Episode 5: The Adversary (Joint Mission)
Location: New Bajor
Timeline: MD119, 1830 Hours
Isolated, alone, frustrated. Those were just some of the emotions that the Consortium captive had felt lately since being cooped up in his cell. He was still waiting on Commander Kane to come good on her promises following their little ‘chat’ several days earlier. Save for mealtimes, the former Captain saw no one and for a man who was actually quite a people person deep down, that was quite painful. He lay on the bed of his cell, his legs crossed and tapping his right foot against the bulkhead at the end of his bed as he stared at the ceiling, his hands clasped together under his head. Man he was bored.
His solitude was finally disrupted when an Officer entered the cell, setting a chair before the forcefield that protected the staff from Hunter’s wrath. Then, without saying a word, he left, once again leaving Hunter alone, but not for long. Shortly afterwards, a familiar auburn-haired Trill was ushered in, then the cell was secured so that they could talk privately. Tara approached the forcefield, staring at Hunter for a moment with a saddened expression, before finally taking a seat in the chair.
“Hello,” she said softly.
Nathan remained on his bed but slowly turned his head to look out beyond the cell - some company at last. “Well, if it isn’t Little Miss Insecure,” he grinned from his relaxed position. “To what do I owe this pleasure?” he queried curiously.
“I’m not nearly as insecure as you may believe,” Tara replied. Arnon had been right to caution her about visiting Nathan, and she was taking his words to heart, prepared for his barbed words. “The Nogura will be departing soon, and I don’t know when we’ll be back, so I wanted to come say good-bye now while I had the chance.”
“Poor Tara,” the man spoke in a sympathetic tone as he finally sat up and swung his legs round, sitting on the edge of his bed. “You still have this misguided perception that we were friends, don’t you?” he asked in a rather condescending way.
Tara scoffed. “At this point, I couldn’t care less what you think,” she admitted. “Maybe to you I am just the dirt under your feet, but for me that friendship was real, and nothing you can say can change that. I’m here to honor that friendship and remember the man you once were, not this… whatever it is you’ve devolved into.”
The quiet, demur man suddenly changed and lunged at the Force field, smashing it with both hands. “FRIENDSHIP?! Where were you when I needed you?! Where were you when I had problems?!” He yelled in frustration before relaxing and returning to his seat. “Don’t talk to me about friendship. You don’t know the meaning of the word,” he declared.
“I know you’re hurting, Nathan, and I know I failed you before, but I’m here now,” Tara said calmly. And for as much as his accusations hurt her, deep inside she was filled with hope, because he wouldn’t be so angry with her if that friendship hadn’t been real on his part as well. “And if you still need a friend, I want you to know that I will be here for you however I can.”
“You want to be my friend?” he asked, looking up at her with pained eyes for the first time, “Then get me out of here, please. Let me go and I swear I’ll disappear, never to be heard from again,” he pleaded.
“I said ‘however I can’, but this I cannot do,” Tara replied in a pained tone. “Even if I could, I wouldn’t, because we both know you would never disappear for good. Be honest with me, if it had been me that turned traitor and killed indiscriminately and you had to hunt me down, would you release me?”
“Indiscriminately?!” Hunter scoffed. “Every single person that died, died for a reason. From your perspective, we’re all evil killers, but from our perspective, you all caused this; not us,” the former Captain spoke assuredly before adding “and no, I wouldn’t release you. But then you would never be in this position, would you?”
“A reason? Tell that to the grieving families on New Bajor, innocent civilians who didn’t ask to be part of this,” Tara replied. “And the boy you kidnapped, that had nothing to do with the Consortium agenda, you hated his father enough to kill an innocent child. If there is something I’m missing in all this, then please tell me, because I’m so confused, Nathan!”
“I wouldn’t have killed the boy! I’m not some frigging barbarian you know,” Hunter spoke with a raised eyebrow. “No one has ever asked me how many people I have actually killed you know, how many people that I pulled the trigger on. They simply assume that I have killed masses of people because of the group I am associated with and what they have done,” he shook his head. “I’m misunderstood,” he concluded wistfully.
