Between AQ and Bajorn Borders, ten light years away form GQ Wormhole.
P I O N E E R
"Strangers in a Strange Land
STARDATE: 65701.77 (Jan. 22Nd).
Hanging in the vacuum of the black covered in pinholes of light and smokey, splotches of brightly coloured nebulae, hung the first deep space, Federation outpost – Gama Station One. Right in that empty space between the Alpha Quadrant and Bajoran borders it orbited within a system of six planets and two suns. The home system of the Xoasians about ten light years from the Wormhole that allowed ships to travel from the Alpha to the Gama Quadrants.
After the Dominion war and the events of 2387, Starfleet found themselves in a bit of lull due to the division in the remains of the Romulan Star Empire. Factions joined up with the Federation – while others – branched into a brigade of pirates and terrorists. Exploration went mainly on the back burner for a time, until thing had quieted down. Now though, with the permission and aid of the Xoasians, Starfleet was able to erect a space station in a fairly friendly, but unknown sector of space. Negotiations with the blue skinned, four-armed, peaceful and warm achieved race, proved beneficial to both parties.
The Federation gained a new ally, while the Xoasians gained faster warp technology and protection from outside threats. Even some have joined up with Starfleet, with quite a few doing Non-commissioned duties aboard vessels. Some enrolled into classes aboard Gama Station One, with research teams and facilities being stationed upon the Xoasys home planet and colony worlds, in a kind of exchange program.
Xoasians unique, natural abilities have come to make them valuable pilots and assets to the Federation Fleet, over a short period of time. They also seemed to have a desire for exploration of the unknown just like all races within the United Federation of Planets. Granted their ritualistic society was quite different and sometimes difficult to understand; exploration became the unifying goal between the Federation and Xoasys in the end. A singular point to a well grounded beginning and understanding as it were.
GAMA STATION ONE (GS1):
Outer-docking ring, corridor.
Briskly walking through the corridor of the third, outer docking ring pod, was a late twenty-something, dark haired man in a blue, science division Starfleet jacket and black pants. Around the collar and down the front came a thin black line, revealed how one would fasten such a jacket. The line intersected a thicker one that went around the shoulders. Two golden pips reflected brightly, on the thicker trim-line on the right side. His comm-badge, a solid silver Starfleet Delta Chevron, outlined in gold with a 23rd Century, gold command star in the center.
Coming to junction port of a Jeffery's tube, the young officer stopped then gave a quick look down either end of the corridor. The coast was clear from the looks of it, and he didn't hear anyone's foot steps approaching either. Adjusting the strap of his equipment box over his right shoulder, the young officer grabbed the metallic hatch-grips, turned them. It let out a subtle, low hiss of the pressure-seal being released. He checked again to make sure he was alone before opening it, and crawling into the Jeffery's tube, closing the hatch behind him.
GS1: Transporter Room 3.
Looking at his own reflection, Gary Radcliffe felt the cold vacuum of space through the protective layers of the force fielded, transparent aluminium window. His old, weary eyes stared back at him while he studied features. The almost snow white, short cropped haircut he sported matched the stumble upon his chin, complementing the ageing, brown skinned face. At least, that's what Gary believed. Though he was not looking to impress anyone in particular today, instead he was here to stand with a long time friend from way back.
Honestly he thought he would of have been more nervous then he was at this moment. Just that the thought of where his best friend was going, especially under the circumstances, allowed him to keep those emotions in check. He would need a friend right now and more then likely, down the road from this day forward. Which Gary was happy to be; because being out in the Gama Quadrant, cut off from Command, with only this base and the very few who were stationed here... it was no going to be easy. It wouldn't be for anyone, though he had seen some make the adjustment a lot easier then others. Usually those officers were the younger ones, but a few veteran Captains did surprise him.
Possibly even Charles would surprise him, in fact he counted on it when he arrived aboard the station.
