From the Ashes
In open space the immobilized USS Valentine was met by the Nebula-Class starship USS Sutherland. Gazing at the other Starfleet vessel from the window of his ready room, Captain White was making a log entry:
“Captain’s Log, Supplemental. We have finished the recovery of our escape pods and the crew is all accounted for with one notable exception. Commander Heather Low is missing and presumed dead. The damages to the ship are mostly superficial, but the lost warp core left us stranded. The USS Sutherland has arrived and is going to take us in tow for the nearest Starfleet facility.”
Captain White walked out of his ready room and addressed Lt.Commander Soman who was seated in the captain’s chair:
“I am going over there for a meeting with the Sutherland’s captain. You have the bridge, Mr Soman.”
After he had been transported to the Sutherland, White was escorted to the captain’s quarters by an orderly. He entered the quarters where he spotted his friend Captain Philipp Elson.
“Permission to come aboard, Captain?”, White inquired.
“Permission granted”, Elson responded while getting up from his sofa and putting away a book.
Elson was a man of Asian descent in his late thirties, his quarters adorned with shelves full of classical books and potted flowers, a crossbred dog was snoozing in a corner. Elson greeted White with a friendly handshake.
The smile momentarily left Captain Elson’s face,
“I heard about Heather. I am really sorry, Jeff”, he said somberly.
White just nodded, his eyes wandering off. He walked over into the corner and petted the sleeping dog, the animal responded with a gentle whine.
“You know what? I'm starving. How about you?”, Elson asked him, trying to lighten up the mood.
Aboard the USS Sutherland the two Captains had just finished their meals. Remnants of seafood were still adhering to the plates when Captain Elson brought them back to the built-in food replicator for recycling and got himself a cup of chrysanthemum tea before he got back to White who was sitting on the sofa, nursing his Earl Grey.
Captain Elson sat down and took a sip before he exclaimed:
“You know, I was thinking about Commander Low. They will probably award her the Christopher Pike Medal for her actions. She single-handedly saved your ship.”
Captain White stiffened.
“Maybe”, was his short reply.
“Maybe?!, off course they will, Jeff”, Elson responded with mild enthusiasm.
“Just submit your report, tell them what happened in those last moments. She had served in Starfleet with distinction and her final act was one of utmost bravery. It deserves recognition, in my opinion.”
“She sabotaged us”, White coldly told him.
Elson looked at him curiously, thinking he didn’t quite hear right.
“What do you mean, she sabotaged you?”, he asked.
White got up from the sofa and walked around the room.
“She deliberately caused several malfunctions that led to the warp core ejection”, White explained.
“Why would she do that?”, Captain Elson wondered.
“I can’t tell.”
“Surely, you must have some idea?”, Elson wanted to know.
“You don’t understand, Phil, I can’t tell you!”, White replied.
Captain Elson grimaced before quizzing:
“Am I being left out of something again, Jeff? You should know that you can trust me with everything.”
“This is not about trust, Phil! It’s about risk. And it’s mine to take. I can’t ask you to tag along with this one.”
“Very well, Jeff. I just hope you know what you are doing.”
“I better be going. When we have reached Earth I need to get to Starbase 56, I need to meet someone there”, Captain White disclosed.
“Starbase 56?!”, Elson exclaimed in astonishment.
“Haven’t you heard?” he continued.
“Heard what?”, White replied.
Captain Elson sighed in frustration.
“Jeff, there has been another attack. Patronage forces took over parts of the station and are holding the crew hostage.”
Captain White acknowledged this new information with a pale face.
One day Later at Starfleet Command
In a mildly populated corridor inside Starfleet Headquarters Captain White was on his way to his superiors, prepared to give a full report on the latest events on his ship and the circumstances leading to the death of his First Officer.
“Captain White, please come in”, his combadge sounded.
He tapped it quickly in response.
“White here, go ahead.”
“Captain, this is Thalen. There has been a development with our investigation on the Khefka IV Attack and I wanted to update you”, the Director of the Federation Investigation Agency informed him.
“Alright, what have you found?”, the Captain asked with interest.
“We were tipped off by someone in the Klingon Ministry of Justice. Apparently they have an informer who managed to get some info on Gumo and his group. There is a rumor that a few months ago an unknown agent of Federation origin paid a visit to him and they struck some kind of deal. We are going to investigate this lead.”
Captain White was speechless.
“White? White, are you still there?”, Thalen asked.
“Captain, please understand that this is very sensitive information. I’m only telling you this in recognition of your help on Khefka IV. Please keep this to yourself. Thalen out.”
Captain White turned around and began to walk, his steps were fast and determined, his face filling with rage. Lt.Commander Soman spotted him and hurried after the Captain.
“Sir, where are you going? What’s going on?”
White did not answer. He entered a nearby elevator.
“Level Ten”, he instructed the voice interface.
Captain White emerged from the elevator and walked straight into the main offices of Starfleet Intelligence, along a long corridor that was peppered with computer workstations. He approached the large sliding door at the end and entered the office behind it.
