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Walking the Green Mile Part 2

Posted on Sat Jun 12th, 2021 @ 6:32pm by Rear Admiral Gareth Tau & Captain Akiva ben-Avram & Lieutenant JG Jaya Maera Garlake & Ensign Nandi Chakma & Lieutenant Colonel Storr Garlake & Commander Arianna Frost & Calderon Jarsdel & Rear Admiral Aerilyn Nyel

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

The past 12 hours passed by in nerve-wracking reflection and incredulous frustration at the recent turn of events. One by one they filed into the wardroom where the tribunal members were already assembled. Akiva led the way, though once he reached the table, he stood aside to allow the others to seat themselves. As before, Cal blended into the attending crowd, which seemed bigger than before. Akiva hoped it would not affect the man's silent telepathic vigil.

Cal took his seat with the rest of the intrigued and waiting audience and avoided any and all eye contact with the Theta team. Instead, his concentration pushed outward from him like a 360-degree ocean wave, imagery not unlike an old circular radar screen as his recently enhanced mental prowess sought a baseline, sought anomalies, and fetched every scrap of detail that he could locate. He literally read the room, patiently adapting his attention as more people joined the mix.

Storr arrived at the table first and separated Ari and Akiva's nameplates, placing his between them before taking a seat. He didn't see himself being called again but stranger things had happened. As the remainder began filing in, he sat straight in his seat as usual though his eyes cut back and forth between Akiva and the Internal Affairs Commander upon their arrival. He smiled tersely and nodded to the two before looking forward again, his mind already primed for another day of legal buffoonery.

"With everyone in attendance, the tribunal now reconvenes the inquest of Memory Theta's operations." Tau paused long enough to ensure he had command of the room before continuing. "Before taking a recess, evidence was submitted to the tribunal which required authentication and review. Due diligence was performed, and we are prepared to present our findings at this time."

Clearing his throat, Tau picked up a PADD and read directly from it.

"The recording provided by Commander Arianna Frost was authenticated as real and true without evidence of alteration, manipulation, or other forms of 'doctoring'. A preliminary facial comparison of staff known to be on the station held no results, prompting a more intensive review. It was determined through a facial recognition search of the Office of Special Investigations' database that this individual is a known private contractor with an extensive record of falsification of records, criminal trespass, and unauthorized access of classified materials, to name a few. We have issued additional charges of impersonating a Starfleet officer and obstruction of an ongoing investigation to the rap sheet. The individual's true name is unknown, although a list of aliases is included within the case file. Station security, central command, and OSI all seek this individual for summary arrest and questioning."

Tau set the PADD down and narrowed his eyes at Ari, Akiva, Storr, Nandi, and Jaya. The leveled look was cautionary and hostile.

"At this time, the tribunal is prepared to resume the testimony of Commander Frost regarding her audit of Memory Theta as initiated four months prior to the current Stardate." Gesturing to her, Tau gave her the floor. "Commander."

"Thank you, sir." Arianna picked up the PADD, "if I can direct your attention to the first entry," she dictated the stardate, "the date of my arrival at Memory Theta and my request for the availability of all personnel involved in the Cardassian Incident for interviews. I was met with no resistance and began the interviews the following morning. In the following days, I interviewed Captain ben-Avram, Captain Mrazak, Sergeant Kos, Colonel Garlake, Doctor Garlake, Lieutenant Commander Qiao, Lieutenant Xiong and Lieutenant Dedeker. I also interviewed junior personnel involved in the incident."

"Yes, we have reviewed your report in full," Tau said, "as, no doubt, has everyone in this room. Please relay your findings for the record anyhow. Did you find evidence of misconduct or dereliction of duty?"

Arianna shook her head, "no sir. As I was also tasked with assessing whether there were attempts at collusion with one Lieutenant Karna Zsan or Lieutenant Commander Kazyah Linn and have found none. In fact, I will go as far as to say that I have found no evidence of collusion or subterfuge in Zsan and Linn's actions either. Not within the scope of their involvement with Memory Theta."

