We're Taking On Water, Skipper

The gleaming bulk of hull held a high orbit of the planet Risa with as much elegance as a non-extinct blue whale occupying an undersized transparent aluminium transport cage. It had the same lines, the same curves, she still gave the crew everything she’s got. But the thing is, she wasn’t the same starship. She felt all wrong. The kind of wrong where you absolutely know something is off, something is in the wrong place, something’s out of sorts, but you just can’t put your finger on what exactly.

The corridors looked the same. The bridge looked the same. The Captain’s quarters looked the same. No, nothing off there. Maybe it was the faces, the new faces? No, crew rotation was anything but a rare occurrence, that definitely wasn’t it. Morale? Everyone was on shore leave, everyone was well boosted. That wasn’t it.

Refits take all shapes and sizes. Some ships get bigger, some get streamlined, some stay the same. The October, that’s the USS October, if not for the attack on Sol those few years ago would only just be coming up to her first major overhaul after her first 10 years of service (give or take a few). The Yorktown refit, for all intent and purpose was a deserved refit. There was some honour in that for the October, back then. One of the first of the Odyssey class to actually undergo the refit when most Yorktown’s were just starting to be constructed from their birth from the ground up. Of course a number of old space frames were adopted early on, but to undergo such repairs, well. It felt special to the crew, anyway.

Like her sistership, the October was all but a broken mess after the battle, so it made more sense to rebuild her as the subclass than rebuild what on paper was somewhat of an inferior design. Representing the future, looking forward, remembering those who were lost. This all made sense. This latest refit, however, was different.

October was a vessel of exploration, that’s what she was laid down as. Pushed into service with the Klingon war changed a few of her mission statements temporarily; she was very capable of holding her own against some of the toughest back in the day, as she’d proven, but the most action she’d seen in the last five years was all of that within her grand dining halls and banquet chambers. As she was designed to. But again, something about the ship now was different. It was just wrong.

“…-n, Captain?”

“… … Captain?”

“If tha- … … -en… Captain Morton?”

As if some ancient witches curse had just been magically lifted, the room filled with noise. Not a bad noise, but just noise. The noise of chatter, plates clinking, laughter and that all too familiar reactor humming swallowing behind absolutely everything. Coby blinked,

“Yes, …” the straw from his milkshake was allowed to slip from his lips as he lowered the little reusable cup. “… I actually think that’s a pretty grand idea Lieutenant, though I must admit I’m not entirely verse on the precise aeronaughtical- … ities… you’d require, but.” His glance was frantic, scanning the room with a fierce lust for that which he needed. Ah-ha. There. The Andorian. “Commander zh’Chestta would be able to help you. And~ they’re not due to head down until 0600, so you’d be in luck if you need those measurements in the next few hours.”

“Good shout, sir! Do you think they’re busy, should I leave it a minute?” The Bolian’s eyes glistened, a child like joy in them as his gaze had returned from over his shoulder back onto the Human Captain.

“Honestly he lives for the stuff, he’ll probably be excited that he gets one little assignment before heading down for the next week or two, he’ll probably correspond with you over his shore leave anyway. I mean, you’re off next week? Meet up. Have a Risian tea together.”

“Aye skipper, though… urgh. There’s never enough time in the day is there? I also need to meet Lieutenant Jenksi to discuss her inverse modulation theory. Too many experiments, so little time. Woe is me. Sir." he tacked on at the end there.

He snorted softly, “I never was brilliant at time management myself, a friend of mine once got me a paper diary, was always late for dates. I’ll skip to the end and just say I never did get much better. Trouble was I never opened it, as in… well, I’d write something down, then never actually check it.”

The Bolian chuckled gently, “Well, sir, I imagine starship command eats into a lot of your free time anyway. I can see why you’d forget about checking a book daily.” he paused, “I’ve thought about that a lot though, personal time and Command. Maybe one day I’ll take the exams, but, I’m quite fond of my routine.” he paused, “Er… that’s not to say I don’t take responsibilities seriously, or…”

Coby raised his free hand, smiling “It’s okay, I know what you mean. I’ve wondered myself where I’d have ended up if I’d kept with my studies a bit further. Nothing wrong with that. While we do have obligations as a Starfleet officer, it’s important for your own well being that you’re not just a machine. Goes similarly for when being on duty, too.”

