SEASON 3: EPISODE 03
THE ONLY THING NECESSARY: Part Two
Lieutenant Commander Pavlo Celcho desperately wanted to touch her. He wanted nothing more then to run his hands over her, to connect with her. Most of all he wanted to get inside her. However, Captain Masters had been clear with his orders, no unnecessary handling of the warp ship was permitted unless authorised by its owner or it was a safety risk. At the moment neither was an option for Celcho. His current scan told him that the ship was dead, not an ounce of power flowed through her. Her warp drive was offline and its fuel tanks were sealed and secure. He had not seen the pilot so he had not yet had the chance to get permission but there was one thing for certain, he was going to get his hands on this beauty.
His obsession with the craft came purely from engineering curiosity. It was a new piece of equipment and he wanted to open it up and see what made it tick. He wanted to see how another culture organised their ideas and how they interpreted the theory behind the technology. This was the most interesting part of first contacts for him.
The warp ship was a small, stubby but solid looking design. It was made up of three major components: the warp nacelles, forward cockpit and the body. The body was basically a box of around two metres in height and a few metres long. From his scans inside was the warp core, fuel tanks and most of the critical systems. At the front of the ‘box’ was the cone shaped cockpit, which looked very much to be bolted on. Celcho guessed that it was probably ejectable allowing the pilot to escape the craft. It had a large window allowing the pilot to look out of and from looking in it was a fairly tight fit for one person. There were numerous dials, buttons, switches, and small display screens. It was a small space but it looked very busy. As with any warp ship the final part were the nacelles. Two were connected to the sides at the rear of the ‘box’. They were long cylinders that were nearly as long as the rest of the craft. The forward end of the nacelles was bulbous, which was interesting and Celcho had not seen that design before. He wondered if it was purely design aesthetics or if it actually served a purpose.
He heard new voices enter the shuttlebay and turned to face them. Approaching him was the ambassador, two security guards and an unfamiliar alien that had to be the pilot they had rescued.
“As the captain promised, here is your ship, safe and secure,” said the ambassador.
Celcho doubted he was listening; the alien’s eyes were darting around the immense bay. The glint in his eye as he spotted unfamiliar small craft was no doubt that of a test pilot. To a person who wanted to fly at the edge and push beyond it the shuttlecraft and attack fighters in the bay were beyond anything he would have seen or dreamt about but he would have a strong desire to take one out for a flight.
“Lieutenant commander, I trust the retrieval went well,” asked the ambassador.
“Yes it did, sir. There is no external damage to the vessel, except maybe for some scuff marks on the underside from landing it on the bay floor. We couldn’t find any landing struts.”
“There aren’t any,” said the pilot. “The test vehicle was never meant to land, just dock with our orbital station.”
“I’m Lieutenant Commander Pavlo Celcho,” said Celcho introducing himself. “I’m the Swiftfire’s chief engineer.”
“Commander Groa Ilata. Test pilot. Are you a human as well?”
“Yes, from Earth in fact.”
“Well, I’m an Echlan from Echla…though you probably would know that.”
“So what happened out there?” asked Celcho.
“I lost power. I don’t know why, my knowledge of the workings of this ship only go so far as being able to pilot it and deal with limited scenarios.”
“If you want I can have a look at it,” offered Celcho. “Under your supervision of course.”
Ilata tilted his head slightly to the right. “Why not?”
“I know you say you only have a limited knowledge of the workings of this ship but I could still use your help, so to get myself acquainted with your technology.”
“I’ll help where I can.”
Celcho smiled at Ilata and then looked to the ambassador. “That is if that is okay with you, ambassador.”
“Of course. If you require my help just contact me. I have preparations to make before we reach Echla.”
The ambassador left but the two guards remained close by.
With Ilata’s permission Celcho they started work; they climbed on top of the ship and heading to the rear to access the warp drive via one of the large access panels.
“I imagine competition to fly this ship was tough.”
“It was fierce. Luckily I’m the best pilot on the planet,” said Ilata with no sense of modesty.
“You’ll be a hero now.”
“I already am,” he said smugly. “Though you can never be too big a hero.”
Celcho could help but return the big grin that was on Ilata’s face. He was a nice guy despite his ego. Celcho finally pried off the access panel and got his first look at the inside of the warp ship.
