Star Trek: Title of Liberty, Part II

Star Trek: Title of Liberty

Part II

A short story based upon the series created by Gene Roddenberry

Written by R.J. Herschell

“The Nathan Hale has a computer system that monitors all access to it.”  Captain Kevin Smith and Rear Admiral Lower Half Thomas Henderson were sitting in the cockpit of the USS Nathan Hale, a modified Type-11 shuttlecraft used by Starfleet Intelligence.  Captain Smith is the Commanding Officer of the Hale, and Admiral Henderson is his superior, Sector Commander of Sector 554.  They were in the Hale because a Cardassian officer had just been through here, and Captain Smith reported that Glinn Yistin, the officer, had taken information from the Hale’s computer.

“So, when Glinn Yistin came through here, he accessed the Hale’s computer.  How?”  Henderson asked, sitting in a seat next to Smith at the front of the cockpit, having just minutes before been viewing data on the front window.

“According to the Hale, it was tapped by an automatic program.  Apparently, it searched for access codes, and then was programmed to search the database, looking for anything that might be of interest to the Cardassian military,” Smith continued to explain, “My best guess about how he did this, is the PADD he had with him.”

“Oh?”  Herschell was interested.

“Yes, sir.  You remember that PADD he had under one arm.  I’m of the opinion that it had that auto-hack program.”  Smith rationalized.

“Could it have been the Ikidar?”  Henderson asked, referring to the Keldon-class Cardassian warship that brought Glinn Yistin.

“The Hale reports that the tapping came from inside the vehicle.  Besides, the Ikidar probably would have begun trying to tap us as soon as we got to Starbase 334.”  Smith replied.

“So what information did they get?” Henderson further inquired.

“They didn’t get much, sir,” Smith, seeing the Admiral’s confused expression continued, “See, the Hale’s computer is set up so that it can only be accessed from one of these stations by the right people.  When it detected the auto-hack, it generated a bogus access code which it fed to the auto-hack program.  Then, it allowed the auto-hack to access the database.  When the auto-hack found a file that had the right title, the computer generated a file that was remotely related to the title, and fed that to the auto-hack.”  Henderson started laughing.

“Captain, you’re telling me that the Nathan Hale, a Starfleet shuttlecraft, just BS’d the Cardassian military?”  He responded, laughing harder than he would under normal circumstances, but he was quite stressed at the moment.  Any even that made him laugh he decided to enjoy to its fullest.

“No, sir, the Nathan Hale just BS’d the Obsidian Order,” Lieutenant Junior Grade Robert Samp addressed the Admiral, having just walked into the cockpit bearing a PADD.  He then turned his focus to Captain Smith, “I contacted intelligence with the details of the program the Hale picked up on.  They sent us this.”  Samp handed the PADD to Captain Smith.  Smith looked it over, then handed it back.

“The Obsidian Order, eh?”  He asked, curiously.

“Yes, sir,” Samp responded, “That might explain why the book Commander Griffin retrieved from Senit Nor had the Obsidian Order’s emblem on it.”

“So Glinn Yistin is in the Obsidian Order.”  Captain Smith sat back in the co-pilot’s seat, contemplating.

“What is the Obsidian Order?”  Admiral Henderson asked.  Not being in on the intelligence community, he really didn’t know about some of these things.

“It’s a covert operations group.  Their core belief is that of destroying your enemy utterly and suddenly.  They do it with dark operations, hiding in the shadows, stealing information, exploiting weaknesses and going in for the kill.  You’re dead before you know you’ve been targeted.”  Smith explained.

“And Glinn Yistin is a part of this Obsidian Order?”  Henderson inquired further, beginning to understand the full implications of Samp’s discovery.

“He’s probably the senior officer for Senit Nor’s sector, Admiral.”  Samp responded.  Henderson looked confused.  Why would the Obsidian Order send their most senior officer across the border? Smith seemed to read Henderson’s mind.

“Whatever Commander Griffin stumbled upon over there, it had some serious crap about the Cardassians.”  Smith was audibly impressed with his officer.

“But I have to ask, sir,” Commander Molly Griffin entered the cockpit, “Why was an Obsidian Order operative sent to hound me?”

“That’s a very good question, Commander.”  Smith responded, leaning forward in his chair again, “Maybe he has a cover.”

“No, Mr. Paine didn’t recognize ever seeing him.  If he is Obsidian Order, he’s probably transient.”  She reasoned.

“Well, that’s hardly important.  Commander, did you get that book back from Captain Matthews?”  Smith asked, revealing Molly’s reason for being present.

“No sir, it’s not on the Wyatt Earp.”  She responded quite coolly.  A sense of alarm flashed around the room.

“It’s not where?”  Smith got to his feet.  Lieutenant Samp, who was leaning against the wall was now standing straight, and Admiral Henderson was listening attentively.

“It’s not on the Wyatt Earp, sir,” Molly seemed quite calm about this.  She was leaned against the door frame into the cockpit, with one foot up on the wall continuing after the frame.  She was completely at ease, “Captain Matthews felt the book would be safer if it was left in Captain Erickson’s possession.  It is currently sitting in the Ready Room of the Zebulon Pike.”  Henderson turned towards the flight control panel in front of him and dropped his head on the console with a smack.

