Star Trek: Nullabor

Inquisitions - Page 1

Admiral Connelly was not happy. He sat at the desk in the quarters he had been assigned, reviewing the personnel details for the Nullabor Station. He was uncomfortable, cramped, and he felt like he was under pressure with this assignment. On top of all that, he kept getting the nagging feeling that there was something he was missing in the files that he had been given to review prior to reaching the station - something that would be important during his stay there.

He had been reviewing notes on the officers in command of the facility for too long, he realised. His vision was starting to blur, and he found his mind wandering too often. He stood and stretched, deciding to take a break. He looked around the room he had been assigned for the voyage. Had things really fallen that far for the Federation in recent years?

He was on board the Recluse, a Hercules class transport. It was a far cry from his Galaxy class ship from before the Dominion War, but all the ships that had been capable of fighting had been sent to the fronts during that time, and new ship development and construction, while accelerated, had not kept up with the demand the war had created. The Dominion and the Borg had both exacted a heavy toll on the Federation, there had been so many good ships and crews lost to battle that winning had only been half the battle. The Federation had been weakened, and it's enemies had been testing that weakness.

The anti-cloaking technology they had developed had been the one thing that had saved the Federation from outright invasion, and Connelly knew that. Nullabor Station was the place that had tipped the balance for the Federation, they were now churning out new ships at nearly the rate of Utopia Plenetia, and the ships they were producing were exactly what the Federation needed right now. Utopia Plenetia was still turning out ships that would put a public face on the Federation, but the Nullabor built ships were the hunters that would keep the wolves at bay.

All in all, things were looking up, but it was still tight. Every battle-ready ship was patrolling borders and key strategic points, meaning that the Admirals were given ships like transports to travel on, if they were given anything. Admiral Connelly had actually hitched a ride on a routine flight, and he despaired of ever being able to get from assignment to assignment under his own steam.

He understood for the most part. Most of his work was conducted in the Earth's solar system. The most travelling he usually ever did was between Utopia Plenetia on Mars and Jupiter Station. It didn't make sense in these times of economy to have a starship at his beckoned call. Still, there was the image. And the inconvenience.

Guest quarters on a transport were not really designed for working Admirals. He had been forced to get the Captain to upgrade some of the computer facilities in the room, which was not something he seemed happy about. Connelly guessed why, resources on these ships were usually scarce, and the thought of an Admiral taking up the lion's share of them for the voyage was not something he would look forward to. The whole attitude on board the Recluse needed adjustment in his opinion. These were not the man and women who he was used to in Starfleet, he wouldn't have received this sort of treatment on a Starship...

Admiral Connelly found the argument coming around full circle in his mind once more, as it had many times during the voyage. Of course the attitude was bad here, all the best crews were serving on the starships. The people assigned to transports or stations were usually the people who could not cut it in the dangerous and stressful environments on board starships, where you could find yourself fighting for your life in a second. These people were not the dregs exactly, but they were not the cream of the crop either.

In any event, he found himself in a small room, standing in front of a desk too small for the three terminals sitting on it, barely enough room to eat and sleep, with a small shower / toilet area tacked on the side. Shower. Good idea, he thought to himself. he had working on the reports he had to review for hours, and maybe the shower would make him feel a little fresher, give him some space so that he could start new in a moment. He walked around the desk, stepping through the hatch that lead to the wet area of the quarters.

He took a moment to study his features in the mirror. His features still held the rugged look that he had been blessed with by his ancestry, he had traced his line all the way back to the Highlanders, the famous ancient warriors of Scotland. Gone was the accent, and the aggressive streak, but his strong face and tough red beard still served to remind him of who he was. He tried to superimpose the old Highland clothing over his face in the mirror, but he couldn't make it seem real. He guessed that his ancestors would not have taken him seriously, either.

