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Inside the Frontier

For Avalon, the aftermath of Frontier Day is about more than recovery. Only the scientists of the Avalon Group can hope to make sense of the crisis that fell, and the future that threatens.

Face the Day

Deputy Commandant's Office, Brahms Station
April 2401

‘How did this happen.’

There was a clattering of PADDs from behind her as the yeoman tried to rifle through a stack of reports in response. Still facing the window from her office on Brahms Station, Admiral Tau closed her eyes. ‘That was a rhetorical question, Ensign.’

‘I – sorry, Admiral. I’m sorry.’

Inhale through the nose. Hold. Exhale through the mouth. She did that twice before turning back to the lanky shape of Ensign Scott: leggy, blonde, eager, and young. Also, it turned out, a terrible shot, even with the combined instincts of the Borg Collective surging through her thoughts and body. Most people didn’t want to face their boss the next day if they misplaced a form or put the wrong work order through. Scott had faced Tau the next day after unsuccessfully trying to kill her.

She had to win points for that. And for being a terrible shot.

Tau didn’t want to pamper or condescend anyone. Scott was in a regular therapy group, like every former assimilated. She had been rated at the lowest level of concern, with no indication she’d so much as hurt anyone, and showing promising signs of working through the trauma of brief assimilation. But she’d been a nervy young woman to begin with. Now it was like the eggshells she walked on might not merely shatter, but explode.

So Tau got to work. ‘What do we have?’

Scott fiddled with the stack of PADDs before providing the one Tau suspected had been at the top to begin with. ‘We’re back on schedule with getting the Fourth Fleet ships fully operational again.’

Tau still frowned as she took the PADD. ‘We fell behind schedule again?’

Scott’s eyes widened. ‘Because of Frontier Day.’

Another pause. ‘You mean the dockyards are back on their pre-Frontier Day schedule?’

‘Yes, Admiral.’

Get Orbital Assets a case of whiskey. A whole distillery. But despite the warmth of surging pride, Tau felt the splash of cold apprehension. Avalon’s losses had not been as great as elsewhere, as Earth; the Borg’s intentions here had been to seize assets, not slaughter. Everyone had picked themselves up and returned to work in the following days, eased by the rapid announcement of the newly-minted Admiral Crusher’s cure for the Borg’s alterations. But it was perhaps not only grit and pride that saw her engineers pushing on. How much did they want to avoid thinking about what had happened? What they’d been through? And how would that end?

Tau worked her jaw before she nodded to herself. ‘Schedule additional leave days for Orbital Asset personnel. Mandatory.’

‘Admiral?’

‘The Fourth Fleet can cool their heels in Sato City an extra day or two.’ She waved a hand as she turned back to the window. Beyond it spilt the rest of Brahm Station, the dockyards, Avalon II, its lunar installations. By now, the naked eye could make out no sign of damage, no sign that anything had ever happened only days ago.

Tau knew better. Sometimes damage was in systems deep in the fuselage. Sometimes damage was in the software. You had to take your time with these kinds of repairs. These kinds of traumas. Every component had to be handled with care to make sure it worked. Or the whole system could break down.

Her eye landed on the gleaming sapphire of Avalon II itself. ‘Is the Avalon Group holding that conference?’

‘Several,’ Scott answered at once. ‘The Fleet Formation one still wants you as a keynote, but you asked me to…’ Her voice trailed off.

‘To?’

‘Fob them off,’ said Scott bashfully.

Tau clicked her tongue as she turned. ‘Tell them I’ll do it. Someone’s got to remind R&D what’s what.’

‘What… uh, what is what, ma’am? What do they need reminding of?’

Tau shrugged and advanced on the desk. ‘That knowledge can’t be for its own sake. That we have to do something with it. That they have the power to heal by giving everyone understanding. If they can lift their eyes from their navels long enough, anyway.’

At last, a hint of levity entered Scott’s eyes. ‘Yes, ma’am. Shall I tell them that in the acceptance message?’

It was as it had been weeks ago, when Scott could dance around in nerves, then make a well-placed comment and earn only a look from Tau, judging and approving all at once.

‘Use your best judgement, Ensign,’ Tau said dryly. ‘Now, off with you.’

They would need more than mere moments like this to recover. But this, Tau knew, was what made recovery possible. Trust. Connection. Bad jokes.

Purgatory’s Promise

AFY-22
Several Weeks Post-FD

Captain Tharia sh’Elas sat at the head of the conference table aboard Drydock AFY-22, her mind wandering as her staff discussed the details of the Hathaway’s refit. She absentmindedly dragged her fingers on the polished surface, the monotony of her rehabilitation period becoming unbearable.

Weeks had passed since her rescue by the crew of the USS Hathaway, and while she had made significant progress in her recovery, she found herself confined to Avalon Fleetyards for further rehabilitation. Whilst starships and crewmembers came and went in the aftermath of Frontier Day, she remained. The once daring and fearless Andorian first officer of the Santa Fe now felt trapped in this purgatory, longing for the familiar embrace of space.

Her attention wavered as her staff members delved into technical specifications and schedules. The refit of the Sagan-class USS Hathaway was crucial, she knew, but her heart yearned for the thrill of exploration and the freedom of command. She longed to be back at the helm of her ship, charting new courses and facing the unknown.

Lost in her thoughts, Tharia’s antennae perked up at the mention of a possible new commanding officer being assigned to the Hathaway. Her interest sparked, a glimmer of hope ignited within her. Could this be her chance to escape the purgatory of Avalon?

Suppressing her boredom, Tharia focused her attention on the conversation unfolding around her. The news of a new commanding officer injected a sense of anticipation into the room, breathing life into the stale atmosphere. The possibilities swirled in her mind, and she couldn’t help but wonder what this change would bring. The thought of possibly being the new commander of Hathaway made sense and rekindled her spirit. It promised a fresh start, an opportunity to regain her position and prove herself once again, and also be reunited with some colleagues from before her captivity.

As the meeting continued, Tharia became more engaged, her mind shifting from boredom to determination. She listened intently, making mental notes and offering insightful suggestions. Despite her physical limitations caused by lingering pain in her shoulders, she knew she could still contribute, still make a difference.

Her team, recognizing the newfound energy in their leader, responded with enthusiasm. The atmosphere in the room shifted as if a dormant fire had been reignited. They fed off Tharia’s renewed passion, and together they began to envision the possibilities that lay ahead.

Alas, Tharia’s heart sank as the truth unfolded before her. The commanding officer situation aboard Hathaway wasn’t as simple as she had hoped; Captain Nazir and her command team were only being seconded somewhere for a mission and someone needed to oversee things while they were gone. The glimmer of hope that had ignited within her was extinguished, replaced by a deep sense of despair. It felt like a cruel twist of fate, a bitter disappointment she couldn’t bear.

Her dreams of escaping the purgatory of Avalon Fleetyards shattered, Tharia felt a profound sense of loss. The weight of her confinement grew heavier, and the walls of her self-imposed prison closed in on her. She had allowed herself to hope, to believe that a new commanding officer would be her ticket to freedom, only to have those hopes dashed.

Forcing herself to her feet, the meeting came to a stop as the team stared at their commander blankly. “I need to attend my review on Brahms,” she told her people, each of the team profoundly aware of the situation she found herself in. “Everything sounds good so far. Keep it up, folks. You’re all doing a great job,” she smiled as best she could.

Deep down, Tharia knew that her own journey would continue, albeit on a different path. Though disappointed, she refused to let despair define her. She would rise above it, determined to make her mark in the vast expanse of the galaxy once more. But for now, she let the disappointment linger for just a little while longer.


Captain Tharia sh’Elas stared out of the observation window aboard Brahms station, her fingers tapping rhythmically on the polished surface of the table before her. She had been through countless missions, and faced dangers that most could only imagine. But now, she found herself in an altogether different battle—one against the invisible chains of her own mind.

The soft hum of the station’s ventilation system was a constant reminder of her confinement. She hated this feeling—trapped, just like she had been during those long, torturous months of captivity by the Changelings. The nightmares were still fresh in her memory, the echo of their taunting laughter haunting her thoughts. Hathaway‘s crew had rescued her, but the scars, both physical and emotional, ran deep.

“Captain sh’Elas?” The voice of Counsellor Laren Voss snapped her back to the present.

Tharia turned her attention to the counsellor, a poised and empathetic Betazoid woman with a calm demeanour that seemed to radiate warmth. “Yes, Counsellor?”

Laren Voss leaned forward slightly, her dark eyes locked onto Tharia’s. “How have you been feeling since our last session?”

Tharia sighed, her fingers now tracing the edge of a data pad on the table. “Honestly, Counsellor, I feel like I’m losing my mind here. I should be out there, on the Hathaway, or some other ship, leading my crew and doing something useful…”. She huffed, “and instead, I’m confined to Avalon Fleet Yards, subjected to months of evaluations and assessments.”

Voss nodded understandingly. “It’s only been a few weeks, Captain. And it’s completely natural to feel frustrated in this situation. But the medical team wants to ensure that you’re fully recovered, both physically and mentally, before you return to active duty.

Tharia clenched her jaw, her eyes narrowing with a mix of irritation and anxiety. “I’ve been through worse and bounced back. I’ve faced death more times than I can count. This should be a cakewalk.”

Voss tilted her head slightly. “And that’s precisely what concerns me, Captain. You’re accustomed to pushing through pain, both physical and emotional. But this time, it’s different. You’re not just bouncing back from an injury; you’re healing from trauma. Rushing back into the field without addressing the underlying issues could lead to even more problems down the line.”

Tharia’s fingers tightened around the data pad. “I don’t need more counselling, Counsellor. I’ve talked about what happened with you, with the medical team, with the people on Hathaway. I’m ready.”

Voss leaned back in her chair, her expression unwavering. “I believe you think you’re ready, Captain. But there’s something else beneath the surface, something that’s eating at you. Every time we’ve discussed your captivity, you deflect, you avoid delving too deep. I think you’re afraid to confront your vulnerability.”

Tharia’s nostrils flared slightly, her gaze turning cold. “Vulnerability is a luxury I can’t afford, Counsellor.”

“And that’s the mindset that could lead you down a dangerous path,” Voss leaned forward again, her voice soft but insistent. “Your strength is unquestionable, Captain, but denying your emotions, your fears, will only build walls around you. It won’t make you stronger; it will make you more isolated.”

A tense silence settled between them, the weight of Voss’s words hanging in the air. Tharia’s fingers had stopped their tapping, her gaze now fixed on a distant star visible through the window.