“And, the Zebulon Pike is where?”  Smith was not sure why Griffin hadn’t gone to retrieve the book from Erickson, and was hoping to prod some sense into her.

“Escorting the Ikidar back to Cardassian space.”  Henderson’s exasperated voice was muffled by the console in front of his mouth.  Samp leaned back into the wall, laughing.

“Are you telling me we just spent the past hour giving the run around to the Cardassians to keep that book away from them, only to have it follow them back to their space?”  Smith blared, enraged.

“Oh the irony.”  Samp spoke through fits of hysterical laugher.

“This just means we won’t know what’s going on for another hour.”  Smith plopped back down in his chair.

“Then we’ll wait,” Henderson reasoned, “Let’s hope that won’t be a problem.”


Stardate 57881.5

USS Zebulon Pike Bridge

The stars streak by the vessel, each displayed on the main viewscreen as it does so.  The view of space, and the stars, have always had an aesthetic effect on Captain Rachel Erickson, who now sits in front of that screen in the command seat.  It was somewhat a shame that such a beautiful realm, such as space, should be filled with great warships like the Zebulon Pike, or the Ikidar, which the Pike is escorting back into Cardassian space.

“Captain, we will be at the Cardassian Border in five minutes.”  The LTJG at the conn station reported.

“Thank you, Lieutenant,” The doors at the rear of the bridge opened.  Rachel turned to see Lieutenant Chad Shadday enter the bridge, “There you are, lieutenant.”  Shadday took his position behind the large rail that runs through the middle of the bridge, Rachel stood from her chair and went back to meet him.

“I apologize for my absence, ma’am.  Captain Matthews of the Earp wanted me to retrieve a book they had in their possession.  According to Matthews, it belongs to Starfleet Intelligence, and they didn’t want the Cardassians to happen upon it.”  Shadday explained, as Erickson got to his position.

“We met with the Earp an hour ago.  You just barely got back.”  Erickson was getting suspicious.  This wasn’t the first time Shadday had done something that didn’t add up.

“The book was not in Captain Matthew’s possession like he said it was.  I had a search conducted of the shuttlebay area.”  He rationalized further.

“Why was I not informed?”  Erickson prodded, looking for a trap to catch Shadday.

“It is a Starfleet Intelligence document, ma’am, I figured talking about it over the combadge frequencies would be imprudent.”  His eyes grew cold as they fixed into her eyes.

“You don’t trust the security of our system?”  She asked, implying that he knew he wasn’t doing his job, by keeping ship security tight.

“I didn’t want to take a risk.”  The surrounding crew that were watching this face-off shivered, as they felt the room temperature fall from this discussion.

“Next time, take it.”  Bitterness was falling into Rachel’s icy voice.

“Yes ma’am.”  Shadday replied slowly and deliberately.  Their eyes remained locked for a couple more seconds before she returned to her seat.

“Ma’am, we’ve arrived.”  The conn officer reported, unshaken having not paid attention to the recent confrontation.

“Thank you, lieutenant.  Take us out of warp.”  The bridge returned to its normal activity.

“Captain, the Ikidar sends their regards.”  Shadday reported, after his panel beeped.

“Wish them luck in their search,” she waited for the tactical panel’s beeps to subside, reporting the transmission of her message, “Send a message to Admiral Henderson apprising him of the situation regarding the book.  He might want to know.  Conn, return to the patrol route.”

“Aye, ma’am.”

Starbase 334

Operations Control Center

Henderson couldn’t believe his eyes.  He stood staring at the message on the communications station, just left of the CIP.  As he began the thirtieth reading of the message, hoping that he had missed a line in it that revealed this whole matter as a joke, Captain Smith entered the Ops Center, and proceeded to the communications station.

“Admiral, you sent for me?”  He stood next to him.

“Yes, yes I did.”  Henderson indicated the message, breaking off his reading halfway through it.

“Oh shit.”  Smith muttered, after skimming the message.

“That’s a good way to put it.”  Henderson responded, with an air of sarcasm.

“This has to be a joke,” Smith’s shock was a lot like Henderson’s, “a very bad joke.”

“I’m not laughing,” Henderson replied.  They stood there for another few minutes.  Henderson was watching Smith re-read that message just as fanatically as Henderson had.  Finally he spoke, “So the question stands now, where the hell is that book?”  Henderson’s statement had attracted the attention of Captain James, sitting at her station on the other side of the CIP.

“Admiral, did we just spend two hours dealing with the Cardassians only to loose the book?”  She commented, not rising from her station.

“It’s a little more complicated than that, but, yeah, that’s the essence of the situation.”  Henderson responded.  James came over to where Smith and Henderson were.

“How can it be more complicated than that?”  She asked.

“It’s more complicated because now we have two Alpha Quadrant government powers looking for one item that both really want to have.”  Smith growled, hunched over the communications station.

“So what do we do?”  James asked.

“Find it before they do.”  Herschell declared, resolved.

