Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Inquisitions"

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Enterprise1981, Sep 10, 2013.

  1. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Season 3, Episode 2:
    The bureaucratic mentality is the only constant in the universe with the future of the Lambda Paz and her crew hanging in the balance.

    Chapter One

    Steam was gushing out of an access hatch, catching the attention of Shinar sh’Aqba. Two engineers were training laser devices on the breached conduit in order to temporarily seal the hole.

    Compared to the extensive repairs that needed to be made to the warp and impulse engines and the weapons arrays before the Corps of Engineers inspection team came aboard the USS Lambda Paz, this malfunction seemed rather minor. Under different circumstances, such as the ship spending a month behind enemy lines, sh’Aqba’s crew could temporarily bandage the wound and move on. With the bureaucracy’s lackeys soon to be examining all the ship’s systems with a fine toothcomb, though, no malfunction seemed trivial.

    “What now?!” sh’Aqba demanded, having to raise her voice over the loud hissing.

    “The plasma coolant system overloaded,” replied Willem Margose, a blond-haired Betazoid male technician, while keeping his focus on the repair job. “We’re attempting to correct the problem.”

    “I thought we replaced that conduit,” sh’Aqba said with a frustrated sigh. She quickly realized she was still shouting even though the hissing had stopped.

    “We did,” a blonde female Ktarian technician answered. Her name had presently escaped sh’Aqba’s memory. “We apparently got a subpar replacement. We’ll get to work bypassing the flow.”

    A conspiratorial notion entered sh’Aqba’s mind while trying to remember the young Ktarian woman’s name. Perhaps, sending them that defective conduit was a deliberate attempt to make sure the ship failed inspection. Such instances of sudden and unexpected malfunctions seemed all too common to be attributed to postwar supply shortages. “Just finish that up,” she instructed, “and then get to work on the dilithium vector calibrations we needed completed yesterday.”

    “Sure, Lieutenant,” Margose said with an enthusiastic smile that seemed insincere. With a nervous crane of his neck, he said to his Ktarian colleague, “Let’s go, Stollerramn.”

    Stollerramn, sh’Aqba silently repeated to herself.

    She couldn’t blame them one bit for wanting to get away from the proverbial black cloud emanating from her as a result of both consternation over the coming inspection and mourning the loss of Erhlich Tarlazzi, who left her with an unborn child she could not carry to term. She felt her abdomen, which had enlarged somewhat with the pregnancy entering its third month. She basked in the sound of humming equipment while hoping no other alarms sounded. Despite her growing impatience in recent weeks, she tried to remind herself the ship would pass inspection.

    Her quiet surroundings concluded with the sound of a comm chime. “Lieutenant sh’Aqba,” said Doctor Aurellan Markalis. “Please report to sickbay.”

    Sh’Aqba tapped her combadge to acknowledge the summons. “On my way, Doctor,” she said with a barely audible sigh. Soon the fetus would be transferred to a mechanical incubation unit. The moment she had both eagerly anticipated and dreaded was getting closer.


    Upon sh’Aqba’s arrival in the medical bay, Markalis greeted her with a light smile. It was the kind of forced smile Shinar had gotten used to seeing during her frequent visits to sickbay.
    “Come have seat,” Aurellan blithely instructed, indicating one of the secondary biobeds. “This won’t take very long.”
    Shinar grinned and slowly paced towards a vacant biobed. “I just require an amniotic fluid sample to complete the modifications to the incubation unit,” the doctor added while Shinar seated herself at the foot of the bed.

    Shinar slowly removed her black and gray uniform jacket and gold tunic while Aurellan prepared an extraction syringe. She lifted up her light gray undershirt, allowing Aurellan to place the syringe against her skin. Once that was done, Shinar lowered her shirt and began putting her uniform layers back on.

    “Seems like I’m in sickbay as often as I’m in engineering,” the Andorian woman remarked, hoping to fill the awkward silence.
    “Maybe you should train to be a field medic,” Aurellan replied with a wry grin.

    For a moment, Shinar found that idea appealing, considering the rough week she was having. “Some of the concepts of starship repair and maintenance are similar to medicine,” she remarked.

    “Not sure Starfleet Medical would agree,” Aurellan teased.

    “I still have a very difficult patient to get back to.”

    Shinar then headed out of sickbay; grateful for the quick respite and hopeful she could put off getting back to the repairs a little bit longer.


    Captain Limis Vircona slowly sauntered down the corridor along with Commander Ronnie Kozar and Lieutenant Commander Mandel Morrison. All three of them kept stern expressions on their faces and avoided looking at one another while en route to a transporter room as if they were all anticipating a troubling situation on the horizon.

    “What exactly is their business here?” Morrison wondered aloud as they entered an adjoining hallway just outside the transporter room.

    “In addition to the Corps of Engineers’ inspection teams,” Limis tersely replied, “the Judge Advocate Generals’ office is sending a representative to conduct interviews with the crew.”

    “In other words,” Kozar added, “they’re conducting their own inspection.”

    “Well, I didn’t do it,” Morrison joked, which elicited a smirk from his superior officers.

    “No one’s being accused of anything,” Limis interjected, “yet.”

    Kozar briefly had a tempting thought, which he quickly dismissed upon entry into the transporter room.
    “Energize,” Limis instructed the dark-haired human male transporter operator.

    Two transporting columns appeared on the pad, which reconstituted into the two expected visitors. On the left was a tall human male with short light-brown hair wearing a Starfleet uniform. To the right was a human woman of average height with long dark hair. She was a civilian wearing lavender slacks and a matching jacket over a pink turtleneck. Kozar’s eyes momentarily widened as he was looking in the direction of the woman. She flashed a slight grin back at him. He then turned his gaze at the other arriving guest to avoid giving off further telltale signs of his familiarity with the woman.

    “Captain Limis,” the male Starfleet officer said with obviously feigned enthusiasm. “Commander Kozar. Lieutenant Commander Morrison. Thank you for receiving us. I’m Deputy Director Roger Wozniak, Starfleet JAG. This is my consultant Mariana Katel.”

    The woman remained silent while taking another glance at Kozar, who was now trying his best to ignore her.

    “Welcome aboard,” Limis said with well-rehearsed poise. “We’ve prepared quarters for you and Miss Katel.”

    “If you don’t mind, Captain,” Wozniak said, stepping off the transporter pad and walking past the welcoming committee towards the main entrance, “we’d like to get started right away. Is the main briefing room available?”

    Limis followed Wozniak as he walked through the doorway. “It’s at your complete disposal,” she answered, making no attempt to mask her overall disdain for high-level Starfleet administrators.

    “Succinct, isn’t he?” Morrison remarked, following behind Limis.

    Kozar continued standing still and staring awkwardly at Miss Katel and waiting for her to pass by him. Katel then walked past Morrison, who was standing just outside the egress, waiting on the first officer.

    “A little family reunion as well, I see,” Morrison added.

    “Shut up,” Kozar muttered as both men exited into the corridor, hoping to avoid reminders that a former inamorata and the mother of his estranged daughter was part of the pending investigation of the crew.
  2. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Two

    “So what exactly happened between you and Mariana?” Morrison inquired while he and Kozar were pacing through a corridor towards a turbolift.

    “You know we ended up bearing a child,” Kozar said while they waited on the arrival of the next available elevator.

    “Of course. Savannah was what—three years old when I first met her?”

    Kozar grinned, recalling fond memories of his daughter as an adorable toddler while also wondering what she looked like as an adolescent. The turbolift doors opened and a human female stepped walked through. Kozar waited for that officer to pass before continuing. “Mariana insisted that because we lived in separate worlds,” he went on as he and Morrison entered the lift, “she didn’t want me having ‘too much of an influence on Savannah.’ Deck Two.”

