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Sol Sub Umbra

While en route to the Barzan Wormhole, the Columbia discovers an entire star system behind a powerful cloaking shield. Who put it there and why?

Rude Awakening

USS Columbia, Captain's Quarters
MD 01 - 2130 Hours

Irving Berlin was playing lightly in the background as Captain Noah Armstrong made two drinks at the bar cart in his new quarters, new as of a few weeks prior. The Columbia had been at warp nine for almost two weeks, on a direct course from Starbase Bravo to Starbase 38, for their transition through the wormhole to the Delta Quadrant. A long burn at high warp was a good chance for the crew to settle in, most of whom had worked together on either the Europa or the Venture, two crews married together when their previous ships were marked for refit.

“What do you think, Mr. Forrest? Are we ready for this?” Armstrong asked, handing his new first officer a vodka highball as he sat down with his own bourbon on the rocks. 

“Absolutely, sir. The ship and crew are both at the top of their game,” Forrest replied.

Armstrong was still getting a read on his new first officer. The younger man was ambitious and sometimes even abrasive, but he’d already proven himself quite able to whip a crew into shape. He’d come with high recommendations from Fleet Captain Logan, but also with the caveat that he needed to be watched and kept on a short leash when it came to his own grandiosity. 

“What about you? Are you ready for this?” the captain asked, earning an arched eyebrow from Forrest.

“This is the type of assignment I’ve been waiting for my entire career, sir. I’m ready for it unless you feel otherwise,” Forrest replied. 

“No complaints, so far,” Armstrong replied, shaking his head. He offered Forrest a smile and took a drink. “I was mostly just seeing how you’d react to the question,” he clarified.

“Did I pass the test?”

The captain chuckled. “For now. I think it’s good to stay aware of the line between confidence and arrogance, though,” he said, more pointedly.

Forrest shifted in his seat. “So, I guess it’s up to me to put my money where my mouth is, then, sir,” he said with a smirk. “That’s fair. I’d expect the same of anyone on the crew myself.”

“Glad we’re on the same page then, Number One,” Armstrong replied, trying out that nickname for the first time. 

Before either of them could say more, the ship rocked dramatically. Red alert sounded immediately, and Armstrong felt the ship falling out of warp, the stars spinning outside the viewports. Both of their drinks ended up on the floor but managed to stay in their seats. There was nothing outside the windows other than empty space, the apparent cause of their distress not evident. 

“Armstrong to Bridge. Report!”

“Sensors say that our port navigational shields grazed a coherent energy field. We’ve reached all stop, sir,” the officer on the bridge reported.

“Senior Officers to the Bridge,” Armstrong ordered.

Burning the Midnight Oil

Deck 19
MD 01 - 2130 Hours

Lieutenant Olivia “Livvy” Sandoval was sitting cross legged on the floor of junction Twenty-eight Alpha on deck nineteen of her newest assignment.  Her fourth in less than a year.

Her twin sister, Aimee, had taken a job with their cousin doing something for Starfleet Intelligence.   This last year had been a roller coaster,  and she was hoping to settle in on the Columbia for the long-haul this time, but she was starting to feel like she was a bad oman or something.   Maybe mom was right.  She belonged at a shipyard.  It was the last place she had truly excelled.

She picked up a circuit board board and scanned it with her tricorder and then with one of her many tools scattered around her she pressed a button and a blue beam was directed at the board.  Another scan with the tricorder and she was satisfied and pushed it into the slot where it belonged in the bulkhead next to her.

Picking up a coffee mug she flipped open the top and took a long dring from the now hot, but not burning black coffee.  Revitalized she snapped the top closed and picked up anotjer board and repeated the process three more times.

“Computer start personal log.”

The computer obediently beeped in response.

“Engineer’s personal log supplemental.   I have nearly completed the upgrades to my assigned duties today.  The Columbia is a very fine ship.  Not the Europa, but from a crew perspective it is a nice upgrade.  From an engineer’s perspective… okay well it’s nice too. There’s actual work to do rather than planned maintenance. I’m expecting a call from my sister tonight …”

Scooting over a half a meter she popped the panel off of the wall next to the section she was working and scanned the bio-neural gel pack inside.   The Galaxy-class had been designed long before gel packs were introduced on Voyager, but it had been relatively successful design and the Columbia had received upgrades to several systems along the way.  Including this system. 

“Aimee and I have always been really close,” Livvy continued her log, “and serving together both on the Hippocrates and Europa was fun.   But, we knew it would be short lived. We’re both career-oriented. She and her medicine,  and I with wanting to be a starship captian.  I was told that would never happen after Ajilon VIII, but I don’t care.  I’ll do what it takes to make it a reality. Even if I have to kiss up to every captain and Admiral in Starfleet.”

She scanned the pack with her tricorder. It was degraded by 18%.  Still superior to standard isolinear circuitry,  but she was not one to be okay with “good enough”. Extracting the old pack she replaced it with a brand new one. She also opened up a box of brand-new isolinear chips which she replaced one by one upgrading the system from the older slower chips.

The ship lurched and spun, throwing Livvy shoulder first into the bulkhead sending tools, parts and panels flying everywhere.  The lights flickered for only a second,  and then the red alert klaxon blared.

Livvy collected herself off the deck and quickly brought the system she was working on back online. It wasn’t fully upgraded,  but there was clearly an emergency,  and that would have to wait.  She stuffed tools into her tool kit heedless of their proper locations and rushed off to engineering. 

Rowe’s Personal Log, Part II

USS Columbia, Rowe's Quarters
MD 01 - 2130 Hours

Continuation from Part I, though with new scenary/ship.

“So how are you settling in?” Asked Lydia West, a Starfleet Commander and formerly Akira’s Counselor, or more off and on. She is the kind of person who likes to stay in touch with former patients.

“How did you know that I got transferred to another starship?” Akira asked.

Lydia smiled, “Come on, it’s not secret. A lot of information is public. Plus you know me. So you’re not on the Europa anymore?”

Akira shook her head as she got up to get herself some more tea from the replicator. “No, she was apparently due for a refit. Same goes for another vessel apparently, and both crews got transferred to this ship, the Columbia.” Akira explained as she came back to her desk with her tea.

Lydia nodded her head, mentally keeping notes. “Well at least this time the transfer wasn’t because of-“

Akira shook her head, “You know I don’t like talking about him.”

“I do. But you also know it helps.”

Akira squinted one eye with the look of, ‘hmmm, not really’, “You know my Klingon half doesn’t like being forced to do things it don’t want to go.”

Lydia rolled her eyes with a smile, showing she was teasing. “Still drinking the hot Chamomile Tea that I recommended?”

Was now Akira’s turn to roll her eyes as she took a sip of her tea. “It still works in balancing my two halves and keeping my nerves relaxed, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Lydia shrugged a shoulder, “Well, I did read your most recent log…”

Akira frowned, “That’s personal.”

Lydia sighed, “I know it is but you have to remember, I take pride in my work and I will always look after you. You’re like a daughter to me.”

Akira sighed heavily as she set the cup down. “You’re like a mother to me, too. If it weren’t for you, I probably would have been kicked out of the Academy.”

“Oh of course not! They were merely concerned because you were overworking yourself.”

Akira rolled her eyes once more, “Which would be seen as a concern for my mentality and a risk to myself and likely to others, which would have been grounds to expelling me from the Academy as a person who is unstable and unsafe.”

Lydia huffed, “You know I’ve told you to stop reading those. Self diagnosis is always been proven wrong.”

