A piped whistle broke the reverie of Captain Alexander Marshall pulling him away from the thoughts of his new command. The Constitution! As the prototype, she was named for her class and Marshall could still scarce believe that the ship was soon to be his. He was to embark on the ship’s last five year mission as its commanding officer. A feat once before completed by his father.
Alex sat behind the study desk in one of his family’s London homes having dwelled in past memories of his father, his own career with his recent promotion to command of the Constitution and his bidding goodbye to his former command, the cramped Baton-Rogue class patrol ship Resolute. Not for a second did he regret his choice to not follow in the Marshall family interstellar dilithium mining business.
Reaching across the desk, Alexander flipped the switch on the desktop speaker and drawled into it in his southern United States accent, “Marshall here.”
“Captain Marshall, this is Lieutenant Commander T’Vana, I have been waiting to transport you to the Constitution for the change of command, but have not heard anything from you as of yet. According to the schedule, the ceremony is due to take place one hour from now.” There was a beat, a deliberate pause on the Vulcan woman’s part before she continued in her implacable tone. “It would not look good for you to be tardy.”
Alex nodded to no one in particular as he recognized the voice of the Constitution’s security chief, “Acknowledged, I’ll be beaming up from the orbital fleet yard in fifteen minutes.”
“The shuttle will be leaving in ten minutes sir.”
“Lieutenant Commander it will leave when I say it does. Marshall out,” was all Alex replied as he closed the channel. He smiled, knowing that the moment he had been waiting for had arrived. He checked his appearance one last time before exiting the quiet house.
Thirty minutes later Captain Marshall was walking along the rows of class-F shuttlecraft resting on the orbital station’s hangar deck, hoping to find the craft that would transport him to his new assignment. After walking for several more minutes, Marshall found the one he was looking for, registry NCC-1700/3 the shuttle Tranquility for the trip to the Constitution. The blocky design class-F was the primary shuttlecraft used by Starfleet, often found on starbases and starships able to carry seven passengers behind its three windowed angled front at a top speed of warp 2.
“Sorry for the delay Commander,” said Marshall, walking up the steps on the port side of the shuttle. “I had some business to take care of before we depart.”
“Of course sir,” said Lieutenant Commander T’Vana. The Constitution’s Chief of Security, not questioning the man’s tardiness, waited for him to take his seat in the aft section of the shuttle before she took the pilot’s seat. T’Vana looked over her display engaging the thrusters for the short trip to the Constitution. The Vulcan engaged the thrusters on the shuttle, allowing it to float briefly above the hangar deck below.
Alex could feel the class-F shuttle moving forward, traveling toward its destination. He began to study T’Vana. She was very tall and attractive for a Vulcan, her pointed ears sticking out from her long black hair that was kept within Starfleet regulations. She appeared to be no more than thirty years old, but Marshall observed it was likely that she could have been much older. The captain felt he needed to focus, to think about what was about to happen as the object of his attention changed to the ship he would be commanding. “T’Vana, how long until we reach the ship?” he called out.
“Two point seven eight minutes,” replied the security chief from the pilot’s seat. “The ship will be coming into view in twenty-three point two seconds, Captain.”
Alex got up from his chair and wandered up to the front of the craft, taking the copilot’s seat. T’Vana reached over and pushed a button that opened the three viewports above them and allow them to see outside. Captain Marshall gasped as he saw the ship for the first time in several years, at this distance, staring at the name and registry emblazoned on the gray metal hull of the saucer section: U.S.S. CONSTITUTION NCC-1700.
“What a ship,” he whispered to no one in particular. Marshall felt the ship was really a true beauty as starships went. The Constitution class bespoke elegance and beauty with a regal power that made it the flagship class to project Starfleet’s might and purpose of exploration and discovery. Sculpted with purpose, the large crown of the saucer section connected to the power house of the secondary hull with an angled connection between them before tapering off with the angled pylons leading to the two warp nacelles that promised speed and discovery.
At the rear of the secondary hull was the shuttlebay to which T’Vana now steered the shuttle. Alex considered himself lucky to even get this assignment. The Constitution-class starships being the future of Starfleet, a technological marvel, it was not every day that you got to serve on a starship like it. It was reserved for a precious few in Starfleet—just over 5000 were granted such an assignment. It was the best of what each member world of the United Federation of Planets had to offer. The Constitution itself was a prototype, having seen many changes in its design over the years before being refitted to its current configuration to match the eleven other starships that came after her.
