Red Alert! Starbase 900 Immediately before the Borg attack
Show content

===== Fighter No. 2681-015 | Call sign: Drifter =====

Colonel Christopher Mitchell sat back in the cockpit of his Valkyrie and yawned. Normally, he didn't afford himself that luxury since his squadron commanders might think that he was getting old and beginning to slow down. Every day was a battle to fly faster and cleaner than the other guy and set the standard all over again. Tilting the stick to keep himself level, he checked his sensor display and saw that the squadron was flying in a strict delta formation and matching his every course correction. Opening a channel, he spoke to his pilots. "As always, there shouldn't be any traffic today so stick to your section leaders and your flight path, if all goes well we'll be home in time for breakfast. Drifter, out."

Continuing a slow revolution around the massive docking rings, Christopher kept his head on a swivel. Even though the base was on lockdown for routine maintenance, there was almost always something that ended up triggering a tactical alert. The previous day, a large cluster of irradiated ferrous dust was dumped just outside of the base perimeter, causing a launch of the alert fighters and a search for the culprit. Keeping a close eye on his sensors, he continued on a steady course, banking to starboard to begin another patrol of the outer perimeter. One of the squadron leaders, Lieutenant Commander Harrold 'Lobo' Wulff was flying his port wing and trying to concentrate as well.

"Drifter. Lobo. Anything on your side?" Wulff inquired.

"Negative, Lobo. Dust and echoes-" Christopher was interrupted as his sensors beeped at him briefly, then stopped as a contact appeared on his sensor, illuminating his cockpit in an eerie shade of crimson then disappeared. "-scratch that. Did you see that contact?"

There was a momentary silence as Lobo looked down at his sensor display. "I did but where-" Wulff's transmission cut out. Locking his eyes forward, Christopher saw small green pinpricks of light against the blackness of space. Almost like a lot of someones or somethings were dropping out of warp. A cold sense of dread permeated him down to his bones as his sensor screen illuminated with four contacts that were giving off transwarp signatures. Looking out of the cockpit transparisteel, he could see them moving closer slowly and could begin to make out three distinctly cube shaped objects along with a single sphere drifting closer with an almost mechanical precision. The dread in his heart only grew, turning into a hot and nauseating wave of fear.

"Damn! Lobo, we gotta warn the base. I think these are Borg. Peel off!" Christopher stopped as his communications channel was flooded with static and then silence- they were being jammed. Pushing hard to starboard on the stick, he activated his afterburners and pushed forward on the stick. Switching to the emergency channel, he began speaking while trying to maintain his cool and hoping that someone would receive it.

"Krypter! Krypter! Krypter! This is Drifter, I'm detecting multiple Borg signatures and request that we go to full combat alert! Stand by to receive sensor logs. “Flipping a couple of switches, he began to transmit. As he did so, he saw small points of energy begin to coalesce and shift, then they arced out towards the base, striking it below the docking platforms.

=====Starbase 900 Operations Center=====

Drew stifled a yawn as he took a sip of his fourth cup of coffee. He was on his final leg of the sixteen hour Duty Officer of the Watch and was looking forward to a hot breakfast, shower and sleep. He was making the hourly duty log entry when the enlisted technician at the communications called for him. "Sir, incoming transmission from the CAP."

Drew hit a button at his console and feed of the communication began to play over the speaker. He blinked several times and turned to the operations specialist manning the sensor. "Sensors confirm report."

The ops specialist checked the reading on his monitor. "Confirmed sir. Subspace distortions bearing 280 mark 125, distance 150 million kilometers. The distortions are consistent with Borg transwarp technology."

Drew slapped his hand down on the general quarters button. Alert klaxons went off as he ordered the communications specialist to put him on the base wide circuit. "All hands to battle stations! Incoming Borg forces on approach! This is not a drill! I say again, this is not a drill!"

Lieutenant Junior Grade Danny Stearn, the Engineering Officer of the Watch felt the first hit register as a faint vibration in the deckplates that grew. "Sir, we're being fired upon! Engineering plants 203 through 208 reporting light damage and buckling bulkheads. Permission to away Damage Control Teams?"

Drew looked at a duty board and nodded. "Dispatch Teams 4 through 7 to handle it."

======Marine Barracks, Deck 132, Starbase 900======

Sirens begin to echo through Ja'xon's quarters, awakening him. Instinct and his training immediately take over, as he jumps out of bed instantly recognizing the situation. Within seconds the Marine is dressed and out the door, armed with his personal phaser and multiple knives. Personnel had to store rifles in the armory.

"Let's go Marines!" He shouted through the halls making sure his men were on the move. If the sirens didn't manage to awaken the Marines, then the shout of their half Klingon Platoon Sergeant definitely did. Ja'xon knows his squad leaders will have their teams up and on the move.

He taps on his com badge, "Sergeant Ja'xon to Squad Leaders." He receives their acknowledgments, "I am going to go ahead to the armory, make sure there won't be any hold ups for you, and then I will be heading to Ops and gather whatever Intel is available. Ensure your men are go to go, no idea what we could be getting in to." Four confirmations answer him. Good, he thought, questions at the wrong time only slows us down.

Ja'xon is grateful that whoever assigned the location of the Marine detachment had enough common sense to put the armory close to the barracks. He was able to make it there and retrieve his weapon in great time. Having his main weapon in hand brought a greater sense of security to Ja'xon.

Now he needed to figure out what in the hell was going on. Ja'xon found his way to the nearest lift and stepped in as the doors opened, "To Ops Center."

=====Cara's Quarters=====

Cara sat straight up in bed at the first bleat of the klaxon sounded. Before she even opened her eyes the sound of Lt. Knight's announcement echoed through her quarters. Her eyes snapped open to the pulsating red light bars built into the ceiling. The Borg. "Jesus, Mary and Joseph," she said to the empty room as she jumped out of bed and grabbed her emergency jumpsuit from the chair and began putting it on. With one boot on and the other in her hand, Cara dashed out of her quarters, fighting to put her boot on as she ran.


Alexxa and her identical twin Lexxa Sereion sat across from one another, comfortably nestled in a café on the promenade. The two were raised on a transport ship and were as close as two siblings could be. They had sat in their father’s lap as he piloted the transport vessel before either of them could walk. From their father’s lap they grew, and because they grew up in space the two enlisted into Starfleet, hungry to advance their passion passed on to them by their father – a passion rooted in their desire to pass their days flying out against the stars. They went through all their classes together and upon graduation they strived to find postings together – and one month ago they wound up on Starbase 900 – snuggled deeply inside The Delta Quadrant; an area of space neither of them had flown before.

For Alexxa the past few months had proved fruitful; she was a proud member of the Fighter pilots which made up the 900’s defenses. In this way, she was unlike her sister Lexxa who had always performed better and preferred flying a starship. Lexxa simply hated being grounded to a Starbase; but, Alexxa was enjoying it to the fullest – a perfect fit of sorts. She had already learned more in the past month from her squad commander than all her years at the Academy. This was no doubt where she wanted to be. Even if her sister wasn’t pleased; she was still happy to have her, if even to have lunch with and to listen to her complain.

Alexxa looked over at her identical twin as she munched on a carrot stick, “When does your shift start?”

“1400, yours?” Lexxa asked as she took a bite from her Caesar salad.

“1600. Finally, our rotations overlap. I might see you during drills.”

“Drills? More drills? We came half way across the galaxy and here we are stuck on this steel rock flying drills! We might as well have stayed home with father to pull cargo. Starfleet was meant to be exciting!”

Alexxa shook her head at his sister and sighed, “always the pessimist!”

“You know its true Alexxa, we sit down in dock, tinker with our flyer and then do a fly by. Day in, day out. We could be out there you know? In space, going boldly!”

Alexxa smirked, “Tinker with your flyer? Is that what you call drooling over Lieutenant Williams?” Alexxa giggled now as she stood up and walked behind her seated sister. She wrapped her arms around her wearing a huge warm smile, “I’ve seen you, you can’t hide it.” He nuzzled her face against her sister’s, “Oh come on sis, it isn’t too bad. Look at all we learned? Look at what we are flying. It isn’t daddy’s old rust bucket. We are on the final frontier here. Something exciting is right around the corner!” She let go of her sister and walked towards the door, “Come on, let’s go boldly onto the holodeck and go snowshoeing before shift.”

Lexxa laughed lightly back at her sister as he followed her…

The two of them frozen upon hearing the security announcement, the red klaxons flashed against their cheeks. The women’s stomachs sunk to their toes as they looked at each other like deers in the headlights. “You had to screw it up and challenge the Delta Quadrant didn’t you? Come on let’s get down to the hanger bay!” Alexxa said as he took off down toward the bay, she didn’t stop for her sister’s response until she heard it. A loud crash – a crash so piercing that it took Alexxa to her stomach. She blinked as she worked desperately to get her bearings – the whole scene fell silent after the blast. Alexxa’s only thought now was her sister who was behind her; she rolled to the side to look back – seeing only a pile of debris where her sister had stood only moments before. “NO!” Her lips moved but she couldn’t hear her voice, only feel the sensation of the tears that dripped over her cheeks.

=====Shuttlecraft/Fighter Maintenance Bay=====

"It's either broke or it isn't, Ensign," Senior Chief Podolsky told the part of Grace that wasn't stuck in the open panel of the shuttlecraft the two were servicing.

"Actually, it's both, at least until I can access the array in question," Grace said as she crawled out of the open panel. "Can you hand me that hyperspanner?" Grace asked.

Podolsky handed Grace the tool she asked for. Grace took the tool in question and promptly disappeared back into the shuttlecraft. The Senior Chief had taken an immediate liking to the recent Academy graduate, who had only recently been assigned to SB900. More than a few newly commissioned officers assigned to engineering felt as if maintenance positions were beneath them, wanting positions where the newly commissioned officer could make an "impact." Grace, on the other hand, dove happily into her newly assigned duty of servicing and maintaining the various auxiliary vessels assigned to SB900. She even told Podosky that it was like starting her career as a "Chief Engineer in Scale."

And conversations with Ensign Dark Wolf were always interesting.

"What do you mean it being both, Ensign?" he asked.

"Got it!" Grace yelled from inside the shuttlecraft. When she reemerged, there was a broad smile and smudges on her face. "We can put this one back in the mix."

Grace brushed off her coveralls as she continued, "You know, quantum superimposition. Until I could get to that array, or at least get an accurate readout on it, it was simultan---"

Grace's explanation was interrupted by a klaxon sounding, followed by an announcement of "All hands to battle stations! Incoming Borg forces on approach! This is not a drill! I say again, this is not a drill!"

Grace and Podolsky exchanged looks, before Grace said, "Let's get to the flight deck, Senior Chief. Those fighters are going to need every hand they can get."

"Right behind you, Ensign," Podolsky answered as the two trotted to the flight deck.

=====Family Quarters of Austin, Meredith and Ashley Knight=====

Ashley was deep in slumber when the klaxon sounded. She woke partially and thrust an arm out to slam down on the alarm clock that sat on her night table. She pulled a pillow over her head to muffle the noise when that failed to stop the offending alarm. She was just beginning to drift back to sleep when she felt arms grab her. She blinked at the flashing red lights illuminating the face of her mother hovering over her.

Meredith was shaking Ashley vigorously. Her face a mask of barely contained panic. "Ashley you have to get up right now and get dressed."

Ashley rubbed sleep out of her eyes as she sat up. She had never seen the pulsating flash of the starbase. "Wha...what's going on mom?"

Meredith was at Ashley's closet, already pulling out a travel bag and tossing it onto her daughter’s dresser. "Get dressed and pack some clothes for a few days. Meet me in the living room in two minutes and I'll explain."

Ashley hesitated for only a moment as she watched her mom dash out the door to her bedroom. She jumped up and threw on a blouse, jeans and shoes. She packed two additional sets of clothing into her bag and was about to rush out the door when she spotted her stuffed chimpanzee on the floor amidst the pile of bed covers. She grabbed the toy and shoved it into the bag. "Come on Monkey Bunkey." She then rushed out to the living room to meet her mom.

=====Starbase 900 Operations Center=====

Drew was correlating incoming data on the approaching Borg forces. Numbers, velocity, vectors of approach and estimated time to weapons range. He heard the doors to the turbolift open. He looked up, expecting to see the base commander or one of the other members of the senior staff. Instead he noticed a marine noncom step out into Ops.

"Lieutenant," Ja'xon said as he stepped off the lift, "How many Borg vessels have been reported so far?" The marine, dressed for battle, crouched behind Lt. Knight hoping to find some answers on the view screen the officer was looking at. "Any word from Marine Command? I haven't been able to get in to contact with anyone along my chain of command."

Drew remembered Sergeant Ja'xon from some of the joint training exercises the marines have done with his special warfare troop. He gestured to the deployment board. "Reports are just coming in Sergeant Ja'xon. Any word from Captain Hiller (interim Marine Company Commander)?"

Ja'xon looked over the reports and didn't see anything. "First and Second platoons were out doing training exercises, running through boarding drills." This meant that each platoon manned a ship and rotated infiltrating the other. "Lieutenant Marrah," his platoon commander, "mentioned that all of Marine command may be out observing this training exercise."

Jumping to the worst case scenario, typically, was not how Ja'xon worked. He always goes for the most realistic scenario, it just so happens that the two are looking to be one in the same this time. "Do you see any friendly vessels on our scanners? They have to be out there somewhere."

Drew keyed in a command at the main operations table and a holographic image of Starbase 900 and nearby space appeared in the air above the table. There on the edge of the holo display was a force of Starfleet vessels that appeared to be traveling at warp to their location. The 20 Borg vessels, though closer, were approaching at a much slower velocity at impulse speeds.

=====Medical Deck=====

Cara dashed through the doors of the Emergency Room and looked around for the ACMO...who was normally in charge of the medical department's second shift. He was already standing in the center of the room, giving orders.

Seeing his boss arrive, Dr. Markham said, "First response teams are already at their stations. I'll handle triage and King is firing up the medical transporter."

"Thanks, Lance," Cara said with a grateful smile. "Where's Mac?" she asked, looking around for her head nurse (who, in her opinion, actually ran things.)

"Waiting on comm checks from our First Responders," Mac called out from behind the nurses' station counter.

Cara smiled. "I want to secure the Wards and shut down power to any unoccupied rooms and units," she said.

"I already sent security to Ward 1 and 2, Peds and ICU," Lance said. "There's no one in the Burn Unit or Iso and Surgical is shutting down all but two suites so all power can be diverted to where it is most needed. It'll be easier for security to control things up there."

Cara clapped Dr. Markham on the shoulder. "Good job, Lance. Thank you," she said. As the last of the off duty personnel filed through the doors and the teams of First Responders began reporting in Cara tapped her combadge and said, "Nichols to Ops...Medical is ready and standing by," then she shrugged and said to everyone waiting, "now we wait. It's the Borg. This could get ugly so be ready for anything."

=====Operations Center=====

Drew was standing at the communications station when the call from Medical came in. The communications specialist was already swamped fielding a number of other incoming transmission, so he responded himself. "Acknowledged Doctor Nichols. Prepare for incoming wounded, but... also start preparations for an evacuation." He keyed in a duty command code. "I've set Emergency Transporter Seven for your discretion. USS Hopper is on standby as the evacuation ship for Medical and Engineering Departments."

"Acknowledged," came Cara's voice.

Commander Austin Knight, Starbase 900's Chief of Staff and third in command, stepped off the turbolift onto the Ops Deck. "Report!

Drew turned to his brother and gestured to the tactical threat board. He made a quick and concise report and assessment of the situation.

Austin moved his eyes back and forth across the board, absorbing the information as Drew gave the brief report. "Drew. I want you to report to the bridge of the Zumwalt. Get her out there to support the combat air patrol and buy us some time until the relief force arrives."

Drew's brow knit, but he nodded to his brother. "Yes sir."

Austin turned to Ja'xon. "Sergeant, are you familiar with starship tactical systems?"

"Familiar enough, sir." He said in response, "Though, I do not like the idea of leaving my men. At this moment we have just one platoon of Marines left to defend the entire base." Ja'xon turned to Commander Knight, "Given current circumstances, sir, I believe my orders must come from you." He paused for a moment to collect his thoughts, "I see two options. Option 1: We split up my men between the Zumwalt and the base. Those onboard the ship will act as security, tactical, and defense against any Borg who find their way on the ship. Those staying here will defend Starbase 900 with their lives. Option 2: And this is the one I prefer, all of my men come with me on the Zumwalt and we officially announce evacuation." He stops again, knowing that suggesting something like this doesn't come lightly. "Sir, my Marine's primary duty is to defend the men and women on this base. A job typically done with many platoons and support staff. As of right now, I can say with 100% certainty that we have ONE platoon. One against all of this." He motioned to the view screen showing the rapidly approaching Borg cubes.

"What are your orders, sir?"

Austin looked towards the screens and back towards the Sergeant awaiting his order. He wasn't a Tactical Officer, he was simply an Operations Officer who had gotten lucky. "We need to defend this base to the last. If we lose it, the Federation's presence in the quadrant is lost. Let's take Option One and effective now, you're a Second Lieutenant. Inform the security teams that they now report to you-" Austin was interrupted as the base rocked and he was thrown to the deck. Grabbing onto a rail, he pulled himself back up. "Now go. We need to defend this place."

Turning back to the console, he pointed to the Tactical Officer. "Raise shields and target everything we have at the Borg fleet and prepare to fire on my command." Hopping over the rail, he looked over the flight control officer's shoulder. "What's the status on the Air Wing?"

The flight control officer, a Lieutenant Junior Grade Maxwell Stearn spoke up. "Sir, the Air Wing is deployed and is covering the evac shuttles- wait, I'm detecting additional contacts entering our space. Their giving off Borg signatures but their smaller and faster than anything I've seen before!"

Austin nodded. "Who's leading the CAP right now?"

"Checking now, sir." Lieutenant Stearns fingers drifted and danced across the control. "It appears to be Colonel Mitchell, sir. He led the patrol earlier this morning."

Austin nodded. "Understood. Send him the signatures."

The newly appointed Marine officer took off towards the lift as he began to quickly give orders to his men via com link, "Squads 1 and 2, report to the USS Zumwalt and await my orders." He paused, not ready to give his next order as it could be the last these men will ever receive, "Squads 3 and 4 will be staying here to defend this base, repel as many Borg drones as you can. Give them hell, Marines."

Drew was right alongside the field promoted marine officer. He'd sent messages to his own special warfare platoons during the chaos that had been the Operations Center. "Come on Lieutenant Ja'xon. We have a Defiant-class vessel to get into this fight she was specifically designed for."

=====Medical Deck=====

Nurse Meredith Knight and her daughter Ashley entered the Med Center. She parked Ashley in a chair in the waiting area and rushed over to her night shift counterpart. "Hey Mac. What still needs to be readied?"

Mac was about to answer Meredeth when Cara clapped her hands to get everyone's attention. "Listen up, everyone. We need to start evacuations. I need ten of you to go upstairs and help with evacuating the inpatients," she said. Several people raised their hands to volunteer so Cara waved them off. "Go. We're evacuating to the Hopper. See you guys there," then as the volunteers rushed off, she turned her attention back to the group that stayed. "As patients come in, stabilize and get them to either our transporter or transporter 7. There are 20 hover gurneys in the storage room for the non-ambulatory patients. the medicine room. Lock her down. Meredeth...transfer all current patient charts to Intel so they can secure them in their super-secret database thingy. Ensign King...reprogram our transporter's destination to the Hopper's Sickbay. Lance...release 5 at a time to go get their personal belongings. Each group of back here once you have what you're going to take with you. Unless things start to come apart. Then just get to the transporter room or an escape pod."

Ashley rose from her seat in the waiting area and approached Meredith. "Mom, is there anything I can do to help?"

Meredith looked around at the controlled chaos that was the Medical Center and shook her head. She turned back to Ashley and grabbed her daughter's arms. She shook her head and then pointed to the bags by Ashley's chair. "Not here, but you can get our bags and go to docking port two. Your dad and I will be along as soon as possible. OK?"

Ashley nodded. She knew the weekly emergency evacuation protocol drills were supposed to prepare all those who worked and lived in the Delta Quadrant, but she couldn't help being a bit apprehensive in light this was not a drill. "Don't be long." She knew that medical personnel would be busy with evacuation prep, so she didn't tarry any longer. She returned to the waiting area and hoisted a bag onto each shoulder and then grabbed the last one. She exited the Medical Center and left for the Hopper.

Meredith returned to the Nurse's station and began keying in the commands that would send copies of the medical records the Sickbay computer aboard the Hopper. She looked at the rate of data transfer. "Doctor Nichols, it will take about 20 minutes to complete the file transfer."

====== Fighter No. 2681-015 | Call sign: Drifter ======

Christopher was jinking left and right trying to avoid arcing green beams of weapons fire from a Borg sphere that made his hair stand on end. Momentarily blinded, he kept flying forward and saw a miniature of an explosion blossom out of the corner of his eye- another one of his people lost. Pulling back on the stick, Chris climbed rapidly then spiraled back down, his microphasers firing out concentrated nadion bursts. Tweaking the stick, he was now on a strafing run with spurts of green flame erupting from the ship where his phasers were hitting. Feeling a shudder that sent him rolling, he saw a gray blur out of the corner of his eye. Once he managed to stabilize his fighter, he could see that it looked organic with what appeared to be tentacles on its aft end and metallic sharp edges that left a green trail as it streaked through space. This was something he had never seen before, so the only logical choice was to chase it and hopefully blow it away.

=====All Communication Channels: Originating from Borg cubes=====

"We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile."


By the Dashboard Lights USS Arctic Alpha Quadrant, Union Gateway Concurrent to Red Alert!
Show content
The USS Arctic started life as a steamrunner class ship put into service just before the outbreak of the Dominion War. During that war it was damaged to the point where it could be repaired, but at the conclusion of the War, it was decided not as many warships were necessary. The Artic was refitted to be a modular transport carrier. From troops, personnel, equipment, cargo…whatever was needed.

As a ship whose voyages were reduced to what could be termed ‘milk runs’ or ‘gofers’, the crew of the ship were usually younger, less experienced and, most of all, skeletal. Generally not a bother. The flight paths of previous assignments were carefully planned to keep it out of harm’s way, it was able to outfly most raider ships – and it’s profile kept enough armaments to remind raiders that it was a Starfleet vessel anyway.

Currently, it was transporting personnel from the Alpha Quadrant to the Delta Quadrant. Many of them were for duty rotations, allowing crew from various ships to return to the Alpha Quadrant – their Delta tours over. Others were reassigned for various scientific or exporatory reasons. The cargo bays were full of not just the effects of the passengers, but also equipment and supplies necessary for restocking of Delta ships. For most of those aboard as passengers, this would be the very first trip they would undertake to the Delta Quadrant. Emotions ran from disgruntled to excited and every emotional shade between.

Very few were bored. Curither Bran was one of them. As he and his team were among the first to be picked up by the Arctic. After noticing the skeleton crew of the ship, including its three security personnel, he volunteered him and his team to help with security duties during their transport from the Alpha Quadrant to the Delta Quadrant. The Arctic’s captain, LTJG Hannah, declined the offer and let Bran know he was free to consider himself ‘at liberty’ and to ‘take advantage of what the ship could offer in recreation’.

Bran’s team took to the idea of the week and a half vacation. Bran joined them for several rounds of holodeck novels, holodeck adventures, continued their twice daily PT routine (to the chagrin of of other passengers). Using the access to the Federation computer library, Bran continued to gather research for his thesis. But…Bran was used to work. Too much downtime was not something he relished. If he had access to mountains to hike, or caves to expore – atmospheres to dive? Then he could have occupied his time. But there was only so much ‘safe adventure’ he could stand.

“We’re approaching the Union Gateway now,” Hannah said as Bran wandered back onto the bridge. The young chief petty officer who manned the security/tactical station gave him a brief nod. “We should have you dropped off at SB900 by dinner. Or lunch, depending on local time.” Hannah grinned. He’d become used to Bran coming by the Bridge as he wandered the ship. In truth he found the warrant officer somewhat interesting. He was educated, that much their talks made apparent, and claimed to be working on his doctoral thesis in philosophy. But, unlike many of the other officers that were transported by the Arctic crew, he never tried to take charge. After his first offer was turned down, it was never mentioned again.

“Transponder codes accepted, Union Gateway active,” CPO King answered from the tactical station. Bran wondered if the young noncom always sounded so stiff and formal with this crew or if he was merely putting on the act for Bran’s benefit. Smiling at the possibility, Bran turned back to the viewscreen. In truth this was interesting, something he’d never yet experienced and was – he hoped – just the first in much that he’d never before experienced. The Delta Quadrant waited him and his team and he was looking forward to what new and exciting challenges presented out there. Maybe, if he were lucky, it was the brand new life he’d been wanting for some time now.

Six trapezoidal blocks joined by what seemed to be a thin gray ring began flashing, a pool of energy oozing into the center until it exploded inward and in a flash, the space behind it was…different. Bran couldn’t say how, he just knew it was. The ring kept growing as they moved forward at full impulse speeds. Bran wanted to feel somehow different, but most of the bridge crew seemed relaxed and as bored as he felt.

“Sir!” King said, his voice edged as he spoke. Bran turned to face him as Hannah stood and turned as well.

“Sir, SB900 is refusing to acknowledge transponder codes, they’re broadcasting a red alert and SOS!”

“All stop!” Hannah immediately ordered, but even Bran knew that it was too late. He didn’t know if it were normal, but he felt the tug from the Gateway and saw the trapezoidal blocks passing out of view of the viewscreen. There was just a moment.

“All stop, Captain, but we were pulled through the Gateway. We’re in the Delta Quadrant,” the helmsman answered.

“Get SB900 on comms,” Hannah ordered, “Find out what’s going on and –“

“Oh my god,” King said, actually taking a step away from the console. “Sir, sensors are..this can’t be right, sir.”

“What?” Hannah asked, glancing over at Bran, considering that he may need the experience after all.

“Borg, sir, lots of Borg.”

Bran moved up to the tactical station and was about to take over the sensor readings, sure it was a sensor ghost, or malfunction or something else when the shipboard comms crackled like lightning ran across them. Then clearly tuned and robotic:

"We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile."
Glowing Like the Metal on the Edge of a Knife USS Arctice - Bridge Concurrent to Red Alert!
Show content
Without thinking about what he was doing, Bran shoved his way in front of the tactical station, edging out the young chief petty officer. “Confirming sensor readings, Captain,” Bran said as his fingers began dancing across the station’s inputs. Already he was pulling what limited resources this ship had tactically while simultaneously sending orders out to his personnel, as well as anyone else aboard the ship that might have security training.

“That can’t be-“ Hannah replied staring at the viewscreen where Bran put the number of cubes and spheres on display.

“Projections have them heading straight for SB900, but their course projections will put them here, at the Gateway once they roll over the starbase.” Bran sighed. It was a transport, their armaments were more for show.

“We’re not a battle ship,” Hannah said, confirming what Bran was seeing. “My security crew is comprised of three people.” It seemed the young captain of this ship was talking more to himself. Finally, as if deciding, he began issuing orders. “All stop, reverse course and get us back to the Alpha Quadrant, we need to sound the alarm.”

“No can do, Captain,” the helmsman said as he turned in his chair, trying to ignore that one of the spheres altered their trajectory to come toward them. “The Gate’s security protocol has been activated. It won’t accept our transponder codes and open until the all clear is given.”

“Override them!” Hannah yelled, panic beginning in his voice.

Bring me the crate and package to the bridge, get the team ready. Borg. Bran was thinking while he continued issuing orders. People were now being pressed into service. His primary weapons dependability now will have to be on shields and phasers, untested and unqualified personnel trying to help load torpedo tubes was going to slow down their responses considerably.

Aye, came the telepathic response from his second, the Betazed senior chief petty officer. Breaking out guass rifles.

All of them, arm the crew and anyone else capable. We’ll be boarded soon enough.

“What are we going to do?” Hannah asked.

Bran didn’t have any answers, but a blipping on the station got his attention. “The station is scrambling fighters and response. General evacuation order has been given. They’ll never get everyone off in time,” Bran answered as the door to the bridge opened. Aide rushed through, carrying a small carrier along with a tac vest, complete with pistol, and an extra rifle. He deposited each at the station before taking off again. Bran watched him leave before returning to the station.

“We’ve got a Borg sphere headed directly for us,” Bran warned while he donned the vest and slung the rifle in a position that made it easy for him to grab in case he needed it. If they were lucky the Borg sphere would just destroy them, rather than try to assimilate the crew.

“They’re never going to get all those people out of there in time,” Hannah mused as he took the chair again. “All those people…escape pods, ships…all of them…” He covered his face with his hands. “We have to do something.”

“It’s suicide,” Bran heard himself saying. “You don’t have the firepower on this ship to take on even one of them, much less all of them. They’re converging on the station but I’m willing to bet that force isn’t just to take out a single station. Two, three of them would be sufficient for that. Twenty? They’re trying to get back to the Alpha Quadrant through the Gateway.”

Hannah nodded. “We can’t let that happen either. Lee,” Hannah said turning to his helmsmen. “All that time you spent joyriding when I wasn’t on the bridge?”

Lee blushed at that, obviously he thought it was a secret.

“I hope you learned some maneuvers in the meantime, we’re going to need them. Open internal comms, please,” Hannah said. Bran indicated they were open.

Hannah took a deep breath, “By now you are aware that we are at red alert.” Bran had to give the junior lieutenant credit, his voice was steady even when the man himself wsan’t. “To fully inform you, we came through the Gateway into a Borg invasion fleet. The Gateway is sealed against us because of the emergency, but I hold no illusions that the Borg won’t be able to override those seals.

“I hold no illusions about our chances on survival but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to make attempts. Starbase 900 is the first under attack. We may not be a warship, but we do have some capabilities. To the passangers, I ask you now to come on duty, report to duty stations to your specialties, if not, then seek out any of the security officers aboard, they’ll get you armed and assign you to sectors. Borg that beam onto the ship are to be destroyed on sight. To the crew of the ship, all those milk runs were we were bored and drilled? All the fancy flying of our helmsmen, the practice at dumping cargo, at running? This is where it comes into focus.

“We may not be able to take on Borg vessels, but we’re not about to leave those people – our Starfleet brothers and sisters to die. We’re going to do everything we can. To that end, I’m ordering every cargo bay be emptied – dump it all people. Everyone else, prepare for tight quarters. Those with expertise on transporters, get ready, you’re going to get to put your skills to the test. Further orders will be forthcoming. I’m implementing Protocol Phoenix.”

“Protocol Phoenix?” Bran asked as soon as the comm line went dead.

“This ship doesn’t have the firepower to take on the Borg,” Hannah said, turning to face Bran. His posture and stance stated he was resigned to what was going to happen now. Bran felt it from everyone else on the bridge crew. They were resigned. They knew they were going to die.

They knew it was preferable to what was coming.

“We’ll do what we can to keep others from becoming Borg while trying to survive. The Borg are going to have to kill us and in that, we’ll have at least spared all these people from that fate worse than death.”

Bran nodded as he donned another garment that Aide brought him, then opening the crate, he pulled out the fuzzy gray Husky puppy and put him into the carrier. While the puppy had been asleep, he was waking up now. Bran was sure that the puppy would stay in the carrier, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to leave Meetok in their quarters for the Borg to either kill or assimilate. If the puppy died, it would be, quite literally, over Bran’s dead body.

“What’s the gameplan?” Bran asked.

“Well, Mister Bran,” Hannah said, “I hope you’re as good at that station as your rank suggests, because most of this will depend on you and Lee at flight control. And my transporter chief.”

“Transporter chief?” Bran asked before realization dawned on him. “You’re absolutely nuts. Certifiable. And I would know.” But he couldn’t stop himself from smiling. It was nuts. It was crazy. But if it worked…it would be awesome.

"I maybe crazy," Hannah said smiling, "but I'm not the one going into battle with the Borg wearing a puppy."
Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire Various During the Initial Moments of the Borg Attack on Starbase 900
Show content
=====Bridge of the USS Zumwalt=====

Drew stepped onto the bridge of the USS Zumwalt and started for the tactical station, but stopped abruptly, as he bumped into the newly appointed Marine CO, Lieutenant Ja'xon.

"Excuse me, sir." The Marine said as he was also approaching the tactical station.

Drew looked from the tactical station to the Captain's Chair. He changed direction and headed towards the latter. He took a deep breath and sat down. He knew there was no time to waste. They had to get into the fight to allow time for the relief force to arrive. He looked at the display to the left of the chair and saw that the ad hoc crew thrown together to crew the ship were aboard and the airlock had been secured.

"Lieutenant Knight, or shall I call you Captain?" Ja'xon spoke up from the tactical station, "Either way, everything looks good to go over here. Shields are operating efficiently and all of our weapon systems are functioning properly."

Drew shot a look at Ja'xon and simply shook his head. "Lieutenant Knight will suffice for now. Start charging phasers and get quantumn torpedoes loaded. Raise the shields as soon as we have cleared the starbase." He looked at the flight control officer already at the helm. "Release docking clamps and take us out Ensign. Please set a course to rendezvous with the Combat Air Patrol and engage at full impulse once clear of Starbase 900."

The ensign at the helm swiveled around in her chair and her hands darted over the controls. The metallic sound of the docking clamps being released reverberated through the ship. A heartbeat later the ship began to move. It only took seconds for it to clear the station and go to full impulse.

Lieutenant Ja'xon tapped his com badge, he wanted to speak to his men, "Lieutenant Ja'xon to Marines," he started, "Moments like this are why I am proud to be a Marine. We are out numbered, our forces have been divided, but we will head into battle none the less. We will complete this mission. First squad- fire team 1, report to the bridge. Fire teams 2 and 3, report to engineering. Second squad, I want each fire team to act as QRF (Quick Reaction Force) on Decks 2 through 4." Two squads, six fire teams, 26 men. This should be enough to minimally defend this vessel if we are boarded. He thought to himself. "Have faith Marines; faith in your training; faith in your brothers and sisters next to you; and have faith in me and the orders I give. We do these things and we will not fail." He took a moment to breathe, "Beers on me tonight. Ja'xon out."

Drew spared a moment to glance over at Ja'xon. "We pull through this alive, you and your marines will drink on me tonight." He looked forward. "You to ensign." Drew used the panel on his left to activate the ship-to-ship hail. "Zumwalt to close CAP, form up in flanking positions and prepare for fast strikes. Drifter one heavy and a dozen Valks will rendezvous with you at Rally Point Gamma for coordinated counter attack. How copy, over?"

Chris toggled his cockpit communicator. "I read you loud and clear, Zumwalt. Stand by for form up." Switching over to another channel, he addressed the remainder of the fighters. "All fighters, all fighters. Section One, take the port side. Section Two, take starboard. All others, form Section Three and cover aft." Banking hard to port, he rolled his fighter into position as the lead for Section One and locked his navigation system to match the Zumwalt's speed and heading. "CAG to Zumwalt. Section One is in position and standing by for your order. Sections Two and Three are completing form in one-zero seconds. Confirm."

=====Docking Port for the USS Hopper=====

Ashley was struggling along the corridor filled with people preparing to board the USS Hopper. Somebody bumped into her and the bag in her arms went flying. She tried to dart after it, but the two heavier bags on her shoulders prevented a speedy chase. She finally got to where the bag had landed and found it in the hands of a rather cute young man in a marines uniform.

Justin had noticed the stunning young woman when she was further down the corridor, so when she'd gotten bumped and her bag went flying he stepped over to where it had landed and picked it up. "Here you go miss. Better get aboard."

Ashley nodded and even gave the young marine a shy smile. "Thank you...."

It took a moment for him to realize she wanted to personally thank him by name. "Justin...Winter.... Private Justin Winter."

Ashley's smile grew slightly. "Ashley Knight." Suddenly, the press of more bodies in the corridor swept her away an into the USS Hopper before she could say more.

Justin took a step to resume his post several meters down, but felt something squish under his first step. He knelt down and found a stuffed toy monkey. He looked at the airlock entrance and realized the toy must have fallen out of Ashley's bag. He stuffed the toy into his tunic with a silent promise to himself to deliver it to Ashley later.

=====Nearest Borg Cube=====

Three of Eight, Secondary Adjunct of Unimatrix Three became activated with the rest of his unimatrix. All eight Borg drones walked out of their alcoves simultaneously and filed out in a single file line. They were getting prepared to leave the cube and board the Defiant class Federation star ship that was approaching. Each drone went through their version of a systems check to ensure that they were operating a peak efficiency. All were silent in their preparation, words were an inefficient way to communicate when you were apart of one collective mind.

Preparations complete, they stood silent, like a squad of grotesque statues as they wait for the opportunity to infiltrate the Federation vessel.

=====Medical Deck=====

The lights were beginning to flicker as systems were shorting out. "We may not have 20 minutes," Cara said to Meredith. "EVERYONE....OUT! EVACUATE NOW!" she yelled and motioned toward the transporter and doors. Just then the medical companel crackled and the Borg's announcement echoed through the ER. Cara's face went white. "Meredith...get to your family. GO!

