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Part of Challenger: While The Iron Is Hot


Department of Engineering, Starfleet Training Command, Earth
Wednesday, February 5th, 2155
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Lieutenant Commander Michael Stanton was standing at the podium of a medium-sized lecture hall, in front of about a hundred first year cadets. The young professor was wearing the standard dress uniform assigned to professors of Starfleet Training Command, trimmed in red to signify his position as a member of the engineering faculty. Behind him on the electronic boards were an hour’s worth of notes and diagrams detailing the standard operating procedures for Starfleet’s typical Warp 3 engines, which could be found aboard most Earth military and exploration vessels.

“Remember, there will be an exam next class period. Don’t confuse your phase discriminators and your phase motivators!” he said, laughing mostly to himself, as it was only slightly a joke. He brushed a strand of hair off of his forehead, and looked up, wondering why there was still a class in front of him. “Oh, dismissed!” he said, blushing slightly, as he opened his briefcase to return his lecture notes to their proper position.

Stanton pressed a few keys on the podium that blanked the boards and restored the lights to their normal configuration, before heading for the lecture hall’s lower exit. As he started walking down the corridor back towards his office, a low, familiar voice spoke from behind him, causing him to jump nearly a meter for fright.

“That was a good lecture, professor,” the voice said. Stanton turned around and confirmed that it belonged to a portly man of African descent, Commodore Erick Nwakanma, the deputy director of the engineering corps, and a former faculty member of STC. Stanton had met the man several times, but had never really interacted with him very much, so was instantly curious as to the reason for his visit.

“Thank you, sir,” Stanton said, coming to a more respectful pose.

“At ease, professor,” Nwakanma said, grinning widely, as he started walking with him down the hallway, though at a much slower pace than Stanton would have preferred. “I remember hearing that you wanted to get back into space,” the commodore said, in his deep baritone voice.

“Uh, yeah… sir,” Stanton replied. “I’m supposed to join the pre-commissioning unit for the Discovery at the end of the semester,” he added, wondering why the flag officer didn’t already know that if he knew that he had sought a transfer from his current position.

“I want you on Challenger, this afternoon,” Nwakanma said, not seeming to hear Stanton.

“The Challenger? I have two classes between now and then to teach, and Commander Slater is the Chief Engineer,” Stanton replied, a look of confusion coming over his handsome face as they reached his office.

“Commander Slater has transferred off of Challenger, the death of Commander Ross and Captain Karim… He was involved with one of them; can’t remember which… The senior-most engineering officer aboard that ship is now a junior lieutenant, and they need someone up there right now if they’re going to launch on time. It looks bad for the corps if there’s any delay, and you’re one of the only qualified officers to take the position,” Nwakanma said.

“I’m sure there are more qualified people right here in this faculty,” Stanton suggested. “I am the junior-most professor here, after all, sir.”

“You’re the only professor who’s actually ran his own engine room in the last decade, though. We need you on that ship. Your shuttle leaves in two hours, and you had better be on it, Commander,” Nwakanma said, definitively. 

Stanton noticed very clearly the shift from “Professor” to “Commander.”

“Aye, sir,” Stanton said, resigned to his new assignment. He wasn’t completely sad about the chance to work on an NX-class starship, but he did not like the idea of abandoning his duties at STC nor did he like only having two hours to get his affairs in order before leaving. “Will this be a permanent assignment?”

“That will be up to Captain Burton; I can’t just assign you to the ship’s staff directly, but I doubt that he would send you away while the Challenger is still docked,” Nwakanma said.

“So it may be a little awkward for me, then,” Stanton mused aloud, knowing that most everything was awkward for him. “Especially if he’s already found a higher-ranking engineer.”

“I thought of that, too. You were going to be promoted for your duties aboard the Discovery, anyway, so I’ve decided to increase your rank to Commander, effective immediately. There’s usually a ceremony, but I really have to get back to headquarters and you have to pack. Congratulations, Commander… and make sure that ship launches on time,” Nwakanma said, before reaching into his pocket and handing over a single solid pip to replace the black pip on Stanton’s uniform. 

“Uh… Thanks, sir,’ Stanton said, accepting it, and looking at it for a moment. He was never one that really cared about rank, but it felt a little strange to him to be promoted and to receive new orders in a hallway, rather than somewhere more official; it seemed somewhat shady.

“Do us proud,” the commodore said, before walking down the hall away from Stanton.