    The computer acknowledged with a chirp and the lift started moving upward. “I was in the Marines fighting in the border wars; she was a civilian law consultant with the JAG.”

    “But at least she didn’t unilaterally decide not to tell the kid who her father was,” Morrison offered. “You had a more recent falling out of some kind. I was never clear what that was about.”

    “You remember the civil war on Nicarus?”

    Morrison held his mouth open slightly, as if trying to rack his brain. “I remember the Horatio Nelson making supply runs there, but not the exact details of the political situation.”

    “The Federation had been supplying medical and economic aide to both sides. The rebels didn’t take kindly to that and took a Starfleet team hostage. What isn’t included in any of the official reports is that the rebels’ demands for advanced weaponry were met with those same arms being provided to government forces.”

    “And Mariana was involved?”

    Kozar scoffed, still having a clear memory of what had taken placed eight years earlier. “She was one of the civilian mediators who concluded that a rebel victory would eliminate the Cardassians as a rival trading partner. She openly admitted to committing high treason, but also said that the secret branch of Starfleet she worked for would thoroughly cleanse their hands of this whole affair.”

    “You mean the one the captain and Doctor Markalis have had dealings with the past year?”

    Kozar shook his head. “I didn’t know at the time they were known as Section 31. She had been leading a double life all this time. If I had accidentally learned she was with Intelligence, I might have been more understanding. But a self-professed defender of law and order was trampling on the very thing she claimed to be upholding.”

    The turbolift arrived at its destination and the doors parted. “No wonder,” said Morrison as both men stepped through the doorway and into the corridor. “It was almost as if she and your daughter never existed since then. Is that why you were suspicious of the captain when she first came aboard?”

    “Considering the conflicting accounts of the incident she was involved in month after being recruited into SI,” Kozar replied, “her reputation for not always playing by the rules. The war, though, reminded us of the necessity of bending the rules from time to time in a way that goes beyond occasionally ignoring safety protocols.”

    Morrison gave an agreeing nod. “That much was clear when we put that information Mirren Hadar gave us to use.”

    “Or more recently, the Dyson Sphere mission.” While saying that, he saw Lisa Neeley behind them in the corner of his eye. “Speaking of awkward…” His slow saunter became a quick pace. He grinned deviously as he got further away from Morrison.


    Morrison had been discussing one of the recently arrived visitors, who had once been a major part of Commander Kozar’s life. That had led to discussion of Kozar’s initial distrust of Limis. Kozar had cited an incident Limis was involved in shortly after she was recruited into Starfleet Intelligence. Limis had never shared her version of events, though Starfleet Intelligence’s official report stated she had thwarted a band of Starfleet renegades who had taken a teenage girl, possibly their crewmate Rebecca Sullivan, hostage. Starfleet Security, though, had indicated she may have been involved in supplying a group of disreputable businessmen with the ingredients for a nerve gas to be used against the Cardassians.

    That conversation had come to an abrupt halt when Kozar saw someone from the corner of his eye. “Speaking of awkward,” he commented deviously before walking further away.

    Morrison turned around and saw his off-and-on lover Lisa Neeley behind him. He gritted his teeth, holding in wanting to curse his friend for forcing an awkward conversation on him.

    “Hello, Lieutenant,” Morrison said in a feigned professional tone.

    “Commander,” replied the tall woman with long red hair tied into a ponytail. She stopped to hand Morrison a padd. “I was on my way to give this to you: the completed upgrades to the internal sensors.”

    Morrison took a glance at a few of the bullet points that appeared on the report. “Sh’Aqba’s very thorough, but you know there’s still a possibility this ship won’t pass inspection.”

    “And an even bigger possibility that it will. And if it does, I’m her new deputy chief of security.”

    Morrison was quickly taken aback by that last statement. For about a year and a half, Neeley was the head of the company of Starfleet Marines assigned to the Lambda Paz. Now that the Dominion War had ended, that department would be largely inactive and a lot of its officers were returning to more conventional starship positions. “Limis approved this?” he asked with a slight stammer.

    “Not yet since the addition of personnel can’t be formalized until after the inspection. But one can never make too many good impressions.”

    She started to saunter away when Morrison blurted out, “If you’re thinking of continuing to string me along, forget it.”

    Lisa came to an abrupt halt and shot Mandel a stern look. “I beg your pardon?”

    “Things ended badly for us last time, and that got you transferred. I’m not going to keep on waiting for you to be ready for a more committed relationship. I’m done.”

    “I should never underestimate the size of your ego. This has nothing to do with you. I work well with the security personnel on this ship and the Marines will need an experienced officer to help them through the post-war transition. Get over yourself, Morrison.”

    Neeley trudged away in a huff, leaving Morrison staring down the corridor as she walked off, certain he had touched a nerve with her.


    The engineering section was crowded with Corps of Engineers officers and technicians. Sh’Aqba was trying her hardest to maintain her composure while looking over the shoulders of various inspectors who were looking over the most trivial of computer files. She became even more annoyed when she saw inspectors poking at the warp core and looking through the dilithium maintenance records.

    “There’s no need to look through every little file,” she told a human male technician at a console in front of the core. “I’ve done a thorough check of the dilithium spectrum for anomalous frequencies. So you don’t have to waste your time on that.”

    “I’m only following orders,” the technician replied while slowly walking away. “I suggest you take this up with who’s in charge.”

    Sh’Aqba was about to respond when she heard a familiar voice from behind her. “And that’d me,” it said. Sh’Aqba turned around to see that Commander Charles “Chaz” Logan had sidled up to her. He had served as chief engineer of the Lambda Paz during its first year in service before he was elevated to senior engineering consultant for the Seventh Fleet. He had often been possessive of the ship. And now, sh’Aqba had felt a similar level of possessiveness with outsiders putting her reputation to the test.

    She looked around to make sure no one else was listening. “Commander,” she said in a hushed tone, “you never would have tolerated people mucking around with your ship like this.”

    “Even then, I was with the bureaucracy,” Logan calmly replied. “I had some leverage, as I do now. I will do everything possible to see that this ship passes inspection.”

    Sh’Aqba was not entirely sure if she could take Logan at his word. He could very often be a windbag, yet his attachment to the Lambda Paz gave him incentive to see that the ship passed inspection. “I’ll hold you to that,” she said with a skeptical wince.

    He turned to walk away when sh’Aqba suddenly realized Logan’s collar was red rather than gold. “Red collar,” she observed aloud.

    Logan grinned and took a look at his own collar. “First officer of the Europa,” he explained.

    “Captain Ellison probably wasn’t too happy with that,” sh’Aqba said in reference to the former first officer of the destroyed Seventh Fleet flagship who had recently earned a command.

    “Not at first. But being a major stickler for protocol is something he was looking for in a new XO.”

    Sh’Aqba gave a speechless nod, wondering if Logan was using self-deprecating humor. He slowly walked away from her while accepting a padd from an inspector. She could barely make out their conversation. She just stared in their direction hopeful that Logan would keep his word.


    Kozar entered his office not expecting anyone to be waiting for him there. He stared at a padd in his hand while taking slow steps towards the desk. When he got to the chair, he saw Mariana already seated there. Maybe it was that infamous Section 31 parlor trick of suddenly appearing in someone’s office or residence without prior warning. “You never knew how to knock,” he remarked.

    Mariana flashed a wide smile and stood up to look him straight in the eye. “Now that’s the Ronnie I remember before that first post-captaincy,” she said with a flirtatious lilt. “Now you’re too concerned with duty and respecting spirit of the law.”

