Daily Archives: September 6, 2010

Starfleet Gets a Communications Upgrade: The Tale of the Blackberry

Note: My inspiration for this story is my recent experience with a Blackberry Curve and its replacement provided by Verizon Wireless.  I have no complaints about the Verizon staff that have attempted without success to fix this problem as it is a fault with the blasted Blackberry. As I waited patiently for a very polite Verizon store staff to work with technician to solve the problems I was having I began to think about what it would be like if in the Star Trek Original Series if Starfleet had provided Blackberries to the Enterprise on a critical mission. I figure that I at least need to be able to laugh about this. Hopefully I tomorrow when I take my third Blackberry into the Verizon store in the space of three weeks I will get to experience the joy of a working communications device.

Peace, Padre Steve+


On the border of the Federation-Romulan Neutral Zone.

“Good morning Captain, we have reached Cheron and established orbit. There are no Romulan ships within sensor range.”

“Thank you Spock, must you always be so cheerful in the morning?” replied a grinning Kirk. “So what is our status?”

“Sir the away team is ready for the mission. Doctor McCoy, Lieutenant Sulu and Mr. Scott will beam down with you and the security team.”

“Good, so Spock I do hope that we can get out of here after checking the planet before the Romulans discover that we are here.”

“Patently sir, in light of the Romulan defeat here during the First Romulan War it would be inadvisable to remain here too long.” Spock’s crisp and matter of fact delivery underscored the potential threats to the Enterprise and the away team as they looked to determine if the Romulans had attempted to establish a new outpost on the planet.

“Captain” Lieutenant Uhura rose from her console on the starboard side of the bridge.

“Yes Lieutenant, is there something that I need to know?”

“Why yes Captain,” the pretty communications officer replied. “There has been a change in the standard communication equipment for away teams.”

“What, why wasn’t I informed of this?”

“Well sir, it is a Starfleet wide upgrade. We received the equipment on our last visit to Starbase 234 before our departure for this mission.” Uhara paused “It is a major improvement.  According to Starfleet the device is called a Blackberry and it will replace the communicator and many of the functions now performed by our Tricorders.”

“But why wasn’t I told?”

“Sir, it was an oversight, it won’t happen again.”

“Make sure it doesn’t Lieutenant, otherwise” Kirk paused appearing to search for his next words “otherwise there won’t be any chubby sex for you.”

“Captain, I don’t think that is appropriate” protested Uhura.

“Appropriate?”

“Captain, Starfleet regulations do say that the use of sexual terms with subordinates of the opposite sex is a violation of the Equal Opportunity and Sexual Harassment policies established by the Federation Commission on Equal Opportunity and ratified by the Federation Senate for all Federation government offices including Starfleet.”

“Okay Spock I get it, it was just the Mad Cow.”

“Mad cow Captain?” Spock replied raising an eyebrow.

“Never mind, just a quote from one of my favorite 21st Century television characters, Denny Crane.”

“I have never heard of him.”

“The show is called Boston Legal, I have all of the DVD’s.  Come by my stateroom and we’ll watch them from season one through five.” Kirk winked as Spock looked on with a hint of disapproval on his Vulcan face.

“So Lieutenant, that was out of line and I apologize. It won’t happen again.”

“Until the next time” whispered McCoy to Scott.

“Anyway, Lieutenant Uhura, before I was so correctly corrected by my First Officer, please tell me about these Blackberry devices.”

“This is one here.” Uhura pulled out a small device which had a tiny keyboard as well as a view screen.

“My I look at it?”

“Please Captain, you’ll find it quite handy.  You will be able to communicate with the ship, away team members, check your e-mail, messages and have the universe at your fingertips.”

“So I can surf the web and access my Face Space account while on an away team?”

“Well yes, Captain.”

“Good.  We’ll start using them on this mission; make sure everyone on the away team has one.” Kirk looked at Spock. “Spock did you hear that I can surf the web and access my Face Space account on this thing even on away missions? Why didn’t anyone think of this sooner?”

