Title: Sailors & Explorers
Written: April 2020
Logan Kee walked into his courtroom with a cup of coffee in one hand and took a quick sip before he noticed someone was already waiting for him.
"Logan," said the visitor. "It has been a very long time, how are you?"
"Fine, I suppose," said Logan. His visitor was Lieutenant Commander Rachel Shivan, a prosecutor from Starfleet's JAG Corps. They had briefly worked together a long time ago when Rachel was a civilian. They hadn't really kept in touch.
"Look, I don't have much time," said Commander Shivan. "I need to pay a visit to three others and then go offworld. You're being drafted into Starfleet. Here are your orders."
The commander gave Logan an InfoPadd and he scrolled through the information.
"I don't understand," said Logan. "I'm not qualified for this."
"You've been to space," said Shivan.
"Uh, yea, for three whole weeks. But it was just a pleasure cruise with my family."
"That's more experience than 99% of the people on this planet," said Shivan. Logan lived on an "outer planet" settlement of the Federation. It wasn't necessarily a poor planet; it had its share of natural resources. However, the planet's inhabitants didn't feel a need to go offworld much. The entire planet only had one spaceport.
Shivan also noted that when Logan was a young teenager, he was a space scout. He learned safety protocols, passed a written exam, and even participated in a day cruise around his planet's moon. Having taken the wheel of the vessel for at least 45 minutes, he earned himself the apprentice space mariner's merit badge.
"I've never operated a spaceship in my adult life. And you want me to…. What? Command a starcruiser? Are you insane?"
"You're a civil servant. You've sworn allegiance to the Federation. I don't need much more. Admiral Clancy is scrounging up as many potential candidates as possible who have passed Federation background checks and security screenings. Not many live here so far from Earth in this distant and remote region. Anyway, these new state-of-the-art ZhengHe-class starships practically run themselves. Just follow the orders from the fleet captain."
"You realize starship captain is about six paygrades above where I am right now?" said Logan. "I'm the civilian equivalent of something between a Starfleet ensign and a chief petty officer." Logan Kee had only been promoted to senior bailiff less than a year ago. He enjoyed his relatively quiet life of calling the court to order whenever the judge arrived, swearing in witnesses, and asking/telling attorneys to keep calm whenever they got out of hand. Now, he's a soon-to-be starship captain. What a world.
"If it makes you feel any better, you're only being appointed to the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade," said Shivan. "I had to keep you under my chain of command, you know?"
Shivan gave Logan a smile as she exited his courtroom.
"I'll see you in two hours at the rocket port."
Logan nodded and then reviewed his orders more carefully.
Arriving in Terminal C of the Tycho Brahe Interstellar Rocket Port, Logan was surprised to bump into another familiar face. Dr. Blair Olajuwon had been a juror who reported for jury duty at his courthouse several months ago. He and the trial attorneys had addressed her as "Ms. Olajuwon" when she was being interviewed about her background. He found her to be a friendly person. Later in the day, one of Logan's junior bailiffs pulled him aside and quietly relayed a message that she would prefer it if the attorneys addressed her by her title "doctor" as opposed to "ms." Logan was happy to do so, though he knew the request was the basis for some light mockery by the attorneys when they later role-played a scene from an ancient movie when military officer who was a witness during a murder trial insisted he be addressed by his rank "colonel," and added "I believe I've earned it."
"Dr. Olajuwon," said Logan. "Pleasure to see you again."
The two of them shook hands.
"Please, call me Blair," said the doctor, to Logan's surprise.
"Are you being drafted into Starfleet as well?" asked Logan.
"Actually, I've been in the Starfleet reserves for a few years now," said Blair. "They put me through medical school."
"I see," said Logan. "Very cool."
They were soon met by Commander Shivan.
"You're both out of uniform," she said teasingly. She tossed Blair a Starfleet uniform with a blue shoulder to signify she was a medical officer. Logan's had a yellow shoulder, which classified him as belonging to a department somewhere within operations.
"We are going to muster at Deep Space Twelve. From there, we take our temporary assignments. Dr. Olajuwon, you are going to take charge of the team of medical holograms in the treatment facilities on board the Federation hospitalship U.S.S. Johns Hopkins. We do not anticipate battlefield casualties, but the ship is being sent with the fleet just in case."
Blair nodded to acknowledge her duty assignment.
"Mr. Kee, you will take command of the U.S.S. Vasco da Gama. It's one of the top-of-the-line ships that have newly come out of skydock. There will be at least a hundred of them in the sector, waiting to be assigned captains."
Logan was shocked. A hundred starships just sitting around, waiting for captains. What was happening? No fleet like this had been mobilized since the Dominion War ended decades ago. Shivan further explained that the hundred ship fleet was going to be split into two wings, with three squadrons each. Shivan was in charge of one of those squadrons. She would lead it from the U.S.S. Francis Drake. Logan's ship would be under her command.
The lead ship of the entire fleet would be the U.S.S. Zheng He. Zheng He was a 15th century admiral from the ancient Earth nation of China. As a weird coincidence, Logan was a descendant of one of the ancient admiral's lieutenants. Possibly as some kind of inside joke by someone in Starfleet Command, Zheng He's fleet was alternately nicknamed the "treasure fleet" or the "star fleet." Logan was amused when that little factoid came to mind.
En route to Deep Space Twelve, Blair and Logan changed into their uniforms. Logan noticed that Blair outranked him, as she was a full lieutenant. He playfully addressed her as "ma'am," but she would have none of it. Logan couldn't believe that this was the same person who had insisted that the trial attorneys address her as doctor.
In the few hours that it took for the high-speed transport shuttle to reach D.S. 12, Logan intently studied the specifications of his ship. Like many recently constructed starships, the command center came with a basic suite of emergency holographic helpers installed. There could be as many as six different specialties or helpers, but the initial phase created three. The vast majority of the times, these holographic helpers were unnecessary. From time to time, an officer in charge of the night shift on a small or medium sized ship might activate a holographic navigator or engineer.
However, due to the extreme shortage of Starfleet officers to man the fleet, Admiral Clancy strongly encouraged each newly appointed captain to activate the suite of support officers. When the new captains board their ships, a holoscanner would make a 3D image of the captain and then make four duplicates, perhaps with slightly altered facial features. Logan wasn't sure he wanted this. He almost preferred to be alone on the ship. Why couldn't he just give commands to the ship's computer? And talking to four copies of himself? The thought kind of disturbed him.
