Due to the shear size of the first chapter, I had to split it up. Otherwise, it wouldn't take.
<Obligatory background music [link]>
"Captain's log, Captain Data speaking. We're headed towards Deep Space 4 Portsmouth Starbase, as a waypoint towards diplomatic talks in what was formerly Romulan Imperial space. The events of the Hobus supernova has threatened the stability of the relatively new Typhon Pact with the destruction of Romulus and much of the political establishment, and the Empire is devolving into different factions. It has been 21 days, 10 hours, 1 minute, and 23 seconds since this unfortunate event, and things are beginning to unravel. The Kinshaya, Tholian and Breen leadership are vocally blaming the Federation for the destruction of Romulus and threatening to cut off what few diplomatic ties they have with the us. In addition, their vessels have been acting hostile to us, more than usual. The Kinshaya have already been unhappy with the Federation for some time, as we are allies with their long-time enemy, the Klingon Empire. However, the Gorn, Tzenkethi, and some of the Romulan leadership have agreed to talks, overriding the Kinshaya and Breen. There has been reported aggressions against Federation patrol ships on the Breen and Tholian border, while the Kinshaya have been more aggressive than usual against the Klingons.
Due to the use of some form of rudimentary form of Transphasic torpedoes by the Tholians, and fears that they will share this technology with their fellow Typhon Pact members, the Enterprise is also transporting a cargo of our own Transphasic torpedoes. Even though many politicians and diplomats have raised objections to Starfleet Command's decision, citing that it could antagonize the Typhon Pact further, the Admiralty has made decision, and has made it a direct order, and upon arriving at Portsmouth, we are to begin supplying the station and it's defense fleet with torpedoes and specifications to replicate further warheads.
In order to help with the talks, my former commanding officer, now Ambassador Jean Luc Picard, and Commander Kirsten Heimann is traveling onboard. Commander Heinmann has joined us because the Tzenkethi requested her. She and her family have had a good relationship with the Tzenkethi, and it is the United Earth's and the Federation's hope that she will help smooth these talks. As I mentioned earlier, the Tzenkethi used their influence to help insure these peace talks, and that is partially because of their experience with humans like Commander Heimann. They know that whatever their grievances with the Federation that caused them to choose to join the Pact, that the Federation wouldn't have stood by and allowed billions of sentient beings to die.
Ambassador Picard's presence on the Enterprise is bittersweet, if I'm using the term correctly. It won't be like years ago. Admiral William T. Riker and his wife and former ship's consular, Deanna Troi Riker, are aboard the Titan, as is Wesley Crusher. His mother, Beverly Crusher is now captain of the Pasteur, while Worf is on leave from injuries sustained while fighting the rogue Romulan Nero and his ship. Former captain Geordi La Forge has retired from Starfleet entirely. While I have a great deal of nostalgia for my those who have been my crew mates since I served aboard the Enterprise-D, I am confident those currently under my command are ready for whatever may come from this mission. "
<Background music [link]; replace Enterprising Young Men motifs with motifs from the alternative version of Goldsmith's theme, and you get the idea of what I'd want this background music track to sound like>
The door alert sounded, and Data told the computer to stop recording and save. "You may come in".
And in came his old friend and former Captain. "Data, it is usually expected for a Starfleet commanding officer to be on the bridge as a starship approached a space station."
"Ah, Ambassador Picard. I was merely researching all information pertinent to the upcoming mission, as well as recording a captain's log". Because Data was an advanced android, he could both effortlessly absorb and store information, and record his starlog at the same time.
"Well, you should come out onto the bridge. We are approaching Starbase Portsmouth, and if I might add, it is an amazing sight."
"Of course Ambassador."
"Captain on the bridge", announced the First Officer.
"Approaching Starbase Portsmouth", announced Joanna Faur, the Enterprise's helm officer, or pilot in layman's term.
"Ah, and so our dear Captain comes out of sulking in his room!", said Commander Jorana Boran, the Enterprise's Tellarite second in command bellowed. Tellarites are argumentative by nature, and are known as such by much of the Beta and especially the Alpha Quadrant. Boran had a wicked sense of humor, and she wasn't afraid to use it. She had a large, muscular build, but was what you might call a gentle giant.