Akira stared at Lydia. “But I’m not wrong. Am I?”

“You would never know and I will never tell. So about that Lieutenant Commander fella.”

Akira shook her head, “No. No. Nope. Nada. Not getting into that.” She grabbed her cup of tea and took a big mouthful with a loud gulp, not caring how hot it was. She did not want to discuss nor think about that man.

“He really got under your skin, didn’t he?” Lydia asked, who was more concerned in getting it off of Akira’s chest than allowing her to bottle it up.

“I made one mistake, one mistake, and that’s blurting out that me and my team improved sensor efficiency. He was right. The Fleet Captain didn’t ask. No one else in that room bloated about their improvements, if they had made any. And then I had to go make it worse by gathering approvals from the Chief Engineer, who is no longer with us and I swear she absolutely hated me, and from the Chief Science Officer, who I hope is still with us because I feel like that is the only ally I had on the Europa. So what do I do? I stuff my foot into my mouth and jammed it in there.” Akira huffed and then took a slow, long sip of her tea.

“But you stuck up for yourself, didn’t you?” Lydia asked.

Akira placed the empty cup on the desk and silently passed the air bubble out between her lips before speaking, not wanting to be rude or impolite. “Of course I did. My Klingon half refused to back down from a challenge and that man…oh that man challenged the hell out of me. I wanted nothing more than to break his nose. On a Klingon ship, I’d get away with it, no problem at all. But on a Starfleet ship, I would have been in the Brig, probably pending court martial.”

Lydia chuckled some. “Probably. But you kept yourself in check, which is a good thing.”

Akira frowned. “What? I’m not like some hot head who can’t control their temper. Please. I have other means of dealing with my anger.”

“Still using that holodeck program?”

“Always.”

They laughed for a little and then there was a small pause. Lydia then sighed, “All right then, kiddo. I just wanted to check up on you, make sure you’re doing all right. This is your what, seventh Starship? In two years?”

“Hey, I already explained the transfer between the last to this so-” Suddenly the ship lurched and Akira went flying out of her chair and face planted into the floor. A really small ‘Ow’ came from her lips but just quiet enough for only Akira to hear.

“Oh my god, Akira, are you all right?” Lydia asked.

Akira pushed herself up off the floor the second the Red Alert klaxon sounded throughout the ship. She went to her desk and looked at Lydia. “Sorry, doc. But duty calls.” She hit the ‘end’ button and the transmission was cut. Akira quickly changed her look from ‘ready to go to bed’ to ‘back to work’ uniform before she was out the door and rushing to the Bridge.

Unexpected Changes

USS Columbia - Chief Engineers Quarters
MD 01 - 2130 Hours

Natalya had just finished her fifth shift in her new position and she wasn’t quite sure how to feel about it. This was the quickest transfer she had ever experienced and yet something about it felt right. She was just the XO of the Europa, only a few weeks prior, but in her time she had really felt a longing to get back to Engineering. She had enjoyed her time as the XO, and would have stayed there, but it seemed she was destined for different things.

She had been transferred to the USS Columbia, a beautiful Galaxy class cruiser, as the new Chief Engineering Officer and the ships Second Officer. She had to admit it was nice to still have some command structure, but she couldn’t wait to really get the feel of the Columbia and the new Engineering crew. She had been trying to make sure the crew was prepared for the upcoming mission. She had requested some normal work to be done during the Gamma shift. After making sure the teams were doing what they needed to she had headed back to her quarters.

She asked the replicator to make her a strong cup of coffee and sat down on her couch looking through the information on her PADD regarding the engineering personnel and the many task assigned to the teams. She had been seeing the results of the days work and the reasons things weren’t finished, most of them were unacceptable. She had been in Starfleet for a long time and regardless of how long it may have taken she did it to make sure the job was done even if it caused danger to herself.

“Computer start Engineering log:

The Engineering crew has began to take their stride, but I can still see reservations with the teams and know I will have to work on the confidence of the teams, but I know with time they will be more than capable of carrying out the orders given. I remember when I started I was probably just as bad if not worse it takes time and experience, which will come. The Captain made me Second Officer due to my many years in Starfleet and prior positions. I will miss being in Command of the ship, but I still get a taste here or there. We never think of the future when we feel we have met the ultimate goal, but sometimes things change and we adapt as we always have as humans. I look forward to the adventures that are to come.

“End log”

As she finished the log she settled back into her chair sipping her coffee thinking about the memories she held when the ship immediately lurched her coffee going everywhere,

“Koerner to Engineering report” She said with a hint of surprise in her voice.

“Lieutenant Thompson here, we have no idea what just happened Commander. The officer replied.

Natalya shook her head “I will be on my way in just……” She was cut off by a request for all Senior Officers to the Bridge.

“Continue to monitor I will hopefully have answers soon.” She said to the officer in Engineering.

She made her way in the direction wondering what was going on.

So Much For Getting Some Rest

U.S.S. Columbia NCC-76991
MD01 - 2130 Hours

Henry rubbed his tired eyes as the words on the holo-display in front of him were beginning to blur. Having to uproot his life for the second time in as many months and adjust to yet another new ship, a new crew, had involved more than a few long days and today was one of them. He’d long since lost track of the time. It was only when a familiar face appeared in the doorway that he finally dismissed the display with a swipe of his hand.

“Don’t you have a home to go to?” Head Nurse Dorem asked as she leaned on the doorframe of his office and folded her arms.

Henry leaned back in his chair and flashed her a tired smile. “Well I wanted to finish a few things off before I head back to my quarters.” He’d never referred to his quarters on either the Venture or the Columbia as home. His home was currently serving on the Aquarius as her chief flight controller.

“I think it’s time you left. We should be able to manage without you for a few hours.” She told him teasingly.

Pushing himself out of his chair, Henry moved towards the doorway. “Sounds like you’re giving me an order and I thought I gave the orders round here.”

“That’s just what we let you think.” Her smile widened. “Now go home and get some rest.”

In the short time they’d known each other, the two had become close. “You take good care of me, y’know that?”

“Someone has to, with that husband of yours off on his own assignment.” She replied softly.

Henry gave her another smile before slipping past her and leaving Sickbay. Upon reaching his quarters, he quickly began to shed his uniform, folding it neatly, and pulled on his yoga pants. “Computer, play waves crashing ambient sound.” He instructed as he rolled out his yoga mat.

After lighting a number of candles and placing them around the room and ordering the computer to turn the lights out, Henry began his usual yoga routine. Since he began taking classes at the Academy, he’d found yoga as the perfect way to relax and clear his mind so it had become a twice daily routine, morning and night.

As he pushed his hips back and he moved into downward dog, the deck beneath him lurched violently causing him to fall sideways. “So much for getting some rest.” Henry mused as he scrambled to his feet. Blowing out the candles was his first priority before pulling his yoga pants off and once again pulling on the uniform that he’d spent most of the day wearing.

Senior Officers to the Bridge.” The captain’s voice echoed through the room as Henry pulled his uniform jacket on. The instruction caused him to roll his eyes. One of the aspects of being the ship’s CMO that he disliked was the need to assemble on the bridge at times like this instead of going straight to sickbay to treat patients. Being an assistant chief had been so much simpler.

Henry tapped his commbadge as he moved out into the corridor. “Young to sickbay. Status report.”

Dorem here. We have a few cuts and bruises so far, one sprained wrist but nothing more serious so far.” The head nurse reported.

