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Kickin' the Tires

Posted on Wed Nov 25th, 2020 @ 10:30pm by Captain Sadie Stanton & Commander John Collins & Commander Sarah Deco & Lieutenant Jack Carver
Edited on on Thu Nov 26th, 2020 @ 1:01pm

Mission: The Trumpets Sound
Location: Bridge
Timeline: MD04 ~ 1500 hours

Every Alpha shift Bridge officer was present, as ordered. Everybody knew they were about to run through their new systems to give them a thumbs up or down for spaceworthiness. It wasn't a surprise drill. It was a carefully planned one, with all the ship's systems tied in to the Spacedock's so every action and reaction would be log for evaluation after the drill was over. Aside from the living being component, there was also a lot of engineering features to be tested and approved.

Well, it was time... Sadie was always a little nervous with the "new things" but new things could be good and if Sarah said it was good, she'd trust her. "Alright, folks. Let's get this show on the road. Begin the simulation."

Collins slid into the spot out of viewscreen camera range they'd pre-designated for an intelligence officer if a detachment was officially assigned. It was close enough to the Command Chair that, in this case, he could take over in an instant if needed, but far enough away to keep any intel officer's identity hidden from those on the other side of the viewscreen.

With the order given, the systems disengaged from their real input and switched over to the simulation scenario that had been prepared. It would be an easy scenario to get everybody familiar with the changes. They'd have to leave Spacedock, fly a very short while, get an incoming distress call, and react accordingly. All in all, all departments would get their hands full, but it wouldn't take them more than a few hours.

At the Helm, Sarah watched in amazement as the simulation started up and the controls came to live in front of her. This would take a while to get used to, but she'd done enough simulations in the Holodeck herself to be confident. "Comm, please confirm we're cleared to set out," she asked with a glance over her shoulder.

The Ops officer spoke up. "Spacedock Control clears us for departure via number two doors, maximum speed eighty percent thrusters until we clear the doors and handoff to traffic, Captain."

There was a certain...surreal feeling that came with this sort of "live simulation," where you were all in your regular posts and doing what you did yet with the knowledge that you weren't really doing anything. She gave an order to "go" and the button to "go" was hit, but they didn't "go" anywhere... Life in the 'fleet. "Take us out, Commander Deco," she ordered aloud, sparing the rest of the bridge crew her internal musings.

Sarah was excited to try out the new controls, even if they were only playacting now. Remembering what she'd trained for, she brought up her hands and seemed to move them in thin air. Except that there was a virtual representation of what her hands were actually manipulating. The ship shuddered and started moving under the influence of her movements. She felt more powerful than she had ever since they'd docked here. Grinning like a madwoman, she guided the ship as requested through door number two and shifted thrusters to abide by flight control's orders.

Jack just - couldn't get himself to like the holographic interface. Not yet at least. He was confident that with time and practice he'd learn to at least become indifferent to it, but so far, he really missed the tactile feedback of actually touching something with his fingertips. Sure, the holodisplay mimicked the sensation, but it still felt 'off' to him. Part of him idly wondered if that was just psychosomatic. He knew it wasn't a real panel so it felt off kind of thing. All systems reported green though, weapons and shields. Ammunition storage full, phaser charge systems ready, power delivery green.

That line of thinking, of course, invited Murphy to the game. A distress signal initiated over the comm system. It was being broadcasted over all frequencies, which meant it could be both friendly or foe.

It was Morse Code. The Ops Officer listened to it through an earbud, tapping out the message rapidly on a text display:


He looked up. "Message is repeating on all subspace audio channels. Position appears to be near Eris in the Kuiper Belt. Fairly empty part of the solar system, so Sol System Traffic Control has tasked us with responding."

Jack perked up at Tactical. This was at least something. His hand hovered near the shield controls, expecting a yellow alert to be called.

Mr. Carver was about to get his wish. Sadie nodded once, playing her role in this simulation even if she knew it wasn't real. "Yellow alert," she ordered, looking toward helm next. "Helm, set course for the Kuiper Belt and the SS Alfred Vail. Best speed."

Sarah didn't have to think twice about the manipulations she had to do to get the ship moving and on the right course. It went smoothly. Textbook. Exactly like the holodeck simulations had felt. The simulation wasn't supposed to last long, so that made their trip brief. "6 minutes to target. Approach from vector 168 mark 05," she reported. It would bring them up from the 'rear'. It'd give everyone a better idea of how to prepare.

Even as the ship swung about and accelerated, the illumination on the bridge dimmed and took on an amber hue. "Yellow alert, aye," Jack said matter of factly. Yellow lights - though edging towards orange more than pure yellow - started slowly pulsing along some areas on the bridge's walls. Status screens on his console indicated power diverting, capacitor banks flash discharging, shields activating.

Collins spoke up from Intel's station. "Databases show SS Alfred Vail as Lunar registry, built at the Armstrong City commercial yards as a heavy freighter for the Alpha Centauri to Betazed route 50 years ago; Onassis class. Flight plan indicates she was inbound to undergo a major refit, including overhaul of her warp cores. No pings on our smuggler database, she looks legit or at least cleanskin."

