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DL | CIO | LCDR Stacker | “Brielle, Pt. 1"

Posted on Sun Dec 10th, 2017 @ 12:51am by Commander James Stacker

Mission: The Round Table
Location: Chief Intelligence Officer's Office | Deck 678 | Cold Station Theta
Timeline: The Present.

"People disappear all the time ... Many of the lost will be found, eventually, dead or alive. Disappearances, after all, have explanations. Usually."
- Diana Gabaldon, Outlander


Buttons flashed and clicked as James worked the desk controls, producing new lines of text that unfolded across across the screen under his very-intent look of concentration. His narrowed eyes flicked from word-to-word, silently registering and acknowledging what they saw without comment. Eyebrows flicked and corners of his eyes tensed and released without warning, in response to what they saw. Occasionally he stopped to think: at times like this his fingers froze on the keys, and if one did move it was an index finger that tapped the key so lightly that the computer failed to register it as a command. The pause would last for as few as a couple of seconds before the mental logjam unsorted itself and he picked up the thread again. Or it could last for a few minutes.

From time-to-time he glanced at the antique clock on the wall, which was recording passage of the minutes and seconds with perfect regularity. Much like he expected. The device was a replica timepiece that emulated what one might find on an old steamship from the days of Earth’s wet navies. Reproducing it hadn’t taken much (it was simple and more rugged than ornate), but it did provide a slight level of décor to an office that was otherwise still sparsely-furnished beyond the customary necessities of a desk, table, chairs, weapons locker, and a pair of paintings depicting old sailing ships underway.

The clock also reminded him of things that he'd rather be doing. It currently showed that it was a little after 1900 station time, which was ordinarily about when he'd be considering sitting in the chair by the bulkhead, eyeing the starscape outside. Sometimes he spent the next hour listening to music. Other nights it was watching a holofilm with popcorn readily at-hand. Regardless, he considered it his time to escape work.

Tonight would not be one of those nights, however. He heaved an unconscious sigh and turned away from contemplation, and back towards the task he'd been so busily engaged in for the last few hours. It was a report summarizing the department’s operational posture. In all likelihood, it would only receive a cursory glance at Starfleet Intelligence before being filed in one of copious archives. It still needed to put on file, however. Yet try as he might, he just couldn't pick up the thread again. It seemed as if he'd reached the end of his ability, for tonight, to focus on this singularly mind-numbing job.

The wheels of the chair squeaked as he pushed it back from the desk and stood. Muscles bulged as he stretched, pressing against the uniform, and breath hissed between his teeth. When relaxed, he made his way into the replicator alcove, flexing his right arm as elbow and bicep jointly registered their complaints at having been so thoroughly misused earlier in the day. His mouth flattened as the replicator hummed in response to a series of key commands, mind slowly stumbling back to life and bringing with it a reminder.

High-altitude mountain warfare operations had never been his favorite subject. The combination of altitude, deep and hard-packed snow, sun, and wind wreaked havoc on the fair-skinned man from the low-level plains of Barolia. Yet his certification was due for renewal in six months, and he’d put off holodeck training for about as long as he felt able. Hence his current condition.

James made note, as he crossed from the replicator alcove back to his desk, that he’d need to reserve more time to practice and hone those neglected skills during the off-hours. It wasn’t a great idea, he readily conceded to himself as the chair creaked under him and the mug of chicken bouillon thumped gently onto the desk. But it was necessary. Starfleet MACOs were supposed to stay in good physical condition and a prime state of readiness, even when not on active field rotation.

The door gave three short beeps, followed by a long, flat, and toneless one, just as he was about to begin to fight a mental battle over whether it really was worth more of his time to continue to work on the report. There were several different audible codes that he’d taken the liberty of programming; he instantly recognized the one that said there was a high-priority request for admission. Had a meeting been in progress, he would’ve dismissed the participants almost instantly. With the office being otherwise empty, though, he toggled a release control on his desk and rose as Warrant Officer Parsuv led two other Starfleet-uniformed individuals inside. A surge of gratefulness for the interruption came with it.


