From the Ashes
William Jefferson was sitting in his office in one of the top floors of the Intelligence complex within Starfleet Headquarters, brooding over a pile of data padds, finishing up his report for the upcoming meeting. Deep in thought, he did not notice the monitor on his desk unfolding. The screen activated and displayed two giggling girls with long brunette hair, the younger one around nine, the older one around twelve years old. The girls looked at each other grinning, the older girl signalled with her hand, counting down with her fingers from three. Both suddenly shouted loudly:
Jefferson did not even flinch. He slowly turned towards them and said with a warm smile:
“If you guys had any idea what I’ve seen in my life, you’d realize you can’t scare me like this.”
“Oh, but one day we will!”, his younger daughter Emily proudly declared.
“Yeah, beware the day, Dad”, Madison, the older, one agreed.
“How do you like your trip so far?”, Jefferson inquired.
“I love it, Maddie and I went to the aboredom yesterday!”
“The aboredom, huh? What is that, sport?”, Jefferson asked in amusement.
“You know what it is, Dad, it's this big glass dome with trees and plants in it.”
“It’s called ‘arboretum’, silly!”, Maddie laughed knowingly.
“I know, that’s what I said, aboredom!”, Emily countered smugly.
“And did you like it as well, Maddie?”, Jefferson asked his older child.
“It was fun and all, but I like it better in Nevada. Like all the plants we have behind the house, I can’t wait until we can go back home…”
“You remember that Mom still has to stay there for a little while longer, don’t you?”, Jefferson told her.
“Yeah”, Madison answered, grimacing.
“Have you guys made a trip outside of the city yet? The area is actually very much similar to that of Nevada, but the plants look even more weird.”
“Yes, Mom told us about it...”, Maddie answered.
“And I promised you that we would be going on a hike at the end of the week…”, their mother Molly added while sitting down between the girls.
“Hi, honey”, Jefferson exclaimed.
“Hey, how’s your day?”, she asked him.
“Just starting, I have a meeting very soon, so I gotta hurry”, he answered.
“Alright, I don’t want you to be late, so...”, she placed her arms around her daughters, who both waved goodbye and all exclaimed:
“I love you!”
“Love you too, guys”, Jefferson countered before switching off the screen.
Jefferson’s aide came in.
“Sir, the Director would like to see you before the meeting.”
“Alright, tell her I’ll be right there”, he replied.
William Jefferson walked out of his office and down the floor to the Director’s office. When he reached the door he could hear mild shouting coming from the inside. He pressed the button for the doorbell and shortly after the door opened.
Inside Admiral Jessica Pita was arguing with a mildly agitated young man who was standing in front of her.
“Excuse me, am I interrupting?”, Jefferson asked.
“No, sorry, I’ll be with you in a second”, Pita answered. Jefferson quietly waited by the door for their conversation to end.
“Please, Ma’am, you aren’t listening, if these things have fallen in the wrong hands... I must insist that you look into this personally, please.”
“That will be all for now, let’s discuss this later, shall we?”, Pita told the man with determination.
“Very well, I leave you the files, so you can study the matter.”
“Thank you, now if you would excuse us?”, Pita told him.
“Sure”, the man said and turned on his heels and headed for the door. He greeted Jefferson with a quick “Sir”, but Jefferson noticed the man’s weird, almost hostile look when they locked eyes.
Jefferson smiled and sat down with Admiral Pita.
“Looks like the guy is giving you trouble, Jess”, Jefferson chuckled.
“Argh, don’t worry, I can handle him. Mr Phoenix is a bit of a hotshot, got promoted to Station Chief just recently, but I guess an office chair is not to his liking, he acts like he’s still out in the field.”
“I can relate. I always preferred a hands-on approach myself”, Jefferson remarked.
“I know, but your new position grants you an admiral’s star in a few weeks from now. That might not have happened, if you had stayed on the Archangel”, Admiral Pita reminded him.
