Star Trek: The Greatest Generation

STAR TREK: THE GREATEST GENERATION

PROLOGUE

STAR DATE: 767117.68 (February 12, 3090, 10:52PM)

 

“Mahmoud Assad is Oxidium Metal Corporation’s most diligent and conscientious employee, worthy of the highest praise and respect.”

 

Mahmoud found his latest review report by his idiotic supervisor Vincent Roberts almost laughable.  He crumpled up the progress report paper tightly and threw it into the waste receptor where it promptly was disintegrated into its separate molecules.  If only he had even the slightest inkling of the truth, he wouldn’t even want to be in the same room with me on any given day, he thought to himself.

 

Mahmoud, age 41, had graduated summa cum laude from the University of Illinois School of Advanced Metallurgy and Theoretical Sciences, one of the Federation’s top schools for such research.  He grinned evilly.  That picture of his life was just his “front” façade.  He was also a member of the Allah Brothers Brigade, the Federation’s number one terrorist organization. No, he thought darkly, not a member, the holy leader of the Allah Brothers Brigade!

 

He was especially proud of the fact that not one of his “colleagues” at Oxidium had the slightest clue of his real identity.  He was always the very reserved, almost painfully shy Middle Eastern employee, brilliant at his job and well-respected by everyone in the company, the one who did his work in the “most diligent and conscientious” way.  There were even female employees at the company that were trying to match him up with friends of theirs, seeing how shy he was around women.

 

If they only knew, he thought gleefully once again.  Every weekend he stepped onto a different transporter platform in his “hometown” of Birmingham, Alabama, to his real home in a small village in Iran, where his four wives did his every bidding, and he would meet with his top lieutenants in the Allah Brothers Brigade.  He was the mastermind of over a hundred terrorist attacks that had occurred over the years throughout the Federation, and he was especially proud of the nuclear bombing of Montreal.  The thought and planning that had gone into that plot was truly staggering, but he had put every part together without a hitch.  It was so exceptionally well-done, six million-plus dead, and not one clue pointed to him at all–yet the Federation was entirely convinced  that the Allah Brothers Brigade was completely behind all of it!

 

He started to recall a memory, a memory he always returned to just before starting every one of his hideous terrorist plots.  His mind welcomed this memory from his boyhood, for it drove him like no other memory could.

 

He let his mind return to that fateful day, a day that would shape his entire life and never let him rest again.  He saw the scene as if it had happened just a few days earlier. His ten-year-old self was slapping a young girl near the marketplace in his hometown because she had the audacity to be reading a book.  He and his friends were surrounding her, kicking her and yelling all sorts of insults, laughing with each thrown punch, when out of the blue a young, rather small boy appeared. The boy slammed Mahmoud’s head into the ground with such force that Mahmoud almost passed out.

 

His “friends”, so surprised by the ferocity of the attack,  scattered like roaches exposed by a turned on kitchen light as the young boy turned his ferocious gaze on them .As they ran away, he helped the injured girl up, made certain she was unharmed, and sent her on her way.  Then he returned to Mahmoud. “Next time, pick on another coward like yourself!”

 

Ah, yes, he thought with glee, Salim Ahmadi, you abomination of human trash, the seven year old half-breed of a Christian whore of a mother, and your perversely sick Muslim father, I can still hear your curse!  And yet, it is I who am the brave one, and you are dead!

 

It took Mahmoud two years to find out who this boy had embarrassed him so deeply was, and he never forgot it.  Ten years later, after he had committed his first terrorist plot–blowing up a transporter terminal filled with innocent tourists visiting a Holy shrine during Ramadan–he and his associates found Salim Ahmadi, who was studying at Oxford University. They kidnapped him, tortured him, and, when he was near death, held him down as Mahmoud unsheathed his long scimitar blade.  They sat him up, and as he prepared to behead him, he asked him for any last words.

 

Even facing his certain death, Mahmoud could see something burning in Salim’s blood-filled eyes.  Salim started to sit up on his own, and with a determination and courage that Mahmoud could only imagine showing, he said clearly, “You are still a coward, Mahmoud Assad!  I will leave this Earth with a clear conscience, but you will live a very long life… and then will die a very long and painful existence somewhere near hell. With that, I curse thee!”

 

Anger rose like a tidal wave in Mahmoud. He brought the blade slashing across Salim’s neck.  Blood flew everywhere.

 

But all he could think of were those last words: “I curse thee!”

 

He was immediately brought back to the present, and he laughed at this ridiculous thought.  “Yes, Salim,” he hissed with renewed hatred, “and you can see just where that curse ended, can’t you?”

 

He returned to the task at hand…

 

Mahmoud was staring at a piece of metal that was going to help the ABB send another wave of terror throughout the very fabric of the Federation: its mighty Starfleet.  There in front of him was one of Oxidium Metal’s Corporation’s one-hundred-meter-long Warp Drive conduit tubes.  It was nothing special, just a very long, 8-centimeter-wide pipe of 99.999% pure Nano-carbon enforced oxidium metal, one of the strongest metals ever produced.  Yet, this pipe had in its interior the one defect that he had been praying to Allah about for over six months: a microscopic chip near one end.

 

The warp drive conduit tube was without any question one of the most important parts required by Starfleet Command.  He walked its full length slowly, thinking about why this nondescript piece of pipe was so essential to the well being of the mighty Starfleet Galaxy Class Starships.  All the Galaxy Class Starships needed a minimum of two huge warp drive engines to travel through space.  Smaller vessels used just one warp drive engine, but the Galaxy Class vessels were so huge that to move such mass, they required at least two.  The Warp Drive conduit tubes were usually around one hundred meters in length, and were connected to the two primary warp engines.  When the connection was complete, a perfect vacuum would be produced inside the tube so that a single photonic laser beam could be fired between the two engines, supplying all the data that would keep them in constant synchronization.  The slightest variation between the two engines could spell doom for that ship, and that was why Oxidium Metal Corporation was so vital to all vessels that used multiple warp engines: their warp drive conduit tubes.  It was the only part that Oxidium Metal Corporation produced for Starfleet Command.

 

And there it was, a one-hundred-meter warp drive conduit tube that had a microscopic scratch about five centimeters inside of it.  Mahmoud knew that scratches were not necessarily an uncommon feature, but the placement of this one was perfect for his plan.  He had asked for the late shift almost a year earlier, just for what he was about to do.  Because of his “excellent” work record, he was rarely in need of any supervision, and since this was just a storage warehouse, there were no observation cameras. He was the “last” inspector for this warehouse, before these warp drive conduit tubes would be shipped to the Starfleet warehouse for future construction of Galaxy Class Starships, and he had been waiting for six months for this one tube to make it through all the inspections.

 

There were very few places on a starship that did not have gravitational shielding.  One of those places was where the warp drive conduit tubes were installed.  The huge forces involved with warp engines made gravitational shielding literally impossible.  That was why Nano-carbon fiber oxidium alloy based metal tubes were used, Nano-carbon fiber oxidum being the strongest metal ever created by the minds of Federation scientists from dozens of different worlds, a metal that he had studied in phenomenal detail while a student at the University.  It could withstand huge gravitational forces on the outside, while containing that perfect vacuum essential for the photonic laser beam that connected the two warp drive engines.  Photonic lasers were the best and only means of sending the huge amounts of mathematical data that kept the two warp engines perfectly in sync with each other.  The slightest deviation would literally be lethal for any ship facing that situation.

 

And he knew just what to do.  He casually did a final check just to be certain that no one was near his vicinity.  He removed from his pocket a small vial, that contained a clear liquid  It was unusually thick, with only a few drops of it inside. The vial itself was dark purple, a dead giveaway of what the bottle was made of: Acrylic deuterium, a glass-like substance that could hold extremely corrosive chemicals.  Mahmoud held in this vial molecular acid, the most powerful corrosive acid ever created.

 

This was a highly-diluted concentration of the acid, only one part per million, but it was all Mahmoud needed to start his deadly deed into action.  From his other pocket, he removed what looked like a cotton swab with woven acrylic deuterium fibers on its end and dipped it inside the bottle.  He removed the swab and carefully inserted it into the one end of the tube where the microscopic scratch was located.  Removing the swab, he carefully rubbed it onto the microscopic scratch at the end of the tube.   A small amount of smoke emitted from the swab, letting Mahmoud know that it had encountered the inside metal of the tube.  One of the pluses of being in this warehouse was the lack of foreign chemical detectors in the building.  That small puff of smoke would have set off every alarm in the main building.  

 

In the acid’s highly-diluted form, the liquid would eventually dry, but not after it had done what it was intended to do: open the scratch just enough to weaken the metal right at its crucial point. Judging from the smoke,the acid had done its intended work.  

 

His plan was deceptively simple: when the warp drive conduit tube was welded in place between the two warp drive engines and then all the air removed to produce the perfect vacuum, a great deal of tension would be applied to the tube.  The vacuum would not be enough to cause the tube to rupture, but he knew Starfleet’s “break in” procedures for new starships: all new Galaxy Class Starships were required to head to the Earth’s sun in early testing, where they were examined within the sun’s atmosphere.  Most of these ships were required to approach the sun’s surface to about a thousand miles or so.  There they would test the hull’s ability to withstand the huge amounts of radiation, heat, atmospheric pressure and gravitational stress.  

 

It would be here that his plan would undoubtedly work.  When almost all testing would be completed, the final examination would be to engage the ship’s warp drive engines. The gravitational stress would be the final blow.  The tube would undoubtedly rupture and the surrounding atmosphere would come seeping into the tube.  To keep the structural integrity of the tube, there were never any gauges applied to them, so no one would know that a rupture had just occurred on the tube. The atmosphere around warp engines was notoriously dust-filled, and that air would disrupt the flow of mathematical information between the two engines.  BOOM!  The ship’s engine balance would be off and the ship would instantly explode and crash into the sun.  Thousands of deaths, most likely some of the Federation’s finest, and the Allah Brotherhood Brigade would take complete credit!

 

He smiled to himself at the true simplicity of the plan.  It could not fail!  What is even better, he thought with great pride, is that this will most likely happen years from now.  All the warp drive conduit tubes in this storage facility will most likely sit in a Federation storage facility for years to come.  All leads will start drying up like a dead corpse in a desert!  That is one of our greatest strengths…patience!

 

It was the perfect plan, because there would be nothing left, all destroyed by the sun.  No black box would be retrieved, yet bits of data would be picked up by Starfleet command, and the Allah Brothers Brigade would give just enough information to them to let them know it was indeed of their making.  He smiled wickedly at that thought, as he punched in the final inspection data into the computer for delivery.  Allah, thou art so great!

STAR TREK: THE GREATEST GENERATION

CHAPTER 1

STAR DATE: 777414.8 (June 1, 3100, 9:38AM)

[6 months before launch]

 

“Are you out of your Betazoid mind, Michelle?” cried Admiral Tesser in disbelief, stopping abruptly in the hallway of Starfleet Academy.  

 

Captain Michelle Boras regarded him calmly. “You heard me correctly, Admiral.”

 

Tesser, the Dean of the Starfleet Academy for the past 65 years, towered over Boras. Medical advances over the past millennium had increased human life spans to almost that of the average Vulcan. He was just entering ‘middle-age’ for a human and would likely continue as the Dean for another 65 years before old age would creep in.  Still, the gray hair around the edges told her that Tesser’s job wasn’t a walk through the park, either.

 

Glowering at her, he said,“You want to call your new command, the first ever Inter-Galaxy Class Starship, the pride of the Federation fleet, the largest starship ever devised by the Engineering wizards at Starfleet Command, ‘Enterprise?’”

 

“USS Enterprise-NC 1701-S, to be exact,” replied Michelle matter-of-factly  “I don’t prescribe to the notion that the ‘Enterprise’ ships are cursed.”

 

“Neither do I,” he boomed, and then just as suddenly looked around. Far too many listening cadets were in these long hallways, and all of them had mouths that could reach far greater people than himself.  He lowered his voice almost to a whisper and continued, “But there are quite a lot of high brass in Starfleet Command that do–”

 

“I know, Admiral,” interrupted Michelle, “but you aren’t exactly low brass yourself.”

 

“I’m the Dean here at Starfleet Academy, Michelle, for God sakes!  I haven’t been in an active part of Starfleet for over 25 years…and you want me to go to the top brass on your behalf and talk them into naming this ship of yours ‘Enterprise?’  They’ll surely consider me the basket case that some of them think I am!”

Michelle knew what he was talking about.  After all, he was the Admiral who talked Starfleet Command into giving her a command in the first place five years ago. As distasteful as it was for the 31st century, there was an unwritten code in the command hierarchy that telepaths could not be trusted, and under no conditions should they be even considered for command at any level, let alone command of a starship.  But he had proven them all wrong with her. He had gone to bat for her, and she wasn’t going to let him weasel out of this minor request. They stood glowering at each other for several uncomfortably long moments before Tesser began to lose his wits with her.  He was never any good at staring this prized student of his down.

 

Slowly they resumed their walk down the hallway toward the Admiral’s plush office as Admiral Tesser started to think out loud.

