Star Trek: Title of Liberty, Part I

Star Trek: Title of Liberty
Part I
A short story based upon the series created by Gene Roddenberry
Written by R.J. Herschell

Stardate: 57878.7
Sector 554, near the Cardassian Border
Starbase 334

Rear Admiral Lower Half Thomas Henderson walks out over the Operations Center of Starbase 334.  He had just barely been assigned to this station, along with a minute group of vessels intended to uphold Federation law and maintain the peace.  Sector 554 hadn’t had any dedicated fleet assigned to it since the conclusion of the Dominion War four years ago.  Now, he had been ordered to assume command of what became known informally as the Pike Fleet.  This fleet consisted of one starship, a new kind of a vessel called a cutter, three runabouts and a Type-11 shuttlecraft that Starfleet Intelligence had been screwing around with.
The Pike Fleet is hardly a military force.  In reality, the fleet is a law enforcement agency dispatched to a location where most law enforcement measures were quite inadequate.  Sector 554 was quite rampant with the Orion Pirate Cartel.  They had used their animal women to seduce the major government officials on the three colony planets.  They had an almost endless power there.  Starbase 334 was one of the most dangerous Starfleet outposts because the law did not exist here.  Luckily, due to re-elections in the sector, more professional governors had been elected, allowing stricter laws to be established over the cartels.  Now, Starfleet was placing their final blows on the Orions by assigning this fleet.
Henderson stands in the middle of ops, surveying the stars displayed on the main viewscreen.  He was awaiting the arrival of the final three vessels in his fleet: the USS Zebulon Pike, the USS Wyatt Earp, and the USS Nathan Hale.  The Zebulon Pike is a Galaxy-class warship, one of those uprated versions.  It really wasn’t much good for law enforcement, a bit too powerful for that.  The uprated Galaxies were really good at blowing up stuff.  The Pike’s mission would be to patrol the section of Cardassian-Federation border that ran through Sector 554.
The USS Wyatt Earp is the second of the new Pinkerton-class cutters.  These cutters are fast and powerful.  The Pinkerton-class is especially tailored for law enforcement.  They are about twice the size of a Danube-class runabout, and carry enough firepower to make any pirate crap his shorts.  The Pinkertons have a compliment of eight, allowing room for prisoner transport; but that is not the only kind of personnel they can transport.  With a Grade 3 diplomatic rating, they can carry any diplomat for extended periods of time.  This is quite convenient in diplomatic situations when a huge starship would cause undue tensions.  Yet, the Pinkertons do not sacrifice security in these situations, which tend to be a powder keg.  If they absolutely have to, they can fight their way out of any fix.
The Pinkerton vehicles also feature a sickbay.  While there is no dedicated doctor, this can serve as additional crew quarters or medical evacuation volume.  The Pinkertons value to Starfleet lies in their ability to be deployed on any mission without the module-swapping the Danube-class runabouts have to go through.
The USS Nathan Hale, appropriately named after probably the most famous American spy, is a Type-20 Shuttlecraft.  Essentially, a Type-20 is a Type-11 that has a dedicated crew of five, and has been outfitted with enough weaponry to make it a considerable opponent in battle.  She is a stealthy vessel, built to slip behind enemy lines and gather information unnoticed.  Her role in law enforcement, being able to follow pirate vessels right to their base, is invaluable.  Her entire crew comes from Starfleet Intelligence; they are some of the best officers in the United Federation of Planets.  That crew is very professional, very dedicated, very trustworthy, and very intelligent.  Admiral Henderson looks forward to working with these individuals.
The Operations Center of Starbase 334 is rather confined.  There are fifteen officers in this Center, all accomplishing various tasks.  They move about the diamond shaped room running reports and collaborating on their various tasks.  The dull roar they make can be compared to a bar on a weeknight.  Their stations are arranged into three tiers, formed into a V, with the opening of the letter aimed at the viewscreen in the front corner.  Down the point, or rather where the point should be, is an aisle, allowing officers easy access to the other tiers as they accomplish their business.  At the very back of Ops, right under the Federation Seal painted above a systems panel installed in the back corner, is a single stand-alone station.  This is the Commander’s Information Providence station.  The CIP was built with the intent of providing the commanding officer all the information he or she needed without disturbing any of the Ops Center crew.
Directly in front of the CIP, one step down from the uppermost tier is a rather large and comfortable-looking chair.  This, of course, is the command chair.  This chair has been unoccupied for four years, as the Commander of the Starbase had a station to the right of the CIP, and the Executive Officer in the tier immediately in front of the Commander.  Its purpose was to accommodate any visiting admiralty, such as a sector commander.  Admiral Henderson stands in front of this chair, watching the bustle in Ops.
Thomas turns around and proceeds to stand behind the CIP.  He surveys the controls for a second, and then calls up the assigned patrol routes for the Pike fleet.  The computer places this map on the main viewscreen, but nobody pays attention, too wrapped up in their work.  Henderson had a perfectly fine view of this map on the CIP, and had no reason to look up at the viewscreen.  After assuring himself that this was to his satisfaction, he restores the viewscreen and sits in the Admiralty chair.  There was absolutely nothing to do while he waited.
“Admiral,” Captain Sara James, the commander of Starbase 334, was standing to the Admiral’s right, “I think you would like to know that the Zebulon Pike will be here in five minutes.  They are ferrying the Nathan Hale as well.”
“Thank you, Captain.  As soon as they arrive, I would like to meet with the command staff of both vessels in the situation room.”  Henderson responded to the petit, attractive Captain.
“I will have Military Comm pass it on.”  She acknowledged and proceeded to the upper tier, on the left hand side of the bridge, next to the CIP.  She leaned over and whispered in the ear of an ensign seated there.  Then returned to her station, reflected over the centerline of the bridge from the station she was just at.
Admiral Henderson stood and began walking towards a door set in the forward right-hand wall of the Ops Center.  There are four doors, one on each wall of the room.  The forward right leads to what is called the Situation room.  The fore-left leads to a hallway that ultimately leads to the turbolifts and a couple of conference rooms.  The aft-left leads to Admiralty office, derelict since the conclusion of the Dominion War, and the aft-right leads to the CO’s office, or ready room.  Stepping over the threshold of the door, Henderson entered the situation room.
The ambient lighting of this room is quite dark.  There is one large screen on the other side of the room.  Around the room, set into the union between the bulkhead and the overhead, are several screens.  Most of them are off.  Some are displaying random data concerning matters the Admiral couldn’t care less about.  In the middle of the room is a table with various screens and LCARS interfaces set in it.  During a crisis situation, officers and commanders would be crowded around this table keeping an eye on the situation and commanding it.  This room’s purpose is to separate the bustle of running a situation from the bustle of running the station.  In front of the large screen are two long tables, one set in front of the other.  Each table has seating for eight, and a small LCARS panel in front of each seat.  This was for briefing personnel about to take command in the field.  To the left of those being briefed, that is the viewscreen’s right, is a station dedicated to operating this screen.  Here the presenter can stand to present crucial information to the commanders.
Set in the bulkhead next to the door leading to the bridge are several large screens showing the status of the station, most of them inactive.  Henderson moves to one of the operational panels, and brings up the lights.  Proceeding to the presenter’s station, he activates the presentation screen.  He puts the sector map he was looking at on the bridge on that screen, and then sat patiently behind the presenter’s station.  He waits for the command crew of the Zebulon Pike and the Nathan Hale.
A door adjacent to the aperture leading to the bridge opened, and four officers entered the situation room.  Glancing around for a second; one of the captains motioned towards the two long tables and led the other three to the front row.  Henderson started from his position before they had a chance to sit down.
“I am Admiral Thomas Henderson, sector commander.”  He introduced himself in a friendly businesslike tone.
“Captain Rachel Erickson, Admiral,” one of them responded, extending her hand.  She was about Tom’s height, with what looked like could be long brown hair, but it was kept up in a bun.  Her eyes were brown and spread a feeling of fellowship and innocence.  She hardly looked like she should be in command of a starship.  Nevertheless, she continued her introduction, “I am the commander of the Zebulon Pike.  This is my First Officer, Commander Bryan Jensen.”  She indicated a short muscular man with short light brown hair and blue eyes.  Henderson shook both of their hands.
“Admiral,” started the other man in the group.  He is taller with medium length black hair.  He seems sterner than the other two, “Captain Kevin Smith, Commander of the Nathan Hale.  This is my first officer, Commander Molly Griffin.”  Commander Griffin was a highly attractive officer with medium brown, again could be long, hair, same eyes, and she radiated an atmosphere of energy.  Henderson firmly shook Smith’s hand, and then the enthusiastic hand of Commander Griffin.  Captain Smith fell into Tom’s idea of an intelligence officer, but Commander Griffin was by far not what he expected.
The four took their seats.  First officers next to their captains, ready for the Admiral to begin his briefing.
“Welcome to Sector 554.  You should have been doing your research, so I will spare you the details of the situation we’re in.  Since Starfleet is rather anxious to reestablish the law here, I will brief you quickly and allow you to get to work.”  The Admiral was interrupted as the doors to the situation room opened again, and two more individuals entered.
“Sorry we’re late, Admiral.  We just got in.  Captain Steven Matthews of the Wyatt Earp,” the medium height, medium built, brown-haired stud introduced himself, “this is my executive officer, Commander Jason Harp.”  Captain Matthews indicated a tall, gangly commander who stood slightly hunched over with an expression on his face as if someone had just hit him over the head with a brick.
“Have a seat, gentlemen.  We’re just getting started,” Henderson waited for them to be seated, “Just as well.  I’d much rather brief the fleet on the whole than drag out the whole affair.  As I was just saying, I trust that you know this sector’s history, so I will not go over that.  You know that we have to let the citizens of this sector know that the Federation law is back in town.  That will be the primary responsibility of the Wyatt Earp.”
“Admiral,” Commander Jensen spoke up, “Wouldn’t it make sense to put the Zebulon Pike in charge of law enforcement, as we are the more powerful vessel.”
“No, actually.  The Wyatt Earp is better geared toward law enforcement than the Pike is.  Besides, I have something in mind for the Pike.”  Henderson answered.
“Aye, sir.”  Jensen nodded his acknowledgement.
“So, the Earp is responsible for law enforcement.  Now, each colony has their own police force, so the Earp is to act as a supplement, not a replacement.  Also remember that we don’t have the resources to do much more.  We have three runabouts here at Starbase 334 that can be used to augment your efforts if it becomes necessary.  So, Captain Matthews, you will maintain a constant patrol between the three colonies in this sector.  Just duck in and check up on them.”
“Yes, sir.”  Matthews responded.
“Now, for the Hale,” Henderson paused, “I’ll come back to you.  Pike.  You know that the Cardassian border runs through this sector.  What I need the Pike to do is patrol that border.  This section has been unprotected for too long, and Starfleet fears that the Cardassians have gotten some ideas in their spoon-heads,” A chuckle rose among the commanders at Admiral Henderson’s crack, “Trade vessels are allowed to cross the border freely, but you need to make sure the Cardassian military stays on their side of the line.  That’s where we come to the Hale.  You have two jobs.  Keep an eye on things inside the sector.  We need you to be an extra set of eyes for the Earp.  Also, you will be patrolling the border upon occasion to make sure the Cardassians aren’t up to fowl play.  Nonetheless, I want you to be primarily worried about patrolling inside the sector.  Are there any questions?”  Henderson noticed Captain Erickson’s hand raise slightly, “Captain.”  He acknowledged her.
“Yes, Admiral.  How often do you want reports?”
“I am going to ask for ops normal checks every half-hour to an hour.  If I need any other reports in the interim, then I will contact you directly.”  He noticed she nodded in satisfaction, “If there’s nothing else, I’m going to dismiss you to go about your work.”

