And now chapter 5 of a new Space Center story. Please read the first four chapters if you haven't already done so. Excuse the errors. I write and post without too much concern for editing. No time. I've other posts to make and emails to answer so you get it just as it pours out of my brain. Make allowances.
They're On Their Own
The cadets waited in the starship’s entry port. The lights were at half. The Voyager sat still, motionless in mid air, while all hell broke lose around it. The ship was in dock being refitted and retooled as a cadet training ship assigned to the McAuliffe Station’s Command Training Academy. The newest starship technology was being installed along with a new computer module called ‘Meredith’ designed and programmed to work alongside cadets and teachers in the proper running of the ship.
An alarm sounded. The cadets froze in place.
The sound of a strong male voice was heard near the open portal, “Move away from the entry. Move away from the entry. Portal closing.” Red light illuminated the door frame and floor panels on either side of the port.
“Why is the portal closing?” one of the first years asked. “The teachers aren’t here."
“I don’t know, move!” Cadet Captain Carick pushed the boy aside to reach the control panel. He pushed the cancel button. Nothing. The male voice spoke again warning everyone to move away from the portal.
“Meredith, why can’t I override the portal door?”
A pleasant woman’s voice, programmed to have the vocal mannerisms of a patient school teacher answered. “There appears to be a problem with torque. The boarding ramp is moving. The motion could damage the ship. Stabilizers can’t stop the motion. The clamps will be released momentarily.”
“Meredith, locate Captain Young,” Carick asked. The computer paused for a moment as it accessed the station’s main computer.
“There is a problem locating Captain Young. Many of the communication signals are not registering due to station damage. I will continue to try and notify you when communication is established.”
The thick portal door closed slowly. Once the doorway was sealed the doorway and floor panels changed color from red to slate gray. A deep thud sounded. The boarding ramp was released. The ship’s anchor was up. The Voyager stood alone.
“I have Captain Young,” Meredith spoke again, breaking the silence in the room.
“Who is this?” Captain Young shouted over the sound of a decompression alarm.
“Cadet Captain Carick,” answered the fourth year cadet and highest ranking student officer in the Academy.
"Let me speak to one of your teachers.”
“ They didn’t get on the ship.”
“The boarding ramp became unstable. It was released.”
“Who else is onboard beside you?”
“There’s 29 of us now sir.”
“What about Tex?”
“The chief engineer. He was supervising the refit.”
“I’m not sure.” Carick looked at the other cadets to see if any of them knew anything about Tex. This was their first time aboard the Voyager. Up until now, their flight time was spent in a starship simulator - a combination of holographic illusion and solid sets. Their work on the Voyager was to begin when the refit was complete and everyone returned from their holiday vacations.
“Listen, we cant’ transport aboard." Captain Young continued. " The impacting weapons carry a strong electromagnetic pulse. We might be able to get there using a maintenance skip. The ship may.........” the line went dead.
“Connection terminated,” Meredith’s voice replaced the static from the dead line.
“Meredith, locate Tex.” Carick asked.
“Tex is located in engineering.” came the reply.
A moment later the voice of the Voyager’s Chief Engineer came through the speakers. “You got Tex,” Somehow the voice fit the name perfectly. It was a male voice with a definite southwestern American accent.
“Tex, this is Cadet Captain Carick. There are 29 of us on board. We had orders to...”
“I know. We have to launch the ship. Where’s Captain Young?” Tex asked. He sounded too busy to be polite.
“He didn’t make it. We were just talking to him and got cut off. He says they can’t transport. Something to do with EMP weapons. He said he would try getting aboard by maintenance skip.”
There was a short pause before Tex answered. “It won’t work. I’ll bet every skip is out trying to keep this station together. I’ll try to get through to station command.”
“What do you want us to do?” Carick hated to feel useless in any situation. He was training to be a Starfleet Officer. It was in his blood to get involved and defend what was his.
