Wolf in sheep’s clothing – Part 1
I find myself about to take my first starship command with a sense of trepidation and unease. The unsettled feeling in my gut at times makes me wish I had the suppressed emotions of my Vulcan cousins. Being, once again, at war with the Klingons has put many members of Starfleet in positions that, in peace time, would have been well above their station, but the need for ships and crews to command them has put many officers on a “fast track” through the ranks. I just hope I have what it takes to command a vessel, after all, were we not at war I would most probably be no more than a Lieutenant Commander. Being a science officer I would normally have been assigned to a science vessel, and although this is the case to an extent, our ship, the Schrödinger, is a recommissioned Akira class vessel which had been moth balled after receiving heavy damage during the Dominion war. Now retro-fitted to act as a science vessel rather than its original function as a heavy escort ship, it is now equipped to perform its scientific mission whilst still capable of performing in combat if required.
My bridge crew are like myself, young and inexperienced: placed deep over their heads in a situation which they must now find their own ways to deal with, despite this I have every faith in my crew and their abilities. Many of them who, just a few weeks ago, would have been ensigns fresh out of the academy, are now acclimatising themselves to their new responsibilities. Hopefully my faith in them is returned in equal measure, at least I can be sure that will be the case with my first officer….
Commander Judzei Deriaz watched as space erupted in a swirl of azure and sapphire, the ship entering the wormhole was a speck silhouetted against the intense light flaring from its centre. As quickly as the wormhole appeared it was gone, leaving nothing but the black sheet of space speckled with the white pin pricks of distant stars. She breathed deeply letting her shoulders sag and the tension momentarily subside. She had come to the promenade on a daily basis since arriving on Deep Space Nine to oversee the refitting of the U.S.S. Schrödinger: the ship upon which she would be serving as first officer. She would watch ships travel into the wormhole, a view she found quite relaxing. It had been a hard six weeks retro-fitting what was essentially a warship to serve as a science vessel, even more so as it was also practically a derelict which had had to be towed to the station.
The Captain was due to arrive shortly and the ship was far from ready. The young Trill shifted her gaze from the area of space where the wormhole had opened to where the Schrödinger lay a few hundred metres from the station, amongst the other Starfleet vessels that were unable to dock at the station itself due to the increased traffic. The starboard warp nacelle was illuminated in the familiar blue and red whereas the port side sat in darkness. She could see the small Worker Bee ships buzzing around it and knew that the crews were working frantically to get the warp engines fully functional considering they were meant to be getting under way in an hour. It had also been an up hill struggle to get the ship to accept the new scientific systems whilst still keeping its existing combat functions intact, it seemed the main computer found the whole situation contradictory and refused to cooperate, resulting in having to have whole new sub-routines programmed.
The promenade was a hub of activity with Starfleet crew all attempting to negotiate their way around the station with the same sense of urgency. Deriaz turned from the view port and began to move into the throng and make her way to the transporter room to return to the ship.
“Commander Deriaz! Commander Deriaz!” She stopped and turned to see who called her name to find a young ensign fighting his way down the crowded walkway, a flustered look to his face, his left shoulder stooped under the weight of the bag hanging from it. “Commander!” He repeated as he came close.
“Ensign Richard Panesar reporting for duty sir.”
“I see, a little late aren’t you? We leave DS9 in less than an hour.”
“Yes sir, I’ve only just been assigned to the Schrödinger a few minutes ago; Command saw you were yet to be assigned a chief medical officer, they didn’t want you to disembark without one so I was told to report to you.”
“You’re going to be our CMO?”
“Yes sir, I understand your concerns, I wouldn’t have been my own first choice but it seems doctors are in short supply: I’m afraid I’m all there is.”
“I see, they’ve given you this position without promoting you beyond ensign?”
“There just hasn’t been the time for the formalities, it’s something they’ll get around to after we’ve departed, so they tell me.”
“Well then, I guess we’d best get to the ship.”
Deriaz was almost a foot taller than Panesar and her stride was somewhat greater than his. She walked at a brisk pace which Panesar had to work hard to keep up with.
“Do you know our new captain well Commander?” Panesar asked.
“Fairly well, yes, you could say that.”
“I hear he’s a Vulcan, I’m not sure I’m comfortable serving under someone who doesn’t feel fear, he could put us in a situation that a captain with emotion would avoid.”
