Below the Bridge (A Star Trek Story)

Below the Bridge

 

 

 

   Will Ricker entered his quarters with a relieved sigh. Yet another twenty two hour day was over. There was truly nothing as labor intensive as getting a newly constructed starship ready for its first mission.

Space trials had uncovered the usual stable of problems but nothing insurmountable. Overall Will was satisfied with this new USS Titan NCC-80102. Not as big as the Enterprise this ship was an explorer.  

Will flopped into an easy chair. He hoped that this new ship with all it promise would in fact be allowed to explorer. Too many battles too much war. The Dominion had bled Starfleet white and the fleet was just beginning to catch up on its normal peace time activities.    As Will contemplated having a drink and waiting for Diana or just going straight to bed he noticed the flashing amber light on his personal console on his desk. It was amber which meant it was something with some urgency.

This had not been automatically forwarded to his ready room so it was also something of a personal nature.    Heaving his body up and reluctantly crossing to his desk he commanded “lights work level”  The lights came up accompanied by an acknowledge chime from the computer. Riker opened the terminal and retrieved the offending message.

As he began to read it he got a grim determined look on his face. The fatigue was driven from his mind” Tapping his chest he commanded. “Riker to Comms” The reply was nearly instantaneous.”Yes Captain this is Ensign Brok how may I help you?”  

Captain Riker thought a moment. “Mr. Brok what is the work cycle time at Starfleet Headquarters right now please?

   “It is day three 1047 Captain.” The Ensign replied”

Riker thought a moment longer formulating a plan of action. He knew that this had to be handled carefully. Day three meant that the regular day work personnel would be on duty. Presumably the Admiral and her personal staff among them.

“Mr. Brok please put a call into Admiral Janeway’s office for me. I am in my quarters” he said.

“Right away Captain” The junior officer replied.

Riker pushed back in his seat and stretched his tall frame. In mid stretch his terminal chirped. “That was fast” he thought. As he straightened his uniform and resituated himself in his chair he pressed the key on his console. The Starfleet Logo appeared and then dissolved into the smiling face of Admiral Janeway.

“Hi Will” she said with that nonstop enthusiasm she was famous for.

“Kind of late for you to be calling” she said as she looked at something off screen. Will was fairly sure she had all the times and zones up on a display.

Will Riker flashed his best smile at the Admiral. The one that had won the hearts of so many women over the years, knowing it would have absolutely no effect on the elfin Admiral.

 

“Thank You for taking my call Admiral. I was hoping I could steal the Master Chief for a few hours ” He asked.

“Anything I should be concerned about Will?”Janway asked her face getting serious.

“No admiral I think this will be the endgame for something I have been looking into since back when we still had the Enterprise delta. I need Master Chief Baxter to save a career” Riker explained.

“OK you are going to fill me in when it’s over right?” The line was delivered as if she was looking over imaginary spectacles. There was no missing the command in that statement.

“Of course Admiral,. thank you” Will said with his award winning smile back in place

“Good Janeway out” The Admiral replied and her face disappeared from the screen

.

  Master Chief Baxter materialized on the transporter pad of the USS Enterprise NCC 1701-E. A small middle aged woman she had never been a classic beauty. Tending slightly toward fat with a sandy short mop of hair.The Master Chief had a perpetual look of being mildly surprised. This was a result of imperfect surgery to repair injuries she had received at Wolf 359.

Although promised that this could be fixed Baxter had elected against any more surgery. In spite of all this “Boots” Betty Baxter was very pretty.

Snapping to attention she barked “Permission to come aboard sir.”

Even though she was obviously already aboard, the transporter room was acting as the quarterdeck of the great ship and Boots Baxter would rather be damned than ignore tradition.

 Standing off to the side of the control console were two Starfleet Captains one of which was arguably the most famous in Starfleet, Jean-Luc Picard. Next to him stood his long time first office and friend Captain William Riker.

“Permission Granted and welcome aboard Master Chief” Rumbled the slightly accented voice of the bald distinguished Captain Picard.

“Master Chief Baxter you know Captain Riker so let’s retire to my ready room and you can explain this all to me” Picard said in way of greeting.

With that the three exited the transporter room and a very nervous Ensign exhaled the breath he had been holding since the two Captains had entered the room. He looked over at the Transporter chief who was re setting the controls to standby.

“Chief who was that lady that two Starfleet Captains would come down to the transporter room to greet her and treat her with such respect?” the young man asked.

  The Transporter Chief continued to work on the console as he spoke.   “Mr. Tolman if there is an enlisted analog to Captain Kirk that was her” said the Transporter chief with a deadpan voice.

The two Captains and the diminutive Master Chief sat in the Enterprises ready room watching the viewer. Captain Picard looked over to Will Riker with a sour look on his face.

“Number err Will that took way too long to resolve itself. That such an injustice should be allowed to go unpunished on my ship for so long is intolerable.”

Boots sipped from her coffee cup and watched the two old friends as they worked the problem.

  “Captain” Will Riker said  “The crime was committed on board the old delta. The salvage team working on the wreck just uncovered the computer logs that had the evidence I needed.”

  Boots interrupted  “Captain Picard is correct Captain Riker. We are going to lose a good man from Starfleet just when we need him most. Will you gentlemen please allow me to handle this situation first? He’s pretty burned out by all this but he might listen to me, we’re old shipmates. If I succeed the Admiral will be up a little later.”

  Captain Picard looked thoughtful into his teacup as if he would see the answer in the cup of earl grey.

“Make it so Master Chief” He said placing the cup back down on the coffee table.

 

  Boots Baxter walked the corridors of the Enterprise as if she owned it. Most crewmen and officers passing her knew who she was. She was a force of nature in a compact size.She was Admiral Janeway’s troubleshooter and enforcer. It didn’t hurt that she was a combat veteran from before and during the Dominion war. In short she was a legend with a short blond bob!

Greetings were given both verbally and with deferential nods of the head. Boots was a little taken aback as she always was when she visited a starship. She wondered, not for the first time, how the scared little non rated enlisted crewman reporting aboard the old Miranda Class Starship Adventure had become this grizzled battle scarred old lady.

After following the bulkhead arrows deep into the great starship she found herself in the Chief’s berthing area in front of a stateroom door with the sign on it reading Operations Chief Crewman Thomas Dritschler.

Smoothing her uniform the Master Chief keyed the chime.

“Go away if ya got a problem see crewman Thorne he has the duty!” came a gruff sleepy voice from inside the cabin.

“Open the goddamned door or I’ll have you busted to crewman basic and assigned to my staff ta supervise head maintenance. ya overfed toltepen bear!” roared Master Chief Baxter with a voice that startled everyone in the corridor not least of which because it came from such a diminutive person.

  The door slid open revealing hulking great man. Wearing only uniform pants and a tee shirt. The man was balding considerably with grey at his temples.

“Boots!” he cried. Scooping the Master Chief up in his arms and hugging her so hard she started to see spots.

“Put me down ya big galoot” she laughed pushing futilely at the huge man as he held doggedly to his hug.

“Tom you are making a scene and it ain’t dignified! Let’s get in your cabin” She said with a huge grin.

  Tom carried his small friend into the cabin and then stuck his head back out the door before it slid shut. “Carry on!” he roared at the dumb struck crewmembers standing in the corridor.

Boots watched her friend as he tried to straighten out his stateroom without appearing to do so.

“Wanna drink Boots?” Asked the Large bear like Chief in a vain attempt to distract the Master Chief from noticing the general disarray.

 

“Yes Tom I do. You are still a slob. Would it kill you to walk three steps to the disposal chute?  How Millie ever put up with you I will never know”

Tom stopped scrambling to clean the disarray and looked up at the Master Chief with a sheepish grin.

“Me neither Betty, Millie was a saint and way too good for me.” He got a faraway look in his eye for a moment and then looked up. “Jack still OK for you Master Chief?” he said

“When was Jack not good enough for me Tom?” she said smiling.

Tom pushed aside some clothing on an old fashioned foot locker and retrieved a bottle He turned and roared “Tumblers just ice two” at the replicator.

“Ya know Tom ya can’t scare the replicator into doing it faster don’t ya?” Boots quipped.

Tom looked sheepishly at Boots and then at his bare feet as he brought the tumblers to the table.

“It’s been a bad week Boot’s and I have a lot on my mind”   He said as he poured Whiskey into the tumblers.

Boots saw the opening and jumped in.  “And you got another demand from the blackmailer and that’s gotta mess you up some.” She said innocently as she brought the whiskey glass to her lips hiding her little smile.

The look on Thomas Dritschler’s face was nothing short of thunder struck.  His mouth moved trying to form words without results finally he croaked. “How?”

Boots Baxter swished her drink in her glass smiling a knowing little smile.

“Lets drink to Millie first then I will tell you what I know and you can fill in the blanks”

The two friends stood up and raised their glasses and said.”To Millie” in chorus.

  Tom drained his glass in one gulp looked into the glass reflectively and

sat back down as if the artificial  gravity had suddenly been turned up.

“How?” He repeated stupidly.

Boots decided to have mercy on her old friend.  “Lets see she started. You reported to the Enterprise D right after being released from medical  after Wolf 359 an operations Crewman first class. You went to work in Lieutenant Commander Data’s Operations

department as the leading auxiliary craft crewman. Just above your Chief your direct supervisor

was then Lieutenant Vanden.

  Being a new widower you immersed yourself in shipwright study courses. According to the records you did extremely well on those courses. Being that those courses didn’t fill all your time you started working on plans for specialty designs based on current Starship designs.     Because you were working on Starfleet equipment you kept the Lieutenant advised on your

activities as required.

You designed the Miranda based shuttle carrier which would come to assist in emergencies where another starship might not have a large enough complement of auxiliary craft.

The cost of building or retrofitting a Miranda based ship was a fraction of the cost of an all new design.

The design was accepted immediately and you were promoted to Chief Operations Crewman. You received several awards and were sent Temporary Duty for the updating  of USS Swallow the first of the improved class.

The awards just rolled in.

 After you returned to the Enterprise you continued to work on your pet projects. Lieutenant Vanden became your biggest fan pushing you to create more designs. He became a bit of nag pushing you back to your board on those extremely rare occasions when you would stop at Ten Forward admonishing you to complete your projects.

