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Secretum Testimonii - Part IV

Posted on Wed Mar 31st, 2021 @ 10:42am by Captain Jacob Kane & Lieutenant P’rel M.D & Gil Silnan Tolbarr

Mission: By Artemis' Bow
Location: Civilian Shuttle/USS Athena
Timeline: MD-01 Prior to "Briefing"
2562 words - 5.1 OF Standard Post Measure

"Starship Athena, this is Lieutenant P'rel aboard an unregistered civilian shuttle hailing Captain Kane. Starship Athena, please acknowledge". The Vulcan waited for a response, hoping to be able to brief Kane prior to arriving aboard the Athena. Not least because - she looked to the occupied copilot seat - she was bringing a guest with her.

There was a long pause as someone diverted the transmission, but after about a minute of waiting Kane's serious expression appeared on the channel.

"Lieutenant P'rel. You're late," he remarked, making it clear from his glare that this was an open channel that could be monitored. "From your shore leave. What do you have to say for yourself?"

The Vulcan raised an eyebrow, signalling her acknowledgement to Kane's subtle message; "I apologise Captain, I was unavoidably detained on Cardassia IV". She turned in her chair, revealing Silnan to the monitor as she rotated; "I hope you don't mind sir, but I have brought a colleague from the Science Ministry..." she paused a second to find the right phrasing for Kane on the open channel, "...he is keen to share his research with Starfleet".

Silnan nodded to the screen and stood to show deference and respect to this Starfleet Captain; he adjusted his bulky military uniform to present a more fitted, neat appearance. "Gil Silnan Tolbar, sir" he said, bowing momentarily as he spoke. "I am excited to share some research on a biomolecular compound and, if circumstances permit, I would be grateful for passage to the Iuvat Star System...". He eyed Kane on the monitor, trying to evaluate him and attempting to ascertain how much the Captain already knew, and how he would deal with the unfolding situation. From what P'rel had told him, Kane was able to be trusted; a military commander who had no time for nonsense and prevarication, he was tyrannical in his own way though paradoxically fair and measured. His Vulcan mentor spoke highly of the Starfleet Captain, which was sufficient assurance for him.

"Permisson to come aboard granted. I'll expect to hear from you personally about your 'research', Gil Tolbar. It sounds highly relevant to our mission," Kane noted back, once again fairly formal and following the pretense that this Cardassian was being brought aboard. It was odd for P'rel to have collaborated with this sort of individual, but her methods were usually outside of the box. He preferred it that way.

Silnan replied earnestly "My Government will be pleased with this further collaboration between our peoples, Captain Kane", and with a further lengthy nod of deference, sat back down. The Human had discreetly confirmed that the Athena was heading to the Iuvat system, and there was no longer any doubt that the three officers each had pieces of a bigger puzzle.

P'rel double checked her navigation readouts, noting inwardly that Silnan had conveyed to Kane that he was here with the knowledge of at least some element of Cardassian government, and not simply acting entirely of his own volition. "We should be intercepting Athena in less than an hour Captain. I believe we have the Shuttle I used in a tractor tow, although this vessel has no functioning transporter. It has been stripped to the basic life sustaining essentials, with everything else seemingly channelled into maximising speed...". She conveyed with her eyes to Kane, that this was in itself interesting. Whomever had placed them on this ship was unable, or unwilling, to use the Starfleet shuttlecraft and wanted it to move away from Cardassian space 'like a bat out of hell' to coin a Human phrase.

"Understood Lieutenant. We will adjust course to aid you in arriving sooner. I'd hate to be without a key officer during an important mission," Kane responded. It would make any course deviation seem justifiable, at least. "As soon as you're aboard, I would be happy to hear your guest's findings."

P’rel nodded to Kane over the monitor and closed the channel, her navigation readout confirmed a few moments later the small pulse designated “NCC 80742” had changed direction and was now on course to rendezvous in less than 20 minutes. “Are you ready?” She asked Silnan, not looking at him whilst she made a slight alteration to the shuttle’s own course.

Silnan pondered the question a moment, prevaricating as he often did over giving an answer to the question asked. He absent mindedly thumbed the new Gil engravings on his uniform as he mused; “No. However, this - “ he waved the data PADD containing his research - “is far more valuable than my own misgivings”.

