As soon as the shuttle landed aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, members of the crew changed into their active attire and reported to duty. Each and every person wore one of the three customary colors: Red, Blue and Gold, along with a division badge that indicated the position for either: Command, Science, Operations and Medical.
To say the least everyone looked calm. By the time Arden arrived to her post, bridge personal stood or sat in their appropriate stations. Every department was somehow represented on the bridge filling the giant white space with color.
Arden sat at the second science station immediately and took note of the fact that Commander Spock was neither at his station nor anywhere else on the bridge. The less she had to see him, the better. Arden swept her hand over the monitored in front of her going through her pre-flight checks as quickly as she could.
It wasn't the first time she had handled such equipment but she had to admit the new technology on the ship was too good to be true. Commands ran through easily and took her no time at all to finish. While she waited, she took the liberty of reading over the details of the mission.
Half way through reading the official report she felt a hand on her shoulder. The Lieutenant snapped her head around and found Captain Pike leaning over her shoulder only slightly to take a look at her monitor.
"Alright, Lieutenant, status report."
"The last shuttle is docking as we speak. We expect all deck to report ready to launch in approximately 5 minutes, sir."
Pike nodded, "Carry on," and stepped to the next station. Arden's eyes lingered on his back and watched him chat briefly with each person at their designated station and from the expression and each individual face the talk wasn't focused entirely on what they were doing.
Arden chuckled to herself. Even if he didn't say it, it was pretty obvious he loved being Captain. Just the way he held himself as he talked to the bridge crew told as much.
She soon when back to their own work and before she and everyone else knew it, Commander Spock paraded onto the bridge before swinging into the chair in front of his station. With a glance at his screen he announced, "All decks report 'ready for launch', Captain," loudly enough so that the captain heard him from across the bridge.
Along with a welcomed thanks, Captain Pike took his rightful spot on top of the command chair. His eyes swooped across each and every face on the bridge, making sure they each knew how proud he was of them.
"Many of you have served with me before," Chris began, "To those who are new to duty I extend a heartily welcome and my apologies for the haste with which you have been called into active service. The maiden voyage of our newest flagship deserves more pomp circumstance than we can afford today, but her christening will have to be our reward for a safe return. I know that every man, woman and other will do their duty."
He let the words sink in, before he continued, "You are the best that the Academy and Starfleet can produce. I am proud to serve with you and I hope you will not find me wanting in command."
A lieutenant near the front whooped and suddenly the bridge filled with light laughter. For something that was supposed to be so serious it was nice to see the way the tension roll off the crew's shoulders.
When the bridge settled themselves down, Captain Pike active the ships intercom.
"All decks, this is Captain Pike. Final preparations should be complete and all hands at flight stations. Prepare for immediate departure. Helm, thrusters."
All eyes darted to the helmsmen. Although theoretically everyone was supposed to pay attention to their own stations, the chance to see Starfleet's Flagship separate from Space Dock and set out to warp for the first time, strung everyone ones attention. The helmsmen announced the ships movement and prepare for warp speed.
"Maximum warp. Punch it."
The crew watched as the yellow shirt pushed his arm forward. The engines roared. The other federation ships around them blasted into space but the Enterprise still hovered where it had been before. There were mutters, questions as to why they weren't warping.
Arden snapped her head back to her control guessing something must had happened down in engineering. Her controls read normal. In fact nothing indicated why the ship wasn't warping like all the others.
When she looked back toward the view screen all eyes lied on the helpless helmsmen. Captain Pike propped his elbow against his arm rest, his weight leaning forward.
"Lieutenant, where's Helmsman McKenna?"
The yellow shirt spun around and stuck out like a sore thumb. He seemed way too nervous to be someone who had done this before. It could have been much worse on his part, in the very least the Lieutenant didn't let his eyes stray and directed his full attention on his commanding officer.
"Uh, he has lungworms, Sir," the helmsmen explained, "He'll be fine but couldn't report to his post—I'm Hikaru Sulu."
"And you are a pilot, right?"
"Very much so, Sir—I'm not sure what's wrong here…"
"Is the parking brake on," Pike joked.
Lieutenant Sulu, still nervous, didn't catch the note of sarcasms in his superior officer's voice. He shook his head, eyes darting back to his station.
"No, I'll figure it out, just—"
"Have you disengages the External Inertial Dampener," Commander Spock interrupted in that know-it-all voice Arden had grown to hate. Spock's words did however seem to spark a bulb in Sulu's head. Sulu's hand tapped his controls quickly.
"Ready for warp Sir," Sulu announced
"The external inertial dampener. That's…the barking brake."
Mr. Sulu responded with an automatic "yes sir," not bothering to look around to see the Captains amused expression. Once Chris got his chuckle out of the way he prompted Sulu to "punch it" and send the ship into warp.