Alright, he was an Admiral in Starfleet, but an Admiral from the technical streams. He oversaw the development of ships and new technologies, not grand battles and chances for honour, the truth was his ancestors had more in common with the Klingons than with him. Strangely, that made him feel better. Things had changed since the days of his ancestors. Humans were no long the barbaric primitives they once had been, they were now a civilised race, a member of a growing community of other races, all dedicated towards the mutual goals of peace and prosperity. It was a good time to live in, even if his ancestors would not have approved. He was making a difference, and he felt that maybe, just maybe, he would be remembered for his contributions towards peace and stability inside the Federation when he was gone. He smiled at the imposing face in the mirror. Things were not so bad after all.

He actually navigated himself into the vibe shower with little difficulty. Size was another trait of his ancestors which had left him long ago, and at around one hundred and seventy centimetres and slight of frame as well, he had relied on his face to be imposing all this time, knowing that the whole package didn't exactly conjure fear in many hearts. It didn't matter much in his job, though. He sometimes wondered if that was the main reason he was in charge of a research stream. Not so much that it was his area of expertise, but that battle hardened Captains might not take him seriously. He shrugged to himself in the shower, the question was irrelevant. He was in the area of responsibility that he was happiest in, all this introspection was not healthy. Better to just do his job.

When he stopped to think about it, that was what had caused all this recent introspection in the first place. This was a strange assignment Starfleet Command had sent him on, he could not for the life of him see why he had been selected for it. He had no previous dealings with the personnel on the station, although the name of the Commanding Officer seemed familiar for some reason. It was near his responsibilities, but there were Admirals who were closer to the area who were more able in these sort of assessments, why him?

Then there was the jurisdiction issue. Tactical Operations had claimed complete jurisdiction over the station, even before construction had been completed. If anyone should be making assessments for Command, Connelly thought it should be them. It was rare for them to hand over any part of their management of such a facility to someone outside their personal chain of command, none of this made sense. What the hell was he doing out here?

Every time he played the questions out in his mind, it came down to that one question. There was no reason for him to be assigned this mission, and plenty why he should not have been. He was always uneasy when he was involved in Tactical Operations matters, and he was sure Dekker knew that. Something big was happening, and he was a pawn in the game. He shrugged again, stepping out of the shower. The only thing left was to play.

Putting on a fresh uniform, he felt hopelessly under prepared for the assignment. On the surface it seemed simple enough, assess the differences in technologies and techniques applied at Nullabor with respect to those applied at Utopia Plenetia. Assess the differences in attitudes of the Commanding Officers. Assess the potential of both facilities. Report.

What Connelly didn't like was the underlying tone. It seemed to be a precursor to consolidation. Surely having two main shipyards was a good thing, distributed risk and all that. Were they implying that one yard was better than the other? There were too many unknowns in the equation. There was also another more disturbing issue that concerned the Admiral. Nullabor Station didn't only build ships. It was a research facility with strong ties to the Daestrom Institute, as well as being a command post for Tactical Operations. such a multi-functional facility presented problems for comparison against a dedicated site, surely. For one thing, how high a priority was shipbuilding to Nullabor Station in the first place? So many unknowns, so little time.

Despite running through all the issues in his head again, Connelly felt refreshed, as he had hoped he would. Running the problem through his head in the shower meant that he was less inclined to do so once more while in the middle of reviewing reports. He could sit down at the desk once more, and focus.

The specifications for Nullabor station were impressive. Connelly was surprised that Tac Ops had managed to get clearance for such an ambitious project, but it seemed to be paying off now that it was operational. Six months since the station came online and the new class of escort vessels it was churning out seemed to be invincible. There were stories leaking back to his offices that these ships had defeated Warbirds, Breen Cruisers, in fact anything they had come up against. So far, there had not been a single one lost. Connelly found himself wondering where the hell these ships had been during the Dominion War when they had been needed.

The critical factor was that the shipyards of the station were state of the art. That made sense considering they were so new. Still, word had leaked that the specifications were probably out of date by now, the Nullabor Station Yardmaster was renowned for upgrading constantly. How he did it and kept up his production levels was what Connelly wanted to know. This of course lead to the Personnel files.

