((Michael Collins Dome, Pillars of Light, Luna))
Only a handful of centuries earlier, mankind had stared up into the black sky on clear nights, searching for the elegant, brilliant silver dancer in the heavens. Eternal and graceful, the moon bathed in the light from the nearby sun, shining it back down onto the Earth below. The warm glow at midnight, or the cold reminder of the vastness of space as the celestial body twirled in a sea of glittering stars.
That day, instead of gazing at the splendour of Earth’s sky above them, all could see the curve of azure enveloped in whirling white clouds, with vast expanses of olive and tan landforms fashioned within the sapphire blue. Humanity’s cradle was rising over the horizon, a magnificent globe in the distance, seemingly so close that one could reach out and pluck it from the velvet darkness it nestled within.
All around, the transparent dome afforded a spectacular view of the stark beauty of the lunar landscape. Silver dunes stretched away from them, rising into sheer hills and shadowed craters. They’d gathered everyone there with the promise of free drinks, free finger food, and the possibility of a tour of the first landing zone on the moon. To see the first imprint of mankind’s stretch for exploration of the stars come to fruition in the Earth year of 1969 was incredible. If only those earlier Humans had known the rest of the galaxy was out there waiting for them.
The gentle dinging of a spoon on the body of a champagne glass alerted all those in attendance, as though the sound bounced around inside the dome, resonating through the plexishield itself.
Reynolds: If I could have everyone’s attention. ::She waited until the conversation quietened, and all eyes were facing forward.:: I’d like to begin by thanking you all for your hard work on Darime. None of us expected a relief mission to be quite so eventful, and you all proved your resourcefulness, ingenuity and courage in dealing with the unexpected.
Marshall: Not to mention possibly breaking the record for the most injuries sustained in a single mission in the last five years, as well as blood transfusions, rolled eyes, and catastrophe. All in all, we did well. ::She raised her glass up with a wry grin.:: Cheers to you all.
To the side of the podium were two tables, one stacked with a rainbow of service ribbons, grouped on black lacquered trays. A petty officer wearing a uniform piped with operations gold stood beside, posture ramrod straight, hands clasped in the small of his back. There was a ribbon Quinn almost always presented first, and this time was no exception.
Reynolds: The first ribbon I have to present is the Purple Heart. It recognises the physical sacrifices we make while performing our duty, our willingness to risk our own wellbeing in the service of others. As such, I’m honoured to present Lieutenant Commanders Marshall, Neathler, ch’Ranni and Sevo; Lieutenants Alieth and Stoyer; Lieutenant Junior Grade Loxley; Ensigns Tahna and Vossti; and Cadets Ico and Isaacs with the Purple Heart.
While she spoke, the petty officer lifted the tray and descended from the podium, moving from person to person and presenting them with a small transparent box, each holding one of the deep purple ribbons. He arrived at the cadets last, and in addition to the Purple Heart, he pressed a larger box containing three ribbons into their hands; delivered into safekeeping, for those who couldn’t be there.
Reynolds: In recognition of their sacrifice pursuing Starfleet’s goals of exploration and scientific advances, we also award the Purple Heart, Explorer’s Ribbon and Good Conduct Ribbon to Cadets Solomon Gilbert and J'ryn Ressan.
Where a solemn ripple of applause would have sufficed, instead, all there smashed expectations once again in favour of whoops and hollers. A celebration of life, of the cadets’ achievements, of fellow officers having given their lives in saviour of their friends. Cadets they might be; in that moment, they were heroes, and no less deserving of the honour.
Once the cheering had died down, Jo noted the next box to be presented, and the ribbon sitting in the clear polymer, ready to be shepherded into receiving hands.
Marshall: The reports I’ve read from those who ventured into the bowels of Darime IV in search of our missing cadets have left me with no small sense of gratitude. It’s often we’re asked to bundle up that courage, steel those nerves, and go forth into the unknown, sometimes without backup, and sometimes risking not coming back at all. For discovering the underground city, and all its terrible marvels I’m glad I wasn’t there for, Starfleet awards the Explorer’s Ribbon to Rear Admiral Quinn Reynolds, Lieutenant Commander Jona ch’Ranni, Lieutenants Alieth and Fortune, Lieutenant Junior Grade Serren Tan, and Ensign Malora Vossti. Congratulations!
Hands came together as each of the awarded individuals retrieved their ribbon in the style of Jo, by catching them as she threw clear boxes underarm to waiting officers. Quinn shook her head with a good-natured smile, reminded of another awards ceremony where Walter had fast bowled commendations at her crew.
