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Stardate 91941.1
Earth Calendar September 13, 2413
Federation Starship U.S.S. Enterprise - NCC-1701-G

The Briar Patch.

It was the nasty, swirling cloud of deadly gas and star matter that had made the U.S.S. Enterprise-E even more famous than she already had been. It now engulfed the newly-launched U.S.S. Enterprise-G. It meant two days of steady concentration on the helm. It was tiring, boring and tediously slow-going and Beth was losing what little patience she had left. She was anxious to get to Ba’ku, the ringed planet that lay inside.

She sat in the comfort of the command chair and looked around the bridge in another burst of awe. She had been captain of the newly commissioned U.S.S. Enterprise-G for just over six weeks and the ship launched just two weeks before.

She thought with some humor that her crew might actually be getting used to her command style. Now all she had to do was get used to them.

The crossing over to the Briar Patch from Earth had been wonderfully non-eventful. Glitches in the ship’s engineering seemed to be smoothed out by day five. The new propulsion and navigation systems’ bugs had all been worked out by the Enterprise’s sister-ship, the U.S.S. Determination and Sovek, a Vulcan male and her Chief of Engineering was able to locate the resolutions easily. Beth had even taken the time to run a surprise battle simulation to get a feel for hull stress limits, helm, engineering, and team efficiency. While there were a few serious communication problems, secretly she was ecstatic with the crew’s performance.

As with any new launch, there were other problems that required a more delicate touch. A crisis arose with the programming of the food replicators that wasn’t ultimately corrected until day six. The Bolians, Choblik, Pahkwa-thanh, Klingons, Cardassians, Irriol, and Ferengi were throwing fits and Beth was forced to test her “people skills” to navigate through the political nightmare that a lack of desired menus wrought upon otherwise rational individuals. I used to be such a nice person. Battle has made me much less tolerant of minutiae, she thought with sick disappointment. She was raised in an environment of enduring tolerance and the thought that she was somehow losing that side of herself was devastating to her.

She glanced to her right and rested her eyes upon her new first officer. She had asked him to monitor them through this portion of the Patch, not only to get a feel for his style but also his capabilities at the conn. His Starfleet record reflected excellent piloting skills but his true talent seemed to lie in diplomacy and communication, traits with which she desperately needed help.

His name was Paul Dryden, a tall human of ancient African descent in his family background, but the last three generations of his family had been raised on ships. He proudly told anyone who would listen that he was a 4th generation “boomer.”

He had been cordial, professional and respectful at their first meeting the week after she took the command of the Enterprise. She chose him as her executive officer because he was the complete package; he had the style and charisma that an XO needed to rally the team and the intense intelligence required for the away missions. Yet it wasn’t until his second day on board the Enterprise, three weeks before their launch, that she knew she had nailed it.

She had been in her ready room desperately trying to overcome her telecom discussion with her CO, Admiral Janeway, who had steadfastly refused to let her know what their first assignment would be. Dryden had walked in and immediately surmised the source of her frustration.

“Screw’em,” he said and it startled her.

“What?” she responded with a smile and no small amount of shock at his choice of words, although she would have readily used them herself.

“Screw’em! We’ll be great no matter what the first mission is, whether it’s cleaning up Shent subspace messes, tackling the Thraiin Militia or finally getting out to sectors in the Crux Arm to explore.” The laugh that followed was constructed from pure satire, for he knew just as well as she that exploration would not be the Enterprise’s first mission.

It was then that she realized that they shared a precisely honed view of their organization, brought on not just by joining it but rather by growing up in it. It was the fact that he had made her laugh that she appreciated. His comment had eased her tension about the unknown and it was at that precise moment she knew she had made the right choice for the second in command.

Beth took a cleansing breath. Dryden was actually doing very well at the conn and she berated herself internally for doubting his skill. She decided to retreat to her ready room in order to break away from the monotony, and to give Dryden a break from her potentially overbearing presence.

Her ready room was spacious and empty and, she thought, perhaps a little sterile. She had not even begun to devise how she might personalize it but she also knew that would come with time.

Beth strolled to her desk and before she sat, she turned to the food replicator and ordered a cup of black coffee; French roast, of course. It was a habit she happily blamed on her CO although in reality their shared affection for the beverage was pure coincidence.

