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The Captain's Den


Bridge, USS Kestrel

 

"I'm ... baaaaaaaaaack!"

"You're late." Came the droll reply from Caleb Dexter as he turned to the parting doors where McGregor was announcing himself jazz hands shimmering with wild eyes and a crazy grin plastered across his face. Dexter recognised the crazed excited look McGregor had. A look said he had something in the pipeline and like a kid in a sweetshop, McGregor could hardly contain himself with anticipation.

"Hardly late Tac. After all, I got here just when I wanted." He slapped down into his command chair, with one leg cocked over the armrest. He then patted his belly as if satisfied after a dinner. "You went and ruined my entrance Dexter. Ah! Not as grand as yours Stanley!" McGregor jumped up as the doors opened again to announce Stanley from his impromptu space walk. "Had a nice walk?"

Stanley bobbed his head as McGregor approached him. "I did thank you Captain."

"Good, good."

"As I was saying, you are late Captain."

"My ship my boyo, which means to say ... I'm not late, I'm on time. Not to mention I got here before Stanley and I went for a detour." McGregor smirked to himself thinking of Gardner crawling through the Jeffries tubes in pursuit trying to figure out whatever ‘modifications' McGregor had made. The fact that on this occasion he actually hadn't made any modifications or uploaded any programs made McGregor laugh to himself at Gardner's pointless chase. "Hee, hee. Anyway, I plan to make up for it! Fun is afoot. Plans are in action and I've a score to settle. And Stanley you have my scarf to finish but hey you can knit during the briefing."

Stanley blinked in response to that. "What briefing Captain?"

"Why this one ... open a ship wide comm. there please." He said to Berkley at the Ops console.

McGregor pinched the bridge of his nose to achieve a nasal tannoy voice. "Bing bong! All senior officers please report to my office!" McGregor spun on his foot and turned to walk off the bridge again but stopped suddenly and declared into the air, "And oh someone bring carrot cake!"

"Erm."

"What Lieutenant?"

"I ended the comm. link Captain before your request. Shall I open it again?"

"No, that would only make me seem preposterous. Why even impulsive. Ok, do it. No don't. No do. No don't."

Dexter stood with his arms folded with a cross expression on his face. "Aren't you?"

"I don't want to be seen that way though. Right then, Berkley go get me some from the canteen."

Halfway out of his chair, Berkley stopped to say, "You could always replicate some."

"What! I don't want any of that recycled rubbish." Berkley blanched at irking McGregor.

"Actually, studies have clearly stated that there is no perceptible difference between real food and replicated."

"It doesn't change the fact that it is literally recycled rubbish, Stanley. I want real carrot cake from the galley, made with carrots and ... and well, cake."

Trying to get McGregor's attention with increasing volume and increasing agitation, Dexter tried talking over him. "Captain - captain - CAPTAIN!"

Eventually breaking from his carrot cake conversation, McGregor sternly asked of Dexter, "What is it?"

"The meeting." He pushed.

McGregor clicked his fingers. "Oh yes! Let's. The senior officers' lounge then." He declared gleefully rubbing his hands together. "I could do with a drink. Berkley forget the carrot cake, you have the conn. - just don't do anything. Stay on course, maintain speed, I'll update from The Den."

With a hop and a skip, arm around Stanley the captain made his way to the door whistling merrily. Dexter reluctantly following behind tried to ask, "So what's the plan Captain?"

"Muh ha ha ha!" He shook his head laughing as he cantered down the curving staircase towards the lounge. "Now, now Tac, that's for The Den ... Molly would be peeved if you guys knew before her."

Dexter snorted. "You mean Rah doesn't know already?"

McGregor breezed through the doors and headed straight to the bar counter. "Fang doesn't count. He has fur!"

* * *

 

Senior Officers' Lounge, ‘The Den', Deck Three

McGregor and Stanley entered the lounge at a brisk pace with McGregor's arm around Stanley's shoulders. Dexter followed quickly behind giving the room a cursory survey, as was the security officer in him. Nothing was amiss as to be expected. Inside the lounge, dark polished wood and leather created a rather austere masculine environment a world away from the muted greys and bland inoffensive colourings of Starfleet's corridors and workstations. It was a welcome escape for a senior officer like Dexter to get away from subordinates and to do so in grand surrounds and a small touch of luxury.

The room was two storeys high with an upper balcony housing a small private library and a number of leather armchairs. Thus seated, one had a magnificent view from the large window looking aft of the ship just under docking port one looking back at the torpedo pod.

Furnishing the room was a large dark oval table that dominated one end and acted as McGregor's conference table on occasion and every Friday night as the poker table for Dexter, Gardner, Monroe and Gunny. The table had a dark wood finish but the centre flipped to become a sophisticated tactical display too. A luxury item no one was quite sure how McGregor had acquired as it was far from Starfleet standard and further from the Border Patrol's tighter pool of resources. That said, the entire Den was far from frugal in its setting and finishings.