This time when he did, the ship snapped into warp. Everything seemed to fall back into place. Arden went back to her station monitoring what she was in charge of. It wasn't even a minute before the Captain called Arden's attention.
Arden blinked, turning her head hesitantly toward the command chair as though she had just imagined the call. She was surprised to say the least that she hadn't imagined it. Her father looked her over with a professional manned.
"You've read the full details of the Vulcan transmission, have you not?"
"Aye Aye sir."
If Arden hadn't known better the small nod coming from her father's direction was a sign of approval.
"See that all departments receive the full details so that they can organize their section accordingly. Let's also sent out a condensed version for the mean time," he announced swerving his chair back toward the view screen. "Russian whiz kid—what's your name again? Chanko? Cherpov?"
"Ensign Chekov, sir. Pavel Andreievich."
The moment Arden heard the thick Russian accent echo across the bridge she recognized the boy sitting in the navigation station. With this thick blonde mop of curls there was no way Arden would have mistook Pavel for somebody else. The Russian golden boy hadn't changed a bit. His cheeks still held his deep dimples and his eyes still glitter with wonder.
"Right Chekov, Pavel Andreievich. You are familiar with the details of the Vulcan transmission?"
"Yes, sir, I have it memorized completely."
"Very commendable, Mister Chekov. Can you please provide a verbal summary for the crew?"
Even if Chekov did seemed to have that excited expression on his face almost constantly he looked more than delighted to deal with the job the captain had asked of him. Pavel started the ship wide broadcast announcing the mission at hand as soon as he got the controls to work in his favor. While he got to work getting to the point and informing the crew the important stuff Arden found herself sending the full details of the mission to every department.
For someone who had always been excited to serve on the bridge, it was a bit boring. Monitoring status reports and working on something the captain had requested, other than that there wasn't much to do on the bridge, that was until everyone could hear the sound of a BOM BOM BOM coming from the halls.
The sound of stomping began getting and clearer and clearer until the complex of the bridge erupted in shouts. Sprinting into the bridge without any permission came Jim without any care in the world. If finding Jim on the Enterprise wasn't strange enough it was even stranger finding not only Leonard racing behind him with a med kit and a hypo in his hands but also Uhura with clearly a very confused looked across her face.
Jim spoke rapidly, his speech coming out as some strange mumble about having to stop the ship. Everyone on the bridge shared the same look but it was Chris who questioned what everyone was thinking, " Kirk? How the hell did you get on board the Enterprise?"
Right as Jim opened his mouth to respond, Leonard yanked him back.
"It's my fault, sir," McCoy started, "I brought him aboard. Given the Red Alert situation I thought Starfleet could use every available hand. I gave him a—"
"Bones—" Jim warned, yanked his arm out of his reach, "Vulcan isn't experiencing a natural disaster, its being attacked—by Romulans,"
Captain Pike rolled his eyes, clearly not in the mood for any more of Jim's antics.
"I think you've had enough attention for one day—Doctor McCoy, return to medical, we'll have a word later and take Cadet Kirk with you."
"Aye Aye sir."
He slipped his hand around Jim's bicep, pleading wordlessly to move along before he could get into any more trouble. Jim struggled against the doctor's grip but Leonard refused to let go.
Just give him a chance to explain.
From the pressure of blood rushing through her ears, it took Arden longer to realize she had spoken out loud and had actually gotten out of her seat to argue. Movement on the bridge stopped. Some waiting to see how Captain Pike would respond, others too shocked to react.
There was a clear mutter of Damnit Arden in the background. She felt a hand grasp back of her neck and a clear southern tang against her ear.
"The hell, are you doing? Jim's high off his fucking mind right now from meds and you actually believe him?"
"What do you mean high?"
"I mean, I gave Jim a-"
"Are you two finished," Captain Pike's voice interrupted.
When the two science officers looked over at their commanding officer, he had his arms crossed over his chest, his annoyance level reaching its max. When they nodded in response, Spock took the opportunity to speak up.
"I must disagree with the Lieutenant's suggestion Captain," he began, "As your first officer; I would like to remind you that Mr. Kirk is not cleared to be aboard this vessel. By Starfleet regulations, that makes him a stowaway—"
"Yeah I get it, you're a great arguer, I'd love to do it again with you too," Jim spoke in defense. The bridge turned in a showdown between Jim and Spock. It was like the hearing back on Earth only this time, it was much worse. This time they didn't have a podium to hide behind.
The two fought even more fiercely than they had at the board meeting. It wasn't just about some stupid simulation anymore it was personal. The more the argument went on, the angrier Kirk got and the more Spock managed to stay level headed and drive Kirk even angrier.