"What about security breaches?" Admiral Tau pressed. "To the best of your knowledge, has anyone accessed the physical or digital Memory Theta archives other than the staff assigned to secure them?"

"Yes, sir." Arianna replied, tapping on the few commands, "if I may draw your attention to the following dates." Again, she began by dictating a stardate. She described the Cardassian event and Isaiah Zelazny's involvement in disabling the Phantom"As you can see here, this is a linked issue. Isaiah Zelazny's handiwork has been directly influenced by Black Nagus peddlers. As such, I believe that the subsequent attack on Memory Theta by the mentally hijacked and recently freed Mister Calderon Jarsdel is a part of a greater effort by the organization to bring down one of our best lines of defense. Memory Theta. Black Nagus' Lurk's message itself confirmed that they were involved with the attack."

"So your testimony to this committee is that the Black Nagus organization has made numerous inroads against Memory Theta and to date no progress has been made in thwarting such incursions?" Tau's brow dropped, forcing his eyes into a near squint.

"No, sir. Each of these incursions had been thwarted as the Memory Theta staff have reported and each encounter has resulted in new measures. It is not an exact science, and there is no set of firewalls to stop power games like these. With each encounter, we are learning more and developing more effective countermeasures. However, 100% safety is not achievable." Frost countered.

Tau could not argue. He looked to the other members of the panel to allow them time to question the internal affairs auditor.

Admiral Nyel sat back but said nothing. Neither did Smith.

Amongst those watching the proceedings, Cal's expression remained impassive through a series of control measures he'd been working on since his... rehabilitation. The mention of his perceived crime (it still remained so in his mind despite his inability to alter events at the time) brought no obvious external reaction, though a fellow empath or telepath would have seen his mind light up clearly enough. Cal pushed past that involuntary response and focused his mental gaze outward and on finding anyone among those gathered here whose mental signature differed from the norm. Frost - cool and calm as ever - spoke her words and maintained her decorum both internally and externally. What was everyone else thinking right now?

Aside from the general tension that permeated the room, there was one thread of cold malice that stood out from the rest. It tickled at Cal's mind with the persistence of a bad dream only half-forgotten.

"You may be seated, Commander Frost," Tau said.

Frost nodded, stepping away from the witness stand and over to where the witnesses were seated, where she too took a seat. So, they burned the poor idiot they sent to do their bidding because Arianna wouldn't play through. It was clever to use someone who had no known record, although they could have just as easily been a clean skin as their file could have been conveniently erased later. The problem was, this person knew her callsign. Which meant one of two things. One, Tau or one of the others had given it to them, or given them access to her file...or the leak was bigger than Castermer had originally considered. Neither of the options were good. The latter, however, was infinitely worse.

"We now wish to call the honored representative from 101100010100110," Tau said. "Please, Your Excellency, come and sit."

From the side entrance came a diminutive creature with lilac skin and a bulbous head. Standing no more than one and a quarter meter in height, the representative from Bynaus bobbled along to the raised dais that was shoulder height to it. "Greetings," it said, head craned back to stare the panel in the face.

Akiva gasped. He had not seen a Bynar since his personal mission to Bynaus where he had first learned of Memory Theta. Since Biynah.

Storr blinked. Bynaus? Akiva's rescue. Kos & Kazyah's fight. The assault. Biynah's sacrifice. Laena and Akiva's troubles. Why did things always circle back to that bloody Orion?! His gaze narrowed as he assessed the diminutive Bynar. While time had passed, the ramifications of it were still very, very fresh.

While she herself had not been present for the Bynaus mission, Frost was very well aware of it, and how it had impacted Akiva. The Captain's quiet gasp confirmed it. The panel had a contingency plan. This was the next derailing. Frost kept a close eye on everyone, taking in micro expression, trying to pick up any clues this would yield into discovering more of the plan and motive ahead.

"Please state your name for the record," Tau said.

The Bynar stared up at him with indifference. "I was 1011-0101-0110-0101-1011, but I am now known as Azimuth-12-Tamlan. You may address me as Azimuth."