“I don’t care much about the rank, I just want to do the job.”
“Talking of which, are you finished with your presentation for the meeting?”, she inquired.
“Yes, finished it a few minutes ago, when the girls called”, Jefferson stated.
“How are they? And Molly? I haven’t spoken to them for a while”, Pita wanted to know.
“They are on Cestus III for the next three months or so. Molly was asked to fill in for someone who quit the job suddenly and you know how she feels about duty and helping out and everything. I told her the girls could stay here, since I’m home for the evening, but she said it would be a great experience for them and I relented”, Jefferson explained.
“So, you are not having second thoughts about your family staying on Cestus III? It has not been the safest place lately. And Cestus directly neighbors Gorn-controlled space”, Pita mentioned.
William Jefferson coolly shook his head and replied:
“I don’t see your point. You seem to forget that I am sitting at the confluence of all our intelligence right now. There has been some civil unrest, but the analysts say they are isolated incidents. And with the Gorn under the sovereignty of the Klingons now, the chances of outside interference are actually lower than in the previous years. The times when the Gorn would have liked to gain Cestus back by force are long gone. They won’t be able to launch an incursion anytime soon with the Empire requiring their vessels on the Archanis front where they are building up their forces even more.”
“Ok, I have to stop you right there. You are straying well into the content of the upcoming briefing now and only I am here to hear it. So save this part for later, ok?”, she intervened, smiling.
“Alright, I just wanted to give you some teasers”, he joked.
After William Jefferson had given his presentation during the Intel meeting he listened to one of the department heads giving a minor lecture, when Jefferson’s aide walked in and waved him over with a gesture. He got up and made his way to the young man who was holding a padd in his hands.
“What is it?” Jefferson inquired.
“Sir, you better take a look, this just came in”, the man urged him.
Jefferson began to read.
“Archanis build-up is a decoy. Attack on Cestus within the next 96 hours! - Morka.”
Jefferson stared at the message with disbelief. He looked up to Admiral Pita who was just wrapping up the briefing.
“When will be the next window for a call?”, Jefferson asked his assistant with a low voice.
“Seven hours, Sir”, the young man replied.
“I want you to prepare a secure line.”
The assistant nodded in compliance and left.
Back in his office William Jefferson was anxiously sitting in front of his desktop monitor, waiting for the call. A light on the monitor’s console began blinking and he quickly switched on the device. Against his expectation the call did not come from his contact, but once more from his daughters.
“DAAAAD!!!”, they shouted in unison.
Jefferson, thrown off guard, reacted to them with a forced smile.
“Oh, hey, what’s going on?”, he nervously asked.
“Just wanted to tell you about our day. Are you alright, Dad?”, Madison responded.
“Yes, sure, I’m just waiting for another call, so I don’t think I have much time.”
“Uh-huh”, Maddie reacted with acted consent.
She leaned over to her younger sister Emily and whispered in her ear:
“I think we finally did. We scared him!”
“YEESSS!!!”, both said to each other and high-fived.
“Ok, knock it off. I wasn’t scared. So, tell me about your day”, Jefferson countered confidently.
“I saw an alligator man on the street”, Emily proudly announced.
Madison totally cracked up laughing.
“Emily, these people, they are called Gorn, not alligator men, don’t you remember that from school”, Jefferson reminded his daughter.
“Yeah. But they do look like alligators, Daddy. I was kinda frightened.”
“You don’t need to be afraid, sport. They are very much like us, they just look different”, he told her assuringly.
“There are many of them here. My teacher said they once fought the Humans when they founded the city”, Madison commented.
“Yes, that is true, Maddie. I’m glad at least one of my daughters is paying attention in school.”
“My teacher also said the Klingons defeated them a few years ago and that they are now fighting together. Jake Farmer said his Dad believes they are going to come back here one day”, Emily added with a slight hint of worry.
“I’m sure his Dad doesn’t know what he’s talking about”, Jefferson asserted.
