tagIllustratedSurefoot 33: Maelstrom

Surefoot 33: Maelstrom

bySurefoot©



USS Surefoot-A, Deck 2 Fore, Captain's Ready Room, Stardate 49684.35:

Hrelle caught the intriguing scent as his temporary First Officer brought him his morning cup. He closed his eyes, leaned forward and breathed in deeply, his snout twitching. "Spice... pumpkin, Vulcan or possibly Andorian... and a Betazoid syrup topping, I think; it has that heavy, fragrant tang you only get from their sap-producing trees..."

Olivia Zawati offered a slight smile as she sat down opposite him at his desk, cradling her own cup. "Someday, I'm going to bring you a coffee whose ingredients you won't identify."

He smiled, taking the cup and leaning back. "It had better be soon; we've almost caught up with the Thirteenth Fleet, and then you'll finally be on your way to the Pierce at the Antares Maelstrom. And I'll soon have my old Vulcan XO... who will not consider it logical to bring me exotic coffees while we discuss the Changeover."

The Wakandan woman shrugged. "I'll leave it in my recommendations to her." She lifted up her PADD. "So, onto these fleet reports..."

Hrelle sipped at his beverage -- not bad -- as he picked up his own PADD. Since her arrival on the Surefoot, Lt Cmdr Zawati had preferred to take command of the Night Shift, while he preferred the Morning, and they would get together at this time to discuss the news, Starfleet orders and directives, various ship reports and other sundry items that Hrelle might need to be made aware of when she retired and he took over. It was a similar ritual that he performed with T'Varik... but without the Coffee Challenge that Zawati had formulated. "I see you got the retrofits to the shuttles completed ahead of schedule- is this right? Did you work on them yourself?"

She nodded. "One of the advantages of having a First Officer with an Engineering background. Nice to know I still know my way around the Shuttlebay."

He smiled, moving onto the tactical reports for the neighbouring sectors. "The Klingons have taken Archanis IV? They've wanted that back in their hands for generations."

"No doubt," Zawati agreed, looking troubled.

"You don't know anyone stationed near there, do you?" he prompted.

Her face sobered. "Philip, my little brother; he's a Lieutenant at the Starfleet base there. He had been injured in the evacuation, and was taken to Starbase 244. I haven't heard anything since."

"I'm sorry to hear that. Do you want me to pull some strings, make some calls-"

"No thank you, Sir, I'll hear from him soon, I'm sure. Captain? May I ask you a personal question?"

He looked up from reading his PADD. In the weeks since her arrival, he had tried to ensure that they got to know each other, not wanting to have a repeat of what happened with her predecessor, Commander Emil Bellamy, who had been killed by Klingons who had boarded the Surefoot, and Hrelle had lost the opportunity to overcome the initial bad impression that Bellamy had fostered in his time here. "Of course, Olivia. What is it?"

She met his gaze. "I've been looking up your record. It's most impressive. You rose through Security, earned commendations on the Argonaut, the Iberia, the Lynx, and commanding your own ships. You've fought Orions pirates, Nausicaans, Gorn, Tzenkethi. I read the report of what you did before I joined you. You took on and destroyed three Klingon battle cruisers! You have extensive tactical experience and expertise. You could have commanded a frigate, a destroyer even. You could have been at the forefront of this war. Why did they put you on ambulance duty?"

He looked down into the brown-black swirls in his cup, breathed in the scent and sipped at it, as he considered the question. "They didn't put me on ambulance duty, I chose it. And I chose it because... when this war really heats up, and all the thousands of men and women out here fly into the Seven Hells, and end up jammed into escape pods or inside damaged ships, wounded, stranded, confused, terrified, and wondering if they're going to live to see another day... I want them to know that they will.

Because Papa Cat is out there, with his ship and his crew. Not for glory, not for battle, not for vengeance, but for them. And all that expertise and experience you seem impressed with will be directed towards that purpose. If they're willing to risk their lives in defence of the Federation, then they deserve someone risking their lives for them."

Zawati considered his words, nodding sagely. "But haven't you thought that, ultimately, you could save more lives by going on the offensive, killing them before they kill us?"

Hrelle leaned back in his chair. "I'm not a killer."

"No? Your record says something different-"

"I know what my record says. I've killed before, when it was necessary... and, Great Mother forgive me, even when it wasn't necessary. And I daresay moments will inevitably arise when I'm forced to kill again. But unless and until they arrive, I want a job where I can save lives, not take them. I want to keep my books balanced, as it were."