"Very well, Representative Azimuth." Tau adopted the tone used he for civilian bureaucrats. It was slightly less bullying. "Would you please state for the record whether or not Memory Theta has made an impact on your world?"

Azimuth nodded.

"Your answers must be verbal, Representative."

"Yes," Azimuth said.

Tau grated his teeth. "Would you please tell the tribunal the nature of Memory Theta's visit to your world?"

"I will."

After a moment of silence, Tau raised his hand, palm outward, in an inviting gesture. "You may begin when ready."

Akiva couldn't help but smile. The Bynars were a singularly frustrating people. No doubt this Azimuth's testimony would be damning, so he took mirth where he could find it.

"Earlier this Stardate, Bynaus was facing a systemic error in our master network that could have destroyed us. The Federation Ambassador at the time called in a team of specialists with promises of averting what seemed to be a dire fate." Azimuth stopped speaking rather abruptly as if he had been reading and the page stopped.

"And? Were they successful?" Asking questions of this lifeform made Tau feel like he was pulling teeth.

Azimuth considered the question briefly. "After a fashion," he said. "In the end, our master network received a quantum upgrade which has allowed individual Bynars to bootstrap themselves in the transcendence of our traditional binary configuration. Many of remain binary, while others, like myself, have embraced the Way of Manifold Integers."

"I see..." This was not the forum for nascent philosophical movements. Tau pressed the line of testimony back on track. "Correct me if I am mistaken, Representative Azimuth, but did not the Federation Ambassador perish during Memory Theta's time on Bynaus?"

"Correct."

"Along with two presiding leaders of your capital canton?"

"Also correct."

Tau suppressed a smirk, for it would make his next question rather distasteful. "And by 'perish,' would it be correct to modify that as 'murdered'?"

"Also correct."

"Thank you, Representative," Tau said.

Akiva stood to his feet. "If I may be allowed to respond, I have to say that the Bynar Information Crisis was not a regular operation."

"And much of it remains classified," Tau warned, "hence the circumspect manner of my questioning."

"Indeed, Admiral," Akiva said. Taking a page from Arianna's book, he pressed a few buttons on his PADD, which then cast data onto the evidence screen that was erected for said purpose. "The following is taken from a heavily redacted Federation News Network editorial bulletin titled 'Down with Gareth Tau':

'The Alpha Quadrant is a dynamic region of space where many Federation members call home. Citizens of the Federation look to Starfleet not only to discover new worlds and make new allies but also to ensure the general defense and stability of everyone within its borders. By Federation law, all people are given equal treatment and consideration, and yet there are those who are less equal than others. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the Bynar homeworld of Bynaus. And no man is more deserving of public censure regarding it than Commodore Gareth Tau, head of its Office of Special Investigations (OSI).' Hm, let's see . . . 'Commodore Tau has continued this egregious tradition of noncommittal negligence.' . . ." Akiva rubbed his chin in thought as he assessed which text he would put on the screen. "So many quotable portions. Ah, here is another:

'When this journalist began to dig into the murky waters of Starfleet’s subterfuge surrounding recent events on Bynaus, it became clear that racial prejudice and discrimination perpetrated against the cybernetic Bynars left them fending for themselves during a campaign of domestic terrorism. For years, their cultural values based upon all things binary have rendered them alienated and despised by the Federation at large. Antiquated; regressive; problematic. Such pernicious labels have denigrated their honored race to such a degree that the Federation’s own ambassador saw fit to sell them out to a Ferengi kingpin of crime. It is with sordid pleasure that I pass on the report that Ambassador Hannok perished at the hands of his criminal cohorts. But if that was where the story ended, then Commodore Tau would have plausible deniability.'"

"Shut that off NOW!" Tau shouted. "That is out of context, both in their quotation and in the writing."

Turning to Azimuth, Akiva said, "Honored Representative, would you agree or disagree with the accuracy of the FNN assessment as you have seen and heard it now?"

"Yes, I would," Azimuth said. "But only after a fashion."

"Of course," Akiva said, nodding into a respectful bow.

"Recess!" Tau said. "I order a... a ten-minute recess." He banged his gavel and marched from the room, wearing his indignation like a cape.

