Part of USS Elysion: The Cartographer’s Key and Bravo Fleet: Phase 2: Horizon

Chapter One – Friends & Acquaintances

Mithrar Anchorage, Gradin Belt, Delta Quadrant
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Dante’s Roadhouse – Main Bar | Level H | Mithrar Anchorage

21:46 Zulu

“It needs to be reported and investigated,” Ensign Brace Haltor said firmly before taking a swig of Turei ale. “The captain’s behaviour was out of character – to say the least.”

“The very least,” agreed Ensign Rran Shanko with a nod.

“Oh, don’t come that,” Lieutenant Luce Rayas looked at the communications officer with a frown. “You were quick enough to offer to jam the colony’s comm system and stop them reporting what was happening!”

“Just doing my job,” replied Shanko with a wounded expression before taking solace in his drink.

Lieutenant Luel Colia glanced around the bar before sliding her wine glass to the side and leaning forwards.

“Look, this is our captain we’re talking about here. We all know him pretty well – and he knows us. Do you really think he’d have done what he did without good reason? He’s never done us wrong before… Maybe there’s something else at play here that none of us know about?”

“What? Something that justifies murdering forty-six civilians in an unarmed freighter? Hmmm. Now let me think… Nope.” Brace looked offended, his tone dripping with sarcasm. “Nothing that springs to mind.”

“Maybe you should investigate what happened, Harry?” Shanko suggested to the tactical and security officer who sat between Rayas and Colia and had so far remained quiet.

“You think?” Cody asked over the rim of his ale tankard. “Hey Captain – I was just wondering if you minded explaining your actions of the other day – you remember? That day last week when you blew up that freighter… and then that colony… and then that whole friggin’ planet without explanation? Now I know that it’s none of my business or anything, but it’s just that – you know the guys? Yeah, the guys were just wondering about it, y’know?” he shrugged and rolled his eyes. “Sure, I can say that. That’s a great idea, Shanko.”

“I don’t mean say it like that Harry,” Shanko was obviously annoyed. “Why do you always talk to me like I’m an idiot?”

“The XO should be doing the investigating,” Brace stated with certainty. “But has anyone actually seen him since we arrived here at the Anchorage?”

“That’s a good point,” Rayas agreed, pointing at the Bajoran conn officer to emphasise his question. “Where is the XO?”

“The brig?” Shanko asked, only half-joking.

“Listen,” Colia interjected before Cody could reply. “Maybe we shouldn’t be discussing this in public…?”

“Or at all?” came a familiar voice from behind them. Senior Chief Gunner’s Mate Jamie Ballard approached the group of junior officers, his usual frown firmly in place. “Voices travel in a place like this,” he warned in his soft Scottish brogue. “Lieutenants. Ensigns.” The older man nodded a curt greeting to the group.

“You could hear what we were saying, Senior Chief?” Rayas asked with concern.

“Let’s just say that I got the gist of it, ma’am…” Ballard replied. “I’m not here to spoil your night, just to let you know that Elysion will be departing at 0700 Zulu tomorrow. The CDO has requested that all hands return to the ship by 2400.” He paused uncomfortably as if wanting to say more. After a moment, he evidently decided against it and nodded once more to the table as a whole. “Thank you,” he said quietly before turning away.

“Senior Chief…” Cody stopped him. “We were just talking… you probably heard,” he gave an embarrassed half-smile. “Do you know what’s happened… I mean, have you seen the XO since we arrived?”

Ballard turned back to face the younger man, his lips pursed in a thoughtful expression.

“No sir. I have not.” There was silence as the young officers glanced at each other, exchanging knowing looks. Seeing this, Ballard evidently decided that he’d said too much. “I’ll see you all on board,” he murmured. “If you’ll excuse me?”

 

Dante’s Roadhouse – Morrow’s Office | Level H | Mithrar Anchorage

21:59 Zulu

Daniel Morrow pulled open the double doors with a flourish to reveal the two human males in red Starfleet uniform standing in the anteroom beyond. Although ample comfortable seating was provided for visitors, the two men had chosen to remain on their feet. Both men were tall, the younger one had an athletic build and a serious expression, the older one was more muscular and looked about himself with barely-concealed distaste. Morrow gave the rank insignia on each uniform an almost imperceptible glance before fixing each visitor with his patented welcoming grin.

