SEASON 3: EPISODE 03
THE ONLY THING NECESSARY: Part One
“All systems are green and ready to go,” said Commander Groa Ilata. “Power levels are stable and the warp core is active.”
“We are disengaging you from the station. You are to use thrusters to move clear before you may activate your engines to move to the designated launch point.”
Commander Ilata looked out his starboard viewport of his small and cramped cockpit at the space station, the current apex of his people’s space program, at least until he proved that the drive on his ship worked. Once that happened he would be a legend, a person of note, a true pioneer.
Ilata could not keep the smile off his face as he thought about that. His smile faded somewhat as he thought about his long and violent journey to this moment. For this honour he had spent years in the military and it had been painful, almost unbearable but he would go down in history for something truly great and not just as a person at the other end of a gun. He would be the first person to travel faster than light, at least as long as the drive worked.
He used the ship’s thrusters to push him away from the station. Once he was clear of the station he powered up the sublight engines and pushed his craft forward towards the launch point. He had to be well clear of the station just in case something went wrong, they did not want to needlessly endanger the dozens of lives on the station. He was not concerned however; he knew that he would be making history that day.
He silently watched as he got closer to the launch point. When he was almost there he started the sequence that would jump his ship to light speed.
“I’m clear. Starting initiation process now,” he reported over the radio to the station. “Drive is ready. Countdown to launch in five,” Ilata took a deep breath. “5…4…3…2…1…engaging drive.”
Ilata flipped the plain switch on the centre console and engaged the drive. The stars appeared to stretch towards him causing him to push back into his chair reflexively. There was a brief flash and the stars became moving lines of light. He looked down at his instruments and saw he was travelling slightly faster then the speed of light. It had worked! He had thought for a second it might just explode.
Not the worst thing that could happen, he mused. To Ilata the worst outcome would have been if the drive simply did not work. There was no guarantee by the time they could be ready for another attempt that he would still be the pilot so he viewed this as his only opportunity. No one remembered the people involved in failed attempts where nothing happened. At least if the ship exploded and he was killed he would still be remembered as a man whom gave his life for the project.
His journey was a fairly long one. Originally it was just meant to be a short jump but the plan had changed to a sustained journey. He spent several minutes at the speed before the computer started a countdown for him to return to sublight. As the countdown hit zero he flipped the switch and the lines of light retreated back to points. Something caught his eye to port. He looked out and saw Re-aul, the third planet of their system. The outer most planet, it was a gas giant of blue and purple. It was magnificent. The images from the probes his government had sent out here were nothing compared to seeing the swirling clouds of gas with his own eyes. It was considered to be one of the most beautiful sights in the known universe by his people and being as close as he was he could not help but agree.
“Orbital command, the drive worked perfectly and I have dropped out of warp close to the projected destination,” he radioed back.
He waited for his radio signal to make the long journey back to his planet. It would take several minutes to reach Echla, however long it took the people back at the station to compile a message and several minutes for the return journey. This extended pause between communications added to the sense of isolation he felt out at the further point anybody from his planet had ever travelled. He took the time to gaze around at the Veil that surrounded his world. It did not look any different out here than it did from his planet, which filled him with a sense of ease as if he really was not as far removed as he actually was.
“That is excellent to hear, Commander,” came the eventual reply. “You are ordered to return to base, you have made history today. Don’t forget to take a picture.”
Ilata smiled broadly. He fished out his camera from one of his pockets. The images he would take would become history. They would be displayed in museums and adorn the history books for future generations long after he had passed on. He had make history.
After taking a dozen images he put away his camera and slowly turned his craft around for his return journey. He pointed his ship towards a distant point of light that was his planet or at least he was told it was his planet by his instruments. Not far removed from that was a bright blue light, it was the brightest object in the sky before him. It was hard to believe that it was Vallus, the star that shone so brightly on his world and its inhabitants.
He was half way through his preparations when a red light flashed on his panel. It was a warning light for the ship’s warp core. He checked the readings and saw that the power levels were fluctuating. He tried to stabilise the levels as he had been trained to do. He did not understand much of the actual science of how the drive worked but he had been given extensive training on possible problems that he might face. His attempt did not change the situation. A further two tries yielded the same result.