Meredith shared in Cara's fear. She took one last look around the Medical Center. Only staff and a few fully ambulatory cases remained. She bolted for the door and ran behind the rest of the staff as they made their way to the Hopper's docking ring on the same level. Bedlam seemed to reign in the corridors as members of medical and engineering made their way to their designated evacuation vessel.

From the medical transporter, Ens. King called out, "boss....we have a problem!"

Cara hurried around the nurses' station and saw that the last non-ambulatory patient lay on a gurney on the transporter pad and the ensign was desperately attempting to initiate transport but each time he tried nothing happened. "The transporter's down," he reported, looking panicked.

"Help!" came a call from just inside the ER doors. Cara turned to see a man holding his arm that was wrapped in a blood soaked towel. She turned to Ens. King and said, "if our transporter is down we have to assume the stations are as well so take her...," referring to the patient on the gurney, " the docking port. Go!"

"What about you?" King asked as he rushed over to the hover gurney and grabbed the control.

"I have a patient," Cara said. "Hurry. Good luck," she added and rushed over to the young man with the injured arm.

=====Crew Deck, USS Hopper=====

Ashley entered the quarters the Duty Petty Officer had sent her to. She dumped the three bags belonging to her and her family on the sofa and looked about the cramped space. It was hardly big enough for one person, much less a family of three. Ashley, without anything better to do, took a seat in the stuffed chair at one end of the coffee table and waited. Her mom and dad would be there soon and things would be better, of that she was sure.

=====Docking port, USS Hopper=====

"Geez, Ensign, what do you have in this bag?"

Grace and Senior Chief Podolsky, along with other members of the Operations and Engineering Department, were both directing individuals onto the USS Hopper, as well as prepping the vessel for launch. Along the way, Ensign Dark Wolf had snatched up a bag of what she called her gedankenexperiment, though some of them were too solid to be purely thought based. The first time he had seen it, Podolsky had asked Grace why the bag held so many objects; a light blush appeared on the Ensign's dusky cheeks as she admitted her occasional inability to think sequentially. As Grace monitored the coupling connections between the Hopper and SB900, Podolsky had picked up the bag to move it out of the way.

"You know, stuff," Grace answered evasively. "Models and PADDs and prototypes and...stuff."

Podolsky knew PADDs meant the Mass Gap Paradox of the Cochrane Equation, something that Podolsky didn't understand the explanation of in articles aimed at the general populace, much less what was being debated in the scientific community.

"If we're still here when the Borg board, I hope you have something in that bag that'll help," Podolsky said as he sat the bag down in a safer place.

"Maybe," Grace answered, as she made adjustments on the panel she was monitoring.


The Zumwalt and a dozen Valkyrie fighters came upon the far CAP that had been performing a fighting withdrawal from the Borg attack force. Drew activated the comms again. "Colonel, I'm going to try and draw fire from that front Borg cube. If you follow us in, maybe you can pinpoint the weapons emplacements and take 'em out."

Christopher responded. "Roger that, Zumwalt. Give me a target and we'll go for it." he said , adjusting power to his microphasers and armed the remaining torpedos on the racks. This was not looking good- over 40 percent of the squadron had been lost in the initial attack and the rest that weren't damaged had been scattered.

Drew looked at the main viewer as the Borg cube grew larger and larger on the screen. "Helm, cut across their bow. Mister Ja'xon I want you to fire aft torpedoes as we pull out."

Ja'xon gave his affirmative, "Aye, sir." and carried out the orders.

The Zumwalt made a running pass across the bow of the lead Borg cube. True to form, half a dozen energy beams lanced out from the hull of the Borg cube. The Zumwalt veered off before any could connect.

"All met their target, Lieutenant." Ja'xon said from the tactical station. Pressing a few buttons he pulled up a damage report on the cube. "But there was minimum to no damage. If we want to even dent this thing, we need to coordinate with those fighters out there and hit the same mark."

Christopher pushed forward after he saw their initial salvo hit including one of his own microtorpedoes. Checking his own sensor data, the Cube was barely scratched. "I think we're going to need a new target.

Ja'xon words struck a chord with Drew. He turned to the command display to his left and keyed in a few commands. Targeting information used by the task force at the Battle of Sector 001 came up on the monitor. He sent the information out of a data stream to the squadron of Valkyrie fighters and to the Zumwalt's tactical station. "Concentrate fire power on these targets."

"All fighters, this is drifter. We'll head straight in with a staggered formation, fire torps and peel out. Save your phaser power for these fighters their sending out. Good hunting, boys and girls. Drifter out." Flicking switches

Doing as Ja'xon was ordered, he fired phasers at many fighters that crossed their path and waited until the right time to fire the torpedoes just before they turned and pulled out.

Drew looked at the main view screen, a moments worth of satisfied expression on his face. Though the Borg cube had not been destroyed outright, it had been disabled for the time being.

=====Mess Hall, USS Zumwalt=====

Three teams of Borg drones found their way on board the Federation vessel. They specifically chose areas on the ship with no strategic value and were minimally guarded. Calculated to be the best way to get on board without incident.

One of these teams landed in the Mess Hall with their mission being to reach the computer core, which was located on the same deck. This team consisted of eight Borg drones, and they filed out of the Mess hall in two columns heading to the computer core.

As the Borg boarded the ship the computer alerted the tactical station, "We have Borg on board. All hands," Ja'xon taps his com badge, "We have intruders on board. Repeat, Borg are located in the Mess Hall, Cargo Bay 3, and Shuttle Bay 2. Marine QRF teams head to those locations now. Everyone else, defend your posts."

The marines on Deck 2, on their way to the mess hall turned a corner and ran right into the Borg drones. They were out numbered 8 to 4 and immediately began to engage in close quarters combat.

The fighting was brutal, but the Marine quickly realized that only 5 of the Borg drones were of the soldier variety. It appeared that the other three had non combative functions. They focused their assault on those drones first and disabled them quickly. The fighting continued and was brutal, however the Marines ended up being the superior force. One of the Lance Corporals called out to their CO, "Lieutenant Ja'xon, drones on Deck 2 have been neutralized sir, however, Corporal Eichen is dead sir."

Ja'xon was monitoring the fighting as best he could while running the tactical station, not being in the fight with his Marines was tearing him apart. He was receiving reports from his teams. "Thank you for reporting in, I want you to take over as team leader. Take your men to cargo bay 3, our men are pinned down in there."

=====Docking Port, USS Hopper=====

Private Winter was trying to usher evacuees along as fast as possible, but there always seemed to be some jam up that occurred at the transfer tube every other minute or so. He looked over to the single officer and the senior chief that seemed to be her companion. The senior chief looked a lot like a drill instructor he'd had in basic so he approached him first. "Hey there senior chief. Don't suppose you could use that authoritative set of lungs on you and get some order to this cluster f...," Winter paused with a look at the young female standing next to the senior chief, " charlie foxtrot."

Grace smirked at the marine. "It's okay, private," she assured him. "My brother is a marine, so I'm fluent in both high and low marine. I got this, Senior Chief," Grace added, nodding at the controls she was monitoring. "The bridge on the Hopper has everything under control as it is. I'm just here for the sake of redundancy."

Senior Chief Podolsky gave his ensign a nod, then headed over to the logjam blocking the transfer tube.


The flow of humanity trying to press itself into the Hopper came to an abrupt halt at the barked command of the senior NCO.

"Make a space in the middle! Now! I want a space for sickbay! Then I'll call for dependents! Then everyone else! But I will have order!" Podolsky barked. "You will not move unless you are called. Sickbay and injured, load now!"

"That what you were looking for, private?" Grace asked Winter as she acknowledged a report on the panel she was monitoring.

Private Winter reached up and scratched his head and nodded. It was always amazing to see a non-commissioned officer, especially a senior one, be able to stop everyone in their tracks. "Yeah, pretty much." He looked at Grace and realized what he had just said to a commissioned officer. He stood a little straighter. "I mean yes sir."

=====Medical Deck-ER=====

Cara finished mending her patient's laceration and started to usher him to the doors when she heard something in the nurses' station. She turned and looked and saw Mac trying to secure the medicine room. "Mac! Come on. We have to go," she called out. "Go to the docking port," she told her patient who didn't need to be told a second time and ran through the open doors.

"It won't lock," Mac called out, trying to punch the code in again.

"Leave it," Cara yelled. "Let the Borg have it. Let's go!"

Mac gave up and turned to leave when a bright blue light appeared between her and Nichols coming from the ceiling. It was so bright she had to shiled her eyes. When the light dimmed she dropped her hand and, standing just a few feet away were two Borg drones.

"We are the Borg. You are to be assimilated. Resistance is fultile," one of the drones said as it moved towards the head nurse.

Mac had no where to run. She looked at her boss and grinned a devilish grin then she looked back at the drone. "Yeah? Well mother @#$%&...let's go to hell together," she snarled and grabbed a handfull of electrical conduit that connected the medical communications system to its power source and gave it a big yank. The ends of the conduit sparked and bolts of small electrical current leaped out of it, searching for a connection. Mac stepped forward as the drone stepped closer and grabbed its arm with her free hand, shoving the end of the conduit into its chest plating. The drone began seizing as the electrical current surged through did Mac. Both drone and nurse began to glow until the current finally burned out and both dropped to the floor.

Cara stood, watching in horror as her friend sacrificed herself. The second drone moved toward the first and seemed unaware of Cara's presence so she took the opportunity to make her escape and ran out of the ER.

=====Docking Port, USS Hopper=====

Cara stumbled through the docking port and one of the Hopper's security officers grabbed her by the arm to keep her from falling. Breathlessly, she said, "Borg. On the Medical Deck."

Senior Chief Podolsky immediately barked at those still waiting to board to remain calm before making his way to the redheaded doctor. "Anybody left on the Medical Deck, Doctor?"

Cara shook her head. "No," she said, sadly. Then she looked around at those gathered. "Meredith," she said. "Meredith Knight!" she called out. Not hearing anyone respond she called, "Ashley?" The Knight family had to make it out. She couldn't stand to lose another friend.

Private Winters heard Cara call out for Meredith and then Ashley. He scooted around the edge of the crowd and came up along side Cara. "Sir? Your looking for the Knight family?"

Cara hated being called sir, but she let it slide this time. "Yes. Do you know where they are?" she asked the young man.

"Private!" Podolsky interrupted. "You're clogging the inflow. Get the doctor on board and then get back here. If the Borg are on the medical deck, they could be heading this way." Podolsky conferred with one of the security NCOs, who established a perimeter at the edge of those still waiting to board.

"Ensign, you got something in your bag that could help?" the Senior Chief yelled.

Grace frowned, dug into her bag and pulled out something that fit inside the palm of her hand. "Maybe. It's a prototype. A concept device. I don't know if it---"

"With respect, ma'am, please get your backside moving and follow me," Podolsky answered. Grace grabbed a couple of other items from her bag and got moving. "Private, anyone wants a reunion, let them do it on the Hopper. Keep the crowd moving. The Ensign and me are just going to head down the corridor and stick our head around the corner."

Private Winters swallowed a large lump in his throat that had manifested the moment the Senior Chief had addressed him loudly. He pulled Cara out of the main flow of bodies boarding the Hopper. "All I can tell you is that Ashley boarded about 15 minutes ago, maybe 20, but I haven't had anyone ask me about her since I have been on duty here."

"Do you know where Ashley is?" Cara asked.

Private Winters shrugged, his arms splayed out in an I dunno gesture. "All I can say is she's aboard the Hopper. There is a petty officer of the watch just inside the airlock though. He might know."

"Thank you Private," Cara said and gave him an apologetic smile for having gotten him into trouble. She joined the throng of people making their way through the airlock. Once she made it through the door she squeezed through the crowd and fought her way over to the Petty Officer who was making an attempt to log everyone in. "Excuse me. Petty Officer. I'm Dr. Nichols. The station CMO. I'm looking for the Knight family. Meredith? Or her daughter Ashley?" she said.

The petty officer looked up from the list of names scrolling at a fast rate across his PADDs display screen. He saw the Lieutenant's pips on her collar. He keyed in the names to his PADD. "There is an Ashley Knight. She was one of the first ones aboard. She's been directed to quarters. Deck Two, cabin B-25." He shook his head as he searched for Meredith's name. "Sorry sir, but no Meredith Knight has boarded as of yet."

Turning against the flow of traffic, Cara said, "I have to go back."

The petty officer placed a tentative hand on Cara's upper arm to halt her. "Sorry sir, but I have instructions to send the first department head to come aboard to the bridge. Base command says you are to go there and assume command of the ship until a more senior officer is aboard."

"I'm not leaving without Meredith," Cara said, yanking her arm out of the petty officer's grasp. "I have to find her," she repeated.

The petty officer looked at the ship side hatch leading back into the starbase. People were streaming in two, three, even four abreast. He turned back to Cara. "Evacuation protocols are in effect, no one aboard ship is allowed to return." He gestured to the men, women and children streaming aboard. "Your the senior officer. They ... are all your responsibility now."

Cara looked around and suddenly felt overwhelmed. She looked back at the Petty Officer and raised her arm. Pinching up her sleeve she said, "in case you're color blind, Petty Officer....this is teal...not red. These people would probably be better off with you on that Bridge than me." But Cara knew that her argument was futile. Much like the Borg assimilation. So she held up her hands in surrender and muttered, "fine. Whatever," then headed for the Bridge.

=====USS Zumwalt=====

Over the next 30 minutes the fighting continued but eventually came to an end, and Ja'xon gave his report to Lieutenant Knight, "Sir, we have successfully taken out the Borg threat on board. However, we have significant casualties." He paused for a moment reviewing the list, "13 starfleet personnel are KIA and another 5 have major injuries and another 10 have minors. Eight of the KIA, 3 of the major injuries, and all 10 of the minors are Marines."

Drew heard the news of the dead and injured, but he was a bit occupied with still fighting the ship. He simply gave Ja'xon an acknowledging grunt at the casualty report. The Eleventh Carrier Wing and Zumwalt had been able to significant slow the advance of the Borg force, but now the fighting was nearing the starbase itself. It was simply becoming a war of attrition and the Starfleet forces were on the losing side.

Ja'xon addressed his men, "Marines, consolidate teams the best you can. Get those with debilitating injuries to the medical bay and make sure every wound is treated. We are likely to be boarded again, stay on red alert, we aren't out of this yet."

Three of Eight was among the drones on deck 2 laying on the ground inoperable. However, this drone was not dead, he was in a deactivated state and would remain that way until someone discovered that this drone was still alive and reactivated him.

Drew glanced at his monitor and noticed new contacts dropping out of warp, contacts that were Starfleet vessels. He gave a joyful shout out.

====Corridor leading to docking port of USS Hopper====

"What exactly is that you're carrying, Ensign?" Senior Chief Podolsky asked. The Senior Chief was leading the way, phaser in hand. Not that he had any delusions of defeat a group of Borg single handedly. If he encountered a group, he planned to fire a couple of shots then warn security at the docking port while he beat a retreat.

"It's a Borg bomb," Grace answered, trotting behind Podolsky.

"You've been here less than a month, and you invented a Borg bomb, because..." Podolsky asked incredulously.

"I accidentally invented a Borg bomb," Grace answered. "I was trying to reverse engineer ---"

Grace's convoluted explanation was interrupted by Borg drones making their way up the corridor.

"Run, senior chief," Grace shouted as she tossed the object in her hand in the general direction of the advancing Borg. The object had sailed three meters away from the two engineering personnel when it was replaced by a large, anthropomorphic odd-toed ungulate wearing livery and carrying a halberd. The creature in question charged the Borg, who began firing upon it in return. Grace and Podolsky barely made it around the bend before a bright light lit up the corridor.

Podolsky kept his phaser pointed toward the bend, but nothing appeared. The two carefully went back around the bend and found the dead Borg drones scattered about the decking.

"What exactly was that you threw, Ensign?" Podolsky asked.

"An attempt to use Yaderan hologram technology to reverse engineer mobile emitter technology. Unfortunately, I haven't been successful with the power source, so it ends up blowing up, and incidentally emitting a blast of omicron radiation...which has dissipated," Grace hurriedly added.

"Remind me to have a long talk with you, Ensign," Podolsky said, as he led to the two back to the Hopper.

A haggard looking Meredith came into view from a cross corridor. She was holding a young child in her arms. She saw Grace and the Senior Chief and called out to them for help.

Before Podolsky could respond, Grace turned to him and said, "Senior Chief, could you check the corridor behind them?"

Sometimes, Podolsky mused, a butter bar will surprise you by understanding the situation and doing the right thing.

"On it, Ensign," Podolsky said, heading down the cross corridor Meredith had emerged from.

"Take a breath, ma'am," Grace said, stepping up to Meredith and guiding the other woman so that she was leaning against the wall. "Is there anyone coming behind you that we need to help?"

Meredith set the young child in her arms down as she leaned against the bulkhead and tried to catch her breath. She gave a sad look at the way she'd come and shook her head. "Only ones that way...are beyond help." She tried taking shallow breaths to calm her hyperventilating, but every few moments she had to take a deep gulp of air. Her hand rubbed a knot of pain in her side.

"Just relax," Grace instructed the other woman. "We're going to get you two out of here."

Podolsky returned at that moment. When he caught Grace's eyes, he shook his head, a grim look on his face.

The little girl, who couldn't have been any older than four or five, tugged on Grace's pant leg. She cast a suspicious glance at Meredith before peering imploringly into Grace's eyes. "The bad woman took me away from my mommy and daddy. They had fallen down asleep just outside our home. Please, take me back to my mommy and daddy?"

Grace went down to one knee, placing her hands on the little girls shoulders. In as soft a tone as she "Your mommy and daddy want you to be safe. That's why they wanted you to go with this lady. She's really a very nice lady. And this is a very nice man," Grace continued as Podolsky came trotting up. "His name is Podolsky. He's going to take you and this nice lady to a very safe place."

Podolsky gave the little girl as an open a smile as he could as Grace stood back up.

"Nothing back that way," Podolsky whispered. "Nothing good, anyway."

Grace nodded, and whispered back. "Take these two back to the Hopper. I'm going to make one quick sweep and I'll be right behind you, Senior Chief."

Podolsky was about to argue, but he saw that look in Grace's eye that said his ensign wasn't going to be argued out of her plan of action.

"Make it quick, Ensign, or I promise to put my foot up your backside so far you'll be able to quench your thirst from the water on my knee," Podolsky said in a low tone, with no humor in his voice.

Grace gave a quick nod and trotted down the cross corridor as Podolsky herded Meredith and the little girl toward the Hopper.

Meredith pushed off the wall and started down the corridor with Podolsky, the little girl walking on the Senior Chief's far side away from the bad woman.

The trio had gone no more than 50 meters down the corridor when Meredith had to stop and rest again. The pain in her side refused to subside, causing her to lag behind Podolsky and the little girl. She bent over, hands on her knees and released a low moan of pain. She gave Podolsky a wave. "Go on ahead. I'll catch up to you in a minute." She stood there for a minute catching her breath. It was the last time anyone saw her.

=====Bridge of the USS Hopper=====

Where as the bridge of the Zumwalt had only one person when Drew and Ja'xon arrived. The same was not true of the Hopper's bridge when Cara arrived. Flight control just in front of the Captain's Chair was manned by a Helmsman First Class (PO1). Surrounding that area along the bulkhead was several other station. Starboard side saw Primary Tactical had a Chief Gunner's Mate (CPO) with an Ensign sitting at the Science Station just forward of that, a Hospital Corpsman Third Class stood at the Life Support monitoring panel sandwiched between the science station and main viewer. Only two individual sat along the portside station. The Engineering Station manned by an Engineman Second Class and the Tactical Two Station by a Torpedoman's Mate Third Class.

The Chief Gunner's Mate was the first to see Cara arrive. He'd been informed by the in port Petty Officer of the Watch she was on her way. He stood up and called out "Acting Captain on the bridge."

The entire way to the Bridge Cara had been searching her memories for what Bridge training she could remember from her days at the Academy. But that had been so long ago and her focus had always been on medicine that most of what she had learned had been filed in brain cells so remote they might as well not even been in her brain at all. Her palms were damp as the turbolift door opened and she caught her first sight of the Bridge. Rubbing them on her pant legs she stepped across the threshold and stared at the Command Chair as if it were an octopus waiting for her to sit in its grasp. She tore her eyes away from the chair and looked at the CGM. "Who has been in command?" she asked.

Chief Taggert hitched a thumb towards the ensign at the science station. "That'd be Ensign Palmer sir." His voice was grave and clearly indicative of how little confidence he showed in the young officer.

Ensign Palmer, hearing his name, turned to see who had called him. He saw Cara and her lieutenant's insignia. He stumbled to his feet, knocking over the seat at the science station. "Ma'am! Ensign Palmer reporting!" The young man looked hardly old enough to shave, much less have graduated Starfleet Academy.

Chief Taggert looked from Cara to Palmer and then back to Cara again with a see what I mean expression.

Cara raised an eyebrow then sighed. "Reporting what, Ensign? You haven't said anything yet," Cara said as she looked at the main viewer. Taking a deep breath she said, "I need to know as soon as those airlock doors close. I also need to know what's out there," she said pointing to the viewing screen. "Is there a way out of here that won't get us killed?"

Palmer turned back to his station, almost eager to be able to answer some of Cara's questions. "Well, the Zumwalt and Air Wing Eleven were able to destroy or disable 5 of the 20 Borg vessels so far. Their currently falling back to Starbase 900 now that a force of Starfleet vessels have arrived and are engaged with the Borg. Commander Knight up in the Ops Center wants us to get under way in five minutes or less. Orders from him are that Zumwalt and the relief force will cover our retreat as Hopper takes on the remaining fighters from the Air Wing. Our escape vector will be course 300 mark 250 at maximum warp."

Cara walked over and stood behind the helm, leaning down. "Do you have any experience flying fancy evasive maneuvers, Petty Officer?" she asked, quietly.

The Petty Officer cleared his throat, nervously. "Only on the Holodeck, ma'am," he answered.

"Looks like you're going to get a chance to see if all those pretend flights paid off. What's your name?," Cara whispered in his ear, patting his shoulder.

"Carl, Ma'am," The helmsman replied.

Straightening up Cara said, "Well, Carl, be ready to release the docking clamps as soon as those airlocks are closed." She looked over at Palmer and said, "get me an ETA on those air locks, Ensign." To the CGM she said, "put us on Red Alert and get ready to fire at anything that gets in our way."

=====docking port of USS Hopper=====

"Hold! Hold! Hold!" Grace shouted as she came running down the corridor, a bundle in crook of her left arm and a bag in her dangling right hand. Senior Chief Podolsky, who had been simultaneously keeping an eye out for Grace and getting the Hopper ready to shove off, waved for the enlisted to stop their work.

"I don't remember either of those being in your bag of tricks, Ensign," Podolsky said, getting Grace on board. One of the enlisted relieved Grace of the bag in her hand. "If you had missed the boat because you were picking up souvenirs, that would have reflected poorly in your training records," the Senior Chief deadpanned.

The bag that Grace had just been relieved of made a whimpering sound, and one of the bag's sides popped off, revealing thin bars with a beagle puppy looking through them. At the same time, the bundle in the crook of Grace's made a gurgle, revealing the source of the noise as a small human infant.

"They're going to need to take that from you, Ensign," Podolsky said gently to Grace, who was now cradling the baby with both arms. "They'll need both of us in Engineering. We got lots of hands on board, but not that many trained."

Grace nodded and handed the baby to a petty officer from Operations, with the instructions to "Let me know where she ends up" before heading to engineering. With everyone safely in the Hopper, Podolsky hit his combadge. "Bridge, airlocks are sealed."

=====Bridge of the USS Hopper=====

Ensign Palmer swiveled in his seat to face Cara in the Captain's Chair. "Airlock has been sealed."

The Helmsman didn't wait for the order to release the docking clamps and begin to clear the station. With Palmer's coordinates programmed into the helm, Carl thrust the throttle to forward and began weaving around weapons fire coming from both Starfleet ships and the Borg.

Cara had no choice but to sit in The Chair as the ship swung right then left. Gripping the arms of The Chair, she said, "as soon as you are clear, Carl...turn so we can provide cover fire for our other ships." She glanced at the CGM who was already preparing a firing solution so he would be ready when they were in position. Cara looked over at Palmer and said, "get a head count of evacuees."

"Yes ma'am, sir...ah...Captain." Palmer brought up the evac figures on his monitor. "Looks to be...1473 persons. Just shy of our maximum emergency limit."

Carl maneuvered the Hopper away from the starbase in a wide arc that would allow them to come into a fighting retreat formation with the Zumwalt and remaining fighters from the Air Wing, but put them on the escape vector at the end of the arc.

The Chief Gunner's Mate acquired a lock on half the Borg fighters engaged with the remaining Air Wing elements. "Targets are acquired."

"Fire at will!" Cara said, watching the main viewer. 1473 she thought to herself. That is only a third of the base's inhabitants. Adding the fighter wing, the crew and Marines on the Zumwalt....that's only a little over half. She closed her eyes for a second. The Borg collective had just expanded by approximately 1500. She opened her eyes and the sadness had been replaced with vengeance. "Take them out Chief....blow the sonsofbitches to hell," she said, vehemently.

The Chief hit a series of buttons on his tactical console. Half a dozen forward phaser arrays fired multiple bursts, eliminating over a dozen Borg fighters pressing hard on Christopher's Air Wing.

=====USS Zumwalt=====

The Zumwalt swung tightly in and dispatched another three Borg attack ships with weapons fire from its pulse phasers.

Christopher swung his fighter around, narrowly avoiding the phaser pulses and watched as the sleek fighters disintegrated under the sheer force of the phasers. Locking on to the final four fighter, he fired a short burst of phaser fire, striking one in one of the mechanical tentacles and causing the phaser burst to bounce off harmlessly, like a laser bouncing off of a mirror. The fighter suddenly rolled and pointed it's sharp, diamond shaped head back in Chris' direction.

"Drifter to Zumwalt. We have a slight problem out here- these Borg have adapted and I have one on my tail-" Chris was cutoff midsentence as his fighter shuddered and his cockpit illuminated crimson. "I've been hit." he said, attempting to keep his voice calm as he tried to avoid further fire and failed, his fighter vibrating as more phaser blasts struck him. Checking his status display, Chris saw the entire outline of his fighter blinking red. "Zumwalt this is Drifter, requesting emergency beam out!"

The Zumwalt changed course immediately, bearing down on Christopher's fighter and that of his pursuers. A barrage of phaser fire and quantumn torpedoes lanced out from the small, but powerful warship.

=====Bridge of the USS Hopper=====

Cara and the rest of the crew watched the General's ship as it tried to outrun the Borg fighter. "Can we get a lock on him?" she asked.

"No. He's moving too fast for our systems," the CGM replied. "I can't even get a weapons' lock on the fighter."

"Captain....we have incoming," Palmer announced and on the main screen two torpedoes could be seen heading their way.

"Evasive manuevers," Cara ordered. Then she heard herself say, "deploy counter measures," and she wondered where that little piece of knowledge came from.

The CGM deployed the CMs and, as the Hopper banked right, the incoming torpedoes turned in the opposite direction to follow the decoys.


An unexpected arrival
Show content

Lady Catherine Waddington frowned at her communications panel and patted her droid dogs head. "Well Bilbo here goes nothing," she said. The droid dog was the size and shape of a Newfoundland complete with artificial fur. "To any federation ships. This is Lady Catherine Waddington. Cee Dee Oh of USS Wolves. Our pods have gotten separated please respond," she said and waited. The pods had all become separated some being picked up by other ships. A few like hers drifting almost aimlessly. She'd been one of the last off the USS Wolves, her pod jettisoning automatically meant she and her droid dog. Bilbo was named not, after the hobbit in Tolkien's books, but a real life Newfoundland Dog who in 2015 saved 7 people from drowning in the sea off Cornwall. "Now we just sit and wait old friend." She smiled.


Drew left the Captain's Chair when Lady Catherine's message came across the communications circuit. He crossed to the engineering/secondary ops station on the port side of the bridge. He locked on to her signal and fed the data to Transporter Room One. He tapped his combadge. "Transporter Room. Lock on to the signal I just relayed to you and transport all occupants of the escape pod aboard."

=A=Aye sir, initiating transport.=A=


Lady Catherine materialized her hand resting on her droid dogs fur. Bilbo stood on his hind legs was 7ft tall so she was easily able to do so. Her long red hair fell loose to her waist and she wore a simple, elegant white pant suit.

Stepping off the transporter pad, she held her hand out. "My name is Lady Catherine Waddington. Thank you for finding my companion and I." She smiled.

The transporter operator stepped forward and shook hands with Lady Catherine. "Welcome aboard ma'am. Um...Lieutenant Knight asked me to direct you to Deck One, Officers' Country. He said to take any of the cabins there and he'd be with you shortly."

"Thank you." she smiled politely. "Is there anyway I can be of use?" she asked.

The transporter operator shrugged his shoulder in the universal couldn't tell you ma'am manner. "Lieutenant Knight's probably on the bridge, which is also on deck one. You'd have to ask him ma'am."

"Thank you?" She waited for him to supply her with his name

The transporter operator just looked at Lady Catherine for a moment. "Is there something else you need ma'am?'

"No thank you." She said and giving a low whistle to her dog headed in the general direction indicated.

The transporter operator watched her depart. He blinked a couple of times after she exited. He took a deep breath and sighed. "Wow!"
On the Run USS Hopper & Arctic After attack
Show content

=====Bridge - USS Hopper=====

The Colonel's fighter exploded in a ball of fire and everyone on the Bridge of the Hopper gasped. On the Communications Console, Ensign Foster made some adjustments to her signals then sighed with relief. "The Zumwalt has him," she announced and the bridge echoed with cheers.

"OK...OK. We're not out of this yet," Cara called out. "Palmer....find us a destination. our aft shields. Medical....wait....I'm medical. Damn," she muttered, realizing she had no idea who was in charge of the Hopper's sickbay. She tapped the comlink in the arm of the Command Chair and said, "Nichols to Sickbay. Someone down there activate the EMH and start treating the injured. I want a full report as soon as possible." She rubbed the back of her neck...the muscles stiff from tension...and looked at the main viewer. "Chief....what's that smaller ship weaving through the debris?"

Taggert did some quick computing and said, "the signature is that of the USS Arctic. It's a transport ship. They only have 3 phaser banks."

"Hail them," Cara said.

===== Bridge USS Arctic =====

Bran did his best to keep from looking at the forward viewscreen. Never before in his life had his stomach and inner ear partnered together to fervently demand temples built to whatever celestial geniuses that created the inertial dampener fields on starships. He’d seen enough of Lee’s exotically crazy ‘flying’ to know that if not for the ID fields, he’d be dizzy and puking for years to come. How the young pilot could not only watch what he was doing with the ship in order to keep them from the fire from the Borg ships, crashing at full tilt into the ever expanding debris field surrounding the ongoing battle site.

He was sure that the barrel rolls as they climbed up the face plane of a Borg cube were just unnecessary and done only to show off Lee’s familiarity with the Arctic.

“Transporters active,” Bran said as he gripped the sides of the tactical station – again, a huge part of his combined symbiotic brain system dedicate to the idea of spontaneously evolving working and fully functional foot hooks that could dig into the deck and make sure he didn’t go flying around the bridge. Meetok, the puppy in the harness, was blithely oblivious to the danger to stability and sanity as he tried his best to get around the forward facing harness and sink his little needle teeth into whatever came into reach. “Seven escape pods grabbed,” Bran said. “Crews are working to empty them now.”

“Good work,” Hannah said in general as he sat in the captain’s chair, the safety harness fully engaged. He looked as green and ready to vomit as Bran felt.

“We’ve found another group on the other side of this cube,” Lee said, only barely glancing at his display to give out the coordinates.

“Got them,” King said from a backup station now turned into a tactical station with full transporter controls. “Estimate ten seconds until –“

Whatever he was going to say at a sudden and sourceless whine and green energy field. Before the Borg even had time to materialize on the ship, Bran was already ready. The rifle held to his shoulder as he quickly gained sight alignment. Several low ‘thwips’ sounded and the two Borg that materialized on the bridge dropped just as quickly – several of their implants sparking and what remained of skulls – or head casings – splattering the wall behind them.

Bran dropped the rifle on its sling, automatically adjusting it so Meetok wouldn’t have anything to chew on. He was fielding reports from across the ship about the newest Borg attempt to infiltrate the Arctic and begin assimilating the crew. Bran wondered how the Borg were coping with the idea that they were unable to adjust their drone’s energy shields to counter the kinetic weapons.

The ship rocked in a way that suggested it wasn’t caused by Lee’s psychotic piloting skills. “Power loss to the tractor beam, but it’s regenerating. Four of the escape pods are gone, leaving a hole in our aft starboard engine. Transporting replacements…” Bran waited until the four escape pods that they beamed aboard were emptied of the people inside, saving space in the cargo bays and allowing them to pick up more people in danger. “…now.”

“How’s our makeshift shield holding out?” Hannah asked, looking over his shoulder to Bran.

“Steady for the moment, but it’s not going to be able to protect us for long. We need to find a clear disengagement or a spot for all these people.” The Arctic was quickly becoming jammed with rescued Federation personnel and others that were trying to escape from the Borg. Nearly a hundred and sixty-seven people currently not turned into Borg. “So far no…hold on, incoming hail from the Hopper.”

“We don’t have time for chit chat,” Hannah stated, “we need to concentrate all our efforts on saving lives and getting out of here before we’re blown out of space or assimilated.”

“Captain,” Bran said, frowning. “We have no shields left, power is maxing out and we're about to lose our third phaser bank. We're nearly overcrowded as it is and will need the cargo space for people, not transporting in more escape pods. We need to get some of these people off the ship if we're going to continue.”

The sigh was barely audible as Hannah stood and quickly fixed his uniform. “Put it through, Mister Bran.”

“On main viewer,” Bran said as he opened the channel.

===== Bridge - USS Hopper =====

"USS Arctic....this is Doctor Nichols," Cara said, "of the USS Hopper. How many souls do you have?" she asked.

Taggert had already contacted the Hopper's transporter operator to prepare to beam more survivors into the cargo bay.

"Captain," Hannah said, "I'm Lieutenant junior grade Hannah of the Arctic. We've got three hundred and thirty seven currently on board, but in about ten seconds will be adding another twenty six to that count."

Cara looked back at Taggert and quirked an eyebrow.

Taggert nodded and said, softly, "we have room."

"Lt. Hannah," Cara said, turning back to the main viewer. "Do you have injured?"

"That we do, Captain. We've done what we can with our limited resources but if we can get a load off so we can..." Hannah paused as the Arctic shook violently.

"Direct hit to aft starboard. They penetrated the makeshift armor. Structural fields are holding but we've lost the aft cargo transporter and twenty six percent of power output until Engineering can lock down the matter flow," Bran said as he returned fire to the Borg ship, attempting to disable the weapons port that just struck them. "We managed to get the new survivors onboard and I'm going to attempt to replace the armor shield."

"Adjusting flight pattern," Lee said from the helm, "got a little too far away from the side of the Cube, won't let that happen again."

Hannah nodded at the reports, "If we could get these people off the ship while we still can, that'd be appreciated and will allow us to try to rescue others since we're getting a might full over here." He hoped Lieutenant Nichols had the capability to take at least some of them. He always knew, from the moment the Gate shut behind them, this was a suicide run.

"Prepare for transport," Cara said and pointed to Taggert who, immediately, sent the order to the two transporter rooms. "Medical to Auxiliary Cargo Bay," Cara ordered over the comlink on the arm of her chair. Within seconds the Auxiliary Cargo Bay was filled with the Arctic crew.

"Transport complete," Taggert reported.

"Helm...get us out of here," Cara ordered. Tapping the comlink again she said, "Nichols to ACB...send Lt. Hannah to the Bridge."

===== Auxiliary Cargo Bay - USS Hopper =====

The surprise to Bran was that, as he was preparing to fire another volley of phaser fire the tactical station at which he was standing was suddenly gone. As was the bridge of the Arctic. He found himself packed into a crowded cargo bay, his hands still in position as if the tactical station were still beneath them. Even Meetok seemed startled and surprised by the sudden shift of location, as evidenced by the pained yelp he gave followed by the low whining and squirming to be free of his harness. "Damn it," Bran muttered to himself before turning.

"Jetzi!" he called, seeing the tall, muscular Betazoid that was the nominal second in command of his team. Aide turned to him, dark eyes finding him and a slight head shake at seeing the puppy harness combined with the rifle slung over Bran's chest. "Steinman and Warren are on corpsman duty, see what additional supplies they can get from wherever we are. You're on patrol duty for this ship, make sure no Borg have a chance to assimilate any of the crew, or continue functioning. Chorsokov's team needs to begin sorting and catalogueing who's here - we need to make a report of survivors to Starfleet!"

"Aye!" Jetzi said as Bran was already turning to find Hannah.