Based on what he’d felt, Henry didn’t anticipate anything more than sprains or fractures but he would still rather be in sickbay than joining in the confab on the bridge. But he was CMO now, this was all part of the job. “Alright, keep me apprised. I’ll be there as soon as I can. Young out.”

Stepping inside the turbolift, six or seven others already inside, Henry instructed it to take him to the bridge.

Through the Shadow

USS Columbia, Main Bridge
January 2400

Commander Forrest was a few steps behind the captain as they made their way onto the bridge. The swing shift crew were already being relieved at their posts by senior officers, with instructions coming quietly and calmly despite having been thrown around the room just a few moments prior. As jarring as being pulled out of warp had been, the crew were still professionals, and he knew he could count on them to do their jobs without letting this rattle them.

“Damage and casualty report!” Captain Armstrong ordered as he took the center seat.

“No major damage detected just some minor repairs needed, which are already being taken care of,” Natalya replied.

“No casualties.” The CMO added. “Just bumps, bruises and the occasional sprain.”

“That’s a relief,” the captain said, with a small sigh. “Helm, make sure we’re at station-keeping. No telling whether whatever hit us–or whatever we hit–is still out there or not,” he ordered.

“Helm answering all stop, aye,” Willow announced with barely a flourish of fingers on keys, seeing as how the ship had been pretty well stopped. She’d taken over from the even fresher-faced Ensign who had nabbed the evening slot, now making themselves scarce against a wall, but not leaving just in case they found themselves needed. “Zero relative motion with nearby galactic structures.”

“Are there any ships or structures on sensors?”

After she said ‘thank you’ to the one who was at the Ops station and briefed her on what she needed to know earlier, she had been sitting there running a full sensor sweep in anticipation of the order. Mainly due to curiosity on her part, as she will certainly have to have her team assist Engineering with any damage. That is, if there was any, Akira remembered hearing that there was no damage. This made her frown, becoming more and more curious, especially when the sensor report came up nothing. She turned her seat to look at the Captain and the Commander, the frustration of her Klingon half and the confusion of her human half-covering her face. “Nothing.” She then corrected herself. “Sensors do not detect anything, sir. Nothing in close proximity and nothing on the short-range band either. Sir, it’s just empty space.”

Having only come in moments before, Eddie made his way to the Science station, a lone crewman still manning the console. After collecting his small report, Eddie activated the console, which started collecting the same sensor scans that had already been taken. Eddie was still a bit aloof, having slammed his head into a table only minutes before in one of his science labs. He confirmed the report. “I’m not seeing anything either. Sensors are blank in the immediate area.” Eddie was confused. What did they hit?

“Stand down to yellow alert for the time being.”

“Sir, is that–,” Forrest started in a low tone, but abandoned his objection at Armstrong’s stern glance. The younger man cleared his throat. “Tactical, continue long-range scans for any threats,” he said, instead.

Kiran stood at the tactical station. His eyes focused on the readings from his screen. He looked up and at Commander Forrest “Yes sir” he said in a crisp response.

“Alright, we’re stopped and we’re intact. Can someone now please tell me what the hell happened?” Armstrong asked, standing up from his seat and looking around the bridge at his still-new staff.

Forrest flipped through the display modes on his console, examining the various sensor bands but seeing absolutely no explanation for how they could have come into contact with an energy field this far out into open space. He wasn’t a science officer–his background was in flight control–but he did see something familiar on the gravitational sensors. That familiarity did not immediately translate into an actionable clue, though, and his brow furrowed as he looked at the data.

“Speak up, Commander,” Armstrong said, sharply.

“Sorry, sir,” Forrest offered. “It’s just that the readings from the gravimetric sensors are somehow familiar, and I can’t quite place where I’ve seen them before.”

When Akira heard that, she scrolled through the sensor bands until she reached the gravimetric sensors and ran a full diagnostic. When no issues came up, she ran the system for data for analysis and when the results came up, she took a deep breath to relax her Klingon half that was about to throw a temper tantrum at what didn’t make sense. But the confused look on her face remained, as she turned in her seat to look at the Captain and Commander once more.

“I just ran the data and a full diagnostic. The system is telling me that we are very much on the edge of a gravity well, seventy or eighty AUs from a G-type star. But that doesn’t make any sense! There’s nothing there!” She slipped and then turned in her seat to hide her face from the rest and stared at her data.

“Helm confirms,” Willow announced. “No immediate action required. But can confirm gravitational influence. Nothing to worry about for another couple of decades, but it would explain dropping out of warp if we ran closer to the source and upset the warp field because we couldn’t account for it.”

“Calm yourself, Lieutenant Rowe,” Armstrong ordered, returning to the center seat and examining the data on his armrest screen. “Commander Price, confirm these readings through the Starfleet Astrometrics database. If there is a star here, its gravity should be impacting nearby objects.”

“Aye, sir. Give me a couple hours and I’ll have an answer for you.” The captain was certainly right that a star would have an impact on the surrounding space. He started the search process, manually scanning while they computer did its work.

“In the meantime, we have to assume that our readings are accurate. We’ve struck an energy field at the edge of what appears to be a hidden star system, smack dab in the middle of Federation space,” the captain summarized.

“Projecting any energy field, let alone a cloaking field, that’s 160 AUs wide would require an enormous amount of energy. Whatever’s going on here is far beyond Federation technology,” Forrest pointed out.

“All the more reason for us to figure out what’s behind that field,” Captain Armstrong replied. “Let’s see if we can at least get a sense of what we’re dealing with. Engineering, configure the main deflector to emit a tachyon pulse. If this is like any other cloaking field, we should at least be able to reveal its shape.”

Natalya stood at the main engineering console on the bridge and quickly did as the Captain requested. A few moments after some quick inputs into the console she looked up from the console “Tachyon pulse configuration complete, sir.”

“Rowe, activate the pulse,” Amstrong ordered.

Akira finished taking a few deep breathes and intertwined her fingers together to crack her knuckles. Now that she felt better, she watched the magic button appear for her before she went to press it to activate the pulse. Once the pulse was fired, she brought up the displays normally needed for charting and scanning an entire star system. She wanted to be prepared for the work load.

The bridge crew watched as the blue pulse of energy appeared on the viewscreen, coherent in a sphere for just a few seconds before it contacted the invisible barrier. For a brief moment, the rest of the screen lit up blue. The tachyon pulse had revealed what appeared to be a flat wall, but what from further out would appear as a sphere encompassing an entire solar system, before the screen went dark again. All of the bridge stations were pulling in a tremendous amount of information, and the crew poured over it.

“Well, I suppose that’s all we can do for the moment. I want reports from all departments in the briefing room in an hour,” Armstrong said, standing up from his chair.

Nearly as soon as the captain had left his seat, the ship was hit with a massive blast of energy from behind the cloaking shield. The computer immediately took them to red alert, as Captain Armstrong was thrown off his feet, along with anyone else standing on the bridge. Forrest shot up to help Armstrong back into his chair, a line of blood was coming from his temple, but he was at least conscious. The ship rocked again as it passed through the energy barrier entirely, the transition rippling across the screen.

“Report!” Forrest shouted over the klaxons.

After getting back to her feet from the sudden blast Natalya shook off the blurry vision and looked at the engineering console. The news was less than stellar and she didn’t quite know what happened. “Captain, our shields, weapons, and engines are all offline. Whatever that blast was it has crippled us.”

She grimaced knowing this was not good news and immediately sent the orders for her teams to begin diagnostics to see what the issue was.

Kiran made his way back to his feet and ran his forearm across his head before looking at the Commander, “We were hit by a high powered energy beam, it is of unknown origin at this time sir” he said his breath a little shaky as his mind ran through everything he knew about the lat few minutes.

