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Thread: Always in Motion

  1. #1

    Always in Motion

    TO: All Command Staff, Officers, and Crews of Joint Task Force 87
    FROM: Fleet Admiral J.W. Underwood, Supreme Allied Commander
    DATE: 13 February 2420 Earth Reckoning (Stardate 97719.77)

    My friends:

    It has been quite a whirlwind this past decade. It seems like yesterday that half of us were fighting the other half. Now we have been forged by the crucible into a greater whole - indivisible, God willing. Nowhere is that bond more evident than in the establishment of the new combined starship design board, and its first product, the Khitomer-class battlecruiser. May it be the first of many such collaborations.

    I have served in Starfleet, on and off, for more than forty years. In that time, I have fought in five wars, and helped conclude or head off three more. Like many of you, indeed most of you, I have borne witness to incredible tragedy: the decimation caused by the Divine Alliance, the Hobus supernova, and years of seemingly unending warfare - the Borg, the Iconians, the Tzenkethi, the Hur'q. But together, we have also seen new life, new worlds, new hope, borne out by the tremendous effort to build a New Romulus and a new Republic, and our efforts to reconnect with the many people encountered by the U.S.S.
    Voyager during her years in the Delta Quadrant. Yet there comes a time in a man's life and career that a decision must be made to move on, and with my physical health suffering from the stresses of my command, I have come to that decision. I am stepping down as Supreme Allied Commander, Joint Task Force 87, Ninth Fleet. I have also sent word to Starfleet Command of my decision to retire from the service.

    A little over four-and-a-half centuries ago, on Earth, a man named Richard Nixon became President of the United States. Though his administration ended in disgrace, it began with a note of hope. As he was inaugurated into office, he said, "The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker." As the work continues to reconstruct the fleet after years of losses - a work helped greatly by the engineers refitting and reverse-engineering the treasure trove of ships found at Yard 39 - I have decided that I have made enough war for one lifetime, and now seek to dedicate my remaining years to making peace... with the hope that in the end, I will be better known for my efforts in that regard.

    Pursuant to this, I have sent a request to the Federation Council to assume the post of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Reydovan Empire, a nation that has suffered enormous losses to the Iconians and the Hur'q, and has struggled to regain its footing. The reasoning for this decision is two-fold: My prior knowledge and relations with the Reydovan state over the years, and a reassurance to the Reydovan Imperial Government that they have not been forgotten amidst the chaos that has taken hold in our galaxy this past decade. I have received word as of this morning that the request has been granted, and I will depart for Reydovan Prime as soon as suitable transport is arranged.

    In my first, and last, communication to the leadership of the recently-established Allied Fleet Service, I have recommended that D'Gehn, son of Kormal, Dahar Master and general in the Klingon Defense Force, be named as Supreme Allied Commander, Joint Task Force 87. As none of the senior staff of the Federation detachment have expressed any desire for promotion to higher rank, I have recommended that Admiral Eliphas Aximand, who previously served under my command as captain of the U.S.S.
    Porterfield during the early Borg conflicts and later served with distinction during the Iconian War, be named the new Federation commander in the task force. The admiral and Starfleet Command have both agreed, as has Dahar Master D'Gehn.

    I look forward to hearing of your deeds in all the times to come.


    ----

    Two days later, Joshua Underwood sat alone in the crew lounge aboard the U.S.S. California, a place that - even on a completely different ship - felt very familiar to him. It was like the time he had first set foot aboard the Excelsior after his reinstatement, nearly forty years ago now, when he had begun his "new career". Ironically, it had also been in diplomacy, as the only post available to him on the ship had been as the chief diplomatic officer. He still wondered, decades later, who in God's name decided that grape-juice purple was a good color for the uniform undershirt.

    The ship was at warp on its way to the Korolev Expanse, the nebula cluster that formed the border between the Federation and the Reydovan Empire. The Reydovans had joined the Alliance, but their contributions had been regrettably minimal. The Iconians had destroyed most of the Reydovan Imperial Navy, including Grand Admiral Geraint Fraser, who had commanded the fleet since the Divine War. The Hur'q had added insult to injury with an attack on Reydovan Prime; the death toll stood at somewhere around ten million, most of it in the capital, Montagne Noire. Now the Emperor and his two chief advisors - the Chancellor, Dr. Lukas Indrick, and the Warmaster of the Reydovan Military Body, Grand Admiral Alexander McConnell - were concerned that the ongoing fight with J'Ula and her renegades would come to their doorstep as well... and they were not prepared for it. The Mo'Kai matriarch had proven to be a particularly wily opponent, able to snatch some victory (which usually consisted of her still breathing, rather than being brutally and ritualistically slaughtered by J'mpok's troops) from defeat. The recent attack against the shipyard on Beta Lankal had proved that... as had her apparent mastery of the mycelial weapon her ship carried.