Raising his right hand, Gary gently rubbed with the tips of his fingers against five, shiny pips. They represented his rank of Admiral, a rank he still felt undeserving of. It was when he realized the mission and who was being asked to take on such a long assignment, that Gary finally accepted it. Somehow there had to be a way for him to use this promotion to his advantage, at least to Charles'.
“Admiral,” said a voice from behind Gary. He turned to a very tall, yellow jacketed Benzite at the transport control console, and gave a nod for him to continue. “Captain Gibson is ready to beam up, sir.”
“Good,” said Admiral Radcliffe, tucking down the bottom of his red jacket. They never ever did fit right, but he was sure it was just in his mind this time. The weight of the higher rank was getting to him, he assumed, and was never one to pull rank. It just wasn't him.
Standing off to the right of the transporter console, Gary casually held his hands behind his back, then turned to the Benzite, Transporter Chief. “Energize.”
The blue skinned Benzite went to work typing on the console, without his breather, connected to his chest getting in the way of his vision. The cold smoke pouring out of it vanished fast enough for him to see what he was doing as he typed expertly into the panels and then slid three fingers upward upon the pitch black glass, light it up with three yellow-sectional bars.
A moment later the familiar hum increased in a volume slightly, and shortly following that the blue steams of light shot up from the yellow-orange transporter pad. Disappearing into the top of the transporter, the remaining blue particles of energy materialized the solid form of Captain Charles Gibson. He appeared decked out in a the red complete red jacket and black pants, like Gary's, but with only four pips across the somewhat thicker trim across the shoulders. The middle aged Starfleet Captain took a look around the dark, dimly lit and quite large trasnporter room. Giving the back of his head a scratch, he could feel the slight balding spot near the back of his short, dark brown bair.
“Permission to come aboard, Admiral?” asked Charles, as he gave a soft grin to his oldest and really, only friend in the fleet.
Gary returned the grin and gave the Chief a nod to leave his station. “Granted.”
The middle-aged Captain stepped down from the now dimmed transporter pad and walked on up to the Admiral. He offered his hand and felt Gary's firm grip take it, giving it a good shake as well. Charles jumped a bit as Gary gave him a quick tap in the gut after the Chief left.
“I see retirement's been good to you, Charlie boy,” jibed the older Admiral.
Laughing it off, Charles shook while looking down at himself, “Yeah, it has indeed. The uniform's a little more snug then it used to be. But...”
“Feels good to be back in it, huh?”
“You could say that,” replied Gibson as they both left the transporter room and entered into the brightly light, light grey corridors that were lined with beige along the walls. Maroon carpets lined the floors and black computer-panels lined along the top section on one side of the corridor. “Nice place, nicer then being put on that cramped ship all the way here.”
“Didn't you take the wormhole?” asked Radcliffe with a puzzled expression dropping over his face.
“Yeah, to get into the Quadrant,” Charles answered, “It was the rest of the way here. I think they deliberately took the lowest warp speed possible. Or at least the bumpiest course.” He gently rubbed the back of his neck, tilting it to one side to work a kink out.
“It wasn't a smooth ride, I can tell you much.”
“Well you won't have to worry about that now, Charlie boy,” said Gary as they turned down another corridor and headed for the turbolift at the end. “All the comforts of home are waiting for you. But first...”
A twisting and turning sensation formed in the older and slightly taller Admiral's stomach. They both knew what he was going to say, but hoped he would just move onto another subject. Or maybe he would if he brought it up like he knew was going to. Though the opportunity to finally get some answers as to why Charles decided to come out of retirement all of the sudden. There was real reason behind it and he knew it would bother him if he didn't find out what it was. Especially before he left for the uncharted regions of the Gama Quadrant. Gary would of liked to have gone with him, but his recent promotion gave him the duties of Chief of Starfleet Engineering aboard GS1. Preventing him from taking any deep space exploration missions at all.
“How is she?” asked Charles, quickly glancing over to see what reaction he was going to get.
