Last Voyage of the Avenger

Chapter One:

N.C.C. 1860, the U.S.S. Avenger was one of the oldest combatant vessels that was still in commission in the Federation Fleet. The Avenger had originally been constructed as a Surya class frigate and was now over fifty years of age. The Avenger, like her much better know sister ship U.S.S. Reliant, had been rebuilt to the point that she had an almost a completely different appearance than she did when she was first built. All of the Surya class frigates that had not been modified like the Avenger had been scrapped previously and Starfleet was planning to start decommissioning the rebuilt Avengers class starting with the U.S.S. Avenger herself within five years. The Avenger had been the first ship modified and the ships modified were generally considered a new class. This class was the Avenger heavy frigate class. There were no plans to decommission the new construction ships based on the Avenger class and the Cyane class frigate would likely remain in service with the Federation for at least decades to come. The term frigate did not mean the same thing it did in the late Twentieth Century and are combatant vessels almost the same size as cruisers and are consider capital units unlike destroyers. While the Avenger class looked little like the Enterprise class and the Surya class looked little like Constitution class, the reconstruction of the U.S.S. Avenger and her sisters were very similar to the reconstruction on the U.S.S. Enterprise. Unlike the Enterprise, the Avenger was designed more for combat roles and not general purpose. While slightly smaller, the Avenger carried more weapon systems and the combat abilities of an Avenger were shown almost ten years previously when the U.S.S. Reliant under an un-experienced captain almost destroyed the U.S.S. Enterprise which was under command of the man that was thought to be the best captain in the whole of Starfleet. While the Reliant had been destroyed in the end, then Admiral James T. Kirks flagship was deemed to be un-repairable and had been planned to be scrapped. The Avenger's main energy weapons are two mega-phaser mounts which are far more powerful than any hull mounted phaser mounts. The Avenger also had six banks of hull mounted phaser banks on the dish shaped hull of the Frigate. In a special pod, the Avenger carried four photon torpedo launchers with two tubes firing forward and two tubes firing aft. Even though the Avenger was an aged warrior, she was still one of the dangerous ships in the Federation Arsenal.

The Avenger was quite satisfying for the first command of a relatively young commander. Even though the Avenger was planned to be decommissioned within a few years, she had been thoroughly refitted and has only about a month previous came from out of the shipyard. The most visible sign was that she had just come out from the shipyards was her gleaming white grey paint. Previously, she had shown scorch marks from a skirmish with a Klingon heavy cruiser. While none of the actual weapon systems had been upgraded since the original reconstruction that had given the Avenger her new shape, the fire control systems, the tactical systems, and the computer banks had been upgraded during the refit that she had just come out of. She presently had some of the best sensors of any of the ships in StarFleet.

