This is Part Three 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.
Read Part One
Read Part Two

THREE: New civilizations, same old life

“Thank god that’s over,” said Call.

Cangas sat and stared at the helmsman, unable to believe what she was hearing.

“Mind your controls, Navigator,” said Jennings from the center seat.

Cangas turned back to her controls, but whispered, “What’s the matter with you? We just made first contact with a new species!”

Call snorted. “The senior officers made first contact.”

“Well, we did get to see them,” retorted Cangas.

“Yeah. We got to stand at attention in our dress uniforms in the hangar bay as they were led past us. Fun. Besides, you see one bunch of lumpy-forehead aliens, you’ve seen them all.”

“A week out of the academy and he’s already jaded,” said Cangas under her breath. “What would you prefer, that they were shooting at us?”

Call waited a split second too long before answering, “No, of course not.”

“Jeff! You do!” said Cangas, throwing up her hands, “you really do! They show us a new technology and you’d rather be blasting them!”

“Lucy! Deep-space gravity-wave astrometrics. So what? What’s the point of collecting data if you’re dead by the time you get it? We’re going to see more in one year thant they will in a thousand.”

“First you hate the cataloging and now you love it. You’re impossible. And don’t call me Lucy.”

“Fine. Luciana. And I didn’t say I loved it, I was just making a point.”

Now it was Cangas’s turn to snort. “If you made a cogent point, I think every Vulcan within 500 parsecs would drop dead from the logical paradox.”

“Ha ha.”

“If you two don’t have anything better to do than yammer, I’m sure there are some conduits that need scrubbing or bulkheads to be painted,” said Jennings.

“N-no, sir,” said Call.

Cangas immediately started hitting keys, too nervous to say anything.

“How long before we arrive at our next set of grid coordinates?”

Cangas looked at her board. The proper course and coordinates had to be in the computer somewhere. “Uh,” she said repeatedly, stalling, “we should reach those coordinates, uh, at warp… two?” The third officer nodded. “Two… in… uh, 4 hours, forty-one minutes.”

“In that case, we appear to have time for a few drills.”

No one on the bridge was dumb enough to groan out loud.

* * * * * * * * * *

“All hands, prepare for a series of contact drills. Section heads, report.”

Both Chew and Leonova looked up from their lunch. Lt. Mackey chuckled into his coffee.

“Want to get back to your engines, Mac?” asked Leonova.

Mackay shook his head. “Constance could use the experience of flying without a net.”

“As long as she doesn’t blow us up,” said Leonova.

“She’ll be fine,” said the Chief Engineer, running a hand through his shock of red hair. “She knows her stuff. This is just the thing to build her confidence.” MacKay looked young, but was in his mid-thirties and had logged thousands of star-hours. Though he hadn’t seen any combat during the War, he’d proven to be steady and capable. Chew was lucky to have gotten him.

Chew nodded and turned to Leonova. “I thought you said the kids were coming along?” said Chew, only half seriously.

Leonova shrugged. “You know how it is. Дурна́я голова́ нога́м поко́я не даёт.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” said Chew, and noticing Mackey’s expression added, “Don’t ask.”

Turning back to his first officer, he said, “I really thought we’d managed to knock off some of the rough edges. The last set of training exercises were up to 97.3% efficiency, and I haven’t seen any discipline problems in the reports.”

“I’ll ask  Jennings about it later.” Leonova brought her mug to her lips, but lowered it without taking a drink, a thoughtful look on her face. “Well… you know what it’s like to be young and have that fire in your belly.”

As if on cue, Call’s voice sounded over the address system, “Come on gun crew three! I’m still only showing two lights on the board!”

“I’m sure I don’t,” said Chew. “We just established relations with a new species, what more could anyone want?”

“Interesting for us because we got to deal with them. For the rest of the crew it’s all second-hand.” Chew looked into his quickly cooling coffee and remained silent. “And you have to admit that seeking out new life and new civilizations sounds romantic, but the fact is that majority of the seeking is weeks upon weeks of flying through deep space. Most of these kids don’t get to go on any of the away missions, and you have to admit there isn’t much glory in riding a console.”

Chew swirled his cup.

More reports came over the address system from all over the ship; engineering, phaser crews, the torpedo room, astrometrics, all punctuated by Call’s increasingly irritated voice.

“If you want my opinion, and I notice you haven’t asked for it, throw the kids a bone. I know there’s no need for a helmsman or navigator on a planetary survey, but they could use the command experience. Get them out of the house for a bit.”

Chew remained stony-faced. “I’ll consider it.”

Leonova nodded and remained silent, knowing she’d made her point.

“Does that apply to chief engineers?” asked MacKay.

“Absolutely not,” said Leonova.