"At the very least, you'd need physical hands to heal you if you get injured in battle," noted Blair.
Logan agreed. He'd need an emergency medic hologram just in case.
"I'll model her after you," said Logan.
Blair smiled for a 3D photo which Logan took of her with his handheld mini-PADD.
"You might also need an engineer in case things start to fall apart around you," said Shivan.
"Okay, okay," said Logan, with his hands held up as a sign of resignation. "But I'm 99% sure I don't need a hologram at helm or tactical."
"Are you trained for those?" teased Shivan. "I thought you weren't"
"For crying out loud, I'll just give voice commands to ship's computer. It would be faster that way. Cut out the middle man of giving voice commands to the hologram and then having the hologram input the commands."
"You realize, the emergency holographic support officers exist not just to carry out your commands, but to actually suggest courses of action to you when you yourself aren't sure what to do," said Shivan.
"Couldn't the ship's computer just do that directly?" asked Logan.
Shivan shrugged. "I dunno. Maybe most people prefer to interact with the holograms."
"So…. you're going to have four versions of yourself on the bridge of the Drake?" asked Logan.
"Hmmmm….. now that you mention it, maybe I'll just have four versions of you. I like the thought of bossing you around," said Shivan.
"Maybe I should return the favor and model my bridge officers after you, Commander," said Logan.
"You wouldn't dare," said Shivan.
Logan was happy that he and Shivan got along so well. They did get along several years ago, but they drifted apart easily after she entered Starfleet. Distance sometimes does that.
After studying his ship in detail, Logan turned to the info-block which contained what scant details he was allowed to have on his upcoming mission.
"Old Man Picard," said Logan to himself. He was actually a little impressed that the ninety-two year old was still steaming full speed ahead. The mission parameters mentioned that the fleet would be assisting Picard in some way. Unfortunately, there were no additional details as to exactly what Picard was doing.
"Do you know him?" asked Blair. "I've never heard of him before today."
"I think the first time I heard his name was around a few weeks ago?" said Logan. "Weird coincidence, I guess. He was in the newsfeeds. Maybe something about him rebelling against Starfleet when he was an admiral. He was apparently a bit of a legend when he commanded the U.S.S. Enterprise. One of the galaxy classes you can see in the museums. This was maybe thirty years ago? But then he had some kind of falling out with Starfleet Command."
Logan was tempted to access Picard's bio but decided against it. He didn't want to be biased by anything he read.
"Wait a minute…" said Blair. "I think I kind of remember him now. From a case study during medical school. His ship, the Enterprise, had been hit by some sort of weird virus while he and his android lieutenant were away. They return to the ship and find that the members of the crew had reverse evolved into earlier evolutionary lifeforms because of a cellular virus that altered their genes."
Blair appeared pretty excited. Logan was curious about the story. It sounded almost more entertaining than a typical fiction novel.
"Eventually, the captain and his android officer developed an antidote," said Blair.
Logan researched the incident and was fascinated. It appeared that Picard's first officer reverse evolved into some type of Neanderthal. The ship's counselor developed gills and one of the ship's junior engineering staff reverted to some type of arachnid-human hybrid. There weren't any pictures in the file, but Logan tried to imagine what these creatures looked like. He pictured the engineer as something resembling the comic book superhero Spider-Man, but he knew that was almost certainly not the case.
Logan scanned the room to familiarize himself with his new surroundings. He had never set foot on the bridge of a starship before. He took a quick glance at the center chair and then sat down. It was fairly comfortable.
"Where would you like me to sit?" asked Blair.
"Where would a medical officer normally sit?" asked Logan.
"Medical officers don't usually take a post on the bridge," said Blair. "In my previous training, I've usually taken the sensors station."
"Well…. That sounds good to me," said Logan.
Blair went off to the rear of the bridge and cheerily took a seat facing one of the consoles. After she activated her screen, she turned to face the front viewscreen of the bridge.
Logan tapped a few commands on the small control pad next to his captain's chair. Three holograms materialized, all in roughly the same image as Logan. They were all his same height and dressed in the same uniform he was in. Though, he could easily tell them apart. His second-in-command was bald. His helm officer had hair, but also a beard. His tactical officer had his same hair but had blue skin. Logan was taken aback a little bit.
The helmsman took a seat in front of Logan while the weapons officer stood by his station behind and to the left of the captain's chair. Logan's bald first officer stood behind him to his right.
"The flagship has signaled," said the helm officer. "The Fleet is going to jump in ten seconds. They've transmitted the course and destination."
"Very well," said Logan. "Sync us with the fleet."
"Sync us with the fleet, aye," said the helm officer.
Logan was now feeling unnerved not only with the appearance of his bridge officers, but by the fact that they seemed to sound like him too. He considered changing their voices, but Logan went in another direction. After the ship jumped to warp, Logan spent a minute punching in commands. The holograms disappeared and reappeared two seconds later, with different avatars. His second-in-command was now a young beardless William T. Riker, from his first days on the USS Enterprise. The only difference was that this hologram had the rank of ensign on his retro all-red uniform. His helm officer was a young Tom Cruise, a movie actor from the 20th century who played an American navy fighter pilot in the ancient movie "Top Gun." It was one of his favorite vintage movies as a child. After some thinking, Logan eliminated the weapons officer and decided to give his first officer the additional duties of tactical advisor. The weapons controls were shifted to the helm console. Logan figured that Tom could fly and shoot at the same time.
"Engines have failed, we've dropped out of warp," said Tom.
The ship immediately decelerated.
"Explain," said Logan.
"I… don't know," said Tom, with his fingers flying across the console in front of him.
Logan tapped a few commands to activate his emergency engineering hologram. It materialized somewhere in the ship's engine room. Logan presumed this particular hologram also looked somewhat like him, with a small tweak in appearance.
"Engine room, report," said Logan.
"Engines are offline for the next five minutes. Switching to auxiliary backups," said a voice through the intercom which sounded exactly like Logan's.
Logan sighed. After a few eventless minutes of standing still, the lighting on the bridge dimmed and red lights started flashing.
"We've got company!" said a panicked Dr. Blair Olajuwon.
"On screen!" said Logan.
The front viewscreen now showed three enemy vessels decloaking. They were… Klingon?
