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Posted on Sun Jan 24th, 2021 @ 8:05pm by Captain Osegan Trenna & Lieutenant Commander Arthur Talbot

Mission: Beacon
Location: Gamma Command
Timeline: Mission Day 1 at 1100

"Captain Osegan is bringing her XO," Mackenzie said. "Lieutenant Commander Arthur Talbot. He was the Chief Engineer when Osegan took command. From reports, he looks to be doing a decent job. As is the Captain."

The redhead looked at her companion. She'd been detailed to Admiral O'Connell several months previous, serving as his attaché for Fleet Operations. She kept track of all ship movements and all mission reports came across her desk.

"Excellent," Zachary remarked. Both he and Commander Kos were in his office aboard the starbase known as Gamma Command. Admiral O'Connell had made it a point to keep his detail separate from command of the Starbase, having convinced the starbase's Commanding Officer to provide an executive complex several levels below station operations. This resulted in an office structure that spanned as high as five decks with both interior and exterior viewing lounges. His office specifically provided a nice view of New Bajor when the station's rotation angle was just right.

But those details did not matter right now. What mattered to the Admiral was that two years after the Consortium Crisis, Starfleet's presence in the Gamma Quadrant was still not back to proper levels. There was much in the quadrant that needed to be done, from hunting down lost ships, inspecting trade routes, continuing to explore the final frontier and much more, and he had barely half the proper staff to do it with. "If memory serves, the Altai was assigned to the quadrant shortly after the Crisis. I seem to remember something about discovering both the Qlorone and the Glo'ka?"

"Qlo'ka and Glurone," she corrected with a chuckle and shake of her head. "Close enough. That sounded like a hell of a mission too. We've got a California-class arranged for a follow up visit to the Qlo'ka homeworld. The Goleta, I believe. Still working out some details for a mission to check on the Glurone. They could be trouble down the road, based on the reports from the Altai."

Zachary nodded at the correct pronunciation of the newest species to be discovered. "We need to make sure all Commanding Officers in the quadrant get the briefings on the Qlo'ka and the Glurone," he instructed Kos. "And for the Goleta's sake, let's get a rapid responder within a couple light years of the Qlo'ka homeworld. Better to keep our people safe should the need arise."

"Will do," she confirmed, making a note on her PADD. "Any preference for which ship? I know Black Hawk is one of your favorites, but they're busy."

The Admiral frowned as he considered the situation. While he would prefer the Black Hawk nearby, he did have other plans for that ship. "Contact Commander Wul of the USS O'Carroll." The Akira-class ship was the Admiral's former command, and he knew the Betazoid would be able to adequately handle a crisis should it arise. "That sector is overdue for a patrol anyway."

She chuckled. "I still think it's funny that O'Connell commanded the O'Carroll. That's not at all confusing."

"You have no idea how many times I petitioned Task Force 9 to change the name," Zachary remarked. "Every time I tried, all they could do was offer me an Oberth or a Diligent as an alternate command. By that time, I'd already adopted an affinity for the little Akira that could."

"The Akira is a solid class," Mac commented, recalling her time on the Black Hawk and Susquehanna. "They are good ships. Interesting engineering challenges, but that keeps things interesting."

"That it most certainly does," Zachary confirmed. "Of all of the ships I ever served on, none were as interesting or unique as those on the O'Carroll."


"I'd apologize for dragging you along," Trenna said to her XO, "but I'm not actually sorry." The duo was walking down a corridor on DS11, heading for a turbolift that would take them to the office of the head of Gamma Command. Gamma Command was a bit different than other Starfleet Operational Commands in that it was quadrant-wide. Back on the other side of the Bajoran wormhole, there was sufficient Federation holdings and Starfleet operations to carve out smaller Operational Commands. Sector and sector block commands were common. But here in the Gamma Quadrant, the proverbial buck stopped with the Commanding Officer of Gamma Quadrant Forces.

"Know anything about the Admiral?"