While she was impressed with the bold move of Akiva's, and even proud, Arianna did feel that this may be going in the direction of a different extreme. They needed to show that they could take the shots as well as fire back, but not to the point of being seen as complete loose cannons who needed to be terminated.

The line between 'don't mess with me' and 'don't mess with me because I'm off the rails' was a fine one. They needed to be seen as formidable, not insane with the need to be removed from the chessboard. She didn't voice her thoughts however but simply looked at the Memory Theta Command Staff, waiting. This was their game, Ari was but a small piece of the puzzle.

Storr listened and watched with seeming indifference, his arms crossed over his chest or idly stroking his beard. He hated bureaucracy, intrigue, and legal proceedings almost as much as he hated Ferengi pearl slugs...why couldn't each side simply designate a champion for battle in single combat, winner take all? The marine figured he had at least ten minutes to imagine all the ways he could handily beat Admiral Tau to a pulp.

"Thank you for the candor," Admiral Nyel stated, slightly under her breath, as she stood and followed Tau out of the room.

Akiva stood up and gestured for everyone to follow him. The state wardroom had a few side spaces that were little more than oversized supply closets. One had been set aside for them, though it lacked all fixtures save for an overhead light, basic chairs, and an honest to goodness water cooler in lieu of a replicator. Rolling his eyes at it, he walked to the far end to give everyone enough space to enter and then began speaking.

"Well, that was surprising. I never expected them to reach clear back to Bynaus," he said. "Forgive me if my impromptu sharing of the news article caught anyone by surprise. It didn't occur to me until that moment, and I just went with the impulse. My best guess is that it came out as a wash." Looking at Cal, he asked, "How do you read the room?"

Arianna stepped over with the others, hands clasped behind her back. Akiva's question to Jarsdel focused her attention on the Betazoid that had run rampant through Overwatch Station a mere weeks ago. How things had changed. Then she glanced over at Garlake, harkening back to their earlier conversation. How things had changed indeed.

Cal turned his gaze from the middle distance in order to focus on Akiva's own. He didn't need to have that visual cue, but he wanted it, wanted to ground his overactive brain in hard reality for a moment, to watch the man speak, see his facial expressions and feel the words. A simple question. A control question. Easy to answer.

"It's primed," Calderon stated, laying down a foundation for the rest of his assessment as he concentrated solely on Akiva's face. "The sense of individual need is clear but impossible to tightly pin down - too much background noise, deliberate mental chaff, and all those countermeasures. I can tell you for certain though that there are those merely waiting to unleash something. They have an agenda, something important, and they are simply waiting to be given the go-signal in order to set events in motion. I've been working on narrowing down those specifically patient people, but no sure answers as yet."

"That... is alarming," Akiva said, zeroing in on Cal. "Especially considering what Ar--Commander Frost revealed earlier about last night's events. This situation is becoming direr by the moment."

Jaya shook her head in wonder. "Tensions are running so high... It's incredible that Cal could pinpoint anything."

"I'll monitor for any physical giveaways," Arianna offered.

An attendant knocked on the not-a-closet door. "The tribunal has returned," he said.

Akiva nodded. "All right. Let's get back to it. Heads high, everybody."

The Memory Theta representatives, shaken but not broken, returned to their place on the chopping block.

"We are resuming the inquest into the proceedings of Memory Theta." Tau glowered at Akiva. "All future comments are ordered to remain germane to these proceedings. Now, we have a representative from the Judge Advocate General's office with an internal audit to prepare. Please come forward."

A tall, bald man of dark complexion strode confidently and casually up the aisle. He paused ever so briefly at the table where the Memory Theta group was seated in order to establish eye contact, if not dominance, with three who people sat there. Storr, Jaya, and Akiva. As he presented himself to the tribunal for swearing-in, Jaya let out a gasp.

"It's Stelio Kontos!" Jaya gasped in a horrified whisper. This was the former Deltan Ambassador who had personally filed charges of breaking her Oath of Celibacy, who had hauled her before not one but two Deltan committees in efforts to see her exiled, who had Storr dragged into a sexual rite of passage that would have granted him Seyalian citizenship of Delta IV at the expense of her own, to say nothing of their marriage. "What is that evil man doing here?"

