Starship Reykjavík – Conduct Unbecoming

* * *

With his wiry frame, Commander Callum O'Brien, Repulse's chief engineer, hunched over the large "pool table." He dragged a hand through his short, light brown hair, spiraled with its natural curls, while his grayish-blue eyes scanned the current output of the ship's powerful propulsion systems. Though the Excelsior-class cruiser remained at station-keeping with Gol, his hands moved across the touch panels to call up more information.

In his tenor voice with an Irish lilt, he called out, "Mazer. Take a damage control team up to deck three. I need you to run a magneton scan and report back."

Chief Damage Control Technician (DCC) Mazer nodded. "Aye, Commander." She turned and barked orders to a quartet of similarly rated personnel and within seconds of grabbing equipment, they vanished into the nearest turbolift.

"Something wrong with the containment chamber, Commander?" asked a baritone voice; the tone respectfully curious.

Without turning around, O'Brien replied, "I think the sensors that report status on the resonance might have been damaged. The output is showing a number out of expected norms." Keeping his eyes on the display, he asked a question of his own: "May I help you?"

"I'm Leo Verde." After a pause, he added, "It's a pleasure to meet you."

O'Brien turned around and grimaced. "You're the JAG lawyer. Forgive me, if I don't share in your pleasure." He shook hands with Verde fleetingly before turning back around. "And with all due respect, I'm a little busy right now."

Leo approached the table and peered at the display over the man's shoulder. "I promise I won't take up too much of your time, but I had hoped you might help me piece together what happened over here."

"What happened was the captain received orders to prosecute targets in Gorn territory and that's what we did," the engineer fired back with irritation. "Case closed. Bye."

"I see…" Leo's voice trailed off as he tried a different tactic. "It's a shame, then. It would appear someone managed to pull one over on your department, because the orders have been deleted without your knowledge. The captain and the XO are in a tight spot since we can't prove this ship ever received such a transmission from Starfleet Command." He turned to leave. "But, hey, thanks for your time," he said, walking toward the lift doors.

O'Brien scowled. "Hold it right there, JAG," he ordered sternly.

Leo came to a halt. "Yes?" he asked, not turning around. "How can I help you?"

The chief engineer gave Leo his full attention. "What do you mean, exactly, by deleting data right under my nose?"

"Commander," Leo said politely, "I don't want to take up too much of your valuable time- "

O'Brien growled, "Stow it! You deliberately baited me, so don't play games!" He closed the distance between them and placed his hand on Leo's shoulder. The tight grip tugged on Leo's stance as he ordered, "Turn around and tell me what's going on."

Leo looked down at the hand. With his half-profile, his voice growled in a lower timbre. "Remove your hand, Commander." When the hand lingered, he added, "I will not ask you again."

Slowly, O'Brien slid his hand from Leo's shoulder. He folded his arms across his chest. "Tell me what happened." When Leo turned around and fixed him with a glare, he hastily appended, "Please."

Softening his expression, Leo nodded. "Captain Keller and Commander T'Rel both mentioned that they had authorization to operate within Gorn territory because of a set of orders received on or around Stardate three-five-eight-one," he referenced his notes on the screen of his display device.

The chief engineer twisted on his heels and approached a terminal station. After a quick login, he called up the communications records and scrubbed through the entries after landing on the reported stardate. He filtered for priority or command-level messages and found nothing, one week prior or after. "This is the correct stardate?"

"Yes," confirmed Leo. "The comms lieutenant on the bridge had similar trouble locating anything."

"That would be Lieutenant Ha-Vatoreii, I presume," O'Brien mentioned matter-of-factly. "He's good, but we need some specialists." He stopped a passing ensign with a waving hand and told him, "Tell Mister Gee and Chief Sheesta to come down here, instanter."

The ensign, fearful of disappointing him, nodded quickly and scurried off to carry out the orders.

"Why do we need them, exactly?" Leo wondered, already knowing the answer.

"Gee's a warrant officer. He is a communications technician. Sheesta is a data systems technician," explained O'Brien as he worked within the computer system. "I'm a dab hand, but they're the best."

Leo nodded silently, allowing the disgruntled officer to work without further distraction. Five minutes later, the lift doors opened and raucous laughter filled the main propulsion compartment. The man, a human with raven-black hair dressed in a casual engineering vest, emerged from the lift, his eyes squeezed shut as laughter overtook him. The female Rigellian Senior Chief Petty Officer in her coveralls joined in on the mirth, playfully smacking his back in shared amusement.

The signs of a well-worn joke were evident in Gee's strained vocal cords as he squeezed out his words amidst spasms of laughter, "And then the Orion turns to the Klingon and says-" The mirthful exchange between the two non-commissioned officers was abruptly curtailed under the icy gaze of O'Brien.

"Erm, reporting as ordered, sir," Gee said, his face still red from his exertions.

O'Brien gestured to his workstation. "I'm having trouble locating a message sent to the ship around Stardate thirty-five eighty-one."

Gee and Sheesta exchanged glances. "Lieutenant Ha-vatoreii asked us the same thing, sir. We just came down from the bridge," Gee spoke first.

Sheesta added, "Whatever message it might have been, both the records of receipt and the message itself are unrecoverable. The puzzling thing is that the data blocks where the message might have resided appear to have been shredded."

"'Shredded,'" repeated O'Brien. "Are the blocks unusable?"

"May I?" asked Sheesta as she approached the station.

The chief engineer pushed himself away to allow her access. They all watched as she manipulated the controls expertly, calling up sections of the ship's computer cores.

"Under normal circumstances, when you delete data using the computer's everyday subroutines, the data is erased. However, we have a secondary and tertiary computer system that can recover the data if someone inadvertently calls for deletion."

Gee stepped in to provide more color. "Whenever this ship receives a transmission from an authenticated source, it writes the data in fifteen different places. Five on the main computer core, and five on both the secondary and tertiary cores."

On the heels of Gee's comment, Sheesta noted, "But all of the blocks on all three cores were not just blanked. Each block underwent a systematic destruction. They're marked by the ship's computer during the diagnostic sweeps as unusable."

"You might as well have melted the isolinear circuits with a damned plasma torch!" O'Brien snarled, followed by a four-letter invective. "How the hell does something like this happen?"

Sheesta shrugged. "Sir, I could speculate all day about how to do it from the software side. My guess is that whatever did it, it came with the message, because I've been crawling all over the computer for the last day and a half. No program that interacts with the data does that."

"Perhaps then, the method and the absence of the data is enough to show that the captain and the exec are telling the truth," Leo surmised aloud, mostly to himself.

Gee and Sheesta peered at Leo, unsure of his identity. O'Brien introduced inattentively, "This is Commander Verde. He's from JAG."

"Good to meet you both," Leo said with a smile. "I was looking for a couple of experts, so I appreciate you coming down to talk to me."

"Uh, sure," Gee said hesitantly. "Is the captain going to be court-martialed?"

"I'm sorry, I can't discuss that with you," Leo replied softly. "But, any information you two can gather for me will be very helpful."

O'Brien's consternation centered around a related point. He shot an angry glare at Leo. "I swear, when I get my hands on whoever did this to my ship…"

* * *

“Admiral Saavik, what an unexpected pleasure,” Trujillo said by way of greeting. “What can I do for you, sir?”

Saavik’s visage appeared on the desktop monitor in Nandi’s quarters, the priority communique having reached her on the cusp of turning in for the night.

“I am calling to ascertain if you’ve suffered some kind of sudden cognitive impairment,” Saavik deadpanned, her Vulcan half dialed up for the occasion.

Trujillo stared for a moment, at a loss for words. Finally, she said, “Can you elucidate further, Admiral?”

“Indeed. I have just received not one, but several messages from multiple flag-level officers in near-histrionics regarding an alleged offer you’ve supposedly made to the Gorn military, Commodore. I trust that the truth of the matter is somewhat less dramatic than I’ve been led to believe?”

Trujillo fought back a wry grin, looking down for a moment to collect herself before answering. “In the interests of preserving the peace, I’ve been talking with the Gorn about what they would find a reasonable solution to our present situation, aside from us handing over Repulse and her crew to their tender care. Their primary concern appears to be the loss of material investment in the facility we destroyed. I was endeavoring to determine whether we might achieve what they term ‘loss parity’ without the accompanying deaths that an armed confrontation would generate. They actually seemed interested in the prospect.”

“I see,” Saavik replied stolidly. “So, you have not, in fact, ‘sold us out to the Gorn’ or ‘basically surrendered all Starfleet assets along the border’?”

Trujillo shifted uncomfortably in her chair, rubbing at one temple with her hand. “I did send along a report to you with an attached recording of that specific conversation, sir,” Trujillo offered. “I thought it prudent after my discussion with Vice-Admiral Nkosi seemed to leave him rather agitated.”

Saavik’s expression relaxed and the faintest hint of a smirk tugged at one corner of her mouth. “I know. I read it and watched the transmission before being inundated by several officers who had only heard about it second or third hand, yet still felt the need to share their uninformed opinions. Your outside-the-box thinking has more than a few of the admiralty in a collective cold sweat. I assured them that you were merely exploring possibilities and nothing had been agreed upon as yet.”

Trujillo shook her head disbelievingly, puffing out a frustrated breath. “Just between you, me and the bulkhead, Admiral, I think there are a few too many people who’d like to see us in a fight with the Gorn right now, and I'm at a loss as to why. A lot of them are the same ones who were wetting their pants six months ago, terrified that we were going to war with the Tholians. For whatever reason, they seem to think fighting the Gorn would be easier or less costly. I’m guessing they don’t realize that although the research facility building those isolytic weapons may have been destroyed, we have no way of knowing how many of those weapons were distributed to their fleet prior to Repulse’s attack.”

Saavik inclined her head, conceding the point. “I’m taking your plan under advisement, and I’ll be approaching some cooler heads on the Security Council about its merits. I’ll do what I can to keep any political heat off you in the meantime, Nandi. You keep doing what I hired you to do, what you excel at, in point of fact. I share your reluctance to fight an unnecessary war that we just inexplicably tried to start.”

“Thank you, sir. Your support is always appreciated.”

The transmission terminated and Trujillo stared idly at the Starfleet Command delta for a long time afterward before reluctantly climbing into bed.

* * *

"Though Keller's claims appear unsupported, Skip, there's been a curious - indeed, one might say exceptional - push to not only prevent the recovery of pertinent data but also to obliterate entire sectors of storage, thus preventing forensic examination." Leo's voice resonated in a deep baritone over the viewscreen, his heterochromatic eyes reflecting the glow of the screen.

Wearing the iconic Starfleet communications earpiece, he sat at one of the stations in Repulse's command center, ensuring a somewhat confidential discussion with Glal aboard Gol. The background revealed officers on the bridge, each fully engrossed in their respective duties.

Leo's duty weighed heavily on him, evident in his audible exhale and a slight drop of his broad shoulders. With a slight tone of frustration, he continued, absentmindedly running his hand over his beard in thought. "I could construct a solid defense from this... if only Keller would grant me the opportunity to tell him."

“We can’t make the man cooperate,” Glal huffed from his cramped office compartment. “If he wants to throw away his career and spend his twilight years in a penal colony, that’s his business. How are your engine diagnostics and repairs coming along?”

“Shields are rising,” Lieutenant Kesshek’s voice echoed, a tremor of alarm threading through his words as the ship’s computer translated them. His large black eyes reflected the scarlet-hued alert from the tactical console, a silent testament to the developing circumstance.

Leo swiveled in his seat, his eyes drifting away from the station’s visual pickup. The Saurian tactical officer’s palpable concern drew immediate attention; an unsettling undercurrent that permeated the command center. With a deep breath, Leo turned back to Glal on his screen.

“Hang on, Skip,” he said with an authoritative calmness that belied the tension knotting his stomach. “We’ve got a situation developing here.”

From her position at the heart of the bridge, Lieutenant Commander Vara leaned forward in her chair, her blue skin taking on an icy hue under the stark lighting of their surroundings. Her voice cut through the silence, sharp and precise. “Report,” she demanded.

