USS Portland, one of the security offices
Prior to the arrival of the USS Portland to Trill
Authors: Arthur Reynolds, Ash Sullivan, Timothy Rouse
The unfortunate consequence of the Portland's last skirmish against the Borg left Arthur fairly bitter. With a broken femur and a fractured rib, he was relegated to wheelchair for a week or two while the bones mended. This forced him to use one of the lower bridge consoles as a replacement tactical readout. Whatever the case, he refused to take a break except to sleep six hours and get cleaned up for his next shift. As far as he was concerned, the work took his mind off other things, but it did little to help him ignore the fact he was now crippled.
Although the encounter with the Borg was fresh in his mind, reminding him of countless contradictions in their philosophy and methodology, Arthur couldn't focus on his after-review of the Portland's battle strategy. However, it wasn't the pain that caused his lack of attention. Finally, unable to continue functioning at his station efficiently for the last few minutes of his shift, he checked himself out after contacting his replacement.
After wheeling himself into the turbolift, he briefly considered returning to his room to rest. But he couldn't get his mind off the discovery he and Tolaran had made. Too paranoid to ask the computer his whereabouts, Arthur instead had the turbolift take him to deck five. When he rolled in, he was dismayed to find somebody else behind the desk. "Oh, sorry," he muttered. "I was looking for the lieutenant."
Ensign Sullivan was sitting behind the desk reading over the duty rosters and scheduling some extra training drills for the next few weeks to keep the security staff motivated after such a traumatic mission. He saw the gold clad officer roll in through the doors and recognised him instantly as the Chief Tactical Officer, someone he had been meaning to introduce himself to. "Sorry sir, Lieutenant Kian is off duty at the minute. Anything I can help you with? I'm Ash Sullivan, Assistant Security Chief." He said as he stood from his seat and offered a salute.
With barely a wave of his hand, Arthur dismissed the ensign's acknowledgement of rank seniority. "It doesn't matter. I suppose I can talk to you about it." He gave himself enough room to lean forward on his legs a little. "Arthur Reynolds," he introduced himself with a barely audible hint of distaste, though it certainly wasn't meant to be directed at Ash. "I had an appointment with Kian. We need to go over some security concerns after the last break-in to my quarters when we were docked at DS9." He looked up. "Think you can help?"
"Of course sir. Though I haven't been fully briefed on the incident. Think you could give me a run-down of what happened?" Ash responded a little more relaxed and taking a seat once again behind the desk. He tapped a few buttons on his computer, calling up the reports from when the ship was docked last.
"To make a long story short, I entered my quarters, checked my messages, then went to retrieve a valuable gem I left hidden under the couch." Arthur coughed and crossed his arms. "It wasn't registered with the quartermaster because I only intended to have it on board for a short time, and I had trouble contacting him because of that situation with the admiralty. So, I looked, and wouldn't you know it... gone." Exasperated, he let out a huff and reclined a bit in his seat. "Tolaran and I planned to investigate, but... we didn't really get the chance."
"Well I can't see anything in the logs regarding any stolen property during that time..." Ash said skimming over the reports. "But... that's odd. Bare with me a minute." He said as his fingers danced across the keyboard. "It looks like a case file was deleted from the database but that's not supposed to happen. Even if its just a simple case, they are all supposed to be logged and archived... That's standard protocol." He explained as he tried to see if any backup files were still saved. "It looks like this might even be your case file, I've managed to find the case description in a backup folder and it refers to stolen property from an officer's quarters. I'll try to recover the full report but it might take a minute or two."
Arthur bit his tongue and wondered what he could say to redirect Ash's attention. He didn't realize Tolaran had been so sloppy getting rid of the evidence. But if worst came to worst, he knew he'd have to tell the whole truth of the matter. "Right," he said in an unintentionally sardonic tone. Rather than stand and pace, as he wanted to do, he merely took a deep breath and looked around. When he finally thought of something, he focused on Ash and inquired rhetorically, "Who would actually want to delete the record? It was just a rudimentary sweep."
