Misato Katsuragi was struggling, she leaned back in her chair and let out a long sigh of exasperation. Her ready room was barren and empty, yet she looked around it for what seemed like the twentieth attempt to maybe find some inspiration. None came and all she was left with was the growing sense of frustration.
Making speeches wasn't her thing, she much preferred springing into action and doing things on the spur of the moment. That was what had led her to this point, that was what made Misato Katsuragi, Misato Katsuragi. She wanted to be on her bridge, leading her crew and inspiring them through actions and orders, not delivering a long speech in a crowded cargo bay.
Yet, this was now part of the territory for her. When she accepted the promotion to the role of captain, she knew exactly what it meant for her. It meant expanding what she could do, it meant giving speeches, engaging in dialogue, and in the grand scheme of things, addressing her crew in a cramped cargo bay didn't really seem like that big a deal. Not when in the future her words could be the difference between war and peace or life and death.
Nerves were starting to set in for her, as she nervously ran her hand through her long purple hair. This ship, named the USS Tokyo, the first of a new line of advance Galaxy class vessels was hers. In a few hours her crew, numbering nearly six hundred, would all be on board. Tomorrow they will have launched on their first mission.
Her words... Her actions will define this ship and its legacy, the lives of the crew will be in her hands. Not that long ago she was an eager commander who jumped at the chance for promotion. She hadn't fought too far ahead, she hadn't thought what the speeches, the consequences, the crew... She hadn't stopped to think or ask herself if she was ready. She agreed to it, consequences be damned.
It was that attitude that had gotten Misato to the point of promotion though. It was an attitude that had served her well over the years. Misato was quick to act; she could be impulsive and could improvise. Sure, at times it had also gotten her into trouble as well. Her instructors had compared her to a certain Captain Kirk after her attempt at the Kobayashi Maru and she had been reprimanded a number of times for drunken punch ups involving Klingons.
She let out another sigh, wondering if maybe she should just tap into her improvisational skills once more.
'Keep the speech short... keep the speech sweet. Just give them some fluff about honour and duty and we'll be fine. You're not being graded on this.'
The silence in the room was suddenly and thankfully broken by the sound of an alert on her main terminal. She eyed the screen to see it was an incoming communication from Starfleet Command.
'Thank god!' Misato muttered to herself before accepting the communication. The screen in front of her sprang to life, the image of a female Vulcan admiral appearing.
"Captain Katsuragi, how are the preparations going for the launch of the Tokyo?"
Misato gave a slight nod of her head, "Fine so far admiral. Engineering have reported in and are running their final set of diagnostics on the warp core. Our crew is at 90% with the final few arriving shortly via a carrier from Earth. Will you be joining us for the launch ceremony?"
"I am pleased to hear things are running on time." The admiral politely nodded back, "I am actually contacting you regarding the launch ceremony. Command has seen fit to cancel the traditional launch ceremony at this time. We have your first assignment and Command are keen that you are on your way as soon as possible."
Although somewhat relieved, Misato couldn't help but frown at the sudden declaration. Breaking with tradition wasn't exactly unheard of but it was uncommon. Immediately her mind wandered to what could cause such a thing, the Tokyo was an advanced ship, built to deal with an array of threats to the Federation whilst also furthering its cause but in case of emergencies they were perhaps better fitting ships?
"An urgent assignment? Has something happened?"
"No, it is in fact quite a simple assignment but it has been stipulated that you are to perform it as soon as is possible. So, as soon as the ship is ready to launch you are to do so. I am transmitting details to you now, you are to transport an individual by the name of Shinji Ikari to a colony known as NERV."
Misato's frown didn't soften at what the admiral had to say. She shifted her eyes to the screen next to her, watching as the details of her ships first mission were transmitted to her. She cast aside the profile of her guest, instead focusing on the location of the colony, it was not one she was familiar with. It was the location that caused some concern, at first, she wondered if maybe it was a mistake but then... that would be a strange mistake.
"Admiral, are these co-ordinates correct? This is a system in the... Gamma Quadrant."
The Admiral nodded, "Quite correct, information on the colony itself is scarce. We know that it was founded during the war with the Dominion and it operates outside of the Federation. Up until now we have had little, if any contact with it."
"And the Dominion raised no objections to it being there?" Misato asked.
"None that we are aware of, but any objections will have been raised with the colony leader rather than with us."
