Noah waited nervously just inside the Flight Operations building. He looked at the PADD again and checked the incoming freighter's manifest for the hundredth time. The freighter and its cargo had nothing to do with Noah's nervousness; checking the manifest gave him something to do. The root of his nervousness stemmed from the presence of a passenger on an incoming Starfleet courier. 

Some of his nerves, he supposed on reflection, came from the investigation of his actions during the Lolthene mission. His first meeting with Admiral Killian hadn't been that great. Noah had bungled trying to pin down whether this was an investigation or a court martial. The admiral had simply ignored Noah's questions and proceeded on her agenda. He had heard from others this week that the prosecuting attorney being brought in to headhunt was very much the same. 

That bit of news had caused Noah to do something rather drastic: he called in an old favor. 

The shuttle touching down on the pad brought Noah out of his reverie. He tugged his tunic down into its proper place and walked out to the shuttle. 

Noah stood at the foot of the shuttle's ramp and nodded to each passenger as they debarked. He was directing a Hirogen to the Galleria when he saw her. She had just stepped up to the back of the queue and Noah swore she looked exactly the same as she had 15 years ago. They made eye contact and T'Pala inclined her head in Noah's direction; a graceful, fluid gesture of recognition. 

When she reached the foot of the ramp, she smiled a small grin. 

"Executive Officer, no less. It would seem fate has smiled upon you," T'Pala said demurely. 

"Lead Defense attorney for Starfleet JAG, no less. Fate hasn't exactly ignored you, either," Noah shot back. 

"Fill me in on everything while you show me to my quarters," T'Pala instructed. 

Noah stepped off, directing T'Pala in the general direction of the Guest Quarters. 

Several minutes later, the duo reached the quarters that had been assigned to T'Pala. She opened the door and took several steps in. 

"Your recollection gives me much to think about. Please return in one hour so that we can discuss the strategy we will follow," T'Pala instructed. 

Noah nodded his understanding and turned to leave. 

"Noah..." T'Pala's voice stopped him in his tracks, " it is pleasurable to see you again," she said once he'd turned. 

"It is agreeable to be in your company again," Noah said in halting Vulcan. He waited until T'Pala had smiled her trademark micro-smile and then her turned and left. 

An hour later, to the moment, Noah stepped up to T'Pala's door and pressed the chime button. 

"Come," came the muffled response through the door. 

The door opened and revealed T'Pala seated at the suite's computer terminal, a PADD beside her on the tabletop. She didn't acknowledge Noah, but rather made a note on the PADD with a stylus held in her left hand. She reached up to the terminal with her right hand and scrolled the touch screen down several lines. T'Pala made several notations in this fashion and then looked up to Noah. 

"Sorry to keep you waiting. I wanted to finish my notes on your case before we started discussing strategies," T'Pala explained. 

Noah waved away the explanation with a gesture before speaking. 

"I took the liberty of reserving a table for us at OPX's newest restaurant, Cher Lydia. It's a Creole/Cajun café that specializes in seafood from North America's Gulf Coast region," Noah explained. 

"That sounds most intriguing, Noah," T'Pala answered. Unlike most Vulcans, Noah knew that T'Pala was not a strict vegetarian; in fact, during their time at the Academy together, they had become self-proclaimed foodies and had traveled around the San Fransisco area sampling the wide variety of cuisine. 

"But first, let's discuss the strategy I think will best serve you in this trial," T'Pala digressed. 

The next hour was spend hammering out a strategy. T'Pala was sure of the course, but Noah wasn't convinced. T'Pala would file several motions to the Judge Advocate's Office and hopefully stall the current matter while the motions are considered. 

If all went according to plan, Admiral Killian would be removed from the trial owning to several on-the-record comments made indicating a bias or pre-conceived opinion of the situation. Additionally, T'Pala had filed a motion for discovery of evidence, which would force the court to share all the evidence it had against Noah. Both of these were fairly standard in nature, the latter more so than the former. 

But the really big gun, T'Pala had explained, was the nature of the trial itself. 

"There have been several abuses of the protocol governing courts martial, any one of which we can cite in the appeals process and potentially be awarded a mistrial." 

Noah must have looked lost because T'Pala went on, unsolicited. 

