Two of Us

USS Baldwin - Story 41

Captain's Log, Stardate 55576.9: On the Earth's Gregorian Calendar, it is New Year's Day, the start of the year 2379.

For the 10th Squadron, it's been a productive year maintaining the peace and continuing to update our subspace maps in the Aloran sector. The new fighters assigned to the Winchester have exceeded our expectations. Their combat abilities were demonstrated fairly well in the recent Operation Blackbird. Utopia Planitia has released the second batch of fighters for the Effingham.

The Past year has also brought big personal changes. Commander Petrelli took on the challenge of being a mother of not just one child, but two. My wife was more than happy to dish out parenting advice to Jaimie, as well as to Stephanie Taylor, who also had her first child, Ginger, a couple of weeks ago.

As for me, I was recalled to sector 001 just after the Christmas holiday to be debriefed by Starfleet Command and interviewed by the press. Although I had to leave my ship and my family behind, I did not come alone.

"How was your meeting with Starfleet Command?" Jenna asked as she came aboard Neosho.

"My performance review with HQ was pretty good," Patrick answered. "Then again, no one else had to deal with a rogue colony."

"That was a unique situation," Jenna noted. "One that gave you additional scrutiny from the press."

"Judging by the latest FNS poll, some think I should retire from Starfleet and go into politics."

"What about moving up into the Admiralty?"

"You know, if you told me when we were in high school that I would make Captain by now, let alone be a five-year veteran in command of a starship, I would have said you were crazy. I have always been more of the 'hands-on' type, doing instead of leading and documenting. You know that." Jenna nodded in agreement as Patrick continued. "However, there is one possible reason I'd take a desk job: a bigger family."

"That is one thing I would not have imagined you eventually having back in high school."

"That's mainly because you thought I was a little weird." Patrick broke off the conversation to request clearance to depart. "Orbital Control, this is Neosho, we're ready to roll."

"Acknowledged, Neosho. Safe travels."

"Setting course for Aloran IV, warp 4," Patrick continued. "ETA: 18 hours."

"18 hours at warp 4? That's unbelievable!" Jenna exclaimed.

"That's a secret few people outside the squad know," Patrick noted. "With Aloran still undeveloped, we can't invite commercial traffic just yet."

Acting Captain's Log, Stardate 55577.2: Baldwin and Ottawa are in orbit of Aloran IV awaiting the arrival of Captain Ingrum and Captain Carson.

Sara sat down next to Jessica. "How has life at the Ingrum Compound been treating you?"

"We've got the new industrial replicator almost ready. Once we get that running, we can get started with the foundation for a new structure."

"What sort of new structure are you planning?"

"We're starting with a new house, so that each of us has our own room and so that Patrick can have his own home back. He has been kind to let us live here with few strings attached, but this house is his home, and we're ready to give it back."

"Don't feel you have to rush out of here," Sara stated. "You're family, after all."

"I know," Jessica retorted, "but even though he's my baby sister's husband, I still find it weird to call him a brother."

"To be honest, I find it weird that Bridget has been deferring to me. Technically, she outranks me."

Bridget heard Sara's commented and felt compelled to add a comment. "I may outrank you, but while Jaimie is inactive, you are the captain until Patrick returns."

"How is Jaimie, by the way?" Jessica asked.

"She's bonding well with her new daughter. Joshua is getting used to his little sister."

"What about my favorite niece?"

"She's growing up fast, and I think she's happy to have other kids around."

"Tiana might not feel the same way if you have more kids," Sara commented.

"I don't know about that," Jessica remarked. "As the oldest of seven sisters, I never felt resentment for any of my siblings."

Six hours into the Neosho's flight, Patrick and Jenna sat together in the aft compartment eating lunch. "So, what else did you learn while you were at Starfleet Command?" Jenna inquired.

"There's a couple of new innovations in development. First, Starfleet wants our transporters to match the range the Dominion demonstrated. They're pulling out an old, unperfected theory called 'Transwarp Beaming.'"

"If I remember correctly, it was Montgomery Scott himself that first came up with the concept while he was still chief engineer of the original Enterprise."

"Very astute, Jen. It has been a while since he has gone over his research. Having some time plus a couple of captured Dominion transporters could help perfect the technology."