"Hard to say. That would depend largely on the results of the sweep. Probably someone with something to hide." Ash responded as he continued to work. "Who could delete the record would be an easier question to answer. It isn't easy to do, you need proper clearance and because of the many redundant back up systems, it is even harder to do properly. Whoever did this either didn't care enough to delete the backups or didn't know they had to. My guess would be the former, they probably didn't think anyone would be digging deep enough to find the missing file."
"Or maybe they wanted it to be found." Before Ash could ask what he meant by that, Arthur elaborated. He only hoped he could trust the security officer with the information that report contained, preferably before it got out. "This wouldn't be the first time Starfleet Intelligence wanted to involve themselves in my business. I... grew up in the Rigel system." With a subtle grimace, he unintentionally expressed how much he hated talking about his past. "They suspect everyone from Rigel. I don't know how I got through the Academy with them breathing down my neck."
"Oh you're the Orion they told me to keep an eye on when I was posted here." Ash said sarcastically followed by a chuckle. "Sorry sir, that just sounded a little... paranoid. I don't really think someone was trying to frame you." He explained before triumphantly punching the air. "Got it." He announced looking up from his screen. "I guess we'll see now."
"Not Orion," Arthur bluntly corrected without even a hint of amusement. The joke clearly went over his head. "I'm one of those unlucky Humans who got stuck out there... beyond the Federation." As he waited, he feigned impatience by crossing his arms and giving Ash a look of skepticism. "You know, Tolaran and I already worked together on this case. I knew I could trust him after he agreed not to hang me out to the quartermaster for a reprimand. But I don't even know you." He tried to sit up as best he could with his injury. "So, how long?" Before Ash could respond, Arthur elucidated his question, "How long have you been working in Starfleet?"
Ash noted that his joke wasn't received well and changed tact a little. Pushing his screen to one side he folded his hands on the desk in front of him and looked Arthur right in the eyes. "I did my four years in the Academy and then I served on the USS Fitzsimmons as a Weapons Tech for 3 years before being reassigned here. " He said, "Honestly sir, your background or where you grew up doesn't change my opinion of you one bit. You're a Star Fleet officer and for me Star Fleet is the closest thing to a family I've got." Returning his eyes to his screen Ash continued. "Looks like this is the file for your case, stolen property... docked at DS9..." He turned the screen so Arthur could see it. "Sound familiar?"
"Familiar enough," Arthur acknowledged, though now he began to wonder what made him inquire about his case with a stranger who appeared to be wound so tight around the Federation's little finger. It made him even more skeptical whether Ash could be trusted with the complete truth of the incident or not. Tentatively, in the hopes it would further delay the security officer while he got a read on the man's personality, Arthur continued. "When I joined Starfleet, it was... a tough choice. I wanted to get as far away from Rigel as I could. But I knew there would be... issues."
With a sigh, Arthur rolled his wheelchair back so that it was against a wall, his gaze facing the scant decoration on the wall opposite. "Issues... with me fitting in." Now he frowned and turned to face Ash with a look of determination. "But I made it this far because I don't want to see Starfleet become another Syndicate." As if trying to convince himself as well, he added, "Whatever anyone thinks of me... I'm not a criminal."
"I joined Star Fleet to get away from something too." Ash admitted, not entirely comfortable talking about his own upbringing but since Arthur had shared a bit about himself, Ash felt it might help if they shared some common ground. "In my case it was a domineering family. That's why I say Star Fleet's all I've got. When I joined my family all but disowned me."
"To be honest, I sometimes wish my family had been more... domineering." Arthur struggled to use that word, as he both hated and respected the connotations that came with it. In any case, he was now talking with Ash, which made him feel like he could get a better read on the man who would, inevitably, learn the truth at some point. "Maybe then the Syndicate wouldn't have killed my father."
