“Captain’s log, stardate seven-six-five-oh-seven point eight. Encrypt log entry. Our arrival at the Belt is imminent but for the first time as a captain my worries about taking the Odyssey into what is clearly a treacherous area of space are getting the better of me. The dangers that await us have me debating whether crossing this expanse is worth it all. And god forbid we find Omega. As per Starfleet orders, I am undertaking this mission under the directive as a precaution. With everything that is surrounding this Tkon Outreach, it would not surprise me that Omega would appear out of the blue. I have ordered the rearming of our remaining gravimetric torpedoes. I just hope we won’t need them.”
Quietly standing in his ready room, listening to some easy music being played by a piano, Captain McCallister had his eyes closed as he faced the wide slanted bay windows in his ready room. A moment of peace and clarity was what he needed. His former first officer would tell him that a moment to think and pray to the Bajoran Prophets helped her calm her nerves, while his current first officer would fall back to his former life as a counsellor and suggest some slow breathing techniques. McCallister had found over the years that a combination of the two with his own twist helped. Arms crossed against his chest and a mug of hot tea held in one hand, helped him take a moment before the chaos of their next mission was about to start.
He hadn’t heard the ready room door chime go off the first time until it went off the second time. Opening his eyes and turning around to turn the music off, he looked over at the door to the bridge and told his guest to come in.
The doors parted making their usual whooshing noise, allowing for Commander Duncan to enter. With a PADD in one hand, McCallister’s right-hand man approached him and before handing over the device to him, he noticed the mood and demeanour of his captain. Being the former chief counsellor, Duncan could read the captain’s body language very well. “You okay, sir?” He instantly asked with a tone of concern in his voice.
McCallister nodded, dismissing the note of concern away and gestured to the PADD in Duncan’s hands. “What do you have Number One?”
“Status update, sir.” Duncan answered as he passed it over to him. “Tremt and Doctor Slyvexs have completed bringing the entire stasis chamber network online. They believe the final set of diagnostics will be completed by this afternoon.”
Shivering at the thought of having to go into stasis for part of their journey did not sit well with McCallister. The radioactive mutara class nebula had challenged his crew for sometime as they tried to find a way of not having to place the crew in stasis. Sadly they had not been able to find a solution in time. “And our holograms?” The captain asked.
“Lukiz has finished the last of the updates to their programmes, you just need to give the word and activate them all. He has also set up additional shielding units around the computer processing cores, key clusters of bio-neural gel packs as well as around holographic projectors. Portable emitters are also being charged up. The back up ODN networks are also ready to kick in the moment a gel pack fails. He has considered almost every fail-safe in the book and more.” Duncan answered. “Cetacean Ops is also ready for the handover.”
Without a doubt, James was impressed at the might of the Odyssey. While almost everyone on the ship would have to go into stasis when they crossed a toxic nebula, the ship would be left to be run by the ship’s complement of Emergency Holograms and those who were aquatic based. Cetacean Ops, would be in command of leading the ship for almost two days while they were all under. Leaving the ship under the command of their Cetacean Ops leader, Lieutenant Commander Charlin Quendez, an Antedean that had previously served under McCallister on the Triton, was the only course of action the captain could take. Quendez was a fine officer and was supported by a strong team in Cetacean Ops, in fact those who served there were some of the best minds that McCallister had ever encountered. Quendez being one of them. All of them had just become the ship’s caretakers for forty-eight hours.
The intercom went off and T’Rani’s voice could be heard. “Bridge to Captain McCallister, we are approaching the edge of the belt.”
Placing the PADD down on his desk, McCallister walked straight out and onto his bridge with Duncan in tow. Entering the bridge, the two officers were spoken to as T’Rani continued to share her update as her superiors took their seats.
“We will be approaching the edge of the thermobaric clouds in two point five minutes, sir.” T’Rani took her position at the helm. “Dropping out of warp now and engaging impulse engines.”
The aft turbolift doors opened, allowing for the rest of the senior staff to enter. This was a particular occasion when McCallister couldn’t deny any of them wanting to see what laid ahead of them. The entire crew had been working around the clock and the stress was plain across their facial expression. Close to exhaustion, they knew what was needed to prepare the ship for the dangers. All of them took their positions at the range of stations that were available.