"Captain, what the hell?" Bran asked, his hands resting on the rifle, finding some form of comfort in that simple action.

"I'm not captain anymore," Hannah startd before the commbadge chirped. "Nichols to ACB...send Lt. Hannah to the Bridge."

"Acknowledged," Hannah replied then turned until he found the cargo bay door. As he walked, he found himself shadowed by the large Trill security warrant.

"I'm not sure they-"

"We're in a hostile engagement with an overwhelming enemy that is able to transport through shields and assimilates others into itself. I'm not taking chances the captain of the ship that saved our hides is going to get repaid by surviving the rest of his existence stating "resistance is futile"," Bran said. "And if Nichols doesn't like it, she can space me."

Hannah merely nodded his head, not sure it was going to be that simple but saying little more. He couldn't. His billet was gone now, their ship most likely already destroyed, Bran wasn't in his chain and all he had to fall back on was his simple rank and - well - he didn't think that was going to matter much at this time either. "Computer, directions to the bridge." The commpanels lit up with arrows giving directions.

It only took a few minutes for the turbolift transporting the two to get to the bridge. But those minutes were fraught with not knowing what was going on - other than at any moment the borg vessels could overpower this ship and destroy it as well. But the doors opened and Hannah strode out, somehow having his own bodyguard emboldening him as he entered.

"Lieutenant junior grade Hannah reporting as ordered," he said as he came around to face Nichols. Bran stayed behind, just paces away from the door and taking up a position that gave him a clear sight line to everything on the bridge, his hands still on the rifle in low ready.

Ensign Palmer cleared his throat to interrupt then said, "Excuse me ma'am. We have a problem. We are locked out of navigation."

Cara looked around Hannah at Palmer and said, "We're what?"

Not trusting the rookie ensign, Rafferty checked for himself. Frowning he said, "Tactical, too. The systems are under Sanctuary Protocol."

"Sanctuary what?" Cara asked trying to remember having learned that but, if she had, that brain cell had rewritten the memory a long time ago. Dammit, she thought to herself. I'm a doctor. Not a captain. I belong in Sickbay not in this damn chair.

"If I may, Lieutenant?" Bran said from his position. "I am not familiar with navigational reasons, but there are very few reasons why a tactical or security system would be locked out. All of them initiated by shipboard security. If this ship's chief security officer is unable to get into the systems and override the lockout, then it could only come from Starfleet Command. Such as if the ship is known to have mutinied or acted in offenses that could be considered capital crimes. Absent such actions, then the lockout must still come from Starfleet Command. Do we have a reading on the heading and do we have a complete lockout? Meaning, have we lost access to shields and weapons?" Bran shifted as he spoke, trying to make himself more comfortable as he scanned the bridge, wondering - were they just saved by a bunch of criminals or was Starfleet hijacking their own ships for their own purposes and why would that be?

Chief Gunner's Mate Taggart spoke up. "Excuse me, sir...the Hopper is usually a Marine ship and has been out of service for several months and personnel reassigned. It was thrown back into service during the evacuation and not all of the original personnel are here. Myself, Lance Corporal Kellerman on Communications and our Marine pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Scott, are the only original crew members. Once evacuations started Ensign Palmer," he pointed to the ensign, "assumed command until the Doctor arrived and, since she is the ranking officer..." he left the thought unfinished as it was obvious where he was going with it. "According to my console the only systems locked out are Nav and Tactical. Sanctuary Protocol means that they cannot be unlocked to reveal our destination without the proper security codes."

Cara stood up and turned to face the two men. "I would assume that Colonel Mitchell has those codes," she said, turning to look at the rest of the Bridge crew. "Unless he gave them to one of you...I suggest we follow the Zumwalt since that is now SB900's flagship and pray he knows where we're going." She turned back to Taggert. "We already know we have weapons and shields, so do your best to keep an eye on our friends out there." She looked at Bran. "Security or Engineering?" she asked, taking in his gold shirt.

Bran's thoughts that he might be home being on a Marine ship were soon dissipated by the speaking of the nominal captain. But the revelation they had weapons and shields told him it wasn't a criminal lockout in order to retake the ship under proper authority. It meant that the ship was destined to be sent somewhere else. Then she dared to mock that he might be engineering? He squinted his eyes at such a question, considering his ease with weapons and natural ability to take charge of a situation. He wasn't a damned 'squint' - except, as a doctoral candidate, he guessed, in a way, he was. "Security, Captain," he said, "Chief Warrant Curither Bran, destined to be security chief on a ship deployed to the Delta Quadrant."

"Give Gunny a hand and organize what security we have. I don't want our two overcrowded cargo bays to get out of control. People tend to get rowdy when they are in these kind of condition. Feel free to assign quarters to whomever you can," Cara said, nodding to Taggert. She turned back to Hannah then motioned to Palmer. "Ensign are no longer first officer. I want you on the Ops console. Lt. Hannah...have a seat," she said, pointing to the first officer's chair. "Welcome aboard the Hopper. It looks like this will be home for awhile."

"Okay, Gunny, you're with me, I guess. Computer, who is the ranking security officer on this ship?" Bran asked as he turned back to the turbolift.

After a moment's pause the computer chimed and the matrician's voice came back: "The senior rank in security aboard the Hopper is Lieutenant McDowell."

Bran nodded as he took a deep breath. It was time to get some semblance of normalcy going again. "Where is McDowell located?" he asked, preparing to go report in and find out what McDowell was already ordering so Bran didn't get too much into the Lieutenant's way.

"Lieutenant McDowell is currently in Medical."

"That's where we'll be heading then," Bran said to the Chief Gunner's Mate, a man whose name he'd already forgotten. "I've got sixteen in my group, another three, presuming they were all beamed aboard from the Arctic. How many were aboard before our arrival?" He turned around the turbolift, ordering it back to Medical and presuming the chief gunner's mate followed along with him.

Meanwhile, Hannah was taking the seat Nichols indicated. "Status report," he ordered from the bridge. And taking a cue from Bran, "have all departments report an established CoC." Then, taking a breath, he asked the question he dreaded asking. "What's the status of the Arctic?"

"Aft view," Cara ordered and the horrific site of Borg tractoring SB900 escape pods into the cubes filled the main viewing screen. As if on cue, the Arctic sustained a blast from one of the spheres and exploded into a brilliant light show that once it dissipated left only debris in its wake.

Cara placed her hand on Hannah's arm, consolingly and said, softly, "I'm sorry."

Hannah was quiet for a moment as he stared at the debris field that used to be his ship. "It's okay, she served her purpose one last time. We'll memorialize her later. Right now we need to concentrate on the problems at hand - mainly the large volume of people on this ship and the logistical nightmare that's going to cause."

" many can we find quarters for?" Cara called over her shoulder.

Ensign Palmer cleared his throat, nervously. "If we double...even triple up we can provide quarters for 739, Ma'am," he said.

"That'll help," Cara said. "I want someone from security to run IDs on everyone in our cargo bays and sickbay. We need to put families together if we can." She got a sad look in her eyes, knowing of one child that had no family on board. "Those children without families need to be seen by our counselor...if she made it on board. Billet them together if possible. Then assign quarters to families, civilians and senior officers in that order. The rest will have to make do with replicated cots in the cargo bays." She turned to Communications and said, "try hailing the Zumwalt. We need to know where the hell we're going and we need to unlock our tactical so we can do more than just fire phasers at those sonsobitches out there if they chase us."

"Aye, Ma'am," both Palmer and Kellerman said in unison.

Cara got up and headed for the door to the captain's ready room. "Hannah you have the con," she said and disappeared inside. Her head was throbbing and her stomach was tied in knots. At least in an OR you had a plan....a map to go by....this was way out of her comfort zone. She was in over her head and felt like she was drowning. She plopped down in the desk chair and placed her elbows on the desk...leaning on them as she rubbed her temples.

"Aye, Captain," Hannah said as he began working to relay and carry out Nichols's orders. He sensed the mood and tension on the ship so tried his best to project calm and confidence, that this was just another day at the office. Though never in his career had he experienced anything like this, so it was taking a lot for him to fake it.

===== Medical Bay =====

"Where's Lieutenant McDowell?" Bran asked as he grabbed a passing nurse, immediately upon entry he noticed that just by waiting around he'd never be helped. "The computer states he's here."

"McDowell?" the nurse asked as she brought up a PaDD. "He's in triage, being seen by a corpsman."

"What's his condition?" Bran asked the nurse, looking around at the madhouse that Medical was at the moment. He was sure there would be more flooding in now that the more than three hundred from the Arctic was there.

"Red," the nurse stated before turning to walk away.

Bran sighed. Red. Not expected to survive. "Computer," he stated, not willing to run around trying to determine who was supposed to be in charge here. Starfleet sent him out to fill a chief of security billet, then that's what he damned well will do. "At this time I'm assuming command of security on the Hopper, please acknowledge status update."

"Acknowledged, Chief of Security assumed by Chief Warrant Officer Curither Bran at this time. Access codes and security codes transferred."

"Okay, Gunny, we need to get some people here to stand by, Medical's going to be a hotspot, especially for tense and traumatized who believe their injuries are far worse then others being helped."

"I have no idea how many security people we have on board, sir," Taggert replied. "But I would assume there are a few in the evacuees down in the main cargo bay."

The EMH walked over to the two men and said, "State the nature of the medical emergency."

"Sorry," a nurse said, rushing. "It seems we are having an issue with this thing. The number of injured evacuees has overwhelmed it, I think," she said as she escorted the holographic doctor over to an injured patient.

Taggert looked at Bran and said, "We weren't prepared for this."

"Being assaulted by a malfunctioning nightlight?" Bran asked, glaring at the EMH as it was led away from them. "Or a sudden attack on Federation by the Borg space in prelude to an invasion of the Alpha quadrant? That's something we should have been prepared for." He shook his head as he kept walking. Then he slapped his commbadge: "Bran to Jetzi, secure the industrial replicators, nobody uses them but medical for supplies until we're finished. Begin arming anybody with even a passing weapons qual with the gauss rifles. I don't want to presume we're done with the Borg, yet."

"Aye, sir," came the voice over the comm system. Bran knew that would cause problems, but Nichols would have to deal with that headache, his methods were a bit more straightforward.

Taggert followed as Bran led the way to the auxiliary cargo bay.

=====Auxiliary Cargo Bay=====

"We need to find out how many security or tactical trained people we have at the moment. You said this was a Marine ship previous? If so, gather up the Marines, pair them with Fleeter security and get patrols going," Bran said.

"I'll go check in the Main Cargo Bay," Taggert said and headed in the opposite direction, practically jogging to the nearest turbolift.

Bran was about to speak when the doors to the auxiliary cargo bay opened and the din of loud, raucous voices flooded out, almost physical in their assault.

Bran saw his men, and the remaining three security officers from the Arctic in two double lines, facing away from him. As he watched several of those beamed over from the Arctic attempted to shove their way past the lines and to the door. "Everybody stand down!" Chorsokov was yelling, trying to make himself heard over the general noise. "When we know more-" he stopped as something flew across the small pocket of fighting and struck his shoulder.

Bran's own irritation that one of his officers was struck by the beginnings of a mob of Starfleet and Federation personnel grew white hot inside him.

"ENOUGH!" he yelled, trying to get attention brought to him. Still, he wasn't sure that anyone really heard him considering the noise level. It also seemed that the longer this went on, the more peopel were being drawn into it. The panic that was causing this had to be stopped and stopped now. "Computer, vocal amplification, this area affect" Bran ordered then waiting a few breaths for it to happen he began speaking again, his voice booming across the cargo bay and at a level that was painful to the less sensitive races. "ENOUGH! YOU ARE HEREBY ORDERED TO STAND DOWN!"

It was working, somewhat, as people began looking around and then focusing on him. He was hearing individual voices now, mostly concerns about their situation, not having any information, rumors that were floating around they were heading to the heart of Borg space and even just general anxiety based on the recent attacks and unknown variables. While Bran hoped that training and professionalism could overcome and override that panic, in this instance he was wrong. And not completely unexpectedly so. Even with his greater knowledge of their situation he too found himself facing dread and fear regarding the future. The ship they were on were headed on an unknown course and they weren't even capable of discovering where that course led, or had the means to find out until they were there. Until then, a heightened level of alert had to be maintained. But, with so many aboard the ship - many of whom would now be idle and without purpose, left to drift on just their own thoughts and what little they could get from each other. That was a priority to fix. Those capable of working needed to be given something to do, even if it was just general busy work.

Taggert's words came back to him that this used to be a Marine ship. That gave him a few ideas. But first, he had to get the situation under control.

"I'm Chief Warrant Officer Curither Bran, I've assumed the role as chief of security aboard this vessel until such time as greater authority relieves me. Until that time," he spoke, his voice still being amplified across the section, "I'm declaring that this riot is at an end and will disperse into professionalism. You will order yourselves by department and report to the most senior officer of your departments who will begin establishing a command."

He dodged as another object was thrown at him. He began adjusting the settings on his rifle, still ignoring Meetok's yipping while he still remained in the harness. "As of now you are subject to security. Chorsokov if this mob and riot does not die out and disperse into my orders within thirty seconds, you and the remainder of the security officers will begin taking violators into custody. Force is authorized."

"You can't do that!" someone in a red collar called out. He stepped forward, swaggering like he was used to being in charge and obeyed. "Starfleet Regulations clearly call for -" Whatever his statement was going to be died out as the phaser beam hit him square in the chest. He dropped to the deck like a rag doll, those around him stepping away and making no effort to catch his fall.

"We'll start with stunning," Bran said, but kept the rifle at his shoulder as he stared down the crowd. "Then move up to-"

"You're in violation of Starfleet Security protocols!" another woman called out, her hair coming loose of her duty bun but her gold trim indicating she was probably security. Bran wished she'd seen the need to obtain order before trying to maintain it. She dropped just as quickly. The grumbling of the crowd was changing but they were also backing away. Those few that tried to move forward found themselves staring down the end of a phaser rifle. "End amplification," Bran ordered.

He waited a full two minutes before he judged the volume was dying down and those in the room were rethinking their previous actions. "Now," Bran said as he began staging his men for greater tactical response in case they decided to try to mob them once again. Meanwhile other security officers were coming forward to join their ranks, at Bran's order. As were any Marines in the crowd.

"Pretty ballsy," a staff sergeant said as he came to stand by Bran. "You're gonna face some hell for it."

"I know," Bran said, shrugging. Wouldn't be the first time, he knew. "Do me a favor, Staff Sergeant? Begin organizing medical details. Corpsmen, doctors, nurses, anybody with advanced first aid training. We have a lot of wounded and we need to see to them."

"Yes, Chief Warrant," the SSgt said as he moved away, calling out to several other Marines. His wrist PaDD beeped, indicating an incoming message. Orders from the bridge regarding organizations. Bran frowned at the use of security but - problems with that would come later. It's what happened when you let a doctor play captain while a transport ship captain was first officer. Aside from the department used, it was a good idea and actually worked into his thoughts.

"Bran to security..." he began issuing orders on his own while also tapping out messages to check on the other areas of the ship. He was going to busy getting himself around in the next few hours. But at least the doctor playing captain had capabilities and knew priorities. Children - that would work to distract. Families, that would help calm anxieties and give the fortunate opportunity to begin comforting and consoling the less fortunate. Quarters, food, basic needs solved the primal urges allowing people to focus on higher thought processes. Maybe he shouldn't have been quick to judge the one slip up he saw in her orders.

=====Main Cargo Bay=====

Taggert walked through the doors and looked at the crowd. Some had broken off in groups and huddled together, scared and confused. Others had taken up refuge in out of the way corners...behind cargo containers and palette stacks and others perched on whatever they could as they awaited some kind of news. Once Taggert was spotted, many rushed around him, battering him with questions. He held up his hands and looked for something to stand on so he could be seen. "Alright....alright. Calm down, everyone," he called out. "I need everyone's attention. Please. I need all SB900 Marines and security people to come up here to the front. If you are a civilian with any kind of secuirty or law enforecment training...please...we need all of the help we can get. If you have any medical training...please report to Sickbay. They are overwhelmed with injured evacuees and can use your help. Anyone with engineering, Strat Ops, Navigation or helm experience....this may be a long trip and our bridge officers are going to need to get some rest at some point."

The cargo bay echoed with a myriad of conversations as a group of twenty formed to Taggert's right. Two men stepped up to Taggert and one said, "I'm LtJG Hays. I was a security officer on SB900 and this is CPO Riley. He was a brig guard." He pointed to another man who stepped forward. "This is Staff Sergeant O'Niel. He and his buddies," he indicates several muscularly built men, "are Marines."

"We were on leave from the November," O'Niel spoke up. "It was in one of the outer most docking canopies and one of the first to be destroyed."

"Yeah. We watched her go," one of the other Marines added.

A young man in a tattered black shirt with gold trim limped up to Taggert. "I'm an Engineer. Matter/Energy Specialist," he said. "How can I help?"

Slowly, the area in front of Taggert filled with volunteers from all specialties and Taggert did his best to send them where they could be of most use.

The last one was an older woman who said, "I'm Sister Abina. My companion," she crossed herself, "and I were on sabbatical from the Themis Colony school on Apreunus. I can help with the children."



Praying for the End of Time Hopper - Aft Cargo Bay Several hours after "On the Run"
Show content
Bran approached the makeshift security area in the Aft Cargo Bay noting that the area was quiet but with a buzz. Security wasn’t the only department to set up operations there, with other departments quartering out the main cargo hold. But, finally, after several hours and putting down several more determined agitants, things were calming down and getting back to a Starfleet normal. Those personnel aboard the Hopper were reporting to their departments and doing what could be done.

Extras from Engineering and Ops were actually using what they could to help make up makeshift ‘quarters’ in the open areas. It was mostly just a couple walls and a curtain with two crude beds apiece, but it did help create the semblance of privacy. Science officers were really unnecessary, especially since there were no labs, no stellar cartography and only the most rudimentary of sensors were working. Instead they were trying to comb through the onboard computers to determine how much of the data they had in the Delta Quadrant remained in the ship’s computer banks.

Security and the Marines were still patrolling the ship. Now that the personnel were settling down, however, it was getting a bit tedious. There were no indications of Borg pursuit or impending attacks, but Bran was unwilling to let up until he was sure the danger was past them. To that end, he passed by a few security officers who sat at a makeshift desk and filling out their reports on PaDDs. He exchanged a few words with the groups, making sure to offer his thanks to the Marines sitting with security for their help.

His destination, however was the back wall where Aide sat crosslegged on the floor between two banks of storage lockers. Once Bran reached him put his back to the wall and slid until he was sitting. Meetok scrabbled to get out of his harness the moment Bran was seated. As soon as the puppy was free, Bran snapped the lead to his harness and wound the handle end around his ankle so Meetok could run as much as he wanted…but only as far as the lead would carry him.

A plastic rectangular bag was dropped into his lap. Bran picked it up and looked over at Aide. “Beef Chili Mac?” he asked, the disappointment evident in his voice. He let the packet drop back into his lap, but his stomach was reminding him of his level of activity and that he’d foregone food and rest for quite a while.

“Either that or the stroganoff,” Aide said with a smile. The Betazoid’s dark eyes glanced over Bran and his smile faltered somewhat. “But I figured this was preferable. Sorry, I didn’t realize Ops began distributing meals until it was almost too late.”

“It’s okay,” Bran said as he ripped the packet open and pulled out the entrée pack and heater and began making his ‘lunch’. He didn’t mind the emergency rations. While it didn’t seem like a lot of food, the calorie count was very high – and they were heavy on the carbs and protein for energy. It was just that the Beef Chili Mac was one of his least favorite of the meals. Until he started working with the dog during therapy, he never knew that it also looked like packs of dog food. Of course he did know it now. He set the entrée to the side to allow it to sufficiently heat while he accepted the thermos from Aide.

“Caf?” he asked, almost excited.

“Brewed it myself,” Aide said, “so it should meet your expectations.”

“You’re a godsend,” Bran said eagerly turning the cap into a cup and pouring out a measure of the dark liquid, approving of the steam that came out of the thermos. He sighed after he guzzled down the first cupful and poured a second.

“Might want to go easy on that,” Aide said, “not sure when I’m going to get to replicate more. With navigation controls locked out, we’re not sure if we can pass by a sufficient hydrogen supply.”

“I guess that’s the reason for the emergency rations?” Bran asked.

“Yep. They’re satisfying, calorie wise, and designed to require less replicator resources when we need to start replicating them. Which should be by lunch tomorrow. This ship is over capacity as far as its emergency supplies are concerned.”

“Yeah,” Bran said pulling the puppy into his lap, Meetok sniffing around the still heating entrée pack. Bran looked through the rest of the packet to see if there was something he could give the dog to help hold him over. He knew he’d have to share some of his rations with Meetok. But as he was searching, Aide pushed over a small measure of the same entrée that Bran had. Meetok squirmed out of Bran’s grasp and went right for the food. Bran put his arm around Aide’s shoulders and pulled him toward him. It was a quick, gentle kiss he planted on Aide’s temple but, as always, for Bran he wanted more. He never thought he was a person for whom addiction was a problem, but that was before he met Aide during boot. “Thank you,” he whispered, always grateful when Aide wasn’t complaining about the puppy.

And odd behavior considering Aide is the one that got the puppy for him. After Bran was released from the hospital and had to give up the young dog he was working with there, helping to train therapy dogs for people that needed them. It was having the dog to care for that finally got through to an extremely obstinate patient. A patient that refused to even attempt to work with the staff at the behavioral health wing and still tried to find ways to finish the job he screwed up when he missed with the first shot.

“You need to find a place to keep him, you can’t keep carrying him around like that. It’s undignified and those who aren’t afraid you’re going to stun them as soon as you see them aren’t taking you seriously.”

Bran sighed but didn’t say anything. He really didn’t want to have an argument at this point. He pulled out the pack of something that was called cheese but Bran was sure made by people who’d only seen pictures of the stuff. Nevertheless, he began spreading it on bland, tasteless crackers. He’d wash down each bite with some of the caf.

“Any updates?” Aide asked.

“No,” Bran answered, watching people walking by and going about their business. “People have been trying but whatever the ‘Sanctuary Protocol’ is deep into the systems. It’s also locked out access to the computer core memory and databases to prevent it from being manually deleted or reset. Without that, we’re still flying blindly to some unknown area. And nobody has a clue why.”

“What about the spooks?”

Bran shrugged. “They kept quiet for a while, as if trying to make people think they weren’t as out of the loop as everyone else. But eventually even they’ve admitted they don’t know what’s going on. A couple pilots tried to start up the shuttle we have onboard, but before they could determine if the hanger doors would open, the shuttle went into Sanctuary Protocol as well. Fortunately, they could shut that down before it left a large hole in the ship flying out. We’re stuck, good and stuck.”

“I don’t like it,” Aide said, “but at least we survived the Borg attack.” The worry that they wouldn’t was evident in the single sentence but as if to underscore the point, Aide laid his head on Bran’s shoulder, moving closer to him.

“Neither do I,” Bran said, scanning the crowd. He may be much more willing to be public with his relationship with the Betazoid security officer – even to the point where he was granted a relationship waiver that was valid until a CO filed a complaint that somehow their relationship comprised command structure of Bran’s team or the department he ran.

Or would have ran. “I don’t think we have a ship assignment anymore. Or, I’m thinking from the data I’ve seen collected that the ship we were assigned has been destroyed. Right now, I only know of two ships that survived the invasion.”

Bran gave the last half of a cracker to Meetok and leaned into Aide while he watched the Husky puppy try to clear the cheese sticking on the roof of his mouth. After several minutes, where Bran felt Aide sleeping through their imzadi link, he pulled his entrée out and used his off hand to slowly and carefully eat his share, his dominant arm caught by his sleeping fiancé and Bran didn’t want to disturb him. They could all use some rest even if only because of the situation they found themselves.

Meetok didn’t gobble the portion Bran fed him as quickly but he did still eat it quickly, his body making circles around the makeshift bowl Bran served the food in, his tiny but already beginning to fuzz hair wagging excitedly. After Meetok licked the bowl clean and then tried to chew through it to get the last bit of taste, Bran realized he was going to have to find some water for the dog before too much longer. And some for himself, but it was more important for Meetok. He was still young and hyperactive, he needed hydration more than Bran did at this point.

Fresh water was going to be as much a problem as food would be soon. If they didn’t reach their destination or gain control over the ship again. From what Nichols said, this ship was mothballed, he wasn’t sure how much emergency supplies they really had. The rations would keep for years, but not water. If it went bad they were in some serious trouble once the hydrogen tanks were depleted and the replicators couldn’t function any longer.

If they were on a planet or habitable moon, stranded as they were, Bran would find it much more adventurous and fun – but they weren’t. On a planet they could forage for edibles, fresh water, make shelters and do what they had to do to survive. On a craft like this, their supplies were extremely limited and once it was used up, so were they.

He leaned against the wall, trying not to move so as not to jostle Aide and wake him prematurely. He figured he could skip the next scheduled patrol and let Aide nap. His decision was cemented when Meetok slipped between him and Aide, curled up and was asleep in moments. Bran adjusted his rifle across his lap and was about to nod off himself when his commbadge chirped.

“Chief Bran?” the voice said, “Could you come to the Main Hanger, we need you.”

Bran sighed as he shifted slowly. Aide woke instantly, having years of practice at coming awake instantly. A talent as impressive as that Marines and Security learned to sleep anywhere. “On my way,” he said, giving Aide another quick kiss on the top of his head and unwound the lead from his ankle.

Aide mumbled something, then leaned into the corner where he sat and closed his eyes again, only remaining awake long enough to grab Meetok’s lead from Bran as the Trill stood and began making his way to the main hanger.
Aftermath: Zumwalt USS Zumwalt, various locations 2 Hours After Attack on Starbase 900
Show content

Drew leaned against the sink in the fresher just off the bridge. The last couple of hours had been a massive drain on him. Now that the Zumwalt and the Hopper were clear of the battle zone he just needed a moment to collect himself. Splashing cool water onto his face he looked up at the reflection in the mirror. "What the hell are you going to do?" He stared at the haunted expression that did not answer back. He finally shook his head and turned to exit the fresher.

On the bridge, Lieutenant Ja'xon's thoughts were with the men he has lost. He gave orders for all of their dead to be placed in the med bay and for the Borg drones to be taken to cargo bay 1. They may have been his enemy today, but the fact that they are slaves was not lost on him. The status of his men on Starbase 900 was looking worse. It appeared that a few may have gotten aboard the Hopper but he didn't know specifics.

Drew stepped back onto the bridge. His eyes went first to Ja'xon at the tactical station. "Lieutenant Ja'xon. Would you please hail the Hopper."

"The Hopper?" Ja'xon looked up from the screen, "Yes, sir. Hailing them now." A confused look crossed his face, "At least, I am attempting to. I am not able to raise them."

Drew paused in his move towards the Captain's Chair and stepped over to stand over Ja'xon. "What do you mean you can't raise them?"

"Communications seem to be down." He said simply.

The ensign at the flight control station manipulated the controls, a frown forming on her face as she did. She kept her eyes on her station as she spoke out. "Sir, helm control isn't responding either."

Ja'xon looked back to the tactical station and pressed a few buttons, "And Tactical seems to be as well." He added. "Everything seems to be operating just fine, we just can't get the system to respond to any of our commands." This is why he was a grunt. On the ground, the only thing he had to worry about functioning properly was his men and himself.

Drew looked back and forth from the tactical station to the helm several times. One system going down would be attributed to a hardware issue, but two separate systems going down simultaneously. "Computer, what is the reason for the operational lockout."

=^=Sanctuary Protocol has been initiated. =^=

Drew gave an annoyed shake of his head. He'd never heard of this protocol and honestly didn't care. "Computer, disengage protocol and restore control of the ship. Authorization Acting Captain Knight Delta Two Four Five Omega."

=^=Unable to comply. Protocol engaged under orders of Commander, Delta Exploration Initiative=^=

The communications system on the tactical system engaged in an intra-ship mode. "Bridge, Chief Kawalsky here. I'm in cargo bay one...there's something down here you need to see."

Ja'xon spoke up first, "What do you have Chief?"

"Easier to just show you."

Drew rubbed his temple and took a deep breath. He turned to the ensign at the flight control station. "You have the bridge ensign." Tapping Ja'xon on the shoulder and gesturing to the exit, "Let's go check it out Lieutenant Ja'xon."

Ja'xon said nothing, but gave an acknowledgment with a head nod and began to follow Drew off the bridge.

The ensign just shook her head. "Fat lot of good I am going to do on a bridge where the controls don't respond."

CARGO BAY ONE, Two minutes later

Chief Kawalsky, one of Drew's special warfare operators, greeted the pair of officers on their arrival in the cargo bay by simply gesturing to a single Borg drone that lay on the floor. He also gestured at the four marines and a Hospital Corpsman that knelt by Three of Eight. "Corpsman Garcia, the marines and I brought the fallen drones here, but after we laid them all out they disintegrated..." He pointed to Three of Eight, "...all but that one."

"Disintegrated?" Ja'xon spoke up, "Is that normal for Borg drones?"

Drew nodded. He pointed at Three of Eight. "Each Borg drone is implanted with a data chip that contains mission orders from the Collective. When they become damaged and unable to complete their mission objectives, a failsafe protocol activates to prevent an enemy from obtaining valuable intelligence.

Ja'xon crossed his arms as he studied the laid out drone, "Is it alive? That may explain why it is still here, perhaps we should leave and open the cargo bay doors." Ja'xon didn't like the thought of an enemy lurking around the ship while they were powerless to operate it.

====== Transporter Room, Deck Two, USS Zumwalt ======

Christopher gasped inside of his helmet as he materialized in the transporter room. Slapping the side of his helmet, he heard the seals on his helmet disengage and air flowed in. Ripping off the helmet and tossing it aside with a clatter, he climbed to his feet. Looking at the wide eyed technician who was staring at him with a look of disbelief.

"What? You've never seen a pilot undergo emergency transport?" he asked rhetorically as he removed the metal seal ring on his neck, which opened his collar as he walked out of the room and into the corridor. Walking to the fore end of the passageway, he tapped a wall display. "Computer, who is in command of this ship?" he asked, slightly annoyed.

=A= The USS Zumwalt is currently under the command of Lieutenant Andrew Knight =A=

"Locate Lieutenant Knight."

=A= He is currently on Deck Three in Cargo Bay One. =A=

Christopher walked towards an open ladder well and began his climb downward. Sliding down the railing, his boots hit the deck with a clang and he wheeled into the Cargo Bay. Stepping towards the assembled group, he saw their specimen- a seemingly wounded Borg drone on the deck in front of them.


"What the hell is going on here?" Christopher inquired, his voice dead calm with a hint of a knife's edge.

Drew faced Christopher and noted the man seemed more intimidating in a flight suit than any other time he'd come across the man in a normal duty uniform. "Colonel Mitchell? I didn't know you were aboard."

Chris smirked slightly. "I hitched a ride-" jerking his thumb toward the Borg lying on the deck. "What the hell is that thing doing on the deck? Why have you not taken a phaser and shot that thing in the head?" he asked again, his tone slightly more forceful with the fine edge becoming more apparent as he tried to restrain the rage that was building within him. The Borg had come like a thief in the night and wiped out thousands of souls in a mere instant and this thing was now lying on the deck plates, practically basking in their mercy. It took every ounce of self-restraint that he had to not pull out his sidearm and fire his phaser into thing until it vaporized.

Drew looked from Christopher to Three of Eight. He gave his head a slight cock to one side, "Frankly, I'm hoping to get some valuable intel from this drone."

At that moment Three of Eight suddenly sits upright, "We are Borg!" he practically yells. Except, he really was no longer sure. Confusion was a very rare feeling for a Borg drone, when you share thoughts with countless others someone typically has an explanation or answer. This time though, he is a lone in his thoughts. An overbearing feeling, being alone in your thoughts. He didn't even realize he was surrounded by those he attacked just hours before. He was stuck in his own mind, trying to understand what he is experiencing.

"What have you done?" Three of Eight says to no one in particular.

Corpsman Garcia fell back, his legs kicking and skidding on the deck as he tried to get away from Three of Eight now sitting upright. "Holy crap!!!"

Drew's hand dropped to the sidearm holstered at his waist as he too stepped back quickly. He kept a wary eye on Three of Eight. He raised a hand to signal his Chief and the marines to hold fire for the moment. "Hold your fire!"

Chris' jaw stiffened. "Follow the Lieutenant's order. He's in command here."

Chief Kawalsky had his carbine up and pointed at the back of Three of Eight's head. His finger about to depress the trigger when Drew gave the command to hold.

The Marine commander reacted much in the same way as the chief, and if he had never become a Marine the drone would already have met his end in a most violent way. But he has been conditioned to obey orders above all else and it took an enormous amount of restraint to hold back. Ja'xon looked to his right at the chief and reached over and placed his hand on the barrel of his weapon, lowering it.

"Lieutenant, please tell me you have a very good reason why this thing isn't full of holes right now." He made sure to make eye contact with his Marine team leader and then gave a subtle nod toward the drone, a nonverbal command to keep their phasers pointed at it. "I am a man of discipline, but the Klingon in me is really wanting to kill this thing."

Drew stepped cautiously around to the front of Three of Eight, though he did stay a good meter and a half away. "Because there is the distinct possibility that the data processor was damaged and therefore no reason for the fail-safe to kick in." He looked up at Ja'xon. "Or the fail-safe is damaged and that data still intact."

"We might be able to pull some valuable information from that." Ja'xon said as he walked around to the front of the drone as well, "You two," he said pointing at two of his Marines, "grab this thing and take it to some place more secure. Does this ship have a brig, Lieutenant?"

Drew was about to answer Ja'xon when Three of Eight suddenly took action.

"No." The Borg spoke again, "We cannot allow you to gain access to any information!" Three of Eight then rises to his feet and pushes through the two marines coming towards him.

The drone stumbles a bit, thrown off by an internal sensor functioning improperly. He makes it to the entrance to the cargo bay none the less. Raising his arm to the controls of the door, his hand rotates out to his engineering tool. Quickly, Three of Eight is able to shut the door, lock it, and restrict any external access.

The most logical step would be to head to the bridge and take control of the ship. He thought to himself, Though I am not equipped with many effective weapons, I should be able to use this vessel against them. Stumbling still, the lone drone heads towards the most likely location of the bridge.

Drew threw himself against the bay door as it slammed shut. He sidestepped to the control panel and keyed in his manual access code to open the doors. The bay doors remained closed. He tapped his commbadge. "Computer activate intruder alert protocols ship wide and shut down all turbolifts."

Force fields all over the ship activated restricting movement throughout the ship. Security bulkheads slammed into place between decks and various frames of the ship.

Drew turned to Kawalsky and thumbed in the direction of the control panel. "Do your thing Chief."

Chief Kawalsky was at the panel in an instant. He half listened to the marine leader as he got the panel off.

"Those shields tuned to keep Borg from just walking through them?" Ja'xon had a threat analysis done on the Borg and that ability was brought up numerous times. "All Marines, we have a lone Borg drone wandering the ship. QRF teams 1 and 2, I want you to head him off, assume he is heading to the bridge. Team 3, I want you to find something that can cut through the cargo bay doors and come break us out in case our chief here can't. Report to me every 10 minutes."

He looked at Drew and the others in the room, "Is there any other way out of here?"

Drew looked at Kawalsky. "We gonna need another way out Chief?"

Turning to Drew. "If this is your idea of gathering intel, we will need to have a serious talk. Somebody give me a rifle, it's time we went hunting!"

Kawalsky was digging around in the panel, but turned his head to Drew with a you kidding me expression. Another twist of something inside the panel and the doors were open. He spared a glance at Ja'xon. "That answer your question, Sergeant?"

Ja'xon, not entirely use to his new rank, didn't even notice the Chief referred to him as his old rank. "Excellent work, Marines!" he said, looking back at his men, "Let’s go stop this thing." At that, Ja'xon and the marines rush out of the cargo bay.

Drew exchanged looks with Kawalsky as the two set off in pursuit of the marines and the drone.

Three of Eight was moving steadily through the corridors before he ran straight into a shield wall. Which confused him, Borg should not be hindered by Federation shields. Beginning to panic, he looked around frantically for an escape. Not seeing one, he rotated his hand out for a cutting tool and began to cut a hole through the interior bulkhead.

At that moment, four marines came around the corner from the direction of the turbolift and Lieutenant Ja'xon and the ones with him came up from behind. "Stop!" Ja'xon yelled, "Stop what you are doing." Ja'xon raised his weapon and pointed it at the drone. "Computer, deactivate shields in this sector."

The shields dropped and all of the marines began to move closer.

Drew and Kawalsky came up on the marines closing in around Three of Eight. "Max stun only! I want this drone alive!"

The drone ceased trying to cut through the hull and turned to look at those surrounding him. It turned its head slightly before it finally addresses them, "Species 5618," he said confidently looking at Lieutenant Knight, "and Species...5008? No, a hybrid variety with species 5618?" he said to Ja'xon almost as if asking him the question.