You did a fast response Hospital cruiser based on the Constellation class ship. You submitted it through the Lieutenant but this time you received no response. The Enterprise was on some extremely deep space missions at the time so you thought very little about it.

During that time you added the runabout medical ambulance module to your portfolio

and sent that off to fleet as well.

One day you were looking at professional journals and discovered that Star

Fleet was going to refit the USS Tempest as a fast response hospital ship. As you read on you discovered that it was virtually your design. The final paragraph praised the new upcoming shipwright Lieutenant Jonathan Vanden!

I can just imagine you storming into his office to confront him only to

discover he was ready for ya.  Seems the good lieutenant’s father is an Admiral in Starfleet personnel.

As a demonstration your pending advancement  to Senior Chief evaporated, he also threatened to use his father’s influence to stop your little brother Chet from making Lieutenant Commander and getting the XO job on the scout USS Hotspur.

That musta shut you up. Then you suffered in silence as Vanden added insult to injury by stealing the runabout ambulance plans.

He made Lieutenant Commander with that wonderful design. Lieutenant Commander Data knew Vanden and smelled a rat.

How was it that the Lieutenant who had no background in ship design was suddenly creating these wonderful ship design modifications just like his Operations Chief used to. And now that Chief was suddenly no longer interested in doing any designs at all.

But then we lost the Enterprise Delta and effectively lost the evidence we needed against Vanden.

The Dominion war further delayed the investigation.  Avoiding alerting Admiral Vanden that his talented son was under suspicion of blackmailing you also took some time.

  Commander Data enlisted the help of Dr. Crusher to trap the young Vanden. First Dr. Crusher sent innocent inquiries to Vanden requesting specs and requests for updates on the Constellation upgrade and the Runabout. Inquiries and updates Vanden was not qualified or talented enough to supply.

By now Vanden was at Starfleet headquarters and not in direct contact with you. He panicked and started sending you demands for the upgrades. We had his terminal bugged by then and we  discovered that every time Dr. Crusher sent an inquiry,a message went straight to you from Vanden. We couldn’t read them since they were encrypted.

  Then the long delayed salvage and cleanup of the Veridian III crash sight of the Enterprise D’s Saucer section resumed after the war. The personal computer logs of both you and Vanden were recovered and proved conclusively that you were the original designer of all those ships and systems.

  Tom Dritschler looked at his old shipmate with awe. Was it possible that his personal nightmare was over? Could he go on with his own life again without worrying about Chet’s career being ruined?

“Did I miss anything Tom?” asked Boots.

Tom was still absorbing the information the weight and fear that were his constant companion was lifting slowly.

Tom didn’t trust his vocal cords to work. His thoughts raced around his head. He was free.

“Tom I want you to delete that retirement letter that I got this morning Starfleet needs you. I need my best people in there. Don’t leave the fleet. Tom it needs you. I need you. Vanden has been quietly drummed out of the service and is spending a few years at a rehabilitation colony.”

Tom Dritschler blinked. The fleet had taken care of him. Even without his asking. It had taken a long time but here he was.  As he started to speak Boots Baxter interrupted him.

“Is there a clean presentable uniform in this rat’s nest Tom?” Boots asked

with a mock severity.

“Yeah course there is, I think.” He answered confused yet again by his friends change of topic.

  “Then put it on old friend we have a meeting to attend” Ordered Master Chief Baxter.

 

  The two NCO’s marched through the corridors of the USS Enterprise E. One

was a small self-assured woman with a pixie face and the other a bewildered looking giant.    They stepped into a turbo lift.

“Oh One deck.” Barked the Master Chief.

” Were going to the bridge?” Asked Tom meekly.

“Naw Captains conference room actually” answered Boots with a sly grin.

Master Chief Baxter and Chief Dritschler walked into the conference room and found it already occupied. Captain Jean-luc Picard sat at the Head of the table while Captain William Riker sat in the first officer’s chair behind them standing with her arms crossed was Admiral Kathryn Janeway.

The command crew of the ship was in attendance Lieutenant Commanders Worf   and La Forge as well as Dr Crusher stood in a group. The absence of Mr. Data was poignant.

Everyone at the table stood up as Admiral Janeway pushed herself away from the bulkhead, and took charge.

“Ok everybody line up” she directed more like a school teacher herding

small children than a Starfleet Admiral directing senior personnel.

“Chief, Master Chief you stand there by the window. Jean Luc you’re over there to the Chiefs Left. good.”

The personnel shifted around the room smiling as they bumped into each other to reach their places.

  Tom was so confused he didn’t know where to go and allowed Boots and the Admiral to steer him into the position they wanted him.

   Admiral Janeway looked the group of smiling officers over. Satisfied she called out.

“Attention to orders!”

 

Everyone in the room snapped to attention as Admiral Janeway Started reading the PADD she held.

Tom was only getting pieces of the citation as his mind struggled to keep up.

“The President of the Federation… Special Trust in the honor and fidelity…You are hereby Promoted to the grade of Chief Warrant Officer three.

Toms mind snapped into focus he had just been promoted! And warrant office

three was unheard of normally the promotion would be to W2 or W1.

“Congratulation Mr. Dritschler well done”.

With that Captain Picard stepped forward and removed the chief insignia While Boots stood way up on tiptoes replacing it with the Warrant Officer pip.

Admiral Janeway stepped back smiling broadly Boots decided that while her friend was bent down anyway to give her a chance to pin on the new rank she kissed him soundly on the cheek!

“Speech” Will Riker yelled with a laugh.

Tom managed an “I uh I um” Before he just shut down.

Boots came to his rescue.”Captain Riker it seems that Mr. Dritschler has been struck mute perhaps later Dr. Crusher could have a look at him and make sure he is fit for duty” The assembled personnel broke into laughter.

 

  That evening Tom sat alone in the living room of his quarters with Boots Baxter. They were sprawled out on the couches with their stocking feet up on the coffee table. They had been drinking most of the afternoon and they were both slightly buzzed and feeling good, Tom was beginning to come to grips with the sudden change in his life.

Boots decided that now was the time for the hammer.

“Tom if you are ever in such a mess again and don’t tell me I will personally kick your ass! I cannot believe that you let an “Officer” get the best of you. Now your punishment is to join

those cake eaters and show them what a Starfleet Chief can do.”

‘ Boots looked at her friend to see how he would respond

 Tom looked into his drink and  then looked up at his friends feet entangled with his own on the coffee table.

“Didn’t get much input on this did I?” he gripped  

“Nope you didn’t and if you think about it you will realize that there are no W3 billets on the Enterprise” explained Boots.

She carefully watched for Tom’s reaction.

Tom mulled over Boot’s last statement was mildly surprised that he was not more upset by the prospect of leaving the Enterprise. The Enterprise D and later the Echo had provided him with a home and friends after Wolf 359 and losing Millie on the old Saratoga.

But the experience had been tainted by Vanden. Leaving would be the right thing to do. Crewman First Class Tallus was on the Chief’s advancement  list. It would be good to make room for this talented young woman. She would do well.

“Ok Master Chief Baxter where in the hell has Starfleet deemed that they need a Brand newby Whiskey 3” Tom asked.

Boots shifted her body over to its side so that she could reach her pocket.She began fishing around looking for something. Finally she came out with a small non standard PADD. She then tossed it over to Tom who deftly snatched it from the air. He brought it to his face and fiddled with the tiny controls until the pertinent entry appeared and his next duty station was  revealed.

“You are to report to Utopia Planetia Shipyards on Mars by the most economical means possible” read the pertinent line on the orders.

“Any idea what I’m going to be doing on Mars boots?” Tom asked with curiosity.

“Yup” replied Boots. You are going to be the officer in charge of special projects. You will oversee the completion of the upgrade on .USS Hathaway into a Fast response Hospital Cruiser. Tom smiled at the prospect of a new interesting challenge.

 

Chief Warrant Officer Dritschler materialized on the transporter pad at StarFleet orbiting  Main space dock. There was a civilian technician clearing the board without looking up as the computer announced.  “Please step off the pad and move to the door on your right. Please have a nice day and welcome to Starfleet Main Space dock.”

Tom moved into the corridor. The morning foot traffic of uniformed and civilian attired personnel was a bit intimidating, all hurrying to start their day.  Tom looked up at the signs locating his route to the shuttle control center.

Tom joined the flow of sentient beings, towering over all but a few, and headed toward

his destination. As he went he checked the time. Realizing he was very early he turned into a coffee kiosk along the corridor. He walked up to the replicator slot and commanded. “Coffee black. A bagel with egg not toasted.”

His order materialized in the slot and he took it to one of the stand up tables set up around the room for patrons to use. The table Tom had chosen was next to a window overlooking the interior of the mammoth space dock. He could see Captain Rikers new ship Titan over to his right making final preparations to leave on her maiden voyage. Tom reflected that he owed Captain Riker a great deal. Riker had not stopped pursuing Toms case over many years and transfer to a new ship.

Tom had been at Starfleet last during the war. The dock was almost empty back then. Now there was little room for anymore ships. Shuttles moved about the dock delivering equipment and people to the various ships and as Tom watched the main doors opened to allow a freight variant of the miranda class ship to depart.

Tom turned to look in the passageway where the morning foot traffic was in full swing. The ratio of Starfleet Uniforms to civilian attire leaned much more to uniforms and the traffic was heavier than during the war as few ships remained in Earth orbit during that sad time.

After finishing his meal and retuning the plate to the slot Tom worked his way to the Shuttle terminal and walked up to the scheduling office. Several people both in uniform and civilian clothes stood or sat around the waiting room… waiting.

A very bored looking Third class human crewman sat behind the counter. He knew he had pissed someone off to get this job, but he hadn’t gotten the hint and still felt that it was his job to make his fellow Star Fleet personnel miserable. He looked up to

see someone move up to his counter. He immediately looked back down at his terminal display pretending to be busy deliberately making the large man wait.

  Tom watched the young rating stall. Unfortunately for the young man Tom was fully aware of what was involved in this particularly mind numbing job.

He cleared his throat to indicate his growing impatience.

