STAR TREK: U.S.S. COCHRANE

FANTASY PLANET: PART 1

Directed by: Jim Caswell
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Entire story in one text file
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Memo from Starfleet Command

TO: Captain Uriell Starkin
USS Cochrane

FROM: Admiral Kathryn Janeway 

RE: New Assignment

Captain,

Starfleet has recently received a progress report from the USS Nucleus, 
a scientific exploration vessel. They included in their report an 
oddity on Promos VIII in the Claris system involving a previously water-
only class-M planet having a newly formed land mass and a previously 
unreported moon. They were going to investigate further.

This report was issued three weeks ago. No further communication has 
been received from the Nucleus.

I would like the Cochrane to go to Promos VIII and check things out, 
including conformation on their report. See what you can find out.

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Memo from Starfleet Command

TO: Captain Uriell Starkin 
USS Cochrane
Commander David Nganga
USS Cochrane
Boardwalk Manager Calvin Skepti
USS Cochrane

FROM: Admiral Felmar 

RE: New Passenger

Gentlemen,

There has been a new shop owner assigned to your ship. Mr. O'Sanna will 
be arriving on the runabout USS Cavanaugh.  Orders for space, supplies 
and holodeck specifications he will need aboard your "boardwalk" are 
attached to this message.  The rest of his needs have been arranged by 
Admiral Ross and myself.  We have both green-lighted his request to 
board.  Make the man at home.

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Memo from Starfleet Command

TO: Captain Uriell Starkin
USS Cochrane
Commander David Nganga
USS Cochrane
Lt. Commander Bruno Tiny
USS Cochrane
Lt. Commander Biff Argyle
USS Cochrane

FROM: Admiral Het'va Uklik 

RE: Engineer Assignments

Dr. Leah Brahms has completed the selection of her team and is ready 
for Lt. Commander Argyle's arrival. A runabout -- the USS Cavanaugh - 
has been sent to rendezvous with the Cochrane. Argyle will return to 
Earth aboard it. I hope that the transition between he and Lt. 
Commander Tiny has gone smoothly.

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"Captain's Log, Stardate 56044.7

"Our routine surveying has been just that, routine. Starfleet originally wanted us to stay out in the area near Starbase 24 so we could bring the ambassadors back after the conference. However, given the difficulties we faced in getting them there, Starfleet has decided it would be best if the left with other ships. I understand to a point, but am still admittedly disappointed. I do my best though not to be disheartened, as we will move past that. My hope is that the incident will inspire us all to do better and prove any of this ship's naysayers wrong.

"But still we have continued with our original surveying plans. Unofficially, we've also been watching for any more potential Romulan threats, and been close by in case anything did happen. I'm pleased to say that there has been no sign of any unusual Romulan activity, and official channels confirm that at this point, it now looks unlikely that there will be any problems from them. And if something does happen, it is likely the Klingons will be able to detect and deal with it in their own special way. Given our incident and Khitomer's history, they've remained on high alert.

"So for now, we're able to meet a runabout halfway, as we say goodbye to one of our crew."


"It's not that I minded the trip," Biff Argyle said, "I just don't understand it. I could have stayed back on Earth."

"I guess Starfleet wanted a smooth transition." David Nganga walked beside his departing friend, heading for Shuttle Bay 1 of the U.S.S. Cochrane

"Yeah. But the journey back to Earth won't be nearly as interesting as the trip out this far."

"What? You want a Dabo table set up on the Cavanaugh?" Dave teased his friend about the amount of his free time at Mr. Clemmonds' Quark's franchise.

"No. Just a couple of Dabo girls." Biff grinned. "At least if anyone is killed on this trip there won't be nearly as many suspects to sort through."

Commander Nganga just shook his head.

"I'm gonna miss you, buddy. It won't be the same without you." Nganga said.

"I'm gonna miss you... and her," he gestured to the ship in general. "Take good care of her."

"I will."

"And keep an eye Dr. Engineer for me. Remind him that if this patient runs a fever, not to use chicken soup."

Nganga laughed, though Argyle knew, better than almost anyone else aboard, the concern the first officer had about the new Chief Engineer having two such distinct disciplines.


Doctor Jayngo sat at his desk, entering in the last few bits of programming. Things had been rather slow since the ambassador's had left, allowing him enough time to work on his pet project. Now he was ready for the unveiling.