Akiva visibly swallowed a dry gulp in his throat. The only time he had seen this man in person, it had been to deliver a threat of legal action on behalf of Storr and Jaya yet carried the weight of the entire Federation justice system. "Evidently... he went from the Deltan Foreign Ministry to Starfleet's JAG office."

Storr's thick, brownish-blonde eyebrows immediately shot up before just as quickly diving across his forehead into a deep V, threatening to knit together on the bridge of his nose. All thoughts of besting Admiral Tau in singular combat shifted to the Deltan standing before him, former "Ambassador Extraordinaire" and scourge of his and Jaya's marriage. As red began tinting the edges of his vision and sadistic thoughts came rapidly unbidden, a *snap* in his right hand and a dull twinge of pain rescued him from a potentially career-ending train of thought. Looking down, the marine was first confused as to why he held part of an armrest in his hand until his vision moved further back and realized that it belonged to his own chair. Blinking, he quickly moved his hands back below the table while looking back and forth hoping that no one had noticed. They never taught you in boot camp what to do when you accidentally broke a chair in rage during a tribunal so after a moment of indecisiveness Lt Col Garlake innocently dropped it to the floor and scraped it under the chair with his foot, smiling sheepishly at Arianna.

Unfortunately, the mental reprieve was slight as Gareth's voice brought his gaze back to Stelio but not before he looked past Commander Frost to Jaya. The look on his bride's eyes was one of near horror and while Storr initially began to inflame again in defense of her, he unexpectedly found calm. Shifting his gaze back to the Deltan Ambassador, he cracked a devilish grin. He had beaten the bliksem before and he could do it again.

"Mister Kontos, what have you prepared for this tribunal on this day?" Tau asked.

Before the Deltan man could give an answer, Akiva jumped to his feet.

"Admirals, I must object to this man's presence here today." Gone was the hesitation of the nervous Hebron, replaced by the age-old fire of his people that only showed in key moments such as when justice was at stake. "He was removed from his position within the Deltan Foreign Ministry for gross abuse of power in a personal witch-hunt against two of my officers. I insist that he be recused from these proceedings and any report he has filed to be stricken from the record."

Kontos slowly pivoted on one heel to look back at Akiva without fully turning away from the tribunal. The grin on his face said a thousand words but could be summarized with one: Gotcha.

"Yes, it is indeed no surprise that Captain ben-Avram would make such a motion," Kontos said, "for it is merely another instance in a pattern of misappropriation and abuse of positional authority on his own part."

The neutral expression on Tau's own face could not deny the gloating on Tau's face. "Care to explain yourself, Mister Kontos?"

"By all means," Kontos said, hand in the air in a gracious gesture of acceptance. "While it is true that I pursued an investigation into a Deltan in service to Starfleet, one Jaya Maera, now known as Jaya Maera-Garlake, for suspicions of oathbreaking, I was simply doing my due diligence as a representative of the Deltan Foreign Ministry." As Kontos talked, he folded his hands behind his back and began to slowly pace in matched cadence to his words. It was weaving a spell that Akiva knew had to break.

Storr's calm evaporated like the morning mist on the Savannah, the other armrest nearly joining its partner on the floor. Jaya took the Garlake name and never referred to herself with a hyphenated last name, it was something he insisted on and she had gladly agreed to. That Kontos would refer to her as such was a (well) calculated move on his part to keep the Afrikaner livid. While a potentially deadly move in a bar or the battlefield, here in his favored turf it was a well-played action.

"Objection!" Akiva said again. "How is any of this in keeping with the admiral's order to remain germane to the proceedings?"

Tau pursed his lips. While he wanted this to play out, he knew that Akiva had a point. "Mr. Kontos?"

"I am merely explaining the pretext for my investigation into Akiva ben-Avram and those under his command," Kontos said.

"Then continue, Mr. Kontos," said Tau, "and kindly get to the point."