Stanton entered his office, and just sat at his desk for a few moments, as he considered what was about to happen to him. He knew he should be packing, but he remained still for several minutes, as he came to terms with his new position. Being able to finish teaching all of his courses was only one reason that he had taken the Discovery; being part of that ship’s commissioning crew meant that he would have several more months on Earth, but the Challenger was almost ready for launch, and if the captain should decide to take him with them, he could be gone for quite a while. As he pondered that, the entrance chime sounded on his door. Looking up, he saw a tall shadow behind the ground glass doors leading into the corridor.

“It’s open,” Stanton said. The door slid open to reveal Lieutenant Commander Alex Rodham, Stanton’s former STC roommate and on-again, off-again romantic companion, who now worked at Starfleet Command supervising the many shuttle pilots assigned there. “Hi…”

“Hi,” Rodham replied, sitting on the edge of Stanton’s desk, as he flashed him the sort of perfect grin that belonged on a pilot’s face. “Would you care to go for some coffee in the commissary?” he asked, while toying with the Newton Cage on the desktop. Stanton’s heart froze a minute; he hadn’t yet considered what shuttling up to the Challenger would mean for their recently on-again relationship, and really did not want to have to tell him.

“Coffee sounds nice.” Stanton said, rising from his desk, and forcing a smile. He allowed himself to be kissed on the cheek, before they left his small office and headed for the officers’ commissary located in the basement of the engineering building. Normally, his inner goofiness and bubbly personality came out around Rodham, but his departure from the planet weighed heavily on his mind. “I have something to tell you…” he started, once they had their coffee, and he began to explain his new role.

“It will be fine, Michael… we both knew this was not going to last forever,” Rodham replied, quietly, as he reached across the table to squeeze his companion’s hand. Their coffee had long been drunk and the empty mugs sat discarded. Stanton had explained the situation, all the while interjecting questions to make sure that Rodham was not upset by the fact that they no longer had their promised six or seven months together, but only about ninety minutes, now.

“I just wish I could have had some more notice. I’ve been studying the plans of Discovery for months now, but I wasn’t expecting to actually be on a ship for a while… and…. yeah, I like you, and stuff,” Stanton said, blushing deeply.

“Well, I like you and stuff, too,” Rodham replied, laughing. “That doesn’t mean you should refuse the transfer. I know you like challenges, and launching a new ship is sure to be a big one. We’ll see each other again,” Rodham replied. “I’ll help you pack,” he added, as they stood up from the table.

Nearly two hours later, an STC shuttle emblazoned with red pennants docked smoothly with Challenger, carrying Stanton and a number of other replacement crewmembers. All the time since he had left the surface, Stanton had had his nose buried in a data tablet, as he reviewed the latest repair reports on the ship and began formulating a plan to get her one-hundred percent ready for launch. The hatch swung open to reveal the ship’s docking bay, and he stepped out first. He set off in the direction of the bridge, deciding that it would not be such a good move on his part simply to move into engineering and take control, as the Commodore had suggested, but rather he should find Captain Burton.

Challenger NX-03

It was hard to believe it had been almost two weeks since she had heard the news about Challenger. At first, she had thought Erika was kidding and didn’t really believe it until she stepped aboard Challenger for the first time. But that was how a lot of her life had been going for the last few days. Even though her visit home had been a blur, she had resisted for so long actually going planet side and visiting her family. Usually it was a giant pain. But for once it was nice, no arguing, no trying to convince her to change her life, it was almost relaxing.

Now here she was, sitting in her new quarters studying the crew manifest. Really, she would have rather been in her lab doing…well just about anything else, but this was important. Before she left Columbia, Erika had sat her down and told her very simply to get to know your crew. That it was the job, the Executive Officer was there for the crew, to make sure they were doing ok. She was their advocate to the Captain, but only if they trusted her. And the easiest way to start off that trust was to know everybody. So, she sat and stared at her computer screen doing her best to match names to faces. 

It may not have been the most enjoyable thing in the world to do, but somehow, she muddled through knowing that everything after this would be much more her speed. Over the next hour Levesque had gone over the crew list twice and was fairly sure she had almost everyone down. Levesque had just finished the Medical Department lists when the door chime went off. 

“Come in.” She said standing to face whoever had saved her from the monotony of more paperwork. As the door to her cabin slipped open Levesque immediately recognized Ensign Martha Habiba, one of her science officers. 

