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Posted on Wednesday January 11th, 2017 @ 6:52am by Commander Magnus Sterling & Ensign Mirenna Ral

Mission: Enemies Closer
Location: Intelligence Facilities
Timeline: MD4 0735 Hours

Commander Magnus Alastair Sterling rounded a corridor junction and halted before a heavy secured door, flanked by an armed security crewman. There were few truly restricted areas of the ship, most sensitive locations were secured with automated security features to allow only permitted personnel access. And then there were those locations far too sensitive to trust to automation, such as the very hub of intelligence and strategic operations aboard Excelsior. The list of authorized personnel to this area was very short indeed, fortunately Excelsior's Command Staff, who are given the responsibility of acting on intelligence processed by these facilities, was naturally permitted access.

After the guard verified Sterling's identity, he punched a command code into the door panel - effectively alerting the on-duty officers inside of Sterling's arrival. Then Sterling inputted his own command code authorization, additionally the computer quietly verified his identity through biometric comparisons, and finally the facilities personnel acknowledged the verification. Only then could the reinforced security door open. Once past the security measures, the facilities became open to Sterling. He clasped his hands behind him as Ensign Mirenna Ral approached him.

“Commander,” she acknowledged him politely.

“Ensign, good morning. I wanted to check in with you on your progress.” He said, preferring to get straight to business.

“Yes, sir,” she replied. “This way,” she gestured towards a side office. Inside were a couple modest desks piled high with PADDs, several large wall monitors scrolled vast amounts of data, but in the center of the room was a free-standing transparent display with a collage of data and colored lines haphazardly linking between objects creating a vast web of intrigue.

Ral regarded the haphazard collage alongside Sterling, likely sensing his interest. “Starfleet Intelligence is still trying to get a grasp of the geopolitical shift of the region following the Borg attack.”

Sterling followed some of the glowing colored lines from block of text to block of text. “Without trade with the Alpha Quadrant, most of our relations with neighboring powers has cooled significantly, I would expect that. I would also expect heightened border security following a attack, but this looks much worse.”

Ral nodded. “Unfortunately, even before the attack, we noticed a pattern of increasing resistance and hostility towards our presence here in the Delta Quadrant, it seemed planned and coordinated. Now it’s almost like a whole new quadrant.”

“Which is why we’re out here now. Anyway, back to the task at hand, ensign: how is your investigation progressing?”

“Over here, sir,” she said drawing Sterling’s attention to a wall monitor, divided into several screens, the largest one scrolled through data quickly, highlighting entries and moving them into adjacent screens. “The computer is still compiling and sorting the personnel records according to the criteria I programmed. I pulled copies of files from every remaining starship and Diogara Station, compared them together to get the most complete file possible and eliminated duplicate or outdated entries, parsed out personnel on assignment in the Alpha and Beta quadrants, cross referencing-- I’m sorry, I’m rambling on again.” She chuckled nervously. “It’s… well it’s a lot of data, and incomplete at that.”

“Any candidates yet?”

“Yes and no.” She tapped one of the screens which expanded to fill the display. Hundreds of names began scrolling past. “All of these officers are experts in computer systems and communications, and are unaccounted for. Mostly because of gaps in the records. There were also a large number of personnel listed as MIA after the attack, technically unaccounted for but likely not our culprit.” She quickly tapped the screen again suppressed the emotional memories of the attack, the screen shrank back to it’s previous size.

On a nearby screen a dossier was open, the image of a Starfleet officer appeared and his vital statistics. Sterling knew that any dossier crossing the desk of an intelligence officer was a person of interest. “Who’s that, ensign?”

Ral glanced at the screen briefly and then back towards Sterling. “A separate inquiry. A marine sergeant asked me to locate a Starfleet officer last stationed on Starbase 900. Since I was trolling the databases for officers anyway, I ran this inquiry as well.”

“Who is he?” Sterling asked. He had a strong feeling he needed to learn more about this man - an instinct that this bore some relevance. He’d often had hunches and gut-feelings in his past, he had learned while not always accurate they were always advantageous.

The betazoid seemed to sense this and her body language reflected her sudden suspicion. “It does seem rather convenient I received the query from the sergeant as I was performing a similar search.” She quickly switched screens, bring the dossier to direct scrutiny.

“Lieutenant Felix Leighter, Operations Supervisor, Delta Directorate, Office of Starfleet Intelligence, Starbase 900.” Ral read off. “So, naturally, most of his file is classified above my security clearance - above anyone’s security clearance in fact.” She scrolled through pages of gibberish encrypted data.

“What clearance level?”

Ral pursed her lips. “That’s actually classified as well,” she warned.

“Sigma scale then.” In response to Ral’s disbelieving agape countenance Sterling offered a reassuring smile. “I also used to work in SI once upon a time,” and left it at that. He then turned back to the dossier. “If that’s the case, then this Felix Leighter was managing some serious deep-intel operations. There could be a whole network of deep-cover Starfleet Intelligence operatives out there, with no way to check in anymore. And none of them would show up in your records search.”

Ral palmed her forehead. “Of course! Operative records are either expunged or updated with misinformation. We’re very thorough at it, it’s nearly impossible to detect an erroneous personnel file. That’s a whole new, more elaborate search query: updates propagate across datastores via the subspace network, if I can isolate a time range, I can search for personnel files updated originating from Starbase 900 during that time. That would give me a much narrower group to cull information from.”

“Or,” Sterling said with a half-smile, “we can ask this marine sergeant what he knows.”

Ral let out an exasperating sigh. “Sorry, sir, I should have considered that. It was too obvious.”

“Don’t worry, ensign. You’ve been working hard trying to run us down a lead, I know first hand how data analysis can draw you into tunnel vision. I’ll talk to the marine sergeant. Meanwhile carry-on here, and we’ll compare notes later. What’s the sergeant’s name?”

She shuffled through some PADDs on her desk and found the one that had the written request for information submitted by the sergeant. “Staff Sergeant Nichol Meyers,” she answered.

“Excellent. Carry-on, ensign.” As Sterling was one step out the door, he turned back quickly. “By the way, did he survive? Lieutenant Leighter, I mean.”

“MIA” Ral said grimly.


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