In the closing moments of the epic drama of our mission “Wrath of the People” Lieutenant Commander Keating took a gambit that could have seen her CO sent to prison for a terror attack on Starfleet Headquarters. Thanks to her interventions, with Lieutenant P’rel’s guidance, the Commodore was saved at the last second.
Here, we deal with the fallout of a decision that could have ended two careers…
Mission: Wrath of the People
Location: Starbase One
Timeline: 29 Hours after “Prepare for Ramming Speed!”
The temporary office on the starbase hadn’t gotten any easier to occupy. With Athena not quite ready for his return – something about a photon grenade and his ready room, according to Lieutenant Zade – he was back to pacing. This time, however, it was different. His emotions were a little more frayed; his mind less focused. His next scheduled meeting was not one he was looking forward to.
Finn walked up to Kane’s temporary office, raising a hand to press the chime before swiftly rotating in an about face and walking in the opposite direction. How in the world was she supposed to talk to the man that she’d almost condemned? That glare he’d given her when she was on the stand had been burned in her mind and every time she thought of seeing him again, it was all she could imagine. It’s no use turning back now. You’re here. You might as well suck it up and face the music. He at least deserves an explanation. Her inner voice of reason spoke through the clouds of doubt and Finn turned around once more. Then, before she could stop herself again, her finger pressed the chime and she was summoned in.
“Lieutenant Commander Keating.” He strode back to the other side of his desk. “Take a seat. We have some matters to discuss. Starting,” he continued, sitting down to try to stop himself from throwing things around the room. “With your conduct in a legal court martial. And why you lied.”
“Well, you see,” she uncomfortably fidgeted with her jacket as she took a seat. “Originally, I had no intention of getting involved. Obviously I know you had nothing to do with the bombing or the conspiracy and of course I already turned myself into the court.” Finn chanced a look at Kane only to note that her fumbling explanation didn’t seem to be improving the look on his face. Was it rage? Disappointment? Annoyance? Maybe a little bit of all of them? She wasn’t sure, but she was positive that he wasn’t happy.
Finn sighed and tried to gather her thoughts together. “I’ll start at the top. Lieutenant P’rel paid me a visit and explained the inner workings of what she knew was happening. About the bombing, the conspiracy…everything. She told me that she needed someone to take the stand against you, to draw out someone from the other side.” She looked at Kane once again. It would be easy for anyone to see that her own eyes were filled with remorse for what she had done. “I didn’t want to do it at first, but it seemed clear that we had to do something.”
“Lieutenant P’rel…comes across as your best friend, and yet manages to come away with cleaner hands. She coerced you into lying under oath. Worse still, what if that plan had blown up in your faces? No surprise witness, no last-minute rescue. The JAG could have thrown it all out as inadmissible. What then?” Kane shook his head. “What were you thinking?”
“I was thinking that if I did nothing, you’d likely be in prison now and no one else would be any wiser about Nerak or anything else. Worst case, if it blew up in our faces then I could always retract my statements about you and then the only thing I was risking was myself. It seemed like a small enough risk to prevent such a conspiracy from taking hold. What other options did we take have?” Finn said. It seemed obvious that it was the right choice and though she had hated slandering Kane on the stand the whole plan has worked out. So what was the problem?
“Worst case scenario? Your testimony was going to put me away for life, Keating. Calculated risk or not, if this was some grand plan, you could at least have kept me in the loop! It was my life! My career!” he practically thundered. Several days’ worth of frustration was starting to get the better of him. “You lied. And you betrayed my trust. And that of your colleagues who managed to tell the truth under oath.”
“If I could have come to your cell to tell you about the whole plan, I would have, but how was I supposed to do that? And if things went south, I’d have admitted to lying on the stand immediately,” Finn argued before taking a small pause to look somewhat timidly at Kane. “You have to believe that. You don’t actually think I meant anything I said right? Or that I wouldn’t have turned myself in if things didn’t work out the way we planned? Besides, there was no real evidence to back what I said and that would’ve come to light. It’s not like I wanted to lie on the stand. Quite honestly I’m shocked that they haven’t already thrown me in the brig for it. What other choice did we have to clear your name and expose Nerak and everyone else?” She pleaded, wondering how’d she’d once again ended up in a position where she had tried to do the right thing and somehow still managed to screw it up.
