And now Troops, the 9th installment of a new mission I'm working on. Thanks for reading and forgive the errors. As I've said before, I've little time to polish so you get it right as it pours out the brain and through the fingertips.
Carick stood up and wiped the moisture away from his eyes and cheeks. His sleeve took care of the nose, something he regretted the moment he did it. He laughed to himself thinking how it would look to the cadets seeing their Cadet Captain giving life and death orders with a trail of snot running down his right sleeve.
“As if that’s the least of my worries right now,” he mumbled to himself. He straighten his tunic and turned toward the door. It’s two panels slid open with a hiss giving him an exit into Deck 12’s hallway. Every step along the way to the turbolift brought Carick a renewed determination to deliver this ship whole, with its complete crew compliment, to Starfleet Command. There were two things he needed to know to accomplish his goal.
1. Where were they?
2. Are the engines capable of warp drive?
He entered the turbolift.
“Destination?” came the automatic voice of the computer. Again, Carick waved his hand across the schematic to silence the vocal prompts so he could manually select his destination. Carick needed to become familiar with every aspect of the ship’s layout. Studying the deck plans on the tubolift wall was one good way to do it. A quick index search for ‘Stellar Cartography’ would of resulted in an immediate location, but that wouldn’t accomplish his goal of learning the decks. He pulled up the plans for Deck 3 and started looking.
“Call Waiting,” the computer announced. Carick understood that to mean someone was waiting to use the lift.
“Continue,” Carick said, giving the turbolift permission to move on to collect the next passenger with him along for the ride. The car picked up speed as it moved gracefully through the Voyager’s lift shafts. First horizontally then vertically, then horizontally again before slowing to a stop. The door opened.
“Captain?” Third year Cadet Roberts stood in the doorway with quite a surprised look on her face. “I was just coming to find you.”
“What deck is this?” Carick asked while waving the screen into standby.
“Deck 4,” she answered. “Where were you going?”
Carick walked out of the lift and into the hallway. There were no signs of damage. The walls were half fabric half metal. The floors seemed to be some kind of textured rubber, soft underfoot. The flat ceilings were lit by indirect lighting. Holographic projector bands appeared across the ceilings every ten feet or so. Larger blue force field emitters appeared at every hallway crossing. They protruded five inches from the walls and ceilings forming a large square upside down U.
“I was on my way to see you,” Carick answered. He started walking forward, leaving Roberts behind at the lift door. “Let's go to cartography.”
“You’re going the wrong director,” Roberts said as she pointed to the hallway on Carick’s left.
“Well, I hope I at least look like I know where I’m going,” he responded with a turn. “You lead on.”
They started walking. Roberts was anxious to make her first report to her new captain. “It didn’t take me long to find Cartography. I just told the lift where I wanted to go and it dropped me off here.”
“Yes, that what the lift does I’m told?” Carick answered.
Roberts nervously laughed. She wanted to impress the Captain with her ability to carry out assigned tasks quickly and thoroughly. She knew this adventure, if they returned alive, would cement a place for her in Starfleet Academy - especially if Carick gave her high marks.
“Anyway, the hard part was actually finding the room,” Roberts continued. “This is one of the larger decks on the saucer section, by the way, you knew that’s where you were didn’t you, the saucer section?”
“Is that why the hallway keeps turning toward the left, in a circle?” Carick responded sarcastically.
“Oh, that was stupid. Of course you know where you are. You’re the captain - I mean duh......” Roberts started laughing at herself nervously. .
Carick was loosing his patience. He increased his stride hoping to find Cartography. “Roberts, where are we?” he asked again.
“Deck 4?” she responded, wondering whether or not Carick was listening to her or not.
“I know this is Deck 4,” Carick stopped in mid sentence. Roberts bumped into him from behind nearly putting them both down on the floor. She stood and started apologizing for not looking where she was going.
“Stop. Listen to me Roberts. I want to know where the ship is. Can you show me?” he asked slowly and deliberately.
“Well,” Roberts answered with a prominent case of red faced embarrassment. “I have a pretty good idea. Cartography is right here,” she said pointing further down the hall. Carick resumed his quick pace. Roberts bit her tongue, making a verbal promise with herself not to say anything else that wasn’t absolutely necessary to answer the captain’s questions.
Stellar Cartography was a large round room, very much resembling a planetarium capable of seating twenty people. The center of the room held a series of holographic projectors pointing upwards toward the gray domed ceiling. Carick sat in one of the comfortable padded chairs near the doorway. Roberts walked half way around the room to a raised platform housing a desk with built in touch screen. She waved her hand over the screen. The projectors illuminated the center of the room filling the entire dome with a sphere of laser light.
