"Just show him the bridge already, you know he's wanted to see it forever!" my mom pleaded.
"…Alright, but if anything happens-!" my father, the ship's Captain responded.
"He's never allowed on the bridge again, I know," my mom responded, cutting him off. Perhaps I should introduce myself, I'm Austin Keith. My father is Captain Tyler Keith of the U.S.S. McCoy, named after the famous chief medical officer of the original U.S.S. Enterprise, Dr. Leonard McCoy. I was only 4 at the time of this conversation, standing a mere 2'11" and clad in a t-shirt that looked like a blue Starfleet uniform over a diaper with Starfleet diaper tapes.
My dad was human, but my mom was mostly Tellarite. She had some human in her too, but it mainly affected her facial features, making her rather pretty considering the species. She was short as was her species, standing a mere 4'6" tall. Thanks to her I was half Tellarite, but by doctor's analysis I seemed to be mostly human. The only indication of Tellarite blood at that time was my hair's fast growth rate and my slight impatience, which while annoying to my parents, was mild for a normal Tellarite.
"Alright son, come with me. Today you get to see the bridge," my dad said. Naturally I was ecstatic; I'd wanted to see the bridge for the longest time. The memories of what eventually happened are too horrible to recount, however. Suffice it to say that we were interrupted by a sudden hail, I was sent back to our quarters, and the ship ended up in battle. We survived that dreadful day, but it came at a cost. I was never allowed on the bridge again, and was seen as a source of bad luck. However, I've really never been any less lucky than the average person; that day was a horrible fluke.
Ever since that battle, my dad has spoken to me very little. The only time we spent together was at dinner, and that was only because mom wouldn't budge when it came to eating the meal as a family. Naturally this caused me to drift towards my mom despite idolizing my father. As I grew up, the Tellarite in me made its presence known in one more way: my height. I grew only 1 foot and 1 inch taller after that fateful day, topping out at a mere 4', short by even by mom's standards. When I entered the Starfleet Academy- and at a rather early age I might add- I was probably the shortest student in the history of the school.
With my mother's support I graduated at the top of my class, and was assigned to the U.S.S. Waratah at age 17. I knew that every ship ever christened Waratah, including old sailing ships on Earth, had either sunk, disappeared or been destroyed, so I wasn't optimistic. As it turns out I was right to fear the ship; it almost led to my untimely demise.
It was Earth year 2510, only a few months since I started my tour of duty as a sciences division Ensign on the Waratah. My duties were surprisingly high; I was the assistant to one of the ship's main scientists. On the day in question I had been helping out with an experiment when I was called to the bridge to receive orders from the Captain. I was shocked to say the least, but did as I was told. The Captain explained that a fellow Federation vessel, the U.S.S. Potomac, was in dire need of help and that I was to be beamed over to assist them.
Doing as ordered I beamed over to the Potomac and helped defeat a Borg boarding party. I was then sent to the ship's Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) in the auxiliary medical bay as he needed help. After helping him with some diagnosis and treatment I was ordered to help defend main engineering. The Borg soldiers were trying to destroy the Warp core, and therefore the ship. We succeeded in fending off the attack, and then I was informed that the Waratah was now being boarded as well. I was given a tactical officer from the Potomac for assistance and, fearing the worst, beamed back to the Waratah.
Arriving on my assigned ship with the tactical officer, I headed towards the bridge but was stopped by the transporter chief's assistant- or I guess you could call her the transporter chief now.
"Sir, all the senior officers have been killed, including my boss. You're the highest ranking officer left, which makes you the Captain," she said. I was shocked to say the least; Captain of a starship? I was prepared for a lot of things thanks to my time at the academy, but this wasn't one of them. I also felt a tinge of sadness, as this meant the man I'd been working with was now dead. I sighed. The tactical officer, a female, blonde-haired Andorian named Thryiss, looked down at me.
"What should we do sir?" she asked.
