shoved him down the Jeffries tube before the man had gotten over his initial shock at the sudden crisis. Sliding feet first down the ladder after Ridgeway, Rexar managed to hit the emergency hatch button with the palm of his hand. The hatch started swinging shut as the fractured dome gave way and exploded outward. Wind rushed forcefully past Ridgeway and Rexar until the hatch closed fully.

    The hull contact sensors might be broken, but the decompression alarm functioned flawlessly. Within seconds, crewmembers were running to stations throughout the tug, and Chief Prak groggily called the bridge to get a status report. “What have you done to my boat?” He barked through the speaker. The crewman’s answer brought Prak instantly awake and out his door without even clicking off the intercom or listening to the full report, “Chief, status board indicates decompression in the forward observation bubble...”

    The Tellarite might have been shorter than the average human, but as he ran through the cramped passageway pushing crewmen out of his way, his size proved to be an advantage. Within seconds he had reached the access tube to the observation bubble, and was first relieved and then apprehensive at finding Ridgeway and his Andorian Engineer dusting themselves off as they stood from the deck. “Are you injured?” was all he could think to say.

    Rexar spoke first, “We seem to be unharmed, but I can’t say the same for your observation bubble. Something must be wrong with the deflector array, and it’s obviously not showing up on normal operational diagnostics. In a way, we are fortunate we didn’t go to warp, as it might have proved fatal. Chief Prak, will you take me to engineering? I want to find out what’s going on.”

    Chief Prak felt relieved Rexar had not blamed him for the accident, despite the fact that he felt a great deal of responsibility for what had happened. Prak felt bad for having Ridgeway in the observation bubble in the first place, or at least for leaving him there for so long. The malfunctioning deflector array however, had him seething inside and someone was going to get a serious portion of his posterior chewed off when Prak found out who was responsible.

    The Master Chief seemed like a no-nonsense non-com, at least where work was concerned. Maybe, Prak thought, the Andorian would be able to coax performance from the Persepheron’s engineers that so far had eluded the effort of the Tellarite and his brash leadership style. Chief Prak headed off towards engineering. “This way,” he said, Rexar and Ridgeway in tow.

    A damage control team moved in as soon as the area around the observation bubble emptied of non-DC personnel. The investigator climbed up the jeffries tube and checked a gauge before climbing back down. “Showing zero press on the other side of the e-hatch, let’s just bolt it down. Nothing we can do until we can get to it from the outside.”

    USS Persepheron

    Chief Prak stormed into engineering. “Where’s Thompson?” He growled.

    The on duty engineer came around a pylon, “He was of duty when the alarm went off Chief. He called down when the alarm went off. When he found out that whatever happened didn’t involve the engine room, he went back to bed.”

    Stomping over to the deflector controls, Prak shouted, “Get him here, NOW!” Then, lowering his voice only slightly he waved Rexar over, “Here’s the deflector grid, it’s showing normal operation. No, wait a minute, what do you make of this?”

    It had been years since Master Chief Arthrun had been anywhere near a deflector grid. The closest thing was the controls on the geothermal climate control system Rexar had maintained for the greenhouse at his living complex. Still, years of Starfleet experience, while they may fade, never disappear completely. As he tentatively pushed a few buttons and studied readouts, knowledge, and what to do with it, returned.

    It only took Rexar two minutes to run a brief diagnostics and look over the system logs for the past day. With Ridgeway looking over his shoulder, doing his best to look part of the process, the Master Chief found what he was looking for.

    “Here it is. Right after the Persepheron left the starbase, when we ran into that debris field, someone did a fast restart of the deflector power shunt. It looks like a feedback loop was threatening to take the deflector offline. The restart actually would have worked if the primary inductor coil hadn’t already been overloaded. From the looks of it, the coil was far enough out of calibration that it not only caused the loop, but then prevented the grid from restarting normally.”

    Rexar punched a few more buttons as he continued speaking. “Someone was sloppy here. He knew what he was doing, but it seems like he took an unnecessarily dangerous shortcut.”

    Chief Prak was fuming by this point. Petty Officer Thompson had the misfortune to come striding into Engineering at that precise moment. “You wanted to see me, Chief?” He asked, obliviously optimistic.

    Thompson was lucky that nothing throwable was close to Chief Prak. The look Prak gave the poor Petty Officer visibly withered the man on the spot. “Unless you want to be reminded, very personally, what it’s like to be a Crewman Apprentice, get over here and tell me WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO MY DEFLECTOR!”

    Rexar, with his sensitive antennae, winced at the sheer volume that emanated from the Tellarite. Even Ridgeway took a step away and had to avoid clasping his hands over his ears. Thompson withered further, but approached, looking puzzled. “What do you mean Chief?”

    Chief Prak stood, practically shaking with rage, “What I mean is that we nearly lost two of our guests when something collided with the forward observation bubble! If the deflector had been working properly, it would not have happened!”

    Thompson nodded, “The last time anyone touched that panel was when we bumped that freighter debris. Chief Marconi was down here helping out and…”

    Ridgeway went from being as mildly amused as someone who had just nearly been sucked out into space could be to being quite annoyed. Ridgeway was not one to make snap judgments about people, but so far Chief Marconi was not developing a good track record, and they hadn’t even reached the Shepard yet. “Chief Marconi worked on the deflector?” He said, trying not to grit his teeth.

    Thompson nodded, relieved “Yes sir, he did something right after we hit those first pieces of debris. Then he told me he’d help with the replicators and other problems.”

    Ridgeway looked at Rexar and shook his head slowly. “Nice of the Chief to volunteer, but I really wish he had asked permission first. Would you handle this Master Chief?”

    Rexar grinned, but it was cold grin, “Yes Sir, I’d be glad to.”

    Chief Marconi could have picked a worse time to arrive in Engineering, but not much worse. “What’s going on, I heard the depressurization alarm?”

    Chief Prak looked at Thompson and gestured towards the exit. “Come on Thompson, we need to have a little chat, and I believe these gentlemen could use some alone time.” Then he looked at a pair of crewmembers trying to look busy at a control station, “That goes for you two as well, take a break.”

    Ridgeway glanced at Chief Marconi who was still in his night clothes, “Chief, you will explain what you did to the Deflector, and why, to Master Chief Rexar. I suggest you make it a very thorough explanation. I will be talking to both of you tomorrow.” With that Ridgeway turned and followed Chief Prak and the other engineers from the compartment.

    Chief Prak walked down the corridor, with three of his engineers close at heel, and Ridgeway closing the gap from the rear. The tugs intercom activated on all-call, “Chief Prak, contact the bridge. Chief Prak, contact the bridge.”

    Prak stopped suddenly and his engineers bunched up to avoid piling into the Tellarite as he quickly punched an intercom button. “What?” He said gruffly.

    Ridgeway wondered briefly what the Chief was like on a good day, and then listened to the voice coming from the speaker box. “Chief, we’re getting an audio transmission I think you should hear.” Chief Prak asked, less gruff, “What channel?”

    The Crewman on the bridge answered, “Um, it’s not on any channel Chief, it’s on tight beam laser.”

    Prak became annoyed, clearly not enjoying the guessing game. “Just patch it over the speaker, I haven’t got all night.”

    As Ridgeway listened, a voice came over the speaker, synthesized and sounding like a combination of many voices speaking at once. “We Are The Borg. Resistance Is Futile. We Will Add Your Cultural Distinctiveness To…” Chief Prak punched the com override button, cutting of the transmission, “Gragnar’s balls, what are you doing just listening to this, GO TO RED ALERT.”
  8. Dulak

    Dulak Commander Red Shirt

    Jul 6, 2007
    Pacific NW
    UT: USS Shepard - "Recovery", chapter six

    Chapter Six

    Throughout the quiet warp tug, red lights flashed as the warbling Red Alert siren began wailing. The voice that carried over the Persepheron’s intercom sounded scared. “Red Alert! Red Alert! All hands to stations. Secure all interior doors. This is not a drill, I repeat, this is not a drill. Um, it’s the Borg.”

    Already in motion before the announcement was completed, Commander Ryan Ridgeway decided as he ran that he was going to take charge of this one. His ship or not, he was the ranking officer onboard. Time to step up to the plate.

    Behind him Ridgeway heard Chief Prak yell at the three engineers who were standing with the Tellarite. “Get back to engineering, move it.” Clamoring up a ladder, Ridgeway had to turn sideways to allow a running crewman, still pulling on her coveralls, to pass him.

    Ridgeway ran around a corner, dodged two additional crewmen, and went up another ladder before he stepped through the door into the bridge with Chief Prak close behind him. “Status?” He said in his best command voice. Luckily, no one seemed to have a problem with his taking charge, not even Chief Prak.

    USS Persepheron
    Aft Overflow Berthing

    The Red Alert siren wailing in the passageway outside, but curiously not inside the compartment, awakened Federation Marine Captain and Doctor Shelly O’Connell. She managed to combine the actions of getting out of bed and putting on her black uniform pants in one smooth motion. She pulled on her boots and grabbed her pullover uniform top before any of the three other occupants had even begun to stir. The nervousness in the voice on the speaker told her that this was no repeat of the earlier drill, but the real thing.

    Striding towards the compartment door, she realized her companions needed some encouragement. Stopping she stepped over to the nearest double bunk and finished the rousting the Red Alert siren had failed to do. “Come on Starfleet, assholes and elbows!” Moving from bunk to bunk, alternately pulling the blankets off or shaking the occupant physically, she got two of the three Lieutenant JGs moving. “I know it’s zero-dark-thirty, but something’s going on, MOVE IT PEOPLE!”

    T’Noor, Vulcan science officer, and a lighter sleeper than the other two junior officers, roused first and hopped gracefully to the deck from one of the top bunks.

    Lieutenant JG Tara rolled out of her bottom rack a second later, pulling her pants and top on from where she had hung them from hooks.

    O’Connell noted that T’Noor had neatly folded her clothes before getting into bed and was having a bit of trouble dressing quickly. I’ll have to talk to her about that, O’Connell thought to herself.

    Arjal Brak, the Trill Ops officer, and the only male in the compartment, proved the most difficult to awaken. Finally, with both other females up and dressing, Captain O’Connell resorted to the only thing she could think of with the alert klaxon blaring. Already holding his blanket in hand, and realizing that sound wasn’t proving to be a big motivator for the Trill, she dropped his blanket, reached up and pulled the barely two-inch-thick mattress out from under him. It was a reasonably good impersonation of a stage magician pulling the cloth out from under a fancy table setting, and Arjal fell to the hard metal bunk with a thud, finally waking up.

    Still groggy, despite the noise and buffeting, Arjal sat up on his bunk. “What’s going on?”

    O’Connell shook her head and looked at Tara and T’Noor. “You two get to the bridge, I’ll bring ‘Sleepy’ here as soon as I can.”

    With that she grabbed Arjal’s pants and shirt and threw them at him. The two pieces of clothing hit the Trill squarely in the chest. “Come on Mister, my grandmother doesn’t sleep as deep as you, and she’s been dead for twenty years! God rest her soul.”

    Arjal finally got the hint and jumped to the deck and dressed quickly, asking again, “What’s happening?”

    Taking a second to pull on her top as Arjal dressed, O’Connell said quickly, “It’s the Borg!” She hoped silently that this was another prank, but couldn’t shake the feeling that their situation was all too real.

    Seeing that the news had shocked the young Trill somewhat, O’Connell took the initiative. “Follow me, we’re going to the bridge.” With that she grabbed his arm and pulling him out of the compartment.

    USS Persepheron
    JNCO Crew Quarters

    When the red alert sounded the newly minted Starfleet Ensign, Dulak, had been in the midst of an unfamiliar card game with several occupants of the Junior Non-Commissioned Officer Quarters onboard Persepheron. Several meaning three, out of six total bunks, the other two permanently assigned Crewmembers on watch elsewhere.

    The plan had been for Dulak to share Chief’s quarters with Marconi, but due to their recent altercation, Dulak, having talked briefly to one of the Petty Officers assigned to the Persepheron, and finding him personable, volunteered to stay in the JCNO berthing.

    The alternative Ridgeway came up with had been to lock Marconi in a fan room until he could figure out what to do with the Chief, but Dulak had insisted on sleeping in the alternate berthing, or as close to insisting as a new Ensign dared with his new CO. Ridgeway had relented.

    As the klaxon sounded and “Um, it’s the Borg.” came over the speakers, cards went flying as the Petty Officers scrambled to be the first to exit the berthing and get to Red Alert stations. One of them had the presence of mind to remember Dulak, “Hey Ensign, you’re an engineer right? Come with me.”

    It was all the prompting that Dulak needed and he ran out of the compartment following the PO.

    USS Persepheron

    Petty Officer Davis punched up a closer view on the central view screen.

    Ridgeway ignored the data-flow on the lower screen, mostly because he was totally unaware of what it all meant. He also ignored it because of what appeared on the main screen.

    During Ridgeway’s run to the bridge he’d had a good number of flashbacks from the disastrous encounter between the federation fleet and the Borg at Wolf 359. Although the deadly battle with the Borg cube had been only nine years ago, the intervening and ultimately more costly war with the Dominion had superseded most of his painful memories of that incident. Until now.

    The mention of the Borg upon going to red alert had brought many images back to Ridgeway’s thoughts. He remembered his despair as he saw what seemed like countless ships being sliced apart and blown up by the Borg weapons, ships containing the greater part of his academy class, and some of his closest friends.

    Although heated from running, Ridgeway felt a chill run through his body as he remembered drifting in an escape pod following the destruction of the Henderson. He re-lived the terror of seeing other escape pods in his group being tractored or beamed into the Borg cube so that the surviving crew and equipment could be assimilated.

    In the most painful flashback, he saw the disbelief in the eyes of the three others in his escape pod as he stunned them with his phaser. He had then adjusted the life support controls, manually evacuating most of the pods oxygen and setting the temperature controls to just above freezing. It had all been in a desperate attempt to make the Borg overlook their pod and give them at least a slim chance of surviving. He hadn’t thought there was time to discuss the option and in any case knew there was little enough time, if any, to implement it.

    Before stunning himself as well in order to make the accelerated hypothermia less painful, Ridgeway had had several seconds to contemplate the irony that he was killing four people to give them a chance to survive. The irony was lost on Ensign Takahara, the bright-eyed academy graduate who was the only one of the four not to survive.

    Everyone told Ridgeway that he had done the best he could, that he had saved three people out of the thousands who died or were assimilated by the Borg. Despite those reassurances, it took a long time after the awards ceremony for the medal they gave him until he stopped seeing Takahara’s bright eyes stare at him in disbelief just before he closed them, for the last time, with his phaser.

    Blinking, Ridgeway struggled to match what he saw on the view screen to his memory of the gargantuan Borg cube. The object clearly out-sized the Persepheron by a significant amount, but it was not a cube.

    Studying the object closely, Ridgeway noticed that it did have one symmetrical corner, as if something had torn a chunk from what might have been a Borg cube.

