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JDL | FDADM Red, CDR Stacker | "One Shot"

Posted on Fri Jan 29th, 2021 @ 4:42pm by Fleet Admiral Blyx Red & Commander James Stacker

Mission: A Distant Thunder
Location: Control Room | Deck 685 | Cold Station Theta

One of the continued advantages to being chief of intelligence of the starbase, was his having become privy to locations that saw little-to-no foot traffic. For example a disused control room four decks below the intelligence section, buried deep in the bowels of the station. He had been here once before, in fact: a meeting with Empress Xue'Daio Nox of the Stenellian Ascendancy, almost three years ago. A meeting that had sent him on a radically different path. The irony of his present circumstances was not lost on him.

Little had changed in the time since his last visit. The consoles and workstations tucked into the back, behind the rectangular configuration of windows that overlooked an empty hangar bay, were still untouched. Dust still masked the controls. The lighting was poor, but functional. The only addition to the room had been a trembler device, about the size of a small cup, attached to the windows. A very faint humming could be heard as they rattled in such a way as to prevent the use of any low-tech solutions to eavesdrop on this conversation.

He hoped the Fleet Admiral had found the PADD on the desk of her office. One did not simply beam a PADD into a Fleet Admiral's office, during the off-hours, without taking the small risk of some lower-level aide sweeping it into the rest of the pile of PADDs that might be awaiting her arrival come the morning.

There had been a rather thick and ripe degree of mistrust and suspicion when Blyx had finally found the aforementioned PADD. It didn't quite fit in with the rest of her more personal belongings and hadn't been placed within the bin of reports that had been dropped for her morning perusal. With Ravnsson off kilter and the possibility of some sort of malignance growing within the tissues of Starfleet, the Admiral' was admittedly stuck on red alert, but she could not deny the fact she'd set the station's resident spook on permanent watch.

Could he be trusted? Ah... Yes. The question of the hour given Ravnsson's reach. It became a game of chance and bargaining that came with the knowledge that were he some sort of spy or threat, she'd have to end him where he stood. Drop him like a bad habit. Then there would, without a doubt, be war on the horizon.

The tell tale rhythm of her Louboutin heels was remarkably absent as she moved across grated catwalks and into the dank and dirty control room the PADD had directed her towards. The grit and the grime that had come with disuse felt well suited to the purpose the long forgotten part of the station had now found itself employed by. "Commander Stacker, I believe you owe me a rather detailed explanation." She greeted, announcing her presence as she came to a stop and folded her arms across her chest.

"I do ma'am," he acknowledged in a rather perfunctory manner. It was evident that she was cross - or at least vexed - and one did not play games with senior Fleet officers. Let alone the commanding officer of Beta Fleet. So he moved expeditiously. A quick two taps to his combadge and the folded-up tricorder on his waist lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree.

"This," he said, gesturing to the tricorder, "is a jamming device, and while I apologize for the cloak-and-dagger I think you'll understand in a moment. Commodore Ravnsson came to visit me yesterday. He believes there's a conspiracy afoot within senior ranks of Starfleet Command: you and Admiral Hark, specifically. That the two of you are pursuing conspiracy theories, despite the fact that your niece's death will turn out to be an unfortunate accident. His words. Not mine."

"I've learned in the time since he and I met that Commodore Ivanova's body was never found in the shuttle wreckage. But Commodore Ravnsson was very insistent, in our meeting, that any and all theorizing or discussion suggesting anything other than her death needs to be squashed. Immediately. In fact he went so far as to suggest that I should persuade Commander Merlin to get the Vindicator recalled to the station, from Earth, so that the station can assist in the investigation."

"The jamming device, and the other on the windows," he said, with a gesture to the device in question, turning his particular segment of discussion full circle, "are necessary because in the course of conversation the Commodore made clear that I'm under surveillance."

An entire ode to silence could have been written in the time it took for Blyx to digest the absolutely massive mouthful of information he'd dumped upon her. An eyebrow rose, finely arched, and were the only part of her body to move other than her eyes which followed where he gestured and then back to him. Had it been from someone else, had she not been privy to her own suspicions, had she not already seen the El-Aurian squirm as she issued her orders for Vindicator to obtain the wreckage of the Liberty, she'd likely have had the man held and his mental health assessed.