    Ronnie looked away from her gleaming blue eyes and circled around the desk. “Someone with two advanced degrees in interstellar law and diplomacy should respect the spirit of the law as well as the letter of the law.”

    “You’re still angry with me about that?” Mariana scoffed. “So much that you would cut our daughter out of your life just to punish me? I’ve told Savannah you’ve been awfully busy these last seven years—so much so you can’t even send her a single letter. I had hoped the war would have given you a different perspective. How much soul searching did you have to do before taking this ship on a covert mission to confirm the location of a ketracel white plant deep in enemy territory? And in spite the fact you relieved your captain of command for having tortured the pertinent information from that man.”

    Ronnie rolled his eyes, perturbed that his former lover had still been watching him even after he said he wanted nothing more to do with her. “You’ve been keeping tabs on me,” he rhetorically stated, futilely trying to mask his annoyance.

    Mariana grinned and circled the desk. “Don’t worry. I’m not some deranged stalker. If you could learn to tolerate Captain Limis’s brash actions, surely you could forgive me.”

    “At least she never committed treason in the guise of acting on Federation interests.”

    “Treason?” Mariana dismissively repeated as she took slow steps towards him. “Please. The Nicaru rebels were by no means a military threat to us. We saved the lives of seven Starfleet officers in that deal.”

    Ronnie jerked his head in Mariana’s direction while she was gently stroking his arm. “What about the thousands of political dissenters being tortured to death? If you had seen the atrocities they committed, you wouldn’t have been so quick to appease them. And I thought we had moved beyond that cloak-and-dagger crap.”

    “In a universe where everyone shared our sense of right and wrong, we would be past it,” she replied, placing the palm of her left hand on his right cheek. “Perhaps it’s that idealism that has kept you from getting that starship command you feel you deserve. But I can make things a lot easier for you, Ronnie, while sparing your crew the indignity of this inquisition.”

    They stared into each other’s eyes for a very long moment until they were kissing each other on the lips, which Ronnie didn’t spurn initially. Despite his own resistance, her presence alone on this ship was enough to stir up old feelings in him and rekindle the passion they felt for each other nearly two decades earlier. He soon came to his senses and pulled himself away. In his youth, he would have easily succumbed to her feminine wiles.

    “The price of that would be doing Section 31’s bidding,” he snapped. “No thank you.” And without another word, he marched towards the door and left the office.


    Limis removed a mug of freshly brewed raktajino from a replicator tray in the main crew lounge. She blew on the steaming hot beverage and took a careful sip while walking towards a nearby sofa. To her pleasant surprise, her longtime friend and Maquis colleague Rebecca Sullivan seated at that sofa. That particular corner of the lounge was where they very often commiserated. Though, with Rebecca still undecided on whether or not to remain to Starfleet, seeing her in uniform and on the ship was an unusual sight for Limis.

    “Strange seeing you here,” Limis remarked in jest.

    Rebecca flashed an amused grin as Vircona seated herself across from her. “I’m lending a hand with repairs,” she explained, stroking her half-filled mug of tea that had long since gone cold. “Beats loafing around on the starbase figuring out what I’m going to do with myself.”

    “So have you decided if you’re going to remain in Starfleet?”

    Rebecca momentarily glanced at a nearby viewport. “I’d like to, if it was entirely up to me. This ship has been my home for the last two years. But again, it’s not entirely up to me.”

    “This ship will pass inspection. It’s just a formality, as are the interviews Director Wozniak and Miss Katel will be conducting.

    Rebecca sighed and slowly placed her mug on the table. “That ought to be fun having them second-guess every decision we’ve made the last two years.”

    Limis chuckled, having faced such inquiries before. “They are going to pretend that every decision you’ve made was wrong whether they got a formal stamp of approval from the powers-that-be or not. As long you avoid losing your cool and answer every question honestly, you should do all right.”

    Their banter was interrupted when a comm chime sounded and a masculine voice was on the speakers. “Ensign Sullivan, please report to the briefing room.”

    “I’ve been summoned,” Rebecca sarcastically remarked. She rose from her seat with a calming grin on her face as she sauntered out of the room.
  3. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Three

    Rebecca entered the briefing room, where Katel was seated at the head of the meeting table and sorting through several different padds. “Come in, Miss Sullivan,” she said, glancing up from a padd in her hand. To the male security guard stationed next to the door, she said. “You may wait outside.”

    On Katel’s direction, Rebecca sat down to her right. “You look familiar,” Rebecca remarked with an eerie sense of having met this woman before. “Have we met before?”

    Katel twitched her lips and shook her head without much thought to the inquiry. “Can’t say that we have.”

    Rebecca was not sure if she believed Katel, not that it really mattered at this moment. If she had once infiltrated the Maquis, she wouldn’t say it straight right there.

    “Nevertheless,” Katel added. “I am honored to meet the widow of one of Starfleet’s favorite traitors.”

    Rebecca rolled her eyes. She resented anyone who suggested her late husband Michael Eddington was a traitor when he was as deeply committed to the cause of the Maquis as anyone. Realizing Katel was looking to provoke her, though, Rebecca had to remind herself to carefully consider her responses. “Michael may have betrayed Starfleet,” she somberly replied, “but he was one of the most committed leaders in the Maquis.”

    Katel smiled cheerfully. “Of course I’d expect you to say something like that.

    Again, Rebecca reminded herself to remain calm.

    “Two years later,” Katel went on, “do you feel any sense of accomplishment now that you have survived the war?”

    Rebecca gave a light, affirming nod. “Certainly. I feel a sense of satisfaction now that the Dominion has been defeated. That I played a role allows me to say that the Maquis who were slaughtered didn’t die for nothing.”

    “You consider their deaths to have been avenged,” agreed Katel. “It still seems like a rather hollow cliché considering they didn’t willingly sacrifice themselves. Your husband is still dead. And so are many other husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, children and parents…”

    “I can still appreciate the valiant struggle of those who died on Athos Four, including and especially Michael. Is there a point to any of this banter?”

    Katel smirked and perched her clasped hands on the table. “Just hoping that you don’t see me as the enemy. I am simply trying to give an impartial assessment of your fitness for continuing to serve in Starfleet. I bear no malice towards you or any of your crewmates.”

    Rebecca winced skeptically, yet kept a firm gaze on her interrogator. “Good to know.


    Director Wozniak, meanwhile, conducted interviews with various crewmembers in the ready room. At first, he engaged in friendly banter with Sara Carson that was similar to Katel’s with Sullivan. He asked about Carson’s sense of accomplishment from having survived the last two years, on which she declined to comment. The more difficult line of questioning then came.

    “What is your assessment of Captain Limis?”

    Carson took a few seconds to consider the response. “I would say she is capable leader who knows how to quickly improvise solutions to any crisis,” she plainly replied.

    Wozniak nodded as if being given one of the usual courtesy responses, which he noted on a padd. “Would you suggest she has a tendency to jump the gun at times--make rash choices whether they’re in line with protocol or not?”

    “Perhaps, but those choices have proven worthwhile.”

    Wozniak folded hands together and gave a tense grin. “You may be completely honest with me, Miss Carson. I know it is not your place to question your captain’s orders. But have you ever privately disagreed with some of her decisions…” He briefly consulted the padd on the desk to call up the pertinent data. “… such as the incident on stardate 52895.3?”

    “I don’t follow.”

    Wozniak read aloud an excerpt from one of Limis’s reports. “‘A wing from the Seventh Fleet was dodging hit-and-run strikes in the Daxura asteroid belt.’”