    Further validating the origin of the cube fragment was the irritating green laser which played over the outer hull of the Persepheron, and occasionally shone directly into the forward camera that fed the view screen.

    When Davis spoke, answering Ridgeway’s ‘Status’ query, it actually startled Ridgeway. “Sir, we only have a Mark II sensor suite, with a few enhancements to give us detailed structural analysis of damaged vessels prior to towing them, but the readings I get from that object are consistent with Borg technology. I think this is for real.”

    Another crewman, still pulling the sleeves of her coveralls on over a non-standard green undershirt slipped past Ridgeway and into a vacant bridge station. Ridgeway took another step into the bridge, realizing that Chief Prak seemed perfectly happy monitoring the engineering status board to the right of the entrance.

    The bridge contained no command chair, so Ridgeway settled for what appeared to be the next best thing. A metal bar between two stanchions protruded from the overhead, below the ubiquitous cable runs and just above head-level. Ridgeway grabbed the bar with one hand, wondering how effective it would be in any real challenge to the inertial dampeners.

    He didn’t have to wait long to find out. Lancing out from the cube fragment, a single tractor beam collided with the Persepheron and locked on. Ridgeway was buffeted as the tug struggled against the tractor beam, and the handgrip proved its worth.

    Ridgeway looked back to the Tellarite at the engineering board, “Chief, reverse engines, get us out of here! Davis, or whomever is on coms, hail the starbase and get a general distress signal out, NOW!”

    Chief Prak rapidly punched buttons on his console, but his only response to Ridgeway was a mumbled, “Better idea.” Before Ridgeway could question the response a much more powerful looking white beam from the Persepheron paralleled the beam emanating from the cube fragment back to its source, impacting just below the Borg’s tractor beam emitter. The smaller green tractor beam from the obviously weakened Borg ‘vessel’ flickered and cut off.

    As the tractor beam locked on to the cube fragment a second beam, followed by a third, pulsed out from the Persepheron towards different sections of the cube fragment, locking on to it as well.

    Chief Prak practically growled at the viewscreen, “Lock on to my tug? I don’t think so.”

    The female crewman seated next to Davis spoke for the first time, “Sir, distress call activated, I’m monitoring for a response. No response from the starbase.”

    “Very Well.” Was all Ridgeway could think to say. The sound of footsteps behind him on the deck plates, followed by a distinctive “Crikey!” let him know that Lt. Beverly Townsend had arrived.

    Several seconds went by with Chief Prak adjusting settings and calling engineering, “Thompson, can we hold those beams?”

    Instead of Thompson’s voice over the speaker, Master Chief Arthrun answered. “Chief, Thompson is occupied keeping those tractor beams going. They’re pulling a lot of power and he said something about not being able to run a calibration routine on them before you activated them.”

    There was a pause on the intercom as Rexar chose his next words. Not coming up with any careful way to word his question he asked “Chief, are we holding a Borg vessel in our tractor beams?”

    Ridgeway thought it would be best if he fielded that question, as Chief Prak seemed somewhat distracted by the constant adjustments the tractor beams were requiring. He stepped over to the com panel and spoke into it. “Master Chief, Commander Ridgeway here. We are holding what appears to be a damaged fragment of a Borg cube. It attempted to get a hold of us and Chief Prak overloaded its tractor beam by using ours.”

    Ridgeway added, “Just keep those beams up while we figure out what to do next.”

    For some reason Ridgeway was highly reassured by the simple “Aye Sir,” that came through the speaker.

    “Well so much for our low-threat-level mission protocol.” Ridgeway turned at hearing his XO’s voice and shrugged. Lieutenant Townsend continued, “Any idea when the cavalry is going to show up?”

    Behind Townsend, T’Noor and Tara stepped into the now crowded rear of the bridge. Ridgeway held up his index finger to the two new arrivals, signaling them to wait. He walked over to the female Petty Officer whose name he still didn’t know and asked, “Petty Officer… What is your name?”

    Intent on her console, the crewman did not look up but answered both his questions, asked, and unasked. “Shelton Sir, and no one has responded to our distress call yet. I’m not sure if it’s even getting out.”

    Ridgeway nodded, “Keep working on it.”

    He looked back at the two newly arrived junior Lieutenants, “T’Noor, see if you can coax something out of these sensors.” He pointed at a console where another crewmember was generating an annoying series of error buzzes and out-of-system-parameter alerts. T’Noor walked quickly over and relieved the overwhelmed crewman.

    “Tara, get back to the cargo area in case we have any unexpected visitors. If you can find a small arms locker along the way, all the better.”

    The Orion nodded and turned to leave when Davis spoke up from his station, “Here Lieutenant, they probably don’t have the locker open yet.” He tossed her an old-style type II Phaser pistol which he had pulled from underneath his console.

    Tara caught the Phaser deftly, checked the power level and turned the setting to a higher level. “Quaint,” She said, grinning, as she stepped out of the bridge and headed off towards the cargo area.

    Getting the distinct feeling that there was entirely too much personnel traffic on the bridge, Ridgeway made a mental promise that if they lived through this particular encounter, he would make sure to get his people assigned Red Alert stations throughout the tug until they disembarked, hopefully onto the Shepard.

    In a somewhat apropos entrance, Captain O’Connell, with Arjal Brak in tow stepped onto the bridge. Despite the tractor beams surrounding the Borg vessel at an all to-close-for-comfort range, Ridgeway managed a nervous chuckle.

    Chief Prak, still working the tractor beams from his engineering panel brought Ridgeway back to the reality of the situation. “Commander, I hate to break up your touching reunion here on my bridge, but someone has got to come up with a plan. That thing out there is starting to test these beams, sending energy pulses through them.”

    Prak continued, having fully captured everyone’s attention. “I don’t think it’s adapting as fast as the Borg are supposed to, being as damaged as it is, but why take chances.”

    Ridgeway nodded, his face serious again. “You’re right Chief. Any ideas? Anyone? Shelton, anything on that distress call yet?”

    Shelton shook her head, “No sir, nothing.”

    “Fine, we’ve got to assume we’re on our own with this one. Lieutenant Townsend, do you have any experience with the Borg?”

    “No, just on the holodeck, and some training scenarios at Starfleet academy.”

    Ridgeway stopped talking and stared at the viewscreen for several seconds.

    T’Noor broke his contemplation. “Commander, the Borg vessel appears to be using energy from our tractor beams to accelerate its regeneration. Sensors detect an overall power level increase as well as structural reinforcement at critical junctures. I predict that it will be able to cause significant disruption of our tractor beams in ten minutes fifteen seconds.”

    Just as T’Noor finished speaking a visible energy spike traveled back along one of the Persepheron’s tractor beams and caused the tug to lurch, lights blinking for a second before stabilizing.

    T’Noor, still deadpan, spoke again. “It seems that my calculation was incorrect. However, that surge drained the power levels onboard the Borg vessel noticeably. It should not be able to repeat another such pulse for... A while.”

    Ridgeway punched up the com to engineering. “Master Chief, two questions. One, can you keep those tractor beams locked on? And two, do we have warp capability?”

    The first thing Ridgeway heard when the circuit opened was cursing, in a language he didn’t recognize but felt reasonable sure was Andorian. Then a voice he did recognize, but was not expecting to hear, Chief Marconi. “Sir, one of the tractor beams, I think number three, lost a primary coupler in that surge. It’s running on the secondary, but another surge and it’ll go down for sure.”

    The cursing in the background subsided and Chief Marconi continued. “Master Chief Arthrun and Ensign Dulak are trying to bypass the primary coupler on the fly and install a replacement. I’m working with Thompson on the deflector, but it’s still down, so we can’t go to warp.”

    Ridgeway slowed his voice just a bit as he spoke next. “Chief, I think you misunderstood me. I didn’t ask if the deflector was up, I asked if we could go to warp. Are the engines online?”

    Marconi sounded a bit confused as he answered. “Yes sir, but without the deflector, the smallest impact could be devastating.”

    On the bridge, Ridgeway was starting to lose patience. “I am aware of that Chief, but don’t worry, I’ve got a temporary replacement in mind, Ridgeway out.”

    Several people, Prak and Townsend included, stopped what they were doing and looked at Ridgeway. Prak asked first, “A replacement for the deflector, what are you talking about?”

    Ridgeway merely pointed to the view screen. “It out-masses us by a factor of five. We push it in front of us, go to warp and presto, instant deflector.”

    “But Commander,” T’Noor piped up from her station, apparently paying attention to the conversation around her, “without being enclosed in our subspace bubble, the Borg vessel would be exposed to significant stresses.”

    Prak chimed in, “She’s right, without setting up the portable subspace generators at various locations around its hull, the Borg ship might…”

    Ridgeway cut him off, “That’s what I’m hoping for people.” Silence followed for a brief moment. “Besides, I’ve always wanted to see just how adaptable the Borg are. I’m betting they won’t just let a little warp stress rip apart their ship.”

    Townsend interjected, “If you’re wrong, and that thing breaks apart at warp…”

    Ridgeway was not deterred in the least. Turning to Arjal, he said, “Lieutenant Brak, I hope you remember your high velocity precision piloting.”

    As Arjal nodded, Ridgeway swore he heard a male voice say “Aw shucks,” from the helm console. Arjal walked over and patted the crewman Davis on the shoulder, “It’s alright. I’ll give her back to you in one, well at most two, pieces.” The two switched places. Arjal adjusted his seat slightly and quickly familiarized himself with the helm controls.

    “Chief Prak, if you would keep that Borg ship at relative bearing 000 mark 0 please.”

    Almost an afterthought Ridgeway grabbed the support handle again as he ordered, “Helm, ahead warp factor one.”

    “Aye Commander, warp one.” Arjal replied as he punched some keys. “Course sir?”

    Ridgeway looked at Chief Prak briefly as if to make sure the Tellarite was attentive to his duties on the tractor beam controls then asked, “Lt. T’Noor, course and distance to the nearest stellar mass.”

    T’Noor only took three seconds to gather the information Ridgeway requested, “Sir, nearest star bearing 165 mark 17, distance .773 light years.”


    “Negative sir, at least these sensors don’t show any. I may have a correction as we approach.”

    “Excellent, Lt. Brak, set course 165 mark 17.”

    Arjal manipulated more controls, “bearing 165 mark 17 layed in sir.”

    He may not have been on the Shepard but as he said “Engage,” something clicked inside Ridgeway and he felt, for the first time, like the captain of a Starfleet vessel.

    The stars lengthened on the viewscreen briefly before the display compensated for the change in velocity. Ridgeway noticed that the warp engines on the Persepheron had a distinctly deeper hum than most Starfleet vessels.
  9. Dulak

    Dulak Commander Red Shirt

    Jul 6, 2007
    Pacific NW
    UT: USS Shepard - "Recovery", chapter seven

    Chapter Seven

    Through the viewscreen, Ridgeway saw that the Borg were indeed generating some sort of protective field. It was not perfect, and occasionally at the edges pieces of protruding structure would glow slightly before the Borg adjusted the field to compensate. Yet, Persepheron was at warp behind the vessel sheltered by it. His plan was working, so far.

    Ridgeway grinned slightly. “T’Noor, what’s the status of the Borg vessel?”

    T’Noor’s fingers brushed quickly across the sensor panel, then she replied. “It seems the Borg are quite occupied with generating that subspace field. I am not reading any additional structural repairs, and they are not attempting to tamper with the tractor beams further.”

    Ridgeway took in a deep breath and blew it out. “We’re not done yet, but I think we’ve got some breathing room. T’Noor, keep me posted the second anything unusual happens. Shelton, any replies on our distress call yet?”

    “Negative sir, but I think the signal is getting out now.”

    Ridgeway nodded, “Put any response over the speaker. Lt. Brak, I don’t think we want to spend the next month en route to that star, let’s see if we can manage warp three.”

    The ship accelerated with a hum and Lt. Brak announced, “Warp three sir. ETA 45 minutes.”

    T’Noor gave a monotone status report, “Commander, energy output on the Borg vessel is up by thirty percent, and I’m detecting significant structural stress along the dorsal and ventral sides.”

    Lieutenant Townsend tapped Ridgeway on the shoulder, then leaned in and spoke quietly. “Warp physics is not my strong point, but please tell me you’re not planning what I think you’re planning.”

    Without missing a beat, Ridgeway matched his XO’s quiet tone. “If you hope I’m not planning to pass dangerously close to that star, cut the tractor beams, drop out of warp and see how well that Borg ship can adapt to five thousand degree hydrogen plasma at twenty-eight g’s, then I’m sorry to disappoint you because that is exactly what I am planning.”

    Townsend coughed in surprise, and then shook her head, smiling. “Well, that’s not what I thought you had planned, but I can’t say your real plan sounds any better.”

    Ridgeway didn’t ask what Townsend had thought his plan would be because T’Noor interrupted him.

    “Commander, I’m reading a transporter signal emanating from the Borg vessel.”

    “Destination?” Ridgeway asked.

    T’Noor didn’t look up from the sensor panel as she replied, “Engineering. Wait, there is a second transport initiating now.”

    A shimmering energy column, followed by the appearance of a single Borg drone three feet to the left of Ridgeway answered his unasked question.

    USS Persepheron

    If Master Chief Rexar Arthrun was surprised when Ensign Dulak followed a crewmember into engineering shortly after the tug had gone to red alert, he showed no sign, other than perhaps a slight twitch to one antennae.

    When Dulak walked over to where he and Chief Marconi, the senior NCO who had assaulted the Cardassian less than a day before on Starbase 216, looked both squarely in the eye, and asked “Can I help?” Master Chief Rexar smiled.

    In all his years in Starfleet, the number of wet-behind-the-ears Ensigns who didn’t have to be taught when it was important to drop any issues of personality that didn’t deal directly with the task at hand were few and far between. His opinion of Dulak went up a notch.

    The three quickly decided that helping the frantically working Thompson keep the tractor beams online was the priority. Everything else was forgotten.

    Then a Borg Drone materialized next to Thompson at the main tractor beam control station.

    While he had more experience in Starfleet than any of the crewmen or officers in the room, Rexar was a little out of the loop in dealing directly with the Borg. Not that any of the others had ever seen one first hand, but when they had been receiving briefings and training on the new threat to the Federation, Rexar had been retired and busy gardening. More precisely, like a true engineer he had been maintaining the environmental controls of a greenhouse on Andoria, for gardeners.

    As the Drone walked towards the control panel and extended its arm, replete with various interface junctions and rotating micromanipulators, Thompson opted to throw any chance of a covert response out the airlock. Pressing the intercom and activating all call, he announced quickly, “Intruder alert, Engineering.” He only said it once, then had the presence of mind to unceremoniously deactivate the control station.

    The tractor beam station control was automatically routed to a new console by the damage control computer that maintained all current adjustments and power levels for the three hundred and twenty microseconds it took for station control transfer.

    The drone stood with its arm extended, waving it about over the de-energized panel for several seconds before stepping back, looking around in with a series of sudden jerky movements.

