Personal letter to my parents: I have just finished my watch at the Conn and I would like to tell you about it. For starters, a watch is a four-hour shift. OH, I guess I should also tell you, "having the Conn" is when you basically are running the Bridge. As I started my watch at 2000 Zulu, I was so nervous. Most of the crew were asleep or going to sleep and I was in charge for the first time. I didn’t even have Jace with me during this shift. We launched from the space dock as scheduled, just over ten hours ago and all was quiet as we headed toward the edge of our solar system. As with any new ship, we had some minor issues needing attention, but between Connor Marlin, Bradley Kanye and Jace, they put the right people on each job. As I said, I must admit, I was nervous as hell with this being my first watch at the Conn.
Anyone who wouldn’t be nervous is either a fool or extremely brave. None of us have ever been in outer space; we don’t know what to expect and we don’t know what we will come across, or who. How can you fully prepare for the unknown? Even adults would be at least a little nervous. What if we get sucked into a wormhole and end up on the other side of the galaxy or in an entirely different galaxy? I don’t expect that to happen, but you never know.
Jace got off duty a few minutes before Captain Bowman turned the Conn over to me, and I expected him to be asleep when I came to our quarters. He looks so cute snuggling with the black Lab that Captain Bowman allowed us to keep aboard. His one requirement, if the puppy makes a mess, WE must clean it up and make the spot look new. Jace named the puppy Shadow. I'm going to sign off this letter for now so I can take Shadow's place.
The bed just doesn’t feel the same without Jordan beside me. I still can’t fathom the idea, we are married. When we first discussed the idea of marriage, we didn’t know if we would even be on the same ship, but we were hoping and had planned to have whoever was the Captain marry us once we were both eighteen. Thankfully, we are on the same ship and due to the nature of this mission, Fleet Admiral Mirah was kind enough to let us marry before launch. Details of our wedding night are personal, but I felt like Jordan had already started his deep exploration. I hope that he felt the same towards me. It felt so good having him inside me as well as being inside him. The one regret that we have is, we both would like to adopt a child or two, but what are the chances of that while in space. At least, we will still be somewhat young and might be able to adopt once we get back to earth.
One of our wedding gifts, we were given a puppy. We almost gave him to Mattoo to "watch" for us, even though we figured it would pass before we returned, but then Dave said that as long as we took care of him and cleaned up after him, we could keep Shadow on board. I took him for a walk before retiring; then we settled into the bed and went to sleep, though it took a while. Cuddling with Shadow just wasn't the same as with Jordan.
I woke up with Jordan in my arms instead of Shadow, Jordan felt really good. I love him so very much. I took a big whiff of his scent. Jordan's hair smells like the Phoenix shampoo that we use, mixed with his own natural scent. I could stay here enjoying the smell of him all day, but I don't think Dave or Hal would like that. I kissed the back of his neck and started to get up. Jordan either moaned or groaned. I felt like he was enjoying my being beside him. I hope he always will.
Once I got up, I took Shadow for a walk, then fed him. We went to the holodeck, where I programmed a park so he could run free. After I shut down the simulation, I checked for any waste. I had seen Shadow do his business, but when the holodeck shut down, it must have disappeared, too. I couldn't see it anywhere. Once back in our quarters, I jumped into the shower and washed away any remaining sleep. Getting out, I feel revitalized. I have a short watch today, it starts at 0800, but then we have a staff meeting at 1000. I probably should have scheduled around the meeting, but I didn't want to mess with the flow. Anyway, as long as I put the necessary hours in, my schedule is flexible. I should work to get my schedule in sync with Jordan's schedule. Perhaps after we finish Brad's quarters, I will be able to do that.
Letter continued: Mom and Dad, Jace woke me up this morning, kissing the back of neck. I groaned a little when he got up. I'm hoping that we figured out the rotations soon so that we can spend time together. Fortunately, Jace's position doesn't demand much of him, but he doesn't let that give him any extra time. When his rotation comes, he'll either be on the Bridge, down helping in Engineering, or assisting Brad in the IS Department. If you remember, before the wedding, Commander Fries' quarters experienced a console explosion. We found the cause and are now able to make the necessary repairs. Once completed, they will be Brad Kanye's quarters. Jace promised Connor that he would personally handle the repairs so Brad can get in his quarters, soon. Connor gave him Ensigns Kai Daniels and Tom Kohl, plus a few crewmen to assist. I asked Tom about the expression on his face in that image; he told me that he was looking forward to learning from my husband and spending time with Kai. When I asked him if he was in love with Kai, he admitted that at this time, it is just lust, but he wants to take time, get to know him and possibly love him. I talked with Kai to get his feelings. Kai doesn't think he has a chance of landing a good-looking guy as Tom. Both are sixteen, so hopefully, working together in close quarters, no pun intended, will do them both some good. Jace hopes to have an assessment of the damage and an estimate of the repair time by the end of the day tomorrow. I will finish this after my watch is over tonight. That way I can send it before we leave the solar system. I love you, Mom and Dad.
