From the Ashes
In his office, which was plunged in an eerie darkness, William Jefferson was gazing with absent eyes. A small console display on his desk was blinking, ready for a command input.
“Are you sure this is a wise cause of action?”, the familiar voice asked from behind him. Jefferson did not turn his head to answer and kept staring into the emptiness of the room.
“It doesn't matter, I need to know, I want to hear it from her, coming from her own lips. Now leave me alone”, Jefferson muttered.
He pressed a button on the blinking console, on his command the light level in the room increased slightly. After a few more seconds the blue shimmer of a transporter beam appeared in the middle of the room and a figure materialized in front of him. He stood up from his chair to greet his guest:
“Thank you for coming, please have a seat, Madame Speaker.”
Imelda Hayes, Speaker of the Federation Council, nodded and sat down across the table.
“Admiral, I remember we agreed last time that we would not be holding another meeting, you yourself claimed it was too dangerous”, she commenced.
“I know what I said back then, but the situation has changed and I felt that we should discuss certain things, Ma’am.”
Hayes raised her eyebrow in a studied display of surprise.
“Oh, what has changed, Mr Jefferson?”
“You know very well what I am talking about”, he answered her with annoyance.
“The attacks by Patronage forces, first on Khefka IV and now Starbase 56. They are not working on their own. Gumo and his group should never have been able to pull off attacks of that scope, yet they did. And we don’t even know why”, he continued.
“They have stated their motivations very clearly and you admitted that Starfleet Intelligence may have underestimated the threat they were posing. I attended that meeting myself, Admiral”, Speaker Hayes answered him calmly.
“Oh yes and you also openly discredited me, for your own pleasure nonetheless, otherwise I might have been able to convince the President to allow my people to investigate the attack on Khefka instead of that joint team from the Attorney General’s office and the Federation Investigation Agency. If I would have had control, we wouldn’t be looking at them following a lead to a traitor from within the Federation.”
“What are you talking about?”, Hayes inquired, this time genuinely surprised.
“FIA is investigating the background of the Khefka IV Attack, I was able to have a look at their files, they already determined that Gumo’s forces lacked the ability to stage the attack, they had help from outside and thanks to Captain White of the USS Valentine the FIA might look into our activities more thoroughly. If I would have had control of the investigation, I would have been able to steer it away from us, not to mention that we had nothing to do with Khefka or Starbase 56. But now we are being watched.”
“This Captain White seems to be quite a thorn in your side. I heard that he came here recently and blamed you for all which is going on. He claimed that his late First Officer was an agent of yours. Either he is incredibly delusional or incredibly smart”, Hayes gloated.
“He is neither. But apparently Mr Phoenix gave him some information before his death and White has been investigating us ever since”, Director Jefferson responded.
“If he knows too much, then he must be eliminated. Our organization can not afford another leak”, Speaker Hayes countered.
“We can not leave a trail of bodies behind us, Madame Speaker!”
“I don’t like it any more than you do, Admiral, but there are times when sacrifices have to be made. Section 31 can not act out in the open, for only few people would understand the true benefit of our achievements. For the greater good of the people and for their safety, we have to act and sometimes to the detriment of individuals.”
“You don’t have to sell me your program, I am not one of your voters”, Jefferson scoffed angrily.
“I am just saying, as professionals, we both know the price of indecisiveness and inaction and tragically we also were the ones who had to pay it in our personal lives.”
“With all due respect, I don’t recall you losing your family, Ma’am”, Jefferson grunted. Speaker Hayes fixed him with a wrathful stare and said:
“When the Borg assimilated Vega IX, I lost friends, neighbors, colleagues, they were as much family to me as your wife and daughters. So don’t lecture me on loss.”
“That was different”, Jefferson replied while turning away slightly.
“Was it? I had tried to warn the Council and Starfleet for months that my planet was vulnerable, but they would not listen. You tried to warn them about Cestus III and the Klingon threat, but they would not listen to you either. We were both wronged by people in more powerful positions than us. All our agents, all our surveillance, all our knowledge - it was meaningless, we were still unable to save the people we cared for the most. We were powerless. So we made our choice, we decided to put the power where it should be and remove it from those who had proven themselves unworthy of it - and punish them”, Hayes stated.
“And look where it has gotten us. We went too far and now people are asking questions. We can not risk further exposure by trying to tie loose ends, we have to lay low for a while”, Jefferson suggested.
“Unacceptable! We have to finish the job. Pita remains the only one we successfully caught. There is one who is still out there, not to mention your dear friend, Captain White”, Speaker Hayes told him.
Jefferson waved off her idea:
“No, I will not allow it, it is too dangerous.”
With a playful smile Speaker Hayes replied:
“Admiral, I am amazed by your sudden concern for certain people’s lives. I remind you that it was you who came to me and asked for my consent to have Admiral Pita killed and you even explained why.”
Jefferson stood up and turned away from Hayes. After a short pause he responded:
“I haven’t forgotten that day, it was the most difficult thing I ever did. She had been my best friend for all of my career.”
Hayes got up and walked around the desk, halting directly behind Jefferson.