    Before the drone had the chance to choose a new course of action, Marconi took the initiative and charged the intruder. Attempting a simple leg tackle, the Chief did surprise the drone and managed to knock it forward a step.

    For his efforts, the Borg rewarded Marconi with a metallic cuff to the side of his head, which loosened the human’s grip on its legs and sent the Chief tumbling several feet across the deck, limp and apparently unconscious.

    Rexar’s opinion of Marconi went down a notch, and the Chief was quickly running out of notches. In case anyone else was thinking of trying a similarly futile stunt, Rexar spoke up. “Unless someone can find a really big wrench, no more heroics people!”

    Then to the Master Chief’s surprise, Dulak spoke up as well. “He’s right, until we can get some firepower down here, we need to prevent it from accessing our systems or assimilating us, but we need to do it by being an occasional annoyance, not a direct threat. Our best chance is to be subtle enough to stay out of its path, but still thwart its plans.”

    The Rexar nodded as Thompson moved to the newly activated control panel on the other side of engineering, staying out of the Borg’s direct line of sight.

    Dulak continued. “Petty Officer Thompson, how long until we can expect a security response?”

    Thompson held up five fingers outstretched.

    Dulak nodded, “OK, let’s keep switching the panels as it approaches, that seemed to work, and with any luck, we should be able to keep it....”

    Suddenly, behind the drone and from the opposite side of Dulak and Rexar, a blur of motion was followed by a crunch and a shower of sparks from the drone’s head. The drone spasmed and jerked as it fell to the ground, head at an awkward angle.

    Standing, holding a huge plasma-inductor spanner in one hand was a short, but extensively muscular crewman. The man had the top of his coveralls off with its sleeves tied around his waist, wearing only a tightly stretched tank top over his broad chest. He had muscular arms that would have, in previous centuries, been called guns. The crewman also wore a smirk as he said, “Someone ask for a wrench?” He swung the spanner against the Borg’s head once more for good measure.

    Still grinning, he looked at Dulak, “That subtle enough for you?”

    The Cardassian Ensign was already moving to examine the Borg, and only half heard the crewman. Dulak’s query “What?” was an honest question, and nothing else, but the crewman thought he was being chastised, and half came to attention, “I said, is that subtle enough for you, Sir!”

    Rexar realized Dulak was distracted by the Borg drone, and took charge. “Thompson, keep those tractor beams up. Crewman...” He looked at the tank-topped crewman, and the man was sharp enough to catch the pause, “Crewman Kellis, Master Chief.”

    Rexar continued, “Crewman Kellis, It looks like you are now our security detachment. Keep that spanner handy and an eye out for more Borg.”

    The Andorian wondered if the grin ever left Kellis’s face as the crewman slung the spanner over one shoulder, casually, and replied, “Yes, Master Chief.”

    Then Master Chief remembered Marconi, who was still lying on the deck. As he moved to the downed man, Marconi started groaning. Looking at Marconi’s head, Rexar saw that swelling was already starting where he had been struck. There was, however, no obvious deformation, and when Marconi opened his eyes, both of his pupils contracted slightly.

    “Still with us Chief? You really need to stop getting hit in the head.”

    Marconi grimaced as he sat up, “Yeah, but this time it wasn’t my fault.”

    Rexar chuckled, “Wasn’t it?” He held up a finger to forestall Marconi’s protest. “Chief, I have to assume for the time being that we are going to be working with each other, that is unless you somehow manage to get yourself killed or thrown in the brig. I never thought I would have to say this to anyone with actual experience under his belt, but I suppose there is a first time for everything. I expect my people to find things less valuable than themselves to throw at intruders. That does include you, am I clear?”

    Marconi managed to look sheepish and in pain at the same time, “Yes, Master Chief.”

    Rexar nodded, “I also expect them to use their heads for something other than battering rams. Am I clear?”

    “Yes, Master Chief.”

    Rexar stood and offered a hand to his counseled engineer and said, “Good! Now how about checking into that deflector grid? Maybe we can keep any more surprises from popping up.”

    Chief Marconi took the offered hand and hoisted himself to his feet. He wobbled a bit but kept his balance.

    Dulak remained oblivious to the conversation mere feet away as he examined the inert drone. He half expected it to dematerialize when it had been incapacitated, but when it didn’t, he knelt to examine it more closely.

    He actually had some difficulty placing where his unease came from. Other than the normal discomfort at being inches from one of the most dangerous enemies the Federation had faced, Dulak at first couldn’t identify his misgiving. Then it stuck him. The technology this Borg evidenced was different than the training holograms he had seen, and seemed to vary significantly from the stats he had studied in exo-engineering classes.

    It was almost as if this Borg were more primitive than those the Federation had encountered previously. The various cybernetic implants seemed larger and cruder. The union between flesh and machine seemed less smooth, and in several places Dulak noticed the inflammation of rejection, something not reported on other Borg examined.

    Dulak brought himself out of this introspection, realizing that they were still in the midst of a situation. Any examination would have to wait. Standing, he walked over to Thompson at the tractor beam controls.

    USS Persepheron

    No sooner had the Borg drone begun to materialize on the bridge than Davis reached under his console. His hand came up empty and he cursed, “Damn,” as the drone finished materializing.

    Instead of attempting to interface with any control systems, this drone walked straight over to Petty officer Shelton, who was still monitoring communications and grabbed her by the hair, pulling her head sideways.

    With its cybernetic forearm held to her neck, a narrow yet strangely rigid cylinder pistoned out and back, leaving a bloody hole in Shelton’s neck. The half-centimeter hole started gushing arterial blood, but was staunched by some kind of thick spray that emanated from another cylinder and quickly congealed.

    The drone released Shelton, and stepped towards Davis, who was seated at the next console.

    Ridgeway had had enough. Actually he had had enough as soon as the Borg appeared, but had spent several futile seconds looking for something to hurl at the drone. Nothing obvious presented itself and not seeing any other course of action, he acted a bit impulsively.

    A handle, identical to the one above where he stood, projected from the overhead between where he stood and the drone. Ridgeway took two quick steps and launched himself into the air, grabbing the suspended handle with both hands as he brought his feet up far enough to clear the console previously occupied by Petty Officer Shelton. His feet slammed into the Borg directly between its shoulders and it fell forward, tumbling over the control panel and one full revolution before stopping in a seated position, legs straight out to its front.

    Ridgeway neglected to lift his legs back up on the return swing and both of his calves hit the front side of the console full force. Grunting in pain he dropped to a seated position atop the console.

    Adrenaline alone allowed him to hop off the console and walk, despite severe cramps in both legs. However, he was anything but graceful as he staggered toward the seated Borg.

    O’Connell darted past Ridgeway with a hypo-spray in one hand. Without hesitating, she activated the device against the Borg’s neck.

    The drone convulsed once in a very humanlike manner and fell to its side.

    O’Connell turned towards Ridgeway and stopped his lurching progress with a gentle hand to his chest. “That should give us a few minutes as its nannites repair the nerve damage. You should sit down Commander.”

    Ridgeway made as if to shrug off the doctor’s advice, but took only one step before his adrenaline wore off. The full and painful effect of his leg cramps reached his brain. He leaned awkwardly against the control console. “OK Doc, you were right.”

    O’Connell pulled out a tricorder in bio-scanner mode, but instead of attending to Ridgeway she quickly moved to where Petty Officer Shelton lay on the deck, unmoving.

    Running the scanner over the injured crewmember, Doctor O’Connell let out a stunned exclamation, “Well, if that isn’t something!” She took a plasma scalpel out of her bag and held it against Shelton’s neck, activating it quickly and then just as quickly turning it off. The device left a small cauterized wound next to the original Borg incision.

    O’Connell then scanned the woman again with her tricorder, took a different hypospray from her medical pouch and adjusted it before pressing it to the woman’s neck. It hissed, and almost instantly Petty Officer Shelton started awake. “What? Where am I?”

    Then a look of terror crossed Shelton’s face as she asked, “Am I turning into a Borg?”

    O’Connell smiled and shook her head, “I don’t know what happened Dearie, but the only thing that Borg put into you was a tracking beacon, which I neutralized. I didn’t detect any nannites at all, and since you are not already turning into a Borg, I think it’s safe to say that you won’t be.”

    Ridgeway spoke, “Doctor, I don’t think that Borg is waking up anytime soon.”

    O’Connell looked quickly towards the drone. It was lying in exactly the same position as before, but its eyes were open and glassy. None of the cybernetic implants were moving and all power seemed extinguished. She walked over and scanned the drone with her tricorder. Then, almost awkwardly she reached over and felt for a carotid pulse. Finding none, she shook her head.

    “I think you are right Commander, but you shouldn’t be. I only gave it a hundred units of Dermapentazine. It’s a class II neuro-toxin used in micro doses for cosmetic purposes. It should have been neutralized by the drone’s nannites...”

    O’Connell scanned the drone again with her tricorder. “Except this drone doesn’t have any nannites.”

    USS Persepheron
    Cargo Area

    Tara made her way quickly to the cargo area, holding her newly acquired antique phaser aimed at the deck, but at an angle away from her feet. Of the two crewmen that passed her en route, both had the good sense to recognize her as a Starfleet officer before making the mistake of overtly ogling the lithe Green-Orion female. The fact that the two enlisted personnel were a bit nervous at the prospect of being assimilated by the Borg assisted in their reserved demeanor.

    The cargo area was secure and upon hearing the announcement of an intruder in engineering, Tara made a quick judgment call and decided to see if she and her Type II phaser could help with that situation.

    Stepping into the engineering compartment a minute later, she realized she was too late. Rexar, stood, helping Marconi to his feet. Dulak knelt, examining an inert Borg drone lying on the floor, while a rather muscular crewman with some sort of large tool over his shoulder walked away, seemingly with a purpose.

    Even as Tara stepped towards Rexar, Dulak stood and made his way to an engineering console to help a crewman already there.

    “Master Chief...” Tara started, but was cut off as the Andorian walked to a nearby com panel and pushed a button. “Bridge, Master Chief here, engineering is secure for the time being, only one Borg drone appeared and it has been neutralized.”

    The surly voice of Chief Prak answered from the other end. “It’s about time, we’ve had ours out of commission for almost ten seconds. What took you so long?”

    Rexar ignored the prod. “Is the ship secure?”

    As if in answer to his question the voice of Commander Ridgeway resonated over the ship’s all-call speakers. “All hands this is the.... This is Commander Ridgeway. Two Borg drones have been neutralized and the security threat seems to be over for now. I’m keeping the Persepheron at red alert until we are rid of the Borg vessel. I’ve ordered the armory opened and weapons disbursed to the security team. In addition, if you have any personal arms stored there, you are authorized to retrieve and carry them for the duration. Keep alert and report any more intruders to the Bridge immediately. Good work. That is all.”

    The speaker clicked off and someone whooped from the other end of the engine room. Rexar started to close the com circuit when Prak spoke again.

    “Ridgeway wants his crew to meet on the mess deck, better send anyone directly involved with sixing the drone too. You and Chief Macaroni get the deflector online. Have Thompson help you. He’s worked on it more than anyone else aboard. Prak out.”

    With that the Tellarite clicked the circuit closed from his end.

    USS Persepheron
    Mess Deck

    A noticeably small contingent sat around two of the small fixed dining tables. Ridgeway had left Chief Prak in charge of the Bridge and the Persepheron’s bridge crew manning all stations. Townsend, O’Connell, Arjal and T’Noor, had all accompanied him to the impromptu meeting.

    Ridgeway wished privately for a briefing room as he paced, waiting for Ensign Dulak to arrive from engineering.

    He didn’t have to wait long. Less than a minute later the Cardassian Ensign entered the mess decks trailed by Lieutenant Jg. Tara and a short, but muscular, crewman. The crewman had a large plasma-inductor spanner balanced over one shoulder. Tara still sported the old type II phaser she had carried from the bridge.

    Ridgeway leaned forward with his palms on the surface of a table and was about to speak when the mess decks intercom buzzed and Chief Prak’s voice carried through it.

    “Commander Ridgeway, Davis just finished the level four diagnostics on the subspace transmitter and it’s down like you suspected. As soon as we can spare someone from engineering I’ll get him working on it.”

    Ridgeway walked to the com panel with a slight limp, punched the button and answered the Chief. “I’m sending Ensign Dulak up Chief. I don’t want to wait any longer than we have to until sending that distress call. It may seem like everything is under control for the time being, but I’d really like some backup in case the tables turn.”

    When he answered, the Tellarite sounded relieved, or at least as relieved as a Tellarite would let on. “If that’s what you want Commander, anything else?”

    Ridgeway sounded a bit puzzled as he answered. “No Chief, that will be all. You called me, remember?”

    “Oh. Yes I did. Prak out.” The com panel went dead and Ridgeway went back to his meeting.

    “Dulak, before you head to the bridge, did you notice anything strange about the Borg drone? According to Captain O’Connell, the drone that materialized on the bridge didn’t have any nannites. It injected a crewmember in what looked like the standard fashion, but only implanted a tracking device instead of assimilating her.”

    Dulak cocked his head slightly and replied, “I didn’t have much time for a formal examination Commander, but I did notice that it looked somehow more ‘primitive’ than the Borg in the Starfleet database.”

    O’Connell chimed in, “I concur sir, primitive is as good a term as any to describe those drones. The injection technology used on Petty Officer Shelton was significantly less advanced than the flexible tubules used by the Borg to inject assimilation nannites.”

    Looking at the Cardassian Ensign, O’Connell prompted, “Did you notice anything else Ensign?”

    Dulak nodded, “Other than a general decrease in engineering complexity of its cybernetic implants, I noticed that the living tissue next to the implants seemed inflamed. The redness and swelling was not reported on any Borg studied previously.”

    Dismissively, O’Connell attempted to correct Dulak, “That wouldn’t have been covered in the engineering studies and data, Ensign.”

    Dulak smiled but kept his tone neutral. “Doctor, I was referring to the medical reports in that instance. When I went through my unit on the Borg at the academy it seemed limiting to only look at the purely engineering based data, considering how the Borg are cybernetic organisms.”

    O’Connell smiled, promising herself to never underestimate the engineer again. “Nice work, Dulak. I’m glad to have you with us.”

    “Thank you, Doctor.”

    Ridgeway cut in. “Dulak, I think that’s enough for now. Why don’t you go see about that subspace transmitter?”

    Dulak nodded, “Aye sir, I’m on it,” and walked away towards the bridge.

    Crewman Kellis watched Dulak leave and leaned casually against a support column, content to wait to be addressed.

    Drawing in a breath to begin speaking, Ridgeway coughed in surprise when another crewman he hadn’t seen before came walking through the mess deck. She was carrying what looked an archaic old Earth firearm, the nomenclature ‘Thompson sub-machine gun’ came to mind.

    For a second Ridgeway reconsidered the wisdom of his order releasing personal arms from the weapons locker, then he remembered why he did it in the first place. “Do you know how to shoot that?”

