Posted on Sunday, 21 May 2023 - 2:23pm by Commander DeVala Victrix Ph.D & Crewman Leopold Eberhardt & Lieutenant Alex Kingsley & Lieutenant Scarlet Rogers & Lieutenant JG William Knight & Lieutenant JG Hayashi Hamura & Lieutenant JG Kay’la & Captain Barret Stillwater
Operation: Lobes & Liberties
Location: USS Standing Bear | Deck 01 | Observation Lounge
Commander Victrix took the Captain's usual seat at the conference table in the observation lounge for a briefing, and in this case the briefing was with Lieutenant Alex Kingsley who would be leading an away mission to the Ferengi Alliance world, Balancar. With everyone settling in for the briefing, DeVala Victrix started passing out PADDs containing crucial information. "Thank you all for coming," said the Commander welcoming everyone. "Settle in and we'll get this meeting underway. Lieutenant Kingsley will be your team leader" explained the woman.
With a double expresso in one hand, Lieutenant Kingsley took one of the offered PaDDs with the other while the others around her received theirs. As teams went, it was small but packed a lot of knowledge and experience. Which she guessed was the entire point. Small but mighty.
Hamura slinked into the room. They were tired and cranky, the usual as of late, but they grabbed a coffee and a chair and stifled the need to yawn before the meeting got started. Curious as to why they were all here was putting Hamura’s state of mind mildly but they figured all questions would be answered.
“I think we are all curious to find out more,” Knight offered even as he looked down and started skimming through the initial notes.
"You were each selected for a reason," Victrix stated. "As you are aware, Alex, Balancar is home to fields of Ferengi scilla plants, the roots and sap of which are used in squill syrup, a major export for the Ferengi. Their largest customer is Luria, but Balancar's been having weather issues that have caused several seasons of rough droughts. Harvest have not been as fruitful, but we have presented the Ferengi an offer - a Federation weather control network installed by us in exchange to some medicine produced on Balancar that is needed by some of our Federation colony worlds."
“Sounds reasonable,” Alex noted. “Was any cause identified for the adverse weather?”
Commander Victrix used some controls to activate a holographic display of the planet of Balancar, a beautiful looking orb of a planet. "Balancar," she said and over the next minute or so the color of the planet changed, cloud cover thickened. "Increased industrialization of the planet caused a boom in population over the centuries. What once was a moderately populated agricultural world of farms became this..." said Victrix as she gestured to the display of the planet in its current state. "Smog, sickness, and where their used to be glaciers...brackish oceans."
“Sounds familiar,” Alex sighed. “And it isn’t like the Ferengi are likely to prioritise the environment over profit margins…”
“While we are more than capable,” Knight chimed in with a relaxed smile, “wouldn’t Starfleet normally dispatch the Corps of Engineers?”
It had been a question that Hamura had had as well. Now in Ops Hamura didn’t get much time to stretch the engineering brain.
Victrix nodded "Yes, they would normally dispatch a Corps of Engineers. We took a heavy loss when Utopia Planitia was destroyed, and lost a lot of engineers on Mars. Between trying to get several of our fleet yards up to snuff to compensate with with loss of Utopia Planitia. There's also the worlds that have taken on our Romulan refugee friends requiring assistance, this has been not considered priority..."
The door the the briefing room opened and Victrix smiled "I was waiting for your arrival," Victrix said. "I believe most if not all of you are familiar with Scarlet Rogers," stated Victrix. "She has been travelling with me aboard the USS Crown Victoria, we picked her up along the way to serve as a specialist for this mission."
“It’s good to have you back,” Kingsley grinned as she flashed Scarlet a welcoming smile and gestured to an empty seat. “Our small team just got mightier … oh… did I say that out loud? Never mind, I stand by it.”
Scarlet smiled, warmly, "good to be back, albeit for a short time. Doctor Rose sends his love."
Nodding politely to Scarlett, Kay’la looked curiously at Victrix. “Commander I take it I’m here to assist on the side of medical matters? You did mention sickness?”
"It's a world ripe of plants, bogs, lakes, and mudslides. Mining operations have taken place there as well. Unfortunately there have been some disasters to go along with the beauty. You'll have to monitor the team closely and be prepared for radiation exposure and I'd avoid prolonged time around the mines, pneumoconiosis plagues many of the miners."
Kay’la nodded. “In that case I’ll be wanting all members of the away team to have their anti-radiation meds prior to departure. Anyone who goes to the mines will be required to wear respirators as well. Better to be safe than sorry.”
"A prudent course of action" replied Victrix. "You will want to be on high alert at all times. Balancar is a Ferengi world, but these are not your usual meekly Ferengi. They will not just pick your pockets, they'd shoot you dead if need be to keep whatever illegal operations they are involved in. The plants on Balancar are not purely used for culinary or medicinal purposes."