“Quite, sir. Do you ever miss just being an Engineer? Y’know, just like… fixing the odd thing, not having to stress too much?”

“Sometimes. Well. I miss being a bit of a tinkerer. You know, it’s been so long since I’ve properly gotten stuck into any sort of project, let alone fix anything. Before the academy I ran a few freighters with some clapped out hyperspanners and putting up the odd sail or two. Just to keep her afloat, of course.” Coby dipped his head, tilting it a fraction into his left shoulder “… but I went into operations after that, less about how to repair a mast and more into how many oars we might’ve needed, eh?”

The bolian chuckled once more, softly, though pulled a furrowed-brow expression. “Is that some sort of… sailing analogy, sir? I’m not sure it works.” the Bolian paused, glanced back over his shoulder then back to the Captain. “Thanks, skipper. It was nice to catch you. But… do you mind if I … ?”

“Of course not, thank you for stopping by, I hope you get what you’re after.” Coby smiled, nodding a simple short little nod and watched the Bolian stride their way over towards the Andorian stood at the replicator.

He turned, taking another short suck through his straw as he stared out of the lounges port. It used to be a good view, actually. For those who liked that sort of thing anyway, the entire length of the ship from the chevron back. The pylons, engineering hull, the swooped nacelles. Stars. Pretty. It was a shame really, that the entire view was now taken by two large supporting struts and the bottom perspective of four fore-facing large torpedo tubes strapped onto a large oval mission pod. Well. A large ordnance pod.

Ugly. That was the word, Coby thought. Really Ugly. That wasn’t a phrase he’d ever used to describe his ship before. It’d been ten years, ten years of defending his ship to other Captains during a verbal spar while sat in the lounge of Deep Space - 13. Ten years of not caring really, just being proud.

“Big space whale.”
“Giant white blob.”
“Oversized fat waste of hull.”

But he couldn’t, he didn’t want to, defend whatever that is strapped to the back of his girl. That’s what was wrong, really. A Captain’s sense of pride in their command. The crew, the mission, the ship. It’d been a long ten years.

The Ship.

There was a time, back with Outpost Argo, when the October was a bit of flash. One of only a few Odyssey class to be stationed permanently in Eta Eridani, right on the Klingon Front. I always look back too much, Coby said to himself. Maybe an ordnance pod full of torpedos and omni-directional phaser arrays would have been useful then, cool even. But that’s what the Galaxy refits were for. The phaser lance, an over-powered energy-system wiping weapon that was hardly even utilised. At that time the Odyssey was a statement, a political weapon to show the scale Starfleet could grow to. Of course it was matched by the Empire, but that’s all it was when it boils down to it. An arms race.

Once the fleet grew, more larger starships joined the ranks, the October wasn’t anything flashy, nor special, for much longer than that. That was never an issue, nor point, really. Just a fact. The more starship CO’s Coby met, the more that passed through the station’s transporter systems, the more he grew tiresome of some of the gung-ho attitudes the younger officers took. While once a spot of fun comparing vessel commands, the jousts turned a little more hostile, and they became less about stress relief and more just to boost CO’s egos. Those officers had long since moved on, but the odd Conversation on DS-24 or even K-7 still perked his ears with distaste.

Anyway, he digressed.

Or he tried to. Maybe people still find big laser canons cool. His mind was set on them absolutely being uncool.

All in all, he was trying to keep his mind from the PADD currently sat on his oak desk in his ready room. This topic, the one regarding his affection for his once beloved ship, wasn’t really helping matters.

“… have you packed your pumps and bazillion shirt-tie combos yet?“ a voice from behind called, Lieutenant Commander Presland stood straddling the little lounge stool that was just a few steps from the observation window. He was clad in some brightly coloured, noisy tropical shirt along with some beige shorts. His beard trimmed, hair let loose from its usual bun.

“Oh absolutely,” Morton replied, “… though I’ve kept it to a minimum of ten matching colour sets. Didn’t want to over pack this time.” Coby smiled faintly, “I’m gonna spend a couple of days on the east side, I think. Rent a floater. The usual stuff. I thought you weren’t going?”

“Oh I’m not, can’t be doing with all of that, sir. I have however, managed to procure plenty of holodeck time, and…” Presland gestured down his attire, “… I am making absolutely the most of it.”