She continued with her "polite greeting" to her captain. "If you're going to spend most of your time off the bridge, maybe you should apply for desk job as Admiral, and I can take take command of the Enterprise"
Much of the command crew had a smirk on their faces. Boran's delightful wit helped to loosen the tension on the bridge, no matter the mission.
"Commander Boran, I only spend 13.6 percent of my time in my ready room, and as Captain, it is my duty to analyze the performance of this ship's crew, and record captain's logs to be reviewed by superior officers. I have become 10.2 percent more efficient at cutting down that time since you first complained about this. What more could you ask me to do?"
"Oh, come on! You're a freaking android with a brain far more efficient than I could ever hope for! I bet you could reduce it to 5% if you put that positronic brain to your best use possible!" said the Tellarite with a much mirth.
On the view screen, the warped image of warp speed gave way to the blackness of space, stars, and the blue Typhon Expanse. It was in this spacial phenomenon that the Enterprise's predecessor had been repeatedly destroyed in 2368 when she was caught in a time loop. Fortunately, she broke out of it. The exact cause of this was still under investigation to this very day.
Ahead of the Enterprise was Starbase Portsmouth: a home away from home for Federation Starships and their crews to and from exploratory missions into the Beta Quadrant beyond the former Romulan Empire.
Kirsten steppet forward, awed by the sight before her and the rest of the bridge crew. "Wow, I've heard that starbases be that big, but I never imagine how amazing a sight it would be. And to imagine we'll soon be docking aboard her."
The grand-daughter of Rochus Heinmann and Charlotte Ainsworth, crew members of the U.E.S. Polaris (NCC-0782), and indeed, Rochus was later the commanding officer of an Arbiter variant of the Akyazi-class Perimeter Action Vessel, one that she hailed from quite a family. Indeed, it is because of her heritage that she could play a pivotal role in helping to keep a cordial relationship with the Typhon Pact, of which the Tzenkethi were part of. The Heinmann's were always welcomed by the Tzenkethi for their help against the Kzinti, and due their role of being a part of the vessel that came to their aid when the rest of the Federation wouldn't. She only hoped would be able to make the difference everyone was hoping for.
She was helping Picard learn about the intricacies of Tzenkethi culture, as well as Kinshaya and Tholian culture, from what their Tzenkethi allies had learned about from being a member of the Pact. Picard had already learned enough due to having contact with the Gorn, and the Romulan especially on numerous times. Indeed, former commanding officer of the IRW Valdore, now Empress Donatra was also instrumental on keeping things the relationship between the Federation and Pact cordial. For now.
Boran gave out a loud snort. "Yeah impressive! Impressive how it looks like a big fat shiny target! It looks like one of those snow globes you humans like, surrounded by a big fat ring, and all it takes is one successful torpedo hit, and hey, have fun dying of decompression folks!"
"Actually, that is 12 inch thick transparent duranium alloy, which is stronger than the hull separating us from the vacuum", Data stated, always the know-it-all, something that Boran was already happy to rub in his face. Data saw that as a good thing. Federation science had allowed the creation of an alloy that was like diamond and nano-carbon fiber tubules, but flexible like transparent aluminum, and most transparent material was made out of it nowadays. "In addition, the station is well protected with other defense mechanisms. In the event of an attack, it is highly likely that the civilians would be safe."
"Oh, how much?" asked Boran with a curious smirk.
"Approximately 68.3%, given all known variables", Data said.
"Oh goody, so if the Borg all the sudden attacked, we could just hide in here until they get bored", Boran replied sarcastically.
"That was after the Borg Collective was joined with the Caelier Gestalt", replied Data
"Oh yeah, we don't have to worry about them any more!", said Boran. "I knew that!", she added.
"Well, I wish that we had fleet bases like these in the United Earth region" opined Kirsten.
"There is no need for such luxurious stations when you can just beam down to a perfectly good home to the orbiting planet below. Starbases like this are designed specifically for locations where there isn't a perfectly hospitable planet, and where a large population is expected, to reduce the strain of long times in space, many times ranging from years to decades. If you want to visit such stations, then you should join Starfleet, and request multi-year missions of exploration", said Picard with a smirk and a wink.
