Maiden Voyage


Captain Ther’kev had little time to react. His ship was drained of seventy-five percent of its power. Weapons were offline and the strange six shuttles that appeared out of nowhere following the drain had commandeered six of his finest tactical officers. He never saw it coming.

Ther’kev stood face-to-face with the large alien ship on the main viewscreen to the bow of the U.S.S. Xerxes. A Destroyer class vessel. She had seen her fair share of battles. This adversary did not prescribe by any fair play nor honor doctrine. It had simply emerged from what science officer Shen’zu had described as a solar gateway. Xerxes’ mission was to investigate the abnormal recent radiant energy bursts in the quadrant. The crew did not expect to be attacked on a science mission.

Yet here they were. Captain Ther’kev went around the bridge with his senior officers, asking for opinions on the best course of action. The Andorian captain and most of his crew all held the firm philosophy of Ushaan, the honor code of duel to the death. That code was before them, but they had little options. Without options, the duel could have only one result. That would not happen. Nor would the Xerxes fall into the hands of this unknown enemy who had ambushed the one hundred and eight crew members and twenty officers that inhabited this proud space-faring vessel.

Immediately after a final Captain’s Log into the record, as all communications with Starfleet had failed, they launched the distress buoys. Captain Ther’kev turned to his senior officers once more.

“We shall not let this ship fall into the hands of the enemy,” he said with grim intent.

They all knew the meaning of this statement and how their futures have all crossed this path for the last time. Straightening his tunic, he sat down with his irrevocable act of dignified defiance. The final time he would survey his bridge crew with the admiration it had earned over its twelve-year commission.

“Computer, Ther’kev, Commanding U.S.S. Xerxes. Serial number SC 217 9122 CEC. Auto-destruct activate.”

In the back of his mind, the power drain. Was there enough power remaining to destroy the Xerxes and her foe as well, or even enough to accomplish auto-destruct? He would know in the next four minutes and thirty seconds after Commander Shen’zu, the third and final officer required for the sequence to begin, entered his code.

On the exterior, the large alien ship turned sluggishly to port as a nearby gateway appeared from the center of a dead star. Into the mass of the opening portal, the ship shimmered only to re-emerge from a newly formed portal at the edge of the Xerxes position. Drifting across the hull of disabled starship, a great shadow fell, then wiped across, illuminated by the portal’s light. Letter by letter, for one final time, the call letters of the ship shone brightly, U.S.S. Xerxes, NCC-505.

The hull shattered internally buckling outward, sending fragments of those letters towards the looming alien ship now crossing its starboard bow. Was it enough to complete the mission Captain Ther’kev had hoped for as his ultimate solution to this tilted match of Ushaan?

The disposition of ships and events of that day would not be revealed until weeks later, when another ship would happen across her shattered hull. That ship’s investigation is the beginning of the end of the Xerxes encounter. That other ship will be named “Enterprise” and it will be part of her new captain’s maiden voyage.



The crystal shards danced playfully on top of the light. Fluidly, they maneuvered under each of two large bezels. The direction dictated the shapes and colors displayed under the control of its operator. Initially, cobalt blue petaled flowers with red pistils, much like those found on the wind fields of Taltus Four. Their sweet fragrance that somehow heightened the other senses only matched their beauty.

The petals suddenly collapsed on each other, creating new patterns and images. These took the shape more like earth lilies, with their broad white petals lying in a green field. He was close. The actual images he sought were a wrist twist away. That is where the memories he sought lived. A delicate turn of the bezel for a final time brought forth a cavalcade of tiny horses, brown with black manes and tails. Others may perceive these images as something else, but not for this pilot.

Instinctively, he reached for the sugar cubes in his pocket, but they were empty.

“Tango old buddy, I hope you and Mary Lou are fairing well,” he whispered under his breath.

The pilot reminisced about his two Morgans back on the farm in Mojave. He felt solace for the first time in the past two weeks. Interesting how we long for the meadows of the familiar while waiting at the crossroads of uncertainty, he thought.

Did someone historically famous write that? Perhaps some spur-of-the-moment inspiration this dreamer had just catalogued for future use when the time was right? He sighed as this temporary distraction from his insomnia had run its course.

Captain Christopher Pike lowered the kaleidoscope from his eye and placed it carefully back on its stand. It was one of his more treasured possessions. Given to him by Lieutenant Rios and his betrothed, Evie, as a gift for performing their nuptials during his last tour of duty on the Enterprise under then Captain Robert April, the object sat in a place of reverence. Presently, the object served as a conduit to his farm back home while he assumed his role as explorer. In his hands, however, this brass tube of splintered glass navigated him back there.

Pike looked over at his bed. Starfleet issued sheets laid twisted as if a battle had occurred. For the past two hours, a battle raged on between the expectations of the next day and delays of the past two weeks. What to do next? Sleep wasn’t on any horizon anywhere for the time being. No more inspections. The crew was probably wearier of them than he was of giving them. Why Starfleet tacked on a series of TAD (Temporary Assigned Duty) missions before he could actually shake the rust off of the Enterprise and begin his first solo command was a mystery to him. He had served eighteen months under Captain April, the last twelve as second shift captain. Prior to that, the Essex Class, USS Antietam Starfleet attack carrier where he was not only their top pilot but served as deck commander as well. His confidence certainly did not need tested as his experience spanned both combat and exploration. It was just one of those things that one learned to deal with. Still, tomorrow was definitively the launch date, and the horses could finally spring out of the gate.

“Computer, location of Number One?” He suddenly had an idea for his stir crazy.

“Number One is currently in her quarters,” the female voice said.

Pike pulled on his tunic as he rose from his desk and headed out of his quarters with his own TAD.


The door on Number One’s quarters beeped. She wasn’t expecting anyone and at this hour, some last-minute duty details usually came via computer. Before she could rise to answer, her intercom chirped.

“Una, it’s Chris. Got a minute?” Pike’s voice used the familiar of both of their names. He was the only person on the ship who could refer to her in the familiar, mostly off-duty, of course.

Part of her duties as executive officer was that of a sounding board to her captain and occasionally a crew member who sought her counsel. It was a position she prized as second senior officer aboard the Enterprise. She felt she earned that.

“One moment, captain,” she responded. Number One was prepping for bed and was a bit more casually clothed than Pike. Retrieving a Starfleet issued robe, she re-assumed her place at her dressing table brushing her hair.

The door swished open as she granted access. Pike entered her quarters with a bit of enthusiasm. He stopped within inches of the doorway as the sight of her brushing her hair took him aback momentarily. Of course, she was beautiful, but he immediately transferred his thoughts back to Tango. How he would love to be brushing his mane at this moment. It would take the edge off this waiting. Pike was sure the correlation would meet with Number One’s disapproval if he shared it. A slight grin pursed the captain’s lips.

“What’s on your mind, captain?” She held the formal, although he had opened with the familiar forms of their names.

The captain crossed her quarters and took a seat in one of her lounge chairs. It was his home away from his quarters when he had business or casual conversations that a captain and his executive officer had expected or not.

Pike breathed deeply. “Going a bit stir-crazy, thought maybe you could help with that, but you seem ready to hit the rack.”

Number One smiled, knowing whatever plan she had was about to be waylaid.

“What did you have in mind?” she mused at his childlike presentation. He had charisma that went beyond any normal man. Purposefully or inadvertently, Christopher Pike knew how to summon it, and it always worked.

Pike rose to leave. “Nah, it’s alright, you appear ready to call it a night.”

“C’mon, Chris, you know me better than that.” Una volleyed with her use of the familiar back. She, too, had formidable charisma. Number One had to develop hers purposefully without letting her female charm be a detriment from the expectations one had of a female Starfleet officer.