“Ah! But Captain Varek isn’t your usual Vulcan Ensign, I should know I had my part in raising him.” Deriaz raised an amused eyebrow at the young ensign’s clearly surprised reaction.
“Raised him sir? But you can’t be a day older…”
“You don’t have much experience with Trills do you ensign?” She interrupted. “When I say I had a part in raising him, what I should say is Ramen Deriaz had a part in raising him, my symbiont’s previous host. Ramen died a few years ago, I’ve yet to meet Varek as Judzei Deriaz.”
“I see sir, you are the first Trill I’ve met and although I know of your species it hadn’t quite occurred to me how old you actually are.”
“Old! Ensign, I’m twenty-nine, hardly old, I just happen to have the memories and life experience of a, let me see, a one-hundred-and-seventy-two year old,” she explained.
Panesar nodded in understanding, “Sorry if I offended.”
“Not at all ensign, the concept can be baffling for outsiders.”
“If you don’t mind me asking sir, how many hosts has the Deriaz symbiont had so far?”
“I am the third host.”
“The third? All female?”
“No, I’m the first female Deriaz, the previous hosts were both male” she explained as they came to the transporter room door.
“So when you say your previous host helped raise the captain, did you know his parents?” he asked but Deriaz held up a hand, to which he gave an understanding nod.
Deriaz tapped the com-badge on her chest, “Deriaz to Schrödinger, two ready to beam aboard.”
“Acknowledged Commander,” came the voice of the Schrödinger’s transporter chief.
“Do you have an ETA on the Captain’s arrival?” Deriaz asked the transporter chief as she and Panesar stepped onto the transporter pad.
“I was just going to say Commander, he’s just beamed aboard himself. He’s gone straight to his quarters to get some rest after his long journey from Earth and he’s asked that you take the ship out as soon as we’re ready to get under way.”
“Acknowledged Chief, Energise.”
In a shimmer of blue light the two Starfleet officers dissipated from the transporter pad and reappeared in the transporter room of the Schrödinger.
“Welcome back Commander” said the transporter chief, who Panesar now saw was a tall Aenar, his albino white skin seemed to glow above the yellow of his uniform, his blind eyes staring off distantly. “The captain also asked me to inform you that there will be a senior staff meeting at 1100 hours tomorrow morning” he said.
“Thank you Chief,” Deriaz said in return and she and the young doctor made their way from the transporter room.
“You know, he could see you staring Ensign” Deriaz stated with a tone of mock rebuke.
“Excuse me sir?” Panesar responded, his brow showing his confusion.
“Aenars may be blind but they have other ways of seeing,” she explained.
Panesar looked bashful, “Ah, I see.”
“Well Ensign, I suggest you take a lead from our captain and get settled in,” she said as they walked through the corridor which was filled with engineers working frantically: rushing here and there, pulling panels off walls while cabling hung from the gaps in the ceiling and bits of circuitry littered the floors. “Report directly to your quarters once they are assigned and get settled in, you’re off duty until 1100 hours.”
“1100 hours sir?” The familiar puzzled look was etched on Panesar’s face once more.
“The senior staff meeting” Deriaz explained “that includes you now.”
“Ah! Yes, of course, that’ll take some getting used to.”
“Indeed it will, don’t worry, there are many others in your position, having to fill much bigger boots than normal, myself and the Captain included,” Deriaz said exhaling deeply.
“So what’s he like? The Captain?” The ensign asked as they came to a junction of corridors. Deriaz seemed to ponder this for a moment, and then with a smile half turned her head to Panesar, “Jolly, for a Vulcan, I’ll see you at 1100 hours ensign.” She turned and disappeared into a throng of Starfleet crewmen, leaving the young doctor looking as confused as ever.
Chief Medical Officer’s Personal Log:
I must admit to being somewhat daunted by my current situation; I’m most certainly well out of my depth. When I joined Starfleet I never foresaw myself in the position I am now, let alone in wartime, a time when a medics’ job is at its most essential.
Upon my arrival aboard the Schrödinger, my first impression was one of organised chaos, the ship just a few months ago was a wreck in a shipyard of other wrecked and obsolete vessels, all of them patched up and brought back into service. All the corridors on the way to my quarters were full of engineers performing last minute repairs and maintenance, normally the ship wouldn’t even leave space dock in this condition but these are not normal times and much of the work will have to be done “en-route”.
