Captain MacLeod arrived in Shelby park fifteen minutes before his arranged meeting was due to begin. It gave him some time to appreciate the space as he slowly wandered to his favorite café. The gentle breeze carried scents from the various trees and shrubs that dotted the carefully manicured landscape and the warmth radiating down from above felt good on his skin. A few of the larger trees were providing shade for people quietly reading whilst others sat in small groups on the grass. A bee emerged from a bright yellow flower, just by his left foot, circled a little and then headed for a blue blossom on the opposite side of the path.
He was greeted at the café by a portly Bolian who seated him at an outdoor table before disappearing off to make his order. Any replicator could materialize any kind of coffee desired but there was something special about the smell of it being brewed in the old-fashioned way that added to the experience. Two large cups and a selection of pastries sat on the table by the time Lieutenant Commander Vor arrived.
“Have you been waiting long?” she asked as she maneuvered herself into the seat opposite.
“No, the coffees just arrived.”
Emony Vor looked young but possessed generations of experience thanks to the Vor symbiont nestled somewhere inside her. She was his science officer and head of the largest department on the Sutherland, a role that she seemed to take completely in her stride.
“So how is the survey going?” He sipped his coffee as he waited for an answer.
“Quite well,” she summarized. “Of the twenty sites of interest that we identified, we’ve gathered samples from three-quarters of them. We’ve discovered an extensive cave system in the northern continent that our initial scans didn’t pick up. It’s got some fascinating bio-luminescent flora inside – it’s like a whole new eco-system inside them.”
Struan loved the way that she lit up when describing the discoveries made by the science teams. She was just mentioning that she’d received requests to add further sites to study when his comm badge interrupted.
“Bridge to Captain MacLeod”
Struan tapped his commbadge. “MacLeod here.”
“Captain, we’re receiving a priority communication for you.”
“I’ll take it down here.”
Emony nodded as Struan got up and entered the small café.
“I need to take a call,” he said to the Bolian behind the counter.
The Bolian disappeared as Struan moved behind the counter to take his place. At the touch of a few buttons, a small viewscreen emerged and a forcefield formed around the counter to ensure privacy. The face of Captain Maxwell, the commanding officer of Task Force 93, appeared on the screen. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, the Captain outlined the situation and transmitted a data package that his staff had compiled on what Starfleet knew of the colony before the situation had arisen. It was unclear what was going to be required and so he’d chosen the Sutherland due to her size and versatility. If all else failed, she would be more capable of evacuation operations than the smaller vessels that were currently protecting the area.
Struan suppressed a smile as he stowed the screen and lowered the forcefield. Their current mission kept the scientists engaged but everyone else just kept the ship ticking over. Drills, personal development and recreation had filled the time but it was all lacking any real challenge. Now they were heading into a volatile situation where the stakes would be high. He turned as he exited the café, almost forgetting.
“Computer, activate barista.”
The Bolian reappeared, smiled at him, and returned to cleaning the espresso machine.
“New orders?” Emony asked as Struan sat back down at the table.
“I’m afraid so,” Struan replied, mindful that she was the one who was going to have to disappoint the scientists. ”We’re needed elsewhere. How soon can we get your people back on board?”
She took a few moments to work out a figure. “Four hours, three if you can get me some more people.” Before he could reply, she started to explain. “I have a team of Geologists analyzing a cave system. It blocks our transporter signal so we have to recover everything the old-fashioned way.”
Struan raised his hand as though to wave away any further explanation or justification for the figure. “I’ll get you the people you need.”
She finished the remainder of her coffee and stood up to leave. “I’ll keep you updated, Sir.”
“Thank you, Commander.”
He finished his own coffee as he watched her stride away, then tapped his comm badge again. “Senior staff report to the conference room in one hour.”
He noticed a few more people were now seated inside the café when he went back inside. An exchange of nods sufficed as a greeting as he made his way to the back of the café where the door slid open to reveal a modern, but very ordinary, Starfleet corridor. A few strides took him across the corridor and into the turbolift.
In what seemed like no time at all, the doors slid open to reveal a very quiet bridge. The officers present were focused on their consoles, aside from flight control, who noticed and announced his arrival.
