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Story Notes:

Three freshly minted ensigns from the Academy unwittingly board the Border Patrol vessel the USS Kestrel, as it finishes repairs and refit at Starbase 49, just as a criminal mind plans to exact revenge on the ship's infamous, very un-PC and bombastic CO, Captain Gregory McGregor.
An attack that propels the ensigns into the fray and into life aboard a border patrol cutter ... and into dangerous 'Hunting Grounds'.


 

‘He's an Hawsehole!'



Starbase 49, the Gan'hoar System
2370


Commander Molly Cartwright, her arms folded, glared at the Commodore's aide. It was a look that had withered many an enlisted, ensign and officer in her time as a Captain. The aide shifted in his seat testament to the effect her look still had. Trying to allay the bristling dark-skinned Commander, he tried to reassure her. "Commodore Georgetown will be able to see you soon. He's just trying to make his way from a reception being held for the Jaguar."

"I see. No doubt eating shrimp cocktails takes priority over meeting me at our prearranged time." Pointedly she added for further effect. "A meeting he asked for."

"I'll just go and contact him, just to make sure he's on his way."

Sternly she returned. "You do that."

Molly ruefully thought, ‘Perhaps if this meeting is finished early enough I can all in on the reception and see old Russell Barnes.'

The aide scuttled off, into the interior of the office, not wishing to make the communication in front of the commander who unsettled him so. In five minutes, the smiling genial, rather rotund, form of Commodore Georgetown ambled into the office, his face flushed from sythenhol and rushing to make his appointment.

"Come in, come in, Commander. Sorry to have kept you waiting." Georgetown seated himself behind his table. Molly found herself in an office festooned with holo-images of Georgetown with renowned Admirals and Captains, and dignitaries from planets across the quadrant. As the commanding officer of the sprawling complex of refit hangars and storage yards, Georgetown met many such people as they passed through his patch. His spreading girth attested to the number of receptions he attended. These receptions were held to welcome back vessels, returning from deep space missions or at the end of their tour of duty, or to launch refitted vessels on their new tour.

However, Cartwright knew the man was the perfect fit for the job. A born bureaucratic diplomat he effortlessly steered the course between meet and greets of various types of Starfleet captains, to juggling the intricate red tape of outfitting vessels and shipping personnel to their new berths. Molly Cartwright did not envy him the task, but it was a task in which he clearly revelled. "Ah now to business Commander."

Curtly she replied, "Please do, I have a ship to return to."

The Commodore settled his rotund frame in behind the desk. He proceeded to absently pat his stomach, after smoothing out the dress tunic. The rumpled and slightly food stained dress uniform, bore signs of yet another elaborate and exotic buffet having filled his gut. "Ah yes of course. It's obviously in respect to the Kestrel that I wanted to talk to you."

He noted her impatient look and continued. "You see we are a large and busy facility and whilst we wish to ensure the speedy progress of all docked at the Starbase, it is not possible to make every vessel a top priority."

"I understand that commodore; I remember all too well my time as a Captain trying to harangue the repair crews to meet the deadlines."

Inwardly, Molly winced, thinking about her former position and the loss thereof.

Georgetown continued nervous and awkward. "Well as to that ... of course it is the prerogative of each ship to try to jostle the repair crews along obviously."

She cut across him to hammer home that point. "Obviously."

"But all within reason ... there's no need to resort to insults, threats or abuse."

Molly Cartwright conceded. "I'll admit that Gardner is a little gruff and quick to raise his voice. But, he's not the only cantankerous engineer in Starfleet. I do know of much worse. Any chief engineer will cause grief to get what they want, when they want, to get their ship shipshape. In fact, Gardner is a teddy bear, he just gets a bit angsty when the ship systems aren't at a 100 percent. "

Georgetown blushed before he said, "Actually I was referring to Captain McGregor. Your Engineer has made a number of rather insulting remarks, but actually, your Captain's behaviour prompted me to speak with you Commander. Behaviour that is not exactly befitting a starship Captain. I don't suppose you could manage to smooth things over between your Captain and my station's personnel? Perhaps take the lead on dealing with any inter-personnel issues. It's just he ..."

