“The President will see you now, Admiral Shran,” the young aide said politely to the Andorian waiting in the outer office. Hawth Shran nodded and he stood, tugging his uniform taut against his lean body. The former Chief of Starfleet Operations nodded his thanks and walked into the office where the President and his guests stood in greeting.
“Admiral Shran,” the President said warmly as he crossed the room and shook the officers hand.
“I believe you know everyone here? Ambassador Mar of Argellius II is the ranking Councilwoman on the Starfleet Oversight Committee; Director Maurice Fontain is the head of the Federation Bureau of Investigation—and the interim Chief of Starfleet Operations.”
Shran frowned. “Yes, I am familiar with both of them, Mister President, and it is precisely this matter that I requested a private discussion over.”
“Please sit, Admiral,” the President said as he took his own seat, followed by the others and Shran. The Bolian sighed. Min Zife had become President in the aftermath of Admiral Leyton’s coup attempt . . . which had led to the fall of President Jaresh-Inyo’s government. And it was beginning to appear that Zife would be a one-term President as well, with Mar leading the opposition over the failures of the Federation government to adequately deal with the humanitarian and environmental impact of the Dominion War. Zife leaned back in his seat and he looked again at the man who shared skin coloration with him, and he smiled. Appointed Hwath Shran as Chief of Starfleet Operations had been his first action and the man had worked wonders in bypassing the bureaucracy and cutting through the deadwood to win the Dominion War. At which point he had stepped down, leaving Josiah Parker to win the peace. And Zife sighed again.
“I believe that I know why you are here, Admiral. But in the event that I am mistaken, perhaps you can inform me.”
“This matter of Admiral Parker’s arrest—and the lack of civil liberties being allowed to him in confinement—has caused great . . . unease in Starfleet. I am here to find out for myself, Mister President, exactly why he was arrested, why his rights under Federation law have been suspended, and why a civilian has been appointed to a post held previously—throughout the history of this government—by a member of Starfleet.”
Fontain frowned. “Admiral Shran, the Bureau does not discuss on-going investigations and cases with anyone—your request is out of line!”
But Zife held up one hand and he nodded to Mar, who had begun to reply, but then closed her mouth.
“Thank you, Mister President,” she said calmly. “Director, these are not normal circumstances. And given the penetration of this government by the Founders and the circumstances that surrounded the Leyton Coup, I feel it would be more than appropriate to brief the Admiral. Indeed, it might well prevent rash action being taken by those who are accusing President Zife of rail-roading a decorated veteran with many years of honorable service.”
Zife made himself nod in agreement—she was his principle opponent, diametrically opposed on many issues, so he could not afford to antagonize her when she defended him. “I quite agree. Admiral Shran has clearance for this information and I am granting him need-to-know, Director.”
Fontain looked down and then he grudgingly nodded. “Admiral,” he said looking Shran directly in the eyes, “you are aware of the recent loss of USS Balao and the attack on USS Republic, yes?”
“I am, Director.”
“The attackers against Republic had access to her command codes, Admiral,” he said as Shran grew rigid. Fontain nodded again. “And USS Eagle managed to recover some of the debris from Balao; they confirmed that the weapon signatures from that attack were Klingon in origin. The Bureau began an intensive investigation into how Republics command codes found there way into the hands of this renegade—and we discovered that those codes, as well as the command codes for Balao had been transmitted to a known Orion Syndicate operative directly from the home of Admiral Parker, using Admiral Parker's own personal comm codes.”
Shran released a hiss of breathe as if someone had just punched him in the belly.
The President shook his head. “I would never have though Josiah would betray his fellow Starfleet officers, but the evidence is damning, Admiral. Director Fontain brought this matter to my attention twenty-four hours ago, and I was the one who ordered the immediate arrest and sequestration of Admiral Parker.”
Mar chimed in. “It was deemed imperative to prevent Admiral Parker from destroying any incriminating files that might have resulted from going through normal channels. In consultation with the Federation Council, the President and the Director decided to hold Admiral Parker in isolation until the investigation into files at Starfleet Command and elsewhere has been completed—we expect that investigation to come to an end within the next week. If,” and Mar shook her head, “if Admiral Parker was part of a criminal conspiracy within Starfleet, it behooves us to act quickly to identify those other conspirators—those men and women who would murder the entire crew of two Starships, and bring them to justice. Following normal procedure would give those officers—if they exist—an opportunity to cover their trail and hide their crimes.”
“The investigation has further revealed that four deceased men found at the residence of Captain Dahlgren’s family, who may have been involved in an attack upon that family, were also connected to the same Orion that Parker had contact with,” Fontain reported, and he shook his head sadly. “I hope—I pray—that this is just a case of one man being overwhelmed by mental illness and his passions. Our investigation has turned up that despite appearances to the contrary, Admiral Parker has been . . . jealous of Matthew Dahlgren for quite some time, both professionally and socially. His own encrypted personal logs indicate that he gave Captain Dahlgren command of Republic hoping that he would fail to rehabilitate that ship, so that he might then comfort Dahlgren’s ex-wife and win her love. He must have had these delusions for years, but no one saw the signs.”
Shran sat there in stunned disbelief. “You have evidence of all of this?”
The President nodded. “We do. The Director has shown it to me and the Director . . .,” he paused and gave Fontain a long look, “will make it available for your examination.”
Fontain bristled, but at last he nodded.
“I would have thought my right arm more likely to betray me than Josiah Parker betray his oath,” Shran whispered.
“As did I, Admiral,” Zife said sadly. “As did I.”
“Admiral,” Mar said softly. “Director Fontain is the interim Chief of Starfleet Operations—he is not going to be appointed as the permanent Chief. Indeed, he is only there to make certain that evidence has not been disposed of at Starfleet Command. I believe that the President is planning on asking you to resume that post to restore confidence to Starfleet.”
Zife nodded sharply. “I am, Admiral Shran. Perhaps it will ease that unease you mentioned when you can reveal to your officers and men that you have seen the evidence against Admiral Parker, and that we are not acting rashly here.”
“I had expected to return to Andoria, to take command of the Fourth Fleet, Mister President,” Shran answered after a moment. “But I will accept your offer and resume my post as Chief of Starfleet Operations for the good of the Fleet.”
“Thank you, Hwath,” Zife whispered as he stood, followed by everyone else. “Director Fontain will have the files delivered to your office—by courier. You cannot make copies of them, and you can only examine them in the presence of the courier, who will return them to the Bureau after you have seen enough.”
Zife walked around the desk and he shook the Andorian’s hand once more. “Let this be the final tragedy of the War we have fought, Admiral Shran. And together, let us restore Starfleet and the Federation to her former glory.”
“Thank you for taking the time to explain this me, Mister President. Director, Ambassador.” Shran said and then he turned on his heel and exited the office. As the door closed behind him, he swallowed heavily and he shook his head. No, Josiah Parker would never have done anything like this, he thought. Others yes, that he would believe, but not Josiah. He gathered himself as the President’s aide looked at him in concern, and then he nodded to her and left behind the politicians. Something is rotten in San Francisco, he thought as he entered the turbolift that would take him to ground level. He started to tap his comm badge, but then he forced down his hand. No. Not here. And not through official channels. But rest assured, Josiah, I will find out who is framing you—and why. The turbolift came to a halt, the doors slid open, and Shran walked free of the building with his head held high and with a purpose in his stride.