Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“And They’re Off…”
By Alan Decker
“As I look around this room at the men, women, third genders of many varieties, multi-gendered beings, and those with no gender whatsoever, I see the people who made my Administration a success,” Federation President Bradley Dillon said, standing at the podium in front of the tables filling Dillon’s Restaurant on this particular evening. Normally Bradley was very careful not to mix his political activities with his business interests. Holding an official Federation function at one of his establishments would be seen as a clear conflict of interest. Not tonight, though. Tonight was personal. A black tie affair entertaining some of the most important people in the Federation. In attendance were heads of state, captains of industry (Bradley never liked that term. Captains were nothing special. They should at least be admirals of industry), and influential figures from ambassadors to Federation Council representatives. He’d wined and dined them. They’d eaten one of the finest meals offered anywhere in the quadrant. Now it was time for them to listen to what he had to say.
“Four years ago, I had never dreamed of holding political office. My interests were solely focused on my own endeavors. Since being pressed into taking the Presidency, however, I have come to know the supreme satisfaction of a life of public service. I have done my best to do what was right for the Federation and its citizens, even when such efforts took me down unusual and controversial paths. And I have stood unafraid to answer for my actions. Even so, I understand that my presence in this most important position did not come through the will of the people. I sincerely hope that I have done right by our citizens during my time in office, but the moment will soon be upon us when our proper democratic process will allow the people of the Federation to select a new president. When I took office, the people did not have the opportunity to vote for or against me. Now they will.
“I, Bradley Dillon, will be seeking re-election, and with your support, I hope to continue serving you all as the President of the United Federation of Planets!”
“And there you have it,” Joan Redding, anchor of AWN News said as the clip of Bradley’s speech ended. “Last night President Bradley Dillon officially announced his candidacy. Political pundits across the Federation had been predicting that President Dillon would step down rather than face the voters he bypassed in his initial rise to the office. The experts felt that the potential embarrassment of losing would lead President Dillon to bow out gracefully. That just goes to show you what the experts know.
“With President Dillon’s announcement, the election season has officially started. Parties that had been listening to those now-disgraced experts and holding back selecting a candidate until President Dillon stated that he was stepping aside will now be scrambling to catch up with the incumbent. Expect much more activity in the days and weeks to come as the race for the Presidency begins. And AWN will be here with each and every step of the Countdown to Election Day. We’ll take you inside each and every candidates campaign. Every decision, every poll, every speech, and every single blunder will be covered in the painstaking detail you’ve come to expect from…”
“Turn it off!” Captain Lisa Beck cried, unable to take it any more. The command had barely left her lips before Commander Walter Morales slammed his hand down on his console in Ops, deactivating the main viewscreen and whisking the image of Joan Redding out of their sight.
Ops was blissfully silent for a few moments.
“Don’t you have to be elected before you can be re-elected?” Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter asked from his post at the science/operations console.
“Considering we’re the ones who put him in office in the first place, I don’t think we get to complain,” Morales said.
“Oh no. No no no. We’re not taking the blame for that one,” Beck said. “That can stay on the Explorer’s rap sheet where it belongs.”
“The scary part of that sentence is that they actually do have a rap sheet,” Porter said.
“You know what this means,” Morales said.
“We wait for their inevitable appearance on The Federation’s Most Wanted?” Porter asked.
“I meant about Bradley running for re-election. This place is going to become a circus.”
“Become?” Beck said. She sighed, shaking her head. “I know what you mean. We’ve gotten used to a certain level of chaos around here ever since Bradley became president and decided to stay on board instead of going to Paris like he should have. Not that it hasn’t worked in our favor a few times.”
“And been a pain in the ass a few other times,” Porter said.
“Granted. But with this election…”
“I don’t know. It might not be that bad,” Lieutenant Commander Sean Russell said from tactical.
“I didn’t realize you were even awake over there,” Porter said.
“I was thinking.”
“Sorry we disturbed you,” Porter said with a smirk.
“That’s okay. I was finished,” Russell replied, missing his friend’s sarcasm entirely. “Anyway, I was thinking about added security we might need, but then I realized things are going to get better. Not worse. Bradley is going to have to campaign.”
“Which means he won’t be here,” Morales said understanding. “I like it.”
“You seem awfully anxious to shove our beloved president out the door,” Porter said.
Morales just grunted and looked back at his console.
“All right. So we’ve established that the election is not going to end life as we know it,” Beck said. “Anything else I should know about before I go face down the mountain of padds waiting for me in my office?”
“We’re glad we’re not you?” Porter offered.
“The bureaucracy will come for you too one day, Porter. You can’t hide forever.”
“Watch me.” Porter ducked behind his console.
Beck chuckled and turned to head into her office. She hadn’t made it three steps before…
“Captain,” Morales said. “We’ve got an incoming message.”
“Who from?” Beck asked, shifting into all-business. “We aren’t expecting any arrivals now, are we?”
“It’s the President’s office. He would like to see you in the mall.”
“Now? Of course now. It’s not like I have a schedule or things to do or anything.”
“I could go talk to him if you’d rather be alone with your padds,” Porter said.
“Not a chance,” Beck replied, heading toward the turbolift. “Morales, tell his Royal Presidentiallyness that I’m on my way…except don’t mention the Royal Presidentiallyness part.”
“Wouldn’t think of it,” Morales said.
Beck nodded in thanks as the turbolift doors closed. Actually a trip down to the mall didn’t sound so bad. She could grab some lunch, take a nice stroll, and dodge the paperwork she needed to deal with for a while longer. Now all she had to do was hope that Bradley Dillon wasn’t about to dump a major crisis into her lap.
“You want me to do what?” Beck asked dumbfounded.
Bradley Dillon really didn’t think his request warranted the blank stare Captain Beck was currently sending in his direction. It really wasn’t that big of a request. “You did see the news, didn’t you, Captain?” he asked.
