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SL-374-II

The Station part 3

back to The Station Part 2

      The screen was dark for a second, then a warning that the following log entry contained elements that some might consider inappropriate for an official station log. But it was included for its historical significance.
      Log Entry: Star Date 46145.0 Personal log entered into official station log. [Note: This entry contains some information from Station Historian Lt. Davis.]
      The screen showed a much younger Commander Straider than the previous entries. In fact, he was one command grade lower, just a hint of gray in his hair, the eyes and smile were the same however.
      "Lieutenant Commander Allan Straider reporting. Captain Marsin is ready to go when the passenger liner LUXOR HOLIDAY comes through in three days. I still don't know what to make of my new command and wonder if I am not making a grievous mistake. I know I am here for one year no matter what. I bragged some time ago that I could serve a one-year hitch in Hell if a promotion was at the end of it.
      "Well, here I am. This may not be Hell, but it's as close as I ever want to get. I came aboard with the understanding that for the first week, before I said a word or asked a question, I would observe the routine and how things worked. I have held true to my word, and I haven't said a word. Tomorrow is the end of my week of silence, and I have a long list of questions for Captain Marsin.
      ""
                  "A long list."

      The view changed to the small, cluttered, station commander's office. But it is far more cluttered than anyone would expect for a Star Fleet officer, much of the equipment inside was far out of date, even given the time of the recording.
      Captain Marsin was sitting at a half moon desk littered with all sorts of everything, including articles of clothing. He was wearing a sleeveless shirt and uniform pants cut off at the knee. Commander Straider was in full Star Fleet uniform.
      "Well, what do you think of our little outpost in the middle of nowhere?" The Captain said as Straider moved a broken targeting sensor from one of the fighters so he could sit in the indicated chair.
      "Honestly sir?"
      "If your were anything else with me I'd fire you out the waste chute."
      The view closed in on Straider's face, he set his jaw and said it.
      "This is more undisciplined than some civilian operations I've seen."
      "Give me a fer'instance."
      "OK. Uniforms. Hardly anyone wears the correct uniform, some seldom wear any of it, a few go around here naked on duty!"
      "I told Kim and Nartel to lay off that while you were just getting settled in." The Captain looked at him with a glint in his eye. "You have something against seeing Ensign Onson nude?"
      "Nudity has a time and place. While she is attractive, and although I am heterosexual, I think some decorum is needed when at duty stations."
      The captain nodded. "Of course I agree, and on most stations I would enforce it. But out here, there's only a dozen of us on the station and things are a little informal."
      "A little informal? Sir. Lieutenant Mack took a fighter on a joy ride shooting hard back bats on a Lattorian preserve."
      "He didn't get the bounty on the bats. And I disciplined him for his uncalled for jaunt."
      "The music?" Straider said indicating the constant music from one of the Federation's entertainment channels being played, and blasted, from every possible outlet on the station. It had taken him two days to get it turned off where it would stay off in his quarters.
      "A diversion. Something to tie us to the rest of the Galaxy."
      "The obviously close relationships between several of the crew."
      "Meaning me and Lieutenant Schmals and Chief Kranto Vrskick of course."
