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Part of USS Arcturus: Refresh

01. Laid Up

USS Arcturus Captain and Chief Medical Officer's Quarters
Stardate 2401.6
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Captain’s Log, Stardate 2401.6

 

Final preparations for our upcoming baryon sweep are underway. I don’t relish the thought of leaving my bridge, but this essential maintenance procedure and the subsequent overhaul will ensure that we are prepared for our new assignment in the Olympia Sector. Command functions will cease for 24 hours from 1800 today to 1800 tomorrow. I expect us to be back in space within the week.

 

While Sean Gaudain was wrestling with his nascent midlife crisis, Michael Lancaster was in the midst of an existential trial of his own as he saw to the final preparations to put his ship through its first major overhaul.

Arcturus filled the entire lower hanger of Olympia Station, the tips of its nacelles backed nearly up against the rear bulkhead so that its bow just cleared the massive set of space doors. Gangways were connected to the two primary docking ports on either side of the stardrive section, as well as one just above the shuttlebay on the stern of the saucer—at least for the moment. Once the entire crew was safely aboard the station, they would retract to ensure that every single inch of the gargantuan Odyssey-class heavy explorer was covered by the baryon sweep. With just over two-and-a-half years of service under her belt, Arcturus was far ahead of schedule for that procedure, but she’d spent most of that time bouncing from crisis to crisis at high warp, which would eventually lead to the build-up of dangerous levels of radiation in her structural members. 

Lancaster had carefully overseen the transfer of nearly 5,000 Starfleet and civilian personnel from Arcturus to the station—the ship’s operational crew, the many embarked teams of non-mission scientists, and hundreds of new staff for the station itself—along with every bit of biological matter that could be safely moved off of the ship. Everything else that was even partially organic had to go into stasis to avoid being vaporized by the baryon sweep. Unfortunately for the engineering teams, Arcturus used state-of-the-art bioneural-isolinear hybrid circuitry, which meant that almost a hundred thousand chips across tens of thousands of computer banks had to either be shielded or removed. Other conventional systems like the antimatter pods, autodestruct apparatus, and the bridge required special field diverters to avoid damage.

Between the station’s engineers and those on Arcturus, it had taken a full week to make sure that every single precaution had been taken. The science and medical divisions had also been working around the clock to secure their areas while security and operations managed the gargantuan evacuation effort. In normal operating conditions, the ship’s company, crew, and all passengers could be evacuated entirely via escape pods within sixty seconds, but the addition of essential personal belongings, sensitive equipment, and even house plants had taken nearly two days.

The sweep itself would take twenty-four hours—the array built into the bay on Olympia Station was much slower than dedicated facilities like the Remmler Array. Still, it was more precise and had the benefit of keeping the ship utterly safe within the station itself rather than leaving it exposed in an open frame. Putting her back together would take another week, along with a dozen planned system upgrades, which included ripping out the last vestiges of the disastrous Fleet Formation Mode systems that remained aboard Arcturus. After thirty months of solid action, Lancaster was already going stir-crazy at the thought of his ship laid up in spacedock.

“I can sedate you if you like,” Luca Sheppard suggested as he watched his husband pace along the windows in their quarters while reading the final updates and going over the operational checklist for the baryon sweep on a holographic display projected from his Wearable Remote Interface and Scanning Tool (WRIST). “You’re going to wear a hole in the floor.”

“It’s designed to withstand the heat of a thousand suns. It will be fine.” The captain glanced over to where Sheppard was lounging on the couch. He had to remind himself that the medical department had finished their work before lunchtime to abort a frown before it formed on his lips. “If they coated the emitter tracks with a near-frictionless fullerene lattice, they could increase the speed of the baryon sweep by eleven percent,” he noted.

“So, instead of finishing in 24 hours, they’d finish in 22.5 hours?”

“22.46 hours,” Lancaster corrected. “This is what shore leave does to us. Four hours of it and you’re struggling with simple math,” he admonished, in a tone that he meant as teasing but which came out more sincere than he’d intended. “Sorry.”

Sheppard chuckled; he was much more challenging to offend than Lancaster was. 

