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Settling In (Part 1)

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  • Settling In (Part 1)


    Vice Admiral Zachary O’Connell arrives at Starbase 72 to assume command of the Task Force. His first week involves several briefings, and surprises from both the Cardassians and the Breen.


    December 10, 2388


    Task Force 72
    • VADM Zachary O’Connell, Task Force 72 Commanding Officer
    • BGEN Paul Potter, Task Force 72 Executive Officer
    • Yivliv Ra-Havrox, Diplomatic Attache
    • PO2 Janell Tanika, Yeoman
    • CMDR Ombretta Del Carlo, Chief of Task Force Strategic Operations
    • CMDR Ebyhl ch’Rhalos, Chief of Task Force Intelligence
    • COM Viggo Espersen, Chief of Task Force Operations
    Starbase 72
    • COM Meemmexi “Mex” Chai, Commanding
    • CMDR Strork, XO
    • CMDR Chench jav Prerr, Chief of Operations
    • CMDR Estadis, Chief of Medical
    Minos Korva
    • Gehil Gamu, Planetary Administrator
    • Konn Tlathas, Mining Director
    • Madam Kunieda, Chief of Commerce

  • #2
    The last few days had been a whirlwind. To be fair, the last few months felt like several years had passed. From medical relief to fighting the Consortium to cleaning up after that debacle… Vice Admiral Zachary O’Connell sincerely thought that matters were finally settling down. In the midst of it all, his wife, Jillian, who’d also served under his command aboard the USS O’Carroll, had just given birth to their first child. Zachary thought he’d be able to step back and enjoy being a parent.

    Starfleet, however, had to intervene. Within hours of contact, Zachary, along with his wife and four-month old son, boarded the USS Columbia to leave the Gamma Quadrant for good.

    While the Consortium ripped Task Force 9 apart, the Cardassians had performed a power play of their own. Taking advantage of everyone’s attention on the Gavarian Corridor, the Cardassians lashed at the Breen. During the Dominion War, four systems were given to the Breen by the Dominion as incentive for allying with them during the Dominion War; four systems that had belonged to the Cardassians for decades. When the war ended, these systems remained in Breen hands, including the Cardassians who lived on them. In just a few short weeks, the Cardassians didn’t just reclaim those systems, but unleashed total hell on the Confederacy.

    No one, not even the Federation, saw it coming. Even though these actions were still weeks old, the Federation was still recovering from the shock. Starfleet wanted someone in charge of Task Force 72 that not only could keep a proper eye on the Union, but someone who could do something about it when the time come. And it was Zachary’s performance during the Consortium crisis that stood out to them.

    As flattered as most would expect Zach to be, the man looking out the Columbia’s forward viewport as it approached Starbase 72 was anything but. He thought it ridiculous that one man could make that much difference in this decades-old conflict. No, this would be up to the Task Force as a whole, each starship and crew performing their duty, to turn this thing around.

    Behind the impressive Spacedock-class station was a small M-Class planet, roughly eighty percent the size of Earth. Its name was Minos Korva, the residential hub for what was arguably the most valuable system in this sector. Dilithium mines, deuterium refineries, excellent sources of duranium, tritanium and more had made this system a target during two wars. Amazingly, it had never left Federation hands, even when nearly surrounded by the Dominion in 2374. Even though its existence and location was no longer threatened, its proximity to both the Union and Confederacy made it the perfect location to transfer the Task Force Headquarters.

    “Well,” Zach muttered to himself. “At least it’s a step up from Starbase Unity.” Of course, even a K-Class station would be a step up at this point. Anything beat a converted Dominion dilithium refinery.

    * * *

    “Another Commanding Officer,” muttered Commander Ebyhl ch’Rhalos. The Andorian had been serving for the last year as the Task Force’s Chief of Intelligence and considered himself fortunate that his resignation wasn’t demanded the moment the Cardassians acted against the Breen.

