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Walking the Green Mile

Posted on Wed Apr 28th, 2021 @ 8:56pm by Rear Admiral Gareth Tau & Captain Akiva ben-Avram & Lieutenant JG Jaya Maera Garlake & Lieutenant Colonel Storr Garlake & Commander Arianna Frost & Ferrofax & Calderon Jarsdel & Rear Admiral Aerilyn Nyel & Ensign Nandi Chakma

Mission: S1E5: Symphony of Horror
Location: DS9 State Wardroom
Timeline: MD 2

The alert came early due to late-night fellowship between the Memory Theta administrative team. Despite the lack of rest, Akiva felt refreshed in his soul. Ideally, it would have been better for him to have had caught a few more winks, but knowing that his friends had his back -- and that perhaps a not-so-rocky reunion with Laena lay in store -- gave Akiva a morale boost that was as good as any amount of sleep. As he led his four colleagues into the state wardroom, it was with head held high.

That so many people were in attendance was shocking. There must have been two dozen people total in the room beside the Memory Theta panel and the tribunal officials. It would see the kangaroo court was in full swing. The larger crowd would, however, allow for Cal to disappear into the sea of faces all the easier.

And disappear Cal certainly did, with an open and invisible enthusiasm. In crowded scenes such as this one, he needed to adjust and survey the lay of the mental landscape, to glean a sense of the background noise and to understand which individuals were operating at each audible volume. The multitude of different opinions and points of view, emotions and random thoughts would once have been a veritable white noise to his mind, useful only as a filter for his basic skillset and training. Now, as his first experience beyond Theta's confines, it was a magnificent buffet to a starving mind.

Seated at a raised dais installed specifically for the occasion, Admirals Tau and Nyel took repose over the situation with a third man. Akiva recognized him as Ardent Smith, a nonspecific Federation official whose curriculum vitae was as ambiguous as it was vast.

Gazing out over the man she put in charge of Memory Theta, Admiral Nyel looked at him with an almost annoyance that they were here. Smith on the other hand whispered a hurried response to an aide's question and pushed a data slate into their hand, ushering them away as the event began.

Admiral Tau locked eyes with Akiva and for a moment the two men were transfixed in an unspoken exchange of intent. What must be done would be done. Nodding at one another, Tau allowed himself to be interrupted by his assistant who whispered in his ear. Akiva used the natural break in eye contact to guide the others to the single table below the dais where they would be called upon to give testimony. Whispers filled the room at their seating.

Cal took his seat last, delayed only by a second or two from the others. He almost had a handle on those present now, a basic understanding of the first few levels of open thought and major diversions acheived. The Lethean addition to his mind was a revelation, but it was like wielding a heavy weapon in a confined space while refining a wide-angle lens down from galaxy level data to see individual stars clearly. It took time, but it was a lot of fun to play with. He sat down, slowly and let his gaze wander more slowly than his mind.

"I now call this hearing to order," Tau said with a clearing of his throat. "The following proceedings will remain classified, so I hereby order all unauthorized recording devices to be deactivated or removed from this room." He paused long enough to give time for compliance. "Before this tribunal is a formal inquest into the administration of the top-secret department designated Memory Theta. In the past 250 days, the new administration has been tasked with overseeing the secure storage of dangerous items and intelligence entrusted to its care; with organizing and responding to alerts within its purview; with maintaining order and management of personnel and other tangible assets; with promoting the overall peace and continuity of function within Starfleet and the Federation of Planets which it serves." After the enumeration, Tau's tone shifted from a gravelly humdrum to an even more brusque monotone. "The current administration is hereby indicted with failure to perform in all of these metrics to the satisfaction of its governing mandate. Therefore, the tribunal now calls the administrator of Memory Theta's Overwatch Station, Captain Akiva ben-Avram, to give account for the state of affairs."

With a sharp cut of his brow, Tau yielded the floor to Akiva.

"Thank you, Admiral." There was little for which to thank the man, but Akiva began with gratitude anyway. "Thank you for the opportunity to present the successes of Memory Theta in the past year and to address any specific concerns the Admiralty may--"

Tau leaned forward. "You were given specific charges," he interrupted. "You will speak to them anon."

