Part of USS Arcturus: Non Nobis and Bravo Fleet: Sundered Wings

Prologue

USS Hokule'a
May 2400
0 likes 542 views

Ship’s Log, USS Hokule’a. NCC-84000/1. Commander Luca Sheppard, recording.

We are on course to rendezvous with Arcturus in just over twelve hours. After a week on detached duty, we have completed our mission to the Federation science station on M-2128C. Annual physicals and resupply operations concluded successfully. All systems continue to read nominal, following the most recent round of upgrades at Starbase Four.

Like many medical officers, Luca Sheppard held the substantive rank of commander, which he had earned after passing the Bridge Officer’s Examination and becoming rated to command a starship in operational circumstances. With so many lieutenant commanders and commanders aboard Arcturus, it was difficult enough for many of the command and operations division officers to get a chance for a bridge watch, let alone the medical officers. When the ship was assigned to conduct the annual wellness check for the scientists stationed on M-2128C, Sheppard had practically begged Dr. Anjar to recommend him for the chance to take the support ship on detached duty.

All his life, Sheppard had strived to be the absolute best in anything he did, from his dedication to his physical fitness to his career. The desire for self-improvement was something he shared with his husband, and it’s one of the reasons they were such a good fit for one another. He’d proven himself first as a nurse and then as a physician, so now he had his sights on matching those achievements with excellence as a starship commander.

“You’re giving me that ‘something isn’t quite right’ look, Ensign,” Sheppard noted once he’d concluded the log.

Captain Lancaster had ‘lent’ Sheppard his yeoman, Ensign Kaplan, for the mission’s duration. The young man had a savant-like grasp of the regulations and proper Starfleet protocol that rivaled the captain’s own legendary knowledge of the handbook. Sheppard had realized, though, that he was as much a babysitter as an assistant, though. The two of them were finalizing some paperwork in the tiny ready room the Starfleet Corps of Engineers had managed to add during their last round of upgrades at Starbase Four.

Kaplan cleared his throat. “Well, just to say, sir… You forgot to state the stardate.”

“Isn’t that encoded automatically?” Sheppard asked, failing to conceal his frustration.

“Yes, but it’s customary to also state it verbally, sir,” Kaplan replied.

“Are you saying I need to re-record it?”

“No, sir. That’s why I wasn’t going to say anything. Just keep it in mind for next time?”

“You’ll make Records Officer in no time,” Sheppard quipped.

Though in all respects a milk run, Sheppard’s command of the Hokule’a over the past week had opened his eyes to the challenges that sitting in the center seat brought. He was used to managing people and even making life-or-death decisions, but he was actually quite unused to being in the spotlight. Beyond the culture shift, he’d also not expected there to be so many niggling procedural details to get right. Overall, he was enjoying himself, but he was also happy at the prospect of getting back to sickbay and back into a realm where he knew he was one-hundred percent competent.

“Captain Sheppard to the Bridge,” Lieutenant Belvedere called over the intercom.

Sheppard rose to his feet and passed through the hatchway onto the bridge with Kaplan following closely on his heels. Lieutenant Hidalgo vacated the captain’s chair for him and moved over to the engineering station.

“Report, please,” Sheppard said.

“There’s a vessel approaching fast off the bow. Very fast,” the engineer reported.

“Have they signaled?”

“No, Captain. We’re clocking them at close to warp 9.99, so they’re going nearly as fast as subspace signals travel,” Belvedere reported from the communication station; the recently-promoted junior lieutenant had made a move from anthropology to communication a few weeks prior, and it seemed to suit him.

“Yellow alert. Raise shields,” Sheppard ordered, his heart pounding at the idea of an unknown, non-communicative vessel approaching.

The Hokule’a wasn’t quite in the Triangle, but it was close enough to neutral space to make Sheppard nervous. He didn’t know of any Orion vessels that could travel that fast, but there was no reason to take chances, and General Order 12 applied. The lighting in the room switched subtly to indicate the change in alert status, as a low tone sounded around the ship to bring the crew to a greater state of readiness.

“They’re slowing, Sir,” Lieutenant Robinson reported from the operations station. After over a year serving as flag lieutenant to Vice Admiral Hayden, he’d requested and received a transfer to the operations department, though he seemed to miss the feeling of authority he got from his proximity to the admiral. “Receiving IFF. It’s Arcturus.”

“Stand down, yellow alert,” Sheppard ordered.

“Wow. They were pushing way past the red line, even after the refit…,” Hidalgo noted from his station.

“We’re getting new orders. They’re sending us a new course, and the instructions are to increase speed immediately to warp eight and prepare for docking,” Belvedere reported.

“I’ve got the course, sir. They want us to come perpendicular to our current heading,” Lieutenant Stanton explained from the helm. “I can execute the order at your discretion.”

“Alter course, Lieutenant,” Sheppard confirmed as he tried to visualize what their new trajectory would look like. Spatial dynamics were not high on his list of favorite subjects. “What’s our time to intercept?”

