Missions - Episode 7: Into The Fire

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2389; A Perplexing Space Odyssey

Location: Ready Room
On: MD146, 0955 Hours

With the Nogura having successfully departed Starbase 72, Captain Colby Drayton and his senior staff had monitored ships systems for over six hours and, once everyone was satisfied that the ship was running as efficiently as possible, he had ordered a temporary change to shift patterns for the day. It seemed only fair given the fact he had worked them to the bone after the explosion a few days earlier. The investigation had been arduous but needed and had thrown up some intriguing evidence. Subsequent talks with Admiral O’Connell had seen the ships previous mission reassigned and now, they had a welcome change of pace headed their way – exploration. True exploration. Granted, it was in an unknown region, and granted it would be under the ever watchful gaze of a new alliance known as the Alrakis Pact, but the ship would still be able to explore the area as she carried out other missions of vital importance over the coming weeks.

With all that in mind, the Captain had decreed that gamma shift would remain on duty for an additional two hours, moving Alpha shift to ten-hundred hours instead of the usual oh-eight-hundred hours; an opportunity to try and regain those lost hours of sleep. Satisfied with the arrangement in place, he himself had turned in a little after oh-two-hundred. He was out for the count the minute his head hit the pillow; no sleeping pills were needed this night.

Despite the disturbed night's sleep, he had looked bright and cheery upon reporting to the bridge, via a stop at the mess hall for a Raktajino and some toast of course - a late breakfast to set the Terran Captain up for the day. He had decided that he would go for the waistcoat uniform variant today as he reported for his shift. He hoped that things would be a little more relaxed than of late.

The new Starfleet uniforms established under the Azulas regime had taken some getting used to, a significant departure from recent years, heralding back to the mid-sixties with a touch of the more modern uniforms that had been in use since the seventies. Now that he was in command, the Captain had disposed of the new design and returned the crew to wearing the more traditional ones that had been in use for nearly twenty years. It had not escaped the crew’s attention that this was nothing more than an attempt to ‘reboot’ after the disastrous times of the former command staff, but it was welcome, nonetheless. A chance to return to what they knew and embark on their first proper mission since the end of the Azulas-era. The change had been made all the more awkward by the Commodore's continued presence aboard the ship, but that didn't seem to bother him as much as it did her.

As for their new mission, the Captain was looking forward to finding out more about the Alrakis Pact, not to mention the other mysteries that lurked in the darkness of their new area of operations. Many light-years to the south-west of Sol, an isolated, desolate region exists, cut off from the rest of the galaxy by large swathes of Federation, K’Zinti and Talarian territory. A lawless territory filled with many worlds all light-years apart, all free to come and go as they please. The area was known by many names, but to Starfleet it was known as ‘The Wastelands’. No fancy fleets had been assigned there, no new installations built nearby and only a handful of populated Federation colonies lay on the periphery of Federation space. Starfleet and the Federation had no reason, no desire, no need to go there - until now. Beyond the edge of explored space, the people of the Wastelands, isolated and full of resentment towards the rest of the galaxy, try their best to thrive under sometimes perilous conditions. But now Starfleet had become embroiled in a race against the clock to make inroads into the area before the Alrakis Pact could claim new members. An area once lacking any strategic value had suddenly been thrust into the middle of a bitter feud...

A feud that the Nogura crew would be in the middle of, but not on their own as it would soon transpire.

He hadn't even made it across the bridge to his command chair after exiting the turbo lift before he was accosted by Lieutenant Okan, the temporary Operations Officer for Gamma Shift, who had been the first to report for duty – as was characteristic for the ever punctual Cardassian. Okan would remain aboard until the ship met up with one of its new colleagues down in the Wastelands and would transfer to the Adriatic, having been replaced by Commander Proht a few days earlier.

"Captain," she called, turning in her seat to glance across at the ships commanding officer. "We've received a holo-transmission request from the Starship Odyssey. They're in the immediate vicinity, travelling at warp six."

Colby collapsed into the command chair and let out a sigh as he got comfortable. 'It's too early in the morning for strange new people…' he pondered internally. "Let's have it," he spoke eventually, but only after two sips of his coffee.

Akaria nodded and tapped at her controls, the holo-communications platform at the front of the bridge activating seamlessly as the figure of a slightly older woman with black hair appeared inside the platform.

"Ahhh, you must be Captain Drayton? Greetings! My name is Captain Eren Utaazi, commander of the Odyssey," the older, Terran-looking woman smiled happily and nodded in the direction of her seemingly younger counterpart. "I know you were supposed to meet the Adriatic in the Iadora system but there has been a slight change of plans. Starfleet has ordered the Odyssey to rendezvous with yourselves, the Adriatic and the Roehampton just outside of the Penthara System, at Starbase Two-Fourteen. I'm transmitting to you the change of orders now," she concluded, appearing to sit in a chair of her own and allowing the conversation to swap sides.

Drayton shifted forwards slightly, his hands gripping the arms of the command chair as he listened to the words of the holographic woman. "I didn't realise Starfleet was sending anyone else out that way. I was under the impression the area was considered a wastela...”

"The threat of the Alrakis Pact is significant, wherever they go. Whatever the reason for this alliance, two of their ships were destroyed by an unknown presence in the unclaimed territories of the Wastelands less than two weeks ago. Whoever the aggressors were, one of their ships then bested two of our newer, most up to date vessels in a skirmish last week. From out of the blue, without warning, before simply disappearing into the night... like ghosts!" Utaazi interrupted, her demeanour changing as she spoke. "So, naturally, they are going to send more than one Sovereign class starship and an ageing wreck of an Excelsior to this new region."

Drayton raised an eyebrow as he glanced across at the Ops Officer, who returned his quizzical expression, before continuing about her business. "We can be at Penthara in the next eight to ten hours, Captain. We'll have to utilise our slipstream drive, but we'll be there,” Colby confirmed, letting the new face know that he wouldn't be pushed around, even if he was only the commander of a ‘single Sovereign Class starship’. Nogura was joining the party from much further afield than the rest of this new Task Group and would need to utilise her new propulsion system to get there quickly - there was obviously something in the works that he didn't want to be late for.

"The closer to eight, the better," Utaazi exclaimed. Then, as quickly as it had switched the first time, her demeanour changed again, and she was once again the chirpy soul who had first contacted them. "See you at Penthara, Captain. Odyssey out."

And just like that, she disappeared and the hologrid was deactivated, leaving Colby somewhat perplexed at the interaction that had taken place.

"A single Sovereign… ageing wreck of an Excelsior..." muttered Okan to the Captain's forward-left position, frustrated at the mention of her new assignment in such a way, "it'd be alright if she was commanding a Prometheus or something, but we could run rings around that little Intrepid of hers every day of the week and twice on Saturdays," The Cardassian glanced back at her Captain, only to see him shooting her a look that sparked a sudden feeling that she had slightly overstepped the mark in her rant, "sorry sir," she offered her profuse apologies and got back to work.

Drayton shook his head slowly, and let out a smirk at the young woman's indiscretion, but his thoughts soon turned back to what appeared to be an adjustment to their orders. The Nogura would now report to the Penthara system and begin a new journey with a few more new friends in tow.

