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"Wait a minute, you can't go in there!" The voice could be heard outside the doors before they opened to admit Captain Walker. He strode into the room full of resolve, facing down the three Admirals in front of whom Dr Eritt was seated. One of the Admirals was Parker, and he flashed Walker a look of pure hate as he barged in.
"What the hell do you think you are doing in here, Captain?"
Walker had to think about that one. His head was hammering with the aftershocks of his hangover. He could not help but devote some of his mental energies to wondering at the complete failure of the medical sciences to devise a cure for hangovers. "I'm defending this person against the injustices she is about to be subjected to. You can ship her off to her home planet over my rotting carcass!"
"Don't think I haven't considered it, Walker! Get out now and I will forget all about this."
"The hell I will! This woman was used like a pawn by the Federation, and we owe her asylum. Hell, we actually agree with the Egalitarian movement's principles and you want to see her dead?"
One of the other Admirals started to speak. "Dead? Of course not, we only..."
"You shut the hell up!" Parker's attack on his fellow officer chilled the room. He turned back to the intruder. "Walker, she is going back and there is nothing you can do about it. As for your commission, you can kiss that goodbye as well. Security! Arrest that man."
Walker watched as the officers moved towards him. He felt like he was thinking through a fog. He nearly made a move to defend himself, but he checked it in time. Why didn't he want to take them on? All he could remember was a conversation with Brannagh the night before. While they were both in a drunken haze, Brannagh had let something slip that he wasn't meant to. Something important. What was it again?
"Belay that order!" The voice came from behind Walker he spun around to see Admiral Dekker following in the steps he had taken moments earlier. "There will be no action taken against this Captain today." That was it! Brannagh had already alerted Dekker to the situation on DS2. The Admiral must not have wasted any time he thought, he had arrived just in time.
"Admiral Dekker, with due respect this is not a matter that concerns you. I have jurisdiction over this court and over the actions taken within it."
"Not in this case you don't. Captain Walker and Dr Eritt are free to go, as of now. Walker is right, and the Federation Council have heard my petition on the matter, granting Dr Eritt full asylum. As for Captain Walker, he has every right to question you over such a decision as you were about to make."
Parker stood, enraged. "Now wait just a minute, Admiral..."
"No, Admiral. You see, I don't have to. The decision has been made and is final. Both these people are under my personal protection as of now. This court is adjourned." Dekker turned his back on the three Admirals and made to walk out, expecting Walker and Eritt to follow. Eritt stood, but glanced over to Walker before moving further.
The man was deep in thought. Why was Parker so adamant that Eritt should be returned to Angel One? Did it have anything to do with being warned away at the beginning of the battle? Why did he seem so afraid of Dekker's intervention? Why was he trying to get both Walker and the Nullabor out of the way? What was the security cordon about? It was heavy going thinking through the fog, but Walker knew he was close to having an answer for something.
Several things clicked into place for Walker at that moment. It seemed so obvious now. Parker was a traitor! He was working with the Orion Syndicate. He turned and glared at the Admiral, and saw the fear in his eyes. He heard the Admiral's voice inside his mind, saying He knows! He saw the Admiral reach for his waist...
There was no time to draw his own weapon. His hangover made him no match for the Admiral. He threw himself on Eritt, smashing her out of the way of the phaser bolt. Parker had been fast on the draw, and his aim was deadly. Walker saw the arm swinging around to him as a blur, and blinked as he heard the weapon discharge.
He opened his eyes again, amazed that he could do so. He saw the smouldering heap melting over the desk where Admiral Parker had been moments before. he swung his gaze over the room trying to figure out what had saved them, and noticed Admiral Dekker returning his sidearm to it's holster. "I had him pegged as wrong, but I always hoped he wasn't a sellout." The Admiral shrugged, turning to face the two of them. "Come on, " he ordered them, smiling, "I think I owe you both some explanations."
The two of them followed the Admiral out of the room, only a little less astounded by the events of the last few minutes than the remaining Admirals and security officers.