"Who founded it?"
"A former Federation Science officer by the name of Gendo Ikari. He and his wife were involved in advanced bio-engineering research. Shinji Ikari, as you have probably already deduced is his son. The request was made to us to transport him to the colony. Despite not being a part of the Federation, Command felt it was appropriate to aid in this matter." The admiral explained to Misato.
"Understandable, what can we expect from the Dominion? I don't expect them to make this easy for us."
Misato was wary of the risk to her ship. Although tensions with the Dominion had eased since the war, the two factions tended to keep on another at a distance, with minimal interaction. There were a few open trade routes between Federation and Dominion space but the Federation tended to have little, if any, presence in the Gamma Quadrant. Misato knew that this meant the Tokyo would be alone and without any back up. Not a pleasant thought for the new captain.
Perhaps it was her own prejudices coming into play but she immensely disliked having to deal with the Dominion. Across the Federation the wounds of the war were still fresh for a vast many. Misato had enrolled during the height of the conflict and she could remember the chaos on Earth. She could remember seeing families torn apart by the war, the children suddenly made parentless and the parents suddenly made childless. She could remember the memorial walls set up in the Academy campus, the nervous cadets waiting for news and hoping their friends and family wouldn't show up on them one day. There was a fear among many that one day they're wake up face to face with the deadly Jem'Hadar.
"We have reached out to the Vorta and permission has been granted for us to travel through their space. There will be a series of checkpoints and scans the Tokyo will be subject to but aside from that you it should be simple."
Misato wasn't necessarily happy that her ship would be subject to scans from the Dominion but she knew there was little point protesting, it was what it was. Besides, she could hardly blame the Dominion for being cautious. Things weren't easy in the Alpha Quadrant right now. Just as the Federation was beginning to recover from the war, Romulus was destroyed by a supernova. Billions of Romulans lost their lives and the once proud race reduced to isolated groups of struggling refugees.
It had caused a shift in power once again in the Quadrant, with the Romulans all but gone other races were vying for power and new tensions arose. Fingers were pointed by survivors, at the Federation, the grand superpower that was supposed to save them. Misato knew of the internal conflicts, the banning by the Federation of research into and development of synthetic lifeforms and the subsequent resignation of Jean Luc Picard.
Rumours had spread to all corners of the Federation and beyond, had the Federation done enough? Did they try at all? Who was behind the attack on Mars? Did the synthetics really go rogue or did someone plan it? All sorts of theories had been put forward, rogue Klingons who wanted to wipe out an ancient enemy. The Borg trying to interfere with the Federation once again. Android that had suddenly decided life must be wiped out.
Regardless of rumour, or scandal and discussion it all led to the fact that the path towards peace had many more twists before reaching its destination.
"Very well. When can we expect Mr Ikari?"
"He will be arriving on the final shuttlecraft with the remaining members of your crew."
"Okay, I'll have some quarters arranged for him and go to meet him when he arrives."
"Very good captain, Admiral T'Saal out."
The image of the Admiral left the screen, leaving Misato with only the faint humming of the ship's engines for company. She tried to ignore the strange sensation that something was off about this mission. It was just a simple transport mission, nothing more, nothing less. She turned to the second monitor and brought up the details of the mission.
Information on NERV was scarce, if not non-existent. Much like T'Saal had said, it was founded in 2376 by Gendo Ikari for the purposes of Bio-Engineering research. Misato wondered what could have caused people to found a colony in such risky territory which immediately led her to wonder about the nature of the research. They were as far away from the Federation as could be, most of the time people want to maintain distance because what they're doing isn't necessarily fitting within the bounds of what is legal or moral.
'Gendo Ikari… A member of Starfleets Bio-Engineering team… Married to Yui Ikari who died in the SEELE Colony attack many years ago. One of the rare times the Borg have ventured into our space. He… founded the colony barely a year after she died and left Shinji back on Earth with relatives. I can't imagine he's been back to Earth since… Damn, a reunion between father and son.
Misato still had many questions but those would have to wait for now. She had her assignment; she had her ship and she had her crew. Shinji Ikari, for the duration of his stay was also a part of that crew and she was damned if she was going to let anything happen to them.
'Father… Why now… Why after fourteen years have you called for me?'
