USS Bolivar Story 2: Bad Influence

“Story 2: Bad Influence”

 

A warm and sunny Nebraska afternoon has found its way upon the porch of an old farm house, where a young man sits and watches the world go by. His face is caressed by a dry country breeze as he rocks back and forth on a porch swing and stares into nothingness. The buzzing of the cicadas in a nearby tree only push him further into a daydream that had been brought on by events from the day before.

 

In his head, there is a mans voice yelling at him:

 

“I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DID THAT!”

                        “YOUR MOTHER IS GOING TO HEAR ABOUT THIS!”

                        “GET THE HELL OUT!”

                        “IF I EVER SEE YOU AGAIN, ILL KILL YOU!”

 

Suddenly a loud SLAM of the screen door shakes him out of the daydream and nearly knocks him off the swing. A beautiful middle-aged woman stands just outside the door, looking at the young man with that ‘motherly worry’ in her expression.

 

“How are you feeling?” She asks.

 

“Geez mom! You scared the hell out of me! And take it easy on that door, dad just had me spend the whole day fixing it”

 

“Sorry, I just wanted to see how you were doing. Can I get anything for you?”  She asks.

 

“No I’m fine, thank you.”  The young man says

 

The woman begins to walk back into the house when something stops her. She turns back to the porch where her son is sitting and asks “Were you thinking about yesterday at your uncles restaurant again?”

 

“Yeah” He Pauses then looks to her and says. “You should have heard him mom, my ears still hurt from him yelling at me. The fire was an accident. Why did he have to humiliate me like that?”

 

“Well Alex,” as she sits down on the swing. “Your Uncle Tom is very passionate about his cooking, and his restaurant in Paris is his only creative outlet. The replicator does all the cooking for him at home. I’m sure he didn’t mean to yell at you, he’s just caught up in his work, as usual.”

 

“But mom you don’t understand, I wanted nothing more than to work side-by-side with my uncle in the family business. I was planning on doing that the rest of my life after high school, I love cooking that much, and yesterday…,” Alex leans forward, looking down at his feet and letting out a deep sigh. “He told me never to come back.”

 

Elizabeth Martin had been a mother for eighteen years, but nothing in her vast experience could aide her in taking away her sons pain. She considered every possible avenue in her attempt to remedy the situation, and not knowing what else to say to comfort her son, she decided to change the subject:

 

“Have you given any thought to what we talked about this morning?” She asks.

 

“A little.” Alex responds.

 

“You should at least take a look at the application, I think it would be good for you.”

 

His mother gets up from the porch swing and goes into the house. She comes back a few seconds later with an electronic PADD and hands it to Alex. “Here read it over. Let us know what you decide.”

 

Alex pushes a couple of buttons on the PADD and it turns on.  The title reads: ‘STARFLEET ACADEMY ENTRANCE APPLICATION’

 

 

 

Twenty-two years later

USS Bolivar NCC-78243 at Starbase 74 Drydock

 

“Bridge to Commander Martin”

 

“Go ahead”

 

“Incoming subspace message for you from Earth, Sir, It’s marked urgent”

“Ill take it here in my quarters”

 

Commander Alexander Martin walks over to his desk and activates the small viewer on top of it. His heart begins to beat a little bit faster when the image of his father appears.

 

“Alex, Its your father. I have some bad news. It seems your mother has contracted some kind of virus. I don’t know what the hell it is, the doctors won’t tell me anything. They say she doesn’t have long, and I want you to come home and see her if you can. She is being moved to the hospital at New Berlin tomorrow for observation. You will find us there if we’re not at the house. I will try to contact you again in a couple of days. I love you, bye.”

 

The view screen goes black and Alex’s eyes are filled with worry. The only thing that comes to his mind is turning the ship around and going home but he knows that isn’t possible right now.

 

Martin leaves his quarters and heads toward the Turbolift. A few officers say hello to him as he walks by. He doesn’t quite remember all of their names but he recognizes them. It’s not easy when there are over 500 officers he is in charge of supervising and coordinating on a daily basis. He reaches the Turbolift doors in a matter of seconds. They woosh open and he enters.