    The crewman stopped in place and actually rolled her eyes before replying, “Dis pea shootah? Of coase I doose.” In demonstration, she slung the gun up and grabbed the forward grip in her left hand before sweeping the gun back and forth towards the back bulkhead. She further embellished her demonstration by making a ‘rat tat tat’ sound in emulation of a projectile machine gun with a slow rate of fire and even did a good pantomime of the guns recoil to match her vocalization.

    Seeing the stunned look on Ridgeway’s face, the crewman laughed and continued on her way. As she walked off Ridgeway noticed how her short blonde hair was bobbed at an angle in an outrageously archaic hairdo. It fit perfectly with the pictures he had seen of the time period on Earth when the Thompson was a popular weapon. At least she hadn’t been in the process of chewing gum.

    Kellis noticed Ridgeway’s surprise and, as if it explained everything, said, “That’s Parker. She’s Iotian.”

    Struggling to maintain focus, Ridgeway wished for the second time in several minutes for a briefing room. “What we have here seems to be a mostly disabled Borg vessel that is representative of a more primitive technology of the species, and that the technological aberrance is also present in the drones we have seen. That’s the good news.

    “The bad news is, since the Persepheron is unarmed, they probably have us outgunned. Hopefully their supply of drones is limited and they have decided to divert their efforts back to escaping our tractor beams.”

    T’Noor raised her hand, a gesture straight out of the academy, but one that had its desired effect. Ridgeway acknowledged her question. “What is it Lieutenant?”

    “Sir, I was unable to get an accurate reading on the number of Borg still on the damaged vessel. It would be illogical to conjecture concerning the quantity of drones other than a very rough estimate based on the remaining structure intact on the vessel and assuming a drone density comparable in range to other intact ships encountered. There could be significantly more drones onboard if they managed to escape from other sections of the ship before they were destroyed.”

    Ridgeway smiled, “Quite right Mister T’Noor, which is why I want to send over a boarding party to investigate.”

    Lieutenant Beverly Townsend spoke up, obviously shaken up by Ridgeway’s statement. “That’s insa.. You can’t be ser..” She had to cut herself off several times as she searched for words that wouldn’t sound so insubordinate, but she still wasn’t quite used to the idea of Rdigeway being her CO. He was only a few years her senior and Townsend was used to Captains being ‘seasoned’ Starfleet officers.

    “Sir, we still don’t have communication with starfleet. No one knows we have even encountered the Borg. The deflector is down. One of the Persepheron’s crew has already been attacked and injured by a Borg raiding party. Add to that the fact that we are going warp three and pushing a damaged Borg vessel in front of us as a makeshift deflector shield. I think we’ve got our plates full as it is…”

    Townsend closed her eyes, reached up and touched her temple with one hand as she took a deep breath in attempt to calm herself, then looked back towards Ridgeway. “And now you want to risk members of this crew to satisfy your curiosity?”

    As soon as the words left her mouth she regretted them. Townsend knew she had gone too far. “I’m sorry sir. That was out of line. It’s just...”

    Ridgeway interrupted, “Usually, before such an open questioning of her CO’s orders it is customary for an officer to ask for permission to speak freely. I will assume it was merely an oversight on your part.” Pausing for just a second for his statement to sink in, he continued, looking at each of his future crew seated at the table. “I want each of you to know that at any briefing I am holding, you may assume permission to speak freely. That being said, I would appreciate if you would not abuse that privilege and try to keep your comments constructive and avoid purely emotional outbursts.”

    He noticed T’Noor raise an eyebrow when he mentioned emotional outbursts. Smiling briefly, he continued, quickly becoming serious. “So, to answer your question Lieutenant, No, I do not want to risk the lives of anyone onboard Persepheron to satisfy my curiosity. Unfortunately, we have encountered Borg unlike any ever seen before by the Federation. Believe me, part of me wants to ditch that ship into the nearest star and be done with it.

    “But I cannot, in clear conscience, pass up the opportunity to discover, or at least try to discover, why that ship is here, why the Borg on it are so different, and if there are more like it headed towards the Federation.

    “I’m not going into a history lesson, because I am sure all of you are aware that the Federation has just been through two of the most costly wars in its existence. One of those was with the Borg. If there is the slightest chance that this isn’t just an anomaly, isn’t just a lost and forgotten piece of a centuries-old derelict, and is instead part of a new invasion force, then our inaction could prove a far greater threat to the Federation than any risk to us caused by our actions here.”

    A subdued Beverly Townsend asked quietly, “Who are you taking on the away team?”

    Ridgeway shook his head. “I’m not leading the team, you are.”

    Shocked, Townsend managed to blurt, “But I’ve never even seen a Borg before today, other than holodeck simulations.”

    Putting just a little edge to his voice, Lieutenant Commander Ridgeway assumed more of a command presence. “To the best of my knowledge, no one aboard the Persepheron, myself included, has actually been onboard a Borg vessel. In that respect, everyone is in the same boat. The only thing that makes me any different, Starfleet protocol against commanding officers going on away missions notwithstanding, is that I had a starship blown out from under me by the Borg at Wolf 359. As contrary as it may seem, that makes me more valuable on the bridge of the Persepheron in the event of any more ship level activity.”

    Townsend, having regained her composure somewhat, asked “Who’s on my team?”

    Ridgeway didn’t ask for volunteers, but all four other officers seated at the briefing raised their hands. Great, Ridgeway thought to himself, now I have to worry about not letting someone go on this away mission.

    “I think we should keep this away team small to avoid problems. Hopefully these Borg will follow the pattern of prior reported encounters and ignore anything that seems to pose no threat. I’m assigning Ensign Dulak to the team. His job will be to interface with the computer systems onboard the vessel and record any pertinent data recoverable in a limited time frame, say five or ten minutes.”

    “Other than that, Lieutenant Tara will go as security. I expect you to use force only if the situation turns dire. If you actually engage the Borg, Tara, your only mission will be to get you and the team out in one piece.”

    “Any group larger than that, and I think they might perceive it as a threat. Oh, and XO, your other job will be to scan as much as possible with your tricorder for later analysis.”

    “Captain O’Connel, Lieutenant T’Noor, Lieutenant Brak, I think you all would be more valuable here. Arjal on the helm, T’Noor on the sensors. We’re going to have to drop out of warp to transport, and I want the Borg ship monitored closely for any sign that it is regenerating. Captain, just in case we get casualties, make sure that cubbyhole they call sickbay is ready to receive.”

    “Any questions?”

    Tara raised her hand and when Ridgeway acknowledged her with a nod, said, “Sir, with your permission, I’d like a bigger phaser.” As if to illustrate the point, she held up the antique type II Phaser Davis had given her at the outset of the borg encounter.
  10. Dulak

    Dulak Commander Red Shirt

    Jul 6, 2007
    Pacific NW
    UT: USS Shepard - "Recovery", chapter eight

    Chapter Eight

    USS Persepheron

    Ensign Dulak stepped onto the bridge, looking around curiously. “Commander Ridgeway sent me to help repair the subspace transmitter,” he said to no one in particular.

    A hand waved from underneath one of the bridge consoles. Dulak, puzzled, walked over and peered at the prone figure partway inside the open access panel. “Are you trying to fix the transmitter? I would like to look at whatever diagnostics you have run so far, if they are available.”

    Another hand, holding a mag-wrench, reached out and grasped the top of the console and the crewman heaved himself out from his position inside. Standing, he started to brush off and straighten his coveralls, but as he saw the Cardassian his hands slowed to a crawl.

    “I didn’t know there were any Cardassians in Starfleet?” Dulak had to give the man credit. Most people just went around looking slightly uncomfortable with the question unasked. His candor was actually refreshing.

    Dulak smiled, his eyes widening slightly, “I assure you, I come in peace. There are two of us, I believe. A female is currently in her second year at the academy, an orphan from Bajor as am I. But there will be time to chat later, I think we should focus on getting that transmitter up or we might find ourselves having this conversation in Borg machine-code.”

    The joke went over Davis’s head, but he attempted a polite chuckle anyway. “OK, here’s those diags.” Davis reached over to the console and punched up the level four and level five diagnostics he had run.

    Dulak looked at them briefly before commenting. “I think the problem may be in the signal encoder, or possibly the transceiver buffer. We should close up here and run a level three diagnostic. We can check the results from the equipment room.”

    Davis looked at Chief Prak, “Chief, the Ensign seems to know what he’s talking about. I’d like to go down with him and check it out.”

    Chief Prak didn’t even look up from his tractor beam controls. He just barked, “Bah, what are you asking me for, get going.”

    Davis started closing up the access panel when Chief Prak made it apparent he was paying attention to his bridge. “Still here? I’ll have someone else do that, run your level three and scram.”

    “Aye Chief.” Davis answered, already punching in the diagnostic codes from the panel. He motioned for Dulak to follow him out the door, and walked quickly off the bridge.

    USS Persepheron

    Master Chief Rexar looked at Chief Marconi and nodded. “Alright Chief,” he allowed himself a slight grin at Chief Prak’s likening Marconi to an Earth-style pasta, but that was all. “We’ve got a new assignment, I’m sure you heard. Let’s get to it. Petty Officer Thompson, do you have someone who can relieve you at the tractor beam power station?”

    The crewman nodded and called out, “Richelieu!” From around a corner a crewman answered “What?” in a nasally voice.

    “Get over here, I need to you to watch this panel.”

    Around the corner walked the skinniest Bolian Rexar had seen during his decades in Starfleet. So far, the diverse nature of the crew went a long way to explain why not much fuss had been made about the four non-human members arriving en route to the Shepard. How a blue skinned Bolian had ended up with a name like Richelieu, the Rexar had no clue, but he dismissed that question as trivial for now.

    “What am I watching Thompson?” The Bolian asked.

    “Nothing much, just these three tractor beams we have hooked onto the Borg ship that wants to assimilate us. Chief Prak is up on the bridge making some wild adjustments to the power levels from there. All you have to do is keep them from red-lining. Can you handle it?”

    Despite the threat of the Borg, Richelieu seemed cool and collected, almost relaxed. “No problem PO.”

    Thompson took a few seconds to point out some of the more common adjustments Chief Prak was making and how he had been compensating for them. The Bolian nodded and Thompson stepped away, relinquishing the controls.

    “Alright Master Chief, let’s fix us a deflector.”

    While his grammar left something to be desired, the intent was correct. Rexar nodded at both Thompson and Marconi. “Let’s fix us a deflector,” he repeated with only slight awkwardness at duplicating Thompson’s speech pattern.

    USS Persepheron
    Forward Equipment Room

    Although officially designated a “room” the cramped space holding various components of the subspace transmitter and other electronic gear was little more than a cramped jeffries tube. On the Persepheron, where space was at a premium, one might even be able to say a little less than a cramped jeffries tube.

    Measuring six meters in length, it was almost a meter and a half wide, and barely a meter tall. In two locations, pieces of equipment stuck down far lower than the overhead, making crawling necessary to get past them.

    Davis was not fond of working in the small area, and allowed Ensign Dulak the privilege of entering first while pushing a small tool case in front of him.

    The designers had not even seen fit to install even a minimum LCARS control station at this remote location and Dulak looked about futilely for several seconds before Davis rescued him.

    “Sir, there’s a portable control PADD in the tool case. It plugs into the interface on the left of that signal conduit.”

    Dulak searched for another second before Davis spoke again. “It’s under a two centimeter flap guard. Here, I’ll show you.”

    Davis crawled beside Dulak, who had the sense to open the tool case and retrieve the specially modified PADD and find the small jumper lead that fit into the access port. As Dulak powered up the PADD, Davis reached over and took the lead end and plugged it into the interface he had spoken of. “There, do you have the control screen?”

    “Got it. I’ve never seen this configuration before.”

    Davis laughed, “I’m not surprised Sir, most of the line ships have room to spare. I remember most of the equipment at engineering school is in big open spaces, plenty of room for a class to stand around and watch demonstrations, that sort of thing.”

    It was Dulak’s turn to laugh. “I did my cadet cruise on a Nova Class. I guess I never thought there’d be a reason to build a starship so cramped.”

    Davis reached over, punched a few controls on the PADD touch screen and said, “Persepheron’s not a starship, remember, it’s designed for relatively short term operations. I don’t even know how we got picked to go on this six-week mission. The longest we’ve been out before this is a week and a half. Most of the time we pull double duty as a regular starbase tug in the local area of 216.”

    Dulak did his best to shrug while leaning on one elbow. “I’m beginning to think everything isn’t going to be quite like they taught at the academy.”

    Davis turned the PADD slightly so he could get a good look at the readout. Grinning as if at some private joke, Davis replied, “I wouldn’t know about that Sir, but things are definitely different than the Starfleet recruiter told me they’d be.”

    “There, the level three is done. Here, take a look at this Sir.” Davis pushed the PADD around so Dulak could read the screen. Dulak looked at the screen and frowned.

    “I don’t understand. It indicates the decoder on the bridge. The level four and five indicated eighty percent chance that the problem was down here, and only a twenty percent it was the decoder.”

    Davis explained, patiently, “It did Sir, but if you’ll notice each diag listed different causes. Granted, both of the highly probable failures were here in the equipment room, but the percentages were so far off for each, it really was highly unlikely that the problem was down here.”

    Dulak remained puzzled as he asked, “So why didn’t you tell me that on the bridge?”

    Davis unhooked the PADD, saying “Mostly I just wanted to get off the bridge for a while, but also Chief Prak would have chewed me a new one if I’d openly questioned an officer in front of him, especially an Ensign.”

    “Really, why is that? It wasn’t like I was giving you an order.”

    Davis shook his head, “Sometimes Chiefs can be a bit overprotective of new ensigns.”

    “Chief Prak doesn’t strike me as an individual that would be overly concerned about someone getting their feelings hurt.”

    “Well, you’ve got a point there Sir.”

    Dulak’s tone remained amiable, but he remembered to add Davis’s rank into his question. “Petty Officer Davis, what makes you think I am a “new” ensign?”

    Grinning, Davis answered, “It’s your duffel bag Sir, it’s still got academy creases on it.”

    Dulak laughed as he started backing out of the enclosed space. “You should have gone into Starfleet Intel with observational skills like that.”

    The suddenness and intensity of Davis’s response surprised Dulak. “Hell No! I mean, Hell No, Sir.... Um, no sir. It’s just that my mom did twenty-seven years with intel, and...”

    Dulak interrupted the crewman, sympathetically, “No, no, I’m sorry, you don’t have to explain. Let’s get back to the bridge.”

    The two scooted back out of the crawl space and Davis secured the hatch back in place.

    USS Persepheron
    Aft Overflow Berthing

    Lieutenant Beverly Townsend stood, slightly stooped, and in front of the small mirror bolted to the bulkhead over the equally small sink. In the middle of braiding and tying up her wavy blond hair she managed to carry on a conversation with Lieutenant Commander Ridgeway, who was seated on one of the bottom bunks.