The new Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Avenger was Commander Gwendolyn Ross. In many ways, her physical appearance was the opposite of what most people expected to see when they think of a female commanding officer. She was fairly short and stood only 157 centimeters tall and had a more or less boyish instead of feminine figure. She considered her appearance to have little that set her apart. She was small chested, had neither an exotic light or dark skinned appearance, and had plain dark brown hair and brown eyes. She only allowed her hair to grow down to the top of the collar of her uniform. Even so, her hair tended to become quickly disarrayed if she did not constantly check on it. She saw no need to wear makeup and as she recalled, the only person to ever call her beautiful was her father. In reality, she was attractive but she had always considered herself an ugly duckling. Even though she considered herself not to be particularly attractive, she normally worked out for several hours each day and had little excess fat on her. She had been wearing one version or another of the starfleet uniform for eighteen years and was glad that the skimpy mini skirt style female uniforms had gotten out of style before she had joined. While she had the skirt that could be worn with the present uniform, she had never worn it because she found that it restricted her movement too much. At age thirty six, she was still quite young to be wearing the rank insignia of a commander and was one of the youngest officers to have been given command of a major combatant vessel. She had served on several ships and she had been tactical officer on the U.S.S. Excelsior before she had gone to be a tactical instructor at the StarFleet Academy on Earth. She had been an instructor for three years and was known to create incredibly difficult tactical situations and there was a rumor that she had beaten the Kobayashi Maru scenario without cheating. Few cadets had wanted her initially as an instructor but many were glad of her instruction when they were ensigns in the fleet. Her students were routinely praised for their level thinking while in combat and several captain in the fleet had looked her up to thank her for training their officers right. She refused to allow improperly trained officers into the fleet and her refusal to do just that could easily have cost her any future promotions. A few months previously, she had given a failing grade to Admiral Phillip Fulton's son while all of the other instructors had given the young man excellent marks. The cadet was both lazy and used to getting every due to the rank of his father. Admiral Fulton was one of the Federation's most senior officers and was likely to become Chief of Naval Operations when the present one retired. Commander Ross was respected by many officers and was known as one of the best tactical officers but had no connections with any other flag officer. She might have been able to work through Captain Sulu, her commanding officer on the U.S.S. Excelsior, to James T. Kirk if the famous officer had not been demoted from his rank of Admiral. Due to her reputation, the Admiral could not immediately have Commander Ross cashiered but had gotten his staff to be creative. Previously, the rumor had been that she would be advanced to the rank of Captain within the next two or three years and given command of a newly commissioned Excelsior class battleship. A few weeks previously, the commanding officer of the U.S.S. Avenger had retired and Commander Ross was offered the command of the old frigate. If she refused to take the position, her career would be finished. An officer that refuses to take command is assumed to be stagnant and would not be given a position of authority again and their careers would end. She ultimately decided to accept the position but she knew this was another trap. The U.S.S. Avenger would decommission within a few years and she would likely find that no positions of command would be available. This will be followed by the councilors suggesting that she retire and if she did not accept the suggestion, she would be given a desk job somewhere and be forgotten. Even if none of her plans to head this off worked, the dream of all officers with drive was to have an independent command. Even a tiny destroyer or an old ship that was about to be retired was considered by her to be better than to have no command at all. As it was, she had some plans the admiral that had placed her in that situation would not expect and she had no plans to be shuffled off to a desk position and simply forgotten. She had some new, some might even say revolutionary, ideas in both ships tactics and operations. These plans would have actually been harder to develop on a new Excelsior which would be considered a showboat and Command of the Avenger was actually a much better position to fully develop her new ideas. If changes in tactic and shipboard operations worked out as well as she hoped, Admiral Fulton might find himself cashiered due to having sat on her report on the subject.

While not in the top percentages like Excelsior crew members normally are, the crew of the Avenger was not an incompetent crew. They had simply gotten lazy under Captain Derrick Eason, the pervious commanding officer. He had been marking time until he retired and had allowed both training and drills to fall behind. The ships executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Paula Masterson, knew that she was partial to blame as well but she had become lazy after the former captain had canceled the training that she had planned. The executive officer was as puzzled as any of the crew by her new skipper. The new commanding officer definitely had more drive than her previous one and over the last few days a large amount of supplies had been brought onboard the Avenger and she had been curious and looked at what the cargo was. She had looked at the manifest and discovered that it was a huge amount of hazardous duty suits and stellar probes. The suits were normally worn by ships engineers but there were more than enough brought onboard for the entire ship’s crew. The probes were built in the casing of normal photon torpedoes and while the ships mission might require the use of probes, a huge amount had been brought onboard.

Commander Ross sat quietly in her command chair and listened to the various reports from her crew. The U.S.S. Avenger had just been given permission to clear docking cradles. The official reason why Commander Ross had been given the command of the Avenger was that the ship needed an experienced officer for the newly assigned mission. A nebula that gave off very unusual energy emissions had been detected in unexplored space outside of Federation claimed territory. Curiosity had caused several Federation scientist to request that a ship go out there and check it out. While the old frigate was as not well suited to exploration missions as a heavy cruiser, it had been available and Commander Ross thought it was likely that it was a chance to get the troublesome commander out of sight for a few months. It would likely take six months to get to the location and to thoroughly explore the anomaly, The helmsman cleared the Avenger from her berth and while his maneuvers were within tolerances, his maneuvers were still not as crisp as she wanted. He slowly rotated the massive frigate towards the hanger doors. As the main doors of the cavernous hanger of spacedock opened, the U.S.S. Avenger edged towards the huge doors. As the back tips of the warp nacelles passed outside of the doors, Gwendolyn Ross gave an inaudible sigh of relief. She was finally free to make her own decisions. Technically, this would not become reality until the heavy frigate left the Sol system but the Spacedock gave her a feeling of being closed in. The ship steadily got further from the orbital station under maneuvering thrusters. As soon as the ship got far enough away to activate the ship’s impulse drives, the ship leapt in speed and the Earth quickly faded to a dot. Soon, the ship entered warp speed and even Sol quickly faded from unaided sight.

The captain waited for fifteen minutes to pass before she stood up from her command chair and walk over to where the executive officer was standing. Her executive officer was keeping a careful eye on the helmsman plotting in the ship’s new course. As soon as Gwendolyn got near her second in command's position, she said to her, "Commander, I would like a meeting with all department heads in forty five minutes in the main briefing room. If you could, have a junior officer take the bridge because I need you there as well. In the meantime, you have the bridge and I will be in my quarters taking advantage of this time to get some of my stuff unpacked."

