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USS Reykjavík
Captain’s Ready Room

“You’ve had an opportunity to review the information I sent, sir?” Trujillo asked, directing the question at Vice-Admiral Markopoulos via a subspace comm-link with Starbase Earhart.

The legendarily garrulous older Human with his wild shock of white hair and bushy beard glanced to a data-slate held in one hand. “I have, Captain. I’ve also had our Intel analysts pouring over all the evidence you’ve collected. They agree with your assessment that this certainly appears to be Klingon expansionism disguised as common piracy.”

“With their government so dependent upon ongoing Federation technical support to help repair the ecological damage to Qo'noS, a covert expansion of their territory is the only way they could pull it off,” Trujillo reinforced.

“Agreed,” Markopoulos replied noncommittally.

Trujillo held her tongue for a moment hoping that Markopoulos would suggest a course of action, but the admiral said nothing.

“With respect, Admiral, I would recommend this is something we should act on sooner rather than later. If we cut this operation off at the knees, it will serve notice to the High Council and their military that the Federation won’t stand for renewed aggression.”

Markopoulos leveled an incredulous look at her from across subspace. “They’re Klingons, Nandi. The fact that their dependance upon our largess has kept them in check for thirty years is a miracle in and of itself. We always knew they’d swing back around to military adventurism eventually.”

“So we let them run roughshod over the Boslic and anyone else they like, sir?”

The admiral’s patience in the face of Trujillo’s outburst was laudable. “Starfleet’s retooling for a renewed exploratory push as we speak, Captain. A full fifth of our heavy cruisers are undergoing refit in preparation for deep-space exploration assignments. Meanwhile, we’ve had run-ins with the Tzenkethi, Tholians and the Cardassians in the past eighteen months. The Romulans are still watching us from behind the Neutral Zone and refusing all diplomatic overtures. This isn’t an ideal time to start a renewed conflict with the Klingons.”

“Again, sir, smothering this faux-piracy program of theirs now may preclude just such a conflict. The empire would still retain plausible deniability and could cut their losses without overt dishonor.”

“Are you proposing something, Captain?” Markopoulos asked, clearly determined to drag it out of her and seeming to enjoy every excruciating moment of her discomfort.

She kept a resigned sigh in check, but only just. “Yes, sir. I would like to assemble a task force to track down and neutralize the threat this group poses.”

“You, Captain?” Considering that much of his face was hidden behind his beard and unkempt hair, Markopoulos’ expression was still able to convey an impressive range of emotions. He now radiated skepticism.

“Unless you have a better candidate in mind to lead such an operation, sir?” Trujillo rejoined, keeping her voice carefully neutral. “I am, of course, willing to assist in whatever capacity you might wish.”

Markopoulos held her gaze from across the lightyears for a prolonged moment, then appeared to come to a decision.

“Okay, Captain, cards on the table. Despite your undeniable qualifications for leading such a mission, you managed to piss off Admiral Langford and the Diplomatic Corps during that business with the Cardassians and Task Force Hadrian. You came dangerously close to insubordination, and don’t think that I and others at Command don’t know that Captain ch’Valos took a lot of heat for that fiasco that should by rights have been directed at you.”

Trujillo’s expression froze for a moment before her face drew into a reluctant frown. “I acknowledge that I earned that rebuke, Admiral. I allowed my concern for possible Starfleet POW's to trump my better judgement in those circumstances.”

“Yes you did, and in so doing you did serious damage to your reputation. I need commanders I can trust in delicate situations, not hotheaded zealots.”

She nodded slowly, her plans and aspirations burning down around her. “I understand, sir.”

Markopoulos referenced his tablet again. “You are exceptionally lucky, Captain. If it were solely up to me, I’d have Olaf Kiersonn taking point on this. As it stands, Admiral Saavik and the sector’s standing Rapid Response Committee decided three hours ago that your name topped the list of prospective candidates to lead just such a reaction force. I’m forced to defer to my superior’s judgement in this matter.”

Trujillo blinked, experiencing a moment of cognitive whiplash. “I’m sorry, sir… did you say—”

“Yes, damn it, Nandi. We’re giving you a task force to run these Klingons down. Don’t screw this up, or I’ll have your guts for garters, after Saavik gets done eviscerating me!”

“I—uh, thank you, sir. I’ll certainly keep—”

He waved off her awkward reply. “I’m sending you Shras, Hathaway, Vespula, Feynman, and al-Ashtar. If we can scrape up any more combat-worthy ships, we’ll send them your way as well. What do you plan to do with Zelenskyy?