“Helm is not responding,” Willow added, though somewhat superfluous with the announcement of the engines being offline. “We’re in free fall?” she asked more than stated as she examined her console. “32 hours till we hit the center of that gravitational field at current velocity. We’ve got RCS, but nowhere near enough delta-v to try and push for an orbit.” Willow tapped away a few more commands on her screen then turned to face the command chairs. “Sorry, sir, without the subspace driver coils, we’re a fancy brick.”

While everyone has tried to scream their reports over the loud klaxons, she was in the system to shut off the noise. They already know that they’re in trouble, and a dozen klaxons later, the entire crew also know that they are in trouble. So why is the sound still screaming in her ears? With a couple more commands entered, the sound was muted and she relaxed with a sigh. Only for a brief since she remembered that they were headed directly for the sun. With the sensors clearly working, Akira ran diagnostics on key systems.

“Engineering, get me my engines back online!” Captain Armstrong ordered, hissing from obvious pain.

“Captain, you need to get to sickbay,” Forrest insisted, watching with concern as the captain contorted in pain.

There was no way of knowing how hard he’d hit, but even a non-physician like Forrest knew that it wasn’t wise to mess around with traumatic brain engineers. The captain grimaced and shook his head.

“Stabilize the ship and figure out where we are, Number One,” Armstrong ordered, pushing himself up out of his seat with obvious difficulty. Forrest rose to stabilize him until Dr. Young could get him from the other side. “Ready room, Doctor,” the captain said, moving with renewed strength not towards the turbolift but to his ready room on the port side of the bridge.

Forrest moved over to the center seat. “I want options people,” he ordered. “We’re not crashing into a star on our first mission.”

As Forrest took command, the Columbia continued to soar towards the center of the unknown system. Windows across half the ship were flashing as internal lighting still reeled from the surge, and plasma poured from the emergency flush vents on the warp nacelles, as the computer did what it could to avoid a catastrophic containment failure. For all the problems onboard, though, the proximity sensors began to pick up hundreds of thousands of contacts throughout the system.

Make With All Haste

Main Engineering, USS Columbia
January 2400

Natalya took her leave from the bridge and made her way quickly to the Engineering department which was scrambling to figure out what the issue was. She wasn’t quite sure what had happened, but it wasn’t something that would be the normal reaction of something scanned by a tachyon pulse. She put that in the back of her mind and walked up to Lt Sandoval, who was the most senior officer in the room at the time of the incident.

“Lieutenant, what’s the situation? Do we have any idea as to what just happened to the engines?”

“I’m still sorting things out,” Livvy said.  She had a nasty cut above her right eyebrow and blood flowed freely down her cheek and bridge of her nose.  “I have diagnostics being ran and teams down there doing surveys as we speak.”

Natalya listened carefully trying to ascertain what the issue could be “Alright Sandoval, so we need to check through the most common issues. I want you to check for out of phase initiator firings and exhaust vane misalignment. Also, I want you to look for any signs of plasma turbulence in the accelerator stage or any possible fuel flow constriction. I will make sure the deuterium fuel flow has been shut off per usual routines as well as making sure the power regulators are not damaged. You have your orders!”

Livvy nodded gently, “Yes ma’am.”

She nodded and went to work checking the systems knowing the issue could not be major due to minor damage if the issue would have been bigger there would have been some bigger indications of it doing so. As she looked at the fuel flow she saw it had not been shut off which was a problem “Computer why did emergency shutdown of the deuterium fuel flow not go into effect?”

“There was no need for the action to be taken according to the systems the engines are within normal parameters.”

Natalya raised her eyebrow “Computer run a level 3 diagnostic on all Engineering systems”

“Main impulse engines offline, cause unknown.”

Natalya nodded that was more like it. She took the appropriate measures to shut off the flow and looked at the power regulators which were undamaged and within normal operating parameters. She waited for any reports from Sandoval and Cordon.

Livvy approached Natalya and handed her a PADD.  “The fusion reactors are functioning properly,  but there’s something preventing the flow of ions into the Accelerator/Generator and the driver coil assembly.”

Natlaya nodded “Do you have any idea what is preventing it? Did you look to see if you could find the issue?”

Livvy nodded, “I think so. We’ll need to make repairs to the accelerator/generators. It shouldn’t take more than thirty or forty minutes… assuming I’m correct.”

Natalya smiled “That is what I like to hear. Let’s get it repaired so we aren’t sitting ducks anymore. Take the manpower you need and get it taken care of Lieutenant.”

She tapped her combadge and listed off three officers and told them to meet her on deck 23.  

Natalya knew Sandoval could handle the repairs, which meant she would be able to give the Captain the news he so desired.

Difficult Patient

USS Columbia, Ready Room
January 2400

Captain Armstrong’s head was ringing as he walked into the ready room, Dr. Young at his heels. The pain of whatever injury he had sustained himself was quite secondary to the swirl of concern in his head over the injuries to the Columbia. Without power restored to the engines or some miracle, they were on course to collide with a star that no one knew even existed until a few minutes ago.

“Computer, med kit,” Armstrong ordered, prompting a standard kit to be produced in the nearby replicator. He sat down behind the desk and activated the holographic display, pulling up the sensor logs from the energy impact. “Do what you have to, Doctor,” he said, making eye contact with Young for a moment, wincing, and then trying to focus on the screen.

Doctor Young pursed his lips and glared at the Captain, who was studiously trying to focus on his work. After a moment, Young moved to the replicator and plucked the newly created medical kit from it. Setting it down on the desk with a heavy thud, he ripped it open and lifted the tricorder. The trill sound of it’s scanner filled the room as he conducted his scans in silence.

“I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what the tricorder says, do I?” Young asked tartly.

“Please spare me the histrionics, Doctor. Since my speech isn’t slurred, but I have the most fantastic headache, I’m guessing something just shy of a concussion?” the captain replied, glancing up at him. “We don’t know each other yet, but I’m not one to flaut your medical authority. I will gladly submit myself to whatever poking and prodding you have in mind once this ship is out of danger,” he added in a less confrontational tone. 

“Histrionics.” Young mumbled. “You have a nasty cut on your head and a mild concussion.” He announced as he deactivated the tricorder and returned it to the med kit. “I don’t think I’m being overly dramatic.” The doctor pulled the dermal regenerator next, with less force than he’d used on the tricorder. “I’d prefer to take you to Sickbay and run a full set of detailed scans but I get the feeling that the only way I’d achieve that would be by relieving you of your duties. Now that would be histrionic.” Setting up the device, Young pointed at the cut and activated it. “But I am going to stay on the bridge to monitor you for the next thirty to sixty minutes.”

“Fair enough,” the captain replied. “It might just be my brain expanding against the inside of my skull, but if you take a step back this is actually fairly exciting. The first Starfleet vessel to enter what is, apparently, a cloaked star system,” he noted, before remaining still so that the doctor could work without altering the symmetry of his forehead.

The dermal regenerator beeped, indicating it was finished it’s work. “It really is.” Young agreed with a smile. “I know it’s a cliche but it’s the reason most of us joined Starfleet; to discover the unknown.” He replaced the dermal regenerator in the med kit and closed it. “I’m absolutely only on the bridge to monitor you,” a shy smile pulled on his lips, “but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t glad of the chance to be up here right now.”

Captain Armstrong laughed, which made him wince slightly. “Well, let’s see how you feel in a few hours if we can’t alter course,” he said, standing up. “After you, doctor,” he added, gesturing towards the door.

