Chapter 1 Calendar Date: 8:59 am 1 October 2379 Stardate: 56233.63 Location: Starfleet Headquarters (Earth/Sol) Thirty-six year old Jason Erik Crichton paced the corridors of the neighborhood medical center in Aldrin City. His sister and brother-in-law, (Mackenzie “Mack” Chao and his fiancee Sean Crichton) were home with their mother, Medea Crichton. Sean’s father had been aboard one of the ships - a Starfleet Marine - at Wolf 359 that hadn’t made it home. This was a much-needed joyous distraction from the Federation family’s most recent problems. Jason’s wife, 28 year old Tatianna Marie Sodorholm-Crichton, had already given birth once as a sixteen year old Aid Worker. They had no idea where her first-born child was now. They’d prayed the adoptive parents or the child would’ve permitted ongoing communication between them. So far, nothing from either of them. They thought he (or she) would’ve liked to know they had a baby sister (Corrine Anastasia Crichton,) coming into the world. The Intrepid-Class U.S.S. Mandela, was docked at Starfleet Headquarters and wasn’t expected to leave for another three weeks as she’d taken pretty extensive damage from Klingons refusing to honor the armistice with the Dominion. The Mandela, bloodied but unbowed, had pulled the short-straw for some kind of hush-hush new upgrades. Jason’s Tellarite room-mate had suddenly been moved out of their shipboard quarters, sequestered and not allowed to discuss the assignment he’d been pulled for, in any detail whatsoever. Jason had just gotten back from the understandable ‘where were you when the crap hit the fan’ inquiries when he’d noticed a couple of body-builders milling around in front of his quarters. One of them handed him a brand-new carry-all and sent him on his way to Starfleet Headquarters with a disdainful ‘go fuck yourself’, while refusing to let him get near the door. He headed for Main Engineering (as the ship’s bridge had been abandoned because of catastrophic decompression,) to get answers. He’d get those answers from the Mandela’s Assistant Chief Engineer, temporarily Officer of The Deck until everyone’s off-loaded and the hatches are sealed. Jason called up a Jeffries Tube and was startled to the point of turning red as the Ferengii he was looking-for walked-up behind Jason from a console on the far side the warp core and purposely startled him. “Can I help you, sir?” Lieutenant Umarrin Fray, a handsome, physically-fit Ferengii, was used to the looks he got from the junior officers and even some of his own peers. He was the best at what he did and couldn’t be bothered to apologize for the rest of his species. Jason was his best friend as the two of them spent hours holed-up in cramped Jeffries Tubes and could almost finish each other sentences. They were both raised in The Pacific Northwest on Earth, even though that meant Umarrin would attract some occasional undesirable attention in the process. As a result, Jason and Umarrin had similar tastes in everything from holosuite LARP (live action roleplaying), to seafood, music, and women. Umarrin was more into Soccer; and Jason, loved to gawk at football cheerleaders. Umarrin was the extrovert; and Jason, the overly-cautious one to the point it pretty much forced Umarrin to do something about it. Walking down the stadium stairs to their seats, Umarrin saw the girl Jason was crushing on, stuck out his ankle and slapped Jason on the ass. That ass-slap caused Jason to lurch forward with his lunch tray in his hands, trip over Umarrin and come crashing over the tiny partition between the cheerleaders and the public. Thankfully, Tatianna (also a Medical student learning at a nearby civilian technical institute,) realized that this was a marginally-amusing set-up attempt. She got over the fact he’d dumped his nachoes and cola all over her, helped him up and bandaged the besotten cadet on a nearby bench. She didn’t start seriously seeing him until three years later. They were both on the same planet assisting an evacuation of a Cardassian/Federation border colony in 2367, on the eve of the Peace Accord. He shoved her out of the way of a Cardassian soldier looking to make her his whore and took a bad beating from the enraged spoonhead’s comrades. Shivering and scared to death from the ensuing assault on them both, Tatianna somehow worked up the blind-rage to take a holstered weapon from one of the aliens and obliterate those at the scene. They’d lurched, stumbled and dragged each other to a Hideki-Class fighter, had other casualties help get it flying and made a run for it. A Galaxy-Class starship assisted them to safety and eventually home. After several more years of counseling and attempts to heal, Tatianna found herself in New Seattle on Earth in 2373. A graduate school student taking self-defense courses and finishing a PhD via distance learning. She’d moved to a tropical-themed ‘aquanaut’ city, partially submerged in shallow waters on the edge of what used to be Old Seattle near Mercer Island before the Hermosa Quake….the much-awaited Big One. Jason was there to enjoy his brother in law’s bachelor party and had just entered the medical facility the next morning, looking for something to end the room-spinning hangover. She’d begun evaluating him from across the room with standard questions listed on a clipboard, looked-up, recognized the haggard face of the person trying not to vomit and stopped dead in her tracks.