The USS Starquest (NX-71804, then NCC-71804) was a Galaxy-class large exploration cruiser on active duty in Starfleet during at least the last quarter of the 24th century, under the command of Captain Jeffrey Handshaw, Commander James Byers served proudly as his XO until he transferred to a Klingon vessel, at which point Comander Bill Litz, a Vulcan named Sylock,assumed the duties of XO. (Starfleet International: Vessel Registry, 0801.07 revision)
Shuttle Hawking was launched shortly after the commissioning of the USS StarQuest, whose crew were later granted their own starship commission.
The USS StarQuest served the fleet for several years until it was completely destroyed by an unexpected bolt of energy from an automated defensive system from a mysterious planet which once supported a very advanced society. The only crew members who survived were planet-side, via shuttle, investigating the remnants of the advanced society. One other crew-member of interest was an Engineer Mak-Barr who was outside of the ship investigating an anomaly on the hull which was interfering with the shielding (and transporter). Mak-Barr was thrown clear of the blast where he then fell into the atmosphere of the planet. His powered suit automatically attempted to coordinate his fall, unfortunately the physical damage upon impact was fatal, however, using the advanced medical technology found on the planet, Captain Handshaw was able to rebuild Mak-Barr, more machine than man. To more"humanize" himself he took on a very common Earth name, Johnny Johnson.
The remaining crew managed to return to Earth, and all knowledge of the incident was classified Top Secret and the planet quarantined. The crew was assigned various positions in Starfleet aiding in the Dominion War. It was suspected that Captain Handshaw had managed to absorb the technology of the mysterious world, however his vast knowledge was out-of-place in that time so he had to suppress it. The crew was ordered never to speak of the incident.
Captain Handshaw, now Chief Engineer of Starfleet, was tasked with rebuilding the fleet as a result of the War. He devoted his spare time to the design of the rebuilding of the StarQuest and was often seen working alone late nights on the construction itself making "secret" upgrades (read:technological advancements) to its original "normal" design. The War ended before the ship was done (fortunately for us and fortunately for the Dominion), so he was able to devote all his time into finishing up the ship for deployment. Taking lessons from their encounters with The Borg and the Dominion, the new warship was equipped with multiple, variable weapon systems, holographic emitters (for projecting images in space), a fleet of fighters (which could either be manned or remote controlled from a central holographic interface), advanced variable shielding systems, holographic crew members. Captain Handshaw built himself an advanced personal transport craft which was invisible to all sensors which he "parked" inside the Starship. Stories of this craft's abilities have been declared impossible by the top engineers and scientists of the time.
The USS StarQuest's 'was finally deployed briefly under the command of Captain William Bloom near the turn of the century where it performed some exploratory missions, Captain Handshaw was Chief Engineer. Then after some time in dry-dock, Captain Handshaw took command with XO Commander Johnny Johnson (his right hand man in Starfleet Engineering and his assistant during the initial deployment). The ship is still part of the fleet. (SFI.org, co-written by Chapter CO, Jeffrey C. Handshaw, Naples FL)