500 AU’s from Starbase 334

USS Wyatt Earp

The layout of the command deck on the Wyatt Earp is quite cramped.  In the forward portion, there are five of the eight standard crew, the Flight Control Officer, the Information Management Officer, the Communications Officer, the Captain, and the Executive Officer, stationed in the front left most station, front right, immediately behind the front right, in the middle of the forward cockpit, and immediately behind the front left stations, respectively.  Behind the captain, along the starboard bulkhead the Tactical and Sensors officers, from fore to aft, the remaining cockpit crew are stationed.  The ship’s engineer’s main status display was in a compartment in the aft most portion of the command deck.  In that compartment is a ladder that leads to the second deck, where the controls for all the systems are located.  Between the engineering compartment and the rest of the command crew, six bunks are set into holes in the bulkheads, three on each side.  These bunks can be used for a variety of missions, but they usually were utilized as sleeping compartments for the crew.

Captain Steven Matthews was leaning against a bulkhead forward of the bunks.  Just in front of him is the primary hatch, which leads to an airlock that contains the ships only transporter pad.  This transporter system is controlled from the Information Management Officer’s station, whose operator doubled as an engineer.  The transporter could be alternately controlled from the Main Status display panel in the aft engineering compartment.  But, since the Information Management Officer usually had the arrest warrants, and the transporter was usually used to arrest suspects, the IMO operated the transporter.

“Captain Matthews, I’m picking up a ship bearing 345 mark 25.”  The Sensors Officer reported, “It’s at Warp 7.6 heading 289 mark 312…” He stopped in the middle of his sentence.

“What is it?”  Matthews, standing towards the front of the vessel’s cockpit turned back to look at the sensors officer.

“It’s headed straight for Starbase 334.  It’ll be there in 4 minutes at current course and speed.”  He answered, almost shocked.

“Conn, lay in an intercept course.  Maximum possible speed,” Matthews returned to his seat, “Yellow alert.  Number one, prepare the speeding ticket.”  Matthews was referring to the Warp 6 speed limit the Federation imposed within its borders, while attempting to be witty.

“Uh, sir,” The sensors officer spoke up; just as the sound of the warp engines activating reverberated through the ship.  The officer drew the attention of almost everyone on the deck.  Matthews had spun his chair around to see the officer.  The officer seemed apprehensive as he spoke, “It has a Romulan hull signature.”  Matthews eyes were as wide as his ship’s torpedo tubes.

Red Alert!”  He shouted, spinning his chair back around to face the viewscreen that was now showing the tell-tale star stretch of warp flight.  The LCARS panels changed colors, and red light strips along the walls activated, klaxons sounding the alarm, “Tactical, get ready for a fight.”

“Sir, I thought we were on good terms with the Romulans.”  Jason Harp, the executive officer, asked from Matthew’s right.

“Yeah, but the Neutral Zone is still in place.  Anybody who means well is not going to come across that Zone.”  He answered, realizing the severity of the situation.

“Sir, intercept in thirty seconds.”  The sensors officer called over the Klaxons.

“Tactical, target their engines.  Fire a photon torpedo on minimum yield.”  Matthews was now staring down the greenish dot appearing on the screen.  The IMO isolated the dot, and expanded its already growing presence to show a Romulan Scout vessel.

“Twenty seconds, sir.”

“Sir, that’s a Romulan scout.  The only other one the Federation has encountered was by the Enterprise-D.  It was destroyed before we could get a few good scans.  However, we do know enough to know that the Wyatt Earp could whoop it.”  The Information Management Officer was reading his screen, which had automatically identified the ship and provided him with a full profile.  The IMO was summarizing.

“Ten seconds, sir.”

“On my mark, fire,” Matthews counted three seconds in his head, “Three… two… one…”  The scout disappeared.

“Sir, the scout has activated its cloaking device,” The sensors officer reported.  Then his station began to beep.  “Captain!  Collision with Starbase 334 in one minute!

“Full stop,” Matthews ordered.  The stars returned to normal, “Inform Starbase 334.”  He sat back in his chair, frustrated.

Starbase 334

Operations Center

“Captain, according to this, the scout should be here by now.”  Admiral Henderson, Captain James, and Commander Ryan Smith, the station’s Executive Officer, were gathered around the communications officer who had just read the message from the Wyatt Earp.

“What is a Romulan Scout doing in Federation Space?”  Commander Smith asked Admiral Henderson.

“What, you think I know?”  Henderson replied.  A klaxon sounded.

“Captain!  Intruder alert level 15 of this ship!”  Lieutenant Commander Eric Rheb called out from his station, which was beeping incessantly.  He and his deputy were working their stations frantically in response.

“Brig level.”  Commander Smith declared, as he rushed across Ops to Rheb’s station in the first tier on the right side of the room.

“Sensors, where did the transport originate from?”  Captain James walked across the back of the Center to the sensors station in the third tier on the right hand side of the room near the bulkhead, two tiers behind the security station.

“Commander, the intruder is headed for the brig complex,” Rheb began to report to Smith, “I’ve alerted the brig detail.”  Henderson slipped behind the CIP, watching the Starbase command staff deal with the situation.

