The pleasantries were well underway after the official launching ceremony of the Discovery had taken place. After having the command codes officially transferred over to him, everyone stood around in their dress uniforms as the party took place in the ship’s crew lounge on deck eight. It was a very formal party, a jazz band played in the background while everyone mingled with drinks and canapés being shared out.
“So Zack, how many more captains do you need to find for this expeditionary force of yours?” asked Captain Thrian. Thrian’s short white hair was pushed back against his head while his white/greyish beard was a feature along his strong jawline.
“Only one more.” Bennet answered his counterpart from the Nobel and then looked at his first officer with a smirk, hoping that the other captains would catch on and make the suggestion themselves. “Just need someone to sit in the chair for the Tereshkova.”
Captain Romen Corbin, the Betazoid man, who had assumed command of the Shackleton the day before, looked at Rider surprised. The two men had served together many years ago. Standing only a few inches smaller than Rider, Corbin picked up on how Bennet was mocking his first officer. “It’s a shame you don’t know anyone who has had years of experience of serving on numerous postings and been a first officer for, I dunno, about five years at least?” Corbin scratched his forehead, just under his dark sandy blonde hair. “It’s a tough one Zack!”
“Exactly,” Bennet replied, still mocking his first officer. “If only I knew someone!”
Groaning inwards, Commander Rider downed his drink and excused himself away from the group of captains. As he walked away, Bennet chuckled lightly with Corbin and Thrian joining him.
“I don’t understand why Lucas hasn’t just sat down already and taken a ship of his own yet?” Corbin said.
“He must have given you a good enough reason Zack?” Thrian inquired.
Shaking his head, Bennet replied. “Not a decent one. I’ve told him he has a year before I kick him off Discovery.”
“Ouch! Now come on boys, I do hope you’re not going to be that mean to everyone on this little trip of ours?” Came a joyful and playful tone from behind them.
The three male captains all turned around to find Captain Rio Canção approaching them. A lot older than all of them, Canção was taking on the Triton after serving Starfleet in a range of missions that were mainly scientific based. The El-Aurian woman was a former starship commander herself, several years ago she led many of Starfleet’s expeditionary efforts in the fields of archaeology and cultural anthropology. A former professor of Starfleet Academy, she had numerous doctorates and was known for her flirtatious and fun-loving character. She was the perfect person to assume command of the Luna-class ship and lead its multi-species crew. Since arriving at Starbase Bravo the same time as Corbin, she had already developed a reputation for her mischievous antics. She was definitely someone that Bennet enjoyed having around. Canção had long frizzy auburn coloured hair that normally had bouncing just above her shoulders, but for this occasion she had straightened out some of the curls and tied it all up into a bun on the back of her head.
“Absolutely not,” Bennet said back to her. “But unless any of you can suggest anyone to take command of the Tereshkova, we may find ourselves stuck on this side of the Barzan wormhole.”
“I may know someone.” Canção stated as she took a glass of Bajoran spring wine from a nearby tray that was being held by a waiter. “An old friend of mine, but I am not sure how quick they could get here to Bravo Station. They may have to meet us at Starbase 90.”
“Who is it?” Corbin asked, taking a sip from his glass of Andorian ale.
“Nicola Duncan.” Canção said. “She commanded the U-S-S Carver but retired from Starfleet a few years ago with her husband on Kovar Prime, but he recently passed away.”
“Are you talking about Captain Nicola Duncan, the wife of Fleet Admiral Luke Duncan?” Corbin wondered.
“The one and only. Do you know her?” Canção asked.
Waving his head to show he slightly knew her, Corbin explained his response. “I think I met her once, but I trained with her son at the academy. Sad news to hear about the admiral’s death. It was sudden and out of the blue. Do you really think she will come out of retirement?”
“As you said Romen, the admiral’s death was sudden and unexpected. They both had planned to enjoy their retirement together, but with him now gone and her son serving on the Odyssey, she may consider returning. I believe she’s still on the active list.” Canção said. “I can ask her if you want Zack?”