“Commander, we just finished installing the Stellar Mapping Display, and I was wondering if you wanted to be there for the calibration tests?” Habiba asked, standing just inside the door, doing her best to not intrude on her superior. 

“Yeah, sounds like fun.” Levesque said as she headed for the doorway. “So how does the new system look so far?” 

“In short ma’am…amazing! The upgraded design has been based on improvements made to the base system aboard Enterprise and the modifications made to the system aboard Columbia…”

“I’m aware of where the improvements come from Ensign; I did make some of them myself.” Levesque said feigning insult. 

“Oh of course ma’am…I didn’t, I mean I didn’t mean to imply…” Habiba stammered, afraid she had just insulted her new Department Head. 

“At ease Ensign, I’m just having a bit of fun. Please continue.” Levesque said, still laughing to herself a bit.

“Yes um…well, taking the improvements made aboard both previous NX ships we have set up this system to tie directly into the main and navigational sensor arrays. Not only will the helm get real time updated spatial conditions, as we pass through a system, we can create a complete rendering of the space around the ship which we can monitor from the lab and the science station on the bridge.” A now more composed Habiba said with an ear-to-ear grin as she stepped off the lift to B Deck. 

“Excited, Ensign?” Levesque asked. 

“Not at all, ma’am.” Habiba replied good-naturedly. 

“Good, you’re learning.”                 

The Stellar Cartography Lab was probably the largest and most impressive science lab aboard the ship. Once it was up and running it would be the most advanced Stellar Sciences lab aboard any starship in the fleet. Levesque hoped she would have the chance to spend a lot of her time here, an unrealistic hope to be sure but a girl can dream. Levesque thought to herself as she surveyed the room. At least my office is just a hatch away. 

“Very good Ensign,” Levesque said over her shoulder. “Now how about those tests?”

Burton was walking down E deck; in hopes of finding some peace in his new quarters however before he had reached his door, he was stopped by the arrival of his yeoman holding two tablets. 

Crewmember First Class Jamie Harris was an inch smaller than his captain however was broader and more muscular. Harris was only twenty-six years old and had dark brown hair that was stylised in a mop top fashion. Since the day Burton had met the young crewmember, he always appeared smart and well presented. This formal appearance worked alongside his work ethos, Jamie took his job seriously and was extremely dedicated to it. Burton had only found Harris once unfocused while on duty and that was the day they were told of Captain Karim’s death. The young enlisted crewmember had been with Captain Karim while she was at Starfleet Operations; the two of them were a strong team. Unlike others who had left Challenger after Karim’s death, Harris had spoken to Burton the next day requesting if he could remain on board Challenger, feeling he had a duty to carry on in Karim’s memory. Since that day Harris had become a source of strength in keeping the ship organised with all the administrative and business matters. When Burton had been promoted to captain, he had asked Harris to stay on as his yeoman, a request that Harris had accepted on the spot without blinking. 

“Jamie, please no more reports for me to read.” Burton begged as he tapped the code sequence to let him enter his private sanctuary. 

Harris smirked at his captain’s remarks. “Sorry sir, but Starfleet needs you to confirm these requisition orders.”

Burton took the tablets from Harris’ hands as he entered his room and gestured for his yeoman to follow him in. “What are they for?”

Harris stood formally just in front of the door as it closed behind him. “One is regarding handheld weapons that you made three weeks ago and the other is for our new shuttlepod.” He answered.

Burton sighed to himself. He had sent in the requisition order for phase pistols to Captain Karim before her death for her to confirm. Obviously, it had been left stuck in the system awaiting her approval. Without bothering to read it (he did write it) he just added his signature to confirm the request. The next one he knew was one he knew would be coming his way since Karim’s death. Challenger had lost Shuttlepod One due to the accident that killed Karim and Rossi. The ship couldn’t launch without two shuttlepods. He quickly skimmed read the report before adding the confirmation. He passed the tablets back to Harris. “Is that all Jamie?” He asked, wanting to take a short break.

“The last of the senior officers have now reported on board sir.” Harris stated. “They wanted to see you to officially report in, but they were made aware of your prior meetings.”