She looked ready to debate the matter further, until Lieutenant Neheru's voice reached them from the Bridge. "Captain! We're receiving a distress signal from the USS Tesla! It's under attack by the Klingons on heading 111-mark-047, 2 light years distant!"

Both officers rose to their feet and set aside their drinks and PADDs, Hrelle announcing, "Sorry, Olivia, we'll need you on duty a little while longer."

"Fortunes of war," she replied simply as they entered the Bridge.

*

Deck 2 Fore -- Shuttlebay:

"MOVE!"

Everyone onboard knew to move out of the way of Doctor Shyrik when the Andorian stormed in their direction, for fear of... well, something. She had never actually struck anyone, or even threatened them. It just seemed the right thing to do.

Of course, she usually only barked like that when there was a medical emergency, like now, when the Surefoot had arrived at the aftermath of a battle between the Tesla and a Klingon Bird of Prey. She knew little about battles, only the cost in their aftermath in flesh, but she knew enough that the Tesla, an old Oberth-class vessel, and the Bird of Prey were small ships, and thus small crews and not as many wounded as there could have been, for which she was grateful.

On its arrival, the Surefoot had initiated its Emergency Medical Protocols, opening up both Sickbays and beginning a triage in the Main Shuttlebay -- with a full Security contingent on hand for the Klingon survivors; despite their weapons being deactivated during transport from their pods, and most of them injured, they could still prove to be dangerous.

Shyrik moved through the rows of injured on the Shuttlebay floor, trusting in her subordinates to alert her- "Nurse Jika! What's the delay? Diagnose and move on!"

The Bajoran Jika Showri was kneeling by one Starfleet crewman from the Tesla, her D'ja pagh religious earpiece jingling as she looked up from her tricorder. "I'm getting a body temperature of 44, indicative of a high fever, but with none of the other-"

Shyrik dropped to one knee beside the nurse, not even checking the tricorder herself, but instead holding up the injured crewman's hands -- displaying the webbed skin between the fingers. "You didn't set the tricorder for the initial scan cycle, you assumed he was human! Never assume! He's Zaldan, 44 degrees is normal! Now stop wasting your time and mine with Squab mistakes!"

"Yes, Doctor! Sorry!"

"jIHvaD!"

Shyrik twisted, antennae moving like divining rods in the direction of a struggle between a badly-wounded Klingon on a mat, another of her nurses, and a young Security crewman. The Andorian leapt over a wounded figure to join them, drawing in close and snarling into the Klingon's burned face, "Look at me! I said to look at me! That's an order!"

The Klingon's eyes bulged out, sneering up at her with a bruised, bloodied mouth. "I do not- do not take orders from- from- petaQs-"

Then the eyes rolled into the back of his head, and he collapsed onto the mat again -- as Shyrik released the pinch she had been making to the paracarotid artery in his neck since arriving. She gave the nurse a withering look. "The first sign of any resistance from any Klingon, sedate them immediately and then diagnose! We don't have time to play around!"

"Yes, Doctor! Sorry!"

Shyrik ground her teeth. The next nurse who apologised to her would end this day with a scar on one cheek, she swore it to herself...

"Doctor Shyrik!"

She turned, instantly relieved by the nurse calling for her now: the Capellan girl, Eydiir Daughter-of-Kaas, a strong, stern, no-nonsense subordinate who would not make such rookie mistakes or dance around like an iceflower in the wind. She approached where Eydiir crouched, near another injured Klingon. "What is it?"

The dark-skinned woman never looked up, but continued to treat her patient. "Subdural haematoma, I administered 50ccs of Lectrinol, but there's no change."

Shyrik nodded, noting the unusual purple colour of the Klingon's blood, indicative of a vestigial mutation in the Klingon genome much more common a century ago than nowadays, which in this case could manifest as a- "Klingon allergic reaction; you'll see it sometimes with any drug in the Lectrinol range. Stabilise with 20ccs of alizine, but tag him for immediate surgery, we'll have to go Old School with him-"

"You!"

Both women looked up, as a human male in a torn Starfleet uniform on the floor nearby half-sat up. He was elderly, pale, his face wrinkled and hangdog, with a broad nose and drawn-back greying hair. "What do you think you're doing?"

Shyrik looked him over, saw the gravitic splint clamped around the man's right leg and hip, and grunted. "You will be seen to presently, just lie back and be quiet."

He pointed a pudgy finger at her -- no, at the Klingon. "What do you think you're doing with him?"

"Saving his life, what does it look like?"

"Don't get lippy with me, Doctor! I'm Rear Admiral Joseph Jacobs!"

