Desperate Times (Part I)

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<p>MISSION 09</p> <p>Mission 27 </p> <p>Desperate Times (Part I) </p> <p>Prologue</p> <p>Captains Log, USS Argus: Stardate 54805.7</p> <p>Weve just finished another successful round of negotiations with the PDralans concerning strengthening our trading and commercial ties. The process is a slow one, and diplomacy is admittedly not my first love, but all in all, I really feel that progress is being made. Whod have thought four years ago that my life would lead me here, to the very rim of Federation territory? But thats the beauty of the unknown you never know what its going to throw at you next.</p> <p>As if to prove my point, our journey back from the negotiations has been unexpectedly interrupted. Weve received an urgent, encrypted message to rendezvous with Admiral Walter Keatons ship, the USS Infinity, back at Starbase 251. Admiral Keaton is the new commander of Starbase 88, our old home in the Luminaire Nebula, having replaced Admiral Parker who retired at the end of the Dominion War.</p> <p>The message didnt say what the admiral wanted but it did say that he wasnt travelling alone. As well as Keaton and his adjutant, Commander Bateman, the Infinity is bringing Admiral Morrison from Starfleet Intelligence. While I dont know much about Morrison, the idea of an urgent, secret rendezvous with an admiral from Starfleet Intelligence does not fill me with a sense of joy.</p> <p>Unfortunately, Im sure this meeting is not going to improve my mood</p> <p>Lex swept through the corridors of Starbase 251 as soon as the Argus was within transporter range. If there was a crisis that warranted two admirals journeying to the outskirts of Federation space, it was obviously important enough to not keep them waiting. While he left Lieutenant Commander Tennison to oversee the docking procedures, Lex and Sheridan beamed directly onto the station and hurriedly made their way passed the security officers to the main briefing room.</p> <p>As he quickly took his seat, Lex scanned the room and noted who else was present. He recognised Admiral Keaton straightaway, although hed only met him in person once before, while he was still captain of the Infinity. Keaton was now in his early fifties, and looked a lot older than Lex remembered him, with his white, thinning hair cropped so closely that it almost wasnt visible at all. Next to him sat a man in his early thirties, with well-groomed hair and an immaculately pressed uniform; Lex assumed this blue-eyed boy must be Commander Riley Bateman, Keatons right hand man.</p> <p>Sat opposite them were two men Lex didnt recognise. Lex assumed that the older man, with thick grey hair and a trimmed beard, must be Admiral Morrison from Starfleet Intelligence; but the other figure, a bald black man in his mid-forties, with four captains pips on his lapel, was a complete stranger.</p> <p>Captain Lex, Commander Sheridan, Keaton acknowledged, once they were settled. Let me get straight down to business; this is Commander Bateman, my adjutant, and these officers here are Captain Quentin Jefferson and Admiral Tyler Morrison.</p> <p>Gentlemen, Lex nodded in return. Two admirals, a captain and a commander I definitely dont like the sound of this, he thought.</p> <p>I have a vital operation of the utmost urgency for the Argus, Captain, Keaton began. As the fastest vessel in this sector, the Argus is the best suited ship for this mission. I have orders to temporarily relieve you of your current assignment for the duration of this mission; the Infinity and Commander Bateman will stand in for you in the meantime.</p> <p>I understand, Admiral, Lex replied, a sense of dread building uncontrollably. What are my orders?</p> <p>What I am about to tell you is highly classified, Admiral Morrison said, taking over. Im sure I need not remind you that as such, the specific details of your new assignment must be restricted to those senior officers with the appropriate clearance.</p> <p>Lex nodded silently, turning to Kate to exchange a glance that showed they were both thinking the same thing this does not sound good.</p> <p>What I can tell you, Morrison continued, is that at 0300 hours yesterday morning, a disgraced Starfleet officer commandeered Captain Jeffersons ship while it was docked at Starbase 88. The man responsible was aided by a handful of other rogue officers, and once the ship was theirs, they set a course for the Romulan border.</p> <p>We believe that they are intending to defect.</p> <p>Morrison paused for a second to let this news sink in. The Cold War with the Romulans had raged for over a decade after they came out of their self-imposed isolation but since the Federation/Romulan alliance had been formed to combat the Dominion threat, relations may have been strained, but were on the whole, much more civil. But deep down, everyone on either side knew that it could not last the mutual enemy was now gone, and with it went the only real unifying factor between the two cultures. And as such, the prospect of a return to the Cold War days seemed almost unavoidable.