“Take who you need to operate the bridge. Get this ship ready for launch. Do we have anyone trained in first aid?”
“Anyone?” Carick looked around. Third year Cadet Payne raised her hand. She was blond, thin, and tall for a third year. Many of the male cadets classified her as 'hot' but steered clear. She had real attitude.
“I’m an EMT.” Payne replied.
“What’s your name?” Tex asked.
“Cadet Payne. Third year.” she answered.
“Good, you’re in charge of sick bay. There will be injuries. Take someone else to help.” Tex paused again. Carick could tell he wasn't considering options. He was working while talking so there were slight pauses in the conversation occupied by the kinds of sounds one would hear in a machine shop.
“Carick, send everyone else to me. I need all the hands I can get down here to keep this ship operational in battle. She's a fine ship but the poor girl's just gone through major surgery and not quite on her feet. The Meredith programs are installed. Most of the holoprojectiors aren’t, so the tutoring will be spotty. Mostly voice, a few stations will have the teacher as well. I’ll need cadets able to listen, learn, and follow orders. Let’s go troops. Oh, and Carick - call me when the bridge is ready for launch.”
“Payne, who are you taking?” Carick asked while waving his hand to close the communication.
“I’ll take Merry. He took the EMT classes with me, dropped out at the very end?” She answered. Third year Cadet Merryweather shook his head in the negative. The 14 year old had issues with blood.
“I almost did. It was the blood.” he answered.
"If blood was an issue why did you take EMT training. You didn't know you were scared of blood before taking the class?" Payne shot back with her hands on her hips. Her attitude was locked and loaded and ready for a conversation long overdue.
"My dad's a doctor. He wants me to be a doctor. I got pushed into it. I told him I didn't like blood. He said I'd grow out of it. You know, if you see enough of it you'll grow used to it."
“Time to grow a pair big boy. You're up to bat.” Payne slapped him on the back. “Let’s go.” Payne and Merry picked up their backpacks and walked toward the turbolift. Merry glanced back at his friend Cadet Aland. Aland drew his thumb across his throat as a parting shot and smiled. Merry looked shell shocked. The door closed. The first team was on its way.
“OK, I'll take Aland, Hall, Murdock, Roberts, Harkin and Hirshi. You’re all with me on the bridge. Everyone else. Find your way to engineering. Make the Academy proud. Listen to orders, learn quickly and keep your mouths shut. Move out!” Carick barked.
“Yes Sir!” the room answered back.
The turbolift opened. The cadets stepped slowly onto the Voyager's carpeted bridge.
"Lights full." Carick's order illuminated the room. The group of teenagers stood motionless taking in the beauty of their surroundings.
"Wow," was Aland's response. He spoke for everyone.
The bridge was round and divided into three circular levels or tiers. The lowest level was devoted to the holographic projectors. When engaged, they filled the center space of the room with a spherical 3D holographic image stretching from ceiling to lower floor.
The second tier was four steps up from the lower. The primary ship controls circled the second tier allowing everyone to face the center of the room to see the holographic projection, and through it, each other. At one end of Tier 2 was the turbolift. The raised platform holding the Captains chair occupied the opposite end.
The third tier circled the second, four steps higher. The third tier had the widest circumference. It held the ship's monitoring and auxiliary stations. Several of the third tier's stations faced into the circle while others faced the room's outer wall. Holographic screens illuminated the third tier in brilliant patterns of colorful light. The bridge's ceiling looked like it opened into space. Actually, it was a large flat 3D screen displaying whatever was directly above the ship. It was a starship’s version of a large, round sunroof.
“Aland, you find the engineering station. Hall, you take helm. Murdock, you’re at navigation. Roberts, you have communication. Harkin you have tactical. Hirshi, you’re first officer and science. Move it people. You’ve got a few minutes right now to familiarize yourself with your stations. Use Meredith if needed.”
“If she’s working up here,” Cadet Hirshi interjected bringing a small laugh and several nods from the others.