"Lieutenant Okan," he called out as he rose from his chair and pulled down his vest jacket, "note down the adjustment to our orders in the ships log. Call the senior staff to duty stations and then we'll make for the Penthara system, at best possible speed. Have Commander Millarini bring the Slipstream Drive online, inform Lieutenant Franklin of our change of plans and have him ensure all new security protocols are in place for when we reach Penthara," he turned on his heels, not waiting for a response from the Cardassian before heading for his ready room. "Oh, and have Commander's Neprem and Hunt report to me as soon as they come on duty. Knowing our luck, our new friend Captain Utaazi will want to stretch her legs on something a bit more sophisticated than her tiny Intrepid."

Akaria Okan watched with an enormous grin on her face as Drayton disappeared into his ready room and then got to work carrying out her orders.

Inside the ready room, there was research to be done. About the Odyssey, the Roehampton, the Adriatic, and about this perplexing woman called Eren Utaazi…

Command Level Updates

Location: Ready Room, Deck 1
On: MD146, 1015 Hours

It had only been a few minutes since the Nogura had received the transmission from Captain Utaazi of the Odyssey and the change of orders for his ship, but already the Captain had had his curiosity piqued by what he had read in the Captain's file and that information about the Odyssey's previous mission - so much so he was eager to share the information with his two senior most officers who he had ordered to his ready room. He was never one for keeping people in the dark on matters unless absolutely necessary, instead choosing to trust that his people would perform better if they knew as much as possible at all times, and that started with his first and second officers. As a command team, they couldn't be expected to carry out their duties and offer insight unless they were privy to the truth of the situation so, ss he sat at his desk nursing a warm cup of earth tea, he read with interest the information on the screen before him whilst he awaited their arrivals.

Tara had already been en route from Engineering to his office to deliver a status update about the new slipstream drive when she received the call, so a short while later she entered the Ready Room. "Main Engineering reports all is well with the Quantum Slipstream Drive," Tara stated. "There was a slight incident, some internal fluctuations that could have caused some problems, but we seemed to have smoothed everything out, and the drive is operating beautifully," the Trill reported as she sat down across from the Captain. "I'm growing quite fond of Commander Millarini, I'll be sad to see her go when she's no longer needed to oversee the Drive."

"Likewise," Colby frowned as he relaxed in his chair, "I approved her transfer to the Adriatic this morning, along with that of Akaria Okan and young Tempestava th'Zorati. I think it's time to let them all grow a little," he was happy for the officers, especially the younger ones who were going on to permanent roles as department heads on the Adriatic, but it was still sad to lose such competent officers.

"The Adriatic? Very nice ship, they should flourish well there," Tara remarked with an approving nod.

Will entered the Ready Room last, having come from the library, where he spent the beginning of most mornings, reading the latest news and periodicals. He still had a PADD in hand, so he could finish his reading in the turbolift. “Good morning, Captain, Commander,” he said with a smile, sitting down next to Tara.

"Good morning Commander," the Captain nodded in the newcomers direction as he sat up in his chair and got straight to the point. "A short while ago we received a transmission from the Captain of the Odyssey with a slight adjustment to our orders. We're to rendezvous with the Odyssey, as well as the Adriatic and the Roehampton, at Starbase Two-One-Four in roughly eight hours," he told, turning his screen to face them both. On it, there was a schematic that showed the route of travel. "We're going to have to use the Slipstream to get us there on time."

Will couldn’t help but grin. He’d never been on a Slipstream-capable ship. He was familiar with the ships the Captain listed. Odyssey. Adriatic. Roehampton. Intrepid, Excelsior, and Nebula classes. Add a Sovereign and you had a sizeable, capable task group. He recognised the Starbase too. “Two-One-Four. We discussed it briefly the other day. It’s our only installation in the Wastelands. Why are we sending such a force there, sir?”

"In short, the Starbase has detected a force of Alrakis Pact vessels within sensor range and thus, our presence is required much sooner," the Captain told as the display changed to reveal several blinking lights on the periphery of the starbases indicated sensor range.

"That's troubling," Tara remarked. "Are they getting anxious that there are still Starfleet vessels inside the Expanse in violation of the blockade?"

"There are plans for a summit between leaders of both sides to allow further exploration of the Expanse, so I suspect their move here is to draw our attention elsewhere," the Captain told.

“But where?” wondered Will. “There’s not much out there. A lot of it is uncharted, but there’s no indication of anything important out that way.”

"Yet," the Captain added. "We don't know what they may or may not have found, or what their true intentions out here may be, but the sheer fact that we're now splitting assets between here and the Inconnu Expanse gives them an edge," he told before activating a new screen on his display, "what I find perhaps even more troubling is this," he pointed to an energy signal on the screen, "this is the weapons signature of a vessel that not only destroyed two Pact vessels, but also bested the starships Brier-Ridge and Charleston. Both ships had to make a swift getaway and are now headed to Starbase Forty-Seven for repairs," he told as he sat back in his chair again. "Brier-Ridge is one of the new Diligent-class ships whilst Charleston is an Onimaru. Neither vessel is a slouch defensively."

Tara frowned as she looked at the images of the damaged vessels. "I've repaired a lot of damaged hull plating in my days as an Engineer, but I've never seen blast marks like that. What can leave marks like that?" she asked. This was something, something dangerous!

"Whatever the hell this weapons signature is, that is what's responsible," Drayton answered, "I've had the logs added to your clearance levels, but whatever it is, it isn't pretty. It sounds like they come and go in an instant; one of the logs refers to a blinding flash, followed by a volley of weapons fire, then the same flash again. It renders sensors practically useless," he revealed.

Will dug deep into his memories. He was no expert on weapons, but he knew a small amount about the weapons of most major powers and enough minor ones. “It doesn’t sound like anything used by anyone out that way,” he said. “The only non-Pact forces in that direction are the Kzinti and the Ferengi, and neither of those use weapons I’d describe like that. Of course, it could be some unseen power in the Wastelands, or even one from outside importing new weapons to the region. Hard to say much with any certainty.”

"Commander Neprem," Drayton smiled, "following our briefing, you'll have the bridge for the next few hours while I dig deep into the recent contact history between Starfleet and the Alrakis Powers. Commander Hunt, I want you to delve further into what we know and see if you can find anything that match this signature."

Will nodded. “Aye, Captain. There could even be references in the historical database to attacks against Federation or other ships that no one has linked to these incidents yet. If there’s anything out there to find, I’ll find it.”

Tara nodded. "If either of you need an extra pair of eyes, do let me know," she said, but she was grateful that for once she wasn't the one who had to do all this research! "If there's nothing else, then I'll go watch the bridge," she added as she rose from her chair. There was, indeed, much to do.

Feline Sabotage

Location: Deck 8
On: Day 144 at 1740

After she was discharged from Sickbay, Meibei was strictly ordered to bed rest by the doctor, the captain and the XO separately and with considerable force. The XO in particular repeated that order at least twice a day, usually with some light-hearted threat of retribution.

Naturally, Meibei completely ignored them. Thus, late one day after spending a couple of hours in Engineering, she slowly floated her way back to her quarters. She was still clearly in bad shape, one antenna missing and half her body bandaged, but her spirit seemed to have recovered much quicker than her corporeal form. Meibei was clad in a flowery vest and a long skirt, humming merrily as she chugged along while reading a PADD, the hoverchair's automatic systems taking her where she needed to go without need for piloting. At least, that was until a very odd sound jolted her out of her concentration.