Three of Eight, now calm and beginning to grasp his situation addresses everyone, "We will not resist. There is no need for violence." His words are more precise, but still carry a robotic overtone, "We do not wish to be injured further or destroyed."

Christopher stepped forward slowly, his rifle in hand but slightly lowered. "You say that but you running from my security teams tells me and everyone standing here otherwise. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't allow these men and women permission to shoot you dead. You killed their brothers and sisters in arms. Hell, your people killed a few of my pilots. Those men and women were like my own sons and daughters! Yet you stand here saying that you do not wish to be destroyed! I say 'Screw that!'" Taking his rifle, he pressed forward and pressed it against the forehead of the drone.

"I'll give you ten seconds to make your case. Ten. Seconds." he said as he armed the rifle. "Anything beyond that and I will personally make sure that there is nothing left of you. Do you understand?" Christopher asked, his voice now deep and guttural. The rage was flowing through him like a river of searing lava, tinging his vision a sharp shade of scarlet. "Your time begins now."

"Stand down Colonel!" Drew's words came out more sharply than he intended considering he was addressing a superior officer.

'Who is this guy?' Ja'xon thought to himself as he observed this Officer losing control.

Using the distraction to his advantage, he signaled for his men to get in a bit closer, he needed to maintain control. Despite being upset himself, the Marines who died were all under his command after all, Ja'xon has trained his entire life to keep his emotions under control. A Klingon in a fit of anger didn't fit well in most situations. The Marine Commander stayed silent for now, observing, staying ready and alert.

Three of Eight was essentially frozen as he quietly observed the situation. His thoughts felt slow and sluggish, he didn't like being of one mind. None the less, he found the most logical way out of this situation.

Speech was considered a more primitive form of communication when you share every thought and impulse with everyone around you. His words came out in jagged phrases, meant to express his thoughts and get to the point. “We... No, this drone: designation Three of Eight, is malfunctioning. No longer connected to Borg collective. Alone. Surrounded by enemy hostiles. Borg directives are to assimilate or destroy. Three of Eight no longer receives directives. Alone. Prefer to stay alive and not be destroyed. Ignoring last Borg directive."

The drone turned his head slightly, looking at the human with the weapon pointed at him, "Three of Eight ran from observed danger. Many weapons pointed. Talk of accessing internal data banks. Idea is frightening. Three of Eight did not harm Starfleet. Engineering drone. Fixes, repairs, accesses computer. Combat is not prime function. Three of Eight is alone."

Christopher raised his eyebrow. "You're alone? You can't send signals or communicate with the Collective?" Moving his finger away from the trigger of the rifle, he lowered it slightly so that it was pointing to the drone's chest plate.

"Correct. Alone." Three of Eight said again.

Turning to Ja’xon and Drew, he motioned with a free hand. "Keep him confined for now and post two Marines on him at all times with solid slug weapons. If he tries anything, shoot him in the head so that he can't adapt. No questions asked. Do you get me?" he asked, his eyebrow still raised. A Borg drone was nothing to take lightly, even with these declarations of remorse. He didn't trust this thing as far as he could throw it and the last thing he wanted was to allow it to run around the ship unsupervised.

"Aye sir." Was the only response Ja'xon gave to this unknown officer giving him orders. "You two," He said, pointing to two of his Marines, "Escort this, Three Eight back to cargo bay one and begin a 2 hour watch." He paused for a moment, then looked towards the only noncommissioned officer in the hall, "Corporal, create a duty watch rotation over this drone. Each watch will be 2 hours and will be made up of our men and the security personnel. Report to me the moment you have it completed."

His men all did as they were ordered and began to escort the Borg drone to the cargo bay.

Drew shook his head and spoke a little forcefully. "Belay that." He looked closely at Three of Eight and motioned the other way down the corridor. "Take Three of Eight to Sickbay. Have the EMH and Corpsman Garcia treat his injuries and then escort him...," He paused in thought for a moment, " crew quarters. Door locked from the outside, replicator deactivated and a level four force field in place. Maintain the two person guard." He looked about to see if anyone wanted to question or challenge his orders.

"That thing doesn't get injured, it heals probably due to the little nanites flowing through his veins but you're right, Lieutenant. Have the medics look him over and keep him inside of a Level 10 force field. My order still stands for the weapons." Christopher spun to face the Borg. "I swear to you, if you abuse my trust, these nice men and women make sure you suffer to your last." Regarding the personnel around him. "Take him away." he ordered, the edge in his voice tempered with fatigue.

The marines turned to look at Ja'xon, awaiting a confirmation of his original order or the one the other officers just gave. "Take it to sick bay and await further instruction." He said to his men somewhat quietly.

The Marines then began to escort Three of Eight to sickbay, when Ja'xon looked to Knight, "I understand your reasoning to treat its injuries in sickbay. However, I don't agree with putting this Three Eight in its own quarters. That arm it used to lock us in the cargo bay was the same it was using to try and cut through this bulkhead," He pointed at the marks left by the Borg drone, "We don't understand its capabilities and we need to have two sets of eyes on it at all times."

Drew gave the recommendation some thought for a moment and finally nodded his head slowly. "Point noted Lieutenant Ja'xon."

Ja'xon continued, "As the acting head of security on this ship, I recommend we leave it in sick bay under armed guard until we understand its capabilities. I also recommend we have engineering and anyone with significant Borg intelligence to analyze that arm and the rest of its technology." He turned his head and made eye contact with Chief Kawalsky.

Chief Kawalsky gave a nod to Ja'xon. "I have about ten special warfare operators that are combat effective. You can add us to the guard detail rotation as well."

"Thank you, Chief, when you get a spare moment I would like for you or another engineering officer to meet me in sick bay to look this thing over."

Kawalsky nodded his head, "We will be sure to send someone to meet you."

Ja'xon turned back to the officers, "I would say that the Borg are, for now at least, not our primary concern anymore." Ja'xon stepped to Chris and offered his hand, "Colonel. sorry, Second Lieutenant Ja'xon, Acting Marine CO. I think it would be best if Lieutenant Knight and I briefed you on everything that has happened up to this point."

Christopher nodded. "Very well. It's your ship, lead the way." he said, handing over the rifle to one of the other Marines in the corridor.

What the Hell Is the Sanctuary Protocol Captain Cabin/Ready Room Approximately 45 minutes after 'Aftermath: Zumwalt'
Show content

Christopher, Ja'xon and Drew walked down the corridor near the bridge. Drew activated the door mechanism when they reached the Captain's Cabin/Ready Room. He paused and gestured for Christopher to go first. "You are senior sir."

Turning to Drew, he took a moment and nodded. "Very well." Stepping through the door, he stepped to the side and allowed Drew to make his way behind the desk. Assuming a position of Parade Rest, he looked around the office. For some reason, it seemed overly spartan to him, almost as if the engineers had tried to strip every single creature comfort from the place. There was no mistake about it- this was a ship built for war from the inside out.

Drew looked at Ja'xon and gestured to him as well. "Go on Lieutenant Ja'xon."

Ja'xon followed in behind the Colonel and approached the front of the desk and assumed the position of attention just as Chris came in to parade rest. "Sir." Was all he said as he waited for Lieutenant Knight to come up next to him.

Drew stepped in line with Ja'xon and assumed a stance of perfect attention. He cast a tired gaze at the ceiling. "Computer transfer command of the Zumwalt to Colonel Christopher Mitchell. Authorization Knight Delta Two Four Five Omega."

The computer beeped an affirmative. =A= Authorization Confirmed. Colonel Christopher Mitchell, state command code. =A=

"Colonel Christopher Mitchell. Authorization Mitchell-Four-Nine-Zero-Sigma. Confirm." Christopher said robotically, his shoulders slumping. The past two hours had been emotionally taxing to say the least and it was starting to show.

=A= Command Transfer Confirmed. Colonel Christopher Mitchell is now confirmed as Commanding Officer, USS Zumwalt. Logs noted. =A=

Christopher swiveled his chair to face Drew. "Now that that's done, I want to compliment you for what you did out there, your tactics were pretty impressive and if it wasn't for you, a lot more people would have died." Christopher said, wincing slightly as the names of those that he knew flashed through his mind, filling him with a sickening sense of failure.

Drew gestured at Ja'xon while maintaining eye contact with Chris. "Had a lot of help sir."

Looking to Ja'xon, Chris smiled. "Good job, Marine. Were you doing the shooting out there?"

"In a manner of speaking, sir." Ja'xon replied, "I had to assume the tactical station on the bridge, you could say I shot a lot from there. As far as the combat on board goes, I'm afraid all the shooting came from my men. Our success lies in those men and the NCOs who led them." Ja'xon was very new to this officer way of life, he was used to be that NCO who led men in to battle not the man giving orders from the bridge.

"Even still, you did a great job and when this is over, you can both expect commendations for your work."

Drew looked haggard as he thought of Austin, his older brother, who had died when Star Base 900 was destroyed. He didn't know whether Meredith, his sister-in-law, or Ashley, his niece, had made it to the Hopper or not. He just shook his head. "We should have saved more sir." His expression switched from sad to one of acute annoyance. "Now with this Sanctuary Protocol activated, we can't even contact the USS Hopper to find out how many souls made it off the star base. I'd really like to know what the hell is going on with the lockout to our navigation and communication systems!"

"There might still be more people alive. We'll worry about that once I figure this out. Has Engineering or Ops managed to override the lockout?" Chris asked.

Drew shook his head and shrugged. "To be honest sir, I'm not entirely sure who is even aboard, what with the battle and the dealing with the Borg drone." He gave the matter a moments more thought. "The in-port watch does call for one officer and one senior enlisted assistant in engineering. Though I don't know who those people are off hand."

Christopher nodded. "Then let's find out-" Reaching forward, he tapped the communications console to open a shipwide channel. "Engineering Duty Officer to the Ready Room, at the rush!" Tapping the console again, he closed the channel.

Drew began stroking his chin while they waited for Eleanor to arrive. He was thinking hard on what this Sanctuary Protocol was and more to the point why the Acting Captain could not deactivate it or even access it. He stopped stroking his chin as an idea came to mind. "I wonder."

Christopher looked over to Drew. "I know that look. If you have an idea or you know something about this, then you need to tell me and tell me now."

Drew gave the idea forming in his mind a moments more thought before speaking. "What if this Sanctuary Protocol is so...highly requires the two senior officers aboard to even access the program files?" He cocked his head and shrugged his shoulders.

Christopher's eyes narrowed. "If you're talking about something similar to the Omega Protocol, that requires Level 10 Clearance which is not something that I have, Lieutenant."

Ja'xon spoke up, "The computer should be able to test your theory, Knight. You gave the command codes to change the leadership on board to the Colonel here. If you both offer up your codes as the CO and First Officer of this ship, the computer may decide to enlighten us." Operating computers and dealing with command codes weren't within his strengths column, but he did have the capability to figure problems out with limited resources. "At this point gentlemen, we should test any plausible theory asap, before we dismiss them."

Drew gestured at Christopher. "You're now the CO. You'll need to enter your code first."

"Computer, initiate coded information release of Sanctuary Protocol. Authorization Mitchell-Four-Nine-Zero-Sigma

Drew followed suit. "Computer, recognize Andrew Knight, Acting First Officer. I concur with release of information regarding Sanctuary Protocols. Authorization Knight Delta Two Four Five Omega."

=A=Release of Sanctuary Protocol files authorized. Please state specific information request.=A=

"State objective of Sanctuary Protocol."

=A= Sanctuary Protocol. Starfleet Command Emergency Order Zero-Nine-Eight-Eight-Three-One- Alpha- One. Order states that in the event of catastrophic attack that incapacitates or kills primary Task Force Command Staff and eliminates Task Force Command base, all ships in the immediate vicinity will initiate the Sanctuary Protocol, which will lock all tactical, communication, and navigation systems until coded radio burst is submitted by ranking command officer. with Clearance Level Ten or above. Upon entry of command codes, Phase Two will activate Navigation protocols and lock in course for designated Emergency Rally Point. Limited Command Access will be restored until arrival at Rally Point=A=

Chris raised his eyebrow. "Computer, what is the designated Emergency Rally Point for Task Force 38?" he inquired, leaning forward in the chair.

=A= Designated Emergency Rally Point is Forward Operating Base Anchorage. Registry DS-367. =A=

Glancing at Drew and Ja'xon. "Your thoughts on this? We need somewhere to go and this Anchorage seems to be the place but if anyone has qualms, I need to know now."

"We are lacking any other options, sir. We may not be able to alter our course anyways." Ja'xon said.

Drew stared at Mitchell for a moment while he collected his thought. "Well, there is an Old Earth naval expression sir, any port in a storm."

Chris nodded. "As always, you're both right." Turning his attention to the computer, Chris spoke again. "Computer, initiate Phase Two of Sanctuary Protocol"

=A= Phase Two initiated. Course set for Emergency Rally Point Alpha. Partial Command Systems restored. =A=

"Heh, easier than I thought it would be." Chris said slightly sardonically. "Gentlemen, you're dismissed. Lieutenant Knight, you have the bridge. I have an engineer to find..." he said as he rose from the chair and walked through the door onto the bridge, his footsteps echoing on the deckplates.

Checking Up On Our Esteemed Guest Deck One, Officers' Country - Lady Catherine's Quarters 15 minutes after What the Hell is the Sanctuary Protocol
Show content
Drew had busy over the last hour dealing with Three of Eight, the Borg drone now in custody and being held in Sickbay. He now had a free moment and went to check up on the other individual that had transported aboard during the battle. He came to the door of the quarters his PADD said was assigned to Lady Catherine Waddington and depressed the chime.

Bilbo hearing the chime barked as he had been programmed to do. "Oh hush Bilbo you make a frightful noise." She hushed the large dog. "Who is it?" She called.

Drew scanned the upper door frame. "My name is Lieutenant Knight. Acting XO for the Zumwalt."

"Come in." she called "Bilbo be nice or I'll check your programming." she warned the Droid who gave a Little growl. "Sorry about that Lieutenant Knight I think that they programmed defiance into him." she smiled as she held out her hand.

Drew took Lady Catherine's hand and bowed slightly. "Ambassador."

"Interesting that you know who I am. I did not make my job title known in my SOS

Drew offered a gentle smile and nod of his head as he explained how he knew her identity. "I'm with Starfleet Special Warfare Command. I receive reports whenever a dignitary enters our Area of Operation." The holoimage on the reports don't do her justice, he thought to himself.

"Catherine please." She smiled. "Would you care for tea or coffee? Don't mind Bilbo his a good lad. Just a little protective." She explained with a gentle smile.

Drew momentarily appeared apprehensive in addressing her in the familiar, but as she was a Federation Ambassador and he a lowly Lieutenant, he acquiesced to her wishes...somewhat. "Nothing for me. Thank you though Lady Catherine. I'm Andrew Knight, but my family and close friends call me Drew." He spared a glance at the massive robotic dog, a somewhat dubious look on his face. "Greetings Bilbo." He turned back to Lady Catherine, an askance expression on his face as he gestured to Bilbo. "Named after the Tolkien character?"

"Those I work with call me Catherine. Close friends call me Cat and as to my companion I rather named him after a famous Newfoundland dog who saved the lives of seven fishermen off the coast of Cornwall. Father was hoping I would call him Clitheroe; after our family seat in Yorkshire." She smiled.

Drew blinked tiredly. He was going on nearly 24 hours with no sleep and her smile wasn't helping him keep a clear a head. He took a deep breath and tried to focus. "I really stopped by to see if there was anything you needed. There is a commercial grade replicator in ship stores that can produce items your cabin's replicator cannot."

"You seem tired. Go rest. Bilbo and I will be fine. Let me know how I can be of assistance." She said kindly.

"Most generous of you." Drew looked about the austere quarters and shrugged. "I am sorry about the accommodations. Defiant-class vessels are the most spartan of all Starfleet vessels." He gestured to the set of bunk beds inset to the wall with a tired smile on his face. "At least you don't have a roommate." He glanced at Bilbo. "Well, maybe you do at that."

"Bilbo and I will manage just fine. We've slept in less comfortable surrounds and recently so do not worry. You get some rest and we can talk again later when you are rested." She smiled. "In the meantime I am sure you've seen my file. If I can be of assistance do let me know" She assured him.

Drew gave a nod of his head as he attempted to stifle a yawn. He gave her and Bilbo a reassuring wave of the hand. "I'll check up on you in a few hours. There is a mess hall on deck two, if you don't wish to eat in your quarters." He exited her quarters and continued the short journey to his own. He flopped down on the bunk, not even bothering to take off his boots. He was asleep before his head even hit the pillow.
Some Fates Are Worse Than Death Borg Ship Several Hours After the Attack on Star Base 900
Show content
Meredith woke with a start. She blinked several time but could see nothing but blackness. Her initial reaction was fear that she was blind. She felt a cold, hard surface under her prone body and probed with her fingers to discover she lay on some sort of slab. She slowly rose and swung her feet out into the blackness. Feeling solid ground beneath her, she stood up.

Lights began coming on as soon as Meredith was off the slab. Though dim in their illumination, the lights were near blinding for her. She started blinking again as the irises of her eyes began to adjust. She heard movement off to her left and turned only to see an indistinct humanoid shape approaching her. "Who...who's there?"

The figure took on more definition as it approached, Meredith's eyes finally adjusting to the light. She stepped back in sheer terror when it became apparent she was in the presence of a Borg drone. The drone stepped over by the slab and placed a black body suit down before turning to her and speaking. "Knight, Meredith. Species 5618. Charge Nurse of Day Shift. Medical Department, Star Base 900. Dress and accompany me."

Meredith stood there, frozen in fear. Her body was trembling in terror.

The drone simply studied Meredith for a moment. It's head moving up and down as the ocular implant dialed in and out as if scanning her. It again gestured at the body suit on the slab. "Dress and accompany me...please."

Meredith's dropped open in surprise. A Borg drone saying please, she thought. She looked at the body suit, realizing then she stood before this drone fully nude. She quickly snatched up the suit and held it in front of her. "Um...would you mind turning around?"

"Dress and accompany me. Turning around is irrelevant." The Drone paused, it's head cocking to one side as if it was listening to a command Meredith could not hear. It then made a 180 degree turn. "Dress and accompany me. Attempting to escape is futile. It will only result in your recapture and possible injury."

Meredith began to dress herself in the black body suit, looking about the chamber she was in. It resembled a hospital exam room. She should be thankful she had not already been assimilated, but she was terrified of what else that could mean. This whole thing just didn't add up. The Borg did not take prisoners, they either killed you or assimilated you on the spot. She finished dressing and cleared her throat. "You can turn around now. I'm done."

The Drone started for the door. "Turning around is irrelevant. Follow me." The wall simply opened when the Drone was just a few steps away. Meredith scurried after it in an effort to keep up. Meredith found herself flanked by two more Drones, these ones looking even more menacing with what were obviously weapons bristling from the cybernetic parts of their bodies. She stopped cold for a moment.

The Drone that had been in the chamber with her spoke as it continued down the corridor. "Accompany me or you will be carried to our destination." One of the combat drones used a cybernetic appendage to shove Meredith forward. She stumbled, regained her footing, and followed the first Drone down the corridor.

Meredith and her escorts arrived at a door five minutes later. The first Borg drone inserted a device attached to its right arm and the door opened. The two combat drones shoved Meredith from behind. She stumbled into the chamber and the doors closed behind her. She found herself alone with a single figure overlooking holographic displays. They looked like replays of the Battle of Star Base 900.

Meredith recognized both the USS Hopper and USS Zumwalt withdrawing from the battle as additional Starfleet vessels took up the fight. Ships on both sides were destroyed or severely damaged. Finally, the starbase itself exploded and the hologram winked out. Moments later the hologram reset and the images began again. The figure turned to face Meredith.

The figure had a serious lack of cybernetic attachments. Several tubes that looked like conduits extended from the figures skull and connected with a bulging protrusion from the back of the body suit. "Meredith Knight. Welcome." The figure made a half turn back to the holographic images. "Perhaps you can tell me where these two vessels escaped to. I can not track them for some reason."

Meredith's eyes opened wide at the use of first person pronouns. "I? Aren't the Borg a Collective we?"

"I am the Borg." The figure actually smiled at Meredith. It was actually more unnerving than an overt threat. "You would probably see me as...their Queen."

"The Borg have a Queen?" Meredith blinked at the sudden realization she may be dealing with an individual personality within the Collective. She then looked at the holographic images playing and replaying in the air. She gave a shake of her head. "I'm just a civilian nurse that worked in Star Base 900's medical center. I have no idea where those ship are."

"Hmmm. Perhaps you don't know." The Borg Queen glanced idly at the holographic images before returning her gaze to Meredith. "No matter. I will find them soon enough." She moved fluidly over to where Meredith stood and gave the nurse a once over.

Meredith wanted to retreat, but realized that it would be pointless. She stood tall and proud before the Borg Queen, even though she wanted to do nothing but run from the figure with necrotic flesh before her. "Well, since I don't know anything. I gather you will have one of your drones assimilate me now."

The Borg Queen cocked her head to one side before shaking it in the negative. "Oh, you will not become a drone Meredith."

Meredith's expression displayed confusion, even acute puzzlement. She had absolutely no idea what the Borg Queen could possibly want with her. "What then?"

The Borg Queen sighed, actually sighed as she stepped forward even closer. "As you can see, my biological form has deteriorated quite a bit since my encounter with your people. I find myself in need of new biological material." She smiled, a smile devoid of humor, one that could only be construed as purely evil as the tubes detached from her back and wavered over her head in the direction of Meredith. "You will have the honor of providing the host body for my biological form."

Meredith froze for an instant, terror striking deep into her heart. That moment was all it took for the tubes to implant themselves in her skull. She discovered in the last moments of her hold on her own identity...that Some Fates Are Worse Than Death.
With These Words I Vow... SB900 environs During Borg Attack
Show content
“He’s stable,” Zalidek said as he set down his end of the gravcot and tapped the PaDD to transfer the medical file for the patient to the computer to be uploaded to the biomonitors connected to the bed where they placed the patient. “Looks to be a compound fracture of the femur with-“ he stopped while the ship rocked from another attack on the station. “…resultant tissue damage. Missed the femoral artery, thankfully. Loaded with local for pain management.”

“Okay, got it,” the triage nurse said as she glanced at the monitor to ensure the file was there. “They’re calling for another medic on deck twelve, you good for that?”

Zalidek glanced over near the door where Tiffany stood. He knew the smudges and blood on her were not hers but the result of helping to get people from the station onto ships. He sighed as he turned back to the nurse. “Yeah, just give me the coordinates and I’ll beam over to give it a look.”

“No!” Tiffany said, “Sally, this ship is loading fast and you need to be on it!” she said, grabbing his arm and turning him toward her.

“I’ll be right back, you just wait here,” he said to her, bending down for a kiss before breaking away and smoothing a lock of hair away from her face. “I’m not letting you get away this soon. You promised to be mine forever and I’m holding you to it.” He sensed her fear – generalized over the situation at being attacked suddenly and localized for their safety. They were still newly married enough that she was conscious of the ring on her finger, an insistence on her own wedding custom, as well as the bracelet he’d given her as a vow exchange, part of his custom.

“I’d rather you just stayed and held me,” she said, staring into his dark eyes. As usual, she found the best of herself mirrored back at her. Her fingers found the same simple, wide band on his wrist and stroked it, the symbol from his family of their marriage. Like her, he wore a band around his finger as well. That both accepted these forms of marriage identification from their respective worlds just added to how well suited they were for each other.

“Back in two twists,” he said as he turned and grabbed his pack of supplies.

“Two shakes!” Tiffany said to him, wrapping her arms around herself to keep from grabbing him again. But then, impulsively, she tapped her commbadge and opened a channel between them. “It’s two shakes of a lamb’s tale!”

“Don’t like lamb,” he said, as he signaled he was ready for the beam out, “tastes like old socks. But, I love you enough to keep eating it!”

That brought a smile to Tiffany’s face, which Sally watched as the evacuation ship disappeared around him through the silver curtain, only to be replaced with a generic deck corridor back on the station. He shuddered as a beam weapon fired next to him. Moving to the side he immediately took in a scene – Starfleet officers on the deck and Borg advancing. A green energy beam fired past him again and he instinctively turned to move away from it, toward the bodies and the Starfleet forces firing at the Borg. Most of them were gold trimmed, security presumably, but there were blue and red uniform trims as well.

“This way, Doc, hurry!” one of the golds said as he waved for him to go past. He was almost there when the station rocked again and he was thrown across, into the bulkhead, the majority of his weight thrown onto his arm. The immediate snap of pain rushed through him and he rebounded, off balance as he tried to mentally shunt away the pain. From the feel of it, something broke but he couldn’t be sure what yet.

Hands grabbed him and he fought against them, sure it was a Borg drone about to try to inject him with assimilation nanomites. Instead he was shoved roughly, behind the firing line. Then he heard another round of the familiar phaser burts. As he landed, hard, and white hot pain flared from his arm one more time, he saw several Borg drones drop, the gaping holes in them surely a sign they were done and no longer a threat. But there were others.

Ohmigawd,” he heard Tiffany saying over the open line, “what’s going on, Sally? Are you okay? I hear you screaming! Oh, God, tell me you’re okay?”

“I’m fine,” Sally grunted through his teeth as he moved himself into a sitting position and shrugged out of his pack, grunting the entire time. A quick scan revealed a fracture of the radius in his left arm. He could work with that, being right handed. “Situation’s fine here,” he said as he closed the commline and scrambled to the first prone person next to him. He didn’t need the tricorder to see any efforts on him would be wasted.

“Over there, Doc,” the gold shirt that shoved him behind the line said, pointing to someone with glazed eyes leaning against the bulkhead. Blood poured from his side, bright and rapid.

“Don’t call me, ‘Doc’,” Sally said, “That’s the FMF guys.” He dropped his pack and brought out the scissors to cut away the tunic and undershirt. The wound wasn’t as large as the blood made it appear, but if it had hit the liver, it would explain the amount of blood lose. Sally ran the tricorder over him as he grabbed a bioplaster cap from the bag. “Any allergies?” he asked, the man while watching. The eyes turned to him but still appear glazed and unfocused. “Can you tell me who you are?”

The man’s eyebrows furrowed, but nothing more was forthcoming. Sally sighed, he wasn’t sure if it was just shock or there was some concurrent head injury. He continued scanning as his commbadge chirped.

“Sally?” Tiffany asked, real panic in her voice now. “You have to get back here, they say they’re launching.”

“Okay, give me just a minute,” Sally said as he shoved the lozenge shaped cap into the wound. Within moments the coating was eroded by blood enzymes and the plaster begin filling the unnatural caveity caused by the wound, the foam coming up and out of the wound to create a seal around it.

“Martahc to Neptune, I have another patient, disrupter blast to right abdomen, possibly organ affect. Beam immediately to your sickbay.”

“Negative,” the voice responded. “Sickbay reports overcapacity and not accepting new wounded. Captain orders a shove off. Recommend attempting the Rhine.”

“Thank you,” Sally said as he kept working to stabilize the man while trying not to think how close the fighting was to them, nor about the station still rocking from the attacks. “Tiffany, honey, I’ll catch up to you, okay? I’m going to find you as soon as we all land.”

“No! Sally, beam aboard now! Please, beam aboard-“

The station rocked again and Sally dropped from his knees as he felt the anguish of what seemed like hundreds of last thoughts. The lights flickered and dimmed to just emergency lighting in the section.

“Emergency beamout to any medical,” Sally said, looking over his shoulder as two Borg advanced, the defenders lying dead around them.

“Your biological distinctiveness will be added to-“ the Borg began before the silver curtain fell around them.

Sally rematerialized in a medical center, chaos ensuing around him. He was immediately confronted by several different teal trimmed uniforms. “Not me! I’m fine!” he said as he cradled his arm to his chest, breathing heavy and still incredulous that he wasn’t being assimilated at the moment.

“Where am I?” he asked as he moved away so the patient he was just working on could be moved.

“The Hopper,” the voice said, “And you’re lucky, we’d just started launch when we got your SOS.”

Sally forced himself to stand, gritting teeth against the pain in his arm. Tiffany he cried out in his mind. Silence answered him but he was also distracted by a lot of pain and she wasn’t a telepath. “Where’s the Neptune?” he demanded, grabbing the nearest person to him.

“Who the hell knows at this point?” the nurse said, starting to push him away before stopping. “You okay? You appear pale and guarding your arm.”

“Possibly broken?” Sally said, trying and failing to reach out to Tiffany again. He looked around him. The entire area was in chaos with people lying and appearing unattended.

“Alright, come over here to triage for assessment, but if it’s just broken we need-“

“I’m EFTS,” Sally said, harsher than he otherwise would intend. “Just get me a splint and sheets of bioplast to stabilize it. It’ll wait until we get through this mess.”

“EFTS?” the nurse asked.

Sally sighed, he didn’t have time for this at the moment. “Hospitalman,” he said, since, technically, it was still a valid title. “I lost my equipment on the station though.”

“No problem,” the nurse said, gently tugging on his arm to direct him toward the far wall. “We’ve got more supplies than competent users at the moment, and far too many patients for me to quibble.” She pointed to where he could restock and then broke off as more wounded poured through the doors.

Still trying, and failing, Sally worked to shut down his growing fear and concern for Tiffany while he began stuffing his pockets with the most likely needed hyposprays, meds and supplies. Only then did he work to creating a makeshift cast for the arm. He was tempted to give himself a dose of analgesics to dull the pain, but that could also dull his ability to function so he decided to forgo it until the mess in the area calmed down.

“Tiffany?” he muttered one last time before walking over to the lines of wounded.
Rendezvous with Destiny USS Zumwalt and USS Hopper Two Hours following 'What the Hell is The Sanctuary Protocol'
Show content

Christopher sat back in the command chair on the bridge the Zumwalt, fatigue washing over him in waves. Ever since they had activated the second phase of the Sanctuary Protocol, the ships had immediately locked in a course for an asteroid field. After deciding that they weren't being pursued, Christopher had retasked a small element of fighters to follow along and had ordered a rotation that allowed everyone to begin to rest with the exception of himself. In truth, they were the only fighters left and those pilots were probably more tired than he was at this point- they hadn't left their cockpits since the attack and were probably running on fumes. Chris had begun to nod off when he was awakened by the voice of the helmsman a split second before his head hit the edge of the command console.

"Colonel, we're nearing our destination. It appears to be an asteroid field. Our speed is being reduced to one quarter impulse automatically. Attitude control is still locked out. ETA is approximately 15 minutes " said the young man, a Petty Officer Third Class in a gold turtleneck who probably didn't belong at the helm station.

Christopher simply nodded. He wasn't capable of doing much else at this point. "Something tells me that this is about to get bumpy." he said feebly as he sat back in the chair. Turning, he noticed that there was a familiar emerald green collar at the Operations station. "Ops, open a fleetwide channel. Priority One."

At the Operations console, the Marine's cold hard focused stare was broken only by the sound of her Commanding Officer giving orders. Orders which she followed through to the letter. Her deep scratchy voice, shrill and shrieking was a far cry from being a siren's song, more like the demonic voice that cuts sharply through the dead of a silent night. "As you order, Sirl" she said before turning about and performing the necessary duties. "Fleet-wide channel open, Sir. Priority One" she added.

"Attention all personnel, this is Colonel Mitchell. As many of you have noticed, our navigation and tactical systems have been locked by what I can only describe as the Sanctuary Protocol, which is designed to take us to an emergency staging area. As of now, I am ordering all personnel to Code Blue stations. Stand by for further orders. Mitchell out. "

Gunnery Sergeant Lucinda Vasquez waited for the Colonel to finish before she terminated the operation. "Chanel closed, Colonel" she added gruffly. The Marine turned to return to her daily work at the Operations station, always standing by for a moments notice...for any quick orders that may be sent her way. She lived by the motto 'always faithful,' however, she also added 'and always ready' to it as a personal assertion of her capability.

Drew was startled awake when the announcement was made. He checked his watch and saw that he'd only been asleep for a little over an hour and a half. He groaned loudly and swung out from his bunk and stumbled over to the replicator where he first ordered a strong cup of coffee, followed by a fresh uniform. He sipped his coffee as he stepped into the fresher. Five minutes later he stepped out of the fresher looking human again and feeling about half as good as he looked. He finished off his coffee, placing the mug in the replicator and depressed the recycle button. He took a deep breath and headed for the bridge. The cabin door across from his opened at the same time his did and he saw Lady Catherine emerge. "Ambassador." He gestured down the corridor to the bridge. "After you."

"Thank you. Do wish you would call me Catherine. It would make working together so much easier." she said softly. "Did you figure out if I could be of assistance?" she asked

Drew gave Catherine a tired smile. "Sorry, Catherine. I've just been calling folks sir, ma'am or using formal titles since before my Academy days. My high school was the Johnathan Archer Prep Academy in San Francisco." He gestured down the corridor towards the bridge. "As for your question. I think we're both about to find out. If you'd accompany me to the bridge?"

"You look tired." she smiled kindly. "I will accompany you."

Drew nodded. "Only got about 90 minutes of sleep." He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "That a shower and a strong cup of coffee and I am ready to go for another 24 hours though."

"That s not good for you." She stated as she reached into the small pouch on Bilbo's collar. "This will help you rest. It is simply Lavender, Camomile and Lemon Balm. A little on your pillow will ensure you rest," she said handing him the small vial.

Drew took the vial and tucked it into a waist pocket on his tunic. "Thank you Amb...Catherine. I'll use it next time I see a bed and pillow." The pair had arrived at the door to the bridge. The doors did not automatically slide open at their approach. Drew keyed in a access code that opened the door. He gestured. "Ladies first."

"Thank you." She smiled as she stepped inside and looked at all the faces around them

Drew followed her in, then took the lead as he stepped over to Christopher in the Captain's Chair. "Sir, allow me to introduce Ambassador Waddington of the Federation Diplomatic Service." He looked at Catherine. "Ambassador, this is Colonel Mitchell, the Commanding Officer."

"Colonel. It is nice to meet you." Catherine smiled and held her hand out.

Christopher extended his own hand. "Likewise, Ambassador. Welcome aboard." he said quickly.

She looked to Andrew for a moment. "Is there a list of survivors anywhere?" She asked.

Drew nodded and stepped over to the tactical one station and relieved the Chief Fire Control Technician currently sitting there. He sat down and brought up the library computer file with the survivors list. "Is there a particular name you're looking for?"

"Ferguson Price." She said softly. "He's family." she added. "He's been diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. He does not like me fussing but I know it could be serious." She said placing her hand on Bilbo

Drew keyed in Ferguson's name. A moment later it appeared on his monitor. "Mister Price is currently aboard the USS Hopper." He paused as he read on. "He was transported from an escape pod during the withdrawal from Star Base 900."

"Thank heavens for that. We got split up in the evacuation. I would be quite lost without him." She smiled relieved

=====Zumwalt Sickbay=====

The Marine Commanding Officer, was in the med bay standing guard over the Borg drone as it was being analyzed by Chief Kawalsky. Ja'xon never issued commands or orders that he wouldn't fulfill himself, so he felt it necessary to contribute his body to the rotation of Marines watching over Three of Eight.

The drone was cooperating for the moment. At some point, Three of Eight had decided that surviving will be his primary objective from this moment onward. Common sense dictates, that in order to survive he must cooperate. So he sat there quietly as he we examined and chose not to speak unless the questions that were asked of him were worth answering.

"What can you tell me about this thing?" Ja'xon asked the engineering officer.

Kawalsky stepped back from Three of Eight and sort of shrugged, "To be frank, sir, this is thing is beyond me." He paused for a moment, "I can tell you that this thing had significant damage to its torso, here." He pointed at the spot, "But its in a state of repair even as we speak. Compared to when I was looking at this thing in the cargo bay, I'd guess that all damage will be repaired within the next couple hours."

"That is pretty incredible." Ja'xon said, "So it didn't disintegrate because it was able to repair itself?"

"Seems that way." Kawalsky replied.

"Any idea why it has been disconnected from the Borg collective?" Ja'xon asked another question. "Not a one." Came the reply.

Three of Eight broke his long silence, "Seeking that answer as well. Can confirm that all major systems seem to operating at near optimal capacity now." The drone only made small robotic movements as it spoke. The drone was very much more machine than human.

"Capability to run a self diagnostic has been restored. Running it now." His eyes closed for a moment and stayed frozen in place, "Complete. Appears that the disintegration function was manually shut off." His head tilted to the right slightly, "Confusing."

Ja'xon eyed the drone carefully, he wasn't sure what to make of it. Though he knew that he didn't trust it. "Confusing indeed." He said. "Unless you have anything else to do chief, I think we can wrap it up here."

"Sounds good to me. Though, we should keep an eye out for someone with experience with Borg tech who can take a look at him too." Kawalsky said.

Ja'xon nodded, "Great suggestion. Let me know if you come across anyone and we can set up another time to inspect the drone. For now, I am going to report to the Colonal and Lieutenant Knight."