"I suppose we ought to make our way to the bridge and assess the situation," I answered after a moment. Thryiss agreed, so she and I fought our way from the teleporter room through the engineering deck until we arrived at a turbolift. Wishing the crew members that we'd fought with good luck, Thryiss and I took the turbolift to the bridge. As I stepped into the ship's central hub I felt awkward to say the least. I'd been banned from the bridge as a child, and now here I was, the Captain of a starship.
"I need a status report ASAP!" I ordered. An officer dressed in red turned away from his station and faced Thryiss and me.
"Ensign Jakob Kane sir, I'm in charge of tactical and security now," he said, "the Borg have sent over several boarding parties and are trying to fight their way down to engineering and destroy the ship."
"Ensign Jakob this is Ensign Thryiss. You'll be in charge of security and she'll take tactical. We need to drive the Borg off the ship by any means possible!" I responded. Thryiss stepped over to a console.
"Sir, we've already got most of our crew repairing the ship and fighting the Borg; there's not much more we can do. The new Chief Medical Officer could use some help though; he's activated the EMH but it's not enough!" she remarked.
"We're short on officers; I'll have to lend him a hand myself. Forward all hails to sickbay, Thyriss you're in charge of the bridge!" I responded. I then returned to the turbolift and headed for sickbay. Once I arrived I was immediately informed that there was a hail from Starfleet, so I made use of a video phone to answer it.
"Hello U.S.S. Waratah, I'm Fleet Admiral Quinn. Who am I speaking to?" a dark skinned Trill male in a red uniform asked.
"Ensign Austin Keith, sir. Most of the senior officers on board have been killed by the Borg, so as the highest ranking officer left I've been put in charge," I answered.
"I'm sorry to hear that Ensign; hopefully we can end this fight before more blood is shed. Starfleet has amassed all its available ships and is sending them your way; they should arrive in a few minutes," Quinn remarked.
"That's good to hear, we can use all the help we can get," I responded.
"That's very true Ensign; the Borg are deadly and I warn you: don't underestimate them. Good luck Keith, Quinn out," the Admiral responded. The screen went black. I continued helping out the Chief Medical Officer as I had never stopped working while on the phone. Through our efforts we managed to resuscitate two officers who were presumed dead and save quite a few other lives as well. True to Admiral Quinn's word a fleet of ships arrived shortly after our call, and with their help the Borg soon found themselves on the losing side of the battle.
As the enemy ships began to retreat away teams were sent to my ship as well as the Potomac. The Borg soldiers still on board were defeated and then a cruiser beamed over engineering crews to help repair both vessels. The Waratah and the Potomac were semi-operational within a few hours, at which point they made the voyage back to Earth Spacedock for repairs. Upon my arrival I was immediately summoned to Admiral Quinn's office by the popular Captain Sulu.
I made my way through the Spacedock with ease; I pretty much had a map of the place in my mind. There were Lieutenants, Commanders and other Ensigns all milling around the place, chatting and trading gossip. It was really a rather busy place, and I couldn't help but wonder if the people I saw were stationed here or if some of them were enjoying down time like me. I knew I'd never get an answer so I put the question out of my mind as I entered the Admiral's office.
"Ah, Ensign Keith, nice to see you made it back home in one piece. You look... taller on camera," Admiral Quinn said as I entered.
"Yeah, I get that a lot. So what was it you wanted me for?" I questioned.
"As you know, due to the casualties from the battle the Waratah is severely understaffed and lacks a Captain," the Admiral began.
"Indeed, so you need to assign new crew members to the ship and select someone to assume command," I remarked.
"Correct Lieutenant, you're pretty sharp," Quinn responded.
"Thank y- did you just say Lieutenant?" I questioned, a little surprised.
"Yes I did. As of this moment I am officially promoting you to Lieutenant and giving you command of the Waratah," Quinn explained. I was shocked to say the least. After getting over the initial surprise, I remember the history of my ship's name. I wasn't about to take command of a ship that was going to disappear or get destroyed.