Leaving the med kit on the captain’s desk, Doctor Young led the way out onto the bridge.

Crisis Mode

USS Columbia, Main Bridge
January 2400

With the captain ushered off of the bridge to see to his head wound, Commander Forrest was in command of the Columbia. The ship was still on a direct course for the newly-discovered G-type star that their gravimetric analysis had assumed was present, and there was very little to be done about it with thrusters at minimal power and the main engines offline. To top it all off, the sensors were either being flooded with ghosts as some side-effect of the energy weapon that had struck them, or there were hundreds of thousands of contacts throughout the star system.

“If we can’t stop, we need to find a way to slow down or alter our course. I need a full analysis on every object in our path,” the first officer ordered. “Anything with enough mass that we might be able to fall into orbit.”

Akira wiped the sweat off her brow before she returned her hand back to her console. She feverishly struggled to clear the sensor ghosts to give more accurate data on the system. “Commander Price, I am doing my best to clear up the sensor ghosts; you should be able to get something on the system for Commander Forrest.” Not at all meaning to speak about the man in the third person, but she couldn’t think of anything else while she was tapping away, executing command after command to try and clear up the sensor packets.

“Huh…Commander,” Willow spoke as she brought up another status screen on her console to confirm something. “Tractor beams seem to still be getting some power. If Commander Price can find me a decent enough mass within a specific cone we could make for it on RCS and then anchor ourselves to it, at least till our momentum likely pulls us apart.” She’d slipped into problem-solving mode and didn’t think about any repercussions before bringing up a diagram of the star system with Columbia’s position at the base of a cone pointing inwards. As they fell inwards, the RCS would become more and more useless. “Snag a few rocks, or whatever is out there, and we can steal enough sideways momentum to maybe give us a perigee high enough above the star not to cook the ship.”

“Our tractor beams aren’t rated to pull in the type of object we’d need to alter our speed. Have the computer run simulations anyway, though,” Forrest ordered. “Use whatever thruster power you have available to bring us about 180 degrees. We may be able to bypass the subspace driver coils and use impulse exhaust directly or vent the shuttle bays to give us some thrust.”

”Actually, sir, if we’re falling, we don’t want to fight directly against the fall,” Willow offered, remembering a lesson her grandfather taught her. “We want to go sideways, build up that angular momentum.” She then stopped, a thought going back to the Academy and a lecturer who wasn’t happy with her constant challenges and how she needed to accept commands. “Helm answering 180 mark 0. It’ll take one minute thirty to complete the turn.” Her left hand twitched, thumb over fingers, as she completed the math in her head. Just about 5 million metric tons or close enough for most accounting, RCS thruster output, angular momentum, needing to cancel out to bring the impulse engines to bear along their current vector…one minute twenty-eight seconds passed before her console beeped to inform the turn was done. “Bringing impulse engines online. Supplementing with RCS thrusters. No appreciable change in velocity.”

Akira wasn’t going to comment or add anything, but then there was a slight lurch, nothing serious, but her instruments began to warn her of something new. “Commander, we’ve been caught in a tractor beam!” She told him. “I’m going to try and repel it if I can.”

“Cut power to thrusters. We can’t waste what power we have left,” the first officer said.

“Answering all stop,” Willow replied and killed all engines and thrusters. “Change in velocity from the tractor, sir, 12 hours till system barycenter.” There was nothing to do, nothing to fly currently at any rate. Columbia was just a fancy brick right now for a pilot like her. Until some sort of engine power was restored, there wasn’t much she could do. “Permission sir to depart the bridge to change into a proper uniform?” she then asked, highlighting her gym wear with the wave of her hand. “And check if Engineering has made any progress?”

Akira failed to hold back her Klingon half this time when she moderately smacked the edges of her console with the palms of her hands. She then let out a heavy sigh after she had closed her eyes, as she had no plan to provide an explanation in any further unprofessional state. She turned in her seat to look at the Commander. “Nothing I did has repelled the tractor beam. I’m sorry, sir.”

“Tractor beam?” Captain Armstrong asked, as he re-emerged from the ready room.

“It seems that whatever has disabled us has also got us caught,” Commander Forrest replied, as he vacated the center seat. 

Kiran looked at his panels “Sir we have something about 200 hundred meters long on an intercept course, it’s a few minutes out from intercept,” he said as looked at the first officer.

“Why didn’t we detect it until now?” Armstrong asked, bypassing the command area and heading toward one of the science consoles. 

“Our sensors have been going haywire,” Forrest noted. “But I’m not seeing any power signatures from whatever’s headed our way,” he added.

“That’s because it’s not a ship: it’s an organism.”

Doing An Essential Job

Deck 23 Main Impulse Engine
January 2400

Livvy sighed standing before the accelerator/generator.  There was carbon scoring across the main panel as something overloaded the capacitors sending electricity arcing in all directions.

“Davies take a look at and get me a full diagnostic on the driver coil assembly.   T’lal you are our parts go-fer.

The Vulcan gave her a quizzical look. “Gopher ma’am? I fail to see how I resemble a small terrestrial mammal native to Earth.”

Livvy smiled and laughed despite the seriousness of the situation. “Not gopher as in the animal,  but go for this, go for that.  You are our runner.”

The Vulcan raised an eyebrow at her still not completely following. “Humans are most illogical.”

She shrugged as she pulled off the access panel to the accelerator/generator, “We get by.”

She opened her tricorder,  but it was mostly unnecessary. The damage of burned out components was all too obvious.  A whole bank of isolinear chips were cracked,  partially melted, and blackened.  Several circuit boards showed obvious damage. 

Livvy started pulling the damaged components out and tossing them on the floor next to her while calling out the needed replacement parts.

Finally she reached the positive high-voltage terminal and she swore.  She had found the source of the problem.   That had failed and fried all the control circuits along with it.  She figured there would be damage to that component, but she didn’t expect to have to replace it. 

“Davies go with T’lal and get an anti-grav lift. We’re going to need a replacement positive high-voltage terminal from the industrial replicator.”

“Aye ma’am,” Davies said and he and T’lal trotted off to get that part. 

Livvy climbed up on the outer housing to remove the bolts holding the accelerator shield to allow her access into the inside of the assembly.   The terminal in question was too big for her to lift on her own and she positioned the shielding under it and when the last bolt had been removed the terminal fell onto the shield rolled out of the accelerator and crashed onto the deck with a heavy thump.

With the terminal removed and awaiting a new one Livvy set about rebuilding the control interface.  Opening a box of replacement isolinear chips she started pulling out damaged chips and slotting a new one in its place.  

She was halfway through the chips when T’lal and Davies returned with a replacement terminal on an antigrav lift.  Davies looked at the old terminal. “You already got the old one out? How?”

“Gravity,” she said.  “Now, let’s get the new one installed.”  She entered some commands into the anti-grav lift and it rose above the deck until it was parallel to the terminal mount. After five minutes or so and a lot of grunting and a little swearing the three of them got the terminal bolted into place.  

It took another twenty minutes to rebuild the control interface,  but Livvy smiled with satisfaction and pride as they slid the out panel home and latched it in place.  Davies had already reconfigured the driver coil assembly.   Now it was time to fire up the engine and hope that it worked. 

“Sandoval to Commander Koerner,” she said after tapping her combadge.  “Impulse engines should be functional.”