Stardate: 57878.9
Sector 564, near the Federation Border
Senit Nor Trading Station

Ri’ta Gul Rinkad sits behind his desk in his dark Cardassian office.  He is a stern military commander, hardened by many battles.  He reads a report that Glinn Yistin had just handed him.  Hatred burned in his bones.  He knew all his life that the Federation could not be trusted.  This report merely proved this to him.  The United Federation of Hypocrites, that’s what they were.  The image of a glorious empire of peace, goodwill and cooperation, is all just a façade to cover the corruption, greed, and imperial generals.  They wrote and spoke visions, and then plotted and exploited the weak for their own gain.
Rinkad throws the PADD down on the desk.  He had seen enough.  Yes, the Federation had helped Cardassia throw off the oppressive chains of the Dominion, and yes the Federation was helping them rebuild.  But the Federation would have been in ruins if the Cardassians hadn’t betrayed the Dominion.  He knew that Cardassia had to choose the lesser of two evils.  But that was four years ago.  Now it was time to eliminate all evil.
“Glinn Yistin,” his deep sinister voice addressed the officer across the desk from him, “You’re intelligence.”
“Covert Operations, sir.”  His slithery voice corrected his superior from across the dark room, his face hidden in the shadows.
“Even better,” the sinister voice of Rinkad sounded, the scheming intelligence obviously satisfied, “I want you to find a solution to this.”
“I have one ready, sir.  All I have to do is test it.”  Yistin’s monotonic, and smooth voice responded.
“I want to see it.”  Rinkad demanded of the man, looking in the direction he guessed Yistin was in.  Yistin approached the desk, the light perimeter from the overhead lamp slowly slipping up his torso and finally revealing his cold Cardassian face.  He dropped a pad of paper on the desk in front of Rinkad, “Paper?”  The Commander showed the smallest surprise, retrieving the pad.
“No computer records.  No intelligence leaks.  After the Dominion War, Federation intelligence has been putting their noses in everything.”  Yistin responded, looking apprehensive about being in the light.
“Very good, Glinn.  I like your style.”  Rinkad surveyed the paper with definite satisfaction glimmering out of his eyes, a twisted smile spreading over his face, “and I like the code you put it in.  It looks Federation.”
“That’s not a code, sir.  That’s an ancient Earth language, called German,” Yistin responded again, “Few Federation citizens know it.  No Cardassians do.”
“So no two-timing squeal box can read it and send it back to the Federation.  Looks like you covered your tracks,” Rinkad responded to Yistin, returning the pad.  Yistin retrieved it and retreated to the darkness, “Tell me, what is the plan?”
“Let me test it first, Ri’ta.  Then I will tell you everything.”  Yistin assured Rinkad.
“Do what you have to.”

Stardate: 57880.3
Sector 554, at the Cardassian Border
USS Zebulon Pike NCC 80225

Captain Erickson enters the bridge.  It wasn’t technically her shift for another two hours.  However, the second officer, Lieutenant Commander Sam Brady, had called her to the bridge briefly.  That was fine with her, being called up at five o’clock in the morning; she had gotten to bed early and was awake trying to find something productive to do.  Straightening her uniform, she proceeded towards Commander Brady, sitting in the center seat of the bridge.
“Commander Brady, what do you have?”  She asked, approaching him.
“Captain,” Sam stood and acknowledged the Captain, “We saw a Cardassian vessel cross the border.”
“A Cardassian vessel?”  She asked, emphasizing the indefinite article.
“Well, not just one.  There have been fifteen incursions over the past hour.  All of them are harmless Hideki-class scouts.  The Pike could easily take on all fifteen of them.”  He explained.
“But fifteen incursions in one hour.”  She finished his sentence.
“Yes ma’am.  I thought it was a bit odd.”  Brady looked into the face of his commanding officer as she thought about the matter.  She sat down in the Command seat and brought her hand to her chin, staring blankly ahead of her.
“Did you report this to Admiral Henderson?”  She broke her trance and looked at Brady as he took a seat to her left.
“Yes, ma’am.  We sent it with the status report seven minutes ago.”  She returned her gaze to the point ahead of her.
“Any answer?”  This time she didn’t break her trance.
“No, ma’am.  Admiral Henderson is probably just barely finding out.”  He looked ahead at the stars.  Fifteen times he had seen the Hideki-class vessel grace that screen.  It was really quite a beautiful vessel.  But it signified a race the Federation has never been able to trust.
“Captain, there’s another one coming across the border.  Bearing 151 mark 339.”  The ensign at the tactical station behind Captain Erickson cried out over the sound of an alarm.
“Helm, set an intercept course for that vessel.  Maximum safe speed.  We need to let them know which side of the border is theirs.  Yellow alert!  Raise shields and charge phasers.”  She stared determinedly at the screen as the sound of the warp engines activated and the stars stretched past for the briefest of moments.  They stayed at warp for only a second or two.  The stars returned to normal and they watched their approach towards the Hideki scout from above it’s position.
“Target them!”  Rachel ordered, staring daggers at the intruding ship.
“Sir, they’re headed back to Cardassian space,” The tactical operator called out as the ship spun around and warped off the screen, “They’re really moving, ma’am.”
“Of course they are.  A battleship heads for a glorified shuttle that you happen to be in with the guns ready to fire, you’d get back in your limits rather quickly,” Erickson responded, almost laughing at fast the Hideki packed out, “Maybe that’ll put an end to the incursions for a while.  If you need me, I’ll be in my ready room.”  She stood and walked off the bridge.

