Wednesday, October 2nd, 2155
Vastitas Borealis, Mars
“Doesn’t anyone die now?” Lloyd said, breaking the uneasy silence that had filled the corridor.
Karim shrugged her shoulders, “I’m afraid not Number One.”
“Don’t call me that.” Lloyd shot back at her. The unburied rage and upset that he felt earlier at seeing Rossi began to rise inside of him.
“Very well, would Captain Burton do instead?” She enquired.
Lloyd didn’t reply to her and just looked at his siblings in disbelief.
“I take it that’s Captain Karim.” Seth stated, still staring at the woman that taunting his older brother.
“Exactly and back from the dead.” Hanson answered, but she paused. “No, I’m sorry not back from the dead. To quote Mr Rossi, let me guess she’s officially dead and she can’t talk to us.”
Karim smiled at the group, still remaining calm compared to them. She went on to explain. “Unfortunately, Alec wasn’t meant to board that transport, he didn’t read his communique in time to avoid bumping into you. Our agents on board were not able to tell him in time before Lloyd recognised him and the rest you know. That all said, you are all now here and I am sure you have many questions.”
“Where is he?” Madison threw out.
Karim had blank expression in response.
Sighing in disbelief, Madison repeated herself. “Where is he? Our father? He is here, isn’t he?”
Cringing slightly, Karim nodded. “It would seem that your combined efforts to investigate your father’s death revealed some holes in our cover-up efforts.”
“And who do you work for now?” Lloyd spat out. “Because that’s definitely not a Starfleet captain’s uniform.”
Karim looked down at her attire, it consisted of a long, black leather coat worn over a black turtleneck jumpsuit. “I’m afraid not Number-” She paused to prevent herself from saying Number One and antagonising her former first officer any further. “Lloyd, let’s just say I belong to another branch of Starfleet.”
“And what exactly does this branch do, apart from covering up fake deaths,” He paused and then pointed out towards the cavern, “and build ships?”
Karim stepped forward towards him. “We keep a low profile. We search out and identify potential dangers to the Earth Commonwealth and its allies.”
“And then do what with them?” Lloyd questioned.
“We deal with them, quietly and if it is technology that we can use, well let’s say we have a saying around here,” She responded and smiled at her colleagues who were now either side of her, “if it’s alien, it’s ours.”
“And Starfleet sanctions this?” Alexa quizzed, now standing beside Lloyd showing her own distaste of Karim’s words.
Smiling still at them, Karim continued to answer the inquisition she was now under. “We’re a bit like you Commander Hanson, we’re have a very open and lenient portfolio of the work we do, consider us an autonomous department. We don’t submit reports or ask for approval for specific operations.”
“How are you allowed to operate without an oversight of some kind?” Madison challenged.
“Article fourteen, section thirty-one of the Starfleet Charter, allows for extraordinary measures to be taken in times of extreme threat.” Karim answered with.
“I can’t believe we’re hearing any of this.” Madison blurted out. “I cannot believe one of Starfleet’s finest, the second woman to command a NX-class ship, stands here and tells me that the rules – no not just the rules but the laws that govern us all can be bent when it’s deemed a requirement to keep the state safe. Furthermore, there’s an actual division in the institute we belong to that allows it! I thought Starfleet was meant to be explorers first, not soldiers of some grand Human Empire!”
“I get why you’re angry Captain Burton, but I can assure you the work we have achieved since Starfleet’s formation has kept Earth and humanity safe.” Karim stated.
“Safe?!” Seth said with a shocked expression. “Bloody hell woman, have you not heard that we are at war with a blood-thirsty enemy that wants to destroy the interests of Earth and her allies?”
“Yes, I have and we are working extremely hard to reduce that threat and support Starfleet in its campaign against the Romulans.” Karim countered. “We’ve all lost close colleagues in this war, including those that work with me.”
The group continued to be in disbelief in what they were hearing.
“So, where is he?” Roman asked, repeating the question that Madison had already asked. “Our father is alive, isn’t he?”
Karim stepped further forward, almost within the group and looked at the young engineer. “He is and he is working with us to safeguard our future.”
“That doesn’t sound like something our father would do voluntarily.” Roman returned, looking at the woman before him. “You must have coerced him with something.”