“Bridge” he commands.

The Turbolift begins its assent to the command center of The Bolivar with rapid speed. The doors open and he steps out only to be greeted by Captain Erika Benteen.

 

“I heard about your mother, I’m sorry”  She says.

 

“Thank you, but how did you hear about it so quickly?” Martin asks, “I just found out myself”

 

“Maybe we should talk in private”

 

They proceed to her office just off of the bridge. On the way across the room, Martin takes a moment to look around. Pretty much everything on the Bridge had been replaced in the last two weeks. Consoles, chairs, lighting, all of it. This was his first time here since it was completed. Most of his time was spent in his office or on the Starbase.

 

Lt. Brenda Thompson, currently in command of the bridge, remarks to Martin “Welcome to the Bolivar’s remodeled Command Center Sir, What do you think?”

 

“Well, It still has that ‘new Bridge smell’ I like” Martin says attempting humor, which is completely lost on Thompson.

 

Humor on the Bridge for Martin meant he was uncomfortable. Uncomfortable right now with the fact that in this very room 14 people died when the hull breached. He would like to forget that ever happened, while at the same time honoring their memory.

 

Suddenly feeling a chill on his spine, Martin goes straight into the Ready Room. The doors close behind him with the standard ‘Starfleet hiss’ as he calls it in his head. The Captain walks over to the chair behind her desk and sits down. She pushes aside some electronic PADDs that had been sitting in front of her.

 

As First Officer of the starship, listening intently to the Captain in her Ready Room is a daily occurrence. Martin generally doesn’t mind. He has been enduring briefings from superior officers pretty much daily for twenty years but today was different.  It had been two weeks since the crisis with the subspace anomaly, costing 42 crewmembers their lives. Including the three that Martin had ordered to eject the warp core manually, something that had never been done on a starship before. Martin knew that many questions arose because of all this, including the ones he’s been asking himself like ‘Why wasn’t it me sucked out into space? ‘. Captain Benteen was intent on getting those questions answered. Martin had a feeling today was the day to begin the process.

 

“Commander, we have a problem.” The Captain says looking up at Martin. “Admiral Harris and a small panel of high ranking officers are coming aboard in the next 48 hours. They are going to be conducting a review of how the situation in the subspace anomaly was handled. More specifically, how it was handled by you.”

 

“Admiral Harris?” Martin asks. “Any relation to…..?”

 

Benteen interrupts him “Yes, he is Susan Harris’ father. He, of course, volunteered for this assignment. A review of the crisis was recommended by the head of Fleet Operations Admiral Jellico.  This is serious Alex.”

 

“Not to sound disrespectful” Martin says. “But what is the Admiral going to review? The fact that I ordered his daughter to her death out of haste? I already admitted wrongdoing and am willing to face the consequences.”

“I understand your frustration Alex.” Benteen says. “The inquiry is mainly a review of protocol aboard this ship. The Executive Officer was charged with making sure that the Manual Warp Core Ejection System was tested in a timely manner. Which now they are saying it was not. Had it been tested, you would have known the officers ordered to eject the core would be sacrificing themselves before an actual crisis even occurred.”

 

“I see, but the test was scheduled for the day after the crisis occurred. It was only two weeks since it had been installed and I didn’t consider the test a priority” Martin pauses, takes a breath then says “What is your opinion of this situation Captain, if you don’t mind me asking?”

 

“I really don’t know what to think.” Benteen says with a sigh.  “I know that the test was indeed scheduled and that the schedule was consistent with the testing of other systems previously installed onboard the Bolivar. But ultimately it is the Admirals opinion that will count and he is personally vested in this. ”

 

Martin frowns. The Captain grabs one of the PADDs from her desk and hands it to him. “Here, review this. This is the agenda for the inquiry. It will aide you in preparing a statement should you wish to do so. My guess is that he is going to try and paint you as a bad influence on this crew and an even worse officer. I would prepare for that.”

 

“Thank you, Erika” Martin says turning towards the door.