Since Gardner had left this morning, Burton had been stuck in various meetings regarding an assortment of issues that had to be dealt with to ensure the ship would launch on time. He had also finally decided on the replacements for chief engineer and chief medical officer. He had spoken with several high-ranking officers at Starfleet Medical and with the Starfleet Corps of Engineers (SCE.) to see if they were able to get the two officers up on Challenger before lunchtime. He hadn’t been able to confirm if that had been possible but when Harris had remarked on their arrivals, he was highly impressed with how Commodore Erick Nwakanma, the deputy director of SCE, had been able to release Commander Stanton so quickly. He was even stunned with how quickly Lieutenant Ben-Ami had been able to join the ship from the Yorktown

Now Burton had wondered if they understood why they hadn’t been able to meet their new skipper straight away, which was normally expected. Burton still needed to assign a new chief communications officer, a task he was still working on. “Okay give me half an hour and have Commanders Levesque and Stanton join me for lunch in my dining hall, tell Chef Lawson to put out something light for us all. I’ll then see both Lieutenant Commander Callahan and Major Yu in the armoury, while there we can go discuss the security arrangements for the ship. After that I’ll meet with Doctor Ben-Ami in sickbay, I’m sure she’ll have a lot of unpacking to do with the medical equipment that is still sitting in cargo bay one, so I’ll lend a hand. Finally let Ensign Alcott know I need a pilot to accompany me down to Starfleet Headquarters this evening. He can have the pleasure of my company then.”

“Very good sir, I’ll inform them of your schedule.” Harris said as he made a note of it all on one of his tablets. “Is there anything else I can get you sir?”

Burton shook his head as he sat down. “No Jamie, thank you though. You’ve been extremely helpful today; I really do appreciate your efforts.” 

“Just doing my job sir. I’ll leave you be then.” Harris stated before leaving his captain’s company.

The young captain then fell backwards onto his double bed and closed his eyes slightly after setting an alarm to go off in twenty minutes. A quick power nap may help rid him of this headache that was forming at the front of his head.

Commander Stanton was walking down the corridor in the direction of where he knew that there was a lift; he had studied the blueprints very carefully, but he had never been aboard an NX-class starship before. The ship seemed crowded to him, compared to the wide-open spaces of Starfleet Training Command, and he didn’t really care for it. He manoeuvred his way through the crewmen working on various ship’s systems, aided by the fact that his new rank sent people scattering in a way that his slim, unassuming figure never had before.

The impact of her body into that of another drew Ben-Ami from her deep thoughts, she held a tablet in her hand as she was quickly skimming the medical reports for the crew, “Harrah…” she sighed embarrassingly “I’m sorry. I was light-years away.” she said as she looked directly into the man’s eyes. He was the same height as her, and his tousled hair reminded her of ex-husband. She placed the tablet into one of her trouser leg pockets.

“Oh, uh, it’s probably my fault,” Stanton said, taking a step back to leave a respectful half-meter of space between them. “I’m still getting my space legs,” he added, with a grin.

Ben-Ami smiled, “I am sure I have a drug for that somewhere” she smiled and offered her hand, “Ro-fa Ben-Ami, I’m the ship’s Doctor”

“Michael Stanton I am an engineering professor at STC… well, I think I still am; my assignment here hasn’t been made permanent, yet,” Stanton said, accepting the handshake.

Ben-Ami released his hand and nodded knowingly, “You’re another last-minute addition as well?” she said almost rhetorically, “How long have they had such attractive young Professors at STC? If I’d known that I may have developed a serious interest in warp-field dynamics.”

“Yes, the Corps of Engineers was really scraping the bottom of the barrel to get me here,” Stanton said, laughing a little bit. “I… uh… don’t know about that second thing, though, Doctor,” he added, blushing a little bit. “Warp-field dynamics is interesting in its own right, though.”

“Look he blushes too…you’re too cute” she said smiled at him, “Please call me Ro-fa, I never did get used to the English title Doctor, I still think of myself as Ro-fa” she pulled another tablet from her breast pocket, a schematic of the ship on it, “Was that your main field of study: warp-field dynamics?”

“Actually, my dissertation was on warp field dynamics of warp seven flight patterns, but I teach subspace mechanics and basic engineering,” Stanton replied, still blushing a little bit. “I’m supposed to get the Challenger out of the yard on time. I was supposed to be on Discovery, but things… changed.”

Ben-Ami nodded, and then pointed at her head, “This is me pretending to understand anything you just said” she laughed, “Sorry I am a Psychiatrist and Surgeon, mechanical things are a bit beyond me…now if you have a psychotic Andorian with a broken rib, I’m your woman.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever met an Andorian,” Stanton said. “I did take a basic first response, though; I wouldn’t trust myself to do anything more than put a bandage on, though.”