"The same anomaly, a lightning storm in space that we saw today also occurred on the day of my birth, before a Romulan ship attacked the USS Kelvin," Jim's eyes flicked away from Spock to Pike. "You know that sir, I read your dissertation. That ship which had formidable and advance weaponry was never seen or heard from again. The Kelvin was attacked in a place on the edge of Klingon space, and at 2300 hours last night, there was an attack. 47 Klingon war-birds were destroyed by Romulans sir and it was reported that the Romulans were in that one ship, one massiveship."
It took a moment to process. Pike and Kirk shared a steady look as though Pike were to determine his bluff, that there wasn't really a disaster and that he was only looking for the attention. A moment passed and Captain Pike turned on the balls of his feet and took his rightful spot on the chair.
"Mister Sulu, hail Captain Alexander aboard the Newton," Pike commanded staring straight ahead at the view screen.
Sulu followed the order and ran his hand over the appropriate controls on his station. Jim, who still stood stiffly, finally dropped his shoulders in relief.
"Sir," Sulu interrupted over the silence. "Our hails not getting through. We're being blocked by some kind of subspace interference. I can try and analyze the—"
"Never mind that now. Try the Excelsior."
Again they tried to get in contact with one of the fleets ships' and again nothing. Even from their spot on the bridge it was clear the anxiety in Captain Pike was growing and growing with every failed attempt at contact.
"Lieutenant Uhura, can you open up a channel?"
"Channel open sir. If you would like to try and make conta-"
He didn't wait for her to finish. He spoke in total formality, addressing himself fully as Captain
Christopher Pike of the USS Enterprise, and how all the other ships need to have their shields and weapons on standby until it was clarified if they were truly in an emergency situation. As soon as he finished his open channel message he spat order left and right to various crew members.
Arden got back in position at her station, following as instructed. They had tactical on screen, displaying all the other ships in their armada. Through tacticals perspective they would clearly see the names: Armstrong, Farragut, Defiant, Newton, Mayflower and Excelsior highlighted in bright blue.
"Captain," she called from the second science station, "The fleet is dropping out of warp." The bridge watched the screen for one second. Then two. The names are still bright blue. Nothing indicating an attack was present on their screens. The ships were fine.
There was a collective sigh of relief from the entire crew.
Arden turned in her seat to glance over at Leonard and Jim who seem to have found a permanent position on the bridge. Jim's eyes are focused on the view screen as Leonard began to scold him.
"See? They're there. They've arrived. I shouldn't have just given you a dose of mud flea vaccine—I should've put you under general anesthetic. It would have been better than…"
She sighed, not bothering to listen to the rest of his rant. Rubbing a hand over her face, she went back to her screen. She stared at the names long and hard. When she rubbed her eyes and looked back at the screen in front of her something looked off. She couldn't tell what it was until she actually saw the next blue dot flicker and disappear completely from her screen.
The bridge crew watched in horror as the two dots disappeared from view. Crew members on monitors scrambled to see what they could do. If she thought they were panicking now, it was nothing compared to how distraught they were after Uhura managed to receive a transmission about the rest of the fleet's distress signal. Through the static of the message and the screams of the despair, it wasn't hard to picture how bad it was on their end, being attacked by the Romulan vessel.
Pike called, "Red alert! Ready all weapons," before the transmission was complete.
All they could see when they dropped out of warp were the twisted metals and bulks of the destroyed armada. Destroyed ships drifted in pieces around them, both big and small. Some of the best Starfleet had to offer were now gone, lost in the abyss they called space.
The Romulan vessel, the only ship left standing, was nothing anyone on the Enterprise had seen before. It wasn't just the size of the ship that took Arden by surprise, it was the architecture itself. Romulan ships were supposed to look like that. Hell, even Orion pirates didn't have ships constructed in such a way.
"What the hell is that," she whispered.
Every second spent looking at the ship the more she knew the Romulans couldn't possibly have technology like that. It wasn't possible, it didn't make any sense.
"Captain," Spock spoke up, "the Romulan ship has lowered some kind of high energy pulse device into the atmosphere. Its signal appears to be blocking out communications and transport abilities."
A loud beep came from Arden's station. Shit!
"Sir, they're locking torpedoes!"
"Avert auxiliary power from port nacelles to forward shields," Captain Pike commanded without hesitation. Even with the most immediate response there was barely enough to time to respond to the command. The full force of the torpedo smashed to the side of the ship, sending several crew men out of their seats and onto the floor.
"Sulu, status report," demanded the captain.
"Shields at thirty-two percent. They're weapons are powerful sir. We can't take another hit like that."
There was something wrong about this entire thing. Even if the Romulans had managed to make a ship that large she knew for a fact they hadn't produced weapons that strong yet. The Enterprise was supposed to have the most advanced weapons system to date; it shouldn't have lost that much power so quickly.
