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Deep From The Expanse

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  • Deep From The Expanse

    Date: March 2, 2389
    Dramatis Personae: ADM Zachary O'Connell; COM Gareth Tau; COM Viggo Espersen; CAPT Kennedy Harper; COM Ombretta Del Carlo


    To say that Zachary O'Connell was enjoying the differences between his service as Task Force 9's Executive Officer and Task Force 72's Commanding Officer was nothing more than an understatement. Whereas Task Force 9 was always strapped for resources, relying on severed supply lines in the Gamma Quadrant thanks to the Consortium Crisis which unnecessarily claimed dozens of starships and thousands of lives, Task Force 72 seemed to continuously be growing, and in the strangest of ways. He hadn't expected to be working closely with Starfleet Academy, much less the oft-ignored Office of Special Investigations. He knew the Alpha Quadrant, and the galaxy at large, possessed great secrets, with only a fraction of a fraction of a single percent that were known to the occupants of the Milky Way.

    But growth needed to be managed, especially in a Task Force that was known to be stretched thin. 72 contained dozens upon dozens of Task Groups, each one with a specific purpose throughout his purview. Today, in addition to formulating yet another new group, he'd also called a staff meeting of the groups operating near the Breen and Cardassian borders to obtain an assessment on the environment as a whole.

    Looking around the room, Zachary took note of his own senior staff who were physically present since they operated aboard the Starbase already. Those who could not make the week-long trip were allowed to be present via the holocommunicator system, a technology that was slowly being adopted even after its development during the Dominion War. An engineer by trade, Zachary had demanded Task Force resources be put into its further development, refinement, and deployment.

    Still, he looked across the table at the holographic image of the Bajor Campus' Captain Kennedy and smiled. "I apologize, Captain, for taking a few vessels out of Hermes' inventory so soon after assigning the Task Group to you," he stated, referencing his recent act of formulating the new Task Group Hecate under Commodore Tau's command.

    Gareth tightly clutched the data PADD in his fingers. It contained the specifics of Hecate, including the vessels that would fall within its mandate. "Rest assured, Captain Harper, that this is in everyone's best interests." He nodded solemnly at his own words. "Given some of the unorthodox assignments, it was unlikely that any names on this list would be available for cadets."

    "There's no need to apologize, Admiral O'Connell," Kennedy stated as she looked between the two men. "As Commodore Tau said, this is in everyone's best interest. I believe a new Task Group is what's best for our area of space."

    "Excellent," Zachary said with a smile. "Then that certainly concludes the matter. Or it serves as a fantastic beginning, considering that this is something new that we're activating. I expect, Commodore Tau, that you'll keep us apprised as we move forward."

    Gareth dipped his head. "Of course, Admiral." He spared a glance for Kennedy's holographic projection. "At least, as much as I am at liberty to do so. If nothing else, the advancements made from the discoveries within the new Task Group will be disbursed as quickly as possible." He gave a passing thought to the more classified projects, then coughed into his hand. "Where applicable, of course."

    The fact that Gareth glanced in her direction didn't go unnoticed by Kennedy, nor was what he was saying. "I'm aware that there are things I don't need to know, or can't know for that matter, Commodore Tau," she said. "But, I don't think we're here to discuss my clearance levels, are we?"

    "No," the commodore conceded. "Given your strategic location and the professional relationships you've fostered among the lion's share of the commanding officers within our Task Force, it seemed prudent to read you into these changes before they take effect. Changing a ship's heading is far easier said and done than changing your Academy's curricula and cadet cruises." He gave a satisfied smile as if he had just said something clever.

    Zachary shifted in his chair, wondering if the perceived animosity between members of his staff was creating some unwarranted tension in the room. His fresh Admiral pips that rested on his collar nudged him to cut this off before anything more could develop, otherwise his future would be even more frustrating.

    Clearing his throat in a measure to distract both of them from their exchanges, Zachary leaned forward. "With the housekeeping out of the way, let's move along. Now, I'm sure you've all noticed that despite all of our growth, we continue to be stretched thin. Tensions between Breen and Cardassia are still tense, or so the latest sensor logs from Deep Space 12 indicate. Cardassia won't step over the DMZ into our space, but I'd make sure we keep a lookout on the border. Who knows what the Ferengi, Orions, or other mercenaries might try to get away with. Captain Harper, with you being on Bajor so close to Cardassian space and the Gavarian Corridor, make sure you keep a vigilant eye out. Undoubtedly, your cadets will either cower or do something brash should danger come knocking. And Commodore Tau, we'll need to take extra care that what needs to be kept secret stays secret."