She took a seat in her chair, setting the coffee down after taking a sip and let her mind wander. She reminisced about Jean-Luc’s office and smiled when she remembered that it had been crowded with mementos he had gathered over a life-time of adventure. She saddened when she realized how much she missed him.

She stood once more and ambled over to a small table on the opposite side of the office that bore an old leather scrapbook on a sturdy bookrest. Besides a photograph of her own family that hung on the bulkhead near the door, it was the only decoration to be seen in her ready room. The scrapbook lay open to reveal a photograph. The picture showed a fit and handsome Captain Jean-Luc Picard in a red and black Starfleet uniform, standing in a vineyard with his brother Robert and his young nephew René. She remembered the day Jean-Luc told her it was the most important picture he had in the book - that they were the last of the Picards. She was still honored he trusted her enough to assure they would never be forgotten.

Beth softly touched the edge of the picture. Family is strange that way, she thought and she glanced to the two dimensional photo of her family near the ready room door. The image contained the likenesses of her and her twin brother along with her parents taken just a few weeks prior to her undertaking her last assignment aboard the U.S.S. Panther. Beth grimaced with sorrow, recalling bitterly that the photo lacked the image of her younger sister. Sighing heavily, she turned to look back at the Picard family photos, wondering if any of those photos were missing faces of family members she may never know existed. She tried to shake the sick feeling in her stomach, yawned and stretched her neck when the bell to her ready-room chirped…


K’Reeg, son of Ch’Tor, had watched his new captain exit the bridge. She had appeared frustrated and bored like he was. Warriors hate to wait, he thought with satisfaction, Impatience is a virtue.

He glanced around the bridge of the clean, sanitary ship and still knew he had made the right decision. Many Klingons had joined Starfleet and he was just one of hundreds, but there were still matters of honor to attend to on Qo’noS to assure that the family name would hold firm on the homeworld.

K’Reeg’s actions at Isla Deneb had solidified his own honor and he took comfort in the fact that his father could now rest easier with his choice to join Starfleet instead of entering the Klingon Defense Force. K’Reeg’s older brother Toq was firmly in place as heir to the House of Ch’Tor and he already had two sons, leaving K’Reeg the freedom to seek out additional familial honor without bearing a duty to the KDF.

His father, who had served for decades in the KDF, now held a position of high esteem and K’Reeg did not wish to sully his reputation in any way. Ch’Tor was a well-respected General and commanded the mighty IKS Klag and the feared KDF Fourth Fleet. K’Reeg proudly remembered fighting alongside his father at Isla Deneb and looked forward to the next opportunity to do so.

K’Reeg knew the Enterprise was considered to be the elite ship of the Federation fleet and was glad to hear of his father’s satisfaction when K’Reeg was promoted to her.

His thoughts returned to his new captain. She was young. While she may have been young, she was fierce. Her last command of a DIvI’may’Duj had produced more kills than a quarter of the of the Klingon forces combined. He would never point that statistic out to any member of the KDF of course, unless he was provoked. She had received two commendations from the Klingon High Council and Chancellor K’Nagh for her deeds at Isla Deneb.

She also had no problems kicking her crew into high gear. K’Reeg was ecstatic that she threw a surprise battle simulation in their first week after launch. During the simulation K’Reeg thought that the ensign at the helm would fall over from panic but surprisingly she found her courage and his faith in her increased substantially. He thought she performed very well for being half-Ferengi. Despite discovering a small breakdown in the chain of communication which was quickly rectified, K’Reeg was glad for the simulation; it kept his tactical skills honed and gave him an opportunity to become more familiar with the new weaponry systems.

He glanced down to the new first officer who was now sitting in the command chair. He was dark-skinned human who frequently exhibited a serious character but when the captain wasn’t on the bridge, he would ease his demeanor and joke with the crew. K’Reeg actually liked his humor, it was acerbic and dry. The XO also had a valiant battle history, if not as long as the captain’s but that made sense - Dryden had served aboard a large ship, meant for exploration and diplomacy, not on a battleship like the captain. K’Reeg would work well for him he thought. It just might take a little more time to understand him.

His eyes moved towards the Chief Science Officer. His skin prickled but he ignored it. She was half-Romulan and the Romulan profile, no matter how long they had been peaceful with them, would still make one think twice about trusting them. He had to admit she was an exemplary officer but she would still take a lot of getting used to.