“You’re right,” Tharia finally admitted, her voice barely a whisper. “I’ve been trying so hard to put on a facade of strength that I’m losing myself in the process.”

Voss’s empathetic gaze softened. “It’s okay to ask for help, Captain. It’s okay to lean on others when you’re struggling. The people here, and the people who know you, admire you, not just for your strength, but for your humanity as well.”

Tharia’s shoulders slumped as she let out a heavy sigh. “I just… I can’t shake the feeling of being a captive again. Not in the literal sense, but like my own mind is holding me hostage.”

Voss nodded, her expression gentle. “That’s a natural response to trauma, Captain. But remember, healing takes time. It’s not a linear process. You’ve survived the worst, but now it’s about learning to live with the aftermath.”

Tharia looked down at her hands, the data pad now forgotten. “I’m so used to being in control, to being the one who leads others. It’s hard to accept that I need help.”

“Needing help doesn’t make you weak, Captain. It’s a sign of strength to acknowledge your own limitations and seek support when you need it,” Voss smiled softly.

As the session continued, the walls Tharia had meticulously built around herself began to crack, allowing the vulnerability she had been suppressing to surface. She spoke of the nightmares that plagued her, the moments of paralysing fear that would grip her unexpectedly. And as she spoke, she realised that she wasn’t alone—Voss was there, offering understanding and guidance, helping her navigate the tumultuous sea of emotions. These sessions were a necessary evil if she ever hoped to get out of this place.

Oh, how she hoped.

The list grows every minute

Drydock AFY-712 - Operations
April 2401

The operation room was small but had a clear view over the drydock below them where a Nova-class ship was docked. The people were rushing back and forth to get everything running smoothly. The tension still was in the air after the events of Frontier Day, even though everyone had been checked and the Borg nano was removed as best as possible. Younger people felt ashamed and worried about their actions, and older people were more on edge with what had happened. However, no talks were allowed about what happened on Frontier Day. It is better not to know than to know and live with the potential guilt. 

Leaning on the console and looking at the information sent in, Nakil exhaled and let his head hang for a second. He knew that the repairs of the Fourth Fleet were required, but with the Frontier Day disaster behind them also, more delays were coming on projects. 

“Everything okay sir?” An Ensign carefully asked. 

Seeing the Nova-class in the docks, he looked up and clicked his tongue in disapproval. Eventually, he turned to the Ensign. “We got another delay on our work” He looked down at the console. “It seems that all efforts of Avalon Fleet Yards are going to be focused on the repairs and resupply of all damaged ships from the Fourth Fleet and ships that were present at Sol during the event” 

“Another delay?” An engineer replied in disbelief, “What are they expecting? We are designed to rebuild ships for colony efforts and are not meant for these kinds of assignments” 

Giving a nod, “I hear ya, but this command comes from the upper echelons, and we need our ships out there. The Lost Fleet left behind a lot of damage. Let alone the Frontier Day that left behind a bad taste for everyone here” Nakil could see a few people looking worried or talking to each other. “We shall abide by these commands and provide our bit to get Starfleet back in shape. Let us get things moving” He claps as everyone returns to their respective stations. 

The ensign gets to his side. “What is on the schedule sir?” 

He looked down at the console with ships lining up for his drydock. “Well, we are currently busy with this Nova-class, which seems to receive some hull repairs and be sent off to the base for resupply. We got a few Phoenix that got severe damage but were easy to patch up within a day or two. We got a Saber that will cost us some more time in repairs.” He taps the side of the console looking at one ship and taps it to get more details. “I might have to contact the other drydocks to potentially take over this Challenger-class, seeing it might be a tight fit for our drydock.” 

“That is quite a list sir. Are we able to get back to our duties any time soon?"

“Unknown, this might take a chunk of our time to get everything back to normal. Avalon might poke us to do more than our capacity allows us. Still, we shall see if we can or not” Nakil felt a bit useless in this situation as he is naturally a science officer and could only do the leadership role right now. The ensign resumed the duties as he nodded to himself. “Let's get this planning going” He brings up the schedule of repair teams and starts planning. 

Wave the Flag

Cardassian Wars Project Office, The Athenaeum
Late April 2401

‘This whole idea’s real cute,’ Corias Ash said with unusual gruffness. ‘But I don’t get how we can help.’

Peliax leaned forward, setting her clasped hands on the dark oak meeting table in the CWP’s main office. Rain lashed against the tall windows on the upper level, dark clouds roiling to block any hint of daylit skies beyond. Soft light from lamps cast only gentle illumination, leaving the staff sat between gentle circles of gold, long shadows, and gloomy corners. ‘The Avalon Group can make sense of the crisis. That isn’t only about understanding the Borg attack or the Changeling infiltration.’

‘Sure,’ said Corias, scratching his ridged nose. ‘But we’re historians exploring an on-off border war with the Cardassians. What’s that got to do with half the fleet getting assimilated and killing the other half the fleet?’

Locke, stood at the top of the table, raised his hands. ‘We’re getting ahead of ourselves.’ His voice sounded reedier and more desperate than he’d like. ‘I wanted us to start with introductions. Everyone, this is Lieutenant Olivia Quinn. She’s come off front-line service for a tour on Avalon and will be heading up Digital Archaeology.’

He gestured to the young, nervous-looking officer sat halfway down the table, her dark hair in a shoulder-length bob. Her uniform was crisp and tidy, in contrast to most of the rest of the CWP; all of them but Locke himself and Commander T’Falith were out of uniform. She gave a small nod in a quick, officious greeting. ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you all. I’m sorry it’s not under better circumstances.’

Corias shifted his weight. ‘Not your fault,’ he said, and though his smile was forced, it was not wholly insincere. ‘Welcome to the team.’

Locke cleared his throat. He did not want any of them to linger on how Quinn had been sent to fill a personnel gap Frontier Day had opened. ‘Let me make introductions. This is Lieutenant Commander Corias Ash. He runs our Oral Histories team, seeking veterans of the Cardassian Wars and related incidents, and conducts interviews and gathers testimonies.’ He waved a hand at the burly Bajoran, his red hair a little longer than regulation length, a speckle of stubble across his strong jaw.

‘On one side,’ came the low, gravelly comment from the foot of the table. Corias visibly bristled, and Locke tried to move on.

‘Lieutenant Commander Peliax, Public History. She helps shape our research and its use for public engagement, museology, etc.’ He nodded to the Denobulan, her black hair tied back tidily. Though she was not in uniform, the IHSW taking on far more the atmosphere of an institution of scholarship than a Starfleet outpost, she still wore crisp formalwear. Peliax gave a polite smile.

‘Lieutenant Commander T’Falith,’ Locke said. ‘Archival Research – in the CWP, that’s usually gathering and analysing historical news records, and, increasingly, Starfleet reports that have been declassified.’

‘Not only Starfleet,’ came her immediate clarification. Locke struggled to describe T’Falith as anything but Vulcan, her short hair simple and tidy, her strong features perpetually calm and poised. While she was easily the most reliable and disciplined of his team, she was also the most stubborn if driven to disagree. Or be pedantic. ‘Now we have avenues to access records of the Cardassian Union.’

Locke grimaced as Corias rolled his eyes. ‘Yes – of course,’ he said quickly, not wanting to open that can of worms. ‘We’ve got some exciting new opportunities here. There’s also Sawl Tyran, Historical Archaeology, but he’s…’

‘Pissed off on another expedition.’ Corias said that with more of a hint of a chuckle. ‘He likes fieldwork more than anyone.’

‘What is the practical difference for this team,’ came the gravelly voice from the foot of the table, ‘between historical archaeology and digital archaeology?’

Locke bit his lip. It was hard to not read a challenge in the question, and he drew a deep breath. ‘And this,’ he said at last, looking to Quinn rather than the speaker, ‘is Gul Kaled, our liaison from the Cardassian Union.’ His eyes swept down to the Cardassian, the other man’s eyebrows still raised in question. Locke sighed. ‘There’s crossover. Sawl deals with things like sites of historic battles, where we can learn from pretty much anything and everything about the location. Lieutenant Quinn focuses on the technology from such findings. She’s been recruited because of her expertise in historical Starfleet computer systems and software, and her familiarity with Cardassian systems.’

‘I expect,’ said Quinn, looking down the table to Kaled, ‘that Commander Tyran will recover components, storage devices, and the like, from his fieldsites, and get them shipped back here, where I have the equipment to properly extract and analyse the data on them.’

Kaled gave a small grunt, and nodded. His dark eyes met Locke’s. ‘The Avalon Group wants us to, effectively, wave the flag, then.’

‘I’m not sure that’s -’

‘This is an organisation of historical research. We have no capacity to comprehend how the Borg attacked or how the Changeling infiltration was so successful,’ Kaled continued in his low, clipped voice. ‘In these circumstances, history serves to give context and inspiration. Waving the flag.’

Corias curled his lip. ‘We’re not here just for some feel-good revisionism -’

‘Crises and major attacks,’ said Kaled, as if Corias hadn’t spoken. ‘Starfleet and the Federation have suffered many of these in their past. Mars. The Breen attack on San Francisco. The Changeling bombing in 2373. And that is merely in living memory. Your IHSW should focus on those: how Starfleet and the Federation has endured after major attacks. Both in terms of practical lessons and personal inspiration.’

Silence met his words. Locke’s throat tightened, and it took Peliax tilting her head and speaking up to break the moment. ‘That’s great,’ she said, cheerful and intrigued. ‘There are useful lessons and warnings. It’ll need handling very carefully to not exploit historic tragedy, but with the right presentation and contextualisation, we can remind people that they’ve survived these kinds of blows before.’

Quinn opened her mouth, then hesitated. ‘You’ll have to forgive me; I’m not specifically an expert on this era – uh, not yet. How do the Cardassian Wars fit into this? It was a pretty one-sided conflict…’

‘Which ended with a peace treaty that birthed the Maquis and paved the way to the Dominion War,’ said Locke, frowning. ‘There’s a lot to learn from that kind of capitulation.’

Corias shook his head. ‘Setlik III.’

Peliax winced, her eyes flickering from Corias in the direction of Kaled. ‘I’m not sure that the massacre is…’

‘It is ideal.’ Kaled’s voice was low, firm. ‘Though Commander Locke’s point about the treaty has merit also.’

Corias twisted. ‘You really want us to talk about how the Cardassian Union slaughtered hundreds of civilians?’

‘Now with the benefit of records from the Union that tell a broader truth,’ said Kaled coolly.

What truth?’

Kaled shrugged. ‘That the Union believed it was a staging post for an invasion.’

