Sol System: Federation Space
"Pershing, this is Capital Space Traffic Control, I have you right in the center of the slot passing Luna Marker. Everything's looking good. You are cleared for final approach. Drop to one quarter impulse and transition to harbor freq for terminal guidance."
"Acknowledged, Capital Space Traffic Control," Phil said from the helm as he expertly manipulated the controls.
"Helm," Tigranian said from his chair. "Drop speed to one quarter impulse, prepare auto-systems."
"Aye Sir," Phil said with a happy smirk.
"Now, that sight never gets old," Annabeth said smiling as the blue and green orb of Earth filled the viewscreen. "Leaving wears on you, but coming back feels new every time."
"Welcome Home, Number One," Tigranian said grinning.
"Speak for yourselves, Humans," Scharr said from the aft of the bridge. He crossed his arms and curled his antenna. "We just left my house." Tigranian turned his chair to cast a glare in the direction of his curmudgeonly chief engineer.
"Point taken, Mr. Scharr," Katie said from Tactical with a chuckle. "However, our home is your home, too."
"You can keep that ball of liquid water. Too much sun," the Andorian said shaking his head. The humans on the bridge laughed.
"Look!" Phil said as they began to pass over the European continent. "RMS Olympic is getting ready to leave port." The Southampton passenger docks in geo-synchronous orbit over Britain contained several civilian starliners. Among them, as a gigantic tear drop shaped craft painted in white, black, and red began slipping away from her berth. Underneath the transparent observation dome, thousands of passengers waved goodbye to the individuals still along the mooring platforms. Her nacelles glowed in idle as they prepared to depart for another trans-Federation crossing. Two space tugs stood ready to tractor the immense ship out of orbit towards open space. The Pershing passed closely enough to see the golden letters painted across her stern:
"That's the ship that brought us to the Federation," Laria said from the science station. "I still remember the three of us cramming into one of the small state rooms at the bottom of the hull. It was the first time in my life I ever slept in a real bed. It was amazing. Then, we had to pass through the New York Immigration Station. That…not so much. At least we got to see the big, green statue from the posters. That was pretty cool."
"You mean the Statue of Liberty?" Katie said in shock. "You think that was only 'pretty cool?'"
"A statue is a statue," Laria said. "But your first bed is something you really remember. That's what liberty means to me."
A few moments later, the giant silhouette of Earth spacedock loomed in front of their bow. Another voice sounded from the room's overhead speakers.
"Pershing, this is Starbase 1 Dockmaster on Harbor Freq. I have you passing the outer buoy. Standing by for lock on at your signal."
"All Hands, this is the Captain. Docking Stations. Prepare for mooring operations." A few seconds passed.
"All Departments acknowledge, Sir," Annabeth said.
"All set, Phil?" the captain asked.
"Aye Sir," he said. "I can finally kick back and have a pint."
"Not quite yet, Mr. Lexington," Tigranian said tugging on the bottom hem of his jacket. "Lock on, engage auto systems."
"Locking on, Sir," Phil said pressing several buttons in rapid succession.
"Starbase 1, Pershing, you have control," Tigranian said over subspace.
"Acknowledged, Pershing," the dockmaster replied. "Opening port gates, standby for tractor lock." The bridge crew relaxed in their seats. The harbor pilot in Earth Spacedock's operations center now had control of their vessel and would be bringing it on remote. All they had to do was sit back and enjoy the ride.
Four tractor beams reached out and gently grabbed their hull. Soon, they were being pulled towards a maw rapidly opening in the side of the space station's giant dome. As soon as they passed into the cavernous, sheltered dock, lighted panels on the deck below indicated the path to their slip. Soon, they smoothly settled in to their berth.
"Docking maneuver completed," the dockmaster said through the speakers. "Welcome back."
"Pershing confirms. Appreciate the ride," Tigranian said shutting down the subspace link. "Phil, set all moorings, gravitational, and life support umbilicals."
"Set Sir," he replied. Tigranian noticed Phil nervously shifting in his seat. He looked over his shoulder and saw Katie in a similar state of jitters. He didn't blame them.
"Mr. Lexington, Ms. Stone," Tigranian said rising to his feet. "You have a lot going on in the next few days. Permission to leave the bridge."
"What?" Katie said confused.
"You two have a wedding to pull off. Get outta here and handle your business."
"Thank you, Sir!" Phil said rising from his station. He and Katie made a dash for the turbolift.
"Annabeth, you too," he said. "Get going."
"Dan," she said shaking her head. "We have an entire power down checklist to get through…"
"Annabeth," he said holding up his hand. "I don't need your help to turn off a bridge. Go. I think you have some people waiting for you."
"Thank you!" she said flying out of her seat with a smile. "I owe you one."
As soon she was gone, Laria crossed her arms.
"Do you know how long it'll take us to get through the whole checklist without them?" she said annoyed.
"It won't be too bad," Tigranian said calmly. "With Tren's help…"
The captain turned around just in time to see the Andorian disappear through the side turbolift's closing doors. Tigranian pursed his lips.
"Don't worry," Tigranian said correcting himself. "We'll take a break for dinner…"
Annabeth stood at the port airlock hatch nervously wringing her hands. The retractable gangway was taking forever to extend and seal. Finally, she got a green light and opened the hatch. She bolted down the gangway as fast as her legs could carry her.
At the far end of the gantry, Alex held Max in one arm and a piece of poster board in the other. It read:
WELCOME HOME MOMMY!
Alex rocked Max and whispered in his ears.
"There she is!"
Annabeth ran up and immediately wrapped herself around them. Max smiled as soon as he recognized her familiar arms.
"Oh my God," Annabeth said fighting back tears. "I love you both so much."
"Welcome back, Beth," Alex said grinning from ear to ear. "Dan said he was gonna try to get you to disembark a little early. Didn't know he could pry you outta your seat so soon. I figured you would stay until he literally kicked you off the bridge."
"You're the best, Babe," Annabeth said, "but the person who really convinced me was this guy right here." She scooped Max into her arms and brought him close to her chest. "Ich liebe meinen kleinen Mann so sehr!"
"We've got the apartment all set up for you," Alex continued. "You've got a real home to come back to."
Annabeth laughed as she shook her head.
"Home is wherever you two are," she said before leaning in and passionately kissing Alex.