“Beautiful,” he whispered. He looked back up at Ilata. “Okay, let’s see if we can’t find out why your ship died.”
“Have you completed a scan of that station?” asked Masters.
They were still ten minutes from the planet and while the Swiftfire’s sensors would have normally been able to provide a detailed scan from a greater distance the conditions within the Helaspont nebula significantly reduced their effectiveness.
The Echlan space station was a bulky station built in three tiers. The largest was the bottom tier, which reminded Masters of a bottle stopper. The top tier was fairly conventional in design. Between these two tiers was a large open space for docking. This is where the warp ship had been docked before it was launched and probably where much of the construction had taken place.
“I have. I’m reading seventy-three lifesigns on the station. I’m also getting several weapons emplacements. There are four missile launchers and I’m detecting forty-one missiles on the station. There are also half a dozen laser weapon emplacements,” reported Letac.
“Threat assessment, Lieutenant Commander.”
“Those lasers won’t be a problem, even without shields our navigational deflector will keep us safe. As for the missiles, the navigational deflector could also deal with them easily shifting their course if any were launched at us.”
“So your assessment is to keep the deflector running?” asked Core.
“Yes, sir. This is an inhabited planet with basic space travel after all so there’s a lot of junk in orbit. That would probably be more dangerous than the space station so keeping the deflector primed to deal with that if we enter orbit would be wise.”
“Have we received any more communications?” asked Masters, directing his question to the front of the bridge.
“No. However, on the subject of risk there is significant military mobilisation on the planet. The bulk of it is not a threat but we must assume that they would have multiple surface-to-orbit missile batteries.”
“Any launch from the surface would give us plenty of time to respond,” countered Whitechapel.
“There is no doubt of that, commander. I just thought that it was prudent to mention possible additional threats,” clarified Karak.
“Let’s remember this is a peaceful meeting,” jumped in Lieutenant Terri Letac. “We’re not at war with anyone inside the Helaspont Nebula.”
“Yet,” said Ensign Cole barely loud enough for Masters to hear.
“Stow that attitude, ensign,” said Masters quickly and loudly.
Cole’s back straightened as he tensed from the rebuke. “Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.”
Masters instantly regretted his harshness towards the young flight controller. They had spent the last year and a quarter waging the largest war in Federation history. A war that was still ongoing beyond the green veils of the Helaspont nebula. It had engulfed much of their life in that time and the Swiftfire had been heavily involved in the fighting. In fact the crew had only a very short time together before the war began, it could not be denied that it was the defining aspect of their service under his command.
“Let’s just keep positive about this endeavour,” he said softly. “First contacts are fantastic experiences. It’s a chance to meet a new culture, to experience something new and exciting. We’re making history here.”
Ambassador Dylan Whitechapel gestured for Commander Ilata to exit the turbolift first. He was a step behind the Echlan as they entered the bridge. He had kept tabs on the ship’s progress towards the planet and had collected Ilata from the shuttlebay where he had left him with the Swiftfire’s chief engineer. The two were still working on the commander’s warp ship trying to repair the vessel. He approved of the chief engineer’s efforts. He was working with Ilata and forming a bond. It would also be good material to use if they repaired the ship to show the Echlans that they were here and willing to help. The quicker they built trust between each other the better.
“Do you have anything to report, captain?” he asked.
“We have reached the planet and are holding a position some distance from the station. No further communications have occurred between us and the station. I thought it would be best to wait until you and the commander returned to the bridge before attempting to contact them.”
“Excellent, shall we?”
Captain Masters nodded. “Lieutenant Karak, open a channel to the space station, audio and visual.” Masters paused. “Echlan space station, this is the Federation vessel Swiftfire, are you receiving this transmission?”
There was a brief pause before an image appeared on the viewscreen. An Echlan male appeared.
“Federation vessel Swiftfire. We are receiving you. What are your intentions?”
Ambassador Whitechapel stepped forward. “We are here on a mission of peace. As we have said we have rescued your comrade and his vessel,” he said gesturing to Ilata. “We wish to open a dialogue with your people.”
The Echlan on the screen looked to Ilata. “Report, commander.”
Ilata spoke, “My vessel suffered a catastrophic power failure and these people did indeed come to my aid. My vessel is stowed on this vessel. I am being treated well, defence chief.”
The Echlan did not look swayed by Ilata’s words. “Return the commander and his vessel immediately.”