‘Oh, sure,’ scoffed the Bajoran. ‘We’re going to tack on a load of Cardassian revisionism to talk about how they were just misled by the Federation into thinking it was a military target -’

‘We have never before considered Setlik III with cooperation from the Cardassian government,’ came T’Falith’s cool interjection. ‘This may also permit us to explore a new line of inquiry: from the Setlik III massacre to the assistance the Third Order rendered the Federation at Deneb.’

‘So they help us out now, and that makes up for a massacre?’ said Corias.

‘A sixty year-old tragedy,’ said T’Falith. ‘Nobody has forgotten Setlik III. We should not ignore it. We may thus address it, and remind everyone that it is not the most important factor in our relationship with the Cardassian Union.’

‘You’re right,’ sneered Corias. ‘We do have the Occupation and Dominion War to influence our thinking.’

‘Let’s take a look,’ Locke said sharply, raising his hands. ‘At both, in fact. Peliax, Corias, can you take point on the treaty? Plenty of information’s already in our hands; it’s just a question of contextualising it. See if we can put at least a paper out for one of the conferences.’ He looked to the foot of the table. ‘Commander T’Falith. Please work with Gul Kaled to put an initial proposal together on a project about Setlik III.’ The Vulcan was the best Federation officer to examine Setlik III dispassionately and the person least likely to be frustrated by Kaled.

Kaled turned at once to T’Falith. ‘It is best we consult the public Cardassian records regarding Setlik III and we can assess them for suitability. If we are to appeal to the government to release more information, we must be clear about what we want, and why.’

‘I have been appraising myself of the bureaucratic systems of the Union,’ said T’Falith, with the closest thing to enthusiasm Locke ever saw from a Vulcan. ‘I am prepared to engage in these request protocols.’

‘You can… get on with that,’ Locke sighed, waving a hand at them. Taking this as a dismissal, the tall Cardassian and far, far shorter Vulcan stood and headed in the direction of the research archives. He blew out his cheeks and looked at the other three. ‘Lieutenant Quinn, I’d be happy to help you get situated.’

Corias looked more relaxed now Kaled was gone. ‘Also, he’s being all fancy today,’ he told Quinn, leaning forward. ‘We don’t really do ranks and stuff quite as much here. We’re historians, not bridge officers. Call me Ash.’

The tension dissipating, Quinn gave a small, relieved smile. ‘Olivia. Or just O.’

Locke looked at Corias. ‘You okay, Ash?’

‘You’ve made sure I don’t have to work with Gul Dickhead,’ the Bajoran said with a shrug. ‘Pel and I can talk about the moral cowardice of the Federation making things worse in the long-run. A warning lesson for everyone. You think Blackwood will like this idea?’

‘It’s a good one,’ Locke admitted. ‘Even if it does come from Kaled.’

‘Yeah.’ Corias rolled his eyes, then looked at the doors the two had disappeared through. ‘By the way. Since when did he and T’Falith get so cosy?’

Quinn raised her eyebrows. ‘That was cosy?’

Peliax winced. ‘For the commander? Positively gushing.’ 


One Week Earlier

Frontier Day

‘…and I would be intrigued to see how we might expand our archives with cooperation from the Cardassian Union,’ T’Falith said, turning from the research archive offices back to Gul Kaled. ‘But that concludes our tour.’

Kaled’s eyes swept over the gloomy chamber, its shelves filled with record PADDs and desks with built-in consoles for accessing the extensive records. The IHSW kept multiple versions of all manner of records, many isolated from the main Starfleet database. In minute details could history sometimes be unravelled.

But the Cardassian gul merely gave a low grunt. ‘The facilities seem adequate. Although needlessly isolated from the main operations of Avalon.’

‘Commodore Blackwood believes there is merit to a focused environment where historians may work alongside one another without distraction. Particularly from other Starfleet personnel or researchers, who may have different priorities to the IHSW.’

Kaled turned to her, tilting his head. ‘And what are the priorities of the IHSW?’

T’Falith didn’t miss a beat. ‘To comprehend historic conflicts of Starfleet, how they occurred, and what can be learnt, in order to avert future such conflicts.’

‘I see. You seek to frame these conflicts in a manner that suits Starfleet’s ethics,’ he sighed.

Her brow furrowed only a micron. On T’Falith, it was a scowl. ‘We seek the truth.’

‘The truth? In history?’ Kaled scoffed. ‘There’s no such thing.’

‘I am familiar with the Cardassian Union’s propensity to frame historic events through a lens that supports their current policy agenda,’ T’Falith countered. ‘This is not how Starfleet operates.’

‘What if the lessons you find are that a conflict was inevitable? Or bore an untenable price?’ he said flatly. ‘Does Starfleet then have to accept that they were right to initiate violence?’

She paused. ‘You seek to bait me. To draw me into a declaration you would assert exposes hypocrisy in Starfleet.’

Kaled’s eyebrows raised. ‘That’s an illogical leap to a conclusion, Commander. I’m only seeking to understand the outfit I’ve been banished to.’

‘Banished.’

Another scoff. ‘Do you think this assignment was of my own choice?’

‘If you are not interested in engaging in the CWP then I am sure Commander Locke may find you some ceremonial duties,’ said T’Falith, straightening an iota. ‘But please clarify that so I spend my time with you efficiently.’

An arched eyebrow. ‘You mean ignore me.’

‘That is down to you, Gul, and however you wish to make use of my time.’

He opened his mouth to respond – then was cut off by a blaring alarm. At once his brow furrowed. ‘Is that a fire?’

‘…no.’ T’Falith couldn’t help but hesitate as she took three quick steps towards a console. ‘That is the security emergency klaxon.’

‘How does a ground-based historical research facility have a security emergency?’ Kaled snapped, looking about the empty archives.

‘That is truly unclear.’ But a few taps on the controls gave only some irritated blats of the system. ‘I am locked out. Protocol dictates we should hold position until we receive the all-clear.’

‘Curious. I’m not bound by your protocol,’ Kaled pointed out. ‘And I won’t stand by in a crisis when I don’t know what’s going on.’

But before he could leave or she could stop him, the doors slid open. In walked a pair of young researchers, their gaits stiff. In the tension of the mysterious alarm and lockout, T’Falith didn’t properly process this as she stepped out from behind the console. ‘Ensigns – report.’

Instead of a report, their hands snapped up, and she found phasers in their faces.

Eliminate the unassimilated.

Out Of A Suitcase

Brahms Station
2341

[Brahms Station]

Victoria Hume made yet another face in the bathroom mirror, looking for wrinkles. Nothing new or noteworthy though she had awoken with a swore back that morning. Placing her hands atop her head she gave herself a quick and non-medically approved crack of the spine. The crack was louder than suspected but satisfying in an indescribable way. A sonic shower and brushing of teeth was next.

Like most junior officers in Starfleet Hume had grown used to living out of a suitcase. Reassignments could happen at any time and though she had been relatively consistent in her assignments thus far she knew that at a moment’s notice she could be across the galaxy on a starship scouting a gas giant star or planet side helping a team catalog rock samples.

Thus she was not making the best use out of the larger rooms that Brahms Station provided. It wasn’t as if she travelled with much, just some old style physical photos from home and an old beaten up ice hockey set that she lugged around even if she had not had the opportunity to play with real life people for years. Hold deck simulations had to make do, and could be fun or at least a chance to blow off steam. Not that she wanted to throw people into the boards and check them into submission, at least not that she was ever going to vocalize.

Dressing in her duty uniform she returned to the bathroom to apply a brief bit of makeup and then the final touches. Ensuring her rank pips were properly aligned and that each individual aspect of her appearance would pass muster if called to. A final adjustment to the hair and she pulled it back into a professional pony tail, to stay out of her face for the day. 

Stopping along the way to the Strategic Operations department Lieutenant Junior Grade Victoria Hume got herself a coffee and a bacon sandwich for breakfast. The sandwich she ate along the way, the coffee was for later. Currently her superior officer was addicted to caffeine and thus was fine with his crew drinking the stuff on duty, as long at they were professionals about it. 

Hume liked being on the station thus far, though she was still in her second week there. She’d nearly been killed aboard her last posting during Fleet Day and the ship had been (at least) temporarily decommissioned. The remaining crew had been parceled out piecemeal within Starfleet with Hume ending up on Brahms supporting the Avalon Fleet Yards. 

A drill was just finishing up as she entered. Hume slid into her desk as the Gamma shift finished simulating an attack in the region. Lights in the room came up and the digital displays cleared as things were reset and the sector was no longer being invaded by what seemed to be Gorn. The screens now displayed the actual state of the sector not the simulated exercise.

”Can you lead the stand up today?” a full lieutenant asked, her commanding officer, “I have a meeting with a few department heads.”

Victoria nodded, “Will do, what are we tracking?”

”Some Orion pirate activity in near by quadrants but nothing that’s a threat to the station of Fleet Yards has popped up overnight,” he said.

Hume nodded tapping her fingers atop the screen bringing up the sector‘s current status. It aligned with what the officer had just described. She nodded, taking it in. For the most part these status updates were unchanging though like everywhere else in Starfleet Fleet Day had been a visible and visceral reminder that things could change in an instant. As a Strategic Officer it was Hume’s responsibility. Though obviously not only hers. Still it was hard not to blame herself for the loss of life on her previous ship and feel the weight of responsibility towards her new crew.

”And when is the drill scheduled for?” she asked.

”What drill?” he said.

”Gamma shift just had one, we’ll have one,” Hume pointed out.

”We don’t announce drills before hand it defeats the purpose,” he said.

”Then suggest they happen earlier in a shift so the next shift doesn’t walk in on them,” Hume said with a smile.

”Advice noted. Thanks for handling that,” he said and headed to his office.

”Alright Alpha shift huddle up at the board let’s walk through the day,” Hume said in a loud voice as she stood and crossed over to the room’s main display. After forty minutes of walking through the changes in situation since they last worked and talking through the new strategies and challenges in the day and weeks ahead Hume dismissed the meeting now that everyone was aligned.

She returned to her own desk and worked on her own duties.

At lunch break she called her mother who was helping rebuild Starbase 1. Nearing retirement age the elder Hume liked hearing from her kids, even if just to confirm that they were all still alive and none of them had been Borgified. Connection was vital now that things had gone pair shaped, the entire universe felt far more fragile now than it had six months ago. At least to Victoria and she suspected her mother, though the woman put up a brave face.

