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Flashback story – Commander Dietrich Vonrose

This is a story submitted as part of the Flashback week competition. It’s a Star Trek story written by Roman Gitlarz, the roleplaying game is USS Discovery on Star Trek Borderlands

Commander Dietrich Vonrose

October 4, 2409

Dietrich smiled as he made his way through the ship’s corridors.  The slight smile on his face and the bounce in his step visually demonstrated the pleasure which he felt, and it wasn’t in regard to his work earlier in the day.  After all, being XO of a starship was not anything to sneeze at.  He had countless duty rosters to approve, systems reports to analyze, and rounds to make… not to mention his Bridge duty.  His contentment was a result of the game of poker which he played regularly with his crewmates on Friday nights… and which he had just won minutes earlier.

The crew were his friends, there was no doubt about it.  Conservative superiors still held to the notion that Starfleet relationships were strictly professional.  The countless Starfleet marriages, children, and lifelong friendships are a testament to the opposite.  And Dietrich was in full support of it.  He had met his wife aboard his previous post, the USS Voyager-A.  And although the two were now divorced, Dietrich could not regret the decision.  She had been a great chapter in his life, despite it coming to an end prematurely.  The two spoke almost weekly, and he was grateful that she had stayed in touch… if only for Frederick, their son.

But there was more to just friendships on a starship.  The ancient Romans used to believe that soldiers who were better friends would create a more harmonious team in battle.  And even though Starfleet was not a military organization, it encountered battle more often than it should.  Dietrich agreed with the Roman philosophy.  A crew that felt awkward around each other was inefficient in comparison to the smoothness of a team which knew their members thoroughly.  He knew that not everyone would agree… but those that did certainly showed it on those Friday nights.

The door to his quarters hissed open, and the XO braced for the familiar welcome.

“Daddy, daddy, daddy!” Frederick called, running toward his father with outstretched arms.  Dietrich crouched on one knee and swooped the young boy up, hugging him intensely.

“There’s my Little Captain,” he called out, using the nickname the crew had given the boy following Frederick’s wandering away from his babysitter a few months earlier.  When asked why he walked off, he said he had wanted to sit in the Captain’s chair.

Dietrich walked in and looked at Emma, the ship’s Astrometrics Officer.  “Thanks, Em,” he said.

“Always a pleasure,” she replied, gracefully standing up from the living room couch despite her obvious pregnancy.  “Bye Fredrick.  Buh bye!” Her playful demeanor had as much an effect on the boy as his father.  Although Dietrich had at one point initiated a romantic relationship with the woman, they soon mutually drifted away from romance to simple friends… and he could not have been happier.  “Just so long as you repay the favors,” she replied jokingly, placing a hand on her swollen belly.

“You bet!” he called out, before the door hissed shut.  He was truly happy for the woman, who had seemed to find her match with the ship’s Counselor.

These people aren’t just my friends… he thought, they’re my family…

“It’s getting late, buddy.  You ready for bed?” he said to the boy, who’s wide grin seemed to lighten the room.

“Oh daddy, you promised LEGOs today,” Frederick replied with mocked sadness.

“I did!? Silly me!  Go get them!”

“Yaaay!!!” the boy called out, running to the other room.  The XO was tired and ready to feel the softness of his pillow against his head.  But a promise was a promise…

October 5, 2409

The morning felt like any other aboard the Dostra.  Dietrich awoke early, as usual, in order to eat breakfast, shower, and get dressed in a timely fashion.  Frederick was still sleeping in the next room when the XO fastened his combadge to his uniform… ready for duty.  The officer walked in and sat down at the edge of his son’s bed, nudging him.

“Hey buddy.  Time to get up… you’re gonna be late for school.”

Frederick had recently shifted from being an early bird to a night owl.  Naturally, most parents would have preferred such a change, but since Dietrich’s schedule is of the former variety, their cycles were no longer in sync.

Frederick rolled over onto his back and opened his eyes.

“Okay, Daddy.”

“What would you like for breakfast?  Oatmeal with blueberries?”

“Yeah,” Frederick replied happily as he sat up.

“Alright.  Go freshen up and get dressed.  We need to leave in 20 minutes.”