“We would be glad to. However, the commander’s ship is not in any shape to transport him to your station. We can provide transportation for him to your station instead.”
“Very well, but be warned that we will protect the integrity of this facility and its personnel.”
The transmission ended, returning the viewscreen to show the station ahead of the ship.
“I’m sorry,” said Ilata. “That was Eli Qual, the Totality’s defence chief. He isn’t much of a diplomat.”
Whitechapel reached out and touched Ilata’s forearm. From the reports this was a gesture to indicate understanding and acceptance. “We understand. Finding out you are not alone in the universe can be confronting.” He turned back to Captain Masters. “Can you provide a shuttle for the journey? Transporting over might be a bit too shocking for them at this juncture.”
“Of course, ambassador,” replied Masters. “Lieutenant Commander Whitechapel, can you arrange a shuttle and an escort for the ambassador.”
“I don’t think that would be necessary, captain,” he said quickly.
“It is standard operating procedures to provide a security escort in these situations, ambassador,” said Commander Whitechapel.
He looked at his eldest daughter and tried not to smile with pride. So far during his stay on the Swiftfire their timetable had not allowed for them to catch up and he wanted nothing more then to sit with her and talk the night away.
“Very well, but they are to be unarmed,” he said firmly.
His daughter was quick to reply to his demand. “That would be a risky…”
“That’s fine, ambassador,” interrupted the captain over his daughter. “If you get into any trouble we can beam you back in an instant.”
His daughter did not look pleased to be overruled and shot a look at Masters, though he had his back to her as he asked the Vulcan operations manager to arrange for a replacement for his daughter on the bridge and did not notice it. She had her mother’s temper he noted.
“Very well, sir. Shall we?”
He bowed his head slightly and walked after his daughter as they got into the turbolift with Ilata and the security officer that had shadowed them to the bridge. They rode the turbolift down to deck 11 before exiting and walking the short distance to the shuttlebay.
Commander Whitechapel walked towards one of the crew members on the deck and started to speak with him. While this was happening Commander Celcho approached them.
“Sorry, I haven’t fixed your ship yet,” he said apologetically.
“That’s fine. For the moment it’s only me going back.”
“Oh, well if I don’t see you again it was good to meet you,” said Celcho offering out his hand.
Ilata took it and smiled. “I doubt they’ll be able to keep me from returning, even if I have to space walk my way back I’ll step foot on this ship again.”
His daughter returned. “The George Smith is prepared for launch,” she said pointing over to a nearby Type 7 shuttlecraft. “We’ll take that.”
They walked over to the shuttle and boarded it along with an additional crew member that he guessed would be their pilot. Ilata was more use to the surroundings now and his head did not dart madly around trying to take everything in immediately.
“Very clean,” he mumbled.
“Sorry?” asked Commander Whitechapel.
“It’s very clean,” he gestured around him. “Everything is spotless and ordered. No wires hanging from the ceilings or exposed cabling. It’s like a set.”
“Our engineers take great pride in the presentation of the ship’s shuttles,” said Commander Whitechapel. “I’ll pass on what you said; they’ll take it as a compliment.”
She went to the front of the shuttle to join the pilot and he gestured for Ilata to take a seat in the aft compartment with him and the second security officer.
“Once we launch we’ll contact your station to ask where we should dock,” called back Commander Whitechapel from the forward section.
“There is a pressurised bay large enough for this ship on the station. They’ll probably have you go there.”
As the shuttle slowly powered up and lifted from the floor. Whitechapel smiled as he saw Ilata lean forward to look out the forward window. They slowly approached one of the large rear doors, which started to open.
Suddenly a look of panic appeared on Ilata’s face. “Zadic! There’s someone still out there!”
Whitechapel had to stand to lean around the hatchway that separated the forward and rear sections of the shuttle to look to where Ilata was pointing. All he saw was a member of the ship’s crew kneeling on top of a Type 11 shuttlecraft named Brumby. He did not see anything that should have elicited that reaction from Commander Ilata.
Both the pilot and his daughter were also looking; the shuttle was at a standstill hovering before the now fully open door. Neither appeared to understand what the fuss was about.
“He isn’t being sucked out,” said Ilata in almost a whisper. “The bay didn’t depressurise.”
It finally dawned on him what the Echlan commander was concerned about. “We don’t need to depressurise the shuttlebay when we launch. We have force fields up that keep the atmosphere from escaping into the vacuum.”