“Approximately two minutes now, sir. They’re increasing speed to pull ahead of us on a parallel course,” Robinson reported.

“Instructions for warp field intersection coming in now, Captain,” Belvedere said.

Sheppard cleared his throat. “They want us to dock while still at warp?” he asked; the sheer physics of such a maneuver gave him a slight sinking sensation in his stomach.

“It’s technically feasible,” Lieutenant Stanton said, swiveling to offer a bright smile before turning back to the helm.

Like his academy classmate Belvedere, he’d recently earned his promotion to lieutenant junior grade. Stanton, Robinson, and Belvedere were all close friends, and they had a good rapport with one another, even if their banter at times bordered on the inappropriate. The three of them had once been sent on an away mission all on their own at the behest of the admiral, and they were a natural choice to give Sheppard a core bridge crew without sending along anyone that would outshine him—or at least that’s how Sheppard interpreted the choice.

“That it’s ‘technically feasible’ doesn’t exactly fill me with hope and confidence, Cody,” Robinson noted. “Don’t slam us into a nacelle or something.”

Sheppard couldn’t help but agree internally with the sentiment. It was dangerous for starships to get that close while at warp, and one wrong move could be disastrous for both. There must have been some extremely pressing matter for Lancaster not to want to take the several minutes it would take to slow both ships down to sublight speeds and reconnect.

“You’re the one who wanted more field experience, Coop,” Stanton replied.

“Walk me through the procedure, Stanton, please,” Sheppard ordered before the two of them could start bickering in earnest.

“Once Arcturus overtakes us, both ships will slow to warp six until intercept reaches zero. At that point, we will synchronize warp field frequencies and enter their warp field envelope. After we shut down and stow our engines, they’ll then pull us in with a tractor beam,” the lieutenant explained.

“Simple. Easy,” Robinson quipped.

“We wouldn’t be given orders that we weren’t capable of following, Mr. Robinson,” Sheppard reminded him. “Besides, if you keep pouting, your face is going to get stuck like that.”

Robinson turned around to clutch at the non-existent pearls around his neck. “Rude, sir. So rude,” he said with an exaggerated gasp. Just as quickly as he’d made that display, though, he switched back to a professional demeanor. “Adjusting power levels for the maneuver and priming nacelle retraction mechanisms.”

“Warp field adjustments ready,” Hidalgo reported from the engineering station. “The two ships were built together, and their warp fields are already naturally close to one another for this purpose,” he added.

“So, in English, don’t sweat it?” Belvedere asked from the other side of the room.

Hidalgo laughed. “No, sweat it very, very much, still, but this ship was designed for maneuvers like this,” he corrected.

Arcturus now in visual range, sir,” Robinson reported.

The viewer switched from the starfield to zoom in on Arcturus, as their speeds were simultaneously adjusted so that they would match speed while close enough to initiate the reconnection sequence. Sheppard found himself gripping the blue leather of the command seat’s armrests a little tighter than he would likely admit to later on seeing their mothership from that angle.

“Attention, all hands, this is Sheppard. We are performing a high-warp reconnection maneuver. Please brace for reconnection,” Sheppard announced before tapping the control that brought the ship to blue alert.

“Syncing warp fields now, Captain,” Hidalgo said as the larger ship loomed even closer.

“We’re on course,” Stanton confirmed. “Ready to retract nacelles in twenty seconds.”

The Hokule’a was now perilously close to Arcturus so that they could nearly reach out through the viewer and touch her. Sheppard watched the proximity monitor start flashing so rapidly that it became a solid line, meaning they were right on top of their target.

“Initiate docking sequence,” Sheppard ordered.

“Aye, Captain,” Robinson replied. “Retracting nacelles.”

“They have us in the tractor beam,” Robinson said.

The viewscreen was filled with blue light as Arcturus locked onto the support ship, pulling her forward into the docking cradle on her stern. It took only a few seconds before Sheppard could feel the distinctive clunk of the docking latches securing them in place. The ship’s systems automatically began to shut down and sync with those of the mothership, and the bridge crew let out a sigh of collective relief.

“Pretty exciting for a first command, right?” Robinson asked, turning around to flash Sheppard one of his perfect smiles.

“Exciting is one word for it. Good job, all of you. Now, maybe we can get someone to explain what the rush was,” Sheppard replied as he stood up from his seat, feeling a genuine sense of relief at the prospect of returning to life as Dr. Sheppard rather than Captain Sheppard.


As with Hokule’aArcturus now had a brand-new bridge module. It was a little smaller than the original one she’d carried for two years, with more emphasis on practical use of space rather than a grand, open design. It suited Captain Lancaster’s personality much better by situating the command chair slightly further forward than the two other seats in the center of the bridge. They’d also moved the transporter room to its own compartment further aft, giving the bridge a much more traditional appearance than it had before.

