I always wanted to see the planets – Episode One

I’d been on the starship for almost three hours when…

The captain was coming up from the earth station by transport, not wanting to trust the transporters, and I’d just finished the orientation of the ship by the second officer, and had arrived on the bridge to see various crew members hunched over their consoles.

The captain had told me, before stepping onto the transport, that we would be leaving the dock shortly after he arrived.

Nothing I’d seen so far had led me to believe it would be going anywhere, anytime soon.

Nevertheless, the crew briefing had run smoothly, the second officer assigned to correlate the complaints/problems list, and everyone else had taken their assigned positions. 

I was waiting for the captain, standing beside the ‘chair’, ready to hand over.  In any other situation, we would be off to an illustrious start.

Until the dulcet tones of the Chief Engineer rang through the bridge, uttering those fateful words, “the warp coil has had a catastrophic failure”.

This was at odds with another statement he had made earlier when I was in Engineering, and given I was told the Chief Engineer was prone to hyperbole; his statement ‘they just don’t make warp coils like they used to’ hadn’t exactly filled me with confidence, but I had been expecting we would be ready to depart.

I had been looking at the screen, an overlay of the window that looked out over space, or at this moment, the space dock, where there was a representation of the planets that were ‘out there’.

I had been curious about M75, but the helmsman, a rather taciturn chap who seemed to resent the fact he was assigned to this ship, just shrugged and said, “it’s something, somewhere, but not of much interest,” then went back to his console.

If this was Star Trek, we’d be ejecting the warp coil by now, but in the space dock, that didn’t seem to me to be a viable option.

“How long before we can get this bucket of bolts moving,” I ask the Chief.

“I’m going as fast as I can.”

Yes, words ripped right out of the script of a Star Trek episode, I thought. A sad case of life imitating art.

A strange whistling sound emanated from the speakers, then the whoosh of the elevator just before the doors opened. OK, new ship, squeaky doors, another item to be put on the ‘look at’ list after the shakedown cruise.

The Captain had arrived.

“Why are dock workers still on the ship, Number One.”

For a moment there, I thought I was talking to John Luc Picard.

“Faulty warp coil. You know how it goes, save a billion by outsourcing to the cheapest supplier.”

The captain didn’t appreciate my sardonic humour, or my apparent disdain in outsourcing what we had once built ourselves.

He gave me a frown, a slight shake of his head, then said, “I’ll be in my quarters. Let me know when we’re about to leave.”

He didn’t wait for acknowledgement and disappeared through another squeaky door. More repairs.

The Chief’s voice then came over the speaker. “I can give you impulse speed, warp speed will take a little longer.”

“Doesn’t that refer to miracles over the impossible,” I ask.

“Perhaps.  But in the meantime, I need a specific spanner and the replicators are down. So, now we have to fix them first, before moving on. Might take a while.”

I look around the crew, seeing their expectant faces drop with disappointment.

Outer space was going to have to wait a little longer.

© Charles Heath 2021

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