"So, what's the second 'big thing?'"

"When Voyager returned from the Delta Quadrant, they brought home a concept called Quantum Slipstream Drive. Voyager created a prototype but was only able to get it working for short periods, which was quite an undertaking considering they did not have access to Starfleet R&D. Unfortunately, in order for the Slipstream Drive to work, Starfleet engineers have to rethink ship design. Ottawa might be compatible, Baldwin definitely is not."

"What does that mean for you and Baldwin?"

"Starfleet is considering decommissioning Baldwin. When we found her, she was still serviceable enough to serve, and she still is. However, she is getting a little long in the tooth. I suspect they'll pull the plug on her sooner rather than later. If and when that happens, I suspect I'll be given the choice between Baldwin's replacement or a desk job."

"Let me guess, the one you take depends on whether or not Bridget has another bun in the oven," Jenna quipped.

Before Patrick could answer, the cabin shook violently, and the lights flickered off. "What the hell!" Patrick exclaimed as he swiftly walked toward the cockpit.

"Do we have a problem?"

"I'm afraid our reunion with our ships will be delayed slightly. We ran into a nasty subspace wave. Everything subspace related; warp drive, radio, and sensors; are down."

"So, we're stuck and can't call for help."

"I can patch the radio, but it's still going to take a while."

Sara, Bridget, and Jaimie were having lunch with the rest of Bridget's sisters when the communication console indicated an incoming call. "I got it," Bridget indicated. "Ingrum residence, this is Bridget Ingrum."

Susan's image appeared on the console's viewscreen. "Is Sara there, Bridget?"

"I'm here, Susan. What's going on?"

"I just got off the line with Starfleet Command. A subspace wave has disrupted traffic. Several vessels have requested assistance."

"I take it Ottawa has been ordered to render aid?"

"We're getting ready to head out now. Baldwin has been allowed to stay at Aloran to await the arrival of Captain Ingrum; however, Bridget, if you don't mind, I'd like to borrow some of your engineering staff."

"Sure thing. We'll also try to check in on Patrick and Jenna. Hopefully, they didn't get caught up in all of this."

"Understood. We'll check in this afternoon. Ottawa out."

"Do you think that Patrick will get himself into trouble?" Sara asked.

"I'd give anything to be a fly on the wall with those two together."

"Why do you say that?"

"Patrick and Jenna have a history going back over 15 years."

"You're not thinking Patrick's going to cheat on you?"

"Hell no! It's just that there was a time when they did not get along, although any issues between them were smoothed over by the time I had met them."

"Well, the bad news is that the warp coils are shot. We are definitely going to need a pickup," Patrick explained.

"What's the good news?" Jenna inquired.

"The subspace radio just has a few blown circuits and is easily repairable. It is going to take a bit of time."

"The sooner we get that radio fixed, the sooner we can get someone to pick us up," Jenna noted. "Do you need anything from me?"

"I'm good as far as fixing the radio. I hope you don't mind if I play a little music while I work."

"Go right ahead."

"Computer," Patrick instructed. "play a song shuffle from library Ingrum One."

The computer beeped in acknowledgment before starting 'You're the Only Woman.' "Seriously," Jenna quipped, "are you and Bridget having trust issues?"

"Bridget made a similar comment when I slow-danced with her to this song recently," Patrick answered as he worked on the subspace radio. "She made it clear that she does trust me."

"If we were talking a romantic context, I would agree that Bridget is, in fact, your only love. I'd almost say she was made just for you." Patrick sat up upon hearing his friend's remark, bumping his head on the open panel. "Is there something wrong?"

"No, but that last remark struck a bit of a nerve."

"I'm sorry," Jenna apologized, "I didn't mean to infer that Bridget being an Augment made her any less of a person."

"I know. Everyone that knows Bridget well thinks very highly of her and the same goes for Roslyn and Valerie. It's just that outside our circle, I realize that Augments have what I best refer to as a racial stigma."

"I hate to agree with you on that point, but I must. Of course, we both know why that stigma is there in the first place."

"I'd say I've experienced the best and the worst of humanity more so than most," Patrick noted. "It's a regular debriefing topic for me."