“That’s right. Don’t worry, Emily, Dad wouldn’t let us stay here, if it was dangerous”, Madison added.
Jefferson flinched a bit, sliding uncomfortably in his chair.
“Yes, that’s right”, he said nervously.
“Daddy, I almost forgot. Mom said we won’t be back for your birthday. But I was smart and got you a present already”, Emily told him confidently.
“But it’s hidden in my room, under the bed!”, she added. Madison facepalmed and shook her head at her little sister’s accidental revelation.
“Great, now that you told me where it is, I have to go and open it as soon as I get home”, the girls’ father joked.
Emily’s eyes got wide and she exclaimed:
“No, Daddy, you can’t open it before your birthday!”
“Ok, ok, I won’t”, he affirmed.
“Promise?”, she asked him with a suspicious look.
The console on Jefferson’s monitor blinked again.
“Ok, guys, this is my call. It’s very important. I’ll talk to you and Mom tomorrow, alright?”
“Ok, bye bye”, the girls replied in unison.
Both blew him a kiss and switched off the line.
Jefferson took a few breaths and composed himself before he answered the incoming call.
“What is the meaning of this, Morka?”, William Jefferson angrily demanded to know, holding up the data padd with the message received earlier.
On his desk monitor an old bedraggled Ferengi was staring at him with a sleazy grin.
“You were the one who said ‘Keep your eyes and ears open’. Now, that I provide you with some knowledge that I worked hard for, you complain?”, Morka answered, feigning to be insulted.
“I wouldn’t call it hard work. You are making your customers drunk with synthetic blood wide, so they get more loquacious. What am I supposed to do with something like this, huh? Who told you about it? Some poor reservist in his intoxicated babble?”, an annoyed Director Jefferson asked him.
The Ferengi smiled innocently and responded:
“He was just a little tipsy. He is a loyal customer, comes to my place every day, always has. Yesterday he told me he was going to deploy for the front.”
“And he told you he was headed for Cestus?”, Jefferson inquired with suspicion.
“Yes, he did. I waited to see if it was nonsense, but he hasn’t come in today. Look, I provide, you pay, I don’t care what you do with this information. But I expect my payment as agreed.”
The Ferengi ended the call.
“Computer, I want to make another call, maximum encryption…”, Jefferson instructed.
It was late in the evening when William Jefferson was walking hurriedly along the road approaching Fort Point, underneath Golden Gate Bridge, just a few minutes away from his Starfleet Headquarters office. He reached the outer corner of the historic fortification and waited, wafts of mist were creeping over the water, the sound of small waves hitting the concrete breakwater tetrapods could be heard, the lights of the city twinkling in the distance. After a few minutes of waiting a shadowy figure emerged from behind a pillar.
“Mr Jefferson. Your call was unexpected. I hope you got a good reason for this”, the man said while approaching him.
“Yes, Mr Bowman, I know it’s been a couple of years, but I need your advice.”
“I retired from the organization and left it in your hands, because I thought you could do the job”, Bowman countered.
“Just listen, ok? I received a report from one of our sources today about an imminent attack on Cestus III.”
“So? What is the problem? Tell Starfleet to respond accordingly”, Bowman replied.
“It’s not going to work like that and you know it. I need to convince Starfleet to send a task force. But the bulk of the fleet is weeks away. One or two ships under the command of our people won’t be enough. But I can’t get them to do it based only on one agent’s report. I am the Deputy Director of Starfleet Intelligence, but even I can’t make that call”, Jefferson explained.
“You are thinking too much in Starfleet manner, Jefferson, the years on the USS Archangel seemed to have left some undesired traces. A couple of years ago, you knew how to handle something like this on your own. Maybe I should have supported your competitor instead.”
“Stop belittling me, Bowman. Tell me how I can solve this situation. There are many lives at stake here”, Jefferson angrily grunted.
“Your family’s above all”, Bowman casually mentioned.
“You knew?”, Jefferson wondered.