Rather than dwell on the subject, which appeared to infuriate him beneath the surface of his words, the tactical officer moved on. "Where did you grow up? Earth? Alpha Centauri?" Before Ash could respond, though Arthur fully intended to let him, the lieutenant said, "I've never been to Earth. I trained at the Academy headquarters on Vulcan. Took most of my classes with Vulcans and Tellarites."
"I grew up on Earth, in Australia, hence the accent." Ash said, "Though if you've never visited Earth I suppose that's probably not intuitive."
"That makes sense. If the Federation's been your home all these years, you're bound to feel close to it." Instead of smile and look optimistically into the distance like Zefram Cochrane's statue back on Earth, Arthur creased his brow and stared down at the comm badge on his uniform for a moment before lifting his head and facing the music. "Not every cloud has its silver lining though. And not every Starfleet officer is a paragon of virtue." He took a deep breath and tried to compose himself by straightening out his back as best he could - a frail and feeble attempt given the extent of his injuries. "If I told you that someone in Starfleet knew his superiors needed something - something crucial - for the security of an entire quadrant... and he felt it was his duty to do his best, even if that didn't always agree with Starfleet principles... what would you think?"
Ash let out a slight chuckle on hearing 'paragon of virtue'. He wasn't that naive and he himself wasn't the most... virtuous officer. Realising that Arthur had a point to make though he kept quiet until he'd finished. "Well you're being incredibly vague sir but I'd say sometimes the right thing to do isn't always the Star Fleet thing to do. How many captains have we learnt about in history that broke the rules for the greater good. I take it this question has something to do with this case?"
"You can drop the formality. Never liked it anyway." Arthur, of course, meant to address Ash's persistent use of the word 'sir' when referring to him. It was part of a title directly linked to his rank and position as the more senior officer, but he merely thought it was a waste of breath. As he learned growing up, respect is more than words; no amount of social etiquette could prove otherwise. "Call me Arthur... or Reynolds if that sounds too personal. Just don't go around calling me 'lieutenant' too often."
"Ok s-" He stopped himself, "Ok, Reynolds." Ash said.
"Yes... I suppose it does," Arthur finally replied to the question, though he had to mull it over in his head for a few seconds beforehand. "Let's just say this case started out personal. Now--" His brow creased, as if he was trying to understand it himself. "Now it'll probably bring the Department of Temporal Investigations to my door." After such an extensive back-and-forth with Ash, during which he tried to gauge the security officer's reliability, Arthur finally explained his situation, starting with the event which brought him to the Portland.
The story he wove wasn't exactly difficult to follow. While serving aboard Starbase Montgomery, he tried and failed to quarantine a Yridian ship which may have stolen top secret Starfleet intel. As punishment, the XO sent Arthur to DS9 to rendezvous with his new assignment. As fate would have it, the same Yridian ship had docked there a day earlier after returning from an excursion in Breen space. Without divulging the fact that he didn't act alone, he admitted to unlawfully entering the ship, stealing navigational data, and even assaulting three of the Yridians during his escape. Afraid to admit his deeds, Arthur didn't send the data straight to Starfleet Intelligence. Instead, he kept it on a data rod.
Then, early the next day, it had disappeared. Tolaran searched for evidence and found something neither of them expected. The only other person to visit Arthur's quarters was Arthur... but far older in years. After a quick sensor sweep and another unlawful access to DS9's database of outgoing ships, he thought he'd found an ion trail of an unregistered ship. Although he investigated briefly, he was recalled to DS9 to leave with the Portland on its mission to deal with a Borg hub. Since he never found out where the trail would've led, he was unhappy ever since.
"There it is," he concluded with a frown. "By now, that ion trail's probably degraded. I remember tracing where the Yridians had been, but that's it. There's no more data rod to prove it, no more leads, and - most importantly - no way to find out where that thing pretending to be me went."