Some of her virtues came easily, some she learned to mask for the forward motion of her career. She had to battle the typical myths about women officers: not strong enough; not equally proficient in career aptitude; weaker because more apt to display emotions; not highly intelligent. She had dealt with all of them. Occasionally, she had run into the superior officer that was an inflexible, know-it-all decision maker that passed the buck in the event of failure. The type of leader that executed plans without input from colleagues with hands-on experience. From those, she learned a great deal of how to execute the exact opposite.

Her leadership style integrated confidence in well thought-out opinions. Number One had always been intuitive but acts on facts which has built a self-assured outspokenness. All options were viable to her, and no relationship was ever disposable. One skill she developed that helped bridge that gender gap, her ability to relate to men while maintaining her femininity. This is one she now used with her captain.

He resumed his seat, crossed his fingers, and fidgeted. “It’s just all of this waiting. I’m driving the section chiefs crazy with non-stop inspections. Sully kicked me out of engineering. He and the new boot are working on the ray-shielding just installed.”

She knew where he was heading and rolled her eyes, half-chuckling. “So I’m guessing some physical exertion is what you’re looking for eight hours before we finally launch?”

Pike said nothing, but continued to fidget. They shared a closeness that transcended friendship. He knew he was imposing, but she was the first one who came to mind when he needed a distraction. She was the only one who came to mind. There was a bond of intimacy that the two shared in their duty, separated by a thin line of professional conduct called Starfleet Command. Perhaps in another time and place, the word “love” was a possibility, but they both had made a different choice. That choice placed them on the bridge of the Enterprise.

“Kintaru?” Number One asked.

He looked up sheepishly, smiling. “Kintaru!”

Laughing, she stood up and moved to her closet. “Meet you in the rec room in five minutes. Let me get my gear.”

This was his solution to trigger sleep. He sprung to his feet with child-like enthusiasm headed to the door. Number One halted him. “Oh, and captain, no cheating this time.”

Captain Pike grimaced, leering at her. “That’s what you call it now?”



The recreation room was quiet except for a few off-duty officers weight training. Pike selected a work-out room, programming the computer for the bout to take place.

“Computer, load program Kintaru, designation, Pike. Set contest to new, match point at eleven.”

The captain then strode over to his locker and suited up in his kinarugi armor. It was lightweight despite its origins of old, bulky environmental suits. This armor resembled a padded bodysuit with the individual sensor components augmented as protection for both combatants. Color was a matter or personal taste, but Pike chose red. He stretched as he awaited his opponent.

Kintaru was a recreational form of mixed martial arts. Integrating disciplines from Andorian, Human and Vulcan cultures, it had become a favorite amongst those who had taken the time to master it. Unlike most sparring, the sport was a test of controlled contact. Through sensors in the boots, chest plate, gloves, headgear and kneepads, a computer application measured the pounds per square inch of strikes. The participants set the minimum and maximum contact value, wherein points were assigned when contact was made in that range. Exceeding the maximum value deducted a point, a minimum value awarded a point. The concept of the martial art was to control aggression, even when adrenaline through physical stimulus was increased.

Number One entered the rec room with Pike into his stretch routine. She was already dressed in her kinarugi. Her color choice was white. Joining him with her own limbering up form, neither made eye contact. They were both in the zone mentally for the challenge about to confront them. As if they had previously rehearsed, both combatants stopped, assuming the starting position in the middle of the mat. Side stances, outer foot to outer foot, back of the hands touching. Now they made eye contact.

“Ready?” Pike asked his executive officer. She took her position. “Computer, begin match, red verses white.”

A claxon sounded, signifying the start of the match. They double tapped gloves to begin the scoring process. Slowly, they broke the stance. Stalking each other like prey in small confines, Pike struck first with middle attack followed up with a low knife hand strike.

“Red: two, white: zero,” the computer reported the hits.

Number One attempted a snap kick, but Pike blocked with a rising block. No points awarded. The designation of Pike loaded all previous matches, augments to the program and personal modifications. Blocks scored no points. The data recorded progress. Scores were manually entered, should the existing program not know how to award points from conflicting sensory data such as blocks and takedowns. Sometimes scoring was awarded for creative or unusual maneuvers. Since they wrote the original application prior to the newest innovations in artificial intelligence, it was up to the individual operators to add additional parameters. The designator would teach the AI as the sport progressed beyond the original programmer’s limitations.

Pike landed another knife edge chop. Number One countered with a backhand to his headgear.

“Red: three, white: one.”

Apparently to Number One, Pike was opening with the Andorian disciplines. The race had long been known for skills in knife fighting. Adopting those talents was a natural inclusion into Kintaru, as the artform was simply beautiful to behold, of course without the knives. Inevitably, the match resembled a musical waltz in four-four time. A blitzkrieg of furious action was difficult to defend against once a rhythm was established. She had taken part in many matches with her captain. This was Number One’s advantage. Over the years, and knew his tendencies. This did not make it any easier. In fact, it made it a bit more challenging, as if he set the tone for the match. She would constantly be on the defense. Not tonight.

Pike leaned in, hoping to strike a third successive knife hand blow. Number One spun left, moved to a front stance middle attack and delivered a perfectly timed reverse punch to the center of his chest plate.

“Perfect hit recorded, white. Bonus point awarded. Red: three, white: three.”

Pike grinned slightly as he stepped back and assumed a back stance, knife hand middle. So, she’s going for the perfect point, eh?

Each strike zone in kinarugi armor had value ranges assigned to them. Delivering a blow at the exact middle value of the zone resulted in a perfect hit and rewarded a bonus point. To achieve mastery of this took incredible patience, practice and being able to control one’s own adrenaline. Historically, the longer a match progresses, the more difficult it was to overcome physical factors that made that control possible. Combatants who relied on perfect hit scoring had to score as many points as possible before fatigue and other metabolic factors kicked in. Such factors made the strike more difficult, if not impossible. If perfect points were her strategy, Pike had to play more defense than maybe he would have preferred.

A flurry of blows and blocks ensued. Their timing was matching. Finally, the point stalemate was broken by each of them. What started with a backhand block by Pike, followed by an attempted leg sweep, ended with a hip toss takedown and back kick strike.

“Red: four, white: four.”

At the ten-minute mark, fatigue had crept in. Sweat dripped from their brows. After trading several points and losing a few from penalty points, at the twenty-minute mark, the match stood tied at eight. The familiarity with tendencies serving each well to this juncture had all but dissolved. This was a match of survival. Much like watching the later rounds of a boxing match, this one had taken on the same appearance to the several crew members who had gathered to watch their captain and executive officer duel to exhaustion

Number One had blocked Pike’s forward lunge. As she spun to counter, she slipped on the pool of perspiration that had gathered on the mat beneath them. Her right knee had crashed into the back of his slew footing him as they both crashed to the ground.

“Unable to ascertain point value,” the computer said. “Submit maneuver for manual input and scoring?”

Breathless, Pike answered from his back, “No, computer. It was an accidental spill. No value, no scoring.”

“Respiration and pulse values reaching warning stage. Recommend a break currently in the match,” the computer said.

Pike sat up and then helped Number One to her feet. He attempted to walk it off, but had a noticeable limp, ever so slight, but noticeable.

“Sorry Chris, I didn’t mean —”

“C’mon, Una, you know how these go. Never need to apologize. Ever.”

Pike walked over to the bench between lockers, retrieve a towel and tossed it to Number One before retrieving one for himself. He sat down hard on the bench and wiped his brow.

“Computer, pause match,” he said.

Number One joined him and retrieved a water bottle from her bag. Taking a deep draw, she exhaled. They suddenly noticed spectators on the outside of the sparring room glass. When discovered, the small crowd dissipated.

“Looks like you have a fan club,” Pike mused.

“Not me, captain.”

“Of course, they are yours. Every crewman wants to see their captain get his butt kicked.”

Her breathing had slowed as she took another draw of water. “Hadn’t thought of that,” she said, standing up. “Wouldn’t want to disappoint them then.”