Walker's head was starting to clear, and he noted that the Admiral had a full security detail of his own waiting outside the door. Dekker gave them a brief set of orders and they marched into the room and secured it, taking away the two remaining Admirals and the security detachment for briefing. They were innocent of any wrongdoing, but they had just seen one Admiral shoot another and that needed explaining. There was also the small matter of any conspirators Parker may have recruited, Walker knew that the people left in the courtroom would be investigated as a matter of routine, but he doubted that anything would be found. Parker didn't strike him as the type to take anyone into his confidence.
The three of them walked along the corridors of the station until they came to the docking bay at which the Nullabor was berthed. Things were very different around the hatchway since the last time Walker had tried to enter his ship. He remembered a drunken exchange with the officer commanding the security detail enforcing the cordon the night before. He still had personal effects on the ship and he had despaired of ever seeing them again. Now there was no sign of the previous detail, although there were just as many phaser rifles slung over shoulders as there had been. Walker noticed that the leader of the new detail looked familiar. It was Glir. He smiled as the three of them approached.
"I see you found them Admiral." Glir was smiling as he spoke to his Commanding Officer. It was evident to Walker that the two of them were friends.
"Yes I did, thank you. Did Parker's men give you any trouble?"
Glir laughed. "Not so you'd notice. They weren't Starfleet you know. He had given those Syndicate bastards Starfleet uniforms. Where is he now?"
It was Dekker's turn to chuckle. "He's still in the court room. Will be until someone cleans him off the desk."
Glir whistled low. "Nice move, can't say I'll miss him. Who made the tag?"
"I did. Walker was too busy protecting Dr Eritt, thank goodness. I should have never turned my back on that traitorous bastard while she was still in the room."
Glir shrugged. "All's well that ends well. I suppose you want in?"
The Admiral nodded and Glir stood aside to let the three of them pass. Walker stopped in front of Glir and looked at him. He was nothing like the sniveling clerk he thought he had been dumped with so long ago. Here stood a fine officer, confident and strong, capable and wise. Walker found that he had respect for the young man. "Thank you for reclaiming and guarding my ship, Lieutenant Glir."
Glir nodded his acknowledgement. "Just following your orders Captain."
Walker smiled to himself and followed the others into the ship. Not much had changed inside, but at least there was power. A station feed had been plugged into the Nullabor so they had lighting, some minimal life support and lifts. The three of them headed to the Captain's ready room and Walker straightened up enough for all three of them to have a place to sit.
Dekker spread his hands out wide. "Where would you like me to start, Captain?"
"Let's try the beginning. Just give us the story in it's proper order, with all the gaps filled in."
Dekker smiled at that. He also noted that Walker had lost a little of that apprehensiveness he had displayed in his office months ago. He seemed more at ease around 'Flag Brass'. Then again, maybe officers reached a point somewhere in their careers where what they face out in space seems to dwarf the prospect of facing his or her superiors. Dekker would not have been surprised if Walker had finally crossed that line, but he spent no more time on the thought. He had a story to tell.
"The story starts two days before you were given command of the Nullabor in my office. That was when I first received word from our covert operatives on Angel One..."
"You have spies on Angel One?" Dr Eritt seemed amazed by the possibility.
"Of course. Just because we don't have diplomatic contact with your planet doesn't mean that we have no need of information about what is going on there. That is especially since the Angellians have started dealing with the Orion Syndicate.
"Anyway, our operative found out that you were to be targeted. From that moment on we realised that it was critical that we et you off the planet, although not for the reasons that you might think. At the time we had no thought of a connection between you and the Syndicate. We just wanted to grab you for the intelligence you could provide. So, we make some plans. Most of those friends who helped you were ready to see you thrown to the wolves if we had not intervened. The Liseppian Captain was among several freighter pilots who were given specific instructions on how to handle the matter if you appeared on board. You might be surprised to find out just how many friends the Federation has.
"So, I hand picked Captain Walker to lead the transport detail. Why? I knew that he would do whatever was necessary to get you to us safely, of course. We knew there might be trouble so we organised for Walker to have the crew he needed for the mission. It raised some eyebrows, but it was necessary at the time. Even then we thought that the mission was a simple courier job. Glir's role was to place you on the Nullabor, nothing more."
