Fleet Lark The Incredible Battleship

The impossible has happened. Tuttenbeck has been ordered home for decommissioning.

I proudly present USS Tuttenbeck, the pride of Starfleet and the antithesis of boringly efficient Federation Starships.

The Startrek Universe is the property of Paramount, though they might not want this bit of it.

The stories are my own and any other sad but kind person that wishes to join in the fun.

Comments good, bad or indifferent always welcome

Rated PG

Geroff leaned forward in his armchair and examined the view of the unsuspecting red planet and assorted orbiting hardware ahead more with guarded wariness than any real hope. The four week voyage back to Earth was now well into its fourteenth week.

Even when he had known for sure where they were it had been: a/ Definitely not somewhere he wanted to be, partly because they had started shooting, but mostly because the planet was tee-total. And b/ It had been a lot further from Earth than if the Tuttenbeck had stayed at home and not bothered in the first place.

The feeling of impending doom was not helped a great deal by Corbett's cheerful proclamation. "Coming into orbit now, Sir. Wherever it is!"

"It is Mars!" T'Rizz disputed from her console.

"That," Geroff observed heavily, "is what you said at Orion 6, Trantos and Hepworth."

"That is logical. Small red planets look the same from space," T'Rizz explained with wounded dignity.

"We aren't being attacked yet." Parbold offered hopefully. Of the nine different planets Tuttenbeck had approached since leaving her generally safe home port, six had started shooting long before the planet in question had become more than an indistinct dot on the viewscreen. This always struck him as a rather mean spirited and anti-social thing to do, they had only wanted directions.

There were hopeful signs, a thin haze of smog visible even at the high magnification displayed on the screen suggested at least habitation on the planet, while the biggest give away was the large number of very large alien looking space stations that hung in various level of orbit.

"But are they talking to us, lieutenant?" Geroff asked mildly, reminding Parold of his purpose aboard the Tuttenbeck.

"No Sir," Parbold admitted after a few minutes. "But there is a lot of comms traffic from shuttles."

"What shuttles?" Corbett asked innocently. "I can't see any shuttles."

"CLANG!" The hollow clang, followed by several crashes and an ear worrying "Scrrreeeech" resounded through the ship.

"I believe the shuttles concerned were the ones that have collided with our hull," T'Rizz explained. "The current magnification on the screen is unable to show items close to the ship."

"Well it is not as if we are too small to see!" Corbett complained, "They knew we were here."

"If they didn't they do now," Geroff passed his judgement. "They say why the station isn't talking?"

"Not really, Sir," Parbold admitted. "It's the usual stuff, distress beacons, run away, that sort of thing."

"A larger structure has just passed inside our minimum focussing." T'Rizz appraised them of the next imminent threat. "I believe it may have been a space dock."

"Short range scans?" Geroff snapped. "Corbett, please try and miss it? Shuttles haven't got an excuse, they can see us and can move out the way, docks can't."

"Short range scans are temporarily unavailable, Captain." T'Rizz announced after thumping her console with more than normal force. "We appear to have a shuttle impaled on the sensors."

"Oh well. I suppose it will be knocked off again," Geroff sighed with resignation.

"Oh it isn't a problem," Corbett offered optimistically, "I saw it before it disappeared. We'll miss it easily!"

KERLANG! Tutenbeck jerked heavily.

"That was the other dock," T'Rizz pointed out impassively. "The one we have hit was closer and we have attempted to drive in through the side frames."

"Full astern Mr Corbett. Get us off it." Geroff sighed. "And please try and avoid it the second time, we have enough scrap iron without adding theirs. Who ever they are. Let's just hope everybody was too busy running away to notice?"

"That is unlikely," T'Rizz offered the next bad news. "Three larger vessels are approaching."

"Oh good. Perhaps they'll know where we are?" Parbold offered hopefully. "If I ask them nicely, that is?"

The intercom at Geroff's hand crackled to the sound of Chief Bosun Catchen's cough. "What did we hit and did we have to hit it so hard, Sir?"

"Shuttles, space docks, much the same as usual, Chief," Geroff assured him. "We should be coming free any moment now."

"Very good idea I'm sure, Sir," Chief Catchen encouraged. "But you might like to stop so somebody can free us. We've got wedged in whatever it was and are taking it with us, Sir. I can see the new dents distorting."

Geroff glanced quizzically at his pilot and navigation officers. "Well?"

"There is a tiny bit of a problem," Corbett agreed as the first torpedo exploded close by.

"WHAT WAS THAT?" The Chief's protest quite clearly sounded over the sound of groaning metalwork. "Abandon Ship!"

