|Bradley J. Harrison||Commanding Officer - Task Force 72|
|Powell O'Shaunessey||Executive Officer - Task Force 72|
In September 2384, two starships from the Fourth Fleet, the USS Lakota and the USS Freedom, were sent to investigate reports of a rapidly expanding region of volatile space now known as the Inconnu Expanse. They travelled through a narrow corridor between the Ferengi and the Tzenkethi, but, upon entering the Expanse, they encountered violent spatial anomalies now catalogued as gravitic pulse storms. The well-intentioned scientific mission quickly turned into a struggle for survival, challenged further by an unsophisticated yet aggressive inhabitant of the Expanse known only as the Ravagers. Another mission into the Expanse was not attempted for the better part of a year.
For two years, the Inconnu Expanse lay an open and unanswered question. In 2387, this led the Vice Admiral Rehlan Gar, Chief of Starfleet Science, to deploy the USS Merrimac, a deep space explorer, on a long and circuitous route that wrapped around the Talarians and Tzenkethi in another attempt to enter the Expanse. Gravitic storms were far less severe along this approach, and the USS Merrimac was able to enter the Expanse without any serious problems.
Toward the end of 2387, two revelations by Starfleet Science marked a turning point for the Federation. First, in November of 2387, Starfleet announced plans for an operation to commence by the middle of 2388 to quell the forces of the subspace singularity located in the middle of the Valoris Nebula responsible for fueling its rotation. This meant the phenomenon responsible for much of the Breen Crisis might finally subside, allowing Task Force 72 to focus on operations more exploratory and scientific in nature. The second event was the return of the USS Merrimack from the Inconnu Expanse. The Expanse, a region isolated from surrounding space by violent subspace phenomena catalogued as gravitic storms, had previously been inaccessible to Starfleet. During her half year survey mission, the Merrimack had discovered two safe routes from transiting the storms encircling the Expanse: a long but relatively easy one around Tzenkethi territory near its border with the Talarians, and a shorter but more challenging one through a heavy storm region between the Breen, Ferengi and Tzenkethi. Though there would be challenges with mounting operations into the expanse, the Merrimack brought back reports that the expanse had a dense interior teeming with warp-capable civilizations, and thus Starfleet decided to explore the Expanse in earnest.
At the beginning of 2388, the Fourth Fleet announced that Task Force 72’s mandate would be expanding to include exploratory, science and diplomatic operations within the Inconnu Expanse. It would remain responsible for the borderlands from the edge of Cardassian territory to the edge of Talarian space, but with the Breen Crisis subsiding, it was felt that Task Force 72 would be capable of the undertaking.
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