Shinji had been asking himself that question since he had been woken up this morning to the news. He kept his eyes fixed to the ground, clutching his backpack tightly to his chest and trying to ignore the excited chatter from the other occupants of the shuttle. It was a bunch of young Ensigns, some of them meeting one another for the first time, all sharing in the excitement of being part of the crew on this new Federation starship.
For Shinji, there was no excitement. Only a weighty feeling of dread. Maybe in some other circumstances he would be okay with this. He might even have been excited about going into a starship but now… all that was happening was those voices in his head and those anxious butterflies in his stomach were conspiring to tell him that nothing good could come of this.
It had been so long since he had seen his father, he had no idea what to say to him on seeing him again. He had no idea what his father was like now, what he looked like or sounded like. There had been no communication between the two in all that time apart, and so Shinji asked himself again.
There was a conflict in side of him, a war between two sides of him. One who had grown content with his life on Earth, that felt he shouldn't have agreed to this. That he should have remained living on his own, working at that restaurant. It wasn't much but he was at least…living.
There was the other side of him that was spurring him on to do this, to reunite with his father again, but for what purpose. Shinji couldn't decide, did he want to berate his father for abandoning him like he did? Did he want to tell him he hated him? Or did he just want love and acceptance from him?
'I don't… even know what he looks like now.'
Shinji had nothing of his father, of his family. All he had was the image he would conjure up in his nightmares. The one where his father leaves him standing, crying with his aunt and uncle. The one where all Shinji can do is watch, glued to the spot as his father gets onto the shuttle, never to be seen or heard from again. All he had was the image of that face, the cold emotionless expression and those eyes of steel.
'Why am I doing this? It feels wrong, he summons me and I… just agree to it. I didn't offer any resistance but this… isn't right!'
Shinji still tried to search for that reason, was he doing it to get some answers? Did he really want to find out why he was abandoned all those years ago? Would an answer even satisfy him? Would any answer be good enough to justify those actions? Would he even want the truth, would it not just confirm his fear?
'I wasn't good enough… I've never been good enough. I'll never be good enough, is that why? Do you hate me father? Did mother hate me too?'
"Hey there she is everyone! Come and take a look!"
Shinji was snapped out of his introspection by the shout of the Ensign. There was a flurry of activity as the other occupants of the shuttle moved to the other side to try and get their first glimpse of the vehicle. Shinji looked up himself, his eyes landing on the magnificent figure of the Galaxy-class ship. Even he had to admit, it was pretty impressive.
Shinji had grown up, like many others on Earth, reading all about the exploits of the various ships to be called Enterprise in Federation history. It was the Enterprise-D, captained by Jean-Luc Picard that he had always liked the most. He could remember many of the boys in his classes preferring Kirks.
He supposed it was the sense of family on Picards Enterprise that captured his imagination the most, the idea of this, at times, mismatched crew – The first Klingon in Starfleet, an Android – all finding a place to call home. A place he felt was home was something he had longed for; his aunt and uncle had done a good job but he never felt lie he had belonged.
He took another look at the ship, he had little to no idea about the technical specifications of it, unlike the excited Ensign across from him. A young man that Shinji had overheard was called 'Aida.' He had little difficulty in reciting the technical specs to a rather bored and muscular looking Ensign next to him.
'You know they were saying that they've fitted the saucer section with an additional pair of phaser arrays and it's been upgraded to quantum torpedoes! It's probably the most powerful ship in the fleet, aside from the Sovereigns but it makes up for that with a streamlined warp drive!'
Shinji slipped his earbuds back in and le the music back into his ears, drowning out the sounds of the excited ensign and the other crew members. He clutched his bag just that little bit tight, once again coming back to the same question.
Misato was on her way to the shuttlebay to finally meet Shinji. She was running late, a few last-minute diagnostic reports unfortunately delaying her. She had also spent a little bit of time reading over the files relating to Shinji, NERV and Gendo Ikari but learned little else. She supposed given the nature of the mission there wasn't much to learn.
Still, several things didn't sit right with her, the nature of the founding of NERV and the sudden summoning seemed strange. As far as Shinji himself went, there was nothing remarkable about him. He seemed to have been a bright young man, competent in his studies, achieving grades at above average and at one point considered by his teachers to be a prime candidate for Starfleet, they at least said the potential was there.
It seemed he had a different plan, opting for a job as a chef in a restaurant in San Francisco. Still the reviews for the place seemed to be good.
