Captain Jaeger was about to begin her interview with Chief Tactical Officer Roberta Vasquez, and Fleet Captain Chekov was set to defend her and his crew before a woman he was increasingly forced to see as an adversary, if not an enemy. This was interrupted by a call from outside Jaegers office: "Howard to Jaeger! Captain, I need to see you now, sir."
Guessing correctly that Jaeger did not want the Enterprise officers inside her domain while she was away, Chekov and Vasquez went out with her. Jaegers Chief of Security had Lieutenant Kirk at phaser-point. Whatever faith Jaeger had invested in her, at that moment Susan Howard looked not at all stable to Pavel Chekov.
"Kyptin Jaeger, there had better be a damned good explanation for this!"
Jaeger turned on her former husband. "Perhaps your mans noted penchant for unneeded remarks?"
"Da. That is terrific reason for holding a loaded weapon at a mans head!"
Perhaps the reality of her officers poor position sank in to Jaeger, for she now directed her anger at Howard: "Mister Howard, the meaning of this, please?"
The younger woman looked like she could not have hated Peter Kirk any more if she tried. The phaser never left Kirks head. "Sir, this has to be a joke! This murd... he says that he is to assume command of the Enterprise!"
Kirk looked at Chekov. "It seems Mister Howard has taken exception to my orders." Kirk was bristling, aching to send the lunatic before him flying away insensate.
Chekov noted to himself to personally thank his chief science officer for his restraint when this madness was done. "In fact, Meester Howard, those are his orders, to which Kyptin Jaeger has assented to as well. I order you to stand down, and explain your behavior, which is unacceptable by any standard, and I want all this now!"
Howard turned back to Kirk. "I dont take orders from anyone but Captain Jaeger."
"Susan, his orders are lawful. Obey them."
Howard shook her head. "No way is this piece of murdering trash taking command of so much as a garbage scow!"
Chekov sighed. "Mister Kirk, I am sorry. She has refused two lawful orders to stand down. My hands are tied."
For his part, Kirk did not quip or such. He merely smashed the front of his head into Howards, and grabbed her phaser as she fell back. He tossed the phaser to one of her subordinates, who oddly, did not look displeased to see her fall. "My hands werent, sir." He tapped his wrist communicator "Enterprise, one to beam up."
Howard looked up. "This isnt over!"
"Actually, it's been over for a long time, Susan. Like my other Academy roommates, your brother was killed by the Orions, not me. And being unable to get over it is what nearly drove me insane. Acceptance brought me back. I hope you find you your way, but Im honestly past caring."
The transporter beam took Kirk away. Chekov pointed at Jaegers office. "Mister Vasquez, remain here. Kyptin Jaeger, vwe have much business to discuss. But first, place that young woman in custody."
Jaeger did not respond to Chekov directly. "Mister Howard, confine yourself to quarters, paperwork only. Satisfied?"
Chekov resisted listing Howards offenses. "Not remotely, but for now, your office awaits."
The instant the door to Jaegers office closed, Chterr did reconnaissance, in his own way. Howard had already stalked off, so the Skorr wasn't very surprised that one of her security guards addressed him. "Sorry it came to that." The ensign shook his head. "Ever since she was installed here, Chief Howard hasnt won any friends. But when she found out Peter Kirk was coming, she lost it entirely."
Another ensign spoke to the man. "Jackson, belay that. She is our superior officer."
"No, sir. Lieutenant Harsin, you are our superior officer, and Commodore Alden should never have allowed Captain Jaeger to replace you."
"That's enough, Ensign." The former starbase security chief addressed the Skorr. "Chief, youll understand that were not to talk with you."
Chterr nodded. "Understood, but for one lllllast thing, Mister. When was she installllled over you?"
Harsin seemed to catch Chterrs meaning. "Three weeks ago within hours of Captain Jaeger's arrival. The old man, well, he's getting long in the tooth. I guess it's one of the reasons he got shipped out here to Starbase 211. He was pushed around too easily by folks like her." The man decided to offer an explanation for Susan Howard's behavior. "To hear her talk, Mister Kirk killed her brother and his other roommates, not the Orions. I joined up the year after he graduated, so I knew the truth. But it's like she cannot accept any other truth than what she's convinced herself to belief."
Chterr took this disturbing news in. "Maybe you want to make her house arrest a bit more restrictive, Chief. Just a friendlllly suggestion."