I am thankful for a few things however; for one our ship is far from obsolete, it was only taken out of service due to receiving heavy damage during the war with the Dominion. The war was over by the time it came in for repairs and Starfleet felt it an unnecessary use of resources to carry out those repairs, so it was decommissioned. In just a few months it has been brought back to a space worthy condition, albeit with more than a few kinks to iron out. I’m also thankful that, despite the conflict with the Klingons and their allies, Starfleet is still thoroughly committed to its mission of research and exploration: a mission which will be the Schrödinger’s primary mandate. I personally have no desire to enter into combat if it can be avoided and our function as a science vessel will mean, to my relief, that we won’t be actively looking for a fight. However if we do need to defend ourselves the Schrödinger will be more than capable.
The Captain has called for a meeting with all senior staff at 1100 hours tomorrow, it took me a moment to realise that that included myself, this could take some getting used to. In the meantime I have been given time to rest and settle in, so officially I’m off duty until the meeting. I’ve decided that that I would use this time to try and do a little research into my fellow crew, especially the Captain, who, since my conversation with Commander Deriaz has been something of an enigma.
From reading his personnel file I have found that Captain Varek was born aboard the USS Hicks, a Galaxy class ship that carried both Starfleet crew and civilians during the Dominion war. His father was a lieutenant in the engineering crew and his mother was a civilian who taught in the ship’s school. A few months after his birth the ship was attacked by the Jem’Hadar and although the ship escaped with minimal damage there were casualties, including both of Varek’s parents. As a baby, Varek remained aboard the Hicks and was raised by a number of the ship’s crew but was never officially adopted by any specific parent or parents. Over twenty of the Hicks’ crew and civilian population participated in raising Varek including a Lieutenant by the name of Ramen Deriaz, there were however no other Vulcan crew members aboard so Varek did not have any semblance of a Vulcan upbringing. A Betazoid couple played a large part in Varek’s childhood and given the nature of Betazoid culture they encouraged him to explore his emotions, Varek has never gone through the Vulcan act of Kolinahr, therefore he is a fully feeling, fully emotive Vulcan. It’ll certainly be interesting when I finally get to meet him.
Richard Panesar found himself watching, through the conference room windows, the white streaks of the stars trailing behind the ship as it travelled at warp. The view brought to mind a question once posed in philosophy lesson when he was a cadet at the academy: ‘do we travel through the stars or do we sit still and move the stars around us.’ Panesar never had much time for philosophy, preferring to deal with what could be proven as fact: of course we move through the stars. But as he watched, he couldn’t help but imagine that the stars were the ones in motion and he was simply watching them fly by.
“So is this your first starship assignment?” The question pulled Panesar from his daydream. It had been posed by the Bolian science officer that sat to his right, his blue skin clashing with the teal collar of his uniform.
“Um!” Panesar started as he tried to pull his attention back from the stars into the room. “No, I was part of the medical team on the Righteous.”
“The Righteous?” The Bolian said with a tone of surprise, “I thought the Righteous was lost with all hands in the first days of the war.”
“It was, I was on shore leave at the time the war broke out. I was due to return to the Righteous but it was destroyed whilst I was travelling back from earth.”
“I see, unfortunate.”
“Hari Videsie, Chief science officer,” he held out a blue skinned hand as he introduced himself.
“Richard Panesar,” the doctor took the offered hand and gave it a friendly shake.
“Welcome aboard doctor.”
“Thank you. I must admit, I took some time to study the personnel files of the senior crew in advance, I wanted to familiarise myself with everyone beforehand.”
“Very prudent doctor, so I take it you knew who I was without the introduction.”
“That would be correct,” Panesar said rather sheepishly.
“No need to be embarrassed doctor, I admire your thoroughness, you’d have made an excellent scientist” Videsie said with a smile, “now if you’ll excuse me, I need to talk with our engineer before the captain arrives.”
“Of course,” Panesar said with a courteous nod.
Videsie stood from his chair and walked over to where two Andorians stood. Panesar recognised the first who Videsie approached as Kyshas, of the four Andorian sexes he was one of the two which were approximately male but Panesar could not be sure which. Tall, broad and stocky, he looked more like he should be a security officer rather than the Chief of Engineering. His light blue face was furnished with a thick white beard, his head shaved close, he stood arms folded, a sternness in his posture. The shorter slender female Andorian whom Kyshas had been in conversation with was Shelana, the ship’s tactical and security officer. Shelana, Panesar knew, was the Shen sex, one of the two Andorian female sexes. Her white hair was cut into a short bob that framed her blue face, her svelte frame belied her ability as a more than capable tactician and combatant.
