Just Friends? or... Promenade Lower Level - Soon to be Northern Lights Memorial Park MD 2 - 1530
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Cara had been down in Engineering making some last minute requests for the Medical Facility. Still not familiar with which turbolifts went where she took the wrong one and ended up on the lower level of the Promenade. "Stepping out of the turbolift she swore under her breath and when she realized where she was. The turbolift she wanted was on the other side of the Promenade so she headed in that direction, dodging busy workers wielding power tools of all types. As she approached the center of the Promenade she saw Drew speaking with an Engineer. He was standing under one of the trees being put in place in what would be a park. Smiling she walked over but stood back so as not to interrupt the two men's conversation.

Drew was speaking with a Chief from the structural engineering division when Cara paused her approach. "I'd like it in the center of the park. That small triagular area. Will that be doable Chief?"

The chief looked at the spot and then his notes on the PADD he had in hand. He looked up at Drew and nodded. "Roger that sir. Probably be a week to ten days before we can get it put up. Two on the outside."

"No rush Chief." Drew spotted Cara standing nearby and it appeared to him she was wanting to speak with him. He looked at the Chief and nodded. "Carry on Chief."

The Chief turned and went down one of the pathways in the park.

Drew turned to Cara and walked forward, his arms stretched out to give her a friendly embrace. "Hey Cara."

Cara smiled and gestured to their surrounding. "It's going to be beautiful," she said. "Congratulations on your promotion. It's about time."

Drew reached up and touched the third darkened pip on his collar. "Takes some getting used to I guess. I've actually been in the primary zone for it for months though."

"So...," Cara pretended to find interest in the leaves of the tree they were standing under. "...I haven't seen you in a while. Anything new going on in the world of Andrew Knight?" she asked, innocently, as she reaches out and feels of the leaf.

Drew looked around and shrugged. So many things were happening since their arrival at the FOB, he really had no idea where to start. He decided to go with his most recent decision. "Well, I was just speaking with one of the construction workers. I want to erect a memorial in the center of the park, dedicated to those lost at the Battle of Starbase 900."

Cara sighed. "Nice," she said. "I'm sure their families will appreciate it. Anything else?" she pressed.

Drew gave Cara a curious expression. He had been friends with since almost the moment they had met at dinner with Austin, Meredith and Ashley nearly a year ago, so he knew when she was fishing for information. "There something specific you want to inquire about Cara?"

Cara plucked the leaf off of the tree and threw it at Drew. "You're a brat," she said with a giggle. "Yeah. I hear you and your new neighbor are exchanging googly eyes at each other. I just wondered if the rumors are true?" she asked, looking at him with a quirked eyebrow.

Drew sighed and shook his head ruefully. "That is only a rumor that is half true. I have been the one googly eyed. Ambassador Waddington...probably not so much."

"You?" Cara asked. She had hoped that Ashley had exaggerated. "I thought you only had eyes for your job."

Drew's face took on a pensive expression as he thought about Cara's comment. It was true that he had spent years focused on his duties as a Special Warfare Officer. Now...he wan't sure what to think. He just shrugged. "Well, not sure she feels the same way I do, sooooo. I'll still be focusing on my career in Starfleet for the foreseeable future."

Cara looked down at the artificial turf they were standing on and rubbed the toe of her boot against the blades of synthetic grass so the change in nap created an arch. "Sounds like you want her to feel the same," she said, softly, without looking at him.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't want that." Drew had been staring off into space when Cara made her comment. He now looked at her and immediately picked up on her not looking at him. Something that was completely uncharacteristic about his friend. "What is it Cara?"

Cara looked down at the grass a few seconds then looked up at Drew, smiled and said. "Then you should go for it. You deserve to be happy." She looked up at the transparent dome that would soon be displaying holographic Northern Lights then took in a breath. Looking back at Drew she continued to smile as she said, "gotta go." With a friendly shoulder punch she said, "the park will be beautiful," and hurried off to find the right turbolift this time.

Drew had known Cara long enough to realize when something was off with her. She had become his first real friend during their tour at Starbase 900, despite Austin's and Meredith's attempts to play match maker for the two of them. There had been the weekly dinner at his brother's and sister-in-laws, as well as, the weekly poker game. They had both palled around in the holodeck and playing dom jot or pool in some of the bars. He seeming reticent behavior was uncharacteristic for her. He took off at a jog and caught up to her just as she reached the turbolift, slipping in just before the doors closed. "You OK Cara?"

Cara was surprised as Drew slipped into the turbolift car. "What are you..." she began then shook her head. "You nut. Yes. I'm fine," she said. "Medical," she instructed the turbolift and it began its ascent. "Why wouldn't I be fine," she asked. "Anchorage is starting to look like home, my medical facility is going to be hot damn gorgeous, Ashley is growing up to be an awesome young woman, you're crushing on is good....right?"

Drew wasn't buying it. His job often entailed reading microexpression in people, and he simply knew Cara well enough to figure out when she was holding something in. He fixed her with his uh huh...right stare. He placed a hand on her shoulder and gave it a friendly squeeze. "Something is bothering you. Something I can tell you want to get out. I'm your friend, you can tell me."

Cara sighed and rolled her eyes. "Why can't you read me like that when we're playing spades?" she asked. "You are the worst spades partner," she said, trying to deflect the subject.

Drew brought up his other arm, resting his hand on her opposite shoulder. His expression now one of deep concern. "Your my best friend Cara. If something is bothering can tell me."

Cara chewed on her lower lip while she contemplated whether or not to say anything for a few seconds then said, "turbolift pause," and the car came to a stop. "You're like a dog with a bone. You're not going to let this go are you?" she asked then said, "fine. Can I ask you a question?"

Drew nodded. "Of course. You can ask me anything."

Cara didn't want to ask. She would have preferred to let it go. So it was with great reluctance that she asked, "Is my age the reason you only see me as your," she made quotation marks in the air, "sister?"

Drew found the question easy to answer. It was Cara's body language and microexpressions he was finding harder and harder to discern. "Of course not. Like I said, you're my best friend, your family." His own expression was one of mixed concern and mild astonishment as to why she thought her age mattered to him.

Cara shook her head and sighed. "Yeah. I'm everybody's buddy," she said and thought, why didn't I leave well enough alone? "Turbolift resume," she said and shook her head again. Then she pursed her lips in an expression of frustration and said, "no. Belay that," and, when the car stopped she turned around...placed her hands on his cheeks...pulled him to her and laid a lip lock on him.

Several second passed as the two were locked in a kiss, then suddenly the doors opened and a voice was heard. "What the hell is the hold up with the...."

Cara broke free from Drew...smiled slyly at him...then turned and strutted out of the turbolift, her red ponytail swishing back and forth in rhythm of her steps.

Drew's face was flushed and his heart was threatening to break free of his chest as the enlisted tech stepped in to the turbolift.

The tech cast a worried glance at Drew. " OK sir? You need me to get you a doctor?"

Drew blinked repeatedly, as if his brain were performing a cold reboot. He looked at the enlisted tech with a blank stare for a moment before turning and hitting the stop button. The doors opened and he stepped off the turbolift with a belated answer to the tech. "That was the doctor."

...or Something More? Residential Complex: Cara Suite MD 2 - 2010
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Drew depressed the door chime for a second time and paced back and forth in front of Cara's door. He felt like his body was all a tremble as it became apparent she wasn't going to answer the door. He stopped pacing and keyed the intercom system. "Cara, it's Drew. Please open up!"

Cara had switched the sonic shower over to real water and was basking in the hot water as steam rose and fogged the mirror and shower door.. She was so relaxed that she began singing a happy little Irish tune at the top of her lungs.

Drew resumed pacing an felt very much at a loss, especially when a young officer he didn't recognize came walking down the corridor giving him a strange look before entering a suite several units down. Drew keyed the intercom again. "Come on Cara! We need to talk!"

The water trickled down to a drip and Cara opened her eyes and looked at the gauge above the shower head. Her weekly allotment of shower water was used up. She sighed and opened the shower door, grabbed her towel off of the rack and wrapped her hair up in a turban then stepped out of the shower and grabbed the second towel and began to dry off.

Drew felt like he couldn't breathe, even though his lungs were working just fine. He felt like his chest was going to explode, even though his heart rate was only slightly elevated. He took a deep breath, but when that did not seem to help he began knocking on the door, and continued to do so with more and more force. "Come on Cara! Just open the door please!"

Cara became aware of the pounding and frowned. Wrapping the towel around her, she walked out of the bathroom and, when she got to the living room she could hear the muffled voice calling her name. As she approached the door she recognized it as Drew and smirked. Pressing the door control she said, "hang on Knight. Geez, dude. Keep your voice down. You'll disturb the neighbors."

Drew gave a sigh of relief when Cara finally answered him over the intercom. He closed his eyes and worked on gaining control of his composure. He had thought of nothing else most of the day, but how he felt about Cara. How he truly felt about her. It had come as a complete shock to him when he realized, that the woman who had been masquerading as his best friend for the last year, was in fact the woman he loved deeply, and not just as his friend. He was trying to think of a way to tell her when he heard the door open.

Cara stood off to the side of the doorway and held the top of her towel once the door was open. "Well? Now that entire Delta Quadrant knows you're here....." she began.

Drew realized that he would not be able to truly express how he felt in words, but he did know that actions spoke more powerfully than words. He stepped through the door just as he opened his eyes and embraced her. This time kissing her with as much fervor as she had him in the turbolift earlier that day.

The door closed behind Drew automatically. Cara was caught off balance and had to grab hold of Drew's shoulders with bother hands to keep from falling backwards to the floor, consequently, relinquishing her hold on the towel. The folds of the towel came undone and fell to the sides. The only thing still keeping the towel aloft was the close embrace.

Time ceased to exist for Drew as the kiss went on. It could have been just a few seconds, minutes or even an hour that he held her and kissed her. He just knew he didn't want to stop kissing her, now or ever.

Cara, caught up in the moment, wrapped her arms around Drew's neck and returned his kiss with the same passion. When she had kissed him in the turbolift it had been out of spite more than anything else. Basically to say...see what you're missing fool? But this time was different. She could feel her blood pressure rise...her heart rate accelerate...and then she realized....

Cara suddenly pushed him back and grabbing her towel before it fell away with one hand. She looked into his eyes and saw something she had never seen in them before. "," she stammered, not sure what to say.

Drew opened his mouth to say something, just as he realized Cara's state of dress, or more to the point, lack thereof. He closed his eyes again and averted his head. "" He closed his eyes even tighter as the image of her there in the towel was seared into his mind. "Maybe you should...put something on."

Cara looked down at her bare legs and smirked. Snapping her fingers she said, "right," and hurried into her bedroom where she quickly put on a pair of sweat pants and tank top. The time getting dressed gave her a chance to regain her normal composure so she entered the living room and walked over to the sofa. Sitting on the arm with her feet on the cushions, she folded her arms and looked at Drew with a quirked eyebrow. "Sooo....I'm not going to lie. That was nice, but I have to wonder why," she said. "Was that a tit for tat kiss?" She held up a hand in a stop gesture. " was not a pun," she added then refolded her arms.

Drew sat a bit down the couch from Cara's perch, maintaining eye contact with her the whole time. Things were changing between them, but in retrospect he had a feeling they had been for the last couple of months at least for him. He'd spent nearly the entire afternoon and evening reflecting over their year long friendship, from start until now. "You remember the first time we met? Austin and his family's quarters?""

Cara placed her elbow on her knee and rested her chin in her hand as she stared at Drew with a smarmy smirk. She was curious how long he was going to draw this out...knowing that men never got directly to the point when they could take the long way around. "Yes. Of course I do. Pot roast, fresh carrots, potatoes, gravy, a tossed salad and blackberry pie for dessert," she said, want to take the scenic route....we will take the scenic route.

"I was referring to how Austin and Meredith were trying to set us up." He studied her expression and confirmed she knew exactly what he was talking about.

Cara couldn't help but break her pose as she chuckled. "Yeah. It was pretty comical. Meredith always thought herself a matchmaker," she said, then got silent as a sadness came over her.

The silence continued for several long moments as Drew himself thought of his brother and sister-in-law. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I am sure she only wanted to see the best for both of us."

"Yeah," Cara said, sadly and got up from her perch. "Want a drink?" she asked as she walked over to her small bar.

Drew also stood and moved to intercept her before she got to the bar. "I don't want a drink. I don't want to be afraid of what I've been feeling...I don't want into the arms of someone else...especially when..."

"When what?" Cara asked, visually searching Drew's face.

Drew reached up and cradled Cara's face in his hands. He held her gaze with his own. He was clearly scared, but his expression only confirmed what he said next. "I know I am in love with someone else. I love you Cara Jean Nichols. I have for some time now and...I'm sorry I didn't tell you before now."

"You're...," Cara's eyes widened. She would have settled for attracted to....anything that was more than their buddy buddy relationship they had been dancing around in for the past year....but she wasn't expecting this. She looked in his eyes and saw the depth of sincerity in them that she had never seen before. And something else. Something she had seen but not in his eyes. In Meredith and Austin's eyes when they looked at each other. For reasons she couldn't explain, tears filled her own eyes and spilled down her cheeks. She placed her hands over his and leaned in, gently kissing him....once....twice then the third one was mixed with passion and love.

Drew was drawn in further and further with each kiss. The feel of her lips on his, the gentle brushing of their hands on one another. He felt a mounting desire for her that was all consuming for him. He wanted her more than he had wanted anything in his whole life, but he had something he needed to do first. It was with a tremendous effort that he brought their kissing to a halt. He was breathless as he spoke. "We have to...take a pause.... I need to...make sure that Ashley...will be OK with this."

At some point they had wrapped their arms around each other. Cara leaned back and looked at Drew. "Seriously? And if she doesn't you're going to let a 16 year old determine our relationship?" she said. Letting go of Drew she backed out of his embrace and said, "fine," and gestured toward the door. "Go. I've got things to do anyway." She turned back to the bar and took out a bottle of Jamesons. Opening it she poured it into a glass and downed the contents in one gulp.

Drew opened his mouth to speak, but shut it just as quickly. It wasn't that he was going to allow Ashley to dictate his relationship with Cara, but the nightmares she'd had right after her parents died had returned in the last month with an alarming frequency. He looked down at the floor for a few seconds. He finally just nodded and turned to the door. He paused at the door, reluctant to leave, but nervous about staying after she told him to go. He turned and faced her.

Cara looked over at Drew just as he reached the door. When he turned to look back, she set her glass on the bar with a loud thud and rushed over to him. Placing her hands on his cheeks she said in a voice so soft it was almost a whisper, "I love your, too," then kissed him again, briefly. She pulled back and said, "good luck with Ashley," and smiled, lovingly at him.

Drew nodded. He hoped Ashley would not have a problem with this. He didn't think she would, but if this day had taught him anything at was he still knew nothing about woman. A moment later he was gone.
Interesting Developments Residential Complex: Lady Catherine's Suite MD2, 2100 hours
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Ferguson cast a disapproving stare at the four young women gathered at the table in the suites dining area. He was trying to concentrate on setting Catherine schedule for the next day, but the constant laughter and talking was making it difficult for him to focus.

Ashley was slightly confused as the three older women tried to explain the card game to her. She scratched her head and studied the cards on the table. "I still don't get it."

"Just guess with candy which pile of cards has the highest value" Tazanna smiled. "nothing more difficult than that."

"And we are only betting with candy" Meredith added.

Ashley looked from one pile to the next and back and forth. She finally placed her bet and sat back. The other two placed their and Catherine turned them over this time Ashley won. "Wow, this is kind of fun." She pulled back her winnings, popping a peppermint into her mouth as she did.

Ferguson sighed.

"Ferguson, are you all right you seem irritated." Lady Catherine asked as she shuffled the cards

Ferguson eyed the quartet at the dinner table. He placed his PADD on the coffee table and rose from his chair. Stepping over to the dinner table he placed a hand on Ashley's shoulder. "I am not quite sure if Luftenant Commander Knight would appreciate you ladies teaching Miss Ashley here a game of chance."

"It was not frowned upon by 1912 standards and we are using candy what's the problem?" Tazanna asked.

The door chime rang before Ferguson could say anything. He promptly turned and went to answer the door. "Ah...Luftenant Commander Knight. Do come in, please."

Drew nodded a greeting to Ferguson as he entered. "Good evening Ferguson."

"Good evening Commander." Meredith and Tazanna said in perfect unison.

"Good evening Andrew" Catherne remarked.

Ashley looked up form her pile of candy and waved at him as she chewed on a toffee. "He' th'r 'ncle D'ew."

Drew took in the scene and shook his head, though he did bear a smile on his face. He gestured to the pile of candy in front of Ashley. "Careful kiddo. They may be setting you up so the next time you come over they can fleece you of all your allowance."

Ashley shook her head, shocked her uncle would even suggest such a thing. "Nah uh. They wouldn't do that to me." She turned to Catherine and the Wonder Twins, "Right? You wouldn't do something like that?"

Ferguson nodded to Catherine. "Lady Catherine would not," he looked at the other two women, "those two however...."

"Would never think of doing such a thing!" Lady Catherine scolded.

Drew nodded absentmindedly, his thoughts going over the days events and the conclusions he had finally arrived at. He looked at Catherine for a moment, still deep in thought. "Could I have a word with you Lady Catherine?" He glanced at Ashley and nodded to her as well. "And you too Ashley?"

"Damen, gib uns einen Augenblick bitte Tazanna, du hast einen Termin. Wraith stellt sicher, dass sie pünktlich dorthin kommt." Catherine stated. The two women stood and left.

Ferguson returned to the coffee table briefly to retrieve his PADD and with a nod to Lady Catherine, he retired to his room.

Ashley looked back and forth between Catherine and Drew several times before settling her gaze on her uncle.

"Is there an issue here?" Catherine asked.

Drew took a deep breath and released it slowly as he looked at both Catherine and Ashey. He finally settled his gaze upon Catherine. "Um.... Lady Catherine, I've not made it a big secret that I've been attracted to you."

Ashley perked up with an Oh, this is going to be interesting expression on her face. She gave a quick glance to Catherine to catch any tell tale response.

"And you know my response to that. Has something happened that you need to telll me?" she asked her face perfectly schooled to show no major emotions.

Ashley darted her eyes to Drew, though somewhat disappointed in Catherine's poker faced expression.

Drew nodded as he faced Catherine squarely. "Something did happen today, two somethings actually, that have made me aware I was projecting on to you something that I've been...afraid to admit to myself for quite some time now."

Ashley's interest only intensified, especially since she remembered a conversation with a certain family friend a while back. Her mouth dropped open as she stared at her uncle.

"I see." She said with an annoying calm "I assue you have now remidied that issue?"

"Yes I have." Drew paused as he carefully chose his next words. "I would like to apologize to you for any misleading and inappropriate words or actions on my part." He was very nervous about losing Catherine's friendship, something he still wanted to maintain. "I do hope that we will always be able to be friends and work with one another amicably."

"No worries dear boy, it has been a rather long couple of days." Catherine said neutrally.

Ashley couldn't contain her curiosity any further. "So what happened between you and Cara?"

Drew looked at Ashley, a thoughtful expression on his face. "We can discuss that later. Right now, get your things so we can head back to our own apartment."

Ashley frowned, but got up to go collect her school books.

Drew turned back to Catherine. "I do want to thank you for letting Ashley be here while I am working late. I do appreciate that very much."

"Not a problem. Ashley dear do come over after school tomorrow if your Uncle is working. Ferguson loves having extras to mother hen," she smiled.

Ashley returned a smile of her own as she rejoined her uncle. "Thanks Lady Catherine. Maybe tomorrow you guys could teach me a new card game?"

"Two things one it's Cat and two Ferguson made cupcakes so don't forget your cupcakes Sweetheart. And you know the rules. Same as today. You get your homework done and we'll teach you a new game."

Ashley nodded. "OK Cat." She went in to the kitchen and grabbed a small box with the aforementioned cupcakes.

Drew faced Catherine and offered his hand to her. "Friends?"

She shook his hand. "I would not say we were enemies." she said with the same calm tone.

Ashley returned to Drew's side and both bade Catherine goodbye. "Have a good night Lady Catherine," Drew said. "See ya tomorrow Cat," was Ashley's farewell.

"Seeya," Catherine smiled.

Ashley and Drew left to return to the own apartment across the corridor.

Ferguson returned to the common area from his room a minute later and took a seat at the table. He placed the PADD on the table and slid it toward Catherine. "I've got you schedule for tomorrow."

"Lovely. Whats on the agenda?" she asked smiling.
After The Storm Main Conference Room Three Days After 'Red Alert'
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Christopher stood in the upper ring of the base with a PADD in hand, staring at it as if he was reading some important instruction when in actuality all the PADD contained was a map of the base along with some orders and reminders. He noticed that since he had changed uniforms from the standard duty uniform to the gold-trimmed version with the signature black leather belt emblazoned with the Starfleet insignia, people were now giving him a wide berth. Returning the occasional salute, Chris forced himself to take a hard right out of the corridor that he had found himself in, he continued his walk towards one of the secondary lifts. Stopping for a moment, he looked over the railing and saw the massive wall of people crashing against each other in an effort to complete their in-processing. Almost every person was dying for a warm shower, a hot meal, and a bed to sleep in and they were sick and tired of the overcrowding. He could feel the vibrations of their discontent reaching a fever pitch and he made a note to remind his people to either speed up the process of housing these people and putting them to work or prepare for an all-out rebellion.