“Command this is Ilata, I’m getting power fluctuations from the drive. I have been unable to stabilise them.”
He sat patiently waiting for the signal to make its long journey.
“Follow your training for this situation, commander.”
He repressed a sigh, what had they thought he had been doing with his time? “I have but it has not worked.”
“Hold on commander. We are getting a technician in here.”
Commander Ilata tried to see if he could read anything in the reply but could not detect any concern or worry. It eased his mind a bit to know that they were not overly concerned back at the space station. All he could do is to continue to sit tight and wait.
Suddenly the power levels started to drop and continued to drop. Now he felt panic, his life was directly tied into the ship’s power levels.
“Command, the power levels have plummeted!” He called up a system report, which only added to his worry. “The computer is started to shut down ship systems!”
The replied took an age to reach him. “Hold on, commander. We’re still waiting for the technician.”
“I can’t hold on!” he yelled in panic. His pulse was racing and in the quiet confines of his space suit his rapid breathing thundered like an intense storm. “The system is shutting down power to everything. Propulsion is offline, helm control is offline, and if the power continues to drop I’ll lose communications and life support!”
Ilata looked at the system readouts with panic. The power would soon fail, probably before the reply from the station would reach him. Once life support gave out he only had a very limited backup system. There was no way he could last out here before another ship reached him. No other ship was capable of faster then light travel and as far as he knew the only working drive was the one strapped behind him. He was going to die out here. While he was prepared to die he was ready for it to be through an explosion of the ship tearing itself apart and not something as slow and unheroic as suffocating out in the emptiness of space.
There was another alarm. He checked it thinking it would be a warning that he was about to lose life support but it was not. It was the sensors; they had picked up something heading towards him. At first he thought that one of their slower manned vessels had been sent out here in case he go into trouble and he would be rescued. If that was the case, why had he not been told? He checked the sensors again and saw the ship was travelling faster then any of their ships would be able to and coming from the edge of the system!
It was coming from behind him and unfortunately his cockpit and his rigid suit prevented him from turning to see it. That plus the lack of any meaningful helm control. He watched the sensors as it closed quickly. It was coming right for him. He held his breath as his sensors indicated it was right on top of him. A huge grey shape crossed over him and his ship. While he was in the vacuum of space and knew that he could not hear the vessel he could almost imagine the behemoth rumbling over his tiny vessel. All he could do was gasp as it fully passed over his ship and came to a halt.
It was definitely not one of his people’s vessels. The huge grey vessel was alien, though he thought he recognised some of the design to indicate that it had a drive system that was similar in operation to his. Like his vessel it seemed to have two large nacelles dropping from the rear of the ship and below a large circular forward section. It was a monster of a ship that could easily swallow his ship whole.
Another alarm sounded and he dragged his eyes from the unknown vessel to his own. His power system was about to fail. He had one chance; he could try to contact the other vessel, ask for them to rescue him and hope that they were not like the aliens from the films on his planet, entities that had evil designs for his planet and its inhabitants. Fear gripped his heart as the possibilities ran through his head about what could happen if he contacted them. He hesitated, unable to move. Suddenly he felt an unusual tingling sensation sweep over his body and his vision was obscured. When it returned he found himself standing in an unfamiliar room. He stumbled back in surprised and panic at his location and the strange creatures before him. He impacted against a wall and bounced off it, losing his footing and falling to his knees. He put his hands before him defensively as he cowered on the ground, waiting for them to attack.
None came. Instead he heard voices. Voices that he understood. He slowly looked up to see that none of the aliens had approached him and one was speaking, its hands up in a pacifying gesture. He forced himself to listen to the voice, which was not easy given he was wearing a helmet that encased his entire head.
“Don’t be afraid. We’re here to help you. We detected your vessel was in trouble and we used our technology to transport you off that ship to ours. We mean you no harm,” said the alien whose voice was faint and distant thanks to the helmet.
“W…who are you?” he shouted so they could hear him, his voice quivering with fear.
The man who had spoken to him placed his hands to chest. “We are representatives from an interstellar government called the United Federation of Planets. On behalf of my government I welcome you into the wider galactic community.”