“If I am going to run a campaign, I need a campaign headquarters. It can’t be in the Presidential offices for obvious reasons, and it’s a bit unseemly to use Dillon Enterprises space for it. I’d much prefer to have it here in the mall where people will actually see it as opposed to it being stuck on some out of the way deck somewhere anyway.”
“You called me down here because you want room for a campaign office,” Beck said.
“It did seem like the place for the conversation,” Bradley said, resuming his casual pace along the lower concourse of Starfleet Square Mall, his ever-present Special Secret Section guards keeping a discreet distance behind them. “We need to discuss locations.”
“But the mall is fully occupied.”
“Exactly why we need to discuss it. As a founding member of the Waystation Merchants’ Association, I find the idea of evicting a business distasteful; however, we must look at the big picture. My campaign will be able to pay far more for the space than whatever establishment we end up displacing.”
“Or you could just close Dillon’s Supply Depot,” Beck said.
Bradley laughed. “That’s good. I like that. Close the Depot. Ha! Now I was thinking something on the lower concourse would be best. Nothing too close to the hover skating rink, though. It’s a bit noisy. Are you aware of any places that are struggling to stay in business along here? Nandegar’s Secret perhaps? I mean how popular can Breen lingerie really be?”
“You’d be surprised,” Beck said.
“Would I now? Of course, I wouldn’t dream of asking how you know that, Captain.”
“Good. That means I don’t have to spend my time feeling sorry for you because you don’t know yourself.”
“There’s also Trinkets of Tellar. They must be struggling.”
“I’m not going to evict anybody,” Beck said. “They have leases. Everybody does except the Infirmary, the Security office, and the Welcome Center. You want to order me to clear out the Welcome Center for you?”
“No,” Bradley said quickly. “Absolutely not.”
“All right then,” Beck said. “You’re just going to have to…”
And then everything exploded.
Beck gradually became aware of sounds around her. Then soft voices. Next a closer voice, speaking to her gently:
“Captain. Captain Beck.”
She willed her eyes open and…
Beck clamped her eyes shut again and tried to get control of her panicked breathing. It was just Dr. Diantha. Still opening her eyes and seeing the avian doctor’s huge round eyes so close and staring right back at her…well…she suddenly knew what a worm’s last moments looked like.
“Captain Beck,” Diantha repeated more firmly.
“I’m here,” Beck said, opening her eyes again. She was in a biobed in the Infirmary, and with good reason judging by the dull aches that were making themselves known up and down her body. “What happened?”
“You were in an explosion,” Russell said, stepping into view.
“An explosion!” Beck exclaimed. She immediately tried to sit up and just as quickly regretted it. “Casualties?”
“Several injuries, but no deaths,” Diantha said, flipping open her medical tricorder and checking Beck over.
Beck nodded, settling back down on the bed. “Bradley. I was with the President.”
“He’s fine. You did more damage to him than the blast did.”
“You were thrown into him. The concussion from the explosion then slammed you both into the opposite wall. The impact broke both of his arms, which I repaired…after a delay.”
“What kind of delay?”
“Agent Anderson and his flunkies wouldn’t let anyone near Bradley until they were certain there were no more threats to his life,” Russell said.
Beck let out a pained breath. “I thought we were done with this assassination attempt crap.”
“I guess someone was not pleased to hear about President Dillon’s re-election bid,” Diantha said.
“Have you learned anything yet?” Beck asked Russell.
“Only that I’m not allowed anywhere near the blast site,” Russell replied.
“You’re the head of station security. You can’t not be allowed anywhere on board.”
“Tell that to Anderson. Since this is now a matter of Federation security, what he says goes.”
“Yeah. I looked it up.”
“Push me over to Bradley’s biobed. I want to…”
“He’s not here,” Diantha said. “As soon as I completed his treatment, he was rushed away.”
“Of course he was,” Beck said. “What about the damage to the station?”
“Craig was able to reroute the affected systems, which wasn’t a lot really. But Krilik’s is gone,” Russell said.
“Whoever did this better hope that Bradley’s people get their hands on him before Krilik does,” Beck said. “I can’t imagine what the proper Klingon payback is for blowing up a shop full of handmade dresses.”
“Krilik told me. And you don’t want to know,” Russell said wincing. “Let me just say it involves some really innovative uses of a sewing machine.”
“Make sure he stays out of Anderson’s way. I don’t want this to get any worse.”
“So Anderson gets to investigate the bombing while we babysit a Klingon?” Russell asked.
“You said Anderson had jurisdiction.”
“Well yeah, but I thought you might…get around it.”
“Not yet,” Beck said. “Let them do their jobs for now. We’ll be ready to step in if they hit a dead end…but nothing where anyone really ends up dead. Just a run-of-the-mill dead end. You know what I mean.”
“Get some rest, Captain,” Russell said, patting Beck on the arm.
“Yeah, I think I’ll do that.”
“Yes, you will,” Diantha said. She closed her tricorder with a quick move of her hand then escorted Russell from the room.
Beck felt sleep quickly overtaking her again. As she drifted off, she made a mental note not to get blown up any more. It wasn’t exactly a blast. Well, it was a blast, but not the fun kind of blast where…ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzz.
“This is Joan Redding with another AWN Election Update. A spokesman for Vulcans Opposing Rash and Poorly Applied Logic stated today that the group is nearing the end of their candidate selection process. Considering these deliberations as to who is the logical candidate began before President Dillon even took office, I don’t think anyone can accuse them of being rash. We expect to hear the announcement of their final selection sometime before the 25th century.”
Beck was still moving a bit gingerly as she entered the Ops conference room the next day for the usual morning briefing. Twenty-fourth century medicine could work many wonders, but even it couldn’t remove all of the lingering after-effects of getting blown up. Her burns had been healed, singed hair regrown, and most of the bruising was gone. The overall dull aches remained, though. She planned to spend the vast portion of her day sitting. Maybe even reclining and…
What was he doing here?