"Very little," Artie said, keeping in step beside his captain. "I know that he was an engineer prior to commanding a starship. I also know that he was a key player in the Consortium Crisis from a few years ago. " As they walked, Artie took note of the starbase's clean construction. Though the base had been under construction for a few years to replace the aging station that was nearly destroyed in the Crisis, this particular stretch of corridor looked almost untouched by organic hands.

"I don't think I've ever seen a Starbase this clean," he remarked.

The Bajoran woman looked around and, like her Executive Officer, took notice of the condition of the station. "Only the best for top brass, I suppose. Meanwhile, we can't get a full senior staff. I guess this is how the 'other half' live."

"I bet he has a full senior staff," he muttered. "And a cargo bay filled with the new T89 diagnostic scanners."

The duo approached a door labeled 'Office of the Commander-in-Chief, Gamma Quadrant Forces'.

"This is it," Trenna said, taking a step forward, triggering the doors. Immediately in front of them was a desk manned by a yeoman.

Stationed outside the Admiral's office was his yeoman of two years, the dark-skinned Petty Officer Janell Tanika. She took immediate notice of the new arrivals and rose to greet them. "Captain Osegan. Commander Talbot. Welcome to Gamma Command."

"Thank you," Trenna replied. "Can you do me a favor?"

"Certainly," Janell replied to the Bajoran Captain. "What can I do for you?"

"While we're in there, get a case of the T89s sent to my ship. We're operating short staffed and any help we can get on being more efficient is good."

Janell placed a smile on her face and replied, "Of course, Captain. I believe we have quite a few of those we can spare."

The yeoman then reached over and pressed and held a button on her communications panel. Admiral O'Connell's voice came over the speaker a moment later, "Yes, Tanika?"

"Admiral, Captain Osegan and her Executive Officer are here."

"Send them in."

Janell released her finger and stepped out from behind her desk. "This way, please." With a guided motion with her right arm, she led both officers to the entrance. The doors parted at her presence, revealing the Admiral's spacious office. Janell stepped to the side as soon as she entered, ready for whatever the Admiral or Commander Kos requested.

"Admiral," Trenna said, entering the room. She extended her hand, a habit she'd picked up interacting with Humans as much as she had in her life.

Zachary rose from his chair and met the new arrivals across the room. "Captain Osegan," he greeted with an extended hand, using the traditional Bajoran naming conventions. "Welcome to Gamma Command."

"Nice to meet you, Captain. You can just call me Mac," Kos said, offering a hand.

"Trenna is fine, if we're being informal," she replied with a friendly smile while grasping the other woman's hand. "This is Commander Artie Talbot, one of the best Execs in the fleet."

"And Artie is what I go by if we're being informal," the former engineer said with a smile. He extended his hand to greet the Admiral's now freed hand while he waited his turn with Mac.

"Nice to meet you, Artie," Kos said when she shook the man's hand.

The Admiral gestured to a sitting area that had been prepared next to a large viewport. "Would either of you like anything to drink before we get started?" he asked as he approached one of the three couches that were positioned in a U-shape.

"Unless you've got a secret coffee stash, the real stuff, I'll just have some water. Artie?"

"A cup of mint tea would do nicely," Artie confirmed with a smile, following the group over to the sofas.

"The usual. Thanks," Mac said. She looked at their guests. "Iced Efrosian white tea," she explained.

"The usual for me too," Zachary stated, taking the first seat. He didn't need to keep Petty Officer Tanika in his eyeline as she entered the drink orders into a padd she carried. The table between the couches shone brightly for a moment as the requested beverages materialized in front of their eyes.

The Admiral picked up a steaming mug of coffee and took in a waft of its bold aroma. "Nothing like a cup of Wilkins before lunch to reinvigorate the mind," he told the group.

She took a sip of the water that was handed to her. Should have specified cold, Trenna thought.

"So, Admiral, Commander, what can I and the Altai do for you?"