“What other choice did you have!? The truth!” He barked, fist thumping onto the table. He held his tongue a moment longer, seeing her expression and knowing that if he continued to shout that it would likely just attract attention. He squeezed his fist hard instead and made a huff of frustration before pushing himself away from the desk. “You’re lucky that the Admiralty sealed the case files. So – no, nobody even knows what you said except for the people in the room at the time.” Another stroke of fortune, of which there were many, it seemed.
In the momentary silence he fixed her with another glare. “Dammit Keating. What happened to you? When you joined my ship you were calm, and capable. You weren’t the sort of officer that would rush off like some sort of rogue. And I refuse to believe that P’rel is entirely to blame for that.”
“What happened to me? What happened?!” Finn stood up and planted her hands on the desk. The remorse in her eyes was overwritten with a fiery rage. “I was abducted and sent to that planet where I watched my friend tortured to save some Starfleet secrets that he cared nothing about. He begged me to tell them what I knew but I tried to do the right thing and I refused. Then when he finally gave up on that, he begged me to kill him, to put him out of his agony, and I couldn’t even do that. All because I was trying to do the right damn thing.” She grunted in frustration and pushed away from the desk.
“Then, when I told you my judgement was off and that I couldn’t be what Starfleet needed anymore you rejected my resignation!” Finn threw her hands up as she continued to walk around the room, hoping the steps would somehow vent off some of the steam before the anger between the two of them blew the roof off of the office. “So I finally go home to…how did you put it? ‘Climb a mountain’? And P’rel shows up with all of this intel about a conspiracy and how both you and Starfleet are at risk. So what are my choices? I could do what you said and just tell the truth and what would that have accomplished? Maybe…maybe you’d have been let go, but then the Federation would still be at risk. Or, I could lie to draw out the other side and get some answers and hopefully expose the truth. So there I went, again, trying to do the right damn thing and apparently failing.”
Finn paused and looked right at Kane. “Do you know what happened after they arrested me in court? I was put in a cell and confronted by Cameron, who would’ve succeeded in killing me had it not been for P’rel stepping in, but we got the information we needed to expose the truth.” Maybe it would have been better if Cameron had been successful in that cell she thought. At least then she wouldn’t have had to deal with this. “So what happened to me? That’s what happened. That’s everything. And if you’re telling me that what I did in trying to expose the truth was wrong then you might as well accept my resignation now because you’re just proving the point I tried to make when I left the Athena.” Finn stood steady, with a defiant posture and waited for what she expected to be some sort of seething response. It wasn’t how she wanted her career to end, yet somehow every decision she kept making seemed to be the wrong one so perhaps it was for the best.
There was a very long, very tense pause. It hung in the air, as though a lot of emotion had been expelled and filled the space with an atmosphere one might have been able to cut with a knife. Both of them had a grievance. Both of them had been exposed to an unbelievable amount of stress. Much of what Keating had said had surprised him; her trials had clearly escaped notice from most people, himself included. What he had assumed to be a short-term loss of confidence was clearly something more. A trauma, from which she evidently would need time to recover.
“I suppose it’s too late to give you permission to speak freely…” he muttered, uncharacteristically creating a moment of levity after her outburst. He stood up from the desk. Straightened his uniform. “Finn.” It wasn’t often he used the first name of anyone under his command. But he wanted her to listen. To hear. “Do you remember when I made you Chief Engineer? We’d just been through a literal hell-space. I said something about having faith in you.” He shook his head. “I pride myself in loyalty to my crew, and here I am breaking my word; Not having faith in the ones who put it on the line for me.”
His first comment hit her in the gut and she immediately felt regret in lashing out against her commanding officer. The latter part of his statement just caught her off guard. She had expected a response filled more with anger than understanding. “I mean,” Finn’s mind had been preset on thinking of defensive responses and a moment of silence fell as she tried to reorganize her thoughts. “You weren’t wrong in your earlier statements either though. It is your life and your career. I guess I’d be pretty upset if someone lied in a way that could’ve gotten me thrown away for life too.” She sighed and sat back in the chair opposite Kane’s desk.
