Starship Reykjavík – Conduct Unbecoming


Rear Admiral
Rear Admiral
June 11, 2322. Starbase 177, Planet Pacifica, Pacifica System

The setting of the beachfront estate surrounded by sundancer palms and xenoferns was very nearly idyllic.

It was only the presence of armed and armored Starfleet security personnel patrolling the beach and grounds, an irregular sight in such an environment, that disturbed the illusion of paradise.

Commodore Nandi Trujillo sat on the veranda, clad in a diaphanous Tholian silk shift over a single-piece swimsuit. Her five-foot-eight-inch frame was toned, hinting at a physical discipline that matched her emotional reserve. Her lustrous black hair had begun to gray in streaks in her late twenties, a matrilineal trait passed down through multiple generations of her family. Now in her mid-forties, she’d decided to surrender to genetics and had ceased dying the gray out. Her face was broad and deceptively soft, with a prominent jawline and wide, expressive brown eyes.

She had just returned from a late morning swim under the watchful gaze of their security detail. Now she sat, cup of coffee in hand, watching the palms fronds sway gently in the breeze.

She and her crew aboard the starship Reykjavík had just been granted short leave following their most recent mission. While the crew frolicked on the ocean planet below, their ship and its squadron-mates underwent repairs within dry-dock gantries in orbit.

Their mission had ostensibly been a secretive reconnaissance into the depths of the Molari Badlands in search of any hidden weapons of mass destruction left by the Sphere Builders. Those enigmatic aliens, responsible for the creation of the Delphic Expanse in the 22nd century, had made three known attempts to attack the Federation by proxy in the past one-hundred seventy years.

Their latest plot, involving drawing the Tholians across the Federation border some six months earlier, had nearly started a war between the two governments, spurring a classified operation to scour Federation space for further hidden caches of Sphere Builder technology. As such, Trujillo and her small task force occasionally engaged in the exploration of stellar phenomena which might conceal such devices in hopes of preempting the next such assault.

Trujillo’s squadron had instead stumbled quite by accident onto the primary base of operations for a particularly pernicious Orion pirate ring, a major hub of the Syndicate responsible for criminal activity across several adjoining sectors. That chance discovery had led to a week-long running battle within the Molari Badlands, a region known for its plasma storms, gravimetric shear, and thermobaric clouds that had sundered hundreds of spacecraft in the past two centuries.

Within this cloud of horrors, Reykjavík and her escorts, Gol and Zelenskyy, had played a lethal game of cat-and-mouse, with ambush and counter-ambush, minefields and neck-or-nothing pursuits through asteroid fields until the last of the marauders had been captured or destroyed.

All three of their ships had suffered damage to varying degrees in those frantic battles, though thankfully they had taken few casualties.

Now, as they relaxed under the rays of Pacifica’s G-type star, Starfleet security protected their vacationing crews from Syndicate reprisals.

Her husband had slept late and finally wandered out onto the veranda with his own cup of tea, stooping down to plant a kiss on her cheek before taking a seat on a nearby lounger.

“Good morning,” the darkly handsome Gael Jarrod offered with a smile. He was tall, lean, and muscular, nearly a decade her junior and almost scandalously, a former subordinate. His neatly trimmed goatee added to his rakish good looks, and he possessed a slightly nasal Oxonian-English accent that his wife cherished.

“Good morning,” she replied in kind, favoring him with a satisfied expression. “I still can’t understand how Demora could sign on for a five-year exploration mission and leave this place behind?”

He grunted in assent, sipping experimentally at his tea, then offered, “She has it to come back to. Meanwhile, we get to enjoy her hospitality.”

Trujillo inclined her head towards a security specialist standing in the surf up to his knees, watching the breakers roll in. “The late Ahmet-sur Giilva is out of business, but it won’t be long until someone’s replaced him. I can’t imagine the people fighting to supplant a warlord of his stature are sparing any thought to revenge on us.”

“Perhaps not, but we still wounded the Syndicate, and that’s bad for business. Killing even a few of us would send a statement and help them to save a little face. Thankfully, the local security detachment is well versed in patrolling this particular property.”

“They are at that,” she allowed with a smirk. The sprawling house with its six hectares of grounds had once belonged to Demora Sulu’s father, the former Commander-in-Chief of Starfleet.

Trujillo emitted a long, relaxed sigh and sank deeper into her chair.

“I’m going to have to head topside today,” Jarrod said.

“I thought your second officer had the duty?” she remarked.

“She’s interviewing for a possible posting to the Carthage, so I’ll need to stand port-watch for her.”

Trujillo sat up, casting a concerned expression on him. “You’re losing another senior officer?”

“Potentially,” he conceded. “We see a lot of action, hence our officers gain considerable experience, which makes them excellent acquisitions for other commands. It’s actually a compliment when you think about it.”

“I suppose so,” she said, sounding unconvinced.

Jarrod was the executive officer aboard the Akyazi-class perimeter action ship USS Gol, commanded by Trujillo’s former first officer, the irascible Tellarite Commander Glal.

Gol was one of one of Reykjavík’s two permanently assigned escorts, the trio of ships representing the commodore’s mobile flag force. As part of Admiral Saavik’s quick-reaction group, Trujillo’s squadron was frequently sent to hot spots on the periphery of Federation space to quell disturbances, thwart incursions, and combat organized piracy.

Trujillo started to the sound of a guttural roar from somewhere below, sitting up in time to see a coconut arcing through the air towards the security specialist standing in the surf. The husked fruit just missed the young man’s helmeted head by a hands-width, causing him to turn suddenly and stumble as a breaking wave caught him from behind that sent him flailing backwards into the surf.

The compact form of Commander Glal strode out from the lower porch below Trujillo’s veranda and onto the beach, clad in an incongruous tank-top t-shirt and Bermuda shorts. “You might have seen that coming if you were paying the slightest bit of attention to your assignment!” Glal shouted angrily.