    “It’s not about us,” assured the Efrosian Yivliv Ra-Havrox, 72’s Diplomatic Attache. The man had served with Starfleet for several decades and was one of the few diplomats the Cardassians would entertain these days.

    The doors to the waiting room opened, allowing another Starfleet officer, an attractive Italian woman, to enter the room just in time to hear the conversation “Unique times, unique measures,” added Commander Ombretta Del Carlo, 72’s Chief of Strategic Operations.

    “If you think this is frustrating,” said Commodore Meemmexi Chai, the station’s Betazoid Commanding Officer, who fought the urge to roll her black eyes at the inexperienced Starfleet officers around her. “You should have seen the start of the Dominion War. It was even more disorganized.”

    Several other officers were in the room, including the station’s XO, the Vulcan Commander Strork, Commodore Viggo Espersen, 72’s Chief of Operations, and a security detachment. All of them awaited the Columbia to dock inside the station, even though the Galaxy-class ship was already in the main bay. Pomp and ceremony had not been requested, nor was the station about to award it. The arrival of the Task Force Commanding Officer, regardless of length of service, was never a cause for celebration. If anything, it meant more work for all, and crate after crate of coffee.

    Finally, the docking procedure had finished. A minute later, the airlock hissed open, revealing a forty-year-old human male, two female companions, one of whom was holding an infant. Nearby, a boatswain pressed a whistle to his lips and performed the ancient three-note report, an announcement that admiralty had arrived.

    Vice Admiral Zachary O’Connell stepped over the threshold to stand in front of Commodore Chai. “Commodore,” he greeted with a smile. “A pleasure to see you again.”

    “We’ve both come a long way from the Achilles,” replied the Betazoid woman.

    “Times have indeed changed,” Zachary said. He looked at the various officers gathered in the room, taking a moment to make eye contact with each of them. Zach didn’t need to be empathic to know that nobody was comfortable with this. “Allow me to introduce my wife,” Zachary said, gesturing to the blond woman to his left, “Jillian and our first born, Scott.”

    He waited for a moment for Jillian to nod before acknowledging the dark-skinned woman to his right. “Petty Officer 2nd Class Jenell Tanika,” Zachary said, “my attaché. Commander Strork, Commodore Espersen, Mister Ra-Havrox, Commander Del Carlo, and Commander ch’Rhalos, I wish I could say that we are first meeting under better circumstances. I have reviewed the available reports on the journey here. Given the late hour, I think it’s best that we wait until the morning to begin. Daily briefings will be held in my office every day at 0700. Tanika will pick up any reports you have at the end of the day. I know we’ve got a hard task, but for now, it’s going to have to be wait and see. We’ve got to wait for the right moment to take action, whatever that is.”

    Zachary smiled and nodded. “See you in the morning.” To Commodore Chai, he added, “Thank you for the use of Starbase 72. I hope to stay out of your way.” With that final nod, Zach led his party out of the airlock and into the starbase.

    “Odd,” said Yivliv after O’Connell and his party had departed. “I was expecting more from the strategist that kept the Consortium at bay.”

    “Strategist?” gruffed ch’Rhalos to the group. “He’s an engineer. We’re all doomed.”


    • #3
      DATE: December 11, 2388


      VADM Zachary O’Connell, Task Force 72 Commanding Officer
      CMDR Ombretta Del Carlo, Chief of Task Force Strategic Operations
      CMDR Ebyhl ch’Rhalos, Chief of Task Force Intelligence


      Zach was never one to sit. Even when he commanded the USS O’Carroll, he was known to pace before the command chair, and often “lap” the bridge, keeping an eye on his bridge officers. It was a practice he planned to keep in these meetings, but for now he stood still, staring at a map of the Breen and Cardassian borders. Not long ago, the Cardassian Union dashed across the border. In a short time, they claimed six systems from the Breen, five of which were originally under the Cardassian flag before the Dominion War. The Breen had tried to repeal this invasion, but had suffered defeat at every turn.

