Canopus Station
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To The Moon and Back

Posted on Fri Aug 20th, 2021 @ 3:42am by Lieutenant Commander Mara Ricci & Major Samuel Braddock & The Narrator

Mission: S0E0: What Came Before
Location: Hangar Bay

Routine maintenance of fighter ships wasn't usually in the purview of the chief engineer, but nothing had really happened since the fiasco with the wire wolves and Mara was bored to tears. So, she had decided to head down and make a list of repairs herself. Then she would decide if a full team was needed.

She walked purposefully into the hangar bay and went directly to the Wing Commander's office. "Good morning," she said by way of greeting to the man she found there- a very good looking man, too. Stop it, Mara. You just got out of a borderline toxic relationship. You don't need to dive headfirst into the first bed you see. "Lieutenant Commander Mara Ricci, routine maintenance check." She did not ask for the most recent diagnostics or to go over them with him; those were part of the check, after all, so there was no need.

Sam had made an appointment with Captain Ingram to discuss the fighter bay space issue and was reviewing the current fighter complement and previous mission logs that thanks to his clearance, he had almost complete access to. From what he could tell, the crew had encountered their fair share of adversity in this new system, the most recent and troubling being hyper consuming nanites. Putting down the PADD and standing up as soon as Commander Ricci greeted him. “Major Sam Braddock, CAG. Thanks for coming down- I just finished the readiness reports from Chief Methiasfor the Air Group and so far everything looks good, but I don’t always trust everything I read."

"Good, because we've got an embedded journalist on board," she replied a bit more acerbically than she had intended. "Sorry, he's... on my shit list at the moment. Do you want to go over the reports first, or is there anything pressing that needs fixed?"

Sam winced at this, recalling his unfortunate experience with a certain enterprising female Federation News Service reporter. "I know what you mean." he said, taking the PADD containing the maintenance reports. "Let's take a look at these- so far, everything checks out but my main concern is that something might have been missed by the maintenance detachment before the previous squadron left the station. You know how enlisted men like to gundeck their logs." he said sourly.

That elicited a grin. "Can't say I've ever had to chase one down," she said. "Logs, I mean, not enlisted men. Well, them either, to be honest." She shook her head. She was getting off track. "Sorry. Okay, let's take a look."

Raising his eyebrow and pressed forward, he pulled up his own copy of the maintenance report. "First, let's take a look at Gryphon 002. It looks like this one had an intermittent power shutdown on the port impulse engine assembly. Care to get your hands dirty?" he asked

This earned another grin. "I'm an engineer," she reminded him. "I think I was born with dirty hands. Let's check it out." She motioned for him to lead the way.

Sam unzipped his uniform jacket and walked into the maintenance area. Before heading over to the Gryphon in question, he took hold of a small tool cart and moved it into place. Pulling out a small screwdriver and inserted it into a small slot, giving it a small quarter turn, causing a hatch to pop open to reveal a circle of oscillating lights.

"Before I start sticking my hands in here, what are your thoughts?" he asked.

Hm, nice ass, she thought as they walked. Then she scolded herself internally. Stop it! You need to focus on your job. "Intermittent power shutdowns are usually caused by faulty power relays," she replied. "And since they're easiest to replace anyway, I usually start there." She began dismantling the relay assembly. "So how do you like Canopus Station so far?"

Sam took the data module that Mara had removed and plugged one end of a cable into it and the other into the maintenance console built into the cart. A few seconds later, green lines of data began streaming down the screen. “Well, I haven’t had a chance to explore much as of yet. Most of my time has been spent right here in this bay or in that office. My predecessor left me with a bunch of new fighters and enough paperwork to go blind on. I will say that I could use some real food. If I eat something out of the replicator again, I might just vomit.”

Mara grinned. She could understand that sentiment. “I highly recommend the Xilosian level,” she told him. “Try the Capies. A word of warning, though- limit yourself to one drink at their bars. Their alcohol is very potent."

"Good note." Sam said with a chuckle, cocking his head to review the data. Noting an anomaly, he stopped the stream and tapped the display. Motioning for Mara to come over. "Take a look at this-“ he said, pointing to a line of data. "-What do you make of it?" he asked

Glancing at the readout, Mara’s brow wrinkled. “Coolant leak?” she said, disbelieving. “That doesn’t make any sense. A coolant leak would cause a lot more problems than intermittent power failures. Maybe the module itself is faulty.“

Sam chewed on the end of a stylus. “Let’s do it.” He said, rising from his stool and walking over to a massive storage cabinet. Running his finger along the shelves, he found the module he was looking for and removed it carefully. Removed the sealed wrap, he handed it over to Mara. “Care to do the honors, Commander?” he said, taking his maintenance tricorder in his hand to run the diagnostic he needed.

