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Martin Luther Bern, Senior Tug Operator and Yard Tug Supervisor, was holding a position outside of dock forty-two, with his two crew members. Not too far away he could see two more tugs and knew that another two were prepositioned aft of the massive starship. While four would be enough, he always had one more on hand, just in case. His communication board lit up and he tapped his link to the other tugs. "Get ready. I've got an incoming call, probably the all clear to start." He re-tabbed the comm channel, "Bern here."
A bit of static cleared, then a voice, slightly different from the one he expected, spoke, "Is this the Space Tug Supervisor?"
Confused, Bern answered with more than a little pride, "Absolutely, and the best one Starfleet has!"
"I hope so, because you have about thirty minutes to get Endeavour out of number forty-two before Enterprise needs to get in, can do?"
Answering with pride and a self-assured cockiness, responded, "Can do... Barbara." Bern smiled. He knew it was his friend Barbara Ducal, trying to pull a fast one by disguising her voice. "And I'm ready for our special night together!"
"I don't know who Barbara is, but this is Admiral Erin O'Conner and you're close to subordination mister!"
The Lead Tug Operator and Supervisor suddenly sat bolt upright in his seat, "Understood, sir."
"Now, you get the job done on time and without so much as a scratch on Endeavour's hull plating and I might just forget that you may qualify for a court martial and it will be a long time before you see Barbara!"
"Absolutely, Admiral, count on it. Commander Bern out." Taking a brief moment to collect his thoughts and regain his coolness, he ignored the not so subdued laughter of his crew and re-tabbed the tug interlink control one more time. "Okay, team, Endeavour is all ours. We need to move fast and careful. If you do a good job, I'm buying at the club tonight and all night!"
There were cheers over the open comm lines and one sarcastic comment, "Since when did you ever buy?"
"Since now, let's get started!"
O'Conner couldn't stand just waiting and took her shuttle, without her aide, to watch the process of moving the starships. On the way, she thought of a dozen ways it could go all wrong. She pushed those thoughts out of her mind as dock forty-two came into view. Taking a position in front and above the dock, she made sure she was out of the normal traffic lanes used by tugs, work shuttles and other units.
Knowing yard protocol, Endeavour would exit the front of the dock as all ships were required; just as all ships had to enter from the back. That way, there were no surprises. The four tugs were already starting when she arrived and it seemed Endeavour wasn't moving. Then slowly, it began to slip out of number forty-two. It moved at yard standard speed, but at this moment O'Conner wished the speed limit was just a bit higher; however, safety first. Eventually Endeavour cleared the dock and the tugs initiated a slow turn and began Endeavour's move to its new home.
Breathing a slight sigh of relief, O'Conner called Hsu. Once the man came on line, she asked the tough question. "How quick can we get the Sovereign class parts, systems and qualified workers?"
"Already on it, Admiral. My staff is preordering what we'll need from the warehouses. Of course, once our teams get aboard, that list will change some, but we'll be a step ahead with the preorder. Just one problem though, the warehouses are low on Sovereign class parts and systems. We'll have to take some of the systems that were intended for Essex and Excalibur."
Another heavy sigh escaped from O'Conner. "Understood, but it will solve a bigger problem, qualified workers. Pull the crews from Essex and Endeavour for immediate duty on Enterprise. It will take them some time to gather their tools and equipment, but we can use that time for detailed damage reports and clearing wreckage. I'll explain all of this to Command. I'm sure I will receive approval."
Hsu's smile was almost visible over the audio comm line. "Always thinking a step ahead, right?"
"Actually, several steps ahead!" She closed the comm channel and for the first time began to relax. Then the comm board lit up again. Tabbing the control, the sound of a very unhappy dock supervisor began relating a problem. "Admiral, I have a... situation with the Elbe."
"Go ahead, Kaminsky, what is it?" Unfortunately her voice had betrayed an unintended note of annoyance, something she didn't want to happen. After all, the problem may not be Kaminsky's fault.
"Someone delivered systems to my ship, which are intended for the Erebus. This is going to put me behind schedule even further."
"And I suppose I'll be getting a call from Supervisor Esta at dock twenty-two saying Erebus has your delivery, right?"
An apologetic Kaminsky concurred, "Probably so, Admiral. Sorry for the bad news but I knew you could get it straightened out quicker than I could. After all, you have a greater influence with the quartermaster."
The admiral had to admit, the man had a point. She started to open a channel to the quartermaster, when another incoming call lit the board up.
"Admiral, this is Captain Esta. I know you have your hands full with Enterprise, but I have a problem."
She smiled to herself and finished his thought, "You've got the wrong parts and equipment from the quartermaster, right?"
The Andorian was baffled, "You suddenly develop ESP, Admiral?"
"No, Esta, but I'll bet you have Kaminsky's delivery intended for Elbe."