Entering the lift, Chris tapped the button to head down one level and felt the drop in his stomach as the lift shot downward and slid to a smooth halt on the next floor down. Walking out confidently, he stopped outside of a set of doors that were labeled 'CONFERENCE ROOM'. Stepping inside, he was amazed to see a sleek black tiled room with fluorescent lights suspended from the overhead and a circular table with a holoprojector in the center. Setting his PADD down at the chair in the 12 O Clock position, he paced the room to get a feel for it and search for a functioning replicator.

Lady Catherine walked in flanked as always by Tazanna and Meredith “I understand you wished to see me sir?"

Chris nodded. "I did. Take a seat and we'll begin shortly."

Cara walked through the door of the conference room looking haggard. She still hadn't changed clothes as she had been busy trying to get patients settled that had been transferred from the Zumwalt and Hopper. The only part of the medical facility that had power enough to monitor patients was in the ER and its overflow area so those patients needing extended care had been placed in the treatment cubicles and the others awaited treatment on hover gurneys along the walls. Cara was still trying to figure out who from their old staff had survived and what visitors with medical training had been forced to evacuate with them. It was daunting. She walked over to the table and plopped down in a chair, leaning her head back against the back of the chair and closing her eyes for a few minutes.

Ja'xon entered a moment after Cara did, looking agitated and spread thin, he sat down opposite the doctor, maintaining his upright and stern posture. He was relieved to discover some Marines made it aboard the Hopper, but it wasn't enough to improve their position. In total, he had a force of 35 Marines under his command, nowhere near enough for a base this size. He needed more Marines and he needed them now. The Marine's first priority would be to replenish their numbers, he decided.

Drew was looking at a PADD as he took the few final steps to the conference room door. He pulled up short just before colliding with Ragnas. "Sorry about that Commander Gunnbjorn." He gestured to the door. "Please, after you."

Ragnas looked up at Drew, "No worries, Knight. I was the one practically running just now." He would have been late otherwise, "But please, go ahead."

Drew nodded and smiled as he gestured again. "I insist."

"Very well, thank you." Ragnas said as he walked in to the room and sat down in the closest chair to the door.

Drew followed Ragnas in and took the seat to Christopher's immediate right. He gave the Brigadier General a nod of his head as he greeted him. "General."

Hearing Drew's voice, Cara opened her eyes and looked over at her friend. He looked as haggard as she felt and she wondered how he was holding up with the loss of his brother and sister-in-law. She wished she had had some time to console him but things had been so hectic that this was the first time she had seen him since the whole ordeal began.

Christopher stood as the last of what constituted his ad hoc senior staff. "Good Afternoon. As many of you probably haven't had a chance to sleep, I'll keep this short. As of 1300 yesterday, we've been formally assigned to this base and tasked with bringing back to operational status, so as of yesterday, you are all officially senior staff, although I know you've all been assuming those duties anyway- Lieutenant Commander Knight will be serving as my XO and the Chief Intel Officer. Gunnery Sergeant Vasquez, you'll be serving as Chief Ops with a temporary rank of Captain. Lieutenant Nichols, you're my CMO. Lieutenant Ja'xon, you'll be pulling double duty as the commander of the Marine Company along with the security teams. Lieutenant Commander Gunnbjorn, you'll remain in command of the Hopper- You'll receive a patrol schedule within the next 2 hours, so stand by for that. Lady Waddington, you may serve as my Diplomatic Officer if you so choose." Stopping for a moment, Christopher looked around at the haggard team that he had before him. These men and women had been through all sorts of hell but were approaching the situation with a positivity that he had never seen before. "Now, I need a status report on what's happened so far."

Drew looked about the table to see if someone else wanted to start. He decided to give a general rundown of what he knew to have made it to this safe harbor. "Well sir, both starships, a contingent of Valkyrie fighters and numerous small craft jammed with evacuees from the starbase and destroyed vessels of the relief force made it here to Ef Oh Bee Anchorage."

"If it helps I am cleared on fighters. Both as a pilot and maintaining them sir." Meredith spoke up

"I will serve as your Diplomat. It at least makes me of some use." Catherine stated.

"Medical is overcrowded as we only have 15 beds in the ER overflow for In Patient Care and they are full so we have 10 gurneys anchored outside of the cubicles for the other patients not ready to be released. Engineering has said it is going to be several weeks before the IPC units are going to be inhabitable. There is no power to the Surgical Suites and that may take longer. Not that it matters. I only have a few surgeons that made it out of 900. All in all, it looks like Surgery, Critical Care and Isolation will have to be taken care of in the Zumwalt and Hopper's Sickbays," Cara reported, wearily.

Christopher nodded. "Lady Waddington, assemble your department and comb through the databases aboard the station. I want to know who we can reach out to once we bring this station fully online. Lieutenant Ja'xon, Gunny Vasquez, you've been quiet. What do you have for me?" he asked, the all too familiar edge coming into his tone.

Ja'xon spoke up, "Sir, to be frank we do not have enough Marines to properly defend this base. Even if we add in the security personnel to those numbers, we won’t be much better off. You are well aware that Starfleet security personnel are not Marines. However, I do believe I have a solution." Ja'xon looked around the room, making eye contact with many of those in the room. "I would like to recruit from our civilian population."

The Marine CO paused for a moment, to allow everyone to process what he was asking. "Starbase 900 was outright destroyed by the Borg and it is reasonable to assume that they or others will find us here. We need a ready defense force, trained to respond to these type of threats. To be clear, I am proposing we increase our enlisted Marine numbers by recruiting from our civilian population. I would also like to train 5 Marine Officers."

Christopher leaned in. "It sounds good but how do you propose we train them, Lieutenant? An Officer Candidate School program would require a full staff and facilities for combat instruction and field exercises, not to mention training enlisted Marines would require additional staff."

Drew had his own concerns regarding Ja'xon's assessment of the marine and security forces. He did have a couple of ideas though. "I would be reluctant to conscript any civilians into service, either as Starfleet or Marines." He turned to Chris. "That being said. We can ask if any civilians are prior service and initiate the reserve activation clause when they separated from service. There's is also my special warfare operators. I'm the only officer left, but I do have twenty one enlisted operators. They could be rolled in with the marines and security to bolster their strength for the time being."

"I have 2 marines assigned to me both were officers at one time." Catherine remarked
Gunnery Sergeant Vasquez chimed in "And I would not mind lending any assistance that I can" offered the Chief of Operations. "I may usually have myself changing out isolinear chips and cross wiring things around here, but I am still a marine at heart" she added. "Other than that, I report that Operations personnel have been working hard to keep this place up and running."

Christopher nodded. "Very well, Gunny- Ops and Engineering will be yours for the time being." Turning to the diplomat in the room, Christopher spoke. "Technically under Starfleet regulations, part as this place functions as a Federation Embassy, which mandates that you have a Marine Protective Detail. While you're here, they'll fall under Lieutenant Ja'xon until we can have a permanent Security Chief. Questions?"

Catherine shook her head

Ja'xon listened to everyone's input patiently and would take a couple of them up on their ideas, however no one offered up any fix to the issues he brought up. "One, two, or even twenty extra hands will not be enough." Ja'xon said, "On Starbase 900 we had a full Company consisting of over 300 Marines, currently we have 32, not including those in this room. We are in a desperate situation, we can afford to be caught off guard or unprepared. Again, I ask that we look for volunteers among our civilians. I have the full confidence in my ability to train them utilizing this base's facilities and our Marines as the instructors. There is a whole section dedicated for stationed Marines, including a number of holodecks and other training tools. I will reevaluate the need for officers."

He stopped for a moment, realizing that he may not be able to convince this group of this necessity. "What if I start small and conduct a proof of concept? Let me start with one platoon, approximately 40 volunteers. Then three months from now we can evaluate their effectiveness and then talk about increasing our numbers from there."

Chris nodded. "Do it. If you need facilities, contact the Gunny and she'll get you squared away.

Drew cast a quick glance around the room before settling his gaze on Christopher. "Sir, we still have the Charlie Hotel issue to address."

"Computer, deactivate all sensors in this room and seal all exits." Christopher said as he looked to each person at the table in turn. "We have another matter that's slightly more pressing. Please bear in mind that any information from this point forward is classified Level Ten. As some of you may know, we captured a Borg drone aboard the Zumwalt, designation Three of Eight. As he displayed no hostile intent at the time of capture, he was kept alive and imprisoned in line with Federation and intergalactic law. A short time ago, he requested asylum under the law and under my authority along with the counsel of Commander Knight, I granted it. He has shown remorse for his actions and we have acknowledged that he had no control over his actions during the attack. In the meantime, he's being temporarily detained in a holding cell until we can figure out what to do with him-" stopping for a moment, Chris took a drink of water from the glass next to him. "Now, I understand that this may be a hot button issue, which is why I'm asking each of you to keep it secret. Also, understand that he is not to be harmed. If I find out that anyone here has targeted him or has allowed him to be targeted, I will personally find a deep and dark hole on this base and drop you into it. Do I make myself clear?" Christopher asked, his tone sharp as a knife.

Cara became concerned as the room went into lock down and she sat more erect in her seat.

Ja'xon was the first to speak, "Has it been evaluated by our best engineers and medical staff? Even if this thing has regained its human consciousness, we need to be certain that its technological components are no longer communicating with the Borg Collective."

Ragnas, who has been quiet throughout the entire meeting finally heard something that caught his interest. "I would be more than willing to evaluate the drone from a science perspective." Realizing that these people had no idea what his background was, he quickly added, "I am an Alien Anthropologist by training. I'm wearing a red shirt, I know, long story. But I specialize in the study and understanding of Alien cultures and would very much be willing to work with Three of Eight's reintegration into our society. He is more than welcome to join my crew aboard the Hopper too."

Cara was shocked. She stared for several minutes, first at the General, then at Drew. She was a jumble of confused emotions. On one hand she had watched her Head Nurse sacrifice herself to save Cara when the Borg entered 900 and her close friend had been ripped away from her daughter by one of those things. The screams of those left behind as the doors of the Hopper closed still woke her up at night and left her huddling in her bed. But she was a physician and if....and it was a huge if...there was a chance the thing they referred to as 3 of 8 still had any of its humanity left she had an obligation to treat it. She realized she had doubled her hands up in fists and her nails were digging into the flesh of her palms. She bit her lip as she uncurled her fingers. "Since I am the senior physician," she said, her voice trembling. She cleared her throat and took a deep breath. "I have no choice but to exam it....him...whatever," she said, staring blankly over the General's shoulder so not to make eye contact.

Christopher raised his hands as if to quiet the room. "I understand that this is a hard concept for everyone to grasp but I need you to understand that if I would have ordered him killed, I would have been no different than the things that committed the atrocity that we witnessed three days ago. Yes, it's still fresh in all of our minds and the wounds that have been opened may never heal but remember this: Every single person in this room swore an oath to protect and defend those who could not do so for themselves and to obey the laws of the Federation. If I'm not mistaken, those laws prevent us from killing an unarmed prisoner. Now if anyone has a problem with his being here, have your resignations on my desk within the hour." His speech over, he looked over to Ragnas. "Now Commander, don't be too invasive. We don't how he'll react if you just go digging."

Looking to everyone and noticing their silence, Christopher looked down and then back up at the assembled staff. "You're all dismissed." and held his breath slightly as the team filed out. Releasing the air in his lungs in a sharp exhale when he found that he was alone, he sighed and slipped back down into the chair. "This is going to be one hell of a ride..." he said as he turned back to the PADD in his hand.

Definitely Something More Holosuite Seven: Rick's Cafe Americain, Casablanca, Morocco MD 4 - 2100
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Drew, wearing a replica of a US Naval officers mess dress uniform (circa 1941) entered Rick's Cafe Americain. He was immediately greeted by Rick Blain, the establishment owner/operator. "Ah, Lieutenant Knight. Pleasure to see you again." Drew touched one of the shoulder boards. "Actually it is Lieutenant Commander now."

Rick nodded approvingly. "Well, congratulations then Lieutenant Commander. Would you like your regular table?"

Drew shook his head as he removed his headgear and handed it to the hat check girl. "Actually, I was hoping to get a table on the veranda with a good view of the sea. I'm having dinner with someone...rather special."

Rick beckoned for a his maitre'd..

The maitre'd approached and looked to his employer.

Rick pointed to the door leading to the veranda. "Give are newly promoted friend here the best table on the veranda. Seating for two."

Drew followed the maitre'd out and took a seat as the maitre'd struck a match and lit both candles on the table. "Would you like something while you wait?" Drew shook head, but then changed his mind. "If you would please bring a bottle of your best champagne." The maitre'd nodded. "Of course sir."

Dressed in a seafoam green flowy chiffon tea length gown with a lavender capped sleeve bolero jacket covering her bare shoulders, Cara entered the cafe, her long red hair draped over one shoulder and two flowers matching the colors in her outfit on the opposite side just above her ear.

Rick glided over to greet new arrival. Stroking his chin in thought as he stepped up. "If I had to hazard a guess. I would say your here to meet someone very special."

"I am," Cara replied looking around at the cafe. Smiling as she recognized the setting she said, "I suppose you're Rick."

Rick bowed before Cara and raised himself with a flourish. "That I am young lady." He placed a guiding hand on Cara's elbow and started for the door to the veranda. "I gather your here to meet my good friend and dashing young naval officer Lieutenant Commander Andrew Knight. If you'll accompany me."

Cara was impressed with the lengths Drew had gone to. She smiled as she allowed the holographic Rick lead her.

Drew rose from his seat as Cara, guided by Rick stepped out onto the veranda overlooking the sea. He stared at her with adoration and wondered why he had decided to just be friends with her almost a year ago. He moved forward and kissed Cara on the cheek as Rick released her elbow. "You look...absolutely beautiful!"

"Thank you," Cara said and her cheeks turned pink with a slight blush. Drew looked dashing in his vintage dress uniform. "You look pretty spiffy yourself, Commander," she said.

The maitre'd returned with a bottle already chilling in a bucket of ice, the cork already out to allow the champagne to breath. Rick himself poured the champagne into two long-stemmed glasses as Drew seated Cara and then sat back in his own chair. Rick handed both Drew and Cara their glasses, then dug a small flask from the inner pocket of his jacket, twisting the cap off he held the flask aloft as he looked first at the couple, then out over the sea. "Love can be the most wondrous of mysteries, a journey to find happiness in even the darkest of times. May these first steps you take together on that path, bring you joy along your journey." He then took a long pull from flask.

Drew looked at Cara and tapped his glass to hers. "I'll drink to that."

Cara tapped Drew's glass with her own and her eyes sparkled in the candlelight as she took a sip of her champagne. "I don't remember Rick being such a poet. You must have tweaked the program a little," she said, teasingly as she set her glass on the table. She looked out at the waves glistening in the moonlight as they broke on the sand then she looked back at Drew. "All I can say is wow. I didn't know you had it in you," she said seeing a side of the man she had called best friend for the past year that she had never seen before.

Drew placed his glass carefully back on the table and looked around at the holographic representation of the main set from the movie Casablanca. "I have a fondness for early to mid 20th century films and...well...I wanted our first real date to be something unique and special."

"First date," Cara giggled. "Sounds so high school." She picked up her glass and said, "you have succeeded," then took a sip of the golden bubbly.

Drew looked to the building as piano music began to play Till the End of Time. His eyes switched to the lit stone patio just below the veranda. He rose from his chair and held out a hand, palm up. "Would the lovely lady please honor me with this dance?"

Cara took his hand and said, "I would love to," and got to her feet, slipping her bolero off and draping it across the back of the chair.

Drew carefully led her down the short staircase to the dance patio and took her in his arms and led her in a graceful foxtrot to match the romantic music coming from the building. He seemed happy to just live in the moment, dancing close and staring into her eyes.

Cara smiled...more inwardly as she applauded herself for having taken ballroom dance lessons several years ago...and lost herself in Drew's eyes as she glided across the dance floor. She felt as if she were floating on a cloud and reality seemed to disappear.

Drew bowed as the final notes wound down the music. He looked up to the patio and saw the wait staff bringing out their food. He leaned in and whispered softly in Cara's ear. "I modified the program to bring a sampling of some of your favorite foods. Hope you don't mind."

Cara looked over at their table and her eyes widened. "I'm glad I didn't wear anything tight," she chuckled.

Drew mounted the steps with Cara's arm tucked into his, only releasing it once they returned to the table and he pulled out her chair for her. He resumed his seat and looked at the fare spread out on the table. He looked up at her with a sheepish grin. " I guess I may have gone a little overboard on the food."

Cara sat down and looked at each of the dishes, picking up her fork and sticking it into a small piece of Chateaubriand. She smelled of the piece of meat and quirked an eyebrow as she put the piece in her mouth. Chewing, tentatively, she knitted her brows together in surprise. "It's real," she said, incredulously, as the meat melted in her mouth and filled her taste buds with elegant flavors. She helped herself to a couple of slices of the beef then moved on to other dishes.

Drew picked up his own fork and began taking bites of the various dishes and nodding his head at the taste of some of her favorite dishes. He paused between bites and made a sweeping gesture with his hand. "Replicator and holosuite systems utilize a very similar technology."

Cara took several bites of her meal then asked, "so...when did you know?"

Drew paused, his fork halfway between the table and his mouth. He put the utensil down and reached out and took Cara's hand in his own. "To be honest, probably the first time I met you, but, well, I had been assigned to get an entire special warfare group organized to operate in the Delta Quadrant. So, at the time, I thought being friends would be less of a distraction."

Cara had her fork halfway to her mouth and she stopped. Looking at Drew she asked, "why didn't you say anything?"

"I almost did tell you a few months ago." Drew's expression was very thoughtful as he remembered a week just two months before the attack. "You remember when the USS Kitty Hawk had the week layover...and you were spending a great deal of time with Commander Davidson, the ship's First Officer."

"Yes. I remember," Cara said chewing on another bite of her meat. She swallowed and said, "I also remember you were a bit of an ass hole at the time. I figured you were on the rag or something."

Drew nodded his head. "I was so jealous and so...angry. I don't think I slept a wink that entire week." He looked deep into her eyes. "But, I also don't think that I would change a single thing about this last year."

"Well that explains why you suddenly got all buddy buddy again once he shipped out," Cara said putting down her fork and leaning back in her chair. "I guess Meredith's little plan worked after all," she said and looked up at the holographic moon. She wondered if Meredith was up there somewhere, with an I told you so smirk on her face.

Drew smiled as he gave her hand a gentle squeeze. "It gave us the opportunity to get to know one another and become friends. We never had to experience that awkward initial dating stage." He then remembered her kissing him in the turbolift and his follow up kiss in her only a towel. "Well, OK...maybe we did have a couple of awkward moments the other day." He gazed deep into her eyes. "But I don't feel awkward now."

Cara squeezed his hand and winked. "Speak for yourself. I knew exactly what I was doing," she said. "Got my point across didn't it?"

Drew gave Cara an astonished look. "Wait! What? That would mean.... How long have you felt this way?"

"Ever since the attack when I didn't know if you were alive or dead," Cara said, her voice catching a little. "I knew for sure when you confirmed Ash's report of your interest in Catherine."

Drew reached up and gently stroked Cara's cheek. "When you left me standing in the turbolift, to stunned to speak or even move. I realized that what I thought were feelings for Catherine, were my feelings for you I was projecting onto Catherine." He swallowed an asteroid sized lump in his throat before continuing. "For that, I am sorry to both of you."

Cara smiled and said, "no need to apologize to me. I'm the one who won," and she winked.

Rick appeared again, along with several members of his wait staff to clear the table. He gave both Drew and Cara a twenty dollar gold eagle coin. "Been told if you cast a coin into the Mediterranean on the night of a full moon and make a wish. It will come true by the next full moon. The more valuable the coin, the stronger the wish will be granted."

Cara raised an eyebrow. "I can't imagine what I could possibly wish for," she said then looked, lovingly, at Drew. "I already have everything."

Guess Who's Coming to Breakfast Residential Complex: Knight Family Suite MD 6 & 7
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Note: Think the Definitely Something Post should go up before this one...and love your finish for this.

Drew sat on the couch with Cara going over the plans for tomorrows surprise birthday party for Ashley. It wasn't every day a young woman turned 17 and Drew want it to be very special, especially with all that had happened over the last several months. "I think the replicator will handle most of the food, but I kind of want to bake her a cake myself."

Cara laughed. "You? Bake a cake?" she said. "Oh this I have to see." She pictured a lopsided cake...flat on one side...with icing splattered instead of spread. She took a sip of her coffee and curled her legs up under her. It was nice to have a day off after so much turmoil. And it was even nicer to be spending it with Drew. "What do you think she would like for her birthday?" she asked. "I mean....what do you get a 17 year old that is stuck in the Delta Quadrant on a base with a bunch of Starfleet personnel and Marines?"

Drew scratched his head, a clear sign he had absolutely no idea. "I was actually hoping you might have a clue. She spends a lot of time volunteering down at the medical complex. I'd have thought she might have said something to you."

"She usually has her nose in some medical journal so I haven't a clue, either," Cara replied.

Ashley emerged from her room, an overnight bag slung over her shoulder. She tossed the bag into the easy chair at one end of the coffee table and then leaned over the back of the couch between Drew and Cara in an effort to look at Drew's PADD. "Soooo. Watcha guys working on?"

Drew hit the sleep button on his PADD and the screen darkened. He turned to Ashley with a frown. "You do know that we," he gestured at Cara and himself, "as senior officers here do have classified information we must go over from time to time. Things a civilian aren't supposed to know about."

Cara pointed to the bag. "Going on a trip?" she asked.

Ashley rolled her eyes at Drew before turning to Cara and nodding. "Yup. Slumber party with some of the girls from class. I'll be back in the morning though."

