As the largest class of explorers in either current or historical service, Odyssey-class starships like the Arcturus had been designed with absolutely massive bridges, with the extra space not packed with consoles and duty stations, but instead with expansive viewports and open areas to let the command staff feel a sense of scale for not just the ship itself but the void of space beyond. Lieutenant Windsor often felt like he had to shout when he had the conn, even though subtle audio relay systems and optimized acoustics made a normal speaking voice perfectly audible anywhere on the bridge.
“Status report, flight control?” Windsor asked.
He’d just taken over from Lieutenant Commander Selon, the Vulcan who almost always had command of the ship during Delta Shift. Windsor was the junior-most officer of the watch, so he played second-in-command to First Officer Lancaster during Alpha Shift. It was relatively rare for Lancaster to leave him alone for any amount of time, let alone not show up perfectly on time at 0800, so he was enjoying the chance to actually sit in the center seat, even if only for a few more minutes.
“We are on course, sir. We will arrive on schedule in eight hours, seventeen minutes at Starbase 38,” Tellora reported, glancing back at him from her station on the starboard side of the view screen.
The implication through her gruff tone was ‘do not ask again.’ She was one of the only Klingons in Starfleet, and, honestly, Windsor didn’t know what to make of her. He grew up in a colony that was almost entirely Human, and at just shy of 2 meters tall himself, he definitely was not used to looking up to speak to a woman, let alone a woman who could likely beat him to death with both hands tied behind her back. As a pilot himself, he was used to a certain amount of bravado, but Tellora took it to the next level. Most days he couldn’t decide if that was intimidating or sexy, and that morning it was a little of both.
“Uh, good. Carry on,” Windsor said, clearing his throat and trying to sound authoritative.
“All hands, this is the XO. Red Alert. Stand to battle stations,” came Captain Lancaster’s voice over the intercom.
“Shields up! Energize all defense systems,” Windsor ordered, as the klaxons started to sound and the bridge’s lighting changed from white to red.
Other changes began to take place, the bright wide bridge of an explorer becoming the protected seat of command for a battleship. Sheets of ablative armor slid up over the port and starboard windows as well as over the forward viewport past the main viewer beyond what the crew called the “crow’s nest,” while another covering irised over the skylight. As the bridge hardened itself against attack, consoles also unfolded from hidden compartments in the wide-open aft section of the bridge, six stations fanning out on either side of the transporter console to provide for internal security, damage control, electronics warfare, and other combat-related function. In the crow’s nest a table extended from the floor in the center with a map of local space projected, while consoles for intelligence, strategic operations, and additional tactical officers slid up on the sides.
The bosun’s whistle sounded as Fleet Captain Hayden walked onto the bridge from the starboard entrance, Captain Lancaster following close behind. Windsor stood up quickly, moving over to the far left seat as the two more senior officers took their stations. Seconds later, officers emerged from both sides of the bridge to fill in the new stations that had just emerged, taking them from a staff of six to dozens.
“Helm, all stop,” Hayden ordered, as she sat in the center seat. A woman of almost seventy, Hayden had what Windsor would describe as a commanding presence, even aware of the pun that thought made. She offered no explanation for their change in alert status as the seconds ticked by and the ship slowed to a halt, something realized only through the slightest shudder and the slowing of the proximity sensor display under the viewer to nothing.
“Thirty seconds and counting,” Captain Lancaster announced from his station on the other side.
Ah, a drill. A wave of relief washed over Windsor, as he’d done all he could possibly do in that situation since he was already at his post. He wouldn’t want to be the department head whose team came in last, though, as he could see the first officer’s square jaw clenched, his blue eyes glued to the status monitor on his console. They’d weren’t even two weeks out of port, but the bridge crew already knew that imperfection was not to be tolerated, not if Captain Lancaster had anything to say about it. He had a practically Borg-like love of efficiency.
“All decks report ready. Elapsed time: seventy-five seconds,” Lancaster reported. “We can do better.”
“I’m sure you’ll make that happen, Number One,” Hayden replied, with a slight chuckle. “Mister Windsor, set simulation mode.”
“Aye, Captain,” Windsor replied, keying in a few commands that locked out the ship’s primary systems and allowed the computer to maintain station keeping while the bridge crew engaged in a simulation. “Autopilot engaged and simulation mode set.”
“Computer, begin the simulation,” the captain ordered. “Let’s see what Stella has cooked up for us.”
“Captain, I am reading three Vidiian ships at extreme range on an intercept course. Weapons hot,” Lieutenant Commander Dealhi Odea reported from the tactical station, which mirrored the helm station on the other side of the viewer. “They will be in range in thirty seconds.”
“Vidiian? Clever,” Lancaster noted.
Windsor didn’t know why facing off against the Vidiians was “clever,” as the words that came to his mind were terrifying, repulsive, and abhorrent. Other than the Borg, the Vidiians were right at the bottom of the list of races the young lieutenant was looking forward to meeting on their expedition to the Delta Quadrant. He’d studied Voyager’s logs extensively in preparation for this assignment, and the Vidiians had stuck out for not only their unusual starship combat tactics–getting right in to carve enemy ships open with grapplers and board them–but also their practice of stealing organs from other races and implanting them into their own bodies. Sentients were capable of horrific things in the name of survival, but that just made Windsor squirm in his seat.
Hayden chuckled again. “Careful, Michael. You’re anthropomorphizing the virtual intelligence,” she teased, which made Windsor arch an eyebrow.
Lancaster frowned. “It must have known the Vidiians were neither of our first choices, Captain.”
“Probably so. But that’s not going to stop us from winning, is it?”
“No, sir. Helm, evasive pattern Gamma Echo. Keep us out of range of their grapplers. They’ll try to box us in and bombard us at close range,” Lancaster ordered.