"Well, so much for ESP. I've got deliveries for the Embro. Nice try though. Can you help me out?"
"Count on it, Captain. I was just about to contact the quartermaster. My aide will get back to you with an update on the pick-up of the wrong delivery and when you can expect the correct delivery. I can promise you that both will be today, O'Conner out!"
While contacting the quartermaster, she was reminded of past difficulties concerning ship building, repairs and refits. It was a very complicated operation, to be sure. There was a long history of problems associated with the process. Mixed up deliveries was just one of many, but easy to remedy compared to incorrect installations, damaged equipment and accidents. Actually, accidents were the worst. Apart from any personal injuries were the lengthy and therefore, schedule delaying investigations. Anyway, best not to think of those. Finally, she managed to contact the quartermaster's office.
A very pleasant voice responded on the audio channel. "Utopia Planitia Quartermaster's Office, Lieutenant Barbara Ducal, may I help you?"
The admiral paused for a moment. This was a new person. Was this the 'infamous Barbara?' She decided to let it go. "This is Admiral O'Conner, Lieutenant. I need to speak with the Quartermaster De Souza."
The pleasant voice became all business-like and tried to explain. "I'm sorry, Admiral, he's not here right now. There's a problem--"
Cutting the young officer off, O'Conner finished the statement. "I know, we have several misdirected deliveries and I want those corrected, immediately!"
Now nervous, Ducal continued with the explanation. "Yes, Admiral; that's where he is now. It's a problem with our main computer. It's misdirected a number of deliveries."
"Care to give me a number before I get any more calls from dock supervisors?"
"Well... so far, seven, sir."
O'Conner rolled her eyes and then asked the obvious, "What is being done?"
"We've frozen all deliveries until the problem with the computer is corrected. Right now technicians are working on it, running a level-five diagnostic."
"Very well, keep me informed and relay that to Admiral Hsu."
"Already done, sir, he's on the way to help."
Stifling a laugh, O'Conner commented, "I'm sure he will be a big help. May I suggest you contact all the dock masters and inform them of the problem? That way I won't be getting calls all day. Admiral O'Conner, out!" She was still smiling to herself about Hsu's intention to help with the computers. That would most likely entail his watching over the repair teams and glaring at them until they finished.
She closed the channel and laid in a course to the Administration Complex. After just two minutes into the ride, the comm board sounded again. "Okay, who got a wrong delivery now?" She said to herself.
It was her aide, "Sir, we're receiving a call from dock number nine. They have a problem on the Erie. The dock master is requesting a change but needs your approval."
"Tell him I'm on the way, Lieutenant."
"Will do, Admiral; Parker out."
"This is turning into one heck of a day," she said to herself, "and I haven't even had breakfast yet! Just what else..." She stopped midway through the question. "No sense in tempting providence with a stupid question like that."
Upon transporting to the Yard Master's Office, she found a number of technicians and civilians waiting. All business-like, she skipped introductions and formalities. "Let's make this short and sweet people. Enterprise will be docking shortly with major damage and I need to be there!"
A very thin man with craggy features stepped forward. "I'm Rod Tanner of Cochrane Industries. We're providing the new sensor array as part of the systems upgrade. However, your chief would like a different unit, one similar to the type going into the new destroyers like the Eisenhower. I have no problem with that, but it will alter the schedule as none are available immediately and..."
"There's a cost increase, right?" O'Conner had seen where the conversation was going and tried to shorten the long version. It was simply a matter of Federation Credits.
Chief Carlson apologized and explained, "I know about the cost, Admiral, but the newer sensor capabilities are 30% better and any front line ship should have that advantage."
"Agreed, Chief," O'Conner was impressed with Carlson's logic. "It should have been considered long ago. We'll make up the scheduling delays somewhere else and I'll get approval on the change from Command by the end of the day. Does that work for everybody?"
There were no further comments but everyone present sported a smile and responded with simple nods of approval.
"If that's all, I'm headed for Enterprise." Tapping her comm badge, she requested transport back to her shuttle then disappeared as quickly as she had arrived. The whole visit had lasted a mere ninety seconds. A new record, even for her!
In short order, she was strategically positioned to watch as Enterprise made its approach to Utopia Planitia. She wasn't the only one. It seemed as if time froze at the yards. Every craft stopped as did all work parties. Those who weren't near a window or viewing portal, found one. Others were content to observe dock forty two's visual sensor feeds.
She watched as a large Starfleet Hospital Ship, Repose, slowly positioned itself just outside the Utopia Planitia Yards main operational area. It, too, was waiting for Enterprise, ready to render assistance of any type to the ship's injured. Anyone, regardless of who they were, could count on the best of care but none more so than Starfleet's own.
