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Lt Oswin & Ens Countrymouth - "Above The Blue And Windy Sea"

Posted on 2016-07-10 13:47 by Lieutenant Sienna Oswin & Ensign Horan Countrymouth

Mission: Black, White & Red All Over

A small bubble shaped cab rolled up in front of one of the numerous piers that lined the water front at the north end of the city, east of the famous span that crossed the mouth of the bay. The cab, like its numerous siblings in this city operated self driving fleet, was the same color orange as the bridge. It pulled up into the unloading zone, and the dark haired, dark eyed, chief engineer of the USS Joshua Norton climbed out. A Bolian trio climbed in a she moved away, and the cab moved off into the evening.

Down the center of the pier ran a collection of eateries, all bragging about their artisan nature. "No replicators", "Only the greatest of care and best recipes", "A meal you'll never forget", were some of the claims on the cluttered mix of antique and holographic signs that loomed over the collection of tables that hugged the railings along the edges of the pier. Sienna moved between the patrons who stood waiting to order their meals, her eyes skimming the occupants of the tables she moved past until she spotted the man she looked for.

"Excuse me, Ensign Countrymouth?" She stopped next to his table at the end of the pier, and pulled her rose colored shawl tight around her shoulders. The wind coaxed the fog to creep under the bridge and advance on the bay, swallowing the sun as it dropped towards the western horizon, and bringing with it a chill.

Horan, cupping a glass of a warm drink and holding a book, took long enough to turn towards Sienna for it to appear almost rude. He still seemed a bit zoned out when his eyes finally focused on her.
He was a bit surprised by the diminutive woman standing before him, looking fragile in the thin shawl. He wasn't expecting any visitors.

"Yes?" he managed, and the sound of his own voice seemed to bring him back fully to the present. He realised she had called him 'Ensign', and finally he noticed her dark eyes. He felt his ears turn hot as he stood up.

"I mean, Yes Sir!"

Sienna glanced around, looking to see if anyone was paying any attention to them. No one seemed to be, and she sighed softly.

"At ease, please don't draw attention to us," she said softly as she sat in the empty chair across the table from Horan. "I'm sorry to disturb you during your off duty hours, but we have an unusual situation."

Horan slipped back into his chair, and waved at a passing waiter.

"I'm sorry, wasn't expecting Starfleet to come looking for me."

He held up a finger to signal Sienna as the waiter approached from behind her. His curiosity was piqued by the 'situation' Sienna had mentioned, but he managed to keep it from showing. Then he noticed her pupils again, and wondered if she knew the truth.

Sienna looked over her shoulder as the waiter approached. "Tea, something herbal with no caffeine," she directed. The waiter nodded and retreated to fill her order.

"We have reason to believe that someone is acting outside of Starfleet Intelligence's authority, and we're attempting to find out who and why," she explained after a pause to allow the waiter to leave. "You're in a unique position to be able to help." Sienna knew they were going out on a limb asking his help for this before they even knew him, but given the history of his people, she hoped he would not approve of someone taking actions without oversight due to the possible wide reaching repercussions they can have.

Horan sat silent for a while, contemplating. He had just signed up, he hadn't met the crew, he didn't know who he was talking to - heck, he hadn't even seen the ship that could be his home for some time to come - and yet here was this woman briefing him about a mission that was obviously vey sensitive. The kind of mission that was maybe reserved for the most trusting comrades. And yet.

Or it could be the other way round, he thought. Maybe his being totally new made him especially suitable, since they could theoretically assume his total lack of connections with anyone in Starfleet. He found himself falling into the old habit of over-analysing the situation, and he reigned himself in.

He wanted in on the mission and he felt intrigued by the renegade. And somewhere he was thankful that the woman had gotten straight to the point - he wasn't specially comfortable in social situations, formal or informal. And there was also the tinge of pride he felt that she had come to him... he checked himself before his thoughts floundered any further.

"I had heard that your kind are blunt, and I like it. But I could really use some introduction before we talk shop, if you don't mind." he eyed the woman, wondering if she would be offended by this.

"Lieutenant Sienna Oswin," she said with a smirk and a nervous laugh. "Sorry, things have been a bit unusual since this started, and I'm extra nervous because my family is on Earth visiting right now. They haven't seen me in a while, and we didn't expect anything like this to happen..." She frowned.