“Is this one of your moods that you’re going to explain or one I just have to wait to pass?” he asked. “I thought you loved checklists and procedures.”

“Sure, when we’re moving,” Lancaster replied. He sighed and dismissed his display. “It’s this,” he said, pointing to the bar of silver under his four rank pips. “They have an office set aside for me next to the admiral’s. Fourth Fleet Command is giving me a staff. I don’t need a staff. I have a whole crew—and Connor,” he complained. “One day, it’s a baryon sweep and minor retrofit; the next day, it’s a desk job.”

As his husband fumed, Sheppard stood up and kissed him on the cheek. The gesture of affection brought Lancaster’s mood out of the rafters momentarily. He exhaled slowly.

“Isn’t a big part of the ‘minor retrofit’ removing the dangerous fleet formation technology that could turn our whole ship against us?” Sheppard reminded him. “Think about this: the Enterprise is headed to the surplus depot, but Arcturus will be the shiniest, most advanced Odyssey-class ship in the fleet. You love elitism.”

That made Lancaster laugh. He thought it was a travesty that Starfleet had not yet decided to reverse their decision to retire the Enterprise-F, even in the face of needing to rebuild nearly an entire fleet lost over Earth. But being better than the Enterprise did make up for it.

“I do,” Lancaster agreed. He gestured towards the windows, which were full of the dull blue glow coming from the interior of the station’s docking bay rather than the usual site of stars streaking past them. “I just don’t like feeling boxed in. Moored. Grounded.”

“I get the picture, Captain Thesaurus,” Sheppard teased. “I wish the crew could see this side of you more often.”

Lancaster scoffed. “Why? So they can snicker and laugh in the corridors?”

“No, because they’d really see how much you care about your job,” Sheppard corrected. He leaned in for a kiss on the lips. The sentiment and the kiss made Lancaster feel flushed. “It’s okay to rest, though. It’s also okay to trust the ship to the engineers.”

That statement made Lancaster realize he was acting more petulant than was acceptable for a man of his age, education, and rank. He straightened up and kissed Sheppard back.

“You’re right. I need to channel this energy into something productive, Luca,” Lancaster said.

“I don’t think I said that.”

Lancaster waved his hand dismissively. “Technically, no. But my takeaway is that I need to transmute my workaholic tendencies into a more mature outlook on the situation,” he said before tapping his badge. “I want to take one last lap of the ship while I finalize system shutdown procedures with Kaplan and Ari. Then I want to consume unhealthy amounts of intoxicants in our quarters on the station while we celebrate your new position.”

“And Belvedere’s promotion,” Sheppard reminded him. “Please make an effort with him. He wants you to like him. That would make his whole day.”

“I will do my absolute best,” Lancaster promised, his saccharine transmuting into mild sarcasm. He tapped his badge after glancing at his WRIST to confirm the time. “Lancaster to Kaplan. I want to get in a run while we go over the final checklist. Meet me outside the aft starboard thruster control room in 5 minutes.”

“Aye, Captain,” Ensign Connor Kaplan replied quickly. 

“A literal lap, huh?” Sheppard asked, looking bemused.

“Maybe two.”

“Can I join you?”

“Not today. I think today’s the day I’m going to tell Kaplan that he has to get a real job and move out of our basement,” Lancaster demurred, referring to the fact that Connor Kaplan had been an ensign and stuck at the position of yeoman for almost two years.  “I want him to be a bridge officer.”

Sheppard nodded, crossing his arms. “He’s barely the age of most of his peer ensigns. You can let him stay in the nursery for a little longer, right?”

“What’s that Goddard quote about the cradle?” Lancaster asked.

Madonna!” Sheppard exclaimed in Italian exasperation. “Stop quoting things to me and go on your run. Try not to hurt him—physically or otherwise.”

Lancaster laughed again, thankful for once to get his partner to express strong emotions rather than maintaining his normally unflappable sweetness. He kissed Sheppard on the cheek and then went to find his workout clothes. If he had to find something to do to fill the time before pulling the plug on his ship, good old-fashioned calisthenics seemed like the perfect way to sublimate his anxiety into sweat.