 

“Alex, wait.” Benteen says getting up from her chair to where Martin is standing “I, I just wanted to tell you that I think you are a good officer and a great First Officer. My firm belief is that you acted in the absolute best interest of the ship and her crew during a time of crisis. We will get through this and move on.”

 

“Thank you Captain, that means a great deal.” Martin turns once again towards the door to leave but remembers his mother. “Erika, How did you know my mother was sick?”

“Ah yes” Benteen says wishing that Martin would have forgotten she said anything about it at all. “Anything I say from this point is off-the-record.”

 

“Understood” Martin says with a head nod.

 

She continues, “I wasn’t going to mention this but Admiral Harris has been conducting some ‘unofficial’ interviews with your family and friends on Earth. He happened to share some of the results with me. Honestly I think he is making this all too personal. His daughter, after all, was a Starfleet officer. Not to sound insensitive but she knew the risks of life on a starship.”

 

Surprisingly upbeat about the new information just received, Martin says “Hmmm, interesting, I should make sure to tell the Admiral to get his ass over to the Academy and retake Ethics 101 when he gets a chance.”

 

Half-smiling, Benteen says, “I wouldn’t.”

 

*  *  *  *

                        “Personal Log: Stardate 64025.1 Commander Alexander Martin reporting. This has been a difficult couple of weeks for everyone onboard the Bolivar.  The news of my mother today has only compounded the stress I have been experiencing since the incident. Captain Benteen and I have been working on the letters to the families of the fallen officers. It has been a long process. I want to console them in some way but I find when I begin writing that I have nothing to say. I find my feelings difficult to put into words.  We only have 3 more days until the ship departs for its first mission since the repairs were completed. I’m taking great comfort in the fact that the Captain believes I did a good job during the incident….”

 

Martin pauses for a moment to think then continues.

“I keep replaying it all in my mind. From the time I woke up to the time I ordered the officers to eject the core. It is an endless loop. Could I have done something or said something different? I have to keep reassuring myself that I couldn’t have anticipated it. I have yet to call my father back. Mostly because I would have to explain all of this to him and why I might not be able to see my mom before she passes. It is my hope that this inquiry, whatever the result, is completed quickly”

*  *  *  *

 

Are they talking about me? Martin wonders.

 

Sitting and having a drink in the officer’s lounge used to be one of his favorite activities but lately he has felt isolated. Not the usual social-self that the crew has come to know. Martin couldn’t help but feel that the crew adamantly disagreed with the decisions he made two weeks ago though there was no evidence of that.

 

I’m being paranoid He finally convinces himself.

 

He turns around on his barstool and looks around the room. About twenty or so fellow crewmembers are enjoying a drink after their duty shifts. After a quick sweep, Martin spots Operations Officers Lt. T’Pal and Ensign Brian Harriman at a table in the corner. They have four or five PADDs in front of them, which they study one by one. Realizing they are probably talking about work, Martin decides to approach to them. The stroll across the room seemed like 100 kilometers.

 

“Lieutenant T’Pal, Ensign Harriman.”

“Commander Martin!” Says T’Pal with a voice of surprise. The Female Vulcan sets her drink down and stands up at attention.  Ensign Harriman follows suit.

 

Martin immediately puts his hands up in a friendly gesture and says,

“No, its alright. As you were. I just stopped by to say hello.”

 

The two officers, looking unsure of what to do next, sit down slowly while never taking their eyes off of Martin. Martin pulls out another chair from underneath the table and joins them. “I didn’t mean to startle you.” he says, “I just wanted to see how you are holding up after the incident. I haven’t had a chance to speak to either of you in-person for a while.”

 

T’Pal is the first to chime in. “Well Sir, all of the repairs related to my department have been completed as scheduled. The engineers from Starbase 74 have been very efficient. I can assure you that all Operations systems will be running at optimal performance when we leave drydock.”

Although relevant, this wasn’t the answer Alex was looking for. “That’s good to hear Lieutenant, but I was asking more about your feelings regarding…”

 

Martin hesitates for a moment while trying to find a professional way to ask “ I mean about the crewmembers we lost. I know it has been difficult for everyone.”

