Starbase 72 - Minos Korva System
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Deep From The Expanse

Posted on Wed Jul 25th, 2018 @ 2:26pm by Admiral Zachary O'Connell
Edited on on Wed Jul 25th, 2018 @ 11:03pm

Mission: Alrakis Updates
Location: Starbase 72
Timeline: March 2, 2389 || 1500 hours

To say that Zachary O'Connell was enjoying the differences between his service as Task Force 9's Executive Officer and Task Force 72's Commanding Officer was nothing more than an understatement. Whereas Task Force 9 was always strapped for resources, relying on severed supply lines in the Gamma Quadrant thanks to the Consortium Crisis which unnecessarily claimed dozens of starships and thousands of lives, Task Force 72 seemed to continuously be growing, and in the strangest of ways. He hadn't expected to be working closely with Starfleet Academy, much less the oft-ignored Office of Special Investigations. He knew the Alpha Quadrant, and the galaxy at large, possessed great secrets, with only a fraction of a fraction of a single percent that were known to the occupants of the Milky Way.

But growth needed to be managed, especially in a Task Force that was known to be stretched thin. 72 contained dozens upon dozens of Task Groups, each one with a specific purpose throughout his purview. Today, in addition to formulating yet another new group, he'd also called a staff meeting of the groups operating near the Breen and Cardassian borders to obtain an assessment on the environment as a whole.

Looking around the room, Zachary took note of his own senior staff who were physically present since they operated aboard the Starbase already. Those who could not make the week-long trip were allowed to be present via the holocommunicator system, a technology that was slowly being adopted even after its development during the Dominion War. An engineer by trade, Zachary had demanded Task Force resources be put into its further development, refinement, and deployment.

Still, he looked across the table at the holographic image of the Bajor Campus' Captain Kennedy and smiled. "I apologize, Captain, for taking a few vessels out of Hermes' inventory so soon after assigning the Task Group to you," he stated, referencing his recent act of formulating the new Task Group Hecate under Commodore Tau's command.

Gareth tightly clutched the data PADD in his fingers. It contained the specifics of Hecate, including the vessels that would fall within its mandate. "Rest assured, Captain Harper, that this is in everyone's best interests." He nodded solemnly at his own words. "Given some of the unorthodox assignments, it was unlikely that any names on this list would be available for cadets."

"There's no need to apologize, Admiral O'Connell," Kennedy stated as she looked between the two men. "As Commodore Tau said, this is in everyone's best interest. I believe a new Task Group is what's best for our area of space."

"Excellent," Zachary said with a smile. "Then that certainly concludes the matter. Or it serves as a fantastic beginning, considering that this is something new that we're activating. I expect, Commodore Tau, that you'll keep us apprised as we move forward."

Gareth dipped his head. "Of course, Admiral." He spared a glance for Kennedy's holographic projection. "At least, as much as I am at liberty to do so. If nothing else, the advancements made from the discoveries within the new Task Group will be disbursed as quickly as possible." He gave a passing thought to the more classified projects, then coughed into his hand. "Where applicable, of course."

The fact that Gareth glanced in her direction didn't go unnoticed by Kennedy, nor was what he was saying. "I'm aware that there are things I don't need to know, or can't know for that matter, Commodore Tau," she said. "But, I don't think we're here to discuss my clearance levels, are we?"

"No," the commodore conceded. "Given your strategic location and the professional relationships you've fostered among the lion's share of the commanding officers within our Task Force, it seemed prudent to read you into these changes before they take effect. Changing a ship's heading is far easier said and done than changing your Academy's curricula and cadet cruises." He gave a satisfied smile as if he had just said something clever.

Zachary shifted in his chair, wondering if the perceived animosity between members of his staff was creating some unwarranted tension in the room. His fresh Admiral pips that rested on his collar nudged him to cut this off before anything more could develop, otherwise his future would be even more frustrating.

Clearing his throat in a measure to distract both of them from their exchanges, Zachary leaned forward. "With the housekeeping out of the way, let's move along. Now, I'm sure you've all noticed that despite all of our growth, we continue to be stretched thin. Tensions between Breen and Cardassia are still tense, or so the latest sensor logs from Deep Space 12 indicate. Cardassia won't step over the DMZ into our space, but I'd make sure we keep a lookout on the border. Who knows what the Ferengi, Orions, or other mercenaries might try to get away with. Captain Harper, with you being on Bajor so close to Cardassian space and the Gavarian Corridor, make sure you keep a vigilant eye out. Undoubtedly, your cadets will either cower or do something brash should danger come knocking. And Commodore Tau, we'll need to take extra care that what needs to be kept secret stays secret."

Gareth nodded in agreement, though his mind nonetheless focused on the opportunity. "That should not be difficult. As many irons as there are in the fire, at least they are small and therefore manageable." He cracked a smile, which nearly cracked his face. "We should count ourselves blessed that we find ourselves in a time of relative peace without a unified threat knocking on our door; otherwise we would be unable to focus on research and exploration."

"Understood, Admiral. You and Commodore Tau will be notified immediately if anything comes up," Kennedy stated, choosing to ignore the mention of secrets. After all, they really weren't here to discuss clearance levels. "As for my cadets, I imagine there will be a mix of both. How they handle themselves in the face of danger will give a little insight into what kind of officers they might be." She paused momentarily before continuing. "We have random red alert drills, and all cadets have been instructed on where to go and what to do. Campus staff, as well as our instructors, are also versed. Not to mention our defenses have been fully tested in the event of trouble. We are prepared should things take a turn."

Zachary nodded his approval. "Commodore Espersen?"

The dutchman in charge of the Task Force's operations leaned forward. "Commander Del Carlo and I wholly agree that the boom of new assets for Seventy-Two have been quite useful. If only we'd known that the Office of Special Investigations would have been involved we could have better adjusted the distribution among the Task Force."