The drill came after lunch, as Hume had predicted. This was a simulation of what would happen if the Klingons suddenly declared open warfare. When it was over her shift was over she gathered up her PADD and empty coffee cup and headed back to her room.

New to the station she had not yet made a social circle of friends to lean on. Thus after work Hume went to the gymnasium and worked out, showered and then went back to her room to watch an old Earth movie on her PADD about teenagers in the twentieth century who skip school and then steal their father’s car. It was odd, but she liked it if only because it distracted her for a bit.

A sonic shower and brushing her teeth were the last duties of the day, that was how her father had always framed them. Duties to be taken care of before a young child, or a Starfleet officer, could sleep. The next day was similar, or similar enough that there was nothing more to none. The events of Fleet Day had sent things into chaotic inertia across the Federation. Old enemies, and even long standing allies, were being looked at anew as if they might suddenly become enemies. While that did not extend to Federation members, Hume had a thought that somewhere probably on Earth, there was a group dedicated to that. It did however extend to everyone from the Romulans to the Klingons, no matter what they’d done during the Dominion War.

They’d have to be ready. While a new Enterprise was being launched, the universe and Starfleet could not wait for a bunch of retired and semi-retired admirals, captains and commodores to save them. Not for much longer.

From the Uniform – 1

Brahms Station, Research Laboratory
April 2401

The lab was a disaster.

The suite of offices, set aside for the We Are Starfleet project, looked as if it had been the site of a stymied rebellion.  Likely, it had been.  Any furniture that wasn’t fused to the deck of Brahms Station had been scattered across the compartment on Frontier Day.  The conference table and its complement of chairs were laying on their sides in the reception area.  Even the double doors into the conference room were laying on the deck, off their tracks.  PADDS and holo-frames were littered about just as thoughtlessly; a hologram of someone’s pet dog was fizzing in and out of existence.

Commander Jeovanni silently crouched to the deck and he tapped a contact on the translucent holo-frame, allowing the damaged holo-projection to finally rest.

“I hope they found whatever they were looking for,” a figure in the doorway stood, propped up against the frame and arms folded across her chest as she shook her head in anger. “You sure there’s no one else that could be doing this? I hear cleanup crews are doing a bang-up job elsewhere on the station,” the Andorian woman asked, looking down at the crouched figure.

Without looking up from his task, Jeovanni scooped up the small translucent hexagon and a metallic pen that had a pink ribbon attached to it.  He pushed aside a chair and poked through the littered objects that had been abandoned beneath it.

“Now that my team have been released from the Borg’s mind-control transmission,” Jeovanni said, “I hoped to rescue any personal mementos before the cleanup crews got here.  I wouldn’t want a DOT to assume because a treasured item has taken damage that means it’s refuse now.”

“Oh, that’s completely possible,” the Andorian smirked, pushing herself off of the door frame and helping to pick up a few small trinkets beneath a desk.

“Honestly, this feels like a metaphor for the work I do…” Jeovanni absently remarked.  Tilting his head back, Jeovanni considered the Andorian who had joined him at his task.  He said, “You look familiar.  Why do you look so familiar, captain?”

“I’ve been asked to participate in a study over here,” Tharia told as she made it back to her feet and placed the small items on the desk’s surface. “Tharia sh’Elas,” she smiled, offering a hand to the occupier of the office.

Rising to his full height, Jeovanni shook her proffered hand between both of his own and he remarked, “You’re from drydock twenty-two, yes!  Now I remember!”

He nodded vaguely at the suite of rooms around them, saying, “I’m Kalab Jeovanni.  I lead the project here when the Borg aren’t trying to assimilate the entire fleet yards.  I can’t deny: an existential crisis makes it troublesome to focus.  Counselor Voss has been volunteering some research to the project and she suggested you might be in a prime position to help me with my dilemma.”

“Yeah, about that…” Tharia shifted uneasily and reached up to scratch her left temple. “I’ll be honest, I’m not exactly here of my own volition. I’m here as part of my rehabilitation in order to return to the field.”

Jeovanni nodded at that admission, narrowing his eyes at Tharia, and he blinked a couple of times until he could think of what to say with that.

“Since you’re being so honest with me,” Jeovanni said in a conspiratorial tone that he likely hadn’t earned with the Andorian he’d only just met.  He asked, “Have you ever asked yourself: what’s the point of Starfleet?”

“More than I would care to remember,” the Andorian smirked, unknowingly being drawn straight into the mind games as she pulled up a seat and slumped into it. “More and more in recent years. Back in the seventies, it felt like the universe couldn’t get any more dangerous, but then the eighties came, and we had the attack on Mars, the Romulan supernova, and Starfleet withdrew from the galaxy,” she told wistfully, hands clasped together in her lap.

“Then twenty-four-hundred came and the galaxy simply said ‘Here, hold my blood wine…’” she smirked, shaking her head as she thought about all the dangerous events of the last two years. The Century Storm. The Blood Dilithium crisis. The Borg. The Changelings. The Dominion. The early 2400’s had excelled themselves.

“You see,” Jeovanni said in childish excitement; “Counselor Voss was right!  You’re exactly who I’ve been looking for.”

Companions for Dinner

Joker’s Pub - Brahms Station
2401 - May

[Joker’s Pub – Brahms Station ]

After a shift it was time to unwind, as much as could be done after a day of planning for the worst the universe had to throw at you. Lieutenant Junior Grade Victoria Hume had been sampling all the eateries that Brahms Station had to offer and so far she had not found one to her specific tastes. While her brother, an Ensign now aboard the USS Anaheim, loved American food like burgers and fries Victoria’s taste buds tended toward Japanese flavors particularly sushi which was not often done well in space or by replicator. Even if it was her imagination there was something special about handmade sushi back in her hometown of Vancouver. Still, she realized that she should have been smarter than ordering an order of California rolls at a copy of a British pub. 

Or at least that was what she assumed they were going for here.

Thankfully she had also ordered a steak with fries, a much more appropriate dining option in such a place. This seemed like a lot of food, and perhaps it was but it gave her time to herself to focus on responding to letters from her mother and brother both of whom were in Starfleet. Her brother had also just been assigned, this time to the USS Anaheim where he was now the Assistant Chief Security Officer. 

When that was finished she debated opening her holonovel on her PADD but decided for discretion and instead was flipping through the Fleet’s news service when someone stopped at her table. Hume looked up and was surprised by who she saw.

Smiling at the young Lieutenant. “You look lonely all by yourself. Mind if I join you?” Commander Adams asked.  

Hume has never met the woman but nodded. It was unusual for random commanders, usually a section head or the First Officer on the previous posts that she’d served on to drop by a lowly lieutenant junior grade’s table for dinner, but not unheard of. Hume’s own father had been a commander at the time of his death and her mother had risen beyond that rank by now after a long career in Starfleet.  

”Of course, Commander,” she said extending her hand in an offer to shake the other woman’s as she rose herself.

She kind of chuckled to herself. “Relax I am off duty so you can call me Makayla.” She replied with a gentle smile as the waiter came over and took her order. “So how are you finding Brahm’s Station?” Adams asked looking at her.

”I’ll try Ma’am, I mean Makayla,” Hume said, she smiled, “I’m Victoria. Both my parents were Starfleet so it’s not easy to switch off being deferential to the pips. As for the station, so far so good. It’s nice, comfortable lodging. Hasn’t fallen out of space yet, so it’s all good.”

“I get it I still find myself doing it myself, though I am making progress to not be so professional at all times and just to relax when I am not working,” Makayla replied with a smile as the waitress returned with their food which smelled delicious.

Makayla was still a Commander, so it was important to be respectful. As laid back and casual as the woman was being Hume knew that the further up you ranked the touchier you could be. Or perhaps that was just people acting like they had always been but rank let them get away with more. 

”So Makayla what do you do around Brahm’s Station? I’m in strategic operations,” she said. Hume knew that it was the one place that Makayla did not work, if only because she had met everyone in her particular field at this point. The rest of Brahm’s Station remained mainly a mystery to her.

“Security,” she replied with a smile as she took a bite of her food and chewed. “Though I am sure our departments would have the opportunity to work together depending on the situation,” Adams commented.

“My brother does security,“ Hume said, “there’s obviously some overlap from what I understand.” 

It was probably not polite to suggest that Security was just Strategic Operations without thinking. A better way of framing it, Hume realized was likely to talk about how security actually tended to do more, allowing Strategic Operations to take a more hands-off approach to situations.

“I’d like to work together if there was ever an opportunity,” Hume said.

“I am sure there will be,” she replied as they continued to chat for a while before she looked at the time. “Thank you for letting me join you I am about to head home for the night.” Makayla replied as she stood up, “possibly see you tomorrow when I return to the station.”

Hume nodded watching the other woman depart. It had been nice, meeting someone new and getting to know some of the cast of people who made up Bravo Station here Lieutenant Hume was still getting settled. Now just to finish up and head to her own quarters for the night.

Paper Work

Avalon Fleet Yards - Brahms Station
June 3rd, 2401

There were messages for her when she woke up. Pulling on her tank top she stretched and found a pressed pair of pants hanging in her closet. As she pulled them up she activated the screen and checked her messages for the day. Despite having been at Avalon for awhile now she had yet to make any close friends, and so most of her messages were from her family which also served in Starfleet and was scattered around the galaxy. Her mother had visited home, and sent pictures from Vancouver, and her brother was aboard the USS Seattle and seemed to be having troubles but she did not delve too deeply into them.

As she finished putting on her red command uniform, and confirmed that she looked okay in the mirror then headed out to the hallway. As far as Starfleet assignments went this was a fairly comfortable one. She was not in peril like on a starship and most of what she did all day was write briefing reports that may or may not have ever been read by admirals at far flung stations far from where she worked. Ships traveling the cosmos and doing the actual exploring might also see them.

She wondered if she was not starting to feel stuck, and that she would like to be where her brother was a security officer on a ship. Doing something impressive. Seeing something new every day, or almost every day.

Sitting down at her desk she read the report that had been set aside by the officer from the last shift to catch her self up and began to write about the state of the Romulans and how they might tactically pose a threat to the Federation (assuming they wanted to). It was, perhaps, mostly science fiction, but it was her job to game out any threat to Federation security. Positing the questions that no one else wanted to, for fear of looking silly or extremist, was one of the sections roles. As much as it might seem overblown, the Strategic Operations department saw themselves kind of like the security department, but not just for a ship or a starbase but for the entire Federation.

Maybe all departments believed that. Maybe someone in Operations would say that how they moved boxes from one cargo hold to another affected Starfleet security more than any report. Hume sipped a coffee and looked at the latest intelligence reports on the Romulans, trying to game out an attack.