“We’ll effect repairs to her as best we’re able, sir, and then we’ll bring her with us. Any chance you can attach a long-range tender to the task force?”

A few more keystrokes on his tablet were followed with, “Done. The Falmouth has been tasked to your group.”

“Thank you, Admiral.”

“You’re welcome,” he replied. “We’re giving you a brevet promotion to commodore for the duration of this mission. Enjoy it while it lasts.”

“For what it’s worth, sir, I appreciate Command’s vote of confidence in my abilities.”

“You should,” Markopoulos retorted. “There’s a lot riding on this, and if you foul this up you might plunge us into another war with the Klingons.”

Despite her earlier reprimand, Trujillo had to smile at the statement. “To quote Professor Markopoulos from his academy Intraspecies Astropolitical Science class, ‘there will always be another war with the Klingons.’”

“Yes, I said that. However, I never inferred that I’d be the one starting it.” Markopoulos set down the slate, once again directing his full attention to Trujillo. “Coordinate with Captain Muchumba at Sector Ops to make rendezvous arrangements with your ships. This will be Operation Venatic. Your task force designation?”

“Scythe, sir,” she answered simply.

The corner of Markopoulos’ mouth twitched. “Naturally. Very well then, good hunting with Task Force Scythe, Commodore.”

The screen winked, the admiral’s visage replaced with the Starfleet Command delta. Trujillo sank back into her chair, her cumulative tension escaping in the form of a long sigh. She toggled a call button to the bridge, summoning her XO.

Glal stepped into the compartment, favoring Trujillo with an expectant look. “And how did that go, sir?”

“Better than I deserve, frankly,” she admitted.

“Command still fretting about that business with the Cardassians?”

“Oh, yes,” she confirmed. “Very much so. Saavik green-lighted my task force proposal over Markopoulos’ objections, apparently.”

“Well, sir, you’ve never gone out of your way to avoid aggravating the Chic Greek. It was bound to come back around to bite you sometime. And I would remind you this advice is coming from a Tellarite.”

Trujillo actually laughed at that, a much needed release of stress. “I yield to your wisdom, Commander.”

“What did they give us?”

“Seven ships, including Zelenskyy and a tender.”

He raised a bushy, skeptical eyebrow. “Starships or warships, sir?”

“An Andor-class missile cruiser, a Constellation, two destroyers and a frigate. They’ll hold their own.”

Glal nodded approvingly. “And what are we calling this party, sir?”

“Task Force Scythe.”

That elicited a snort from the older officer. “Oh, very good sir. Very subtle. May I presume Task Force Death Orgy was already taken?”

She pointed emphatically to the exit.

“I’ll see myself out, Commodore.”

* * *  

Captain’s Personal Log, Stardate 3122.9

As Operation Venatic approaches the three-week mark, we have disappointingly little to show for our efforts. Feynman and al-Ashtar engaged three raiders a week ago near the Tarius Pulsar Creche, with one raider destroyed and another badly damaged ship escaping into the severe gravimetric shear of the creche, almost certain suicide. Aside from that encounter, we’ve found no additional clues as to where the Klingon pirates are staging from or what their next targets may be.

Our Klingon prisoners still refuse to talk, and four of them have begun starving themselves in protest of their confinement. The Boslic whose colony they attacked refused to take custody of the Klingons or interrogate them after discovering their true identity, and I can’t really blame them. Who wants to draw that kind of attention to themselves?

The lack of results is discouraging and is clearly testing the admiralty’s patience. Markopoulos has been hounding me for updates almost daily, and if we can’t locate and dig out the raiders soon, he’ll be only too happy to reallocate Task Force Scythe’s ships elsewhere.

I’ve decided to keep two-thirds of our ships on patrol in this sector, checking in with Federation and non-aligned colonies alike to make sure they’re seen to be protected by anyone watching. We’ve also been rendering assistance in upgrading some of the non-aligned colonies’ orbital defense systems. We’re not sharing Federation weapons technology with them, just making sure their own systems are working at peak efficiency, providing replicated parts and technical expertise where applicable.

Meanwhile, I’ve tasked Reykjavík, Zelenskyy and Vespula to visit local outposts and commercial stations, hoping to find someone somewhere who knows where the Klingons are based, or who might be supplying them.