Jenna took Patrick's remark as a cue to segue into another topic. "As for a non-romantic context, there's no way Bridget has a monopoly on that."

As Jenna finished her remark, the first song had finished, and the computer picked out the second song from the shuffle. Patrick had to let out a silent chuckle at the selection. "The computer seems to have a way in shuffling the songs. How appropriate that the next song is 'I Loved 'Em Everyone' by T.G. Sheppard."

"That's kind of what I was thinking," Jenna remarked. "Except for your wife and daughter, every woman you know well is almost like a sister to you, myself included. I think that's part of why I found you as odd; however, it's also why I think you made captain before me."

"I only made captain first because of the war. I would have been content with a little more time as XO, while you would have undoubtedly passed me on the career ladder."

"Don't sell yourself short. The average casualty rate aboard ships that made it through the Dominion War was 35%. Baldwin had a 9% casualty rate, Ottawa had 8.4%. The way I see it, your biggest objective in the war was to survive and to keep the family together. It's something I feel I got from you and learned and applied when I took Ottawa."

"I think part of my style comes from my mindset going into the war. Obviously, I lost my family at the outset, and I had little time to grieve. I guess by treating everyone like family, I felt the need to protect it. In other words, my objective in the war was simply to survive."

"There's little doubt that your survival strategy was successful. More than that, your style has led Baldwin to thrive in peacetime. I guess I picked up your command style, and I'm glad I did."

Patrick couldn't help but smile. There was a time that personal tension between him and Jenna was high, and they were not on speaking terms. By the time he had graduated from Starfleet Academy, the tension had eased somewhat, but since they wound up drawing different ships, they simply let time sew what rifts remained between them.

After the second song finished, Patrick got up from under the panel he was working on. "Okay, the radio should be running now. Can you send out a general priority signal indicating that we need help."

"Sure thing, Jenna replied as she walked to a table console and opened a channel. "Pan-pan, pan-pan, pan-pan. To anyone hearing this message, this is the USS Neosho. We were struck by a subspace wave. Our warp drive and sensors are inoperative. We require assistance, preferably a lift to the nearest starbase or to the USS Baldwin."

The communications console at the Ingrum Compound once again indicated an incoming message, and Bridget checked to review it. "Sara, it looks like Patrick and Jenna got hit by the subspace weather. It's a priority message from the Neosho."

"Let's hear it," Sara answered. Bridget played the message Jenna had recorded. "I'd say that we need to make the pickup. Let's give them a call."

"Neosho, this is Aloran IV. You doing all right out there?" Bridget transmitted back.

"We're dead in the water without warp drive or sensors, but everything else is still running," Jenna responded. "We can sit here and enjoy a replicated dinner and listen to Patrick's music mix while we wait to be picked up."

"Does Patrick's mix include any Yacht Rock for his yacht?"

"So far," Patrick commented, "we've done Yacht Rock, Country, and a little Jazz. So far, the Beatles haven't come up."

"We're on our way to pick you up," Sara indicated just as the proximity alarm sounded.

"I think I just heard the proximity alarm in the background. Is there any trouble?"

"Bridget's checking on it now," Sara stated.

"Looks like we got a couple of bogeys approaching the planet. Unfortunately, Starfleet sent Ottawa out to respond to other disabled ships," Bridget added.

"Understood. Sara, go ahead and look into those bogeys before coming for us. We're not in any danger and aren't going anywhere," Patrick instructed.

"You two hang tight," Bridget remarked. "We'll try and get you before you can get on each other's nerves."

"I doubt that's going to happen," Jenna quipped, "but do try to get here as soon as you can. Neosho out."

After the call from Aloran IV, Jenna returned to her conversation with Patrick. "Do you think Sara can handle a possible fight?" she asked.

"If I had any doubts about Sara," Patrick answered, "I would not have made her my acting XO."

"You know, she reminds me of a certain professional-track officer that got directed into command. He wound up being a pretty decent CO."

"I probably should take that as a compliment."

"Damn straight."

The Baldwin had gone to yellow alert by the time Sara and Bridget had beamed aboard. Bridget made a bee-line toward engineering, while Sara made her way to the bridge. "Laura lay out an intercept course and engage at warp 2."