For another report, that hopefully was being read.

Respite

Avalon Fleet Yards Decomissioning Bay 24
2401

Gail ran her fingers down the centre of the wide doors, its hidden motors and servos moaning with effort as they attempted to fulfil their duty and pull the doors aside. They roared a desperate plea as the two bulky doors shuddered in their tracks but refused to be parted from one another. Forcibly bound to each other by the hastily erected weld across the seam, which itself was serving its final command to bind the doors together; evidence of a desperate attempt to halt an unrelenting enemy. Her short, calloused fingers alighted across the undulating mountain range of melted metal as she followed its path down the large cargo bay portal, her fingers tracing hastily formed valleys and peaks as the groaning motors created a seismic vibration through the roots of the perfectly vertical microscopic mountain range. She smiled as she recognised the familiar steady hand of a practiced engineer, who despite being bloodied and breathless, nearing the end of a harrowing retreat could not help but do a job correctly. A tear formed in the corner of Gail’s eye as she faintly heard the sizzle of the phaser against the metal, a final, desperate blockade against a horror that wore the face of their dearest friends.


Crayden could hear the words of a frustratingly calm Vulcan tutor as the phaser slowly boiled the metal, ‘Take a breath, listen for the change in tone, make the bond tight.’ He had been right of course that taking the extra few seconds over a weld would make the difference but his smug instruction had always rankled the man as a young cadet. Even now a mote of frustration licked at his sweating neck.

“Cray? How’s the door coming?” a voice called from across the small cargo bay.

“Almost there Lieutenant.” He allowed the phaser to hum across a few inches of the deck plate, sealing the base of the bulky doors to the floor on which they stood. Exhaling a long breath he stepped back and inspected his work, the still warm metal radiating heat. “T’Nor would be proud.”

A deep baritone voice rumbled at Crayden’s ear, “Impressive work as always petty officer. Will it hold?”

Crayden turned to face the aging engineer, focusing his attention on the man’s eyes so as to avoid the disquieting scar that oozed blood on his forehead, the makeshift sling across his chest that held the man’s crushed arm or the slowly expanding red mark that crept across the side of his mustard-coloured uniform. “A dozen Gorn couldn’t break that now.”

“I’d take Gorn right now.” A chuckle escaped the man’s lips, followed by a painful intake of breath as his good arm clutched his side.

“We should ask the L.T. to take another look at that boss.” Crayden offered an arm as he indicated the red shouldered woman across the other side of the bay.

“I’d be surprised if she’s got anything in that little box for me.” The grizzled engineer scrunched his wrinkled face in pain. “I need a sickbay, not a medkit.”

Crayden offered an arm as the older officer wobbled slightly and helped him shuffle across the small bay to the makeshift shelter the other survivors had fashioned from crates and barrels. Survivors. The word felt bitter on his tongue without speaking it. They had been forced to run in fear down hallways that had once heard the laughter of arguing friends and the whispering prayers of an ensign who had missed his alarm. To be made survivors within the walls of their own home was a cruelty that suited the Borg all too well. That it should be the faces of their friends that chased them through the halls of their once cherished memories was all the crueller.

The Lieutenant knelt over another crew member, prone on a stretcher as the pair rounded the large crate that functioned as the main wall of the make-shift citadel, the familiar click of the hypospray was followed by a sputtering hiss as the small device struggled to aerosolize the almost empty cartridge. As the ragged breathing of the crewman slowed to a shallow constant the young woman stood from her knees as she clicked the med kit closed, satisfied her long forgotten trauma qualification had not been misremembered. As her eyes met the two men she summoned them aside to join another woman who was surveying the crates. Crayden noticed her long flowing silken robe patterned with ornate flowers now tattered and tainted with spattered blossoms of blood as she examined the surrounding containers, her body visibly shaking with tension.

“That was the last of my painkillers.” The lieutenant sighed, rubbing her forehead in frustration. “There’s not a lot left in here.” She tapped the case slung over her shoulder with her manicured fingernails.

“Could we replicate some?” Crayden asked as he levered the older engineer to sit on a nearby grey box, who lent back grateful to be off his feet for a moment.

“There should be a replicator over in the corner for fabricating tools.” The old man waved vaguely towards the workbench at the far end of the room. He winced and hissed through his teeth at the action, screwing his closed eyes even tighter . All eyes ignored the growing red stain that now spread across his stomach, there was little that could be done to stem the flow, even if the old man would allow it.

“They’re locked out with everything else. I tried when we passed through the Mess.”

Silence fell across the small team as the shallow breathing of the barely conscious crewman hissed a few metres away.

“I’m open to all options here.” The Lieutenant looked around the group, her eyes reaching for any and all suggestions. Crayden could see the cracked façade of borrowed confidence clung desperately to her features, an attempt to emulate the style she had witnessed in more seasoned commanders. Cray searched through his mind, flipping pages in his mental address book, for her name, barely recollected in the heat of the moment. The pips had made her in charge.

“Is there anything in the crates we can use?” she turned to the older woman, who continued to keep the welded bay doors in her periphery as she hummed with tense energy.

 “It’s mostly raw materials, a few boxes of Tarkalean tea I was keeping for Captain’s Day celebrations.” The woman motioned to the large crate as she ran the hem of her silken robe between her dirt covered fingers. “Boxes and boxes of ration packs.”

“We can grab a few but we need to keep moving.” The Lieutenant turned to Crayden. “Any other ways out of here? I admit my work with the research team didn’t bring me down here much.”

A cog clicked in Crayden’s brain. ‘Lieutenant Williams!’ he exclaimed at the back of his mind. The woman was the administrator for the research cluster who were temporarily aboard, her shoulders were red by virtue of her role rather than any particular interest in command.

“There’s those big ones over there.” The old engineer pointed to the massive exterior doors that led to the vessels exterior and the suffocating death of the empty void. The loomed massive and easily forgotten, forming a sizeable portion of the wall.

The panicked eyes of the woman in the robe burned into the engineer as she focused her disapproval. “That’s not funny Edwin.”

“Wasn’t trying to be funny Marsella.” Another silence crept across the group, heavy and thick as they contemplated his meaning. “I’d rather that, than have a Borg make-over.”

She reached for his shoulder as if to slap him admonishingly but recoiled back as she saw the blood stain had begun to creep insidiously up to his armpit.

“There’s a Jefferies tube access behind those crates.” Crayden pointed to a nearby stack as he cast a glance to the Lieutenant and drew her gaze to the prone crewman and the wounded engineer seated before them. “But it’s tight and hard going.”

Understanding his meaning, Lieutenant Williams returned his stare with wet eyes. The woman had never thought herself a leader. She had been convinced to donn the command department robe by an old mentor, ‘it’ll give you more options’ he had said as he signed the transfer forms. She had gladly received the golden pips on her collar as recognition for her successful management of long term projects across the quadrant. She had applied for this posting aboard the ship to be able to work with her lifelong hero Dr. Sherridan. She had never, in a million Sundays expected to have to make these choices.

Crayden felt sorry for the woman, now devoid of options. Her gaze shifted between the vast airlock doors and his face. Perhaps the old man was right. Perhaps it was preferable to becoming a drone. “The weld will hold them back for a while. Long enough for the captain to do something.” He offered, throwing a lifeline to the hopeless officer.

“The Captain! Yes, I’m sure he’s working to stop the Borg now!” She exclaimed, her voice caked with false confidence. “We’ll make safe here and rest up, have some food and wait for further instructions. Cray did a fantastic job on those doors, not even an angry Seh’lat could get through them.” A silent thankyou left her lips towards the petty officer, neither could know the truth of the statement but it gave a moment of hope to the group. “Marissa, why don’t you tell us what’s on the menu.”


Gail examined the med kit that hung on the corner of the shelving, her white gloved fingers struggling to extricate the shoulder strap from the metal work where it had got caught in the escaping wind. With a final tug it came free of the frame and twisted slowly, the familiar silver caduceus symbol catching in the sunlight as it spun in the zero gravity environment, endlessly carried by inertia. Swallowing her tears as she pressed the silence button on her comm panel Gail took the kit in her hands and clipped it to her EVA suit as she began to cross back to the giant open airlock doors which exposed the interior of the vessel to the cold airless universe. Beyond she could see the latice work of the decomissioning yard where the vessel now rested, too damaged in the confusion of Frontier Day to serve any longer. 

Alone in the silence, she wept.

Remember when…

Class 9 Drydock AFY-219
July 2401

At one of the working orbital drydocks, there were several vessels held within the radiation shielding that were undergoing repairs. Up front was an intrepid class, with a nova class in the rear behind it, and a saber class in between them but off to the side. While it is uncommon to have multiple small vessels in a drydock design for larger vessels, like a sovereign class, it was necessary. Especially for Commander Walker’s team. After the incident on Frontier Day, it had been chaotic here at the yards, and with a motivational speech to his team, they stepped up. Unfortunately, this meant long hours, short breaks, and working under six hours of sleep. Although that was Walker’s daily routine, if he saw anyone slip up, depending on how long the shift had been out, he’d send them all in to get some sleep and request the next shift to take over.

With the shield down, the visor of his helmet was illuminated by the flashes of his plasma torch as he made the final touches to the warp coil. The port warp nacelle of the intrepid class had many of its panels removed in several sections to replace the completely useless warp coils. Those that were still intact, he left alone. The whole point was to salvage as much as they could, save what they could, replace what needed to be replaced, and get the ship out so they could free up space for another. As soon as he was finished with those final touches, he deactivated his plasma torch and placed it in his tool case. Then with his thruster pack, he backed off a few meters before he activated his comm link.

“Walker to control,” Walker spoke. “I finished repairs on the port nacelle. Are you still linked to the ship’s command functions?”

“We are, Commander.”

“If you would please, gradually bring power online and run a full diagnostic on the warp engines. Let me know what you get back.” Walker requested.

“Affirmative. We will contact you in ten minutes with the results.”

“Understood. Walker out.” He then fired the thrusters from his pack to adjust his z-level to get a better look at the saber class. He had assigned bravo team to conduct the repairs on that one and he was rather curious as to why they were not finished. He and alpha team’s task was to replace several series of scorched hull panels, replace some wires, chips, and blown-out console displays and holo-emitters. As well as the warp coils, which was what he had been focused on all day, with the assistance of Ensign Ryozo, whom he had entrusted a workbee to carefully replace the fried coils with new ones.