"My dear Commander Stacker," She began, offering him no emotional overture or any real indication of appreciation or scorn, "It would seem you're walking the same path that Admiral Hark and I have found ourselves traversing. It will not be an easy path, but it is the high road." The arms came uncrossed and allowed her hands to clasp gently before her, indicating that her ire had not quite been ignited and he was safe from her temper... For now. "If you are being surveilled, then he is aware of this meeting regardless. The question becomes exactly what it is he's attempting to hide. Conspiracy aside, I doubt his secret is that Commodore Ivanova has survived. That would be cause for a celebratory response and not easily hidden or reason to rush through funeral arrangements, now would it?" Her head tilted slightly, "I have already had the mind to recall the Vindicator and I shall see to it that such an order is received. The wreckage will be in our control and that has radically shifted whatever power he believes he may have had. It's no wonder that he's lashing out and plucking feathers."

He was silent for a moment, evidently processing her response before going further. When he continued it was apparent why he had been silent for those moments. "With respect, ma'am, that may not be an easy proposition. Not with the resources at hand. Station Intelligence is already compromised - or its loyalty is at least questionable - and I suspect there may be an alternate intelligence structure existing aboard the facility, in parallel to Beta Fleet and local resources. Safeguarding the wreckage of the Liberty will not be an easy task, or may not even be doable. Even if it remains aboard the Vindicator for detailed examination."

Of course there was. Dunross had never been exactly secretive about the double life he lived. Section 31 was supposed to be nothing more than myth and legend told over bedtime to make children and cadets listen and tow the line. It was more than that, but things of that nature had been sworn to secrecy and forbidden to ever leave her lips. That would be a promise she kept even when she at long last rested in her grave. Section 31, like the man who had once been its commander, was not infallible. They were mortal and their had their limits just as any other group would, and she knew that entirely way too well. "No one is omnipotent when it comes right down to brass tacks, Commander." Blyx responded, "We will have to align ourselves with those we know we can trust implicitly. The crew of the Vindicator are loyal to Commodore Ivanova and Commander Dahe'el. It would be of paramount importance that an audience be had with the man, but not on Ravnsson's terms, of course."

"Understood ma'am." From the way his eyes went out-of-focus for half-a-heartbeat it was clear that he had begun consideration of that matter, then put it aside. It required no substantial explanation as to why he had put it aside; obviously there was this rather clandestine meeting to consider. But also another matter, which he brought up rather swiftly. "I should point out to you that I'm 'on loan' to Starfleet Intelligence from Marine Intelligence. If you're in search of allies, I can think of at least two individuals in the Marines who I trust implicitly." He did not go into greater detail, beyond that.

Her laugh was more strained than she cared to imagine, chilled and lacking when it came to being of sincere amusement. In fact there was no mirth at all within it. It was accompanied by a shake of her head and her arms re-crossing in front of her, "Oh my dear sweet soul, it's so very obvious that you are still so very wet behind the ears and so very innocent when it comes right down to it. I admire that." In truth, she did. He hadn't yet been completely engulfed and tarnished by the jade and shade Starfleet's variety of schadenfreude eschewed. "The words Marine and Intelligence hardly belong in the same sentence under the best of circumstances," she continued, finally choosing to bring herself closer to the man hiding behind the gray collar, "If they sent you on loan it's because you were wasted within their ranks, Stacker, but I digress... Their loyalty usually knows no parallel and we will need allies if we are to prove that Ravnsson is the snake we know him to be."

"But Marines are about as inconspicuous as Klingons. They are loud, crude, and prone to outbursts. How do you suppose we utilize them here without arousing the Commodore's suspicion?" The ball had been returned to Stacker's court.

The look in his eye had turned more critical and appraising as her jaded outburst had gone on. Did he regret his decision to cooperate with her? Perhaps. It was readily apparent she had not done anything by way of basic investigation and research into his particular background, and by all rights and accounts that would have raised flags with anyone. Certainly even the lowliest of marines. So perhaps he was just a bit justified in standing there for a few moments and letting the silence drag itself out - certainly as much as could be considered prudent - before speaking.