Two other Marines showed up at that moment to replace Ja'xon and the other Marine on duty. He pulled all three of them together, "From now on I want four bodies in this sick bay at all times. You can rotate shifts in here if you like, but always have at least two who's only purpose in life during that time, is to watch that Borg." Ja'xon knew that his men were tired, and doubling the shift wasn't going to be a popular decision, but it is necessary.

All three Marines gave the, "Yes, sir" confirmations and then both Ja'xon and Kawalsky left sickbay in the care of the three, soon to be four, armed Marine guards.

===== USS Hopper =====

Cara had been dozing on the small sofa in the office when the Fleetwide communique came through. She rubbed her eyes and got up, moving to the doorway between the office and the Bridge.

Bran finished up another patrol and entered the bridge. He nodded to King at the tactical station then waved off that he’d be taking over the station. Bending, he scooped up Meetok and placed the puppy in the harness still strapped to Bran’s chest. That the puppy didn’t protest only indicated how tired he was after they’d made a round of the decks.

“How’s the ship?” Hannah asked, coming up to Bran.

“Still quiet. Nothing since the last uprising over losing their personal effects.” It wasn’t pretty when the eleven hundred or so souls aboard the ship realized that most of them lost their personal effects – all their clothing, gear, mementos and personal things they’d gathered over their lifetimes and brought to their duty stations on the starbase. Or ships. Or wherever it was they were when the Borg attacked.

But that was quickly quelled and people realized the gravity of their situation. Not to mention the lack of room on the Hopper for it anyway. Fortunately, Bran was not the only one to have a pet survive the disaster, though he’d met many who weren’t even certain if their pet was dead or alive at this point.

“Hopefully we’ll get information soon, that should help. Though most of them are Starfleet, they will eventually remember that.”

Bran was about to answer when the comm line opened and they heard the gruff voice of someone identifying himself as a colonel came across the system.

“What fresh hell is this?” Hannah asked as the ship lights dimmed and then blued to indicate ship status.

“Well, you remember the recruitment posters at the enlistment office, right?” Bran said, “Never a dull day!”

“I went to the Academy. There were plenty of dull days in my philosophy term,” Hannah said, grinning at the jab he gave the large, burly security officer. Still, he moved back to his seat while Bran took up position on the bridge. The fierceness of the Trill’s stance and scowl was completely abated by the small, gray and white furry face poking out of his chest.

Since no one had noticed Cara standing in the doorway she figured Hannah had everything under control and she wasn't needed up here, so she, quietly, retreated and used the door of the Captain's Ready room that led to the back corridor then she headed for Sickbay where she knew she belonged.

=====Hopper Sickbay=====

Cara walked through the doors and was met with utter chaos. There was no order. Nurses and medics were rushing around...some repeating steps one of her instructors had told her early in her internship...if you don't use your head you use your feet. There were patients leaning against walls and sitting on the floor against a wall holding towel wrapped limbs and bleeding heads that hadn't been seen yet. "Oh hell no," Cara muttered under her breath. She placed her fingers to her tongue and let out a shrill whistle to get everyone's attention. "OK, people. Listen up," she called out.

As everyone turned to look at Cara the EMH came out of a cubicle and walked towards the doctor. "State the nature....," it started to say.

Cara held her hand up in the hologram's face. "Besides this," she nodded toward the EMH. "Is anyone in charge?" When everyone just seemed to look around at each other she looked at the Hologram and said, "go back to your patient," and hoped that it knew what it was doing. "In that case....I am Dr. Nichols and this is what we're going to do." Within minutes she had someone conducting an organized triage and the patients that had not been seen yet were finally getting needed care. She also had organized the treatment area and once the volunteers Taggert had recruited arrived, things in Sickbay began to settle down and run like a well oiled top. Luckily none of the injuries were critical and no one needed surgery or to be isolated so treated patients were released and Sickbay began to empty.

Across the room a man's voice called out, "Hello? Where am I?" He tried to sit up, but quickly decided against it. He wore a red uniform with the rank of Lieutenant Commander on his collar. Blood was dried in his reddish blonde hair from a wound that had been treated and covered with a bandage.

Cara looked over to the cubicle where the man's voice was coming from. Seeing that no one else seemed to hear him, she went over to the side of the biobed and took the man's hand in one of hers and placed her other hand on his shoulder. "You're in Sickbay," she said, softly, looking at the biobed's monitors. "I need you to relax. Can you tell me your name?" she asked.

"Ragnas Gunnbjorn." He replied, "What ship are we on?"

"You're on the Hopper, Ragnas. I'm Dr. Nichols," Cara said with a smile. "Let me have a look at your wound," she said as she, gently, removed the bandage.

"Do you have any idea what happened to the ship I was on? It was a small scientific vessel. We were under fire by the Borg and I must have been knocked out right after our shields went down. I have no idea how I got here." Ragnas stopped as he realized he was beginning to ramble, "Sorry. I am sure you don't know much."

Cara needed a dermal regenerator but there wasn't a utility tray set up in the cubicle. This would be unacceptable in my ER, she thought to herself as she rumaged through a couple of drawers. Finding the instrument she needed, she walked back over to the bedside and looked at the triage tag to see if there was any information about how her patient ended up here. "It says here, that you were rescued from an escape pod," Cara said. "We were able to grab several pods that were activated once the evacuation order was given," she explained as she used the dermal regenerator to close the wound on his head. "Do you know what day it is?" she asked.

"No, I honestly have no idea." Which alarmed him, he didn't know the day or the time. Nobody around him looked familiar. "Guess that isn't a good sign is it, doc?" he let out a small laugh. Ragnas was always the type to try and make light of a situation, though this one was a challenge to do so.

"It's ok. Under the circumstances I highly doubt anyone would know the day and time other than it is the day they woke up and their lives had dramatically changed," Cara said with a reassuring smile. "Follow my finger with just your eyes," she said, holding her finger up in front of his face then slowly moving it up and down then side to side. "So you were on a science ship?" she asked.

"Yeah, I was our First Officer. We were sent to relieve 900's science team and take over science operations for the Delta Quadrant." Ragnas said as he was instructed and followed her finger. "Though, seeing as how we are not in the Starbase's med bay and are swamped with wounded, I guess things didn't end well for Starbase 900."

Cara sat the head of Ragnas's bed up and said, "no. The Borg destroyed it. The Hopper and the Zumwalt are filled beyond capacity with evacuees and we took on the crew of a ship who was in the area at the time of the attack. It was also destroyed." She used an alcohol swab to clean the blood off of the commander's face. "When they closed the doors of the Hopper, I was the ranking officer so I got thrown into the position of CO. A position I am far from comfortable with," she said. "The Captain of the Arctic...the ship we rescued the crew from before she was destroyed...has been acting as XO. Colonel Mitchell is in command of the Zumwalt," she told him as she tossed the alcohol wipes into the trash recepticle.

The news was hard to fully digest, though Ragnas managed it. "Horrible. Unbelievable really." he said, "Put me to work doc. Clear me for duty and assign me a post." He finished confidently, getting a surge of energy at the understanding of the current situation.

"Any signs of dizziness and you promise you will come right back?" Cara asked.

"You have my word." He promised. "Now what would you like for me do to help around here?"

Ashley emerged from the medical supplies room with a load of supplies on a cart she was wheeling out. She let go of the cart and ran over to Cara when she saw her, throwing her arms around her mom's boss and good friend. "Oh thank God."

Cara wrapped her arms around the girl and was flooded with emotion. "Ashley," she whispered in the girl's hair. She held her tightly for several seconds then took a deep breath and let go. Taking Ashley by the hand she looked around for a private spot and, when she located a corner not inhabited by patients or staff, she led the girl over to it. She turned and placed her hands on Ashley's shoulders. Looking into the girl's eyes she said, softly, "Ashley....I need you to be strong right now." She hesitated as she swallowed the lump forming in her throat. She had delivered this kind of news many times in her career but never to someone she knew. "Sweetie," she finally said. "Your mom...she didn't make it out."

Ashley nodded with a profound look of sadness on her face. "I know Doctor Nichols. They'd have come found me or paged me over the shipwide by now."

Cara pulled Ashley into her arms. "I am so sorry, baby," she whispered into Ashley's hair, not knowing what else to say.

Ashley buried her head into Cara's shoulder for a moment, but pulled away a few moments later to wipe fresh tears from her eyes. She swallowed hard and took a deep breath. "What about my Uncle Drew? Lieutenant Knight. Is there any word on him?"

Cara took Ashley's face in her hands and used her thumbs to wipe the tears from the girl's cheeks. She admired Ashley's bravery. Most girls her age would be basket cases right now. She smiled at her friend's daughter and said, "come on. Let's go find out together," and took Ashley's hand. "Commander>" she said, looking over her shoulder at Ragnas, "Follow me." Leading them out of Sickbay she headed for the Bridge. The corridors were jammed with people...some just standing around with no place to go. The Hopper was designed to house 140...not 1100.

"Yes, mam." Ragnas said and immediately followed Cara to the bridge.

=====Hopper Bridge=====

The door of the turbolift opened with a whispering hiss and, with Ashley's hand still in hers and Ragnas behind her, Cara stepped out onto the Bridge.

"CO on the Bridge," an ensign standing near the turbolift called out.

"Any word from the Zumwalt?" Cara asked the communications officer.

"No, Ma'am," the ensign answered.

"Hail them," Cara said, simply and took Ashley to the center of the Bridge so she could be seen when the message was put on the main viewer.

"Channel open, Lieutenant," the comm officer announced.

"This is Dr. Cara Nichols...acting CO of the USS Hopper hailing the USS Zumwalt," Cara said and waited for the response.

=====Both Bridges=====

Drew was at the Tactical One Station when the hail came in from the Hopper. He looked over his shoulder towards Christopher in the Captain's Chair and Lady Catherine standing next to him. "Sir, we're being hailed by the USS Hopper, Dr. Nichols is in command."

Christopher nodded. "On screen, Lieutenant."

"Good to see you made it, sir," Cara said, smiling at the image on the screen. She noticed Andrew standing at his console. "I see you made it also, Drew. I have someone here that wanted to make sure her uncle was safe," she said, stepping aside so Ashley was fully in the picture.

Relief flooded across the faces of both Ashley and Drew, though tinged with sadness due to the deaths of both Austin and Meredith. It was a silent acknowledgement of one another, as no words could possibly express how they felt at the moment.

"Likewise, Doctor. It's good to see another friendly face out here. In the interim, can you give me a SITREP?" he asked. At this point, it was imperative that they get a count of exactly who and what they had to work with. Something told him that they were about to be extremely civilian heavy and at some point, they would need to put them to work.

Cara looked over at Ens. Palmer and quirked an eyebrow.

"1121 souls aboard," Palmer said, timidly. "100 are crew assigned to the Hopper, 350 are from the Arctic, 279 are Starfleet officers from SB900 and 392 are civilians that were on the base at the time of evacuation. Security is still trying to determine who were visitors and who were permanent residents."

Knowing that the Colonel had heard Palmer, Cara added, "Sickbay has reported a total of 200 casualties. 21 have died since the evacuation and 70 are still undergoing treatment. The rest have been treated and released. Lt. Hannah, from the Arctic," she gestured to her AXO, "has been acting as the Hopper's XO. Chief Warrant Officer Bran...also from the Arctic has taken over duties of Chief of Security and has organized volunteers from the refugees to fill in vacant slots. Our forward shields are down and our aft shields are operating at 35%. We only have 2 phaser cannons for weapons and we are stuck on autopilot so our helm can't manually fly us through the asteroid belt we see coming up," she said having moved to look over the ensign manning the tactical console's shoulder. She looked back up at the Colonel and smirked. "Other than that, sir...we are hunky dory over here."

Christopher nodded. "Hold tight for now and keep doing what you're done. We'll get everyone situated as soon as we reach the rally point. Until then, assemble an Away Team and stand by for my orders. Zumwalt Actual, out."

=====Bridge of the USS Hopper=====

Bran stepped forward as the communication cut out. "Doctor," he said, hoping to draw her attention to himself. "I'm volunteering myself. Especially if you think you're going."

Ashley jumped up next to Bran and nodded to Cara as well. "I want to go too."

"That is not a good idea," Bran said, glancing from the child to the doctor. "We have no idea what the Colonel wants an away team for and therefore no idea of what the danger level involved. Taking a child would be inherently dangerous as people would be more concerned with her safety and welfare than focused on the mission at hand."

"She is hardly a child, Mr. Bran," Cara said, then looked at Ashley and smiled, apologetically. "He's right, though, Ashley. It could be dangerous. And I have lost far too many people I care about. I don't want to lose you, too. I need you to stay and help with the children. I understand there are many that have been orphaned."

Ashley shot Bran an annoyed look at referring to her as a child, but she turned to Cara and nodded. "You will let me come after you give the all clear, so I can get with Uncle Drew. Right?"

Cara walked over to Ashley and smiled. "Yes, sweetie. We'll both see your uncle soon," she said, quietly.

"Mr. Bran...I hope that you don't mind having been thrown into the position of Chief of Security," Cara said. "As such, I would like you to assign another security officer to accompany us." She thought for a second and said, "and an engineer. Something tells me we might need one."

"I'll try to wrestle up an engineer or two for you, Captain, but again, as I'm pretty sure you believe you're going and as I'm pretty sure I voluntold myself to be Chief here, then I'm with you. Though," he frowned as he let the rifle drop down and pulled Meetok out of his harness and attached the lead. He glanced at Ashley, "I do need someone to look after the puppy? Know anybody that might be good for that?"

Ashley may not have liked what she thought was Bran's condescending attitude towards her, but she absolutely loved and adored animals, especially puppies. "I'll take care of your puppy sir, since I'm not allowed on the Away Team."

"Settles that, Doctor," Bran said, indicating he wasn't going to budge from that answer.

Cara took a deep breath. "Commander Gunnbjorn....I transfer command of the Hopper to you. Alert us when the Colonel is ready. I'll be in Sickbay," she said and put her arm around Ashley's shoulder, steering her towards the turbolift.

Ragnas was standing in the back of the bridge, leaning against the wall observing the room and doing his best to keep up. Once his name was brought up he came to Cara's side. When he volunteered to be of assistance he wasn't really expecting to take over the ship minutes later. "Very well. I accept, Doctor. Thank you."

Ashley complied with the guiding hands on her shoulder, but with a sigh that spoke volumes about her impatience to find her uncle.

The Lieutenant Commander looked to Bran, "Excuse me, Chief." He said to him as he offered his hand." Ragnas Gunnbjorn, I wish you luck on this away mission and don't want to take up too much of your time as I am sure you will want to prepare. But I was hoping you would be able to brief me quickly before you go?" He let out a small smile, "I only just woke minutes ago and feel a little behind."

"Of course, Comm..." Bran shook his head as he let out a breath, "Apologies, sir. Of course, Captain. Though I believe you should also speak with Lieutenant Hannah. I can tell you about the riots, he should be able to fill you in on the other aspects of how the ship was running."

"Thank you, I will be sure to follow up with him immediately." Ragnas said, "Though please tell me about these riots."

"Not much to tell, sir," Bran said, his voice quiet and reserved while he stated things factually, "Bunch of people suddenly beamed aboard a ship who were facing certain death. Lost everything and had plenty of questions, none of which could be answered. They got upset, they got into large groups, some panicked, others took advantage, security put it down. Fortunately there were no casualties or permanent injuries. Second one came around the time people, already on edge and frustrated, learned that much of their precious belongings were considered 'inconsequential' when it came time to decide what to beam off the ships and what to leave alone. Again, security put it down without permanent injury."

Ragnas listened carefully and began to get a general understanding, "I sympathize with everyone on board, we have all lost valuables and those we care for." He said, "Though rioting can not be tolerated."

He slightly bowed his head, "Thank you for the update. I will now find the Lieutenant you mentioned and many others." He began walking away, "Good Luck out there."

=====Bridge of the USS Zumwalt=====

Drew looked at Christopher with his mention to Cara about assembling an away team. He spared a glance at Catherine before returning his gaze to Christopher. "May I assume you plan on us assembling our own away team also?"

Christopher looked over. "It'll be you, me, Ja'xon, and any Marine who wants to tag along on this little spelunking trip." Turning to address the rest of the bridge crew, he tugged on his uniform. "If anyone wants to go on this Away Mission, meet us down in the Boarding Prep room in ten minutes. No one will be refused permission." he said rather matter-of factly before turning to Drew and their Ambassador. "Ambassador, stay here and assist where you can, I'm sure our medics could use an extra pair of hands. Knight, you're with me."

Drew nodded his assent and prepared to move out when Christopher was ready. He glanced at Catherine for a moment. "See you soon Ambass...I mean Catherine."

"Sure not a problem." Catherine smiled. Looking to a medic she asked "SO how can I help?"

Gunnery Sergeant Lucinda Vasquez moved her tongue around in her mouth, the piercing rubbing against the roof of her mouth as she had flashes play through her mind. Unpleasant ones. She looked at Christopher Mitchell, her eyes voicing her concern as her voice raised slightly with rasp. Her little speech started with a low growling like noise, a sign of agitation. "If it's an open invitation..." she began as she retrieved a tricorder from her work area. "I could use the exercise" she added. Though what she subconsciously meant was There's no way I am letting you go without me.

Ja'xon walked on to the bridge at that moment. "Ah, just the two men I was wanting to see." He said looking to Chris and Drew. Ja'xon approached them and continued, "I have an update on our Borg if you all would like to hear it now." He stopped in front of them both and naturally assumed the parade rest position.

"Brief us on the fly Lieutenant Ja'xon," he gestured toward the bridge exit, "we have an away mission to go on."

"Very well," He said as he turned about face and exited the way he came in. Once everyone was on the turbolift he began to brief them on what happened in with Three of Eight earlier, "Three of Eight has been undergoing a natural state of repair sense the moment we found him. I am sure the next time you see him, he will appear to never have been injured at all." He continued, "The drone discovered that it was able to conduct a self diagnostic. The results of that were interesting to say the least. According to the drone and the report of its self diagnostic, it manually shut down the disintegrating function."

Ja'xon then brought his brief to an end, "However, we still have no leads as to why it is no longer connected to the rest of the Borg collective."

Christopher looked to Ja'xon, his eyebrow raised. "So what you're telling us is that this thing has managed to repair itself and is simply sitting in Sickbay, twiddling its thumbs? " he asked, suddenly interested in this new development. A Borg that could think for itself hadn't been done successfully for some years and the intelligence boon could be enormous.

"Twiddling its thumbs while four Marines are watching. I had the guard duty doubled, sir, I am not willing to take any chances." Ja'xon said.

Taking the Helm USS Hopper Moments after the away team beamed off the ship
Show content
=====Transporter Room=====

Lieutenant Commander Gunnbjorn, the current Captain of the USS Hopper, watched Doctor Nichols and the rest of the away team as they teleported off the ship. The senior most officer left alive after the Borg attack, Colonel Mitchell, organized a recon mission of the automated destination, via the Sanctuary Protocol. Apparently, a fail-safe protocol that went in to effect upon the destruction of Starbase 900.

All of this is so damn confusing. He thought to himself, Mysterious protocols, hidden bases, Borg, riots on this ship. He rubbed his eyes with his right hand, then moved it back through his long hair.

Gunnbjorn looked to the officer monitoring the transporters, "Be sure to to keep a vigilant eye on everyone down there. Be ready to beam them back at a moments notice." He turned to walk away, stopped, then added, "That goes for both teams."

He was sure that the officer gave a reply, but he didn't hear it. The mood he was in wasn't a good one and a bit out of character. Could be due to his recent head injury or just the situation that he has found himself in. Serious matters, require serious actions.


Gunnbjorn walked onto the bridge and was greeted with a variety of greetings. Some stood and said things like "Captain on the Bridge." or "CO on Deck!" a few seemed to ignore him, and he is pretty sure someone gave him a wave. The acting First Officer approached him, "Captain," he said, "Lieutenant Hannah." He offered up his hand.

Gunnbjorn shook it, "Ah, perfect. Just the man I wanted to talk to. Chief Warrant Officer Bran told me you'd be able to catch me up." He released Hannah's hand.

"Not sure what else I could tell you that he hasn't already, but sure."

Ragnas began walking to the ready room, "Anything will work Lieutenant." He motioned for Hannah to follow him, then pointed to the large man at the tactical station, "You have the con."

Once in the ready room both men took a seat, Gunnbjorn behind the desk. "I guess this is currently my desk after all, isn't it?"

"Seems so, sir." Hannah said.

"Tell me Lieutenant, how did you join this merry band of misfits?" Ragnas asked.

"My ship was under attack, was beamed to the Hopper, then my ship was destroyed." replied Hannah, "Saw it with my own two eyes."

"You were the captain?" Ragnas asked.

Hannah suddenly looked an older man, then nodded. "I was."

"I am sorry, I lost my ship as well." The Captain stood up suddenly then, thinking of his crew. "But there will be time for sadness later. We have things to do now. Please, if you will, tell me everything you have learned about this ship and the people on board."

Hannah sat back in his chair and took a breath, and then began to tell Ragnas everything he thought relevant.

=====Bridge, 15 minutes later=====

Gunnbjorn took the Captain's Chair and Hannah took the seat next to him. Ragnas felt more familiar with the situation after speaking in detail with Lieutenant Hannah.

The Captain placed his hand over his com badge and pressed it gently. "This is acting Captain Ragnas Gunnbjorn to everyone on board the Hopper and the Zumwalt." he said, addressing everyone on board both ships. "I believe in complete transparency with my crew, and I love to talk, so please excuse my interruption." Pausing for a second, he gathered his thoughts, "We have sent two teams, one from each ship, to explore a hidden base designed for us to fall back to, in case of an emergency on Starbase 900. An emergency that we have all survived. I commend every one of you for your bravery, your good fortune, and to your desire to live. It took a bit of each for you all to make it to this point and I'm afraid it will take a lot more for each of us to continue to survive." He closed his eyes and slouched forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "So it pains me to hear of the conflicts the Hopper has suffered amongst those on board."

He looked around the bridge, at everyone who had stopped what they were doing to turn and look at him. "I now ask each of you to stay strong. We are all in this together and we must work as one to see this through. I know many of you are civilians and most of you have just met, but look around you. Every one you see is now a part of your crew, your team, your family." He stood up and looked around the bridge. "Even if this base turns out to be everything we could possibly ask for, we will still need to function as a community in order to make it through to the next day!" Ragnas looked up at the view screen, taking in the mysterious base and began to wonder about its origin, its capabilities. "And if this base turns out to be a hoax or unsuitable we will need to call on everyone to step up and help to see us home."

The Captain walked back to his seat and sat down and took a moment before he continued, "For now, hold tight, get to know the people around you. I will be sure to update you all the moment I receive any news from our away teams. Gunnbjorn out."
The Rock (part 1) Forward Operating Base Anchorage- Lower Section Appox. Thirty Minutes Following Rendezvous with Destiny
Show content

====Hopper Transporter Room Two=====

When the call came through, Cara, now dressed in a medical jumpsuit, hugged Ashley and promised to return then hurried to the transporter room, her Field Trauma Kit slung over one shoulder and the strap to a tricorder slung over the other. She walked through the transporter room door and looked around. She was the first to arrive so she stepped up on the pad and waited for the others.

Bran entered the transporter room, another security officer in tow. This one made Bran look small and made him feel puny. As much as he preferred to bring Aide with him, the sad truth was, he needed Aide on the ship to carry out Bran's orders. There was no one else in the galaxy Bran trusted more to be his second. Plus their strong bond made for much more reliable and efficient communication.

Another person entered, a petite younger lady with red hair pulled into a loose bun, but was already escaping into a chestnut halo around her face. She appeared scuffed up and leaned into the heavy tool case she carried by a strap around her shoulders.

"Captain," Bran said, "This is Petty Officer First Jorrel, security and Tiffany Renee, apparently an engineer." He indicated each in turn. Both Bran and Jorrel were armed with sidearms, tacvests and rifles. Both wore packs that appeared to be overly stuffed. "We ready or were you expecting others?"

The recently appointed Captain, Lieutenant Commander Gunnbjorn, was in the transporter room to see off the away team. "You're ready." he said, "I don't believe anyone else will be coming."

==== Zumwalt Boarding Prep Room ====

Christopher stood with the rest of the Away Team, his rifle in hand. "Everyone ready?" he asked quietly as he checked and double checked every item strapped to his body armor. Snapping an optical sensor array onto his helmet, he fitted it onto his head. Tapping the comm panel on the wall, he opened a channel to the Hopper.

Drew was outfitted much the way he would be for a Special Warfare Op; helmet with a polarized face plate, body armor, phaser carbine slung on his right shoulder, phaser pistol on his right side, slug thrower pistol in a shoulder rig, stun baton mounted in a right calf holster rig and two combat knives mounted in sheaths on his ankle high boots. He gave Christopher a nod. "Roger that Colonel." He cast a quick glance at Chief Special Warfare Operator Kawalsky who was similarly outfitted. "Ready Chief?"

Kawalsky nodded.

Ja'xon was wearing the same thing he had been wearing all along. Standard issue Marine combat suit, his helmet was current hanging off of a clip attached to his chest. His phaser rifle was slung across his back, pistol on his right leg, a kut'luch Klingon knife was sheathed on the small of his back, a boot knife hidden in his right boot, another knife was attached to his chest in a forty-five degree angle, and along the left side of his belt he had two stun grenades and one photon grenade.

Along with Ja'xon were three other marines, one of his fire teams. Corporal Butler, Lance Corporal Mackie, and Private First Class Lucas. This team was Ja'xon's best and has his full confidence to complete even the toughest of missions. Each of the three were human and were outfitted uniformly with the same combat suit, phaser rifle, side arm, and each had their own assortment of knives on their person. Once they all had their helmets on the only way to tell them apart was by their rank and name tags.

All four Marines were grouped up together off to the side. Ja'xon spoke up, "Like usual, we have no idea what we are getting in to here. Only thing we know is that this base has been set up as a fall out plan if SB900 ever needed to be abandoned. Very likely this place could be empty, a ghost town. But be prepared for anything."

"Roger that, sir." Corporal Butler said.

Ja'xon nodded his head, "Very well, now form up and stand by." At that the three marines lined up by rank and assumed the position of attention. "At ease fellas, stay loose." The Marine CO then walked over to where Chris and Drew were and gave a nod to confirm that he and his men were ready to go.

"Zumwalt to Hopper Boarding Team. Are you receiving?" Christopher asked.

Cara nodded to the transporter operator who keyed the companel. "We are, Colonel. Awaiting transporter coordinates," she said.

"Our objectives are simple: Beam aboard and sweep essential areas. Team One will consist of my group aboard the Zumwalt, we'll need to locate the Operations Center to establish a command and control area and get a backup team in to bring everything online. We'll sweep out there. Team Two, your job will be to locate and get a team into Main Engineering and make sure power is online. After that, we need to sweep and clear every deck, space, corridor, and vent. We need to make sure there are no failsafes in place that could pose a danger. I don't care how long it takes, understood?" Christopher said, the edge clear in his voice. This was going to be a long and arduous mission and they would all be ready to drop by the time they were done.

"I can have more of my team here in about four minutes, three if I really incentivize them," Bran said, scowling at the idea of what was sounding like a long slog with few resources. "And we have other engineers on the ship, we can nab them as well."

More and more he was starting to regret the decision to not waste the resources on their combat armor. But, they didn't know how long the supplies were needed for the Hopper and he couldn't, in good conscious, use up resources that could have become meals for hungry children in a week's time.

"We have a team of six with the addition of some of my Marines." Ja'xon said to Colonel Mitchell and CWO Bran, "I can have my men rendezvous with Team Two to provide extra security."

Off the communication channel he spoke directly to Chris and Drew, "The three of us carry a lot of combat experience, and Kawalsky here looks more than capable. I am not familiar with the See Wo (CWO) over there, but I cannot imagine a doc and there engineer being very combat ready. If you all agree, my men can add some extra muscle to their team."

"Thank you, Lieutenant," Bran said, a little affronted, "however I was not fully briefed on the magnitude of the situation. I'll have a few more of my team ready to go forthwith and beamed directly from their locations to the beam down point. Thank you for your offer." He wasn't sure why it rankled him the second lieutenant's offer, but it did. Maybe it was just a point of pride that he did the rescuing, not being rescued. "Though, if the job is as big as it sounds, we'll do better having the extra manpower." Make sure they're ready, he sent to Aide, trying his best to hide his irritation at the situation.

Ja'xon replied over coms, "As you wish. Just want to make sure everyone is secure down there."

"Understood, Lieutenant," Bran said, while muting his comms to mutter "patronizing git". Only to glare at Jorrel's rumble of laughter.

As soon as the Hopper transporter operator had the coordinates he looked at those gathered on the pad and said, "ready to transport."

=====Base - Team Two=====

"Energize," Cara said and Team B disappeared from the pad and materialized on an open catwalk of the abandoned base, overlooking what was once the Promenade.

As soon as the beamout completed, Bran took a quick look around, noting that four more of his team, loaded the same as he and Jorrell, were with the group. With just a signal they spread out, scanning the area with tech and eyes, working to make sure they don't miss anything.

"Atmospheric scrubbers are online," Tiffany said as she coughed a bit at the stale, thin air. "Life support appears to be working but from these readings, it's still got a ways to catch up. Nobody told me it was going to be this cold or I would have worn a jacket." She shivered at the frigid air. "But there seems to be some automated systems. I'll know more when we get to engineering. So I guess that makes us team two, let's go," she said smacking Bran in the chest while hitching the heavy kit back onto her shoulder.

Cara looked around for the other team but they hadn't arrived yet. She leaned out over the railing of the open catwalk and looked down...then up. "Mr. Bran....any idea where Engineering might be?" she asked.

Bran joined the doctor at the railing and took his own look around. "What the hell is this place, Captain?" he asked, then smiled, "I'm sorry, Doctor. It has a definite homey feeling but-"

"Engineering is going to be about thirty decks down," Tiffany said as she stared at her tricorder, the view obviously lost on her. "At least that's where the largest power spike is coming from, so that's where engineering should be."

Bran held his breath while he looked straight up and through the central atria at space beyond them. "Appears we're still in the asteroid field," he said, tracking the slow movement of one brightly lit rock as it drifted across the view. But was it rotating out due to gravitational factors on the asteroid belt, or was it because this particular base was also rotating? Questions for squints, he supposed, right now they had a job to do.

Bran looked around him though. Thirty decks down? He was up for it, as were his men, even as laden as they were with supplied. But he wasn't sure about the doctor or annoying engineer. "Computer?" he questioned cautiously. If it felt like a Federation installation then maybe it was Federation? "Please recognize Chief Warrant Officer Curither Bran, security."

"Command code not recognized. Failure to input command codes in one minute will result in activation of fail safes."

"Uhm, guys?" Tiffany said, "The atmospheric scrubbers and life support systems just went off line."

"Krptxc," Bran swore, the universal translator unable to recognize the word.

Cara looked around them and spotted a panel in the wall a few yards away from where they were standing with a gold engineering insignia on it. "Is that and emergency engineering console?" she asked, pointing to the panel.

"Can't be," Bran said, "who would possibly put something so important just right out here for anybody to get into?"

"Well, Muscles," Tiffany said as she opened the panel and set it aside. "The good news is I can restart the atmospheric scrubbers and life support, but not the countdown to open up the seals to the vacuum of space. So in about thirty seconds, those of us without the ability to survive in space are gonna be not surviving in space."

"Engineers," Bran muttered rolling his eyes. "Computer...recognize Chief Warrant Officer Curither Bran omega omega deontology five maxim."

"Code not recognized as authorized user."

"Dammit Chief, stop doing that! I didn't survive the Borg attack just to become a Popsicle blownapart!" Devorak said from his position.

=====Base - Team One=====

Ja'xon and the rest of the members from the Zumwalt were making their way, methodically, to the most logical location of where the operations center would be.

Kawalsky who was looking at a nearby computer station, suddenly spoke up with a bit of alarm, "Atmospheric scrubbers and life support systems just went off line!"

Ja'xon ran over to the engineer, "Why? What happened?"

"Unauthorized user attempt." Kawalsky said confidently. "We apparently have less than 60 seconds to input the correct codes."

"Maybe your codes will work like it did on the ship?" Ja'xon said to Colonel Mitchel and Lieutenant Knight.

Chirstopher let out a string of curses under his breath. "Computer, deactivate failsafes. Authorization Mitchell-Four-Nine-Zero-Sigma! Authenticate!

=A=Command Codes recognized- =A=

Suddenly, the computer started to stutter it's countdown and the alarms stopped. "What in the hell?" Christopher asked rhetorically as he turned to the Gunny and Lieutenant Knight. "Anybody know what's going on here?" he inquired again.

Lucinda shook her head wildly, whipping out a Tricorder and proceeding to take some immediate reading. "Not yet, Sir" she said in a shrill tone of voice, agitated by what had just happened. "More questions than answers at this point, but I am working on it" she said swiftly. "If it starts any sort of count down again though, I'll be ready to force it into maintenance mode or postpone it the best that I can with an intentional virus. Though I'd like to leave that as a last resort" she added.

Drew had no idea what a computer virus could do to the base's operating systems, nor was he inclined to find out. He eyed the Gunny dubiously and nodded his head. "Hopefully it won't come to that Gunny."

Exhaling slowly, Christopher held onto his rifle a bit more tightly. "Got it. Let's see if we can find a map to locate that Ops Center" he said with the weariness becoming evident in his voice as he trudged forward. Looking to the center of the concourse, he saw a massive transparent column with open ports on alternating sides. "I think I found an elevator. Let's move." Walking towards it, Christopher saw a miniature control console with a glowing red button. Out of curiosity, he gave it a tap and heard the sound of rushing air growing closer as a platform rose to meet them. As the floating disc slid to a stop, Christopher motioned. "Shall we?" he asked as he stepped aboard.

Gunnery Sergeant Vasquez glared at the man. "HEY!" she shouted shaking her head. "You should be more cautious with things. Go around pushing buttons, tapping controls on a console...there's no telling what you might trigger" she lectured. "We cannot afford to lose you this early on" she teased with a small smirk. "People would talk, our reputation would be tossed out the airlock, and it would cripple morale."

Drew stepped aboard the strange looking turbolift, Kawalsky at his side. Both men unshouldered their carbines and gave them a quick check.

Ja'xon did his best to hide his annoyance with the Gunny, how someone like her reached a senior enlisted rank is beyond him. The best course of action he has found in situations like this is to simply ignore and avoid interaction. He stepped on to the turbolift, followed by his Marines.

Drew watched as the last person stepped aboard. He looked at the others, then at the turbolift controls and identified the voice command button. He pressed it. "Ops." The turbolift went into motion, presumably en route to the base's Operations Center. He just looked at the others and shrugged. "Sometimes the obvious approach works."

Chris shrugged. "What do we have to lose, Gunnery Sergeant?" he asked, referring to the rather stocky woman by her formal rank. "I'm just one more person that's here by virtue of what I wear on my collar. Anyone of you could assume command of this little mission without a problem."

"I suggest we contact Team Two, sir." Ja'xon said to Colonel Mitchell, "They must have been the ones to attempt access and triggered the countdown. I'd like to ensure that they don't attempt anything else that will put our lives in danger. Also, we may need to set up regular updates so we can monitor their progress."

Chris nodded and turned back to Gunny Vazquez. "Get the other team on the horn and get me a SitRep." he ordered as the lift continued upward with no signs of shopping, the air rushing by them. "You know, if this place wasn't trying to kill us, it would look kind of nice from where we're standing." Chris said, slightly amused.

=====Base - Team Two=====

"Relax, Beefaroni," Tiffany said, her voice echoing around her from inside the panel. "Muscles is only doing what that limited part of his brain that isn't concerned with shooting things tells him to do. On the other hand, us 'squints', dedicate a lot more random access memory and cerebral processing units to get things done." She came out of the panel holding some sort of device attached with a series of glowing wires. She seemed to tap one end of it and the wires blinked on and off for several seconds before Tiffany grinned, the action lighting up her eyes. "And voila, Muscles's mistake becomes easily fixed."

"What do you mean?" Devorak asked, walking toward her with Bran and Jorrel. "Did you get us access to the base computer?"

"Oh, that? No, of course not, didn't you hear, it requires command codes for that. But I was able to move the system into a near infinite diagnostic loop."

"Near infinite diagnostic loop?" Bran asked, looking to Nichols to see if that made any sense to her.

Cara shrugged as if to say, don't look at me.

"Of course," Tiffany said, "so long as nobody tries to input the wrong command codes again, the computer will continue recounting the same second -" she glanced at something inside the panel, "which is currently 'twenty-two' forever. If someone does enter an incorrect command code, it starts counting down again."

"We need to get to engineering before we run out of air or freeze to death," Cara said.

"I'm much more concerned that we'll get spaced before that ever happens," Tiffany said as she slung the heavy toolkit crosswise over her shoulders.

"Oh, that's very comforting," Devorak muttered to quiet chuckling from his fellow security officers.