"Aye, sir, Warp 2."

"Engage."

Even at the relatively low speed, it did not take long to intercept the unidentified ship. "We're in visual range now, sir," Donna noted.

"Put it up," Sara noted. "Captain Ingrum is going to love this," the acting captain remarked satirically as the viewscreen showed the all too familiar purple scarab-like lines of a Jem'Hadar Fighter clone. "Red alert! Charge phasers and load torpedoes."

"Weapons are hot," Donna noted.

"Open a channel." A chime indicated that the channel was open. "Unidentified vessel, this is the USS Baldwin. You are operating an illegal vessel in Federation space. Stand down and prepare to be boarded." The warbug responded by firing upon the Starfleet ship. The blows did not have the impact of the captured 'Blackbird' weapon but annoyed Sara none the less. "Return fire!"

Donna replied with a controlled display of phaser and quantum torpedo fire. Sara had already attempted the first action to apply when encountering a hostile vessel: ordering them to surrender. Sometimes they surprise you and actually do as ordered. That was not the case here. Now, they were on to step two: disable the ship and arrest its occupants for possessing a ship considered illegal in the Federation. "Whoever is piloting that warbug, they're good," the tactical officer remarked. "They have managed to evade most of the torpedoes. Their shields are at 93 percent."

Baldwin's bridge shook as the ship took polaron fire. "Laura," Sara inquired, "do you think you can fly a counter pattern?"

"Working on it."

Laura was able to match the warbug's course and speed long enough for Donna to achieve a firing pattern and launch two quantum torpedoes at the opposing ship. "Enemy shields, weapons, and engines have been disabled," Donna noted.

"In that case, let's take and hold this vessel," Sara stated. "Security teams Alpha 1 and Alpha 2, report to the transporter room. Teams Beta 1 and Beta 3, report to your duty stations and prepare for boarding action." After an incident aboard the Winchester a year ago, Sara wasn't taking any chances regarding their opponent's transporter. "Donna, lock on a tractor beam, and hold on to the warbug it's secured."

"Okay, you've asked me about my debriefings," Patrick noted, "now, it's your turn. How were your meetings?"

"While you were dealing with the politics and new technology, the brass was checking with me on the Aloran sector. They wanted to hear what I felt about the factions trying to bring trouble to Federation Space via the sector. Thankfully, they feel we've got it under control. They probably won't consider additional resources so long as we are able to maintain the status quo with minimal casualties."

"I've gotten the same vibe from the brass as well," Patrick noted, "though we are still a 'go' on replacing Effingham's fighters."

"In between meetings," Jenna continued. "I was trying to dig up anything I could find regarding the initial disappearance of the Baldwin 60 years ago. I actually found something."

"Really," Patrick stated. "I looked into the Starfleet Archives for anything on Baldwin back before the Torros mission. I got nothing. I assumed the records were somehow lost."

"They weren't lost, just part of some papers that were classified and nobody knew why."

"Seeing as how Baldwin is my ship, you'd think somebody would have read me in. I'd consider the history something that I need to know."

"From what I could tell, Starfleet Command reviewed the records and decided to declassify it. It's definitely something you deserved to know a long time ago. The first thing I noticed was the name of her original captain: Patrick C. Ingrum. I have to assume the similar name is not a coincidence."

"No, it is most certainly is not. He was my great-grandfather and, needless to say, my namesake. I know that he died in 2309, but I was always told he died on Aloran, not in orbit. I also knew he had a ship, but I never knew which ship."

"The report from Baldwin's surviving senior officer at the time indicated that a Cardassian ship attacked without warning or provocation. In the first strike, they blew a hole through the bridge. The senior officer ordered the survivors to abandon ship. Starfleet picked them up on the surface of Aloran."

"I can surmise the rest of the story: rather than initiate the auto-destruct, they cloaked the ship, leaving it adrift until I found it again. You know, now you've got me intrigued. I know my family led the effort to develop Aloran for the Federation, in part because of my great-grandfather. It makes me wonder how many of the early Aloran IV colonists were survivors of the original Baldwin crew."

"Now that you've confirmed that your predecessor as the captain of Baldwin is your ancestor, I think it's safe to say that Baldwin is part of your family legacy. Do you mind if I give you some advice?"