“Of course I knew. And I also know that your source is right about the attack, so you better come up with a way to convince them.”
“Starfleet will want to see more proof than the statement of a crooked Ferengi cook”, Jefferson reminded him.
“What did you have in mind?”, Bowman asked.
“If our people can provide more evidence they need to come forward.”
“I taught you early on how to deal with evidence. If you can’t provide it genuinely, forge it”, Bowman said matter-of-factly.
“I can’t do that. We are talking about major fleet deployments here, Bowman. This isn’t some small intelligence gathering you can spice up a little to create the proper effect.”
“I don’t see any other solution to your dilemma.”
“We need assets in the area. There are several ships which have our people in key positions, I could redirect them to the Gorn border, or maybe one of our scout vessels”, Jefferson reasoned.
“Out of the question. You know very well that using our assets in such a manner is risking exposure. We must not endanger the organization”, Bowman warned.
“Section 31’s only purpose is to protect the Federation and its interests, beyond the limits of its doctrine. You said so yourself, when you recruited me. There are millions in danger on Cestus III. If we don’t do something, who will?”, Jefferson countered.
“Do it our way, Jefferson, or step down and make room for someone who can. This meeting is over.”
Bowman turned around and walked back into the shadowy corner he had come from, he then looked back at Jefferson again and told him:
“And don’t ever call me again!”
William Jefferson stood in front of the large double door leading up to the Director’s office. He paused for a moment and took a deep breath before pressing the button for the doorbell. Inside the office Admiral Jessica Pita was in the middle of packing her purse to leave, when she heard the ringing.
“Yes, come in.”
The door opened and Jefferson reluctantly stepped inside.
“Billy? You’re up late. I thought you had gone hours ago.”
“I need to talk to you”, Jefferson told her.
“Sounds serious. Sure, sit down. What’s on your mind?”
Jefferson, being very uncomfortable, hesitated for a moment before stating:
“I am going to have to ask you a favor, Jess. But you might not like it.”
Jessica Pita looked at him curiously.
“I received a report today from an operative on Qo’noS. The Klingons are not going to step up their offensive in the Archanis Sector, they are going to attack Cestus III within the next three to four days.”
Pita did not say anything and instead digested this information. She looked at Jefferson, then turned with her chair towards the window behind her for a few seconds and then faced him again.
“I take it you are aware of the irony. Only a few hours ago during the briefing with the liaison officer from Starfleet Operations you boasted about the overwhelming indicators for an upcoming Klingon offensive against our forces in the Archanis Sector and, in our own conversation, how secure Cestus III still remains.”
“Yes, I am aware. Look, I know it looks bad, but we have got to do something”, Jefferson pleaded.
“Where is this coming from anyway? It has been years since we lost our last contacts with access to members of the High Council. I wasn’t aware that you have been able to place someone new”, Pita inquired.
“It’s not someone new exactly. I, ugh, reactivated him some time ago. And it’s not in the High Council either”, Jefferson explained, avoiding Pita’s look.
“Who is it?”
“That’s really not important right now, Jess. We are losing time here, the faster we act the better are the chances to repel the attack and save the lives of those colonists.”
“You mean your family, Billy. You are worried about them, I get that, but in your position you can’t allow yourself to give in to your personal feelings”, Pita reminded him.
“That’s not it. Yes, they are on Cestus III right now and I am worried, but if this intelligence is correct, not reacting properly could turn the tide in the war to the benefit of the Klingons.”
“Fair enough. What favor do you need from me?”, Pita asked.
“Starfleet must deploy a fleet to Cestus, so the colony stands a chance. I need you to talk to Starfleet Command as soon as possible”, Jefferson implored her.
Pita reacted surprised and slightly annoyed:
“Do you have any idea what you are asking me? Starfleet Intelligence, namely you and me, recommended to them today that they concentrate ships halfway across the Alpha Quadrant to stop the Klingon advance. And now you want to call it off?”
“That is precisely what I am asking, Jess”, he said.