All the Way Down

USS Columbia, Sickbay
January 2400

From where Chrishell Reiko was sitting, she thought Lieutenant Andreus Kohl moved through Sickbay like a classically-trained actor performing a stage play. Kohl strode around the nurse’s station without looking where he was going, too busy pointing at a chart on a holo-display. Despite his broad frame and thick legs, there was a grace to his movement. His body language didn’t betray just how new he was to Columbia‘s Sickbay.  He had been assigned to the ship just as recently as Chrishell herself, and the rest of the crew. If Kohl was nervous about the red alert and whatever had brought the ship to a sudden halt, he certainly wasn’t sweating it.

Even though she was sitting upon a biobed on the other side of sickbay from him, Chrishell could hear how Kohl was reassuring one of the nurses that they had things under control and she was free to return to her quarters. Kohl instructed another nurse to attend to the patient at biobed three.  As they all scattered, Kohl marched away from the nurse’s station in Chrishell’s direction. Whereas Kohl’s black uniform was shouldered with the teal divisional colour of medical, Chrishell’s uniform was shouldered in gold. Kohl was her nurse; she was his patient, and she wasn’t the only one.

Once Kohl had closed the distance to Chrishell’s biobed, he raised his right palm to perform a snatching gesture in the air. A holographic biofunction monitor snapped into existence where he’d summoned it. Before Chrishell could ask a question, Kohl blurted out, “Baby is healthy.” In relief, Chrishell loosened her grip on her expanded stomach, but she didn’t lift her hand. “I’ve reviewed all of the test results,” Kohl explained in a measured tone; “There’s no signs of problems with your pregnancy after the fall.”

Chrishell had narrowed her eyes at Kohl almost as soon as he started speaking. With each sentence fragment he let out, she almost interjected. As soon as he stopped talked, she said, “No offense, Lieutenant, but you’re a nurse practitioner…”

Kohl looked her in the eyes and he nodded once; she received the look as an acknowledgement and reassurance. He then glanced at the biofunction monitor, where visual representations of her vital signs were flashing, softly beeping in time. “I will of course review the results with the Chief Medical Officer as soon as he returns to Sickbay,” Kohl replied. Again, he looked like an actor, this time reciting a familiar speech from memory.  Gesturing to her, Kohl asked, “Can I see that wrist you were telling me about, Chrishell?”

Replying with a nod, Chrishell proffered the hand she’d landed on, when she’d taken a tumble in engineering. Kohl gestured to focus the biobed’s sensors and waved his hand over the visible bruising on Chrishell’s wrist. A holographic representation of the damage to her blood vessels materialized over her wrist, moving in concert with her hand.

“Now I’ve only known you ten minutes, so I want you to tell me to shut up if I’m over-stepping,” Kohl said, as good-humoured preamble to something else. Shuffling towards an antigrav tray by his side, Kohl picked through the medical tools available to him.  He wrapped his fingers around a small cylinder on the tray, collecting the vascular regenerator. “I don’t know any pregnant people well enough to get a drink with them –figuratively speaking– which means I hate to waste this opportunity,” he said in complete transparency. Meeting her eyes again, Kohl took a deep breath and he asked, “When did you decide you were ready to become a mother?”

Chrishell retorted, “Why wait? My last CMO called this a geriatric pregnancy as it is.”  She answered his question with a tight smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. This had been her turn to offer a well-worn reply to avoid an awkward silence or dreaded small talk.

Kohl tittered half a laugh at that, but he swallowed it quickly. As she watched him, Kohl’s lips moved like he was about to ask another question, but the words must have evaporated from his mind as quickly as the expression evaporated from his face.  Kohl began to wave the vascular regenerator over her wrist, and then he spat out, “What made you decide, or how did you know you were ready, or had you really planned, or did you really know?”

With some amusement, Chrishell shook her head at the absurdity of Kohl’s apparent discomfort with her pregnancy or, more likely, his own reactions to it. She studied every micro-expression on his face, when she  tartly asked, “Are you going to ask me how many lights there are too?”

That time, Kohl laughed for real. Through his snicker, Kohl remarked, “They’re still giving that lecture at the academy about surviving interrogation, huh?”

“For real, Andreus,” she said, “what are you trying to ask me?”

Diffidently, Kohl avoided her eyes.  He stared intently at light emitting from the vascular regenerator as it repaired the bruising on Chrishell’s arm.  After a pregnant pause, Kohl shrugged.  “I never asked my father why he adopted me,” he admitted. Only then did he look up.

“Isn’t that,” Chrishell asked delicately, “a conversation you should be having with him?”

Kohl shook his head. “He died,” he answered simply.

“Your mother?” Chrishell prompted. Without meaning to, she winced sheepishly at the question she asked. Maybe that was as insensitive as Kohl’s questions to her.

“As good as,” was Kohl’s only answer.

Instinctively, Chrishell yanked her hand away from Kohl. She needed both hands to protect her unborn child from such uncomfortable words, uncomfortable thoughts. Aside from the initial sting of surprise, Chrishell let the moment pass. Kohl wasn’t talking about her own mother, and Kohl was not her son. Thoughts about the conversations she had left unsaid with her own father came to mind, unbidden, and she ignored them by asking, “Are you much like your father?”

“As an adolescent, I thought he was secretly psychic,” Kohl replied. Clearly, it was a topic he had reflected on a lot. Clearly. He reached out to finish his treatment on Chrishell’s wrist. “Every now and then he would surprise me. He would know what I was going to do, or he could understand exactly why I was feeling a type of way. It was only as I got older that I realized, for all our differences, he operated on similar LCARS as me.” Kohl tapped on the side of his head with his free hand to emphasize the point.

Nodding softly, Chrishell said, “Then can’t you imagine how–”

At the next biobed over, the Emergency Medical Hologram interjected, “Lieutenant Kohl, I’ve stabilized Head Nurse Dorem’s vitals through an anesthetically-induced coma. If we can move her to the surgical suite, I can commence knitting the skull fractures. I’ve done what I can for the cerebral edema, but” –the holographic being’s breath caught in his throat, brimming with programmed nerves– “Only time will tell.”

“Dorem? What happened to Dorem?” Chrishell asked intently.  Kohl was a stranger to her, but Dorem had introduced herself in the lounge. Dorem had tracked down that recipe Chrishell could only half-remember. Now, Dorem was laid out on the biobed beside her, unconscious.

Kohl’s lips thinned, at that question, and the light behind his grey eyes dimmed. His expression went slack and he folded his hands behind his back, clasping his wrist tightly. “She hit her head on a biobed when the ship crashed out of warp. She, uh, she looked fine. Her pupils were normal; she reported no sensory symptoms,” Kohl said, clearly pained. He breathed out a “tt” between his teeth, and he said, “She should have known better. But patients started coming in; she put the patients first. She was tending to one of them when Dorem dropped. Fell to the deck. No warning.”

“She didn’t know…” Kohl started to say. His mouth sounded dry as he trailed off. Staring into the middle distance, Kohl shook his head. “I should have known…”

In the flash of an annular confinement beam, Dorem was dematerialized; beamed into the surgical suite. The Emergency Medical Hologram winked out of Sickbay to join his patient. Without looking back, Kohl went bounding across the compartment to assist with the surgery. This time, there was no dance-like sway about his movements. This time, he was a wounded gazelle running for his life.

Swagger stick yourself up off the floor

USS Columbia, Main Engineering
January 2400

Turning the corner into main engineering, Lieutenant Andreus Kohl paused a minute to gain his bearings. He leaned close to a bulkhead, keeping back from the bustle of engineers moving around like bees worshiping the warp core. After studying the faces he saw, and mentally comparing them with the crew manifest, Kohl strode into the fray. Clutching his medikit to his side, Kohl navigated around the master systems display table, and he approached an officer wearing lieutenant pips on her gold-shouldered uniform.

