SEASON 3: EPISODE 03
THE ONLY THING NECESSARY: Part Twelve
“Has there been a development, captain?” asked the ambassador as he entered Masters’ ready room.
Masters kept his face neutral, at least for the time being. “Of a sort,” he said as the ambassador took a seat. “We have found something very interesting.”
He showed the palm sized device to the ambassador and placed it on his desk.
There was a few seconds of silence before the ambassador asked, “What is it?”
“It’s a subspace transceiver. Or to be more specific; it’s a Federation designed transceiver.”
“We found it in the Echlan’s warp ship.”
A look of complete surprise and confusion came to the ambassador’s face. Masters had to admire that ability. As a diplomat Whitechapel would have to rely on his acting ability in many a situation and so far Masters had been very impressed by him. As he recalled his other daughter was an actor. She would have her father to thank for her talent. The ambassador was the type of person you really did not want to play poker with.
“How on Earth did that get inside the Echlan ship?”
“I’m not exactly sure, but I have an idea. We believe that it was placed there and integrated with the ship’s systems so that an outside force could manipulate the ship’s system. Why would they want that? Because then somebody could cause a very believable emergency where we were the only option to respond. I think that somebody was you.”
The ambassador scoffed at the suggestion. “Now, captain. I’m very busy so...”
Masters cut him off with a wave of his hand before he continued. “At first we were stumped as to how it was communicated with. We knew it couldn’t be the Echlans since they don’t have the technology to instigate such an elaborate hoax, so the only other place was this ship. Our communications logs showed no such activity nor do they show any tampering. However, my chief engineer and science officer are very good and they managed to find a minute trace. It was hidden by the interference of the nebula and even by our own ship. That part really impressed the lieutenant, calibrating the transmissions so that our own ship would mask them was as I am told, quite a feat. However, the problem now was we had proved that it wasn’t our ship that sent the transmission. Luckily they remembered our ship wasn’t actually the only ship with the equipment to communicate, it was simply the biggest. We have fifty-odd smaller vessels that are also capable of sending such a transmission. Once again it took a simply herculean effort by Celcho and Letac to trace the transmissions to its source but once again they didn’t let me down. Now, can you guess which ship we traced the signals to? The Zambezi,” he answered not giving the ambassador a chance to ‘guess’.
The USS Zambezi was the Danube class runabout that had transported the ambassador to the Swiftfire. After the rendezvous it had sat in the ship’s shuttlebay as the ambassador and his party moved into the more comfortable confines of the Akira class vessel. For over a week it had sat in the corner of the shuttlebay undisturbed, so much so that it was easy to forget it was even onboard.
“You used the Zambezi’s subspace transmitter to contact the warp ship. That’s why we couldn’t find a trace in our ship’s logs. It was very clever of you to do that, in fact Celcho was very impressed by the entire setup and is itching to discuss it with you. Now given what my first officer discovered about the involvement of Intelligence I suspect that they are behind that little trick. However, if you did set it up you probably missed your calling working in communications.”
The ambassador’s face had remained remarkably bemused by what Masters had to say. Not once did he appear as if he had been caught in the act. He gave Masters a bemused smile as he spoke, “Captain, I was on the bridge during the test flight how could I communicate from the Zambezi?”
“That’s the beauty of the setup; you don’t need to be in the ship or even close to it. All you have to do is have a remote linkup to the runabout’s computers so you can indicate when it is to communicate with the warp ship. You could use any station on this ship or even a specially set up datapadd would work. Celcho and Letac have already gone through the Zambezi’s computers...the encryption you used did slow them down but not by much,” he said smugly. “I should also add that is not the only time we’ve found you communicated with the planet. You also managed to setup a link from your quarters to the Zambezi. So far we’ve discovered you contacted the planet just before they launched the test flight and after the attack on the Totality capital. Do you know what comes next?”
This time Masters did pause to give the ambassador the opportunity to answer. The ambassador let out a sigh of annoyance at having to play this game with him. “Well, you’ve done the who, the how, the when, the what, the where, so that just leaves the why,” counted off Whitechapel.
Masters rapped his fingers on his desk excitedly. “Exactly. I would very carefully consider what you say in the next few minutes, ambassador. I’ll remind you that I have enough to downgrade your accommodations from the VIP quarters to the brig.” Masters leaned across his desk and his face turned to a dark mask. “I don’t care how many years you’ve faithfully served the Federation or if you daughter is my tactical and second officer, if you continue to spin your bullshit with me I will put you in irons.”
