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    Elgor Rae
    Elgor Rae

    // U.S.S. Athena, Captain’s Dining Room
    // Episode Day 1, 10:00 Hours

    Commander Elgor Rae’s finger tapped on the table he sat behind as he watched the stars shoot by. Across from him a human woman obviously his senior observed in silent amusement. Captain Samantha Hall could sense the anxiety emanating from her first officer. She had known Elgor for his steadfast cool-headedness. It left him reacting without needed urgency, which could lead to solutions that lacked the flair she demanded of her XO. They had worked on that over the years. Visible anxiety was an unusual one though. It was intriguing.

    “El?” Captain Hall said, waiting a moment and receiving no response.

    She tried again, this time with a little more pressure. “El.”

    Commander Rae snapped his attention back. “I’m here,” he smiled, moving his hand up to rest his chin on rather than driving Sam further towards insanity.

    Elgor wondered if he hadn’t become a little too comfortable in his captain’s presence. They had spent a decade serving together. The Athena had become his home, and her crew his family. He was happy to have a CO who tolerated his occasional reverie, but he felt a twinge of trained guilt for it. As the Athena approached Starbase 349 Elgor was becoming distracted.

    “Are you?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.

    Elgor chuckled and placed his napkin on the table. “No, no not really.”

    “Already on that ship of yours, huh?” you asked.

    Elgor shook his head again. “Not yet. In the past right now. We did a lot of good out here, didn’t we?”

    Captain Hall raised her glass. “Nostalgia it is then. And it’s ‘we’re /doing/ a lot of good.’ Still will be. Twice as much with you running around in your own ship now.”

    “Not a bad point,” Elgor replied bemused. “I’m just going to miss it here. This is home.”

    “Home is where you make it, El,” she replied softly. “You know as well as any of us.”

    Elgor winced a little at the reference to his exodus from Halii. She had a point though as usual.

    “Besides,” Sam continued, “you’ve wanted this for yours. Your own ship, and on the final frontier.”

    “I have, and I do. I’m not having regrets. Like you said: nostalgia.”

    “Fair enough,” Sam grinned. “Starfleet needs good captains. We’ve got fleets of ships rolling out fast. The war took its toll on the number of experienced commanders out there. Don’t go getting cold feet on us now.”

    Elgor chuckled. “Don’t worry, I’ve waited too long to get an office on deck one. I’m committed.”

    “You sure that little ship of yours has a ready room?”

    “Little ship?” Elgor frowned.

    Sam raised her hands in surrender. “Okay, okay. Tough little ship.”

    Elgor chuckled again, his wandering mind pulled back into focus. “And I’ll have you know I have one, I know those deck schematics like the back of my hand now.”

    “You think, wait til something has you crawling through those jefferies tubes.”

    As she took a drink from her cup the space outside the ship seemed to fall to silence. The stars came to a standstill, and the massive form of a Stardock-class starbase was framed outside the view port. The sound of the comm chimed over head.

    “Captain Hall and Commander Rae to the Bridge. We’ve arrived at Starbase 349.”

    // U.S.S. Athena, Bridge
    // Episode Day 1, 10:30 Hours

    Elgor’s eyes scanned the cavernous gut of Starbase 349 as the Intrepid-class Athena took its place in the dock. He hadn’t spotted his new ship, but the interior of the base housed a flotilla of ships now. The Epatha Gateway would soon open; a temporary, tenuous connections to Starfleet’s home in the Delta Quadrant. Through it tens of thousands of civilians and Starfleet officers would bolster the Task Force awaiting on the other side. Among them, the Diligent would take its place.

    Aerith Terovn
    Aerith Terovn

    =/\= U.S.S Mariposa, Crew Quarters =/\=
    =/\= Episode Day 1, 0245 hours =/\=

    “Will you get that?”

    Aerith had been in a deep slumber, rather on the verge of REM sleep. The voice of his cabin mate echoed in his mind, seemingly disguised as part of whatever dream the young helm officer was having.

    “Ensign Terovn?” The voice grew louder and Aerith became cognisant of a touch on his right shoulder. This caused him to bold upright in his bed. He took note of Ensign Gregory Fitzgerald, his cabin mate en route to Starbase 349, standing above him. The sudden jolt from his dream-like state had caused a significant elevation in his own heart rate.

    Aerith replied rather short winded, “What… What?!”

    “There is an incoming communication for you…. It’s like the seventh attempt this evening. I’m trying to get some sleep too. Could you either answer it or set it to a permanent ignore?” Gregory gestured to the small control console in their tiny quarters. The shared accomodations did not allow for much in ways of privacy and quiet.

