The following is a Troubadour repost from December 2008; another in our series of Great Posts from the Space Center's Golden Age. I wrote the story after wondering how I could take that week's Space Center news and report it in an interesting, imaginative way. The people in the story are real, and all doing just what they were doing that week five years ago. This was the Space Center the way it once was. Please enjoy this trip down Memory Lane.
And Now, Life on the McAuliffe Command Station.
Life on the McAuliffe Command Station.
Why do I need a blanket? I wake up each day buried in paper work. It follows me where ever I go. No other way to describe my life. Most of the paperwork comes from my first responsibility - the training of new Starfleet cadets (field trip students). There is a never ending supply of them arriving and departing daily on the yellow Express Liners (school busses). They stop first at the Command Station for their orders. With orders in hand they are assigned to training stations on either the Magellan station or the Starships Voyager, Odyssey, Galileo, or Phoenix.
I got up, showered, dressed, and stood by my bedroom window watching the yellow liners make their final approach with their eager occupants.
"Admiral," a female voice sounded from the wall speaker. "You asked to be informed when the senior officers arrived. The Voyager, Odyssey, Galileo, and Phoenix are all docked."
"Is that you Lt. Clegg?" I questioned. "I thought you had a few days off for the Intergalactic Astronomical Extravaganza!"
"Wrapped up Sir. Back to as normal as life gets here at Command," she responded.
"Where are they?" I asked.
“I’m not sure. They could be anywhere. I’ll track them down and tell them to gather in the shuttlebay. Do you need anything else?” Lt. Clegg was polite in her question but the tone of her voice indicated a desire to move ahead with the day’s work.
I stood up from my desk and stretched. A pylon of the McAuliffe Central Command Station stretched across my viewport. I walked over and gazed out. The docking clamps were in view. The boarding ramps were extending, like open arms welcoming a slowly advancing starship.
"Clockwork - perfect clockwork," I thought knowing the Command staff ran the station as efficiently as the Germans ran their trains. My attention was arrested and refocused on a set of flickering lights up near the Command and Control Center.
"Some kind of short," I muttered as I zipped up my jacket and turned away from the port and headed toward my cabin door. With a swoosh it opened and I was out in the hall. I touched my com badge and waited as I walked.
“Connection?” the somewhat seductive voice of the Central Computer inquired.
“Chief Robinson,” I answered.
“Stand by,” it responded. I took great pride in the new voice of the Command Computer. For years, Starfleet command computers were programmed with the voice a grandmother would use having found you in her cookie jar. The new voice, recently installed on half the ships and stations, is one of a younger woman . The hint of a grandmotherly annoyance was replaced by the almost perceptible sound of desire.
“Robinson here,” my attention was drawn back to the moment. “What can I do for you Admiral?”
“Chief, do you know that you have a flickering docking light on pylon three?” I asked. I knew questions like this kept my people on their toes. I had to maintain my reputation of being a details man. “You know what I always say, take care of the little problems and the big problems take care of themselves.”
“Anything else sir,” Chief Spencer Robinson responsed. His voice sounded a bit put off.
“No, I’ll see you soon enough for our weekly maintenance review. Oh, one other thing, I hear a certain Commander Matt Long of Starfleet Engineering installed new ship control panels right off the Magellan’s Command Deck. How are they working?”
There was a pause. I heard the Chief talking to someone else in the room. His hand was over the comm badge.
“Admiral Daymont’s Office reports the panels are in and powered but not functional. Commander Long should have them fully functional in a week I'm told. Not my department Sir. I keep the place running.”I let the conversation end. It achieved its purpose. I think I counted at least 20 "Good morning Sirs'" on my way to the Ten Forward Lounge. This was my first stop for a quick working breakfast with Lieutenants Aleta Clegg and Lorraine Houston. Lt. Houston had my slimming breakfast already ordered and waiting: four or five crackers frosted with lowfat cottage cheese and sprinkled with some kind of salad seasoning; a Diet Coke was there to wash everything down. I sat down and dove into the feast. Once my mouth was full, and before I could spill anything on my uniform, Lt. Clegg gave me her report on the ship's activities for the past week. Lt. Houston entered the room half way through the report. She sat down, took out her PAD, and listed off the ships sending cadets for training; there was the USS Morningside, USS Noah Webster and the USS Manila. She reported that all was going well with the arriving cadets; she also reported that the station's new uniforms were in the design stage - all on schedule.
"A busy week coming up?" I asked her as I finished the last of the Diet Coke.
"When isn't it?" she responded as she grabbed her papers, finished her yogurt, and moved toward the door. "Oh, I'll have the birthday cake baked and ready for Lt. Metta Smith's Birthday party on Saturday,” she continued speaking as she left the room with a wave and an exhausted grin. She was off to run a group of young cadets through their first stellar navigation course in the station’s Starlab.
"You’ll make Admiral soon if you keep this up," I shouted as the door closed. In the round window of the door I saw a fist with thumb up appear and disappear.
The lounge was quiet again except for the rustling of paper.
“Anything else sir?” Lt. Clegg asked as she rose from the chair.
“I guess not considering your already on your feet,” I responded. I got that look and knew it was best to let her get on with doing the real work of the station. She disappeared out the door and down the corridor. The highly polished wooden doors of the lounge closed quietly behind her.