"Lock it up, all of you, we've got our orders. Jorrell, Devorak, on point. Wagner, Verdei take up the rear. Doctor, you and Squints are in the middle with me and Chyor."

Renee went up to Bran, staring up at him with a hand raised, finger threatening to poke him in the lower chest. "Don't. Call. Me. Squints. Muscles."

Bran shook his head, "Squints, fall in or I'll have you stuffed into a pack and carried to where we need to go. Otherwise, get us coordinates to get to engineering." Dismissing the 'fury' of the diminutive engineer, Bran turned to Nichols. "You ready to move out, Doctor?"

Cara adjusted the strap of her tricorder so she could view it without removing it from its case. She wanted to keep an eye on the oxygen levels. "Let's do this," she said and fell into step behind Jorrell and Devorak.

"Thirty three decks below?" Bran asked, eying the civvies among them. His team was fit enough for that but he doubted whether the engineer or doctor worked out that strenuously to get them there double time. Of course there were faster ways. "If this is Federation, shouldn't there be jeffrey tube access nearby?"

"Of course," Tiffany said, still glaring sideways at 'Muscles'. "Every deck has several entrances for maintenance and repair on various systems. With an emergency access panel, there should be an entrance right there," she said, pointing to a panel that looked like much of the others. "But I don't see why you're asking-" Then, suddenly her eyes widened and she took a step back. "NO! Not a chance! There are turbolifts and transporters and you can't be serious!" she said as Bran had already nodded to his mean. Each turned to his partner and allowed for a belt device to be removed from a side in their packs. Taking them, each was donning the belts while Bran turned back to the engineer.

"We don't have a lot of time and we need to get control of this station, not to mention make sure we don't activate any other failsafes. I'd rather not be caught up in a turbolift in case that happens, nor not have good coordinates for the transporter team and get beamed halfway into the rock of this asteroid. So open the panel, take us to the main tube line because that's what happening whether you object or not." Then Bran smiled. It wasn't warm. "Don't worry, you're with Starfleet's finest, you'll be perfectly safe. Beefaroni there will see to it."

Devorak shook his head, his muttering indicated his unhappiness at the 'babysitting' job. But he raised his PaDD as if to make some adjustments.

Tiffany looked between the two men and looked as if she were still going to munity before she finally took off her tookit and shoved it hard at Devorak. "Fine, then you're carrying this as well." Without waiting for him to accept or not, she turned to the panel and had it removed quickly. A small opening appeard, widening only a little once inside. Minimal emergency lighting light the tunnel behind it, but it didn't seem to go far before it branched into a 'T'.

"Dammit, low crawls," Verdei grumbled as he tightened the straps on his pack.

"I'm sorry, Doctor, we weren't given a good brief otherwise I could have prepared a bit better. We don't have enough of the gravbelts for everyone. You trust me enough that I won't drop you?"

Cara quirked an eyebrow for a second as she looked at Bran. "I guess," she said, dubiously.

"Alright, move out. And Squints, don't waste our time on this."

Tiffany only shot him a venomous look before she crawled in after the first two security officers. Being smaller, thinner and not carrying a loaded pack, she as able to crawl on hands and knees, and made her displeasure at the slow progresss of the larger, laden security officers in front of her as they were forced to low crawl until they got to the 'T' junction and were able to drop down, where the corridor widened enough for them to be able to crawl as well.

Minutes passed before Tiffany finally gave indication that the main trunk line was in a small junction just a few meters ahead.

Bran, in front of the doctor stopped to wait while first Jorrel was able to stand, crouched, but at least standing, and then dropped over the opening.

"Stop squirming!" Devorak said as he fitted Tiffany with a makeshift rope harness, then attached it to clips on his rucksack. He took out his PaDD and worked aorund her to make another adjustment. "What do you weigh? About a hundred fifty?" His breath exploded out as he found that her elbow to his diaphragm still held power even as close as they were.

"I'm a hundred ten. Not everyone feels the need to have a big bowl of steroids for breakfast!" she hissed.

Bran laughed as he turned to the doctor, using his wristPaDD. "If I ask your weight to calibrate the gravbelt for us, am I going to get an elbow in the stomach for my trouble as well?"

"Not at all. I'm proud of my 125 pounds," Cara answered. While Bran did his calculations, she switched the function of her tricorder to scan for life signs. Besides those that represented her team she saw that the other team had arrived and was moving upward toward the Operations Center of the base. "Team one is here and on their way to Ops," she said, pointing upward. She did frown when she noticed other, much smaller life signs scattered around them. "Critters," she muttered.

"Critters?" Bran asked, taking a glance at her screen. "Don't you mean 'free range emergency rations'?"

"I wouldn't want to eat anything I am not familiar with," Cara said with a shudder.

"You gotta step off the ledge!" Devorak's raised voice said.

"No I don't! You're nuts if you think I'm going to jump thirty-three decks only to splatter at the end! Do you have any idea what the result of hitting a suddenly solid object at fifty-four meters per second does to a body? 'Splatter' doesn't begin to describe it!" Tiffany screamed, still squirming away from the opening of the main trunk of the jeffries tube. Devorak was trying to get them into a position to where they could control the descent, but with her squirming, he could easily fall into the shaft uncontrolled and that could lead to danger. Bran was about to intervene when Devorak, muttering several curses, wrapped his arms around the petite engineer and easily lifted her up. Though she still shrieked and tried to fight, most of her leverage was gone. Devorak was able to walk to the edge of the shaft and drop off. Tiffany's screams echoed out of the shaft, but disappearing much slower than one would imagine if she were reaching terminal velocity to splatter at the bottom.

Bran shook his head as he stood - well, crouched - and indicated the doctor should do the same. As he began hooking her into his own rucksack harness, he grinned. "Ready to not hit a solid object at fifty-four meters per second?"

"I've repelled before, Mr. Bran," Cara said as she assumed the position.

"Good to know," Bran said as they maneuvered to the edge. "Ready, and we're off," he said as he took the initiative to drop them over the ledge. Though they started with free fall, the gravbelt quickly kicked in and their descent slowed drastically, so much that the descent seemed to take much longer than it should. Eventually though, they landed, Bran making sure to take much of the brunt of the force to keep the doctor from being hurt. Without saying more, however, he moved them to the side and quickly unhooked himself from the doctor. The need for that was apparent as the next security officer came down and then the last.

"Don't. Ever. Do. That. Again!" Tiffany said, punctuating each word with a closed hand slap to Devorak's chest. He glanced at Bran, the irritation with the engineer plainly written on his face. Bran gave a shake of his head and Devorak just took a breath as he moved away from the woman, still muttering.

"If you'd like to file a complaint," Bran said, his tone neutral and rote.

"I don't blame him!" Tiffany said, rounding on Bran. "He's just the goose-stepping "just following orders" moron! You're the uncaring fascist prick that gave them!"

"Actually," Bran said, "I'm a deontologist, but that's easy enough mistake to make for a vainglorious, narcissist. Now, shut your yap and get us to Engineering where we're supposed to be by now. And no, I don't want to hear more out of you at this point because, quite frankly, if you stopped to think about whether or not we're as 'gun happy' as you're trying to's a large base, there's few of you and lots of us and I'm quite certain there are plenty of places to stash a body."

Tiffany opened her mouth but Bran put one hand on his rifle and held the other up. "Engineering, now." His tone bespoke he wasn't going to put up with more insults or stalling. "And next time, think before you volunteer for the 'adventure of it all'."

Tiffany narrowed her glare but then turned in a huff and moved out.

Sighing, Bran shook his head as he fell in step with the other security forces and indicated Nichols should join him. "As for those 'critters' Doctor," he said, "I wouldn't turn my nose up at what could become our food source if conditions become dire enough."

"Alright everyone," Cara spoke up. "This isn't a hologram game. Let's get serious. If we don't get the environmental and life support systems up and running all of us...including the Colonel and his team will die of suffocation in..." she looked at her tricorder, "..between 1 and 2 hours. If we don't freeze to death first. Mr. Bran...please....lead the way."

"Lock it up," Bran said without much emotion at the irritated grumbling he heard from Nichols's orders. Though it didn't take long for them to make it out of the jeffries tubes and back into the dimly lit deck beyond. Where Bran had Tiffany take the lead to get them to engineering.

"I certainly hope that the doors aren't on the same system as everything else, otherwise we're going to have to take some time to get into Engineering," Tifany said as they rounded a corner to where she declared engineering should be. Devorak put a hand on her shoulder and thumbed her back. Bran wasn't sure why she actually listened and moved back, maybe it was because Devorak didn't even look at her through the entire process but was focused on Jorrell as the two moved forward, quietly, cautiously. Weapons up, though what good that was going to do if the doors were sealed or some other automated system was activated, Bran wasn't sure. But training was training and -

"Ow!" Jorrell said as he approached the door and ran into what was a suddenly erected forcefield.

"Well, answers that," Bran said, moving forward to see what could be done only to run into a second forcefield. At that point the two security officers beyond were stuck between the two. "And if we try to get them deactivated, we get the wrong command code and twenty-two seconds later we all die. And we still haven't heard from the other team."

"Scans are showing a high level of doxacetamite in the asteroid itself, this could be absorbing the signals, even more since we're so much further toward the core of the asteroid," Wagner was saying while he wiped his brow at the increased heat in the area. "Without active boosts, that could help explain the problem. Either way, once we get the power plant back online, things should work out." Wagner took a step closer to them. "But, won't bringing full power back online also require the use of command inputs?"

"One problem at a time, Petty Officer," Bran said while trying to figure out what they could do about the forcefields. The emitters would be hidden behind the bulkheads and they would have to cut through them to get to it which could provoke more of a response, but at the moment, engineering and the engineer was separated by two force fields and a portal that they weren't sure would even open.

"Thoughts, Doctor?" Bran asked, asking the nominal senior officer on the team.

"Yeah," Cara mumbled. "I want to go home." She tapped her combadge and said, "Nichols to Team 1....we are at the doors to Engineering but there is a forcefield in front of it. Has anyone up there figured out how to shut down these blasted security measures?"

"That's a negative, Nichols. What the hell are you guys doing down there? The computer appears to have developed a speech impediment, although it stopped trying to suck us out into space, which is progress," came the Colonel's reply.

Oblivious Hopper - Medical Post Borg Attack
Show content
Sally removed the hypospray after the gentle hiss finished. He picked up the PaDD and made a quick notation before setting it down next to the hypospray.

“Not sure I can trust a doctor who can’t even fix himself,” the petty officer said as he leaned back on his elbow. The strain of the pain he was feeling still evident on his face, but soon the pain reliever would be working its magic again.

“Not my turn yet,” Sally said, holding up his wrist with the off-green tag. Granted, he’d given it to himself after wrapping his arm in bioplast to help immobilize the fracture. He knew there were others with much more serious injuries than himself, such as the petty officer he was currently seeing with a compound fracture in his leg. Thus far the only treatment he’d received was a periodic shot of pain reliever and, once, something to help him sleep for a bit.

“Looks to me like it’s not been your turn for a bit,” the man said. Sally picked up the PaDD to see what his name was. Charles Wrothing, operations department. Prior to today he had been hale and hearty, no major illnesses reported since he enlisted in Starfleet. This would be his first bone break in his life. Sally put the PaDD down. It was reported he was married. Thus far Wrothing didn’t ask about his spouse but Sally was sure it would be coming. Just like many others.

Sally didn’t know how to answer that question. He couldn’t even answer it for himself. Did Tiffany survive the attack? Why had her thoughts suddenly cut off from him when the station rocked that time? He was sure she wasn’t on this ship otherwise he was sure he’d sense her. Unless she was unconscious. He had to hope she was unconscious. Or out of range. That she survived and the Neptune made it past the Borg invasion, finding themselves somewhere safe, preferably back in the Alpha Quadrant.

He wouldn’t be able to answer Wrothing’s question about the location of his spouse. He knew that a team from operations was working to compile a list of who was on the ship, a database the passengers could begin checking for loved ones, friends, associates. For those who may find matches on the list, it would be a blessing. For those that didn’t, however, it was still the curse of not knowing.

Not knowing was the problem.

“You gonna be able to fix my leg now?” Wrothing asked, cutting through Sally’s momentary lapse.

“I’m gonna make you a bit more comfortable, but one of the doctors is getting to you soon,” Sally said as he glanced over his shoulder to the makeshift surgery centers. It wasn’t the best and they didn’t have the normal equipment. They scavaged what they could and were using it. If the break was just a fracture, like his own, he’d probably be working on fixing it. But the compound nature of it meant it had to go to a doctor.

“Just a nurse?” Wrothing asked. Sally didn’t detect condescension in tone vocally or mentally, just a question. Most people didn’t understand the complexities of the medical field. Most didn’t even know there were complexities, despite their own departments being tiered like Medical.

“Not a nurse, but more than a corpsman,” he answered as he was gathering up his tools and making the final notations to send off to the computer so that Wrothing’s medical file would be updated before the doctors got to him. Just as he was about to stand and move to the next patient, Wrothing grabbed his arm.

“I want to ask, but it looks like you already understand the pain,” the petty officer said.

Sally stared at the man’s face for a moment before nodding. “I don’t have anything I can tell you. I know that’s not a comfort. I can’t even offer you hope at this point.”

“No, I don’t suppose you can,” Wrothing said as he lowered himself, trying to making himself comfortable. His wince was more out of reflex than from actual pain. Still, Sally scanned him again, then satisfied he’s done what he could at the moment, he stood and prepared to move to the next.

“You gotta take a break,” one of the RNs said to him. She’d introduced herself when Sally first started and he recalled her name was Suzanne or Suzette or, something like that, he thought. She laid a hand gently against his arm. “Get some rest. We’ve all been working far too long and it’s not going to help if we burn out.”

Sally shook his head. “I will when I’m ready but…until then…I’ve gotta keep moving. Until there’s news. I don’t understand why there’s not any news, why aren’t the ships communicating with each other?”

Suzanne or Suzette or whatever her name was leaned in closer to him, “I spoke with a security officer earlier. He’s saying that the ships have been taken over by the computer, some sort of Federation protocol. Nobody knows where we’re going or what’s happening.”

Sally shook his head as he glanced at his PaDD for the next patient. “Let’s hope that’s just a rumor. Who the hell would set it up so that an entire fleet is blind like that?”

“Medic!” he heard called by one of the charge nurses. Sally raised his hand while he responded.

“Security is requesting a medic in the primary cargo bay, apparently someone else got stunned and needs to be checked out.”

Sally sighed. Another one. Stunned by security. This was getting out of hand. Tempers were getting high and, if what he was just told was going around the ship, a ship packed way over comfortable capacity, he wasn’t sure he could put the blame completely on security. Their job wasn’t pleasant most times, but now? But they were also facing the same frustrations and stresses as everyone else and those feelings of frustration and helplessness in the situation may be coloring their responses as well. “On it,” Sally said as he grabbed his pack and headed out the door, watching his PaDD for the relevant information that they may already have.

But, if the ship continued to go the way it was going, how long until security’s weapons were taken off stun and shipmates were getting hit with phaser blasts?
The Rock, Part 2 FOB Anchorage, Various Locations Immediately following The Rock, Part 1
Show content

The frigid air whipped through Chris' hair, stinging his eyes as the turbolift platform shot upward towards an ever-widening bright spot of blue light. After a few moments, the lift began to slow and slid to a stop in the center of a platform was illuminated white around its borders inside of the darkened blue room. Christopher stepped forward and the light turned an angry shade of scarlet and the blue lights began to slowly blink red.

"I think we might be in trouble." Chris said as several bulkheads slid down and blocked the entrances to the other four corridors, leaving only one path for them to take. Suddenly, red lights along the path activated to show them the way.

Drew cast a suspicious eye at the only way left for them to go. He didn't like not having options. He was still assessing their situation and wondering if they were about to walk into a trap.

Ja'xon and the three other three Marines raised their rifles and took just a couple steps out of the turbo lift ahead of Chris.

Tapping his commbadge, Chris attempted to open up a channel. "Mitchell to Nichols, we've reached the Ops deck- I think and most of our routes have been blocked. We're heading down a central corridor and I'm not sure where it leads. Maintain a communications lock on us if you can." Looking back towards the rest of the team, Chris' face looked rather noncommittal. "Well, if no one has any objections, it looks like we need to move.

"Aye aye, sir," Cara responded. "We have located engineering but we can't gain access due to the stupid safety measures set in place, I imagine, by our predecessors. We need to get in there to fix the environmental and life support systems which are currently running on minimal power. What we are breathing is only 20% oxygen. We have about two hours before we start showing signs of asphyxiation. If we don't suffer from hypothermia first."

"That would explain why we're feeling a bit lightheaded up here. Do what you need to do and keep me apprised. Mitchell Out." he said, cutting off the channel.

Looking back towards the rest of the team, Chris' face looked rather noncommittal. "Well, if no one has any objections, it looks like we need to move-" he was interrupted by a female voice that sounded cold, confident, and extremely commanding. Chris couldn't put his finger on it but he had heard that voice before.

Drew looked around for a source of the disembodied voice. He, also, vaguely recognized the voice too. He knew who the owner of the voice was, of that he was certain. The identity though was just out of his minds conscious reach though.

Ja'xon began to scan the area ahead of them, searching for an immediate threat. As he looked, his rifle followed where his eyes led.

"Not so fast. Proceed down the corridor one at a time and identify yourself. If you fail to do so, I won't hesitate to vent you into space with the rest of your little band." The voice said coldly. A small pit of fear settled in Christopher's stomach and weighed him down like a rock but he tried his best to suppress it as best he could.

"Well, you heard the lady, one at a time. I'll go first." he said quickly, swallowing as his chest began to tighten and his heart began to beat a stiff tattoo against the inside of his rib cage.

"Careful sir." Drew looked about again. Though female, the voice was not the standard used by Starfleet computer systems. More to the point, it seemed to be someone speaking in real time, which begged the question. Were there others already at this hidden base and why hadn't they hailed the ships during approach?

"Mitchell, Christopher David. Colonel, Starfleet Marine Corps, Carrier Air Wing Eleven." he said as the computer scanned him with a soft blue light.

Drew stepped forward next, the biometric scanner now lighting up his body in an ethereal glow. "Knight, Andrew James. Lieutenant with Starfleet Special Warfare Command."

The disembodied voice spoke out again. "And who are the rest of you?" she inquired

Ja'xon maintained control over his weapon as he stepped up next, only lowering it slightly. "Second Lieutenant Ja'xon, Marine Commanding Officer, Bravo Company." As he stepped off, he added, "And these next three are my Marines." Corporal Butler, LCPL Mackie, and PFC Lucas all identified themselves as they walked down the hallway. Ja'xon waited as his men made it through, he didn't like the situation, he was beginning to feel cornered or trapped.

Chief Kawalsky stepped forward next, speaking in a clear and loud voice. "Kawalsky, Jason Thomas, Chief Special Warfare Operator, Starfleet Special Warfare Command."

"Gunnery Sergeant Lucinda Vasquez" said the woman. "Operations" she added.

Christopher was first, his hand tight on his rifle as he walked into a massive domed room ringed with stations around a central dais that was illuminated with a harsh white light where a square-shouldered female figure was standing. Slowly making his way over to her, he watched her turn and suddenly it dawned on him.

"You can say it, Colonel." the woman said.

"Admiral Janeway, what are you doing here?" Chris asked thickly. If she was here, then there were bound to be more personnel but where were they?

Admiral Janeway bore a serious expression on her face as she addressed Christopher. "I would be more than happy to tell, if I were actually there. I am on Earth, standing in a replica of Forward Operating Base Anchorage's Operations Center." She paused a moment as she gestured to herself. "What you are seeing is a holographic avatar of me transmitted via the Hirogen communications network."

Ja'xon was just as surprised as everyone else, and he immediately wanted to ask questions about everything leading up to their arrival. However, knowing his place among the men he traveled with, he remained silent and listened to what his superiors had to say.

Janeway didn't seem inclined to field questions at this time. If anything she wanted her questions answered first. "The Sanctuary Protocols went into effect over four hours ago Colonel Mitchell. I want to know what happened to initiate that."

"Ma'am, Starbase 900 was attacked by a small Borg force, four ships by last count and didn't survive the initial attack. At that time, Admiral Peltier, Rear Admiral Tackman, and Major General Rissinger were all aboard and are missing, presumed dead The entire relief force that came through the gate was also eliminated. In total, we're looking at over 20,000 dead and casualty reports are still coming-"

Janeway's expression turned progressively grim as Christopher gave her a quick summary. She held up a hand to pause his explanation. "Who is currently senior officer on site?"

Christopher cleared his throat as it immediately felt like someone was squeezing it slowly. "That would be me, Admiral. I took command of the Task Force in the wake of

"Well then, Colonel. I hereby grant you a brevet promotion to Brigadier General and order you to take command of Forward Operating Base Anchorage. Start getting you house in order, General Mitchell." Janeway looked to her right, as if she were being addressed my an invisible person. She gave a single nod and returned her gaze to Christopher. "You can also expect a communique from Starfleet Command no later than tomorrow morning. I am sure Secretary of Defense William Ross will confirm you promotion as permanent once I brief him on your status. We will conduct another face to face discussion tomorrow at 1500 hours. Do you or any of your other officers have anything more to add at this time?"

Chris thought for a moment. "Ma'am, I'd like to take a moment to recognize everyone on this base. They've proved themselves beyond measure up to this point and I have no doubt that they'll continue doing so. I'd request that all Starfleet members present during the evacuation receive commendations. Also, in light of the fact that I have been granted a command again, I'll need an Executive Officer. If you permit, I'd like to appoint Lieutenant Knight."

Janeway turned her head and looked at a blank screen, at least one that was blank here in the Delta Quadrant. Her eyes darted from left to right several times, as if she were reading. "Well, Lieutenant Knight is in the primary zone for promotion to Lieutenant Commander. Very well, consider this a second brevet promotion, confirmation pending." She turned back to Christopher. "Any other recent promotions I should be made aware of?"

Ja'xon raised his left hand slightly, before putting it back on to his weapon, it is important to always main positive control of your weapon. "Yes, Ma'am." He spoke up, "Ja'xon here, I received a battlefield commission. I am now the Marine Commanding Officer for Bravo Company, 25th Marine Regiment."

Janeway nodded and appeared to be making notes. "Tomorrow, 1500 hours. Please have yourself, Mister Knight and members of your senior staff present for the meeting General Mitchell..."Her expression became stern. "...and only members of your senior staff."

=== Team Two ===

"Well that was just very unhelpful," Tiffany grumbled as she balanced on her toolkit while sitting, her face supported by hands supported by elbows on knees. "Here I am, going to freeze to death, or suffocate to death in the company of a bunch of goons that are more likely to hulk into roid rage soon because they missed their last dose."

"Alright, that's it, I've had enough of it!" Verdei said as he moved forward. Only to be immediately stopped by Bran sliding between him and the engineer.

"She's having a rough time just like the rest of us, just remember that," Bran said, annoyed himself by the woman's attitude, but still, killing her would not only not resolve the problem they were currently facing, it would cause others since she was the only engineer they had on the away team and thus far they weren't able to get any other.

"None of the rest of us are being petulant and whiny!" Verdei continued, his dark brown eyes focused on the dimunitive woman.

"No, and none of the rest of us are going to lose our professionalism and bearing over it either. Especially when it's not really because of her attitude but our own frustrations," Bran said, pushing Verdei another step back.

"Yeah, must be really frustrating not to be able to shoot your way out of a problem, trigger happy-" Tiffany stopped midsentence as she suddenly stood, her tookit falling over behind her. "Those aren't standard issue phaser rifles!"

"No," Bran said, scowling. Her bearing suggested she may have an idea, but other than trying to use the phasers to cut through the bulkhead, and then into the shield emitters beyond, he wasn't sure what she had to offer. "They're specific duty issued Gauss/Phaser rifles that my team has been using for some time now. Same as the ones we've issued on the Hopper due to the Borg attack."

"Gauss?" Tiffany asked, then her face brightening and scowling all at once "Yes! I remember someone mentioning that on the ship. Gauss rifles! Give that to me!" she said as she reached for Bran's rifle. "And that one too, and the others, they're Gauss as well?"

"Yes," Bran said, jerking the rifle out of her weaker grip. "And while I'd be more than happy to be trigger happy and shoot the emitters they're-"

"Oh, pick up a book sometime instead of just another barbell, Muscles!" Tiffany said, exasperated at their singleminded density, "Gauss projectile principle requires the firing of a ferrous slug at high speeds through an electromagnetic coil motor!"

Bran was shaking his head then, as if her enthusiasm was contagious, "And security shields are based on electromagnetic containtment?"

"Yes!" Tiffany said as Bran was handing over his rifle and signaling Verdei to give over his as well.

"You think you could use something to take down these shields?" Bran asked, reluctant to give up their weapons, but it wouldn't matter if they didn't get this base under control.

Tiffany was already on the ground, scribbling out what Bran could only recognize as mathematical formulas and symbols. She grumbled as she smudged out a whole line then seemed to rewrite it. "If I can create a magnetic induction..." she scribbled more "...take this rifle apart so I can see what I'm working with..." she said as she continued to fill the corridor with math..."...with the proper resonance frequency..."

She sat on her haunches. "I'll take your PaDD as well," she said to Bran, and turning to face Nichols, "and your tricorder to act as the tuner."

"Alright. Enough. Everyone," Cara said in a firm voice. "We are all under a lot of stress. No one is immune but we don't have time for all of these petty squabbles. Tiffany," she called out, using the only engineer on their team's first name because she didn't know her last. "Stand up and start acting like an adult. You are the only one on this team that knows how to do what needs to be done. Instead of throwing barbs at your fellow team your job." She turned around and looked at each of the other members of the team. "As for you guys....I get that a man measures his prowess by the size of his gun and if he carries a big one he feels all bad ass. But you are Starfleet and have no prowess when in uniform so stop peacocking around and see what you can do to actually help." She shook her head feeling like she was babysitting a bunch of 10 year olds just starting puberty. Cara walked over to Tiffany and softened her tone. "Is there anyway around this force field?" she asked. "A back door....crawl space....ventilator duct... anything?"

Bran watched the doctor's grandstanding with some concern. Apparently she was starting to feel the strain and decided she would deal with it by becoming insulting to the team she was leading. Which was a surefire way to make sure that those here weren't able to do their best. Especially since each and everyone of them were also feeling the same anxiety, strain, stress and uncertainty. Probably even more because they weren't as privy to the same information that Nichols had, so for them the rumor mill was running rampant and they had to try to sort through all of that to try to find grains and nuggets of truth behind any of it. His men were lucky in that they knew their fellows were safe - did Tiffany have that same luxury? Did Nichols know that his team watched the Gateway seal behind them, locking each and every one of them sixty thousand light years or more from their homes, families and loved ones?

Or did she just decide that it was all about her and not give a damn about any of it? If this is how she ran her medical department, he wasn't surprised that he learned the medical system on the Hopper ran in disarray for so long.

"Well, if you're done with the making speeches like some sort of evil stepmother from a fantasy story," Tiffany said, indicating the calculations Nichols just walked all over as she moved over, "and hand over the tricorder like I've already said, then I'll be able to create a resonator that can help us get through those fields. Then, once through them into Engineering, I'm sure your ability to make speeches is going to come in every so handy, Speech."

For once Bran found himself in agreement with the smaller woman and if he got a chance to pull the doctor aside, a conversation on her leadership manner, in becoming mysandric was surely not going to help the situation any.

"'Hand over the...' Seriously?" Cara glared at the young woman. "At the present, young lady...I am in command of this team...and even if I weren't I am still your superior. I suggest you adjust your attitude accordingly. As for the are an engineer. You should have brought one. But I will be happy to let you use mine," she said, removing the strap and handing the tricoder to Tiffany. She turned and glared at the rest of the team. "Anyone else want to challenge my authority?" she asked looking from one to the next.

"Are you making some sort of magnetic induction resonator?" Bran asked as he turned over the rifle, stripped down and opened to the internal components.

"Yes," Tiffany said, drawing out the word as if she were looking for the joke behind the question. "Though, it'll be helpful if I could cannabalize one of those grav belts."

Bran nodded as he took off the one he was still wearing and handed it over. He waited to see if she asked for anything else, or if it appeared she was going to ask for any help but she seemed to have forgotten anyone else existed at the moment. Bran looked at the scribbling on the deck one more time, trying to see how much of it he really understood and the answer turned out to be - very little of it. Which reassured him that despite his multiple degrees and working on his doctoral thesis, he was definitely not a squint. While Tiffany worked, Bran spoke with the three remaining security officers on this side of the field, keeping his voice low and quiet. There were some looks thrown over shoulders, but for the most part, they remained in conference until Tiffany looked up again.

"It's not pretty, Muscles, but I think it'll work. We should find out in a moment," Tiffany said as she put the magnetic coils at the base of the force field, separated by the length of the grav belt. Bran felt ashamed he'd allowed two of his rifles to be cannibalized to create whatever device she made, but if it kept his men from being trapped, it was worth it. Also, if it allowed them entry into Engineering, finally, then maybe that would be worth it as well.

"How's it work?" Bran asked, genuinely curious and seeing the annoying woman in a much different light.

"I can either try to explain it using the most basic words of two syllables or less and with only one universally assigned meaning so you couldn't possibly misunderstand anything I said," Tiffany answered as she fiddled with the tricorder. A whine filled the air, the pitch modulating as she made adjustments. "But you don't have any crayons to take notes with on your circle of paper, so it would just be a waste of time for both of us. I'll just tell you that it'll create an anti-resonance wave in the electromagnetic field which will bring it down."

She winced but seemed to find the right pitch. For Bran it was like a wave of needles flowing through his body but...the shield before them began flashing. Bran got to the point where he felt even his teeth hurt but then the field flashed brightly, followed by a pop and...the sound died away.

"Did it...?" Bran asked but Tiffany was already moving the makeshift device to the second door. A bit of distance lessened the effect, but not by much. Bran seriously wondered if the device was causing them internal damage and then the other shield flashed and popped, the sound dying away again. Small streams of smoke streamed through breaks in the bulkhead, accompanied by the acrid smell of burning wire and metal. Tiffany was stuffing the components into Devorak's pack, the bigger man calmly kneeling while she shoved the parts into the central chamber, which should have already been full.

"That's what happens when you open a book rather than a six pack," Tiffany said, before she turned to the door and hit the manual open button.

With a hiss and a blast of warm, humid air, the door slid open, revealing the top section of what seemed to be a large and minimally active power plant, complete with antimatter engines to drive power throughout the massive facility.

"Well, we're in Engineering," Tiffany said, throwing a sharp look to Bran, "what are we supposed to do now?"

"Mr. Bran and Mr. continue to clear the other rooms on this level," Cara instructed. "Petty Officer Jorrel and I will do what we can to assist Miss Renee in getting the environmental and life support systems up to full power." She looked at Bran and said, "I suggest you take Miss Renee's device with you in case you run into anymore force fields." Then she turned back to Tiffany and said, "my knowledge of engineering is minimal at best. How can I help?"

Tiffany rolled her eyes, "Sit over there and practice more speeches, especially one that not only apologizes for your rudeness earlier, but also extols my greatness. Especially since, well, I've already confirmed life support and environmental systems were already online and working. They had to be in order for us to have any air to breathe when we first beamed down here. Or didn't anyone else find it odd that we came here without EVA? Did you wonder that Beefaroni? How about you, Muscles?"

Bran turned hearing both his name and the 'nickname' used to refer to him twice in quick succession. There was something off and, replaying what he'd heard of Tiffany's statement, he thought maybe he knew what it was. "What do you mean the life support systems are already online? You said yourself that the atmo levels were severely reduced?"

Tiffany sighed, any regard she may have given Bran for having some clue about magnetic resonators obviously gone. "Yes, they were reduced, but rising. Because this base was sealed to space. That means that everything in it was opened up to the vacuum and coldness of space. I'm betting that when we were summoned here, that also started up the base engine," she indicated the power plant taking up the center of the room, "and the life support systems. Allowing us to have some warmth and a bit of air to breath. I'm sure that once we can access all the systems, we'll have the ability to get everything else online. But, until the proper command codes are entered, that's not going to happen."

Bran scowled as he listened to her, "Yeah, I think you said that too but...haven't you noticed? Any of you?" he asked, looking around the room. "The smell of this room?"

"It smells like a room," Tiffany said, again rolling her eyes, "I'm sure you'd prefer the sweat soaked walls of a gym, but no such luck for you."

"No," Bran said, "it smells like dust and cleaning solution." He took a deep breath, shaking his head after he did so. "Like, like dust was stirred up."

"So?" Tiffany said, "Who knows how long this place was left after it was sealed out?"

"Exactly," Bran said, as he spread his hands out. "Then where's the dust?"

"What?" Tiffany asked. "What dust?"

"Nowhere else on this base smelled like this. Like dust and, well, a room that's been occupied. Everywhere else was cold and clean. Because where would there be dust if this place was vacuum sealed?"

"Space has lots of dust and we are on an asteroid!" Tiffany said, exasperated.

"Okay, then where is it?" Bran asked, as he moved to the railing and ran his gloved finger across it. He held it up, showing that there wasn't any dust lifted as he did. "Where's the dust? It smells like there was dust here, where is it? Further, how well can a power plant like this handle the vacuum of space?"

"It doesn't need..." Tiffany said, but trailed off as she looked around. "If this place was activated at the same time as the Sanctuary Protocol," she said as she pulled out the chalk again and began making more calculations. "Then based on the model of the engine, as well as the flow and fuel consumption, even presuming very minimal power ratio, then..." She sat back on her heels, the chalk gripped tightly in her hand as she looked at Bran. "This isn't right. Unless there's technology that I don't know about, Muscles," and the tone of her voice said very much she doubted that was the case., "then there wasn't enough time for the engine to warm up, come online and begin powering those systems to give us what we've got in the time since Sanctuary Protocol."

She stood as she looked directly at Bran. "I don't know how long this base has been here, but I know how much fuel it would need to keep this engine in minimal standby mode for even a year." She went to the console, her fingers flying across the keys while her head shook. What she was discovering scared her enough to give her shakes. "The fuel reserves are too high. And, this room was sealed off and kept from being exposed to space." She stepped away as she turned to Bran. "An that console was already active and logged on!"

"Check," Bran said, "Chyore, Verdei, you're on babysitting duty with these two. Jorrell you're with me, you two on the other side."

Bran took a moment to turn to Nichols. "As it seems that Engineer Renee has confirmed is that we may not be alone down here. Stay here with the security officers," he said as he pulled out his sidearm. Devorak and Wagner were already moving to the other side of the room, moving slowly and cautiously as they began sweeping the area for any potential hostiles - or anything really.

Cara simply shook her head. She couldn't remember the last time she slept or ate and her patience with the constant insubordination had long since expired. She decided that anything she said would be fuel for their disdain so she would simply let them have their way and put Renee and Bran on report when they were back on the ship. She tapped her combadge and said, wearily, "Team 2 to Team 1...we have gained access to Engineering and Miss Renee is working on the environmental and life support systems. I think she might need a little help if you have an engineer to spare up there."

"Ask them to send an entire team, there were plenty enough on the Hopper that could do with more than busy work," Tiffany muttered while at the console.

Ensign Billy Webb, who had been bringing up the rear spoke up. "I'm headed your way, Team Two. Mind activating your locator beacon for me? he asked as he turned to head back towards the lift. If they were calling him, it had to be bad.

Cara smiled and breathed a sigh of relief as she tapped her combadge twice to activate her beacon.

"Muscles," Tiffany said activating the commbadge. "You're not going to like this, I bet. I'm been going over the power consumption records and, up to about five hours ago, it was what I would expect, going back years. Except...there was a lot of power going into one shield generator for this area. It appears this area was kept sealed up. Other, minor blips, indicate power consumption by other systems: life support in this area, environmental controls in Engineering, replicators in Engineering."

Bran was scowling, about to reply when he got another call when he was interrupted by Devorak on the priority team signal. "Chief, you'd better come over here." Bran caught the tone and was irritated. They hadn't continued clearing this side, but Devorak's tone was enough to get him to issue orders for Wagner to replace him with Jorrell while he hurried to Devorak's side.

The security officer stood in front of a small door which Bran assumed led to an equipment room, data storage room, or some other equally unknown to him Engineering function. Except, as he reached it, he found differently. Somewhere along the way, the room was converted. There was a desk, a replicator, a bed and...

"Doctor," he called out, absolutely no urgency in his voice. "You should come over here," Bran finished as he looked at the dessicated, skeletal remains on a bed in the room.

Cara walked over to the door of the room and looked in but saw nothing but an empty cot. "What am I supposed to be seeing?" she asked.

Ensign Webb walked into the room after treading through labyrinthian hallways and caught the last hint of a conversation. "Doc, I'm Ensign Webb. You order a hot and ready Engineer with extra pepperoni and extra cheese?" he asked, chuckling slightly. The smile began to slide off his face as he saw the puzzled look on the doctors face and he began to observe the exchange.