Seated next to Doctor Diantha and staring grimly across the table at Russell was Agent Anderson of Bradley Dillon’s Special Secret Section. Beck idly wondered if he even had a first name. Immediately after that, she wondered if anyone would mind very much if she had him thrown out.
President Dillon would probably mind. And while that wasn’t really that big of a deal to her, she just wasn’t in any condition for a fight with Bradley this morning…even if he was as badly banged up as she was.
Beck settled into her chair, responding to Morales, Porter, and Russell’s questions about how she was feeling as she went, and was just about to get started when Yeoman Tina Jones entered, staggering under the weight of a massive box, which she dropped in the center of the conference room table as soon as she could.
“Did we order something?” Beck asked.
“This was waiting for me at the Welcome Center this morning,” Jones said.
“Another present from your secret admirer?” Porter asked with a grin as he pulled a large container of very expensive Bolian chocolates out of the box followed by Tellarite sausages, Andorian wine, and Yridian cheeses.
“Umm,” Jones hesitated, blushing.
“Captain Beck, I believe we have station business to discuss,” Agent Anderson said testily.
“One, you weren’t invited to this meeting, so shut up and deal,” Beck said. “And two, we’ll get to it after the important stuff. When did you get a secret admirer, Tina? Do you know who it is?”
“No, ma’am,” Jones said. “As for when…well, this has been going on for a few months now.”
“And you never bothered to mention it to me?”
“It never came up.”
“No, I guess it probably wouldn’t. I need to remember to have more girl talk.”
“I could put it in your calender,” Commander Morales said.
“Thanks, but no.” Beck frowned suddenly. “Er…I have to be the spoil-sport here, but secret admirers aren’t always…a good thing. Porter, have you checked…”
“The computer isn’t doing it. That was the first thing I thought of,” Porter replied.
“So did I,” Russell said.
“Glad I wasn’t the only one,” Beck said.
“Huh?” Jones said, looking to each of them in confusion.
“Secondprize. Before you came on board.”
“Captain!” Agent Anderson snapped, slapping his hand down on the table.
“Doctor, next time he does that, paralyze him or something,” Beck said.
“Of course, Captain,” Diantha said, with a stately bow of her feathered head.
“Now, I think we have a meeting to hold or something. I heard a rumor to that effect anyway. What’s the status of the investigation, Agent Anderson? I assume that’s what you’re here to report on.”
“Report?” Anderson said, narrowing his eyes. “To you? I am here as the head of this investigation. As such, all of you will be reporting to me in any matters which pertain to this case. President Dillon has granted me the widest latitude to pursue this inquiry.”
“What the hell does ‘widest latitude’ mean?” Beck asked, tensing.
“Any and all evidence is to be turned over to the Special Secret Section immediately. We will be interviewing witnesses. We will be identifying and detaining suspects. In the unlikely event that we require the assistance of Starfleet, you will respond to our requests without hesitation. Any Starfleet Officer that impedes our work in any way will be arrested and charged with interfering in matters of Federation Security.”
“Wow. I’m so glad he came by this morning,” Porter said.
“While you may feel this is some kind of joke, Lieutenant Commander, I assure you that President Dillon is taking this attempt on his life very seriously.”
“As opposed to all those attempts a couple of years ago?” Russell asked.
“Those were different.”
Beck held her hands up, shutting down the argument before it could really get started. “You’ll have our cooperation, Agent Anderson, as long as you do not interfere with the normal operations of this station. And believe me, I’m taking it seriously. You may have forgotten this minor detail in all the excitement, but I was there, too, and I would really love to get my hands on whomever did this.”
“Then we understand each other,” Anderson said, leaning back in his chair. “I’ll listen to your departmental reports now.”
“You’re too kind,” Porter said, bowing his head toward Anderson.
“Let’s just get this over with,” Beck said. “Commander Morales?”
“We’ve canceled all arrivals and departures for the time being. On that subject, I have a few padds of protests from various ship captains for your perusal.”
The rest of the staff meeting actually went by quite smoothly. Agent Anderson didn’t utter another word, instead noting the occasional bit of information in a padd. As soon as Beck ended the briefing, he was out the door without so much as a ‘thank you,’ not that Beck expected one.
The rest of the command staff lingered for a bit, picking Jones’s box of treats clean as Jones stood by the wall, nibbling on a cracker quietly.
“Something bothering you, Tina?” Beck asked, leaning against the wall beside her as gently as possible.
“Wha? No! Nothing. Why?” Jones asked quickly.
“No reason,” Beck said. “Well except maybe the whole cracker-munching, gee I’m so uncomfortable look you’ve got going here. Everything okay with your classes?”
“Oh yeah. Last semester!” Jones said happily. “I can’t believe it’s gone this fast.”
“Well, you got to skip the whole four year experience the rest of us got. On the other hand, you had to be a yeoman for almost ten years.”
“It wasn’t that bad.”
“Glad to hear it.”
“But I can’t wait to get my ensign’s pips…well, pip.”
“A couple months to go. What kind of party do you want?”
“Party? I don’t need a party,” Jones replied.
“We’re going to do something. You know that.”
“No. Of course not,” Beck said. “I’m just going to declare Tina Jones Day, and then we’ll have the parade, and…”
“I’ll run away. I really will. I mean it. I don’t want that kind of attention.”
“Or this kind evidently,” Beck said, gesturing toward the rapidly-emptying box.
“I don’t know. It’s kind of nice, but…”
“A little creepy?”
“I could have Russell…”
“No! Please no. Whoever it is doesn’t want me to know. He may never want me to know.”
“If it’s a he.”
