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it Never Rains...

Posted on Fri Jul 3rd, 2020 @ 6:49pm by Commander Temerant Bast & Devan Kilvin & Captain James McCullen & Admiral Dias Maxiel

Mission: Shadows
Location: Ready Room, USS Sentinel
Timeline: MD1 - 0630 Hours

Captain McCullen strode into his ready room, he'd spent the past several hours on the bridge, sitting in his chair doing... not very much, on their journey back towards Opaka Outpost. It had almost felt like being an XO again, there had been comparatively little in the way of command duties to be done and he'd enjoyed it. But he'd gotten two notifications almost at the same time that he had two calls coming in, one from Ambassador Kilvin and another from Admiral Maxiel. It never rained but it poured.

The captain tapped his comm badge as he moved to his desk, "Commander Bast, report to my ready room," and then sat himself down and prepared his system for a surprise conference call. If both Kilvin and Maxiel wanted to speak to him right now then they'd have to put up with each other.

Bast emerged very suddenly from his dreams, lost in the arms of a lovely blonde, and awoke to the loneliness of his quarters on the Sentinel, wrapped in darkness, with only the stars streaking by the viewport providing barely enough light to prevent him from banging his toes on the nightstand. He tapped the controls on the nightstand to turn on the computer monitor, which showed him that he'd gotten all of four hours of sleep.

"On my way," replied the First Officer, any trace of sleep banished from his voice. He reached for a clean uniform, and quickly got dressed before heading out the door, running his fingers through his hair to straighten it out as he walked to the turbolift.

"Computer, connect the two incoming subspace communications into a conference call and display them both split screen on the main display." He instructed, "then put them both on hold." The Admiral would be annoyed, Kilvin would likely be upset, too, but he wanted to wait until Bast arrived.

The ready room door chime beeped softly as Bast arrived.

McCullen smiled, Bast was just on time, as he usually was. He pushed the enter button.

Bast entered and stood before the Captain's desk. He looked at the wall monitor, its screen split down the middle, one side showing the emblem of the Federation Diplomatic Corps, and the other displaying the Starfleet emblem.

"Ah," he said simply.

"Did you sleep well, commander?" McCullen asked his XO, shooting a grin at Bast, "I hope so, because this is going to be a shitstorm, take a seat and brace yourself."

"I think I'm at risk of developing an addiction to Rak'tajino," grumbled Bast, giving his commanding officer a lopsided grin as he took the offered seat.

James put his best innocent face on and opened the communication line. The first thing he heard was an indignant admiral. "What in the name of hell do you mean putting an Admira... Aaambassador Kilvin, what are you doing on my communications line?"

"Good afternoon, Admiral," smiled the Trill ambassador. "Captain, Commander."

"Ambassador, Admiral," greeted Bast.

"Admiral, Ambassador," McCullen butted in before the conversation got heated, "I'm sorry for pulling you together onto one line, sirs, but I suspect you both want to tell me the same thing. I assume this is about the xirdalium in the nebula on the edge of Dominion space that the Stakoron's desperately need, and your orders for the Sentinel to go get it, sirs?"

Admiral Maxiel, to his credit, grinned like a fox in a chicken coop and settled back in his chair.

"Captain," spoke Kilvin. We've taken a good look at your report concerning the xirdalium situation on Stakoron. I'm sure you're aware of the strategic importance the Federation Council places on keeping our new Stakoron friends happy. Finding a fresh and stable supply of xirdalium is a top priority for the Federation's interests in the quadrant."

"My science officer has already identified a likely source of xirdalium, ambassador." McCullen replied, "it's on the edge of Dominion space, though, and the Sentinel won't be able to individually supply a whole planet."

"We've got a plan for that, captain." Maxiel replied, "we're sending you schematics for mass transporter relays, you'll set them up in a line towards the nebula and they'll relay the xirdalium back to the planet. Until we get an actual supply chain set up, that should provide enough for the Stakorons to sustain themselves. You'll locate the mineral, set up the relays and begin transmission. You'll also pick up as much as you can and bring it back as a booster."

"I see," McCullen frowned slightly, "what does intelligence and the diplomatic service think about the Dominion's response to us probing around on their borders?"

"Our latest intelligence reports are to the effect that the Dominion has effectively retreated inside its own borders, and sealed them tightly. don't cross into Dominion territory, and they shouldn't be a bother. They seem to be focused on internal matters for the time being. That may change, of course, but there are no indications for that in the short term."

Kilvin's tone was firm and certain, without any hint of hesitation. Bast caught the Captain looking at him out of the corner of his eye, and nodded in confirmation.

"You should still take precautions, captain." Maxiel added, "and Commander Kingston on the Talon will be on standby to come to your assistance if needed."

"That's comforting, sir," McCullen responded, knowing full well that one Defiant class ship several hours away would be little to no help if the Dominion did decide to interject with forceful intent but keeping that thought to himself. "We're two hours away from Opaka Outpost now, we'll need a day to turn around and then we'll head for the nebula."

"Negative, captain." Maxiel frowned, "I know your people have been stretched thin recently, but this can't wait a day. You have six hours at Opaka, maximum, then you need to head for the nebula as fast as your engines will carry you."

"Damn," James ground out, deigning not to hide his displeasure this time. "With respect, sir, I don't think eighteen hours will make much difference to the Stakoron situation. My people need some down time if Starfleet expects us to keep up this pace."

Maxiel scowled, "Ambassador Kilvin? Would the Stakoron team be willing to delay by eighteen hours?"

"The Stakoron have a crumbling infrastructure," said Kilvin, "and by all accounts, their supply of xirdalium is nonexistent, and this thing cannot be recycled and reused. I think a twelve-hour layover would be a reasonable compromise, but it shouldn't be any longer than that."