Adding to the growing sense of unease was Lieutenant Thalix’s input. Their voice wavered as they reported from their helm station, “Commander, our ship’s attitude and pitch adjustments are steering us towards a trajectory that will take us back across the border.”

The ship’s intercom crackled to life, a note of panic lacing the usually steady voice. “O’Brien to Bridge; abort warp activation! We’ve got a crew working on the antimatter containment unit!”

Leo shot up from his chair, his heart plummeting as a stone in heavy gravity at the severity of O’Brien’s words. The possibility of disaster was very real. An unexpected warp could spell catastrophe for those unsuspecting engineers.

Through his earpiece, Glal’s voice sliced through the mounting tension, a sharp edge of bewilderment cutting through his usual calm demeanor. “What’s happening, Leo?”

Sinking back into his seat, Leo’s fingers danced over the console’s input with practiced ease even as he grappled with the uncertainty. He shook his head, dread coiling within him. “I’m not sure yet, Skip,” he admitted reluctantly, “But it seems someone is attempting to seize control of Repulse.”

The steady voice of Vara wavered, the undercurrent of fear unmistakable as she relayed the grim news to O’Brien. “Engineering, we’ve lost control of the ship. Get that team out, now!”

The chilling reality of her words rang clear in the silence that followed, and Leo could see the shock register on Glal’s grizzled Tellarite face. His eyes bulged, and he managed a guttural “What-“ before their communication link cut off. The Starfleet Delta insignia flashed ominously on screen with the words “transmission ended”.

With a sense of urgency gnawing at him, Leo rose from his chair and made his way towards Vara’s central position, each step echoing through the tense bridge.

Thalix’s voice sliced through the mounting tension like a knife. Their tone was one of disbelief as they reported, “Sir... I can’t explain it, but we’re going to warp in ten seconds!”

“Red alert,” came Vara’s command; her voice strained but resolute despite her evident fear.

O’Brien’s voice crackled back over the intercom, laced with confusion and concern. “Bridge, we’ve evacuated the teams! What in blazes is happening up there?!”

Before anyone could muster a response, a collective gasp echoed through the bridge. The crew’s eyes widened in sheer terror as they watched the stars on the main viewscreen stretch into long streaks of cosmic light. It was an unmistakable sign; Repulse made the transition into the interfold layer of subspace. They were only moments away from departing Federation territory, unable to act against the threat of an irreversible course.

* * *

The red alert klaxon jolted Trujillo awake from a dead sleep and the comms in her quarters came to life with Davula’s voice just as she was rolling out of bed.

“Commodore, sensors have detected Repulse changing course abruptly, jumping to high warp and heading into Gorn territory. We received word from Gol a few hours ago that they and Repulse had dropped to impulse to repair damage to Repulse’s injectors and anti-matter containment system from redlining their engines for so long during their time in Gorn space. Then we lost comms with both ships just before Repulse warped away, and now it appears Gol’s been disabled and is adrift.”

Trujillo dressed quickly but not frantically, having long ago learned that slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.

“Disabled how?” Trujillo asked as she cinched her tunic’s belt around her waist and sat down on the rumpled bed to pull on her boots.

“Unknown, sir. It appears she’s running on emergency power. Warp and impulse systems are in emergency shutdown mode. No comms with Gol at this time.”

“Alert Command and contact the Arcadia. Tell Captain Locke that I’m initiating Opplan Iron Curtain and to get the task force into position. We’ll also need whatever ships Task Force Truancy has managed to cobble together and get them headed this way.”

“Aye, sir.”

“All outposts, vessels and defensive points along the border are to come to red alert.” Trujillo stood as Davula confirmed her orders, and straightened her uniform tunic, fastening the flap at the shoulder. “What’s our nearest asset to Gol?”

“The James Kirk, sir. A Loknar-class frigate.”

“Dispatch them to recover Gol as soon as possible. Set course for a position along our side of the border proximate to where Repulse penetrated Gorn space and execute immediately. If Keller and some of his crew staged some kind of ruse to seize the ship, disabling Gol would have been the first order of business before driving back into Gorn territory.”

“Do you think the reported engine problem was a diversion, sir?” Davula asked.

“I don’t know, Commander. But I fear what may happen to Commander Verde if he’s still aboard that ship and Keller’s back in command,” Trujillo said, stepping out of her cabin and into the corridor. “I’ll be in CIC, have Lieutenant Shukla meet me there.”

* * *
"...I swear, when I get my hands on whoever did this to my ship…"
* * *
“Admiral Saavik, what an unexpected pleasure...”

Brilliant juxtaposition... Why do I get the impression Keller is not only not in control, but still cooling his heels on Gol?

Someone really wants their little war... Could it be the Organians? Quite the gripping little mystery you've got going here.

(It would be a scream if it turned out a cabal of Star Fleet officers and Gorn were working together to get the war started...)

Thanks!! rbs
Wow! That was a shock ... but, not entirely unexpected given what had been uncovered about the Repulse's computer core. But, are you seriously telling me that James Kirk doesn't even warrant a capital ship as a namesake? tsk tsk. :p
Hey, the man was undeniably a hero, but he made more than his share of enemies within Starfleet. They'll probably have to wait until all his contemporaries die off before he gets a bigger namesake. ;)
* * *

Leo filled the vacant ops position on the bridge of Repulse, his robust form sinking into the seat as if it were custom-built for him. Over four years had passed since he last controlled this role on a starship's bridge, yet the familiar dance of his fingers over the console was a testament to his training and experience. "Systems are accessible," he announced.

However, as swiftly as victory appeared, it receded. The output display flickered before blanking out completely. A stark message and the seal of the Federation replaced the intricate data that had previously danced across the screen: “This Station Under Computer Control.”

His eyes narrowed at this unexpected development. "Seems I spoke too soon," he admitted with a grimace. "The computer's kicked me out." He swiveled towards Thalix, her youthful face etched with concern beneath their cropped blonde hair. "Are you seeing this on your end?"

Thalix nodded solemnly. "Yes, sir," she confirmed in soprano tones that barely hid her worry. "Same message popped up when I attempted to override our course correction."

Leo scanned the bridge, his eyes darting from one station to another like a hawk zeroing in on its prey. The stations darkened sequentially, mirroring Thalix's alarming report — as though an unseen force methodically deactivated each one. Propelling himself away from ops, he weaved his way towards Kesshek's console, threading through the labyrinth of control panels and crew members with a seasoned agility. The Saurian tactical officer met his gaze, his vast black eyes brimming with a potent mix of vexation and doubt.

Vara clung to the captain’s chair like it was her lifeline amidst a stormy sea, her blue-skinned hands white-knuckled against its arms as she watched Leo navigate through their crisis. "Commander Verde?" Her voice wavered slightly, revealing her mounting anxiety.

Kesshek cut in before Leo could respond. "No access here either, sir."

Leo held up a placating hand towards Vara and turned his attention back to Kesshek. "Any luck with manual override?"

Kesshek's slender fingers danced across the console in a futile attempt at regaining control. "Computer's blocking my input, sir," he reported, his bassy voice heavy with defeat.

"Appreciate the effort," Leo acknowledged, giving Kesshek a firm nod. He then swiveled to face Vara again. "Apologies for the delay. My curiosity got the best of me."

Vara offered him a shaky smile and shook her head dismissively. "No apologies necessary, sir." She paused for a moment before adding, "As the senior officer on deck—"

Leo sighed heavily as he interrupted her, already knowing where this conversation was headed. "I was hoping you wouldn't notice that."

“I presume you are a line officer, given how you seem to be familiar with starship operations.”

He replied tightly. “You presume correctly.”

Vara rose from her chair and approached him with an air of resolve. “Then per Starfleet protocol,” she said formally, “I relinquish command of this ship to you.”

Leo’s eyes scanned the faces of his crew—his responsibility now—as they watched him expectantly from their stations. The weight of their hopes and fears settled onto his shoulders like a well-worn cloak.

“Alright then,” he conceded with a half-smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, “I accept command.”

Vara let out an audible sigh of relief as she stepped back to her station—the ops position Leo vacated—and turned back to face him expectantly. “Orders?”

Pacing the circuitous edge of the bridge, Leo took advantage of his routine inspection to subtly study each member of the crew. His heterochromatic eyes flickered with quiet intensity as he scrutinized their reactions, ostensibly under the pretense of verifying computer control at each station.

As he completed his round, he found himself facing the colossal viewscreen. In a blink, it too succumbed to darkness, mirroring the rest of the bridge as it flashed with an ominous message. "Perfect," he grumbled under his breath.

The resonance of his voice cut through the tense silence like a blade as he issued orders to his crew. "All non-essential personnel are to remain in their quarters. Go to security alert three, all decks. Each department head to do a full systems analysis and confirm loss of access." His words were laced with urgency, underscoring the severity of their situation.

* * *

CIC, Reykjavík’s Command-Information-Center had been an idea proposed by Commander Davula following the Tholian Incursion six months earlier. Davula had noted that Trujillo trying to command the ship in battle while maneuvering their whole task force had come perilously close to taxing her abilities. Therefore, the CIC was built so that Trujillo could focus solely on issuing orders to the task forces she led while Davula assumed responsibility for commanding Reykjavík.

The compartment had previously been the ship’s auxiliary bridge, located on Deck 6, and had been thoroughly reconfigured to afford Trujillo the best intelligence possible on the ‘battlespace’ surrounding her ship and any others accompanying it.

A central command chair was flanked by two abbreviated consoles, while four stand-alone stations ringed the perimeter of the bridge's lower well area, facing inward. Here, members of the Operations, Science, Tactical, and Navigation departments would assist Trujillo with all manner of technical expertise necessary to effectively wield something as complex as a task force comprised of dozens or more vessels.

The outer ring of bridge stations had been left largely untouched, though each had larger viewscreens now mounted above the workstations. The consoles had been reconfigured for Communications, Strategic Operations, Logistics, Intelligence, and a more robust Science station than the stand-alone version nearest the commodore's chair.

Holographic projectors had been integrated throughout the compartment, offering three-dimensional views of all manner of stellar phenomena or spacecraft formations.

Trujillo stepped into the fully staffed CIC, nodding to Captain Tarrant, the intelligence officer they had liberated from Starbase 177. In Trujillo’s absence, Tarrant had operational command of the CIC, collating all available data on nearby sectors and any Gorn activity within them. He smoothly vacated the center seat and surrendered it to Trujillo.

Lieutenant Shukla had beat her to the CIC by mere minutes and had taken up post at the Strategic Ops station, helping to coordinate scans of Gorn space as Reykjavík rushed headlong into hostile territory.

“Update on Repulse,” she commanded.

Tarrant reported crisply, “Repulse is emissions quiet, sir. Neither broadcasting or receiving transmissions. No response to multiple challenge hails on secured frequencies. She is on a course towards a Gorn fleet assembly area one-point-seven parsecs from her current position at warp ten-point-seven, ETA to that position one hour and forty-three minutes..”

“Status of Gol?”

“Still no response to hails, and she continues to operate at minimal power, sir.”

Trujillo turned to enter a series of commands into one of her flanking workstation pedestals. “I’m initiating Repulse’s command prefix codes to seize control of her main computer and order the ship onto a return course to our position.”

She struggled through multiple safety interlocks asking repeatedly if she was certain she wanted to do this before toggling the final execute command.

Nothing happened.

Repulse’s computer stubbornly refused to accept her override commands. Trujillo experienced a sudden thrill of realization that someone had beaten her to it.

She quickly powered through another series of digital firewalls to manually change Reykjavík’s own command codes while ordering, “Ops, hail both task forces and tell them to alter their prefix codes. I think Repulse may have used Gol’s codes to disable the ship and now hers are locked out.”

* * *

Inside the captain's ready room on Repulse’s deck two, Leo poised himself on the edge of the chair behind the garishly opulent desk. He spoke aloud, "Computer, perform an identity and clearance check. Commander Rainerio Eulalio Verde, Starfleet Judge Advocate General’s Corps."

The computer answered with its calm contralto voice, "Please prepare for retinal scan."

