While Atlantis was still full of life, Mac looked across the shuttlebay one last time at a crew whom he didn’t know. Everyone had already departed, gone on the leave generously granted to them as a way to clear them off the ship in a hurry. He was the last man standing, having weaselled Tikva’s different orders out of her and insisting she gets off the ship immediately to enjoy what little leave she had. A sad shake of his head and he stepped aboard the waiting shuttlecraft with his more immediate belongings.
Like so much of the crew’s belongings, containers with his stuff were sitting in stacks, waiting for a transport to collect the whole lot and take it to Beta Antares to catch up with everyone as they returned to duty. His bags were some clothes, a spare uniform just in case, toiletries and a few padds with coursework he was still working. No point in letting good transit time go to waste.
But there was a single exception to all this, a prized possession tucked under his arm – Atlantis’ dedication plaque. He’d spoken with Dr Gork, the Tellarite who was taking over here and at the end of it asked if he could take it with him. A momento of a ship he’d spent a few good years on, hoped to captain one day, been stuck as XO under a hotshot, actually learned to get out of rut. He needed the reminder.
“Where to Commander?” the lieutenant at the shuttle’s controls asked as the hatch started to close. “Orders are to take you wherever you want as long as I can get back in four days.”
The shuttle wasn’t big enough for that to be Mac’s greatest desire. A couple of days in this shuttle would be near torture. He gave a small huff as he set his bags down, sitting the plaque on top and stepped forward to sit in the empty seat opposite the young man. “Beta Antares Shipyard if you will.”
“Sir? I was told you had leave. No good holiday spots there.”
“Where I go on leave Lieutenant is my own business.” He wasn’t in the mood to discuss the finer details with someone not even on his crew.
“Aye sir, Beta Antares Shipyard.” Hands flew over the controls; conversations were had with control and the shuttle Cleary was on its way. “Course set sir. Should take about twenty-eight hours at max speed.”
“Very well,” he said, resting his head on the chair’s headrest, his eyes closing. “I’m going to take a nap, wake me if anything interesting happens.”
It took a while for Mac to finally drift off but eventually, the quiet monotonous sound of a shuttle at warp speed lulled him into sleep where his subconscious had laid an ambush for him. He was back on Atlantis, the Ready Room to be precise, with the view outside familiar but escaping him for now.
Captain Darius Dexter, a man well past his best years was sitting behind the desk. “It’s just a minor refit MacIntyre,” the said in his dull but deep tenor. “Ship will be in and out of the yard in three months. But as it stands, you’re going to be in charge during the refit.”
“Me sir?” he said. He wasn’t Commander MacIntryre, but Lieutenant Commander Stuck-in-a-rut MacIntyre. A man who much like Dexter had just been going through the motions of their responsibilities for the last few years as Atlantis had done one patrol tour after another with barely anything of great interest to report.
“Yes, you MacIntyre. It turns out that the centre seat really is a younger person’s game.”
“Sir?” he asked once more. It hurt him to recall how long it took him to process anything outside of the daily routine just a year ago. On reflection, he had to admit that the Delta Quadrant had been good for him. It had broken the routine, given him something new. And a new captain who had given him a kick in the backside he rightly needed.
“I’m taking an earlier retirement. The wife is likely going to hate seeing me when I get back to New Paris, but that’s a fight for another day.” Dexter rose to his feet and walked around the desk. “Three months of refit, then they’ll put the old girl back on patrol. Play your cards right over the refit and the Admiralty will likely pull the chair out for you since you know the crew and our stomping grounds well enough.”
“Respectfully sir, you’ve still got a few good years left in you.”
“Flatter,” Dexter said with a chuckle and a hearty pat on the shoulder. “But no, no I don’t think so.”
As was the nature of dreams, some facts were lost on recollection, but Mac could recall a period, months after that meeting with his old friend, where he was on the bridge. Atlantis was free of the docks, but not the dockyard, waiting for recalled or replacement crew, assigned supplies and replacement shuttles even. It was all routine, expected behaviours. Easy work. And it was all interrupted with the arrival of a singular woman stepping out on the bridge.
A full commander in command red, shorter and younger than him with a spring in her step. He didn’t know her name at that point, that was just about to happen, but he immediately knew she meant trouble for his plans and hopes of command of the Atlantis.
Turns out the best thing to happen for his career
As he was walking over to her, about to introduce himself, everything fell apart. It was a sudden and horrible lurch, the diaphanous bubble of the dream popping and dumping him right back into the shuttle Cleary, the stars still streaking past outside. A handful of alarms were blaring, but his pilot was already in the process of silencing them.
“Sorry sir, subspace shear. Sensors didn’t see it till we ran right through it.” The young man wasn’t panicking but taking his time to check his panels, making sure everything was okay with the shuttle.
“Status?” he asked, a quick rub of his eyes as he forced himself up in his chair.
“Still at warp, though currently on warp four. Just making sure everything checks out before accelerating again.”
“Very good.” He shook his head, clearing more cobwebs. He was not a morning person and never intended to be. Red alert sirens would have woken him straight up, a trained behaviour, but this wasn’t a dire emergency and his brain knew that, so was taking its time. “How long was I out for?”
“Four hours sir.”
He sighed. His chance at sleep was ruined for now, the lieutenant had the shuttle under control and he was just a passenger. At least he had his course work and a small replicator. “Drink lieutenant?”
Hours passed, sleep was had, a turn at the helm to let the other man sleep on the flip-out seats in the back. As the Cleary arrived at Mac’s intended destination. When they had identified themselves there had been a longer the normal pause in the response from flight operations before they’d been given an assigned flight path. Mac’s challenge that he wanted to see the Yardmaster at the control hub was answered with a reiteration of their flight path in that friendly but firm ‘there will be no speaking to the manager today’ tone.
“That was…odd,” the Lieutenant, Danvers as he’d learned when he finally asked the man, said while checking the course. “Normally it’s straight into the hub, then you’d take a pod elsewhere, or just beam around the yard.”
“Last few days have been odd for me Lieutenant,” he answered.
It took nearly another fifteen minutes to get closer to their destination with speed restrictions and having to stick to designated flight paths around the slipways. Eventually, they came to a cluster of slips, all berthing capital vessels of some description.
“That one,” Danvers said as he pointed one of them out. “That’s where we’re headed.”
He squinted, trying to read the registry of the ship they were heading for and gave up. The distance was just too far and his patience wouldn’t let him wait till he could. He tapped at the controls in front of him, bringing up a zoomed-in portion of the ship’s hull.
In Lieutenant Danvers’ report of the flight, he took ferrying Commander Charles MacIntyre to his intended destination, he cited that nothing outside of the ordinary aside from a singular navigational issue occurred. He did point out however that as they neared their destination there was a two-minute period where Commander MacIntyre used a comprehensive list of expletives before they touched down in the destination ship’s main shuttle bay.
“Sorry Lieutenant,” Mac had offered by way of apology. “Needed to get that out of my system.”