"But things got twisted somewhere along the line." Walker was stating the obvious, and the Admiral smiled.
"I was just getting to that Captain. You see, just before you got to Starbase 73 we got word that there was a complication. the government of Angel One had put out a contract with the Orion Syndicate for the return, preferably alive, of their star exo-biologist. That meant the stakes had just been raised, but the ship you had been assigned was nowhere near up to the challenges you were about to face."
"So you had my ship filled with enough equipment to turn it into a warp capable arms factory and hoped for the best?"
Dekker laughed. "Far from it, Captain. We put that equipment in your ship to serve as a distraction, nothing more. I ordered Glir aboard your ship to help if he needed to, but really we didn't expect the Syndicate to send starships after you. We didn't realise how firm their resolve was in this matter. They showed their hand before they were ready, and that was when I knew that the focus of the mission had changed. Under no circumstances could you be told the true object of your mission, you had become bait. We needed to flush out the Syndicate fleet and you were the only way we had of seeing to it they appeared somewhere we were ready or them."
Walker could see it coming, but he didn't like it. "Don't tell me, they didn't find out our destination from you, did they?"
The Admiral nodded. Walker groaned. "You have to understand, Captain. We needed to draw out that fleet. That was our sole intent, but the problem was that you were too good at your job. So was Glir for that matter. Soon you were building all sorts of new goodies that were capable of hiding you, attacking the enemy, anything you might want to do. The Syndicate started grid searches for you in an attempt to find you before you reached DS2. They were right to expect a trap, but because you were now so good at laying low they stumbled across the research colony instead."
"The one Glir came from?"
"The very one. That was the reason he was assigned to this mission, he knew this sector of space so well. Anyway, the Syndicate figure if they can't have you, they'll steal a little technology along the way, make the trip worthwhile. Good thing you were up to the challenge, we could have lost a lot of cutting edge research to the Syndicate if you hadn't acted there."
"Is there any news from O'Toole?" Walker knew that Sai would want to know when he was out of the infirmary.
"Actually there is. We found him there when my team did their reconnaissance, but there was no sign of the spy. We have no idea what happened down there, and O'Toole certainly isn't speaking about it. He has a spotless record, and I doubt that the debriefing team will push too hard on the issue. With everything else that went on down there, I doubt they are going to search for loose ends to tie up."
Walker had to grin at that. He had met his share of ground pounders, and it didn't take a genius to work out that O'Toole had found a creative way to punish Mau, but the Admiral was prepared to let the matter drop. He made a mental note to let Sai know about O'Toole when he next saw him.
The Admiral continued the story. "So you manage to get us out of that little situation, and no-one knows how. What we did know was that two forces were bearing down on you, one at DS2, and one in pursuit of your ship. Our plan had finally worked, albeit in a convoluted form. You know, Glir was right in what he told you as you left the ship the other day, he really didn't know any more than he had told you after you started running from the research colony."
Walker just shrugged. "He seemed to have a fair idea of what was going on when we arrived in DS2 space."
Dekker laughed. "Of course he did, he is an extremely intelligent young man. He knew that we would not leave you hanging like this. So did Parker of course, but we managed to fool him a little on the fleet ETA, he was ready to alert the Syndicate fleet to their arrival and let them bug out. You did exactly the right thing engaging them, although how you did it is still somewhat a mystery to us. You and your crew have advanced weapon and shield science by around fifty years during your little trip. Some of the weapons and shielding systems you have put into practice here are not even on drawing boards yet. How on Earth did you manage all this?"
Walker shrugged again. "I honestly don't know. All I can put it down to is a brilliant crew put on an unarmed transport with little to keep them occupied other than their own safety."
Dekker thought about that for a moment. "I guess that makes sense. In any case that is the end of the story, you know it all now. Do you have questions?"
"Of course, lots of them."
Dekker smiled. "I thought you would. Shoot."
"What's going to happen to Dr Eritt now? We are not going to toss her out on the streets of the Federation are we?"
Dekker frowned. "Exactly what did you have in mind, Captain?"
"Well, if she was willing, I have no objection to a civilian doctor on board the Nullabor when she is repaired."