“I’ll leave the engine to you, if you leave the sick people to me” she lifted the tablet, now do you have any idea how to make sense of this thing?” she gestured towards the schematic, “I am looking for the Captain, and I am assuming he might be on the bridge?”

“That would probably be-,” Stanton started, but was interrupted by a communications panel.

“Crewman Harris to Commander Stanton,” a voice said. Stanton pressed the activation button.

“Stanton here,” he said.

“The captain would like to see you in his mess in half an hour, sir,” the yeoman said.

“Okay… I think the doctor wanted to see him, too,” Stanton replied, looking at her.

“He’ll see her in sickbay later, sir,” the voice responded.

“Well that answers that question” she said shutting down the tablet, “I better get my arse into gear and go through the out-dated medicals…” she looked at the Commander, “…with that said, if memory serves…” she pulled the original tablet from her trouser leg pocket, “It’s your lucky day, your last medical for ship-board duty was on the NV-05 Luna….”

“Starfleet Medical must be very efficient; I didn’t even know I was going to be on this ship until a few hours ago, it’s a wonder the records got here,” Stanton said. “Yes, it was.”

“We aim to please” she smiled; “I know you’re busy so we can hold off on the medical until you’ve gotten your work done.” she smiled.

“Most CMOs jump at the chance to inflict a physical on someone; that’s very… nice of you,” Stanton said, looking at her for a moment. “Err…not to say that going to the doctor’s office is unpleasant.”

“I know what you mean, most of them take every opportunity to get people into sickbay…I’ll let you into a little secret, most of them are lonely and only want some company” she laughed deeply, “That and most of my peers have a very strict professional and moral code, they think if an assessment is as much as an hour late it reflects on their professional abilities…I on the other hand feel no such compunctions.”

“I’m not big into deadlines myself, either,” Stanton replied. “That’s why it’s always good to inflate repair estimates,” he added. “That’s a little engineering department secret.”

“Not so much of a secret…do you really think surgery takes thirty-six hours? It just makes us look like miracle workers”

“You’re not exactly a typical doctor, are you?” Stanton asked.

“Oddly enough, sanity is not a requirement to be a Psychiatrist” she laughed, “I’ll let you get on with tinkering with the engines, I am going to tinker with some minds” she patted him on the shoulder, “Go get’em champ.”

“Uh… you, too…slugger,” Stanton said, flinching slightly at the touch, before continuing down the corridor towards the nearest lift so that he could check out engineering before heading to his meeting with the Captain.

Ben-Ami looked on in silence as he walked away, “Slugger…that’s the best he could come up with? He’s really good under pressure.” She made a mental note of his slight flinch at the physical touch; she would have to experiment with that.

The male coupler of the circuitry was pushed into the female receptacle until an audible snap was heard. Located directly to the right of the female receptacle, was a small button that was no larger than the circumference of a very small marble; he depressed this button, watching intently as the clear wiring took on a soft blue illumination. A broad smile of accomplishment turned up either corner of his mouth as he slipped from within the small hatch under the console bench. Standing up, Ezrah tightened the long sleeves to the blue uniform jumper he adorned around his waist. His fingers poised over the controls, he depressed several strings of commands into the interface, watching as the algebraic formulas scrolled across the display. “Nice…” he said aloud to no one in particular.

Initiating the diagnostic program, Ezrah briefly stepped away from the console to stretch both arms. The restrictive confines within the console caused tightness in his shoulder that he attempted to work out by gently probing and massaging at the knot.

“Any luck?” Ensign Angela Hathaway stepped towards the bridge’s forward helm station, curiously glancing down at the display. The fiery red colour of her hair was pulled into a tight ponytail, emphasizing the sharp angle of her cheek and chin bones.

Ezrah grinned, bouncing gently on the ball of his heels as he clapped both hands together and flexed his eyebrows continuously, “hopefully! If this works, the Challenger’s response time to sudden course adjustments and evasive manoeuvres will have increased by at least five, if not ten percent.”

Angie laughed, evidently amused at Ezrah’s enthusiastic response. “Well, aren’t you just tickled pink?” The Scottish drawl of her accent betrayed her heritage. Ever cool, calm and collected, Angie was the Challenger‘s Second Helmsman, serving as the department’s most senior deputy. The other personnel comprising the flight control department were from the enlisted division, men and women selected due to their vast knowledge, experience and expertise pertaining to their respective specialization. Although Angie had only recently arrived on board, like Ezrah, she’d done well to jump right in to help in any way possible.

