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Looming Shadows [PLOT]

Posted on Mon Jul 13th, 2020 @ 8:41am by Captain Malcom Llwyedd & Lieutenant Jackson Smith

Mission: Mission 6: To Your Scattered Bodies Go
Location: Starfleet Intel Section DS9
Timeline: 11 May,2395 - 0900 Hours

[ON]

Jackson peered through the pouring rain, the night sky covered the area in black which was only broken by a few scattered lights here and there on some buildings. His eyes scanned the darkened shadows. In the dark, the vast steel buildings seemed to be impressive, but as he pressed up against the wall of the one behind him, he could feel the rust scrape off, the signs of neglect and disrepair were everywhere. His hand unconsciously touched his cheek, this disguise was definitely tough getting used to. The square jaw and jagged scar along his cheek felt weird to touch. Jackson got control of himself, little mistakes like that would give away his cover. It had taken a long time to infiltrate the Scarnili Syndicate. He was definitely on the trail of something big. Which also meant, things would be getting even more dangerous. This system, this place was definitely off the normal paths. His eyes started to pick out a few groups of people, dealing in all sorts of nefarious things. This was definitely a place where Starfleet or even any law didn't exist. He had no back up, but if his contact was even a little bit truthful, meeting her would be well worth the risk.

A massive merchant freighter, outbound, roared overhead, shaking the ramshackle buildings. Ferl Brueo watched the craft accelerate as it struggled to climb through the atmosphere. He'd come to Argya with hopes that he could escape his path and build a new future. It was a system with no affiliation and only one habitable planet. Ferl thought it was barely worthy of the label. The sky was a muddy red during the day, revealing a surface that was capable of growing crops but only in a narrow band near the equator. The real money and opportunity came from mining operations and Ferl had no intention of becoming a mole. So he'd gone into the same thing that had caused him to flee the Federation. He sold information and access. But at his heart, Ferl missed the Federation and, despite his current situation, felt an obligation to his home. That obligation was why he found himself putting his life at risk. He saw movement near the meeting point and his eyes narrowed. He slipped his night vision glasses on and flipped through the spectrum, examining heat signatures, signal noise and everything he could. He saw a lone human, wearing worn local clothes creeping. Ferl noted the scar on his face, which matched the description for his contact. He slipped forward, avoiding a pile of garbage. He pulled out his signal light and flashed it twice rapidly and then once slowly.

Jackson saw the signal. He glanced around, he didn't want to react too quickly. He had to make sure that no one else was watching. Jackson scanned as best he could through the rain and darkness to see any reactions. After a few moments Jackson started to make his way across the open ground. He moved casually but with determination. To all that looked, he appeared just like a local moving through the streets. The rain soaked him through and through, but he ignore the discomfort. He walked up towards his contact, sliding slightly into the shadows. "Too bad it's not a sunny day, right?" Jackson smiled friendly as he studied the man before him. He waited for the return code phrase, ready to act if he needed.

"Not everyone likes the sun," Ferl replied. "Sunshine hurts my eyes." He finished the rest of the code and relaxed a bit. He motioned for his contact to follow him and turned, motioning for the stranger to follow. He ducked into a crease between two buildings, just big enough for him to pass sideways, and after twenty feet the two of them emerged into a small courtyard. The rusty building stood on all sides but none of them had windows or doors that allowed access to the accidental courtyard. A drainage pipe, as tall as a man, was the only other exit as it descended into the ground.

Ferl turned and faced the contact. "I don't have a lot of time," he said. "My name is Ferl Brue. I used to be an intel operator in Starfleet. You can look me up. I did some things I shouldn't have and I had to run. You can try to take me in if you want but I'm more valuable out here on the fringes. I'm... trying to make up for what happened. For what I did. By helping you."

Jackson followed Ferl through to the open courtyard. He couldn't help but smile slightly, "Ah my friend, no one here is going to take you in. I am pretty sure that we have all done things we shouldn't have." Jackson glanced around, it was a pretty secluded area, very few exits, which was nice and disturbing at the same time. A little bit of his hair on the back of his neck tingled ever so slightly. This would definitely suck if it was a trap. He definitely hated that feeling. "Let's make this quick, what do you got?"

Ferl couldn't help but do a quick scan of the area, even though he'd pick the location for the meet. There was no such thing as being too cautious. Satisfied that nothing had changed, he began speaking in a low voice. "There's been some interest from a group of Romulans. I had one of my regular info dealers approach me and tell me that they were looking on information about some ship." Ferl closed his eyes for a second to remember the name. "Firebird. Yeah, that's it. They wanted specifics about it and thought my contact would know. So I did some poking around on those guys and it turns out they've got a nice little setup here and they've been here for at least a year. Always buying information about the sector."