"Sure."

"Seeing as how you mentioned the possibility of Baldwin being decommissioned, I'd campaign to have her replacement carry the same name."

"I certainly would do so if the time came for it, though I don't know if Starfleet Operations would necessarily re-use the name."

"If and when the time comes, you will have my support."

Sara was in the ready room writing up a routine after-action report when an intercom chimed to indicate that someone on the bridge was calling her. "Jackson here," she answered.

"We have an incoming call from the Winchester," Donna stated.

"Put it through," Sara instructed as Bernie's face appeared on the console. "Captain Tyler, what can I do for you?"

"I heard that you had your first solo run-in with a Warbug," Bernie answered. "I thought I'd check in to see how you are doing."

"I've got a security team holding the warbug while we go to pick up the Neosho. Ottawa is still answering repair calls. Do you think you can relieve our security team and take our captured warbug to Starbase?"

"We're on our way, I mainly called to check in on you, captain to acting captain."

"It certainly wasn't what I had planned for my New Year's Day. I expected things to be quiet."

"That's what usually happens. Needless to say, criminals don't take holidays."

"And neither do we, I got that."

Before Bernie could offer any additional advice, Baldwin's red-alert claxons sounded. "Looks like you still got your hands full. I'll let you go. Good luck, captain."

Sara exited the ready room on the Bridge. "Report," she ordered.

"We got another bogey," Donna answered. "They're on an intercept course."

"Do we have a visual?"

"They are just entering visual range now." Donna put the visual on the main viewer. The bogey turned out to be another 'warbug.'

"Open a channel."

"This is a new one," Donna noted, "they are hailing us."

"All right, let's hear what they have to say."

"Looks like they are sending audio only," Donna noted

"Federation vessel," announced the opposing ship, "we will no longer tolerate your presence in this sector. Prepare to be destroyed."

"I hope you got that on the record," Sara stated. "I'm going to need it for the after-action report I'm going to have to write up after this."

"Done," Donna answered. "I assume you believe that we're facing an opponent that will give no quarter."

"You assume correctly. Charge phasers and set the yields on the Quantum Torpedoes to maximum. I want to give this ship back to Captain Ingrum intact."

"Weapons are hot."

"May God have mercy on my soul," Sara noted. "Fire at will."

Unlike the earlier use of force, Baldwin fired a full barrage of phasers on the warbug, following up with a volley of quantum torpedoes. The warbug unsuccessfully weaved in an attempt to avoid the onslaught; however, the ship fired precise strikes on Baldwin with its polaron beam.

"Shields down to 60 percent," Donna reported.

"Evasive maneuvers. Laura, I trust that you can shake them."

"On it, captain."

For the first time since Patrick was recalled to Earth, Sara felt comfortable being addressed as 'captain.' Her tour as the temporary CO was supposed to be mostly administrative. It seems that fate has other plans, Sara thought.

Laura flew Baldwin through sharp turns and loops that the pursuing ship's pilot could not easily follow. Donna was able to score multiple phaser strikes while the warbug made miss after miss. After making one last loop, Donna fired two quantum torpedoes, resulting in a 'kill.'

"Stand down from red alert," Sara ordered. "Laura, let's go pick up our people."

"Setting course for the Neosho," Laura responded. "Captain, I would recommend that we maintain at least warp 7."

"Make it so," Sara replied without missing a beat. "Donna, you have the bridge. I haven't finished the first after-action report. Now I need to write up a second."

While Jenna and Patrick were waiting on Baldwin to pick them up, Patrick had made additional adjustments to the subspace radio, allowing them to connect with the Federation Database. "Okay, we're in," Jenna noted. "Where do you want to start?"

"Why don't we start with the surviving senior officer."

"Okay, I've got the JAG report from Stardate 12557.5. Looks like the surviving Senior Officer was the chief engineer, a Lieutenant Commander Everett Palmer."

"Palmer?" Patrick inquired. "Any chance you can pull up a personal log entry mentioning a daughter, say around 10-15 months prior to the date of the JAG report?"

"I got it. I'm playing it for you now."