    The easiest way to deal with this, Underwood thought, was to offer the same thing that had been done for the Gorak'nar: Federation membership. Yet even as he thought this, he knew it would never work. The Gorak'nar had been reduced to one planet after the Divine War, the distant world of Kelenek'che'sa, beyond the Iconian Super Gateway in the M90 galaxy. There were only maybe a million people left out of what had once been billions. But the Reydovans had 48 planets, in a dozen systems, and nearly seventy billion people. There would have to essentially be a form of devolution, where the government would be maintained, but larger matters - foreign affairs, defense, and the like - would be handled by the Federation Council and Starfleet Command. And they would never agree to that. The worlds of the Reydovan Sector had left the Federation 124 years earlier to seek their own way, and they were not about to allow even near-catastrophe to deter them from that. They hadn't before.

    "I thought I might find you here." Underwood turned at the sound of that voice, and smiled as the ship's captain approached him. Taelinkayn had been the first Gorak'nar to enter Starfleet, sponsored by Underwood's old friend and ally, Saxtus Fayhan. She had risen far since. Like him, her first command had been before she was 30, and like him, it was a Sovereign. She took a seat across from him at the table. "Although for a man who doesn't drink, sir, being in a place with a bar seems a bit strange."

    Underwood chuckled as he sipped from his cup of raktajino, one of the few Klingon cuisine options he could tolerate - mainly because he had been a heavy-duty coffee drinker since he was a cadet at the Academy. "I can enjoy myself just fine with a decent cup of coffee as you can with a bottle of synthale. Or Reydovan ale, which you'll probably be getting a sample or two of when we arrive. Any word from them, by the way?"

    Taelinkayn nodded. "Partly why I came to find you. The HRMS Perlia will meet us at the border and escort us to Reydovan Prime. We'll be there in about a day. Their government has agreed to a no-frills presentation of credentials to the Emperor, the Chancellor, and the cabinet. No formal receptions or anything like that. From what the aide from Chancellor Indrick's office said, I don't think the Emperor is much in the mood for parties."

    "Understandable. It all went to hell when his father died, and Kieran staged his coup attempt... and then his mother and brother are killed by the Hur'q. Not something you just get over." Underwood appraised the captain thoughtfully. "Tell me honestly, Taelinkayn: Do you think I'm wrong?"

    The young Gorak'nar looked confused. "Sir?"

    "In retiring from service to go into diplomacy. Do you think, with all that's still going on, that I've said 'fuck it, I've had enough', and am just running away?" Underwood looked pensive. "I've been thinking that since my requests were accepted by Starfleet Command and the Council. I'm wondering if I've made a mistake."

    "I don't think you're abandoning your service to the Federation or the Alliance, Admir--I mean, Ambassador." Taelinkayn shook her head. "By Po'gaenus, that's going to be hard to wrap my brain around, not calling you 'Admiral' anymore."

    Underwood snorted. "Imagine how I feel."

    "In all seriousness, though, it's not like you can be expected to serve in Starfleet forever." Then Taelinkayn grinned. "Although if you end up anything like Admiral Fayhan, you may have a few comings and goings."

    He couldn't help but laugh at that. "Perish the thought."

    The ship suddenly came out of warp, and an angry reddish-orange nebula cluster dominated the viewing ports. Just then came the call from the duty officer. "Bridge to Captain Taelinkayn."

    The captain tapped the combadge on her chest. "Taelinkayn here."

    "Captain, we're approaching the Korolev Expanse. HRMS Perlia is signalling that she is ready for escort."

    "Signal our acknowledgement, and tell them we'll follow their lead. I'm on my way." Taelinkayn rose, and glanced back at her passenger. "Reminds me of traveling to Kelenek'che'sa."

    Underwood's eyebrow rose. "Oh?"

    "We zip across most of space to get to where we enter - the Gateway and the asteroid field there, the expanse here - and then the rest of the trip slows to a trickle." The young captain smiled, albeit a bit sadly. "The last trip I made there, we had an ambassador onboard then, too. She also had her share of burdens to bear." She inclined his head to him, and then left to head to the bridge.
    Last edited by Joshua Underwood; 02-15-2020 at 03:54 AM.