    “Yeah.. Sure..” Aerith wiped the sleep out of his eyes and then threw himself out of bed. He walked over to the console in a way reminiscent of a drunkard.

    After he accessed the console controls, his eyes widened at the information screen. His father had been the one trying to obsessively get in touch with him.

    “Oh fuck!” Aerith exclaimed in a huff. There was a large part of his inner mind which was inclined to simply ignore the communication and block all future attempts. In fact – part of him was sure he had already done so?

    ‘How the hell did this even get through?’ He thought to himself.

    The console beeped once more. It was followed but an audible grunt from Ensign Fitzgerald, who had settled himself back into the bunk adjacent Aerith’s.

    “I’m getting it.” Against his better judgement. Aerith allowed the communication to come through. The small starfleet emblem on the display was replaced with the image of his disheveled father. A man who was quite rugged looking and appeared as if he hadn’t showered in weeks.

    “You’re going to the Delllta Quadrant? And… you… you didn’t even fucking tell me? You pompous ungrategul ass!” Bert McTaggart yelled through the screen in angry scottish-rage. He hadn’t even given his son a chance to acknowledge his communication link.

    Aerith sighed and rolled his eyes. He bit his own tongue for a moment, to spare himself of his own prompt and angered reply. He could tell by the slight slur in his father’s words that he was drunk, as per usual.

    “Let me guess. Patrick told you?” Aerith’s reply was cold. “He can’t keep anything to himself.” He had told Patrick several days earlier, a man who he had been extremely close to growing up on his father’s freighter. A man who somehow still tolerated his father and was probably the only reason Bert’s freighter business was still afloat.

    “Yuh. He did. And jusst when da fuck were you planning?!”

    “Dad. Shut up.” Aerith’s eyes cut deep into his father’s. “I didn’t tell you… because… quite frankly, you don’t deserve to know shit about me.” The reply had caused a few minutes or so of word-vomit from his father, much of which had profanity in it.

    “Listen. If you sober up like you’ve promised a million times. I’ll include you in such things in the future. It’s early here. I’m going to bed. Please do not bother to contact me again….” Aerith’s eyes started to form the slightest of tears. “Fuck you dad…” He finished the conversation and closed the channel. He then took a moment to re-engage the blockage protocols he had in place prior.

    “I’m… Sorry…” Ensign Fitzgerald said this to his cabin-mate in a meaningful tone.

    “Don’t worry about it Gregory… I don’t plan too.” Aerith replied as he tucked himself in his bed. The tears had formed but he had refused to let any fall.

    The time for shed tears on his father’s behalf had long past.

    Elgor Rae
    Elgor Rae

    // Starbase 349, Deck 118, Docking Port Orange-37
    // Episode Day 1, 12:30 Hours

    Elgor Rae stepped through the docking port now linking the Athena and Starbase. He’d spent time on a Spacedock-class station years ago, but it had been the old Earth Spacedock. Starbase 349 had been commissioned recently and served as Bravo Fleet’s headquarters until their latest relocation. It represented a pinnacle of the fleet’s assets. Elgor admired the sweeping archways of the corridor, lit with soft ambient hues and giving way to huge observation windows framing the ships outside. The Athena was visible from here, allowing the commander a final glace as he bid farewell to his former home.

    The docks were alive and bustling with foot traffic. The convoy preparing to pass through the Epatha gateway had brought tens of thousands of visitors to the already busy port. Merchants of all flavors had set up around the docking ports, serving a mix of civilians and fleet personnel. Elgor glanced down at the PADD in his hand. “Deck 49, Sector Command and Operations,” he muttered to himself. The base was massive, he’d need to find the express lift.

    Making his way through the corridor Elgor realized he felt a hint of vertigo. He hadn’t been off his ship in months. While the Intrepid-class was comfortable enough, it felt like insect tunnels compared to this. The sudden introduction of the wide open interiors here was jarring. Not to mention the pushing through groups of people lit his empathic senses up.

    Elgor found the express lifts after a short search and inquiry with the computer. The express lifts were large with an interior capable of fitting 30 people, maybe more in a pinch. One stop later and a transfer to a local lift brought Elgor to his destination.

    // Deck 49, Sector Command and Operations

    “Here for the keys?” Commodore Bishops asked as Elgor stepped into his office, ushered by Bishops’ assistant.

    “Yes, sir,” Elgor responded, standing at attention.

    Bishops sat behind a large partially translucent desk. There was a dim yellow glow coming from lights inlaid under the desktop. The office seemed cluttered, likely the result of the huge influx of station traffic.

    Bishops nodded and motioned to the chair across from him. Elgor took a seat as Bishops pulled up the holographic display at his desk. The Diligent appeared, a miniature version of his new ship suspended before him.

