Tuesday May 05, 2009
My “Star Trek” Novel - A Routine Science Expedition
Read the intro here, or, you know, below.
First Officer Michael Busick of the re-fit Excelsior-class U.S.S. Brock didn't believe in routine science expeditions, because, invariably, there wasn't anything routine about them. He could cite thousands of examples from Star Fleet records about disasters that resulted when starships were sent to study this or that space anomaly or map such and such a star cluster.
“It's a fact,” he informed his newly-appointed captain. “38.9% of starships sent out on routine science expeditions never complete their designated assignments. It's like the red-shirt phenomenon a century back. Remember? When beaming down to an unknown planet, a red-shirted security guard was 99.4% more likely to be killed than his captain or first officer. It got to the point where, in at least one known incident, the security guards demanded the yellow shirts of command or the blue shirts of science before beaming down. Apparently they thought the problem might lie with the color of their attire: red attracting trouble, as it were; inviting blood and death. But even in blue and yellow, these men bought it. Similarly, in this century, starships seem to have a difficult time completing routine science expeditions. Heading out on one seems to invite disaster. Calling it 'routine' seems to anger the space gods, who decide to make the expedition as far from routine as possible.”
Captain Tim Harrison raised an eyebrow as expertly as a Vulcan. “Space gods, Mr. B? Don't tell me that after all these years you still believe in space gods? Besides, don't you think you're being a bit pessimistic?”
“What do you mean?”
“If 38.9% of starships never complete their designated assignments then 61.1% do.”
Mr. B smiled. He was of average height and build, with a tendency towards rotundity, but his most obvious physical attribute was his head, which was almost perfectly round, and bigger by a half than the standard. His thin, reddish hair was clipped long in back with bangs in front, and he was the only officer aboard ship to sport a moustache, also reddish, which hid all aspects of his mouth except for a puffy, wet underlip. Only two weeks aboard the Brock he was already famous for his slow, leisurely pace. This was especially noticeable next to the usual go-getters and career-crashers of Star Fleet, and it occasionally got him into trouble. During Academy days one of his gym instructors was so fed up with Busick's--quote--lackadaisical attitude--unquote--that he blew up at him. “Busick!” he shouted. “You move so slowly you make me feel like a goddamned Scalosian!” Mr. B, rarely at a loss for a quip of his own, replied good-naturedly, “I wondered what all that buzzing was around here” and then gestured as if shooing away flies. He failed the class, of course, but managed to graduate from the Academy anyway; his wit had seen him through. It was this wit that he now turned on his captain.
“By such optimistic accounting even my record with women would look good.” He bounced on his toes, hands behind his back.
Captain Harrison folded his hands across his stomach and said matter-of-factly, “Your record with women does look good, Mr. B. How's that woman of yours. Miss her?”
“Oh, nothing that a few trips to the holodeck couldn't cure,” Mr. B replied in the same jocular tone.
Captain Harrison smiled and stared out his window at the familiar stars of Sector 001. He liked his first officer, but at times it was difficult getting past the jokester. Yet it was this very jocularity that Harrison desired in his Number One. In ranking first officers, other captains tended to prize Vulcans for their unimpeachable logic, Klingons for their strength, Betazoids for their empathic abilities, and Trills for their wisdom; but nothing was ever said about the tactical advantage a sense of humor might bring. Captain Harrison felt it just might throw off and confuse combatants in the middle of negotiations, and he was willing to test his theories with Mr. B.
He slapped his hands on the desk of his ready room and stood up. “Anyway. I'll be sure to include your objections in my report, but I don't think it will mean much to the biguns at Star Fleet. The fact that we might run into something more interesting than a star cluster is why we're out here, after all.” He smiled again and patted his first officer on the shoulder. “If you're not careful, my friend, pretty soon they'll be calling you Mr. C.”
“Could be worse. Coward. Cardassian.”
Captain Harrison smiled and moved from his ready room and, acquiring a stiffer gate, onto the bridge of the U.S.S. Brock.
“Ensign Ciam, we have our first assignment. Are all hands on deck?”
“Then take this ship to coordinates 3701 at Warp 5 on my mark.”
Puzzled, the helmsman turned in his chair. “That would put us awfully close to the neutral zone, Captain.”
“Thank you for the geography lesson, Ensign.” Then, less harshly: “Even star clusters near the neutral zone need to be mapped. Are you ready?”
Ensign Ciam punched in the proper numbers. “Coordinates 3701 at Warp 5 on your mark, sir.”
It was the moment that every youngster dreams of, every freshman at the Academy hopes for, every low-grade officer plays over and over in his mind: the moment when you take your first starship out on its first mission. The Brock, admittedly, was not every plebe's dream. Seventy-odd years ago it was the fastest ship in the fleet, but since then it had been surpassed by the many Ambassador-class and Galaxy-class starships that Star Fleet had seen fit to turn out. In fact when Mr. B had first seen the ship, two weeks earlier, he half-joked, “I just hope we don't run into any Pakleds.” But Captain Harrison quieted him. The Brock had just been overhauled and re-fitted with a new, state-of-the-art warp drive engine which made it, in theory anyway, the fastest starship in the Federation. It just didn't have the power of Galaxy class starships. Besides, it was his ship. For the first time he was to command a starship with 572 crewmembers. Thus it was with a submerged but electric thrill that Captain Harrison walked with hands behind his back around the bridge, sat in his command chair, crossed his legs, and prepared to give the signal that would send over 12,000 tons of metal and machinery zipping through space at faster than light speed. He watched with raised pointed finger as, on the viewscreen, the Brock inched past Pluto, and then Pluto's moon, Charon. This was the moment. He brought his finger down.
Once again Ensign Ciam turned his puzzled face to the captain. “Sir?”
Harrison shook his head. “Sorry. Too many years leading away missions. I meant 'Engage'.” He brought his finger down authoritatively. “Engage!”
The stars on the viewscreen, pinpoints of light, suddenly elongated into straight lines, and with no more than a mild lurch the Brock had left the earth far, far behind.
Coming up: holodeck baseball, Romulans, the Borg, and Planet Scott!