The interior of the shuttle Garrovick
felt cramped as Greg stepped aboard. The access panels along the deck had been removed, exposing the vessel's critical circuitry beneath it. Abbie, Tallan, Petra, and two other engineering crew worked at each panel with tools in hand; the staccato sounds from each person played out a soft but rather discordant symphony to his ears.
Abbie brought her uniform sleeve up to wipe at her brow. She made brief eye contact with Greg before returning to her work. Without looking at him, she ordered, "Be ready to depart in five minutes."
"Two minutes," corrected Petra. "We're about done here. The rest you can do en route."
"Two minutes, Mister Aspinall," Abbie called out as he moved into the shuttle's cockpit.
Tallan replaced the panel and locked it into its former position. "The upgraded sensor palette package is in place, Lieutenant."
Greg settled into the pilot's chair and began the pre-flight as Petra replied to Tallan. The engineering team began to pack up their equipment to disembark, while Tallan took the station opposite Greg.
"Good luck," was all Petra said before tapping the control to close the hatch.
"Shuttle pre-flight completed, and we're cleared to depart," Greg announced. "Hold on to something." The nose of the shuttle lifted up off the deck suddenly and with little notice, the starfield to the rear of the saucer section filled the forward viewport. "We're free and clear to navigate."
Abbie shared a glance with Tallan at the suddenness of their departure, but chose to say nothing. "I'm almost finished with the programming. Take us to our last coordinates. By the time we're there, we should be ready to scan with the enhanced sensors."
banked around Farragut
's tactical pod strut under Greg's control. The shuttle straightened out its trajectory and the impulse engines glowed brightly. "En route. ETA is fifteen minutes, give or take," Greg reported.
=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=
Lieutenant Commander Tricia Hargreaves stepped off of the turbolift to the rear of the main bridge. She carried her PADD in her right hand while activating it with her left, opting to use a stylus rather than her fingertips. She drifted toward the tactical station behind Lieutenant Wilson Nieves and glanced at the console's display.
The display showed the tracking of a single shuttle moving at a high rate of speed toward the debris field. According to the identification number, the shuttle's name was Garrovick
. Hargreaves tapped a few notes into her PADD, which made the customary noises as she did so. Unfortunately, the tones brought her presence to the attention of the ship's tactical officer.
Nieves asked, "Is there something I can do for you, Commander Hargreaves
?" He stressed her name and raised his voice slightly when he did so.
Hargreaves felt the blood rush to her cheeks. "No, thank you, Lieutenant."
Commander Kincaid rose from the center seat and turned around to frown at her. "Commander, I need the bridge cleared of all non-essential personnel."
She stood her ground. "I'm not nearly finished with my investigation, sir. And if this incident has any bearing on Starfleet's question into Captain Leone's conduct, then I should be here to document it." Hargreaves' attention moved back to her PADD, as though the issue were resolved. "Now, may I ask why the captain isn't present on the bridge during this crisis?"
"No, you may not," Kincaid replied coldly. "Lieutenant Commander Hargreaves, you are in danger of being reported for insubordination. Your assignment has nothing to do with the current investigation; in fact, this is not yet a matter for the Inspector General's office. You have no jurisdiction here, but you are in getting in the way of our
investigation and rescue efforts. Do I have to repeat myself?"
She quietly deactivated her PADD and shook her head. "No, sir."
"Dismissed." Kincaid did not wait for her to clear the bridge before continuing, "Lieutenant, make sure that we're forwarding the sensor readings from the search crews to Commander Elannis and her team. There may be data there that will help them determine if there was more than a simple accident."
As the turbolift doors closed, Nieves shot Kincaid a quick grin. "Thanks, sir."
"Don't mention it," Kincaid replied, already turning back to check on the status of one of the search teams.
Judging by the approving expressions on the faces of the bridge crew, Nieves knew that the exchange would be mentioned many times over by the end of the day.
=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=
Rear Admiral Joseph F. Aybar, the Inspector General of Starfleet, stared at Lieutenant Commander Hargreaves over the subspace communications link. His dark hair and eyes always seemed to look right through her whenever they spoke. In his baritone voice, he told her to "Report."
"Sir, I have found sufficient evidence to bring charges against Captain Leone and Commander Elannis," she told him without hesitation. "With your permission, I would like to relieve them of duty and take them into custody for transfer back to Earth for court-martial."
She made no secret of her confusion and displeasure. "Excuse me, sir?"
Admiral Aybar leaned forward in his seat and raised his voice, as though she could not hear him. "I said, permission is denied. You will not take either officer into custody, nor will you attempt to relieve them of duty."
Trish sputtered, "B-But why
, sir? The evidence points to gross violations of the Prime Directive, and furthermore, I think that Starfleet has a serious case to permanently transfer them both to a penal colony for the rest of their lives."
"The evidence also contains information that has been recently classified by Starfleet Command. In fact, all mission data collected by your investigation has been sealed at the request of the heads of Starfleet Intelligence and Starfleet Tactical," replied the admiral, in a resigned tone.
Although she smiled, her tone dripped with barely-concealed anger, "I must protest strongly, sir. This is a grave miscarriage of justice."
"Be that as it may," he said with a shrug, "I have been informed that the data contained within your report touches on too many sensitive topics and cannot be admitted in a court of law under present conditions. Perhaps, with time, those orders might change, but for now..." He allowed his voice to trail off, indicating the unsaid portion of his statement with a wave of his hand.
She could not believe how nonchalant he was acting about the case. Just a week ago, he told her not to leave any stone unturned. "Sir, you realize that this is simply Captain Leone's family manipulating the system on her behalf, don't you?"
Aybar frowned at her. "The decisions of the admiralty are not subject to your review. And I would caution you further about meddling in affairs far above your paygrade."
Her frustration threatened to boil over; it took all of her composure to keep herself from exploding before her commanding officer. She took in a deep breath to calm down and tried and different tack. "I understand, sir. Currently, Farragut
is investigating the cause of a civilian freighter explosion. I think my skills would be helpful if I was assigned to assist and review, sir," she suggested carefully.
"That incident has not yet been referred to our offices, Commander. There's no indication that it will be, either, but that determination has yet to be made. Your orders are to return to Starbase 310 and undertake another investigation," Aybar said, happy to be returning the conversation to something less uncomfortable. "I will transmit the case to you as soon as you arrive."
Defeated, she stood before the admiral and nodded. "Aye, sir." Once the viewscreen powered off, Hargreaves reached for the nearest chair and threw it against the bulkhead with all her might. She watched as it bounced off and fell to the deck in one piece, though the back of it appeared to have been bent by the impact.
It wasn't enough to satisfy her rage. She decided to make use of the ship's holodecks for a while. On her way there, she wondered if it was against Starfleet protocol to create an image of the person you hated most, for the sole purpose of beating the shit out of it.
As far as she was concerned, Krystine Leone may have won this battle, but the war was far from over.