Jones gulped. “Okay. Hadn’t thought of that. But it doesn’t matter. Whoever it is may never reveal themselves to me.” She saw Beck grin. “Not that kind of reveal, Captain.”
“Right. Of course.”
“So you’ll leave it alone?”
“Yes, Tina. I will. But you’d damn well better tell me if he shows himself.”
“Um…okay. Sure,” Jones said, shoving the last of the cracker into her mouth and making a quick retreat from the conference room.
“I’ll be in my office…not moving,” Beck said to Morales, Russell, Porter, and Diantha as she headed for the door.
“We’ll let you know if anything happens,” Morales said. “But I think Agent Anderson has things under control.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Beck replied.
“This is Joan Redding with another AWN Election Update. Today the Path of Khan announced that they were nominating…surprise surprise, Khan Noonian Singh as their candidate for the Presidency. When this reporter pointed out to their spokesman that Mister Singh was blown into tiny pieces by Hero of the Federation, James Tiberius Kirk, their spokesman replied that Khan was a superior being and that he would return to take his rightful place as master of us all. You be sure to let us all know when that happens, okay?”
Generally the station’s all-call system was reserved for the captain’s use only, and only then in emergency situations. So Captain Beck was more than a little surprised when shrill whistle of the all-call sounded while she was laying on the sofa in her office. The voice that began to speak also was definitely not hers.
“Good morning, Waystation residents and visitors. This is Bradley Dillon, President of the United Federation of Planets.”
He’d taken over the all-call. Bradley had had the gall to take over her all-call!
“First I want to personally assure you all that I have completely recovered from yesterday’s unfortunate event, and I thank you for the many well-wishes I received at my offices. Secondly, I want you to know that my foremost concern is for the safety and well-being of each and every one of you. In order to ensure that your safety is maintained, I am sure that you’ll understand that the perpetrator or perpetrators of yesterday’s horrible transgression must be found. To that end, I have ordered that all traffic to and from Waystation be temporarily suspended…”
“He ordered?” Beck muttered. She’d ordered that. She was the captain around here, after all.
“Additionally, members of the Special Secret Section will be conducting interviews with every man, woman, multi-gendered or third-gendered being, and child on board Waystation.”
Beck was out of her office into Ops before Bradley finished speaking.
“He’s going to what?” Beck shouted.
Bradley continued on, “I apologize in advance for the inconvenience, but I know in my heart that you all will do your upmost to support our efforts to catch those responsible. And to those responsible, I say this. Surrender to us now. Save yourselves the righteous fury that will undoubtedly be unleashed upon you when we track you down. Thank you all. And good day.”
“I’m confused,” Lieutenant Commander Porter said. “Was he just thanking the bombers?”
“Bad writing,” Commander Morales said.
“Hello!” Beck seethed. “Captain! Angry!”
“Is there a particular direction that we can direct this anger in for you?” Porter asked.
“Who gave him access to the all-call?”
“I’d say he gave the access to himself,” Morales said.
“He can do that?”
“It appears so.”
“Great. What else can he give himself access to?”
“At this point I’d assume everything,” Morales said. “That’s just me being pessimistic, though.”
“But he’s probably right,” Porter said. “As President, Bradley is Starfleet’s Commander-in-Chief, which means he may very well have command level clearance to every Starfleet ship and installation.”
“And suddenly I’m petrified,” Beck said.
“That makes…well…all of us.”
Beck turned her attention to the tactical console, where Lieutenant Commander Russell was staring forward blankly at nothing in particular. “Russell…”
“You want us to find a way to lock him out,” Russell replied.
“Even though he’s the President.”
“Especially because he’s the President,” Beck snapped as she headed toward the turbolift.
“Were you done being angry?” Porter asked.
“Not even close.”
“Is President Dillon about to hear about it?”
At first Agent Anderson had disapproved of President Dillon’s insistence that the “interviews” of station residents and visitors be held in these decidedly comfortable surroundings. The Presidential briefing room, with its wood paneling, faux leather chairs, and large fake fireplace, was hardly the place to intimidate the guilty.
After a short time, though, Anderson saw the wisdom of the President’s decision. Lull the suspects into a false sense of comfort and security and then…
“You must be a man of great passion, Mister Krilik,” Anderson said, walking behind the Klingon dressmaker as he sat stiffly at the briefing room table.
“I put a great deal of myself into my work,” Krilik said, his voice practically a growl.
“And then to destroy it all.”
“To have it destroyed.”
“How long have you hated President Dillon?”
“I do NOT hate him,” Krilik snapped.
“Come on, Krilik. You blew up your own shop trying to kill him!”
Krilik was on his feet in a flash, standing face-to-face with Anderson. “You DARE accuse me!”
Anderson stared back placidly. “All those pretty gowns.”
“They were…pretty. Very pretty. My dresses are my honor, and my honor is…”
“Everything to me,” Krilik said. “If I wanted to kill Bradley Dillon, I would simply gut him and be done with it. I would not sacrifice my pretties…dresses.”
“You do have a point,” Anderson admitted.
“Then I am going,” Krilik said, striding toward the exit. “I have much to sew.”
“Thank you for your time.”
Krilik grunted and left the room.
One interview down; 4000 or so more to go. Anderson was a bit disappointed in himself, though. He’d been way too warm and cuddly. Next time around, he’d do better.
“This is Joan Redding with another AWN Election Update. The Future Security Party has just released the name of their Presidential nominee and their platform. As usual, the FSP is advocating the immediate end of all Starfleet exploration programs, pouring all resources into weapons development, drafting every able-bodied citizen into the military, and going after the Borg until every last one is destroyed or we all die trying. The FSP nominee is one Lekahanok Onaaru, a political newcomer whose main qualification seems to be that he lost his parents, fiancé, dog, and two goldfish to the Borg. I don’t mean to be discouraging, Mister Onaaru, but in my opinion, your candidacy is futile.”
