This is the final chapter of Alley’s introduction to the Enterprise. In reality, it took about three months to get from the initial contact to her agreeing to meet with me, then maybe three more weeks to get to this point, so I guess we’re not doing too badly.
Alley really didn’t want to give up her career in the Imperium Navy, despite how badly they screwed her over.
What Adam didn’t write about was the softening-up period. We really had to work on and with her to even get her to consider the possibility of leaving, but nobody wants to read that. Believe me, nobody wants it; I know, because I had to read the dammed things!
If you’re tired of waiting for chapters, click on any image to go ahead and purchase the book in any format – ebook, paperback, or audiobook. And there’s the audio sample at the end of the chapter, too!
This flight, Mia showed off what the Galileo could do. She pushed the acceleration hard right from the liftoff. The engines could generate up to 200 g acceleration, but the inertial dampers started losing ground at about 100 g, so by the time she hit max accel her passengers were feeling a full four g. Fortunately, the boost phase only lasted a few moments before Mia was able to cut the engines and allow the dampers to catch up.
“Whew!” breathed Alley. “I’ve been reading up on the Wolves, but that doesn’t prepare you for reality.”
“Nope. Hella fun too when you’re at the controls.” Kendra’s eyes took on a dreamy look. “The only thing it compares to is flooring it down the highway in a really hot, powerful car.”
“This sounds like a story,” said Alley. “Do we have time?”
“Not really, not the full story. Besides, it’s not just me, it’s Cass as well. But, well, maybe the best way to tell is to show you. Once this mess is done, we’ll go for a ride.”
“A ride? In what?”
“It’s called a Veyron.”
“No,” laughed Kendra. “A certified antique.”
“Turnaround in thirty seconds,” announced Mia.
“Try to take it a little easier on the approach?” asked Kendra.
“I’ll hold us to 100 g, sissy.”
“And plan to dock in the shuttle bay. We all have suits.”
Soon enough they were on approach to Spacedock.
“Pay attention. This bit is tricky, but Mia’s a pro.”
“That’s why she’s training the rest of the squadron, right?”
“Right. Mia, give us a view.”
The inner screens changed to a view of the exterior, as if they had suddenly become transparent. Alley watched in silent fascination as the Galileo glided through Spacedock and approached Enterprise from aft.
“Go ahead, Galileo.”
“On final to Enterprise. Request clearance for landing in shuttlebay.”
“Galileo, approved for approach and landing shuttlebay.”
“Thank you, Spacedock. Galileo out.”
Mia maneuvered the craft gently between the nacelles and their support pylons towards the engineering hull. They were barely crawling along at two meters per second, giving Alley plenty of time to examine her command from a different perspective.
The doors to the shuttlebay separated. Inside, Alley could see one other MOV, parked on the starboard side of the bay. Mia guided the Galileo to the port side, drifting ever closer to the deck. When they touched down, it was so soft that neither Alley nor Kendra could tell from their senses, instead being informed by their ‘plants.
“It will take me a minute to shut her down,” said Mia, starting the process. “I’ll tell you before I start pumping down the atmo.”
“That would be Mia’s subtle way of telling us to put our helmets on,” said a grinning Kendra. “I don’t think she’d let her new CO suck vacuum, but maybe we don’t test that today.”
“That would probably put a crimp in my schedule,” agreed Alley, setting the helmet into place, and checking her seals.
“Radio check,” said Kendra’s voice.
“Five by five,” answered Mia.
“I’ll check your seals, you check mine, then we’ll check Mia’s.”
A moment later, all three were ready to disembark. Both lights on the hatch showed red, and Mia undogged it.
“Step down,” advised Kendra, gesturing to the hatchway. “After you, Captain.”
Alley stepped forward, watching her feet, then raised her head and froze. Arrayed before her were an array of about thirty suited figures who all snapped more-or-less to attention and saluted her.
“Commander, Enterprise, arriving,” said a male voice in her suit, followed by the ancient sound of a bosun’s pipes. Alley’s return salute was automatic, and though she searched the bay in vain for a flag she ended up settling instead on directing it generally at the crew before her.