Times had changed in the galaxy, and the destruction of the core planets of the Romulan Star Empire had altered the very fabric of the political blanket in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. Where once a formidable enemy dwelled was now filled with an ever-melding patchwork of Romulan and Reman colonists and refugees. As much as his father would have scoffed at the thought, K’Reeg felt that the people of the Joint Senatorial Empire, as they now called themselves, had responded to the tragedy with courage, and yes, even honor.

He gazed over to the science chief again. Her life was far different from his; born before the Hobus calamity to a human woman and her Romulan-defector husband, she had been raised in the protected environment of Earth. When the Hobus star went supernova and destroyed her father’s homeworld, she took up the study of stellar physics so she could study the catastrophe in the hopes she could help ensure that no one would suffer the same horrific loss ever again.

It was something his father had warned him about - the Federation’s acceptance of any and all species. Before K’Reeg entered the Academy, Ch’Tor had warned him that Federation ships would be filled with all manner of strange animals. He also told him to check twice before eating his meals to make sure he wouldn’t be devouring a fellow cadet. While it was a joke, when he arrived on Earth and sat down in the Academy mess hall, he found his appetite whetted by at least three of his classmates. The Choblik would make a nice snack, if it weren’t for their cyborg implants… he mused.

His thoughts returned once more to his captain. He had been two years ahead of her at the Academy. He also remembered her treatment there. Few were kind to her. Her professors hounded her and she had only a handful of friends yet he also recalled that the friends she did have were very, very loyal. He thought she had responded to her treatment like a Klingon. She took it, molded it as her own and used it to her advantage. By the time he graduated and moved on to command school she was already developing into a leader.

He found it odd that so many from Starfleet looked askew at his captain. Yes, for a human she was very young to have such a command but he thought she was wise for her age - for she, like many Klingons, took advice from her elders to heart and used that advice to her and her crew’s advantage. He understood that. It was simple. His father and honored elders were wise and he always took their advice to heart and in doing so, he gained a place of respect and honor. He felt her actions were nothing different from that.

He walked across the bridge to the ready-room door. There was one small matter to attend to. Something he learned that humans needed to hear; a trick his elders taught him so he would fit in with the humans better.

He rang the bell.


“Come,” she stated calmly.

Her second officer walked in. He was an extraordinarily large Klingon; tall and ruddy and his deep brown hair was pulled back into a traditionally tied ponytail which reached well below his shoulder blades. Beth knew Lieutenant Commander K’Reeg from the Academy as well as through his well-known valor in the Battle of Isla Deneb. When she had been the XO of the U.S.S. Panther she had once attempted to have K’Reeg transferred to her ship but the CO on the U.S.S. Helsinki refused to part with him. It had been a wise move, as it was largely due to K’Reeg’s efforts that the Helsinki even survived the battle.

Beth scowled with the idea that two years had passed since then.

Beth turned to address him. “yaS cha’DIchwI’… what can I do for you?”

K’Reeg’s head pulled slightly at her use of the possessive Klingon term for second officer and he bowed his head slightly. While he knew that she had once served under a Klingon, he didn’t realize that she was so comfortable with the Klingon language. “Captain, I was hoping you had a moment.”

Beth took on a look of serious concern. K’Reeg’s summation of the battle simulation seemed incredibly thorough and she girded herself for some additional piece of information he might have withheld. “Of course I do Mister K’Reeg, the Briar Patch has given me nothing but time.” Her voice echoed her annoyance and his smirk demonstrated to her that he shared the sentiment. “Please, have a seat.” She motioned for him to sit on the sofa on the edge of the room but he moved towards a chair on the other side of her desk but remained standing. She again chastised herself for forgetting that Klingons preferred a more formal structure and stood by her chair, again, verbalizing her concern, “Is there anything wrong K’Reeg?”

K’Reeg’s half smile exposed his craggy teeth and suddenly Beth knew the discussion would be more positive than she had first thought.

“No Captain,” K’Reeg’s voice was deep and resonating, “it’s just that this is the first moment I have had since coming on board the Enterprise to express to you how honored I am at having been selected by you and being able to serve with you.” He seemed almost gentle and for a moment Beth was reminded of Worf.

Beth smiled broadly and almost laughed. A Klingon expression of gratitude? My, my, my, Ch’Tor taught you well! “Well Mister K’Reeg, you should know that I understand what that means coming from a Klingon. I will do my best to live up to your standards.”