 

“Michelle, I know you are this great-great whatever granddaughter of Admiral Riker and Deanna Troi…”

 

“Admiral, I don’t want my family heritage to be used on my behalf–”

 

“Michelle,” he interjected, “you never were any good at letting me get my complete thoughts out.  I wasn’t thinking about using that as a wedge into the Starfleet brass. God, they are perfectly aware of your storied background, including the latest maneuvers you pulled in the Beta Quadrant.”  He let that sink in for a while hoping he could explain the rest to her. After a few more moments, he resumed as they turned the corner into his office.

 

“The problem, Michelle, is that there hasn’t been a Starship named ‘Enterprise’ in over 300 years.”

 

“312, to be exact, sir,” replied Captain Boras.

 

He smirked.  Even in the academy 15 years ago, he remembered this incredibly gifted student couldn’t resist one of those ‘exact’ quotes.  Sometimes she was more Vulcan than Betazoid–that trait had to have come from her top professor at the Academy–but Betazoid she was, through and through.  Despite the battles she had to endure with the typical racist attitude of her graduating class, the tests by the Academy that she had to take repeatedly, just to prove to  the “shrinks” that she would follow the code of ethics for any telepaths, she had passed everything, and with flying colors. It must have been a tortuous time both in the Academy and her three starship posts.  Hell, she could easily read his mind right now, but her control was simply amazing. And now she was about to take her second command of Starfleet’s newest pride and joy.

 

But he had to continue and hopefully find some way of talking her out of this insane ‘Enterprise’ idea of hers.  He knew she was a romantic at heart, but this name was going to start trouble, of that he was certain. Still, in his gut, he knew he was barking up the wrong tree.

 

“Michelle, let me start again…” he said with a sigh.  “The ‘Enterprise’ ships had a fabulous run for over 700 years.”  She opened her mouth as if to reply with one of her “exact” phrases, but he held up his hand dismissively.  He knew that she was the only underlying officer that he would allow such insubordination from, but he also knew that she knew it as well.

 

“From the first ‘Enterprise’ with Captain Archer to the last with Captain T’Sor, ‘Enterprise-O’, I believe it was called, most of these starships literally surpassed even the most ambitious estimations.  Hell, many of these ships lasted for decades before being mothballed in to our museums. But, then came the three notorious ‘Enterprises’, P, Q, and R. Damn, those ships didn’t even last a total of two years!  Enterprise-P has a core breach, causing an explosion that demolished the entire ship with her entire crew lost. ‘Q’s containment field with red matter collapses and we had to deal with a black hole that to this day requires us to re route ships past Andoria.  The Andorians still have a fit complaining about that one!”

 

Again, he held up his hand seeing her getting ready for her defense, which he knew would be a formidable one. “Then there was ‘R,’he continued more passionately  He paused to let the name sink in. “To this day, we still haven’t figured out what the hell was the cause of that ship’s demise. Best guess is another reactor core breach, I suppose.  In any event, there are quite a few people throughout the Federation that thinks the ‘Enterprise’ name is spooked.”

 

He paused again to let that last word hopefully have some effect.  To his great surprise, Michelle just stared at him. That is a first, he noted to himself.  Maybe he could win this argument, but that thought quickly faded as he saw her sit down in the guest chair in his office.  She’s gathering her arguments and just collating them into a coherent whole, he thought.  He immediately went around his desk and sat down.  He had always felt a little more security sitting at his huge oak desk with all the cadets that entered his office, and he felt he was going to need it with Michelle glaring at him on the other side.  He knew he was right, as she began to finally speak.

 

“Paul,” she began, pausing as she saw how uncomfortable it made Admiral Tesser to call him by his first name.  She knew she was the only graduate of the Starfleet Academy who could get away with calling the Dean on such a personal playing field.  “Every one of those ‘spooked’ ships, as you so quaintly called them, had one logical reason for their demise. Human error. I mean that, of course, in the generic sense.”  She knew how sensitive humans were when using the ‘human error’ term. When she saw the Admiral relax a bit in his chair, she continued.

 

“The data boxes that were salvaged with Enterprise P and Q clearly demonstrated that fact.  And ‘R’s data box was never recovered. However, the space debris scans clearly showed that the Chief Engineer was experimenting with proto-matter in the injection streams.  You know about proto-matter, don’t you, Admiral? Every scientist since its discovery in the 23rd century to this very day says it’s the most unpredictable material ever observed and no ethical person would ever consider using it for anything.  So, your postulation that ‘R’ had a core breach is also most likely correct, along with the Chief Engineer’s, how should I phrase it, ‘treasonable’ background”?  

 

Again, Admiral Tesser noted the long pause that Michelle was famous for using.  She had that ability to draw her audience in with every word she uttered. No wonder she was such a fine Captain, and most likely would become Starfleet’s greatest.  On that point he was certain.

 

Captain Boras rose from her seat slowly.  She walked around to the beautiful pictures hanging at the back of Tesser’s office, showing all the great starships from Federation history.  She pointed at the one picture of the last “good” Enterprise, Enterprise-O. “I have studied these last three ‘Enterprises’ Admiral, for the past 15 years.  As you know, I have written extensively on these three ships, analyzing all the data, delving into the lives of all three Captains and crews, and publishing my findings in the Federation’s and Starfleet’s top space exploration news videos.  If I may say so, Admiral, all three of these Captains were not worthy of their commands.”

 

“That is a debatable point, Michelle,” he replied, not so confidently.  Yet he knew in his heart that she was right. Captain Tulane, of Enterprise P, was fresh out of the Academy due to the many retirements that year.  Captain Horan, of Enterprise Q fame, was what was left from the Torasian War, since the clear majority of the ‘good’ captains were either killed or too badly wounded to take the helm, and he had been in a backup role with no actual command experience.  And as for Enterprise R, the Chief Engineer, Quinon, the Rigereon, was discovered years later to be working with the Romulans. It wouldn’t require a PhD to extrapolate the Reactor Core breach scenario. The Captain, Maria Sokan, was also woefully inexperienced.

 

“Paul”–again the uncomfortable look–“I won’t bother telling you what you have to know of these three ships.  You have read all the same reports that I read, and I know you have also read all my articles concerning those three ships.  The ‘spooked’ or ‘cursed’ analogy just won’t hold water. There was incompetence on all levels, and in the last case a most likely sabotage.  So, I ask you again, why not Enterprise-S? You know that I am assembling not only a very experienced crew, a crew that I personally believe to be the best in Starfleet, but a crew compliment of people who have worked with me both in a command sense and as a fellow crew members.  The youngest member has 10 years of deep space experience. The oldest more than 45.”

 

“B’Tor, the Vulcan, I assume?” asked the Admiral.

 

“Correct,” replied Captain Boras. “B’Tor has actually been associated with me for more than my 15 years of deep space experience, as you are aware.”

 

Indeed, the Admiral was very aware of that point.  B’Tor had been one of his finest Professors at the Academy.  He was the first professor who had recognized the genius of the young Michelle Boras, spotting her when she was only 10 years old on Betazed.  For years he had traveled from Earth or New Vulcan, working with her on her mind discipline, teaching her with Vulcan techniques how to control her telepathic powers, and slowly shaping her into Starfleet material.  It was because of him that Starfleet made Michelle the very first Betazoid Captain in its entire history. And it was because of her that B’Tor returned to active duty. He remembered the day when B’Tor submitted his resignation from Starfleet Academy to be with Michelle.  B’Tor had told him that he had served under 6 previous Captains, but when Michelle would become a Captain herself, which he was certain would happen, she would be not only the best, but he would remain in her service for as long as she remained in Starfleet. Never had he seen any Vulcan in his 35 years of Starfleet service ever show such dedication to a Captain.  Only the legendary Ambassador Spock would be of that same mold. (He also wondered if there was something deeper in B’Tor’s behavior toward Captain Boras, but immediately crossed that out of his mind because he couldn’t even comprehend a romantic twist to his thinking!)

 

“So, Admiral,” Boras said, returning to the formal tone of her speech, “I ask you once again, why not Enterprise-S?  You know that Starfleet owes me, and I am not afraid to let the Federation Government intercede on my behalf on this one as well.”

 

There was no pleading in her voice.  She knew she was on very solid ground.  Her heroics at Kuran Prime, Beta Quadrant, was still headlines in Federation space.  They would most likely be using her tactical maneuvers in the Academy’s “Military Exercises” course that coming semester.  

 

She was good, damn good, the Admiral thought. “Okay, Michelle.  You win. I will carry your recommendation as far as I possibly can.  I don’t know if I will get very far, so you should have a backup name, in case I fail convincing the high brass of this,” he said in a resigned voice.

 

Captain Boras slowly got up and pulled out of her front pocket a data cube.  She handed it to Admiral Tesser. He looked at it quizzically, flipping it in the air once or twice.

 

“What is it?” he finally asked.

 

“Admiral, on that data cube you will find exactly 400 points, with annotations to over 700 publications, for my reasons on the choice of the name ‘Enterprise-S’ for my new starship.  There are also over 25,000 signatures from various Starfleet personnel, spanning our 1,100 Federation Planets. Those signatures also include the Governors of over 60 planets, and numerous cabinet heads as well.  I believe this information will suffice in your preparations with the high brass.”

 

He could only smile at her.  His best student, ever! Of course, she would come prepared as always.  He shook his head and replied with a chuckle, “Why the approximations, Michelle?”  She laughed as well.

 

CHAPTER 2

STAR DATE: 777624.08 (August 16, 3100, 6:56PM)

[4 ½ months before launch]

 

Commander B’Tor had to sprint to keep up with Captain Boras as she excitedly led the way from Cordoni’s Fine Italian Restaurant, where they had just stopped for one of their tasty Italian sodas, to Michelle’s small San Francisco brownstone a few blocks away.  Even though B’Tor was 65 years old, in great physical condition, and in his prime, he always marveled at Captain Boras’s physical capabilities. She was hardly exerting herself with this run, and although she was a good 4 centimeters smaller than him, she took much larger strides than he was capable of at this quick speed.

 

“Hurry, B’Tor!” Michelle yelled over her shoulder.  “I’ve got Doc, Paul, and Soran meeting us at my house in a few minutes!  I don’t want us to be late!”

 

“Doc” was Dr. Maria Sanchez, the brilliant neuro-physician that Michelle always managed to steal away from the other Captains in Starfleet.  Only 152 centimeters tall, with jet-black hair always tied in a tight neat bun, she had a very hot Hispanic temper that one could sense she kept locked behind her piercing dark brown eyes.  She was married to the Cardasian biochemist, Larasia, who was also exceptional at his work. The two of them made a very formidable team of knowledge, especially in the field of exobiology. She and Larasia were the most sought after medical personnel in all of Starfleet, but somehow, they always ended up under Michelle’s command.  When B’Tor had once asked Dr. Sanchez why she always chose Michelle’s command over everyone else’s, she gladly exclaimed in her heavy Spanish accent, “…because Captain Boras always has the most interesting voyages!” B’Tor thought that was a typical Human answer, filled with a childlike anticipation, but, if that was the reason, the more to Michelle’s persuasive powers.

 

Paul was Commander Paul Peters, one of Starfleet’s best Engineers, and a man who could find a way to make any engine work at its top proficiency.  He was 182 centimeters tall, had the lightest blonde hair and the most blazing blue eyes that B’Tor had ever seen from a human, and some of the largest hands, too.  Yet even with those huge hands, his work with the tiniest of components was like that of a master violinist playing the most delicate passages from a Mozart concerto.  On their last voyage, with the Warp Engines badly damaged, only impulse capabilities, he had found a way to get a two-second warp burst out of them seconds before a Corrilian Phase Torpedo was about to slam into their ship.  That had been enough to slide behind the magnetic fields of the Tokan Prime moon where the Corrilian vessel could not find them. Paul also had the driest sense of humor, which was one reason why B’Tor found him fascinating, especially since Vulcans just never seemed to master the art of Earth humor.

 

Soran, more often referred to as Lieutenant Soran Croser, was a phenomenally talented Suliban helmsman with the most astonishing gift of navigation talent that B’Tor had ever seen.  Standing at a tall 213 centimeters, with devilishly green eyes and an extremely thin body, he had this unique ability of practically becoming one with whatever craft he was piloting.  Though always smiling and laughing hysterically at Peter’s hard-to-follow jokes when off-duty, he was a sight to behold when behind the controls of a starship. While they were hiding behind the magnetic field of Tokan Prime’s moon, which was in a state of constant flux, shifting due to the magnetic storms on Tokan Prime, he deftly kept the ship shielded within the magnetic poles without even a sense of strain to his massive body.  A truly gifted pilot, he was.

 

Even though Vulcans rarely showed exertion, B’Tor was getting a bit winded from this pace and asked Captain Boras to please slow down a bit.  After she complied with a slightly irritated look, he added, “Michelle, although all of us and a few others have been privy to your secret, I really think it is unwise to keep adding more people to your, how should I say it, ‘in the know’ list.”  All of them knew that Captain Boras had in her possession an “M-Gram” recording of her favorite Starfleet Captain from the 24th century, Captain Jean Luc Picard, which was a highly illegal act, punishable by Starfleet regulation 618.4 with removal of command.

 

“B’Tor, I know that you have never approved of this ‘borrowing act’ of mine, but if it wasn’t for Picard’s advice on our last voyage, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, would we?” she asked with a smirk.  “And, although a few more people than I would like are aware of this M-Gram, they are all in agreement with my need for this one idiosyncrasy.”

