Randall Landers and Rob Morris
Captain Gretchen Jaeger had long since erased the memory of any marital affection she had once had Pavel Chekov. Their relationship had been strained to the breaking point when she had been offered the executive officers posting aboard the Alliance, and he had chosen to remain with the Enterprise. They allowed their marriage contract to lapse and had moved on to other pastures, with a touch of bitterness that their partners had been unwilling or unable to sacrifice each others careers. The bitterness remained for years, but over time was mellowing to the point where it was becoming bittersweet.
That was until the Alliance had been caught on the wrong side of the Neutral Zone, and the Romulans had attacked and destroyed the last remaining dreadnought. The crew had escaped, and it was true that the Enterprise-B had rescued the survivors. Unfortunately, the captain of the Alliance, Daniel Michael Williams, had been killed in the initial Romulan attack, and Gretchen Jaeger had blamed his death on Pavel Chekov. As Captain of the Enterprise-B, Chekov had made the decision to remain on the Federation side of the Neutral Zone. His decision damned himself in Jaegers opinion, and she would never forgive him for what she perceived as cowardice. Never.
So when the message from Starfleet Operations had come in directing her to conduct interviews of the Enterprise command crew over the Arog-Da'M creature, the Cho-ta'M Directorate and the Romulan takeover of NGC-2548, she had leapt at the opportunity to grill them over those events. Her mandate had not limited the scope of her investigation, and she had decided to take the bull by the balls.
Following the destruction of the Alliance, she had become convinced that there was a Romulan agent aboard the Enterprise-B, one that had Chekovs ear. She knew Pavel wasnt a Romulan agent, but she also knewknew, damn it!that her ex-husband was being influenced by one of his command staffers who was. The precedent had been set by Valeris, and she had no doubt of the identity of the Romulan agent. But she had started her interviews with the other officers, including Peter Kirk and Roberta Vasquez, to see if they were sympathizers, or worse, actual Romulans like Ensign Rathan had been.
She had hoped Peter Kirk was. She had been there when he had disabled the Enterprise and worked with the Klingons and a corrupt security officer in an attempt to sabotage the mission to Dianas. But the glib, slippery S.O.B. had answered every question truthfully, and she had to clear him. She thought Vasquez and Chterr might have been sympathizers, but they had been cleared as well. The others in the command staff had been cleared as well leaving her with her primary suspect to go: Saavik.
And she was going damned to the lower levels of Hell itself before she let Saavik go...
Pavel Andreievich Chekov had allowed Grechen Jaegers pointed yet pointless interrogation of his crew to see where all this was leading. She had tried her best to convict Peter Kirk, refusing to see the once troubled young man had indeed been reformed and rehabilitated. She had worked as hard on Roberta Vasquez, Chterr, and even Christine Chapel, but to no avail. And it was clear to Chekov that fairly soon, he would have to risk the ire of Starfleet Operations and put a stop to these absurd proceedings.
Now Jaeger had Saavik on the chair, its verifier unit glowing brightly beneath her hand, and Chekov hoped his executive officer would soon be cleared.
"So youre a Romulan?" asked Jaeger.
Very soon, before Saavik decides to break Gretchens neck.
"Captain Jaeger, I am obviously half-Romulan. My mother was a Romulan centurion, my father a Vulcan agent on Hellguard who succumbed to pon farr. This is all information that can be accessed in my personnel file."
"And what is your opinion on the Romulan government? Are you a sympathizer?"
"I do not trust the Romulan Star Empire, and would reject any claims that it has changed. I hold no common ground with their goals and have no desire to live under their totalitarian rule."
"Are you spying for them?"
"That would be illogical. Conducting espionage for them would only further their goals which are antithetical to my goals."
"The witness account is accurate. No physiological changes."
"Did you advise Captain Chekov to abandon the Alliance while it was under Romulan attack?"
"I expressed my opinion that the entry of the Enterprise into the Neutral Zone in an attempt to rescue the Alliance would only escalate the situation."