“Chief,” Walker began as he looked back at the intrepid. “How are the repairs going inside?” He had also requested Chief Petty Officer Amanda Cooper back on his team, who had been with him for most of his career as an excellent technician. He figured as long as he stacked his team with people he knew, and trusted, with a list of skills over the years, he would have no issues constructing starships for the Fourth Fleet. That was until they had been busy fixing ships more than constructing them.

“We finished with the bridge and main engineering in regards to consoles and holo-emitters. We’re running diagnostics on the main power junctions. We want to make sure we send this ship off with a clean bill of health, right?” Cooper asked.

“That would be appropriate. The last thing I need is for this ship to return with a headache caused by something we missed. And then that headache will be sent to my superiors and it’ll come back down onto me.” Walker smirked.

“Oh no. We wouldn’t want you to get a headache! How about you? How has your space walk been?” Cooper asked.

“Good. In case you haven’t noticed it on the screens over there, I had requested control to run a full diagnostic on the warp engines.” Walker informed.

“Oh good! So we’re almost done with this one?” She asked.

“As long as the results come back in the green, we’ll be done with it and can have the tugs pull her out.” Then he can send the repair order back up the chain, and then they can inform the crew that they can return to their ship from shore leave. He used the thruster pack to rotate himself a little bit so he could look at the nova class in the rear. “Delta team. How are your repairs going?”

“Yeah about that…”

Walker let out a heavy sigh. “What?”

“You know that starboard nacelle that’s completely blown out?”

“Yup. Can any of it be saved?” Walker asked.

“No. We’ve begun detaching the nacelle, but we are going to need a new one from the starbase.”

Walker shook his head in his helmet. “Let control know so that they can put in the requisition order.” He then adjusted himself so he could look at the saber. “Bravo team. Why are you not done yet?” The saber only needed a dozen hull panels replaced, a new computer core, and a couple of viewports replaced. And bravo team started before everyone else did, since the saber was in dock before the other two. At least by a couple of hours.

“We are having problems getting the computer core installed.”

“What sort of problems?” Walker asked.

“Well, more like one problem. We can’t get the connectors lined up.”

Walker frowned. “Did you identify and cross-reference the order requisition before accepting the part from the cargobee?”

“Of course! It is exactly the correct computer core for a saber class scoutship.”

“Did you rotate it?” Walker asked.

“Yes and doesn’t seem to matter, they won’t line up.”

Walker let out a heavy sigh. “Is it upside down?” There was a sudden pause, likely the team inspecting the core, looking for markings that would indicate which end is supposed to be facing to be installed correctly. Would think that would not matter but in some cases, when attempting to install an entire assembly all at once, it becomes rather important.

“We’ll have it resolved here in a few, sir!”

“That’s not an answer to my question,” Walker said with frustration in his voice. He then checked the display on his arm and looked at the time. “Looks like twelve hours is long enough for you guys. Drop everything you are doing and go get some sleep. I’ll request delta shift to take your place.”

“But sir, it was just a-”

“That’s an order!” Walker heard his tone get sharp with a hint of frustration in it. He took a moment to cool himself before he spoke once more. “We cannot afford mistakes right now. Luckily we’re not handling anything volatile. Yet. So go get some sleep and when everyone has rested up, and clear-headed, you’ll be clear for duty.”

“Yes, sir.” 

Walker then directed his attention up toward the top section of the drydock where control would be located. “Control. What’s the word?”

“So far in the green, Commander. The data says that she is ready to fly again.”

Walker let out a small sigh of relief. “Affirmative. Once you get the okay from the rest of my team, send the report to command that the ship is ready. Walker out.”

“You know. You need your sleep too. You’re not as young as you used to be.” Cooper’s voice came through his helmet.

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead, Chief. We got work to be done.” Walker checked the time once again and realized he had been awake and working for fifteen hours with a couple of breaks in between to refill oxygen, restroom, and snack on something. He has had a few protein bars now and then but other than that, he was starving. “Guess I will take a break. You’ll check in with control when you’re finished, right?”

“Wasn’t born yesterday,” she said with a chuckle.

“Ha-ha. I’ll be back out here once they pull this girl out and bring in another.” Walker told her before he redirected his comms back to control. “Walker to control. Ready for transport.”

“Standby.”

He floated there in space as he waited to see the glow of lights surround him, the strange yet beautiful blue world surrounded him for only a brief moment until he saw himself on the transporter pad of a transporter room. Once he felt himself free from the confinement of the transport beam, he reached up to release and pull the helmet off so he could get a big breath of recycled air. He then witnessed a couple of smirks and snorts from the two junior officers at the transporter controls. “What?” But as he stepped down from the pad, he saw his reflection in the glass that separated the transporter controls from the rest of the room. His hair was wet, drenched in sweat no doubt, and completely all over the place. “Ah. Guess I need a shower.” He said this as he walked out of the room and headed straight for the EV storage room to peel himself out of the suit, only to place everything into a sanitization unit to clean the pieces, including the undersuit. With just a shirt and pants, he came out of the room while stomping his feet into his boots and slapped his commbadge in place on his shirt over the left of his chest.

In an hour, he had taken a sonic shower, ate a full-course meal, and was now on his way to his office to review reports. Most importantly, to find out just how much they have caught up on the repair orders. So as he sat down in his chair, with a large mug full of hot coffee, he pressed the activator on his desk to bring up the holographic monitor. As it resumed where he left off, he gave it a second to update the data he had left up. Only to place the mug down with a disappointing groan, to which he rubbed his eyes and then his face before he leaned back into his chair and stared at the list. The saber was supposed to be done an hour ago. With the mistake bravo team made, it was now delayed. Even with the intrepid almost finished, ahead of schedule, the saber put his team back a few hours, and not only that. The list of repair orders grew with a couple more ships. Two of them being large vessels, a sovereign class and an excelsior-II class.

Walker slapped the activator to minimize the holodisplay, just to push himself up onto his feet, and grabbed the mug of coffee before he made his way to the replicator. He placed the mug in it and recycled it before he requested a small cup with two shots of espresso. Once it replaced the mug with the small cup, he carefully picked it up and brought it to his lips so as not to spill and downed it. He then placed the cup back in the replicator to recycle and left his office. “Remember when I used to be young?” He asked himself.

Time to get back to work.

A New Place, An Old Dream

Drydock 714
2401

A shower of blue-white particles began to cascade down onto the surface of the transporter pad nested in the command module of Drydock 714 of the Avalon Fleet Yards. As the pattern within the shower of energy took form, the figure of a woman took shape, growing sharper in contrast to the light that surrounded her. When her pattern was fully materialized, the form of a Captain clad in the yellow trim of an Engineering officer stood on the transporter, her eyes darting around excitedly as she took in the sights of her new assignment… nay… her new command. The thought of being in charge of the facility she’d been sent to from Brahms Station still hadn’t quite taken root in her mind fully, it had been less than a week since she’d received notice of her transfer and promotion. The fact that she was being allowed, or perhaps encouraged was the more appropriate phrase, to return to a more hands on version of the Engineering field she’d fallen in love with as a young woman was a dream come true for her.

Captain Annebell Scott stepped off the pad and thanked the technician standing behind the console, wasting no time almost sprinting out of the room and into the wide corridor beyond. Despite the command module of the Class-9 drydock not being more than a few decks in size, and less than a fourth the length of the structure itself, the corridors were large enough to accommodate nearly seven people standing shoulder to shoulder. This particular design didn’t have people in mind, but rather it took into account moving equipment and parts to and from ships docked beneath, allowing the engineers the ability to move items relatively freely to the various workshops that made up the majority of the drydock’s interior.

As with any facility, there was also a command center where refit and construction operations could be orchestrated, able to display detailed schematics and track projects of all kinds in an ‘at a glance’ style that aided the dock master in keeping projects on schedule. It was there that Bell found parts of her new team discussing the work that had been accomplished on the ship nested in the dock and what they were going to be working on the next duty day.

“Alpha Team finished removing the plasma relays on decks seven and eight, putting us a day or two ahead of schedule with replacing those. Bravo Team just finished removing the old turbolift carriages about an hour ago, so we can expect work to begin on getting their maintenance bays converted to handle the new ones being installed sometime this week. Charlie Team hit a bit of trouble with getting the fusion generators dismantled, we’ll have to push back reactor testing until later in the month, which will also push back our window for testing the new relays, so be aware of that,” the Lieutenant Commander leading the brief listed as he reviewed the notes he’d taken on a PaDD he was currently holding.

“What issues did they run into with the fusion reactor?” Bell asked without actually thinking about it as she studied the display hanging just behind the man.

The sudden question didn’t seem to bother the Commander as he responded with, “It looks like deuterium feeds aren’t closing off properly, causing leakage into the chamber preventing a full shutdown.”

Capt. Scott tapped her chin with the knuckle of her index finger a few times while she visualized the schematic for that system, “Did they try shunting off the flow from the feedback valve, forcing the deuterium to cycle back to the storage tanks to stop the leak?”

“No, I don’t believe they…” the man started scrolling through his notes on the reported issue before realizing that he didn’t recognize the voice asking the question, “I’m sorry, who are you?”

Having had her back turned to the man when she’d asked the question, Bell couldn’t blame him for not recognizing her, not even taking into account that she’d simply wandered into a meeting without so much as a word of introduction. The woman turned around, lowering her hand as she did so, presenting herself to the officer she’d been holding a conversation with.

“I’m Captain Annebell Scott, I’ve been assigned as the new commander for this drydock,” came the response to the confusion-tinged query.

“Oh…” the Lieutenant Commander said before the name registered with information he’d seen earlier in the day, “Oh! Captain Scott, yes, I’m so sorry I didn’t meet you at the transporter. I was led to believe you wouldn’t be coming to the dock until tomorrow.”

“It’s perfectly fine, Commander. I wasn’t actually supposed to be here until then, but I was so excited to see the place for myself that I decided to drop in right after dropping off my bags on the station. I didn’t mean to interrupt your meeting, I just happened to walk in when you were talking about the reactor problems and couldn’t help but try to help,” Bell said with an impish smile as she explained herself.

“No problem at all, ma’am,” the man said with a strained smile, “I’m Lieutenant Commander Gregory Armes. I’ll be your assistant dock master.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Greg,” Scott said as she walked over and gave the man’s hand free hand a firm shake.

“Likewise…” Armes replied hesitantly, unsure of how to take the Captain’s suddenly familiar tone.

“Did any other team encounter any problems?” Bell asked, turning back toward the schematic of the ship they were performing a refit on.