Cara remembered some of the stories she had heard about her teenage classmates' slumber parties and she quirked an eyebrow. "Just girls....right?" she asked.

It was Cara's turn for an Ashley-famous eye roll. "Yes Aunt Cara...just girls!" She did give a slight smirk though. "Though I do imagine we will be talking about boys all night long." She punctuated her statement with a short laugh.

Cara covered her smile with a fake cough and turned her head as she heard her Godmother's voice saying, "don't you roll your eyes at me young lady. And take your hands off of your hips." Cara gripped the sleeve of Drew's shirt to keep from laughing and hid her face in the side of his shoulder.

Thankfully the door chime rung at that precise moment. Ashley cocked her head in the door's direction. "Open." The door did as commanded and Ashley's friend, Jessica stepped in. "Good evening Mister Knight, Doctor Nichols."

Cara turned and leaned her back against Drew's shoulder. "Hello," she said to Jessica and reached over to the coffee table for her cup of coffee.

Ashley just shook her head, grabbed her overnight bag and bolted for the door. She was happy that Drew and Cara were an item now, but they could be down right mushy at the worst possible times.

Drew wrapped his arms around Cara as the doors closed and chuckled. "And here I thought she approved of us dating."

Cara turned and looked at Drew, quirking an eyebrow. "Dating? Is that what we're doing?" she asked...a hint of teasing in her voice. "Golly gee. Next thing you know you'll ask me to go steady." Her green eyes sparkled mischievously.

Drew grinned right back at Cara and gave her a wink. "I might even give you my letterman's jacket to wear too." He tapped her nose playfully with an index finger. "Then everyone will know we're really serious." He slid out from under her and pulled her to her feet. "Come on we have a cake to bake."

"What's this we shit? You got a mouse in your pocket?" Cara laughed as she got to her feet. "This is all you buddy. I'm just an observer."

"I will let you know that all Knight men are excellent chefs." His mock arrogance was accented by his arrival in the kitchen with a clatter of baking tins and mixing bowls as he started gathering everything he'd need to make a birthday cake.

Cara perched on a vacant counter top and watched as the baking circus began.

Drew started pouring ingredients into a large mixing bowl. He started humming the Happy Birthday tune as he began whipping up a fluffy cake batter. He would occasionally pass Cara on her perch and give her quick kiss each time. "I'm thinking about doing a cookie dough cake. What do you think my sweet?"

"You're asking the wrong person," Cara laughed. "I don't know cookie dough from pie crust. You would know what Ash likes better than me." Her mouth opened and she stared at the object Drew just took out of the refrigerator. "Is that an egg? A real egg?" she asks, incredulously. "Where in the hell did you get that?"

Drew retrieved a second egg as well and held both up to allow Cara a better inspection. "Actually got these from a member of your staff. He brought his pet chicken aboard the Hopper just before you boarded I think." Drew cracked both eggs and poured the egg whites and yolks into the mixing bowl. "He offered to give me a few to bake this cake because of the time Ashley has volunteered at the medical complex lately."

"Interesting," Cara said, wondering who was the mysterious chicken farmer and if she could score a couple eggs for herself.

Drew mixed up the ingredients until he had a batter with the right consistency for baking. He then poured the batter into a baking pan and placed it all in the small oven. He programmed the oven for the proper temperature and time, then wiped his hands clean with a hand towel hung from the handle on the oven door. "That's all set. Oven will shut off when it's done baking."

Cara jumped down off of the counter and went over to the mixing bowl, sticking her finger into the left over batter along its sides. Sucking the sweet batter off of her finger she smiled. "Pretty good," she said. "I am impressed."

Drew stepped over to the prep counter and dipped his finger before taking a taste himself. "I did do a good job." He dipped a finger in again and held it up for Cara.

Cara grabbed Drew's hand and opened her mouth. Putting his finger in her mouth she bit down just hard enough to get his attention without leaving a mark, smiled when his eyes widened and just before he said ouch, then she sucked the batter off of his finger as she pulled it out of her mouth. "I'm sorry," she said with a mock apology. "Tasted like cake," she said with a wink then turned and headed out of the kitchen. "Give me the keys to the car," she called from the living room where she had sat down on the edge of the coffee table and was putting her shoes on. "I need to go shopping."

Drew stepped into the living room and shook his head ruefully. "You left your tram pass in your quarters again." He sighted and walked over to his uniform jacket hanging on the coat tree and waited for her by the door. He took her hand and then place the tram pass in it with his other. Once she had possession, he pulled her in close. "You know...I have a solution to this you borrowing my tram pass all the time."

Cara smiled and leaned her head back so she could see his face. "Yeah? What's that?" she asked.

Drew pulled her in close and gave her a lingering kiss before bringing her back to arms length and giving her a serious, yet adoring look.. "Move in."

Cara coughed and laughed at the same time. "Yeah right," she said between coughs.

Drew cupped her face in both his hands. "I am being serious." He looked at the door then back to Cara. "I know we both agreed sleep overs due to Ashley. But I really think that she wouldn't have a problem with it."

"She might not," Cara said as she gently pushed herself out of Drew's arms and looked at him seriously. "But I'm not ready." The thought of giving up her space...her independence...was the furthest thing on her mind. In scared the feces out of her. She liked being able to come and go as she pleased...with no one to answer to but herself.

Drew gave an understanding nod. If he was disappointed, it didn't show. He even gave her a reassuring smile. "I understand, but can I convince you to waive the no sleep over policy tonight, since Ashley will be gone anyway?"

Relaxing, Cara smiled. "Those were your rules...not mine," she teased. "I still want to go check out that gypsy ship in space dock," she said, more seriously. "I hear they have some really beautiful handcrafted things and they take Federation credits. I might be able to find something for Ash."

Drew grabbed Cara's jacket and held it up for her to slip into.

Cara slipped her arms through the sleeves then shrugged the jacket onto her shoulders. She turned to face Drew as she straightened the jacket out.

Drew wrapped his arms around Cara's waist and hugged her lovingly. He whispered softly in her ear. "Well, when we get back. I may have to reevaluate that rule."

"Is that right," Cara whispered and kissed the lobe of Drew's ear. "It seems you're not as hard nosed as they say," she teased and playfully pinched his waistline. With that she backed off and strutted out the door, looking over her shoulder to make sure Drew was behind her.

Drew snatched his jacket of the rack and hurried out the door after Cara, catching up to her, he slipped an arm around her waist for the walk down to the port facilities.

===2 hours later===

The Starfleet security officer working the entrance gate of the shuttlebay, handed the bags of items purchased on the gypsy ship back to Cara after having gone through them. "Thank you, Chief," Cara said with a smile to the Chief Petty Officer. Then she moved through the gate and waited for Drew to be cleared.

The security officer performed a quick tricorder scan and visual inspection of Drew's purchases and waved him on. He stepped passed the check point and took Cara's free hand. "That was actually kind of fun. Shopping with you and all."

"I was really impressed," Cara said as they made their way out of the shuttle bay and into a turbolift. "They had some beautiful things." She called out the deck number as the turbolift door slid shut with a whispering hiss. "I had to get this tapestry," she said, lifting the bag and peering into it at her purchase. "It will look gorgeous in my office. And I really think Ash will like this dress."

Drew peeked into his own bag and looked at his own purchases. "I'm sure she will love it. I just hope she likes the necklace I bought."

The door slid open and people waiting stepped aside so Cara and Drew could exit. Once in the corridor and heading for Drew's quarters, Cara leaned her head against his shoulder and matched her steps with his. "Thank you for going with me," she said, softly.

Drew kissed her gently on the cheek and spoke just as softly. "I will go anywhere in the universe with you."

They were just a few feet from Drew's door and Cara stopped, pushing Drew against the wall. She pressed against him and kissed him passionately.

Drew was pleasantly caught of guard by Cara's actions, but only for the span of a heart beat. He returned the kiss with an even greater passion, spinning her around along the wall towards the door.

Cara kept one arm around Drew's neck as he spun her around. The other hand gripped the shopping bags.

Drew ended up pressed against the door to his residence. His free hand fumbled with the door control. It took three attempts to key in the door code before he got it right.

The doors swished open and they both stumbled back into the residence, still locked in a series of passionate kisses as their bags dropped to the floor. The doors closed with a whisper, followed by a small thump as Drew pushed Cara back against the door.


Drew, clad in only a pair of pajama pants, set the coffee pot to brewing and then looked out to the living room area. Strewn across the living room was a mix of his and Cara's clothing. A dreamy smile came to his face as he stepped around the counter and began gathering up the clothing that had been passionately discarded the night before. He carried the bundle of Cara's and his clothes to his bedroom and deposited them on the foot of the bed.

Drew was just returning to the living area when Ashley came through the door into the residence. Ashley took one look at her uncle with a mock shocked expression. "I know you had the place to yourself Uncle Drew, but please put some clothes on or at least the tops to your pajamas. My friends will be here soon."

Drew couldn't move. He was uncertain how Ashley would take the news that Cara had spent the night. He was still trying to process how to broach the subject as Ashley trotted passed him to head down the leading back to the bathroom and bedrooms.

Ashley was only a meter from the bathroom door when it opened.

Cara walked out of the bathroom, wearing only Drew's pajama shirt and towel drying her hair. "Drew I used one of your towels," she called out from under the bath towel covering her face and head.

Ashley took one look at Cara and the single item of clothing she wore. A smile crept to Ashley's face. "Well, that explains why Uncle Drew isn't wearing his pajama top."

Cara froze and lowered the towel. She winced, seeing Ashley, but only for a second. What's done is done, she thought to herself. She leaned against the doorway of the bathroom and smiled. With a shrug she said, "Hey Ash. Guess who's coming to breakfast?"
Trust Won't Come Easy TBD TBD
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Christopher stood outside of the lab, flanked by two Marine guards with rifles at Parade Rest. Watching the ring around him, he noticed that it was strangely quiet, even with two thousand people aboard the station there seemed to be a lull. To Christopher, it was almost peaceful but he couldn't help but feel a vibration of something dark and ominous beneath the surface. Turning as he heard footfalls on the deck that echoed through the semi-enclosed hallway, Chris regarded the XO. "Good morning, Commander." Chris said as he turned to face the man. "I think I know why we're here, so let's head in." he said quickly, snapping off a quick salute to the Marines guarding the door.

Drew followed his CO into the interview room, taking up position along the wall behind the chair Christopher had just sat down in. He studied Three of Eights demeanor in an effort to determine if he could detect any animosity or threat coming from the Borg. His opinion was that Three of Eight displayed just as much curiosity about them as they did about him.

But in reality, Three of Eight had no real curious thought to the the two new humans who had come in. He categorized them no different than the armed, brutish people who have been watching him since he was brought to sick bay. He made no intention to acknowledge their presence and continued to sit there staring straight ahead.

Taking his seat, Chris looked at the Borg that was behind a Level Ten force field. "Borg, state your designation, purpose, and status." he said almost robotically. This thing was watching their every move and it was important to go by the book.

The drone spoke, "Designation: Three of Eight, Secondary Adjunct of Unimatrix 03. Purpose: Original directive was to infiltrate Starfleet vessel, designation USS Zumwalt to assimilate or destroy. Current directive is unknown. Status: Operational." He continued to look straight ahead while he spoke, not looking at either Chris or Drew.

Perhaps a bit unexpectedly, the drone spoke again, "What is to become" He said, struggling to identify himself with a pronoun. This time he looked right into the eyes of Chris, with a look that could almost be mistaken for trepidation. Fear of the unknown is a basic instinct in all living things, but this is not so for the Borg, drones operate without fear or independent thought. Both of which are beginning to dominate Three of Eight's every independent thought.

Chris thought on how to respond. "That's what we're here to decide. Now I want you to tell us, why should we allow you to live?" he asked the thing, his face unchanging.

Three of Eight was unsure how to respond. "Is there a reason you should not?" he asked.

Christopher stood from his chair and walked forward so that he paced in front of the Borg. "To answer your question, you represent a very present and very real threat to every single man, woman, and child aboard this station. To them, you represent the thing that killed their friends without a hint of remorse or hesitation. In their eyes, you are one and the same. How do I know that if I release you that won't try to the people aboard this station? How do I know that you won't inform the Borg of your location and bring them here?" he asked

Everything Chris was saying was very reasonable, Three of Eight was sitting there still in full Borg cybernetics and armor and would cause alarm to anybody who happened to see him. "What is your designation?" He asked suddenly.

"Brigadier General Christopher Mitchell, Commanding Officer of Forward Operating Base Anchorage." he said. The words sounded foreign even before they left his mouth. This wasn't the second time he had worn stars on his collar but it always felt odd to him when he identified himself in this manner.

Trying his best to sound human Three of Eight continued speaking, "Christopher, anything...I...say will not be trusted." He said, still struggling to identify himself as an individual. "Therefore, we must look to logic. I am now ONE. No longer of the collective, alone I am of little threat." Three of Eight paused for a moment as he seemed to process something, "Trust is important for my survival, yes? Therefore, I will be honest with you. I am at war within myself. Once, I was human, but have been Borg for many years. Find that there is a longing and desire to return to humanity, but it would be much easier to rejoin the collective, where there is many and no conflict, no pain." Realizing that he may have rambled a bit, he stopped talking for another moment.

Being disconnected from the Collective had allowed Three of Eight to find his own thoughts for the first time since he was a young child. The change from the mind of a child to that of an adult is quite drastic in itself. The fact that he hadn't had an independent thought since childhood makes the changes that much more dramatic. He could not deny that he missed being among the Collective, but no longer could he ignore the freedom of being able to choose for himself.

"I choose to become human again, if possible. However, I leave the decision to you, Christopher. Will you let me live as human or kill me as Borg?" Three of Eight said to Chris with finality, leaving his fate in his hands.

Drew had been holding back throughout the interview up to this point. There was an opportunity here to confirm whether or not Three of Eight was being sincere. He stepped away from the wall and approached the end of the table. "If your desire to become human again is true, then allow us to use an isolated tricorder and access the information in you primary mission data chip."

"What you ask for is not easily accessed." Three of Eight warned, "Risk of injury and death is very likely. But if this is the only option against a death penalty then I will submit to it." He doubted the competence of Starfleet engineers and medical staff, for it would take both to access it but he was not in a position to barter or argue. "Request? If possible, it may be wise to remove a number of my Borg cybernetics and appearance. Appearing more human may ease everyone's minds, though I ask to leave my multi-tool arm intact, you will find it very useful in the months to come."

"I'll consider it. Wait here." The realization his Chris like a freight train as he sighed. Killing this Borg would be in violation of Federation law and go far past the limits of human decency. If they decided to extinguish this life, regardless of his transgressions, they would be no better than the thing that they had hoped to fight. It was a powerful feeling that Chris had trouble curbing but it was something that they would need to do. He looked over to Drew with a hesitant expression on his face.

"Commander, with me." he said, rising from his seat and walking over to a side room out of earshot of the drone. "I hate to admit it but he's right. He'll be despised by most of the crew but he'll be useful in the long run for the intelligence that he can provide." Christopher said reluctantly.

Drew concurred on both counts with Christopher. He looked back to the room Three of Eight was sequestered in. "Right now only you, I, Ja'xon, Corpsman Second Garcia and a handful of marines even know he is here. We're going to have to make an announcement of some kind."

Chris raised his eyebrow. "Are you crazy? If news got out that I harbored a Borg, we'd have a mutiny on our hands. These civilians are still panicked and their nerves are frayed. Once that news got out, we'd all be targets. How would you suggest I deal with that?" Christopher inquired, tapping his toe impatiently.

Drew squared his shoulders as he fully faced Chris. "The only way to keep word of Three of Eights presence will be to sequester it...him and every one of us that was there when he surrendered. That still does not guarantee that someone else will find out and leak it to the general populace. We release the information with assurances that the safety of every living person are our primary concern and I think we will be OK."

A bad taste rose into Christopher's mouth as he considered this. "Very well. We'll go over it in the staff meeting. Just say the words 'Charlie Hotel' and I'll inform them. We should probably tell him-" Chris said offhandedly, gesturing in Three of Eight's direction.

Drew looked in the direction Christopher gestured and nodded. He knew that what he had proposed was not going to be easy to pull off, but trying to keep Three of Eight's presence on the FOB a secret would only net them a host of even more serious problems. Drew was convinced it would be best to try and get Three of Eight's willing cooperation and he was ready to back his conviction with action if need be.

Walking over to the force field reinforced section that held Three of Eight and beckoned to the Marines guarding the cell. "Lower your weapons and cut him loose." Stepping slightly closer as one of the Marines- a Corporal disengaged the forcefield. Christopher spoke. "Three of Eight, you are no longer a Secondary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero Three. You are now an individual. I will not force you to do anything against your will while you reside here but for now, there will be certain restrictions placed upon you until we can find a way to bring you amongst the rest of the population. First, you will remain here until the Chief Medical Officer is brought in for your surgical consult and your guard detail will be reduced to one guard posted outside. Second, you may eat or consume whatever food or drink that you wish, simply use the replicator. Third, your information input will be restricted to media and literature. If you attempt to access anything beyond that, the computer will lock and alert Security. Do you understand or have any questions?"

"I understand." Three of Eight replied, "I have no further questions at this time. You will, in time, find that your trust has not been misplaced."

Finding a Home FOB Perimeter MD 8 - 1330
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The helm console began to beep alerting Captain Braylin that there was something ahead. He had been dozing in his chair so he awoke with a start. He made a few quick adjustment in the ship's sensors and called over his shoulder, "Zaem....get up here."

"What?" Braylin's partner asked as he stuck his head through the cockpit door.

"It seems we have found a warning beacon," Braylin replied, taking the helm off of auto pilot.

"Out here?" Zaem said as he slipped into the co-pilot's seat. "There's nothing but an old asteroid belt."

"Why would there be a warning beacon in an asteroid belt?" Braylin said, shaking his head. "Someone had to put it there."

Zaem checked the navigation limited and out of date as it was. "There hasn't been any activity in this sector in...well...according to this....the last was the Federation. But they abandoned the base."

"Well....then they are either back or someone else took it over," Braylin said. "Where exactly is this so called base?" he asked. "Helm sensors show nothing."

"It's supposed to be on one of the larger asteroids inside the belt," Zaem said.

"Inside....are you sure?" Braylin asked, incredulously.

"That's what the database says," Zaem answered.

"Ok. Looks like we're going for a ride," Braylin said, taking hold of the joy stick. "Hang on to your ass." Then over his shoulder he called out, "better hang on back there. It may get a little hairy."

Cate had been standing at the only replicator on board this hunk of junk trying to get it to make her a cold beer, but it didn't have a clue what that was so it kept creating the wrong thing. As the ship tilted, she grabbed hold of a cabinet handle and quickly took a seat on a dilapidated captain's seat that had been spot welded to the bulkhead. "I can't take much more of this crap," she muttered and the two others that had escaped Manheim with her agreed.

Braylin's ship may have looked like a hunk of junk but it maneuvered like a razor under Braylin's expert hand and they zig zagged through the outer rim of the asteroid field.

=====FOB Ops=====

"Gunny....we have an incoming vessel," the ensign sitting at the security console announced.

Vasquez had been working at her station when the ensign chimed in with the announcement. "What" she said turning and looking at the ensign. When the words sunk in, Vasquez came to life. "Ensign, report. Identify those vessels...friendly?" asked the Gunnery Sergeant. She was not really looking for a fight right now and had not anticipated having to make any calls.

"There is only one ship," the ensign said. "It isn't in our registry." Since the incoming ship was not known to the Starfleet database, the only thing they had to go on was the sensors' analysis of what it would look like. The ensign put the sensors' image up on one of the viewers. "It appears to be a small freighter with minimal weapons. It's too far out to get life signs," she reported.

Drew exited his office just off of the operations center. He was halfway to the turbolift when the exchange between Vasquez and the ensign caught his attention. He changed direction and headed their way. "What do you have Gunny?"

Vasquez breathed a small sigh of relief when she saw the man arrive. She turned to address him "A slight situation, Sir" she replied briefly. "There is a vessel heading our way, a small freighter by the looks of it but we are not within sensor range to read life signs. It should be poorly armed" she explained. "It does not have one of our registries" she added.


"This is nuts," Braylin growled as he whipped his ship around a huge asteroid then had to avoid a smaller one that appeared directly in their path. "Are you sure there's a base in this mess?"

Zaem shrugged as he held on to the arms of his seat. "I'm just telling you what the computer says," he answered. "Computers can be wrong."

"Oh that's just great," Braylin growled.

Cate got up out of her seat and stumbled to the door of the cockpit. Hanging on to the doorjam she watched as they dodged another cluster of asteroids. "Are you insane?" she asked, incredulously. "We're going to be pulverized."

"Insane? Quite possibly," Braylin said as he jammed the joystick to the far right and the ship veered away from another asteroid. "Pulverized? Not if I can help it. You need to have a seat, Starfleet. Unless you want to become your own patient."

"We're coming up on another warning beacon," Zaem announced. "That's two...and they are transmitting to someone. It looks like the asteroid field thins out up ahead."

=====FOB Ops======

Gunnery Sergeant Vasquez returned to her station. She looked at the Lieutenant Commander and awaited his orders. "How would you like to proceed, Sir?" she asked standing by to take whatever action he deemed necessary.

Drew's expression displayed an intense focus as he studied the telemetry track of the approaching vessel. "Open a channel."

The Operations Chief moved about behind her console, tapping a few controls and opening a communications channel. She nodded at the man. "You're on, Commander. Though I can't guarantee they will be in a talking mood" she added.

"Approaching vessel, this is Lieutenant Commander Knight. Please identify yourself and your intentions."


