The transporter pattern finished its cycle and the appearance of a tallish human man wearing a captain’s red uniform appeared before them all.
“Captain on deck!” announced Penelope in a formal stern tone, which automatically made everyone who was there in a Starfleet uniform stand to attention. The welcoming party wasn’t that large, along with the ship’s ECH/acting first officer was Lieutenant Commander Flemen, the three McCallister boys and Lieutenant Tierra. Tierra was operating the transporter controls; the ship was low on the number of engineers it had, so the acting chief was filling in for now.
Making his way off the platform, carrying the same friendly and calm approach like his older brother, Captain Horatio McCallister made his way over to Flemen with a familiar smile. Instantly he extended his right hand towards Odyssey’s acting captain and kept to the old traditions that had been a part of Starfleet since its inception, for when a fellow officer boarded another ship. “Permission to come aboard, captain?” He requested.
Welcoming their visitor with a similar warm grin, Flemen shook McCallister’s hand. “Permission granted, sir, welcome to the Odyssey.”
Horatio McCallister did not share in his older brother’s blonde locks, instead he had darker short hair. It was clear that his past experience as a highly decorated undercover field agent for Starfleet Intelligence had left its toll due to the amount of grey and silver hairs that now highlighted his full head of hair. However, he did share the same McCallister chiselled strong chin line that Odyssey’s captain had. Unlike his brother though, Horatio had dark brown eyes that almost looked pure black, one would mistake him for being Betazoid. That said he also resembled his brother by his stubbly light brown beard, again some parts were almost white. Overall his entire demeanour came across as strong and the confidence he carried as an experienced officer was present.
Flemen had heard from the captain’s nephew earlier that day about how his father and uncle had only recently reconciled their difference. After digging somewhat in the Starfleet database, Flemen was able to use his current clearance as acting captain to find out about Horatio McCallister’s career (the parts that weren’t classified). Though he had gone through the academy and his career was meant to be just as prosperous as his older brothers, Horatio had taken a different direction. A staged backstory of him betraying Starfleet and joining the Maquis in the early 2370s had given him the chance to be seen as a rogue and even though he had been arrested by Flemen’s commanding officer, back when James Preston McCallister was the operations manager on board the USS Audacious, Horatio McCallister’s cover story of going to prison had been altered by Starfleet Intelligence and he had gone on to become one of their many greatest assets during the Dominion War and later on in many other situations that required an experienced spy to aid the Federation. His ties to Starfleet Intelligence had been eventually dropped a few months ago, prior to Odyssey’s departure from Earth and Horatio had been promoted to captain and given his first command: the USS League. One of the original Intrepid-class ships built during the early 2370s, its previous captain who was McCallsiter’s other sister-in-law, had retired from the service to take care of the older McCallister brother (Captain Conrad McCallister) who had come down with a terminal illness. Captain Laura McCallister had known about Horatio’s past and from what else Flemen had learnt, she had helped retrieve him from several of his missions and had gone on to ask Starfleet to grant him command of the ship she had served on for most of her career. Pulling one more favour with the admiralty, her request had been accepted and Horatio was given the League. After the ship had received numerous upgrades, it too had entered the Delta Quadrant a few weeks after Odyssey and McCallister had followed his brother’s footsteps in leading Starfleet’s efforts in exploring the Gradin Belt.
After finishing his handshake with Odyssey’s acting captain, McCallister looked around the room and was impressed instantly at how much larger the transporter room was compared to the one he was used to on board his ship. “I’ve got to admit, I was hoping my first time on my brother’s ship he would be my guide.” He looked down the line and his eyes fell on his nephews straight away. “I suppose your dad won’t mind me poking around without him for now though?”
All three McCallister boys chuckled at their younger uncle and moved across the room to greet him.
“Good to see you Uncle H.” Henri said with a brief hug which was followed by similar sentiments from Theo.
“Likewise fellas.” McCallister said and then he looked at his other nephew who had remained almost formal before him. Wearing his acting ensign uniform with pride, McCallister could see his older brother in Alfie in the way he stood. “At ease Ensign McCallister.” He commanded. “And come give your uncle a hug, that’s an order.” He insisted
Alfie relaxed with a sort of sigh as he followed orders and embraced his uncle. “Thanks for coming.” He said after letting go of his uncle.
“I wasn’t going to leave you guys out here in the middle of no-where.” McCallister assured him and then looked back to Flemen. “We’ve got a lot to do here and my crew are eager to help out as best as they can.”
“We appreciate that, sir.” Flemen replied. He turned to his acting first officer and introduced her to him. “Captain McCallister, this is Penelope. Odyssey’s Emergency Command Hologram and my current acting first officer.”
Extending his hand to greet her, McCallister put on some charm as he spoke. “I’ve heard from my brother that you’re one of the finest ECHs he has ever had.”