The Dostra was a large ship with many families aboard… a relic of the Federation’s pre-Dominion times.  These days, it was rare to see Starfleet families together outside of a starbase.  Yet, despite the common presence of children, a dozen officers stopped to give the two a personal greeting each morning as they walked through the corridors.  By the time they reached the holodeck, Dietrich had just enough time to give his son a kiss on the cheek before immediately heading for the turbolift.

“Have a good day.  I’ll see you later.”

“Okay, Daddy!” Frederick called out, already running into the room.  Dietrich loved the holodeck program.  He was amazed to think that every teacher on Earth once had to be a person… it seemed unimaginable and endlessly tiring.  And even though the kids were separated by age groups, the holograms were extremely adept at immediately shifting between different subjects and levels of difficulty.  Frederick greatly adored his teacher, and he sometimes felt closer to her than the “real” education specialist which monitored the school sessions.

The holodeck doors closed behind his son, and Dietrich quickly made his way to the lift.

Another day in the life of a First Officer… he thought to himself.  Only later did he realize how wrong that assessment was…

The morning had gone smoothly.  The Dostra was charting an asteroid belt, one which indicated a richness in resources.  Although this was great news to the Federation, the majority of the crew was looking forward to leaving.  For the past few days, only the Science personnel had gotten any real action.  The rest of the ship seemed somewhat restless.

Dietrich was on the Bridge when the first warning klaxon went off.  It came from the Tactical station.  Dietrich looked up toward the station expecting a trivial piece of information, but his blood ran cold when he was the officer rise to his feet… his eyes wide.

“Sir, there’s a massive object approaching!  It’s one of the asteroids!” the officer shouted out in surprise.

Dietrich had always been good under pressure.  While other officers may have inquired about the source or the nature of the readings, he wasted no time in taking the ship to Red Alert.

“Time to intercept!” he commanded, asking for the object’s distance.

“12 seconds!” the officer responded.  “Our sensors didn’t pick it up until…” but Dietrich cut him off.

“Get us out of here, Lieutenant!” he quickly called out to the CONN, but the officer was already a few steps ahead, attempting to maneuver the ship away from the asteroid’s present course.

“6 seconds!” Tactical shouted out.  Dietrich watched the miniature monitor beside his chair.  Why weren’t they moving?!

“All hands, brace for impact!” he managed to call out just before the object reached the 2 second mark.  The ship finally started to clear the danger zone.  Just a little farther…

It was under this pressure that Dietrich started recalling the details of the asteroid belt.  The areas rich in resources also gave off a strong field which affected the ship’s engines.  At the time, the crew considered the small lag to be an acceptable risk.  How differently they all felt now.

That’s it… Dietrich thought with relief.  Were they safe?  But before he could get an answer, the XO was thrown headlong into the viewscreen, along with most of the bridge crew.  He could hear the crunch of bones and felt the pain of the impact spread throughout his body.  He was conscious long enough to hope that the broken bones weren’t his.

He didn’t know how long he had been unconscious when he was being woken up with a hypospray.  The ship’s CMO was standing above him, reaching out a hand.

“Are you alright, sir?” the man asked, pulling the XO up to his feet.

“Fine, Doctor.  Report!”

“The ship’s primary hull was grazed by the asteroid.  Shields are down and so is the main deflector.  Micrometeoroids are beginning to compromise hull integrity all over the ship.”

Dietrich looked up at the voice.  It was one of the junior officers. Only then did he realize that most of the bridge crew was still sprawled around the viewscreen.

“Where’s the Captain?” he asked.

“She was in the turbolift during the impact.  She has been taken to Sickbay.”

By now, the XO was seated at the Ops station and looking over the data coming in from all over the ship.  The hull was being pulverized by the tiny bits of rock and ice.  Only then did he realize that the shuddering he felt was real and not a result of his headache.

=/= Warning.  15 minutes to hull integrity failure. =/=, the ship’s computer announced.

“Can we reactivate the shields?” Dietrich asked.

“I’m not sure, sir,” another young man called out from the Engineering station.  “I think our best bet would be to reactivate one of the deflector dishes.”

“How much time?” Dietrich asked.