Startled, Meibei looked around before spotting a small furry creature in front of her. "Kitty!" she breathed, grinning as he brought the chair to stop, having developed a fondness for the Earth animals while at the Academy. "What are you doing out here? Did you go out on an adventure?"

The cat considered the odd blue woman in her floating chair, plainly wondering what to make of it as its tail slowly wagged from side to side. Finally, the cat approached, meowing loudly in greeting...and then, oddly, it went underneath the chair.

"Uh...what are you doing down there?" Meibei asked, flummoxed. She tried bending down to see under her chair, but her protesting muscles quickly put a stop to that. She was just reaching for her hoverchair's controls when she heard a loud click.

The chair fell to the deck with a sudden loud crash, accompanied by the startled yelp of its occupant and the panicked screech of its saboteur, tipping Meibei sideways onto the deck with all the grace of a sack of potatoes. She groaned as she lay there, unmoving.

"Ow," she grumbled, aching horribly from the fall. She had luckily fallen on her unburnt side, meaning that the bruises were relatively mild, but they hurt nevertheless. Then she spotted the cat moving back into her eyeline, meowing hesitantly before nudging Meibei's cheek with its wet nose. "Meanie," Meibei grumbled, glaring.

Will came running around the corridor in the direction his cat ran. He sped up when he heard the crash, and was shocked to see the badly injured Andorian woman on the ground, his furry friend nuzzling her cheek.

“Oh my,” he said, and rushed to help. “Liviana, what did you do this time?” he asked the cat, who stepped out of the way. “Please, let me help you back up. Did she damage the chair?”

"Dunno," Meibei muttered, wincing. She tried to push herself up off the deck with her good arm, but it started trembling immediately at the strain. "Ow, that really smarts."

“Do you need me to contact anyone?” Will asked, crouching and offering a hand for her to grab for support. He didn’t know how badly hurt she was, either from the fall or her previous injuries, so didn’t want to just start grabbing and cause more pain. The cat, meanwhile, was doing her usual ‘hide by crouching in plain sight’ move that never seemed to work.

"Oh no, I'm fine," Meibei groaned, her grumpy tone at odds with her words. "Could ya pick me up? It's only my right side that's all burnt, and I can stand fine..." Like so, the human gently helped pick Meibei up, getting the pixie Andorian on her feet. Meibei kept a hand on the wall to maintain her balance, but she seemed strong enough despite her injuries to stand unassisted.

Once she was a bit more stable, Will looked her in the eye. “Sorry about that. You’re Meibei right? Meibei zh’Khessi? I read your file before coming aboard. I’m Will Hunt, the new Strategic Operations Officer.”

"Aw, hi!" Meibei said with a buoyant grin. "Guess that wasn't the most elegant way to introduce myself, huh?"

Will returned her grin, the happiness in her pleasant tone being absolutely infectious. “Not exactly, but entirely my fault. Well, not mine.” He scooped up his cat and held her so that her face was level with Meibei’s. “And this is Liviana. And she’s very sorry.”

Locking eyes with the cat for a moment, Meibei snorted in disbelief. "Oh yeah, I just bet she's sorry," she teased the animal grumpily, but at the last she was unable tor resist a grin at the animal's completely unfair cuteness. "Could you get the chair workin'? I'm not supposed to be walking much, ya know, doctor's orders..." And the XO's repeated insistent orders, but Meibei didn't mention that given how hot and bothered she became whenever Tara got bossy. "There's a little switch on the bottom, next to the anti-grav unit. Just flick that and you can set the chair straight real easy."

“Of course.” Will found the switch and pressed it, and the antigrav unit hummed back to life. He righted the chair and presented the front of it to the Andorian. “Good as new. But can I make this up to you somehow?”

"Well..." Meibei said slowly, biting her lip. She slowly turned around and sat herself back down in the chair with only a mild wince. "Dinner. Human-style. Deal?"

Will nodded with a smile. "Deal. It was nice to meet you, Meibei, despite the circumstances. I'll bring this little one back to my quarters so she can think about what she's done. I'll contact you about dinner in the next day or so?"

"Okay," Meibei said brightly with a sudden grin. She plucked the PADD out from under her backside on the chair, where the helpful human had put it, and paused as she moved a blue hand back to the controls, favouring the mischievous kitten with a mock glare. "And I am so getting you back, Mister. Just you wait."


Obligatory Pre-Mission Senior Staff Meeting

With the adjustments to the Nogura's orders and the ship at Slipstream velocity being monitored by Commander Millarini and several others, the Captain had summoned the senior staff, the now burgeoning senior staff since a number of new arrivals had joined the crew, to meet in the observation lounge at eleven hundred hours so he could fill them in on the specifics of the mission at hand. Whilst he completed a task on his data PADD, the briefing room started to fill up.

Having just come from a meeting with the Captain, Tara moved straight to the Observation Lounge from the Ready Room. It was strange to her as she got a cup of tea from the replicator then took a seat to the right of the Captain's chair; she and Drayton were still strangers, yet not, and they had fallen into a comfortable working relationship quite quickly. It made work feel comfortable, familiar, not unlike another relationship she had not all that long ago. Pulling her thoughts away from Hunter, she refocused on a PADD she pulled from her duty jacket, sipping idly at her tea while she read reports and waited for everyone else to arrive.

Will was right behind Tara, having been in the same meeting. They didn’t make small talk as they walked. They’d met before today’s meetings, and one day he was sure they’d be friends wanting to share the details of their previous evenings or upcoming plans. But for now it was nice to walk in silence beside a fellow officer. He got his own beverage from the wall replicator, his a latte macchiato, and sat across from Tara, to the left of the Captain’s chair. His own PADD in hand, containing this week’s Jane’s Defence, he read in silence.

The doors to the turbolift opened with their normal swooshing sound that they made, and there in front of him was the bridge; and the multiple sounds of beeps and conversations among themselves. Taking a deep inhale Zar walked along the back wall of the bridge and moved towards the observational lounge doors, which opened when it sensed his presence. As his eyes adjusted to the change in light from the bridge to the lounge Zar noticed three other officers already sitting at the table, one was Captain Drayton and the other had to have been the frist officer; the three solid gold pips on her collar gave that away, Commander Neprem if he remembered correctly from the ship's personal files. Another officer wearing command colors but the same rank as him."Captain, Commander,'s" replied Zar as he replicated a cup of coffee and took his seat at the table.

Eza entered nodding to those present, and took a seat mid table. His first formal briefing as a member of the Nogura senior staff.

Dr. Alexander arrived to the observation lounge a little later than he had planned. PADD in hand he was ready for this first meeting with the new senior staff. This Sovereign class starship was different to him compared to the Galaxy class of his last assignment and he might have gotten lost a little on his way to deck 1. He gave a quick glance around the room seeing all the new faces, many that he had not met yet. He noticed that his normal seat third down from the commanding officer next to the window was not taken so he made his way over. His back had to face the window so that he would not start daydreaming during the briefing. He laid his PADD down. "Is this seat taken?" he asked around the room but directed towards the three in red trim uniforms at the head of the table.

"Not at all Doctor," the Captain smiled, gesturing for the newest member of the team to take his seat.