The young man held up his hand his pointer finger extended as if he was being interrupted in a very important thought. The crewman did not know it but he had just made an important career decision.

Finally the young man looked up with an unpleasant look on his face and said.  “I was busy” He looked at Tom’s collar pip without comprehension.

“What the hell are you supposed to be?” He said in an unpleasant manner.

Warrant officers in Starfleet are a somewhat rare. There are only a handful of them. But they weren’t that rare!

“I am Chief Warrant Officer Dritschler. Personnel carrying the rank of Third class are expected to recognize the Starfleet rank structure.”

“If you say so…sir” adding the sir as it slowly began to dawn on him, too late, that he  

might be pushing this game too far.  Tom looked down at the nameplate on the desk and tapped his com badge.

“Dritschler to Baxter” He said in a deadly calm voice.

“Baxter here” was the immediate reply.

“What can I do for you Mr. Dritschler?”

“Crewman Third Class Loran here at the Shuttle terminal is in need of some remedial training right away.” Tom said with an evil grin forming on his face. “Can you help him out?”

There was no response to Tom’s last question but rather Loran’s com badge beeped and announcer in Master Chief Baxter’s voice. Crewman Third class Loran lay to the Transporter room for priority transport to Starfleet Headquarters and my office!

The crewman was thunderstruck he could not believe his ears. His life had just gotten worse!

“Move Mister” Bellowed Dritschler.

The rating knocked over his stool as he fled the terminal for the nearest transporter room.

Tom was surprise to hear sudden applause behind him and turned to see a line had formed behind him and they had all witnessed the exchange.

Tom moved behind the counter righted the stool and started checking people on to their scheduled shuttles. Tom had done this job as a third class years ago and it hadn’t changed much. He then checked himself in, shouldered his bag and walked to his gate and the shuttle that would take him to Mars.

A few minutes later the Terminal supervisor a first class crewman stepped

out of the back office to wonder that Loran was working so efficiently  for once only to find an empty stool.

 

  After dealing with the wayward terminal clerk Master Chief Baxter walked into Admiral Janeway’s Office. The Admiral was relaying orders to the Captain of the USS Yorktown so Boots moved over to the Admirals coffee service and helped herself to a cup.

Fresh brewed not replicated, Janeway had told Boots that she had developed the taste for it during her long journey as Captain of USS Voyager where use of the replicator had to be rationed. Boots was rapidly developing a taste for the Admiral’s coffee too.

Boots heard the Admiral sign off and turned to face her.

“Master Chief please help yourself to my coffee” said Kathryn Janeway with a chuckle.

“Don’t mind if I do.” replied Boots holding the already filled cup up smiling.

“Came in to tell ya that Tom Dritschler just left on the Mars Shuttle. He’ll straighten out that Hospital ship job if he has to do the work himself!”

Janeway motioned to one of the comfortable chairs away from her desk and took another one herself.

“Sit down Master Chief let’s talk, I want a bit more background on your boyfriend just to fill in the blanks.” The admiral said smiling.

“You and Tom Dritschler were shipmates on the old Saratoga weren’t you?”

said the Admiral as she settled in the comfortable chair.

Boot’s looked down into her cup with a faraway smile.

“Yes Ma’am we were although I was actually friends with Mille Dritschler Tom’s wife. I had just made Chief at the time Tom and Millie were first Classes. Millie was a medical Tech. That’s why Tom knows  so much about building ambulances and  hospital ships. Millie would gripe to him about equipment. He never forgot.

I got to know Tom through her. We all became friends and we spent many a memorable shore leave together. Then the old Sara was ordered to join the fleet at Wolf 359 to meet the Borg.

Millie’s battle station was in sick bay while Tom and I were down on the flight deck.

Poor Saratoga was in the thick of it. We were pounded to junk in minutes. The Captain was killed and the first officer Commander Sisko had all he could do to evacuate the survivors. He lost his wife that day too.

One of the shuttles exploded while I was trying to board some family members. It pretty much removed my face my right arm and my lower right leg. I had third degree burns over half my body. Tom was running into the ship to find Millie when he saw me go down. Anyone could see I had very little hope, but he picked me up put me in a medical stasis chamber loaded me into one of  the last shuttles. As he turned to go back for Millie the Warp core alarm started counting down from two minutes.

There was no pilot for my shuttlecraft filled with wounded. Tom threw himself into the pilot seat and flew out of the hangar bay following the escape pods out. He then took disabled escape pods in tow not only from the Saratoga but Melbourne and Kyushu as well. He saved a lot of lives.

I woke up days later in a corridor outside Starfleet Medical on account of the number of casualties they were treating. That great big lug was sitting on the floor next to my gurney with burn marks still on his uniform.

He had never left me. I was told that he protected me from medical folk that wanted to write me off. He made sure my meds were administered on time and that I was taken care of no matter how hopeless my case may have seemed.

He only said one thing about losing his chance to go back after Millie because he saved me. He said that if Millie had ever found out that he had left me to save her, she would have killed him. So it was a selfish act of self-preservation nothing more.

That man Admiral is the most uncomplicated man in Starfleet and I love him to death. But were just good pals. To let our hooks get any deeper than that would never work and it would destroy the best friendship I have ever had. And I gotta tell ya ma’am that’s good enough for me.”

 

Chase Cord held his padd as he checked the flight plan he had prepared to Mars. He had a morning hop to the shipyards with a VIP technician that was wanted Pretty darn quick. In fact he had never done a flight with this high a priority before.

As he continued to look at the padd it was snatched out of his hand by someone. Looking up he saw the person he liked least in all the Galaxy. Midshipman Parnell. The red headed freckled mid took great delight in tormenting his peers and subordinates. Parnell studied the Padd as if he had some authority to do so.

Parnell was on “Summer Cruise just like Chase but Chase wasn’t at all sure where in Space Dock his fellow Midshipman was actually assigned. He would just show up from time to time and antagonize Chase.

“Wow Cord” he sneered “This trip is a big deal. You better let me do it so you don’t screw it up and deliver this geek to Jupiter by mistake”.

“Why Parnell are you checked out on Type V shuttlecraft all of a sudden?” Chase shot back.

“Fortunately I have better things to do than fly obsolete shuttles on part runs”

Parnells face broke into an evil grin. “Ya know Cord you should start treating me with a little respect cause word is I’m gonna be class leader in the fall. And when you flunk out in your senior year and have to join the fleet as an enlisted puke I might just be your commanding officer!”

Just then the hangar supervisor Lieutenant Junior Grade Gobel came in and saw Parnell standing in his hanger. His normally cheerful expression clouded over.“Hey Parnell bugger off you have no business here”.

Parnell assumed his most ingratiating look and said “Just fixing Mr Cord’s flight plan errors sir. We wouldn’t want him flying into the primary would we sir.” And with that he slipped out of the room like an oily snake.

The Jay Gee shook his head in disgust and turned on Cord with a slightly friendly tone. “Off with you youngster you  have flying to do.”

 

Tom sat in the back of an old type V shuttlecraft looking over some technical journals. Boots had taken good care of him and assigned him a private shuttle and pilot. Even if the pilot was just a cadet.

The type V shuttle had been in use by Starfleet for nearly seventy years. Though no longer deployed on starships many stations still made use of them in their local solar systems. They were dependable and roomy. Tom liked these old ships. Tom was particularly happy with this one called Jinx, it had an executive module installed and was very comfortable and he had it to himself.  

Tom rapidly became bored and moved forward to where a very spooked fourth year Starfleet Academy cadet piloted the shuttle toward Mars.

   The young man was medium build with dark hair cut short as prescribed by Starfleet academy for  most male Human cadets. He was doing his “Summer Cruise” as a shuttle pilot. In another three weeks he would begin his Senior year before receiving his commission as an Ensign.

“May I join you Mr. Cord” Tom asked  “Of course sir “answered the nervous cadet.

Tom slid into the right seat in the front of the shuttle and did a quick scan of all the instruments to ensure all the systems on the little ship were operating properly. He glanced over at his pilot and realized that the young cadet had taken it as a lack of confidence.

“At ease Mr. Cord don’t take it that way. I’ve been flying these things for so long I can’t get into a pilot’s seat without automatically checking the instrument panel anymore. Force of habit Mister no reflection on your piloting” assured Tom with a friendly smile on his face.

The young man looked visibly relieved though he was still obviously nervous.

“It’s just like they teach in the academy never take anyone’s word for it that the phaser they handed you is cold. Visually check that the power is off and that the safety is on. Never sit down in a pilot seat without checking the panel is the same thing Mr. Cord. It only has to save your life once to be worth it.” Tom explained

“Aye Sir” said the cadet meekly “I heard you’re a really accomplished shuttle driver. I was wondering if you could you know give me some pointers please?”

Tom smiled. Not many officer candidates would have availed themselves of Tom’s skills. It showed some character and maturity.

” Sure, “First I would set your panel up a little different..  Allt though and extremely talented pilot during the next hour the Young Cadet learned more about piloting auxiliary craft then he had in his whole time at the Academy. This sort of training was just not provided. Of course very few instructors at the academy had

even a fraction of the flight time that Chief Warrant Officer Dritschler possessed.

 

The flight approach to the Space station orbiting Mars had the shuttle passed close to a holding area. Tom toggled the sensors and scanned the ships orbiting there. He was shocked to see the battle damaged ships left over from the Dominion war. These war veterans were awaiting their final fate. Star fleet had tugs out all over the sector looking for the remains of         

the fleet’s ships. When found they were towed here to await their final disposition.

  Tom noticed parked deep in the area an old Constitution class starship. It stood out, it’s warp nacelles had been removed from their pylons,giving the once proud starship a woebegone appearance. The old ship had no visible battle damage. The young cadet looked at Toms display.

“That’s the old USS Liberator sir” supplied the cadet. She was used in the initial Transwarp drive tests and then the dual warp nacelles that are used on the Galaxy class. After that she was mothballed here.”

The shuttle continued to pass the damaged starships. Tom felt pity for the brave crewman that these battered ship represented many he had known personally.

The cadet remained respectfully silent as the shuttle made its final approach passing the somber reminder of the dangers of a Starfleet Career.

