This is Part One of The ’39, a story set in a certain sci-fi (prime) universe. just a few years before the events of an original series. I’m sure that you won’t have any difficult figuring out which universe. A new part to be published every week!
No copyright infringement intended. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators or producers of any media franchise.
ONE: FIRST STEPS
The Chain of Lakes fell away, the reflection of the early morning light painfully bright, causing his eyes to water. Or was it the light? He kept looking anyhow. It was a beautiful sight, one he could never tire of, even after spending much of the previous year there recuperating. Those lakes were home, family. Safety.
Captain Stephen Chew turned and looked skyward as the blue turned to black and the shuttle continued its ascent to Zenith Station.
“Hey,” said a voice off to his left. Chew swiveled in his chair to face the sandy-haired Commander. “Having second thoughts already?” The smile was warm, but there was a slight narrowing of the eyes.
Chew smiled at his first officer. They’d served together through the Earth-Romulan War, and no one knew him better. Lex, too, bore scars from the war, but was older and, perhaps, more resilient than he. Or maybe it was just typical Russian fatalism.
“No,” said Chew. “Was just thinking that I never took you fishing. Best fishing in the world.”
“I’ll take your word for it. There’s an old saying about a man who spends all his time fishing.”
“He never goes hungry?”
“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”
Chew snorted. “And a beard doesn’t make a philosopher.”
Lex cracked a slight smile and nodded toward the view port. “Look.”
Chew looked. Directly ahead, coming into view from behind the support stanchions and modules of the spacedock were a pair of warp nacelles. More and more came into view as the shuttle curved around on its final approach. Without intending to, Chew leaned forward in his seat, hands clutching knees. A few seconds passed and there she was, NCC-1039, USS Spirit. He touched the assignment patch on his tunic, silver wings over a starry sky.
He’d studied the specs for months and knew every meter of that ship inside and out, but seeing her finished and ready was completely different. Compared to the warship he’d served on, she was sleek, trim, almost delicate by comparison. Finished in pale gray paint, she gave the impression of a grayhound ready to bound out of the gates.
Though lightly armed, the Spirit was fast‒a true warp-7 starship, and boasted a sensor suite and defensive systems that would have been the envy of the fleet just a few years before; an unintentional by-product of years of warfare. Chew didn’t know if it was worth the bloodshed, but he was determined to put it to good use.
“I think he’s in love,” said Lex to no one. Chew ignored the comment.
The shuttle pilot touched a stud on the control panel and said something. Something was said back, presumably permission to land, but Chew didn’t hear a word. His whole world was the ship. His ship. The bay doors opened and the shuttle made an unassisted approach and touched down without so much as a bump.
Chew walked to the hatch and paused, taking a moment to straighten his tunic.
“You look beautiful,” said Lex. “Can we get on with this? I’ve got work to do.”
The captain gave his first officer the stink eye and received a chuckle in response. Chew shook his head and touched the control pad. The hatch fell away to the sound of the bosun’s pipes. As his foot touched the deck, the mate cried out, “Captain on deck!” though there were only two other people in the hangar, the Chief of the Boat and the the LSO. They stood to attention, bright as new pennies in their fresh uniforms.
Normally there would have been more officers and crew in attendance, but everyone was occupied with pre-flight checks and last-minute calibration and installations. Even these few would be back at it once he was out of their hair. The commissioning of the Spirit hadn’t been rushed, but with the re-org after the War, everyone was stretched thin.
“Captain Steven Chew,” he said, handing over a paper. “My orders.”
The Chief gave it a cursory glance and handed it back. “Welcome aboard, Captain.”
Formalities completed, Chew smiled and extended his hand. The chief was tall and thin, with more than a touch of white in his hair. “Good to meet you Chief Apeloko. I’m sure my boat will be in good hands with you in charge.”
Apeloko relaxed and smiled back, taking Chew’s hand. “Yes, sir, you can bet on it.”
Chew turned to the young Bosun. “Peters, would you show us to the bridge, please?”