Jean Luc appreciated Kirsten's priority towards focusing her efforts on protecting Earth, rather than serving in Starfleet. She was smart, driven. If she applied herself, she could probably eventually earn herself the command of a Vesta class. Kirsten thought of Jean Luc similarly in an opposite way, thinking he could have been an Admiral by now if he had focused his career on galactic defense instead of exploration, but understanding his need to get out there. It was also a shame that he had chosen to give up his career as a Starfleet officer for politics. He was one of the best officers of his time, and his exploits were legendary. She felt honored to spend so much of her time with a living legend.
Jean Luc knew there was no way that he would convince her to request a transfer from the First Fleet into Starfleet, any more than she could convince him to rejoin Starfleet, or even spend some of his time in the First Fleet, where his experience would be welcomed. It was slowly becoming a running gag between the two, and whole ship. Between the Dominion War and the Borg, much of the First Fleet's seasoned officers ranks had been depleted. Just one year just so the First Fleet could get back on it's fleet and become independent of the ships and crew on loan from the main fleet would be a huge boon. But everyone knew that Jean Luc was done with being an officer. He just felt his diplomatic skills were more useful than his skills as a warrior. And with Spock MIA, those skills were needed more than ever.
Portsmouth consisted of a globe the size of her early 23rd Century predecessor, Star Station Yorktown, and her interior was set up more or less in the same fashion.
Surrounding the equator was a thick ring. This was where starships parked for shorter durations and vessels taking a break from patrol, so that God/whatever deity you believe in forbid, the station come under attack, those ships might depart quickly and come to the station's defense. Above, below, and inside this hanger ring was smaller hanger bays for fighters and shuttles.
This hanger ring had tubes leading throughout the length of the station, where starships that didn't intend to leave anytime soon stayed, for reasons such as refit or weeks of R&R for the ship and their crew. it was done this way to cut down on congestion between the station's local protection force, and visiting vessels. After the chaos of the Battle of Yorktown in 2263 when a insane former Starfleet officer, his crew, and assimilated crewmen from ships downed by Edison over time attacked the station with old alien starships, and tried to kill the entire population with an ancient weapon, this sort of design feature was integrated into the Yorktown Base over upgrades and refits, due to the fact that starships docked at the base couldn't move out of the base fast enough to engage. Not helping matters was that Edison had sent a false distress call, luring away the small fleet meant to guard Yorktown. Fortunately, Edison was stopped by the crew of the of a ship sent to investigate a disappearance of starship in a nearby nebula using the Franklin in an unorthodox fashion.
Also available was a few dozen external dry-docks orbiting around Portsmouth, just in case that demand for a stay on the starbase was higher than the station could support. Crews could transport to the station proper via transporter, or if preferred, shuttle.
Temporally taking a break to top off their deuterium tanks in external dry-docks were two Akira-class Heavy Cruisers: the U.S.S. Kaneda (NCC-79325), and the U.S.S. Fearless (NCC-75978).
Patrolling the area in space in wolf-packs were Valkyrie-class Starfighters. A pair flew quickly by the Enterprise, before diverting quickly back to their patrol flight plan. Why not? It wasn't everyday the flagship of the Federation came strolling in, and it took them seconds to return to where they were supposed to be. And if they were all the sudden attacked, it wouldn't be a bad thing for them to be there to support the Enterprise. It was far economical to use fighters as scouts, rather than Saber-class Scouts, since they were less resource intensive to produce, and they were quick and heavily armed and shielded enough so they could give capital ships grief until bigger starships could engage. Not that there weren't Saber class vessels patrolling the system too. One was heading back towards base, to be the first to receive transphasic torpedoes. After she headed back on patrol, another would repeat the process, and another, until they were all armed. In this way, they'd be able to take on starships many times their size.
"Sir, we're being hailed by Portsmouth", said female human/Vulcan communications specialist lieutenant T'Ryssa Chen. Also known as Trys.
"Put 'em on screen", said Boran.
"Enterprise, this is Portsmouth traffic control. You are cleared for docking. Please head towards docking bay 7, docking port 1. And of course, welcome to Starbase Portsmouth, and we hope you enjoy your stay!"
