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.

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