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[Backlog] JDL | CDR Merlin, CDR Stacker

Posted on Wed Feb 3rd, 2021 @ 7:21pm by Commander Evan Merlin & Commander James Stacker

Mission: A Distant Thunder
Location: CO's Office | Deck 1 | Cold Station Theta
Timeline: SD 242102.03 (Before "One Shot")

Once again, Commander Stacker showed up unannounced. This was not a scheduled meeting by any means. It was not on any official calendars, was not on any correspondence, had not been verbally discussed. But one look at the yeoman and they knew - or, at least, appeared to recognize - that the grey collar was there to speak with Commander Merlin. The XO gave them a silent nod as they reached for the notification system. A chime was heard soon thereafter.

Of course the news of Commodore Ravnsson's abrupt appearance in Central Ops and his subsequent disappearance into his XO's office had reached the station's CO shortly afterwards. The chime and simultaneous announcement that Stacker was here to see him was therefore not a complete surprise.

He placed the PADD he had been reading on his desk. "Come in," he said, his voice calmer than he felt.

Things were going normally - or as well as could be considered 'normal' - up until the point where the visitor turned in the open doorway, towards the yeoman outside. "Hold communications for about ten minutes. It's a sensitive matter." The look he received in response was befuddled, but acknowledging. Grey collars out and about usually denoted trouble; this was common knowledge. The de facto leader of the grey collars on the station asking this one simple thing was a curiosity, but inquiring too deeply into intelligence matters could sometimes end badly.

Only after the door was closed did Stacker cross the room. A quick double-tap on his combadge followed, which caused the folded-up tricorder - something he didn't normally carry - in the belt holster to light up. He stood behind one of the chair facing the desk, hands on the upper seat back. "I apologize for the unusual nature of the visit, sir, but I received an unusual visit yesterday, from Commodore Ravnsson. The Commodore seems to suspect a conspiracy in the upper ranks of Starfleet, concerning the death of Commodore Ivanova."

"Does he now?" The sea-coloured eyes strayed from his visitor's face to the tricorder on his belt and back. An eyebrow rose. "I heard about his visit, of course. I take it this conversation is off the record?"

"It is." For a moment it looked as if he was going to add more, but whatever it was he apparently decided to move on. "The Commodore made clear that I was to persuade you to get the Vindicator recalled from Earth.

"What would you say if I told you Commodore Ivanova's body was never found, but the Commodore is insistent that she be allowed to rest in peace? That, in fact, any discussion or theorizing suggesting an outcome other than her death needs to be vigorously stamped out?" he said in a rather abrupt conversational switch, cocking his head as he regarded the man behind the desk.

"It fits with what I've seen from the man, little though that is," the CO said bluntly. "He strikes me as a man whose plans are complicated, ruthless and are measured in decades instead of months and years… if not even longer." What was the natural life span of an El-Aurian? Nobody seemed to know, but it was certain that Ravnsson had been around for a long time and there was no reason to assume that would end anytime soon. "Which makes it hard to try to fathom what he has to gain by this-" He cut off that train of thought with a brusque wave of his hand. "Interesting that he wants me to recall the Vindicator, rather than Fleet Command," he said. The thin smile which appeared was wholly unlike his usual grin. "That's not normally my prerogative. Wouldn't the Fleet Admiral be rather offended if I intrude upon what would be her territory?"

"Probably ... But she might be more offended to learn Commodore Ravnsson is trying to suppress any speculation favoring the theory of her niece still being alive." Now he did take a seat, regarding the man behind the desk with a particular bent in his eye. One that was borderline critical appraisal. "I think you missed the part where I said Commodore Ivanova's body was never found. But the Director of Starfleet Intelligence is trying to shut down all conversation about it. In fact he's so emphatic about it that he wants me to spy upon the Vindicator's senior officers. And presumably report what I learn to him and him alone."

The eyebrow quirked higher, but his face was otherwise unreadable. It was probably as close to a are you starting to get the picture? look as the man was capable of expressing, without directly coming out to say so.

"I did not miss that. As I said, he plays the long game." He ran a hand through his long hair, causing a few more strands to escape from the tight ponytail. Then, with a more decisive gesture, he placed both hands on his desk. "Let's indeed do something novel for a change and speak plainly. You suspect he is behind this. How would you go about proving this?" He lifted one finger. "Do you think he has her in his possession, somewhere?" A second finger lifted. "Did I ever tell you about her doppelganger I encountered here, some years ago?" And a third finger joined the others. There was now absolutely no hint of the bouncy, somewhat erratic scatterbrain he usually showed the world.