</p> <p>With his detailed knowledge and experience of post-Dominion War Starfleet operations, his defection would be a major blow to Federation security, Morrison continued.</p> <p>I can only imagine, Lex replied ominously. Where do I come in? he continued, staying focused on the business at hand.</p> <p>We believe that the rogue officer will attempt to enter Romulan space across the border somewhere in this sector, where the Starfleet presence is at its weakest. As the Argus is the nearest ship not to mention the fastest vessel in the vicinity youre being assigned to stop the renegade from reaching the border.</p> <p>Im to remain in command of the Argus for this mission, then? Lex asked cautiously.</p> <p>Captain Jefferson and I will be accompanying you, along with our senior officers, Morrison answered, but were acting in an advisory capacity only. The mission and the Argus remains yours.</p> <p>And therefore, its my career thats on the line if it all falls apart, Lex thought cynically.</p> <p>Its crucial that we keep this as quiet as possible, Morrison explained. Despite the urgency, we must keep a low profile, or we risk causing serious embarrassment for Starfleet as well as a major diplomatic incident with the Romulans.</p> <p>Its not much to ask, Keaton commented sarcastically. Locate and capture a renegade Starfleet officer with a significant head start before he can make it to the Romulan border and all without alerting anyone to what youre up to. Think you can handle it?</p> <p>Itll be a walk in the park, Lex said, mustering all the bravado he could.</p> <p>So who is this defector? Sheridan asked. Anyone we know?</p> <p>Actually yes, Keaton said awkwardly, exchanging a quick glance with Morrison. In fact, its an old mutual acquaintance of ours.</p> <p>Hes the former captain of the USS Odyssey Commander Thomas Henriksen. </p> <p>Act 1</p> <p>Six Months Ago:</p> <p>Henriksen stood patiently on the bridge of the Odyssey and pressed the door chine for the captains ready room again. He waited a few seconds more, but still there was no reply.</p> <p>He looked over his shoulder back onto the bridge, and couldnt help but notice everyone hurriedly look busy and avoid eye contact. The ship was currently docked at Starbase 88, and so there was only a skeleton crew of technicians on the bridge but they were still people Henriksen had known and served with for many years. To see them act like they didnt know him still hurt but he could understand why they did it.</p> <p>A few months ago, he had been their commanding officer their captain. Now even he didnt know for sure what he was, so it was hardly surprising they didnt know how they were meant to relate to him.</p> <p> He turned back to the ready room door and tried the chime again. This time, a voice called out from within.</p> <p>Enter.</p> <p>The door slide quietly open, and Henriksen strode in but his step almost faltered once he was through the doorway. The ready room had been completely redecorated Henriksens soft colours and earthen ornaments had been replaced with sleek silver and black furnishings, making his former private chamber almost unrecognisable to him.</p> <p>Commander, please, take a seat, Captain Jefferson gestured, as he turned the volume on his music down. Youll have to excuse me, I didnt hear the chime first time.</p> <p>No need to apologise sir, he added after a seconds hesitation. He was still trying to come to terms with his demotion from captain to commander, and sometimes forgot that former peers were now his superiors. A year ago, Henriksen had been a respected veteran captain, with over thirty years experience in Starfleet now his career lay in ruin, and his new rank was intended to be a permanent reminder of how far he had fallen.</p> <p>Henriksen looked Jefferson over as he took the seat on the near side of the desk. This was Jeffersons first command, despite the fact that the Odysseys new captain was only a little younger than Henriksen. Before this assignment, he had served with distinction as an advocate in Starfleets Judge Advocate Generals office. Although Henriksen had not met him until now, he knew Jefferson by reputation to be a decent man with a keen mind. The only question now was, what would he be like to serve under?</p> <p>Can I get you something to drink? Jefferson asked, obviously attempting to put Henriksen as ease.</p> <p>Hot chocolate, extra cream, please, Henriksen answered. Im trying to lay off the caffeine at the moment.</p> <p>I dont think Id function properly without my daily dose, Jefferson joked, ordering Henriksens drink and his own triple espresso. But then again, everyones allowed a couple of vices, arent they?</p> <p>Sure, Henriksen said, growing impatient. He was really beginning to wish that Jefferson would just get to the point there was something about casually chatting with him that felt strangely like cross-examination.</p> <p>I have your new assignment here, Jefferson said, returning to business and passing Henriksen a PADD. As of 1200 hours today, youre officially assigned to the USS Odyssey as the new strategic operations officer. He paused for a second to see if Henriksen had anything to say, but the Odysseys former captain sat there silently.