Director William Jefferson was sitting at his desk, which was cluttered with data padds. As soon as he spotted the Captain out of the corner of his eye he turned and began to address him:
“Captain White, what are you doing here?”, he asked in bewilderment.
White walked to the desk snorting with rage and with a swift motion of his arm he shoved the pile of padds violently off the table’s surface sending them flying across the room.
Taken aback Jefferson looked at him wide-eyed:
“What has gotten into you?”
“I know what you have done and I am going to bring you down!”, Captain White grunted with rage.
Jefferson’s face darkened.
“I beg your pardon?”, he snarled back while getting up from his chair.
“It was not enough for you to have Pita and Phoenix killed. Wasn’t it? Now you are coming after me? And Jones and Mettus? You want to silence us, because we know about you and your people and have started asking too many questions?”, White yelled at the Admiral.
“Captain White, you must be confused, I don’t know what…”
The Captain cut him off, aggressively leaning on the desk close to Jefferson’s face:
“On the contrary, Admiral, I see things very clearly now.
Phoenix told me himself. I know all about Section 31 and the things your organization has been involved with. You had Admiral Pita killed and then you framed Phoenix so he would be taken out as well. But it didn’t work. You weren’t quick enough in tying all your loose ends, Sir.”
Behind Captain White the door opened and Lt.Commander Soman stepped into the room, he walked over quickly and grabbed White by the arm.
“Captain, please come with me.”
White ignored him and was about to continue shouting at the Admiral when the latter replied:
“Captain, you are obviously still upset about the death of your First Officer. I am very sorry for your loss.”
“Shut up!”, the Captain screamed in a peak of fury.
“What kind of lies have you been feeding her? She has been my First Officer and a trusted friend for seven years, what did you tell her that she would betray me, you bastard!”
Director Jefferson pressed a button on his comm panel and ordered:
“Security to my office!”
“Captain, please, we need to leave!”, Soman pleaded with White, trying to pull him away from Jefferson.
“And now you have gone after Starbase 56, haven’t you? It was you who made contact with Gumo and tasked him with this attack. FIA Director Thalen just informed me that they are investigating a possible Federation traitor who contacted this terrorist months ago. Someone like you, someone with connections. And we know already that the attack on Khefka IV could not have been made by the Patronage alone, they had help and I bet it was you!”
“Sir, I beg you, you must go, please! This doesn’t help anyone!”, Soman argued in vain.
“White, you are talking nonsense and you are risking your career here, I suggest you leave at once!”, Jefferson countered.
Captain White snapped and grabbed a stunned Director Jefferson by the collar.
“I saw the attack site, Admiral. I was on Khefka IV. Fifteen hundred people, Sir! And they are dead because of you. But rest assured I already have the evidence that you instructed Commander Low to sabotage the Valentine and I will find evidence for everything else and I am going to make sure they will nail you to the wall for this!”
The door opened once more and two security officers entered with their phasers drawn. Soman was still trying to get his Captain to leave, but White, trembling with rage, gave Jefferson a loathing look before he let go of his collar and threw him back down into his seat.
“Get this man out of here!”, Jefferson told the guards who were not sure what to do.
“That won’t be necessary”, Soman said, waving them off in panic,
“We are done here, aren’t we, Sir?”, he continued while giving Captain White a pleading look.
“Admiral, please excuse my Captain’s transgression. Good bye!”, Soman said quickly.
With all his strength Soman dragged the Captain out of the room.
“Main Ops to Gryz. Admiral? Would you come take a look at this?”, Chief Engineer van Schuyler stated while sitting at her engineering console.
Admiral Gryz came out of his office and walked over to her station.
“Yes, what do you have, Commander?”
“Sir, I have been reviewing the amount of access the Patronage attackers have to our systems. From what I can tell, among all the requirements to protect their strongholds from any possible attempt to force them out, they control several sensor relays adjacent to the upper decks.”
“That’s reasonable. They warned us not to have any ships nearby, if they wanted to make sure we didn't, they would need sensor access for verification”, Admiral Gryz inferred.
“Right, but here is my thought: they may have access, but if they are not aware of the exact calibration, they might not know that they aren’t getting the full picture”, the Chief Engineer suggested.
“I’m not sure I’m following you.”
“I’m sorry, Sir. What I mean is the sensors would just tell them what is happening within the range and spectrum of the arrays, but not where the blindspots are.”
“Well, are there any?”, Gryz curiously asked.
“I believe so, Sir, I have had the computer run an extrapolation analysis. It looks like there is a narrow corridor near the underside of the station. A small craft traveling with minimal engine emissions might be able to slip through undetected”, she proposed.
“If this works we might have a way to evacuate the station after all. Let’s give it a try. Have your team prepare a shuttle and report to me when you are ready”, the Admiral ordered.
In a corner of a walkway at Starfleet Headquarters Captain White was having a conversation with his own Chief Engineer via communicator.
“Yes, I understand, Commander. Get started on those files, we need them restored as soon as possible.”
