USS Lexington, S. P. Heller Commanding – Chapter 1

"Captain's Personal Log, Stardate 79093.6: Lexington is ready for her first real assignment. The shakedown cruise turned up its share of problems, but nothing this crew couldn't handle. I'm very proud of what Lt. Michael Ford has managed to accomplish. Before I grabbed him, he was Environmental Officer on an old Miranda-class. Our Chief Engineer already has a reputation for being able to do the impossible. Lady Lex's systems are working up to specs, and we have Michael to thank for it.

"As offended as the construction team would be to hear it, they could have used a man like him running the yard. He'll be the first I recommend for promotion. In the meantime, we have orders to – Computer, pause Personal Log." The doorbell beeped a second time, and Steven Heller stopped pacing the Ready Room floor. "Enter."

Rikka Berti walked in. Her uniform loosely conformed to regulation; she wasn't wearing the standard military-style jumpsuit. The top was low-cut, a reminder to one-and-all that she was a woman. "What can I do for you, Counselor?" Steven asked, sitting down behind his desk. He signaled for her to take a seat. Rikka sat opposite her Captain, looking slightly uncomfortable. Steven had spent most of his time working on Lexington's sensor equipment, and only taken the time to know his Chief Engineering and Operations Officers. After all, it was the shakedown cruise. He waited for the Counselor to say what she wanted. In the meantime, he picked up a PADD containing the latest status report and began to glance through.

"Captain, I've been hearing some concerns from the crew." Already? he thought. "They feel that you've neglected in your duties to them. Rumors are going around that this is your first command, and you're not qualified to be Captain of a new starship like Lexington."

That was blunt. "Thank you, Counselor. Will that be all?"

Surprise took up her face. "Captain, I do not believe you're taking this seriously enough." She waited for him to respond. When Steven said nothing, she continued. "I'd like for you to make an appointment so we can discuss–" He cut her off.

"Dismissed, Counselor," Steven said. Rikka left, fighting to keep a scowl off her face. He was not particularly fond of Counselors. It had nothing to do with their profession, but a certain woman he once "knew." Though Meira was a medical doctor, all people involved with the healing process blended together in his mind. No, Counselor Berti and Doctor Preston would not particularly like him until he was over Meira. Which might not ever happen. Steven knew she was going to talk to the First Officer, and his old friend would visit shortly.

He loaded up the ship schematics on his PADD. Lexington was a thing of beauty. The saucer section looked similar to the Sovereign, only the secondary hull was missing. Two separate engineering hulls forked off the saucer's rear, connecting the warp nacelles to the rest of this ship. A small pod connected the two engineering sections, housing additional laboratories and sensory equipment. At 580 meters, the ship was perhaps 100 meters shorter than Sovereigns were. Its firepower did not match the larger ship, and the crew complement was roughly 650 – also a smaller number. Ticonderoga-class ships like Lexington did surpass the larger, more well-known ships in one category: exploration capacity.

After all the paperwork and reports were properly filed, Steven received his orders and finally left his Ready Room for the bridge. "Captain on the Bridge," came the automatic response. Rob Walsh left the Captain's Chair, and sat in the adjacent chair. "Helm, set course for," he rattled off coordinates, at the edge of Federation territory. "Warp nine point two." He took his own seat.

Rob leaned in close. "Captain, what's going on?" Cruise speed was generally warp eight – warp nine point two meant that something important was happening. Steven just shrugged.

When Lexington arrived, there was Nebula-class starship already in the area. The ship hailed Lady Lex as soon as the larger, more advanced craft dropped out of warp. "Sir," announced McKenna at Tactical. "I'm detecting some type of anomaly. Sensors can't identify without modification. USS Edison is in the system. They're hailing us." Steven ordered the communication be put on-screen.

"That's a smart looking ship," was Edison's opening remark.

Steven practically glowed with pride. "Thank you, Captain. Perhaps you can tell us what we're looking at here?"

"My science team isn't exactly sure. At first they thought it was a subspace anomaly, but no longer. I'll transmit to you all the data we have so far. I hate to leave a mystery, but we've been ordered to leave you to it. Good luck, Captain." Steven thanked him and signed off.

