Episode 1: Hell is a four letter word
Timeline: In the Wind media circus +3 hours
Analise Evans was flat out pissed. She’d flown out here at maximum warp for two days on a commercial freighter that looked like it was stolen from a scrap yard to get a story behind the Aubrey Tate breakout and that jackass Billoit had kept her from asking a single question, either by shouting over her or making Marshall Lopez so angry that she shut the press conference down. She sat in an eatery not far from the Embassy, across the table from that idiotic girl from the fashion mag, fuming as she stared at her lasagna.
“So, uh, Miss Evans, are you alright?” Cara Starfire, real name Carin Staretsky, asked.
“I couldn’t get a word in edgewise because of that son of a bitch.” She snarled in reply, pointing to Billoit sitting at the far end of the bar, regaling his idiot followers with his latest tale of journalistic assassination, briefly remembering how happy she was when FNN had fired him ten years prior, “And, you, you get a chance and you ask about her fucking hair…”
“Sorry.” Cara said sheepishly, “But my beat is fashion and it is a very daring and sexy cut…”
“Do you want to do stories about celebrity haircuts all your career, Cara?” Analise groaned, the pretty young woman across from her clearly didn’t get it, “Don’t you want something more from your life?”
“Uh, yeah, I mean, I guess.” The younger woman replied, pointing over her shoulder to Billoit, “Mr. Billoit offered to help me get on his show…”
“Oh, wake up, Cara!” Analise groaned, “Mr. Billoit wants to get in your pants, nothing more. Is that what you want? To be someone’s booty call? Or do you want to be a real, serious journalist?”
“Maybe if he was cuter…” She began, Analise Evans’ stinkeye from across the table convincing her that changing her answer was her best call, “No, I want to be an awesome serious journalist!” She paused a second before looking at her tablemate timidly, “Right?”
“That’s my girl.” Analise smiled, though the idea that her new friend might be a hopeless cause journalistically was hard to shake, “So here’s what we’re going to do, we’re going back to the Embassy.”
“We can’t do that.” Cara replied, shocked, then asking, “Can we?”
“Oh, yeah.” The more experienced reporter replied, “I’ve got an in with the Ambassador, I served in Starfleet information when she was still an Admiral, she might not remember me, but if she does…” Analise began to chuckle confidently, seeing light at the end of this tunnel.
“If she does what?” Cara asked, she was missing something there.
“Just get your purse, kid.” Analise shook her head, pulling out her FNN credit card and paying for both of their meals, seemed the kid’s chicken shit outfit hadn’t sent her per diem yet and the kid was broke.
[[One Hour Later]]
Analise and Cara stood a few meters away from the Embassy’s front gate, it was guarded even more heavily than usual, “Looks like they doubled their security patrols.” Analise sighed, “Zhukov is pissed.”
“Wait, I got this.” Cara smiled, patting her friend’s shoulder, dashing up to the guards before Analise could tell her not to do it, “Hey, guys.” She cooed sexily, lifting her shirt to expose her breasts to the guards.
Analise, watching from her vehicle, put her palm over her face then drug it down, “Idiot..” She growled, quicktiming it to the guard shack, hopefully before they shot Cara, “Uh, hi, guys, uh, yeah, she’s with me, Analise Evans, FNN…”
“What’s your girlfriend’s problem, ma’am?” Staff Sergeant Kragen asked, shooting the younger one a glare that caused her to instantly cover herself..
“Uh, she’s not my girlfriend…” Analise started.
“What’s your hooker’s problem, ma’am?” Kragen ‘corrected’ himself.
“We’re journalists, Sergeant, I’m from FNN and she’s from another news source.” Analise continued to explain.
“That’s great.” Kragen rolled his eyes, “Doesn’t answer my original question though, ma’am. What possessed this flaming idiot to run up here and flash me and my men?”
“It worked when I was in Boner Academy 3.” Cara shrugged, writing for Style Weekly was just a sideline while she was between roles.