“Hullo, I’m Nurse Kohl,” he said, given this was his first visit to Columbia‘s engineering section. “Might you be Lieutenant Sandoval?” he asked hopefully.

“Marcus where’s the Commander’s diagnostic on the injector assembly?”

“I’m still working on it.  The computer system is scrambled,  and it’s taking longer than it should.”

Livvy sighed,  “We need to get the warp engines online,  and we’re waiting on you for that diagnostic.” She finally turned away from the engineering “pool table” to face the intruder.   “Wrong Sandoval twin,” she joked, “you must be looking for my sister who is the Doctor.   She’s not onboard anymore and is serving with our step-brother.” She smiled sheepishly, “Sorry I tend to lean into levity during stressful situations.  It’s gotten me into trouble more than once.  What can I do for you?”

Shaking his head, Kohl blithely remarked, “Never apologize for levity.  Gallows humour is always welcome in sickbay.”  For all the lightness to those words, he said them in all sincerity.  He quickly tacked on an, “As are engineers,” to explain his presence.  Kohl plucked the tricorder from his medikit and he thumbed the toggle that activated the holographic display at his chest level.  He swiped a tab on the holo-display to point out the reports he described, when he said, “We received several casualty reports from engineering and most of them never made it to sickbay.  I’m here to make house calls.  They can keep working while I patch them up, but I need your help.”  A little more conspiratorially, Kohl requested, “I didn’t come aboard with the contingent from Europa.  I don’t know anybody.  Could I trouble you to make introductions, and order them not to move too much while I repair their damages?”

“Not really my call Doc. This is Commander Kroener’s shift.” Livvy drummed her fingers on the surface of the pool table thinking.  . Finally with decision made she led Kohl to an alcove where an Ensign sat tapping away at controls one handed. “Hey, Standing Bear, I know you don’t want to leave while we’re in crisis mode, but Doc Kohl is going to shore you up.”

The woman looked up from her console. She had thick long coal-black hair in a single braid running down the center of her back.  Her skin was the color of baked clay, with high cheekbones,  and prominent lips and nose. Her dark brown eyes had an ever so slight pinch thanks ancient Asian ancestors.  There was a deep cut and brushing above her left brow and she held her right arm close to her body.

Nurse Kohl,” he said, correcting Livvy with the emphatic waggle of his index finger.  Kohl raised his medical tricorder to the level of Standing Bear’s head, swiped it down her torso, and in the direction of her arms.  His eyes ignored the holo-display on the first go-round; rather his gaze followed the engineer’s reactions.  More than a little sardonic around the vowels, Kohl promised, “No surgical interventions from me, but I know my way around wounds and soft tissue injuries.”  Tilting his head, Kohl moved his attention to the holo-display.  While his eyes scanned through the sensor results, Kohl shifted the conversation to the engineers’ comfort zone.  He asked, “Do we know anything more about what happened to the engines?”  At the same time, his inflection seemed to ask, is it going to happen again?

“An overload killed the impulse engines, not sure about the warp drive. Something is keeping us from forming a stable warp bubble,” Livvy said.

“Something in the EPS waveguides,” Standing Bear added helpfully. 

Livvy shrugged,  “The matter/antimatter reactor is operating, but the plasma relays aren’t getting into the EPS system.”

As they discussed their observations and theories, Kohl plucked a tissue regenerator multi-tool from his kit.  It was shaped like a large mechanical pencil and he pointed its emitter at Standing Bear’s shoulder.  He tapped tabs on its side to apply cellular microsutures to Standing Bear’s tissue damage and activate the anabolic accelerator to encourage natural healing from within.  Kohl kept watch over the progress of his treatment, on his tricorder display, but he was curious enough to still ask the question.  “I can’t purport to be anything but a clown when it comes to electroplasma,” he said, asking, “but what could actually do something like that?”

Livvy shrugged,  “Your guess is as good as mine Doc.”

Offhandedly, Kohl corrected her with a, “Nurse.”  When he said it, he kept his eyes on the energy arcs from the multi-tool he continued waved over Standing Bear’s arm.  “Nervous nurse, actually,” he added, “If we can just fall out of the sky.”  –Urgently, Kohl looked over at Livvy for only a heartbeat, but his eyes were wide and panicked– “Do you think we could go home tonight?  Could this turn us back from our trek to the wormhole?”

Livvy crossed her arms in front of her uncertain how to respond.  She sighed,  “Anything is possible,  but as far as I can tell there’s no damage to the ship that would require a Starbase. I have full faith in the Chief Engineer, and you should as well.”

Nodding slowly at Livvy’s words, Kohl packed away his multi-tool in exchange for a dermal regenerator.  Only a couple of quick swipes were required to heal the cut on Standing Bear’s forehead.  “I receive that.  Faith was always in great supply on Argelius.  I think I can adopt a little faith in our chief engineer and her team,” Kohl said.  The way his voice went up at the end of the statement communicated a growing glimmer of hope.

She patted him on the shoulder and lead him to a replicator and handed him a coffee. “Now, I know I’m not the eternal optimist, but what’s with the Debby Downer routine Doc?”

Kohl followed Livvy to the replicator, but he trailed behind a couple of paces, as he packed his tools back into the medi-kit.  He shifted the kit’s shoulder strap closer to his neck and he accepted the mug between both of his hands.  He mouthed a silent ‘thank you’ before he took his first sip of the coffee.  “On a scale of one to ten?  You can see my anxiety is at a disregulated,” Kohl replied.  His lips curled tightly in an expression that suggested he was uncomfortable with this state of affairs, but he didn’t hesitate to admit where he was at.  Before he explained himself, he sipped at the coffee again.  “I know my way around sickbays, but I’ve hardly left Federation space before, let alone the quadrant,” he said, chalking it up to the reptilian-brained fear of the unknown.  “Only, we haven’t even made it to the Delta Quadrant, and our Head Nurse cracked her skull in the impact.  The EMH is doing what they can for her, but we’re running out of options except for stasis.”

She considered him for a moment trying to formulate a strategy.  “You know, medicine and engineering are not too dissimilar. You diagnose the problem and you repair or replace.  There are things that are within your control, and then there are things out of your control or ability.   If we were at a repair facility we would have different resources that we do not have out here in the black.  So, do we lament and complain about what we do not have? Well, that’s not productive.   That doesn’t fix the problem.  We adapt and overcome.  Are you not qualified to fulfill head nurse duties? So you’re down an officer. Every department experiences loss from time to time. Adapt and overcome.  Pick up the banner and keep charging that hill.  Move forward. Space is dangerous Doc.  If you wanted to be safe you should have stayed out of Starfleet.  There’s a need for nurses all over the Federation. So now, what are you going to do?”

“Realistically,” Kohl started to say.  He squinted momentarily as he took in Livvy’s words and considered how he wanted to answer her questions.  He took another sip of the coffee, and he said, “It’s going to be both.  I’m going to pick up the banner and charge that hill, and I’m going to be anxious to the point of unhinged at the same time.”  –With his free hand, he raised a finger to make one final, sardonic point– “However, I’m going to do better about not taking it out on so many bystanders.”

Livvy shrugged,  “One step at a time Doc. One step at a time.”

Four minutes fifty one.