Panesar’s attention drifted away from the conversing aliens when he noticed the next seat along from where Videsie had sat was now occupied by the Schrödinger’s Bajoran Helmsman Oypan Treemut who also made up part of Shelana’s security team. He was the only member of the bridge crew that was younger than Panesar and so far had not been promoted past the rank of ensign. He sat with his hands clasped together on the table in front of him, his gaze set on some point ahead. He hardly seemed interested in interacting with his crew mates: his face showing nothing but an austere, stoic calm. Panesar considered introducing himself but before he could make up his mind the door to the conference room hushed open and Commander Deriaz stepped in, followed by their Vulcan captain. They both had wide grins etched on their faces as of two old friends that had been recollecting an old story or joke. Captain Varek was tall and thin, his face gaunt, the cheek bones well defined. Instead of the usual precisely cut Vulcan hairstyle, his head was shaved. He took his seat at the head of the table, Deriaz took the seat to his right. Videsie re-took his seat next to Panesar and the two Andorian crew members sat in the seats across from the doctor.
“Good morning gentleman” the captain started, “it’s good to meet you all finally. Firstly I’d like to thank those of you who have been working hard to get the Schrödinger up to spec again under the watchful eye of the Commander here,” he said with a nod in Deriaz’s direction. “So where do we stand? Lieutenant Commander Kyshas, how’s engineering shaping up?”
“Thrusters, impulse and warp engines all functioning above normal parameters sir” responded the large Andorian.
“Excellent work Commander. How are the new scientific systems shaping up?” Came Vareks’ next question.
“I have just been discussing this with Mister Videsie, the main computer is being somewhat uncooperative sir. However we are almost there, we just don’t have functioning sensor systems at this time, which, as I’ve discussed with Commander Shelana also means we have no targeting systems either.”
“So I suggest we avoid getting into a fight at this time” the female tactical officer cut in.
“I see” Varek said, a suddenly sombre tone to his voice. “We’re en route to the Delta Volanis Cluster, thankfully reports say there’s no enemy presence between here and there and it’s not too far from a Federation outpost. We’re heading there to give the ship a full systems test, including the weapons systems: there’s a large asteroid field which will serve this purpose.” Varek sat back in his chair, “Mister Kyshas, Mister Videsie and Mister Shelana, I want you to coordinate your efforts and ensure you get those sensor systems up and running by the time we arrive. You have eight hours.”
“Yes sir” all three crew members said in unison.
“Dismissed.” The two Andorians and the Bolian stood and exited the conference room. “Come to think of it, Ensign Oypan” Varek turned to the young Bajoran, “I want you to assist Commander Shelana on the targeting systems.”
“Aye Sir” Oypan said as he stood and then left the same way as the others.
That left just Panesar and his two superiors. “Commander Deriaz, could you oversee things on the bridge, I want to speak with our new doctor.”
“Of course Captain” Deriaz said as she left her seat and then sauntered through the door to the bridge.
Varek turned his attention to the doctor smiling, Panesar found this unsettling from a Vulcan. He’d spent years at the academy getting used to the usual passive expression from his Vulcan classmates, now he was going to have to get used to a Vulcan who could smile at him. “So Doctor, how are you finding the ship?” Varek asked.
“Well sir, to be honest I haven’t really seen anything more than my quarters and the corridors between there and here. I was going to make my way to sick bay once we were done here,” Panesar answered.
“I have to be honest as well, my knowledge of the ship isn’t much better, I came straight here from my quarters myself. Now I’m sure you’re well aware I didn’t want to speak to you to exchange niceties, to get to the point I wanted to speak to you about the current situation” Varek explained. “I’m going to make a guess and say you’re feeling somewhat out of your depth.”
“I would say that’s something of an understatement sir,” came Panesar’s answer.
“Indeed doctor, I suppose it is.”
“But I’m not the only one sir, most of the crew is serving well above their usual station, including yourself. If I may say so sir.”
“You’re right doctor, however you’re in a position with a lot of responsibility, the ship’s doctor has a lot of weight on his shoulders, especially in wartime. If you don’t mind me being frank, you are the least experienced member of the senior crew and as a ship’s doctor would normally be Lieutenant Commander at the least, the gulf between your rank and the rank you’re fulfilling is larger than any other crew member.”
