Phoenix NX-08

LadyBlueLadyBlue Member, Administrator, Moderator, Admiralty
edited May 10 in Task Force 64

Phoenix

In mid-2156, the Romulan War approaches its crescendo. Starfleet has scrambled to gather the forces to defend humanity against the oncoming enemy, and been stretched almost to breaking point. When the officers expected to take command of the newly-commissioned Phoenix NX-08 are killed in action, no immediate replacement is apparent.

Into this opportunity steps Natalia Lopez, disgraced Starfleet captain with a reputation for brilliance that pays off almost as often as it doesn’t, who gathers a rag-tag band of misfits, wash-outs, and screw-ups with a flair for ingenuity. Traditional tactics aren’t winning the war. Traditional strategies aren’t rendering borders impenetrable. Traditional crews aren’t always seeing those at the edges of humanity; the fringe settlements, the cargo ships, the transient colonists. If they get it wrong, nobody will miss them. If they get it right, few will thank them.

Phoenix is an Enterprise-era war story with a crew of deeply flawed people at the dawn of humanity’s utopia. Where most Star Trek characters are products and adherents of the Federation’s highest principles, in this era these values have yet to take full form. But rather than a dark narrative of ‘do what needs to be done’ warfare justified by its pre-Federation era, Phoenix is about imperfect people growing into these ideals as they unknowingly fight for them, rather than mere survival alone.

Comments

  • LadyBlueLadyBlue Member, Administrator, Moderator, Admiralty
    edited May 18

    Prologue

    It was the end of all things, so of course there was a party.

    That was a cynical way to view perhaps the most important day in Earth’s history, but Professor Juliette Gauthier was in a cynical mood. It was the end of humanity’s independence, it was the end of the galaxy as anyone knew it, and it was the end of the war. A treaty might have been signed with the Romulans a year earlier, but the echoes and ripples had been felt through the Commonwealth for those long months of grieving, of recovery, of rebuilding.

    Now, on Federation Day, it could end. Now, on Federation Day, it could begin.

    Gauthier had watched the ceremony in the café not far from her office, eschewing the company of colleagues and students and friends at the Sorbonne. With an espresso long gone cold in her hands, she’d stood in the crowd and listened to the speeches and proceedings and pontificating and signing, and as the gathered survivors of humanity and their guests - new family - had cheered and hugged, she had been still. Alone.

    Even a dreary day could not overcome the jubilation filling the streets when she left. Everyone smiled, even at strangers, which was the sort of thing that normally got one shunned in Paris. But few people were out and about for long. After all, they had celebrations to get to.

    It meant that when Gauthier reached the Memorial Gardens, they were empty. Most people wanted to spend the day in cheer, and certainly not under clouds threatening rain. But this had to be done, because it was the end of the world, and on a day like that you had to say goodbye.

    Each path she walked was flanked with verdant beauty or the small plinths marking the losses of the Romulan War. What had started as tall stones with plaques for each battle or attack, listing the names of the losses, had expanded with the conflict. Worlds had taken to carving out small gardens in the grounds, winding paths taking the viewer from plaque to plaque covered in names. Earth’s was first, but she passed the grounds for Alpha Centauri, Deneva, Vega.

    To reach Starfleet, she had to go deeper. And even then, the fringes were not her goal. The oldest of the tall stones erected for each ship lost were five years old, and she had to pass them all to get where she wanted; past Columbia, past Sojourner, past Pioneer. To the small forest of memory for the casualties of the Battle of Charon.

    And there Professor Gauthier stopped, not because she had reached her destination, but because she was not alone.

    ‘Lieutenant?’

    Jack Corrigan was not in uniform, but Gauthier barely knew him and didn’t want to be presumptuous. For such a big man he looked small before the memorial, shoulders hunched, build swaddled in ill-fitting clothes. The stubble on his chin was too short for a beard, but too long to suggest only a little neglect of his grooming. He looked as startled to see her as she was him. ‘Oh, Doc.’

    ‘It’s Professor, actually,’ Gauthier drawled, approaching. ‘So if my full title is still too much, that’ll be Prof.’

    He winced, and she saw the bags under his eyes. ‘Sorry, Professor. Didn’t expect nobody to be here.’