“I have similar sentiments for our Captain McCallister.” Penelope replied as she shook his hand.
“Maybe once this is all over you’d like to transfer over to an old Intrepid-class and take on the challenges there?” McCallsiter offered.
Chuckling somewhat at his recruitment attempt, Penelope turned the offer down with a simple shake of her head. “I was designed for the Odyssey, wherever she goes, I go I’m afraid sir.”
“Damn, seems like I should request a transfer myself then.” He said and gave her a wink. He turned to Flemen. “My S.C.E. team has finished building your new warp drive, but before we install it I think we should make sure this computer virus is completely removed. I would hate for us to be in mid-rescue and the Odyssey was disabled.”
“I agree, and on that note let me introduce you to our acting chief engineer, Lieutenant Tierra.” Flemen said, turning to the Deltan woman who stood behind the transporter controls.
Walking down the raised area and shaking McCallister’s hand, Tierra greeted the captain in a similar fashion like the others had. “I have to say captain, I will be grateful for any more engineers you can spare. My engineering department is a skeleton crew and every pair of extra hands you can lend us would be great. My only concern I have is we don’t know if we can prevent how Captain Jyster originally infected our systems. In fact my team have not had the chance to even look at countermeasures. ”
“My engineers have covered that as well. They’ve been studying the virus on our way here as well and have developed some countermeasures. We’ve already installed and tested them on the League, so we can get them put in on Odyssey as well.” McCallister informed her.
Hearing that news appeared to ease Tierra somewhat and made Flemen smile more as he looked at his chief engineer and Penelope with a sense of hope. “That’s great to hear, captain.” He said, sounding relieved. “Then if that’s the case my Cetacean Ops think tank believes they have worked out how we can trace the Quirennal.”
“That’s good news, as I’ve spoken to our Turei allies and they’ve given me a map of their underspace in this area. It may help us cover longer distances in a lot shorter amount of time.” McCallister shared.
“Even better. Shall we head down to Cetacean Ops now?” Flemen offered.
“Lead the way.” McCallister insisted before he turned to his three nephews. “It’d be great if we can catch up tonight lads, once I’m finished here fancy grabbing dinner?”
Alfie, Theo and Henri all looked at one another and then back to their uncle and agreed to his proposal.
“Come over to ours tonight Uncle H.” Henri offered.
“Yeah, we’ll cook you something.” Theo added.
Agreeing to the suggestion, McCallister wished his nephew’s bye as he left the room with Flemen and Penelope either side of him.
Henri and Theo both looked at Alfie, who had crossed his arms against his chest. Straight away he knew what they were going to ask. “Yes, it’s fine. I’ll cook!” He said after a big sigh.
“That was the best lasagne I’ve had in a long time.” Horatio McCallister exclaimed as he breathed out and patted his stomach. Raising his glass of water he toasted towards his cook. “My compliments to the chef!”
Alfie smiled in appreciation for his uncle’s sentiment as he placed the dirty plates and other cookware into the recycler and activated the replicator. “Mom and dad insist we eat a real made meal more than we do replicated. I think it’s why dad insisted on the kitchen being installed.” The young McCallister pointed towards the area of their quarters where the kitchen was placed and had become a focal point for them when guests were over.
Sat around the long rectangular table beside the kitchen, Horatio had joined his nephews after his briefing with Flemen in cetacean ops. Henri had sat at the head of the table, the spot his mother normally took while everyone else sat on either side.
“So Uncle H, Alf was saying that the think tank in Cetacean Ops has worked out a way to track the Quirennal. Something about following their footprints?” Theo quizzed.
Nodding to confirm the premise his nephew was trying to understand, Horatio poured himself another glass of ice water from the jug that was sat on the table. He went on to pour for his nephews as he elaborated the idea further. “It’s actually fascinating what they’ve worked out. The moment the Quirennal activated it’s coaxial warp drive, due it’s large size it made a distinctive subspace distortion as it folded space around itself to travel at higher speeds.”
“So a subspace footprint then?” Henri checked for clarity.
“In layman’s terms, yes.” Horatio confirmed. “Due to the particles used in their coaxial distortion fold drive it also shows us the heading, thus allowing us to be able to work out which way they went and how far.”
“So we know where mom and dad are?” Theo asked, sounding somewhat hopeful.
“We’ll we know where the Quirennal went. We may find that on their first use of their drive they could have entered normal space and then used the drive again or they are there far from us. Either way we’ll know where they’ve been. Plus with access to the Turei underspace we can travel a lot further in less time to these points. Once the repairs to Odyssey are complete then we will be underway.” Horatio shared.
“And you think we can rescue them? Even though the Quirennal is a lot bigger and powerful!” Henri checked. “Can both the League and Odyssey survive a battle with the Quirennal?”