    The Federation Alliance was at a critical juncture in the Dominion War. With a new countermeasure to the Breen’s energy dampening weapons in place, Federation and allied forces were back on the offensive. The Lambda Paz was able to hold her own during a twenty-day standoff in the Daxura System. On the fourteenth day, however, the Dominion and Breen were able to turn the tide by overcoming Klingon and Romulan cloaking technology. Limis ordered a strategic withdraw while executing a bold plan to turn the battle back in the Alliance’s favor.

    “All Luna and Prometheus wings, move out,” the captain ordered. “Lay down cover fire for any nearby disabled ships. But tell the Epimetheus to hold position, Mister Huckaby.

    The latter order caught both Commander Kozar and Lieutenant Willis Huckaby by surprise.

    Ignoring the confusion on their faces, Limis continued issuing orders. “Helm, take us deeper into the asteroid field.”

    “Captain?” Carson gasped as if unable to comprehend the logic of that order.

    “Do it,” Limis confirmed. “Come to course two-one mark three-five-five. Full impulse.”

    Kozar took several steps closer to the captain’s chair to punctuate his pending question. “Captain, what are you doing?” he demanded.

    Limis ignored Kozar’s inquiry and arched her head towards Morrison. “How many tactical nukes do we have in our arsenal?” she asked him.

    “Fourteen,” Morrison answered, trying to hide his skepticism. “Attach six radiogenic warheads to the quantum torpedoes,”
    Limis continued. “Get down to the torpedo bay and lend a hand.
    Epimetheus, follow us in so you can cover us.”

    The serene voice of Commander Selek piped in through the ship-to-ship comm chatter. “Captain, if I may ask the logic behind this course of action…”

    “No, you may not,” Limis unflinchingly replied with a collectedness that belied the stereotypical Vulcan calmness. “Put us on course.”

    Carson quickly entered the new course, and then rose from her chair to address the captain. “Captain,” she said, “the starboard impulse engine is a little sluggish and could give out at any time. I should probably help out with repairs down there.”

    “Go ahead,” Limis answered with an approving nod. “Kozar, take the helm, Huckaby, tactical.”

    “I wasn’t on the bridge at the time that plan was executed,” Carson reminded Wozniak.

    “But you did carry out the order bring the ship deeper in the asteroid belt even as the rest of your wing was in retreat,” replied Wozniak. “And surely you heard the computer’s radiation warnings.”

    Six different explosions originated from the three asteroids as the Lambda Paz was speeding away. The blast encompassed a very large area, vaporizing an entire squad of Jem’Hadar and Breen fighters within ten thousand kilometers. The explosive shockwave still clipped the Lambda Paz and Epimetheus.

    Kozar kept a heavy grip on the helm to hold the ship steady as the bridge rattled. “Impulse engines are out. I’m trying to reset the inertial dampers.” With a few quick commands entered on the console, the shaking stopped.

    Limis gathered herself, brushed off her uniform, and sat back in the command chair. “Epimetheus, what’s your status?” she inquired with hope they were in better shape.

    “Warp and impulse engines off-line,” Selek replied calmly, but ominously. “Shields are failing, and we cannot reattach the three modules.”

    “Not to mention,” Huckaby chimed in with a grim tone, “getting out of this part of the asteroid field before the shields fail completely. Radiation levels at ninety millirads per minute and rising. At this rate, we’re looking at lethal exposure in about thirty-seven minutes.”


    “We still got out of there in one piece,” Huckaby insisted during his interview.

    “Seems like blind luck to me,” Katel curtly replied.

    “Warning,” the computer ominously intoned, as Limis was about to speak. “Radiation levels at one hundred fifty millirads per minute and rising. Lethal exposure in twenty-seven minutes.”

    Limis sighed and rolled her eyes, mulling whether to silence additional audio warnings. “Status of your tractor beam?” she asked Selek.

    “All three modules’ primary tractor emitters are nonfunctional,” the Vulcan commander ambivalently replied.

    “Why did I get the feeling you were going to say that?” Limis wondered with a frustrated scoff.

    “I am uncertain.”

    Kozar signed off on a repair order and handed a padd back to a Trill male crewman. He had also been listening to Limis’s conversation with Selek. “All of our tractor beam emitters are in full working order,” he offered while slowly sauntering up to the captain. “We could transport components over to Epimetheus. “Of course, the radiation will limit its effectiveness.”

    “How long will it take to remove them and integrate into their systems?” Limis asked, eager for any bit of promising news.

    Huckaby was entering probability calculations at ops upon hearing this suggestion. “That’s the problem,” he chimed in. “Forty minutes.”

    Limis shook her head feeling a mix of dread and amusement. “At least the ship will still be intact. But I’m still pushing for a stay of execution. Huckaby, lend a hand. One extra pair of hands won’t hurt.”

    Kozar took over ops once Huckaby made a quick beeline for the port turbolift. “Radiation protocol is in place,” he said. “Hopefully with hyronaline being pumped into the air supply and sh’Aqba working to feed any power that’s available to the shields, that’ll buy us some extra time.”

    “It’ll have to,” Limis retorted. “The only other thing we can do is hope to hell we won’t have to deal with any more Jem’Hadar or Breen ships.” She then sat in the command chair and stared straight at the viewscreen.

    “An enemy patrol could’ve blasted you to ash during the time you were improvising an escape plan,” Katel contended.

    “We were counting on them avoiding the rising radiation levels,” Huckaby offered. “And thankfully, keeping an eye on the shields and implementing standard radiation protocols bought us extra time.”

    Katel made some notes on her padd while nodding skeptically. “Yet, she unilaterally chose to put all your lives at risk.”

    Huckaby rolled his eyes in annoyance at his interviewer’s last remark. “That’s the risk we all take. But we do what a superior tells us; even knowing we may not survive because more often than not they know better than us.”

    “Even so,” Katel persisted, “you probably still feel that was a reckless choice; one that could have cost all your lives.”

    “Only because we spent the last two years fighting for a cause that was far more important than any one life, even my own. Sometimes, that required making reckless choices.”


    “You are aware that when a commanding officer issues an illegal order,” Katel reminded Lieutenant Neeley, “a subordinate is ethically obligated not to follow that order.”

    “What are you getting at?” Neeley demanded with an accusatory stare.

    “We’re going to need Mister Galloway’s help if we’re to get off this planet,” Limis informed her away team that was stranded on a dank jungle planet.

    Neeley rolled her eyes and scoffed to express her annoyance at the very suggestion of asking for a barely conscious man’s assistance. But Limis had made up her mind since Galloway would be dead sooner or later.

    “Wake him,” Limis instructed.

    Sergeant Samaritan Bowers reluctantly complied, injecting Les Galloway with a stimulant. Limis looked over to the Marine soldier, whose breathing was slow and labored. “We need that comm-unit fixed,” the captain stated. “You up for talking Ensign Sullivan through the repairs?”

    “Sure,” Galloway wheezed. “I may still die in this muck, but I can still strive to leave here alive.

    “The three of you made a conscious choice to hasten a man’s death,” Katel argued. “That is something no reputable medical practitioner would ever do, even if that patient were beyond saving.”


    “The idea that anyone would take such action is appalling,” Doctor Markalis remarked. “Thankfully, Captain Limis has never put me in such a position.”

    “Do you trust your captain?” Katel inquired.


    “And in return, she trusts you. That is very flattering. And so sooner or later, she’ll ask you to do something you find morally reprehensible—something that goes against your solemn oath to do no harm.”

    Markalis scoffed. “You think I haven’t already done so in the line of duty?”

