So, the Cardassian's can be useful afterall...
Episode 6: War Crimes
Location: Ready Room
Timeline: MD142, 1015 Hours
It had been a long trip, but William Hunt, now proudly wearing the pips of a Lieutenant Commander, was finally aboard Starbase 72. Now here he was on the gangway towards the USS Nogura alongside Commodore Nilani Azulas, ready to meet Captain Drayton.
He had pieced together some key bits of intelligence that the ship’s CO should see. He managed to get an audience with the Commodore two days earlier to present the information, prompting an immediate departure on board a runabout to 72.
Security let them board without any issue. They proceeded via turbolift directly to the Captain’s Ready Room.
It had been roughly a week since normal service had been resumed on the Nogura following the ships evacuation and subsequent investigation into the explosion aboard ship. The crew had worked exceptionally hard in difficult circumstances and the Captain had seen a great sense of determination in them. It was a uniting force; Nogura and Ulysses finally coming together to solve the mystery and becoming one entity under the Ulysses commander aboard the Nogura itself. He'd given everyone two days shore-leave to take a break after the tense times of recent days, but that hadn't included him. He'd decided to stay aboard the Nogura and get accustomed to the ship, whilst also completing all the necessary paperwork from the investigation.
That was until he had been informed that a certain former commander of HIS ship had appeared on Seventy-Two and requested permission to come aboard. Wondering what had brought the Commodore to Nogura again for the first time since the inquest less than a month ago, the Captain had granted the request and awaited the Commodore in his ready room. It wasn't long before the chime rang and he granted the guest permission to enter.
"Come!" he beckoned.
Entering the room, companion in tow, Commodore Azulas stopped just short of the desk and took in her surroundings again. It had been only a short while, but the decor, the trinkets, even the positioning of the holographic communicator had changed. Clearly Drayton was putting his mark on things. "Captain," she nodded as the man behind the desk rose and they shook hands. "This is Lieutenant Commander William Hunt. He's a strategic operations officer and has intelligence about your missing men," she told, gesturing to the Commander as she and the Captain took seats.
“Thank you, Commodore,” William said as he stood in front of the two superior officers. “Captain Drayton, sources within the Cardassian government volunteered to a known Starfleet Intelligence operative that the terrorist known as Monhok was killed following an arms deal gone wrong between him and the Order of Twelve. Cardassian intelligence had operatives inside the Order. They disrupted the arms deal, which resulted in the deaths of Monhok and several mid-level Order operatives.”
"Damn Commander," Colby grinned as he relaxed in his chair and gestured for the man to take a seat next to the Commodore. "Nothing like straight to the point! So, is there anyway we can actually verify this is true?" the Captain asked, looking between the two officers opposite him with a touch more seriousness in his tone. If it was true, it would be big news for his people.
Will took the seat. “The Cardassian agent who shared the information to ours is known to be trustworthy. On multiple occasions he’s given us good intelligence, usually for some end that benefits Cardassia as much as us. Our operative wasn't stupid though. He asked for proof, and was shown convincing images and a DNA scan of the corpse. If they’re faking, then they’re putting a lot of effort into it.”
“We’ve assessed,” Will continued, “that the intelligence is real and was given in order to improve relations between Earth and Cardassia before the Breloc Tejar trial begins. We can expect the Embassy of Cardassia on Earth will demarche the Palais in the next few weeks, seeking assurances that Tejar is tried fairly. I think they’re hoping we’re more likely to respond positively if they help us stop a known terrorist.”
"We have no reason to doubt any of this intelligence Captain and it is Starfleet Command's intention to proceed as such, however the Commander has more for you. Information that I am certain will make your day," Nilani grinned, again ceding the floor to the Commander.
Will smiled slightly. He knew why Drayton would appreciate this next part. “The Cardassian government has also apprehended one Thalek th’Zorati. He was captured in an incident unrelated to Monhok’s death. Our embassy on Cardassia Prime confirmed his identity and has provided the former Captain with limited consular assistance. He is awaiting extradition to the Federation, efforts for which are underway. Though I’m fairly certain the Cardassians did a number on him before notifying us, he is in reasonably good health and has been fairly cooperative.”
At that revelation, Drayton sat forward in his chair and glared at the Commander intently. "Let me get this straight. You're telling me that Andorian frakker is in custody and it was the Cardassians that caught him?"
William smiles widely. “Yes, sir!”
"Well frak!" Drayton slapped the desk top as he slumped back into his chair with a massive grin on his face. "You wait ages for the Cardassian's to do something useful and they come along and solve two of our issues all at once! Don't get me wrong, I wish it had been us, but I'm just happy that bastard traitor is in custody," he grinned. "Please say we're going to pick him up and drag him to Federation space Commodore," he queried.
"Afraid not Captain," Azulas shook her head as she produced a data PADD and slid it across the desk to the Captain. "You are to head galactic south and report to Starbase 214 for a mission into an area known as 'the Wastelands'," the Trill revealed. "Starfleet wants you to investigate the possibility of the Alrakis Pact making inroads into the area and what impact that might have on operations in the Inconnu Expanse, whilst taking the opportunity to explore and make contact with new species."
“It’s a swath of space between Talarian and Kzinti space,” explained Will. “No governing body controls it. What few Federation citizens have come this way report that locals do what they must to survive in a generally lawless region. Starbase 214 is our only installation there at present. Starfleet has plans to send science vessels into the region, but this new threat by the Alrakis Pact necessitates more muscle than a Dumont-class can provide.”
"In other words," the Captain grinned enthusiastically as he sat forward on his chair, "a chance to boldly go where no one has gone before?"
Drayton's enthusiasm was infectious and caused the Commodore to nod in agreement as a smile engulfed her face. "Precisely. A chance for this crew to get back to what Starfleet was founded to do," she revealed as the three officers shared grins with one another. "Commander Garen has accepted a posting with the new Bajoran government which means Commander Hunt here will be staying aboard as your new Strategic Operations Officer."
Colby nodded as he offered a hand towards the Commander. "Welcome to the Nogura Commander," he smiled.
Will returned the man’s smile and shook the CO’s hand. “Thank you, sir. I look forward to working with you.” He put his other hand up, gesturing with a finger to wait a moment. “There was one other piece of information you should be aware of, sir. Cardassian authorities have given our embassy a transcript of their interrogation of th’Zorati. It’s...not pretty so I’ll spare you the details. But one thing he revealed is that the devices used to sabotage this ship and USS Ulysses were prototypes. Only a few were made and apparently they only used them on those two ships. We’re uncertain how many he deployed on Nogura, but we are confident neither he nor anyone loyal to him deployed such devices on additional ships.”
"Great," the Captain shook his head slowly, so we just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Easy targets."
"Tell the crew what you must Captain, but I urge you to use this as a fresh start for them. They have been through so much, it's time for them to have some time to regroup and remind them why they joined the fleet in the first place," the Commodore told as she rose from her seat. "You leave in three days at zero-nine-hundred. You'll have to use the slipstream drive to reach your destination on time, so it'll give you an ample opportunity for Commander Millarini to conduct a few more trial runs and show that the system works," the Trill revealed, nodding respectfully to the Captain and the Commander before departing from the ready room, leaving Drayton and Hunt alone.
"So, the Wastelands huh? Can't imagine there are many down there that will welcome our presence..." Drayton remarked as he walked out from behind his desk and headed for the doors, gesturing for the Commander to follow him to the bridge.
"No, sir, probably not," said William as he followed the Captain out of the ready room. He was in awe of the large, highly advanced control area. He had seen it before, on his way up, but he had been with the Commodore and hadn't had time to look at it properly. This was where the action happened, and where decisions were made. And where William Hunt could do some good. "I'm told my belongings are being transferred aboard, too, sir. If there's nothing else, I'd be grateful for the opportunity to find my quarters and my office, and get to work putting together a proper briefing on the Wastelands."
"Computer," the Captain called out as he approached the command chair in the centre of the room and awaited its customary tone of acknowledgement. Upon receiving it, he continued. "Activate the commission of Lieutenant Commander William Hunt as Strategic Operations Officer. Activate command codes and security access codes, authorisation Drayton-Alpha-Six-Three," he ordered.
After a few seconds of working, the computerised female voice called out; "Recognised, William Hunt, Lieutenant Commander. Appropriate access codes verified."
"Alright Commander," the Captain smiled as he took the command chair, "dismissed."
Will smiled. It was a minor act, activating his commission aboard Nogura, but an important one, and that Captain Drayton had waited until they were on the bridge with the other officers meant a lot to Will. “Thank you, sir.” He nodded once at the Captain and headed to the turbolift.
Will’s Quarters were only two decks down, and indeed his two duffels and the carrier containing his cat Liviana had already been delivered. The cat was freed and fed while Will quickly organized his effects, found his office on a ship layout chart, and got to work on his new assignment.