The ambassador’s bemused look finally started to fade as he looked upon the deadly serious face of Masters. “I don’t doubt that for a second, captain,” he slowly replied. The ambassador shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “I guess my hand has truly been caught inside the cookie jar.” Masters lent back into his chair as he waited for the ambassador to continue. “When I read your file I knew you were a smart and capable man, Captain Masters. I guess I might have underestimated you due to your short time in command, a mistake on my part...one that I’m willing to admit. All in all it has not been the smartest thing I have done.”
“You also underestimated the crew of this vessel, which was a far greater mistake, ambassador.”
The ambassador let out a sigh and slouched back in his chair looking half defeated and half relieved. “Where would you like me to start, captain?”
“From the beginning, ambassador and it better be good.”
“This is not the first contact the Federation has had with the Echlans.”
“I said make it good, I could have guessed that...” he interrupted.
The ambassador raised a finger to ask Masters to let him continue. “Around a year ago three Federation scientists travelled here to undertake some research into Echlan culture and development. They came in the usual style, covertly in a camouflaged shuttle and parked it in an out of the way area to set up a base of operations. Not long after they landed they were surrounded by the military and captured by the Totality. Fortunately they were able to send out a distress call.”
“How is that possible, the pulsar interferes with communications from this planet?” he asked. The Swiftfire was currently out of touch with Starfleet due to the natural interference of the pulsar. It was just one of the natural hazards to reliable communications to and from the nebula.
“It does but that depends on its location in relation to this system. Back then it was not in a position to block all transmissions. Anyway, the Federation decided to dispatch me and a team from the Diplomatic Corps to negotiate their safe release. I’m sure you’ll be glad to know that I did so. During my efforts I learnt how they managed to detect a camouflaged shuttle. In the few years between the Ulysses’ visit and the science team the Totality had built a very large and powerful scanner to spy on the Coalition. From its position deep in the Totality it is able to accurately and constantly monitor the entire planet and as they found out also the surrounding space. Our science boffins have dubbed it a multiphasic tachyon scanner.”
This was an interesting development and Masters was able to join the dots from an earlier incident. “That would explain how they managed to detect the class 3 probe I launched earlier. How can the Echlans have built such an advanced piece of technology given they are solidly pre-warp in technology? A camouflaged shuttle isn’t the same as a cloaked vessel; they could have detected it by luck but a class 3...that shouldn’t be possible.”
“Normally it would be but our scientists believe that due to their location in the nebula and the unique environment that surrounds them has forced them to view the development of sensor technology from a different angle, allowing them to have such an advanced device.”
Masters had to admit that made a lot of sense. The mention of the multiphasic tachyon scanner tugged on his mind. “How powerful is this scanner?”
The ambassador clasped his hands before him, a satisfied smile tugged at the side of his mouth. “Have you ever had an enemy use some sort of natural interference to hide their presence from your ship’s sensors or your quarry loses you by ducking into a nebula?” Masters gave a slow nod. “We believe that with this technology there would be no place left to hide. It could provide us with greater opportunities to explore and greater safety and security. We also believe that it could penetrate all known cloaking devices.” Masters felt his eyebrow rise in surprise. That explained the look on the ambassador’s face. “Once that news got back to Starfleet Command they were very interested in getting their hands on it.”
Masters was beginning to see the whole picture. “The Coalition doesn’t have this technology, do they?” The ambassador shook his head. “Starfleet Command wants you to work out a deal with the Totality to get us the device.”
“Yes,” Whitechapel replied simply.
“But why go to the whole effort of a new fake first contact?”
“The situation when we first arrived was...difficult. The scientists were captured by the military.”
“Let me guess, High General Qual was the person you had to deal with to free them.”
Whitechapel nodded. “One thing about the military is they love their secrets. Apart from the forces involved no one knew, not even the government. Qual had locked down the operation and thanks to the considerable leeway the military is allowed no one question what he was doing or why. I dealt with Qual and only his most trusted personnel knew the truth of the situation we were in. We came to the decision that it would be a more favourable situation if the Totality government did not know about our incursion into their territory, so it was decided to stage a friendlier incident. One that would endear us more to the government.”