    “I have four different strains of the virus,” Markalis informed a group of Augments she had volunteered to infiltrate as part of an undercover operation for Section 31. “Human and Betazoid augments could be immune to one or all of them. I don’t have enough antibody samples to run further tests.”

    “Of course you do,” Rhys Darcen answered sharply. “The four of us.”

    Markalis was at a loss for words. Was he actually suggesting that she infect him and his followers with the virus? “You don’t mean…” she began with hesitation.

    “Yes,” Darcen snapped. “I want you to infect each of us with the virus.” Seeing the look of worry on his lover’s face that one of them would die, he added, “Some ideals are worth dying for, Ileana.”

    “Yes, my love,” Ileana Roshanak replied, as they kissed.

    Markalis prepared vials of the four different virus strains and injected Grimaud, then Ileana, and then Snežana Ilochko. When she stepped over to Rhys, she had a morbid feeling just from his cold demeanor. “Come on,” he snapped. Aurellan placed the last vial into the hypospray injected him with the virus.

    “Now that that’s over with,” he said with a slight grin. “Our destination is Ventani Two.”

    Darcen saw Markalis’s eyebrows twitch at that planet’s mention. “I trust you know of it, Aurellan,” he continued.

    “It was the home of Tret Akleen,” Markalis replied. “He’s considered the father of the modern day Cardassian Union.”

    “Correct. It is not one of the most strategically significant sectors of Dominion space. But it would be a demoralizing blow to the Cardassians.”

    “It would send a message that the same fate would befall other planets in the Cardassian Union,” Ileana added.

    “Even their home planet,” Snežana chimed in.

    “A situation she placed you in out of an obsession with bringing down a so-called rogue branch of Starfleet,” Katel offered.

    “I’ve had plenty of dealings with the supposedly non-existent Section 31,” Aurellan demurely replied.

    Commander Ziminske Aris, the Bajoran alias of the medical ship USS Semmelweis’s first officer, pulled up a chair out from under a nearby table and seated herself across from Aurellan. Markalis had just confronted Commander Ziminske with a discovery that a weaponized virus manufactured by the Dominion was actually a disease meant to kill the shapeshifting Founders of the Dominion.

    “Section 31 did, in fact, synthesize this virus,” Ziminske calmly explained. “But that was when it was under different leadership. They didn’t bother to devise a cure since humanoids face no danger of accidental exposure. After a recent changing of the guard, our doctors have worked exhaustively on a cure. And what we couldn’t develop in three years, you devised in a day. Congratulations.”

    Aurellan rolled her eyes, such praise feeling hollow knowing what she knew. “But you’re still covering it up,” she said, unable to contain her unadulterated shock that members of the morally superior Starfleet had conspired to commit genocide.

    “Of course we are,” Ziminske snapped. She stood up and towered over Aurellan. “Because, as far as the Founders are concerned, all non-shapeshifting races are a threat to them. And for something like this to become public knowledge would only validate that perception. So you are not to breathe a word of this to anyone. And that is an order.”

    Aurellan had followed such orders to the letter, but discreetly reported the Section 31 agent’s criminal activities to Lambda Paz security. Ziminske had since been incarcerated and Limis had her moved to Starbase G-6’s infirmary to have her fake Bajoran nose ridges removed. Aurellan later paid Ziminske a visit while she was recuperating under heavy guard.

    “We wouldn’t want the general public to know that a rogue Federation organization is the reason the Founders are dying,” Aurellan sarcastically remarked. “And the Federation’s image as a benevolent multi-planetary alliance would be tainted. And we don’t want that, do we?”

    “I’m glad you see it that way,” Ziminske answered with a wry grin.

    Aurellan gritted her teeth. “The choice was clear,” she confidently stated. “You reminded me that we can’t save every patient no matter how much we might want to. We can’t fix every problem.

    “When I first heard about Section 31, it was like finding out a childhood hero was anything but a hero. I was shaken to learn that a branch of Starfleet was okay with using biological and chemical weapons. But what could I do about that? Here, I saw a chance to do right and I took it.”


    “So you’re saying she decided that the lives of two senior officers were more important than that of a noncom in your Marine contingent.”

    Wozniak was making notes on a padd while conducting his interview sh’Aqba in engineering. Sh’Aqba had to oversee a maintenance session at the time of her interview was scheduled, and Wozniak was more than happy to accommodate. They had been discussing a confrontation with the Dominion during Lambda Paz’s maiden voyage when the pilots of a shuttle were forced to crash land on a planet behind enemy lines. Sh’Aqba had been left in command of the ship while Limis chose to lead an away mission to rescue the missing crewmembers. And she still vividly remembered Kozar’s annoyance with the captain’s absence upon his return from a reconnaissance survey of the planet.

    “Of course not, sir,” sh’Aqba snapped while overseeing an ensign’s work at one of consoles just outside the warp core chamber. She tapped a few keys on the console and focused her full attention on Wozniak. “She’s an experienced soldier who knows not to leave her colleagues behind.”

    “Yet, in the process,” Wozniak persisted, “one Marine was killed; three others were wounded, including your medical officer. And she chose to abandon one of the officers she was seeking to rescue.”

    “It’s an age-old Earth aphorism,” sh’Aqba shot back as she paced briskly towards a nearby line of control consoles, “not a hard-and-fast protocol. She was prepared to give those two officers the best chance of survival, but not at the expense of an entire six person rescue team.”

    Wozniak was easily able to keep pace. “So it ultimately still came down to a numbers game, did it not?” he offered, upon catching up to her.

    “I wouldn’t go that far. And I hardly envy such choices, even when I’ve had to make them.”

    “I’ve read your report regarding the actions you had taken to save the ship while it was in the Daxura asteroid belt,” Wozniak remarked, in reference to when sh’Aqba manually sealed an emergency bulkhead at the risk of her and her unborn child dying from radiation poisoning or a dwindling air supply. “I’m not sure I’d be willing put myself at risk like that. Nevertheless, I’d still classify every decision Captain Limis during this particular incident as based on serious lapses in judgment.”

    Wozniak continued making on his padds while Sh’Aqba rolled her eyes and walked away, muttering an Andorian swear.


    On the bridge, Wozniak conducted his interview with Ensign Goris misch Rev, a Tellarite who served as operations manager during the swing shift. He was also an expert physicist and a well-trained pilot, so he held a versatile array of responsibilities on the Lambda Paz the last two years. As a former member of the Maquis, he had his share of experiences fighting in the trenches, prompting Limis to recruit him for a mission that culminated in the destruction of Sentok Nor, the liberation of Betazed, and the rescue of Limis’s son. It was a still a mission that had its fair share of obstacles.

    “In effect, she threw you to the wolves,” Wozniak inferred.

    “Of course not!” M’Rev snapped while dividing his attention between his interviewer and the port mission operations console.

    Wozniak circled around M’Rev so that he was face-to-face with him. “Let’s review the chain of events here,” he said while making notes on his padd. “Captain Limis recruits you for a mission behind enemy lines. Your part in this is to pilot a runabout to a secret location where an informant, who is a former colleague of yours in the Maquis, arranges to have your party transported to Sentok Nor in the hope of sabotaging the station orbiting Betazed. But once you’re aboard the station, the ‘insider’ who lured your team to the station double-crosses you and has you captured and tortured for information.”

    “Gul Lemec oversaw the interrogation,” M’Rev recalled, resisting the urge to utter a Tellarite swear. “Thalek had been providing important tactical data on the war effort for months before that mission. And he ultimately sacrificed his life to assure our escape.”

    “It remains to be seen whether that information divulged to the Federation was genuine or not. But did it not occur to your captain that Chief of Security Thalek might end up betraying you?”