"Their weapons are powered and we're being painted," reported Blair. Being painted meant that the enemy weapons systems were attempting to get a lock.
"Evasive maneuvers, now!" said Logan.
The ship lurched a tiny bit as the maneuvering thrusters fired up.
"X.O., tactical assessment," said Logan.
"We're outgunned, sir," said Logan's second-in-command.
"Can we outrun?" asked Logan. He cringed immediately after asking that. His various Terran ancestors would haunt him forever if he ran from a fight. But… sometimes running was the proper thing to do.
"Warp engines still offline, the best I can do is one-fourth impulse," said Tom.
"Weapons?" asked Logan.
"Shields are up. Pulse phasers are down. We only have enough auxiliary power to either power some phaser banks or the impulse engines. Can't do both," reported Tom.
"Divert all available power to the engines. Let's put as much distance between us and them as possible," said Logan.
The ship started to speed away but then another unforeseen issue popped up.
"We're getting a distress signal," said Blair.
"What?" asked Logan.
"I've got a civilian freighter. Their engines are down. Life support failing. Looks like there are…. Five people on board. They're requesting assistance," said Blair.
"Where the hell are they?" asked a frustrated Logan.
"The stellar radiation in the system messed with our sensors," said Blair. "Transmitting location to your screen."
Logan looked down at his screen and saw a nav chart with several icons. If he were to attempt a rescue, it would cost him maybe ten or twenty seconds from his escape.
"Helm, alter course. Bring us within transporter range of the freighter," said Logan.
"Altering course, aye," said Tom.
Logan tapped a few more commands and yet another holographic helper materialized somewhere on his ship.
"Tell me when you acquire their biosigns!" shouted Logan.
"I'll need you to drop shields," said the transporter chief hologram, who also sounded like Logan.
"Ahhh!" said an exasperated Logan. He forgot about the shields.
"We're in range," said holo-Riker. "Dropping shields."
"I've got them!" said the transporter chief.
"Raising shields," said holo-Riker.
"Enemy ships are gaining," said Tom.
"Engine room!" screamed Logan, as if his hair were on fire.
"I can't give you any more than one-third impulse!"
The ship shook.
"We're hit! We're hit!" said Tom.
"Engines are down. We're dead in space," said holo-Riker.
"Give me shields to maximum!" said Logan.
"Shields already to max," said holo-Riker.
"Where the hell is the rest of the fleet!?" said an annoyed Logan. He was trying his best to stay calm. He wondered whether his sister ships even noticed he was missing.
The ship shook a few more times. All three enemy vessels had now caught up and were firing.
"Return fire, at will," said Logan.
Tom returned fire as much as he could, but the phasers were still down. He launched two torpedoes, one hit and one missed. The ship shook a few more times.
"We've got hull breaches, multiple decks," said Blair.
Logan stood there, in front of his captain's chair, wondering how this could've happened.
"Abandon ship, captain?" asked Blair.
Logan hesitated, but eventually nodded. He was defeated.
"Computer, end simulation," said Blair with a wide grin on her face.
Logan and Blair stood in the middle of a holosuite on Deep Space Twelve.
'What are you smiling about?" asked a sad Logan.
Blair approached him and put her arm around him.
"Poor baby," she said mockingly. "Relax, everyone fails this stupid sim."
Logan looked at her with a quizzical facial expression.
"Yea, they put all the cadets through a version of this. It's a no-win. It's supposed to toughen you up or something. We all failed it," said Blair.
"How could anyone in their right mind keep me in command of the da Gama after this fiasco?" wondered Logan.
Commander Shivan had also been watching Logan go through the sim, albeit watching in the shadows instead of taking part like Blair did. After the sim, she also tried to reassure Logan.
"First of all, nobody from Starfleet knows you just went through the sim, so don't worry about it. And second of all, all you have to do is follow the lead ship. I'm sure you'll be fine," said Shivan, with a wink.
Logan seemed satisfied enough with that answer.
"By the way," said Shivan. "You seem pretty competent in programming your emergency bridge officers for someone who never had any Starfleet training. I thought you said you don't have any of those skillsets."
"Oh," said Logan. "I only changed their outward appearances. Their skillsets were already programmed in. I wouldn't have been able to program them from scratch."
"I see," said Shivan. "Well, if we have any time before we launch, I suggest you skim over some manuals and pick up some rudimentary skills to operate your ship. Could come in handy."
The three of them walked out of the holosuite and prepared for their mission briefing.
"Attention on deck!"
A few dozen Starfleet officers snapped to attention and faced forward. The group had gathered in one of DS Twelve's cavernous cargo bays. Most of them were humans, but there were two Vulcans, one Andorian and one Bajoran in the mix. The commanding officer of Deep Space Twelve was a young looking human lieutenant commander. In fact, he was probably younger than Logan. Logan didn't mind.
"As you were," said Lieutenant Commander Wendell Peppers. He was the station's commanding officer and would be the wing commander for half of the fleet.
"Good afternoon everyone," he said.
"Good afternoon," came a unified response from all the officers present.
"First, I want to say welcome to Deep Space Twelve. While you all will be spending very little time here before we all depart, I hope every one of you enjoys your brief stay here. Get to know your fellow captains and perhaps grab a quick meal or iced coffee together before we head off."
Peppers also played a short video message from Admiral Kristen Clancy, the top uniformed commander of Starfleet. She thanked the officers for their efforts and their willingness to deploy on such short notice.
Soon, one of Peppers' lieutenants whispered something into his ear.
Peppers straightened up a little bit.
"Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you the commanding officer of our provisional task force: Captain William T. Riker."
Logan was a little surprised as he watched Captain Riker make his way to the front of the group. He made a note to himself to change his XO's avatar image as soon as possible, so as to not accidentally offend the real Riker.
"Ladies and gentlemen," said Riker as he faced the large group. "It fills me with great pride that you all have answered the call from Starfleet Command to join me on this critical mission. Some of you may know me as the former commanding officer of the U.S.S. Titan. For this mission, I will be commanding this fleet from the U.S.S. Zheng He. Each of you will soon be taking command of one of the ships in my fleet. I want you to know that I have full confidence in each and every one of you. Many of you, or actually, most of you, have never commanded a ship or even taken a night shift as a bridge officer in charge. That's okay. There's a first time for everything. You will all have great support from my tactical coordination team on board the Zheng He and also your squadron leaders and wing commanders. I also want you to know that I have great confidence in your abilities to carry out this mission. Our state-of-the-art starships are capable of operating with very minimal manning. Now, I understand that on almost all of these ships, you will be alone. For this particular mission, that should be okay. Just follow my lead. My officers will be giving very clear instructions on exactly what to do."