    USS Diligent, NCC-80651,” Bishops began. “This ship was the first of its class. In service about thirteen years now. We’ve completed its latest refit, fitting it for long-range assignments. We removed two holosuites to make way for more modular science labs. The three shuttlecraft have been replaced with two of our new Volga Runabouts. The USS Yser and USS Namsen. They’re much better suited for operation out there.”

    The display shifted as the commodore continued. The Bridge of the starship now hovered before them. “We have swapped the standard bridge module out to the new Luna module. It’s proven itself on long-range missions.”

    “I’m sure we’ll make it work,” Elgor said.

    Bishops nodded. “You’ll be able to leave as soon as your crew has assembled. Our teams have supplied your ship, and your personal affects are being moved over. Have you served in the Delta Quadrant, commander?”

    Elgor shook his head, knowing well the commodore already knew the answer. “I haven’t, but I’ve done my homework. It’s one of the true frontiers. A huge spectrum of technological societies. Home to some of the oldest species and civilizations we’re aware of. But there’s a proclivity towards the ‘shoot first ask questions later’ mentality.”

    “Yes, brought on by the Borg,” Bishops acknowledged.

    “Right,” Elgor continued. “They seem to reset portions of the quadrant on a whim, harvesting whatever has managed rebuild in their absence. It’s inspired unique societal structures. There’s been an evolution of many societies towards more flexible, nomadic models. It’s left a lot of the quadrant technologically behind where it otherwise might have been.”

    “Well said,” Bishops replied. “Adelaide said you’d developed an interest in anthropology out there,” he continued, referring to Elgor’s captain on the Athena.

    “I did. We spent a lot of time on reconstruction efforts after the war. There was a lot of change then. Places that were beacons of stability were completely upturned.”
    “Not that long ago. Hell, for a while we thought Earth would end up being turned upside down.”

    Elgor winced. His own home world of Haliii had been occupied during the war. Cities burned, but his family had persevered. Elgor hadn’t been home since, and that stung him anytime he let it creep into his mind. He hadn’t seen the devastation. He hadn’t seen the rebuilding efforts. He hadn’t seen where his parents had now built their new life.

    “Now,” the commodore said, disengaging the holographic display and bringing Elgor’s focus back on-topic. “Let’s go see your ship.”

    Cal Everett
    Cal Everett

    // Captain’s Ready Room, USS Immortal
    // Episode Day 1, 1300 Hours

    There’s very few things Cal Everett has experienced that they dislike more than Starbases.

    Starbase 349 is no different. It’s filled to the brim with people, with minds and emotions crackling along their skin, static energy making the skin across their arms prickling from the sensation. Cal hasn’t even stepped foot into the base yet and they already feel jittery, teeth aching—apparently, being docked is close enough for their empathy to go haywire.

    Captain Miki catches their twitching out of the corner of her eye. She is not smiling when she says, “Hoping for a quick departure, Lieutenant Commander?”

    And that’s strange. Lieutenant Commander. It strikes Cal in a blinding moment that they’re a CMO. An actual posted CMO. No emergency, no promotion in the minutes after a declaration of time of death. Just a desk and a sickbay waiting for them to arrive, their name on the Diligent manifest. Cal realizes the Captain is still waiting for a response. They grin, sheepishly.

    “Yeah. I never liked Starbases. Captain,” they tack on, belatedly remembering that Captain Miki expects the formality. Despite being in the Fleet for years, the decorum never stuck with them. Casualness and perceived disrespect were the places where Cal always loses marks.

    Captain Miki nods. “You’ll do well there, Everett. I know La Fontaine relied on you.”

    Cal turns away, briefly hiding their face from Miki’s sight. They’re not as sensitive to emotions at a distance, but with their mind overwhelmed with the Starbase’s booming emotion output, they’re particularly open to Miki’s lingering grief.

    “I tried,” Cal replies, stilted. Former CMO La Fontaine has only been dead for two and a half months; Miki herself only just overcame the last of the lingering symptoms from the virus that ended up killing thirteen crewmembers of the Immortal. Cal’s been acting as the Immortal’s CMO since, but the transfer to a permanent position aboard the Diligent came after a glowing recommendation from Miki and her acting XO, Cedeno.

    Cal starts when Miki’s hand comes down on their shoulder, firm and supportive. The touch scatters Cal’s thoughts and makes their heartrate skyrocket with surprise and the influx of her emotions. Miki’s always been a calm beacon, never spiking with hot emotions, even during the peak of the virus. La Fontaine had felt the same in his last few waking hours. Ever so calm, barely afraid of the encroaching dark.