'That's something at least' Misato mused, 'Poor kid, father leaves him in the care of others at such a young age. Probably took a toll on him and now he's been summoned like this… Fathers can be so irresponsible.'
She paused as she entered the vast shuttlebay, it was empty, save for the one lone man standing by one of the shuttles. Misato felt a surge of embarrassment as moved towards him, here she was the captain of one of the Federations finest and she was late to a simple meeting. Even worse, he had been left here on his own, how embarrassing.
As she approached, she took a bit of time to study him, he looked nervous and awkward, his eyes staring at the ground. He was a solemn figure, decked out in a white shirt, plain black trousers and neatly cut brown hair. He looked the sort of person that could blend into a crowd easily, you'd see him and not really think twice about him.
"Mr Ikari?" She called out as she approached.
Shinji looked up, his gaze meeting hers. There looked to be the hint of a smile on his face, "Captain Katsuragi?"
She extended her hand to shake his, "I apologize for being late and the circumstances of your arrival. Please let it be known I will be speaking to the crew and reprimanding the one responsible. You should not have been left here on your own."
"I.. It's okay. I wasn't waiting too long. I'm sorry if I've caused you any trouble."
"You haven't caused us any trouble!" Misato moved quickly to reassure him, "We're more than happy to have a guest on board. If you'll allow me to, I can show you to your quarters?"
Shinji began to follow Misato out of the shuttlebay and into the main corridor of the ship. As they moved through Shinji noticed the flurry of activity as personnel moved back and forth, presumably preparing for the actual launch of the ship. Once again, he thought that maybe in other circumstances, he'd be excited to be part of this. It wasn't everyday a civilian got to experience a ship as it launched.
"Now Shinji, I want you to know that you are our guest and as such please don't feel you're restricted to your quarters. On decks 10 and 11 you'll find our holodecks, we have a recreational lounge, also on deck 10 and on deck 12 you'll find a gymnasium. You will be in our guest quarters on deck 9. I will of course be giving providing you a full our of the ship when time permits but until that time please feel free to ask a member of the crew of consult the ships computers." Misato explained to him as they walked.
"Captain." Shinji suddenly interrupted her, the two of them came to a stop, "Do you… know why my father suddenly called for me?"
Misato frowned, "You mean to say you don't know?"
Admittedly, she was hoping that Shinji would have known the answer to that question at least. What had seemed like an unusual, albeit simple, request had taken yet another turn. This was a trip that was going to take Shinji three and a half weeks, and Shinji didn't even know why.
"No, I… got a message this morning from my father simply asking me to go to the NERV Colony. It said all the necessary arrangements had been made and someone from Starfleet would be getting in contact with me." Shinji answered her, "There was… nothing else besides that."
"Pardon me for asking this but… have you had any contact with him before now?"
There was an uncomfortable silence, Misato wondered if maybe she had already tried to dig too much with her question. After all, her task was to transport him, she wasn't supposed to get involved. Still, a part of her didn't want to ignore this.
"Shinji, it's fine if you don't want to answer." Misato broke the silence, "My task is to transport you there and I will do that, if it is what you want but I want you to know one thing, while you are on my starship, despite the lack of uniform and you being a civilian, you are a member of this crew and you are under my protection. If you don't want to do this, for whatever reason, I can contact Starfleet Command and explain as much to them. You are free to do as you wish, no one is forcing you."
Shinji nodded, "I know that, thank you. My… aunt said as much to me. I haven't heard from my father in fourteen years and he suddenly summoned me… I… want to know why."
She reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder, feeling her heart tighten at his words. It wasn't difficult for her to put herself in his shoes.
'I won't get the chance to ask my father about the decisions he made, to ask him why but Shinji… he will, if I can help him… Then I will.'
"I understand." She nodded, "Tell you what, how about we take a detour before I show you to my quarters. This is your first time on a starship, right?"
He nodded, "Yes."
"in which case, let me show you something that very few civillians get the chance to see." He started to follow her again as she moved into the nearest turbolift, "Computer, deck 1, bridge!"
The bridge? Shinji didn't object to Misato's sudden change of plans, despite hoping that he could just go back to his quarters. While he appreciated her gesture and the offer of freedom of the ship he just wanted to go to his quarters and stay there until they arrived at NERV.