He had called up Captain Walker's record before having the shower. There was something telling him that he should know this man, but he could not remember why. He had an impressive service record, despite having used some unorthodox methods of achieving success before taking command of the station. His name was spoken with respect and awe aboard the Menalaus, the last ship he has served on prior to his promotion to Captain. There was not much on his first Command, a transport ship of some sort, but the records were sealed, only Dekker had access to them. There was no previous record of his service in the Tac Ops division, but he had clearly been accepted into their fold now. He allegedly had a lot of contact with Tac Ops personnel prior to his promotion, although there was no official record of him ever serving there prior to Nullabor Station. Connelly wondered how large a factor that had been in his elevation.

Truth be told, Connelly didn't think it had much to do with it at all. There was a lot of rumour and speculation about the man within Starfleet, and Connelly knew that if even half of it was true the man was probably overdue for promotion. Competent officers were needed, but he suspected that Walker would have trodden on a few toes before joining up with Tac Ops. He was a maverick, albeit a successful one. That would not go down well with most of the Admirals he knew, himself least of all.

Connelly moved to the next record. Captain Alexis Kelsey. She was technically under Walker's command still, but she held the role of Commander Air Group. She handled most of the tactical and military operations for the area. It seemed strange to him that a fleet would be under the command of a Captain, but realistically it was not a large fleet, and their role was restricted to Tac Ops activity and station defense. She was a strange person to be given such a role in his opinion, she seemed so much more a hands on operative. Connelly suspected that she tended to lead the expeditions, rather than order them.

The Executive Officer for the station was Commander Voraak, who also served as the Intelligence Officer, although Kelsey and Glir seemed involved in that role as well. He seemed by all accounts to be the right person for the job, having a good working knowledge of all the fields the station was supposed to engage in. He could handle intelligence, starship combat, research, and security. Being a Vulcan, Connelly had no doubt he would be a competent administrator for the station, which was probably just as well considering Walker and Kelsey were likely to be off saving the universe every other day. Connelly made a mental note to study this man closely. He would be a key player on the station, someone who was likely to have the answers to the questions he had during this assignment.

Next there was the Director of Research, Timonis Glir. This young lieutenant fascinated the Admiral. Like the others he had read about, this seemed to be an Officer of many talents. His first strength was shield technologies, but he had a head for intelligence and combat operations as well. He would not be a man Connelly would like to cross, and he suspected that it would not be a difficult thing to do. This man was intensely loyal to the station and to Tac Ops if his dossier was correct, and anything that stood in the way of either was expendable to him. Connelly found himself wondering if he would fall into that category during his stay.

The station's Yardmaster was next. Commander Phillip Botha. Finally there seemed to be a dedicated specialist among the command staff, and he was the person responsible for ship construction as well. This gave Connelly a sense of relief as he read it. The feeling did not persist as he continued reading the file. The turnover in design specialists had been atrocious in the first months of shipbuilding that had occurred in the yards, so much so that in the end Command simply stopped sending them. Botha effectively had free reign now, with as little peer review as he could possibly get away with. He was claimed to be a brilliant ship builder, but with a zero tolerance of people who could not match him. It made for an interesting situation, especially if any of his ideas turned out to be wrong.

The one saving grace this man had was his output. The yards had been operational six months prior to the station going online, and they had produced three escort ships in the intervening time period. Ships were now pouring out of the yards, and they seemed superior to anything made in the Mars yards, although the focus at Nullabor seemed a little different. These were warships, pure and simple.

The Admiral was about to move to the next file when the ship lurched in time with the sound of something striking the hull. The lights dimmed, and a red glow suffused the remaining illumination. Connelly was not surprised when he heard Captain Erande sound the red alert over the general comms. He leapt from his chair, ready to run from his room to the lift, and then to the bridge.

"Stay down there, Admiral. There is no room on the bridge and seeing as we are unarmed, I think there is little you can do for us." Connelly felt the surge of confusion wash over him for a second, before all the relevant facts were put into place for him once more. Erande was a full Betazoid, and would have known his intentions immediately. The man was right of course, the bridges on these ships were not designed for having Admirals strolling around in them and without weapons, any tactical experience he had was useless. At least the Captain had confirmed one thing. They really were under attack.