The hatch to the observation lounge again opened and a sweaty, nearly out-of-breath Jamie burst through the opening. He had not noticed the eyes upon him as his eyes remained glued to the PADD he had carried with him. He had barely managed to retrieve and organise the data his is typically responsible for in preparation for these meetings. He had spent only the past five minutes or so reading over the data so that he could speak intelligently if called upon. Wiping beads of sweat from his forehead, he looked up from the PADD to a nearly assembled senior staff. Without making more of a scene he approached the long conference table, nodded a greeting to the captain and first officer, and took the open seat across from who he assumed was the Nogura's new chief medical officer. In an attempt to set his PADD down silently, it slipped from his shaky hand made a slapping sound upon the table. Ignoring the blunder, he slid his chair closer to the table and folded his hands in his lap.

The door opened once more, giving the awkward Tactical Officer a reprieve as another of the senior staff entered. By all rights, the chirpy (and still charboiled) Andorian should've still been in her quarters, but in she hobbled regardless, leaning heavily on a cane. Meibei was really making an effort, even wearing her uniform, although it was somewhat ill-fitting. She flashed everyone with a merry proud grin before she gradually made her way to the nearest chair, next to the clumsy human.

"Hi there," she said brightly to him after sitting down heavily in her chair.

Jamie smiled in reply, "Good morning. How are you getting along?" He knew the answer to that based upon her entrance. He also knew Andorian's were both proud and stubborn, and this meant that he would not get a straight answer from her. Nonetheless, he had been worried about her after the incident and wanted to show that he cared.

"Aw, I'm fine," Meibei said with a grin. "Honest, the Nog is harder to patch up than me."

"Good to have you with us Lieutenant," Drayton nodded from the head of the table in the direction of the engineer.

"Thanks Cap'n!" Meibei replied cheerfully, her one remaining antenna twerking back and forth with vigour.

"Alright people, let's get to it," Drayton began the meeting by drawing everyone's attention to the large, wall mounted display. "As you are all aware, our orders were to meet the starship Adriatic in the Iadora system before proceeding into the Wastelands to begin exploration of the region." The Captain then tapped on the desk and the display changed to an alternative location, "An hour ago, we received an updated orders package from Captain Eren Utaazi of the Odyssey. We've been informed of a possible threat to Starbase Two-Fourteen by some Alrakis Pact vessels in the Wastelands. We're to meet the Odyssey, Adriatic and Roehampton at the Penthara System and ensure the security of the Starbase and provide any supplies her skeleton crew may need. The station is two torpedoes away from being reduced to rubble. She's old, out dated and pretty useless as anything more than a sensor platform. We're to beef her security until such a time as the Corps of Engineers finally arrives to perform some much needed maintenance."

"We have more than enough supplies to spare, before we left I made sure that our auxiliary cargo holds were full; in addition to the regular main cargo holds. I can coordinate with Flight control to have cargo shuttles moving supplies along with our cargo transporters,"replied Zar.

"Roehampton is carrying the engineering team, so all we will be required to do is drop off the supplies and then we'll proceed into the Wastelands territory," the Captain informed as he tapped at the console and changed the screen again. "We don't know what they are doing, or what their true intentions out here may be, but the sheer fact that we're now splitting assets between here and the Inconnu Expanse gives the Pact an edge," he told before activating a new screen on the display, "what I find perhaps even more troubling is this," he pointed to an energy signal on the screen, "this is the weapons signature of a vessel that not only destroyed two Pact vessels, but also bested the starships Brier-Ridge and Charleston. Both ships had to make a swift getaway and are now headed to Starbase Forty-Seven for repairs," he told as he sat back in his chair again. "Brier-Ridge is one of the new Diligent-class ships whilst Charleston is an Onimaru. Neither vessel is a slouch defensively."

"I can have a team begin digging into the readings on those weapons signatures, maybe we can make some headway into finding out what we're dealing with if we can't determine who we're dealing with." Eza offered.

“I’ll dig further into historical records,” Will added, reiterating what he was ordered to do in the Ready Room. “It’s entirely possible that we or some other power have come across this sort of weapons signature before, but no one has made the connection. There might be more clues that we can dig up.”

"We'll be travelling at slipstream velocity for as long as possible. If there are any issues from anyone, report them to Commander Millarini in engineering. In the meantime, let's try and have an uneventful journey to our new area of operations," Drayton smirked, knowing the likelihood of that was slim given the history of the ship. "Questions?"

"Captain," Zar said as he looked in his direction "Do we know which two of the pact vessels were destroyed? Also if one vessel was able to force the withdrawal of two of Starfleet's newest vessels, what is the likely hood the Nogura will be a match for whatever is there?" he asked.

"I have to agree with the Commander, Sir," Jamie chimed in. "Though the Nogura is a great ship, the likelihood is high that she may not withstand whatever they throw at us. Do we have any sort of analysis from either the Brier-Ridge or Charleston of the skirmish?"

"Not that has been shared yet," the Captain shook his head slowly. "I don't care what the liklihood is. They are our orders and we are to do our absolute best."

Zar knew that command all too well, he sat their in his seat with his hands folded on top of the table. With a slight tip of his head in acknowledgement . "Very well captain," was his verbal response.

"That being said," the Captain paused as he climbed down off his proverbial 'high horse' and changed tact for a minute. "I want to make sure we are as prepared as possible, so, all departments with the required expertise are ordered to try and find shield modulations or adaptations that will significantly reduce the threat we face from these weapons. Meibei, I think its time we maybe developed a quick start routine for the Slipstream. The minute we signal red alert, I want it powered up and ready to go. We have, I hope, the advantage of speed. Lets make sure we are around long enough to use it," he ordered.

Eza was uncomfortable, it felt as if there was more going on than had been shared, whether that was by the Captain or the brass he felt like the mission may go sideways.

"Any last questions?" Drayton queried with a last look around the room.

With everyone's silence, the Captain rose to his feet and gave his usual declaration of dismissal.

"Let's get to work!"

A Pact with the Devil

Location: Library
On: Day 146 at 1335

Nogura was on her way to Starbase 214 with a sense of great urgency and, with Commander Proht in command of the bridge for the first time, the Captain had returned to the ships library on deck 7 to carry out his search into the formation of the Alrakis Pact. The research was nothing he couldn't have done in his ready room, or on the bridge itself, but the change of scenery to somewhere quiet would be more conducive to his success - or so he hoped. To help him in his efforts, he had summoned the XO to join him.

Tara was no stranger to the library. It was a quiet place to help her unwind with a new book after a long, hard day, and she had become a frequent visitor following Meibei’s injuries. Although today she was here on official business, and as she entered she spied the Captain at one of the library access terminals.

“Hey boss,” Tara said casually as she approached Drayton, but then she blushed when she realized this was not the proper way to greet her Commanding Officer. ‘Cool it, Arjin, I’m on duty,’ she silently reminded the mischievous soul that had become a part of her. “Reporting for duty,” she then said to Drayton, trying to regain a sense of proper deportment.

“Hey boss?” Drayton grinned as he turned slowly to look at his first officer and couldn’t help but let out a laugh. “From now on, it is standard procedure for you to greet me like that at all times,” he declared in between laughter as he reached out for a second chair and pulled it closer for her. For the usually prim and proper commander of the Nogura, it was a great change to have someone at his side who was less.. weird… than his previous XO’s on the Ulysses, and that was saying something for a woman who had been ‘forcibly’ joined with a Trill symbiont and was seemingly still getting to grips with the process. He hadn’t told her, but he respected her a lot for not only that, but for the way she had dealt with so many other things in recent months, especially the death of her former friend and the injury to her ‘friend’.