"Nice to meet you, Lt. Oswin" Horan said, wishing he could have something to put two-and-two together from what he had heard so far. "Would you prefer we have this conversation in a more private location?"

"We should be okay here," she answered, reaching into a small pocket in her shawl. She pulled out a tiny device, and set it in the middle of the table after giving it a quick twist. "That should prevent anyone trying to listen in. White noise, and subtle holoprojections over our lips to disrupt lip reading." The waiter approached with Sienna's requested tea, setting it down in front of her. "Thank you." She smiled at him.

"Is there anything else?" He asked, and when Sienna shook her head the waiter turned to Horan to confirm he didn't need anything either.

"No I'm good. We'll ask if we need something." Horan said to the waiter, winking at him with a sly smile.

As the waiter retreated, Horan turned back to Sienna. "Hope you don't mind. Just making sure he stays off our backs for a bit."
Without waiting for a response, he continued.

"Okay. Let's get on with it. What's going on? And where do I come in?"

"There was a murder, but official records have declared it a suicide," she started, wrapping her hands around the tea cup and lifting it so that the steam filled her nose. Between the scent of it and the crimson color, she guessed it was hibiscus. "We believe it to be an inside job, and while a motivation of preventing sensitive information reaching the Romulans is presumed, the manner in which it was handled speaks of someone feeling they are above the rules and above having to answer for their actions. We have a lead on the person behind this, but we need a way to access Intel's more secured internal computers... and our initial plan has lost a critical player."

Horan took a sip of his brew. The mug was doing a good job of keeping it just the right amount of hot. "Why do you believe it was murder?" he said "And did you lose your man while investigating this?"

"We have a witness to the murder," she answered. "As for our missing man, we're not sure what's become of him. Our witness has gone missing as well."

"If there's a witness, why hasn't this been escalated to Internal Affairs? Or the Inspector General?"

"Because we believe whoever is behind this has an inside person, and I believe Waterhouse intends to report this once she is sure who she can trust to do so." Sienna sighed, and finally took a sip of her tea. "I would understand if you did not want to get involved. Given what we've seen so far, it may be a risk to both your career and your safety. If you do not wish to be involved, I will go and we'll never speak of this again."

Horan twirled the mug around on the table, staring at the vapours as they rose from the swirling liquid. He had a feeling there was much more to it than what the betazoid was offering. He wasn't sure he wanted to commit to something without knowing all the facts. And in his current position, there was no way he could dig out any more info, from Sienna anyway. He felt his gut tighten with anger at this. He took a deep breath, and let it out slowly, calming himself.

"I presume I am by myself if I am caught?" he looked at Sienna.

"In theory, though from what I've been able to gather of Waterhouse and Caine, they don't seem the sort to hold to that in practice. I absolutely understand if that's not enough of a reassurance for you though." Sienna looked over the man who sat across the table from her. She wasn't used to evaluating thoughts and feelings from body language and facial expression, but even so she was pretty sure he was uncomfortable with this. She resisted the urge to reach out with her mental abilities to try to supplement the visual cues — since joining starfleet she'd had to fight those habits because other species are uncomfortable with it, though on occasion she lapsed; it was certainly a factor in her choice to join intelligence, it seemed to give her a partial pass to not ignore her culture's natural abilities.

Horan was quiet for a while, thinking. He didn't feel he wanted reassurance, just no secrets. 'Need to know basis' didn't sit well with him. He thought about saying it out loud, but then let it go.

"You mentioned I was in a unique position for the job. Did you mean anything other than my training in Intel?"

Sienna frowned softly. She understood that he wanted to know more about what he was agreeing to help with before committing, but she hesitated to admit exactly what they needed until she had something a little more firm to go with. This was potentially crossing a line. "Since you're still wrapping up your training, you still have a degree of freedom of movement within HQ without drawing attention like someone on a starship crew might. We're trying to identify someone, the person who we believe to be the inside person. We need to determine who is safe to report our findings to, and it would be helpful to be able to point out who specifically not to trust when we make the report."