The stout Tellarite waded into the surf to assist the water-logged specialist who was struggling to rise while trying to recover his phaser rifle from the clutches of the outgoing tide.

“It appears Glal’s awake and in fine fettle,” Jarrod observed with a grin.

“And already harassing our security detail,” Trujillo added, taking a pull from her coffee mug. “He seems irritable.”

Jarrod stood to observe the goings-on over the veranda’s railing. “You realize, of course, that this might be an indicator that our shore leave is drawing to a close?”

“Glal does tend to get a bit tetchy when he’s been out of action for too long,” Trujillo agreed.

Down below Glal was now huddled with the dripping specialist and the compound security detail’s senior chief but appeared reasonably civilized in his discussion with both.

A few moments later the Bermuda-short wearing commander appeared on the veranda, sipping at a concoction he had assured Trujillo previously was a Tellarite variant of a Bloody-Mary. In his other thick-fingered hand he carried a data-slate, which he extended to Trujillo by way of greeting.

“Good morning, sir. I’m requesting that you approve a personnel transfer.”

“I told you already, you can’t quit,” she replied, half in jest.

“No, sir, not for me. Young Mister Urumbe down there. I am requesting his transfer to Gol.”

Trujillo raised a questioning eyebrow. “As punishment for his lack of attention, Commander?”

“Actually, no, sir. He was appropriately mortified when confronted, and in examining his service record, he’s earned high marks in all his postings so far. The kid’s just bored, and justifiably so given the nature of his current assignment. When I asked if he’d rather be serving on a small warship that sees plenty of action, he just about jumped out of his armor at the invitation.”

Trujillo shook her head, smirking. “Of course.” She grew more somber, reflecting on the costs of their latest assignment. “Did you tell him who he’d be replacing?”

Glal nodded soberly. “I told him that the exceptional young woman who’s position he’d be filling died rescuing men, women and children from Orion slaver pens.”

“Good,” Trujillo said in a hushed tone. “She deserved more than a posthumous medal. Hers is a story worth telling.”

“No argument here, Commodore,” he agreed.

Trujillo pressed her thumb to the slate. “Approved.”

Glal gestured to one of the veranda’s chairs. “May I join you?”

Jarrod finished his tea in a single long sip, setting aside the cup and rising. “I was just heading up to Gol, sir. Standing in for Zatreah while she interviews with Captain Strazo. I’ll make arrangements for billeting Specialist…?”

“Urumbe,” Glal provided as he inclined his head towards his first officer. “Give Lt. Zatreah my regards and let her know I have every confidence in her.”

“Will do, Captain,” Jarrod said by way of farewell before sneaking another kiss from his wife before departing with a breathless, “Sexy Commodore, sir.”

A fountain of red-tinged beverage erupted from the Tellarite’s large nostrils as Jarrod stepped back into the house, leaving Trujillo covering her mouth and trying not to laugh aloud at Glal’s reaction.

At that moment, Trujillo’s comm-link, disguised as a stylish metallic bracelet, vibrated.

Trujillo took a moment to collect herself before tapping the device. “Go ahead.”

“Sorry to interrupt your shore leave, sir,”
Commander Jadaetti Davula said from aboard Reykjavík in orbit. “Starbase operations has just advised us that we have a situation developing along our border with the Gorn Hegemony.”

“A situation, Commander? Any specifics?” Trujillo asked as Glal dabbed ineffectually at his drink saturated beard and shirt with a napkin.

“Not many, sir. It looks like there’s been a limited hostile exchange with the Gorn. We’ve reportedly lost contact with a surveillance outpost and a border cutter. The situation is a bit confused at the moment. Admiral Lannux has ordered a general recall from all leaves and passes.”

“Understood. I’ll be up in about twenty minutes; I just need to pack up.”

She drained the last of her coffee and turned a satisfied expression on Glal. “I guess it’s time to go back to work.”

“Finally,” Glal grumbled, still wiping at his beard.

* * *

The senior staff of Reykjavík had assembled in the windowless briefing room aft of the bridge, surrounded by the faux-wood ancient Terran naval aesthetic designed for the compartment.

Captain Alvin Tarrant from Starfleet Intelligence had transported up from the starbase to brief the commodore and her senior officers on what little was known about the quickly evolving situation along the Federation’s border with the Gorn Hegemony.

Tarrant was a middle-aged officer with a receding hairline and a paunch along his midsection secured under his uniform tunic’s belt. He had struck the others immediately as being affable, pragmatic, and professional.

The senior officers of Gol and Zelenskyy were also in attendance, via comms interlink from their respective briefing rooms.

Trujillo opened the meeting and gave Tarrant the floor.

“Good afternoon, everyone. I’ll get right to it. Intel monitors Gorn military transmissions quite extensively, as their encryption and op-sec protocols are pretty slipshod by our standards. Yesterday at zero-four-thirty-one hours Zulu time, we picked up a flurry of Gorn comms traffic that seems consistent with their forces suffering a surprise attack. A Gorn military facility three-point-seven light-years from our mutual border was destroyed, and the Gorn subsequently scrambled all available assets to locate and repel their attackers.”

He toggled an icon on the LCARS interface in front of him and a fuzzy but recognizable image of what could only be a Federation Excelsior-class starship appeared on the viewscreen set into the bulkhead. “This is the vessel that reportedly attacked the Gorn installation, prompting their retaliatory strike on our surveillance outpost and patrol cutter some six hours later.”

Trujillo’s eyes narrowed. “We struck first?” she asked dubiously.

Tarrant nodded regretfully. “It certainly appears so, though Command assures me no such orders have been issued.”

“Who?” she asked, an edge to her voice.

“There are only two Excelsiors currently posted to the Gorn border. USS Havana has been within constant sensor contact of our monitoring stations and hasn’t crossed the border. The starship Repulse, however, switched off her transponder at some point prior to the attack on the Gorn and hasn’t been heard from since. She’s refusing to respond to inquiries and orders from Command and her whereabouts are unknown.”