MacKay let out an exaggerated sigh. “That’s a relief. All that open sky and fresh air is unnatural.”

“So how are things down in engineering?” asked Chew.

“Oh, the usual teething problems,” said MacKay. “You know how the geeks are back at fleet. Wouldn’t know a spanner from a slide-rule.”

“Clear your boards,” came Jennings’ calm voice overhead. “Prepare for a second simulated contact drill.”

Leonova raised an eyebrow. “What exactly have you been up to?”

“Don’t worry. I’m not rebuilding the core or anything. Just a few little things here and there. Reseated the dilithium sequencer a couple of nanometers out. Increased the throughput of a few EPS conduits. It’s all in my daily reports.”

Chew leafed through his PADD. “More than a few. Looks like it adds up, though, doesn’t it?”

“To the tune of 113% engine efficiency,” said MacKay.

“Not bad,” said Leonova.

“Always pick a grease monkey over a pixel monkey,” said MacKay with a wink.

“Well, let’s give it some time to settle in, this is a new ship after all. And if it still looks good, I’ll send your revisions to the fleet yards with my recommendation. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be famous for re-writing the spec sheets.”

“Pshaw. Just remember this when you’re signing for my raise.”

Chew stood. “I think we’d better go make sure the kids don’t run us into a star.”

“Oh ye of little faith.”

When they got to the bridge, they had not been flown into a star. In fact, when Jennings presented Chew with the results of the latest drills, the crew had managed a 98.1%.

Chew nodded and said, “Not bad.” Looking around he saw several of the younger officers trying to hide their pride, all except for Call. The helmsman’s face was Vulcan-like in its stoicism, focus entirely on his console, his back stiff. Not at all what he expected from the young man. Leonova’s words came back to him. He’d have to earmark the ensign to lead a survey party on the next interesting planet or celestial object they came across.

When Moreno and the rest of Beta watch came onto the bridge, Leonova handed her the results of Alpha watch’s drills. “Why don’t we see what your watch can do.”

Moreno took the PADD with s lopsided smirk. “Not too shabby,” she said. “But I reckon we can do better.”

“Care to make it interesting?” asked Leonova.

“I’m not hearing this, Number One,” said Chew, though secretly he was pleased by how well Moreno had come along.

“Well, now that you mention it,” said Moreno, rubbing her chin and looking up with a mischievous look in her eye, “you know how Beta watch always gets stuck with sensor calibration duty…” Leonova nodded.

By this point, everyone on the bridge was paying attention. Beta watch was attempting to look like they were focused on their controls, while Alpha watch was lingering near the turbolift doors.  “Well, I was thinking it would be nice to have the night off. Spend some time on the rec deck and have someone else supervise the degaussing of the nodes.”

“And now that you mention it, I could use a spell from all my paperwork. Roster changes, ships stores and all that. I think I’d like the night off in the spa.”

Moreno smiled and extended her hand. As they shook, she said, “A sucker is born every minute, no disrespect, ma’am.”

“Who needs a sucker when you have junior officers?” said Leonova, matching the young woman’s grin.

“All right, don’t you have someplace better to be?” said Chew to Alpha watch, which to a person jumped like a scalded cat, piling into the turbolift and disappearing. “Let’s leave them to it,” said Chew as the lights dimmed.

“And keep it down, will you? Some of us need our beauty sleep,” said Leonova, patting Moreno on the shoulder as she left.

“You sure this is a good idea?” asked Chew as soon as they were safely ensconced in the next turbolift.

“Sure,” said Leonova.

“Well, I hope you’re just as positive when you’re on your hands and knees scrubbing sensor nodes for six hours.”

Leonova shrugged, and Chew couldn’t tell if the lack of concern was feigned or real. The next morning when they reported to the bridge, Leonova read the results of the night’s exercises and handed over the PADD the same way she would pass a cup of coffee. Beta watch had managed 98.3%.

“Care for a rematch?” asked Moreno. “Double or nothing?”

“I’m game,” said Cangas as she took her seat. There were assenting grunts all around.

Leonova smiled, but before she could answer, Jennings said, “Sensor contact! Extreme sensor range.”

Chew took the center seat. “What is it?”

“Large body, iron core. Mass roughly 12×1023 kilograms, equatorial radius 4,900 kilometers. Looks like a rogue planet. Atmosphere… class M!”

“Unusual, but not unheard of,” said Chew. “Worth taking a look?”

Leonova nodded and turned toward Moreno. “Looks like our bet is going to have to wait,” she said. “And sorry, looks like that degaussing is going to have to wait.”

“Five minutes later, and Beta watch would have found that planetoid! Some people have all the luck.”

Leonova shrugged.

“All right. Take us in, Mr. Call.”

Go to Part 4