Ezrah merely shrugged, pleased that Angie had found him to be so amusing. “How’d everything go down in the launch bay?” His tone of voice conveyed genuine interest.

“So far, so good. I’ve personally inspected Shuttlepod Two and have determined it’s in fantastic condition.” She paused, leaning against the helm console as either arm was crossed over her chest. “Considering the Challenger‘s most recent loss, I thought it best to triple-check everything… just to be safe.” Taking a moment, Angie took on an expression of consideration before continuing, “I spoke to Yeoman Harris just before coming up; he assured me that he’d speak to Captain Burton regarding the requisition for a new shuttlepod. Other than that, everything appears to be in tip-top-shape.” She concluded, the French tips of her fingernails clicking against the brushed metal surface of the console.

“Very good… let’s go ahead and start response drills to assess efficiency; I’d like to see how proficient our team operates under a bit of pressure.” Ezrah proposed. Although he wasn’t by any means comfortable in the administrative aspect of his duties quite yet, Ezrah was well aware that he would be judged on his own performance as a leader in how well his team performed; to say he desired the highest level of proficiency was an understatement.

Angie nodded, “you got it, Sir. I’ll get started on that just after lunch. Speaking of which, it’ll take just a little bit longer for that diagnostic to finish up… care to join me for a quick bite?”

Gently pressing a hand against his abdomen, Ezrah hadn’t realized just how hungry he was until Angie’s proposition elicited a grumble from within his stomach. “Yeah, that sounds good.” He replied.

“Well then, shall we?” She gestured toward the aft lift. Before turning to leave, Ezrah affixed the cover back onto the console and secured the station before departing the bridge, close on the heels of Angie. He hadn’t yet had a chance to visit with her on a personal level but had the feeling she was quite the social butterfly. Being a little more introverted himself, Ezrah wondered just how well they’d get along when the boundaries of professional etiquette faltered. In truth, there was only one way to find out; and he was certainly about to.

“No, over a bit…” she said sitting at the desk guiding the crewmen who were moving the large crates of medical supplies into the room, “to the left…the other left…that’s the ticket” she said warmly, as they set the crate down, “Two down, five to go” she said almost sardonically.

“These things are really heavy,” said one of the crewmen, wiping sweat from his brow, “Do you really need all this stuff?”

Kefira nodded, “Uh-huh” she mumbled through her mouthful of chocolate bar, she set it down on the desk, the wrapper folded up so the chocolate did not make contact with the surface, “Of course if you’d rather come down with a deadly alien virus and not have a full lab to deal with it and synthesis a cure…be my guest. No skin off my nose, I am out of practice with palliative care anyway.”

The crewman looked at one another, and grimaced.

“There’s nothing quite like the scent of someone’s organs putrefying while they die a slow and agonising death….”

“Okay, point taken.” said the senior of the two crewmen.

“…it’s an acquired scent, I suggest tiger-balm under the nose for those new to the smells of the human body, but old salts like me can just ignore it. I saw a Vulcan vomit once from such a smell.” she said standing up and moving towards a computer screen, “I have pictures if you want to see it.”

They both gulped, “No, no, you’re alright Doctor – we’d better get the next crate.”

“Good boys” she smiled to herself, “Just move that one a few centimetres to the right for me?”

They looked at one another and then back to her and nodded. She turned away and began unpacking the first crate and putting the supplies away. She was lifting up the microalgae bath when she heard a scream from one of the crewmen. She spun on her heel and moved towards him.

He stood there, his right arm hanging limply at his side. His shoulder joint protruded oddly through his jumpsuit, “Didn’t anyone tell you to lift with your knees?!” she said as she moved closer and took his hand in hers, “Touch you’re left shoulder for me.”

She watched as he struggled to do so, his hand failing to reach it, his face gritted in determination, but it slowly changed to one of pain. “Well that confirms it.” she said more to herself than to the crewman, “Come on, pop onto the slab for me” she said gesturing towards the main bed in the centre of the room.

The crewman did as was asked and looked at Kefira, “What is it Doc?”