Bast exhaled just loud enough for McCullen to hear, but careful not to be overheard over the subspace channel - but the look that came in Kilvin's eyes let him know that the Ambassador had indeed noticed.

James heard the sigh, and caught the change in expression on Kilvin's face. The last thing he needed was to bring family drama into an already difficult situation. Perhaps, he mused, it would have been better to speak to the two men separately. He inwardly cursed, "very well, Admiral, Ambassador, twelve hours. I'm probably going to have to log an official complaint from our chief medical officer, which will go right alongside mine in my log."

"That," Maxiel replied, "is your prerogative captain, I can't say I blame you. Just get this damn mission done without upsetting the Dominion or the Stakoron, and I promise you and your crew some R&R time."

"I'll hold you to that, Admiral." McCullen's frown lightened a little, he had half-expected fireworks from the admiral. "Is there anything further that we need to know about? Do you have any pertinent questions, Mr. Bast? Anything I've missed?" James turned to his XO, giving him the chance to be heard if there was something he wanted to say.

"How do we respond if we run into trouble with the Dominion? Engage or retreat?" asked the First Officer.

"Negotiate if possible, do everything you can to secure the xirdalium." Maxiel replied quickly, "if conflict is inevitable, retreat. Of course if you're backed into a corner you have permission to fight to protect yourselves, but only as a last resort and only if you have no other option. We do not need to stir up the Dominion, it could lead to claims of expansionism and re-trigger a conflict in the region."

"If we run into the Dominion and if they are willing to negotiate," McCullen began, his tone indicating quite clearly what he thought of those chances, "how much latitude do I have? What can I offer them in return for the xirdalium?"

"Negotiation is not the Dominion's forté," said Kilvin, confirming McCullen's opinion. "The truth is, we don't have enough intel on the Dominion's current status to be able to determine what they could possibly be interested in, as a trade-off for the xirdalium. My best advice would be to rely on your Chief Diplomatic Officer to lead the negotiation, and touch base with us frequently."

"I can't give you much latitude, Captain." Maxiel added, "given that we don't know if or what they might want. Use your own judgement and I'll back you up, if it comes to that. However, as the ambassador said, they're not likely to negotiate."

"Aye sir," McCullen answered, the two men were basically sending him and his ship off with a good luck and go get 'em, but that, he supposed, was the nature of the mission. With luck, they wouldn't run into Dominion activity at all, but only the foolish and the desperate put their bets on luck. "I'll come back to you with some kind of mission outline as soon as my senior staff and I have hammered something out, though it's likely to be bare-bones given all that we don't know."

"Thank you, captain. Let's wrap this up and you can get on with it, if there's nothing else captain? Commander? Ambassador?" Admiral Maxiel inquired.

"Nothing further, sir." The captain said, glancing sideways at Bast.

Bast silently shook his head, indicating that he had nothing further to ask.

"Godspeed, Captain," said Kilvin. "The Federation Council places the utmost importance on our relationship with the Stakoron, setting an example with other worlds in the quadrant. Their energetic independence is a top priority. The New Hope will be working hard to convert their existing systems to deuterium energy, but we don't foresee a full conversion to be complete for at least ten to fifteen years. In the meantime, it is vital that we establish a steady supply of xirdalium. The future of the Stakoron people, and the Federation's foothold in the sector, rests on your shoulders."

"Thank you, Ambassador." Captain McCullen replied, managing to put some gravitas behind it. Kilvin had spelled out what he already knew. The Federation Council and Starfleet too often put the weight of the future on too few shoulders. It had occurred to the captain that by rights, this mission should have it's own task force. A small fleet of ships with engineering vessels, support ships and picket vessels, but here they were again, one small ship and one crew with all the burden of the Federation's plans for the Gamma Quadrant and the welfare of an entire planet of people laid squarely upon their backs. He dredged up a confident looking smile, "we won't let you down. McCullen out."

The captain cut the channel and turned to Bast, letting the smile drop and the ever-more-frequent concerned frown take it's place. "Damn..." he let out with a sigh, just... damn. "What do you think? Your honest opinion, no rank, no Starfleet."

Bast took a huge breath and let it out with a loud sigh. "I don't suppose we'll find xirdalium at the very outer edge of that nebula," he said with a resigned smile. "We'll have no choice but to go in. That time I was alone on the ship with a crew of Orion pirates? Might have been safer."

"Sometimes, I think I should have retired when I was given the chance." James shook his head, returning Bast's grin with a rueful one of his own, "when we're done with this mission I am taking the Sentinel to Risa for two weeks."

Bast chuckled a bit at that. As he suspected McCullen also did, he had some rather intense memories of past shore leaves on Risa. Some involved more alcohol than recommended, others involved more sex than was probably recommended, others involved both...

"I doubt the brass will allow you to take the ship back through the Wormhole for a trip to Risa, but I'm sure the crew will appreciate the intention," replied Bast with a grin. "I think we'll have to make do with New Bajor. Or maybe find some out-of-the-way little Class-M planet, and set up our own New Risa. Retire from all this and run a B&B - bar and brothel."

"I knew I chose you as my XO for a reason," James chuckled, "but before we get to our debaucherous retirement we need to get this done. Let's schedule a senior staff briefing in a few hours and we'll get ourselves organized."

"Yes, Sir," replied Bast. The Trill stood, and waited to be dismissed before he could get to his station to summon the senior staff for the formal briefing.

"See you at the briefing," James said as a dismissal, giving Bast a nod and then returning his nose to his console and the marathon of preparation that was about to begin.


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