"What? Scares them!"

Georgetown waved his hands in feeble protestation at such a claim. "No, no, no. Well, not scare exactly ... but he does unnerve them. Mr Hanover informs me that it makes working on the Kestrel rather difficult. He tossed one technician's tool kit out an airlock because he found his work unsatisfactory! Then he told the technician to go fetch and not to bother coming back!"

The tale he regaled her with was actually a rather watered down version of what had actually happened. Molly had witnessed for herself, McGregor stopping short of throwing the technician out, without the aid of an EVA suit, to chase after the said tool kit. Georgetown however, looking suitably appalled at even his sanitised version of events, expected it to provoke some sort of response from Cartwright. She resolutely remained stoic faced, despite the story causing Georgetown to add, "And talking to others within the fleet I cannot help but feel your Captain has a certain reputation for similar behaviour."

"Commodore Georgetown, I have known Captain McGregor over twenty years. I can honestly say this; it would be best if you hurried along the refitting of the Kestrel."

Georgetown spluttered. "I expected you to be more accommodating than this Commander Cartwright."

"You mean, you expected me to run interference between McGregor and your station teams. No thanks. If they get on with their job, he can complain about little. He simply expects people to do their best. Just why did you expect me to be more accommodating I don't know."

He admitted. "To be honest your husband has told me you were more approachable than Captain McGregor and a reasonable woman to deal with!"

Blithely she retorted. "He didn't find me so reasonable when we were getting divorced."

"Oh! He never said anything about that." Georgetown looked suitably chagrined about his error.

Trying to appease the commodore somewhat, Molly offered a conciliatory word of advice. "Look Commodore, just make sure your people do their job and this should all work out for the best." She got up and headed for the door. At the threshold of the door, Molly stopped and enquired, with a pretence at nonchalance. "When were you speaking to Paul?"

"Two weeks ago, just a few days before the Kestrel berthed." Seeing the Commander's interest, and possibly the slightest hint of worry on her face, Georgetown felt compelled to add, "Captain Dubeque inclinated, that he would be returning to Starbase 49 within a matter of weeks."

"That's only if Paul doesn't spot another money making opportunity." Her voice was neutral but Georgetown believed he read an underlying tension there. Not totally unexpected if they were divorced.

He ventured to say, "Heh, that's space boomers for you. They daren't turn down a money turner."

"Yep, that's what they say."

Smiling up at her from behind his desk he said, "At least Captain Cartwright, I mean Dubeque, is the dependable, honest type. Believe it or not, there are quite a few rogue freighter captains out there."

This served to reveal Molly's withering look again. "I serve on a border cutter. I know all about them." With that, she marched out of the office without further ado. Leaving Georgetown to reflect how combative the Kestrel's senior staff were. ‘What a joy it would be to serve aboard that vessel!'

His aide entered then to tell him there was a communication from Trafalgar Station. "Rear Admiral Faraday returning our call regards ... ahem ... Captain McGregor."

"Put it through Crispin. Ah Rear Admiral Faraday. Good to talk. We really ought to build up a more familiar relationship since both our facilities are the Federation's lynch pins along this border."

Taking no time to exchange pleasantries or professional courtesy the large form of the foreboding and formidable Faraday impatiently stated, "You wanted to talk about McGregor!"

Caught off guard by the brusque manner Georgetown acknowledged the fact. "Yes I did. We've had some interpersonal problems, nothing serious, but I wondered if I could pick your brain on what was the best approach to take with Captain McGregor. I never had the Captain call before in my tenure here so far."

"Lucky you. All you need to know about McGregor is he's a liability."

Laughing the accusation off Georgetown answered it with a joke. "I guess, that's why he's in the Border Service."