"Our intentions?" Braylin repeated, looking at Zaem. "Is he kidding?"

Zaem reached for the comm button as Braylin avoided another group of small asteroids.

Cate put her hand on Zaem's shoulder. "Wait. He used his rank. He's Starfleet," she said. "We've found a Starfleet base."

Braylin could see the clearing ahead and accelerated the small ship towards it as he nodded to Zaem who tapped the button. "This is Braylin. Captain of the Arnev. We are independent freight procurers on our way to Starbase 900 with some of your people," he said.

=====FOB Ops=====

Drew turned to face Vasquez. "Confirmation? Are they who they say they are?"

Vasquez looked at the man "I cannot confirm the man's identity, just that his story seems to check out. He very well could be who he says he and here as he claims" the woman said. "But I'm not ruling out Undine or some sort of shape shifting creature, but that's just me. This quadrant makes my skin crawl" she explained.


As the freighter leveled out and Braylin slowed its speed at the clearing, Cate sat forward and said, "let me talk to them."

Zaen pressed the comm button on the control panel and gave her a nod.

"Commander Knight. This is Lt. Caitlin Donovan. Starfleet ID code 41Charlie52Zulu. I was Head Nurse on Starbase Manheim until the Voth took over the base. Captain Braylin helped me and four other Starfleet officers escape. We were on our way to Starbase 900 but our.....," she looked at Braylin and asked, "what's that thing called?"

"An EPS Flow Regulator," Braylin said.

"Our EPS Flow Regulator is misfiring and we need to dock somewhere to repair it," Cate explained. "Is this a Starfleet base?"


Drew looked at the track on the freighter and the transponder code. "Donovan, Knight. Come to course 340 mark 75 relative and reduce velocity to 250kph. A Valkyrie starfighter will rendezvous with you in two minutes and lead you in."


As Zaen inserted the coordinates into the nav panel, Cate said, "thank you, Commander," then sat back down.

Braylin glanced back at the woman and nodded. "Nice, Starfleet. Too bad you aren't sticking around. I could use someone with medical skills."

"No thanks," Cate said with a grimace. "I like my floor to be stationary."

Braylin chuckled as he piloted the Arnev to the coordinates.


Drew turned to Vasquez. "Peel off one of the CAP Valkyries to lead them in and have an engineering team dispatched to the port facility." He turned and headed to the exit while tapping his combadge. "Doctor Nichols, this is CDR Knight. Meet me in the port facility."

=A=On my way.=A=

Drew stepped into the turbolift. "I may have an applicant for that Head of Nursing position you've been trying to fill."

Breaking a Sweat Recreation Deck
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Christopher's fist lashed out against the heavy bag in front of him. This whole operation wasn't going as nearly as well as it should have been- the civilian population was beginning to have altercations over inadequate space and supplies. It wouldn't be long before there were full on riots. Everything he had tried to do since leading the remains of humanity in the quadrant had failed. Now the people- his people, were starving and there was nothing that he could do at this point.

Thwack! Thwack!

Following up with a swift flurry of punches against the bag, he slowed down as he stopped to take a breath and think this situation over.
Birthday Knight Family Residence
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Ashley turned this way and that as she studied her image in the full length mirror. She couldn't help but think something was amiss despite the gorgeous dress she wore.

The dress was made of a soft crinkly Benthosian silk dyed a blue ombre that brought out the sapphire blue of Ashley's eyes. The strapless bodice was gathered in diagonal ruching to the waist and the skirt flowed loosely to mid calf. A sheer scarf that matched the darker shade of blue at the bottom of the skirt draped across Ashley's shoulders.

"Here," Cara said, walking up behind Ashley and extending her arms over the girl's shoulders. "One last thing," she said as she lowered a gold and Ilarian sapphire pendent into place at the base of Ashley's throat. She locked the clasp and stood back to look at Ashley's reflection in the mirror over the girl's shoulder.

Ashley looked at her image again and knew in her heart that not a single thing was amiss now. She smiled at Cara's reflection and in turn Cara herself as she touched the pendent. "It's beautiful, but you bought me this gorgeous dress. You didn't have to get me a necklace too."

"I didn't," Cara answered. "That came from your uncle."

Ashley turned and hugged Cara fiercely, partly out of gratitude and partly out of desire to hide a touch of sadness creeping to her face. What she tried to hide on her face she could not as she trembled just a little.

Cara wrapped her arms around Ashley and held her close. "It's OK, sweetie. I've got you," she whispered in the girl's hair.


Drew was replicating the last of the hors dourves for the party when the door chime announced the arrival of the first guest. He quickly wiped his hands on a small towel in the kitchenette and called out. "Enter."

Catherine entered quietly, "I have a gift for Ashley." She smiled.

Drew crossed over to Catherine and took the gift, placing it on a table along the wall. He gestured to the sitting area. "Please, have a seat Lady Catherine. Ashley is just finishing getting ready in her room." He gestured to the sitting area. "Can I get you something to drink?"

"No I am qute all right thank you"

The chime rings again and a small group of giggling teenage girls stand in the corridor waiting for the door to be answered.

Drew called out as he headed back into the kitchen area to get Catherine's drink. "Come in."

The door slid open and the girls stepped in, looking around, a bit shyly. One girl took the lead and, seeing Catherine, walked over to her, with her friends close behind. "Hi. I'm Jennifer and this is Taresal," she said, pointing to each girl behind her. "Courtney, Barbara, but we call her Beebee and Shara-Ann. Where should we put these?" she asked holding up the gifts they brought.

"There's a space over on that unit." Catherine smile. "I bought you your gift as well." She smled as she passed her the paper wrapped parcel

Drew walked down the hallway to the bedrooms and wrapped lightly on the door to Ashley's. "Guests are here. Time for the Birthday Girl to come say hello."

Ashley let go of Cara and stepped over to her nightstand. She plucked a tissue and dabbed at her eyes quickly then nodded at Cara to indicate she was ready.

Anticipating Drew's concern, Cara smiled at him and winked. "We'll be out in a minute," she said and walked over to help Ashley touch up her makeup.

Drew bore a concerned expression for a moment, but a reassuring nod from Ashley sent him down the corridor. "Ashley will be with us in a moment folks, so get something to drink and let's get ready to sing Happy Birthday."

Ashley took one last look at herself in the mirror and nodded to Cara. "I'm ready."

"You look beautiful," Cara said with a smile.

Ashley returned the curtsie and smile. "Thanks to Uncle Drew and mostly you." She looked at the door. "Shall we?"

"After you, ma lady," Cara said and curtsied.

As the ladies entered the living room, Ashley's girlfriends squealed and ran over to her, wishing her happy birthday and the room was suddenly filled with teenage giggles.

Cara joined Catherine and Drew by the refreshment table and watched the girls. Shaking her head but smiling she said, "I must be ancient but I don't ever remember being that age."

Drew simply shook his head and was very glad he was a man. "Half a dozen girls all talking at once...and they all seem to be understanding all of it. How does that happen? I can barely understand what any of them are saying."

"Your guess is as good as mine," Cara laughed. "You got anything stronger than punch to drink?"

Drew took his eyes off the pack of teen age girls and nodded at Cara. He pointed to a cabinet with a key code lock. He leaned in close and whispered. "Day and month of your birthday."

"My...," Cara started to repeat his remark then just blushed.

Drew heard high pitched squeals of laughter and winced slightly. "Do me a favor and make me one too." There came another round of squeals of laughter, even louder than before. "...and please make mine a double."

Cara laughed as she pulled out a bottle of Jamesons and two glasses.

An hour later and the grownups were sitting in folding chairs at the far end of the refreshment table, the cake had been demolished and what was left over didn't resemble a cake anymore and the girls were dancing in the living room to music none of the grownups recognized and giggling.

Cara kicked off her shoes and leaned back in her chair, taking a sip of her drink. "Boys have got to be quieter," she said.

Drew raised a hand to his ear. "What? Music is really loud."

"What?" Cara called back, cupping her ear to show she hadn't heard him.

Drew nodded. "Yes, it would be nice if it were a bit quieter." It was obvious the loud music was preventing him from hearing Cara properly.

There came a pounding at the door before Cara could answer. Drew looked at the door and rose from his seat. He opened the door to see a young marine enlisted man in duty uniform standing there with a stuffed animal in hand. "Can I help you private?"

Ashley spotted Justin and, more importantly, the stuffed animal in his hands. She broke from her group of friends and ran over to the door, pulling Justin inside and taking the toy from him. "Mister Monkey Bunkey! I thought I'd lost him forever."

Justin looked down at the floor. "I ah saw the announcement for your birthday in the base media feeds...and remembered I still had your toy you dropped at the boarding tube during the evacuation."

Ashley acted totally on impulse. "Thank you!" She grabbed Justin's neck and pulled him down into a long kiss.

Ashley not only garnered the attention of everyone in the room...she accomplished the near getting five other teen aged girls to go completely quiet.

Drew blinked as his mind began processing what was happening before him and he slowly started to rise.

Anticipating Drew's reaction Cara stepped between him and his niece and cleared her throat loud enough for Ashley and Justin to hear her.

The girls all head stunned expressions on their faces.

Ashley broke the kiss, but had to admit to herself that it did take some of her breath away.

Justin had been caught by surprise, granted a pleasant surprise, and was starting to smile as he looked at Ashley.

Drew also cleared his throat, but in a way more menacing than the calm Doctor.

Justin caught sight of Drew and the smile disappeared in a snap.

"Do you have a name, young man?" Cara asked, keeping herself between Drew and the private.

The girls giggled and whispered across the room.

Drew took a deep breath as he stepped up just behind Cara. "Yes, I'm curious as to know your name too...private."

Ashley shot both Justin a conciliatory look and Drew an angry expression. "You want to be mad Uncle Drew, you be mad at me!"

The girls' whispers stopped as they looked on with fascination.

Drew cast a glance at Ashley...then Justen...then Ashley again. The strong sense of protectiveness on his face abated and he finally nodded. He looked at Justin. "My apologies marine. I...was out of line."

Justin shook his head emphatically. "Sir. You have no need to apologize. I'm the one that intruded on Ash...Miss Knight's birthday party unannounced."

Cara backhanded Drew on the arm and said, "if you have finished blustering and playing the overly protective Uncle...maybe the young man might tell us his name and join the festivities." She looked at Justin and said, "there's still some cake left."

"Private Winters ma'am. Justin Winters."

"Well Justin," Cara said, slipping her arm through his. "Would you like some of Ashley's birthday cake?" she asked as she directed him over to the refreshment table.

The girls surrounded Ashley and the giggling and whispering began again as Justin was served cake.

Cara smiled as she handed Justin a napkin and said, "Thank you for returning Ashley's stuffed animal."

Justin nodded only, his mouth full of birthday cake as he chewed.

Cara smiled.

Drew disappeared into the kitchen to get a round of drinks for the adults.

Cara glanced around the room and decided to let the teenagers enjoy the party without the adults cramping their style so she looked at Catherine and nodded toward the kitchen then followed Drew. "For going through what she has gone through in the last few months...Ashley seems to have adjusted well," she said to Drew. "I'm glad to see her so relaxed and making friends."

Drew turned to both women, worried expression on his face.

Cara quirked an eyebrow. "Drew? What's wrong?" she asked.

"I'm supposed to be the cool uncle." Drew looked out into the common area. The girls and Private Winters out of immediate view. He looked at Cara and Catherine in turn. "Not the one who is supposed to worrry about Ashley kissing boys...much less...marines!"

Cara walked over and put her arms around Drew. "And you are the cool uncle, my love," she said, kissing the end of his nose. "You are cool enough to have thrown this party so she and her friends can blow off some steam and you are cool enough to be able to not throttle the guy your 17 year old...And very grown up niece kissed." She kissed his cheek. "Ashley adores you, sweetheart. She will always adore you. And how could she not?" She kissed his chin. "You're adorable. Macho, strict, goofy, understanding, attentive...and...," she kissed his lips, "did I mention adorable?"

Drew nodded, a single noise emanating from him that was somewhere between a laugh and a sob. "Yeah, twice."

Some Much Needed Help Various MD 8 1415
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Drew was jogging down the corridor to the massive docking port when a shout out pulled him up short. He turned to see Cara getting off a turbolift. He waited for her to make the short trek to him. "Glad you could make it slow poke." He gave her a wide grin.

"What's the rush?" Cara asked walking up to Drew. She gave a quick look around then, when she was sure there were no witnesses, she gave him a quick kiss.

Drew returned the quick kiss, but got straight back to business. "The incoming freighter has a Lieutenant Donovan aboard. She says she's a nurse and I know how much you've been needing to fill a senior position in the medical staff."

"Lieutenant? You mean Starfleet?" Cara asked as she hurried along side of Drew.

Drew gave his sort of nod that wasn't exactly a nod. "I'm hoping so. Considering I don't know of any Delta Quadrant faction that uses our rank system." He punched a code to open the personnel door to the large hanger area and gestured to Cara. "Lovely ladies first."

"Thank you," Cara said with a smile as she stepped passed Drew and into the hanger. A small oddly shaped freighter that had, obviously, seen better days, was turning around and settling onto the deck. "Starfleet? In that?" she said, looking at the ship doubtfully.

Drew gave the battered ship a dubious look. He glanced at Cara and shrugged. "Bright side is that it probably doesn't hold a hoard of Delta Quadrant invaders intent on overrunning us." He turned back to the ship. "At least I hope not."

The Arnev's engines shut down and the loading ramp on its port side began to lower. Four awaiting security officers positioned themselves at the base of the ramp as a young bald man dressed in cargo pants, gray shirt and weathered leather jacket he got off of some pilot in a crap game while in the Alpha Quadrant and a phaser pistol holstered low on his right thigh, stepped into the doorway and grinned at the welcoming committee. Behind him stood a large red haired man with a large bushy mustache.

A detail emerged from another door into the hanger and double timed it up to the Arnev. The detail consisted of two from security, an engineer, a hospital corpsman, plus an officer and non com leading he detail. The officer looked at Drew and Cara as the couple approached. "Sorry sir, I wasn't aware you wanted to personally oversee the arrival."

Drew gave a wave. "Curiosity ensign. You and your detail follow docking protocol. We'll wait to greet our guests."

"What? No band? No confetti?" Braylin said as he stepped onto the ramp and looked around. "I come bearing gifts," he said, stepping to the side of the ramp and gesturing to his passengers.

Dressed in tattered and soiled Starfleet red and two gold...three shell shocked looking young men stepped into view of the ramp door and stared out of the Arnev.

"My God," Cara murmured and tapped the comlink in her ear. "Get an EFTS team up to the main hanger bay STAT," she said, softly.

Pushing through the three young men was an older robust woman in a filthy teal tunic...missing half of a sleeve. "Who's in charge?" she called down as she stepped onto the ramp.

The ensign spared a quick glance to Drew before stepping up to the foot of the ramp. "Ensign Perry ma'am. I am the Officer-in-Charge of the reception detail."

"This is a Starfleet base," Donovan said to the three young men behind her and she walked passed Braylin...the others following. "Ensign....your security detail can stand down. Capt. Braylin and his partner are OK. And as you can see...we," she indicated the three Starfleet officers behind her, "are Starfleet."

Cara left Drew's side and walked up to the bottom of the ramp just as the hangar doors opened and an EFTS team came in. She waved them over and said, "I'm Dr. Nichols. Chief of Medicine."

Donovan looked at the doctor then at the two medics. Looking back down at the doctor she nodded. "Inside. I did the best I could with what I had to stabalize her," she said. " them," she called to the mustached man at the top of the ramp. "She was caught under a catwalk when it came loose. Her left femoral artery was severed and her femur crushed. We were able to transfuse her and I managed to use an electrical hotwire to cauterize the artery and we fashioned an old Hare traction splint to reduce and stabalize the fracture but it has been a couple of weeks and an infection has set in and I haven't been able to get a handle on it."

Cara looked up at the woman in awe. She could tell by the woman's face that she had been doing this job for much longer than even Cara had. Her calm was inspiring. As tempted as she was to go see the patient for herself, she waved the EFTSs on and let them do what they were trained to do. As the two medics disappeared inside she asked, "are any of you injured?"

Donovan shook her head. "Superficial injuries that have pretty much healed," she said. "By the way... I'm Donovan. Cate Donovan. RN." She moved off of the ramp and held out her hand.

Cara took the woman's hand and shook it as she said, "welcome to the Rock. You wouldn't happen to be looking for a job would you?"

Donovan chuckled. "Well....I open to negotiations," she said, sounding serious but her eyes sparkled mischievously. She glanced over her shoulder at the door of the Arnev to see if they were bringing her patient out.

Guessing for the reason Donovan had turned to look at the door, Cara said, "she'll be beamed directly to our ER. In fact she's probably already there. What say the rest of you join us so I can give y'all a once over just for GPs." With that she led the Starfleet officers out of the hangar.

Drew stepped forward and greeted Michael, whom he assumed was the Captain of the this...ship. "Lieutenant Commander Knight, I'd like to speak with you once medical screening is complete and you've been assigned temporary housing for you and your crew."

Braylin smirked. "Your hospitality is generous," he said, shaking Drew's hand. "But Zaen and I won't be needing housing. We prefer to stay with our ship. And we won't need medical clearance because we aren't going to be staying. I just need to repair my EPS Flow Regulator and we'll be on our way."

"It's fine if you don't want temporary lodging sir." Drew looked at the port inspection detail before continuing. "But all visitors are required to submit to medical screening. We can't run the risk of biological contamination. Soooo. It's either that or quarantine for you and all those aboard."

"Fine," Braylin said, reluctantly. "Come on Z. Let the Fleeters do their poke and prod then we can get to work on getting out of here."

Zaen frowned and walked over to the control panel in the hull next to the ramp. He opened it and pulled a lever. The ramp retracted and the door closed with a clank of the locking mechanism. "No one touches her," he said to the deck hands, then he followed his partner and the Commander out of the hanger. "I hate doctors," Zaen grumbled as he walked next to his partner.

"I know, Big Guy," Braylin said with a grin. "But it's not going to be bad. I've been through these things before and they are a breeze." Then his grin turned to a confident smirk. "Especially if that pretty red headed doctor. She can give me a physical anytime," he said with a lecherous chuckle.

Drew frowned for a moment at Braylin's comment as a twinge of jealous annoyance coursed through him. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly as he spoke in a no nonsense tone. "I'd be careful there Captain. I have it on good authority that Doctor Nichols' boyfriend might not the kind of person you want angry with you."

Braylin smirked, confidently, and said under his breath to Zaen, "I've never let that stop me before. I'll take my chances," and the two pirates exchanged an inconspicuous low five.

Initiation ER
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Cate was on her second day of work as the Director of Nursing for the Rock. She had spent the first day going over staff records and familiarizing herself with those she would be leading. It wasn't as big of a list as one would expect for this large of a facility but, considering what everyone here had been through, it was impressive. Today was going to be spent meeting as many of them as she could and getting an idea of what they expected from their jobs so she could lead them to meet their goals. Treating patients and assisting physicians was only a part of the duties of the medical support staff. Each...whether a nurse, corpsman, physician's mate or nurse practitioner...could contribute beyond their specified duties in many ways and Cate wanted to know who was willing to go the extra mile and how they saw themselves doing that. She gulped down the last of her coffee and left her office. Her first stop was going to be the In-patient Care wards and she planned on working her way down to the Emergency Department.

=====2 hours later=====

Cate walked through the rear entrance of the Emergency Department and, quietly, made her way to the centralized nurses' station. She had toured the ER after her physical the day she had first arrived, with Dr. Nichols and had been impressed with what she saw and what the Doc had planned for it and the rest of the facility The tour had happened a week ago and, already, a lot of the work that was being done during her tour was finished and the entire department glistened with new acrylic partitions, glistening white counters, walls and floors and gleaming chrome accents. Already the patient cubilces' monitors were displaying on screens in the nurses' station. There were still engineers dressed in coveralls working in a few areas but, for the most part, things looked to be ready for business.

As if on cue the main doors slid open and two EFTSs ran through the doors, guiding a hover gurney between them. “Incoming!” one yelled and four nursing staff ran over. As the group rushed into a cubicle, Cate heard, 'he chocked on something in the officers' mess. Someone tried the Heimlich but couldn't dislodge the obstruction.” Cate moved over to the entrance to the cubicle just as one of the nursing staff jumped up on the gurney, straddled the patient and began CPR.

“WE NEED A DOCTOR IN HERE!” a nurse called out as she hurried around the cubicle, collecting instruments.

“I can't get an airway!” the EFTS at the head of the gurney called out.

“Let's get him on the biobed!” someone said and the nurse on the gurney jumped down. Grabbing the drape underneath the patient, the team moved him onto the biobed and a nurse switched on the monitors. The other EFTS jumped up on the biobed, straddled the patient and resumed CPR.

“Let's crike him,” the EFTS at the head of the bed said. “Get me a crike tray.”

As one of the nurses dashed over to a cabinet, Cate shook her head. Performing a cricothyrotomy one someone tended to lead to future complication and was a last resort procedure. Cate walked over...gently but forcefully pushing people out of her way and moved to the head of the bed. “Gloves,” she said and was handed a pair of gloves which she, quickly, slipped on. Being stocky, it didn't take much to move the EFTS over. “Stool!” she demanded, softly.