      “We know,” said the Andorian Commander ch’Rhalos, “that there are three more systems that used to belong to Cardassia.” Ebyhl stepped up to the viewscreen and tapped on those three systems. “Ghlempok, Tribolis, and Zendaru.” As the Andorian tapped, indicator outlines were placed around those planets. “The Breen have dedicated a fleet to each planet’s defenses.”

      “They’ve already lost at least one to the Cardassians,” remarked Zachary, his eyes studying every detail of the map. “And that’s not counting the losses they suffered during the Breen Crisis.”

      Commander Del Carlo, still sitting at the table, moaned at the very mention of the series of battles that the Federation endured just a few short years ago. “Whoever comes up with these terrible names should be shot,” she muttered.

      “Hmm?” Zachary asked, glancing over to the Italian woman.

      “The Breen Crisis,” she repeated, leaning back in her chair. “In 2385, the Valoris Nebula decided that it needed to rotate. The gravitational waves caused several star systems to change positions, placing Breen worlds across the Federation border, and Federation worlds across the Breen. Not wanting to lose their holdings, the Breen tried to claim the entire sector.” Looking directly at Admiral O’Connell, she added, “They failed.”

      “And those systems?” O’Connell asked.

      “Those that were Federation and Breen are still Federation and Breen,” Ombretta stated. “We’ve agreed to allow supply lines, and so have they. But, it’s such a grand name for a small annoyance.” She nodded at the view screen. “Especially since the Cardassians are making expert work at reclaiming their territory.”

      Zach couldn’t help but agree with her observation. Turning back to the viewscreen, he openly asked, “What about the Cardassians? I suppose they’re already making preparations.”

      Ebyhl, the Task Force’s Chief of Intelligence, nodded. “The Second and Fifth Orders have already regrouped, and the First and Eighth Orders are already consolidating near Ketlis and Torman. I estimate they’ll push ahead before we enter 2389.”

      The Admiral agreed with that prediction as well. There was nothing he could do about the situation, other than sit and watch. Unlike his bouts with the Consortium, this was undeniably frustrating as he was totally helpless. “Make sure our eyes and ears in the field keep on the lookout for new intel,” he droned, knowing that this was already happening. He already made a note of asking his Efrosian Diplomat to see what he could pick up through the diplomatic channels. “All right,” he said at last, having his fill of the Cardassian/Breen Border. “Let’s move on to the Gavarian Corridor.”

      Commander ch’Rhalos nodded, turning to the viewscreen to call up the new map. Behnd them all, the doors opened, bidding entrance to a Trill Lieutenant. Zach glanced over to the brunette as she crossed the room, handed Commander ch’Ralos a PADD, and then left. The Andorian’s eyes remained fixed on it, forgetting about the viewscreen for the moment.

      It didn’t take a Betazoid to know something was wrong. In fact, it prompted Commander Del Carlo to finally rise from her chair and join the two men by the viewscreen.

      “We have confirmation,” Ebyhl said softly. “Deep Space Seven has been destroyed.” He looked up and handed the PADD to Admiral O’Connell from him to view. “The USS Manila picked it all up on long-range sensors.”

      “Damn,” muttered Ombretta, looking over the Admiral’s shoulders. DS7 had been strategically placed in the Inconnu Expanse, to serve as a hub for the expeditionary vessels. Its destruction certainly gave the Task Force much more to concern itself about.

      “Commander Del Carlo,” Zach said, handing the PADD back to the Andorian. “Coordinate with Commodore Espersen and redeploy Task Groups 72-C through E along the border to the Inconnu Expanse. Make sure the heavy hitters are on standby to assist any of our ships in the Expanse.”

      “Should we withdraw our ships?” Del Carlo asked.