Riker took a breath and paced a few steps.
"I also want you to know that I've personally reviewed all of your personnel records, even if only for a minute. Some of you are active Starfleet, especially the officers normally stationed here on D.S. Twelve. Most of you are being pulled from the Starfleet Reserves, a handful from the Starfleet Regional Guard, and another handful from Federation local uniformed agencies. I can tell you that you all are the type of officers I am looking for. Don't think that I am basically grabbing anyone I bump into on the streets and throwing them into a captain's chair. You are all capable, and most importantly, you all have the personality profiles that will lead you to success."
One of the lieutenant commanders raised his hand.
"Sir, why are there only fifty of us," he said, with some concern in his voice. "Is only half the fleet being mobilized?"
"Don't worry, the remaining fifty starships of the fleet will be tied directly to my ship's navigations console. They'll fly together with us."
"Then why are we even needed? I thought the ships couldn't be operated without a human in command," asked one of the lieutenants.
"Well, that's true to some extent. Starfleet protocols have stayed in place requiring all offensive weapons to remain in safety mode unless a live person is in command. This means that the fifty ships under remote piloting and manned by holographic crewmembers can arrive on site with us in formation and even raise shields when remotely commanded, but will not be able to fire phasers or quantum torpedoes."
"Do you anticipate we'll need weapons?" asked another lieutenant. "Will we be going into battle?"
"Hopefully not," said Riker. "But there is a possibility."
There was a little bit of hushed whispering amongst the officers in the cargo bay. Most of them had anticipated the possibility, though some may have hoped this was some type of wide-scale emergency evacuation. The brief mention of retired Admiral Jean-Luc Picard had suggested to some of the officers who knew of him that perhaps this was another mission similar to his last mission of attempting to relocate everyone from Romulus. But now it was clear, the fleet was heading into danger.
"It's nothing we can't handle," said a confident Riker.
"But we'll effectively be at half strength if a battle erupts," said the initial lieutenant commander.
"Well, the Romulans won't know that," said Riker. Part of him was hoping he could merely bluff the Romulan forces into backing down. Riker had a reputation for being a strong poker player.
"Which brings me to my next topic: it is likely we will be running into a fleet of dozens of Romulan warships. More disturbing: Starfleet Intel recently unmasked the head of Starfleet Security Services as a double agent for the Romulan Tal Shiar."
There was more hushed whispering throughout the group.
"Commodore Oh, who everyone thought was a Vulcan, is actually half-Vulcan and half-Romulan."
During a preliminary screening of all the candidates to join Riker's fleet, one of the filters had been set to exclude anyone who had served in Starfleet Security Services or might've otherwise been temporarily assigned to Commodore Oh. Riker just didn't want any hesitations due to mixed loyalties.
"Are we at war with the Romulans again?" asked one of the lieutenant commanders.
"No," said Riker. "I understand that the revelation about Oh may be distressing, but we have been reassured by the Romulan High Command that Oh is a rogue agent and does not represent the Tal Shiar."
That seemed to calm down many of the provisional captains.
"Once again, I want to thank you all for answering the call to duty. Even though I may not know you as well as my former crews of either the Titan or the Enterprise, I consider each of you family. Let's get this done."
The group cheered as Riker walked away.
"Company, dismissed," said Commander Peppers.
As Logan and Blair took a stroll on the station's "Central Park," they took in the view of the space "above" the station. They could see the entire fleet. It was a sight to behold. Some of the other acting captains approached them to introduce themselves and wish them good luck. Logan returned the greetings. Before they could linger for too long, the station went to yellow alert.
"All captains report to your ships," came the announcement.
"Well, it's go time," said Logan with a smile.
"Don't you mean… showtime?" asked Blair.
"What? Go time. Time to go. What are you talking about?"
The two of them laughed. They watched around them as various Starfleet officers beamed away.
Logan tapped his combadge. "Vasco da Gama, one to beam."
Within two seconds, Logan was standing next to the captain's chair on the bridge of his brand spanking new ship.
"Captain Kee, all systems report ready," said his sole holographic bridge officer.
"Thank you, Tom," said Logan.
"Everyone calls me "Maverick,'" said Tom.
"You might need to activate a couple of other hologram officers," said Mav. "You're not allowed to combine three specialties into me." Logan had tried to merge the helm officer, weapons officer, and medical officer all into one.
"Starfleet standing regulation 114.3, subsection 21b."
"And that is?"
"I thought you worked for the court system and knew regulations backwards and forwards," said the hologram.
"I gotta remember to deprogram the insubordination characteristic out of you," said Logan.
"You're the one who commanded the computer to model me after the fighter pilot Maverick, who apparently was a bit of a disobedient loose cannon at times."
"Well, just make sure in crunch time, you don't go freelancing too much."
"Anyway," said Maverick, "Starfleet standing regulation 114.3 relates in general to the prohibition of synthetic life forms from serving in Starfleet. Subsection 21(b) is a related prohibition on holograms serving in emergency capacities in Starfleet. We holograms are limited to a ceiling of maximum skillsets while serving on starships. It keeps any one hologram from taking control of the ship."
"And what prevents a team of holograms from doing that?"
Maverick shrugged. "Hey, I didn't write the regs."
Logan thought for a second.
"But the sim let me do it…." He wondered.
"Sim?" asked Maverick.
"That Starfleet Academy training sim. Something maru?"
"The simulation you are referencing probably worked on the presumption that the officers you holo-created were stand-ins for actual flesh and blood officers. Not emergency holograms."
"No…. I don't that's it," said Logan.
Maverick shrugged. "Maybe the safety protocols were disengaged or something. Either way, you can only assign me into one of the bridge officer slots. Helm officer would probably make most sense."
Logan agreed and assigned Maverick as the ship's pilot. Before Logan could activate any other holograms, a proximity alert rang out, the lighting on the bridge dimmed, and yellow lighting started slowly flashing.
"Computer?" asked Logan.
"Possible hostile contact. Recommend activating sensors operator emergency hologram," replied the computer.
