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Part of USS Mackenzie: Mission 1 – Back to Work

A Growing Shadow

USS Mackenzie - Bridge
10.26.2400 @ 0800 - 10.28.2400
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=^=We’ve done a deep scan of the entire planet, just to be sure.  All traces of him are clear.  The equipment we’ve managed to repurpose for the settlement’s communications needs.  Most everyone’s returned from the mountains and the canyons – still a few holdouts.  Mostly elderly folks who refuse to believe the god is dead.  You find all the transmitters, sir?”  Okada had spent just under a week dismantling everything and working with a large science and engineering team to help upgrade the settlement infrastructure.  In that time, Captain Harris and the Mackenzie had been searching the sector for the transmitters that were responsible for the communications blackout.  It had been easy at first, but the challenges became apparent as some of the equipment had been programmed to run on lower power until signaled.

Fowler had figured out how to send a signal and light up the sector, and they’d been off to the races.  They’d finally cleared out the last late last night, and it was the primary reason Harris was cradling a coffee cup in his hands.  He took a sip, then spoke, “We’re clear on this side.  Grab your gear and our people – we’re coming to pick you up.”  The channel closed, “Prentice, get us in orbit and bring our people home.”  The chief helm officer gave a nod, and the Mackenzie thundered on its way.

Earth – Starbase 1 – 10.28.2400 @ 0800

“Docking locked.  We are secure for departure.”  Prentice turned to his CO, “Your orders sir?”

Harris pushed off his chair, “I wish I knew.  Priority message to get us back to Earth and stand by.  I’ve got an appointment planet side.”  He tapped the console on his chair, and a message went out to all crew. “For the moment, we are off duty.  They’ve got some work orders, upgrades, and other assorted items to take care of.  You’re expected back on the 31st at 0800.  We’ll know more by then.  Dismissed.”  

The bridge emptied slowly until it was just him and his XO, Okada.  She leaned on the railing, “Captain….”

“They’ll be hearing about it once they get over to the station.  Delta Quandrant’s gone crazy.  Something’s exploded a new kind of Dilithium there, and the rush kicked off a month ago when the wormhole opened up.  Now things are going sideways.  Delta Quadrant isn’t safe, and it’s disconnected for a month at a time.  There’s a lotta players over there, and not many of them are friendly to anyone but themselves.  I don’t have our official orders, but most, if not all, of the Fourth Fleet is being recalled to various stations.  The whispers between some of us are that we’re going to get thrown into the mix.”

Okada gave him a brief side look, “You talk to other people besides us, Captain?”

Harris chuckled, “I do have other friends, Chief Okada.”

She relented on the teasing for now, “You think we’re ready for something like this?”

Ambrose shook his head, “Honestly – it’s going to be a test.  For those who came with us from the Eddie, it’ll be old hat…but there’s only 150 or so of them who made the jump.  That leaves a lot of ensigns, crewmen, and a smattering of cadets.  We’re going to have our work cut out for us.”

The XO pushed off the railing, “I’ll take today off…but I’ll be back here tomorrow working on our rosters, shifts, and assignments.  I’ll see if I can swing some senior crew out of the personnel wormhole.”

Harris smiled, “I’ll be back tomorrow morning as well – we can sort out what’s what together.  See you in the morning.”  He headed off the bridge and to the transporter room.  He’d wondered why his mother had called him from the Harris Transport offices.  He snagged his bag with a change of clothes and overnight kit and headed for the transporter pad.

Earth – Opheim, MT – Harris Transport – 10.28.2400 @ 0845

The transporter’s light faded from his eyes as he gave a nod to the transport operator.  He walked off the pad and headed through the sprawling facility that had become the headquarters for his family’s company, Harris Transport.  They’d made the move to the spaceport that had sat on the remnants of the Opheim Air Force Base that had become a Boeing testing ground, then a growing spaceport, and now the base of operations.  His aunt and uncle currently ran the company and the entire family, in some way, had jobs in the company.  He smiled and waved at a few familiar faces as he made his way across the campus to the operations offices.  It took him a moment, but he made it to the CEO’s office without too much trouble.  He stepped through the door and found his mother talking quietly with Patricia and Lawrence ‘Larry” Harris.  They all turned and excitedly welcomed him back. Hugs, kisses, and stories were exchanged as coffee and tea were offered, replicated, and placed on end tables.  The small talk waned until Ambrose seized the moment.  He noticed his mother was not in uniform.  “So, not a family visit?”