The EFTS kicked the stool out from under the biobed and Cate stepped on it. Being tall gave her an advantage. She bent over the patient's head, lifted the back of his neck and forced his mouth open. “Hold it there,” she instructed to anyone willing and the EFTS followed her instructions. “I need some light,” Cate said and someone trained a penlight beam over her shoulder so she could see into the man's mouth and throat. She stuck her finger down the man's throat and felt around. “Come on,” she muttered. “No one's going to die on my second day,” she said and, suddenly, the tip of her finger felt something spongy. She shoved her finger further into the glove until she felt her nail protrude, then she jammed her nail into the side of the spongy obstruction and moved it towards her until she was able to get the tip of her finger underneath it and start rolling it upward.

“He's in V-Fib!” someone called out.

The obstruction...a piece of meat the size of a large grape...emerged into the man's mouth and Cate grabbed it with two fingers and tossed it over her shoulder as she stepped down from the stool. She walked over to the side of the bed and placed her hand on the wrists of the EFTS performing compressions and said, “jump down.” Once the young man was off of the bed, Cate said, “charge to 300.”

“300,” someone called out.

“Clear,” Cate called out and everyone stepped away from the bed as the nurse operating the defibrillator hit the button and 300 joules of electrical current was sent to the EKG pads the EFTSs had stuck in place on the man's chest in the field. The man's body jumped and a second later, the cardiac monitor beeped as the man's heart rate converted and began beating normally. At that same moment he gasped for the first breath in several minutes.

Just then a doctor came running into the cubicle and said, “give me the bullet,” and everyone stared for a few seconds.

“Nice of you to join us,” Cate said with a chuckle. Looking at the others she smiled and said, “it's all yours kids.” With that she walked out of the cubicle leaving several of the staff looking after her in shock and awe, and left the ER to head to the officers' mess for lunch.

Broken General Deck 9 Current
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Cara was in her office nibbling at a sandwich while she went over some personnel records as she needed to move some people around to provide better coverage of the Medical facility. She was working with the staff of an Enigma Class ship on a station the size of a Galaxy Class ship...the problem being providing medical care to a difference of 5700 and efficiently staffing a full service 115 bed Medical Facility.

=^=Dr. Nichols to Surgical Suite 1. Dr. Nichols to Surgical Suite 1, please.=^=

Cara frowned. It was unusual for her to be paged to the Surgical Suites unless there was a problem. She took a big bite of her sandwich, tossed the remainder of it in the trash can by her desk and hurried out of her office. A few minutes later she stepped through the doors of Surgical Suite and walked over to the nurses' station. “You paged me?” she asked.

“Yes, Doctor. Dr. Ledall wanted to speak to you,” the nurse said. She looked up as the door to one of the Operating Rooms opened and a doctor emerged, removing his surgical gown and mask. “There he is,” she said.

Ledall saw Cara and walked over to her. “I would have had you paged sooner but I've been kind of busy,” he said.

Just then the Operating Room doors slid open and a hover gurney carrying General Mitchell emerged and headed for the Recovery Room.

Cara's mouth dropped open. “My God. What happened?” she asked.

Placing his hand on Cara's elbow, he directed her over to the nurses' station where he brought up an image of Mitchell's spine. “He was brought into the ER after having been injured during some sort of altercation. He had several fractured of which punctured his left lung...and a fractured his T12 vertebra.” He pointed to the image on the viewer. “As you can see it pinched the spinal cord against L1. They repaired the rib fractures and re-inflated the lung down stairs and I managed to retrieve all of the fragments of shattered vertebra and regenerate it but I can do nothing for the cord,” he finished with. “It's up to him now.”

Cara stared at the image for several seconds before finally looking at Ledall and asking, “how long?”

“It could be weeks....or it could be months,” the surgeon said. “You know as well as I do that spinal cord injuries are unpredictable. He will be in a lot of pain for for several days so we will keep him sedated for a week. As long as he doesn't develop pneumonia from the weakened lung and having to be inactive...we should be able to gauge the extent of his impairment...if any after a week.”

Cara frowned. “If any,” she repeated what Ledall had said. “Keep me posted. I'll let CDR Knight know.” She looked in the direction of the Recovery Room and could see through the acrylic door as the nurses were getting Mitchell situated in a bed. She shook her head, sadly.

“I will,” Ledall said and headed to the Recovery Room to check on his patient.

Cara watched as the door slid shut behind him before finally leaving the Surgical Suite. Out in the corridor she leaned against the wall and took a deep breath as she said, “computer....location of CDR Andrew Knight.”

=^=CDR Knight is in his office on Deck 1.=^=

“Thank you,” Cara said, instinctively. Then she pushed off of the wall and headed for Knight's office.

Meeting the Neighbors (part 1) Oehiri
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Four small patrol craft entered the Oehiri atmosphere and headed for the landing strip of the Cina Enforcment base located several clicks outside of the city limits. Prak jumped down from the cockpit of his PC and handed his flight helmet to the young cadet who came running up to him. “Log me in,” he said to the cadet. “I'll be in the Commander's office.”

“Yes, sir,” the Cadet replied.

Prak burst through the door of his CO's office and said, “we have new neighbors.”

“What?” Commander Iehos said, looking up at his Patrol Leader. “Where?” he asked getting up and walking over to a long table that was actually a map of the sector.

Prak joined Iehos at the table and looked down, pointing to the cluster of dots not far from the original Federation gateway, long since shut down during war in, what they referred to as, the Alpha Quadrant. “Twice my group has seen blips on our sensors coming from there but the disappear almost as quickly as they appear. I looked it up and that is an dormant asteroid field so I am guessing that the field is masking whatever enters into it which is why the blips come and go.”

“Interesting,” Iehos said and moved away from the table. Going over to his desk he slid back a portion of the desktop and a terminal rose up to tabletop level, revealing a small monitor. With a few entries on the keyboard, a historical report appeared on the monitor. “That asteroid field once held a Federation starbase,” he said. “It was abandoned several years ago.”

“Maybe they have moved back in,” Prak said. With a shrug.

“Or maybe it is someone else,” Iehos said, rubbing his chin, thoughtfully. “We need to find out. I will contact Commander Stuos and see if their long range sensors have picked anything up. Good work, Lieutenant.”

“Thank you, sir,” Prak said and left the office. It would take too long to go by land to the Acsu base so he pressed an intercom button and said, “ready my shuttle,” and left office.

Thirty minutes later Iehos landed his shuttle on the visitors' landing pad and marched into the Ascu Enforcement Base HQ and a few minutes later he was in Stuos's office.

Stuos rose from his desk as Iehos was ushered in by an aide. He walked over to a side table with a decanter and several rock glass on it. "Greeting Iehos. Would you care for a drink?"

"No. Too early for me," Iehos answered.

Stuos poured one for himself. He then gestured to a sitting area. "Please, have a seat and tell me the purpose of this unexpected visit."

Instead of sitting, Iehos walked over to the map table...much like the one in his office and, getting straight to the point, said, "my patrols have discovered renewed activity in Itorea Belt," he pointed to the asteroid belt on the map. "None of our craft has the ability to reach the belt and our sensors are only able to pick up movement outside of the belt. My patrol leader says the blips on their scopes disappear once whoever or whatever enters the belt."

Stuos walked over to the map table at a leisurely pace and looked down at the point Iehos was indicating. He gestured with his drink hand before taking a sip. "So only two contacts you say. Could be anything then. A Hirogen hunting party? Possibly just a pair of smuggler vessels more likely."

"It could also be the Voth," Iehos said. "It could also be the Federation reclaiming their old base. Instead of speculating I suggest we find out."

Stuos sipped his drink thoughtfully for a few moments. He walked over to his desk and keyed a switch there. "Tria, contact the space port and have my transport prepared for launch. I'll be gone...two or three days perhaps." He turned to Iehos after terminating the connection. "Well, shall we go see these new neighbors are then?"

"Right behind you," Iehos said as he fell into step behind Stuos. He looked forward to being back in space. Piloting a desk had become mundane.

Space gopher Runabout/asteroid field current/somewhere in-between
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Sitting up and rubbing his sleepy face, Beowulf Byrnes looked around at his surroundings. Same runabout bridge, same carbon scoring and blown out consoles, not to mention particles of burnt material all over the carpet and smoke residue coating certain areas of the bulkheads where consoles had overloaded and caught fire. When the Borg had attacked they had been thorough, their main attack tactic being the base itself. Wulf had been out in a runabout doing house calls to tramp freighters, small repairs that could be completed in little time.

The Borg began to beam drones to all the larger vessels and the facility, with Wulf having to fight his way through a freighter with its crew, in time to get to his ship and retreat to a safe location. The airlock corridor had been a bottleneck and as he went passed the freighter bums several Borg drones beamed in, immediately setting upon the merchants. The Borg had ignored him while he punched in his codes to unlock the airlock and his ship, trying to be speedy to save a few others, the Borg assimilating the crew of this doomed vessel. The door slid open as Byrnes glanced back over his shoulder, seeing two Borg now looking his way. The red laser pointers coming forth from one eye was creepy to say the least, especially when coming through a haze of smoke with the lighting on emergency power. When the door opened he bolted for the runabout's starboard hatch.

And now, here he sat. A ship that had suffered extensive damage to many of its systems while retreating from the combat zone, diving deep into a cavern below the surface of an asteroid. For three weeks he had been Cannabalizing parts from certain low-key systems to repair the systems he truly needed. A week ago he had been forced to survive on Starfleet ration packs for two weeks straight, and when he finally fixed the replicator system, that first night, he had eaten so much it made his gut hurt. Now, a week later, he would give anything for an actual cooked meal. However, survival came first. He had spent the past three nights repairing the hardware between his port warp nacelle and the core, determined to at least be able to limp...wherever, at a low warp speed. Better than decades of travel at impulse.

Wearing his Starfleet trousers and boots, Wulf had his shirt and blouse off, had for weeks, the Federation blue tank top on his torso. It wasn't so blue anymore, with grime and soot turning it almost black, especially on his back where he had spent a great deal of time reaching into power couplings and plasma conduits. The biggest issue was communications. He had none, absolutely zilch. With the extensive damage to his small vessel the chamber's coil was now overriding the comms, and there was nothing to be done for it. Either he could make a call or have warp power, and he chose warp power. Re-checking all his work from last night Wulf patted the floor. "Work with me, girl. We'll get outta this," he said to the ship before rising to his feet and going to the pilot's seat.

Plopping down he began to bring the main power online, the warp core sputtering a few times. He had the energizer bypassed like a damn Christmas tree, so if he suffered too many bumps on the way out of the cavern it could destroy all he had worked so hard to accomplish. But, one thing for sure, Beowulf Byrnes was not going to die in some Hobbit hole on some random asteroid in the Delta Quadrant. Using his anti-grav plates beneath, Byrnes lifted off, using proximity sensors to know where the rock and ice walls were so he could spin the ship around to exit. It took a good fifteen minutes of bumping off of walls carefully to get turned about, and wanting to get out of here that much faster he hit the impulse control, running his finger up to half. The ship whined with power, the power strain becoming even...but, nothing happened.

"What the hell?" Wulf looked back over his shoulder, not that he could see anything engineering related from this vantage point, but it was the natural sentient reaction. Sighing heavily he stood and went in the back, opening the deck in the aft section to look at the impulse fusion reactor. It glowed properly, showing full power, but it wasn't shunting its energy the way it should be. Trying several adjustments, and forgetting the accelerator was still set to half impulse, Wulf had no success. Everything looked to be in place and functioning, but no forward thrust. "Damn thing." He angled his face toward the ceiling. "We really need to work out our issues, girl." Byrnes said this to the ship before looking back down at the reactor, hands on hips as his brain tried to reason out what the problem was. Frustrated, tired, dirty and smelling none-to-pleasant, Wulf had had enough. Taking up the alloy lever for hand cranking the hatches, Byrnes raised an arm and smacked the reactor. Still no thrust. So, he continued to tap here and there with no results. His anger flared and he gripped the lever with both hands, wound up like Babe Ruth, and bashed the reactor several times. He heard a click and a whine, then the plasma conduits beginning to light up as they should.

Byrnes grinned to himself, dropping the lever to the deck. "About time," he said, his voice denoting victory. Turning in the engineering pit to face the front of the runabout he clambered out and closed the floor hatch. Without warning he was thrown backwards through the air, impacting the aft viewport of the runabout, dangling as if held by wires since the life support was minimal. The inertial dampeners were working, but at reduced levels. With no pilot this runabout would shoot out of this asteroid and into a field of them if he couldn't reach the bridge. He fell to hands and knees as the inertial dampeners caught up with the motion of the ship and the gravity within. Scrambling quick as could be, Byrnes made it to the pilot's seat just as the small vessel cleared the cavern entrance. "Woh! Woh! Woh!" He shouted, taking evasive maneuvers to port as a large asteroid loomed in his path. Clearing that planitesimal Byrnes reduced speed and casually meandered between rock and ice, heading towards where 900 had been.

Not knowing if 900 was still there, or even if anyone survived, Wulf was taking a chance. If the Borg were there he did have an advantage. They would see this miniscule ship as a non-threat, according to all the data he had read on them, so if they were still parked there then he could turn and go elsewhere. Now that he was out of the cavern Byrnes looked forward, seeing a very large asteroid. Good. Something to hide behind while he tried once more to affect repairs to the comm. He had his combadge, but that was useless without a receiver. The backup hand comm was in his engineer's vest and if he mucked with it a bit he might be able to get a signal out somehow. It was better than nothing. Parking his ship in station keeping behind the planetoid, activating the particle deflectors, Wulf went to work.

Wrappings Cara's Quarters 2100
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Cara had sent a message to Drew when she got off work to join her for dinner at her place. It had been 6 months since the destruction of SB900. And 5 months since Drew and Cara had taken their friendship to another level. Drew had been good about not pushing the whole commitment issue...allowing Cara to move things along at her own pace. With all of the renovations to the station and learning what was a security issue and what wasn't, neither had had a lot of spare time but Cara had started spending most of hers in Drew's company, either in a holosuite or just lounging around either hers or his quarters.

She had asked the Lucy to make her up a real home cooked meal. Nothing fancy. Just something down home-like. Now she set the table in the dining area of her suite and placed the serving dishes of pot roast with real veggies grown in the Chef's new garden, mashed potatoes, gravy and a fresh tossed salad. She poured the wine and stood back to look at the table.

"Perfect," she said as the aroma of food filled the suite. She went into the bedroom and took a very large, beautifully gift wrapped package off of her bed and carried it into the living room, setting it on the coffee table in front of her couch. Tonight she had a surprise for him.

Drew made his way down the corridor leading to Cara residence. He had been consulting with various base personnel regarding the power issues that had been plaguing the station for the last several weeks. Though he saw Cara everyday at meetings. There had been precious little time in the last two weeks for them to spend together outside of work. Her invitation could not have come at a better time as he was actually not working a double shift today. He came up to Cara's door and pressed the chime to announce his arrival.

Standing by the coffee table holding the two glasses of wine, Cara called out, "come in."

Drew entered to see Cara standing at one end of the coffee table near the sofa and walked up to her. He took one of the wine glasses as he gave her a kiss on the cheek. "I can't tell you how happy I was to get your invitation. It's been way to long since we have had dinner together."

"With the General out of service you have been busy," Cara said. "You needed a break." She tilted her glass a bit and touched it to the brim of his and said, "to relaxation and surprises. Shlainte." Then she took a sip of the wine.

Drew smiled at Cara and took a sip. He then took her glass and set it down on the coffee table next to the wrapped gift, which did cause him to raise an eyebrow, but he had other things in mind at the moment. He straightened as he turned to her and embraced her. "Something else that has been too long as well." He then gave her a long, breath taking kiss.

Cara returned the passion then placed her hands on Drew's chest and, gently, pushed herself back. "You, my love, have a one track mind," she said with a smile. "Dinner's getting cold." She took his hand in one of hers as she picked up her glass of wine and waited for him to do the same then she led him over to the dining table.

Drew secured his own wine glass with a reluctant sigh. "I was hoping you were in the mood to 'work up' an appetite dearest doctor o' mine." He followed her to the table and pulled out a chair for her, taking a good long inhale. The scent of the food reminding him just how hungry he already was. "Then again...I am famished already."

"Food and sex," Cara said, shaking her head. "I was wrong. Two track mind." She waited for Drew to sit then handed him the platter with the pot roast as she served herself some of the vegetables. "So how was your day?"

Drew sliced off a section of pot roast and switched platters with Cara as he answered. "Not too bad. I was going over a few things with Captain Braylin before his departure. He should be taking off in a couple of hours. He's heading to a trading outpost, but promised to return with some goods for the spare warp coils he's taking from us. He promised a return visit in a week to bring back our trade...minus his commission for consignment of course."

Cara laughed. "He's a character," she said as she served herself some meat then set the platter down. "I like him, though. You know....he hit on almost every one of my ER nurses while he was getting checked out," she said and took a bite. "He struck out with them but I think he got lucky with one from Peds."

Drew deposited a strong helping of veggies on his plate and was about to bring his fork down when he looked up at Cara. "You mean the blonde girl? Oh what's her name?"

"Rachel," Cara said as she took another bite.

Drew took a bite of potato and chewed on that as his mind chewed on the news Cara shared. He swallowed, took a sip of wine and then shook his head. "She will have her hands full with that man, come to think of it. He'll probably have his hands full with her as well." He allowed a small chuckle to escape him. Then pointed his fork at the spread. "This by the way is heaven sent. Thank you."

"You'll have to thank Chef Lucy for it," Cara answered. "I asked her for some suggestions and the use of her kitchen because I was going to try to make dinner for you. But she saw I was not doing so well so she took over. I tossed the salad, though," she said with a sheepish grin.

Drew savored every bite. One of the good things was that a 4 star Michelin Chef had made it to the Hopper before SB900 had succumbed to the Borg assault. He took a bite of the salad and smiled after swallowing. "Salad is my favorite."

For the next hour, they enjoyed the meal with leisurely small talk and after Cara took the last bite her stomach could handle she tossed her napkin on her plate, picked up her glass of wine and sat back to watch Drew engorge himself. "When you're finished making a pig of yourself," she teased. "You can open your present."

Drew cast an eye towards the wrapped gift on the coffee table. It was sizable and figured that Cara had commissioned someone with tailor experience to make him a dress uniform. He tossed his own napkin down on his plate after dabbing his mouth. He rose and with one hand pulled out Cara's chair while the other hand held her to help her rise. "Well lead on then my love."

Cara took his hand, stood and led him over to the coffee table. She took a seat on the couch, slipping off her shoes and curling her feet up under her as she watched him with excitement. He had no way of knowing it now...but what was in the wrapping was a symbol of a decision she had made that hadn't been easy but marked a major step in both of their lives.

Drew sat down next to Cara on the couch and grabbed the gift, placing it in his lap. It was heavier than he'd imagined it would be and certainly the hard sides reminded him more of a wooden crate then a cardboard clothing box. "Well, let's see what we have."

Cara sat watching with nervous anticipation.

Drew tore the wrapping from the gift and looked down at what was obviously a dresser drawer. He turned to Cara with a pleasantly stunned expression. "I know...this is a big step for you. You're absolutely sure you want me to have this?"

Cara nodded.

Drew set the drawer down gently on the coffee table and turned to her, taking her in his arms and holding her close. His nose pressed gently to the top of her ear as he whispered. "Thank you."

"It's only temporary," Cara said, with a smile. "Until you have Engineering expand your closet to hold my clothes and install a separate dresser for me. I also want a hair dryer in the bathroom. I hope you like purple."

Cara's words caused Drew's heart to skip a beat. Was she saying what he thought she was saying. "You mean...?"

"Yes," Cara said, simply and smiled.

Drew was speechless, which was actually fine, as actions were said to speak louder than words. He kissed her instead. A long one that he poured everything he felt for her.

Meeting the Neighbors (part 2) Space & The Rock
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Iehos sat behind Stuos's copilot and watched the stars speed by. "I had forgotten how much I have missed this," he said.

Stuos looked up from the tablet he'd been reading from and gazed at the same view. He took a deep breath and nodded. "Yes, there certainly is some appeal, but I would miss my family too much to go back to space for too long."

"How is the family?" Iehos asked as he sat back in his seat and relaxed. "Has your son decided if he is going to follow in your footsteps and enlist?"

Stuos glanced over at Iehos with a shake of his head, an unreadable expression on his face. "No. He took up the troike about a year ago and last month...he formed a musical group which he calls Caste Aside."

Ieho knew that Stuos's son's decision to not enlist in the Oehirian Enforcers was a disappointment. It was a generational art of passage. Iehos also knew that further discussion and lamenting between the two men should be done later over a bottle of Oehirian Vone (an aged and distilled malt liquor much like Earth Scotch). Luckily any further conversation was interrupted as a beeping began on the copilot's console.

"Sensors are detecting a security beacon ahead," the copilot announced. "And the asteroid belt is just beyond it."

Stuos glanced at the copilot. "Can you identify the origin of the beacon?"

"Old, technically....possibly....ten years or more," the copilot said, reading the data on his controls. "It resembles beacons used by the Federation before the collapse of the wormhole but there have been alterations to it that are not recognized by our database. "

"Before the Federation came into our system, there was a ship of theirs that was here and they adapted several different technologies with their own in order to survive," Iehos said. "I was just a pilot when the Federation began to build space stations throughout the quadrant and I remember one of their Admirals coming to Oehiri and meeting with our Commanders, Governors and Prime Ministers. I saw her, briefly, when she came to our base. We were told later that she was going to be overseeing the construction of the base they ended up abandoning several years ago. So the beacon could be left over from them."

"That makes sense," the copilot said. A alarm sounded on the control panel and the copilot announced, "approaching ship."

A ship did emerge from the asteroid field and immediately banked right, accelerating until it crossed the path of the beacon then it jumped to warp and disappeared behind them.