"Thank you sir, but if I may, I have one concern," I responded.
"What is that Lieutenant?" the Admiral asked.
"The name of my ship is historically… an omen. Every ship named Waratah, whether it be a sailing ship or a space ship, has either disappeared, sunk, or been destroyed. I think that before we send her out on another voyage the Waratah should be given a different, less cursed name," I explained.
"Well I'm not one for superstitions, but history like that doesn't lie. I have to agree with you Lieutenant, the Waratah needs to be rechristened before she leaves Earth Spacedock again," the Admiral remarked in slight shock.
"Thank you sir," I responded.
"No, thank you Lieutenant; I wouldn't have known about this if it weren't for you. Now, I think I can pencil in the rechristening a couple days from now; you have until then to come up with a name," the Admiral responded.
"Thank you sir, I'll see you then," I replied.
Two days later, the Waratah was rechristened. However, despite knowing the ship's new name, the crew of the U.S.S. Firestorm still had no idea as to who would be commanding them. The day the ship was to set off on a new voyage had come, and still there was no word as to the new department heads or first officer. Now a Lieutenant, I beamed aboard the ship just ten minutes before we were to set off.
"Captain Keith sir, have you decided on the new first officer?" the Transporter Chief asked, looking down at me.
"I've made my choices Ensign, I'm going to the bridge to announce it to the whole ship," I responded. I made my way through engineering to the nearest turbolift, which took me to the bridge. Taking a deep breath, I strode over to the Captain's chair and activated the intercom.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the U.S.S. Firestorm, this is Captain Austin Keith speaking. With the loss of most of our senior officers we've gained many new crewmen and the command hierarchy has had to be redone. I will now be announcing the new department heads and First Officer," I started. To prepare for this decision I had been talking with the ship's senior officers a lot while we were off-duty and I'd gotten to know them quite well. One, a sciences officer named AJ, was a rather short human girl only a few years older than me, and we really hit it off.
"The new head of engineering is Ensign Lig Liger. The new head of operations is Ensign Brandon Chan. The new head of sciences is Ensign AJ Andrews. The new chief medical officer is Ensign Salhus. The new head of Security is Ensign Jakob Kane, and the new head of Tactical is Ensign Thryiss Thompson," I continued. I sat down nervously in the Captain's chair as several of the selected officers congratulated each other. The bridge then went silent in suspense, awaiting the selection of the first officer.
"The new First Officer is AJ Andrews," I finished.
"Thank you sir!" AJ said from her post a few yards away.
"You're welcome AJ," I responded, smiling, "Jakob, is everyone accounted for?"
"All crew members are onboard and we're ready to set off sir," Jakob responded.
"Alright then," I said, preparing for my first official command, "Ensign Lig, get us underway."
"Yes sir!" he responded. The ship began moving momentarily, gliding from drydock out into space. I glanced around the ship's bridge; my post felt so strange and yet so right.
"How does it feel to be the permanent Captain of a starship sir?" AJ asked.
"To be honest, kind of awkward…" I answered, "…but good at the same time." AJ accepted the answer with a smile and returned to her work. I sat back comfortably in my chair and thought to myself for a moment. One second I was an Ensign starting work in the lab and the next thing I knew I'd helped drive back the Borg and was the Captain of my own starship. It wasn't the life I'd asked for, but I'd be damned if I was going to turn it down.
After almost two years as Captain a lot had changed aboard the Firestorm. At age 18 I was now a Captain in rank as well as position, one of the youngest officers to attain the position in recent times. AJ, Thryiss, Brandon and Lig were now Commanders, and Jakob and Salhus were Lieutenant Commanders. A lot of the other personnel had ranked up as well. To match the ship's increasing prestige, Admiral Quinn had presented me with a new Venture class ship, an Exploration Cruiser refit, to replace the old Shi'Kar class light cruiser I'd been in command of. Dubbed the U.S.S. Firestorm-B, the large ship made me feel special all over again.