“Well, this is serious” she said as she switched on the monitor at the side of the bed and began to record his basic observations, “Well Mister Smith, I think it’s safe to say you’re not pregnant…I’m sorry have you been trying for long?” she laughed again, “It’s just a dislocated shoulder, should have it popped back-in in a jiffy” she said as she walked around the room to a cupboard and pulled out a large metal box. She walked back towards the slab and placed it on the end of the bed, she slowly opened it so the crewman couldn’t see inside. His friend stood at the side of the room, making sure to stay out of her way.

“Lay down for me sweetie will you?” she said absent-mindedly as she fiddled in the box, a few moments later she walked to the head of the slab, she took his hand in hers and pulled it straight, she then proceeded to place her now pink-slipper clad food in his arm-pit.

“What the hell are you doing?” asked the crewman, his voice filled with shock.

“Crewman, believe it or not, those letters after me name on the door -well they will be there later this afternoon – mean I am actually a Doctor. Trust me.” She leant back slightly rotating his hand at the wrist first clockwise, then suddenly she tugged harder and twisted it anti-clockwise. She heard the familiar pop, as his shoulder was realigned, “Better?”

The crewman nodded, “Much Doc, thank you.”

She lowered her food and removed the slipper carefully before putting it back in the box, “Let me get a sling for you.” she said as she slid back into her standard issue black shoe. She returned a few moments later with a sling, she sat the crewman up and set the sling to immobilise his arm for a day or two.

“No lifting for you Mister Smith, you’re on light duties.” 

“What? I have to lump these things by myself now?” asked the other crewman with faux shock in his voice.

While the two men continued with their banter, Kefira selected an appropriate analgesia and filled the injector and grabbed a small pot of the same medication in pill form. “I’m going to give you something for the pain” she said as she placed it to his arm and heard the hiss as she depressed the device. “Take one every four hours for the next two days” she said as she handed him the pill pot, “If you get any side effects come back to see me straight away.”

She helped the crewman from the slab, “Right you better get out of here, Mister Kincaid, I am sure you can find someone else to help you with the crates?”

The uninjured crewman nodded, “Yes Lieutenant.”

“Cracking” she said with a smile, “Get going, I need to fill in the first of what I can predict to be many medical records.” as they reached the door she called out, “And if you tell anyone about the slipper…well let’s just say I know ways that the police will never work out.” she winked at them as they smiled and walked out.

University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

After a ride down in the shuttlecraft and then transportation to the University of the Toronto, Viktoria Lin Yu found herself surrounded by the sites of her childhood, something she hadn’t seen since working as a member of the XenoCrimes unit in the Royal Canadian Mountain Police.

With both of her parents being Professors, Yu had spent much of her early life surrounded by the walls of academia…she had even sat in on lectures her mother and father gave during summer courses. The university was like a second home for Viki, something that she couldn’t help but remind herself as she continued down the familiar hallway tiles towards the professors’ lounge, her parents kept tightly to their schedules and if Viktoria remembered correctly, both would be there now, meeting up after classes.

The door itself was an ancient oak affair, swinging open instead of sliding mechanically like the modern doors used, and it made a creaking sound as Yu opened it, announcing her presence to those behind it…which meant that as the door opened, the Major was greeted almost immediately by a very familiar voice.

“Lin, my darling! You should have called!” Came the voice of an elderly woman with greying blonde hair wearing a mix of business attire and doctoral gear: a white lab coat over a white collared shirt, sleeveless black and gold vest, and slacks, with a pair of old fashioned spectacles over her face, half hidden behind a lock of greying platinum blonde hair that had escaped the bun that kept the rest of it in neatly. “You never were good at giving warnings when you make an entrance.”

“Sorry, mother.” Viktoria responded with a small smile. “Special forces training dies hard I guess…”

“Special forces have nothing to do with, dear.” Doctor Elke Ekkehard-Yu replied with a smirk as she made her way over to her daughter. “Your father is a known menace when it comes to showing up without advanced notice.”

“Speaking of Bà Ba, where is he?”

“I think he is in a late session with his TAs…a guest lecturer on Denobulan phonetics cancelled, so they have to come up with an alternative plan.”

“…that guest lecturer wouldn’t happen to have been an actual Denobulan, would it?” Viki asked with a slight frown forming on her face.

“Yes…a woman who is a noted linguist named Kaex.” The elder woman answered, also mirroring her daughter’s frown. “Given recent events, I think you can understand why she would be hesitant to make an appearance on Earth.”

“Or anywhere in the Sol system for that matter.” The younger woman added. “Terra Prime really screwed up the flow a lot of Starfleet crews had going. Saw it first-hand.”