Tara’s blush deepened. “Please tell me you’re joking, Captain,” she said, taking the offered seat. As if it wasn’t bad enough that Meibei liked to ‘ruffle her feathers’, but now the Captain was doing it too? They must be plotting with one another!

“No, I’m deadly serious!” Drayton shook his head, “greet me in any other fashion and I’ll demote you on the spot,” he told seriously before looking to the console he had been working on. “So… I’ve been looking in to the Alrakis Pact, and we have a problem,” he told before looking back to her, “what do you know so far?”

Tara took a deep, deep breath, then let it out slowly. ‘See what you’ve done now?!’ Tara ‘scolded’ her symbiont, to which the only response was Arjin’s laughter in the back of her mind. Refocusing on the matter at hand, Tara answered Drayton with, “It’s a treaty between the Breen, Tzenkethi, Talarian, and the ‘Ravagers’, which is an amalgamation of various races, they’re basically pirates and scavengers roaming the Expanse without any solid leadership. The Pact itself was formed as a means of trying to force Starfleet out of the Expanse, but as I understand it, they are having difficulty working together to achieve this goal because until recently they have been enemies against each other.”

“Yeah, that’s all changed…” Drayton frowned as he pulled up a new record, “seems they’ve been working together a lot easier of late,” the Captain told as he showed her the list of engagements and encounters Starfleet and Cardassian assets had had with the Pact alliance. “Twenty-three in the last two weeks,” he told, “seems like they have got their act together.”

“That’s unsettling,” Tara replied as she looked over this new information. “They were so uncoordinated while setting up the blockade, I was certain that Command was banking on this lack of coordination to be the means of finding resolution. They’re quick learners to be able to mobilize this rapidly.”

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” the Captain quoted as he leant back in his chair. “They’ve united behind a common cause - to rid the Expanse of the Federation and to bloody the nose of the Cardassians after the expansion that claimed Breen territories during the war,” he let out a sigh as he rubbed his temple. “It’s amazing what a common goal can do to four very different species,” he added.

“What I’m most confused about is the Talarians; wasn’t there talk of a treaty between Starfleet and the Talarians not too long ago? So why are they against us now?” Tara mused aloud.

“The big instigators here seem to be the Breen,” the Captain mused as he folded his arms and glared at the screen. “According to Starfleet Intel, a Breen delegation approached the Talarians and, Ronzel, the Commander of the Empire, saw an opportunity to project strength and power. Allying with the Breen would enable the Talarians to show their true power and finally demand respect from their enemies, namely us,” he informed before adding again, “my brain hurts.”

“I concur,” Tara replied, pinching the bridge of her nose. “It’s really disappointing, the Talarians are quite lovely people, it’s a shame they’re mixed up in all this. Although I’m sure survival plays a large part; they probably don’t want to set themselves against the Breen and Tzenkethi by siding with Starfleet.”

“Perhaps…” the Captain trailed off, before leaning forward and tapping the screen. The file on display changed to an image of the Talarian border with the Wastelands, the new area of space that the Nogura was headed towards. “No Starfleet here, so how do we explain that build up of Breen and Talarian ships? They were detected by the new Argolis Array just two days ago,” he scowled. He wanted to agree with her, that maybe the Talarian’s had been dragged in to this mess to keep them safe, but why would they be massing on the border of unexplored space, other than to undertake some sort of mission?

“Could it possibly be because of the encounter with this unknown ship with the unusual weapon?” Tara ventured.

Colby lent so far forward this time he banged his head on the work surface and let out a slightly muffled “God, I hope not…”

Tara actually jumped in her seat slightly at the thunk of his head hitting the work surface. “I, erm, wasn’t suggesting collusion, but rather defense? Perhaps they are as concerned about this new weapon as we are? If handled properly, this may actually be an opportunity for cooperation between Starfleet and the Alrakis Pact.”

Colby sat up in his chair and rubbed his head before looking over at the Trill again. “Maybe you’re right,” he smiled, more out of hope than anything. “I want you to get down to Tactical Astrometrics and give the people there a secret mission. I want that border monitored. I want to know the minute those ships move and wherever they go,” he directed.

“Yes, because watching the enemy like we’re paranoid xenophobes is how we make friends,” Tara remarked, then her eyes shot open, wide with surprise at her own words. “I apologize for the snark, that was Arjin’s doing. Uh, but I can request an active uplink with the Argolis Array to ensure that our observations remain discreet,” she said, once again blushing crimson.

“Alright, see to it,” Drayton nodded as he rose to his feet. “I don’t think I like Arjin anymore…” he frowned for a few seconds before a grin took hold again.

Tara managed a chuckle despite being so embarrassed. “Yeah, I’m not liking him so much either,” she remarked, then rose as well. “He’s like a really annoying roommate that I can’t get rid of…” So of course Meibei loved him!

“I’d say you could threaten to flush him out an airlock like I did my annoying roommate, but, well, that would not help me in any way,” he laughed.

“No, that would not be good,” Tara replied with a laugh. “If there’s nothing else, then I will get right on this-” She had to stop herself from saying ‘Captain’, then with a sigh she said, “Boss.”

Drayton let out the biggest grin to date and playfully slapped the woman on the back as he walked past her towards the opposite exit. “See,” he laughed, “I knew it would catch on!”

It was official: Arjin was going die, again, as soon as Tara could figure out how to do it without killing herself!

Dangerous Indictments

Location: Starbase 214
On: Day 146 at 1400

Lieutenant Commander Katherine Watkins stepped into the main operational centre of Starbase 214 with a hot cup of coffee, creamy and sweet, in hand. This assignment had been dull, and as she approached a year in the role of station XO, routine had begun to set in. She smiled and nodded to the crew, all of which were nursing their own hot morning drinks. All except the Tactical Officer.

“I was just about to contact you, Commander,” the older Betazoid man told her as he beckoned her to his monitor. “These showed up on sensors about two minutes before you came in.”

Katherine’s brow furrowed. She didn’t like what she saw. She tapped her commbadge. “Captain Gral to the bridge,” she called, her Australian accent making at least two bridge crew smile despite the nervousness that was beginning to plague them.

Five minutes later, Captain Tora Gral, the stations commanding officer and ageing Tellarite, hobbled his way into the command centre of the ancient Regula-class space station and approached the aft Tactical station where his first officer was conversing with the stations resident Betazoid. Through his gravelly voice, he addressed the two. "What is it Commander?" he queried as he came to a stop and rested a hand on the top of the console.

“Alrakis Pact ships, sir,” Katherine explained. “A decent-sized task force, largely Breen and Talarian. At least twelve ships, but possibly more. At this distance, it’s possible our sensors aren’t resolving each individual ship. But their direction is unmistakable. They’re going to the Wastelands, sir.”

Gral frowned as he looked at the readout on the display and the make up of the Alrakis Pact Force. Even out here, in the dead end of known space, news had reached them of the formation of the Pact and the incidents near the Inconnu Expanse, but the wise old Captain, a former war hero who had earned his quiet spot on the edge of known space, hadn’t expected them to change direction to the Wastelands. At least, not so soon. “Contact Starfleet. Relay to them the data and continue monitoring,” the Tellarite ordered before hobbling over to the pool table in the center of the room and taking a seat. He rubbed his chin as he entered contemplation mode.