Starbase 334

“Fifteen incursions?”  Admiral Henderson had just arrived on the bridge after being summoned by the Commander Ryan Smith and was now looking over a report the Communications officer had handed off to him.
“Yes sir.”  Commander Smith answered standing in front of the Admiral right in front of the Admiralty Chair.
“Do you get the nasty feeling that the Cardassians are up to something?”  He asked, handing the PADD back to the Executive Officer.
“Yes sir.  Either that, or the Cardassians are hiring horrible navigators.”  The Commander cracked as he accepted the PADD.
“Well, you’d think that after two or three incursions the commander would relieve the navigator of duty.”  Admiral Herschell responded.
“You’d think so.”  Tom walked to the back of the bridge and stood behind the CIP, staring at the stars on the viewscreen, “Where is the Nathan Hale?”
“It put in towards the end of Beta shift, Admiral.”  Ryan answered, standing in front of the CIP facing the Admiral.
“Get me Captain Smith,” Henderson pauses for a moment, “Captain Smith.  Any relation?”  He asked Ryan, upon connecting the names.
“He’s my older brother, sir.”  Ryan responded, in a professional voice as always.
“I see,” Henderson frowns slightly in a trance as he makes small nods, “Well, get him up here.  I think we’re going to need Starfleet Intelligence.”

Stardate: 57880.4
Admiral’s Ready Room

“Fifteen incursions, sir?”  Captain Smith blurted out in a tone of surprise, with a wide-eyed facial expression to match.
“Yes, Captain.  Fifteen incursions in one hour,” Henderson sat behind his highly polished desk, hands clasped in front of him and laid neatly on the mirror-like surface, “What would an experienced intelligence man like you say to that?”  Henderson implored the Captain looking steadfastly for an answer.
“I would say that the Cardassians are up to something.”  Smith read a PADD with the Zebulon Pike’s report on it.
“Oh, good.  Now that an expert has said that I feel much better saying it myself,” Henderson drew a look from Smith by his sarcasm, “I know the Cardassians are up to something.  But what?”
“Well, the Captain could have stayed up late at a bachelor party and is now CUI.”  Kevin proposed with a look of innocence on his face.
“CUI?”  The Admiral knew nothing good could come from this question, yet he was still annoyingly curious.
“Commanding Under the Influence, sir.”  He responded, a grin cracking across his face, his shoulders shaking under the silent chuckles of his own joke.
“My kingdom for an officer who will give me a straight answer!”  Thomas rolled his eyes and leaned back in his seat.
“I’m Starfleet Intelligence, sir.  I don’t give anybody a straight answer.”  The Captain expressed the irony of his foolish jokes.
“I’ve noticed.”  Admiral Henderson’s dry voice and dark expression flew from his slouched body in the seat.
“Listen, Admiral.  Honestly, I can’t begin to tell you without more information.  Best guess: the Cardassians are preparing for an invasion.”  The first serious words out of Captain Smith’s mouth.
“Invasion?”  Henderson leaned forward.  Now that Smith was done with his jokes, the Admiral was interested.
“Not an immediate invasion.  We don’t trust the Cardassians, sir.  Honestly, they have a harder time trusting us.  They’re engaged in military exercises.  Running the border, trying to be undetected.  Now that we have a Starship there, it makes it all that more exciting.  They may feel that someday they may need to perform a preemptive strike to defend themselves.”  He rationalized.
“Why would they do that on the Federation border, now?”
“Probably because they know the Federation is not going to declare war over a few incursions that didn’t amount to anything.  They don’t trust us, but they know we’re docile.”  Kevin replied truthfully.
“Yeah,” Tom leaned back, again exasperated, “It’s hard being the teeth of an animal that refuses to fight.”
They sat for a moment, the Admiral rotating his chair towards the window in the office, such that he could see the stars.  Contemplating what he had just heard for a few seconds he turned back around.
“Captain, what kind of ‘more information’ do you need?”

Stardate: 57880.6
SS Cutty Sark

Captain Ryan Harrin stood on the bridge of his transport vessel, examining the viewscreen ahead of him.  The Cutty Sark was by far not the kind of ship he commanded when he was in Starfleet.  Then again, the Cutty Sark wouldn’t have been able to handle some of the things Captain Harrin put the Iowa through during the Dominion War.  They were two vessels of two breeds.  The Iowa’s job was to fight other vessels.  The Cutty Sark’s job was to haul freight through relatively docile territory.  It had one low powered phaser bank intended to clear annoying space debris.
Captain Harrin reviewed his flight plan.  It would take him over the Federation/Cardassian border and straight to Senit Nor.  There he would drop off his cargo of Saurian Brandy and pick up some h’sencar.  H’sencar was some of the finest fabric in the Alpha Quadrant, and it was manufactured in Cardassian space.  H’sencar was some of the most commodious material in the Federation, and merchant captains like Harrin had been trading whatever the Federation had to offer for this stuff for four years straight.  There was a huge demand for it, and Harrin had every intention of continuing trade for h’sencar for however long it was profitable.  He looked across the bridge of his vessel to see one of his crewmembers talking with a Starfleet security officer.  The crewmember pointed to him and the security officer nodded.  The crewman left the bridge while the officer proceeded over to Harrin.  Harrin faced the man as he approached.
“Captain Harrin?”  The officer, his insignia indicated he was a lieutenant, asked the Captain.
“Yes, lieutenant, what can I do for you?”  Harrin couldn’t figure out why security would be coming for him.  As far as he knew, he didn’t break any laws.
“Captian, Admiral Henderson would like to have a word with you.”  The officer spoke in a professional, yet easy going voice.
“Who is Admiral Henderson?”  Harrin recognized that name, but wasn’t sure about it.
“He’s the Sector commander, sir.”
“I didn’t know we had a Sector Commander.”  Henderson still rang a bell, but on a different front.
“We didn’t until yesterday.  He would still like to have a word with you.”
“Did he say why?”  Harrin began to be concerned.  A green-behind-the-ears sector commander wanting to talk to a merchant was never a good sign.
“No, sir.  He just said it was urgent.”  The Lietuenant replied.  Having been in Starfleet for most of his life, Ryan knew that when an Admiral said something was urgent, it was urgent.  Whether or not the Admiral was right, which he rarely was.
“Lead the way, Lieutenant.”  The Lieutenant led Harrin out of the ship through the docking arm and through the bowls of the station.  They walked into a turbolift and it carried them up to a hallway.  Upon the turbolift opening, two doors were visible across the hall.  The Lieutenant led Harrin through the ones on their left.  This led them into a room that Harrin immediately recognized as a situation room.  He had been in one too many of these during the Dominion War.  Seated at the presenter’s station was a face he hadn’t seen for a long time.
“Tom!”  Suddenly he remembered where he had heard the name “Henderson.”
“Good morning, Randy.”  The Rear Admiral greeted Harrin.  They shook hands enthusiastically.
“Captain Thomas Henderson of the USS Thunderchild.  Long time no see!  So they made you the Admiral of this sector.”  Harrin’s apprehension had gone away at the meeting of an old friend.
“The war vet captains who stuck around were all put on the admiralty promotion list.  My name finally came up.  If you had stuck around, you would have made it to admiral as well.”  Henderson was glad to finally meet up with his old friend.
“Oh no, Tom.  Starfleet was way too much adventure for me.  I needed something a little more calm,” They laughed.  Both of them had been on very exciting missions, some of them together, “So what is this I hear about you wanting to talk to me?”
“I need you to do me a favor, Ryan.  I need to put one of my officers on the other side of the border.”
“And you want to stow them on my ship.  I don’t know, Tom.”  Ryan knew exactly what Tom was getting at.
“Now hear me out, Ryan.  This is the officer I want to put on the other side of the border,” the Admiral indicated a woman Ryan didn’t notice before, “This is Commander Molly Griffin from SI.”  Griffin was dressed in the same uniform Harrin used on the Cutty Sark.  I want her to be your sensors officer, and get stranded at Senit Nor.  I’ll worry about getting her out, you just get her there.”
“I already have a sensors officer, Dayton Garret.”  Ryan protested further.
“I don’t know, but I think he’s a suspect in an assault case in one of the bars.  What do you think, Commander?”  Henderson turned to Griffin.
“You know what, sir, I think you’re right.”  She responded in mock agreement.
“I’m sorry Captain Harrin, but I think I’ll have to detain Mister, was it Garret?”  Henderson turned to Ryan in the same mock tone of voice.
“Oh come on, Tom!  That’s a load of bull and you know it!  You can’t convince anyone that Dayton would do something like that!”  Ryan was somewhat outraged.
“Don’t worry, sir, our security staff on Starbase 334 is a crack team.  They’ll have your man cleared by the end of the day.”  Griffin interjected reassuringly.
“I should’ve known better than to mess with SI.  Okay, I’ll do it.  But I want my man back.”  Ryan pointed his finger at the Admiral, emphasizing his last point.
“You got it, Ryan.  But you’ll have to stay mum about the whole affair.  You need to act like Molly is your replacement for this mission.  Even the guy we’re going to take out of the game.”  Henderson explained.
“You don’t have to read me the classified riot act, Tom.  I still remember my Starfleet days,” Ryan remembered one particular intelligence dodge he had to come up with that involved his wife’s underwear.  He grinned, “Tom, remember the Sol-Dominion Repulsion?”
“How could I forget?”  Tom asked, after turning away from the security officer that had escorted Harrin up here.  The officer left the room, “I’m still trying to get the hair back on my legs.”  Griffin did a take of wide-eyed curiosity.
“What?”  She asked, thinking Henderson had encountered some kind of chemical that had burned the hair off his legs.
“That’s classified, Commander.”  Henderson responded.
“I’m intelligence, sir, I’m probably cleared.”  She pressed further.
“Commander,” Henderson placed his hand on her shoulder in a fatherly way and put on a stern and frank demeanor, “You won’t be cleared until the day I die.”  She looked at him, confused.  His statement was quite discombobulating.
“Sir?  Under…”  Molly really wanted to know when Starfleet Intelligence started classifying data like that, and began asking, but Henderson had returned to his normal bearing and interrupted her.
“Captain Harrin, go ahead and return to your vessel.  I have already sent security to set these events in motion.  Commander Griffin, I want you to go down to Tradewinds.  Captain Harrin will come in there ‘looking for a temp.’”  Henderson gave instructions to the two with him.  They both immediately left the room.  Tom stood in the middle of the empty room staring at one of the screens near the ceiling.  It showed a map of the sector, and the ship movements therein.  He stared at it, thinking about what he just set into motion.
“Let’s hope this works.”