One of those handy, dandy little lessons that they pounded into your head back at Starfleet Academy was that it wasn’t such a good idea to go charging into a situation running on emotion rather than reason. It was a lesson that Captain Beck tried to follow on most occasions, but there were times that it became difficult. For some reason most of those times seemed to involve Bradley Dillon in some way, shape, or form. So while she knew that she had more than sufficient reason to be furious with him (Hacking into Waystation systems. Cutting Starfleet out of the investigation into the bombing. Sending his goons to interrogate innocent people.), she also knew that if she went charging into the Dillon Enterprises offices demanding to see him, she’d never get past Gisele, Bradley’s personal assistant. With that thought in mind, by the time she walked into the office suite where Gisele sat attending to her usual duties (Whatever those were. Beck was never really sure what all Gisele did for Bradley.), she was all smiles.
“Good morning, Captain Beck,” Gisele said by way of greeting as she returned the smile. “I’m glad to see you’re up and around. I was so worried about both of you.”
“Thank you, Gisele,” Beck replied. “That’s very sweet. Is President Dillon all right?”
“I think he’s a little sore, but he’s not complaining.”
“Then I’m right there with him. Is he in his office? I just wanted to drop in and see how he was doing?”
Gisele stopped for a moment, biting her lower lip. “He’s there,” she said finally. “But I’m not sure if he wants to be disturbed.”
“Of course he doesn’t. It’s just that he and I were in the middle of a conversation yesterday before the…incident, and I had a moment if he wanted to finish.”
“Oh! Is this about the campaign headquarters?” Gisele said brightening.
“Yes, it is.”
“I’m sure he’ll want to talk about that. Just a moment please, Captain.” Gisele placed a comm into Bradley’s office, made the request, then listened to Bradley’s response on her earpiece. “You can go right in,” she said to Beck a moment later as she pressed the control on her desk that opened the large double doors off to her left that led to Bradley’s office. It wasn’t a place Beck visited all that often. It was petty, she knew, but she’d still rather talk to him on her turf or in a neutral location. Sometimes, however, a visit to his domain could not be avoided.
“Captain!” Bradley said warmly from his massive desk chair as Beck entered his office. “Pardon me if I don’t get up, but I’m sure you understand that I’m trying to limit my movements as much as possible. Frankly I’m surprised that you aren’t doing the same.”
“I was,” Beck replied, resisting the urge to settle into one of the chairs across the desk from Bradley.
“As much as I appreciate you coming her to finish our discussion, it really could have waited. You didn’t have to come down here today.”
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Beck barked suddenly, slamming her hands down on his desk and causing Bradley to flinch back involuntarily.
“Did I say something wrong?” he asked, confused.
“Sending Anderson in to run the investigation is one thing. I’m not happy about it, but I was going to let it go. But what gives you the right to bring every single person on board in for questioning?”
“Ah,” Bradley said.
“Yeah. Ah,” Beck shot back.
“You misrepresented yourself to Gisele, Captain. That’s not a good way to maintain a relationship of trust with me.”
“Gee, I’m sorry. Would I be in here talking to you now if I’d told her the truth?”
Bradley did not reply.
“Didn’t think so,” Beck continued. “Now if you need suspects, we can help you find suspects. Let us into the investigation, and we’ll do that. But you cannot just start interrogating people at random!”
“I think you’ll find that the cause of Federation Security gives me a great deal of latitude.”
“This isn’t about Federation Security. This is a vendetta. Somebody took a shot at you, and you want to get back at them no matter what.”
“Yes, but I’m not going to include everybody on the station in that ‘them.’ There are other ways.”
“I’m quite confident in Agent Anderson and his ways. You will benefit from his work as well. I promise you that. We will both be able to face our attacker. But for now I am very busy, so I must bid you good day.”
“Let us help!”
“If we require your services, we’ll let you know.”
“This isn’t the way to do things, Bradley.”
“That’s my decision. Now I believe I told you ‘good day.’” Bradley turned his attention to the monitor on his desk and began to type, ignoring Beck. She briefly considered continuing the argument, but thought better of it. It wasn’t going to get her anywhere and would probably just entrench him even more. She’d find another way to head him off.
Hopefully one that didn’t lead to a court martial.
As they sat having lunch together in the food court of Starfleet Square Mall, Porter came to the conclusion that Russell had something on his mind. It was the whole staring off in the distance while not saying anything that tipped him off.
“You in there, buddy?” Porter asked as Russell idly picked at his ravioli.
“Yeah,” Russell said slowly.
“Come on! Perk up! We did good work this morning. Bradley’s guys are going to have to work pretty hard to get into our systems now. Of course, since he’s the President, he could always just order Captain Beck to let him back in, but for now, we’re secure. That’s a good thing, right? You’re the security guy. All about the secure.”
Russell shook himself out of his thoughts and looked across the table at Porter. “Sorry, Craig. You’re right. I’m here.”
“Good. This incredibly thoughtful thing you’ve got going is kind of scary.”
“Yeah, I got that.”
“Enough with security and all that,” Russell said. “I’m on a break. Let’s talk about something else. You still working on the captain’s sister’s timeship?”
“It still isn’t a timeship,” Porter replied. After straightening out the mess with the Romulans a few weeks prior, Porter had towed the fake timeship back to Waystation and started going through it piece by piece, just in case there was something he could use. “I think I’ve almost got a handle on the chroniton storage cells, though. And I had this idea that I might be able to build a….”
Porter stopped. Russell was staring off at nothing again. Porter followed his gaze down to the lower level of the mall where the Special Secret Section cordon sealing off the area in front of Krilik’s Klingon Formal Wear shop was just visible.
“It’s all wrong, isn’t it?” Porter said.
“Uh huh,” Russell replied.
“Want to do something about it?”
“It’s been taken out of my hands.”