After three more taps with her index finger Roberts brought up a detailed star map. Each star shone with its own color and size indicating the type of star.
“As you know, we can’t rely on constellations to pinpoint our exact location because from out here the constellations we know in Earth’s night sky look different.” Roberts felt it necessary to explain to Carick how she was able find their location in space. “So, without the constellations, you triangulate your location from the Federation’s navigational grid. I did a grid scan,” she waved her hand across the screen. A large yellow wave of light swept through the large holosphere occupying the center and dome of the room. Nothing was added on the map.
“As you can see, nothing. That is a bad sign.”
“That really is a bad sign,” Carick repeated. “Go on.”
Roberts voice increased in pitch revealing her excitement in having an audience of one. “So, the next thing you do would be to look for standard pulsars. Each pulsar has its own signature, kind of like fingerprints. If you can find three of them you should be able to find your location.”
“Reasonable. I would of done the same. Again, go on,” Carick urged her to continue.
“I scanned for pulsars,” she waved her hand again. Once again yellow bands swept around the sphere. This time the bands identified four pulsing pulsars. “Ta Da! and there they are!” Roberts proudly exclaimed. “With that success I can now identify our location. So, without further delay - I give you our location.”
Roberts tapped the screen, inserting the Romulan, Klingon and Cardassion borders. The sphere added the Federation’s boundaries, leaving only their location missing. Then with one final tap lines extended from each pulsar toward each other until they intersected. A bright orange dot appeared at that one point in space.
“From my calculations we are 53,435 light years from the Federation Border in the Alpha Quadrant. Of course I could be slightly off the mark depending on where you consider Federation space starts. I suppose the furthest any ship has been in this direction is, well, this ship and the Copernicus during the Perikoi encounter.” Roberts tapped again on the touch pad. Perikoi’s location flashed in amber very close to Cardassian Space. “We are exactly half way between Federation Space and Dominion Space.”
“So, the fastest way home isn’t in the direction of Earth is it?” Carick questioned as he stood and walked around the projection to get a better look at the terrain. “The fastest way home is toward Dominion Space and the Bajor Wormhole exit.”
“Correct,” Roberts agreed. “By my calculations, at warp 6, it should take approximately 37 months to get there.”
“Only 37?” Carick asked sarcastically. “Traveling three years toward Dominion Space. No problemo. Piece of cake. In a ship crewed by cadets with little if any space experience.”
“There is the problem of where we are now,” Roberts interrupted. “We exited the wormhole as it was collapsing. I’m guessing we may be in space controlled by the Anouway. Remember, the Alpha Quadrant is largely unexplored.”
The sound of static filled the silence as both Carick and Roberts stared at the sphere. Murdock’s voice emerged crisp and clear.
“Murdock to Carick.”
“Ben, you got the comm. systems running. Good boy. I ...”
“Oh, not me sir,” Murdock interrupted. “It was that kid Colin you sent up. He knows his stuff. I’ve got him working on the rest of the systems now.”
“Listen, we have our location....”
“Captain, sorry to interrupted again but we have a problem. Colin was also able to get long ranger sensors online. We had to gut one of the deflector back up relays to do it but that’s beside the point. We’re looking at the sphere now. There is something on the very outer edge of range, moving slowly, well sort of moving slowly, in a round about way, towards us.”
“Roberts, can we tie into ship sensors from here?” Carick asked walking toward Robert’s touch pad controls.
“Yes, I found that link earlier. Its this import button. Watch.”
The cartography sphere flicker then a copy of the Bridge sphere appeared before them. They immediately saw the yellow flashing icon moving in somewhat their direction. It was moving in warp so it couldn’t be a natural object. Suddenly the yellow flashing turned to bright red. The object changed its course directly toward the Voyager.
“Murdock, put the ship on red alert. I’m heading to the Engine Room. Calculate how long before that ship gets into firing range and let me know.”
Carick moved toward the door. “Roberts, to the bridge,” he said as he left the room for the turbolift.
The ship’s intercom sounded the call to alert stations. It rang, as per regulation, for 30 seconds. Then it rang again for another 30 seconds. Then again, to the point of annoyance. Carick tapped his comm badge.
"Connect, Murdock," he said to the ship's computer as he stepped into the turbolift. A moment later Murdock's voice came through.
"Don't play with the alarms. Ring it as per regulation and leave it. The Voyager isn't a fire truck. Got it?"
There was a short pause. "Yes sir," Murdock answered. Carik heard him start to chew Colin out before the line closed.
“What's next?” Carick asked himself. A question he didn’t want answered.