Still yawning despite a full sleep period, shower and breakfast. Maybe the coffee will kick in soon. I am savouring every shade-grown drop. I know my supplies can’t hold out forever and even an Earth-Company brat can’t arrange infinite care parcels. I am still working on the replicator programming for the espresso formula, but build 2287 came out too burnt when I tried to go for the more robust body. Sticking with those precious vacuum packed beans for when it really matters. Like now. Can’t take them with me.
Last shift was long and grueling. Not only are we in the middle of what promises to go down as a major Interstellar War but crew assignments were shuffled. I suppose it shouldn’t feel so disruptive. I am still in the general Promethean Command assignment pool and not in a permanent ship berth. But it is odd how even two shifts with largely the same crew on a single vessel begins to create a sense of stability. Strange word to be using for the madcap crew of the Hunter. And the Hunter is where I was assigned again as she was tasked with CL-262, TSN Phoenix to penetrate highly occupied enemy space and dismantle as many of their Sensor Relays as possible to disrupt their fleet intel, command and control network.
The new Skipper is Commander Jemel with LtCmdr del Pino as his XO. Flashheart’s languid drawl was missing from this shift – wonder what trouble he got himself into? Anyway, the easy automatic understanding of the Hunter’s crew was absent. On my first time aboard, I did not immediately understand that they were working well together. Frankly I was shocked by what appeared to be a chaotic breakdown of command discipline. Etiquette was very lax and there was a lot of banter, but looking back, things worked remarkably smoothly because people knew the ship’s handling characteristics and each other’s odd communications styles. Today was more by the book and more tense and with a few rough edges, but still effective – it damned well had to be.
We completed our sector transition in good order keeping station with the Phoenix. Eyes widened across the bridge however as the sensors painted the picture of the new sector from our entry point in Delta-5. A massive curve of minefield lay ahead of us, leaving only a single opening in Charlie-5. Heading for that opening at a leisurely pace were more sensor contacts than I had ever seen, even in academy simulations. The only difference I could see between this and the ancient Kobayashi-Maru sim, was that we weren’t in the middle. I had combat systems offline and cruise configured straight away as the Skipper had us cruise up to the opening in the minefield and nose through. We paused to synch operations with the Phoenix and then plunged through a narrow gap between an oncoming fleet and a Kralien-occupied space station to slouch through as much nebula as possible heading to the nearest SR. Given we had orders not to engage and it was obvious some of the fleets were headed right past some of the Sensor Relay buoys, I cranked the warp drive to minimize flight time and then shut down while we loitered at the buoy for the techs to get aboard and disassemble it.
That first one was uneventful. The next one was too though enemy vessels were a lot closer. Heading for the third one we encountered enemy vessels who engaged but Phoenix took their attention off us after they must have already dealt with at least one other SR. Energy usage high and I was tweaking every system to reduce power draw. Helm afterwards pointed out that I left him without responsive manoeuvre a couple of times. Noted and promised to do better.
Then came the general recall and we threaded the needle at highly boosted warp through the middle of the sector like a speed-skater slaloming through cones. We cut it too fine close to the end of an almost perfect run. Not only did we catch attention and a target lock but I felt the whole ship judder as a tractor beam latched on to us. Helm and Weapons were on it like a pair of dancers. I was frantically routing power first to manoeuvre as we spun hard about in a High Energy Turn and then heating Primary Beams ’til they glowed crimson as we beat desperately at the bully who had clothes-lined us. The whole thing was probably over in twenty seconds and we were away and running free for that beautiful gap in the minefield.
The rest was just a flat out race with Phoenix to return to base. There is nothing like that high keening vibration the Hunter makes when all systems are minimised except the warp engines. She’s a fine little sprinter.
But that wasn’t the only time that day that I had to redline the Hunter’s warp core.
We only had a brief stand down while ONI absorbed our sensor logs, the Skipper attended debrief and we were called for briefing. I managed to change my shirt and wash my face. I looked longingly at my little espresso maker but knew I did not have even those few minutes. I recalled build 2287, tweaked a couple of parameter values with a softly breathed imprecation and launched 2288 into the replicator. You know, that may be what got me through the next mission. The bitterness was gone, the body was full, robust and earthy, the edge had just a mild hint of acid and there wasn’t a single part of the flavour profile missing. The angelic replicator even frothed the perfect crema.
The next mission frankly is a blur. Large enemy fleets were everywhere. Our helmsman was taken sick and the XO jumped in to helm. My guess is he is used to larger ships. The Hunter tended to overrun his expectations. Often we were having to dash about at highly boosted warp in order to be in the right place at the right time. Towards the end of the shift I was learning to taper off the energy boost to help avoid overruns. We picked off stragglers and we ran interference to slow down enemy formations by taking Tango and diverting them. We ran sensor sweeps around the sector several times. We hared over to pick up life-pods from a TSN wreck, whose name I am ashamed to admit I do not remember. I do remember the Raven got hit so hard she was offline for a minute and we thought she had gone down. We were Johnny-on-the-Spot when the singularities started opening and the little Caltron buggers came barreling out. And no-one ever remembers the names of the Damage Control team casualties. I see them diving into the smoking, twisted wreckage in the corridors and I tally the count as we head to the stations for repair, refit, fresh ordnance, energy top up and fresh new faces replenishing the DCTs – one for every shiny black coffin consigned to the station chaplain.
I know there was one time I had us at max boost and then got distracted by a firefight until I realized the warp engines were taking damage from the overload. I think that’s when I picked up the blisters on my hands and the smoke damage to my tunic.
My throat was raw and my eyes sore when we finally stood down after a terse debrief. Maybe it was just the smoke in my eyes when Hunter and Phoenix were recognized for the long run they had made that day.
That’s one tunic I won’t be seeing again. Let me finish this last sip of coffee and hit the replicator up for a fresh tunic. Ah, here it comes. Wait, it still has ”Acting” Ensign insignia? Well, I suppose there are other priorities today. Let me check the replicator update log. No changes since the beginning of last shift.
Wait a minute. The replicator. Build 2288! It was perfect. If I get that published I could be a celebrity. What were those tweaks I made?
”Replicator, recall Matsiyan, Espresso, 2288.”
What do you mean ”Version unknown”? Replicator, read final log entry.”
”Replicator Unit, Engineering, TSN Hunter, latest entry: System rollback restore point initiated by Damage Control automation due to collateral damage from warp core overheating event.”
End personal log.