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Old February 9 2012, 10:47 PM   #1
Bry_Sinclair
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"Taking A Stand" (February 2012 Challenge Entry)

Ok, this started out as an entry for the February 2012 challenge. Though it's not really a dressing down, it does kinda fit the theme. If however the PTB judge it as being non-eligible, then I hope you enjoy it as a short piece of fanfic regardless.

Now, on with the tale.

* * * * *


Star Trek: Twenty-Third Century Civilian Project


“Taking A Stand”

Brydon J. Sinclair


Words: 4770


Things on Delta Erisandi III had not been as they’d expected; what should have been a straight forward planetary survey had descended into chaos and bloodshed. Had she known exactly how bad things would have gotten and where her self-righteous act of conscience would take her, Rachel Keller had to wonder if she would have done anything differently?

It was the fourth day of her court martial. She stood before the window of the room she had been assigned, patiently waiting to be summoned to Xi Station’s courtroom. The planetary station had been built directly into a small mountain that overlooked a lush purple forest, which was clearly visible from most of the rooms, platforms, balconies and towers of the base. The last three days had been spent in the courtroom, going over the testimony of the rest of the landing party who had been on Delta Erisandi III, as well as the logs and records made by the team at the time, so she had had little chance to take in the natural beauty that Alanda Prime had to offer. This was the day that the court martial triumvirate would hear from the last two people involved: herself and Captain Thavalren ch’Kass.

A surge of anger clenched her stomach, not at the Captain but at his actions. Firstly his bias had kept him for realising what they were dealing with on the planet’s surface, which resulted in the death on one of her staff, then his demand for justice had stopped her from finding a peaceful resolution, as well as seeing another six members of the team injured—two of who were still recovering in sickbay, eleven days after the incident. She began to focus on the details on the survey mission and everything that followed, that she no longer saw the thick, vibrantly coloured foliage or winged lizards that glided past the windows.

The door chimed, breaking her concentration. She looked back at the entrance and called, “Come in.”

The panels swished open loudly. In the corridor outside her room stood two men, one in the dark mustard of the services division, on hand to escort her no matter where she went in the facility, but it was the other who had signalled the enunciator. He was a non-descript middle aged man holding an attach case in one hand and a datapad in the other, he was in his command gold dress uniform and had the insignia of the Judge Advocate General’s office on the left side of his chest.

He gave her a meek smile. “Are you ready?” Commander Jeremiah Billings asked.

She turned to face him, tugged down on her blue tunic and then nodded. “Ready when you are,” she told him.

Following her lawyer out of her room, they headed towards the courtroom—the burly security guard following close behind. With every step, her nerves intensified and she questioned her actions—knowing that what she was about to face would be far worse than her own self-deprecation.


* * * * *


The courtroom was cold and bleak. Everything was hard angular lines and coloured in various shades of grey, except for the onyx bench behind which sat the three senior officers who would decide her fate: Vice Admiral Torsh emek Hrag, who was in charge of the entire Fifth Fleet; Commodore Yuna, the CO of Xi Station; and lastly, Captain Donald Tracey, who commanded the U.S.S. Exeter, the fleet’s flagship. All of them looked down on her with an air of disapproval, which only made the knots in her stomach multiply and constrict.

Seated in front of them was the court reporter, who was recording everything that was said and done within the room, her large almond eyes watching everything that went on. There were also three security officers present, one next to the large viewer that dominated one wall, whilst the others stood by each of the exits. There were also two lawyers present; Billings, who sat quietly beside her, and Captain Theresa Clay, who was pacing slowly around the room, eyes focused on the witness stand in the middle of the court. Seated behind her, opposite the bench, were ten of her former shipmates—all of whom had been on the survey team—whilst Captain ch’Kass was on the stand.

He was recounting the events of the mission, answering several questions and prompts that Captain Clay posed to him, before continuing with what happened—from his viewpoint. Keller could feel the muscles in her jaw tighten as she listened to the tale he told, her fists clenched into tight balls on her lap. The way he explained the failed mission was that everything had fallen apart when she had absconded on an unapproved and foolhardy task—one that, he believed, would have added to the number of dead had he not intervened.