Katherine walked around Ops to stand next to the Operations Officer. The two worked together to compose a quick message for Starfleet Command and send it. “Message sent. Tactical, continue monitoring. Ops, divert power to long-range sensors. See if we can get an accurate reading on that fleet.”

"Any indication of their trajectory?" the Captain queried.

“One-nine-nine-Mark-eight-seven,” Katherine replied. “Right into the Wastelands. I can’t identify any specific destination therein.”

"We've spent months scanning this entire area with the sensor upgrades sent by Starfleet and there is no indication of anything out that way that could possibly be drawing their attention," a fourth officer spoke up, an Andorian in teal turned from his seat at the other side of the command center. "What could they possibly be looking for?"

The ageing frame of the Tellarite commander turned to look at his Science officer and gave him a stern look. "The sheer fact they are here is reason enough for alarm. We don't need to know what they are looking for, only that they are here and pose a threat to Starfleet given the situation in the Inconnu area. It is very possible these vessels are the ones responsible for the near destruction of both the Brier-Ridge and the Charleston," he reminded all that were present.

Katherine nodded. Those were some of Starfleet’s most advanced assets and they were almost killed by some unknown force. The information she’d seen didn’t make her believe it was Pact forces, but if it was them, then it meant they had a new weapon of unbelievable power. Or a new ally.

The operations console chimed, and she went to read it next to the chief. “Good news, sir. Looks like Starfleet is sending reinforcements. Four ships, led by the Nogura.”

The anxiousness in the Ops center seemed to dissipate at the news that there would be Starfleet reinforcements on the way, but for the Captain, it was a sad and dangerous indictment of the situation they were in. "Listen up," he called out in the most confident and strong sounding display he had given in an age, "four starships is nothing in the grand scheme of things; nothing more than an attempt to show the Pact that this station has not been entirely forgotten about. Whoever the Nogura brings with her, they will be no match for whatever awaits them out here!" the Tellarite barked as he rose to his feet and looked around the command center. "Besides," he began again, "even at maximum warp, those ships are still an age away. If the Pact armada heads this way, we will be powerless to stop them. If anything, the presence of the Nogura and her task group makes us more of a target, a challenge almost, and more of a reason for the Pact to linger. While Federation starships are present here in the expanse, the Pact..." he wandered over to the nearby window that granted him sight of the Wastelands expanse, "...well, they'll be here to stay."

Meanwhile, on the sensor readouts, one of the Breen vessels blinked out of existence. The projected trajectory of the other ships were suddenly altered, as if they were turning to investigate. One of the Talarian signals from the other side of the formation disappeared. The remaining signals then turned into a chaotic mess, as if they knew not what to do.

Gral looked at his senior officers and didn't even try to hide his worried expression at the sudden disappearance of two sensor signals and the subsequent reaction of the rest of their fleet, all of the vessels seeming to flee the scene in a variety of directions. Whilst the presence of the small fleet of vessels was worrying enough for the wily old Tellarite, the fact that something, or someone out there had caused these vessels to flee was even more disconcerting. "Commander, get on the line to Starfleet Command" he called out in his quiet, gravely tone, "I suggest they get that task group here a hell of a lot quicker than planned..."

“Yes, sir,” Katherine said, her own expression showing her concern. “I’ll sleep a lot more comfortably with reinforcements here.” She sent a message, as well as their sensor logs showing the disappearance of the Pact ships, to Command with high priority. “Hopefully those ships will be ordered to rush, Captain.”

A response was not sent in the form of a reply. The sensors, however, indicated that the message had been received as the speed of the Starfleet vessels now registered as travelling at maximum warp.

"Good news, Captain," Katherine said, a growing smile on her face, the stress starting to dissipate. "Reinforcements have increased speed. As you said, they're still an age away, but they are taking this seriously."

Turning back to the nearby view port, Gral stared out into the starfield beyond his derelict little station as he considered the future for his crew. In the days ahead, there would be much to do, but for now, all they could do was watch and wait...

* * *

Seven flashes of light appeared in different directions as the routed Alrakis fleet escaped to warp speed. Debris, crystalizing warp plasma, freezing bodies, and lifeless hulks of starship remains slowly dispersed across the area, still following their chaotic maneuvers so hastily executed before destruction. Three vessels sat in the silence of the nearly starless backdrop. Their dark hulls made it nearly impossible for the naked eye to spot. They sat silently for a few moments, as if they were deciding whether or not to follow their prey. A heartbeat later, weapons fire streaked out from each ship, tearing away at the lifeless hulks, until the weaponry reached the computer cores of each ship, fusing them beyond recognition or readability. Satisfied that their secret was safe, the three vessels disappeared, returning to their vantage point.

~To Be Continued~

Incoming Transmission

Travelling at Slipstream velocity was something that would take a lot of getting used to for the crew of any Federation starship, and it certainly wasn't an every day occurrence, but in order to make their rendezvous on time, Drayton had upped the ante so to speak and permitted the Nogura to use the specialized propulsion system. They had been in the slipstream for less than an hour and had already covered a mammoth area of Federation space, a distance it would have taken weeks to traverse in normal circumstances.

The bridge was unusually quiet as the different officers went about their business, monitoring the slipstream they were engulfed in and everything seemed relatively calm. But, as was often the case on the Nogura, the calm always came before a storm.

"Commander Proht," a voice from the starboard mission operations station called out, Akaria Okan having moved there in the presence of a new Chief of Operations at the forward station. "I'm detecting a transmission and the signal is feint. I think the slipstream is preventing us from retrieving the message," the Cardassian called out, stepping forward to look towards Neprem first, and then her new superior at Ops.

"I believe I can boost the signal," replied Zar as he moved his fingers over the console. He figured that if he could possibly change the frequency to the transmission so that it could get past the warp field it might work. Zar tapped into the relay's frequency channel and slowly started tuning the communications array, it was tricky as he never had to work with a slipstream drive before. "I do not believe it will be crystal clear but, once we make contact I can try and re modulate the signal, to make it clear" he added. A few more seconds went by and the frequency change happened and it was boosted. "We should be able to hear the message now."

Eza was monitoring the slipstream effects on the Nogura, he was pleased to see there didn't seem to be any damage and none of the issues that had occurred on the Ulysses seemed to be occurring here. Slipstream, if it worked, certainly would make the commute a lot easier.

Rising to his feet and taking a walk to the mission operations station, the Captain sidled up beside the Cardassian and looked at her console as she worked. "Transmission coming in clearer now Captain," she turned to him and smiled before looking back at the console.

On the screen, a single transmission started to come through, gradually and in blocks as opposed to the usual freedom the communications array enjoyed when at standard warp. At first, the transmission was a simple message. "Fleet of Alrakis Pact vessels detected at extreme sensor range and moving closer," the message read, but then a data packet that included some sensor readings from the station came through. "Display the sensor readings on the main viewer,"the Captain nodded to Akaria before stepping away.

As the Cardassian transferred the sensor readings to the viewer, the Captain stepped towards the forward stations and stood behind both Lieutenant Swift and Commander Proht, his hands resting on each of their chair head rests as he took in what he was looking at. A sizeable number of Pact vessels, mostly of Breen and Talarian origin, entering the Wastelands from Talarian space and headed in the direction of Starbase 214, even if not directly to the station itself. This itself was reason enough for the Captain to be concerned, an eyebrow raising as he observed the readings.