While Ticonderoga-class starships were equipped for deep space and planetary exploration, each was focused on a different area of study. The four ships were unparalleled within their given fields. Ticonderoga's was medical research. Yorktown was an advanced weapons platform, and Concorde was dedicated to planetary surveys. Lexington's specialty was warp drive mechanics and subspace fields.

Steven had called the command crew and several of the ship's science personnel to the Observation Room to discuss the progress on their current assignment. "Lieutenant T'lan, your report?"

The vulcan Operations Officer activated a holographic display, and all present could see the phenomenon they were investigating. "USS Edison initially reported to Starfleet Command that they had found a subspace anomaly, which is why Lexington was sent on-scene. As it turns out, this is not a subspace anomaly. The phenomenon is emitting chroniton radiation. Chroniton radiation is generally associated with phase and temporal mechanics.

"A probe sent into the phenomenon," the holographic image showed exactly what T'lan was saying, "further identified it as a portal of some kind. We have dubbed whatever's on the other side, 'Phased Space.'" The probe vanished as it passed through.

Robert Walsh adjusted in his seat. "Does the door swing both ways?" he asked.

A bolian scientist answered. "The chroniton field is capable of altering an object's frequency, not restoring it." Rob nodded, thoughtful. "On the other side is an entire galaxy, in the same space-time as the Milky Way!"

T'lan nodded in agreement, and tapped at her console. A sector map appeared. None of the stars looked familiar. "Doctor Severs is correct. So far as we can tell, there is a galaxy in exactly the same location as ours. Stars do not directly correspond with those in the Milky Way, but are similar. There is no interaction between the two galaxies."

Steven furrowed his eyebrows. "If there's no way for us to see phased space, then how did the probe send back the information?"

The bolian scientist grinned, the solution obviously having been his idea. "We created a field of anyon particles that acted as a gateway back. By adjusting –"

"Thank you, Doctor Severs." Captain Heller stood, and began to circle the table. He had a terrible habit of pacing. "As you know, the team's findings have already been reported to Starfleet Command. Now that you've all been briefed on the chroniton gateway, it's time you heard our new orders." He licked his lips, and turned to face the entire room. "Starfleet wants our research personnel to develop a way to duplicate the chroniton gateway. There may be life on the other side of that thing, and Command wants to make contact. In the meantime, Lexington will begin the first exploration of Phased Space."

Steven made sure that everyone understood before continuing. "I want to keep away from heavy population centers within the Federation, just in case we come across any war-like species ...." The command crew went on to discuss Lexington's next destination, and the Captain reminded them of all standing orders. "Dismissed," he concluded. "T'lan, you have the bridge."

Rob stayed behind. "Rikka Berti came to see me," he said when everyone else had left. "Do you want me to tell her about Meira?"

"I'll deal with it." Steven smiled to himself, remembering the last time he had spent with the woman. "Less than a week before we left." He was now staring off into space, his face expressionless.

"Rotten luck, Steven." Rob paused a minute, giving his captain and longtime friend a chance to get out of the funk on his own. "I've got a couple of holodeck programs you might like. Fence your heart out against the Sheriff of Nottingham."

Steven grinned. Medieval weaponry and World War II naval ships were two of his great loves, the third being recently deceased. "Nothing like sword practice to get the day started, eh?" he asked. It was hardly morning, by any reckoning. "Last time it took three Sheriffs to take me down." Rob sniggered at the gross exaggeration.

Because of the similarity in name, Rob generally played the role of Robin Hood in the mythical struggle against the tyrannical Sheriff of Nottingham. Steven fancied himself a good Will Scarlet – he was not a particularly big man, like the First Officer, but agile he was. Rob always wanted to be the one to best the Sheriff, so Steven made sure the villain was a master swordsman in all of their attempts. Rob's rapier did little against the more massive long swords of the era.

"Well, I've tweaked the program since last time. You'll find him a bit more challenging."

"Take the safeties off?" asked Steven, teasingly. He liked Rob's grin. It meant: "Of course."