a story by Stephen R. Sobotka - 2016/2018

Disclaimer! - This is a fan-fiction, based on characters and situations from the Paramount/DeSilu TV series "Star Trek"; created by Gene Roddenberry. This has been written solely for other fans of the franchise to enjoy, not to gain profit for the author. All characters, with exception of any that I have I created for these stories, are TM and Copyrighted by the original creator & Paramount, and are used without their knowledge.

Please don't sue, since this was done as a tribute to the spirit of the original show and subsequent series.

Author's Note : This story started out as a "labor of love" for the entire Star Trek franchise. It's not intended to be a replacement for any one series. It grew out of a short discussion I had with a dear friend - Penmouse here in - and grew into this telling of how I'd do a Star Trek story. There's going to be a few appearences by some familiar characters, and some surprises around the corner too. So, just sit back, strap in and enjoy the ride folks!

A personal thank-you to the late Mr. Roddenberry. Thank you for giving us a vast universe to play in. - SRS



# # # #

Offices of Starfleet Ship Requisition,
Division of Advanced Starship Design (BuShips);
Starfleet HQ, San Francisco, Earth...

Ensign Brooke rapped on the door frame, clearing her throat at the same time as she spoke to the smartly-dressed woman in the office suite. "Admiral Janeway?"

Looking up from her terminal, Vice Admiral Kathryn Janeway acknowledged the blonde junior officer with a nod. "Yes, Ensign?"

"You have a Commander Ridley, waiting outside, Ma'am. Shall I-?"

Janeway nodded with a small smile, gesturing to the door. "Yes, by all means, show them in."

The ensign turned and left the doorway, returning a second later to usher in a middle-aged, rugged looking man in the red-over-black uniform of a Starfleet Commander. The man gave a short nod in thanks to Ensign Brooke as the junior officer turned to leave them. Facing Janeway, he paused and unconsciously straightened his dress tunic. "Admiral Janeway," he said, "Commander Russell Ridley, reporting as ordered, ma'am."

"At ease, Mister Ridley." Janeway said, rising to greet him. She rose and stepped around her desk, moving to take his hand firmly in welcome. "We're not exactly on standing protocol, this morning."

"I thought we did that at the Go'dile function?" Ridley asked.

"At the Go'dile Function . . . well, that was part of the 'official' side of things," Janeway said as they released their hands. "However, I also like to do an informal meeting when I meet with new officers. Gives them a chance to be themselves, without feeling any 'official' pressure with all the fol-de-rol." She gestured for him to sit and moved to take her place back behind her desk.

"Color me surprised, Admiral," Ridley said as he sat down. "I mean, I wasn't expecting this . . . your summons only arrived last night. I had to explain to Captain Parks and she was very accommodating, fortunately."

"If there's one thing about Theresa Parks," Janeway said with a grin, "is that she always finds it best to accommodate us here at BuShips. I believe she feels it will grease the wheels, so to speak when she's up for her next command." She leaned back into her seat and stared back at Ridley for a moment. "But, I didn't ask you to come by to speak about your C.O., Commander."

"Oh?" Ridley tipped his head to the side, fixing his superior with a frank look. "I get the feeling that there's more to this meeting than just chewing the fat, if you'll forgive my old-school sensibilities?"

"Blunt as a shovel . . . though I like that, Commander." Janeway drummed her fingers against her desk, before she said, "I've read up on your record, Mister Ridley. I'm rather impressed. What with your work on Bajor, following the end of the Dominion War. Your past commanders and literally every officer I've interviewed say your an exemplar of Starfleet; a paragon of what we expect from any who serve." She smiled as she added, "Including your current turn as executive officer aboard the Ganymede."

"I did the best I could, ma'am," Ridley replied. "Nothing more than any other officer would have done."

"Yes, but those reports show you've never hid from your duty, nor have you shied away from stating you'd like to serve Starfleet in a greater capacity, other than just another First Officer."

The russet-haired Commander nodded firmly. "Exploration's been the primary reason for my joining Starfleet, Admiral. I mean . . . I'll do any tramp-job or shuttle run from here to the Neutral Zone, to Bajor and back! Yet, I'm keen to get under a posting to get out there." He jabbed a finger upwards. "There, in the unexplored parts of the quadrants we haven't begun to know about yet."

