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They Want to Break Me and Wash Away My Colors

Posted on Thu Apr 8th, 2021 @ 5:41pm by Captain Akiva ben-Avram & Lieutenant JG Jaya Maera Garlake & Ensign Nandi Chakma & Lieutenant Colonel Storr Garlake & Calderon Jarsdel
Edited on on Tue May 4th, 2021 @ 6:03pm

Mission: S1E5: Symphony of Horror
Location: Administrator's Office | Overwatch Station
Timeline: MD 1

"The day is here," Akiva said to the small, motley group. "The day we have prepared for."

Nandi raised a nervous hand, casting a conspicuous glance over the colonel, the counselor, and the... unknown... as she did so.

"Excuse me, Captain ben-Avram, but could you elaborate on just what... that... means?" She trailed off under the weight of her uncertainty.

"Oh." The question gave Akiva pause. "Right." Taking a breath, he spoke with carefully chosen words. "I have been summoned alongside Colonel Garlake and Captain Mrazak to a tribunal review at Deep Space 9. However, a recent Theta alert has led Mrazak to the determination that he must attend to it and send you, Ensign Chakma, the Science Adjutant, in his stead."

"He... what?" Nandi gasped in horror at the revelation.

"You will be accompanying us to Deep Space 9 to give oral testimony if called upon," Akiva reiterated, "so I suggest you pay close attention during this briefing."

Jaya shook her head. "I'm sorry," she whispered to Nandi, offering her hand for a reassuring squeeze.

"All right," Nandi said with a nod. She could do this. Whatever this proved to be. Notetaking was how she had survived the first few years of the Academy, and she'd proven herself a fast learner on the Guangzhou. "I can do this," she said aloud.

Akiva did his best to veil his skepticism. "In the past 250 days, we have had several dozen Theta alerts with a few of them proving to be rather monumental. I doubt they will look into those so much as our day-to-day operations, and that is where things may get dicey. Much of what we do is classified, which means we will have the disadvantage of not being able to articulate various details in our responses. It will be important, then, to convey as much professionalism and confidence as possible. Do not lie, but do not waver." He was speaking to himself as much as any of them. "Does anyone have any personal or departmental concerns? Now is the time to raise them."

Silent in response to that open question, Cal was nevertheless fully occupied behind that impassive face. He'd cleaned himself up, both externally and internally to a point, yet there was still a very long road ahead. Being here, having the ability to begin to learn what this place was set up to do, who worked here, and why, was so far outside the realm of his expectation that he was still wrapping his newly available headspace around. So, now, as the grown-ups talked, he baby-stepped through the exploration of his newfound abilities and the wider scope he had to shine daylight into dark places. Those places being other people's minds. Currently, he coasted through the easy, low-level stuff, testing briefly at each mental boundary to see where the doors and windows were.

As the moment stretched out, Jaya could feel the mixed responses of the group, from Storr's stoic contemplation to Cal's curious observation to Nandi's nervous confusion. For her part, Jaya was a little unsure of what she was doing there as well. "I have one," she said, sliding her hand in the air. "What exactly is my reason for being here or at DS9?"

"Simple." Akiva smiled at Jaya's question, as it touched a point of brilliance on his part that he was particularly proud of. "Your reports regarding Mr. Jarsdel's therapy and assessments have been nothing short of glowing in his favor. JAG agrees that his detainment may be downgraded to minimal security, and that includes travel while under chaperone." He gave the three officers a shrewd smirk. "In exchange for taking a walk, Mr. Jarsdel will pose as my attaché while he monitors the hearing and gives me periodic updates from his insight."

The more Akiva described his plan, the deeper Jaya's frown grew. "Is that ethical?" Her question was a rhetorical one. Her face indicated exactly how ethical she found the idea.

"I don't intend for Mr. Jarsdel to invade anybody's privacy or influence them in any way," Akiva said, hand raised in objection. "It's just... we need every advantage we can muster. If I am to have any hope of persuading hostile minds to our side, then I need to know everything I can. Flag officers are trained against telepathic subversion, to say nothing of any technological countermeasures they may have at their disposal. There is no chance of harm or subterfuge even if that were the agenda." Akiva paused as if to reveal something, but clearly chose to keep it to himself. "Of course, if Mr. Jarsdel is uncomfortable with the proposition, I will not require it of him..."

All eyes fell to Cal.

"But I do hope he would be willing to assist, seeing as how he recently pledged to do so."

Mr Jarsdel. That burned just a little each time, but Cal pushed that irritancy down deep. This was a new start, and he could earn his rank back - maybe - if he proved his worth. Here and now was about starting down that long road.

Posing as an attaché? He could definitely do that.

Give updates? Could do that too.

Invade privacy and influence? In the absence of any prohibitive tech, this would absolutely be an option.

Was it ethical? On some worlds, yes. Within Starfleet? No. But while ethics were a nice luxury to have when everything was just peachy, rank, pay, and freedom all taken for granted, they needed to be a little bit fuzzier in his current predicament. He needed currency to win back his freedom and position, and this was considerably less bloody a method than the last two years had been.

Cal smiled. He knew this play, guilt and expectation, reward and recognition, and he could feel exactly what Akiva was thinking, wrapped as those emotions were about his very words.

"I'll give you whatever advantage is made available to me," Cal agreed. "But I'm not hurting anyone in the process. Fair warning though," because he minor experience in that area. "Flag officers, though - as you say - might have protection."

"Was... that ever on the table?" Normally Nandi would keep silent in the presence of superior officers unless spoken to. Not only had she been tasked with representing the Science division of Memory Theta, a clandestine agency within Starfleet she'd only recently learned existed, but she was utterly shocked by the present point of discussion. "Forgive me, but I'm rather unsettled by the tenor of the past few moments."