"Understood, and thank you traffic control. Well, you heard him Lieutenant Faur, take us in!", Boran ordered.
The Enterprise's helmsman put her on a course towards her assigned docking port, passing defensive weapons platforms, Valkyries, and one MacPherson-class Transport. The U.S.S. Everhart (NCC-27309), and work bees were offloading cargo pods from her ventrally mounted transport pods.
At last, ahead was the Enterprise's assigned docking berth. To her right docked in docking berth 2 was a Galaxy class. The U.S.S. Paris, Navigational Contract Code 73987. She was one of the production runs from the Bright Star upgrade first launched in 2370.
Jean Luc's eyes grew misty. The Paris reminded him on his second command, the Enterprise-D, a starship that was gone before her time. It had been 16 years, but the wound was still there, the command of his dream destroyed by a bloody 80 year old scout. That wasn't to say that the Enterprise-E wasn't a fine ship. The Sovereign class was a bloody fine design, sleek, fast, and capable. But she lacked some of the grandeur of Chief Designer Andrew Probert's masterpiece.
Even though launched 30 years ago, and having the less than optimum Warp Drive, the Galaxy class was still a workhorse of the Federation. Starfleet was attempting research into installing Quantum Slipstream on ships not designed to use them to keep most of the fleet from becoming obsolete, but was only having limited success at best. Most vessels not designed for Slipstream experienced the same problem as the Voyager when she tried to use it: unstable, hard to control flights. They were being tightly controlled, because it was learned quickly that loosing control in Slipstream could be disastrous even from the data of Voyager's attempted flight back home.
Docked in berth 3 was the Federation One. The transport of choice for the President of the United Federation of Planets, on board was the ambassadors chosen by the Tholian Assembly, the Holy Order of the Kinshaya, the Tzenkethi Coalition, and the Gorn Hegemony, other ambassadors chosen by the Federation, and heading the peace talks was to be the female Andorian zhen Kellessar zh'Tarash. Her presence was to send a message of faith to the Pact powers, in spite of the inherent dangers of traveling the Romulan Neutral Zone (not that it was really being enforced very much nowadays).
The Federation One was different from when she first took flight. After the success of Slipstream designs like the Vesta class, and limited success with fitting designs such as the Intrepid, Norway, Oslo, Luna, and Akira classes with Slipstream units, in order to keep her from falling into obsolescence, she was given a heavy refit in 2385. This consisted of better bleeding her primary and secondary hulls together, replacing her navigational deflectors with those based off of the Vesta class, replacing the pylons attaching the escort and nacelles with units that were more curved from the front and back and better blended into the hull, and the nacelles now resembled the units used by the Sparrow or Vesta class. Finally, the detachable escort was replaced by an experimental unit that was designed for Slipstream, and thus was sleeker. Much of the data taken from her flights was being used for the Escort Cruiser designs that were to supplement and replace the Defiant and Avenger classes. The previous escort was now a museum ship in orbit of Earth's Orbital Smithsonian Starfleet Museum.
Then there was docking berth 4, which housed the IRW Kerchan. On board was the Romulan delegation. The Kerchan class was the result of the lessons learned from the horrendous losses of D'deridex class warbirds during the Dominion War, and the result was a somewhat smaller, more maneuverable starship. Guarding the area was a pair of Raptor-class Cruisers.
If they caused any trouble, the defense platforms would blow them to smithereens. They were being armed with some of the transphasic torpedoes that the Enterprise had brought with her.
The Steamrunner-class Escort Cruiser U.S.S. Isaribi (NCC-56233) passed by, on her way to docking bay 8 to receive transphasic torpedoes, while the Zodiac-class U.S.S. Sierra Nevada (NCC-61000) passed by in the opposite direction on the way to docking bay 6.
At last, the Enterprise pulled in, and various docking gantry tubes extended into place, giving multiple sections of the ship's crew egress if they wanted. Various securing mechanisms also docked with the ship, while ports opened on the command hull, which additional securing mechanisms locked into. These mechanisms and ports were being introduced throughout the fleet, and the latest vessels such as the Vesta class already had them, as did recently refitted vessels. This was for two reasons.
