Secrets Exposed Part 2
Posted on Sat Jun 16th, 2018 @ 10:41pm by Vice Admiral Mitchell Hanson & Commodore Nilani Azulas & Commander Tara Neprem & Master Chief Petty Officer Andrea Carter
Edited on on Sat Jun 16th, 2018 @ 10:42pm
Episode 4: Whispers In the Dark
When she received the call, Master Chief Petty Officer Andrea Carter was in the industrial replicator bay assisting a few Engineers preparing the structural integrity units that were to be sent down to the expeditionary team in dire of them; they had needed a hand and she was more than willing to lend her help in between systems checks. She stuck out among the other Engineers, and not simply because of her fiery red hair or the remnants of Borg implants, but because she still wore the orange jumpsuit bearing the markings of the New Bajor Fleetyard. Once redirected to meet with the Captain, Andy finished loading the units to a grav lift so they could be taken to the transporter, then she excused herself to answer the summons, making her way to the Bridge and giving the Ready Room chime a press.
"Come in," the voice of the Captain called from within.
"Reporting as ordered?" Andy said formally as she entered, but there was no mistaking the hint of confusion in her tone seeing as how she had not been given any indication what this meeting was about.
"Thank you for coming so promptly Master Chief," the Captain smiled as she stood next to the replicator. "Can I offer you a drink?" the Trill asked.
"Uh, yeah actually, coffee, cream and sugar," Andy replied. "If this is about the shakedown, it's proceeding well; been meaning to schedule a stress test of the warp core and structural integrity fields at maximum warp, but otherwise the Nogura is looking really good, I should be out of your hair in a couple more weeks."
"No, no," the Captain shook her head as the replicator carried out her request; a coffee with cream and sugar for the visitor and a hot chocolate for herself. She lifted the tray with the two drinks and lead the way to the nearby sofa. She gestured for the woman to join her as she took her seat. "I'm glad the shakedown is going so well, but that isn't why I called you here, Andrea. There is something we need to talk about."
"Uh, Andy, please; only my mother calls me Andrea," the ex-Borg woman replied as she took her coffee, but instead of joining Nilani on the couch, she grabbed a chair in front of the Captain's desk and pulled it closer to the couch, taking up residence in this chair to hear what Nilani had to say.
Nilani pondered for a few seconds as she took a sip of her drink. How would she broach this with the former drone? How would she want someone to do so with her in reverse? "Tell me about JP," she eventually spoke, quieter than usual.
Andy's eyes went wide. "H... how do you know about JP?" she asked in return, clearly uncomfortable with this topic. And it was then that Andy had the sudden urge to contact the transport to make sure her boy was okay.
Nilani placed her mug on the coffee table between them and took a big, deep breath. "Andy, there is no easy way to say this. He's gone missing," the Captain revealed as she slid a PADD across the coffee table with all the data that she had opted to reveal to the woman on it. "We have lines of enquiry that we are following and I've asked Admiral Ryan for permission to lead the search here in the Gamma Quadrant. If he is here, we will find him," the Trill tried to assure the Operations Officer.
"No..." Andy said, shaken by this news. She nearly dropped her coffee in shock, but she managed to set the mug aside before it could slip from her metal plated fingers. "No, this has to be a mistake, y-you've made a mistake, he can't be missing, you're wrong!" Andy insisted, trying to hold on to a sliver of doubt. But even she knew the seriousness of the situation if the Captain was asking the Admiralty for the lead on the investigation. "How?" she finally asked in acceptance of this truth.
"We have reason to believe both JP and his caretaker have been abducted," the Captain revealed truthfully. "Evidence in their quarters suggests they may have been drugged, with initial findings pointing to the Consortium, but this is so far removed from their usual methods of operation that I don't think it can be them. Commander Neprem is working with the team at Deep Space Eleven, investigating the transport."
Andy nodded numbly. "I, uh..." She ran a hand down her face, her mismatched eyes darting about in disorientation; normally when she received bad news, she would get angry or indignant, but now she didn't know how to act, all she knew was that it felt like she couldn't breathe! "I need a secure channel to Mitch Hanson... and priority on the wormhole communications array if he's in the Alpha Quadrant," she said in a quiet tone.