      "Sir, it's none of my business, but a three way relationship on this small of a post can lead to jealousy that can be fatal."
      The captain sat back and chuckled. "It's been interesting, but I like it. Wendy and the Chief seem to as well."
      "The station itself is borderline obsolete."
      "No sir. It IS obsolete. We can't even transmit a dynamic feed subspace message. Our newest shuttle is two models out of date. Our fighters are fairly new, but they're ones nobody else wanted. When's the last time you saw a manual touch lock on a shield door?"
      Straider wondered out loud if he had ever seen one still in service.
      "Exactly. This base is still in service because some Federation big shot wants it out here. They've been eyeing this base again for automation and us for re-assignment. I'm lucky to get a box of conduit fuses when I need them. You, commander, may be the last in line. I took my fourth pin and the center seat on the DRAIFIRE to get out of here when I had the chance. You'll be a full commander inside six months out here, get your third pin and find a slot on a starbase somewhere."
      "Sounds like excellent advice sir."
      "As for the people. We have one of the highest efficiency and every other rating they got out here. This counts as a deep space assignment for them." He jerked his head out toward the command room where some of the crew were doing their duty. "Some of them want to be out here, others don't, but we make the best of all of it. Most of those here now I hand selected from the candidates that applied for various openings."
      "Which is why there are nine women compared to five men?"
      "An accident of the duty rotations I assure you."
      Lieutenant Commander Straider maintained his poker face. "Was that one man drunk the other night?"
      "Martin or Vasky. Vasky is the Romulin looking Vulcan."
      "Martin then."
      "Probably. He's on a four-shift rotation. When he comes off his double, he gets lit, passes out, wakes up the next day, and does it again." Captain Marsin smiled with the story.
      "That can be dangerous."
      "He hates it out here and is literally counting the days until he goes home, but he volunteered for his three year tour here knowing what he was getting into. But we have no recreational facilities to speak of. Not even a holo-suite."
      "I noticed."
      "So we make our recreation as we can. Some of us use the zero-G lower levels for, physical pursuits. Others practice trick flying in the trainer, or work in a lab trying to invent quantum-warp, Martin sees how much of his home brew stout he can drink." The Captain nodded to a woman at the door, she walked into the video frame wearing some very alluring and revealing static lingerie, she laid a pad on his already overloaded desk and walked out. "This place can be heaven or hell, its up to you."
      "You don't see anything wrong with her doing her duty in that?"
      The captain glanced out the window at her standing at a comm panel outside. "Yes I do."
      Straider smiled.
      "Sheila should be wearing something on her feet, we have some deck plating with sharp edges."
      Straider turned and looked at the woman. Then he realized the absurdity of the entire situation and laughed, hard.
      The captain relaxed, he knew then that his station would be in good hands.
      The crew assembled the morning the Captain was to depart for his new command. All were in complete Star Fleet uniform for the occasion.
      The ceremony was brief, there was no flag to pass, it was merely a handshake, then Lieutenant Commander Straider stepped to center stage for a few remarks.
      "I'll be as brief as I can be. I hope to continue on in the same way as Captain Marsin, but I am regular Star Fleet. Please humor me. It may take me some time to get used to seeing naked people working command stations or having someone do a 'swing orbit' of the station in a work suit."