      “Certainly not!” Zach replied. “The Federation has faced many dangers before, all of which probably worse than what awaits in the Expanse.” To the Andorian Intelligence Chief, he added, “Get me everything you can on these... Ravagers. Dismissed.”


      • #4

        December 11, 2388

        • VADM Zachary O’Connell, Task Force 72 Commanding Officer
        • Yivliv Ra-Havrox, Diplomatic Attache (Efrosian male)
        • PO2 Janell Tanika, Yeoman (Betazoid)

        Petty Officer 2nd Class Janell Tanika sat outside the Admiral’s office, perched behind her desk sorting through several PADDs. It had been barely an hour since the Admiral’s briefing, but she’d already started to see reports filter back from Commander Del Carlo and Commodore Espersen. Several Task Groups had been reassigned along the borders, with the majority concentrated near the intersection of the Cardassian, Breen and Federation borders.

        She didn’t understand the action so much, especially since all she’d seen were several months of conflict with the Consortium in the Gamma Quadrant. This… whatever this was, was more of a global scale, involving at least two, if not four, major powers in the Alpha Quadrant. When she enlisted in Starfleet, she’d planned to see the universe. If only she’d known the universe looked like this, she might have stayed on Betazed.

        The anteroom doors opened suddenly, prompting the dark-skinned woman to look up. Towering inside the doorway was the Task Force’s only civilian, the Efrosian Yivliv Ra-Havrox. Yivliv, who’d insisted on being called “Yiv.” His long, stark white hair, outlined his tanned skin, and nearly disappeared into the light gray robe that he wore. He stepped inside, and the door closed behind him.

        Janell smiled at the Efrosian. “Good morning, Yiv,” she greeted, wondering why the diplomat had dropped by. The Admiral hadn’t summoned anyone to the office, at least, not to her knowledge.

        “Good morning, Miss Tanika,” Yiv replied with a practiced smile. “Is the Admiral around?”

        “He’s inside,” Janell replied, nodding at the realization that he had arrived unannounced. “One moment,” she said, reaching over for the intercom unit. “Admiral, Yiv is here to see you.”

        “Send him in,” came the Admiral’s quick reply.

        “Thank you,” spoke Yiv as Janell gestured him towards the large door that separated the anteroom from the actual office. The panels parted when the proximity sensors detected the Efrosian’s presence. His sunken eyes were quick to detect that Admiral O’Connell was not at his desk. Rather, the human was sitting at a table next to the window, reviewing information on a rather large PADD.

        The Admiral looked up to see the Efrosian enter. “Yiv,” he greeted, fighting the urge to use the title “Ambassador” since the man did not officially bear that designation. “To what do I owe the honor?”

        “I have concerns, Admiral,” Yiv said, catching Zachary’s gesture to join him at the table. “I have several contacts within the Cardassian Union. Usually, I converse with them several times over the course of the morning.”

        Zachary laid down the PADD on the table. “I take it that’s not the case today.”

        “Or most of this week,” Yiv confirmed. “Throughout the week, several of my contacts became unreachable. Now, they’re more or less spread out. Loval, Chin’toka, Quinor, Cardassia, just to name a few. There’s no real pattern.”

        “Maybe they’re just taking an extended vacation,” suggested Zachary. Of course, he didn’t think that this would be the case, but it was a prod to see how the diplomat would react. It would, after all, take Zach some time to really get to know his staff.

        “That would be an explanation,” he confirmed. “Others that I speak to… their tone has changed.”

        The Efrosian now had Zachary’s full attention. “Changed?”

        Yiv nodded. “Each planet used to have their own agenda, own goal. Now, they speak of a unified goal. A Unified Cardassia.”

        Zachary slowly nodded. “It fits with the Union’s current actions. Massing troops near the Confederacy, retaking systems that were theirs before the war. There’s got to be more to the story though.” Zach had fought in the Dominion War, and had the privilege of seeing the Cardassians prior to that. The Union wasn’t always united, but then again, neither was the Federation. Starfleet, however, found diversity to be far more uniting than Cardassia’s singularity.