Leo offered his right eye to the computer's scanner, holding it open against the intrusive light. A chime from the door system signaled someone waiting outside. "Enter," he beckoned.

Commander O’Brien stepped in, trailed by Gee and Sheesta. Leo halted their greetings with a raised hand as the computer declared, “Security scan completed. Commander Verde identified. Alpha One clearance granted.”

With calculated phrasing, Leo proceeded. “Computer, under authority granted by Starfleet regulations, Captain Keller and Commander T’Rel are hereby relieved of duty and confined to quarters.”

“Acknowledged,” responded the computer in its ever-neutral tone. “Arrest notification accepted. Command codes for Keller and T’Rel suspended.”

“Computer,” Leo pressed on relentlessly, “due to this emergency situation and as senior officer aboard this vessel, I have assumed acting command.”

“Understood," replied the computer. "Commander Verde is acknowledged as acting captain of USS Repulse.”

“Activate my command codes and grant me unrestricted access to all ship systems.”

An error tone reverberated ominously throughout the room. “Unable to comply," announced the computer coldly. "A clearance level X-Ray security lockout has been initiated by Starfleet Command. Verde command codes are insufficient to override.”

A sigh of frustration escaped from Leo's lips as he looked up at O’Brien shaking his head incredulously. “This is our third attempt at this logic sequence and we keep running into this X-Ray override wall! Could someone aboard be playing tricks?”

Warrant Officer Gee unholstered a compact device and activated it, catching Leo's attention. Gee motioned for silence as he worked on the device. Once done, he flashed a triumphant grin, “We can now talk without fear of being overheard.”

With newfound freedom to speak candidly, Chief Sheesta stepped forward. “It could be a remote operation, Captain,” she suggested. “Every Starfleet vessel has a prefix code that can be manipulated remotely by an officer of sufficient rank, typically a Captain or higher.”

O’Brien reported, “We’ve received full reports from all departments, sir. We’re restricted to using offline PADDs for now but our data systems team had some in reserve.” He slid one across Leo’s desk. “This one's yours.”

“Thank you.” Leo considered Sheesta’s point further. “If they are operating remotely…?”

“We could disconnect the transceiver array," Warrant Officer Gee offered, "but we'd also lose our own communication capabilities.”

“Not much good they’re doing us either way.”

“Fair point, sir,” replied Gee.

Leo pointed towards the Starfleet insignia on Gee’s uniform. “And these new commbadges? Would they still work if we lose communications? Could we use them to contact the Commodore?”

Gee shook his head regretfully. “No, sir. Severely limited range. We’d need to be in close proximity - no more than a hundred kilometers at best.”

“Alright... any good news?”

O’Brien interjected with a glimmer of optimism in his voice, “Captain, there might be a chance we could force ourselves out of warp.”

Leo scrutinized O’Brien's expression skeptically. "Your face tells me I'm not going to like this plan."

“We could misalign the magnetic constrictors manually,” explained O’Brien cautiously.

“That would stop us." Leo contemplated this risky strategy. “You're suggesting inducing a plasma overload in the core.”

“The computer safety measures would automatically drop us out of warp to prevent a core breach, then initiate venting of the excess plasma,” O’Brien clarified. “But we’d need to put in to a starbase for repairs. To replace the damaged subspace field coils,” he added with a hint of disappointment.

Sheesta interjected skeptically, “Assuming the computer safeties are still operational.”

“Whoever is controlling this ship obviously has an end goal," Leo argued. "They likely need us intact to achieve that.”

* * *

“Trujillo to bridge, set an intercept course with Repulse, best sustainable speed. I’m ordering Zelenskyy to hold position on our side of the border and join up with the task force when they arrive.”

“We’re breaching the border in pursuit of
Repulse and you don’t want to wait for backup, sir?” Davula asked by way of clarification.

“Affirmative,” Trujillo replied. “There’s no sense in compounding our casualties if this goes badly. We have one shot to try and stop Repulse before she turns this into an all-out war.”

“Yes, sir. Any further instructions?"

"That's it for now."

"Understood, sir. Bridge, out.”

Trujillo lost herself in thought for a few moments before ordering, “Comms, get me a priority encrypted channel to Harken.”

The CIC communications officer, a post Trujillo had eliminated from the bridge years earlier as redundant, confirmed the order.

The mocha-skinned Captain Audea Mistry, her ebony hair tied into a loose braid hanging over one shoulder, smiled crookedly at Trujillo from her office aboard the Stalwart-class reconnaissance scout. “Hello, Commodore. Can I be of assistance with something?”

“Yes,” Trujillo confirmed. “We’ve got a mess developing out here. Repulse somehow crippled her escort on the way back here and is making a high-speed run back into Gorn territory. I’m taking Reyky in to try and disable or destroy her before she provokes the battle fleet the Gorn are assembling. The white hole is garbling their comms and sensors already, and I need you to make it worse.”

“Worse, sir?” Mistry’s lopsided smile erupted into a full-blown grin. “As in communications and sensor higgledy-piggledy?”

The captain’s raw enthusiasm elicited a smirk from Trujillo despite the circumstances and her dour mood. “I trust your gang in the Radio Shack is still up to the task?”

“Very much so, sir. We’ll likely need to launch a series of low-profile comms probes into their territory to propagate the signals interference, but they’re practically invisible under ideal conditions, and with the white hole’s output the Gorn should remain blissfully unaware.”

“Do it,” Trujillo ordered. “Hopefully it’ll buy us the time we need to corral Repulse and drag her back with us.”

“Are you in need of backup, Commodore?” Mistry asked, despite commanding a highly modified version of the older Ranger-class scout.

Trujillo couldn’t help but be touched by the woman’s willingness to jump directly into the fray, despite her vessel’s tactical shortcomings.

“Not this time, Captain, but the offer is appreciated. I owe you and your comms wizards a drink when we get back.”

“I’ll hold you to that, sir. Perhaps the bottle I sent for your wedding?”

Trujillo inclined her head with a smile. “Great minds think alike. Please keep me updated as to your progress and keep Captain Locke on Arcadia in the loop as well. Reykjavík, out.”

* * *

Task Force Lacertus

USS Reykjavík – Shangri-La-class attack cruiser – Commodore Nandi Trujillo - *flagship*

USS Havana – Excelsior-class heavy cruiser – Captain Elizabeth Moonshadow

USS Arcadia – Matsumoto-class multi-mission heavy cruiser – Captain H. Isaiah Locke IV

USS Javelin – Belknap-class cruiser – Captain Ynami

USS Rapier – Hornet-class tactical carrier – Captain Willa Thorbet

USS Polaris – Miranda-class light cruiser – Commander Gzut Jareux

USS Zelenskyy – Miranda-class light cruiser – Lt. Commander Eldred Withropp

USS Arden’sur – Northampton-class frigate – Commander Azum S’ah-nahm

USS Lung Hsiang – Chandley-class frigate – Commander John M. Smith

USS Zeyzula – Chandley-class frigate – Captain Editha Bakari

USS James Kirk – Loknar-class frigate – Commander Hirano Yori

USS Planck – Newton-class frigate – Captain Ba'oria Tamedon

USS Elba – Akula-class destroyer – Lt. Commander Samantha Stromgren

USS Harken – Stalwart-class reconnaissance scout – Captain Audea Mistry

USS Krtor – Pioneer-class scout – Lt. Commander Zhāng Lì Nà

USS Gol – Akyazi-class perimeter-action scout – Commander Glal


Task Force Truancy

USS Atlas – Georgiou-class cruiser – Fleet Captain Emma Rosewarne

USS Resilient – Fortitude-class cruiser – Captain Aeson Albert-Groves

USS Duralla – Curry-class cruiser – Captain Maximilian Gouveia

USS Maalg – Miranda-class light cruiser – Commander Adisa Temitope

USS Mandela – Chandley-class frigate – Commander Kaikoura Agarwal

USS Lviv– Kiev-class frigate – Commander Adredo

USS Damascus – Akula-class frigate – Lt. Commander Gured Honorn

USS Koh Yor – Lenthal-class destroyer – Lt. Commander Aronas Žukauskas

USS McIntosh– Munro-class scout – Lt. Commander Nogura Yabushige

USS Pathfinder – Remora-class scout – Lt. Commander Kolya Sokolov

USS Honshu – Okinawa-class scout – Lt. Commander Kenojuak Nîpisiy

* * *
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Big fan of signals games and nicely done with the prefix codes. the entire prefix predicament brings the juxtaposition i referred to in my previous response to mind again. The question remains - who stands to benefit from a gorn war?
Could be simple revenge. If you have the capability and the mindset, why not just send an expendable ship and start blowing them away.
* * *

NCC-2204 (USS Arcadia)

"Ah, your timing is impeccable, Chief," Captain H. Isaiah Locke IV acknowledged with a nod. He leaned over his desk while seated within the ready room aboard USS Arcadia. The Matsumoto-class command cruiser was his territory, a domain he ruled with a firm yet fair hand. Accepting the offered mug of hot coffee, he flashed an appreciative smile that warmed the atmosphere of his private compartment.

Chief Yeoman (YNC) Miles grinned. “Anytime, sir,” he replied, stepping back to take his customary seat along the far bulkhead. As soon as he seated himself to allow Locke to enjoy his coffee, the door chime sounded.

“Entrez,” he said aloud after quickly swallowing. His dark almond-shaped eyes flickered towards the entrance at the arrival of his executive officer. A broad grin spread across his ebony skin, and he raised his coffee-filled mug in a silent greeting. However, his smile faltered as he caught sight of her stern expression and the intelligence officer shadowing her steps closely. His deep voice could be heard as he muttered a low, "Uh oh."

Commander M’Rera strode purposefully towards Locke, her Caitian features more pronounced than usual with her ears flattened and her grey and white fur raised in alarm. Captain Lorraine Apurahama of Starfleet Intelligence trailed just behind her; every line in her tattooed face spelling out urgency that mirrored M'Rera's demeanor.

“Sir," she began in a calm tone, "we’ve received traffic from the flag. Iron Curtain has been activated.”

Locke’s gaze darted to Apurahama whose silent confirmation was evident on her weathered face. Despite this tacit affirmation though, protocol demanded vocal verification. The Maori officer nodded solemnly before confirming in a tight soprano voice, “The message is indeed authentic, sir.”

With an audible exhale, Locke shifted his weight, leaning to the side to align himself with Chief Miles' anticipatory expression. Lifting his half-drained mug in a display of casual camaraderie, he commanded in his rich bass voice, "Keep this warm for me, would you?" Upon receiving a silent affirmation from the chief, he pushed himself up from his chair. He reached for his bomber-style jacket, draping it over his pristine command white turtleneck shirt. His voice carried a resigned determination as he declared, "Time to get our hands dirty."

* * *

NCC-2544 (USS Repulse)

Sinee Putrie, with a practiced flick of her wrist, drew a card from the deck. Her dark brown eyes flickered over it before she carefully tucked it into her hand. She hovered momentarily over a triplet of threes nestled in her grip. With a swift yet calculated move, she laid them out on the table before discarding the five of clubs into the pile. "Your move," she declared to the man seated on her left, Weapons Technician Second Class (WT2) Anas el-Rafiq.

A spark of amusement ignited in el-Rafiq's brown eyes as he glanced towards his friend and teammate, WT1 Jordina Bush. "She's got that predatory gleam in her eye," he warned with a chuckle. "I swear she's going to win the game again."

Jordina responded with a smirk that tugged playfully at the corners of her lips. She bobbed her chin upward in an impromptu salute and retorted, “Quit stalling and draw your card.”

Their game of rummy was their shared sanctuary - an oasis of camaraderie amidst their demanding duties aboard USS Repulse. El-Rafiq reached for the discard pile, drawing Sinee’s five of clubs and casting aside his eight of diamonds. He passed his turn to Ensign Kimberly Timm with a nod.

Kim picked up el-Rafiq’s discard and swiftly arranged a sequence from five through eight on the table before tossing an ace into the discard pile.

