The Nebula-class USS Cygnus had been at high warp for almost two days. More than once, Lieutenant Anderson had called up to the Bridge complaining that she had all four of her shifts working double just to keep the warp core from overheating, the plasma manifolds from burning away, and the power control network from shorting out. It had been all she could do, she complained earlier, to Commander Larsen, who then took the report to the Captain. Every time it was brought to his attention, Bane reiterated his orders that the Cygnus needed to find this Crystalline Entity before it found another fuel source in the way of a starship, planet or colony.
Stress had been high the last few days, too. Lieutenant Gore had been running drill after drill with different scenarios at different times of the day and night to keep people sharp. Like a knife, the crew had an edge, but unlike said knife, the edge was detrimental. People were tired, cranky, stressed out and otherwise bent out of shape. If anything went sideways, Bane worried, would they be able to perform at peak efficiency. That question would have an answer, one way or another, in due time.
Lieutenant Lisald had also mentioned, though quietly, that the power needed to be running all the ship systems as the First Officer and Captain had ordered were just wasn’t there. Lisald and Anderson had even come up with quite the genius idea of tapping into the spare auxiliary craft that were currently aboard (thanks to Commander Larsen, Ensign Robinson and Counselor Scott coming aboard), but the power transfer lost a great deal between shuttle and ship. Even with that extra power, it still wasn’t enough, plus the extra manpower that was needed to maintain those shuttles, from Operations, Engineering and Security, almost seemed like a hinderance rather than a help, but Lisald was adamant that the extra power gained did help some.
Yesterday, Bane listened in during the staff briefing between his Senior Staff about what to do when they finally came in contact with the Crystalline Entity. Lieutenant Gore, predictably, wanted to use every method available to destroy it before it caused any more destruction. Surprisingly to Bane, Commander Larsen agreed, and argued vehemently on destroying it using the technique the USS Enterprise-D used almost 30 years ago. Bane had assumed the former Chief Science Officer would be much more inclined to try and learn about it, and maybe make some sort of contact with it. Lieutenant Lisald had other recommendations and tried to persuade both Dr. Elodin and Ensign Spangler to take his side in the matter. Bane, for his part, remained neutral. He had asked for options, and the conference room had all but exploded in ideas, arguments, flared tempers and persuasive argument that lasted for almost a solid hour. At the end, nothing had been accomplished except the two factions being at each others throats.
Bane had heard, both through passing as well as reports from Commander Larsen that the Lower Decks were getting antsy and strung out with the extra duty load and disruption to the normal daily routine of ship life, and the seemingly indecision from the Senior Staff on what would happen when they came in contact with the Crystalline Entity. Even Counselor Scott had mentioned that some sort of festival needed to be held aboard ship to break up the monotony and to infuse a little bit of extra life into the corridors of the ship. On the last part, Bane agreed, and on his way to the Bridge this morning from his quarters (which he still needed to unpack his belongings fully and decorate his quarters), he saw an actual paper flyer in the turbolift about some sort of get together in the Shuttlebay, date to be determined. He was surprised at the graphics and the use of paper; both were a nice touch and would stand out to anyone that bothered to look eye level. He thought he would like to go, but decided against it almost as soon as the thought entered his head. The Captain being there would officially make it a ship function and, well, not fun.
He remembered once Captain McManus saying, right after Bane had come aboard the USS Pegasus-D, fresh out of the Academy, that it was often lonely at the top. At the time, Bane couldn’t begin to fathom what that meant. Everyone wanted to be friends with the Captain. Everyone wanted to bend his ear. Everyone knew him and wanted a piece of his attention. How could he be lonely? As time went on, he began to notice that Captain McManus was never at any events held aboard that Akira-class starship. When command passed from McManus to Captain Montgomery, he noticed the same thing, and began to wonder about it. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that if the Captain were there, none of the crew would be able to relax, to “let their hair down,” as Captain Montgomery once told the then-Executive Officer Bane, and Bane knew he was right. Once Bane assumed command of the Pegasus, then the Bloembergen, the Sentinel and now finally the Cygnus, Bane understood it all too well.
As Bane looked at the master status display between his and Commander Larsen’s chair, a voice spoke up from behind him. “Captain, I am picking up intermittent readings. They are consistent with previous readings from the Crystalline Entity,” Gore stated.
Bane looked up to Lieutenant Lisald. “Lieutenant Lisald, verify,” Bane ordered.
For several moments, Lisald tapped at his controls. Without looking back, he said, “Confirmed, Captain. Crystalline Entity readings are coming from 006 mark 359.”
Next to Lisald at the Conn, Ensign Alan Roberts piped up. “Sir, shall I adjust course to intercept?”
Bane didn’t even hesistate. “Yes Ensign Roberts, thank you.” Roberts nodded and input the course correction into the helm. A moment later, the colossal ship responded, the starfield on the viewscreen adjusting to the right a little, and pitching downwards a bit more.
“Allocating power to the sensors,” Lisald stated, anticipating the need for higher resolution for study as well as for accurate targeting. Either way, Lisald was covered.
“Good work, Lieutenant,” Bane said, then looked to the ceiling. “All hands, this is Captain Bane. We have tracked down the Crystalline Entity. Yellow Alert.” The lights on the Bridge, and everywhere on the ship, dimmed a bit, and the amber lights near the ceiling began to glow on and off in 3-second intervals, just enough time to keep it front in everyone’s mind that they were at a heighted state of alertness, but not so fast that it would prove to be distracting. “Tactical, I want firing solutions and attack and defensive patterns programmed into the computer. Medical, prepare for incoming wounded. Helm, keep your hands on those controls. Science, attempt to communicate with it, let it know we mean it no harm. Engineering, deploy your repair crews and shore up the warp core. Ops, funnel everything you got into the tactical and science systems. Everything else is secondary.”
Bane looked around for a moment at each of the people on the bridge, and took a moment to think about all the souls belowdecks, knowing they were working and doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. They were prepared. “Alright people, lets get to work. Helm, take us in.”
Bane Plase, Captain
USS Cygnus, Commanding