“Captain. Master Chief. My apologies for keeping you waiting so long. Please – won’t you come in?” He led the way back into his private sanctum. The room which was originally a double-sized standard compartment aboard Mithrar Anchorage now had its bulkheads lined with dark wood with thick carpeting in a deep wine colour stretching from wall to wall. Subdued wall lighting and a wooden globe drinks cabinet decorated to look like Earth completed the impression of a gentleman’s club, circa Earth’s 19th century.

Morrow led the two men across the office to a large desk that matched the wall panelling and sat down in a high-backed Chesterfield swivel chair covered in what appeared to be studded green leather. He gestured to the two similar-looking guest chairs of the non-swivel variety positioned on the opposite side of the desk.

“I’m Captain Jonathan Ransom of Elysion and this is Master Chief Joseph Banquo,” the younger man said as he took one of the proffered seats. “Thank you for seeing us so promptly, Mister Morrow.”

Morrow waved a dismissive hand in a ‘don’t mention it’ kind of way.

Elysion eh? I saw her docking last night. The first of her class. She’s a fine-looking ship.”

“Thank you,” Ransom replied uncomfortably. “I – uh – like her.”

“I’m sure you do, I’m sure you do. But you’re a long way from home, Captain Ransom. We haven’t seen many Starfleet vessels around here recently. There was an initial surge when Admiral Cody first set up Delta-Bravo here on the station to negotiate Underspace access with the Turei, but once that was done – and of course, when Task Force 17 took over – most personnel were recalled to the Alpha Quadrant and it seemed like fewer and fewer ships came out here. But now, things are picking up again, which from my perspective is very good for business.” Morrow shrugged.

“I’m not sure what the Fourth Fleet’s plan is for the Delta Quadrant,” he noted, ” but I’m sure there is one. Do you know Admiral Ramar at all, Captain Ransom?”

“Not personally,” Ransom admitted.

“How about Rear-Admiral Cody?” Morrow asked with a smile.

Ransom shook his head. “We’ve never met.”

“I’m surprised,” Morrow admitted. “I mean, his middle child is one of your officers, is he not?”

“You’re very well informed, considering your location out here in the Delta Quadrant,” Ransom bristled slightly.

Morrow’s smile remained fixed as he watched Ransom intently for several seconds. Next to Ransom, Banquo cleared his throat loudly in an attempt to break the tension. Eventually, Morrow’s expression relaxed and he gave a self-deprecating shrug.

“Ah, you know how it is. People like to talk. I hear he’s doing well though?”

“I hear you used to be Starfleet yourself?” Ransom pointedly ignored the question.

Again, the dismissive wave of the hand.

“Ah, once upon a time. A lifetime ago. It didn’t agree with me. We didn’t agree with each other.” Morrow’s eyes suddenly widened in a theatrical fashion. “Forgive me, gentlemen! Here I am – the proprietor of the Gradin Belt’s premier bar, grill, and nightspot and I haven’t even offered you a drink! What can I get for you both?” He made a move as if to stand.

Ransom held up a restraining hand. “No thank you,” he said.

“Not for me,” Banquo echoed.

“Oh, alright.” Morrow feigned disappointment and lowered himself into his seat once more. He leaned back in his chair and laced his fingers across his stomach.

“So how can I help you, gentlemen?”

“We’ve been told that you are a very informed man Mister Morrow, “Ransom began, “Very well-connected. And that your business dealings bring you into contact with a wide variety of well-informed individuals across the Gradin Belt…”

“This is true,” Morrow agreed magnanimously.

“…which in turn provides you with an excellent intelligence network.”

“Friends and acquaintances. They’re all merely friends and acquaintances. ‘Intelligence network’ makes it sound a little too cloak and dagger… like we’re in some old spy-holo. I’m merely a businessman,” Morrow stated, his tone pleasant.

“Who has a lot of friends and acquaintances,” added Banquo.

Morrow smiled at the big man’s comment. “Precisely so.”