“Billy, I would like to help and I share your concern for Molly and the girls, but this is simply impossible. Not on the account of one operative. You have been long enough in this business with me. You know there are procedures, the cross-referencing of reports for example. We can’t make an analysis based on a single spy’s information. We construct a picture based on multiple bits of information supporting each other. And that picture has reliably been pointing to Archanis so far.”
“Damn it, Jess, I know that too”, he answered, becoming more agitated.
“Then you know, I can’t help you with this”, Pita said, shaking her head.
“My guts are telling me this is different, you have to trust me”, he replied.
“It’s not your guts. You are a bit too scared because your family is involved. I bet you wouldn’t be running around like a headless chicken, if it was about a different place”, she joked, trying to ease his tension.
Jefferson gave her a dirty look. He was not in the mood for her humor. Pita gently took his and declared:
“Look, I can understand you. This is a difficult time and things aren’t the way you are used to. You have been in the field a long time, you know the dangers and now you’re here, sitting in your office, safe and sound, while they are suddenly out there.”
William Jefferson jerked away her hand and jumped on his feet, enraged.
“Stop patronizing me, this is too serious. My contact tells me they are about to attack. I can’t just sit here and do nothing. Please, you have to trust me on this”, he shouted.
“Who is your contact anyway?”, Pita wanted to know.
“Irrelevant!”, Jefferson said, trying to avoid the unpleasant details.
Pita, stood up in defiance.
“Not to me! You want me to trust you, I’m asking you to tell me!”, she demanded.
Jefferson looked at her, then he looked away, thinking, finally he sat down again and reluctantly announced:
Pita’s eyes got wide when she heard the name.
“Morka? That’s your source? You have got to be kidding me, Billy?”
“I know he has a bad reputation. But this time…”
She cut him off, her voice showing her exasperation.
“A bad reputation? He is a cheat and a liar, of the worst kind, even for a Ferengi. His only successful business venture is his little takeaway in the slumps of the First City, because his terrible cooking is only edible for a Klingon. This guy’s outrageous reports have led us on not one, but two wild-goose chases. Which is why I shut him down years ago. And that is the man we are supposed to trust right now?”
“I reactivated him after we lost the other sources, I thought he might be of use and he receives payment only on verification. He has nothing to gain from lying to me”, Jefferson tried to reason.
“Except for being a notorious liar. Maybe the Klingons even turned him and are trying to lure us away from the Archanis Sector with this intel. Have you considered that?”, Admiral Pita asked him.
“No, I admit, I haven’t”, Jefferson told her with uncertainty.
“And in contrast to your Ferengi’s report we actually have other sources which verify the presence of Klingon forces where we believe them to be. They have had their eyes on the Archanis Sector ever since the Khitomer Accords. Cestus III would not even be of interest to them”, Pita went on to explain.
“The Gorn want it for themselves. It could be a move from Chancellor J’mpok to appease the Gorn and make them commit all their forces to the war with us. And Cestus III could be a springboard for further attacks into half a dozen Federation sectors”, Jefferson responded.
“Billy, listen to me. This is impossible. I can’t go to Admiral Quinn and the President and convince them that all our intelligence was incorrect and that a single unreliable operative found out what the Klingons are really planning and ask them to redirect hundreds of ships from the strategic reserves. And all this based on a hunch, on your gut instinct.”
Disappointed and deeply frustrated Jefferson told her:
“You have always had trust in the way I did my job. You knew you could trust my judgement back then, you can trust it right now. There was a time when you would not have hesitated, like you are doing now.”
“There was a time when I was not the Director of Starfleet Intelligence. I am the head of this department and I am responsible at the end of the day, to the politicians and to the people of the Federation. I have to balance that with the recommandations I receive from the people working for me in all branches. You, as my deputy, are in charge of our operations and you also have to balance all your resources and the opinions of the people who obtain, assess and interpret information. You aren’t in the field anymore, you have to step away from thinking like an operative”, Admiral Pita reminded him.