“Reintegration successful, Captain,” Commander Navarro reported from the operations station.

“Very well. Helm, resume our previous course. Maximum warp,” Lancaster ordered, secretly relieved that he hadn’t just ordered his husband to perform a maneuver that would have got him killed.

“Aye, Captain. New ETA to the Romulan border is nine hours, twenty-three minutes,” Marshall confirmed.

“Lieutenant Galan, give me ship-wide,” Lancaster ordered.

The bosun’s whistle sounded, indicating that the channel had been opened.

“Attention all hands, this is the captain speaking. We are currently on course for the border between Federation and Romulan territory to escort a refugee convoy into our space. Some of their vessels have been damaged, so we will be using all available guest quarters and cargo holds for temporary accommodations. Specific instructions will follow from your department heads, but our mission is to resettle them on Gamma Sagittarii III. I am confident that you will all perform admirably in what is sure to be a challenging assignment. Lancaster out.”

Once he had finished the announcement, Lancaster rose to his feet. “Number one, you have the bridge. Lieutenant Galan, with me,” he said, exiting the bridge to starboard.

Lieutenant Galan was the person on the ship who had the most apparent insight into the situation they were about to face. As someone who was himself resettled by the Federation on Vashti, Lancaster knew that the Romulan lieutenant would either be an invaluable resource or a possible emotional liability for their upcoming mission. As with most things, he wanted to face it head-on.

Lancaster took a seat at the table in the reconfigured ready room and gestured for Galan to do the same. The young Romulan was the same height as Lancaster was but seemed to be all limbs, lithe and slender; he often had a drooping posture that concealed his stature, just as he wore his hair long to conceal the points of his ears.

“What can I do for you, Captain?” Galan asked; Lancaster could detect the sarcasm dripping through the lieutenant’s words.

The captain cleared his throat. “I say this without meaning to tokenize you or expect you to speak for all Romulans—”

“Or all refugees?” Galan interjected.

Lancaster let the slight impertinence pass. “But I also don’t want to pretend that you don’t have a valuable perspective on our mission.”

Galan nodded. “Permission to speak freely, sir?”

“Go ahead.”

“My one main piece of advice would be: Don’t turn Gamma Sagittarii III into Vashti,” the lieutenant said, managing to combine venom and earnestness into the same statement. “I’ll always be grateful to the Federation, but the job was only half done there. We can’t be the architects of another festering hell hole like that.”

“Believe me, Lieutenant. I have no intention of botching this.”

“Neither did Admiral Picard, sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  • It's nice seeing Sheppard in the centre-seat! Even if he's babysitting (or being babysat?) by the kids' squad, who are a good band of personalities to keep bridge procedural activity entertaining. Docking at-warp is a fun kind of low-stakes, non-violent tension that helps make characters shine and convey Something's Up, Yo. Anyway, it's followed by a very smooth and not in the slightest over-detailed exposition from Lancaster of Arcturus's mission (instead of one of those interminable briefings of which I am guilty) - and a very good scene with Galan at the end.

    June 1, 2022
  • Am I the only one who found that entire docking sequence sexy?! It took me back to that ST: ENT episode where Trip had to climb from one ship to the other while at warp or when Riker had to connect the saucer section and stardrive section back together manually in Encounter At Farpoint. There was a daring rush to make sure no one died and then BANG it's done! I'm intrigued by the different approach you're taking with the storyline, instead of visiting a Romulan world, the Arcturus is helping those in need who are heading to the Federation. It'd be great to see how the crew react to helping the refugees. I have a sense we'll be seeing more of Sheppard in this storyline.

    June 1, 2022
  • I had to laugh at Sheppard discovering that Kaplan was babysitting him as much as assisting him. Even more so, I quote enjoyed the prodding at the classic trope of needing to verbally state a stardate in what they wouldn’t have thought in the 60s to be a digital file. Sheppard’s push and pull between desiring growth and yet desiring the comfort of where he’s competent makes for a compelling read (and a little too relatable). Of course, I have to agree with Zack: warp speed maneuvers are thrilling. TNG always made them so grand and tense, and you more than matched that with the buzz of uncertainty and excitement in this young crew. “Sweat it very, very much” indeed! And then you tied it all up with a gut punch of a bow with don’t turn it into Vashti. The weight of that puts so much pressure on the mission to avoid another scathing retread of the past. Can’t wait to read more.

    June 3, 2022
  • The tension that I felt, and I am sure that Sheppard felt, was intense during the reintegration of the support vessel and the Arcturus. I am sure that if the Arcturus hadn't been in such a hurry and the two ships had been at an impulse speed rather than at warp Sheppard wouldn't have so stressed. I like how Lancaster took into account his Romulan shipmates' invaluable insights into how to resettle the incoming refugees. Looking forward to reading the next chapter and seeing how this mission progresses. Keep up the great work and writing.

    June 14, 2022