“A dark blanket, contrasting with blacks and yellows, and the occasional white, which is shaped as a circle and sometimes a crescent. There are stars which dot the blanket in an intricate pattern. For this is space.”
Words of his grandfather, words that had stayed with the captain of the Santa Fe for all his life and would be passed to his children, if he would be lucky enough to have any.
“In the ancient time, men used the magical symbols above the night sky for navigation. These star patterns saved a lot of lives in the old age,” he would say as they looked up and saw the stars from their garden on Earth. They would illuminate the darkness and his fears would crumble to dust beneath his feet as he listened to the wise old man’s words. “Some stars fade and some shine brighter with each passing day. Each of them has its own unique shape, brightness and size. Some stars are bigger than others, showing they are the king of the heavens…”
“Sometimes, many stars appear at once above the dark, sombre sky, and they look like flakes of snow flowing out into the galaxy,” the wrinkled wise man would say, always finishing with the same wise words, no matter how often they shared these moments, and the captain, even as a boy, would always remind grandfather of their earlier conversations because they would always bring him great joy, and there was nothing he loved more than to bring his grandfather such happiness. “As we watch these dust-like particles slowly swimming above our head, we begin to raise our hand, yearning to touch them and be swept into the heavens… You no longer yearn, my son, for you travel the heavens with freedom… as today’s king of the heavens…”
With the ship now cruising along at high warp, the stars were streaking past the main view screen at incredible speeds. It always felt so good to be back among the stars, in charge of one’s own destiny, as king of the heavens. He took a deep, satisfied breath and relaxed back into his command chair.
Whilst the bridge of a starship wasn’t the biggest room on the vessel, it was perhaps the most important. As always, it was the focal point of the ‘Bridge Module’, the nerve-center of every starship, and was manned by the top officers of each department when required. For a ship’s commanding officer, the bridge was their home, and no matter where their adventures would take them, they always found themselves to be truly happy when sitting in ‘that’ chair at the centre of the bridge. Captain Sebastian Farrell was no different. He loved being on the bridge at the best of times, but the bridge of the Santa Fe was something to be marvelled at these days, especially post refit. The layout was superb, with many additional stations created and, most importantly, the vast majority of them facing large display consoles and with swivel chairs so that everyone could pretty much make eye contact with one another when discussing the mission at hand. Perhaps the feature he was most proud of was the gold, hexagonal plate at the very heart of the bridge, upon which the logo of the United Federation of Planets was emblazoned. It was a sign, a reminder, of who they were and why they were there. Today, on their mission of mercy, the crew would show the very best of Starfleet and the Federation. They would be everything that logo stood for.
Sitting at the center of the bridge, he had a data PADD in each hand; on the first, the Captain reviewed details of various vessels which had so far been embroiled in the Stormbreaker Campaign. From the Fourth Fleet alone, a minimum of sixteen starships had been requisitioned. Fearless, like so many, had been beset with technological difficulties when in the region. Centaur, Horizon, Hydra and Saratoga had become involved in evacuation procedures, whilst Arcturus, Endeavour and Odyssey were all involved in ways that Farrell was not privy to. Then, of course, their was the Santa Fe itself. Pulled from her mission back to the Gamma Quadrant, Santa Fe had been recalled from Deep Space Nine to head up a small task group en-route to the planet Sathea on the nebula’s westernmost edge. On the second data PADD, a transmission he had received from Starfleet Command upon their departure from Deep Space Nine.
He let out a sigh as he contemplated the contents of both data receptacles. The Federation science station on Sathea IV was in the path of the storm, with its team planning to survey the phenomenon from inside, despite the warnings (and orders) from Starfleet Command. It was down to the Santa Fe task group to bring them all home to safety.
At Tactical Operations, Lieutenant Noli Auru was hard at work getting to grips with the defensive and offensive systems of the ship, trying to determine how best she could protect the ship, and the science station, from the affects of the storm. Dante Rawlings, perhaps the longest serving member of the Santa Fe crew, was monitoring the ships propulsion systems and the course they were projected to follow. Three times already he’d had to make adjustments due to the oncoming ion storms. Beside him, the Bajoran-Cardassian Operations chief was assisting her counterparts from both engineering and flight operations. Several flight paths and trajectories calculated by her, and confirmed by the computers, were highlighted on the screen. She smiled, able to see her partner’s beaming excitement to be at the helm. She reviewed approved flight checks, confirming those required of her whilst also monitoring the work of engineering as they prepared to transfer all available power to defensive systems and sensors when required.