There were several dark red leather settees seated under the curving window with a viewscreen mounted on the wall. Dexter and Gardner frequently used the video screen to watch the numerous sports they liked to bet on. At this end, tucked under the balcony and curving metal staircase was a baby grand piano, perfectly placed for the spill over of mirth from the curving heavy wooden counter surrounding optics and ledges with bottles against a mirrored wall. The bar was not as large as Gordon's for the general ship but served adequately for the needs of the senior officers in private.

A finishing touch to the counter was the gunmetal bust of a perching kestrel about to take flight after its quarry. The bust sometimes caught the light spilling through the large curving windows and seemed to change in hue to a metallic blue. The eyes of the bust were beady and intense as if an actual kestrel somehow had been caught in a moment before covered in the strange metal alloy of the bust. Lastly, the bar had one of the fewer personal replicator stations on the ship. This meant senior staff could rustle up a bite to eat without having to go to the mess and be surrounded by the rest of the crew.

It was to this bar McGregor steered himself and Stanley as he proclaimed upon his entrance, "By and by Stanley, where is my new scarf? You said you would have it finished in time before our run on Xesix Prime." McGregor stole in behind the counter giving the kestrel a fond pat on its head as he passed. "I think the midnight blue wool will help to bring out the colour of eyes. Don't you think Dexter?"

Dismissively, Dexter dryly remarked, "I wouldn't be an expert on such matters."

"What's to know about scarves Tac? Really! I'm disappointed."

Dexter raised his middle finger in response to that with the response eliciting a laugh from McGregor. "Now, now Tac, not in front of the ladies, or Molly for that matter. Where are the ladies?" He asked leaning on the bust looking behind Molly at the closing door.

"They'll be along shortly. I left them in sickbay."

"Oh, girl talk - do dish!" He deigned not to await any answer but bopped down under the counter to clink at glasses and bottles.

Molly gave him the same fed up expression Dexter had given. It did not stop Dexter wondering about the sickbay reference. T'Vel was a constant security concern as far as he was concerned. He turned his focus back on McGregor now with glasses in hand. "A water no doubt Stanley."

"Thanking you kindly, Captain."

McGregor seemed unimpressed with the choice of drink as he poured out a glass for Stanley. "Can I get either of you something stronger than Stanley?"

Dexter frowned in response. "No thanks."

Molly crossed her arms. "You've just had breakfast."

McGregor looked up surprised from the shot of whiskey he had finished pouring himself. "Good ..." he interrupted himself to raise the tumbler to his lips and sink it in one before clinking the empty tumbler against Stanley's glass, "point. Cheers Stanley. I should have a port to ease my digestion."

"Captain."

"What? I'm kidding." Quietly aside to Stanley he adlibbed, "She's a spoilsport. T'Vel must have put her in a foul mood."

At that, Eddie Gardner came into the lounge with a frustrated frown on his craggy face and rubbing his knees. He sauntered up to the counter and plopped down on the stool next to Stanley. Stanley turned and looked down at the offending knees of the chief engineer, "Are your knees sore?"

McGregor beamed a mischievous look in Eddie's direction awaiting the reply. "Well they would be Stanley what with crawling through miles of Jeffries tubes all on a stupid wild goose hunt." He angrily grabbed the glass McGregor sat out in front of him. McGregor then slid a silver cased lighter across the counter to Eddie too. "This doesn't make up for it."

McGregor sat up a wooden box and slid it across the counter. "Just in. Call me old fashioned but they're Cuban."

Eddie looked up through his thick bushy eyebrows. He gave a reluctant and only momentary smirk as he pulled the box towards himself and opened it up taking in the aroma of the box and the cigars within. He sucked on his inner cheek and scratched at his beard before replying, "But it's a start."

"Good boy Eddie."

Stanley blinked and raised his glass to Gardner. "Cheers," he said smiling in the mad wide smile he had.

"What's this all about Captain?" Dextor asked.

McGregor held up a halting finger. He tapped his combadge, "McGregor to the bridge ... adjust course bearing by 0041 degrees, and maintain speed."

Molly asked stepping closer to the counter but not coming up to it. "Why the change in course?"

"All will be revealed. First, say hello to Judy and T'Vel." The doors parted to usher in the two of them.

"Good morning Captain. A bit early Eddie isn't it?" Judy Monroe said eyeing up his half-filled glass as she approached the bar. Eddie looked down at the evidence and then looked to McGregor who had cleared his own glass away.

"Greetings." T'Vel stood near to the door, her hands clasped behind her back and her eyes not looking in Molly's direction.