As Jordina deftly snatched up the discarded ace, she slid away her two of diamonds to signal the end of her turn. With a casual tilt of her head towards Sinee who was about to draw another card, Jordina asked, “So does anyone have any clue what’s happening?”

The question hung unanswered in the air for a moment before Kim shrugged lightly, “No idea.” She sighed, “I just thank my lucky stars that we were all here in Sinee’s quarters when the lockdown was announced. Beats being stuck with my bunkmate.”

Her comment drew a ripple of empathetic smiles from her friends, a silent testament to their shared experiences on the starship. As it was Anas’ turn to draw again, he mused aloud, "Seems like it’s been a wild ride since we left starbase. I shouldn’t be surprised by any of this, right?"

Sinee tossed her head back in laughter, her eyes twinkling with mirth. "I'm just glad I've got you all to share this waiting game with. It would've been a real snore-fest if I was alone."

Anas rolled his eyes, a smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth. "Yeah, more like you're thrilled to have more victims for your card game massacres."

"Hey, can't blame a girl for enjoying a winning streak," Sinee shot back, her grin undiminished.

Just as Anas drew breath for another playful retort, the ship's public address system buzzed into life. Simultaneously, the modest viewscreen adorning the far wall flickered on, revealing the stern face of Commander Leo Verde seated behind his desk in the captain’s ready room. Their friendly banter was abruptly halted by the shrill call of the boatswain's whistle echoing from the intercom.

"Crew of USS Repulse," began Commander Verde, his voice steady and authoritative. "This is Acting Captain Leo Verde. I wanted to provide an update on our situation and outline our next steps." He proceeded to explain their predicament - how they had been involuntarily warped into Gorn space due to a remote override and were now locked out of their own computer systems; even this announcement required hacking into those very systems.

As they absorbed this alarming news, glances were exchanged around the room – each seeking reassurance from familiar faces amidst unsettling revelations. Jordina reached out instinctively to squeeze Sinee's arm; she being their sole civilian companion.

"Now onto our plan," Verde continued, his voice resonating with confidence that seemed almost contagious. "I need every crew member proficient in small craft piloting and systems operations to report immediately to the shuttle bay. Following them will be those designated as non-essential personnel in thirty minutes." He paused, allowing the gravity of his words to settle before proceeding. "We will attempt a maneuver to force our ship out of warp, launch two shuttles, and have them return to Federation space carrying all our logs and reports. Our aim is to inform Starfleet of our current predicament. With your assistance, we can prevent an all-out war with the Gorn. Thank you. Verde, out."

As the screen faded back into darkness, three pairs of eyes swiveled towards Ensign Timm.

"Kim?" Jordina ventured tentatively. "You're up for this challenge, right?"

Exhaling slowly, Kim nodded her affirmation. "He mentioned anyone with piloting experience." She laid her cards down on the table and rose from her seat. "Catch you all on the flip side," she said lightly before exiting Sinee's quarters.

Anas broke the ensuing silence with a soft murmur that echoed their collective worry: “I hope those were not her last words to us.”

* * *

Accompanied by a security detail, Captain Keller and Commander T'Rel were led into the shuttlebay, which is situated at the furthest point of the ship. Sheriff Dursh's imposing presence commanded his team as they made their way towards the looming shuttles through the towering entry doors. A team of personnel, mainly pilots, gathered in anticipation of their orders, facing two colossal shuttles.

Among the group, Keller saw a face he knew well - Lieutenant (jg) Guilla Vazen. He called out to her, his voice tinged with desperation. “Lieutenant Vazen! I demand you take command of this security detail and release me from arrest! Immediately!”

In a fleeting moment, Vazen locked eyes with T'Rel, who then subtly shook her head. With a confident shake of her head, Vazen responded by crossing her arms. “I am unable to accept orders from officers under arrest, sir.”

“It’s an unlawful arrest!” Keller protested vehemently.

Dursh swiveled on his heel and barked back at him, “The prisoner will maintain silence!” The raw ferocity in the chief warrant officer's voice left Keller startled into silence.

With a satisfied smirk playing on his lips, Dursh turned away from the silenced captain.

Moments later, Leo Verde and Callum O’Brien made their entrance accompanied by several boatswain’s mates. As they halted in front of the pilots, their entourage continued towards the shuttles and began preparing them for departure.

Leo clasped his hands together in gratitude. “Thank you all for your swift response.” His gaze settled on the senior pilot, a lieutenant commander. “Is this everyone?” Upon receiving verbal confirmation, Leo continued in a tone laced with urgency: “Excellent. I require four pilots – two per shuttle.”

Four pilots stepped forward from among their ranks including Vazan and Ensign Kimberly Timm who were assigned to the first shuttle. The remaining two would man the second.

Leo addressed the selected pilots with a stern gaze, “In approximately twenty minutes, this bay will be teeming with non-essential personnel. The boatswain’s mates are preparing both shuttles to accommodate as many as possible. You will load until you can't fit another soul on board and upon receiving the order, execute an emergency launch maneuver – one following closely behind the other. Do not hesitate.”

Timm queried, her voice tremulous with apprehension: “What's our course of action once we’re clear, Captain?”

“Both shuttles will make a break for the border at maximum warp,” Leo instructed crisply. “Your priority is to safeguard your passengers and in case you encounter a Starfleet ship, surrender all data that we're transferring to your shuttle computers.”

The selected pilots responded in unison: “Aye, sir.”

T'Rel voiced a question that was both practical and critical. “Captain Verde, I am intrigued by your method for slowing this starship from its warp speeds?”

Leo's eyes, one green and one brown, flicked momentarily to Keller. The once-commanding figure seemed smaller under Dursh's looming presence. His reply was swift and sure, “Our engineering team is getting ready to manually disrupt the magnetic constrictors.”

The Vulcan former executive officer nodded in understanding. "A significant gamble. The ship’s computer will automatically cut off all power to the warp core to prevent a plasma overload. Fascinating." She paused briefly before launching another query, “What safeguards have been established to protect the field coils?”

O’Brien wore a look of resigned acceptance as he responded. “None, truthfully. We're intending on redirecting some of the excess plasma along the field coils to activate the automatic shutdown systems.”

“I see,” T'Rel affirmed, her deep voice carrying an undertone of thoughtfulness. "If you permit me, Captain, I would like to contribute my expertise."

Keller hurled an accusation steeped in bitter resentment, "Traitor."

Ignoring Keller’s acrimonious outburst, Leo turned his attention back towards T'Rel. “My initial intention was to have you and Captain Keller escorted off this vessel under security.”

“I appreciate your prudence, sir,” T’Rel replied with characteristic calmness. “However, considering my proficiency in starship propulsion systems, I believe I can assist Commander O’Brien in safely disengaging warp drive without causing harm—if my theory proves accurate.”

Leo refocused his gaze on O'Brien asking him directly, "Could we benefit from another set of competent hands?"

“If it ensures preserving this ship then unquestionably,” O'Brien conceded gratefully. “Will she remain in custody?”

After pondering briefly, Leo nodded decisively, "Given the emergency situation—I'll reinstate her." He directed his gaze towards Dursh and commanded with authority, "Release the XO, Sheriff."

Keller's reaction was volatile, "Have you lost your senses, Verde? You'll reinstate her but not me? I possess the access codes that can override computer control!" His bravado quickly vanished when Dursh advanced on him with weapon in hand. Keller raised his hands in surrender without uttering another protest.

“Regrettably for you, Captain," Leo responded to Keller’s outburst with a controlled voice, "the arrest protocol invalidated your codes under Starfleet regulations. If I had faith in your capacity to contribute positively to this predicament, I would have requested your assistance first. However, whomever has compromised this ship’s prefix code possesses a clearance level exceeding both of ours."

"Wait just a moment," Keller's assured demeanor resurfaced, buoyed by the fresh intel. "If they're operating under X-Ray clearance, this has Starfleet Command's fingerprints all over it, Verde. A flag officer is pulling the strings behind the curtain, can't you see?"

Leo extended a pacifying hand towards Keller. "I see your point, sir, but let's tackle one crisis at a time."

Keller’s voice hardened into a growl. “But this absolves me of guilt!”

“The safety of this vessel and her crew are paramount!” Leo retorted with an uncharacteristic bite in his tone. Sensing his own patience wearing thin, he cast his eyes downward and took in a calming breath. He offered a contrite smile to the officers around him before adopting a more composed tone, "My apologies."

O’Brien placed a supportive hand on Leo’s shoulder. His voice carried the soothing rhythm of his Irish accent as he reassured him, “It’s been a taxing day for us all, sir.”

Keller wore an expression sourer than vinegar at O’Brien’s display of solidarity toward Leo – the man he considered to be Starfleet's most irksome officer - yet he held his tongue.

“Thank you, Callum,” Leo said graciously. “As I was saying earlier, once we've stabilized our current predicament here on the ship, Captain Keller, I would like to assist in building your defense.”

“Go to hell and back again for all I care, Verde,” Keller spat venomously. He literally hocked a globule of spit at Leo’s feet that splashed onto his uniform boots. “I wouldn’t trust you even if my life hung in the balance.”

T’Rel stepped up alongside Leo and turned her gaze on Keller. “In fact Captain Keller,” she said with an icy precision in her voice that matched her Vulcan heritage perfectly; “it does.”

Keller shook his head and sneered at his former senior officers. “You're ready to tailor your loyalties to suit his whims. I see now I had not a single loyal officer standing with me.”

Leo let out a weary sigh. “Sheriff, could you please escort the captain to the passengers lounge until he’s ready for departure?”

Dursh smirked, a glint of satisfaction in his eyes. "With pleasure, Captain."

* * *

Warrant Officer Gee, a maestro of the ship's communication systems, effortlessly activated his combadge. “XO, we’re at the ready.” His eyes were glued to the complex data streaming from Repulse's towering subspace transceiver array - their only tether to the Federation’s FTL subspace communications network. T’Rel’s voice crackled through his badge, sharp and precise. “Received loud and clear, Mister Gee. Thanks for your hard work.”

Opposite him stood Data Systems Technician Chief (DSTC) Sheesta, her face an intriguing mix of curiosity and unease. Their bond had been cemented over two years of working elbow-to-elbow in the tech labyrinth; their camaraderie was a testament to shared knowledge and mutual admiration. “Gee,” she ventured, her tone apprehensive, “I’m still wrestling with what happens when we start pulling this beast apart.”

Gee swiveled towards her, his mismatched eyes twinkling with zeal as he launched into an explanation that only a seasoned comms tech could deliver. “To put Mister Boogeyman out of commission,” he elucidated with assurance, “we're going to take down the entire transceiver. Once command gives us the green light, I’ll kick off the manual disconnection sequence here while you disconnect the control computer from the main bus over there.”

Sheesta huffed out a sigh laced with amusement despite herself. "Look Gee," she clarified as she pointed at the conduit by her feet, "It's not about your plan or my part in it. What I'm fretting over is this EPS tap loaded with juice. If I pull it while it's hot...?"

A shadow flitted across Gee’s face as comprehension hit him like a photon torpedo. "Oh," he mumbled sheepishly, "That might have slipped my mind."

"You forgot?!" Sheesta retorted, her disbelief echoing through the room.

Gee's laughter reverberated around them, momentarily lifting the tension that hung in the air. "My bad."

Shaking her head, a touch of a smile tugged at Sheesta's lips despite their precarious predicament. "You do realize Gee, us Rigellians aren't wizards. We're just as likely to get zapped to death as you humans."

"No kidding," he responded, his chuckles subsiding.

She switched gears abruptly. "'Mister Boogeyman'?"

“Ah,” Gee replied nonchalantly, “just a nickname for our invisible troublemaker stirring up this mess. Helps me vent my frustration.”

Sheesta simply shrugged in response, her features softening into an understanding smile. "Whatever helps us keep our wits about us in this chaos works for me."

* * *

The sweltering heat radiating from the power transfer conduits near main engineering was causing beads of sweat to form on both T’Rel and Chief Misty Mazer's foreheads as they labored side by side. As she finished up her task, T’Rel passed the nearly-drained plasma torch to the chief before descending from the ladder that led into the nacelle struts.