“True. And you’re certainly within your rights to accept that. The alternative is defying a Presidential Decree and all the benefits and honors that come with it. But then, like you said, it’s all wrong. That kind of bugs me.”
“Me too, but if we do anything, the captain could get in as much trouble as we do.”
“So we won’t tell her,” Porter said.
“You’re being awfully free with your career here.”
“Ehhh, I’m bored. Let’s go snooping.”
The members of the President’s Special Secret Section were the proverbial best of the best, pulled from Starfleet, the Federation Marines, and other forces. These elite officers were put through even more years of training to prepare them for the threats they would encounter in the course of their primary duty: protecting the Federation President.
Standing guard in front of a crime scene didn’t seem to have much to do with his primary duty, but Agent Finn was not the sort of agent to question such things. His orders were to prevent anyone from breaching the security cordon, and that was exactly what he was going to do. Of course, usually the mere presence of the Special Secret Section was enough to make most people steer clear.
The Starfleet Officer heading his way, pushing an anti-grav sled loading with equipment in front of him, didn’t seem to be getting the message, though.
“Halt!” Agent Finn ordered, taking a step forward and holding up his hand (He’d always wanted to order somebody to halt. He didn’t think he’d ever get the chance, but here it was). “This is a restricted area.”
“Yes, the cordon signs kind of give that idea,” Lieutenant Mason replied. “I’m here to scan the blast site.”
“I was not told you were coming,” Finn said, tensing further. Very early in his Special Secret Section training, he was warned about people who might try to bluff their way past him. That wasn’t happening today.
“This is a bomb investigation,” Mason replied. “We’d like to know who blew up part of our mall.”
“We’ll tell you when we find out.”
“We could probably find out faster. We’re specialists, you know.”
“I have my orders.”
“What’s the problem here?” Agent Harris demanded, striding over from his post on the opposite side of the cordon.
“No problem,” Finn said. “I was just informing this person that he is not authorized to enter the crime scene.”
“Why do you want into the crime scene?” Harris asked Mason pointedly.
“To scan for clues,” Mason said, rolling his eyes.
“I wasn’t told you were coming.”
“I already told him that,” Finn said.
Harris and Finn, focused as they were on Mason, did not notice the slight hum of two transporter beams coalescing inside the charred remains of Krilik’s Klingon Formal Wear shop behind them. The two transporterees, Porter and Russell, quickly ducked out of sight, Porter pulled out his tricorder as Russell surveyed the damage.
“Quite a blast,” Porter whispered. “This place is decimated.”
“Yep,” Russell said. He crawled over to the gaping hole where Krilik’s front display window once was, making sure to stay below the window ledge. Outside, he could hear Mason continuing to keep Harris and Finn occupied. Russell wasn’t so sure about sending Mason in to a situation like that, but Porter assured him that he’d been training the man in the art of sarcasm and witty banter. He’d keep the Special Secret Section busy for a few minutes at least.
Russell didn’t even need that long. He’d seen what he needed to see, and it confirmed his suspicions. He pulled out his own tricorder and started scanning the store ceiling. If he was lucky…
He clapped the tricorder shut and crawled back over to Porter’s hiding place.
“How’s it going?” Russell said.
“Yeah. It’s kind of annoying really.”
“I think you know more right now than I do. I don’t like that feeling.”
“Miracles do happen,” Russell said. “Do you have what you need?”
“I’ve got the scans, but the tricorder can’t tell me what the explosive agent was. I need to get back to my lab and…”
“We need to find Krilik.”
“You think he…”
“Now,” Russell said.
Porter tapped a couple of commands into his tricorder, activating the auto-beam out sequence he’d programmed.
A few seconds later, Mason’s commbadge activated.
“Porter to Mason.”
“Go ahead, sir,” Mason replied, ignoring Agents Harris and Finn, who were currently arguing about who had the most authority to tell Mason to go away.
“The President’s office denied our request to scan the blast site. You can come on back now.”
“Acknowledged. Mason out.” He turned his attention to Harris and Finn. “Well, gentlemen, it looks like I bothered you for no reason. Sorry about that.”
“Very well,” Finn said.
“You’re free to go,” Harris added quickly.
“Thanks a bunch,” Mason replied with a wave before turning the anti-grav sled around and pushing back toward the turbolift.
“Hmmmph,” Harris grunted. “Coming here before he even had permission. That’s the thing about Starfleet. No organization at all.”
“Hmmmph,” Finn agreed. “Leave it to the professionals.”
“Absolutely right,” Harris said, their earlier argument forgotten. He gave his colleague a nod and headed back to his post as Finn resumed his guard stance.
No one was getting inside the cordon on their watch.
“This is Joan Redding with another AWN Election Update. A new group has announced their intention to run a candidate in this year’s election. Calling themselves the Apologetic Party, this group’s platform states that Federation history is nothing but a long series of abuses against other cultures. They are promoting the immediate disbanding of the Federation with apologies to be given all the way around. There are several hundred pages of proposed apologies here, so I’ll just hit a few. We’ll be apologizing to the Vulcans for not being more logical, to the Klingons for the years of hostility before we became allies, to the Dominion for blowing up so many of their ships and Jem’Hadar warriors, to the Jem’Hadar for looking down on their White addiction, to the Borg for…
“Frankly I think their candidate, a Mrs. Adelale Chikeas, need to apologize for being in this party.”
Agent Anderson sat back in his seat and smiled. Now this was more like it. Four questions, and he had his subject reduced to tears.
Granted, his interrogation subject was a three-year-old boy, but they could be damn stubborn when they wanted to be.
“Quite your blubbering and tell me where you got the bomb!” Anderson thundered.
Yes, this was MUCH more like it.
“Enter at your own peril!” the gruff voice of the station’s Klingon dressmaker barked from inside the door of his quarters in response to the door chime.
“Ooooh. Peril,” Porter said.
