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PLOT - Crew - "As Sure As The Rivers Reach The Seas"

Posted on 2016-09-03 09:39 by Captain Amelia Waterhouse & Lieutenant Zola & Lieutenant Sienna Oswin & Reverend Noah Waterhouse & Lieutenant Streeh Khan II & Lieutenant JG Harper Drake M.D., Ph.D. & Ensign Horan Countrymouth & Lieutenant JG Lexil & Ensign Kelly Liebenswert & Lieutenant JG Catalina Barnes

Mission: Black, White & Red All Over
Location: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Earth

Lexil strolled down the dirt path ducking gracefully to avoid the outstretched branch of a Japanese maple. She was taking the opportunity to enjoy the garden as she went; to an onlooker she must simply appear to be a normal visitor - marching anywhere with a significant sense of purpose would seem extremely out of place. On what had been one of the most gruesome and surprising mornings of her life Lexil felt she needed a little peace and beauty and allowed herself to wallow in the joy of design and nature that the garden instilled. As she moved between two striking azaleas and back into the sunlight her front was lit up, the dappled shadows passing from the grey calf length boots on her feet, the matching grey leggings and over her fitted linenesque tunic and the broad black belt that cinched it in at the waist. As her narrow Denobulan eyes squinted at the sudden brightness the sunlight reflected off the embossed-disc end of the long metallic hairpin that held her expertly executed up-do in place, flashing once towards the group assembled in the gazebo which had just come into view. She recognised a tall figure amongst the bodies of various sizes and species, a mixed-race female with striking long red hair – most surely Commander Waterhouse. Lexil made no indication that she had seen the group but simply carried on down the path, retrieving her standard issue Starfleet com badge from its hiding place in her ample cleavage and tucking it subtly into her left hand. If Amelia’s father had been anything to go by these guys might be fairly jumpy and she would need the admittedly limited credibility of the badge to help explain what was an already unlikely situation.

"It looks like our new Stellar Cartographer, Ensign Lexil," Amelia said softly, even though she knew that the sound dampening field Zola and Sienna set up should prevent the approaching Denobulan from hearing her. "Though why she's here...?"

Streeh looked at the Denobulan when the Commander announced her presence. "Want me to distract her?"

Kelly laughed. "I could bump into her and steal that combadge and get her to chase me," she offered as she watched the woman. "Nice hiding place, too."

"After all that's happened, I am not inclined to believe anything is a coincidence right now," Amelia said, directing a warning look at Kelly. "No further discussion of the topic at hand until she's either on her way, or we know why she's here. Lieutenant Khan, with me." Amelia strode forward out of the gazebo towards Lexil, trusting that Streeh would be on her heels.

Lexil watched as she approached, following Amelia and a rather tall and imposing looking man as they left the gazebo and moved into her path. By contrast Lexil was at least 6 inches shorter than both of them and was in nowhere near as good shape. She ignored the knot of anxiety in her stomach and told herself again that this course of action really was the only viable way forward. She turned her hand out as she came closer to show the Starfleet badge and held out her right hand also at her side, palm forward in what could be interpreted as an open and welcoming gesture but also served to show she was carrying no weapons. She smiled cordially at Amelia and Streeh and offered a polite "Good morning".

Streeh moved beside of Commander Waterhouse, his senses picking out details on the Denobulan woman that a normal being wouldn't be able to; heartbeat, respiration, the minute dilation of her pupils as she watched them approach her. He picked up her scent and noted the posture of her body, open and unafraid but anxious at the same time as if she were prey that was determined to stand its ground. The movement of her hand turning caused him to step in front of the Commander before he saw the combadge nestled in the palm and gave a hand signal to Amelia that it was safe. He stepped slightly to the right once again and looked down at the woman, but chose not to say anything at the moment.

"Thank you, Lieutenant," Amelia said softly with a snort of amusement. Even though there was always a chance there was a lurking threat, the idea of him having to protect her from a combadge just seemed so ridiculous that she couldn't help finding it funny. She needed that right now, to find solid ground. "Good morning," she directed at Lexil with a smile. Let her make the first move, see what she says.

Lexil closed her left hand around her starfleet badge and looked up at the pair.

"Forgive me for being somewhat cryptic, but I am unsure how safe it is to talk here. I was instructed to find you..." she told them, pointing at Amelia, "...and deliver a message."

Amelia glanced left and right, then stepped close to Lexil. "Do you have reason to believe you were followed? Beyond the normal paranoia and caution field training beats into you?" Amelia nearly whispered the question.