Janeway pursed her lips, then went on to say, "If that's what your anxious to do, then I say it might just be what we're looking for. In particular, for a mission that's come up in the past couple of weeks that Starfleet needs done." She arched one eyebrow. "Interested?"

Ridley grinned, though there was a note of caution in his expression. "What exactly is the mission, Ma'am?"

Janeway asked, "Are you familiar with the Thirty-Sevens, Mister Ridley?"

Ridley blinked, but his eyes appeared to be searching for the reference in his memory. "They are, ah . . . I believe, displaced humans from Earth. Late Twentieth Century?" As Janeway nodded, he recalled another relevant point: "They were one of the discoveries you and your crew on Voyager made, while still in the Delta Quadrant."

Janeway smiled at the mention of her former command. "Ah yes. Memories." She turned and regarded a display of an older starship - etched in brass, on a plaque - on the wall nearby. "We'd discovered an L-class planet in a star system, which we found after locating an ancient Earth vehicle in deep space. That planet had been used as a colony by an alien race, the Briori. They'd traveled to Earth some time in the distance past, and captured humans to use as slave labor." She rose and paced for a bit, continuing: "At some point, the slaves had revolted against their Briori masters, and drove them off-world. They then began making the planet their own home."

Ridley nodded, saying, "That much I remember, from reading your official reports, Ma'am."

Janeway turned back to look at Ridley, saying, "Then you know that, at last contact with the humans there, they'd been thriving; with three major cities, housing over one-hundred thousand humans." She shrugged. "Not a lot, compared to what Earth's current population levels are . . . yet, recently, we've had some concerns on whether or not those people are still alive." Continuing to pace behind her desk, she said, "As much as we'd like to believe that nothing significant in nature has happened since Voyager's departure from the Delta Quadrant, Starfleet Command has determined it is high time we return to re-establish contact with them."

Ridley nodded. "So, I'm to believe Starfleet wants to form up a crew to make the journey, back to this system in the Delta Quadrant?" He pursed his lips and sighed. "Wow!"

"Indeed. Considering the lengths we took to return Voyager home," Janeway said. "Still, I have my orders. I've already begun to search for suitable officers to head up the command staff for this mission." She faced Ridley squarely and added, "As such, I've been tasked with choosing someone to lead the mission. I'd like you to be the one, Commander."

Ridley started, then calmed himself. "That's a . . . tall order of a mission, even for a Commander to undertake, Admiral. Are you certain you want me for the job?"

"Quite frankly, Mister Ridley, you're the only one that comes close to the required experience, time in rate, and - after meeting you the first time - I'd say you have the right temperament necessary for such a mission." Janeway nodded slightly at the surprise in Ridley's face. "I will agree with you that a Commander might be, well . . . unsuited for a mission that requires a starship captain. That's why, effective immediately, you're to be promoted. That is, if you'll accept the mission?"

Ridley reeled a bit, but quickly got himself back together. "Promoted? To Captain?!" He snorted. "Admiral, I . . . of course, I accept!"

"Don't be too quick, Commander," Janeway cautioned. "Should you attempt this mission, it will require a lot from both captain and crew. As you might well recall from my reports and logs, there are many dangers in the Delta Quadrant . . . and a few alien species that won't view humans - or Starfleet - in a favorable way."

Ridley nodded slowly, then he squared himself and said, "Admiral, I can tell you this much. Any of us that sign up to serve . . . we know all the risks involved when we 'boldly go' out there. Even in the space we do know, much less what we don't know." He tipped his head again, added, "You wouldn't have offered me this mission, if you knew I wasn't going to accept it anyway."

With a half-smirk, Janeway said, "Well, I didn't want to hedge my bets, as it were."

"As a great-many-times ancestor of mine was quoted as saying . . . mule muffins, Ma'am." Ridley grinned. "Besides, if you think I'm qualified, then who am I to argue."

"Then you'll accept the mission, Commander?"

"So long as the promotion goes with it, and a promise to continue the job of exploration when we get back?"

With a smile of her own, Janeway stepped back around to stand next to Ridley's seat. "In that case, I'd say some congratulations are in order . . . Captain Ridley." She offered him her hand, and he rose and took it, shaking it firmly.

"Aye, Ma'am. And thank you for the opportunity to serve Starfleet further!"

They let go once more, and Janeway said, "Don't thank me just yet, Captain. You may wish you hadn't accepted, after you learn a few more details about it." She turned and keyed a command sequence in a view screen, which revealed a star-map with a highlighted system. "For starters, there's the small matter of getting you and your new crew to the intended destination."