"I have no objection to serving in that capacity, Admiral." Lucifrelle wanted to make sure that staying on board the Nullabor was not a problem for her. The thought of leaving Phillip after all thy had been through was not a pleasant one, and if there was a chance they could stay together, she was prepared to jump at it.
Dekker looked decidedly uncomfortable all of a sudden. Walker didn't take it as a promising sign. "Captain, I have some bad news for you. The Nullabor won't be repaired."
Walker was amazed. "You mean she is being decommissioned? After all she has done?"
Dekker responded quickly. "I didn't say that. It's just that, well..." Dekker was clearly trying to find a way to explain the idea he was leading to. "Like I said before, your crew managed to implement a lot of scientific advances here, not to mention fitting the ship out with full offensive capability, most of that occurring at warp. That is some achievement, and with due respect to your crew we can't just leave this ship as is, not when we can hand it to the scientists and engineers and get them to tell us exactly what you have done and how to incorporate the ideas into our existing ship designs. We've only just finished the war with the Dominion, we are in the middle of rebuilding our fleets and this technology could make them more powerful than any of the powers around us. Captain, the Nullabor is being sacrificed for the Federation, nothing less."
"Well I hope you know just what you are giving up, Admiral." Walker stood and stared out the window. He was angry. They had just decided to scrap a ship he and his crew had managed to build their lives around, and the thought sat uncomfortably in the pit of his stomach. "So what happens to my crew? Reassignment?"
Dekker was impressed with the officer before him. He had not asked the question expected of him yet. He was showing more concern for his ship and crew than himself. Dekker actually wondered if he was capable of uttering the words 'What about me?'. Dekker decided it was time for the sales pitch to start. "You know Walker, I've been thinking about that. Your crew has shown us something that we thought was impossible. What you have going here is quite unique, it's a fusion of science and defence. Throughout Starfleet, we have both scientists and warriors, but only on this ship have they ever be truly made to work in harmony."
"So, that got me thinking. We need people to go over the Nullabor scientifically, but we also need that site to be heavily defended. We still don't know where the Syndicate shipyards are, and there is always the chance that they will rebuild faster than us. I don't think I like the idea of another planet side colony, too easy a target as your recent adventures prove. What we need is a full blown research station in space, armed to the teeth with the new weapons advances, not to mention a small fleet of ships to take the fight to the Syndicate as the need arises."
"I don't get it, Admiral. What does any of this have to do with my crew?"
"Come on, Captain. Your crew would be perfect for such a place. Maybe in different jobs to those they had on the transport, but I can assure you that they would remain together and their talents would be put to very good use. Of course, such a team would need a commanding officer they could look up to as well."
Walker paused. "Are you offering us all jobs?"
"In a manner of speaking." Dekker picked a padd up off the table and handed it to Walker. "Take a look at this, it's a plan for the sort of installation we have in mind."
Walker spent several minutes going over the schematics before speaking again. Both Dekker and Eritt were waiting eagerly for his response. "You know, I would like to run these past my new Yard Master, Cmdr Botha before approving them. And I would also expect my new medical consultant to ensure that the facility could be built safely as well..."
Admiral Dekker stood smiling. I think we can accept that. You will have final discretion on any changes that you wish to make to the plans, but construction starts in thirty-five days, no later. You will receive all the information you need about locations, personnel assignments, etc. in the next few days, but you will report directly to me from here on in. Welcome to Tactical Operations, Captain." Dekker extended his hand, and Walker accepted it firmly.
They settled a few minor details and all three of them were on their way out of the ship when Walker remembered the one question that he had not asked yet. "Admiral, one thing that I don't understand about everything that happened. The staffing assignments were all approved by you, and I can see how you managed to get Glir and Eritt aboard, seemingly by accident. What about Ensign Sai? Where does he fit in? I didn't know him before taking this assignment, and it appeared he was a transfer under disgrace. How and why was he assigned to my ship?"
Dekker looked concerned for a moment. "Don't tell me you had trouble with him..."
