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Hardball

Posted on Jan 02, 2018 @ 10:44pm by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane

Mission: Bramatine: Truth, Justice and the Federation Way

"HARDBALL"

(Continued from "Bramatine: Truth, Justice, and the Federation Way")

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Captain's log, supplemental - we have arrived at Acamar III, and I am ready to make contact with Captain Leki of the Cairo. The more I look into this situation, the more questions I find myself asking about the situation that is developing here...

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Location: USS Phoenix, orbiting Acamar III
Stardate: [2.18]0102.1335
Scene: Main bridge - deck 1, saucer section


Michael Turlogh Kane watched the main viewer as the starship Cairo came into sight, around the curve of the blue planet, catching the rays of the distant sun. The Cairo was a Horizon-class ship, a twenty-year-old design normally used for medical or transport duties, and was dwarfed by the oncoming gunmetal-grey dreadnought. It made Kane curious - why would Starfleet assign this kind of starship to assist the Acamarians in their bid for Federation membership, a bid that seemed to have stalled and gone nowhere in the last sixty years?

The planetary government on Acamar III was less than a century old. Unification had not come easily - many clans and tribes of Acamarians had refused to submit to the central government, and it had taken several years to bring everyone to the table. Federation membership, which was applied for the in 2360s, could sometimes take decades to be approved, but a delay of that magnitude was usually due to intrinsic flaws in the applicant world's society, flaws that needed to be ironed out in order to make the applicant better adapt to the Federation's generally-progressive politics. But Acamar III's application had stagnated - although having been confirmed as an associate member and protectorate a couple of decades ago, there had been no political movement to bring the planet into the Federation Assembly. The Cairo was supposed to be here to do that, to act as a Federation touchstone for the people and government of Acamar, but the mining disaster in the so-called Hungry Pits mine had shown how ineffective the Cairo's role here was - the Acamarians were still using child labour, for goodness sake - and Kane was of a mind to bring the thunder down on Captain Leki.

"The Cairo is transmitting a greeting," reported Jasmine at Tactical.

Game time. Kane moved to the centre of the bridge, standing behind Cantor Von and Tomas' Vukovic. Jake stood at his shoulder. "On screen."

The main viewer winked, but instead of the Cairo's bridge, the scene showed what must have been Captain Leki's ready room. It was a small, tidy affair. Bizarrely, Leki's desk and chair were the size of a child's, befitting the Roylan's diminutive stature, while all the other accoutrements were full-sized.

Captain Leki was sitting at her desk, with a female Tellarite standing at her shoulder. Both of them were stiff in their posture, one sitting and one standing straight up, and both of them seemed to be waiting for Kane to say something first. Their body language made Kane suspicious, even discounting Tellarite standoffishness.

"Captain Leki," he said firmly, nodding a greeting. "Michael Turlogh Kane."

The Roylan woman nodded, blinking her onyx eyes. {{Welcome to Acamar, Captain Kane.}} She waved a small green hand at the Tellarite. {{Commander Ruffahg, my Executive Officer. We've been looking forward to your arrival.}}

"No doubt, Captain. The mining tragedy on the surface has the potential to turn into a humanitarian disaster if we do not act quickly. Our first task should be to co-ordinate our efforts, make a joint plan to - "

{{Certainly, certainly,}} answered Leki. {{You and your officers are most welcome aboard the Cairo to be briefed.}}

Kane bristled. "Thank you, Captain, but the Phoenix has more resources at its disposal than the Cairo does. You and Commander Ruffahg will report to me, here, in fifteen minutes, where we will discuss the Cairo's response to the disaster. While you're at it, you can deliver a report on the current political situation on Acamar, and inform the planetary government of our arrival. They also deserve to know of our arrival." He kept his mouth shut about the mysterious planet-wide signal that had gone out a few minutes ago.

That did it. Leki and Ruffahg looked at each other. The Roylan's finger hovered over the mute button on her desktop terminal, killing the sound. Kane and Jake watched them chatter excitedly to one another.

"Captain Leki has muted the channel," reported Jasmine. She raised an eyebrow in bemusement.

Jake folded his arms. "They don't look happy, do they? My guess is that they weren't expecting these kinds of questions."

Kane shook his head in disgust. "Hundreds of child miners dead on a planet with warp technology. You'd think that they'd have left that kind of barbarous slavery behind centuries ago. Whatever the Cairo has been doing here, it's not been assisting the development of Acamarian society."

"Channel open again," said Jasmine. Kane and Jake turned their attention back to the screen.