Uhura interrupted. “Captain, I would prefer that we wait until the next mission.”

“No.  We take them on this mission.” Kirk paused. “After all what could go wrong?  Starfleet has tested them out right?”

“Well, yes sir, but the contractor says that we should wait.”

“Contractor?”

“Yes Captain, to save money Starfleet has contracted the Blackberry service to Verizon Universal.” Uhura sounded almost apologetic. “But we do have a contracting service representative dedicated to us and I can contact him anytime.”

“So let’s see, I have a device that replaces communicators and Tricorders that I can surf the web and check my Face Space on, which has been tested by Starfleet and that we have a designated technician dedicated to us and you’re saying that I should wait?”

“Well, maybe it’s just me Captain…”

“Lieutenant Uhura, if I recall I am the Captain, correct?”

“Well….” Uhura hesitated for a moment and continued “Yes Captain.”

“So if I am the Captain of the Enterprise; which indeed by Starfleet order I am; that means that I do get the final say on my ship?  Mr. Spock, do you concur?”

“Yes Captain, I concur.  However, I do not think that the Lieutenant is questioning your ability to command the Enterprise but rather her belief that we should test the devices on a mission that is not so close to the Neutral Zone.”

“But Spock, the best of Starfleet have certified these devices and Verizon Universal has over nearly 300 years of experience in wireless communications.” Kirk paused. “Wouldn’t you agree that this isn’t rocket science, Spock? This is communications, not the Warp drive. What could go wrong?”

“Captain I was merely posing as the Devil’s advocate. You are the Captain and the decision is yours.”

“Devil’s advocate, you have the ears for it Spock,” quipped Doctor McCoy eliciting a chuckle from Ensign Chekov at the helm and a raised eyebrow from Spock.

“Well if that’s the case Lieutenant, I want to have these on the away mission. I’ll let Scotty carry a communicator and Bones can carry a Tricorder,  but the rest of us will have these.”

“But Captain, one more thing….” Uhura paused and then continued: “Starfleet says that we might have intermittent problems with the old systems as we make the switch. The Tricroders are scheduled to receive new software when it is pushed by Starfleet. It was supposed to happen this morning. Starfleet technical says that it will be later, but they don’t know when.”

“I don’t see a problem Lieutenant, and I’m the Captain, James Tiberius Kirk. Don’t forget it.” Kirk chuckled as he looked at the Blackberry. “I can check my Face Space on this? what will Starfleet think of next?  Maybe they can give me the ability to book a trip on Priceline while on an away mission.”

Spock shook his head and McCoy grinned as Kirk started playing with the touch screen on the device. Kirk looked up at his staff and said “Scotty, Bones, Sulu, meet me in transporter room with a security team in half an hour. We have to get to the planet, see what is going on and get out of here before a bunch of Romulan Birds of Prey show up.  Spock you have the Enterprise and Uhura, make sure that nothing goes wrong with these devices while I am checking my Face Space…I mean when we’re on the planet surface.”

“Aye Captain” replied Scotty, his distinctive Scottish brogue echoed by McCoy and Sulu. Spock, Uhura and McCoy nodded their agreement as Kirk continued “Well what are you waiting for?  Let’s get going.”

A half hour later, Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu and the 3 members of the security team met in the transporter room where Lieutenant Kyle the Transporter Chief awaited them. As the doors swished open and closed, Kirk approached Kyle.

“Mr. Kyle we are going to beam down to the surface. I need you to make sure that you keep a good lock on us in case the Romulans show up.”

“Captain, I will do the best that I can but the transporter lock application is not loaded on your Blackberry. I can, however maintain the lock on Mr. Scott’s communicator as long as that device is functioning correctly.”

“Scotty, why wasn’t I told about this?”

“Sir, I dinna really think that you would want to go to the surface depending on some newfangled contraption, so I didn’t say anything.  Besides Captain, when you started talking about your Face Space account, I knew that there was no convincing you.”

