Times are hard for the Federation in these dark years. Romulans invaded the Federation in 2380 and have taken nearly all of the territory. With Starfleet in shreds, renegade groups of Federation ships basically live on their own, prowling at Romulan patrols, doing anything they can to get what they need.
The ships are freelancing theirselves due to the lack of any upper command levels. The entire admirality of Starfleet has been taken prisoner. The Captain is the supreme commander on any ship and is not binded by a prime directive of any sort. The Captains can basically do whatever they want...
Some get themselves into trouble and their crew gets killed or taken prisoner due to their blunders. Others survive off of pirating anyone and anything. Life is tough in these days, even for an Akira class starship.
The USS Alceste was commissioned in 2378 before the Romulan takeover. It was not involved in fighting the Romulans due to being on a border patrol near the Badlands. The Alceste was lost in a time loop in the Badlands from 2379-2383, and when it finally found it's way out, it met a completely new atmosphere.
The Alceste exited the time loop completely out of the loop, no pun intended. The Romulans had already controlled for a year and the crew was completely confused with these new events. What's to come is still a mystery...