“I’d imagine such things would be a problem for you and the others in Starfleet.”

“I can’t believe I have to tell this to you again…I’m not in Starfleet, mother.” Viktoria said with her smile returning slightly. “I’m in the Military Assault Command Operations…MACO. Emphasis on military…Starfleet is supposed to be all science and exploration…they just have the most advanced ships so-“

“So, they get forced into the role of a space navy by default.” Came another voice from behind them, this one deep yet eloquent in enunciation of words. “Isn’t that right, my little beautiful jade?”

Viktoria spun around quickly and nearly jumped at the sudden interruption, briefly forgetting whose voice it was…her own fathers. True enough to her mother’s statement, Professor Yu Junji was indeed a master of the surprise entrance like his daughter. 

“Bà Ba!” Viktoria finally exclaimed as she regained enough of her composure to hug her father instead of giving him a roundhouse back-kick to the head.

“Sorry Lin, didn’t mean to startle you.” He said with a smile as he returned the hug.

“A bold-faced lie if I ever heard one.” Elke added with another smirk at her husband. “You enjoy sneaking up on folks…there are some horror stories that your grad students tell.”

“Grad-students need a good scaring every now and then.” Professor Yu stated with a hearty laugh before turning back to his daughter and releasing her. “Now…how about we all go sit down in the couch and you can tell us what brings you back home, eh?”

As they moved to the couch and the Yu family sat down, Viktoria began to explain. “I’ve got myself reassigned recently; it came with the promotion I told you about last month. MACO commander of the Challenger, an NX-class starship.”

“…that wouldn’t happen to have been the same type of ship as the Enterprise would it? The ship involved with all that Xindi and Terra Prime business?” Her mother asked. “The one capable of warp five?”

“Five-point two last time I checked.” Viktoria asked. “Yes, pretty much the same ship type, few minor differences though, last minute upgrades, anyways, it’s a great opportunity and all, but there’s a hitch. The Captain I thought I would serve under was killed in an accident and her replacement is something of a ghost from my past or maybe I’m his ghost in this situation. I’m not sure if I should stick around now, maybe it’s a sign I should quit? Maybe come back and pick up my masters in Xenoanthropology? Or go back to the RCMP? I found out two years ago that they never discharged me properly, so I still hold my old rank.”

“While I am glad to hear about the prospect of you furthering your education and getting out of the dangerous military business,” Elke replied as she got up to retrieve the coffee she had left on the lounge table. “I’m not sure if it would be best for you to turn away from this situation…in the last fifteen years, you’ve worn more uniforms then most folks…rather turbulent career…perhaps you’ve become too comfortable with change…too easy to accept it as an option to sticking something out and dealing with what comes.”

“Forgive me mother, but what’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’ll try and explain what your mother is getting at.” Junjie stepped in. “She’s not talking about your work itself…getting shot at, catching criminals, or working a computer console, or any of that other stuff you did in the past…that’s all part of the plan after all, all expected.

“It is when there is a real hiccup…something truly unexpected…happens.”

A pause followed her parents’ advice as Viktoria sat in thought leaning forward and resting her elbows on her knees. Her mind raced over the events of the past fifteen years, and the situations that had surrounded her career in the RCMP, from being a XenoCrimes investigator to the event that had sparked her changing into emergency response work.

“Like Erika…” She finally managed to say. “…maybe you’re right I guess.”

“Personally, I also still think you should come back to academia, but it’s your choice.” Her father stated with a kind smile. “If there is one thing your mother and me have always tried to do as your parents, it’s laying out options for you and letting you make up your own mind in your own time…and then loving you no matter what you chose.”

“Thanks Mom, Dad.” Viktoria said with a small smirk.

“Now, how about you come back to the apartment and stay the night?” Her mother said with a grin as she finished off her coffee. “Your Uncle Bao is going to be coming in tomorrow from Cape Breton with freshly caught halibut. I was going to make up a little bit of my famous beer batter and your father had plans to make some of his addictive fries. Halibut and chips, one of your favourites!”

“That sounds absolutely wonderful,” Viktoria said with a smile. “But I have duty tomorrow and I’ll have to catch the next shuttle back up tonight. I’m not Starfleet after all, they might decide to leave dock without me and that’ll leave a bunch of fresh-faced young privates without someone to teach them how to shoot without hitting the teammate next to them!”