From the Ashes
On the small viewscreen of a console appeared another FNN news feed hosted by their anchorman Tom Flint:
“Our top news story today: more arrests connected to the Section 31 Affair. In a press conference earlier today the spokesperson for the Federation’s Attorney General announced that arrest warrants for about eighty additional individuals were issued due to allegations of membership in the shady organization. Among them are again prominent Starfleet officers and other Federation officials.”
During the off-narration a compilation of images was now being displayed, showing several scenes of law enforcement officers conducting searches in offices and private homes, unknown Section 31 members being handcuffed and others pushing their way through crowds of protesters.
The news reporter continued:
“In the last few days more than two hundred people had already been taken into custody on a multitude of charges in response to the allegations first becoming public. Some of the more distinguished suspects who have not been arrested so far instead faced angry reactions in public with people demanding their resignation. Speaker of the Federation Council Imelda Hayes, whose name also came up during the investigation and who is suspected of having masterminded both the attack on the presidential ship as well as the Khefa IV colony in an apparent coup d’état, remains a fugitive.
Starfleet and FIA officials stated yesterday that Vice Admiral William Jefferson, former Director of Starfleet Intelligence and alleged leader of Section 31 has been forthcoming in the first round of questioning after his incarceration several days ago. Legal experts however assess that a complete judicial prosecution of Section 31’s activities may still take years.
In relation to the events surrounding Section 31, Starfleet also issued a statement today that they consider the military forces of the terrorist organization known as ‘Patronage of Freedom’ to be largely defeated after several encounters with superior Klingon and Federation forces. Acting on behalf of certain Section 31 members the group had been carrying out several attacks and atrocities in the previous weeks, among them the attacks on Khefka IV and the Federation Starbase 56.”
A hand reached for a button and shut off the transmission before returning to piloting the small shuttlecraft.
The vessel was carefully navigating through the swirling clouds of the Badlands, an inhospitable region on the outskirts of Federation space, filled with gravitational anomalies and huge flailing plasma storms which were producing tornado-like whirling pillars of fire and electromagnetic flares whipping out dangerously like tentacles. Avoided by interstellar traffic and difficult for starships to maneuver in, the Badlands were an ideal hiding spot.
The shuttle was approaching a dilapidated small space station, not much more than a large satellite which was continuously being rocked and already partially disintegrated by the power of the storms. The small vessel entered through a narrow hatch and sat down in the station’s tiny darkened shuttlebay. The craft’s rear hatch opened and two hooded figures emerged, both holding hand phasers and flashlights. Both cautiously walked to the station’s control room, checking consoles on their way which however proved inoperable. The entire station was abandoned, nothing but dark corridors and empty storage bays. Upon reaching the control room the two figures looked around shortly before taking off their hoods.
“There is nobody here! Gumo, you traitorous bastard!”, said Speaker Hayes with anger.
Her assistant began checking another console in the meantime.
“Are you sure this is the right place, Ma’am?”
“Yes, of course. There aren’t that many abandoned stations floating around here”, Hayes cynically replied.
“He said this place would be his retreat, he had been using it as a hideout for his caches”, she went on.
“Well, looks like he packed and left for good. Maybe he is back on Qo’noS where I met him back then”, the assistant suggested.
“Nonsense! With the Klingons closing in on him?!”, Hayes exclaimed.
“Anyway, I believe I can restore minimal power. I think we can stay here for a while and plan where to go next”, the female assistant reported.
“Alright, I’ll have a look around and see if there is anything useful left here”, Speaker Hayes announced, but the moment she was about to leave the control room the entire station began to shake violently.
“What’s going on? Interference from the plasma storms?”, Hayes wanted to know, trying to hold herself steady.
Her assistant hastily worked the command console before stating:
“No, Ma’am. There is something else here. Something large is passing over us.”
“Put it on the viewer!”, Speaker Hayes ordered.
Both women looked in horror when right in front of them a massive Klingon Negh'Var-Class battlecruiser decloaked. The juggernaut, measuring almost half a mile, was dwarfing the space station.
“Try hailing them!”, Hayes instructed. The other woman, pushing in vain on the console, yelled:
“Communications are down. They are charging weapons!”
The Klingon battlecruiser powered up its forward main disruptor. On the vessel’s bridge a Klingon commander stoically gave the order to fire.
The ship’s weapons erupted with a vicious greenish burst which impacted the station and blew it to pieces. On his bridge the Klingon commander turned around to the man standing behind him, Jesse Phoenix, who gave him an approving nod.
Facility 4028, Federation Supermax Prison, Undisclosed Location
Captain Jeffrey White, Commodore Ghee Shelk and Captain Phil Elson were just done undergoing another security screening in order to get access to the next section of the high-security penitentiary. The large sliding gate opened in front of them and they started walking along the long corridor towards the next cell block, passing multiple holographic guards posted at the intersections. The three men were talking among themselves:
“So, Phil, are you sure you want to keep that old rustbucket after taking up your new position? You realize that as Director of Starfleet Intelligence you could requisition any ship you like”, Shelk teased Captain Elson.
“Thanks for the reminder, but I think the Sutherland will do just fine. You shouldn’t be shooting your big blue mouth anyway. Your ship practically needs to be reconstructed from the keel up again”, Elson countered.
“So? At least I’ll receive all the newest system upgrades.”
“Phil, do you have any idea why Admiral Pita declined assuming her position again?”, Captain White asked, interrupting their banter.