She hadn’t even mentioned replacing it, but he anticipated the suggestion. She liked that in an assistant. “Thank you,” she said, taking the module and securing it in place. “All right. Power her up and we’ll see what she has to say.”

Sam nodded. "Well, unfortunately testing it here in the bay won't do us much good. Care to go for a little ride?" he asked playfully. "I can have this baby powered up and ready to go in five."

Mara couldn’t hide her enthusiasm even if she’d wanted to. Her face broke into a huge grin and she said, “absolutely! Oh Francie’s gonna murder me!” And then she laughed, picturing the look on her cousin’s face when she told her she’d ridden in one of the fighters.

"Well then, you''ll need to change. I think I might have a spare flight suit in the locker room and I'm sure we can find you a helmet. Follow me." he said, walking out of the bay and into a hall. Walking down until he reached a bright red door, he led the way inside and walked down the lengthy rows until he found a solitary locker down at the end simply labeled 'CAG'. Pressing his thumb to the lock, it popped open to reveal three neatly hung, navy blue flight suits with a helmet labeled 'Eagle' with a blue version of the titular bird, wings outstretched over the sides of the helmet.

"I'll step out while you change." Sam said, sheepishly, his cheeks practically glowing as he blushed.

Having already removed her uniform jacket as he left, she didn't bother pointing out that bra and panties were similar to a two-piece bathing suit she would wear at a beach. She'd changed in front of men before, but now that she thought about it, they had all been uninterested in girls or else dating her. She tried to think of someone who wasn't, but had no luck. Unless, of course, they had only pretended to be uninterested in girls. She shrugged off the thought as she pulled the flight suit onto her hips and slid her arms into the sleeves. If they had only wanted to see her in her underwear, well, who cared? None of them had done anything about it, so it didn't matter to her.

Only a few moments later, she stepped out of the locker room, fully dressed in the flight suit with one of the helmets under her arm. "Ready when you are!" she told Sam.

Sam held up a solitary finger. "Be right back." he said, ducking towards his locker and quickly zipping on one of the leftover flight suits. Taking his original helmet from the shelf, he walked back into the hall. "Let's go." he said quickly. He strode back into the main bay and pushed the maintenance cart out well out of the way of the painted red square that the fighter that they'd be flying in resided and ran a quick preflight check, closing the open maintenance hatch on the nacelle and sealing it closed. Satisfied, he pressed a button that caused a small ladder to extend out of the fuselage. Motioning with a flourish, he rested a foot on the ladder. "Your coach awaits."

“Thank you, kind sir,” she replied, ascending the ladder without hesitation. She settled herself in the back seat and pulled the helmet into place while she waited for Braddock to take his place.

Climbing into the front seat, he secured his crash webbing and began to rapidly flip switches, activating main power, causing the displays to jump to life and activate his Heads-Up-Display. In the corner, he could see the lifesigns of both his passenger and himself. Pressing a small button his wrist, he activated his oxygen supply. "Commander, you might want to check your atmosphere control- you can find it on your wrist. Push the small button next to the display and you'll feel oxygen start to flow and the air flow into your helmet before your flight suit seals activate- if you feel your ears pop, that's normal." he said informatively.

Pressing a small button, he watched the canopy lower and heard a small hum followed by a click as the stairs on the side of the fighter clicked closed. Opening his comm channel, he contacted the flight controller. "This is Raptor 002, Callsign: Eagle to flight control requesting departure clearance and warp vector for test flight."

A smooth male voice came over the comm. "Eagle. Control- you are cleared for immediate departure from Launch 0023 on heading 045. Stand by for elevator movement and takeoff prep." The channel closed and Sam felt the initial jerk of upward the platform the fighter rested on began to rise upward and alarms began to sound to alert anyone standing closeby to move aside or risk being taken up a deck. Entering a brightly lit shuttle bay with red lights flashing, Sam activated his impulse engines and felt the thrum reverberate through the fighter.

"You ready?" Sam asked playfully

Having found the button he had described, and noticing her suit sealing as well as her ears popping- she worked her jaw to correct the issue- Mara nodded once. "Ready," she said excitedly.