Kontos bowed his head. "Of course, Admiral." Resuming his posture as before, though with considerably less panache, Kontos continued his tale. "The reason I am no longer in the employ of the Foreign Ministry is due to the misappropriation of Memory Theta assets by the very man put to the question today. He used his positional authority to strongarm the Ministry into sending me away, allegedly as a representative of JAG. Fortunately, when I checked up on his credentials, I discovered a need within the JAG office for capable investigators. I was offered a commission in due course and I am here today to present the findings of the legal audit." He flicked copies from his PADD to the three tribunal members. "As you can see, Your Excellencies, there is indeed a chain of malfeasance that cannot be excused under the emergency powers granted to the agency for said actions were taken outside the purview of the agency's umbrella."

Arianna's expression and posture remained one of complete calm and unreadability. The Panel had certainly had several plans up their sleeve. On the face of it, it was a good plan. On the face of it. The Security Investigations Officer, turned criminal profiler, turned Intelligence Officer with the Internal Affairs desk, seconded to "Project Castermer, sent out a query to Internal Affairs for more information in regards to the 'so called' JAG representative Kontos and whether or not he had at any point run an investigation of Memory Theta.

An answer to her query was returned within moments, to Arianna's surprise. So, she raised a hand, before standing up.

"If I may pose a question to Mister Kontos? I require clarification on some matters? One investigator to another..." she gestured between herself and Kontos.

Kontos wasn't really in a position to agree or disagree. He cast a suspicious eye on Ari, wondering what her angle was.

"Now as with any investigation into Starfleet or Civillian personnel, there exist official records of all investigations. What for the purposes of legality, keeping a record of all evidence as well as quite simply memory." Arianna began, her eyes fixed on Kontos. "Whether or not a matter is classified, it will exist in the system. If it's classified it will come up as such. Mister Kontos, can you explain to me and the panel the absence of the aforementioned investigation in the system, both during your time as Deltan Ambassador and now, as Legal Aide with no official rank in Starfleet?"

With the shoe dropped, Kontos leveled a withering glare at Ari. "My investigation was a referral from the Deltan Foreign Ministry. It predates my time with JAG, which is itself of no consequence to the truth of the allegations."

"Actually it is, Mister Kontos. For any investigation, there is a record. I am asking for evidence of this inquiry you claim to have been tasked with. Not the oath-breaking, mind you, as you yourself had said, that had been a pretext. I am asking for evidence of the investigation into Memory Theta. Let me also remind you that you do not have diplomatic immunity anymore, so I suggest we skip that bit and get to the core of it, shall we?" Arianna withstood the glare, letting the anger bounce off her with ease.

While Kontos glared At Ari with utter disdain, Akiva's eyes grew wide with admiration. The tension of the moment thickened to a palpable level.

"My investigation was of a personal nature," Kontos was forced to admit, "submitted through Code 15 litigation procedures."

Akiva smirked at that. While the detail might be lost on most people, he knew exactly what that meant. Taking it from there, he stood to his feet. "Do you mean to tell the tribunal that you pursued a personal tort claim? That is what Code 15 litigation entails, and it is little wonder, then, that your claim to 'personal damages' never so much as crossed my desk. Memory Theta operates under qualified immunity."

"But you abused that qualified immunity!" Kontos shouted, finger thrust at Akiva in accusation. "You took everything from me, you rutting, monogamous primates!"

Gasps filled the room at the shocking pejorative language. Akiva merely rocked back onto his heels and tried not to smirk at the turn of events.

Storr's chest nearly puffed out with pride at Kontos' words. His gaze flicking right, he caught both Frost and Jaya's eyes as he winked back, a smirk joining Akiva's as he watched his Captain take his seat.

"Nothing further," Arianna sat back down, her eyes attached to the members of the panel. What were they playing at? So far every witness brought in by the prosecution had either busted them, Theta busted the witness, or in Kontos' case, Ari busted him. Truth be told he more busted himself than anything. Still, this was beginning to seem like a sham, designed by a desperate bid to cover one's backsides. It almost seemed...staged, but the wrong way. Everything so far spoke in Theta's favor, despite all the witnesses designed to provide evidence to the contrary. What the actual hell was going on?