“Did you know about this?” Alley subvocalized to Kendra.
“I had an idea.”
“And the crew?”
“Engineers, machinists, welders – basically the people who are building the ship.” All three were now on the deck, and Kendra took the lead.
“Captain Martinez, this is Kyran Knott,” said Kendra, nodding to the person in the suit closest to them. “They’re the lead engineer for the build.”
“I’ll hold off shaking hands until we’re under pressure,” they said. They were medium height, about 1.5 meters, with close-cropped brown hair, a strong face, and a pleasant contralto voice.
“How are we coming?” asked Alley, falling in beside Knott.
“Other than the fact that I have to rip up the central line of the shuttlebay deck to install a spinal laser? Right on target.”
“Kyran, we’ve been over this,” began Kendra.
Knott held up a hand. “Sorry. It’s been a long day that started way too early. Now, if I can get those extra workers you promised, we’ll make up the time by the end of the month.”
“They’ll be here tomorrow,” Kendra assured them.
“Good. Then my day just got better.” They exited the bay through an open doorway, walked forward to another set of doors, and stopped.
“Lift,” explained Knott. “We’re using them as airlocks between hulls until we can get her sealed up.”
“How long on that?”
“If everything goes well, and the damn robots don’t get confused, the last of the nanotube will be woven today. We can finish installing the CeeSea after that and start doing pressure tests. I’d say we’ll be rated for atmo this time next week.”
“That’s great news!” The doors slid open and they stepped in, doors closing behind them. “Deck seven,” said Kendra, and they started to rise.
Alley could feel the air pressure building as they rose, but waited to take her helmet off.
“And we’ve actually gotten one of the transporters finished.”
“No more MOVs?”
“Well, I don’t know that I’d trust myself to one of those things, but yeah. It seems to work fine.”
“Kyran, I have a question about the bay.”
“How will we fit six MOVs in there?”
“The landing pads are retractable and intended to be lowered; there’s a hold below the deck where all six can be stored.”
“A hangar bay.”
“Exactly,” agreed Knott. “The mechanisms are a bit tricky, but we overengineered them so they’re robust enough for you Navy types.”
The lift stopped and the doors opened, preventing Alley from responding further as they busied themselves with the removal of helmets and suits.
“If there’s nothing else?” Knott directed the comment to Kendra, who smoothly looked to Alley.
“No, not right now.”
“If you need anything, I’ll be aboard for a couple more hours before I go off shift. Nice to meet you, Captain. I’m sure we’ll get to know each other well.”
“I’m sure we will.”
With a nod, Knott headed down the corridor and out of sight.
“A bit snarky,” said Alley.
“Kyran’s been working on Enterprise from the start, about ten years back, and has seen some major modifications and changes to the design. Before Cass and I got involved, she was going to be a much smaller ship, capable of landing on planets, and you won’t believe the headaches that was causing!”
“Like what? I haven’t had a chance to look at the history of this project; I’ve been trying to catch up on the tech.”
“Well, atmosphere is one problem, between being prepared for varying pressures and chemical compositions. Then there were the landing legs, and those were proving to be a complete nightmare. In a way, the shift to a purely space-based ship was a blessing. It simplified the requirements considerably.”
“Didn’t you have something to do with that?”
“I don’t want to take all the credit,” said Kendra. “After all, it was Cass’s transporters that really were the last straw.”
“We can use them to resupply the ship far quicker than using MOVs,” explained Kendra. “If there’s no need for bulk loading on the surface, then the MOVs can do anything else that the ship could do on site.”
“Plus she looks cooler now.”
Kendra agreed. “That she does.”
They had made their way up to deck two while talking, and were now forward and amidships.
“I thought we were going to my office? That’s off the bridge; if I studied the schematics right, this is crew quarters.”
“You did study right, and these are crew quarters. Officer’s country, I think you’d call it. Specifically, your cabin. I thought you might want to look it over.”
Alley’s eyes lit at the prospect. “How do I get in?”
“Remember I said that the ‘plant would make command easier?”
“Tell the door to open.”