 

Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Dritschler stepped off the Shuttle in the main space station and Space dock of the Utopia Planetia Shipyards orbiting Mars. He thanked Mr. Cord who was now looking at the warrant with nothing short of hero worship.

“Mr. Cord give me a chance to see what’s going on and I’ll see if I can release you to go back the Earth.”

Why don’t you see if you can rustle up some chow while you wait.”

Tom walked through  the shuttle bay  around various shuttles and work craft. There was general hustle and bustle of workers going about their business and shuttles lifting off as others arrived. As he approached the.exit he was met by a female Lieutenant in an engineering uniform. She was a feliniod with a cat like face. Her fur which covered her whole body was a reddish orange with yellow highlights. Tom also noticed that she had a tail which swished back

and forth. Yellow almond shaped eyes looked him over. “Hello you must be Mr. Dritschler we have been expecting you I am T’larr.” She fairly purred.

“Thank you Lieutenant” Tom said formally.

“Please call me Tee and I shall call you Tom. The officers here are all pretty informal and it seems to foster a good work environment” purred T’larr.

“This way please Tom it is time to learn your fate” With that she lead Dritschler to the nearest turbolift She stepped in and allowed the big Warrant officer to enter the lift before saying.

“Command Deck” The car started its journey as the two officers stood silently. The lift opened to a hubbub of noise with personnel moving about admin stations or talking on comms. Large electronic displays showing schematics of different starships and charts depicting the locations of the many floating space docks were arranged on the bulkheads around the center. Controlled pandemonium came to Toms mind as he followed his fellow officer through the noise to a round raised podium where an older human male Commander sat at a console overseeing the operations.

The Command was an older human balding like Tom but his remaining hair was white. He was also a short man build like a fire plug. He turned toward T’larr and her charge and his face split in huge grin. He rushed down the steps to meet Tom halfway and pumped his hand appearing to be genuinely happy maybe even relieved to see him.

“Thank the stars you’re here at last.”He gushed “I am Benjamin Rock. We so need

you here to hopefully get some projects back on track.”

Tom looked around as he was led by the two officers up onto the ops area command deck.

“Commodore Ort is anxious to see you. Let me just make sure she’s free. With that the burly Commander stuck his head in a door then pulled back into the main room and waved to Tom and T’larr to enter the office.

Once inside he discovered a very statuesque brunette woman with commodore pips on her collar. She wore basic fatigues and they were stained from different lubricants and fluids. She was obviously a hands on everything commander.

She looked up from the pile of PADDS she had scattered on the table in front of her. Indeed there were PADDS stacked on every vertical surface along with various parts and machines. On the bulkhead was a large screen showing the schematics of a Constellation class starship complete with its weird quad nacelle drive system. As he looked closer he recognized his own fast response hospital design.

The Commodore smiled as she watched Tom.  “Yup that’s your design and it’s a good thing you’re here. We are three months behind schedule.”

“Why” Tom said mystified. It’s not the first one you’ve converted. The Commodore smiled her winning smile and gestured to a chair full of PADDS “clear those off and take a seat you too Ben and T.”

The four officers rearranged the clutter giving them access to the various chairs in

the room while the tall Commodore sat behind her desk. Tom studied this compelling officer that was now his boss. Tom had noticed a slight accent when the Commodore spoke. One he could not quite place and realized that she was not human. Not completely anyway. A bit of point on her exposed ear and a slightly unnatural (for Humans) hue to her skin. Her forehead had small almost imperceptible ridges and her hair although unremarkable had a strange looking texture. Tom remembered reading that the Commodore had been rescued from an abandoned Breen penal colony as a baby. She was of undetermined mixed origin. She was as the article said five first contacts mixed into one. None of her DNA fit anything in Starfleet’s data base.

Once everyone was situated Commodore Ort explained. ” The Hathaway has spent the better part of  half a century abandoned orbiting Braslota IV.  In my opinion she was not a good candidate for update but I was overruled. Structural problems were identified during the tear down that had to be addressed and unexplained problems with material and staffing kept popping up.”

 “OK Tom” she started” I suspect that the Lieutenant has told you how I like to run this shop. Among ourselves we are Tee, Ben , Tom and I am Flower. I hope you won’t find that too strange.

Our first order of business is to get you over to One twelve . Living space and shops are always at a premium so you will use the stateroom in the admin module.

Once you’re settled you may need to move to a different dock for a project. I will try to get you a houseboat to live in so you can travel to the docks where you are needed.” Tom knew that a houseboat was a very basic shuttle which was strictly orbital and could not go interplanetary. It’s advantage was that it was very roomy. His office and living quarters could all be onboard and he could go wherever he was needed in Mars orbital complex.

“For now the stateroom on dock one twelve where will have to do” Flower continued

. For the time being keep the Shuttle and Mr. Cord so you can move around  the complex freely.”

 “As I pointed out we are way behind on this project not least of which is

due to the constant bickering between the engineers and the medical people

assigned on the project.” Her hand went to her mouth as if shielding her next statement from unwanted ears.

“Civilians” she said with undisguised contempt.

 “Tom I need you up at dock one twelve soonest supervising and knocking heads together. Starfleet wants Hathaway manned and out saving lives.

T, Ben you are dismissed. Tom please stay a moment I would like to speak to you a alone just for a moment.”

  Tom’s fellow officers departed not a bit put out by being sent away. They were a contrasting pair the short powerful built commander and the tall Cat like grace of T.

 Flower stood and came around her desk and sat down on the seat recently vacated by T.  She looked  down at her feet for a moment collecting her thoughts.

  “Tom” she started, “Master Chief recommended you for this job. She said you were the man for it.I have reviewed your record and I agree with her. The problem with Hathaway’s refit is not just  because of her age. Something is not right over there at her dock and I want you to find out what it is. I know you are not an investigator but you are best suited to see why things are not happening.

The fleet  needs these Hospital ships and someone is undermining us getting this one ready.”

   Tom walked out of the meeting deep in thought. He was very impressed with the staff officers of the shipyard and he realized that he might be developing a little crush on the spectacular Commodore Ort!

  Tom walked back to the shuttle dock he was sorry now that he had unloaded all his  gear and tools.

He passed a door and as he passed something attracted his attention. He

stepped back and looked at the Placard next to the door. It read “LCDR Jonathan Vandur, Assistant Operations Officer. “

Tom was startled, he got the attention of a passing Andorian crewman and pointed at the placard. The Blue skinned being looked where Tom pointed and chuckled.

“Yes Sir we need to change that sign. Mr. Vandur was escorted off of the station about two weeks ago by Starfleet security. All anyone told us was that he was charged with conduct unbecoming.

Do you need the space sir?  I am the Master at Arms and I can see if I can get it assigned to you.”

   Tom looked at the name again. So this is where Vandur had ended up. “No that won’t be necessary  crewman I won’t be residing on the main station. Thank You.”

Tom saw Chase Cord sitting in the doorway of his small shuttle which had been moved to a transient parking area out of the general non stop traffic.nearby Dritschler’s bags and tools were stacked.   Tom walked up to the young man. Cord jumped to his feet.

“Hi Mr. Dritschler how’d the meeting go?”

Tom smiled “Hi yerself Mr. Cord Looks like you and I stuck together for the near future. help me load all this crap back on board wilya? We’re going to dock one twelve first thing in the morning. So lets find a place to crash until then

“Sure Mr. Dritschler You know we would probably be better staying on board on the fold down cots. The transient BOQ (Bachelor Officer Quarters) is in a barge orbiting nearby. We’ll save alot of time in the morning without having to check out beam over etc.,” said the young pilot.

“That’s good thinking Mid. That’s what we’ll do” Tom said while heaving his duffle bag into the shuttle. “Did you find a place to find some edible chow?”

“If it has to edible I don’t know sir but theres a lunch counter over that way that tries to approximate edible”  Chase pointed with his chin as he slid a heavy tool box into the shuttle.

“Outstanding mr Cord I will buy” the Warrant said slapping the smaller man on the shoulder and directing him toward where Chase had indicated nourishment might be found.

The next morning the shuttle was immediately cleared and moved into an orbit that would bring them to the synchronous orbit of space dock one one two located on the other side of the planet.  As they traveled they once more passed close to the starship graveyard  Mr. Cord maneuvered to give way for a Sabre class Starship that overtook them on her way to deep space.

The shuttle moved in much closer to the ships than is normal.  Tom looked out the port and could see the old USS Liberator as she hung in her parking orbit. Low on the secondary hull he thought he saw some light behind one of the ships ports. He turned the scanner onto the ship.  The results surprised him.

“Hey Mister Cord that old Constitution seems to have gravity and atmosphere. The temperature is a little cool but within tolerances,”observed Tom.”You might want to do a diagnostic on this shuttle’s sensors when you have a minute free, this scan is really fuzzy” he added.

“Aye sir” Cord replied. He was a little surprised since he had just checked the sensors that week and he hadn’t noticed any anomalies.

The Cadet pilot leaned over to look at the Warrant Officers readings.”Oh yeah would you look at that I wonder why.” He said. A scan of the other ships showed that none of the other ships had any systems running they were all stone cold. Tom vowed to look into it later but his immediate concern was the Constellation class Starship in dock one twelve which was at the

moment getting bigger in the front window.

Chase had to hold beyond the dock for a few minutes to allow two spindly armed worker bee craft to clear the pad in the small shuttle bay module attached to the space dock. As they waited Tom looked over his new charge.

Space Docks always had the look of half-finished structures with their open ends and girder like construction. Dock one twelve was a medium sized dock that fit the constellation class ship well.

  The worker bees  cleared the dock on their errand and the young cadet deftly brought his craft to the pad turning it so the nose faced out for departure. Tom looked over at the young man and gave him a satisfied nod.

  Tom stepped out of the shuttle for the second time in one day but the contrast was obvious. Where the main station had been busy and noisy this dock was quite. In fact except for the two departing worker bees there was no movement whatsoever. The shuttle had past many docks on its way to this one , and it was obvious even at a distance that they were running full tilt.

  Tom walked over to a window overlooking the cavernous dock interior and looked at the starship Hathaway. Panels were removed and scaffolds festooned the ship. Her warp nacelles were detached and tethered to the top of the space dock.  At the top of the saucer the bridge module was missing.   There were no welding arcs or space suited workers as one would expect.Not a soul stirred.

