Chapter 1 - A Long Ride Home

It had already been 2 into the 3 days of their journey, the Type 9 Shuttle would not be one’s first choice of travel. T’Preava, Hou Yi’s new Chief Medical Officer, had been ferried from the nearest star system to Esquimalt Station. Current home of her new ship. 


“Computer. Stop playback.” The shuttle was suddenly filled with calm, at least in the opinion of T’Preava. However, for the shuttle’s pilot, Ensign Cartwright, it felt like a deafening silence. “I have told you several times, ensign: I would like to have this journey in silent meditation. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t play that while I slept.” The shuttle was small and quite cramped for two people to share for as long as they had already, and tensions were appearing to build. “Sorry ma’am.” He paused for a second, and let his arm slide down the edge of the console. “It’s just been such a long flight, and I don’t mean to speak out of turn but the silence is starting to kill me. And I wish they’d have designed these shuttles with a replicator. Not that you can fix that.”


Now with exasperation in his voice, Ensign Cartwright spun in his chair as he tried to plead with his passenger. “You only had to make this trip once. Remember this is a round trip for me, a whole week!” As T’Preava walked into the cockpit and sat on the right-hand seat, she was quick to bring further detail that she felt should not be omitted. “This may be true, however on the first leg of your journey you were solitary; and I can only assume that you were comfortable enough to play music, and anything else you felt you wanted to. Also, you did spend 5 days on Canabal Station so that you would not have to endure without respite. As I recall you were quite the social creature.” The ensign sunk his head in dissatisfaction. 


A few minutes passed in silence, T’Preava had begun running engine diagnostics while Cartwright simply stared through the forward window, brainstorming a way to get the Vulcan to loosen up. He had begun to tap his fingers on the edge of the console without noticing. T’Preava tried her best to silence the noise in her head and continue her system diagnostics, but she heard it all the same. She wouldn’t give the satisfaction of appearing bothered by it however. The Ensign wasn’t used to such silent interactions, he felt awkward and had the need to break the tension he alone felt. “Well, we’re about 3 hours out by now. What are you going to do when you get aboard?” The statements weren’t connected, and the question seemed illogical. However, T’Preava took the bait. “I intend to place my belongings in my quarters and check in to sickbay.” T’Preava considered leaving the statement as that, but she thought she should be social for his sake. “And you?” She beckoned back. Cartwright pushed his chair back along its rail and crossed his legs atop the console. “Ah well, I’d like to get back to my own quarters. A shuttle pilot doesn’t have an awful lot to do once the crew and equipment are aboard. I think I’ll go to the Holodeck for a while, I could use some open air.” The irony of that was not lost on either of them. 


The few hours remaining passed slowly for both. The doctor was too introverted for the tastes of her pilot; as was he too disruptive for hers. By now, Cartwright had given up on trying to break the doctor’s stoic silence. “Dropping out of Warp now, ma’am.” The voice of a broken man spoke, waiting painfully for the journey to be over. Shortly after he spoke, the shuttle rocked out of its subspace bubble and approached Esquimalt Station. The station looked cold and alone in the middle of deep space, lit only by external lights. In front of the station was the Hou Yi, docked in its construction frame. Cartwright hailed their destination, “Shuttlecraft Bodkin to Hou Yi shuttle control, requesting permission to land.” A moment passed before a young woman’s voice returned a message to the shuttle, “Shuttle Bodkin, you are cleared for landing in shuttlebay 1. Welcome back Andy, we’ve missed you.” T’Preava didn’t want to spend any more unnecessary time with the ensign, and decided to make her farewells on the entry. “I appreciate the efforts you have made in the last week. I know it has been difficult.” The shuttle touched down on the surface of the shuttlebay, as the engines cooled down and systems were turned off, the doors of the bay closed behind them. Cartwright smiled, and stood out of his chair to stretch, his arms obstructed by the ceiling. “Thank you Doctor, if I may say so, this has been a living hell. Hopefully for both our sakes we never have to see eachother again.” T’Preava had to disappoint him however, and almost as if she knew the painful humour of the situation, she stood face-to-face with him and almost hit her head against the ceiling. “I will be conducting your physical, Ensign.” Immediately afterwards she turned and gathered her bags. Leaving the shuttle, and Ensign Cartwright with a particularly unique feeling of dread.