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BETA TESTING
Prologue - Full Circle
Posted October 28th 2013 by Mordred Ocal

Ready Room, USS Pandora, 2386

Though the vessel traveling along just barely within view seemed like any other Intrepid-class starship serving within the fleet, nothing could have been further from the truth. The USS Frontier and her crew had certainly made a reputation for themselves over the past few years. There was no denying they had faced both hardship and triumph, working together to overcome what seemed like overwhelming odds on more than one occasion.

"It has been a long time," Ocal said warmly as she entered Iluvar's Ready Room, a tea pot and some cups dangling from her old, wrinkled fingers.

Iluvar smiled as he turned away from the viewport to face the woman standing opposite him. "Indeed it has been at that, Ambassador," he agreed. The last time either of them had spoken to one another in person had been just following the events at Altorus which, if one truly wanted to think about it, seemed about as long ago as forever. "Please," Iluvar added, motioning over at the small seating area to one side of his ready room.

Mordred smiled and moved toward Iluvar, gently placing her delicate glassware on the table before them.

"How have you been, Captain?" she inquired.

"There's no denying these past few months have been somewhat of a struggle," Iluvar replied as he made his way over to the seating are to join his guest, "as I am sure you are aware."

Mordred nodded and began pouring tea. "For us, as well. Gone are the days of routine exploration and safer travels. In fact, as I am sure you have heard, I recently requested a nearly complete transfer of the Frontier's crew. Can you imagine?"

Lowering himself into a chair, Iluvar accepted the cup of tea offered to him by the ambassador. He lifted it to his lips and blew gently across its surface to help the liquid cool slightly. "We have all had our fair share of personnel transfers in recent months," he said, "but I cannot say I have ever found myself in a position where my entire senior staff had been replaced. Still... it is never easy when it is just one, is it?"

Mordred shook her head. "These are troubling times, Captain. Times when one would want to keep close to the ones they know and trust. This... project they have us installing on the Frontier. I have never been one to shy away from advancement, but to take an entirely new system out into the unknown..." she said, taking a sip of her tea. "I think I am getting to be a little too old for an adventure like that."


Four Years Later...

Admiral's Quarters, USS Coral Sea

Iluvar slowly turned away from the large viewports that ran along one entire wall of his personal quarters aboard the Coral Sea. Finding a moment or two to be alone with his own thoughts was becoming increasingly difficult in the current climate. Things along the core-ward frontier were heating up again, although it could have been argued they'd never actually cooled down in the first place. It certainly didn't help matters any that a convoy of essential relief supplies had been ambushed by pirates on its way from Cardassia to Deep Space Four. The Detapa Council had placed a great deal of trust in the Federation by approving the convoy and, although they praised the actions of Captain Naros and the USS Yorktown in defending the convoy, the incident itself was forcing everyone to face the realities of just what was taking place just beyond their borders.

=/\= Admiral Iluvar, there's an incoming transmission being sent over an encrypted channel. We are unable to determine the source, but it appears to have a Starfleet signature. =/\=

There was a pause. Iluvar knew the communications officer was waiting for some sort of response as to how she should proceed. Although he had pretty much established the Coral Sea as his flagship, information intended for him was typically processed through his own staff. The fact one of the ship's crew was contacting him directly was indication in and of itself that this was not your ordinary communique. It was rare to receive encrypted messages without much information as to their source, even for someone as involved in intergalactic affairs as Iluvar had been these last few years.

"I'll take it down here," Iluvar replied as he began making his way across the room. No sooner had he taken a seat at his desk than the computer interface came to life. A moment later, the old Ambassador appeared on screen.

"I hope I am not catching you at a bad time, old friend."

"Mordred," Iluvar said, a hint of surprise in his voice, "I must say, you are probably one of the last people I expected to be hearing from right now, not that I mind." It had been some time since he'd seen or heard from the El-Aurian ambassador. They had each gone their separate ways after his Board of Inquiry and, what with everything he had been involved in lately, it seemed as if they'd never had much time to properly follow up. "To what do I owe the pleasure," he continued, "last I heard, they had you and the Frontier poised to test some of those new integrative systems."

"And testing it we are," Ocal said with a laugh. "As much trouble as we have had with the blasted thing, it makes a good cup of honey tea, and it handles these long-range transmissions with a bit more grace than the older systems. I still do not enjoy being a guinea pig for the Starfleet Corps of Engineers, especially out here in the middle of nowhere, but this is where they needed us, so this is where we are."