"I'm afraid the admiral's specificity was insufficient for anything beyond a general accounting," Akiva said with the makings of a smirk. "Unless the tribunal wishes to amend the opening directives and indictments, then I request permission to continue said general accounting."

Nyel rolled her eyes.

"Go on," Tau said without looking at the other two tribunal members.

"On or around 9 months ago, I was offered the position of administrator by Admiral Nyel." He nodded toward Aerilyn at Tau's side. "In the time since, Memory Theta has responded to several active alerts, processed even more passive alerts, rebuffed several attempted breaches of security, and has averted more than one interstellar catastrophe: the Bynar Information Crisis, the Clock Maker Outbreak, the Cardassian-8472 Incursion, and--" Akiva refused to hesitate with the last one. "--the Venusian Incident. I stand before the tribunal proud of our accomplishments." Feeling as though he had walked over his own grave, Akiva leaned back in his seat, signaling that he was finished.

Leaning forward, Admiral Aerilyn Nyel looked directly at Akiva. "The Venusian...Incident?" she said, her tone dripping with sarcasm and contempt. "Captain, the Capitol of the Federation was almost destroyed. I would suggest you speak with a little more respect for the devastating effects of that event."

Akiva gave a solemn nod of solidarity but knew better than to interrupt.

She sat back, still glaring at the man. "Your team is put in a very impossible situation; being asked to save the universe time after time. But with each incident, the team comes in and makes a bigger mess on their way out." The Admiral pulled out a PADD and set it on the table before her. "The truth is, there have been breaches left and right that make me question your leadership and that of your Vulcan counterpart. You had a Black Nagus operative on the team without any detection for months, one of your Officer's committed suicide after being conscripted without his knowledge and you allowed a highly sensitive Intelligence operative to escape your grasp. I'd like you to respond to each of these incidents."

"The admiral's assessment does not include all of the facts," Akiva countered. "I assume the alleged operative aforementioned was Lieutenant Isaiah Zelaney. He was a computer specialist who served with distinction until an unknown point when he became compromised by the Black Nagus organization, at which time he inserted a ghost registry into the Phantom which bypassed--" He nearly said Ferrofax, but he prevented the faux pas with only a slight hesitation. "--the ship's cybersecurity suite. Although the betrayal nearly cost the field team their lives, it was an action that was easily discovered and quickly remedied. This suggests that the lieutenant acted under duress and provided a means of undoing the actions taken under said duress." He paused to take a drink of water before addressing the next point.

"Even if the Lieutenant was under duress, he was still compromised. Under your watch and that of your counterpart. How are we supposed to feel that the Black Nagus was able to hit so close to home without an explanation?" Admiral Nyel asked.

"It is my understanding that SFI has taken the matter of the Black Nagus directly into a special operation," Akiva said, "but I assume that is another line of testimony I must not follow. Suffice it to say that our mandate is response, not prevention, and our response was exemplary."

"The idea that any site, clandestine or not, doesn't have a mandate to prevent and protect its own crew from tampering by an outside enemy force is almost laughable, don't you think?" Nyel asked.

"If the admiral has a means of clairvoyance to uncover enemy stratagems as soon as they are executed, then we will make use of it." Akiva ensured that his face was neutral and free of snark. "Otherwise I maintain that our response to the discovery of a compromised computer specialist was as best as could be expected, and I respectfully request that any protests to the contrary be accompanied by measurable metrics and actionable protocols."

Admiral Nyel just huffed as she sat back.

Akiva went on. "We did lose an Intelligence operative in the field. The official liaison with Starfleet Intelligence, to be exact." Akiva did not mention Kazyah by name. There was no telling whether he could control the emotional component of his voice's inflections. "He was reported as deserted by the Lead Science Specialist and Field Team Leader Captain Mrazak. Unfortunately, Captain Mrazak is not present."

That detail had not gone unnoticed by Tau, but its official mention into the record made his entire stony face bristle with wrath.

Aerilyn nodded, "I understand that the Commander is considered deserted. But you have no other report for us today?" The Admiral shook her head, "How very concerning. Let's move on."

"As for the suicide case..." Akiva paused as though giving a moment of silence out of respect for the dead, and perhaps there was something of that to it. It would not hurt for blame to fall to Mrazak in his absence. "I am afraid that I must defer to the Field Team Leader's log in reference to the unfortunate event. What I can personally attest is that efforts were made to return the officer to his previous duty post, but before it could be finalized, it was destroyed with all hands in a Borg attack."