“When was the last time you were on board sir?” asked T’Vana, knowing what the answer to her question was going to be.
Marshall turned to the Vulcan with a tinge of sadness lacing his voice. “My father’s funeral, eight years ago.”
“Well, there have been some changes,” remarked T’Vana as the shuttle flew over the dome that housed the bridge underneath it, “but it is still the same. The Constitution is quite a ship sir.”
“Yes she certainly is,” said Marshall nodding in approval.
“Your father was one of the finest officers I have served under,” admitted Lieutenant Commander T’Vana. “I had only been on board the ship for a short time before the incident with the Tholians, and he showed great dedication to the crew and to Starfleet. Even though the battle did come out in our favor, he was a smart captain. I learned much from him about what it takes to be a good officer, and to remain strong in the face of adversity.”
“I appreciate you telling me that,” said Marshall as he turned to stare out the window. The shuttle began a slight descent as it lined up with the shuttlebay in the rear of the secondary hull. The Tranquility held a stationary position as T’Vana requested access. A moment later, the shuttlebay doors parted in the middle, allowing a tractor beam to lock onto the Tranquility. It was guided into the larger craft, coming to rest in a precise spot within the larger starship before rotating around to allow its passengers to exit once the shuttlebay had re-pressurized.
Lieutenant Commander Bo Jin Yu, Chief Engineer of the starship Constitution, sat in the control room and looked out onto the hangar deck, watching as the doors opened in the middle and began to retract. Floating in space was the shuttlecraft that would be bringing the new captain on board. Bo had served under the Constitution’s former captain, Nigel Harrington, until he had been promoted to the Admiralty. The Chief Engineer was somewhat annoyed with the idea of a new captain after he had already gotten used to the old one. Yu began to depress the controls that would lock a tractor beam onto the smaller craft, bringing it into the shuttlebay and came to rest. The doors then closed as the hangar deck began to re-pressurize. A few moments later Yu walked out into the shuttlebay as the door opened, allowing the passengers to exit.
Captain Marshall waited for a yeoman to sound the Bosun’s whistle as the honor guard of security personnel lined up on each side of the shuttle door, allowing him enough room to walk comfortably between them. Marshall climbed down the stairs and began to walk toward one of several doors on the outside of the shuttlebay.
“Welcome aboard, Captain,” said Bo as Captain Marshall walked up to him, standing at the end of the long line of security guards.
“Thank you Mr. Yu,” Marshall warmly returned the welcome, recognizing the engineer from his personnel file immediately. “What is the condition of the ship?”
“We’ll need at least another four to five days to finish the refit sir,” Yu stated. He explained to Marshall, “I’ve had my people working around the clock for the last two days with help from the starbase personnel trying to get things suitable for today. The bridge should meet with your approval sir. The ship will give you everything she’s got and then some. Overall, I am quite pleased with how the repairs are turning out. They have met with my approval. Just don’t push her too hard the first time out,” said Bo. He paused before saying, “Sir, I need to get to the cargo bay for the ceremony.”
“Fine, fine,” said Marshall as he watched the red-shirted engineer exit the shuttlebay. Alex turned his head to see T’Vana stepping out of the Tranquility. He looked around the shuttlebay as he realized it was the one part of the ship that had not changed since it was launched. Captain Marshall fought the urge to smile as it reminded him of one of his early assignments after graduating from the Academy.
“Captain, if you care to follow me I can show you the way to the main cargo bay where the change of command will take place,” offered the Vulcan.
“I can find my way around a Constitution-class ship,” said Marshall coming back to reality. “I’ve served on them before.” Marshall’s thoughts flashed to the Enterprise and serving under Christopher Pike, where for a time Marshall had even imagined himself as a successor to Pike. Alas, it was not to be instead that upstart Kirk had advanced to the position. The famous exploits of Kirk and the notoriety the Enterprise was gaining under his command was enough to make Marshall feel momentarily old even at the age of thirty seven.
Running a hand through his thick brown hair, he ignored the telltale signs of gray creeping into it, Marshall readied himself and exited the hangar deck through one of several side exits. He was escorted by T’Vana and her security guards walking a step behind him. He began walking down a gray corridor lined with multi-colored doors, each door set beneath a label that indicated what was behind it. The corridor was crowded with crewman scattered as the ship began to prepare for the change of command.