Nilani couldn't help but shake her head. Why was she surprised? Of course she would contact Hanson, she was there to spy for him afterall. "Checking in with your master?" the Captain scoffed, "I already told you we're going to take care of this."
Andy glared at Nilani, her anger finally rising. "You shut up," Andy barked out with a scowl, her hands clenching into fists at her sides as she rose to her feet. "You think you know so much, know what I have to say to him?! I think the man deserves to know his son is missing, don't you?" she said in an accusing tone, but in truth she hadn't meant to reveal so much to the Captain.
Nilani would, had it not been for her command training, have stood there open mouthed at the revelation that they were no longer just looking for the Master Chief's child, but also the child of a senior Admiralty member. The stakes had raised significantly in mere seconds. "I'll give you the room," the Captain responded quietly and departed the ready room and made her way onto the bridge.
Andy remained standing for a moment after Nilani left, breathing hard as she tried to rein in her turbulent emotions; she needed to be calm when she told Mitch about JP, so she took the time to catch her breath then drew her chair back to the desk and sat back down. She paused a moment longer, then retrieved the PADD on the coffee table to learn everything she could before finally reaching across the desk to turn the console around so she could access it. A secure channel had been set up and was waiting for her, so she made the call and waited with her breath caught in her throat.
The screen swiftly turned from the blinking Starfleet Command logo to the familiar face of her beau, Vice Admiral Mitchell Hanson, from his office on Earth. "Andy," he was about to smile and share the usual long distance pleasantries when he noticed the look on her face. "What's wrong? Azulas isn't giving you too much grief about me again is she?"
"Uh, well, you see, about that..." Andy meandered as she thought about how to break the news. "Uh, you know how sometimes the Doctor can't use a dermal regenerator and he'll have to use adhesive strips to help protect a wound or to keep it closed, which is all fine until you have to remove the little buggers because they hurt like a sonofabitch when you pull them off? Well, I'm just gonna do this quick and painful so we can get that bit over with: you have a son, and he's missing," Andy rambled, blurting out the big surprise at the end in a hurried rush.
"I... You..." the man on the screen looked flabbergasted but eventually managed to string more than two words together. "A son? When? Who? What do you mean he's missing?"
"Yeeeeeeah," Andy said, drawing the word out in her discomfort. "Um, you remember that last night on the Lexi when you asked me to take the Officer exam so I could go with you when you accepted that promotion? Well... I, uh... I didn't know... I swear I didn't know then that I was... Fuck..." Andy tried to explain, but for her this was proving to be the single hardest thing she'd ever done. "I wanted to tell you, I really did, I just... I got scared; we both made our choices when we parted ways, and I didn't resent those choices, but when I found out I was pregnant, I didn't want you second guessing your choices or... choosing to be with me because of a kid..." Andy sighed. "You- you can hate me all you want for not telling you, you have every right, but right now I just... I just want him back and I need you to- Fuck, I don't know what I need!" After a deep, shuddering breath, she continued. "I left him with my aunt and uncle in Montana when it wasn't practical to keep him with me, but I was having him brought out to the Gamma Quadrant now that it was safe, or I thought it was safe, but he never made it to Deep Space 11. It looks like he and his travel guardian were drugged and abducted from their transport, and there's possible connections to the Consortium."
"Listen," Mitch spoke eventually, his command training and calmness prevailing over the tension he was feeling deep down. "We can deal with all of that when we've got..." he trailed off before frowning, "I don't even know his name," he added.
"JP," Andy answered with a sad sort of smile; the name had significance as it was Mitch's father's initials. "Not John Paul like your dad, I don't think I coulda looked myself in the mirror if I named him that... But I still wanted to, you know, honor you, kind of... Jonathan Peter Hart, and before you ask, he knows who you are and there ain't been a day gone by when he hasn't wanted to meet you."