As Clay listened she nodded in an understanding manner, even though it was not the first time she had heard his perspective. They obviously had it well rehearsed, as the questions she asked were answered immediately and always cast a bad light on Keller. Each time before Clay asked ch’Kass to continue, the lawyer cast a disparaging look at her.

For Keller’s part, she looked at Commander Billings who watched the on goings quietly. She had heard that he was good, if a little odd in how he did things, but so far in the trial she was yet to be impressed.

Once ch’Kass was finished, Clay thanked him then turned to the bench. “I have no further questions for this witness, sir.”

Hrag, as the ranking officer on the bench, nodded then looked at Billings.

“Commander, do you have any questions for the witness?” the portly Tellarite asked, his little eyes peering out from the deep recesses of his eye sockets.

As Billings stood up, Clay returned to her seat though kept a watchful eye on her opponent. The defence lawyer moved to stand between ch’Kass and the bench. He cleared his throat, clasped his hands behind his back and started to rock a little on his feet as he asked, “Prior to the unfortunate death of Ensign Bartlett, had Commander Keller informed you of her theory?”

“It wasn’t much of a theory,” ch’Kass began, “more a belief based on only a couple hours of observation.”

“But she did tell you what she believed, didn’t she?” the rocking back and forth continued.

“She did yes.”

“But it was your belief that she was wrong about the Erisandian?”

Ch’Kass’ eyes narrowed. “We had not found time to give the beasts a name,” he stated, his tone cold.

“My apologies, Captain. I always believed that many species were named themselves after the worlds they evolved on, but then again I’m an attorney and not an explorer, so I could be wrong on that point.”

“If a sentient species had been discovered on Delta Erisandi three, then they would be addressed by whatever terminology they so wished. However, seeing as none were discovered and the full survey was left incomplete, we haven’t yet named the local fauna.”

Billings nodded thoughtfully, continuing to rock on his feet with his hands still behind him. “But did you?”

The Andorian captain scowled. “Did I what?”

“Did you believe that Commander Keller was wrong in her assessment of the local fauna?”

“Yes.”

“How?”

“They had made no effort to communicate with us and acted very much like animals of any of a hundred different planets.”

“Hmm,” Billings mused. There was a long pause. Finally, as the court martial panel behind him started to look annoyed, he asked, “You’re service record doesn’t show any substantial training or degrees in cultural anthropology, exobiology or linguistics—two of which Commander Keller has masters in. So what made you think you knew better than she did?”

That seemed to bring ch’Kass up short—had the setting been different, Keller would have laughed at look of discomfort on his face.

Clay was on her feet. “Objection. Captain ch’Kass is not the person whose actions are at fault here.”

Billings suddenly stopped rocking and spun around on the spot to face the three ranking officers behind him. “Commander Keller may be the one on trial for disobeying orders, but in order to explain why she felt it necessary to do so, we must first understand the circumstances and barriers she herself faced.”

The three on the bench looked between one another and muttered quietly to each other, before Hrag nodded and leaned forward. “We’re going to allow this, Commander, just be aware that our patience can only be tested for so long.”

“Thank you sir,” Billings stated with a deep nod.

Clay lowered herself back into her chair as Billings returned his full attention to ch’Kass. His sudden burst of activity had surprised Keller; in all her meetings with him, he had always seemed quite lethargic, so seeing him move at any kind of speed was a shock to the system—going by the reactions of several others in the room, they too had not expected it from him.

He resumed his rocking. “Well Captain? What made you think that you knew better than your Chief Science Officer, a woman who holds four masters degrees from Starfleet Academy?”

Ch’Kass shifted in his seat, trying to appear calm and controlled, but she could see he was seething. She had served under the Captain for the better part of five years, during which time he demonstrated to be a decisive and straight-forward leader though wasn’t particularly open to suggestions from others.