It took the man a minute to register that the meeting he had been leading until just moments ago had been hijacked by his new boss and struggled to find the place he’d left off in his notes, “Let me see… one of the bulk matter storage pods failed the compression test, which will require us to pull off the hull panels to replace it. The team installing the updated holodeck matrixes is having a problem getting the control system to interface with the updated hardware…” Greg paused for a few seconds while he scanned through the notes outlining projects that were running ahead or on schedule before looking back up, “That’s everything that has encounter problems so far, Captain.”

“I see…” the woman muttered as she glanced at the various areas that Armes had mentioned before turning back to him, “While you have the hull plating removed to replace the bulk matter storage tank, it might be a good idea to go ahead and pull all of them out and put new ones in. The last time I was on an Intrepid and we had that issue, the system wouldn’t pressurize properly until they were all from the same production series. I never did figure out why… could just be a quirk of the system itself, but it’ll save us a whole lot of time on the back end if we just do all of the work now. Also, get me a copy of the error list the holodeck team is encountering, I’d like to see if I’ve run into that problem before on my last ship. We did some work to our holodecks and were catching some funny glitches now and then. Oh, and don’t forget to relay the fix to the reactor team for me.”

Greg blinked several times at the rapid-fire response he’d just been pelted with before scrambling to note what he’d just been told, “Aye, ma’am.”

The other engineers gathered in the room had been watching the spectacle with a mixture of awe and trepidation as the woman who was to be their new superior seemed to steamroll through the space, offering commentary and possible solutions to issues that had stumped several of them for several days already.

“Great work so far, everyone,” Bell turned to the team that she hadn’t seemed to even be aware of until that moment, “If what I’m seeing on the status board is anything to go by, you’re all very talented engineers. I’m looking forward to working alongside all of you.”

The smile she gave the assembled officers seemed innocent enough on the surface, but more than one of them caught a hint of what her last phrase actually meant. Those that had that realization sought out their fellows, sharing looks of concern at the thought of this Captain standing before them down in the depths of the ship they were refitting, tools in hand. Lieutenant Commander Armes was not one of the members of the staff who’d made that connection… yet…

The Last Chance

Avalon Fleet Yards Decommissioning Bay 24
2401

“You’re not a failure.” Harold Carlson was on the communications screen; his son Bernard was in the communications room seat.  The transport was making its way to the Avalon Fleet Yards, and Bernard Carlson III was its last passenger at the final stop.

“You read my letters,” Bernard replied flatly.  “You know how it’s been going.”  This was his last chance, in his mind.  The last eight years had been rocky, and rough.  Friendships hadn’t been made, and conflicts had put him up against the wall so much he wasn’t sure how it felt to be a part of a functioning team.  The application to Avalon had been a last-ditch attempt to find something that would redeem his Starfleet career.

“I do read them, son.”  Harold had been a cook his entire life and had climbed his way to the top, and now worked as the chef of a local London Hotspot, Carlson’s Cavern.  It hadn’t been easy, and he understood the struggles of his offspring.  “We might be living in 2401, but life and destiny are not any easier.” He stood in his kitchen as the breakfast service was starting.  “You’ve been searching for a place to call home for so long.”

Bernard looked away from his father, staring at the wall.  He wasn’t sure where he belonged.  He wasn’t sure of the truth despite his father’s kind words.  Perhaps he should find a ship and…wander the universe.

“You know who you were named after, don’t you.”  Harold didn’t phrase it as a question. His son knew. Bernard Carlson II had been an ocean explorer turned engineer. He’d invented numerous ways to ensure ships could stay out longer on the ocean and had worked with trading companies to expand the reach of ships, trade routes, and transport. He had lived a life of journeying into the unknown to test the systems he built time after time.  Photos showed him smiling wide in each one, hair waving in the wind, and a twinkle in his eyes.

“It is hard to live up to his name, father.”

Harold scoffed, “You don’t have to live up to him! I’ve never said that. I told you to take from his life…and plot your course of adventure and innovation.”  He smiled, “And you are headed to a place of innovation.  You may not think so, but I have heard stories about that place. It is a place of wonder.”

Bernard saw the signal on the console. They were arriving soon. “I must go. We’re nearly there.”

His father waved, “Good luck, son. Much love from London.”  The signal closed.

The son touched the screen, “Much love from space.”


Avalon was expansive and overwhelming to Bernard. He asked for directions a few times and wandered a little more than he should. Eventually, he found his way to the Decommissioning Team area. He walked through the large doors and looked around.

From deep within the hive of shadowy corridors, the sporadic panels casting shadows against the bulkheads, he heard the billowing call of Gail Tolsa as a tower of messy hair poked out from behind a distant doorway. 

“Don’t just stand there making the place look messy, Come on down!” Bernard suspiciously eyed the piles of tools and materials stacked against the wall, the precariously tottering towers more of a threat to the barely ordered corridors than he was. “Oh and bring that arm rest, the blue one with Vienna written on the side of it.” The voice instructed, now coupled with a bodyless arm reaching out from behind the wedged open doors, pointing to the pile of debris at his left hand side. 

From her workbench at the far end of the corridor Gail watched the young man fumble with the spare armrest, attempting to extricate it from the pile without damaging it’s structural integrity. ‘Put the bag down boy.’ she whispered beneath her breath as he balanced it in the crook of his arm, ‘it’s not going to grow legs and walk away.’ She twiddled the dial on her hypospanner absent-mindedly with her thumb as the young man slowly slid the metal from the pile. ‘Please let them have sent someone with some sense.’ 

Carlson extricated the arm rest, annoyed with himself that it took him so long. Too late, he’d realized the bag on his shoulder had done him no favours. Strike one, he muttered in his head and walked somewhat confidently to the woman he was to report to. He handed her the arm rest, “Lieutenant Bernard Carlson.”  He absentmindedly added on, “the III.  Reporting for duty, Commander.”

“I’m about as much a commander as my grandmother was.” She smiled wildly, reaching out to take the armrest from him as she offered the chair next to her with a foot. “She never even left her village, let alone Earth.” The young man sat on the proffered chair whilst she balanced the armrest against her broad chest, pinning the top with her chin and with a forceful tug pulled the arm from her own chair. “These old Excelsior chairs had the best filling.” She attached the replacement armrest with an expert motion and a satisfying click. “Plus, they were made of the most gorgeous blue fabric.” She span in her tall wingback seat to place the removed armrest in a box next to the workbench, the words ‘FOR SORTING’ scrawled across its side. As she struggled to slide the awkwardly shaped object into the box the nervous Lieutenant got a chance to take in the back of her chair in all its glory. A patchwork of metal plates, in rainbow greys from across the centuries, each delicately welded and lovingly joined together. Each bearing a signature in thick black pen. 

Bernard wasn’t sure what to make of his commanding officer. He amended that statement in his head. He understood her on his level. Eccentric, odd, and given to living out her oddities in full view of her department. Tolsa seemed to be a perfect match for this place, and she seemed to relish the chaos. He took the seat and took in the expansive room for the first time. It was like everything was everywhere all at once in a way that made some sense. He turned back to her, “Um…then what should I call you, ma’am?”

“The name’s Gail, though the boys down on the floor call me Crinkles.” She paused as she wiggled her hips in the padded chair, eliciting a muted rustling sound from the sweet wrappers in her pocket as an example. “They think I don’t know but I consider it a sign of affection, they only take the mickey out of people they like.” She reached into one of her trouser pockets, causing the rolled up bottoms to rise slightly revealing a mismatch pair of red and blue tartan socks. “Quick question before we head down to the shop floor, Scon or Scone?” She levelled an accusatory eye as she held her closed fists close to her chest, the minor change in intonation accentuated her Yorkshire accent, rarely noticed in a galaxy of a thousand tongues. 

Carlson felt his eyebrows rise and considered the question.  He replied, “There has been a fair bit of nuance around the word, to be fair. Four hundred years ago, it was considered ‘posh’ to say ‘scon’.  My family had a terrible habit of calling them biscuits…which was a bit untoward of Grandpa Carlson to instill that in his family tree.  Bit of a trauma it was.” He considered her question and the need to answer it plainly, “I think in the here and now of 2401, I would return the question to you and ask what you feel is the right pronunciation to use so that I won’t be facing your…and there is no offense meant here…but a very raised eyebrow bordering on impending disagreement depending on the answer I give.”  He added, “I had the nickname Bernie early in my life…until some mates discovered the old Earth film ‘Weekend at Bernie’s.’  That was a whole thing.”

Gail stared as she processed his response, the cogs clicking away behind her brown eyes. “That was a very… comprehensive answer Lieutenant.” She leant back in the chair, “ ‘Spose you’re right though, each man to their own.”

She stood, gathered a tool belt slung over a hook near the door and began making her way towards the corridor back towards the main dockyard. “I read your jacket, I know you had problems aboard Missouri River.” Her tone was soft, caring, motherly. “As long as you’re honest and direct here, you won’t face those same problems; the breakers respect the truth.” She turned in the doorway, tilting her head in the direction of the short corridor as a summons. “You don’t need to tell me what you think I want to hear.” She smiled. “Come on then Bernie, let’s go meet the breakers.”

Carlson felt a ray of hope break through the overcast sky. Honest and direct had been the issue before, but the acceptance had been a bigger part of the problem. Here, it seemed, there was far more willingness to bring him into the fold than to try and test his mettle.  He shifted the bag on his shoulders, “I would like that very much, Comm…Gail.”  He followed her to the corridor. This last chance, he thought, might be his best chance. 

Engineering Solutions – Act I

Brahms Station, Avalon Fleet Yards, Grazer Sector, Alpha Quadrant
April 2401, Several Days after Frontier Day

Personal Log, Stardate 240104.25. The fleet yard like the rest of Starfleet has recovered mush quicker than i expeted. I however have not had the chance to process what happened that day but we must move forward and I must focus on the work that I’ve been assigned. My hope is that I never have to experience anything likethat again.

Anthony walked down the corridor of the station looking at the PADD he had been carrying with him. He was reviewing the damage control teams’ report and analysis of the structural integrity of the station.

‘I will need to review its section when I get a chance,’ he thought to himself. Even though he wasn’t the head of structural engineering there wasn’t even a position for that to begin with in the first place.

“Lieutenant,” an unfamiliar feminine voice said. Hearing the voice Anthony looked up to find the origin of the voice.

When he looked up he saw an average height Trill female walking fast to catch up with him. She had her hair pulled back into a tight bun.

“Ensign Kusre. Is there something you need?” he asked her as he continued to look at the PADD he was holding. She stepped in front of him.