"This is Captain Erande of the Federation Transport Recluse. We are unarmed and under attack at the following coordinates..." Erande was irritated, to put it mildly. What was the point of putting him out here with no weapons of any kind? With the crime syndicates increasing their piracy operations by an order of magnitude, he was becoming more and more uneasy about hauling Starfleet's cargo around in deep space with no protection. Now it was looking like he had run the gauntlet once too often, and his crew was going to pay the price for it. Not to mention an Admiral. Erande was sure that they would have been given an escort with Connelly on board, as he rattled off the position coordinates Erande hoped that he would not be blamed for the Admiral's death in the subsequent investigation.

"I repeat, we are unarmed and under heavy attack!" Erande turned to his helmsman. "Can you keep us evasive?"

"For a while Sir, but there are three scout ships out there, someone is going to hit us eventually!"

"Make that five scout ships, there are another two under cloak on the way in, they will be here in two minutes." The Operations Officer seemed no more pleased with the news than Erande was.

Something deep within him told Erande that he had to go down fighting. He turned to the Operations Officer. "All power to forward shields. Helm, target the nearest scout ship and increase to ramming speed."

The helmsman turned to face him, shock registering on his features for a brief moment before he turned back to his station. "Aye Sir. Targeting and increasing speed." The helmsman was no fool, and could see that they were in an impossible position. There was no way they could win this contest, the only thing they could throw against the enemy was themselves. At least they were guaranteed to take one of the bastards out, possibly two if the shields held. More importantly, they would not get their hands on the cargo. As much as he wanted to live, the man at the helm knew it was time to show these pirates that the Federation meant business. He made the necessary course corrections and headed directly for the bridge of the nearest scout ship. The scout did a very strange thing in his opinion, it went evasive.

Erande could not believe what he was seeing. The ship was running from them! He could not account for their behaviour, except to say that the pirates placed too high a value on their own lives. It was not until he checked his tactical screen that he saw the real reason for their actions. The remaining ships were falling into position behind them. "Rear shields!"

They came up just in time. They caught the brunt of the disrupter blasts, nearly buckling in the process. Erande knew they could not take another shot like that. As much as he wanted to take some of them with him, there were simply too many of them. They had enough ships to set up a counter for any move he tried to make.

"Captain, message coming through from the Federation transponder in this area. "Open your Transporter Buffers."

Erande was at a total loss, especially as it came from a Federation transponder. If it was a pirate trick, they would get the cargo and kill them all. He asked for verification of the signal, and his Operations Officer responded quickly. "Signal verified Captain. It is definitely Starfleet, the origin marker reads as Nullabor Station."

Erande had been shipping secret drops to the station for several months, and it didn't surprise him that the signal had been sent by them. If anyone was capable of getting them out of this mess, it was the station. One of the reasons he had not been given escorts was to help keep the location of the station a secret, and with some of the things he had seen there he could understand the secrecy. That base was a vital resource to the Federation, but right now he hoped it was a vital resource to the Recluse. "Open Transporter Buffers."

"Aye Sir." The Operations Officer complied with the order, and within seconds there were fifteen transporter signatures dropping items into space. Erande's first thought was that it had been an elaborate ruse and was about to have the buffers shut down when the first beam dissipated to reveal a Federation probe. It transmitted a friendly countersign to the ship, and then took off after the nearest scout. The others did the same as soon as their materialisation routines were complete.

Erande had only seen these units once, but he knew they were saved as soon as they arrived. That first sighting had been an impressive one. These were some sort of attack probe, rumour had it they were Captain Walker's design. He had seen them take after a Warbird that had strayed into Nullabor space, and the ship didn't even have time to get a message off. They were very thorough, and with so many of them he expected they would be very hard to attack.

