Posted on Fri Jun 10th, 2022 @ 6:07am by Admiral Audra Milne & Captain Nycolas Temple & Mauricio Arnaldo & Lieutenant Commander Mindo & Lieutenant Farizah Alani & Lieutenant Kalin Brennan-Griffin PhD & Lieutenant James Smith & Lieutenant Krysia Kaleri-Smith & Ensign Breena Powell & Ensign Aenardha Sh'vastarth & Cailus Griffin & Admiral Gordon Francis
The Only Thing Left Was Hope
Location: Carnwennan Station
Carnwennan Station's operations center was a seemingly quiet place at this moment. A few officers were on duty, managing the usual traffic around the deep space station, the hum drum of the every day continuing as standard.
"Bridge to Docking port 16, you are free to depart. Safe journey." The Transport officer, Lieutenant Penelope Arnaea declared in her usual monotone.
It was only Admiral Milne who appeared tense, finding the minute by minute ticking by like a nail dragged slowly down a bulkhead. She knew the Pandora was on her way back, and it was only a matter of time before the ship returned. She sat pensively in the Command chair, hands balled into tight fists as she waited impatiently.
Lt. Arnaea cleared her throat, "Alrighty, S.S. Telemachus, once Dock 16 is clear, you may proceed to - "
A Red Alert klaxon sounded loudly across the Bridge.
"Admiral, incoming vessel detected on long-range scans." Penelope declared, "It's coming from the Expanse."
"Identity?" Milne asked, though she knew the answer.
"It's the Pandora, sir," Ensign Arnaea said the words with a heavy tone, turning to look at her superior officer in confusion.
At that moment, the Pandora dropped out of warp some distance away from Carnwennan Station and began to slowly cruise towards it.
"It has no markings." The Ensign remarked, looking at the view screen. "And shields are raised to maximum, Admiral. But the call sign is definitely Pandora."
"That's her alright." Milne said with a sigh.
"Were we expecting them?" Penelope asked, looking over her schedule in a sudden swell of doubt. "I don't have anything on my list."
"No," Milne replied as she stood up. "Not yet we weren't."
=== USS Pandora ===
"Carnwennan ahead, sir." Ensign Milkovich reported from his position at the helm.
Krysia frowned as she sat in her seat beside Nyx. “Captain...there’s a lot of confusion and uncertainty radiating from Carnwennan. “I don’t know if that’s just because we’ve got no markings, or whether it’s something else.”
"There are other ways to tell who we are than the markings on our hull, Counselor," Mindo replied, "but your sensing confusion is worrisome."
James watched the approach from his station at his office. He was prepared for anything that could happen and approaching without any markings can be dangerous.
“Let’s get this over with.” Nyx said with a sigh. “Hail the Carnwennan.”
Ian tapped at his console and opened up the comms channel. The station immediately responded and once again, Admiral Milne was on screen.
“Captain, you made it safely?” Milne said with a placid smile.
“We did, Admiral.” Nyx said tersely. “We would like to seek the council of Starfleet Command.”
“Command?” Milne cocked her head to the side, “Captain, what is the meaning of this?”
A charade. A game. An act. Milne knew what was going on. Nyx just didn’t know if she was playing her hand or keeping her cards to her chest.
“We are being scanned.” Ensign Milkovich called out.
“Something you’re looking for, Admiral?” Nyx asked the screen.
On Carnwennan, Milne didn’t flinch.
“Admiral, sensors indicate the presence of unregistered passengers.” Lt. Arnea announced from her console. “Scans have detected Admiral Francis, Admiral Thac, Lieutenant Brennan, Ensign Sh’vastarth, Cailus Griffin, and… more. Scientists and crew that were assigned elsewhere… not in the Expanse but they’re now on the Pandora?”
“Explanation, Captain?” Milne spoke.
Nyx steeled his gaze at the view screen. “We seek the council of Starfleet Command. It is an emergency.”
“Tell us, what is the threat?” Milne pressed, “Is it the Alrakis Pact?”
“Phaser damage, hull scorching, a repaired nacelle.” Lt. Arnea continued to read out the reports. “The Pandora has seen conflict, Admiral. And recently.”
“Captain?!” Admiral Milne questioned, her tone hardening.
Krysia sat monitoring the exchange, To say she felt nervous at this point was an understatement, there was a lot at stake for the whole crew.
