It had been three days since the USS Hullman met up with the Solstice. Commander Porter and Lieutenant Commander T’Mel both recognized that the crew was on edge. Less than four weeks ago, the Solstice and crew had launched with high hopes and excitement for what was to come, only for their first scientific survey mission to come to a screeching halt. Not only that, but outside of Porter and T’Mel, the crew had no idea what was going on.
While sitting on the bridge looking over engineering reports, Porter’s command chair console chimed that a message was incoming directly to him. It read “Please report to the science lab. VADM Vargas”. Porter immediately closed and deleted the message and stood up. “I’ll be in the science lab. You have the bridge, Commander.” T’Mel nodded as Porter walked into the turbolift.
When the lift stopped, Porter walked down the main corridor until he got the special mission-specific science lab, he entered his command code to unlock the door and walked in to see Admiral Vargas and his team working at various consoles. As soon as he stepped past the door, it shut and locked behind him.
“Good to see you, Commander,” Vargas said, looking up from the center console.
“Likewise, Admiral. What can I do for you?” Porter replied.
Vargas gestured for Porter to come over to him. “I wanted to let you know that we’ve narrowed down the location of the omega molecules in this sector and we’ll be departing on our mission in four hours.”
Porter nodded. “Am I allowed to ask what the mission is?”
“Yes, and no.” Vargas changed the computer screen to bring up some of the mission details. “At 1300 hours, the Hullman will leave this area at warp. Once we get to our location, we will assess the situation and neutralize the threat as quickly as possible, plain and simple…well, as simple as a mission like this can be.”
“And what happens with us?” Porter inquired.
“If all goes well, your long-range sensors will detect an explosion in subspace and you’ll never hear from me again in this capacity.”
“And if all doesn’t go well?”
Vargas paused. “Let’s worry about that if the time comes. Suffice it to say, I hope I don’t have to meet you like this ever again. No offense.”
Porter nodded again. “I feel the same way, admiral. Is there anything else?”
“No, that’s all for now. I will contact you one more time before we leave. Thank you, Commander.”
Porter nodded. “Aye, sir.” He turned and left the science lab. When the doors slid open, Porter knocked into an officer who was standing right on the other side of the door. He reached down and pulled the officer up. “Ensign Harrison, what are you doing here?”
“Oh, I, uh…I mean, I was just…” The stunned ensign tried to come up with an answer as to why she was trying to listen in on the secret meeting.
“I can tell you what she was doing,” Commander Durham announced from behind Porter and the still-open door. “She was spying on top-secret classified material!” Durham pushed Porter aside, took Harrison by her arm, and pulled both her and Porter back into the room. The door slid shut and locked behind them again. “Admiral, this officer has deliberately attempted to spy on our efforts. She should be brought back to the Hullman and held for questioning and possible punishment.”
“Woah, wait a minute! We don’t know that she had any bad intentions, she was just curious!” Porter exclaimed.
There was a silence as Vargas considered what both men said, then he nodded to Durham and tapped his combadge. “Vargas to Hullman.”
“Go ahead, sir,” a response came.
“Commander Durham will be beaming back with a crewman from the Solstice. I want the crewman detained in the brig and questioned about spying on our efforts. She is NOT to be harmed in any way, is that understood?”
“Yes, sir. Beaming now.” The line chirped closed.
Harrison’s voice disappeared as her and Commander Durham were transported over to the Hullman.
“Sir, you can’t allow this! She’s just out of the Academy, and was just curious, I’m sure of it!” Porter had only met her a couple times, but he wanted her on the Solstice because her profile showed that she was a go-getter and hard worker, always ready to place the mission first.
“I’m sorry, Commander, but the rules are the rules. Once this mission is over, I will personally question her and make sure she gets a fair chance to state her case. However, for now, we can’t risk anyone else other than us knowing about omega.” Vargas unlocked the door. “That will be all for now, Commander.”
Porter stood there for a few seconds before he realized that there wasn’t anything he could say that would change the admiral’s mind, or at least anything that wouldn’t get him thrown into the brig. He spun on his heels and left the room. On the way up to the bridge, Porter thought about what he was going to do. He took a couple deep breaths, realizing that acting in the heat of the moment wouldn’t do any good.