Captain Jonathan Masters watched the alien closely. He still appeared scared, not that he could blame him. This was not your standard first contact, plucking a person from their vessel and immediately putting them in an unfamiliar environment. Ambassador Dylan Whitechapel took a slow step towards the alien. The alien tensed as the ambassador approached him. Whitechapel offered him his hand and finally he took it and was helped to his feet.
Masters watched the ambassador as he did his work. He was happy to let him lead at this point, Whitechapel did have decades more experience at this kind of thing that he did. He was probably the one that seemed the least threatening of the Federation citizens in the room. He had a fatherly appearance with his mostly grey hair, moustache and his white goatee. That thought caused Masters to run his fingers over his own facial hair. The ambassador and him were the only ones sporting any in the room, though they had different styles with the ambassador having a separate moustache and goatee while he had a circle beard, which was where the moustache and goatee were joined. He had sported that look for years now. He actually struggled to think of a time in the last decade when he was clean shaven. Masters pushed the thoughts out of his mind and refocused on what was happening in the room. Whitechapel was speaking loudly and miming to the alien that it was safe to remove his helmet.
Still obviously unsure the alien slowly unclasped his helmet and lifted it slightly, took a breath and waited. Convinced it was not a trick he completely removed the helmet.
“There, that’s better,” said Whitechapel, his voice returning to a more sensible level. “Let me do some introductions. I’m Ambassador Dylan Whitechapel and this is,” he pointed to Masters. “Captain Jonathan Masters, he’s the commander of this vessel, the USS Swiftfire, which is a Federation starship.” He introduced the third member of the party, Wendell Greer from the Department of Cartography and pointed out the rest of the crew in the room by their functions, such as the transporter officer, medical officer, one of his aides and the security personnel, rather than by name.
“I’m Commander Groa Ilata,” replied the alien.
Whitechapel smiled. “Pleasure to meet you, commander.”
Of course they already knew his name. They had been monitoring the test flight and the week leading up to it. The Swiftfire had been dispatched from its assignment with Task Force 59 specifically to monitor the Echla as it prepared to test its first warp drive. However, now was not the time to reveal that to Ilata.
“What species are you?” asked Ilata.
“Human,” said Whitechapel, which was more or less correct. The majority of the people in the room were human and the others were at least nearly identical to humans externally. This was a specific choice by them so to not overly alarm the commander.
The alien stared at them with awe. He studied them amazed at what would be his first ‘alien’ encounter. Masters studied him back. The alien was a fairly standard humanoid, around the same size as the rest of them with two arms and legs in the usual places. His hair was a dark, almost black, blue, which was normal for his species. His nose was more of a ridge that ran from the middle of his forehead to just above his lip, which had nostrils at either side half way down.
“I’m Echlan. But you must know this if you are speaking my language,” stated Ilata.
“Actually we aren’t speaking your language. We have a device called a universe translator that means we can communicate with you in your own language and in turn your language is translated into forms we can recognise.”
He saw Ilata’s eyes glaze over slightly. Masters had to admit the operation of the universe translator was complex, even for those who had grown up with the technology. “You rescued me with some sort of…teleporter,” he said. He looked around him; his sense of wonder was staring to conquer his fear. “Incredible…it’s the stuff of fiction but it…exists.”
“I imagine that a lot of the technology on this ship, things we take to be normal would be fanciful to you. The Federation is an advanced entity.”
“What happened to my ship?”
It was Masters’ turn to speak. “Your vessel is being moved into this ship’s shuttlebay as we speak. Once it is secured our people will not touch it without direct permission from you unless it in some way threatens the safety of this vessel.”
Whitechapel shot a glare at Masters, no doubt not approving of the last part of what he had said. He quickly continued on from him, “If you want we can go there immediately if you do not need any medical attention. You can inspect it for yourself.”
“Then what happens to me?” he asked with only a bit of fear seeping into his voice.
“By now your space station should have detected our presence and it should be causing quite a stir. We’ll transmit a message of our peaceful intentions and the fact that we’ve picked you up. After you’ve inspected you vessel or before hand if you wish, you can contact your people to let them know you are alright. After that it is up to your people what happens. If they are willing to talk or even meet with us then that will be arranged.”