"Doctor Jayngo to Lt. Klaus. Please report to sickbay immediately." The head of security had been avoiding the doctor save for executive meetings since Utopia Planitia. It was clear to the doctor that the human suffered from a rather stereotypical fear of sickbay. Jayngo had seen this type of behavior before, and often attributed it to fears of dealing with one's own mortality, typically exhibited in individuals who risked their lives on a regular basis. It was a completely irrational fear, especially considering the technology available to the Federation; it wasn't like they were dealing with the dark ages of medicine like in the 20th century. Back when they actually would cut into people to fix most problems. Jayngo shuttered at the thought.

Removing the box programmed for replication and maneuvering himself next to the door, Jayngo waited patiently for Klaus to enter. Once he had, the doctor stepped out behind him, blocking the chief of security from the door. Jayngo knew that cornering a security officer was not normally the best of ideas, but he spoke quickly to defuse the situation.

"Mr. Klaus. You have been avoiding your medical exam." Before Klaus could argue, Jayngo pushed forward. "I have an alternative offer for you." Realizing that he had the man's attention, Jayngo moved away from the door and motioned for Klaus to follow him into the middle of sickbay. "Computer. Run Jayngo Klaus Beta Five." In the middle of the room, the holo-emitters lit up and brought to light an exact duplicate of Lt. Christopher Klaus. "Lieutenant. Your perchance for avoiding medical procedures is not overly uncommon, though some fight harder than others. This isn't something new. There are two of you on the ship currently who have this difficulty. The other person is not applicable for this experiment due to ongoing constant medical attention. This attitude has always caused difficulties for the medical profession to do their duty. Not allowing me to do my job would be equivalent to me interfering in an ongoing investigation of yours. It's not fair, but what you see before you will be, I hope, an adequate compromise."

"The hologram before you has been programmed with all of your lifesigns and medical history, as recent as your last teleportation. It has not, however, been programmed with any type of psychological or social profile, both to not offend you and to not qualify it under the Holographic Liberation Legislation. The program has been set to update from transporter databases every time you are teleported by this ship, as well as linked to this." Jayngo held out the box, now opened to show a modified communicator. "This latter part is actually thanks to you and your staff. It was your idea to monitor the ambassador's lifesigns that allowed my to develop this aspect. This hologram will allow me to monitor your health without actually having you come to sickbay for an exam."

"What I propose is a cooperative effort between you and I. In exchange for your permission to test this form of examination, I will now insist on the typical sickbay visits. But, if I do call you to sickbay for an exam, know that it is because I have found something and that it is a medical emergency. My hope is that, if this experiment is successful, this procedure can be adopted by Starfleet Medical as an alternative for people with your condition."

"The question I have for you is, are you willing to do this with me?"

Klaus shifted uncomfortably pondering what the good doctor had just offered. It would still be like someone poking around every cell in his body.....at least it would be virtual cells. Deep down, he knew that there was no getting out of his physical exam and this option was better than being there himself. On the other hand, he didn't like the doctor referring to his distaste as a "condition". Klaus viewed himself as a brave and proud man. How would it be seen by others, especially the Academy types, if he couldn't cut a simple physical? Not to mention his subordinates. No, he would simply have to suck it up, stop acting like a child and do what needed to be done.

Klaus straightened himself and looked the doctor in the eye. "I appreciate your offer, Doctor. The technology is quite intriguing. I would be willing to volunteer to be a test subject so that you might compare actual readings to virtual ones so that you might advance this technology. Now, I believe that I have delayed my physical exam long enough." With that, Lieutenant Klaus lay himself down on the biobed.

It was a strange sensation, to be both pleased and disappointed at the same time. Doctor Jayngo appreciated that he could finally finish his work, but had really hoped to test his theories. Perhaps at another date.

"Wonderful." Picking up a medical tricorder, Jayngo moved over to the side of the biobed. "This will just take a few moments. Computer, disengage the holographic simulation. I will download these readings later into the database to compare the information. And, Lieutenant, thank you for your cooperation."


"The Cavanaugh has just come out of warp... a bit behind schedule," reported the operations officer.