1) To top off the docked vessel's power grid, which would then be stored in the ship's capacitors for later use. Better to go into the unknown fully charged. Deuterium and anti-matter were also being restocked in their respective stores, but channeling these throughout the ship could be dangerous.
2) To prevent attempts from unauthorized personal to steal a Starfleet vessel, similar to what happened with the Osiris-class Escort U.S.S. Isis (NCC-74333) at the end of the Dominion War, when Changelings attempted to hijack her in a desperate attempt to leave the Federation. Fortunately,she was disabled, and the Changelings prosecuted as enemy agents.
However, the senior staff could still commander their ship, assuming they had the right codes. This was an exception lobbied by Admirals Hikaru Sulu, Leonard McCoy, Pavel Chekov and Nyota Uhura, and was approved considering that if not for them, Earth would have been rendered lifeless if not for the events that occurred after they helped steal the Enterprise in 2284. It could be argued that when trust in all else fails, you can still put your lives in the hands of a good Starfleet officer.
Much of the Enterprise's crew took the opportunity for shore leave. They would need it. This was the third time the Enterprise-E was headed into Romulan space, and with their luck, it was expected this mission would be no more uneventful than the last two (this didn't include her predecessors forays into Romulan space.
There were many there to great them. For one, the delegation from the Federation One and Kerchan had been invited to stay aboard the Portsmouth for the several days until the peace talks would begin on a planet in the Romulan Neutral Zone as hashed out by all parties.
But there were also surprise guests: it was quite a scene, watching much of the crew going to meet family and friends that they hadn't seen in a while, some in years. The different species of the Enterprise crew greeted each other in different ways. For example, Trys's human mother Antigone Chen hugged her, while her father Sylix greeted her with the signature Vulcan salute. Boran's family and friends on the other hand engaged in "polite discourse" typical of Tellarites.
The delegation had mixed feelings. The Tholian Ambassador for example kept his eyes trained on Jean Luc and Data as they approached the Delegation and the station's commanding officer: Admiral Samuel Choudler, who had left his more than capable second in command to come down and meet the legendary crew of the Enterprise. Those who could read Tholian body language would deem such an emotional display as a waste of time, especially given the circumstances.
Even much of the senior crew had wandered off to see family and friends. Normally, it would be impossible for them to be here, since it would normally take a year for most family members to travel from across the quadrant at maximum warp. The first of the Quantum Slipstream-capable starliners made much of their presences here possible. Those who didn't live on a core Federation world hitched a ride on a Starfleet vessel. For example, Dygan's parents had traveled on the newly refitted Interceptor-class Destroyer U.S.S. Buccaneer (NCC-77203). Picking up civilians was considered a good way to make sure that the relatively new technology was working properly before going out onto deep space assignments, especially those that weren't designed to utilize it. The Buccaneer had already departed Portsmouth and was scheduled to rendezvous with the Full Circle Fleet currently exploring the Delta Quadrant.
"Ah, Captain Data, Ambassador Picard, it is great to meet you. I must say, you have quite the reputations, so it is an honor to host you on my humble station, and your starship of course", Choulder said as the in turn shook each other's hands.
"Thank you Admiral, but your command post is hardly humble. It is a kilometer and a half Pensacola-class...", Data was cut off by his former commanding officer.
"Data, just smile and thank the Admiral. But he's right. You have command of quite a base.", he said with a smile on his face, now that he no longer had to deal with Data's...anachronisms on a regular basis. "She is quite a beauty though, isn't she?"
"Thank you, and yes, that she is. Sovereign-class Heavy Cruiser. Same thing goes for Portsmouth I guess! We take pride in taking good care of visiting starships. The Enterprise will be no exception to that." The Admiral was quite excited at having a legendary crew and starship at his starbase. "Anyways, since we're all here, it's getting close to lunch time. I'd be honored if you, your crew, and the Delegation from the Typhon Pact allowed me to prepare a banquet in your honor. I suppose it would also allow the politicians to break the ice, eh?"
"I might deign to accept this, assuming...compatible cuisine is served", voiced the Gorn ambassador. They considered cooked meats to be...inappropriate. "I am feeling a bit peckish from my travels".