Lexil considered her reply for a moment, she needed to allay any concerns they might have quickly. She'd have to give more. She lowered her voice in similar style.

"Not here, but if they place me with Aldridge I could be very dead very quickly, or so he seemed to think."

"You've seen him? Spoken to him?" Amelia turned towards the gazebo again. "It's safe to talk in the gazebo, come on."

Lexil nodded and followed the pair into the gazebo. She tried to ignore the looks from other crew members and focused largely on Amelia as she spoke. They were difficult words, she had never given this kind of bad news before. She wanted to look away but focused her gaze resolutely.

"I have seen him and spoken to him. Coming straight to the point I’m afraid Mr Aldridge is no longer with us. For want of a more accurate yet equally as succinct way of phrasing it, he bled to death in my arms... somewhere around six hours ago."

"Well, we know they got to him," Noah muttered from the back of the group.

"Thank you for bringing this to me," Amelia said to Lexil, "Was he able to tell you anything before...?" She moved to her brother's side as she waited for Lexil's response, and laid a hand on his arm.

Lexil looked between the two and saw the resemblance between them both and Corey. The Admiral had mentioned his son and Lexil put two pieces of a very easy puzzle together, looking a little crestfallen.

"I'm sorry," she said softly, looking up at Noah, "I know he was your friend. If it helps he wasn't alone and... he was courageous and philosophical in his last moments. I should like to be so composed."

She continued, speaking to them both.

"He told me and I quote: Tell Amelia, Rik, Verity is alive. He also said that the fox had escaped and that if I reported his murder to Starfleet I would no doubt be next, so to find you instead. I find it very unlikely that I won't be linked to this as my DNA is all over his clothing. I hate to be self centred at such a time but I am due to report to Starfleet headquarters for my new assignment in just over an hour and as things stand I can't say I relish the prospect. I will certainly be missed then if I haven't already and if they are really organised they could have traced my com badge here."

"The only real concern is the tracing of your combadge, if they know by now you were there," Amelia said, biting her lip in thought. "You were to be reporting in to me, so that's not a worry... though I'd originally planned on letting Cecil take my place. I hated to press him into working while he was on leave but things snowballed quickly." Amelia took a moment to look Lexil up and down once. "You said he bled out, but you're very clean for someone who was on hand for that sort of thing." Amelia wanted to trust Lexil, but for all she knew the shadows had sent her to infiltrate and report back. How could she verify that she was safe?

Lexil didn’t bother to hide the look of surprise on her face that accompanied the news of her new assignment.

"Thanks to your father," she replied earnestly. "Aldridge only gave me your name. My enquiries led me to your apartment and Admiral Waterhouse, that’s how I knew where to find you. Nice shower by the way. If you wish to run a tricorder scan of my hands and my badge to verify my account please feel free. Or I’m sure the Admiral would back me up, he was very kind."

"He probably raided my tea stash while playing host," Amelia said with a small shake of her head. She looked to Streeh with a raised eyebrow as if to invite his comments.

Streeh listened and shook his head. "Now we have a dead reporter, a missing Executive Officer, a ghost sister and shadows who want us to back off a mission that's not even official. The more I hear about this, the less I like it. It's almost as if someone has been watching our move from the inside."

Lexil raised both her eyebrows.

"Complicated."

"Complicated is an under statement," Amelia returned. Streeh's instincts weren't leaving him paranoid enough to keep clammed up in front of the new crew member, and Amelia felt she could trust those instincts. "Normally something like this, I would escalate it right away and let someone better briefed on this sort of situation handle it... but while Rik has sworn an oath that includes a willingness to give his life if needed, I don't know that his sacrifice will actually do anything." She swallowed hard as she took a moment to gather her thoughts. She knew she was emotional, she'd berated herself after the stranger had left the penthouse for snapping at him like she did... that could have caused him to play his hand after all. Realization of that earlier had caused her to visit Aldridge's office in London and pick up the board that had Rik's parents listed on it before coming here. It was currently in her quarters on the ship, but she'd move it to the penthouse before breaking orbit. "Unless someone has a better suggestion, I think letting them believe we're letting it go and letting the dust settle before we do anything noticeable, might be our best option. If they have an inside man either above me in the chain of command, or within our crew, they'll squash this the moment I try to escalate it and Rik will lose his life for nothing."

Lexil listened dutifully and nodded her understanding. She knew her own opinion was irrelevant at this point, in any case she didn't have the experience to offer anything useful. She looked at Streeh with interest awaiting his no-doubt informed response.

