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Cmdr Waterhouse & Ens Barnes - "Philosophy by Numbers"

Posted on 2016-05-25 21:09 by Captain Amelia Waterhouse & Lieutenant JG Catalina Barnes

Mission: Black, White & Red All Over

The Emperor had left Earth orbit pretty quickly, and the Romulan ship had only beat them to the safe point to enter slipstream past the edge of the solar system by about ten minutes. So the last hour and a half they had been the other ship's silent shadow in the slipstream. There had been no acknowledgement from the other ship that they'd spotted their defiant class shadow, but that didn't mean they didn't realize they were being followed. It had pained Amelia to follow protocol, and broadcast her pursuit to Intel, but she couldn't not... it had been the excuse to break orbit they'd been wracking their brains to justify only minutes before the Romulans had rabbited. However, it also meant that whoever had been chasing Aldridge, and was probably now zeroed on her crew, would now have access to know she was headed to Vulcan with her ship. She could only assume they'd give chase, and that meant she needed all her cards in hand before they had the chance to encounter anyone.

"Waterhouse to Barnes," Amelia triggered the comms in her off-white stealth suit. She'd changed into it as soon as Zola had finished replicating it for her, because she knew she couldn't risk being off the bridge once they neared the planet until she had to be in place to beam down with the away team. "How's the decryption coming?"

"Are you a telepath, Commander?" Catalina asked a second later with a degree of suspicion in her voice. "I was just on my way to the bridge to deliver what I found out."

Amelia bit back the urge to answer 'yes'. A good commanding officer should seem to be a mind reader at times, but like the greats such as Sherlock Holmes, it usually came down to a good dose of careful observation, or a certain amount of sheer luck that one smartly doesn't admit is just that. She simply smiled for a small moment before she answered. "I trust my crew to give me what I need, when I need it. Would you bring your report directly to my ready room, please?"

A minute later, Catalina came to the ready room and simply entered with a PADD in her hand and a suspicious look on her face that she quickly wiped off. "Do you want the preamble, Commander, or everything at once?"

"What do you think would be best?"

"A relaxing hot tub followed by a...." Catalina paused. "Er...right. S'Blen's pieced together at least some of what happened when Sisko got the Romulans involved in the Dominion War. Some of what he figured out seems circumstantial but he seems certain about some of it without having specific evidence listed. That's what it boils down to."

"If I remember my history classes correctly, wasn't it that Captain Sisko had gotten ahold of some evidence that the Dominion planned to betray the non-aggression pact with the Romulans?" Amelia frowned, turning her computer terminal towards herself to pull up a Starfleet database search on the topic.

"That was way before my time, but we did cover the Dominion War for some of the classes I took," Catalina said. "They focused mainly on the war effort and the methods of encryption and decryption of the Dominion fleet and the methods the Federation used. Still, I remember that Captain Sisko played a really big part in getting the Romulans to betray the Dominion."

"Well, the other pieces of information we've gotten indicates that this is the path we need to follow to find out what is going on," Amelia explained. Her fingers danced across the terminal controls, and information filled her screen. "Huh, that's interesting. Even though I distinctly remember history class saying he'd found and presented some damning evidence against the Dominion to the Romulans, it says here that Starfleet authorized him to fabricate the evidence. But if that's all it was, I don't think it would take deadly force to make S'Blen not publish it. Is there anything in the notes you decrypted that might indicate what he was chasing would justify deadly force?"

Catalina thought for a moment before she nodded. "The Cardassian Garak knew that the rod wouldn't pass Vreenak's inspection and he planted a bomb on the Romulan shuttle, and made its destruction look like Dominion sabotage. He also is rumored to have killed the forger. If the Romulans learn this information...."

"That could be enough to unravel this delicate peace we've been fighting for," Amelia finished Catalina's thought, punctuating it with a low whistle. "But his notes don't provide any evidence?"

"Nothing in that book indicates otherwise," Catalina responded. "I'm willing to bet that he hid the evidence somewhere else in the event that something did happen to him, or he would be called upon to produce it. Still...why would he want to publish something like that? It would cause a Federation-Romulan war."

"Well, his record did say he was in the early stages of a degenerative neurological disease, so it's possible that his logic failed him? But nothing indicated he had started to slip yet," Amelia answered with a frown. "I can't say what his political leanings were, but I know the desire to reunify Vulcan and Romulan societies has been pretty strong since the loss of Romulus... If he was a supporter of that movement, it is possible that he felt the incident needed to be properly aired to be healed from? I wish I could ask him, it would help in the decision on how to handle this when we track down this possible cache of evidence."

"That doesn't make sense either," Catalina said, shaking her head. "Why would you start a war to heal a rift between the Romulans and the Federation? That's hardly conducive of peace efforts."

"If there's reason to believe the information will get out anyways, sometimes releasing it in a controlled manner can soften the blow and aid in controlling the damage. Ideally in such situations, a war can be avoided through diplomatic channels, but a memoir of a retired Intel officer is probably not the way to do that. However, everything is pure speculation at this point. All we have to go on is the information you've decrypted, the character reference from Lieutenant Khan, and what we've been told by Aldridge. That ground's about as solid as what Wile E. Coyote usually found himself on when chasing the road runner." Amelia shook her head. "My only other suspicion would be they were hoping to flush someone, or something, out by dropping a little blood in the water. I just don't know who."

"Whoever is being this has access to resources equal or better than what we have, Commander, and they are using it in a bad way. We have no idea who it is, only a vague theory on what they want, and we're always a step or three behind. This isn't looking promising," Catalina said.

"And if my brother hadn't put himself right in the middle of it, I probably would have already walked away. If we find nothing on Vulcan, I'll file in the report on our observation of the Romulans the anomalies we found and followed, indicating they're a dead end, and hope the specter we're chasing will leave well enough alone if we drop it. Then tell Noah to talk Aldridge out of perusing the story for his safety, or at least make sure Noah leaves Aldridge to his own fate if he won't get down off the ledge." Amelia sighed. "This just feels wrong, somehow, and I worry that if it's not contained, someone's going to get hurt. So even if all we do is collect all the evidence, and turn it into HQ so they know about the leak..."

"Smart," Catalina said. "The way the last mission went, I'm not expecting this one to be any less complicated. We have some organization who is apparently able to get away with murder and make multiple people forget it. Looks like we're operating in the black while operating in the black."

"We're intel, things are always complicated," Amelia insisted with a shrug. "If you could just have a formal report written up of what you've decrypted and waiting for me when we get back — don't need to be anything fancy, just the facts — then I can get the whole mess bundled up for Hades and wash our hands of it if Vulcan yields nothing."

Catalina handed her the PADD that she had brought with her. "All the salient points have been boiled out and the supposition and theories have been put aside, Commander," she said. "I knew you'd want the report."

"Thank you. Good work." Amelia accepted the PADD.

"Will there be anything else you require?" Catalina asked her, ready to get back to work.

"That's all for now, but depending on what we find when we reach Vulcan, be prepared to decrypt more of S'Blen's stuff. We don't know if he was paranoid enough to encrypt whatever evidence he stored away."

"I have the computer working on decrypting it now and running it through a full analysis to look for other forms of code he may have hidden in the text, Commander," Catalina replied.

"Keep me informed if you find anything else, thank you."

"I will," Catalina said as she gave a nod. "Just part of the job, Commander." With that, she headed out.

=/\= End Log =/\=

Commander Amelia Waterhouse
Commanding Officer
USS Joshua Norton, NCC-74819-A

Ensign Catalina Barnes
Encryption Specialist
USS Joshua Norton


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