We were ready to start our first Senior Staff meeting since launching and I was promptly in my seat. Everyone was, except for Kyle Robinson. Dave looked pissed when he looked at Kyle's empty seat. We went ahead and started and I was about to give my report when Kyle came strolling in. The look on his face told me that he was even more pissed than Dave.
Dave started to say something, when Kyle told everyone that someone stole his stuffed penguin. I felt sorry for Kyle. He has talked with Jace and me a few times, and shared with us how much that penguin means to him, but I really feel sorry about how much of a chewing out he will get for being late to the meeting because of it. Dave just said that they would talk after the meeting and we continued. After the meeting, I was talking with Aiden, "You know, as much as Megrez means to Kyle, I don't believe he misplaced it."
Aiden replied, "I agree, Sir. With your permission, I would like to put a team of Security Officers on the job of hunting that penguin down. Kyle is Connor's and my friend, and Megrez means a lot to us, as well. He was there when I found the star Megrez for the first time. He was with us when we were looking at Mars this morning. I don't know how anyone could have gotten in to take him, but I know that Kyle would never just lose him."
"At this time, I don't think I can authorize devoting a team to search for Megrez. I know what he means to Kyle, so suggest that your officers keep their eyes open for the penguin, but we can't waste resources looking for him. As much as he means, Megrez is still a stuffed animal," I instructed. It hurt me saying that, so I was glad Kyle was still in with Dave. I would hate to imagine what Kyle would have thought had he heard me.
It was getting close to my watch on the Bridge when Aiden called me. It seemed as though one of his officers had found the boy who took Megrez. I raced down to the Security Office and saw Kyle Robinson walking in. Aiden was interviewing the boy. I heard the boy claim, "I didn't steal no penguin, my mother gave him to me."
"So, you are telling me that there are two identical penguins aboard this ship?" Aiden asked. "Do you know what the chances of that being?"
"Apparently there are two, but I swear, that penguin isn't Megrez."
"We'll see if Commander Robinson recognizes him," Aiden averred. " Just admit that you took the penguin, and explain how you got into the room and this will go a lot easier on you."
The boy declared, "I'm telling you the truth. My mother gave me this penguin when I was three."
"Can you prove that?" Aiden queried.
"No," the boy admitted. "I just know that is MY penguin."
Aiden handed Kyle the stuffed penguin, and Kyle hugged it. Kyle was about to give the penguin a kiss but stopped. "This isn't Megrez," Kyle groaned.
"Are you sure?" Aiden asked. "He sure looks like Megrez to m…"
Aiden didn't finish his sentence. "No, Megrez doesn't have blue eyes. Let the boy go, he didn't take Megrez." Aiden handed the penguin back to the boy. "And upon knowing this wasn't Megrez, I realized that his scarf and hat are more faded. I should have noticed that right away, but I let my emotions get the better of me."
"Commander Robinson," the boy said, "this is Kochab, I named him after the star in Ursa Minor. When I was arrested and brought here, they told me what happened to your penguin, I couldn't believe there was another penguin like mine aboard. The chances are astronomical, and then I discovered that you named yours after a star in Ursa Major."
Missing his little companion, Kyle looked sad as he listened to the boy, but he had to ask, "How old are you?"
The boy smiled, "I turn fifteen on December the seventh, Sir."
"I can't believe I am saying this, but you're fifteen, almost, and still carrying Kochab around?" Kyle asked.
"You have no idea how much he means to me. My mom gave him to me when I was three, right after…" the boy started to tear up. "She gave him to me right after my dad died. Dad was on his way to a meeting at Space Fleet when the shuttle lost power and crashed in the desert just outside Las ..." The boy couldn't complete his sentence.
The older boy was crying hard as he thought about his father, Kyle held him. Kyle had to ask, "How did you get the name for your penguin?"
The boy pushed away from Kyle enough to look him in the face. He wiped the tears from his face and stated, "Dad was the Chief Astrogator aboard the SS Nimitz, and he swore that the star Kochab spoke to him, all the time. I wanted to be an Astrogator like him, but I missed one too many questions to get in the class."
I reminded Kyle that our watch was coming up, then left while Kyle and the boy were talking.
Kyle arrived on the Bridge several minutes before his shift. Dave nodded in his direction to let Kyle know that he saw him. After Dave left the Bridge, I asked Kyle if he had a nice chat. "I sure did, Will… er, I mean Ensign Crusoe offered to let me keep Kochab until we found Megrez, but I couldn't do that to him, and besides, he wouldn't be the same."
"Megrez has black plastic eyes, so… how did Kochab get blue eyes?" I asked.
"The way Will explained it, his penguin is twelve years old and has been through everything with him. His Mom has repaired that penguin so many times, including replacing panels of material and the eyes. Aside from the eyes, I couldn't tell that she had made any repairs."
"Perhaps once we figure out how and where Megrez wandered to, the two penguins should go on a date." Kyle looked back and smiled at me.