“Boner Academy 3?” Analise groaned, wishing she had left the kid to pay the check now and come here alone, “Sergeant, I was hoping we could speak to Col. Tate, along with Marshalls Lopez and ne-Tron. If you’d tell Ambassador Zhukov that Ens. Evans from her information office is here I’m sure she’d be thrilled to see me again after all this time.”
“I’m more inclined to believe she’s going to tell you to piss off, ma’am..” Kragen laughed at her, “But I’ll relay the message.”
“Thank you, Sergeant.” Analise smiled sweetly, turning to Cara and saying low, “Boner Academy 3? REALLY? Could you be any stupider?”
“So you think I should’ve taken the chance to come back for part four?” Cara asked, she still didn’t get it.
“You guys aren’t going to believe this shit.” Kragen laughed and shook his head, “The old lady says send them in.” He pressed his hand to a biometric screen, opening the gates behind them, “Ridgely, you and Gummel take them to see the Ambassador, be ready to toss them on a moment’s notice.”
“Thank you very much, Sergeant.” Analise said politely, leading Cara in by the wrist, “Okay, follow my lead and mind your manners. No hair questions and keep your shirt on, got it?”
“Right.” Cara nodded, though she’d really thought her tactic was going to work, just like in Boner Academy 3.
Ten minutes later they were in the Ambassador’s outer chamber, waiting for someone, anyone, to come talk to them.
[[Inside Ambassador Zhukov’s Office]]
“Damn it, Kerri, I’m not going to let them run you out of here or out of the Marines.” Zhukov said angrily, she’d spent the last several hours arguing with her Chief of Security.
“Madam Ambassador, it’s the only way…” Kerri began, quickly cut off by her boss.
“Oh, bullshit.” She snapped, turning to Marisol, “Can you talk some sense into her, please?”
“I can try.” Marisol shrugged.
“Umm, I hate to interrupt, but there are two reporters outside waiting for somebody to talk to them.” Stafford interjected, “We might not want to leave them hanging for too long, that would give them time to let their imaginations run wild like that boy during the conference.”
“Damn it, she’s right.” Zhukov sighed, turning to Saris, “Saris, dear, would you be willing to speak to them? I’m otherwise occupied.”
“Yes, of course”, Saris said. “I’ll give you a chance to convince Kerri not to act rashly.” She locked her red eyes on Kerri’s. “If that is possible.”
“Thank you so much, child.” Zhukov smiled back, “And please send my regards to Analise, I wish I could spend some time with her catching up on old times, but I’m clearly very busy.”
Saris grumbled. She did not appreciate being referred to as ‘child’, not even her own mother used those exact terms. But she knew this wasn’t the time to argue the point and instead she got up and walked out.
In the antechamber, she saw who the reporters were and made a face, pointing to a group of lounge chairs by the window. “For the record”, she said, “Yes, I do my wife’s hair. And no, I’m not commercially available and will not make holo recordings for home use. And this is all I’m going to say on the matter, and I won’t entertain questions.”
“Uh, yeah, sorry about that.” Cara replied, “It’s just that I write for a style magazine and your wife is a celebrity, a very fashionable one. Millions of women the galaxy over would love to look that beautiful. So I, like had a duty to report on it.”
“I know they do”, Saris smiled. Marisol always looked great, no matter the hairstyle.
“But we’re here on more serious business.” Evans offered, “I’m going to show my friend the ropes of serious journalism and, before you ask, we did not invite that bastard Billoit along. Look, I’ll level with you, something smells funny about this entire thing, Marshall na-Tron, I think we’re being fed a line and I don’t like being played for a sucker, especially not when they expect me to turn around and sell the same crap to my viewers. Am I wrong?”
“Partially”, Saris said. “The one thing you’re definitely wrong about is my name. My uncle and his wife are the na-Trons, my name is ne-Tron. The vowel indicates degree of relation in a family structure, from the head of the family.” She smirked. “I know, not what you came to learn. You’re right, when we received the order to come here we didn’t understand it ourselves. And we don’t know why someone wanted to move Aubrey Tate to begin with. He was in a secure facility, a danger to nobody. And he certainly didn’t come to Vulcan, he knows telepaths are a major weakness if he wants to stay hidden.”