The executive officer acknowledged her captain with a simple "Yes, Sir", giving the address for both male and female officers of a senior rank.

Captain Ross walked over to the bridge's main turbolift and punched in her cabin as the destination. No matter what the maneuvering behind the scenes, it was very unusual for an officer to take command of a ship and be expected to leave for a mission within ninety-six hours. While she had been far to busy to unpack, this rush had allowed her to do some creative logistics using the rush to disguise them. The Captain had ordered hazardous duty suits from three different supply installations and due to the rush, the installation's personnel had not checked to see if she had ordered them from any other depots as well. She had originally expected to have to take months to order enough suits for her entire crew. Commander Ross had also managed to order from weapon stores a second full set of probes which she planned to modify for other uses. She had claimed that the ship’s normal store of probes had never arrived and that they would be needed for the mission. At least she presently had a few minutes to unpack and would give her a chance to go over mentally what she planned to tell her senior officers. Her uniforms and her few non military sets of clothing could wait but she wanted to get her precious collection unpacked. She had worked hard in order to get a collectors permit to keep an antique firearms collection. The Captain had only managed to collect a few Twentieth Century and early Twenty First century weapons but it had been slowly growing during her time as an instructor at the Academy. She presently had a Colt .357 revolver, a .44 revolver, a MAC-10 sub-machinegun, and a .30 caliber M-1 Carbine from World War II.

Gwendolyn had just gotten her weapons collection unpacked when her alarm rang to let her know that she had to get to the meeting herself. She realized that she would probably shock her officers with her plans but she hoped that they would not actively resist them. The door to the briefing room opened silently and all the officers in the room quickly stood up upon her entry. It looked like the room had been used for other purposes than briefing the senior staff with boxes with unknown contents stacked along the walls. A chair at the head of the table was empty for the captain and she sat down waving for her officers to sit down at the same time. She did a quick look at her seniors officers, looking at each one individually including her executive officer. She made eye contact with each of them so they could get a measure of her as well. She clasped her hands in front of her on the table for a few seconds and then pulled out a data pad. She started her briefing with "Thank you all for coming. I will get into the main portion of the briefing as quickly as I can but first I have a few statements. First, the briefing will be long but I ask that you do not interrupt in the middle and to bear with me. Second, I have only been your commanding officer for a few days and none of you know me. Over the next few weeks, I plan to get to know each of you and your personnel." Commander Ross paused for a short time before starting on the main part of her briefing but shortly continued with "We all need to face two things. The first is that the Avenger will be decommissioned within a few years and will most likely be scrapped. The reason stated will probably be something like 'The structure of the ship has been warped due to decades of being exposed to subspace fields.' The second, which is related to the first, is that none of us are considered the ideal ship’s crew. Some of might simply have gotten that way by pissing off the wrong senior officer but others have not performed up to the demands of the service. Face it but also realize that we all have a choice. We can chose to be caretakers of a dying lady and fade away into the dark along with our ship. We can also chose to fight it and dare them to prove us to be an unfit crew or that the Avenger is too old to remain in service.

"As many of you know, I was a tactical instructor at Starfleet Academy before I took command of the Avenger. While I was an instructor, I worked on new tactics and new methods of ship operation. These were designed to increase both the ship’s combat performance and the ship’s survivability. Being honest, I have a lack of friends in high places and I present a report on these new ideas this a few months ago but the report seems to have been misplaced" She did not mention to them that the cause of the misplacement was Admiral Fulton and his son. She continued with "My plan is to prove these concepts workable by real life application of them on the Avenger and I would like the cooperation of all of you with them."

Continuing with her prepared briefing "You should have all noticed that we have taken on a huge amount of stores during the last few days. A large portion of the stores are hazardous duty suits mostly used by engineers. In our case, there are enough suits for all the crew members on the ship. In the Academy, we get to read many unedited after combat reports and in many, the infallible atmospheric systems have failed. Hull breaches and toxic gas leaks have killed many crew members that if the had been protected by some sort of suit would have survived. No system is perfect, especially in combat, so every form of safety equipment possible should be used. Supply officer, I need you to get your supply clerks to distribute the suits to the ship’s crew and have any modifications done that are needed to fit individuals. For all departments, I need for your crews to get used to wearing the suits and in about one quarter of any drills, I expect the crew to be fully suited in the hazardous duty suits."

