USS Bolivar Story 4: Legal Tender

2366: Archer Hall Dormitory, Starfleet Academy

Cadet Alexander Martin lies awake during the early morning hours following a terrible day. The chilly November morning has only added to the empty, hopeless feeling Martin has felt since he heard the news. A young cadet, Cynthia Wilson, has gone missing in a shuttle accident over the Pacific Ocean. Cindy, as she was called by people that knew her, had struck a cord with him. Martin had formed a bond with her during their friendship over the last few months.

Martin had always envisioned more of a romantic twist to their relationship but that had not been possible. Cindy was in a serious relationship with Steve Bauman, another third year cadet. They seemed happy. Martin figured ‘Why mess with happiness?’ After all, he enjoyed spending time with Cindy anyway, although he hadn’t seen her in awhile. Martin now realizes this was time wasted as there was now the possibility she could be lost forever.

A text message presented on the dorms electronic bulletin boards provides additional information about the progress of the search. Martin, defeated by insomnia, gets up and goes into the hallway to read the latest update.

A small common sitting area on the dorm floor is just a few feet from Martins room. On one of the walls is a large black display with messages in different colors presenting various academy announcements. In lower right corner is a message in all red letters named “Accident Information”. In the message, it stated that the search was continuing but due to a ruptured impulse manifold from the stricken shuttle, radiation in the area was interfering with sensors. Pilots in the air had resorted to visual inspections of the water to no avail. The shuttle Cindy was piloting collided with a second shuttle being flown by a first time pilot and broke up before hitting the water. The cadets rescued were located in a small area near their last known coordinates. Cindy was not with them. The emergency transporter apparently failed just after the collision and could not afford a proper escape.

Most of this information Martin already knew but what caught his eye was the message at the bottom which stated that Starfleet was looking for qualified volunteers to aid in the search. Being a flight student and a certified shuttle pilot, he decides he should be one of them.

Martin immediately walks back to his room and taps his combadge that had been sitting on his desk.

“Martin to Bogdanović” He says.

On the other end of the call is a groggy and somewhat cranky Gordon.

“You have got to be kidding me! Its 3:30 in the morning mate.” He says over the comm.

Seemingly unfazed by Gordon’s crankiness, Martin says, “Meet me outside of the flight bay in 15 minutes. We’ve have a job to do”.

****

Twenty Years Later: 2386: USS Bolivar NCC-78243

The time that it took for Commander Alexander Martin to reach the Captains quarters from engineering felt like an eternity to him. He had important information that he did not want to provide over the comm system. According to inconsistences in the data of certain sensor logs, it appeared that someone had intentionally piloted the USS Bolivar into the subspace anomaly two weeks before. The anomaly took many lives aboard the ship and Commander Martin believes the intention was to destroy the ship completely, an event that very nearly occurred when the warp core began to breach.

When Martin thinks about the intentional destruction of the ship, he always asks himself the same question: To what end?

When Martin reaches the quarters of Captain Erika Benteen and tells her the news, she is devastated. The devastation is represented through subdued and restrained anger. Martin could see it in her eyes. Upon hearing that someone she commands and trusts unconditionally is working against her to make her feel that way, Martin understands.

The Captain walks over to a chair facing the window and sits down.

“Commander, if you don’t mind, I would like to be alone for a while” She says.

Quietly, Martin says “Yes, Ma’am”

Martin walks out the door without another word. He knows there is nothing he could say or do, other than comply with what the Captain says. Martin decides now might be a good time to call his father back. Commander Connors, the Chief Engineer, is handling the investigation into the sensor logs and the USS Rutledge, the abandoned starship nearby, has been secured. For as busy as the last few weeks have been, Martin does not feel guilty for taking some time for himself one bit.

As soon as the doors close behind him in his dimly lit quarters, he lets out a deep sigh. The weight of a starship has been set aside for the time being. Martin strolls over to his desk and activates his console.

“Computer. Open a subspace channel to New Berlin”.

“Channel open”, the computer says.

Before Martin could even begin to say what he wanted to say to his father and dying mother. A voice comes over the comm system.

“Thompson to Captain Benteen and Commander Martin. Please report to the bridge”.