“Funny, but probable true.” Carick responded. “Now lets get to work.”
Carick circled Tier 2 stopping and examining every station. Finally, he reached the Captain’s chair. He looked at it wondering if he was up to the job before him. There was a bit of lint on the seat. He brushed it off.
“Its yours, at least for the time being. Better enjoy it while you can.” Cadet Hall said from his station on Carick’s left.
Carick turned and sat down. He rocked back and forth a bit to get comfortable.
“Look, already putting his butt groove in the thing.” Aland said to room.
“Get to work everyone. You’ve enough to do besides worrying about my comfort.” Carick said while tapping the screen twice on his right arm rest. The commlink opened to engineering.
Tex,” Carick called looking for the chief engineer. There was a pause. The line opened. Tex’s voice came through loud and clear. He was yelling at a few cadets, telling them to watch what they were doing. Something about the instability of antimatter.
“You got Tex,” the chief engineer responded.
“We are on the bridge and getting familiar with our stations. Do you have any news?”
“I was right, all the skips are busy trying to hold the station together. I don’t know how the Captain will get to this ship. All hell is breaking loose out there. Call station command for orders.” Tex’s calm voice was quickly replaced with shouting. “Don’t touch the red button. Its red for a reason.” The line closed.
“He’s got his hands full down there, especially with the first years.” Carick said to everyone in general. “Roberts, open a line to Station Command.”
“Yes Sir,” Third year Cadet Chelsey Roberts responded. A moment later the call went through.
“Cadet Captain Carick?” it was the voice of the station’s first office Matthews.
“Yes,” Carick answered.
“Admiral Meredith is busy. This is a full scale attack. The station's shields are nearly useless at this point. We can’t find Captain Young. Carick, you and your people are on your own. Launch immediately. We need to get the Voyager away before the station goes. Once clear of the station set a course for the Magellan and warp. No heroics. The safety of the ship and the cadets is now your responsibility. You’re the acting Captain under the supervision of Tex. The Captain needs to be on the bridge. Tex is needed everywhere else. You all need to grow up fast.” The link turned to static for a moment then came back on. “We're going to direct all station fire toward the outer Space Dock Doors to buy you enough time to set course and warp away. Good luck captain !” The line closed.
The bridge was silent. Everyone watched Carick for some kind of response. He knew from his command training that he couldn’t show panic. He had to look like he had it all together, for his crew’s sake.
“We can do this people. Right?” Carick asked his senior officers.
“Yes Sir.” They answered.
Carick opened the commlink to engineering. “Tex?” he asked.
“You got Tex,” came the reply. “What's the news?”
“I’m Captain under your supervision, whatever that means. We have orders to launch and make way for the Magellan station. They’re going to lay down cover fire to help us escape. We’ve got to go now. Your thoughts?”
"Carick, I can't be in two places at once. I'm needed in Engineering. You run the ship from up there. I'll advise and reserve the right to overrule only if absolutely necessary. Let’s do this then. Go when ready.”
"Understood Sir." Carick tapped two more buttons. “Sick Bay?” he asked.
Payne answered. “Yes Sir.”
“We have orders to launch. We will be warping to the Magellan Station. Captain Young can’t make it. I’m the Captain under Tex’s supervision. I guess you’re now the ship’s Chief Medical Officer.”
“Oh Crap!” Merry's vote of confidence was loud enough to be heard in the background.
“Shut it Merry,” Payne answered. "Captain, we have a fully stocked Medical Bay. And there's good news. Meredith is fully functioning down here. We should be OK.”
“We will be under attack for a few minutes while the course is set and the engines come online. There could be injuries. Be ready.”
“Oh Crap!” Merry was heard again in the background.
“Merry kind of sums it up for all of us. Do your best. Carick out.” Carick stood to give his first launch speech. He thought for a moment. Nothing came to mine. "OK cadets. No speech. Just show me the time you spent in the simulators will pay off. Let’s Go!”