“Correct, that is why I asked you Mr. Scott.  Remember the name is James Tiberius Kirk.  I beat the Kobayashi Maru test. Besides, even if this doesn’t work right I AM James Tiberius Kirk and I will win. Besides, we booked this trip on Priceline and it’s not refundable.”

The away team muttered in agreement and Kirk continued: “Gentlemen, we will beam down to the planet and find out what is going on before the Romulans figure out that we are here.” Kirk paused for a moment. “Mr. Kyle,  tell Lieutenant Uhura that I expect that even if you cannot keep a lock on these Blackberries, that I DO expect to be able to check my Face Space account while on the planet surface.”

“Your Face Space account sir?” asked a confused transporter chief.

“You heard me Lieutenant. My Face Space account, and if you expect to get far in Starfleet you’d better get one too.”

“Yes sir” replied the transport chief as he looked at Mr. Scott who simply nodded his head.

“Well gentlemen, what are we waiting for?”  Kirk paused again, “it’s not Mad Cow or am I forgetting something?”

“What?…your Mad Cow?” asked McCoy.

“Bones, I know that I’m forgetting something and I can’t remember what.” Kirk paused again and continued “I remember now… where is Yeoman Rand right now?  She is supposed to be on the away team.”

“Jim you didn’t include her on the away team” replied McCoy.

“I didn’t include include her?  Bones, what was I thinking? Mr. Kyle, call for Yeoman Rand to meet us here.  We’ll wait for her before we beam down.”

Scotty interrupted. “But Captain, shouldn’t we get down now to be finished before the Romulans arrive?”

“Mr. Scott. I AM the Captain and Yeoman Rand is essential personnel on any away mission that I am on.  Besides, someone has to record my every thought for history sake, because after the mission I’m going to consume a few pints of Romulan ale and won’t remember a damned thing.”

“Well, that makes sense.” Replied McCoy.

“Well she is a girl, but even I can understand in some ways” added Sulu.

“Don’t forget Sulu, I am a real man, not gay like you…not that there is anything wrong with that, even if you are still in the closet. I mean, it’s not that you are in the closet or even out of it…but it’s none of my business or anyone else’s business or anything like that. You know, don’t ask don’t tell like Starfleet regulations tell us.”

Sulu glared at Kirk, while the others in the transport room maintained silence. Sulu looked at McCoy and said: “This will go in my autobiography.”  As the away team waited and Scotty and Kyle talked technical specifications, Yeoman Janice Rand entered the transporter room.  The doors swished open and closed as the pretty blond yeoman with stacked hair, clad in the Starfleet regulation red mini-dress female uniform and black high rise boots approached Kirk.

“Yeoman Rand reporting as ordered sir.”

“Yeoman Rand, I’m sorry for the late notice, but your presence is required on this mission.”

“Thank you sir, I will do what I can to help the mission succeed” replied the young woman.

Kirk looked at McCoy, who was looking at the deck and putting his hand on his shoulder whispered “it’s good to be the Captain, Bones; it’s good to be the Captain.” Kirk then looked about the room and continued “Gentlemen and Miss Rand, let’s get going, what are we waiting for?”

With that, the team stepped aboard the transporter platform and Kirk patted Rand on the behind as he said to Kyle “Mr. Kyle, energize.”

Kyle pushed the transporter lever into the transport mode and the team dematerialized from the pad.

Seconds later the team rematerialized on the planet’s surface.  Though a class M planet, Cheron’s surface was devoid of any meaningful foliage and very rocky and mountainous; much like areas just outside of Los Angeles or a sound stage at NBC studios in Burbank. Kirk looked around and as the team began to make equipment checks and their initial scans of the area.

“Captain, I’m picking up subspace transmissions from that hill,” interjected McCoy pointing the Tricorder toward the hill that rose about 500 meters from the team.

“Subspace transmissions, Bones?”

“Yes sir Captain, from that hill. I think they may be Romulan.”

Kirk looked at Scotty and Sulu. Yeoman Rand moved closer to Kirk and the three security team members fanned out around the team leaders, their phasers at the ready.

