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‘The Kestrel spreads her wings'

Main Bridge, USS Kestrel

"Captain McGregor." Molly nodded her head politely and relinquished the conn as the captain stepped onto the bridge from the turbolift entrance. Molly took a second take at Stanley moving forwards to take over at helm. If she didn't know better, she would have sworn the blue-skinned helmsman looked flushed. "All personnel aboard and accounted. All stations secured for launch. Starbase operations reports we have clearance across the board."

"Very good Molly." He smiled as Dr. Monroe now stepped onto the bridge from the turbolift entrance with the three new ensigns in tow. "Well, well, well, look at what the doctor brought."

"Judith thought it would be nice for the younglings to be on the bridge for the launch of the ship. A gesture if you will."

The Captain levelled a stern expression at Molly for going along with the doctor's good-natured notion. "No doubt Monroe felt it would do them a world of good and help encourage them."

"No doubt."

"Pity she didn't remember that Mr. Templar has served aboard before - before his disgrace."

Pointedly Molly whispered back, "Many of us have made mistakes. It's how we atone for them that counts."

"Indeed Molly. As for the Trill, this is old hat for her. And Cutler ... well ... I suppose he'll only ever get one shot at this. I'll allow it. Don't normally agree with having visitors on my bridge."

"They're not visitors."

"No." His eyes narrowed. "How was Paul?"

Molly deferred the question by stating, "We need to talk later Captain."

Wrong footed and thinking Molly knew what he had just been up to he tried to placate her. "Oh not to worry Molly, I was merely expatiating matters, cutting the red tape. You know I don't like bureaucracy. It's not theft. Merely an acquisition."

"What are you on about? Or should I say what did you do?"

"The shuttle was a requisition but bureaucracy was delaying its delivery. By acting I was merely carrying out a requisition with expedition."

"Is expedition your word for the day? Now do you care to explain yourself more clearly? For it's obvious I'll be the one making the calls to clear up whatever mess you've made."

"Not now Molly, we've a ship to launch. And we have to do it with expedition! We really do!" McGregor whirled round on his foot and spread his arms expansively in mock greeting.

"So newbies, here ye are back on the bridge. This is it. The moment the Kestrel moves out of its docking bay and begins its tour of duty. It is a momentous occasion, my fledglings. Whence we go and begin our great adventures. A quite formal moment, quite portentous, quite moving really. Ok Stanley, make contact with the Starbase and get this show on the road. Time to go hunting." His thoughts darkened as he envisioned cornering T'Hos.

"Starbase grants permission to depart, Captain."

"Thank ye Stanley. Take us out. You have the bridge Molly."

With that, he walked briskly off the bridge leaving the ensigns standing at the back of the bridge without a word or a look.

Cursing himself just as he said it, Cutler blurted out, "You're just going to leave!"

"My ship, my rules - my boyo." He flashed a predatory smile on the cusp of the turbolift door daring the young man to mention a Starfleet regulation or other. Heard ‘em all before!

"Eh ... yes of course sir ... I just meant ..." Jex elbowed him in a poor attempt to shut him up. No such joy with Cutler. As she well knew, he could put his foot in his mouth more often than a hungry cannibalistic millipede. "I meant it is a thrill for us to be here as the ship is launched on its new mission."

McGregor stepped back. Stanley peeped back from the Helm control systems intrigued by the Captain's apparent submission. The Commander winced for Noah's sake. Tac laughed to himself.

McGregor adopted a lofty tone as he extolled. "Yes this is a truly significant moment in Starfleet history. Records in the future will look back and comment and debate what each officer on the bridge was doing and thinking at the time of the launch. For it had never happened before."

Dropping the fake voice, he continued drolly. "Kid it's not as if I haven't left this very docking ring, standing on this very bridge for the very same mission brief for the hundreeeenth time! You enjoy it for it is a big deal for you but not me. Twenty years I've bled, sweated and other bodily functioned on this ship. I don't need to hear the kiss of the docking rings as they disengage, or the shunt and fall away of the umbilical cords that tied us to the station. Nor do I need to think of the station giving birth to the ship, a ship of dreams and possibilities. If that gets you through the day then away you go. Me, I'm headed for the senior officer's quarters for a celebratory drink. Coming doc?"

Monroe frowned but acquiesced feigning that she was indulging the captain's humour. She gave the viewscreen, the retreating sight of Starbase 49 and the retreating thoughts of Jocum one last glance before catching up with the captain.

Molly came up to the ensigns a moment later when the immediate business of clearing the base and the lines of space traffic was concluded. The viewscreen shifting from viewing the space base and its many outlaying habitats, docking berths and milling vessels to showing an expanse of foreboding and thrilling open space.

"Why don't you three go get settled down and catch a good night's sleep? Tomorrow you report at oh-six-hundred hours at your respective stations. I'll see you two gentlemen on the bridge tomorrow morning and I wish you well Ensign Jex in Engineering. It's a different ball game once we're flying. That's when McGregor starts in earnest and starts teaching you command 101 McGregor style. Till tomorrow then."

She nodded at them and silently they left with a mix of emotions. Before the doors of the turbolift closed, Noah took one last look back at the viewscreen and the wide-open space ahead of them. The Kestrel was space bound, underway and their mission to patrol the border now begun in earnest. Noah felt his stomach churn with anticipation, in trepidation, dread and deeper down a horrible foreboding he did not wish to acknowledge.


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