    Gareth nodded in agreement, though his mind nonetheless focused on the opportunity. "That should not be difficult. As many irons as there are in the fire, at least they are small and therefore manageable." He cracked a smile, which nearly cracked his face. "We should count ourselves blessed that we find ourselves in a time of relative peace without a unified threat knocking on our door; otherwise we would be unable to focus on research and exploration."

    "Understood, Admiral. You and Commodore Tau will be notified immediately if anything comes up," Kennedy stated, choosing to ignore the mention of secrets. After all, they really weren't here to discuss clearance levels. "As for my cadets, I imagine there will be a mix of both. How they handle themselves in the face of danger will give a little insight into what kind of officers they might be." She paused momentarily before continuing. "We have random red alert drills, and all cadets have been instructed on where to go and what to do. Campus staff, as well as our instructors, are also versed. Not to mention our defenses have been fully tested in the event of trouble. We are prepared should things take a turn."

    Zachary nodded his approval. "Commodore Espersen?"

    The dutchman in charge of the Task Force's operations leaned forward. "Commander Del Carlo and I wholly agree that the boom of new assets for Seventy-Two have been quite useful. If only we'd known that the Office of Special Investigations would have been involved we could have better adjusted the distribution among the Task Force."

    "But you've accounted for that in the present deployment, yes?" Admiral O'Connell inquired.

    Commander Del Carlo, the Strategic Operations Chief nodded. "Yes, sir. However, this has only aggravated our current situation. We are vastly short on both material and personnel. Most of the Task Force is understaffed. Hopefully, Starfleet Command, and eventually our campus on Bajor, will rectify that soon."

    "We still have people arriving daily," Kennedy stated. "If there's any way that we might be able to help in the meantime, though, just let me know."

    Gareth smiled admirably at Del Carlo. It was not so many years ago that he himself had been saddled with the responsibility of Strat Ops. Though he knew better than to completely disregard the Commander's advice, Gareth nonetheless accepted the report in stride.

    "Task Force 72 is sitting rather well, and in no small part due to your tireless efforts, Commander. Captain Harper will have our ranks replenished before you know it."

    Kennedy cast a glance in Gareth's direction, then looked back to Del Carlo. "Of course, I can have them replenished now if you don't mind personnel who have no clue what they're doing. Everyone can use a few gopher's, I suppose."

    Zachary opened his mouth to comment when the doors to the room parted, allowing his yeoman, Petty Officer Tanika, to enter. It was not unusual for her to come and go from these meetings as she often had to carry out several tasks for him as the need arose. Normally, she tried to be as invisible as possible.

    This was not one of those times. She quickly approached the Admiral and whispered a short statement in his ear. "Put it on," he told her, gesturing to the viewscreen opposite his position at the desk.

    Tanika complied, and immediately the room was able to see a Bolian field reporter from the Federation News Service on a live broadcast.

    "Ninety one days after the coup d'état led by now-Autarch Larquenten Rej Tov-AA of the Tzenkethi Empire, the hostages from the captured Federation Embassy are finally coming home, according to a statement made by the Autarch just a few short minutes ago."

    The screen changed to an pre-recorded video of Autarch Larquenten standing with a Breen Thot and a Talarian Captain to either side of him. "We will no longer tolerate Federation interference in the Inconnu Expanse," declared the Autarch. "Too long has the Federation meddled in our states, and in our space. Today, we say to the Federation, no more! Stick to your borders and cease your interference. We lay claim to the Inconnu Expanse.

    "All persons, diplomats, and every Starfleet asset we have in our possession will be returned. Those not in our possession, but found in violation of our territory will be dealt with. As a measure of good faith, you have three months to vacate."


    The screen abruptly went black, leaving a new logo with the words "Alrakis Pact" behind. Another voice came over the screen's speakers again, that of the Bolian reporter, but the Admiral immediately placed the feed on mute.

    "Del Carlo..." Gareth gave into his astonishment, making him the first to speak. The usual reserved demeanor he maintained slipped away as he dropped his usual sense of formality. "What was that? Do you have anything on this development -- this 'Alrakis Pact'?"

    Dumbfounded, the Strategic Operations Director simply shook her head. "It doesn't make sense," she said softly. "The Tzenkethi and Talarians are isolationists. And so were the Breen until the Dominion War."

    "The question now is... what do we do?" Captain Harper asked.

    Zachary remained in his chair, hands steepled in front of him as his mind processed the last few moments. Echoes of his time in the Gamma Quadrant flashed in his mind ranging from the startling appearance of the Consortium to the fight for survival that ensued. To say that the ordeal had changed the now-four-star admiral would be an understatement.