 

“Vulcan’s view on death is that it is a natural part of life” T’Pal says, “The officers did their duty and died admirably. “

 

Martin surprisingly found comfort in the emotionless words of the Lieutenant. Cold Vulcan objectivity was just what he needed at that moment. No emotional spin or tears shed. Just direct communication about a tragedy that will forever haunt him.

 

“What about you Ensign?” Martin asks the young Harriman.

 

Brian Harriman was the product of years of Starfleet tradition. His family contains at least thirty officers in a long line that spans generations. Brian, being the latest, graduated from the academy only six weeks ago. Almost tripping over his words in the presence of a superior officer he responds, “Well, Sir, I have found myself not sleeping well since that day, nightmares mostly. A couple of my friends were lost.”

 

“I’m sorry, “Martin says in a low voice, “Who were they?”

 

“Ensign Alvarez and Ensign Harris” Harriman says.

 

Ensign Harris. Of all the names he could have mentioned. The ghost that will haunt me forever in this life and the next. I picked the youngest member of 500 crewmembers and marched her to her death and Harriman had to mention her. Martin thinks to himself.

 

A lump develops in Martins throat. It was at that moment he realized that he didn’t walk over to these people to make them feel better about what happened, he was trying to make himself feel better and it wasn’t working. Martin, suddenly overcome with selfishness and guilt, begins to stand up when the voice of the Captain comes over the COMM system:

 

“Benteen to Commander Martin”

 

                        Martin taps his combadge and says, “Go ahead”

 

“Could you report to my ready room? A guest has just arrived and has requested you.”

 

                        “Understood.” Martin says as he stands up to leave the table. “I’m sorry, I have to go. Nice talking with you both.”

“Goodbye Commander, nice talking with you as well.” T’Pal says to Martin, who can’t decide if she is being genuine or not.

 

He begins to leave but pauses and turns to say goodbye to Ensign Harriman. The Ensign, apparently using all of his energy in the last five minutes to keep his composure, has hung his head and has begun to sob. Martin felt it best to leave without the usual pleasantries.

 

I feel like a jerk. He thinks to himself.

*  *  *  *

 

Admiral Walter Harris was a respected man in Starfleet. Not only was he a great officer, but he was also one of the most brilliant minds when it came to starship operations. Harris could walk the bridge of your ship and tell you that moving one console 2 meters starboard would increase efficiency 35% or which alarm klaxon frequencies are the most effective in a battle situation.  The tiny ‘history buff’ inside of Martin was more impressed with the fact that the Admiral memorized every starship class and the years each were in production.

 

“It’s a fine ship you have here Benteen.” Says Harris who sips some tea the Captain just served to him. “These Sovereign-class ships never cease to amaze me.”

“Thank you Admiral, We are very proud of the Bolivar and her crew” Benteen says with a hint of uneasiness. “I wish you could have visited us under better circumstances.”

 

The Ready Room was full of tension and Martin could feel it. Sitting next to one of the highest-ranking officers in Starfleet wasn’t helping.

 

“So do I Captain” Harris continues. “ I want you both to know that I am truly not here to place blame on anyone. I would like to think that this situation was unavoidable, however some questions need to be answered.”

 

Detecting some possible insincerity in the Admirals words, Martin picks this moment to jump in. “Admiral, with all due respect, everything we could think of was put in our reports. I don’t believe there is anything else we could say.”

 

“I will determine that” The Admiral says sternly. “Regardless of your personal feelings Commander, this inquiry will begin tomorrow at 1300 hours. The Bolivar will launch tomorrow at 0830 hours as planned. I will make every effort to make sure the appropriate officers will be available at that time. Your first mission will be to rendezvous with the starship Rutledge to pickup Admiral Kempec and Admiral Atherton.”

 

Martin and Benteen share a glance. They both know this “inquiry” is about to turn into a witch-hunt. The only question they have is “who gets burned at the stake?’.

 

Harris sets down his teacup and stands.

“I should be getting to my quarters, I have some paperwork to do.” He says. “Thank you for the tea Captain. See you both in the conference room on deck 5 tomorrow at 1300.”

“My pleasure Sir. I will have Lieutenant Thompson escort you to your room” Benteen says.