“The same, Charles.”
Captain Gibson nodded and looked down at the floor for a second then back towards the beige, enclosed turbolift doors. He knew that whenever he would call him by his full first name instead o the nickname he gave him at the academy all those years ago, he was meaning business. Deciding to let it go he watches the side lights go from down-to-up, to right-to-left on the wall of the lift. The elevator had switched directions and Gibson figured they were close, but he hoped this conversation wouldn't stay awkward all the way there. “I was just curious, Admiral,” Charles replied sombrely, “Besides, she asked me here.”
“Yes, but why did you agree to it?” Radcliffe questioned with a furrowed brow, then turned and gave his middle-aged friend an arched eyebrow. “You never gave into her requests before... what's changed?”
“People change over time,” said Charles trying to keep things light, fearing he'd mention the other thing that he know puzzled his almost, white haired superior officer and friend.
“Oh I didn't say anything,” Gary replied aloofly, not making eye contact with his younger subordinate. Though somehow he know it was only a matter of time before he caved in, all he had to do was let him think it over.
Charles thought it over, wondering if he should give him the full answer or just some little white lie. In the end as the turbolift doors whooshed open, Charles decided on what to say. His friend was here, by his side, going to see the one person he was dreading to see again after all this time. At least he thought it was dread... though it would of been butterflies... Gibson did consider the possibility that it was something else, that maybe he did miss her—wanted her back. He just wasn't here for that though, and with his mission Charles was to take command on, it would make things difficult it not impossible for a rekindling of the past. Though there was one request he knew he'd get the okay to, and maybe fix or smooth some things over with.
“I'm doing this to mend some bridges...,” he muttered, barely audible enough for Gary to hear. Then he turned to his older friend, “Is that what you really wanted to ask?”
Gary looked back at him, “It's commendable that you want to fix some past mistakes. We all do. There is always something we regret and wish we could take back.”
He took a brief pause to muddle over saying the other thing on his mind but in the end decided to be out with it, “And then there is the fact we're not that far from Dominion territory.”
“Your point?” asked Charles a little more sternly then he would of prefered, while turning away as he too felt the twisting in his stomach.
It wasn't something he wanted to remember or even at least discuss. Gibson knew where they were, he knew where he was heading and it was not anywhere close to that part of space from the mission brief he read on the way here. Starfleet Command left his course up to him, since he was being sent out to explore a large area that Starfleet has never been. Still, bringing that up made him a little curious as to why now, after all this time would he would mention about Dominion space.
Gary turned to his friend once more and gave a small, weary smile mixed with pity.
“Charles,” began Admiral Radcliffe, “I don't mean to push. I don't mean to pull rank, you know I'm not like that. Never been that way either.. I just always wanted to be an Engineer. But....” He then sighed heavily, “If you don't want to tell me why you're really taking on this assignment, then don't. But I am still going to be a friend. In this place you'll need at least one.”
“It's that bad?” Gibson wondered aloud with surprise.
“I'll just say you weren't Amanda's first pick,” Gary answered, “To be honest, I don't know what changed.”
“Maybe...,” Charles murmured as he consider a possibility that Amanda wanted to patch things up. Or at least, wanted to see him.
“Never mind, Gary...,” replied Gibson, then he added solemnly, “Sometimes I just over think things too much.”
“Hmmmm...,” the Admiral murmured. Gary had an idea of what his friend was probably thinking, though he also knew how stubborn and pigheaded they both could be. Just that he also knew better then to but in on something that clearly wasn't his business. Although the older Officer did hope that maybe someday they would ease up and meet one another halfway down the road. Like another fellow, Starfleet Officer was quoted saying: “There are always... possibilities.”
GSI: Outer-docking ring Corridor.