    M’Rev sighed, not sure if Wozniak was trying to goad him into saying something negative about Limis. “I’m not at liberty to say. Most of us got out of there alive along with her son. She may have had a Plan B lined up.”

    “Did she inform you of any Plan B?”

    M’Rev hesitated momentarily. “Well, no, but…”

    “I’d say then,” Wozniak interrupted, “that she was caught completely off guard while preoccupied with a personal errand of mercy.”

    And he so noted that on his padd.


    Of all the crewmembers being interviewed, only Chief Petty Officer Willem Margose was willing to speak ill of Limis. He had requested a transfer off Lambda Paz a year earlier during a layover at Starbase G-6. The ship had experienced numerous malfunctions which appeared to be the workings of a Changeling when Limis discovered the remains of a dead Changeling in her ready room.

    Though further investigation revealed the true culprits as the parasites who once infiltrated Starfleet Headquarters, a blood test falsely implicated Margose as a shapeshifter, and he was briefly incarcerated. While he was in the brig, Limis accused him of “hiding behind” the rights of Federation citizens as an intimidation tactic. That did not sit well with Margose, who promptly transferred off. Recent circumstances, such as the destruction of the USS Vigilant would soon lead back to the Lambda Paz’s engineering department.

    “She and the doc faked that test,” he paraphrased. “I’m sure of it. It was probably to cover up the fact that one of them was the real shapeshifter. Or maybe it’s because she has absolutely no regard for the Federation Constitution or any of the basic principles the Federation was founded on.”

    Wozniak grinned wryly, as if he had hit on a veritable gold mine of incriminating information on the Lambda Paz’s captain.


    Sh’Aqba removed a beverage from a replicator tray and headed for a nearby table in one corner of the crew lounge. Lieutenants Carson and Huckaby were already seated across from each other at that table. Sh’Aqba smiled to greet them and sat in between them. She felt a little envious that they got to drink alcohol and she didn’t because of her pregnancy. It was one of the costs of carrying an unborn child, she kept reminding herself.

    With the war over and the ship on layover, the crew had more normal duty shifts. Some of the department heads and lower ranking bridge officers had developed a tradition of getting together for drinks every evening. This trio shared a few anecdotes about their days when M’Rev sat down with them.

    “I just got out of my interview,” he said with a sigh. “I thought the whole point of these interviews was to judge whether everyone was fit to continue serving in Starfleet. But Wozniak just asked a bunch of questions about the captain.”

    Carson’s eyes widened with confusion and skepticism. “He just asked me about the about a battle in the war,” she remarked. “When we seeded asteroids with nuclear explosives.”

    “Katel asked me about that, too,” Huckaby added. He and Carson shot quick glances at sh’Aqba.

    “Wozniak had a few questions about our first mission,” she informed them.

    “The reconnaissance survey in the Tong-Beak Nebula?” Carson asked.

    Sh’Aqba nodded. Each of them exchanged quick glances, suddenly having an eerie sense that the purpose of these interviews was truly to portray their captain as unfit for command. But what could any of them do?
  4. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Four

    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 miner?”

    “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.
  5. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Five

    Shinar sh’Aqba sat upwards on a sickbay biobed while anxiously watching Doctor Markalis looking studiously at the main diagnostic console. She stared at the incubation unit her unborn child would be transported to with amazement at how much the interior resembled her womb on the numerous medical scans she had undergone. While feeling a greater sense of hope that her child would survive a normal Andorian gestation period, she also wondered if she would feel a sense of loss once this developing life was removed from her body.

    “I’ve locked onto the fetus,” Markalis announced. “Initiating transport…now.”

    The incubation unit flashed as the fetus gradually materialized within it. Shinar gasped and stared in awe at her partially developed offspring. She stared straight into its eyes even knowing it was not remotely aware of its mother on the other side of the transparency. She gently perched the tips of her fingers against the transparency hoping to establish the mental bond with it that was broken just a moment ago. “It’s so small,” she observed, recalling the slightly greater size of newborn Andorian babies she had seen. “Do you know the sex yet?”

    Aurellan stepped away from the diagnostic and stared at the partially developed fetus’s beady eyes. “If it were fully Andorian,” she said, “I’d say it was a shen. But I couldn’t say right now since it’s an Andorian-Rigelian hybrid.”

    Shinar lowered her head, being reminded of her lover’s death. During this latest visit to sickbay, she hadn’t put much thought into her child being half Rigelian until Aurellan had called attention to that fact.

    “Sorry,” Aurellan blurted apologetically.

    “It’s okay,” Shinar replied, clasping Aurellan’s shoulder. “I’m feeling so many mixed emotions. I’m constantly reminded that Erhlich is gone and he left me with an illegitimate child, while this small life is all that’s left of him. I tried to think of this baby as a burden that I could absolve myself of by ignoring it. Seeing it now makes me cherish it more than what it was inside of me.”

    Aurellan took a quick look at Shinar and smiled. “I bet you can’t wait till it’s born.”

    “These next three months will certainly feel like an eternity,” Shinar declared as she allowed a joyful tear escape her eye.


    Limis Vircona was seated behind the ready room desk when Director Wozniak entered. As she stood up, she stared blankly at him. She had been practicing that poker face in the mirror ever since Wozniak and Katel arranged to come aboard her ship. She slowly circled the desk and offered Wozniak her chair. “Saving the best for last, I see,” she acerbically remarked.

    “That’s kind of the idea since this interview looks to be the longest,” Wozniak replied. He nonchalantly headed for the chair he was just offered and sat right down as if the desk was his--activating the desk monitor and making notes on a padd that he was copying from the screen.

    Limis let out a stifled chuckle and sat down in one of the guest chairs. “I figured that as well.”

    Wozniak clasped his hands on his desk and smirked, which Limis knew to be an insincere affectation. “Let’s get started, shall we? Going all the way back to this ship’s maiden voyage. I’ve heard what everybody has had to say regarding your decision to lead a rescue party into a potential combat zone. Now I’d like to hear it in your own words.

    “Who else’s words would it be?”

    Unfazed by that quip, Wozniak looked at the monitor as if he had to refer to the captain’s logs to think of a question. “Starting with your decision to lead a team after the shuttle piloted by Commander Logan and Lieutenant Carson crash-landed on the planet.”

    He then looked straight at Limis with a scolding glower on his face. Limis was more amused than intimidated. After all, from her perspective, this Starfleet bureaucrat was nowhere near as scary as a Cardassian or Jem’Hadar determined to kill her. She kept a bland expression, though, so as not to come across as arrogant or complacent now that the questioning had begun.

    “Under Starfleet Code, Section 12, Paragraph 4,” Wozniak continued, “the second most senior officer should have been the leader of that away team--in this particular case, Lieutenant Commander Morrison.”

    “If that was set in stone, would not Jean-Luc Picard have been court-martialed a dozen times over?”

    “Of course not,” Wozniak responded while leaning back against his chair, “because of Paragraph 5 giving a starship commander broad discretion in those matters. In this case, however, Morrison certainly was capable of leading such a team as someone who fought in the trenches during the Cardassian wars.”

    “True, but he and the Marines still had limited experience going against the Jem’Hadar,” Limis offered. “I provided that experience that they lacked.”

    Wozniak nodded as if he agreed but wouldn’t let that stand in the way of his ultimate goal, whatever that was. “I see. What of your decision to put more lives in jeopardy in search of two officers who may or may not have survived the crash?”

    “I don’t follow,” Limis said with feigned ignorance.

    “The worst-case scenario was that neither of the missing officers survived the crash and you and every member of your team was killed in an enemy ambush.”