    “You saved us,” Miki says, certain and insistent. “You know the protocol for alien plagues. By the time we would have reached a base, entered quarantined, transferred the information you’d collected—we’d have three times as many dead. You got us out, Cælestis.”

    Cal takes a deep breath in, shuddering at the edges. It’s the same idea that they’ve heard before, again and again; everyone insisting Cal did the right thing at the right time, nothing else to be done. Although Miki feels certain, Cal knows it’s not true. Nevertheless, they lean on Miki’s radiating calm to reorient themselves, internally and against the tidal waves of Starbase 349’s occupants.

    “Thanks, Miki,” they reply. They look up, their usual smile returning. The dark times of the Mosca Prime Virus fade, forcefully forgotten in the face of their promotion. “You’re getting a new CMO here, right?”

    The Captain retracts her hand, and the blunt connection of her emotions fades from the front of Cal’s awareness. “Yes, Doctor sh’Reni. Know her?”

    “Not personally, but I think she graduated before me—I’ve heard she’s good.”

    “Good. I’m sure your new Captain has heard the same of you.”

    Cal shrugs, grinning still. Smile, smile, smile. “Maybe, maybe not. Haven’t done a lot to get any notoriety. Viruses happen all the time.”

    Miki does not roll her eyes, but it’s a close thing. “Go on, then. You know where you need to go?”

    Cal salutes, exaggerated. They want to leave this meeting on a good note—if not that, then a humorous one, at least. “Ma’am, yes ma’am!”

    She seems to appreciate the attempt. She does roll her eyes this time, but it’s with a slight smile. “Dismissed.”

    They turn and head out of Miki’s ready room, fingers drumming against their thighs from the excitement of the new assignment. The Diligent and its crew awaits, somewhere in that sea of emotions. And like the Immortal, all of its crew will rely on Cal’s knowledge, on their experience; they’ll entrust their health and their safety in Cal’s hands.

    This time, Cal won’t fail. Their back straightens, shoulders heavy with the new responsibility.

    John Simmons
    John Simmons

    //Starbase 349, Temporary Quarters
    //Episode Day 1, 1330 Hours

    “I’ll be glad to be out of these quarters and onboard the ship” Lieutenant Simmons murmured in himself as he paced through the room.
    He hated to have nothing to do but to wait around. He would love to explore the Starbase but could not bring himself to it because of a migraine coming up.
    His last station had been at the USS Strahd and they had deposited him on the station a few days before he would board the ship where he would serve his next assignment, the USS Diligent. The party to wave him off was something he did like, he had built quite a few friendships over the years with some of the crewmembers there. His commanding officer had even given a speech that put him in quite the spotlight.

    But now he had been waiting in this room for quite some time. He was sick of it, he did not like being contained in small spaces for more than a day. That was why you could often find him in the holodeck taking a walk in some beautiful landscape or swimming in a pool. Something that gave him quite some pleasure. He was not sure there were holodecks on this starbase. Maybe he could find one?

    Giving a sign he stepped out of the quarters and walked further into the starbase. Walking into the first shop he could find he asked the cashier for the directions to the holodecks.

    “It’s very close, the first corridor on the right and then straight on. Have a fun time” told the human girl serving in the store.

    A nice long walk in the black forest would be amazing, just nature and me. Or I could do a walk along the beach of Texel.

    Deep in thought, he walked toward the holodecks and signed in with the attendant running the decks.

    “Where would you like to go, hun?” The woman behind the desk asked with a slightly flirty tone.

    John was not ugly but well, he was really awkward. He did not even pick up the tone in the woman’s voice. He just told her he wanted to take a walk in the black forest, Germany.

    The walk re-energized him, making his terrible headache go away for a while. The pain behind his eyes slipping away. His mind clearing.

    “I have to do this more often, this forest is just stunning,” John told himself as he walked in the lush green forest.

    “Lieutenant Simmons, please report to your quarters, a message has been left for you,” a female voice told him through his comm-badge. A sigh escaped Johns’ lips.

    “Well, here we go”.

    Marcus Bancroft
    Marcus Bancroft

    // Yorkshire, United Kingdom of Great Britain, European Union, United Earth
    // 2 weeks prior to the mission

    Marcus Bancroft watched from across the room over his PADD as the holographic doctor applied a hypospray to his grandmother’s carotid artery. The EMH program had been distributed as an open-source piece of software with all classified Starfleet data removed from the matrix, but having one at home was still a vast extravagance, not to mention the holographic servants also installed in the manor house. After a fifty-year career in the Federation Diplomatic Corps, no one could begrudge her those kinds of comfort, though. Over the past several years, she had been suffering the effects of Iverson’s Disease, an incurable muscular disorder that gradually caused the sufferer to lose the ability to move, and eventually even the involuntary muscular responses like the heart beating would become impossible.