“Lieutenant Commander Keller is a good scientist, her academic record can attest to that, but that is also a drawback for her. She thinks like a scientist; studying, analysing and cataloguing everything. I have learned throughout my career to trust my instincts, something the Lieutenant Commander doesn’t.”

A faint smile crept over Billings’ face. “And yet she went to try and open a dialogue with the ‘local fauna’, because she thought she was right.”

Before ch’Kass could say anything more, Billings turned away from him. “No further questions,” he stated and returned to his seat, giving Keller a faint smile.

“You may step down, Captain,” Hrag instructed.

Ch’Kass nodded. He stood up and then shot a scowl towards Keller and Billings, before once again taking his seat beside Clay.

“We will have a recess until fourteen hundred hours, at which time we will hear from Lieutenant Commander Keller.” With that he tapped his gavel and the three officers behind the bench exited the courtroom. The rest of the assembled officers and specialists rose as they did and once they had left, they began to file out of the courtroom, each of them chattering among each other about the events of the day.

Keller and Billings waited until the room was empty—her escort would be standing outside for her. Once they were alone she gave him a smile.

“So how do we proceed?”

He fixed her with a serious look. “With the truth.”


* * * * *
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Old February 9 2012, 10:47 PM   #2
Bry_Sinclair
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Re: "Taking A Stand" (February 2012 Challenge Entry)

After the recess and the court martial resumed, Keller found herself on the stand. In the middle of the room she was alone and exposed to everyone. She kept her posture straight though, hands clasped together to keep from fidgeting and her ankles crossed under the chair.

Billings came around the witness stand and took up his usual spot between the chair and the bench. Once again, he started rocking back and forth.

Commander, were aware of the operational procedure of the survey mission; which shuttles were used, who was on the team and in which shuttle, the assignments they were all given and that to begin with everything started well. Begin from when you first encountered the Erisandi.

Objection, Clay stated. The sentience, if applicable, of the life-forms has yet to be determined.

Sustained, Hrag agreed. Commander Billings, please refrain from making any judgements on the life-form that are not supported by scientific fact.

Billings nodded. Begin from when you first encountered the life-forms.

We had been on the surface for only four hours when we made first contact with them.

Who was we, Commander? Billings asked.

Lieutenant Haliid Zaayl and myself. We were by a river going over some of his findings when he spotted them by the bank upstream. At which point I contacted Captain chKass, Ensign Bartlett and Master Chief HVahrr. The life-forms were aware of us and though cautious, they remained by the river even as the other members of the team arrived.

The Captain asked for a full assessment of them to be made, so Bartlett and HVahrr remainedto assist with studying the species and determining whether or not they could pose a threat, she continued. At which point the large viewer came to life and displayed several optical scans they had taken during the initial assessment. The species stood over two meters tall, with a long body and slender but powerful-looking limbs, they were covered in a thick pelt of hair, a long tail swung behind them, large eyes and a short muzzle, their noses twitched as they smelled the air. Their sheer size was intimidating, but despite that they appeared more afraid of the survey team.

We took what scans we could, taking care not to spook them and giving them time to adjust to our presencethough they became very interested in Master Chief HVahrr, she added with a faint smile, remembering how they had curiously studied the brawny Caitian Security Chief. On the first day we decided to keep our distance and observe. This continued for the second day by which time the group had grown from four to eight, but then on the third day they had increased to thirteen. It was after a couple of hours on that day that one of them approached us. There was a lot of vocalisation from other members of the group, so we made no sudden movements and shut down our instruments, so as to not startle them.

She then went on to explain how over the next two days, the life-forms became more inquisitive and comfortable with the survey team. Keller had kept the Captain apprised of their development, as well as checking in with the other members of her research team periodically to stay on top of the rest of the survey. She then moved onto her observations of them, how they seemed far more organised than any other non-sentient species she had studied, and that amid the pattern of grunts, growls and moans there was some small sections of repetition, as though the same word were being repeated in different contexts. Keller had made plans to try and run a few neurological scans on the sixth day, but she had been called to a meeting to go over their current findings and plan the next stage of the survey.