Captain Starkin noticed the slight strain on Norallah Tam's face. Before Starkin even came on board, the Trill had already become good friends with the departing chief engineer. The captain pressed a button on her chair console then looked up. "On screen." Like many captains, Starkin liked to visually see the ships they interact with. After seeing that everything looked completely normal, she said, "Bring us about, Ensign. One quarter impulse."

"Yes ma'am," replied the flight control officer. David Paxton worked the controls, bringing the ship around as ordered.

As the ship moved into position, the turbolift doors opened, and Ensign Xiam walked onto the bridge, even though he wasn't scheduled to work ops at this time.

Starkin saw him, then turned back and said, "Lt. Norallah, would you like to accompany me to the shuttlebay?"

Norallah saw Bak smile as he walked down to her station. Her face momentarily flashed with confusion and surprise, followed by relief and gratitude. "Yes, Captain. Thank you."

It was Nganga's idea. He noticed that she was scheduled to be on duty when Chief Argyle would be leaving, and made arrangements with Ensign Xiam to cover for her. He only needed to know when. ("That's what friends are for..." he sang in reply to the first officer's request.)

The two women left via the turbolift.


O'Sanna stretched his legs and yawned. Settling himself back into his seat, he went back to his PADD. Finishing his project, his eyes wandered to the front of the runabout and rested on the pretty young lieutenant piloting the craft. Sensing his gaze, she casually turned her head and blushed at his smile. Flipping an errant cascade of raven locks behind her ear, the lieutenant cleared her throat and made a discernable effort to turn her attention back to the shuttle controls. Making a note of her reaction, O'Sanna closed his eyes and shook his head. Smiling, he went back to his PADD and entered a logarithm that would allow his holographic creations to simulate blushing. Deciding enough work had been done, O'Sanna decided to dedicate the rest of the trip to more pleasurable pursuits.

Putting away his PADD, O'Sanna made his way to the front of the runabout and seated himself in the empty chair beside the lieutenant.

"You're not permitted to sit there." the lieutenant continued to run her eyes over the controls without making contact with O'Sanna.

"You don't look the type to eject me from the airlock. So, I'll take my chances." O'Sanna responded, his voice taking on a fluid quality he anticipated would bring about a favorable reaction from the lieutenant.

As expected, the lieutenant turned her eyes to him and smiled.

"My seat offered little stimulation, so I thought my prospects for intrigue would dramatically improve by taking in new surroundings. I have to tell you the view is DEFINATELY better." Flashing a stellar smile, O'Sanna continued with the inevitable.

Seeing the lieutenant smile, O'Sanna began closing in. Microscopic sub- dural glands began to emit a species'-specific pheromone. Within seconds, O'Sanna detected the lieutenant's accelerated respiration. His olfactory sensory net detecting the lieutenant's production of it's own pheromones in response to his signal. Observing the increased blood flow to her cheeks and the dilation of her pupils, O'Sanna was aware his programming was on "autopilot" and deactivated his seduction subroutine.

The lieutenant blinked, exhaled and came to her senses aided by the chime of the proximity alert. She adjusted the ship's course and placated the Cochrane hanger chief with apologies.

"Not your fault. Sometimes I forget not to mix business with pleasure." O'Sanna tried to ease the lieutenant's embarrassment.

"Well, whatever happened almost cost me a career. Now, take your seat back there while I salvage what's left of my commission." Noting the slight agitation in the lieutenant's voice, O'Sanna did as asked.

"Shuttle clear for landing. Manual approach, tractors not needed. Bay 1 prepare for arrival." The lieutenant maneuvered the runabout into the docking bay and set the ship gently on the deck without the aid of tractor beams.

O'Sanna gathered his few belongings and made his way to the exit hatch. As he made it to the thresh hold, a hand fell on his shoulder.

"Looks like my career is intact. Now, I'd like to salvage what's left of my social life. Care to come to my rescue?" the lieutenant pushed O'Sanna along out of the runabout, walking beside him so as not to draw attention or keep him from his engagement.

O'Sanna appreciated being flirted with. Understanding the value of repeat business, O'Sanna smiled. "Taking you here in the shuttle bay would be tacky. We should at least have dinner before I come riding to the rescue. I'll find you. Thanks for the hospitality lieutenant." With that, the lieutenant softly purred and went on her way.

Pleased with himself, O'Sanna made his way out of the shuttle bay.