"I'm sure we can work out something for everybody. You give me a day, and we could even have an unreplicated meal, with ingredients flown in from anywhere!", replied Choulder. The new Slipstream-capable freighters had started delivered cargo anywhere in the quadrant nowadays.
"Perhaps we will take you up on your offer tomorrow then, the Romulan ambassador chimed in. "For now, I trust that your replicators can do a good enough job. I hear that Federation replicator technology has refined so much to the point that you can't tell the difference between the real thing".
"Depends if we override the predesignated vitamin and minerals settings", Choulder replied.
"Then that settles it" chimed in President zh'Tarash, "I propose you bring data pads filled with your favorite meals, and feed them into our replicator stations. I believe that this will help break up any further tensions between our associated powers".
Jean Luc suddenly had a pair of hands cover his hands from behind. "Guess who.", a female voice said in a sing-song voice. He knew that voice anywhere, since he had not only been married to her for 7 years, but also served with her for 23 years.
"Beverly!", Jean Luc replied as he turned around to embrace his wife. "What are you doing here?"
"When I heard that you were coming, I thought that I would make a quick resupply run to Portsmouth", Beverly replied with a smile on her face. The Pasteur had been among the ships giving aid to Romulan space over the weeks since the Hobus Disaster, necessary when the rogue Romulan Nero destroyed 2 of the Olympic-class Hospital Ships and the somewhat new slipstream capable Galen Emergency Medical Vessel originally sent to provide aid. There were many displaced Romulans who were on business and vacation trips when their home was destroyed. The U.S.S. Moore (NCC-54216) and the U.S.S. Hippocrates (NCC-68468) were assisting the Pasteur.
At the same time, less than 1 AU a way, a hole in space was forming, which disgorged the Imperial task force into Federation Space (not that they would recognize it as such). To the Rebels, such a sight would make their blood run cold. The sensor officers on duty knew that this was probably not a good thing. And the size of that one ship!
Admiral Choudler's combadge chirriped. One the comms was one of the sensor officers manning the Portsmouth was on the line. "Sir, we have a small fleet of vessels approaching our stellarspace. Many of them are large, and they appear to have their shields raised and weapons armed".
Guess lunch would have to wait. "Understood, I'll be there immediately. In the mean time, recall all of our guard fleet to the station's defensive perimeter, put shields and weapons on standby, tell all ships to prepare to deploy, get our loaders to hurry up with distributing those new torpedoes, and hail them. Oh, and we might need to deploy the armor. Sorry, but it looks like we might have to do this some other time".
In order to help protect stations like the Portsmouth whose habitable section consisted on a transparent module so that crew and families could look up at the stars, they often had a set of armor that would surround the transparent duranium hull, deploying like a set of clamshell shuttle doors. Made out of 12 inch polarized-capable duranium armor, they were the secondary line of defense for protecting the station's inhabitants. They deployed in a way so that they wouldn't block the docking tunnels, so ships could still evacuate if all else failed. Of course, Starfleet really wanted to to install the deployable armor technology that the Voyager brought with her from the Delta Quadrant. But due to the fact that the technology was assimilated from a future version of Kathryn Laneway by the Borg Queen shortly before being killed by a neurolytic pathogen, and thus dismissed as being of use as an anti-Borg defense, and being from the year 2404, the Department of Temporal Investigations determined they would have to get by without it for the moment. The Federation from that timeline was apparently doing well, and they wanted to make sure the Federation in this timeline survived as well. Deploying a technology from the future could have unforeseen consequences, and if not for the Borg Invasion of 2381 and the need to utilize the ships they had to their fullest potential, they wouldn't have allowed the use of Transphasic Torpedoes.
"Always eventful when we're together Jean Luc", Beverly couldn't help but comment.
"Always eventful whenever the Enterprise is nearby", Jean Luc responded.
"What is happening?", asked the Kinshayan ambassador. "Are we under attack?"
"I don't know. But we'll find out soon enough. I'm sorry, but it against regulations the Typhon Pact Delegation to join me in the CIC, but I'll allow you to interface with our communications, so you can listen to the conversation, assuming they even answer our hails."