 

“Half of the crew, Michelle, would be a bit more than just a ‘few more’ people,” replied B’Tor.  “Just one disgruntled private, Captain, could bring down your entire career.”

 

She stopped dead in her tracks, and B’Tor narrowly avoided crashing into her. Whirling around angrily, she said, “Do you think for one millisecond that I have ever cared about my career or my commission, B’Tor?  I would think that you, of all people, would be aware of that.”

 

If a Vulcan could have shown embarrassment at that moment, B’Tor would have been an excellent candidate to do so.  Of course, he knew that Michelle didn’t care about anything but her crew and mission. After a very slight pause to cover his lapse of emotion, he replied, “No, of course not, Captain.  It is one of your qualities that makes you a very good leader.”

 

She smiled at that, sensing with her telepathic abilities that there was true embarrassment from B’Tor, no matter how deftly he shut that emotion down.  Any other person would never have sensed anything, but she felt the emotion like a tidal wave. Although she rarely ever used her telepathic capabilities, Vulcan emotions were so strong that try as she might, it was very difficult not to sense them.  For a moment, she felt pity for B’Tor, knowing full well that Vulcans were not emotionless beings at all. In fact, they were dozens of times more emotional than humans…they just controlled those emotions better than any sentient being in the entire Federation.  Still, she put that thought to rest as well, knowing, too, that Vulcans had telepathic capabilities as well, and her emotion could possibly be read by B’Tor. Her smile vanished as she turned to walk the rest of the way to her home. B’Tor, relieved at the change in pace, walked at her side.

 

After a few moments of silence, she turned to B’Tor and said, “B’Tor, I really am touched by your concern for your Captain’s well-being.  You have been my teacher from youth, and now my…how do the humans call it…my ‘right hand man’ for the past 15 years. I do understand your concern, but I rely heavily on the Picard M-Gram.  I have always been amazed at how few people within the Federation even bother to go to Vulcan Secundus, where the M-Gram library is kept, and make use of the phenomenal knowledge that all the M-Grams of the famous Starfleet Captains, Government officials, historians, artists, teachers, you name it, are all kept.  It seems like an awful waste of undiscovered treasure to me.”

 

“Yes, Michelle, but having stolen–”

 

“Borrowed!” interrupted Michelle.

 

–borrowed,” B’Tor corrected, “the M-Gram from the Library and using your telepathic powers, illegally, might I remind you, to erase from the mind of the lead librarian that you were even there, and then making a copy of the Picard M-Gram, is just inviting disaster to an otherwise blemish-free career.  I know that you don’t worry about your career, but you know, as well as I do, that you have so much more to offer the Federation, and I don’t want to see that get cut off shortly.”

 

“Again, B’Tor, I am touched,” replied Michelle.

 

They walked a few more meters when B’Tor continued, “Besides, in answer to your question, I believe that most sentient species find it a bit morbid to talk to the exact memory recording of deceased beings.  After all, Captain, M-Grams are not computer generated Hologram interpretations of people. They are the actual, complete memories and personalities of those people, and I guess some people find it a bit disturbing.”

 

“And that, my dear friend, is why I have asked all of you to come to my house,” she said, excitement creeping back into her voice.  “It is Picard’s death that has caused me to ask for all of you to help me.”

 

B’Tor raised his right eyebrow, like all Vulcans seemed to be able to do before an interesting quarry was placed before them, and said, “Fascinating.” As they approached the steps of Captain Boras’s home, her other guests were eagerly waiting.

 

After some casual greetings between everyone, Michelle invited all of them into her home.  B’Tor always found Captain Boras to be a very gracious host whenever she had people in her home, but today she seemed as excited as a young school girl going out on her first date with her parent’s permission.  She was neglecting her usual welcoming manners and just rushing to her back study, telling everyone to hurry with her. After cramming everyone into the small study, she shushed everyone before declaring, “Computer, run Picard M-Gram.”

 

In an instant, the small study transformed into  a rather luxurious hotel room. Then Jean Luc Picard, Captain of one of the most famous Starships in all of Federation history, appeared before them.  B’Tor was always very impressed with the true clarity of any M-Gram. Most people insisted that one could not tell the difference of a computer-generated image and an M-Gram image, but Vulcan eyes were much sharper than most Federation species, and he could see it, especially in the eyes of the M-Gram.  Captain Picard’s eyes were unusually clear and filled with true life.

 

At first, Picard seemed just a bit confused as to where he was, but immediately clarity entered his expression and a very welcoming smile crossed his ageless face.  Although most citizens of the Federation remembered Captain Picard as the bald headed Captain of his later years, Michelle always had him appear as he did just after he graduated from the Academy.  Though still bald, gone were the age lines, the gray stubble of his beard, and the deep furrows on his forehead that were a hallmark of his later years. His face was full of youth, and his smile was radiant, like a first-year cadet.

 

“Aw, Michelle, a pleasure to be with you again.  And you have brought the rest of your compliment.  Greetings to you, Commander B’Tor, Commander Peters, Dr. Sanchez, and Lieutenant Croser.”

 

Turning quickly back to Captain Boras, he added, “I see that you have kept your word and invited almost your entire command crew over to help with our little quandary.”

 

“Indeed, Jean Luc, I have done so.  I truly believe that five heads will be much better than just mine alone.”

 

Commander Peters grinned and opened his mouth as if to make a snide remark but remained silent.  He was just as curious as everyone else as to why Captain Boras would invite all of them over–a rare enough occurrence–just to talk with Captain Picard. Thankfully, it was Doc Sanchez that broke the uncomfortable pause that seemed to have settled over everyone.

 

“Michelle,” started Dr. Sanchez, in her thick Spanish accent, “I for one feel quite honored that you have let us in on your little secret rendezvous with Captain Picard, but for the life of me, I can’t fathom why you would want all of us here, especially now so soon before the launch.  What could possibly be so important that you would run Picard’s M-Gram only a few blocks from Starfleet Headquarters? Out in space, light years away from any probing eyes, and especially with your ships’ security protocols in place, I believe is the proper place for Jean Luc to appear.”

 

After one of Captain Boras’s patented excruciatingly long pauses, she answered with great dignity, “My friends, Jean Luc and I have run into a rather frustrating problem.”  

 

Again, her long pause.  B’Tor always marveled at this.  Most humanoids, with Vulcans as the lone exception, always seemed to rush to what was the point.  However, Captain Boras never did so, except in emergency situations. Instead, there was great thought behind everything she did: she would explain all of this in such a way that everyone in the room would have complete knowledge of what she required from them.  Questions would be kept to a minimum.

 

“As all of you know from your computer skills courses at the Academy, since the 25th century, all M-Grams have been recorded from nanotechnology recorders.  Most commanding officers above the rank of commander–famous artists, historians, high ranking government officials, and others–have those Nano-recorders placed within their bodies from the moment they become noticed, are elected to high office, or receive a high rank.  At least, this has been the way for the Federation and Starfleet for close to 800 years now. We accept this ‘intrusion’ into our bodies to be able to have a complete and very accurate recording of all events dealing with recorded history of the Federation, Starfleet, and any other entity within the Federation regarded by historians as being pertinent to all sentient species within our galaxy.  For instance, this very moment is being recorded by my M-Gram nanotechnology implant.”

 

Peter’s couldn’t resist and blurted out, “So, Captain, I guess some future historian will see that we were all accomplices in whatever scheme you are going to present before us.”

 

There was polite laughter, and Michelle even found herself smiling at Commander Peter’s usual nervous jokes.  “Of course, we know that M-Grams were a new form of technology during Captain Picard’s time in Starfleet. In fact, only about a year before his death, the new nano-technology was being experimented on with mixed results and was not yet becoming practical.”

 

All eyes turned to Picard, especially when Michelle mentioned his death.  As advanced as these people were, they still felt the age-old fear of speaking about someone’s death, and with this new technology, speaking of the very person’s death when that person was standing right in front of them was doubly uncomfortable.  If their lack of ease was apparent to Jean Luc, he never seemed to show it. Michelle walked over to Picard, put her hand on his shoulder, turned back to them, and said, “Apparently, there was either a glitch in the programming of the M-Gram technology, or a major protocol was breached regarding Picard’s death.  You see, my friends, Picard can not recall his death at all.”

 

At first, everyone seemed to be a bit confused, but slowly eyes widened as the impact of what Captain Boras was telling them started to sink in.  It was B’Tor that spoke first.

 

“Captain, all M-Grams continue to record even up to the first few true seconds of death.  If it wasn’t for that fact, all sentient species would not be aware of the true life after death sequence.  And I have read all about Captain Picard’s death. He was dying of Partomiosis, a disease that had no cure during his time.  He had contracted it on Tiberius IV when his shuttle pod crashed on that planet’s surface, and the foreign particle generator of his pod malfunctioned.  Although the M-Gram technology was not yet in the nano stage, I do believe they got Picard back to a Federation Hospital right here in San Francisco and placed the M-Gram recorder on him in time to record everything.”

 

“As always, B’Tor, your recollection of history is flawless.  You are absolutely correct.”

 

“But Captain,” interjected Soran, “If Commander B’Tor is correct, shouldn’t the M-Gram recorder have recorded everything, including Captain Picard’s death?”

 

“It should have, Lieutenant,” spoke Picard finally.  “However, a few days ago, Captain Boras and I were having one of our conversations dealing with the philosophies of many alien worlds, and the conversation turned to how many worlds interpret death and the afterlife.  That is when Michelle asked me about my own.”

 

“Captain Boras,” asked Commander Peters, trying to keep his growing excitement under control, “may I first ask you why this conversation never came up through all the years you have had Picard’s M-Gram?  After all, when we all visited Vulcan Secundus during our Computer technology field trips, that was what all of us asked any of the historical M-Grams almost immediately. Call me morbid, but we all seemed to be just as interested in their deaths as their lives.”

 

“A good question, Paul,” replied Michelle. “I just never seemed to get around to it with Jean Luc.  I guess I was too busy trying to learn as much from his acts of diplomacy with the many new sentient life forms he ran across, and his military tactical maneuvers.  It’s not that I wasn’t curious, it just never seemed to come up.”

 

A short pause ensued, and then came the myriad of questions from everyone.

 

“Did you run a complete diagnostic?” asked Soran.

 

“What about using a hypnotic recall?” asked Dr. Sanchez, always being the Doctor thinking of an M-Gram as a living being.

 

“How about checking your computer’s translation matrix?” asked Paul. “There could be a translation problem within Picard’s M-Gram repeaters and your computer’s receiving core.”

 

Captain Boras held both of her hands up in a quieting gesture.  Everyone immediately fell silent and turned to her, awaiting her response.  “Believe me, everyone, I have tried every suggestion you have all made. I wouldn’t have called all of you here if both Jean Luc and I had not run out of every possible solution.  All avenues were exhausted, and all returns were negative.”

 

B’Tor walked over to Picard and said, “Not all, Captains.  Something about this has tweaked a memory from me, and it looks somewhat suspicious. There may be one other route, but I am going to have to do some research on the M-Gram archives.”  Turning to Michelle, he spoke quietly, “With your permission, Captain, I believe I am going to have to visit my home world for a few days.”

 

Michelle was taken aback by this rather human display of secretiveness from B’Tor, but she found herself nodding in approval, and with that gesture, her guests quietly started to leave her home.  As B’Tor headed to the door, he gave a fleeting glance back at the two Captains, who were looking curiously at each other as if asking, “What was that all about?”

 

CHAPTER 3

STAR DATE: 777748.97 (October 1, 3100, 8:57AM)

[3 months before launch]

 

It was two weeks before Captain Boras saw B’Tor again, and the only answer that she got from him was that he was still doing research on the problem.  That type of response would normally have irked her a great deal, but she was so flooded with the upcoming plans, schematics, and architectural problems that arose with the construction of her new ship that his vagueness seemed trivial.  She just told B’Tor that as soon as he had something, she expected an answer from him whenever that time should arise. He nodded and went on with his own busy work with the new ship.

 

So here she was, 3 months before launch, and she was heading up for the first time, via a shuttle pod, to the space dock, where her new Inter-Galaxy class starship was receiving its final work.  Starfleet had had to construct a completely new spacedock to handle this class of ship. Normally, all Galaxy class ships could be constructed on the ground, in Iowa, but this Inter-Galaxy class vessel was over seven times larger than the largest Galaxy class ship, making it almost impossible to get off the planet.  Her crew compliment, when all tests were finalized over the next year, would be over 5,000 Starfleet and civilian personnel. No other ship in the entire Federation had more than say 700 to 800 crew members, not even the huge Romulan war ships that used to be the terror of the entire “A” quadrant.

 

As she returned to the present she started recalling her memory of B’Tor’s strange behavior. She was thinking that she had to corner him soon to get whatever information he had found on Vulcan Secundus when her uniform intercom came on, and the voice of sub-Commander Stevens, Starfleet construction supervisor for the Enterprise-S, called out to her.

 

“Captain Boras, here, sub-Commander,” answered Michelle.

 

“Captain Boras, you might look out of your starboard window.  Enterprise should be visible right about now.”