Inside Jaegers office, Chekov realized that his current rage exceeded what he felt toward Sulu. He hadnt thought he could get angrier than that without blood relatives being involved.
"Captain Jaeger, did you know that Chief Howard has a history with one of my most valued and noted officers? Starfleet Intelligence would have to be aware of the enmity Mister Kirk is held in by this sadly deluded woman."
"Noted for what, Fleet Captain? Having a good press agent?"
Chekov slammed his fist down on her desk top. "Damn you, Gretchen! You vwill answer me, or I vwill use my authority as Captain of the Sixth Fleet to place you under arrest. I have not gone to Commodore Alden yet out of respect for whatever the hell our relationship meant to me, but I have no further compunction to restrain myself."
"Or your officers, no doubt," Jaeger snarled right
back at him. "The little felon you have come to regard so highly needs to be
confronted with the ugliness of his past. With him put off his game, he and the others
would all be more apt to answer my inquiries truthfully."
"Is load of psychobabble bullshit, and you know it."
"Such tactics are not unknown, sir! Now, if you truly want this thing all done with, call Mister Vasquez back in."
"Do not sandbag me again, Kyptin. Your career vwill not survive two minutes after you try."
Chekov brought Vasquez in, though part of him ached to simply pull his crew out entirely. He doubted even Kirk would be upset at losing his first chance to command the Enterprise, if it meant being out of there. Jaeger had resumed her professional facade as she questioned Vasquez.
"Mister Vasquez, isnt it true that, in late March of last year, you and two other officers made planetfall on a small world in the Beta Quadrant called Brigktor Four?"
"Yes, sir. That is true."
"And is it not true that both of those officers were at some point your paramours?"
Vasquez, who had been visibly tense up to that point, now sharpened and straightened in her chair. "No, sir. That is not true, and I object to this line of questioning."
Chekov nodded. "As do I, Mister Vasquez. This inquiry is terminated."
Jaeger played at being cool. "Very well, Fleet Captain. But it will come up again, rest assured, with your first officer, and there I have more concrete reasons to pursue the subject. Mister Vasquez, who were these two other officers?"
Vasquez seemed as irate as Kirk, but kept her appearances up as well as Jaeger. "Science Officer Natalie Buchanan and Ship's Helmsman Demora Sulu, sir."
Jaeger nodded. "Truly a tragic case. Some people destroy their lives, and try to destroy the lives of others, yet they prosper. Some people take on every manner of illness and injury, and yet they endure. But it wasnt that way for Demora Sulu, was it, Mister Vasquez? No, her one mistake cost her all her status aboard the ship, and her one illness promptly took her life. That was an illness that you and Mister Buchanan managed to avoid, wasnt it?"
Vasquez looked very sad as she recalled that chain of events. "Demora picked up a brain parasite while we were doing that survey mission. It did enough long-term damage that it may have made her behavior erratic and unreliable, and ultimately, it killed her."
Chekov chose not to comment on the speculative nature of Vasquezs words in regards to the subject of Demora Sulus demotion right before her death. There were other interviews to be done, and he wanted only necessary interruptions.
Jaeger inspected an on-screen file, though Chekov wondered by now if her entire case wasnt reasoned out from whole cloth. "Mister Vasquez, you both replaced and were replaced by the Rathan imposter, were you not?"
"That is true, Captain."
"I find listed here that you even protested your removal from Enterprise, following Captain Harrimans suicide."
"Yes, sir. I felt that, while certain department heads may have had prior connections with Captain Harriman, I had never really met the man, save for a quick hello. I had no association with him, and so a house cleaning was not in order, in my case."
Jaeger looked directly at her. "The Romulans chose to place their agent as the Enterprises chief science officer. I think we can agree that Sciences may be of particular fascination to Romulus, owing to high clearance and traditionally lax security...are you smiling?"
"Sorry, sir. But when you have someone like Peter Kirk as your second and then your successor, there is no such thing as lax security in Sciences. He doesnt quite poke a phaser rifle under our workstations looking for Khmyr, but I guess his life and losses would explain that."
Chekov noted what he had seen earlier: Vasquez seemed to push have a button with Jaeger in regards to Peter Kirk.
Gretchen Jaegar smiled without any inflection of humor. "The church of Saint Peter is closed, Lieutenant. I'm not interested in your speculation. You cannot deny that Sciences has been a ripe target for infiltration..."
Chekov chuckled in disbelief. "Based on vwhat? One incident? That is a stretch, Kyptin. A large one."