Reynolds: The next commendation I have to present is awarded to those officers who use their knowledge, skills and problem-solving abilities to conduct an investigation; in so doing, solve crime, defuse threats and resolve dangerous situations. The situation on Darime required those skills in abundance, and our officers tracked down murderers, saboteurs and butchers. Thus, I’m honoured to present Lieutenant Commanders Marshall, Neathler and Sevo; Lieutenants Stoyer, sh’Qynallahr and Lephi; Lieutenant Junior Grade Loxley and Ensign Tahna with the Starfleet Investigation Ribbon.
She led the crowd in clapping while colourful ribbons once again sailed through the air toward waiting hands, and one added to the small stack on the table beside the XO. Hard missions were few, but the feeling they left behind never changed. Every one of them swept in like a tornado to rip up the ground and leave behind an altered soul. Jo swallowed as she looked at the next one, picking up the blood and grey ribbon.
Marshall: It’s an incredible thing when we as Starfleet Officers can do the miraculous instead of the mundane. We’ve reached a point where we have medical marvels occurring all the time, but once in a while, something peculiar crosses our path. We were asked to help the Pelians in every way we can, as their population grew sicker, and while we suffered through our trials and tribulations, the dedicated actions of Rear Admiral Quinn Reynolds, and Lieutenants Corliss Fortune and Alieth, could deduce a cure. For placing themselves at considerable personal risk, and for their incredible determination, Starfleet awards you all the Medical Service Ribbon. Congratulations.
Applause rippled through the under dome, from the front to the back of the gathered crew, moving like a sound wave. Plexiglass containers sailed through the air to each officer, and Jo felt a buzz of pride flush through. They’d done well, and she was proud to be associated with those who could do when the going got tough.
Reynolds: As some of you know, one of our mission goals was to help the medics of Darime build a hospital. Unfortunately, that effort was violently resisted and our officers valiantly distinguished themselves in multiple skirmishes against hostile parties. To recognise their bravery and the lives they saved, it’s my honour to present Lieutenant Commanders Marshall and Sevo; Lieutenant sh’Qynallahr and Lieutenant Junior Grade Loxley with the Lifesaving Ribbon and the Silver Star.
An ovation arose from the ensuing ruck, both honours valued for their displays of courage when called upon. Jo bowed her head as she placed her own alongside the Purple Heart on the little stack, feeling the gravity of her heart with it. She tossed each ribbon box to those members of her team, along with a grin surging to the surface. She was proud of all of them and ever grateful to Loxley for saving her skin.
The gold-uniformed operations officer standing beside them cleared their throat, drawing attention to the final stack of eight boxes to be flung out.
Marshall: There are times we’re asked to do the strange, the weird, and the wonderful in the service of Starfleet, and this mission wasn’t any different. From the launch of the search and rescue operation, the team descending into the unknown had no idea what lay ahead of them, and from what I read, couldn’t have predicted it either. In recognition of your heroics in saving one another during the rockfall, Starfleet has seen fit to award Lieutenant Commander Jona ch’Ranni, Lieutenant Junior Grade Serren Tan, and Ensign Mallora Vossti the Silver Lifesaving Ribbon.
Amid the ensuing rapture from their friends, colleagues, peers, and acquaintances, Jo flung out the accompanying three ribbons bearing the silver cross in the middle. Raising her hand for a second, a slight smile twitching, she continued.
Marshall: That’s not all. ::She glanced to the front of the crowd, where the lineup of Starfleet cadets stood.:: Lieutenant Commander Jona ch’Ranni, Lieutenant Junior Grade Serren Tan, Ensign Mallora Vossti, and Cadets Ryan Issacs and Ico Ena. For surviving the hostile automated systems of the underground city, and the ingenious methods you all employed to do so, each of you are awarded the Good Conduct Ribbon, celebrating conspicuous gallantry in the line of duty. Congratulations, all of you!
Concluding the ribbons came with a cavalcade of applause from the gathered officers and cadets, all celebrating one another’s successes and the mission carried out. Fellow cadets jostled their friends, trying to get a look at the ribbons in Ryan and Ena’s hands, while the officers around chuckled. Both had made a promising start to their career within the service, with bright futures ahead of them.
Rear Admiral Quinn Reynolds
Lt. Commander Jo Marshall
USS Gorkon, NCC-82293