 

She was going to reply that he had to be crazy, being that she was still a good 50 kilometers away, but her eyes went wide as she looked out the starboard window.  He was right! She had forgotten just how big Enterprise-S was supposed to be. Again, this was her first trip to the still-under-construction ship, and it was huge.  She made a mental note not to be surprised by this fact anymore. Nonetheless, she gazed out the window in complete wonder.

 

As she got closer, the outline of Enterprise’s three mighty engines came into focus.  It was because of those engines that the Enterprise-S had to be so huge. They were the new Trans-Dimensional Warp Drives, experimental engines that had been in the making for over a century.  The great Bejoran theoretical physicist Dr. Sokar had discovered the mathematical equations for developing engines that could create a warp field so convoluted that it could throw a ship into another dimension, allowing almost instantaneous traversing of astronomical distances.  

 

Nothing like this had ever been calculated, but Sokar’s hypothesis was tested almost immediately and discovered to be true.  The only drawback was the almost infinite amount of energy that would be required to run such engines. The energy equal to a year’s output from over a thousand stars wouldn’t be enough!  Thus, Sokar’s theory had remained that, just a theory, for almost 70 years.

 

Then a rather obscure engineer from Betazed, Dr. Temon Wortes, developed a probe capable of landing on a white dwarf star and sampling the core.  It had long been postulated that if a star collapsed on itself without going nova and became a white dwarf instead, the core had to be pure carbon–in other words, a huge diamond buried within the star.  But it had to be a diamond of exceptional purity and density beyond anything formed on any planet. Dr. Wortes’s invention proved that fact, and a small sample of the diamond was extracted.

 

Michelle  recalled that the great Earth scientist Zefram Cochrane developed his first warp drive engine which originally used a diamond in the warp engine matrix to harness the energy produced by the matter-antimatter stream.  It worked, but it was not very efficient. Many scientists that followed him roundly criticized Dr. Cochrane, especially after the Vulcans came. Although it took many years and a great deal of haggling, the Vulcans finally introduced Earth to dilithium crystals.  Those became the energy converters for all Federation ships for over a thousand years. Now, Zefram Cochrane was going to be proven to be right all along! Michelle marveled at the irony behind all of this. These white dwarf diamond crystals were thousands of times more efficient than the best dilithium crystals.  They allowed the matter-antimatter streams to be so close that they almost touched, producing a tremendous output of energy. It made the Trans-Dimensional Warp drive a reality.

 

However, with these white dwarf star diamonds came a price.  The density of the crystals was so great that they weighed hundreds of thousands of tons.  Small anti-gravity generators had to be used to keep these crystals safe within the confines of the engine walls.  If those generators were to accidentally give out, not only would the diamonds fall through the entire ship due to the ship’s own interior gravity, but the diamonds’ gravity was also large enough to bring a large portion of the ship right along with them.  That was why there were over a thousand backup systems associated just with the anti-gravity generators. Even if a catastrophic power failure throughout the entire ship were to occur (a possibility that was almost infinitely small), the back-up systems would provide enough energy to hold the diamonds in place long enough for any engineer to eject the core safely away into space.

 

These Trans Dimensional Warp Drive engines took many years to develop and almost ended up being scrapped because of an argument that was still raging throughout the Federation science circles.  The engines worked, but no one was certain exactly how. In fact, the scientists were sharply divided over exactly which dimension a ship was sent to and then returned. Half the scientists were convinced that it was the tenth dimension, and the other half thought it was the eleventh.  It was this quandary that held things up for over a quarter of a century. After that, the bickering intensified and Starfleet finally asked when a final decision would be reached. When the answer came back that it would take maybe another 50 years to pinpoint exactly which dimension, and that in turn would make it possible to explain how these engines truly worked, Starfleet threw up their collective hands and said enough is enough!  They couldn’t wait 50 years for such a thing. All tests to that date had proven that the engines were just as safe as conventional warp and trans-warp drive engines, so they went ahead and built Enterprise.

 

Michelle reviewed what these engines made possible: instantaneous leaps through space of over 10,000 light years at a time!  At least that was the case for a casual observer out in space. The actual time distortion affecting all crew members on the ship made it feel like a 10 second wild ride.  From the ship windows, the stars seemed to run off the screen, usually in a downward motion; federation scientists said that was because one was leaving the world of three dimensions and “sliding” into either the 10th or 11th dimension.  Then everything looked like it was moving through a strobe light effect.  For example, if someone was moving on the bridge during a Trans-Dimensional Warp or TDW Jump, they would appear to be moving in a very broken motion, with one view of the person in a perfectly still manner and hundreds of that same person moving forward.  It could be quite disconcerting if this illusion were to last much longer than 10 seconds!

 

All of this required such a huge amount of energy, all placed within a true condenser capacitor battery, and released in one very quick outburst.  Then a total recharge was required that took, on average, about six hours to build up again for another TDW Jump. Back in the 23rd century, when Captain Janeway, of Voyager fame, was thrown 70,000 light years into the Delta Quadrant, even at top Warp speed of 9.5, non-stop, it would have taken her over 70 years to return home.  Warp 9.5 barely made about 4 light years a day.

 

When Starfleet introduced the new Transwarp Drives in the early 26th century, that 70-year trip would have been cut down to about 15 years at top transwarp.  These figures, of course, were only possible if any ship could maintain top warp speed without ever having to stop or to refuel, which was impossible.  So, one would have to add dozens of more years to each of those hypothetical ETAs.

 

These new Trans-Dimensional Warp engines would not only cut that time down significantly, but you could add another 30,000 light years for a total of 100,000 and end up at the other end of the Milky Way Galaxy in just two and a half days!  That’s why these engines were so important. The Enterprise-S was to spend its first-year mission travelling and exploring the other end of the Galaxy, checking her systems for any problems, and then it would return home to embark on a mission that no Federation vessel had ever done: a trip to the Milky Way’s nearest neighboring Galaxy, not Andromeda, but the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, with the Large approximately 160,000 light years away, and the Small 200,000 light years away!  Six months to get there (planting communication buoys along the way), four years of exploration, and another six months to return (and to replace buoys where it was needed.).

 

Michelle returned to the present.  She was now only 10 kilometers away and she noticed Enterprise’s shields glimmered even from ten kilometers away.  The space dock crew was obviously testing the ship’s shields and she saw that the port side shields–also new–were activated.  

 

For centuries, rotating shield frequencies were the norm for all Federation starships, but they weren’t extremely fast in terms of rotating frequencies.  Enterprise S had the fastest computer system in the entire Federation. There had been quite a stir in Federation politics when the word got out that Captain Boras had convinced the Vulcan Science Academy, the Federation’s top computer makers, to design a new supercomputer for her ship.  Usually the newest supercomputers were put to work on planetary systems, not starships.

 

Thanks to B’Tor’s connections on Vulcan Secundus, though, and the fact that most Vulcans liked Captain Boras (if that term could be used in relation to Vulcans with extraterrestrials), she could acquire this newest of all super-computers.  Due to that fact, the ship’s computer could now rotate the frequencies of the shield harmonics so fast that literally nothing could ever get through. No photon torpedo nor phase particle cannon or phaser bank could penetrate the shields. In fact, no modern-day weapon yet discovered by any Federation scientist would be able to penetrate the shields.  They could change at over 2.5 google times per Nano-second–over 10 billion times faster than any other rotating shield frequency harmonics in the entire fleet combined!

 

Because of this, Michelle could see the distortion of the stars in the background as the shields were being tested.  She smiled at that and felt just a bit safer knowing that these shields were going to be a lifesaver down the road: of that she was absolutely certain.

 

“Captain Boras, you may proceed to Enterprise’s boarding dock C.  Welcome to your new ship,” Sub-Commander Stevens voice warbled from her shirt intercom, interrupting her thoughts and bringing her back to things at hand.

 

“Instructions received, Sub-Commander,” she replied.  “I expect a first-class tour when I arrive.”

 

“Affirmative, Captain.  I would have it no other way!”

 

She smiled.  Sub-Commander Stevens was one of her favorite Earthlings.  She had known him in the Academy as one of the brightest rising Engineer’s in all the Academy’s history.  She was surprised when he decided to stay Earthbound and become Starfleet’s best space dock engineer, but also realized that he had a very close family, especially his amazing wife, professor of theoretical physics at Harvard and Yale Universities, Dr. Martha Stevens.  Martha had taken Michelle in during a very bad time when both Michelle’s mother and father were killed in a terrorist attack while visiting Earth to see her.

 

Even after over a thousand years of advancement on Earth, Muslim Fundamentalists were still terrorizing the planet every now and then.  They just couldn’t leave Earth’s 15th century.  It was in one of those rare but deadly attacks in Montreal, Canada, where her parents were visiting friends, that a photon torpedo warhead was detonated right next to their hotel.  The entire hotel, along with over thirty square city blocks was vaporized in an instant. The Muslim Fundamentalists couldn’t live in Earth’s present century, but were not averse to using Earth’s present day weaponry.

 

The news came to her right while she was having lunch with then Staff Sergeant Stevens and his new wife, Martha.  Michelle had felt something just before the news arrived, that her mother and father were there and then instantly they weren’t.  She had brushed it off as just a bad feeling when the courier found her table and handed her the news tablet. If it hadn’t been for both of the Stevens, she might have completely lost her mind.

 

She maneuvered her shuttle pod as deftly as she had always been able to do, and entered the Enterprise shuttle bay doors.  She had made it her signature to be able to land a shuttle pod on any surface without anyone even knowing the pod had touched ground, and she did it again in front of the welcoming committee.

 

As the door slid open and she came out, a naval whistle sounded and someone to her left shouted, “Officer on deck!”

 

Everyone saluted and Sub-Commander Stevens gave her a very large smile, saluted and said, “Welcome aboard the Enterprise-S, Captain Boras.”

 

She saluted. “Permission to come aboard, Sub-Commander?”

 

“Permission granted, Sir!” he replied  in the customary greeting of a ship’s new Captain.  They both stared at each other for a few seconds, then a huge smile crossed Michelle’s lips and she leapt up to him and embraced him with a laugh.

 

He hugged her back but said, “Captain, in front of my men?”

 

“Oh, to hell with them, Barney!” she gleefully said. “How the hell are you?”

 

He cringed a bit, because no matter how much Captain Boras would swear using Earth slang, it just never seemed quite right.

 

“Barney,” she said mockingly, “Don’t start in with the ‘Michelle-your-Earth-swearing-just-doesn’t-come-across-quite-right’ routine.”  

 

Sub-Commander Steven’s crew watched in amazement at how “human” both of them seemed as they fell into peals of laughter.  

 

“Well,” said Barney, fighting to regain his composure, “I’m doing just fine.  How about you, Sir?”

 

“Couldn’t be better, Barney, especially seeing Enterprise from out there.” She pointed outside a window. The ship gleamed impressively in the sunlight.

 

They were starting to walk toward one of Enterprise’s doors that would lead to the hallway just outside the shuttle bay when Sub-Commander Stevens grabbed her arm to stop her and said, “I would like to introduce you to one of the few items, Captain, that I am certain you have not been updated on.” He had a smile on his face now that looked quite mischievous.

 

“What is it?” she asked skeptically.

 

“Captain,” he began, “Pop quiz: How long would it take an individual to run at top speed from where we are to the Bridge?”

 

A long pause.  Then, “Sub-Commander, that would depend on if the individual in question would not have to wait at the elevator and would not have any stops, etc.”

 

Stevens sighed exasperatedly. “Michelle, sometimes you are just the most difficult person to get an answer from.  Okay, I’ll play your game…Elevator is there and no one using it…it’s express straight to the Bridge!”

 

“My best guess would be approximately 10 minutes, give or take a…”

 

She didn’t get to finish her statement, when Steven’s interrupted her and said, “Wrong, Captain!”  He turned toward the doors and said matter-of-factly, “Door…Bridge,” and walked toward the doors. The door slipped open with the usual “whoosh” sound, and there, right in front of him was the Bridge, and he walked right in.

 

Captain Boras was not easily surprised normally, but Stevens found the expression on her face priceless.  Chuckling, he motioned for her to walk on through as well. She moved as if in a stupor.

 

“They’re the new interdimensional transporters.  Most every door on Enterprise-S has them installed.  We just finished the last one today.”

 

Michelle started to say something, but Stevens held his hand up and replied, “I know what you are thinking.  Interdimensional transport technology is dangerous to all sentient beings if you do it too many times. Something about damaging the chromosomes or genes, or something like that.  I’m not a biologist, but a few years back they figured out what the problem was, and now it is completely safe. I’ve been using this transporter technology for over a year now, get myself tested regularly, not a gene or chromosome out of place!  Besides, you have Transdimensional Warp Drive, so why not Interdimensional Transporter technology as well?”

 

“This is great!” exclaimed Michelle, turning to Stevens excitedly.

 

“It will save a ton of time for everyone on board, and with that supercomputer you managed to steal from the Vulcans”–he looked slightly at Michelle, who countered with a false hurt look–“everyone on the ship, that’s all 5,000 people, could be using the transporters at the same time, and no one would even notice the slightest glitch!”