"To begin with, you were told, in no certain terms, that you wouldn't have access to legal counsel except that which you provided on your own. Next, you were never properly advised of your rights during the 'trial', one of which is that you have the right to be judged by a jury of your peers. Instead, Admiral Killian has instituted her personal version of the archaic practice of 'Captain's Mast'. And lastly, you and your Away Team are being tried jointly. In my research, going back to before World War III, there is no precedence for this as each crew member has the right to hear the specific charges against them," T'Pala explained. 

Noah's only response had been a deep, weary sigh and a slight sagging of his shoulders. 

T'Pala saw the change and suggested a break. 

"How about we try that Creole food, now" she said, trying to stave of any despondence on her friend's part. 

Noah made a half-hearted response in the affirmative and the duo made for the café. 

As they walked, Noah inwardly noted the differences between Bersallis III and TW IV…or what had been Bersallis III, anyway, he told himself. 

TW IV was currently cool, trending toward chilly. Several of the local varieties of flora were in, what OPX botanists equated to, bloom and the evening breeze carried a light, vaguely floral scent. Noah tried to pin the fragrance down but it was an intoxicating mixture of pine, jasmine or honeysuckle and cardamom. 

T'Pala had also noted the scent and remarked on it, finding it intriguing. Soon, the pair reached Cher Lydia and the maître de (an employee Noah had not yet met but who knew him by sight) whisked them to a somewhat secluded booth at the rear of the dining room. 

"I hope this isn't too intimate," Noah asked before T'Pala sat down. 

"No, this will be adequate. I prefer a modicum of privacy when meeting with a client, " T'Pala said. 

"Oh…I just didn't want there to be any talk…" Noah said trailing off. 

As the pair sat down, T'Pala explained. 

"I must apologize. That was an attempt at humor. My administrative assistant is always telling me to break the Vulcan stereotype by using it. I guess I need more practice." 

Noah chuckled at his own sensibilities and at the missed joke. 

Their server appeared and Noah was spared any further embarrassment. 

"Chef Bobby Joe sends his apologies, Commander, but he's awfully busy tonight in the kitchen," the young lady said, her Southern accent thick and drawled. 

"Please tell Bobby Joe I completely understand and am not offended in the slightest," Noah said automatically. 

The young lady went on to highlight the evening's specials but ultimately Noah and T'Pala settled on crawfish etouffee to start with, a shrimp boil for the entrée and something called "lemon ice box pie" for dessert. Noah ordered a Tarkalian tea, not wanting to darken his already sagging mood, and T'Pala indulged a whim and sampled a 18 year old bourbon from Kentucky. Before either could think of an appropriate conversation piece, their etouffee arrived and T'Pala, having never tried the dish, attacked it with gusto.  

There was time between dishes to catch up on their lives since the Academy. T'Pala, who'd been on a Command fast track in the Academy, had been detoured to JAG four year previous. 

"I have made it known that my tenure in JAG is not permanent. I miss being on a ship," she confided. 

Noah gave a truncated version of his years since, but T'Pala knew better. She pointed out several incidents that Noah had modestly left off. 

"Didn’t I read about a Gorn incursion on Bersallis III, " she inquired. Noah tried to pretend that it was nothing but T'Pala had him on a hook and didn't want to let him off that easily. 

"It also seems that, during your posting, you and a shipmate were convinced that a newly assigned officer to OPX was a 'harbinger of doom," she chided. Noah choked on some corn from their boil and had to wash it down with a gulp of tea. 

"How did you hear about that," he croaked out. 

"I have made…friends, you might say, in the Operations branch. One of them sends me the highlights," she said around a coy smile. 

"That was…after too much tea and not nearly enough sleep," Noah began to explain. 

T'Pala waved away the explanation with a hand that held a partially shelled shrimp and a slight chuckle. 

"I need to hear more details than that, Masterson," she rebuked gently. 

Noah spend the remainder of the boil and all of the ice box pie and part of the digestif to unpack that story. In the end, T'Pala merely smiled and shook her head, in a mock disapproval, at the entirety of the ordeal. 

Chef Bobby Joe appeared briefly, shared the digestif and then rushed back to the kitchen with profound apologies as his Southern manners demanded. 

Noah escorted T'Pala back to her quarters and then headed to his. He changed into comfortable clothes, selected a piece of Brubeck to listen to and then trusted himself to a bourbon on the rocks. He justified the latter by telling himself he'd earned it by making dinner enjoyable, not maudlin. So, he turned out the lights, opened his window and let the exotic scent waft into his quarters on the breeze and contemplated the mysteries of life with Jim Beam and listened to Dave Brubeck extoll the virtues of taking five. 

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