“Ma’am, I’ve looked up the Passive EM scan archives for the past minute.  I’ve found the origination of the transport.”  The Sensors Officer shouted out.  Henderson looked down at the CIP, seeing that the Sensors Officer had just sent some information to the CIP.  Henderson placed it on the main viewscreen with a few button taps.  Everyone looked up, except Rheb, his Deputy and Commander Smith.  The viewscreen displayed a grid with a Starfleet arrowhead in the middle.  Just above and to the left of this emblem displayed a star surrounded by two brackets.  The star within the brackets was flashing.  A fourth of the way between the large arrowhead and the top of the screen was displayed another, smaller arrowhead, this was the Wyatt Earp.

“I’m in position, Lieutenant!” Commander Rheb had just opened the squelch on the security communications frequencies.  They were hearing everything the brig detail was saying.

“Hang tight, Ensign!  The door’s opening.” Everyone forgot the map on the screen, and started listening intently as they heard the sound of a door open.  Disruptor fire could be heard faintly in the background.

“Fire!” The loud whine of phaser fire exploded off of the security station’s speakers.  Now the disruptor fire was much louder as it was being directed at the brig detail.  The sound of the bulkheads taking the lethal fire of the disruptor crackled.  One of the security officers screamed in pain, and the sound of his body hitting the deck reverberated throughout the Ops center.  Suddenly everything went quiet for a couple of seconds.  Then it chirped as someone tapped their combadge.

“Medical to the brig complex!” He called out.

“Lieutenant, watch the station.”  Rheb stood and left the room hastily, headed for the brig complex.

“Strategic Ops, target that location and fire.”  James pointed at the viewscreen, showing the flashing star.

“Captain, incoming torpedo fire.”  The Sensors officer yelled, the klaxons going off for the proximity alarm.

“Shields up!”  James braced herself on the sensors station.

“Too late, Captain!”  The station shook violently as the torpedo found its mark on the unprotected hull of Starbase 334.  Admiral Henderson, not having time to brace himself, was thrown off his feet and into the bulkhead as the bridge lurched to the left.  His head smacked the bulkhead and he hit the deck, unconscious.

“Fire, Strat Ops, fire!”  James yelled frantically, re-bestowing her balance on her legs.

“More fire incoming!” warned the sensors officer.  The station went through another series of violent jerks causing sparks to fly across the Ops center.  Several crewmembers screamed as they were burned by exploding stations.  Smoke clouded the view of everyone, and the lights failed, throwing the room into a total darkness with the exception of the few still operational stations casting an eerie red glow into the room.

“Phasers offline, ma’am!” the Strategic Operations Officer reported, hoisting herself to a standing position, as her chair was six feet to her right, “Firing torpedoes.”  She tapped a few buttons and the sound of torpedoes leaving the station a few levels below was heard.  Then the Strategic Operations station blew up in a shower of sparks, sending the officer stumbling backwards into the third tier.  Then she slumped onto the ground, moaning.

Captain James looked around the smoky room as the red emergency lights activated.  She noticed the smoke begin to clear, that comforted her.  At least we still have life support.  She moved down the third tier, and came across Admiral Henderson’s limp body at the other end of the tier.  She bent down and checked his pulse.  He was fine, so she moved on.  Noticing Commander Smith had begun a casualty check of the bridge, she moved down to the Damage Control Officers, at the left side of the second tier on the left half of the bridge.

“What’s our status?”  She asked, coughing the smoke out of her lungs.

“We have two huge holes in the side of the station for one.  We have quite a few demolished levels above and below the torpedo magazine.  It apparently exploded during that last torpedo.”  The Structural DCO reported.

“All of our weapons are offline.  He’s right about the torpedo magazine going off.  We have nothing left.  We’ve also lost quite a few subsystems in the area around the magazine.”  The Systems DCO added on to his counterpart’s report.

“How did we get torpedoes off?”  She asked, confused.

“The Strat Ops Officer apparently loaded a few torpedoes.  The launcher afforded some protection, preventing them from going off,” the Systems DCO extrapolated, “However, the launcher was damaged enough to self destruct when we used it.  Only four out of the six torpedoes loaded launched.”

“So they only targeted our weapons.”  James concluded.

“Yes, ma’am, lucky for us.  The blast doors around the magazine closed, it contained most of the explosion.  However, it may take a month to rebuild that section.”  The Structural DCO confirmed her conclusion.

“Thank you, Lieutenant,” She walked down the tier to Commander Smith, who was now tending the downed Strategic Operations Officer, “Causalities, Commander?”

“Security doesn’t have a conclusive count, it keeps going up,” Smith finally looked up from the Strategic Operations Officer, “But it’s over one hundred dead.”

Sickbay

Everything is dark.  Disembodied, indistinct voices are in the background.  If only I could understand what they’re saying. The voices begin to become clearer, two people, no three, no… four.

“None of this adds up.  Why would the Romulans do something like this?” a female voice.

“I don’t know,” a male, “I think this is beyond our expertise.”

“I agree,” as she spoke, Henderson began seeing light, just light, nothing more, “I’ve already called Captain Smith.”