Pike stood up and walked back to the mat, and readjusted his headgear.

“You’re sure your knee is okay?” she asked.

The captain verified he was fine. “Computer, resume match.”

Unlike the starting position at the beginning of the match, when resuming combatants face each other with a three-feet distance, front karate stance. Both assumed the position. Again, the klaxon signified the start of the match. The small group of onlookers reappeared. There was no way they would miss the end of this match.

As they circled each other, they reviewed their opponent’s potential ultimate strategies. Captain Pike slightly favored his right knee, that more than likely would force him to abandon the Andorian style, which required supreme balance. For Number One, she had rested during the brief time-out. Was this enough to recharge her abilities to land another perfect hit? The momentary delay recharged them, as once more they matched the rhythm of the other’s movements. Pike struck first with another knife edge chop, but his lunge left him vulnerable to a backhand strike. Before the computer could update the score, Pike finally landed his leg sweep. Number One hit the deck.

“Red: ten, white: nine. Match point to red. Assume match positions.” The computer updated match status.

Pike helped Number One to her feet. “About time you landed that, captain.”

“You slowing down on me, Number One?”

She half-glared as they assumed the match point position. This was the most challenging of all. There were a myriad of strikes that could result. The combatants assumed the position, back-to-back like duelists from eighteenth century Earth, sans the pistols. Who would strike first and from what direction? The captain had the advantage as one more point and he is the victor. He could also spare a point should Number One strike first.

What would he do? What does he think I will do?

The klaxon sounded. Neither moved. They knew each other too well. It made securing the last points of the match that more difficult. There was no surprise strategy either could lean on. Any historic precedent had no bearing.

Number One was beginning to understand watching her new science officer play chess alone against himself. She once asked him why he didn’t find an opponent? His reply was simply, “I am my own best opponent.” Perhaps that was the answer.

Pike moved first, executing a perfect shoulder roll forward. Without a second hesitation, Number One matched his movement with a back somersault, landing on his blind side. Applying a Vulcan neck pinch and temple grip, the crowd assembled let out a cheer from behind the glass before the computer could render the final verdict.

“Red: ten, white: eleven. Match point achieved. White is the victor.” The computer posted the result.

She caught him completely off guard and did not know what just happened. Turning with surprise, he extended his hand to shake Number One’s hand.

“Impressive move. What do you call that one?”

“Don’t know yet. Maybe the Ensign Spock?” Number One raised an eyebrow attempting to mimic her new science officer.

The captain didn’t understand the reference. “The boot taught you that?”

“In a manner of speaking,” she said.

He wandered over and picked up his towel, removing his headgear. Drenched in sweat, Pike glanced over to the glass where the crowd broke up.

“Well, this will be all over the ship by morning,” Pike said. “Computer, store match as Ensign Spock maneuver.”

The computer confirmed the request as Pike retrieved his uniform from the locker.

“Guess I’ll carry these back. No point in putting these on. I’m pretty ripe in this jumpsuit.”

“You and me both, captain. That’s why I just wore mine here,” Number One answered as her hair spilled out from her helmet on removal.

Pike, still carrying a slight limp, moved to the rec room door.

“Una, thanks again. I should sleep like a baby now,” he paused, “and congratulations. That may have been one of our best matches to date.”

She agreed as the wall intercom whistled.

“Bridge to Captain Pike.”

Pike strode to the wall panel and punched the intercom button.

“Pike here.”

“Captain, Commodore April on a secured channel for you.”

“I’ll take it in my quarters. Let him know I’ll be there in three minutes. Pike out.”

He turned to Number One with concern. “I hope this isn’t another delay.”

“He probably just wants to give you one of his famous pep talks on launch eve.”

“Let’s hope so.”

The captain exited the rec room and proceeded to his cabin. Little was left of his limp now, which was a relief as his adrenaline had died down considerably at match end. He reached the turbolift.

“Deck five.”

The turbolift began its ascent, moving faster, as did his thoughts. The launch had been delayed for two weeks already. If there’s another delay, I’m heading back to the farm until I’m ready to give the command to leave drydock, he mused.

Entering his cabin, he had forgotten that he had still worn his kinarugi. There was no time to change. He also knew Commodore Robert April well enough to know that a call this late at night required less than proper decorum. Pike sat down at his desk, towel around his neck, and flipped the switch on his computer console. Commodore April materialized on the screen.

“Good evening, captain.” April noticed the towel. “Late night workout to shake off the jitters?”

Pike smirked. “Something like that.”

Commodore Robert April, with his perfectly coiffed salt and pepper hair, sported a large moustache. That was something new. The commodore had served as starship captain for longer than anyone in Starfleet history, clocking in with three five-year missions. Recently accepting promotion to commodore, he preferred to think of it as an alternative career path as opposed to being slowly led out to pasture, in Pike’s horse parlance. Here sat the two men, separated by the space between the Enterprise’s officer deck and Star Fleet Command in San Francisco on Earth. Two men, bound within the same destiny, one just beginning, the other ending his legacy. Indeed, a historic moment.

April continued, “I figured I’d just check in with you on launch eve. You’ve probably been champing at the bit like Tango or Mary Lou?”

“That may be the understatement of the century, sir,” he said. “I imagine I’m driving the crew a little crazy with my constant looming.”

The commodore laughed out loud. “I can visualize that. I’ve been there countless times myself. Look Chris, there will be times when Starfleet interrupts even the best laid plans. M-114 is in desperate need of supplies, although their resupply request contained some unusual items. I’ve known Cyril Vessey, the colony’s governor, for quite a while now. His manifest is always unusual, pretty heavy on protein packs too. Not sure what a colony of vegetarians need with twenty class v containers of base protein powder. No telling though. They’re a think-tank of sorts, so you could run into practically anything. I’d like for you to look into that before dropping cargo.

“As for the Andorians, that god-forsaken ice planet they live on is prone to energy conduit ruptures because of the extreme temperatures. They rely on resupply of worker bees and repair drones to keep their infrastructure intact. Enterprise is vital to both missions before the exploration to seek out new life and new civilizations resumes.” April stopped with a sudden thought, stroking his moustache. “Hey, I like that line. Maybe I’ll use it in my send-off speech tomorrow.”

Of course, the commodore was right in mission priority. Pike knew this, but it didn’t make waiting around any easier. He was indeed “champing at the bit,” to use April’s analogy. The installation of reinforced panels and recently installed ray shielding over critical systems offered a test drive of the improved Enterprise, which no one had piloted before those upgrades were implemented. The captain was understandably excited and razor focused on the missions at hand. He always played his emotions close to the vest. With his executive officer, in private anyway, and his former commander, his raw emotions were more easily on display.

“You’ll be joining us, commodore? I assumed —”

“You were hoping for Admiral Rodgers? I pulled rank and convinced him I should be the one to see you off. I’ve certainly earned that privilege.” April winked.

“That you have, sir.”

“Chris, you’re one of the most decorated officers in the fleet. You’ve handpicked your command crew, taken one of the most sought-after young science officers ever to graduate the Vulcan Academy, and even kept around that salty old dog, Gunny Cole and his jarhead security crew. Your performance under my command in all areas of expertise was exemplary. I would have never taken a desk job with any other captain at the helm of the Enterprise.”

“Thank you, sir. I promise to do my best to live up to your expectations.”

“Oh, you’ve already done that. I fully expect you to exceed them. The one thing that I always marveled at was your superior commitment to delegate tasks and trust your crew. They know that and respect you beyond your wildest imagination because of it.”
“Well, sir, every man and woman has something unique to bring to the table that they hadn’t learned in Starfleet. That x-factor that makes them different and provides solutions not in the book,” Pike said humbly.

“Well, in all of my experience, that’s rare. At the end of the day, the final decision rests on your shoulders and you never hesitate to make the call, taking full responsibility for your decisions. Plus, you always seem to have a plan, no matter how hot the kitchen gets. Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. What you may or may not realize, with your command style, the men and women feel part of that. That’s why you succeed and will continue to.”