Akiva frowned at Nandi. "No, Ensign. Harming our fellow Starfleet officers was never 'on the table.' Even if they're looking to bury us, most of them are simply doing their jobs. I won't fault them for that, even a stodgy old block like Admiral Tau. It just means we have to do our jobs better than them." He smirked a little bit at his own rationale. "In order for me to optimally do mine, I need support, which Mr. Jarsdel has agreed to provide. At the end of the day, no matter the outcome, we all hold our heads high."

Simply nodding, Nandi looked like a deer caught in headlights.

"So you say..." Jaya trailed off, still unconvinced of the course of direction. The bewilderment radiating from Nandi's mind emboldened her own. She cast a glance at Storr before looking back to Akiva. "If I am going to supervise Cal, then be advised that I will not lie to anyone. Please keep that in mind..."

"I'd think less of you if you did," Akiva said. Looking to Storr, he said, "You have been quiet, my friend, and I covet your thoughts. Is Mr. Mayhew ready to reassume station security in your absence? Are there any potential problems on the Marine company's side that might be used against us?"

Lieutenant Colonel Garlake met his friend's gaze as he spoke. Storr had indeed been quiet as it had suited him far more over the last few months than usual...it was almost as if he had not been there, which was uncharacteristic. Perhaps his mind had been on his wife and children far more than he would like to have admitted. Regardless of the reason, it was time for him to speak, and speak he would.

"Captain, I do believe that Mr. Mayhew will be able to take on station security in my absence; we have nothing to worry about there. Concerning potential problems on the Marine company side, well...other than a general distaste for the SFMC upper echelons seem to have, they're no less rough-and-tumble than any other outfit and Rodi does an excellent job keeping them in line. As the Station Commandant, what I'm far more concerned about, however," Storr continued with a verbal heave, "is the paperwork. I'm probably the last among us to profess a love for the bureaucratic side of our jobs but it's the dilithium to the Star Fleet warp core and keeps the machine running. The amount of missed status updates, performance evaluations, discipline reports, missing equipment (let alone personnel!), security violations, update briefs, and COMSEC rollovers boggles the mind...and that's just while we've been station-side. The sheer reams of paperwork generated by even one of our Theta responses has been. Well. Staggering, to say the least." His brow furrowed as he continued. "There was an old gangster of Earth that ran a vast criminal empire. Do you know how they caught him? Not detective work, or traps, or guns or bombs. It was paperwork...tax evasion. Our greatest weakness is not the grandiose nature of our missions but the soft underbelly of our administration. It's the little foxes that spoil the vines."

Akiva listened intently and began to cringe more and more as his friend went on. "What you're telling me is that the Marine Company is a material weak spot in our shield wall. That is not unexpected. Fortunately, aside from the brutality of last month," Akiva said, completely avoiding eye contact with Cal, "our Marines do not have a solid connection to problem events. We just may be able to skirt the issue of backlogged paddwork."

Garlake sighed, wishing that he could remove the look of displeasure from Akiva's eyes but that it would have to get worse before it had the opportunity to get better. "Perhaps I was unclear. The Marines are not *a*, or even *the* weak spot due to paperwork...it's the entire station. I know I forget too, friend, but my purview has expanded since the Vindex"

As much as Akiva loathed to admit it, he couldn't deny his friend's assessment. "Unfortunately you are right. Efficiency has never been the core competency of bureaucracy, and even less so when classification protocols become a factor. My strategy at the moment is not to blame the system for any shortcomings on our part, but to show dedication and initiative in the face of gridlock. If Hebrons are good for anything, it's navigating red tape. I just need all of us on the same page." Scanning each one in turn, Akiva's eye lingered on Nandi before doubling back to the rest. "No apologies. No excuses. Just competency. Are we agreed?"

"Yes!" Nandi exclaimed. This entire time, she'd felt out of her element, but the inspiring way Akiva described his passionate attention to detail kindled the old fiery determination that brought Nandi through the Academy. "Well said, Captain!"

Jaya was silent. The situation itself was stressful enough without the added pressure of chaperoning Cal while he was essentially performing an undercover operation, albeit a benign one. If this was her contribution to sparing their careers in Starfleet, then she would do it. However, there was a small part of her that did not find the idea of discharge from Starfleet a totally abhorrent one. Her thoughts turned to her womb which was forming the slightest of bumps already. Already she felt her duties becoming divided, but for now she would do what was expected of her.

"Agreed," Jaya said at length.

Mayhew. That name conjured up enough emotional backlash to keep Cal's mind occupied in its entirely while Colonel Garlake verbally downloaded what seemed like a long overdue damage report on the administrative underside of this mysterious and covert station. Aside from the damage he'd - up close and personally - seen done to the Master-at-Arms, Cal knew Jumik's actions had created a dangerous rift between him and the men Garlake commanded. He couldn't blame them, his face had been on those on-camera deaths, and he doubted most of them cared to tell the difference between internal and external.

He phased back into the present as Akiva spoke - 'Are we all agreed?' - and Cal frowned. This decision was a simple one for him, needing no more thought on the matter. Time had been all he'd had for weeks now.

"No apologies, no excuses. Just competency," repeated Cal, the words slowly spoken and his experssion coloured with a stoic seriousness. "Agreed." There was a short pause, and then he raised the question that had been nagging at him since they'd started this briefing. It had been through several incarnations as Cal had tried to make it more palatable to ask, but the core need remained the same. "In this action," he asked. "I understand that to those we meet I am your attache. But between us - what am I - civilian, employee... prisoner?"

A simple "Agreed." flowed from the Afrikaner's lips.

"You all have your battlefields. This one is mine." The sound of conviction within Akiva's voice was so compelling that he almost convinced himself. "Follow my lead and we'll win the day."

 

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