Cara laughed. "And extra mushrooms? Yes," she said. "Ens. Tiffany Renee. See if you can give her a hand getting the environmental and life support systems operating at full power so we can breathe clean air and not freeze to death." Taking one last look in the empty equipment room and still not seeing what Bran had called her over to look at, Cara said, "there are other areas on this deck that need to be cleared, Mr. Bran. Please take your security officers and get it done."

Bran muttered under his breath something that Cara couldn't make out....and was glad as she was beyond exhausted and didn't know if she would have been able to keep reign on her temper, then he motioned to the two other security officers and left Engineering to finish sweeping the deck.

Cara took one more look at the empty cot and shrugged wondering what it was that Bran had seen that made him call her over. She turned to the two engineers and asked, "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"At present, just keep doing what you're doing. I'm going to see if there's anything we can do to make this place a bit less chilly." he said, shivering a little. Hearing slight thumps in the deck, he saw the lights brighten and what sounded like industrial machinery engaging with a steady droning sound. "Something tells me that Engineering has just been brought online. I'll go and take a look. "

Meeting the New Neighbors FOB Anchorage, Residential Section: Family Quarters Several Hours After the Rock, Part Two
Show content
Drew and Ashley were walking down the corridor of the residential district. They were just coming to their new quarters from the Logistics Center with a cart filled with their meager personal belongings and some household equipment to help set up their new home.

Ashley was glad to still have Uncle Drew in her life, but she was extremely sad about the death of her parents. She's heard the rumors that all the transwarp gateways back to the Alpha Quadrant were now disabled or destroyed. She looked at Drew pushing the cart. "Uncle Drew, are we...are we ever going to get home?"

Drew's thoughts were very similar to his niece's, but he also realized he now head not only his official duties to perform, he would also be acting as guardian for Ashley. At least until such time as she could be transported back to Earth or she came of the age of majority. Options, which he wasn't sure would occur first. He glanced at Ashley and nodded encouragingly. "Of course we will Ashley. I promise. I will get you home as soon as I possibly can."

Another pair of individuals was approaching the intersection down a cross corridor.

Ferguson actually felt in good form, despite recent events. He pushed a cart that was loaded with similar items to the one the Knight's had. He caught Catherine's sidelong glance at him and turned his head. "You really must stop worrying Poppet. Like I told you at the Distribution Center. I am fine."

"Ferguson? How long have you been with our family?" she asked

Ferguson looked thoughtful for a moment as he remembered first coming to work for the Waddington family. "Well, I believe I was 16 when I started out as a valet for your grandfather. I'm 66, so, 50 years now."

"And all of my life you have picked me up from boarding school, come to the parents evenings and when Father took me with him on diplomatic assignments you came with us and acted as his aide and now as mine yes?"

Ferguson allowed himself a nostalgic smile as he remembered his decades of service to Catherine's family. "Quite correct Poppet. Why do you ask?"

"Are you aware quite how lost I would be if you were no longer around?" she asked. "So I will fuss and worry about your health. I would hate to be out here alone."

Ashley and Drew walked in silence. Both lost in their own thoughts, so much so, they did not hear the muted conversation coming from a cross corridor as they reached the intersection. The carts collided and items spilled out all over as both carts tipped over.

Drew immediately bent down to help retrieve belongings, apologizing emphatically as he did. "I am so sorry. I wasn't paying attention. Please forg...." He looked up at Ferguson and then Catherine and lost his ability to speak.

Ferguson knelt down to help Drew in picking up and sorting various belongings, actually glad to have a reason to avoid the direction his discussion with Catherine had taken. "Quite alright sir. I myself was a bit distracted as well." He looked at Drew and noticed him staring at Catherine. He could tell the expression of recognition on Drew's face. "I gather you've met Lady Catherine already."

"Andrew, please meet Ferguson Price. Ferguson this is Lieutenant Commander Andrew Knight." Catherine smiled. "And who are you sweetheart?" she asked looking to Ashley.

Ashley just cast her eyes about the group of people, finally settling them on Catherine with a smile on her face. She thrust out a hand to Catherine. "Hi there. I'm Ashley. Ashley Knight and you must be Lady Catherine. Uncle Drew told me about meeting you aboard the Zumwalt." She glanced down at Drew for a moment and was quick to notice his speechless expression. She returned her gaze to Catherine. "He did fail to mention how pretty you are though."

Catherine laughed partly at the young girls remark and partly her uncles face. "It is very nice to meet you Ashley. How about we help your Uncle Drew and Ferguson with the bits that fell huh? Maybe later we can have a nice cup of tea and chat?" she smiled.

Ashley returned the smile and nodded. She bent over and started helping her uncle and Ferguson with the scattered belongings.

Drew tried giving his niece an admonishing look, but she wasn't having it.

Ferguson on the other hand kept a straight face. His demeanor never faltering for one second. He was, however, having an internal battle to maintain his composure. He found Ashley's straightforwardness very refreshing.

After about a minute all the items were back in their proper place on now upright carts.

Drew gave Catherine and Ferguson an inquisitive look. "What unit are they housing you both in?"

"Its on the Padd they gave us." Catherine remarked. "You all right Ferguson?" she asked as she showed Andrew the Padd

Ferguson nodded and since he was not flushed or seemed to be overly exerted in any way. "I'm quite well Lady Catherine."

Ashley's brow knitted in thought as she looked between Ferguson and Catherine. "Why does he call you Lady Catherine?"

"Because almost two thousand years ago one of my ancestors saved a King and the King made him an Earl and gave him some land. The daughter of an Earl is called a Lady. But you can call me Cat." Catherine explaned

Ashley gave her head a shake, not just to decline Catherine's offer, but to ponder what she thought was silliness in ancient civilizations. "No, I think Lady Catherine suits you." Her smile showed she genuinely believed what she said.

Drew handed Catherine back her PADD. "Your in dwelling 4275. We are actually right across the hall in 4274."

Ashley beamed at the news. "We're neighbors! Cool!"

"That's great." Catherine smiled. "Do you like reading?" she asked Ashley

Drew gave a snort of laughter as he took hold of the cart with Ashley and his belongings. "That is like asking a fish if it likes water."

Ashley shot Drew a mock annoyed look as she stepped quickly behind the cart with Catherine and Ferguson's belonging. "You hush up mister." She turned to Catherine and nodded emphatically. "I absolutely love reading." She cast a quick glance to Ferguson. "No worries Mister Price. I got this for you."

Ferguson looked at Ashley for a moment and then cast a sidelong glance at Catherine.

"I think Ferguson managed to save some of my books. If you'd like to read them you may." Catherine offered a little smile on her lips that she was not the only one who'd try their best to make sure that he had an easier life now.

Ferguson caught the look on Catherine's face. "I did at that. Shall we proceed." He gestured down the corridor. "I believe we are just a few more meters down this way."

Ashley noticed a box she remembered her uncle had just a bit of trouble lifting back onto Catherine and Ferguson's cart. She surmised the little treasure Catherine spoke of was in there. She couldn't help but feel a giddiness to actually hold a real book in her hands soon. "Thank you so very much for the offer Lady Catherine. I promise to take extra good care of any book you lend me."

Drew was also appreciative of the offer as well. He looked at Catherine and mouthed thank you silently.

Catherine smiled in response to the mouthed thanks. "Well at least there will be a place for you to make homely." Catherine teased Ferguson goodnaturedly.

"Yes, well I do believe it will be have a well behaved young lady nearby this time." Ferguson bestowed Catherine with a sardonic smile of his own. "Unlike someone I know who would take her father's prize Charger out for romps through the countryside."

Ashley giggled and looked at Catherine askance. "This true Lady Catherine?"

"Yes. Yes it is." Catherine replied with a grin.

Ferguson gave Ashley a mock severe look. "I assume you won't go stealing a shuttlecraft and go gallivanting around the quadrant young lady."

Drew shot a look at his niece. "She better not."

Ashley shook her head. "No worries there Mister Price. I don't gallivant and I don't know the first thing about flying a shuttle."

"I'm saying nothing." Catherine smiled sweetly at Ferguson.

They all arrived at the doors to their new residences.

Ashley handed off the cart to Ferguson. "There you are sir."

Ferguson gave Ashley a slight bow. "I do thank you young lady.

Drew came abreast the door to their quarters. He keyed in the code and the door swished open. "Come along Ashley. Let Lady Catherine and Mister Price go get settled into their new home."

Ashley nodded and shook hands with both her neighbors. "OK. See you guys around."

"When you're settled pop in and have a look at the books." Catherine smiled and keyed in her own codes.

Ashley took hold of their cart and wheeled it into their new home as Ferguson did the same for Catherine and him.

Drew found himself out in the corridor alone with Catherine. He felt his heart go all aflutter just standing there alone for the moment with her. "I...guess I should get inside and help Ashley put our things away."

"Sure. Do pop over for a cup of tea when you are all done." Catherine smiled "'ll make sure I have the books ready for Ashley to look at." she added with a quick wave she vanished into her dwelling.

=====Knight Household=====

Drew stepped into his new home with Ashley and paused for a moment.

Ashley just looked at her uncle and shook her head. "You want to get over here and help Uncle Drew."

Drew nodded and moved to the cart and helped unload it.

=====Waddington Household=====

Feruson was already moving boxes and packages and bags off the cart and sorting them for their final destination. He turned to Catherine and nodded to the door. "Well, young Miss Ashley is a cheeky little monkey."

"I am sure she found you equally charming." Catherine smiled as she looked at the items he was sorting. "Now how about you tell me what goes where?" She asked.

Ferguson pointed at the box with Catherine's books. "How about you sort those out. I am sure Ashley will be over straight away after helping her uncle get their domicile in order."

"She likes to read, it is a good thing."

Ferguson allowed himself a fatherly smile and nodded. "Yes, it is."

"Besides kids make you young is what you used to tell me."

Ferguson's smile only grew as he fondly remembered Catherine growing up. "Aye Poppet, that I did." His expression altered to one of a more inquisitive nature. "I am curious as to your thoughts about Ashley's uncle? He does seem the interesting sort."

"You said I made you grey." she chuckled. "As to Lieutenant Commander Knight, he seems a very respectful man. Most officers are." she said as she placed her books on the shelf. "Why do you ask?"

Ferguson could not contain a chuckle as he touched the top of his head. "That you did Poppet. Regarding Luftenant Commander Knight, though. It is quite apparent to me, and I believe Miss Ashley as well, that he fancies you."

"Nonsense. He was simply being polite."

"Well, I have seen that same expression, he gave you when the carts collided, on many a gentleman caller for you on your father's doorstep." Though Ferguson's expression was one of general curiosity. There was a slight tug on the side of his mouth that indicated he was suppressing a smile.

"Yes it is called annoyance and frustration." Catherine said. "And what new job role are you designing for yourself now? Matchmaker?" She teased. "I am sure he was simply being polite and we did startle the poor man when the carts collided."

Ferguson nodded, though his expression said he was less than convinced. "If you say so Poppet, but I don't believe you need to worry about me being the matchmaker. I think that role may already be filled by a cheeky little monkey." Ferguson gathered up Catherine's bags and took them into the master bedroom to put her things away. Leaving her to mull over their conversation.

"Ferguson you are such a wind up merchant." She called adding "I am making some tea would you like some?"

Ferguson's voice emanated from the master bedroom. "If you say so Poppet. Darjeeling if you please, with just a spot of honey."

She chuckled and shook her head "Coming up."
Looking for Cat
Show content
Tazanna and Meredith spotted Ferguson Price walking in the corridor. "Hey Fergie!" Meredith called. At 6ft tall she was just 3 inches shorter than he was.

Tazanna rolled her eyes. "I thought you were supposed to be keeping me out of trouble?" Tazanna hissed as she broke into a jog to keep up with the taller woman. "Hello Ferguson." Tazanna said a little awkwardly as they drew level with him.

Ferguson turned to the pair of approaching women and nodded in greeting as he first cast a friendly glance at Tazanna, followed up by a withering stare at Meredith. "Miss Wilcox, Miss Thompson. I trust you are both well today."

"We're fine, thank you." Tazanna, the quieter and shorter of the two women responded softly.

"I was flying top cover but she was not at the rendezvous point." Meredith asked.

Ferguson cast a slightly curious glance at Meredith. "Are you referring to Lady Catherine or...," he gestured to Tazanna and grinned, "...your fellow hooligan here?"

"Taz was present but Cat wasn't. Taz said she got her to the pod but stayed behind to help." Meredith pointed out.

"Ah, yes." Ferguson nodded with an understanding of Meredith's query. "She was transported aboard the USS Zumwalt, while most of the other survivors from the USS Wolves made it aboard the USS Hopper. She assured me she was quite safe under Lieutenant Knight's care." He paused a moment. "Actually I believe the officer was promoted to Lieutenant Commander following our arrival."

"Wolves didn't make it out." Tazanna stated. "Wheres Cat now? Do you know?"

Ferguson gestured in the direction of the residential district. "She is taking some time to collect herself. We have been Suite 4275 in the residential complex. I am sure she would like to see you both."

"Collect herself? She is in multiple pieces?" Meredith asked

Ferguson sighed as he shook his head. "No, she is not in pieces Luftenant. She is trying to center herself for the work to come in the next few weeks." He gave the ladies a dismissive wave. "Now off with you both. I have errands to complete for Lady Catherine."

"Codes?" The twosome asked in unison.

An exasperated Ferguson gave the ladies the four digit code for the lock and stalked off to continue his errands.

The two women chuckled and headed towards the cabin.
Undercurrant and concerns after waking up
Show content
Lady Catherine Waddington walked onto the holodeck an sat next to Meredith. The pilot was watching the smaller dark haired marine skate. Catherine looked like a china doll in comparison to the six foot pilot.

“thought I missed the usual thud of knives when she is pissed or hurting.” Catherine smiled.

Meredith shook her head. “I hid them. I know this mood too well. Recognised it during the evacuation of the Starbase.” she commented taking a swig of her coffee. “This was supposed to be a two week assignment for her and him to figure with time apart what they were going to do about things. She’s as silent as the grave on the topic. Other than to put him in the list of asshole CO’s this afternoon.” Meredith pointed out as Tazanna failed to execute a move properly and heard her mutter in clearly irritated Finnish.

“Aloittaa uudelleen!”

The music started again and she began her routine once more. “pieni lumihiutale’s back.” Meredith sighed.

“What was that?” Lady Catherine was confused. The Slavic languages were not her forte. Meredith frowned.

“When we were kids our parents decided to let us try ice skating. Zanna there took to it like the proverbial duck to water and was called pieni lumihiutale meaning Little snowflake. We called her that the first time her and Jason split up. She swore off emotions and to be fair it made her efficient. Cold but efficient. I THANKFULLY was not assigned to the Ajax with her but I heard enough about it.”

“You mean they…?” Catherine ventured. This drew another low chuckle from the pilot as she watched Tazanna. She shook her head.

“Her first CO on the Ajax was Tyler Fallon, he married her cousin Kachina Isaaisa. They got on well both being from similar backgrounds and she considered him a cousin long before he married China. Then the twins were born and Tyler felt he was too close to the crew emotionally and asked for reassignment. So Command gave them Commander Jason Tigan. Five years after they split he was thrown back in her life. Now Zanna is not the bet at dealing with emotions and well she froze him out. Ice cold on duty and avoided him after duty was over. Neat trick seeing as they served on a glorified runabout.” Meredith added. Again Tazanna mislanded, cussed in Finnish and restarted.
“I swear to God I have seen her pull this off.” Lady Catherine frowned as she watched her. Tazanna was usually so accurate with her movements and it seemed strange to see her mistakes.

“You have a hundred times or more.” Meredith agreed easily. “This is because she is unfocussed and being overly critical of herself. She’s off kilter will be for a while. Just pray that she works it out of her system or we find a way to communicate with the AQ soon.”

“Why did Father ask for you two?” Lady Catherine asked.

“From what I got he wanted two females who could look after themselves and you. Zanna and Jason are volatile. Always have been so they thought a short break may give them focus…” Meredith commented.

“And getting stuck here is going to be hard for her.” the redhead stated. Meredith shrugged.

“Zanna will cope it’s just gonna take a minute off duty.” Meredith tried to soothe her companions concerns. “Jason knew we were going to Starbase Nine Hundred. The report of the battle and no news of survivors will be equally hard on him.”

“You think it will be?” Catherine asked as Tazanna wandered over.

It was unfortunate the Marine’s sharp ears had caught her companions words. Tazanna spoke in the tongue the two women had learned as young girls. “an konsideran li te gen yon kè. Mwen te di nou Spectre, se li ki tout karyè. Pa gen kè.” She said in cold,calm Haitian Creole.

“Tazanna Asha Wilcox I know you don’t believe that.” Meredith pulled her up as she had when they were younger growing up on Goyanthlay IV. Tazanna’s parents often looking after Meredith if her parents were on an assignment where they could not take her.

“Don’t I? The only reason I have for missing the AQ is Yani, Mama and Daddy.” She stated. “Have your fantasies about true love and the like Wraith but at some point you have to grow up. I’m going to go shower.” she stated and with that vanished.

Lady Catherine blinked. “Is she often like this?” she asked

“Only when she’s hurting. She is like her father for that. Her father was security to your father back in the as was mine. My mother was his pilot which may explain his asking for Zanna and I.” She smiled. Catherine nodded.

“That sounds like father.” She agreed as she stood. “What can we expect from Tazanna?”

Meredith shrugged her shoulders. “That I have no clue. Tazanna always, always keeps her emotions in check. For her to be hurting and them to be uncontrolled will annoy her and she will go out of her way to get them back under control so we could have the ice queen back which is good for her doing her job not good for making friends. With us like at lunch she’ll put a bright face on and laugh but who knows what is going on under the surface.” she frowned.

“She’ll be okay won’t she?” Catherine asked.

“She’ll be fine, just give her time to sort her head.” Meredith smiled as they stood. “Why were you looking for us?” she asked.

“Seeing where you two were, although Ferguson was enjoying the peace when he woke this morning. I was wondering what you would think of piloting other craft though. Were the occasion to call for it.” Catherine admitted as they left the holodeck.

Meredith shrugged. “If it has wings I can fly it.” she said non-committally. “Why?”

“I thought it may help to get the place up and running if they needed another pilot.” she admitted. Meredith nodded her agreement. “It would and I am happy to do it just no back seat flyers.” she added. Catherine laughed.

“I shall make sure I tell Brigadier General Mitchell that.” she agreed.

“How is old Fergie?” Meredith asked as they walked.

“He says he is fine.” Catherine responded. “Why do you ask?”

“He reminds me a little of my Uncle Ernie.” she smiled. “Stubborn and don’t like admitting when he needs help.”

“Ernie? You mean Ernest Santini? Your crew chief from the Devonshire?” Catherine asked distracted by the mention of the barrel-chested Italian male. She’d met him as a young child when Meredith’s parents had worked for her father.

The Italian crew chief had been the reason all four children had learnt Italian and had gained an appreciation for Italian food and culture.

“So you DID read my jacket!” Meredith teased. “Ernest Santini is also Godfather to Tazanna and I. The other set of Godparents being Michael and Asha Fallon. The spec ops and Intel community amongst the tribe and mixed bloods is rather small and a lot are related to each other. My mom and dad were happy that Santini and the Fallon’s were our Godparents as they had the same lifestyle in the event of the worst happening then we were going to a family the same as ours. Here we will have to rethink the term family.”

“What do you think MY father will say?” Catherine asked.

Despite travelling with her father she had always been closer to the Price’s who had raised her as though she had been their own child.

“Your father is a strange one. No offence.” Meredith remarked.

“None taken.” Catherine smiled.

“My parents would go ape shit and raise hell like my Aunt did with Aunt Asha when Uncle Mike was MIA. Your father I think would be upset but he never shows it.” Meredith stated thinking of the few times she had met the man both with her parents and without.

She recalled the aristocrat always seemed cold and emotionless. He’d seemed to disapprove of Catherine playing with Meredith, Tazanna and Dyani when they were children. She recalled her own mother standing up to the diplomat and telling him that it did the child good to mix with children her own age.

Lord Waddington had not been convinced but allowed it to continue. Lady Amara Waddington had only taken his cold attitude for so long and when he demanded to take Catherine on assignment with him leaving his wife at home she had done what so many of her ancestors had done and turned to charity work and lovers. Although never officially divorced it the worst kept secret in Diplomatic circles that her mother was living with another man.

Granted her mother was discreet but word had a way of getting about. It was due to her father that Catherine was wary of emotional entanglements and remained cautious.
“Your mother on the other hand… Well she is a redhead.” Meredith teased. Catherine chuckled and nodded at the truth in that statement.

“My mothers a redhead and volatile. If father does nothing about it she is likely to divorce him and shame him in public.” she chuckled.

“Something will turn up to help us. As long as Zanna don’t kill it first.” Meredith grinned as they walked to the residential area. “Now you were going to tell me about Ferguson.” Meredith pressed.

“Well he says he has an appointment with the Doctor, Cara Nichols I think he said, but he said was just a check up. That is all he would say and you know how stubborn he is.” Catherine admitted.

“Well I am sure he is just making sure that he is in the best of health so he can continue as your aide.” Meredith soothed. Catherine frowned.

“I am wondering if I should have let him sit this trip out. His getting on and with the political situation as it is we should have guessed there could be issues.” Catherine fussed.

“Cathy come on. Old Fergie would no more sat this out that Zanna or I. I know you are worried I get that but we cannot change what has happened. All we can do is get through it as best we can.” She advised. “I mean Mitchell has gotta want to see Australia again and any surviving family there. Your admirer has family on Earth, most here will have kin in the AQ. They are gonna want to get back.Ferguson Price is not the kind of man to want to finish his life in a rocking chair on the porch. He loves being your aide. We can make it easier for him but he will resist retirement you know that as well as do I.” Meredith reminded her companion.
Catherine nodded. “I just worry he will die here and I won’t be able to bury him with his Grace.” she admitted.

“We’ll worry about that if and when it happens.” Meredith stated. “For now lets take one day at a time.” she smiled as they entered the apartment.

The Best Part of Waking Up Residential Complex: Lady Catherine's Suite MD2, 1100 hours
Show content
=====Waddington Residential Suite=====

The bottle of single malt sat on the kitchen counter along with a small note in Ferguson's neat script.

Took the liberty of setting this out. Thought considering the last 24 hours, this might hit the spot.

Catherine chuckled. She had never been a whiskey drinker but she got Ferguson's hint and rummaged through the boxes for the bottle of Sherry she was sure he had packed and poured herself a glass and sat reading a book.

=====Knight Residential Suite=====

Drew woke up from a deep slumber in a strange bed and place. He looked about the dimly lit room in confusion for a moment, then the events of the day before came rushing back to him. He sat up and vigorously rubbed his face. He rose and placed his feet into a pair of slippers on the floor beside the bed. He crossed to the door and went out into the common area. The monitor on the wall was flashing, indicating a message. He stepped over and activated the message board. He read a quck note from Ashley saying how she was spending the day at the medical complex helping Cara get things sorted out over there. He stepped over to the replicator and ordered up a coffee.

=A=Unable to process request. Replicator services for this residential unit have been temporarily deactivated.=A=

"Great!" He blinked trying to shake the lingering sleep from his eyes. He looked about, his eyes finally tracking to the suites' exit. He really did not want to impose on his neighbor, but he felt an overpowering need for a cup of coffee. Before he knew it he was across the hall ringing the chime to Catherine's door still clad in just a black t-shirt, black sweat pants and his slippers.

=====Waddington Residential Suite=====

Catherine placed War and Peace on the side and walked to the door. "Hey Drew. Fancy coffee or you gonna be of Ferguson's persuasion and prefer a single malt?" she asked.

"Coffee. Please."Drew cautiously stepped in to Catherine's suite. He bore an apologetic expression. "I'm sorry to impose upon you. I just woke up and the replicator in our suite is offline."

"Nonsense we are neighbors." she smiled as she padded to the kitchen area. "Not sure where Ferguson is. He was gone when I woke." She called

"Ashley was gone too. She went to help Dr. Nichols at the Medical Center." Drew looked down at the glass and book setting on the small end table. He realized he must have interrupted Catherine just having a quiet, relaxing moment. "I may not be imposing, but it does look like I did interrupt."

"Nonsense I was reading for want of something to do."

Drew noticed the books title. "Not sure I would call Tolstoy light reading Lady Catherine." He stepped over to a shelf and looked at titles of the score or so leather bound. He cautiously pulled down the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. "Shakespeare? Yours or Mister Price's?"

Catherine smiled and said nothing

Drew returned the book to the shelf and turned to Catherine as she returned. He gave a gracious nod of his head as he accepted the coffee mug. "Thank you." He took a sip and felt many times better. He smiled as he emphasized his appreciation again. "Thank you very much!"

"Your welcome. Would you like to come sit?"

"Love too." He stepped over to the couch and took a seat, expecting she would return to her chair.

She sat on the sofa, her legs tucked up under her and watched him.

Drew had closed his eyes and was just breathing in the heady aroma of his coffee, so distracted he didn't even register Catherine sitting down on the couch too. He took another sip and savored the taste. He finally opened his eyes and noticed Catherine on the end of the couch watching him. His cheeks flushed and he felt like a nervous school boy with the prettiest girl in class taking the desk next to him. "Uh..." He reached up to pat his hair. "Do I have bed head or something? I did just wake up."

Catherine shook her head with a smile.

Drew nervously shifted on the couch as he experienced both waves of heat and chills course through him. He knew he could be courageous in the most dire of combat situations, but sitting here with the stunningly beautiful Catherine, he felt all his courage fleeing out of him. He wasn't even sure what it was he should be afraid of. His voice wavered slightly as he spoke. "May I ask what it is then?"

"You look really rather adorable blushing. Would you like something to eat?" she asked rising with the grace of a mountain cat.

Drew's breath caught as he watched her rise from the couch and proceed to the small kitchen area. His face now turning a deep crimson as he found himself unable to look away from her.

"Is the heating on too high?" she asked sweetly. "You look awfully flushed"

Drew finally remembered to breathe again when she looked back at him. He blinked a couple of times as if his brain was doing a soft reboot. Then he swallowed hard as if that would help him find his voice. He could only nod his head at first, but then he set his coffee mug down on the table and found his voice. "Yes, thank you, uh...and I think I might like that single malt now too."

"Certainly." She smiled as she moved to pour the glass of malt whiskey. "It does help lower body temperature."

Drew looked down at his coffee mug and muttered to himself for a moment. "Hopefully heart rates too." His was beating at a highly elevated rate, or so it seemed, and in such a manner as to make him think it would break straight out of his rib cage. He rose from the couch, retrieving his coffee mug to return to the kitchen replicator for recycling.

"I could call the Doctor if you are experiencing heart palpitations." Catherine offered.

Drew placed the coffee mug in the replicator and pressed the recycle button. He then turned to the approaching Catherine and grasped the rock glass with the single malt whiskey, his fingers lingering over hers as he did. This isn't like you Drew. You are not one to hold back, so don't start now. He thought. He looked into Catherine's eyes and decided to be completely honest. "I can tell you with absolute certainty Cara doesn't have a cure for this. My flushed appearance, racing heart, and several other symptoms are not caused by a medical condition or reaction to environmental factors. Your grace and beauty are." There, it was out on the table so to speak. Whatever happened next, at least he was honest with Catherine.

"Grace and beauty are a gift of birth. I would suggest you get to know me myself before you make such statements. It has been a rather trying day Drew, why do we not simply see where things go and not rush into things?" She suggested with a smile.

Drew nodded, a sense of quiet relief from his school boy infatuation now transforming into a more mature desire to find out what lay beneath surface of one Lady Catherine Waddington, Federation Ambassador. "I agree. I would like that very much. If just to become friends if that is what you would prefer." The flush of his cheeks began to did the the rapid beating of his heart to something more normal. He always did consider candor with those he interacted with to be the best tack to sail.

"Let time tell. Now have you eaten?"

Drew shook his head. "No, not since just before going to sleep earlier this afternoon."

"You mean yesterday afternoon it is now 1145 hours."

Drew just stared at her for a moment. "You mean as in the like the next morning?" I've been asleep for nearly 18 hours! He thought to himself.

"Oh a week last Thursday. So would you like Feta salad? I believe Ferguson made some up."

Drew just nodded his head, to stunned to believe he'd slept uninterrupted for 18 hours.

The door suddenly opened and two dark haired women stood in the doorway. One dead on six foot tall and the other about an inch and a half taller than Catherine.

"There you are Cat. We been looking all over for you and I think I pissed Fergie off... again." The taller of the two women stated with an irrepressible grin.

Catherine swallowed a chuckle. "Drew please permit me to introduce Tazanna Wilcox and Meredith Thompson. My securty detail and pilot...and the bane of dear Ferguson's life." She stated.

Drew stepped forward and shook hands with both of the ladies. "Pleasure to meet you both." He cast his eyes down at his attire; Starfleet issue undershirt and sweatpants, plus his civilian slippers and shrugged sheepishly. "Sorry, I woke up to find my replicator was out of service. Lady Catherine was kind enough to provide me with a much needed coffee."

"Well least you are covered." Tazanna grinned as Meredith walked in a circle around him.

"Hmm" the taller woman muttered as she looked up at her two female companions then grinned wickidly "O, ya byl prosto interesno, yesli eti ocharovatel'nyye yamochki na yego shchekakh byli zhe na yego prikladom." she said in fluent Russian causing Tazanna to chuckle and Catherin to blush red. Meredith enjoyed making Catherine blush. Even if the other party did not understand.

Drew figured Meredith had said something about Catherine and himself. He felt color return to his cheeks, but knew it was probably a good natured jibe. He let out a nervous laugh of his own and looked at Catherine. "Do I want to know what she just said?"

Tazanna shrugged "Wraith was simply wondering if those adorable dimples on your cheeks were the same on your butt?" she said. "Bilbo!" she called the four gathered waited a moment before they heard the sounds of the droid dog bounding in. "Heloboy." Tazanna chuckled and fussed the dog. Meredith, or Wraith as she was called grinned completely unremorsefully.

"Welcome to the terrible twosome." Catherine sighed. "The result of having a Russian, Maltese and Italian Godparents in a spec ops and intel family." She said as way of explanation.

Drew nodded slowly as he processed the new information regarding the new arrivals. He decided discretion was the better option at the moment and retreat was in order. "Ah, well, I should probably get cleaned up, dressed and check in with General Mitchell. Pleasure to meet you ladies." He glanced at Catherine. "Rain check on that lunch?"

"Sure." She smiled.

Drew nodded a final time and beat a hasty retreat back to the safety of his own suite across the hall.

"Lunch?" Wraith raised her eyebrow. "That was quick." She commented.

"He is simply being polite." Catherine defended

"Ahh don't sweat it." Tazanna grinned looking up "I'll check him out before then." she said with a clam air about her.

Catherine was shocked. "You'll do no such thing." she said boiling a kettle "He is the XO of this base. Therefore he must be a good person." Wraith chuckled as she sat on a bar stool "Cathy you are so innocent bless you."

"Co's and XO's are above reproach." she stated "Name any that were not."

"Teach" Tazanna remarked. Wraith moved her head from side to side. Then nodded

"Hey was obsessed with Jaydra Malone." Wraith allowed.

"And mentally compromised!" Catherine shot back.

"Kytach Delaxyn." Wraith remarked

"She was a coward and his retreat was more tactical good sense." Tazanna observed. "Jason bloody Tigan." she stated with a scowl

"No his an ass but that's personal not professional. Though he did train as a spook so asshole could be in the training." Catherine disagreed. "Anyone else?"

"Briker." the terrible twosome said in unison.

"So your candidates are from our parents days. absolutely not!" Catherine said. "What would Ferguson think of this?"

"That we saved him a job." Tazanna remarked as the door opened. "Lets ask him."

Ferguson stepped inside and placed several parcels on the table next to the entrance. He faced the trio of women as he pulled a hankerchief out the breast pocket of his suit and wiped his brow. "Ask me what?"

"Whether or not all CO's and XO's are above reproach. " Tazanna said looking up from the maintenance she was doing on Bilbo "Plus the fact he CLEARLY likes her."

Ferguson rose an eyebrow at Tazanna's comments and looked to Catherine. "If a Commanding Officer and his Second behave with honor and integrity than yes." He then addressed the second comment with one of his own. "I gather Luftenant Commander Knight paid you a visit Lady Catherine."

"His replicator did not work. He simply was after coffee." Catherine defended herself.

"Who had the Scotch?" Tazanna asked.

Catherine blushed hotly. "He did."

"In his jammies?" Wraith teased.

Tazanna was trying not to laugh.

Ferguson shook his head and cast a disapproving look at the terrible twosome. He gestured to the parcels. "I picked some things up for you two, but now I think I should take them back to distribution."

"No problem to me." Tazanna shrugged as she finished working on the droid. "Bilbo came out well of this adventure." she commented.

"Taz is stll right we should check the X out just in case your father would have conniptions if he turned out to be a Rommie lover." Wraith pointed out

Ferguson gestured for Tazanna and Meredith to join him next to the small table by the door. He handed each of them two parcels and then pointed to a door. "That room has two sets of beds and dressers. I suggest you unpack and leave Lady Catherine to rest. I will prepare luncheon for us all while you get settled."

The twosome nodded and vanished. One tall dark haired female and one short. Inseparable since childhood and always together.

Ferguson watched Tazanna and Meredith disappear into their new room. He crossed to the small kitchenette area and began using the replicator to prepare the noon meal. He did gaze at Catherine and sighed. "Those two will be the death of me yet, but...they too believe that Mister Knight does fancy you."

"They mean well and father was good friends with their parents." She smiled. "He did say that Death and Reaper were a little wild and well Taz grew up around spec ops so we shouldn't be surprised I guess."

Ferguson paused in his food prep and fixed Catherine with one of his fatherly gazes. "Question you need to answer for yourself Poppet.... Do you fancy him as well?"

"Oh Ferguson!" she said exasperated. "I barely know the man. He seems nice. but like I told him he needs to get to know me, not just how I look. The same goes for me. I need to get to know him it is not the 1800's after all."

Ferguson nodded approvingly and returned to his food prep. "So we are agreed no matchmaking?"
Security Essentials Anchorage - Security Complex after arrival
Show content
Bran stood in the off-center of what was the security complex. He wasn't sure of the situation but, well, this is where the computer sent him when he asked to see the security area of the base.

Somehow the lack of dust made it worse. Made it seem even more surreal than anything else. If there were thick layers of dust, that would have grounded the idea somehow. This large base - built in secret and then just abandoned. Vacuum sealed by being opened to space and then resealed to keep from being frozen to absolute zero. It was still chilled - made even worse for him because he was a joined Trill and he didn't even have an extra pair of socks to put on - nor a pair of gloves. So he wasn't quite freezing, but his hands and felt did feel number than most times.

He moved around the central office, noting the way the clear windows allowed the security chief to view in all directions as necessary. But there was the entrance from this area to the turbolift that would take them to the brig. Over there was the corridor that led to the armory and shooting galleries. Hell, if he read the schematics correctly, then there was even an actual range. Over there was processing and investigations. Over there were the conference and training rooms. Back up stations that allowed security to be run from here as well as Operations Center.

But, as he moved around, the soft thud of his footsteps didn't even echo correctly. This entire base felt off and odd to him.

But for now, for the time being, it was going to be his home. While others were trying to get the thousands of evacuees settled, Bran was taking time to see what could be done to set up the security offices - no, he corrected himself, security complex. Security needed to be in service as quickly as possible. To that end, he hoped that the consult with Ops would happen sooner rather than later. There was a lot of work to do.

Call it a good will visit or being just plain nosy, Gunnery Sergeant Lucinda Vasquez's curiosity was peaked as soon as she had arrived at this station...base technically. Forward Operating Base Anchorage. Whatever thought the Sergeant as she sought off to explore the facility. It would take her a while to see everything that there was to see, but the most important place for her to see was the security complex. Weapons and all. Regardless of her being in the Operations Department, she was a Marine in her heart and soul. She had no problem working with the 'fleeters' or civilians that helped comprise Anchorage's Operations Department, but once a Marine, always a Marine. She stuck out in the Operations Department like a sore thumb which was nothing new for a woman who was small in height but fully loaded and heavy packing in personality.

Blonde hair that was long and braided in areas yet entirely shaved to the scalp in others, ears pierced with loops and hoops of silver. She bore the 'lightening veins' of her species on her face though years of additional artistic work added onto them with ink, her body was very much her own canvas and she had a high tolerance for pain. Her heavy boots hardly made a sound as she walked as she approached the Anchorage's Security complex. Though as soon as she arrived, she noticed she was not alone.

A bit of growl came out as she crossed her arms, grabbing the man's attention no doubt. She was still learning names and putting names to faces. She saw the spots on the man which easily identified him as a Trill. "Ah I see we have at least one Trill with us" said the woman. "What's your name, Spots?" she asked as she retrieved a PaDD.