“Then tell me,” Tara said softly. “Tell me, how many?”
“Two,” he told matter of factly. “Two on the Nogura, preventing my escape. I couldn’t let myself be captured. The truth is, I killed more people while in command of starships than I could ever do as part of this group, and so will you have,” he told her with an assured smile. “How many ships have you fired upon? Destroyed? How many conflicts have you fought in? People die every day in war. You know, we’re a bit like the Maquis,” he revealed. “We rebelled, we left the Federation and your government and Starfleet Command just couldn’t accept that anyone would want to leave paradise, so they hunted us down. They made us outlaws. They made alliances to defeat us, only this time, not even the Dominion could wipe us out.”
“Then that was two too many,” Tara replied. “We didn’t start this conflict, and neither did the Maquis in their situation, they were simply reacting to being forced out of their homes. Now you want to ‘leave paradise’?” Tara reached to her chest and removed her commbadge and dropped it onto the floor. “‘I resign’, easy as that and you walk away. But the Consortium attacked without provocation, and so far, I don’t think any demands have been made. In that, you made yourself outlaws,” Tara stated, then leaned down to pick up her commbadge.
“We were forced to leave the Federation, to fend for ourselves. The Federation doesn’t care now, didn’t care two years ago. Hell, no one gave a crap when New Bajor was destroyed by the Dominion the first time,” he rose to his feet again, “yet here you are, less than fifteen years later and all is forgiven for the Dominion. Your new, powerful friends killed thousands of Federation citizens, far more than any casualties we inflicted, but because we chose to fend for ourselves, our way, and leave paradise, we’re treated worse than the Dominion were,” he returned to his seat.
Tara balked at his assertions. “I don’t recall ever forgiving the Dominion,” she stated, very matter-of-factly. “They are not our friends, and they are only tentative allies because of the Consortium. Now what I want to know, is why you keep saying ‘we’? You have no connection to New Bajor, your service has always been in the Alpha Quadrant until the Nogura. This is more than a mere sympathetic reaction to someone else’s pain, you are angry like you’ve been personally slighted, but for the life of me I can’t understand why. Why are you so driven to this cause when you have no connection to it?”
Nathan walked up to the forcefield again and this time, looked around suspiciously before whispering, “Listen very carefully, Tara. I’m undercover for Starfleet Intelligence. I have been since the beginning,” he revealed with a look of utter sincerity on his face.
Tara frowned. Arnon had warned her that Nathan would be manipulative, but she certainly hadn’t expected this! Deep down, some part of her wanted to believe Nathan, because it did make everything make sense; he had only ever repeated vague rhetoric, but she couldn’t ignore her doubts, wondering if it was just the brainwashing talking… She was about to push back and test him, see if he would remain consistent under more questions, but then she heard the cell door open.
“Even now, facing years behind bars and, potentially, even death, he can’t tell the truth,” a familiar voice came from out of the blue, the click-clack of several pairs of heels soon approached the cell.
Commodore Azulas, joined by Captain th’Zorati, Commander Garen and two unknown security officers, came to a halt beside the Nogura’s new executive officer and noted her fellow Trill’s look of confusion. “Commander,” she whispered with a smile before looking at the occupant of the cell. “This cell is far too comfortable for a scumbag like you,” she scolded, before adding, “but that is all about to change,” and she nodded to the Nogura’s Bajoran strategist who input the codes to the Brig cell as the guards drew their weapons and pointed in Hunter’s direction.
A mixture of concern regarding the drawn weapons and also the malicious nature of Azulas’ smile caused Hunter to, for the first time, truly fear that something was about to happen to him. He backed off from the threshold of the cell and looked around them. “No. My deal with Kane said that I could stay here! I told the truth!” he argued loudly.
Nilani let out a satisfied smile, one surprisingly echoed by the Andorian Captain that stood beside her. “I’m rescinding the ‘deal’ you made with Captain Kane. Rank has to have its privileges after all,” the Trill flag officer smirked as she patted Thalek on the back. “He’s all yours, Captain.” With that, the flag officer departed the room without so much as a backwards glance at the traitor.
