It appears i couldn't leave the main characters from my series "New Beginning" without a sequel, as evidenced by the short story about the kid in day-care, so i decided to start a new series. This is part 1 of the series focussing on the Squadron leader, his son, and the civilian administrator of the Starbase. Hope you enjoy it.
==Civilian transport en route to Starbase 801==
Very very quietly Zoteke pulled up the blanket over his son's shoulders, gave the sleeping form a soft kiss, and stepped out of the small room that was his son's bedroom for the duration of the trip to Starbase 801.
Satisfied Ahrund was safe, happy, and asleep he walked over to the surprisingly comfortable couch facing the panoramic window that was his temporary quarters' most prominent feature. On his way there he wrestled the bottle of Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve Glenfiddich single malt whiskey and the single shot-glass out of the trunk that held his and his son's only belongings.
Making sure he'd have anything he'd be wanting for the rest of the evening was within hand's reach he ticked the items off in his head.
”Drink, check. PADDs, check. Cheese, check. Pillow, check. Direct and easy view of the entertainment screen so it can be ignored completely, check”
Satisfied he'd have no reason whatsoever to get up anymore for the duration of the evening he dropped his uniform pants, shook off the top of his uniform, and in his underwear dropped himself into the couch. He took the shot glass and put it down on the small table in front of him and then held up the bottle of very rare, very old, and very special whiskey that he'd been lugging around with his for what seems like forever.
There had been many times in the past where he had come close to opening that bottle but somehow those moments were never special enough to seem to justify it. Moments after battles won, or endings of wars. His marriage, the birth of his son... all of those moments were considered and deemed not worthy enough to waste such rare and fine whiskey on.
And no doubt each of those moments was far far more momentous and or life-changing than the one he was in now, in his underwear, on a couch in a quarter that never was or would be his after reaching the current destination of the passenger cruiser he was on.
Shaking his head and smiling as he considered all that, he broke the seal on the bottle and pulled out the cork. Shivers ran down his spine as he did so, and somehow felt a weight lift off from his shoulders mentally. He knew his old friend would approve that having Ahrund back and out of Section 31's grip was a momentous enough occasion and being accepted as a squadron leader on a relatively new Starbase with the prestige that 801 had, made the occasion even more momentous.
Holding the bottle under his nose he took a deep sniff and held it for a few seconds. With the smell, the memories of a time long past flooded into his consciousness and took him back to when he acquired the bottle of special liquor.
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It was early in his career when he was in his early twenties and he and his platoon got deployed to defend some insignificant planetoïd in some even less significant skirmish with an enemy that in the end became one of the faceless members of the United Federation of Planets. They had been dug in “holding the line” for over 73 hours withstanding wave after wave of enemy assaults without relent.
Of the 100+ men that had originally been deployed to that position just 14 were left alive and able to fight when suddenly the surge of infantry coming at them slowed and then stopped. He remembered how his best buddy, best friend since the first day of boot camp, plunked down his rifle and started digging into his backpack as if he was afraid he'd never get another chance to do so. Keeping one eye on the horizon for the enemy and one ear on his comm so he'd hear any orders coming through from whoever was in charge at that moment he threw his friend a questioning look.
As his friend pulled out two unremarkable-looking bottles from his backpack Zoteke couldn't help but wonder why those bottles were in his backpack instead of his bunk storage box or somewhere safe in storage and how those bottles had survived the fighting of the past few days. Michel, Zoteke remembered the name of his friend was, suddenly grabbed the backpack Zoteke had strapped to his back and put one of the bottles into it.
He then broke the seal on the second one and opened it. He took a big gulp from the bottle and passed the bottle to Zoteke. As Zoteke, confused a bit but happy with the reprieve they had gotten from the relentless fighting, took the bottle Michel grabbed his hands and said “Look at me Zoteke. I just realized what I'm going to tell you and I know it's too late for me but not for you. Take the bottle I put in your backpack and save it for a special moment. But whatever you do, don't wait too long. Promise me you won't wait until your dying breaths to enjoy it. And think of me when you drink it... Promisssss”
As his friend slumped out of consciousness and went limp Zoteke noticed a streak of blood marking the slide of his back onto the floor. Only then did realization sink in that his friend had been wounded and, with his dying breath, had shared his most precious possession and final thoughts with the closest to his family and loved ones he could reach; Zoteke.
Zoteke remembered putting that opened bottle to his lips in a gung ho hoorah semper fi kind of blurr, with tears threatening to break through his Marine macho barrier and downing it in one go. He remembered that, but not much else after that.