Walker was quick to deny that charge. "No, Admiral, quite the contrary. He was the one who came up with the interceptor idea in the first place, and the man is simply the finest pilot I have ever had the privilege of serving with. All I am asking is how did you know we would need him? What made you assign him to the Nullabor?"
Dekker shrugged. "That one I can't claim the credit for I'm afraid. Admiral Connelly is a friend of mine, but he can be a pain in the arse sometimes. He called me, furious because some Ensign nearly flew him into a planet or something, and asked what I could do about it. I decided to take him off the Admiral's hands, purely to make him indebted to me and on a hunch I assigned him to you. That was the one crew assignment that was more luck than anything else."
Walker smiled. He was satisfied with that answer. It actually pleased him to know that admiral Dekker hadn't been able to over every angle for him. It made the Admiral seem more human somehow.
It was two days before the infirmary on DS2 was allowing visitors for the Nullabor officers. Most of the Nullabor crew had ended up in there, although some of them had already been released. Walker had held a ship's meeting to explain that the Nullabor was not going to be repaired, and he was surprised at the strength of feeling the crew shared with him over that fact. He had also mentioned that there were plans for a new research station that would be built to work on some of the developments that the Nullabor had brought to fruition and when he asked for volunteers for the project every hand went up, just as he had hoped. The remainder of the crew were being asked personally as they were released or allowed visitors by the infirmary, and now Thomas had the chance to visit his First Officer.
Alexis was sitting up in her bio bed reading from a padd. She looked up as she sensed him coming and smiled. He smiled back and thought a traditional Betazoid greeting shared between lovers. The smile turned into a grin. "Are you recovering alright?" She nodded. "Are you sick of this place?" She nodded once more. He had to smile at that. He doubted she would ever be a good patient. "How much of the story behind the mission do you know?"
In response she showed him the padd. It contained the schematics and specifications for the new station. Walker arched an eyebrow in query and she laughed. "I am still a Tac Ops operative, you know."
"Yeah, a bed-ridden operative. I guess I don't have to tell you about Glir, Eritt, Parker, Dekker, or any of the whole tale then." She nodded again. Walker merely shrugged. "So, what do you think of the station idea?"
"I have to say that what they have planned is quite impressive. Essentially they want to build a multi functional Tactical Station with research capabilities. Have they told you that they plan to conduct ani-Syndicate covert operations out of the base?" Walker nodded this time. "They want you to head it up, but what about starships, Thomas? They are still your first love."
"And yours as well, Alexis. Don't worry my love, we will have all the starship action we can handle."
"On a base?" Alexis was confused. Walker did not seem to be making sense.
Walker smiled. "I'm glad you couldn't find out everything after all. It means I still have a surprise or two for you." Walker tossed her a smaller padd that he had brought in with him.
Alexis frowned as she caught the padd. Walker looked too smug for her liking, and if there was any surprise for her he was hiding it well in his mind. Curious, she activated the padd and started reading the contents. As she did, her smile started to grow wider...
It was a week later that the full crew from the now defunct Nullabor were all fit for travel. They were guests aboard the Azimuth, Admiral Dekker's ship. It was a Nebula class vessel, rather old for active service but then all the Admiral's ships were at the time. Walker knew full well why - the new ships were needed in active service. Between the Borg and the Dominion, the Federation had lost too many ships in recent years, and the Admirals had to make do with what was available for them.
Walker and his officers were put in guest quarters, the remaining crew were made comfortable in spare crew quarters. The ship was used primarily to transport the Admiral around, so it never had a full crew complement aboard. Personnel was the other resource in short supply since the end of the Dominion war.
Botha had signed on at once. The thought of having full authority over the construction of the station and the shipyards, and then being in charge of the shipyards after that was too much of a temptation to refuse. The others all signed on, all with similar reasons. Sai was promoted to Lieutenant when he accepted the role of pilot trainer on the new station, in the interim he would be actively employed on either the shuttle crews for the construction efforts or on the helm of the starships responsible for the station's defence. Once building was complete, his task would be to train the next generation of pilots, especially in the area of fighter combat.