"My apologies, allow me to rephrase my answer: I'm saving his life, what does it look like, Admiral?"

Jacobs glanced around, as if seeking witnesses to the outrageous response he had just received, but everyone else was busy treating others or being treated, "I demand to speak to your commanding officer!"

"Doctor Masterson is in surgery at the moment-"

"I mean the Captain of this garbage scow!"

"The Surefoot might smell sometimes, Admiral," said a new, deep voice. "But that's only when we have cadets onboard. Teenagers stink like nobody's business."

People turned to see the tall, portly, brown-furred Caitian male with Captain's pips approach, stepping around the wounded on the floor, making an effort to keep his tail raised as he stood beside the Admiral. "Captain Esek Hrelle, reporting as ordered, Sir. And you don't have to introduce yourself; it's an honour to meet the legendary Tycho Joe Jacobs. I was unaware that you had come out of retirement, and back onboard your old ship too-"

"I didn't summon you here for small talk, Captain!" He pointed a finger at Shyrik. "That woman-"

"That woman," Hrelle interrupted mildly. "Is my Assistant Chief Medical Officer." He looked to Shyrik and Eydiir. "Resume your duties."

Jacobs grunted as the women complied. "'Duties'? Their duties do not include giving aid to the enemy!"

"Sorry to contradict you, Sir, but in medical terms, they do."

The Admiral struggled to sit up, fighting his injuries and his restraint. "I want my crew treated before any of the Klingons are seen to!"

Hrelle stepped closer. "We prioritise care here based on medical need, Admiral, not affiliation; when the wounded arrive, their uniforms come off. But I can assure you, Sir, none of your crew will be endangered or even delayed long because of this-"

"Let the Klingons wallow in their pain! They're ready, eager to die!"

"But I'm not ready or eager to let them die," Hrelle informed him.

"I'M ORDERING YOU TO STOP TREATING THEM!"

Hrelle stiffened, feeling scores of eyes turn in their direction. "Admiral, you are clearly in pain from your injuries, and in shock following the battle, so you have obviously forgotten the Starfleet Articles of War regarding the treatment of POWs. I must respectfully ask you to calm down, lie back and we can discuss this later."

"Hey!" came another voice, one of Jacobs' crewmen nearby, some two-pip pipsqueak in Command Red, shaking off the nurse's arm on him to sit up and glare furiously at Hrelle. "Watch that tone, Mister! You're speaking to a superior officer there!"

Hrelle shot him a hard look. "That's very good advice... Lieutenant. You should take it yourself."

"Settle down, Melrose, and let them fix you up," Jacobs chided his subordinate. "I can handle this." He looked up at Hrelle again. "You're refusing a direct order, Captain?"

Hrelle breathed in, dropping down to one knee beside the man and speaking to him in a more confidential tone. "This particular order? Yes, Sir. We are already on our way to join the Thirteenth Fleet, where you and your injured crew will be transferred to the hospital ship Samaritan, and the Klingons to the POW camps on Sherman's Planet. Once we arrive, you can lodge a formal protest with Vice Admiral Tattok on the Triton." He leaned in closer. "Admiral, we need to present a united front in public. Our crew are here, seeking strength. And the enemy's here, too... seeking weakness."

Jacobs started at that, grudgingly settling back again, though not before promising, "This isn't over, Hrelle. Count on it."

"Understood, Sir." Then Hrelle rose and continued his rounds.

*

Tattok's Ready Room on the Nebula-class USS Triton looked bigger than the Officer's Mess Hall on the Surefoot, or so it seemed to Hrelle as he stood at attention in the centre of it.

Or maybe it was because the occupant of the room -- the metre-high Roylan with the beady black eyestalks and pale aquamarine scales on either side of his face like some tropical fish -- made it seem bigger. Not that Hrelle would dare voice such a thought aloud, certainly not while Tattok was staring at him, and Admiral Jacobs stood nearby, his broken hip and leg healed, allowing him freedom to circle Hrelle like a predator. "It was an act of gross insubordination on his part! A naked act!"

Tattok leaned against his desk and folded his arms across his narrow chest. "Were you naked, Captain?"

"No, Sir; it gets rather chilly in our Shuttlebay, and I wouldn't want to appear in front of the Klingons with any shrinkage."

Jacobs moved closer to the Captain, practically in his face. "You think this is funny, Hrelle?"

The Caitian stepped back enough to face him. "No, Admiral. And I wish to express my condolences at the loss of the Tesla; I've lost vessels myself, one of them being an Oberth like yours. I can appreciate their durability and unique design, and I would have liked to have visited it, especially with the history your ship had."