Stardate: 57880.8
SS Cutty Sark

Tyson Paine just closed the last crate.  He had been standing in the cargo bay inspecting every crate and inventorying everything here.  It was actually less inventorying and more trying to figure out whether or not someone was smuggling an item aboard, or something of that sort, that would cause the Cutty Sark to be in danger or to get in trouble with Federation law.  That was the job of the Chief of Security.  He had been a security officer during the Dominion War; in fact he was Captain Harrin’s Chief of Security on the Iowa. That’s how they knew each other, and that’s how Tyson ended up on this ship.
The Payload Specialist was in charge of inventories.  However, due to some of the interesting things they have found while doing inventories, the captain felt it was best for the Chief of Security to do this.  Paine usually liked to do the inventories as the crates are coming on to the ship, that way it doesn’t distract him from his duties.  But he had a run-in with Station Security.  They were telling him that Dayton Garret was a suspect in an assault.  He couldn’t believe anyone would think of Dayton that way.  He was one of the nicest, most personable individuals.  There was no possible way he could have assaulted anyone.
A few minutes later, he entered the bridge of the Cutty Sark.  This room wasn’t much.  Just three stations in front, helm, sensors and communications.  The Captain’s chair was in the middle with three stations behind it, Payload Specialist, Security, and engineer.  The bridge wasn’t always like this, the stations used to be spread around the walls and the Captain was at the helm station.  Paine suspected that Harrin had rearranged the bridge to be more like a Starfleet bridge.  The adage was true, a Starfleet captain never retires.  He proceeded to his station and handed off a PADD to the Payload Specialist.
“Thanks, Tyson,” John Feriman accepted the PADD, glanced at it, and then set it down.  Then he leaned towards Paine and whispered, “Hey, Tyson, what do you think about our new sensors operator?”  Feriman asked, indicating Molly Griffin.
“I don’t think I can trust her, John.  There’s just something about her that’s not right,” He stared at her back, her brown flowing hair falling around her shoulders as she worked her station, “I mean, don’t you think it’s a bit odd that security hauls off Dayton, and then the Captain goes into the Starbase bar and just happens to find a perfect replacement?”
“Yeah, how do you suppose she got onto Starbase 334?”  Feriman asked him.
“I don’t know.  But, speaking as a retired Starfleet officer, it’s kind of odd for someone who has no connection with either Starfleet or a vessel that trades at that station to be on that station.”  He answered.
“Captain, we are entering Cardassian space.  Approximately one hour until we arrive at Senit Nor.”  Ms. Griffin spoke up, turning around to face Ryan.  Harrin acknowledged her, and she turned back, making the briefest of eye contact with Tyson.  Tyson tried to read her eyes, her expression.  But it was too brief, and she was too emotionless.
“She’s apprehensive.”  Tyson commented.
“Heard it in her voice?”  John asked.
“No.  She’s tapping on her console.”  John looked over and saw her fingers doing an impressive roll on the edge of the console.
“She looked at you,” Tyson moved his head side-to-side, affirming John’s observation, “Did you see any apprehension?”
“No, she’s a blank slate,” The hand Molly had been using to tap on the console clenched into a fist and returned to the console.  She showed no further signs of emotion.  She actually looked quite bored, “The only people I have seen like that are Starfleet Officers.  I mean, listen to how she reported our location.  That’s not the way most civilians would do it.”  Tyson rationalized, burning his gaze into her back.
“I think you’re getting paranoid,” John dismissed him, “a civilian who wants to impress a new boss would do that.”
“No, hear me out,” Tyson had just figured something, as he waved his finger at John, “You see, she was in a bar on the station.  I’m a civilian, but I do things the Starfleet way because I used to be a Starfleet officer.  She’s a civilian, but she does things the Starfleet way because she was a Starfleet officer.  My guess is that she did something that got her dismissed from Starfleet, and she was in the bar to drown her sorrows around the time the Captain came in.”
“Yep, you’re paranoid,” John replied calmly, retrieving the PADD Tyson handed him earlier, “I’ve been thinking about asking her out myself.  She’s hot.”  Tyson shot him a dark look, snorted, and went back to his work.
As per Ms. Griffin’s predictions, the Cutty Sark pulled into Senit Nor within the hour.  The Helm had brought them into the old Cardassain mining station.  This particular design was the one that made Deep Space Nine obsolete to the Cardassians.  The Cutty Sark docked with no trouble.  Captain Harrin assigned Paine and Griffin to retrieve the new supplies.  His excuse was that he wanted Paine to inventory the h’sencar before it got onto the ship.  The Payload Specialist was going to go close the deal, and the Engineer, Helm, and the Captain were going to go check out a relay to one of the thrusters.  The only crewmembers left were Griffin and the Communications crewman.  The Comm person had to stay behind in case they got any messages from anyone.  So Griffin was sent with Paine to help bring the crates in.  They all split off to do their various duties.  John, Molly, and Tyson arrived at the end of the docking arm to be met by two Cardassian officials.
“That is Gil Samgar.  I do most of my dealings with him.”
“Don’t you men Glen Samgar?”  Tyson read the insignia on his uniform.
“Maybe he got promoted.”  Molly interjected.
“That’s a demotion.”  Tyson eyed Molly suspiciously, if she was a Starfleet officer, then why would she be so incompetent at the Cardassian rank system?  “You say you’ve never seen the other guy?”  Tyson asked as the Glen pointed them out to the other man with him, and they started coming over.
“No.”  John responded, preparing to meet them.
“He’s a Ri’ta Gul.  That’s about equivalent to Rear Admiral Lower Half.”  Tyson whispered incredulously.  Taking a quick glance at Molly.  Her eyes were doing a dart around the room, taking everything in.
“That’s why we bring you along on these,” John barely had enough time to whisper to Tyson before the Ri’ta Gul and Glen Samgar were in range, “Greetings, Glen.”
“Greetings Mr. Feriman,” Glen Samgar responded, “This, Gul, is John Feriman, the Cutty Sark has done all of their dealings through him.  This man is Tyson Paine, he is the security official of the Cutty Sark.  I don’t know who this woman is.”
“Molly Griffin.  I’m temping as sensors.”  She responded, extending her hand.
“Ms. Griffin, where were you assigned before coming aboard the Cutty Sark?”  The Ri’ta Gul moved in towards Molly, getting awfully close.  His cold face staring straight down into her eyes.
“I am the First Mate on a merchant vessel undergoing maintenance,” She boldly, almost defiantly, stared straight back into his eyes.  Neither of them blink, “The Starbase 334 engineers were hired, and I was left behind to coordinate their efforts.”