{{Captain Kane,}} said Leki, {{I am confused.}} She was speaking in carefully measured tones, in a manner a diplomat would use rather than getting angry and swearing. {{You were sent here to assist us, were you not? I want to make it clear that the Cairo is the starship assigned to - }}

"I'm not interested in that," Kane said curtly, cutting her off. "My captain's commission is fifteen years old. I am the senior Starfleet officer in this system, and you will follow my orders. Understood?"

Leki nodded slowly. {{Understood. We will report to you as ordered.}}

"Good. Phoenix out." Kane turned away from the screen as Jasmine cut the connection. He let out a long breath and caught Jake's eye. "You think I was enough of a jerk to them?"

Jake shrugged deadpan. "Must be why they gave you the centre seat."

Kane chuckled quietly, then turned serious. "We need to get moving, Jake. While Leki explains herself to me, you prepare an away team to assess the situation at the mine. Also, find out what the hell the Acamarians themselves are doing about all this."

Jake nodded. "Understood."

Kane turned to Jasmine. "Lieutenant, will you escort Captain Leki and Commander Ruffahg to the conference room when they arrive?"

"Aye, sir."

Kane turned back to the viewer. The Cairo had joined the Phoenix in her orbital pattern now, and the distant orange sun was rising over the planet's northern hemisphere. A troubled world, with new troubles plaguing it. He thought for a moment about all the dead children, their young lives sundered and obliterated down in the dark. There were too many unanswered questions here.

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Scene: Conference Room - deck 1, saucer section


Twenty minutes later, Jasmine buzzed the door chime to the conference room, and Kane answered her. "Come."

The conference room was a plain affair, and Kane liked it that way. Its main feature was a magnificent viewing port, which ran the length of the hull-side of the room, opposite the entrance door. A long rectangular table was set in the centre of the floor, with built-in holographic controls, and the place was kept impeccably clean.

It was probably a cruel thing to do to a Roylan and a Tellarite, but Kane had deliberately chosen to meet Leki and Ruffahg here - it was a much bigger location than his ready room, and the shorter stature of the two Cairo officers would be heightened here. Both he and Jasmine would also be taller than their colleagues, and if they chose not to sit during the meeting - well, then, height advantage would remain with the Humans. Psychology was an important part of any commander's bag of tricks.

The door hissed open, and Jasmine escorted Leki and Ruffahg inside. Kane advanced on the trio, making sure to stand as close as was seemly to Leki, to emphasise the height difference. "Captain Leki," he said firmly. "Welcome aboard the Phoenix. I've never met a Roylan before - this is a first for me."

"Indeed?" It was hard to read Leki's facial expression. Her black eyes were like onyx jewels, devoid of colour or tone. "I'm pleased to be the first."

Kane motioned to the seats around the table. "Please, sit down. Lieutenant Yu will be remaining with us in case you need anything." Another euphemism - Jasmine Yu might have been built in a slender way, but she also gave off a silently confident air that an opponent would be hesitant to confront. Being unreadable was a valuable asset to a Security Chief, and Kane knew all about that department.

He watched as Leki clambered up onto a Human-sized chair, Ruffahg sitting down next to her. Jasmine moved around the table to stand her him, keeping herself in their eyeline. He noticed that both Leki and Ruffahg were carrying PADDs. "Are those your reports?" he asked.

"No, Captain," said Leki. She manipulated the controls on her PADD. "They are so we can transcribe this conversation."

"Is that right," stated Kane.

"Is is. Frankly, Captain Kane, I resent the fact that you have begun our relationship in such a confrontational way. The Cairo has been here for a much longer time than the Phoenix. Our finger is on the pulse of Acamar's leaders, its economy, its society. I expected more respect from you than I received."

Kane raised an eyebrow. He was still standing, but leaned forward to rest his fists on the table. "At no time have I been anything other than professional with you, Captain Leki. You see, I'm confused about the impact the Cairo has had on Acamar. Our orders from Starfleet indicated that you are supposed to be assisting the Acamarians on the path to Federation membership. Why has no progress been made?"

Leki and Ruffahg looked at each other. "Well," said Leki, "you need to understand Acamarian society. It's quite tribal. Some of the clans still simmer with resentment at unification. It's their culture."

"Really," said Kane with distaste. "Our orders from Starfleet also indicated that hundreds of Acamarian children have died in the Hungry Pits mine. Is child labour also part of Acamarian culture now? Because when the last Federation starship visited this world, it certainly wasn't."