"I have a report here that states the officer's return orders were never actually entered into Starfleet records. While the officer may have felt he was being transferred, no orders were given to that effect," the Admiral stated, holding a PADD up. "Was there a plot to mislead this officer and separate him from his intended family? We all know how it works on the edge of legality. You have wide-sweeping power to detain and conscript officers into service for your installation. In fact, so much, that I have other reports of other officers being coerced and conscripted in a similar fashion. Should I feel glad that none of them have fallen to the same horrific end as this poor young man? This Lieutenant Kiril Nevin specifically expressed that he had no desire to join your ranks. He was there on a temporary basis and given very limited access to Memory Theta's systems to avoid the need to detain him or risk losing secrets."

"No, ma'am," Akiva said, telling himself not to bristle under Nyel's line of questioning. The woman was a master manipulator and he knew better than to give her the satisfaction of taking the bait. "I did everything in my power to transfer him. Any delays or errors were not on my end, so I can only direct the admiralty to investigate within the command structure of the USS Gallagher's task group. Regardless of the circumstances of their initial service, nobody remains in Memory Theta against their will. If you wish to discuss specifics of conscription, then you will need to speak to the Field Team Leader who most often exercises it."

Tau had heard enough. Raising a hand to pause Akiva's responses, he asked, "Where is Captain Mrazak now?"

"On assignment," Akiva answered. "An alert had been raised, and so Captain Mrazak unilaterally decided to respond to it as per Memory Theta protocols. He did send his Science Adjutant in his stead." Akiva indicated Nandi with a wave of his hand, which forced the young ensign to stiffen her spine in order not to shrink back from the weight of the small gesture.

Tau gave a fierce snort of contempt. "All right. And who are you?" His judging eyes fell onto Nandi with a terrible ire.

Rising to her feet, Nandi cleared her throat before speaking. "I am Ensign Nandi Chakma." She felt she should say more, but her position had already been stated. There was little else but for her to stand awkwardly under Tau's weighty stare.

"I see. How long have you been present at Memory Theta?" The question was clearly a loaded one.

Nandi took a breath. "Approximately 30 days, sir."

"Sit down, Ensign," Tau barked.

Nandi sat down so fast she nearly tipped the chair.

"I formally note Captain Mrazak's absence and hereby order a notice of AWOL to be placed in his service record," Tau continued.

Aerilyn nodded. "I would also note that this inquiry is a complete waste of time without all participants present. Especially one who seems to be more informed of what's going on at Memory Theta than the present company is. If Mr. Mrazak is found and allowed to retain his commission with Starfleet, I highly suggest it be done so with a demotion, a stern letter of dishonor in his service record, and removal from lead over the field team."

On the outside, Akiva properly grimaced ever so slightly in a stoic veneer of professionalism. Inwardly, he wanted to run up and kiss Admiral Nyel. So far the only direct hit they had taken was with Mrazak personally and not from any institutional shortcoming. It was more than acceptable in Akiva's view.

"Speaking of AWOL, there is the matter of Security," Tau said. "Directly leading up to the 'Venusian Incident' as you so indelicately put it, were you at your station?"

"I was not," Akiva replied without hesitation.

"Why not?"

"Captain Mrazak self-generated a Theta alert within the Sol system and sent the team to investigate. Concerned over the Field Team Leader's potential lapse in judgment, I elected to come along and supervise from a distance in hopes of assuaging any potential bureaucratic fallout from his unorthodox methods." Before he could be interrupted, Akiva blurted it, "It is good that I was there, as I was able to partially foil a terrorist plot of opportunity when abducted by an individual named--"

Tau's eyes shot wide open. "You will cease this line of testimony immediately!" Shifting notes on his PADD, Tau changed tack as well. "In fact, you may be seated, Captain. The tribunal calls Lieutenant Colonel Storr Garlake to testify regarding the multiple breaches of security within Memory Theta's various assets."