    “I can understand why you want to keep the team small, but do you really think sending Ensign Dulak is a good idea? He probably graduated last week. T’Noor seems level headed, and she could probably pull off the computer interface. Either her or one of the two Chiefs. I’m sure, troublemaker or not, Chief Marconi probably has more experience, and Master Chief Rexar seems savvy enough.”

    Ridgeway almost lost his train of thought as he watched the pretty Australian’s fingers deftly braid her hair so that it wouldn’t get in the way on the Borg vessel. He shook his head, realizing that he was getting tired. Luckily, she probably just thought the pause was him thinking of an answer to her question.

    “Beverly,” Ridgeway started, and was rewarded by a quick flash of her green eyes and a smile as she looked at him briefly. He continued, “You haven’t read his file, have you?”

    “Read his file?” She asked, incredulous. “We only found out about this assignment yesterday, and haven’t had big mobs of free time since.”

    Ridgeway nodded, “One of the benefits of being a CO is we don’t need as much sleep, hence we have more time for reading personnel files and the like.”

    Townsend looked at Ridgeway and grinned sympathetically, “Yeah, I can tell you don’t need as much sleep. Well, what’s in his file that’s so impressive?”

    “A couple of things,” Ridgeway elaborated. “First, did you know that most Cardassians have eidetic memories, or close to it?”

    “Eidetic, you mean ‘photographic’?”

    “Well, that’s the common terminology, not precise, but fairly close. Let’s just say that Mr. Dulak has a very good memory.”

    Townsend shrugged, “So, what does that have to do with the academy?”

    Ridgeway continued, “By itself, not much other than he probably didn’t have to study much for tests. But he’s also smart, and has quite an aptitude for computers. He challenged the normal first year computer course, and aced the test. They let him do graduate level coursework in computer operations and engineering while maintaining the rest of his normal course load.”

    “So he’s no drongo, what else?”

    Ridgeway chuckled, “You want more? OK. His practicum coursework on ’The practical applications of poly-base self-programming machine code: Interfacing with alien technology’ was practically a doctoral thesis. Starfleet clamped a security classification on the document.”

    Townsend asked, “So why wasn’t he grabbed up by some think tank, or science facility?”

    Ridgeway shook his head, “The short answer is he turned them all down. There’s a list of assignments his detailer offered him. Dulak wanted to go to the fleet.”

    Townsend quipped, a little sarcastically, “Well, that makes Dulak a bonzer prize for the Borg then, doesn’t it?”

    “Let’s just hope that with you and Lieutenant Tara along, the Borg don’t get that opportunity.”

    Townsend finished with her hair, splashed some water on her face and dried it with a towel. “Guess I better round up my people then.”

    The comm panel beeped. Ridgeway stood up and punched the button, “Ridgeway.”

    Through the speaker Dulak spoke, “Sir, this is Ensign Dulak, on the bridge. We’ve isolated the malfunctioning component, but it will take twenty minutes install and calibrate it. Petty Officer Davis is headed to the engineering to replicate the part. He should be back shortly. Davis said that he could do the install faster by himself. Do you need me for anything?”

    Ridgeway looked at Townsend who nodded once. “Yes Ensign, as a matter of fact I do. Meet me in the Aft Overflow Berthing.”

    Dulak replied before clicking off the circuit, “Yes sir, I’ll be right there.”

    USS Persepheron
    Mess Decks

    LTJG T’Noor sat across the table from Tara. In accordance with her usual reserved behavior pattern T’Noor studied her friend’s actions pensively before commenting.

    Tara, busy studying the design of the antique phaser II pistol in her hands remained oblivious to T’Noor’s attention. She flipped the phaser over and cycled it through various power levels, finding the weapon well maintained despite its age.

    T’Noor knew that there was more going on behind the facade-of-focus on the weapon. For as long as T’Noor had known the green Orion, Tara did her most intense thinking with something else occupying her external senses. T’Noor preferred to meditate in quiet with as few distractions as possible.

    Tara had tried once to sit in reflection following the serene and still Vulcan method and found it too quiet, too stifling. She hadn’t lasted five minutes and had instead solved her quandary, what to do about a certain pair of LT’s who were interested in her, while rock climbing.

    T’Noor found Tara’s behavior quite illogical on the surface, but fully embraced the infinite diversity in infinite combinations philosophy which allowed her to accept that Tara was different, and that Tara’s way of thinking probably complimented her own by adding an amount of behavioral flexibility when the two approached problems as a team.

    Finally, T’Noor broke the silence, “Tara, your abilities are more than adequate for this mission.”

    Tara looked up and smiled at her friend, “I hope so, but how come I feel so nervous?”

    One of the things T’Noor endeavored to do as often as possible was to avoid telling non-Vulcans when they said something illogical. She also stopped herself frequently from letting them know when they referred to any one of a plethora of illogical emotions. In her limited experience, neither response generated a useful reaction.

    T’Noor had not yet, however, grasped the subtleties of rhetorical questions, and tended to take them literally. So, expounding on her knowledge of humanoid physiology she began, “When exposed to the uncertainty of a new and threatening experience the sympathetic nervous system triggers a flight or fight response in most humanoid species, in the case of Klingons a fight response. This results in large amounts of adrenaline being dumped into the body in preparation for possible combat...”

    She stopped when Tara began laughing gently, “No, no.... I know that. What I mean is that I don’t feel as confident as you do in my abilities, that’s all.”

    T’Noor raised an eyebrow, “That is illog...” then stopped herself. “I apologize.”

    Tara leaned across the table towards her friend, a sad, pensive look on her face. “T’Noor,” she said, then after a pause added, “Got you!” and smiled, all trace of uncertainty and apprehension gone.

    T’Noor merely allowed herself the slightest upward curl to one side of her mouth. “Indeed,” was all she said.

    Tara clarified her thoughts, which her friend had failed to ascertain, “I was just wondering how many shots I’d get with this before the Borg adapted. I am going to see if they’ve got anything bigger in the armory, but this might make a good backup. Did you see the weapon that female crewmember had? It looked like it fired projectiles instead of energy.”

    T’Noor nodded, “I did observe it, and her animated demonstration. Apparently the weapon has a considerable rate of fire. Perhaps you should attempt to acquire it for this mission?”

    Standing first, Tara shook her head. “It’s not my style. Want to go with me to check with the weapons locker before you go to the bridge?”

    Standing as well, T’Noor replied, “I will accompany you.”

    USS Persepheron
    Commander Ridgeway’s Quarters

    It took several seconds for Ridgeway to identify the faintly metallic tapping from outside the closed door of his temporary stateroom as a knock. He realized that he shouldn’t have been surprised at the lack of door chimes, due to the overall Spartan-like layout of the Persepheron, but he was anyway.

    The fact that upon opening the door he saw Dulak actually tapping on the bulkhead next to the doorway with a small piece of metal did take away some of his feeling of personal responsibility at not recognizing the knock as such.

    “What are you doing, Ensign?” Ridgeway asked.

    Dulak pocketed the piece of metal and stood to attention facing the Commander. “Sir, Ensign Dulak, reporting as ordered.”

    “At ease Dulak. I can see you are here, what I meant was, why were you tapping on the bulkhead.”

    Dulak relaxed his stance slightly, spreading his feet and clasping his hands loosely behind his back. “I am sorry sir. On Cardassia, when there is no electronic bell at the door, one knocks on a sounding plate beside the door with a small stone provided for that purpose. Is there some other way to do this?”

    Ridgeway laughed, “Yes, by all means. You simply rap on the door itself with your knuckles, like this.” Ridgeway demonstrated, then motioned for Dulak to enter the stateroom.

    “Mr. Dulak, your personnel file showed you as being from Bajor, is that wrong?”

    Dulak shook his head, “No sir, I assure you, I grew up mostly on Bajor. I lived on Cardassia only until my seventh year, when my father was transferred to Bajor. He was only a low-status maintenance man, and brought me to Bajor without permission. When he was killed by a resistance bomb, I had no one in the military to vouch for me, so I was orphaned.”

    Ridgeway said, sympathetically, “I am sorry Mr. Dulak. Please, have a seat.” Ridgeway motioned towards the now vacant lower bunk. Dulak sat, awkwardly.

    “The reason I brought you here was I wanted you to know that I am sending you on an away mission with Lieutenant Townsend and Lieutenant Tara. Your job, due to your studies of both alien technology and computers, is to patch into the Borg computer and capture any data you can without getting assimilated. Tara is going for security purposes and Lieutenant Townsend will be conducting tricorder scans to gather external information.

    “I’ve reviewed what I could of your service and training records. I am quite impressed with your performance at the academy, and while I’d like to get you a lot more training before throwing you to the wolves, I don’t have that luxury.”

    “The Borg, Sir.”

    Ridgeway took a second to look puzzled, “What?”

    “It would be throwing me to the Borg, Sir.” Dulak said with a totally straight face.

    Not able to decide if the Ensign was attempting a joke, or merely didn’t understand the expression, Ridgeway let it slide.

    “Right. Hopefully, the Borg won’t see you as a threat and Tara won’t have to engage them, but I also cannot say that there is no risk involved. Are you ready for this?”

    Dulak’s reply surprised Ridgeway, “I would like to be able to take along some computer algorithms I wrote at the academy. I have them...”

    Ridgeway cut in abruptly, “By ‘some computer algorithms’, do you mean you actually wrote a program to go along with your practicum paper at the academy?”

    While he couldn’t be sure what the Cardassian version of looking sheepish was, if Ridgeway were forced to put money on it, he would have bet that it was the look Dulak gave him next. “Uh yes sir, it is one of them.”

    “Are you aware that Starfleet has classified the paper, and I must imagine the program as well?”

    Dulak looked to the ground and shuffled his feet in an entirely too human manner. “I am aware of the paper’s status sir, but I hadn’t completed the program by the time I left the academy. No one has seen it yet.”

    It was Ridgeway’s turn to look uncomfortable. “Why do I get the feeling that you didn’t compile this program on academy time Mr. Dulak?”

    Dulak met Ridgeway’s eyes and smiled. “That assessment is correct Commander. There were so many security protocols in place and so much oversight on all official class projects that I would never have been able to complete the program using official channels.”

    Ridgeway did not smile back, inhaling deeply, turning away and exhaling slowly before facing the Ensign again. “Did it ever occur to you that those protocols, the oversight was in place for a reason?”

    Dulak looked at Ridgeway, puzzled. “Why, yes it did sir.”

    Choosing his next words carefully, Ridgeway spoke slowly. “Mr. Dulak, I highly suggest that unless you want your Starfleet career to be a very short one you had better not pull any stunts like that while under my command. You are not on Cardassia. You are not an orphan living by his wits on occupied Bajor. You are a Starfleet officer now, and we have rules, rules I expect you to follow.”

    “Commander, I assure you, I wrote that program solely for the benefit of the Federation. I...”

    Ridgeway raised a hand, index finger extended, cutting Dulak off. “Actually, ‘Yes Sir’ was the answer I was looking for, but since you brought it up... You misunderstood me Ensign. I don’t have a problem with you writing a computer program. In fact, I encourage you to keep that intellect of yours busy with innovative solutions and new ideas. What I meant was, don’t do it behind my back. Lieutenant Townsend and myself expect to be kept in the loop.

    “And of course, I am sure Master Chief Rexar will want to know about your projects as well. Just make sure not to forget that your primary duties take precedence, once we reach the Shepard that is.

    “Now about these programs.” Ridgeway moved on, considering the matter closed for the time being. “I assume they will help you interface with the Borg data? My concern is that the program might get assimilated and integrated into the Borg’s programming. I really wouldn’t want to be responsible for giving them something they can use against the Federation.”

    Dulak nodded, relieved at the switch in topics. “Well sir, I wrote the program with built-in security measures. If any part of the code is accessed externally the program fragments, unraveling to become random noise. There is no way the Borg could assimilate it.”

    Ridgeway grinned. “I wish I shared your confidence Mr. Dulak, but in any case we don’t have many options. I’m going to trust you on this one. Besides, in an hour even if they do hijack your program, that Borg ship has an appointment with a main sequence red giant. Whether or not they access your program won’t matter after that, so it will be a good test of your programming skills.”

    “Better get to the transporter room. I’ll let Lieutenant Townsend know you are on your way.”

    Dulak snapped to attention before responding, “Yes Sir,” doing a precise about face and stepping out of the stateroom.

    Ridgeway wiped the back of his hand across his forehead, wondering if his initial meet and greets with the rest of his crew would be as interesting. He hoped they wouldn’t.

    It only took him several seconds to realize that he wanted to see off the away team. Being there as they transported into a dangerous situation on his orders seemed fitting. He stood and followed Dulak from the stateroom.
  11. Dulak

    Dulak Commander Red Shirt

    Jul 6, 2007
    Pacific NW
    UT: USS Shepard - "Recovery", chapter nine

    Chapter Nine

    USS Persepheron
    Transporter Room

    Holding true to the minimalist design throughout the rest of the warp tug, the transporter room was no surprise. While no one had to actually stoop to stand on the transport pad, anyone much over two meters would have. The pad itself was suspiciously similar to the emergency models used in larger ships, with the exception a much smaller capacity. The design specs actually indicated five average sized humans as the high-end transport load, but those five would have to be quite ‘friendly’.

    To make matters worse, clearances were so tight that the control console was actually designed to pivot to allow transportees access to the pad. On the positive side, it was possible for the transporter operator to ‘high-five’ members of the transport team prior to transport without either of them moving from their positions.

    Luckily, this transport was only three officers, and minimal equipment.

    After Lieutenant Townsend, Lieutenant Junior Grade Tara, and Ensign Dulak stepped onto the pad, Crewman Parker, the Thompson SMG now slung over one shoulder, swung the control console into position and looked back at Commander Ridgeway, standing behind her. “Sir, I have coordinates locked in. Ready to transport as soon as we drop out of warp.”

    Ridgeway looked at his team. Tara now carried an odd-looking rifle. It wasn’t any kind of phaser rifle Ridgeway recognized. He decided to wait until they came back to ask. This was the part where he had seem himself giving some inspiring speech, rousing his new crew to their task, giving them courage. Instead, as he saw the three of them on the pad, looking a little nervous, he began to have second thoughts about the wisdom of sending the away team.

    Townsend must have noticed his concern, and turning the tables from her previous doubt she flashed him a winning smile. “No worries Commander, we’ll be back in a flash.”

    All Ridgeway managed say was “Good Luck.”

    Becoming more proficient at the com panels Ridgeway quickly punched up the bridge, “Chief Prak, we are ready to transport as soon as you drop us out of warp. Make sure Lieutenant T’Noor stays on those sensors. I want to know the second the Borg start taking advantage of not playing deflector shield. Oh and what’s the ETA on the subspace transmitter?”

    Gruffly, from the other end of the circuit came the Tellarite’s voice, muffled as if he was holding his hand over the pickup came “Are you finished?” Followed by a pause and some mumbling Ridgeway couldn’t quite make out. “Davis says another ten minutes on the transmitter.” Then with the com circuit still open, “Helm drop us out of warp, ahead half impulse.”