Smith… Smith… Kevin Smith.  The light began to form shapes, fuzzy shapes, shapes that didn’t reflect anything, just shapes.  Slowly, the light made its formation.  Overhead Light fixtures, Henderson now knew where he was.

“It’s really quite amazing that we saw him.”  Henderson looked to his right.  There, on the bed next to his, was a Romulan in a military uniform lying inert.  Around the Romulan stood Captain James, Commander Rheb, and a tall female Lieutenant with fire amber hair wearing operations yellow, and a Lieutenant Commander male with chestnut brown hair wearing sciences teal.  Commander Rheb was speaking.

“Admiral,” the Lieutenant Commander noticed Henderson was awake and rushed over, with a medical tricorder and scanner in his hands.  The rest of the individuals around the Romulan rushed over.  The Doctor scanned Admiral Henderson, “Admiral, you should be just fine.  It’s only a mild concussion, just take it easy for a few days and it won’t give you trouble.”  The doctor helped the admiral to a sitting position, his legs swung to the side of the bed, facing the Romulan.

“Casualties.”  Henderson wondered how long he was out, but found that quite trivial at the moment.

“498 dead, 512 injured.  Out of the injured, 15 of them are serious.  They’ll be fine, though.”  The doctor responded.

“Admiral, I’ve failed to introduce you to our doctor.  This is Lieutenant Commander Howard Simpson.”  James introduced the Doctor to the Admiral.

“Good to meet you, Admiral.”  The Doctor responded, engrossed in his tricorder readings.

“I regret that it wasn’t under better circumstances.” Henderson responded.  The doctor nodded, “Five hundred dead, Captain?”

“Yes, sir.”  James responded.  There was a very uncomfortable silence.

“It was a fourth of what it could have been, Admrial,” the lieutenant technician, Lieutenant Emily Dean the Chief Engineer of Starbase 334, assured him optimistically, “The Romulans hit us in a rather heavily shielded portion of the station.  Had they hit us elsewhere, the casualties would have been four times what we experienced.”

“I suppose looking at it like an optimist is the only way to go at this point.”  Henderson commented, morbidly.  The doors to the sickbay opened, revealing a tortured hallway.  Upon looking around, Henderson noticed quite a few wires hanging from the ceiling.  In one corner, steam was venting into the sickbay.  We took one heck of a beating.

Captain Smith strolled through the open doors to the sickbay, “Captain James, you sent for me?”

“Yes, Captain,” she moved around the bed to encounter Smith, “I felt that this matter is in your expertise.”

“Oh?  What is it?”  Smith asked, somewhat surprised.  James motioned for Smith to follow her to the Romulan Soldier.  Everyone, including Admiral Henderson grouped around the soldier’s bed.

“We found this on him,” Commander Rheb picked up a small electronic device and handed it to Captain Smith, who examined it, “It masks a life-sign signature from sensors.”  Everyone, except Commander Dean, gave Rheb a confused look.

“Then how did we see him?”  Henderson asked.

“That’s the major mystery at the moment,” Lieutenant Dean answered, “Our sensor sub-processors have a module installed in them that track the fields this particular device emits.  From that tracking, it feeds it into the sensor’s sub-processor as a life-sign.”  Smith’s head jerked from its lowered position examining the device, to look Lieutenant Dean in the eyes, somewhat alarmed.

“Captain, have you encountered this before?”  Henderson inquired, noticing Smith’s change of bearing.

“I only know of one group that has this technology, sir,” he answered, perplexed.  He looked back at the device for a moment and contemplated.  Then he looked up and acted as if nothing was extraordinary, “But I don’t want to start any unsubstantiated rumors.”

“But you will check into it.”  Henderson prodded.

“At this point, Admiral, I would only hunt them down to thank them for their efforts.”  Smith’s tone was as if this practice would not normally be executed.

“I’d be right behind you, Captain.”  Commander Rheb added.

“Well, about this guy,” Sara pointed at the inert Romulan, “He came in wearing that device,” she indicated the masker Smith was holding, “and he is now dead.”

“Dead?  How?” Henderson inquired, “Did the Brig Detail…”

“No, Admiral, he committed suicide,” Doctor Simpson cut him off, “Nothing too creative; just a cyanide capsule on the lower right molar.  He bit it and it and released the poison.”

“I didn’t think Romulans used Cyanide.”  James commented.

“Any industrialized society could have discovered it.  I’m sure the Romulans could easily find some.”  Dean rationalized.

“Tal Shiar.”  Smith was staring at the dead Romulan’s collar in a thoughtful trance.

“Tal Shiar?”  Henderson asked.

“The Romulan version of the Obsidian Order,” Smith broke his gaze, and pointed at the Romulan’s collar, “The insignia is gold.  Romulan regular military is silver.  Only the Tal Shiar use gold.”

“Wait, why would a Romulan Tal Shiar operative show up in his uniform?”  Sara knew that wasn’t the Tal Shiar’s style.

“He wasn’t expecting to get caught.”  Henderson pointed at the masker in Smiths hand.