“They didn’t.” Spoke a deep masculine voice at the end of the corridor, stepping through the same doorway that Karim had entered via.
Turning around in the direction, they were once again confronted with another former dead person: their father Doctor Fraser Burton.
“Dad.” Madison said in surprise looking at the man she believed she had said her final goodbye to only days ago.
Doctor Burton walked down the corridor with Commander Alec Rossi, both of them wearing similar all black attire like Karim. “Hello princess.” Burton welcomed with a smile towards his only daughter.
It was without a doubt that Doctor Burton was now receiving a frosty reception from his children. All of them had expressions of hurt, anger, grief and annoyance plastered across their faces. “Deputy Director Karim, why don’t I take over from here?” He offered to his superior.
Karim looked at him and then back to the rest of the group. “Fraser, you know that they cannot leave this facility with what they know now.”
As he reached them all he continued to look at his sons and daughter as he answered her. “I trust them to listen to what I’ve got to say.”
“What about Hanson?” Rossi interjected with, looking at the Starfleet investigator. “We know she’s working for several members in the top brass. How’d we know she won’t report back to one of them? Especially Hathaway?”
Karim looked at the others that had originally accompanied her. “Gentlemen, please take Commander Hanson to guest quarters and get her some refreshments.”
The three men acknowledged their orders and gestured for Hanson to join them. Alexa looked at Madison and Lloyd, both who gave her a gesture to proceed.
“See you all soon.” Alexa said, almost annoyed at the fact she was being removed from the current conversation.
As Hanson and her escorts moved on and back towards the entrance that Doctor Burton had come through, Karim extended her hand towards a door at the end of the corridor, “Let us go somewhere that is a bit more comfortable.” She began to walk.
Lloyd gestured for his siblings to follow and soon they were joined by their father and Rossi as they followed Karim. Eventually they entered a room that looked like the conference room on Challenger. It had a long rectangular table in the centre with chairs around it. Monitors were attached to the walls all three walls, except for one that had windows that gazed out on to the cavern they had just seen. Lloyd sat down in one of the chairs, with Madison sitting next to him. Their father sat opposite to them while their two younger brothers remained standing. Karim went over to a drink’s station, she took a mug and ordered the protein resequencer to create her a black coffee. The drink soon dispersed into the mug before the device beeped at her to say it was finished creating the drink for her. She took it out of the slot she had rested it in and took a sip from it.
“I’m sure you all have many more questions for us.” Karim started with.
Roman mumbled something under his breath that sounded like “that’s the understatement of the century”.
Madison had ignored her brother’s comment and spoke up, looking at her father. “Just one from me, why?”
“Why I did this?” Doctor Burton clarified.
Madison nodded once before answering. “You’re lucky you’re alive here and not back on Earth, as I’m sure mum would kill you for what you’ve put her and the rest of our family through.”
Fraser looked at Karim before looking back at his children. “Your mother can’t know I’m alive Madison.”
Seth quickly erupted, “Are you actually kidding dad? C’mon, you expect us to head back to mum and tell her that we found nothing of interest out of here? She worked it out that us four were looking into your apparent death just by observing us. You really think we can get that past her?”
Fraser looked up towards his youngest, “For the sake of your mother’s life and others you will do it young man.”
“Oh, don’t you dare patronise me!” Seth shouted back, slamming both of his hands on the table and staring at his father with so much rage.
Roman stepped forward, placing a comforting hand on his brother’s shoulder. “Easy Seth.”
“No, not easy Roman.” Seth replied looking back at his brother. “Our own father has lied to us, joined some extremist group that think they have the right to do what they please-” He returned to glare at his father and pointed at him, “this is not the man who raised us to remember that family comes first!”
“That’s why I did it Seth!” Fraser now shouted back as he stood up to confront his youngest. “To put you all first. All four of you stupidly wear that god damn uniform.” He walked away from the table and headed to the large bay window. He took a moment to breath before looking back at them. “For heaven’s sake, I left because the work we do here might mean we win this bloody war. I did it because I thought Lloyd was dead.” He looked at his eldest son. “When we hadn’t heard any more about Challenger it was enough for me to reconsider Karim’s offer that she gave to me months ago. By working within this section, I can help Starfleet with the scientific input they need to outsmart the Romulans. I thought if I did that then on some level, I could help protect you all.”