 

Michelle had to stop with that one.  That was truly an amazing thought. In the early days of transporter technology, it took a huge computer with a very large memory to just transport a banana or a grapefruit.  Then came living items, finally culminating with humans and other beings, and usually that could only be three or four at a time. When the transporter was in use on the early ships that Starfleet sent out into the cosmos, basically everything else had to stop, since almost all the ship’s computer’s memory was in use.  Now, 5,000 people could be using these transporters at once without even the slightest strain on the computer’s memory. Truly astounding!

 

Coming out of her daze, she asked, “So we can use these outside the ship as well?”

 

“No,” was his reply.  “They only can be used for the short distance of the entire ship.  The scientists could solve the genetics problem for about 10 kilometers.  After that, big problems, Sir! But moving about the ship is completely impossible to detect.  The only way one will be found is what room they transport to.”

 

“Okay, Barney, what other tricks do you have up your sleeve?”

 

“Glad you asked, Captain.  As per your orders you can see that every station on the Bridge uses a floating Ethernet station screen, with a backup regular console, in case the screens go down.”

 

He went over to the science station sat down and pressed a button on the main console.  Instantly a screen appeared in the air in front of him and he started to press certain parts of it in mid-air.  A red light appeared in front of his face. “Come over here and observe what your long-range scans can now detect,” he said, waving her over.

 

As she looked over his shoulder her eyes widened.  “Am I reading this right? Am I observing traffic from 10 light years away?”

 

“Not only are you observing it, but if it is a Federation vessel of any kind, it is reading the transponder signals as well,” he stated proudly.  “Therefore, you can not only see what is happening 10 light years away but also tell exactly what the vessel is: its Captain, crew, and cargo, whatever!  You can thank the Cardassians for this piece of fine equipment. The best we were ever able to detect was maybe 1 to 2 light years, and good luck trying to identify the vessel.  Even if it isn’t a Federation ship, the super computer on board can read the reflected signal and analyze its return signal. If the ship is in the database, I guarantee you it will be able to identify the ship with a 98% accuracy.  Try doing that on those old Galaxy Class Vessels.”

 

“Impressive, indeed…” Michelle responded.  She was reading the manifest list of an Arturian freighter, when Sub-Commander Steven’s touched his shirt intercom and said, “Go ahead boys, send the cargo to the bridge…”

 

From behind her, Michelle noticed some light signalling a transport was in progress. She turned rather lazily toward it and almost jumped out of her skin.  In front of her, not more than three meters away, was a massive Vegan Lion Lizard, two and a half meters long. Her immediate instinct was that something had gone terribly wrong and a very dangerous reptile had been accidentally transported onto the Bridge of her Starship.  She raised her hands to shield both herself and Barney as the Lizard leapt right at them. She flinched and shut her eyes.

 

When she opened her eyes, Barney was laughing hysterically. The lizard, howling with anger, was held in by a stationary force field.  It tried to send its poison saliva flying right at the two officer’s eyes, but the force field blocked it.

 

Michelle turned and glared at Barney.

 

Heaving with  laughter, Barney managed to wheeze, “Boy, I wish you could have seen your face, Michelle.  Priceless once again!!!”

 

“Barney, for God’s sake, why don’t you warn me of this?”  she demanded exasperatedly.

 

“And miss all this great fun?  Absolutely not! You are the one that got this great super computer, so I decided to make certain it was worth all the political capital you had to spend on the Vulcans for it.  If anything, and I mean anything, is transported on this vessel that doesn’t belong, the computer recognizes it as a threat and will immediately place a portable force field around it, even before it has fully materialized.  I just put a slight delay on it so I could see your reaction!” He dissolved into another fit of laughter.

 

It was quite infectious, and before she knew it, she was laughing along, more than she had in over three months.  Barney was just what the Doctor ordered. She hadn’t laughed this hard in quite some time. When they finally got control over themselves, she asked him, “Are there any other surprises that I should be warned about, Barney?”

 

“Nothing as priceless as this last one, but I know you are going to be impressed anyhow.”  He touched his uniform intercom and said, “Okay, boys. Wish you could have seen the Captain’s face with Hilda, here.  Bring her on back to the zoo.”

 

She could hear laughter from the officers on Earth Station, while the Vegan Lion lizard dematerialized from the Bridge. Michelle sighed.“I doubt you will be able to top that one, Barney.  But I’ll let you try.”

 

He smiled at her and then said, “How about this?” Walking over to the Captain’s chair, he pressed a button on her console and brought up a floating screen.  He tapped a red button on the screen and asked “What do you think?”

 

At first, Michelle wasn’t certain what he was asking, until she looked out one of the Bridge windows.  Normally she would see the continuation of the outer hull of the Bridge, but instead, she saw nothing.

 

She turned excitedly toward Barney, who had a silly grin on his face, and she blurted out, “You have got to be kidding me, Barn!  The Romulans finally gave us a cloaking shield?”

 

“Not just any cloaking shield, Michelle, but their most advanced cloak ever!” he replied with childlike pleasure.  “This is their hyper-translucent cloak. It bends light waves in all directions making you literally invisible. Not even the slightest distortion, no matter what angle you are observing it from!”

 

Michelle was not only impressed but quite stunned at the same time.  The Romulans had joined the Federation 75 years earlier, after establishing a trade agreement with the Federation a hundred years before that date.  It took them that long to finally get over their insane paranoid impressions of the Federation. The Romulans had always been a very suspicious race, never truly trusting anyone’s intentions.  

 

Of course, the minute the Romulans became members of the Federation, seventy-five years ago, the Treaty of Alteron, signed in 2311, which redefined the Romulan Neutral Zone and outlawed the use of cloaking technology on all Starfleet vessels, was finally null and void. There was an immediate dash by all the other members of the Federation to acquire the same cloaking technology that the Romulans had had for over a millennium.  Thankfully, cooler heads in Federation Governance decided that they would wait for the proper time to ask the Romulans. Seventy-five years later, she guessed, was the proper time, but she couldn’t be more pleased.

 

She was quite happy with this turn of events.  She finally couldn’t keep it in anymore and exclaimed, “This ship has become quite a formidable foe to anyone who would dare to challenge it!”

 

“So much so, Captain, that even our best scanning technology wouldn’t be able to detect you.  Let’s just hope you never get any ideas about defecting.”

 

“That, Barney, my friend, would be almost as impossible as seeing B’Tor laugh at one of your lousy jokes!”

 

And that was just the start of numerous other “goodies” that Barney showed her that day. She was also introduced to a transporter technology called “side-band” transport, which narrowed the beam of transport to approximately one one-thousandth the size of a normal transport beam.  In a sense, it was like ancient computer technology of compressing the information stream. By doing this, the transport maximum distance of ten million kilometers was increased a thousand-fold to over ten billion kilometers. As with most new technology, though, the drawback was that you could only transport one person at a time instead of a large number at once.  Michelle wasn’t certain how this new transporter technology could be of much use, but she placed it in her “to save for a later date” file in the recesses of her mind.

 

She discovered that the new floating Ethernet video screens were not just on the Bridge but all over the ship, including the crew cabins.  And speaking of those crew cabins, Michelle knew what the dimensions were of all the crew cabins primarily because of her work with the schematics. But walking inside of the various ones, she was immediately impressed by the amount of room they contained.  A family of four had over 700 square meters of space to live comfortably in, including large kitchen spaces. Although the ship had a galley with a bar that served synthohol, the fact that one could go to your own cabin and make your own food was still quite a new idea in Starfleet.  Every crew member had both a standard kitchen, as well as a food replicator for those for whom cooking was not a specialty.

 

Barney then brought her to the weapons room and pointed to an odd-looking photon torpedo.  “Ever seen one of these babies, Captain?” he asked curiously.

 

Michelle had to answer him honestly, saying that she had never seen such a large photon torpedo.

 

“And, in all likelihood, Captain, you won’t see many like this at all for many years to come.  These are not your run-of-the-mill photon torpedoes,” he said, pointing to three of them neatly stored in a special container against one of the walls.  “These are the new Fission Photon Torpedoes!”

 

Michelle gasped.  “Barney, I had only heard of these as being purely theoretical.  When did Starfleet start making them?”

 

“About ten years ago, actually.  It takes about a year to make each one, and you have three of them.  I have absolutely no idea where the other seven, if they can only make one per year, happen to be.  Well-guarded, I hope!”

 

She ran her hand across the entire length of one of the Fission Photon Torpedoes, or as she knew her weapons crew would start calling them, the ‘FP Fish’, and again turned to Barney and asked what the yield was for one of them.

 

“They don’t measure it by ‘yield’, Captain.  You can’t. As you probably know, what one of these torpedoes does when contacting a target is start a small nuclear fission reaction with whatever the material the target is made of: titanium hulls, steel, carbon fibers, whatever.  They measure it by total destructed surface area. One thing I can tell you is that if one of these managed to sneak through Enterprise’s force fields, and even nicked a small portion of Enterprise, you could kiss your ass goodbye. The nuclear fission reaction would cascade and engulf the entire ship, and everyone on board.  I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near the resulting explosion, that would be for sure!”

 

Michelle shivered at that thought.  Enterprise-S was the largest starship ever made, and just one of these torpedoes could obliterate the entire ship in just a few seconds.  A truly awesome and potentially deadly weapon she now had on board. She made a mental note that it would take a situation of monumental proportions for her to even consider using such a weapon.

 

Her last part of the tour was worth the wait.  When Barney finally showed her the 10 holo-decks, she was truly impressed.  She was never one to find much time for such recreation, but these holo-decks were simply amazing.  Nine of them were identical in size and dimensions, and those were much larger than any of the Galaxy Class ships offered.   “Combine the first nine and multiply that by two,” Barney said before showing her number ten. Her jaw dropped. It was as large as a soccer field and as high.  She immediately realized the applications for such a room. The fighter pilots would have a monopoly on the use of it! Military tactics could be taken to a whole new level in that room.

 

When the tour was finally completed, she embraced Sub-Commander Stevens once more and saw him, along with several of his crew, off the ship.  She was now fully in charge of her ship and headed to her own cabin. She had unpacking to do.

CHAPTER 4

STARDATE: 777917.44 (December 1, 3100, 8:46PM)

[1 month before launch]

 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was by far her favorite composer…and here she was, Captain Michelle Boras, sitting in the second row of the orchestra seats at the historic San Francisco Opera House, watching The Marriage of Figaro with the one man whom she truly loved in all of Starfleet, Captain Richard Toelle.  

 

Captain Toelle was a strappingly tall and handsome human, with dark wavy hair, a sharp chin, and intensely blue searching eyes.  He had the strongest arms of any man she had ever come across, and she loved it when he held her tight during moments of great passion.  He was the one human that she felt complete with, and she was especially happy to be with him this evening.

 

They had been lovers for over ten years, having both met at a karate class in downtown San Francisco.  Michelle was on a short shore leave at the time and had decided to experience Earth’s fascinating self-defense art.  She was a master of 12 different worlds’ defensive arts, having earned the equivalency of a Black Belt in each, but she had never had the chance to learn Earth’s version until then.

 

She met Richard there and they immediately became friends after she became the first person ever to flip him over her shoulder and toss him halfway across the Dojo.  Impressed, he had tried to return the move and found himself on the other end of the Dojo a second time. Since that day, whenever they could be with each other, they made the most of it.  

 

Richard had been on shore leave for about a month now, awaiting his new command at Deep Space 555, the Federation’s farthest outpost, about 200 light years within the Beta Quadrant.  Michelle, of course, was busily preparing for her command of Enterprise-S but had spent the past month back on Earth with Richard.

 

They truly loved each other as well as opera.  Michelle was especially enjoying this moment, the last scene in the first Act, where Count Almaviva and the Countess were arguing over the silly teenage boy Cherubino when their argument got interrupted by the arrival of Figaro and a group of Peasants.  Under Figaro’s insistence, the peasants were praising the Count for abolishing the feudal right of the Lord of the Manor to sleep with his servant’s bride. It was at that moment that Figaro invited the Count to place the bridal veil on Susanna, Figaro’s fiancée, as a symbol of his blessing on their marriage, which was to take place later that day.  The entire opera was a huge comedy of misunderstood actions, disguises, philandering masters, and numerous other actions. If one were to look at it from a purely serious point of view, they would be sadly disappointed.

 

But Michelle and Richard revelled in the improbable situations because of the genius of the ideas engulfed in opera, especially in the hands of a master like Mozart.  There would be a moment in this opera where 4 totally different characters, each with their own separate desires, would end up expressing themselves at the same time in perfect clarity.  Michelle was always amazed by this unique trait of opera. You couldn’t have four people with differing ideas all speaking at once in a play. It would be a garbled mess of noise. But, with opera, not only could that happen, but it could happen in perfectly beautiful harmony as well!

 

Earth was many things to the Federation, but the one area where Earthlings excelled was in music.  There were hundreds of planets where music had flourished, but Earth was overflowing with the very best.  And then there was Mozart, a truly astonishing composer. The Federation had millions of great geniuses, but Mozart, in Michelle’s humble opinion, was the greatest of them all.