Logan's fingers danced across the fancy transparent commands interface that was projected right in front of him. Three new holograms materialized. A blue-skinned version of Logan, a green-skinned version of Logan, and, surprisingly, still a young version of Riker who remained as the default "skin" for the ship's XO.
Logan pointed at the green version of himself.
"You, take sensors, tell me what's going on."
Green Logan quickly shuffled to the science station.
"You, weapons," said Logan, pointing to the blue version of himself.
"Unknown contact has been identified as the U.S.S. Gallant, Defiant-class escort frigate. It just dropped out of warp at the edge of the fleet and appears to be maneuvering to approach DS Twelve," said Green Logan.
"Defiant-class?" said a puzzled holo-Riker. "Those were all retired a decade ago."
"Affirmative," said Green Logan. "Databanks show this vessel on the decommissioned list."
"Hail them, Mr. Green," said Logan, creating a nickname for his officer. He hoped it wasn't offensive, though he was fairly certain the holograms weren't programmed to have feelings.
"X.O., can ships just approach without identifying themselves?" asked Logan.
"Well, a challenge protocol would sometimes be in place if the fleet were in a forward operating area. I'm not quite sure D.S. Twelve is considered such," replied holo-Riker.
"No response, captain," said Mr. Greene.
"Maverick, let's move to intercept, just in case."
"Sir, the fleet is spaced too close together. I can't maneuver us through the fleet. The Gallant is one-sixth our size. They're squeezing through."
"Contact DS Twelve Ops, and the flagship," said Logan.
"Everyone's seeing what we're seeing," said Mr. Greene. "Nobody seems to be alarmed. It's a Starfleet ship."
Logan hoped all the Starfleet commanders were correct.
Captain William T. Riker watched intently on his viewscreen as a small Starfleet escort vessel needled its way through his fleet and seemed to be approaching…. Him.
"Open a channel," said Riker.
"No response," said his operations officer.
"U.S.S. Gallant, you are ordered to come to a halt. Now," said Riker through the channel.
"No change in course or speed," said his tactical officer.
"Let's bring the shields up," said Riker. "Signal the fleet. Use caution."
As soon as the shields came up, the Gallant fired two blasts from its phaser cannons, directly at the Zheng He.
"Shields are holding," said Riker's tactical officer. "Looks like they were just warning shots to get our attention."
"Gallant, what the hell are you doing?" demanded Riker.
"Audio only," said his operations officer.
"Captain William Riker. By order of the Federation Council, you and your fleet are commanded to stand down and await further instructions. I am transmitting your orders."
Riker stood incredulously as he read through the set of orders.
"A second ship has dropped out of warp," reported Mr. Greene.
"Move us to intercept," said Logan. "Let's block them before they can infiltrate the fleet."
The da Gama slowly made its way to the edge of the fleet.
"Second ship appears to be holding position outside of the fleet," said Greene. "Database is showing it belongs to…. the Vulcan high command's science directorate."
"We are now in position to block the new ship," said Maverick. "Joining us are the Marco Polo and the Lewis & Clark."
"Vulcan ship has begun emitting some kind of continuous pulse," said Greene. "Appears to have no effect on our shields."
"Very well," said Logan. "Keep monitoring."
"Get me Starfleet Command. Now," said Riker.
"We're being jammed," said his tactical officer.
"Gallant, what are you doing?"
"I have my orders, Captain. I cannot allow you to proceed."
"You and what army?" asked an annoyed Riker. "I'll blast you to bits right this second."
"You're not the sort, Captain Riker. Destroy a fellow Starfleet vessel? Me, yes. You, no."
"I'll warp out of here and leave you in my dust," countered Riker.
"But where would you go? You don't know, do you?"
It was true. Riker was awaiting information about where Picard would need him. But it didn't matter. Riker decided he would warp in a random direction just to evade the Gallant's jamming and then contact Starfleet Command.
"The Gallant is opening a channel fleet-wide," said Riker's tactical officer.
"Attention all captains in the fleet. I am the commanding officer of the U.S.S. Gallant on a priority mission from the Federation Council. Everyone should know that retired Admiral Jean-Luc Picard is harboring a synthetic android, in direct violation of Federation laws. Any mission to assist former Admiral Picard is unauthorized. Perhaps some here have a degree of loyalty to Captain Riker, but know that if you proceed, you will ultimately be court-martialed and charged as an accessory for aiding and abetting an outlaw."
Riker couldn't hear the reactions from any of his captains. He hoped none of them were persuaded, but he feared maybe at least one would. During his long career, Riker had encountered a rogue admiral or two. While he seemed to have convinced everyone that Commodore Oh was the rogue commander involved, who can say how many of his officers were now convinced that Picard and Admiral Clancy were the rogue commanders involved. Riker, like Picard, had very positive feelings towards androids. However, it was hard to gauge what the new generation of Starfleet officers thought. Fourteen years ago, a synthetic rebellion caused the deaths of almost 100,000 people on Mars. Something like that had to have left negative impressions.
"Our mission to assist Admiral Picard has absolutely been authorized," countered Riker. "Our orders come directly from Admiral Clancy, the Chief of Starfleet Operations. Our mission was approved by the President of the United Federation of Planets. We will carry out this mission."
Riker had been addressing the captain of the Gallant specifically, but he also wanted the rest of the fleet to hear.
"The President of the Federation is being impeached as we speak," said the Gallant's captain. "An emergency session of the Council was called. The charge is treason."
"Until I hear word that the President was actually removed from office, my orders stand," said Riker. "Your orders from the Council are not valid."
"Captain Riker, we can argue all day long, but I'm going to end with this," said the captain of the Gallant. "Everyone here knows that for the past decade plus, all synthetic life forms have been banned by the Federation. This course of action has been fully endorsed and consistently endorsed by both civilian leaders and uniformed leaders at the highest levels of government. I trust everyone here to do the right thing and stand down."
"Allow me to end by saying, to all my fellow task force captains, sometimes things change and courses need correction. I believe this to be one of those times. I know you all. I know you are all fair and honorable people. I have confidence you will all conclude that the Federation's ban on all synthetic life was misguided and unfair. Very soon, I will lead this fleet to aid Admiral Picard. I hope all of you will join me. Riker out."
