Starbase 72 - Minos Korva System
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The Story of Time

Posted on Mon May 28th, 2018 @ 7:00pm by Admiral Zachary O'Connell
Edited on on Mon May 28th, 2018 @ 7:11pm

Mission: Task Force Operations
Location: Operations Centre
Timeline: March 23rd, 2389

EJ looked at her pocket watch, a gift from her mother when she had joined the Department of Temporal Investigations. She had arrived a few moments earlier, and hoped that everything had been arranged for the meeting.

Putting the watch away, she stepped out of the turbolift, and entered the Operations Centre of the Starbase. She had never visited Starbase 72, but she had heard of the man she was going to meet.

As she looked at the area, a Security Officer approached her. "I'm sorry ma'am, but this is a restricted area." The officer said. Erica removed her identity from her pocket, and put on her most professional look.

"I'm Agent Matthews, Department of Temporal Investigations. I need to speak with Vice Admiral Zachary O'Connell immediately." EJ said formally. The officer looked at the badge, and nodded, before tapping his comm. badge.

"Williamson to O'Connell. Sir, there's an Agent from the DTI here wanting to see you." He said.

Attached to the Operations Centre was Commodore Chai's office, the Betazoid commander of the station, which served as the setting for a quick chat between the station's commander and the human responsible for running the Task Force. They had just reached the end of their conversation when the Commodore's yeoman buzzed the office.

"DTI?" asked the Commodore. "What are they doing all the way out here?"

Zachary could only shrug. The benefit of being a TFCO gave him quite a bit of plausible denability, especially since it seemed the Alpha Quadrant as a whole was becoming a stranger place to live in. "I'll be right out," he called back over the comm. "I guess I'll find out. Let me know when you get to the bottom of that, will you?"

The Commodore nodded as Zach left the room and returned to the Operations Centre. It didn't take much for Zachary to find the person looking for him. "Agent Matthews?" Admiral O'Connell asked the standing individual, taking note of the woman standing in front of Williamson's desk.

"I'm Agent Matthews, yes." EJ replied, looking at the man. She had read his file on her journey to the Starbase. He had been the most likely candidate to help her.

"I'm here to speak to you about an...urgent matter." She said. "A matter involving a grave risk to the Time Line, and to the Federation. Can you secure the room and sweep for bugs?" She asked.

Zach raised an eyebrow at the woman. He was rarely surprised anymore, yet this Task Force seemed to outdo his expectations at every turn. "I might command the Task Force, but I don't run the station. There's secured rooms down below. Care to give that a shot?" Zachary gestured towards the turbolift that could take them to the TF Command section of the base.

"That will work." EJ replied, walking to the turbolift. "I appreciate you speaking with me at such short notice." She added, her heart pounding. She knew that what she was about to do would take her past the point of no return.

"Of course," Zachary said, entering the turbolift and pressing a button that would take them directly to his office complex. "Such is the life of commanding a task force. Endless meetings and briefings."

"I can only imagine." EJ replied, with a small smile. "I don't think I'll ever find that out for myself, but then, I'm more of a field agent gal."

Zachary only grunted, then remained silent for the rest of the turbolift ride. A few moments later, he brushed past his yeoman, Petty Officer Tanika, and entered his office. "All right, Agent Matthews," he said, walking to his side of the desk. "To what do I owe the Department of Temporal Investigations?"

EJ took a small device from her pocket and placed it on the table. Activating it, a red light came on. "I'm sorry Admiral, but this is classified beyond top secret. In fact, only a few people outside of the DTI are going to know about the full details of this meeting." EJ said.

She took out another device, a holo imager, and placed it on the desk, showing the wreckage of an unknown class of ship. "Two weeks ago, I was on an assignment and came across a crashed vessel. It turned out to be a Time Ship from the future. There was one survivor, who, before he died, warned me about a group from the future called the Circle of Eternity." She said.

"This group has taken possession of a number of Temporal Displacement Engines. We know ships from the future use them to patrol the timeline. However, they were able to begin their activities without the knowledge of Starfleet or the Federation. They made a mistake, however, and a timeship was sent to investigate an unusual reading. As they powered their drive, however, they were attacked, and pulled into the time stream. They crashed in our time, 2389, with all but the survivor dying." EJ said. "With me so far?"