“That’s Theodore Keller’s ship, isn’t it?” Glal asked via the interlink.

“It is,” Tarrant confirmed. “You know him?”

“By reputation only,” Glal replied, his expression souring.

“Same here,” Trujillo interjected. “I understand he’s known for being rather… uncompromising,” she added.

From the split-image viewer Glal snorted. “You’re uncompromising, sir. Keller’s a damned tyrant.”

Trujillo fixed a chary eye on her former XO. “That’s enough, Commander. Captain Keller isn’t here to defend himself, and I won’t have another officer condemned in absentia in front of our subordinates.”

“Aye, sir. My apologies,” Glal appeared chastened.

Trujillo turned back to Tarrant. “That’s all we have so far?”

“Yes, sir,” he answered. “The one bit of good news in all this is that it doesn’t appear that the Gorn are marshaling their forces for any further follow-on attacks, at least not yet. They’ve increased their defensive posture on their side of the border, but we aren’t seeing any signs they’re gearing up for an all-out attack.”

Trujillo nodded at Tarrant’s assessment. “Let’s hope it stays that way, but I’m going to want some additional assets in place to make sure we’re prepared if something larger erupts.”

Tarrant appeared uncomfortable with that idea. “With the exception of the Gu’zodid separatist movement four years ago, which I’m aware you were caught up in, sir, the Gorn border has been largely inactive for the past decade. We haven't fought a major engagement with them since the Gorn War of '08, and that was two years of repelling hit-and-run attacks on our colonies and installations along the border. Given that, I’d caution against drawing a sizable number of our ships to the area, as it might antagonize the Gorn further. So far, it very much looks like we’re at fault here.”

“So noted, Captain,” Trujillo affirmed. “I’ll draw up a task force some parsecs away. Close enough to respond to any incursions, but not near enough to be provocative.”

Trujillo's first officer, the Bolian Commander Davula asked, “Captain, is it at all possible that the Gorn somehow overpowered or otherwise compromised Repulse and are using the ship to stage a false-flag operation?”

Tarrant’s expression was skeptical. “We’ve analyzed that scenario, and while it’s not impossible, Intel has judged it as being highly improbable. Something as involved as that is more along the lines of Romulan thinking. The Gorn have traditionally been far more direct.”

Lieutenant Helvia, the heavily built Magna-Roman security officer, spoke up. “It also depends on which stage of Gorn we’re dealing with here, sir. Their young are feral, their military-aged are ferocious and unrelenting, and their aged are large and slow but very cunning.”

Tarrant bobbed his head, “That also factors into it. Depending on which cadre is operating along this part of the border, we could expect much different reactions. My bet would be that so far the Grolch, ‘the wizened,’ are calling the shots here. They’re the most likely to demonstrate the restraint we’ve seen so far from their military forces.”

Lt. Commander Withropp, captain of the Zelenskyy offered, “I would like to recommend bringing along a JAG contingent, Commodore. If Repulse really has gone rogue, having a team present from the Judge Advocate would speed the investigation as well as make sure the rights of any personnel suspected of wrongdoing were being preserved.”

“Agreed,” Trujillo said. “Additionally, it might help to prove to the Gorn that any unprovoked attack we may have launched was unauthorized, and we’re serious about investigating the matter.”

“Sir,” Glal countered, “do you really think the Gorn are going to care about us bringing our space-lawyers along?”

Trujillo offered a halfhearted smirk. “I’m hoping for the best, Mister Glal. Be a good man and try not to be the screen door on my airlock, okay?”

That spurred a bout of shared laughter from all three linked compartments.

“Captain Tarrant, how would you feel about coming with us to the Gorn border?” Trujillo asked.

Tarrant raised his eyebrows in a mildly surprised expression. “So long as I have a real-time subspace link with our office here, I can work just as easily from your ship as I could the starbase, sir. However, I would note that the Intel asset Harken is currently in this sector, and as such could fulfill that role for you and your task force with greater flexibility.”

Trujillo’s expression brightened. “Harken? Is Captain Mistry still commanding her?”

“She is indeed, sir. You know her?”

“Quite well, actually. We’ve served alongside Harken previously. That ship and crew joining us would have substantial advantages for our task force. Though, I’d still like to have you on hand to liaise with Harken and Intel Command, Captain.”

“I’m at your service, Commodore,” Tarrant replied gamely.

“We’ll arrange quarters for you, then,” Trujillo advised. She turned to look at the viewscreen. “I am initiating the assembly of Task Force Bulwark, assigning available ships from this sector along with some of those already on patrol routes along the Gorn border. This will be Operation Lacertus. Our mission priorities will be to stabilize the political and military situation along the border and to investigate the circumstances surrounding the outbreak of hostilities with the Hegemony. If the situation deteriorates, we’ll move to intercede and defend our territory.”

She observed the reactions of her own senior officers and those of the other ships via the comm-link.

“Begin preparations for departure in sixty minutes, mark. This meeting is adjourned.”

The viewer winked off and Trujillo turned to Davula. “Commander, please take point with the starbase’s JAG office and make billeting arrangements for the legal team.”

“Aye, sir.”

Trujillo stood, the other officers following her to their feet. “We have very few hours in which to either prevent a war, or to win a war we may have already started. Dismissed.”

* * *
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Another adventure and another mystery. This one doesn't smell like the sphere-builders, so there might be a new antagonist trying to stir up trouble. Looking forward to it.

Glal remains a unique delight. Also enjoying the moments with Trujillo at ease on Pacifica. I am wondering what Captain Tarrant's assignment is. It would seem odd for a base commander to so lightly pull up stakes to go on a mission, no matter how much he might want to.

Thanks!! rbs
I managed to get in at the beginning with this one. Looks great, as always!

You've assembled a motley, fascinating crew and a compelling backdrop for them. The early 24th century isn't often explored. There are still remnants of the 23rd century's wild west frontier at this time, even as a stately new era is dawning.