The silence was broken by a cough from the corner of the room. Someone was reading a newspaper at a small table near the large aluminum glass window. It was hard to tell who it was in the light. He had a plastic cup with protruding straw in front of him. Next to that was what appeared to be the largest apple fritter I had ever seen. He laid the paper down, looked out the window and sipped on his drink. It was Starfleet Command’s Chief Network Officer. Schuler was his name - Bill Schuler. He was sort of a different person. Sometimes quiet and sometimes just the opposite, but always mysterious. There were the rumors of course. As far as I could tell he had no connection to Federation Intelligence but who would know, if Intelligence was doing its job correctly. I did know that he spent most of his time with the Command Computer Systems, only occasionally taking a tour of duty with ships of the line. His duty record was impressive but incomplete. His record had a six year period showing “Officer on Special Assignment” as his only duty.
"He's got to be Section 31," I wondered in a whisper. He glanced toward my table and caught me looking his direction. I immediately looked elsewhere. He stood and walked by, offering a quick good morning nod.
"Sir," he respectfully said while folding his newspaper. I noticed he put something in his pocket as he exited the room.
"One of these days I'm going to have you followed," I said under my breath as I gathered my things and walked out the other door toward the shuttle bay.
I arrived in the Shuttle Bay at 9:00 A.M. The Shuttle bay was the hub of activity at the Command Station. Ships and shuttles came and left twenty four hours a day. Just watching the hustle exhausted me.
Just as expected - standing there by the Voyager’s shuttle were the Senior Officer’s of the Station’s Fleet.: Commander Emily Perry of the Odyssey, Admiral Mark Daymont and Commander Brittney VandeBoss of the Magellan Station, and Commander Megan Warner of the Phoenix. They were talking quietly among themselves.
"What's going on here?" I questioned as I walked up to the group.
"Good morning Sir. We are reviewing the list of new cadets (volunteers) assigned to our ships for training,” Lt. Commander Warner replied for everyone. “We’ve noticed some of these new cadets are very young. I mean very young.”
“Are they bringing their own Pampers or do we need to order them special?” Commander Perry joined the discussion sarcastically. The others in the circle laughed and nodded in agreement.
“Well, we take what Command gives us,” I answered. “You’ll find talent in any group,” I added, liking to end most thoughts on a positive note for morale. “I’ll be up to the meeting in a few minutes. You may all go to the Briefing Room and wait.”
The Senior Officers worked their way out of the Bay and into the nearest turbolift. I continued my morning walk around the station and strolled over to a large window overlooking the orbital shipyards. The New Galileo was under construction. Commanders Stacy Carroll, Kyle Herring and Alex DeBirk were going over the week's construction schedule.
"Are we on schedule?" I asked. I got a positive answer with a complete "Request to Purchase" list from Herring (aka, the Fish).
"What does he want now?" I wondered as he shoved the paperwork in my direction. He was asking for a digital amp. How was I suppose to understand what a digital amp was? Who does he think I am? Come on, we all understand my function around here. I'm the person they like to hang pretty medals on because I know how to talk in public and make everyone look good. I'm like a Christmas Tree. I get the nice ornaments. I get to stand around and get looked at. Everyone else keeps the place running - right? I wanted to say, "Herring, you know the routine, just give me the papers and I'll sign them. Just don't stand too close, you might take the sparkle off the medals. If you have any other questions talk to Lt. Clegg," but I didn't.
A little fella wearing glasses and dressed in an olive green T- shirt, jacket, and pants walked up to us with clipboard in hand. "They need you on the Bridge Sir," he said in stride.
"Got to finish the inspection before my meeting," I said as I headed for the bridge.
It was a short jump in the turbolift up to the Command Deck. The doors slid open and a voice shouted, "Admiral on deck!" I walked around the room. All seemed in order. I stopped by Commander Dave Daymont and thanked him for the fantastic logos he created for the station’s starships. I moved on and was handed the morning reports from Lt. Metta Smith, acting Officer On Duty .
“Metta, give me the abbreviated version of this," I handed her back the stack of papers and sat in the Station’s Command Chair. I shifted positions so the new cadets could see the glittering new pin I was awarded last year for over 25 years of service in the fleet.
Metta started reading the reports. I was shocked to hear of Network Engineer Schuler’s foot surgery. I had just seen him in the lounge. He looked normal, or as normal as he ever looked. There was something unnerving about him which forced everyone to stay low and off his radar. There were other items on the day’s agenda. Lt. Clegg stepped forward to say she would take care of the rest. I sat in my chair and looked over the vast starfield in the main viewer
"Carry on," I said and settled into my chair listening to the buzz of voices doing what it takes to keep a Command Center running.
"Your meeting Sir." Lt. Clegg whispered while pointing to the time on the computer display. I had forgotten about the meeting I had scheduled with my senior officers several decks below. I wondered why Lt. Smith was smiling as she disappeared around the corner into the Ready Room.
"They can wait a while," I whispered back. I pushed into the chair's soft leather and took in the quiet hum of station life.
This is the kind of soccer we played in South Dakota while I was growing up. None of this wimpy flat field soccer you folks play here in Utah. Oh, did I ever mention that we use to walk 15 miles, uphill in both directions, to school and back. Oh, and did I mention the log cabin I was raised in, complete with spaces between the logs for our shot guns to ward off Indian attacks?
If not, remind me the next time you have 2 or 3 hours and I'll be happy to share my recollections of growing up in the Dakotas.
If not, remind me the next time you have 2 or 3 hours and I'll be happy to share my recollections of growing up in the Dakotas.
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