“I appreciate your confidence, sir.”

“Also, you won’t need to worry about me being a pain in the ass, looking over your shoulder. I really plan on focusing on the development of a new generation of Pikes and Unas, but my hailing frequency will always be open, priority channel, should you need me. Speaking of Una, how is my favorite exec, now your exec?”

“She’s fine, sir, as always.”

“I look forward to seeing her tomorrow. How do you think she’ll react to my new look?’

Pike grinned. “She’ll love the moustache, sir. Adds a certain distinction to Starfleet.”

April laughed. “I guess we’ll see!” The commodore sat back in his chair and stretched. “Well, it’s late. I figured you’d be up as I’ve been there myself, too many times to count. Rest easy, Chris, you got this. I’ll see you at eleven hundred hours tomorrow for pre-launch. Let Sully know I’ll be dropping by engineering as well. I want to see what he and Ensign Spock have been up to with the ray shielding installation.”

“So that’s where my boot has been? Haven’t seen him much outside of the occasional chess match he plays alone in the rec room. I’m going to have to remind Sully he’s mine.”

April chortled. “Good luck with that. Sleep well and see you in the morning. April out.”

The commodore’s image faded as the screen went black. Captain Christopher Pike sat thinking about the pep talk he just received. He hoped one day to motivate with the same effect as his former captain. Although his journey as the Captain of the United Space Ship Enterprise was just beginning, he had learned a lot from Commodore Robert April.

It was time for a shower, then sleep. He had hoped the throbbing in his knee and shoulder dissipated enough for him to drift off. A hot shower should loosen things up. Indeed, it did. He had fallen asleep within minutes of his head hitting the pillow. He dreamed of horses.



Zero eight hundred came early the next morning. Captain Pike was up and ready to go following his morning grooming ritual. Freshly shaven, the captain pondered two uniform choices for the day. Upon his bed sat his standard gold tunic and his full-dress olive tunic. Commodore April didn’t exaggerate, saying that Pike was one of the most decorated officers in the fleet. The chest of his dress tunic was adorned with ribbons and badges of every imaginable color.

“The commodore is coming aboard, full-dress is of course authorized for such occasions, but will that seem too pretentious?” Pike muttered. “Then again, what the hell, this is my first launch as captain. That won’t ever happen again.”

He had talked himself into the full-dress tunic. Standing in front of the mirror, he fastened the front gold piping trim and the neck clasp. This was indeed an occasion that warranted the uniform. There was a confidence that accompanied wearing the fabric of the uniform. Pike strode confidently across the room, through the door, and down the corridor. Several crew members wished him luck on the launch as he moved towards the turbolift.

“Galley, deck seven,” Pike said. The lift responded to his command.

As he arrived at the galley, his security chief, Gunnery Sergeant Idris Cole, who went by the moniker of “gunny” intercepted him.

“Hey skipper, big day ahead?” Cole greeted him.

“Big time, gunny. Join me for a cup of coffee?”

“No, thanks, sir. Getting the troops ready for final send off. I just wanted to say a big thank you for requesting the unit stay on for this tour,” his security chief answered.

Pike smiled and extended his hand for a handshake. “I want the best on this tour of duty. You and your Marines have certainly earned that. Kept my butt out of danger more times than I can count.”

Cole vigorously shook his hand. “We have had some adventures, sir,” he said, “it’s just with the scuttlebutt going around about Starfleet red shirting the Federation Marines.” Gunny pondered momentarily before concluding. “We all prefer the action to being mothballed. Then, of course, putting big red targets on my troops.”

Pike understood and assented. “Gunny, for the next five years it’s business as usual, if there is such a thing on the Enterprise, for you and your jarheads.”

Gunny Cole snapped a salute. “Aye, aye, sir. Request permission to carry on?”

Pike returned the salute. “Granted. And gunny, keep those blue shirts squared away.”

“Always sir!”

Cole executed an about face and hurried off down the corridor. He headed to the lower decks, where the Federation Marines were quartered. Cole had convinced then Captain April to convert one of the unused cargo bays into a training facility for his Marines to keep their skills sharp as explorations missions had extended down time. Gunny and his troops turned the bay into their home away from home including a mini-bar, recreation center and sports complex, besides a tactical training facility.

His assessment of Starfleet was correct. It intended to combine security forces under one leadership umbrella as the need for expeditionary combat forces was no longer needed under a diplomatic flag of peace and unity. This would relegate the old-timers like Cole to staff advisor positions at fleet headquarters or operations officers on colonization assistance efforts. Neither of those shoes fit a lifer like Cole, who had spent his career at the center of security duties, particularly the unknown rush of landing party details.

Gunnery Sergeant Idris Cole was a throwback to Marines personified romantically by historians. The rear of every Good Conduct Medal read: “Fidelity, Zeal, Obedience.” Cole held these virtues as the foundation of his sworn allegiance to the Marine motto, semper fidelis, always faithful. He did, however, have strong opinions and a mind of his own. The ‘Corps did not want mere puppets. Through time, he had mastered the ability to pull his thoughts together to form cohesive arguments either for or against a course of action. This was something that he taught all of his troops. When approached with ideas, his response was always two words, “convince me.”

He was also a troop’s leader. Always side-by-side with his team during any mission, they revered his leadership style. Of course, military protocol was always followed with “yes, gunny” or “no gunny.” That line was always essential for maintaining the chain of command. For now, Idris would continue his security chief duties training his men and one woman on the lower decks of the Enterprise for this tour.

Pike pivoted and entered the mess hall, attempting to get a cup of coffee from the food replicator on the far wall. It’s not that he wanted to avoid his crew, but he was singularly focused on launch. They read him when he was in such a state. He was relieved to find the small galley crowd continued with their morning chatter before reporting to their posts for the duties that confronted them for the day. The captain went unnoticed mostly.

Captain Pike arrived at his destination, hit the processor command button and barked out, “Coffee, one and one.”

The processor dropped the cup, complying with the captain’s first command of the day. He turned, acknowledging crew members who had noticed his arrival, and made for the mess hall door. It swished open. He made his way back down the corridor to the turbolift. Engineering would be his next stop.


Ensign Spock left engineering, hastening to the turbolift. After weeks of retro fitting the new ray shielding with Lieutenant Sullivan, it was time for him to assume his role as science office on the bridge of the United Space Ship Enterprise.

He wasn’t aware of the honor it was for a newly assigned officer to hold that position with the first shift bridge crew. To be honest, he hadn’t considered it as personal accolades weren’t necessarily something sought by Vulcans. It simply wasn’t logical. He had suppressed his human, emotional side, eliminating the noise it would often interject into his thought process. It was not a matter of pride. That was impractical.

The young ensign was a fish out of water. He could come across as either extremely intense or somewhat aloof, dependent on his level of a mental engagement. His emotions were out of synch with the interpretations of his behaviors by peers and subordinates. He wasn’t trying to fit in with the human condition, as he lacked the experience to emulate their behaviors. It was more a matter of his own reactions to data at hand and how he manipulated it. Never giving pause to his omnipresent emotions, it was something he would learn to bury even deeper in time, presenting him as more of a machine than a man. That was a process, however. A process that had only begun. For this mission, balance was something he would first confront if he were to proceed further.

Logic. It was the Vulcan way. On a ship full of humans who constantly wrestled with the concept of common sense, emotional response, experiences and potential, logic occasionally got lost in the mix with whatever response finds itself as the victor in any situation. Each man and woman used their individual strengths for the greater collective good. The IDIC, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, was the cornerstone of the Vulcan belief system. This is an entry point of Ensign Spock into a new life he chose over one laid out for him at the Vulcan Science Academy.