Xavier Falan stood in the hangar bay, fidgeting.

**Why does Skepti always give me the crap jobs?**

He eyes his chronometer, mentally ticking how long he'd already been waiting for the Cavanaugh.

His communicator chirruped.

=^= Where's O'Sanna, Falan? =^=

Falan let out a sigh and answered.

=^= It hasn't arrived yet, Mr. Skepti...=^= Just as he answered, the outer bay doors opened and the USS Cochrane glided in for an unaided landing.

=^= Falan! I asked what was going on down there!=^=

=^= Understood Sir, I'm moving to intercept O'Sanna, now. Falan out.=^=


The doors to Shuttlebay 1 stood open, as Nganga and Argyle stood watching the Cavanaugh pull in.

"Hey Dave, why is Skepti's gopher up here?" Biff asked, nodding towards Falan.

"Probably waiting for the new shopkeeper who's supposed to arrive on the Cavanaugh." the first officer replied. "I'm more interested in why the Cavanaugh's pilot made such a sloppy approach."

"You got me. So another shop's opening? What type? I want to know what I'll be missing." the former chief engineer said.

"I haven't been told yet."

"Need-to-know, huh?"

Nganga nodded.

The pair continued to watch. After the Cavanaugh pulled in, eventually the hatch opened to disgorge its passengers. Nganga noted when a black and red sleeved arm of a female Starfleet stopped the man Nganga had not yet identified as O'Sanna as he came out. Of course he couldn't hear their conversation, but the smile on the stranger's face was enough to convince Nganga to question the pilot about the Cavanaugh's approach.

"Uh-oh," Biff said, seeing Nganga's expression change. "I know that look, Dave. Something hit 'Commander Nganga's' on-switch, right?"

Dave Nganga hadn't realized that his friend could read him that well, "- er- Yes, actually."


"All right, then. It seems our newest possible member of the Guild will not be joining us today after all." Skepti's voice rings with his anger. The shopkeepers were well aware of the Manager's temper. Seeing the other's cringe, Calvin adds. "Let us adjourn, then. I'm sure you'll all want to meet O'Sanna. I would like you all to work on any proposals for the Captain. I hope to catch hi... her... I hope to catch the Captain slightly unaware of our existence and hopefully, we can get your business actually making a profit. Since, we are not exactly in Federation space, there is no reason to continue with the commerce policy of the Federation."

The nods of the various members steeled Calvin's resolve in this matter. Federation policy regarding commerce was a joke amongst non- Federation people and many members as well. The ideals of a commerce- less society were ridiculous at best and quite dangerous on the other spectrum. If nothing else came of this Guild of Merchants... Skepti had his podium and numbers.

**Now, where the hell is Falan with O'Sanna?**


Scanning ahead of him, O'Sanna sees Falan moving towards him. Noticing the lack of uniform or visible rank, O'Sanna deduced Falan was with Boardwalk management.

Shifting his bag to his shoulder, O'Sanna extends his arm and offers his hand. "I am O'Sanna. Pleasure to meet you."

Falan stretched out his hand, "Hello. I am Xavier Falan, Manager's Assistant. I'd like to officially welcome you aboard the USS Cochrane, Mr. O'Sanna."

Mr. Falan is a young human of average size, his hair a dark brown. He seems poised beyond his apparent years and all professional. "If you'll accompany me, I'll show you to your quarters. Then, if you're willing to the Boardwalk?"

O'Sanna took Falan's hand. Noticing Falan's firm grip, O'Sanna made an effort not to overdo his own grip. Considering his android capabilities, O'Sanna had to be mindful not to squeeze Falan's hand into jelly. Releasing his grip, O'Sanna nodded toward the exit.

"My quarters can wait. I've been looking forward to seeing the Boardwalk; my space to be more to the point. If you would lead the way?"

Walking alongside Falan, O'Sanna noticed the pretty lieutenant walking towards who he believed was the ship's second in command. Hoping she didn't get reprimanded to harshly, O'Sanna made a mental note to make it up to her in ways most unique.

Falan nodded, brow furrowed in thought of the enigmatic O'Sanna. "As you wish," he replied simply leading the way from the docking bay to the Boardwalk.