"Well then," he smiled, "Let me assure you, no matter what you may think of her and she of you, there is one thing I know of Nilani Azulas. If she says she's going to do something, she'll do it or die trying. The only way this investigation could go any better now is if I ordered the Enterprise out there because, you know, Picard has a habit of always solving the stuff he gets involved in," Hanson spoke, seemingly a little more relaxed. "But you know the Enterprise, she's off being 'the only ship in the area' on some sort of mission elsewhere," he mocked, making reference to the well known fact that the Enterprise always seemed to get the important missions, but not this time. "Work with Azulas. Tell her to use whatever resources necessary and I'll deal with the fallout for her. If anyone can find JP, she can," he tried his best to reassure her but deep down, he couldn't help but feel more than a little anxious.
"I ain't got a problem with her," Andy admitted. "I'm pretty sure she's got a problem with me, but it ain't stopped me from doing my job so far... I just reached out because you had a right to know all along and I'm sorry it took him getting abducted for me to finally tell you about JP. And not to sound needy, but... I was kinda hoping you could pull yourself away from whatever you were doing to, I don't know, be... emotional... and stuff... you know... with me... Was also kinda hoping for the in-person touchy-feely bullshit I usually hate, but I'll settle for a sub-space breakdown if that's all you can spare time for," she went on to confess, her voice breaking slightly at the end.
"No promises, but I'll try and get out there," Mitch sighed, looking off to the side briefly before back at the screen. "In the meantime, I'll contact James and get him to debrief me. What's the point of having a friend in Task Force Command if you cant call on them from time to time," the older Terran smiled, making reference to the new Task Force Executive Officer. "I'll be in touch," he concluded with a sombre smile before disappearing from the screen, once again being replaced by the flashing Starfleet logo.
Andy stared at the screen for a moment, a stray tear slipping down her cheek; she was quick to wipe away the offending moisture, then reached out to deactivate the console. She grabbed her mug of coffee and went to take a sip, then stopped before the mug touched her lips; after a day like this, she needed something a lot stronger than coffee...
[On The Bridge...]
Nilani paced away at the front of the bridge, ignoring the duty officer who looked her way for some sort of indication that she wanted command of the bridge back.
Tara had concluded her search for answers and made her way back to the Bridge as Nilani had requested earlier, but she was surprised to see the Trill woman pacing outside her own office. "Captain? Is everything alright?" Tara asked as she approached.
"No it isn't," the Captain shook her head and pointed to the doors at the back of the bridge that led to the Observation Lounge. "In there," she ordered before practically sprinting that way herself.
Tara nodded and followed Nilani to the Observation Lounge. "I'm guessing she didn't take the news too well," she mused once they were safely in the privacy of the Lounge. "Then again, what parent would take that kind of news well?"
"Well I can't imagine the father is taking it too well," Nilani frowned once the doors had closed and she stood staring into space, her hands on her hips in utter frustration. "She's in there right now, breaking the news to him."
"Ooh, that can't be good," Tara replied with a wince. Then a thought struck her. "She wouldn't have happened to say who the father was, now did she?" she asked curiously.
Nilani slowly turned to the Commander and looked at her with glaring eyes. "Vice Admiral Hanson," she told, almost in contempt before turning back to the window. "The shits really going to hit the fan now..."
"Oh no..." Tara replied as her face paled, all the pieces in her head fitting together. "Uhhh, Captain? I think we have a problem, a very very bad problem: I think Hunter's behind this."
Nilani slowly but surely turned around to face the Strategic Operations Officer, the frown from before replaced by a scowl that was scarcely seen from the usually placid Trill. "Tell me you're joking?"