“Naturally.” Evans nodded, “Is Col. Tate a suspect? And by that I mean is she a credible suspect or is this someone jumping at shadows and drawing a conclusion?”
“Right.” Cara nodded along, “And where do you think the Sandman is headed?”
“She isn’t”, Saris said. “And I’m not just saying that because she’s family now. She is saddened by what her brother has become, we know he’s not actually evil, he has a deep-seated mental condition that makes him uncontrollably violent, and she knows that it’s the best thing for him and for everyone else if he’s kept in a secure facility, and only gets to interact with holographic people, or at least holographic projections of real people from a safe location. Any change is bad for him, and despite everything, she loves him. She’s his sister, how could she do otherwise? She would never do something that’s bad for him.”
“I see, I see.” Analise agreed, typing the quote into her padd, “Though when he escaped after kidnapping Captain chi-Trei, your wife believed there was probable cause to suspect then Capt. Tate, correct? What changed, aside from your relationship? If you’re at liberty to say, of course.”
“Many things”, Saris said. “Back then, Col. Tate was under Captain chi-Trei’s command, she was physically close, and we believe her brother had in fact come to seek her out. We naturally suspected anyone who has a relationship with him, but we cleared her. It’s how this kind of work is done. You look at what the possibilities are, then you try to find evidence to support your idea, but also evidence that contradicts it. Both kinds get you closer to the truth, and some ideas you can eventually rule out.”
“So you were able to discover that, like, she didn’t do it, right?” Cara offered, having forgotten that the Marshall hadn’t answered her original question.
Saris nodded. “That’s what I said, isn’t it?”
“She’s trying.” Analise shrugged, “Your wife referred to trying to send an FRT to Toriachade where Mr. Tate and his family were born and lived until his original arrest…”
“But that’s in Cardassian territory now.” Cara stated, “Do you expect the Cardassians to really let an FRT into their borders to search for him?”
Analise was impressed, it seemed Miss Boner Academy 3 had finally gotten one right.
“I don’t see why not”, Saris said. “Relations with the current Cardassian government have been amicable. Even war veterans have to admit that they’re not so bad now. I spoke with the Gul in charge of the sector while on my way here, and she agrees that the potential danger Aubrey Tate poses is worth the effort.”
“It totally is!” Cara added emphatically, “I so would not want to get into my vehicle and find the Sandman sitting there…”
Saris cocked her head to the side, focusing her antennae on the younger journalist. “The sandman?”
“Yeah, that was a nickname one of the other reporters, an ex-cop named Bobby Fischer, hung on him.” Cara answered, “Because everyone who meets him seems to go nighty night for a dirt nap.”
“Bobby Fisher is an idiot”, Saris stated. “The Sandman is a friendly, elf-like figure who tells bedtime stories to children so they can go to sleep and have fanciful dreams. It is not appropriate here.”
“Wow, um, sorry.” Cara apologized, she hadn’t meant to offend anyone.
“Anyway, nicknames and old FIS agents aside, I want to focus on more pressing questions.” Analise said, refocusing the conversation on the business at hand, “He simply dropped to his knees and surrendered when Marshall Lopez arrested him, did he ever say why?”
Saris shook her head. “No, and I don’t think he understands it himself. The working theory is that he ran out of anger, out of aggression, maybe adrenaline. Captain chi-Trei reported she had a civilised conversation with him, and that he even tried to make her comfortable. It is my belief that he is not himself when the red mist descends, and that he regrets his actions during his lucid moments.” She would kill him the next chance she got, but not out of hatred for him. She believed she’d be doing everyone a favour, including Aubrey Tate himself.
“Colonel Tate and a now Captain… Rafaela Vasquez, both claim to have shot him multiple times in the cabin during the chi-Trei rescue.” Evans followed up, “How did he survive? Last I remember bullets are still fatal.”