“Attention on deck,” said T’Vana, very sternly letting everyone know that the new captain had arrived. Those who were working stopped what they were doing and lined the corridor, letting the captain pass by them. After walking for a few more meters down the corridor, Alex entered the cargo bay and a yeoman handed him a data slate. He accepted it before walking down the center aisle between rows of chairs that had been set up before a podium. A small group had already gathered at the front of the room, comprised of a few dignitaries and top brass from Starfleet Command. The Captain stopped walking just as the Bosun’s whistle was sounded again, signaling that the ceremony was beginning. He stood at the front of the room, staring back into the many pairs of eyes now fixed on him.
The entire crew had now assembled in the cargo bay, having done so both out of tradition and at the request of the Constitution’s soon to be former commanding officer, Vice Admiral Nigel Harrington, who was now approaching the podium. He was a veteran of Starfleet for almost forty years, having seen times of peace and armed conflict to doing what he loved best, exploration. Harrington’s once full head of black hair was now bald on top and gray on the sides; his full beard was neatly trimmed. “Thank you all for coming,” said Admiral Harrington through his beard before continuing, “Today is a turning point in the history of this vessel and her crew. As I prepare for my new assignment as Director of Starfleet Intelligence, this ship and her crew will continue to go boldly into the vast frontier that is space. To my crew I say this, thank you. It has truly been a pleasure serving with you. It is my hope that you will follow your new captain’s orders as if they were mine as you embark on this ship’s final five-year mission. I now turn these proceedings over to the wife of a former captain of this starship, and the mother of its new captain, Admiral Nora Adams Marshall.”
Alex gasped as he saw his mother walk forward slowly, and stand at the podium. He had not expected the Admiral to be able to attend the ceremony, after being told that the distance to travel was too great because of her assignment to the border service, commanding a K-class starbase in the Golvanis system. Captain Marshall struggled to bury the sadness he felt as he thought of his father being unable to witness the proceedings taking place.
“Thank you Admiral Harrington,” said Admiral Marshall in an English accent. “The U.S.S. Constitution NCC-1700 was launched in the year 2244 under the command of Admiral William Jeffries. The ship was rushed to active duty after word that the Klingons had sent several ships to the border near Sherman’s Planet. After leading Starfleet’s forces in battle against the Klingons at Donatu V, Admiral Jeffries retired, and at that time my husband, Brad Marshall, was promoted to captain of the ship.”
A smile played across the Admiral’s face as she now listed the ship’s accomplishments under her husband’s command. “During his ten year tenure as master of this vessel, first contact was made with over eight different species including the Trill, Arcadians, and Efrosians.”
Admiral Marshall took a moment and looked down at the podium. It was only briefly but Alex understood why as his mother continued delivering her speech. “Upon his death, the Constitution’s X.O., Commander Nigel Harrington, was promoted to Captain and assumed command. After two successful five year missions, one to the edge of our galaxy and back again, this ship begins a new chapter in its history. It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to the new captain, my son, Alexander Marshall.”
“Attention to orders,” called out Yu from the back of the room, loud enough for everyone to hear.
Admiral Harrington produced and activated a data slate and read the text it displayed. “To Vice Admiral Nigel Harrington, Commanding Officer, USS Constitution NCC-1700. Stardate 1326. You are hereby requested and required to relinquish command of your vessel to Captain Alexander J. Marshall, commanding officer, USS Resolute as of this date. Signed, Admiral Robert L. Comsol, Commander Starfleet.”
Alex slowly walked over to the podium, quickly activating his own data slate. He then read the text, “To Captain Alexander Marshall, commanding officer, USS Resolute. You are hereby requested and required to relieve Vice Admiral Nigel Harrington of command of the U.S.S. Constitution NCC-1700 effective stardate 1326. Signed, Admiral Robert L. Comsol, Commander Starfleet.”
Marshall then extended his left hand to the Admiral. “I relieve you Admiral.”
“I am relieved,” said Harrington. The Admiral turned to those who had gathered. “This concludes the change of command proceedings. A reception will be held in the Mess Hall to commence in thirty minutes. You are dismissed.” The crowd slowly began to disperse, allowing Marshall to breathe a sigh of relief for the first time since he had stepped on board.
“A word of advice,” said Harrington turning to the younger man.