He knew that if he'd look it up his starfleet record would be able to fill in some of the gaps but he'd never cared enough to check then, and he wouldn't taint the memories of his friend by doing so now. Back then he'd never tasted any earth liquors before but since then he'd looked into the brand and history of the bottle that his friend had given him and with the information that yielded the significance of his friend's act and final words became more clear, gained in importance and meaning.
==Back to the present==
Committing sacrilege in the eyes of some whiskey connoisseurs he said “Semper fi Michel, here's to you!” and put the bottle to his mouth. A large gulp filled his mouth and he let it slide slowly down his throat for as long as the alcohol's bite allowed him. Then as the rest was forced down quickly past the blocking reflex of his throat and Zoteke was left gasping for air past the same blocking reflex his lungs were experiencing.
“Hoooooweeeey!! That's gonna put hair on my chest for sure!!” he exclaimed as soon as he was able to get sound out of his throat again. With a smile, he filled the small shot glass and put the cork onto the bottle and put it on the table. The warmth of the alcohol spreading through his chest and with a new but comfortable satisfying feeling he leaned back on the couch pulling up a PADD.
It was the one onto which he'd had the computer upload all information that was available on the Starbase and more specifically its fighter compliment. Again he frowned when he saw how little that amounted to be. It seemed that removing computer authorizations when he left the August, making it almost impossible for Zoteke to keep tabs on his friends on the August or the ship he had come to care so much for, was something Starfleet was more stringent about than assigning access for his new position as squadron leader of the Legacy's fighters.
He was left with nothing more than public records, and for a moment he was sorely tempted to ask Ahrund to help him. But as quickly as the thought entered his mind the memory of the interest Section 31 took in his son just because of his knack with computers and computer interfaces overclouded it.
He decided he could wait out the Starfleet bureaucracy and make himself familiar with what Starfleet felt they trusted him with. When he'd gone through those public records twice though he couldn't help but feel frustrated at how little those records told him. It stated that the Starbase had a complement of fighters, some of which were Peregrine's, but not even the number of fighters or how many different types there were.
Sending a message to Starfleet's computer security department stating his annoyance and his demand for proper authorizations to be given immediately did little to soothe the irritation he felt and he found himself digging through secondary and tertiary routing and caching systems to see if there was any way to get more detailed information.
It took almost three hours of relentless gazing at screen after screen of index tables, transcript backups, and other useless data before he stumbled onto something useful. Apparently, the records of the testing procedures with the Sparrow got “stuck” somewhere between Memory Alpha and the main Starfleet computer core never reaching Starfleet Research and Development.
All subsequent files concerning the Sparrow, mostly Zoteke's own reports, instead of being delivered into the inbox of the department's responsible scientists had been routed into the batch of files that, according to the computer systems, were in transit to that same inbox. Those files, inheriting the original report's security settings, were marked as being Zoteke's own files and as such could be opened without problems from the padd Zoteke was using.
It turned out that the whole Shepherds squadron was transferred onto the starbase when the August stayed there, just after he was forced to leave. Inquiries about the Sparrow had been made as the station's engineers learned only one person had ever flown the Sparrow since it was assigned to the August or before that, in its test flight period on Memory Alpha.
No answers had come in reply to those inquiries and in the red tape, which always had a reputation in the fleet but had gotten ridiculously entangled due to the war, the Sparrow had been forgotten. The starbase was waiting for word from Starfleet R&D or a pilot with the required qualifications and R&D was waiting for any kind of word on the Sparrow or assuming it destroyed while on active duty with the August.
Finally, with his eyes stinging from the concentrated gazing onto the small computer screen and his heart filled with joy at the anticipation of being reunited with the Sparrow he lifted the shot glass of ancient whiskey saying into the air: “This has just become an even more suitable moment for this Mies, here's to you pall”
As he downed the whisky and its smooth warmth slowly spread through his chest he decided that, for the moment, the direction and prospects for the future of his and his son's lives couldn't be better. He lied down on the couch and set the entertainment screen to show informational documentaries on science and history. No more than 5 minutes later he was fast asleep.
=== Guest quarters passenger cruiser en route to SB801===
After having found information that indicated he might be reunited with his favorite fighter the “Sparrow” when he got to the Starbase, and the difficulty he had experienced obtaining even that small piece of information, Zoteke had decided to dedicate whatever time was left before they reached Legacy to his son.
The kid deserved it and more after what the kid had gone through. From the attack at which his mother and grandparents died, through the assault on Memory Alpha, the adventures on the August, and then the frightening time he must have had under the tender care of Section 31, Ahrund had gone through more misery and experienced more fear and sorrow than most adults did in their entire lives.