Kos looked down at her PADD before looking at O'Connell. She wasn't sure how much the Admiral would want to say himself, let alone if he had anything he wanted to say as a lead up to the real focus of the meeting.

Zachary took another sip of his coffee before looking to the Bajoran Captain. "Are you familiar with the Quimalia system, Captain?"

"Rings a bell," Trenna answered. "But it's faint. It was surveyed a couple of years ago, or at least it was slated to."

Artie looked at his Captain for a moment, then back at the Admiral. The Altai was no stranger to remote systems, having spent the last two missions near them. Each one had presented its own set of dangers, and Artie couldn't help thinking that that streak was nowhere near ending.

"According to the records, our survey ship had spent roughly three days in the system, mapping the area to the best of their ability before moving on. As is common in systems like these, there was some signs of life, but none that the Prime Directive allows us to interface with at this time."

A glimmer of excitement flashed in Trenna's eyes. "Something changed though. That's why we're here," she said, referring to herself and Talbot.

Zachary looked over to Kos for a moment before looking back to Captain Osegan. "Two days ago, we picked up a transmission coming from the system. It's still active, and it's stuck on repeat."

Her eyes shifted to Kos. "Someone discovered subspace radio out there?"

"It's a Federation signal," Commander Kos explained. "Our comms team confirms that. SIGINT..."

"That was going to be my next question," Trenna interrupted.

Kos cleared her throat. "As I was saying, SIGINT is working on it now, but we don't want to take any chances."

Leaning back, Osegan's eyes narrowed. "Chances? Of what?"

Before the other woman could respond, Trenna straightened. "What does the broadcast say?"

"Just two words," Kos said. "'They're coming.'"

The room was silent. Osegan stared at the the floor, digesting the information that had just been presented to her. At any give moment, there were countless messages shooting through subspace. Subspace communications was right up with warp technology in it's impact to interstellar exploration. Without it, there would likely not be far-reaching entities like the Federation, the Klingon Empire, the Cardassian Union, and even smaller powers like the Daa'Vit Confederacy. That a Federation signal was emanating from a system that hadn't had any recorded Federation presence in three years was remarkable. That the message was a cryptic warning was something Starfleet couldn't ignore.

"You need us to check it out," she said, refocusing on Kos and O'Connell. It was a statement, not a question.

Kos nodded. "Relevant information, including a copy of the message and signal, will be sent to you by the time you get back to your ship. I've dispatched orders to two other ships, the Lillehammer and the Tarso Voon, so you have some backup. Just in case."

"A Steamrunner, a Norway, and a Saber versus an unknown enemy of unknown power or strength. That's hardly enough to hold the line," Osegan offered. "But I know things are stretched thin here."

"Not to mention," Zachary chimed in, "that there is a surplus of former Starfleet technology in the quadrant. The Consortium saw many of our starships disappear, disabled, or destroyed throughout our assigned sectors. The Black Hawk, Trident, and Vasco da Gama have all reported sightings of pirates. One report showed that a certain band of pirates are using a Saber-class ship which also does appear to be legally obtained."

"Legally obtained?" Artie asked. "Aside from hundred-year old Oberths and Ptolemys, I haven't heard of Starfleet vessels released for civilian use."

The Admiral shrugged. "Merchant marines, traders, even cruise line corporations see value in what is no longer of strategic importance to us. But that's beside the point. The signal we've discovered has as much of a chance being valid as it is invalid. Your mission is to investigate and report immediately if there is a danger. Task Group Belvedere has a couple rapid responders on standby as well, and they should hopefully be within an hour's response range by the time you arrive at the system."

"So, this is either huge or nothing," Trenna said finally, ending a few moments of silence. "In other words, perfectly on brand for the frontier."

"Exactly, Captain," Kos confirmed. "If there isn't anything else...."

Osegan held up a hand. "I need more crew. Most of my department heads are temporary. I've got junior officers and enlisted crew filling in. Departments need leadership and some consistency. That's what else I need."

