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Part of USS Atlantis: Mission 6: Turbulent Waters and Bravo Fleet: The Stormbreaker Campaign

It’s been a spell, hasn’t it?

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The trip over from the governor’s residence to the University of Port Arthur had taken everyone assembled through the heart of the city of Sydney and around to the opposite side of the large harbour. Sprawling grounds unhindered by the city on one side allowed the university to sprawl out versus upwards, which showed by a collection of low buildings, the tallest a mere three stories. Expansive lawns, tree-lined walkways, a predominance of green spaces all made the university feel more like its own township.

And for Charles, the whole ride had been spent mostly listening to Velan and Lisa discussing scientific and engineering matters. Frequency regulators, harmonic stabilisers, field emitter interactions, magnetosphere scanners, self-regulating control systems – all of these were the topic of conversation as Lisa brought Velan up to speed on what her people had initially designed, what the Port Arthur Manufacturing engineers had been able to build and the state of the project.

Velan for his part seemed to like the design, when he’d been handed a tablet with the designs on it, he’d even whistled, then stated how they were updated to what he’d seen a day ago and already incorporated a modification he was going to discuss. A few more modifications, even suggestions that he could use some spare parts from Atlantis, with higher tolerances, to improve performance were bandied about by the chief engineer who was already mentally fully committed to the project.

When they arrived at the engineering sub-campus, where Port Arthur Manufacturing had a branch office in collaboration with the engineering college, Velan and his team rapidly departed, meeting the PAM lead engineer outside for a round of introductions, before disappearing inside to lend whatever assistance they could.

And then it was just himself and Lisa in the back of the car, driving sedately towards the science buildings. “You’re Lieutenant seems an affable sort,” Lisa said as she shuffled along on the seat opposite where Charles and Velan had been so that she was now directly opposite him. “It’s been a spell, hasn’t it?”

“Ten years Dr Birmingham,” he replied with a smile. “How long have you been married?”

“Coming on eight years next month.” She played with the gold band on her hand briefly, then held it up for Charles to inspect, lowering her hand once he nodded in approval at the ring. “He’s a good man. You’ll like Grant. You’ll have to come for dinner while you’re here, meet the kids too.”

“Christ Lisa, kids as well?” Now that hit him hard, for reasons he couldn’t explain. The one that got away now married and with kids? Was that why it hurt, that he could have had that? He shook his head gently, as much to clear the thought for now as to show he hadn’t meant that the way it might have sounded. “I’m happy for you, honestly.”

“Thanks, Charles. You’re looking good as well by the way. Better now than when we broke up.”

“I was a different person back then. Heck, I was a different a year ago,” he admitted as the car came to a stop. “I…I’m sorry I wasn’t much of a partner back then.”

“I know Charles. We were good and bad for each other. I just didn’t have what was needed to get you out of the rut you got in.” She offered a smile and then reached to open the door. “This is us.”

He waited for her to exit, then himself before the door closed and the car whisked off on its own to its next task. “Don’t tell me you designed this building as well? This whole place looks brand new.”

“No no, it was a committee project. The whole science district is less than six years old. We were still in original feature buildings and needed more space, so since I was on maternity leave from teaching, I got nominated to sit on the design committee to ensure each department got what we wanted.” She started walking towards the front door, offering greetings to a few colleagues as they want. “So, who kicked you in the backside and got you moving again, Commander?”

“Oh, noticed that eh? Yeah, spent way too long putzing about at Lieutenant Commander, thought I was going to be either mustered out or given a desk job, then came along this hotshot Commander, younger than me, XO on two ships, a command of her own before coming aboard to serve as my CO and I just thought, I can’t stay still otherwise I’ll never get my own ship.” He had adjusted his stride to account for Lisa’s without even trying, though his gaze was moving around, taking in his surroundings. “Turns out, she’s a reasonable motivator. Got me back in my groove seemingly.”