As they stepped out of the turbolift onto the bridge, Shinji became keenly aware of the stares of the bridge crew on him. They must have been wondering who this civilian was and what the hell he was doing on their bridge. He tried to keep his eyes ahead, trying to not caught anyone's eye.
"Captain on the bridge." Announced a science officer, a brief look at their pips told Shinji she held the rank of commander.
Misato nodded in the commander's direction, "Commander Ibuki, thank you."
Misato stopped and took a quick look around the bridge, after a moment she moved forward, positioning herself in the centre of the bridge, "I'll try to not take up too much time with this, I know you are all busy with final preparations and eager to get going, as am I."
"As you all know we have our first assignment from Starfleet, we are to transport Shinji to a colony in the Gamma Quadrant. During the time he is on board I want you all to ensure our guest is safe and treated lie one of our own. I want him to feel that this ship is as much his home as it is yours. Am I understood?"
From around the bridge crew Shinji heard the replied of 'Aye Captain', he felt himself glow red with embarrassment as being put in the spotlight like this.
"Onto other business, Starfleet wants us to leave as soon as possible which means we will not be undergoing the traditional launch ceremony. Admittedly I'm not really one for grand speeches and ceremonies but I feel it would be inappropriate if I didn't say something. You are my crew and this ship is now our home. We all serve the Federation in its mission, to explore new worlds, seek out new life and represent the best of what we have to offer. Some of you applied to be on this ship and others were hand picked but you are all here because it is believed you will serve that mission and this ship proudly. I expect your best, and in return I will give you my best."
Misato turned to look at Shinji, "Allow me to introduce my senior staff."
She nodded towards the commander Shinji had seen earlier, "This is Commander Maya Ibuki, our Chief Medical Officer and for the time acting First Officer."
Her gaze then shifted towards the first of two men on the bridge. He was a long haired man, wearing a gold services undershirt, "This is Lieutenant Commander Shigeru Aoba, our Chief of Security. Standing next to him is our Chief of Engineering, Makoto Hyuga."
Hyuga was a little bit shorter than Aoba, had short black hair and wore a VISOR. Both men seemed friendly and warm, putting Shinji slightly more at ease.
The next person Misato turned her gaze to was the woman who had been occupying the helm position, she was a young Bajoran, "This is our helmsman, Lieutenant Enel Soya, next to her is our Communications officer, Liutenant Bresha."
Bresha was a Ferenghi, a fact that surprised Shinji, there can't have been too many Ferenghi serving in Starfleet at the moment. The two ladies smiled politely at Shinji and greeted him as Misato beckoned Shinji over, "Shinji, take the seat to my left, the rest of you back to your stations, let's get this show on the road."
There were further replies of 'Aye Captain' as the crews attention returned to their stations. Shinji sat himself down, placing his backpack down in front of him. He looked ahead out of the viewscreen. Ibuki took the seat on the other side of Misato.
"All stations, status report." Misato called out.
"Engineering reporting in, warp core diagnostics complete, impulse engines are being brought online. We are ready to go captain." Replied Hyuga.
Aoba was next, "Tactical reporting in, we are ready."
"Docking clamps have been released, we are ready to move out on your word." Soya checked in.
Finally, Bresha answered, "We have received communications from the shipyard, they have given us the all clear to move on your word. They send their regards and wish us luck."
"Very well." Misato nodded and smiled, "Soya, take us forward at one quarter impulse and begin to lay in a course to Deep Space 9."
In this moment in time all the fear, doubt and questions Shinji had were cast aside and replaced with a feeling of excitement and joy. He couldn't stop himself from smiling as the ship's engines began to hum that little bit louder and the vessel started to move forward.
"We are clear of the shipyard, I've laid in a course to Deep Space 9." Reported Soya.
"Very good. Hyuga, is the warp drive ready?"
"Warp Drive is being brought online Captain." He answered, "Just a few more seconds… and…. Done!"
Misato leaned back in her seat and took one final look around the bridge. Shinji wondered if she and the rest of the crew had the same butterflies in their stomach that he did. This was the first mission for this starship, the first time it would go to warp… and the first time he had been on a starship and flown at warp speed himself.
He had read so many stories growing up about these amazing vessels and what they had done and what they were capable of. Now he was going to be part of that story himself. If nothing else, if he didn't get the answers he sought from his father he could maybe treasure this moment.
Misato leaned forward, a prideful smile on her face as she simple pointed forward, "Engage."