    Limis leaned forward, placing herself eye-to-eye with her interrogator. “That is a risk that is taken in every mission with the potential for combat. And the worst-case scenario is that whole ships are lost with all hands. Starfleet officers are trained in trying to minimize such tragic losses. But no amount of training can prepare even the most experienced officer for the unknown. I did what I felt gave them the best chance at survival while at the same time minimizing loss of life.”

    “Which is why, according to your log, you chose to abandon the rescue while your team was under heavy fire. And had Morrison followed that order to the letter, two lives still would have been lost.”

    Limis sighed, resisting the urge to suggest Wozniak was hard of hearing. “That’s the risk we take. We do not abandon our people just as Michael Eddington didn’t abandon us even though he was in jail awaiting sentencing. True, he was killed and so were many others when we landed on Athos Four. Many of us still survived and brought to Starfleet an unwavering determination to achieve victory by any means necessary in the war with the Dominion.”

    “So you’re okay with sacrificing a few lives for a greater good?”

    Limis scoffed in annoyance at his suggestion that she trivialized all those deaths that happened on her watch. “I wouldn’t put it so callously,” she insisted while leaning back in her chair. She then jabbed her forefinger on the desk to emphasize her point. “Not a day goes by where I don’t mourn those who lost their lives. The basic goal of any combat mission is to achieve victory and come home alive. That’s far from a realistic goal, but I still strive to achieve it in every such mission I lead.”

    Unfettered, Wozniak kept going. “Ironically, though, you chose to trivialize the life of a Cardassian even though he was a noncombatant.”

    “He had information that could have gone a long way towards winning the war,” Limis matter-of-factly answered, even though she did berate herself constantly that the interrogation resulted in Mirren Hadar’s death. For the last two years, she asked herself if she could handle the situation differently even if all that soul-searching yielded the same conclusion. She couldn’t have done things differently and wouldn’t if a similar situation arose.

    Wozniak perched his chin on his clasped hands. “All evidence seems to point to Mirren Hadar clandestinely seeking a means of undermining the Dominion’s efforts. Your pursuit of the thieves led your ship to a location where Dominion and Federation technical secrets were being passed off to the Romulan Empire.”

    Limis shook her head and leaned back in her chair. “I don’t pretend to understand the politics of the situation, but he knew the location of a ketracel-white plant. His death was tragic; but if I had to do it over again, I would, even knowing now that taking out that facility didn’t decisively win or lose the war. It was still a damn good start.”

    Wozniak leaned forward and took a quick at the padd. That move didn’t fool Limis as he probably memorized every one of her controversial decisions. “Even when your aim is to minimize loss of life, some of your actions have seemed reckless, starting with your one-person mission to rescue your medical officer.”

    “I felt responsible for putting an officer with no experience with Intelligence fieldwork in a dangerous situation,” Limis candidly recalled. “The responsibility fell on me alone to come to her rescue.”

    “Even so,” Wozniak offered, “a commanding officer putting such great responsibilities squarely on her own shoulders can be a liability, can it not?”

    “I still try to set realistic goals for myself.”

    “Such as your reported experiences in an alternate universe when you undermined a mission that would have brought a quick end to the Dominion War--a war the Federation of that universe was on the precipice of losing.”

    Limis snuck a peek at Wozniak’s padd, which not surprisingly was blank. “What you are leaving out is the nature of that mission. It was one to have Cardassia Prime and many other worlds in enemy territory sucked into quantum singularities.”

    “In other words,” Wozniak replied, raising his right forefinger in Limis’s direction, “you do draw a line when it comes to bending the rules. But in doing so, you ignored the Prime Directive, specifically sub-order fourteen regarding interference in the affairs of parallel universes.”

    “A convenient copout from doing what I felt was unequivocally the morally right thing to do.”

    “So you believe all Starfleet regulations are just a list of suggestions?”

    “No,” Limis snapped, needing an extra effort to keep her calm. “There are times and places where those regulations apply. A good officer knows when not to blindly follow them so rigidly.”

    “I’ll take that as a yes,” Wozniak said, noting that on his padd. “You feel you are acting for a greater good that the rest of us aren’t smart enough to notice. That seemed to be the case during the mission to disable the Dyson Sphere when you supposedly learned its function. In effect, it violated a wartime agreement with the Romulans.”

    “My logs indicate, based on unusual astronomical phenomenon at the time, the veracity of those claims made by a time-traveler from the future,” Limis persisted.

    “The veracity of those claims is still under review.”

    Limis rolled her eyes in frustration. “If you expect me to recant any of these actions, Director,” she said with a candid shake of her head, “you’re wasting your time. I made decisions that I felt would have the most positive impact. I do regret the loss of life that resulted. As for the decisions themselves, truthfully, I do not regret them for one second.”

    “It is for that reason,” Wozniak proclaimed, “that I will be recommending that you be kept on strict supervisory duty in whatever capacity you end up serving.” He stood up, circled around the desk, and sat down in the empty guest chair. “Meanwhile, those former Maquis crewmembers who have not yet resigned will be granted honorable discharges.”

    Now that all the cards were being shown, Limis snorted derisively while staring at Wozniak with disgust. Her only regret now was that she didn’t toss Wozniak and his civilian law consultant out the nearest airlock when she had the chance. Then again, that wouldn’t have changed her immediate fate. She stood up and stormed out of the ready room. It was all she could do to keep her from smashing that man’s arrogant face, as well as ignore the unfair reality of her current situation. After two years of dodging Jem’Hadar strikes, the rigid bureaucracy was going to be keeping her on an even tighter leash than before.

    Limis sat in the empty lounge staring through the viewport at the stars ahead, wondering in what capacity she might end up serving. She nursed a mug of raktajino that had long since gone cold. Yet she saw little sense in replicating another warm cup of coffee. The caffeine might have lifted out of the mental rut the last few days left her in, but would not alter the reality of her future. She was about to be placed on strict supervisory duty, possibly in a more administrative position on a starbase. It was still no way to treat a war hero whose off-book actions had more positive than negative outcomes.

    She was completely oblivious to the door on her left swooshing open and Rebecca Sullivan stepping in. In fact, Limis was not aware of Rebecca’s approach until she sauntered up to her and seated herself in a chair to her right. “Can I assume something terrible is about to happen?” Rebecca inquired with a somewhat disingenuous frown.

    Limis smirked, knowing that Rebecca’s look of feigned sympathy was her way of coaxing friends into talking about their trouble. “How did your interview go?”

    “I devoutly followed your advice,” Rebecca candidly replied, taking a sip of tea. “I answered every question honestly and I kept calm even as that shrill wench tried to twist my words to make you look bad.”

    “I didn’t mean to imply anything, Becca,” Limis needlessly assured her friend. “It looks as though they had already made their decision.”

    “And that is?”

    Limis sighed with reluctance at revealing that answer. Of course, she knew Rebecca and the other Maquis crewmembers would find out eventually. “They still consider me something of a valuable asset. As flattering as that sounds, it still feels like a punch in the gut that the rest of the Maquis crewmembers will be granted honorable discharges.”

    Rebecca shook her head in disbelief. “I was really hoping they could still use someone with my ‘unique talents’. Guess it won’t work out that way.”

    “You’re sure taking it well,” Limis remarked, thinking back to Rebecca being hospitalized on Betazed a few weeks back because of a drug overdose. Rebecca was facing something of an identity crisis now that the Dominion War had ended, but that wasn’t showing right now. “From my perspective,” Limis added, “they’re just removing my support mechanism; weeding out those who are the most likely to come to my defense.”

    Rebecca leaned forward and clasped Limis’s right wrist. “So you’ll just take it lying down?”