"Morning Vel. I trust it sees you good. Now, to business, we can't waste time on chit chat." T'Vel raised her eyebrow in obvious disapproval at McGregor's name but she moved towards the table and seated herself in the middle seat. McGregor took the head chair. Molly walked around the table carefully examining T'Vel as she remained focused on the captain before she took the opposite chair to McGregor. Judy sat to one side of T'Vel with McGregor then to her immediate left. On T'Vel's other side, Dexter slid in feeling the impression that he was a buffer between the two women. On the other side, Stanley sat next to McGregor facing Judy as Eddie came with his drink and lit cigar puffing to stand behind McGregor.

Molly looked up to Eddie. "Not taking a seat?"

Leaning against the wooden rail running along the bulkhead, he held the cigar up as if producing evidence as he blew a circle of cigar smoke in the direction behind him. "You all only complain about my smoking when I do."

"And with good reason Eddie."

He doffed his cigar in the direction of Judy. "See what I mean."

Elbows on the table, T'Vel steepled her hands and rested her chin on them. "It is in Dr. Monroe's professional capacity to raise the medical arguments about smoking."

Molly forced herself not to scowl at T'Vel once again spouting medical reasoning given her own behaviour. Gardner took a puff on his cigar before declaring in response, "I'll sit over here." He cantered back to the bar and propped himself on one of the stools.

McGregor launched onwards. "Now, as I was saying, plans are afoot. That you have all gathered by now. When we were on Aubrellis, Fang managed to procure some interesting information, coincidently just before certain establishments caught fire."

T'Vel interrupted with an expected comment. "The probability of such a coincidence is -"

McGregor cut her off, "Considerably greater when it's Fang doing the calling. Nevertheless, the information has been collated and sifted through by me and Starfleet - pah - Intelligence. The information reveals the cargoes and routes of numerous dubious operators ..." A noise distracted him beside him. Click, clack, click, clack. "Do you need to knit so loudly Stanley?"

Stanley looked up unaware of his surrounds. "Hmmm ... sorry Captain? Your scarf is coming along nicely might I say." Stanley draped the uncompleted blue scarf over McGregor's shoulder. "You are quite correct in your assessment Captain; it does bring out the colour of your eyes."

"Why thank you Stanley. Continue ... but try to do it quieter."

"I shall endeavour to do so."

"Hey Eddie!"

Gardner looked aghast and confused all at the one time. He held out the cigar between his fingers in shock at McGregor seemingly correcting him for smoking. "Wha? Can't a guy smoke. I'm over here out of the way."

"Yeah but watch Kes! You near knocked her over."

Gardner gave the bust a look. "Hardly likely, that thing is a ton weight. And if it fell over it wouldn't break. It'd be more like to break my foot."

McGregor started vocally ‘shooing' Gardner away from the bust. "Shoo, shoo. You're leaning against it."

"Damn it! I'll move over to this stool. Are you happy now? I won't touch your flaming bust."

"Hee, hee. I bet you say that to all the girls Eddie."

Dexter interjected. "Are we intending on wasting all day or what?"

"My, you got out of bed on the wrong side this morning."

"I had the night shift."

"Psst! You're in space; it's always dark outside! Although, it is rather unfortunate for you Dexter considering what I have planned for today. As I was saying before Stanley, Eddie and Dexter interrupted me, the various sources I have to hand have been put to good use. I have selected a target, a name we all know and love, our dear ole ‘Thaddeus' Norwi."

From the bar counter and his new stool, Gardner chewed on his cigar. "Huh, Thaddeus, it has been a while. I thought he might have turned over a new leaf."

Judy remarked sadly, "His kind never does."

"No, they do not. Though personally, I always liked Thaddeus, he always had good taste."

"It is illogical to like a career criminal simply because you deem him to have good taste."

Eddie flicked the ash on his uniform. "It would be because McGregor liked confiscating his contraband alcohol."

"Hee, hee, like I say, he always had good taste."

The doctor turned to give McGregor an imploring look. "Please tell me we aren't chasing after Thaddeus simply to confiscate whatever illegal liquors he might be carrying."

"Judy! As if I would." No one around the table said anything to that. "And no, that's not the reason why I'm tracking Thaddeus down. Certainly, it isn't the only reason why."

"Can we get to the point?"

"Dexter! And the point is we are going to raid and board Thaddeus' ship. But first, let's have a little status report." He pressed a button and the centre of the conference table flipped over to reveal the tactical display. McGregor pulled up a live schematic of the Kestrel herself with a running display of information about the ship's power output and usage alongside incoming sensor readings. The Captain tabbed main engineering and the schematic zoomed in on it giving a more detailed analysis as well as the current crewmembers working there. "Eddie?"