"An opinion expressed by Ambassador Spock as well," Chekov mumbled under his breath. "Is that was this is all about, Captain Jaeger?"
Jaeger ignored the question. "Mister Saavik, it was the Romulans who were at the dead center of a vast conspiracy two years ago, aided and abetted by a Vulcan traitor who also bore a grudge against the Klingons. If you were such an operative, you would view yourself as allying with someone distasteful to achieve larger goals."
"Now it is you who are testifying, Captain Jaeger," remarked Chekov.
Jaeger disregarded his remarks as well. "Answer my question, Commander Saavik!"
"You didnt ask one," the executive officer replied emotionlessly.
"Very well, let me spell it out for you: Did you aid and abet the Romulans by advising Captain Chekov not to enter the Neutral Zone to rescue Alliance to advance your own goals?"
Saavik answered, "Captain, I am not a Romulan spy of any stripe or sort. I have no goals or causes other than those Ive sworn to uphold in my oath and allegiance to Starfleet. Further, I am not Valeris. I would never work with agents within and without the Federation to bring about war. Finally, I am not answering any more questions without an officer of the judge advocate generals office present and without each one being proceeded by a direct order from Fleet Captain Chekov to comply."
"You are dismissed, Mister Saavik. But have it known that your lack of cooperation in this vital matter is going on your record."
Saavik finally lashed out, her emotional restraint exhausted. "You call this a vital matter, Captain. Yet our advance notice was of a debriefing on the space monster our ship encountered, the fall of the Cho-taM Directorate and the Romulan takeover of that distant star cluster. You appear to have exceeded your mandate, in my opinion, and you appear to have no objectivity in this matter."
"While the subjects state is one of highly charged emotion, she is relaying what she believes to be a factual, although subjective, account," offered the computer unbidden.
"This 'ambush style' of questioning serves no purpose save a personal one, and that appears to be a matter between Fleet Captain Chekov and yourself. May I please be excused?"
"You are dismissed, Mister Saavik," Chekov nodded in approval. "Kyptin Jaeger and I have much to discuss."
Without another word, Saavik went back out into the waiting area.
"So youll never forgive me for Williams death," Chekov began.
Jaeger shook her head. "Never."
"Even though you and he were responsible for this situation?"
"How dare you?!"
"You accepted a mission on behalf of Starfleet Intelligence that cost Starfleet its last remaining dreadnought and quite a number of its crew, including its commanding officer whom I gather had replaced me in your heart."
She blinked. "You dont know what youre talking about."
"Dont I? Gretchen, Ive dealt vwith secret orders. The mission to NGC-2548 vwas an example of it, and it cost me several good officers. But in this instance, youve clearly overstepped your assignment, and I vwill be reporting this matter to the JAG office for this sector. I also vwill be contacting Commodore Alden about the immediate departure of my ship from this starbase. I vwill also be detailing his incompetence in allowing you to conduct this vwitchhunt on his vwatch. Youve come after me and my crew during this nonsense, and I think its time I return the favor. I vwill be filing a complaint against you with Commander-Starfleet vwithin the hour."
She sat there. "I dont think your friends in high places will help you this time, Chekov."
"I would hope that this time having friends in high places never matters. What matters is whats right and whats wrong, and clearly you are in the wrong." He stood from the uncomfortable chair. "This farce is over. I strongly suggest that in the future, you recuse yourself in matters concerning the Sixth Fleet."
"Where do you think youre going?"
"Im heading straight to Commodore Aldens office right now. Goodbye, Gretchen."
The door closed behind Chekovs retreating form.
"Time to go, Gretchen."
Jaeger turned and looked at Kevin Riley, unsurprised by his sudden appearance. "Go where? My orders"
"Gretchen, I cut those orders myself. You were to interview them about that biological weapon/monster, not Galorndon Core."
"I was also supposed to interview them about the Cho-ta'M Directorate and the Romulan takeover of star cluster 2548."
"Not directly it didnt."