Tom tapped his comm badge and said  “Computer what is the present shift at space dock one one two?”

  The familiar voice replied “day two first shift third hour.”  Tom’s brow furrowed as he thought and tapped his badge again.

“Computer locate and identify the shift supervisor.”

Once again the computer responded. “The shift supervisor is Mr. Jod McDerrmit is presently located in the galley module”

Tom did not need directions to the galley. He had been aboard literally hundreds of docks and they were all laid out in a similar manner. The large Warrant Officer stormed down a ladder with the cadet pilot not knowing what else to do struggling to keep up. As the door to the galley slid opened the two were assaulted by noise made by yelling sentient beings. Tom looked around,  a Vulcan male in coveralls stood next to the door serenely not taking part in the large heated yelling match going on in the center of the galley’s dining area. Around the edges of the dining area the workers sat idly awaiting the outcome of the war of words. Some were playing cards and others were reading PADDS.

Tom realized that whatever was going on was happening so often that these workers were prepared to fight the boredom. Tom turned to the Vulcan and asked. “Is this normal?”

The Vulcan turned toward Tom and examined him a moment before answering. “Yes sir it is. Most illogical”

Tom couldn’t agree more. “Could you please point out Mr. McDerrmit to me?”  “Of course Chief Warrant Officer the gentle being in the blue shirt yelling at Doctor Straker is Mr. McDermit.”

Tom looked at a fat bald man screaming at a very prim mousey looking woman who was screaming back with equal vigor. Behind each of the antagonists were three or four  helpers adding their voices to the roar. Tom thanked the Vulcan and waded into the fray. Mr. Cord wisely stayed back standing next to the Vulcan.

  Tom walked up to the Engineer and the doctor and said.  “Excuse me” the two angry people did not miss a beat they just ignored Tom.  He was impressed with the single mindedness of the two people but he could not let this go on.

“SHUT UP” roared Tom loud enough to be heard on Earth. Dr. Straker and Mr. McDermit blinked clearly startled at being interrupted. Tom dove in before either had a chance to recover.

“I am Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Dritschler I am in charge of this project from this moment on.

McDermit recovered first and screamed. “Is this that daft woman’s solution to our problems some brut to try and intimidate us. Well it won’t work Mr. Warrant Officer we are doing the very best we can!”

Dr. Straker the medical representative not to be undone yelled “These wrench monkeys keep preventing us from getting anything done! And now management has sent us another one!”

Tom seethed “You both will go somewhere else and cool off for fifteen minutes then you will meet me in my office!

IIt was then that Tom realized that he had not seen the admin module when he had come aboard.  McDermit looked over to the newcomer and laughed.

“You don’t have an office laddie. The module was never delivered.Another example of Starfleet incompetence” said the smiling fat engineer.

“Fine” said Tom not wanting to yield the initiative to the smug engineer he shot from the hip. “You can meet me in my shuttle” Fifteen Minutes first Mr. McDermit then Dr.Straker” With that he turned on his heels and stormed out of the Galley with Cadet Cord hurrying to fall in behind the big Warrant Officer.

Tom watched Chase attach the shore umbilical cable to the shuttle effectively making it a part of the space dock. Attaching the cable should have been done by dock personnel of which there appeared to be none.

  While he waited the first meeting Tom logged into the computer. The shuttle had an executive module installed so using it as an office was not a far stretch. It was equipped whis a desk work station.  As he logged into the yard saw that they showed that the admin module had been delivered and installed before Hathaway had been towed in. Clearly this was wrong.

On a hunch he checked on the ships bridge module only to find that it was listed as delivered and receipted for too. The Module was too big to be out of sight somewhere and it was the type of delivery that would require immediate installation. It would not be stored somewhere. A quick scan of the records showed that many of the ships components were missing. Switching on the outside viewer Looking closer at the nacelles tethered to the top of the dock he saw  that these were Hathaway’s original units rather than the new ones that were listed as delivered. When he checked to see who had signed for the missing items the space was blank. That should not be possible. The computer would not allow that entry to remain blank.

Tom checked the time on his terminal and saw that it was past time for his first appointment. He tapped his chest and after the response chime ordered. “Computer locate Mr McDermit”

The computer replied “Mr. McDermit is not aboard space dock at this time”

“Huh” Tom said out loud. He had just been in the galley!

“Locate Dr. Stracker” Tom asked

“Dr Straker is not aboard Space Dock at this time’ the Computer replied.

Tom brought up the comms system. Benjamin Rock’s homely face appeared on the screen and split into a grin. “Tom calling already?” chuckled the Commander.

Tom spoke quickly. “Commander there is something very not right here. Major components that are listed as delivered are missing! And now the civilian Project leader and the medical expert have also disappeared! I need a full security team here fastest way possible. This smells bad. I would also like a communications blackout imposed on the dock.”

“OK Tom” Rock replied “I have the communications block up. It will be about half an hour for the security team. I will inform the Commodore of your situation. Tom be careful please I am concerned.”

  Tom looked out the opened door over the cadet lounging there. He saw shadows moving around some of the equipment near the landing pad.  Tom leaped to his feet and grabbed the cadet by the collar and pulled him back into the shuttle. At the same time he reached into his valise. His hand emerged with an antique assault phaser that Admiral Kirk would have recognized.

A phaser beam struck the door frame of the shuttle barely missing Cord. It fused the door tracks locking the door open.

Cord rolled on the deck of the shuttle and to his credit keyed open the weapons locker and took out one of the standard issue hand phasers stored there and activated it, as more beams came through the jammed open door. Tom punched the mayday button on the comms panel as a phaser rifle blast tore through the port nacelle venting plasma and blocking the open door causing the temperature in the crippled shuttle to rise. Tom Looked back at the cadet holding the phaser in a two handed grasp.

Tom sized up the young man in an instant. If they could survive this Tom was looking at a potential starship captain cool and clear thinking.

OK Mr Cord this shuttle is going to burn up in about two minutes set your phaser for kill. No time for niceties. Tom said.

  Cord after adjusting the settings on his phaser looked at the antique phaser in Tom’s hand. “Mr. Dritschler there are more hand phasers in the locker you don’t have to use that old thing sir.” The Cadet croaked.

“Can’t hit anything with that one size fits all species thing. This one fits my big paw better. Besides it’s more powerful.

Now when I say now I want you to open the stern door and run for cover by that equipment. I have disabled the interlocks so the shuttle will fly out the hanger force field even with the it’s doors open.

We can’t let this ship explode in here it will vent the whole complex into space Tom explained.

With that he pushed a button on the shuttle controls and the computer started counting down. Both Dritshler and Cord were running sweat as the temperature continued to rise. When the computer reached three Tom yelled.

“NOW”!

  The two men sprang from the shuttle’s rear hatch as it fell open, phaser beams reached out for them but miraculously none found their mark. The two crashed awkwardly between the boxes and machinery around the landing pad as the shuttle scraped along the deck and awkwardly passed through the force field curtain that containing the atmosphere in the shuttle bay.

The shuttle exploded just on the other side of the threshold causing the force field to fail. The hanger lost its atmosphere explosively. Tom and Chase had expected the field to fail and had braced himself and held his breath.

Four shadowy figures stood up trying to keep from being dragged out of the shuttle bay. Tom fired three short blasts connecting with three targets that dissolved as they were hit. The fourth took a hit square in the chest from the Cadet’s phaser.

A fifth man fell out the open shuttlebay door just as the emergency shut mechanism slammed the door shut.

Now sealed the bay was flooded with air from emergency tanks provided for just such an emergency. Tom’s ears popped painfully for a moment and a look over at Cord confirmed that he too was trying to clear his ears.

“Stay down” ordered Tom  “I don’t know how many were out there.”

As if to punctuate the statement two beams punched into the machine next to Tom.

  Tom tapped his com badge and ordered. “Emergency beacon” Cord followed the older officers example.

Tom watched from his hiding place as someone peeked around a crate. As the figure took shape Tom hit the unlucky man in the eye and he too dissolved into free floating gas.

Just then his comm. Badge beeped  “This is the USS Magpie Mr. Dritschler we are receiving your and Mr. Cords emergency beacons prepare for beam out” said the disembodied voice.

  The hangar Module of the space dock dissolved to be replaced by a starship transporter room. Mr Cord came into focus in front of Tom crouched over for his next shot. Unfortunately for Cord he had been leaning on a machine when transport had begun and upon materializing he was without the support.He sprawled face first on the deck.

Tom smiled at the embarrassed shuttle pilot grabbed his hand and lifted him effortlessly to his feet . The two men turned to face a room full of security officers as well as the ship’s captain.

“Status Mister’ the man Tom presumed was the Captain barked as Tom holstered

his weapon.  There are multiple assailants in the shuttle bay. They destroyed a shuttle

Mr. Cord and I dispatched five. One dispatched himself by not avoiding the explosive decompression there are at least a few still there sir.”

  The transporter chief chimed in. “Sir I have three life signs in the shuttle bay”  “I do not believe there were any other friendlies in the bay captain.” Tom added.

The Starship captain considered a moment and then ordered.”Beam them aboard Chief, security stand by, Chief deactivate any weapons”.

“Aye sir” responded the transporter chief.

  Three crouched figures materialized on the pads. All three stood up and pointed their weapons at the group in the transporter room only to realize that the weapons no longer functioned. They just as quickly flung the weapons to the deck and threw their hands into the air.

The security team kicked the phasers out of reach and threw the three creatures to the deck cuffing them expertly.

As the security team stood them back up Tom took a closer look at his assailants. They were a Ferengi, a Human and a Corsican all male. All looked back with undisguised hate.

  The Captain a younger man with commander pips on his collar walked over to Tom and Mr. Cord.  “Are either of you hurt? asked the Captain.

“No sir the two men chorused.

“Good” the Captain said turning on his heels “Follow me”.  With that they walked out of the transporter room. Mr. Cord walked with the two older men. He was still holding the phaser and with a silent cue from Tom attached it sheepishly to his belt.