She added, after a pointed pause, "Commander."

"I've been working on that, Captain," Mac replied, standing her ground. "There is a manpower shortage in the quadrant. I know that's not a good answer, but it's the truth. You're not alone in needing more people."

"I get it, but that doesn't help at all," the Bajoran stated. "Artie and I stepped onto this station and are in awe of the condition. You've got a nice station here, Admiral. And a seemingly well staffed one. Those of us out in the field, not holed away in a bright, shiny command base, are struggling. Ships operating without enough back up. Most of us with staff and equipment shortages. I'm sure some of the 'star' ships are immune from this; I suspect Captain Geisler isn't having senior staff meetings full of junior officers or enlisted crew. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think I am. I'm not asking for a fully staffed ship, at least not yet. But I would like to have some more experienced officers. Artie shouldn't be pulling double duty, trying to balance time on the Bridge and in the engine room. I've lost several members of my Security department, including the acting chief. If you want to be able to keep sending the Altai and other ships out to face the newest possible threats to the Federation, you should get us more help."

Whatever fragments of a smile Zachary had on his face slowly evaporated throughout Captain Osegan's frustrated request. "Captain, I appreciate your candor. And if it's anyone that can recognize the pain you and Talbot are working through, it's both Commander Kos and I. We were in the Gamma Quadrant two years ago when everything was burned down. The manpower shortage is by design, and I am absolutely against it. Always have been. Even for this station and its staff, over eighty percent of personnel in this quadrant are green. Sixty percent of officers out here are ensigns. Seventy percent of enlisteds are P-O-Three and below. There simply aren't enough officers to go around."

Zachary looked over at Talbot and continued. "As for you, Mister Talbot, I also understand your frustrations. I know you haven't voiced them, but I see them in your eyes. Long ago in my career, I was forced to don the red uniform and it never came off. We are all inventions of necessity. It doesn't excuse it, nor make it right, but you best be assured that any minute I'm not meeting with the starships under my purview, I am fighting with Starfleet Operations to shift badly needed personnel out here. Poor staffing, poor public relations, and a multitude of other circumstances are forcing us to find new people to mold into the generation of the best and the brightest."

The Admiral looked back at Captain Osegan. "I will do my absolute best to find qualified and capable staff members before you leave, especially for science, engineering, and tactical. I cannot make promises, but I will do all I can."

"I appreciate that, Admiral. Knowing that someone is fighting for us is reassuring." She looked at Kos. "Don't you think, Commander?"

What a bitch, Kos thought.

Mac was normally a rather pleasant woman. She'd been accused, on multiple occasions, of being painfully positive. But that was the old Mackenzie Kos. The situation surrounding her departure from the Black Hawk had been a turning point. She still tended to present an outward positivity, but inside...well, she wasn't nearly as smiley.

"The Admiral tries very hard to support the COs under his command," the redhead answered. It was all she could manage to say without going on the attack.

Trenna smirked, knowing that she'd put the other woman in her place. Attractive, but what a pain in the ass.

"Now, if there's nothing else," she asked, rising to her feet, "we'll get back to our ship and start preparations."

Artie, following his Captain's lead, also rose to his feet. This meeting had been absolutely interesting, even if they'd be walking out without their needs fully met.

The Admiral rose as well. "Any further intelligence we have or learn will be transmitted to your ship immediately. I would appreciate updates as they come along during your journey."

"Of course, sir." She turned to look at Kos. "Commander."

Mac's face remained expressionless. She said nothing, just dipping her chin slightly, giving a faint nod of acknowledgement. Her eyes remained fixed on the Bajoran woman as, with Commander Talbot, they left the office.

"That was....something," she said, breaking the silence that had begun once the doors closed.

Zachary grunted. "I don't blame her, you know. If I was given this assignment, I'd want all of the help I could get too."

Kos nodded. She's still a bitch.


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