Ah, a day that started with kittens and ended with warp buoys.
Only my life.
But this is one of the reasons I have said, and keep saying, “Starfleet is for families.’ We’re not a military organization, though we do have a military-type structure. Our mission is the exploration of space and, where suitable, the colonization of other planets.
My wife and I live aboard the TFS Constitution. Our children have all lived aboard; some of them knew no other home until after they were old enough to head off on their own lives.
So kittens to warp buoys?
Just another day in the life.
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“Mama, can we have the kittens yet?”
“No, Mikki,” said Kendra. “Two more weeks.”
“Two weeks!” wailed Lisa. “But they’re so cute! They want to come home!”
Luciferous Dimples had delivered six kittens the first week of April. She’d chosen to deliver on one of Alley’s uniforms, which didn’t amuse the Enterprise’s captain, but cats will do what cats will do. The girls had been permitted to visit as soon as the kittens had opened their eyes. By the third week, when the kittens were starting to explore, the Chosen Ones had been decided upon. Now it was the fifth week, and their patience had worn through. They wanted their kittens to come home, and come home now.
“Yes, and you know you can visit them any time,” said Kendra. “But they can’t leave their mom until they’re weaned, and that’s when?”
“Usually by the eighth week, Mama,” both girls chorused.
“Can we go visit?” said Mikki.
“Is your schoolwork done?”
“I only have my history left to do, and Minerva said we could do it later.”
In addition to her duties running the ship, the AI made cycles available to act as tutor to both girls. Frankly, Kendra couldn’t think of anyone more well-qualified, or more patient.
“Miss Lisa is stating the case accurately, Admiral. This time.”
“And is LJ in quarters?” It was the middle of the day, so Kendra knew that Alley would be on the bridge.
“She is,” said Minerva. “Connected.”
“LJ, are you able to receive my hellions?” Kendra asked.
“Sure, for about ten minutes, then I have to get to the shuttlebay. They’re welcome to come watch; we’re practicing on-site repairs in vacuum.”
“Ooh, can we? We’ll stay out of the way!”
“Are you sure?” Kendra was dubious.
“I’m sure. They know if they misbehave they won’t get to ride on a shuttle for a week.”
“They’re all yours, then. Out. Girls, stop!”
The two redheads, nearly to the door, halted abruptly.
“Or you can stay in quarters and get ahead on your schoolwork.”
In a flash they disappeared. Kendra tried to be easy-going, but they were living aboard a starship. That meant the girls, like the crew, were required to wear their skinsuits any time they were out of quarters. Just in case. Which started Kendra thinking.
“They’ll be just a minute. Skinsuits.”
“A question for you. What have you done to keep the cats safe? In case of decompression.”
“We had a pressure module installed. What we’ve done is when we know the ship’s heading into harm’s way, we put them in and close it up. They’re not crazy about it, but we have a special treat in there for them they only get when the door is closed.”
“Essence of Japanese catnip. So they get rewarded.”
“Good thinking. Where can we get one?”
“I’ll send you the information,” LJ said.
“Great, thanks! Whoops, they’re on their way!”
“Bye Mama!” yelled one, or maybe both, as they dashed out.
“Minerva,” she said as the hatch slid closed again. “Let me know when they get bored. No, let me know ten minutes after they get bored.”
“Yes, Admiral. Captain Martinez is expecting you in five minutes.”
“On my way.”
Virtual conferences and meetings were fine, usually. Sometimes, though, face-to-face was not just preferred but necessary.
After the events of the past few days, it was necessary.
Her starship commanders and their XO’s were there, though she reminded herself that Kiri called Candice her ‘Number One.’ Also present were Colonel Whitmore, her newly-minted CAG, ‘Flashdance’ Fowler, and Dr. Val Roberts. Val was a last-minute addition, at her insistence.
“Okay, people. Let’s get through this. Flashdance, how are your boys and girls doing?”
“Wolf Squadron is in high spirits. Flying Tiger is doing better; the replacement crews will help, once we get them. Nymeria is champing at the bit, and Red is lording their activity over them. That’ll play out the next time they do a MassEx.”
“Captain Gonzalez and her crew are being debriefed by specialists from OutLook, with insight from myself, Mr. Huff, Ms. Crozier, and some others.”
“Do we know what precipitated their action?”
“Yes. There were two informants aboard Roosa from MinSec. One reported them, including both rendezvous, while the other had a change of heart and went to Gonzalez. She spread the word to the crew who rounded up their families and piled them onto the ship. They barely made it off the ground ahead of MinSec troops. The Worden was the only ship which had a chance to catch them; it was bad luck that it was commanded by a real true believer, one Chris Maddox.”
“We’ve found quarters for them aboard Njord, and Diana is monitoring them. So far we haven’t uncovered any MinSec plants, though we are restricting their communication access.”
“What do we do with them?”
“I’d like to reserve judgement on that for now, Admiral.”
“Very well, Colonel. Captain Martinez, when do we return to Lemnos? And how are the preparations going for the new orbital habitat?”
“Lieutenant Burg is reconfiguring the bay to accommodate the additional equipment and supplies. We’re going to on-load only two Wolves, and the plan is to leave one in Lemnos orbit with the habitat.”
Alley looked at Shannon.