“Hence making it easier to trade for the scanner,” filled in Masters. The ambassador gestured that he was correct. “And Qual agreed to this? He had a much better negotiating position before.”
“It was necessary to grease his wheels. This new deal made him more prominent in the dealing with us and it increased his stature and influence in the Totality.”
“You mean you bribed him.”
“No, I mean in negotiations there is give and take. If you want something you also must be willing to give something in return.”
Masters was failing to see the difference. However, he did not feel like arguing that point with the ambassador.
The ambassador chuckled. “You should know that if there is an Intelligence operative with me I wouldn’t be able to confirm or deny any such presence. However, we want exclusive rights to the technology so angering them is not an issue.”
“So that’s why are you dealing just with them and not the Coalition. Locking them into a contract before someone like the Ferengi drop by.”
“Exactly. The Totality is also keen for us to have a military presence in the system, which would further secure our investment. They are also willing to include rights to exploit the system’s resources not counting those on Echla.”
“You ‘ve already managed to arrange all that?” he said surprised.
“Yes. I don’t think you truly understand the situation on the planet. Totality are the more powerful power on the planet thanks to the fact they are ahead of the Coalition in terms of technology, but that won’t last much longer. In another decade the Coalition will have technology parity and maybe even start overtaking them. Without technological superiority the Totality would be massively outnumbered and the Coalition will reverse the situation and once they do the Coalition will likely bring the Totality to its knees. So you can understand why they would be interested in having a very powerful ally close to them.”
“So we give them what they want? We shield them from their enemies and let them continue with their discrimination and prosecution of religious freedoms, something that goes against the very nature of what the Federation is about? Maybe give them the edge to finally finish off the Coalition and rule the planet?”
The ambassador shook his head. “No. We have the superior bargaining position at the moment. The Totality was fairly desperate when we first made contact and the recent attacks have only heightened that. We should be able to get what we want for a minimal price.”
Masters rapped his fingers on the desk slowly before replying. “The attacks have indeed improved our position. It was a clever move.”
“What? You think I gave them the ultritium?” replied Whitechapel with indignation.
Masters looked him directly in the eye and asked, “Did you?”
“No! Why would I lie about that given I’ve told you the rest?”
“So far all you’ve told me is what you’ve had to do as part of your job, following your orders. The trading of explosives to be used in a terrorist attack is mass murder,” he explained drawing out his final sentence.
The ambassador’s jaw set. “You obviously think little of me if you think I did what you suggest.”
Masters held the ambassador’s gaze. In truth he did not believe the ambassador would commit such an act. “I would be greatly disappointed if you did. However, we can’t find any evidence of you giving them any of the explosives. Our transporter logs and that of the Zambezi are clean and there was no way you could have given it to them in your first meeting.”
The ambassador had probably thought he was going to claim the opposite and his assurance of his innocent surprised him. “How so?”
“I doubt terrorists could sit on a new powerful explosive for a year. As soon as they have it they would have disregarded your plans and made their own. The problem is ultritium is nearly untraceable; the perfect terrorist weapon. With no evidence that it came from this ship the only option left is that the Coalition got their hands on a small amount through other means, most likely from a meteor impact and shared it with the Acolytes.”
The ambassador nodded as if to accept his explanation. Masters however did not feel that this was the answer. His gut told him that there was still more to this puzzle, though he was unable to decide if the ambassador was further involved.
“What’s the situation on the ground?” asked the ambassador.
“Even state controlled organisations don’t always cooperate fully with their backers,” pointed out Whitechapel. Masters tilted his head slightly to acknowledge the point. “So you think this is a random act of violence?”
“Possibly. It also might be that the Coalition just didn’t want to give the game away by shifting their forces early.”
The ambassador and Masters sat quietly for a few moments before the ambassador spoke, “So you believe that I didn’t play any part in the attack.”
“Ambassador, at the moment there is very little trust between us. Given your daughter serves with me I don’t want to believe her father is capable of these acts. Suffice to say you can expect to be very closely watched from now on.”
“My lack of straight forwardness with you was due to operational security, captain.”
“Operational secrecy is something I can understand...I don’t like it, but I understand it.”
“So where do we go from here?”
“My orders are still to aid you in your negotiations. I will continue to do so. I am restructuring of the security arrangements. Trips to the surface are off; all meetings are to be moved into orbit, preferably on this ship where we control the situation. If we have them on their space station I’d want to have an arrangement that sees the deployment of my security forces, armed, to sweep the station and personnel. We will also need to inform them of ultritium.”