“As you were,” he instructed as he moved towards his ready room. The Ensign who had this watch nodded in acknowledgment and sat back down in the command chair.
The hour he’d given himself to read through the data passed quickly but had been enough to prepare for the meeting he’d called. The senior staff were waiting in the conference room when he arrived, except for Emony. He suspected they were keen for something new to do. She arrived just as he got to the far end of the conference table.
“As you may have guessed, our orders have changed,” Struan began. “The Romulan Star Empire is in decline. The latest sector to split is Velorum.”
A holographic star map appeared in the center of the conference table indicating the position of Velorum in relation to all the Romulan factions, the Klingons, and the Federation.
“A Reman called Resak has taken over as governor of the sector and has asked for assistance from the Federation. The Star Empire hasn’t relinquished control of the sector yet, so Starfleet has been focused on protecting its population until the situation can be resolved diplomatically.” The map zoomed in to show the Velorum sector in detail and highlighted one planet in particular. “This is the one that concerns us. Tui Hedaes. It’s predominantly a mining colony although the mines are small in scale and scattered throughout the southern hemisphere of the planet. Despite keeping the area clear of any hostile forces, contact was lost with the colony for several days until the USS Pembroke picked up a transmission from someone called Menatek who claimed that the colony administrators were missing and that there was only enough food remaining to last for one week.”
Commander Zh’Tora was the first to speak. “So it’s a relief mission?”
“Technically, yes,” Struan replied. “But the colony should have had enough provisions to last its inhabitants for six months. Something is wrong. The Pembroke has been redirected to gather more information on the situation but has been unable to re-establish contact with this Menatek.”
“Why do they need us if the Pembroke will be there first?” The question came from Lt.Cmdr Vor, whose planetary survey was being put on ice for this.
“She’s an escort ship. Her replicators could be used to feed the colonists indefinitely, however, that would tie her up full-time and effectively make a hole in the sector patrol plans. There’s concern that this might be the intention behind whatever has happened there.” Struan paused briefly. “Besides, in the worst case, she doesn’t have the capacity to evacuate the colony. We do.”
Lt. K’terr spoke up. “So we’re big enough and we aren’t busy.”
Vor shot him a look that said ‘you weren’t busy.
“We’re a new element that’s being added in response to an unexpected change in the situation,” Struan added with a tone that invited no further discussion on that aspect. No one else spoke up. “When we’ve recovered all of our people and equipment, we’ll be picking up provisions for the colony and an extra complement of security officers at Starbase 23. Hopefully, we’ll have more information about what we’re heading into at that point.” He looked towards Lt.Cmdr. Vor. “Are we still on schedule for leaving in two hours?”
“Yes, Sir,” she responded.
“Excellent. Are there any questions?” Struan asked.
It was Lt. Redik’s turn to speak. “So are we supporting independence for the Velorum worlds?”
“Ultimately that’s for the diplomats and the local representatives to argue over.” She looked unsatisfied with his answer. “We’re there to ensure that no one is subjugated by force and we’ll mediate between the parties if invited to.” Looking around the table, everyone seemed satisfied with the information that they’d received.
“Lieutenant K’terr, I’ll need you to arrange quarters and duty rosters for the new security officers.”
“Yes, Sir,” the young Caitian answered.
Struan took a step back from the table. “If that’s all the questions, Dismissed.”
The senior officers filed out of the conference room with the exception of Commander Oseto Zh’tora, his first officer. She was a tactical officer before she became his XO and looked deep in thought.
“What’s your feeling on this?” he asked her.
“Looking at the axial tilt of the planet, most of the southern hemisphere is going to get far less light from the star than the northern hemisphere. That’s not ideal unless you’re a Reman, so I think that we’re looking at a large number of Remans proportionally. The Empire may just be letting the rebels starve to death before retaking the territory with little resistance.”
“They must know that we wouldn’t just allow that to happen.” Struan countered.
“It may not have been a strategic decision from the top.” Her antennae twitched as she considered that. “But if it was a local decision, I wouldn’t like to be stuck on a planet with a bunch of desperately hungry Remans.”
“Whatever the reason behind it, it doesn’t change what we have to do now.” Struan deactivated the map display. “Once we have more information, we may be able to see some kind of strategy behind it.”