Sometime later a tall and slender, Melanin skinned, European man in a golden jacketed, security uniform was making his rounds on the docking ring. It was yet another boring day on the job for Ensign Silva as he yawned on yet, his third patrol this morning. He hated the early shift, but at least he hoped there wouldn't be another shift waiting for him when all was said and done for the day. Unlike last week with that supposed call in at the last minute. He had had a gold pressed latinum for every time somehow called in sick, he'd be richer then a some of the Ferangi he had dealt with once or twice.
Just as he made it around the rounded corner of the corridor, a Jeffery's tube hatch opened in the somewhat darkened, junction area. Cautiously, Ensign Silva sauntered over to the wall and quietly peeked around. He stood there, hidden from view as the blue uniformed Lieutenant crawled out of the Jeffery's tube.
Silva snapped back to reality, realizing that him, a security officer was hiding when he should just move on by. Though he was positive there were no repairs scheduled for today, and it was peculiar for a science or medical officer to be the Jeffery's tube. Watching curiously, Silva noticed the case this dark, pale skinned Lieutenant had with him was a tool box. Even the tricorder on his hip wasn't medical or science issue either. Something was obviously up with this and that's when he felt his palms began to sweat a little.
Resting a shaky hand upon the smooth, curved, black and silver grip of his Phaser, he nervously stepped out of hiding. Clearing his throat, the young, Melanin secuirty officer spoke up, “Excuse me, Lieutenant. What are you doing in that Jeffery's tube?”
The Lieutenant ignored him and continued on with his work, opening up a panel to reveal a power relay conduit. Quickly the blue uniformed officer began to type on the control panel, constant beeping echoed in the corridor as he disengaged safety locks, diverted excess power flow and by passed sensor scans. Grabbing a small, flat, palm sized device from the grey, rectangular toolbox, the Lieutenant then slapped it onto a vacant part of the panel. Pressing a few buttons on it sent an electrical surge through the relay's security grid which in turn shorted it.
“Hey!” exclaimed Ensign Silva as he marched on over, pulling out his Phaser as he got closer, “What the heck are you doi-AGH!”
The pseudo science officer moved like lightening with incredible fluidity as he grabbed a hold of the security officer's wrist. In one quick motion he broke it, disarmed him of his weapon and smashed the young man's head into the bulkhead. The impact left a small blood stain dripping to the floor next to the now unconscious body. He then knelled down next to the body and coldly, lifeless looked it over before placing a couple fingers upon the young man's neck. After checking for a pulse and finding one he then went back to work on the open conduit.
Quickly unscrewing and dislodging a cable that he had switched off, he then turned back to the fallen Ensign. An interesting idea slowly began to form, or possibly programing, not even he knew for sure. Though indeed it would serves his purposes and take care of two problems and possibly help the next phase of the plan move a lot quicker. In turn it would force him to move a lot faster as well, but he was prepared for it. The original plan was effective enough as it was, but this gave an even bigger advantage, even though it would also draw more attention.
Kneeling down next to his toolbox again, the Lieutenant opened it and retried a twenty centimeter, silver and bronze sonic driver.
GSI: Admiral Headly's Office.
Fleet Admiral Amanda Headly sat behind her desk with her legs crossed, elbows upon the arms rests and her fingers somewhat intertwined together. Resting her chin against them she waited, patiently for the Turbolift to finally arrive at the far end side of the rather large office. It even had a massive window to one side, opposite of her on the upper level secluded by dark, wooden railing. It was kind of lounge area, were as around her desk, there were standard, black leather chairs. Definitely designed for business she thought and kind of fitting possibly. Up there you could relax and stare at the stars, but down there you got down to business.
Brushing her curly, shoulder length brown hair away form her face, she then gently turned the ring around her left hand's middle finger. Amanda stared at it for a long time as her thoughts wandered back into the past. There the good memories mixed in with the bad and in the end it was the bad ones that became the more prominent in the mind's eye. Slowly Admiral Headly's gaze came down upon the shiny, dark finish of her black and wooden trimmed desk, as she saw her fair reflection looking back at her. Those sad green eyes staring back gradually turned to anger she followed the subtle traces of wrinkling upon her face. She was not ugly by any sense of the word, but age wasn't exactly too kind to her either, though really the cause she know was rooted in the stress she's been through most of her life. There were even times where Headly wondered how she even held on, but really, that answer was simple. The simple fact was that there was no other choice, she had to keep it together. Even now at this very moment there was no ifs, ands or buts about it.