Martin gets up and tells the computer to cancel the communiqué. He walks immediately out the door and to the turbolift. Captain Benteen coincidentally meets him outside. They both board when the doors open and exchange worried glances. They know these situations never end well. The doors to the bridge open.

“Report,” The Captain says to Lt. Thompson.

“Captain, the Rutledge is powering up. The shields went up as well.” Thompson says.

“What??” says Benteen.

The viewscreen shows all the lights and engines beginning to glow onboard the Rutledge that was earlier determined to be ‘not operational’. As the Captain was thinking about what the next move should be, Lt. Thompson chimes in once again,

“Sir, the ship is powering up weapons”, she says.

“Red Alert! Shields up!” yells the Captain.

Just as the order was given, two quantum torpedoes emerge from the USS Rutledge in the form of large, glowing blue orbs. They strike the shields of the Bolivar making the whole bridge shake violently. Everyone, including Captain Benteen and Commander Martin nearly hit the deck. A console in the rear corner explodes with a white flash followed by sparks.

When everyone grabs their composure, they look on the viewscreen to see the Rutledge going to warp.

“Follow them!” Benteen barks.

The helmsman tries multiple times to enter her orders, “I’m sorry Ma’am, it appears someone has taken the helm controls offline”, he says. “None of my commands are being answered”.

“Contact Admiral Harris, tell him we need him on the bridge”, Benteen says to Lt. Thompson.

“He is not answering in his quarters, Ma’am”, Thompson says.

“Computer, locate Admiral Harris”, says Benteen with obvious frustration.

“Admiral Harris is not onboard the Bolivar”, the computer voice responds.

“Where did he go?” Martin says sharing Benteens frustration.

“Admiral Harris transported to the USS Rutledge at 14:52 hours”, says the female computer voice.

“This day just keeps getting better”, Martin says sarcastically.

****

Twenty Years Earlier 2366: Student Flight Bay, Starfleet Academy

Inside a shuttle pod, Martin and a somewhat disheveled Gordon begin the preflight sequence before departing the Academy’s flight bay.

“I don’t think were going to find anything”, Gordon says tapping buttons on his console.

“I know, but I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try” Martin says. “I’m receiving our assigned search area now. We will start in grid forty seven.”

“Understood”, Gordon says, “Shuttle pod 7 to Flight Deck. We’re ready to proceed.”

“Acknowledged, Shuttle 7. Good Luck”, the female voice says off the comm system.

The flight bay doors begin to open, revealing San Francisco Bay. The early morning darkness fills Martin with uneasiness.

Gordon taps a few more buttons and says “Engaging thrusters”.

The shuttle pod begins to lift off of the bay floor and proceeds outside the building.

“Were clear”, Martin says turning to Gordon, “Here goes nothing”.

The shuttle flies over the Golden Gate Bridge and proceeds to the dark ocean, not knowing what lies ahead.

****
The small shuttlecraft containing Cadet Alexander Martin and Cadet Gordon Bogdanović has been searching the assigned area of the Pacific Ocean given by the flight deck. So far three hours had been spent using very short range sensors and light beacons. A small screen on the cockpit console shows a view of the area directly underneath the shuttle. Each Cadet had been taking turns staring at it in the hopes of finding any evidence of Cindy. So far nothing.

“I’m not sure about you, but I need a break”, Gordon says.

“Yeah, so do I.” Martin says. “Hold our position here”.

The shuttlepod slows to a hover about four meters above the waves of the ocean.

Gordon stands up to stretch and says “It’s impossible to find anything out here. It would be nice if the radiation dissipated long enough to…wait…what was that?”

Gordon spots something out of the corner of his eye on the viewscreen displaying the water underneath them.

“What was what?” Martin asks.

“I just saw something in the water. Computer, rewind display to time index 636.45 and pause.” He commands.

The computer chimes, rewinds the recording and pauses. On the screen, is a piece of debris with Starfleet markings no more than two meters long. Resting on it is a young woman wearing a cadets uniform. She lays on it motionless with blood coming from her head.

“Holy shit!” Martin says hurriedly working the controls. “Can we transport?”

“No, there’s still too much interference”, Gordon says.