    Finally, the Task Force Commanding Officer spoke. "We leave the diplomacy to the diplomats." Lowering his hands, he looked at the staff, both physical and artificial, that filled the room. "In the meantime, until we receive orders from Starfleet Command or the Federation Council, we try to find out everything we can about this pact."

    Gareth was already accessing and listing their assets on two separate PADDs. "It would not do well for us to panic, but neither ought we to do nothing. If we reroute a few patrols through the Inconnu Expanse, we'll be able to cover a bit more ground there." He looked down as he talked, fully engrossed in his plotting. "We could requisition Command to boost our starship numbers as well and have them substitute for those rerouted patrols taken from other sectors. That way our subtle call for reinforcements won't be nearly as public as the Autarch's announcement."

    With a tap on both PADDs, he transmitted his data to the rest of the staff, and looked expectantly at Zachary, Kennedy, and Del Carlo.

    The Admiral nodded his confirmation. "Del Carlo, make sure we get those diplomats to safety. Send the closest starships to do it. And no one's talking about panicking. If anything, I want information. How'd they form in secret? Is this an act of war, or just a veiled threat? Why would the Breen, Tzenkethi and Talarians band together?"

    Among Zachary's important questions was whether or not the Breen would make a play against the Cardassians. The Federation already had enough conflicts on the other side of the galaxy with the Gorn, Klingons and Romulans. Zachary would have to do everything possible to not be dragged into a conflict between the Cardassians and the Breen, no matter how terrible it would be for war to be waged on his doorstep.

    Kennedy listened as the others spoke. Because she was stationary, there wasn't much she'd be able to do to help prevent any conflict, but that didn't mean she couldn't do anything. "Admiral, would you like me to see if I can find anything out? I can't promise an abundance of information, but perhaps I might be able to find out some of the answers to those questions."

    "Anything would be helpful," Zachary replied. "Be careful that you don't put yourself too far out there. After all, it wouldn't look good to lose an Academy Commandant this early in the first year."

    "I assure you I won't be going anywhere," she said. "But, I will be careful nonetheless."

    Gareth nodded in solidarity, then looked back to Zachary. "Sounds like we all have some work to do."

    "Indeed we do," the Admiral confirmed. Looking around him at the faces in the room, he was surprised everyone was standing still. "What are you waiting for?" he asked. "Let's get information, and get it fast. Dismissed."

  • #2
    Date: April 2389
    Dramatis Personae: Captain Zrona
    Location: Starbase 206 (Carnwennan Station)


    Captain Zrona couldn’t say it was a total surprise. The Fourth Fleet was regarded poorly throughout the Federation, constantly changing its leadership amongst the highest levels. Such changes made it hard to trust what was happening behind the scenes. He had finally accepted Admiral Harrison as the Task Force’s Commanding Officer before a new individual had been assigned.
    And then Brigadier General Potter, now Major General, had been reassigned to the Delta Exploration Initiative and sent to the Fourth of July Nebula on the other side of the Federation, and subsequently the other side of the galaxy. The assignment may have seemed logical when considering the fleet’s history, but for Starbase 206, the only Starfleet outpost to stand watch in the Carnwennan Sector, the changes were painful. Most of the command staff had been sent off to new assignments, and Captain Zrona brought in to command the station.

    His prior duties in Intelligence within the Third Fleet made him an ideal candidate, and his Zakdorn blood only cemented that fact. Of course, only a Zakdorn would consider tending his resignation on that regretful day. Zrona would remember it for the rest of his life. He had engaged his Vulcan tactical officer in Strategema, both wishing to surpass the record established by Commander Data and Sirna Kolrami in 2365. They had just cleared the twenty-four thousand threshold when the FNS report came in.

    Zrona had never seen so disgusted in his life. Starbase 206, affectionately known as Carnwennan Station, was in a prime position between the Talarian Empire and Tzenkethi Coalition to monitor varieties of traffic, including troop movements and starship deployment. He’d even taken a personal study, knowing in his entire professional career, there would never be a greater chance to study two powers at once.

    He should have seen it coming. He’d had two months to study the two powers, plenty of chances to pick up on what was coming. Admiral O’Connell had disagreed, rejecting the Captain’s resignation, stating that even Task Force Intelligence hadn’t a clue something was up.