The best place for the kid on the cruiser that was taking them to their new home for the foreseeable future was of course the holodeck and that's where he and Ahrund had spent most of the past 4 days. Having choo choo trains going round saying “Chugga chugga chooo chooooooo” and singing “Chuuuuuginton.. chuggachuggachuggachuggachugington” or being in a world inhabited by talking and living automobiles based upon the early 21st-century cartoon “Cars” was beginning to take a toll on Zoteke and though he thoroughly enjoyed spending time with his son and seeing the kid genuinely enjoy himself he was also grateful every time it was his son's bedtime.
So when his son came bursting into his bedroom and started jumping up and down on his belly, with obvious excitement over something, and a look at the chronometer told him it was only 02:38 am, he was about to tell his son to go back to his bedroom really fast or face his wrath when Ahrund calmed down enough to get out something of a sensible sentence.
“Daddy daddy, we drop out from Wop in few minutes. Then we go last bit not so fast. We there daddy! We almost at new home!!“ the kid exclaimed.
Then Ahrund pointed at his PADD, one which he held more dearly than any stuffed animal or toy and had been with him since the first day on the August, and said “Puter padd say so..." as if that explained everything and was the only authoritative source of information in existence.
After just a second to inhale some oxygen he went on "..and padd say call to you for..." a frown showed his concentration to get the word out right "..dissembawk..." then a shake of his head discarded it as unimportant as he finished "...or something come to bedroom computer for you also”.
Just as he became awake enough to comprehend what his son was trying to tell him and about to give Ahrund an earful for having found his way into areas of the ship's computer no 3-year-old had any business being the comm next to his bed came to life. ”This is an automated message, as requested by Lt. Madwan. This vessel will dock at Starbase 801 in approximately thirty minutes. Please prepare to disembark.”* the computer voice amicably informed Zoteke.
The “I told you so” smirk on Ahrund was priceless and when the window, pointed at by the same smirking kid, showed the streaking stars coalescing into the pinpricks that indicated sub-light travel, Zoteke found he couldn't do anything but smile and make a show of getting up and out of bed for the little tike.
Ahrund subsequently was completely absorbed into his role as the director of his and his father's preparations for leaving their temporary quarters, making sure everything was packed and tagged for beaming to the station, getting cleaned up and dressed correctly, and being at the airlock in time to see it cycle through the docking process, equalizing the atmospheric pressures and opening up to allow them through.
==Starbase 801 “Legacy”==
Then the look on Ahrund's face and lights that seemed to shine from his eyes when the inner airlock cycled open was one Zoteke would not easily forget. The space the airlock opened up into was wide and spacious and bustling with all kinds of activities by all kinds of species of beings. It didn't happen often but this was one of the moments even Ahrund's enthusiasm was overwhelmed by the awe and wonder of the sights before him.
It wasn't that Ahrund was new to Starbase or space stations. Nor was it that he'd never encountered “alien” lifeforms. The vastness of the area they were in and the crisp interior design of the station's interior, making use of the latest in public information displays and computer interface points drawing Ahrund's immediate attention, were the closest he'd ever been to what he considered paradise.
“Waaaaaaaw, this place beautiful daddy!” Zoteke heard a tiny little voice say in awe before he felt a little hand grab his bulky one and squeeze tight.
“We go explore now?” Ahrund asked hopefully, turning what he thought to be his most endearing look up to Zoteke. Lifting the kid into his arms and looking him in the eye sternly Zoteke replied
“Now what was the deal we made about this?”
Ahrund rolled his eyes and sighed.
“Daddy must do Starfleet stuff and arrange for taking care of Ahrund while daddy works first. Then after sleepy time and if Daddy does not have to work we go exploring” he intoned, knowing that badgering his father to change their “deal” would be as futile as those robot people thought wesistanance to be... whatever that meant.
A quick check of the station's chronometer told Zoteke the station was at 03:16am, deep into the night cycle of the station. This presented him with something of an opportunity. The station's command staff wouldn't be on duty for at least two or three hours, nor would anyone require him to report somewhere.
If he played this right he could wind up with enough time to go find the hanger bays and take a look if he could find the Sparrow! His heart started to pick up the pace just thinking about the fighter that had become such a big part of his life after the loss of his parents and wife. More than any other vessel, getting into the cockpit of the Sparrow had felt like slipping into a warm blanket or putting on that perfect fitting shoe. He'd never felt more “right” than when he'd been at the controls of the Sparrow.