 

She loved attending not only opera but also Earth’s great symphony orchestra performances as well.  During Michelle’s youth, at the tender age of five years old, when she was struggling with her telepathic abilities, her mother gave her an earth violin to try and learn.  She took to it like a fish to water, because it was the one thing she could do that kept all the voices out of her head. By the time she was ten she was considered a musical prodigy.  Her parents tried to understand why she was practicing at all times of the day, but she couldn’t explain it to them because she feared that they would think she was crazy hearing voices.  Then, because she not only practiced her instrument, but delved into any form of study that would quiet the voices, B’Tor entered her life and taught her the Vulcan ways at controlling her mind.  It worked wonders, but still she kept on practicing her beloved violin. As her Starfleet career progressed, she always made certain that some of the crew had musical abilities. On her last command, she had three other individuals who played string instruments.  It was a great joy for her to get together with them and form a rather good true string quartet.

 

She huddled close to Richard, and he wrapped  his huge arms around her to bring her in even closer.  She had been so happy this entire month, but was starting to slowly realize that this was their last night together for quite some time.  She was to fully report to Enterprise-S tomorrow morning, and the next day Richard was off to Deep Space 555.

 

At first, she felt content–happy, even– but just before the first Act ended she was overcome by a dread as powerful and terrifying as the day she had lost her parents.  She had been having that feeling on and off throughout the entire month, and it was threatening to ruin everything…and once more, in a monumental effort, she decided to brush it aside, dismissing it as mere separation anxiety

 

She tried to feel warm, happy thoughts and to let the music engulf her like Richard’s arms.  She knew that Richard had wanted to propose to her all month, and there was no question in her mind that she would accept his proposal when it came, but as usual, Richard was always thinking of her.  She knew he did not want to burden her with a marriage proposal, especially with her long voyage about ready to start.

 

Thanks to the great medical advances of the past millennium, people could marry at a much later time in their lives and even have children decades after the old norms without any complications.  They knew that marriage and children would be available to both after Michelle’s voyages with Enterprise ended in six or seven years. Still, Richard did not want her to feel the obligation of a marriage proposal, so he didn’t ask her.  She could feel it, though, even without her telepathic abilities.

 

The first act came to a wonderful close, and the lights came up in the hall to signal the first intermission.  Richard excused himself to go get some wine for both, and Michelle was left alone with her thoughts. She knew that she would finish her career after these two great voyages, and this prospect brought a smile to her face.  She loved Starfleet, but she was starting to seriously consider that her career was going to wind down after the voyages, and that she and Richard would settle down somewhere.

 

Richard was a hard-core Starfleet man, so it was most likely going to be a retirement for her on some Deep Space Station, since Richard enjoyed being a Captain of one.  He liked being in space but really found staying in one place very relaxing. She realized that she would have to make a significantly big adjustment if she would be able to keep her sanity.  She had always been one who hated staying in one place for more than a few years, but there were always nearby planets, asteroids, comets, and other space phenomena around any of the Deep Space Stations, so she thought that would surely keep her interests alive.

 

It was her love of music that would most likely keep her glued to one place.  When she was ten years old her choices for a career were starting to narrow to just two things: music and science.  With the eventual contact of B’Tor in her life, science eventually won out. She had never completely let go of music, though, and if marriage with Richard were to become a reality, a prospect that she was certain of, maybe she would seriously consider starting a professional orchestra on whatever deep space station she ended up on.  After all, Deep Space 16 and 231 had professional orchestras that were quite successful.

 

While thinking these happy thoughts, something was starting to creep back into her conscious mind.  Once again the feeling of dread was returning. The logical half of her mind told her that it was odd this feeling should return so soon.  She had been having the feeling of dread, solitude, and heartbreak all month, usually once every few days, but today was different. The feeling kept coming to her every few minutes, and it was starting to shake her confidence.  She could feel tears starting to well up in her eyes, and that was something she did not want at all on this evening.

 

She and Richard had been planning this evening for over a week.  They did something before they came to the opera that very few people did those days: they visited and ate at Chez Monique, the only French restaurant on the North American Continent of Earth.  People in the Federation rarely went out to eat anymore because food replicators were in every home. Scientists all over the Federation insisted that they not only replicated the finest cuisine anywhere, but they were thousands of times healthier, too.

 

Yet Chez Monique was not only able to stay in business, but it had thrived as well.  Money didn’t exist in most of the Federation, but Chez Monique was owned and operated by a Ferengi, one of the only races in the Federation that still used currency.  One had to pay in gold-pressed latinum bars to eat there. Fortunately, Starfleet always gave the Captains of Starships a monthly quota of latinum bars in case they did run across races that were still using some form of monetary currency.

 

Replicators were quite amazing devices throughout the Federation, but all of them were designed so that they could not replicate this type of money.  If someone wanted to eat at this restaurant, then, they had to find some way of obtaining currency. It really was not that difficult, but it required a lot of patience, especially when going to the few banks located on each Federation world.  Starfleet at least had this nice perk for its officers.

 

The meal was exquisite, the ambience so wonderfully romantic, and they even had a strolling violinist who was not bad at all.  After the meal, they took a very romantic walk to the opera house, and now here they were, listening to Mozart. She really was very happy, and that made this feeling of dread even more confounding.  She should be joyful and happy right now, not on the verge of tears!

 

That started to make her think about how annoying, at times, command really was.  Command, she thought, is still really a man’s domain.  A woman never could show fear, indecision, or God forbid, tears.  That is why a woman had to be so much stronger emotionally than any man could possibly be.  If a woman got emotional during a high-stress command moment, the other crewmen and women would see her as weak and indecisive.  A man does that, and somehow, they think of that as a strength, she thought bitterly.  That was really not fair.

 

So as Richard finally returned with two glasses of white wine, and the lights started to dim for the beginning of Act Two, she sucked up her emotions. With some effort, she smiled at her beloved man and cuddled next to him to revel in the glorious sounds of Mozart.  It took all of her willpower to once again repress her concern and finally begin to enjoy herself. Richard and Mozart were a hard pair to turn one’s back on, and the opera went by smoothly from that point.

 

Act Two opened as it had always opened for almost a millennium and a half, with the Countess bemoaning the Count’s infidelity in her lovely aria “Porgi, amor.”  The fact that this opera was still wildly popular even though it had premiered in 1786, was just another reason why Michelle thought so highly of the genius of Mozart.  Few compositions written so long ago could boast that they were still being performed almost daily at the start of the 32nd century.  Thanks to this great music and the company of her beloved man, her worry finally stayed away for the rest of that evening.

 

When the final act was finished, and the many calls of encore were finally over, they walked hand in hand back to her beautiful two-story brownstone.  Later that evening she made love with Richard displaying a passion she had never felt before.

CHAPTER 5

STARDATE 77801.14 (January 1, 3101, 9:59AM)

LAUNCH!

 

Commander Paul Peters, the Chief Engineer of the USS Enterprise-S, was starting to get quite antsy at the launch ceremony.  It had started right on time at 0-800, and thank God, the order had been given to stand at Parade Rest, but it was his dress uniform that was really driving him crazy.  Here we are, he thought sarcastically, one of the most advanced cultures in this Galaxy, as far as we know, and we still can’t make a dress uniform that isn’t comfortable for at least ten minutes!

 

He shifted his weight for the umpteenth time to his right leg, as he stared blankly at the digital clock hanging on the wall behind the umpteenth Admiral that was babbling on about how, if it wasn’t for his or her influence this great moment would not be happening.  The clock just changed to 10:00 am and he resisted the urge to groan out loud. Two hours of this drivel!   And if it wasn’t for Captain Boras, none of you egomaniacs would ever have gotten this ship off the drawing boards!

 

He glanced to his right and saw Doc wincing in pain.  She was always on her feet, always on the go, but rarely stood in one place for more than a few seconds.   She winked at him, letting him know that she was uncomfortable but would make it. He smiled at her and continued to look down the line of all the Enterprise Bridge crew who were fidgeting along with him.  

 

Next to Doc was Captain Boras, who never seemed to show the slightest bit of discomfort, no matter how boring or long anything took.  How she did that, he had absolutely no idea, but he surely admired it. She looked stoic and immensely calm during this whole affair. Maybe someday he would get enough courage and ask her how she did it.  Until that distant time, he would just watch in amazement. Not even a bit of sweat! He was sweating like a dog in these damn dress uniforms.

 

He looked past her and noticed Lieutenant Soran Croser, the Suliban helmsman.  One could never tell if he was uncomfortable or not. As far as he knew, Suliban didn’t have sweat glands, so they never looked wet in any situation.  But he caught Soran rolling his eyes as if asking, “Why am I here?” It was nice to know that his boredom wasn’t just a human monopoly. He could see Soran’s fingers moving quickly to different imaginary floating video screens: he was already thinking about how he was going to maneuver out of space dock.  He really was a natural!

 

Peters then turned his glance to his left and saw something he had never seen before.  B’Tor was actually sleeping! No, he opened his eyes. Darn, that would have been one for the books, he thought.  But there was no question in his mind that B’Tor was not enjoying this event at all.  He closed his eyes again, and then Paul realized he was meditating, right in front of this throng of dignitaries, government officials, and honored guests.  Of course, they were behind these people, so no one could see this, but a Vulcan bored with proceedings had to be a first!

 

Paul surprisingly liked B’Tor.  They had met about 15 years earlier, and when B’Tor came to him during a short lunch session and asked him to explain Earth humor, he knew he would become a close friend of the Vulcan.  Of course, 15 years later, B’Tor still had no idea what Earth humor was, but on occasion could create moments that approached it.

 

They really became close friends when they found themselves stranded on a Romulan moon called Isotor IV.  They were doing a routine mapping survey of the moon in orbit, but it had abruptly turned into a life-or-death situation as they found themselves in the middle of a fire fight between a Romulan battle cruiser and a Rigelian freighter smuggling into Romulus an illegal drug that had become popular in the subclasses of Romulan culture.  Needless to say, they were part of the casualties as their ship was hit by this unfriendly fire and they were forced to crash land on the moon.

 

They had found themselves in a heavily insect-infested swamp, fighting some of the most ferocious predators they had both ever witnessed.  They weren’t rescued for three days, and had so many close calls, with Paul saving B’Tor and B’Tor doing the same so many times that they both lost count.  Living with someone in a true life-or-death struggle would make you close friends, no matter what others might have thought!

 

Paul now felt that he wasn’t alone in his exhaustion with this boring sendoff.  Would it ever end?

 

Looking past B’Tor, he spotted Korg.  Lieutenant Commander Korg was the most amazing Klingon that Paul had ever met.  Enterprise’s new Tactical Officer and in charge of security, Korg was a fine specimen of the true Klingon warrior.  Born into a warrior class, Korg had spent ten years on a Klingon Bird of Prey war ship. He had been involved in dozens of battles and had distinguished himself as one of the Klingon’s home world greatest warriors.  Korg even ended up being the Captain of one of the most ferocious Birds of Prey, the Hortorias, a Bird of Prey that never lost a single battle. It was an old ship, more than 50 years old, and had been under only three Captains.  It was Korg that was the greatest of the three, having won a battle that literally saved the Klingon Empire.

 

Although the Klingon Empire had been a part of the Federation for close to 700 years, it was a rather loose association.  Klingons, like Romulans, were still a highly volatile people, and they found themselves in many skirmishes along its vast borders.  The battle that saved the Klingon Empire was against a violent branch of warriors from the Dominion all the way from the Gamma Quadrant.  The Dominion wars with the Federation were very similar in nature to Earth’s ancient war with North Korea: they never really ended.

 

This branch of warriors from the Dominion, the Kreosites, decided that the only worthy opponents for them to conquer were the Klingons.  The Federation offered to help, but the Klingons took this as a noble challenge and declined any help, period. This was a battle to die with honor for, and the Klingons leapt at the chance with full gusto!  Unfortunately, they had bitten off more than they could chew and soon found themselves in a battle that lasted for six years. Millions of Klingons lost their lives.

 

Then came Korg.  Newly appointed as Captain of the Hortorias, his battle tactics were completely foreign to the entire crew.  He attacked shipping lanes, fighting hard and then escaping in a cloud of dust. Using guerrilla warfare tactics, he was able to inflict a devastating amount of damage on the Kreosites.  Without their shipping lanes, trying to supply their army from the Gamma Quadrant became impossible. It was brought to a glorious end when he blew up the wormhole that the Kreosites were using, stranding thousands of their vessels.  The Klingons had a field day wiping out the remaining Kreosite ships.

 

Korg received many honors but, to everyone’s great surprise, soon left the Klingon Empire to become a cadet at Starfleet Academy.  Korg never really explained his reasons to anyone. He basically started from scratch to rise to his present command level.

 

Paul got to know Korg five years earlier from his last post on the USS Discovery-GG.  It was during one of those free nights drinking blood wine with Korg that he heard a story that was simply unbelievable.  Paul was so drunk that evening that for many days afterwards he thought he had dreamt it. But three days later, Korg asked him not to tell anyone what he had told Paul.  Paul was more than willing to oblige his friend, knowing that breaking a pledge with a Klingon would not be a very wise move.

 

The USS Discovery-GG was the first time Korg had ever been under the command of a woman officer, Captain Boras.  He was so insulted that he immediately asked for a transfer. Naturally, Starfleet Command did nothing with that request, and Korg grew more and more disillusioned with his post.  He had started to become sloppy in his command, and Captain Boras had noticed. When she finally had him summoned to her quarters for disciplinary action, she surprised him by challenging him to a Bat’leth duel.

