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That's All The Truth I Know

Posted on Thu Sep 24th, 2020 @ 9:41pm by Commander Arianna Frost & Lieutenant Commander Kazyah Linn & Taskmaster
Edited on on Sun Feb 20th, 2022 @ 10:09pm

Mission: Mission 0: Everybody Has A Story
Location: Undisclosed
Timeline: 2385

"So do we actually know why we are here?" Arianna asked, sat around the middle of the long briefing table.

Having gotten the call in the middle of the night, told to grab her go bag and arrive at provided coordinates was all the information she had to go on so far. The fingerprint and retinal ID at the entrance didn't help matters either. No one said more than to wait in this briefing room.

As far as things went she could deduce the following. This was either an ultra-compartmentalized operation, or even a clandestine one. It was hard to tell without more information.

There were others in the room as she arrived and set down her bag, she recognized a few faces by reputation, from other Sections. There was Helena Sand from Rom-Sec, Yakhul from Beta-Powers, George Tzu from Admin. The others she hadn't met yet and more were still incoming.

A young dark haired Lieutenant sat at the other end of the table shook her head. "They 'aven't said anythen. Reckon we're waitin' fer the others and the Taskmaster."

Taskmasters were officers in charge of specific operations within Intelligence Circles. Their names were unknown and soon, each of them, likely would only be using their callsign to minimize information leakage.

"They should be arriving momentarily," said a man sitting at the far end of the table. His chiseled faced was topped with a mound of messy black hair and instead of a uniform, was wearing a form-fitting black outfit that sported no identifying markings or signets. His fingers grazed the top of a PADD that was laying on the table, though no one was quite sure why.

The dark haired woman nodded as she studied the man. Was he...romulan? Now that was a sight rare to be seen in Starfleet, even rarer in Intelligence.

"I'm Zora." The dark haired woman said.

Arianna nodded, "Persephone."

"Andromache," Helena Sand offered.

"Gol." Said Yakhul.

Tzu sighed as he looked over at everyone, "Quixote."

“Joriel,” the unknown man said in return.

A fit human male of olive complexion and indeterminate age walked into the room. At first he appeared as if he did not notice any of the others who had gathered. He set his personal PADD, a ream of a transparent flimsies, and an electronic pipe at the head of the conference table. Seating himself, he only then spoke.

"Welcome to Operation: Castermer." His voice was a stilted, lilting muddle of regional accents that was both unique and nondescript at the same time. "That will be the one and only time I shall speak the name of our inquest aloud, so commit it to memory. As you should have surmised by now, I am your Taskmaster." He tamped a cartridge into his electronic pipe. "Take a good look around this room." Pausing only to take a deep hit, he then said, "Out of every field operative in SFI, you are the only ones currently cleared of suspicion of treason."

Vapor bellowed from his lips and nostrils as he stared at each one of them.

"Our mission will be to vet our peers, our superiors, our CIs, everyone in our circles no matter their office or station. We will add some to our numbers and increase our reach. Others..." He gave a derisive sniff as he took another puff, then fell into a sordid chuckle. Some fates were best left unspoken. "Any questions?"

"Well, the obvious one." Arianna asked, "we've been breached, that much we can tell. By whom? And how bad are we leaking?"

The Taskmaster lowered his pipe and looked directly at Arianna. "The Black Nagus." He puffed again before continuing. "And this isn't a leak. A leak implies we have the advantage of numbers." He shoved the stack of transparent flimsies over to Arianna. "Please pass these out."

Arianna nodded, passing the flimsies along and keeping one for herself.

On the front was a holographic briefing on the Black Nagus up to 2385 that shifted text depending on the angle of incidence when reading. Gradual tilting of the flimsy meant the displayed text shifted, meaning that an entire tome could fit onto something the size of an archaic sheet of paper which could be folded and hidden just as easily and equally untraceable.

"Ferengi of the Black Nagus organization do not deal in profit as per the custom of the Ferengi Alliance," the Taskmaster said. "These bastards deal in power and therefore go straight for the jugular on the first shot. Those they cannot bribe they will blackmail, and those they cannot blackmail they threaten, and any who resist are targeted for assassination. And, as you may infer from the briefing, they have been doing this for so long that the Ferengi Alliance simply disavows their existence. The Grand Nagus exists by turning a blind eye to his anarchist counterpart. The Black Nagus expects the same from us, and that's how we'll purge the organization from our ranks. From this point forward, everyone is considered compromised until proven otherwise. Everyone."

"So you want us to get rid of them." Joriel nodded. "Should be easy enough. A quick mind walk will reveal the truth, a blade will take care of the rest."