The admiral chuckled. He was happy to see the ambassador in relatively good spirits. Much of their early relationship had been dominated by a mutual involvement in Starfleet's response to Elyshan aggression along the frontier. In fact, the last time Iluvar had seen Ocal in person, the El-Aurian had seemed much more worn and run down from her experiences.

"At least you get to be out there in the middle of nowhere," Iluvar remarked, motioning to his own surroundings, "They say the worst thing for any starship captain is for them to get trapped behind the desk. "

"I happen to recall a rebellious young Admiral who once escaped that sort of captivity on multiple occasions and got his ship back," Ocal replied. "Those were different times, of course, but even these days, the ties that bind you are not as rigid as you think."

Iluvar could not help but smile. The subtle connection drawn between himself and the infamous James Kirk had not been an accident. For many, the seemingly adventurous days of Hikaru Sulu, John Harriman, and Rachel Garrett were the larger-than-life subjects of myth and legend, nothing more. Yet for an increasingly smaller population of individuals, those days were still very much a part of personal memory. "Perhaps..." he mused, "though I suppose I shouldn't complain. The way things have been going lately, I almost feel as if I'm busier now than I was aboard the Pandora."

"Life never progresses so fast that one cannot put on the brakes," Mordred chuckled. "But I digress. There was something I was hoping to discuss with you. It is a matter of some delicacy."

A subtle change in the ambassador's tone told Iluvar there really was more to this call than taking advantage of an opportunity to catch up. He had not forgotten their conversation, light-hearted as it had been up to that point, was still taking place on an encrypted channel. "I had a feeling this wasn't just a social call," Iluvar told her, "Go ahead..."

Mordred's cheerful demeanor quickly faded.

"We have detected a Borg vessel adrift not too far outside of Romulan space in the Beta Quadrant. We are en route to investigate now, but there are some concerns this may be a trap."

There was a moment of silence as Iluvar processed what had just been revealed to him. Discovery of a Borg signature was never something that could be taken lightly. It had been nearly twelve years since the last confirmed reports of major Borg activity and the destruction of a Borg transwarp hub by the starship Voyager. Although only a handful of starships had come across Borg signatures since then, Starfleet continued to maintain a policy of extreme caution when it came to dealing with such encounters.

Running into an active Borg presence was not the only concern with such encounters. Considering the location described to him by the ambassador, Iluvar could easily think of any number of groups that would love to get their hands on Borg technology. "I know I don't have to remind you what something like this could do to the balance of power in that region," Iluvar said slowly, "Have you detected any other activity in the area? Borg... Romulan... Elyshan?"

"That is the unsettling thing, Admiral. This particular sector is completely devoid of all activity. We have entered an expanse between the Crux and Carina arms of the galaxy, so there are fewer stars and no signs of warp-capable vessels. Save one."

She took a breath and continued. "There is no reason for them to be out here. Raemet noted that the Borg transwarp network has a terminal point not far from here, but it has been over ten years since that network was destroyed, and if there is nothing of value, and if Borg always come for their derelict vessels, then why is it here?"

Iluvar considered the question carefully. "It is possible what remains of the Collective determined a salvage operation not worth the resources," he said after a moment, "The Pandora discovered a Borg debris field almost...wow...it must have been almost three years ago now. We conducted a joint investigation with the Orlando, but never found any indication the Borg had returned to recover any of their technology."

"This entire situation seems wrong," Ocal replied with a shudder. "Something does not feel right - I cannot shake it, but I know we have no choice but to proceed... whatever the costs.

"My advice at this point, although I know it goes without saying, is to proceed with caution," Iluvar told her, "I'll have Oliver forward the results of our analysis from three years ago. It may help shed some additional light on whatever you find there."

"That would be most appreciated. If all goes well, I will be in touch within twenty-four hours with our progress. If you do not hear from me by then..."

Ocal paused.

The unspoken implication of the ambassador's statement was clear. If they did not receive an update from the Frontier within the next twenty-four hours, they were to assume both ship and crew had been assimilated. Iluvar knew it would undoubtedly set in motion a chain of events none of them would ever truly be prepared to carry out. "We will speak again, ambassador," he told her confidently, "I am sure of it."


Contributing Authors:

Vice Admiral Iluvar
Deputy Chief-of-Staff
Eighth "Horizon" Fleet

Ambassador Mordred Ocal
Commanding Officer
USS Frontier

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