As the turbolift finally stopped at the far end of the dim, ambient office level; Amanda pulled down her red jacket and checked her bared pips to make sure they were on straight. They were. Then she resumed her original posture, cleared her throat and calmed herself down enough to put on a slightly stern expression.
The doors soon slid apart with a whoosh, shining the bright turbolift lighting like column of sunlight into the darker office. Captain Gibson walked on in first with Admiral Radcliffe right behind him then beside him as they made their way over to Headly's desk. Charles noticed the stern look upon her face and instead of doing the same, he gave a small, but genuinely warm smile. Even Radcliffe gave a courteously smile as well.
Amanda smiled and nodded to Gary but to Charles, it looked a little forced, in fact it was obvious. Though deep down she swore she felt her heart skip a beat, only to refocus her mind on the meeting instead. This was business and nothing more, just the usual reporting in to the CO in charge, and get your assignment sort of meetings. Just that in this case, there was indeed a little more to it to discuss before dismissing the the Captain.
“Have a seat gentleman,” said Headly a little more forcefully then she had intended, but at least she could get away with it.
“Admiral,” both Charles and Gary said and then took their respective seats on the other side of the desk.
Charles leaned back and crossed his legs, where as Gary sat a little more relaxed and took a deep breath. Gary was a little curious on how calm his younger friend was coming off, at least it was a hell of an act he thought. Secretly he hoped they'd work things out calmly and civilly, but that could be a little too much to ask for in the long run. Realistically it was only a matter of time before it went from argument to screaming match. Ranks be damned.
GS1: Outer-docking ring corridor.
The Lieutenant typed into the well panel and turned on the power conduit relay after riging a flurry of cables, wires and circuits. Everything had been rewired and a primary, see-through cable had been wrapped around the unconscious Ensign. It glowed brightly as the plasmatic energy surged along the clear tubing and into the capacitor upon the wall.
Quickly picking up the toolbox after putting everything he used away, he grabbed the phaser and pulled out his tricorder to take a few scans. Everything was looking normal on his screen and he punched in a few commands into the hand-held device. Closing it up and holstering it, the pale skinned Lieutenant stepped over the knocked out security officer as he switched off the weapon and tucked it away in his toolbox. Looking back once more the nonchalant science officer waited until the Ensign started to regain consciousness and then disappeared around the corridor.
Shaking his head, Ensign Silva tried to break free of the splitting headache he was feeling. It honestly reminded him of the worst hangover he had a few months back. Rubbing the back of his head he forced himself to open his eyes and focus them. Groggy was an understatement with how he feeling now, and then he noticed the blood trickling down the side of his face. Pressing a few fingers to it and then prying them off to look at the red liquid coating and sliding down them. Blinking a few times he was able to see it a little more clearly and it began to freak him out a little. Unfortunately he felt the weight of something holding him down while trying to get up. Looking at himself, the young Ensign could see a large array of wires and glowing, charged cable around him. Following it all the way up to the open wall panel freaked him out even more.
Unsure of how to unconnect himself he figured calling for assistance would be the best solution. Taking in deep breathes the young Ensign security officer brought a small sense of calm to his erratic mind. Then he looked over at his comm-badge on the left side of his jacket and tapped it, activating the comm-chirp.
GS1: Fleet Admiral Headly's Office.
“You will be in this section here,” stated Headly on the Stellar-graphic map behind her desk on the large, wall monitor. The forty-eight year old Fleet Admiral pointed to a large, vacant space between the Alpha Quadr and Bajoran borders. “This is the area on unexplored space the mission is designated on. Plenty of room to discover new worlds, lifeforms and civilizations. Though I can't guarantee you won't run into hostiles while out there...”