The vista of the Boardwalk spread before them. Falan had taken the elevator with the best view of the Promenade. He smiled broadly, beaming with pride. Glancing surreptitiously at the other man he says as the lift doors opened, "Welcome to the true beauty of the Cochrane, Mr. O'Sanna."

Stepping from the lift he pauses tapping his com. =^= Mr.. Skepti? Falan here. O'Sanna wished to see his Boardwalk location. We are near the Garden Entrance right now. Requesting your orders, Sir.=^=

Skepti's gruff voice was evident over the communicator. =^= Just bring him up, Mr. Falan. =^=


The trip to the shuttlebay was uneventful. Starkin and Norallah along the way briefly discussed how well they did (and didn't) know Chief Argyle. Starkin had seen Argyle's record, but new of his transfer came soon after she herself arrived, so she didn't get much of a chance to know him or get too personally attached to him. Still, he was a good officer, and she respected that, and wanted to wish him well.

The two women approached Nganga and Argyle from behind as the men stood watching and chatting. All Starkin caught was Nganga say something like, "-er- Yes, actually."

"I'm glad we got here before you left, Chief," Starkin said, slightly startling Biff.

Biff whirled to face Starkin and Norallah. Dave turned as well, but in a more controlled fashion. His questions for the pilot could wait.

Biff Argyle was pleased that both the Captain and Norallah had come down to see him off.

He'd only met the Captain a few times and he received his new orders so soon after she had arrived that he hadn't served under her for any real length of time. He was glad she had come down to see him off. "Captain, " he nodded to her.

He then turned to the Trill. "Norallah," he smiled. "Good luck," she replied, and gave the former chief engineer a hug. Norallah, like Argyle, had been one of the first crew members to report. After a new starship has been constructed, there is still a lot for the Operations and Engineering crew to do before the rest of the crew comes aboard. For several months at the Planitia yards Argyle's and Norallah's teams had been working with Nganga.

Nganga, for his part, smiled at the Captain, catching out of the corner of his eye that Falan had indeed intercepted the new arrival.

When Norallah released Biff, he turned back to Starkin. "Captain, it's been..." He paused as words failed him.

Starkin smiled. "It's been good having you -- all too short. You've helped get a good ship on its way, and we're grateful. While we may get along fine, it certainly won't be the same without you." She gave the engineer a hearty handshake. "Dr. Brahms is a lucky scientist to have you, Chief."

Even more choked up, Biff stammered, "I... Thank you, Captain. I'm glad to have served with you."

The runabout pilot looked at her PADD as she approached. If anyone was looking, they'd have seen on her face a look of surprise, followed by disappointment -- like that of someone who just realized she was running late and wouldn't be able to have that dinner date after all. She quickened her pace as she got to the group. "Excuse me, sirs." She looked at the pips and nodded in turn, "Captain. Commander." She hoped none of them noticed her slight slip on the approach. She continued, "Lieutenant Commander... You're Biff Argyle? Good. I'm Lieutenant Floren. I'll be your pilot back. Unfortunately, we're a little pressed for time at the moment. If you could get your things loaded, we need to be on our way as soon as possible."

Argyle inhaled deeply and looked at the others. "That's my cue."

Knowing she didn't know him as well as the David or Tam, Uriell stepped up, gave another handshake and said, "Take care, Chief." She then took a step back, out of the way.

As Norallah and Argyle said their good-byes, Nganga popped into the Runabout.

"Lieutenant?" he said, clearing his throat slightly.

Floren turned, and seeing it was the commander, her face paled. "Yes, sir?"

"You know, duranium really is a remarkable alloy. It can take a lot of punishment." Nganga patted the hull wall.

Floren nodded.

"We narrowly avoided an unscheduled test of just how much it can take, didn't we?"

"Yes, sir." Floren hung her head.

"Be more careful on your way back. Argyle is a good friend of mine." Nganga smiled.

"Yes... sir." Floren looked up slightly.

"And do try to avoid distracted piloting," he pointed to the chronometer on the control panel. "You'll have more time to rest that way when you pick up passengers."

"Yes. Sir, it was..." Floren stammered.

"It was...?"

"Mister O'Sanna, sir. He was just so... friendly."

It took Nganga a moment to realize that this "friendly" individual must be the same person who ignored Biff, Norallah, himself, AND the Captain as he headed out of the hangar with Falan.

"Well, still. Be careful about passengers who are on the make," Nganga smiled.

