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Part of USS Oakland: Unexpected Horizons and Bravo Fleet: Labyrinth

First Impressions

Deep Space 47, Docking; USS Oakland
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Charlotte MacColgan could say, without a shadow of a doubt, that USS Oakland was one of the ugliest starships she’d ever seen. More than a ship, it resembled a frisbee with stilts stuck to the bottom, and long giant clown shoes for nacelles, taped together by the engineering hull suspended in-between them. Where other ships seemed actually graceful, it felt more like Oakland should be waddling through space, like a struggling newborn penguin on ice. She had the fore and aft profile of an open cardboard box. Charlie was fairly sure she could fit Alceste directly into that giant square negative space with room to spare.

And all this was saying something, considering she hadn’t felt too kindly about her prior posting, either. And that was a Springfield. At least Alceste had vaguely looked the part of a typical Starfleet ship, and not like a pancake propped up on a rack.

She was beginning to regret taking this offer. She’d done it entirely for the rank- making commander at age 31 was no small feat, and her other offer as Chief of Security on Drazki certainly didn’t come with a promotion. But now she could see why Starfleet wasn’t particularly bothered with a younger first officer- because they were putting her on a goddamn California-class. She should have known it was too good to be true. Rank-chasing only brought her from an old clunker of a science vessel that never saw anything exciting, to a second-rate glorified tugboat.

Great going, MacColgan. Really proved your parents wrong with that, didn’t you?

Charlie was rather content to stew in her misery, lambasting herself for thinking too much about a shiny new title instead of going where the action would be. But as she walked towards the docking arm leading to the awkward-looking utility cruiser, someone else snagged her attention- an older man, with salt-and-pepper hair and a thick beard. 

And a smile on his face. Who smiles at a Cali? A man of his age should be on one of Starfleet’s newest and best, not an underwhelming old utility cruiser. 

Curiosity got the better of her. Reluctantly, she diverted her course and approached, not yet saying a word, but eventually coming to a stop beside him. The captain rank pips gleamed on his collar. This must be the ship’s CO- and Charlie’s new captain. 

He spoke first, the smile never leaving his grizzled face. “Beautiful, isn’t she? She might not have the elegant lines of a Parliament, but I’d say she’s got her own rugged sort of charm to her. Wouldn’t you?”

Her gaze flickered back to Oakland, looming before them. She absolutely would not. “Sure. Rugged.”

Though his expression didn’t change a bit, Charlie figured he instantly saw through her lie. She was never particularly good at it. “She might not be much, Commander, but she’ll soon grow on you. California-class ships tend to have that effect, I’ve found.” He held out a wrinkled, calloused hand- the hand of someone who’s done a lot of manual work in his time. Former engineer, maybe? “Captain Oskar Maising. I assume you must be my new first officer?”

She hesitated only for a moment before shaking it- opinions on the Calis aside, he seemed like a decent enough sort. “Charlotte MacColgan, sir. ‘N aye, jus’ got reassigned ta ‘er. Off’a Alceste.”

Maising gave her a short nod, his grip firm but not uncomfortable as he shook her hand. “I understand you’re a former security officer. I hope we won’t ever have to put those skills back into use, but if we do, I’m confident you’ll be of great help. I’ve been told you score rather highly in tactical and security sims- Alceste‘s captain is an old friend of mine, and he had good things to say about you. I hope you’ll prove to be as reliable as he says.”

Charlie had to resist the urge to grit her teeth..Fat lot of use a security officer did on a Cali– especially her. “Only sims, sir. Alceste was… a quiet posting. Have’nae done any actual security work in… maybe ’bout five, six years?”

“Still, it’s good to know you keep your skills sharp, even if we hope to never need them.” Maising clapped a hand lightly on her shoulder, that smile never wavering- like he was legitimately pleased to have such a clearly contrary officer aboard. It was as if nothing could wipe it away- he was a man who never wavered in his geniality. Quite frankly, it was almost annoying. “I’ll see you aboard shortly, Commander. I look forward to working with you.”

One final nod, and he was gone, walking up the docking tube. Charlie remained rooted in place, watching him disappear into the crowd of crewmembers filing in to board. Her eyes drifted up, to that giant saucer on stilts, branded with an NCC number that would never get a letter stuck on the end of it. A dead end. An awkward, clownish-looking dead end.

She grumbled a curse under her breath and joined the crowd. Charlie would just have to suck it up, keep her head down, and cross her fingers that time passes quickly. If it does at all.

This is what rank-chasing brought her to. She’d dug her grave. Time to lie in it.

Comments

  • This was such an easy read and I mean that in all the best ways! I appreciate how visual you are in your writing. The use of imagery in your narration evokes the story in a way it feels like it tells itself. I'm intrigued by the picture you've painted of Charlie's motivations. Some parental baggage is always story rocket fuel, and I liked the introspection in recognise the role she played in ending up on this posting she detests. An NCC that will never get a letter at the end was certainly my favourite line. As for what's next, we've been immersed in what Charlie doesn't want in her career, I'm so curious to see more about what she does want. Why did she chase after rank so hard? What might she find in the Labyrinth that she's always been looking for?

    June 15, 2024
  • This might be your first story on BFMS, but it reads like it was written by a veteran. I've got to double down on what Brendan said about your use of imagery. You had me by the time you said "frisbee with stilts stuck to the bottom", and you just kept at it from "waddling through space" to an "awkward, clownish-looking dead end". I also appreciate the initial exchange between CO and XO, and the exploration of our XO's motivations. Makes me curious to see how MacColgan grows from here. I also find myself in Maising's camp as it relates to the California growing on you. I originally thought the California was bleh, but over time, I've actually really come to appreciate its simplistic utility. Great start! Can't wait for more!

    June 15, 2024
  • How many insults can one person hurl at a California? Answer, rather a lot if your MacColgan. I guess this is the start of a love hate relationship. The CO loves the ship, the XO hates it. It will be interesting to see if the Oakland does 'grow' on her and how the two officers interact as this story unfolds.

    June 15, 2024
  • I got to say that I never expected the post to start bashing the Cali so bad, I burst out laughing brilliant really. It really grasp the perspective, expectations and relation with Charlie and her career. I really wonder what the ship has store for Charlie, great start and I loved reading the dynamics between the CO and XO as Jason said, hate and love relationship regarding the ship.

    June 16, 2024
  • Two sentences in and I was laughing. Two paragraphs in and I'm taking a break to have a proper laugh. This was just brilliant! Someone clearly has opinions on the California class and dammit, if those opinions don't work to brilliantly convey the imagery of the ship class. Everything insulting to the class invoked the image in my mind, but with tweaks from the insult. A pancake with nacelles was particularly brilliant I think! MacColgan's despair is evident and you know what, if you keep writing like this, I'm going to hope she wallows in it because it's damn funny!

    June 17, 2024