“Aye,” Lieutenant Tellora reported, as she started the ship in a series of loops to confuse the enemy’s sensors while also keeping the narrowest facing possible available for them to fire upon. For her size, the Arcturus was fast, but if those ships got too close her sheer bulk would make her an easy target for an enemy that favored close-in, knife-fight tactics.
“Enemy vessels have increased speed,” Odea warned from tactical.
“Vidiian hyperthermic charges have more limited range than our own weapons. We should be able to get off a volley before they can respond. Tactical, load all forward torpedo launchers for a full spread of quantum torpedoes,” Hayden ordered.
“Quantum torpedoes, aye,” Odea confirmed. “We will be in range in seven seconds, Captain.”
“Fire at your discretion, Commander.”
Windsor watched from his console as the three dots representing Vidiian ships crossed into the ring representing their maximum torpedo range. The second they did, Odea fired a full salvo from all four of the Arcturus’s forward launchers. A few seconds later, there were bright blue explosions on the main viewer as they impacted with the enemy’s shield grid with enough force both to drain a significant portion of their shields and to blind their sensors briefly.
“Damage analysis, Mr. Walker,” Lancaster ordered.
“Enemy shields down by twenty-five percent. Also reading EPS fluctuations in the vessel to starboard. Evidently, these are technically superior to the Vidiian ships last faced by Voyager,” Commander Walker reported, standing at the science station behind the command area.
“I extrapolated technological improvements that may have occurred over the last thirty years, Commander,” Astra’s disembodied voice reported, sounding almost smug in a way that the ship’s computer intelligence never did.
The bridge rocked, the gravity generators being manipulated to simulate the impact of a barrage of exothermic charges as the Vidiians got into range. Windsor had to brace himself on his console not to fall out of his chair, which he thought was a little excessive for a simulation.
“Shields down to 80%, Captain,” Lieutenant Commander T’Mir reported from operations. She was the second most senior operations officer and it was unusual that Commander Alesser was missing, which Lancaster seemed to notice as he clenched his jaw.
“Helm, point us right at them and take us to full impulse. Attack Pattern Sierra-Three, all weapons,” Hayden ordered, gripping the armrests of her seat.
Attack Pattern Sierra-Three would have them appear to fly past their targets, pulling up at the last minute to attack them from behind and above. It was a sound tactic, assuming that the Vidiians didn’t manage to snag them with their grapplers before they could execute it. The ship rocked again and operations announced that they were now only at 75% of their maximum shield power.
At full power the Arcturus easily punched through the Vidiian formation, and Tellora skillfully brought them about, while Odea unloaded with a considerable number of shots from the ship’s phaser arrays. At close range, these powerful weapons easily sliced through the Vidiian’s shields, targeting vulnerable systems and leaving them burning in space.
“All three vessels disabled, Captain,” Odea reported.
Well, that was easy?
“Why didn’t the simulation end?” Lancaster asked.
“Detecting energy fluctuations on our aft quarter. Something is right on top of us,” Walker announced.
“The Vidiians don’t have cloaking technology…,” Windsor noted.
“Not Vidiian. Two Hierarchy assault vessels decloaking directly astern. They’re firing!” the science officer added. The ship shook again.
“Shields down to 30%,” Commander Alesser reported, having assumed his station when no one had been paying attention.
“Evasive pattern Delta-One. Put some distance between us, and return fire,” Hayden ordered. The ship rocked, and Tellora moved them further away from the new enemies. Quantum torpedoes erupted from the aft launchers to give them cover.
“Status on Hierarchy ships?”
“Minimal damage, sir. They appear to have regenerative shielding.”
“Well, so do we. Divert auxiliary power to the shield recyclers,” Lancaster snapped.
“Helm, engage warp five on our current heading for one second,” Hayden ordered. “Keep a target lock on the starboard vessel.”
For an instant, the ship jumped to a very high speed, putting substantial distance between them and the Hierarchy ships. It would take them several seconds to re-target the Arcturus giving them time to dump power into their shields and wait for the enemy to close. That was not, apparently, the captain’s plan, though.
“Reverse heading. Warp eight. Drop us right on top of them,” Hayden ordered. The ship swung around and jumped back to warp. Within fractions of a second they were back in close range with the Hiearchy ships, who opened fire again. The ship rocked. “Attack pattern Alpha-One. All weapons on the starboard target.”
Phaser and torpedo fire lit the second ship up, and with the Arcturus concentrating all of its fire on one target, the enemy’s advance shields began to wither. Several seconds later, the Hierarchy ships switched targets, though, as the image of their previous position came into view. The Arcturus continued to pummel the starboard ship until it started to visibly drift.
“Switch targets,” Hayden ordered. “Quantum torpedoes. Fire.”
Moments later, both Hierarchy ships were burning in space along with the Vidiian ships, and the words ‘Simulation Complete’ flashed over the viewscreen.
“The Picard maneuver?” Windsor wondered.
Hayden chuckled. “Almost. The same principle in reverse, as we arrived faster than the light from our previous position did, which gave our shields a few seconds to catch up,” she explained.
“So, the Hayden Maneuver then, Captain?”
“Let’s got go handing out medals quite yet, Lieutenant. It was just a simulation,” she replied, with a smile. “Stand down red alert and resume course for Starbase 38. Senior officers to the conference room for a debrief. You have the conn, Mr. Windsor.”
The lights in the bridge returned to normal as the armored sheeting retracted, restoring the bridge’s normal view, while the extra consoles folding out of sight as soon as their occupants vacated. As the senior officers went down the steps to the conference room, Windsor settled back into the center seat as the ship jumped back to warp, the drill over almost as quickly as it had started.