Admiral Nyel shifted in her seat, uncomfortably. She wasn't exactly sure where this was supposed to go, or exactly what angle Tau was getting at. But the buffoonery she was witnessing was almost too much to bear.

"You are free to go, Mr. Kontos." The look on Tau's face made clear exactly where Kontos could go if it were up to the admiral.

The disgraced Deltan official strode toward the exit casually at first, at least until he neared the table where the Memory Theta group sat. Jaya raised her hand up toward his face with a rude gesture that was blocked by their bodies from most of the room. Kontos picked up the pace and ran with his proverbial tail between his legs.

Akiva had remained standing and took advantage of the awkward silence to take command of the room. "There is a matter that the tribunal has neglected to mention up to this time," he said, "and I wish to broach the subject now. The Pentad Conflict where the Federation had been on the precipice of war with the Cardassian Union over suspicions of a Cardassian connection to an atrocity within the Lagashi sector. Memory Theta was called in to expedite the forensic investigation on behalf of Starfleet Security. By your own commendation, Admiral Tau, when you meritoriously promoted Mrazak Tow'lasha to the rank of Captain, we directly averted interstellar war by our actions."

"Ah, yes," Tau said. "While it is true that war was averted, it came at great cost. The Lagashi Republic nearly seceded from the Federation, not only due to what they considered soft treatment toward Cardassia but also due to multiple treaty violations alleged against your agency. Those charges were expunged through great diplomatic effort, straining the very fabric of your qualified immunity, but if you wish to exhume them here and now, then be my guest."

Locking eyes with the admiral, Akiva broke first. He averted his gaze. "No, Admiral." There was nothing more to be said. Akiva knew his lucky streak could not hold out forever.

A slight smile crossed Admiral Nyel's face. Of course, he wouldn't want to speak about that.

"Let's circle back to discuss the matter at hand," Tau said. "We have already covered the actions taken in by your team in the Sol system. I have in hand an affidavit filed by the Venusian Colonial Administration, what's left of it, which contains some very troubling remarks." Tau looked down at his PADD to read directly. "Remarks include: 'Fuck them. They can all die,' as stated by a Memory Theta engineer in regards to colonial citizens. 'Kill one for me!' as stated by the same engineer when Marines assigned to Memory Theta fired upon Colonial security personnel. And, perhaps most disturbing of all, multiple counts of the field team referring to the colony as 'venereal'." Setting the PADD down, Tau said, "When coupled with such reckless actions as firing multiple megatons of potentially planet-busting ordnance at the north pole of the planet, 'sling-shotting' a populated aerial platform out of the planetary atmosphere, and subverting the function and operation of the capital station in orbit, what do you have to say for the cavalier and careless impression that your team has left upon Federation officials?"

Akiva felt dumbstruck. Most of those remarks were news to him. He... he was scrambling for words.

"We're waiting, Captain," Aerilyn stated, in a tone that radiated her annoyance and disgust.

Arianna, who had been tapping on her PADD for the duration of the reading, stood up. "Distinguished panel members, if I may speak again? I was present as Commanding Officer of the second field team which has been repeatedly mentioned in your reading, as well as during these so-called 'venereal comments'. What your report is lacking is context and a lot of it. If I may present evidence in terms of recordings from the three environmental suits of myself, Lieutenant Sophie Xiong - the Engineer in question, and Lieutenant Kara Madavi of Starfleet Security who had been working on an undercover assignment at Llorona Station prior to Memory Theta's arrival and also completely unrelated to Theta."

Admiral Nyel gestured to the woman, "You may proceed."

Frost nodded, "thank you. To the first troubling remark, if you turn your attention to the timestamp in the recording, you will see that Lieutenants Madavi, Xiong and myself had been imprisoned on the platform also mentioned in your report by one Mailie McGill a terrorist affiliated with a branch of The Kinship, on whom a full report is also in your docket." Arianna launched into an explanation as to the reason for the aerial platform being 'sling-shotted' into the atmosphere, to touching on the comments made by Xiong on both counts, referring to relevant timestamps in the recordings.