Several minutes of radio silence passed and Logan was getting increasingly worried. What did he allow himself to get pulled into? Some type of colossal internal power struggle seemed to be happening. He was a bit surprised pandemonium didn't already break out, with parts of the fleet switching sides and backing the Gallant. Logan supposed that Riker chose his subordinates well. Logan did, indeed, feel the Federation ban on all synthetic life was undeserved.
The quiet was soon interrupted.
"Sir!" said a frantic Greene. "The Polo is opening fire on the Vulcan ship. The Vulcan ship has not returned fire, but the Lewis & Clark is now firing upon the Polo."
What a fiasco.
"All ships, cease fire!" came a fleet-wide command from Captain Riker. Although the Lewis & Clark ceased, the Polo continued. The captain of the Marco Polo explained that he was limiting his fire only to the jamming transmitters and had no intention of destroying the Vulcan ship.
As the Polo continued firing, two ships suddenly decloaked, one of each side of the Vulcan ship. Quantum torpedoes were fired, immediately bringing the Polo's shields down to 60%.
"We've got two more Defiant-class destroyers," said Greene. "Looks like…. the U.S.S. Valiant and the U.S.S. Vigilant. They are continuing to bombard the Polo with phaser pulse cannons."
Finally, after a few more shots, the Polo ceased fire and the two Defiants subsequently ceased fire. Logan wondered how many more of them could be lurking out there, cloaked. The entire ship class was supposed to be inactive, but by the looks of it, they were recently reactivated.
"Captain, incoming message on a secure channel from Commander Shivan of the Drake," said Greene.
"Put it through."
Shivan's image popped onto the front viewscreen.
"Lieutenant Kee," said Shivan. "Captain Riker wants you to beam onto the Zheng He, ASAP."
"What?" wondered Logan out loud. "I didn't do anything."
"Just beam over," said Shivan. "I'm meeting you there."
Shivan's image disappeared as she cut the link.
"XO, you're in charge," said Logan. "If the flagship jumps to warp, follow,"
"Aye," said holo-Riker.
Captain William T. Riker entered his ship's observation lounge with his two wing commanders in tow. Seated at the elongated conference table were four other officers. They stood as Riker entered.
"Lady and gentlemen, please have a seat," said Riker. "Okay, so I've convened the four of you just to get some opinions on some things and maybe bounce around thoughts."
Riker asked the four officers to look over a burst of data which the U.S.S. Gallant had sent to the U.S.S. Zheng He. He gave the officers several minutes as he sat in silence.
"Anybody need any more time?" asked Riker.
It appeared that everyone had finished reading. Nobody asked for more time.
"I consider Commander Shivan here my principal legal advisor since she comes from the JAG Corps. I would also like to hear any additional opinions from you three. Although you are not attorneys, you each have some level of legal training. So now, my main question: What is my legal duty here? Do I have to stand down? Commander Shivan, you first."
"I think Admiral Clancy's orders stand," said Shivan.
"Has the President or Admiral Clancy, in ordering this task force to support Admiral Picard, acted in conflict with any of the Federation's laws banning synthetics?" asked Riker.
"So…. I believe Admiral Picard has violated no laws and subsequently, Admiral Clancy has not violated any laws," said Shivan.
"Elaborate," said Riker.
"The Federation laws technically do not ban Federation citizens from interacting or even 'harboring' a synthetic android from a territory outside of the Federation."
Riker seemed satisfied with this apparent loophole. Truth be told, he was looking to hang his hat on any reasonable interpretation that would allow him to legally command his fleet into the mission to aid Admiral Picard. He looked around at the faces of the other three officers in the room.
"Does everybody else agree with that?"
The rest of the room was silent.
"Look, I don't want to learn later on that there was some hesitation by a sole dissenting mind. If there is any voice of opposition, I want to hear it right now."
When there were no responses, Riker was mostly satisfied but had a nagging itch he wanted to scratch.
"Lieutenant Kee, I am assigning you as the devil's advocate for this argument. Tell me why Commander Shivan is wrong," said Riker.
"I do not disagree with her legal analysis. She is not wrong," said Logan.
"That's not much of a devil's advocate," joked Riker.
"Please don't take this the wrong way, sir," said Logan. "With all due respect, I think you may have accidentally done yourself a disservice when you screened your officers the way that you did. You effectively eliminated any possible devil's advocacy."
Riker was curious, but remained silent.
"It seems to me, from what little you said, that you pre-screened your officers to be the type who would be sympathetic to your cause. Or, more precisely, to Admiral Picard's cause. You were probably close to Lieutenant Commander Data as well, so maybe it's your cause too. However, what you've basically created is an echo chamber. I know that for me personally, I am predisposed to be sympathetic to the argument that the ban on synthetic androids was misguided. So now, you have a team of advisors, all of whom think the same way as you. You're not going to get a mix of viewpoints."
"I just ordered you to take the opposing side," said Riker.
"It would come more natural from someone who actually believed in something different, you know? Sir?"
"You know. Just a little bit about my past. The JAG Corps once drafted me to argue that Commander Data did not deserve to have any sentient rights. That he was property. That wasn't my belief, but I carried out my duties regardless," said Riker.
"Kudos to you, sir," said Logan, bordering on insubordination.
"Are you telling me you cannot do the same?"
"I'm telling you that from any angle I see, Admiral Clancy's orders to you, to support Admiral Picard, appear to have full legal force. Commander Shivan's analysis has no flaws. Picard has broken no Federation laws. He has done, what? Rescued some type of android, who may be a descendant of Commander Data, from a Borg Cube floating in Romulan space. The Federation has no jurisdiction over any of that."
"You're a smart guy. Use your imagination. How could Picard be considered an outlaw? He has been branded as such by the council members who intend to impeach the President of the Federation," said Riker.
"Then you should ask them about it," retorted Logan. "You're asking me to tell you what they think? I'm not a mind reader."
Riker did wish he had more inside knowledge on the thought process of the various council members.
Shivan interrupted. "Just because some council members decided to bring forth an impeachment proceeding does not mean they have a correct basis to do so. It could be just politics operating as it always does."
"Admiral Picard has done nothing wrong and has acted according to the finest traditions of Starfleet!" insisted one of the other lieutenants at the table. Logan didn't know this other person, but she was dressed in a uniform with a red shoulder and was a lieutenant.
Logan must've made a face, because Riker reacted almost immediately.
"Lieutenant Kee, you disagree?"