“But in the end she was not her friend anymore, wasn’t she? She betrayed you and your friendship. She had become a politician, a paper-pusher and a coward. She turned down your warning and decided against preemptive action which could have saved so many lives, instead of trusting your judgement she waited until it was too late. And she never had to answer for her mistakes. Until we made her.”
“Yes, that is true”, Director Jefferson said with a bitter tone.
“And do you remember what I told you the day you came to me?”, Hayes wanted to know.
Jefferson turned around and faced her:
“You said removing the Head of Starfleet Intelligence would not be enough. People always have to answer to someone and if that person doesn’t have the heart at the right place, we will accomplish nothing. Okeg would have to go as well.”
“Yes, exactly. The President is a peacemaker, not a warrior. As long as he is in office, our mission is not done”, Speaker Hayes said and walked back to her chair across the table.
“Are you suggesting there should be another attempt?”, Jefferson asked.
“No, the unfolding of the latest events supersede our original plans. With all the chaos going on, he will be politically dead in a few months at most. If not by then, I will get him during the next elections”, Hayes declared with a content grin while sitting down again.
The expression in Jefferson’s face now changed from bitterness to stoic determination and he stated:
“Which will come down to the same result, you will succeed him in office. If his presidency ends now, for whatever reason, pursuant to the constitution, as Speaker of the Council, you will become the next President.”
“Just like we agreed”, Hayes affirmed.
“It seems like you are benefitting very much from current events, aren’t you, Madam Speaker?”, he wondered.
“By happenstance”, Hayes said and shrugged innocently.
Director Jefferson fixed her with his eyes.
“Unless the FIA is indeed right about this traitor. Suppose someone were to put Gumo up to attack a Federation colony, without any warning whatsoever, making Starfleet unable to intervene in time and make Federation citizens question whether their government can still provide for their safety. Eventually a new government will step in, one that is more vigilant and aggressive, one that will enlarge the fleet to a size that will deter any future enemy.”
“Admiral, I don’t like what you are implying”, Hayes told him, her expression becoming grim.
“No, Ma’am, I imagine you don’t. I went back and checked some of the old files. A few interesting things came up. For there is the particular coincidence that it was you who had brought those drone ships into our possession, from the stock of a supposedly unnamed Lethean weapons trader and suggested we use them to dispose of President Okeg instead of scrapping them immediately. And it was also your office’s foreign trade team who was incapable of securing the concession on the Khefkan’s tritanium mines, whose yield a new government would need for an ambitious armament program. However your good personal relations with the Karemma trade mogul Avarjay should compensate for this little problem as he incidentally owns the tritanium deposits in the Atropos asteroid belt and is the largest beneficiary of the contamination of Khefka’s mines as a result of the orbital strike. The FIA also believes that a freighter registered to Avarjay was complicit in that attack.”
“You think it was me?”, Speaker Hayes asked him nonchalantly. Jefferson responded:
“I think the scenario I just outlined is more plausible than anything else we have come up with yet. You had the means and the motivation. I wonder if you also had the infamousness?”
“You just brought me here to ask me if I was the traitor? You want to know if I used my contacts to forge an alliance with forces that would support my goals better than you and reward them with benefits suitable to their interests? If I masterminded a plot to commit an act of outrageous terror on Federation citizens that would propel me into the position that will truly give protection to the Federation?”
Having had enough of her games, Jefferson jumped to his feet and slammed his fist on the table. Hayes didn’t flinch.
“I want to know the truth!”, he yelled.
“The truth? The truth is very simple: Yes. I did. I did it all”, Speaker Hayes replied.
Jefferson sank back into his chair in shock.
“My God. You are insane, absolutely crazy. Do you realize what you have done?”, he asked her with pure disdain. Hayes reply was firm:
“I acted, Admiral. That is what we do best, act when others idle. And I acted when you idled, Jefferson.”
“You killed those people!”, he muttered in horror.
“And that’s not all. I took care of the people who keep asking questions, like your Captain White, Station Chief Jones or Commodore Shelk, who are all going to pass away very soon.”
“No, we can not continue with this”, Jefferson shook his head.
“The least we can do to safeguard the survival of Section 31. I ordered it, because you lacked the guts to do it”, Hayes added.
“I am going to stop it. I am standing down all our activities at once!”, Jefferson said.
“You aren’t doing anything anymore!”
“I beg your pardon? I have the last word on operational matters. That was the deal when you agreed to help me against Pita”, he told her.
“A deal which you broke, because it included helping me against Okeg, but that failed and you bailed out. I only take what was promised to me”, Hayes countered.
“I don’t care, I am stopping this right now!”, Jefferson proclaimed. Hayes gave him a dismissive grin.
“This organization still answers to me, it always has and it always will. Did you really think I would yield power to you in exchange for a cushy presidential office? We have come a long way and I won’t let you sacrifice our achievements on the altar of good conscience. I will do what needs to be done”, Speaker Hayes stated.
“You can’t do this, we have to stop! You killed fifteen hundred people!”, Jefferson whined in despair.
Hayes got up and walked a few steps before saying:
“A small price to pay in exchange for protecting the Federation for decades to come. This is only the beginning, Admiral. And you have a choice now: you are either with me or against me. It is up to you.”
She pressed her combadge and shortly after she dematerialized.