"Hey!" came Biff's voice from the other side of the hatch. "You don't have to encourage her to shoot me down."

Norallah laughed.

"Fly safe, Lieutenant," Nganga nodded and headed out of the ship.

"Hey, Dave. Until next time?" Biff asked.

"Until next time," Nganga gave his friend a manly hug. "I hope."

"You hope?" Argyle looked incredulously at Nganga.

"A certain well-known admiral has misplaced a ship."

"Not... her?" Biff asked.

"Yep."

"I'll see you later Dave. Norallah." Biff's pace quickened with mock nervousness. "Floren, are we ready to go?" he continued as he got aboard.

David Nganga smiled as the hatch closed. Norallah looked at him quizzically.

"Ask the Captain." is all Nganga would say. They both waved as the runabout backed up towards the force field that kept the atmosphere in the bay.


The broad, grizzled man met them at the top of the Aft Promenade stair. His single eye openly appraising O'Sanna. Skepti nods finally as the other two reach the top of the stair, the Manager merely saying, "O'Sanna," and nodding his head as a way of greeting.

Turning quickly with a mutter, "I'll take it from here, Falan." Skepti begins walking leaving an open mouthed Xavier behind. "So, Mr. O'Sanna, what brings you to our happy starship in the sky? Lucky appointment?"

O'Sanna sized up Mr. Skepti. Taking in his facial characteristics, O'Sanna noted he had encountered Mr. Skepti during his time working the "less-traveled" trade routes. There was no direct contact, but O'Sanna recalled their paths crossing in the past.

Extending his hand to Skepti, O'Sanna smiled. "Apparently there are a few admirals who feel I have particular shall we say, talents, that would benefit the passengers and crew of this stunning utopic marvel. Given the ship's mandate, my talents would enhance the enjoyment to be found aboard this flagship of intergalactic diplomacy."

Reaching into his bag, O'Sanna handed Skepti his PADD. "I have made a few modifications to the specifications I sent earlier. I trust your chief engineer won't be too troubled to complete them prior to my opening shop. I can assist if it won't breach protocol."

Closing his bag, O'Sanna finally caught glimpse of the vast expanse of life before him. The Boardwalk was an impressive engineering feat. Starfleet invested a lot of resources into refitting this Galaxy Class. O'Sanna hoped to do his part to make sure the gamble paid off. Given the unusual nature of his being on the ship, he didn't want the admiralty's trust in him to be misplaced.

Nodding to an admiring female civilian, O'Sanna waited for a cue from Skepti that his request was acknowledged.

Eyeing the right hand O'Sanna offered, Skepti frowned a bit and offered his left. His right arm he swept back behind his torso as if too keep it hidden. "I don't find myself thinking overmuch on what Admirals feel, Mr. O'Sanna. I was told to welcome you and I have."

The brow over his patched eye arches slightly. "Diplomacy, as always, seems to have different definitions depending on the relationship and particular perspective of the individual. A difficult philosophy to impress upon the unwary." Here the grizzled man lapses into silence, silently accepting the PADD from O'Sanna.

Finally, interminably later, Skepti merely nods, "I don't hold much with protocol, Mr. O'Sanna, but, know this. If you're needed to properly fulfill your needs on the Boardwalk, you'll certainly be notified." Turning to go, Calvin pauses, "I expect Mr. Falan will be visiting soon to inform you on anything you might need to know or answer your questions. Good day, Mr. O'Sanna."

O'Sanna watched the man turn abruptly and exit the Boardwalk. "Not much for ceremony." he mused to himself. Knowing he had a few hours before his suite would be ready, O'Sanna occupied himself by taking in the sights and sounds of the Boardwalk.


After the runabout left, the trio of Starfleet officers started walking down the hallway to return to the bridge.

"I assume you know of our latest assignment, Commander?" asked the Captain.

"Yes ma'am." David looked towards Norallah.

Talking the slight cue, "Captain, has something happened to a ship?"

Starkin smiled slightly at the officers curiosity. "We're not sure. We're going to be looking for the USS Nucleus -- it seems to be missing." ::Not too surprising, considering who...::

They reached the turbolift doors. Starkin continued, "Lieutenant, would you please head up to the bridge and make sure the Cavanaugh is well on its way and that everything we need to do here is taken care of? The commander and I will be there shortly, and then we'll be on our way."

