((Ranger 3rd Division Headquarters, Tajna III ))
::It was a glorious spring morning. The sky was a perfect cloudless teal, the sun warm but not too hot, the breeze sweet and gentle. Tajna III was a perfectly unremarkable little Federation colony, possessed of a pleasant and temperate environment that would have made it a fine tourist destination, were it not so far off the usual trade routes. Instead, it was something of a large retirement village, where people came to live out quiet and peaceful lives.
::All in all, Matías was rather pleased that the Rangers had decided to headquarter their third division on the sleepy little planet. There was a good variety of environments to train in, a large portion untouched by the small colony's development. The headquarters itself was set in one of the woodlands of the planet, with dense forests and spectacular mountains. His own office looked out onto the crystal waters of a vast lake, often visited by local wildlife.
::The stunning surroundings were not doing much for his mood that day. Preliminary reports had come in from the 451st about a mission that had gone seriously sideways, with significant loss of life. And then, when he stepped into that office to begin his work day, he stopped dead. While his heartbeat kicked up several notches, adrenaline surging through his system, the doors hissed closed behind him -- and the diminutive woman in his chair, her feet up on *his* desk, looked up from the PADD she was studying.::
Reynolds: Good morning.
::As casual as you like. As though she had every, let alone any, right to be there. But he didn't call for assistance, not yet. Someone capable of getting onto the base, into his highly secured office was someone who likely would have taken steps to ensure he couldn't. No, for now, he had to observe and wait for the right opportunity.::
Cavallero: Good morning.
::She smiled at him, evidently pleased by the simple exchange of pleasantries. Skinny as a rake, mousey-haired and freckled, she wouldn't stand out in a crowd. Her clothes didn't stand out, either; worn boots, dark trousers, a plain tunic and a weathered leather jacket. He couldn't see any obvious weaponry, but that didn't mean she wasn't carrying something concealed.::
Cavallero: Is there something I can help you with, Ms--
::That got a reaction. She narrowed her hazel eyes and interrupted him.::
Reynolds: Sir. You mean "sir". ::She paused, and almost as an afterthought, added,:: But not ma'am. Never ma'am.
Cavallero: Excuse me?
Reynolds: You really have no idea who I am, do you? Fleet Captain Quinn Reynolds. You know, the sector commander whose sector you've recently been conducting operations in. Whose ship you commandeered for a mission without so much as a polite note.
::He frowned. Well, if she wanted to be addressed properly, maybe she should have turned up in her uniform?::
Cavallero: Then I'm sure you won't mind if I confirm your identity?
Reynolds: By all means.
::He took a few steps forward, and tapped the console on the desk, the monitor rising from it. With a sharp twist, he turned the screen so that it was facing him, still thoroughly annoyed by the fact the woman was sat in his chair. A few quick checks to confirm nothing had been tampered with, and he summoned the appropriate files. She looked like the image on Reynolds' personnel file, but he needed more, and so tapped another command into the console.::
Computer: Please confirm your identity.
::He shot "Reynolds" a significant look, and with an obliging smile, she spoke.::
Reynolds: Reynolds, Quinn Erin. Serial number JG-262-5102 WCH.
Computer: Voice pattern recognised. Identity confirmed; Fleet Captain Quinn Erin Reynolds. Current assignment; commanding officer, USS Gorkon; sector commander; Tyrellian sector.
::He realised that he had been hoping for a lie. Instead, he had a self-important senior officer with delusions of clearance, believing they had the right to know everything and anything they wanted. Matías had encountered a few through the years, and he'd grown quite adept at fending them off, tedious as they were.::
Cavallero: Well then, *sir*, I shouldn't have to explain to you that some operations are highly classified, with associated clearance levels. Higher than even yours.
Reynolds: ::Mildly,:: Are you sure about that?
