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Class 6 Warp Drive
Warp 8.75 (12 hours)
Multi-Layered Shielding System
Technically classified as a light escort due to its armaments, the Aquarius-class starship is a small, versatile vessel initially designed to support the Odyssey-class explorer as a first-of-her-kind embarked vessel. Since the first two were built in the mid-2380s, the class’s usage has expanded beyond just supporting the Odyssey-class, with units of this class serving as patrol cutters and starbase support ships, and in other light-duty assignments throughout the Federation.
Science and Exploration
Though not meant for independent exploratory missions, one of the primary functions of the Aquarius to support the scientific endeavors of her home command, be that a starbase or an Odyssey-class explorer. This small ship has a generalist science lab aboard, and its specialty is sample and data collection, which it then ferries back home. The cargo hold can be configured to store large quantities of samples in very controlled environmental conditions, and the forward sensor pallet can easily mount specialized mission equipment, which is made all the easier to swap out by being accessible in a pressurized environment when the Aquarius is docked with an Odyssey.
As an example of a typical scientific task for this class, an Aquarius may be tasked with collecting biological samples from one planet while the mothership explores another planet in the same system. Because she is capable of landing on planetary bodies of almost any size, she is also capable of serving as a field headquarters for away teams operating on the surface, especially when conditions are hostile to transporters. She is also an ideal support vessel for a small scientific outpost, as she can carry out general utility duties and carry out microgravity experiments that must be conducted out of a star system without needing to task a full-sized starship.
An Aquarius-class starship would be a poor choice for any diplomatic duty. Unlike a ‘captain’s yacht,’ an Aquarius is a utilitarian vessel with no luxuries, not even a dedicated conference room, let alone a holodeck. Should a large diplomatic party need to be transported from a planetary body to the mothership, they could be accommodated in the mess hall for a short time. Still, most ambassadorial delegations would likely chafe at the close quarters and complete lack of even a single frill.
The Aquarius class was designed using components from several other classes, notably the Defiant, Nova, and Diligent, emphasizing ease of maintenance and miniaturization. The power use problems associated with the Defiant class have been solved using the substantially less-powerful warp core designed for the Nova class. The warp engine coils are also borrowed from the Nova, mounted in nacelles derived from the Diligent-class design, which are mounted similar variable-geometry pylons that pull them in against the hull for docking and for landing and which can optimize the position of the nacelles for warp travel. The ship’s bridge is identical to that of the standard Defiant-class configuration.
The ship’s hull is comprised of two flattened cylinders, which combine to give it roughly a shovel-shaped profile. The narrower two-deck upper section consists of the bridge, officers’ quarters, the science lab, the cargo hold, the brig, the aft torpedo launchers and magazine, and deuterium tankage, while the more expansive third deck contains the crew quarters, main engineering, and the forward weapons, and the narrow fourth deck is a strip between the nacelles (when retracted) that includes the computer core, antimatter storage pods, and a tiny shuttle bay, which is capable of supporting a single shuttle; deck four has the highest deck height of the ship, as it extends down into the sub-structure of the hull. The upper three decks are accessible by a lift and stairwell, while the fourth deck is accessible only by stairwells.
There are several umbilical connection ports across the ship to interface with the Odyssey’s docking cradle: two primary power, fuel, and consumables hardpoints as well as torpedo loading ports forward on Deck 2, two torpedo loading ports port and starboard, aft on Deck 1, and two magnetic docking latch receptacles forward on deck three. Crew access is provided by extendable docking tunnels port and starboard, forward on Deck 3, and the cargo bay doors port and starboard, aft on Deck 1 allow access to cargo receiving bays on the Odyssey. When landed, the crew can enter and exit the starship through a ramp extended from the shuttle bay.
The engineering crew is generally an officer and five maintenance technicians, as it is never away from port or from its mothership long enough to need a full engineering team, especially given the use of automation and hardened components. However, the ship’s performance is also comparably limited: top warp speeds are a mere warp 8, though she can sustain higher speeds if deployed while at warp.
As her classification suggests, the Aquarius-class is meant to escort her mothership in combat situations, providing nimble fire support and scouting capabilities that the massive Odyssey-class lacks. A compromise between the armament philosophies of the Defiant and Diligent-classes, the ship is equipped with two forward-firing pulse phaser cannons, as well as eight short phaser strips, four ventral and four dorsal, as well as two forward and two aft photon torpedo launchers. This provides comprehensive coverage, but the Aquarius is most effective when getting behind a target to use its phaser cannons.
These weapons systems have lower overall power output than either of the two classes they were borrowed from, though more significant than any runabout, making the Aquarius adept at taking down lightly-armed and shielded raiders. However, she is still easily outmatched by most warship designs. When engaging larger starships with her mothership, a common tactic is to allow the Odyssey-class to weather down their opponent’s shields to allow the Aquarius to employ torpedoes at close range.
The hull is covered with a thinner layer of the same ablative armor found aboard the Diligent-class, which allows it to shrug off glancing blows, an essential quality, given that its shields are not particularly strong. What the ship does have is speed and maneuverability, which are its greatest defensive assets.
As a patrol cutter, this class is more useful for customs enforcement and star lane patrol missions than border defense. However, some starbases deploy them as leaders for squadrons of runabouts, which allows for firepower multiplication.