That was what had made Alexis smile days ago. There was a squadron of five Defiant class escort ships to be permanently stationed at the base, and one of them would be Kelsey's. She was the new Commander (Air Group), responsible for all ships and fighters based at the station. Walker had made sure that he had a ship assigned to him as well, Kelsey could understand that. She knew he would need to get off base and into ships during the major operations, and she had no problem with that. A starship combat specialist like Walker would be too good a resource to waste on base administration all the time.
Glir and Voraak would serve dual roles on the new station, both were good researchers but they both had good combat training as well. They would serve as the example of what Starfleet was trying to create in the new base - the perfect blend of research and defence. Strangely enough, most of the researchers they had picked up at the colony had signed on immediately as well. Walker suspected Glir had a lot of pull with them, whether he realised it or not.
Dr Eritt had been shipped off to Earth, to spend some time at the Academy. It had been decided that as the construction of the station would take a little less than a year to complete, she would be put through an abbreviated Officer's course. She would come out of it as an Ensign, but she would still be entitled to hold the position of CMO on board the station. Walker had personally guaranteed the position would be hers when she returned, and a guarantee of her safety was extracted from the Admiral before Botha would let her leave. Walker could not help but smile as he thought back on that. They made a good couple.
One strange twist was that Chief O'Toole had volunteered for assignment aboard the new station. Sai had petitioned for his acceptance, and Walker had given it. The man was not exactly a seasoned veteran of life in space, but he had something that none of the others in his team had - real trench warfare experience. Walker harboured no misconceptions about the man, he was a killer, possibly even cold blooded. He would have to be watched and controlled with a light touch, but he needed someone to lead any landing assaults they may have to execute, and Walker could not think of a better man for the job. One day, they would attack a Syndicate shipyard and he would be very happy to have O'Toole along for that. In the meantime, he would make a great member of the security detail.
Walker was sitting behind the desk of the office he had been assigned as the Ship's Office for the Nullabor. He thought it a strange touch at first, it was like the memory of the ship which was now under tow behind the Azimuth was still alive and well. There were clearly more practical forces at work however. Most of the people assigned to the new construction projects were Nullabor crew and it made sense not to mess around with all the paperwork crew transfers could generate, at least not yet. Also, having all the personnel assigned to a non-existent ship would make a good cover for a covert project, Walker realised. One thing was sure - Dekker was a shrewd man, maybe more so than Walker had ever given him credit for.
The chime on the door facing him sounded, bringing him away from his thoughts. "Come." The doors opened and a young engineering designer marched through them, looking quite distraught.
"Captain, we have a problem." Walker smiled to himself. He had heard this several times so far since Botha had been released from the infirmary on DS2. This conversation was almost routine for him now. The young designer continued. "Your Yard Master has just scrapped half of my designs and replaced them with this mess." He placed a padd on Walker's desk. "This is completely unworkable. We can't build a station like this, it goes against everything I know about deep space construction."
Walker picked up the padd and pretended to look it over seriously. He had already seen the new design, Botha and Glir had come up with some brilliant changes to the original design. The station would be cheaper and faster to build, and more efficient when online. This was largely done by ripping out all the extraneous stuff and making the place efficient. Walker had no doubts that the station would have it's little discomforts when built, but he also knew he had some true masters overseeing the details of the design. It would work.
"Ensign, have you shown these new plans to Lieutenant Glir?" The Ensign nodded as Walker knew he would. It was a standing order that he should be consulted before going to the Captain. "Well, then I am sure that he told you that the plans stand?" The Ensign nodded once more. Walker sat back in his chair, as if about to hold a friendly chat with the angry young man in front of him. "Let me tell you something Ensign. I know Botha quite well now, at least as well as anyone can after knowing him for so short a time. I know that he can be difficult to work with, and that is why I am going to share a little secret with you."
The Ensign leaned closer, eager for the information. Walker knew that he was expecting to find a way around the man, and the thought made him smile. These young designers were all the same and Walker wondered briefly whether Botha's opinion of them was contagious. "Botha is the most brilliant engineer I have ever met. If he says that your plans are rubbish, then they are. Simple fact."