She was slowly walking him to the door now.
“Jess, you are the only one who can help me, please!”, Jefferson pleaded again.
“Look, what I can do is call some friends who are in the vicinity with their ships and have them pay a visit to Cestus III. If it makes you feel any better, tell Molly to book the next transport off the planet and come home with the kids. But if you want me to go to my superiors, you have to come up with concrete evidence. You have the entire department at your disposal, so make use of it. Good night!”
With that sentence she closed the door in his face.
Crestfallen William Jefferson returned to his office. His assistant was waiting for him.
“How did it go, Sir?”
“The Admiral won’t accept my recommendation without further proof”, Jefferson sighed.
“I’ll make contact with some of our people. I’m sure they can think of something which will be sufficient for Starfleet to come onboard”, the assistant suggested.
“No, don’t”, Jefferson instructed.
“This is too important, we can’t let it blow in our faces. I want you to go through all the files from the departments. And I mean the proper channels. Find me something we can use and which will hold up to any scrutiny.”
Throughout the next day Jefferson was working through a huge pile of data padds with intelligence reports from all his departments, tirelessly looking for any possible clue that would help him convince Admiral Pita and the rest of Starfleet about the truthfulness of Morka’s report. His assistant was doing the same in the adjoining anteroom. So far, to no effect.
It was late in the evening when the doorbell rang.
“Yes?”, Jefferson said.
Admiral Jessica Pita entered. Jefferson gave her a quick look before he returned his attention back to his studies.
“Burning the midnight oil?”, she asked.
“Yes, obviously”, he snapped at her.
“I was told you didn’t go home last night. And now you’re in here again”, Pita commented.
“I was working most of the night”, he replied, not looking at her.
“What are you doing?”, she wondered innocently.
He shot her a bitter look.
“What do you think I am doing? You wanted more proof, I am looking for it!”
“Looks like you still have a lot to go. Can I do anything to help?”, Pita asked him.
“I asked you for help yesterday. Your voice carries weight with the right people. I don’t need you to help me by reading reports, I already have my assistant doing that. You are the Director. If you want to help, tell Starfleet Command to send their ships to Cestus III”, Jefferson mocked her.
Admiral Pita nodded and turned away saying:
“I understand. Good night.”
Jefferson saw her leaving and looked back at his padd, but then he suddenly threw it away in anger, before he swept away half the pile of padds from his desk with a violent swing of his arm.
He brooded for a few minutes, then he unfolded his desktop computer and switched on the communications array. He typed a combination and after a few moments the screen displayed his wife Molly in her quarters on Cestus III.
“Hey honey, I’m sorry, did I wake you up?”, Jefferson asked her.
Molly just finished putting on a bathrobe over her pyjamas.
“No, I was just about to go to bed. It’s late here, the girls are already asleep. You missed their call today, Emily was a bit upset.”
“Yes, it has been a very busy day. I’m sorry about the call”, he answered.
“Bill, is everything alright? You seem to be preoccupied with something”, Molly asked him.
“Yes, it’s just that… How are things over there? Are you guys alright?”, Jefferson inquired, trying to change the subject.
“Yes, sure, everything is fine. Why wouldn’t it be?”, his wife replied.
“I, I, I can’t really discuss it. Look, uhm, I would like you to come home with the next transport.”
“Come home? We just got here. I’ve been asked to fill in for the next ten weeks at least, I can’t just leave after a few days”, Molly said with disbelief.
“Honey, I know, but this is really important. I want you to pack your things and take the first available ship tomorrow morning. I need you and the girls to return to Earth.”
Molly was beginning to look worried.
“Bill, you are making me feel uneasy. A week ago when we discussed all this, you encouraged me to go. I know you were not so pleased about Maddie and Emily coming with me and being away from you for such a long time. But why the sudden change of mind? Has something happened?”