His visitor's head cocked slight to one side. "This needs to be played out to the endgame. Only later on down this particular road will it become apparent what he intends. I have my suspicions, but nothing definitive yet." There would be no mention of his private suspicions. How clandestine intelligence operations were being conducted aboard the station, independent of the regular Starfleet Intelligence apparatus. How station intelligence was likely compromised. Nor how his wife - and, by extension, the Ascendancy - were being set up as would-be villains in this particular narrative.

The latter, in particular, could only lead to one possible outcome.

"As to the second, I wouldn't rule out the possibility. Which leads back to the first," he continued. "If he has her in his possession it could only lead to a very narrow and specific set of circumstances and outcomes. And as to your last point, no, you haven't."

"Hm." He folded his hands under his chin. "Let's start there, then. You can't function optimally if you don't have all the information." A statement which went both ways. One of the frustrating things about the whole Starfleet Intelligence department was their tendency not to share information with anyone else unless they deemed it absolutely necessary. Stacker was no longer a full member of that department, but old habits died hard. And given that the head of said department was pressuring him hard to spy upon the Vindicator crew and report back to him – what wasn't said was that he would probably be expected to do so for others, too. The implication was that Ravnsson thought of Stacker as *his* creature. The other implication was that Stacker himself begged to differ.

"It was years ago, some time after the masked ball, but not very long. I saw someone on the station who looked remarkably much like the Commodore. Same walk, same face, same voice. Different mind. She probably would've fooled me, nevertheless, if I hadn't just received word that the Commodore herself had fallen ill on the USS Vindicator. I visited the real Ivanova afterwards and told her about her 'twin', but she waved away my concerns. I never saw the fake Commodore again, so I mostly forgot about the encounter – until now."

"I see." The visitor wore a thoughtful look on his face and appeared to be contemplating this revelation. There were, of course, reasons to explain the similarity. It could simple be that someone won in the genetics lottery and bore a more-than-uncanny resemblance. But that didn't explain the similar mannerisms or the same voice that had been observed. "I wouldn't put it past the Commodore to have a doppelganger of Commodore Ivanova in existence," he finally said slowly, apparently thinking as well as speaking, "but having her on the loose like that in such an open manner poses risks for operational security. Which doesn't seem like him, in the slightest."

The CO shook his head. "I don't think she was his creature. Something she said made me think there was a connection to the incident near the end of the ball. A connection to Vokar, or to the Romulans. But if Ravnsson was aware that the Commodore's stunt double was on the station at the same time that she herself was on her ship, he might make use of that fact at some point."

Romulans. His mind made another connection. His earlier conversation with Xue, what she told him about the critical situation in the Stenellian senate, a possible coup, and the ramifications. He hadn't heard back from her yet. Was that a good thing or a bad thing?

"It's possible. Unfortunately ... that's just one option among many." The XO did not look pleased to have to admit this. His track record thus far to date pointed to him being more of a man of certainty, than one of possibilities. "For now, I think the best option might be to alert Fleet Admiral Red. She may have further direction from there, including what to do about the Vindicator."

The CO spread his hands. "Too many variables, not enough information, as usual. Yes, I'll have a talk with the Fleet Admiral, if she's willing to see me." Big if. Years ago, when she gave him his current position, she had told him bluntly 'I don't trust you. Never have.' He had no idea if her opinion of him had changed during that time. Fleet Command and Station Command were two very different positions, and on a station this size, they rarely met. He gave that wave with his hand again, half in reaction to his thoughts, half to disspel his last statement. "Considering the current situation, she'll see me. As for the rest… we'll just have to see how matters develop. Please keep me posted on any new information, I will do the same." He glanced again at the tricorder in the belt holster, but declined to comment.

His visitor shook his head. "I had intended to speak with her in private," he said, making no mention of the fact that arrangements for this had already been set in motion, courtesy of his early-morning rendezvous with an emergency transporter whose logs were now wiped. A hand gestured to the device on his belt as he continued. "If you'd like to speak with her, of course that's your prerogative, but I'd ask that unless you have a jamming device with you, please refrain from discussion of Commodore Ravnsson. He's already intimated to me that I'm under surveillance. It's no great feat of logic to assume this extends to anyone I've been in contact with."

"You are under surveillance?" Two eyebrows rose. "And he told you so, wondering which way you'll jump next." The eyebrows lowered again and a grim expression crossed his face. It looked very much out of place there and disappeared soon enough, like a wind ruffling the surface of the sea. "Which way *we'll* jump next. All of us. How very interesting." He sighed. "Very well then, go ahead. We'll talk later."


=/\= End Log =/\=

Commander Evan Merlin
Commanding Officer
Cold Station Theta (Starbase 1170)

Commander James Stacker
Executive Officer
Cold Station Theta (Starbase 1170)


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