Closing her eyes, Alley turned inward. I want the door to the captain’s quarters to open, she thought, and then opened her eyes at the sound of the door sliding.
“And pretty soon you won’t even need to close your eyes,” teased Kendra. “Don’t worry, it’s just something you get used to. After you.”
The quarters were more spacious than Alley’d expected. In front of her was a pair of comfortable-looking chairs, with a small table between them. To their left stretched a –
“A couch. You can’t always sit on a chair; sometimes you’re going to want to relax just a bit more.”
Across from the couch, mounted against the corridor bulkhead, was a table with a large box on the far end, with a control panel mounted above it. Two more chairs were on either side.
“The box is a replicator?” Replicators she could handle. Most moderately well-to-do homes had one to help with food preparation.
“Got it in one.”
A door was set into the far left bulkhead. “What’s through there?”
“Go see,” was Kendra’s only reply. Alley walked to the door, which opened at her approach.
“Sensors recognize you as the occupant. It won’t work for anyone else; back up and I’ll show you.” Alley did so and the door closed. Kendra strode purposefully towards it, but it steadfastly refused to open, and she stopped just before actually running into it.
“Clever trick,” Alley said, walking back to it. “And what’s so special about –”
“Yeah, about that,” said Kendra, following.
Alley was staring around the inner cabin. A comfortable-looking bed was the main furniture, but that wasn’t what had frozen her in her tracks.
“Another window,” said Kendra, grinning. “This one has an outer shield of Durasteel and CeeSea that you can move into place for darkness, along with an inner shield of Durasteel. And don’t go looking at me like that! All the officer’s quarters have exactly the same sort of arrangement, even if they’re not quite as lavish.”
“I’m surprised there isn’t a window in the other cabin.”
Kendra said nothing, and Alley rested her head in her palms.
“There’s a window in the other cabin, isn’t there? It’s just closed up.”
“I figured that having both open at once would be a bit of overload.”
“And what other surprises are there?”
Kendra half-bowed and waved a hand in answer.
Alley peered around, saw another door, and passed through.
“And this is…?” came her voice, which Kendra followed.
“A private study. You have a direct link to the Q-Net node and to the AI at that workstation,” said Kendra, pointing to a large screen on the far bulkhead with a desk and chair beneath it.
“This keeps getting better,” admitted Alley. “Never had this much space in my last command.”
“Your last command was, if you’ll pardon me saying so, puny, compared to Enterprise.”
“No argument. Where’s the head? Or is that communal?”
“No, no. The door to your right.”
Again a door slid open.
“You have got to be shitting me.”
“Rather appropriate, considering the room you’re in,” said a smiling Kendra.
“This isn’t a head! It’s – it’s –”
“If this was in our home, we’d call it a refresher. Has all the things: toilet, sink, cubbies for stuff, shower. The shower has dual modes, water or ultrasonic. Some people have a preference. And on the other side is your –”
“You put a hot tub on a starship?”
“No, not a hot tub! That would be silly, with all the jets and bubbles. No, this is just a deep soaker, and there are massagers built into the seating so you can really relax.”
“Isn’t the water a bit impractical?”
“Less than you think. Water does an amazing job at abating radiation exposure, so we installed water tanks everywhere we possibly could, through both the bulkheads and hull. There’s also an extremely efficient reclamation system down on deck twelve, including the hydroponics bay. Showering and bathing? No problem at all.”
“I take it back. This cabin isn’t just larger than my cabin on Aurora, it’s larger than the quarters I had ashore!”
“We have space to make our crew comfortable, so we did. I didn’t think there was any reason to make serving on Enterprise more challenging than it’s going to be.” Kendra started out. “Let us know what you want to bring aboard and we’ll arrange it.”
“Ah. Well, technically there aren’t official uniforms yet. I have my preferences, but I also know that I may have been influenced by my personal history, so nothing’s fixed in stone. You’ll have final say on that, too.”
“Nothing mandated from your country?”
“Oh, there’s no country that has claim over Enterprise. We have had very good, very expensive lawyers poring over everything on space law they could get their hands on, and there’s nothing that requires a purely orbital ship to be officially affiliated with any one country.”