    The transition from warp was audible as a previously unnoticed hum subsided. Ridgeway even felt a slight transition as the inertial dampeners adjusted.

    The “We’re at impulse, go ahead and transport,” over the com channel seemed redundant. Ridgeway said, “Energize,” and watched as his team was engulfed in the familiar glimmer and dulcet tones of a federation transporter before disappearing.

    From the way Parker monitored her console, Ridgeway didn’t need to say it, but he did anyway. “Keep a lock on them.”

    Without looking back, Parker said, “Aye sir,” and continued what she was doing.

    Immediately, Ridgeway regretted opting to send the away team over on com silence. Even though he knew it made their detection less likely, he still yearned to know what was going on. It was the first away team he had ordered as an acting CO, but not one he would have chosen for that distinction. Now all he could do was wait. He headed for the bridge, thinking it was a better place for him to monitor the action.

    Borg Vessel, Designation unknown
    Central Hub

    The atmosphere onboard the Borg vessel was far cooler than the Persepheron and was also noticeably thinner. It also became quickly obvious that the oxygen level was marginal, and the smell of ozone from damaged equipment was strong. All in all, it was amazing that a ship this damaged had even minimal life-support, so no one on the away team commented.

    Lighting was dim and greenish in color, some flickering regeneration bays were visible from where Townsend stood, back to back with the other two members of her away team, but no drones were visible. “Clear.” She said quietly.

    Dulak’s view was much more spectacular, if not more disturbing. He stood, facing towards some of the most damaged sections of the ship. Actually, from his perspective, damaged was a bit of a misnomer. Missing was more accurate.

    Both above and to the left, through mangled support beams, equipment dangled loosely from warped sections of bulkhead. Wires and what he could only assume was fiber-optic cable hung, like Spanish moss from a dead tree, in various places. The most unsettling part of the view was that in over half of his field of vision, the only thing visible was the star field outside with the Persepheron in an almost head-on view. Three tractor beams emanated from the tug, trisecting the visible backdrop of space in approximately even sections. Dulak swallowed, trying to moisten his throat to speak. “Clear,” he croaked.

    From behind him her heard the unmistakable sound of a weapon slide being racked back, followed by the ramping-up hum of capacitors charging. Tara’s voice reached his ears, quiet yet clear. “We’ve got company.” Then much more quietly, practically a whisper, Tara asked, “Master Chief?”

    USS Persepheron

    In a matter of seconds following dropping to impulse Chief Prak had his hands full. While he didn’t think there was any way the cybernetic monstrosities could have anticipated the change in speed, they reacted disconcertingly fast anyway.

    Anyone standing close enough would have noticed two things about the Tellarite that indicated he was getting stressed, both autonomic responses. One, a narrow swath of his close shorn hair running from his forehead back along the top of his head to his neck stood even more on end than usual, making a distinct ridge-like pattern. The other was that miniscule glands in his skin began exuding a pungent, almost sour odor. Fortunately, no one was near enough to the Chief.

    While he operated the tractor beam control console with only three digits on each hand, Chief Prak made up for any slight decrease in manual dexterity by uncannily quick and accurate arm movements. He also benefited from a modified LCARs interface screen designed specifically with Tellarite physiology in mind.

    The Borg definitely weren’t playing dead in the water, and as Prak struggled to maintain a solid tractor beam lock on the vessel, the power feedback readings began fluctuating wildly.

    Prak called engineering. “Increase tractor beam output fifteen percent, each channel,” he stated without preamble. Not waiting for a reply, he cut the circuit.

    Then, raising his already resonant voice he said to T’Noor who was manning the sensor station, “Call your Commander in the transporter room, he’s probably wanting updates. I don’t have time.” As if to emphasize his point he switched his com panel to receive-locked-out, so that incoming com traffic would be diverted.

    From under the console next to T’Noor, Davis pulled himself to his feet and powered up the station without securing the access panel. Fingers touching a few controls he smiled to himself then looked towards Chief Prak. “Chief, I think the transmitter is up, someone back at depot went above and beyond. This signal splicer was pre-calibrated for our exact model and mod. I’d almost say someone took the specs of our last turn-in, and duplicated them. Either way, automated beacon is up, sending our distress call. Just have to wait for someone to answer.”

    Chief Prak just grunted. Coming from the gruff Tellarite, Davis knew that was practically glowing praise. Setting a console alert for any incoming subspace traffic, Davis typed a message to engineering warp control console number 2. ‘Gwen, ETR deflector?’

    It was a brief message, but Davis wanted to be on top of engineering status for Chief Prak just in case. The way the Tellarite was working the tractor beam controls didn’t make Davis very comfortable. If they had to beat a hasty retreat, they would need the deflector.

    LTJG T’Noor had her own challenge. Tweaking settings to get every ounce of sensor resolution from a system not designed for detailed life sign readings was not something she had spent much time on at the academy. Her last posting as a temporary lab assistant at an obscure science station with highly specialized equipment was also of little help.

    So, while making her adjustments, she succeeded in getting solid readings on her three crewmates on the Borg vessel, but failed completely to get any kind of reading from the Borg drones approaching them.

    Punching up a com channel to the transporter room, she reported “Commander, the away team is onboard the Borg vessel, life signs normal. There is no indication that they have been detected.”

    From the other end of the circuit, a female answered, “Commander Ridgeway is headed to the bridge, he should be there shortly, unless he gets lost.”

    “Thank you.” T’Noor said and cut the com circuit.

    Several seconds later, Ridgeway entered the Bridge and immediately asked her for an update.

    “Sir, I am maintaining a sensor lock on the away team. I have detected no Borg activity nearby. Chief Prak is devoting his attention to maintaining the tractor beams on the Borg. The difficulty level of that endeavor seems to have increased. I do not think it prudent to remain at impulse speeds for long as the Borg are taking advantage of the situation.”

    Ridgeway assumed the same position he had prior, grasping the overhead support bar, but did not assume command of the bridge formally. “Very well Lieutenant. I don’t think they’ll want to stay over there any longer than they have to, so keep that sensor lock patched to the transporter room. I want to be able to pull them out at the first sign of trouble.”

    “Aye Sir.” T’noor replied, adjusting the sensors and maintaining a lock on the landing party as she continued to scan for Borg drone activity.

    USS Sutherland
    Bridge, Midwatch

    Commander Sam Lavelle, newly appointed first officer onboard the Nebula class starship, stepped out from the Captain’s ready room onto the bridge. Yawning as he stretched his arms up over his head, he almost regretted forgoing his pre-night watch nap in order to share an intimate interlude with Lieutenant Junior Grade, Maria Django, Conn Officer. Almost. As the dusky skinned Lieutenant looked back over her shoulder at him from the helm station and smiled, surprisingly alert and energized, Lavelle flashed back to an image of that same smile, looking down from above him as he lay in ecstasy on his bed not three hours before. He must have blushed slightly because the smile turned to a laugh as she asked, “Tired Commander?”

    Fumbling for some degree of witty repartee, he dropped his arms and shook his head as he headed for the command chair. “I think I need to get some more exercise,” was all he came up with.

    Turning back to her console, Maria gently bit her lower lip in anticipation as she realized what he meant.

    An urgent beeping and flashing indicator on the operations panel brought the night watch officer, Ensign Tori Meriwether, fully awake. Her petite yet deft fingers flew across the panel, bringing up an information screen. “Sir,” she said, voice serious and professional, “we’re receiving a distress call from a Persepheron, audio only.”

    Lavelle snapped instantly awake, “On speakers Ensign.”

    The Ops Officer quickly touched the slick LCARS panel and a slightly distorted voice piped over the bridge speakers, obviously shaken, “Mayday, Mayday. This is the Persespheron, we are under attack from a Borg vessel, repeat a Borg vessel, any starship receiving this signal please respond.”

    Lavelle cursed, “Damn! Helm, go to Red Alert. Meriwether, open a hailing frequency.” Pressing a button on the arm of the command chair, Lavelle beat the Red Alert klaxon by a second, “Captain Shelby to the bridge, Captain Shelby to the bri...” then the warbling siren cut him off.

    Lavelle took a breath and composed himself, “Persepheron? What kind of ship is that? I don’t remember hearing that name before.”

    Meriwether looked at the readout on her console, “She’s a fleet warp tug sir, crew compliment thirty. Commanding Officer is a Chief Prak.”

    Already indicators flashed as stations began reporting in. The minimal bridge crew brought consoles online in preparation for the arrival of the full bridge compliment.

    Lavelle looked at the science console, hoping the crewman manning it was on the ball enough to realize that the ops officer was too busy receiving manned and ready reports to determine the location of the distress call’s origin. He was not disappointed as an ensign with red hair and freckles looked over at him, “Sir, signal origin bearing two twelve mark twenty six, distance six point four light years. That’s not far from Starbase 216.”

    With the Borg involved, Starbase nearby or not, Lavelle knew that Captain Elizabeth Shelby would not even think of passing on this one. He ordered, “Helm, lay in a course, maximum warp, and execute.”

    The intercom light on the command chair arm blinked and Lavelle activated it, “XO here.” The voice from the other end was Shelby’s, sounding a bit out of breath, “What is it Sam? I was right in the middle of....” Lavelle cut her off, “It’s the Borg. We just received a distress call from a warp tug under attack by the Borg. We’re en route at maximum warp, and hopefully Starbase 216 has some ships around for backup. I don’t have any other info at this time.”

    Instead of a response by Shelby, the circuit merely relayed background noise to the bridge. Lavelle looked at the speaker for a second, wondering if he was going to get an answer. When it became apparent that nothing was forthcoming he said, “I’ll update you when you get here,” to no one in particular, and closed the circuit.

    “Sir,” Meriwether announced from the ops console, “I’ve got that channel open to the Persepheron.”

    “Put it onscreen.” Lavelle said, impatiently.

    The starfield display was replaced by the view of a rather cramped looking bridge. A Vulcan female LTJG and a human male crewmember in coveralls were manning the forward control console. There was no central command chair behind, but a male Lieutenant Commander stood behind the forward console on a partially raised platform, one hand holding some kind of grip protruding from the overhead. The presence of a two officers on a warp tug supposedly crewed by enlisted surprised Lavelle a bit, but that could be sorted out later.

    “This is Commander Lavelle of the USS Sutherland. Persepheron, what is your status?”

    The Lieutenant Commander on the screen instantly looked relieved, “I’m Lieutenant Commander Ridgeway. Are we glad to see you! Here, look at this.” Ridgeway let go of the support and walked over to a panel. He pressed a few buttons and the viewscreen changed to the image of the Borg vessel fragment as seen from the Persepheron’s central screen.

    Ridgeway continued talking over the audio channel as Lavelle began to interpret what he was seeing. “We were diagnosing a problem with our deflector system when this locked onto us with a tractor beam. Chief Prak overloaded its tractor beam with our own, and we are struggling to keep the Borg ship under our control.

    “The Borg boarded us once but we were able to fight them off with only one casualty who is recovering in sickbay. Chief Prak and his engineering team have been able to keep the tractor beam up since we dropped out of warp to beam an away team over to the Borg ship, but even in their damaged condition the Borg are trying to break free of our tractor. Starbase 216 hasn’t…”

    Lavelle interjected, cutting off Ridgeway, “Wait a minute Commander. Did I hear you correctly? You have an away team onboard the Borg vessel?”

    While waiting for an answer to his question, Lavelle took a second to look over the image on the viewscreen. He was just starting to pick up the familiar square lines of a Borg cube amongst all the damage and mostly missing structure when the bridge doors swished open, admitting Captain Shelby and two other officers. The two officers peeled off to their bridge duty stations, while Shelby strode directly to the command chair.

    Shelby wore a cloth wrap, draped hastily around her chest in sarong-style and hanging to only halfway down her thighs. Her hair was wet and still dripping. Somehow, she managed to still exude command presence, and no one looked twice or said anything about her dress.

    In the second it took Shelby to step around the command chair and come alongside her XO she also glanced at the view screen. “Commander, why aren’t you…” Shelby caught herself, noticing an incongruence on the screen. The Sutherland was equipped with one tractor beam, yet the image on the viewscreen showed three distinct beams intersecting on the heavily damaged section of what looked like the corner of a Borg cube. Starting over, she said merely, “What’s going on XO?”

    USS Persepheron

    Hearing someone of apparent rank on the audio feed, Ridgeway had Davis put up the full signal on one of the side viewscreens. He was instantly surprised by the view of dripping wet, sarong wrapped Shelby standing next to the man he assumed was Lavelle.

    Not hearing her subdued question directed at her XO, Ridgeway answered the last question he had received, “Commander Lavelle, we do have an away team consisting of a security officer, and engineer and my XO onboard the Borg vessel. They are attempting to access the Borg computer system.”

    The female spoke, clearly in charge. “Persepheron, please put your bridge back on display, I want to see who I’m talking to.”

    Without waiting for a reply, assuming her request would be carried out, she continued. “This is Captain Shelby of the USS Sutherland, we are proceeding at best speed to your location. Give me the short version.”

    Davis flipped a toggle at his station, and apparently, from her change of focus, Shelby was now able to see Ridgeway.

    “Captain,” Ridgeway started. “We were at impulse effecting repairs to a malfunctioning deflector array when the Borg hailed us with their standard ‘Resistance is futile’ message and locked onto us with a tractor beam. We were able to break its hold on us with our own beams and gain temporary control. They attempted to board us, but we managed to neutralize the Borg on the Persepheron. We proceeded at warp towards.....”

    Shelby cut in, “Commander, I thought you said your deflector was down?”

    Nodding, Ridgeway clarified, “It is Sir. We used the Borg vessel as a screen. It had the added benefit of keeping them occupied and unable to counter our tractor beams, or send another boarding party.”

    Grinning slightly, Shelby was impressed at the man’s ingenuity, “Creative Commander, but what were you going to do next?”

    Ridgeway looked almost embarrassed, “I was going to slingshot the Borg vessel into a nearby star. We’re kind of short on firepower.”

    “Again, a creative solution. Why did you feel the need to drop out of warp and send over an away team?” Shelby queried.”

    Changing from embarrassed back to more confident looking, Ridgeway answered. “From several perspectives, these Borg were different from those the Federation had encountered before. They were somehow more primitive. They didn’t immediately assimilate the crewman they attacked, and there were medical discrepancies noted by both our doctor and one of my Engineering Ensigns.”

    “Discrepancies?” Shelby asked.

    “Yes,” Ridgeway answered, “One, they had no nannites. Two, their cybernetic implants were larger and bulkier, and there is some evidence of immune rejection and infection around the implant sites.”

    “Interesting, but I would suggest you pull your team out before the Borg decide to overwhelm your small but now clearly threatening vessel.”

    Ridgeway nodded again. “Yes Captain Shelby, I agree with pulling out my team as soon as possible. Another minute or so, and I will get them back whether they have accessed the Borg computer or not.”