If it turns out that the imperial military is funding and supplying the operation completely, this may be yet another waste of time. I’d hate to come up short on this mission, seeing as it was my own idea. Failure here would mean another personal loss of face with Command, and another nail in the coffin for the quickly dying idea of dedicated Starfleet warships.

As much as this assignment may impact my career, I’m embarrassed that I have to remind myself that there are lives hanging in the balance here.

* * *

Harksea Trade Station, Gamma Galadtonia System

The Xepolite trading outpost was over two centuries old but was well maintained, giving it a kind of exotic classical quality. The interior bulkheads were inset with pergium and nillimite, decorated with intricate scrollwork and flourishes that one seldom encountered in more modern structures.

The visiting Starfleet personnel had been given limited R&R privileges by Commodore Trujillo, and the senior staffs of both Reykjavík and Zelenskyy had the added duty of hunting for any information on the Klingon raiders.

The crews had quickly discarded the idea of trying to go undercover, given that they were largely of known Federation member species, and both looked and carried themselves as Starfleet personnel. Generous portions of gold-pressed latinum had been issued from ship’s stores to the senior officers as bribes for actionable intelligence on their quarry.

Gael Jarrod, Arwen DeSilva, and Rachel Garrett walked through the commercial ring of the station, passing exotic store fronts and kiosks selling all manner of goods. Ligonian holo-sim dealers hawked their wares next to Klaestron bladesmiths and Orion weapons merchants. The enticing scents of dozens of different foods from countless different species mingled in the air and diverted visitors’ attention. The smell of freshly cooked hasperat from a Bajoran refugee’s food stall sought to overwhelm the aroma of Acamarian parthas souffle.

“So, how are you finding the position of executive officer?” Jarrod asked DeSilva. Reykjavík’s Operations officer had been temporarily transferred to Zelenskyy to serve as Captain Withropp’s XO, owing to the deaths of several of his senior officers in the battle at the gas giant. Other ships from Task Force Scythe had also contributed replacement crew to help fill Zelenskyy’s open billets.

“Challenging and…” she cast a glance over her shoulder to ensure no Zelenskyy crew were within earshot, “…awkward,” she finished. “They’ve been through a lot, and it was a fairly new crew to begin with. Trying to get all the replacements settled in and situated in their departments has been a headache, but Captain Withropp’s been supportive and easy to work with.”

Jarrod nodded, pausing to inspect a Kreetassan dagger in the display window of the bladesmith’s shop. “It’s great experience for you. You’re practically a shoe-in for when Glal finally calls it quits.”

Both DeSilva and Garrett’s heads snapped around in unison at that statement.

“You know something I don’t?” DeSilva inquired. She was aware that Jarrod and Trujillo were romantically involved and guessed that some privileged information may have come his way.

“Only that he’s not getting any younger. Glal’s been in uniform for forty-two years. He was on the cusp of retirement before the commodore poached him away from Captain Sulu, and that was four years ago. I figure he’s done his bit for king and country. Besides, his family’s very involved in politics back home, and rumor has it they’re wanting him to run for a seat in the Ministerial Conclave.”

DeSilva cocked her head, appearing thoughtful. “I mean… I wouldn’t turn it down. Gods, those would be big boots to fill, though.”

“Tellarite cloven feet are actually rather smaller than Hum—” Garrett offered helpfully, only to be cut off by a sharp look from DeSilva.

“Hush, Ensign, the adults are talking.”

The junior officer held up a belaying hand with a smirk. “Just kidding, sir. Gosh, you’re really getting salty in your old age, Lieutenant.”

DeSilva’s jaw dropped open and Jarrod had to turn away, his shoulders shaking in silent laughter.

“Swear to the Great Bird, Ensign, I’m going to find a way to transfer you to waste management. I’ll have you scrubbing the waste conduits with your own toothbrush!” DeSilva mock-growled.

Garrett looked to Jarrod. “Oh, that really wasn’t half bad. Lower her voice a couple of octaves and make her left eye twitch a little and she could almost pass for Commander Glal.”

DeSilva rolled her eyes and walked away to the sound of Jarrod’s now audible laughter.

Garrett mimed gripping something at the sides of her mouth with the thumb and forefinger of both hands. “You need tusks, though, but I’m pretty sure there’s a body-mod shop around here somewhere...”

DeSilva glanced back to recommend stopping at a nearby confectioner’s storefront in time to see Jarrod ducking into the doorway of the bladesmith’s with Garrett following in his wake.