"Well I don't know, ma'am." He cocked his head at her. "You don't know any marines who served in Special Operations Groups, do you?"

"I was married to one." She replied, taking her eyes off the man with the ruffled feathers and taking the chance to study the device rattling the glass panes of the observation window. It didn't warrant being touched, but simply admired for what it was. If Ravnsson had heard their conversation, his eyeballs may well have rolled from their sockets out of boredom with the mundane pissing match that had begun to transpire, "Seems like a lifetime ago, and that's just as well, but the Endeavour had plenty of them aboard and he was one. Same with the Melbourne and the Sargasso." DiAgessi had been anything but dignified and couth and she had been young enough to believe she could fix the man and break him of his habits. He broke her of her own naivety. Stacker certainly wasn't DiAgessi, not even in the slightest or furthest reaches of attempted comparison. Stacker held himself with poise and accomplished dignity where DiAgessi had nothing more to display than foolish pride and spineless arrogance.

"So tell me again, how do you suggest we bring them to Cold Station Theta without questions being asked or the Ascendancy wondering why Starfleet's ground troops have come to their border?" Her voice resounded as her eyes dropped to the way the dust on the windowsill danced under the strain of the shaking window panes, "It would have to be completely seamless, no chance of discovery. They could not come as Marines or even as officers... Though perhaps adding additional trees to the forest may not be such a poor idea so long as they can blend."

He thought about that for a moment. Gave it considerable thought, in fact. By the measurement of the old, beaten-down, dust-covered clock on the wall - the one with the erratic second hand that stubbornly refused to keep an accurate measure of time - it was only a minute before he resumed speaking. In his head it felt closer to five or ten.

"Starfleet's ground troops have operated here before, ma'am. Three years ago. The rescue mission for Lieutenant Si'a of the Vindicator and Commander Valeese of Cold Station Theta. It was a single platoon in that instance. A platoon or two could be brought out, and transferred to the Campbeltown," he said, referring to the station's little-used intelligence vessel, "in deep space. It could loiter in a nearby system with a skeleton crew aboard. Orders for extended communications silence and only responding to messages from yourself. An emergency response contingency."

"I remember." She nodded almost somberly, "An entire station was laid to waste, but the mission's objective was accomplished." How could she forget? It had nearly brought the Federation to war with the Stenellian Ascendancy, but it was the sting of losing good officers, good people, from a place that should have been a refuge and a safe port from the maelstrom of horrors the Beta Quadrant's furthest reaches could produce that had lasted the longest. The bombing that had nearly taken her own life was one thing. She could shrug that off, and had, but what had happened to the Commander's now wife and Si'a Dai'xun Shran had been taken as a personal failure.

Had she known that Ravnsson had been the architect behind that hellscape, further more, that he had been behind the bombing of the station and later, the death of Aleksandr Dunross, she'd likely have cut his throat herself in the center of the station's promenade.

She didn't.

Instead she remained blissfully ignorant of the Commodore's additional transgressions and, out of what was beginning to feel like cold, hard despair, had struck an arrangement with a ghost of a different sort. He, too, had a family he stood to lose at the hands of a madman, and that was enough to make anyone act out of turn. The grit squelched beneath her heels as she turned to face Stacker once again, "This is your area of expertise, Commander." Blyx acknowledged, "My area is far more overt and I'm afraid that I never mastered the art of subterfuge as you have. All I want are answers, and I know they won't bring her back, but they may allow her to rest easier if she has indeed perished." The smallest of smiles tried its damnedest to color her features, "Do what it is you do best. We only have one chance. One shot." Her voice threatened to crack at the end, that heady mix of exhaustion and pain beginning to compromise the ice, "Take it."

"Aye ma'am." The best he could do was give her a nod. About now, it was the only thing he could do.


Fleet Admiral Blyx O. Red
Commanding Officer
Beta Quadrant

Commander James Stacker
Executive Officer
Cold Station Theta, Starbase 1170


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