“That’s your justification?” Roman now blurted out. “Dad you could have done that same amount of work within Starfleet itself. For goodness sake, you could have been giving a field commission and be the director of Starfleet R and D.”
“No, he couldn’t.” Karim said, interrupting the family squabble. “The Romulans are more powerful than you all realise.” She took another sip from her coffee and sat down at the head of the table. “They have a sophisticated intelligence network, one that is stronger than ours and the Vulcans. If your father had taking on another prominent position, then it is more than likely he would have been a target for the Romulans, and Earth can’t afford to lose any more of its distinguished scientists. Your father is one of the leading physicists in the Commonwealth – his work rivals that of Zefram Cochrane, Henry Archer, Kotaro Tasaki and Emory Erickson. As I said, we can’t afford to lose him.”
The room fell silent, rage still burnt within Seth and partially in Roman. Madison sat further back in her chair, crossing her arms against her chest glaring further at their father.
Leaning forward and resting his chin on his right palm, Lloyd spoke up. “So, what happens now? Do we all end up having our deaths faked and we join this division of yours or will it actually be the real thing?” It was one of the questions that now plagued him, one he knew his siblings would be considering as well. A sense of guilt of getting them all involved now flooded him. Knowing that Madison may never see Stephen and Oliver made his heart skip a beat, however it was something closer to home that made it nearly stopped. If this was it, he automatically thought about Nicole and their unborn children. Could he live with himself in leaving her and them alone in this mucked up galaxy? It was at this point he wished he had access to Challenger’s transporter to be able to beam him away from this mess.
Karim shrugged her shoulders. “I’d need to speak to my superior on that one.” Karim placed her coffee mug down. “Please make yourself comfortable.” She stood up and gestured for Rossi to join her in leaving.
“Wait.” Lloyd said, not looking towards the two of the officers leaving.
Karim and Rossi paused in their tracks just as the door opened and turned to look at him.
“You both still owe me an explanation as to why you left Challenger in such a drastic manner.” Lloyd remarked. His own anger began to bubble. “You left a brand-new crew devastated on the verge of their maiden voyage. I had to take the centre seat because of you both.”
Karim smiled again as she looked at her former first officer. “Lloyd, you were always going to get Challenger.” She said it in such a manner of fact way. She even said it without blinking. Straight after speaking, she then turned on her heels and left the room with Rossi in tow.
Tempted to chase after them both, Lloyd reconsidered his options as he knew he needed to remain with his family at this present time. He wanted to know what the hell Karim meant by that last statement and he promised himself before he left Mars, he would get his answer – having some sort of closure now would be helpful.
“Where do we go from here then?” Madison asked openly.
“I am sorry.” Their father said sincerely, looking at all of them. “It was never my intention for you to ever find out. I wanted you all to get on with your lives and I hoped my work would make a difference without you knowing. If others, especially the Romulans, thought I was dead then at least they wouldn’t come after any of you.”
“Dad, I really suggest you keep your rubbish to yourself right now.” Seth spat back.
By this time Roman had taken the seat the other side of Lloyd, he rubbed his face with both hands. “This is ridiculous.” He said aloud. “Is there no Secrets Act that we can sign that says we won’t share anything that we’ve learnt here today?”
“You know it’s not as easy as that son.” Fraser said, leaning against the small ledge under the window. “I’m assuming it was either Admiral Gardner or do I dare to be bold and say Fleet Admiral Hathaway that put you on the case?”
“Does it matter dad?” Lloyd countered back with. He wasn’t prepared to discuss the nature of his mission with his father, all the trust he had for the man had now gone.
“It does, as you’re all Starfleet officers bound by an oath and part of that is reporting to your superior officers.” Fraser remarked.
“Maybe so, but I don’t think you have any right in telling us what to report. It’s not like you and this damn organisation of yours has anyone to hold you to account.” Madison stated as she shook her head. “God damn it dad, why didn’t you come to one of us about this? We could have sorted this out and avoided all of this mess.”
“It wasn’t that simple Maddie.” He said, using another one of his pet names – instantly he regretted it after she gave him a scornful look.