 

Korg was astonished by this.  He had never fought a woman and had never lost one of these challenges.  This was the primary reason he had left his command in the Klingon Empire.  He was constantly being challenged by his first officers because his battle tactics of guerrilla warfare were considered cowardly and dishonorable.  He had tried to explain that this was the only way the Klingon Empire could win the war, but to no avail. He had lost over a dozen first officers due to these challenges…every one of them were duels to the death.

 

Now his Captain was not only challenging him to a fight with Bat’leths, a weapon he was an absolute master with, but she even challenged him to the death.  Normally, he would not accept such a thing within the confines of Starfleet regulations, but she had started swearing at him in Klingon and calling him a true coward. His honor at stake, he accepted the duel.

 

This was where details became very sketchy, for the entire affair was denied vehemently by Captain Boras, B’Tor, and many other officers.  But Korg insisted that it happened. Per his account, they met in an undisclosed holodeck on an undisclosed starship. The entire battle took place in a hologram version of the great Bat’leth challenges on his home world.  To his utter surprise, the entire battle lasted less than 30 seconds, as Captain Boras not only beat him but nearly killed him instantly. She had used a move that he had only heard about, but had never seen. He recognized it as one of the deadliest maneuvers in Bat’leth fighting, the Tor Hars Maneuver, which had stunned and slashed his entire rib cage open in a matter of moments.

 

Paul had responded to Korg’s story by saying, “You know, she is a telepath. She could have left you in a defenseless position.”  

 

Korg had stood up, towering over Paul, and said in his most fearsome voice, “She fought fairly!  She even had her head covered with a Tiberian screen, which left her telepathic powers to zero! She was the true master!” He had then removed his shirt to show a huge scar that ran completely across his chest.  Pointing at it, he said, “My Captain brought me down like I was a novice! She offered me two options: to be beheaded and die with honor, or to serve her faithfully. I couldn’t accept the first option because, and she knew this as well as I did, it would not be an honorable death to die at the hands of a woman…especially an alien woman!  So I chose the second option, which was the honorable choice. I was defeated by a person with far greater skills than I.”

 

Korg told him that many years earlier Captain Boras had visited the great Klingon world of Foria, where the Bat’leth master Tora was rumored to be living.  She had taken many lessons with him and was also rumored to have beaten him in one of the great tournaments that happened every spring there. Tora had entered the tournament in disguise, and the final match was between him and Captain Boras.  Korg was never able to confirm this, but he felt that it was true because only Tora was supposed to know the ancient maneuver of Tor Hars.

 

Paul had tried to confirm this story but was bounced about in all different directions.  No one would admit this event even had merit. He remembered that Korg was in the infirmary for two weeks, recovering from what was described as a serious phaser accident, but the details on that were also rather sketchy.  All he could do was believe that Korg was telling the truth.

 

Korg caught his eye, but remained in his parade rest stance.  There was a slight curling of his lips upward that told Paul that he too was getting antsy and wanted to move on to better things.  Paul winked his acknowledgement and then saw the real person he wanted to be next to, Kuriko Miyagawa.

 

Lieutenant Commander Kuriko Miyagawa was the chief communications and linguistics officer on the bridge.  For centuries two nations on Earth, Kenya and Japan, led almost all Starfleet positions in communications and linguistics.  Something about the people from those two nations and their ability to hear all the subtleties, rhythms, and tones found in all languages made them tops in their classes.  Kuriko was by far one of the very best.

 

She graduated number one in her class five years earlier and was grabbed instantly by Captain Boras.  She proved her worth on the very first day by detecting something that had never been heard in the Kreetassan language.  For centuries, misunderstandings due to imperfections with the Universal Translator had caused countless headaches for Federation trade and other diplomatic missions with the Kreetassans.  Kuriko found the flaw in the UT unit and made corrections at a rather difficult time with them. She was hailed as the hero of that mission and proved her worth time and time again in future missions.

 

Paul and Kuriko had become friends, but nothing more, during that five-year stint on Discovery-GG.  Being that Paul was the Chief Engineer and usually down nursing his warp engines, and she was almost always on the Bridge, seeing each other was a hit-or-miss propositions at best.  Besides, Paul was probably viewed by Kuriko as some kind of country bumpkin, while Kuriko was from the great megalopolis of Osaka, Japan.

 

Paul was from an outer suburb of Houston, Texas and had been visiting his parents during a rather long shore leave from the change in Captain Boras’s command from the USS Discovery-GG to the USS Enterprise-S.  He had been sitting at the kitchen table nibbling on some bacon from the morning’s breakfast when there was a knock at his door.

 

His parents, both being farmers, lived out in the country  and had little use for most modern technology, so he had to go to the door to see who was there.  When he opened the screen door he was surprised to see Kuriko standing there with a rather sheepish grin on her face and carrying her portable computer and a lot of paper.  She apologized to him and his parents for disturbing their get-together, but she needed to talk with Paul about some math problems.

 

Kuriko explained to him that she was using this extended shore leave to try and become the first human linguistic expert to master the Xindi Insectoid language.  For centuries, many of the Xindi, especially the Mammalian species, had been part of Starfleet. On occasion, even an Insectoid became a crew member. The problem was that no one had mastered the Insectoid language, and as Kuriko explained, she felt it left those few Insectoids out of the ship’s community.

 

Paul explained to her that they had the UT units, and there had never seemed to be a communication problem with the Insectoids, and Kuriko countered that the UT units were like going to a movie, rather than reading the book.  Sure, you could get the gist of the plot and some idea of the character’s personalities, but if one fully understood a language, then they could get into the true inner personalities, like reading the novel.

 

Paul was a bit embarrassed because he was one of those people who preferred to see the movie, never having enough time to read the book, so he listened to what she needed from him.  She was convinced that the Insectoid language was based on mathematical equations, and being that math wasn’t her strongest subject, she came to Paul, who was a wiz kid from Houston in the math world.

 

She definitely knew how to feed his ego, so they went into the living room and she produced her evidence with her portable computer and reams of notes she had taken over the years.  After a few moments of studying her data, Paul realized that she seemed to be onto something. The oscillations in the language certainly suggested a mathematical connection of some sort.

 

Still, he had to stop her for a moment and said, “Why don’t you just have the Linguistics Boys at Starfleet Command take apart a UT unit, since most of the translation material has to be in one of them?”  She countered that the UT units were devised during the 22nd through the 24th centuries.  Since that time only computers were used to advance the individual models, and there was no one alive who knew or even understood the inner workings anymore.  She had tried that route. Apparently, when the Insectoids were encountered, the UT units had the ability to work on the language on their own, and then those models were replicated by computer.

 

So, after a long sigh, he buried his head into the data, and the next thing he knew, his parents were inviting them both for dinner.  They had been working on this problem for over eight hours, having skipped lunch, so they ate dinner all together.

 

After that they were back at it.  As time went on he realized that she was absolutely correct about the mathematics of the language.  Even he, with his tin ears, could start hearing certain inflections in both amplitude and tonal range that started to suggest mathematical equations.  What those equations were was still beyond his grasp, but once he was on a mathematical quest, only a warp core breach would pull him away from his work on it.  During one short time, while Kuriko took a break from the work they were doing, his parents told her that she had chosen the right person for this. They had no idea where the mathematical genius in their son came from, but they said he would stick on a problem for weeks at a time until he could figure it out.

 

At 2 am, Paul’s mother came down and told them to both go to bed.  She had made up the guest room for Kuriko. Kuriko graciously refused at first, saying she would transport back to Japan, where she was staying with her parents, and come back in the morning, but Paul’s mom wouldn’t hear it.  After some polite arguing, Kuriko finally relented and went to bed. She giggled as she heard through her closed door Paul’s mother forcing her son to bed as well.

 

The next morning, Kuriko came down from her bedroom and found Paul busily tackling the mathematical problem.  Paul’s mother told her to pay him no mind, that he had been working on the problem since daybreak and would not even eat breakfast.  Kuriko tried to bring him some food, but he only stopped working when she broke the microwave connection to her computer, which shut everything down.  After a short protest from Paul, he finally relented and ate his breakfast. All during that time he spoke very excitedly about what he had discovered, and Kuriko leapt right in.

 

Paul’s mother and father were standing at the door listening to both and looked at each other with the hope that just maybe this was the right girl for Paul.  Paul acted like he didn’t notice but got rather annoyed His parents had been at him for over a year complaining that he needed to find a woman and settle down, but he had felt that he was not the ‘settling down’ sort of man.  He had dated many women throughout his school and Starfleet career, all short-lived relationships, and he liked it that way. Seeing his parents with that ‘hope’ in their eyes made him decide to finish eating his meal without another word before getting Kuriko to turn the computer back on.

 

Another whole day of intense work for both of them, a quick lunch and dinner, and they were back at it again.  This time exhaustion caught up with Kuriko and she went to the guest bedroom to sleep at 10 pm. Paul stayed at it until midnight, until his mother kicked him out again.  Apparently, the exhaustion of two rather intense days at math finally caught up with him as well, and he fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.

 

He was a bit embarrassed the next morning when he came down at around 10 am and found Kuriko deeply at work on her computer.  He apologized for sleeping so late, and she just smiled at him and told it was no big deal. “Go get some breakfast and help me out,” she replied, and like a good little robot he did as he was told.

 

After wolfing down whatever leftovers remained on the kitchen table, he noticed that both his parents were gone.  He went into the living room where Kuriko was hard at work, and while standing in the doorway, sipping a cup of coffee, he asked her where his parents were.

 

“They said they were going to some ‘farmers market’ thing, and they wouldn’t be back until this evening.”

 

“Damn, and I told them I would help them today!” he said in a small panic.  “I completely forgot about it!”

 

She laughed, that cute little laugh of hers, and told him that they were completely aware of it, and they really didn’t need his help.  “They felt what we are doing is probably much more important than a farmer’s market,” she replied with a giggle. “By the way,” she quarried after getting control of herself, “what is a ‘farmer’s market,’ anyway?”

 

He smiled at that question.  “Guess they don’t have those in Japan,” he replied, and started to explain how things worked on his side of the Pacific Ocean.

 

She smiled and said that they indeed had them in Japan, but an American one sounded really like something fun to see.

 

So he asked her if she would like to take a short break and he would take her to it.  She was very receptive to the idea, and off they went. She was quite surprised when he brought her to a vehicle she had never seen before, and he introduced her to a mint- condition 2004 Ford pickup truck.  He explained to her that transporter technology was not allowed at the Farmer’s Market and they would have to ‘drive’ to get to it.

 

“Is it safe?” she asked, having never been in such a contraption, and it was his turn to laugh.

 

“Are you kidding me?” he replied incredulously.  “You have never been in a gas combustion vehicle before?”

 

“I saw one once in the Tokyo motor museum, but…no…I have never been in one before…” she said cautiously.

 

“Then, young lady, you have never lived before!  Hop in!” he said, and he opened the door for her.  When he started the engine, she almost jumped out of her seat from the sound of it.

 

“Is it working properly?” she asked with panic in her voice.

 

“427 cubic inches and 350 horsepower properly!” he exclaimed with a boyish exuberance.  “Put your seatbelt on, and enjoy the ride!” he yelled over the roar of the engine.

 

She did as she was told and to her great surprise, truly liked it.  She had been on the great mass transit trains in Japan before, but she never could gage the speed because the windows were always up.  In this vehicle, with the windows down, and rolling down a dirt country road, the engine whining as Paul opened her up, she was thrilled by the speed sensation.

 

When they arrived at the farmers market she asked Paul if she could try to drive the truck on the way back.  He was surprised at first, but then that big boyish grin grew on his face and he said, “Sure! I’ll teach you how to drive it on the way back!”

 

She enjoyed the farmers market, seeing the surprise on Paul’s parents faces when they strolled on up.  Then Paul showed her around the market and got her some tomatoes from one of the vendors by promising the gentleman there that he would come over and fix one of his windmills later that day.

 

To ‘pay’ his debt, he showed Kuriko how to accelerate and brake the vehicle on their way to the farmer’s house.  She was a very quick learner, and before he knew it, she was plowing down a dirt country road at over 80 miles an hour.  They arrived at the farmer’s house 15 minutes later in a cloud of dust, breathless with laughter. He never thought that Kuriko had that in her, and he felt something change inside of him.

 

Two hours later, though, whatever he had been feeling was overshadowed by the intense math that they were both uncovering.  He had never run across any math problem with such complexity, and his mind was reeling at the mounds of information that a single Insectoid sentence could produce.

 

“Now, Paul, you know why I had to come to you about this.  I’m just overwhelmed by all of it,” she sighed, burying her head in her arms.

 

“You and me both, Sis!” was his only reply.

 

They continued until nightfall, and then she told Paul and his parents that she really had to return to Japan.  Her father was a professor of Interstellar Commerce at several of the local Osaka Universities, and he was going to have to be back at work in a few days.  He really wanted to spend some time with her, if it was at all possible.

 

Paul felt like the wind was let out of his sails with that news, but understood her situation,  so he helped her pack her things and downloaded most of his research on to his data file cube so he could continue working on the math equations.  She thanked him and his parents for their hospitality and then went outside, where she activated her transport transceiver and immediately transported herself back to Osaka, Japan.