“Reasonable. I’ll see what I can do. I guess I should also inform you that I have plans for Commander Ilata.”
Masters gestured for him to continue.
“I believe he can be a very useful tool in the negotiating with the Totality. He has spent a great deal of time on this ship and seen its wonders. Having him as a spokesman to further our agenda will of course only help us reach our end goal with the most favourable outcome.”
The idea left a bad taste in Masters’ mouth. “Ilata had his partner die in the attacks on the Totality. I don’t think he would be the right person to use for this.”
“That’s what makes him the right person. He’s also a state hero and he will be able to sway the right people.”
“I thought you and the high general had a good relationship?”
“We do. The problem will be the civilian government that comes in. Given what happened to the last council they might be reluctant to cooperate with us and a person of Ilata’s stature can sway the masses and those whom represent them.”
Masters still did not like the idea but he did not have much choice in the matter. “As long as the commander agrees to go along with your plan I don’t see any issues.”
The ambassador smiled slightly as if to thank him for agreeing. They sat in silence for a while longer before the ambassador announced that he should leave and stood from his chair. “You do believe me when I say I was not involving in the bombing?”
“Ambassador, if I didn’t we’d be having this conversation in the brig.”
A wry smile came to the ambassador’s lips before he turned and headed out of Masters’ ready room. Masters leant back in his chair and allowed himself to relax. He still had an uneasy feeling in his gut about their entire endeavour in the nebula. However, at this point he did not believe there was much more that the ambassador could tell him. That increased his unease, if he had gotten all he could from the ambassador. That meant there were other players out there and he had no idea who they were and what their objectives were.
Celcho approached the door to the shuttlebay and nearly collided with Mr. Greer as he exited.
“My apologies, assistant director,” he apologised.
“No harm done, lieutenant commander,” replied Greer graciously with a smile. Celcho stepped to one side to let him pass. “Before I go, did I hear correctly that you have repaired Commander Ilata’s vessel?”
Celcho nodded. “It is, sir. It isn’t quite flight operational yet but the main...issues are behind us now.”
“Fantastic. Well, have a good day, commander.”
Celcho returned the sentiment and continued into the shuttlebay. He wondered what Assistant Director Greer would have been doing in the shuttlebay but when he saw Ilata standing by his warp ship that answered his question. Greer and Ilata had spent a bit of time together. Ilata had been very interested in what was beyond the nebula and Greer’s job with the Stellar Cartography Department made him one of the most knowledgeable people to ask about such things. Greer was also a pleasant enough man for a bureaucrat.
Celcho made his way up to Ilata. “It’s nice to see you up and about, Groa.”
Ilata turned to him and smiled politely. Despite his happy appearance Celcho could see that he looked like he had gotten little sleep recently, which he could understand.
“I hear you have fixed my ship.”
Celcho rapped his knuckles on the side of the vessel. “Just about. You won’t be going at warp speed immediatelybut I’ve sorted out the power problem and just need to make sure I’ve put it back together correctly.”
“What was wrong?”
“It’s...complicated,” he said. Ilata gave him a look that said not to treat him like a child. “Basically your system was leaking power due to a problem between your ship’s computer and your power system. Suffice to say that it is sorted now. I’m kind of sad to have solved the problem. I enjoyed working on it. I enjoyed having you here as well. In first contacts the chief engineer often doesn’t spend much time with the contactees.”
“I have also enjoyed my time here. I will be sad to leave,” replied Ilata. By his look and his voice Celcho was sure that he was been sincere. “Maybe we don’t have to tell my superiors until tomorrow that my vessel is ready to leave?”
“I’m sure I can find a reason why my repairs will need another twenty-four hours.”
Ilata bowed his head gratefully. His gaze drifted off towards the Brumby, which had a pair of shuttle technicians working on it still. Celcho made a mental note to check up on their progress as the work should have been completed a few days ago. With that thought came an idea.
“Since you have some time to spare I have an idea for what we can do to spend some of it. Why don’t I ask the captain if he’ll let me take you out for a spin around the place in one of our shuttles? Maybe take you to the edge of the veil to have a peek beyond it?”
That perked up Ilata considerably. “I would very much like that, Pavlo.”
Celcho smiled and tapped his combadge.