“Can you not talk while we’re in there?” Russell said.
“I’ll be good. I promise. I’m following your lead.”
“Thank you,” Russell said, before stepping through the door into Krilik’s quarters.
Porter expected Krilik to be busy sewing new inventory or involved in some kind of archaic Klingon mourning ritual for his store, but instead the Klingon was sharpening a bat’leth. Porter suppressed a gulp and took up a position a half-step or so behind Russell. Let the Security Chief handle this one.
“What do you want?” Krilik demanded upon seeing his visitors.
“We just wanted to check in on you,” Russell replied.
“I said everything I am going to say to Bradley Dillon’s worm.”
“Worm. I like that,” Porter said before Russell shushed him with a quick glare.
“That’s fine,” Russell said.
“I did NOT blow up my own shop. The dishonor of…”
“I know you didn’t,” Russell said. “But I think you know who did.”
“You would know more than I do. I do not have access to the security feeds.”
“Neither do I right now. The Special Secret Section is running things. Fortunately for us, we’ve got other sources, don’t we?”
Krilik’s eyes narrowed at the Security Chief. “Yes,” he said, clearly displeased at Russell’s knowledge.
“We’d love to see them,” Porter said, completely confused but playing along.
“Very well.” Krilik stalked over to the wall monitor and activated it. The screen began to display footage from inside Krilik’s shop from four different perspectives.
“These aren’t our feeds,” Porter said.
“No. We don’t have that kind of coverage inside the mall stores,” Russell replied. “Krilik installed his own system. I detected the remains of the cameras when we were in his shop.”
“We still can’t see out into the concourse.”
“We don’t need to. The bomb was set inside the store.”
“It was,” Krilik hissed through clenched teeth.
“But that doesn’t make any sense,” Porter said. “Why would you hide the bomb in the store when your target is out in the mall concourse?”
As Porter spoke, Krilik had already moved on to something else. He sped the surveillance footage up and zoomed in on one particular thing. Russell stared at it for a moment, not certain what the Klingon was showing him, but then it all became clear…to him at least.
“It’s that stuff old people use for muscle aches. I don’t get it,” Porter said. This was really getting aggravating. He was so used to explaining things to Russell, but now it seemed that he was two steps behind everyone else. Well, this was Russell’s field…not that that really made Porter feel any better.
“How long do you think you’ll need to analyze the composition of the explosive?” Russell asked.
“Probably not too long. I beamed a small amount of debris out of the blast site already, and I’ve got the scans. Let me get back to my lab, and give me an hour.”
“Perfect. Meet me in the captain’s office then.”
“This is going to be one those bits where the detective reveals the criminal and makes the rest of us look dumb, right?”
“Can I just get a hint?”
Russell just shook his head and pointed toward the door.
“Fine. Keep the Presidential assassin all to yourself. See if I care,” Porter said as he strolled out of the room.
“I have to put the bat’leth away, don’t I?” Krilik said once Porter was gone.
“Yeah,” Russell said.
“I didn’t really want to get blood on it anyway. It’s just…I was so angry!”
“I know. I know. Why don’t you go to the holodeck and get it out. Slice and dice away.”
“Yes. I will do that. It will clear my head. And then tonight, I will sew with the passion of Kahless himself!”
“That’s good, Krilik. You’re going to come up with even better designs. I know it. But can I have the camera feeds? Evidence, you understand.”
Krilik nodded and yanked an isolinear chip from the slot underneath the monitor before tossing it to Russell.
“Thanks, pal. Good luck with the sewing. Qapla’!”
“Qapla’!” Krilik cried in reply.
Russell ducked out of the Klingon’s quarters and practically ran toward the turbolift. The Special Secret Section tried to cut him out, but he was right back in it…and way ahead of them. And now he just needed to get his hands on a bomber.
This was the second time today Captain Beck had been summoned somewhere. Bradley Dillon ordering her around was bad enough, but now her own people were doing it. Obviously there’d been a breakdown in the chain of command somewhere along the line.
“Okay. Where are they?” Beck asked Commander Morales as she stepped out of the turbolift into Ops.
“In your office,” Morales replied.
Beck stopped. “My…office?”
That tore it. She charged over to her office and stormed inside, ready to inform Porter and Russell in no uncertain terms that they didn’t get to just use her office whenever they wanted.
For the second time in a matter of seconds, she stopped.
“Who’s this?” she asked, pointing at the unfamiliar person sitting on her sofa.
“The bomber,” Russell said.
“Her?” Beck said. While Beck didn’t know the girl in question, she was fairly certain the suspect couldn’t be more than 20 years old.
“Tiffany Beecher. Seventeen years old,” Russell said.
“Why would she want to assassinate the president?”
“He wasn’t the target.”
“He wasn’t…” Beck’s eyes widened as she turned on Tiffany. “You wanted to kill me?”
Tiffany snorted and rolled her eyes.
“You were both just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Russell said. “She was after Krilik’s.”
“What did he do to you?”
“Not the guy. The store,” Porter said. “Tell the captain what you told us. Oh, unless you wanted to explain it, Sean.”
“No. Let her talk.”
“Well?” Beck said, looming over Tiffany.
“Okay fine!” Tiffany spat. “We were on our way back from Muldovia or whatever. The place with all the really white people.”
“Whatever. And we had a layover here, so I ditched Mom and Dad to do some shopping, and I found this completely amazing dress. I mean it’s gigafast. Greg’s eyes are going to launch right out of his head when he sees me in it on prom night.”
“Gigafast?” Beck mouthed at Porter, who just shrugged.
“But that store had like a half dozen of these dresses, and do you know what would happen if somebody else showed up in the same one? I’d be so humiliated! It’d be like the worst thing ever. That’s NOT going to happen to me! So I went back later and made sure nobody else would get that dress. My dad will pay for the damages, and it’s not like anybody got killed.”