“No, Admiral, Captain James has a very good point.  This entire thing seems quite careless,” Everyone looked at Smith, not quite understanding his point, “Think about it.  A Romulan Scout comes through Federation Space, and doesn’t cloak until it is being pursued by a Federation Cutter.  Then an Operative beams aboard in his uniform and heads into the brig complex of the station.  To top the whole thing off, a covert operation vessel fires on a station.  Either their mission hit so many roadblocks it failed, or this is the result of poor planning.”

“For poor planning,” Doctor Simpson looked around his sickbay, “They did a lot of damage.”

“When Covert Ops does damage, Doctor, they do it in the cleanest way possible.  Trust me, this is not clean.”  Smith responded.

“How is doing damage clean?”  James asked, on the edge of getting offended.

“When you don’t know who did it.”  Smith looked into James’ eyes candidly.

“Well, at this point,” Henderson resolved, “We know who it is, and we definitely know what they have done, and how they did it.  The other obvious ones are the where, and the when.  So now the important thing we need to figure it is: why?”


Stardate 57881.7

Starbase 334

Situation Room

The Situation room is noticeably damaged, but still usable.  Most of the screens around the top of the room are blown out, and some of the panels.  The central table is completely dead, mostly because the computer isn’t running any power to it, but its panels are still dark.  Admiral Henderson recalled the Zebulon Pike because he wanted to call another command staff meeting.  Once again, the Captains and First Officers of every major vessel in the sector are gathered in this room, seated at the two tables near the briefing screen.  Admiral Henderson stands in front of them, updating them on everything that has happened over the past five hours.

“So now we have two problems.  One: why are the Cardassians running our border, and two: why did the Romulan Tal Shiar perform such a haphazard attack on us?”  Henderson posed the two questions, after finishing his briefing.

“The answer to number one is in that book, wherever that got off to.”  Captain Smith commented.

“You can’t blame me for that one!” Matthews burst out, “I handed that book off to the Pike’s chief of security.  I don’t know what happened from there.”

“According to the Pike’s chief of security, you didn’t even have the book!”  Commander Griffin rebutted.  Matthews stood to defend himself, Griffin also went to her feet, and the two got into a shouting match.

Hey!  Shut up!”  Henderson shouted at the quarreling duo, “Nobody knows where the hell that book got off to.  Considering that the Cardassians haven’t killed anybody, I think they’re the least of our concerns.  We need to figure out why the Romulans attacked us.”

“Starfleet Intelligence knows about ties between the Romulan Star Empire and the Orion Pirate Cartel.  The Romulans, in the past, have taken all sorts of measures to keep the Orions in power in some areas of the Alpha quadrant.”  Smith proposed.

“Yeah, but we’re on good terms with the Romulans now.  The enemies of the Federation are transitively the enemies of the Romulans.”  Griffin protested.

“The Romulan Empire is on good terms with the Federation, but the Tal Shiar is not,” Kevin supported his theory, “The Tal Shiar has a tendency of going off and doing their own thing.  The Enterprise managed to win the loyalty of Romulan Senators who were proponents of the good of the Empire.  The Tal Shiar, on the other hand, would have sided with Shinzon who was a proponent of destroying the Federation.”

“So what you’re saying is: the Tal Shiar is interested in destroying the Federation,” Henderson clarified, “Well surely the Tal Shiar is fully aware of the fact that terrorism gets nowhere.  They wouldn’t attack Starbase 334 unless it gave the Federation some tactical advantage.”

“Admiral Henderson, don’t be so sure that you are dealing with two separate problems.”  Lieutenant Shadday, from the Pike was standing in the doorway.

“Lieutenant, I thought I told you to stay on the ship and look for that book.”  Captain Erickson yelled sternly at him.

“I found it, Captain,” Shadday’s voice had a smug slithery tone to it that caused everyone to be uneasy; “In fact I never lost it.”

“What do you mean?”  Captain Erickson was trying to hide her terror from the implications of both his tone of voice, and what it was saying.

“I mean, Captain, I swiped the book and read it.”  Shadday now had a huge grin across his face, and he walked towards the command staff.

“Lieutenant Shadday, you should know your bounds,” Captain Smith scolded Shadday.

“Oh, I know my bounds, Captain.  I also know my duty.”  Shadday assured Smith.

“Oh hell no.”  Smith had a look of wide-eyed terror mixed with hatred on his face.

“He’s not…”  Griffin suddenly caught her Captain’s brainwave.

“I am, Commander,” Shadday had moved in front of the screen, to stand next to a very confused Admiral Henderson.  In fact, everyone except Smith, Griffin, and Shadday, was thoroughly discombobulated about what he was saying, “See, we had heard that the Obsidian Order and the Tal Shiar had double teamed.  Considering the events of both governments for the past four years, we knew that wasn’t a good thing.  We were desperately trying to find out why they were doing this, and what they intended to do.  Then I found out that we had taken some information from the Cardassians.  I just had to get a look at it.  And, as fate would have it, this book ended up in my hands,” He indicated the book, which he had under one arm, “To complete this perfect picture, it was exactly what we were looking for.”

“Wait a second, who is ‘we.’”  Henderson asked him, thoroughly lost.