"As if you don't bloody know already, everything is fine and dandy. I still haven't got the engines to the optimum. Our little escapade at Starbase 49 well and truly knocked things back to basics and whilst I've tweaked the engines yet, the bird isn't sailing like she was."

"I'm sure that you'll get her there in time Eddie."

"Yeah but my question is what was the purpose of the work assignments last night? What's that about?"

"In due course Eddie, in due course. Tac? Any duty reports?"

"Nope. All was quiet. We received an open comm. update from the buoy tender Bad Axe update to Star Command. They report a series of attacks on comm. buoys near the Wantu system but they have been fully repaired. Cutters are advised to keep an eye out for any rogue transits that may have taken advantage of the blind or purposefully did so."

Gardner chimed in. "Of that I have no doubt! Criminals act quicker on sensor net failures that Starfleet does!"

"Yeah well, we can keep an eye out for them then."

McGregor mused aloud for no-one's particular benefit. "Intelligence doesn't think it might be the work of these Maquis? Hmmm ... I wonder. Go ahead Dexter."

"Other than sending an info dump of hardcore verification data from the comm. buoys not much else. Other than they detected a subspace boundary in sector ..."

"Yadda, yadda, yadda. Moving on? Judy, anything pertinent on your end?"

"Nothing to declare captain."

McGregor caught the look from Molly to Monroe and the fact both of them steadfastly did not look in the direction of T'Vel. It explained the sickbay meeting between the three of them. It also explained why Molly was being so unusually quiet. "Nothing to add Molly?"

"If you can't be bothered with the status report, skip to the plan."

"Oh wait." McGregor leaned forward to read the tactical display focusing on the ship's current bearing. Tapping his comm. badge, he instructed the conn to adjust the course by a minute fraction again. "Ah yes, the plan!" He tapped in a few commands and the cut through schematic of the Kestrel switched to that of an Orion raider with its own macabre painted insignia on the hull. It was recognizable to all as the ship captained by Thaddeus. "As you can imagine, once Thaddeus catches a whiff of us chasing after him, he is going to hightail it away. So we are going to run him down. Once we do ..." he pressed a tab on the interactive display and the scene changed to a tactical overlay showing Thaddeus ship the Nightwing being approached by two Star Stallions, "we launch and take control of the vessel allowing us to conduct a thorough inspection."

Molly's crossed arms were a sign that she was unimpressed. Her tone even more so. "As simple as that."

"As simple as that, Molls. Simple is best." He preened from the opposite end of the table.

Molly pulled her best ‘bumblebee' face as she scowled across the table. "Why I oughta knock that smile off your face. But I'd say it would be easier to slap off the stubble! You are going to play hard and fast with the lives of those Stallion crews and that's the height of the plan you are supplying us with."

"I'm hardly done yet Molly. As you can see," he spread a hand over the tactical simulation, "two Stallions with two boarding teams will take the ship. Stallion One, led by me will take the bridge. Stallion Two led by Dexter will seize engineering and voila! Hey presto, Bob's your uncle, arrivederci."

Molly Cartwright pushed her chair back to stand and leaned over the table resting on the knuckles of her fists. "The hell it is McGregor. You can't be so flippant about it. You are putting lives on the line no matter how well trained and prepared that they are. Instead of your cavalier attitude spell out the specifics."

He shrugged indifferently. "I'm going with the Stallions Molly. I'm hardly going to embark on a half-assed plan."

"The problem is McGregor I think you would. If you want to play at this as if it is a game then I'm going to insist that you don't go on the SARAH."

Suddenly pulled up short at such a demand McGregor was horrified. "Molly."He expressed in a hurt tone. "I love search and wreak havoc ops." Dexter stifled a laugh behind his hand.

"No, if you want this mission to have the go ahead, then you remain behind on the Kestrel."

A long moment passed between them with the rest of the senior staff save Stanley still absorbed in his knitting keeping stump. "Fine! I don't care anyway." Eddie snorted.

In her imperious voice, T'Vel asked, "Who shall lead the Stallion One team?"

"Why you of course T'Vel, you are second officer and Molly will want to stay onboard to check I keep to the plan."

Molly narrowed her eyes as McGregor tried to play her. She chose not to rise to his bait. She gave Judy one last questioning glance and the doctor in turn only gave a fractional inclination of her head that she felt T'Vel was fit for such a duty. "Fine." She took her seat again. "And you are correct; I will stay to keep you honest to the plan. Once you dish what the plan is."

"Like I say Molly, simple is best."

Stanley reached out with his knitting. "Do you like this stitching here captain? I think a little detail adds so much more to the effect."

"Very nice Stan. Lovely it is." McGregor said without even looking in Stanley's direction maintaining his locked gaze with Molly. He leaned back in his chair and grinned wolfishly. "Though that said Molly, the devil is in the details."

* * *

 

 



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