Chuckling somewhat as he sipped on his water, Horatio sat up straight. “My plan isn’t to go in phasers blazing everywhere. General Sun Tzu once said, ‘pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance’. Well in this case I won’t need to pretend inferiority but I will certainly be encouraging Captain Jyster’s arrogance.”
“How?” Alfie wondered as he returned back to the table and sat down next to his uncle.
“The hologram of Captain Jyster was able to overwhelm the Odyssey through her use of her superior technology. I plan to use it against her and use some of the most basic tactics to overwhelm her while making her think she has the upperhand.” Horatio answered without revealing too much of his plan. “Now, enough of you guys worrying about how I’ll get your folks home. Tell me how things have been here for the last two months.”
Alfie, Henri and Theo looked at one another for a moment, exchanging a mixture of looks of ‘who goes first’ as well as ‘where do we start’?
Eventually Henri spoke up first, “It’s not been great to be honest. Whatever dad did with his negotiations with Captain Jyster has caused some hostility with those on the crew who were returned to care for the much younger children.”
“Have you guys been receiving the backlash of that?” Horatio checked as he listened intently to what Theo had just shared. His body language had shifted to show he wasn’t happy to hear how they may have been treated.
“Yeah, it’s been easier to keep our heads down and avoid being noticed too much.” Theo remarked.
“Initially, we tried to help in rallying our friends who were close to our age to help out as best as we can but everything got thrown back in our faces when it came out that dad had purposefully made the decision that any of the adults who had no children or their children were old enough to look after themselves were to stay on the Quirennal. All of a sudden overnight a good number of our friends didn’t want to know us as they didn’t like what dad had decided on. Commander Flemen stepped in to help out and explained that dad had to make a decision that ensured we all survived. It didn’t help that much.”
“I’m sorry to hear that guys. I really am.” Horatio shared. “This is a difficult situation you’ve all had to deal with, and there’s not going to be enough words I can say that will help with what’s happened here, but I will tell you three this. Your father has been a starship captain for a long time, if he must have seen that Captain Jyster had the upper hand on him and that was going to be no way he could ensure everyone got back home. From the sounds of it, your dad was placed into his own no-win scenario at that point of time. If he could have negotiated a better deal at that point in time, he would have. But when everything is stacked up against you, if you can make one small move that will help out in the long term, then if you can take it then you take it. That’s what your dad did here.”
“We get that Uncle H, we really do.” Henri stated back. “Besides some of the acting senior staff and the ship’s holographic crew, no one else sees it that way.”
“That’s because none of them have had to be in such a difficult decision before. When you’re a Starfleet captain you make life changing decisions everyday. Your father made the choice to preserve everyone’s lives, by returning those he negotiated for, made sure all of you left on Odyssey had a fighting chance and ensured that eventually we would be able to rescue the rest. Now people may not like that, but at the end of the day those who are Starfleet officers need to follow the captain’s orders. Once we get them all back home, if they still don’t agree they’ve got two decisions. Resign from Starfleet or carry-on, because I can tell you now there will be many other captains and admirals out there that won’t accept officers who believe they know better than someone who is a seasoned and experienced starship captain like your father. Do you honestly believe that their objections would hold up against any formal inquiry? Starfleet JAG will laugh their cases back and I’ve already spoken to a few of the brass back home. None of them could fault your father for his decision. Rear Admiral Bennet himself told me that he thought your father was lucky to be able to negotiate a concession in such extreme circumstances. The admiral didn’t think many others would be able to do that, so he included himself in that list too.” Horatio said. “Whatever happens on their return, your father will be fine.”
“And mom?” Theo wondered.
“Your mom is most likely working with your dad to make a plan to get everyone home. It’s another part of my plan that I’m depending on. Your dad intentionally sent Commander Flemen back with a message that only you guys could work out what he meant by calling me in. Both of your folks are clever enough to bide their time and come up with a plan that would get them and everyone out of their way. Your father somehow wanted me to come in to help, my guess is that both of them knew that the League had a SCE team and that you’ll need access to them to deal with Jyster and her advanced technology. So whatever their plans, we need to get them out sooner rather than later. Do you honestly believe your mom would let you guys be left at home alone any longer? She’d be pulling her hair out worrying about you all, as much as your dad will be.” Horatio answered his nephew with an assuring smile. “Now, do you guys want to remain here on Odyssey or come back with me to the League? If you want a break, you can stay in the guest quarters until your folks are back.”
Again the three McCallister boys all looked at one another, almost using their triplet telepathy (not that they were telepathic but they were able to read one another well enough), they all knew the answer.
Speaking up for them, Alfie declined their uncle’s offer. “No, we need to remain here and defend dad and mom’s honour.”
Smiling at them all, Horatio could see just how much they were like his brother and sister-in-law in so many ways. “Fine, but if you need anything you call me. Agreed?”
They all agreed to his offer and Horatio spent the rest of the evening getting to know his teenage nephew a bit more.