Leki shrugged. "Ah, yes. You see, that has more to do with their new economy. The Acamarians have decided to concentrate on the production of the bramatine ore." She smiled weakly. "What can I say? Children make good miners."

Kane lost his temper. He lifted his fists and slammed them down on the tabletop, making everyone jump. "Not on Federation member worlds they do not!" he bellowed. "There is not one single Federation member world or colony where child labour is legal, not one! And what has the starship Cairo been doing while children have been used to mine this ore? You have been *assisting* them with their production efforts! You have been *abetting* child slavery from orbit!"

Leki squirmed in her chair. "What was I supposed to do? It's their planet, not ours!"

"You make a protest to the Federation! You inform them that, in your opinion, Acamar cannot be considered for Federation membership because of its child labour laws! You do not assist a private company with their export of an unrefined, untested, unapproved ore!"

"Pangeos Pathways have all the legitimate permits - "

"But no moral legitimacy, which is exactly what you do not have either!" Kane eyeballed both of them. "There are enough aberrations surrounding this goddam affair for me to notify the Judge-Advocate General several times over, because this stinks all the way to the Great Barrier and back. As of this moment, you will give the staff of the Phoenix your utmost and immediate co-operation while we investigate what the hell is going on here, and if I think for one second that either of you are being evasive, I will impound your starship and drag it back to the nearest Starbase! Have I made myself clear to you?"

"You have, Captain," spat Leki.

"One more thing." Kane indicated Jasmine, still standing nearby. "This is Lieutenant Yu, the Phoenix's Security Chief. She, and any other officers she chooses, are going to accompany you back to the Cairo and investigate what, if any, links exist between your starship's activities in this system and the bramatine operation being conducted by Pangeos Pathways. She is to have full clearance to search your computer in order to locate any records of conversations, meetings, requisitions, or any contact that may or may not have occurred between the Cairo and Pangeos Pathways."

"Really, Captain!" exclaimed Leki. "This is outrageous! If you are accusing us of something, then do so!"

"I don't need to accuse you. All I need to do is voice my suspicions to the JAG."

Leki simmered down. "Very well." She got off the seat and stood up, indicating for Jasmine and Ruffahg to join her. "If that is all, then I will return to my ship."

Kane gave Jasmine a look as she left the room with Leki and Ruffahg. He felt like he was sending Jasmine into the lion's den, but there was anything untoward happening in the Acamar system, surely neither Leki nor Ruffahg would be stupid enough to harm her. He could only hope not.

He lifted his head and spoke into the air. "Kane to Crichton."

[[Crichton here. Go ahead.]]

Kane glanced down at Acamar III. The azure planet tumbled silently by. "Are you ready to beam to the surface?"

[[Yes, Captain. I'll be accompanied by Doctor Foster and Ensign Ryan.]]

Kane frowned. "Not Doctor Jos?"

[[No, sir. Doctor Jos is treating - ]]

Kane remembered, and he closed his eyes. "The pug. I remember. Very well, Commander. Beam down to the Hungry Pits mine and make an assessment of the situation there. Report your findings to the ship as soon as possible so we can begin a humanitarian operation. Bring back a sample of the bramatine ore for analysis. Something's going on that I can't put my finger on."

[[Understood, Captain. Crichton out.]]

The connection closed, but Kane lingered in the conference room, looking out at the planet, the Cairo, and the stars. He found himself hoping that Jake and Jasmine would report back quickly - he couldn't shake a bad feeling about this mission, like the Phoenix was pushing against an invisible force that might swat them aside for their trouble. There was also the situation developing in sickbay with the pug, but that hardly seemed important just yet. No, he had done everything he could, for now.

There was nothing else he could do but wait.

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NRPG: Moving things along. Jake, Cade, and Lynette have beamed down to the Hungry Pit mine to make an initial assessment. Jasmine (plus anyone she wants to bring with her) are aboard the Cairo to do a computer audit.

Everyone else is aboard the Phoenix. I stayed away from talking about what caused the pug's meltdown, but the grimdark is licking its chops. Finally, it might get to chew on Smooshy (if nobody ties that subplot into the main one)!

A Roylan is the name of Keenser's species - he is the little green alien in Engineering that Scotty is always yelling "Get down!" at.

JAMIE: That's your set-up for the thing that you were talking about, if you still want to do it. But you should. You definitely should ;)


Jerome McKee
the Soul of Captain Michael Turlogh Kane
Commanding Officer
USS PHOENIX


"He speaks an infinite deal of nothing!"
- Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", Act 1, Scene 1.117

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