Harris turns and walks out the door. As soon as they close Martin remarks sarcastically “Nice guy but I find the fact he never mentioned his daughter a little deranged.”

 

“At least you didn’t have to spend three hours with him touring the ship” Benteen says. “I thought it would never end. I never knew how many useless facts there were about starship design. It was like he was trying to impress me in some way.”

 

Smiling, Martin says. “Maybe he was hitting on you.”

 

 

Benteen smiles back and shakes her head.  “Dismissed, Commander.”

*  *  *  *

If Martin got any sleep at all, it wasn’t restful. The exhaustion of the last two weeks was catching up but the stress has not allowed him to rest. Lying awake in his cabin staring at the ceiling has officially replaced a restful night’s sleep.

 

Turning to his night stand, he picks up the picture that was standing next to his lamp. The picture is a younger version of him with a young woman with flowing blonde hair past her shoulders. They are sitting close together posing in an autumn setting on Earth.

 

“I really wish you were here with me Cindy” Martin says to the picture. “Right now, I could use one of your funny smart-ass comments to make me laugh.”

 

Martin can remember her forcing him to take an engagement picture. This was not his idea but he did it anyway. It was a decision he has since not regretted as it has become one of his most treasured possessions.

 

Placing the photo back on the night stand, Martin finally decides to admit defeat and get some work done. The information that the Captain gave him about the inquiry was a joke. He knew he was about to be attacked and his career put in jeopardy. Reading over the agenda, he notices a lot of time allotted to speak with the first officer.

 

                        This is not going to be a good day He thinks to himself.

 

*  *  *  *

 

On the bridge, the crew prepares the Bolivar for departure. Benteen and Martin take their respective chairs in anticipation of spaceflight.

 

“Secure all stations, release all moorings and take us out Ensign.” Benteen says with a smile. Turning to Martin, “I have been looking forward to this. It’s been too long”.

 

“Agreed”. Martin replies.

 

 

The Sovereign-Class ship reverses elegantly through the space doors of the starbase. Once outside, she turns to proceed on her first mission in nearly three weeks. The helmsman gives the all-clear signal to Captain Benteen.

 

“Proceed to the coordinates of the Rutledge”, the Captain says. “Warp 7”.

 

The ship accelerates into a burst of light. The viewscreen on the bridge depicts stars flying past at a fast pace.

 

After a couple of hours of waiting, the helmsman says “Approaching the coordinates”.

 

“Take us out of warp and hail the Rutledge”. Martin says.

 

Lieutenant Thompson works the tactical console and activates the communication system. She notices that there is no one out there to receive her message.

 

“Captain, the Rutledge is not at the coordinates.” She says.

 

“Maybe they were delayed. Full sensor sweep Lieutenant”. Benteen says.

 

“Aye, Sir”. Thompson says obediently. “I am still not picking up anything. I am now switching to long-range sensors”.

 

A look of worry is now coming over Captain Benteens face. Martin notices her apprehension and shares it.

 

Suddenly the Lieutenant chimes in. “I’ve got something! An object bearing ONE SEVEN TWO MARK THREE ZERO. It could be a ship but I’m not positive”.

 

“Helm, lay in a course. Maximum warp”. The Captain orders.

 

After their warp jump, an object appears on the viewscreen. The signature federation design of the hull leaves no doubt it is the ship they are looking for.

 

 

“It is the Rutledge, sir. I am not reading any lifesigns however. The ship is in-tact and I do not see any damage. The crew appears to be missing”. Thompson says.

 

“Admiral Harris to the bridge”, the captain says. “Are any of the escape pods missing?”

 

“No sir”, says the Lieutenant.

 

Admiral Harris steps out of the turbolift. Benteen and Martin immediately turn to him. He is already looking at the Rutledge on the screen. “Report” he says.

 

“The crew is missing, Admiral.” Benteen replies.

 

As the crew of the Bolivar stand silent on the bridge, their fellow ship, whose complement of 350 is now missing, drifts lifeless on the viewscreen. The mystery is just beginning…

 

 

To be continued: Part 3 “Summer of Love”.

 

 

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