“No, I’m afraid not. I met her only briefly a few days ago when she gave me a crash course on running the department. We didn’t discuss the matter. My guess is she wants to retire and spend more time with her family”, Elson explained.
“Understandable. They thought she was dead”, Commodore Shelk chipped in with.
“No, Phoenix implied they were the only ones who knew about her staged death except for Pita and him”, White remarked.
“So basically Jefferson’s reason for his actions was avenging his family’s death?”, Captain Elson wondered.
Captain White began explaining:
“Their death was a turning point. He had been leading a double life for much of his career, serving both Starfleet and Section 31. When their life was in danger he tried to save them like a Starfleet officer would, but it failed. I guess it was then that he started to regard ours as the wrong way and turned his back on Starfleet. Still I did not realize this until we confronted him. Phoenix even gave us the hint.”
“He did?”, Shelk asked in amazement.
“Yes, sure. Remember the last set of numbers on the datarod? We thought they were spatial coordinates like the others. It was a stardate. The date Jefferson’s family died.”
Shelk shrugged and said:
“What does it matter? We nailed him anyway.”
“Hey, this should be it!”, Captain Elson suggested while indicating a cell door a few meters away.
The three men stepped closer and White peaked inside through the door’s small window. The inside of the cell was dark. William Jefferson was quietly resting, reclined on his bunk, wearing an orange jumpsuit. When he noticed the arrival of the three officers he tapped a button on the wall switching the lights on. Captain White pressed the intercom button on the outer side of the door.
“I have come to see how you are doing?”
Jefferson slowly got up and approached the door.
“I am doing just as well as I can be, I guess. Won’t you introduce me to your friends?”, Jefferson politely asked.
“Of course, Commander Shelk, Captain Elson - William Jefferson”, White indicated.
“Welcome, gentlemen. I would offer you a refreshment, but the replicator in here is time-coded and it’s not yet dinner time”, Jefferson wryly commented.
“No worries, Sir”, Captain Elson replied with an embarrassed smile.
“How are things outside these walls? How is the investigation going?”, William Jefferson wanted to know.
Captain White grimaced a bit when answering:
“You are aware of the rules in this facility. I’m not at liberty to discuss these matters with you.”
“No, of course not. Never mind.”
“Are you being completely isolated here?”, Captain Elson asked the prisoner.
“It is part of the security features. But as your presence here shows, I can still receive visitors. My legal council and Admiral Pita pay me a visit whenever it is allowed”, Jefferson explained.
“I assume you and the Admiral are on better terms now”, White wondered.
“Let’s just say we have gained a better understanding of each other.”
“I’m glad to hear that. Shelk and I would like to ask you something”, the Captain said.
“After some discussions with Mr Phoenix as well as Starfleet Command it was becoming clear that it is still unknown how certain information was leaked to us. Shelk’s vessel received a warning by Starfleet Command about a hostile Patronage force about to intercept them, but the message was a fake and Starfleet had no idea about it. The warning gave his crew crucial time to prepare for the battle. I myself also received a warning about a possible attack on my life. When Phoenix later showed up to help me out against the hitman, I assumed he had sent the warning, but he hadn’t. And finally the recording of the conversation between you and Speaker Hayes, it was the main lead linking her to Section 31 and the Khefka IV Attack, but we don’t know who made the recording in the first place”, Captain White explicated.
“Well, what is your question, Captain?”, Jefferson queried.
“It was you? Am I right?”, White asked him.
“Yes. You are”, the imprisoned man answered.
“It was you, who gave us the warning and provided evidence which would incriminate you?”, the Commodore said in disbelief.
Jefferson gave the three men a warm smile and stated:
“When I confronted Hayes, she made it clear how she intended to handle things in the future. And that I was out of the game as far as she was concerned. I was a fool trying to support her plans. She murdered so many people and she was capable of much worse. I couldn’t let that happen. The organization was beyond saving and I refused to let even one more person die.
I know you and everyone else outside of our organization considers us criminals who betrayed the foundations on which the Federation is based. And from a legal standpoint that is true and now we are going to face justice for it. But Captain White, our most recent failures notwithstanding, Section 31 has done a lot of good work over many decades. Most of what we normally do is not much different from the standard activities of Starfleet Intelligence.
The galaxy is a rough place and there are way more enemies out there than friends. The Federation’s great weakness is holding on to some of its ideals too much, considering the universe an utopia of friendship and harmony, instead of seeing the reality. As unfortunate as it is, certain measures are sometimes required, to safeguard the lives of our people.
Captain, I don’t think you should be proud or gloating. You certainly have done a great service to the truth and good conscience of the Federation. But I fear you also have dealt us a painful blow. I urge you to be prepared for the consequences.”
“I will do my best”, White replied, somewhat sobered by Jefferson’s words.
“I thank you all for your visit. But I would like to be alone now, if you don’t mind”, the former Admiral announced.
Commodore Shelk and Captain Elson nodded and began moving off, but Captain White kept his eyes on Jefferson, who, with his head turned towards the empty back corner of his cell, was apparently telling the invisible counterpart of another non-existent conversation to shut up.
White pressed the button for the intercom once again and said:
“I sincerely hope that you will be able to conquer your demons one day.”
Jefferson stared at him for a moment and finally nodded appreciatively, then he turned his cell’s light off, plunging it into darkness once more.