Pike missed his new science officer by a scant few minutes as he stepped from the lift. This deck was quiet as most of the technicians were already at their posts and had been for the past several weeks running full duty rotation. As big of a day as this was for a captain, the engineering staff held even higher expectations. They were the men who ensured this ship of two hundred and six crew members currently moved effortlessly among the stars.

There was that anticipation creeping back in. Minutes seemed to drag like hours. He desired to be done with these preliminary inspections. Engineering was a must-stop as besides all the upgrades and retrofits, Pike knew Commodore April would make a stop there to see what all they had done to his ship since his transfer to fleet headquarters. Pike wanted to ensure Sully was prepared. Then, of course, the pain in his knee flared up again. He was doing his best to mask the discomfort, which was another reason for his haste in maneuvering through his morning routine.

The warp engine emanated a low pulsing hum behind its protective grating. Red glow filled the front portion of engineering as Pike entered. Met with a flurry of activity, he moved with re-established purpose towards the new console to the left of auxiliary override. There sat chief engineer, Lieutenant James “Sully” Sullivan. For some unknown reason, perhaps tradition, chief engineers always were tagged with a nickname. Sully never minded, although he restricted the name usage to Sullivan when acting as captain during second shift as Pike’s relief duty officer.

He was being groomed as a future captain. His knowledge of engineering extended to tactics. Lieutenant Sullivan was growing exponentially as he devoured history tapes on his limited off-duty. Being assigned to the Enterprise, he likened it to working on classic cars, as he was initially part of the design team as a senior in Starfleet Academy on the experimental Dreadnaught class ship in future development. Sully hoped to return to that project should the ship ever come to fruition. For now, the overhaul of Enterprise from its last mission kept his appetite satiated.

“Sully, how you holding up pulling double duty?” Pike asked his chief engineer.

“Sorry, sir, didn’t notice you enter engineering. It’s going well. Shall I give you a dress rehearsal before the old man gets here?” Sully responded, referring to Commodore April as the “old man.”

“Sure, although I’ve read your daily briefings. What you’ve accomplished with the engineering corps is pretty mind-boggling.”

Sully stood and walked over towards the main engineering console. He began his dissertation. “This panel is the heart of the new ray shielding. Basically, it provides an extra layer of shielding pretty much immune to any known existing methods of energy drain or damage from exotic energy. Generating a point zero one five energy bleed off, we can reroute the excess into vital systems or anything else that may experience an energy depletion from standard usage. It’s an augment to new external diburnium shield plating installed over vital systems.” Sully concluded his report. “That’s the nuts and bolts of the major upgrade, although we’ve added a minor modification to the dilithium intermix chamber, sir.”

This peaked Pike’s interest as he didn’t recall this detail in the dailies. “‘Minor modification?’”

“We noticed when tapping the excess, a familiar energy signature,” Sully said, “the signature resembled rubidium-five.”

“Like dilithium burn off?”

“Exactly. Ensign Spock and I reverse engineered a purification module, wired it into the Jefferies Tube and will have a small batch, for lack of a better term, of additional fuel for impulse power anytime the shield activates. It’s all a simulation for now, of course. We rewired an old satellite recalibration node left installed from the Calpari mining survey. It had all the base data for detecting rubidium-five. The Enterprise has a plethora of redundant exploratory systems that are still installed. Trying to figure out excellent uses for them.”

Sully examined his captain’s face, now in deep thought. He wondered suddenly if he had overstepped his boundaries. His experience with April provided an element of total freedom in engineering, but this was a new captain.

“Well then,” Pike said, “as long as this won’t blow up my ship, I’d say good initiative. As a footnote, I highly encourage independent thinking. I’d just like to be kept in the loop, as we have a crew of highly capable minds that may also have input in directions you may have not previously considered. It’s why I have a bridge crew, and you do too on second shift. Also, this shielding experiment works out and your rubidium theory generates additional impulse power, it could change fuel consumption in a big way. Shoot me a report and I’ll open a file. Good job, lieutenant.”

Sully felt his place. “Yes, sir.”

“Ensign Spock, eh? Not trying to poach him from first shift, Sully?”

“No, sir. The kid has a great mind for solving certain problems.”

Captain Pike was wondering about his new science officer. He had spent limited time with him and had yet to become familiar with him as the rest of his bridge crew. There were five years to remedy that situation. Still, he just dismissed the new boot as Starfleet placed him on the first shift under Pike. Something seldom done. Did he resent it or simply caught up in the preparations for launch? He drifted back to the meadow of the familiar.

“Okay, Sully. You have everything in more than ship-shape. I look forward to seeing what these enhancements can do in action.” Pike turned to leave engineering. The hum of the engines was in syncopation with the throbbing in his knee. He needed to find a seat soon. One more stop before the Bridge.


Captain Pike entered the transporter room and greeted transporter Chief Pitcairn. They awaited the signal from Starfleet to beam Commodore April aboard. As Pike tapped impatiently on the top of the transporter console, he felt his right shoulder tightening. Just great!

He punched the intercom button. “Pike to bridge. Number One, report to transporter room three.”

Glancing at the Federation Marines’ security detachment flanking the doors, he wondered if his physical discomfort was clear. If he could only sit down. This is my punishment for kintaru last night. The reflection was a source of amusement, if it wasn’t accompanied by pain.

The transporter door swished open. Number One entered.

“You look sharp, captain. Are we in dress uniforms? I didn’t get the memo,” his first officer asked.

“No, not everyone, just me. Protocol is flexible on visits from flag officers and uniforms on launch, but I figured this is my first, so…”

“Well, it is a pleasant touch. I am sure Commodore April will be honored.”

The intercom from the Bridge whistled. “Captain, Starfleet is signaling. Commodore April is ready to beam over.”

Pike glance over at Number One. “Here goes nothing.”

The transporter hummed and whirled as three forms shimmed against the metallic background of the transporter pad. Slowly the shimmering figures took the shape of Commodore Robert April and his security detail. A momentary pause occurred, which was typical as the transport subject regained their bearing. April stepped down from the pad.

“Permission to come aboard, Captain Pike?”

“Permission granted, sir.”

April chuckled at the formalities with this man he knew so well. He reached out and shook his hand. “Great to see you, Chris. Did you get some sleep?”

“Yes sir, plenty.”

April then turned his attention to Number One. “Una, you’re looking radiant, as always. I hope you are keeping your new captain in line?”

He cupped both of her hands. “As best as I can, sir. By the way, I love the moustache,” she said.

“This old thing? It goes with my new image.” He said. “Enough of these formalities, which I still can’t get used to. I think of you two as my kids. Let’s move to the bridge so we can get you on your way. I’m sure you’ve had it up to your eyes with delays, refits and waiting around for me. Security detail stand your post. I’ll take my stroll with Gunny Cole’s finest here.”

April’s security detail assumed the positions of the Enterprise security who turned to accompany the group to the Bridge. As they walked down the corridor, April noticed the slight limp Pike hid that had suddenly emerged. He didn’t bring it up as he realized how hard the captain was attempting to mask it. Instead, he shifted to the dress uniform. It is what excellent captains do.

“Captain Pike, you look pretty dapper in the dress uniform. I appreciate that. One day I may even have half of your decorations.” Commodore April was in his full-dress uniform as well. His was tunic was gold satin.

“Thank you, sir. Not very often do I get to break it out and wear it. Almost a shame.”

The party reached the turbolift and onward to the bridge. It was always special for anyone to witness the spectacle of a starship bridge. The doors opened, and the galaxy unfurled on the main viewing screen. Here the best of the best worked, handpicked by Starfleet Command. Helm, navigation, communication, engineering, science, environmental, defense/weapons all coordinated by the command chair in the center. This was the brain of the entire ship, which carried hope for universal peace through first contact.

“Commodore on deck!” One of the two security corporals announced.