The admiral was no stranger to secrecy. After all, there were many things in the Alpha Quadrant that he knew of that he couldn't tell just the average soul, much less his wife. When the holographic image of the unknown ship appeared, he leaned forward in his chair to examine the craft. His long-dormant engineering mind had difficulty rationalizing the design, but then again, this was something that was supposedly from the future.

"So far," Zachary confirmed, attempting to wrap his mind around it all. "Future conflict winding up on our doorstep and only one witness and testimony. I don't suppose there's any way to corroborate his claims."

"There's something which some might consider circumstantial, but at the DTI, we consider it evidence." EJ replied. "Whilst I was on the Time Ship, a aberration occurred in our time. When the Time Ship was detected, I was sent to investigate, with the proper orders. When I returned, my mission hadn't existed. Somehow, someone made a slight change to the timeline to remove all trace of my mission to find the time ship. We believe it was done to prevent my finding it, and thus to rectify the mistake made by the Circle. Were I not on the ship, protected by the temporal shields, I would have been affected. Because of this, the DTI stepped up security around the ship." EJ explained.

She took a breath. "As it stands, the DTI has accepted this threat to be very real. I understand it is a lot to take in, but I've come to you because we need your help, Admiral."

Zachary frowned, not liking at all where this was headed. "My help?" he asked. "The DTI's resources are vast. What is it Task Force 72 can provide that Temporal Investigations can not?"

"I put forward a proposal to the Department, to ensure that the Circle is stopped. After some deliberation, they agreed to the suggestion. We intend to use the Temporal Displacement Drive from the crashed vessel, as well as a Temporal Map which was also on the vessel, and return to the past, to stop the Circle of Eternity before they can change the timeline and do irreparable harm to the time stream." EJ said. She handed a PADD over to him. "That contains the official request of the Department's Council. You have something we do not." She said.

"We understand that recently, you personally were given a number of vessels, most off of the assembly line, for use within your task force. Unfortunately, the Time Ship itself won't fly again. But we believe we can install the drive and map onto one of your ships, perhaps the Intrepid class, Defiant Class or Diligent Class. But the request would place a DTI agent in command of the vessel." She said.

She knew this was going to be the hard part; convincing the Admiral to agree to give up a ship to the DTI.

Not even years of poker training could have kept Zachary's eyebrows from arching at the request. Somehow, though, he kept himself from shouting questions or other obscenities. They weren't just asking for any ship, but something that could defend itself in a rough spot, or cause some sort of other imbalance in different points in time.

"You do realize that if DTI starts wandering the galaxy, much less the space-time continuum, there'll be a lot of questions," Zachary pointed out. "Questions I wouldn't enjoy answering. Defiants I just can't let wander off the lot. Both the Intrepid and Diligent classes take quite a bit of crew. You can't tell me that DTI agents are fully qualified and rated for such vessels, much less have enough personnel to properly staff the ship. Why can't you use a Danube or a Delta Flyer?"

EJ had expected that question. It was one of the few she had prepared for. "Questions, there may be. But we train specifically to prevent any disruptions to the time line. We took an oath to do what needed to be done to stop people like the Circle." She said. "We do have a number of trained agents, and as for staff...well, we can always outfit the vessel with holographic emitters, to assist in maintaining a vessel." She said.

EJ remembered her conversation with the DTI council before she had left to meet with O'Connell. They told her they wanted only DTI agents if possible, but they had also said that getting a ship was the top priority. She had the authority to negotiate, but it was a DTI mission. So she knew she had to play this carefully.

"As for the ship, there are a number of reasons why we need a ship, and not a runabout. The first is a matter of practicality. The power requirements for the Temporal Displacement Drive and the Temporal Map are more than what a Danube or Delta Flyer can provide. We need the power of a fully functional warp core. Runabouts don't provide that." EJ said.

"Then there is the matter of scanning and apprehension. When we confront the Circle, we need to be able to restrain any prisoner, as well as collect any materials that do not belong in whatever time period we might find ourselves in. There is no chance a runabout will be able to do all of that." She explained. She handed a PADD over. "That's our assessment of the power requirements for the Drive and Map." She added.

How many padds was she hiding in that uniform of hers? While Zachary had still ignored the first one, he felt obligated to give this device a quick look. That glance turned into a twenty-second skim, just enough to give his engineering mind enough bearing on the situation.