She followed them inside, pausing to scan an almost overwhelming variety of cutting implements from a score of different worlds.

DeSilva was about to fire off a jibe about Jarrod shopping for his own collection when she spied what must have caught the security officer’s attention. At the back of the store an employee was sharpening a Klingon bat’leth sword on a spinning grinding stone.

“Say, I’m something of a collector, and a genuine Klingon bat’leth is almost impossible to find,” Jarrod said by way of greeting to the young man behind the counter. “Is that the real thing?”

The dark-complected man, Human in appearance, grunted. “It is, in fact,” he said over the whine of stone on metal, a fount of sparks showering him. He paused the work to examine the fine edge of the weapon. “Real composite baakonite, not those shoddy tritanium knock-offs the Orions are always peddling,” the man replied.

“How much?” Jarrod inquired, his expression radiating an enthusiasm that was all too genuine.

“Not for sale,” the man countered. “I could make you one, but it’ll take the better part of a week. A little less if you don’t want all the ornamentation.”

Jarrod could see the painstaking craftsmanship that had gone into the blade, replete with blood-grooves fashioned into Klingon glyphs and other elaborate adornment.

“We’re only in port for a day,” Jarrod pressed. “You sure this one’s spoken for?” He held up a small satchel of latinum strips, jingling the bag for emphasis. “I’d make it more than worth your while.”

“I can guarantee the owner of this blade would use many of the other weapons you see in here to make her displeasure known to me,” the smith replied. “I wouldn’t live to spend your coin.”

Jarrod’s disappointment wasn’t feigned. “Okay, I understand. Can you tell me when she’s due to return to pick it up? I’d like the opportunity to try and purchase it from her.”

The younger man laughed. “Why so eager, Starfleet? You can buy a replica nearly anywhere.”

“I don’t want a replica,” Jarrod insisted. “I want the genuine article, and I haven’t seen anyone anywhere else in this sector who makes them by hand. The only other way to get a real bat’leth is to slay its owner in combat and seeing as we haven’t fought a war with the Klingons in sixty years that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.”

“Its owner is a very private person, unfortunately,” the man responded.

Jarrod reached into the bag, producing two slips of latinum. He held them up. “I’m serious about this. All I want is the chance to negotiate for the sale of that gorgeous weapon.”

The bladesmith sighed, his expression torn. “Fine, but it’ll cost you four slips, and you absolutely cannot let her know I told you when she was going to be here.”

“That’s a deal,” Jarrod enthused, fishing another two slips out of the satchel.

Nearer the front of the shop, Garrett unslung her tricorder from over her shoulder and began scanning the vicinity, pretending to peruse the various cutlery on display.

“It really is some of my finest work,” the man noted proudly, holding it out toward Jarrod for him to examine. “I am one of only a handful of non-Klingon artificers allowed to make and sell these beauties to the tlhIngan.”

“That’s quite a testament to your skill,” Jarrod noted, leaning in to study the sword’s artistry.

The bladesmith flipped the sword up with surprising speed and delivered a slashing strike towards Jarrod’s throat. The security officer flinched back, bringing up an arm that only partially blocked the strike and caused the blade to bite into his forearm and slice across his jawline rather than his neck. Though not the death-blow his attacker had hoped, the force and speed of the attack was sufficient to send the wounded Jarrod sprawling.

DeSilva took a sliding step back and reached down to grab the small Type-I phaser affixed to her uniform belt.

The door next to the bladesmith crashed open loudly and a hand clutching a pistol of some kind thrust out of the darkness beyond. The weapon sent three sizzling blue bolts of energy into DeSilva’s chest as she was still bringing her phaser up and into play. Gouts of sparks erupted from the impacts as DeSilva was blasted off her feet.

Behind her two comrades, Garrett dropped her tricorder and tapped her combadge as she dove behind a display case festooned with knives and swords. “Reykjavík, we’re under attack! Three for emergency beam-out at my location! We have casualties!”

Another flurry of energy pulses blasted the display case apart, showering Garrett with bits of glass, wood, and a spattering of liquified metals from partially vaporized blades.

The bladesmith slid around the corner of the wrecked display case, the bat’leth held nearly at port-arms, clearly wielded by a man with significant skill. He snarled, “tlhaw'DIyo! DaH Hugh vISuvjaj,” as he brought the blade forward and down with practiced speed.

The transporter beam swept Garrett and the others away an instant before the bat’leth cleaved flesh.

* * *


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