Receiving a sharp salute from the yellow suited technician, Sam quickly returned it. As the tech ducked out of the way, Sam floored the throttle and shot the fighter through the environmental containment field and out into the inky blackness of space. He briefly felt his body lift against the crash webbing until the artificial gravity engaged and forced him back down. Adjusting his course slightly, he set his course according to the assigned departure clearance. Applying some additional boost, he sent them into a tight loop.

It might have been more fun on Earth where one could feel the G-forces- and didn't have to be in these confounded suits- but Mara still managed to enjoy it. The stars flew past as he looped the fighter and she giggled in a fit of giddy delight. "This is just as cool as I suspected it would be," she laughed.

Sam smiled a little at this."How would you like to try it yourself for a change?" he asked.

Hm, yes please, she thought, her mind bringing up unbidden images that were definitely inappropriate. She shoved them away quickly. "Seriously?" she asked excitedly. "A chance to fly a fighter? Who would pass that up?"

"Computer, initiate training mode and release controls to rear seat." he ordered the computer, which beeped it's affirmative. "The plane is yours." he said playfully.

"I should warn you," she replied, "I'm only rated for a shuttlecraft." She turned the fighter away from anything important and prepared to fly. "Here we go," she said after studying the controls for a moment. Flying straight seemed to be the sensible idea for now. After all, as an engineer, she hadn't done much else but straight flying. Best to stick to the known. "I'm a bit boring, I know," she said, once they started out. "But better boring and alive than the alternative, right?"

Sam shrugged. "There isn't much to crash into. We're a safe distance away from the station and-" he looked down at his sensor console. "No traffic for us to interfere with. So surprise me- you're the first person I've taken up in one of these, so feel free to put this baby through its paces." he said playfully.

"Okay, but be ready to take over just in case," she warned. The back of her mind told her this was not the only situation in which she could say that exact sentence to a man, but she shoved that thought away; she had to concentrate on flying. With a deep breath, she sent the fighter into a spiral, causing the distant stars to spin in circles. Again, it would have been more fun if they could feel the G forces, but it was still pretty cool. After several seconds, she straightened the craft out, overcompensated and turned twice in the other direction, and finally ended up in a straight line again. "Okay, that was pretty cool," she admitted.

Sam kept a loose hand on the stick and an eye on the sensors during the maneuvers. Overall, he wasn't fazeed- this was a fairly basic series of maneuvers and if needed, he could take over the controls. "That wasn't bad, now let's head to a planet and see how you do in atmosphere. We're a little far, so let's do a little warp jump. Spinning up warp drive now and entering coordinates- he selected a planet on his astrogation charts and tapped in their coordinates on the physical keyboard. The computer accepted them and projected a flight path onto his helmet's HUD as he heard the hum as the warp engines built up enough power. A moment later, a small green indicator pulsed on his HUD, telling him that they were ready for a warp jump. "I'm ready when you are, Commander." Sam said

"Oh, goodness," replied Mara. "Okay, here we go," she said, punching the button in question.

The ship jumped to warp. Being in such a small space while at warp was a new to Mara. She found herself gazing at the stars flying by as they sped along their way to a nearby uninhabited planet. Luckily, the console beeped at her as they approached the planet and she tapped a few buttons. "Slowing to impulse," she said. "Oooh, class R. We won't be able to see very well. Scanning for Prior artifacts," she added, setting the ship's sensors to scan as the Carcosians had instructed them to do. It took a few minutes, but nothing turned up. "Clear. Heading down."

Sam's hand tightened on the stick. "Activating atmospheric shields and preparing for entry. Approach angle set and locked in. Activating gravitational compensators. I'm retaking control until we find a clear patch of sky." Atmospheric flight was tricky, especially during re-entry- one wrong move and you'd be a puddle of goo that needed to be hosed out of the cockpit by the deck crew or you could 'skip' off of the atmosphere and spin off into space. Looking down, he could see that the sensors were working overtime attempting to compensate for the thick soup of atmospheric chemicals and dust that they were flying into but they were also searching for something... "Commander, mind telling me why you've set the sensors for a specific hyperspectral signature?" he asked, keeping an eye on the instruments as he guided them down. At this stage, they were essentially flying blind and he didn't like it.

"Prior artifacts," repeated Mara. "An ancient civilization left devices behind that screw up our technology," she explained. "The Carcosians showed us how to detect them so we can avoid getting stranded and sold into slavery again. And so that nobody else loses an arm."