“There is nothing particular to worry about, Molly, but things are getting more heated and I just feel better with you and the girls back at home. Please do this for me, ok?”, Jefferson pleaded.
“Alright, first thing in the morning”, Molly affirmed with a nod.
“Thank you, honey. Could you let me see the girls?”
“I told you they are already asleep”, she reminded him.
“Yes, I know. I just want to see them. But let them sleep.”
“Ok, hold on.”
Molly grabbed the recording unit of her comm terminal and walked out of her bedroom and through the hallway of her quarters before she arrived at the bedroom of the girls. She carefully opened the door and tiptoed across the room to the large bed in which both their daughters were sleeping peacefully side by side, their angelic faces illuminated by the light coming from the hallway through the open door. Molly panned the recording unit over their faces, before leaving the room again. She shut the door and walked back into her bedroom.
“Happy?”, she asked him.
“Uh-huh, thank you, dear”, Jefferson responded.
“And you are sure everything is alright?”, Molly wanted to know, a tear was welling up in her left eye.
Jefferson, unable to hide his own uneasiness, was biting his lip, while telling his wife:
“Yes, everything is going to be fine, I promise.”
“Ok”, Molly sighed with a trembling voice.
“I see you in a couple of days.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too”, he said and switched off the line.
The next morning William Jefferson awoke with a start, still seated at his office desk where he had succumbed to sleep during the night. He groaned and yawned for a moment before he got up to ask his replicator for a mug of coffee. Looking disheveled, he took a zip and picked up another padd to study, when his assistant entered, sporting an excited face and holding a data padd of his own.
“Sir, I found it!”, the man proudly stated.
Jefferson eagerly grabbed the device and began to read. After a few seconds he smiled contentedly and slapped his assistant on the back in appreciation.
“Well done. Computer, locate Admiral Pita”, Jefferson said.
“Admiral Pita is in the Situation Room”, the computer voice stated.
Jefferson swiftly walked out into the corridor and towards the next available elevator. He tapped his combadge and called:
“Jefferson to Pita, I’m on my way to your location, I’ve got something to tell you!”
“Billy, yes I’m down here in the Sit Room. I need to talk to you as well…”, Pita answered over comms. Jefferson, lost in his excitement, did not pick up on the sorrow in her voice.
When Jefferson entered the large Situation Room, he found it unusually bustling with dozens of intelligence officers and other Starfleet personnel in front of computer workstations, others gathered around displays of space maps or in communication with flag officers via subspace. Fleet Admiral Quinn was sitting at the large conference table where he was being briefed by yet another cluster of high-ranking officers, among them Admiral Jessica Pita.
Jefferson looked around, slightly confused about all the activity. He noticed that some of the officers were looking at him, exchanging uncomfortable glances, whispering.
Admiral Pita spotted Jefferson walking over from the door. She excused herself from the briefing and hurried over to meet him. When she came closer Jefferson saw the grim and sad look on her face, she was fighting her tears.
“Hey Jess, I found what I was looking for. Evidence which supports my source’s claim. We must speak to Quinn right away. Good thing he’s here already. What’s going on anyway?”, he sputtered.
With her voice shaking Pita answered him:
“Billy, I think we should discuss this in private.”
She grabbed his arm and was trying to lead him away, out of the room. But Jefferson resisted.
“Later, Jess. I have to talk to the Admiral right now!”
“Billy. There has been an attack. On Cestus III.”
“What?”, Jefferson asked, with a ghostly face.
Pita was barely able to withhold her tears now.
“A Klingon flotilla sneaked up on the planet two hours ago and opened fire, followed by a ground assault by Gorn landing parties”, Pita explained.
With his own throat almost sealed shut from shock, Jefferson stammered:
“Heavy”, she confirmed.
Pita did not answer and embraced him instead, herself crying in grief.