The bridge crew all stopped what they were doing and sprang to their feet to attention. The party stepped on to the bridge. Commodore April surveyed the bridge and all the youthful faces. Some he knew, some he did not. They had refitted the bridge with new panels and cleaned immaculately for this next voyage. He had to reach far back into his memory to grasp the similar visual cues, but they were still there as if it were yesterday. This was home. He had moved on to Starfleet and passed the baton to a new captain. A part of him wondered if that was the right decision.

It was age, April reasoned. He couldn’t do things he used to, and the requirement of a limitless memory capacity was waning. All things end, he thought. Melancholy washed over him, but dissipated as fast as it rushed. For the next few minutes, he would revel in the adventures of his glory days. That would have to suffice.

“At ease, crew. Carry on with what you were doing, don’t let me interrupt you,” April commanded.

April walked over to the command chair and spun it around towards Captain Pike. “Aren’t you going to sit down, captain?”

April was making it official, although the orders had formally been issued. It was customary for one captain to pass on the command chair to the next. Unfortunately, with periods of war, mishaps on away missions and the general hazards that accompany deep space exploration, this was not a luxury always possible. Captain Pike assumed his position in the chair. It was such a momentous occasion for him; he had forgotten the throbbing knee pain because of his attempt to quell his insomnia.

April turned to communication’s officer Adam Adena. “Ensign Adena, put me on the ship’s comm.”

Ensign Adena complied. “Yes, sir. You’re live.”

Commodore April clicked on the data recorder on the command chair and began his send off. “Crew of the United Space Ship Enterprise, I greet you as your former captain. I extend great admiration for what you’ve accomplished and what you have yet to etch on the pages of Starfleet history. You are the best of the best or you wouldn’t be here. Many of you, I know and have shared a past few can comprehend. We’ve faced death occasionally, but cultivated life more often. It is these seeds that I leave with you today: seeds of wisdom, seeds of knowledge, seeds of experience. Plant them firmly in your travels as you seek out new life and new civilizations.” April winked at Pike. He promised he would use that line.

“Above all else, you are accountable to each other. Always hold that virtue high as together two hundred and six men and women cannot fail. I expect great things from you, Enterprise. I know you will exceed all of my expectations. Presently, you have jobs to do and don’t need to listen to any more long-winded speeches. Godspeed Enterprise crew. I’ll see you again in five years. I now officially transfer command to Christopher Pike, Captain, U.S.S. Enterprise, Commanding. Computer, please include a copy of the ship’s roster and manifest with this log for historical purposes. Robert April, Commodore, Starfleet Operational Command.”

The computer functioned with a few operational sounds and then a red light flashed, signaling the action had been completed. April pressed the switch off.

“Well,” April addressed Pike with a heavy sigh, “she’s all yours now. It is official and there aren’t any more delays. I wouldn’t do that to you this close.”

“Thank you, sir.”

April turned towards the turbolift, security detail in tow. “I’m going to pop my head into engineering, say ‘hi’ to Rios and Sully. No need for an escort. You have a bridge to run. Launch in under an hour. I’ll send Rios up. Difficult prying that boy from his consoles down there.”

April stopped short, rendered a hand salute, and spoke for the last time. “Permission to go ashore, captain?”

Pike snapped to his feet and saluted. “Permission granted, sir.”

The commodore stepped into the lift with his escort and headed to engineering. Pike sat back in his command chair and tended to the morning report his yeoman just handed him. Two hundred and six crew on deck, it read. He ruminated on that for a moment, glancing around the bridge. All these youthful faces that would be transformed forever in the coming months, plus the ones he may never meet. It was a big ship and the crew would fluctuate in size, dependent on mission, personnel exchanges, any of a plethora of reasons. All relying on him at the center of the decisions affecting them all.

Instinctively, he drifted away from the meadow of the familiar. His anticipation raced like a wild mustang across that same meadow. The excitement offered by the unknown. The many tests that awaited his command abilities. This was the moment he expected since his first cadet cruise. One day piloting his own ship into the possibilities exploration would yield. That moment had come.

His thoughts were interrupted by someone he was way overdue to visit.

“I hear there’s a crewman in need of medical help, but ignoring his doctor.” Doctor Philip Boyce said as he opened up his tricorder, removing the portable scanner.

He ran it the length of Pike’s body and back up again, eyes fixated on the tricorder screen.

“Don’t you have somewhere better to be?” Pike asked.

“Nope.” Boyce continued the on-spot examination. “Let’s see. Looks like a mild ACL sprain. How you’re still walking, I don’t know. Pretty bad contusion to the right shoulder too. That’s all doctor speak for you need to come to sickbay after you get this ship in the air.”

He took out a hypo injecting Pike before he could put up any resistance.

“You know I hate those things,” the captain said.

“Well, if you kids would learn how to play nice, you wouldn’t need it.” Boyce shot a glance over at Number One. She smiled and dropped her gaze to her control board.

Helmsman Lieutenant Jose Tyler, sitting next to her, smiled and looked away. Everyone aboard had spread the news about the previous night’s kintaru battle, just no one spoke about it, at least not to the captain.

Next to Number One, Doctor Boyce was probably Christopher Pike’s closest friend on the ship. He was more than the ship’s doctor; he was his empathetic ear, counselor and, frequently, bartender. Pike had often wondered if all captains had formed a similar bond with their doctors. Boyce was also a psychologist, which added a level of care. The two men just gelled from the get-go. They shared a lot of similarities and Pike’s old soul just seemed to mesh with the doctor, who was his senior by nearly twenty years. The crew also loved their witty banter, which made their captain seem a bit more approachable.

“Now that you’ve done your doctoring, I suppose you’re going to stick around and pester me until launch?”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world, captain.”

The final minutes dragged as the Enterprise awaited final docking clearance from Starfleet. Pike had hoped Commodore April’s inspection of engineering was brief. He had the reputation of talking engineers into a stupor. He would relax for now. These final few moments he would look back on decades from now. In this moment is where he delved. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the sensations. They would be stored for prosperity in his mind. Once the ship moved, a whole new chapter would be written for him to savor.

The turbolift open and Lieutenant Rios entered the bridge.

“Glad you could join us, lieutenant.” Pike chirped at his assistant chief engineer.

Rios assumed his position at the engineering station. Pike knew if Rios was present, April must have left the ship. Lieutenant Tyler turned to his captain with the word he had been waiting for the past several weeks.

“Captain, Commodore April is secure at Starfleet Command. The dockmaster has cleared us for launch.”

Pike flicked the switch to the system-wide intercom. “Crew of the Enterprise, Commodore April already gave us a send-off, but I wanted to offer my own brief commentary. We have just received clearance from the dockmaster and are about to start our five-year mission together. I’d like to echo the commodore’s message on the virtue of personal accountability to one another. Those who know me, know teamwork got me here as your captain. I encourage you to exercise that with every task. We will experience the unknown often with no guidance or rulebook on how to do things. That’s what we signed up for. Without being redundant, trust yourselves and your instincts. For now, let’s buckle in and start exploring this final frontier. Captain, out.”

Pike switched off the intercom. He glanced around the bridge one last time. All eyes were on him. Command had arrived.

“Number One, clear all moorings and take us out, one quarter thruster speed. Mr. Tyler, plot a course. Hard to port once we’ve cleared drydock. Standard orbit of Earth, once around full impulse. Let’s get one last look before we go.”

The Enterprise slowly drifted out of drydock. As commanded, it turned hard to port and increased speed into Earth’s orbit. The massive ship had begun its next mission. It was a thing of beauty passing over the Western Hemisphere into the sunlight and dawn of the eastern portion of the planet most of them called home. The whites and hues of blue swirled together like the dreams of the ship’s crew now coalescing into the firmament before their eyes. The light cut across her bow and propulsion units as she drifted out of the darkness of one reality into the possibilities of the next.

Pike grinned, watching the reactions on the bridge crew’s faces, it never gets old.

“Mr. Tyler, plot a direct course to M-114. Time warp factor of six.”

“Time warp factor of six, yes, sir.”