“I understand sir” Panesar said looking sullen.
“However, I’m not saying you are incapable, I have every faith in you and your abilities as much as I do any other member of the crew. I just want to be sure you have that same faith, self doubt can be a dangerous factor in the running of a ship” Varek elaborated. “I want to be sure you feel confident in your position.”
“I see what you are saying sir, and if I may be perfectly honest – ”
“Of course, I would expect nothing less.”
“I must admit I had my doubts and I certainly am feeling the pressure, but those doubts are only around my ability to command as a chief medical officer should. My abilities as a physician however I have every confidence in, and if I may speak freely, if you ask me that is where it counts. The running of a surgical team I’ll just have to learn on the job.” Panesar said with a proud and almost defensive manner.
“Well doctor, that’s good enough for me, and I want you to know that Commander Deriaz and myself are here to support you in any way we can, don’t be afraid to come to us if you need.” There was the smile again, but this time Panesar saw it was warm and friendly.
“Thank you sir, I foresee that I’ll be taking you up on that offer,” Panesar said with a nervous laugh.
“Yes Ensign, I believe you will” Varek said returning the laugh. “Anyway, I believe you have a sickbay to get to and a surgical team to meet.”
Varek sat in his seat on the bridge slowly reading through a systems report that had been handed to him by an ensign from engineering. His eyes were tired; this was the seventeenth report he’d read in the past three hours. He placed the PADD down heavily on the arm of the chair and rubbed his eyes with his finger and thumb. “Mister Oypan, what’s our expected arrival time?” he asked the helmsman, an exasperated tone to his voice.
“Two hours, fifteen minutes” came the Bajoran’s reply.
“Thank you ensign” Varek said as he picked the PADD back up and resumed reading, but before he’d read the first word he paused and placed the PADD back down. The bridge was swarming with technicians working busily and noisily around the Captain. He found it hard to concentrate amidst the chaos. He picked the PADD up again and tried to shut out the buzz of activity around him but still he couldn’t block it out. With a deep sigh he tapped the PADD against his thigh before tossing it into the vacant seat of his first officer to his right, adding it to the pile that already sat there. “I think I’m going to head down to engineering and check on the progress down there,” Varek stood and briskly walked across to the turbolift doors. “Commander Deriaz, you have the bridge” he said as he stepped inside.
Deriaz was leaning over the science console where she worked with Videsie. Without looking up from her work she replied “Aye, aye Captain!” with an exaggerated and playful exuberance. Varek turned back to face his first officer as she finally looked up from the console. “Have fun!” she said as they exchanged knowing grins before the lift’s doors closed. Hari Videsie glanced in Judzei’s direction and she saw the quizzical look on his blue features from the corner of his eye. “The Captain’s never been happy to just sit and oversee, he’s always happier if he’s hands on, he’s been dying to get down to engineering and get his hands on a hypo spanner,” she explained.
“I see sir, it’s just strange to see such…” he paused to find the right word “…energy, from a Vulcan.”
“Get used to it Lieutenant” Deriaz said, “the captain has a lot of energy.”
* * *
The lift doors opened to reveal engineering and Varek stepped out, the hum of the warp core welcomed him like an old friend. A few steps into the room he saw the legs of his chief engineer poking out from under the central console.
“Kattie, can you pass me a decoupler, this console’s overloaded again.” The large Andorian’s voice sounded boxy inside the small space in which his upper body was hidden. A young female human walked over with the requested tool. She couldn’t have been much more than five feet tall, her figure was petite but she held her small frame with an air of confident self assuredness. She had jet black hair that was cut into a short untidy buzz cut, her right cheek was severely scarred. She squatted down next to Kyshas’ legs and passed the tool under the console, as she stood up again she noticed the captain standing a few feet away and stood bolt upright to attention. “Captain on deck” she said at the top of her voice, Kyshas’ legs jerked, startled, the bang as his head hit the underside of the console rattled the tools that were placed on the top.
“As you were Lieutenant,” Varek said to the young engineer who stood rigidly in front of him. Kyshas clambered out from under the console muttering, what Varek took to be, some form of Andorian expletives. He rubbed his forehead with the heel of his hand. Varek couldn’t help but smile, it was hard enough to keep from laughing. “Are you okay Commander?” Varek asked through his smirk.