Jefferson endured her hug for a few moments, his eyes staring into the distance. Finally he grasped her arms and moved them away from him, slowly breaking her hold. He turned away from Pita, who was still looking at him with despair, before he unhurriedly walked back to the exit. Halfway out his right hand let go off the data padd he had been holding. The small gadget dropped to the floor and broke on impact, shattering its display.
Late in the evening William Jefferson unlocked the front door and entered his Nevada home. The lights came on automatically. Jefferson slowly crossed the hallway, dragging his feet along, dazed and distraught.
Upon entering the living room he commanded:
“Computer, shut off all lights.”
The voice interface gave an affirmative chirm and all the lights went out, leaving Jefferson in complete darkness, empty and silent.
He stood there for a couple of minutes, then he ascended the stairs for the upper floor. He came into the master bedroom and sat down on the edge of the bed. One of his wife’s cardigans was laying on top of the bedspread. He took it in his hand, before moving the fabric close to his face and deeply inhaling, smelling his spouse’s scent. Then he reached over with his hand and gently petted the indentation Molly had left on her side of the mattress.
Jefferson stood up and moved to the room of his older daughter Madison. It was filled with all kinds of memorabilia on the human history of space exploration: miniature models of early warp ships, a wallpaper of Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface, a photograph of Maddie proudly posing in front of the Zefram Cochrane statue in Bozeman. Jefferson picked up a hair brush from the nightstand, containing a strand of her brunette hair. Jefferson embraced the object dearly before putting it down again.
Finally he came into Emily’s room: a derangement of plastic cartoon figurines, piled-up pop music records, discarded socks and half-empty cheese puff bags. Jefferson was looking around for a moment, then his eyes rested on Emily’s bed. He got down on his knees and stuck his arm in the open space between the carpet and the bed’s frame. His hand got hold of an object and he pulled it out. Jefferson stepped over to Emily’s little desk and switched on a small lamp to get a better look at the object in his hands. It was the birthday present which he was actually not supposed to open yet: a flat rectangular package, loosely and somewhat clumsily wrapped in gay-colored paper, adorned with an array of stickers and a neatly tied ribbon. Jefferson’s eyes watered for a second, but he suppressed the feeling and used his hands to rip the paper off.
It was a large glossy studio-quality picture in an elegant brassbound frame, a picture of his family: his wife Molly, seated in the middle and having her arms around their older daughter Madison and their younger daughter Emily, sitting right and left of their mother, respectively; all three were wearing nice dresses and flashy red lipstick. They had each signed the photograph and planted a huge red lip imprint on the paper.
William Jefferson averted his eyes and wiped away his tears. He exited the bedroom and made his way to the nearest bathroom. He engaged the faucet and put a gush of cold water on his face. He looked up and began to stare in the mirror, his own reflection staring back at him, grim and heartbroken.
“Why didn’t you save them?”, he whispered.
His face darkened.
“Why didn’t you save them?”, he grunted, more loudly.
“Why didn’t you save them???”, he yelled in the mirror before sending a bunch of bathroom paraphernalia flying with a stroke of his arm.
Jefferson bent over, holding himself with his hands on the knees. More tears were exiting the corners of his eyes. He stormed out and descended down the stairs again, punching the wall in frustration. Back in the living room he shouted out his pain multiple times, while tearing at his hair, before he sank to the ground and began to weep in solitude.
A while later Jefferson was still laying on his back staring at the living room ceiling. He was softly muttering to himself:
“Why didn’t you save them? - I was trying to save them. I warned them, but they wouldn’t listen. I wanted to do this right. By the book, like she asked me to. - You should have done it like he said. - No, impossible. She would have known, if I had forged the report. - You did everything you could. She should have listened to you. Why didn’t she? - We have been friends for all our lives. - She knew she could trust you. It’s her fault. You warned her. Her fault, hers and all the people’s. They think everything is nice and comfortable. They know nothing about how it really is out there. We have been doing the dirty work, so they could shine in a bright light. Despite all your efforts, you were unable to save them. They stood in your way. We cannot let this happen again. Things must change. Or they will have died for nothing.”