Nearby were a mixed group of smaller craft: shuttles, launches, transport pods and others. On board would be all manner of investigation teams, engineers, damage control specialists and many more. A detailed assessment of damages would be made, but would take many days. However, these teams would make preliminary evaluations. They would be joined by Hsu's people as he had a number of teams that specialized in just that type of work. Starfleet Headquarters personnel would work with them as well as the crew of the Enterprise. Together they would miss very little, but it would take all of Hsu's people. It was necessary to make the enormous task a bit easier and more importantly, take less time.
At that particular moment, the open yard comm line in her shuttle crackled. An anonymous voice from the Yard Traffic Control Center announced, "Enterprise arriving, E.T.A. at dock forty-two, five minutes, thirty seconds."
In a few moments, the Admiral gasped, then blanched as the large starship entered the holding area, sub-light engines and thrusters shut down. Six tugs moved in to take her safely into the dock. While the ship could have done so under her own power, with so much damage, no one wanted to take any chances. Even Picard understood the necessity of the extra caution. According to him, he'd had enough collisions for a lifetime.
Getting the heavily damaged starship into place took time, but eventually it was locked into the space dock safely. The newly installed service umbilical was set into place and internal power for the ship was then provided by the dock's systems.
First aboard were the medical teams from the Surgeon General's Office and Repose. After an extensive briefing by the Enterprise medical staff, most casualties were transported to the awaiting hospital ship. Then the damaged ship was visited by many senior staff officers, including O'Conner. Most of this group were comprised of investigative teams and those responsible for the after action reports and debriefing groups. Mixed in was a small collection of diplomats including the Romulan Ambassador to the Federation. Talk about firsts!
O'Conner ignored the others and linked up with Hsu, fresh from his 'successful computer repair work' at the quartermaster's office. With him were many of his staff who were already looking at structural integrity issues plus diagnostics on every system in the primary hull. Along-side of these teams were the engineers and other crewmembers from the Enterprise, adding the findings of their investigations and respective recommendations.
The Admiral was impressed with the Enterprise crew. Judging by what she saw, they had already done an impressive amount of work to make the damaged areas of the ship stable and safe. Work parties were engaged in repairs of all types throughout the ship. Most were concentrating on major systems: structural issues, sealing off compartments open to space and other activities. A few though, mostly non-engineers, were simply removing damaged panels, furnishings and even salvaging personal items from crew's quarters. If the old saying 'idle hands are the devil's workshop,' was true, then the devil wasn't doing much business aboard Enterprise.
The most impressive crewmembers were the Chief Engineer and Head of Security. Picard and his First Officer were tied up in meetings with Command regarding various points of the Romulan encounter. This put a double burden on the other senior officers, but they were up to the task. The Chief Engineer and Security Chief were constantly moving, working, offering encouragement and suggestions to the many work parties. The crew seemed to work well together and the officers were well respected.
The Klingon, Worf, was directing security teams on a detailed search for more injured and possible dead. Even though the ship had been scanned a number of times, the man insisted on a visual check. At this point, there were still a number of crewpersons unaccounted for. This was due to the loss of hull integrity. It's an unfortunate aspect of space travel that sometimes people were lost to the vastness of the great vacuum of space. Most of those would never be recovered. However, Worf and his people continued searching just the same. It said a lot about him and Picard's crew.
Now she positioned herself strategically, moving closer to the Chief Engineer. He was surrounded by an impressive collection of Starfleet brass and Federation V.I.P.'s and would soon begin his briefing on the current status of the damaged ship. The admiral didn't want miss a word.
"... so, as soon as we had force fields in place on all decks open to space, security and medical teams began a search for casualties. Our engineering teams then concentrated on shutting down and repairing damaged systems. We started in the sectors with the least amount of damage and worked our way outward, towards the major damage. Of course, during this time, there were smaller engineering teams working with the rescue parties, ensuring that damaged areas were safe before anyone entered. Because of that, there were no more injuries or deaths aboard the ship."
Geordi La Forge continued to explain in detail and not a word was spoken by any of those attending the briefing. His explanations were so thorough and detailed that at the conclusion, no questions were necessary.
The admiral then approached the engineer and, after he finished shaking hands and greeting a few of the briefing attendees, she introduced herself.
"Commander La Forge, I am Admiral O'Conner, Chief of Yards. That was a commendable briefing. I believe it will make the job of repairs much easier. I should know as I'm an engineer myself."
"Thank you, Admiral." The man finished on a dimpled smile and seemed embarrassed, looking at the mess surrounding him. "But it doesn't seem right using the word 'easy' to describe what we have to do."
She smiled at him, then politely admonished him. "I said easier, not easy."
Now he was truly embarrassed, "Yes, sir. I take it this..." he indicated the damage "... is about as bad as it gets."
She nodded, "On my watch, yes, but don't worry, we'll take care of it. It's what we do here at Utopia Planitia and all of the Starfleet yards."
La Forge seemed preoccupied.
"Is something wrong, Commander?"