Jaeger ignored Chekov. "Mister Vasquez, were you and Mister Buchanan, while on Brigktor Four, contacted by Romulan agents, seeking to recruit once again in the very area they had so recently staffed with one of their own?"
The monotone feminine voice filled the room. "Subject is relaying accurate account, though activity in some regions of the brain indicate cognitive overload, as though unable to comprehend an irrational statement."
Chekov chuckled even louder. "Even the computer knows this line of questioning is irrational."
"Fleet Captain, if you don't keep your comments--"
Chekov addressed his chief tactical officer. "Mister Vasquez, vwith my apologies, you are dismissed. Please send Katya Sorensen in next. Tell her to give me five minutes first."
"Yes, Captain Chekov. Thank you, sir."
After Vasquez left the room, Chekov stepped in front of the seated Jaeger who seemed to be glad her desk was between the two of them. "I don't know what this is all about, Gretchen, but rest assured, I'll be sending a full report to this sector's judge advocate general's office, along with a copy to Commander-Starfleet Lystra Davis as well."
"You think having friends in powerful places will stop you from--"
"I sincerely doubt Admiral Davis would consider me her friend, and I've never met the JAG officer for this sector. I suggest you get this over with in a hurry."
"If I want your advice--"
Before Jaeger could finish her sentence, Chekov ramped up his volume. "My advice, Gretchen? Chief Engineer Sorensen is a stereotypical Xartheb. You'd best keep any fictions under wraps. Kirk, Chterr, Saavik-them I can control. But if you piss off Katya, I may not be able to keep her in line."
Lieutenant Susan Howard ate her midday meal early, staring hard at the picture of a brother who had long ceased to be anything more than a battle cry to the obsessed young woman. She was lost, and she was, after this day, never to be found again. After she finished her soup, she lay back for twenty minutes until she heard a familiar voice.
"You were warned, Mister Howard."
She had no weapon. Her traitorous subordinates had seen to that. "Go away, Riley. You intelligence spooks bother me."
Kevin Riley sat down on the side of her bed. "You know what bothers me, kid? What bothers me is going round to members of Admiral Gervais little hate-network, telling them explicitly that it's over, and then not being listened to. It turned out that all your brothers other roommates families had long moved past Peter Kirk; some even wanted to apologize for letting your relatives talk them into barring him from the funerals. You know why they wouldnt speak up? They were afraid of your family. Just as most of your family was afraid of you. Now, Im going to say again: It's over. The informal support has vanished. No more safe houses to snipe from. Tell me that you accept that, and I have a reward for you."
Bolting upright, Howards response was both pathetic and predictable. "Screw off, you James Bond-wannabe! This is over when I can enter the holding cell of a rightfully disgraced Kirk and cut his bloody head off! Not before. My brother..."
Riley shook his head sadly. "Your brother is dead. As is his sister. Enjoy your soup?"
Howard ran for her toilet area and forced a finger down her throat, vomiting up the soup she'd been eating. "Damn you! What have you done to me?"
Riley looked at her in complete pity. "It would have been full in your system within five minutes. Had you accepted my terms, your reward would have been the antidote."
"Damn you, I've served Intelligence for years!" She sobbed. "Who do you think was responsible for the assassination of the Freesian ambassador six years ago!" She vomitted up blood, and soon the sounds of gagging and retching soon stopped. "Why?" once last ragged sob came from her throat before she fell to the floor, eyes quickly unfocusing.
"Those days are over. Everyone associated with Section 31 is going to be shut down. One way or another."
Riley stood over the corpse, and after activating a small duotronic device, he vaporized her corpse with his weapon. A second small handheld device vacuumed up all residue while spraying a substance rendering any trace of DNA beyond recognition by the finest of Federation scanners.
He cast his gaze at the spotless bathroom floor and beyond it to the bowels of Hell itself. "Enjoying the new recruits, Admiral Gervais? I made a promise the day I realized youd never let me go: I will end the nonsense." He strapped his phaser and minivac onto his belt, and pulled his jacket sleeve up to reveal his transwarp conduit generator. He tapped in his destination, and stepped into the empty quarters he'd been using, undetected and unobserved.
As the years end approached, shadows on Starbase 211 were deepening and darkening at warp speed. The light seemed distant indeed, but it would come.
Free counters provided by Andale.
Return to the index of The
Sixth Fleet -- 2296
Return to the index of ORION ARCHIVES On-Line Fiction.
Click Here to Return to the Orion Press Website