-Rafter T Ranch, Central Mountain Region, Terra Alpha-
Ethan was stripping the saddle off his buckskin-colored quarter horse, Jake. His twins Arthur and Diana were doing the same with their ponies. They had gotten up early that morning to ride the fence line that followed the Trinity River and then cut west at the base of Mount Archer. He had every faith in his cousin, David Sackett, in being able to maintain the ranch, but he still liked to do his share when he was home.
Leading Jake through a nearby gate he turned the gelding loose into the pasture and the big dun trotted off snorting before finding an open patch of dirt near the barn and dropped to his belly and rolled making a muddy mess where he had sweated under the saddle.
Closing the gate he drags his heavy roping saddle into the tack room and placed it on the saddle tree and hung the bridle on the wall. He returned outside and the kids had their saddles off. “Don’t forget to curry your ponies kids,” he said as he picked up their saddles for them.
“Okay daddy,” Diana responded.
He returned from the tack room after putting their saddles away to see the kids turning their horses out. “Hey kids, check the water for the horses in the barn and then come in. I bet Mrs. Ackers has breakfast ready!” There were general groans of acquiescence, but they dutifully ran into the barn. Arthur closed the door on his sister just to make her mad, which it did.
Ethan chuckled and shaking his head he headed for the house. Trinity was waiting for him on the step. “There you are. Been waiting on you for an hour. I would have called you.”
“I don’t bring my combadge with me when I’m on the ranch.”
“I know, and I told Captain Erill’Yun Mek that as well.”
“Who? Oh yeah, that’s right he’s Charlie-Oscar of Task Force 86.” They were technically part of the Task Force but they generally operated outside of that unit’s operations generally worked directly with Starfleet Intelligence out of San Francisco.
“What does he want?”
“You’re being activated for this ion storm coming out of the Paulson Nebula.”
“The storm? What’s the Pike going to do? 150 evacuation limit is just going to put us in the way.”
Trinity shrugged, “I don’t know, but he wants you on Starbase 86 for a briefing ASAP.”
Ethan sighed and ran his hands through his hair, “Well, it’s a humanitarian thing. I reckon we ought to get to work. We’ll need to recall the team.”
“Already ahead of you.”
“That’s why I love you,” he said and kissed her.
– A remote area of the ranch –
Jolie sat with her back to the tack and staddle she had borrowed from Ethan when she decided to take him and Trinity up on their offer to stay on the Ranch. She stared into the flames as they danced over the logs in the firepit she’d built. As she sat there, the glow and heat had helped her slip into a meditative state of mind.
To the untrained eye, she appeared to be in a trance and easier pickings, but Jolie was fully aware of what was going on around her. She could hear the steady breathing of the steed she had tied up next to her. The rustling of a nearby animal did not escape her notice. But those noises didn’t worry her because she knew she could handle herself if she needed to.
She reached up and pulled the flaps on her duster, adjusting herself so that sleep could find her when she was ready.
“Enjoying disappearing into the wilds?” Ethan asked suddenly as he stepped into the camp.
Jolie looked up at Ethan, “We all need time to decompress,” she stated as she reached over and pulled a percolating coffee pot off of the grill that had been laid over the flames, “Coffee?” she offered.
He grinned widely, “I thought you’d never ask.”
“I take it this isn’t a social visit,” she said as she leaned back against the saddle once more.
He pushed his Stetson back on his head and poured himself a cup of coffee. “If this were social I would have ridden in on Jake, and not beamed in. Unfortunately leave has been canceled.”
A sigh left her lips as she realized just how unfortunate the cancellation was. She stood up and looked at Ethan as she picked up the tack and saddle, “He’ll make it back to the stables if I was to give it the command to?” she asked him as she tightened the belt to hold the saddle in place.
“You’re asking if the horse knows his way back to the barn?” Ethan chuckled, “Likely, but there’s two gates between here and the house. I would hope you closed them. Nah, we can use the transporter. I brought the ship with me.”
– A nearby mountain range. –
Never being a big fan of ranches or horses Adam had declined Ethan’s offer to stay on his ranch. Instead he had made a campsite at the base of a mountain. After the long hike out to the mountain he was pretty tired. He camped for the night and began his climb the next morning. It was a long climb and he was free climbing because he enjoyed the thrill. Adam was about 200ft up the side of the mountain when his wrist PADD beeped and a holo image of Ethan appeared on on. “This cant be good.” Adam said as he adjusted himself to be more secure in his position so that he could talk to Ethan.
“Hey Adam,” Ethan greeted. “I hope you didn’t get too comfortable. Leave has been canceled.”
“Man even in a black ops unit we can’t get a full shore leave. Beam me up.” Ethan laughed and cut the line just before beaming Adam up.