      Log supplement: Video to document the term.
      The 'swing orbit' is when some of the crazier station personnel would go outside, presumably to inspect the exterior. What they did was walk to the main communications mast on 'top' of the station and secure a long flex-cable to it. Then they'd actually run to the edge of the station and while hanging onto the cable, fling themselves into space. They would plummet off into the void until they ran out of cable, then they would begin to swing around the station. What actually happened was as the station slowly revolved on its long axis, they stayed more or less stationary. Angular momentum would take over at some point in the exercise and they would begin a long spiral back in. If experienced, or lucky, they could make several orbits of the station on the cable, more or less aiming for the access door they had come out. The record was six complete orbits. Several had tried to break it. One while the new commander was on board. The attempt was unsuccessful and Straider was gape mouthed in disbelief as he watched a lunatic on a rope float past his portal.

      "Please bear with me, and I will try to give everyone some slack." He looked at them. He had a hole card. The eyes watching him told him to play it.
      "How about this. As long as our ratings remain as high as I see they have been for the last six months. I won't change anything. If they come down, ...Welcome to Star Fleet." He paused. "Deal?"
      "Deal." Sheila said. The Captain nodded his approval from where he stood grinning.

      Log Entry continued: "It's been two months. And I don't know where to begin. Several of the crew went with the Captain, others came and went on rotation elsewhere, the faces changed some, but the station itself stayed the same. I still dress in my full uniform every day and try to maintain decorum. But I've never served with people like this. They are competent. Well, most of them are. I wonder about Mr. Martin, who appears not to have a grade in rank that I can find. As an engineer, he does his duty, while outdated, the equipment on the station is operable and in good shape. But the man leaves something to be desired as a crewman."
      The view shifted to a wide shot of the engineering deck, a burly, flatly ugly man was leaning on a workbench built from the same junk that was lying all around it. He spoke to somebody not in our view in a surly voice. "Yes sir?"
      The commander walked into frame. "I was just looking around the station."
      "You found Maintenance and Engineering. Do you need help getting back to Control?"
      "No. I can find it." Straider looked around the room full of scrap parts. "Is all this stuff being repaired?"
      "No sir. Most of it's junk."
      "Why is it here?"
      "The last time we saw a regular supply ship with stuff we needed from your precious Star Fleet was five months ago. I keep everything and when something needs fixing, if we ain't got it, we make it."
      "Why don't you replicate parts?"
      "We could if we had new replicators. The ones we got can't produce the precision we need in most compounds. It's great for a Tracin egg sandwich, but for a primary optical data circuit relay module, it's useless. And when I try it I end up with something to use as a target for the zero-G single shot laser tourney."
      "I see." Commander Straider said. For a second, the commander thought the engineer had been talking down to him.
      "So if you don't need anything, I'd appreciate being able to get back to work. I'm fixing a cycle control for a clothing reprocessor." He held up what appeared to be a random piece of junk
      He hadn't been imagining it. "I'll see you around."
      The commander walked back into the narrow corridor back to the lift.
      He touched the call button on the panel and waited. He turned and nodded to the Martin as he peered down the corridor after him, the lift arrived and the doors opened, he stepped in and the engineer pushed the door to the shop shut. But the commander only took the lift one level up, he walked to the gangway and stepped silently onto the old ladder. He eased down about half a deck and peered through the open hatch.
      He got a glimpse of the engineer and a young woman he recognized as the environmental technician that never spoke to him beginning to pick up where they had been interrupted. He looked for another minute to be sure he was seeing what he thought he had seen on first glance, then he silently left them to their own diversion.
      The performance reviews continued to be within the range they had been. Their response times to distress calls were some of the fastest in the sector. Their energy consumption continued to be almost ludicrously low, part of which was explained by their lack of the latest and greatest gadgetry. Commander Straider kept his side of the bargain. But he did step to his command officers, all three of them, and asked for at least one of them to have something on from the waist up that would be acceptable on the viewer to any incoming calls from regular Star Fleet line officers.
      They complied, and Straider had to bite his lip. Lieutenant Dastace Filia was the worst offender. The Bajoran Communications officer would work a full duty shift with naught on but her skin between the hem of her uniform shirt and her non-skid stick-on soles, smiling at him the whole time because she was following the letter of his order. The uniform shirt would be immaculate with proper rank and service insignia, freshly laundered, and perfectly fitted. And she would smile more as he pointedly ignored her and went about his business. The other person on duty would be wearing everything from an ornate gift shirt from Riza to a Klingon sweatcoat to, well, much less.
      The commander was always in uniform.