Lieutenant Chiera, Vittoria to her friends, had arrived on the bridge a short while earlier, despite not usually spending much time up here unless her presence was requested. While she was a senior advisor to the captain and a frequent fill-in for a diplomatic corps, she always felt that her place was in her office. Talking to the crew, helping them, getting to know everyone and set everyone up for success for themselves and for the ship. Now, though, her presence as part of the senior staff had been requested, and so here she was. She didn’t know which seat she was to inhabit today, so she simply approached the captain with a polite nod of greeting. “Captain.”
Doctor Zinn, like Lieutenant Chiera, didn’t spend much time on the Bridge, or at least he hadn’t until today. Now that Farrell had atoned for the mistakes of his predecessor and made him a member of the senior staff, that would have to change and so he felt the need to be on the Bridge for the events that were to come. The command centre was impressive. He walked slowly around the perimeter of the room, taking note of the details. One in particular caught his attention; the seal of the Federation on the carpet in the centre of the room. He’d never noticed it before, but Zinn had never been one to miss an opportunity to point things out to those around him, whether they wanted to hear it or not. “Laying it on a bit thick, aren’t they?” He asked before quickly adding, “with the seal.”
”I mean I’m sure we can change the carpet next time we’re in spacedock, maybe a nice teal colour to match your uniform?” Lieutenant Rawlings retorted, his fingers moving over the controls as he finished the latest adjustment to his flight plans.
”I think it’s there to remind the Federation of its roots, calling for us all to return to our mandate,” the ginger-haired Science Officer piped in, quite serious in his affectation, hands equally active across his console as he made specific adjustments to his personal system for efficiency and peace of mind. He had to be sure he had access to all the relevant information when the time came to use it.
“Ugh. Federation idealism at its finest,” Zinn chastised his colleague internally. As far as the Deltan was concerned, Javorian Travis could pretty much have been a poster boy for Starfleet recruitment. Sickening.
”Thank you for being the voice of reason, Commander,” the Captain smirked as he looked up from the data PADD he was reading, shooting off a look of disapproval in the direction of the CONN officer at the mere suggestion of changing the carpet. “We’re going into the unknown, literally flying the flag for the Federation. Having the iconic symbol so close at hand serves as a vital reminder of who we are,” he professed to anyone who might have been listening.
Zinn snorted derisively as he rolled his eyes so hard that he was certain it made an audible noise. But, he managed to hold his tongue this time. He found a place to stand, near the turbolift, where he could watch proceedings and make a quick getaway as soon as needed.
”I think it is time to fill in the crew, Number One. Put me through to the rest of the ship,” the Captain requested as he rose to his feet slowly, the data PADD in his hand as he took up a position in the centre of the Federation logo on the deck plating in front of his chair.
Speech time, the Andorian XO predicted. “Channel open, Captain,” Tharia replied after brief moment.
“=/\=All hands, this is the Captain,” Sebastian called out, his voice carried across all decks of the ship by the internal communications grid, “in the next few days, this ship will embark on a mission of great importance; by now, I am sure the ever accurate rumour mill of starship life is in overdrive and you are no doubt all aware that we are on a course that takes us far from our initial destination. Our mission is due to take us to the planet Yridia, where we will rendezvous with the starships Adriatic and Bristol, before travelling to the westernmost edge of the Paulson Nebula,” Farrell told, taking a deep breath and preparing to share the contents of the data PADD. “Our mission will take us to the planet Sathea IV, where we will lead evacuation efforts for the science station located planetside.” Seb took a pause now, and looked towards his friend and confidant in the command chair next to his. In the next thirty seconds, she would hear some news that would test their friendship in more ways than one. “Today is a bittersweet moment, my friends. At the conclusion of our current mission, a new commanding officer will be appointed to the Santa Fe, and I will be on my way. It has been the privilege of a lifetime to command the Santa Fe for the time granted to me, but for now we have one last mission together, ,” the Captain turned on his heels and looked at the XO and those at the back of the bridge, “…perhaps our most important one to date.”
Listening to their commanding officer speak, curiosity had turned to shock for the Andorian sat to the right of the Captain’s chair. Her smile had evaporated and her antennae drooped at the notion that their Captain would soon depart. “The honour has been ours, Captain,” Tharia told as she rose to her feet and looked at the man, her friend, “and this crew will do you proud until the end of your tour.”
Returning to his command chair, the Captain nodded. “I would expect nothing less from this crew,” he smiled, before letting out a contented sigh.
