Part of USS Shepard: New Ship, New Beginnings

Chapter 1: Last Flight Home

USS Achana
May 7, 2400
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“Vic, how much longer before we regroup with Enterprise?”

“I can’t say I read you, VS-6 Leader. Please make an attempt to use era-appropriate radio jargon, over.”

Tallera grinned and shook her head. “Okay, VB-6 Leader, this is VS-6. How much longer do we have before we have to circle back to Enterprise? Over,she said, trying to add a bit of old-timey flavor to her voice like she’d seen in Vic’s historical movie nights. The science officer appreciated when his companions played along like that during holodeck escapades.

“VB-6 to VS-6, solid copy. We have twenty-two minutes before operation completion, in which time we have to return to save Yorktown, not Enterprise, over,” Vic spoke over her radio.

“Right. Sorry. …Over.”

“And remember: we gotta hit all four carriers to complete a flawless run. That means I go after Kaga with my planes, Tallie goes after Akagi with hers, Dreval hits Soryu, and Rysana hits Hiryu. Everyone copy? Over.”

“VS-6 Leader to VB-6 Leader, what happened to using era-appropriate radio jargon, over?” Tallie said with a smirk, prompting a laugh from Rysana over the radio.

“VB-6 Leader to VS-6 Leader. Shut up and bomb the boats.”

“Solid copy, sir,” Tallera laughed.

The Romulan inhaled deeply, enjoying the chill of holodeck-produced high altitude air as she gazed over the expansive ocean of Earth from the seat of her noisy little propeller-driven dive bomber. When Tallera had first discovered that Starfleet let its crews use holodecks for recreation instead of training, she thought it was rather stupid and superfluous. How she had since eaten her words.

Vic had led her and whoever else was willing to join on a wide variety of historical battle-based holodeck programs over the past three months onboard the Achana, usually adding little challenges for himself to perform better than the actual people did in history given his benefit of hindsight. The one they were currently playing was apparently based on a turning-point battle during one of Earth’s early industrial wars, where one side had destroyed four water-navy carriers at the loss of only one of their own. Deciding to up the ante, Vic had made it his mission to not only destroy all four enemy carriers in a single strike (as opposed to hitting three initially and having to launch another sortie to nab the last one, as had happened in real life), but also to prevent the loss of that one friendly carrier. Even though the concept of what they were doing was silly to the point of being arguably disrespectful to the people who’d died during this battle, Tallera couldn’t deny she was enjoying herself. Holodeck excursions were so quintessentially Federation; they were comically self-indulgent uses of technological innovation, but damn did they make her feel good.

Learning some human history was pretty fun, too. This program had taught her the namesake of the oh-so-famous Starship Enterprise, which was interesting in its own right.

“Heyo, Japanese fleet spotted!” Vic called out over the radios, seemingly abandoning his period-accuracy out of excitement. “All bombers, get in formation! Everybody get your eyes on your carrier, let’s do this!”

Having already attempted this “mission” three times now, it wasn’t hard for Tallera to pick out her target, the Akagi, out of the smattering of gray-and-brown boats beneath them. One by one, she and her friends turned the nose of their planes toward the sea and began their dives, keeping their targeting reticule focused on the center of all four carriers’ flight decks.

Tallera’s stomach flipped as she felt herself go nearly weightless in her plummet towards the Akagi. In the midst of her focus on her target, she had to hand it to Federation holodeck engineers. Being able to manipulate artificial gravity to simulate g-forces like this was no easy feat for a recreation device.

2,000! …1,800! …1600!” Tallera’s holographic tailgunner shouted, calling out the altitude as they dived. At 1500 feet, Tallie pulled the bomb release, then yanked back on the stick, feeling that same a-grav tech simulate punishing g-forces as her bomber pulled out of its dive. 

 

“Hell yeah! Four carriers out of action, and Yorktown lives to fight another day!” Vic happily shouted as the quartet of officers exited the holodeck, triumphantly pumping his fist in the air. “Suck on that, Mr. Tojo!”

Tallera had no idea who that was, but couldn’t help but find Vic’s energy infectious after the exhilarating little thrill ride she’d just gone on. She took off her piloting helmet and smoothed out her hair with an excited little chuckle.

“So… everybody change back into clothes from this century, then we get in a quick pool tournament before we get back to Starbase Bravo?” Rysana inquired, the Andorian’s antennae springing back into position as she took off her own helmet. 

“You’re on,” Tallera said with a wink, then departed back to her cabin to change.

Inside her cabin, Tallera carefully took note of the fit of her uniform’s pants, and was a bit dismayed to find that they weren’t sitting any looser. Around-the-clock access to replicators with no culinary regulations was yet another thing that she’d had to adjust to onboard Federation starships. After only a single month of her service on the Achana, she’d had to begrudgingly replicate pants a size larger than she normally wore, and had been trying (and failing) to return to baseline since then.

As she adjusted her pants, a ping emanated from her combadge as it sat on her desk.

“Go for Tallera,” she stated.