Ridley joined her, standing at her side to stare down at the display. "Agreed. I presume I'll be getting one of our best ships to start with?"

Janeway said, "Oh even better, Captain Ridley. As it stands, the starship keel for our latest Intrepid-class was just laid a month ago. It's currently at our shipyards on Mars, undergoing construction." She looked at him and said, "It's not every day a newly-minted Captain gets to be a keel plate owner as well, hm?"

Ridley was agog for a moment, then he shook his head slowly, "A brand-new starship?"

"Unless you'd prefer something a bit older? I presume we might find you an Excelsior-class ship, just waiting to get out of surplus?" Janeway asked, though she clearly meant it in jest.

"Ma'am, give me a bucket with wings on it," Ridley said, "and I'll fly it to the Crab Nebula and back if I have to."

"Well, we won't have to ask that of you . . . yet." Janeway added, "Back to the matter at hand. You'll be scheduled to arrive at Utopia Station One in six weeks, Captain. Until then, you'll be detached from your current duty station and reassigned here, so you can learn about your mission parameters and ship's systems before heading out to finalize her commissioning."

Ridley whistled low. "Considering what that's going to do to Captain Parks . . . well, You don't do things by halves, do you Admiral?"

"Not when I expect results," Janeway said. "My superiors, either. Which is why I think you'll find a few things about your new ship to be . . . rather fascinating, Captain. Particularly where her propulsion systems are concerned." She tapped a key, and the display changed to reveal a wire frame of a graceful-looking starship, with part of the ship's propulsion system highlighted. "Do I have your attention now, Captain Ridley?"

At that, Ridley met her gaze and nodded, smiling. "Just show me what this beauty's got going for her . . . ."


Three Days Later, at Azure Nova Restaurant;
Space Station One, in Orbit above Earth...

The Matre'd looked up as the doors opened to admit a svelte-figured woman in blue-on-white, casual evening wear, stepping in from the "night time" hustle outside. With a nod to the waitress on station, she moved to greet the arrival with a smile. "Welcome, Ma'am. Are you expected or do you have a reservation?"

With a smile, Patricia Ridley-Jones replied, "I'm here to meet with someone, and he should have a reservation already." She turned her head, making the long, brown braid draped over her shoulder move against the short-wasted jacket she wore. "His name is Commander Ridley, and he should have arrived by now?"

The Matre'd turned to regard a readout on her podium briefly, before nodding to her. "We do indeed have a reservation for a . . . Commander Ridley. Please," she said, indicating for the Patricia to follow. "He's been seated in our Sky Veranda section."

Following behind, Patricia took in the stately decor and atmosphere of the place. Patrons were seated under warm, overhead lighting while they dined; complete with tasteful linens and comfortable seating through out the room. The staff were silent, but brisk and very at ease among their clientele. Eventually, the Matre'd climbed a short stairway to an open, skybox-style area that had a spectacular, space-view through a massive view port. Only a few tables dotted the curved space, which were mostly occupied by multiple parties of guests.

Save one, who held a single occupant waiting; wearing a sharp, Starfleet dress uniform.

As they approached, Patricia broke into a smile as the man rose and held out his arms in an expansive gesture. "Hey, Little Sister!"

"Hey, Russ!" she said warmly. Her mid-length skirt made her steps mince, but she all but flew across the last few meters of space to throw her arms around her older brother; squeezing him tight in a filial embrace.

Russell Ridley growled in a playful manner as he hugged her back, before stepping back to hold Patricia at arms length. "God, it's good to see you again! Glad to see you made it," he said.

"Well, you're hardly ever planet-side these days," Patricia said archly, reaching out to give his left shoulder a swat. "I mean, honestly, Russ! Doesn't Starfleet give you any time off?!".

"Ow," Russell playfully groaned, before he made a flicking motion next to her ear; an old, playful gaffe he used to do, when the two of them were younger. "Well, I'm here now, aren't I?". He let her go and stepped back to pull out a seat for her at the table.

"Oh, still trying to use that old trick, Russ?" She snorted softly, before taking her seat with exaggerated grace.

"Always worked when you tried to wrestle me when we were kids," he replied with a grin. "Though, times have changed, haven't they?" He stepped around to his seat, making a small adjustment to his uniform collar.