“I don’t know”, Saris said. “That’s a question for the doctor who treated him.”
“And you saw nothing in his medical scans that could explain his almost…. Superhuman strength?” Another hard hitting question from the seasoned reporter, though delivered without malice, ~Let’s see Billiot do that…~
Saris shook her head. “I’m not a medical expert. I’m not sure if I’d catch it if it were right there in front of me.” It was the truth, the best Saris could do. “The answers to these questions have nothing to do with our investigation, and the records haven’t been made available to us as a result. I’m sure they’re classified, too.”
~Classified? Paydirt!~ Analise was jumping for joy internally, but her face remained totally emotionless and professional, “Do you know why he was being moved? It seemed that he was in a good place and hadn’t been a threat to anyone, the sudden move seems… suspicious. At the very least ill advised.”
“I agree, and I don’t know”, Saris said. “I’d love to find that out for myself. If you do, drop me a note?”
“So, like, where do you think he’s going?” Cara asked again, even if she wasn’t totally sure she’d asked already.
“Our first lead is his home world”, Saris said. “That’s why we’re sending a team there. We would like to interview the survivors, especially since it’s so unusual to even have survivors. They might have overheard something, he might have said something to them. But instead, we are sent here, where we are useless. This is the one thing that Billoit is right about, there’s something amiss with us being here.”
“Wait, you haven’t spoken to the survivors yet?” Evans stopped immediately, that didn’t make any sense at all.
“We haven’t had a chance. We were sent here, as far away from the scene of the actions as could be justified”, Saris said. “So you see why we, as well as the Ambassador and Colonel Tate, are unhappy.”
“Understandably so.” Analise agreed, now she knew something was up, something a hell of a lot deeper than whatever Billoit was chasing after.
“I’d appreciate any help you could provide, since you’re not under orders to go where you’re wasting your time”, Saris said. “In exchange, Marisol and I are prepared to cooperate with you exclusively, when it’s time to publish the story.”
“By exclusively do you mean both of us?” Cara asked, not sure if she was getting cut out of this deal.
“Of course she does.” Analise reassured her, “We’re a partnership of our own now. Okay, I’ll start beating the bushes, teach her how to do it while I work. I’ll see what turns up and send it your way.”
“I mean both of you only under one condition”, Saris said, looking at the younger of the two journalists. “Neither of us wishes to have our holographic likenesses appear in any Boner Academies.”
“Fair enough.” Analise agreed, looking to her new partner, “And neither do we. We’re serious journalists from here on, right?”
“Right.” Cara nodded, wondering how the Andorian woman knew about Boner Academy, ~She must be a fan. Probably seen my work.~
Saris smirked. “I’m just giving you a hard time. Contrary to popular belief, we investigators do appreciate the press. Unless it’s the dishonest kind, for propaganda purposes.”
“Or just a huge douche like Craig Billoit.” Analise groaned, she was going to be so glad to see him out of her life again.
“Indeed”, Saris said.
“And he’s not even cute.” Cara added, causing Analise to give her a look that said, ‘What in the hell is wrong with you?’ When she saw her friend’s face, Cara quickly course corrected, “Not that it matters, he’s a sleazy provolone journalist like the ones you hate.”
“Sometimes, if helps if they think you like them”, Saris said. “But I don’t see any benefit in this guy.”
Analise didn’t know what to say, and she wasn’t about to touch ‘provolone journalism’ with a warp nacelle. She simply reached over and extended her hand to the Andorian, “We’ve got a deal.”
Saris took the hand and shook it, squeezing maybe a little harder than she should. “And for some reason, I think I’m smelling cheese. Must mention that to maintenance.”
~Cheese? I don’t smell anything…~ Cara thought, then turned her attention back to business, “We are seriously going to like make the best team ever!” She grinned, grabbing them both, “Group hug!”
Saris sighed. “No.”
“I don’t think she’s a hugger, Cara.” Analise said, removing her friend’s grasp from the Andorian’s neck.
“Maybe later.” Cara shrugged, this serious journalism was so exciting...