The man, to his credit, replied simply and honestly: “More than 15 minutes, sir.”

Dietrich stared at the console before him.  Decisions decisions.  Who ever thought of putting the bridge at the very top of the ship?  He suddenly thought as the irritation rose within him.  It should be deep in the heart of the ship where nothing would get to it.

He tapped his combadge.  “All hands, this is the First Officer.  Engineering is, at present, safe from the impacts to our hull.  I am moving command of the ship to Main Engineering.  Everyone else, abandon ship and head for the coordinates being sent to the escape pods.  The Dostra will rendezvous with you as soon as the main deflector is reinitialized.  Vonrose out.”

“Doctor, how is the crew?” Dietrich asked, indicating the personnel still being woken from unconsciousness, almost wishing he didn’t need to know.

“Three dead, sir.”

“Help get the rest to the escape pods,” Dietrich ordered the individuals present.

“What about you sir?” the Doctor asked.

“I’ll be heading down to Engineering just as soon as I finish here.  You have your orders.”

Without question, the crew took the bodies and proceeded to the escape pods behind the bridge module.  Dietrich watched as his console indicated each launch.  He continued working for several minutes until he was interrupted by the comm system.

=/= Clarkson to Vonrose =/=

“Go ahead,” the XO called out, his hands flying over the LCARS display.

=/= Sir, Escape Pod 26 won’t jettison.  27 and 28 also appear to be stuck. =/=

Dietrich examined the cluster on his display.  They were closest to the grazed hull.

“I’ll attempt to jettison them from the Bridge, stand by,” he replied.

He pressed the launch button.  Nothing.  He pressed it again: “Error: Launch Mechanism Failure.”

He was about to contact the pods to inform the crew that they would need to move to a different cluster when the unexpected occurred.  A power surge in the primary hull began to polarize around the grazed section of the ship.  Nearby hatches from the airlocks blew open with the surge, sparks and fire flying into the vacuum of space.  Dietrich’s heart began to speed up as he saw the surge burst through system after system until it reached the pods themselves.

Almost in slow motion, as if it was happening in a dream, the three pods exploded into a wave of burning white flames, their glaring brightness causing the XO to turn away from the screen.  Upon looking back, a charred remnant of the power surge split the ship’s hull like a lightning bolt through a tree.  A hollow dark pit was visible where the escape pods had been just moments earlier…

October 29, 2411

The Dostra was not destroyed.  Dietrich and the Engineering team managed to reactivate the deflector and shields just long enough to get out of danger and await rescue.  Over 50 people lost their lives in the accident, the fault of which was later blamed on an asteroid rich in frozen magnasite.  The mineral apparently deflected sensors until those last few seconds prior to impact.

Dietrich sat on the grass of a local forest outside of his native Essen, Germany, reliving the events on the Dostra.  Despite the many thoughts which had entered his mind over the past several weeks, none were as chilling as the site of those escape pods exploding.  The image was forever burned into his memory, and he knew that no amount of time could ever lessen their impact on his emotions, for he lost more than just crewmen on those pods…

It was not until hours after the explosion, when the Dostra finally met up with at the pre-arranged coordinates, that a heaviness began to settle in Dietrich’s chest.  He could still remember the sight of the escape pods coming into the shuttlebay… people exiting and beginning to fill up the chamber.  But it was not until he saw the Captain approach him that he knew that something else had gone wrong.  It was not the way she walked or her facial expression.  It was her eyes.  He had never seen that look before, and he immediately knew what it meant.

He relived that moment too, sitting there on the edge of a hill, overlooking the darkening woods.  He played with a tiny daisy in his hand.  The night was getting chilly and the wind started to pick up.  He let the flower go and it sailed across the air into the deep shadows of the trees… the same place where his son’s ashes had been scattered just a few days earlier.

“Goodbye, Frederick,” Dietrich whispered into the wind.  But just as soon as he said it, the emotions and distress of the accident became as fresh as that moment in the shuttlebay weeks ago.

He let a tear roll down his cheek as lay down on the grass.  The cool blades pressed up against his cheek as the wind caused him to shiver under the darkening sky.  Despite the discomfort, he didn’t want to leave this place.  Not now… not ever.