        Yiv sighed. “I’ll see what I can find out, even if it’s just traditional propaganda. I’ll keep you posted.”

        The Admiral nodded his thanks as the diplomat left the room. Zach, meanwhile, did not pick up his PADD. Cardassia was mobilizing, and likely silencing those that weren’t following the party line. This was shaping up to be a most dire situation indeed.


        • #5

          December 11, 2388

          • VADM Zachary O’Connell, Task Force 72 Commanding Officer

          Zachary sighed, bowing his head. An instant later, his eyes were closed as he rubbed his temples. Instead of the expected blackness that normally occurred when one’s sight was obscured, Zach took instant note that the grid lines and faction markers had been burned into his retinas. Surely he hadn’t been staring at the area map for that long…

          He’d spent the entire day being briefed by all of the Task Force’s department heads, only to find that he hadn’t known the situation like he thought he did. Cardassia was amassing forces in four locations, ready to fight on two fronts. The Breen were struggling on all borders. The Inconnu Expanse was vomiting Starfleet elements. And that was just the beginning of it. Starfleet’s supply lines were stretched thin, even as they were redeploying the fleet along the borders. He knew this position wasn’t going to be easy, even if his time against the Consortium gave him some preparation for limited resources.

          “Computer,” he croaked, finding his throat parched. Zach opened his eyes and picked up a glass of water. “Time.”

          “Time is 2300 hours,” replied the computer, her voice unaffected by fatigue or tone.

          The admiral sighed again, disappointed that not only had he spent the last six hours staring at that map, but also that no one had come looking for him. He approached the map, specifically the control panel beside the large screen, and tapped a stud to shut it off. It would all be there tomorrow, and now it was time to retire for the evening.

          Zachary left the main office, not at all surprised that Warrant Officer Tanika was still at her post. He couldn’t fault her for quickly minimizing the viral videos that were circulating on the personnel feeds, which she’d been watching, waiting for the Admiral to finally call it a night. Zach knew that she could have rescued him hours ago, but the Betazoid knew better. Only Zach could set his boundaries, not her. The Admiral dismissed the Warrant Officer just before leaving the administrative complex himself.

          The station was quiet. Corridor lighting had been reduced forty percent, as was customary on Starfleet installations to maintain biological clocks. It was too easy for anyone to lose any sense of regularity on a ship or base. Zachary was then reminded that he’d have to pay a visit to Minos Korva soon, and visit with the personnel down there. Though his focus was on the Task Force as a whole, he liked to know his surroundings in the event that he needed that knowledge. That, and he needed to find a place where he and his wife could have brief getaways. She was supportive, and he knew as soon as their little one was ready, she’d be pressed back into service. They were both Starfleet officers, and she was still on extended maternity leave. It wouldn’t be much to find her an assignment as an Executive Officer or a Captain on one of the ships attached to Starbase 72. It’d keep her and the baby close, and free from being assigned to a deep space mission far away.

          Zachary arrived home at last. The quarters were lit more dimly than the corridor. It was enough for him to see that his wife had fallen asleep on the couch waiting for him to return. Their infant son lay on her chest, sleeping just as peacefully as she. Zach lifted the blanket on the back of the couch and used it to cover her and the baby up, smiling as he did so. Part of him wished she would have called him, broken his concentration and forced him home. But he knew she wouldn’t have, knowing it was his first day and he needed every exhausting minute of it.

          He removed his belt, jacket and vest, setting them on the floor beside the coffee table. Zach then removed his pips and set them gently on the glass table, trying not to wake the sleeping ones. He pulled at the zipper for the red shirt, opening it from the collar to a couple inches past his shoulders, and removed his shoes. A moment later, he sat in the chair beside the couch, covered under a blanket that had been left out for him. Sleep found him not long after. Tomorrow would be just as intense, and he needed every minute of sleep he could get.