“Lower the shuttle as close as you can to the water. I’m going to open the rear hatch. Hold her steady”.

“You got it, mate!” Gordon says.

The shuttlepod thrusters whine as it lowers to meet the sea. Martin hits the rear controls to open the hatch. As the door opens, cold brisk air mixed with ocean mist pelts him in the face. The small bit of daylight allows him to see the floating piece of metal.

Noticing he is still too high to reach it, Martin yells to Gordon, “Were almost there! Lower us about another meter!”

The craft descends further to the surface of the water. Waves begin to lap up against the hull. Martin takes a deep breath and jumps into the water. Swimming with all of his strength, he reaches Cindy who is in and out of consciousness. Martin grabs her and begins swimming back against the current. Gordon stands at the rear of the shuttle ready to receive them. He takes a hold of Cindy as Martin climbs up. They both pull her up to the floor of the shuttle. Gordon grabs a nearby medical kit and begins to scan her with the enclosed tricorder.

“She’s got a pulse but it’s weak. Blood pressure is dropping”, he says. “We need to get her back now”.

Martin sits helpless as a person he cares for deeply lies dying in his arms.

When the shuttle returns to the Academy and quickly lands into the flight bay, a team of medical officers is ready to welcome it. Gordon activates the door in the rear to open and the team rushes in to stabilize Cindy and take her to a nearby medical facility. Applause erupts from bystanders in the parameter of the bay. Everyone is overjoyed to see the missing cadet returned. Officers and civilians alike. Reporters are also ready to greet the crew of the shuttle. Martin is in no way interested in engaging them. Gordon, on the other hand, comments on and maybe even exaggerates the circumstances of the rescue.

Martins’ first instinct is to go on the journey to the facility with Cindy but changes his mind and begins to walk with Gordon back to the dorm hoping to avoid any more fanfare.

“I’ve had enough for today”, he says to Gordon. “I need to get to class later anyway. Thanks again Gordy”.

“Anytime, my friend, anytime. I think I might stick around here for a few minutes”, Gordon says as he turns his attention back to the reporters.

****
Twenty Years Later: 2386

In the conference room of the Bolivar, a depressed mood is being shared by the entire senior staff. Captain Benteen and Commander Martin are at a loss as to what to do next. The Rutledge, like its sister ship, the USS Aventine, is equipped with a slipstream drive allowing it to traverse great distances in a short amount of time. The crew of the Bolivar is having a difficult time tracking her, let alone catching up to her.

On the small viewscreen on the wall of the room, is the image of Admiral Edward Jellico via subspace. He has sent a message in response to a desperate plea from Captain Benteen for help from Starfleet in the matter of Admiral Harris and the Rutledge.

“Crew of the USS Bolivar: I know this has been a difficult couple of weeks for you. Let me say that my sympathies for the crew members you lost in the subspace anomaly are shared by all members of the Federation. Their sacrifices will not be forgotten, nor will they be in vain.” Jellico says.

After a breath, the Admiral continues: “As for the matter of the USS Rutledge. The ship has been stolen by a renegade movement of unknown purpose. We believe Admiral Walter Harris is one of the leaders of this movement. Each member of the crew that is supposedly missing was actually handpicked by the Admiral and ordered to commandeer the ship. The crew are actually members of the renegade group. The Captain and First Officer of the Rutledge appear to be the only ones not privy to this plan. That would explain their murders. The crews’ orders were to leave the ship at the coordinates, abandon it and leave it for another unknown group who allegedly purchased it along with its cargo. We don’t know what sort of compensation was exchanged whether it be legal tender or some other materials. We can’t be sure. The wrench in the whole plan was that your ship survived the subspace anomaly two weeks ago. Since you were the only ship nearby that would possibly ruin their mission, the Bolivar needed to be occupied. In regards to the saboteur you mentioned Captain, we believe it was Susan Harris, the Admirals daughter. We are currently analyzing your computer logs for any evidence of that. Another one of your concerns I would like to address Captain is the missing cargo that was onboard the Rutledge. Please keep in mind what I’m about to tell you is classified by Starfleet Security. The cargo is a pod containing materials to create a secret biological weapon. It was developed in response to the Borg invasion five years ago. Admiral Harris was on the team responsible for equipping torpedoes for its use. The intelligence regarding the renegades indicates that they intend to use the weapon against pre-determined Federation targets. Your orders now are to find the Rutledge and attempt to retrieve her and the cargo. I will talk to Captain Dax of the Aventine to see if she can assist using her slipstream drive. Good luck. The safety of the Federation may very well be in your hands. Jellico out”.

