Morrison walked through the corridor towards the main briefing room expecting to be bombarded with questions about some of the controversial decisions Captain Limis had made over the last two years. And she had made plenty since the ship’s maiden voyage. Kozar had sure given her quite earful on a lot of those decisions, even if they produced largely positive results.
As four of his junior officers suggested in the crew lounge, the purpose of these interviews was to find out who would say something negative. Morrison felt a sense of relief, as he was dreading the idea of representatives from the Starfleet JAG judging the fitness of every crewmember to continue serving in Starfleet. He had surely made numerous decisions that didn’t sit well with the powers-that-be. But hoping the inquiries were really a witch-hunt against a superior would completely selfish. He walked into the briefing room expecting that Katel would twist his words to try to make Limis look bad.
“I would imagine that you carry a heavy burden serving as this ship’s chief tactical and security officer,” Katel remarked once Morrison seated himself in the briefing room. “Wouldn’t you say?”
“Certainly,” Morrison answered with a polite nod.
“In addition to maintaining ship’s security,” Katel went on, “you’ve had the unenviable task of leading troops into battle, many of whom didn’t return. How many of your people would you say didn’t survive?”
Morrison scoffed derisively. “I wouldn’t care to guess.”
Katel looked up from a padd on the table. “From what I can tell, forty-nine security and Marine officers serving under your command have died. Yet you seem to wear your emotions on your sleeve.”
Morrison’s eyebrows twitched. “What are you getting at?” he impatiently demanded.
“You have this belief that every one of your troops can survive when that just isn’t realistic.”
“I can still set that goal. The minute I start to assume even one of them is expendable; they are nothing more than cannon fodder for the enemy.”
“Was that your thinking during the Coridan Massacre?”
Morrison thought that last query was meant as a taunt. He had been a casualty of administrative scapegoating when the government of Coridan and Starfleet Command wanted someone to take the fall. Morrison was that person to take the fall for having made a conscious choice to abandon the rescue of one hundred fifty dilithium miners trapped in underground tunnels. He had served his sentence by being temporarily removed from the position of security chief, and now someone was again asking him to defend that decision. Maybe it was just one of many coincidences that those four lower ranking were only questioned about the captain.
“We were under heavy fire,” Morrison insisted. “Sensor drones were swooping in from everywhere. Columns of Jem’Hadar were beaming in faster than we could take them out. Sensors and communications were down, so the ships in orbit couldn’t lend us a hand. A third of my unit didn’t make it back when twenty percent casualties are the maximum acceptable loss.”
Katel nodded dubiously as if he had rehearsed that response well. Morrison sighed with annoyance, as he felt wouldn’t have to repeat that rehearsed response. “I doubt many battles during the war would’ve been won by settling for twenty percent casualties.”
Morrison rolled his eyes in reaction to hearing that rather tired platitude. “So I’ve heard,” he grumbled. “Almost a million lives were lost during the effort to run the Dominion blockade at the war’s end.”
“Nine hundred forty-five thousand, two hundred twenty by the most recent casualty estimates,” Katel coldly replied.
How like a Section 31 agent to think in terms of cold, hard numbers.
Instead of responding to how callously she cited that recent casualty figure, he returned to the issue at hand in the hope of figuring out this woman’s agenda. “The way that battle was going,” he hissed with restrained frustration, “I couldn’t keep on pushing until all of us were dead.”
“What about one hundred fifty miners who trapped in the mining tunnels? You made a conscious choice to sacrifice them, did you not?”
Morrison sighed, resisting the urge to stand up and stare Katel down. “I made a conscious choice to safeguard the lives of my troops. If we hadn’t retreated, who is to say we would have saved even one
“In these circumstances, however,” Katel shot back, “Starfleet officers have a duty to do everything possible to spare the lives of civilians.”
Morrison slammed the palms of both his hands on the desk and stood up halfway, allowing his forearms to prop himself upright while looking straight into his interrogator’s eyes. “Starfleet officers also have a duty to spare the lives of people under their command as well. If you were truly a lawyer, you would know that. Now I have long since been cleared of any wrongdoing.”
“It was far from an isolated incident, Mister Morrison,” Katel replied with an unwavering calmness in her voice. “During the Lambda Paz
’s maiden voyage, you were part of a rescue team to locate two missing officers. And at the time, you were romantically involved with one of those officers. You chose to let emotional attachment influence your judgment.”