Sam winced. "Good note. Tell me the story sometime." Activating his secondary sensor suite so he could avoid crashing into an inconvenient mountain, he adjusted their course so that they were at a comfortable 120,000 feet. "The plane's all yours." Sam said again, giving the stick a slight tap.

Trust the sensors, Mara reminded herself as she took over flying again. There was far more resistance inside an atmosphere and doubly so in a class R atmosphere. "Sluggish," she commented, attempting to pick up speed. "I don't think i'll be attempting any loops. Maybe a hard U-turn."

"Go for it. I'm ready to take over just in case." he said, eyeing a gently pulsing red light that was increasing in frequency as the temperature gauge for the number four atmospheric thruster began to rise.

Even so, Mara did not feel comfortable going too crazy. So, she stuck to careful flying, keeping the turns broad and allowing plenty of space between them and the topography of the planet. She was just about to suggest they head back to Canopus when all hell broke loose.

Suddenly alarms began to blare throughout the cockpit as the thrusters began to flame out and the impulse engines followed and they began to drop like a stone. The only thing functioning now was the altimeter and that was beginning to tick downward so rapidly that Sam could barely keep up with the numbers. Rapidly flipping switches to get some sort of power, he wasn't having any luck. "Krypter! Krypter! Krypter! This is Eagle, we are engaging in uncontrolled descent. Requesting immediate SAR!" he said while continuing to flip switches but to no avail. "Any ideas?" he asked Mara, beads of sweat running down his forehead and stinging his eyes.

"One," replied Mara, studying the sensors carefully but quickly. "Aim directly for the ground. And get ready to pull up quick on my mark."

It went against everything Sam had been taught, coupled with the simple fact that he couldn't even [i]see[/i] the ground. "We don't have power or thrusters! Try again!" he said.

"Doesn't matter!" Mara replied. "Just do it. It's our only chance."

"Fine!" Without another word, Sam pressed down hard on the stick, forcing the craft downward via the minimal mechanical backups in the flaps and ailerons. As he did, he heard the characteristic whine of air whistling over the stubby wings of the fighter. With an eye on the altimeter, Sam was almost resigned to death as he pulled back on the stick with all of his might, straining his muscles, when the displays flashed back to life and the engines thrummed with raw power as they shot back into the upper atmosphere.

"Praise the Great Bird of the Galaxy!" breathed Mara. "Engine overheated. Must be a faulty coolant system and sensor. We might have to put her down and let her cool off for awhile. Class R planets are rich in Rorantium. Set her down, throw open the flaps and let nature take its course."

Sam nodded. "I'll try to find a spot to set us down but with these winds, I don't like our chances." he said, setting the scanners to maximum and locating a plateau. Setting a course, he tightened his grip on the stick as he began to fight against the crosswind and began to glide towards the area of the plateau. Suddenly, a gust blew them dangerously close to a rocky outcropping that Sam was narrowly able to avoid by firing his atmospheric thrusters to maximum and stabilizing themselves. Adjusting his altitude, he managed to set them down on the plateau and shut down the engines, opening the vents to allow the engines to gather coolant into the intake. Activating the internal life support systems, Sam removed his helmet and wiped the sweat from his forehead. "Let's NOT do that again." he said exhaustedly.

"Agreed," replied Mara, making sure the oxygen flow to her helmet was shut off before taking it off. "On the plus side, I know what to fix when we get back."

Sam cocked his head to one side, reviewing the gauges with an eye as he turned to look outside to see the wind whipping up clouds of orange dust, almost completely obscuring their view. "So, fill me in on what's been going on here. I've been reading the official logs and it seems pretty wild. Anything unofficial you can let me know about?" Sam inquired.

“You mean other than avoiding the reporter?” she joked. “Oh! I know! Avoid the diplomatic offices. You’ll find Bar'soon'fo'da'gree'nars there. Holder of… some skulls or something. I don’t know. He keeps going on and on about it and his other many titles. I try to ignore him. Anyway, he’s tedious and annoying. Don’t get trapped in a turbolift with him or he’ll think you want to hear his life story.”

Letting out a light hearted chuckle, Sam smiled slightly. "I'll make a note." he said. "Good thing Marines and Diplomats don't mix." he said, looking back down at the temperature gauge, which was now down to a cool blue as opposed to an urgent red. "I think it's time for us to go, wouldn't you?" he asked Mara.

“I’d say so!” exclaimed Mara. They could always shut down again once they were out of the planet’s atmosphere, if they had to.