Afraid he had insulted the admiral somehow, he apologized. "Sorry, but with so much to do... it seems a bit overwhelming."
She softened her tone, sounding more like a friend than a senior officer. "Trust me Commander, I know the feeling all too well." She liked the man and tried to ease his mind. "No apology necessary. Since the encounter with the Romulans, you've been working around the clock, probably non-stop and with your full attention on the immediate matters at hand. Now you have time to take a long look and think about what exactly is ahead. Your concern is understandable. However, the yard personnel will make it easier. For now, I suggest you get some much needed rest and let my people take some of the weight off your shoulders. Meanwhile, contact your family and let them know you're okay. Images of Enterprise entering the dockyards have no doubt made it to the news nets by now."
La Forge looked horrified. "With all this work, I totally forgot! Thank you, Admiral... uh..."
"O'Conner, Commander." She smiled again, "We'll see more of each other later on, plan on it."
The overworked, overwhelmed and overtired engineer rushed off and she smiled at the sight. So concerned for 'his ship' he forgot his family. It was a common occurrence in Starfleet and sometimes the reason for strained relationships and unfortunately, even break ups.
Now the yard personnel began their work. O'Conner watched as the repair teams boarded and began setting up work spaces. At first, there was talk about separating the damaged primary hull and using the nearly completed Excalibur as a donor to replace it. However, Picard vetoed the idea before it was presented to Command and the matter never came up again. Whatever reason Picard used to make his point remained unspoken outside the initial conversation. Even O'Conner never heard it and gave it no further thought. She respected his decision, but suspected it had something to do with the idea of keeping his original ship intact.
Before the very long day was over, Picard presented himself to the Utopia Planitia staff and Admiral O'Conner at the Administration Offices. He seemed fairly relaxed and cordial, considering all that had recently transpired. His primary concern was the welfare of his crew and how long it would take to repair his ship. In order to put his mind at ease, O'Conner, Hsu and the others laid out their tentative plan, which was displayed on the facility's main status board. He examined it closely and nodded with approval, then asked again, "How long?"
Hsu didn't hesitate, "Eight and a half months."
Picard seemed satisfied and then, surprisingly, apologized. "I'm sorry that I have disrupted your work schedules. I know my ship represents a very large and unexpected work load. My crew and I will be working alongside all of you, to help whenever and wherever possible." Then he smiled, "And we have a few suggestions on how to make the Sovereign class just a little bit better."
That comment drew more than a few smiles and laughs in response. What little uncertainty or tension that may have remained, was lost at that moment.
Still smiling, O'Conner stepped forward as spokesperson. "It's a pleasure to serve you and your crew, Captain. We're sorry for your losses and we will try to expedite the repairs if at all possible. We'll make Enterprise as good as new and have you on your way before you know it."
There was a mild applause, followed by many handshakes all around. Picard made instant friends with the entire staff before leaving.
O'Conner made her exit shortly thereafter and found Picard waiting outside the facility's transporter room. "Are you going back to Enterprise. Captain?"
I have to report to Starfleet Headquarters tomorrow, early. I thought I'd try to... relax a bit first. The last few days have been long and hectic. Anyway, I was trying to remember the name of a small restaurant near the Academy. It was recommended by a friend long ago. Whenever I'm in town, which isn't very often, I try to go there, but it's been quite some time..."
O'Conner stepped closer, "Well, let's see. There are several good ones in the area, but my favorite is Emmanuelle's, a French restaurant."
Picard smiled broadly and snapped his fingers in recognition. "That's it! It seems that both of our friends have similar taste." He paused, then gave O'Conner a knowing look. "My old friend was a fellow named Boothby."
Now she smiled warmly, "So was mine. May I join you? It seems I've missed all my major meals today, starting with breakfast. I've been making it through the day on little more than coffee and sheer determination."
Picard looked guilty, "Only if you let me buy. I feel Enterprise has been largely responsible for the majority of your problems today."
She laughed it off, then commented flatly, "I've been having a lot of problems, mostly with the E's, today."
A look of confusion overtook Picard. "Care to explain that?"
"Over dinner, Captain, I just hope the trouble doesn't continue at Emmanuelle's."
The two entered the transporter room, talking quietly.
The duty officer at the transporter console nodded to the Admiral in recognition. "Destination, Admiral?"
The young officer smiled and shook his head in disbelief. "Again? You know, there are a few other places to visit. I can even recommend one or two."
Acting innocent, she responded. "It's not my choice, it's Captain Picard's."
Shrugging, he activated the controls. As the pair disappeared in the transporter beam, he noticed that both senior officers were laughing.
After all that had transpired this day, and what Picard had seen over the last few days, it was a wonder that either he or O'Conner could laugh. Maybe it was an indication of better things to come.
© 2019 Brad McDonald / U.S.S. Kitty Hawk