— (Ready Room, 30 minutes later) -

Having piloted the unwieldily civilian craft into Athena’s shuttlebay with the guidance of a Flight Control Officer - a name she wasn’t familiar with, Andorian, probably a transferee - the Vulcan and Cardassian officers now stood in front of Captain Kane in his ready room. P’rel discreetly eyed the room, a somewhat perverse wonderment of exactly where Commander Taeler had shot the Captain causing her some wry amusement. The pair butted heads frequently, but really anyone who could shoot their Captain and then get a promotion out of it couldn’t be all that bad.

"Lieutenant. Gil Tolbar." Kane rose from his desk to assess the pair. He hadn't made any mention of his strange encounter on Daucina to anyone as yet, and he'd likely keep that quiet until he understood what information they had to offer. "This room is secure. Start talking."

The young man, far too old for a Gil rank being roughly on par with a Starfleet Ensign, looked sideways to his Vulcan mentor. She met his eyes with a sideways look herself and nodded to him, a final check that this Starfleet Captain could be trusted. P'rel gestured to the seats in front of the desk, and Silnan hesitantly and awkwardly sat, aware that the Commanding Officer hadn't invited them to sit; the height of professional rudeness in Cardassian society.

P'rel, also seated, held her hand out and received the Cardassian data PADD from Silnan, she leaned across Kane's desk and placed it on the interface area and waited for the computer to uplink the device. "Computer, main display" she ordered, and Kane's large screen on the far wall switched from a tactical overview of the system to a rotating strand of genomic data.

Silnan briefly looked to the screen, before returning to look at Kane. "Captain. The Lieutenant assures me you can be trusted, and I say what I say now on the basis of that..." he paused, still unsure of himself and this assignment he had been given, having been abducted at his failed 'meet' with P'rel and sent to liaise with Starfleet. "This compound has been recovered from several locations across Cardassian space, most notably along the Breen border. Significant quantities were found in the home of a Legate, who has been detained under suspicion of treason - I'm not sure of the specifics" he added truthfully. "Cardassian Security has ascertained that the compound comes from the Iuvat system, though that is the limit of what they know of the source. I work in the biomedicine, and discerned it comes from some kind of space dwelling creature; the properties of the compound are phenomenal Captain Kane, it's healing applications alone could revolutionise neural medicine, let alone it's bio-conductive properties akin to the gel packs used in Starfleet vessels."

P'rel interrupted to add her own piece of this complex puzzle; "Sir, Starfleet Intelligence believes that this compound is changing hands on the black market. It's monetary value simply cannot be overstated. The concerning element here is where that money is going. Neither Cardassian Security nor Starfleet Intelligence can follow the money, all trails run dead and all agents sent to infiltrate the trading groups with this compound have become MIA in short order, suggesting the likelihood of a personnel security breach". Bother P'rel and Silnan sat in their chairs, waiting for Kane to add his input to the information; both hoped that the mysteries would begin to clear up.

"Someone doesn't want us looking," Kane noted, thoughtfully stroking his beard. They were there in Iuvat to protect the science expedition, and certainly not to interfere. But that didn't stop other elements acting regardless of their presence. "We might have an opportunity to get a look at the group that are operating in the system very soon," he explained. "We don't know much about them other than they're operating the guise of 'traders' but someone at headquarters was worried enough to send us - a heavy cruiser - into the sector by way of flexing some muscle." He paused, eying the pair. "Anything else?"

The Cardassian had nothing else to add at the moment, he'd shared all he had been instructed to from his briefing and would reveal more if the situation evolved to insert that knowledge usefully. He looked to his mentor, who discreetly nodded to him.

"Only, Captain" P'rel continued, "that this compound appears to contain biomemetic properties, though the data on that is limited. The Cardassian team examining this factor were..." she looked over to Silnan, for it was ultimately his choice on what to divulge.

"...reassigned" Silnan finished, probably unconvincingly. He himself had been part of the small team extrapolating the biomemetic properties, and had been sent out here for his troubles; he had no true knowledge of what had happened to the rest of his teammates; only that the working group no longer existed and that orders from Central Command had put a dead stop to the biomemetic analysis.

"Reassigned" P'rel repeated to Kane, hopefully marginally more convincingly than her young friend. "If the creatures in the Iuvat system can be harvested in some way for neural medicine that's one thing; but the biomemetic properties of their biology is more concerning; indicating anything from cloning, weapons, genetic manipulation. There's a bigger plan at play here sir, I'm sure of it". The Vulcan sat back in the chair, a barely noticeable cultural idiosyncrasy which indicated she had finished her input to the conversation.