Kirk looked at his team; “I think that we have our smoking gun. The Romulans either have been here or are here right now. We need to establish that as fact, recover the evidence and get it out of here before the Romulans know that we’re here. We’ll move toward the hill. Sulu, you and crewman Jones take the left; Scotty and crewman Evans take the right. Bones, you Yeoman Rand and Ensign Smith come with me.  I’ll contact the ship.”

Kirk pulled out his Blackberry and punched the Enterprise icon on the touch screen. “Kirk to Enterprise, away team on planet surface, subspace emissions detected, moving to investigate.” The Blackberry remained silent. Kirk tired again. “Kirk to Enterprise, Uhura, Spock do you read me?” There was no response. “Bones, Scotty, Sulu, try to contact the ship on your Blackberries.”

The three officers each tried their Blackberries. Scotty looked up at Kirk and said “Captain, something has drained the batteries.  My Blackberry has almost no power left, and it registers a 1 X and not a 3G network.”

“What do you mean Scotty? 1 X, 3G what the hell does that mean?”

“Captain, I mean that you won’t be able to access the Enterprise or your Face Space account on this piece of junk.”

“You mean I can’t access my Face Space account?”

“Not that or anything else. Like I’ve said before, the more complicated they are the easier they are to break.”

“Can you contact them on your communicator Scotty?”

“I can try sir, it is a good thing that Uhura and Spock recommended that we have them.”

“Mr. Scott, if you will recall, it was I that said that you would carry a communicator, not Uhura” interjected an obviously irritated Kirk.

“Sulu, you take crewman Jones and Evans and find out what is creating that subspace emission and get back here within the hour. We cannot communicate so it is imperative that you find what is going on and at least one of you get back with the information. Hopefully we will be able to contact the Enterprise by the time you return.”

“Yes Captain” replied Sulu. “Evans, Jones, follow me.” Sulu set off at a jog toward the hill followed by the two security officers.

“Bones, can you figure out what is going on with these Blackberries?”

“Captain, I’m a doctor not a service technician,” replied a sarcastic sounding McCoy.

“Captain, I have contact with the Enterprise,” said Scotty.

“Give me that communicator Scotty!” interrupted Kirk, grabbing the device from his Chief Engineer’s hands.

“Uhura, Spock, can you read me? This is Kirk.”

“Captain, I read you but not well. Can you tell me your situation?” replied the Communications officer.

“Uhura, what is going on? These Blackerries are rotten! Nothing works! I can’t access my Face Space like you told me that I would!” Kirk’s voice was excited and sounded perturbed. Spock noted this as he listened in on the conversation. “Captain, I would say that it would be wise to end the mission, return to the ship and worry about your Face Space later.”

“But Spock, IT IS IN THE CONTRACT! Besides I just sent Sulu with crewmen Evans and Jones to check the source of the subspace emissions.”

“Subspace emissions, Captain?” asked Spock.

“Yes Spock, subspace emissions.”

Spock turned from the communications officer station and said to Ensign Chekov and Lieutenant O’Reilly “Gentlemen we may have company. Scan for any subspace emissions of evidence of a cloaked ship, raise shields and go to Red Alert.”

“Aye Mr. Spock” replied Chekov as the Red Alert alarm was sounded.

“Captain, I have just set Red Alert and raised the shields. When you are ready to beam back to the ship, signal me.”

“Good work, Spock. I will contact you shortly but get me Uhura.”

“Lieutenant Uhura, stand by to answer the Captain’s questions.”

“Yes Mr. Spock” replied the Communications Officer. “Captain Kirk, what is your question?”

“Uhura, can you contact the Verizon Universal technician and let him know what is going on?”

“Sir, I did as soon as Mr. Scott contacted us on his communicator. The tech rep, Bob, told me that there is a known software problem and that the company would be providing a software push to all subscribers within the week and that when we arrive at Starbase 234 that the defective units will be replaced free of charge.”