Jacobs harrumphed, unable to simply dismiss Hrelle's words about his vessel. "Yes. She was a good ship. Old, yes, but she could still pull her weight. And she managed to take down the ship that killed her." His face twisted again. "And then you go and save the lives of her killers!"

"Captain Hrelle acted entirely properly," Tattok corrected the man firmly. "My CMO has examined the medical report from the Surefoot, and has confirmed that correct procedures were followed. None of your crew were in any danger from not being treated immediately. In fact, my doctor has noted the high efficiency rates of your medical staff, Captain."

"Thank you, Sir, I'll pass that onto them."

"That's it?" Jacobs demanded. "I bring him in here to face disciplinary action, and you pat him on the head? What kind of a circus are you running here, Tattok?"

The Roylan regarded him for a moment, before facing Hrelle again. "Captain, there's a Fleet meeting scheduled onboard in two hours, so you may as well stick around. Visit the Triton's Lounge, the Locker; my son's down there now, waiting for you. Dismissed."

Hrelle nodded. "Yes, Sir," He nodded politely to Jacobs. "Good day, Admiral." He departed quickly, not just to join his little buddy, but to escape the impending wrath he saw on Tattok's face.

*

Tattok straightened up as the door slid shut. "Before we continue, Joe, a word of caution: never speak to me like that again in front of junior officers. You do, and I'll kick you back to the Norpin Retirement Colony -- without the benefit of a ship. Is that understood?"

"Who do you think you-"

"Is... that... understood?"

Jacobs bit back any further protest, but asked, "What are you going to do about Hrelle?"

"You mean Captain Hrelle? Don't worry, I'll put a note in his record... commending him for his restraint in dealing with you while he rescued you and your crew."

"He publicly defied my orders! Humiliated me in front of my crew-"

"You chose to make the confrontation public, Joe. Hrelle had tried to calm you down, was prepared to discuss this matter more privately, but you weren't listening."

"You weren't there, you didn't see how he-"

"It doesn't matter if I was there or not; I make it my business to know things. Many things, especially regarding those under my command... that includes you, by the way."

"He's a Klingon sympathiser!"

Tattok smirked. "Three weeks ago, while rescuing the survivors of the Tsukuba, he managed to take on and destroy three K't'inga battle cruisers -- and then personally kill a half-dozen Klingons who boarded his ship. With his bare hands... and teeth and claws, I hear. If he's a Klingon sympathiser, he's a piss-poor one.

"I trust him. You, on the other hand-"

"What?"

Tattok stepped forward, eyes focused on him. "I have to be honest with you, Admiral: I was not sanguine when I heard you came out of retirement following the start of the War. Don't get me wrong, I respect your career, and your accomplishments, especially during the Klingon Separatist Uprising at Tycho V. And I'm not one of those people who thinks a man becomes a dunsel when he reaches a particular age... especially as I'm rapidly approaching that age myself.

"I didn't even mind when you insisted on dragging the Tesla out of the museum and getting her back into active duty; it still functioned, with some upgrades and modifications, we needed a scout and surveillance vessel for the Thirteenth, and a lot of the Captains here were eager for a chance to see Tycho Joe on his old ship."

Jacobs made a sound. "When are you dropping the 'but' on me, Tattok? I can feel it hanging over me like the Sword of Damocles."

Tattok stepped forward. "But... Admiral, you've been retired for almost twenty years. Yes, you were recertified for active duty, physically and mentally. And I won't deny we could use experienced hands out here with the threats of the Klingons and the Dominion. But still... twenty years, Joe-"

"I'm as sharp now as I was then!"

"Then how did a simple reconnaissance mission to the Donatu system end up with you losing a ship and barely escaping alive with your crew?"

Now the old man bristled. "We were surprised! Ambushed! I didn't have a chance -- It's all in the statement I've submitted! Read it if you don't believe me!"

Tattok nodded sagely. "I've read it.... and the initial statements from your senior officers, who tell a somewhat different story of the events in question. Frankly, you're lucky everything will be decided by a Board of Enquiry, not me. And that no one among your crew died." He breathed in. "That should at least work in your favour."

Report Story

bySurefoot© 2 comments/ 22902 views/ 1 favorites

Share the love

Report a Bug

Next
4 Pages:123

Forgot your password?

Please wait

Change picture

Your current user avatar, all sizes:

Default size User Picture  Medium size User Picture  Small size User Picture  Tiny size User Picture

You have a new user avatar waiting for moderation.

Select new user avatar:

   Cancel