Skimming through the record he'd managed to pull out of the Portland's backup systems, Ash could see that everything Arthur told him seemed to agree with what Tolaran had logged. "Interesting..." He said at first mulling the information over in his mind for a few seconds. "So you suspect some form of time travel? You did mention Temporal Investigations... Perhaps we could have a look at the sensor logs of DS9 from around the time of the theft, look for temporal anomalies nearby." Ash suggested.
"All I want is that data back," Arthur said in an exasperated tone. He didn't look too happy given his newfound situation. "Temporal anomalies be damned. If a future me took it, chances are, he knows what it is and how to use it. I can't even tell you what he plans on doing with it. But if that information finds its way to Starfleet Intelligence, and if they find out I've been holding it back, I can kiss the last twelve years of my life goodbye." He referred specifically to the amount of time he spent developing his Starfleet career. "Last I checked, the old bastard used a ship with a Federation warp signature. He was heading toward the Badlands."
"Ok got it. Don't care so much about the who, how or why. Focus on the where. I'll reopen the case and help you find your crystal and rest assured I won't be talking to Star Fleet Intel about it." Ash said as he began typing again, authorising the reopening of the case.
After arriving on the fifth deck Tim immediatly headed towards the Security office. A padd had arrived on his desk with a comment about some unusual sensor usage from when the Portland was docked on DS9. With all that had happened he never had found the time to investigate it. As he entered the Security office he saw two men in the room. "Just the men I was looking for." he said as he approached them.
Ash recognised the XO immediately, though they hadn't formally met. "Commander Rouse." He said as he stood quickly and offered a sharp salute. "Ash Sullivan. Pleasure to meet you sir."
Although Arthur knew about the formal military symbolic gesture, he never frequently used it, even though, in this case, he did turn his wheelchair around and give the first officer his complete attention. In his own mind, at least, that was more sincere than any simple hand gesture he could make. "You'll excuse me if I don't stand. What can we do for you, Commander?"
"At ease, gentleman." Tim said. Turning mostly to Arthur, he said. "Lietenant, I came across a report that I hoped you could explain. It's from a few weeks ago, but with everything that has happend I didn't have time to adress it sooner."
He handed the padd he brought to Arthur. "Its about a sensor sweep that was done on the Portland while we were docked at Deep Space 9"
Arthur warily took the PADD and gave it a good, convincing look. "It looks like someone accessed my station at tactical with an anonymous security bypass." When he finished, he held it loosely toward Timothy so the XO could take it back. All the while, he glanced back over at Ash knowingly, though to be fair, it would've been easy to assume he was expecting the security department to look into it. "What did they look for?"
"I totally agree, but since it was your station that was used I wanted to ask you first. He turned to Sullivan. "As for what was looked for. I do not know. That's the second thing that needs to be clearified."
"I can definitely look into that for you sir." Ash replied, "Would you like to take a seat?" He asked pointing towards a free seat across from his desk walking over to the replicator, "Can I get either of you anything?"
"No, thank you." Arthur sighed and glanced over at Timothy again. "If this is going to take a while, maybe I better be going. I'll see if I can dig a little deeper into the sensor logs and find out what happened." He wheeled himself toward the door, but stopped short to address the XO again, this time with a look of suspicion on his face. "Excuse me, Commander. Why exactly do you want to know about a simple sensor sweep? I don't mean any disrespect, but there weren't any unauthorized attempts to access the weapons array or shield emitters, were there?"
Tim removed the smile from his face. "If it would have been just a simple sensor sweep, the details wouldn't have arrived on my desk. Apperently the computer thought something was strange. And given the fact that the sweep was run while we were docked at DS9 I can understand the reason. It's not often a sensor sweep is run from another location then the bridge while docked."
With a grim look, Arthur pursed his lips and nodded silently. "I'll take a look." Before he left, he added as if an afterthought: "Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Commander. I'll make sure it doesn't happen again."