Who was present at this meeting? Billings asked.

Myself, Captain chKass, Lieutenants zhTharr, Grett, Zaayl and Master Chief HVahrr. We didnt know it at the time, but Ensign Bartlett had managed to track the life-forms down and was taking several scans.

On the monitor a topographic display of the survey zone appeared. The location of the landing site and base camp were highlighted, the rest of the landing partywhich only demonstrated how far away and isolated Bartlett had gotten as hed gone looking for the aliensand also what was later discovered to be the habitat of the life-forms. The computer tracked the progress of all the team members (based on the data their tricorders had gathered), the Bartlett icon was brighter than the others. As he entered a clearing it stopped and flashed red.

Using the information from Ensign Bartletts tricorder, as well as a preliminary analysis I was able to run, this is the location at which he was attacked.

Was there anything special about this location? her lawyer inquired.

I was unable to take detailed scans and the primary memory core of Bartletts scanner was severely damaged, but from what little information I was able to gather there does appear to be a higher than normal amount of calcium in the soil of that clearing. Readings such as these are not dissimilar to burial mounds found on many planets.

Objection, supposition.

Sustained. Only facts relating to the trial, Lieutenant Commander.

She nodded her understanding before continuing. The ensigns body had been found on the banks of the same river that they had first encountered the aliens, his neck had been broken in one quick and powerful. Almost immediately the team had been recalled to base camp, phasers issued and they had all been placed on high alert. She had tried to access what information she could from Bartletts equipment, to see if it could provide a clue as to what had happened to the exobiologist.

I managed to gather the calcium-related data from what was left of the memory core and took this to Captain chKass, along with my theory that they were in fact a sentient race. I had studied them for the better part of five days, in which time they had shown a heightened sense of self-awareness, rudimentary language skills and now the possibility that they had some form of burial rites.

Would you normally make this assumption based on only a few days observation and limited data? asked Billings, the rocking stopped.

Under normal circumstances, no. I would need more time for further observation and scans, but with Bartletts death, I felt it necessary to make a case for why it might have happenedthat he had unwittingly entered a sacred ground.

Did the Captain heed your advice?

No. He saw Bartletts death as an act of butchery by animals, which would need to be dealt with so as to ensure the safety of the survey team. I tried to highlight that if he ordered an attack, it would be against an intelligent species that were defending their customs and territory.

So it was at this point that you decided to disobey his orders.

She took a deep breath. Yes. I had been analysing the speech patterns and gestures of the species. I went back to my findings and focused on those that were related to one submitting or deferring judgment to another, behaviour I had witnessed three times since we made contact with them. I left the base camp whilst the Captain was planning on how best to track the life-forms, then followed the same path that Ensign Bartlett had been onmaking sure to avoid the site where he had been attacked.

Once I was near the location I began scouting the immediate area, looking for them. But they found me a lot easier than I did them. Three surrounded me, two holding rudimentary weapons. I did my best to emulate the appropriate gestures, at which point they stopped their advance.

Then what happened? Billings prompted.

I was taken to their encampment, where I continued acts of deference. I hadnt been able to translate their language, but I did try to talk with them in a tone they would hopefully understand. They had just begun to lower their guard when Captain chKass led the attack. I was pulled out of the area by Master Chief HVahrr, but before I was forced under cover I did witness two of the natives taking multiple phaser hitsthe weapons had been set to kill.

After the attack, the aliens withdrew, correct?

They did.

The landing party didnt pursue, instead the six injured members were retrieved and you withdrew back to the shuttles.

Yes sir.

Were you then able to continue your research to further prove your theory?

No. After we returned to the Kane I was detained and restricted to quarters, without computer access.

Billings nodded thoughtfully before he turned away from her. No further questions, he stated and returned to his seat.

Vice Admiral Hrag nodded at Captain Clay. Your witness.

Clay rose and strutted into the centre of the room, facing Keller. Her face was slim, features sharp and angular, her intense green eyes locked onto Keller, like a hawk targeting its unsuspecting prey.