“Um…if your dad has enough credits to pay for the damages, why didn’t you just buy all the dresses in the first place?” Porter asked.
“Dad wasn’t going to buy them all, and it’s not like I had enough for all of them,” Tiffany shot back as though Porter had just asked the stupidest question ever. “And I didn’t think I’d get caught, obviously. So now Dad has to pay for it.”
“Where did you get a bomb?” Beck asked.
Tiffany rolled her eyes again.
“Debutante’s Handbook,” Russell said, tossing a padd to Beck. “It’s mostly make-up tips and such, but I remembered that a security alert went out a couple of months ago warning that the latest edition had some explosive recipes in the back. It’s not phrased that way, of course.”
“It’s in the ‘What Not To Do’s,’” Tiffany said. “If you wear Blazing Forge lipstick and drink Diet Jamaharon, don’t ever get any Breen-Gay pain cream near your mouth. Like anyone ever uses that stuff anyway…except to blow stuff up.”
“That’s why our sensors didn’t detect the explosives,” Porter said. “Three normal substances, but when you put them together, you get a serious blast. Miss Fashion-Conscious here did at least wait until there were no other customers in the shop when she left her present. What’d you use as a time delay?”
“McBaughb’s cup. Diet Jamaharon always eats through fast food cups in no time,” Tiffany said in disgust.
“Put Breen-Gay and lipstick in a big cup of some kind,” Russell said, turning the monitor on Beck’s desk around where he had Krilik’s video feed pulled up showing Tiffany in action. “Drop the McBaughb’s cup inside the bigger cup. Slip it under a rack of clothes. Then stroll on out of the store and wait for the boom.”
“Shouldn’t they have a recall for this kind of thing?” Beck asked in disbelief.
“I think Breen-Gay is changing their formula,” Russell said.
“Good to know,” Beck replied, heading over to her desk. She suddenly started laughing.
“Captain? Are you okay?” Russell asked.
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m furious, but this means Bradley’s got it all wrong.”
“Yeah, I like that part myself,” Porter said. Beck activated the comm unit on her desk and did something that felt pretty damn good: she summoned President Dillon to her office.
“What are we going to do with her?” Beck asked once she ended the comm.
“Do with me?” Tiffany exclaimed. “You aren’t doing anything with me! Comm my mom and dad right now!”
“We will,” Beck said. “But you know there are going to be consequences from this.”
“My dad will pay…”
“You set off a bomb, destroyed a business and part of this station, and hurt two people. We don’t just send a bill for that.”
“Starbase 163 has the closest juvenile court,” Russell said. “From there they’ll probably remand her to the rehabilitation facility closest to her home.”
“Maybe she’ll meet your cousin,” Porter said.
“Not now, Craig,” Beck said. “Now…” Before she could finish, three transporter beams cascaded down into her office, quickly resolving into President Dillon, Agent Anderson, and another agent of the Special Secret Section.
“Captain,” Bradley said with a nod. “I came as soon as I heard you commed.”
“Thank you,” Beck said, trying to hide both her satisfaction and surprise that he came so quickly. “I want to introduce you to Tiffany Beecher. Age 17.”
“Delighted,” Bradley said as Tiffany stared at him wide-eyed. “She is a witness, I take it.”
“More like the culprit,” Beck said. “But it had nothing to do with you or me. She’s just a teenage girl who didn’t want anyone else to have the same dress as her at prom.”
“I…see,” Bradley said.
“We’re making arrangements to hand her over to Federation juvenile authorities, but I wanted you to know that there was no assassination plot against you. We were both just in the wrong place when a young girl did something really stupid.”
“Thank you for letting me know,” Bradley said. “Anderson.”
Agent Anderson suddenly stepped forward and grabbed Tiffany’s arm, yanking her up off of the sofa as the agent accompanying him produced a set of binders and slapped them on her wrists.
“Hey!” Tiffany cried before the agent pressed some kind of device against her throat that rendered her mute. She was making a good show of screaming, but no sound was coming out, much to her horror.
“Bradley!” Beck shouted. “What are you doing?”
“I didn’t think you’d listen to me when I told you to stay out of this investigation,” Bradley said. “So I was fairly certain when I got your comm that you’d made some sort of breakthrough that you wanted to rub in my face. I prepared accordingly.”
“This isn’t about rubbing anything in anyone’s face. You weren’t the target! Let her go!”
Agent Anderson stepped between Beck and Bradley. “The President thanks you for your assistance in this matter and reminds you that this is classified for reasons of Federation Security. If you speak of it to anyone, you will suffer the gravest consequences.”
“Good day, Captain. Lieutenant Commanders,” Bradley said. And then they were gone, vanished in a flurry of molecules along with their captive.
Russell slumped down on the sofa. “What just happened?” he said softly.
“We just got screwed,” Porter replied.
“And brought an innocent girl along with us,” Beck said.
“Well…not so innocent.”
“What do we do?” Russell asked.
“You feel like being arrested as a traitor to the Federation this week?” Porter said.
Beck didn’t respond, but Porter knew the look. It was the ‘Oh you are SO going to pay for this’ look. Porter was right. Unfortunately, Beck didn’t have a clue how to follow through on that promise.
“This is Joan Redding with an AWN Newsbreak. Paris reports that the Special Secret Section has the person or persons responsible for yesterday’s attempt on President Dillon’s life in custody. No other information is available at this time on the identity of the alleged perpetrators or perpetrators; however, the President’s office has acknowledged the contributions of Starfleet and thanks the officers of Waystation for their fine efforts.
“The assassination attempt has actually improved President Dillon’s standing with the citizens of the Federation according to the latest AWN/Canter poll. And while the two primary parties have yet to announce their candidates for the election, he does not, at this time, face any real competition.
“By all appearances, President Dillon is unstoppable.”