"Oh I wish I was, Captain." Tara clasped her hands behind her back to maintain her composure. "The connection to the Consortium via the hypospray is largely circumstantial, but it's one I can't ignore, and then there's the abduction itself, it's not how the Consortium usually operates, but it's something Hunter would do. And the registration falsification, that is something I worked on with Hunter when we were shoring up Security on Deep Space 10! But the real evidence is the boy and his mother, neither one of them are worth this kind of effort! Don't get me wrong, the Master Chief is a gifted and inventive Engineer, but Starfleet is full of gifted Engineers, and the boy is just a boy. But a parent doesn't go through as much effort as I have discovered the Master Chief went through to hide her son's identity, not unless there's a damned good reason, meaning either a social-political need to keep him a secret, not really a problem in the Federation, or she was keeping him a secret from the father, and this struck a chord with me: you see, Hunter has a daughter that was kept from him, and he finally met her for the first time while we were on Deep Space 10. It was later revealed that Hanson had known about Hunter’s daughter and had worked with the mother to keep her secret in order to help Hunter’s career. I think he's torturing his mentor the same way he felt he was tortured when he found out about his daughter..."
Nilani had listened to the overwhelming speech from the Commander and whilst it seemed somewhat far fetched, she couldn’t help but think about novels she had read. People were often motivated by revenge and would enact their revenge in a manner reminiscent of how they had been treated. Was it possible that she was right, and that the Nogura’s arch enemy was responsible for this? It certainly couldn’t be ruled out.
“Okay, let’s say you are right,” the senior Trill nodded as she took a seat at the observation lounge table, “Hunter is one of the most infamous people in the Quadrant, he can’t move anywhere freely. It is safe to assume this ship, the Carpathia, is his. Did we have any joy tracing her warp signature?”
"I know it's a stretch, but I was brought out here to profile and hunt Nathan Hunter, so it was hard not to make the leap once I started noticing the connections," Tara replied. "As for the warp signatures, Deep Space 11 managed to isolate a possible route, and the trajectory is aimed in our general direction, assuming the 'Carpathia' didn't make any course adjustments once at warp. Captain th'Zorati has already offered to run down this course until we can take over the chase, and he forwarded visuals of the ship itself so we know what we're looking for."
“I’ll contact the Away Team and fill them in on the situation. We’ll leave them with whatever they need and then we’ll join the hunt. Co-ordinate with the Thesis and fill them in on what we know. We also need to bring Lieutenant Thawn in on this, I’ll leave that to you,” the Captain ordered as she pushed herself up from the chair. “I have a call to make to Admiral Hanson,” she revealed reluctantly, a call she was not looking forward to making. “I think we should put the Master Chief on the bridge at Ops in Yole’s absence. We can keep an eye on her but involve her as needed.”
"Are you certain that is a wise course of action, Captain? The Master Chief has a record of being rather... unpredictable even when not stressed," Tara pointed out.
"If she is on the bridge, I can keep an eye on her and stop her from doing anything stupid or rash," the Captain informed. She then stopped and turned back to look at her fellow Trill. "Speaking of something potentially stupid or rash," the Captain smiled in a way that meant only one thing; she was concocting something. "In the XO's absence, you are acting First Officer. Congratulations, Tara!" she exclaimed.
Tara gave Nilani a deadpan glare. "Gee, thanks..." she said in a dull tone, then continued more seriously. "You do realized I resigned as XO for a good reason, right? I made some bad choices, mistakes for which I am still atoning. But if you are certain I am up for the task, I will do my best not to let you down." As I once did with Nathan...
"Great men do not seek power... they have power thrust upon them," Nilani quoted as she crossed her arms over her chest. "Everyone makes mistakes Commander. Since you have been here, you have served this ship well. It's time to move on from the mistakes of the past and move forward with life. That starts today," the Captain's face changed a little as she placed a reassuring hand on her fellow Trill's shoulder and squeezed, "by finding JP Hart and bringing that scumbag Nathan Hunter to justice."
Tara tried to suppress the wince she made at the harsh words directed at Nathan; even after all the evidence she had seen of Hunter's misdeeds, and even her own theory of his involvement of JP's abduction, it was still difficult for Tara to see Nathan as the enemy. "Yes, justice..." Tara said uneasily. Knowing it was likely impossible for Nilani to have missed such a reaction, Tara sigh and squared her shoulders. "Don't worry, Captain, I will do what is required of me regardless of my personal feelings on the matter."
Personal feelings aside, the Captain couldn’t help but wonder if her fellow Trill would be true to her word, but she wouldn’t have long to find out.