While replacing her maroon uniform jacket, she queried, "Status of the other teams?" Her tone was even, but there was an undercurrent of urgency.

Mazer’s ice-blue eyes flickered over her PADD’s display. “Almost there, Commander,” she replied in a gruff voice that echoed her years of hard labor across Starfleet.

T'Rel's brow knitted slightly at this news. She turned fully towards Mazer, her face impassive but for a slight tightening around her eyes. "Could you kindly remind them that time is of the essence?"

The chief smirked, wiping away a bead of sweat with her grease-stained sleeve. “We don’t all have your Vulcan precision, sir.”

“Regardless." T'Rel responded coolly.

With a few quick taps on her PADD, Mazer relayed instructions to the other four teams working along the conduit's length. “Reminder sent.”

“Your assistance is appreciated,” T’Rel said with a curt nod.

Stepping closer and lowering her voice to a conspiratorial whisper, Mazer broke protocol slightly. “And if I may say so, sir, it's good to have you back on deck.”

T’Rel closed her eyes briefly and inclined her head in acknowledgment. “I am gratified that our new captain agreed to reinstate my service.”

Mazer nodded earnestly. “When Captain Verde showed up outta nowhere and took command... well, let's just say I wasn't thrilled. But compared to Keller…”

“Indeed," T'Rel interjected swiftly, "It is fascinating how we adapt to the... peculiarities of various commanding officers. But when compared to a more objective leadership style, longstanding issues become glaringly apparent."

Mazer chuckled softly. “That's one Vulcan way of putting it, sir. But you were always the calming balm in this ship full of firecrackers.”

“Your sentiment is appreciated,” T’Rel responded.

After a moment of hesitation, Mazer broached a delicate subject. “Do you reckon… I mean, you’ve been giving your all to the captain’s plan. Do you think he might consider dropping the charges?”

T'Rel paused before answering, her voice steady and clear. "It is not within my power to predict such outcomes. And based on my little knowledge of JAG procedure, I do not believe that decision rests solely with him," she admitted. "If evidence confirms that I violated Starfleet regulations, whether knowingly or otherwise, then justice must take its course."

* * *
* * *

As Leo stepped onto the bridge of Repulse, he felt a magnetic pull towards the command center. The center seat, a symbol of authority and responsibility, beckoned him. He moved towards it with an air of familiarity and was about to sink into its cushioned comfort when something unusual caught his eye.

A glinting object lay atop the seat; a metallic insignia representing the rank of a Starfleet captain. Heat flushed his ears as he realized what this meant - the entire bridge crew had orchestrated this moment, their eyes now fixed on him with anticipation and respect.

He extended his hand, fingers brushing against the cool metal as he picked up the rank insignia. His baritone voice echoed around the room as he spoke, "I... I'm at a loss for words," he admitted, holding up the insignia for all to see. "You all know I can't officially wear this."

Commander Vara rose from her station at the operations console, her blue skin glowing under the bridge lights. A warm smile lit up her face as she addressed Leo. “Sir," she began respectfully, "this is our way of showing gratitude on behalf of everyone onboard.”

One by one, S’ren, Kesshek, Thallix, and Ha-Vatoreii stood from their stations to join Vara in solidarity. Their smiles were genuine and hands rested casually by their sides—an unspoken gesture of their regards for his work.

Leo felt warmth spread across his cheeks at this unexpected display of affection. His jaw worked silently for a moment as he grappled with what to say next. However, instead of dismissing their gesture due to imminent dangers they were all about to face together, he decided to embrace it.

With swift precision born from years in Starfleet service, he removed his commander's rank insignia and replaced it with the gift from the crew. “I'll only wear this onboard Repulse," he declared, striking a compromise.

Once the new insignia took up residence on Leo’s shoulder, Vara's voice rang out clear and proud, “Captain on the bridge!”

A round of applause echoed through the chamber, punctuated by smiles and nods of approval. Leo raised his hands to quiet the crew, a grin tugging at the corners of his lips. "We still have work ahead of us, everyone. Stations, please."

As the bridge's atmosphere returned to its usual focused rhythm, Leo keyed in the ship’s intercom to connect with engineering. “Callum,” he asked into the open circuit, “are we ready?”

Instead of O’Brien’s Irish-accented voice replying, it was T’Rel’s calm tones that filled his ears. “Captain," she began formally, "Mister O’Brien is currently overseeing final modifications in the starboard nacelle. Once complete, we're ready to proceed.”

“Understood," Leo replied with a nod even though she couldn't see him. "Have all other modifications been double-checked?”

“Yes sir," came her crisp reply. "Chief Mazer and her teams have signaled full confidence.”

"Maintain the connection," Leo commanded, his baritone voice steady as he pulled Gee and Sheesta into the conversation. "I trust you're both primed for action?"

Gee's response was immediate, a hint of anticipation in his tone. "Captain, we're practically glued to the transceiver controls, just waiting for your green light."

Sheesta chimed in shortly after, her voice reflecting her readiness. "My team is poised to switch over to the secondary computer core, sir. If all goes well, it should sever this remote stranglehold on our command functions."

Thallix posed a question that hung heavily in the air. "Why not simply deactivate the computer and transceiver then drop us from warp using the helm?" As if on cue, the turbolift doors slid open with a soft hiss, revealing T'Rel clutching her PADD.

Leo offered T'Rel an acknowledging nod before addressing Thallix's query. His heterochromatic eyes held a spark of determination as he explained, "An excellent point. It might seem like overkill but if we can't break free from this override by switching cores then we need to have contingency plans in place to evacuate our crew."

T’Rel’s stoic voice cut through any lingering tension as she reported, “Engineering has finalized all necessary adjustments, Captain.”

"Thank you, XO," Leo responded softly before once more engaging the commpanel. “Bridge to Flight Deck. We’re set to start the festivities. Report your status.”

The responses came swiftly:

“Shuttle One reporting in,” Lieutenant Vazen’s voice crackled through the speaker. “We are fully-loaded and ready to go, Captain.”

“Shuttle Two, here,” Commander Dini confirmed in return. “We are go.”

O’Brien’s familiar voice joined them next: “Bridge, engineering is at standby ready to commence misalignment.”

With another tap on the controls, Leo summoned his authoritative tone, projecting confidence and resolve. “All hands, this is the bridge. Assume brace positions for subspace disruption."

* * *
Interesting, but not surprising that the crew are relieved to have Verde in command. Nice detail with the captain's insignia.

so is SF admiralty behind this nasty little attempt at a war? It wouldn't be the first time...

kudos on a nice, twisty little plot.. Thanks!! rbs
* * *

NCC-3717 (USS Gol)

Glal had never before so closely examined the intricacies of his bridge's overhead. His eyes traced the finer details of the recessed lighting matrices as he stared straight up at them from less than a meter away. Their illumination flickered randomly as did the consoles somewhere behind him, in a direction that should have been but was no longer strictly down.

His minute inspection of the ceiling was unintentional, and due to the complete loss of artificial gravity aboard ship, along with primary and secondary power systems and life support.

The eerie red cast of emergency lighting bathed the compartment, and Glal could hear the gasps and muttered curses of other crew struggling to regain their equilibrium or to gain an hand or foothold on a stationary object.

Glal floated there, too far from anything to push off, effectively helpless.

He slapped his combadge, praying to deities from several worlds that internal communications were still functioning. "Glal to Engineering!"

After a moment's stomach-clenching silence, Lieutenant Camila Galvez's voice emerged loud and clear. "Galvez here, sir. We're… we're trying to get our footing down here, Skipper."

"Easy, Captain, I've got you," came the voice of his XO, Lt. Commander Gael Jarrod.

Jarrod floated past him, executing a slow somersault that enabled him to push off the ceiling with his legs towards Glal, whom he took hold of with surprising gentleness and carried with him towards the command chair. Jarrod hooked his toes under the chair, pulling Glal down into place and triggering the emergency restraints to activate and hold him fast to his seat.

Jarrod then pushed off with his hands, twisting and turning through the air like some kind of zero-g ballet performer as his momentum carried him to the Engineering station.

"Damned showoff," Glal muttered under his breath.

"Galvez to the captain," the Chief Engineer's voice broadcast out over the bridge. "It appears someone triggered our command prefix codes and disabled all our systems. I've initiated the master override, but it doesn't appear to be working."

"What's our next step?" Glal asked.

"Complete shut down of the main and auxiliary computers and reboot from the protected archives. We should have main systems coming back online in ten minutes, with full restoration of all ancillary systems within a half hour."

"And until sensors, shields and weapons come online…" he began.

"We're effectively helpless, yes, sir," Galvez completed the mordant thought.

"The good news is that if all this is Repulse's handiwork and she was going to fire on us, she'd have done it long before now," Jarrod advised from where he was supervising activity at the Engineering station.

"And what's the bad news?" Glal graveled.

"We're completely crippled and adrift along the border with the Gorn," Jarrod supplied helpfully.

Glal grunted. "Forget I asked."

* * *

NCC-3109 (USS Reykjavík)

"Status update," Shukla called from the Ops station in the CIC. "Repulse is continuing on course, and she's still pulling away from us. Records show that ship had the Mark III engine upgrades eight months ago, so there's no chance of our catching her."

Trujillo was about to reply when the chief petty officer at the damage control station noted, "She's also redlining her engines, sir. She's just a touch shy of warp thirteen, and I'm detecting increasing variances in her subspace field attenuation. They keep pushing her like this and her nacelles will rupture or shut down within the next twenty minutes."

She nodded fractionally, "Acknowledged." She gestured towards Shukla's standing station facing her command chair. "Time until Lacertus makes it to the border?"

"Unknown, sir. All the sensor and comms interference Harken's kicking up along the border has blinded us. ETA at last contact would put the task force arriving on the border in twenty-seven minutes."

Trujillo stood. "Mister Shukla, join me on the bridge." She tapped her communicator. "Trujillo to Commander Davula, Shukla and I are headed topside. Not much more for me to do down here with the task force cut off from comms."

"Understood, sir. Standing ready to transfer command upon your arrival."

She nodded to Tarrant. “Captain, you have the CIC watch. I stand relieved.”

* * *

In the right seat next to Ensign Kimberly Timm, El-Aurian Lieutenant (jg) Guilla Vazen's slender fingers danced over the forward controls of Repulse's expansive transport shuttle; designated as Shuttle One. "All systems go on your end?" she queried, her voice a soothing melody in the otherwise sterile environment.

Kim offered a brisk nod, her eyes glued to the pre-flight checklist. "Just tying up loose ends," she responded, her tone tinged with an air of concentration. "Would you mind checking on our cargo?"

"Yeah," Vazen conceded. She exited the cockpit and entered the passenger compartment immediately aft, acknowledging the throng of passengers within their shuttle. The vessel boasted a capacity for thirty-eight souls across four rows of five and two inward-facing rows from the port and starboard bulkheads; all situated behind the cockpit's nerve center. Venturing into the passenger hold, she noted with approval how the boatswain's mates had ingeniously adapted seating arrangements to accommodate six extra jump seats at the rear, raising their total capacity to forty-four.

Her gaze met Captain Keller's relentless eyes as he reclined in one of those added jump seats alongside his trio of guards. A silent exchange passed between them before Vazen broke away, turning her attention back to her duties.

With a commanding air that belied her delicate appearance, Vazen raised her voice above the discordant symphony of overlapping conversations. "Eyes front!" Instantly silence fell like a curtain; all eyes were on her now. She nodded appreciatively before launching into her speech.

"I'm Lieutenant Vazen, your co-pilot. We are currently under evacuation protocol alpha; expect non-standard flight maneuvers throughout our course. It is paramount that everyone remains securely fastened unless we say otherwise." As if on cue, several passengers tightened their restraints further.

"Moreover," she continued gravely, "we're launching blindfolded. We may be thrust into combat as soon as we clear the bay doors." A wave of apprehension rippled through her captive audience. Hastily, she added, "Or we might slip safely back to our fleet undetected. Without sensors, it's a toss-up. Be prepared for anything."