Jackson kept his face neutral as Ferl talked, even though on the inside alarm bells were going off like crazy, "The Romulans? That can't bode well for business. They wanted to know about a ship called the Firebird? Interesting, I wonder what that is about. " Jackson gave a pensive look as he looked to pondering the information that the informant told him. "Do you have any more information about these Romulans, their motives? Why they are looking into this ship?"

Ferl shrugged. "They didn't say exactly why they wanted to know. But I can tell you that these guys didn't look like scientists. They acted like, well, like you are acting right now. They were professionals. And they looked like they could handle themselves in a fight. I don't know what kind of ship the Firebird is or who is on it but they should check their security protocols. Someone is going to try something," Ferl said. He paused, considering what he was about to say. "If you want, I could try to find out more. I could tell them I had some new information and set up a meeting with them."

Jackson got a chill down his spine, but he maintained a very calm composure. The Romulans after the Firebird, above all things this scared Jackson. His friends were in danger and all he wanted to do was race back to the Firebird and warn them. The words Ferl said filtered through the swirl of fear. Jackson forced himself to ponder the idea. It would be very dangerous, but it could prove to be a prime opportunity to capture one of these mysterious Romulans. Part of him wanted to take the chance, part of him wanted to get his hands on those that are threatening the ones he cares about. Jackson knew he would need SFI support for an op like this. He had to think rationally, he had to get back to his friends and report, get help. "You have given me enough to work with, but keep friendly with them and I will be in touch if we want to pursue something more."

Ferl nodded. "Sounds good. You can use the same contact method we used this time and I will make arrangements," he said. "If I hear anything new, I'll contact you using the same methods. Good luck."

"You, too." Jackson stepped back into the shadows, his thoughts a swirl with he had just found out. The hairs of the back of his neck tingled and a split second he thought he saw movement on the far side of the clearing. Was his imagination getting a hold of him? Jackson studied the surroundings to make sure all was safe, his eyes quickly calculating several possible routes for him to leave. He had to wait, though, he had to give his contact time to get away. It could prove disastrous if they were caught together.

Ferl could have made his exit blindfolded. He knew every nook and cranny of the dead-end space. He made his way to the drainage pipe, took one last look at Jackson and jumped, disappearing without a sound. He fell ten feet, landing on a shock-absorbing pad he'd placed there just for this scenario. He regained his feet and looked up the pipe as he flattened himself against the wall. Seeing no pursuit, he pulled a grate aside and slipped into the service corridor. He hoped Jackson would put his information to good use.


Jackson waited a few minutes to make sure his informant was gone before he peeled himself out of the shadows and began to make his way out of their hidden location. Jackson's mind raced with all the implications of what he had heard. A sense of urgency began to overtake him, and he quickly stepped through the crevice between buildings that they originally came through. A quick glance to either side confirmed that no one was present, then Jackson moved with a slightly hurried step to return to his shuttle. It was vitally important for him to get this news as quickly as possible to the Captain. They must enact new security protocols quickly. As he thought of security, his mind bounced to Rhiana t'Aegis, security chief, a Romulan. Could they be connected? Did she infiltrate the Firebird? Could she be trusted? Jackson didn't have much interaction with the security chief, and now he regretted that. He didn't know what to expect and a sense of dread hit the pit of his stomach.

The green-colored craft materializes above Jackson, unseen by him. But he couldn't help but see the three transporter traces as men dressed all in black, with matching black helmets, appeared around him. He was neatly triangulated by the three newcomers. Each of them held a strange-looking blaster.

"Put your hands on your head and get onto your knees," one of the figures said in a mechanical voice.

Jackson hesitated. This did not bode well, he was completely surrounded. He slowly turned his head to each side as he very slowly started to raise his hands. "Well now, let's not get to hasty here. I am sure that we can work something out. I have a lot of connections and resources." Jackson studied each of them as he slowly turned. His steps put him slightly closer to one of them.

One of the figures, seeing Jackson raising his hands, put his blaster in a holster and stepped forward as if to grab him. The other two kept their weapons trained, waiting and watching. "You're associating with the wrong people. We're going to take you with us and as a few questions. If you cooperate, we will release you when we conclude our business."

Jackson smiled, "Oh, questions, that doesn't seem so bad." Jackson knew it would be bad. As he spoke distracting them slightly, he stepped towards the guy coming up to him. Jackson's hands flashed down grabbing the shoulders and slipping behind the guy as he spun him around. With the guy squarely between him and his other two adversaries, he braced for the oncoming shots and slipped the guy's holstered phaser out.

The other two figures hesitated for a moment, thrown off by the incredible speed with which the target moved. By the time they were ready to move, their target was obscured. They raised their weapons to the ready position, looking for any line of fire. The now disarmed figure spun in place, launching a set of rapid blows but was unable to make contact. Overhead the dull thrumming of the shuttle's engines deadened the sound of the conflict to anyone foolish enough to be watching.