“If they do not?” asked Ilata, his lip twitching showing his nerves.
“If not we’ll return you and your vessel and leave.”
Ilata nodded before he spoke, “I think I’d like to contact them first.”
“Very well. Shall we go to the bridge, captain?”
Masters bowed his head slightly. “Yes, ambassador.” He signalled one of the security officers who stepped towards the door. “If you’ll follow this man, please.”
The commander walked towards the security guard who then walked through the door. Whitechapel walked after him, followed by his aide and another security officer and then Masters and Greer, who silently watched. He probably had not being involved in many (if any) first contacts and was just happy to be a spectator at the moment. Masters dismissed Dr. Murphy who had been there in case the pilot needed medical assistance, no doubt she had taken a few discreet scans of the Echlan and would enjoy a chance to further analyse them until she got a chance to take a closer look at his species.
Whitechapel continued to engage Ilata in conversation as they made the short journey to the Swiftfire’s bridge. He heard Ilata gasp as the turbolift doors opened and he saw the bridge. It was an impressive room, the numerous consoles, screens, bright lights and add to that the professional crew that operated those stations. Masters rarely consider the glory of a bridge on a Starfleet vessel but viewing it with Ilata’s eyes he could not help but think that it was an extraordinary sight to behold.
The alien commander cautiously and slowly stepped onto the bridge. His head slowly turned as he took in the scene, his mouth slightly agape. Then his gaze fell on Chief Petty Officer Jabrad and Masters saw Ilata nearly take a step back. Up until that point the only aliens he had seen were not that different from him externally, however the more bestial appearance of the Tellarite had surprised him. Whitechapel caught Ilata’s attention and walked him towards the centre of the bridge. Masters glanced at Jabrad, oblivious to the shock he had caused their visitor he continued his maintenance work on one of the side consoles.
“We can contact you’re people from here,” explained Whitechapel. “I’ll let Captain Masters organise that.”
Masters nodded. “Have you been in contact with the station in orbit?” he asked as he took his seat on the bridge.
Commander Susan Core replied, “We have sent a message to them. So far no reply but transmissions between the station and the planet have increased significantly.”
“Let’s try a visual message. Commander Ilata, if you’ll inform your people of your status.”
“Okay,” he looked at Masters who gestured for him to begin. “This is Commander Groa Ilata, I’m on the alien vessel. It rescued me and I am uninjured.” He paused lost for what else to say.
Ambassador Whitechapel quickly filled the breach, his disarming smile ever present. “On behalf of the United Federation of Planets I humbly request permission to approach your space station so to return the commander and his vessel. We would also enjoy the opportunity to official meet with your people and open a diplomatic dialogue.”
“That should do,” said Masters. “Lieutenant Karak, send the transmission to the space station.”
Karak silently complied with the order. The bridge was silent, apart from the general sounds of technology. It took several minutes before a reply was received.
“They have granted us permission to approach the planet, captain.”
“Very well. Ensign Cole, take us forward slowly. We don’t want to alarm them.”
“Aye aye, sir.”
It would have been faster to make a short warp hop closer but the sudden reappearance of his vessel in orbit of the planet would probably give the military leaders a heart attack. The best course of action was to be slow and obvious and try to not create unnecessary panic.
“How long until we reach the planet?” asked Ambassador Whitechapel.
“It should take around an hour to make the journey,” said Masters. “Which would give you plenty of time to check on your vessel. I take it recovery operations have been completed?”
“Yes, sir,” confirmed Core.
Ilata with the ambassador in tow soon left the bridge to go and check on his ship.
“Well, this is new,” said Core.
“I like to keep my first contacts fresh and exciting,” joked Masters. “Keep our speed low and our course steady, ensign. We want to appear to be very predictable; it should put them more at ease.”
“Maybe we could go a tad bit slower, say take an extra ten hours,” suggested Core.
It was late on the Swiftfire and the bridge crew should have been off duty with the replacement shift in its place but when they detected the signs of a test flight he had kept them on duty. Now with their slow approach to the planet he was extending their duty. He thought about switching some of the personnel on the bridge but knew most if not all of them would prefer to stay. This was what they signed up for, to meet new life and new civilisations. This was their chance to boldly go.