The room went quiet again and none of them knew what to say.
Slowly and cautiously, Alexa Hanson scanned the room she had been taken too with her eyes. Like any good field agent (or maybe spy was the best thing she could describe herself now) she spotted a number of monitoring devices. The room itself had a small armchair and a medium sized couch with a glass table in between it. At one end of the room was a single bed with blue sheets coated around it. The room was well lit as it only had one porthole that appeared to look out into the cavern she had already discovered with the others. A restroom sat behind a push door was located at one end while at the other end a small cabinet was filled with a few light refreshments, including some bottles of water. Instinctively she took out one of the bottles while she assessed how she was going to get herself out of here and catch up with the others to plan their escape. Nevertheless, she didn’t know how she was going to do it without being caught by her hosts. Sitting down in the armchair, she placed her bottle on the table before her and made the decision that she hoped would help and the others. She tapped the right side of her neck, acting the sub-dermal transponder that she implanted. Hoping that her signal would be picked up by the right people
Starfleet Command Headquarters, San Francisco, United States of America, Earth
Staring at her computer screen diligently, Commander Jane Astley instantly saw the pop-up message that appeared. Fortunately for her she was the only one in the office at the present time, so she was able to click on the pop-up to check on its contents. Being the executive assistant to the Starfleet Commander-in-Chief meant that many things went through her before they were passed on to Fleet Admiral Hathaway. The moment the communique required her to place her access codes in she locked her computer and got up. Walking around her glass desk towards the door, which was also made out of glass, she looked around in the foyer/corridor to see if anyone else was around. Besides the usual guards that were at either end of the corridor, no-one else inhabited that area. Gradually she closed the door shut, tapped the button on the wall automatically activating the misty filter that appeared over the door and the wall next to it. This privacy feature prevented anyone looking in. Currently she required some privacy to deal with the matter at hand. Returning to her desk, she sat back down in her white leather executive chair, she entered her authorisation code which was accepted by the computer. Quickly, she read the message before deleting it off her computer and Starfleet mainframe. She re-locked her workstation and made her way to the other door, the one that led to Hathaway’s office. She knocked gentle on the doorframe to gain her boss’ attention.
“Ma’am, I’ve just received a message.” Astley calmly reported.
Hathaway, who was sat behind her desk reading a report on a tablet device, looked over to the doorway and at her aide. “Who from Jane?” She enquired, looking over the glasses she sometimes wore when reading.
“Agent Minerva ma’am.” Astley said, using the codename only her and Hathaway knew.
Hathaway placed the tablet down on her desk and took her glasses off. “What does it say?”
Astley moved into the office, allowing the door to close behind her. “Nothing ma’am, it’s the distress signal. What are your orders ma’am?”
Standing up from her desk, Hathaway walked over to the large bay windows that looked out on to San Francisco. It was the evening and the city harbour looked alive with the many lights that dazzled against the darkness. She turned around after making her decision. “Inform General Casey I want a team ready for us when we touch down on Mars.”
“Yes ma’am – do you wish to take Hawk-Major-One?” Astley asked, referring to Hathaway’s personal inter-planetary transport’s call sign.
Nodding, Hathaway gave the order. “Yes, but we’ll need to move quickly though. I don’t want to tip anyone to my unscheduled trip.”
“I’ll deal with everything ma’am.” Astley assured her commander.
Hathaway picked up her field jacket, that was hanging up on one of the walls, before she made her way over to a small cabinet. She tapped a few buttons that soon unlocked a small door. Inside it was a phase pistol, a scanner and a communicator. Packing the two devices into her coat’s pockets and then placing the pistol on her hip, she responded to Astley. “Thank you commander. If anyone asks where I am, then I’m having a private dinner with my niece.”
“Understood.” Astley replied as she watched Hathaway approach another door in the room.
Again, Hathaway inputted a security code that released the locks to the door. The door swished open to reveal a secret elevator. She entered the one-person capsule. “If you can commander, then send a message to Minerva. Help is on its way.” She said as she turned to look at her assistant. The moment she finished she pressed the keypad that activated the lift that took her to the bunker that housed her private executive vessel. This would be one journey she knew that could change the face of Starfleet, depending on what had been found on Mars. Nevertheless, Fleet Admiral Hathaway was determined to know what her agent had found. Months she had patiently waited for news, something that she could understand and finally she could tell herself she was not paranoid. She hoped.