A grating voice cut through the tension—Keller's. "Lieutenant, I demand you relinquish command to me."

Before anyone could react, Vazen raised a placating hand. She was loathe to embarrass the man, the questioning glances from the passengers forced her to address the matter openly, "Captain Keller, you've been relieved and you are presently under arrest. Starfleet regulations bar me from complying with your orders," she reminded him coolly.

Shifting gears to address her final point, she said, "For those susceptible to space-sickness, refuse pouches are stowed under your seats or within armrests for those in jump aisles. If any medical assistance is needed, two corpsmen are seated on opposite ends—give them a signal now." The silence hung heavy in the air, a tangible weight that seemed to pull at everyone's attention as she paused for effect. The words that followed were an open invitation to curiosity: "Any questions?"

A passenger, nervously clutching the armrests of his seat, asked about their departure time. Vazen responded with a noncommittal shrug, her voice cool and professional over the shuttle's intercom. "We'll try to give you as much notice as possible, but it's likely you'll find out when we start moving. This is covered under the aforementioned protocol. Everyone, stay secured in your seats. The gravity system isn't perfect; it will lag behind sudden maneuvering. No one needs to find out what that will feel like if you're out of your seat."

Kim's voice sliced through the tense quietude with a single command: "Departure positions." The order echoed in the shuttle's cabin before being swallowed by an anticipatory hush.

Vazen returned to her sanctuary - the cockpit - slipping into the right-hand seat once more with practiced ease. She looked over at Kim expectantly and queried, "Status?"

"Checklist completed," replied Kim curtly, her eyes still on her console screen. "Just waiting on the bridg-"

The familiar baritone of Verde's voice interrupted Kim mid-sentence over the open channel: "Bridge to Flight Deck. We're set to initiate proceedings. Report your status."

Vazen keyed open her audio pickup promptly and announced, "Shuttle One reporting in. We are go, Captain." She muted herself immediately after hearing the other shuttle chime in and turned towards Kim with a slight nod of respect, "Your spacecraft."

"My spacecraft," Kim confirmed succinctly yet firmly, adhering strictly to verbal procedure.

"This is the pilot-in-command, Ensign Timm," Kim declared confidently over the compartment channel after hearing from engineering about their readiness status. "This is your only warning. Emergency launch imminent."

The tension aboard the shuttle seemed to thicken, becoming almost palpable. Vazen could feel it seeping into her bones, or perhaps it was just her own nerves playing tricks on her. She shot a quick glance at Kim, finding reassurance in the ensign's calm demeanor amidst the mounting pressure. Kim's reputation as the top pilot of her Academy class wasn't just hearsay; it was a comforting reality in their dire situation.

"Ever done this before?" Vazen asked, trying to keep her tone light despite the gravity of their situation.

"Nope," Kim replied with an almost cheeky grin.

"Got a plan?"


"Going to share?"

Kim's lips twisted into a lopsided grin, an enigmatic spark lighting up her eyes as she said, "I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise."

Verde's steady, calm voice commanded, "Execute."

Across the same channel came O'Brien's response, "Aye, sir. Misalignment underway."

Vazen's fingers tightened around the controls. Her knuckles whitened as she fought to keep her nerves in check. Under her breath, she muttered a terse mantra to steel herself for what lay ahead. "Here we go."

Abruptly, the ship bucked and shuddered as plasma coursed recklessly through the subspace field coils nestled within the giant nacelles. The violent tremors surged through the shuttle, escalating in severity until they triggered erratic power surges that sent flickers of light dancing chaotically across the flight deck.

With an assertive tone that belied her concern, Kim commanded, "Initiate a one-second full impulse burst on my mark." To the passenger compartment, she ordered, "Brace, brace, brace!"

Vazen's fingers danced over her console, translating Kim's orders into precise commands on her screen. "Ready," she affirmed, her eyes flitting up to the gaping flight doors where the distorted image of open space shimmered ominously with signs of dangerous disruption to the subspace field.

"Shuttle One departing," Kim announced over the open channel with a calmness that felt like defiance against their precarious situation. Her fingertips brushed a single command and the small craft nudged away from the deck just as Repulse began its chaotic tumble out of subspace. As they cleared distance from the starship, its protective field vanished into nothingness. "Raise shields! Engage!" she ordered Vazen.

"Aye," Vazen responded dutifully. With a brief, forceful expulsion of energy, their shuttle was catapulted out of the bay and into open space using its own momentum to distance itself from Repulse which spun erratically on multiple axes.

Vazen's eyes were glued to her sensors as she scanned local space and reported crisply, "No hostile contacts detected. Repulse is adrift and moving away at one-half cee!"

Kim maneuvered deftly to adjust their trajectory back towards Federation territory. The high-gee banking turn caused the inertial dampening field to lag slightly, but enough to cause her stomach to flip. When the nose of the shuttle faced their objective, she let go of a held breath, then called out, "Repulse, if you're receiving this message: we've plotted our course back home. Initiating warp drive... now."

In response to her command, Shuttle One surged forward, disappearing into subspace, leaving only a momentary trail of prismed light.

* * *
* * *

"Captain, the flight deck confirms departure of both shuttles," Vara's voice cut through the tense silence, her words echoing from the operations console.

Leo's heterochromatic eyes flickered with a glimmer of hope as he commanded into the open channel, "Repulse to shuttles. Report in."

Gee's voice crackled back over the channel, a gentle reminder of their situation, "Apologies, sir. They've already slipped beyond our short-range communication reach."

Chief Sheesta's steady voice joined the chorus, bringing Leo back to their immediate predicament. "My team is on standby for core failover, Captain."

"Understood," Leo responded, his baritone voice carrying an undertone of grim resolve. He directed Sheesta to coordinate with Mister O’Brien.

The channel buzzed with technical chatter as they outlined their risky plan: It necessitated a total shutdown of the primary computer core, leaving Repulse without autonomic functions for an unnerving thirty seconds while they manually rerouted the primary command processor to the secondary core. Both teams were suited up in EVA gear for this maneuver - even artificial gravity would be lost when environmental systems went offline.

As they recited their plan one final time - each step weighed heavy with potential consequences - Leo felt a knot tighten in his stomach. With a deep breath that echoed eerily in his helmet's comm system, he activated the shipwide circuit.

"Attention all crew, this is the bridge speaking. We are on the verge of transitioning to a total shutdown of the ship's systems in order to switch over to our backup core," Leo's voice was steady and calm, his baritone echoing through every corner of the ship. "This will cause a temporary loss of all environmental controls, including gravity. Secure yourselves as swiftly and safely as possible. Medical teams are on standby for immediate deployment in case of injuries. Stay strong, we'll get through this together. Bridge out."

The moment he cut off the connection, Leo hit the control that clamped his seat arms tightly against his thighs, anchoring him in place amidst the impending chaos. Simultaneously across the bridge, each station mirrored his actions.

His eyes shifted towards Kesshek at tactical. "Lieutenant Kesshek, is our emergency lighting ready?"

"Standing by, Captain," Kesshek confirmed with an assuring nod.

Leo returned it with one of his own before drawing in a lungful of air and issuing his next command: "Chief Sheesta, initiate failover process."

"Aye sir." The countdown began from ten and when it hit zero, Repulse's ambient hum disappeared into silence so profound it was almost deafening. Only the crimson glow from emergency lights pierced through the sudden darkness.

Instantly Leo felt himself jerked around haphazardly by unseen forces while nausea clawed at his insides. He resisted the urge to retch and instinctive impulse to tense up his limbs; instead recalling past zero-gravity training sessions where he'd learnt to let go and adapt to such disorienting sensations by going limp. Shouts of surprise echoed around him as other members on the bridge grappled with their own disorientation under these unfamiliar conditions.

From her station Thalix’s voice rang out clear despite her struggle: "We’re tumbling and adrift!"

Without acknowledging the question, Leo maintained his eyes sealed shut, enduring the tumultuous ordeal. A thought meandered through his mind, questioning why thirty seconds could stretch out to feel like an eternity. His heart pounded in sync with his silent hopes that every soul on board had found safety in time. He lost himself in the disarray of time once he surpassed counting to thirty, but he was certain it had been well over a minute and a half before the bridge's primary lights flickered back into existence, accompanied by the familiar low hum of the starship's machinery purring beneath him. The nauseating spinning ceased abruptly as environmental systems reasserted their control, infusing the air with a refreshing purity that replaced its previous stagnancy.

Sheesta's voice echoed through the bridge, her tone teeming with relief and triumph. "It worked! All systems are back online, Captain!"

"Confirmed," O'Brien chimed in. "But we need your authorization to proceed further. Sir, can you make it to the computer control station?"

A groan slipped from Leo as he felt his joints protest under his conscious control again. "Uh.. give me a moment to find my footing." He relinquished his grip on the armrests as they unfolded back into an upright position. As he staggered from his seat, a wave of lightheadedness washed over him like a punch to his gut. "Hell of a ride," he mumbled under his breath.

T'Rel swiftly moved towards him; her Vulcan strength offering much-needed stability against his unsteady stance. "Are you all right, sir?"

Leo shot her a dazed look through half-lidded eyes while trying to regain balance. "Your eyes are quite captivating," he slurred as if intoxicated by her presence alone; his vision constricting around her figure until everything else blurred into insignificance. The pulsating rhythm of his own blood echoed ominously in his ears, a relentless reminder of the peril he experienced. Leo clenched his eyes shut, willing the adrenaline-fueled thundering to subside. Gradually, the frantic drumming in his chest eased into its customary cadence, and he steeled himself against the powerful urge to succumb to exhaustion's sleep.

"Captain?" T'Rel repeated, her tone laced with concern.

With a slow, deliberate nod, Leo acknowledged the concern in the room. "I’m okay... Just a bit overwhelmed." His eyes swept across the bridge, holding each gaze that reflected back a mixture of worry and anticipation. He offered them a reassuring smile, though it didn't quite reach his eyes. A hand lifted in a casual wave as he tried to diffuse the tension thickening in the air. "I’m fine. And I’m now noticing that I’m the only human on the bridge," he quipped lightly, alluding to the diverse array of hardy species comprising his bridge crew.

The impact of Leo's words was palpable, the tension in the room dissipating like a sigh of relief. The officers around him visibly relaxed, their shoulders dropping as if a heavy burden had been lifted. Their eyes, moments ago filled with uncertainty and fear, now gleamed with renewed resolve.

Leo’s stocky frame leaned subtly towards T'Rel, his voice dropping to an intimate whisper. "A little help?"

Slowly but surely, they made their way across the bridge, with T'Rel offering him unwavering support as they navigated towards Lieutenant Commander S’ran’s seated position at the science station.

A dryness clung to Leo's mouth, his throat parched as he issued his command. "Computer," he croaked out, the tension in his voice palpable even in the sterile confines of the ship's control room, "request security procedure for access to command functions."

The computer hummed in response, its synthetically feminine contralto tones filling the room with an eerie calm. "Please identify for retina scan."

"Commander Rainerio Eulalio Verde," he declared, a hint of defiance lacing his baritone voice. He stared unflinchingly at the scanner as it bathed his right eye in a scarlet glow.

"Security scan approved," the computer intoned after a moment that felt like an eternity. The words hung heavily in the air, their implications sinking into Leo's mind. "This procedure requires the command codes of the current commanding officer."

An icy dread gripped him as he asked the question he already knew the answer to. "Who is the current commanding officer?"

"Captain Theodore Keller." The name echoed through Leo's thoughts like a chilling wind, bringing with it the anxiety over memories, recent and distant.

"Under the jurisdiction of Judge Advocate General's Corps, Captain Keller is hereby arrested under multiple charges, and relieved of his command," Leo declared, his voice echoing throughout the bridge.

The computer produced acknowledging tones in response, its logic adhering to Starfleet protocols. "Executive Officer T'Rel is named as acting commander."

