October 11th through December 10th
Lunch at Vandorin’s
Captain Bancroft ran his hands along the immaculately pressed table cloth, looking for something to smooth down or find fault with but he was disappointed. He’d never eaten at Vandorin’s Bistro before, though he had been stood up there once by the captain of the Apollo. It was the most prestigious, exclusive, and excellent restaurant on Starbase Bravo, the place to see and be seen as you ate five-star cuisine amid the backdrop of a real (i.e. organic) string quartet, paired with wines and spirits brought in from all across the Federation. Therefore, it was a strange choice for a business lunch. Vice Admiral Seagraves had asked him to join her there, and that had him nervous. Very nervous. She was not quite so machiavellian as her counterpart at fleet intelligence was, but she was definitely not the sort of woman who took her chief of staff out to lunch. It seemed like the sort of thing one might do if one wanted to let someone go without danger of a scene, given that it was a public setting.
“Admiral,” Bancroft said, hurrying to his feet when the maitre d’ led her over to the table.
“Please, please,” Seagraves said, gesturing for Bancroft to sit back down. “Would you mind grabbing us a bottle of the ’75 Château Picard?” she asked before the host left them.
Quite the extravagance for lunchtime. Bancroft took the napkin from his place setting and placed it over his lap; having worked for the majority of his career either in fleet command or strategic operations roles, he was quite accustomed to formal settings like the one he found himself in, but as he looked over the table, he wasn’t quite sure what to say to her.
“Thank you for inviting me, Admiral.”
“Of course. It’s not often that we have a little bit of a lull in our office,” Seagraves replied. “When’s the last time you had a vacation, Marcus?”
Bancroft’s jaw dropped. “I assure you, Admiral, I’m quite capable of completing our next set of operations. Have I done something wrong?”
The admiral chuckled. “Did you think I brought you here to break up with you?” she quipped. “I’m quite happy with your work, and I think you know that I wouldn’t keep it a secret if I weren’t. Answer the question.”
“About three years ago, I had a few weeks off,” the captain replied, now feeling even more uncomfortable that he’d been wrong.
Before he could continue, a Betazoid woman stepped up to the table. In her early 60s, she was easily recognizable as Esterra Vandorin herself, proprietress of Vandorin’s Bistro and the center of social life on both Starbase Bravo and the planet below. Apparently in the mood to play sommelier, she showed the admiral the label of the wine bottle she was carrying, before uncorking it. A waiter brought over a decanter a second later, in a perfectly choreographed ballet, before Vandorin began to transfer the contents of the bottle to the other vessel.
“Shorthanded this afternoon, Esterra?” Seagraves asked.
Vandorin let out a quiet, melodious laugh. “Hardly. I was just curious to see what brought a newly-promoted flag officer to my humble establishment for lunch and a fine bottle of wine.”
“A little well-earned respite for myself and Captain Bancroft, here,” Seagraves replied. “Now that we’ve cleared up that I’m not firing him, maybe he’ll relax,” she added, giving Bancroft a glance that made him about ten times more anxious.
“Your first time eating here, isn’t it, Captain?” Vandorin asked.
Bancroft was quite sure that she already knew the answer to that. A woman like Esterra Vandorin likely kept pretty detailed records on who ate in her establishment when and with whom.
“Indeed, it is. Not for lack of trying, certainly,” Bancroft replied.
“The price of success, Captain,” Vandorin said, laughing again. “Please don’t hesitate to ask if there’s anything I can do for you. Your waiter will be around shortly. I’d recommend the souffle today, so save room for dessert!”
Once her glass was filled, Seagraves took a long drink. “I think this would be a good opportunity for you to take some time off, Captain. Visit Earth. Or Risa. I can handle myself now that we’re done with this latest crisis,” she said, looking straight at him.
Bancroft’s lips quirked. “Between crises, I think,” he corrected.
“You’ve got me there. Still, you and the rest of this fleet need to take some time to yourself, after a long year. Osiris. The Romulans. The Klingons. The interstellar weather crisis,” she replied, ticking the various actions and priorities they’d had to deal with in 2399. “The Fleet Admiral’s orders were quite clear: we need to rebuild, take stock, and mend fences. I intend to start that in my own office.”
“I… Very well. Maybe a vacation would be nice,” Bancroft conceded.
Seagraves held her wrist up and tapped a few commands into a floating holographic display projected from the bracelet she wore. It sent a signal to the matching one on Bancroft’s arm.
