Thursday, July 19, 2012

Star Trek '12: 2512 AD - Starfleet

Alexander Chase never wanted to be first officer of anything, but it was the only way to reach the captain’s chair.  At least, if he was lucky, that might be the case again.  Starfleet had seen better days.

Serving under Captain Winick was proving to be a lot more interesting than he’d thought.  After years of idling on Academy grounds, waiting for a position to open in one of the few ships still in service (which did not guarantee that they were in working order), Chase was surprised when Winick contacted him directly.  Maybe that’s how it used to be done, too, when the fleet had a mandate, a purpose, hell even a Prime Directive.  There were more officers than could find work, so most of them sat around doing civilian jobs when someone bothered to hire them, or just sat around, which was the last thing Chase wanted to do, but he couldn’t avoid doing, because the Great Bird of the Galaxy had not only died, but left no next of kin, no will, and definitely no successor, and so everything fell apart.

It had been a pretty good run, all told, several centuries of exploration and making friends out of enemies and making contact with the unknown, surviving every challenge, upholding an ideal and a dream, and producing some of the finest individuals to ever travel the stars.  Decline comes to everything, even Starfleet, even the Federation, whose Council had not met in more than half a century.  The only reason the fleet was still active at all was because the remaining ships had not completely fallen apart.  The problem was a deficiency of great men.

At some point observers had stopped looking for them, and when they started overlooking great men, great men stopped appearing.  There was no longer any incentive.  Chase had been surprised by everything about Winick, whose career he had never seen reported in any of the news services, which squawked incessantly about inane events of the day and tracked things that could be made to sound like crises, but ignored anyone who might actually make a difference.  He’d stopped believing such individuals were possible.  Winick was bold enough to make her interests plain.  She cut through all the bullshit and asked Chase directly if he’d like a job.  She’d fired her last commander.

“Come work for me and you’ll see the future open before you like a sunrise,” she’d said.  Chase believed her.

The ship was predictably unimpressive, of a famous lineage but hardly capable of living up to it, even under Captain Winick.  There was only so much she could do, operating with a crew of fifty, the best Starfleet could afford any vessel these days, just enough to keep it running, keep it in space, as long as the fuel held out.  Winick had him take a tour of the whole ship, and asked him how many of the positions he could fill in a pinch, and Chase had to admit that his knowledge was shallow.  She seemed to understand, but said she valued his honesty most of all.  Still, he’d have to learn, and pull double-shifts until he did.  There wasn’t much sleep on a ship like that anyway.

No, he didn’t want to be first officer.  He craved the captain’s seat, wanted to make a difference, wanted badly to prove great things were still possible.  Yet he learned under Winick that great things could be defined in small gestures.  They visited the new Vulcan homeworld, helped reopen Romulan mining operations, brought the Vidiians to the Gamma Quadrant, introduced Klingons and Hirogen, even helped the Ferengi market get back on its feet, taught Andorians and Breen about beaches.  They visited countless worlds, saw innumerable wonders.  Winick announced that she was retiring.  Would Chase like that seat after all?

Before he wouldn’t have hesitated.  The old him had almost passed on the assignment in the first place, said it was beneath him, would have spat in her face to finally condescend him with the one thing he’d always wanted after holding him back for years.  The truth was, he was still young.  The universe was old, and he was young.

“I will show you a glorious sunset,” he finally replied.

(Based on the aborted STAR TREK: FINAL FRONTIER animated series.)

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