Starbase 86 was a hub of activity with ships and shuttles of every conceivable make and model. Civilian and Starfleet packed the space around the station and it had taken the USS Zebulon Pike nearly half an hour to get within transporter range of the station.
And like every other instance of humanoid suffering in history the greedy were there to take advantage of the desperate. A pair of Farengi Marauders were holding just at the edge of the mass of ships trying to take advantage of those that didn’t know any better.
The promenade of the station was just as busy as the surrounding space as humanoids of dozens of Alpha and Beta Quadrant aliens moved about the station. There were even a handful of Gamma and Delta Quadrant aliens thrown into the throng for flavor.
Commander Ethan Talon felt suffocated in this mass of humanity. He tugged at the collar of his Starfleet uniform. He hated how tight it was around his neck. He hated the whole uniform in general having gotten used to wearing mostly civilian clothes.
“This is a Grade A cluster-fork,” he said to Lt. Commander Jolie Kyo who was at his side.
Jolie couldn’t help but agree, though she would have used a harsher word, but she understood.
Had this been on earth in what was called the ‘old west’ she would have just pulled out her shotgun and let loose a single double shot of buckshot into the air to get everyone’s attention and alpha maled the throng of people that were in front of them to make a path to the lift but alas this was not the ‘old west’ and as such she and the Commander had to force their way through.
As they pushed their way through the crowds, Jolie realized that this was far more than the station normally had at any given time.
Leaning over, she spoke just loud enough for the Commander to hear her, “Something is wrong Ethan, this station is usually busy, but it has never been this packed,” she said as she pushed people out of the way as they made their way.
“Refugees from that storm I expect,” he said with an irritated edge to his voice. “I’m glad I’m not running this shit show, or in security trying to make order from chaos.”
“I am guessing that would be why we are here?”
“Yeah… that would be my guess as well.”
They pushed their way through the mass of people and found their way into a turbolift. Once the doors parted Ethan let out a sigh of relief. “Ops.”
Stepping into the operations center of Starbase 86 Ethan flagged down a junior officer, “Captain Mek?” She looked up from her work and pointed vaguely at the CO’s office. “Thank you,” Ethan added and crossed Ops to the Captain’s office and rang the door chime.
Jolie made a mental note of how bored the junior officer looked as she looked at them and how her response suggested that she was tired of being at her position, and lacked any discipline.
Mek looked towards the display embedded in the bulkhead to the left of his desk, “Noted, Captain,” he replied to the commander of the USS Trineya, “we’re allocating more space in the central core for emergency shelters, so make sure your people direct the refugees there on arrival.”
The Septran flicked back his ear combs in acknowledgement, “I hear the first wave is already with you.”
“Yes. We’ve got ships coming in from Regulus, Japori, Birresh… We knew it was gonna be bad, but I’ve not seen anything like this since the Romulan supernova. Expect a wait before getting within transporter range.”
“Understood.” The screen reverted to the blue UFP seal.
Mek steepled his fingers and let out a deep sigh as he sat back in his chair. For a nanosecond he entertained the idea of replicating a raktajino, and that was when the door chimed. His first free moment of the day had just evaporated.
“Enter.” A human with chiseled features appeared from behind the glass doors. Stepping in with a confident stride, he bore a severe expression with narrow eyes. Mek glanced down, failing to recognise anything on his schedule that might have referred to the man. “Welcome, Commander. I don’t believe we’ve met?” Mek extended his hand, noticing a woman who had entered just behind the tall officer.
Ethan took Mek’s hand and shook it. “No sir, I reckon not. Ethan Talon, and this is my second in command, Jolie Kyo.” Ethan stood before Mek at not quite attention, but certainly not at ease either. You look like you have your hands full sir. Not sure why my merry band of spies can do, but since you called we’re at your disposal.”
“Ah yes, Commander Talon, Commander Kyo, of the USS Zebulon Pike if I remember correctly?”
“Yes sir,” Ethan replied. “You have a mission for us? I can’t imagine we’d be much help in evacuations with the Pike, but we’re at your disposal.”
“Yes, yes,” Mek collected himself, “right, yes.” The faraway look in his eye dissipated and his brain found what it was looking for, “We’ve got a problem, Commanders. You’ll be well aware that it’s the subspace rifts within the Paulson nebula that are responsible for the sheer size of this storm. Starfleet Command’s main concern is the long range scans we’ve picked up from sector 1038 here,” Mek tapped at the keys on his desk, bringing up a starchart of the nebula on the wall display. Several swirling patterns marked the rift locations, peppered across the mauvish patch of space that represented the gaseous cloud of protostar matter. Towards the top of the map six of these blueish pinwheels clustered together, their spiral arms overlapping each other in a chaotic mess. Mek tapped again, magnifying and highlighting them in a red glow, “As you can see, we’ve detected an unusual concentration of these rifts. That’s about all we know, and it’s not enough. Between the number of systems threatened by the storms and the need to get those rifts closed, we’re stretched pretty thin. Think you two could take the Pike in there and get us a better picture of what’s going on?”
Ethan shrugged, and glanced at Jolie for a moment. “I think the ship can handle it. We aren’t your typical survey ship. We could use a science officer on temporary assignment if you would grant that. Our specialties are more hide and break things, not study and analyze.”
“We’ve all got a lot of hats,” Mek smiled at the two commanders, “believe me this is not what I would normally be doing either. But right now, with this much we don’t know, we’re all scientists.” Mek paused, reviewing his words and deciding that yes, he was happy with the way that sounded, “Now if there’s nothing further you’d like to discuss, I need to see about finding more space for these refugees.”
Ethan snapped to attention and gave Mek a formal and old-fashioned salute. Making an about face he made his way out of the office. “Let’s not repeat that walk through the promenade,” he said to Jolie. “Talon to Zebulon Pike: two to beam up.”