Horan was happy Sienna had volunteered as much. 'I could do this' he thought to himself. But he could not overlook the risks involved. He had always wanted to be a part of a ship like the Joshua Norton, and he had been elated when his application had been accepted. But now he felt fate had been cruel. If he refused, there was no knowing if any other Intelligence ship would be interested in him. On the other hand, if he said yes and screwed up, he might not even get a janitor's job in a Starfleet office. Then there was the honour of the man who had written him a recommendation for the Starfleet Academy application...

It was simple: If he took it up, he could not fail. He felt himself getting angry again. There were too many kinks he couldn't iron out. And Sienna didn't seem to have any. She had already offered to walk away. Or did she?

Horan straightened up in his chair. As far as he remembered, none of his classmates had spoken about joining Starfleet Intelligence. Not that it would make too much difference to the Joshua Norton's mission; yet Sienna had thought him suitable. Maybe there was an opening there?

"Okay, so what I see is this: A murder has been covered up. You know it for what it is, but you have lost the witness and a man. You need to know who to trust and who did it inside Starfleet HQ. And I am in a position to give you what you want. I, on the other hand, have much to lose. If I am discovered, I lose everything."

Horan paused to make sure Sienna was paying attention.

"Yet, I am willing to do this, if we agree on one thing. I will not cheapen it by calling it a deal, but its close. You said the Commander and the Lieutenant were not the kind of people to leave someone who has worked for them high and dry. I would like an assurance from them that even if the mission fails, I would still have a job as crew of the Joshua Norton. On the Starfleet roster. How would they clean up, that's for them to know." Horan paused again.

"I hope you understand that I'm doing this only because I cannot risk losing out on a life in Starfleet" he looked at Sienna, hoping he had not crossed a line.

"I am not in a position to make that guarantee," she stated simply. "If you are caught doing something that warrants discharge, I do not have a way to make it go away, and I have no idea if Waterhouse or Caine do. However, I am comfortable assuring you that you will have a place on our ship if you are not left unable to serve in Starfleet... which given we're only looking for some information from the database, should be relatively low risk to you."

Horan let out a long breath. He knew Sienna was right. Expecting anything more would have been unreasonable. He wondered if he needed more time to think, though the risk wasn't going away with time. The mission itself sounded straightforward enough. He could pull it off. And he wanted some action.
He didn't see any point in stretching the conversation or his decision any longer.

"Okay, Lt Oswin, I'm in." he felt a slight dread at his own words.

She let out a breath she didn't realize she'd been holding, and smiled as she reached into the hidden pocket of her shawl again. "This isolinear chip has a program that will access the database and search out the information we need. I recommend using a public terminal, so that it can't be specifically traced back to you. It just needs to be inside the secured intranet of intelligence, you don't even have to wait for it to do it's job. Just load it and go, though I don't recommend leaving the isolinear chip behind... it'll give them a chance to analyze the program if they find the chip." She slid the small chip across the table to Horan.

Horan put the chip in his pocket. Finishing the dregs of his drink, he started gathering up his things from the table.
"How do I find you after it's done?"

"Your expected transfer should take affect some time soon. With any luck, it'll come through not long after you've done this and you'll be transferring within the next few days."

"I will look forward to it." Horan said. Now that he would be taking up the mission, he felt a certain ease. The tumult in his mind was gone, replaced by a strange calm - and a focal point for his thoughts. The bay looked beautiful in the fading light. Horan scanned over the buildings and the teeming lights, thinking about the numerous photo ops waiting to be discovered. His camera lay at the foot of his chair - he made up his mind to go on an evening shoot before heading home.

"And thank you for considering me for the job. I hope I prove myself useful. Am I dismissed?" Horan asked, with a twinkle in his eye.

"Yes, you're dismissed," Sienna answered with a smile. Her eyes dropped to the camera that sat on the pier next to Horan's chair. "And if you take any good pictures, I want to see them once you're aboard ship."

"I will. Have a good evening, Lieutenant." Horan said. He slung the camera bag over his shoulder and strode off towards the city lights.

=/\= End Log =/\=

Lieutenant Sienna Oswin
Chief Engineer
USS Joshua Norton

Ensign Horan Countrymouth
Infiltration Specialist
USS Joshua Norton


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