“Fine Captain” Kyshas replied, checking his hand for blood, “may I introduce Lieutenant Kattie Hevessy, my eager young technician,” Varek and Hevessy exchanged nods in which they shared amused smiles. “Well I’m glad you find my pain funny Lieutenant” Kyshas scowled.
“Oh come on Commander, don’t be like that, I may have sniggered somewhat myself” Varek said jumping to the young engineers defence.
“Yes sir, but you outrank me, you’re allowed to take pleasure in your subordinates’ pain” came Kyshas’ retort, allowing himself a smile. “I’m sure if Kattie here were to split her head open it would be quite likely I’d have a good laugh myself.”
“Understood Mister Kyshas,” Varek said with a jokingly curt nod, the smile still etched on his face. “So where do we stand Commander?”
“Well sir, that’s a less amusing topic.”
“How did I know you’d say something like that” Varek’s expression slowly started to turn grim.
“The computer continues to fight our attempts to integrate the new systems, we’re continuing to write the necessary programmes and sub routines but we have to be sure that they’re right before we activate them” Kyshas explained.
“Why’s that?” Varek asked.
Kyshas was about to answer but Hevessy spoke first. “If they’re not perfect, when we activate the new systems and sub routines if there is any conflicting data that we’ve missed it’ll shut down an unpredictable amount of systems. Say a sensor programme conflicts with a tactical system, the computer will shut one of those down to make way for the other. Unfortunately we can’t foresee all these conflicts or how many there may be and if there are any and we activate the new systems it means having to wipe everything clean and then starting from scratch” she explained.
“Ideally, we need a new main computer, something from a Sovereign class starship would do the trick,” Kyshas added. “One that is less stubborn about assimilating more science systems than it was designed to.”
“Well, I’m afraid that just isn’t an option” Varek said “you’ll just have to do what you can with what we’ve got.”
“I expected nothing less sir, at the moment we have the ship running at its designed specifications, save for a few remaining issues with the targeting systems; we have no long range sensors and the sensors we do have are less than perfect” Kyshas continued. “All the new hardware is in place we just need to bring the software online, however we have to be sure it’s right before we do, otherwise we could bring down systems that are currently working fine, including life support.”
“And we wouldn’t want that would we?” Varek said with a touch of sarcasm.
“Fortunately we have a plan to partition the ship’s systems into small groups” Hevessy started. “That way we can bring each partition up at a time, so we can isolate the critical systems and avoid losing them.”
“How do you plan to go about the partitions?” Varek asked.
“We’ll try to group essential systems away from the new ones, therefore they’ll be safe from any conflicts,” Hevessy explained. “On the partitions where there is a risk of conflict we have programmed the computer to favour the more essential system, then if there is a conflict we wouldn’t lose any immediately essential systems, we would then just need to re-work the partitions with conflicts and not the entire main computer. We’d also have a higher level of predictability and control over what systems we might lose.”
“You’ve done a good job down here Mister Kyshas, your team is a credit to you,” Varek praised.
“Thank you sir,” Kyshas said as modestly as he could manage exchanging glances with Hevessy.
“So how long before you can start to bring the new systems on line?”
“We’re not far off sir, it’ll be about three hours before we’ve brought everything online.”
“You’ve got two, we arrive at Delta Volanis in less than that.”
We have arrived at the asteroid field in the Delta Volanis cluster and testing of the ship’s systems has commenced. Lieutenant Commander Kyshas’ work to get the new systems online has proceeded well with minimal problems encountered, however certain systems are still giving my engineer and his team difficulties. He gives me every assurance that he will soon have those systems up and running.
The phaser blast burst from the Schrödinger’s forward array, the blaze of orange and red fired wide of the asteroid that was it’s intended target.
“Targeting sensors are still not functioning sir, or at least not very well” Shelana reported, however this was obvious to those present on the bridge.
“Kyshas has been having trouble with all sensors since booting up the new systems” Videsie spoke up whilst still concentrating on his science console. “The partition that the sensors are assigned to is still needing work.”
“Understood Mister Videsie,” Varek responded “what sensor function do we have?”
“We have the ability to perform short range scans and at a push a basic long range scan but results from that would be unreliable,” Videsie reported. “Also, although targeting sensors aren’t fully functional, we could take the telemetry from the firing tests we’ve made and with some manual calibration we could have phasers firing accurately. Torpedoes would still need to be targeted manually.”