Mission Configurable Space
The cargo hold on Deck 1 has been equipped with EPS taps and direct links to the main computer core, which allows it to be reconfigured to serve other purposes for a particular mission. For example, it could be equipped with extra computer banks and stellar cartography viewing systems for celestial observation missions. On humanitarian missions, additional sickbay beds could be deployed here as well. For larger-scale tasks, it could also be used as a space to coordinate the actions of her mothership’s shuttles and runabouts. With the use of the cargo doors, this can even be used to install external sensor modules or other such equipment. Any reconfiguration of this space would be faster than building something from scratch but would be much slower than hot-swapping a module from a runabout.
While some Aquarius-class starships, especially those not assigned directly to a starbase or Odyssey-class explorer, have a permanent crew, their crews are much more likely to be drawn from their home command based on the particular mission profile. For instance, a science officer might be selected to command one during a survey mission, while the mothership’s first or second officer usually takes command during combat missions. During typical situations, while docked with an Odyssey, a skeleton crew remains aboard to allow for quick deployment, with a designated commanding officer for each shift.
Given the very temporary nature of assignments to this ship, crew members tend to identify more as being a part of their home command than the Aquarius, though as crew members cycle through assignments on the support ship, some will inevitably develop an attachment to the romance of serving on a scrappy little vessel. While crew members aboard the Aquarius might never interact while among the large crew of a starbase or Odyssey-class ship, the much smaller environment of the Aquarius lends itself to either making new friendships or letting minor annoyances foment rivalries.
These rotating crew assignments help offset the fact that the Aquarius-class has even more spartan accommodations than the Defiant-class, as it’s meant to be an even lower endurance platform. While there are four single-occupancy cabins (usually for the captain, first officer, engineering officer, and medical officer), other officers are in cramped double-berth cabins, and enlisted personnel share one four-person cabin and four bunk rooms with ten to twelve bunks each. The standard crew complement is 40, but the ship can operate for limited periods with just a bridge crew, or with hot-bunking can accommodate up to 72 in terms of life support and escape pod capacity.
The only dedicated recreational space is the mess hall. Each cabin and bunk room have a table and chairs and a replicator, but the crew tends to congregate together for meals, cards, drinks, and games. When not full of cargo and equipment, the cargo hold and shuttle bay can be secondary recreational spaces, especially for athletic activities.
The Aquarius class has an oversized sickbay for its size, with four standard biobeds and a combination exam-surgical bed. This increases the ship’s utility for search-and-rescue operations, which are common assignments for vessels of this class assigned as patrol cutters. It also obviates the need to return to the home command for minor to moderate medical problems. The ship is equipped with an EMH and typically embarks a medical officer and an enlisted medic. The transporter room aboard the Aquarius class is similar in design to those found aboard the Nova-class, with a standard seven-place platform.
The Aquarius class was designed along with the Odyssey-class explorer, a feature that was added to the design following the successful introduction of the Prometheus class in the late 2370s. Initially, it was envisioned as a much more significant component of the Odyssey, but this was deemed unfeasible. Instead, a design based on the Defiant and Diligent-classes was produced which would answer some of the Odyssey’s weaknesses that resulted from her large size: the Aquarius would both be able to provide combat support against small, fast targets, but also to land on planetary bodies when a runabout or shuttle wasn’t enough for a particular mission.
While integrated support craft such as captain’s yachts, aeroshuttles, and waveriders were not a new idea in Starfleet, this would be the first time that an entire starship would be carried aboard another. The Aquarius was launched at the same time as the Odyssey, and her trials were uneventful. For several years, the only two members of this class produced were assigned to the Odyssey and Verity, which were launched significantly earlier than planned to participate in the Romulan Evacuation.
With the other Odysseys several years away, Starfleet decided to continue producing Aquarius-class ships to serve different purposes, as they had carved out a niche for themselves that was distinct from other small starships: they were far less maintenance-intensive than the Defiant and crew-intensive than the Diligent or Nova. This made them suitable for the sorts of minor missions that had long been carried out by the ancient Oberth-class starships still in service like courier runs, search and rescue, and specimen collection, which would be wasteful for a more capable ship to perform but too complex for a runabout to do. As such, units of this class began to be built and assigned to starbases as support ships.
By the early 2390s, the class has been given a generous production run and is becoming increasingly common in Starfleet service in lightly populated and low-threat areas.
The Aquarius class in Play
- The Aquarius and Odyssey have the same relationship as the Defiant and Deep Space Nine do: this light escort is meant to defend the mothership and take small parts of the crew on away missions. It’s not as powerful as the Defiant, but it’s quick and maneuverable. It’s also more useful than the Defiant for exploratory missions because of its mission configurable bay.
- Accommodations on the Aquarius are slightly worse than on the Defiant, even, with bunk rooms for the bulk of the crew, a handful of double cabins, and just a few single cabins for the senior-most officers. Generally, these ships are away from home for a month at the very most, with deployments of just a few hours being far more common.
- As a starbase support ship, this class would be used for all sorts of utility purposes and station defense, especially on bases that are too small to justify a larger support ship or which don’t have a large complement of runabouts.
- As an independent vessel, this ship would still have a home base that it would come back to every month or travel between starbases. This would be a good platform for a specialized science team, a customs enforcement or search and rescue team, or even an elite engineering detachment.
- While docked to an Odyssey, there are direct EPS and computer connections to the mothership. While the Aquarius certainly couldn’t power the larger ship completely, a clever Odyssey captain or chief engineer might find a use for that little extra boost of power from her warp core. Her aft torpedo launchers are also free to fire while docked, which could surprise an unsuspecting enemy.