"But you've accounted for that in the present deployment, yes?" Admiral O'Connell inquired.

Commander Del Carlo, the Strategic Operations Chief nodded. "Yes, sir. However, this has only aggravated our current situation. We are vastly short on both material and personnel. Most of the Task Force is understaffed. Hopefully, Starfleet Command, and eventually our campus on Bajor, will rectify that soon."

"We still have people arriving daily," Kennedy stated. "If there's any way that we might be able to help in the meantime, though, just let me know."

Gareth smiled admirably at Del Carlo. It was not so many years ago that he himself had been saddled with the responsibility of Strat Ops. Though he knew better than to completely disregard the Commander's advice, Gareth nonetheless accepted the report in stride.

"Task Force 72 is sitting rather well, and in no small part due to your tireless efforts, Commander. Captain Harper will have our ranks replenished before you know it."

Kennedy cast a glance in Gareth's direction, then looked back to Del Carlo. "Of course, I can have them replenished now if you don't mind personnel who have no clue what they're doing. Everyone can use a few gopher's, I suppose."

Zachary opened his mouth to comment when the doors to the room parted, allowing his yeoman, Petty Officer Tanika, to enter. It was not unusual for her to come and go from these meetings as she often had to carry out several tasks for him as the need arose. Normally, she tried to be as invisible as possible.

This was not one of those times. She quickly approached the Admiral and whispered a short statement in his ear. "Put it on," he told her, gesturing to the viewscreen opposite his position at the desk.

Tanika complied, and immediately the room was able to see a Bolian field reporter from the Federation News Service on a live broadcast.

"Ninety one days after the coup d'├ętat led by now-Autarch Larquenten Rej Tov-AA of the Tzenkethi Empire, the hostages from the captured Federation Embassy are finally coming home, according to a statement made by the Autarch just a few short minutes ago."

The screen changed to an pre-recorded video of Autarch Larquenten standing with a Breen Thot and a Talarian Captain to either side of him. "We will no longer tolerate Federation interference in the Inconnu Expanse," declared the Autarch. "Too long has the Federation meddled in our states, and in our space. Today, we say to the Federation, no more! Stick to your borders and cease your interference. We lay claim to the Inconnu Expanse.

"All persons, diplomats, and every Starfleet asset we have in our possession will be returned. Those not in our possession, but found in violation of our territory will be dealt with. As a measure of good faith, you have three months to vacate."

The screen abruptly went black, leaving a new logo with the words "Alrakis Pact" behind. Another voice came over the screen's speakers again, that of the Bolian reporter, but the Admiral immediately placed the feed on mute.

"Del Carlo..." Gareth gave into his astonishment, making him the first to speak. The usual reserved demeanor he maintained slipped away as he dropped his usual sense of formality. "What was that? Do you have anything on this development -- this 'Alrakis Pact'?"

Dumbfounded, the Strategic Operations Director simply shook her head. "It doesn't make sense," she said softly. "The Tzenkethi and Talarians are isolationists. And so were the Breen until the Dominion War."

"The question now is... what do we do?" Captain Harper asked.

Zachary remained in his chair, hands steepled in front of him as his mind processed the last few moments. Echoes of his time in the Gamma Quadrant flashed in his mind ranging from the startling appearance of the Consortium to the fight for survival that ensued. To say that the ordeal had changed the now-four-star admiral would be an understatement.

Finally, the Task Force Commanding Officer spoke. "We leave the diplomacy to the diplomats." Lowering his hands, he looked at the staff, both physical and artificial, that filled the room. "In the meantime, until we receive orders from Starfleet Command or the Federation Council, we try to find out everything we can about this pact."

Gareth was already accessing and listing their assets on two separate PADDs. "It would not do well for us to panic, but neither ought we to do nothing. If we reroute a few patrols through the Inconnu Expanse, we'll be able to cover a bit more ground there." He looked down as he talked, fully engrossed in his plotting. "We could requisition Command to boost our starship numbers as well and have them substitute for those rerouted patrols taken from other sectors. That way our subtle call for reinforcements won't be nearly as public as the Autarch's announcement."

With a tap on both PADDs, he transmitted his data to the rest of the staff, and looked expectantly at Zachary, Kennedy, and Del Carlo.

The Admiral nodded his confirmation. "Del Carlo, make sure we get those diplomats to safety. Send the closest starships to do it. And no one's talking about panicking. If anything, I want information. How'd they form in secret? Is this an act of war, or just a veiled threat? Why would the Breen, Tzenkethi and Talarians band together?"

Among Zachary's important questions was whether or not the Breen would make a play against the Cardassians. The Federation already had enough conflicts on the other side of the galaxy with the Gorn, Klingons and Romulans. Zachary would have to do everything possible to not be dragged into a conflict between the Cardassians and the Breen, no matter how terrible it would be for war to be waged on his doorstep.

Kennedy listened as the others spoke. Because she was stationary, there wasn't much she'd be able to do to help prevent any conflict, but that didn't mean she couldn't do anything. "Admiral, would you like me to see if I can find anything out? I can't promise an abundance of information, but perhaps I might be able to find out some of the answers to those questions."

"Anything would be helpful," Zachary replied. "Be careful that you don't put yourself too far out there. After all, it wouldn't look good to lose an Academy Commandant this early in the first year."

"I assure you I won't be going anywhere," she said. "But, I will be careful nonetheless."

Gareth nodded in solidarity, then looked back to Zachary. "Sounds like we all have some work to do."

"Indeed we do," the Admiral confirmed. Looking around him at the faces in the room, he was surprised everyone was standing still. "What are you waiting for?" he asked. "Let's get information, and get it fast. Dismissed."


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