“Understood Commander; work with Commander Shelana to implement those calibrations and let me know when we can resume our attack on this fleet of asteroids, but let Mister Kyshas know I want sensors up and running as intended as soon as possible, targeting or otherwise.”
Varek sat back in his chair and breathed the deep sigh of someone trying to bury his frustrations. He gazed around, taking in his surroundings; the bridge was looking less like a work site and more like the finished product. Only two engineers remained to tinker with some of the bridge consoles and less tools littered the floor and surfaces. He stroked his chin with the back of his fingers, eager to have something to do. He looked at the back of Ensign Oypan’s head where he sat at the central helm position directly in front of Varek. Varek tapped his bottom lip with the tip of his index finger, a look of contemplation to his thin Vulcan features. The hums and chirps of the bridge surrounded him and he realised they seemed louder than usual. His bridge was quiet save for the sounds of the computers and consoles around him, the crew worked around him in deathly silence, speaking in whispers, if they spoke at all.
“Mister Oypan” Varek suddenly spoke, up breaking the solemnity of the bridge and causing a number of heads to turn his way. Varek leapt to his feet. “Set a course to take us deeper into the asteroid field.” He took position standing next to the Bajoran, “how would you like to get a real feel for this ship?”
“Would be my pleasure sir” the Ensign replied, a smile stretching across his face.
“Well helmsman, I will let you navigate this obstacle course at your discretion, extra marks for speed and daring” Varek said, matching his helmsman’s grin. Some of the crew present exchanged worried and disbelieving glances. “Tactical!” Varek said loudly “raise shields. Best not take any unnecessary risks. That is assuming we have functioning shields?” He turned to the Lieutenant manning the tactical station as he said this: a young Pakled from Shelana’s security team by the name of Vimor.
“Yes sir,” she replied with a smile of her own.
“Not that I don’t have faith in your piloting abilities Mister Oypan,” he said turning back to the helm.
“I understand sir, better safe than sorry,” Oypan replied.
“Engage when ready Ensign” Varek ordered. “Lieutenant Vimor, use what sensors we have to perform passive sweeps of the asteroid field. May as well test out the systems we have whilst we’re at it.”
“Yes sir” came the Pakled’s reply.
Oypan’s fingers flitted over the helm controls and the view screen shifted to show a correct scale projection of the asteroid field ahead of them, the screen taking the role of a window to what was directly ahead. “Captain?” he asked, “permission to adjust inertial dampeners to allow more of a feel?”
Varek walked with a skip in his step back to his seat. “Granted ensign” he said as he sat down.
Oypan’s fingers jabbed the instructions into the console and the bridge crew felt the slightest of lurches as the Schrödinger accelerated into the asteroid field; the view ahead showing the rocky forms shoot past. Oypan leaned left and right in his seat with each lurch as he weaved the ship around the obstacles, some the size of small moons, his tongue protruding ever so slightly from the corner of his mouth in concentration. Varek grasped the arms of his chairs, a smile on his face as he watched the Bajoran pilot the ship masterfully. He couldn’t help but be impressed by Oypan’s skills at the helm and how close he would bring the ship to the asteroids and still come out the other side unscathed.
Vimor stood at her tactical station, bracing herself on the console as the ship lurched under the effect of the adjusted inertial dampeners. Despite the difficult balance she performed her scans as ordered. The console chirped bringing up information that made her brow crease with a mix of confusion and curiosity. “Captain!” She called.
Varek looked back over his left shoulder to the tactical station. “Yes Lieutenant?”
“Sensors have picked up… something!” She said, not knowing quite what to make of what she was reading.
“Can you elaborate Lieutenant?” Varek asked, his concentration back on the view screen.
Vimor tapped at the console. “Hard to say sir, from here it looks just like another asteroid but the composition doesn’t match the rest of the field.”
“In what way?”
“It has a much higher metal content than the asteroids of this field, actually it’s nearly all metal, over ninety percent, however I can’t get an exact figure. Also it would appear to be… artificial.”
This got Varek’s attention and pulled him away from the view in front of him. “Artificial?”
“Ensign Oypan, return inertial dampeners to normal, we’re going to have to postpone the remainder of our jaunt” Varek ordered. “Bring us to all stop.”
“Aye sir,” Oypan complied.
“What more can you tell me Vimor?” Varek asked the Pakled.
“Nothing more sir, not at this range anyway,” she answered.
The turbolift door opened and Commander Deriaz entered ready to start her shift.