The probes set about their lethal tasks in a professional and coordinated assault on the ships. They grouped together, five to a team, to attack each of the existing scout ships. Seconds later the next two fell out of warp, but the only way that the Recluse knew that was from their implosions. The probes had already dropped cloak hunters to pick them up as they came in. Using ships based on Romulan technology was no longer a good idea in Federation space, and this was the first time Erande had a chance to see first hand why that was the case. He had heard stories about the new technology, everyone had of course. It was still classified, but Starfleet didn't mind some news of it leaking out. It kept the spies entertained.

As his attention reverted to the assault on the remaining scout ships, Erande had barely enough time to see one of the scout ships erupt on the viewer. The ship was burning in space for several moments, and then exploded, vaporizing itself. The probes split up, joining the remaining two teams. Erande had the distinct feeling this would not be a long confrontation.

He was right. The probes had the remaining two ships on the run, the Recluse was free and clear. Captain Erande decided not to go directly to warp, the probes would probably need to be loaded onto the ship after the fight. A brief flicker in his mind told him Admiral Connelly was now on his way up there. Fine, thought Erande. At least they were now in a position where his interference on the bridge would not be life threatening. As if to punctuate the Admiral's entrance, the second last scout exploded, sending a brilliant flash of green light through the starboard window on the bridge. The blast was bright enough that the Admiral had to shield his eyes for a moment.

"What the hell was that, Captain?" Connelly did not take long to recover his senses.

"That was the second last of our attackers being destroyed, Sir. I don't put too much hope on the last one making it either."

"Who came to our rescue? I thought that this route was secret. There shouldn't be other ships out here, it would only be attracting attention to the possible location of the station." The fact that the Admiral didn't even know where they were headed was a sore point with him. He felt totally out of control on this assignment and it frustrated him immensely.

Erande could feel his frustration quite clearly. The admiral was positively bristling with it. Erande found that it could be quite uncomfortable spending extended periods in close proximity with the man, and had tried to forego most of the usual pleasantries a ship extended to visiting Admirals. He had managed to get away with most of it on the grounds that the ship simply wasn't fitted out for such things. The Admiral had accepted that, the Recluse was a work horse, pure and simple. He should know, the Hercules Class transports had been one of the last major ship designs he had overseen at Utopia Plenetia. Now all the innovation was coming out of Nullabor. Erande could feel the Admiral's frustration on that point as well. The man was angry, that was for sure. And waiting for his answer wasn't helping. "Actually Sir, no-one came to our rescue as such, we were sent some reinforcements is all."

"I don't understand. Explain."

Erande shrugged at the senior officer. "I don't fully understand myself, Admiral. What I can tell you is that we were done for. We received a message from Nullabor Station asking us to open our transporter buffers, and they sent us some assault probes. By the Rings, I don't know how yet. They saved our hides, though."

The final scout ship had made every effort to evade the fifteen probes. Erande had been distracted by the Admiral, otherwise he would have shared the opinion of his Operations Officer, who was quite impressed that they had held out this long. The ship had now exhausted every method of evasion, it was in a desperate situation and employed a desperate strategy. It cloaked.

The move was understandable. They were as good as dead with the probes hunting them, and maybe all the cloak hunters had been used up. One choice offered certain death, the other offered a slim chance. The ship had barely cloaked properly when one of the patrolling cloak hunter torpedoes struck, imploding the ship. Both the Captain and Admiral halted their conversation to watch the sight on the screen.

"What was that?" The question was whispered by the Admiral, who was still staring blankly at the area in space which had contained the ship moments before.

"That was one of the new cloak hunter torpedoes striking a Romulan ship. They have been in active service for eight months now, and not many Starfleet personnel have seen them in action. As you can see, they are disastrous to any gravitational based technologies."

Connelly was lost in thought for a moment. "No wonder the Romulans have objected to their use." That had been a problem for a while in the Diplomatic Corps. The Romulans had argued for some time that the cloak hunter torpedoes were a tailored weapon, and that their introduction into the Starfleet arsenal was a prelude to war. They were only half right of course, but that had not stopped them screaming it from every vantage point they could find. It wasn't until Tactical Operations found proof of the Romulans providing the Orion Syndicate with technology that they backed down. It was a tailored weapon alright, but the enemy it was tailored for was not the Romulan Empire. The Romulans had made a serious tactical blunder selling their technology to the Orion Syndicate, and they were beginning to feel the effects of that mistake more acutely as the Federation found new ways to deal with the internal threat.