It was only a month or two after we got the new ship when I found myself arriving in my quarters for a well deserved rest. I stepped inside and started towards my bed, only to find that there was a package waiting for me on top of it. There was a note attached to the rather large box, and as I started to read I recognized my mother's handwriting.
Austin, I realize your birthday is coming up, so I thought I'd take the liberty of sending you some of your old keepsakes as a little present. I also wouldn't want you to be without your most memorable items if something should happen to the McCoy, so this gift serves two functions. I hope you're enjoying being a Captain; he doesn't say it but I know your father is proud of you. We'll see you soon.
I was a little surprised by the note, but that wasn't a bad thing. I was happy that my mom had decided to send these keepsakes to me; they were mine anyway and god knows what can happen in deep space. Since it was my off time and I wasn't too horribly tired I decided to take a look in the box. Wondering what I'd find inside, I disengaged the electronic lock and opened it up.
The contents of the box were pretty self explanatory; old toys, clothes and a few other things that brought back vivid images of childhood. In most all of the memories I was padded; back in the day I'd fought against toilet training until shortly after I reached my full height. I chuckled at my childishness; boy had I been immature. Ironically, that was when I noticed the box's single out-of-place occupant: a large case of diapers.
I looked closely at the packaging, and was quite astonished to find that they were my size. What's more, they were new; not manufactured more than an Earth year ago. I was quite bewildered as to what they were doing in my keep sake box, or at least I was until I saw the note attached to them. Peeling the tape off of the cardboard packaging, I lifted the note and began to read again.
I knew you always enjoyed these and I thought getting you keepsakes for your birthday was kind of mediocre, so I threw these in. I know you'll enjoy them.
I looked down at the box of diapers, staring at them with a conflicted expression. I hadn't been padded in years, and it was tempting to put one on. However, I was a Captain now and it was very immature. I decided that as much as I wanted to, I couldn't; it would set a bad example and make me look like even more of a child in front of my peers. I'd worked my ass off to get the reputation I currently had, and I wasn't about to throw it away for some personal enjoyment. Sighing to myself, I tossed both notes in the box of keepsakes and closed it before going to bed.
A couple weeks later my birthday had arrived, as had my parents. Dad continued to avoid me, spending most of his time either in his and mom's cabin or conversing with members of my crew in the Lounge. During my extended birthday off-time I found myself sitting with my mom in my quarters.
"So, did you get my gift a couple weeks ago?" my mom asked.
"I did mom, including the special addition. Unfortunately I have to refuse that part," I responded. My mom frowned.
"Why?" she asked, "You used to love being padded."
"Because if I put one of those things on it would trash my reputation," I said. My mom saw straight through the lie I'd made myself believe.
"I know it's not that; you can make any Captain in Starfleet look dumb in a matter of minutes. You're real problem is your father," she responded. I sighed.
"Yeah, you're right… he was never particularly accepting of me, and now I like to think I've finally made him proud by becoming a Captain. I don't want to throw that all away…" I replied.
"It sounds to me like you need to have a talk with your father," mom remarked.
"That's exactly what's going to happen," my dad said suddenly, catching us off guard. I stood up and led him to the other half of my quarters, out of earshot of my mother.
"I know what you're going to say. You're going to go on about how I'm a disgrace and-," I started, but dad cut me off.
"No; I never said you were a disgrace. I guess I never said anything because I was still angry from the incident on the bridge all those years ago. That's history now though. Son, you've become a Captain in almost record time, and you're one of the youngest in history. Despite your height and childish appearance you've built a reputation as one of Starfleet's premier officers. If I was put in your shoes, I never could have pulled this off. Despite what you think son, I AM proud of you," dad said. I was struck speechless and on the verge of tears. All I could bring myself to do was hug my dad. He wrapped his arms around me as I clung to him, and held me close.