Almost marching across the hanger deck towards her admiral’s yacht, Hathaway was impressed how quickly everyone was getting on board the compact craft. The ship was no longer than forty metres long and eighteen metres tall, it had two main decks along with a cargo area and had a dark-silver hull, similar to other Starfleet vessels. Starfleet Insignias ran along the sides of the craft as well as on its tailfin. Even though she had travelled on the ship on many occasions, she could not but help consider it being a kit-bash between the old orbital shuttles from the late twentieth century as well as the prototype vessels used for the NX-project. The two warp nacelles were stuck under the wings, and like Zefram Cochrane’s Phoenix, they would extend allowing the ship to travel at a maximum of warp one-point-five. At the aft of the ship was its main impulse engines, while on the ventral side were its atmospheric thrusters. The ship had been originally constructed by the UESPA to mark the launch of the first orbital shuttle created and launched in the mid-twentieth century, the Dauntless OVV-165, as well as to celebrate the achievements of the NX-Project. It had been a gift to Hathaway, as many in the UESPA knew how she had a particular interest in the history of humanity’s exploration of the stars. Even though the vessel’s callsign was Hawk-Major-One, Hathaway had insisted on calling it the Dauntless as an added homage, but she was informed that the callsign had to stay due to her position within Starfleet. Everyone else in Starfleet had adopted the name in an unofficial capacity, but the use of the official callsign was always used when she was onboard. A military tradition she was not completely fond of.
Stepping up the tall staircase that took her up to the main entrance of the craft, Hathaway made her way in and after briefing the small crew of their destination it was not long until they began their departure checks. Once the Dauntless was airborne, Hathaway had retired to her very small office, behind the cockpit, to review everything that Agent Minerva had sent her over these last few months. She did not want to miss a thing and was adamant she had all the facts prepped. Her reading was interrupted with a knock on the door. Standing in the doorway was the Dauntless’ communication officer, Lieutenant Wyatt Spencer. He was in his late twenties, was reasonable tall and had broad shoulders. He was from Ohio in the United States and had been assigned to Hathaway’s staff as a senior aide, when he wasn’t serving the Dauntless in this capacity, he was her speechwriter as well as an assistant to Starfleet’s Press Office. He kept himself looking extremely smart and tidy, his medium length brown hair was combed over to the left side. His maintenance of his appearance had impressed Hathaway recently as he had just become a father to a little girl, he had returned to work only two weeks ago, and the new father had not stopped buzzing about the new ‘woman’ in his life. Hearing him complain about the lack of sleep he had received since her birth had made the admiral chuckle, however she admired how much he kept going since he started fatherhood.
“Sorry to interrupt you ma’am, however we’ve just received a communique from the Ministry of Defence.” He shared.
Looking away from her screen, Hathaway showed a confused expression to Spencer. “What does it say?”
Spencer stepped into her office, allowing the door to close behind him. “Secretary Stark has ordered that you see him at once.”
Leaning back in her chair, she considered her options. It was rare for the Defence Secretary to summon her, let alone order her. They had an excellent working relationship and the two of them were always in constant communication with one another. “Did he say where?”
“At the Manoir de Christofle.” Spencer replied, mentioning the Prime Minister’s official residence.
Keeping her surprise under-wraps, Hathaway looked out of one of the small cabin windows, to see the craft was still climbing through the San Francisco skyline. Looking back at Spencer she issued the order. “Take us to Paris first then.”
“Yes ma’am.” He replied before departing her office.
Another mystery now sat before her. Was it coincidence that Stark had got in touch with her just as she was leaving? Or was this part of the same investigation she found herself now part of? Fortunately for her she had a small squad of MACOs onboard, she wouldn’t go anywhere without them now. She returned her attention back to her screen to resume reading Agent Minerva’s reports and data. In the back of her mind she had been impressed with Minerva, nevertheless she had to keep reminding herself to call her spy by her alias. If anyone was to find out that Minerva was in fact Commander Alexa Hanson, then her entire operation would be compromised, and she would never learn the full truth.