Morrison sighed, having hoped not to rehash his decision to save the life of his romantic partner at the time. He thrust his whole body away from the table and paced towards the viewport. “I had questioned the captain’s initial decision to lead that mission,” he recalled while staring at the infinite field of stars. “Then she chose to abandon that rescue when we were close to getting to Lieutenant Carson. I just wasn’t willing to do that.”
Katel turned her chair around with her padd in her hand. “And in the process, you could have gotten yourself and your captain killed. And Sara still could have died anyway. And there is also the incident where Lieutenant Lisa Neeley was clinically dead for nearly a minute. Yet, based on Doctor Markalis’s report, you continued administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation after she had flat-lined.”
Morrison scoffed and took slow steps back towards the meeting table. “With all due respect, Miss Katel, my personal relationships are irrelevant to this investigation.”
“I will decide what is relevant, Mister Morrison,” Katel pointedly replied.
Limis stared at the desk monitor in her ready room. She hadn’t absorbed the contents of the latest repair updates. She simply sipped her coffee while feeling a measure of contentment that she got to use her
ready room even while Wozniak was still aboard, using the office to conduct his inquiry.
The doorbell chimed and Kozar stepped inside once Limis signaled him to enter. “What can I do for you, Commander?” she asked with a bland look on her face.
“A lot of rumors are circulating about this investigation and what their agenda really is”, Kozar said, sauntering towards the desk and leaning on one of the guest chairs.
Limis nodded, having been reminded of the ship wide speculation about what Wozniak and Katel were really after. Among those rumors were that Limis would be relegated to a desk job, so as to prevent her from further tarnishing Starfleet’s good name. Another rumor was that she would be demoted to first officer of the Lambda Paz
or one of her soon to be launched sister ships, which hardly seemed an appropriate way to treat a recent war hero.
“I’ve heard them, too,” Limis plainly replied. “ I’ve contacted Starfleet Command and the JAG office to find out if this is a legitimate inquiry. They both said they’d get back to me as soon as they can. Would you have given me a heads-up like this a year ago?”
“Most likely not,” Kozar ruefully answered. “Permission to speak candidly?
“You already have.”
Kozar promptly seated himself in the guest chair he had been firmly clasping. “The fact is, sir, I didn’t entirely trust you then and I still don’t. Despite the recklessness of some your decisions, your ingenuity has helped us out of a lot of dangerous situations. I still intend to continue to point out where I believe you’ve gone wrong. I may have felt then that I deserved this command two years ago. You have my word, though; I would never do Section 31’s bidding just to achieve that command?”
The mention of the secret branch of Starfleet momentarily caught Limis off guard. She suspected one of the investigators or both might be Section 31 operatives. But she didn’t dare suggest it publicly until she knew what their ultimate goal was. “Wait a minute, Section 31?” she asked with feigned curiosity.
“Eight years ago,” Kozar explained, “Mariana Katel was involved in an illegal operation to supply weapons to rebels on Nicarus. Most likely, this was a Section 31 authorized op.”
Limis was both amused and annoyed by this news. “And you’re telling me this now
“I wanted to see what her agenda was first before warning someone who has had dealings with them before. Perhaps, they’re royally pissed off about exposing their involvement in the Founders’ near extinction.”
Limis wasn’t entirely sure what to make of that hypothesis. “Knowing them as I do, they’ve erased any and all evidence of their involvement. This is an organization that’s concealed their very existence from the general public for three hundred years. Why go after me in the guise of a JAG investigation? Unless…”
She started to wonder if Section 31’s vested interest in this inquiry was related to the evidence Admiral Jellico confronted her with three months earlier. Limis had employed some rather extreme interrogation methods against Ziminske Aris, who had been incarcerated after being reported conducting research on the virus that nearly eradicated the Founders. Limis had ordered the brig’s surveillance monitors deactivated during her off-the-record discussion with Ziminske. Yet somehow, Jellico was able to play back a recording of that confrontation.
“What?” Kozar asked to bring Limis back to the present moment.
She didn’t dare inform Kozar of that incident. “Nothing,” she claimed. “I was thinking of the conversation I had with Admiral Temlek after the Dyson Sphere mission. Neither he nor Jellico were very pleased with…”
A comm chime sounded with a hail from Katel. “Commander Kozar, report to the briefing room.”
Kozar tapped his combadge to acknowledge. “On my way.” He and Limis exchanged smirks to wish each other luck in their upcoming interviews as he was leaving the ready room.
“For all we know, it was meant to throw us off,” Morrison said of his interview. He and Kozar were strolling through a corridor leading towards the briefing room discussing Morrison’s recently completed interview. “Any news on your end?
