Launching a Star
As the last note of the bosun’s call ended, the duty officer, Ensign Ska, barked, “Captain on deck!”
Commander Taeyeon Sea came to attention and with the rest of the crew, bowed. Returning the bow, Captain Trinna Zin said, “Thank you, as you were.” She walked up to Taeyeon, who was standing in front of the assembled crew. “The crew looks sharp, Number One,” the Captain asked, “are they ready?”
Taeyeon gave a small respectful bow and replied “Yes, ma’am, not only are they ready, but they are eager to set sail.”
“Good, good. Prepare to leave the station and have senior officers meet me in the ready room” said the Captain.
Taeyeon turned to the crew and gave the orders “Make ready to get underway. Senior officers to the ready room.”
The assembled crew members broke ranks and hurried to begin preparations – the first order of business, of course was to change out of dress uniforms and into vac suits. While one could travel space in a well pressurized cabin wearing a robe and slippers, such was not the case on a military ship stripped of such luxuries, even one as new and advanced as the Silent Star.
“Walk with me, Number One,” said Captain Zin. Captain Zin, known throughout the fleet as the “Ophelian Fox” for her craftiness, had commanded one of the most decorated frigates in the fleet. She was a legend, yet she had stepped down to take command of a destroyer. She was probably in her early fifties, there were streaks of silver in her hair and small lines around her almond shaped eyes.
“Yes, ma’am” replied Taeyeon.
“Have you received any complaints?” the Captain asked.
“None that have reached my ears, Captain. As you know, the crew is an experienced crew drawn from various ships and have adapted well to the new ship” answered Taeyeon.
“Good,” said Captain Zin. “I’ve received a few, but not from the crew.”
“Complaints, ma’am?” Taeyeon asked.
“Complaints and concerns, Number One. It seems there are those in fleet command who have issue with the number of blues in the crew. Some say there are too many and some say there should be none on our newest destroyer.” The Captain paused in the passageway outside of the ready room and asked, “What say you, Commander Sea?”
“I think it is nonsense, Captain. The color of a Xeog’s skin should not matter as long as she is capable of the job whether blue or green. Besides, I think their ability to think outside of the box would be valuable” said Taeyeon.
“I’m glad to hear that, Number One, especially since the blues are under your direct command” said the Captain flashing an impish grin as she paused outside of the ready room. Taeyeon looked puzzled, but before she could ask, the Captain added, “You’ll know more from the briefing. Ready?” Captain Zin nodded toward the ready room’s hatch.
Located between the two hanger decks, the ready room was a small room, it’s primary purpose was to brief away teams and the gunboat crews, but over time the ready room had become a destroyer’s main conference room, the other being the ship’s mess deck when meals weren’t being served. Entering the room, the assembled officers came to attention, that is all but one, the medical officer. Taeyeon did not know the medical officer, she was a last minute replacement. She was an older woman whose hair was completely silver.
“As you were, ladies” said Captain Zin “I am not a big stickler on formalities, we have a long voyage ahead of us and we need to all work as one. Some of us have worked together before and some of you I know only by your records and reputations.” She paused in front of the medical officer, “Doctor Jaylin Pas, I thought you had retired.”
“I had, but as I sat in my rocking chair – “began the doctor.
“You mean barstool, don’t you?” said the Captain, interrupting the doctor. She smiled and added “a barstool in a dive on Hallie Avenue?”
“You should know, the Captain’s name is on the shots drinking trophy,” replied the doctor. “Anyway, there I was enjoying my golden years when I heard fleet command had gone insane and given you a brand new ship to command, so like a moth drawn to flame, here I am.”
“Good, you got my message!” said Captain Zin. She walked to a small podium set on a table and pulled an envelope from inside her coat. “Here are our orders, ladies, and as many of you have suspected, our maiden voyage is not going to be a normal shakedown cruise. Our orders are to join the task force patrolling the Hishen frontier. Once there, we will quietly disappear and move to the third ring, specifically, space controlled by the Gaeans. Our mission is to supply and support covert operations. In fact, our compliment of marines has been replaced by covert operatives – in effect, we are to help our blue skinned sisters go ‘rogue.’ Along the way we will be testing the new stealth technologies of the Silent Star, and if satisfactory – “the Captain paused and looked about the room, “if satisfactory, we will attempt a fly-by of Gaea Prime itself.”
The Chief Engineer, Commander Vera Jan, gave a low whistle. There were excited murmurs, Lt. Ing, the environmental officer asked “Captain, isn’t this risky for a maiden voyage?”
