Though exploration was Starfleet’s primary mission, Vice Admiral Jonathan Knox always felt a sense of unease when the Barzan Wormhole opened, which it was mere minutes away from doing. He’d ordered Starbase 38’s maneuvering thrusters to keep his office viewport in sight of the aperture for each thirty-minute window every ninety-three days so he could watch the officers and crew under his command leave the relative safety of Federation space through a tenuous connection to the other side of the galaxy, knowing that it could be the last time he saw them. It was an indulgence–a waste of fuel even–but he owed those ships that respect of watching them set off for the unknown. He’d personally inspected every single one of them, met their captains, and gone over their supply loadouts. Commodore Belvedere had disagreed with him and even fought him on it, but he’d made sure that they were overloaded by twenty percent on medical supplies, rations, and spare parts, on the slim chance that the wormhole might finally collapse–or that he had to enact Classified Directive Rho 030 to seal the wormhole against a Borg threat–leaving nearly 10,000 Starfleet officers and crew to a seventy-year journey home from the Nacene Reach.
“Commodore Stanton-Knox for you, Admiral,” his chief of staff said, as the doors to his office hissed open. Captain Bancroft was young, ambitious, and so by-the-book that Knox wondered if he’d emerged from the womb in uniform like some sort of pedantic Athena.
“You don’t have to announce my wife, Captain,” Knox said, turning his head briefly from the twelve ships in front of him to the door.
In their two careers, Knox and his wife had taken turns on who got to follow whom from assignment to assignment, and after spending four years on Earth during her stint as Assistant Surgeon-General, it was her turn to follow him back to the Barzan system to take on a relatively minor role as the Medical Liaison to the Delta Exploration Initiative for his second stint heading up Delta Quadrant operations.
“It never gets easier, does it?” the commodore asked, as she sat down across the desk from her husband.
“No, not really,” Knox confirmed. “Are we ready to go, Marcus?”
“Yes, sir. I’ve got you patched in ship-wide across the fleet when you’re ready,” the captain replied.
Knox stood up and walked over to the viewport, studying the lines of the Arcturus, dominating the fleet by sheer mass at its center, with a collection of smaller vessels surrounding it. There were 2,500 people on that ship alone and it was about to go beyond his range to help if anything were to go wrong. He could spot the Apollo at the vanguard and the Meridian sticking close to the flagship.
The admiral tapped his commbadge.
“Ships of Explorer Group 382, this is Admiral Knox. I have been thinking all morning about what to say to you; maybe something about Starfleet’s mission of peaceful exploration, or how well you’ve trained for this, but you already know that. You know how much faith Starfleet has put in you to carry out this longest of long-range missions and you know that you are about to become the Starfleet crew furthest from home, all for the sake of exploring the unknown. No Federation ships have entered this region in almost 30 years, so you’ll have your work cut out for you.”
“You have all of the resources of Starfleet dedicated to making sure this mission goes right, but past that wormhole you’re going to have each other. Look to your shipmates and your colleagues across the fleet, because standing together is going to be what makes this expedition a success, not our technology or our planning or any of that. We’ll be here when you get back. Knox out,” he said.
“Wormhole opening, sir,” Captain Bancroft reported, with his holo pulled up.
Knox could see that, and a moment later, the ships started filing through it, until all he could see was the glowing mouth of the wormhole.
“Signal received from the other side. They’re through and safe.”
“Well, they’re through. I’d hardly describe the Nacene Reach as safe,” Knox couldn’t help but quip. “God, how I envy them.”
Updates from Task Force 38 Sims
- USS Arcturus – We should begin at the beginning, so the Arcturus has been sent to make contact with the Ocampa, but when they get to the system there is no sign of them other than a mysterious dampening field. Can they crack the code to find out what’s happened to them?
- USS Apollo – With a brand new crew and captain, the Apollo is also getting ready to set out for new shores, having been assigned to track down a ship lost nearly ten years prior–the USS Banting–which was swept into the Nacene reach unexpectedly, like the Equinox and Voyager before her. What brought her to this region of space and where is her crew?
- USS Ganymede – Few ships or captains could successfully deal with the Malon, but that’s exactly what Captain Darby-Holmes and the crew of the Ganymede are doing–trying to make the Gradin Belt a safer place by reducing the amount of toxic radiation being dumped in it by Malon garbage scows.
- USS Meridian – The Meridian is fresh out of a refit with a new captain and is ready to keep the exploration vessels in the Nacene Reach safe.
- USS Newton – The Newton has been sent to investigate a spatial anomaly that is spewing forth both energy and entities from uncharted space.
- Outpost Kumalo – The only fixed outpost in the Delta Quadrant, Outpost Kumalo is still just a cluster of prefabricated buildings on a lonely planet, but the Federation Diplomatic Corps is beginning its outreach efforts anew in the Gradin Belt.
- Starbase 38 is looking for new folks to join, as it becomes the Deep Space Nine of the Delta Quadrant, the last stop for crews leaving for exploratory missions and the first line of defense against anything that might come back with them.
- Work on the wiki continues as we bring new information from Memory Alpha and other sources to develop a rich sourcebook for writers to use as they tell their stories in the Delta Quadrant. Stay tuned on Discords for updates about this and updates from the Task Force fictions.