“But Lieutenant Uhura… I am on a planet with a small away team.  There is a real possibly that Romulans are nearby, AND you’re telling me that my Blackberry won’t work and I can’t access my Face Space much less communicate with anyone?”

“Yes sir, that is basically what I am telling you.” Replied Uhura who was looking at Spock with an exasperated expression.

“Thank you Lieutenant. You tell Bob or whoever you are in contact with that I EXPECT this to be corrected as soon as it can be corrected.  I mean, it needs to be corrected….” Kirk paused” I think that this is ridiculous. If Verizon Universal doesn’t fix it now tell Rob or whatever his name is, that I will contact Admiral Shirley Schmidt at Starfleet Legal and have them to start proceedings against them. I understand that Commander Alan Shore is quite a litigator and will rip them a new one.”

“I will relay the message Captain.”

“Good” said Kirk “and I will contact you as soon as I can to get off of this planet. Kirk out.”

Aboard the Enterprise the bridge crew began to scan and look for any signs of a cloaked Romulan ship as Kirk and the away team continued the mission.  On the planet Kirk was talking with McCoy and Scott with Yeoman Rand beside him looking on while transcribing the conversation on her I-Pad 2265.  It was then that phaser fire was heard in the distance coming from the hill where Sulu and the security officers had gone to seek out the source of the subspace emissions.

“Take cover” ordered Kirk and the team sought cover behind the rocks surrounding their position. “Scotty, contact the Enterprise, Bones prepare to receive casualties, Ensign Smith move right and cover Mr. Sulu’s team as they return. Yeoman Rand stay close to me.” Rand moved close to Kirk’s side and Kirk put his arm around her reaching toward her buttocks. “I’ll protect you Yeoman.” Rand edged closer.

As the team took cover Sulu and one of the security officers could be seen maneuvering to get back to the rest of the team. Ensign Smith and Mr. Scott began to provide covering fire with their phasers at what appeared to be Romulan disruptor fire coming from the hill. As Sulu and the security officer got back to the site the security officer turned to return fire and was hit by a disrupter burst crumpling to the ground near McCoy.

“Bones, see if he’s okay! Sulu, what happened?” shouted Kirk.

Aboard the Enterprise the situation was tense. Mr. Scott’s message about the phaser and disruptor fire had been received and Spock paced the bridge.

“Mr. Chekov, any sign of the Romulans?”

“Sir, I am reading a distortion in space at 149 mark 916 distance 33,000 kilometers. I think it is a cloaked ship.”

“Lieutenant Kyle.”

“Kyle here sir” replied the transporter chief.

“Mr. Kyle, prepare to beam up the team.  Lock onto Mr. Scott’s communicator and beam at my command.”

“Aye Captain.” Kyle’s voice displayed no lack of confidence in his abilities.

On the planet the Enterprise away team returned fire as McCoy checked the fallen security officer. Sulu moved to Kirk to report the situation.

“Captain, we got to the hill and found a Romulan away team setting up what appears to be a sensor array. They took us under fire and crewman Evans was killed in the exchange. Jones and I returned fire and moved back to your position.”

“How many Romulans Mr. Sulu?” asked Kirk.

“Sir, there were at least a dozen, some armed with disruptor rifles. We downed several with our phasers, but I expect that there are more in the vicinity moving our direction.” Sulu wiped his brow but appeared calm even as he made the report.

“Thank you Lieutenant, take position over there and protect our flank.”

“Aye sir.”

“Bones, how is crewman Jones?”

“Jim, he’s dead.” As McCoy gave the report on Jones a burst of disruptor fire blasted the rock in front of Lieutenant Smith who took cover and cried “Captain I’m hit!”

“Spock, get us out of here.”

“Aye, Captain.” Spock continued, “Mr. Kyle are we prepared to beam the away team to the Enterprise?”

“Ready Mr. Spock” replied the Transporter Chief, his Australian accent showing.

“Mr. O’Reilly drop shield and raise them after the transport is complete.” Spock’s order was devoid of emotion even as he ordered Kyle to beam the team up. “Mr. Kyle beam the team up now.”