The Station Commandant stood, taking a moment to smooth his uniform shirt before preceding. "Admiral. Tribunal." Storr said, nodding to each in turn. "While multiple breaches have indeed occurred, SFMAN 3-12, SFMC 530-1, and FM 64.5 have been strictly adhered to as can be determined by even a cursory examination of the SFFORM 1206 and 1207s submitted as exhibits Bravo thirteen and fourteen. Broad discretion has been given to both me and Memory Theta to combat operational, physical, electronic, signal, communication, internal, and other security threats which on-the-level have been adequately obstructed. As you can see from exhibit Bravo thirty-five, attempted breaches were suitably stymied at a rate of twenty-two thousand five hundred eighty-three times to one, exceeding the highest rate of Starfleet 'SAPPHIRE TRUST' level protection by over one hundred times. By UFP internal accounting, Memory Theta is by far the safest and most secure installation in the galaxy. Context, sirs and ma'am," taking a breath for a pregnant pause, the Afrikaner continued after exhaling, "is key."

"We are aware of the systemic statistics and performance benchmarks," Tau said, struggling to maintain his normally even monotone. Who in the world would have expected a jarhead colonel to spout out a stream of bureaucratic perdedrolle with such seamless diction? Did the Hebron put him up to it? Tau shot Akiva a suspicious glance.

"Excuse me? If I may?" Adrent Smith said, speaking up for the first time in the meeting. He had a haggard look to him, with bags under his eyes and his habitually pressed suit now looking day worn and tired. "We seem to be focusing on incremental failures in the organization. Far be it from me to question the logic of that approach when we have millions of Federation citizens dead, tens of millions are displaced, and the production economy of the entire Sol Prefecture ruined because a department designed to contain and control threats of an existential nature dropped a quarter of a million tons of Titanium-B composite onto to Paris. We've had to stall projects across the entire Alpha Quadrant to support a rapid macro-terraforming effort on Earth to keep the climate from shifting drastically in the short term. From a Civilian Oversight perspective, Memory Theta has failed in the most catastrophic way possible."

"Begging the tribunal's pardon," Akiva asked, "but was the operational security and defense of the Sol system the duty of Memory Theta or the Fourth Fleet?"

"Watch your tone, Captain," Tau said through grit teeth. "Lives were lost. That is why we are here."

Akiva shook his head. "I beg to differ. We are here to review the performance of Memory Theta as per the paddwork that was filed with myself and by myself in triplicate. Have we had struggles during the past year? Have we suffered losses despite our victories? Have we even had to humbly learn from our missteps? Yes to all. But despite the Intel Liaison who deserted, we already underwent a full audit from Internal Affairs. The IA investigator remained on site for several months with absolutely no stone unturned. I will direct the tribunal members to her report which I am unauthorized to access per protocol. Assuming that she was transferred without repercussions and a proper liaison replacement was sent, I can only assume that we passed that audit with flying colors. In point of fact, the tribunal did not see fit to even summon the new Intelligence Liaison to testify at these proceedings. If the investigating officer from Internal Affairs were here today, no doubt they could speak directly to the tribunal's questions, but unfortunately we are all dependent upon their final report."

The tribunal members shifted glances at one another for a moment in silent deliberation. After a moment, Tau said, "We had intended to delay the testimony of personnel from outside the Memory Theta structure, but it appears that your argument has forced a premature segue into additional testimony." Looking to a side door, Tau said, "The tribunal calls Commander Arianna Frost."

"Here we go." Arianna took a physical and mental deep breath. This was it, the trials and tribulations of the past few months, as well as the complete table turn of the last day. She'd prepared all the contingencies she could as under the radar as she could and hoped it would be enough. Making sure that the isolinear chip with the actual recording was secured within her sleeve, Frost stepped into the Wardroom.

She gave a cursory glance around the room but deliberately avoided anyone's eyes. The game couldn't be given away too soon.

Frost stepped over to the 'witness stand.' "Admirals, Mister Smith," she greeted the panel, then nodding to the others she refocused her attention to Tau, Nyel and Smith.

This one, Cal viewed with silent interest and no overt visual attention. He allowed his gaze to float somewhere between Tau and Akiva while his mind reached out to the space between the people present. Somewhere in there was the answer, but to which question? Commander Frost was clearly an important witness, a calm, composed and experienced one perhaps. The way she viewed the room, never lingering too long, the sense of confident surety - they both told Cal little pieces of her unknown story. He studied the tinier details in the mental ether around her, that innate and very specific 'tidiness' about her. Frost, it seemed, kept her mind as neat and precise as her outfit. Interesting...