“When can we ever?” Gary said as a matter of fact, and give his friend beside him a tiny bit of a chuckle.
“I know, we all take that risk when taking on these assignments...,” sighed Charles, “Comes with putting on the uniform.”
“So why did you accept this mission?” asked Amanda with puzzled look, and she truly was curious as to why he did. Though her theory wasn't that far off from the truth, but there was more to it. There is always more to it then that with him, he she learned one thing from their time together. There was always more then one reason for everything.
“Why did you ask him to come out of retirement for this?” Gary inquired while staying relaxed, though honestly he felt himself tense up a bit. Even though he was an Admiral... she was this sector's Fleet Admiral. Some part of him hoped that their friendship would give him some leeway, at least a little more then Charles. It was definitely one of the benefits of being a long time friend to both of these officers.
“Don't deviate from my question,” Headly replied sharply then turned back to Charles who looked back at her.
Captain Gibson sat forward while staring down for a moment at his boots while he pondered on how to answer. “Like I said before... the only way I'd come out of retirement was on a mission of peaceful exploration.”
“Yes, I remember, Captain,” answered Headly crossing her arms, waiting for the rest of his answer to finally spill out.
“This is one them and granted I can't count on it being just about exploration all the time. There are bound to be mishaps along the way. That's life. I'll take it as they come, but... I think I have a chance to mend some bridges while I'm at it,” Charlie added as he looked his superior commanding officer in the eye for the first time today.
“No,” she said coldly, “I can't believe you are even considering it.”
“Oh I've thought about it for a while now, and from the reports...”
“He's egotistical, a hot shot, no respect for his duties...-”
“I know,” Charles said, cutting Amanda off and then continued, “I want to make him my First Officer. Give him a chance to appreciate and learn some responsibility. It could be good for him. In fact... it could be the best experience for him. Better then just keeping him here on a leash. He needs to go out out on his own to learn things the hard way. Through life experience for lack of a better term.
“It'd be a great opportunity for him and I to get reacquainted with one another, Amanda. I need to make up for some lost time... we both do.”
Amanda gradually slumped back in her chair and stared down upon the dark finish, although she herself was lost in thought. There really wasn't much of a reason to keep Ryan there, doing mundane assignments, staying close. He was a man now, a fully grown young man and an officer in Starfleet. She could of obviously pulled rank and just flat out said no, but then to back it up would of caused her to write a report. All that paper work just cause she didn't feel he was worthy to promote due to his actions and behaviour. Granted it would be enough and legitimately a solid reasoning, but Headly also knew that there was some logic to Charles' way of thinking too. Having to run a space station and then watch over her son as well left her even more stressed. Still her motherly instincts were more or less the main reason to keep him there.
“Maybe...,” she began, reluctantly, “Maybe I do need to let go of some things. Let you be a father if you seriosly want the job again.”
“I do,” Charles told her flat out, his expression unchanging and he was dead serious about it. It was there... staring right into Amanda's eyes. “But I will also be his Captain and his friend. Everything a young, brash officer needs rolled into one as best to my ability.”
“Alright...,” Headly agreed, grabbing a PADD off to one side of the desk and began to type, “I'll put the transfer through. Do you want to promote him to Lieutenant Commander?”
Just then outside the large, office window a small cruising, transport shuttle docked with one of the outer-ring pods. Suddenly there came a boom, followed by several small ones until finally the entire pod exploded. Pieces of of the docking-ring pod and the shuttle scattered throughout the vacuum of color and blackness, adding to the mass of pinholes that were already there, twinkling in the dark lifeless sky. The flashing shock wave filled the office window for a brief second, blinding all three officers for a moment.
They rose up to their feet and stared out towards the destruction in shock and horror of what just happened...