    “There’s not much I can do to change Wozniak’s mind,” Limis insisted. “He’ll make his recommendation to Starfleet Command, which they’ll probably follow. And this time, Admiral Ross’s arm-twisting may not be enough.”

    Rebecca set her cup of tea down on the table and held Limis’s right hand with both her hands. “You’re still not the giving up type. You and I could have just accepted those horribly one-sided treaties the Feds signed with the Cardassians and moved on. It was beyond the control of us ordinary citizens eking out a living on the Cardassian frontier. But when my parents were killed after one of those treaties was signed, we both agreed to do what Starfleet was unwilling to do.”

    Limis leaned forward, staring straight at the window and set her coffee mug down on the table as if being struck by an epiphany. “In a nutshell,” she said, “change the rules of the game.”
  6. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Six

    Morrison sat at his desk staring at a padd when the doorbell chimed. He took another look at the security protocols he was revising and set the padd down. “Come in,” he said. Having realized he was dozing off, he paced towards the replicator and requested a hot cup of coffee. He blew on the boiling liquid and took a quick sip that partially reawakened him. Seeing that Lisa Neeley had entered office, he tensed up again. He gently set his coffee mug on the desk in anticipation of another heated argument.

    Seeing the angst in his face, Neeley smirked lightly in the hope of easing the tension in the room. “I just wanted to let you know,” she said, crossing her arms across her chest, “I’ll be withdrawing my request to serve here. I have no right to cause you further emotional turmoil. I’d just keep trying to string you along while you try to seek a more committed relationship that I’m just not ready for. And that would make us even bigger liabilities in our positions.”

    Morrison was expecting something like that these last few days. And he suddenly felt both relief and guilt that he was getting his wish—to be rid of a woman who would only play games with his emotions. Though thinking back to the confrontation had shortly after the VIP guests came aboard, that would be selfish and rob his greenest crewmembers of a helpful mentor.

    He sighed and sat at the front of his desk hoping not to step any closer to her. “You don’t have to leave on my account,” he offered. “Like you said, you have a strong rapport with a lot of the Marine and security officers. Some of them are still rather young and inexperienced. I wouldn’t want you leaving here because of a personal conflict with your superior officer.”

    “You may be okay with my being here now,” Neeley replied, unfolding her arms and taking tiny steps closer to the desk. “But what about later on down the road?”

    Morrison stayed put and tightly gripped the edge of his desk. “When I walked in on you with another man, it hit me really hard. I was upset and I acted childishly. What we both seem to forget is that we had a good working relationship for nearly a year, though, before things got personal between us.”

    Neeley sighed, nodding in agreement. “Before hormones got the best of us. So it’s probably a good idea to go back to keeping our relationship professional from here on out.”

    “You’re absolutely right that we should do everything we can to keep it professional,” Morrison concurred. “If, in a year though, I’m still single and you’re still single and you’re ready for a more serious commitment, I reserve the right to change my mind.”

    Neeley chuckled mildly. “I wouldn’t bank on it though,” she said with a smile. “I’m just hoping our plans for the here and now work out.”

    They quickly shook hands to finalize their verbal contract. Afterwards, they quickly walked off in opposite directions to avoid an awkward silence that was usually the build-up to some of some of their sexual escapades. Morrison felt that whole exchange was too easy until he saw that Neeley was gone upon sitting back behind his desk. His only question now was whether he could honor the agreement he had just made knowing it was easier said than done.


    Limis quickly marched into the briefing room, where Wozniak was staring at crew logs on the primary monitor. She paced right past him while he making notes on a padd and sidled closer to him. “If the brass still wants to keep me around, but on a tight leash,” she said. “I have a counterproposal.”

    Wozniak sighed, indicating annoyance with her rather discrete approach, and turned around to face Limis. “Go on,” he said, making no effort to hide his exasperation.

    “Obviously, a few admirals at Command still feel a need for my services,” Limis continued, “but it’ll have to be under the same conditions as when I had agreed to re-enlist two years ago. Ensign Sullivan, Ensign M’Rev, and all the other Maquis will continue to serve aboard this vessel.”

    “I will relay your message,” Wozniak replied with no hesitation in his voice. “I should be able to pull a few strings. I still can’t promise anything.”

    Limis silently gloated that her bluff was not called. That told her that a few admirals did, in fact, value the kind of out-of-the-box thinker she was. “Do what you can,” she said, keeping a blank expression, “but anything less than what I am demanding and I walk.”


    Less than an hour later, the captain and first officer saw off the investigating team. Commander Logan was alongside them slowly sauntering through the corridor. That both Wozniak and Katel seemed in no hurry to leave the ship seemed to Limis to be the universe playing a cruel trick—making her and the rest of the crew continue to wonder when they would leave.

    “I will make my recommendation,” Wozniak cryptically remarked, “and you should know their decision about who stays and who goes in three days.”

    Limis nodded lightly and turned her head to her left to address Logan. “And what about this ship passing inspection?”

    “Based on everything we’ve seen,” Logan candidly replied, “the ship should certainly pass inspection with flying colors.”

    “Anything less than that would be blow to your ego,” Kozar added with feigned cheerfulness.

    “And that’s when you don’t want to be around me,” Logan said, even knowing nobody else would be amused by that remark.

    The group stepped into the transporter room. Katel and Logan stepped onto the padd while Wozniak offered Limis a courtesy handshake. “Here’s hoping you and your crew well, Captain.”

    “Thank you, Director,” Limis replied with a polite grin while accepting the handshake.

    Wozniak nodded at Kozar and stepped onto the transporter pad. The transporter chief did not need an order from the captain to beam the visitors away. Katel flashed a twinkling smile in Kozar’s direction as all three of them dematerialized.

    Kozar and Limis then exchanged quick glances, both feeling relieved that those two inquisitors had left the ship. Limis then stared at the empty transporter pad as another thought crossed her mind. Very soon, the Lambda Paz would leave spacedock on its first postwar mission.

    Hence, business as usual again.


    Mariana Katel entered her office on Earth not expecting any visitors to be waiting on her. She set her briefcase down on the desk and opened it. While she was sorting through a stack of padds, the chair behind the desk spun around. A tall and barrel-chested blond-haired man was sitting in the chair, and he was dressed in the black leather jumpsuit of Section 31.

    “Did everything go as planned?” Cole eagerly inquired. “Will Director Wozniak recommend that Captain Limis be kept on a tighter leash?”

    “Not exactly,” Katel answered after a brief hesitation. “She bribed the Director into recommending that she retain command and that her crew remain intact.”

    Cole clicked his tongue and nodded, expressing disappointment and admiration. “The Bureau’s taught her well—maybe a little too well. The unfortunate result is that she remains in a good position to continue to try to derail us. But we have an ace in the hole that is guaranteed to end her Starfleet career.”

    He turned the desk monitor around so that Katel could see the screen. The service record of Ziminske Aris, the supposedly deceased first officer of the Starfleet hospital ship Semmelweis was displayed on the screen. Doctor Aurellan Markalis had turned Ziminske in to Lambda Paz security after Ziminske admitted to having been involved in covering up Section 31’s creation of the disease that very nearly eradicated the Founders. To prevent herself from implicating her co-conspirators, Ziminske had faked her death by escaping aboard a shuttle that was quickly destroyed. Cole had already attempted to rattle Limis by reconstituting surveillance footage from the Starbase G-6 holding cells of Limis threatening and assaulting Ziminske; evidence with which Admiral Jellico confronted Limis.

    “We’ll redouble our efforts,” Cole declared, “to implicate Limis in the apparent death of one of our agents.”