    “Very well Commander Ridgeway, I’ll trust your judgment, but get back to warp as soon as you can to keep the Borg from trying something you might not like. We will rendezvous at the coordinates of the star your helmsman just sent us. Follow through with your plan to dump the Borg into that star. I don’t think it’s worth the risk to try to capture the ship, in case they are talking to someone else. Keep this channel open on secondary so we can monitor your progress and have your ops send us all the sensor data you have so far. Shelby out.”

    “Thank you Captain Shelby, I’ll keep you posted once I get an update from my people.”
  12. Dulak

    Dulak Commander Red Shirt

    Jul 6, 2007
    Pacific NW
    UT: USS Shepard - "Recovery", chapter ten

    Chapter Ten

    Borg Vessel, Designation unknown
    Central Hub

    Tara stared in shock at the lone Borg drone approaching them. In a half a second, her plasma blaster finished charging, and the whine of its capacitors quieted, leaving only the sound of their breathing and the micro servos actively spinning and moving various manipulators and feeler probes on the end of the Borg’s outstretched arm as it walked towards them across the deck.

    Lieutenant Townsend scanned the Borg with her tricorder and announced. “Relax Tara, that drone does contain Andorian DNA, but it’s....”

    Dulak interrupted, “Look there, to the right of that tubule entering near its collar bone. It’s the rank insignia of a Chief Petty Officer. It was Starfleet.”

    Tara took a step backwards, away from the approaching Borg. The others did likewise. The resemblance to the Andorian Engineer was uncanny, and although it couldn’t be possible, Tara needed to rule it out completely. “Master Chief Rexar? Rexar Arthrun?”

    Unbelievably, the drone paused, and dropped its hand to its side, looking down to the ground briefly. When it looked up, it nodded almost imperceptibly. “Chief..Rexar.. Yes.. I.. am…” It mouthed the words awkwardly, as if from long disuse.

    “It seems we have a situation.” Dulak said, whispering. Lieutenant Townsend and Lieutenant, Junior Grade Tara looked at the Cardassian, perplexed by his dry evaluation.

    Townsend whispered back, “Ensign, if we survive this, I’m putting you in for the Understatement of the Century award.”

    Just then two more Borg Drones, these not so pensive, rounded a corner and started slowly approaching.

    As the two Borg drones clanked slowly along the deck plates, the third, the one who had responded to “Chief” looked up, then turned to face the approaching drones.

    Tara clenched her teeth, her pretty green face awash with confusion. Raising the barrel of her plasma rifle towards the Borg, her finger inched towards the trigger.

    Flipping her tricorder off to avoid being recognized as a threat, Lieutenant Townsend remained aware enough of her surroundings to notice her security officer’s actions. “Easy there Mister. Save that in case we really need it. Dulak, do you see any place around here you can put those programs of yours to work?”

    The Cardassian Ensign blinked, refocusing his eyes and making a superior effort to control his breathing as his heart raced. Looking around, he saw what looked like an interface junction panel. He nodded and said, “Yes, there’s a panel about three meters to our right. Do you want me to proceed?”

    Townsend watched the Borg for a moment, and to her surprise, the three seemed to confer for a moment, prosthetic limbs held close together in the center of the group. Then the two newcomers turned and moved off down the corridor in the direction they had come.

    “Alright Mr. Dulak, let’s see what you’ve got.” Townsend re-activated her tricorder and continued doing scans.

    Dulak stepped over to the panel and opened his pouch. Removing a small device, he extended a flexible cable from it and pushed it gently into an empty socket. The end didn’t match up exactly to the circuits it contacted, but contained numerous variable interface micro-induction coils. If the device did its job correctly, it would ascertain the correct configuration without setting off any alerts.

    Holding his breath for a second as he pressed a series of buttons on the small control panel, Dulak saw with satisfaction a small green light come on. He exhaled quietly and continued. Pressing another button, he selected the first program from the miniature display panel. Activating it, he waited again. “It seems to be working, the interface algorithm is attempting to patch into the Borg network.”

    “Very well Mr. Dulak...” Townsend was about to whisper further instructions when her com badge chirped. Cursing silently that she had forgotten to set it to vibrate before the mission she tapped it rapidly, silencing it. “Townsend here,” she said quietly.

    To her relief the voice of a concerned Commander Ridgeway spoke over the circuit, “What’s your status Lieutenant?”

    Townsend wiped a bead of sweat from her forehead and answered. “We seem to be safe for now Commander, but there is something you should be aware of. There is a Borg drone here that bears more than a striking resemblance to our Master Chief. It’s visibly and by DNA analysis of Andorian origin, it’s wearing the remains of a Chief’s uniform, and claimed to be Chief Rexar when asked.”

    As she spoke, the preposterousness of her statement struck her, but she continued anyway. “Dulak is attempting to interface with the Borg Computer, and that seems to be going well.”

    On the other end Ridgeway was silent for a full five seconds. When he answered his voice was a bit subdued. “What is the Chief Rexar Borg doing? It didn’t just try to assimilate you?”

    “No, Commander.” Townsend answered. “It actually diverted two other drones coming to investigate us. The Rexar Borg seems to be sincere. It is approaching us again, but does not seem hostile.”

    Ridgeway said, “Davis got the subspace transmitter working, and while we strangely got no response from the starbase, we did reach the USS Sutherland, and Captain Shelby. They are rendezvousing with us. The second you want out of there, have Parker beam you back over. Ridgeway out.”

    Unable to answer that she’d wanted off the Borg vessel since before they beamed over, Townsend focused back to the task at hand. The Borg “Chief” was nearly back to her location, walking slowly.

    Dulak was oblivious, concentrating on his computer interface. He didn’t even look up from his micro-interface as he attempted to insert the second algorithm into the Borg network.

    Tara began to itch her trigger finger. As far as she was concerned, being this close to a Borg was significant enough to “really need” to fire her weapon, but she understood also that firing it would probably bring an overwhelming response in their direction. She waited, but not patiently.

    Under her breath, Townsend muttered, “It’s a good thing I like pickles.” Switching her tricorder to medical mode, she decided to get some comprehensive scans of the Borg to take to the Doctor for comparison. She scanned until the Borg stopped in front of her.

    In its rusty voice, still croaking from disuse, the Borg spoke again, “Starfleet?” it asked.

    Townsend saw no reason to dissemble to the Borg, “Yes, I am Lieutenant Townsend. Is what I say being transmitted to the Collective?”

    Facial muscles, also atrophied from lack of use, struggled to form a frown on the still slightly blue face of the Andorian/Borg. “Collective? I...am....not sure what.....you mean?”

    Townsend remembered the discussion on the primitive nature of the Borg intruders they had neutralized and wondered if their primitiveness extended into other areas as well. “Collective,” she repeated, “the unimatrix, the network that links all Borg together.”

    The Borg shook its head, “Know of no.... such... thing.”

    Cutting to the chase, Townsend asked, “Are you really Rexar Arthrun?”

    The answer came without hesitation, “Yes, that was......is my name. You are here to rescue me? We should go before the others find out.”

    Of all the thoughts racing though her brain, one made its way to the forefront, if this is Rexar Arthrun, then who is that back on the Persepheron?

    Dulak called out from his position near the interface conduit. “Sir, I have accessed the Borg systems. I am uploading my secondary program now that should allow us to neutralize the vessels control systems. I am not encountering any resistance...”

    A bright flash, followed immediately by the loud crack of an electric spark, punctuated his sentence. Before the ozone rich cloud caused by the circuit overload enveloped him, Dulak fell over limply, the interface device falling out of his slack fingers and clattering onto the deck.

    “Dulak!” Tara called out as she sprinted the few steps to her fallen crewmate.

    Townsend tapped her com badge, “Townsend to Persepheron three.... no four to beam over, will explain. Notify Dr. O’Connell, we have a casualty.” Motioning to the Rexar Drone, she stepped over towards Dulak and Tara just as two additional drones rounded the corner, moving much more quickly than the ones before.

    The flustered voice of crewman Parker came back over the com badge. “Parker here Sir, who is the fourth person?”

    Without pausing to consider if they were the same drones as before, or if they could be former Starfleet like the one who stood next to her seemed to be, Townsend tapped Tara on the shoulder.

    “Now would be a good time to discharge those capacitors Lieutenant.”

    Tara looked up from Dulak, and didn’t even bother to stand as she shot two bolts of plasma at the approaching drones. They struck accurately, one into the center of each drone’s chest. The Drones lurched, then fell over.

    Speaking more urgently into her com badge, Townsend replied to Parker’s question. “Crewman, it’s the only other life sign standing within two feet of us. It probably shows up as a Borg. Just energize, I don’t have time to explain.”

    Two more Borg Drones rounded the corner, but Parker’s plasma rifle hadn’t recycled yet. It was apparently powerful, but with a slow rate of fire. The drones stepped quickly over their fallen companions and walked purposefully towards the intruders.

    Before Townsend thought to look at the Rexar Drone for its reaction, the transporter beam engulfed them and the Borg ship faded from view.

    USS Persepheron

    T’Noor spoke loudly from the science console. “Sir, I just detected an energy surge followed by energy weapon discharges near the away team. I’m also getting readings on several Borg drones approaching their position.”

    Ridgeway opened his mouth to issue orders when the frantic voice of Crewman Parker resonated over the tug’s general announcing system, “Dr. O’Connell to the transporter room, there’s an away team casualty.”

    T’Noor reported further from her console, “Sir, the away team is being beamed back, but it looks like a Borg is beaming with them.”

    USS Persepheron

    Master Chief Rexar Arthrun looked at the readout panel and studied the scrolling data with a scowl. The look on Chief Marconi’s face was no less dour. Petty Officer Thompson looked on but he felt a bit left out. “What is it Master Chief? I’m not sure I understand why you ran a level 2 on the contact sensor array, it’s the deflector we’re supposed to be fixing.

    The Andorian Engineer looked back at the much younger crewman and nodded, “It’s all part of the puzzle, in effect…”

    Richelieu shouted urgently from the tractor beam power control module, interrupting. “I’ve got a prob…” and was cut off himself by an explosion that sent him flying backwards away from the control panel and left him crumpled on the deck.

    Thompson rushed to check on the Bolian, but both Rexar and Marconi darted to the control panel. By the time the two reached it, a light was blinking indicating the start of the automatic diagnostic which ran in case of catastrophic overload.

    Although Rexar had never worked an emergency situation with Marconi before, they fell into a complimentary style enhanced by years of practical experience and engineering casualty drills between them. As Rexar frantically attempted to override the diagnostic from the control panel, the annoying buzzing of the temporarily disabled panel told Marconi what to do more quickly than any exchange of words.

    Not waiting for the mag-clamp to disengage as he pulled open a side access panel, Marconi simply tore the metal cover off and discarded it. Then he reached inside and bypassed a relay causing a shower of sparks. He blinked and looked away, but continued working by feel. A more melodious beep sounded from the control panel, indicating that his jury-rig had worked, at least partially.

    Rexar renewed his efforts to bypass the diagnostics and get the tractor beams back online, but suddenly the ship lurched so severely that both Marconi and Rexar stumbled a step away from the console. Before either could resume working the ship went completely dark, and the artificial gravity cut off.

    As if feeling the need to state the obvious, Thompson’s nervous voice carried through the now quiet engineering space, “That’s not good.”

    Rexar countered, his voice controlled and level “Gentlemen, I suggest we get power restored.”
  13. Dulak

    Dulak Commander Red Shirt

    Jul 6, 2007
    Pacific NW
    UT: USS Shepard - "Recovery", chapter eleven

    Chapter Eleven

    USS Sutherland

    Captain Shelby inhaled sharply as the image of the Persepheron’s bridge lurched on the screen and then disappeared as the signal was suddenly interrupted. “Helm, ETA at maximum warp?”

    Lieutenant Django shook her head, “Five hours, thirteen minutes Captain.”

    “Then it looks like we’re going to go faster than maximum warp. I don’t want to get there just to search a debris field. Sam, didn’t you say they were near Starbase 216? Hail them and patch it to me. And let me know the second you get subspace comms back from the Persepheron, I want updates.”

    Shelby strode into her ready room and as the door swished closed behind her, Lavelle turned to the Ensign at Ops, “You heard the Captain, hail Starbase 216 and send it in there.”

    Without waiting for acknowledgement, Lavelle punched up engineering and prepared to give them the good news.

    USS Persepheron
    Transporter Room

    In the dark immediately following the loss of power and gravity, Lt. Townsend braced herself at an angle between the bulkead and the deck. The only illumination, unfortunately came from a green laser emanating from the Rexar Drone. Townsend saw crewman Parker struggle to brace herself against something and simultaneously raise her archaic firearm towards the Borg.

    Townsend’s yelled “Wait!” But her yell was drowned by the unbelievably loud multiple discharge of the weapon, and the impacts of the bullets on the bulkhead behind the Rexar Drone.

    The tug’s battery-powered emergency lighting came on, illuminating the transporter room with a dim light that only partially compensated from the temporary flash blindness from Parker’s weapon discharge. Townsend saw stars before her eyes, and blinked to clear them.

    Fortunately for the Drone, Parker had not been well braced, and her hurried fire poorly aimed. The first several bullets impacted just to the right of him, and the rest upwards onto the overhead as Parker spun with the recoil.

    Townsend hurled herself at Parker before the weapon even stopped firing, managing to grab the woman, stop her wild rotation and keep the weapon pointed in a safe direction as she drew close to Parker’s ear.

    “Hold your fire Crewman! This Borg is or was a Starfleet officer. It is self-aware and asked us to rescue it. It has made no hostile moves and even diverted the attention of other Borg away from it. You are welcome to keep your weapon handy just in case, but I’ll have no preemptive action unless I order it. Understood?”

    Parker shook her head slightly, but answered still breathy with panic “yes sir.”

    Townsend saw Tara check herself for holes, and finding none look more than a little relieved. “Lieutenant, check on Dulak.”

    Tara pushed herself a bit tentatively to unconscious Cardassian and did a quick examination. “He’s got a pulse which I hope is normal for a Cardassian, and he is breathing. He doesn’t appear to be further injured. I’ll hold him steady until Doctor O’Connell arrives.”

    Fortunately, she did not have long to wait. A portable light glided slowly across door to the still dim passageway and across the opening. When it disappeared past the far side of the door, Dr. O’Connell’s head showed part way from the top of the doorframe, sideways, hand holding a Marine issue hand phaser through the doorway away from her head, but not breaking the plane of the room.

    Without hesitating, O’Connell fired, the beam lancing out and striking the Rexar Drone directly in the center of its chest. The Borg went instantly slack and inert, drifting gently into the bulkhead behind it.

    If O’Connell was the least bit discomfited by the lack of gravity she gave no sign. She deftly held her body slightly bent at the waist as she pulled herself through the doorjamb. Not paying much attention to what had formerly been up or down, she rotated to a different orientation as the came into the room, reaching out for the next handhold on the bulkhead.

