Saturday, May 3, 2003

Arapaho: Heading Out

Scene: USS Arapaho, Bridge

Captain Zachary Russell sat in the center chair on the bridge of the Arapaho. Holding a PADD, he went through the final steps in a checklist that had so far taken two days to accomplish. Now, it was only moments from completion.

"Commander Hilani, are all crew present and accounted for?" he asked the XO beside him.

"Affirmative, sir. All three hundred twenty-five have reported for duty," came the answer.

"Very good." He hit his combadge. "Lieutenant Erisoll, are we ready?"

[Ready, sir. Impulse and warp propulsion running well within parameters. She's purring like a kitten, sir,] Erisoll replied.

"Excellent. Ensign James, open a channel to the Starbase Dockmaster."

"Aye, sir," James replied, "the channel is open."

"Epsilon Control, this is Arapaho," Russell said.

[Epsilon control here; go ahead, Arapaho,] a very official-sounding voice answered.

"We have completed startup protocols and are ready for launch. Request permission to depart," the Captain said.

[Arapaho, you are cleared for launch at 2307 hours on stardate 30503. Smooth sailing, Captain. Epsilon control out.]

"Lieutenant Jo'Mal, release the docking clamps."

"Aye, docking clamps released Captain," Jo'Mal reported.

"Helm, engage thrusters, one quarter."

The helm officer complied, and the view on the main screen showed the close exterior wall of the docking ring slowly moving away. The ship had been docked with the front end pointing toward the starbase. All sat in wonder at the thought of their three million ton ship backing out into space.

"Now at one hundred meters," the Captain said. "Bring her about and continue toward the outer perimeter."

The view now showed the starbase turning away as the ship spun to point into space. The inner perimeter beacons were clearly visible ten kilometers out. The ship continued moving, forward this time, straight toward them.

"Full thrusters, accelerate to one hundred k.p.h."

"Full thrusters, aye," the helmsman replied.

So it had finally begun. After weeks and days of waiting, reports, checklists, requisitions, and briefs, they were finally on their way. A combination of excitement and relief filled everyone on the bridge. Knowing it would take a few minutes to get to the beacons, each officer took their chance to double- and triple-check their stations. When they cleared the inner beacons, they were finally authorized to use the regular engines. The outer markers were another 140 kilometers away, but at impulse speeds it wouldn't take long to reach them.

"Helm, one quarter impulse."

"One quarter impulse, aye. Outer markers in 2.3 minutes." The helm officer was a capable ensign, but Lieutenant Jo'Mal was noticed by everyone keeping a close eye on that station only slightly less than the Ops board. It seemed to amuse everyone but the Captain, but he bit his mental tongue, knowing that nothing short of solid mentorship would make for a competent crew. He knew deep down the officers he would be serving with were among Starfleet's best.

"Now at outer markers, Captain," the helmsman reported.

"Acknowledged. Set course 050 mark 112 and engage at warp 2," Russell ordered. "Let's make sure she's nice and healthy before we run her too hard."

Slowly the deep hum of the warp drive filled every space in the ship. It was a comfortable, satisfying sound to the Captain. As seconds passed and the ship accelerated, the other officers on the bridge also seemed to loosen up considerably under the influence of the subtle song.

For the first time in nearly half an hour, Captain Russell looked over to the XO, who was busily working at a PADD just as diligently as when he'd looked last. "Commander," the captain said.

Commander Hilani looked over. "Sir?"

"Please schedule a mission briefing and staff meeting first thing tomorrow morning. We need to explain the situation to the crew and start brainstorming."

"I'm right on it, Captain," Hilani replied with a big Pacific-islander smile, then went back to work on his PADD.

Zachary turned back to the main viewer and watched the star systems move slowly past the ship. He took a deep breath, and resumed his own work.

Friday, May 2, 2003

Arapaho: Official Welcome

Scene: USS Arapaho, Ready Room

Captain Russell and Commander Hilani stood in front of the three officers who had just reported. They looked fresh and eager, and their new rank insignia made one of the reasons obvious.

“Lieutenant Votaryn Erisoll, Lieutenant Na’Hel Jo’Mal, and Lieutenant Sardra Vol. Welcome aboard. It is my pleasure to congratulate you each on your promotions. Commander Hilani and I have reviewed your records, and we both expect you will deliver nothing less than your best while you are part of the Arapaho crew.”

Captain Russell stood and spoke in an even military tone, devoid of any personality. Commander Hilani said nothing, but at a nod from the CO, he walked across the rank of officers standing at attention before them and handed each a PADD. When he was finished, he stepped back to his position on the Captain’s left, and spoke.