The designer looked shocked. Good, thought Walker. That would stop him from questioning his superior again. He continued on. "Botha has only one criterion for accepting the people around him. Are they good at what they do? The bottom line is, you are not. You might be one day, if you listen hard and learn when you get the chance. You see, you have been offered a great opportunity, to learn from the best. Don't look at this as a rejection, but rather as an invitation. Watch the man, learn from him. One day, you might be able to build things as well as he can."
The Ensign was immobile in front of him, mouth still open. It was nearly a minute before he could speak again. "Yes Sir. Thank you Sir. Sorry to have wasted your time."
Walker smiled as the Ensign beat a hasty retreat from his office. "No problem Ensign. Please feel free to discuss things with me anytime."
The Ensign gave a brief nod in response on his way out the door. Walker waited until it was completely closed again before he let the chuckle rise from his throat. Botha would have loved to see this one, he thought.
"Captain Walker, please report to the bridge." Walker tapped his commbadge and acknowledged the request, rising from his chair to comply. As he walked through the ship and travelled along the turbo shafts Walker found it difficult to accept the sheer size of this ship. It was actually smaller than the Menalaus, but that was a memory from so long ago. Now, things were different. He had been Captain of the Nullabor, and he was thankful that most of his time would now be spent on Defiant class vessels. they were small enough for him to consider as a possible substitute for the ship he had just lost.
Soon enough despite the feeling of space he strode onto the bridge of the Azimuth. Even this looked big now, with ten people manning various stations around the deck. In front of the Captain's chair stood Admiral Dekker, Kelsey, Glir and Botha. Dekker smiled as he approached. "Well, it looks like we are all here now. Captain Stacey, please take us out."
"Aye Sir." Captain Stacey looked like an interesting man to Walker. Most Starship Captains on admiralty detail were more about show than results. Walker doubted that was the case with Stacey, especially when he issued a string of commands to his bridge crew. His orders were followed competently and soon a course for their secret destination was plotted. Stacey turned to the Admiral expectantly.
"Engage." At the Admiral's command, the Azimuth entered Warp. Dekker turned to the Nullabor officers. "Ready to make a little history?"
All three smiled. There was no need to answer, they had already done it once.
Sai felt the shift to Warp in his cabin. He always waited until they were in Warp before speaking to the prophets. Being so far away from them was bad enough, but being in Warp made them feel a little closer to him. He had laid out his incense and shrine materials ready for this moment, and now that the ship had moved to Warp he knelt in front of the brazier, inhaling the incense that burned within it now.
"A prayer of thanks to the Prophets for their blessing. I offer my heartfelt thanks to you for providing me for all I have earnestly prayed for over the past months. I always wanted to work with people who shared my passions and ideals, and I have that now. You work in ways that are not known to me, I thought you had left me when I was assigned to a transport, and offer my heartfelt apologies for such a thought. It was not worthy of you. You have guided me to good people and I know that I will be able to continue serving you among these ones..."
Sai continued his prayers and chants. Where Walker saw a solitary loose end, a device of chance, Sai saw something very different. He was the only one on the ship for a specific reason - the prophets had chosen to bless him. He was thankful.
There was much bustling about this particular morning. There was an air of expectancy, and rightfully so. This morning would mark the culmination of much effort and planning, it was a time many people out in this little uninhabited sector of deep space had been working towards for nearly a year.
Captain Walker looked a little irritated as the CAG of Nullabor Station fussed over his dress uniform in their quarters. "I'm telling you Alexis, it looks fine."
"Sure, Sure." She finished the last few adjustments and stood in front of him, studying his image. "Yes, that's it."
Walker sighed with satisfaction but they both smiled as they left the spacious apartment. In the corridors people were rushing around, there was much to be done before the ceremony began. There were a few officers moving swiftly in their dress uniforms, the place was buzzing.
Walker thought for a moment, then tapped his commbadge. "Walker to Ensign Eritt."
"This is Eritt. Go ahead Captain."
"How is your medical facility Doctor?"
"It will be fine in a month or two, once I have everything where I want it. I have a request for some supplies, I trust we won't have the same problems we had last time?"