I've always found it interesting how you write Trek with such a militaristic flair. It certainly lends authenticity to the conflicts.

Oh, and an Excelsior class starship going rogue and causing trouble with the Gorn?

I seem to remember that never ends well! :hugegrin:
So, the uber-talented Steff over at Ad Astra drew a phenomenal image of Commodore Nandi Trujillo as a prize for my June review hunt victory:
Author's Note: This section co-written by Zephram_Cochrane.

* * *

The XO stood by as the starbase’s JAG personnel arrived by transporter.

Five figures took shape atop the transporter pad as their bodies regained molecular cohesion.

The Bolian officer stepped forward. “I’m Commander Jadaetti Davula, executive officer. Welcome aboard Reykjavík.”

Davula was of average height for her species, with her dominant features being her cobalt blue skin, bald head and the bifurcated ridge that bisected her facial features.

"Commander Leo Verde," said the lead officer of short and stocky stature. In his soft baritone, he explained with a boyish grin, "OIC of this JAGMAN detachment." A couple of steps forward from the pad with his palm outstretched toward Davula in greeting, Verde's companions filtered out around them to view the exchange.

Davula shook his hand firmly, her smile genuine. “I’m glad you were available, Commander. Otherwise, I’d have had to step in as potential legal counsel for any personnel under investigation. Let’s just say JAG duties aren’t my strong suit.”

"Yes, of course," Verde said understandingly. "Your famous journey likely placed you in all manner of various duties, I'm sure. We should have a drink, sometime." He gestured to the group that arrived with him and acknowledged, "But, allow me to introduce the team. My second chair is Lieutenant Alejandro Martinez." The tall and wiry officer offered his hand.

"Chief Zenn is our yeoman on this trip," he continued with an open hand toward the short, but muscular Trill woman. "And we have our pair of investigators, First Lieutenant Marie Collins, and her partner, Sergeant Angela Torres." Both marines nodded toward Davula stoically.

Davula nodded to them individually as they were introduced, shaking hands as appropriate. “Commodore Trujillo’s asked me to see you to quarters. We’re scheduled for a senior staff meeting at seventeen hundred hours.”

She gestured towards the exit. “Reyky pulls diplomatic escort detail fairly often, so our guest accommodations are rather nice. No enlisted bunks for you this trip, I’m afraid.”

Verde grinned, as he led the team in following her out into the corridor. "She's a beautiful ship. This is my first time aboard a Shangri-La," he admitted. "I earned my sea pay aboard nothing but Chandleys."

“Thank you, we’re rather proud of her and her record. Chandleys are a great design, probably why there are so damn many of them underfoot,” she replied with a smirk, leading the group out into the corridor and towards the nearest turbolift.

The group managed to tuck into the lift car, in spite of the luggage and gear. "They say these things are designed for eight to ten, but these must have been tested with a group of Kelpiens," Verde jovially noted. "Sorry for the tight squeeze."

Davula chuckled lightly at Verde’s witticism. “Deck Four,” she ordered, setting the lift-car in motion. “We’ll be departing in the next twenty minutes to form up with our task force en route to the border,” she advised them.

The short trip to deck four brought the minor inconvenience to an end, but not before Martinez added his own humor to the proceedings. "Really glad you switched out your cologne, Leo." The rest of the team did not bother to hide their amusement.

Verde smirked. "Well, Maria thought I would get better results with her suggestions," he said as they all emptied out and waited for Davula to take up the lead position once more. "But if you are telling me you're interested, then you'll have to go through her, first."

Martinez smiled broadly at that. "I'm good, thanks."

"Just sayin'..."

Davula stepped past them into the corridor, gesturing to a series of hatchways. “Commander Verde’s rated a single-occupancy cabin, and the rest of you are going to have to double-up. However, our double-occupancy VIP cabins have individual queen-sized beds, their own lavatories, and the sleeping areas are separated by a shared living area. Reykjavík… come for the combat, stay for the comfort.”

She turned back to face Verde. “Commander, once you’re squared away down here, the commodore would like to see you topside.”

Verde smiled toothily at the mention of Trujillo. "Looking forward to it, Commander, and I really appreciate you taking the time to show us down here."

“My pleasure. Again, we’re glad to have you along with us on this assignment. Forgive me for being blunt, but given how this looks at the outset, I’m hoping your particular skills won’t be needed. This might just be a pleasure cruise along the Gorn border, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion that won’t be the case.”

Verde handed off his luggage to Zenn. "Since I'm bunking solo, we'll set up the boards and offices in there, Chief. I'm going to head up topside with the Commander, here." He leaned over to the others, "Get yourselves unpacked and I'll be back shortly."

Zenn shouldered the duffel and satchel along with her own and nodded. "Aye, sir."

Verde turned back to Davula and with an open hand, he told her, "I'm all yours, sir."

* * *

Davula entered the ready room with Verde in tow, staying just long enough to make introductions. “Commodore Nandi Trujillo, Commander Leo Verde.”

Trujillo stood from behind her desk, a radiant smile on her features. “Oh, Mister Verde and I are well acquainted, Commander. Back in the day he helped clear me of some rather unflattering allegations after a dust up with the Tzenkethi. I was delighted to discover Commander Verde was here on a detached assignment and was available to accompany us on this mission.”

She moved around the desk to offer her hand. “Welcome aboard, Rally. It’s wonderful to see you again. I just wish the circumstances weren’t so dire.”

Leo "Rally" Verde blushed under the nickname's attention, trying very much not to make eye contact with Davula. "Uh, it's always good to see you, sir," he replied with a friendly grip of hands. "You're lucky we were available; we just got done closing another case in the sector and were cooling our heels waiting for a transfer back to Starbase 8." He leaned in slightly and lowered his voice as he asked, "I trust that you received my wetting down gift through our mutual friend?"

“I did, thank you. It’s remained unopened, awaiting a suitable occasion. Perhaps this mission will be it?”