“We were led to believe that if anyone in this part of the Delta Quadrant could help us find what we’re looking for, it would be you.”

“How kind. And specifically, what is it that you’re looking for?” Morrow queried.

“We’re investigating any references to an ancient civilisation which existed around 600,000 years ago. The Tkon Empire,” Ransom replied.

“The Tkon Empire, eh?” Morrow pursed his lips as he considered the name. “Never heard of it. 600,000 years… that’s not exactly recent history…” He remained silent for several seconds. “However, I may know somebody who could help. Please, give me a few moments.” He gestured to the globe drinks cabinet as he headed towards the double doors. “Help yourselves to refreshments.”

As soon as Morrow had left the room, Banquo turned to Ransom.

“Captain – I don’t trust him and I don’t like him.”

“Neither do I,” Ransom agreed. “But he’s our best chance of finding out if there’s anything in the sector that could possibly be connected to the Tkon Empire.”

“Hmmm.” Banquo mused, obviously not convinced. He peered at his fingernails for a moment as if examining them intently for flaws. “I uh, I spoke with Commander Chivras last night.”

Ransom tensed. “Oh yeah?”

“The commander suggested that he’d like you to visit him in his quarters, here on the station. He’s extremely remorseful about his actions and would like to apologise to you in person.”

“Oh yeah?” Ransom repeated his tone flat.

“Yes sir. He wants to clear the air between the two of you before we ship out. I think that the Commander wants to reassure you that as your XO, you have his complete support and…”

“He’s no longer my XO,” Ransom interrupted him.

“Captain?”

“I submitted Commander Chivras’ transfer papers to the acting outpost commander here last night, just after we docked.”

“Captain… I don’t know what to say,” Banquo looked stunned.

“Then don’t say anything,” Ransom replied coldly. “The subject is closed.”

Behind them, the office doors opened as Morrow returned.

“Gentlemen, I have good news. An acquaintance of mine has knowledge of something which may be of use.”

Ransom looked at the man with genuine interest. “Really? That’s great.”

“Isn’t it?” Morrow agreed with a grin. “Unfortunately, my contact is something of an… unscrupulous individual and insisted that I transfer an amount of currency to his account before he would disclose what he knew…”

As he retook his seat behind the desk, Ransom tossed a cloth bag onto the desktop which landed with a thud. Morrow smiled appreciatively and lifted the bag to look inside. He glanced up at Ransom.

“That will do nicely,” he said. “Now, have either of you ever heard of Abaddon’s Repository of Lost Treasures?”

Ransom replied to the negative, whilst Banquo merely shook his head.

“It’s beyond Hirogen territory, and on the far side of the tail-end of what the Devore Imperium claim as their own. It’s basically a junkyard full of unwanted ships and technology. My acquaintance tells me that Abaddon has a number of unclassified artifacts in his archive – some of which – when exposed to dating scans – appear to be between 600,000 and 700,000 years old. Could that be what you’re looking for?”

“Could be,” Ransom admitted. “How do I find this ‘Repository of Lost Treasures’?”

Morrow pushed a Turei-issue padd across the desktop towards him. “It’s all on here. I’d suggest you use the Turei Underspace tunnels to get there – one of the tunnels which Admiral Cody negotiated access to has an aperture twelve light-years from the junkyard.”

“Thank you,” Ransom replied, surprised at Morrow’s candidness.

“My pleasure. Anything to help,” Morrow said, his trademark smile firmly in place. He stood, signifying that the meeting was at an end and Ransom and Banquo followed suit. Morrow shook his visitors’ hands warmly.

“Oh, I almost forgot. Have you travelled through underspace before?” he asked suddenly.

“Not yet,” Banquo replied.

“Then I suggest you reduce the compression coefficient of your navigational deflector by 0.28 – otherwise it’ll feel like you’re driving over broken rocks.”

“Thank you,” Ransom replied as they walked to the double doors. “But I’m sure Elysion will be able to handle it.”

“Of course,” Morrow agreed pleasantly. “Well, good luck in your endeavours, gentlemen. It was a pleasure to meet you both and I hope you find what you’re looking for. And maybe this time… perhaps avoid blowing up any planets?”

He closed the double doors behind them with a smile.