Eternal Patrol

Wasting time on Pinterest takes too much of my time. I should probably stop doing it… but every once in a while I stumble across something pretty cool. This pin I’d come across before, but this time when I saw it, it started a ball rolling. TL;DR if you don’t want to click through: but US Naval tradition refers to submarines lost at sea as being on eternal patrol. There’s even mention of radio operators hailing all the eternal patrol subs on Christmas just to tell them they’re still remembered. Some people find it creepy, others find it a sweet remembrance of those lost, and some people turn it into a writing prompt. I totally support all of these… but since I’ve got Star Trek on my brain so much, I couldn’t help but wonder, what if a human caused the tradition to make the jump to Starfleet?

I picture someone who comes from a family with a long history of Naval service. They grew up hearing about the Christmas hails to the submarines on eternal patrol; it was something their mother whispered in their ear as they were tucked into bed on Christmas eve each year, talking about her time working the radios when she served. They grow up to join Starfleet—much to the surprise of the rest of the family—and go into communications. Their first patrol on a starship, and they happen to be working communications on the bridge Christmas eve. So they tell their crew mates of the naval tradition, and somehow they convince the officer on duty to let them place the hail out to the starships they can quickly find listed as missing in action.

Next year, their captain presents them with a list. It includes many of the ships from last year, though some have been removed because they found their way safely home, and others added; new ships include those who’d gone missing in the last year, or ships buried in higher security clearance than this lowly ensign had access to. The Christmas hail goes out again, with some other ships in the fleet picking it up and repeating it. There’s a lot of chatter both within Starfleet and without. Admirals express confusion, particularly those who aren’t human, but in the end the ensign is given official clearance to continue—with the understanding that certain ships require secure channels for their hail.

In time they get promoted and eventually assigned to HQ. Every year, they get an updated and carefully organized list of ships and registry numbers, frequencies and encryption keys to use; no one ever appears to have put any on duty time into the effort but the list is always ready in time. It eventually takes over operations of HQ’s communications hub for Christmas eve and day, with people volunteering for the shifts and expressing preference for being on when certain ships are being hailed. The original ensign retires from the fleet, tucking their grandchildren in on Christmas eve with the stories of the new tradition; one of them even joins Starfleet and gets into the regular rotation of volunteers working the holiday hail shift.