“Sir.” The Kelpien paused, then handed over a PADD, alien eyes blinking all the while. Stacker couldn’t help noticing that the lieutenant and duty supervisor behind him appeared more animated than usual, while the alien had his usual stolid appearance on. “We have lost contact with an asset in the Brielle sector.”

"How highly placed?"

"A low-level individual. An accountant in a small shipping firm."

"They say the human God hates two types of people with a vengeance," James said in a rather dry tone as he took the PADD and synced it with the wall screen, then threw the data up there. It was interesting to hear him speak of such a topic: it was as if he could take the subject of religion and hold it at more than arm's length. "Lawyers and accountants. I think there may be a few cultures out there who hold them in the same light."

Behind him the lieutenant and duty supervisor were exchanging looks. Neither had been assigned to the department for very long, and they didn't know that their new boss was a very world-weary type. The lack of contact had had the watchfloor in a buzz: unusual occurrences and emergency situations usually had that type of impact on the intelligence mindset. How could he be so much more blasé, by comparison?

The new information splashed across the monitor in the standard twin-column LCARS format, letting him see a picture of an old man with dark skin, a prominent salt-and-pepper mustache, and deep lines. He appeared about 65 in age. The file said he was 50. An accountant by trade, as Warrant Officer Parsuv had said, working in the shipping office of a small trading firm. Explains the stress and advanced aging appearance.

“Last contact?"

“Five days ago. He's on a weekly reporting cycle, now overdue by 48 hours,” the lieutenant said, reading from his own PADD. James had froze the scrolling action of the screen, with several lines highlighted and blinking by way of marking his place, while he listened. Now the screen was unfrozen, but his eyes were only half-focused on the display. Parsuv gave a slight alien smile, but the cause was unknown to the others.

James was ignorant of this, however, as he was elsewhere in thought as evidenced by a furrow that appeared between his eyebrows. Weekly reporting cycles were customarily used only for highly-placed deep-cover agents, particularly in cases where the target had excellent counterintelligence services. A trading firm of 50 employees would not have that kind of security. He said something to that effect, which brought a response. "The cycle was at the request of the asset. He didn't feel he could provide the sort of information being sought," Parsuv interjected.

"What sort of information?" There were blinks all around, which told him that nobody here knew the answer to that either. Which meant it was lacking from the files. There was either a very good reason for it, which wasn't readily apparent at face glance, or someone had gone off the reservation in recruiting. It wasn't terribly uncommon; all it took was one overeager junior-level intelligence officer and suddenly a network was loaded with unproductive assets, all promised Starfleet Intelligence protection and assistance.

James had seen it all go wrong, more than once. He pursed his lips, took a slight intake of breath, and thought. From very far away he was conscious only of the banging of the clock as it struck half past the hour, making everyone else jump in surprise. But he made no apologies for the momentary interruption, instead tapping a control that blanked out the wall screen.

"I want to see the case officer in here, or their face on my screen, live and in real-time." The lieutenant was making a few notes on his PADD, nodding away, while Parsuv's eyes silently blinked with evident approval. Was that a bowl of blueberries in his hand? James didn't let it sidetrack him, but his eyebrows jumped slightly and he gave the warrant a knowing look before going back to the next most-senior officer in the room. "And while we're at it, let's see if the asset's done a runner before."

"And Starfleet?" the lieutenant asked. By which he meant Starfleet Intelligence. James and Parsuv exchanged glances, each silently confirming that the lieutenant was not only new to the clandestine world, but was very, very green. One didn't escalate matters to higher ranks without having more information than 'an asset is overdue for a check-in.' That wasn't the way of things. Parsuv ushered both the lieutenant (before he could say another word) and duty supervisor from the room.

Leaving James to eyeball his computer and compress his lips into a flat line, thinking of the report that still needed his attention.

=/\= End Log =/\=

Lieutenant Commander James Stacker
Chief Intelligence Officer
Cold Station Theta, SB-1170


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