Chapter 36 - Same Page

ON: Ready Room

Evan stared at the PADD. He’d read it so many times already, the repair updates it contained were probably already out of date – short-term damage only, work was going well, etc. – but his mind was elsewhere anyway. They had come out here to discover what had happened to the Lorrenz and its crew. That doing so would raise more questions had been expected, even if the nature of those questions couldn’t be foreseen. Knowing that they were going to encounter more mysteries and actually getting to grips with them were two entirely different propositions, though, especially when they were still taking shape in the light.

He was thankful for one thing. His door chimed. “Enter,” he called out.

Iskander knew he’d more or less had his head in the sand of late; working with Hedaris, they had been scavenging every scrap of intel they could lay hand to, what with the lack of contact with UFP in general. Local scans, trace evidence gleaned from scans around the ship – anything that could help add dimension to the picture. So it was no surprise he was going into this discussion with a good deal less insight than he would have preferred. Adding to that dearth was Zander’s own misgivings about the man he had once considered a trusted crew-mate and almost a friend. Pushing those thoughts aside for the time being, he focused on the task at hand as he stepped into the office. “Captain Yearling.”

“Lieutenant,” Evan greeted Iskander. Unlike many other starships in the fleet, Evan had a dedicated Intelligence officer on board. Granted, there had been … difficulties on that front in recent weeks, but Iskander was a professional and would do his job. Better still, he would do it well.

At least, Evan was sure Iskander would try to. This far out from Federation space, their communications were non-existent. Any message sent would take nearly two weeks to reach friendly ears, never mind the return message. Routine intel updates had been logged in the ship’s computer before setting out for system N21, though, so they weren’t entirely without resources, but the lack of a link back home would make things harder.

“Take a seat,” Evan said, indicating the chair opposite as he set down the PADD. He continued as Iskander settled himself in the chair. “Our away team is bringing back some extra bodies. When they get here, our guests are going to go through biohazard checks in the shuttlebay.” Which was a legitimate concern, given what they were learning about the planet and what they’d gleaned from the wreckage they’d beamed aboard.

“They claim to be a science team, but I’m not willing to take them at their word on that, not when we know they’ve a Warbird in system with them,” he continued. “I know it won’t be easy with no link to Federation databases or other sources, but I want you to find out what you can about them – if they are who they say they are, who they really work for, everything.”

This sparked a flicker of interest; having actual individuals to speak with – to possibly get insight his research couldn’t begin to touch – was promising to say the least. “I’ll do what I can, Sir.” He had a few cards up his sleeve; not so much secrets, but personal tools that … might not be so evident to the untrained. “Most likely they’ll want to be accepted at some level, so we can at least start probing there.”

“There’s another thing I want you to look into, and it’s something you have knowledge of already.” Evan leaned back and crossed his hands on his lap. “There was an … incident on the planet. From what I’m told, it very nearly led to a shooting war between the Romulans and our away team. Apparently, Commander Elin was able to access a secure system in the alien facility without even trying. She claims it was a ‘sudden intuition’.”

Zander paused, considering that. He remembered the trials Briar went through when she first connected with the entity; if it had left some mark on her even this many years out, he really wouldn’t be all that surprised. However, he did not want to risk this compromising her standing within the fleet unless it was an outright threat that could not be contained or – at the least – modulated. “I will certainly talk with her; we’re still working our way through all of her history, retrieving memories that are slow in returning. It’s possible it reminded her of something.”

Inputting a complicated set of command codes sure was some reminiscence, but Iskander was right. Things could come naturally even after years spent away from them. They just had to be ingrained deeply enough in the first place. As to the how and why of the ingraining … Evan doubted that the bioship deposited vast quantities of technical data in all the people it linked with as a matter of course, though, meaning that this particular information had been shared for a specific reason.

“That’s logical,” Evan agreed. He wondered how much he should say to Iskander about what Briar had told him, but if the El-Aurian was to go into this prepared, he would need to know. And chances were he already knew more about Briar’s relationship with the bioship than Evan did. “Before the mission, Commander Elin informed me that the bioship may have had an encounter in this system and that it warned her of returning to it. Part of that warning may have been information critical for her survival.”

Breathing in, Zander considered the issue. The statement could veer to either direction; was the Captain suspecting something of Briar’s claims? Or was it simply an observation of fact? Either way could prove shaky, given enough time and thought, and for now he chose not to give in to suspicion more than necessary. Releasing the captured air, he nodded. “We had no idea where the entity had originated from, so it’s very likely it passed through here at some time in its existence.”

“To defuse the situation in the facility, the Commander gave the Romulans the information she downloaded from the system she accessed as a show of good faith,” Evan continued. “When you’re speaking with them, you might broach the subject and see if they’re willing to share it with us.”

A wry quirk of the mouth was the closest Zander gave to a smile as he considered that. So, it was information he wanted. How difficult would it be to simply ask Briar what she shared? Considering who was asking, the answer varied. “I will certainly give consideration to the thought, Captain. Understand, though, the safety of our crew will have to come first.”

Then we’re on the same page,” Evan said.

JP by:

LT Iskander al Khalid

Chief Intelligence Officer

USS Hiroshima

Capt. Evan Yearling

Commanding Officer

USS Hiroshima-B