“Section 31, Admiral.”  Shadday responded candidly.

“Section 31 of what?”  Shadday’s answer did nothing to clear up Henderson’s confusion.

“Section 31 of the Starfleet Charter, Admiral,” Captain Smith was now glaring at Lieutenant Shadday with pure hatred.  Henderson was still confused, “Section 31 creates a Federation counterpart to the Tal Shiar.”

“The Federation has a Tal Shiar?”  Henderson was alarmed.

“That’s a bit of an exaggeration, Admiral.  We don’t push anybody’s agenda other than the Federation Council’s,” Shadday reasoned.

“Even if they ignore the laws the Council passes,” Griffin pitched in, just as loathing of Shadday.

“The point is, Admiral,” Shadday ignored Griffin’s comment, “The Federation is in very deep trouble.”

“So long as you are here to blacken our name, you’re right!”  Smith accused Shadday.

“Captain, you make it sound like we’re enemies.”  Shadday dismissed him.

“We sure as hell aren’t friends!”  Smith rebutted.

“Captain, please.  I don’t know what this Section 31 has done to wrong you, but Lieutenant Shadday is the only Federation citizen who has read that book, and I need to know what’s there.  Unless, you have a solid reason not to trust him.” Henderson interjected.  Smith was silent.

“Admiral, in this case… Section 31 can be trusted.”  Griffin resigned, not wanting to say that, but professionalism got the better of her.

“Then I will hear him,” Henderson decided.  Griffin and Smith returned to their seats, and leaned back with crossed arms, both equally as annoyed, “Don’t think I’m doing you any favors, though.”  Tom growled at Shadday, taking a seat at the first table.

“Thank you, Admiral,” Shadday was truly grateful, “In this book, the Cardassian Obsidian Order reports the Tal Shiar has given them information about a secret assault the Federation is planning.  It’s supposedly in the highest levels of the government, and hasn’t quite trickled down to Starfleet yet.  This attack is supposedly a full-scale invasion of the Cardassian Union.”

“That’s ridiculous!  Why would the Federation invade the Cardassians?”  Erickson blurted out.

“According to Tal Shiar intelligence, the Federation wants to make it easier for their merchants to trade in h’sencar.  The plans involve taking the major factory worlds, and the plantation worlds.  This would effectively make h’sencar production simple for the Federation because of our economy.”  Shadday continued, answering Rachel’s question.

“Are you kidding me?  That kind of an assault would require us to take over three-fourths of Cardassian space.  The Federation is not ready for a war of that scale.”  Captain Matthews spoke out.

“The Cardassians are even less equipped than we are, we could pull it off,” Henderson reasoned, “Plus, with how high the demand is for h’sencar the merchants have probably been putting pressure on the Federation Council.”

“Admiral, please don’t tell me you are believing this load of B-S the Tal Shiar came up with!”  Captain Smith was alarmed.

“Captain, with the Federation President we have, I honestly believe he would do something like this.”  Henderson pointed out.

“Admiral, the Federation has values against economic conquest.”  Sara James tried to convince Tom.

“Before the Dominion War, Captain, the Federation believed Starfleet’s primary mission was peaceful exploration and secondary mission was the defense of the Federation,” Henderson was starting to get passionate, “Now, the battleships in Starfleet outnumber the science ships four to one!  Before the Dominion War, Starfleet didn’t maintain any infantry to speak of, now we have full blown Marine Corps whose primary and only purpose is ground and aerial combat.  Look at those changes and tell me that the Federation is a group of pacifists!  Look at those changes and tell me we still have the same values!  The Cardassians have always been on our hit list, even when we did believe in peace.  Now, we are just itching for an excuse to go wipe them out, and let me tell you, Captain, we will.  The Federation has been transformed from a peace club to a nation.  We will look out for our best interests before exploration or peace.”

After Henderson had finished his speech, everyone was in shock.  Henderson had gotten so passionate about this whole thing that he was on his feet pounding his fist on the table at every other syllable.  What he said was terrifying as well.  Everyone here had lived through those changes in Starfleet; they had even served in Starfleet when those changes were made.  What was terrifying about Tom’s speech was that it was true.  The Federation no longer put peace and exploration before all.  Starfleet crewmen were being taught to be warriors, not scientists.  Captains were learning, and practicing, the art of gunboat diplomacy.  The times had changed.  It happened so slowly that nobody noticed.  Just like the famous cliché of the frog in boiling water.  The slower the temperature rises, the less the frog notices until… it is cooked.

“You’re quite right, Admiral,” Shadday said after a few moments of silence, “The Federation is not the same nation it was going into the Dominion War.  But we are not barbarians.”  This statement, coming from a Section 31 operative surprised Smith and Griffin, “We are not to the point where we will invade another, weaker, nation for something as petty as cloth.  We would only invade the Cardassian Union if they posed a direct threat to us.”

“How can you be so sure?”  Henderson inquired; his voice dark.

“Section 31 has long arms, Admiral.  I had this rumor checked out, because I saw the same changes you did.  The Federation’s only plans for the Union is relief efforts.  The same thing we have been doing for the past four years,” Shadday responded, “The Tal Shiar created this rumor so the Obsidian Order would plan a preemptive attack against the Federation.  An attack that would collapse the Federation.  Picking up where Shinzon left off.”