Just as he was about to speak, one of the Alrakis symbols flickered and then vanished from existence. It was soon followed by a second, then a third, before the rest of the fleet seemed to split off in different directions. Drayton spun on his heels, looking in the direction of his senior most officers, hoping they were as baffled as he was.

"The vessels appear to have disappeared from sensors, I'm unable to tell from this range if they were destroyed, disappeared, or something else." Eza chimed in.

"This just gets better," the Captain frowned as he returned to the command chair and looked at Neprem. "We were supposed to be getting back to exploration, now we get wrapped up in Alrakis Pact nonsense a zillion light-years from the Inconnu Expanse!"

"Sir," Will observed from his station, having come onto the bridge a few minutes earlier, hoping to get a closer look at the Pact fleet. "The ships in that fleet didn't initially break formation after three were destroyed. There aren't too many reasons they would hesitate to break. One is that this mission is extremely important to the Alrakis Pact, so much so that they thought they could weather a loss or two. Another, likelier one, is that whatever hit them caught them completely off guard. They didn't see it coming."

Colby listened to the strategists input and nodded before spinning his chair back to its forward facing position. "Helm, eta to the rendezvous point?" the Captain queried.

There were a few minutes of silence until Lieutenant Swift had the response required of him. "Three hours twenty minutes until we reach the rendezvous point," the helmsman confirmed.

"What if we bypass the rendezvous and go straight to the Starbase?" he queried hopefully.

"An adjustment of course would give us a new eta of..." the Lieutenant worked out his calculations, still adjusting to the new slipstream drive, "..two hours and fifteen minutes," Swift told.

"Adjust our course," Drayton nodded before turning his attention to the Strategic Operations officer. "Commander, contact the task group and tell them we've adjusted course and we'll rendezvous with them at the Starbase."

“Aye, sir,” Will replied, accessing the long range secure communications system on his console. “Two-one-four acknowledges also. It sounds like they’ll be glad to see us. Our ship alone practically quadruples their defensive strength.”

Drayton nodded to the Commander in acknowledgement of his efforts, then at Tara, before finally back to the main viewer. The ship was, yet again, an angel of mercy for those in danger.

"Even so, I wouldn't want to place the old base in a battle just yet; besides it looks like the pact has something new to deal with, and that means for the time being they might have a new target," replied Zar as he turned his chair around and faced the command center.

"Anything that can worry a fleet that large is not to be trifled with," the Captain mused, the fingers on both hands drumming on the arms of his chair as he stared past the Bolian and at the screen at the forefront of the bridge. "This whole thing could be a disaster waiting to happen..."

Eza continued to monitor his station, the course change didn't seem to affect the drive, not that it should. So far it looked like they had managed to make sure the drive would work.

"Agreed captain," replied Zar as he turned into his chair looking at the forward view screen. "Just like the kid who threw a rock at a hornets nest. Not only was he attacked, but so was the dog ten feet away."

"So hopefully we find out who our mystery attackers are," Will added. "If the Pact are throwing rocks at a nest, let's find out just what type of insect lives in it, and how painful their sting is."

Drayton remained in silence as he watched the slipstream on the viewer, the ship hurtling towards their new destination at astronomical speeds. Whoever these 'insects' were, he'd make sure they would live to regret it if they ever opted to sting his crew or that of any other Federation asset.

He could never have predicted just how big the proverbial hornets nest was...

Arrival at 214

"=/\=We're on final approach to Starbase Two-Fourteen Captain. Recommend slipstream shutdown."

Words from the familiar voice of the ships Slipstream expert reverberated around the bridge and drew the attention of all in attendance. Drayton inched forward and sat on the edge of his chair, his eyes transfixed on the main viewer as his right hand pressed a button on the arm of his chair. "=/\=Acknowledged Commander," he called out over the comm before closing it again. "Alright Lieutenant," the Captain spoke between deep breaths, "bring us out of slipstream. Commander Zar, Lieutenant Bergen; monitor the slipstream and get as many readings as possible for engineering to analyse," the master and commander of the Nogura ordered, a glance towards his XO the only time he took his eyes off the main viewer.

Eza kept his eyes on the sensors, the data coming in changed as the slipstream around them began collapsing the vessel dropping out into regular space. "Readings look good, there was some unexpected hull stress on the port nacelle, nothing the SFI fields couldn't handle but it may indicate a slight discrepancy in the deflector while collapsing the slipstream."

"I suggest we re-calibrate the deflector dish with the correct frequency of the warp core," replied Zar as he continued looking at read outs from the console. "It could be that as the deflector dish was removing particles and objects out of our way, it caused some feed back; which could explain the stress encountered by the port nacelle," he added as he downloaded all the data for the engineering teams. "All in all we are here in one piece," he added.

With the ship back in normal space after their longest journey at slipstream velocity, the viewer changed to reflect the starfield ahead and the small, glistening speck in the distance that was gradually getting larger due to the magnification range on the visual device. "Let engineering know and have them work on the issue," the Captain directed towards the Science Chief before looking back at the Strategic Operations Officer. "Commander, contact Two-Fourteen. Let them know we're here and the rest of our task group is on the way. They can expect to receive away teams with supplies and personnel shortly. And, invite Captain Gral aboard. I'm sure he'd like to stretch his legs somewhere else for a change," Drayton smiled, hoping to build a rapport with the Tellarite before the bolshy Utaazi woman arrived. "Ops, begin preparing supplies for the station and contact sickbay. See what medical supplies they can spare for the station. The place is a relic and we can expect her supplies and equipment to be relics too. It's the job of this task group to get the station a little closer to the twenty-fourth century," he ordered.

"Yes Captain," Commander Hunt responded and immediately got to work.

"On it captain," replied Zar as he moved his fingers across the console and then opened up the internal comm system to the cargo bays. "Commander Zar to Chief Marrsat and Officer Lyman; prepare the transporters to begin moving over supplies to Starbase 214. Lieutenant Udri coordinate with the Starbase's operations officers to see where they want us to transport the supplies. Ensign Bahr get with flight operations and prepare the cargo shuttles to move supplies over to them," he said as he started manoeuvring his fingers over the console and started freeing up officers and non-commissioned officers to help with the cargo transfers. He started assigning pilots that were off duty to man the shuttles so that they could begin moving the supplies. He then tapped his comm badge on his chest "Commander Zar to Doctor Alexander, if you could direct a few of your medical officers to auxiliary cargo bay 2; we can start sorting out what medical supplies and equipment you would like to transport to Starbase 214," he said as he waited for a response.

Dr. Alexander’s voice came over the com system, “understood, we will be there in 15 minutes, Alexander out.”

=/\= "Bergen to zh'Khessi, I'm on my way down to Engineering, can you spare a few minutes to take a look at the slipstream drive." =/\= Eza said rising to his feet.

=/\=Sure can do!=/\= came the reply from the perpetually merry chief engineer.

When Zar heard the doctor's response and the channel closed he quickly moved his fingers over his console and downloaded the data that the sensors recorded for the engineering team to use for the slipstream drive. Once that was done he quickly tapped his comm badge. =/\=Commander Zar to Lieutenant zh'Khessi, I am transferring the sensor data we recorded while using the slip stream drive to main engineering. Zar out.=/\= he said as he pressed a couple of buttons and started transferring the data where it needed to go.