Streeh snorted and shook his head. The non-verbal emotional response from the Commander, while expected, was also clouding her judgment in his opinion, but as long as she didn't try to lead them down a path to destruction, he wouldn't make any moves against her. "What proof do we have that Commander Caine will be returned alive or that they won't continue to try to dictate our every move?" he asked at last.

"We don't, which is why I'm asking for your thoughts. Right now I know two things: one, I have a PADD that I was told provides a live feed on where they're keeping Rik, which allows me to presumably verify that he is still alive; two, we have reason to believe that there are those above me in the chain of command who answer to these people, so escalating things following normal procedure is likely to fail." Amelia started to pace. "I don't intend to let this go, and I don't intend to let them get away with this... but I don't believe a direct and rushed attack on them will accomplish anything. Especially since we know so little currently."

"What if we seem to give them what they want," Catalina started. "Then once we get Commander Caine back, we start planting viruses in everything else and track back to them?"

"What would we even plant the viruses in?" Zola spoke up.

"To be clear, the path of letting them think they're getting what they want may be a long one, but I am willing to commit to it. If we can take these guys down and get Rik back, that would be my ideal solution," Amelia said, then looked to Zola. "I get the impression they're into everything, or at least try to be. So what are they likely to get into that can be infected without interfering with everyone else who might come in contact with it, or generating a lot of false positives for us to sort through?"

"Plant them in programs, information and everything else that an enemy would want access to," Catalina said. "They'd be tracker viruses, not harmful ones. Too many systems are set to detect harmful ones, but passive ones are harder to detect."

"But what would we have them watch for that wouldn't result in an avalanche of false positives? We still have to maintain our official assignments in addition to hunting these guys down, otherwise they'll know we're not doing what they want," Sienna objected. "And I don't know about the rest of you, but I have a vested interest in not pissing these guys off... I have a daughter and a husband, and we've seen that they have no qualms about using familial ties to blackmail into getting what they want."

"They've done it once and that means they'll do it again," Kelly pointed out. "No one is safe, really. We should just hand everything over that we have, get the Commander back and move on with our primary mission."

Streeh had been silent, then shook his head. "Perhaps I should take a personal leave and see what they do. I'm one person and could do more alone."

"No one is doing anything alone." Amelia's gaze zeroed in on Streeh as she said this, even though she tried to say it so it sounded like it was directed at everyone. "And of course we have to assume no one is safe, that's why we're even having this conversation. That is also why we haven't just handed everything over, because something like this doesn't just magically go away, and these assholes are not going to just hand Rik over if we pinkie swear we won't tell on them."

Lexil bit her lip idly as she listened to the others. With each return she was piecing together more of what was going on. After a short pause she piped up.

“Commander, do you trust everyone here?”

Amelia turned to look at Lexil when she asked her question, tilting her head to one side as if really considering the question. Her gaze traveled around the group: Streeh still a little rough around the edges in a team but with a personal vested interest, Noah her own brother and close friend as long as she could remember, Zola and Catalina both loyal and known from past assignments, Kelly having everyone's back in the Vulcan desert, Harper's willingness to risk her own safety accompanying Rik into the shadow's head, and Horan and Sienna's software incursion into Starfleet Intelligence HQ. Everyone here was in for a penny, in for a pound, and if this group was compromised they really had no hope.

"I trust each of them with my life and Rik's," Amelia said as her gaze returned to Lexil.

The Denobulan nodded and continued in the unassuming yet matter-of-fact tone that was so typical of her species.

“It seems to me that you... we... are at a stalemate. It also seems that willingly sacrificing Rik is not an option. Therefore either we attempt to take him back, or give them what they want and assume he will be returned to us. If we do that we cut off communication with them and kill our chances at answers at the same time. As you said Commander these assholes are not going to just hand him over, even if we comply with their wishes. In fact I’d go so far as to say I think it unlikely they will, even if we do, because of the risk of exposure for them. Our options are somewhat limited until we can work out how it is they are acquiring their information. The appearance of a return to our main mission –whatever that is- and feigning compliance would provide a smokescreen while we isolate their information stream. Once done, then we sting. Only the essential personnel for the task of tracking them down would have knowledge of the details of how it should be done and report directly to you Commander, everyone else is frozen out to keep the cat in the bag. Granted I know very little of this crew but I believe it must be possible.”