    She waved a hand, guilty. ‘That’s alright. I didn’t mean to get at you. I thought I’d be alone, too. You don’t have a party to get to?’

    He scoffed. ‘With who?’

    ‘It’s been a year, Lieutenant.’

    ‘An’ here you are, too, Professor.’

    He had her there. Gauthier stepped up next to him, extending the umbrella to shield them both from the light drizzle. ‘Yes,’ she sighed. ‘Here I am.’

    ‘I just can’t stomach it,’ he said at length. ‘Celebrating. Every second I think, they should be here.’

    ‘I know what you mean.’

    Corrigan frowned. Paused a moment. Then said, ‘Begging your pardon, Professor, but no, you don’t.’

    Gauthier looked at the long list of names on the plinth before them. Considered how many she didn’t recognise. Considered how only one of them made her heart turn inside out. And the fizzle of indignation died. ‘No,’ she sighed. ‘I don’t. I’m sorry.’

    He hunched his shoulders, staring at the list too. ‘Nah, I’m - I don’t know what it’s like for you, neither, do I.’

    ‘We’re both here today when the rest of the world is smiling and dancing and cheering. We’re both here today when we have other places to go. We’re both here today, looking back, when there’s a bright future before us. I’d say we have more in common, Lieutenant, than our grief today lets us feel.’

    It was not for his sake that she hadn’t bit off his head for dismissing her pain. Nor was it for some greater sense of humanity and compassion fighting through her fog of grief. No; the grief itself gave her focus as her eyes landed on the first name on the memorial plaque for the Phoenix NX-07, and she knew that Nat would want her to treat the boy better.

    For her, most of the names were just that - names. Antar, Ritter, Kayode. Others, like Takahashi and Black meant something, if only a little; faces and stories. Only there, at the top, did the name Captain Natalia Lopez evoke more. And what it evoked, she couldn’t bear.

    So despite herself, Juliette Gauthier stepped closer to the young Jack Corrigan next to her, and put her hand on his shoulder. Because for whatever she felt in her complicated, messy grief, the sole survivor of the Phoenix’s final battle had to feel it tenfold.

    And if they didn’t face this bright future in unison, it would break them both.

  • LadyBlueLadyBlue Member, Administrator, Moderator, Admiralty

    Episode 1: Back in Black

    ‘Heads up!’

    Chief Engineer Nikon Petronius turned to see the football coming right for the warp core. On instinct he side-stepped, chested it, and brought the ball down to his feet, pinning it under a boot. ‘Dan! What the hell?’

    ‘Kick-off in five hours!’ Dan Benzali stood at the lift door, grin a mile wide. ‘Thought I’d put you in the mood for the ass-kicking you’re gonna get.’

    ‘No way. You can’t live off past glories forever. Tonight, Brazil get a kicking, and we qualify.’ Petronius flipped the ball up, tapping it between foot, knee, and the railing next to the warp core. ‘And tomorrow, Engineering takes down Science just the same.’ He kneed the ball higher, and headed it back down to Benzali.

    Benzali caught it as he entered the Pioneer’s main engineering. ‘Captain catches us playing ball down here, there’ll be hell to pay.’

    ‘You started it.’ Petronius leaned against the railing. Normally he didn’t look down at young, tall, lanky Benzali, who was all cool style and artful rumples next to short, stocky, worn and rather bland-faced Petronius. They made an odd pair with the disparity in age, physique, and outlook, but few members of the crew shared their particular passions. ‘You’ve told Chef Petersen we’ve got the mess hall?’

    ‘You mean, did I ask Chef Petersen politely to block us out three hours? Sure. XO’s gonna come down this time, I reckon.’ Pioneer’s Chief Science Officer looked wistful. ‘Do you think we’ll make it home for the tournament?’

    ‘The World Cup’s not for almost a year. The war will be over by then.’ Petronius shrugged. ‘Perhaps because we’re all dead or enslaved by Rommies, but, over.’

    ‘You think Romulans would let us play football in their slave camps?’