“I just sent this order to all assets: it’s time to do a little homesteading.”
To: All Fourth Fleet Commands
From: VADM Aubrey Seagraves, Director of Fourth Fleet Operations
SUBJ: Operation Homestead
Until further notice, all Fourth Fleet assets are directed to immediately commence appropriate actions to benefit general fleet morale, relations with allies, and scientific priorities, as per the earlier communique from Fleet Command. Where appropriate, this should include repair, resupply, rest, and recuperation at Fourth Fleet starbases and space stations.
Local priorities including engineering and medical support, scientific surveys, and other bread-and-butter exploratory functions have been re-tasked from the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd fleets. You’ve done well, Fourth Fleet. Focus on the home front for a while.
What’s an Operation?
An operation is a coordinated effort led by the Operations Office during which Task Forces prepare competitions fitting a unified theme over the course of several individual event weeks, to bridge between the stories of Fleet Actions and Campaigns. These are lower-intensity events, designed to make sure that there are consistent opportunities for people to enter in competitions. They are also opportunities to provide guided ways for members to interact directly with the canon that surrounds their home task force, both in their fiction and in world-building challenges. Unlike a Fleet Action, task forces are not in competition with one another, and unlike a Campaign, there are no regular lore updates with story beats, as it is intended to be free-form and at the members’ discretion. Also unlike a Fleet Action, members are not prohibited from proposing their own unrelated competitions during this time, and, indeed, Task Force staff are encouraged to seek out members of their TFs willing to put on competitions.
OOC Premise of Operation Homestead
Campaigns and Fleet Actions require a substantial amount of world-building, and they really get our members rolling on their word counts. They’re intensive, exciting events that bring the whole fleet together for one purpose. Between those events, though, we want to provide structure and support for story telling without that same pressure. The purpose of this operation is to provide a number of opportunities that reward building canon in your own task force’s backyard and at Starbase Bravo: we’ll be working to flesh out headquarters stations (and the flotilla in the case of TF17). The overall theme of this operation will be used by all four Task Forces who will be putting on event weeks spread throughout the operation, which will take us to the beginning of December.
IC Premise of Operation Homestead
Per Fleet Admiral Ramar’s instructions, Vice Admiral Seagraves has sent off a raft of instructions to all four Task Forces, with instructions to rebuild the Federation’s good name after the Omega crisis and to make special efforts to see to crew morale: dealing with Omega right after dealing with the Klingons is not something that a fleet of explorers can do without suffering at least some fatigue. As such, duty orders have been relaxed to allow for shore leave and lower-intensity diplomatic and humanitarian efforts for the Fourth Fleet, while local sector forces take up the slack in defensive roles, as the Fourth Fleet looks towards its next big exploratory push in the year 2400.
The operations office will host and grade several ongoing competitions during the operation, all centered around getting members to use our canon and help develop it at the same time. Part of this will include a fiction competition, but the new thing we’ll be trying for this operation is a way of rewarding the creation of people and places for either Starbase Bravo or your Task Force headquarters (like Vandorin’s Bistro above). Details on these opportunities will be released on the 11th.
Task Force Event Weeks
As we did last Fall and also in the Spring (before and after the Archanis Campaign), Task Forces will once again be putting on event weeks. They run from Monday to Monday and will have at least five events. Each TF will release the details of their competitions closer to the start dates.
Task Force 17: October 11th 0000 GMT – October 18th 0000 GMT
Task Force 72: October 25th 0000 GMT – November 1st 0000 GMT
Task Force 86: November 8th 0000 GMT – November 15th 0000 GMT
Task Force 93: November 29th 0000 GMT – December 6th 0000 GMT
In effect, we’ve already been doing this, in the form of the structured TF event weeks that occurred last Fall and between the Archanis Campaign and the Echoes of the Tkon Fleet Action, but this time around I wanted to add some unified direction from the Operations office to make things a little more cohesive. This is meant to be a slower pace, lower-impact event (both for staff and members) but something that still gives us a touchstone for any fiction we might need some inspiration for.
I’ll be really excited to unveil the specifics of the competitions related to fleshing out our TF and fleet headquarters next week, but these are some things I’ve been wanting to do since around February of this year, so I’m excited to get to bring them to you.
More details in a week when TF17 kicks us off, but Happy October, and maybe this will help get the ideas percolating on some shore leave and starbase-related writing!