“So you came from Starbase 334?”  His gaze bore straight into her, searching her eyes.  She did not show any sign of emotion, her demeanor was just as cold and empty as his.
“To here, yes.  I don’t usually spend time there.”  There was a silence as their stares were locked at each other, waiting for the other to flinch, daring the other to blink.
“Gul, I do not believe we’ve met.”  Paine intervened, sensing the hostility between the two, extending his hand.
“Ri’ta Gul Rinkad.  Superior officer of this sector.”  He finally broke his gaze away from Griffin, and turned it to Paine.  But he didn’t take his hand.
“It’s a pleasure, Gul.  Mister Feriman here will handle the business dealings.  Miss Griffin and I will go down and get the goods.”  Tyson took a step forward, to be stopped by Rinkad’s extended hand.
“You will be escorted by Glinn Yistin,” Rinkad pointed to another Cardassian, even creepier than Rinkad.  Nobody had noticed him as of yet, but he carried a book under one arm, “Recent pirate activity in this sector.  We need to keep an eye on the people we let into our cargo bays.”  He spoke coldly, then turned around and left the area.  Yistin motioned Griffin and Paine towards him.
Paine hated this situation, something was definitely not right.  The last time he had that instinct, he ended up in an intense firefight.  Fastening on the bearing he had developed as a Starfleet Security Officer, he marched forward, Griffin perfectly at his side.  This was the first time he felt a sense of trust in her.  She had survived a mental beating by a Cardassian flag officer, and she had survived well.  If they got into a tiff, he knew he could rely on her nerves.
“You did well against that Ri’ta Gul back there.  Most people would have broken down.”  Tyson whispered to her just before they got within to Yistin’s hearing.
“Thanks,” she smiled openly, “I had a stern father.”  They both headed straight for Yistin.
“Come with me.”  He responded coldly.  Then turned and marched down the corridor.  After glancing at each other, Griffin and Paine followed.  Griffin couldn’t help but to notice the book Yistin was carrying.  It had a symbol on the front that made a chill run up her spine.  The Obsidian Order.  She knew she had to get that book away from him somehow.  Her gut told her that whatever it was she was looking for, that was it.
After wandering through the station, travelling through a few turbolifts.  They arrived in the musty and dark cargo bay.
“How many crates?”  He asked, with definite distaste in his work.
“I, don’t know.  Let me go check.”  Paine turned and began to leave the cargo bay.  Just before he left the room, he turned around and looked at Molly.  Should I leave her with him?  I guess she’s competent, she can handle him.  He left.
Yistin was thoroughly frustrated.  He slammed his book down on top of one of the crates, Molly eyed the book, trying to figure out something to do.  Getting an idea, she loosened the collar on her shirt, and rolled up her sleeves.  Then she fluffed her hair, then threw her head back.  Glancing up, she saw that Yistin was watching her, almost greedily.  She smiled at him, then walked across the cargo bay and retrieved an antigrav cart.  She pushed it to the crates, slinking across the room.  She stopped the cart right next to the pile of crates.  Then turning to give Yistin a perfect profile view of her, she stretched her arms, arching her back.  Then she asked him, in a half-tired voice.
“Is this h’sencar?”  She pointed at a crate on the pile.
“Everything here, ma’am.”  She could see in his eyes that he was weakening to her strategy.  He pointed at all of the piles of crates.  She nodded, smiled at him again and gave him a half-glance.  Then she reached over to pick up one off a pile.  Suddenly she saw a hand next to her.  She looked quickly at it’s owner, seeing Yistin with a twisted smile on his face.  All his smile did was make him look uglier, if that could be possible.
“Please, ma’am, allow me,”  He indicated that he wanted to pick up the crate for her.  She allowed a wide grin to cross her face.  She stepped back while he lifted the crate and placed it on the cart.  Then he opened the box, and removed a bolt of the fabric, “This is the finest fabric in the Alpha Quadrant.”
Why is he bragging about cloth?  She thought, while she extended her hand and ran it over the fabric, “It is quite…soft.”  She said in her half-tired, drawling voice.  On the last word she looked into his eyes.  He struck her as quite unattractive.  No wonder why he took the bait, no woman has ever acted like this around him.  He leaned forward, his face getting closer to hers.  Who said death is the ultimate sacrifice!
Their lips touched.  Griffin did her best to act like she was enjoying this moment.  The bolt of cloth dropped, and her hands began to feel around his body.  He wrapped his arms around her, and their kiss became more passionate.  Hey!  This isn’t even the first date!
“What is going on here!”  Tyson had returned, with John at his shoulder.  In a split-second, Molly immediately broke the embrace, and swung around flail armed, catching the book and sending it flying into the open crate sitting on the antigrav cart.  Before anyone had a chance to see the book had changed his location, she ran over and slammed the crate shut.
“Thank you, Glinn.  It looks like everything is here.”  She straightened her uniform, closing up the neck of it.  She stood straight, trying to make it look like she was embarrassed Tyson came in.  In reality, she was relieved.  Tyson marched over to him, and leaned in to her.  Speaking in a stern whisper.
“What are you thinking?  Recreating with a Cardassian Officer while you’re supposed to be doing a job?”  She gave him a dumb look.
“How many crates?”  Yistin was back to himself, except he was now standing next to Molly, seeming to take a defensive posture on her behalf.
“Twenty.”  Paine’s voice lowered the temperature a couple degrees Celsius.
“They’re right here.”  Yistin responded aggressively, pointing at the pile.  Then he headed to the door of the bay.  He turned around suddenly, eyeing the spot where he left his book.  He looked concerned.  Looking at Molly, he appeared to almost be ready to say something.  Then he eyed John and Tyson, then proceeded out of the room.  Tyson turned to her.
“That was brilliant, Miss Griffin!”  He was almost to the point of laughter.
“It was?”  His reaction somewhat took Molly off guard.
“Yeah, soften the guy up before he has a chance to attack you!  Oh, the advantages of being a woman.”  He was shaking his head, smiling endlessly at what just happened.
“What do you say we get these crates on the ship and get out of here before that Ri’ta Gul finds something to keep us here?”  John asked Tyson.
“Yeah, Miss Griffin, I’m going to assume you already inspected this crate.”  He indicated the one on the cart, the one with that intelligence she had just “gathered.”
“Yeah, it has nothing but cloth in it.”  She responded.  Over the next half an hour, they opened nineteen more crates and loaded them on the cart.  Then they pushed it down to the Cutty Sark.