“That was unexpected”, says Martin with a look of dismay, “I was hoping to hear good news somewhere in that message”.

Turning to Chief Engineer Connors, Captain Benteen asks, “Have you had any luck tracking the Rutledge?”

“We believe she is on her way to a remote star system called Mabas. There is an M class world there. We were able to get the helm controls Admiral Harris sabotaged back online a few minutes ago. We can leave anytime but it’s going to take us a week to get there”. Connors says.

“I don’t think we have much of a choice”, says Lt. Thompson.

“Agreed”, Martin says.

Captain Benteen taps her commbadge, “Benteen to Bridge. Lay in a course for the Mabas system. Maximum warp”.

The USS Bolivar turns and accelerates to warp in a white flash.

****
Twenty Years Earlier 2366: Starfleet Medical Intensive Care Center

For the last five days, Cadet Alexander Martin has been making this trip: In the door, through the lobby, checking in at the reception desk, walking to the elevator, to the 14th floor and to room 1426 of the Starfleet Medical building. Once he arrives, he sits in a chair and talks about his day to the patient in the bed. Around the room are cards and notes from various loved ones saying ‘Get well soon’ or ‘We miss you!’

In the hospital bed lays Cindy Wilson. She has been in a coma since her rescue and Martin has stopped in to see her every day since then. So far her condition is unchanged and they don’t know when she will wake. Most days, Martin will sit for hours on end talking or just being near her. Sometimes he is alone, other times he is joined by her friends, family or her boyfriend Steve. On a couple of occasions, Gordon would stop by as well. Today was one of those occasions.

“How’s she doing?” Gordon asks.

“Pretty much the same. Her blood pressure is up today which is a good sign”. Martin says.

“Can I ask you a question? And please don’t take offense” Gordon asks.

“Sure”, says Martin skeptically.

“Why the hell are you here all the time? I mean, you barely know her. Shouldn’t you be concentrating on your studies?” Gordon asks.

Letting out a deep sigh, Martin says, “Gordy, I know but I know her well enough to care about her. I may not be family but I am a friend. Why does it matter anyway?”

“It doesn’t. I’d just hate to see you get too attached. She is in love with another guy you know”, Gordon says. “I don’t want you to get hurt if you were expecting something more”.

“Well I appreciate that but being in love with Steve won’t stop me from caring about her”. Martin says.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say YOU were in love with her”, Gordon says.

Martin turns to look up at Gordon, “Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel. I just know that if anything happened to her, I don’t know what I would do”.

“Sounds like love to me. Just be careful”, Gordon says.

“I will”

****

In the days that followed, the staff at the hospital was becoming less optimistic about Cindy’s condition. In fact, they were preparing her family for the possibility she may never recover. Martin actually began spending less time at the hospital. He decided to heed Gordons warning and create a little more distance. She was after all in a relationship with someone and Martin felt that it was perhaps inappropriate to be pining for her. Now that she may die, Martin was having a hard time and couldn’t face her anymore. He was never one to avoid situations but maybe this time, he figured, it was best.

One day in December, Martin begins packing to go to his parents’ house in Nebraska. The holiday break is coming for the cadets. Before departing for the transport site, Martin gets the urge to go visit Cindy one last time before break. As he reaches the hospital room, he peers through the window dividing her room from the hallway. Inside, the doctors and nurses are rushing around working to keep Cindy alive. She is beginning to flatline. Martin realizes there is nothing he can do so he sits down in a nearby chair and begins to cry.

****
Twenty Years Later: 2386

“It has been awhile since I’ve had you over for dinner”, says Captain Benteen.

“I know, I was wondering about that Erika. I thought maybe I offended you somehow”, Martin says half-joking.