Bran had served in the Corps long enough to have instilled the awe of the majesty and mystery of gunnery sergeants. As she approached he was thrown back to that time, despite his interim years of service as a Fleeter, he retained some of that awe. Until she opened her mouth. "Wanna try that again, Gunnery Sergeant?" he asked, making sure to emphasize the rank. "And this time try it with a little less bigotry?" He was weirded out, tired and - well already put on edge by the behavior of people who'd lost everything and decided to try to get it back through anger, demands and violence. So perhaps he wasn't as open to the idea that maybe someone reducing him to just his Trill physiology. Especially not from someone who appeared to have gone simmunitions training without a helmet and attempted to catch all the rounds with her teeth.

Lucinda Vasquez scoffed at the remark about less bigotry. "Hardly a bigot. More of an equal opportunist. I have no more issues with Trills than I do Ferengi or Pakleds and for the record I am no prejudice either in case you were looking to throw that one at me too" she replied as she powered up the PaDD and took a look through some information. "But let's try it again for the sake of ending this sooner rather than later" she added. The woman started to search the Anchorage manifest by species, narrowing in on Trills.

"According to this information, there are quite a few Trills assigned the Anchorage. Though unless you identify as female, I take you are not Nurse Mezarah Lintz" she commented. "Help a Marine out and comply. You are welcome to resist, but it is only a matter of time before I call security or take care of this myself if need be. Call me over protective, but I'm cautious about intruders" she said firmly in a bit of a shrilling tone. "What's it going to be, Rumpelstiltskin?" she asked, waiting for him to give her the information she was seeking.

"Given the options, Shrek, I'll go with the calling of security," Bran said scowling at the woman. "I think I can hold my own there."

The Sergeant shook her head. "Hardly necessary to handle someone like you" she said with a sigh. "Computer, identify individuals in this room" she said aloud the the Anchorage computer. She lowered her voice as the computer processed her information request. "You could learn something from the computer, you know? How to comply to my requests in a timely manner" she said.

A few moments later, almost instantly the computer responded. "Gunnery Sergeant Lucinda Oppenheimer-Vasquez and Chief Warrant Officer Curither Bran" the voice said providing the information.

Lucinda let out a small scoffing of a laugh. "Hah" she said as she looked for a Warrant Officer by that name of her list. "I see...apparently there would be no point in calling for Security as Security stands before me" she commented. "Bran?" she said cocking her head. "Muffin" she added. "Mister Muffin it is...well, Sir Muffin if we are to be more formal" she said in jest.

"Since you love the computer so much, perhaps you could learn rank recognition from it," Bran said, his jaw clenching the more she spoke, "and then how to shut up once you've given only that information requested." He flicked his wrist and tapped on the screen of the PaDD docked there. "Oh, shit, you're Ops? Yeah, I'm sure all the staplers and paperclips think you're hilarious. But, aren't you a bit overdue for your estrogen therapy?"

Lucinda glared at the man. "Thank you for your concern about my estrogen therapy. Unfortunately, the Medical Department informed me that I will have to wait until a new shipment of medical supplies arrived. My appointment has had to be postponed. Someone had already used up the estrogen hyposprays we had...looks like I found who that was" she quipped. "Now, what is this about learning rank recognition, Sir? she asked, putting on her most 'sincere' look of concern and care.

"Yes, that's a requirement for practicing the military courtesies, as well as taking some professional pride in doing your damned job," Bran growled, wondering what the hell happened to the Corps if this insubordinate troll was any indication.

The woman wanted to throw the PaDD at him, but he was superior to her and the last thing she needed was to file a report of damaged equipment. Another broken PaDD and she'd be labeled a liability. He let out a hiss at the man. "You're a damn Chief Warrant Officer, not a God and not even an Ensign" she said shaking her head and setting the PaDD down. "Would you like me to fine some Department Head Marine Second Lieutenant or an Ensign to come bark orders and boss us both around? I don't think so" she said.

Looking at the man she nearly apologized for going off on him, but maintained her composure and stood her ground. "I will address you per regulations and guidelines state: Sir or if you wish the informal 'Chief' though that can get a little confusing" she said. "Now, if you want me to stand here and address you awkwardly as Chief Warrant Officer Bran, I will if that so pleases you" she said. "And as it so happens, Sir...I do. I take a lot of pride in my damn job."

"Then start showing it, Gunnery Sergeant Oppenheimer-Vasquez," Bran growled, "and acting like the Marine your uniform claims you to be. Which does not include referring to a Trill as 'Spots'." He looked around the area and let out a long breath. "This area needs to be supplied. I don't know if any of this equipment is working but it'll need to be tested. When this base gets going, security is going to need to get going without interruptions for malfunctioning, mothballed equipment."

Lucinda nodded "Well, yes that does sound like an issue that should be looked at. You need supplies and equipment to be checked" she said more or less repeating what Security Chief had stated. "Engineering and Operations personnel are being dispatched to dozens of areas of the base, Sir. We are doing the best that we can and following the requests as they come in. Have you sent a request for supplies through the Supply Officer or submitted any requests through the Commanding Officer's Yeoman?" she asked, crossing her arms. "I understand the importance that your Department serves. I will do what I can to move you up towards the top of the list, but for now I will have a look at what I can."

"I don't know, hostile invasion force just outside that asteroid belt, lots of scared, panicky people in here, I wonder why Security should have a quick set up over say...I don't know stellar cartography?" Bran growled at the woman.

The Gunnery Sergeant looked at Bran and scoffed "Chief, you are preaching to the choir" she said shaking her head as she gestured for him to direct her towards whatever equipment he wanted her to examine and inspect. "I'm not the one placing stellar cartography over security nor culinary services over intelligence. I just do as the work order tells me to from the powers that be. Be they suits or uniforms" she added. "Now, let's see what we have down here for equipment and make sure it's operational for you."

"Oh," Bran said as he scowled and looked around the room. "Yeah, okay." He put his hands on his hips as he thought about it. What was the absolute most important? "I think over here," he said as he walked toward the security stations, the ones that should mirror the operations center stations. "If we can get these as a priority, it'll allow us to do most everything we need to do in the short term. While we wait for Ops to get everything going the way it should. Reports, database access, access to the rest of the systems. Yeah, I think these should be the priority," he said, speaking softer than he had before.

"Hand me a PaDD, please" she said as she removed a tricorder that had been holstered at her side. She used it to take some basic readings of the equipment. She let out a small sound of both pleasure and regret "Well, you are correct that some of your equipment is a bit dated. However, we might not have to entirely replace the units. Cosmetically, we can leave some of this equipment as is and gut the innards, replacing them with some updated circuitry" she said, placing the tricorder away and taking the PaDD. "I'll authorize a priority maintenance request for servicing some of this equipment. Should move things along a lot faster than taking a number and waiting to be visited" she said shaking her head.

She crouched down at another piece of equipment, popping off the external casing which revealed the circuitry inside. "These isolinear chips have seen better days. No way these are going to get a second life in them" she commented shaking her head. "I'll need to confer with the Engineering Department, Chief, but I personally would like to switch your whole setup down here from isolinear to bio-neural gel packs. It would be far more superior in processing and boost overall performance" she added, looking up at him.

"I prefer the speed and responsiveness, not to mention the cognitive intuitiveness of the bio-nueral gel packs, so if we could go with that, I'd say go for it. Though," he said as he looked around the area, "it makes sense to stick with isolinear chips when they were going to space the entire facility."

Lucinda stood up again and brushed off her slacks. "Well, Chief" she said putting herself back together "There's no use in pissing the Chief Engineer off at this point. So, I'll check in with them and proceed with whatever they feel is the best course of action. Until then, I'll have a team of my own come down immediately to monkey wrench around and get whatever can be brought to life down here, brought to life again" she said with a nod.

"Well, I got..." he stopped as he once again scowled. He wasn't sure how many new members of security were on the Zumwalt when it landed, but he was pretty sure it wasn't enough to bring the department up to full staff. Not to mention, he still wasn't sure who he'd be working for as the department head. But, well, he was a Chief Warrant so that had to mean something. "I've got some free hands that can help out with the less technical aspects if you need." Even if it was his own team that did the majority of the 'helping' he hoped it would get them going faster. "But I'm going to request you not piss off the Chief Engineer with your charming personality until after you get my department set up."

Play nice and take the generous man's offer she said to herself. "Any extra hands you can lend my team would be appreciated, Chief" she said politely, though her raspy and sometimes shrill voice was still present albeit in a more natural state. "I only piss off people when it calls for it. I will do my best to discuss matters with the Chief Engineer in a productive manner, rest assured" she said. "I find my personality quite charming, don't you?" she added.

"If my mother was an actual mother, I'm sure she'd have raised me to be polite and change the subject instead of saying something mean," Bran answered.

Lucinda nodded "I understand how that is" she said as she walked around for a few moments before aiming herself towards the way she had entered. "I'm only a comm call away, Chief. I will go see if the Chief Engineer is around or if I'll need to schedule a meeting" she said calmly as she sought to part ways with the man for the time being.

Standing where he remained, Bran watched the odd little woman walk away. With her parting comments he suddenly started wondering if he should have mentioned that he was engaged and...well...even if she was, he'd discovered years ago she'd have no chance with him. Shrugging he started walking again, just choosing a direction and heading in it, to see what could be seen.

Flashback: Noblest of Intentions Family Quarters of Austin, Meredith and Ashley Knight 11 Months Ago
Show content

Cara stepped out of the turbolift and headed for the Knight residence, carrying a bottle of Meredith and Austin's favorite wine. She stopped at the door and rang the chime.

"Austin....would you get that?" Meredith called out from the kitchen. "I'm a little busy."

"Yes, dear," Austin said with a touch of playful sarcasm. He opened the door and grinned at Cara. "It's the wine delivery," he called out over his shoulder and took the bottle out of Cara's hand. "Thank you," he said to Cara. "I included the tip when I placed the order," and he pressed the door control. The door started to slid closed.

"Seriously, dude?" Cara said. "That's what they all say. You're just another cheapskate in a whole line of cheapskates I have delivered to today."

Austin laughed and pressed the control again and the door reversed its direction. "Get in here," he said.

Cara laughed and stepped into the residence. Tantalizing aromas wafted from the kitchen. "Something smells great," she called out so Meredith could hear her. "Can I help with anything?"

Meredith came to the kitchen door and shook her head. "Nope. Just have a seat. Austin...pour me some of that wine, please?" she said and ducked back in the kitchen. "I hope you don't mind but we invited Austin's brother to join us," she called out.

Cara shrugged. "Why would I mind?" she asked as Austin handed her a glass of the wine.

"He just got here a week ago and doesn't know anyone yet so Mer felt sorry for him," Austin said as he took another glass to the kitchen.

Ashley stepped out of her room and beamed as she rushed over to Cara and hugged her. "Hey Cara! You'll never guess what happened at school today."

Cara almost spilled her wine as she was "attacked" by the teenager. She hugged her back with one arm as she set her glass on the coffee table so it didn't spill then she wrestled her onto the sofa. "What happened?" she asked, still laughing.

Ashley pressed into Cara on the couch, resting her head on Cara's chest. "I got the lead in the school play!"

Meredith poked her head around the corner and nodded as she too beamed at her daughter. "Yes. We have a galaxy class thespian in the family now."

Cara grinned and held up her hand to Ashley for a high five. "You go girl," she said. "What's the play?"

Ashley pulled out her PADD and brought up the script. "Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare."

Austin finished setting the table and stepped back to examine his efforts. "That should pass inspection," he muttered and picked up his glass of wine from the nearby credenza.

Drew arrived carrying a bouquette of flowers he had picked up from the Promenade on his way to his brothers quarters. He depressed the chime and hefted the floral arrangement.

Austin went to the door and opened it. "Hey. Come on in," he said. "Honey? Did you order a florist shop?" he called out referring to the large bouquet.

Drew just scoffed at his older brother as he stepped inside. "Why is it always the jokes with you? I thought you would have grown out of it by now."

Meredith finally stepped out of the kitchen and crossed to greet her brother-in-law with a hug and peck on the cheek. She took the bouquette of carnations from Drew. "For me?"

Drew nodded with a small bow.

"Nice to see somebody thinks I am worthy of flowers from time to time." She smacked the bouquette into Austin's chest, but her smile betrayed the love she felt for her husband.

Austin wrinkled his nose up at Meredith then took the flowers to put in a vase.

Ashley waited for the adults to finish their initial greeting, then she launched herself from the couch and all but bowled Drew over giving him a big hug. "UNCLE DREW!!!"

Drew hugged his niece back fiercely then took hold of her shoulders, holding her at arms length. "You must have grown a whole half meter since I last saw you." He held a hand at about stomach high on Ashley then tweaked her nose when she looked down.

Ashley gave a mock annoyed frown as she rubbed her nose, but laughter broke free from her as she grabbed his hand and dragged him back over towards the couch. "Hey Cara. This is my Uncle Drew. Well, I guess you'd call him Lieutenant Knight."

Cara smiled, politely, and said, "nice to meet you. I'm Cara."

Drew returned the smile with one of his own as he nodded a greeting to Cara. "Andrew Knight, though my closest friends call me Drew. So please, consider yourself one of them."

"Cara's the Director of our Medical Facility," Austin said as he handed Drew a glass of the wine Cara brought.

To deflect the spotlight from herself, Cara said, "Ashley was just telling us about the school play she got the lead in."

Ashley sat back down on the couch next to Cara and pulled Drew down on her other side. "Yeah! I'm gonna be playing Katherina in Taming of the Shrew. Isn't that great?"

Drew gave an emphatic and approving nod of his head. "That is great kiddo. You know I saw that on Broadway a few years back. Even got to go back stage and met Diana Corvan who played Katherina in that production."

Ashley's eyes went wide with astonishment. "Really? She is like the greatest Shakespearean actress of all time."

Drew smiled at Ashley, then gave Cara a look.

Cara was immersed with what Ashley was saying, smiling and nodding as the animated teenager talked about her lead role.

Meredith disappeared into the kitchen and called out, "Austin? Want to give me a hand?"

"Excuse me," Austin said and ducked into the kitchen.

"Meredith turned to her husband, then looked passed him to the door before addressing him in a hushed tone. "Do you think Drew will like Cara?"

Austin glanced over his shoulder for a moment and nodded as he faced his wife again. "All Knight men have a weakness for beautiful redheads. It's why I married you."

Meredith swatted at Austin with a hand towel. "Take the food out to the dinner table you brat."

He returned, followed by his wife, both carrying serving dishes which they placed on the table. "Dinner is served, folks," he announced.

Drew stood and reached down in turn to help both Ashley and Cara to their feet. "After you ladies."

Cara took Drew's hand and stood up. She smiled at him and headed for the table. "Pot roast, Mer? Wow! I'm glad I wore something stretchy," she said as she took a seat at the round dining table.

"I hope it tastes as good as it looks," Meredith said. "Ashley? You can sit here between daddy and Cara," she said, pointing to the chair on Cara's right, "Drew can sit over there, " she said, indicating the chair directly opposite Cara then she pulled out the chair on Cara's left and sat down.

Drew stepped around the table and held out the chair for Cara and then Ashley, before rounding the table again to take his seat.

Austin sliced the roast and held out his hand to Cara for her dish, which she handed him, and he placed two slices of the aromatic meat onto her plate and handed it back to her. Then he did the same with Ashley then Drew.

Meredith passed the bowl of vegetables that had been cooked with the roast to Cara.

Cara took the bowl and dished a few carrots and chunks of potatoes onto her plate the passed the bowl to Ashley.

Serving dishes were passed back and forth, plates loaded up with delicious foods, then seasoned and spiced to individual tastes.

Drew looked at Cara as he passed her the salt. "Meredith says your the Chief Medical Officer. How do you like that?"

"I am," Cara said as she salted her gravy laden potatoes. "I miss being able to be more active in patient care," she said. "The administrative side of running this big of a medical facility take up most of my time it seems." She took a bite and smiled while chewing, giving Meredith a thumbs up. "What is your job?" she asked after she swallowed and prepared another forkful.

Drew raised his wine glass and took a sip. "I'm a special warfare officer. Starfleet Command has assigned me to take point in establishing an additional tactical response unit to augment security and marine forces."

"Sounds like fun," Cara said with partial sarcasm. "The marines on 900 are a bit rowdy," she said. "They should prove to be a handful."

Meredith laughed. "Rowdy is being nice, Cara," she said. "We get at least three a week in the ER for stupid injuries sustained during their macho pis...." she stopped, realizing Ashley was present. "....macho contests."

"So what does a Special Warfare Officer do for fun?" Cara asked as she took another bite of her roast. She was being polite but her main interest was the fabulous home cooked meal Meredith had prepared. She didn't cook so she relied on her friend and the fabulous chef in the officers' mess for home cooked meals.

"I like playing sports. I do a lot of individual athletics too, fencing and gymnastics." He paused as he took a bite and chewed the savory roast before continuing. "I love the outdoors, camping, fishing, sailing, rock climbing."

Ashley looked between Cara and Drew. She decided to throw her two cents in. "Dad used to tell me stories about the him and Uncle Drew being in dart, pool and bowling leagues too."

"Really?" Cara said, looking across the table. "Nine or 8 ball?" she asked.

Meredith glanced over at Austin and winked. Austin was still dubious as he finished off his roast beef and went for seconds.

Drew looked across the table at Cara. "I prefer nine ball." He took a sip from his glass of water. "Though I will play eight ball if my opponent is more comfortable with that game."

"Eight ball is for rookies," Cara smirked as she sopped up her gravy with a dinner roll then popped it into her mouth.

"Cara fishes," Meredith said as she tossed her napkin on her empty plate and took a sip of her wine. Looking around Cara at Ashley she frowned and said, "don't just move your vegetables around on your plate, young lady. Eat them."

Ashley sighed, then made a big production of spearing some of her vegetables and eating them. "See mom. I ate my vegetables. Now may I have some of the blackberry pie?"

Drew chuckled at the mother-daughter vegetable conflict before looking back at Cara. "What about you? Do you prefer river or deep sea fishing?"

"Just wait for the rest of us," Austin said to his daughter.

"Actually I prefer a fresh water lake," Cara answered Drew's question. "On Earth I used to have a special place I would go every chance I got. It had the most beautiful rainbow trout and the largest catfish I have ever seen. Cooked over an open fire?" she kissed the tips of her fingers and said, "delicious." She put her napkin next to her empty plate and took a sip of her wine. "You look like a deep sea man."

Austin answered for his younger brother on that one. "Oh, he is. We both are actually. Dad would take us out on fishing charters into the Pacific every summer."

Drew confirmed his older brother's statement with a nod. He gestured between Austin and himself. "We caught a 325 kilo Marlin together one time."

Austin started to rise from the table. "I think I actually still have that picture of us with it. Give me a sec...."

Meredith coughed loudly. "Ahem. I thought the rule was no one left the dinner table until we were done." It was clear she wasn't asking a question, but making an adament statement.

Austin sat back down. "Your absolutely right dear."

"Impressive," Cara said to Drew. "I never tried it. It seems like it would be exciting....all that battling of the wills sort of thing. I guess it would be the same as sitting on a wild horse for the first time. Even though you have spent weeks developing trust between you once he feels your weight on his back there is a fight to figure out who is in control." She glanced at Ashley and winked. "Kind of like a teenager seeing how far they can push their parents."

Both Meredith and Austin laugh, nodding in agreement.

"Hey now!" Ashley had a slightly indignant expression. "May I remind you all that I am a Straight A student. I do all my homework and house chores before doing the fun stuff. So there!" She stuck a tongue out at all the adults.

Drew just nodded his support to his niece. "No worries kiddo. I got your back on this." He looked at both Austin and Meredith, finally settling his gaze on his older brother. "You know you couldn't ask for a better child than the one you have in Ashley. Right?"

Both parents gave their daughter an adoring smile and nod. Meredith spoke first. "Drew is right sweetie. We are very thankful for you being the bright and responsible young lady that you are." Austin chiming in just a moment later. "Yeah. What your Mom said, goes double for me."

"Gee. Thanks." Ashley gave her parents a dubious look...for all of two seconds before starting to giggle and finally laugh hard.

Dessert was served and consumed and Austin got up from the table. "Homework, Princess," he said to Ashley and stretched. "Delicious as always, my love," he said to his wife.

"I second that," Cara said, tossing her napkin on her plate and getting to her feet. "Let me help you clear the table," she said to Meredith.

"Nonsense," Meredith said, getting up. "Austin can help me. You go have a seat and I'll make some coffee."

" coffee for me," Cara said. "I have an early staff meeting and if I drink any coffee now I will never get to sleep." As if on cue a yawn crept out of her and she covered her mouth. "Maybe I shouldn't have had so much to eat. I"m bushed."

Ashley helped her folks clear the table and then bounded off to her room to finish up her homework but not before wishing Drew and Cara a good night and giving them both hugs for good measure.

Drew glanced at his watch and shook his head. "None for me either. I've got to get back to my quarters and work on my first weekly status report for my bosses back at Starfleet Command."

Meredith frowned for a moment, then her eyes glinted with just a hint of Machiavellian mischief. "Well, OK then, but Drew. Would you please be a dear and walk Cara back to her quarters?"

Cara smiled, politely, at Drew and held up her hand. "As much as I appreciate the whole chivalry thing...I need to stop by my office before I head home and I am perfectly capable of getting there on my own. Mer? Austin? It was a pleasure as usual. Thank you very much. Drew? It was nice to meet you. Welcome to the 900," she said, inching towards the door.

"Nonsense Cara. I know your reports aren't due until close of business tomorrow. You will get up at five and be in by six to finish them off. So you might as well take Drew up on his offer to walk you home." Meredith's expression held an intense insistence that brooked no argument.

Austin stood back a bit, the barest hint of a devilish grin starting to play across his face. "You best just do as she asks guys."

Drew's look was one of uncertainty, but after a moments hesitation he simply shrugged. "I really don't mind walking you Cara." He gestured to the door.

Throwing her hands up in surrender, Cara said, "Oh fine, Mer," then looked at Drew and shrugged. "She's a pushy broad but I love her," she said with a chuckle and hit the door control. Waving over her head to Austin and Meredith, she walked out into the corridor and waited for Drew to catch up.

Ashley poked her head out of her room and then looked at her parents both looking at the door and smiling. "You guys do know it's not going to work right?"

Austin and Meredith both looked at their daughter. Then cast a concerned glance at the door Cara and Drew had just left through.

Once the door was closed Cara said, "You really don't have to do this, you know. It's not like we live in a high crime area."

Drew shrugged and gestured down the corridor. "I really don't mind." He hitched a thumb over his shoulder at the door. "Give us a chance to talk about what they were up to anyway."

Cara chuckled. "You noticed that," she said more as a statement than a question.

Drew looked back over his shoulder as they walked and chuckled. "A blind Vulcan would have been able to figure out what Austin and Meredith were trying to do to us."

Cara shook her head. "Meredith. She fancies herself a matchmaker," Cara laughed. "She feels that just because she and Austin are so sickeningly happy that everyone should be. She doesn't get that not everyone needs to be attached to someone else to be happy. "

Drew gave a nod, indicating he concurred whole-heartedly with Cara's assessment. "I know. Right?"

"So we are in agreement?" Cara asked as they stepped into the tubolift and headed for her deck. Cara had nothing against an occasional no strings attached date in public settings but she had never felt the need for anything permanent. The whole "being in love" thing...although not lost on her...was not something she aspired to. Her love was being a physician.

"If you mean being friends Doctor Nichols, then yes, we have an accord." Drew struck out his hand to shake Cara's.

Cara shook Drew's hand just as the turbolift came to a stop and the door slid open.
Adults Can Be So Weird Sometimes Medical Complex 6 months after attack MD1 - 1245
Show content
Ashley was idly shaking a PADD in her hand as she followed Cara about the enormous Medical Complex that was now the CMOs new domain. She had promised to come find Cara after she and her uncle had finished setting up their new home in the Residential Complex, but was a bit distracted thinking about their new neighbors in the suite across the corridor.

"Shaking it doesn't help," Cara said with a chuckle. "I find smacking sometimes does though."

Ashley broke from her reverie and looked up at Cara. "I'm sorry. What?" She looked ashamed momentarily for not listening as she knew how important Cara's survey work was going to be in days to come.

Cara laughed. "What planet are you on today?" she asked. Cara had always been a little skittish of children...especially teenagers...except in a clinical setting but being around Ashley was changing her mind. Unlike most of the teenage girls she had observed, Ashley had a good head on her shoulders and she didn't exhibit the usual teenage angst and drama. Like her mother, Ashley had a big heart and she had become a huge help to Sister Albina in the day care center.

Ashley shrugged sheepishly as she returned her attention back to the survey list on her PADD. "Just a little distracted is all. I won't let it happen again."

Cara stopped in front of the doors to the soon to be In Care Unit and looked at Ashley. "Wanna talk about it?" she asked.

Ashley paused in thought for a moment, then slowly began to nod her head. "Yeah, but do you mind answering a few personal questions first?"

"Of course you can," Cara said, taking Ashley's elbow and steering her away from the door so that they were out of the way of the workmen going in and out.

"I remember when you, mom, dad and I all first got to Star Base 900 almost two years ago." Ashley looked pensive as she was trying to put thoughts to words.

Cara smiled. "I do, too," she said. "I also remember you didn't want to be there," she added with a chuckle.

Ashley remembered feeling like her life had been turned upside down back then, but within a week's time she had met two other girls her own age and they had all become the best of friends. She then returned to her train of thought. "Well, then Uncle Drew arrived a little less than a year ago. Dad invited him over to dinner his first night and Mom had invited you. It was clear, even to me, they were trying to play matchmaker for the two of you."

Cara's cheeks blushed and she giggles. "Yeah. They weren't exactly inconspicuous," she said.

Ashley giggled and nodded. "I told them both it wouldn't work, that Uncle Drew would see you more like a sister and not a girlfriend."

Cara sighed and nodded. "Yep. He does."

Ashley seemed lost in deep thought for a few moments before continuing. "Well, there's this woman and an older guy that moved into the residential suite across from ours." She squinted her eyes as she starting choosing her words very carefully. "I know Uncle Drew likes her, because he looks at her the same way Bobby Davidson looked at Kerry Bowers in theater class for like a week before he got the courage to ask her out." She then frowned and shook her head. "I guess what I want to know is.... How can adults be so weird sometimes, just like us teenagers?"

Cara burst into laughter. "That's a very good question," she said. "Unfortunately, my dear...I don't have the answer." Folding her arms across her chest she quirked an eyebrow. "So tell me....who is this woman? Is she pretty?"

Ashley fiddled around with her PADD and accessed the personnel listing for all the survivors. She keyed in the name Catherine Waddington and brought up a picture and basic data. She handed the PADD to Cara. "Very pretty. Not prettier than you I'd say, but just pretty as in ... different kind of pretty."

Cara's eyebrow raised. "And younger," she mumbled.

Ashley shrugged. "PADD says she is from a place called Yorkshire, England. Guess that explains her and Mister Price's accent." She gave a momentary giggle. "Kind of reminds me of the way we had to speak in last year's school play, Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare."

"Who's the...," Cara made quotation marks in the air, "..."old" guy with her?" she asked, trying to sound less than curious.

"Um, I think he's her aide or personal assistant." Ashley tried to remember what her Uncle Drew said exactly. "I think Lady Catherine is a Federation Ambassador."

Cara looked at the picture again and looked surprised. "Wow! I wonder who she....," she caught herself, "...nevermind. I didn't know ambassadors were so young."

Ashley gave Cara a suspicious look. "You know...for someone who chose not to go on a date with my Uncle Drew a year ago, your acting almost jealous."

Cara straightened up, her cheeks turning red. "Me? Jealous? Nah. Why would I be jealous?" she asked.

Ashley couldn't help but bust up laughing. "I don't know. I'm just saying if I didn't know any better that is how it sounded to me."

Cara, playfully flipped the ends of Ashley's hair. "Well you just get that nonsense out of your head because it couldn't be further from the truth," she said and gestured toward the doors. "Let's get back to work, shall we?" The doors slid open as two workmen came out carrying tool boxes and Cara stepped into the doorway and waited for Ashley. "Besides....I would have if he had asked but he never asked," she said and stepped across the threshold.

Ashley was not one prone to moments of speechlessness, but Cara's admission not only caught her off guard, it actually stunned her into exactly that.

It took an hour to go through the In Care Units...or Wards as most medical personnel referred to them...and Cara was impressed with the remodeling progress. The private rooms were spacious...even luxurious. In both private and shared rooms, the exterior wall would be a holographic display that could allow the patient to view whatever landscape they chose. The interior wall was a clear acrylic that gave the nurses an unobstructed view of the patient but with a privacy mode. From the nurses' stations every patient's monitors could be viewed. When they were finished the Wards would sparkle with chrome and acrylic.

"When do you think you'll be finished?" Cara asked the project foreman.

"We're actually ahead of schedule, Doctor," he answered. "We'll have full power to the technology by the end of next week. We start painting tomorrow and will clean up and lay the carpet over the weekend. We're looking at QM being able to start bringing in the furnishings by the beginning of next week."

Cara raised an eyebrow. "Wow! That's incredible,' she said. "You're doing a great job. Its everything I pictured and more," she said, shook the man's hand then said, "let's go see if there's still lunch in the officers' mess. I'm starved."

=====Officers' Mess=====

Ferguson stepped into the state of the art dining facility looked about the spacious chamber. He walked with a purposeful stride over to the replimat dispensers and ordered a cup of hot tea and a serving of bangors and mash. He then wandered about the tables looking for a specific person. He finally spotted them with the young lady he had met the day before. He approached their table and addressed Ashley first. "Ah Miss Ashley, it is a pleasure to see you again." He looked at Cara and gestured with his tray towards their table. "Would you ladies mind if an old man joined you for luncheon?"

Cara was in the middle of taking a bite of her Reuban sandwich and she looked up, nodding towards the empty chair as she covered her mouth with a napkin.

Ashley emphasized Cara's information by gesturing to the chair next to her. "Please do Mr. Price."

Cara chewed up her bite and swallowed. "Price? Ferguson Price?" she asked, putting her sandwich down and taking a drink of her beverage to wash down what she had hurriedly swallowed.

Ferguson nodded as he took a seat next to Ashley. He recognized Cara as the doctor who had entered a chaotic sickbay aboard the Hopper and put thing in good order in just a few minutes. He'd not had a chance to meet her then, but her remarkable calm in a near riotous event had spoken wonders about the woman's ability to handle a crisis. "One an the same mum.' He glanced at both of them. "Please, just call me Ferguson."

Cara smiled. "I just saw a memo about you," she said, as she tried to remember what the memo had said.

Ferguson took a sip of his tea and frowned, He set the cup back down on his tray with his hand resting over the top of it. He glanced at Ashley for a moment. "Hmmm, my tea seems to have gone tepid. Would you mind being a dear and fetching an old man a hot cup of Darjeeling with just three drops of honey."

Ashley immediately rose from her seat. "Of course Mister P...I mean Ferguson. Be right back."

Ferguson lifted his hand from the still steaming cup and faced Cara. "Sorry about that doctor. I have a chronic heart condition and I did not want to worry Miss Ashley unduly. I hope you can understand."

Cara's memory sparked. "I do," she said with a smile. "But you shouldn't worry about Ashley. She is one tough cookie," she adds with a smile. "She's been through a lot in the last few months and taken it like a champ. Of all those her age and younger who lost their families...she is one of the few I don't worry about. I suspect she will make a fine Starfleet officer someday. Maybe follow in her mother's footsteps." A brief wave of sadness washed over Cara and she took a sip of her beverage. "So," she said, changing the subject. "...we need to schedule an appointment for you to see me. We had a top cardiologist on SB900 but I'm sorry to say he didn't make it out so looks like you are stuck with me."

"Well, I have no doubts that I am in fine hands then." Ferguson lifted his steaming tea cup and saluted Cara with it before taking a tentative sip of his still hot beverage.

"Why don't you drop by the ER in two hours," Cara said, with a smile. "Ashley has day care duty so she won't be shadowing me then."

Ferguson took one last sip of tea from his current cup and placed it back on the tray. He pulled an old-style pocket watch on a small gold chain and checked the time before nodding. "Two hours it is." He spotted Ashley returning with his fresh cup of tea, but still a bit off. He glanced at Cara and gave her a fatherly smile. "And thank you for exercising discretion about my condition in front of young Miss Ashley. It is greatly appreciated Doctor Nichols."

Cara smiled and winked at Price then looked up at Ashley and grinned. When the girl reached the table Cara said, "we should probably get going. You have Day Care duty in thirty minutes and I still have one more area to inspect."

Chronic Issues Medical Complex, ER MD 1 - 1400
Show content
Ferguson entered the ER section of the Medical Complex several minutes before his designated appointment time. He double checked his pocket watch with a nod of his head and approached the reception nurse's station. "Ferguson Price. I have an appointment with Doctor Nichols."

The nurse smiled, politely, and pressed the intercom button. "Dr. Nichols to the nurses' station. Dr. Nichols to the nurses' station, please," she said and her voice echoed, melodically, through the ER.

Cara came out of the medicine room and smiled, broadly, when she saw the reason for her page. "Ferguson....hello," she said as she walked up to him and extended her hand in greeting. "Welcome to the land of dust and paint fumes," she said, indicating the construction still going on in the ER.

Ferguson returned Cara's smile with one of his own as he took her hand and gave it a firm shake. "I've seen similar projects throughout the base today. Looks to be the norm in the coming days and weeks."

Just then the ring of some sort of power tool drowned out any chance of conversation, so Cara grimaced and escorted Ferguson over to a patient cubicle and once inside, pulled the acrylic door shut. "There. That's better," she said. "Have a seat," she said and patted the biobed.

Fergoson complied with Cara's instruction, pulling out a prescription bottle as he did so. He held them out to her as he sat on the edge of the biobed. "My primary care physician was Doctor Beatrice Albans, Chief Medical Officer aboard the USS Wolves. She prescribed this when my heart condition was diagnosed."

Cara turned on the biobed's monitors and took the bottle from Ferguson. "Lectrazine," she said...more to herself than anyone else. She went over to the computer terminal and said, "computer...most recent medical records of Ferguson Price," and a recent chart appeared on the screen. "Physician's notes," she said and the page changed to Albans' notes. "Echo Cardiogram results," she said.

=^=Information requested is unavailable.=^=

"Un....," Cara frowned. "Why not?" she asked, reading over Albans' notes. "Oh. That's why not. She never did one," she said more to herself than to Ferguson. "I take it the meds have helped?" she asked turning back to Ferguson.

Ferguson cocked his head from side to side, as if he were giving a yes and no answer with the gesture. He took a deep breath before going into his explanation. "They have helped to regulate my heart, but they seem to have a side affect of causing an acute lethargy. I find it increasing more difficult to rise in the morning or find motivation to engage in activities I once did if my body is at rest for any length of time."

"Lectrazine has that effect," Cara said. "I'm going to refill your prescription since the medication is keeping your heart rate regular but I want to schedule for an Echo Cardiogram. I am surprised that your doctor didn't have one done," she said as she wrote a prescription out on the PADD that was Ferguson's current chart. "It's an noninvasive test that gives us a 3D image of the interior of your heart using sound waves," she explained.

Ferguson took a moment to consider Cara's proposal before nodding his assent, though holding up a finger as he did. "You will tell me if my condition would impair my ability to function as Lady Catherine's Diplomatic Aide and General Man Friday?"

Cara smiled her sweetest bedside smile. "Of course," she said. "But if what I suspect is true...and if the echo confirms it...we may be able to get you off these meds permanently and get you back to feeling more like yourself in the mornings," she said with confidence.

Ferguson gave her a smile, one that made him look at least ten years younger than his sixty six actual years of age. "Do that Doctor Nichols, and you will have my eternal gratitude."

"What is your morning schedule like?" Cara asked as she typed information into his chart.

"Nothing that can't be rearranged, especially if you are able to do what you think you can." Ferguson felt a mounting excitement at the prospect of getting of the heart medications.

"I have scheduled the echo for 0700 tomorrow," Cara said. "You'll need to wear a comfortable pair of shoes because I may be having you do a lap on the treadmill. Eat your normal breakfast and take your meds." She shut down the terminal and biobed monitors. "Your prescription should be available in the Pharmacy....which is on the other side of this the time you get there. Do you have any questions?" she concluded with a warm smile. She liked Ferguson and she hoped her suspicions were right and that she would be able to help him.

Ferguson pondered whether or not he did have any questions regarding tomorrows tests. He did decide he had one that might need answering. "Yes, these procedures you may deem beneficial. Will I be able to play the coronet when they're done?"

Cara nodded, picturing the elderly man playing a coronet. "Absolutely," she said.

Ferguson slowly nodded his head, a pensive look on his face that transformed into a boyish grin that revealed he was not all a stuffy English Gentleman's Gentleman. "Interesting. As I have never been able to play a coronet, or any other musical instrument before."

Cara burst into laughter and after several seconds of laughing said, "see how good I am? Now if you wanted to play the violin...well....that's a whole other procedure."