Rachel smiled wanly and shook her head, “It’s about Rafael and Julian.”  She looked to the parents of said children.

Patty cradled her cup as she sat in her chair, her eyes searching the floor for answers before she spoke, “They heard about the new dilithium.  They’d been spoilin’ to get out of here for a few months – said it was like a prison, and they wanted to see the universe.”

Ambrose resisted the urge to frown.  Rafael was 21 now, but he had been struggling to adapt to life with the company.  Julian was 25 and had been fighting with his parents since he’d turned 18. In the latest letters from home, it had mentioned there was a chance they’d both be fired before the year ended if it kept up.  “What did they do?” She handed him a company PADD with a report, and he exclaimed as he read, “They stole a Sydney and Aerie class transport?  The hell?”

Rachel sighed quietly, “They…requisitioned them through dubious means from the company.  Somehow they convinced a full crew to join them.  They made all kinds of promises.  If Pat or Larry had known what they were going to do…well, they’d have stopped them.  It’s been almost a month, and we’ve heard nothing.”

He shook his head, “The wormhole only opens once a month.  If they’d wanted to be found, they’d have found a way to let you know.  Bastards.  Sorry, Aunt Pat…Uncle Lar.”  They both nodded.  He kept reading. A cold shiver ran across his heart as he read the rest, “They roped Natalie into this?”  Natalie Harris was his sister and had recently graduated from high school.  She’d applied to Starfleet Academy and had been waiting on word.

Rachel grimaced visibly, “Nat’s the adventurous one.  You’re the logical and rational one.  She told me she was going to take a trip with friends to Mars.  And yes, I believed her.  Only after we started digging into the requisitions database did we find out what they had done.”

Ambrose shook his head, frustrated at his stupid cousins.  They’d pulled stunts before, but nothing to this scale.  “What’s Starfleet’s position?”

Captain Rachel Harris shifted her posture, “You’ll get your orders in two days.  It’ll be standard search, investigate, examine, discover, rescue, and whatever else comes your way.  The theft is something Harris Transport will sort out when we get them back.  They’re not technically missing since the wormhole only opens every thirty days.”

The Mackenzie CO knew where this was going, “Once the wormhole opens, and a message is sent, and we don’t hear back directly…they can be declared missing.”  

His mother nodded. “It’s dangerous out there.  All we ask is that you find a way to bring them home.”

Ambrose let out the breath he’d been holding, “Well, I’ll add to the list.  You need to give me everything you have on those two ships, Rafael, Julian…and Natalie.  Background, psyche profiles, the works.  If we’re going to be looking out for them as we feel our way through the Delta Quadrant, I need to know as much as I can.”

Larry stood from his chair, “I’ll get right on it, ‘Brose.”  He moved to his computer but turned to face his nephew, “I’m really sorry they got Natalie mixed up in this.”

Ambrose shook his head, “You’re not the one that needs to apologize, Lar.  Those two wayward sons are going to have a helluva lot to answer for when I find them.”  He stood from his chair, “I’ll let Jordan know she can come down in a few.  The horses ready for us?”

Pat pushed off her chair, “They are – walk with me, and I’ll show you the new additions.”  The two left the room, and Rachel Harris turned her stare on her brother, Larry, who was tapping away at his console but was unable to ignore the stare of the Starfleet Captain.

“I wish I could make it better, Rach.  I wish I could just get them home with a snap of my fingers.”

Rachel remained silent, her eyes bubbling with fury.  She walked up to the desk where he was working and leaned down to put her face just inches from his, “You will make it better.  Those boys will not work here or be allowed back on this property when they come home.  They will face charges for theft, endangerment, and whatever the hell else I can find in every single goddamn book I will throw at them.  And I will make the case for you and your wife to be removed from your positions…even if that means I have to retire.”  She leaned back away from him and spat, “Goddamn you, Lawrence.  My daughter should be home.  Not lost in space with your dumbass sons.”  She stared at him a moment longer before leaving out the door.

Lawrence stared at the door she had left and then returned his attention to the console as he force his hands to stop trembling.  He’d learned long ago that tangling with his sister was dangerous.  

She hit for distance.  

She hit for pain.  

And she never missed.