  2. #2
    Rear Admiral Alieth stood in Ten Forward aboard her flagship, the Galaxy dreadnought U.S.S. Blackstone, her gaze looking out across the sprawling starbase and drydocks orbiting her homeworld. Every shipyard in the Federation had been working overtime for years, ever since the Iconian War... at least, every shipyard not already wiped out by the Iconians, or later by the Hur'q. She had come to Ten Forward after coming off duty, every evening since the communication had arrived from Earth. Logically, she knew that change was necessary, that events remaining static invited stagnation - and stagnation was the worst enemy they could face right now. She suspected the now-former Admiral Underwood knew that too. But that didn't mean she had to like it.

    Not that she would ever express that discontent aloud; she was a Vulcan, after all. But the past decade had indeed brought monumental changes, both to her personally and to the task force. Eidan Zherron and Saxtus Fayhan had both retired for good after the Hur'q conflict, and now Underwood was gone too. Perhaps it should not have been all that surprising that they would feel the need to step down... and, in an emotional corner of her mind, she told herself: At least they are not dead. So many other colleagues... friends, if she was honest... had died during these past ten years. The spiral of tragedy had begun with her father, Captain Sathar, who had been involved in a temporal incident involving rogue Klingons from the discommendated House of K'van - zealots in the service of Kieran Devaneaux, who proved the human saying about apples not falling far from their trees. Sathar had been murdered by the rogue general Melena Celt, who was then mortally wounded in a firefight with the Starfleet crew sent to apprehend her, though her symbiont had survived and been returned to Trill. Underwood had overseen that operation, and he and Fayhan had delivered the news to Alieth on Vulcan personally.

    The thought of temporal incidents made Alieth's mind turn to her great-grandmother, Admiral T'Vira, who had returned to service for the Iconian War despite her age, and had died just as the Mo'kai crisis had begun... and yet, much to Alieth's admitted surprise, T'Vira's younger self had surfaced, one of many officers of that era who suffered temporal displacement. Based on the reports Alieth had received from Admiral Surrette, the Starfleet Temporal Investigations liaison to the task force (herself a product of yesteryear, often wearing the trim red coat and white collared undershirt used by Starfleet command officers in the late 23rd century), the past-T'Vira's appearance - along with that of her ship, the Walker-class U.S.S. Rondon - had occurred at virtually the very second of the present-T'Vira's death. Alieth had chalked it up to mere coincidence, although she was not entirely convinced of that herself, and Surrette had noticed. "There is a fine line between coincidence and fate, my dear," she had said.

    These temporal incursions from the 2250s and 2260s had eventually led to the rediscovery of the mythical "Yard 39", and its treasure trove of completely intact hulls. Underwood had joked that Alieth had become "like a kid in the galaxy's biggest candy store" when she had seen the ships, knowing her predilection for "tinkering"; she had been a staunch supporter of the Fleet Modernization Program, believing in the old saying that just because something was old did not mean it was obsolete. She had embraced the challenge of refitting ships, found in surplus yards in various states of disrepair, to modern specs, and had often gotten her hands dirty working in the shipyards herself, rank be damned; she admitted to Underwood once that the work she did for the program had reminded her of why she had become a Starfleet engineer in the first place. She had worked with Surrette on a number of those refits, mostly of late 23rd century ships: The Salyut, the Skyrider, the Tweedsmuir... and most recently, Surrette's old ship, the Independence, one of the first generation Excelsior-class ships, which had spent more than a century on Reydovan Prime after it had been captured by the Reydovan Imperial Navy (at the time, also made up of Starfleet ships salvaged from surplus yards) in 2298. Emperor William had personally turned the vessel over to Surrette last year in a ceremony to strengthen Reydovan-Federation ties, and lay to rest whatever lingering animosities of the past remained. Thinking on it now, Alieth wondered if that was why Underwood had requested that ambassadorship, to make sure those animosities remained in the past.

    And now she had come home to Vulcan, for an inspection tour of some new ships being built for the task force, a number of them being 25th-century takes on the old Klingon War-era ships. The Blackstone was among the ships that had been built here, and so it was something of a homecoming for the ship as well as its captain. But at the same time, Alieth also admired the view, as it too reminded her of why she had taken up the work. She recalled the first trip she had made up here in a shuttle with her father when she was six Earth-years old, seeing the engineers working on building new ships, repairing or refitting active ones, or dismantling decommissioned ones. Seeing her homeworld from space for the first time had also been an inspiration to her, as it had been for many other people who ended up in Starfleet. Even after all this time, she retained that old childlike fascination, as it reminded her that even as things changed, some things would remain the same. It might be considered overly emotional to some... but, as the humans might put it, to hell with them.

    The thought made her mouth curl upwards, ever so slightly - and as she was alone, and gazing out into space, she allowed herself that indulgence. As Surak had once put it, the cause was sufficient.

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