Kay’la nodded. “They use them for narcotic purposes as well I take it? What risks are there to our people from the narcotics trade? Are there any antidotes to these plants?”
"Some but not all," Victrix replied in response to the inquiry about antidotes. "Some of those narcotics can be quite deadly, and if they don't kill you, they hook you into a deep addiction. Anyone familiar with Turkana IV?"
Kay’la shook her head. “I don’t recall details, but the name rings a bell.”
“It was a failed Earth colony,” Knight spoke up. “If you’ve ever studied the history of the Enterprise missions, they completed a rescue mission, I believe, on the surface but it was quite the political nightmare. There was a tie to a former crew member - the helmsman or something- I don’t recall the specifics. Commander Rh’Katarr didn’t devote much time on the Enterprise missions.”
“What security precautions do we have?” Alex spoke up, not entirely content to take a group of scientists and engineers into such a dangerous environment.
DeVala Victrix nodded "Yes, we had that concern as well. Sending you in with a bunch of Starfleet security would be a bit troubling, but we took care of that matter. We were able to find someone no longer affiliated with Starfleet." Victrix checked the chronometer "He should have be here by now...probably waiting for you in the shuttlebay prepping the runabout."
“Who exactly are you talking about?” Alex asked, a hint of impatience in her voice. Too little sleep, too much theatrics. All she wanted - and needed - were details.
Victrix took a deep breath. "I think it best that we save that for now, Lieutenant. I understand your concern, but I can assure you that you are in safe hands. A one man 'security' team is skeletal to say the least, but I trust you'll find it a suitable arrangement. Now, as far as your mission objective, the USS Crown Victoria has supplied everything you need to assemble the weather control network. Your job is to get to Balancar safely and begin getting that network up and running."
Skeletal? Insane was more the word that sprang to mind. Taking a moment to ensure she wasn’t in danger of being thrown in the Brig (because of anyone would do that, it was Victrix), she nodded. “Yes, sir.”
Victrix knew this was less than ideal, but she trusted the man that was accompanying the Balancar team. "I do recommend keeping a low profile on Balancar," she cautioned. "It isn't as terrible of a place as I made it sound. You aren't likely to be abducted or shot so long as you keep your wits about you, and don't go snooping around. I'd turn a blind eye to anything that looks illegal. It's not a Federation world. You are just there to assist them with their little agricultural issue."
"Understood," Alex nodded. After all, what could possibly go wrong?
“Famous last words...” Kay’la gave Alex a wry smile.
Hamura cleared their throat. “Can I interject here?”
“I mean we should at least list all that could go wrong here so that we’re all prepared. Mentally.” Hamura scrubbed a weary hand down their face.
“Clearly it’s a potentially long list,” Alex pointed out. “What points concern you the most?”
Hamura sighed. "All of it." Rubbing their eyes they added, "To be honest I wouldn't mind going through what could go wrong and how to counteract it. I like having options."
"We do need a plan A through Z," Scarlet nodded.
Hamura nodded at her grateful for the back up. They were staving off a headache and as much as they wanted the briefing to end, a plan was a necessity.
“Can we at least get some really strong coffee in here?” Alex suggested, personally wanting to know who this mysterious escort was.
"There's plenty in the runabout, Lieutenant" came the man's voice from the doorway which had opened amid the bantering, allowing the man to slip in and lean his back against a bulkhead as he listened and observed the crew bantering. "Are we just going to sit here and complain about the mission and squabble over potential risks, or are we going to do what needs done and get this show on the road?" A very much retired Captain Barret Stillwater stood there with a mug of raktajino in hand. He was of course not in a Starfleet uniform, and probably preferred it that way.
As soon as she heard the voice, Alex spun around in her seat, a warm smile on her lips as she found her former CO standing nearby. She had to fight hard the urge to give him the biggest hug right there and then, which was not very professional. And she had questions. So many questions. “You had me at plenty,” she grinned.
"We're going to need it," he replied meeting her grin. "Balancar is not known for their coffee. Slug-O-Cola though is quite popular there" he added.
“Savages,” Alex concluded.
Kay’la smiled warmly as she looked towards Barrett. “It’s good to see you again Sir, we’ve missed you.”
Hamura muttered under their breath, "Family reunion...Soral will be thrilled"
"I'm old, not deaf," Stillwater quipped. "I've missed you all too. My husband sends his ex Borg Cardassian love. At least in his own way. He could not join us though, a bit too busy on Prarie. "
“We will do our best to send you home quickly and in one piece,” Alex promised. “Have you been to this planet before?”
"Talarn will be happy to have me back in one piece, but to answer your question, Alex I have not. I've been to Fereginar a few times, but I haven't set foot on too many of their smaller worlds or moons." He was ready to go. "Pack what you need. I'll be ready to go when the rest of you are. I pack light, but I did make sure we had some phaser riffles in case things go south."