    “Will there be anything else, Your Grace?” the Mark I variant asked, after finishing the injection. It’s Starfleet uniform had been replaced with a formal black suit, along with a special protocol subroutine that gave it an extra sense of deference towards her status as a hereditary duchess. Even in the twenty-fourth century, Humanity, like the Andorians and Betazoids, hadn’t completely discarded such things–they now served as important links to the past and as a call to duty for their bearers to serve the public interest.

    “No. You can leave us,” she replied. The hologram placed the hypospray back on a silver tray, and then left the room. Bancroft momentarily wondered how much power was wasted every time it did that, rather than simply vanishing into thin air. His grandmother hovered over to him in her mobility chair. “Now, shall we have tea?”

    “I’ll get it,” Bancroft said, standing up from his armchair. The library of Tonbridge Hall was magnificent, with a huge floor-to-ceiling collection of old books, along with comfortable furniture and ornate decor; his favorite room of the old house.

    “You could let the house do that, you know. That’s the whole point of having the system,” she said, not quite chiding him as he walked over to the replicator, which was concealed behind a painting.

    “Well, I need to acclimate to real life, now that I’m going back on duty,” Bancroft noted, as the painting vanished and a tea service materialized behind it. He carried it over to set it on a table in the center of the room. “Besides, it makes me feel like I’m being helpful to do it myself.”

    “Having you hear the last three months has been enormously helpful,” his grandmother replied. “It’ll be good for you to go back into space, though. You’re a pilot; I can’t imagine what being grounded feels like for you,” she said, as she reached shakily for the teapot. Bancroft intercepted her and poured her cup.

    “I think that you probably have a pretty good idea of what it feels like, granny,” he replied, nodding towards the support chair.

    “Well, quite. Gradually losing the ability to walk and take care of oneself isn’t an experience I’d recommend,” she said, tartly. “Now, tell me about this new assignment. Is it suitable?”

    “Suitable? I don’t exactly get to chose my postings based on their prestige,” he replied, as he contemplated the tea cup. “I am to be executive officer aboard the USS Diligent,” He’d been a lieutenant commander for two years already, for the end of his four-year stint as operations officer aboard the Lexington, a position that he’d taken personal leave from to spend time with his grandmother. Now out of leave time, he’d been re-assigned to another ship quite unexpectedly.

    “And what type of ship is that?”

    “It’s small. Complement of 120. Starfleet calls it either a frigate or a light explorer, depending on the time of day,” Bancroft replied. “You have higher security clearance than I do. I’m guessing you already knew the answer to that question,” he added. As a former ambassador, she retained access to Starfleet’s databases, along with a huge network of connections across the Federation. It was practically impossible for her not to have known about his assignment even before he did.

    “Yes, but I’ve never had an eye for specifics like that. I was more interested in finding out where you were going. I’ve heard that you’re going to the Delta Quadrant, of all places,” she said.

    “Have you? Well, that’s not a surprise either,” he said, stirring his tea. “I would rather stay closer to Earth.”

    “Orders are orders. Besides, you can’t hang around here waiting for me to die. I’ve still got years left,” she said, with a smirk.

    “Must you joke like that, granny?”

    She laughed. “Are not the condemned entitled to a little gallows humor?”

    “No,” he said, simply. “I suppose you’ll tell me that I need to have a stiff upper lip about it all?”

    “There’s no use rending your clothes and hair over little me,” she said, with a soft smile. “I still disapprove of you using all of your vacation time, but I have appreciated having you here. And your sister is coming next week, and your father in the spring. I’m well taken care of here. You shouldn’t worry.”

    As Bancroft was formulating a reply to that, his commbadge chirped. “Palatine to Bancroft. We’re ready to beam you aboard.”

    Bancroft tapped the badge. “Standby, Palatine.”

    “Well, it looks like you shan’t be able to finish your tea,” his grandmother said. “These things always happen at the worst times, don’t they?” she added, though Bancroft was relatively sure she was talking about her illness as much as she was talking about the spoiled tea time. The words hung there for a moment, before Bancroft stood up, and gave her a kiss on each cheek.

    “I’ll see you soon, granny,” he said. “Bancroft to Palatine. One to beam up.”

    He disappeared from the library in a shimmer of blue and white, before materializing on the transporter pad of a Vesta-class ship. From Earth to Starbase 349, the four-hundred light year journey was two weeks at maximum warp–three for any ship slower than the sleek vessel that he was hitching a ride with. That ship was much more his style–a grand explorer, rather than a frigate–but he wasn’t paying to much attention to his surroundings while he was being led to his quarters. He was thinking about the Delta Quadrant instead.