“Energizing, Mr. Spock” replied the transporter Chief. Within seconds the team materialized on the transporter pad. McCoy called for corpsmen to report to tend to the wounded Lieutenant Smith. Kirk approached Kyle.

“Excellent job, Mr. Kyle.”

“Thank you sir, my pleasure.”

Kirk began to bark out orders, “Scotty, Sulu come with me, Bones take care of Lieutenant Smith. Yeoman Rand report to the bridge with me.”

As Kirk, Sulu, Scott and Yeoman Rand entered the bridge from the turbo-lift, Spock yielded the command chair to Kirk.

“Mr. Spock, thank you for your timely intervention. What is going on?”

“Captain, we believe that a Romulan Bird of Prey is cloaked. I recommend since the Romulans attacked our team on the planet that we fire a burst of photon torpedoes at the location in violation of the peace treaty.”

“Mr. O’Reilly, fire a spread of Photon Torpedoes at the location.”

“Aye Captain,” replied the young Irishman as he pressed the firing key on his operations console. A second after he did this a number of Photon Torpedo bursts exploded in the distance.  A Bird of Prey appeared was seen listing heavily to Port as its cloaking device went offline. No fire was returned by the obviously heavily damaged Romulan ship.

“Uhura, hail the Romulan.  Onscreen.”

The communications console beeped as Uhura sent a message to the Romulan. On the Enterprise Bridge view screen the Romulan ship disappeared as a Romulan officer appeared. Behind him fires burned and Romulan crew members could be seen attempting repairs.

“Federation ship, I am Praetor Taev, you have attacked my ship. I cannot return fire or communicate with my away team.”

“Praetor, we stand by to assist you.”

“Your assistance is not needed or desired. We would not be in this situation if it were not for a communications failure between us and our away team.”

“It seems that we encountered a similar situation on the planet surface” replied Kirk.

“Some advice Federation Captain, if your fleet communications bureau attempts to replace your communicators with something called Blackberries have a backup plan. Our away team was trying to rig a mobile communication array on the planet, their Blackberries would not work.”

“We will Praetor, thank you for your advice. Who is your provider, Praetor?”

“Verizon Universal, the largest wireless corporation in the known universe with almost 300 years of experience. They even had a technician dedicated to this mission, but we have executed him. His funny looking black plastic eyeglasses are being returned to his family.”

“You have my sympathies, Praetor. Since it seems that this encounter is a misunderstanding, we will allow you to make repairs and proceed on our way. You are a worthy opponent. Kirk out.”

“You as well, Captain…. in another place and time we might have been friends.” The screen went blank and an explosion was witnessed. The Bird of Prey had blown up, the fireball extended out and the explosion was felt aboard the Enterprise which trembled slightly as the shockwave from the blast reached it.

“Mr. Spock, what happened?”

“Captain it appears that the Romulan ship is destroyed. I am not sure, but they may have scuttled her because they would have been disgraced for allowing themselves to be taken by surprise. The Romulans have a keen sense of honor and would rather suffer death than return home in disgrace.”

“Pity, Spock.  The Romulan was doing what we were doing and was a victim of the same Romulan Navy and Verizon Universal communications problem that we experienced.”

“Lieutenant Uhura, make sure that this situation is corrected. Mr. Spock you have the Bridge. I am going to my cabin to watch Boston Legal and book a trip on Priceline when we get back to Earth. Yeoman Rand, meet me later to take report. I’ll Face Space you with the time and place.”

“Yes, Captain” the attractive blond blushed and smiled as Kirk winked at her and exited the Bridge.

McCoy, Scott and Spock looked at each other saying nothing. Chekov, Sulu and O’Reilly smiled in amusement while Uhura shook her head. Sulu relieved Chekov at the helm.

“Mr. Sulu, set course for Starbase 234, warp factor 3.

“Aye Mr. Spock” as Sulu punched the coordinates into the helm music began to play and the Enterprise burst into warp leaving Cheron behind.

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