Friday nights had always been busy at Acquerello’s restaurant but tonight seemed exceptionally busy. The restaurant was a favorite of many Starfleet officers, especially command officers, and Clara always made sure to visit at least once when she was in San Francisco.
She gazed over the menu, which was on paper, something she always found delightfully quaint, while she tried to keep an eye out for her dining companion. In the many months she had been in San Francisco as the Amundsen was undergoing her refit, she had only managed to actually sit down with her old friend a small handful of times. The two had know each other for nearly 35 years after meeting while they both served on the Hickman. Their long career paths had both taken them to the center chair but while Clara had opted to remain there, her friend had moved on to Starfleet Command and the admiralty. The two had an agreement to keep their professional lives quite separate these days; Clara had no desire to keep up on the day to day rumors and scuttlebutt of Starfleet Command anyway, especially these days.
She spotted a mane of blonde hair coming her way out of the corner of her eye. She stood to embrace her companion for the evening. “Elisabeth.” she said warmly.
“Clara” Elisabeth Basmanoff returned the hug before the two sat down at the table. “It doesn’t seem like it’s been 4 months since we last did this.”
Clara scooted her chair in towards the table. “The Amundsen is at the final stages of it’s refit; things have certainly gotten busy.”
Elisabeth picked up the menu, perusing it as if she hadn’t eaten here dozens of times. “You’ve got what? Another 45 days before launch?”
Clara nodded, picking up her menu as well. “Just enough time to stretch her legs on a quick resupply run to a few colonies near Tholian space and be back at Earth in time for Frontier Day.”
Clara didn’t catch it but Basmanoff stiffened slightly at the mention of Frontier Day. “I take it you got the official orders to take part in the celebration?”
Clara nodded. “Even though we’re officially already assigned to the Forth Fleet the Amundsen will be at the San Francisco Fleet Yard for final outfitting after we do our shakedown. Once we get though the excitement of Frontier Day we’ll make our way to Starbase 72 and be under normal operations.”
The waiter walked up to the table, interrupting the conversations. After their orders had been placed, Elisabeth ordering the veal and rabbit tortellini and Clara the ora king salmon, they turned back to the matter at hand.
“With any luck the Breen incursions won’t delay our launch any. From the sounds of it TG 154 has things under control.”
Elisabeth maintained a neutral expression. “That is what everyone reports, ins’t it?”
Clara paused as she was unfolding the napkin across her lap. “I have never once asked you to divulge much of anything but that answer gives me pause. Is the Breen incursion getting more serious?”
Elisabeth sighed. “I can’t honestly tell you. The closer and closer we get to Frontier Day the more and more I don’t understand the reasoning behind half the things that come cross my desk. Now we’ve got this Breen issue and something doesn’t add up but I get stonewalled if I ask anything.” She paused to take a sip of water and collect her thoughts. “I don’t know, I may be overthinking things. Tatical decision are so far removed from my official job title it isn’t even funny. I head up a small task force of science vessels, I shouldn’t need to know about the Breen on the other side of the quadrant, but I’ve been around long enough to know when something is going on. Even other Admirals I’ve known for years are acting odd.”
The waiter chose that moment to arrive, placing the plates in front of them. The two women gave him a curt nod.
Clara picked up a fork but paused before she could pierce the salmon on her plate. “I won’t ask further, it’s not my place, but I can’t say I’ve noticed anything different. I’ll keep my guard up though.”
Elisabeth opened her mouth to say something but the chirp of Clara’s commbadge interrupted her, prompting her to tap it. “Myers here.”
“Sorry to bother you ma’am.” The voice on the other end of the line was Chief Petty Officer Alana Westland, her yeoman of 5 years. “You’ve got a priority communication, alpha one, direct from Forth Fleet Command. It came with orders to direct transport you to the ship. Now.”
Myers exchanged a concerned glance with Basmanoff. “Noted Petty Officer. Give me 30 seconds.”
“Aye ma’am.” Came the voice on the other end of the commbadge.
Clara stood. “It seems dinner will have to wait old friend. Rain check?”
A look of deep concern crossed Basnmanoff’s face. “Rain check indeed. And Clara? Be careful.”
Clara opened her mouth to say something but the all too familiar tingle of the transporter came over her as she was whisked away in a curtain of blue.
The transporter deposited her directly on the bridge the Amundsen. The bridge module was very similar to an Intrepid Class bridge, just scaled down. The blue and grey aesthetic of the era dominated the bridge, far from the sleek, modern, metallic looks of the newer ships. The bridge was mostly dark as it was 20:44 and this far along there was little need to have the yard engineers working around the clock.
The petite form of Chief Petty Officer Alana Westland was there to greet Clara, an apologetic expression on her face. “Sorry ma’am, they insisted it couldn’t wait.” Westland had served as her yeoman for years, easily knowing the in and outs of how Clara liked things done.
“Don’t worry, Petty Officer. When you agree to the forth pip you agree to be on call all day and night.”
“Of course ma’am.” Westland looked rattled and quite frankly Clara didn’t blame her. A priority one while undergoing refit? That was enough to set anyone on edge. “The communication can only be opened from your ready room. I’ll be here if you need anything.”
Clara nodded and walked into her ready room; again it looked shockingly close to the Intrepid Class, just smaller. She sat at her desk, a small transparent screen in front of her.
“Open priority communication. Authorization Meyer-Zeta-112-Alpha-Whiskey.”
The computer chirped in response and the screen was filled with the large logo of the Fourth Fleet with the words ‘FOR CAPTAIN’S EYES ONLY’ sitting below it. Within moments it switched to the direct orders being dispensed by Fleet Admiral Ramar. With each line she read, a chill ran though her. The Dominion? How in the hell did they manage to get a foot hold. Why was Starfleet so blatantly ignoring the issue? Izar had already fallen. Multiple small colonies overrun. Federation territory occupied by enemy forces. This was a damned incursion, it was all out war. And no one cared. By the time she reached the end of the orders, 5 words from Vice Admiral Beckett appeared on the screen and her blood ran cold. “Trust only the Forth Fleet.”
Clara tapped the comm button on her desk. “Alana, issue emergency recall orders to all staff. They have 2 hours to arrive on the ship.”
“Ma’am? Most of the senior staff and a quarter of the normal staff is still waiting for pick up on SB 72.” Clara could hear the confusion in her voice.
“We depart for Starbase 72 in 3 hours. Whatever staff that is on Earth needs to get here. Now.”
“Understood.” Alana’s tone had shifted from confused to work mode. Clara knew little would stand in her way.
“Computer, what senior staff members are present on the ship?”
“Commander Alexander Conklin is the only senior staff member on the ship.” Came the cool, soft, voice of the computer.
“Myers to Conklin, report to my ready room immediately.” She didn’t get a response but she knew he was on his way. She turned back to her monitor, her gaze fixed on the five words flashing over and over again at the bottom of the screen.
Trust only the Forth Fleet.
Trust only the Forth Fleet.
Trust only the Forth Fleet.