    Of all of the places Starfleet operated, the Delta Quadrant was probably the least hospitable, most dangerous, and, to him, the biggest waste of time. Without regular transportation links, trade options were marginal, and Federation colonial interests were quite limited. Without a single large power like in the Gamma Quadrant, or many well-balanced powers like the ones in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, the Delta Quadrant really was a frontier, in the grittiest sense of that word. Yes, it was Starfleet’s mission to explore, but why go so far from home when there was plenty to see in their own part of space?

    From what limited information he had about their new mission, he knew that their primary goal was to find a reliable way from the Delta Quadrant back to Federation space. They were flying out 70,000 light-years just to find a way back; it all seemed a little recursive. It also brought him back to a moment in his youth.

    // Berkshire, United Kingdom of Great Britain, European Union, United Earth
    // March 4, 2376, 2000 Hours

    It had just been days since communication had briefly been re-established between Earth and the starship Voyager. The cadet-candidates at Eton College’s Starfleet Academy Preparatory Program (SAPP) were in high spirits as they got ready for a field exercise–they were going to be beamed into a nearby forest with limited equipment, to be tasked with roughing it through the night and making their way back to the college in the morning. Everyone was in high spirits, that was except Cadet-Candidate Bancroft.

    The locker room was abuzz with energy as they checked over their gear–old-style type-2 phaser pistols, expedition vests with lights on the shoulders, a few field rations, and a portable shelter, a heavily-limited tricorder, and a communicator they could use to call for help. The phasers were capped at about 1%, which would be enough to start a fire or make small cuts, but a.) 17 year-olds, even if they were at one of the most elite schools on the planet, didn’t need real weapons, and b.) there hadn’t been anything in Berkshire that would have been a threat to them for over 500 years. Bancroft still checked every part of it, adjusting the focusing lens before sliding the powerpack into place with a snap.

    “Remember what end of that faces out, Lord Bancroft?” one of his classmates, Mitchell, teased. Dark-haired and from Wales, they’d never gotten along and Bancroft couldn’t exactly figure out why.

    Bancroft gritted his teeth. “Don’t call me that, and, yes, I’m quite sure which end is which,” he replied, tartly. He stood up and put it onto the holster of his utility belt. He suspected that even having them was an affectation to make the exercise feel more real. Though, he felt that Starfleet would have to do a lot better than that–spending a night in the countryside of Southern England was about as comparable to a survival situation on an alien planet as getting a sunburn was to strolling shirtless through the corona of a G-type star.

    “It’s your name isn’t it?” the other boy hissed.

    “‘Starfleet Regulation 14, Section 7, Subsection 21: Members of Starfleet who possess hereditary titles of any kind are prohibited from using them while on active duty, during reserve training actions, and while representing Starfleet in any capacity,'” Bancroft quoted, calmly. As a younger son of a marquess, in the most formal of situations, he held the courtesy title of Lord, though he found that it generally caused him more grief than anything. “My name is Cadet-Candidate Bancroft.”

    “I think your name is whatever I call you,” Mitchell countered. Predictably, when they did enter Starfleet Academy, Mitchell signed up for the security track, and ended up posted to a front-line unit sent to the Federation’s trouble spots. Also predictably, they never stayed close.

    Bancroft felt himself moving towards him, but he was caught by the arm. Taller than both of them, Lucas Phillips was auburn and from near Edinburgh, giving him a slight accent. He’d always been nice to Bancroft, which left him with a slight crush in response. After the SAPP and the academy, Phillips went on to a successful career as a nurse on a hospital ship. “Leave him alone. Come on,” he said, steering Bancroft away from the situation.

    “You shouldn’t’ve done that. He’ll just tease me more,” Bancroft said, blushing for a number of reasons. “And you.”

    “So what if he teases us? Don’t rise to the bait. Besides, he’s just jealous that you’re a standard deviation above the rest of the class on flight simulator scores,” Phillips replied. Bancroft blushed again. “Are you excited for the exercise?”

    Bancroft shook his head. “I don’t really relish the idea of being beamed into the middle of the woods and then being asked to find my way back. I thought the whole point of exploration was to find one’s way away from somewhere, not a way back to it,” he reasoned, as they walked through the hallway to the transporter room.

    “I suppose that’s one way of thinking about it. But in other words you’re saying you don’t relish the idea of an overnight camping trip with me,” Phillips teased.

    Bancroft stopped in his tracks. “With you?”

    “You didn’t look at the roster? We’re partners,” Phillips replied.