Stardate: 57881.3
Starbase 334 Situation Room

“Listen sharp, guys.  The Cardassians are missing something they think is aboard the Cutty Sark,” Admiral Henderson barged into the room from the Bridge.  In there was the remainder of the crew of the Nathan Hale, “They are very interested in getting this thing back.  They are telling us to make sure no one goes into the cargo bay of the Cutty Sark until they have a chance to search it.”
“The work of Commander Griffin.”  Captain Smith immediately concluded.  The five officers were grouped around the table in the middle of the room.  Captain Smith was standing in the middle of his crew, crowded on one end.  Admiral Henderson leaned his hands on the other.
“That’s what I’m guessing.  I don’t know her that well, though.”  He looked at Smith, to get his opinion.
“I’ve worked with Molly for three years, sir.  She’s good.”  He responded.
“That’s all I need to know.  So here’s what’s going to happen,” Henderson straightened up and started walking around the room.  The crew of the Nathan Hale cast their gaze around to watch him, “I am going to take security on to the bridge of the Cutty Sark and make a big deal.  You gentlemen are going to take a gander at the Cargo bay.  If you find anything that looks like the Cardassians would be making a big deal over, take it.”
“Admiral, it would be prudent if this document is not the only item we retrieve from the Cutty Sark.”  Lieutenant Sivinh, the Vulcan tactical officer of the Nathan Hale spoke up.
“What do you mean, Lieutenant?”  The Admiral paused near the tables facing the screen, behind the crew of the Nathan Hale who had turned to face him.
“I mean, sir.  If we remove a few bolts of h’sencar from the cargo bay, then we would have the perfect cover for when the Cardassians find out someone has been in the cargo bay before them.”  Sivinh explained placidly.
“I agree,” Henderson resumed his pace around the room, “The Cutty Sark should be here in five minutes.  The Cardassians are sending a Keldon-class vessel.”
“Keldon-class!”  Ensign Rachel Goeres, the Conn officer, spoke out, “Isn’t that a bit much?”
“Of course, not Ensign.  It is perfectly logical to send a large warship to recover a valuable document.”  Sivinh responded.
“Certainly, we’d send the Enterprise to find something if we lost it.”  Lieutenant Junior Grade Robert Samp responded.
“I’d take the Nathan Hale over the Enterprise on any intelligence mission.”  Captain Smith spoke proudly.
“Captain, at the moment anyone would take anything over the Enterprise on any kind of a mission.  Half of her saucer section went missing a week ago, if you don’t recall,” Henderson responded, talking about the events in Romulan space last week that involved the Enterprise and the Scimitar, “Anyhow, we don’t need to worry about the Cardassian warship.  I’m going to have the Zebulon Pike hound her every move.  If they do anything stupid, the Pike will whomp on them.”  Admiral Henderson’s combadge keyed in, and Captain James called over.
“Admiral, the Cutty Sark has just put into port.”
“Understood, Captain.  Have security meet me there,” he closed the line, “Now we get to work.”

SS Cutty Sark

“Captain, Starbase 334 is telling us that we are to stay at our stations and not let anyone in the cargo bay until further notice.”  The communications officer reported to Captain Harrin.
“Really?  I wonder why?”  Harrin mused just moments before Henderson barged into the room.
“Captain Harrin, what in the name of Olympus Mons were you thinking?”  Henderson and two security officers cruised on to the bridge, Henderson’s voice raised.  He startled everyone on the bridge, “You leave gathering intelligence up to Starfleet Intelligence.  You, as a civilian, are to never take the law into your own hands!”
“What are you talking about, Admiral?”  Harrin asked, insulted.
“I just got off the line with Ri’ta Gul Rinkad.  He’s my counterpart on the other side of the border.  He says that the Cutty Sark may be carrying documents of a ‘highly sensitive nature’ and are ‘crucial to the survival of the Union.’  Perhaps you can tell me what the hell he’s talking about!”  Henderson advanced on Harrin, who got on his feet.
“I don’t know what he’s talking about!  And I would appreciate it if you didn’t use fowl language on my bridge!”  Harrin advanced on Henderson, hoping to re-establish his dominance.
“You haven’t seen fowl language yet, Captain,” Henderson spat the last word out as if it had a bad taste in his mouth, “Who did you send down to the cargo hold of Senit Nor?”
“Griffin and Paine, Admiral.”  Harrin gave his courtesy an equal sense of distaste.
“Griffin!  Paine!  Get your asses over here!”  Henderson shouted.  They dared not to disobey him, standing immediately and running to his position.  They both had to suppress the urge so salute, Tyson because he was retired, Molly because she wasn’t supposed to be an officer.
“Admiral Henderson…”  Harrin was about to protest Henderson’s abuse of his officers, and use of abusive language.
“Captain, take your opinions some place where someone will care.  Flushing them down the head comes to mind,” Henderson shouted between the two crewmen standing in front of him, “And, by the way, I am taking these two for questioning.  Really, Captain, you need to start controlling your crew.  Three of your ranks have had to come chat with my security.  Boys, take them to the Situation Room.”  Henderson addressed the security detachment with him.  They marched off the bridge.