Weve heard from Master Chief HVahrr that he advised extreme caution be taken when around this species, correct?

Yes. After our initial observation and passive scans, we were able to determine that they were at least three times stronger than the average human.

Did you follow his advisement?

She nodded. Of course we did. Master Chief HVahrr is one of best security officers Ive served with, I take all of his recommendations seriouslytheyve saved my life at least four times over the last five years.

Clay paced a little, her eyes looking Keller over carefully. Yet here you are, uninjured, whilst one man is dead and two others are still recovering.

Before Keller could make a statement, Clay stopped her pacing and fired off another question. Lieutenant Zaayl was with you and Ensign Bartlett as you studied the native species. What was his assessment of them?

As an ecologist, the lieutenant was focused more on how they developed and survived. From what we could tell they were herbivores, but the local plant life appeared to be woefully lacking in nutrients to support a life-form as large and complex as these humanoids

Let me rephrase the question; did he believe them to be dangerous?

When we still believed them to be an animal he did, especially given their sizeregardless of their diet, most animals will instinctively defend themselves if they feel threatened.

I see, Clay mused. After Bartletts body was discovered and brought back to the shuttles, did you examine the body?

I did. Labtech Coleman assisted. We determined cause of death.

Was there any other native animal that could have inflicted the fatal injuries?

No. They could only have been caused by a being with opposable thumbs; no other animal we had found on Delta Erisandi three has them.

Clay paced a little more and stopped when she was just at the edge of Kellers peripheral vision. Even though you knew they were responsible for killing an officer from the Kaneone of your own staff no lessyou still tried to defend them?

Keller remained looking forward, at the vice admiral, commodore and captain who watch the proceedings with quiet intensity. I believed that as a sentient species, their actions needed to be understoodso that no rash action was taken.

If they were sentient and all the noises they made were an attempt at communication, why then didnt the universal translator decipher what they were saying?

In some instances a species vocal patterns are so unlike any that we have encountered before, that an entire new algorithm needs to be written and programmed into the UT. It is only as good as we can make it.

So, with no means of effective communication and disregarding what both your security chief and senior ecologist advised; you violated Captain chKass order to remain at base camp, whilst they developed a strategy to deal with this dangerous race and went to find them?

Yes sir.

Because you believed you knew better?

Because I wanted to prevent anyone else from getting hurt, as well as make amends for and insult or dishonour we caused.

Were you armed? Clay suddenly asked.

Keller looked over at her. Im sorry?

When you went to open a dialogue with this life-form, were you carrying your sidearm?

She took a deep breath and looked back at the bench. I was.

Clay took a few steps closer towards her. Even though you were on a mission of peace?

It was an unknown situation and I wasnt certain that they wouldnt just attack, given what had happened to Ensign Bartlett. I wanted a peaceful resolution to the situation, that doesnt mean that I wouldnt defend myself if absolutely necessary.

Like Captain chKass and the rest of the landing party were doing when they rescued you.

I didnt need rescued. They werent making a move to attack

That you were aware of, Clay stated, her voice cold and hard. You yourself admitted you hadnt conducted nearly enough research on them to truly estimate how they would react to you or their behaviour as a whole. Your actions put a dozen of your shipmates in danger, with many being injured in the attempt to rescue you.

Objection, Billings called out. The Captain is badgering the witness.

Clay gave her a sly smile. No further questions.

Keller was bristling with a mixture of anger and annoyance. Clay was damn good at pushing buttons, had Billings not jumped in, Keller knew she would have spoken out and given the prosecutor exactly what she wanted.

Hrag looked at Yuna and Tracey, both of whom nodded at the Tellarite. The council will retire to make its decision. Court will reconvene at oh-nine-hundred tomorrow morning.

* * * * *

It had been a fitful night sleep, but once again Keller sat in Xi Stations courtroom, in full dress uniform and anxiously waiting to hear the verdict. Given all the time to reflect on what had happened, hearing the perspective of her shipmates and friends and being forced to defend her actions, Keller knew that what she had done the right thing for her conscience at the very least. Would she have done it again? Damn right she would have.