"Stay put, Chief," Geroff steadied. "It's just the locals celebrating our arrival." Geroff did not wait for an answer before rounding on his pilot. "Full ahead, Mr Corbett. Get us out of here. We'll have to take the dock with us."

"What about the space dock?" Parbold asked as Tuttenbeck struggled to set off with it's new addition. "Won't they want it back?"

"What, after we've bashed it and they've torpedoed it?" Geroff asked, thumbing the button of the baby alarm intercom. "Still you might be right. Chief?"

"Yes Sir?" the Chief's voice sounded distinctly muffled.

"Make a note to prepare a bill for salvaging the space dock we're running off with. Just in case somebody ever discovers this place."

"Can't, Sir. No PADDS in the escape pods!" Came the excuse.

"Well go and find one," Geroff suggested patiently. "And while you're about it tell Gorsh we'll need a good head of steam on those warp reactors."

"If you are really worried," he added kindly, as another torpedo struck the encircling station. "I'll let you take the escape pod with you."

"Your next guess please Trizzy?" Corbett asked as Tuttenbeck lurched into a slow warp. "Only another 150 billion stars to try."

Admiral Janeway was feeling pleased with herself. The report she had written after her inspection of the small part of Federation space that was officially hers to command had been such a masterful work of cloaking and distortion of the obvious that the best Rommulan cloaking devices could be described as obsolete. It had been hard work too; Words and phrases like: 'Incompetent', 'Useless', 'Raving maniacs', 'Pile of junk' and 'Not fit to plunge into a black hole to go Bang with', that had so liberally and easily flowed on to her PADD for the first draft had had to be painstakingly edited and replaced with new and more difficult to use ones like: 'Maximised potential', 'Dynamic', 'Difficult operating conditions', 'Interesting concepts in practical Warp dynamics' and 'Innovative use of alternative strategic resources'. She had been particularly pleased with the last, she'd been able to use it at least three times, though the thought of the Tuttenbeck's bridge and the floral wallpaper it described still made her shudder.

Star Fleet had been impressed too. So much so it had decided that, given Tuttenbeck's 200 years of good service, she should be decommissioned in favour of a newer ship and crew. In Admiral Janeway's opinion the decision was 200 years too late for the crew as well. Still she had dutifully sent the order for Tuttenbeck to make her way to Earth for replacement.

Tuttenbeck was now six months late arriving and there had not been a single report of a sighting in the last fourteen weeks. The Admiral was allowed to feel pleased with herself, if there was the remotest whiff of luck and righteousness in the galaxy, then that ghastly ship and her even more ghastly crew had disappeared altogether and nobody would ever compare the report and reality.

Her comfortable thumb twiddling thoughts were interrupted by the desktop screen coming alive to reveal the habitually red and jovial face of Admiral D'Lancy, Head of Star Fleet Intelligence appeared. "Ho ho! You signed for it, so you're in the muck, Janeway old Girl! He he!"

"Signed for what, D'Lancy?" Janeway asked in genuine confusion. She had not signed anything potentially dangerous in six months that she could recall.

Her own answer arrived at the same time as the D'Lancy's, though he was more eloquent and amused. "That ship of yours of course, Tootingcommon! Ha Ha!"

"Tuttenbeck!" Admiral Janeway corrected with a sigh. "I've not heard anything of her in three months. I had hoped..." She stopped herself quickly and started again, "I was afraid she might be lost 'All hands'. What has she done?"

"Ho ho! You should be afraid. Ha ha!" Mahoney agreed, his mirth showing no bounds. "We only think she's started an Intergalactic War. He-haw! Wouldn't want to be you at your Courts Martial! Ha ha!"

He hung up.

"I don't know anything about it!" Admiral Janeway gasped at the disappearing image, then realised that the display had been replaced by the equally red but rather more belligerent face of Admiral Mahoney, Admiral Commanding Star Fleet.

"Glad to hear it," he assured her. "But it won't do as a defence, so stop muttering to yourself and do something about it."

"But she's lost!" Janeway pleaded.

"Frost! Where? I'll have to get my tomatoes in!"

"No, I mean Tuttenbeck!"

"Oh do stop nattering, Janeway!" Mahoney snapped. "I've got ships coming in from all over the quadrant for defence, but you'll have to do something about it until they arrive."

Admiral Janeway could feel herself losing the thread of the conversation and tried to regain it. "About what, Admiral?" There was just a chance that they may not be discussing the same problem.

"The blasted alien battleship of course!" Mahoney exploded. "Been doing the rounds, it's already rammed a Vulcan research ship, two Klingon battlecruisers and a Cardassian space station. Now it's on its way here and you've got to stop it."

"But what with?"