“Of course,” said Marshall keeping his voice low.
“They are a good crew, one of the best this ship has ever had. Treat them and the ship very well, and they’ll bring you home,” offered the Admiral.
“I’ll remember that,” said Alex gratefully, nodding in understanding.
“I’m glad to see Starfleet Command was wise enough to give you command of the ship,” said Harrington. He paused before continuing, “I know she isn’t the Enterprise, but she’s still a fine ship, one of the best in the fleet. I can’t think of anyone better to take her out on her last five year mission.”
“Part of me wishes it wasn’t her last,” said Marshall wistfully.
“Me too,” Nigel concurred sadly as he looked around the cargo bay, hoping it would not be the last time he would get to see the ship. There were a lot of memories that he held dear, some good, some bad. His mind wandered to those who had perished in the line of duty, and he found his thoughts drifting to Brad Marshall. “This is probably not the first time you’ve heard this today, but coming from someone who served with your father, he would have been proud of you.”
“Thank you Admiral,” said the Captain. He had a slight smile on his face; thinking of the possibilities, hoping that the ship’s first mission under his command would be one of exploration, deep on the frontier.
“Well Captain, if you’ll excuse me,” said Harrington.
“Of course,” said Marshall, gesturing toward the door.
“Good luck to you and your crew,” the Admiral wished as he began walking toward the exit.
Alex quickly scanned the room with his eyes. There were not as many people in the room as there was before. He decided it was time to visit with his family, and walked over to where his mother was now standing. “Hi Mom,” he greeted, keeping his voice low.
Admiral Marshall looked up at her son as she cleared a strand of her brown hair from her face. “Forgive me Alex, I lied to you. I hope you liked the surprise,” she said with a smile.
The captain nodded before declaring, “Yes I did, believe me. You said your duties on K-19 were too important for you to be here, something about your squadron conducting training exercises in a remote sector.”
“How do you think I got back to Earth in time to be here?” replied Nora, her smile widening. “I just wish your father could have been here to see this.”
“That would have been nice,” replied Alex with a hint of sadness in his voice.
The Admiral nodded. “I know, I miss him too.” She frowned slightly as she thought of her husband. While she had accepted his death, it was something she had not completely recovered from. She studied the room for a moment; this particular cargo bay had bad memories for her, the spot where Brad’s funeral had been. She took comfort in the thought that it was now the spot where her son had assumed command of the starship.
“I probably wouldn’t be in Starfleet if it wasn’t for him,” replied the Constitution’s new captain. A smile formed on his face, no longer wanting to dwell on such difficult times.
“Alex,” said the shorter blonde woman now addressing him, “congratulations.”
“Thank you Jenna,” he said to his younger sister dressed in a Science blue dress uniform. “How are things in the border service?” he asked.
“About as good as can be expected,” she replied. Jenna then said, “Tommy said to tell you that he wished he could be here, but he’s on Deneva trying to close a deal for the company.”
“Leave it to Tommy to put business in front of family, even if it is the family business,” said Marshall referring to their younger sibling, Thomas, now running their families dilithium mining corporation on Alpha Centauri. He then turned to the shorter man standing next to Jenna. “Cadet.”
“Hi Dad,” said Cadet Jason Marshall, a first year cadet at Starfleet Academy. He was almost the spitting image of his father.
“How’s your classes going?” asked Marshall.
“Very well, it looks like I’m going to pass with all A’s,” said Jason.
Marshall smiled, and nodded. “I’m proud of you son.”
Jason replied, “No Dad, I’m proud of you. If this wasn’t Ironsides last five year mission I would request to serve on board when I graduated.”
“Well never say never, keep your grades up and you’ll get on board during the last year,” Marshall offered. He cleared his throat before saying, “Well Mom, what do you say we blow off the reception for a while, and tour the ship. You can tell me old war stories while we’re at it.”
Nora looked back up and smiled at her son. “I’d like that.” Nora quickly walked toward the exit to the cargo bay, Alex following her as the doors parted in the middle and allowed them to exit. As they began to move down the now quiet corridor she asked, “Did I ever tell you about the time your father had the ambassador from Quelles IV on board?”
“You did, but let’s go see the actual spot in the Observation Deck where Dad got into the fist fight with him. If I remember right, Dad cleaned the ambassador’s clock,” said Alex, and he smiled as he listened to his mother begin the story.