Starbase 334 Situation Room

“Okay, have a seat,” Henderson had led Griffin and Paine to the tables by the screen.  The lights in this room had been dimmed to about a fourth of what they were supposed to be.  It was very difficult to see anyone beyond the Admiral, who seemed to be perfectly illuminated, in fact, their part of the room seemed perfectly illuminated, “Mister Paine, I’ll have you know that you’re not in trouble.  Miss Griffin has a history of medaling in affairs that do not concern her.  I just want to know what happened out there.”
Paine looked shocked.  He took a look at Molly, who had her chin high.  She looked proud that she had just broken a law, “Well, sir, nothing really happened.  I left for a moment to find out how many crates…”
“How long is a moment?”  Admiral Henderson cut off Tyson.
“Ten, maybe twenty mintues.”  He answered, looking at Molly, completely unsure about the time he was gone.
“That’s more than a moment, Paine.”  Henderson sternly corrected.
“Okay, I was gone for several moments, Admiral.  What difference does it make?”  Tyson could not believe someone of the caliber of Griffin could be accused of breaking a law, and he wanted to defend her.
“It’s a difference in the fact that it was long enough for her to fly the coup with Cardassian Military secrets!”  Henderson raised his voice, then calming down he asked, “What was she doing when you got back?”
Again, Tyson looked unsure.  He took another glance at Molly, “Making out with a Cardassian Officer.”
Henderson couldn’t believe he heard that.  He looked at her, dumbfounded.  His bearing was completely destroyed out of shock, “Making out with a Cardassian Military Officer?”  He saw her nod her head, matter-of-factly.  Tom blinked.  He then dropped his head slightly, still looking at Molly, and gave her a look that asked “Was that really necessary?”
“I thought he was quite, attractive.”  She responded, thinking I am so lying through my Spoon-head saliva painted-teeth.  Tom rolled his eyes.
“Sir, the Officer was an intimidating individual.  Miss Griffin had to act preemptively to protect herself.”  Tyson was determined to defend her.
“Mister Paine, preemptive is a term we use for soldiers, not sluts,” the Admiral responded, nearly exasperated, “I have heard enough out of you.  Return to your vessel.”
“But, sir!”  He just knew in his bones that Griffin was going to be punished for a crime he did not believe she did.
“Dismissed, Tyson.  You do still remember what that means, right?”  He glared at him, forcing him to stand down.  The Admiral then turned his attention to the security guards, “Gentlemen, please go release mister Garret from the brig.  Now that we have the real attacker in our custody, I believe we can release the Cutty Sark’s sensors operator to them.”  After making this comment, Tyson and the security detachment left.  The lights went to full, and Captain Smith and his crew emerged from the far side of the room, where they were hidden by darkness.  Captain Smith had a book under one arm.
“Admiral, would you happen to have any mouthwash?”  Commander Griffin asked him calmly.
“No, why?”  He replied.
“That Cardassian tongued me!”  She replied in disgust.  Everyone broke out into laughter, “Yeah, sure, laugh.  I should receive a medal for what I did over there.  Allowing myself to fall to that creep in the name of intelligence!”
“A medal?”  Henderson asked between laughs, “For what?  Going above and below the call of duty?”
“Seriously, Commander, how did you get this?”  Captain Smith spoke up, placing the book on the table.  He left the Obsidian Order’s emblem show to everyone in the room.
“I got the guy who had it in a…disadvantaged situation.  Then I swiped the book and dropped it in a crate of h’sencar.”  She explained.
“Have you looked it over, Captain.”  Henderson asked?
“Yes, sir.  The Computer was able to translate it easily.  Apparently the Cardassians put it in German instead of encrypting it.  That kind of makes sense, since only the massive libraries of a Federation Starbase would be able to translate that data.  The Cardassians certainly wouldn’t have a translation capability, as most of the sophants in the Alpha Quadrant.”  Smith explained, “But I haven’t read the translation.”  Captain James poked her head into the room.
“Sorry to interrupt, Captain, but the Ikidar, you know, that Keldon we’ve been expecting.  Yeah, it’s here.”  She stood by the door and waited for an answer.
“See what you can do to delay their docking for the next five minutes,” She nodded and returned to the bridge, “Captain Smith now would be a good time to get out of here.”
“Aye, sir,” Smith retrieved the book, and his entire crew left the room quickly, almost running, “Oh, Commander Griffin, we have your uniform in the Nathan Hale.  You can change once we get out of here.”  He told her just before the exited the door.
“Thank you sir, I’ve been wanting to get out of…”  Henderson didn’t hear her finish her sentence, the doors closed between them and him.  He silently counted out five sets of sixty.  It probably wasn’t anywhere near five minutes, because he spent a couple of seconds at each number.  But that didn’t bother him, the Nathan Hale needed all the time they could get.  Hoping for the best, he straightened his uniform and headed straight onto the bridge.
He was greeted by the image of Captain James trying to talk down a Cardassian official.
“I’m sorry, sir, but I need the Admiral’s permission before docking any foreign vessel.”  Captain James was talking to what looked like a very infuriated Cardassian Gul.
“What, Captain, is keeping the good Admiral?”  You could tell “Good Admiral” was almost sarcastic.
“I don’t know what’s keeping him, sir, that’s above my pay grade!”  She responded to the hostile Gul.
“What’s going on here.”  Admiral Henderson spoke up, approaching the center of the bridge.
“Ah, here he is now, Gul,” James indicated the Admiral, and whispered to him, “Gul Ekat of the Ikidar, Admiral.  Good luck.”
“Thank you, Captain, you’ve done a great service to your nation,” he whispered back to her, “Gul Ekat, greetings.  What can I do for you.”
“Admiral Henderson, I have a Glinn Yistin here from the Cardassian Military.  He has been asked by Ri’ta Gul Rinkad to investigate the Cutty Sark. Now, I demand that the Federation stop delaying and you get this ship docked now!”  The Gul shouted.
“I see, well this shouldn’t have taken so long, Gul.  If you had just had my adjutant send me a message, we could have avoided this whole mess.”  Henderson spoke to the Gul cheerfully.
“Admiral, you’re adjutant is in the brig.”  James stood off to the side, she seemed confused.
“Oh, really?”  He looked at her, looking through narrow eyes, racking his senile brain.  He leaned in towards her, “When did that happen?”
“Admiral!”  Gul Ekat protested.
“Oh, right,” Henderson straightened back up, restoring his bearing, “Operations, dock him.”
“Aye, sir.”  The Chief of Ops responded.
“Oh, and Admiral, Glinn Yistin wants a Molly Griffin to meet him at the docking port of the Cutty Sark.”  The Gul continued.
“Right, security.”  Henderson responded.
“Sir, Griffin is also in the brig.”  James replied again.
“Well, then get her out!”  Henderson shouted.
“But, sir,” Lieutenant Commander Eric Rheb spoke up from the Chief Security station, “Griffin is being interrogated for hacking.  It would be a bad idea to stop that, it would relieve the pressure.”
“I understand, Admiral.”  Ekat smiled.
“You do?”  Henderson was caught of guard.
“I am a Cardassian, Admiral.  I understand that pressure is key to interrogation.”  His crooked grin spread even further, “I hope we meet again, Admiral.  I like your style.”  The line closed.  Everyone on the bridge let out their breath.
“That was close,” Henderson turned to James, “My aide is in the brig?”
“I figured it would be best if we had an excuse for when the Cardassians found out that you don’t have an adjutant.”  James responded.
“I don’t have an adjutant?”  Henderson was shocked.
“No, sir.”  James grinned, recognizing the act.
“How did I miss that?”  He began to leave the bridge, “How did I miss that?  I could have sworn I had an adjutant!”  He slipped through the door to the hallway.