"This definitely rules out a Defiant," he muttered, knowing that this would cause quite a strain on the power system. "And certainly any runabout craft." He set the padd on his desk with a light clatter. "Still, I can't just let you have a ship. I might be the commanding officer of a task force, but there are plenty of people around me to keep me accountable." He first thought of his Italian Chief of Strategic Operations who kept track of everything, including the fuel consumption of their shuttlecraft. "If you want a Starfleet vessel, it will have to remain a Starfleet vessel through and through."

"With all due respect, Admiral, Starfleet doesn't have the training to lead a mission like this. I know the training Starfleet gets, I went through the Academy before I was recruited by the DTI." EJ said. "And I don't say that to try and belittle Starfleet, but the timeline is a very delicate thing. One mistake, and we could be facing a disaster of catastrophic proportions." She added.

"And with equal respect, Agent Matthews," Zachary fired back with a firm tone, "civilians and untrained government agents just can't run amok with state-of-the-art Starfleet technology." Zach was no expert on judging age by appearance, but the fact that she was standing in front of him indicated that there was quite a distance between her now and her Academy years.

"Admiral, we're DTI Agents. We don't 'run amok' in any situation. We're highly trained. Two years of training by the DTI Council, and years of training with a Lead Agent. We're selected for assignments very carefully. In order to bring a Starfleet Officer up to speed, we'd need at least two years of training." EJ replied. She thought for a moment. "But we'll agree to have Starfleet Officers aboard the ship, to help run it. Will that make a difference?" She asked.

Zachary fired his retort, "It'll make more than a difference. I don't doubt your ability to operate your timey... wimey devices. But you're also talking antimatter, warp cores, phasers, quantum warheads... technology that I'm sure DTI doesn't regularly touch. Starfleet personnel, however, they're starship experts. If you get caught with your pants down somewhere, you're going to need seasoned engineers and tacticians to get you out of it."

EJ nodded; she couldn't argue with that logic. She had the greatest faith in DTI agents, but Starfleet personnel...they knew what they were doing, and it would make things a lot easier. "Fair enough. But a DTI agent will need to command the mission. Our experience with...timey wimey...devices, as you call them, are extensive. I spent a year of my training studying time travelling methods and devices." She said. She removed an isolinear chip from her pocket.

"In terms of the Commanding Officer of the ship, there are a number of DTI agents ready to be assigned. DTI has listed them by experience. Whilst none of them have Starfleet training, they are good at their jobs." She said.

Who was this woman, Mary Poppins? he asked himself, carefully taking the isolinear chip. Two padds and an isolinear chip. What was next? A set of self-sealing stem bolts? He inserted the chip into a slot on his desk and pressed a button. Instantly, a list of names, a short list, appeared on the screen in front of him, but it was angled in a position that she couldn't see.

Zachary grunted as a smirk commanded his face. "Have you, by chance Agent Matthews, seen this list before?"

"I have not, Admiral." EJ replied. "I was given the list to present to you, and told that they were the best candidates that were available. However, the DTI Council have authorised me to come to an arrangement with you for the mission to be approved, including to approve your selection of Commanding Officer." She said.

She had requested permission to be on the mission, which had been approved. But she knew she was too junior to be selected as the mission commander.

With another grunt, the Admiral swung the screen around. With all of the stunts she pulled so far, it was nice to know there was a bit of humanity in her after all. "Your name is at the top of the list, Agent Matthews. And if I'm going to hand over a Starfleet vessel, you can sure as hell bet that I'm not handing it over to a person I haven't met."

EJ's eyes widened as she looked at the list. "My name? I..." She stopped. It was one of the few times since becoming a DTI agent that she had been left speechless. She had been told her request to join the mission was approved, but she assumed it would be T'Kar, her mentor, who led the team.

She quickly composed herself, and faced the Admiral. "I...I'm sorry Admiral, I hadn't expected that." She admitted.

"I wholly understand your argument for this being a DTI mission and needing to be overseen and run by an agent," Zachary said, leaning forward and clasping both hands together before placing them on the desk. "However, the ship is and will remain Starfleet. You will need to have a high percentage of crew be Starfleet, including the Executive Officer. The XO and myself will need to be aware of all mission plans, and I mean all."

EJ knew that would end up being a part of any agreement made. In fact, she had prepared for it. After all, Starfleet didn't go out handing Starships to people like they were lollipops. "Your terms are acceptable, Admiral." EJ said. She had wanted an agent to be an XO, but at the same time, it would be a benefit to ensure the ship operations were run smoothly.