She looked at them all very seriously and her eyes lingered on her executive officer for a few minutes longer than any of the others. "I have looked at the previous captain's logs and have noted that it has been some time since the last drill. I plan to have drills far more often and plan to run two all hands drills per day until the crew can pass all of the standards that I will set forth. We will them reduce the tempo to some extent and reduce drills to one full drill every two days once I consider all departments up to proficiency. In addition, I expect each department to perform their own drills in addition to any drills that I prescribe.

"Next, I would like to change the general methods of damage control procedures. Most of these will require more time then we can afford in the briefing but one important one is that I plan to create a damage control section under the engineering department. I also intend to increase training and the training will come under the damage control section." Addressing a slightly overweight male that appeared to be about mid forties and wearing the rank of Lieutenant Commander "Chief Engineer Dunstan, I need you to come up with an officer to be in charge of damage control and personnel for the damage control section. I will look at your list and make judgements myself. You will continue to be in charge of engineering but the Damage Control Officer will be in charge of training and coordination during emergency situations. Once this section has been set up and the officer chosen, I want all departments to coordinate with the damage control officer for a training program.

"Weapons, Tactical, and Helm, your work will be as difficult or more difficult than any of the others." She started with Michael Anson, the ships tactical officer "Lieutenant Anson, I will create on the computer some new tactical training exercises and I will be making them quite difficult and I expect a serious increase in performance. I believe you know my reputation as an instructor in Starfleet Academy. One problem I have seen many times is when the tactical data is not relayed to the captain has enough to make a decision. As well, I have seen many tactical officers that are not willing to make decision without the captain telling them to." She next switched her attention to her weapons officer "Lieutenant McMilligan, I plan to have you work with the tactical officer but I also have plans for use to train at individually and with your gunner crews. I want you to run simulated snap short firing on small targets. Once I am satisfied that you and your crews can hit at a reasonable percentage small targets, I will have you do some live firing because computer simulation is far from perfect. I plan to have the Avenger travel at slightly faster than cruising speed to give you a chance to practice for a few days. The first targets will be asteroids and when you get goo at hitting them, I plan to have your practice on small moving targets. I have taken on extra sensor probes and plan to have some modified to act as targets simulating photon torpedoes. There has been a successful use of phasers for this purpose under Captain James T. Kirk during an incident and I myself practice it in the Academy while I was an instructor. If two ships are fighting a missile duel at long range, the ability to destroy some of the missile in the missile volleys coming in could very well tip the balance in the favor of the ship that has practiced it. In combat situations and we are not using our phaser banks against other ships, I want you to target missiles coming in without my direct say so at the time. The delay could easily cause us to take his that we might have otherwise avoided." Finally she switched he attention to her Helmsman and continued "Lieutenant Hanley, part of your job will be to integrate whatever you do with the tactical and weapons officer but there is far for you to work on. I want you to work on practical maneuvers to make the Avenger less of a target. I do not want the fancy labeled maneuvers that many officers seem to want. Most of them are good at getting their own ships destroyed. Just a simple 'S' pattern maneuver gives the enemy a much harder target to hit and when you make the pattern random and more complex, makes for a ship much harder to hit. I also want you to practice 360 degree rotation maneuvers around the center of the ship. There are two main reasons for this. If a ship is pursuing, this will allow us to bring our batteries to bear much quicker than if we attempt to actually change the course of the ship. In long range combat, a continuous spinning will make the ship lose most of its acceleration but will allow us to fire all of our photon torpedo tubes at an enemy."

She stopped for a minute to catch her breath but continued "This is the main body of my plans but I have a more detailed written version that I expect each of you to read. Now, the ship has just finished loading stores and making final preparation. Many members of the crew are exhausted from this so it will not be idea to start with the changes today. I plan to have the whole crew stand down for twenty four hours to catch up with their sleep and so they will be ready. These plans I have will require many long hours for both us and our enlisted crew and likely will cause tempers to fray as well. I will pay attention to crew moral as this goes on and will adjust my plans if we are having too much loss of moral. I am about to start taking questions but I will also accept suggestions as well. Now, who has questions?"

The officers in the room just sat quiet for a few minutes but then the all seem to start asking questions at the same time to the point that they were unintelligible. Commander Ross shook her head because she was afraid of a response like this. She motioned for her officers to quiet down and motioned for her executive officer to begin her questions.

[ Star Trek is copyright Paramount Pictures ]

This story is covered under the free use clause of the Copyright Laws. While the story is designed to entertain, it is also written to educate as well criticize certain aspects of Star Trek.

By Kitsune (E-Mail Kitsune).

Copyright © 2003, Kitsune. All rights reserved.