USS Columbia, Beckman's Quarters, Holodeck 5
MD1 - 2030 Hours

First there was her starbase bound duties, then the assignment to the Europa and now one Willow Andrea Beckman found herself reassigned to the USS Columbia. Yes, the ship was Galaxy-class, yes it was older than she was, but it came with a seriously considerable advantage to the Europa – larger quarters. Not a lavish palace like those on even larger ships, or reserved for senior officers, but even the junior officer quarters aboard such a vessel were an improvement.

“Cripes Wil,” came the voice from the padd in her hand after having held it facing away from her and giving the tour of her new quarters. “My first apartment was bigger than those quarters,” Viv continued as Willow set the padd back down in its angled rest so she could chat her with closest friend. “But compared to your last they’re certainly an improvement.”

“Hey, just because some of us went into space is no need to brag about you planetside apartments. Besides, space aboard a ship is important.”

“Then do everyone a favour and find someone to share that space with girl,” Viv said jokingly. “Seriously, wasn’t your last girlfriend back in the Academy?”

“Viv!” Willow said, blushing. “I’m not going to shack up just to save space or to satisfy your desire for me to have a love life!”

“Shame. Hey, you been working out?” Viv asked, taking the conversation in a tangent.

“What?”

“Because girl I can see those guns in frame every so often. Looking good!” And with that Viv’s face moved out of shot as she stood up and backed away from her comm, turning sideways to show off her baby bump. “Four months along now, bubs is healthy.”

Willow just sat there, watching her friend, her first love, enjoying the early stages of motherhood. Viv had found her Mr Right barely six months after Willow had left Berengeria for the Academy and her and Roger had been trying for a family for a year now. Somewhere deep inside she hurt, knowing she’d never be able to win Viv over like she wanted, but a larger part of her was ecstatic for her friend.

“Oh, Viv I’m so happy for you, truly am, but I’m not going to be able to make it for bub’s birth, or even first birthday even. We’re being deployed to the Delta Quadrant soon. Heck, I’m not going to be able to call as often.”

Viv sat herself back down, her perpetual smile still on her face. “Hey, friendship is stronger than that babe. I’ll still be here when you get back and then Auntie Willow can meet bubs when she can. It’ll be fine! Now I hate to run, but we’ve been chatting for like an hour and Roger needs me to come supervise his gardening before he declares everything a weed and starts going crazy.”

“He’s a dolt Viv, but I love. Give Roger my love and if you see my grandparents around give them a hug for me, won’t you?” she asked Viv, knowing her friend would do it anyway just because Viv was that overly cheerful, bubbly person in her life.

“Of course babe! Gotta run love, take care!”

With that the comm line went dead and Willow then sat back in her chair, slumping somewhat with a sigh that had to be heard in Engineering. She wallowed there for a good five minutes before reaching over, checking the status of the ship’s holodecks and then reserving one. She had some work to do.



She walked into the holodeck in her gym gear, the black bike shorts and baggy light blue singlet that read “COL” on the front and “Beckman” on the back. Of course, since the holodeck had been running with her preselected program, she was walking onto an expertly recreated rendition of Columbia’s bridge., bereft of crew, the expanse of space displayed on the man viewscreen. The arch closed behind her and she knew if she turned around, she’d just be confronted with a turbolift door.

“Computer, obstacle course Gamma Three Heavy,” she commanded as she assumed the helm, tapping in a sequence to bring up her personalised control surface. Instruments popped to life, populated by the information presented as the obstacle course was rendered. An asteroid field with predetermined checkpoints sprung to life on instruments and viewscreen.

“Gamma Three Heavy. Qualification time is five minutes thirty seconds with no collisons. Personal best from 2398 is five minutes six seconds.” She’d not run the heavy version of Gamma Three since the Academy, having focused primarily on Normal and Small, but now she was on Columbia, which while she was rated for all craft in Starfleet, she felt the need to brush up on skills.

The asteroids hung, motionless, not even spinning. The faux-Columbia was equally motionless. All of which would change as soon as Willow tapped the first control that commanded the ship to do something. The timer would start, the ship would bow to her will and dutifully do as it was commanded and the asteroids would begin their own ballet.

It was a ridiculous rendition of an asteroid field to be honest. Only a handful where ever detected as dense as what was presented. No flight officer would, if given a chance, willing fly into such a maelstrom, opting to fly around. But this was a training course and they were duly unfair.

“Five minutes six, let’s do it.”

Over an hour had passed, the course being run over and over again, Willow resetting with each completion, taking a moment to catch her breath, think, calm herself and then throw herself back at the challenge.

“Five minutes one second.”

“Four minutes fifty-seven.”

“Four minutes fifty-one.”

“Four minutes fifty-six.”

That last one hurt. To go from a best score to slipping back five runs. “Reset,” she commanded and everything dutifully did as was asked.

“You know,” Willow heard from behind her, spinning her chair around to face what she presumed was an empty captain’s chair but was instead occupied by a stunningly beautiful science officer, legs crossed and relaxed as if she owned the chair, the ship, the imaginary crew if it had any, “your booking ended three minutes ago.” She exuded the confidence of a command officer, just a shame about the blue collar.

Jamie. The name came to her. Jamie Sandhurst. They’d had a one-night stand on Starbase 72. It was supposed to be a one-night stand at any rate though it could easily have been more. And yet here she was. Silky iridescent ruby red hair, a perpetually tanned complexion, a figure that hinted at strength but with just the right curves, combined with the height that Willow herself lacked. She wasn’t completely pure human stock, but who was these days right?

Jamie stood, carefully, walking from the chair to the helm and the stunned Willow who just watched. “Stunned silence? Where’s the braggadocious flight officer, hmm? To stunned to see me?” Jamie asked as she traced a finger along Willow’s jaw line, hooking a finger under her chin and tilting her face further up. Only the slightest pressure was needed to tell Willow to stand.

She wasn’t quite sure what really happened next, soon enough her face cupped in Jamie’s hands, lips locked together in a brief passionate kiss and then it was over and Jamie was smiling at Willow like she’d just stolen the main vault of the Bank of Bolias and got away with it. “Surprise.”

It was at this moment the agent of chaos known only as Murphy struck, a colossal sense of humour paired with timing being his preferred weapons. Barely had the word passed Jamie’s lips before the actual Columbia had been rocked by something, sending both women to the floor.

Red alert clearly was sounded as the holodeck disengaged, leaving Willow pinned under Jamie on the floor. The larger woman smiled, the whole effect taking over her face. “Lieutenant Beckman, are you trying to set records?” Jamie asked and Willow couldn’t help but blush like a school girl. She could feel her face flushing and she was saved from a proper response by an all-hands whistle.

“Senior Officers to the Bridge,” came Captain Armstrong’s voice over the shipwide and both women were quick to their feet.

“I gotta run,” Willow said by way of a good bye as she jogged towards the holodeck door, turning back to see Jamie still standing there.

“Please do,” Jamie replied, her head tilted sideways. “I’ll be finding you later.”

She thought about a quick return to her quarters for a proper uniform, she thought about making straight for the bridge in her gym gear since she had after all come off shift five hours ago and this was an emergency, right? Warp drives don’t just lurch ships and stop without good reason. She thought about turning back and asking Jamie what the hell she was doing on Columbia and how she found Willow for that matter.

That later thought kept looping as she navigated on autopilot, ultimately the decision regarding uniform made without conscious input as she stepped out onto the bridge of her new home, still in her gym gear and while she wasn’t sweating like she’d just come from the gym, at least had the complexion of someone who had.

Great, first emergency and out of uniform. Fuck it, just do your job and be damn good at it girl.