 

Paul wasn’t certain how he felt about things, so he did what he always did when confronted with a personal problem: he delved into his research.  He was at it till the very early morning hours, doing all his work in his own room, so he wouldn’t disturb his parents, when he started to see a pattern.  The math equations were beginning to look somewhat familiar, the answer just out of his reach, and he immediately attributed it to lack of sleep. He checked his watch and noticed it was 5:30 in the morning.

 

“If I hit the sack now, a few hours of sleep should do wonders,” he said to himself. He was starting to disrobe when his video monitor flashed to life, informing him of an incoming phone call.  He quickly put on a bathrobe and answered the call. To his surprise, and deep in his mind, his pleasure, it was Kuriko.

 

“So, how’s the weather in Japan?” he asked to get a conversation going.

 

“You should be asleep,” she replied condescendingly.

 

“Couldn’t,” he said in mock indignation. “Your homework is keeping me up!”

 

“Believe it or not, that’s actually good news.  You will be able to sleep this one off with the 14-hour time difference.”

 

Maybe it was because of the lack of sleep, because he wasn’t following her conversation, but after a few sluggish seconds of silence, his sleepy brain got the invitation in her tone.

 

“Lieutenant Commander Miyagawa, am I to understand your order to report to Japan?” he said, lazily saluting her over the video phone.

 

She giggled and replied, “Yes sir, Commander Peters.  I am sending you the transport coordinates now. I hope you can handle a Japanese dinner?”

 

“Never tried one before.  I didn’t realize that this could be a hazardous mission, Sir!”  Again, the salute, eliciting another laugh in response.

 

“Get going, Sir.  My parents have their guest room ready for you.  I believe we are close on this one, so I talked them into having you stay for a few days.”

 

“You are certain this won’t be an imposition for them, Kuriko?” he asked, all his fake seriousness gone.  “I thought your father wanted to spend some time with you?”

 

“He did,” she replied, her voice dropping to a whisper, “but I talked him into having you over when I told him you would be happy to teach a class as a visiting professor for the day with the Warp Drive Engineers at the Engineering College tomorrow morning.”  There was pleading in her voice, and he realized that her parents must be just out of video range.

 

“Of course, I will”, he said in what was probably a bit too loud of a voice, “after all, warp engines are my specialty!”

 

She smiled and said to come soon.  They were going to take both out for dinner and then he could go to sleep early.  It was 7:30PM in Osaka, so with a bit of luck he would be in bed by 9 or 9:30PM. Interesting way to beat jet lag, he thought.

 

A few minutes later he arrived at their apartment door and was greeted with the usual overdone politeness of the Japanese society.  Kuriko’s parents were quite nice and treated both of them to a wonderful dinner. He had never tried sushi before, and found, much to his delight, that he loved it.

 

He was very happy that they understood his situation with jet lag and had him in a very comfortable bed by 9:30. He was out like a light and, to his surprise, quite well-rested when he woke at 6:30 the next morning.  True to her word, Kuriko got him to the University at 9 and he was not only discussing warp drives and the new Trans dimensional warp drives of Enterprise, but he was also lecturing sixty different classes all over Japan at the same time.  The questions from the students came at an enormous clip, and he handled it as if he had been teaching all his life. He enjoyed it a great deal and was shocked when he discovered that three hours had flashed by in an instant.

 

Kuriko’s father was overjoyed and asked if Paul would come again at some future time to do it all over again.  That was perfectly okay with him, and they all went to lunch, getting a bit tipsy with the hot sake and the many “Kanpai” that were shouted after each serving of food.  It was after 3 when Kuriko’s father had to go back to the school to teach and he let both get back to their work.

 

Maybe it was the real alcohol or still some jet lag, but Paul found himself making some big leaps of logic while he was tackling one of the Insectoid language equations.  Something clicked and he suddenly recognized one of the parts of the math equation he was deciphering.

 

“Holy cow, Kuriko!  I think I’ve got something here!”  His fingers were flying over his keyboard and then he said, “Computer, pull up the Risa City Center Hall schematics.”

 

Instantly the air in front of them flashed alive with a 3D holographic image of the Risa City Center Hall with loads of schematics and architectural formulas all around the sides of the photo.

 

“There!” He pointed to one in the lower right hand corner.  It immediately grew to fill the whole screen. “Computer, architectural equations 2241.  Author?”

 

The computer responded ,“Author of architectural equation 2241 is Dr. Helio Sukarin, of Tiagris III.”

 

“Of course,” Paul shouted, looking more and more excited.  Kuriko wasn’t exactly following his logic, but she went along with him to see where this was going to lead.

 

“Kuriko, the math we are running across…it’s architecturally driven!  You see this equation I pulled from sentence 16 here? It has been looking so familiar to me for a few days now, and, I have no idea how I am putting this all together, but it occurred to me that this equation possibly would work in an architectural design. So I pulled up the Risa City Hall hologram, here”–he swiped at the screen and pulled it back in front of them–“and this curve on the building”– he pointed at the lower right hand corner quadrant–“was attributed to a mathematical architectural equation from Dr. Sukarin, who said he got the idea for the design of the entire building from Venusan sandworms…an insect!”

 

He looked at her eagerly, hoping that she would see the connection, and to his great relief her eyes got very wide with the comprehension of what he was saying.

 

She slapped her head as if saying “why didn’t I think of this before” and said, “My God, Paul.  That’s it. Their entire language is based off insect architecture!” She leaped to her feet and so did he.

 

“That’s right,” he said gleefully, “Insects all over the Federation are masters of architecture.  The golden Tarkanian spider weaves the most complex web found anywhere in the galaxy!”

 

“Earth bees and wasps shape their hives using complex architecture!” she laughed in agreement.

 

He picked her up high in the air and spun her around. “We did it!  We did it!”

 

Then, it was as if they both finally realized what they were doing, and he slowly lowered her back down to the ground, feeling very embarrassed.  His hands remained around her waist while her arms were around his neck. They were both gazing into each others eyes, and he didn’t realize at first what he was doing, but he couldn’t stop himself, and he leaned over to kiss her lightly on her lips.  He half expected a slap on the face from her, but it never happened. He pulled away and was about to offer his apology for taking advantage of her when she put her finger on his lips, shook her head, and re-kissed him with great passion.

 

He felt a nudge in his ribs from his right and noticed Captain Boras bringing him out of his daydream.  She whispered to him to get ready for the transport. They were on the last speaker. But then her reaction changed and she apologized to him, as there was still one more speaker before Admiral Tesser.  She was visibly annoyed.

 

Paul was not upset about being brought back to the present, though.  He glanced over at Kuriko and was immediately rewarded with her beautiful smile.  He really was in love with her, and he was mentally pinching himself to make certain that it all wasn’t a dream.  He had never gone with any woman for longer than a few weeks. Many of his friends called him the typical sailor: a woman in each port of call.  That was him!

 

Yet he felt like he was a magnet’s south pole and Kuriko was the north pole.  He couldn’t get enough of her. She was, in his mind, the perfect woman. Yes, that must be it, he thought to himself, she is the embodiment of femininity.  He had been coming to this conclusion, not just about Kuriko, but Japanese women in general.  Of course, he knew that there had to be women, not just all over Earth, but all over the Federation, that had not lost their true femininity, yet after meeting dozens and dozens of Kuriko’s female friends and the many other Japanese women he had been running into over the past five months, he saw a trend that could not be ignored.  

 

Even with all the great advancements in technology, science, literature, and women’s rights over the past millennium, the Japanese women still held onto their femininity with a passion.  Sure, they were as equal as any man in literally everything, but they did not, nor did they want to be, equalized to such a point that they lost what being a woman was all about. He was amazed that he had never noticed that throughout his adult years.  He could only count his blessings that he had found Kuriko. He knew this to be quite true, because the “M” word (marriage) was not scaring him off like it used to. He had not asked the question, but something in the back of his mind was making it a more prominent thought these days.

 

Then he heard applause, returned to the ceremony, and realized that Admiral Tesser was just now being announced as the final speaker.  He tapped his uniform transceiver and said, “Enterprise, get ready for crew beam-up.”

 

The Transport Engineer replied, “Ready on your word, Sir.”

 

“Acknowledged, Enterprise.…Stand by…”

 

The applause subsided, Admiral Tesser took the podium, and gestured to Paul.

 

Paul immediately yelled in his best command voice, “Enterprise Bridge crew…ATTENTION!”

 

Everyone broke out of their parade rest stance, as the large audience turned around to witness the send-off.

 

“PRESENT…SALUTE!” and the entire Bridge crew, including Captain Boras, presented a crisp Salute to Admiral Tesser, who in turn acknowledged the salute with one of his own.  Paul leaned in close to his uniform transceiver and said, “Energize!”

 

The entire crew compliment began to dematerialize in front of everyone, still holding their salute, while the crowd cheered.

 

Paul watched as the ceremony scene started to fade away and his beautiful engines started to become crisper and clearer.  As soon as he had fully materialized he noticed his second in command, Lieutenant Commander Arthur Truly, standing next to him, and he said to him, “Thank God that’s finally over!”

 

Arthur pointed over his shoulder and Paul blanched, immediately noticed the flying video camera taking in the Engineering scene.  He quickly noticed that it was not activated for audio, though, and breathed a sigh of relief.

 

“Dear Engines,” he started to sing, turning away from the camera, “you are my one and true friend…” and he immediately started to get to work readying them for the departure.

 

Captain Boras was not exactly in a very good mood when she materialized on the Bridge of Enterprise-S.  In fact, she was furious. They were supposed to have left almost two hours ago, and these long-winded Starfleet Brass couldn’t shut up!  She sat in her Captain’s chair with a huff, noticing that the damn flying video cameras were all over the place, and they were all on live audio feed as well.

 

So, she thought to herself, Starfleet wants a nice, clean, slow exit, do they?  Make me stay and listen to all those long winded, conceited Admirals, will you?  I think I’ll just change the itinerary a bit!

 

She pulled up her personal computer screen from one of the arms of her Captain’s chair, took a quick look around at the flying vids to make certain there wasn’t one over her shoulder, and then she typed in a personal message to her Helmsman, Lieutenant Croser.  She pressed the send bar and waited as she saw him reading her message. He turned to look at her with a big grin on his face and acknowledged his order with a wink. His hands were flying over his manual keyboard fast enough that the vids could not see what he was doing.

 

Back in Engineering, Paul saw a personal message from Soran flashing on his data screen.  He immediately opened it, making certain that only he could read it, and mischievous grin grew on his face.  “Damn,” he whispered, “Captain’s got some huevos!” He immediately started to set everything in motion.

 

At the podium, Admiral Tesser was finishing his short speech, something that he prided himself on, because he hated public speaking, and he pressed a button inside the podium to signal Captain Boras that she was to start leaving spacedock.  Applause started to ring out as he turned and noticed Enterprise-S was breaking its moorings and starting to slowly leave spacedock. The plan was for Enterprise to leave at 40 kilometers per hour until it cleared space dock and then increase to sub-impulse until it was out of visual range.  The crowd started to move towards the observation windows and was ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘ahh-ing’ as the massive ship slowly left its moorings.

 

Captain Boras was smiling on the inside but kept her serious face cemented in stone.  “Forty KPH, Lieutenant,” she said in her best command voice.

 

“Aye, Sir,” came the reply. “Forty KPH.”

 

The great ship moved forward, inching its way past all the moorings.  Some space suited mechanics were out on one of the lift arms of the space dock, waving as Enterprise-S slowly left the dock.  She could see out of a port window all the guests and Admirals, waving frantically from the observation deck. She could even see a brass band behind the throngs of people, obviously playing the Federation Anthem.

 

As soon as Enterprise cleared the space dock she said, “Now, Lieutenant!” and he struck the warp drive button on his manual console.

 

Admiral Tesser was taking a sip from his wine glass as Enterprise just was clearing the last portion of the space dock.  He watched as a bluish white light suddenly grew on her two warp nasal cells, and–whoosh!–she was instantly gone.

 

Instant shock and surprise ran through the crowd as if someone had shot a twelve-gage shotgun off in the middle of it.  All Admiral Tesser could do was shake his head and mutter under his breath, “You sure have Chutzpah, Michelle…pure CHUTZPAH!”

 

He immediately turned the corner, laughing and singing the “Chutzpah” in his head, and headed for the nearest exit to avoid the rush that would surely follow as everyone boarded their private ships back to Earth.  

 

“Eat crow!” yelled Lieutenant Croser, as the myriad of flying vids started to dematerialize, since they were out of their broadcast range already.

 

“That will be quite enough, Lieutenant,” said Michelle from her chair.  “Speed?”

 

Croser brought his pleasure at leaving all those hot windbag Admirals in the dust under control and replied,“Steady at Warp 5, Captain, as instructed.”

 

“Maintain course heading and speed, Lieutenant, until we are leaving the Oort Cloud.  You know the rest.”

 

“Aye, sir.”

 

“You have the Bridge, B’Tor.  I will be in my quarters until this evening’s poker game.” Michelle ordered.  

 

“Aye, Sir!” B’Tor said as Michelle got up from her chair and headed to the Bridge door that lead to her adjoining quarters.  As the doors closed behind her she shook her fist triumphantly. “Yes!

 

Comments

One Comment

  1. maestros1
    Posted July 11, 2018 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    The story is complete, however, I am going to add chapters gradually.

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