A. medical rating rushed up and called. “Captain Hall sir this man is hurt.”  Both the Captain and the Tom turned to examine Cord. Tom saw when he looked closer that the Cadets shoulder neck and face were burned by molten metal presumably when the first phaser shot

had struck the door jam on the shuttle.

The Captain turned on Cord.  “I thought you said you weren’t hurt cadet!”

Cord reached up to touch his face and flinched.  “OW! I’m sorry sir I didn’t realize I was” he said in surprise.

The Captain relented and said  “Go with the corpsman young man and see to those wounds.”

The young human woman who stood almost as tall as Cord had long brown hair

and a slightly Asian look. She took a grip of Cords elbow and started to steer Cord toward the ship’s sick bay. The cadet reached up to touch his face again but this time the young woman slapped his hand away.

“Don’t touch” she commanded. She reached up to her breast and tapped her badge. Stringer to Sarelk could you meet me with a gurney please I have a wounded cadet. She said. Cord started to protest but the corpsman held up her hand cutting him off. As they came around the next bend two medical technicians met them with the gurney.  He climbed on and almost fell.           Corpsman Stringer explained. “ You’re coming down off the adrenalin sir you should start feeling those burns now too. We don’t want you falling down and injuring yourself further.”

  As he was being wheeled down the passageway Cord asked .“ I heard this ship is called the USS Magpie what kind of ship is she?”

The corpsman smiled at him in a way that almost made his heart stop. “She’s a modified Miranda class Shuttle carrier.  She’s brand newly modified, we were doing thruster tests when we got diverted to help you. Your friend designed her.”

“Who?” asked Cord pointing over his shoulder in the direction the Captain and Warrant Officer had gone.

“You mean Mr. Dritschler?  Cord had a dumbfounded look on his face as he was wheeled into sick bay.

The Magpie only had a crew of less than a hundred and so she only rated a Nurse practitioner not a full doctor.  While the nurse worked on the Cadet,the Corpsman stepped out of the examination room. Young Cord missed her already. Finally the Nurse declared him patched up. Cord watched as an orderly put his burned uniform tunic into the recycling chute.

He then looked at Cord and asked. “What would you like me to do with the phaser sir?” Cord thought that one through for a second. That weapon was assigned to Shuttle thirty seven Jinx which was now dangerous debris orbiting Mars.    “Please log it into this ship’s armory for me” he replied.

Cord was required to stay in sickbay for the time being to be observed. The pretty corpsman returned with a set of gray fatigues on which she pinned the Cadet pip from Cords ruined uniform.  “Here ya go sir she said” Cord cringed at the sir. “Please go easy on the sirs my name is Chase Cord and I am not quite an officer yet” he pleaded.

Stringer looked at the young man and had to admit she was intrigued. This young man had just been in a desperate gun fight against superior numbers and he was worried that he was being called sir. He had been in the company of Thomas Dritschler the very man who had designed this ship.

“I am Anne Stringer I have a little something I want to show you” she said.Anne then turned to toward the screen in that room and said. “Computer play Stringer Magpie” The computer gave it’s customary acknowledge chirp and a Miranda Class Starship appeared martial music played in the background. The computer rotated the ship so the viewer could see it

from all angles while a narrator described the highlights of the design. At first it appeared to be nothing more that the freighter variant of the Miranda class ship. It did not have the “roll bar” weapons pod. But on closer inspection there were subtle differences, this ship had two large elevators on the dorsal side and two more on the ventral side of the saucer. These were there to allow more shuttles to operate at any given time than just the hanger doors on the stern could accommodate. . The main hull phaser turrets were replaced by the now standard phaser strips being used by the more modern designs.

The computer now took the viewers inside the ship. Over three quarters of the saucer was given over to shuttle storage and servicing. The program showed how different shuttle squadrons could be accommodated and that even runabouts and fighters could be serviced and operated aboard the Magpie. Elevators and handling gear were arranged so that any shuttle no matter where it was on board could be reached and launched in a timely manner.

The program then took the viewer to the bridge which was laid out much like a Defiant class ship with the difference that the after half of the bridge was dedicated to Flight control for the shuttles.  

The announcer then came on and said.”Welcome aboard the USS Magpie we hope that you enjoy your stay” The background shot showed the ships dedication Plaque. Anne suddenly said “Computer hold” The picture froze the young corpsman looked at the screen squinted a bit and then said “Magnify thirty percent”

The plaque came into sharp focus the plague now very large on the screen with most of the top line cut off. Anne moved up to the screen and pointed to a line on the plaque. It read simply Chief Designer: Thomas E. Dritschler Star Fleet.

With her finger pointing at the line she turned to Cadet Chase Cord smiled her smile and said simply. “See” Her smile as she uttered that one syllable completely conquered the poor Cadet’s heart and soul.

Tom Dritschler looked out the window of the captain’s ready room. Below him hung the dock with the Hathaway moored inside looking forlorn.

Tom turned to Captain Hall who was sitting at the desk leaning back. Looking at the overhead. Tom rubbed his chin and said.”Sir the response to me doing my little audit took minutes. Not only was the computer flagged but they reacted faster than you did and you were right here in orbit.”

The Captain spun in his chair to face Tom.

“Maybe our friends were already planning to assault the dock.” Captain Hall suggested.

  “They didn’t come by shuttle mine was the only one there and according to security the prisoners we took are not workers at dock one twelve  or any other dock. The Hathaway is still open to hard vacuum so they were not hiding on board the ship.

“Cloaked ship?” Suggested Tom suddenly. The Captain did not hesitate he punched a key on his desk. “Yellow Alert Mr. Schneider do not raise shields do not charge weapons

phasers on immediate stand by passive scans look for any anomaly . We are looking for a cloaked ship. I just don’t want to tip them that we’re looking for a cloaked ship.

The Captain turned back toward Tom and pointed at him. “Not only do you design awesome ships you think tactically too.” The Captain said with a smile.

The Captain and Dritschler walked out onto the bridge. The Captain sat down in the center seat which had been rapidly vacated by a Vulcan lieutenant . Tom stood to his right

” Report” ordered Hall.

The Vulcan that had just gotten out of the Captain’s chair was looking at her display her rank and blue collar color marked her as the science officer.”No anomalies detected sir we have been looking at the ion trails in the area but the most recent one appears to be from Shuttle thirty seven”

The Captain turned in his seat and looked up at Tom, who was still standing next to the command chair, as if expecting the warrant officer to explain.

Tom ignored the captain and continued to think through the problem “Lieutenant can you look at the docks records to see if anyone transported in or out. Oh and be careful I think the Dock computer is compromised. I believe that is what set up our little frackis to begin with.” Tom said.

Captain Hall nodded his assent.

The Lieutenant considered for a moment and touched controls on her board as she worked she explained. “That should not be difficult I can go in through an open account I will delete any flags and then check.”  Her hands played across her console as she made her adjustments.

 

 

 

“Eight distinct transports into the shuttle bay and two off the space dock.” Said the Vulcan

Something nagged at the back of Toms mind but it slipped away as the Captain said. “So that brings us back to a cloaked ship huh Mr. Dritschler?”

Then the light went on.

“Sir I know where they are!” Tom said.

 

Chase Cord sat in the pilot seat of the USS Lowe a runabout assigned to the new shuttle carrier. Cord thrilled in the advanced systems, this was a Starship! A little starship perhaps but a real starship. He was flabbergasted when he had been asked to be the command pilot for the mission. The only downside was that almost all of her systems were powered down and the runabout was maneuvering on minimum thrusters. This was like flying a worker bee with an elephant on it’s tail.

Cord flew through the starship graveyard across the damaged saucer of a Nebula class ship and then ducked in behind the remains of an Intrepid. Cord worked to keep wreckage between the Lowe and their goal.

In the back of the runabout were a security team and the first officer of the Magpie. Dritschler sat in the co pilot seat and ran the scan and navigation. Occasionally he would point to a route for Cord to take.  Finally after what seemed like an eternity the runabout stopped next to a battered Ambassador class cruiser. The runabout hung between the nacelles to blend in with the wreck just in case anyone was looking out a port.

Chase applied a small thruster correction and looked over at Mr. Dritschler who was looking at the passive scanners.

“Looks like something’s alive over there but with the passive sensors alone and there’s some kind of sensor dampener running over there so I can’t dial it in.

Tom stood up and went into the back where the Magpie’s first officer was setting up the

transporter. He looked up as Tom walked up.

“Ready Mr D” he said with a smile. Tom drew his old assault phaser and checked the settings. He then touched his tricorder hooked to his belt and the extra power packs for his phaser.

“Ready as I’m likely to ever be” Tom replied.

“Just like we said in brief two then two more. Me and Biggs then you and Carlin” the first officer reviewed. Then we will direct the other ten as needed. Tom nodded in response.

The first two vanished as soon as they were clear Tom and the second security officer ran on the pad and disappeared.

On the flight deck Cadet Cord watched his indicators. There! phaser fire. More fire disrupters too. Cord pusher the ship slowly forward when the Magpie first officer’s voice came over the speaker.  “Abort abort this ship is crawling with people.”  Phaser noises were plainly audible. Cord lit off the runabout’s systems and raised shields.

Behind him in the main cabin he heard the security man exclaim that a transport interdiction field had gone up

Chase pushed the small ship forward toward the old starship aiming for the hanger doors. Looking at the now active sensors he could see the life signs of several hundred beings. The ESM board lit up as well as it detected multiple communications from the ship. It appeared that most of the life signs were in the secondary hull and shuttle bay.

A movement out the port side window caught Chase’s attention. One of the wrecks was rolling.

Later Chase couldn’t say why he reacted as he did. Some alarm in his subconscious which saved him and the remaining security officers.

Chase slammed the ship into a rolling dive toward the Liberator.

A plasma bolt grazed the runabout shield. as the ship dove toward the old Constitution ship.

Chase fought the controls. The glancing blow had blow out the shields and several panels had exploded spraying Cord with red hot debris.

He was planning to use the old ship as a shield from whoever was firing! He was steering for the point above the shuttle bay doors.  as he watched the shuttle bay doors began to open. A big armed Ferengi shuttle sat in the launch circle. Cord adjusted his course targeted the shuttle and set the phasers for full. He took a second to yell.”Brace for impact”

Cord fired the phasers and the shuttle exploded. He saw the shuttles front end collapse and the shuttle bay’s atmosphere vent into space.