"I'm not finished," Zachary stated, taking another moment to size up the woman before him. "Again, I answer to higher authorities, and I would be ushered to the brig if I ever had to explain why the DTI had an agent is in command of a starship. You want to do this, then you do so as a Starfleet officer. You don't want to do this... then good luck finding another Task Force to take on this project." He had a feeling that Agent Matthews didn't really have the time to figure out an alternative.

At that statement, EJ felt herself going speechless again. She had gone through the academy, sure, but she had long since closed the door on her Starfleet Career. She remembered when the DTI had approached her after she had graduated from Starfleet Academy. She had been told that her theories on temporal engineering had been very insightful, and the DTI wanted her to join them as an agent.

She had been a little reluctant at first, but T'Kar had been the one to recruit her, and he always knew how to put his point across logically. He was an expert in that, and she had learned so much from him.

But this...the tone of the Admiral told her it was a deal breaker. She didn't want to give up her agent status, but the mission...it had to come first. And O'Connell was right about one thing; if he rejected her, then so would every other Task Force. O'Connell had been selected because not only did he have the ships being assigned to his command, but he was the most likely to agree to the mission, the one who would accept the truth of what they were facing.

So with one nod, and five words, EJ's life took on a whole new path for her, one that she hadn't expected, and yet...she found herself welcoming it as well.

"I accept your terms, Admiral." EJ said. The danger to the timeline meant she had no other choice, and the DTI council would agree with her.

Zachary couldn't color himself surprised by this point. He'd laid out several requirements for this to work, even when he had every right to deny the request at every turn. The DTI had no power at all to just take a starship out of drydock since they weren't Starfleet. Hell, if anyone found out he was doing this, it would likely cost him a lot, especially with whatever was happening in the Expanse that he should be focusing on.

"Then, effective immediately, Agent Matthews, you are receiving a battlefield commission for the rank of Commander," the Admiral ordered, spinning his terminal back around and beginning to enter some information into it. Then, taking a look at what could be spared, he said, "You'll be assuming command of a Diligent class starship which will be docking in an hour for commissioning. I'll have my part ready by then. See that you are in the proper uniform by that point."

EJ nodded. "Understood, sir." EJ said. She took a breath, grateful that the Admiral had agreed to the mission. She would raise eyebrows at being a Commander, to be sure, but this...she had to admit, the words 'Assuming Command' had a nice ring to them. She remembered her first day at Starfleet Academy, where everyone had been talking about being a Captain. Some wanted to be like Kirk. Others like Janeway, Picard, Sisko, Archer, Sulu, Asimov...all of them big names who had made an impact on history.

Would her name be remembered like those who came before her? She didn't know, but for a brief moment, she felt like that cadet again, with the future ahead of her. But this time, it was the past that was ahead of her.

Zachary looked back to his monitor. "Dismissed, Commander. I'll see you at Docking Port 12A in an hour." He personally had much to do before then, especially sell this idea, in simple form, to his Chief of Operations. Viggo was not going to like this.

*****

The hour had passed quickly for EJ, and now she stood at the dock, wearing a brand new Starfleet uniform, Command Red. She had three pins attached to the neck, which felt...a little heavy, given the responsibilities that came with them.

She had briefed the DTI in the hour since her meeting with the Admiral, and they had made a note of everything, approving her acceptance of both the mission and the commission. T'Kar had told her he knew she would do great things. She only hoped she would live up to those standards.

Zachary soon arrived, with Commodore Espersen and Petty Officer Tanika in tow. Espersen, the man in charge of Task Force Operations was not thrilled that a ship had been plucked from his resources and assigned to a set of private missions, nor was he aware of the full nature of those missions. Despite his flag rank, it still wasn't enough to force the Admiral to reveal the true nature of things here.

"Commander," Zachary greeted, hoping she'd note enough of a non-informed presence that she'd then know that this was strictly a Starfleet formality for this point. "Ready for the commissioning ceremony and your first command?"

EJ nodded, feeling the restrictiveness of the uniform as she stood at attention. "I am ready, Admiral," EJ said, the title of Commander still feeling new. She didn't know who else was with the Admiral, but since she hadn't briefed either of them, she suspected the Admiral hadn't either.

"Right this way then," Zachary said, leading the group through the portal and into the docking atrium where a small group of officers and enlisted waited in front of a podium. A nearby bosun placed a whistle on his lips and blew, calling everyone to attention.

