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Part of Bravo Fleet Command: Task Force 17

New Frontiers

USS Discovery
July 2401
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“…and once I board the USS Discovery, I’ll officially be halfway there.”’

Captain Khim paused in her dictation, resisting the urge to play word association and break into song lyrics.

“I’ve never been so glad to put Starbase 38 and the Delta Quadrant behind me. Waiting so long to hear from our ships on the other side is always nerve-wracking, and it’s so much worse when the Borg are involved.”

She was clenching her fists in frustration, and even though the message was voice-only, she knew her wife would still be able to tell when she listened to it.

“Not that our Beta Quadrant operations were a walk in the park, either. Captain Varro will be filling me in on that soon. You were right about him, you know. He’s turned out to be one of the most capable officers I’ve ever worked with–”

Her praise was interrupted by the shudder of the runabout docking.

“Shoot, gotta wrap this up. Love you, miss you, can’t wait to see you! Mwah! Computer, end message and send to Bituin Solon on Deep Space 17.”

The computer chimed in affirmation as she rushed out of the lounge and into the main cabin, just in time for the doors to whoosh open to the sights and sounds of the Discovery’s docking bay.

Captain Varro stood at the edge of the bustling docking area. On his side was his mandatory security detail maintaining a vigilant watch. The distant whir of engines and the occasional metallic clank of cargo containers added to the atmosphere of anticipation.

As the shuttle descended gracefully–its landing gear making a soft, reassuring thud upon contact with the platform–a substantial hiss resonated through the vicinity. The release of pressure was felt as much as heard, like a sigh of relief from the ship itself.

With a fluid motion, the shuttle’s door swung open, revealing a well-lit, welcoming interior that contrasted with the cold, metallic exterior of the spacecraft. As Captain Khim emerged, a wry grin curved Varro’s lips into a playful expression. His eyes twinkled with amusement as his Commanding Officer approached.

“You know, I had initially planned to welcome you with a grand musical performance. But it appears that all our talented dancers are struck with some weird flu and are held up in the medbay.” His words carried a hint of mischief, and the sparkle in his eyes spoke volumes about the camaraderie they had shared.

He then gave a nod to the security officers standing beside him and remarked, “Instead, I ended up with this duo. Lieutenant Banqis can certainly hold a note, but unfortunately, any sense of rhythm seems to elude him.”

Banqis seemed about to protest–either that he did have rhythm or that he did NOT sing, thank you very much–but Khim let him off the hook with a smile and a shake of her head that said she was in on the joke.

“How’s your rhythm, Varro? Can you walk and talk?”

Without waiting for an answer, Khim began the long trek through the corridors towards the Deck One conference room.

“News from the Delta Quadrant is mixed. The Gilroy successfully completed their mission and is back to business as usual. The Paramount missed its last check-in. It’s not cause for concern yet, but I won’t rest easy until we know they’re safe. How are things closer to home? What’s the status of the Blythe and the Ahwahnee?”

Varro’s breath came in quick bursts as he struggled to keep pace with Captain Khim’s determined stride. “The Blythe,” he panted between steps, “it’s veered off, abandoning pursuit of the Borg Sphere. Headed for Deep Space 17 now.” His brow furrowed with worry. “But… no word from the Ahwahnee.”

Despite his efforts to appear composed, a flicker of concern betrayed Varro’s facade. “We’ll keep watch,” he added hastily, “just in case.” Then, a spark of excitement lit up his eyes. “Ah, but there’s news! The Resolute, Valiant, and Cerberus—all transferred in and accounted for!”

His voice rose with anticipation as he continued, “And there’s more. Captain Karai… just minutes ago. She took command of the USS Galahad!” The corners of Varro’s lips twitched into a satisfied smile.

The fleeting satisfaction swiftly dissipated, replaced by a gnawing sense of concern as Varro’s mind delved into the void. “Ma’am, I notice the absence of the Lakota Squadron in this lineup. Any updates on their status?” he remarked.

Khim nodded and pretended to look up the answer on her PADD as they entered a turbolift, giving Varro a chance to be more inconspicuous about catching his breath. “The fate of the Hathaway and Arimathea has a silver lining for us: Fleet Captain Nazir and Captain Kauhn have both transferred back to 17 to head up Lakota Squad with Captain Romaes. Their crew will fill in the–”

She caught herself nearly saying “gaps”, and the casual phrasing took her by surprise. It felt too soon to be acclimated to the horrible losses Starfleet had suffered. “They’ll take up the mantle of the souls those ships lost on Frontier Day.”

The turbolift opened its doors, and two quick strides across the hall found them in the Deck One conference room. Khim didn’t bother turning on the lights but immediately flicked a map from her PADD to the central display, with a brief detour to the replicator for a milk tea.

“I’ve already disseminated this image to every ship in the task force regardless of their current location. It’s our updated map of Borg territory following recent events.”

She flicked her wrist again. “This is our previous map. Notice the differences?”

Varro’s gaze fixated on the holographic map, and an initial shock coursed through him as he beheld the vast expanse of territory seemingly conquered by the Borg—more than he had anticipated, by far. The sheer scale of their advance sent a shiver down his spine, contemplating the countless lives inevitably lost within those regions. However, upon closer inspection, a glimmer of hope emerged as he discerned new patches of unclaimed space; evidence that the Borg had been successfully repelled from those areas.

Varro regained his composure and uttered, “Difference? It’s not just a massacre… it’s a metamorphosis.”

“Exactly. Huge swatches of space are now open to us for exploration. The anthropological implications alone are enormous. How did the Borg’s presence affect the long-term development of planets, civilizations, and even the stellar phenomena in these areas? The Delta Exploration Initiative will likely be looking to collaborate with some of our ships on this specific matter. The next time the wormhole opens up, anyway. In the meantime, what’s keeping us busy on this side of the galaxy?”

The map on the conference table shifted as Varro dove into his report. “All Beta Quadrant missions that were previously halted due to the Borg incursions have been reactivated, but we need to divert one of our California-class ships to Overwatch Station with supplies. Also, Olympia Station is once again prepared to act as a waystation for ships exploring past our rimward borders.”

Khim took a sip of her tea and seemed to be staring through the map for a moment. Then a smile crept cautiously across her face. “Well, Captain, it sounds like we finally have room to stretch our legs again.”