"Plack!" Iehos cursed. "What the plack was that?"

The copilot looked down at his controls as the wake of the ship jumping to warp speed rocked the Oehirians. He chuckled, "that was the infamous Arnev. Fastest pirate ship in the quadrant," he said. "Wanted by many...caught by none."

Stuos maneuvered the long range patrol craft to within several hundred meters of the beacon and began an analysis of the signal eminating from it. "It appears to be using the same communication protocols the Federation employed."

"That proves that there is someone inhabiting the old Federation base," Iehos said. "And, unless you have the reflexes you did when you were twenty, I don't suggest we actually try and maneuver through that asteroid field to get any closer."

"Perhaps we can get them to put out the welcome mat." Stuos turned to the co-pilot. "Tap into the beacons comm systems and send a hail."

After several adjustments on the control console to their communications array, the copilot said, "the signal's too weak to carry any kind of communication. I don't think it is a communication beacon. More like a warning beacon. But if there is one....then it stands to reason there will be another inside the field."

Iehos sat forward and looked at his friend, "'re not thinking of actually entering the asteroid field....are you?"

Stuos studied the sensor display for a few moments before answering. "We have to determine who has taken possession of the old base there. A band of pirates or smugglers would be to big a threat to our own commercial shipping." His eyes looked to the fading warp signature track. "Arnev's presence does not bode well."


=^=FOB Anchorage. This is Capt. Braylin. It looks like you are about to have company. I just passed what looked like an Oehirian transport at your outer beacon. Have fun.=^=

Jack had been making adjustments on the sec/tac console and bumped his head, coming out from under it. "Company?" he said. "Can you confirm?" he asked the ensign on Ops.

"The Arnev is out of comm range now, sir," she replied.

Jack looked at the console and made a couple of entries and his scope enlarged its range and he was able to detect a single blip moving past the first security beacon. He punched the comm button on his console and said, "Ops to CDR Knight. We have incoming." Then he said, "Flight the CAG and get birds in the air."

There was a long pause before Drew's reply, approximately 20 seconds passed before his voice came over the comm. ciricuit. =A=Say again Ops.=A=

"We have incoming," Jack repeated.

Another pause, but this one considerably shorter. =A=Acknowledged. I'm on my way.=A= Drew's voice sounded like he was very disappointed.

=^=Ops....this is Flight Control. Air Wing 11 is ready to launch.=^=

"Launch," Jack ordered and began working a tactical solution in case they needed one.

=^=Birds in the air.=^=

"CAG....let me know as soon as you have a visual," Jack ordered.

"Roger," came Kazansky's reply.

=====Oehirian Transport=====

Iehos sat back and pulled his harness over his shoulders. He hoped that Stuos's piloting skills were better than his tixon playing (Oehirian card game of chance). He watched out the side of the cockpit as they flew through the obstacle course.

"A second beacon is just ahead," the copilot announced. "And we have company."

Stuos scanned the two approaching vessels. They appeared similar to Oehirian Short Range Patrol Craft, but with a significant increase in power output and armament.

Just then two Javelins appeared on the dark side one of the larger asteroids, separated and flew passed on both sides of the transport and a hailing alert sounded on the Oehirian's communications panel.

=^=Unidentified craft. This is Lt. Kazansky of the United Federation of Planets' Starfleet Command. Slow to level one impulse and identify yourself.=^=

Stuos tapped a button on his panel and looked out at the pair of Javelin fighters now pacing his ship. "Lieutenant Kazansky. This is Oehirian Long Range Patrol Craft Virium. "I am Stuos, Commander of this craft. Please guide us through the asteroid field to your base of operations. We wish to discuss matters with your superiors."

"So they are Federation," Iehos said with relief.

"Stand by, Virium," Iceman said and switched his comm to the base channel. "Ops...this is Kazansky. They are Oehirians and are requesting a meet and greet with our CO. Their weapons are minimal and they have not powered up."

Jack looked around for CDR Knight and said, "standby, CAG."

Drew entered Ops with what appeared to be a hurriedly thrown on uniform and unruly hair. He tugged at the uniform in an effort to straighten it out and ran a hand through his hair several times to get it to lay somewhat flat. He nodded to Jack to open a channel.

Jack nodded to the XO to indicate the channel was open.

Drew cleared his throat. "Kazansky, Knight here. You are authorized to lead our visitors through the safe passage corridor and land. Inform our guest we well have a delegation in the main port facility awaiting their arrival."

"Roger base," the Iceman said and switched his comm.

Jack tapped his combadge and said, "Alpha detail, report to landing pad Charlie," then he looked at the XO and said, "I would like to join them, sir."

Drew nodded his assent at Jack's request. He tapped his combadge. "Ambassador Waddington, Commander Knight here. We have visitors arriving in the primary port hanger. Please meet Lieutenant Commander Devlin there to greet our guests."

Catherine stood up and tapped her badge. "On my way," she stated as she loooked at her escort. Both women stood. "What's this about you wonder?" Tazanna asked. Meredith shrugged. "Hey Fergie ya wanna put the kettle on we'r fixing on having guests!" she called. Catherine, by now well used to the brazen pilots attitude chuckled as the three women left the cabin. "One of these days he is gonna whup your ass." Tazanna chuckled.


"Commander Stuos....we will be your escorts to Forward Operating Base Anchorage. On your left you have my lovely wingman, Ensign Alexxa Sereion. We call her Chuck. I am Iceman. These floating hunks of rocks are tricky so stay between us and I promise you will get there unscathed."

"I still think we should have left this up to the Prime Ministers," Iehos said as he sat back in his seat and tried to relax. "We are warriors. Not diplomats. We could plat things up."

Stuos eyed his counterpart. "The Prime Minister can dispatch a diplomatic delegation...after we have determined these Federationers pose no threat."

Iehos held his hands up in surrender. "Alright. I hope you know what the plat you are doing, my friend," he said, dubiously.

=====FOB Anchorage - Landing Platform=====

It took very little time for the trio to reach the Landing Platform. "Commander Devlin do we have much information on our guests?" she asked.

"Very little," Jack replied as they stepped into the transport tram and began the ride through the tunnel. "They call themselves Oehirians and they are from a neighboring planet. Intelligence is working up a profile. Hopefully, our predecessors will have had some contact with them and there might be some info in their old databanks. Until we know more....they have requested an "audience"," he made quotation marks in the air, "with our leader so CDR Knight wants us to escort them to the observation lounge."

The atmospheric dome stood open, awaiting the Oehirian ship to land on the platform. Once it did, the dome closed and the green All Clear light in the transport tram lit and the doors opened to let the welcome wagon step onto the platform. As the sleek, and quite impressive, Oehirian transport settled onto the platform, Jack and his security squad, with Lady Waddington behind them, moved closer to the craft and the security squad split into two and formed a walkway between them with Jack and Lady Waddington at the end.

The door of the Virium opened and a ramp appeared and settled into place and Stuos, Iehos emerged with the co-pilot remaining behind.

Stuos stepped off the transport with his compatriot. One look at Devlin was enough to confirm his initial assessment. Warrior caste. He eyed Catherine and her companions. Diplomat and attaches. He glanced at Iehos as he stepped forward to greet their hosts.

"I am Commander Ieho and this is Commander Stuos. We are Oehirian Enforcers," Ieho said as the woman and obvious security officer approached them.

"Commander Stuos, Commander is nice to met you. I am Lady Catherine Waddington. Commander Knight is looking forward to meeting you." She smiled disarmingly. "If you would care to accompany me I shall take you to him." she added indicating the way with a sweep of her hand.

Jack allowed the Lady to precede him but kept close, just in case, stepping aside so that Lady Waddington and the two Oehirians could pass. Then he fell in behind them, tapping his combadge. "CDR Knight....we are on our way to the Observation Lounge," he said, and motioned for his security squad to follow.


Labor Intensive Transit Tube System/Hospital Complex
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Ashley boarded the turbolift near the family quarters she shared with her Uncle Drew, smiling a greeting at the single occupant already aboard the car. She vaguely recognized the woman as the wife of the one of the security officers who patrolled the officers' residential deck. She noticed the extended abdomen and looked the woman in the eye. "So when's the baby due?"

"Hopefully soon," the very pregnant woman said with a laugh as the car began to move. "I'm Pam Billings," she said, holding out her hand.

Ashley took Pam's hand and gave it a gentle shake. "Ashley Knight, pleasure to meet you Mrs. Billings."

"Ashley Knight?" Pam asked, quirking an eyebrow. "Are you Meredith's daughter?"

Ashley nodded as she released Pam's hand. "Yes...Yes I"

"I knew your mother," Pam said. "She was going to be my midwife. I am so sorry she didn't make it." As if on cue, Pam's abdomen seemed to shift in shape and she pressed her hand against it. "Oooph. That was a big one," she said, leaning against the wall of the car. She grinned. "I swear....this guy is going to play football," she said with a chuckle.

Ashley took a step in and place a comforting hand on Pam's shoulder. "Everything OK?" She bore a very concerned expression.

Pam took Ashley's hand and placed it on her abdomen just as her baby turned again with a strong kick. "See what I mean?" she said.

Ashley's face lit up with what could only be described as an over powering sense of wonder as she felt the baby kick. A goofy smile came to her face. "Wow! That's...just amazing!"

Seeing her pregnancy from the eyes of the young girl, Pam smiled in agreement. Suddenly the turbolift came to a stop but the door didn't open. Pam reached over and touched the manual control but nothing happened. Raising an eyebrow she said, "I think we are stuck."

Ashley frowned as she shook her head. "This happened to me the other day too. Uncle Drew said that there was going to be occasional brown outs on the power grid, but nothing to worry about. It would just take a few minutes for power to return to the transit systems."

Pam sighed. "Good thing I'm not in a hurry," she said with a chuckle. Her baby began to change position and the muscles in her lower back reacted to the weight adjustment by tensing, painfully. Pam placed her hands against her lower back and grimaced. "Really, dude? Settle down. It's not a trampoline in there," she said as she did her best to massage her own muscles into relaxing.

Ashley knuckled up her hands into fists and started kneeding along Pam's spinal cord in an effort to get the pregnant woman's muscles to relax. "Better."

Pam closed her eyes and moaned with pleasure. "You have the touch, young lady," she said.

Ashley nodded as her hands opened up and she began rubbing Pam's neck and shoulders. Something happened that changed both their focus.

As soon as her muscles relaxed, Pam felt a sudden rush of fluid she couldn't control that burst passed the barrier of her panties and onto the floor between her feet. "Oh, no," she said, pulling her floor length skirt up and looking at the puddle.

Ashley looked down to see a puddle of fluid all over the flooring. Her expression grew nervous. "Uh...does that mean what I think it means?"

"My water's broke," Pam said with a nod. "It doesn't necessarily mean...," she was cut off when her abdomen muscles began to feel like someone had grabbed hold of them and was pulling them towards her feet with all of their might. "OOOOhhhhh," she exclaimed and her hands went to the bottom of her abdomen as if supporting it would stop the pain. "I take that back," she said, through gritted teeth as she slid down to a sitting position. She grabbed Ashley's wrist. "Time?" she asked and began to take slow breaths as the contraction began to let up.

"Uh..." Ashley looked at her watch. "It's 1207 hours." Her expression was tense. "What...can I do to help?"

"We need to keep track of how long between contractions," Pam said. This was her second so she knew the drill, even though it had been 10 years since she went through this. "And try and get someone to fix this," she waved her hand around, indicating the turbolift. "There should be an emergency alarm in the panel by the door."

Ashley nodded and opened the panel indicated. He looked in and started tapping buttons on the communications panel. "Hello...can anyone here me. This is Ashley Knight. Pamela Billings and I are stuck in transit tube car J33. Mrs. Billings has just gone into labor. Please respond."

Pam was surprised that there was no answer to Ashley's call for help. "What are they doing down there? Playing poker?" she groaned, trying to reposition herself on the floor so she was more comfortable. She tapped her own combadge but she got the dull bleep sound that indicated the signal was blocked...which wasn't unusual in these turbolift tunnels. "Dammit," she muttered as she felt the muscles in her lower back and upper abdomen begin to tighten, making her want to push downward. She leaned her head against the wall and closed her eyes as she said, "time," then began to pant in order to fight the urge to push.

Ashley gave a scared look at Pam before glancing at her watch. "1209. It's only been two minutes. Is that...normal?"

Pam didn't answer right away as she focused on her breathing until the contraction let up then she said, "nothing about this guy has been normal. I went through twice the morning sickness I had with my first and twice the size I was the first time and he isn't due for two more weeks. I have a feeling he is going to be as stubborn and pig headed as his father." She opened her eyes and said, "keep trying to raise someone."

Ashley complied with Pam's instructions, but to no avail. She looked at her watch and turned to Pam. "It's 1211. You're about due for...."

Pam stiffened as another contraction took her by surprise.

Ashley moved closer to Pam, trying in some small way to render comfort to the woman. "Comms must have gone out when the transit car lost power. What can I do to help you?"

Before the contraction hit its peak, Pam began pulling her panties down. With Ashley's help she got them off then struggled out of her blouse. "Put this on the floor to catch the baby on," she instructed. The contraction peaked and she let out a loud moan as she arched her back. Beads of perspiration formed on her forehead and she doubled her fists, pressing them against her sides. "Oh God!" she cried out through gritted teeth. Her face contorted and she forced herself to pant until the contraction began to let up. When it was finished she lay back against the wall, exhausted.

Ashley looked a palish green as she knelt down between Pam's feet and did as instructed. Her own breathing was coming in ragged gasps. She had never done anything like this before in her life.

Pam felt a tug at her lower abdomen as another contraction began. She moved her hands down to the bottom of her distended belly and pressed around until she felt a hard round object positioned just above her pubis. "Good. He's in position," she said as the contraction peaked and she was forced to growl in pain.

Ashley took a deep breath and scrunched her face up as she reached her fingers inside Pam to check for the yet-to-be-born baby's neck. She felt around to make sure the umbilical cords wasn't tangled around the neck. She gave Pam a nod. "All clear. Next contraction you need to push. The baby should crown then."

The contraction came hard and fast and Pam couldn't help but bear down with it as every muscle in her pelvis, abdomen and lowere back pushed toward her feet. "Awwww....oooooo....oh God!" she half growled, half screamed. She felt a pop inside of her and the contraction eased up.

Ashley looked from the just emerged head of the infant cradled gently in her hands to Pam. "Next contraction I need you to push really, really hard. OK?"

Pam nodded, her hair pressed to her face and wet from sweat. "I'll try," she said, weakly.

Suddenly the turbolift car jolted into motion.

Pam's next contraction had no build up. It peaked at onset and she let out a howl then held her breath and grunted as she pushed hard with the contracting muscles. As if in slow motion the rest of the baby boy's body slid through the canal and onto the blouse on the floor. "Is he alright?" Pam asked, weakly.

Ashley carefully and ever so gently placed the newborn infant boy on the blouse on the floor. A quick inspection showed no obvious signs of anything wrong. She could only think of how much of a miracle it was to be holding a new life. "He's beautiful." She lifted the infant, supporting his weight by the stomach as she began rubbing circles on his back.

The rubbing stimulated his circulation and Pam's son began to cry. "Oh thank God," Pam said, starting to cry herself as she tried to push herself up to see her baby.

Ashley quickly tied off the umbilical cord in two positions before handing the bundle of joy to his mother. Relief washed over her as the fear abated and a sense of near euphoric wonder took it's place.

In the intense emotional moment neither Ashley or Pam realized that the turbolift car had come to a stop and the door was being pried open. An Engineer stood to one side and two EFTSs rushed in. While one began checking Pam over, the other cut the cord, scanned the baby, wrapped it in an emergency blanket and placed it in Pam's arms.

"Oh. He's beautiful," Pam said, looking down at her newborn son. Then she looked up at Ashley. "Thank you, Ashley," she said, reaching out with her free hand and grasping Ashley's. "Thank you."

Ashley blushed as she shook her head. "You did all the work. I just held him as he came out."

Easing another emergency blanket around Pam the EFTS said, "he is beautiful. Have you thought of a name?"

Pam smiled and looked down at her baby. "My husband and I had decided on naming him after his father, Jonathan." Then she looked up at Ashley. "But I want his middle name to be Ash," she said. "If you don't mind."

Ashley swallowed an asteroid sized lump in her throat and nodded. "I'd be honored."

"Jonathan Ash Billings," Pam said, smiling down at her baby. "Welcome to the universe."

With that, the lead EFTS tapped his med-comm and ordered transport directly to Maternity and Ashley was suddenly alone in the turbolift car. The Engineer poked his head in through the partially open door and asked, "Are you coming out, Miss?"

Ashley shook herself out of her mild reverie at what had just occurred. She gave a nod to the engineer and stepped out. She couldn't help but feel like she was, in some small way, a part of the greatest miracle ever.
The gift of friendship Anchorage
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~*~ Start Joint Log ~*~

"Sara! Sara Prudence!" Sara turned around at the sound of her name her little black cat ears sticking up on end. She had been standing at a stall where there was candy. Grabbing her yellow blanket she ran towards the sound of her name and glomped onto the leg of a woman with purple hair and similar black cat ears.

"Yes mommy?" asked the six year old child clinging to her mother, while looking around at all the people walking around them on the busy station.

"Stay close or you'll get lost." Alyssa told her child moving to pick her up and settle her on her shoulders so she knew exactly where her daughter was. She started through the throng of people with her duffle bag and her daughters bag in hand towards the food court where she was meeting an old academy friend of hers.

"And if I have to search for you little kitten I won't give you the treats I have for you." A voice said behind them, "Hello Lyssa." a slender dark haired woman grinned tapping her on the shoulder.

"Hello Taz." Alyssa grinned glad to see her old friend. "How have you been last we spoke you made sargeant?" Alyssa asked with a smile reaching to bring her daughter off her shoulders and back onto the floor so she could sit at the table. then Alyssa moved to give Taz a hug. taz returned the hug.

"A lot. Somethings we cannot catch up on with little one here. But other than that I got diplonmatic duty here with Lady Waddington but you'll meet her in time. What about you?"

"Not as much I was on the USS Pequod for the last few years. Sara here is getting high marks, do not let those big brown eyes of hers fool you she can be quite the chaotic bundle." Alyssa smiled down hand on her daughters head causing Sara to look up and grin at the pretty lady. "I've heard of Lady Waddington though she tells it like it is doesn't she no bones about it."

"And not turned by a pretty head either. Ooh but I did get something for a certain little girl." Tazanna smiled and handed a small package to Sara.

"Gotcha, sounds like she's got an actual head on her shoulders." Alyssa smiled hoping to meet Lady Waddington. She looked down to Sara, "Go ahead honey she wont bite."

Sara looked shyly from behind her mom before moving forward to take the package from the nice woman. "Thank you." She said with a natural purr despite being only a quarter Caitian. She moved to open the package and grinned hugging her new black cat doll in a dress and held onto it as tightly as she did her yellow security blanket.

"I saw that before we left the Alpha Quadrant and thought just of you." Tazanna smiled.

"Thank you." Sara said again smiling up happily one arm around her new treasure the other around her mom's leg one little cat fang stinking out around her lower lip as she grinned.

"Now they do some really good milkshakes here." Tazanna said to Sara

"Really? Mommy can I have a milkshake?" Sara asked looking up at her mom her head pressed against Alyssa's leg as she looked up and she leaned forward slightly. Alyssa smiled. "Yes but a small one with your lunch." Alyssa said softly and Sara grinned taking Tazanna's hand so that Tazanna could show her where the milkshakes were.

"Well then Mommy we are in luck where I am thinking of does lunch and ice cream for good little girls if they eat all their lunch." Tazana said as she led the way to a small bistro

Alyssa smirked walking along side her grinning daughter who had such an angelic look, but if one looked closely they would see that her halo is held up by her little horns. "What do you want to eat Sara chicken tenders?" Alyssa asked softly. "I wants Chicken." She giggled.

"Thats good. Chicken shak here do just that." Tazana smiled leading them inside.

"Yay!" Sara skipped along with her mommy and mommy's friend to get food and a chocolate milkshake with a Cherry on top. She was happy.

"There are a few kids here. Likely to be more before too long." she added.

"See Sara you'll have loads of new friends before you know it sweety." Alyssa smiled at her daughter since she had been worried about having no one her own age on the new station or ship they would be on.

"Really? when can I meets them?" She asked her little black tail flicking behind her slightly.

"Well I would say tomorrow when we can get you enrolled in school." Tazanna smiled.

"Yay!" Sara wasn't as excited about school as she was about meeting more kids and seeing what they can do. Alyssa smiled softly as they made their way to the shake for food. "So what is the station like Taz?" Alyssa asked.

"Slowly coming to life. We were not supposed to be here, we were headed back to the Alpha but we were attacked and we got stuck here. I think we are alll just finding our feet"

"Trust me I was glad when that borg attack ended. Sara was hiding under some rubble that she had turned into a fort to protect herself from them. I found the bastards in my quarters." Alyssa growled her claws popping out.

"Just be thankfully they didn'tfind her. One of the teenagers here lost her mother to them."

"Damn those devils need to be dealt with and soon, how many more people are we going to lose to them?" Alyssa sighed.

"That is a good question. For which only time has an answer." Tazanna responded

"How long are we going to be in the Delta Quadrant?" Alyssa asked as Sara quitely walked beside them. The promise of a milkshake keeping the child complacent for the moment. She skipped along side Tazanna humming a soft little tune her tail moving about her slightly to show she was happy. It was a tune that her mommy sang to her quite often whenever she was afraid or sad or just couldn't get to sleep.

As they entere the bistro Tazanna indicated a table for them to sit at. "the foreseeable future I'm afraid."