Peters tried to hide her surprise at the new captain knowing her name, but failed. “Uh, yes sir!” said Peters. To her credit, she managed a crisp heel-turn and lead them to the door without tripping over her feet.
On the way out, Chew nodded at the LSO in the hangar control room. They went through the port-side airlock then proceeded down the hall. The layout was closer to the original Enterprise prototype than the warships that followed, though less Spartan. The Spirit would never be confused for a luxury liner, but the rubberized deck-plates and off-white-painted bulkheads were quite a bit more welcoming than the bare metal he was used to. There were even splashes of color here and there, like the red painted doors and comm panels. The engineers had even color coded the conduits running overhead.
The shipwide address system chirped several times while they were on the way to the bridge, various alerts and status updates announced. Chew felt his pulse quicken.
They paused as the Bosun preceded them through a door and then immediately stepped to one side to make way. Chew stepped through to the call of, “Captain on the bridge!”
Everyone not in the middle of doing something stood to attention and the room went quiet but for the buzzes and blips of the instruments.
Chew stepped up to the command chair and a Lieutenant named Moreno stood and took a step back. Moreno’s face turned a shade more common to Vulcans and she cleared her throat repeatedly, but said not a word. The glassy stare spoke for her, and Chew had a hard time restraining a smile. Not only had Moreno forgotten the words to the change of command ceremony, her brain was completely vapor-locked.
In fairness, the commanding officer of the yard should have been performing the ceremony, but with the rate of construction, simply couldn’t be spared; the exec was with him, and the second officer was busy supervising last-minute equipment calibration and installation, so the duty had fallen on the shoulders of the ship’s green third-in-command.
Chew let Moreno suffer a moment longer before turning to the communications officer, Perkins. “Begin ships log.” The officer nodded back and Chew took out his orders.
“To Captain Stephen Chew, stardate 2262.1, you are hereby requested and required to take command of NCC-1039, USS Spirit, as of this date. Signed Admiral Robert April, Starfleet Command.” Chew turned to Moreno. “I relieve you ma’am.”
“I stand relieved,” said Moreno with all but an audible sigh.
Leonova leaned over and whispered in a voice only the three of them could hear, “So you do have a voice.” Moreno did her best impression of a Christmas ornament and turned a bright shade of red.
Chew put on his stern face and whispered, “Stop tormenting the junior officers.”
“Aye, sir,” said Leonova.
Chew lowered the sheet and took a breath. Looking at the expectant faces around him, he smiled. “I’m sorry. I know you were all expecting more. A ceremony. You deserve it. God knows we earned it. For us, duty has to be its own reward. After years of war, we are finally able to return to what some might say is the spirit of the service‒” To his right, Leonova let out a barely audible groan. “‒exploration and the advancement of the frontiers of knowledge for the benefit of all sentient life. I know this is a little ship, and a small crew, and no one expects much; however, I believe we will live up to the highest ideals and traditions of the service, that no one will forget Spirit. Stations, please.”
At a gesture, Perkins cut the comms. Chew took his seat. It was large and well-padded and didn’t feel at all like what he’d been expecting, but he figured he’d get used to it in time.
Lex remained standing next to him while the rest of the bridge officers sat and turned back to their panels, the pre-flight bustle returning in full force.
Chew gave the rest of his bridge crew the once-over. The helmsman couldn’t have been more than a week out of the academy, and the navigator not much older. But Perkins was a career officer, well into his fifties, and his science officer, Jennings, who had just returned to the bridge, was also older than usual. All in all, it was a strange combination of grey-heads and kids. Another consequence of the War.
“How do the new deep-space scanners look, Jenkins?” asked Chew.
“I think you’ll be pleased, sir,” said Jenkins.
Chew nodded and turned toward his first officer. “Number One, what say we get this show on the road?”
Lex nodded and walked to the engineering station. After checking the status indicators, she punched the engineering comm line. “Engineering, this is the XO. Boilers read hot. You ready down there?”
There was a brief pause and a click. “Yes, sir. Mains are online. Ready when you are.” Leonova nodded back at the captain.