Thirty minutes later he'd tracked down the quarters that had been assigned to him and his son and another thirty minutes later he'd finally been able to get the hyper-excited kid into bed and to sleep. Setting the computer system to what he called “Ahrund proof” parameters, making sure he'd be unable to get out into the station and that the computer would give Zoteke a heads up when the kid left the bedroom into the living area of their new quarters and going over everything in his mind to make sure Ahrund would be safe for a couple of hours he then exited the quarters and headed for the nearest turbolift.
Being “night” time on the station the corridors were considerably quieter than the docking ring or the other public areas. This was, Zoteke considered, another added bonus of arriving here in the middle of the night. It gave him the chance to get a feel for the layout of the station or draw too much attention to himself as he went around looking like a damned tourist when he made a wrong turn somewhere.
He found that he needn’t have worried about that though as the station's layout was much the same as the older station's Zoteke had been to in his career. Besides that, the computer displays of the station's several levels, with the turbo-lift connections linking them up, were simple enough for a dimwitted toddler to understand. It wasn't more than fifteen minutes later when Zoteke passed through the doorway that opened up into one of the station's hanger bays.
==Starbase 801, Hangar bay 3==
A whistle escaped Zoteke when the size of the cavernous hangar bay registered. The area was only dimly lit, due to the inactivity during the night cycle, but Zoteke could see clearly enough for him to decide against asking the computer for more light. He slowly walked deeper into the bay taking in the information his eyes could make out. He passed two Peregrine fighters on his left which, he noticed, had not been fitted with any upgrades he'd seen on the Peregrine's he had become familiar with on the August.
On his right, there were two shuttlecraft, type 9, which looked to him as if they were mothballed. He moved on, further into the recesses of the hanger bay, feeling like he was in the Nevada air force graveyard more than in a hangar bay of one of Starfleet's newest Space stations. Another shuttle to his right and to his left was almost disregarded by Zoteke as he walked past them when suddenly his eyes fell on something that his subconscious mind recognized before he became aware of it.
Underneath the vessel to his left which he had difficulty identifying he saw the landing struts that he knew to belong to one type of spaceship in the entire Federation. Quickening his pace to match the quickening of his heartbeats he rounded the back of the ship which was blocking his view and gasped at the emotions that erupted when he laid eyes on the sleek form and curvaceous lines of the Sparrow.
The position she was parked in made it impossible for her to get out without moving at least four other vessels out of her way, hidden in the furthest corner of the hangar bay. The lighting there was even less bright than in most of the hanger bay but she was the most beautiful sight he'd beheld, besides his son of course, in quite a while now.
Slowly he made a walk around the sleek lined little ship scanning every inch of her surface to see if it matched his last memory of her and then, his fingers crossed, raised his hand to the panel which, when its systems were operational, would scan and identify the hand and it's owner and then compare it to the security database for authorization. His heart skipping a beat as the panel lit up and dutifully scanned the hand he had placed on it.
Then, as if it had been only yesterday since they came back from their last mission, the Sparrows systems lit up. One by one he could see the Sparrow's computer go through the cold boot system-check protocols before running its start-up script telling it to open the canopy and report its status to whoever had turned its systems on.
The canopy made a hissing sound when it opened up and then the computer voice that Zoteke had missed more than he had realized welcomed him as if no time had passed at all since their last encounter. *”Good Morning Lt. Madwan. All systems have passed the cold boot diagnostic cycle. All systems operational.”* the computer-voice, that he had tweaked to sound like that of his late wife, spoke just like he'd programmed it to do after a cold boot.
Unable to contain himself as he realized that the Sparrow hadn't been touched much less changed since the last time he had powered her down in the August's hanger he bounded up the struts and, holding his breath, slid into the pilot's seat.
Though his conscious mind knew it was nonsense he swore the seat, and the cockpit as a whole rippled and flowed to embrace him and shape itself to his body to make a perfect fit. At once his racing heart slowed down and his tense muscles relaxed, his mind cleared, and a calmness enveloped him he never knew he had missed intensely.
The discovery that his beloved Sparrow was indeed at Star-base Legacy and the excitement that she was untouched since he'd last seen her had made him completely oblivious to his surroundings and therefore hadn't noticed the lights in the hanger bay coming up to full illumination. Nor had he noticed the nervous ensign in red-banded uniform, identifying him as being from security, approaching with his phaser drawn.
So he couldn't have noticed the expression on the ensign's face telling him the ensign was determined to apprehend whoever had hacked into the fighter's computer in order to steal a valuable piece of Starfleet technology.
So when said ensign suddenly began barking at him to raise his hands and slowly get out of the cockpit, or else, Zoteke was so startled he nearly knocked his head on the canopy.
“Easy there, ensign. This is not what it might look like to you.” he told the ensign, making sure to keep his hands clearly visible.