SS Cutty Sark Docking Arm

Henderson arrived at the port the Cutty Sark was moored at.  There, two security officers, and three Cardassians stood, waiting for the Admiral.  One was a Glinn, another was a Ja’rel, and the third was a Chi.  One officer and an enlisted posse.  The Cardassians don’t do anything different from us.
“You must be Glinn Yistin, I am Admiral Henderson, Sector Commander.”  Henderson extended a hand towards the Cardassian.  Yistin, keeping in his tradition with every Starfleet officer to date, did not take Henderson’s hand.  He just stared at him with a blank and cold expression.
“Where is Griffin?”  The Cardassian asked, in a cold voice.
“She’s currently being interrogated for being a hacker.”  Henderson watched his expression.  A flash of anger went through his eyes.  I think Commander Griffin and Glinn Yistin have met, “Shall we get this inspection over with?”  He motioned towards the door into the docking arm.
“Fine.  But I want to ask her a few questions when we are done.”  His cold voice sent a chill down Henderson’s spine.
“I’m sure my security officers would be willing to slip those questions in, while they’re interrogating her,” Henderson offered.  He received a very cold and penetrating look, “Or I can arrange a meeting for when you have completed your inspection.”  He looked satisfied.  How am I going to do that?
They walked inside the door, and waiting for them was Tyson Paine.
“Admiral, I think you should know that someone was in our cargo bay around the time you came aboard.”  He reported, professionally.
“Admiral Henderson, you promised no entry.”  Yistin rounded on him.
“Bridge, this is Admiral Henderson.  Stop all vessels docking or undocking!  Have any vessels left within the last half hour?”  Henderson tapped his combadge and shouted his orders.
“Just the Nathan Hale, sir.”  The voice, it sounded like Captain James, responded.
“Get them back here!”  He was hoping nobody would bring up the Nathan Hale, but there’s nothing he can do now.
“We have no clue where they are, sir.”
“Then send the Wyatt Earp to look for them!  Just get them back!”  He tapped the combadge again to close it off, “Glinn, I will have Starfleet Security look through all of the ships, if you want.”
“No.  If anyone else had taken that document, they would have left as soon as possible.  When this Nathan Hale returns, I will search that ship.  That is assuming we don’t find anything here,” Yistin replied, monotonically, “Now, let’s get on with this investigation.”
They proceeded into the cargo bay of the Cutty Sark.  Admiral Henderson stood near the door, which had two Starbase 334 security officers posted at it, and watched as Yistin and his men searched the crates.  The Ja’rel opened a crate where the bolts of fabric were messed up.  He turned to his superior, and said something in Cardassian.  Yistin walked over, responded something else in their language, and watched the Ja’rel as he began counting the bolts of fabric.
“Admiral, you might want to inform Captain Harrin that he has been robbed six bolts of h’sencar,” Yistin straightened up and walked towards Henderson, glaring at him, “But we did not find the document.”
“Well, if the Cutty Sark is short six bolts of fabric, then perhaps that is why someone came in here.”  Henderson conjectured.
“Six bolts of fabric, Admiral?  Who would steal just six bolts of h’sencar?”  Yistin asked, disbelievingly.
“Maybe a tailor who needed some h’sencar to hold him over.”  Henderson coolly supported his conjection.  Then Henderson’s combadge chirped.
“Admiral Henderson, the Nathan Hale is now in Shuttlebay four.”  Captain James’ voice called out.
“Thank you, Captain.  Have them confined to the vehicle, we will be there as soon as possible.”  Henderson looked to Yistin, about to invite him to Shuttlebay four.
“Already done, sir.  Security will meet you there.  James out.”
“Glinn Yistin, do you want to come to the Shuttlebay?”  Admiral Henderson offered, quite hospitably.
“Yes, Admiral.  I would like to see this Nathan Hale.”  Yistin’s cold voice once again chilled the air.
Henderson, his two security officers, Yistin, and his posse all arrived at Shuttlebay 4.  There were security officers wandering around the cavernous room.  Ahead was a Type-11 looking shuttle, with four officers, dressed in command uniforms, standing in a line beside it, being watched by security.  Henderson led them to this vessel.
“Captain Smith.”  Henderson addressed the man to the right of the center of the line, “This is Glinn Yistin.  He will be searching your ship.”  Smith looked somewhat concerned.
“Admiral, has Starfleet started commissioning shuttlecraft?”  Yistin asked Henderson, examining the Nathan Hale.
“This is a Starfleet Intelligence vessel, Glinn.”  Smith eyed Henderson, somewhat annoyed.
“I see,” Henderson could just hear Yistin forming conclusions in his mind.  Conclusions Henderson did not want Yistin forming, “Well, since it is intelligence we are looking for, and we don’t want you to see.  I will respect the Federation intelligence.  I will have one of this ship’s officers with me.”
“Admiral, you’re not going to let a Cardassian national board a SI vessel, are you?”  Smith blared out, breaking the line.
“Listen, Captain, you heard the Glinn.  He’s going to respect our secrets.  Besides, we have nothing to hide.”  I hope.  Henderson assured him, “In fact, Captain.  I want you to escort him around the Nathan Hale.  Give him your full cooperation.”
“Aye, sir.”  Smith glared at Henderson for a moment, then led the three Cardassians into the shuttle.  Henderson paced around nervously for about fifteen minutes.  He had sent the book off with the Nathan Hale.  It was bound to be on the Nathan Hale.  He kept proposing scenarios in his head, and shooting them down.  The most feasible one he could have come up with is that the book was transported into the emergency transport buffer.  He had hoped that’s what Captain Smith did.  Finally Yistin walked out of the shuttle with Smith.
“Well, Admiral.  Nothing’s here,” Yistin’s statement shocked Henderson, he stood straight up, curious to know what had happened, “I served in the Dominion War.  I know all of the Federation’s tricks.  Store things in the pattern buffer, store the pattern but spread everything else out into space, beam it into the middle of space then come back and get it.  Hide it near the warp core, oh I’ve seen it all, Admiral.  There is no document here, I am sure of that.  In fact, Admiral, since you have been cooperating so much, I am convinced that this book is nowhere near this station.”  Yistin gave Henderson a crooked grin.  Tom couldn’t help but get the impression that Yistin had done something underhanded, there was something wrong with his eyes, “But I still want to interview Ms. Griffin.”  This was the first time Tom noticed Molly was gone.
“Very well, Glinn,” he leaned to the security guards and whispered, “take him to the brig.  And take the scenic route.”  He stood up, smiled at Yistin, who returned the courtesy.  The security officer motioned the Glinn onward, and they left the shuttlebay.”
“Wow, that was fun.”  Smith commented.  Herschell rounded on him.
“Where is the book, and where is Commander Griffin?”  He asked.
“On the Wyatt Earp.  They came looking for us.  When they got to our position, we sent Molly with that book and the English translation of that book on a PADD through the Wyatt Earp’s transporters.  The Nathan Hale doesn’t know a thing.  We figured it would be checked out.  Moreover, we figured that a Cardassian officer might recognize Commander Griffin.  So we sent her with.”  Smith explained.
“Where was the Wyatt Earp headed?”  Henderson let out a breath of relief as he found out that Captain Smith had given the Cardassian military the slip.
“We told them to go to the Zebulon Pike in the most covert way they could.  That way the Ikidar can’t stop them and search them on the way back home.”  Smith had to lower his voice as a couple of security guards walked past.
“Wait, the Zebulon Pike is under orders to not lower their shields.  That way nothing can get aboard.”  Henderson informed Smith.
“Oh, shield harmonics is a funny subject, sir.  If your shield frequency matches another, you can slip right through.”  Smith assured the Admiral.
“Get a hold of the Wyatt Earp and tell them to beam her directly to our brig as soon as they get here.  Leave the book in the possession of Captain Matthews.”  Henderson instructed him.
“Aye, sir.”  Smith headed straight for the Wyatt Earp.  Henderson left the room and proceeded straight to the brig.

Starbase 334 Brig

Tom took the most expeditious route to the Brig as he possibly could.  He was almost worn out when he arrived at the door that led into the entire brig network.  He turned and entered into a long, narrow corridor.  Coming to the first door on the right, he entered the interrogation room.  There was Glinn Yistin, his two assistants, the two security officers Henderson had sent with them, and three others that were keeping the brig.  Also standing there was Molly Griffin in her uniform.
Ah shit.  I didn’t think of that one.  Henderson suddenly realized that he should have had her beamed over in civilian clothing.  He watched as she leaned forward and touched one of the brig-keeper’s combadges.  Then she lowered her arm, and stood straight behind the interrogation desk.
“Excellent,” Yistin said with much satisfaction.  He turned to the other two brig-keepers, who were chatting in a far corner of the room, “Lieutenant, it’s your turn.”  The Admiral watched curiously as the officer strolled over to stand in front of Molly.  Molly looked uncertain, “Go on, Ms. Griffin.”  Yistin egged her on.  She leaned forward, with a sense of apprehension.  It was as if she expected that combadge to blow up as soon as she touched it.  She paused for a second, her finger shaking, a centimeter away from the badge.  Finally she leaned foward and her finger made contact with its surface.  Nothing happened.  Griffin stood there in shock, as her hand fell back to her side.
“Very well, Ms. Griffin,” Yistin’s voice rang with a cold-hearted satisfaction, “Now, tell me.  Did you take that book?”  He leaned in, getting very close to her face, glaring at her all the while.
“I have no clue what you’re talking about, Glinn.”  Molly responded desperately.  She looked like she was on the verge of tears.
“I said: Did you take that book?”  The Glinn raised his voice, shouting in the most despotic format possible.
“I told you,” she cried out, tears beginning to stream down her face, “I don’t know what book you’re talking about.”
“Where is the book?”  The Glinn was yelling even louder now.
She slammed her hands on the table, tears coming out her eyes quite openly, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”  She collapsed into the chair behind the table, and her head fell into her hands, and sobs could be heard.  Yistin stood up, and looked at Admiral Henderson.  He walked towards the door, his aides and the security detachment assigned to him following him.
“Thank you for letting me question her, Admiral.  I will be returning to Cardassian space now,” he looked back at the pathetic heap sobbing on the table, “Back on Cardassia, impersonating an officer gets the death penalty.”  He looked back, “Have a good day, Admiral.”  He walked out.
“I thought I told you to take the scenic route,” Tom whispered to one of the security officers on the way out.
“I tried.  But he knows the layout of this station too well for me to succeed.”  He left.
Tom turned back towards the room.  As soon as the doors closed, Griffin’s head popped up, the tears no longer coming.  She removed the combadge she was wearing, and one of the two officers who were talking in the corner when the Admiral came in, walked over, removing his and trading it with hers.  Then he and the other officer he conferred with traded, they all put their badges back on.
“Thank you, Lieutenant.  Although, I thought they had us when he wanted me to touch all four combadges in the room.”  Griffin spoke to the lieutenant jg who had just traded with the other security officer.
“We thought so as well, ma’am.  That’s why the ensign and I traded badges over there in the corner.”  He responded, smiling.
“That’s quick thinking, lieutenant.  Makes a good security officer.”  She complimented him.
“Makes a living security officer, ma’am.”  His dry, pointed tone, held no lies.  Commander Griffin laughed.
“Same with intelligence, lieutenant,” she turned to the Admiral as the three brig-keepers left the interrogation room, “How are you doing, Admiral?”
“At the moment, very relieved.  We just gave the entire Cardassian military the slight of hand.  I’m feeling very good.”  He walked over to the chair, and sat.  The stress of the inspection over.
“I know what you mean.  But still, this isn’t the first time I’ve pulled the wool over a foreign organization’s eyes.”  She sat on the table in front of him, Henderson’s combadge chirped.
“Admiral, this is Captain Smith.  The computer reports that Glinn Yistin just downloaded a whole shipload of information off of our mainframe.  The security protocols were essentially hacked.”  Admiral Henderson knew why he got the feeling Yistin was up to something.

to be continued…

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