Bridge, Lyran CW Doomward, four hours later
Captain Thr'Uule looked across the Bridge at the view screen image of the team his ship was loading from the docked fast transport Shadow of the Hunter. The special team was being transferred, along with some supplies and fuel he had taken from the other ship because he had a Critical Mission Priority voucher. For once, he didn't have to beg and trade for all the extras available. Thirty "scientists" with more baggage than usual had trooped through the boarding hatch from the docked transport. He had stripped the transport of all its probes, excess fuel, eleven head of tunni on the hoof, and some spare parts. The captain of Shadow of the Hunter did not mind, as the Critical Mission Priority voucher would allow him to replace everything he gave up at the nearest base. Such vouchers were an archaic remnant of the old times when each ship was the personal property of one of the nobles and legions of accountants settled scores in cash every month. Even now, when ships belonged to the Navy but were crewed by each county, supplies ultimately were provided - or at least paid for - by the county, not the Navy. All captains knew that a Critical Mission Priority voucher was a free pass for anything they could get, with the bill sent to some accountant light years away, and took advantage of these rare and wondrous things.
The scientists had refused transporter transfer due to the supposed sensitivity of some of their equipment. In Thr'Uule's opinion, they looked more like Marines than scientists. He noted several of the team had the blue-tinted fur you get from being decontaminated for the Rux Mites found on many Kzinti planets, were burly and scarred, and they all seemed to be carrying powered boarding cutlasses slung over their shoulders. An inordinate amount of heavy body armor, armored sensors, ruggedized computer gear, and disruptor rifles all seemed out of place for a regular Naval Science and Exploration team.
With a sigh, he sharpened his claws on the side of his chair and looked around the Bridge. Senior Astrophysicist Senior Lieutenant Z'orn was engrossed with Chief Warrant Officer Krr'al over the scanner station (presumably optimizing the network for the new mission), while Engineer Junior Lieutenant K'unn was working with a team of technicians on the famously balky main communications console. The Klingon, Environmental Technical Officer Kurq, was rebalancing the recycler systems to accommodate the metabolic load of an additional 31 crew and 11 big food beasts.
The first of the new war cruisers, including Doomward, had gone to regular Navy officers selected for merit. Doomward was due for a major overhaul in a few months, adding refits and upgrades that experience showed should have been part of the original design. Thr'Uule would move on, probably to an admiral's staff for a year or two before he even had a chance for his next command. Regular Navy officers without noble connections would have trouble getting command of a major warship unless the fleet greatly expanded, which would happen sooner or later when another war with the Kzintis erupted. Thr'Uule would be perfectly positioned to gain such a command.
Mess Hall, Lyran CW Doomward, four hours later
The Special Investigation Team leader, Lieutenant Commmander Gra'Laaki, stood before Thr'Uule and his primary command staff at attention, with his team lined up neatly behind him in three ranks. They were all combat veterans, judging by the honors on their armor breast plates. Every one of them had at least one modifier pin on their branch device, mostly for engineering or science, but all apparently had something besides combat skills to get on this team. Thr'Uule had never seen Marines with quite so heavy a load of equipment or so many certifications. The smallest of them, a slight female with a notched ear, scarred cheek, and black-mottled gray fur, had a disruptor carbine, two hand phasers in cross-draw holsters, several knives, a grenade pouch, a powered boarding cutlass, and a bandolier of reloads, and she wasn't even a combat troop, although she looked ferocious. Her branch insignia was "naval field intelligence translator" with modifier pins for Imperial Staff, Psychology, and some kind of science badge he didn't immediately recognize. She had no rank insignia, so she had to be some kind of special contractor. The rest were worse. Several of them were grizzled senior warrant engineers with multiple science and intelligence specialty pins and plenty of valor and service devices.
Bridge, Lyran CW Doomward, three hours later