Nodding to consider it, Bennet agreed to the idea. “Make it happen Rio.” He took a sip from his drink, Saurian brandy, “talking about the Odyssey, I heard from command that she will be joining us on our way into the Delta Quadrant.”
“Nice, at least we know we will have some extra support out there.” Thrian stated as he finished his drink.
Before Bennet could comment, his combadge chirped and he was informed by the duty officer on the bridge that he was receiving a call from Admiral Seagraves. She wanted to see him and the other captains at once.
Almost three hours later Bennet was standing in the centre of the large astrometrics lab with his own senior staff and those from the ships in his expeditionary force all present. The latter were there in holographic form. The news from Admiral Seagraves had come out as a complete surprise and the entire expeditionary force had to leave Starbase Bravo at once.
“So what do we know so far?” asked Captain Corbin. The holographic representation of him flickered slightly as he spoke.
“Admiral Beckett on Starbase Twenty-Seven has requested that elements from the fourth fleet assist in defending the Archanis Sector.” Bennet answered as he showed the portion of the Federation-Klingon border that they were all heading at full steam towards. “Multiple targets have been hit on our side of the border by Klingons associated with the Hunters of D’Ghor.”
“Sounds charming.” Captain Canção mocked.
Bennet continued with his briefing. “They’ve been undertaking numerous raids against Federation interests, mainly all civilians. Our colonies and shipping lanes are in danger from being overwhelmed. Already the fourth fleet is sending in ships to support with humanitarian relief efforts, to calm the leadership of the colonies that have been affected as well as to defend the border.”
Next to ask questions was Captain Thrian “What is it that Starfleet wants us to do? Our ships might be built to defend themselves, but a bulk of our equipment is designed for exploring not waging a small war.”
“Indeed, but for the moment our mission to the Delta Quadrant is put on hold until this situation is dealt with.” Bennet informed them. “The biggest issue that Starfleet is facing in this area is that the Hunters have destroyed or heavily damaged our subspace arrays, listening posts and detection grid. We are barely able to see when they are coming, so we are going to lead the efforts in rebuilding what was lost.”
“Easier said than done Zack.” Corbin remarked. “Whatever we build needs to be something that can survive or repair itself if the Klingons attack.”
“That’s why it is down to us to solve the problem.” Bennet insisted. “The Odyssey is heading to Starbase Twenty-Seven where it will pick up something that will assist us with this operation.” The captain paused and pressed a few buttons on the console before him which opened a new window on the large astrometrics wall screen. It showed a schematic of a large sensor array.
“Isn’t that the Argus Array?” Canção enquired.
“Yes and no.” Bennet answered. “These are the plans for a brand new subspace telescope array based on that array that Starfleet had been planning to build in the area. It was going to be a joint effort between us and the Klingons to be used for scientific discovery. It was planned to be assembled at Haydorian Prime.”
“Haydorian Prime? That’s home to a large Andorian colony!” Thrian stated. “It was one of the first to be established after the Federation was formed. It did have a couple of dry-docks in orbit and one of the most advanced planetary defence grids in the area.”
“And so it remains. The governor of Haydorian Prime has given his permission for the new array to be assembled ahead of schedule and without the involvement of the Klingon Defence Force.”
“Should we expect the Klingons to attack us?” Commander Rider asked from behind Bennet’s right hand shoulder.
Turning to look at his first officer, Bennet nodded with a grim expression. “We should. The moment the Hunters discover what we are doing then who knows what they will send our way.” Bennet ordered. “I’ve officially taken command of Task Force Seventeen and I am ordering what ships we do have to head to the Archanis Sector, but I want us to come up with a plan to establish a well defended sensor network along the border. I want to hear every available idea, even if it sounds ludicrous.”
The room fell silent for a second and then the discussion started…