He shook his head fiercely, confused by her seeming humility. “My standards Captain? You are already known to be honorable and carry a place of distinction within the Klingon Empire. Your skills in battle are well known.”

She laughed slightly. “Maybe so K’Reeg but you need to know I may have to look to you to find my spine every so often. Please do not think less of me when I do.”

K’Reeg stood at attention with a look of determination. "Captain, I will be there when you need me.”

Beth walked around the desk and looked up to the enormity of him. His metal baldric lent his ferocious demeanor a nobler air. She grabbed his upper arms and shook him hard. “I thank you in advance!” K’Reeg backed from her then started to walk to the door. “Mister K’Reeg - was that all?” she asked with surprise.

“Yes, Captain. That was all.”

yajchu’,” Beth confirmed her understanding but her grin evaporated, turning into an expression of discomfort. “K’Reeg, how much longer do we have in this damned cloud?”

“About three hours Captain.”

“Good. I’m going stir-crazy.”

K’Reeg nodded in agreement and exited the ready room.

Alone again, Beth returned to her seat at her desk. She sipped at her coffee again then picked up a PADD to resume her exploration of the personnel roster. It had already been two weeks and she still had to familiarize herself with hundreds of people. The Panther only had a crew of two hundred and twenty five but the Enterprise had over eight hundred. It was daunting and it was a little disappointing. A full twenty percent of her crew was human and seventy two percent were humanoid. She had been hoping for a more species-diverse crew but assignments were assignments.

The Enterprise-G had 32 decks, a tightened design and a mean look to boot. Her hull was shaped more like a rounded spearhead than the previous starship designs. War had been a main focus of the Federation for the past five years and starship design was made to fit the agenda. The ship had been outfitted with the new shielding technology that they hoped would outlast any new advances the Shent had made since Telanus. The ship had also been rigged with two more torpedo bays than her predecessor. The Federation had high hopes that exploration would begin again, with an emphasis on sectors toward the Crux Arm of the galaxy but the Enterprise-G was built knowing that exploration was on the back-burner… for now.

The Enterprise was the second starship to be outfitted with the new navigation and propulsion systems that had only previously existed on the Panthera class defense ships. Her experience on the U.S.S. Panther had given her the skills necessary to command the new and much more massive starship and because of her familiarity with that technology, she knew that the Enterprise had remarkable maneuverability for her size.

She also knew it was a large reason why Starfleet chose her over her older counterparts. She knew that Starfleet chose her because they needed a pilot who understood the enemy as well as the intricacies of the nav-prop system, not a politician.

The current war with the Shent was the result of what her Interspecies Protocol Professor would have clinically and nasally dubbed a bad result from a poorly-planned observation mission. Personally, Beth thought war with the Shent would have been inevitable. She found them to be an exceptionally emotionless species with a manifest destiny mentality. They had stumbled across the knowledge that there was much for them to plunder in the Alpha Quadrant and became ruthless in their efforts to do so.

The Shent were hard-shelled beings that some had likened to a blend of humanoid-insectoid and weakly resembled Terran crustaceans. While they were tall, their arms were longer than their bodies. Their green exoskeletons were mottled brown and Beth thought their coloration was remarkably like that of uncooked lobster shell. For being so large, they were almost delicate in their forms; their long, thin arms could easily span three meters from the tip of one of their four spindle-like fingers to the other. Their heads were round and wide and smooth, their eyes had bright yellow, crescent-shaped irises. But it was their mandibles that everyone feared. Large, razor sharp and hidden, they only appeared when a meal was to be consumed or if slaughter was on the agenda.

Beth closed her eyes, trying to shake the memories of the bloodshed out of her mind.

When a combined Federation-Cardassian team first set out towards the Gamma Quadrant to observe the Shent, they had been under the unfortunate and mistaken assumption that the planet to be observed was a progressive culture that was on the verge of warp capability. What the observation teams had actually stumbled onto was a penal colony of beings held captive by their far more technologically advanced homeworld. The homeworld patrol ships discovered the duck-blind teams just beginning to arrive on the penal colony and the four ships in orbit. Believing that invasion/escape plans were underway, the Shent laid ruin to all. The ensuing massacre wiped out over seven million captive Shent, as well as one Federation and three Cardassian vessels.

The Shent determined the origination point of the ships, as well as the information that there was a plethora of untapped energy resources and innumerable planets that would provide almost limitless feeding, and it led them directly to the Alpha Quadrant. All attempts at diplomacy by the Cardassian government, the Federation and even the Klingon Empire had failed and the Shent made it clear that their only objective was to conquer.

