The USS Ahwahnee tore through subspace. Deuterium and antideuterium writhed and pulsed through its dilithium crystal matrix. As they met, their annihilation into a stream of pure electro-plasma was enough to change the very geometry of spacetime itself. The Ahwahnee carried four such streams, each highly concentrated and focused along the length of her four warp nacelles. The resulting displacement field created an extremely stable warp bubble around the ship. Of course, two nacelles achieved similar stability with much less need for maintenance, and the debate over which configuration was superior had raged for most of the 24th Century. There was something to be said, however, for the comforting feeling of going to warp knowing it was going to be 200% harder to knock you back down to sub-light speeds.
Commander Tursk watched from his seat in the conference room as stars streaked past the viewport. He scratched absent-mindedly at his beard and leaned into the tall-backed chair. He held a padd that detailed the Ahwahnee’s deployment into the Archanis Sector. On skimming through the short, bullet pointed list, a perplexed expression furrowed his brow and wrinkled his upturned Tellarite nose. Tursk looked up from the padd towards Captain Vordenna, who sat at the head of the table.
“So, convoy duty it is.”
Felrak sighed, “Those are the orders.”
Tursk shifted in his seat, sitting upright, “Captain I have to say, with respect to the ship’s capabilities, we’re hardly outfitted for a tactical engagement. I know the Hunters of D’Ghor don’t exactly have top of the line equipment out there but still, this intel is patchy. These attacks, they’re on Meronia and then they’re all over the sector. Multiple ships, single ships… There’s no pattern here.”
“I’ve raised some concerns with Command. They’re letting us requisition a pair of Arrow class runabouts from Starbase 27. We’ll be moving out ahead of the convoy and casting a wide sensor net for early threat detection.”
The answer appeared to satisfy Tursk as he leaned back again. He emitted one of the wide range of muffled grunts he kept in his repertoire; a way of signalling his approval without going to the bother of actually vocalising it. A long time had passed for him since last giving input on a tactical matter. In fact, were it not for the words “Tactical Report” in bold print at the top of the padd, he would hardly have believed it.
“This is crazy,” Lupulo piped up, bluntly echoing Tursk’s thoughts in the way only Lupulo could. The New Yorker spoke in the hurried, matter-of-fact cadence that had been characteristic of the city for centuries. “Starfleet’s got some hefty ships operating in the area. You’ve got the Bellerophon, the Odyssey, the Vesta… Why the hell are we taking point?”
“Command is diverting every available ship in the Fourth Fleet. My guess is they want the big guns up front, clearing a path. Especially with Meronia, we can’t send a medical convoy straight into an area crawling with D’Ghor. They… We’d be cut to shreds.”
“Let’s hope they clear the way then. I personally prefer the unshredded option.”
“They’ll get it done.” Tursk grumbled.
“Which brings us to our next order of business.” Felrak moved swiftly on, “The medical ships assigned to the convoy are… “ He read the names from the padd, “USS Tranquility, USS Fleming and USS Galen. We’ll also be joining several support ships on reaching Starbase 27, although Command has yet to enlighten us on how many. Lup, I’ll relay the information to you as soon as we know numbers and specs, then you and Delfino can start working on tactical formations.”
Lupulo barely kept his skepticism in check, “I should probably run a few tests on the phaser banks too. I bet they’ve got a few cobwebs growing on them.”
Felrak ignored him, “Our ETA at Starbase 27 is 0700 hours. I suggest we all get some sleep. Dismissed.”
“Happy to oblige, sir.” Tursk grinned.
Lupulo was first to leave, a flash of grey as he disappeared out into the deck one corridor. The deep green leaves of the large potted plant by the door fluttered slightly in his wake. He wondered to himself how the captain could be talking about sleep at a time like this. Granted, the ship had survived the Borg, but that had been 33 years ago. Even with support, the upgrades and overhauls, she wasn’t coming out well from a fight with the Klingons.
Aside from the odd crewman pottering about, Main Engineering was deserted. The warp core radiated a rhythmic pulse, filling the room with a gentle blue light as each wave of superheated plasma passed through its coils. Shadows faded then appeared again, pitching along the sides of bulkheads against the dimmed, late-shift glow. Lupulo approached the central pool table console, highlighting the ship’s phaser arrays on the master systems display.
“Computer, state the current safety parameters for power input to the phaser arrays.”
The computer chirped in acknowledgement before answering, “Current safety parameters allow for power input of two terrajoules to the phaser array EPS grid.”
“Calculate the carrying capacity of the phaser array EPS grid, accounting for possible power flow degradation since the system’s last maintenance check.”
“The carrying capacity of the phaser array EPS grid is approximately 2.4 terrajoules.”
“Calculate phaser discharge output given an increase of 0.3 terra-”
“That does not give us much margin if we get a system overload.” Lieutenant Commander Sreyler Theb called out from across the room. The Chief Engineer was small and slight, with a braid of long, silvery hair that tumbled down the front of her uniform. Her Efrosian eyes gleamed a crisp blue, and it was as if her pupils shrank a little as Lupulo came into focus. She marched towards him.
“Shouldn’t you be in your quarters? I believe the Captain ordered us all to get some rest.”
Lupulo, a little startled, fired back, “I could say the same to you.”
“Ha.” She tossed her hair back behind her, “Like I need it. Why do humans need so much sleep anyway? It’s like you all get fuzzy even if you get five hours.”
He paused, looking down at the Engineer who barely reached up to his chest. He held back several derisive comments relating to sleep and childhood growth. “Good question.” He managed.
“So you can go ahead and get out of here. I sure as hell don’t want our Tactical Officer walking round like a zombie when we’re supposed to be meeting the convoy tomorrow.”
“I know you, Lup. I’ve seen you like this before. It’s how you get before a big mission. Changing the phaser output now is not going to change anything. And if you were just modelling it, you can do that any time. Now you need to get out of here.” She smiled, sweet but with a sharpness that was not to be crossed.
He knew she was right, and as he skulked out of Engineering, she shook her head. As the heavy doors closed, she grabbed a tricorder clipped to a utility band around her waist. She threw it high up in an arc above her. It spun, making three full rotations as she turned back to face the warp core. She completed the turn just in time to catch it on the way down. Jauntily, she walked towards the dilithium crystal chamber, aiming the tricorder in its direction as it ran a level three diagnostic. She whistled a tune her brother had taught her on the Icefields of Ell.