For a while after, the bridge remained fairly silent. Whilst they worked on their objectives, the crew found themselves contemplating the future of the ship following the Captain’s news. It would spark another period of uncertainty, at a time when the crew had just settled into a routine under Farrell’s command.
The silence was not to last much longer, as the communications array came to life, drawing the attention of the tactical operations officer, who stood behind the command team. “Adriatic and Bristol are reporting in and moving into formation for the last leg of the journey to Sathea, Captain. Captain Carun of the Adriatic sends his regards,” Noli revealed, looking down at the backs of their heads as she spoke.
Out beyond the safety of the ship’s hull, two slow moving hulks glided into position, flanking the frigate on either side as it slowed. One, the Miranda-class Adriatic, would have been fine to maintain speed with the Santa Fe until they reached their destination but the other, the Oberth-class USS Bristol, would never have been able to keep up with them, her aging engines far from perfect.
“Prompt as ever,” Sebastian smirked, “please return my kind regards and praise both Captain Carun and Commander Ketok on their prompt rendezvous,” it was then that he shifted forward in his seat, “I think it is time we made contact with the science station on Sathea, what do you think?”
Whilst Noli worked behind them, relaying the requested kudos to the commander’s of the Miranda and Oberth-class vessels, Tharia tapped on her console and gave a nod of confirmation to her captain. “Their sensors will have detected us by now, so there’s no point stalling any longer,” the Andorian shrugged. With silent permission from the captain, the blue-skinned, white-haired woman turned back to Noli. “Hail Sathea IV,” she instructed. A short while later, a beep and nod from the Bajoran indicated that a channel had been opened successfully.
“Sathea IV, this is the starship Santa Fe,” Sebastian called out, his hands holding the armrests for support, watching the viewscreen for any sign of life.
Soon, a picture of an elderly man appeared on the screen, flickering and distorted, a far cry from the usual seamless communications. “Lieutenant Prida?” Farrell looked hopefully towards the Cardassian operations chief.
“I’m working to clear it up sir, but the disruption is on their end. It seems the effects of the storm have hit sooner than expected,” she frowned as her mottled, grey hands flew across the control screen in front of her. She adjusted bandwidths, changed channels and worked algorithms until the distorted image cleared up sufficiently to communicate with the figure on the screen.
“Good work Prida,” Sebastian mouthed to her in appreciation, and then tried again. “Sathea IV, this is the starship Santa Fe, Captain Sebastian Farrell commanding.”
“Santa Fe, this is Administrator Doya Ekaan of Sathea Station,” the elderly man spoke out through the distortion, “what can we do for you, Captain?” he asked politely.
“Administrator, we have been tasked with evacuating you and your personnel, and any research you may have, off of Sathea and to the safety of the Vulcan science institute,” Farrell informed the head of the science expedition.
“There must be some mistake,” the elderly man’s face changed, “I informed Starfleet that it was our intention to remain here, on Sathea, and survey the effects of this new storm from within. This is a once in a generation storm that must be studied and the best place to do that is from within,” Ekaan told, adding swiftly, “we are not going anywhere.”
Rising slowly to his feet, Seb shook his head. “I’m afraid you have no choice, Administrator,” the Captain told as politely as he could muster, but with more than a stern tone, “I am ordered to safeguard the people of this expedition, and the best way I can do that is to get you all out of here. Please ensure you and your people are ready to depart upon our arrival.”
There was an almost stunned silence from the white-haired, wrinkly man on the screen. “I’m sorry you and your people have wasted your time in travelling here, Captain, but we are not going anywhere. Sathea out.” And with that, the communications channel closed.
Tharia rose to her feet and folded her arms across her chest. “At least we know where we stand with him,” she mused.
“We know where he stands, Number One, but I stand somewhere different,” Farrell frowned. “Javorian; get me every snippet of information we already have, and send it to my ready room. Noli, get Carun and Ketok on the line – I want a conference call,” he ordered, heading across the bridge to his ready room, calling out only briefly before disappearing inside, “you have the bridge, Commander.”
Tharia watched the frustrated body language of the Captain as he entered the ready room and let out a sigh. It seemed this simple evacuation would not be as easy as they had hoped. Turning back to her chair, the Andorian nodded at both the Bajoran and her Terran counterpart at science, commissioning them to get to work on Farrell’s wishes.
Upon sitting down in her chair, the Andorian let out a slight grin. Administrator Ekaan was about to meet the immovable object that was Captain Sebastian Farrell. It would be more than interesting to find out who would be successful in the ensuing encounter, and the Andorian knew who her bars of gold pressed latinum would be on…