Sadie listened and nodded. "Ops, what can you tell me about the ship's status? Are you reading any life signs?"

"4 humans, one Bajoran, one Andorian on life signs. All alive and in bridge compartment. Ship is confirmed to be heavily damaged - can't tell from what, warp core is unstable. Sending results to Engineering to get an estimate of how long til core breach," Ops replied.

Eyeing her controls, Sarah didn't bother to look over her shoulder to talk. They'd hear her just fine like this. "Recommend slowing down our approach until Engineering gives its estimate. We'll be in blast range in-" a quick run down of some controls gave her the numbers she needed. This would have taken her seconds longer on her old controls. "In 43 seconds we'll be too close in for me to get us out of range of a warp core explosion."

Sadie stifled a smirk that would have been very inappropriate if this was real and was only slightly inappropriate for the simulation. "By all means, Commander, slow us down. Keep us just out of blast range until engineering lets us know how long we have."

The Helm officer didn't need to look at the CO's face to see or hear the smirk. Most others probably wouldn't, but that didn't diminish her amusement. While she was contemplating her amusement, she made sure the ship slowed down enough to keep them out of the perimeter.

After a few more moments, the comms piped open. "We've got maybe an hour, sir," Lieutenant Cort├ęz called up. "That's the best outcome. At worst? Fifteen minutes. It's failing but the cataclysm isn't going at warp speed."

Sadie arched a brow. "No pun intended?"

There was a long pause from the comm. "What pun, sir?"

The captain just rolled her eyes. "Never mind," she replied. "Bridge out." The comm chirped and she looked around at her bridge crew. "Can we get in, grab them and get out in fifteen minutes?"

"There's some thermal currents that may make it hard for us to stay in place for that long. Whatever you choose to do, don't count on a stationary ship," Sarah chimed in. That still left shuttles and transporters, so they should be fine.

"Transporters hot, standing by for lock. Transporting directly to cargo bay two," the Ensign at the Ops console spoke, her hands flitting over the holographic command interface, readying up the systems. "Lieutenant Carver, please stand by to drop shields on my mark," she added.

"Confirmed, Ensign," Jack replied, hand hovering over the interface.

"Scrambling medical alert team to cargo bay two to prepare for incoming. Crew complement aboard this class of freighter is 6, so what I listed is everybody," Collins noted.

They couldn't hear the transporter hum on the Bridge obviously, but it wasn't hard to figure out what was going on in the cargo bay. As soon as the shields dropped, it probably burst into a lot of activity. Activity that wasn't interesting to their Bridge simulation.

"Everyone's onboard!" The Ensign at Ops exclaimed, carried away in the moment.

As soon as she heard the acknowledgement to get them out of there, Sarah manipulated the controls that would take them back to spacedock. The lowering of the shields had imbalanced the ship so it lurched harder than she had wanted, which made her pull a face that went unnoticed to everyone anyway as she was facing the viewscreen.

"Shields back up," Jack said, matter of factly, as the ship went underway again.

With the scenario completed, the ship automatically rang the 'simulation ended' warning throughout the Bridge. Illumination returned to normal. Sensor inputs were rerouted to reality, showing them docked still.

Sadie muttered to herself for a moment, "That's always so bloody disorienting..." Before she spoke louder, for the benefit of the bridge officers, "So, how does everyone feel that went with the new controls?"

"Still not a fan. Missing the tactile - ... ness, of actual controls. Tactility?" Jack furrowed his brows, poking a bit at the holographic interface. "Works well enough I s'pose," he added.

Sarah liked the new controls. But with the adrenaline of the simulation flooding away quickly, she felt tired and drained and didn't really feel like contributing to the conversation. She'd been asked a question though, so least she could do was answer. "I can appreciate them. They're progress," she spoke.

"The controls felt OK to me," Collins noted, "But because of their nature I do agree that some small amount of haptic feedback might be helpful in letting people not be heads down in the console all the time. Also, coming up with standard layouts we can train new crew on for in case they need to act outside their department in emergencies is a must, to me."

"Agreed," Sadie said with a nod. "Make sure that's in place, Commander, and arrange any further departmental cross-training you see fit. Otherwise--" Now her voice became louder, indicating she was speaking to everyone else. "Make sure all bridge departments run in-department training and simulations to make sure all of our officers are up to speed before we ship out."

"Aye, Captain. For the information of everyone here, I will remind you all of the old 'Qualified in Starships' badge, the space dolphins, that Starfleet awarded in the first few decades of the Fleet. Starfleet Command is considering reviving the idea for at least officers and senior enlisted, and whatever they do, we're going to follow the same basic scheme in cross-training here. Department by department lists of the skills we need all crewmembers, regardless of rank or position, to qualify on in their first 60 days will be drawn up by me," Collins responded, speaking to everyone. "Expect them within 72 hours."

"Haptic feedback, that's the phrase I was looking for," Jack quietly muttered, scowling a bit to himself. "Tactile-ness, by the gods. What even is words."

Sadie glanced at her tactical officer with amusement before turning forward again. "Good work, everyone. Let's head out and sort out what we've learned. Including the words 'haptic feedback'." She chuckled without looking at Carver. "Dismissed."


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