    “I… Well, no, then. I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t relish that idea,” Bancroft stammered. “You have exceptional scores on all of our technical and physical tests, and I am fairly good at navigation, so we should stand a good chance,” he reasoned. Phillips’ gaze remained on him for a split second longer than it had to, before they continued on their way. That had basically been the tone of their interactions over the previous six years; Phillips giving him an opening and Bancroft tripping all over himself.

    A Starfleet lieutenant was running the exercise, and reiterated the mission: set up camp successfully and return home in the morning. Simple enough. It turned out to be anything but. Bancroft and Phillips were the last pair to leave. Within minutes of materializing in a clearing in a nearby forest, it started to rain heavily. Earth’s weather control system prevented anything that would cause severe damage, but storms were a necessary part of Earth’s ecological cycle, unfortunately for them. They wandered around in the rain and the dark for an hour before the lightning started to pick up.

    “We have to get somewhere safer. These trees aren’t going to do us any favors!” Phillips exclaimed. He was right, they need to get as low as possible to minimize the risk of being electrocuted. It was standard procedure. The forest floor was relatively, level, though, and being near tall trees wasn’t very safe. Bancroft wracked his brain trying to find a solution, until he remembered that the majority of the underlying substructure of the area was limestone.

    “I have an idea,” Bancroft said, as he fumbled with the basic tricorder they’d been given. Most of the geomapping features had been disabled, but he was still able to set it to scan for density. “There’s a negative mass one-hundred meters this way!”

    “A what?!”

    “A cave,” Bancroft explained, before they set out. They had to scramble down an embankment, which Bancroft did successfully. Phillips misjudged the distance and fell hard, covering himself in leaves and mud. Bancroft helped him to his feet, and he remembered feeling a twinge of guilt for not looking out for him more closely. When they got to the cave entrance, Phillips started to head in, but Bancroft grabbed him by the back of his vest to stop him, as he switched his tricorder to lifesigns mode.

    “What are you doing?”

    “‘Starfleet Regulation 476.2, Section 10: During field operations in unknown environments, thorough scans of any caves or other confined spaces will be made before away team members enter,'” Bancroft quoted. There were no life signs and the cave’s structural integrity was acceptable.

    “You really do have all of them memorized…,” Phillips said, sounding a little exhausted at the thought.

    They passed through a small corridor towards a large, round chamber. The lights from their away vests lit up the room and there was nothing in the way of vegetation or fauna worth noting. With a slight smirk, Bancroft unclipped his phaser from his belt and set it to heat mode. He fired it at a large rock in the center of the chamber, which made it glow red and start putting off a fair amount of heat. It was something he’d always wanted to try for real.

    “You enjoyed that,” Phillips noted, setting his pack down on the stone floor of the cave, and starting to pull off his muddy gear. “You’ve never struck me as someone who’d be overly pleased with himself over firing a phaser.”

    Bancroft scoffed. “I enjoyed seeing physics in action. Along with a little bit of self-satisfaction over having found this cave,” he added. “This isn’t exactly what I imagined. I thought they just wanted to see if we could pitch a tent. I bet they sent us out into the rain on purpose.”

    “This planet hasn’t had an incorrect forecast in two-hundred years,” Phillips said, with a grin. “You surely didn’t think it’d be easy. This is SAPP after all.”

    “I… underestimated the task,” Bancroft said.

    Phillips laughed. “So, you’re enjoying this now that you think it’s difficult?”

    “I suppose so. I liked figuring something out. Not as much as flying, but it was a nice feeling. Any ideas on how we’re going to get back?”

    “No idea. But if you thought getting caught in the rain was fun, I’m guessing figuring out how to find our way home is going to be a blast, too. Unless you still think we can’t explore backwards.”

    Elgor Rae
    Elgor Rae

    A joint post by:

    Elgor Rae and Marcus Bancroft


    // Starbase 349, Level 80
    // Episode Day 01, 13:30 Hours

    “Inner core, level eighty, express stop five,” the friendly voice of the lift computer announced as it came to a halt. “Please allow passengers to exit the lift.”

    The doors slide open and a crowd of people made their way out. Commander Rae and commodore Bishops followed the group, turning off and heading toward the large view ports making up the starship viewing gallery. They’d come to this level to access the transporters but commodore Bishops suggested taking advantage of the view while the opportunity presented itself, a prospect Elgor eagerly agreed to.

    As the pair approached the massive transparent wall Rae spotted the ship immediately. The latest refit of the Diligent had left it polished. From here, the ship seemed new. No trace left of the over a decade of service. A large grin unwittingly crept onto the commander’s face. It was the closest thing to love at first sight he’d experienced, a welcome reprieve from the anxiety of leaving the Athena. One of the massive doors on the dorsal cargo was sealing shut, the last of preparations being made for the ship’s departure. Elgor admired the sleek form and for a moment missed being at the helm.