Beth compared the Shent’s unnerving drive to that of the Borg, but where the Borg wanted to assimilate, the Shent just wanted lunch.

Beth understood that they carried a deeper need to rule, but it just seemed like everything about them was hunger driven; their hunger for food, their hunger for power, and their hunger for suitable living space. Their homeworld, sixteen colony planets and two remaining penal colonies were severely over-populated and all their hungers had merged and had become the driving force of the species.

Beth knew that Cardassia had a similar history and that they were able to find the courage to overcome those hungers, yet only after the Dominion killed over 800 million of them. Cardassia had become strong allies over her lifetime and they had proven that alliance time and again by bearing brunt of the front lines of the war. Ultimately, she didn’t hold out any hope the Shent would ever find similar courage.

The first Shent attacks came upon Federation and Cardassian colonies on the edges of the Gamma Quadrant five years before. The utter destruction and subsequent capture of the planets thrust the Federation headlong into a defensive war it had not anticipated. After dealing with the nightmare the loss of Romulus and Remus had been for the two decades, suddenly, everyone was at risk. Old enemies quieted and new alliances began to form.

Initially drawn towards the Romulan remnants with thoughts of easy pickings after their core planets were obliterated, after the Shent arrived the Klingon Empire withdrew from the contested sector and bolstered their defense forces. They reiterated their alliance with the Federation and joined them in supporting Cardassia in their fight against an enemy they deemed to be a more honorable opponent than the weakened Romulans. In doing so, they had allowed for formal diplomatic relations to be established with the JSE and several colonies that were once held by the Romulan Star Empire were returned to the Klingon Empire in a ceremony at Khitomer. For the first time in decades, new warrior songs of glory were being sung in the Halls of Qo’nos.

While the bulk of the Shent forces carried technology that was comparable to that of the Federation, they held a few advantages, and the seldom seen but dreadfully feared whales were a distinct advantage. The Federation and Klingon intelligence agencies believed that the Shent didn’t have many of the colossal vessels for they certainly drained the military resources to build.

The Shent had developed the technology to create and master the use of subspace bubbles. Subtle in form, they were difficult to locate and deadly; if a ship or even its shields touched one of them, there would be no recovery. The whales themselves were almost twenty kilometers in diameter and spun the bubbles from the edges of their bowl-shaped forms. The bubbles would spring forth from the ship and encase everything inside a finely woven cone-shaped net that exuded from the ship. The tactic was incredibly similar to that of the Terran humpback whale feeding technique and was precisely what had given rise to the use of the term whale. To date, there was only one known defense against them and it meant certain death for the ship or ships that had to undertake it.

Yet most believed that the forces were fairly evenly matched and the Battle at Isla Deneb became the most blatant, shattering, shocking proof of that theory.

At the outset of the conflict, the Federation had propelled itself into a period of shipbuilding at a pace that matched the efforts after the massacre at Wolf-359, a battle that happened more than four decades before and fifteen years before Beth had even been born.

Three years into the strife with the Shent, Isla Deneb, a planet that orbits the star Deneb Algiedi, became the site of the largest Federation clash since the Battle of Cardassia which ended the Dominion War. At Isla Deneb, the Federation and its allies took on a formidable Shent force and the battle remained undecided. The battle was unambiguously devastating to all sides.

The self-sacrificial loss of the U.S.S. Enterprise-F during the clash had buckled everyone’s morale. While their valiance helped end the battle before mutual annihilation was achieved, it was always just a strange given that the Enterprise survived its battles. Shortly after, Starfleet promised that one of the new Determination class ships would be designated Enterprise and the strength would arise anew.

At the time of the battle, Beth had been the XO of the Panther and her CO was Captain Estevan Gallegos. She respected Gallegos more than any other of her commanding officers during her meteoric career but it was during Isla Deneb that Gallegos was killed. Beth received a field promoted to captain and to everyone’s surprise, especially hers, the promotion held. She was twenty-eight years old at the time.

Beth’s performance as CO of the Panther and her ability to use her piloting and tactical proficiency impressed everyone in Starfleet Command and they quickly utilized her skills to their best interest. She was given lead of the Panthera class ships on numerous missions against Shent forces over the past year and a half, every single one of which had been successful and many believed that it was due to these recent sorties that contacts with the Shent had decreased in frequency in recent months.