She quoted from memory. "You are authorized to review the actions of the Enterprise crew in regards to their relations with the fallen Cho-taM Directorate and the forces which overthrew them."
"Like I said."
"Who overthrew them, Captain?"
"The Romulans, of course."
"No, Gretchen. The point of this exercise was to help Fleet Captain Chekov to recognize that the Enterprise was basically responsible for fall of the Cho-ta'M Directorate. By destroying the space monster the Directorate used to control that star cluster, they upset the balance of power, and allowed the Romulans to takeover."
She stared at him for a full minute, growing redder by the second. "Then why in Hell didnt you tell me that in the first place?"
"Because I thought you were smart enough to figure it out for yourself, damn it, Jaeger! What the fuck has happened to you? You get these orders, this chance to help a fleet captain realize that there are far more consequences to his actions in the Beta Quadrant than he might suppose, and what do you do? You go off the deep end, and start your own little drumhead to find some bogey-Romulans in his crew. You, my dear, are an idiot. Dont you think Starfleet Intelligence did checks on the rest of his crew after Rathan was discovered to be a Romulan? Dont you think Starfleet Command didnt investigate them fully before assigning Chekov to the rank of Fleet Captain? No? Thats the problem, Gretchen. Its obvious you...dont...think..."
"Let me tell you what I think, Riley. You didnt have the balls to confront Chekov yourself, and so you set me up to educate the new darling of Commander-Starfleet Davis. And it didnt work because I know"
"You know nothing. I am a pariah to most of Starfleet, and I want to keep it that way. Becoming some sort of big brother to Fleet Captain Chekov wouldnt serve anyones purpose. Keeping me a villain is for the greater good, I promise, because theres still some nastiness I have to do."
"Funny you should bring that up, Riley. My personal security officer has disappeared. You killed Susan Howard, didnt you? That sweet little girl."
Riley shrugged. "Sweet? She was a vengeful sociopath, Captain. One who no one, including you, had a prayer of controlling any longer. To quote Bob Dylan, when you live outside the law, you must remain honest. She promised both of us that she would leave her antagonism at the door, that she could do her job. She lied to us, and she would lie again. To tell you the truth, Intelligence is no longer finding such people useful, and putting assassins like her in situations where they have to put aside their vile nature and expecting them to behave is pointless."
"So where does that leave us? Im dead as well, right?"
Kevin Riley laughed. "Hardly, my dear. While its true that youve not been very useful in this endeavor, in the past, youve always helped Intelligence defend the interests of the Federation. Your mission in Sector R-3 was essential. Its a tragedy that Williams was killed, of course, but he knew the risk as well. It surprised us as well to see that your ship was intercepted, but that only confirmed our suspicions that the cloaked Romulan repair station in that sector was conducting vital military research by monitoring our fleet maneuvers. And lets not forget how Alliance was instrumental in getting that Klingon defector safely out of that Acamarian prison. You were personally brilliant there, you know."
"Thanks," she said, blushing. She was going to be taken off-guard.
"But you are going to learn not to radically rewrite orders to suit petty personal agendas," Riley went on, "and youre going to have to face the consequences for what happened here."
"What do you mean?"
"Youre going to plead guilty of the charges when the JAG office and Commodore Alden confront you. You will apologize to them for your dereliction of duty. You will apologize to Fleet Captain Chekov and to his command crew. You will never do this sort of thing again."
"Okay, then what?"
"Then youre going to get busted to Commander and be assigned to the transport-tug Al Rashid, under the command of Captain David Walking-Bear. And you will behave. Period."
"And if I dont?"
"Then youll find yourself at the Tantalus Penal Colony, if I decide to be generous. And if not, well, lets just say that...youll be missed, Im sure." He studied her face. "Do you need time to consider it?"
Jaeger shook her head firmly. "No...well, one: To what fleet is the Al Rashid assigned?"
Riley nodded in approval. "Why its the Sixth Fleet, I do believe." He smiled broadly. "After all, I do need someone to keep an eye on the Beta Quadrant after all."
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