"No, sir," said Logan. "I just thought that was…. Overly dramatic. I'm not even sure Picard was cognizant of the loophole Commander Shivan pointed out. His android charge was rescued from outside Federation space. The Borg Cube could have been inside Federation space for all he cared and he still would've done it. Which is, to say, it was only luck that pushed him outside the law's jurisdiction. If the location were different, Picard would have gladly violated the Federation law. At the very least, regardless of location, one could argue he's still violating the spirit of the law."
Riker's curiosity was piqued. He wasn't happy, but this junior officer was beginning to make a counterargument.
"Spirit of the law?" asked Riker.
"We all know what the Federation Council intended when the Matilda laws were enacted. Named after one of the governors' mother, who perished on Mars during the synth uprising, the laws were meant to ban all synthetic life forms. Since the ancient times when humans first invented artificial intelligence, you could see many were afraid of "runaway AI." That AI would one day seek to destroy all humankind. You see it in movies like the Terminator, in which robots want to, well… terminate all humans. You see it in movie series like the Matrix, in which an artificial program tells a human 'like the dinosaur, you've had your time. The future, is our time.' You've even got a tv series called… what was it….. Battlestarship Galactica? Something like that. Artificial life forms named… Cyclons? Looked and walked and talked like humans. They had feelings. Some of them even thought they were humans. Can you imagine something like that happening? Imagine Commander Data, instead of white-faced and yellow-eyed and talking like a computer, he walked and talked like us? Imagine you look to your left, you look to your right, and one of those people you just glimpsed is actually an android? That the android could possibly feel emotions such as hatred and resentment towards humans. It would be pure pandemonium. People would lose their minds. Decades ago during the Dominion War, there was massive hysteria about changeling infiltration into Starfleet Command. Admirals literally plotted assassinations of other admirals thinking the other was a changeling. You can bet similar destabilization could happen if we were full of human-looking androids."
Riker was very surprised. It was an…. interesting argument. He was relieved that none of his officers seemed to know that the android Picard had rescued actually did have the appearance of a human.
"So, you think Picard is breaking the law?" Shivan challenged.
"No. My original statement stands. That stuff about killer androids is not a legal argument. It's more of a political argument," said Logan.
"But you believe it?" asked Riker. "You think androids are dangerous?" Riker had thought his pre-screening algorithms chose officers for him who favored protecting androids. However, it wasn't like there were overt filters that examined that exact question. Who knew how the algorithms worked? Maybe it didn't work perfectly.
"Well, I believe androids can be dangerous. But so can humans. So can Romulans. We don't ban all Romulans because some might be dangerous. We don't kill them all. Well, maybe we should."
Logan saw a semi-horrified look on one of the lieutenants' faces.
"I kid, I kid," said Logan. "We don't kill a whole group of people because some of them might be dangerous. We shouldn't have done anything similar with androids."
Riker was beginning to like this kid. He'd make a good politician. However, Riker wanted to stop the conversation. This was drifting dangerously into philosophy and ethics. Sure, nobody wants to wipe out a group solely because they had the potential to be dangerous. But throughout history, many military tacticians would argue that you can't sit idly by and wait for the danger to manifest itself. If you wait, it may be too late. The ethics of a pre-emptive attack had always troubled Riker during his days of philosophy class at the Academy. Even though Starfleet did not subscribe to that line of thought, Riker certainly understood the devil's advocate position.
"Okay, for now, I'm adjourning this meeting," said Riker. "If I want any more thoughts, I will reconvene us. Report back to your ships and prepare to jump to warp on my command."
Only five seconds after beaming back onto the da Gama, Logan was hearing a new fleet-wide transmission from Riker.
"All ships, be advised. After a brief consultation with my informal legal analysis team, I have determined that we will proceed with our original mission as planned. Be prepared to warp. Riker out."
Soon, Logan received a transmission directed to a more limited group of vessels.
"To the captains of Marco Polo, Lewis & Clark, Matthew Perry, Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus, and Vitus Bering: you are the six ships closest to the Vulcan jamming ship. I have ordered the ship to cease their electronic jamming. If they do not comply, you are ordered to fire upon the Vulcan ship and its two Defiant escorts. Acknowledge my order."
"Marco Polo, ready to roll."
"Lewis & Clark, locked and loaded."
"Commodore Perry, committing."
"da Gama, I copy."
"Chris Columbus, order acknowledged."
"Bering, by your command."
Riker was amused. His six captains seemed to go out of their way to create different phrases just to confirm his orders.
"Outstanding," replied Riker.
Lieutenant Commander Rachel Shivan sat in her command chair, her ship being closer to the opposite edge of the fleet from where Logan was. It was strange that her ship and the da Gama were so far apart. They were supposed to sail together in much closer positions in the fleet formation once they left D.S. Twelve.
"Commander, incoming message from the U.S.S. Sacajawea, on the outer edge," said the Drake's security officer. True to her word, Shivan gave her officer Logan's approximate appearance. She even put him in his bailiff's uniform, as opposed to a Starfleet uniform. Though, she kept her other officers in her own image.
"Patch it through."
"Ma'am," said the captain of the Sacajawea. "My hyper range sensors are detecting a transient contact. Bearing 2-6-9. Unable to establish. Possible hostile."
"Acknowledged," said Shivan. No other ships appeared to be detecting anything. Though, since the Sacajawea was the furthest out in her particular direction, she would be the first to register a contact.
Captain William T. Riker was determined to follow this through. He wasn't keen on firing upon Starfleet vessels, but he had no choice. He was sure he could limit the damage and only disable the Defiant escorts as opposed to destroying them. But even if the damage were limited, who was to say all of the crewmembers would escape uninjured? It was a risk he was willing to take.
"Captain, sir," said his operations officer. "We have a transmission coming from somewhere. Unable to triangulate. Message coming through on open frequency."
"Mr. Riker," said a voice which sounded gravely serious. "I am standing down the Gallant and her detail. The Federation Council has voted and your mission can go unimpeded. However, on a personal note, I want to express that I strongly believe you are making a huge mistake. Don't get us all killed, Riker. Resilient out."
The Gallant and her three fellow ships immediately warped away.
"Resilient?" asked Riker.
"Database records show no Starfleet ships with that name," answered Riker's science officer.
It would be a mystery for another time. Right now, Riker was focused on the task at hand.
