“Program complete. Enter when ready”
The air inside was dry with a distinct chill and a slight smell of dust. The platform was barely 5 meters across and there was no sign of the ground, just a red horizon fading to midnight blue overhead. The winds howled and twisted around the platform
It wasn’t historically accurate, it wasn’t completely physically accurate either. The atmosphere was ship-normal, but a high-altitude Martian atmosphere, a high-altitude, pre-terraforming Martian armosphere would have required an EVA suit and sometimes comfort took precedence over physical accuracy.
Stephan regarded the primitive craft standing on the edge of the platform. A light-weight metal frame with a several meter wingspan covered with fabric, no propulsion of any kind. It was a far cry from modern atmospheric craft. Just getting this far had required months of research. First with the shuttle’s limited computer while in the Gamma Quadrant, then with the main historical archives at Utopia Planitia. Either the early Martian expedition hadn’t recorded the complete schematics of the glider or the details had been lost during the Eugenics wars.
‘No time like the present.’ He climbed into the glider’s framework and pushed it off the platform.
Stephan fought for control as the wind tossed the glider around like a toy. After several long minutes he managed to wrestle the flimsy craft in-line with the wind. The ground, now just visible far below, raced past at an incredible speed and the howling of the wind faded away.
Stephan tilted the wing very slightly downwards, dropping altitude would make the view of the ground clearer and with all the dust he couldn’t make out the features of the terrain below. Noctis Labyrinthus was to the North-West, but that left a lot of margin for error. He tilted the glider left, aiming it for a NNW trajectory. As he did so, an errant gust of wind caught the glider and spun it out of control. The fabric on one of the wings ripped away and the glider plummeted towards the surface. A second later the wind ceased, the wide expanse of the planet’s surface was replaced by the yellow and grey grid of the holodeck and Stephan fell 10cm to the floor of the holodeck.
“Damn it.” He pushed himself to his feet and leant against the nearest wall, willing his hands to stop shaking. “Computer, analyse the last 5 minutes of the flight, identify the cause of the structural failure.”
“Back to the drawing board…” Stephan muttered to the empty room as he left.
Personal log Stardate 52110.1
—- Text only —–
First time I’ve flown a freighter since I joined the Marquis. Was one of the motivations for joining, so bored of flying cargo ships. Still this one’s rather manoeuvrable for a freighter, I wonder if the insectoids used this as a blockade runner on occasion.
I like flying ships, but 3 months of 12-hour shifts is starting to wear. I hope those really are indications the wormhole is open, I don’t like the idea of spending another couple of months here.
Three and a half months. What’s happened back in the Alpha quadrant in that time?
Location: Salva II
The transporter sparkles dissolved into a view of a small agricultural settlement, still showing the signs of the recent Cardassian occupation.
Lieutenant Commander Tony LeStrange, USS Boston, sighed and headed down towards the center of the settlement. Third and last visit of the day, then he intended to find a bar and get seriously drunk.
He checked his padd and looked around, but didn’t immediately see anyone matching the picture he had. ‘Excuse me,” he called out to the nearest person, “I wonder if you can help me locate someone?”
Twenty minutes later, on the outskirts of the settlement, Cmdr LeStrange spotted the person he’d come to see. He was part of a group clearing away debris from what appeared to be a collapsed building of some form.
“Excuse me,” Cmdr LeStrange called out, “Mr Carthright?”
“That’s me,” the oldest man in the group answered, “What can I help you with?”
Twice that day and three more times the previous week and it never grew easier. “Mr Carthright, I regret to inform you that the ship your son was serving on has been declared lost with all hands. Starfleet sends their condolences and if there’s anything that that I can do to assist, you just have to ask.”
Malcolm Carthright took a step back, shaking his head, ‘I think you’ve got the wrong person, my son’s not in Starfleet.”
Cmdr LeStrange checked his padd carefully and frowned, “Lt Stephan Carthwright, Starfleet service number 28492992, born 2346 Salva II, joined Starfleet 2374 as part of the Correctional Service Amnesty Program. Assigned USS Rutan stardate 51834.” He looked up from the padd. Malcolm had gone several shades paler and had pressed a hand to his chest. “Sir, the USS Rutan was declared lost with all hands stardate 52002. I am sorry to be the one to inform you.”
‘No…” Malcolm staggered back against some debris and sat heavily, ‘No, no, no!!!!”
——————— Subspace message Stardate 51833.8 ———————
———————– Destination: Ivor Prime Colony ————————
———————– Recipient: Sarah Rotheford ————————
Congrats on the promotion. You’ll be running the entire colony in no time I’m sure.
I’m going to be out of contact for a while, should just be a couple of weeks. Can’t say more, you know how it is. Please tell Ken I wish him a very happy birthday in advance. I’m glad he’s feeling better than when I last saw him. Oh, and he doesn’t owe anyone anything. Personally I wouldn’t wish my worst enemy a stay in a Cardassian prison. I told him that when he was onboard the Agora, maybe he’ll believe it if it comes from you. If he insists on doing something, he can send a ‘thank you’ message to Captain Jason West, USS Rutan. It’ll get to us eventually.
I will speak with Father again when I get back, if only to stop you nagging me. I don’t know what you expect to achieve, but you were always the peace-keeper in the family, even before Mother died. Honestly though, he’s made up his mind about me, it’s going to take some significant event to make him reconsider, you know how he is.
Look after yourself and the brats, love to you all, I’ll call when I can.
Personal log Stardate 51885.2
——–Text only ————–
I joined the Marquis for the excitement. I was bored, I wanted to see the galaxy and I wanted to do it on my terms.
I told myself at the time that it was for good and noble reasons, defending our homes, resisting Cardassian aggression, that kind of thing. Told anyone else that would listen that as well. But that doesn’t make it the truth. I wanted the adventure, the resistance against Cardassia was just a convenient excuse.
Was that really less than three years ago? It seems like a lifetime. So much changes in just three years. I’d like to think I’ve changed as well, but am I just deluding myself again?
Personal log. Stardate 51962.1
————— Text only ———————
In retrospect, I suspect that was a suicide mission. Well, not exactly, that’s not Starfleet style. More like a mission where the expected probability of success is expressed in single digits. Small ones.
It’s understandable, they’re not going to send their best ships or best crews on such a mission, but did they really have to give us a bunch of kids just out of the Academy? This was Ensign Kulia’s first combat mission. He’s still having nightmares.
To be honest, he’s not the only one.
I keep thinking back over that battle, if battle is the right word for it, was there anything we could have done differently. It all went down so incredibly fast, one moment everything was fine the next every alarm on the ship was blaring. I’m sure I saw stars for a second just as the transporter activated, literally, where the port bulkhead should have been.
That Vorta had better be worth all of this. Otherwise I’m throwing him out of an airlock myself.
So far it’s been a month since we left Doza. The less said about the trip, the better. Current estimates are another two weeks back to the wormhole, and that’s assuming we don’t have any technical problems. I’m going to strangle Hagen well before that.