“I was told to find you and assist you in any way I can,” she said to him smiling nearly ear to ear.

He paid her no mind. He was too busy trying to wrap his head around how the Jupiter signal affected Avalon but not Starbase Bravo.

“I’m sorry,” he said when he finally realized she had said something he looked up at her, “What is that you said?”

“I was told to assist you with anything you needed,” she said, her smile fluttered showing her irritation towards him for not paying attention earlier.

Anthony caught her frustration with having to repeat herself, “Well I was about to go review these sections on the station to ensure they had been properly repaired,” he said to her as he handed her his PADD so she could look at it.

She grabbed the PADD from him and looked over the locations, “We can split them between the two of us to make it go by faster,” she suggested as she handed the PADD back to him.

“That is a wonderful idea, Ensign,” Anthony said to her as he looked back at the PADD to determine how they were going to split the sections, “You can take the promenade, crew quarters, and the recreational facilities,” he said as he tapped at the devices sending the reports for those areas to her PADD.

“I’ll take the command sections, medical sections, and engineering facilities. Then we can meet up and do the sensor and communications facilities together as they are the trickiest,” he said as he finished tapping on the PADD and looked up at her.

Kusre looked at him with a gleam in her eye as he listened to him talk. After a little while she realized she had been staring and diverted he eyes to the PADD she held her hands.

 “Yes, sir,” she said to her as she began to blush a little.

Anthony, a little confused, walked away from her to get started. ‘I wonder what that was about,’ he thought to himself.

Freedom

USS Alliance enroute to Avalon Fleet Yards
2401

Her eyelids fluttered shut, enveloping Mara in darkness as she surrendered to the subtle vibrations coursing through the ship’s frame. The thrum of the engines reverberated within her, a rhythmic pulse that seemed to synchronize with the beating of her heart. With each vibration, she felt a sense of connection to the vessel, as if they were two entities moving in tandem through the vast expanse of space.

The hum of the engines filled her ears, drowning out all other sounds and drawing her focus like a siren’s call. Mara’s lips parted slightly as she counted the beats, her mind instinctively deciphering the ship’s speed from the cadence of its mechanical symphony. Then, without warning, the familiar rhythm shifted, the vibrations diminishing in intensity but accompanied by a new sensation—a low, ominous rumble that stirred unease within her.

Slowly, reluctantly, Mara’s eyes fluttered open, revealing the stark expanse of the ship’s ceiling above her. Its cold metallic surface gleamed dully in the ambient light, a stark contrast to the warmth that had enveloped her moments before. With a soft exhale, she pushed herself upright, her movements languid as she took in her surroundings.

The quarters, bathed in a soft, gentle luminescence, seemed to embrace her with their comforting glow. The walls, adorned in soothing hues of ivory, caught the light and cast it back in a warm, inviting cascade. It was a sanctuary amidst the vastness of space, a haven of calm in the midst of uncertainty.

Her gaze drifted to the corner of the room, where an armchair beckoned invitingly. Its plush cushions whispered promises of respite, adorned with intricate patterns that seemed to dance in the soft glow of the room. Opposite the chair, a viewport stretched from floor to ceiling, offering a tantalizing glimpse of the cosmos beyond.

As Mara rose from her bed and made her way to the viewport, anticipation fluttered in her chest like a caged bird. Through the transparent barrier, she watched as their destination loomed ever closer—the sprawling expanse of the Avalon Fleet Yards, a bustling hub of activity amidst the emptiness of space. Excitement and trepidation mingled within her, a bittersweet symphony of emotions that danced beneath her skin.

With each passing moment, the reality of her impending relocation sank in, bringing with it a whirlwind of conflicting emotions. It was a new beginning, a chance to start afresh in unfamiliar territory. Yet, it also marked the end of her journey aboard this vessel, a poignant reminder of the transient nature of her existence.

As the vessel drew nearer to its destination, Mara couldn’t help but marvel at the irony of it all. This new chapter in her life, filled with promises, would also mark the end of this Freedom-class transporting her—maybe she would be one of the engineers disassembling her? 

A Pig and a Mutton

Drydock AFY-713
2401

Mara’s steps faltered as she navigated the corridor toward Drydock AFY-713. The tension in her stomach twisted and turned like a relentless storm brewing within her. Each footfall felt heavier, laden with the weight of her apprehension. She couldn’t escape the fluttery feeling that had plagued her since dawn, a nervous energy that refused to dissipate.

Inside the sonic shower, the rush of water couldn’t drown out the whirlwind of thoughts swirling in Mara’s mind. She clenched her fists, trying to steady herself against the onslaught of emotions. Even as she grabbed a quick breakfast in the cafeteria, the atmosphere seemed suffused with her unease, casting a shadow over the mundane act of eating.

Now, as she approached the door to Drydock AFY-713, the knot in her stomach tightened further, threatening to suffocate her. With each step, the feeling intensified, like a vice grip tightening around her chest. The hiss of the door sliding open reverberated through the corridor, a mechanical echo of Mara’s own inner turmoil.

Stepping into the drydock, Mara’s gaze fell upon the figure of a woman standing with her back turned. The sight sent a jolt of nerves shooting through her veins. The woman’s brown hair was neatly coiled into a bun, a bag slung over her shoulder – the unmistakable silhouette of Mara’s new commander.

With trembling hands, Mara approached the woman, her heart pounding in her ears. She struggled to find her voice amidst the cacophony of emotions raging within her. “Excuse me,” she finally managed, her words tinged with uncertainty, “are you Commander Tolsa?”

The question hung unanswered in the air, floating alongside the small drifts of white smoke emanating from the desk concealed by Gail’s figure. The constant stream of dense white wisps floated elegantly through the air, each quiet hiss of her tools emitting another pair of spectral tango dancers on the minute currents of the environmental systems. As the woman lifted her right hand over her shoulder, her short stubby fingers extended awkwardly in an attempt at a welcoming wave, the silence was interrupted by a sudden piercing tone from the nearby wall panel. 

“’it that ‘ig ’ed ‘utton ’or ‘e.” She wiggled her head towards the wall panel next to her where a large red stop button had been fitted into the console, it’s angry red mushroom shape noticeably at odds with the smooth grey Starfleet aesthetic. “’oove got ‘bout ’en seconds.” Gail threw a glance over her shoulder, towards the button that lay slightly out of reach, the cause of her muffled speech to be a tool clutched between her teeth. 

Mara’s brows furrowed in confusion as she gaped at the unlikely sight before her. “A pig and a mutton!? On a space station?” Her voice carried genuine bewilderment, betraying her struggle to comprehend the absurdity of the situation.

Her gaze then shifted to a conspicuous object, her eyes narrowing in contemplation. “And what has that got to do with that big red… oh!” Recognition dawned on her, accompanied by a flicker of embarrassment. She cursed herself inwardly, realizing her apparent obliviousness.

Without further hesitation, Mara’s hand moved instinctively towards the wall, her fingers hesitating briefly before decisively pressing the big red button, fulfilling the mysterious request.

Both women waited nervously as the warning tone was silenced, the last of the small clouds of white smoke disintegrating into the ether. Satisfied there were no further warnings Gail quickly clicked a few final components into place and took the small driver from between her teeth and began screwing in the last plate. 

“Thanks for that Lieutenant, you just saved me a from another dull conversation with the dock master.” She stooped ever so slightly and pulled her chin to her chest, stoking a long imaginary beard as she imitated the officious Tellerite in a mock baritone, “That’s the sixth time you’ve set of the fire alert systems this month Commander. I get the feeling you aren’t taking the health and safety of the station very seriously” She tutted through her teeth. “What does he expect, we make and break things for a living, sometimes things get set on fire.” She smiled conspiratorially, “I found it on the Trinidad,” she motioned to the large red stop button, “a gorgeous old Saladin that came in from the Auxillary, ‘parently their chief engineer had the same issue.” She smiled, happily lost in the thought of the classic vessel for a moment. “Broosh would probably court-martial me if he found out. And now you’re an accomplice I suppose!” Gail shrugged dismissively, “Not a bad start for a new Breaker!”

Mara’s brows furrowed slightly as she glanced up, her voice laced with uncertainty. “Thank you, ma’am?” she replied, her tone betraying a hint of question. 

A faint smile danced on her lips as she continued, “You know, back home, whenever we encountered situations like these, we’d improvise with a bypass system at the main valve.” Her fingers tapped on a side panel as if she was illustrating something, her gaze drifting momentarily into the distance before returning to the present. “But,” she added, a twinkle of reminiscence in her eyes, “we weren’t exactly bound by Starfleet regulations back then.”

“Just Gail will do my love. Or crinkles…” She rustled a pocket on her jumpsuit, the secreted sweet wrappers crumpling their own miniature symphony. “Bypass valve is a fair call, how did you get around the inbuilt safety limitations of the computer infrastructure? That’s no small amount of coding to hide during your annual certification.” Her eyes lingered on the young woman’s fingers, still trailing a course over the cracks in the grey panel that indicated an access hatch, her distant gaze a sign of her journey on a familiar path. Starships and engineers, Avalon was home to many broken things, some found their way out quickly, some took a little longer. 

Mara’s eyes remained fixed on Gail, her expression revealing a mix of anticipation and observation. “Well, another bypass basically,” she said, her tone tinged with a hint of mischief. “It allowed us to flip the switch to turn it on and off.” Then, as if an afterthought had struck her, she added, “But civilian freighters don’t get the deep-dive audits that ‘the bureau’ claims to be doing. Sometimes we wouldn’t spot them for up to three years.”

Gail toyed with the soldering tool in her hand, rolling it’s tip around her palm in one of the many divots in her calloused skin. The latest addition to the team was promising, a young woman with a singular mind for understanding the mechanics, particularly when it came to the historic vessels 713 often saw, but she was nervous and lacked confidence. A smile alighting on the corner of her lips Gail decided to test the waters. 

“And if, hypothetically, I asked you to replicate that bypass here, purely as a research tool, would you be able?”

Mara’s laughter bubbled up, a spontaneous reaction to the sudden realization of how comfortably this place had woven already itself into her sense of belonging. She fought to suppress the grin tugging at her lips, striving for a serious façade. “I wonder,” she mused aloud, “if it could seamlessly integrate with these systems. Purely for research purposes, naturally.”

The two women locked eyes, grins growing wider by the second. “Lets do some research then shall we? Hyperspanners are in the top drawer, watch out for Daisy, she gets excitable.” An unexpected giggle escaped Gail’s lips as bags were shoved to the side and experiments placed on the shelf as another Breaker joined the family.