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Part of USS Arcturus: Epsilon Indi Calling

Chapter One: Arcturus Awakened

USS Arcturus, Main Engineering, Docked at Epsilon Indi Station
Early January, 2399
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The sharp footfalls of Akintoye Okusanya’s boots on the deck plating cut through the hum of activity in Main Engineering. She was being trailed by a gaggle of lieutenants with their holographic PADDs open, taking copious notes on her orders as she swept through the compartment. It generated a chorus of “Yes, Captain Okusanya” in her wake, which had long since lost its novelty. After four years of supervising construction, she had become accustomed to being addressed by her rank alone, but a commissioned starship had only one person aboard who could be addressed in that matter, and, as Captain of Engineering, she had to step aside for the Arcturus’s new master.

“Computer, status report,” Okusanya ordered, as she stepped up to the master control station on the railing ringing the ship’s primary warp core. It was a dilithium swirl chamber running from floor to ceiling in the cavernous three-story reactor compartment of main engineering. The core itself spanned twenty decks, making up the beating heart of the Arcturus.  Nearly three times the diameter of the original class-nine warp core found aboard the Intrepid-class, even as a woman of science found she found herself occasionally awed by the sheer power that would be contained behind six inches of transparent duranium and a magnetic containment field. Indeed, the mood in the room was ebullient as the crew prepared to finally bring the ship many of them had helped build to life for the first time.

“All monitored systems are operating within acceptable parameters. Pre-start checklist complete,” the computer reported, crisply. Launching a new starship was not an easy or quick task by design; as one of the largest and most complex vehicles ever produced by Starfleet, every last relay and conduit needed to be monitored as the reactor came to full power. After a short shakedown cruise, the Arcturus was destined to test her full potential as a long-range command platform with a trip to the Delta Quadrant, so everything had to be perfect before they crossed through the Barzan Wormhole.

Okusanya tapped the intercom control on the panel, sounding a bosun’s whistle across the ship. “This is Engineering. Be advised: warp core startup is beginning. All departments should prepare to switch to internal power in twelve hours,” she said.

Once the all-call had ended, the captain of engineering took a deep breath and keyed in the command sequence to begin the slow start of the ship she had spent the last four years of her life designing and building. The first step was injecting plasma from the EPS grid into the reaction vessel to raise its temperature gradually to avoid the damage that would be caused by simply dumping deuterium and antideuterium directly into the cold chamber.

“Engine core temperature raising along expected curve,” one of the lieutenants reported from another panel. “Estimating two hours to antimatter injection.”

“Good. Lieutenant T’se, schedule level-one diagnostics for all systems connected to the primary EPS grid on a staggered schedule to coincide the power-up sequence. We’re leaving nothing to chance,” Okusanya ordered, turning to the young Vulcan who was at the forefront of her coterie, who gave her the same rote response as the others. “I am going to report to the captain. Inform me if anything changes,” she said to the group, before turning on her heel and leaving the reactor room.

Passing by the primary workspaces aft of the warp core in the merely double story area main engineering, she took the starboard door to a transporter pad, which was mirrored by ones on the main bridge, battle bridge main sickbays, and saucer engineering deck. “Bridge,” she ordered, before feeling the subtle tingle of the transporter beam energizing. Moments later, she was on the aft end of the ship’s enormous main bridge, where the crew was hard at work performing their own system checks.

She managed to pass by unnoticed to the door leading towards the captain’s extensive deck one suite. A lobby with stairs down to deck two and three turbolift alcoves also contained a desk for the captain’s chief yeoman. The Arcturus’s commanding officer had a more elaborate office than many flag officers did. Okusanya’s eyes were drawn up to the skylight briefly when a workbee passed overhead before she stopped in front of the older Zakdorn woman’s desk. She wore a gold uniform that matched the senior officer’s, though with a small patch indicating her enlisted status rather than Okusanya’s four silver pips.

“Is she free?”

“The captain is with the doctor right now, but you can go right in,” the yeoman replied, with a smile. A master chief petty officer, she’d spent decades in the service of paperwork and bureaucracy, but generally seemed to lack the officiousness of most members of her species, at least so far in Okusanya’s interactions with her.

Okusanya nodded, and then passed through the doors. The light strains of jazz were coming from the hidden speakers around the room and there was a pleasant scent of orchids, roses, and peonies from planters under the viewports and glass hydroponic vessels on the shelves behind the desk. Before her career as a diplomat and starship captain, the ship’s new captain had an equally impressive twenty-year career as a botanist. The room was larger than most ready rooms, with doors leading off on either side to the captain’s “space cabin” and a small briefing room, though it also contained a small table and chairs of its own, as well as a sunken conversation area with impressive views of the starboard side of the ship.

“Come in, Akintoye,” Fleet Captain Hayden said, standing up from her seat by the viewports. She wore the informal bomber jacket available to command-level officers, with a silver bar under her four pips signifying her status as one of the most senior captains in the fleet, just a half-step below flag rank. “Have you met our new CMO, yet?” she asked, gesturing to a Bajoran man wearing a white uniform with a blue yoke on the couch in front of her. He turned around and offered a smile.

“I haven’t. It’s nice to meet you, Doctor Alenis,” Okusanya said, as she cleared the space between them.

