Part of USS Altai: Here Be Monsters

Together Alone

Outpost 1-SZ Ops
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Outpost 1-SZ’s exterior structure spiked up from the asteroid’s surface like jagged stalactites reaching out to pierce the endless expanse beyond. The station’s monitoring arrays and subspace transmitters towered yet further above the habitat structures which had, for decades, fed a constant stream of data to Starfleet Command’s hungry eyes. Conduits had been stripped, replaced with higher capacity optical lines. Every major computer system had been overhauled, sensors torn out and replaced with equipment allowing the base’s antennae to cast a far wider, more accurate net. Now, for the first time in the twenty four years since the Dominion War, permanently stationed personnel walked the draughty halls, slept in unwelcoming bunks, and became the watchers.

Base ops was whirring to life for the beginning of alpha shift. A communications officer was relieved, stepping aside as her replacement began the job of monitoring the incoming streams of subspace chatter. A Caldonian engineer discussed the quirks of the base’s life support system functions before making her way towards the turbolift. Streth’s freshly replicated mug of raktajino wafted the bitter aromatic vapours of the fortified Klingon coffee up to his nose. He inhaled deeply as he approached the centre of the room.

“Sir, incoming hail from the Don. It’s Commander Walker.”

“On screen.”

Streth could see the individual grey bristles of Walker’s beard as the man’s face and upper torso filled the main viewer, “Good morning, Commander,” he beamed, “all done?”

Walker had set down his own mug of coffee on a pedestal, very much the one that had been on the Excelsior at the time Captain Sulu was in command. But this one was only there because of a few holoemitters on the Bridge. Made it easier than installing one. “Good morning to you too, Commander.” A big smile formed behind that bushy grey beard and mustache of his. “We most certainly are. And I must say, it was very fun. I’ll have the receipt of our work sent to you right away, that way there are no surprises.”

“Your crew has definitely helped us out of a few… Unexpected situations,” Streth understated. “On behalf of everyone on the Altai, I’d like to express our sincere thanks for their help, and for getting us up and running so damned quick,” his antennae leaned forward slightly, accentuating the solemnity of an almost imperceptible dip of his head. The Corps of Engineers was an entire unit of miracle workers and as far as Streth was concerned, the speed with which Don S. Davis crew had got 1-SZ up and running provided ample proof of this.

Walker chuckled a little, “Unexpected indeed. You’re absolutely welcome, even though it is our job.” He winked. “Tell that Engineer of yours to be nice to that DOT that we so graciously given to him. They’re not as popular as they used to be back in the old days but they can be very useful when needed.” Walker turned his head to someone off screen before a padd was handed to him.

“I’ll be sure to pass that on,” Streth’s smile returned. Sensing the moment had arrived, he straightened up. “Well Commander, farewell and plain sailing to wherever your next assignment takes you. You’re always welcome to stop by again if you ever happen to be around these parts.” A wistful tone underscored his voice along with the knowledge that Don was unlikely to return.

Walker smiled, “Maybe next time I’m personally in the area. Stay safe out here, Commander. Don out.” From Walter’s perspective, his screen blinked to show the station and the Altai, only to scroll away to the side out of sight when his ship rotated in place to take the plotted safe route out of the area before they can jump to warp. Little did he know that once his ship and crew return to the Starbase, the ship will be mothballed and him and his crew reassigned elsewhere but he ain’t gonna be a stranger, he’ll make sure of it.

The USS Don S. Davis propelled herself from the asteroid field at half impulse. To the rear of the ship’s saucer section the fusion powered boosters glowed red, flaring and accelerating the ship as the last tumbling rock passed it by. Out in the clear, the Ambassador class vessel pivoted starboard. The only illumination along her hull came from her own exterior lighting, displaying the ship’s markings, name and designation for all to see. But there was no one to see, and would be no one for light years ahead. The blackness of this particular area of space soaked up every last ray of light produced, even that of her viewports through which was offered to those aboard a featureless gaping sight into sheer nothing. The circular plane of her saucer section tipped in the direction she turned, adjusting to her new heading. Sensor sweeps read clear save for Outpost 1-SZ and the Altai, whose signatures fell further and further behind as she continued to accelerate. Then, as if itching to remove herself from this desolate corner of nowhere, the cigar shaped nacelles of the USS Don S. Davis began to charge. Electroplasma was forced through the two huge warp coils at levels of excitement so great that spacetime in the immediate vicinity began to move and distort. Then, in an instant, a flash of blue ripped out across the engines’ meridian. The ship was gone. A distant flash and boom were all that remained; only visual artefacts of an object that now hurtled its crew back towards the safety and security of all that was familiar.