"Ultimately." The Taskmaster nodded. "But we have to be absolutely certain. A blade in the back of a loyal operative will be just as destructive to the mission as overlooking a compromised one. Our objective is to purge a hostile subversive power, not thin the ranks. Any personal agendas, grudges, or ambitions will take a backseat from here on out." He looked at Joriel, then the rest. "If I suspect any of you are misappropriating the emergency powers of this operation to your own ends, then rest assured you will disappear into a hole so deep not even the assorted gods you pray to will find you."

The dark haired woman, Cassandra Thorn, callsign Zora leaned forward, on her elbows. "While some o' us are 'ere are psionic, most' of us are not. Profilin' an' analyses takes time, an' by the sound o' it we don't 'ave much of it before we are completely taken o'er. Are we authorized t' utilize the R&D goodies, like th' Romulan Mind probes an such?"

Gol, the large Efrosian male sighed, "how much time do you estimate we have?"

"To the first question," said the Taskaster between puffs, "we are authorized to use whatever means necessary, but we will be held to account for them. You will be held to account for them." That pointed remark was made directly toward Joriel. "Time is a fluid concept at this juncture. We are to begin our operation immediately. So far the Black Nagus has not presented a material threat to the core infrastructure of the Federation or any of its members; thus far it is a bureaucratic takeover of Starfleet beginning with its Intelligence apparatus. Once that fifth column is solidified, though... well, that's where the analysts begin to disagree. Will Starfleet see revolution? Will it be business as usual under new management? It's hard to say. Our job is to never allow it to come to the point where we find out."

Indicating the holographic flimsy with a tap from the end of his electronic pipe, the Taskmaster said, "As stated, our objective is to dismantle the primary infiltration of the Black Nagus within Starfleet. We need not identify or apprehend every existing Black Nagus asset in order to achieve that objective. Therefore, mission creep will not be tolerated. We may uncover other matters worth pursuing, and those will be referred to the appropriate desks. If we have the means to bring down a compromised officer through ancillary charges, then we will do that and we will let other groups take the credit for collaring the target. Once the primary infiltration has been dismantled and removed, then we will disband and move on to our next assignments."

Arianna sighed, "understood, sir."

Andromache spoke up then, "do we have our first targets for evaluation?"

Zora raised a hand, "an' to add...'ow did we even learn about this whole t'ing? A leak? Tip off? Asset movement?"

The Taskmaster turned off his electronic pipe and set it down. "That's classified," he said all too pointedly. "In the event anyone present becomes compromised one way or another and won't take one for the team, they will be unable to disclose how and why we came to know what we do. Each of you will work as independently as possible, evaluating everyone within your reach. Once your circles expand and begin to overlap, then we have the makings of a true network. Do not..." He repeated the order and pounded the table with his fist. "Do not contact one another unless absolutely necessary. You will contact me, and I will coordinate." Looking around, he said, "Anyone who breaks ranks will be dealt with."

"Sir," Arianna said, raising a hand slightly as a way to draw attention. "Classified or not, if we don't know the source point, how are we to avoid tipping the Black Nagus off that we've picked up the scent? In our vetting, we might inadvertently come across the breach point and send a signal back to them that indicates...oh shite they noticed. What's the bigger risk? Tipping them off by mistake in the early stages? Or sometime down the line tipping them off if one of us is compromised."

"Simple." Pausing for a wry chuckle, the Taskmaster said, "Watch your back. It would be a shame to be the one who tips our hand to the Black Nagus. Said hypothetical person would be viewed no differently than a Black Nagus asset."

"What is the plan to protect operatives that are cleared from being compromised afterward?" Joriel asked. "Last thing we want to do is have the Black Nagus' goons stealing operatives we're no longer looking at."

The Taskmaster smirked. "Who says we'll ever stop watching?" He considered his pipe as if he might tamp another cartridge, but he looked away from it. "While this unit may disband, the protocols derived from this operation will remain in effect in perpetuity. The Black Nagus be given quarter within our ranks."

Silence fell over the room. Some of the assembled operatives were discreetly taking notes, but most of them were committing the directives to memory.

"Should the protocols ever be reactivated, say... if Starfleet Security ever shits the bed or SFI becomes compromised again, then you may be called upon." Taskmaster glared at them all. "Be sure to keep your noses clean." So much for pep talks. "Dismissed," he said, waving his hand. "Go on, get the hell out."

The man who went by the name Joriel stood, walking from the room as he considered what they’d been told. The Black Nagus had gone so far as to infiltrate the very heart of Starfleet Intelligence, and while it wasn’t completely unheard of for someone to try and do that, it was very bold of him. And for it to succeed meant that this Ferengi kingpin was a much bigger threat than anyone gave him credit for. But then he considered what sort of organization was so weak that such a distant foe would be able to cause so much havoc. Perhaps there was more to watch than just the threat of the Black Nagus, and it was quite possible that this was merely the side effect of a much larger issue.


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