EJ looked at the gathered crew, and felt her nerves rising again. But she remembered what T'Kar had taught her, and took a few breaths, steadying herself. This was it. Her path, her new mission. Her...she didn't want to say destiny, but 18 year old EJ would have. She allowed herself a small smile, before standing near the podium, waiting for the Admiral.

Vice Admiral O'Connell stepped up to a podium with a padd handed to him by his yeoman. "On this day, the twenty-third of March in the year 2389, on behalf of Starfleet Command, and the United Federation of Planets, it gives me great pleasure to receive this Diligent Class starship with hull number NCC-92166 into Task Force Seventy-Two. This vessel shall be entered into Starfleet's registry database as the USS H.G. Wells in honor of a pioneer of classic human science fiction and literature. May this starship give honor to Mr. Wells and demonstrate its ability to upload his ideals through interstellar travel, boldly going where no man has gone before."

With that, he picked up his padd and stood aside for Commander Matthews to read her orders which would install her as the ship's first commanding officer.

EJ stepped up to the podium, seeing the PADD on the podium, and took a breath. "To Commander Erica Jane Matthews. You are hereby requested, and required, to take command of USS H.G. Wells, as of this date. Signed Vice Admiral Zachary O'Connell, Task Force 72, Starfleet Command." She read out. She looked at the crew, who were now focused on her. "It is my honor to take command of this ship. I may not have been able to serve with you before, but I look forward to serving with all of you." She said.

Instantly, the bosun sounded his whistle, confirming the orders given by the Admiral and the Commander. As the crew filed out, Zachary approached Commander Matthews and held out a hand for shaking. "Good luck, Commander. Just don't screw the pooch."

Accepting the hand, EJ nodded. "I won't let you down, Admiral. And thank you." She said. She felt...more empowered than she had ever done before. It was official. She was now a Starship Commander, and now began the real work. "Our first stop is Utopia Planetia, to get everything fitted. I've spoken to the DTI council, and as per the agreement, I'll keep you apprised of everything. I appreciate your confidence in me, sir." She said.

Zachary still wasn't sure about this, but he certainly couldn't let Commodore Espersen know that. "See that you do, Commander. I know you have much to do. Permission for my team and myself to disembark?"

"Permission granted, Admiral." EJ said. She watched as the last of the group left the docking area, and checked her uniform. Closing her eyes for a moment, she took another breath, and left the room.

Making her way to the bridge, she saw the acting bridge crew in place, and made her way to the centre seat. It looked so...big. But as she turned and sat down, it felt...like she was meant to be there. She belonged there, in the centre seat.

"Have our guests departed?" EJ asked the Ops officer.

"They have, ma'am. We're ready to go." The officer replied.

"Open a channel to Starbase Operations," She ordered. The officer nodded, and EJ stood up. "Ops, this is A...Commander Matthews, USS H.G Wells, requesting permission to depart." She said.

=/\=Acknowledged H.G Wells. You are clear to depart Spacedock. Good journey.=/\= Came the reply.

"Thank you Ops." EJ said. "H.G Wells out." She added. "Ops, clear all moorings, running lights on." She ordered. She had taken a ship out of dock before, in simulations, during her time at the academy. Thankfully, everything was coming back to her.

"Moorings cleared. We're now running on our own power." Selok, the Ops Officer, stated. On the outside of the ship, lights began to come on, showing the name of the ship and the Starfleet logo, in several locations. She could hear the background chatter with the engineers, discussing the intercoolers, dilithium crystals and air equilisation. She knew it well; she was an engineer by training and nature.

"Helm, aft thrusters." She ordered.

"Aft thrusters, aye." Came the reply. EJ watched the viewscreen as the ship moved towards the large doors, which had just opened. She felt the excitement she felt as a cadet as the ship flew through the doors and out into open space.

"Full impulse until we're clear of Spacedock, then set a course for Utopia Planetia, maximum warp." She ordered.

"Course and speed laid in." The helm officer said. EJ sat down in her chair again, and smiled. "We have cleared Spacedock. Ready for warp on your order."

EJ nodded, and gave the order. "Engage."

The H.G Wells moved forward and shot into warp speed. EJ smiled; despite the dire nature of the mission, she couldn't help but feel...prepared.

She had a new future ahead of her...or rather, she had a future to protect, by saving the past, and making history in the present.

Because now everything had changed. Time would hold a new meaning.

And the future would never be the same again.

 

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