“That’s still being debated, Admiral,” she said. “Hopalong and Wrangler are looking to their squadrons for a suitable pair, one which can act independently for extended lengths of time. We may have to rotate crews, but there will be a crew by departure.”
Alley picked it up from there. “We’re planning for a week from tomorrow, and we’ll be out of system for approximately a week. That will allow us to get the habitat assembled and in place.”
“And next steps?”
“Transitioning from human to a robotic workforce, expansion of the habitat, installation of an AI, probably a Beta, and installation of portals on the surface and the habitat. Three months, if we can maintain a three-week/one-week rotation.”
“Captain Stewart? Will Endeavour be able to cover for those weeks?”
“We should. The worry is the Averroes, but as long as we can track them in warp then we can, essentially, be in two places at once. According to Nicole, I mean Ms. Crozier, the best they’re going to achieve is warp four. We can do nearly sixty times that, at a push; we can cross the system in seconds to back up the Wolves and fighters.”
“And Njord ought to be able to hold off most sublight attacks,” added Whitmore.
“Number One? Anything I’m forgetting?”
“No, Captain. Though I’m sure the crew would like to get back to exploration missions.”
“As soon as possible,” assured Kendra. “In fact, don’t you have one lined up soon?”
“Correct, Admiral. A survey of 40 Eridani. Quick there and back again, day and a half.”
“A nice break for you. Captain Martinez? Anything else to add?”
Cass shook her head. “I’m still refining the portalless teleportation mechanisms. Minerva had the idea that we could build up a pattern library of everyone who passes through the system as a way to check and correct for any errors in transmission. I’ve also taken on an assistant from the Enterprise science division who has some brilliant ideas on expanding the range of the teleports.”
When it became apparent that Cass wasn’t going to go into what the brilliant ideas actually were, Kendra moved on.
“Very well. Dr. Roberts, you asked to sit in.”
“Yes, Kendra, I had been thinking of your communications problem.”
The Federation operated almost exclusively over the Q-Net, a communication and data transfer system based on the same principles as Cass’s teleport. This allowed for nearly instantaneous transmission over incredible distances, which provided a huge strategic and tactical advantage. It was also virtually unbreakable without access to the same technology. Even then they had embedded high-end encryption protocols throughout, just in case. The one issue was, though it could cover great distances with no lag, there simply wasn’t enough power to push the signal reliably beyond the edges of the Solar System.
“You know that the warp field pulls the object it encloses out of the ‘real’ universe, right?”
“Let’s say that I do.”
“I started thinking about the distance between two objects in warp.”
“Isn’t it just however far apart they are in space?”
“Yes and no. From one perspective, the one we’re most familiar with, yes. If you’re in Alpha Centauri, and I’m here, then you’re 4.6 light years away. But in another sense, if the two warp fields are closely aligned, and I mean exactly in harmony, there’s no Einsteinian distance between them.”
“You lost me at that last turn.”
“Vacuum isn’t an absence of matter and energy. It’s a, oh, this is so easy to put into mathematics!”
Val’s frustration showed. The only person who could consistently keep up with her was Cass, and she was nodding along. At least one person got it.
“Look, let’s skip the math. The point is they exist in their own universe, two isolated pockets, but there’s no ‘there’ between them. Whatever hypothetical space you think is between them, isn’t.”
Cass was still keeping up so Kendra figured she’d ride it.
“If you put a Q-Net transmitter in each of two bubbles, they’ll be able to talk to each other no matter how far apart they are.” Val’s grin was huge. “I’ve built a few.”
“That’s great, Val, but how do we get the information out of warp?”
“The same way we track another ship in warp, I’ll bet,” said Stewart.
“Exactly right. It’s a simple modification to the standard sensor array that Starfleet uses. It doesn’t even need hardware, just a software update.”
Kendra was starting to see the possibilities. “So we drop these warp buoys off in each system we explore and then we can communicate with anyone there?”
“Actually, I can see all sorts of possibilities,” said Alley. “It has to stay in warp space, so it’s essentially invisible to ships in real space. Add sensors and a beefed-up power source, and you have a remote sensor array in case anyone else drops in.”
“How big is one of these things?” asked Kendra, thinking about the next mission to Lemnos.
“About half the size of a Wolf,” said Val. “I could maybe make them smaller, but these are built to be essentially self-sufficient and self-maintaining for a year, with all the attendant redundant systems.”
“No, no, that’s a good size,” Kendra assured her. “Alley, can we squeeze one of these into cargo for next week?”
“I think so. Cass, check into that,” she ordered.
Cass made a note.
“Captain Stewart? What about you?”
She considered the notion, musing aloud. “Our bay is larger than Enterprise, but we also carry more small craft. We’d need to take a Wolf to do the positioning, but we can handle it. Number One, can we do it?”
“Yes, Captain. The timing will be tight, but we’ll make it.”
“You heard her, Admiral. We’re in.”
Kendra beamed. “I love it. Val, this is a great idea! How long have you been working on this?”
“Six months or so. Not very long. Cass, do you have time to tell me about that idea you’re working on? Maybe we can integrate it all.”
“Well,” started Cass.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” said Kendra. “You two want to genius? Fantastic. But let’s let everyone else get back to work, eh?”
“Good idea, hon,” said Cass, demonstrating just how caught up she already was. “Val, let’s go talk.”