“I thought the Cardassians were incapable of fighting the Federation,” Commander Bryan Jensen asked, “How would they collapse us?”

“Have you ever heard of a Dreadnaught missile?”

“No.”

“It’s a Cardassian weapon that has an explosive yield high enough to turn Earth into the second Sol asteroid belt,” Shadday answered morbidly, “They were going to equip one with Thorean radiation.  You know, that stuff the Enterprise reported having encountered.  The radiation that killed the Romulan senate, sound familiar?

“What were they going to do?  Blow up Earth and then radiate it?”  Henderson asked, almost sarcastically.

“No,” Shadday chuckled, “Building standard Dreadnaughts is too resource-intensive for the Cardassians.  However, creating those weapons with Thorean Radiation, it’s a cinch.”

“Especially when it’s supplied by the local Tal Shiar dealer.”  Smith finished Shadday’s thought.  Henderson stood from his seat and walked to a corner of the situation room.  The Federation was coming to an end.  After the Borg, the Dominon, countless enemies, assassination attempts, unknown alien organisms, the enduring Federation was now looking death in the eye.  This was way too much for a man who had just been made a Flag Officer in this nation.

“So what do we do?”  Commander Harp asked, to anyone who would answer.

Henderson stood in the corner and thought.  He had flipped when he made his speech about the direction of the Federation.  He believed that, in this time of reconstruction, a more conservative approach was the key to the Federation’s survival.  Still, negotiation is always the best way to deal with things, it is cleaner.  If they sent diplomats… no.  Diplomats would make the situation worse.  What could they do?  The Pike fleet was essentially a group of Cops, they were by far not able to take on two of the most powerful covert operations groups in the Alpha or Beta quadrants.

He looked up, helpless.  One of the screens at the top of the wall looked like it was showing the History Channel.  Why a Starfleet situation room would receive the History Channel, Henderson didn’t know.  It showed a representation of a very ancient Earth battle.  There were the Roman legions assaulting whoever it was they were going to conquer.  In the chaos of the archaic battle, a Roman Ensign stood on top of a hill, waving his unit’s standard.  It reminded Henderson of a story he had been told when he was young.

“‘And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote up on it’,” Henderson began to quote a few memorable lines, speaking slowly, softly, and pausing at each natural break “‘In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children – and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.’”

“‘And he fastened on his headplate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins,’” Commander Griffin, who was standing right behind Admiral Henderson began to finish his quote, startling him and causing him to spin around to face her, “‘And he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, and he called it the title of liberty…”  She cut off.  The two made eye contact, the right course of action became obvious.

“Alma forty-six twelve,” Shadday commented, “It’s a Section 31 slogan.”

“Really?”  Everyone could tell Captain Smith was about to make a snide remark, “I thought your slogan would be the Gadianton oath.”

“Listen up, people,” Henderson returned to a position in front of the assembled officers.  He ignored Captain Smith’s remark, and had spoken too quickly for Shadday to defend himself, “We are going to stop the Obsidian Order and the Tal Shiar with force.”

“Really, Admiral?” Smith asked, “And after that, are we going to declare war on the Q continuum?”

“Seriously, Captain.  We are going to initiate military action against the Obsidian Order and the Tal Shiar.”  Henderson reassured Smith.

“How do you intend to do that?”  Smith asked, quite honestly.

“We are going to play their game,” Henderson turned to Shadday, “This is where I need your help, I want you to contact thirty-one, see if you can find key personnel we need to take out.”

“One step ahead of you, Admiral.  Thirty-one has an operative hunting down the important people now.”  Shadday responded.

“Good, once you know, come and talk to me.  We will have a meeting to figure out how we are going to nail them.”

Near the Federation Border

The Koval

A dark conference room

“Glinn Yistin, why is it that you wanted that woman?”  The Romulan standing in the dark corner, unseen, asked the Glinn who just entered through the door.

“Personal reasons, General.  I felt she could be useful for the plan.”  The Cardassian tried to defend himself.

“If she is useful for the plan, then it isn’t that personal, now is it?”  The Romulan came close enough to the light threshold to allow his face to be seen, but not far enough into the light that his face was discernable to the detail, “Besides, Glinn, the plan involves the death of all humans, does it not?”

“That’s a lofty goal, General…” Yistin began.

Are you contradicting me?”  The harsh voice in the dark shouted.

“No, General,” Yistin replied, humbly, “I was intent on her death after she had… serviced me.”

“We can not waste time with personal pleasures, Glinn,” the Romulan disappeared back into the darkest corner of the room, “Not now, not when we are so close to our centuries-old dream,” he paused, as if in thought, “No, we can’t be distracted.  Not by a woman, not by this missing book.  Act now, Glinn.  Act now and whether or not the Federation has that book will not matter,” His hand left the light, playing with a rose that was set on a table underneath a large window showing the stars, “No it won’t matter one bit.”  The cold green hand fixed itself around the flower, crushing the petals.

to be concluded…

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