Beth had been offered the command of the Enterprise six weeks before. No one needed to ask her twice. She was not about to turn down a dream over false humility. Everything in her life had been about working towards the Enterprise.

Beth’s mind hit upon the ironic thought that exploration was even being considered by the Federation and she laughed to herself. Her dream, to take the Enterprise to an uncharted area of the galaxy and to discover something new, something wonderful, seemed like a complete fantasy now. Jean-Luc would have hated this.

She had been raised to explore, then retrained to fight. She had no idea the fighting would come so easily to her and sometimes it concerned her deeply. Jean-Luc would have hated that too. Who knew I would be chosen to take the Enterprise because I could kill so easily? Again, Beth shut her mind to the thoughts.

While skirmishes with Shent had been dwindling over the previous six months, the proverbial lull in fighting began just seven weeks before. The Federation did not believe by any means that the war was over; they merely believe it was on hiatus while both sides licked their wounds and began to rebuild.

Adding to the stress of the Shent confrontations, Starfleet’s attentions had been frequently pulled towards the Beta Quadrant and the “problem” of the Thraiin militia: a highly organized and well-funded group of mercenaries that had banded together in order to thwart any potential political gains made by the evolving government of the Joint Senatorial Empire.

After the destruction of Romulus and Remus, a new centralized government began to emerge, drawing widespread support from both Romulan and Reman colonists and refugees. However there were many Remans who opposed the idea of remaining politically tied to any government with Romulan input and began to terrorize efforts for political unification. While the militia had been in existence long before Beth had even entered the Academy, they had gained enormous strength and courage over the past few years and were truly beginning to make life very difficult for the peacemakers of the JSE.

In the years past, the Federation rarely had to worry about Thraiin attacks mainly because they were ill-organized and avoided UFP targets, but the Thraiin had recently gained access to new technology and with it an upper hand on many of the most recent confrontations with the JSE. Emboldened with a new sense of confidence and power, the Thraiin suddenly began to target both UFP and KDF objectives as a means to disrupt the firmly established diplomatic ties that had been created with the JSE government. Due to the new tack in strategy, Starfleet now viewed the Thraiin as an extremely serious and potent threat to peace efforts in that region.

Beth’s eyes fell to her family photo once more and let her heart tug hard and she pressed the brewing resentment right back where she always hid it, then downed her coffee.

She had scanned through another fifty personnel files when she set her PADD down. She reached for her combadge and clicked it. “Captain to Dryden, please report to the ready room.”

Yes sir,” he replied.

A moment later her door opened and her executive officer walked in. She smiled and he returned it. “I just finished going over the duty rosters for the first shift. I think you’ve done an amazing job.”

“Thank you Captain.”

Beth glanced over him quietly. He was tall and had closely trimmed hair and a shaven face. His eyes were dark brown towards the center of his iris and they faded to light brown at the edges. He looked proud in his uniform with the command red at his collar and neck.

The uniforms themselves were basic black, but the thin lines down the shoulders, sleeves and legs were dark smoke grey. They reminded Beth of the uniforms she remembered as a child, distinguished and not over-embellished.

“Now, are we all set for when we reach Ba’ku?” she asked him.

Dryden’s grin widened. “Yes Captain, I know what to do.”

Beth grinned brightly in return. “Thanks Number One.”

It was then she realized it was the first time she had used the familiar term with him and she opened her mouth to apologize but he shook his head. “No Captain, I like it,” he assured her.

“Good, for some reason, it just fits with you I think.” Dryden seemed pleased and took it as the compliment it was intended. “I’ll be in my quarters until we reach Ba’ku. I will then come back to the bridge when our guests come on board and you can greet them like we planned.”

“Excellent Captain, I will contact you when we enter orbit.”

“Thanks,” Beth replied, “…for everything.”

She followed Dryden out and gazed out at her bridge crew at their posts. She smiled and nodded to all of them and then turned and entered the turbolift. She called for deck eleven and when the door opened a moment later she moved out and around a slight arc in the corridor. She moved into her quarters and smiled broadly.

Misty, colorful clouds of the Briar Patch swirled, danced and floated across the breadth of the windows. It was beautiful. It was dangerous, yes, but beautiful.

Beth proceeded to move all the way into her quarters and dressing room and began to prepare for the arrival of four very special guests from Ba’ku.

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