"I want all power to forward shields! Continue evasive Mister Sulu! Prepare to fire all weapons anew. They have to have a weak spot!"
"Weapons ready sir."
The bridge crew waited for their orders patiently. Spock hunched over his station ready to spit out any sort of information regarding the other ships torpedoes or shields. It wasn't Spock however that spoke up but Lieutenant Uhura.
"Captain we're being hailed."
Everyone shared the same bit of confusion around the bridge. Captain Pike didn't take a moment hesitation. He gestured for the Lieutenant to open the channel to the bridge only. The view screen shifted. Like Jim had predicted in front of the screen stood the Romulan Captain.
"Hello," the Romulan greeted as though he weren't just the person being that had destroyed the rest of their fleet.
"I'm Captain Christopher Pike, to whom am I speaking?"
"Hi Christopher, I'm Nero."
"You've declared war against the federation, withdraw and I'll agree to arrange a conference with Romulan leadership at a neutral location—"
"I do not speak for the Empire. We stand apart. As does your Vulcan crew member, isn't that right Spock?"
It would be a lie to say the rest of the crew hadn't turned to take a good look at Spock's reaction. Even Jim and Leonard took a quick look at the Vulcan as the Romulan, Nero, flashed him a smile.
"Spock," Nero went on, "there's something I'd like you to see. Captain Pike, your transporter has been disabled; as you can see by the rest of your Armada, you have no choice. You will man a shuttle and come aboard the Narada for negotiations, By yourself."
The crew held their breath, waiting for Pike's response. It should have been an automatic no but the longer it took for Pike to answer the more people seemed to realize that wasn't the case.
"As a sentient being who values honor, give me your word you won't harm my ship if I come aboard yours"
"Sir, with all due respect—what are you doing," Jim snapped from behind the command chair. Pike shot him a look that quickly made Jim close his mouth and keep his comment to himself even if that was what everyone else was thinking.
"We have agreement. However any delay will result in the immediate destruction of your vessel."
Pike opened his mouth to respond but the communication line between the two ships cut off quickly, leaving Nero with the last word.
Arden's thoughts went on overdrive, the only cognitive thought repeating over and over in her mind was "not again. She couldn't lose him again." She couldn't wait. Before Pike was out the chair she was already yelling in protest.
"If you go on the ship, you aren't going to come back," Arden barked.
"She's right. He'll kill you, and you know that," said Jim.
"I also agree," spoke Spock, "Survival is unlikely."
The captain didn't stop to answer any of them. It was clear his attention was focused on other things as his eyes scanned the bridge crew as though he were in search for something he lost.
"Daddy," she begged. She hated using that term especially on the bridge but it felt as though that would be the only way to get his attention. "Can you just listen to us. When Captain Robau from the USS Kelvin boarded their ship, they killed him almost instantly and then attacked the Kelvin. We can't guarantee that won't happen again even if they say they won't."
"I understand that," Captain Pike stated, yet is didn't look at all like he did, "I need officers who have been trained in advanced hand-to-hand combat."
Ironically the only one who raised their hand was the Helmsmen.
"I have training, Sir!"
"Come with me. Mister Spock also. Kirk you too—you're not supposed to be here anyway." Everyone who had their name called nodded in response, "Mister Chekov, contact engineering, having Chief Engineer Olsen meet us at Shuttle Bay five."
Pike turned around, taking one last look around the bridge, making sure he hadn't forgotten anything in the process. She was surprise to see that he gave her one last look and a reassuring smile. Captain Pike squeezed her shoulder firmly.
"You have the conn."
Arden nodded. It was the only thing she could do. She couldn't find the ability to speak up and she was sure her knees were going to give out any moment. Pike quickly tucked a lose strand of hair behind her ear and was off with Sulu, Kirk and Spock on his tail and out of the bridge.
The Lieutenant tried to compose herself but she could feel the wall she had built herself crumble around her. He left her again, without even a goodbye.
She tried to concentrate on anything but the uneasy feeling in her stomach. It wasn't until she caught Leonard, standing on the bridge still did everything feel better. It wasn't like he was needed on the bridge at all, but he didn't leave her, not like the others.
"Why haven't you left yet," she asked.
He shrugged his shoulder like it was nothing, "needed to see if you were alright before I left, considerin' Pike just-"
He stopped once she launched herself at him. She pulled him into a hug, pressing her forehead to the crook on his neck. It didn't matter what he had to say because as long as they were like this, she would be alright.
A/N: I am so sorry for not posting earlier. I had a hard time with this chapter but you should be happy to know that I have a final tomorrow and I chose to work on this than study for that. Leave a review and remember I love ya'll.