    Nearby, an officer in the burgundy uniform of a command officer was having a curt conversation with an enlisted crewmember from the quartermaster’s office. He noticed the entrance of the two more senior officers and dismissed the other person with a nod, before walking over. Slightly younger, slightly taller, and slightly more muscular than Rae, the Human bore the rank insignia of a lieutenant commander on his immaculately-pressed uniform. He came to parade rest with his hands behind his back.

    “Apologies for interrupting, Commodore, Commander,” he said, nodding to both of them. “I am Lieutenant Commander Marcus Bancroft and I’ve been assigned as the Executive Officer aboard the Diligent. I took the liberty of overseeing the final loading of supplies aboard, so we’re ready for departure as soon as the final crew transfers have been completed,” Bancroft continued. His tone was crisp and clear, with the definite vocal cues of someone who was born in the United Kingdom.

    “Remarkable timing, Mr. Bancroft,” Rae said, turning to meet the man. “Eight hundred levels and you found us. Come here for the view?”

    Bancroft accepted the handshake; he had a firm grip. “Actually, sir, I just beamed aboard about twenty minutes ago from the Palatine,” he said, pointing his thumb behind himself towards the transporter rooms that ringed that deck. “I suppose it was a happy coincidence, as I was able to observe the cargo transfer from here,” he added. Apparently, he didn’t waste any time getting to work.

    Rae was conscious enough of his expression this time to avoid replicating the grin he had put display a moment ago, remembering the value of professionalism during first contact in Starfleet. “Captain Knox told me you’d be making my job easy, I see he was as serious as he implied. You did good work with the Sagan. I spent a week with a book on the Promellian cruiser your team found preserved. You salvaged a functioning drive system and a power distribution system we took lessons from we could apply to designs today. We’ll have to see if we can outdo that on the other side of the gateway.”

    There was a momentary flicker of pride on Bancroft’s face; being a member of that team as an Ensign was certainly impressive. “Indeed. When one peaks as an Ensign it does certainly set the bar high,” Bancroft replied, a hint of wry humor in his voice. “I am flattered that Captain Knox recommended me for the position, and I’m not ungrateful for the opportunity, but I wasn’t expecting a transfer off of the Lexington following my leave of absence. This will certainly be, well, a change of pace,” he added diplomatically. “This ship was partially based on the Nova-class, which I am fully rated on.”

    “Good, I hope you haven’t gotten too comfortable on that Nebula-class,” Rae chuckled.

    “Commander Bancroft,” commodore Bishops interjected, “I was just about to show your captain to the Diligent. Would you like to join us?”

    “Of course, sir,” Bancroft replied, automatically.

    With consensus the group made their way towards the transporters across the deck. Moments later, they materialized far from the viewing gallery they had encountered one another minutes ago.

    John Simmons
    John Simmons

    //Starbase 349, Level 80
    //Episode Day 1, 1430 hours

    “Inner Core, level 80, express stop five,” the annoying voice of the lift computer told the passengers on the lift. “Please allow passengers to exit the lift”.

    Lieutenant John Simmons walked out of the elevator together with quite a number of people and stood in front of one of the large windows that was the viewing gallery. Looking out he quickly spotted the USS Diligent because of its shiny exterior. It had just been refitted to update it to the newest standards.

    “Well, that looks like one impressive ship,” John said to himself.

    John took no time waiting, he walked with a brisk walk toward the transporter room. When he came there another person was waiting to be transported. It was a young woman, she had long brown hair and brown eyes. She was wearing glasses and had a gray uniform. The ranking on her uniform told John that she was an Ensign.

    Already aware of the assigned personnel John walked up to her, “Ensign Romana, I presume?” he asked the young girl.

    The girl looked up at him and suddenly went quite rigid. “At ease ensign, we are not on the ship yet”.

    “Yes sir, you are correct, sir. My name is indeed Romana. I am Ensign Esmeralda Romana, intelligence officer. May I ask your name?”

    “Of course you may, My name is Lieutenant John Simmons, Chief intelligence officer. I look forward to working with you. I heard quite a lot about you, you were one of the best in your class. I will be curious how we will work together” John said in one of his most gentle voices.

    He did not want to intimidate this young ensign, they had to work together and while he was not always this gentle, he knew that people worked harder if they were happy or at least, comfortable.

    “You were just about to beam on board, weren’t you?” he asked the ensign still in his gentle voice.

    Ensign Romana did not mutter a word but simply nodded.

    “Then I will join you, I have to report in,” he told the girl.

    And with that, they stood up upon the transporter pad and beamed aboard the starship.

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