He sighed, "I hope this is all much ado about nothing, so yeah. It'd be nice if this all turned out to be just a simple flag-flying excursion to the border, but…"

Trujillo nodded in turn, her expression darkening. “Yeah… I’m getting the same feeling. Maybe the Gorn really are behind all this, but that’s not how things are adding up so far.”

She turned to Davula. “Thank you. Please see to our departure, Commander, and have Lieutenant Shukla begin making arrangements for rendezvous with the task force.”

As Davula exited, Trujillo gestured to a chair across from her desk before heading straight for her concealed mini-bar behind a nondescript bulkhead panel. “Name your poison, Leo.”

Leo watched her move to the mini-bar and nodded. "Definitely calls for something strong. If you got anything within shouting distance of a whiskey, I'll take a shot."

“I have Scotch, Kentucky bourbon, and Aldebaran.”

"The green stuff? I'll definitely take a quick hit of that," he said enthusiastically. "I've actually been cutting back recently, but it's a vacation, right?"

“If you say so,” she laughed mirthlessly, pouring two shot glasses full of the milky green fluid. She handed one to Verde, holding up her own. “Salud.”

Leo followed suit. "Salud," he murmured before knocking back the shot. As it sizzled down his throat, he grinned. "Oh, yeah. It's been a while since I've had this. With all the marines we got running around, you can barely find a bottle on the Crazy Eight," he said, using the pejorative unofficial name for Starbase Eight.

She set down her shot glass, wiping her mouth with the back of one hand while fixing an assaying look on Verde. “I trust you already know Theo Keller’s apparently in the middle of all this?”

He met her look briefly, as he silently exhaled through pursed lips. "He does not like being called Theo or Teddy. And yeah, I read the brief." Leo stalled in his response, taking a little time to set the empty shot glass with its remnants slinking down the sides upon the pristine bartop. "Even though I might have a poor opinion of him, if he did go off half-cocked into Gorn territory, that would be crazy. He is so tightly wound."

“Do you know of anything in his history that ties him to the Gorn? Something that might have provoked an overreaction by Captain Keller?”

"Not that I recall," Leo replied thoughtfully. "When I sailed with him, we were on the Cardassian border; other side of Federation territory. Closest we'd got to the Hegemony was maybe a short supply run to one of the outposts near the Romulan Neutral Zone."

Trujillo shook her head forlornly. “If Keller did launch an unsanctioned raid against the Gorn, this’ll be the biggest court-martial since Admiral Cartwright and Chancellor Gorkon’s assassination.”

"To say the least," Leo agreed with widened eyes. He sighed. "I know we're here as a detachment, sir, and ordinarily a team like mine isn't subject to your command, since we're supposed to be investigating, but…"

Trujillo refilled the shot glasses. “But…?”

"We could find ourselves in the middle of a crisis and if you need help beyond the law, you know I got your back," Leo said. "I may be a lawyer, but I still kept up my line officer status. Otherwise, my dad would never let me hear the end of it."

“I’d never sideline capable officers in such circumstances, and if the situation calls for it, I won’t hesitate to reinstate you to line-duty. However, we’re heading in with a task force of at least eight ships. Your legal expertise and that of your team will be of far more value than having you stand a post on the bridge for a shift or two. We may need to convince the Gorn that we’re dealing with the situation internally, though how we might go about that is beyond me at the moment.”

"Whatever you need," he promised with a curt gesture of his right hand. Leo's expression turned to one of curiosity. "You think diplomacy might work with the Gorn?"

“I don’t know,” she confessed. “I certainly hope so, but our history with them has been so fraught in the past fifty years that it’s hard to know what they might do. If we’re dealing exclusively with their elders, they might listen to reason. Their militant youth, though… they’re always spoiling for a fight, especially one that results in prisoners they can use for gestation-stock on one of their horrific breeding planets.”

Leo stared down into the refilled shot glass. "'Horrific' is an apt descriptor. I've never actually seen that, but I've heard the stories." He raised the glass and offered a short salute. "But, if you can manage to open relations with them, then maybe that'll lead to something."

She held up her glass. “Right now I’d settle for convincing them not to stage any further cross-border raids. We’ve already lost dozens of lives aboard our outpost and a score more on the border cutter they destroyed. Hopefully they’ll be satisfied with that pound of flesh and call it even.” Again she offered, “Salud” before draining the contents of the glass.

After draining his glass, Leo swallowed and smiled at the taste. Once more, he set it back down on the bartop and exhaled slowly. "Once we shove off, do you have a plan for tracking down our wayward ship?"

She retreated to her chair behind the desk and lowered herself into it. “We’ll keep hailing and scanning, scouring the border region for any sign of her. Failing that, I'll send my former XO, Commander Glal, to run them down. He’s got a sixth-sense for this kind of thing, a knack for putting himself inside someone else’s head. If anyone can find Keller, it’ll be Glal.”

Leo followed her with a turned head and nodded once. "'Gol's skipper. Great ship for scouting and hunting, too." He stepped over toward her desk and silently begged permission to sit down opposite her with his fingers in a quick motion. "You should tell him that Keller tends to favor the tactic of using magnetic resonance to mask or diminish his sensor signature. He's really good at running silent, too. He used to demand tactical drills constantly, so I presume he hasn't changed that over the years."

Trujillo motioned for Verde to sit while typing herself a note to that effect on her desktop terminal. “Good to know. How is Captain Keller likely to react to being confronted by another Starfleet vessel? How does he react when backed into a corner?”

The first question elicited a scoff from Leo. "Whenever he was faced with another Starfleet vessel, his demand for perfection would skyrocket. His Achilles' heel is his pride and ego. That was the source of his insufferable behavior in command. If anything happened that reflected upon him in any unfavorable light, woe betide the person who caused it, and woe betide their immediate superior."

She nodded fractionally in response, a sour expression tugging at the edges of her mouth. “I’d heard as much.”