    ‘They seem like a reasonable, relaxed bunch. So I think we should just challenge them to a kick-about and when my Engineering five-a-side wins, that’ll end the war,’ Petronius deadpanned. ‘But football’s about as old as human civilisation, so they’d have to do some serious genocide to stop us.’

    ‘As opposed to all that mild physical or cultural genocide you hear about.’ Benzali had started to head the ball, hands behind his back purely to show off. ‘Oh, I was thinking about after tomorrow’s game, maybe we try to do something with the grav-plating in the cargo bay. Make the next match a bit more interesting. I’m sick of playing in space, so the least we can do is make it different.’

    Petronius groaned. ‘Only if the team agrees to set it up and put it back on their own time. And Doctor Spell will kill us if someone gets injured in that.’

    ‘Okay, okay.’ Benzali brought the ball down. ‘How about, when we take on the new ship, we expand the tournament. We’ll have a bigger crew on an NX-class.’

    ‘Because everyone’s going to have an abundance of free time transferring to the Phoenix,’ Petronius pointed out. ‘But you’re on. Make it the start of the next season. Do you know if Comms will have enough people to put together their own team?’

    ‘I thought about that; they could team up with Helm if not. And I thought maybe Petersen might put together a five-man out of the catering -’

    No impact at warp 2 could be gentle. At approximately eight times the speed of light, the navigational sensors had to ensure the Pioneer would evade anything big enough to perturb the hull plating. Petronius kept those sensors perfectly tuned because they were the difference between life and death. So when the Pioneer bucked, the deck rising underneath them as she went careening out of warp, bulkheads shuddering with the reverberation of whatever had struck them, Petronius’ first thought wasn’t of fear. It was denial.

    Because if this had happened, they were in far too much trouble for him to have time for fear.

    His head hit the railing, and even through the spinning agony he held on for the seconds that felt like lifetimes as the Pioneer stopped her wild ride, as Hulick up at the helm had to be desperately righting them. Alert sirens wailed in the background and he heard the cries of pain and surprise of his few engineers, but he didn’t move. Only when everything stopped spinning did Petronius haul himself to his feet. ‘McQueen! That was an emergency warp shutdown; lower the plasma intake, now!’

    He hadn’t realised he was shouting orders as his engineers scrambled. Whatever was going on outside the ship, outside this room, was less important than stabilising the devastating power of the achingly precise configuration of a warp core. So he focused for now on this, all this, and let Benzali crawl to the comms panel on the wall and demand an explanation.

    ‘Plasma intake lowered; core’s stabilising -’

    ‘Good! Now reopen the EPS manifolds; we might have to get out of here really quickly. And get a medic down!’

    ‘Nik!’ Benzali appeared by his feet, below the warp core. ‘Captain wants us on the bridge.’

    ‘I’m a little busy -’

    ‘He said both of us.’

    Petronius hesitated. Captain Whittal wouldn’t tear the Chief Engineer away from his engine room at a time like this without a reason. ‘McQueen! Take over!’

    He could feel the ship, his ship, groaning and creaking at whatever the blow was as they dashed for the lift. The deck plating didn’t hum like it should. Something had crippled the Pioneer, and he could feel his girl cringing as she settled at what felt like a full stop.

    ‘Maybe it was a meteoroid,’ Benzali said, and Petronius could hear the waver of fear in his voice. Panic was the only explanation for such rationalisation, because Benzali knew better. ‘Something in the space debris -’

    ‘This is an attack,’ Petronius said flatly, and only then did he remember just how damn young Benzali was. Petronius had run engine rooms for twenty years, and nothing short of an act of God was going to lever him out. Benzali was almost young enough to be his son, lean and hungry for adventure and advancement. Still, Benzali had to sit on the bridge and watch the war on his sensors and through the viewscreen, while for an engineer, war was often just another crisis in space.

    Petronius knew he was right when they arrived on the bridge, because an accident didn’t cause this kind of humming of chaos. Armoury Chief and XO Tauya was reeling off the limited information her panels could give her, and Benzali gave Petronius a quick pat on the shoulder as he headed for his station at Science. Petronius approached Captain Whittal, calm in all of the hubbub, the eye of the storm.

    ‘What’d we hit, Chris?’