Alyssa gave a nod. "Hmm any word from the Alpha quadrant on the situation here?" Alyssa had to ask. Though home was wherever, she and her daughter Sara are together and Tazanna is like a sister to her so she was not missing the Alpha Quadrant.

"Not a damaned thing." Tazanna sighed as they waitress cme over. "Hey kitty claws you get to tell the lady what you'd like." Tazanna smiled as she indicated the waitress to the child's right

"Can I have chicken tenders, a chocolate milkshake and cut strawberries?" Sara asked shifitng on her seat a lot as she played with her new cat doll looking for all the world to be just a sweet little six year old who knows what she wants instead of flip flopping around with it. Though all the while she was also thinking of what kind of mischief she could cause.

Alyssa ran her hand through her daughters hair moving to rub her nose against Sara's as the waitress wrote that down. "I'll have a Chicken grilled salad with mozerella and grape tomatoes with light italian dressing, a Chocolate milkshake and a strawberry cup as well." She gave her order next. "Also I'd like two cups of water." She added knowing she needed something to cut the milkshakes after Sara had her fill.

"Salmon sallad and a bananna milkshake please." Tazanna smiled. "Hey why not after we eat we let Mommy report in and you and me go see my boss?" Tazanna asked Sara.

Sara looked shyly at Tazanna, "who is your boss?" the six year old asked innocently.

"Lady Catherine Waddington. She has hair like fire" Tazanna smiled

"Like fire? Mommy is it ok if I go see the lady?" Sara asked looking to her mommy as she put a chicken tender in her mouth.

Alyssa chewed and swallowed before speaking, "Sure, I see no harm in it but you'll be on your best behavior right? No acting up?" Alyssa asked Sara pointedly. Sara was too busy chewing to speak with her mouth full so she shook her head indicating she would behavior herself instead of causing trouble.

"See you can sign in and Sara and I can get to know each other she can meet Lady Catherine and maybe her made made cookies"

"Sounds like a plan to me, besides I would be offended if you did not wish to know your goddaughter." Alyssa grinned despite her wrods. She speared the last bite of her salad really.

"I figured as much" Tazanna chuckled. "Deal Sara?" s he asked.

Sara giggled. "Deal Mommy can check in, I go meets the lady." She giggled biting into her last Chicken tender excitedly.

"Sounds like a plan to me." Tazanna asked eating the last of her food.
Wake Up Call Deck 9 - Room 5
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Christopher slowly opened his eyes as a throbbing pain brought itself to the front of his head. As he did so, the searing fluorescent light burned his eyes as if he was seeing it for the first time in weeks. Squeezing them shut, he tried to speak but found his mouth was as dry as sand. Attempting to sit up, he felt a sharp pain in his back and gingerly lowered himself back down. Mentally shouting expletives at himself, he slammed his hands onto the railing on his left side and pulled himself up, feeling an agonizing sting radiate through his back and down his legs.

Alarms sounded at the nurses' station and the nurse assigned to the General looked up, then jumped up and ran into his room. "No, sir.....lie back down. You can't get up," she said, placing her hands on his shoulders and easing him back against the pillows. "You're alright. Just lie still. I'll get the doctor."

Chris frowned at this. He would have killed for some water at this moment as his mouth and throat were still bone dry. Looking around, he searched for a cup or a pitcher of some kind that has anything he could use to soothe his dry and tight throat.

The nurse went to the door and called out, "page Dr. Ledall and Dr. Nichols," then she went back over to the bed. "Hang on General. I'll raise your bed and get you some fresh water. You have been asleep for a long time," she said as she raised the head of the bed a little. "You broke your back and ribs and had a nasty concussion," she explained as she brought him a fresh pitcher of water from the replicator in the room. She poured the water into a glass and helped him as he drank.

Christopher gratefully accepted the water and took a sip, a satisfying chill spreading through him.

Dr. Ledall appeared at the door. "'s about time," he said with a chuckle and walked over to the monitor on the wall and switched it on. "How do you feel?" he asked as he reviewed the General's chart on displayed on the monitor.

"I guess I fell harder than I thought. I heard someone pushed me over a railing by accident. Is that true?" he asked the doctor as he began to gulp the water down.

Ledall pulled the monitor over to where Mitchell could see it and said, "that's what the EFTS team said when they brought you in but I don't have the specifics." He pointed to the image of his skeletal X-rays. "As you can see you came in with several fractured ribs. One of which punctured your left lung. You also fractured your T12 vertebra which fragmented and pinched your spinal cord... The ER doctor re-inflated your lung and repaired the fractured ribs and sent you to me." He walked down to the foot of the bed and pulled the covers up. Taking a large bore needle in a sheath out of his lab coat pocket, he unsheathed it as he said, "I was able to retrieve the fragments and repair the vertebra." Ledall, gently, pressed the tip of the instrument against the top of Mitchell's foot. "Can you feel this?" he asked.

Christopher nodded quickly.

Ledall moved up the leg repeating the test then switched to Mitchell's other leg and did the same. He re-sheathed the instrument and went back down to the foot of the bed. Placing his hand against the bottom of Mitchell's right foot, he said, "press against my hand like you were pressing against the rudder of a Javelin."

Pressing back against the doctor's hand, he could feel a slight strain in his lower leg as he did so.

Ledall repeated the test on Mitchell's left foot and nodded. "Now raise your right leg," he said, holding his hand under Mitchell's leg just in case he lost muscle control. "That's it. Hold it. Ok. Now the left."

Cara walked into the room and over to the side of Christopher's bed. "Welcome back to the land of the living," she said with a smile.

Christopher repeated the process as he saw Cara. "Thanks, Doc." he said as he noticed a shining black pip behind her two solid ones. "I see you made Lieutenant Commander. Congratulations," he said as he lowered his foot.

Cara waved it off. "You know I don't hold to rank, Christopher," she said with a laugh. "I'm a doctor and that's all of the authority I need. I have the power to relieve you of duty whether I'm ranked as a mop pusher, lieutenant or Admiral." She winked at him and squeezed his forearm. "So I suggest you stay away from railings for awhile. Oh....and don't get the sniffles." She looked at Ledall. "What's the prognosis, Doctor?"

"Will do, Doc." Christopher said, his arm feeling slightly numb where the doctor had squeezed it. He began to ball his fingers into a fist and release, which caused his entire arm to tingle as he did so.

Ledall chuckled as he pulled the covers back over Mitchell's feet. "Everything looks good," he said to both Cara and the General. "I have already set it up with the PT department so you can begin your physical therapy. They'll come down and get you once a day and will let me know how you are progressing. If all goes well I expect you will be fit for partial duty in 3 weeks."

Christopher grumbled. Partial duty was nothing to be proud of- he'd be away from his station and his people for longer than he'd want to be. "Doctor, is there any way that we can speed this up? I can't off duty for three weeks, it'll drive me insane." he said.

Cara smirked and shook her head while Ledall simply said, "you can't rush the body when it comes to healing itself. It is a miracle of science the way it works but when it comes to does it on its own time. Just follow my and your physical therapists instructions. Any deviations may end up in set backs not steps forward. If three weeks sounds long...imagine if you re-injure yourself and set things back to square one and another three or four weeks. Take my word for it, will not go insane."

" will see," Cara said, softly, trying to sooth Mitchell's anxiety about being off duty for any length of time. "The fact that you are physically fit to begin with will be an advantage."

"And you will be surprised how exhausted you are going to feel after your first physical therapy appointment," Ledall said. "You'll be glad that you don't have anything to do but rest. Now I am going to leave you and Dr. Nichols to chat for a while and I will get you set up with PT. They'll probably be in to take you for your first round this afternoon after lunch." With that Ledall winked at Cara and made his exit.

Chris sat up straighter in the bed. "Doc, when I was coming to, I could swear I heard the nurses calling me 'Humpty Dumpty'. Let's make sure that doesn't spread. Other than that, did I fall or do they think somebody pushed me?" he inquired.

Cara pulled a stool closer to the bed and sat down. "We aren't sure. Our Chief of Security is not convinced it was an accident based on the trajectory of your fall and where you landed. He's investigating. Been asking everyone who might have seen something. Ledall says he's been up here every day hoping you would be awake so he could talk to you. I suspect as soon as he hears you are he'll be coming for a visit." She looked over at the monitors then said, "for right now you need to get some rest before they come to take you down to physical therapy. You are in good hands. Dr. Ledall is the best we have," she smiled and winked, "besides me, of course." When Christopher relaxed and closed his eyes, Cara waited until he was asleep then, quietly got up and left the room. A lot of people were going to be glad to hear their beloved leader was on the mend.


Problems and Solutions Base Commander's Office Current
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Drew looked at his watch as he approached the door to Christopher's office. It was almost time for the daily conference call back to the Alpha Quadrant and he didn't want to be late. He rapped his knuckles on the door.

Hearing the echo of the sharp knocks on the door, Christopher looked up from the long list of status reports scrolling down his console and looked over to the mug of coffee that was now cold and a murky brown. Looking down at his clock, he could see a red reminder pulsing gently that reminded of the call that he now needed to make with Starfleet Command "Enter!" he said forcefully, looking forlornly to the cup of now wasted coffee.

Drew entered and approached the desk. He took notice of the mug of tepid coffee. He placed the mug in his hand and slid it across the desk. "Here sir. I just filled this from the silver bullet in Ops. Haven't even taken a sip."

Christopher caught the mug mid slide and raised it in a gesture reminiscent of a toast. "Thank you." he said as he inhaled the scent of fresh coffee. "What's on your docket today? I've got records of eight altercations across the station over food and supplies yesterday alone. Hydroponics plants are barely keeping up and parts of the base still aren't accessible on Decks 38, 39, and 40."

Drew looked at his own PADD. "Repairs have been completed on the Zumwalt. I wanted to talk to you about taking her out and doing a 48 hour check on her systems."

"It depends. We're still working to get defensive systems back online and I don't want to take our biggest asset too far from the fight. Where do you plan to take her?" Christopher asked, slightly hesitant to allow this course of action. Taking a sip of coffee, he waited for the commander's response.

Drew synced his PADD to Christopher's and sent his tentative plan. He then launched into a quick briefing of his plan. "I want to stay in the star system, be mostly a check out of the Zumwalt's impulse engines, tactical systems and sensor arrays."

Both Christopher's and Drew's commbadge chirped. =A=Sirs, Vice Admiral Janeway's holographic avatar signal coming through. We are transmitting yours through the array right now and syncing real time interface. =A=

Christopher tapped the button on the console. "Patch it through." Casting a sidelong glance over to Andrew. "We'll talk about this later." As the rather imposing form of Admiral Janeway materialized in front of his desk, Christopher moved his chair slightly backward so that he could address her.

Drew nodded at Christopher's last comment, then turned to await the 'arrival' of Admiral Janeway.

Janeway's image gave both men a nod of her head. "Good afternoon gentlemen. We only have eleven minutes so let's get to it shall we."

Christopher simply nodded. Despite his years of combat and service, this woman left him uneasy. He couldn't shake the memory of her threat to kill both him and his people if needed. She was stone cold and she knew it.

Admiral Janeway looked down at the PADD in her hand and began her general announcement to address issues that had been brought to her attention. "First I would like to inform both of you that a Mayflower-class Colonial Transport and an Akira-class Heavy Cruiser or both be refitted with a Quantum Slipstream Drive and should be able to depart Mars space by the end of this week. The transport will have nearly 5000 volunteers to help you get the station up and running, as well as, much needed materials and supplies."

"Understood, ma'am. The assistance is much appreciated. Our people could use some leave when their relief arrives- if you'd be willing to send the manifest, I'll have them assigned prior to their arrival.

"The Akira-class will have the equipment and personnel to fill out your requirement to bring the Air Wing and a reinforced marine rifle company up to strength. There will also be specialized replicators. So let Doctor Nichols know she'll have her pharmaceutical replicator in the next six weeks." Admiral Janeway looked up from her PADD. "Are here any new developments on you end I should be made aware of?"

Christopher gulped slightly. "At present, there's one thing. The Borg have been silent since the attack and they've retreated back to the boundaries of their space. I can't help but feel like they're waiting for us. They saw us depart into the asteroid field but beyond that, they haven't pursued. I'm concerned as they could be waiting for us to show our faces but we can't hide forever."

Drew took a deep breath and added his two latinum slips worth. "I must concur with Brigadier General Mitchell's assessment Admiral. While the Rock is operational at this time, we are only doing so at approximately 45% capacity. That is only due to the exceptional dedication of all the inhabitants, civilian and Starfleet alike, giving their best effort." He gave a slight pause as he looked at something on his PADD. "However, we are already experiencing mental, physical and emotional burnout in some cases. We need reinforcement, supplies, additional equipment, but most of all...a long term mission plan."

Janeway glanced between the two officers as she thought over their words. She knew full well what they faced, the daunting tasks that lay before, not only these two men, but every living soul at Forward Operating Base Anchorage. "Whenever my doubts and fears pressed down on me during Voyager's journey back home. I always felt best to fall back on the core principles and values instilled in me by Starfleet and the Federation as a whole. You gentlemen hang on to those and just hang in there for a bit longer and I promise that you will get everything you need to not just survive, but thrive as a unit, a community and...A family."

Christopher sighed slightly. They were finally getting some relief after all of this time and it caused a feeling intense relief to flood through Chris like a wave. Looking over to Andrew, he glanced over to the hologram of Admiral Janeway. "Additionally, ma'am. I'd like to proceed with some exploratory operations once we're manned. Commander Knight recently brought the Zumwalt up to 100 percent efficiency and was requesting authorization to take her out on a shakedown cruise. I don't personally see any reason to deny his request, do you?" he asked, taking another sip of his coffee.

Janeway gave a single nod of her head. "Agreed, but use caution Commander."

Drew also nodded. "Roger that Admiral."

Christopher powered down his personal PADD. "I think that concludes all of my business. Did you have anything further, Commander?" he inquired, fighting the urge to rub his eyes.

Drew gave Christopher a hard look before glancing back to Janeway. "Only two things. General Mitchell here really needs an outstanding yeoman and a Command Master Chief would also be in order."

Janeway looked at both men and nodded. "Very well." She turned her head making a slicing motion across her throat. The real-time holographic avatar of Vice Admiral Kathryn Janeway winked out of existence.

Christopher looked over to Drew. "Well that was uncalled for. The first time we met, she threatened to kill us. Now we don't even get the gorram common courtesy of a goodbye. If I didn't know any better, I'd say she didn't like me much." Christopher said sarcastically.

Drew looked at the wall clock and shook his head. "Actually the daily allotted time for avatar interface had arrived. She needed to cut herself off if we were to receive the daily transmission burst for other messages and data files.

Waving his hand away, he looked towards his screen where reports began to flash across them.

Drew rose from his seat and proceeded out to the Ops Center to sort through the data file upload. He paused at the door. "Begging the General's pardon, but...go get some sleep sir." He crossed the threshold and the door closed behind him.

Mystery Assault Physical Therapy 2 weeks after Wake Up Call
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Jack walked through the doors of Physical Therapy and looked around the room. There were only a few patients being put through their exercises for a variety of injuries so it was easy to find the General and his therapist in a corner. The therapist was monitoring and encouraging the General as he pedaled what looked like a stationary bike. He walked over and smiled at the therapist. "Hi. Jack Devlin from Security," he said to the young woman and held out his hand. "Mind if I ask the General a few questions while he goes...," he glances at the General and smirks, "...just where is it you're going, Sir?"

Christopher pulled up the sunglasses up on his head that were actually a wraparound view screen that provided a first person view. "I was doing a route from Sausalito into the Presidio." he said to the man whose sarcasm was clearly evident and not necessarily appreciated. Swinging his leg over the saddle, he extended his hand. "Brigadier General Mitchell, Commanding Officer. What can I do for you, Mr. Devlin?" he asked, annoyance slipping into his voice due to the fact that he had been interrupted. Every minute that was wasted was one where he wasn't where he belonged- in the Ops Center with his people.

"Ahh. Pretty country," Jack said with a nod.

"You can take a break," the therapist said with a smile and got up from the stool by the bike. She walked over to check on another patient to give the General and the security guy some privacy.

"General, I'll get right to the point," Jack said. "What do you remember about your accident?" he asked, activating the small PADD he took out of his cargo pants pocket.

Taking a breath, Christopher tried to recall. "I remember leaning on the rail over the promenade near the arboretum and then I was falling. I'm assuming that I hit a repulsor field on the way down or else I'd be sitting in a torpedo casing right now." he said succinctly.

"I have gone over all of the security footage of that area and, even though the view of where you would have been standing was blocked," Jack said. "And that has been remedied....the trajectory of your fall wouldn't be that of someone who had simply stumbled and fallen over the railing. You had help, sir. Are you sure you don't remember anyone pushing you?"

Christopher shook his head. "I've got nothing more to tell you, Commander. It also doesn't help that there are literally hundreds of people walking around this station at any given time."

Jack was disappointed that Mitchell wasn't able to help him. Maybe in time, the General might remember more. He knew that that was sometimes the case. He just hated open cases. "Well, sir....if you remember anything...even something you might not think is significant...please let me know. I don't plan on stopping until we find out who did this," Jack said. "I'll let you get back to your therapy. It's good to see you up and around, sir," he added with a smile. With that, he smiled at the therapist and made his exit.

Clearance Deck 11 - Intermediate Care 2 weeks after Mystery Assault
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Christopher rolled over in his bed as an increasingly urgent beeping came from his desk terminal that steadily increased in volume the longer he allowed it to sit unseen. Letting out a yawn, he flicked his wrist and saw the time spring up on a small holographic display on his chronometer: 0500. Slowly moving into a sitting position, he stood and stretched in the cool darkness.

"Computer, lights at twenty percent." The computer beeped an affirmative and the lights bathed the room in soft light. Today was a day he had been looking forward to for weeks. The day he got cleared for duty.

=== 25 Minutes Later, Intermediate Care, Deck 11 ===

Christopher walked into the medical center in athletic shorts and a Marine Green t-shirt and strode over to the nurses station. "Mitchell, Christopher. I have an appointment to see Dr. Ledall."

The nurse looked at him as if he had crawled out of a sewer and motioned pointedly. "You're almost late. Dr. Ledall is off duty but Dr. Nichols will see you. I'll let her know you are here," she said, motioning for a corpsman to take Mitchell to a cubicle.

Christopher nodded at this strangely timed display of rudeness and followed the corpsman, his shoes making no sound as they touched the deck and he entered the examination room.

Cara was doing inventory in the medicine room when the nurse came in and informed her that the General was in Cubicle 3 of Intermediate Care. "Thank you," Cara said and traded the inventory PADD for Mitchell's chart and headed for the cubicle. As she entered she smiled and said, "Good Morning, Christopher. You're looking....sporty." She wheeled a utility tray closer to the biobed and activated the bed's monitors. "Any complaints I should know about?" she asked.

Christopher raised his eyebrow. He was a reasonably healthy man- he had to be. "Besides a royal pain in my ass, nothing to write home about. Just your standard aches and pains." he said with a straight face.

Cara quirked an eyebrow as she moved the bioscanner over him. "A royal opposed to just a nagging one?" she teased as she plugged the bioscanner into the bedside terminal and looked at the results on the monitor's split screen. "Everything looks good," she said. "Fractures have healed nicely. According to your last examination by Dr. Ledall your spinal cord has healed and you have full nerve function. That's great news," she smiled. "Nothing but glowing reports from PT. I was worried that you might not go with the program but I'm glad to see you did. So what is causing this royal pain you mention?" she asked, looking over her shoulder at the General with a teasing twinkle in her eyes.

"Not being able to work," Mitchell grunted. "So what's the prognosis? Can I get back to work?" he asked.

Cara held her finger up in front of Chris's face. "Follow my finger with your eyes," she said and moved her finger up then down then side to side.

Chris stared at the woman's finger as she moved it to test his field of vision.

"Hop down and stand with your feet together," Cara instructed. Once he had complied she said, "Raise your arms out to your sides, tilt your head back and close your eyes."

Climbing down from the table, Chris did as he was instructed. This whole exercise was highly annoying but a necessary evil. He didn't feel his balance waver at all but this wasn't his first rodeo.

Cara watched him for a few seconds to see if he wavered at all then said, "Raise your left leg off of the floor. Keep your arms out. Take your right pinky finger and touch the tip of your nose."

With his leg raised, he felt his center of gravity shift to his left. Slowly and deliberately, he touched his nose with his pinky. "Are we nearly done here, Doc? I feel like we're doing the hokey pokey here."

Cara simply shook her head. "Why are you Marines so impatient?" she teased. "The world is not going to come to an end if you aren't out there doing Marine things every minute. You need to relax. If you don't we are going to end up having a burned out Marine at the helm and that never turns out well." She took out a hemo-extractor from one of the drawers and said, "Have a seat, General. I need to get some blood. I'm combining this examination with your annual flight physical. I am also clearing you for duty. But...," she held up her finger and gave him a stern look, "...if you fell any numbness, muscle weakness or sharp pains in your back I want you to get in here. Understood?"

Christopher sighed again and said, "Yes, Doctor," although a bit sarcastically. He hopped up on the table. "Fine." he said in an expression of faux offense. "Marines don't have a concept of giving up. Doesn't matter if we're fighting or dancing. We won't stop until we get it-" he said jokingly. Looking down at his arms, he saw the extremely faint outlines of surgical scars. He was interrupted by the low beep of a communications console in the corner.