"If he's backed into a corner," Leo said with a single shake of his head. "I don't think this is him being in a corner, sir. I know this is going to sound crazy…"

"Unless he's under some extraordinary influence, this is wholly out of character for Keller. Under ordinary circumstances, he wouldn't take this kind of action without believing he had proper authority to do so," Leo explained. "There had to be something that he felt he had no choice but to storm across the border. His reputation is his most treasured currency."

“Maybe so,” Trujillo conceded, “but we won’t know until he makes an appearance and explains himself. Going to ground only makes it look worse for him. I’d understand if he’s hiding in nebula or the upper layers of a gas giant while the Gorn hunt for him, but if he’s just parked someplace trying to figure out how to squirm out of a series of piss-poor decisions, that’s really going to irritate me.”

"I would put a very large bottle of Aldebaran whiskey on the notion that he believes he's going to be welcomed as a hero when he sees another Starfleet ship," he said slowly. "Maybe you can use that to your advantage."

“I’d much prefer that to a scared, desperate man who wants to fight his way out of a hole he’s dug for himself.” She stretched, referencing the chronometer on her workstation. “You’ve probably got a lot of prep-work to do with your team, and I’m keeping you up here spinning what-if scenarios.”

Leo smiled knowingly. "I'll get out of your hair." He rose from his seat and paused. "They got us assigned to the guest staterooms down on four if you want to come find me later. I brought some provisions, too, if you'll allow me the opportunity to return the favor."

Trujillo smiled. “I will indeed. Oh, and I’d like you at our senior staff meeting at seventeen-hundred. We’ll be linked in with the command staff of my two escorts, setting the groundwork for this operation.”

He strode toward the exit and called back, "I'll be there. Mind if I bring my yeoman? She takes all my notes."

“The more the merrier, Commander,” Trujillo rejoined.

* * *
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Gotta give it to these folks, they’re really covering all their bases, bringing in a whole JAG team to go after a seemingly rogue ship and crew. No chance they’re not going to be needed. Although I wouldn’t bet on this being resolved in a court room either.

Good stuff.
It's nice to see a lawyer portrayed in a positive light, speaking as a member of the bar. ;) As always, I appreciate how you so quickly and subtly establish new characters' personalities through dialogue and scene actions rather than extensive esposition. I also like the tips o' the hat to Trek past and, well, sort of present (SNW). Looking forward to seeing how this all plays out.
Chapter 3

NCC-2544 (USS Repulse)
En route to the Gamma Hydraxis system, Warp 9.
June 12, 2322

Main Bridge

Commander T'Rel's sharp eyes stayed fixed on Captain Keller, her commanding officer. Leaning forward in the center seat, Keller's body exuded a tension that resonated through the bridge of the Excelsior-class USS Repulse. The vibrations of the ship's propulsion system at maximum emergency speed were almost a physical manifestation of his anxiety, pushing the very boundaries of subspace. Though his face remained composed, his whitening knuckles betrayed his concern. T'Rel knew from her years of service with him that his unease stemmed not from the ship's speed but the three Gorn hunters hot on their trail.

Seated at the helm in front of Keller, the helmsman, Lieutenant (jg) Thalix reported in her soprano tones, "Fifteen minutes until we reach the system, Captain."

Keller glared at the back of Thalix' head before growling. "Thank you, Mr. Thalix. XO!"

T'Rel replied quickly, "Sir?" She remained at her standing position to Keller's right, along the railing. She raised a hand toward her PADD, ready to access information or issue orders..

"Get me a preliminary analysis of the system," Keller ordered quickly. "This is where we make our stand. I want to know what the playing field looks like."

"Aye, sir," replied T'Rel. She turned and immediately began barking out orders to facilitate Keller's intentions. "Mister S'ran?"

The chief science officer replied, "Gamma Hydraxis has an unusually dense heliosheath, sir, compared to other systems with K-type stars. Sensors resolution at this distance is impacted. Also, we will experience the termination shock when we enter the system."

T'Rel acknowledged the information with a simple nod. "Very well. Ready a series of class two probes for planetary scans."

S'ran's blue antennae twitched at the order. "According to record, there are seven planets in the system, I am readying the probes for deployment at warp speed."

T'Rel accepted the answer with a simple nod, knowing that the captain likely kept his irritation hidden. He demonstrated an unusually low capacity for patience. In crisis situations, that capacity diminished further.

"Probes ready," Lieutenant Commander S'ran reported quickly.

"Fire," ordered T'Rel, on the heels of his report. Without waiting for any further commands, the probes deployed from the forward torpedo tubes. As they were designed for long-range scanning, their limited-fuel warp engines were designed to reach their destinations and then send telemetry and scan data via subspace communication. After their respective purpose is completed, they would either remain on station for recovery or be left to orbital decay and destruction on atmospheric entry or uncontrolled landing.

The probes reached warp nine-point-nine-seven-five, speeding away from Repulse very quickly on their independent trajectories. The first one reached the outermost planet and settled into orbit to deliver its scans to S'ran's station. Within a few minutes, all of the probes began sending their results.

T'Rel tapped her PADD and placed the system data on the main viewscreen.

"Two gas giants?" wondered Keller, with his hand now on his chin.

"Correct, Captain," replied S'ran.

T'Rel watched Keller's mind work, his rapid-fire questions probing for tactical advantages. No planetary rings, various types of atmospheres, the composition of the gas giants, and satellites—each detail assessed and filed away. Finally, he said, "Tell me about the inner planets. Any of them with turbulent atmospheres?"

"Number two," S'ran supplied. "The probe report is on the main viewer, now."

Keller snapped his fingers after a quick perusal. "That's our winner! Mister Thalix, if you would be so kind as to divert our course to intercept planet number… six."

T'Rel watched as Thalix turned her head slightly to listen closely to the captain's words. She once made the egregious mistake of executing orders before the captain's command. That error in anticipation of judgment resulted in a loud reprimand on the bridge. As she heard no further order, Thalix responded, "Standing by to divert my course to Gamma Hydraxis Six, aye, sir."