“But you’re dressed for the beach… I don’t see why… you don’t just,” Coby stopped, snorting “… no I mean I do, no, I like it. I take back whatever I was about to say.”

“Exactly.” The ‘Commander smirked, standing back from the stool, “-skipper.” With a nod he’d already made way to a table across the mess, Coby recognised a few faces at the table but didn’t have much interaction with the group outside of departmental matters.

The mystical sparkle of the transporter faded as the five humanoid shapes disappeared off of the pad of Transporter Room 3. Crewman Haynes let out a short sigh of relief, it’d soon be him on the other side of the console. Two more shifts, he thought. The console’s usual bleeps and boops were a sound and sight, that while could easily become background noise, that Haynes always made sure to keep his attention fixed to.

The acknowledgment of a successful transport was usually instantaneous, or even through lag only took an extra second. The alert sounded, a red pulsing beacon on the screen - emergency return. While not a regular occurance, Haynes wasn’t in a panic nor stress, automatic return from the pattern buffer was possible and usually meant an issue between transmission. An easy fail safe. Pulling you back. On the pad, the mystical sparkle of the transporter drew into life and five humanoid shapes begun to appear before the crewman.

Haynes’ attention on the console, flipping between readouts as the materialisation came to a conclusion -

“Sorry guys, not sure what the situ’ is, but I’ll get back to Risa in a flash, a couple of extra minutes isn’t going… to… …” He glanced up, a full on double take if there ever was one. The five humanoid shapes that had materialised weren’t that of the five starfleet officers he’d just transported, he didn’t recognise these five in the slightest.

Of the five, the first and largest stepped forward obscuring the crewman’s view of the others as the being towered over the transporter console. A human, a big human. Dressed in black, it looked like leather? A coat that fell straight to his feet, a bandolier of sorts that held what looked like red cylindrical candles with extra long wicks, and most prominently he brandished this thick, dirty black beard.

“An’ whadda’ ye’ be doin’ on my ship, eh?” The fella’ bellowed.


The thing about large starships is, well, they’re really big. It’s why we have turbolifts, site to site transporter systems and occasionally standard issue roller skates - there’s a story there but that’s for another time. When you’re operating with a skeleton crew, because you’re fresh out of shakedown and most of your crew are on rotational shore leave, you have quite a lot of empty corridors. Not that on days like this that’s a bad thing, but large empty spaces can been seen as a little suspicious. They’re nice corridors of course, the gorgeous new wooden-like brown and red panelling that’s been recently introduced to the fleet, very fancy, but quiet nonetheless.

Similarly, the new bridge module was installed roughly a year ago now, it was a little smaller than the old one, but still has a beautiful skylight right bang in the centre. The operations and science suite had been moved from its short staircase downwards from the front of the bridge, but overall the module was a lot more practical in its current scale. It was different, but it was nice. Coby liked it. Proper consoles, nice carpet, and he didn’t have to shout at the top of his voice just to call to the tactical console. He missed his old chair sure, but what Captain doesn’t.

He had his desk, his little momentos, they were a little all over the place and in completely different spots to how they always used to be, but he didn’t mind that, they were still there. That PADD still sat there, too. The message opened, read, and closed again. It’s content slowly making its way around the small number of crew aboard via whispers and rumour, maybe that’s what was making the ship seem different, after all?

Anyway. The corridors. The corridors were empty, is what we were trying to get at.

Coby left the viewing lounge sans milkshake, his hands snug inside his duty pants pockets and his jacket, for a change, was clean and crisp. This corridor is a bit empty, he thought; he wasn’t wrong. He’d taken a left, there wasn’t any particular reason, he fancied a short tour of the deck and took a 50/50 gamble once he’d reached the end of the oval portion of the corridor.

“Doctor Lagota.” He called out, growing a faint smile as his stride succumb to a full stop just shy of the door to the astrometrics suite on his right.

“Coby, hi.” the Trill physician returned from inside, “What brings you this way, a social call or are you just on an aimless wander? You’ve been doing a lot of those recently.” She smirked, crawling back into her medical-white duty tunic, the neat pile of PADDs and other trinkets suggested she was on her way out.

“Aye, I suppose a little aimless wandering. Mostly. What brings you this way? I didn’t think you had many other hobbies other than patching up Chief Olezra’s kick boxing results and clipping your bonsai tree.” He took himself into a lean against the doorframe, pursing his lips as his gaze went to the current display on the centre projection, it was a simple map of the sector.