"Another thing son… I don't have any problem with you wearing diapers. I had a few… unorthodox interests in my day, and I did whatever I could to pursue them. I won't stop you from doing what you enjoy," dad added. I kept hugging him; it was the only thing I could think to do. His 6 foot tall frame towered over me, but it made things that much sweeter. I felt like a little kid being consoled by his father, and it just made the moment all the more special.
A few months later I- now 19- sat on the bridge of the Firestorm, my chair leaning back slightly. Our voyage had taken us to the region of space surrounding Deep Space 9 and the Bajor system. We were on our way to Cardassia to conduct a scientific mission, and things were going as planned so far. Suddenly we received a distress call from a ship in the Bajor system, which we were passing by at the time, so we headed in that direction to try and help.
We arrived on the scene to find a Vesper class Federation cruiser, the U.S.S. Thorndike, heavily damaged and orbiting one of Bajor's moons. It seemed to have been attacked, but there were no ships in the area. I wasn't going to risk anything until I knew the area was clear, so I made a command.
"Commander AJ, any other ships on sensors?" I asked.
"Only the standard cargo ships coming and going from DS9. Whatever attacked the Thorndike is long gone," she responded.
"Sir, incoming hail from the Thorndike, shall I put it through?" Thryiss asked.
"Onscreen," I answered. As the video feed appeared on the screen I identified the person on the other end as a male human about 6 feet tall, Caucasian, dark haired and wearing a tactical uniform. He started to speak but then stifled laughter, obviously having seen me. I was currently wearing a new uniform my mom had bought me; it looked just like my old one except it was a onesie. It had trim the same blue as the top of my uniform around the leg holes and on the edges the strap with the snaps on it. Underneath the babyish outfit I wore a soft, comfy diaper with Starfleet themed diaper tapes.
"My apologies; I thought I'd be speaking to the Firestorm-B's Captain," the man said, trying to stop his laughter. I wasn't amused, and neither was my crew. I had grown used to Captain's reacting like this, and by now I was more than prepared to deal with it.
"You are, I'm Captain Austin Keith. Now, considering the level of damage your ship has sustained I'd choose your next words wisely. Otherwise my crew and I might decide to leave you here," I responded tersely. I had no intention of carrying out the threat, but from the way I spoke you'd never know.
"Sorry, my apologies. All I know is we were conducting a scientific survey when several smaller ships that appeared to be Orion in origin warped in and blasted the hell out of us before leaving just as quickly," the Thorndike's Captain responded.
"They probably saw my ship on sensors and fled; it's happened before. What's the extent of the damage?" I asked.
"There are a few hull breaches, we've lost sensors and torpedoes, and the warp core sustained damage. We don't have the necessary tools to repair the core, so we're going to have to try and get to DS9," the Captain answered.
"Sir, sensors indicate that the Thorndike has about half an hour left before the damage results in a warp core breach and it blows itself apart. We need to get it repaired and fast!" Lig remarked suddenly. The Firestorm's head of Engineering looked a little pale.
"Alright Lig, assemble a team of Engineers and get over there stat! We need to get the Thorndike fixed ASAP!" I ordered.
"Right away sir!" Lig responded. He rushed over to the nearest turbolift and headed down to engineering to gather a team.
"We'll be expecting your team Captain, hopefully we can get the core repaired in time," the other Captain remarked, obviously having heard me.
"Indeed. Hailing frequencies will remain open, let us know if you need anything else," I responded. The other Captain nodded and closed the channel.
Lig and his team of engineers managed to repair the Thorndike with a few minutes to spare, and then the ship made its way to Deep Space 9 for more extensive repairs. As for me and my crew, we headed on towards the Cardassia system, continuing our duty to Starfleet. As we passed by DS9 I leaned back in my chair; life felt almost perfect. I had a job I enjoyed, great friends as crew members, and best of all I was padded again. I'm sure Lig would agree that this was a truly wonderful life.