“This is Commander Zelenko,” her CO’s voice responded. “All Achana crew, report to the bridge ASAP for an important crew meeting.”

Tallera raised an eyebrow. That was different. Zelenko didn’t hold many whole-crew meetings onboard their little corvette, especially not a few hours before docking at a starbase. When the Ensign was suitably groomed, she met back up with Vic, Dreval, and Rysana in the hall before heading to the bridge. That was a little system Vic had come up with; if they all arrive together, nobody looks bad for being the last to arrive.

 

 

Lieutenant Commander Zelenko stood in the center of the bridge with her arms behind her back as the four crew members stepped into the room. Lieutenant S’Geras, the executive officer, was manning the conn station.

“Take a seat, everyone,” Zelenko said to the quartet in that same aloof-yet-quietly-friendly tone she seemed to always bear. “We’ve got some important news that I think you’ll be quite excited to hear.” As the crew took seats, S’Geras stood and took up position behind and to the right of Zelenko.

“Upon return to Starbase,” she continued. “Lieutenant S’Geras and I will be receiving promotions. We received word earlier today.”

“Congratulations, Sir,” Tallera immediately spoke up.

“Thank you, Ensign,” Zelenko replied. “But we didn’t just call you in here to brag. I’m afraid that this is going to be our last day aboard the Achana.”

That statement made Tallera’s heart skip a beat. On one hand, she’d grown to appreciate the little ship quite a bit in these past three months. On the other… did that mean what she thought it meant?

“Wait, are you serious?” Vic said with a surprised laugh. “Are we getting a new ship?”

“Yes indeed, Lieutenant Travers,” Zelenko responded. “Pack your bags, Achana crew. We’re moving to a full-size starship.”

At that, Tallera couldn’t help but beam with exited delight.

“Well, don’t leave us hanging!” Vic said with that same elated chuckle. “What class is it? What’s her name?”

“Well…” Zelenko strode over to one of the unused consoles on the small bridge and picked up a navy blue hat sitting atop it, then tossed it to Vic. “We received replicator patterns for these when we got the news. Want to read aloud what it says on the front, Travers?”

“USS Shepard,” Vic said as he held up the hat. “NCC-86405. Is that us? Our new ship?”

“Yep,” Zelenko nodded as a smile spread across her lips. “Reliant-class patrol frigate. Fresh off the assembly line.”

“We’re getting a brand-new starship, Sir?” Rysana said with a hint of a gasp.

“Yes indeed,” Zelenko replied. “Starfleet has been churning out these Reliants as a way to phase out the dozen or so frigate classes it’s accumulated over the decades. And they want skilled, passionate officers like us to crew them. You should all be very proud.” Zelenko paused for a moment. “That being said, you all have a fair amount of work to do. The six of us need to be completely moved out of the Achana and have her ready to be transferred within two hours of arriving at Starbase Bravo. Achana crew: thank you for your work over these three months. Dismissed.”

 

Tallera was nearly skipping as she and Dreval marched back to their rooms to pack.

“Tallie, your overall energy level seems to hint at excitement,” the Vulcan stated. “Is this due to our transfer order to the USS Shepard, or is it something else I am not yet aware of?” 

“Yes, it’s due to the transfer order,” Tallera laughed. “We’re getting a Reliant-class, how could I not be excited?”

“Your attitude upon assignment to the Achana implied an aversion to smaller vessels. While much larger than a corvette, Reliant-class frigates are still quite small.”

“My aversion towards corvettes is due to their role, not size, my friend,” Tallera responded. “Nothing against our Achana, but corvettes don’t usually go on many exciting missions. We were on this ship for three months and haven’t once fired on anything.”

“Many Starfleet officers would not see that as a negative.”

“Ah, but I’m a Republic Navy Officer, remember?” she said with a smirk. “Our heritage was forged in battle, defending our new homeworld and all that. Which makes a Reliant perfect. They’re the workhorse of a new Starfleet tactical modernization program! They’ve got better firepower and shields than any ship that size to date, save Defiant. We’ll be patrolling commerce lines, fighting off pirates, maybe even taking part in fleet actions if we’re lucky.”

“Your passion for galactic peace never ceases to impress.”

“Hey, like I said, I’m a Republic Navy Officer. Nobody knows better than us that the best way to keep the peace is having a gun big enough to stop anyone from picking a fight with you.”

“A fairly rational statement, given your government’s founding and history,” Dreval nodded. “Your worldviews continue to be a source of great interest to me, Tallera.”

“As do yours, Dreval.”

With that, the pair parted towards their rooms and began to pack their things.

Comments

  • That holodeck cold-open for this story was utter joy. You used sense-memory well, with the biting cold of the air and the sense of weightlessness. As a story-telling choice, starting in media res set the tone for the momentous occasion this story brings, with crew promotions and a new assignment to the USS Shepard. I enjoyed the moments of self-reflection from Tallera, especially the culmination in how she REALLY feels about trading up to a Reliant-class starship. Her desire to shoot at SOMEthing, anything, was deeply rooted in character and just so charming. I hope this mission to come will give her the opportunity!

    October 5, 2022