    Townsend released Parker. “Doctor, that Borg wasn’t a threat, it’s a former Starfleet officer claiming to be Chief Rexar, and it wanted to be rescued. A bit exasperated at having to repeat herself so much for naught now it seemed, she just floated for a second.

    Entering the cramped transporter room, O’Connell maintained her contrary orientation simply due to space requirements, and pushed over to Dulak. “If it wasn’t a threat, what happened to Dulak?”

    Townsend answered, “He was attempting to access the Borg network when the circuit overloaded and he was knocked unconscious. He’s got vitals, but I don’t know how normal they are.

    “And Doctor, please hurry. If he’s stable enough to be brought around we might need him if the Borg attempt to board us again.”

    USS Persepheron

    No sooner had the ship lost power than Chief Prak pulled himself from the bridge, shouting back to Commander Ridgeway as he went, “Do what you can from here, I’m going to engineering.” The Tellarite knew his tug like the back of his three fingered hand and didn’t need light to find his way, although it slowed him somewhat until the emergency lighting snapped on.

    “What do we do now?” asked Lt. T’Noor from the sensor console, her fingers never ceasing in her endeavor to bring the panel back to life.

    Ridgeway grasped the overhead bar, trying to hold himself vertical in case gravity restored itself suddenly. “We wait for power to come back, and hope the Borg don’t board us again before that. I have a hunch that we might have to do something quickly when we have control restored.”

    In reality, Ridgeway was a bit lost, he saw and heard Davis attempting to get any other station on the comm panel, but also saw that the crewman was having no success. They were not only blind and deaf on the bridge, they were helpless. Still, Ridgway couldn’t bring himself to desert the ships control center, so he waited.

    USS Sutherland
    Ready Room

    “I don’t care if he’s dealing with something Ensign, get me Admiral Selak NOW! I’m pretty sure I have more information than he does about what he’s dealing with, so put him on.” Captain Shelby was as close to fuming mad as she had been in a long time. The ensign from Starbase 216 was obviously the self-important type of administrative assistant that Shelby despised. She would never understand what made people think they could push others around because of who they worked for.

    The station wasn’t even on alert, and the ensign seemed more than a little amused at the incongruence of being called by a nearly naked female identifying herself as the captain of a starship. The ensign seemed on the verge of another flippant remark when an alert klaxon sounded from panel speaker, followed by the telltale flashing red light behind the ensign.

    At least someone on the station was paying attention. Shelby was about to order the ensign to put her through again when the view screen set into the table of her ready room desk shifted to the Starbase 216 Starfleet logo.

    Shelby blinked twice in disbelief. “I’ve been put on hold.” She said to no one in particular. Then, without a further thought, she cut the connection and quickly changed into a spare uniform she kept in a utility locker for those uncommon situations where she was unable to get to her quarters for an unacceptably long interval.

    Stepping back onto the bridge, she saw that the main viewscreen was dominated by the looped image of the heavily damaged Borg cube that had been transmitted from the Persepheron. Only this image was overlaid with a glowing computer generated grid representing a fully functional and intact cube. Various colored lines and shaded areas designated data interpolation of projected power and capability levels onboard the damaged cube. It was of course largely conjectural, but based upon all data on the Borg gathered until the present.

    It was a useful start, and Shelby nodded towards Commander Lavelle as he noticed her presence. “Nice work XO.”

    In response, Lavelle highlighted a portion of the damaged cube and zoomed the screen closer, then rotated the extrapolated image slightly for clarity. “It shouldn’t have much more than seven to twelve percent of a typical cube’s power, and most of that will need to be used for structural integrity, as it were, and life support. It’s amazing the thing can even move.”

    “Can we destroy it by ourselves?” Shelby’s question was largely for her executive officer’s benefit, and the morale of the rest of the bridge crew. Shelby had no doubt they would be up to the task, but she remained concerned for the crew of the warp tug.

    Lavelle smiled as he answered, “Yes Captain, the simulation indicates probability of over 90%.”

    Shelby looked pensive at the answer, “Good. Keep running the sims XO, and throw in some variables.”

    “Yes Captain.” Lavelle replied before turning back to the panel and continuing his work.

    Shelby walked to her command chair and sat. Activating the intercom via the interface on the arm of her chair she spoke “Commander Tol, how much do you have for me? We’ve got a vessel in distress and a couple hours to shave in order to get there in time.”

    Chief Engineer Jadon Tol sighed sub-vocally before responding, “Of course Captain. I can give you nine point one, but only as an oscillating harmonic subvector. It will take me a few minutes to set up, and will use a set of dilithium crystals up in a fraction of their normal duty cycle.” The engineer took the silence on the other end of the comm circuit as Shelby forming the question he knew she would ask, and he grinned slightly as he answered it unasked. “Meaning Captain, that we will actually be going from warp eight to warp nine point one and back again repeatedly with a regular periodicity. More than that and we would need to make sure that our navigation solution is spot on before going to warp. The pile of slag the Sutherland would likely turn into would be the only thing left to throw at the Borg on the other end.”

    If Captain Shelby was impressed by her engineers’ flair for the dramatic, her stentorian response gave no indication. “Make it nine point one then Mr. Tol, and get that spare set of crystals handy and calibrated just in case. Inform the Conn when you are ready. Shelby out.”

    Shelby hated the waiting most when responding to situations across interstellar distances. Nothing was more frustrating than to see a situation develop before her eyes that she could do nothing about. But she still had a starship to run, and sitting on the bridge in the dead time before their arrival seemed a waste.

    After studying the viewscreen for several seconds and watching the continuing data stream that Lavelle was developing, Shelby punched the intercom button on her command chair again. “All department heads with the exception of engineering meet in the forward conference room at,” Shelby paused to look at the chronometer, “0225 hours.” She closed the circuit and stood from the command chair, taking the time to pull her uniform top straight as she stood.

    “XO, send what you’ve got to the conference room, I’m heading down there to brief the department heads and take suggestions. I’ll open a channel for you to listen in.” With that, Captain Shelby turned and walked towards the turbolift. As the doors swished open, she paused and turned back towards the bridge crew. Normally she wouldn’t have felt the need to mention this to her professional crew, but news of the Borg was significant. “People, I expect you to keep a lid on this until I make a general announcement after the department head meeting.”

    “Yes, Captain.” The bridge watch standers said, practically in unison.

    “Good.” Shelby said, “XO has the bridge.” And walked onto the turbolift and disappeared from sight as the doors swished shut.

    From his position at the science station, Commander Lavelle responded “I have the bridge.” His fingers brushed over the LCARS panel, sending a copy of his data and simulation, as well as the transmissions from the Persepheron to the terminal in the conference room. That done he continued working on refinements to his simulation.

    A single blip on the ops console alerted Ensign Tori Meriwether that engineering had finished preparations to enhance the warp drive. “Engineering reports ready to go to warp nine point one sir.” She said, a bit nervously.

    “Very well, is the course laid in to the coordinates send by Persepheron?”

    “Yes sir, course laid in.”

    “Engage warp nine point one.” Although it was a pointless gesture due to inertial dampening system, Lavelle leaned back in the command chair and braced himself for the acceleration. He had heard Tol describe what the ship would be doing, and didn’t necessarily trust the Engineers reassurances.

    The Sutherland surged to warp, significantly faster than design specifications, but other than a slightly louder hum from the warp drive, it was not noticeable to the crew.

    Trails of light were all that marked the Sutherlands course from her previous location as she disappeared from normal space.
  14. Dulak

    Dulak Commander Red Shirt

    Jul 6, 2007
    Pacific NW
    A question for anyone who gets this far. Is anyone annoyed by the change in character viewpoint within the chapters. I really tried to narrow the focus down to prevent bouncing back and forth between characters in a scene. I haven't been able to keep an entire chapter in one character's viewpoint, so my question I suppose is..is the multiple viewpoint aspect weakening the story and impact?
  15. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    I'm still planning on reading this story again and all the changes you've made to it but haven't had a chance yet.

    I know what you mean however, and I have a similar issue with my earlier work. It is not completely unusual to have a third person, omniscient narrator and I think it's even more interesting at times. Having said that in recent years most writers seem to tend towards the single, subjective narrator style and some readers may find it confusing.

    I would stick to your current style for this story and then decide if you want to change styles for any future efforts. That's what I did with Star Eagle.
  16. Dulak

    Dulak Commander Red Shirt

    Jul 6, 2007
    Pacific NW
    UT: USS Shepard - "Recovery", Chapter Twelve

    Chapter Twelve

    USS Persepheron

    With battle lanterns already dimly illuminating the engineering section, a limited amount of secondary lighting came on. Several men floated next to open access panels to the warp core and impulse drives, their work within evidenced by moving glimmers from handheld portable lights and the occasional hum of a magnetic wrench.

    Chief Prak pushed himself from the passageway into the main open space and floated none too gracefully towards Petty Officer Thompson and Chief Marconi, who were both working on the impulse drive. Prak managed to catch himself on the top of the housing, but his momentum caused the rest of his body to pivot past his hand and he thudded to a stop with a grunt against the hard metal.

    “Commander Ridgeway is on the bridge, for all the good it will do him unless you can get power restored. Now would be a good time. I hate zero G, and I hate it even more with the thought of playing the part of a ping pong ball when the Borg show up.”

    From directly above Chief Prak, a quiet voice he recognized at crewmen Kellis spoke. “Chief, don’t worry. I’m thinking of a game more like pinball.”

    As Prak looked up Kellis, braced in the overhead, swung his ever-present huge spanner in an arc through the empty air. The Tellarite could have sworn it made a deep whooshing sound as it did so.

    “Is there even a bolt on this ship that that thing fits Kellis?” Prak asked.

    As if caught in some prank, Kellis answered a bit embarrassed. “No one has ever asked me that before Chief.” But did not explain further.

    From inside the impulse housing Marconi exclaimed, “Got it!” Just then a humming started and spread to fill the engineering section. Lights flickered then lit steadily. The normally imperceptible sound of air being forced through ventilation ducting returned noticeably and suddenly as life support returned.

    Gravity returned a moment later, evidenced by objects falling to the deck and the repositioning of the crewmembers in engineering to an up and down orientation.

    Kellis held himself aloft for a second or two until his feet were directly underneath of his body before dropping the several feet to the deck in a surprisingly light manner for one so muscular. His spanner remained casually on his shoulder as he did so.

    “Well, I guess I can play baseball instead.”

    USS Persepheron
    Transporter Room

    When lights and gravity came on, Doctor O’Connell did not stop her examination of Dulak. She merely brought her feet under her, catching her weight smoothly as she knelt beside her patient. Her tricorder continued warbling for a second more before she shut it off.

    “He seems uninjured. Cardassian physiology may be resistant to electrical damage to some degree. In any case I see no harm in cutting short his nap.”

    O’Connell had reached into her medical pouch and was in the process of removing her hypospray when Lieutenant Townsend exclaimed, “Where did the Borg go?”

    O’Connell glanced towards the bulkhead where the Borg had slumped unconscious before the ship went dark. The area was empty.

    Before O’Connell could give the order, Crewman Parker darted into the corridor quickly looking both ways before shaking her head. “No sign of it Ma’am.”

    O’Connell sprang to the transporter console and pushed the comm button, “Commander Ridgeway, this is Doctor O’Connell in the Transporter room. We may have an intruder onboard. The Borg that beamed back with the away team has disappeared.”

    USS Persepheron

    Systems on the bridge were taking an agonizingly slow time rebooting. Lights, gravity, even internal comms were restored, giving a sense of normalcy to the bridge. But the crew were blind to anything outside of their local environment. The viewscreens showed only static. Despite the efforts of T’Noor to accelerate the process and regain an external sensor picture of their situation, OConnell’s almost deadpan announcement of an intruder came and went with them still in figuratively in the dark.

    As if to emphasize the danger, the Red Alert signal restarted itself throughout the tug, at last returning to its prior assigned function. Ridgeway retained the presence of mind to issue an all call over the vessels speakers, “Intruder alert in the vicinity of the transporter room. Use caution. Try to take it alive if possible.”

    Arjal Brak, realizing that he wasn’t going to be doing any fancy flying without navigational data came surprisingly to T’Noor’s aid with the sensors.

    “Don’t worry about diagnostics. The core must have glitched rebooting. Switch sensors to local control and push them out to maximum range, then back to close. Right as the range is about to read minimum, toggle the emergency power breaker. I’ll restart the core.”

    T’Noor managed a questioning look at Ridgeway without actually stating the obvious “Illogic,” of Arjal’s request.

    Ridgeway merely shook his head, “We aren’t making progress the other way, go ahead and do as the Lieutenant suggests.”

    “Thirty seconds Sir.” Arjal announced as his fingers worked the sequence needed to restart the main computer.

    The time seemed indeterminately long to Ridgeway, who stood waiting for the main screens to come up. He noticed himself squeezing the overhead handrail with an iron grip that threatened to make his hand go numb, and forced himself to relax a bit. The thought of Borg tractor beams re-acquiring the Persepheron edged into his mind.

    Prak’s reverse tractor beam trick was unlikely to work a second time, and Ridgeway’s mind raced in an attempt to play through possible scenarios that would allow them to counter the Borg a second time.

    The main and surrounding viewscreens came up suddenly. Ridgeway stared for several seconds before asking in a quiet tone. “What in the hell is going on here?”

    T’Noor looked up from her sensor console, “Sir, slightly more of the emotional exposition common to your people would be appropriate in this situation. Sensors show…..”

    (sorry guys…I couldn’t resist that cliffhanger. Don’t worry, I won’t make you wait long..)
  17. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Okay all caught up.

    I quite enjoyed revisiting this tale. Still liking the underdog theme taken to the next level. Not only are our heroes on an essentially unarmed tug up against the Borg, this is a truly untested crew, a first time commanding officer and a bunch of junior officers. They may all be professional (some more than others) but what they don't have is experience and that makes this very appealing.

    And then of course there is the Borg mystery. What's up with that? Primitive Borg? Did they get time displaced somehow? Did they fall through a wormhole or are they from an alternate universe in which the chief got assimilated? But then how come he doesn't know about the Collective? Its all very curious, especially now that the drone is apparently freely roaming the ship.

    I also liked the idea of the artificial gravity failing. You'd think something like that would happen far more frequently on starships.

    Good to see Shelby and Sutherland making an appearance, we haven't come across her in a while. They are a long way off though. We'll have to see if they will be in time to make a difference.

    Grear stuff.
  18. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    I've only had time to read the first chapter now, but it was certainly interesting enough to make me want to read the rest :-D Rexar seems like the sort of man who's seen a lot and I'm betting that he's got a lot of baggage from all of it. I can't wait to read more!
  19. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    I'm loving the retelling of this fantastic UT story. From the misfit crew to the ass+@$# Vulcan admiral with a hidden agenda, to the Shepard herself, this is the ultimate underdog tale.

    The characters are much more fleshed out in this rendition,and are all the more relatable as a result.

    I'll post more as I delve further in... :techman: