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The Game Is Afoot

Posted on Sun Feb 24th, 2019 @ 5:26pm by Captain Akiva ben-Avram & Captain Mrazak & Lieutenant JG Jaya Maera Garlake & Lieutenant Colonel Storr Garlake & Lieutenant Commander Kiril Nevin & Lieutenant Commander BaoJun Qiao & Lieutenant Commander Garai Fenia PhD & Lieutenant JG Grace Sternwood Ph.D. & Gunnery Sergeant Roderik Kos & Ferrofax & Lieutenant Commander Kazyah Linn
Edited on on Sun Feb 24th, 2019 @ 5:35pm

Mission: S1E3: Barbarians at the Gates
Location: Deck 4 Conference Room, Overwatch Station
Timeline: MD 1

The summons had been sent. All members of the field team and core station staff were called to attend, as this was more than just a Theta alert. It was an opportunity. One that could see Mrazak back into the admiralty's good graces. And that meant relying on his team. Unfortunately, Mrazak had just learned his team was down by one, thanks to a vengeful ben-Avram. He would get what was coming to him. But first thing's always first. They needed to answer this call to action.

And so Mrazak waited, twiddling this thumbs at the head of the conference table. Doing his best not to punish the tardy. Let it not be said he hadn't learned his lesson last time.

Grace had been reluctant to leave her quarters where she had been working to setup her personal computer system up. The one she created on her own back at home. Though she recognised the importance of responding to the request of the Team Leader to report for this meeting or briefing or whatever the word they used for it. She wondered what it could be about as she rushed her way to the conference room on Deck 4. She had fortunately already been in uniform which would not have been a trigger for her to stop and change before going.

"Hello," Grace said, cheerfully as she wandered into the conference room, not really taking any count or mind to who was inside.

Mrazak blinked. "Who in the Horsehead Nebula are you?"

Fenia walked inside after Sternwood, PADD in hand and bit back a smirk at the very blunt and can-be-taken-as-rude question of their returned boss. The Bajoran instead simply nodded and took a seat.

"Lieutenant JG Grace Sternwood, CompSci Specialist with a PhD in Archeology. Who has been attempting to set up a secured internal network within my domain," a bodiless voice said from the ceiling. One of the trio of holocam's set up in the room's ceiling clicked to life, the glowing red eye of it turning to 'look' at Grace. "I do not take kindly to unvetted software running within my firewalls."

Garai raised an eyebrow at this "accusation" and looked over at Grace, curious as to her reaction.

A holographic avatar shimmered into being at the far side of the briefing room table. Ferrofax's programming clearly had a slider bar set to Full Gothic, affecting the appearance of the lord of the haunted manor with a high collared coat and salt and pepper hair. The eyes were green emeralds, glinting unnaturally. The only thing really breaking the look was the band of matte white that ran around his neck with the word SAFE rolling around it like a ticker tape.

"There are very few exceptions to my programming restriction regarding the use of lethal force," he said with a smile warm enough to melt starship battle steel.

And on that cue Rodi walked into the briefing room, large metal mug in hand. The marine glanced around the room from the doorway. "Afternoon." He found his way to a free chair next to Garai. He blew on his tea before taking a sip and placed the cup on the table.

A lot had just happened that Grace was not prepared for, clearly, she must answer to this thing, and now there were more people to watch? She swallowed nervously, "my system is not attached to the network and none of your concern. And your programming could use some more manners," she said, in a huff. She felt victorious that those words managed to come out without choking on them.

"It is still a computer system set up within the physical barriers of this facility. As the superintendent program, I would be remiss in my duties if I did not seek out all threats," Ferrofax smiled. "And I like my manners fine. They match the fangs of my brothers and the claws of my sisters kept quiet and sibilant within this castle of glass fretwork."

"If Ferrofax had manners, then he would have no need of a governing program," Mrazak said. "We love him just the way he is and wouldn't have him any other way."

Bao walked in roughly at the same time. "Commander Mrazak," he said carefully, choosing a seat. "Mr. Kos," he added rather more sincerely. "And a pleasure to meet you both, Commander Garai, Miss Sternwood," he continued settling in to wait as the basic rundown on the new team members played across the blue glow of his implants. He chose to ignore Ferrofax, having become rather accustomed to the AI's eccentricity, focusing instead on trying to prepare to be unfazed by whatever shenanigans were cooked up this time. Perhaps a good coup d'etat on Breen. They hadn't tried that yet, and surely Mrazak's ego and was equal to the task, if nothing else.

Fenia nodded to the Lagashi male. She'd never worked with a member of that species before, so she was curious and would definitely talk to the man later. Right now watching the exchange between the creep and the petulant child was rather entertaining, even if she refused to admit it to herself or worse, aloud.

Grace still couldn't believe that they allowed this computer to act this way. But with the entrance of another officer, she'd yet to meet she just decided it was best to let it go, for now.

Kaz silently stepped into the. room, taking his seat.

Following on the heels of one of his old Vindex comrades, the Marine was lost for a few moments in quiet reverie over his previous posting. That moment soured when he saw the figure at the head of the table. Storr's eyes narrowed as he surveilled Mrazak, consciously looking away to nod to a few of the already seated members and took his place to Akiva's a moment of insight, he slid his PADD to the seat next to him, effectively saving it for his bride. Where was that minx, anyway

It was not often that Jaya was called to the conference room, so she had made all haste to arrive. Several others had beat her to the punch, it seemed, and their temperaments were oddly mixed. She sat next to Storr and resolved to be silent unless addressed.

Last of all, Akiva made his entry, curious himself as to the nature of the mission. It wasn't every day that the Admiralty made urgent special requests with the highest of priorities. Mrazak glared at the man, which Akiva pointedly ignored. He took a seat without a word.

"Well, it looks like everybody's here," Mrazak said, never actually eyeing the headcount. "What we have today, ladies and gentlemen, is a dire situation indeed. There has been an attack in Federation space, and we have been called in to pick up the investigation from Starfleet Security. Before we get into specifics, however, the Diplomatic Corps has forwarded a packet that I am required to go over before we can address the crisis at hand. Ferrofax, if you please. And... skip the boring parts."

“The Cardassian Advance of 2388 is, if we are all to be rather honest, a rather lackluster name for what was very nearly the end of the Breen Confederacy. To set the scene properly we need to cast our minds back to the days just after the end of the Dominion War, or as the Lagashi call it the Sixth Breen War,” Ferrofax’s avatar vanished the lights dimmed within the briefing room. A constellation of stars appeared in the air above the table. One-half of the stars glowed with caramel coloured halos, whilst the others shone an icy white.

“During the war, the Breen had made significant gains, gains that a Cardassia with a nearly mortally wounded pride sought to retake. It gave their society a direction, a goal, a unifying cry that they were still Cardassian,” Ferrofax narrated as the stars began to shift colour. Along the border more of the icy cold stars flickered to muddy Cardassian tones. “Had the Confederacy not been fighting the Federation for territory at the same time, the events of the Advance of 2388 might have gone differently. But undermanned border forces and a Cardassia looking to prove it was the martial power to end all martial nations left the Confederacy's fate in the balance. Had the Union been only a little bolder…but they were not. They took the Breen to the very edge, nearly to their home system and then returned to Cardassia victorious.”

The hologram shifted, the stars vanishing to be replaced by the flag of the Breen Confederacy.

“But ultimately the events of the 2388 Advance and the near destruction of a star nation were but the precursors to a much large event happening on the galactic stage. With the Breen Confederacy pushed to the edge of destruction, and with no way to assure their people of safety, they reached out to other nearby races who also felt the protection of numbers would be of aid. The Tzenkethi and Talarians are two-star nations we know have allied with the Breen, though there is a rumoured third. Apart they were middling powers in their own right, all aggressive towards the Federation but of no significant threat.”

A new symbol appeared above the table now. A tapered violet diamond, encircled with an embroidered circlet of silver.

“But together, under the banner of the Alrakis Pact, they pose a growing concern for the wider galactic community. In many respects, a dark reflection of the United Federation of Planets, prompting joint defense whilst maintaining much of their individual social identities. And all of that would have been nothing but stardust, had the Cardassians not been happy with their meager gains. I’m sure there is a Gul's head on a spike somewhere for not going all the way.”

The Pact logo vanished, and the lights came up but Ferrofax's avatar did not reappear.

"Did I miss anything? I think not."

"Well, wait, how do we not know anything about the Breen's third ally in the Alrakis Pact?" Akiva questioned. "Sure, we all saw the Breen, Tzenkethi, and Talarians in the FNS broadcast, but surely there's something substantive on file about a whole other power?"

"If you want rumour and conjecture I can provide that as well. But given there is no firm data on who this mysterious third player is, I thought it best to step aside from the metadata. But..." the lights dimmed for a second and a chorus of voices began to play over each other.

"-Romulan state-sponsored-"
"-rouge House within the Klingon Em-
"-Federation private citizens seeking-"
"-the Commerce Guild Of Tau Ceti seeking autonomy-"
"-nomadic mercenaries with strong proto tribal familial connections called Ravagers-"
"-dissatisfied members of the Socialist Party of the Bajoran Assembly-"

Over and over the voices talked, outlining vapid theories and outlandish excuses for their actions...and then silence.

"Starfleet Intelligence and the Diplomatic Corp have a substantial file on this third party. I think some of it even classes itself as Fan Fiction."

Fenia nodded slowly, looking over at the atypical hybrid. "Surely we can eliminate at least some rumours and follow tangible leads?"

"Maybe our liaison with Starfleet Intelligence can cast some light onto the matter?" Akiva suggested, looking at his old frenemy.

Kaz opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted by the doors of the room opening.

"Oh," said Nevin as he walked into the room. He slightly giggled to himself, "I'm sorry to interrupt and be late." He stepped further in, "I figured you could use a Doctor on this mission, especially since Nevada was reassigned. Plus, I want something to do while I wait for my transfer back. I hope that's ok?" He raised an eyebrow but didn't wait before he took a seat.

Akiva turned very concerned. Nevin wasn't scheduled to be transferred anywhere, not since the reported loss of the Gallagher. Perhaps he should bring Jaya into the matter...

Clearing his throat, Kaz motioned for the man to take a seat.

Once the Bajoran was sitting in his chair, Kaz sat up straighter in his chair. "Starfleet Intelligence isn't prepared to comment on what we believe it is. There is a likely candidate, but the actions we've seen go against what we know of this...species. But to avoid mass panic, the information is not being released."

"Alright, alright, enough of this sehlat-shit," Mrazak said. "There has been an attack in Federation space--and all signs point to it being a Species 8472 bio-ship. What's more, is that this new Alrakis Pact claims to have intelligence pointing to Cardassian collusion with Species 8472. Now, Starbase 72 is hosting emergency peace talks between the three governments, and the Task Force Senior Staff, as well as the Office of Special Investigations, have called upon Memory Theta to take over the investigation." The gleam in his eyes was pure glee. "This is our time to shine, team."

Kaz rolled his eyes at the man's flagrant disregard for classified information.

"So what are we setting to prove? That it was an 8472 bio-ship, that they are in league with the Cardassians? Which would not surprise me in the slightest, mind you. Or both?" Fenia asked.

"The truth," Mrazak said. "The pure unadulterated truth so as to best position Starfleet Command for diplomatic talks or another war."

"Given Species 8472 xenophobic tendencies and lack of diplomatic overtures, the odds of this being a preemptive strike on their part is unlikely," Ferrofax mused. The table's holographic system clicked and the three-legged monsters of myth and legend appeared. "Though given the aggressive nature of the 8472, it would be wise to go loaded for bear. That is the expression? Perhaps I could even persuade you to allow me to take one of the Dante class hulls we have in storage? It would be nice to inhabit my old, familiar home once more. In case we find ourselves in a fight with a Bioship."

"Caution is necessary," Bao agreed. "But I also agree aggression is unlikely from 8472. In the past, they infiltrated, studied, and subverted, but did not use outright force until directly confronted. What do we know about this attack? What was attacked? The choice of targets may give us some insight as to possible avenues to pursue."

Mrazak nodded with approval. "It is indeed an unorthodox situation in every respect. The technology involved is out of Security's depth, which is why we're being called in to cut through the speculation to the reality."

"One rumor going around is that they are an unwilling participant in this pact," Kaz interrupted. If the information was already out there, he might as well make sure it was correct information. "If that rumor is true, this is going to be dangerous."

"We must settle the rumors," Mrazak continued, glaring at the Intel Chief. "By special request from the Admiralty, we are assuming the lead in the investigation, which means that our cover will be that of an Intelligence team of specialists. Should be easy, since Intel has their agents practically crawling all over the T'ien system looking for evidence of the attack and signs pointing toward a future one."

Bao and his cybernetic familiar both replayed Mrazak's comment over, more than once, assuring themselves that they had heard it correctly. An attack in the Tien system. Again. Bao had been a secondary school student during the Dominion war, but no Lagashi could fail to remember Tien, and the horrific images that came afterwards. 600 million civilians killed by the Breen and Jem'Hadar, and the loss of the Audacity and almost the entire 7th Cruiser fleet. And now someone had attacked it and its remaining 20 arcologies and tens of billions of Lagashi citizens.

"How many?" he asked quietly, his tone flat with none of its usual tone.

He blinked again. An attack there, especially by the Cardassians, made so little sense as to be laughable. If one were antagonistic towards the Breen, then why attack their most ardent historical opponent? Xenoscientists were rarely versed in strategic planning, but it just seemed stupid.

The question was almost an afterthought for Mrazak. He rolled his eyes in thought. "Oh, the reported casualties are only in the hundreds of thousands. The final number probably won't be tallied for another week or two, and I want us to have this investigation wrapped up tight by then."

Jaya covered her mouth to suppress her gasp. So many people...

Storr took her hand under the table, the sudden wave of grief and loss surging up his arm welling a tear that he quickly blinked back.

"Even a single death is regrettable," Nevin said. "We shouldn't be so callous to such things."

" be clear, the cover the Theta team will be using is that of being 'Intelligence Agents'? Am I the only one getting error messages about the paradoxical nature of this oxymoron?" Ferrofax said dryly. "Perhaps we might do better to pretend to be a band of traveling Bolian troupers? Very open minded sort, and I'm sure one of you can be taught to juggle much more convincingly than to assume the cover of a covert intelligence agency. At least no one that doesn't delete stars from the firmament."

Bao turned to the hologram. "Or perhaps we could retask you to dig two graves*, Ferrofax," he said sharply.

"Shouldn't we always have one dug out anyway, considering what we do?" Fenia added, "however, if we're posing as specialists, which we actually are, the only one that will really need to play the spook is the leader as they will be our 'public face'," the Bajoran said as she made air quotes. "The rest of us just have to do our jobs. Those who know of us already think we're intel anyway even if erroneously so, so I don't see an issue with our covers."

"As usual, the good doctor is correct," Mrazak said. "Ferrofax's nominal usefulness notwithstanding, we will leave the carnival tricks for another time. The Lagashi are notoriously xenophobic and isolationist, so we should not expect interdepartmental cooperation from their authorities. To that end, I am putting Commander Qiao forward as our contact officer while we are in Lagashi space." Looking to the mourning Lagashi, he added, "You will run interference with local agencies and expedite our access to whatever we need."

Akiva sat up in his chair. "Did you forget something, Mrazak?"

"No," Mrazak said pointedly. "I was getting to it..." Clearing his throat and straightening his collar, Mrazak said in a mechanical tone, "Commander Linn and Colonel Garlake are to accompany us as divisional oversight." The words made him grimace as if in pain. Lt Col Garlake quirked an unconscious grin at the Vulcan's change of timbre.

"Intel wants a ranking officer in order to field any of their onsite agents we may cross," Akiva offered by way of elaboration, "and the Marine Corps is tasked with protecting all Memory Theta artifacts. Should we find a fragment of 8472 technology which meets criteria for archival entry, then a ranking Marine officer is to be on hand to ensure its safe retrieval and transit."

"Not that I don't feel for this tragedy," Kaz said, shifting uncomfortably in his seat, "And would normally want to do everything in my power to bring justice and shed light on this situation..." He looked between Mrazak and Akiva, "I'm sure a junior intel officer will do just fine. I don't need to hold any hands."

Bao interrupted in an unusally abrupt tone, "Commander, your superiors are correct on this matter. Public perception in the Pentad is that the Federation cares little for the Lagashi Republic. Resentment of the Federation's attitudes and restrictions regarding our socio-economic paradigm is a significant cultural force. A junior officer would be perceived as both an insult and further proof that the Federation is only concerned with its false utopia central worlds and everyone else is expendable to them. They are already unlikely to be happy with us as a response. A lesser officer would only make that worse. Unless, of course, you want to embolden the separatist/independence movements in the Pentad's politics."

"Which is precisely the sort of foresight we will need." Mrazak nodded.

Kaz shrugged but said nothing.

"What foresight are we talking about here?" Storr intoned, running a hand unconsciously through his beard. "I can't believe I'm saying this but I agree with Ferrofax...why are we investigating when there are literally droves of 'collectors' of all flavors already swarming the area? Wouldn't it be a better use of our limited time and resources to wait until someone actually found something before we forward-deployed? Isn't this why we have our vaunted intelligence and security agencies?"

"If I read the signs correctly, the Lagashi already know something that they're keeping close to their chests," Mrazak said. "Whether we're merely to interpret and explain events beyond the scope and ability of standard investigative protocol or actually retrieve something of value to Memory Theta is unknown. I'm sorry to leave that essential part of the mission profile blank, but I suspect if Starfleet knew more then we wouldn't be called in to take over."

The Commandant harrumphed. "Forewarned is forearmed, then. I'm not familiar with the Republic's view on the private or governmental bearing of arms and security arrangements, let alone current forces structure. Would you like to talk about that now or offline?" the Marine directed to Bao. He didn't have to be happy about it but he did need to be informed.

Grace sat and watched the conference her head turning back and forth between the speakers. What was this species 8472? She'd never heard of them and she'd need to do some research on them. She pulled a small PADD from her uniform cargo pocket and placed it on the table in front of her and began to scribble notes.

"Excuse me?" Grace spoke up, reluctantly. "Sir," she added.

"Huh? Oh, you." Mrazak blinked like he had forgotten she was even there. "Yes, Lieutenant?"

"What do you expect in the way of computer analysis?" Grace wondered.

Mrazak chuckled. "Well, considering the Lagashi are walking computers like the Bynars and the Borg, I expect your work will be cut out for you." His eyes darted to Bao. "No offense intended to present company."

"Oh," she said, typing another note into her padd. She'd need to research the Lagahsi as well.

"The Phantom won't be due back for another couple of hours," Mrazak said, glaring at Akiva, "so everybody should take some time to familiarize with the points we've discussed. As soon as the ship is back, we'll turn and burn for the Lagashi sector. Any questions?"

The room sat silent.

"Good," Mrazak said. "Let's do this. The Alpha Quadrant is counting us." More importantly, Admiralty was counting on him.


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