::He had been. Absolutely certain. A fleet captain wouldn't have the appropriate clearances for the 451st's mission. But hers was a question asked with such gentle confidence, he immediately knew he was on the wrong side of it. He hadn't checked. Dammit, he hadn't checked!::
Reynolds: I'll take your silence as a no ::She paused.:: Perhaps you'd like to look again at that personnel record.
::His jaw locking in frustration and a touch of embarrassment, Matías brought up the relevant data. She had been Chief of Intelligence on Starbase 118. Director of Intelligence for the Menthar Corridor. A vast swathe of her career was classified even to him… and yes, she had the appropriate clearances.::
Reynolds: You're hardly the first intelligence officer to sanctify secrets, and you won't be the last. But let me remind you of something; the purpose of intelligence is to make sure that the right information gets to the right people. The Gorkon and its crew have been intimately involved with combating the Orion Syndicate in the sector. It's proper and just plain common sense to inform the sector commander if you're undertaking covert operations against them.
::His cheeks begin to burn, and he felt a whole lot like a schoolboy being scolded by teacher. He very rarely made mistakes, and he was more annoyed with himself than anything else. There was an old saying, "to assume is to make an [...] out of u and me", and sure enough, he felt like an [...] right now.::
Cavallero: Aye, sir. In future I'll ensure that any mission my Rangers--
::Once again, she interrupted him and he frowned at her. Was she enjoying this? It was hard to tell -- she played her cards exceedingly close to her chest -- but he got the distinct impression she was deriving at least a little bit of satisfaction from making him squirm.::
Reynolds: *My* Rangers.
Cavallero: Excuse me?
Reynolds: From oh-nine-hundred tomorrow morning, the 451st are under my command. Check your orders, if you like. I can wait.
::Now, he *was* furious with her. Coopting his command, taking his officers away from him? Who the hell did she think she was?::
Cavallero: Those are *my*--
Reynolds: ::Curtly,:: No, they're not. And might I remind you that the 451st currently consists of one person, and that's very likely due to your blind dedication to secrecy. If they hadn't felt obliged to hide from the Gorkon, there's a good chance this tragedy could have been averted. You made a bad call, Commander, and people died. Be glad this is the only consequence.
::That took him aback, dulling his anger somewhat. Was she right? Maybe. Events would have played out differently, that much was for certain. He'd had the preliminary reports, and if the shuttle hadn't been in the air when… Dammit.::
Cavallero: I… ::He grimaced, squaring his shoulders, and nodded. Blame where blame was due.:: I can give you some personnel recommendations, to rebuild the squad.
Reynolds: That would be appreciated.
::He had known that most of the squad was gone, but Matías hadn't quite processed it yet. Never before had he lost so many, all at once, and his thoughts turned to the lone survivor.::
Cavallero: How is she? Freeman?
Reynolds: It's early days. Physically, she's fine. There was some kind of physical altercation between her and one of my officers, so she's confined to quarters until we untangle that mess. ::She eyed him.:: We have a fine psychiatrist aboard, who specialises in trauma counselling. She'll be looked after.
::That was something, though he was disturbed to hear about the incident of violence. What had happened there? He would have to wait to find out -- with the languid grace of a sunbathing cat, Reynolds uncrossed her ankles, lowered her legs to the floor, and stood. Their conversation was about to end.::
Reynolds: One of the hardest parts of command is when your mistake costs someone else's life. Do better, Commander. It's the best way to honour them.
Cavallero: ...aye, sir.
Reynolds: I'll see that you get the results of the inquiry. ::He eyes flicked away from him, to the majestic scene of the forested mountains outside.:: Quite a view. ::She looked back to him.:: Good day, Commander.
::She took her leave, out of his office with no further words or backwards glance. When the doors hissed closed,
Matías reclaimed his chair, collapsing into it and burying his head in hands. A few minutes of self-pity, that he would allow himself, and then he would begin the heart-wrenching work of writing to the families of the fallen.::
Rangers 3rd Division
Fleet Captain Quinn Reynolds