Personal Log, Stardate 12393.9: I just got a call from my wife this morning. It turns out we are having a girl. We both agreed that she will be named 'Tiana,' because after having five boys she will be the princess of our family.

We're exploring a sector of space near an area of heavy plasma storms that we have come to know as 'the Badlands.' We have found a couple of worlds nearby that Captain Ingrum has ordered us to survey.

"That is not a coincidence," Patrick stated. "His Tiana is my grandmother and, obviously, my daughter's namesake."

"And now," Jenna quipped, "we know that both your daughter and your grandmother had a parent who was the chief engineer of the Baldwin."

"Based on his commentary, Baldwin was approaching the Aloran system. Skip ahead a few days."

"On it." Jenna quickly found the next log entry.

Ship's Log, Chief Engineer Everett Palmer, Stardate 12400: The Baldwin was able to take out an attacking Cardassian warship but took severe damage. The Cardassians took out our shields and managed to blow a hole in the bridge. We lost everyone up there, including Captain Ingrum and Commander Ripley. Given the totality of the circumstances, as the senior officer aboard, I am invoking General Order 13 and ordering everyone to evacuate. If there is a bright side to this, the bridge crew were the only casualties, everyone else has been accounted for.

On a personal note, I give my condolences to the Ingrum and Ripley families. Captain Ingrum's son Charlie is old enough that he will remember his dad. However, Jimmy Ripley is only two years old he probably won't have any memories of his mother.

"That makes three!" Patrick exclaimed.

"That is something special," Jenna noted. "So, how is Commander Ripley related to you?"

"James Ripley married Tiana Palmer and had a daughter."

"That would be your mom, right."

"Right, Allison Ripley Ingrum." As Patrick was explaining his family tree to Jenna, he started to illustrate the tree on a PADD.

"Okay, and from Patrick C. Ingrum, I assume that Charlie was your grandfather."

"Yep, and I can fill in my father, Scott Ingrum, right here. Let's not forget my sister Anna and I guess you can consider Issac to be my twin brother. Finally, I can add Bridget and Tiana, and there's the start of my family tree."

"Looks like we've come to a good stopping point just in time. Baldwin is hailing us."

"Put it through."

Sara's image appeared on a wall monitor. "Sorry it took a little longer than we thought it would, we ran into a little trouble with a couple of warbugs."

"I understand," Patrick answered. "We'll put Neosho in shuttle bay 1 and talk about it when we get on board."

Captain's Log, Stardate 55282.2: I have had a day to review the after-action reports regarding Baldwin's engagements while I was away. The increase in aggressiveness by those opposed to Starfleet's presence in the Aloran Sector is certainly concerning.

The doorbell to the ready room rang to let Patrick know someone was waiting for him. "Come in, Sara." Sara entered the Ready Room as instructed. "It seems your tenure as Baldwin's captain was a bit more eventful than you expected."

"I can't disagree with you, sir."

"Looks like you managed to capture one warbug and took out another, both with casualties limited to some minor scrapes and bruises."

"As a JAG lawyer, I'm well aware of the law, and of the rules of engagement. As for command decisions, I just tried to do what you would have done."

"I can't disagree with you on that, Sara. When the second warbug announced 'no quarter,' I would have gone for a kill. A starship's crew is like a family: you do what you have to do for them. It's what got me through the war, and helps me to thrive in peace. Also, everyone I've talked to thought your actions were justified. There is just one minor issue."

"What is that, sir?"

"Bridget indicated to me you were a little intimidated of her rank."

"I know," Sara responded. "It just felt a little awkward to consider someone higher in rank to be a subordinate. She respected your decision to place me in that position, but if it were the other way around, I'm not so sure if I would have done the same thing."

"The position of authority comes, to some extent, by earning respect, whether it's as a computer tech, lawyer, or a starship captain. You have earned some of that respect, and because of that, I can relieve you of some of that awkwardness." Patrick pulled out a small box from under his desk and opened it. "I hereby promote you to the rank of Lieutenant Commander," he stated as he applied the black rank pip to Sara's collar. "Bridget suggested that I promote you and Jaimie emphatically concurred. Make no mistake, this reflects all that you have accomplished and a small part of your potential."

"Thank you, Captain," Sara stated as she gave Patrick a hug.