It was too late, Mahoney, the line of thought exhausted had turned to other matters. "Thanks for the tip. I've got to give Environmental a torpedo for freezing my tomatoes. Bye!"

The screen went dead again, leaving Admiral Janeway burying her head in her hands. The Delta Quadrant was a lot easier to handle than Star Fleet.

"Thinks we lost 'em, Cap'n?" Chief Catchen called softly through the door to Geroff's quarters. "Not been hit by a whoosh gone all nasty torpedo for over 24 hours and Mr Parbold reckons he can hear Federation comms again?"

"Oh jolly good, Chief," Geroff congratulated, appearing at the door and shrugging back into his comfortable and stained jacket. "Take Williams and Gorsh with you and see what can be done about getting us off the wreckage."

"Ere Chief. Ever seen anything like this afore?" Williams asked after a very short glance around the dock's control room and finding no button marked 'Off', 'Open' or indeed 'Let star ships that poke their way in to places there are not wanted get away'.

"No Taffy, I ain't." Catchen was quite honest in his ignorance. "But if there is something not broken yet I'm sure you'll find a way to break it. Just make sure it ain't valuable first, cos I want it if it is?"

From the inspection port he could see the problem, like most Federation docks this one had long fingers that were used to form a static containment field so that parts of dismantled ships did not wander too far from where they were left. When Tuttenbeck had imposed its unwanted attentions on it the 'fingers' had been forced open, then dropped back when the saucer had passed through, trapping them by the nacelles and weapons bridge.

"Now," he said turning, "You run along with Lieutenant Gorsh and run the cable between the reactor and computer core like he tells you. You are going poke half million volts into the computers unmentionables to see if it has more life than you and lets us go?"

"Yeah okay, Chief." Crewman Williams accepted happily.

There are things that work slower than the mind of crewman Williams, tectonic plates possibly. "Ere Chief. Ain't that dangerous?"

"Yes, my son. That is why you are doing it," the Chief agreed.

"Oh."

Then a while later Crewman Williams ask softly, "Chief?"

"Williams?"

"You're rotten. Rottener than a stores full of rotten things. Just thought you'd like to know that?"

"Yes, my son."

"Think Star Fleet are in a bit of a flap, Sir" Parbold greeted the return of Geroff to the Bridge. "Must have nearly 30 ships looking for some alien warship. Seems it's been wandering the the quadrant and giving it a right good ramming."

"A bit like us you mean, Lieutenant?" Geroff enquired.

"Yes, Sir. But everybody knows us."

"And have they found this battleship?"

"They think so. Their converging on it... Oh dear!" Parbold's mind slammed like a trap on a key fact. "They're coming here, Sir!"

"Thought so," Geroff accepted coming to at least a moderately enthusiastic state of alert. "T'Rizz find a really nice big gravity source and put us on course for it. Black hole or a sun would be good. It is time we lost our baggage."

Three hours later Tuttenbeck was cruising at a slow full impulse and in the direct path of the large white dwarf star that had met Geroff's requirements.

"Chief and Gorsh are back, Sir," Parbold announced. "Williams is ready to poke the wire into the core as ordered."

"Jolly good," Geroff accepted. "When he does, just make sure you don't lose him. It would take years to train a replacement to be as stupid, even if we got one direct from Academy."

There is a lot of waiting in the Galaxy, or at least a lot of things that simply do nothing very much, until they suddenly and surprisingly decide to leap into action: Dropping apples on the heads of the worlds greatest mathematician so he can invent the cause of all mankind's spacial problems, gravity and a perfect excuse not to paint the ceiling, by pointing out it would drip paint on the wife's favourite persian rug. Or possibly dropping a very surprised space dock into an unsuspecting white dwarf star, which instantly registers its surprise and disapproval by exploding. Or may be an Admiral calculating if her pension will be enough to see her through forced retirement after Courts Martial and the video phone rings.

"Janeway. Capital bit of work by that ship of yours, Tumbleweed!" Admiral Mahoney announced.

"But she was lost!" Janeway cried in confusion. Correcting the Admiral did not seem worth the effort even in, or possibly because of, his obviously delighted or inebriated mood.

"Frost! Of course there was no frost," Admiral Mahoney bellowed. "Brought all my tomatoes in for it too. So it is still your fault. So shut up and listen."

"Yes, Admiral." She agreed meekly.

"That barge of yours, Tuttingdog. It got the enemy battleship. The fleet reports that it exploded and the only thing left is Tuttyfruity. Must have been fighting it for months too, judging by the damage. Absolutely marvellous show, real best of traditions stuff. Good bye."

Admiral Janeway glared at her darkened screen and cursed loudly and fluently.

21/03/00 The Incredible Battleship 5 of 5