“That could be an issue,” mused Martinez. “I mean, from what you’ve told me, we want to use Enterprise to do battle on behalf of the UE against the Solarian Union. That means, at best, we’re a mercenary; at worst, we’re pirates.”
“One of the lawyers brought that up, actually. Took him about eight billable hours to do what you just figured out on thirty seconds, but… We don’t have an answer for that, yet, but we’re working on it. We have time.”
“What about the MOVs? They’re not orbital-only.”
“No, but they’re the equivalent of tenders, cutters, pinnaces, and the like: sub-units of the mother ship, not independent ships on their own right.” Kendra tossed her head lightly. “In any case, we can go over my suggestions for uniforms later. Let’s get you to your office.” She led Alley back into the corridor and back to a lift.
They arrived in seconds. The bridge seemed more complete, more polished, than the last visit, and Alley assumed that was the work of Knott and their teams. Kendra led around to the port. There, tucked into an alcove, was another door.
“Captain, after you.”
Deliberately not closing her eyes, Alley sent a command, and the door responded.
The room it revealed was irregularly shaped, obviously done to fit the bulkheads, but relatively spacious. There was a desk, seating for four or maybe five occupants, the ubiquitous Q-Net/AI interface, and even a smaller version of the replicator in her quarters.
“This is my office?”
Alley was slowly shaking her head. “I hate to say this, but it’s not big enough for me to have the kind of meetings I think I’m going to be having.”
“Ah, no, this is your ready room, a space for you to work while on the bridge without actually being, you know. On the bridge.”
“Yes, there’s a larger space behind the bridge that you haven’t seen yet, for more formal, or larger, gatherings.”
“Would you like to try out your desk, Captain?”
Alley crossed behind the desk and sat, gingerly at first, then fully settling into it.
“It’ll do,” she replied with a laugh as Kendra sat across from her.
“Are you ready for this?”
“Honestly? No. But what I’ve seen in the past two weeks, the obvious commitment you and your people have to making this a success, gives me hope that I will be by the time you need me to be.”
“What sort of potential stumbling blocks come to mind?”
“The biggest one, the one that trumps all the others, is, duh, she’s a starship. Not just a tin can going up and down from orbit, not a shuttle, not a mining ship, an honest-to-god starship.”
“That’s a fair point. I think you’ll find that your experience as commander of a submarine will hold you in good stead, though.”
“I think you’re right. I just hope that I can shake the submariner mindset enough to create the sort of culture you’re hoping for in your people. I looked up those pop culture references, by the way. I figured that you were hoping I would?”
“I was,” admitted Kendra. “I thought that they’d explain my dreams better than I could, the ideals I want us to strive for.”
“They did,” replied Alley. “And then some. I completely get where you’re coming from, and it’s a place I want to go, too. ‘To boldly go’ – it’s not just badly written English. It’s a dream with so, so much behind it; it’s humanity finally growing out of its infancy. It’s a chance for everyone to be welcome, and participate, and be valued for the uniqueness they bring. It’s a resolution that, no matter what challenges we face, the setbacks we encounter, we’re going to keep going on until we succeed. It’s reminding us that we can be so much more, together.”
Kendra blinked a couple times before saying, with a hitch in her voice, “Exactly.” She gathered herself.
“Computer,” she said firmly. “Official log.”
“Recording,” said a vaguely mechanical voice.
“Assign command codes to Commander Jennifer Allison Martinez.”
“Authorization required to transfer command codes.”
“Authorization Cassidy, 1-A, 1-A, 1.”
“Authorization accepted. Confirmation of transfer required from Commander Jennifer Allison Martinez.”
What do I say? Alley commed to Kendra.
You say “Confirmation Martinez, 1-A, 1-A, 1” – that’s the command code, replied Kendra through her ‘plant.
“Confirmation Martinez, 1-A, 1-A, 1.”
“Accepted. Command transferred to Captain Jennifer Allison Martinez.”
Kendra stood. “Captain. She’s all yours. She couldn’t be in better hands.”