“Captain’s Log, Stardate 23007.2: We have arrived at Planet Designation M-114. Prior to our supply drop, I have ordered a welfare check, which is a standard protocol at captain’s discretion. M-114 is a colony of farmers and inventors, an interesting combination. Starfleet has some questions about the contents of the drop, which we will also investigate. Three landing parties will be deployed and briefed within the hour with their orders. Pike, Commanding Enterprise.”

Pike leaned forward in his command chair as Planet M-114 grew larger on the viewscreen before him. It resembled Earth somewhat, but larger areas of green covered the surface. White and blue still swirled the surface as viewed from space, but the green made it look warmer somehow. Slowly, the Enterprise drifted into orbit.

“Standard orbit, helm. Adena, let Governor Vessey know we are on approach. Ensign Spock, run an environmental sweep of the planet to ensure everything is where it’s supposed to be. Number One, you’re with me. Mr. Rios, you have the con.”

Pike sprung to his feet. It had been two long weeks since his feet walked on solid ground. He was excited to get planet side to stretch his legs. Number One followed close behind as the two entered the turbolift on their way to the briefing room. As the doors closed, she spoke.

“I’m jealous, you know. You get to have all the fun.”

“What? You think I’m actually going to enjoy the sunshine, fresh air, water and fruit?” he said.

“Just promise you’ll bring me back a fresh apple. They are farmers. I’m expecting an orchard or two.”

“I’ll think about it.” He crossed his arms.

“You better do more than that.” She playfully threatened. “Captain.”

He grinned, commanding the turbolift to head to their destination. “Deck seven.”

They stepped from the turbolift, proceeding down the corridor to the briefing room. The door swished opened. Pike took his position at the head of the table. The section chiefs from the landing parties were present, along with Doctor Boyce. Gunny Cole would lead the security team with Ensign Capps in charge of the science team. An additional person accompanied Gunny Cole.

“Captain, I brought Corporal Samira along to the briefing, if there are no objections. She’s our new boot and I want her to get as much experience as possible, as quickly as possible,” Cole spoke first.

Pike sat back, surveying the young corporal. “You’re the pilot, correct?”

Samira jumped to her feet, assuming the position of attention. “Yes, sir.”

He appreciated at her zealousness. “At ease, corporal.”

Pausing, he followed up on the initial request. “Happy to have you aboard, Sam. That is what they call you?”

“Yes, sir.” She took her seat.

“Very good. I’m an old pilot myself. We’ll have to trade some war stories sometime.”

“It would be an honor, sir.”

Pike turned and faced the other members of the team.

“This should be a fairly standard welfare check and cargo drop. While we’re here, let’s poke around a little. Gunny, your team will beam down first and secure a perimeter. I will approach the colony from the South. You and your teams will split and move from a 100-meter radius from the center of the coordinates provided, corresponding North, East and West.”

“Yes, sir, skipper,” Cole said.

“Ensign Capps, you and your team will beam down to the coordinates provided by the colony once we ensure everything is safe. Scan the local area, soil, flora and fauna samples. You know the drill. This isn’t your first rodeo.”

“Understood, captain.”

“Doctor Boyce, you get the pleasure of accompanying me.”

Boyce rolled his eyes sarcastically. “Lucky me!”

“Routing welfare check. There are two hundred and thirty colonists at last recording. Run health and wellness scans on a ten percent sampling. That should give us something to report to Starfleet. Unless, of course, something pops up out of the ordinary.”

Pike turned to his first officer. “Number One, review the environmental scans from Ensign Spock for any anomalies. We’ll check in every two hours. Gunny has his extraction team always on the ready should you fail to hear from us. Plus, you have an open channel to Governor Vessey, should you need it.”

He clicked on the viewscreen in front of him. “It’s currently ten hundred hours. We’ll reassemble at sixteen hundred hours for a debrief, that is, if all goes well. I’ll coordinate with Chief Pitcairn from the surface on when to beam down the cargo containers.”

He paused and looked around at his officers. “Am I forgetting anything?”

Everyone shook their heads. Number One answered, “I think that’s pretty much it, captain.”

Pike motioned the briefing had concluded. “Good. I know this is a speed bump in our exploration, so let make this quick, but proficient. Dismissed to your units. Gunny, see you in the transporter room, Capps, wait for our signal to deploy your team.”

There was a group “aye, captain” response.

As the group stood up, Pike called out to Gunny Cole.

“Gunny, since we want to break in the new boot properly, Sam’s with me. Objections?”

“None, captain.”

Pike turned to Corporal Samira. “Pick up a standard utility belt, laser pistol and don’t forget your datapad. Meet us in the transporter room.”

“Yes, sir!” She saluted, then caught herself, spun around and ran through the door.

Pike turned to Doctor Boyce. “How come you don’t get that excited when I ask you to do something?”

Boyce shrugged. “Probably because you catch me before my first martini.”

The captain shook his head. “You’re a mess.”

Pike exited the briefing room en route to the transporter room. On the way, he stopped by the armory to pick up a utility belt and a hand laser. They did not need jackets as the current surface temperature, colony side, was seventy-eight degrees Fahrenheit. Doctor Boyce would pick up his tricorder in sickbay as Gunny Cole gathered his fireteam. Soon, their first adventure together aboard the Enterprise would begin.


Aubrey splashed her tiny feet in the cold brook. Perched on her favorite rock, she reached into her favorite sundress, currently serving as a basket holding the peaches just retrieved from Olson’s farm. Old farmer Olsen didn’t mind if the neighboring children picked a few of the delectable fruits, but only the ones that had fallen to the ground.

She bit into the first one as the two-remaining tumbled to the ground. She frowned as though gravity held a personal grudge against her. Aubrey reached down to retrieve her small lunch box; the fruit could wait. The box was painted like a barn with a silo drink thermos on the inside. Carefully, she opened it, holding the peach with her teeth. Inside rested a few pieces of chalk of various sizes. After careful consideration, Aubrey chose pink.

Dusting off the top of the rock, she doodled while eating her peach. Her brother Paul, a few yards away, crept through the brook with his best friend, Calvin. Paul stood crouched down, plastic cup in hand, awaiting his catch of the day. Calvin slowly turned over a rock as Paul scooped.

The two were out for big game crawdads. It was a tried-and-true method for the young boys to flip from the front, catch from the back as the small water dwellers always peddled backwards when threatened. Paul forged the ankle-deep water and deposited their catch in an aluminum pail that their mother used to catch excess rain from the gutter for her indoor tomato hot house.

Aubrey, totally oblivious to their presence, sang as her chalk danced across the rock face.

“Alouette, gentille alouette
Alouette, je te plumeria,

Je te plumerai la tête
Je te plumerai la tête
Et la tête, et la tête
Alouette, Alouette,
Oh, oh, oh, oh…”

“Got one!” Paul shouted, raising his cup high into the air, interrupting her musical soliloquy.

Aubrey looked up momentarily, brushing the few strands of hair that escaped her pigtails. The mid-morning sun had bled through the slats of the Miller’s covered bridge. She looked down to see her reflection grinning back at her in the brook. Waiting for the ripples to still from the commotion made by her brother and Calvin, she took a last bite of her peach.

Once the water was still, Aubrey made a grimace, then frowned, casting forth a barrage of silly faces. Finally, she spit, breaking her image apart again. She laughed and laughed again as she tossed her peach pit into the water.

It was going to be a good day.

A light shimmered behind Aubrey, catching her periphery. Slowly, she turned her attention towards the origin. Three figures materialized before her. Again, she grimaced, then frowned, contemplating the occurrence.

“Are you space aliens?” she asked.