Several people also tumbled into the vacuum. The wreck of the shuttle was still in the  way so Cord fired his phasers again. The shuttle disintegrated into shrapnel. No time to adjust his course cord flew to where the shuttles wreckage still burned. The reverse thrusters whined as the runabout hit hard and skidded on the deck. Debris from the destroyed shuttle pelted the runabaout whose remaining shields had failed completely when she hit the shuttle bay deck. Regaining some control Cord directed the skiding ship  toward an emergency umbilical. The runabout came to an abrupt stop.

Cord sealed the fight deck from the rest of the ship and blew the hatch. He allowed the force of the decompression to carry him out the door. He knew he had only seconds before the harsh vacuum killed him but he was gambling that he had the time. He pulled the flexible emergency umbilical over the runabouts side door. It sealed against the hull of the runabout automatically.

Cord knew from his history that old starships that launched and recovered shuttles from bays before force screens were available had these umbilicals for emergency evacuation of shuttles in case they could not wait for the bay to re-pressurize.

It took Chase longer than he expected because of his burned hands. He could feel that he was about to pass out there was no time for niceties, he pulled his hand phaser and blew the shuttle bay access doors off their tracks. The flexible hose inflated as air from the old Starship rushed into the umbilical. Cord gasped for the life sustaining air.

Inside the ruined doors hiding behind piles of crates were two Corsicans they were looking back bewildered by the door exploding behind them. Cord shot them both with two short bursts. The phaser was still set at maximum for breaching the door so the two beings became burn marks on the crates.

Cord scrambled up to the remains of the doors end peeked over the edge. A disruptor blast just missed him . Across the room the distinct sound of Dritshler’s assault phaser was heard and the source of the disrupter shot screamed.  

Two of the security officers slid up behind Cord and started scanning with their tricorders a third pulled him back from the opening.

“Good work Cadet we’ve got it get back in the ship we are probably going to have to leave in a hurry” she said as she scrambled back up the tude to join her fellows.

  Keeping low Cord reentered the runabout and re sealed the pilot hatch did a preflight while rerouting failed systems caused by the plasma blast and crash landing. Fortunately runabouts were built with inexperienced pilots in mind and were difficult to hurt.

 

The away team was in serious trouble. They had thought they had beamed into an area that was unlikely to be occupied but their luck was bad. They had expected a handful of smugglers not a complete disciplined pirate crew.

Biggs lay on the deck moaning with the lower part of his arm ruined by a phaser blast and the other security team member had been vaporized.

The enemy had the upper hand and had activated a transporter inhibitor field. Dritschler suspected that the equipment that had cut off their retreat was probably in the shuttle bay. He and the first officer were now pinned down in the machine shop just outside of the bay, but the chances of them getting any farther were slim. They were taking fire from both behind them and in front and their cover was slowly being chipped away by multiple phaser and disrupter blasts.

  Suddenly the door to the shuttle bay exploded and Tom’s ears popped with

the change of pressure. Two quick shots lit the door and eliminated two Corsicans that had been laying down the lion’s share of opposing fire. Tom spotted another shape rising up to return fire into the now open doorway. He fired one sho,t but Tom hit him square in the head. The first officer who had been watching Toms back called over.

“What’s going on?”

“I think we’re being rescued, Badly.” Tom replied as he ducked another blast.

The Magpie’s first officers comm. Badge beeped.”Boxster to the XO, sir we are across the room we will lay cover fire.”

The XO fired his phaser and shouted.  “

“We have wounded so we’re going to be slow”

“Roger Sir” came the reply.You need to come noe this umbilical tube won’t stand up to phaser fire. We are laying sown cover fire now.”

Suddenly the door to shuttle bay lit up with rifle fire as the security team started  systematically hosing the machine shop down with phaser fire.

The XO and Tom didn’t hesitate they crashed across the open space. Tom carried the security man Biggs effortlessly firing his old fashioned phaser as he ran. Without hesitating the four men ran through the shuttle bay door and continued into the runabout. The security team still firing as they went followed more slowly. Tom threw the unfortunate Biggs down on the couch and ran back up to the flight deck and leaped himself into the co-pilot seat yelling go go go! Chase already anticipating the order backed the ship out of the shuttle bay tearing away the umbilical and pushing wreckage of the Ferengi shuttle in front of them.

 

Captain Hall watched the main viewer on his bridge. He had difficulty seeing the runabout as she pulled in between the nacelles of the old Ambassador class ship. His Vulcan science officer looked up from her station and said.

“Sensors indicate transport in progress sir”

“Very well he replied” shifting in his seat

Suddenly over the bridge speakers came “Abort abort this ship is crawling with people”

“Raise shields!” yelled the Captain “Helm move us into transporter range fast as you can”

The Vulcan looked up and reported as if giving the weather.

“Sir there is a transport inhibitor field up no transport is possible.”

The captain was stunned that was way too much preparation for a little smuggling operation!

“Find the source and lock on to it” He yelled Knowing that the location of the device setting up the field would be nearly impossible to locate if in fact there was only one.

“Sir the runabout is moving” Reported the helmsman

“On screen” the Captain replied The screen showed the small starship moving

toward the Liberator’s hanger  

A plasma bolt flashed across the view screen and brushed the suddenly maneuvering runabout.

“Low’se has been hit sir” the science officer’s deadpan commentary reported.  “shields down to ten percent. They are steering for the Liberator sir”.as it did the doors of the hanger started to open. The angle prevented Hall from seeing inside. Then phaser fire emitted from the runabout and whatever had been inside the bay exploded.  

 

“Is he shooting at the transport inhibitor?” The Captain asked the room.

The vulcan science officer shook her head. “I do not believe so there is no change in the field strength sir I believe he struck a shuttlecraft.”

The USS Magpie although bigger and less maneuverable than the runabout did

not need to be stealthy. Consequently it reached the USS Liberator far faster than the runabout had.

The Captain watched as the runabout fired again into the flaming maw that had been the opening of the shuttle bay before diving into the shuttle bay itself.

“Holy shit!” exclaimed the Captain “Contact the Lowe scan for survivors Find where that plasma cannon was fired from.”

Hall jumped out of his chair and stepped in behind the Helm console. Behind the captain’s chair an Ensign croaked in fear as he monitored his tactical board.

“Captain there is a large ship powering up off the port bow. It appears to be that Nebula Class wreck USS Smithsonian.  No wait it’s behind her.” The Nebula was pushed aside and a large orange star ship started heading for the Magpie accelerating on impulse power.

“Helm all stop full impulse astern!” Ordered the Captain returning to his seat he stabbed a button on his chair.

“Engineering stand by warp drive we may have to make a break for it. There is a Ferengi Marauder D’Kora class out there. We are no match for it. It can go toe to toe with a Galaxy class ship.

“The Ferengi are charging weapons sir” the scared ensign reported.

The plasma cannon fired at point blank range. Magpie shuddered and rolled under the strike. Panels exploded and sparks fell from the overhead. Smoke filled the bridge.

“Return fire” Hall yelled and the phaser strips began to strike the marauder’s shields.

“Tactical report” called out the captain.

“The Ensign replied “Shields are at twenty seven percent Damage reported deck six and seven. We cannot take another hit sir”

“Helm use the wrecks for cover. Lets hope the Ferengi are more interested in escape than inflicting damage. Communication open a hailing frequency to all Federation facilities data dump our situation.” Directed the captain as he watched the picture in the main viewer suddenly shift as the helmsman banked the ship hard over  to put a wreck between them and the Marauder

.

As the USS Lowe’s bow cleared the shuttle craft Cord yanked it around and accelerated away from the Liberator. As the little ship settled on course both Thomas Dritschler and Chase Cord involuntarily pushed back in their seats. Before them was the broad orange stern of a Ferengi Marauder. Chase activated the now restored shields while Tom lit off the sensors. They watched as the Magpie took her plasma hit right on the bow.

The ship rolled to the left as if in pain and started to return fire. From their angle they could not observe if the shuttle carrier was scoring any hits.

“Holy carp where in the hell did that beast come from” cried Tom.  He glanced at his readings and got an evil grin “She doubled up her forward screens her stern is almost completely unprotected. Chase I have the guns!”

“Aye sir you have weapons” responded Cord.

 

Dritschler lined up the sights on the big ships port impulse engine exhaust. He toggled the  ships power to weapons and fired the phasers. He then sent a spread of micro photons to be followed up and then the phasers again.

Normally the weapons mounted on a runabout could not expect to damage a Marauder but with the stern unprotected the little starship could be expected to do some damage.

The  impulse engines flared as the raw phaser energy hit the vents. Then the potent little photon missiles struck most of them hitting the port side engines. The final phaser hit also stuck the port engine causing  it to flare and exploded. The port side engine room was totally destroyed and the starboard engine was down to about sixty percent.

Tom smiled with grim satisfaction. As he prepared to fire again the Ferengi’s shields started to even over the whole ship. The small ship would not get a another chance to inflict damage on the Ferengi ship.

“The Marauder started a slow turn to Starboard. Tom gripped his arm rest and hollered.

“Find a place to hide we pissed him off!”

The Runabout turned and headed for a Galaxy class saucer section with a hole in it Chase dove the ship through the hole and out the other side. The saucer took the brunt of the plasma blast but some it still reached the Lowe.

The blow was devastating when it came all the panels exploded and the lights went out the ship yawed. Then the big saucer section which had taken the brunt of the blow started to roll and struck the now shieldless,and powerless runabout. The small ship tumbled out of control.

“Auxiliary power” Tom yelled

“I’m trying sir no dice” replied Chase as his hands worked the engineer panel.

Tom looked closely at Chase and realized that most of the young man’s shirt was gone and that the Cadet had burns and blisters up his arms, chest and on his face. Even in the red emergency lights Chase looked awful.