“Alenis is my first name, but you’re welcome to it. I get that all the time, because I prefer a more standard arrangement of my names,” Alenis said, not breaking his smile as he stood up and extended a hand. Okusanya took it with a slight blush; she didn’t like being on the back foot. He, too, bore the rank of captain, meaning the combined years of experience between the three officers in that room was probably close to a century. With a crew of 2,500 and an extended mission in front of them, Starfleet had made sure that there would be enough command experience on the senior staff to handle any obstacle they would face in the future—not to mention contingency command scenarios that would need to be implemented in the less-than-unlikely event of one of their deaths during their travels in the Delta Quadrant.

“What can I do for you?” Hayden asked her chief engineer, as she and the doctor sat back down.

“Just to say, Captain, that I have begun the MARA start sequence and we’re on schedule for leaving port on time and at full capabilities,” Okusanya replied, sitting next to Anjar. “I just wanted to make sure that there weren’t any last-minute changes to my instructions.”

Hayden nodded. “I didn’t have any doubts. This ship has been your baby for the last four years, after all,” she replied, with a genial smile. While the two of them hadn’t addressed it directly, Hayden had been gracious about the formal transition to her command in place of Okusanya’s, going out of her way to show deference to her expertise on the ship’s systems, which had generally mollified her ego. Still, she had held out some hope that the oversized ready room suite could have been hers.  “We’re going to continue on the schedule I’ve already outlined. Starfleet hasn’t thrown me any curveballs, yet.”

“I’d hope not, given how long this mission has been on the books,” the doctor interjected. Okusanya glanced at him and couldn’t help but notice that he lacked the earring typical of Bajorans, and, combined with the name, she wondered what else he did differently from his people.

“I’m just grateful that Starfleet hasn’t repurposed this ship in the four years I’ve been building her. Exploratory missions have been scrapped to send ships to our borders for far too long, and her systems would be wasted within our borders,” she replied. The Arcturus had been specifically designed beyond the normal Odyssey-class specs to be a long-range exploratory flagship, not to head up task forces relatively close to home like her sister ships. She was proof-of-concept for the second block of the class, and the result of a desire to finally start sending larger groups of ships back out into the unknown, rather than the more independent Century and Vesta-class ships which had managed to avoid the cuts and reassignments that other classes had seen since Mars.

“I couldn’t agree more, Akintoye. The Lafayette was a good assignment, but I’m eager to put some distance between myself and showing the flag at flashpoints along the border,” Hayden replied, referring to the Sovereign-class ship that she had famously commanded through a number of important diplomatic missions in the last decade or so.

They’d be making a lot of second contact missions with races that hadn’t seen any Federation ships since Voyager passed through nearly thirty years prior, as well as first contact with races that Voyager didn’t have the time or fortune to encounter, so it made sense that a diplomat like Hayden would be leading this mission. Though Okusanya had not spent much time with her new commanding officer, her reputation as being tough-as-nails and whip-smart had preceded her. There was a reason that she was one of the few fleet captains active in the fleet; she had the gravitas and experience to be at least a vice admiral based on her time in service, but she would be wasted behind a desk and not at the tip of the spear.

“If I remember correctly, our erstwhile First Officer served under you there?” Okusanya asked. He was to be one of the final crewmembers to arrive, and had otherwise been managing the composition of the ship’s company remotely from Earth.

Hayden nodded. “You read his file?”

“I like to know who I’m working with,” Okusanya replied, with a tight-lipped smile, meaning that she liked to know who had superseded her in the role. ‘Read’ was probably not the right word so much as scoured, including all of the addenda she had access to; Lancaster was nothing if not impressive. She probably would have had the same reaction, though, had someone else been brought in to oversee the engine room and she’d been made Hayden’s number one instead.

“Fair enough. The three of you are going to be working closely together in the coming months. Computer-aided psychological profiling suggests you’ll be compatible,” Hayden replied, with a chuckle. Had virtual intelligences become sophisticated enough to predict compatibility between sentients? “He’s one of the most effective first officers I’ve ever had.”

“His husband will be one of my assistant chiefs in sickbay, too. Extremely high marks in medical school and a decade of nursing experience to boot,” Anjar chimed in. “I didn’t know him very well, but he was on my staff when I was on Starbase 39-Sierra.”

“He’s married?” Okusanya blurted.

“Very happily, from what I know… Why?”Hayden replied, eying her.

Okusanya paused. “Well, he doesn’t really seem the type, from what I’ve heard about him.”

Hayden chuckled. “I hope you mean his reputation for being a bulldog when it comes to the regulations,” she said.

“Well, that, and a meteoric rise through the ranks to captain a full ten to fifteen years before any of us sitting here now. Officers like that just aren’t usually the family type.”

“Luca is the reason he left the Lafayette, actually. So they could be together on Earth while Luca finished his residency at Starfleet Medical. I tried my very best to keep him aboard ship, but that was the non-negotiable line for him. It’s how Michael ended up with the task of planning our mission, and that’s why I wanted him back: he’s young, ambitious, and, frankly, authoritarian, but he’s got a soul and doesn’t slave himself completely to the logic of advancing his own career,” Hayden explained, looking between the two of them. Ah, there it was: the weakness that couldn’t be sussed out from a service jacket.

“It’s admirable. Plus, he lets you be the popular face of the ship, while he makes ensigns cry for having their commbadges askew, with all due respect, ma’am,” Anjar interjected, with a grin.

“No comment,” Hayden said, smirking at him.