Walker just chuckled. "I don't think either of us will ever see Glir shuffling boxes again Doctor. I am assuming that your duties do not preclude attending the ceremony this morning?"
"They don't Captain. Am I to take it that you are calling me to ask if I could pull Phillip off the ship he is currently working on?"
"In a nutshell."
There was a small laugh on he other end of the comm line. "I'll do my best Captain. Eritt out."
"You know, I sometimes think that getting the shipyards and docks online early was a bad move. I never see our Yard Master anymore." Kelsey was right of course, but Walker was not that concerned.
"You have to admit that the output from our yards is making Starfleet very happy. The new class of escort vessels he and Glir designed together are apparently making our neighbours very nervous."
Kelsey had to laugh at that. Too many Romulan ships on covert patrols had disappeared for Romulan liking recently, and the cloak tracking systems near the neutral zone were registering a tenth of the traffic since their installation six months ago. This was not even figuring in the new carrier class of ship the two were working on now. And as for fighters, with Sai Falar's help they had been churning out hundreds of the things, with at least three new classifications in the works. Walker could never keep up with the rate of progress of his technical teams.
"Glir to Captain Kelsey." The hail came through her commbadge and he acknowledge it, signaling Glir to report. "One of our patrol teams have picked up some warp signatures near the Delta Two marker. They could be cloaked. How should we deal?"
The CAG did not hesitate. "I am assuming that the probes are now fully functional?" Walker had found something interesting several weeks after they started investigating the ruins of the Nullabor. The solitary probe that had returned to the ship had kept imprints from the neural nets of the other fourteen probes. In short there was enough information there to completely recreate them. They had recently finished production on a fleet of fifteen hundred probes, all based on the original fifteen personality types.
"Yes, we can deploy any probes you wish, we just have to get them to the area."
"Take the Esperance. Personally. Take a hundred probes and tell them to scour the area. I want those ships found, whatever they are."
"Aye Sir. Any preference on which probes Sir?"
Kelsey thought for a moment. "Take the hundred personality type six probes, Lieutenant."
"By the Rings... I mean Aye Sir. Out."
Walker turned to Kelsey as she cut the connection. The type sixes? They'll scare the pants of whatever is out there!"
Kelsey smiled deviously. "That was the point, Captain. Besides, it keeps them from getting bored. As for the Esperance, I think we should start testing some of the new Nullabor class escort ships in real situations, don't you think?"
Walker could not agree more. They continued their walk, in no particular hurry, and arrived at the large reception area that had been prepared especially for the ceremony. Admiral Dekker had flown in just for the occasion, and the majority of the crew were there. There was a festiveness about the crowd, like what they were full of anticipation.
Walker and Kelsey walked over to the small podium that had been set up for the occasion, but they were not ready to start yet. There was no sign of Botha. It was a full minute before he arrived, arm in arm but seemingly dragged politely by Lucifrelle. Walker and Kelsey both smiled, that pair made an interesting couple, to be sure. Much like themselves, they both thought.
It was time. They were ready. The crowd was speaking at a normal bubbling level for such numbers, but Kelsey's piping voice cut through them all. "Attention to orders!" The crowd fell silent.
Admiral Dekker, in full dress uniform stood solemnly and walked up to Walker, silently handing him a padd and shaking his hand. Walker waited until he was seated once more before he stood at the podium and recited from the padd. "To Captain Thomas Walker, you are hereby requested and required to take command of Nullabor Station, to be assigned an honorary registry number NCC 65150. Signed, Admiral Dekker, Starfleet Command." He put the padd down on the podium softly, an air of the enormity of the sentence it contained pervading the crowd. He waited a moment, and then nodded at Commander Phillip Botha, Nullabor Yard Master.
"Computer, provide all command functions to Captain Walker and discontinue all Nullabor Construction access, Authorisation Botha Theta 4887."
The computer responded in it's usual drone. "All construction access discontinued. Nullabor Station now in command of Captain Walker."
There was a pause. Silence. Kelsey was the first to start applauding, and within seconds the room was full of the sounds of clapping hands, hooting, and general merriment. Walker smiled with them, content once more. After so long, he was in command of a Nullabor again.
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