It wasn't long after that when Dave came running onto the Bridge. He asked Kyle if he could see him really quick and Kyle nervously agreed. When Kyle came back out, he explained why Dave wanted to see him. I grimaced, "I hate to say it, but it seems that there is a thief on board." I tapped the comm to inform Aiden.
"I'm getting calls from all over the ship, Sir," Aiden reported. "One person lost a box of chocolates, Crewman Griffey lost a valuable shirt that has belonged to his family ever since his ancestor played for the Mariners over a hundred years ago. If you see someone wearing a shirt with the number twenty-four and the name Griffey on the back, he is our thief."
"OK, get a list of everything reported missing. Captain Bowman and Commander Tietokone have had things missing as well. You have my permission to hunt for Megrez and everything else." Kyle's smile got really big.
I decided to take a shower; while water rained down on me, I thought I heard a noise in our quarters. I finished the shower and went into the bedroom to get dressed. That was when I noticed it. I got on the comm and called Jordan, “Commander Rivers, were you by any chance in our quarters a few minutes ago?”
Jordan replied, “No, I wasn’t. I’ve been on the Bridge. May I ask why you ask, Commander?”
“Yes, Sir,” I responded. “I thought I heard something while I was in the shower, and when I stepped out, Shadow was running loose and the dragon blanket that your parents gave us as a wedding gift was missing from the bed.”
Jordan quickly questioned, "Is there any chance that Shadow grabbed the blanket?"
"I thought of that as a possibility, so I looked all around and don't see it anywhere," I replied, "plus, Shadow was in his cage when I started my shower."
Jordan said, “Well, we’ve been getting reports from all over the ship about missing items. Remember, Megrez disappeared somehow and Captain Bowman had taken Kyle aside. When he came out, Kyle told me that Dave and Hal had items disappear. I’ll ask Aiden to send someone to our quarters and investigate. See if anything else is missing.”
“I will, Sir.” It seemed weird being so formal with my husband. What I couldn't understand is, how did someone get into the room? Only Jordan, myself, Dave, Hal and Aiden have the access code. I looked at the air duct, and it's too small for any crew member. Kyle is the smallest and it would be too tight for him. Maybe a smaller child, but we don't have any aboard ship.
Several crewmembers have reported items missing. This was getting serious. Only a handful of people can even access all the quarters that have had items disappear, And I don't think Dave, Hal or Jordan would be stealing anything. The only other person with total access is me. I know I didn't take anything. If they are not entering by the door, how else could they have gotten in? Jordan called me a few minutes ago and asked me to see Jace in their quarters. It appears that something was taken from them, as well.
The first thing I did was check the records for who accessed the door. I looked at Jace and said, "No one has gone through this door since you entered, that is, until I did a couple of minutes ago. Either the thief was in here when you came in and is still in here, or they walk through walls."
"I was thinking of maybe the vents, but I believe Kyle is our smallest crew member and he would probably get stuck," Jace advised me.
Looking at the vent, it did appear that it wasn't as tight as it should have been. "Commander, you may be onto something. I don't know who could have used it, but it does appear that the vents were used."
Jace asked, "Computer, is there any personnel aboard the ship that could crawl through the venting system?"
"Negative, no personnel assigned to the ship would be able to traverse the tight space," the computer responded.
I looked at Jace and stated, "Hmmm, it's a mystery."
"Sir," Kyle started, "We are approaching the Asteroid Belt. We should have no problem getting through."
"Adjust speed to one quarter impulse, Mr. Robinson," Jordan ordered. Then he hit the comm, "Captain, we are about to enter the Asteroid Belt. Mr. Robinson believes we should have no issues, but you might want to look out a window. This view is breathtaking."
"Understood and thank you," Bowman replied. "Keep me informed."
"Yes Sir," Jordan Rivers returned. "I reduced speed to one quarter impulse to make fitting through easier. We should be out in approximately three minutes and twenty seconds."
As the ship traversed the mass of floating rocks, Kyle did an awesome job of navigating through them. We were almost out when the ship shuddered a little and the main screen went dark. "Sir, our main telescope and sensor went offline. I believe that a small asteroid hit it," Kyle suggested.
"Have we cleared the belt?" Jordan asked.
"We will be out in about twenty seconds," Kyle stated.
Jordan ordered, "Once we are at a safe distance, go to all stop." Then he looked over at Tactical, "Do you have any idea what happened? How could an asteroid get through our navigational shields, and why weren't we alerted that one was heading toward us?" The tactical officer just shrugged his shoulders. Once the ship was stopped, he hit the comm, "Captain, we have cleared the Asteroid Belt, but our main sensor and telescope went offline. Mr. Robinson has reason to believe a small asteroid may have damaged them. I have already started inquiries as to how it could have happened without us being alerted."
The Captain sighed a little, "Have Mr. Marlin and Mr. Robinson take a shuttle out to inspect them.
And that, Mom and Dad was how my day went. I'm signing off so that I can send this. Once the Telescope and Sensor are repaired, we will be minutes away from leaving the solar system. Again, I love you very much, and Jace told me to send you his best.