“Intership,” said Chew to Perkins. After the whistle, Chew said, “Though we aren’t getting any official fanfare, I brought a little of my own.” Chew took out a chip and slotted it into the arm of his command chair. Turning to his helmsman he said, “Take us out, please. Maneuvering thrusters.”
“Thrusters. Aye sir,” said Ensign Call, his voice actually breaking.
Chew hit a button on his control panel and a song started to play over the comm system, wordless vocal harmony accompanied by a jaunty acoustic guitar. More instruments joined, the music swelled, and a warm, male voice started to sing.
In the year of ’39 assembled here the Volunteers
In the days when lands were few
Here the ship sailed out into the blue and sunny morn
The sweetest sight ever seen.
And the night followed day
And the story tellers say
That the score brave souls inside
For many a lonely day sailed across the milky seas
Never looked back, never feared, never cried.
Leonova gave the barest shake of her head, and said in a voice only Chen heard, “A bit on the nose, don’t you think? But still… nice song. Appropriate.”
“I thought so.”
“Moorings cleared. Free to navigate,” said Call who, to Chew’s approval, sounded calmer.
“All right,” said Chew, “let’s give ’er a kick in the ribs. Take us out of the system, right angle to the ecliptic, full impulse.”
“Full impulse, right angle, aye aye, sir. Setting course… zero zero zero mark 113.4, engaged.”
The stars wheeled and held still, and there was a low rumble that Chew felt through the soles of his feet and seat as the impulse deck went to full power. There was a momentary, electric tingling all over his body as the inertial compensators engaged, keeping the crew from becoming a fine, molecular film of organic matter on the rear bulkhead as the ship surged ahead at thousands of G’s of acceleration.
“Navigator,” said Chew. “How long ‘til we can engage warp?”
“On our current course, and acceleration,” said the navigator, Lt. Gangas, tapping the control board and checking displays, “we will be free of the gravity well in fifteen minutes, twenty three seconds.”
Chew looked at his first officer. “What do you say? Warp three?”
“What? Not warp six?”
“I just want to give her a little kick in the ribs, not flay her on the first day.”
Leonova nodded and smiled, then walked over to the navigator and put a hand on the back of her chair. “Plot a course for Beta Quadrant, using Starbase 6 and 12 as waypoints, warp factor three.”
Cangas put one hand on the astrogator while tapping her controls with the other and said, “Aye, sir. Going to warp factor 3 as soon as we exit the system… we should reach Starbase 6 in thirty seven hours, ten minutes.”
“Very good. Make it so.”
The navigator made some more calculations before saying, “Program is on your board, helm.”
“Acknowledged,” said Call. “Course… laid in and ready.”
Leonova nodded like an approving school marm and came back to stand next to the captain. “All stations report ready, sir,” said Leonova. They remained silent for a moment as more status reports came in from around the ship. The growing excitement was palpable.
“I have to admit that I am a little surprised. If I recall correctly, if we’d stuck to the ecliptic, we could have done a flyby of Jupiter and Neptune on the way out of the system. It would have only cost us an hour or so. You know. A last look at home.”
“Our future is out there,” said Chew tilting a thumb toward the field of stars. “Not back in the cradle.”
“Oh, I get it,” said Leonova. “Never look back.”
“Never look back,” repeated Chew with a nod. His yeoman materialized out of thin air and handed him a PADD with status reports, reports on ship stores, and personnel. Normally he’d trust in his Exec and C.O.B., but this time, he read each and every line carefully, ticked off boxes, and made notations for even the smallest of details that had been missed or were unclear. He did this not to micromanage, but to reinforce the image of omnipotence every good ship’s master should project… but if he was honest, it was also to give his hands something to do so that they wouldn’t shake.
A few minutes later, the helmsman turned and said, “Clear of the system. Ready for warp.”
Chew leaned forward and said, “Engage.”
“Aye,” said the helmsman, hitting a key on his console. The entire ship shivered as the power spiked and the warp bubble formed. Chew felt a momentary sensation of vertigo as time and space distorted and the Spirit streaked into the unknown.