“What about when you have to leave?”
Whitechapel smiled. “One of the wonders of Federation technology, shuttles can exit and enter through the shields without any problem or loss of atmospheric integrity.”
The pilot and his daughter turned their attention back to flying and the shuttle slowly exited the bay into space. Flanking them were the massive catamaran hulls of the Swiftfire. Ilata’s mouth was once again agape. As they slowly cruised under the rear weapons’ pod and clear of the ship. The shuttle turned and was soon pointed at the space station.
“Incredible,” whispered Ilata.
“Echlan station, this is the shuttlecraft George Smith, we are approaching you now and request permission to land.”
“You have permission George Smith. There is a docking bay on the lower levels. The entrance is facing you and is indicated by four flashing yellow lights.”
His daughter confirmed that the pilot had found the bay they were talking about. “We see it. Thank you, Echlan station.”
“Force fields, teleporters…what else do you have?” asked Ilata.
“There are many technological marvels on that ship, more than I could possibly name.”
“You probably have advanced weapons. Powerful weapons that could vaporise our entire station in one shot!”
Whitechapel nodded hesitantly. Inevitably when it came to meeting a culture that was much more advanced or primitive technologically the subject of weaponry was one of the first that came up. It was a question asked out of fear and awe. Awe at the sense of what magnificent devices they might have. And fear out of how exposed and weak they felt in the face of such technological disparity and the implications for mass destruction.
“While the Federation values peace and harmony with all we encounter our vessels are armed with advanced weaponry,” he said truthfully. “Space is not a playground. It is full of dangers and unfortunately that means as we push forward our horizons that we must be prepared to defend them.”
“Qual will want to know all about it,” he muttered somewhat distastefully. “If there is one thing that man covets it’s ways to improve warfare.”
Ilata looked down at his feet and shook his head. When he looked up he obviously caught something in Whitechapel’s features.
“Just because I’m in the military doesn’t mean I agree with everything those at the top of the chain do,” he shot out defensively.
Whitechapel held up his hands to signal that he needed no explanation. “Of course not. I didn’t mean to suggest you would.”
“I joined because it was the best way to do what I do best. Fly. I served my time in combat units before I earned the chance to be a test pilot. I like it much better when the only person I can kill is me.”
“We’re on final approach,” called out his daughter.
Whitechapel and Ilata turned their attention back to the front of the shuttle. The station filled their view as they approached it. Directly ahead was an exposed bay with flashing yellow lights at the four corners of the opening. Whitechapel guessed that they had depressurised the room and opened the doors. The shuttle silently glided in and landed in the middle of the room.
“The doors are closing behind us,” said the pilot. “Once that’s done they’ll hopefully repressurise the room, so no one exit just yet.”
They waited for the slow process to complete. When it was nearly done they were contacted by the station.
“You will release Commander Ilata when the room is fully pressurised.”
“Of course,” replied Whitechapel. “I would like to accompany him and meet with any officials on this station so to open a…”
“You will release the commander only. No one else will leave your vessel. If they do it will be interpreted as a hostile act and the room will be immediately opened to vacuum.”
Whitechapel sighed. This is why he preferred it when first contacts were made with scientists; military paranoia had led to more than one death of peaceful dignitaries.
“That is understood,” he paused as he weighed up what he would say next. “I assume you will be debriefing the commander. I ask that you allow us to stay, waiting on our vessel until after you have spoken to him. If after that you still do not wish to open a dialogue with us we will depart your station and leave the system.”
There was a noticeable pause as they waited for an answer.
“That is acceptable. You will release Commander Ilata now.”
Whitechapel nodded his command to his daughter who opened the rear hatch of the shuttle. He turned to Ilata.
“This might be goodbye, commander,” he said and stretched out his hand.
“I hope not. I’ll put in a good word for you with my superiors. They should be able to get past their caution and realise the opportunity that this event can bring,” replied Ilata as he took his hand. The commander’s other hand touched his forearm, which was a positive sign.
The commander said his farewells to the other personnel on the shuttle and exited. He made the short walk to a nearby door and exited the bay. They did not see another being, though Whitechapel knew there would likely be some armed soldiers on the other side of the door to greet Ilata.
“We better contact the Swiftfire and apprise them of our situation.”