The lift came to a stop and the doors opened to the bridge. Porter immediately marched to his ready room. “Commander, my ready room, now!” He didn’t have to look around the room to know that everyone on the bridge had stopped what they were doing to turn and look after their commanding officer shouted out his order.
T’Mel stood up, surprised by Porter’s command. Porter was already in his office by the time the XO noticed everyone else on the bridge. “As you were,” she said to the bridge crew as she walked to the ready room. When she arrived, the door locked behind her, and she assumed that communications in and out of the room had been closed as they have in the past. “Sir?” she inquired.
Porter was pacing back and forth. “Ensign Leeanne Harrison has been taken into custody by Admiral Vargas. She must have seen me go into the science lab and was listening from outside the door.” He stopped at the replicator. “Coffee, strong, black.” The computer made the drink and Porter took it from the alcove. “The admiral promised me that she would be treated fairly and allowed to tell her side, but she’s basically being held for treason.”
“That would mean that she will have a trial. I’m sure one of us will be chosen-” T’Mel started to speak before being cut off by Porter.
“I doubt there will be a formal trial, T’Mel. That would make a record of the case, and there needs to be as little referencing omega as possible.” Porter took a sip of coffee then placed it on his desk, which he stopped to lean up against. He sighed heavily and rubbed his face. “I’m…I’m not sure what to do.”
“That’s because there’s nothing you CAN do right now.”
The voice came from behind Porter and T’Mel. Both turned their gaze to see a hologram of Admiral Vargas standing near the viewport.
“What do you mean ‘nothing we can do’?” Porter asked, walking towards the figure. “She hasn’t been proven to have done anything wrong, and holding her against her will is illegal, no matter what classified project we’re working on.”
“Unfortunately, Starfleet Command doesn’t agree with you. The articles of the Omega Directive allow for us to hold or terminate anyone who falls into knowing about omega who shouldn’t. I’m sorry for this, Jackson, I really am, but right now, we don’t need any rumors starting. This means that if anyone asks where Ensign Harrison is, you are ordered to simply say that she has taken advantage of the opportunity to see how operations work on a Vesta-class starship, and say nothing more.”
“That would be another lie,” T’Mel replied.
Vargas shook his head. “Not a lie, commander, just a way to keep the rumor mill quiet.”
“Sir, with all due respect, the Omega Directive or not, she is still a crew member under my command, and I can’t allow her to be treated like a traitor!”
Porter’s voice had risen angrily to the point that T’Mel was starting to become concerned for him. “Admiral, at least let us be present while she is questioned. Being held in an unfamiliar place with people you don’t know will undoubtedly be difficult on her.”
Vargas shook his head again. “There’s no time. We set out on our mission to neutralize the omega threat in a few hours. I promise you that we will return after the mission, at which point we can deal with this matter further.”
“And if you don’t come back?” Porter bluntly asked.
Vargas paused and pulled on the bottom of his uniform. “If we don’t come back, then you have bigger issues to worry about, Commander. I have informed Starfleet Command that you are ordered to stay here until either we return, or another ship comes to complete our mission. You have your orders, commanders. I suggest you follow them to the letter. Vargas out.” The hologram of Vargas disappeared, leaving the two senior officers in the room alone.
Porter and T’Mel stood in the quiet room. “Sir,” T’Mel finally said, breaking the silence, “may I ask what your intentions are?”
Another silence. Porter wanted to get her back, but knew that the admiral had every advantage over them, not just because he had a ship with tactical superiority, but also because he knew that Admiral Vargas had already thought of every possibility. “We’re going to do exactly what the admiral said to do, commander. Inform Lieutenant Benson that Ensign Harrison was offered a chance to check out the Hullman for a while and that she took up the offer. In the meantime, we will continue as we have until we see the subspace explosion and the Hullman returns, or we lose sensors on the Hullman and we wait for another Starfleet vessel to arrive.
T’Mel nodded. “Very well, sir. With your permission, I will return to the bridge.” Porter nodded and let T’Mel leave. After she left, he picked up his coffee and walked over to the viewport to gaze at the Hullman. “Don’t worry, Harrison, we’ll get you back soon.”