Keller continued. "Mister Kesshek!"

The Saurian tactical officer spun around in his seat to give the captain his full attention. "Sir!" he shouted clearly.

"Ready a class eight probe, rigged as a decoy copy of our sensor profile. Deploy in orbit, once we drop to impulse."

"Aye, sir!" Lieutenant Kesshek nodded. "It will be done!"

"Mister Thalix, once that probe is dropped, get ready to warp jump to planet number two and then take us into the planet's mesosphere."

Seated to Thalix' left, the Bolian operations officer, Lieutenant Commander Vara, glanced at Thalix to study the young Betazoid woman's face. Thalix had not responded, instead letting her anxiety prevent her from seeing the data she needed to confirm the order.

Not wishing for the captain's attention to be needlessly unfocused on the helm, T'Rel stepped forward with her finger outstretched to point to the proper reading.

"U-Understood, sir," Thalix said as she gave T'Rel a thankful nod. "Helm stands ready."

"Next time," growled Keller, "you may not be so lucky as to have the XO point out your error. Get it together or else call for your relief!"

Thalix gave the only expected response in that situation. The one least likely to anger Keller. "No excuse, sir. I will remain at my post."

Keller shook his head in disgust. With a heavy sigh, he turned his chair to face the rest of the bridge team. "Does everyone understand their roles in this maneuver?" When everyone raised their voices in a collective affirmative, the captain nodded. "You better. Execute!"

"Two minutes to heliosphere, Captain," reported Vara.

T'Rel took the remaining time to circle around the bridge stations, observing quietly and making notes on her PADD for later review. She knew that Keller would demand a high level of scrutiny on the performance of his command staff as soon as they had the opportunity to do so. By the time she completed her circuit, Repulse crossed into the system's heliosphere.

"Executing drop to impulse near planet six," reported Thalix, as the elongated stars distorted through the lens of interfold displacement returned to normal dots of light. In front of them lay the nearest gas giant and its moons.

Kesshek fired his probe, and Thalix spun the ship toward the second planet in the system quickly and jumped to warp for less than two seconds before the angry red planet appeared below.

"Adequate," was Keller's only assessment of the maneuver thus far.

Thalix took the nose of the ship and dove for the planet's atmosphere.

"All hands," called T'Rel, "brace for atmospheric entry."

Her gaze flicked to the forward shield as it took on the task of protecting the ship's outer hull from the friction of entry into the planet's atmosphere. This was no ordinary passage. The swirling clouds of terbium and neodymium, magnetically dancing with each other in the high temperatures, were taxing the shield more than normal. She understood the nature of these rare metals in their vapor state, their magnetic and paramagnetic properties creating turbulence that was causing the shields to flare and struggle. The impact of those metals and the sudden lag in the ship's inertial damping systems sent a shudder through the Repulse, a physical jolt that caught her off guard. She braced herself against the lurch, hands gripping the railing, her PADD slipping from her grasp. Her Vulcan calm wavered for a moment as she felt the disconcerting sensation of the ship struggling against the elements.

"Bridge, bridge, this is engineering," called the Irish lilt of Repulse's chief engineer, Commander Callum O'Brien. "This atmosphere is playing hell with everything, sir. Shields are not used to handling this level of unstable magnetic resonance."

As they spoke, T'Rel gathered her PADD and composure. Keller replied, "Mister O'Brien, how long would it take to mimic that resonance to shield our sensor profile from the Gorn?"

The bridge could practically hear the engineer's interest pique through his tone. "Oh, I see. Yes, that could work, but even if we manage to stay hidden, it'll only be for twenty or thirty minutes. The shields are still holding back that bloody awful soup out there. If they drop for even a second, we'll be subjected to the shear forces. Less than five minutes, give or take, before we sustain irreparable damage to the nacelles for starters."

"Understood," Keller said softly. O'Brien was one of the only officers he never seemed to find fault with. "We'll try not to overstay our welcome. Do your best for me, Callum?"

That elicited a chuckle from O'Brien. "I always do, sir."

"That's a good lad. Keller, out." With Repulse's position in the atmosphere at a slow pace, it decreased the interaction of the shields against the clouds somewhat, though the movement of the stormy weather still managed to jostle the ship every so often. Keller rose from his seat and approached Kesshek.

Sensing his presence, Kesshek turned around once more. "Sir?"

"I want another class eight probe ready to go, in case they find us again."

"As we've seen, the Gorn are formidable tacticians, Captain. It would be folly to assume otherwise."

"I'm counting on it," Keller replied. "A class eight probe, same as before, ready to fire. Then I want two full spreads of photon torpedoes standing by."

Kesshek tilted his head. "Sir, phasers would have better effectiveness in this type of atmosphere. Torpedo casings would be breached almost immediately after leaving the protection of our shields."

The captain pushed himself away from the railing near Kesshek and walked toward the lift exit. "You heard my orders, Lieutenant. Make ready in all respects!" Before the lift doors closed, he issued one more order. "XO has the conn."

* * *

NCC-3109 (USS Reykjavík)

The senior staff had been reassembled in the briefing room with the addition of Captain Tarrant from Starfleet Intelligence and Commander Verde from JAG. As before, the senior officers from Gol and Zelenskyy had been linked in via the viewscreens from their respective briefing rooms.

“We’re six hours out from the border,” Tarrant began at Trujillo’s prompting. “Still no signs of additional Gorn incursions into our territory, but we’re picking up continuing Gorn military activity on their side of the border.”

The tall, turban-clad Sikh Operations Lieutenant Shukla noted, “Task Force Bulwark is assembling three parsecs coreward of the border so as not to potentially antagonize the Gorn. With our three ships, we’ll have eight total, with another five within three hours if called upon to respond.”

Trujillo turned her gaze on Tarrant. “Captain, this Gorn facility Repulse allegedly attacked, do we know what kind of outpost it was?”