“Understood, Captain, but please keep in mind that the replacement of the warp core will take away considerable work capacities”, Lt.Commander Aq’Numi told him.
“Acknowledged, White out.”
Meanwhile a duty officer had approached the Captain and was now standing next to him.
“Yes?”, he responded.
“Admiral Quinn would like to see you at once, Sir.”
In his office Fleet Admiral Jorel Quinn, the Head of Starfleet Operations, was sitting in his chair at his desk and angrily chewing out a much more docile Captain White.
“Jeffrey, I would really like to know what made you think that it was a good idea to burst into the office of the Director of Starfleet Intelligence and call him a traitor and blame him for the attacks on our people?”
“Admiral, as I was saying, I have come to discover that Admiral Jefferson has acted in violation of multiple Federation laws and Starfleet orders. He arranged the murder of Admiral Pita and put the blame on Phoenix. Section 31 agents might secretly operate within every part of the Federation”, White answered.
“Oh, stop it with the Section stories, Captain. I have been hearing these rumors since my academy days. Nobody has ever brought evidence about Section 31’s existence, you know why? Because it’s a myth, a tall tale which was being told to scare some young cadets into believing we had our own version of the Tal’Shiar”, Admiral Quinn responded.
“But Sir, Jefferson had been in contact with my First Officer and instructed her to sabotage the ship when I would not stop investigating him.”
“Where is the evidence then?”, Quinn wanted to know.
Captain White hesitantly answered:
“Unfortunately, the damage inflicted on my ship when our warp core overload caused some of the computer files to malfunction. Among them were the recordings we made to uncover Commander Low as our saboteur. We haven’t been able to access them yet.”
“How convenient for you!”, the Admiral said with incredulity.
“Many of my crew members were witnesses to those events!”, White added with frustration.
“Fine, so file your charges with the JAG Office, you shouldn't need me to tell you procedures”, Quinn stated.
“Admiral, Director Jefferson is dirty and he is dangerous. He needs to be taken into custody right now. If not, then it is only a matter of time until he either will cause more deaths or succeed in covering up his tracks and Section 31 will be back in the shadows. The FIA is following up a lead about a person from inside the Federation that may have instigated the Patronage attack on Khefka IV. And now they attacked Starbase 56 where the very intelligence team is stationed that agreed to help me investigate Jefferson. I believe that he was that traitor. And God knows what he might do next”, Captain White told his superior.
Admiral Quinn took a deep breath before he responded:
“You really are serious about this, Jeffrey?”
“Yes, Admiral, I am. As a Starfleet officer and a Federation citizen I have the duty to protect people from harm and to uphold the truth.”
Quinn got up and walked around his desk right next to White.
“Very well, Captain. Have your people bring me that evidence you claim to possess, but refrain from any more extra tours using the ship we entrusted you with. I will keep an eye on Jefferson. But I want you to stay away from him. If some young hotshot officer would have made a scene like that, he would be gone for good, but you are one of our most senior captains. Next time though, I may not be able to protect you.”
“I understand, Admiral. Thank you”, White reacted.
“Jeffrey, why don’t you take some time off?”, Quinn asked him. The Captain shook his head.
“That is really not necessary, I am fine, Sir”, he replied.
“No, Jeff, you are not. If the events of this afternoon have told me anything, it is that you are no longer in control of your good judgement. Captain, you lost someone who has served under your command for a long time. That isn’t easy. And you have been under considerable stress lately. I want you to take off a couple days, your ship will be in drydock for some time anyway”, Quinn stated.
The Admiral walked back to his seat.
“Understood, Sir”, the Captain mumbled.
“That will be all. Dismissed”, the Admiral told him before returning to his work.
Captain White was back in the ready room aboard his ship when the doorbell chirped.
“Yes, come in.”
Lieutenant Commander Soman entered.
“You wanted to see me, Captain.”
“Yes, Mr Soman, please sit down”, White responded.
“I will be taking a couple of days leave. Admiral Quinn insisted”, the Captain continued.
“Did you tell him what is going? About Commander Low and Jefferson?”, Soman inquired.
“Yes, but since I could not produce the evidence to back it up, we are back at square one.”
Soman turned his head away, disheartened.
“So, what do we do now, Captain?”
“I will be gone for a while, I want you to take charge here. The ship needs to get back to operational status. Commander Aq’Numi is taking care of the warp core installation and she will also try to restore those files. Give her all the support she needs, the sooner we accomplish both, the better”, the Captain told him.
“Understood”, Soman replied.
In a more formal tone Captain White announced:
“Mr Soman, I am giving you a field promotion to the rank of Commander and the post of First Officer of the starship Valentine. You will be in command of this vessel until my return, Congratulations.”
Both men got up and shook hands.
“Thank you, Captain. I don’t know what to say, I, uhm, I won’t let you down, Sir!”, the newly appointed Commander Soman answered.
Captain White walked his new First Officer to the door.
“So, where are you planning to go then?”, Soman asked.
White thought for a moment before he replied with a weak smile:
“I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it yet.