Then they heard the alarm at the same time that they heard air escaping. The computer’s voice skipping and weak reported “Hull breach, Hull Breach”

 

The Magpie darted between the wrecks working to break target lock when the Tactical officer reported.  “Target has had an explosion in her port side engine room she is venting fuel and there is a fire in her engineering spaces. I am detecting only one side thrusting at fifty seven percent. The target is slowing and changing course. I believe she took a hit from another ship. Her forward shields are weakening she is reconfiguring  her shield power to protect her stern. I believe the shot came from our runabout sir”

Captain Hull looked at the screen and as if to confirm the tactical officer’s speculation the runabout came screaming out from behind the shadow of the Marauder and raced toward the saucer section of a Galaxy class ship.

As the aspect of the saucer changed a gaping hole appeared in it. The runabout dove through the hole causing everyone on the bridge to gasp. Just behind it a plasma charge crashed into the hole.

“Keep firing Ensign. Give that bastard something else to shoot at!” The Captain ordered.

The Marauder seemingly satisfied that it had dealt with it’s small tormentor turned it’s deadly gaze once more on the USS Magpie.  The Shuttle carrier agilely flew between wreckage but now with her speed advantage she was able to avoid the plasma cannon. The Marauders phasers on the other hand were taking their toll. Finally with her shields failing the Magpie pointed her stern at  the Ferengi  vessel and accelerated away from Mars. Firing until she went to warp.Ferengi was also trying to depart as fast as she could but with her damaged impulse drive she was slow clearing the area of Starship wrecks..

And then the USS Enterprise came out of warp and torpedoed the Ferengi ship ending the incident.

 

“Mayday mayday this is the USS Lowe we have been disabled and are venting atmosphere there is a hostile enemy vessel in the area Mayday Mayday” Tom

continued to broadcast. Several of the security team worked feverishly to find the numerous air leaks. The Magpie’s executive officer worked on Chase’s wounds

The sound of the hull scraping against the wreck outside set their teeth on edge. Tom started working in the tiny engineer alcove trying to restore power. Chase looked at his readings such of them that still worked and knew that the atmospheric pressure was dangerously low. He turned in his seat and ordered in a harsh smoke burned voice. “Don emergency breathing apparatus we are below limits.”

He reached for the mask and  bottle by his seat and it dissolved before his hand could reach it. His vision returned and he was in a starship transporter room. Then he fell over backwards since he no longer had a chair beneath him.

An older beautiful woman appeared above him holding a tricorder and said.”You’re a mess mister.”

“I think there are some of the security team that are worse ma’am he replied but it has been a trying day” Chase said

“I’ll bet it was but if it’s ok with you I’ll do the triage around here cadet.. Two orderlies appeared and helped Chase onto another gurney. “ I’m Beverly Crusher ships surgeon welcome aboard the Enterprise.” She said smiling.

 

After Dr. Crusher released Cord from the Enterprise’s sick bay he was sent to Starfleet Headquarters for debriefing. He even got to briefly meet Admiral Janeway and Master Chief Baxter. He was treated with great respect and he was getting used to it.

After Starfleet intelligence was done with him and had sworn him to secrecy Chase was sent back to the academy.

 

Cadet First Class Chase Cord appeared on the transporter pad. To his chagrin standing in front of the console stood Parnell smiling like a fool. Before Chase could limp down off the Academy platform Parnell dismissed the transporter tech and started his rant.

“I had to hack the database to figure it out but you lost a type five shuttle and a Runabout! Look at you the crash left you a mess.” He gestured toward Chase’s many bandages.

Chase started toward the exit but Parnell stepped in front of him to block his path.

“What have you got to say for yourself cadet” Parnell demanded.

“The incident is classified I can’t discuss it” Cord said as he tried to walk around Parnell

“Oh you don’t know yet but I am class leader now anything you’re cleared for you can bet i am too, if I tell you to explain what happened you better do just that. Not that it matters losing two ships on the same day will get you scrubbed from Starfleet. You can maybe get a job on a scow or something but I doubt it.”

Chase looked at Parnell without blinking. “If you say so” he said. Once again he made for the door. Annoyed at not having gotten a rise from Cord  Parnell reached out and grabbed Chase by his bandaged forearm.

Chase couldn’t help but groan in pain as his half healed burns protested the abuse.

Parnell didn’t let go he added pressure trying to bring Cord to his knees. He laughed as he saw tears form in Chase’s eyes.”Oh does that hurt Cord?” he snickered

. Then he felt the hand on his shoulder. He turned his head around to see who was intruding on his little victory.

A small older blond woman stood there and said “Let him go mister”

Parnell didn’t release Cord and continued to look. He saw a small woman. He saw she was some sort of enlisted puke.His face turned red with rage.

“Enlisted people do not tell officers what to do” Crewman you are on report!”

Parnell looked closer at the enlisted woman’s rank insignia. He realized that this was a Master Chief. He knew that Master Chiefs had been known to intimidate some junior officers but that was not going to happen to him. He outranked all enlisted personnel no matter how big a fish they were. They certainly did not put their work stained hands on officer shoulders.

He released Cord and reached up grabbing the woman’s hand still on his shoulder and started a throw he had learned in self defense class. Then he hit the deck hard his arm twisted painfully behind his back with a knee pressing just as painfully on his spine. He heard a voice from behind.

“Academy Security this is Master Chief Baxter I am holding…”there was a pause and Parnell heard Cord supply his name. “Parnell Master Chief”

“Thank You Mr. Cord” she said and continued to speak to security “Mr. Parnell for assault on a fellow cadet.’

The security officer on the other end replied” on our way Master Chief. Parnell Struggled trying to break free of the hold but the diminutive Master Chief held him down.

“It’s your word against mine Bitch the security monitors don’t work in here. And the technician knew enough to leave when I told him to.. They are not going to take an enlisted persons word over an officers!” Parnell sneered.“You picked a real piece of shit to wreck your career for sweetheart.”

Boots chuckled “This isn’t my first rodeo boyo my com badge has been open the whole time and Mr. Cord has been recording you ever since before you grabbed him.

Parnell struggled again now desperation creeping in. “We can make a deal. My Dad is on the Federation Council he can get you a commission and Chase he can have all the charges against you dropped” Parnell pleaded.

Boots almost let go laughing. “Why in the name of the First Chief would I want a commission I have the best job in Starfleet bar none Mister! And Mr. Cord is up for several citations. I don’t know what charges you could be referring to. You on the other hand are looking at two counts of assault, one on a fellow cadet and one on a senior enlisted person. Plus hacking confidential files and soliciting classified material through threats and of course tampering with security systems in the transporter room, Let me talk to my buddy at Jag I’m sure she can think of a few more.You have to look deeper when you hack classified files you might be antagonizing a Federation hero who has made a lot of friends during his Senior Summer Cruise..”

Then Parnell did something that amazed Cord. He started to cry.

 

Eight months later Chase stood on one the garden paths at the Academy. It had been a great event his graduation. His parents had been so proud and now they’d gone to visit with some old friends and brag about their hero son. Now he found himself alone. He was strolling through  the grounds being greeted by cadets as he walked the trails.”Afternoon sir” “Good day sir” “Congratulations Sir!”

Off in one of the landscaped areas Chase saw Parnell raking out a boarder. He was wearing enlisted fatigues with no rank insignia on them. That meant he was a crewman recruit! The lowest rank in Starfleet. Cord actually felt a little sorry for him. It would have been far kinder to kick him of Starfleet instead of making him finish a tour of duty as an enlisted person. And Parnell had made so many enemies of the Senior class, now junior officers, that he was just not going to enjoy his four year obligation.

“Chase! Chase! Damn you slow down came a laughing taunting voice. Chase turned to see Anne Stringer running up to him, she threw her arms around him and kissed him warmly.

“Hey hey you’re going to get us in trouble on my first day as an officer” he chuckled.

Anne was also wearing a white dress coat it had an ensigns pip on it.

Seems Anne had completed her nursing degree and was now commissioned too. She had come to the Academy for what was called the knife and fork course that was given to newly appointed officers to teach them some of what was expected as a Starfleet officer. She had been Chase’s date at the formal.

His parents were impressed with his new “Friend”.

“I’m mad at you” she said taking his arm. Chase rose to the bait.

“And why is that?” He asked

“I got my commission before you, I was senior, and I was supposed to be able to boss you around! But oh no Mr Cord has to be oh so much better and graduate a Lieutenant friken Jay Gee meritoriously and not only that they stick a medal of valor on you in front of the whole Starfleet. I am so very proud of you Mr.Cord sir”

“What’s going on here?” came a commanding voice behind them They both turned to see Master Chief Baxter walking arm in arm with Chief Warrant Officer Dritschler both also in their dress whites for the graduation..

Boots laughed at the expression on the two junior officers faces. She strode up and hugged Chase then shook his hand.

“I don’t hug to many officers you know” she said in a secretive voice. She looked at Tom and then at Chase. “Pretty much just you two.

Tom reached over and took Chase’s hand in his own massive paw and shook it firmly. “Congratulations Mr. Cord I am proud to be serving with you. Now If you ever call me anything but Tom in a social setting ever again I will hurt you”

“Uh Tom sir they had a blackout on the news after I left. What the hell happened up there.”

“Huge conspiracy so keep this under your hat. McDermit and Dr. Straker along with LCDR Vardun were in on it. And surprise surprise so was Vardun’s daddy! They were artificially slowing down the Hospital ship program so that Ferengi ship could continue to steal material. It was a sweet deal. They had done the scam before but not on Earth.

The Ferengi ship was towed in disguised as a federation wreck by a private contractor. The Ferengi government claims the Marauder ship went freelance and disassociated themselves with the incident They used the Liberator as a staging and warehousing facility. I have her tied up next to spacedock now acting as office and living quarters. I live in the Captain’s cabin “he chuckled.

“I command a Constitution class starship. sorta. Hathaway was chosen specially because she would take a long time to finish. But I’ve got her ready for re-commissioning next month. Tom said.

Then he pulled a box out from behind his back and handed it to the young officer.

“A graduation present” Tom explained.

It was a beautiful wood box with the Starfleet Logo on it. Chase put it down on a low wall and opened the hinged lid. Inside was a genuine antique surplus fully restored Starfleet assault phaser. The brass Plaque inside the box read Congratulations to LT jg Chase Cord your friends Boots baxter and Tom D.

The End