Patricia didn't miss the gesture, and she made a soft sound of approval. "Yes, and they've changed clearly for the better, if that's what I think it is." She pointed at his collar.

Russell grinned all the more as he gestured to his new rank pips. "You're not wrong, Sis." Seating himself, he said, "Your older brother made Captain, Tish."

"Wow, so this is going to be a celebratory dinner, I wager?" Patricia stated.

"Well, there's that," Russell said. "Though it's mostly it's a going-away dinner as well." He paused as a waitress arrived and handed them a pair of menu placards. "Drinks?"

"Just coffee for me." Patricia said.

"I'll have water for now, Miss." Russell said, giving the waitress a nod as he flipped open his menu.

Waiting until the waitress had left, Patricia let her eyes drift across the restaurant, before going back to Russell. Her expression ran half-pleased and half-maudlin, as her copper-hued eyes glimmered with memory. "Dad would've been proud of you, Russ."

"I'd like to think he would," Russell replied. "After his stint in Starfleet for, what . . . twenty years, as a senior non-comm?" He settled back into his chair with a touch of satisfaction. "Promised him I'd make good on the opportunities I've been given." He paused as the waitress returned with Patricia's coffee and a crystal glass of water for him. "So, how are things on the home-front?"

Putting her usual two-spoons of sugar into her cup, Patricia said, "Well, your oldest niece is about to enter into college. Bradley-Durham, for computer sciences." She grinned at the gawking expression that filled her older brother's face. "As for your youngest niece, she's about to graduate high school . . . with honors, no less!".

Russell whistled low, before picking up his glass to take a sip. "Wow, honors, eh? Seems she's finally coming around, after nearly flunking for a couple of years.".

"Well, I seem to remember a particular 'uncle' having a talk with her a few years back?" Patricia laughed softly as Russell's ears turned red. "Oh, Russ, it was because of you she turned herself around and really began to apply herself, academically. Otherwise, she'd have missed out on a lot of opportunities herself!".

Russell smiled. "Well, I figured Stringbean just needed a . . . push, to get her back on track. And, well . . . since her father-." He cut himself off, frowning deeply. "Sorry, sis. I-.".

"Russ, don't beat yourself up," Patricia said gently. "It's not your fault.".

"No . . . but, I should have seen the signs. At least, Pop would have . . . if he'd been around," Russell said, his tone equally soft yet clearly self-condemning.

Reaching out, Patricia laid her hand across his, squeezing it for emphasis. "Russ, stop blaming yourself! I clearly didn't know the full measure of the man I married. If I had, I wouldn't have gone through with the marriage, but . . . hindsight is always clearest after the fact, right?".

Russell nodded, turning his hand over to grip his sister's; focusing on a couple of barely-there, yet tell-tale scars across the back of her forearm. "Still, I or Ma or someone should've done something long before . . . I mean, you shouldn't have had it happen to you.".

"Russ, you can't change what's happened," Patricia said, her tone soothing as she held tightly to Russell's hand. "Besides, I'm the only one that go hurt. It was fortunate the girls we both with Ma for that weekend.".

"Yeah, because if that son-of-a-bitch had hurt either of your girls-?!". Russell snapped his mouth shut on the words that were bubbling up from an old, old ache. He blinked before looking at Patricia, then he forced himself to smile. "Sorry, Tish.".

"No, you're not. You're just being a paladin, again. Wanting to keep me and my girls safe." She gave his hand a pat, then said, "Like you always have. Never apologize for what you couldn't stop, Russ. Just focus on the things-.".

"That I can handle, right?" Russell said. "What Pop always told us, right?".

"Right. Now, are you going to stop beating yourself up, so we can at least enjoy the rest of the evening?" She glanced at her menu, and grinned. "After all, you're buying, right?".

Russell chuckled. "Evil wench. You just love me because now, I can treat you!"

Patricia gave him a crooked smile. "No, I'd love you in any case, because you're my brother . . . but, having you buy me something decadently chocolate-?". She laughed as he groaned dramatically. "What?".

"You're always going to be addicted to sweets, Tish! But, far be it from me to ignore your sweet tooth!" He gestured to the menus. "Come on, let's see what I can do to sate both our appetites, before you have to get back to the girls. And I have to return to my duties in the morning.".

"Now," Patricia said with a smile. "You are getting the idea!"

In a moment, the waitress returned to receive their orders . . . .