Captain Natalia Lopez
Natalia Lopez is the commanding officer of the Phoenix NX-07. She is known to be brilliant and charming, but irreverent and rarely plays by the rules, a dichotomy which has given her more trouble than it has accolades. With her last command, the Sojourner, lost at the Battle of Sol, there have been more than a few grumblings that an officer of Lopez’s calibre and character has been given the prestigious assignment of an NX-class.
Natalia Lopez was born in a rough part of Mexico City to parents whose busy lifestyles left them with little time to dedicate to the family. This left Lopez mostly bringing up herself and, begrudgingly, her younger siblings using mostly her wits. As such, when she was offered a scholarship to board at a high-attaining school in Sacramento, California at the age of 14, she took it, leaving her family behind.
Accustomed to fending for herself, Lopez marched to the beat of her own drum at school and later at the University of Stanford, where she studied astrophysics. It was here that she met the brilliant young Juliette Gauthier, the two falling into a whirlwind romance which would mark both their lives. Gauthier, however, had aspirations of academia while Lopez had grown tired of only studying the stars, and their conflicting ambitions doomed any commitment in their relationship for the next few years. Upon graduation she joined Starfleet, training for a year at STC as a pilot and leaving soon after for the Olympus R&D Facility on Mars.
After this and a tour on the Neptune as her Chief Helm Officer, Lopez had developed a reputation as a talented pilot with a strong and necessary understanding of the vessels she flew. This saw her brought onto the NX Project to advise and develop the flight systems, as a particular specialist in the operation of impulse systems in atmosphere and stellar phenomenon. The worse the conditions were to fly in, the more Lopez shone.
Her return to Earth also marked a rebirth of her relationship with Gauthier, who hadn’t even known of Lopez’s assignment in San Francisco until Lopez appeared at her front door with flowers and a suggestion they elope. It was uncharacteristic of Gauthier to be impulsive enough to agree, but the two had never made good choices together.
Throughout her career, Lopez had developed a reputation for making her own decisions in test flights, developments, and even at the helm. She avoided too much trouble by being right often enough to get lee-way, and with her silver tongue to smooth over issues with colleagues and superior officers if her choices went awry. But an argument with the NX development team who disagreed with her assessments saw her part ways with the project, souring her relationship with Starfleet Command.
Gauthier encouraged Lopez to issue apologies and smooth things over for the sake of staying on Earth, but Lopez refused and finally commented that she was sick of not being in space anyway. This refusal to compromise and apparent lack of valuing of their marriage was, after three intense years, a shortcut to the likely-inevitable divorce.
Lopez’s following assignment to the Constellation was thus inauspicious, the Constellation spending most of the next eight years within United Earth Commonwealth territory. But this furnished Lopez, who advanced in this time from Chief Helm Officer to Executive Officer, with more experience than most Starfleet personnel of all the ins and outs of Earth’s territory and colony worlds.
However, her reputation with Starfleet Command remained poor. Only the Xindi attack on Earth triggered a change in her fortunes, as more ships were fast-tracked into development, brand new and promising prospects for up-and-coming officers. Lopez was not one of those, but people had to command the ships they left behind, too, and this void saw her promoted to Captain and given the now rather-dated Sojourner NV-05.
The Sojourner was directed, like the Constellation, to maintain peace and certainty on anxiety-racked Commonwealth worlds with the Xindi crisis and the subsequent rise of tensions with the Romulans. This was not the high-importance border defence or the auspicious scientific and diplomatic missions between the two crises; it was far from what Starfleet Command deemed the most important. But it was where Lopez excelled, able to appeal to the mentality of colonists and off-worlders, and the Captain developed a new reputation for caring about the ‘little people’ of the Commonwealth.
The beginning of hostilities in the Romulan War engulfed the Sojourner as quickly as any other ship. Such a small vessel often found herself outclassed in conflicts with Romulan ships or their proxies, and Lopez again and again had to fall back on her raw guile and wits. This proved insufficient come the Battle of Sol, where a daring gambit to outflank the Romulan forces through the Mars asteroid belt ended badly. It was a typical Lopez manoeuvre of high risk and high reward that didn’t pay off, the crew forced to abandon ship and Sojourner destroyed.
Lopez was left ‘on the beach’ in naval parlance for months after this. Other officers had made their name in the Battle of Sol, and while Starfleet Command was loath to openly punish or impugn a captain who had taken such sincere risks to save lives, it was apparent they would much rather forget Natalia Lopez if they could.
And they might, had the Pioneer and her decorated crew had not been lost with all hands in the summer of 2156. This was more than a disaster for the loss of one ship, but for the loss of the officers expected to advance and crew the newest NX-class starship, the Phoenix. Still was it not Starfleet Command’s idea to pluck Lopez out of the doldrums and have her take post at last. That was Lopez’s own idea – Lopez, with her silver tongue and occasional friends in the right place and raw talent for taking disaster and turning it on its head.
After all, Starfleet was desperate.