As if to highlight that particular point, the aft end of the fighter suddenly jerked downwards, tipping back slightly. A low basso rumble of crumbling rock began to roar as more and more of the surface under the fighters landing skids began to give way.

"Warning. Warning. Craft at unstable level of tilt." The computer helpfully bleated.

Sam grabbed hold of the stick and pulled back, forcing his engine power to full in order to give them enough lift to keep them from plummeting into the abyss. Giving the stick a tug back, he felt the Gs press him back into his seat as they gathered speed and fought against the atmosphere. As the sky darkened and they reached the edge of space, the turbulence lessened and the engines began to cool. "Switching to spaceflight mode and powering down engines. Opening vents." Sam said coolly. "You know, narrowly avoiding death always makes me peckish. What do you say we get a bite to eat once we get back?"

"We could go for those capies," she suggested, automatically scanning for a rescue ship. "Do you suppose our distress signal got through?"

A flash of light twinkled in the starfield, and in a moment the form of a starship could be seen growing larger as it approached. The blocky twin pontoon design of a Combat Support Tender hoved into view, its hull registry declaring it to be the USS Irwin. One of the underslung pontons began to open up along its side, revealing a complicated-looking array of manipulator arms and engineering tools.

"Eagle, this is Irwin Actual, answering your SAR beacon. Before we take you in, are there any medical issues or hazards you want to tell us about? Fuel leaks, dodgy antimatter containment or loose munitions?" The laconic Australian accent was a little disarming coming from the comm set. "Rather you didn't blow up inside my little flying repair shop if it can be helped. If you need us to cut you out, just give a yell."

"The only problem of which we are aware is overheating engines, and/or possibly faulty sensors," replied Mara. "Give us a quick scan to make sure. I think we can jettison the coolant system if we need to, but as I was just elbow deep in it an hour ago and didn't get any burns, I think we're okay."

"Yeah we clocked the thermal load you're putting out. Its a wonder your port engine didn't spontaneously disassemble," the Irwin's CO stated laconically. The fighter gave a little shudder as a spidery tractor beam array began to gently pull and position the fighter into the repair bay. "When we've got you locked down and the bay repressurized, I've got the Station Administrator for Canopus Station on the line. Charming fellow if you like the sort of charm that can atomise carbon scoring at half a light second."

"Please assure him that I have not lost another arm," Mara replied, suppressing her giggles.

Sam turned back to Mara. “Something tells me we’re in trouble. Care to tell me I’m wrong?’ He asked, his eyebrow raised.

"Oddly enough that was something he brought up," the Irwins captain chuckled. "I think he wants to talk to you in person. We'll be jumping to warp when we've locked down your repair bay. Should have enough time to check you out, and have our chief engineer perform last rites. He's a lay brother of the Patch Mother."

Mara grinned. “Don’t worry,” she told Sam. “He likes me. I mean, he also hates me, but for Ingram, that’s high praise.”

Sam chuckled and began flipping switches. "Irwin Actual, this is Eagle. We are powering down engines and sensor arrays. The bird is yours."

========== Five Minutes Later ==========

No sooner had the docking clamps locked down the landing struts and the landing bay pressurized, Sam clambered down the ladder and ducked his head into the cockpit, reaching out his hand for Mara to climb down as well.

“Thank you,” replied Mara. She knew it wasn’t because she was a girl, but because she was not a fighter pilot. Any fighter worth their salt would help any officer out of the fighter, regardless of gender. She could, of course, have gotten down by herself, but she was taught to be polite and she hat included graciously accepting any help offered. So she took his hand as she climbed out of the fighter and only released it once she was safely on the deck plating.

"From the sound of things, I'd say this actually went pretty well. You're actually a pretty fair pilot there, Commander. If you ever want to wear the blue collar, let me know." Sam said as his feet touched the deck again. Heading off of the flight deck, he entered the corridor, noting how spartan the place was. Following the signs, he ducked into a makeshift galley with metal stools and took a seat, running his hands through his hair.

“Sure,” muttered Mara, watching him leave. “Let me deal with Ingram on my own.” She glanced at the young ensign who was waiting nervously nearby. “Are you to take me to the bridge?” she asked.

"With your compliments Sir. The Captian is concerned the subspace transceiver might melt if they get another comm burst from Canopus Station." The ensign said, a little starstruck by not only a AG but a CEO in their presence.

“Lead the way,” she instructed, motioning for him to proceed her. Best to just get it over with.


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