Even before his training at Startfleet Academy, Mack had done his fair share of space travel. His uncle, a materials trader, had taken him on many long, slow trips through subspace. His ship, lovingly called Big Brown, took every opportunity to remind its passengers how thin the metal veil between them and the endless eternity of space really was. The transport Mack rode as he approached Starbase 118 was about as far from Big Brown as it got. It could jump to warp 8 and beyond without so much as a tremor, and could fit three Big Browns in its cargo hold. But as majestic as the Miranda-class vessel was, it was nothing compared to the marvel that was Starbase 118.
Mack knew it was big, but it is one thing to hear about a space station eleven kilometers tall, and quite another to see it for yourself. As Starbase 118 filled his window, he felt more like he was looking at a small moon than a station. It was captivating. He watched as a monolithic Galaxy-class starship gracefully left a docking bay like a letter through a mail slot.
A rough arm crushed down on his shoulders and roused him from his reverie. Hannibal had appeared next to him, with Nidari close behind. “Ooooh!” Hannibal whistled in mock intrigue. “How many warp coils on that puppy?” The weight of his muscular arm made Mack hunch over. Mack wasn’t particularly short, but he looked like a beanpole under Hannibal’s tank-like bulk. Mack brushed the huge arm off him and laughed as he fixed his tousled brown hair.
"I don’t know if you can count that high, big guy.”
Hannibal loved poking fun at Mack’s enthusiasm for starship mechanics, and Mack poked back at Hannibal’s caveman-like physique. It was a rivalry that blossomed into an unexpected friendship. Nidari rolled her eyes.
"Come on, you two. We’ll be late.” She strutted briskly to a turbolift and ushered the others inside. “Transporter room,” she commanded.
As the lift departed, Mack realized just how much he would miss these two. Hannibal was destined for a future as a station security officer, and Nidari was already scheduled to lead a research project on planet Vaultera VII. Mack’s vision of the future was filled with warp cores and deflector arrays. Constantly resuscitating the refurbished subsystems on Big Brown had taught him to love the feeling of holding a spacecraft together with his own two hands.
"Almost there,” said Nidari. “These four years have felt like ten.”
"Aww, you’ll miss us,” said Mack. “I can feel it. My grandmother was Betazoid, you know. Still got a little of that empathic blood in me.” He held a hand to her forehead and made an exaggerated face of concentration. “I feel… longing.” he frowned, “I see Hannibal… shirtless…” He had caught the two kissing in a cargo bay once, and vowed never to let them live it down. Nidari gave him a look that could peel paint, and he backed off. “Aaand, now I feel my imminent death. Huh, powers must be on the fritz.”
"You really know how to be a pain, Campbell.” she said. Her anger was quickly betrayed by a thin smirk. “But yeah, I’ll miss you.”
Things moved fast once they reached the transporter room. Several dozen cadets had to be transported to their respective places aboard the station, and the operation was quick and efficient. Mack barely had time for a quick goodbye before getting blasted into atoms. He rematerialized in a high-ceilinged transporter platform. Sunlight streamed through a glass wall, and he could not help but stare at the holographic clouds above. An attendant greeted him with a warm smile and gestured off the platform. “Welcome to Starbase 118!”
With just a couple of hours before his Cadet Cruise, Mack followed directions towards his assigned holodeck. The end of his career at the Academy was bittersweet, but those feelings were already giving way to excitement for what was to come. Soon, he would be a Starfleet ensign. The future felt as bright as the innumerable stars.