</p> <p>Im not going to patronise you by giving you one of those new CO speeches, he continued, leaning back in his fitted reclining chair. I know youve given a hell of a lot more of them than I have over the years. I know youve had many more years of experience on a starship than I have. I also know that Ive only been captain of the Odyssey for three months you were her CO for three years. You know her and her crew inside out, whereas Im still finding my footing.</p> <p>I understand that - and I respect it. If I can make full use of your experience, I will. If you can offer any advice or assistance, it will be graciously received. He suddenly paused, and leant forward intently.</p> <p>But make no mistake about this: I am the Odysseys captain now. I will not tolerate any insubordination or disrespect; I do not expect you to contradict me or act inappropriately in front of the crew at any time.</p> <p>Jefferson sat back in his chair again. Do you think youll have a problem with that?</p> <p>Henriksen paused for a second, before replying.</p> <p>Permission to speak freely, sir?</p> <p>Denied, Jefferson said firmly. Youd better get used to choosing your words carefully.</p> <p>I see, Henriksen said through gritted teeth. In that case, sir, I dont think Ill have a problem with any of that.</p> <p>Glad to hear it, Jefferson said jovially. He took a long sip of his black coffee, before continuing in a more relaxed tone.</p> <p>Thomas, I know the last few months have not been easy for you. But as far as Im concerned, the past is best left to history Im going to be judging you on what you do here and now. If you undermine my command, Ill have you off my ship before you can say reassignment. And I think youre as aware as I am, that this is really your final chance with Starfleet.</p> <p>But if you play ball with me, Ill do everything I can to make this work.</p> <p>I appreciate that, Henriksen said, swallowing his pride. It cut him to the bone to be second fiddle on his former ship, but Jefferson was right about one thing it was this or nothing. And Henriksen wasnt quite ready to pack it all in just yet. I realise this is not what either of us really wanted; but for both our sakes, Ill certainly do what I can to make the best out of a bad situation.</p> <p>Thats all I ask, Jefferson said, rising from his chair. Therell be a senior officers meeting at 1800 hours, where Ill announce your posting to the rest of the crew. Until then, youre free to get settled in to your new quarters. Dismissed, Commander.</p> <p>Aye, sir, Henriksen said, the words still feeling awkward and unnatural in his mouth. But if he was going to stay in Starfleet, it was just something he was going to have to get used to.</p> <p>He just hoped that, with time, he could</p> <p>Now:</p> <p>Henriksen? Lex repeated incredulously. How the hell did he get control of a starship? What the hell is he still doing in Starfleet, for that matter?</p> <p>Kate leant over and gently put a hand on Lexs leg under the table, urging him to calm down. He took the hint, and inhaled deeply before continuing.</p> <p>I was under the impression that he was put on restricted duties after the hearing into the Brhaim incident, he said, more calmly. I was informed he was demoted and suspended, pending psychological evaluation.</p> <p>He was, Commander Bateman explained. He was demoted to commander, then submitted to three months of psychological assessments.</p> <p>But apparently, Morrison interrupted, he still had a few high ranking contacts within Starfleet Command. They made sure that, despite the objections, he was reassigned to a starship.</p> <p>That man should not be on any Starfleet vessel, Lex said adamantly.</p> <p>Which ship was he assigned to? Sheridan asked, attempting to stop Lex getting too agitated.</p> <p>Ironically, the Odyssey, Keaton replied.</p> <p>I dont believe it Lex mumbled under his breath.</p> <p>He replaced Commander Eloquin as first officer? Kate asked, surprised that she had not heard about this earlier.</p> <p>No, no he came aboard as our new strategic operations officer about six months ago, Jefferson explained.</p> <p>Strategic operations officer? Lex repeated. This just gets better and better. Why the hell is he a strategic operations officer? he asked, before another glance from Kate reminded him to tone it down a little.</p> <p>As I said, he has friends in high places, Morrison said. That, combined with his years of experience in Starfleet, makes me think it was a position obviously created especially for him.</p> <p>And now hes stolen the Odyssey and is making a run for the border? Lex asked. And no one saw that coming? The guys careers in tatters, hell never get a ship of his own again, and hes the pariah of the whole Federation! Talk about a man with nothing left to lose!</p> <p>Thats a very polarised view, Keaton said sharply. Ive known Henriksen since we went through the Academy together, so I think Im in...</p>


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