“Yes, sir. We believe it was a weapons-research facility, based on the comms and logistics traffic to and from the station. Intel doesn’t have any particulars on what specific kinds of weapons systems were being researched there, however.”

Trujillo looked down to the far end of the table to where Lieutenant(j.g.) Rachel Garrett was seated. The ship’s chief science officer’s attention appeared to have been piqued by this detail.

“Mister Garrett, can you please work with Captain Tarrant to try and divine what the Gorn may have been working on there?” Trujillo ordered.

“Aye, sir.”

She fixed her gaze on Verde. “I realize this isn’t a JAG-specific question, Commander, but given that you’re the only one here with any personal experience with Captain Keller, what do you believe his exit strategy might be if Repulse is still in Gorn territory?”

"That would depend on what his objectives might be, sir," replied Verde, his eyes looking upward as he thought about it. "If, for example, his intention is to continue his assault, then I would imagine he would be laying low to avoid detection for a possible hit-and-run. If his intention is to return to Federation territory, then he might opt to depart Gorn territory quickly and enter unclaimed space for a roundabout course back home."

Commander Davula frowned and interjected, “Continue his assault? Surely Keller would be trying to return to the ‘safe’ side of the border? You can’t prosecute a war with a single starship, Commander.”

Verde pressed his lips together in a thin smile. "I was hypothesizing based on the open nature of the question. I'm certainly not agreeing with his tactics. I served with the man for a little under three years before he beached me. I have a lot of speculation on his motivations, however, I'm mystified as to the actual objective of his actions."

Trujillo gestured towards Verde. “Seeing as we have nothing new on Gorn activity to dissect, I’m willing to entertain hypotheses on Captain Keller’s motivations here. We’ve already established he has no bad blood towards the Gorn that anyone knows of, so what’s driving this?”

"As I said during our discussion yesterday," Verde began with a heavy sigh, "Keller's not a captain who would stick his neck out on anything less than solid grounds. His primary motivation is to serve his ego, and he demands nothing less than perfection from his crew, lest they make him look bad to his superiors. Putting himself in a position like this without covering his ass? That would be wildly out of character for him, sir." He hedged slightly with, "I will also fully admit that the man ended my starship career, and if I hadn't had a law degree or two, I likely wouldn't have remained in Starfleet. So, take my opinion with that in mind. I'll admit to being biased."

“So noted,” Trujillo replied, a hint of empathy creeping into her voice. “Given Keller’s personality profile, perhaps we might want to begin examining the possibility that Repulse has somehow been compromised by the Gorn?”

Lieutenant Helvia, the massive Magna-Roman security officer, raised a finger and spoke following Trujillo’s acknowledgement.

“With respect, Commodore, if Repulse had been captured by the Gorn and was being used to incite a larger military confrontation, why would the Gorn merely strike a single defense outpost and a border cutter before withdrawing? We’ve given them their casus belli already. If they were going to use it to spark a full-blown confrontation, they would have done so before now. Now that Starfleet has had enough time to muster a response to any incursion, their window of opportunity would seem to have closed.”

"Then… he's still there," Verde said softly. "He's probably using his bag of tricks to remain hidden, and that'll cause them to focus a lot of their resources trying to locate Repulse. It's also possible that if he's continuing to be a nuisance, they might not be aware of precisely how many starships are making other runs." He turned to Helvia, "If you were the Gorn, Lieutenant, under those circumstances, how would you react?"

“Purse, contain, capture… and dissect,” the large man replied gravely. He reached up by habit to brush one finger along the five-link gold chain that hung beneath his combadge, the symbol of the Children of the Son, the faith of his outcast homeworld to which he still adhered. “Only then would they know how many ships they faced, and what Starfleet’s ultimate goals were within their territory.”

Verde accepted the answer with an approving nod and leaned back. He turned to look at Trujillo, "And to make sure no other forces enter your territory, you give the enemy's border units a good whack to remind them that you're still watching."

The commodore absorbed that with a nod. “Which now begs the question, what, if any, assistance can and should we give to Repulse to get her back across the border safely?“ She directed her gaze to Verde, “And would rendering assistance create any legal difficulties for us?”

"That would depend on our orders. Really, this is going to come down to whether we acknowledge that Repulse is acting with or without authorization. If we disavow Keller's actions, then he no longer has any protections by treaty; though I'm at a loss to recalling any treaties that the Gorn have been signatories to. Giving him an avenue of escape might also be seen as tacit approval or authorization of Repulse's activities in their space, which would just add to their casus belli… not that they needed more." Verde opined, though he cast a wry grin toward Helvia as he spoke that last phrase.

“Regardless of why Captain Keller may have launched this attack,” Trujillo offered, “there are seven-hundred other souls aboard that ship I’d rather not see become breeding-sacks for the Gorn.”

That statement brought a gravid hush over the meeting, broken by Trujillo’s next statement. “To that end, I’m going to send Gol to search out and retrieve Repulse, so long as she’s on our side of the border. Commander Verde, as a JAG officer you’re not in my chain of command, but I’d like permission to detach you to advise Commander Glal for the duration of Gol’s search mission. And, if located, you’d be on hand to provide legal-counsel to Captain Keller and his senior officers.”

Verde turned back toward his yeoman, Chief Zenn, who had been taking notes during the meeting. "Chief, advise the team that we're packing up to transfer to Gol. Except Martinez." He returned his attention to Trujillo. "I'm going to leave Ale here to act as legal officer while we press on with Captain Glal."

From beside him, Davula leaned in to whisper to Verde, “Now you will be sleeping in enlisted bunks, Commander. Space is at a premium on those Akyazi’s.”

Verde chuckled silently at her remark. "It'll be fine," he whispered back. "I don't mind roughing it for a while."

“Hey!” Glal erupted over the interlink with mock injury, “I can hear you, you know!”

"No offense," Verde replied, his tone full of mirth, his eyes upon the screen. "I'm bringing aboard some select choices from my collection, to ease the pain." He assured Trujillo, "I'll save you some for when we get back, sir."

* * *
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