Akiva's jaw fell slack as if he intended to devour a small mammal snake-style. While he had stolen brief conversations with Ari in the past month over their secret QEC system, he never expected to see her in the flesh--much less here and now during the fight of his career. What cruel joke was HaShem playing on him that he'd see both Laena and Ari in the same day? On this day of days? He felt a twinge of guilt over his conflicted, wayward heart.

"Please state for the record of your dealings with Memory Theta," Tau said to Ari, "and then elaborate to the tribunal on the nature of your audit. And be sure to keep your answers limited to the relevant stardates pertaining to it." The question could not have been more loaded, and yet Tau's overbearing tone somehow managed to make it seem so.

"So that's your direction, eh?" Arianna fished a PADD out of her pocket, "may I refer to my notes, Sir, it will help me be as concise as possible?" She asked, flourishing with her hands, rising the PADD into the air momentarily before lowering her hands.

"Go on," Tau said with a nod of approval. He had ordered her to come prepared and it seemed she had.

For Akiva's part, he still looked like he was staring at a ghost.

Arianna nodded, using one hand to hold the PADD at the bottom the other at the top, using the moment to insert a small isolinear data chit into the PADD's intake port, under the cover of a flourish.

As the chit was in, Frost tapped on a few commands, before looking over at the panel again, "Admirals, Mister Smith, Command Staff of Memory Theta, what is now filtering into your screens is a recording of last night's conversation with a delegate I was ordered to meet for a debriefing regarding this proceeding. In this meeting I was ordered to submit a false statement along with doctored findings in support of the motion to shut down Memory Theta. I am an officer of the Desk of Internal Affairs, I will not lie or perjure myself, even though I was assured not to worry about it...as you can clearly hear. Let me know when you want me to continue."

"We have no way of validating this recording!" Ardent said from his seat, eyebrows furrowing. "Anyone with even a passing familiarity with recent events can see this is a stalling tactic to place Memory Theta in the light of victimhood. Let me remind this panel of New Far Florence, to which the population of that colony was not consumed by the failings of Theta. I speak of the sixteen other Fringe World colonies we are having to evacuate over the next fifty years due to the supernova event triggered by them! They lack clear oversight, accountability, and moreover the manpower and resources to get the job done. I want it on record that this is the exact problem that was brought up in our last closed session, and I call we reopen the discussion on shuttering Memory Theta in favour of placing its remit under the auspices of the Office Of Special Investigation."

"Please, feel free to talk to the Chief of Security of this station as to the validity of this recording, I believe you'll find ample evidence of the truth of this recording." Arianna replied calmly, "and yes, you are right, resources and manpower are a finding of mine, which I have yet to submit as per request that Memory Theta definitely lacks. However, as part of the larger governing body, I do believe that responsibility falls on other shoulders, not Memory Theta's." Frost tapped on the PADD once again, "I can send over the undoctored version of my findings now if you'd like?"

Admiral Nyel nodded, "We will need the undoctored version of your findings and we will listen to this recording."

That was at least one of their attention, it was enough. "Yes, ma'am." Frost nodded, still solely focused on the trio, still avoiding making eye contact with anyone from Memory Theta. They weren't in the clear yet.

"My first encounter with Memory Theta began on the following stardate," Frost began, dictating a series of dates that referred to relevant events during her time with the facility. "I was assigned to do a performance audit," she tapped again on her PADD, "official audit findings have been unlocked in your dockets as per codeword clearance protocols."

The same copy had filtered into the dockets for the Command Staff of Memory Theta.

This was just too much. Akiva put his hands over his face and breathed slow and deep. Of all the strategies he'd prepared, there was no way he could have anticipated this series of developments.

"In light of these revelations, the tribunal is hereby declaring a recess to examine the information presented." Tau was furious. Even though he avoided all eye contact with Ari, there was no mistaking for whom his glare was intended. "We will reconvene in 12 hours to declare our findings. It is so ordered." He pounded his gavel and nonverbally excused himself before the presiding security officer could announce his departure.

Arianna waited till all three of the panel Chairs were out the door before she too left. This was not the time nor the place to talk to the others. There were twelve hours to do so in a more private setting.

 

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