"We had tried everything possible, the three of us, on a station spiraling into its death, myself being attacked by McGill herself, to help these people. Without a ship and without support of any sort, we had no option but to die with them. It was pure chance that the SOS signal I'd transmitted from my suit even got picked up by Lieutenant Dedeker on the Phantom, who then proceeded to save the entire platform, as mentioned above."

"Captain Mrazak, as I'm sure everyone in the room knows is aware of is eccentric, and kept making a cultural faux pas, as I am sure we have all done at some point or another when operating with other cultures. More ruffled feathers to smooth out, hardly anything more than that." Frost touched on Mrazak, hardly believing that she was actually defending him.

"There's that name again..." Admiral Nyel said.

"As to the north pole shot," Arianna went on to describe the reasoning behind that, "all of the relevant reports had been submitted on time and tagged for your discretion, again, so that you may review them."

Admiral Nyel nodded, "Thank you for the context, Commander."

"One more thing, sirs, ma'am. Memory Theta was chartered by you to deal with situations like these. You were chartered to help smooth over the fall out. Black Operations cannot exist without external support. Currently they are understaffed and without the proper support of the other echelons. And now you want to close another one down, with circumstantial and, most disturbingly doctored and non-contextual evidence. I am moving that this proceeding be discontinued and Memory Theta be allowed to return to Operational Status." Arianna said with icy calm.

"Every piece of evidence and every witness has been dissected and countered by our reports from Command and Staff from MT, submitted correctly and at times of incidents in question. Instead of tearing apart our last, best defense, help build it up and step up to the plate. This is leading nowhere, this inquest, I urge you to cease." Frost said, looking around the room.

On the inside, however, she could barely hear from the thundering of her heart. Her emotions and expression were tightly clamped down yet aching to burst at the seam at any moment, considering what she had just said. This would either work or completely tank her career, and those of the others.

Aerilyn looked down at the woman who was speaking to her. She looked over at Admiral Tau, nodded, then to Captain ben-Avram. "I actually agree with the Commander's viewpoint. I feel like this has been a huge waste of time. Memory Theta is integral to the safety and security of this quadrant and the Federation. Closing it would require us to open two more facilities just like it."

She leaned her head forward, looking at the Captain over her glasses. "That isn't to say there aren't concerns about the facility and its staffing." She straightened up. "From the reports I've heard about this Captain Mrazak, it seems he feels a sort of pleasure from demeaning those under his command and those he interacts with. He is a wild card and a loose cannon. While I have suggested actions against this Officer previously, I'm starting to question whether he's fit to wear the uniform at all. This also makes me question why you haven't dealt with this issue before now, Captain."

"If this inquiry regarding Memory Theta is dropped, I am requesting that Captain Mrazak be brought forward to this panel for a full investigation into his actions as Team Lead at Memory Theta. Depending on how that investigation goes will depend on whether we pursue a court-martial or not. If Captain Mrazak doesn't come of his own volition, you have authority to seize him and bring him to us." Admiral Nyel looked directly at Akiva. "Get your house in order, Captain. We won't be having this conversation again."

Tau cleared his throat. "Now hear this. Captain Mrazak was censured in the first hearing of this inquest, but the tribunal has now agreed that he is to be brought to us without further delay. Therefore..." He looked at Akiva. "Our ruling is this: we will adjourn for 24 hours. If Captain Mrazak does not appear before us in any capacity within the interim, then we will give our summary determination at the end of that time. If you wish to save your agency, Captain, then you will provide the man at whose feet you have laid its failings." Banging his gavel, Tau said, "We are adjourned."

"Bringing a Starfleet officer to court in handcuffs is always an unfortunate thing, but I'll do my duty, sir," Storr said, a smile nearly breaking across his face as he faced Akiva.

Nandi, who had sat quietly in Mrazak's stead the entire time, let out a breath she had been holding. "What does this mean for us?" she discreetly asked.

"It means we need Mrazak to get his tachat to DS9," Akiva said grimly. "Immediately."



 

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