Captain Zin replied “I understand your concerns, and our mission is an ambitious one. However, we all know that space travel itself is an exercise in risk management. We must be vigilant and meticulous each step forward. With that in mind, let’s get underway.”
It didn’t take long for Taeyeon to change into her vac suit and make her way onto the bridge. She put on her helmet. Outside of combat, the helmet wasn’t necessary, many crews throughout the galaxy flew without them, but it was fleet protocol to wear the helmet during acceleration. She strapped herself into her seat and looked to her left while activating her console. The captain was already seated in the command chair. She began the flight checks.
“Status, Number One?” asked Captain Zin.
“All sections online and ready, Captain” Taeyeon replied.
“Cast off” commanded the Captain while making entries on her tablet.
Taeyeon began issuing commands through her console, keeping a close eye on indicators. She responded, “Tethers disconnected and retracting; docking clamps released.” While the Silent Star had been docked, it enjoyed the station’s gravity. Once undocked, the ship entered freefall with its accompanying microgravity. Taeyeon felt queasy for a moment, but continued, “Initiating eight second burn of starboard thrusters.” Seconds after the thrusters had shut off, a green light flashed on her screen. She issued the next command sequence. “Firing rear thrusters for approach to ignition point.”
The Navigator was next to speak, “Captain, thirty seconds to ignition point.”
“Engineering, status” was the Captain’s next command.
As engine indicators came to life on Taeyeon’s console, the various engineering sections began audible reports:
“Primary fusion reactor online.”
“Secondary reactor online.”
“Tertiary collectors online.”
Chief Engineer Vera Jan announced, “Engine ready for burn.”
“Navigation, course?” asked Captain Zin.
“Course plotted and locked” replied the Navigator.
Another light turned green on Taeyeon’s console with an accompanying audible beep. “Captain, we’ve reached ignition point and ready for ignition.”
Captain Zin gave the word “Engage drive.”
Taeyeon was slammed into her seat. Though not as bone jarring as climbing out of a planet’s gravity well, the change in acceleration from starting a fusion drive was not comfortable. Time always seemed relative during acceleration, there were moments where minutes seemed like seconds and tense moments when seconds seemed like hours.
After passing Ophelia’s far moon, the communications officer reported, “Captain, we’ve received word from the Guardian Angel, they have us on scope and ready to monitor stealth mode test.” The Guardian Angel was a large cruiser. The fleet only had a few cruisers and they were used to defend the Xeog home worlds. Ships of that size did not have the stealth capabilities so integral to Xeog fleet doctrine, but they did have rail guns.
“Number One, when will we reach one third gee?” asked Captain Zin.
One third gee was the optimal speed for in-system travel, it was economical on fuel consumption, the gravity was comfortable, and it was ideal for ship-to-ship combat. “We will attain one third gee in four minutes, forty-two seconds” responded Taeyeon.
“Comm, inform the Guardian Angel we will blink when we reach one third gee within five minutes” said the Captain. “Stealth Tech standby for stealth mode.”
Taeyeon could feel the tension on the bridge increase in the anticipation of cloaking the ship from sensor detection. The indicator turned green, Taeyeon announced “One third gee, Captain.”
“Blink, blink, blink!” barked Captain Zin.
The lights dimmed; the ship hummed as energy coursed through its hull. Taeyeon felt horripilation even through her suit, the hair on her skin bristled and the skin pimpled.
The communications officer spoke, “Captain, the Guardian Angel reports we have gone off scope; blink is successful, and they wish us ‘good hunting’ on our outbound journey.”
“Well done, everyone” said Captain Zin, “All reserves and second shift stand down, commence normal operations.” She turned to Taeyeon and said “Get some rest, Number One. We’ll be at one gee when your next shift begins.”
Even with one third gravity, it required effort to move about the ship while it was still accelerating. Taeyeon made her way to the midship crew quarters. Only the captain had private quarters on board a destroyer. The first thing Taeyeon did when she entered her quarters was to remove her helmet. She was exhausted – she decided to leave her suit on and just collapsed into her bed, she didn’t even bother to remove her boots. It was when she turned onto her side that she first noticed her two roommates – they both had blue skin.
Corner of Miscellany
It has been a while since I’ve posted anything. I’ve spent much of the month researching and painting – and going bonkers in isolation. I feel like I’ve taken a crash course in astrophysics to write this part of the story. When I was 10, we all thought we’d all become astronauts and work in space when we grew up. After what I’ve learned about the problems we will face once we do begin traversing our solar system, I’m kind of glad I’m still dirtside.
It’s pride month, so here’s a group that has been pushing the boundaries of sexuality of late:
(75% of the song is in Korean, so turn on the captions for translation)