Faraday glowered through the viewscreen. As the de facto head of the Border Service for his sector, he took the joke as a barb. "Don't tar the rest of the Border Service with the same brush as McGregor. His attitude is not befitting any officer Fleet or Service! Damned man stirs up a hornet's nest wherever he goes."

"Yes, he is certainly unpredictable!"

Menacingly, Faraday leaned into the viewscreen with a look of contempt for the man he was facing. Georgetown leaned back involuntarily, as if the form of Faraday was going to reach through the viewscreen. In a deep sonorous voice he warned, "McGregor is a deranged and dangerous man. He's impulsive and abrasive and a pain in the ass. Something you'll soon learn. You would be best to keep a careful eye on him. This is obviously a waste of time. I thought you had contacted me because you managed to get something on him. The sooner we can drum him out of the Service the better for all." Georgetown swore he felt the vibrations of the timbre of the man's voice through the viewscreen.

"Surely, he's not as bad as all that! If he were Admiralty would have gotten rid of him by now."

"McGregor must have friends in high places, who have kept him in command for some bizarre reason despite my numerous protests. I warn you, McGregor is a loose cannon."

"Surely, he has to operate within the parameters of a Starfleet Captain."

Faraday leaned in to the screen. His dark baldhead and thickset neck added physical weight to the force of the man's presence, even through the medium of the viewscreen. "McGregor is not the average run of the mill Captain. He lacks any degree of professionalism~"

"Well, I had heard he was a mustang officer. Not too many of them reach the top rank, so there must be something to his methods, he-heh." Georgetown laughed nervously, trying to convince Faraday of McGregor's intentions despite his previous misgivings. He was wishing he had never made contact with the rear admiral.

"He's a hawsehole alright."

"Beg pardon?"

"He came up the hawsehole. An old naval slang for someone who makes it up from the lower ranks, but I think you can gather what I really meant. I've wasted enough time."

The image of Faraday winked out as the man stabbed a button ending the communication. Leaving Georgetown to wonder at just what it was McGregor did to cause such enmity from Faraday. He also wondered, how had McGregor managed to stay the course, if he really was as unprofessional as he appeared to be. What reason did Starfleet have for keeping the rogue captain?

 

* * *

‘Fraught Freight'



Starbase 49, Deck 13, Cargo hold 37-A

Leaning sanguinely against the bulkhead unfazed by the cramped hiding place the man's cool and controlled voice carried across the length of the filled cargo hold. "Patience Vardros."

"Don't lecture me T'Hos. You have us sneak into a highly secure Federation facility, risking our lives and freedom, and instead of acting, you ask us to sit around and wait."

"We shall strike when the iron is hot as the Earth expression goes. If we acted now, we would have to fight our way onboard and my vendetta would not be avenged. I do not intend to fail. I intend to have McGregor on his knees begging for mercy before I slowly slit his throat. And I needn't remind you Vardros, that I have offered to pay you handsomely for this job."

"A handsome wage means nothing, if I'm not alive."

"Then don't get killed. The best way to ensure that is to follow my plan and wait for the right time to strike." His eyes narrowed darkly. "Of course, you might be thinking that you could walk away now and spend the share I've given you so far, but trust me you won't live that way either."

Vardros smiled weakly and said woodenly, "Such a thought had never occurred to me."

"I'm sure, hence my confidence in you and in my plan. We will board the Kestrel and kill all on her decks. I will have my revenge, rest assured."

Vardros saw the clear intent of his employer's eyes. The fact that T'Hos Likk, one of the Federation's most hunted criminals had personally come on the job and had hidden himself within a Federation Starbase and planned to personally lead a boarding party onto the bridge of the Kestrel, attested to his murderous intent. A man like that, was dangerous to cross. A man like that, was likely to succeed and, more importantly for Vardros, was generous in his success. This made the job highly risky but potentially, highly rewarding. Still he asked, "How can you be so sure of success?"

"Because I shall have someone working for us onboard."

* * *

 


Chapter End Notes:

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