“Well, you’re looking good for it Charles.” She led him through the building, stopping at a café in a common space for an actual cup of coffee, beans grown in the system even before eventually her department and her office. He waited patiently for a grad student who had been waiting outside her office to say his piece, get an answer and then scurry off when he realised she was being accompanied by a Starfleet officer.

“Were we ever that young?” he asked, stepping inside and making himself comfortable in one of the guest seats.

“They get younger each year. Oh, before I forget, we have a spare office down the hall if you want, but I think Harold is sorting out an office over in Engineering for you and your people.” She finally sat down herself, sipped at her coffee and then sat it down, relaxing finally. “Why are you here Charles? Your engineer could handle all of this yes? Did you come to see me?”

“Honestly Lisa, I didn’t even know you were here. Even if I knew, I’d still have come. I can be an adult. And besides, my job is to help coordinate and run interference for Velan and his folks so they can focus on helping all of your people. It’s weird how much the uniform can open doors or get supplies in an emergency.” He leaned forward to place the cup on her desk, then looked her in the eyes. “I’ll take that office with my people, but I’d still love to catch up with you. And the husband and kids.”

“I was honestly prepared for sulking and brooding Charles, not reasonable and adult Charles.” She smiled. “We could have been great.”

“Yeah, but fate had different ideas. Friends though?”

She smiled mischievously. “And drinking buddies. You still a lightweight?” she teased, though her attention quickly turned from Charles to the door as it opened.

A handsome enough man, bald though with a well-maintained beard, about Charles’ age, stepped in, his eyes immediately settling on Charles and narrowing suspiciously, before turning to Lisa. “Who’s this?”

For his part, Charles was on his feet, offering a hand in greeting. “Commander Charles MacIntyre, USS Atlantis. Here to help manage my people on the umbrella project that Dr Birmingham is the principal scientist on.”

The man stared at him like he had just emitted some foul wind, or said something vulgar about a beloved one. “That Charles MacIntyre?” he asked, not of Charles, but Lisa.

“Grant, don’t be a jerk,” Lisa chided him. “It’s ancient history, but yes, that Charles MacIntyre.”

With the verbal warning the man took Charles’ hand in a grip and immediately applied pressure, which he was surprised when Charles’ responded with a trick he’d been practising with Atlantis’ in-house amazon, applying just enough pressure to let the man know if he tried, he’d be walking away with a sore hand. “Doctor Grant Birmingham,” he said by way of introduction before letting go, shaking life back in his hand.

“Sorry about that,” Charles said smiling. “Numb hand,” he lied by way of explaining his grip.

“You boys done with the macho male stuff?” Lisa asked.

“Yeah, we’re done. I’ll talk to you later hun,” Grant said, then looked back to Charles. “Commander.” With that he then departed, closing the door behind him.

“I don’t think I made a friend there,” he eventually said before returning to his seat. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No, he’s just being a jerk for some reason. Must be the old boyfriend thing perhaps?” Lisa said. “So, you still a lightweight?”

After a half-hour, Charles had excused himself when Lisa’s students started to show up for office hours. Plans had been made for dinner in neutral territory, a nice restaurant that could accommodate large parties, such as a Starfleet engineering team and important figures from across the project and their partners. It was Lisa’s idea, to use the public forum as a way of moderating her husband should his animosity rear its head once more.

It had taken another half hour on foot, getting lost twice, before Charles had found the engineering building that they had dropped his people off at. Kindly reception staff met him, issued him a pass and even escorted him to the main working floor where everything was being built. Handoff to someone there who issued him a hardhat and hearing protection, to be worn at all times on the floor, then another escort to a set of offices that overlooked from an elevated position.

Those offices, open plan naturally, were filled with work stations and holotanks for designing and looking at parts before ordering or manufacturing them. Here was where Velan and a man he’d been introduced to as Harold were, discussing the finer points of some part of the tower design, Velan’s expertise coming in handy.