    Standing on the observation deck, hands clasped behind his back, and staring out into the great unknown where the Talarians and Tzenkethi continued to move their ships under the shroud of distance, Zrona maintained his frown. In his culture, he would be shamed and excommunicated for missing something so large and obvious. Only having forced his way through his embarrassment could he start to recognize that the Admiral was right. While now Talarians and Tzenkethi hesitantly crossed each others’ borders, Zrona could see that there was an uneasy trust between the two powers. Whatever happened must have been in secret. Would everyone have really agreed?

    Each of these three were isolationists. The Talarians had considered relations with the Federation. The Tzenkethi had attempted to open embassies to the Klingons, Romulans and Federation, only to be rejected not long ago with a coup. And the Breen… the Breen were being bested at every turn, proof that without the Dominion, they really didn’t have the power to stand against the major Alpha and Beta powers.

    Zrona grunted, still gazing out unto the stars. Perhaps reclaiming one’s honor among his people would indeed be a proper motivation for discovering what really was happening in the Inconnu Expanse...

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    • #3
      Date: April 27, 2389
      Dramatis Personae: Admiral Zachary O’Connell
      Location: Starbase 72


      As spacious as Admiral O’Connell’s office was, in the several months he’d owned it, he rarely used anything more than the desk and viewscreen. One wall in particular had been recently remodeled with several screens with one in the center featuring an up-to-date map of the Inconnu Expanse. The formation of the Alrakis Pact had alarmed everyone, and while Zachary awaited word from Palais de la Concorde, the seat of the Federation Council, he had no choice but to continue moving forward to prepare for an evacuation.
      Evacuation.

      It was a word he hated with unsurmountable passion. Memories of the Consortium Plight were still fresh in his mind, being holed up in Starbase Unity, a former Dominion processing plant, for several months before finding a window to strike back. This Pact was undeniably different than the former crisis. There was no threat of war, no threat of annihilation, just the promise of losing the last couple years of exploration in the Inconnu Expanse.

      Zachary now stood with folded arms in front of the map. Commander ch’Rhalos, the Task Force Chief of Intelligence, had been feeding updates in real time to the map with markers for every known Federation starship, colony and asset in the Expanse, each marked with the symbol of the Federation or a Starfleet Delta. Many of these detlas clogged the mouth of the Expanse near Garen Empok, the former home of Roosevelt Station before the designation was shifted to a Nor station near the Ferengi border.

      What concerned him were several red deltas buried throughout the Expanse. His earlier conversation with Commander Hayes gave him great concern for the Starfleet Corps of Engineering Team, Hazard Team Valkyries, that had disappeared inside the Expanse. To him, every life was important, regardless of rank, class or position. This SCE team, however, was a critical asset that had disappeared. Lieutenant Waltz and her crew had been officially listed as missing-in-action that morning as Commander Hayes and his vessel were detected near the Federation border. Part of him hoped the team was still alive.

      The Valkryies were not the only asset lost in the expanse. In addition to a special operations team that had disappeared on assignment, they hadn’t heard from the USS Hope in several weeks either. At last report, the ship was headed for a place called Tshuud. No information about Tshuud was contained in the report, but the lack of contact for several weeks could mean anything. Perhaps the Hope experienced an accident like the Pandora. Captain Temple’s journey had been obstructed by an unusual phenomenon, trapping several crew members, including the captain, in a bubble universe. Temple’s report had been most interesting, and as a former engineer, Zach certainly planned to dissect Temple’s report on the experience in great detail. If he ever had the time, anyway. The Pandora was again underway, now headed to investigate a trading port called “Paradise” where intel from a Ravager vessel now pointed them for further answers.

      Several other assets and starships had gone dark in the Expanse, more than what Zachary could review at this moment. He could only hope that the Victorious and Magellan could come up with answers. The Victorious, at last report, was following the path of the lost Hope, hoping to learn more about its journey and the Ab’Tzent, a society of Tzenkethi outcasts. The Magellan, on the other hand, was officially diving into the Expanse to check on the remote colonies and out-of-touch vessels. Unofficially, he hoped they would find more clues and information on the Alrakis Pact.

      Time, however, would tell. Since their announcement, the Alrakis Pact had remained quiet, though Tzenkethi and Breen presence had ramped up significantly in the Expanse. In fact, it seemed there was a Pact cruiser within a lightyear of every starship or colony. This led Zachary to conclude that the Pact meant business. He didn’t have to imagine what life would be like in two months when the deadline came due. His faith in Palais was practically non-existent. If anything, he could hope for an extension of the deadline, but since they’d been silent on the whole affair, he wondered if the Council saw any value in Federation interests at all.

      Admiral O’Connell lifted a mug of tea to his mouth and sipped. This would be a long two months.

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