T'Rel's stoic features remained unflinching, her Vulcan discipline holding firm against the tide of uncertainty that had washed over the crew. Her calm voice broke through the tense silence that had followed Leo's explanation. "Computer, this is Commander T’Rel speaking. As the senior line officer present, I relinquish command to Commander Leo Verde."

The computer confirmed T'Rel's credentials with its typical precision. A few confirming tones later, it stated, "Executive officer testimony accepted. Verde command codes activated. Ship command transferred." Subsequently, a sharp boatswain's whistle pierced the air, followed by the computer's declaration: "Attention all hands, NCC-2455, USS Repulse, is now under the command of Commander Rainerio Eulalio Verde."

The newly recognized commanding officer of Repulse stood tall despite his below-average height. His eyes sparkled with determination as he tugged at the hem of his maroon jacket in an almost ritualistic manner. A smirk played on Leo’s full beard-framed lips as he addressed the computer in his baritone voice:

"Please, call me Leo."

* * *

NCC-3109 (USS Reykjavík)

Trujillo had resumed her seat on the bridge, displacing Davula, as Reykjavík struggled in vain to catch up to the faster Repulse, currently racing towards certain destruction by the oncoming Gorn fleet.

The zone of communication and sensor interference behind them continued to spread as Harken’s drones and comms-relays expanded further into Gorn territory.

“Sir, sensor readings from Repulse indicate a growing imbalance in their warp nacelles,” Garrett observed from the Science station. “If it continues, we could be looking at an emergency shutdown of their warp propulsion or a feedback wave that could result in a core breach.”

“This is due to them overtaxing their engines?” Trujillo asked.

Garrett appeared unconvinced. “It’s possible, sir, but this issue doesn’t appear to originate with the nacelles themselves. This looks more like an injector issue in the core.”

Trujillo absorbed this while running mathematical calculations in her head. “If they drop out of warp soon, is there a chance of reaching them before the Gorn squadron?”

Garrett’s voice rose an octave. “Now reading a plasma stream in their wake. They appear to be venting drive plasma from the emergency outflow ports, sir!”

“Trying to save their nacelles,” Trujillo whispered to herself.

Davula turned from her station to address the commodore’s unanswered query. “If Repulse drops out of warp in the next five minutes, we’d reach her fourteen minutes before the Gorn do, sir.”

The turbolift doors parted to admit Lt. Commander Kura-Ka to the bridge. The Zaranite’s face was obscured behind a protective mask that fed him a steady stream of his homeworld’s fluorine-rich atmosphere. The Chief Engineer relieved the duty warrant officer at the Engineering station, seating himself and accessing the current scans of Repulse.

“Put Repulse up on screen, computer enhancement at maximum magnification.”

Just as Shukla complied with Trujillo’s order and an image of Repulse appeared on the viewer, the ship veered suddenly, dropping out of warp as the vessel tumbled wildly.

“She’s dropped to sub-light and–” Shukla began.

“Reading massive torsional stresses on her spaceframe, Commodore,” Kura-Ka cut him off mid-sentence, an almost unheard of breach of decorum on Trujillo’s disciplined bridge.

Two smaller craft flashed free from Repulse’s aft shuttlebay as the bridge crew watched in fascinated horror as the larger ship continued to tumble out of control as she decelerated.

“Two shuttles away,” Shukla began again, only to see both craft accelerate to warp on divergent courses. “Both craft are Type Five shuttles and have just jumped to warp, though one appears to have suffered some engine damage in her launch maneuver.”

“Still reading hundreds of life-signs aboard Repulse, sir,” Garrett added.

“Hail the shuttles,” Trujillo ordered.

Shukla acknowledged the order, but after a pregnant pause, he glanced back at her. “Sorry, sir. Repulse’s rapid and… unorthodox deceleration maneuver appears to have created some localized subspace interference. I’m having difficulty punching a signal through to them. We’ll have to wait until they’ve put some distance between themselves and the ship.”

“Can we hail Repulse?” she asked.

“No sir, same problem, only more of it. We’ll have to wait until we get closer or some of the subspace chop settles down.”

Trujillo fought the urge to stand and pace around the bridge. She was anxious, both about the condition of the ship and crew on the viewer, as well as the approaching Gorn. She sat back in her seat and closed her eyes briefly, practicing slow, regulated breathing.

“I’ve managed to raise one of the shuttles, sir,” Shukla announced.

Trujillo opened her eyes, toggling the channel open on her armrest. “Reykjavík to shuttlecraft, we are on approach at high warp. Say your situation.”

A relieved voice replied over the speakers, "Reykjavik, this is Shuttle One. Lieutenant, jay-gee, Guilla Vazen, here." A pause, then, "We're roughly seven hours from the border at present speed. Say your position, please?"

Trujillo relayed their coordinates, telling them, “We’re heading to evacuate Repulse’s remaining crew. Remain on course and we’ll swing by and pick you up on our way back.”

"Fuck that, whoever you are," said a new voice. "I'm altering our course to rendezvous. Hold your speed and have them open the doors, we'll be there in less than five minutes. We have vital information and are chock full of non-essentials and one prisoner."

Guilla sighed audibly. "Apologies, Reykjavik. That was our pilot-in-command, Ensign Timm."

Trujillo frowned. “Please inform Ensign Timm that she’s speaking to Reykjavík-actual, Commodore Trujillo, and that we will not drop out of warp until we reach Repulse. If you want to return to the ship’s location, we can bring you into our shutttlebay as we’re beaming the survivors over, but we only have a fourteen minute window between when we reach Repulse and when the Gorn get to her.”

Timm's voice spoke up once more, though far less cavalier than before. "Begging Actual's pardon, Commodore, sir. I only need thirty seconds to land this bird on your deck. If you slow to sublight on approach to Repulse, that's all I need. We're already in your wake, now."

“Acknowledged. As soon as we assume station-keeping alongside Repulse, we’ll open the doors and give you the green light to land.”

She turned to Davula. “Commander, tell the deck gang to clear enough space for those two shuttles and to make ready for bringing them aboard. We’ll try to grab the other one on our way out.” As that order was being acknowledged, Trujillo looked to Shukla. “Ops, any luck raising Repulse?”

“Not as yet, sir. Still a lot of interference in that area. I’m still trying.”

“Commodore,” Kura-Ka said through the vocoder in his mask, “Repulse has lost all primary and secondary power. It appears someone’s shut the entire ship down and is trying to reboot the computer cores.”

“Commodore,” Garrett called out, “we’re approaching the area of disturbed subspace. Recommend we decelerate from warp as we approach, it’s going to be rough.”

“How much time is that going to cost us?” Trujillo asked pointedly.

Garrett ran the calculations quickly. “Four minutes, eighteen seconds, sir.”

“Damn,” Trujillo murmured. “Okay, do it. We can’t rescue them and escape the Gorn if we damage ourselves in the process.”

Lieutenant JG Naifeh glanced up from his position at the helm. “Prepare to begin deceleration maneuver in five minutes… mark.”

“Weaps, raise our shields for deceleration. Hopefully that’ll spare us some of the chop or at least a fewer number of fried isolinear processors.”

“Aye, sir,” the towering Helvia replied soberly from the Tactical station.

Trujillo opened the intra-ship. “This is the commodore. All hands, we will begin emergency transport evacuation of all Repulse personnel in just a few minutes. Stand ready to move their personnel out of the transporter rooms as quickly as possible to make way for the next groups. Escort their crew to all of our crew lounges and recreation areas, using whatever other larger compartments are needed. Sickbay, stand ready to receive casualties from their sudden deceleration.”

“Repulse’s systems are starting to come back online, sir. They appear to have regained helm control and have stopped the ship’s roll and yaw,” Garrett advised.

Kura-Ka noted, “Reading significant damage to their nacelle support pylons and structural weakening in several areas of their secondary hull.”

“Still not able to drive a signal through to them, sir,” Shukla noted with a touch of frustration. “I’ve also been unable to raise the second shuttle. We’re broadcasting, but they’re not receiving. They may have damaged their transceiver array along with their nacelle when they launched.”

“I’d really like to tell them what we’re about to do before we just start beaming people off their decks, but time is of the essence.”

“Approaching deceleration boundary, sir,” Naifeh said.

“All hands, brace for subspace shear,” Trujillo called over the intra-ship.

“Decelerating from warp in five, four, three, two… now.”

The deck-plates rattled and the officers and crew on the bridge shuddered in their seats as the shielded Reykjavík shouldered its way through the roiling eddies of subspace upset by their fellow ship’s tumultuous passing mere minutes earlier.

“We’re safely out of warp, sir.”

“Full impulse, Mister Naifeh. All stop five kilometers from Repulse.”

A few tense moments later, Reykjavík slowed to a stop beside the battered Excelsior-class.

“Shuttle is on final approach to our landing threshold,” Ops called.

“Lower shields for transport and shuttle recovery. Initiate transporter evacuation of that ship, and get me a direct comms laser-link with Repulse,” Trujillo commanded.

* * *
Nice pulse-pounding action on the shuttle. Enjoying the tight, quick, descriptive writing. Also liking the Trujillo's and Verde's deliberate self-control for the sake of their crews.

Looking forward to seeing how crew respond to being beamed off Repulse without warning...

Thanks!! rbs
Wow, what a wild ride! Nicely written. I was literally on the edge of my seat (and I mean that literally). ;) Can't wait for the next installment.

Also, apologies for not commenting for a while. For some reason TBBS has not been recognizing my login even though I'm logged in. Tech, whadda ya gonna do? :shrug:
* * *

In Repulse's observation lounge on deck two, adjacent to the captain’s ready room, Leo found himself at the head of the elongated table, his eyes wide with disbelief. “We’re still incapable of warp speed?”

O’Brien’s face was a mask of regret. “The XO's workaround for the subspace field coil damage worked flawlessly. But…” He faltered, as if the truth he carried was too heavy to voice.

“Underestimation of the torsional damage to the nacelle struts is our downfall, Captain,” T’Rel filled in the silence with her usual Vulcan stoicism. “Without an accurate comprehension of our velocity when we were violently jettisoned from warp-”

“More like punted out,” O’Brien interjected under his breath.

T’Rel gave a slight nod in agreement, her stoic demeanor unbroken. “Indeed. The Excelsior-class starship struts are fortified for high-warp stressors, yet it seems whoever set us on this trajectory did so at maximum emergency speed.”

O’Brien let out a sigh that echoed through the room. “My engines had to endure warp fourteen throughout.” His lament quickly morphed into fury. “If I ever lay my hands on that imbecile who did this-”

The Vulcan's throat-clearing cut through O’Brien’s heated words. “Regardless of your sentiments, we cannot risk further FTL stresses on our nacelles without causing irreparable harm.”

Leo exhaled deeply, his mind grappling with their predicament. “Even at low warp?”

A shared glance passed between the chief engineer and executive officer before she answered. "Chief Mazer and her damage control teams are currently conducting a thorough assessment based on preliminary scans from internal sensors."

"Is there any chance Chief Mazer could shore up enough of the damage for us to cross back over the border?" Leo questioned, his voice steady despite the rising tide of concern within him.

O’Brien's response was hesitant. "At this moment, it's uncertain, sir. At best, we might manage a short hop to a nearby star system and lay low." The room fell silent as the gravity of their situation hung heavy in the air.

Lieutenant Commander Vara, the ship's operations officer, absorbed the conversation with a visible expression of dread. Her azure-skinned countenance, normally composed, now reflected her inner turmoil. "What's our next move?" she asked in a voice tinged with resignation. "The Gorn are closing in."

Leo rose from his chair, his eyes gleaming with determination. "Vara, I need you and S’ran to scour the nearby star systems for viable hideouts while the Chief and her teams work their magic," he instructed. "We might not be able to warp out at full speed, but if we can find a safe haven until reinforcements arrive… and hope for the best."

Turning towards T'Rel, the Vulcan executive officer whose stoic demeanor remained unbroken even amidst chaos, he commanded: “XO, get ready to evacuate the secondary hull and prepare for saucer separation if necessary.” As she nodded her understanding, his gaze then shifted to O’Brien. “And Mister O’Brien,” he continued, “perhaps we can use the warp core as a deterrent if push comes to shove.”

