A grav skid skimmed above the ultrafine red dust of Utopia Planetia's boneyard, following the aisle between hundreds of grounded ships and shuttles, coming to a halt between an ancient freighter's stripped skeleton and a row of four nearly identical small ships plus the unfinished skeleton of a fifth. Dust covered them all, but from beneath, on the saucer section of the first four, could be seen their consecutive registry numbers, NX 9847521, NCC 9847522, 3, and 4, and their names, USS Falcon, USS Merlin, USS Kestrel, and USS Hobby. The saucer section of the fifth lacked hull plates where the registry should have been, and its drive section, somewhat more completed than its saucer section, was detached and set behind its saucer.
A tall and a short figure stepped from the truck, both wearing pressure suits in the thin air of Mars. The taller figure walked beneath USS Merlin's hull, patting one of the landing struts as he passed it. The second went to the starboard airlock of the USS Kestrel and accessed the control panel.
The saucer section of these ships merged with the engineering section, the total unit being 33 meters long, 21 meters wide, and a mere 8 meters high. It was only two decks high, though a third deck occupied the forward 240 degree arc around the drive section, the forward end of which was a 6 meter wide by 2 meter high subspace deflector dish below the saucer's nose. The warp nacelles were 3 meter diameter cylinders projecting to either side at the centerline of the saucer on winglets, just outside the curve of the hull. They were almost as long as the saucer section, extending the overall length of the ship to 50 meters and its width to 29 meters.
The tall figure joined the short one when the outer hull plate of the engineering hull beneath the saucer slid open and began to extend its entry ramp.
The helmet communicators crackled in the ever-present ionized dust. "You know the way?" a gravelly bass voice asked.
"I lived on Merlin for two years," came the reply as the pair ascended the ramp to the airlock hatch which had been concealed by the hull plating.
Darkness inside greeted them. Turning on their headlamps illuminated the ultra-fine dust their movements had disturbed. The airlock cycled and the inner hatch opened into a secondary airlock with a pressure door on each wall.
"I'll check Engineering," the gravelly voice said. The shorter figure opened the manual hatch control on the bulkhead opposite the airlock while the tall figure turned to do the same on the hatch beside the primary airlock hatch.
It opened to a ramp which inclined up into darkness. Three meters in and a meter and a half up was a cross passageway that curved forward and aft, with regular pairs of hatches along the outer curve. The tall figure turned forward to a second ramp that rose another meter and a half to an open space. Unfurnished and unfinished, the space was supposed to be a Ship's Logroom and Emergency Battle Dressing Station.
The figure ignored the space, turning to another pressure hatch on the forward bulkhead. It slid open when he pulled the manual lever. The space inside was a finished space, the tiny ship's bridge. The communications console and the navigations console on the starboard side were mirrored by the engineering and helm consoles on the port side. The command console was centered between these four points, with an open space between it and the main view screens.
Behind the captain's chair were the tactical and science stations, and on the aft bulkhead behind them was the Damage Control and Security Display. The tall figure wiped a gloved hand across the tactical panel, disturbing a layer of Mars' red dust. The figure reached beneath the panel and found the catch, then lifted the panel.
Inside the console was somewhat cleaner. The figure tugged at a panel on his suit's breastplate and drew out its com-link cable, which he plugged in to a socket inside the console.
"Computer, activation code Kestrel 1, A, 1, initialize."
A light blinked on inside the console. The computer's voice answered after a short hum.
"1, A, 1, initiation in progress. Verification of user requested."
"Lee, Huang Kai, Lieutenant, USS Merlin."
"Voice authentification confirmed," the computer replied. "Unable to access communication arrays, unable to access navigational arrays, unable to access engineering computer, unable to access internal communications network...."
"Halt," Lieutenant Lee said. "Computer, access last memory file and corroborate: USS Kestrel has been decommissioned for twelve years."
"Unable to confirm current stardate," the computer insisted. "Unable to access Starfleet Data Network."
"Current power reserves are insufficient to power up ship's systems at this time," Lieutenant Lee said. "We will be working on that. Meanwhile, set computer power regulation to extreme power conservation mode and begin a level one diagnostic of the mainframe and data archives."
"That procedure will require 61 hours, 23 minutes, seventeen seconds to complete," the computer said.
"Begin procedure," Lieutenant Lee ordered.
He unplugged the com-link and put it back in its compartment on his suit, then pressed down and latched the panel
He tapped a button on his helmet. "Lee to Sparky, how is it looking down there?"
"You'll be forever getting the dust out, but it looks like everything is here. Give me some dilithium and some antimatter and she'll fly."
"Good enough. Thanks, Chief. Meet you by the airlock."
"Aye," the gravelly voice replied.
Lieutenant Lee looked around the bridge a final time, patted the tactical console, and turned to the open hatch.