“…and the best part is, we can make the changes now for the rest of the towers and they’d be able to compensate for the lower performance in the first batch,” Velan said, looking at a holographic rendition of some emitter head or the such. “Oh, Commander, nice of you to join us. We’re going to probably need your help bullying some parts out of local entities. Up for some horse-trading?”

“You leave me all the best jobs Ra. How about you give me the turbolift briefing, then I catch up with Harold here, then I’ll go about talking with folks to get what you two need, what you want and what I might need to arrange to fall off the back of trucks.”

Velan’s smile was genuine and he glanced at the other man. “Told you.”

Before he could interrupt, to enquire as to what Velan was on about, someone barged into the room, glanced around and jogged over to him at a decent clip. “Commander, there’s an urgent call from the Atlantis for you. We’ve got a conference room ready for you.”

“Lead the way,” he responded without thinking, following the young woman. “Keep at it Velan, I want a progress report when I’m back.”

The conference room itself was just down the hall and barely would have sat ten people, but the viewscreen on one whole wall at the end of the table, the blinds that looked like they could come down and block all outside light, the comfortable chairs, all gave the impression of a room that could be occupied for hours and hours while important people made important decisions. On the viewscreen already waiting for him was a split view of Lieutenants Rrr’mmm’bal’rrr and Gantzman, both alone wherever they were, with Rrr looking to be in the conference room and Gantzman likely in the back compartment of one of the larger shuttles.

“I was told this was urgent Rrr,” he said, walking in and sitting at the head of the table opposite the screen.

“Sir, five minutes ago we got informed of an attack on the tower site closest to the city of Brunswick, where the captain and mayor were visiting to inspect the work. The captain and Lieutenant Maxwell were both taken captive by some group calling themselves the Highcroft Liberation Front. We’ve just returned to Highcroft orbit now,” Rrr said.

“You went to warp?” he asked, Rrr’s nod in the affirmative a suitable answer. He was merely asking to understand how Atlantis had covered the distance. “No signs of the captain yet?”

“None. We found both of their commbadges about ten kilometres from the site. The attackers have a subspace jammer, so likely some sort of dispersion field as well. We’ve been informed that some of the hills east of Brunswick also have magnetite deposits.” Rrr paused for a moment, clearly reading something. “Brunswick police have recovered a radio from the site with a note about how to turn it one and when. As well as a manifesto and list of demands. I’ll forward them to you, sir.”

“Good. With all our shuttles and the system shuttles all busy, I’m not going to be able to get back to the ship. Adelinde, how are you placed?”

She looked cold to him. Focused. He’d never been afraid of her, but right now he certainly didn’t want to be on her bad side. “Waihou can divert. I can be back aboard in under five minutes.” That wasn’t a request to use warp travel in a star system, that was a statement.

“Lieutenant, can you be professional about this?” he asked, the same question he’d asked her a few times.

“Someone has assaulted the crew of Atlantis.” He heard it there – professional anger. Oh sure, personal feelings were likely mixed in, but he could tell by her tone of voice that she could be.

“Very good. You’re in command when you get back to the ship. Rrr, you’re her second. Call me if you need anything. Work with the local police and get our people back. I’ll make my way to Atlantis as soon as a shuttle is free.”

“Yes sir,” Adelinde practically growled and Rrr echoed with a slight rumble afterwards. “Waihou out.” With that the comm was cut, leaving just himself and Rrr on the line.

“Doctor Terax isn’t command trained, hence why I’m not putting him in charge. But let him know what’s going on and keep an eye on Adelinde will you?” he asked, hoping it wouldn’t come to needing to relieve her from duty. He wasn’t sure who he’d want to send on any rescue mission anyway – a pissed on Lieutenant Gantzmann or their resident Xindi-insectoid, Lieutenant Ch’tkk’va.

“Will do boss. Will do. Atlantis out.”

With the comms finished, the screen reverting to the university seal, Charles sat there in the room for a few minutes before shaking his head. “Fuck…”