"Receiving a message," said his operations officer.
"Wow, that was fast," thought Riker to himself.
"Message is at least several hours old, putting on screen now." Riker later learned that the message had been blocked for a while before he received it.
Riker watched as his former captain requested the establishment of diplomatic relations with the inhabitants of a settlement named Coppelius on the planet Ghulion IV.
"Transmit the coordinates to the fleet. Open a channel, fleet-wide."
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is our bullseye. Prepare to jump," said Riker.
"All ships have acknowledged," said his operations officer, thirty seconds later.
"Go," said Riker.
Logan was nervous as the U.S.S. Zheng He led the fleet at maximum warp to the Ghulion system. So many ships dropping out of warp near simultaneously would take a little bit of coordination. The ships wouldn't want to drop too close to each other.
"Time to target?" asked Logan. It already felt like an eternity since they left Deep Space Twelve.
"Approximately 14 minutes," said Maverick, dressed in his U.S. Navy flight suit. One of Logan's ancestors was also in the American Navy centuries ago and he remembered seeing a picture of her in a similar jumpsuit.
Logan continued to squeeze the armrest of the captain's chair, as if it would relieve the stress. After some thought, he punched in a few commands and activated two additional holographic helpers. One materialized in the engineering section of the ship. The other materialized on the bridge, in the image of Blair Olajuwon. She wore the typical Starfleet medic uniform with a blue shoulder, but also a white lab coat over her uniform.
"Ten minutes," announced Mav.
Logan skimmed through a few diagrams and short vids showing him the rudimentary controls for piloting the ship. Just in case the ship was hit and the holographic systems went down for whatever reason.
"Dropping out of warp," said Mav.
The entire fleet dropped pretty much right on top of the Romulan fleet. Immediately, the da Gama automatically went to red alert.
"XO, coordinate with the Zheng He's tactical team. Wepps, I want phasers locked on to whichever target they designate for us," said Logan. Logan was a little nervous. Instead of the "few dozens" of Romulan warbirds they were expecting, it appeared to be more than two hundred.
"I've got our assignment. Phasers are locked," said Logan's holographic weapons officer.
"Captain Riker has transmitted a message to the Romulans. He has declared Planet Ghulion IV under Starfleet protection," reported Mr. Greene. "It looks like….. the Romulan fleet has retargeted their disrupter systems! They are targeting us!"
"Weapons hot, deflectors to full," ordered Captain Riker to his fleet.
Logan was afraid this would happen.
"Poker player my ass," mumbled Logan under his breath.
"XO, tactical analysis," said Logan.
"We can probably survive this," said Logan's XO holo-Riker. "Barely. The fleets are roughly evenly matched, despite Romulan numerical superiority."
"What about the fact that half our fleet won't actually be firing?" asked Logan.
"I've included that in my calculations."
"Incoming message, unknown source," said Mr. Greene. "On main viewscreen."
Logan watched as retired Admiral Jean-Luc Picard pleaded with one of the androids on the planet's surface to shut down the wormhole beacon. Logan didn't completely understand what Picard was talking about, but he surmised that the beacon was the reason the Romulans had been targeting the planet.
"The wormhole appears to be closing in on itself," said Greene.
Through an open channel, Logan heard one of the Zheng He's officers report to Riker that the Romulans were standing down. Riker ordered his fleet to stand down from red alert and to escort the Romulan fleet out of what he deemed "Federation space."
"Romulan warbirds have jumped to warp," said Greene.
"Very well," said Logan.
"Are we…. Jumping alongside?" asked Mav.
"Wait for the flagship to signal," said Logan.
Much to Logan's relief, the Romulan warbird fleet returned to Romulan claimed space without incident.
"Message from flagship, fleetwide," said Greene.
"All captains of the fleet, congratulations. Mission accomplished," said a smiling Captain Riker. "Starfleet thanks you, and I, personally, thank you. All ships return to Deep Space Twelve. See you there."
"Mav, you heard the man," said Logan.
"Aye, sir. Plotting course back to D.S. Twelve."
"Captain," said Greene. "I'm receiving a message from the Johns Hopkins. Dr. Blair Olajuwon is requesting permission to beam aboard."
Logan tapped an icon on his armrest.
"Blair? Can this wait until we're back at DS Twelve?"
"I'd like to beam over right now, before we jump," said Blair.
Logan thought about it for a second.
"Okay, permission to come aboard is granted," said Logan.
"Those supplies aren't yours! They belong to Starfleet. What if the Fleet needs them somewhere else?" asked an annoyed Logan. Blair had requested a private conversation in the captain's ready room. It was the first time Logan had sat in the relatively comfortable chair in the captain's personal office.
"They don't. I already know. There are tons more supplies back at Deep Space Twelve. And anyway, I'll only send about a fifth of the medkits onboard my ship. They'll barely notice," said Blair. She wanted to help a nearby planet which was suffering through a recent pandemic outbreak and running low on supplies.
"What is with you people? Picard, that Polo captain, now you. You guys seemingly have no impulse control. Do you just do whatever pops into your stream of thought? Send this request up the chain of command!"
"The bureaucratic paperwork will take months. You know the red tape, you're familiar with bureaucracy. In the meantime, people are dying," said Blair.
"If you want to go rogue, go rogue. Don't drag me into this!"
"I'd do it myself, but my ship is classified as a non-combatant hospitalship. Accordingly, under the various interstellar conventions, the ship is unarmed."
"Why do you need an armed ship? You're delivering medical supplies."
"Recently, the entire sector has fell into disarray. I need an armed escort."
"Isn't the sector patrolled by the Fenris Rangers?"
"The Fenris Rangers are a ragtag bunch of pirates. You think I'd trust them to ensure my safe passage?"
"Your ship's captain agreed to this?"
"Yep. He's a civilian. Isn't a stickler for Starfleet protocol. Starfleet's non-combat ships are typically commanded by civilians."
"Come on, we won't even need to be in the system that long. We drop out of warp, move into orbit, and then just beam the supplies down to the planet. The whole thing takes several minutes at most and then we can warp back to D.S. Twelve. We'll barely be missed," insisted Blair.
After thinking it over for ten seconds, Logan finally agreed.
Blair was giddy with excitement. "What could go wrong?"
Author's note: there are brief mentions of two episodes from The Next Generation
2x9 The Measure of a Man