The courtroom was once again filled with the same collection of brass, JAG, guards, officers and specialists. Billings sat beside her, his face unreadable, whilst across the room Captains chKass and Clay looked confident (the former smugly so).

Vice Admiral Torsh emek Hrag was looking at a datapad in front of him for a few moments, before looking up at the assembly before him. The defendant will approach the bench.

Keller stood up, Billings following her lead, but he remained at the desk whilst she moved to stand in front of the witness chair. She stood ramrod straight, arms by her sides, uniform freshly pressed, medals and commendations in neat rows on her left breast, golden hair was piled high on top of her head with not one strand out of place.

Hrag leaned forward slightly. Lieutenant Commander Rachel Louise Keller, you stand before this council charged with dereliction of duty, insubordination, negligencewhich resulted in the injury of six othersand dishonourable conduct.

It is the judgement of this court, that in the instance of the latter of these indictments you are cleared. Regardless of the status of the native species on Delta Erisandi three, you acted with conscience and honour in order to preserve life.

Despite the good outcome and the momentary relief that surged through her, how Hrag had phrased his statement worried her.

However, the court cannot overlook the other charges under the same circumstance. It is therefore our ruling that you are guilty of abandoning your post, disregarding the orders of your Commanding Officer and, through your actions, being responsible for the injuries your shipmates sustained.

Her stomach hurt. The intense cramping made her want to double over in pain. Somehow, she managed to remain upright. Behind her she was aware of sharp gasps and soft murmuring.

Silence in the courtroom, Captain Tracey called.

When all was quiet once again, Hrag continued. Effective of this stardate, you will be stripped of your commission and dismissed from Starfleet. With that he wrapped the gavel on the bench.

The effect was immediate. Among those bearing witness to the proceedings, there were was a lot of chatter, with one or two being more vocal at the verdict and sentence. Keller didnt hear any of it. She stood in the centre of the court, the blood draining from her face and limbs, making her feel cold and heavy. Her stomach was so constricted she would have wept from the painhad she been able to. Bouts of nausea washed over her and her lungs left unable to draw in enough oxygen to sustain her.

She was barely aware of Hrag, Yuna and Tracey leaving, or of Billings moving over to her. She didnt feel his supportive hand on her right shoulder nor hear the reassuring words he spoke; she could see his lips move but didnt hear a thing he said.

It was over. Her career, the life she had worked so hard to achieve, her hopes for the future. All of them had come to an abrupt end. Would she have done it all again?

* * * * *

END
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Old February 9 2012, 11:10 PM   #3
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Re: "Taking A Stand" (February 2012 Challenge Entry)

I would definitely say this story meets the criteria of a "dressing down," particularly at the end when the verdict and judgement were passed down. Very nice work, Bry - I'm looking forward to your new series with Keller.
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Old February 9 2012, 11:28 PM   #4
Bry_Sinclair
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Re: "Taking A Stand" (February 2012 Challenge Entry)

Thank you TLR.

I will try and not disappoint
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Old February 10 2012, 01:07 AM   #5
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Re: "Taking A Stand" (February 2012 Challenge Entry)

Fantastic story with a gut-wrenching ending! Conscience versus the chain-of-command is often a difficult equation to balance, and it appears Commander Keller did her best under unfortunate circumstances.
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Old February 10 2012, 02:40 AM   #6
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Re: "Taking A Stand" (February 2012 Challenge Entry)

Keller was right for what she did, in my opinion. But what makes this so effective is having a character that did not have "hero immunity" like when the captains in our series defied orders or did things with drastic consequences. Good work!
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Old February 10 2012, 06:40 AM   #7
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Re: "Taking A Stand" (February 2012 Challenge Entry)

Thank you both.

I knew that she was kicked out of Starfleet for doing the right thing morally, but still going against orders--which was never going to go down well with a prideful and somewhat vindictive CO.
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