The moment of distraction meant that he had not been in the middle of responding to the Captain of the transport when the voice came over the comms. "Please open your flight bay and prepare to receive us."

Short and to the point, thought Erande. He gave the necessary orders to comply with the request, and noticed the confusion on the face of the Admiral. Strange he thought, the man should be able to adapt at a quicker rate to be an Admiral. Erande was beginning to see why he was assigned administration of more mundane tasks rather than strategic or operational roles. Before the Admiral could ask his next question, Erande decided to answer it for him. "The probes, Sir. We need to take them on board and we will drop them off when we get to the station."

Connelly was not happy. He was nowhere near complete with his review of the information that had been included in his briefing notes, he had nearly been killed and then saved by means that he didn't understand, and now he was sure that this damn Betazoid Captain was using telepathy on him. "I know it was the probes, Captain. That's not the point. We should not have dropped from warp for long enough to need them. What the hell just happened now, why were we under attack in the first place?"

Erande sighed inside. This would take some explaining, he knew that. Maybe he had made the wrong decision, but he doubted it. It had sounded like a genuine distress call, and there had been no sign of cloaked ships or any type of ambush from the sensors. Admiralty aboard or not, standing orders dictated he help ships in distress, and nothing in his orders had countermanded that. This was one of the difficulties of working covert routes, he realised. He just wished it hadn't happened on the trip he was carrying an Admiral. "I am happy to give you a full debriefing, Admiral. Perhaps the ready room would be more convenient?" He held out an arm to indicate to the Admiral that he should lead the way. Connelly reluctantly took him up on the offer. Erande made sure that the gave the conn to his first officer before the door shut behind Connelly. Somehow he just knew that being seen following the rules was very important right now. His first officer had his orders, and Erande was confident that they would be followed. He could hear him staring to hand those orders out to the duty stations as he entered the ready room himself.

As the door closed behind him, he felt the gentle lurch as the ship accelerated to warp. Through the window Erande could see the elongated streaks of the stars passing by. Connelly was sitting in the chair opposite his desk, waiting for him to sit and begin. Erande knew there was no point delaying it longer, her promptly went around the desk to his chair and sat. "Well, I'm waiting, Captain." Erande could sense the impatience in the man before he made the comment, and he tried to stifle the anger that welled up inside him as the Admiral spoke out loud. He settled himself for just a moment more, and then began the debriefing.

It had all seemed so simple at first. A merchant ship had sounded a distress near their route. It was Lissepian, so there were clear standing orders in place stating that he as Captain of a vessel capable of assisting should do so. There were no hostilities between the Lissepians and the Federation, so the standing orders held. Unfortunately even Erande knew it was not as simple as that, he was ferrying an Admiral to a secret location, and Connelly's safety was supposed to be his top priority. In the middle of the briefing Erande wished he was not in this position. The ships Admirals used on a regular basis were Captained by men more capable of working through the finer points of their priorities, Erande would have been much happier without this complication.

In any event, he had made the decision to render aid. It seemed legitimate, nothing was showing up on the scans, definitely no cloaks. They went in, and found a Lissepian transport sure enough. Unfortunately it was just a hull. Inside it were the three scout ships. Erande took a moment to reflect on his crew. They had handled the situation very well, making sure the ship was evasive the moment the threat had been discovered. The trap could have worked with only a fraction more luck, and they could have been dead.

Connelly was not impressed. "So you are saying that you deliberately put my life in dan..."

Erande was quick to cut him off. "Of course not, Admiral. I thought it was a legitimate call, what was I supposed to do, ignore it and then be chewed out for letting people die out here when I could have helped? I made a judgement call, which is what I am here to do. If you don't like it you can ride with someone else from now on. Sir." The last word sounded more like it had been tacked on as an afterthought.