O'Brien grimaced at the thought but nodded his agreement. "Aye, sir. Better that than end up as incubators for those bloody reptiles."

Ha-Vatoreii's voice crackled over the intercom system, "Bridge to Captain. We have laser-comms with Reykjavik. It's Commodore Trujillo calling, sir."

Leo's lips spread into a wide grin. "Put her through, Lieutenant. Thank you."

The viewer came to life depicting Reykjavík’s bridge with Trujillo seated in the center. “Commander, we’ve just pulled alongside. The Gorn are ten minutes out, and we’re starting transporter evacuation of the ship. Please order your personnel to stop moving and stand by for emergency beaming. This is going to be damned close.”

"Aye, sir," Leo replied quickly. Slapping his combadge, he spoke, "All hands, this is Verde. Emergency transporter protocol alpha, all decks. The next compartment you'll see will be aboard Reykjavik. Verde, out." He nodded to the screen. "Ready whenever you are."

Everyone around the table rose, preparing to be beamed aboard the other vessel. Under the transport protocol, everyone aboard Repulse came to a halt or to their feet, depending. Within seconds, transporter beams began ferrying the doomed ship's survivors in energy form to their rescuer's starship.

* * *

Reykjavík’s four standard transporter rooms as well as the ship’s cargo transporters began beaming personnel aboard as quickly as the complex devices could cycle. Crew guided the newcomers out of the way, taking them to any area large enough to hold groups of people as Repulse’s crew of roughly seven-hundred was added to Reykjavík’s own three-hundred and fifty.

Things became crowded rather quickly.

Trujillo ordered Verde to the bridge as soon as he came aboard, figuring that the man would likely demand to be the last off the ship.

* * *

“Position of the Gorn fleet,” Trujillo asked, eyeing the displays on her swing-arm console that was currently positioned over her lap as she monitored the progress of the evacuation.

“Six minutes, nine seconds until arrival,” Shukla briefed. “They’re coming in at full speed, so the same subspace chop that gave us issues will be tenfold worse for them unless they decelerate soon.”

“Thank heavens for small favors,” she responded dryly.

Garrett announced, “Evacuation progressing, and Repulse’s shuttle is aboard. We’re tracking the progress of the second shuttle, but she’s taking a course some thirty degrees off that set originally by the other shuttle. And… she’s only making half the speed. I’m detecting radiation leakage in her wake, likely from one of her nacelles, sir.”

“Understood,” Trujillo answered, still engrossed in her displays.

An alarm sounded at the Ops and Science panels simultaneously, but Shukla was the first to say, “Sensor contact… Gorn hunter-class attack ship, bearing one-two-seven-mark-two-four-nine.” He turned half-way in his seat to fix a concerned look on Trujillo. “Sir, it’s on a direct intercept course with the shuttle.”

Trujillo’s head snapped up from the console in her lap. “Why didn’t we detect them earlier?”

Shukla gestured helplessly. “I’m not sure, sir. The craft are built for stealth, and with all the subspace disruption and sensor interference…”

“ETA to intercept with the shuttle?”

“Five minutes, thirty-eight seconds.”

From behind the tactical station, Leo exited the turbolift and stepped onto the bridge. "Sir, Repulse's computer is locked down." He reached into his jacket and pulled out his display device. "Here's the new prefix code for you," he said while holding the display for her eyes.

Trujillo waved off the tablet, pointing to an auxiliary console. “Set her to destruct, Commander. We’re going to have to time this just right.” She glanced back toward the viewer. “And you still have one damaged shuttle out there with a hunter bearing down on it.”

With a quick nod, Leo replaced the device. "Aye, sir. How long do you want me to set the interval for?"

She looked to Garrett. “How long until we’ve got everyone aboard?”

“Another thirty seconds, sir,” the younger woman replied.

Trujillo turned back to Leo. “Set it for forty-five seconds.”

Leo slipped into the auxiliary station and began tapping in a series of commands. "Repulse. This is Verde. Emergency override, authorization: Verde-four-four-eight-one-alpha."

The computer aboard Repulse replied quickly. "Override authorized. Input command."

He muted the input and swiveled around to ask, "Commodore, you want a big boom or a little boom?"

“The bigger the better,” she answered. “Anything to slow them down or blind them.”

"Aye, sir." He keyed the input open once more. "Code Zero-Zero-Zero, Destruct Three. Set interval for forty-five seconds, silent countdown."

"Destruct sequence activated. Forty-five seconds to auto-destruct. There will be no further warnings."

Leo sighed. With a reverent nod of his head and closed eyes, he said, "Thank you, Repulse. Verde, out." He rose from the station and turned back to Trujillo. "Shortest command stint in Starfleet history, eh?"

“The candle that burns half as long burns twice as bright, Rally,” she answered with a hint of a smirk.

He folded his arms and offered a weak smile. "As you say, sir." Leo took a step forward and addressed the next concern. "What's Shuttle Two's location? Do we have comms?"

Trujillo gestured to Shukla and then to the viewer, the lieutenant obediently throwing a two-dimensional course plot for the shuttle and the pursuing hunter up onto the screen. “That’s their location, and so far we’ve been unable to speak with them. They appear to have suffered damage during their launch procedure.”

“Commodore, we have the last of Repulse’s crew aboard.”

“Plot a course for the shuttle, engage at emergency speed. Execute.”

Reykjavík leapt to warp, the ship juddering as it muscled its way through the subspace shear, clawing to escape the onrushing Gorn flotilla.

* * *

As Shuttle One pierced the permeable forcefield erected over the open maw of Reykjavík’s shuttle bay, the craft settled down in a textbook landing, unaided by the bay’s tractor emitters.

The chief of the deck, Senior Chief Wund’rund, thought it a damned fine piece of flying. He tapped his combadge to announce, “Bridge, Shuttle One is safely aboard and secured.”

Dr. Bennett and a team of medics approached the shuttle’s hatch, loaded for bear with all manner of life-support and trauma equipment, most of which rode atop the anti-grav gurney accompanying them.

Deck crew swarmed the shuttle, anchoring the larger-than-average craft to magnetic grapplers to affix it to the deck for safety should Reykjavík experience turbulence.

Both hatches opened seconds later; the large rear door folded down to form a ramp, while a smaller door on the starboard side slid open once a set of steps pushed out to allow passengers to step over the nacelle safely.

A corpsman wearing the Starfleet Caduceus on his upper arm carried a passenger out of the rear door. "I need a little help, here!" He called attention to his patient. "Lost consciousness as soon as we left the ship," he explained to the nearest medical team.

Bennett and two of his medics hurried over to assist the corpsman with placing the unconscious crewmember atop the gurney as the others cleared it of equipment. Bennett began scanning the male human, running the sensor module of his medical tricorder over the man.

The sensor wand tracked up to the man’s head and lingered there near his left ear. “Looks like benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.” Bennett looked at the corpsman. “Was your launch from Repulse a little hot?”

The question elicited a brief chuckle in response. "Definitely. But, non-responsive, so I made sure he was first off the shuttle," the corpsman explained his decision.

Behind them, stepping down from the ramp were three Master-at-Arms holding a Starfleet captain by his elbows to secure him closely. The leader of the guard detail, a chief petty officer, scanned the vicinity to find anyone that shared his role aboard Reykjavik. Within seconds, a security detail joined them. The sight alarming their charge.

"This is outrageous!" Captain Keller twisted within the grip of the muscular guards. "I demand to speak to the officer of the deck, immediately!"

Ensign Timm and Lieutenant Guilla followed shortly after. The former muttering with a shake of her head, "Complained the entire damn trip."

Bennett nodded to the corpsman. “You did the right thing, of course. He’s just very space-sick. We don’t tend to see this very often anymore with our advances in inertial dampening.” He looked around. “Is this your only casualty?”

A junior lieutenant stepped forward from behind a nearby standing workstation in response to Keller’s eruption. “I’m Lieutenant Cambrio, Captain. Officer of the Deck. What seems to be the problem?”

The chief of the detail responded quickly, "Lieutenant, I'm Chief Primmon, USS Repulse. Captain Keller is our prisoner, under close arrest by the order of Captain Verde."

"Absurd!" Keller exploded, again fruitlessly twisting against the grasp of the two guards at his sides. "He's no more a captain than that woman is a commodore! I'm surrounded by morons! Release me, at once!"

Cambrio raised an eyebrow in silent rebuke. “Well, I was going to recommend seeing him to guest quarters and securing him there, but if he wants to insult the commodore on the deck of her own ship…” he jerked a thumb towards the main hatch in the fore bulkhead. “Turbolift’s to the left. Brig’s on Deck Six. Be my guest.”

"Lieutenant, I am a line officer and a captain in Starfleet," Keller growled. "You will order them to release me, this instant. I am ordering you, in case you've forgotten how rank works in this fleet!" He fixed Cambrio with a hard stare as he spoke, utilizing every bit of his will against the man.

Guilla added her perspective to the discussion. From his rear, she told Keller, "You're a captain and you should know better, sir." She stepped forward and turned to the chief, "Do as the lieutenant says and take him to the brig. Let him sit there and think about why it's not a good idea to insult the CO of the ship he's standing on."

Cambrio held Keller’s contemptuous gaze for a moment, then shook his head with a disbelieving expulsion of breath before turning his back on the captain. “Please remove his eminence from my deck.”

Primmon smirked, then snapped his head back to his detail. "Aye, sir. You heard the officers: Deck six, straight away."

All eyes on the deck watched as the guards literally dragged Keller to the lifts while he bellowed his displeasure. "I will report you all to the admiral, I promise you!" Seconds later, the lift doors closed and a calmer atmosphere settled over the flight deck.

Timm joined the group and sighed. "Remind me to send something nice to your brig team, sir," she said out of the corner of her mouth to Cambrio.

Cambrio shook his head sadly. “That’s your captain, Ensign? You have my sympathies.” He looked her up and down. “Was that you on the stick in there?” he asked, gesturing to the shuttle.

Timm scoffed. "He's not my captain. Captain Verde is our commanding officer, now."

As the ensign used a borderline tone with a superior officer, Guilla quickly replied, "Ensign Timm was pilot-in-command, sir. She's one of our best next to Commander Dini, our department head."

“Damn fine piece of flying, Ensign. Innovative approach vector, and a deft hand on the stick as you popped the field and set her down,” Cambrio said with genuine admiration.

Guilla's hands folded behind her back at the base of her spine as Cambrio spoke. "Ensign Timm graduated top of her flight class at the Academy, sir. Unfortunately, she was absent the day they taught protocol and table manners, so she flies and speaks at full impulse."

Timm folded her arms across her chest. "Well, thank you, Lieutenant, sir," she pointedly addressed her comment to Cambrio, ignoring Guilla's words. "It is most gratifying to be recognized for one's skills rather than kissing the ring or etiquette or curtsying or whatever it is you do up in the captain's mess." Though her eyes were on Cambio, the appeal of Guilla's eyes toward the upper bulkhead expressed the beleaguered and long-standing argument between the two.

Guilla wordlessly brought a hand to her forehead.

Cambrio smiled impishly. “I’m not looking to get in the middle of whatever this is, Ensign,” he said, gesturing between Timm and Guilla. “Specialist Gaffney will see your people to the rec deck. Make sure you settle in there, as things might get a bit rough in the next few minutes. Word has it they’re setting Repulse to self-destruct and we’re going to have the Gorn on our ass the whole way back to the border.”

"Sir," Timm said, her tone losing its joviality. "Any word on Shuttle Two? Commander Dini should've been on my six."

He shook his head. “Not yet. They’re not here, and I’ve not been told to stand ready to take another shuttle aboard. Hopefully they’ll have more info for you when you reach the rec deck.” He gestured toward the exit where the rest of those aboard the shuttle were being herded by Reykjavík personnel.

Guilla shot a worried glance at Timm before responding, "Aye, sir. Thank you." With a quick gesture, she said, "C'mon, Kim."

Timm nodded, and as she passed by Cambrio, uttered her own, "Thank you, sir."

* * *