The turbolift door swished open and Admiral Gordon Francis stepped out, having been working with Cailus preparing his interrogation of Thac. When he saw his fellow Admiral on screen he smiled. "Audra! It's good to see you again."
"Admiral!" Milne feigned surprise, "So the scanners were telling the truth this time. You are on the Pandora?!"
"Well where am I supposed to be?" Francis asked with equally feigned suspicion.
Audra raised an eyebrow, "I take it this means your assignment was... informative?" She asked.
"Admiral." Nyx interjected, "Francis has pivotal information regarding Starfleet operations in the Inconnu Expanse. This is what we've been trying to tell you!"
"Oh? Does the Admiral have something to say?" Audra pressed.
Nyx turned slightly, lowering his voice as he spoke to Francis, "She needs you to make the request. She's protecting her position, or something. But she needs you to demand a hearing with the Federation."
Ignoring Nyx, Admiral Francis stepped forward and yelled, "Audra, there are several matters I think need to be discussed, but for the love of Pete, where's your hospitality? The Pandora and her crew just spent a week freezing their keisters off moving through a hostile nebula while being chased by Ravagers out to destroy them! They haven't even had time to repaint their ship's name on the hull and you greet them like the troll under the bridge waiting for a password! What do any of us have to do to get a smile and some shore leave?!"
Francis looked around at the various reactions of the bridge crew.
Milkovich sat poised at his console, unsure where this was going. He thought the Captain was asking for a meeting, but the Admiral seemed more interested in shore leave. He wasn't sure what the game plan was here. Nyx too had a moment of doubt, confusion running across his face.
Francis then turned back and pointed at Milne's stunned image. "And while you're on it, you'd better call up the Federation Council. I demand an official hearing!" Francis gave Captain Temple a stern nod of acknowledgment. "And I'm not the only one here who has a bone to pick with them."
There was a sigh of relief from the Captain. Of course he should have known to trust the wily Admiral.
From the viewscreen, there was a slight smile from the Admiral as well. Faint and momentary, but undoubtedly there. "But of course." She replied immediately, "At your request, Admiral, I can do that."
"Relay us to the Council." Nyx instructed to Milkovich, "Carnwennan will give us the signal."
"Captain." Milne spoke tersely, "Unfortunately we are undergoing maintenance on our comms relay at the moment. We won't be able to send the transmission."
Nyx narrowed his eyes, "But you agreed to give us the Council?" He questioned.
"Yes, I will give you permission to address them, but without our relay, you'll have to do it yourselves." Milne replied. "Once it is fixed."
Temple frowned for a moment, processing this news. Was this Milne's plan all along? To place the Pandora in the position of speaking with the Council themselves? He could only assume.
"Very well then." Nyx replied. He turned and nodded to Francis and Mindo, before taking his seat. "We can stay on board the Pandora until your relay is operational."
Francis shook his head. "I'm sorry, Captain, but that's not good enough. This ship hasn't seen Federation territory for two years. Taking some shore leave on Carnwennan would be best for everyone involved. They have the medical resources Earth has for treating Commander Nash, and even more resources to help finish repairs. Also, I saw the notice that there are new crew being assigned to the Pandora. It will take a few weeks for them to get here, but that's a few weeks for some R-and-R." He looked around the Bridge. "I think I speak for the rest of your crew as well..."
Milne raised an eyebrow, "I would concur with my fellow Admiral."
Francis turned his attention back to Temple. "I'm giving an order. Let's take a load off."
Nyx raised up his arms, "Okay then. We will disembark onto Carnwennan. But I hope to have a meeting with you first, Admiral Milne, before we get too comfortable."
"I welcome it." Milne smiled, tersely. "Carnwennan out."
The screen went blank again, merely showing the Starfleet insignia.
Temple relaxed into his chair, feeling like he had just played a game of chess where all the pieces had merely swapped over sides of the same board. With a sigh, he tapped the comms button on his arm panel for a ship-wide announcement. "All hands, we will be preparing to dock at Carnwennan Station. Once clearance has been provided, we will be initiating Shore Leave. Department heads will roster skeleton screw on a Grey Mode schedule. Debriefing instructions will follow shortly. Temple out."
The Pandora's return had not been as glorious as he had hoped, but Temple was pleased at least that they were home again.