      Then the breaking day came.
      Everybody on the station was in full dress uniform. Even Martin was in full engineering regalia as he pounded on a lighting fixture trying to make it work. By the second day, Straider couldn't let it go on.
      Log Entry: "I let it go as long as I could. But by mid-shift I had to find out what was up. I went to the command center and stood between Lieutenant Dastace and Nartel. I cleared my throat until they both looked at me."
      "Yes sir." Filia said.
      "You are both so uncomfortable it is making me sweat. What's going on?"
      "We've tried for months now to get you to loosen up."
      "So you are using reverse psychology on me."
      "I didn't know you were station counselor too sir." Nartel said.
      "I'm not, but if you two don't give up, I'm going to request one."
      "We just want you to enjoy your stay here, fifteen parsecs from nowhere." Filia said.
      Log Entry: "I could tell she was dying to get out of the uniform as soon as possible. But I didn't give in, instead, I went to my quarters and changed and spent the rest of the shift in my full dress uniform. For which I should get combat pay.
      "Then at the end of shift I posted a message for a general crew assembly in the shuttle bay for first thing in the morning. All personnel were required to attend.
      "I checked the monitor, they were all there, in Class-A uniform. I picked up my prop, a sweet-stick to chew on, made sure my Rizan shirt was untucked and half-buttoned hanging over a pair of old exercise shorts. Then I had to smile at the memory of the young woman that sold me the shirt on my last shore leave. I walked to the shuttle bay in my loose fitting sandals that were one of my last Earth possessions. As I walked in the gasps were audible."
      "Sir." Martin said for the group, "Are you all right?"
      "Never better, why do you ask?" The commander said around the sweet tasting chew stick.
      Lieutenant Dastace looked around at the rest of them, "You forgot to shave sir."
      The commander ran a hand over his beard stubble, then removed his chew stick. "So I did. Dismissed."
      The group stood there not sure of what was going on.
      "Oh, Lieutenant Dastace." He said in his command voice.
      "Sir."
      "You're IN uniform young lady."
      "Not for long sir." She smiled and tugged at the collar of the jacket.
      "Very good." He turned to the rest of them, "I've learned my lesson, consider me officially loosened up." He stuck the stick back in his mouth.
      Log entry: "There was scattered applause and from that day on I was on very good terms with most of them. Some more so than others of course. I got very close to Filia, when it came time for her to be rotated to Bajor I almost could not issue the order. But I managed, and shortly a new medical officer came aboard, Miss Heather Watson RN was trying to get a lot of deep space time in and was taking posts wherever and whenever they came open. After a subspace interview that was extremely candid by Fleet standards, I approved her coming aboard. She did her six months, and moved on to a science ship.
      "I found the atmosphere becoming very relaxing. I enjoyed being out here now. I got to do some science projects I had been wanting to work on for years. And appointed myself station science officer, a position that had been vacant for ages. One advantage of being 'fifteen parsecs from nowhere' was nobody ranted and raved about a few small subspace explosions as I tried to use a replicator tied into a transporter on a shuttle to materialize a subspace bubble in empty space. It never worked, but I learned a lot about all aspects of the problem and wrote a couple of well-received monographs on the issue."
      "Sir, that's the third overload buffer I've replaced this month on the supply shuttle." Martin said.
      "How much time do you have before you're tour is up out here?" The commander asked him.
      "Ninety six days sir."
      "For the next three months I'll take it easy on the shuttle."
      "Thank you sir."
      "So where you going for your next tour?"
      "Planetside sir."
      "Which planet?"
      "It doesn't matter sir. Doesn't matter at all. As long as it's a solid rock I can't move with a tractor beam, I'll go. Sir."

      Log Entry: "When it came time for me to make the decision to either move on or stay and ride it out. I stayed. The push came just after that to close the station, but I pointed to our track record of rescues and assists, and some of the minor spats we had with pirates and privateers as to reasons we needed to be out here. Star Fleet's Spacelane bureau bought it, and we stayed open. Then I started getting in some better equipment and a few more personnel. But the whole time I made sure the station did not loose the atmosphere that made me stay here."
      The log video screen showed scenes of the installation of some new equipment, including a fairly new science station with a very good scanning array, new air handlers, a set of three holo suites, and a new power core that tripled the station capacity so their usage records stayed in the 'they can't do that' range.
      "On the whole, these five years have been some of the most rewarding of my career."
      Personal log update, added to station record. "These ten years have gone by incredibly fast. I believe I will stay here until they retire me."

      Station Log Supplemental. "Commander Straider announced his retirement to Riza yesterday. Effective immediately. Lieutenant Commander Margie Klastor now acting base commander." The log showed the intense face of the current half Klingon officer. "Now the only female Klingon in command of a deep space station in Star Fleet. Ensign Davis, station historian, out."

Continued in: The Station Part 4

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