A bigger plan, Kane mused silently to himself. "Cloning..." he murmured. "Too much of a coincidence considering our encounter with this Commander Brill clone." He looked over at P'rel. "Lieutenant, talk to me about Rondac."

Silnan didn’t need to be a Vulcan telepath to detect his mentor going to Alert Status One - or Red Alert as she’d have probably called it. She was clearly, at least to anyone who really knew her, rattled by the Captain’s question. His usefulness being over, and not particularly wanting to know anything new lest he have to report it back to his government, Silnan rose in a passive manner, and nodded politely to Kane. “Please excuse me Captain, I must see your quartermaster regarding accommodations”. With a returned polite nod from Kane, Silnan left the ready room.

P’rel suppressed the internal panic she was feeling as best she could, Rondac was a topic best left in the past. If Kane didn’t know about Rondac then he obviously wasn’t meant to; though she could hardly reply with a simple ‘no’, as was her first instinct. She opted instead for neutral facts; “Rondac was the primary cloning and genetic operations outpost used by the Dominion before and during the War. It was decimated during the Damar Rebellion, and abandoned shortly thereafter”.

That Rondac was also linked to cloning activity didn't pass Kane by. He leaned back in his chair. "And we believe it to still be abandoned?" he wondered, not so much seeking an immediate answer to the question. He knew she would have one but it would be evasive. "Cloning. Genetic experiments. Now bio-mimetic compounds being sought after as a valuable commodity. It's like a bucket list of illegal activities. Next we'll be finding out they're working on artificial intelligence too." He shook his head. "We're missing something important in all of this." He fixed P'rel with a long look, still trying to decide whether to ask his next question. Did he trust her with it? At some point he had to. "Have you ever heard of something called Operation Midnight?"

Inwardly, the Vulcan officer breathed a sigh of relief. At least Kane was thinking of Rondac in a present context, and not the past; and most importantly not in the context of her own past involvement there. "Starfleet believes that Rondac has been re-occupied, though it's uncertain by whom and what, if any, of the genetic equipment is functional. The only data so far comes from long range scans and some limited elements of PERSINT, sir". She took a moment to recollect a report she had read recently; "Regarding this Operation you speak of; I would need to check further through the active files, however the phrase has recently come up in decrypted comms traffic. If memory serves, it refers to a fringe group of what you might call separatists from a number of the regional powers"; she took a further moment to consider and add her own analysis to the topic and offered "though such groups are hardly new, nor particularly threatening. I would imagine 'Operation Midnight' to be nothing more than another fanatical group of political devotees; a nuisance like any other but no significant threat to the region". Steepling her fingers, she finally added; "however, given the other elements present, further investigation may be prudent. Do you believe there is a connection sir?".

"Honestly? Who knows. We're not running on a lot. Supposition and connections we've made that may or may not be there." He took a long breath, almost mirroring her pose. "I know Starfleet wants us to act as a deterrent in the Iuvat system...but I'm a fan of that old prison approach: on your first day you find the biggest guy you can find and punch him in the face." He half-smirked. "I fully intend to hunt these supposed hunters down. And in the process I want more answers to whatever all of this is leading to."

Placing her hands on her thighs preparing to stand, P’rel inadvertently arched an eyebrow whilst considering Kane’s odd statement; it was really little wonder that many looked upon humans as intellectually deficient when they insisted on retaining such primitive impulses. “Perhaps punching someone is best left to your area of expertise Captain. Whilst you find a ‘big guy’ to punch, I will endeavour to find some of the answers we seek”. She paused a moment, an idea coming to her; “I suggest that Lieutenant Keating begin examine the Shuttle we arrived on; though unlikely it may offer some information and it is the only place I have to start at present."

"Lieutenant Keating will be joining Commander Taeler's team supporting the Cavalier. Ensign Paxton may be a reasonable option to help. Or our new Helm Officer, she seems to know her way around smaller craft," he replied, ignoring her remarks about his bullishness. Let her think he was that primitive. "I'll call you when I have somone for you to torture," he added.

P’rel nodded to Kane and rose, making a mental note to speak with Silnan and then Mr. Paxton. “Captain” she said, before turning and leaving the ready room.

 

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