In front of her stood Captain Christopher Pike, Doctor Philip Boyce, and Corporal Samira of the United Space Ship Enterprise. Pike grinned as he pondered the question. In all of his travels, he had never been asked that question previously. As a captain in the Federation, exploration was a keystone, as was first contact. He wondered if that’s how all indigenous life-forms viewed them. There was a time in earth history where alien life was outside the realm of possibility. Even termed “little green men” to punctuate the ridiculousness of even considering the notion. Yet, here he and his landing party stood in front of this little girl. Were they little green men?

Pike squatted down to make eye contact with his fearless new friend.

“I guess you could say that, but my name is Chris.”

Aubrey held out her hand in a familiar greeting. “I’m Aubrey.”

Shaking Pike’s hand, she motioned to her brother and his friend, who seemed completely oblivious to the landing party’s arrival. “That’s my brother Paul over there and his friend Calvin.”

Both of the boys were locked in their craw fishing, ignoring the conversation to their right downstream.

Aubrey scowled. “Hey you two, the spacemen are here. Can you at least say hello?”

The boys looked up momentarily, followed by a wave. Paul saluted with two fingers, boy scout style, before returning his attention to the creek. Pike shook his head, grinning. He remembered those days from his youth. Nothing could tear him from the stables. Especially not visitors. That only meant that he had more time alone with the horses while his father entertained.

Standing up, Pike introduced the other members of the landing party. His communicator chirped suddenly.

“Pike here.”

Gunny Cole’s voice emanated from the speaker. “Skipper, security teams reporting in. Moving towards the settlement now.”

“Sounds good, see you soon.”

Pike turned towards Aubrey for a favor, but she had already expected it. Packing up her chalk, retrieving one of her peaches, dusting off the front of her sundress, she took his hand.

“I think you’re going to need me to take you to our village. It’s easy to get confused in the orchard.”

He followed her lead. Instinctively, Sam moved several paces ahead of them as point. She could visually see the settlement. Her experiences on patrols heightened all of her senses when approaching an objective. Today would be no exception.

The walk was anything but brisk. The team took its time. It was a beautiful day on M-114. Any jaunt following extended time in space was welcome. A gentle breeze blew across the grass, rustling the leaves of the peach trees that grew to the right of the path the group travelled. Pike closed his eyes as he breathed in the air, feeling the sunshine on his face.

“How can you hate landing party detail?” he asked Doctor Boyce.

“Other than unknown life-forms trying to mind control me, hurl me into a volcano as a sacrifice or serve me up for dinner? Pick your poison,” Boyce answered.

The doctor leaned over, plucking a wheat stem. After checking it for rust, he bit down on it, chewing it in the corner of his mouth. “This ain’t bad though, so far.”

The four continued across the field, drawing closer to the colony. All that was visible from their current vantage point were rows of trees surrounding the colony. As they drew closer, Corporal Samira put her hand up in a fist, signifying halt. The group complied, and each hit a knee, except Aubrey. She stared at them quizzically.

“What is it, Sam?” Pike asked.

“Not sure, sir. I hear a low-grade hum I can’t identify and,” she answered, “the shadows are all wrong from where I’m standing. They’re not falling in place with the position of the sun.”

Captain Pike retrieve the Doctor Boyce’s tricorder and switched it from medical to sciences function. He scanned the colony from their position. Sam was correct. There was a slight oscillation higher than 50 hertz, which remained the constant. At least that was the starting point based on earth standards. The shadows were somewhat of a mystery as well. Pike didn’t need the tricorder for that observation. There could be infinite reasons for the readings. The only way to discover it was to move ahead to the colony, he decided.

“Good catch, corporal. We’ll move ahead with a little more caution. Stay at the ready.”

They resumed their course forward, but even slower than they had walked the path to their present position. Aubrey again looked at them as if they were indeed space aliens.

“You guys are silly, there’s nothing to worry about,” she assured them as she let go of Pike’s hand, sprinting forward the last thirty yards, disappearing through the tree line. Boyce shrugged at Pike as he returned his tricorder.

The party followed her, remaining on alert. They had no idea what lay beyond the tree line, and Sam was right. What Pike could see through the clearing, the shadows, or lack thereof, should have been visible by now. The colony’s buildings as well should have easily been seen. Their pace slowed as they followed the path and exited the woods. Stepping into the clearing, they all froze.

“What the hell?” Pike said, reflecting all of their astonishment.

In front of them stood a colonial village. Dwellings, a schoolhouse, town-hall and a large barn, post 1880 architecture from earth. This was not something created by Starfleet Corp of Engineers a scant six years prior.

Instinctively, Pike retrieved the tricorder again.

“Why don’t you just keep that?” Boyce asked. “Next time, why don’t you bring your own?”

Pike scanned the village from right to left, then flipped open his communicator.

“Pike to Enterprise.”

“Number One here, captain.”

“I’m transmitting tricorder images. Have Ensign Spock analyze and report back to me,” he said.

“Problem captain?” Number One read it in his voice.

“Let’s just say, surprised, and you know how I love that on routine missions.”

“Understood, captain. Data incoming now.”

“Pike out.”

The landing party made their way to the center of town. Colonists passed by, extending greetings and salutations. Their clothing crossed generations of cultures and fashions. No one quite looked the same. They were all humanoid, but their expressiveness took many forms. Everyone appeared happy to see them. No one questioned their arrival or uniforms. Aubrey returned to their side.

“See, I told you there was nothing to worry about,” she said.

Across the way, Gunny Cole and his team appeared crossing between two houses. They had the same reaction. Looking around, taking it all in, they made their way towards Pike. Within minutes, the other two security teams joined them.

Cole approached first. “I don’t get it, captain. Damnedest thing I ever saw!”

Pike’s communicator chirped; it was Ensign Spock.

“Captain, I have finished a preliminary historical scan of the images you transmitted. The structures are Colonial Revival architecture, Earth, circa 1890s. The architecture features symmetrical facades, dormers, double-hung sash windows and Palladian windows. I also took the liberty of cross-referencing personnel files of the colonists assigned to M-114. I am, of course, curious as to why this type of architecture is present. According to records, none of the colonists have skill-sets that include advanced construction abilities necessary for such structural modifications. Nor do they have the equipment or natural resources required for such work.”

“I have the same questions, ensign, and thanks for the quick response. You earned your pay for the day. Pike out.”

“I don’t understand, captain.” One of the security detail was more baffled by Ensign Spock’s report.

Pike continued to survey the village, wondering what’s next? Where the hell is Governor Vessey?

Boyce broke the silence. “A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key.”

Just as he had finished the quote, a strange sound rose from the horizon. The members of the Enterprise landing parties all cast their gaze skyward, hands cupped over their brows, shielding out the direct sunlight. Closer the object came. It transformed through the rays of heat from the morning. Closer. From what appeared to be a shuttle at certain points, it transformed into a different shape. And then yet another. On final approach, the shape became clear. Sam was the first to identify it.

“Captain, it’s… a biplane!” She bursted enthusiastically.

Pike chuckled. Whatever was going on, his intuition told him the pilot was about to clear everything up.

Aubrey confirmed his intuition. “Here comes Grandpa!”

Unlike the biplanes at the dawn of the 20th century, this one didn’t use a landing strip. It hovered over the center of the village and slowly descended to the center square. The landing party stepped backward to avoid the propulsion wash. The plane landed softly. Once rested, the front propeller stopped spinning. A side hatch slid open, certainly not a characteristic of the historic craft. Out stepped an aged gentleman in a Starfleet uniform, with goggles and a scarf wrapped around his neck. He dusted off his pants and walked across the village square. He manipulated a wrist control, and the biplane shimmered and faded to a standard Federation shuttle craft. Pike stepped forward.

“Governor Vessey, I assume?”

Aubrey ran over to him. “Grandpa!”

He picked her up, embraced her, giving her a kiss on the cheek. “I thought you were spending the afternoon at the brook with your brother?”

“I was until the spacemen came,” she answered.

Vessey addressed Pike. “Captain, welcome to M-114. I’m sure you have a few questions?”

“Maybe just a few…”



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