“Judzei!” Varek called over “we seem to have something interesting hiding among the rocks.”
Deriaz walked over to where Varek now stood by Vimor at the tactical station. “Interesting, how?” The Trill asked.
“Metal. Artificial.” Varek listed. “That’s about all we know.” He jogged back to his central chair and chose to stand by it rather than sit, placing his hand on its back. “Mister Oypan set course for the unidentified object and get us there as quickly as we can.”
“Aye Captain” Oypan confirmed as he entered the necessary commands. “We should arrive in just over twenty minutes.”
“Very good Ensign.” Varek tapped his com-badge. “Bridge to Engineering.”
“Kyshas here Captain” came the Andorian’s voice.
“Is Mister Videsie still there with you Commander?” Varek asked.
“I want you to get full sensor functionality as soon as possible” Varek stated, his voice firm. “We have something in the asteroid field that we’re heading to investigate. We’ll be there in twenty minutes, I want to be able to analyse this thing as thoroughly as possible when we get there.”
“Understood captain, we’re nearly ready to start up that last partition. We’ll need to take some time to re-write the protocols to favour the sensors in the event of conflict.”
“Whatever it takes Commander.”
“We’ll get started right away.”
“Keep me posted. Varek out.” The Vulcan turned to his XO. “Commander Deriaz, I’ll be in my ready room. Notify me when we’re close to the anomaly.”
“Yes sir” she responded.
“You have the bridge Commander” he added as he left the bridge.
* * *
Varek sat on the couch that faced the doorway of his ready room. He read from one of the many books that he collected, preferring the paper volumes to reading novels from the electronic PADDs that had become the norm. The walls of his ready room were lined with shelves full of books that he had collected over the years. Some were newly produced by the few companies that still printed them, others were old, dating back to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: treasured antiques that Varek valued above the others, one of which he read from now, it’s cover creased and it’s pages yellowed. He placed the book down on the seat beside him, unable to give the words his full concentration, his focus distracted by the thought of the mysterious object they approached. He stood and wandered to the window and gazed out as nearby asteroids sped past where those in the distance seemed to move along with the ship. A chime rang in the room preceding the voice of Commander Deriaz; “Captain, we’re approaching the anomaly, we’ll be in visual range shortly.”
“Understood Commander,” Varek replied, walking to the door which opened as he approached. He stepped onto the bridge, his eyes set on the view screen. “How long until we’re in visual range?”
“Thirty seconds sir,” Oypan confirmed. Varek walked to his chair which Deriaz stood from as he approached. He chose not to sit but stood gripping the back rest tightly. The bridge was silent as the crew all waited for the time to tick away. Varek broke the silence “Lieutenant Vimor, can you get a better reading at this distance?”
“Not much sir, sensors still aren’t fully functional, however I am getting a faint energy signature” she replied.
“Ten seconds” Oypan announced.
“As soon as we’re in range get whatever it is on screen” Varek ordered, sitting down. Moments later an image of the asteroid field appeared on the view screen. Amongst the rocks, a grey ovoid shape could be seen: distant and indiscernible. “Magnify” Varek said. The view zoomed in so the object filled the screen. The circular saucer filled the majority of the view from which curving sections of hull trailed back to where two warp nacelles hung at either side.“A federation ship?” Varek said with a hint of surprise.
“Yes sir, Akira class” Vimor confirmed.
“What’s another federation ship doing out here?” Deriaz asked, “we should be the only ship anywhere near this sector.”
“It looks derelict,” Oypan added, “it may have been here some time.”
“There’s no record of any ships having been lost out here,” said Vimor.
Varek pressed a button on the arm of his chair “Varek to engineering, what’s the status of the sensors?”
“We’re just bringing them online now” returned Videsie’s voice “it will take around five minutes to cycle and then we will have full functionality.”
“Good work Lieutenant, let me know as soon as they’re ready.”
“Vimor, can we get magnification on the ship’s registration with the limited sensors? Can we identify it?” Deriaz asked the Lieutenant.
“I’ll see what I can do sir,” she said. A few moments later the view zoomed onto where the ship’s name and registration was displayed across the saucer’s hull which Vimor read aloud. “NCC 92730, USS Timberwolf.”
“Timberwolf?” Oypan said, “Why does that sound familiar?”
“Because Ensign,” Varek started as he stood from his chair, “that’s us!”
…to be continued