“Oh, Lieutenant Hammer asked me to send a copy of his comet subroutine he had running, he just wanted to check in to make sure he hadn’t missed the opportunity to name one after himself.” She snorted, moving to collect her belongings and PADDs, “… the things I do for my staff, honestly. I lead such the perfect example.”

Coby nodded a short single nod, hmm-ing, “… oh, that you do, Doctor. Going my way?” As he edged off of the door frame back into the corridor.

She rolled her eyes, stepping out into the corridor to join the human Captain. “Considering you likely don’t have a ‘way’ I’m going to assume it’ll be a yes either way. I’m heading down to see Thys, and then we’re both off.”

“Thys? I didn’t think you two were getting on at the moment.” as they both began to make their way. “Y’know, after that whole… jello-butter soup incident.”

“That was two years ago Coby.” laughed the Trill.

“Was it?! Honestly, that feels more like last month.”

“… besides, I over reacted anyway, remember? You even said so yourself. He’s invited me to join him and his daughter for a beach ball tournament. I’m likely to decline, but, we’ll see where the spirit takes me. Commander Quonick’s meant to be meeting us there at some point. You should join us? We haven’t seen you properly for a long time. I think it was-“

“-Cadet Rho’s graduation, yeah, I know. What a day that was though?” Coby finished for her. “If only we’d managed to secure that campsite for real, but the holosuite did a great job with working with those parameters we gave it for the fire pit. It was perfect.”

The Trill exaggerated a sigh, “You would say that, it wasn’t your dress that caught fire.”

“Not my dress no, but that one marshmallow completely skipped the burning stage and went straight to photon torpedo.”

Doctor Lagota shook her head idly, “Don’t be so dramatic, they do that if you just hold the stick in the flames endlessly. They’re not magic perfect marshmallows like from one of those handheld marshmallow dispensers, are they?”

“Yeah but those things only hold like three. That wasn’t going to feed us all, let alone account for any droppages.”

“Atleast we had Lieutenant Commander Chef with us, or is that Lieutenant Commander Perfect? I forget everything else that he’s amazing at.”

“Henry is amazing at everything. I think he’s the only person I’ve ever seen Toasheaz actually smile at, which that should be the grand scale of his abilities really.” Coby paused his stride just for a brief moment, glancing out of the porthole on his left as he caught another glimpse of the large ordnance pod’s twin struts consuming the entire view.

The Trill physician glanced from Coby to the struts, then back to Coby as she non-physically nudged him onward by taking a slow couple of impatient steps, “Well, it’s a good job Commander Perfect is staying onboard to keep your seat warm for you, isn’t it.”

Coby resumed, a quick-paced catch up to get back alongside the Trill “He’s a fine man, he’ll make a great Captain, too.”

“You should come and join us, anyway.” She said almost conclusively, sincerely though as the pair reached a turbolift. The Trill adjusted her PADDs into her left arm and gave Coby a quick tap on the shoulder. “… Toash’ is meant to be coming at some point too.”

Coby’s brow raised subtly, “Yeah, she left a couple of days ago. I don’t think there’s any chance you’ll be getting her to play beach ball. In fact, I’m surprised she’s taken time off at all. With me out of the way for a week she’s surely dying to sit in the big chair instead of Henry.”

“She doesn’t dislike you as much as you think, but she does want to sit in that chair.” Lagota laughed, stepping into the lift. “She won’t have to wait too much longer anyway though, right? I’ll hopefully see you down there.” She finished, just as the turbolift doors wooshed shut.

Won’t have to wait too much longer anyway.

Coby frowned deeply, took in a short breath and pivoted a neat little 180, heading back down the corridor the pair had just ventured down. He was only a good 10 steps down when he came to a natural pause, he snorted out a soft sigh. Do I want another milkshake? I mean, perhaps the Salty Shack instead, I’ve not been down there sinc- oh no, wait, I think they’re closed for the next few weeks. Maybe not th- His thoughts came to a sudden end, something had tapped him on the forehead.

He looked up, sliding his right hand out of his pocket and lifting it to check if something was stuck to him. As he gave his index finger a sudden inspection, he looked back to the ceiling of the corridor, a confused expression growing as his eyes widened. Was that a drop of water?