“The captain and I have contacted Starfleet Command,” Kozar replied. “They’re giving us both the runaround, but all signs seem to point to this being a legitimate investigation.”
Morrison grinned lightly. “I don’t think you’d have been this supportive a year ago.”
“Well, she’s thought us out of a lot of dangerous situations using means I probably wouldn’t have thought of.”
They soon arrived outside the briefing room where a guard was standing like a statue. The two men nodded in his direction, which he didn’t even acknowledge. “Good luck,” Morrison said with a pat on Kozar’s right shoulder.
“Following a mostly successful rescue mission,” Katel said of the Lambda Paz
’s first mission, “Captain Limis put Mister Morrison on report and placed a citation on your record for being overly candid. That’s awfully bold considering that was during your first mission. Most officers would look to make a good first impression.”
“Most officers coming right out of the Academy,” Kozar clarified.
“Of course,” Katel agreed while making notes on her padd. “But not someone of your rank who thought he had more than earned a starship command.”
“I admit I had reservations about Limis getting command over me, but that was based on preconceived notions that she was a loose cannon. Those were Admiral Jellico’s words. She commands the respect of everyone who serves under her and is willing to achieve the needed results. I may have rushed to judgment in the beginning.”
“However, when you saw an opportunity to usurp command, you ran with it. That was when she resorted to using torture in the interrogation of a prisoner.”
Kozar sighed, having been reminded of a regrettable incident during the Lambda Paz
’s first year in service. “I believed Captain Limis acted far too hastily,” he attempted, “employing methods that no reputable officer would even conceive of.”
“None of the information Mirren Hadar had provided would be admissible in a court of law. Yet instead of disposing it, you chose to verify the authenticity of what he had revealed.”
Kozar had hoped to continue to state the facts as they happened and explain his reasoning as he saw it at the time. “Only because torture has historically never been a reliable means of extracting information. A prisoner could always divulge false information simply to end their suffering.”
Katel added some more notes and looked up from the padd. “That is true. Still, I believe you still chose to relieve Captain Limis of her command because of an opportunity that presented itself. That is the mark of a good commanding officer: to know rare, but golden opportunities.”
Kozar shook his head to indicate his disagreement with Katel’s assertion. “I had hoped to make the point that certain actions even during wartime are never acceptable.”
“Yet Admiral Ross overrode your decision. You seemed okay with that decision. Why did you not resign in protest?”
Kozar rolled his eyes at hearing a suggestion he hadn’t even considered at the time. “Because to bow out in the middle of a war would have been utterly selfish.”
“I think you were hoping to bide your time for another opportunity to upstage her,” Katel offered. “Another opportunity did, in fact, present itself after Starfleet took back control of Deep Space Nine.”
Kozar carefully considered his response so that Katel didn’t try to continue to twist his words to suit the answers she was seeking. “Only because of the suspicious nature of her mission to Bajor.”
“Suspicion based on snooping around in Limis’s personal database,” Katel replied. “That showed some initiative. That’s necessary in being a good judge of character.”
Kozar leaned closer to the table and looked straight into the eyes of his former lover. “You’re actually praising
my acts of insubordination?”
“I wouldn’t call it praising,” Katel replied with a wide, beaming smile. “These actions are indicative of an officer who can think for himself and will not blindly follow orders. You had a right to be suspicious of a relative outsider who may or may not have belonged to a rogue branch of Starfleet and had left the service for a ragtag group of amateurish terrorists.”
“As XO, I’ve gained a better appreciation for maintaining discipline in any chain of command.”
“I won’t deny that. Since that incident, however, you haven’t resorted to anything so bold. Many of your logs still indicate strong opposition to some of Captain Limis’s decisions. There was the averted attack on Ventani Two where Limis took it upon herself to rescue a missing officer. The unauthorized mission to take out the Dyson Sphere. The seeding of tactical nukes in the Daxura asteroid belt.”
“It’s still my job to protect her from herself,” Kozar insisted. “That’s the mark of a good first officer.”
“And why you’ll make a good captain assuming someone comes to his or her senses. Thank you for your time, Commander.”
Kozar rolled his eyes. He clasped the edge of the table and emphatically pushed his chair away. In nearly the same motion, he stood up and spun his body towards the corridor entrance. He walked out of the room and didn’t look back, hoping to avoid considering what other tricks Mariana had up her sleeves. For sure, Section 31 was willing get him into the center seat whether he willingly cooperated with them or not.