“Commodore, I must protest!” Tara called out as she rose to her feet and followed Nilani. “How we treat our prisoners of war says a great deal about us. If our promises, our agreements are so easily rescinded, then our word means nothing and we are no better than the Dominion or the Tal Shiar or any other enemy we fought over the years. How can you do this?”
Nilani stopped dead in her tracks and turned, slowly, to look at the executive officer of the Nogura. “You are too close to this traitor Commander,” the Commodore spoke clearly and concisely, the earlier tones of friendship threatening to evaporate quickly as she had her orders questioned. “Not that it is of any concern of yours, yet, but Nathan Hunter has provided us with intelligence on a number of Consortium agents and if we are to act on it, we need him,” the senior Trill informed as she took a step closer to the Commander. “If we tell him that he is there to help us, who knows what he could say or do. Right now, we need him to be worried and to have a little humility for once. Perhaps then, he might actually do the right thing for once,” Nilani began to walk away again before turning back. “Nathan Hunter is NOT a prisoner of war. He is an enemy of the state and a traitor. They are two very different things Commander. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that treason is the one crime still punishable by death…” she trailed off.
“I’m too close? I don’t think I’m the only one,” Tara remarked. Nilani’s reasoning was sound enough, but her repeated displays of anger in regards to Nathan were downright disconcerting, and quite suddenly Tara didn’t know if she could trust her anymore. “I apologize for the impertinence, Commodore, now excuse me,” Tara said formally, then walked away.
“Commander Neprem,” Azulas called out from behind the woman, signalling for her fellow Trill to stop.
Tara stopped and turned around, as ordered. “Ma’am?”
“I am ordering you to stay away from Nathan Hunter unless your duties or orders require contact,” the Commodore spoke sternly as she approached her friend, at least a woman she hoped would be her friend in the coming days. “You may not see now why we are doing this, but in the long run you will. No one and nothing can come before the safety and security of the Federation. If you feel like you are unable to carry out your orders objectively, I can find you an assignment elsewhere,” the Commodore added, but this time in a less formal tone. She hoped that Tara would see sense.
“I thought my loyalties were no longer under scrutiny,” Tara responded stiffly. “I’ve waited weeks, held my tongue, did my counseling like I was supposed to, I finally work up the nerve to see him… I went through proper channels, I get my meeting and now this? Now you feel the need to give me an order like that? I’m not the one who has a problem with objectivity right now.”
“You questioned my orders, in front of several other officers. Your emotional reaction to those orders clearly shows you have more of an issue than you think,” Nilani countered. “If my order preventing you from seeing him is an issue for you, then tough. This is about more than you and that twisted twat in there,” the Commodore scolded, making the discussion personal. “You’re damn right I’m angry and you’re damn right that my objectivity has gone out the window. That thing in there has cost countless people their lives. Did he try telling you the same bullshit that he told intelligence? That he only killed two people? I was on the Nogura! I saw him kill members of his crew, MY crew. For no reason other than self-preservation,” she argued angrily, her skin flushed and her voice threatening to crack. “He is a master manipulator, a coward, a traitor,” she composed herself some more before adding three final words, “...and a murderer.”
“Yes, he is, and you’re letting him manipulate you into a self-destructive spiral,” Tara said, both out of respect for her former commanding officer and now Commodore, and as a friend. “I say this as a friend, you need to learn to check your emotions, because this display is quite unbecoming of someone of your rank,” she continued calmly.
Nilani looked at her fellow Trill in disgust. “We’re done here,” the senior officer remarked and turned away with a shake of her head. Perhaps she had been right about Tara all along? Perhaps the woman wasn’t to be trusted after all, especially where Nathan Hunter was concerned. But whatever friendship they’d had, went out the window with her patronising comment. Nilani simply walked, her head shaking in disbelief at the naivety of her fellow Trill.
Nilani may not have been able to see it, but Tara was simply trying to protect her friends, both of them; as she turned and walked away, she swore to herself that she would find out who, other than Nathan, was manipulating them all...