“Not at all”, says Benteen while pouring some wine for Martin. “I’ve just been really busy”.

The Captains quarters are beautifully decorated with antiques and original artwork. Most of the art being created by the Captain herself. Over on her desk sits a model of a Galaxy-Class starship, the USS Odyssey. Martin and Benteen served together on that ship for two years prior to its destruction. The model holds a lot of great memories for Martin as he considers the Odyssey one of the great experiences of his life. After all, it was his first post. First posts are always special for officers.

The table was decorated with a table cloth and candles accompanied by soft classical music being played throughout the room. Even though their relationship was strictly platonic, Martin couldn’t help but feel that the Captain had other intentions. This never turned out to be true though. They put a lot of stock in their friendship and never wanted to ruin that.

“Thank you for this. I needed it”, Martin says, “Suffice it to say it has been a difficult few weeks here”.

“No one ever said it would be easy”, Benteen says sipping her wine; “On my first command I fired upon a federation starship”.

“You never told me that”, Martin says surprised.

“It was classified for a long time”, Benteen says. “I was fed misinformation about the occupants. It goes with the territory I guess. My second command aboard the Appalachia I fought the borg near Earth orbit. That’s always a fun time”.

“Always. The Borg never fail to bring fun with them wherever they go”, Martin says, “How are you feeling about this mission were on?”

“I just wish we knew what we were headed for. I don’t like uncertainty and I especially don’t like to think about Starfleet officers becoming terrorists. I didn’t like it when there was the Maquis and I don’t like it now”, Benteen says. “We all took an oath to defend the Federation. I can’t imagine turning against it. How are you dealing with everything?”

Martin, unsure of how to answer, says “Alright I guess. Better than expected. I’ve actually been thinking about Cindy a lot lately for some reason. I really wish she was here to help me through this”.

“After all this time you still miss her don’t you?” Benteen asks already knowing the answer.

“Everyday”, Martin says.

****
After nearly a week at high warp, the USS Bolivar reaches the Mabas star system.

“Take us out of warp”, says Captain Benteen “Set course for the third planet, full impulse”.

“Aye Sir”, says the helmsman working his console.

Captain Benteen and Commander Martin remain anxious. This is evident by the fact they are both sitting at the edge of their chairs.

“Captain, we are being hailed by the planet”, says Lt. Thompson.

A puzzled look falls upon Benteens face. “On screen”, She says.

The image of Admiral Walter Harris appears in civilian clothing, “What are you doing here, Benteen? You shouldn’t have come”.

“I’m sorry Admiral but we were ordered here to stop you”, says Benteen with a stern tone.

“It’s not Admiral anymore. The name is Walter and I don’t think you can stop us”, He says.

“What do you want?” asks a curious Benteen.

“Our leader wants to meet with you and your first officer. We promise you will be unharmed”, Harris says. “Were sending you the coordinates. Oh and please don’t send an armed away team. The results would be unpleasant for you if you try that. Harris out”

The viewscreen returns to a view of the planet.

“Captain we are receiving the coordinates”, says Lt. T’pal at the Ops station.

“Send them to the transporter room”, Benteen says.

“What the hell does he want with us?” Martin asks as they begin their walk to the turbolift.”

“ I have no idea but were going to find out”, says Benteen. “Thompson, you have the bridge”.

“Yes Ma’am”, Thompson says.

****

Martin and Benteen materialize within a small village at night. The buildings are small and made of wood and straw. The area is illuminated with flaming torches propped up on posts. The two officers look around and our suddenly surrounded by men pointing phasers at them. The former-Admiral Harris steps out of one of the buildings.

“Welcome to Mabas 3, Captain”, He says. “Perhaps you want to join us here. A life of living simple and trying to get by. As opposed to a plush life on a starship. It’s good for the soul.”

“Thank you for the offer but no. Now what do you really want with us?” Benteen asks.

“Our leader wants to meet you”, Harris says gesturing behind him.

A tall red-haired man steps out of the darkness. As soon as the light hits the man’s face, Commander Martins heart nearly jumps out of his chest;

“Gordon?” Martin asks astonished.

“Hello, mate”.

To Be Continued in Story 5: Eyes Wide Open

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