=A= Security Alert! All hands to Alert stations and senior staff to Ops. =A=

Cara removed the instrument and checked the vial to make sure she had gotten enough blood for the routine blood work. "Go," she said to the General and motioned to the cubicle door. "LOCK US DOWN!" she called out and medical personnel began rushing to lock down the medicine room and suite access doors with the exception of the main entrance.

Christopher exited the room and broke into a run, tapping his commbadge along the way. =A= Ops, this is Mitchell. I need a SitRep and I need one now. =A=

As Mitchell continued to run towards a turbolift, the operations officer spoke up. "We're detecting massive levels of ionizing radiation and bursts of plasma rapidly coming toward us but-"

"But what?" Mitchell asked.

Chris could practically hear the Operations officer gulp. "Science is reporting it's biological- matches a reptilian profile."

Letting out a whispered expletive as he stepped into the turbolift, Christopher sighed. "Frakking space dragons." he said


Fresh Blood Port Facility After Clearance
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Drew stood to the right of Christopher in the capital ship port looking at the ships that had just arrived. He couldn't help the feeling of intense relief at having an influx of fresh blood to help in the operation of not just the base, but the continuing mission in the Delta Quadrant.

The relief force had been comprised of four ships: USS Braveheart (an Akira-class) that was delivering the reinforcements for the Air Wing; USS Breckinridge (a Steamrunner-class) outfitted to deliver the reinforced marine battalion; The USS Leonard McCoy (an Olympic-class) with much needed medical supplies and equipment; and the USS Mayflower II (A Java-class Colonial Transport) with the bulk of additional personnel, equipment, and supplies.

Christopher stood with his hands clasped in front of him and turned to Drew. "You know, I've always found these little engagements rather boring." he said.

Drew idly nodded his agreement, but the arrival of the reinforcement contingent was a most important and greatly needed event. "True, but folks, equipment and supplies arriving does mean not only the difference between life and death for us, but our continued mission here in the Delta Quadrant."

Looking over to Catherine, who was flanked by her security detail, he nodded to the stern looking Marine Sergeant. "You look rather uncomfortable, Ambassador." he said slyly.

"I am not quite sure why I was called down, Christopher. It seems somewhat a waste of my time." She stated in haughty English tones as she saw no apparent reason for her to be called away from her file to stand idle.

Drew had been the first to read an eyes only dispatch for either himself or Christopher. Since it was him, the order included in the dispatch was to be compartmentalized to just himself until the arrival of the ships. Now that the ships had arrived, he turned to Catherine and disclosed the real reason for her presence here. "There is one high-value individual that has made the trip here to see you Lady Catherine. It was deemed necessary to not disclose his journey here to anyone."

"O, radost', i ya dumal, chto budu v bezopasnosti v Kvadrante Del'ty ot yego neodobritel'nogo vzglyada" Catherine muttered uder her breath causing her security detail to chuckle quietly. The use of Russian, a language that Lord Waddington despised told them exactly who was on the ship

Beowulf Byrnes, better known as Wulf to those who knew him well, stepped through the airlock dressed in the standard uniform. He gave a nod to the two standing together before joining the others off to one side.

Followed by three corpsmen pushing a couple of hover carts, Cara and Cate walked through the doors to the reception area and took positions out of the main flow of foot traffic but nearest to where the cargo would be unloaded.

"This is the first time I have ever taken receipt of supplies without some sort of requisition to sign in triplicate," Cate said with a chuckle.

"I know," Cara agreed. "But I am learning the art of acceptance of the fact that our situation doesn't know the meaning of control. We get what we get and hope that, at least some of it, is stuff we actually need."

"Oh please. No more tongue depressors," one of the corpsmen said, rolling his eyes. "We have two storage closets full. We could build another base with what we have."

"Now there's an idea," Cara laughed. "We could give some to the pre-school for their crafts."

Jack Devlin appeared and, followed by four security officers, took up positions at the bottom of the airlock ramp and waited for the airlock to open.


The Human/Caitian made her way off of the USS Mayflower II with a small child in her arms. Sara had fallen asleep an hour or two out from the Forward Operations Base Anchorage. Alyssa unwilling to wake the sleeping child whom can be cranky when woken slept attached to Alyssa's side snuggled close. Sara's arms were wrapped around her Mommy's shoulders while her head rested on the right side since she was on her mother's right hip.

Michael walked off the ship with his stuff sack on his back his daughter Mary's was to his left as she walked with him he held her little hand with a light grip her bag was in his right hand as he moved to the security area " Major Phoenix and Mary Ann Phoenix " he told the security detail.

Jack stepped forward and held an ocular scanner up for Phoenix to peer into. "LCDR Jack Devlin. Chief of Security. Welcome to the Rock, Major...Mrs. Phoenix. You have been assigned quarters on Deck 2 of the Marine Pod. #2300."

"Thank you” Michael said looking at Mary “Ready?" Mary nods as him she was a little shy around a group of people” And say thank you to the Commander “Michael told Mary “Thank you sir “Mary said waving her small hand at him " Michael smiled " Daddy do they have ice cream here " Mary asked as they walked off " I believe so dear"

"On the Promenade," Jack said, winking at Mary. "Best home churned in the galaxy." Then he straightened up to greet the next arrival.

"Lieutenant JG Alyssa Matthews and Sara Matthews." Alyssa said to the security detail behind Major Phoenix noticing his daughter despite her own daughter sleeping on that side of her making it difficult to see.

As with the Major, Jack held the ocular scanner up so Alyssa could peer into it. Figuring she had heard his introduction to the Major, he decided to forgo it and, instead, simply said, "Welcome to the Rock, Lieutenant. You and your daughter have been assigned quarters in Charlie Section, Deck 4, #320."

"Thank you." Alyssa said carrying her duffel and her daughter off of the ship to make her way to her quarters.

"Take Walters and set up over there," Jack told one of the security officers and handed him the ocular scanner and PADD that the ocular scan results would appear on...displaying the person's ID and quarter assignment. " and Hamby direct other personnel coming off of the other three ships to this check point." With that he headed over to where freight was being offloaded from the ships. He tapped his commbadge and said, "Devlin to Security. I need four more people down here with cargo scanners." He met one of the crew offloading a hover cart from the nearest ship and said, "Everything goes through that tunnel and into the reception area. There it will be checked." He looked back to make sure everything was going as it should then escorted the young man through to the reception area where he was met by more of his officers.


"Everything comes through you," Jack told his officers. "Scan ever container that comes in here. Medical goes over there," he pointed to where Cara and her staff were waiting, "Engineering goes over there,” he pointed to where Wulf and his engineers were standing, "Food services gets transported up to the Miss Furr, agriculture gets transported down to the Agri Pod and all weaponry gets sent directly to the armory."

Drew walked over to Jack, but endeavored to stay out of the man's way. "Seems like you have everything in hand Commander Devlin. I have some paperwork to go over in my office. If you could pass along to any officer or NCO slated for a senior staff position to pay me a visit after they get residential assignment, it would be much appreciated."

"Yes, sir," Jack replied.

Drew gave the Security Chief a nod, then moved over to where Cara was sorting things out with her Charge Nurse. He gave them both a nod and formal address. "Commander, Lieutenant."

Cara looked around. "Where's there a commander?" she asked, winking at Cate. "Oh. You," she smiled at Drew. "Referring to yourself in the third person again? I told you about doing that. The next time I'm going to have to report you to Psych for evaluation."

Drew looked at Cate. "Mind if I borrow your boss for a moment?"

"As long as you bring her back in the same condition she was in when I loaned her to you," Cate said, giving the XO the stink eye.

Drew gave a good-natured salute to Cate. "Aye aye Cap'n Cate." Drew then pulled Cara off to the side. "I know we're both going to be busy for the next few hours, but I was hoping you swing by my place after we get off. OK"

"OK," Cara said with a smile. "I'll come by as soon as I'm finished getting everything checked in."

Jack looked around and spotted the new Marine CO heading for the door of the reception area and close behind him was the new Operations' Chief. "MAJOR PHOENIX....LT. MATTHEWS! HOLD UP!" he called out and jogged over to the two families. "The XO, CDR Knight would like to see both of you in his office as soon as you are situated," he said.

Michael nods looking at Jack "Alright thank you Commander I will once I get things right" he told Jack then looked down at Mary with a smile. "Can we have bacon tonight," Mary asked him. "If you like," Michael said. "How about bacon cheeseburgers," he said to Mary. "Yea that is yummy," Mary told her father. "They are," he chuckled, nodding to Jack, before they left to settle into their new housing.

Alyssa looked to Major Phoenix then to Jack who caught up to them. "Of course, let me just get Sara settled and I'll be a long momentarily. She shifted a not so sleepy Sara on her shoulder anymore as her daughter lift her head and rubbed her eyes. "Are we there Mommy?" Sara looked around blinking sleepily.

"Yep, how about something to eat." Alyssa asked her as she continued towards the lift Sara nodding her head wanting to be let down to walk.

Lord Jacobi Waddington stepped off the ramp and onto the Rock. His posture and demeanor exuded an almost psychic and palpable air of power. He looked at the senior most officer in the immediate area and stepped up to him. "Lieutenant Commander. Immediately inform the Brigadier and Lady Catherine Waddington that Lord Jacobi Waddington has arrived and immediate audience with them."

Catherine looked at her 2 companions. "So much for peace in the DQ." She sighed.

Byrnes, hearing the haughty tone from the man, looked away before his cynical, sarcastic expression could be seen. No one was a lord out here, in situations like this. Not to mention the fact that Starfleet did not recognize titles of a personal nature. He would do his duty, but he wouldn't like it if these individuals proved themselves to be all mouth and no skills.

Here Be Dragons Command Ops
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Christopher ran out of the turbolift and down the hall into Command Ops. Hearing a shout of "General on Deck!” all of the duty team snapped to attention for a brief second before Christopher waved them off. Walking over to the center dais, he hopped the three steps and leaned on the rails. "SitRep, Go!" he commanded quickly, not even considering how silly he looked trying to assume command in physical training gear and tennis shoes.

A communications officer turned to face Christopher, pressing an earpiece into his ear. "Sir, the Zumwalt is hailing us. Commander Knight is on board leading the RRF."

Christopher nodded slightly. "Put him through." If Andrew was leading the Rapid Reaction Force, then they might have a fighting chance to defeat whatever this was. "Tactical, what's the status of our weapons?"

The Tactical Officer, a long-haired man by the name of Whitney Ford spoke up. "Emplacements 1, 2, 4, and 5 are online. Emplacements 3 and 6 are out of range. Shall I fire on the target, sir?"

Christopher held up his hand as if to tell the man to wait as Andrew's face appeared on the massive situation board in front of him.

"Anchorage Actual, this is Zumwalt Actual. We are tracking three bogeys in transit through the asteroid field. I've ordered a change of course to intercept, but our sensors indicate the bogeys are biological in nature, not mechanical. I have manned battle stations and we are weapons tight."

Christopher nodded. "Understood, Zumwalt Actual. Keep it in weapons range and try to get some scans for the science team. If it becomes hostile, fire at will."

With the Medical Facility locked down and everyone at their post, Cara decided she wanted to know what was going on so she assigned a doctor to take charge of the ER and she headed for Ops. Several minutes later she walked through the doors and stood in an out of the way spot.

Turning around as the doors slid open, Christopher was surprised to see Lieutenant Nichols walking up to the command podium. "What can I do for you, Doctor and why are you not in the medical wing?" he asked, still confused as to why she had decided to pop into Ops during what could turn into a battle situation. An alert sounded from a corner of the room and Christopher turned to address it. "What the hell was that?" he asked.

Cara was about to answer but was interrupted.

Lieutenant Ford turned around and looked at Christopher. "Sir, multiple bogeys are converging from on us. Weapons are powered and we're ready to fire!"

"Zumwalt Actual, what's the status of your target?"

Drew's image took on an incredulous expression. "'re not going to believe this."

Christopher raised his eyebrow. "Spit it out, Commander. What do you see?" he asked, leaning on the rear of his chair.

Drew shook his head. "It'll be just easier to show you."

Lieutenant Ford turned to Christopher and Cara. "Incoming telemetry images coming in from the Zumwalt. Putting it up on the viewer." Images of what could only be described as space-borne 'dragons' appeared on screen.

Cara stared at the screen in amazement. "Are those....?" she started to ask.

"Draconis Occidentalis, Doctor. Next thing you know it'll-"

Suddenly the lights went dark and they were bathed in crimson light. "Sir, we've been hit by some sort of organic plasmid discharge. Systems are shorting out all over the place. I can't keep track, sir!" Lieutenant Ford said, his fingers dancing across a now flickering console.

Turning to Cara, Christopher gave her a wry smile. "It'll start breathing fire." he looked over to the Lieutenant Ford. "Understood. Raise our shields and lock weapons. If this thing decides to do whatever it did again, fire at will. CAG, launch the alert fighters and have them maintain their distance in a delta formation. Looking over to the viewer. "Zumwalt Actual, this is Anchorage Actual. Lock your weapons on the target and have your Tactical Officer coordinate fire."

Drew was about to order his tactical officer to confirm weapons lock when he noticed the 'dragons' begin to exhibit an almost familiar type of behavior. "Check fire." He leaned forward in the Captain's chair. "Magnify and continue video link to the Rock." His eyes narrowed a bit. "Cara...Doctor Nichols. Does that look like...a form of nesting behavior?"

There were two of the creatures flying in a cris-cross pattern between the Zumwalt and one of the smaller asteroids. Their behavior reminded Cara of the way the eagles at home used to behave when protecting their nest. "Hold your fire!" she called out and stepped closer to the screen. Dragons. Although dragons were a mythological creature on Earth...and resembled reptiles...they were thought to be more birdlike in behavior. She looked at the General and said, "They are protecting their nest. Probably on that," she pointed to the small asteroid, "-asteroid. They will attack but only to defend." She looked back at the screen and said, "Dragons. Incredible."

Drew nodded in agreement to Cara's assessment. He turned to the ensign at the helm. "Reverse thrust, back us away slowly."

The ensign keyed in the command and the Zumwalt began backing off the dragons' home asteroid.

Christopher wheeled around to face Cara. "Since you know this behavior, get everyone together in the conference room. I want to hear a plan to relocate that nest." Looking over to Lieutenant Ford, he saw the man's fingers hovering above the fire buttons. "Lieutenant, set Alert Condition Yellow. Keep shields raised and bring our birds home. We don't want to agitate these things more than we already have."

"It's just simple ornithology," Cara muttered to herself.

=^=ATTENTION! Will the Chiefs of Flight Control, Science and Engineering please report to the Main Conference room ASAP. =^=

=^=Base to Zumwalt...CDR are requested to report to the Main Conference Room as soon as you have landed. =^=

Drew ordered the Zumwalt back to base and left the bridge in the flight officer hand. The ship was already on final approach when Drew stepped onto the transporter pad and beamed directly to the Rock's main conference room.

=====Main Conference Room=====

Having been thrown into the Chief Science Officer's position, LCDR t'Soros grabbed his PADD and hurried to the Main Conference Room upon hearing the station wide announcement. As he stepped out of the turbolift on Deck 2, the yellow light bars built into the walls of the corridor began to pulsate, indicating the station had gone to Yellow Alert. Memories of the last time the station he had been on going to alert status made him shudder as he headed for the conference room.

Jack Devlin had been on his way back to his office from lunch break when the station went to yellow alert. Having inherited the position of Security Chief when his boss and several other security personnel were assimilated on the "9 Double O" he had been busy trying to organize the department and implement new security protocols on the Rock. He was more than a little exhausted but at the first pulse of yellow light his adrenaline kicked in. Hearing the request to report to the conference room, he sprinted for the nearest turbolift and headed for Deck 2. Just a couple of seconds later the door slid open on Deck 2 and Jack sprinted to the conference room. "What's up?" he asked breathlessly as he rushed into the room. The he noticed that only two other people were there.

"I am at a loss for an explanation, Commander," the CSO answered.

Drew turned to Jack. "Have a seat Mister Devlin. We'll get started as soon as everyone arrives." He then walked to the replicator and ordered up a strong black coffee. "You want something?"

Jack shook his head. "No thanks. I'm good," he said. "Are we under attack Commander?" he asked as he took a seat at the table. Unlike most conference rooms, this one was inside of the asteroid so there were no windows, leaving Jack to glance at the large viewer at the front of the room...which was blank.

Drew shook his head as he took a sip of coffee. "No. Not yet anyway."

Cara was the next to arrive. She saw Drew at the replicator and smiled, relieved that he had returned safely. Even though she accepted his job and the dangers it entailed from time to time, it didn't stop her from holding her breath every time he went out. "The General is right behind me," she announced and took a seat, acknowledging the other two men with a nod.

Drew spotted Cara as she entered and returned the smile. He turned back to the replicator. "Computer, one Nichols' Special please." A beverage materialized. Drew picked it up and along with his coffee went to the conference table and handed it to her as he took a seat. "Here you go my...good doctor."

Cara looked up and smiled. "Thank you, kind sir," she said in a Southern accent. "Mint Juleps on the veranda this evening?" she asked, still using the Southern accent.

Drew affected his best effort at a Southern Drawl as he lightly took hold of Cara's hand and brushed a kiss on her knuckles. "Most definitely ma'am. Lessin' of course the Gen'ral has me on a mission fightin' in this war of Northern Aggression." He then burst out laughing, laughter which cut off as said Gen'ral entered.

Byrnes entered the command deck, gold shirt and engineer's vest on, going straight to the main console and bringing up holographic screens in his spot for engineering data. "Not something you see every day," he said, chinning to the main viewer and the dragons on it. "Kinda reminds me of Monster X from the old Godzilla films." While venting what was on his mind Wulf kept tapping keys and setting engineering. "Plasma weapons are devastating, on any level."

Christopher turned to the Engineer. "What can we do to contain this, Lieutenant? The last thing we need is to have a couple of pissed off nesting dragons flying around and disrupting space traffic. Can we possibly move the eggs? “He asked.

"I am all for saving their eggs, General." Wulf looked at his CO. "But, how do we do that? They already appear agitated, and sending in ships and personnel to secure an egg or eggs, of which we have no idea on their size, would get us all killed." Tapping his console Byrnes took control of one lateral sensor array, ready to use it if, and when, needed. "Has anyone tried to communicate with them? They obviously give off a signature that our sensors see as starships, but beyond that we know nothing about them. Crows on Earth are wicked smart, so maybe we should try and see if they are communicating with each other, find out how, and then try it ourselves."

"What about moving their asteroid?" the Acting Flight Control Chief suggested. "If we could get the Zumwalt and Hopper push it far enough away from the traffic zone. It's not that big."

Byrnes made a motion toward the flight officer, liking what he heard. "We can do that, General. However, getting the beasts to understand we're just trying to help may prove a bit difficult, especially as two starships move closer to their nest. I'm a SCUBA diver, Sir. Having swam with pods of whales and dolphins I can tell you they do communicate constantly, as I'm sure those two are doing right now. Body language is a big factor, as well as other means of communication."

Cara sat forward and looked at the CO. "Did the previous base inhabitants mention anything about sharing the belt with dragons?" she asked, still finding it hard to believe dragons actually existed. "Because...if they are anything like the dragons of Earth's folklore...they have been around for a very long time. Centuries, maybe. And if they nest like the dragons in folklore...they come back to the same place to nest each year so they have lived on that asteroid for a lot longer than we have been here. We need to figure out a way to cohabitate in this belt with them. They were here first."

Chris smirked. "You're right, they were here first but now they pose a danger to us. The moment that they begin posing a danger to shipping traffic, I'll want them wiped out. Judging by the logs that were left by the engineers, they didn't mention it but that's Starfleet for you- not enough information when you need it."

Wulf liked what he heard. Yes, the dragons posed a threat, but at what cost? Ex Astris Scientia, came to mind. 'From the stars, knowledge', the Starfleet motto. In his opinion the Prime Directive included the natural elements in the cosmos. If malevolent then, of course, it needs to be dealt with, but if it is just a creature following instinct then it needed to be looked at objectively. Nichols was right in looking for co-habitation, somehow.

Drew gave the matter some thought. He knew it could be dangerous to assume unsubstantiated theories to be facts, but..."Most of Earth's legends regarding dragons have them portrayed as intelligent life forms...even capable of verbal communication. Could it be possible to open up a line of communication?"

Lieutenant Commander William 'Bill' Nye cleared his throat at the end of the table and spoke up. "Sir, if I may, we might be able to speak to them if we can match the frequencies that they're communicating through and run them through the universal translator." Taking a gulp, he continued. "How well that'll work, I don't know but we can definitely try it."

"I may not know anything scientifically about these creatures, "Cara spoke up. "But I do know their mythology on Earth because I am sort of a geek when it comes to the mythology and folklore of Earth's Medieval and Renaissance Periods...of which dragons played a large role. I'd be glad to lend a hand in any way I can."

Byrnes nodded to himself at the surrounding conversation. "I suddenly feel really small, kinda like Bilbo when he met Smaug. Earth literature, for those who don't know," he said off-handedly, tapping keys.

"Tis the way of life in this little neck of the woods." Looking over to Byrnes and the rest of the team. "Nye, Byrnes, Doc- grab Lieutenant Matthews from the Ops Center and get down to the R&D lab. I want to see a prototype within the next three hours. Commander Knight, keep an eye on this and let me know if anything changes. Dismissed."

Christopher rose from his chair and walked towards the door, coffee cup in hand. First, there was dragons, the next thing you know they'd be seeing demonic Keebler elves running about.

"I'll give my best, Sir," stated Byrnes. "As an engineer I can say that there are many ways to communicate, so I just ask that we investigate any and all signals or energies we notice from the dragons. Last thing we need out here, isolated, is another enemy."