"I could house a copy of the evidence, with a Deadman's switch of sorts," Noah spoke up, stepping forward as he did. "Whatever else you do, it could be set up to blast copies of whatever you have to multiple people, such as Federation News Network, various intel people within Starfleet, the Romulans even. It would trigger if a death certificate is filed for anyone here, and if we're especially paranoid, even just a missing person report?"

"Also", Horan spoke up, nodding at Noah. He had been listening to the prolonged exchange, trying to digest all of it "Since it seems they are watching all our moves, can we just bug our own devices? Basically track all outgoing info or incoming connections, map out the known sources and anything outside of those we log. Once we have the Commander back, we trace all those connections. Something would lead somewhere."

"I would be worried about getting too much data to sort through," Amelia said, then chewed her lip. "But what if we set up something like the old aviation black boxes? Have our devices collect data like you said or include a tracking virus like Catalina suggested, but only in key data streams, compressed to store it encrypted, and if something happens to trigger it, it would transmit the data to us." Amelia looked among those present, and zeroed in on Catalina, Sienna and Zola. "Sienna, Zola, and Catalina, get to work on that for everyone present. Streeh, get a copy of the unofficial backup to my brother in a deadman switch program set to trigger if anyone present has a death certificate filed, or is changed to missing in action within the starfleet database. For now, we'll keep our ear to the ground, and once we either have enough information to make a rescue attempt for Rik or have enough information to be able to nail these guys to the wall and know who we can escalate it to that will actually follow through, we shall move. Any questions?"

"I'm good, " Horan said. He didn't have much to go on or make informed decisions or even give opinions. As of now, he felt the right thing for him to do was tag along and make himself useful when required. Looking at the way things were moving, he didn't expect they would be seeing much dull time "just a bit confused about what my immediate task would be, after this."

"Right now, just getting settled on the ship and keeping your eyes and ears open for anything unusual is all you need to do," Amelia said, trying to give him an encouraging smile but only half succeeding. After this, she'd have to face the task of selecting a temporary XO, and telling Hades something. The prospect of that meeting settled into the pit of her stomach like lead.

"Let's just give them what they want and forget this entire thing once we have Commander Caine back," Streeh said. "It doesn't matter what S'Blen wrote or anything else. Everywhere we turn, they're waiting. Everything we attempt is countered. Let's just dump it and go on with our assigned mission."

Catalina looked at the Security Chief and sighed. "It looks like that may be the best course of action, but what if we don't get him back?" she asked Amelia.

"That's the thing, I wasn't told what exactly would see his release other than a vague comment about us no longer being a threat," Amelia answered. "They didn't ask that we hand over anything, just that we drop our investigation, lose the evidence. Which means we can put this on the back burner, and it would look like we've given up. In which case, they may still hand Rik back, and if not? I'm inclined to do anything and everything I can to see them exposed. If any of you want to just walk away from this, just say the word and you won't hear anything more about it once we leave here, but any of you who are still willing to help me quietly... Well, I would appreciate it."

Kelly thought for a moment, then nodded. "I got your back, Commander," she said and looked at the others.

Streeh was silent for a moment, then he nodded, unable to let S'Blen's death go that easily. "The moment that they raise their heads is the moment they'll lose them."

Catalina shrugged. "I'm went through Aperture with you, Boss," she said simply.

Lexil's manner was pure calm as ever but as she looked at Amelia and spoke up her eyes told a slightly different story.

"I certainly won't forget this morning's events in a hurry even if I would wish to. If there is an opportunity to find out who killed that poor man and why, I should certainly like to take it."

"Thank you, everyone," Amelia said softly. "I'm going to take a little time here to reflect, and I trust you all can leave without drawing attention? The last I heard, I think the Romulan delegation was scheduled to leave Earth later today, so we'll probably be headed back to Erebus soon. If you don't have an assigned watch, get any last hurrahs out of your way on Earth. I'll make an announcement through official channels once I know our expected departure time."

=/\= End Log =/\=

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

Lieutenant Streeh Khan II
Chief of Security
USS Joshua Norton

Ensign Harper Drake, M.D., Ph.D.
Forensic Psychologist
USS Joshua Norton

Ensign Horan Countrymouth
Infiltration Specialist
USS Joshua Norton

Ensign Lexil
Stellar Cartographer
USS Joshua Norton

Other Characters by Amy: Lt. Sienna Oswin, Chief Engineer; Lt. Zola, R&D Specialist; Rev. Noah Waterhouse, Pastafarian Minister

NPCs by Rocky: Ens. Kelly Liebenswert, Pilot; Ens. Catalina Barnes, Cryptographer

 

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