Slyvexs made her way to the available seat to McCallister’s left. Though it was saved for Lieutenant Flemen, who would normally advise the captain on diplomatic matters, the Lumerian officer had opted to take up a position at Mission Ops II next to where Lieutenant Tomaz was sat at Mission Ops I. The two men in the past twenty-four hours had crammed over every piece of detail that the computer had on the Tkon, effectively becoming the ship’s experts on the ancient civilisation. Their involvement would be relied upon if they eventually found the Tkon world once they had crossed the Belt.
The Denobulan doctor gave her captain a reassuring smile. Her years of experience and wisdom was always welcomed, so he had no issue in her sitting in Flemen’s seat.
“I’ve got a visual of the clouds.” announced Reyas from the science station. Her statement broke the silence that had started to form on the bridge.
Looking over at his wife, McCallister signalled to her to put the image up on the main screen. With a few taps on her console, she showed everyone else the first wall they had to climb. The journey through the clouds would take them at least twelve hours while at half impulse.
“Are we ready to enter?” He asked his crew.
Turning around in his chair at ops, Jen looked at his commanding officer. “All systems are good to go, sir.”
“I’ve re-enforced the shields with the main deflector and increased power to inertial dampeners. We can’t do anything more than just ride through the waves for now.” Hunsen spoke up from engineering aft stations.
Before he had the chance to give the order to go, McCallister was interrupted by Lenjir at tactical. The proximity alarm went off and the Tiburon man looked up from his tactical readings. “Sir, I’m picking up a small ship, no bigger than a runabout. It looks like it’s being dragged into the clouds by a subspace eddy.”
Looking around and above him at his security and tactical chief, McCallister was curious to know more. “Put it up, Cline.” He ordered and the viewscreen adjusted to show a vessel the captain didn’t recognise. “Lifesigns?”
“One, humanoid.” Lenjir stated. “Sensors are stating that it is a Pendari.”
“A Pendari?” Slyvexs questioned.
“They’re a warp capable civilisation; known for their strength and bad temper.” Flemen answered. He had turned around in his chair and was facing the viewscreen.
“Well let’s hope we can turn that temper around.” McCallister uttered. “Can we tractor the ship into the main shuttlebay?”
“We can.” Jen said with affirmation.
“Then do it.” McCallister said as he stood up, “Cline, Craigen, Sylvexs, you’re with me to meet our guest. Number One, hold our position here and monitor for any other subspace eddies. I don’t want to be dragged in yet.”
“Aye sir.” Duncan replied as the three officers joined their captain heading to the port turbolift.
The main shuttle bay’s tractors guided the smooth and aesthetically looking small craft onto the deck plating with a gentle thud. Moments after, with a security team surrounding them armed with phaser rifles, the captain and his team approached the vessel. A side door hissed open and a very tall humanoid man stepped out. He was huge. Standing at least seven feet his shoulders were so broad he had to step out of his ship sideways. His muscular frame could be almost seen through his skin-tight clothing he wore. He didn’t appear to wear much either, his clothing was quite scantily but it covered what could possibly be his genitalia area and the top part of his chest. His bulging muscles in his arms and legs were clearly on show along with his tight eight-pack abs. From what Flemen had briefed the team on their way down, the Pendari were known to display a show of strength in their appearance, their tone and mannerism. One would have to almost equal it to gain their full respect.
Appearing quite fierce in stature, he looked around the room and noticed the well armed detail and then before him McCallister and co.
Remaining in his place, to keep a strong posture, McCallister welcomed their guest. “I’m Captain James Preston McCallister. You’re on board my vessel, the Federation starship U-S-S Odyssey.” As he spoke he realised he had made his voice deeper, which was unlike him.
Moving towards McCallister, the tall Pendari stopped just a meter away and looked down at the human. His cranial ridges made him look almost like a Klingon-Human hybrid. Without knowing much about Pendari lifespan, McCallister would have guessed his visitor was in his early forties. “I am Shu’varn, Professor Shu’varn. Thank you for helping me back there.”
“You’re welcome.” McCallister said, still using the same tone in his voice. “These are my officers,” He said indicating to them with his hands, “Lieutenant Commander Cline Lenjir, my chief security and tactical officer.” He then pointed to his doctor. “Commander Slyvexs, my chief medical officer and Lieutenant Craigen Flemen, my chief diplomatic officer.”