Norallah was still a little down on Argyle's leaving, so her disappointment at being cut out of the conversation came through. But she recovered, paused a second and nodded, "Yes ma'am."

"Thank you." Nganga and Starkin watched Norallah enter the lift, and the doors closed. They then continued to walk down the hall.

Seeing no other subordinates in the hallway, she picked up from before, "So I take it you also noticed which admiral happened to be giving us our latest assignment?"

"Ahh. Yes. Yes I did notice. Permission to speak frankly?"

Starkin had a bemused smile as she arched her eyebrows upward. She mischievously considered denying permission, forcing him to say what he wanted within the correct context of protocol. But since she wasn't in the mood to speak as such herself, she let that idea go. "Go ahead."

"I was hoping that she was promoted to the Admiralty solely for the purpose of putting her where she couldn't do any more harm," Nganga said. "I'm sorry to learn I was wrong."

"Why? Just because she managed to loose ANOTHER ship?"

"Exactly. And now she can do it from behind a desk and not actually be aboard."

"And now we have the opportunity to be next on her list." Starkin gave a slight shutter. "I hope Biff left with our subspace transponders and relays in working order." They stopped in front of another set of turbolift doors. "Hmm... perhaps we should have Tiny double check those, just to be sure."

"Probably a good idea, Captain." Nganga agreed. "Do we know anything about where this ship went missing? Is it at least in this Quadrant?"

Starkin shrugged. "Right now I only know what Janeway's memo said -- to look in the Claris system. Since she wasn't the captain of the Nucleus, I'm kind of assuming and hoping that what happened to Voyager was the exception, and that this missing ship remained in the quadrant." The turbolift doors opened. "I am worried about them, though."

Nganga waited a half step, allowing the Captain to enter the Turbolift first. "I'm worried about them too. To be honest, Captain, I feel guilty about thinking of one of our admirals as incompetent. But I just can't ignore the rumours of her shattering the Prime Directive dozens of times over, or her bringing back someone who could easily be a Borg spy."

"Bridge." The lights in the turbolift walls started moving to the side. "Now, now... Her reports assured Starfleet that there was no possible way that could be true. Who are we to doubt her? After all, we Starfleet captains are ALWAYS infallible."

"Oh that's right. I forgot," he said sarcastically.

She gave him a slight smile. "I wouldn't worry about your feeling towards our admiral - if the comm badge fits..." She sighed. "Nevertheless, she is our superior, so we'll go where she tells us.. and hope that our judgement can counterbalance any lapses in hers."

"Not 'superior', she just outranks us," Nganga said. "Of course, you are right. We'll do our best in any event."

Nganga then stood quietly, having said all he had to say about Admiral Janeway. He listened and made a mental note of the lifts' performance as it went. It was still within operating parameters, though it had dropped off peak faster than he expected. It was probably because of the two heavyworlders in the crew. Ironically, one of them was the new Chief Engineer.

After a brief lull, Starkin finally added with a smile, "Well look at the bright side, Dave. If we're operating under orders from Admiral Janeway, maybe we won't have to worry about following that pesky Prime Directive." Nganga returned the smile and the turbolift stopped. With a slight swish, the doors opened and the officers walked onto the bridge, back to business.

"What is the status of the Cavanaugh?" Starkin asked as she walked towards the captain's chair.

Ensign Bak was still at the ops station, though Norallah was standing nearby, looking at the viewscreen of the nacelled ship flying away. Xiam replied, "The runabout reported that all systems check out and they're set to go. They're about to go to warp."

Most of the eyes on the bridge turned towards the screen and saw the small ship quickly jump into warp.

Nganga paused for a bit, staring at the now empty starfield. After a slight nod, he sat down in his seat. "Bridge to engineering," he said in his deep voice. "Run a full diagnostic on our subspace transponders and long range communications systems. I want to make sure they're all working right."

=^= Yes sir. =^=

The Captain addressed the conn, "Ensign Paxton, lay in a course for Promos VIII, in the Claris system."

D.J. worked the controls for a moment or two, then replied, "Course is set."

"Thank you, Ensign. Warp six. Engage."

From the outside, the Cochrane appeared to momentarily stretch, zipping into a flash of light as it went to warp speed.

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