    As the only member of the senior staff older than Whittal, the captain took his familiarity in stride. He sat with his elbow on the armrest, stroking his chin as he listened. ‘Whatever it is breached deck 4; we’ve lost six people already. Port impulse engines are offline, and I can’t polarise the hull on panels Delta-4 through 6. But we’re in deep space, and sensors aren’t reading anything out there.’

    Petronius scowled. ‘If something hit us with enough force to breach the hull, it should have ripped us apart…’ He moved to Tauya’s station, reading the data upside-down, because he knew what he was going to see. ‘We impacted, then it exploded…’ Gut chilling, he turned back. ‘We hit a mine.’

    ‘A cloaked one, if I’m any judge,’ said veteran captain Chris Whittal who was, in fact, a judge. He sounded supremely unconcerned, which Petronius knew meant they were really in trouble. ‘So we need to get out of here without hitting another mine, and we need to do it before the second phase of this ambush comes. If we’re really lucky, nobody’s waiting nearby. I want you here because I’m going to start giving orders, and only you know better than me if Pioneer can take it.’

    ‘Nik!’ Benzali tossed him a PADD. ‘Hooked it up to my console.’

    Petronius caught it, skimming the data feed. ‘Prioritise navigational sensors; we need to retrace our flight path and hope these mines are static. The data on this is conflicted; we’ve got a small tachyon surge on an area we’ve passed through.’

    ‘Benzali, run a quick diagnostic and compare that surge with the database records on the Atlantis’ encounter with the minefield out near Porrima two months back.’

    ‘Hulick.’ Petronius turned to the pilot. ‘You’re going to have to inch us out of here micron by micron; if you can’t retrace our flight route exactly then we’re probably dead. Take it down to navigational thrusters only.’

    Hulick made a face. ‘That’ll take us the better part of an hour to get out.’

    ‘The other way is exceptionally fast and final. Dan -’

    ‘Captain!’ Commander Tauya’s voice had gone cold. ‘Bird of Prey dropping out of warp, bearing 240 mark-217. Range twenty thousand kilometres. Sir, we are in no state for a fight.’

    ‘Agreed.’ A muscle twitched at the corner of Captain Whittal’s jaw. ‘Lieutenant Petronius, is the warp core online?’

    ‘Sir, you can’t possibly -’

    Is it online?’

    He’d never heard Whittal raise his voice, and instinct brought Petronius to attention, ramrod-straight. ‘Sir, yes, sir. I cannot advise we -’

    ‘Ensign Rodriguez, send a message to Starfleet advising them of our situation and that we are going to attempt an emergency jump out of this minefield.’

    ‘Captain,’ Petronius gasped, desperate, ‘our odds of successfully evading every mine are -’

    ‘Non-zero, which is what I’ll take over a fight with damaged hull plating and no manoeuvrability. We are a sitting duck, Lieutenant, for them to pick off at range. Lieutenant Hulick, plot a course.’

    Hulick half-turned in his chair, still aghast. ‘…heading, sir?’

    ‘Bird-of-Prey incoming,’ Tauya warned. ‘They’ve raised deflectors and are charging weapons.’

    Whittal lifted his hands. ‘Your discretion, Mister Hulick. Away.’ His gaze swept the bridge. ‘It’s been an honour -’

    Chris!’ Petronius advanced on the captain. ‘You can’t possibly -’

    ‘Lieutenant Petronius, you are relieved,’ Whittal barked, and even though Petronius knew that was the most meaningless of gestures in that moment, again instinct silenced him.

    ‘Course laid in,’ Hulick croaked.

    ‘Hey,’ said Benzali with forced levity. ‘You always make it when it’s a one in a million chance, right?’

    Captain Chris Whittal gave a grin that he couldn’t possibly feel, and yet Petronius felt all tension on the bridge fade at the sight of it. ‘Right, Dan. Mister Hulick? Engage.’

    Knowing it was pointless, Petronius grabbed the railing on Benzali’s console, and the two locked eyes for a moment. Knowing it was pointless, Petronius gave him a nod. Knowing it was pointless, Petronius prayed in silence. And when the Pioneer went to warp, that was the last thing Nikon Petronius knew.

Sign In or Register to comment.