Shu’varn just nodded to them all as he was introduced. “Captain, I appreciate you bringing my research scout in before I was destroyed. My vessel was heavily damaged by the subspace eddy that trapped us. By saving me, you have saved over eight years of work. For that I am in your debt.”
“One of our directives is to aid those who we can help.” McCallister stated. Gesturing towards the cuts and bruises across Shu’varn’s body, the captain continued. “I am sure Doctor Slyvexs would be happy to treat your injuries and my engineers can lend a hand in repairing your vessel.”
“Your charitableness is valued, thank you.” Shu’varn said. “What are you doing this close to the Belt though?”
“We’re about to enter it.” McCallister answered. “I take it you know it as the Belt of the Tkon Outreach?”
“I do.” Shu’varn said, still standing in the position he had taken after departing his craft. “I am primarily a professor of archaeology and the Tkon Empire has been one of the many ancient civilisations I have studied for my entire career. The outreach has been cited in many cultures’ historical records in this region. I have been mapping the thermobaric clouds for the past six months in an attempt to find a way through that would not damage my scout. I wish to pass through them to head to the centre to determine if a Tkon outpost truly exists there as told by many myths and legends I have encountered.”
“Professor, if you’d be happy to share your research then I am certain we would be happy to bring you along for the ride. We too are heading to the centre.” McCallister shared.
Stretching his arms open, the Pendari stepped forward with a massive grin and pulled the captain into a bear hug. “Your generosity is endless, thank you captain.” Shu’varn said before letting go of the captain.
Attempting to keep his cool as he sorted himself out, McCallister straightened out his jacket and smoothed out his slightly disheveled hair. “Then if you follow Doctor Slyvexs she will take you to our sickbay and I will have Lieutenant Flemen have quarters setup for you. If you need anything, then he’d be your first port of call.”
“Again thank you.” Shu’varn said with gratitude.
Smirking slightly at what had just happened, Slyvexs looked at McCallister without the Pendari seeing her and gave him an expression that showed her amusement at him being crushed by their new Goliath of a guest. She then turned to Shu’varn and gestured for him to follow her. Flemen walked past the captain, hiding his own delight with his right hand, before walking the other side of their tall visitor. As they left the shuttlebay, with some security escorts behind, Flemen could be heard speaking to the Pendari professor about what he knew about the Tkon.
After the door closed behind them, Lenjir leaned into the captain, “You okay sir?”
McCallister gave out a breath and rubbed his chest. “I think I’ve got bruised ribs.”
Lenjir stifled a chuckle. “Shall I place security on our guest?”
“For now, yeah.” McCallister said, still rubbing his chest. “I’m heading back to the bridge. Have a team secure that craft and begin work on repairs.”
“Aye sir.” Lenjir replied as he noticed the captain wince several more times as he headed back to the bridge.
Wincing still from the slight pain caused by Shu’varn’s embrace, McCallister stepped out onto the bridge and quickly stood up straight. Attempting to hide his pain, though failing miserably with it, the captain walked across to the centre of the room and towards his chair. Duncan had looked up from his chair to welcome the captain back.
“I take it by Cline’s request that we have a visitor staying with us?” He questioned.
“That we do.” McCallister said, as he gradually sat back down in his chair. “Professor Shu’varn is a Tkon expert, who was planning to cross the Belt to enter the Outreach as well. I’ve said we would take him with us.”
“Understood.” Duncan said, he noticed the captain’s discomfort and leaned in slightly. “You okay, sir?” He whispered.
“I’ll be fine.” McCallister said, gesturing with his hand that he was okay. “Just a Pendari formality that I’d have to get used to.” He cleared his throat and looked at the helm. “T’Rani, if there aren’t any more ships in distress, I’d like to get underway.”
“Certainly, sir.” The Vulcan pilot replied. “I have plotted a course that would take us through the least dense patches of the clouds. Minimising any damage to the ship or spatial disturbances.”
“Then by all means,” McCallister said, wincing one more time. “Engage!”
Odyssey jerked forward at half impulse and entered the swishing purple and grey clouds that surrounded the edge of the Belt of the Tkon Outreach.
Their voyage had begun. There would be no turning back now.