“SLOWLY! MOVE VERY SLOWLY!” the ensign shouted, clearly inexperienced in facing intruders in the middle of the night on his own.
Zoteke nodded saying “All right, no need to get nervous, I'm no threat to you or anyone else. Just let me explain and you'll see there's no need to get anyone else worried or out of their…”
But the ensign's voice cut him off. “Ensign Enpeesea to security, I've caught an intruder in hanger bay 3 attempting to steal one of the fighters.... eehm.. Can someone assist?” the ensign spoke, obviously into his commbadge.
“Acknowledged. Stand by ensign” the little metal device replied.
Zoteke cringed at that, knowing that now there was no way of this not coming into the notice of the Chief of security or maybe even wind up on the desk of the Captain of the station. He sincerely hoped that the bureaucracy and red tape for which Starfleet was infamous hadn't delayed the transfer orders which identified him as the station's new squadron commander.
As he stepped onto the deck of the hanger he placed his hands behind his neck and faced the ensign who still pointed his phaser at Zoteke's head.
“I sure hope that thing is set to stun ensign, believe me when I say neither of us wants to have a nervous finger twitch effectively end both our careers.” Zoteke said, attempting to sound jovial about it but failing miserably.
“Just don't move, and keep your hands.... eerm... where you have them now..." the ensign stated, sounding insecure. He tried to cover it though, by saying "One wrong move and you'll find out which setting my phaser's on the hard way!”.
It was clear that trying to identify himself and explain the situation was useless. The kid, obviously fresh out of the academy, wasn't even listening to him, let alone in a state to be reasoned with. Obviously standing by for longer then the ensign was comfortable with the ensign was beginning to pass left to right and back for a few moments.
Just as he started to move his free hand to his commbadge to ask what the hell was keeping standing by a voice from the commbadge on the ensign's chest spoke out.
“Ensign Enpeesea, stand by to be beamed to the brig.”
==Starbase 801, Security, Brigg==
Moments later Zoteke found himself inside a cell behind a force-field barrier that seemed to humm louder the closer he got to it. The ensign was on the other side and, satisfied he'd done his duty, holstered his phaser and walked out of the cell area without so much as a second look at Zoteke.
Just before the door closed behind the ensign though he heard the voice from the commbadge speaking to the ensign. “That should keep the perp from going anywhere or doing anything until the chief gets here ensign. Please file your report immediately so the Alpha shift and the chief can process...”
Zoteke could guess what the rest of that sentence would be and sighed when he realized that he'd be going nowhere until at least the shift change and hopefully the arrival of someone interested in listening to him rather than just containing him for someone else to take responsibility. The voice that the ensign had contacted, beamed him into the brig, and then spoke to the ensign from outside the holding cell area sounded no more experienced than the ensign had and figured that too must be a fresh ensign.
No one had even tried to ascertain his identity nor asked him or themselves the question of whether or not their potential thief had accomplices... He guessed he could understand the ensign's nervousness and eagerness to pass off the responsibility for a detainee to his superiors before something went wrong but it made him wonder if the war was pushing Starfleet to rush its ensigns in the security department into active duty before they were ready for it.
As the beam in procedure had removed his PADD, tricorder, and commbadge in transit he had no way of checking up on Ahrund or receiving the computer's alert he'd set up to be sent to him when it detected Ahrund moving anywhere besides his bed. This more than anything else was worrying him.
Resigned to the reality that there was nothing he could do but wait, and hope Ahrund wouldn't be too distressed by his absence or cause any trouble trying to find out where his father was Zoteke lied down on the bunk that was the cell's only furniture and closed his eyes. For a moment he reflected on the familiar feeling that being in a holding cell again brought him, not being incarcerated for the first time in his career.
Flashes of the night's on shore leave ending up on the floor of some jail cell on some backwater hellhole of a planet or station and the hangovers that followed those nights made him smile for just the tiniest of moments. Then deciding those memories best remaining just that: memories. He was an officer now, held to higher norms than a Marine grunt as he had been back then.
There was no way he could sleep, knowing his son was going to wake up alone not knowing where his father was or why he wasn't there in the first place. But closing his eyes would allow him to get his thoughts back into order and come down from the adrenaline rush that the night's events had brought on. In the back of his mind, he wondered at what time the Alpha shift's came on duty around here.
The information he had access to so far had revealed nothing more of the station's personnel other than their rank and name. A Lt. Cho was chief of security if he remembered correctly. If he remembered right or wrong, he'd be making a very different first impression on the man than he'd hoped to, and he would do so in a couple of hours at most. He guessed the time to be around 05:00am so it couldn't be that long... could it?
To be continued
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