“And yes, I do remember when you made me Chief Engineer. If I remember correctly, the idea took me by surprise and you offered me a few days to think about accepting the position, but I said I didn’t need a few days and that I was up to the task.” Her lips moved into a reminiscent smile as the memory took hold. Where had that Finn gone? She wondered. The one filled with pride in her position with Starfleet and an eager enthusiasm towards everything. That one had been buried in a grave deep underground, but fortunately the past few weeks had started to dig through the layers of trauma. Perhaps if she kept digging, Finn could find that lighter more exuberant version of herself again.
“Sounds like you regret taking the responsibility on.” He noted. Keating was on the younger end of Lieutenant Commanders. Her experience at Rondac had pushed her up the list, somewhat. But it seemed that perhaps his eagerness to reward had been to her detriment after all. “The last time we spoke, you were taking a leave of absence. I seem to recall you were considering making it a permanent one. Has that thought changed?”
“I don’t regret taking it on. Everything that’s happened had nothing to do with my position, really. Well, mostly. Still, the regrets I have aren’t related to being a chief engineer. I loved my time on the Athena and everything I did in engineering.” None of that was a lie. In fact, even now, Finn felt a sort of longing for engineering despite everything that had happened. “I haven’t made a final decision, but lets just say, hypothetically, that I did want to come back. Would you even want me back on your ship? I mean, my clone messed up plenty of systems and almost killed some of your best officers. The last conversation we had before I left demonstrated that my judgement is off. I lied on the stand, almost condemning you to prison for life. Is that really the sort of person you’d want back?” Finn looked at Kane curiously, entirely unsure of what sort of response she might get.
Kane thought about that for a long time. Probably too long, given her expression. The debate raged in his head; Keating was far more competent than she believed, and with the right mentorship likely had a long career in Starfleet ahead of her. If not for the fact that she was dealing with some sort of crippling doubt that had affected her judgement in moments of crisis. Not unlike Commander Lance, ironically. He recalled how that scenario had panned out. I’ve been around long enough to see good officers crumble were the words he’d used.
“Yes.” He finally admitted it. Softly, but with belief. “Keating, I wasn’t on Rondac…but I’ve seen what Cardassian torture looks like.” One day he might even tell her about his weekend in an Orion slave camp, but that wouldn’t be an inspiration in this moment. “It shakes even the best of us.” His arms folded, the furrow returning to his brow. “I sit here today because of your efforts with Lieutenant P’rel. I can’t deny that. And personal honour demands that I don’t ignore it. Your place on Athena is still there. If you want it.”
Finn adjusted her uniform and set her face with a look of determination. “Then I think it’s time I stop running. I’d like to come back.” She drew a deep breath. “I can’t promise you’ll get the same Finn as you had before. In fact, I can almost guarantee you won’t, but if you’re willing to put up with me, I’ll do my best, and who knows,” she shrugged lightly. “Maybe this version of me will somehow turn out better than the last.”
I suspect that’s true of both of us, he thought. “This is your last chance, though. And if I get a hint that I’m not getting the best version of Finnley Keating that I can…” he left that hanging. They both knew the stakes. “Now, I understand the ship took some knocks while we were both indisposed. I suspect her Chief Engineer will be keen to oversee her repairs?”
“Absolutely. I’ll look forward to it,” Finn smiled. The thought of being elbows deep in repairs felt somehow refreshing, though she wasn’t entirely looking forward to having to face her former crew mates. That was a bridge to be crossed at a later time. For now, she felt good enough about the decision and the fact that by some miracle her entire career hadn’t crumbled over the past few weeks. “And thank you, for giving me a second chance.”
“Last chance,” he repeated pointedly. “You’re dismissed, Ms Keating.”
Last chance. Somehow it sounded so final, Finn thought as she nodded and exited the office. Her stomach twisted into knots from a mix of excitement in returning to the Athena and the anxiety of not screwing up. She couldn’t fail this time. Last chance…