“The PADD each of you has in your hands contains your official transfer orders as well as an introduction of your first tasks on the ship. There shouldn’t be any surprises; if there are, please find me and we’ll get it straightened out. You have each been given new quarters and offices appropriate to your positions; these are outlined as well.”

Captain Russell spoke again. “Before you are dismissed, I have one announcement. While the Commander and I are very pleased with Captain O’Banyon’s recommendations, we have taken the liberty to make one small change.” He approached Lieutenant Erisoll. “Lieutenant, you are hereby assigned the title of Interim Chief Engineer, pending the assignment of another officer by Starfleet. After further evaluation, Commander Hilani and I hope to recommend you for the post, so stay sharp. Congratulations.”

Erisoll, who at first appeared nervous at being approached by the Captain, smiled as if relieved and returned the shook his hand. “Thank you, sir,” he said.

Once again Russell stepped back and regained his perfect bearing. “Again, welcome aboard. It will be a pleasure having you with us. Dismissed.”

Arapaho: Change of Command

Scene: Starbase Epsilon, Docking port A-348

Captain Russell bound his eagerness in as much professionalism as he could muster, but his excitement was obvious. He strode rather than walked down the corridor. His usual stoic visage was replaced by a poorly hidden smile. As he reached the interior perimeter of the docking ring and flashed his ID to the sentry, his heart began to race.

He got on the lift and looked out over the open sides to the cavernous docking structure. Gliding along the track that ran 300 meters above the bottommost floor of the docking ring, he could see the dozens of docking ports below and beyond. He looked to the rows of parallel tracks running beside those his lift followed, and took note of how huge the space was. Designed to dock dozens of ships at once, four stacked levels of at least fifteen docks each could accommodate all but the largest starships in the Federation’s many fleets. Already a variety were parked here for some reason or another, and the alpha docking ring was only one of four at the starbase.

Zachary had been on the lift nearly five full minutes. He looked ahead and could finally make out the flashing red lights indicating the docking protocols were still not complete. It was very early in the morning, and although there was no regular sun or rotation of a planet to alert anyone of designated waking and sleeping times, most of the starbase was still inactive at this time of ‘day’. Russell marveled at how nearly every species in the Federation measured time in almost exactly the same manner, and was ruled internally by the routine existence of ancestors thousands of generations before.

Just as the lift slowed to a stop and began a descent to the first level, right near 349, the docking technicians cleared the ship. In a few moments, the small skeleton crew of Poseidon’s officers would come through a door just fifty meters from Zachary. In so short a time, two men would become instantly responsible for tens of thousands of metric tons of Federation property, hundreds of lives, and the fulfillment of countless hopes and dreams.

A light came on over the door Zachary hadn't noticed. Apparently, it meant the doors were cleared. He approached and they opened. Ahead of him, a long walkway stretched out to a portal on Arapaho's forward bow. He looked to each side, then behind him. With no one to stop him, he walked forward.

Junior officers started coming through the other side. Seeing the Captain, they nodded courteously and respected his rank as they disembarked. Stopping at the end of the walkway, Zachary looked to the side of the portal. The exterior of the ship's hull was exposed on either side, the first barrier between the crew and the void of space. Tentatively, he touched it with his hand. It felt good.

"Cap'n Russell, I presume?"

A strong voice interrupted Zachary's connection, causing him to pull his hand quickly away from the smooth cool duranium alloy. He looked into the ship and saw a large man who looked like he was almost always in a good mood. He wore three full pips on his collar.

"You must be Commander Pritchard," Zachary said. The man nodded and smiled. "Permission to come aboard, Commander?"

"Permission granted, sir," Duncan smiled.

Zachary stepped forward across the threshold onto the ship--his ship, his home. Although the deckplate was the at the same level as the walkway, it felt pleasantly different somehow. He crossed the short distance between himself and Commander Pritchard. The two men shook hands heartily.

"She's a hell of a ship, Cap'n," Duncan complimented. "It was a pleasure bringing her home. Congratulations."

Zachary smiled and did his best to communicate a response through his actions. He knew all the protocols involved in taking command of a ship for the first time...the orders, reports and ceremonies, but being the first of his crew to step aboard, and meeting the Commander personally meant more than any ceremony ever would.

Both men heard the sound of footsteps coming down the walkway and looked. Commander Hilani was coming aboard.

"Commander Pritchard," Zachary said, "there's someone here I'd like very much for you to meet."