With the ships crew working on a new objective, a welcome change of pace after the trials of recent weeks, the Captain was pleased to see them so invested in something. The coming days would again see them pushed to new limits, but he was sure that they would respond in exactly the same way they always had; with great dedication and purpose.

Zar continued to remain focused on the task that was before him, he needed to make sure that everything was going to flow like clock-work and they only had 15 minutes to get it right. He briefly looked up from his screen and watched as the outpost became larger and larger in his view, and for one brief moment; he wondered how in the world did a base like this go neglected for all this time. At least the Outpost 231 in the Beta Quadrant was behind on her refit by thirty five years, and he managed to get the base brought up to code in the three years that he was there. Maybe their operations officer could use a few tips and pointers in trying to get the base up and functional, he also wondered if the old style fusion reactor was strong enough to handle all the new systems.

"Captain," Commander Hunt called out as he stepped back from the console he had been working at, "Captain Gral respectfully declines the offer of visiting the Nogura at present. Instead, he welcomes you and the commanders of the task group to the station upon their arrival."

Colby nodded slowly as he listened and then turned to his strategist, "Very well. Inform the Captain that I'll beam aboard as soon as the other commanders are present."

"Of course Captain," William nodded before going back to work.

CO's on 214

Location: Ops, Starbase 214
On: Day 146 at 1900

The old style transporter bay of Starbase Two-Fourteen was filled with the bright yellow glow of her transporter beam as a deep, almost whirring sound filled the room for the fourth time in quick succession. Once the sound subsided and the glow dissipated, Captain Colby Drayton stood on the transporter pad and looked about the antiquated room. It was clear from the lack of maintenance in the room that the station had been neglected and it made him feel sad. Regula-class starbases had been state of the art in their time, but now they were just sad relics of a time long since past.

"Captain," a voice distracted him from his thoughts, "I'm to escort you to the Ops Centre, sir," a Petty Officer stood by the door declared.

Stepping down from the pad, the Captain nodded and held out his hand, "lead the way Petty officer."

Two turbo lift rides later and a corridor walk that seemed to span the length of one of Nogura's nacelles, the Captain was led into the Ops centre of the station. It was surprisingly up to date considering the rest of the station, but that was probably because most of their work was carried out in Ops and thus, it made sense for modifications to take place there.

"Captain Drayton," a gruff voice sounded as the Captain walked towards the situation table at the heart of the room. "Welcome to my humble starbase," the Tellarite commander of the station greeted the task group commander. "I'd like you to meet Captain DeWitt of the Roehampton, Captain Maxwell Cohen of the Adriatic and Captain Eren Utaazi of the Odyssey," the Tellarite introduced all of the gathered officers in turn, each shaking hands with Drayton until he came face to face with Utaazi.

"A pleasure Captain," he nodded to the woman as they exchanged greetings, not meaning it at all after their earlier exchange via the holocommunications platform where she had totally rubbed him up the wrong way.

"Captain Drayton," she nodded to him as they shook hands briefly and then stood at opposite sides of the Ops centres command table.

"I assume you have all seen the sensor data we collected," Gral spoke in his usual gruff manner. When a few nods confirmed his suspicion, he continued. "Since we sent you our telemetry, we've lost all sensor readings of the Alrakis Pact forces," he told, "they've vanished. Whether by choice or by nefarious means, they are gone."

"Damn," DeWitt shook her head slowly, her hands on the surface of the table. "They must have gone dark somehow; there cant be a force that can get rid of a force that large in the blink of an eye," she remarked with a frown.

"All of our vessels have brought supplies to update the station," Drayton advised the Tellarite, "I recommend that we begin the process immediately. When we are at a stage where the Roehampton crew can supplement the station without the rest of us, we'll head into the Wastelands to investigate what exactly the Pact flotilla were up to," he continued until he was interrupted by Utaazi.

"I say we go into the Wastelands now," she told bluntly, "we need to discover the reason for their presence."

"I concur with Eren," Captain Cohen told, looking at the Betazoid with a nod.

"Well I don't," DeWitt countered. "Drayton is right. We need to put all of our efforts into preparing this station for whatever might come its way before we go gallivanting around the depths of the Wastelands."

Gral watched the sides square off, almost in disbelief until Eren Utaazi spoke again. "So, how do we solve this?"

"There's nothing to solve," Drayton answered before letting out a sigh. "Starfleet regulation one-nine-one, article fourteen," he began, which instantly drew a disapproving look from the Betazoid. "In a combat situation involving more than one ship, command falls to the vessel with tactical superiority, should there not be a higher ranking officer present. I think we can all agree here that the Nogura is the tactically superior vessel and thus, command falls to me until we have ascertained the nature of the Alrakis threat," he directed with a glance around the table at all of the commanders in turn. When no one objected, he continued. "Have your supplies for the station beamed over and assign any spare personnel possible to assist in the integration of the new systems. In two days, Adriatic, Nogura and Odyssey will depart for the last location of the Alrakis flotilla whilst Roehampton continues the final upgrades to the station," he concluded.

"We should pool all intelligence that we have so far," DeWitt suggested as she tapped at the tables controls. "We have a vast wealth of experience among our crews. I recommend we have our science, strategic operations and command officers work together to analyse everything we have and see if there is anything we missed in isolation."

This suggestion seemed to get a greater air of approval from the Betazoid who nodded in agreement before looking across at Drayton again. "I suppose that as the flagship of this little expedition, you'll have no objection to such meetings and analysis taking place aboard your ship, Captain?" Utaazi queried.

"Of course not," the Captain of the Nogura nodded in further acknowledgement, "I'd also like to invite all of you to the Nogura, with your executive officers, for a special meal tomorrow night," he offered as a sort of peace offering, looking around the group, the bast majority nodding appreciatively. "So, we're agreed then. Captain Gral," Drayton directed his words at the Tellarite commander of the station now, "if you need anything from any of us, now is the time."

"Just a word with you, Drayton," he nodded at the Nogura's commander.

"Very well," Drayton smiled, "the rest of you should get back to your ships and get this show on the road," he suggested, but in a tone that implied it was more of an order than a suggestion. As the commanding officers of the battlegroup left, Drayton turned his attention to Gral. "What can I do for you Captain?"

"There's no easy way to say this," Gral frowned as he took a seat at last, his tired legs feeling the strain of standing for too long, "Starfleet has re-assigned your Strategic Operations Officer to the starbase to oversee sector operations from here," he told in a quiet voice and an almost look of shame.

Drayton placed a kind hand on his fellow commanding officers shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "I know," he smiled jovially, "shit happens, but you are getting a good officer. Commander Hunt is extremely talented."

The two men shared a pleasant smile before Gral rose to his feet again. "Well then, how about I give you a tour of the rust bucket that will be your base of operations for the foreseeable future?"

"Lead the way Captain," Drayton smiled, gesturing for the corridor entrance nearby.

"Captain... bagh!" Gral growled through his pointed teeth, in his first typically Tellarite gesture, "call me Tora."

"Okay Tora," Drayton grinned, "lets see what the rust bucket has to offer," the pair laughed as they began their expedition around the station and also, the start of what both hoped would be a great working relationship.

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