Erande could feel the frustration pouring off the shocked Admiral. He could understand it to a point, but that didn't mean he was inclined to give the man any slack. He had done the right thing, and if Connelly wanted to turn him into a martyr for it, he would have a fight on his hands. In the end, Connelly merely slumped in his chair, Erande knew he had won. Connelly looked up at him. "What am I supposed to do with you Captain? I would have preferred to travel on a different ship myself, or at least have a Captain more familiar with dealing Admiralty take command of this ship, but we all have our crosses to bear, Erande. I know that the feeling is completely mutual, I know you would have preferred me not to have come within fifty paces of your ship, but I am here and we have to make the best of it. You say you acted in good faith, fine. I will not make an argument of that, nothing would come of it at Starfleet Command these days anyway. Know this, though. I don't particularly like you, from what I have read so far I don't think I like the command staff at Nullabor either. I want to see the lot of you shut down. In the meantime however, we have several days journey to get through and I think it would go smoother if we stayed out of each other's way."

Erande didn't bother to point out that staying out of the Admiral's way was exactly what he had been trying to do for the entire journey. There was a bigger discrepancy in the Admiral's comments to be addressed. "Actually Sir, that is not the case. We don't have days left at all. We have hours."

Erande felt the Admiral's mind reeling in shock once more. He was beginning to wonder how the man could function at his level at all. Connelly for his part, felt like he was wandering through a surreal dream. Everything kept changing on him, and he didn't like it at all. "How the hell could we be hours away from Nullabor? Even at Warp 5 we have over two days travel to complete."

"We are not travelling at Warp 5, we are travelling at Warp 9.6. Tactical Operations have given me discretionary powers to exceed the warp speed limitations, and I have exercised them in this situation."

"What situation?"

"Keeping you safe of course. Besides, this attack was a little too close to the station for anyone's comfort. I am ordered to maintain radio silence, but I will need to report on the battle as soon as I dock at Nullabor. Besides, you should be grateful. I am doing something about your safety after all." Connelly made to open his mouth to say something, but Erande cut him off once more. "We will be at the station in six hours. I think that is just enough time for you to pack your things, isn't it Sir?" Erande emphasised the point of his question by activating the door to the ready room.

Connelly could see he had little choice. He had said himself that it would be better for the two of them to keep out of each other's way. He had known that the Captain wanted him off the ship, but he had not expected him to find an excuse to exceed warp speed limitations. The Admiral knew full well that the Captain would be seen to be within his rights in the matter, and there was nothing he could do about it, at least for now. He stood and walked to the door.

Erande was about to let out a sigh when the Admiral turned back to face him. He was almost out the door, it was the classic position of a man who was adamant about having the last word. "You know, Erande, I will be watching. Never slip up around me."

"Wouldn't dream of it, Sir." The Admiral had finally gone. Erande slumped back into his chair. That had not gone very well, he knew that. Maybe he should not have been so firm with the Admiral, but then deep down he knew the man had not left him much choice. He found himself hoping he would never see the man again after their arrival at Nullabor, but it was unlikely. There were not many people entrusted with the location of Nullabor Station, and he was the only transport Captain that he knew of that had it. If anyone was likely to have to ferry the Admiral back, it was him. He could not say he was looking forward to it at all.

Connelly entered the lift in silence. He stated his deck and waited to be dropped off. The doors opened and he stormed out, entering his cabin in a foul temper. he looked around. Everything was a mess. He had not been given enough room for his work, and now he had lost the last two days of briefing time he had been counting on. He started to pack what he could, knowing that he was going into this assignment hopelessly under prepared.

It occurred to him that this might be part of Erande's plan. It might be an attempt to make him look bad before he had a chance to strike at Erande. He dismissed the idea immediately of course, even he could see that the idea stemmed from paranoia. He would just have to cope, possibly bluff his way through a few things, he realised. He started stowing his gear first, knowing that if there was any time left before they reached the station he could use it by skimming over the reports that were still left out until the last minute. Connelly found himself hoping desperately that it would be enough.


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