Jackson stepped in and grabbed the arm of his assailant as the guy threw a punch. He twisted it and spun the figure again and pinned his arm behind his back. Jackson then brought the phaser up to the individuals temple. Jackson studied each of them quickly, his mind cataloging their mannerisms, small tells. His eyes locked onto the one on the right, he was the most confident, the one most likely to act, given a small opportunity. He wanted to make sure that one knew he was watching him. This was going to be tricky to get out of this situation. "Now let's all take a deep breath here, nobody has to die." He said calmly. "He glanced at the one on the left, the most timid. He had noticed a small unconscious gesture. The man had touched his chest slightly, right where a necklace might have been. Probably a token from a loved one. "George, I am going to call you George." Jackson's eyes snapped back to the confident guy. He held his hostage tighter. "Now, I am sure you don't want to have to tell Sam's loved ones you got him killed," He nudged his gun into the guys temple, "You see if you guys decide act, two of you are going to die for sure. George, "he glanced briefly at the timid one, " I am sure you want to go home to your loved ones. So let's see if we can make that happen. Let's just lower your weapons and let some scoundrel walk away. I got the drop on you, it happens, but nobody has to die." Jackson noticed the confident one start to stiffen, crap he is going to act. "George, Biff over there, " he nodded slightly to the confident one. "He is likely to do something stupid that is going to get you killed. But if you lower your weapon now, Biff is the only that has to die over his stupid action."

The one Jackson had labeled Biff nodded his head. "Your psychological tactics might work on those less disciplined and less dedicated to our cause. We are members of the Jade Circle and we no longer posses fear or hope. We serve her and our actions are dedicated to her," the figure said and then pulled the trigger on his weapon.

The green beam lashed out, striking Jackson's captive squarely in the chest with enough force to throw them both backwards. A sizzling smell filled the air and Jackson felt a burning sensation in his chest. The beam had torn a hole through the hostage's armor, his skin and all the way through his torso. Green blood wept out of blistered skin.

Jackson gritted his teeth through the pain, he definitely did not expect that maneuver. Jackson knew he had to quick, he couldn't contemplate the ramification of the action. He immediately threw the dead body at Biff giving him something to deal with. He fired one shot directly into the chest of the other individual, "Sorry George, don't have time to find out if you are as fanatical." Jackson dived to his right as Biff threw off the dead body and fired where Jackson was at. Jackson slid on the ground with his gun firing right at Biff. He clipped him in the thigh and shoulder, but Jackson was never the most accurate, especially when sliding across the ground. Continuing with his momentum, Jackson rolled his legs over his head and somersaulted back up to his feet, firing multiple times in Biff's direction to keep him occupied.

The lone remaining Romulan fired at the fleeing form but his shots were off target as he dodged as best he could given his injuries. The blast scorched the wall above Jackson's head as he slipped into a narrow alley and out of view. The enemy didn't bother trying to pursue, knowing he had no chance to capture the human. He changed a setting on his weapon and with two shots, disintegrated his two fallen comrades. Once they were gone, he tapped his communicator and disappeared in a shimmer of light.




[DS9]

Jackson barely waited for the shuttle to settle as he landed in the bay on DS9. He sprang out of his seat and quickly raced out of the back of the shuttle. He had sent a message to Yumi that it was urgent they meet. Jackson didn't feel comfortable passing this sensitive information through any means that could be intercepted. His heart pounded as he as he exited the shuttle his eyes scanned the bay, he noted every worker and person in his sight. There were several techs diligently working on a shuttle far to the left. A couple of people seemed to be haggling over some crates off to his right. Two different groups were huddled around a variety of ships. It was far too crowded for his liking, Jackson started to see Romulan spies everywhere. He knew that his feelings for the crew of the Firebird were making him extra paranoid, but he didn't really care at this moment. He needed to get to Yumi, she would know what to do.

A short dockworker approached him. Her black hair was clipped back in a pony tail, and the long bill of an official DS9 Customs hat hid her face as she looked down at a PADD. “Mister…Sef Mortenson. Welcome to Deep Space 9.” She spoke with the bored yet hurried cadence of someone who had read the same official welcome to dozens of ships a day for the past ten years. The customs agent raced through a monotone recitation warning him of penalties for transporting any dangerous flora, fauna, chemicals, software, AI, or machinery. She informed him of tariffs on controlled goods and commodities and warned that tariff relief applications must be approved prior to landing. “Do you have anything to declare not listed on your official inventory and manifest?” She stated the fines for leaving items undeclared and the late fees for making post-landing declarations. Then she launched into reading his inventory line by line, not once looking up from her PADD.


Jackson barely even heard what the dockworker was saying. He tried to calm himself, but it was difficult to answer the questions in the boring mundane way he needed to for his cover. Jackson couldn't help but look around more than he should as he scanned the dock for Yumi. Where was she? He needed to meet with her as soon as possible. Jackson knew that he was over reacting, and that he needed to step back and gain his composure. It was just difficult when he thought that there was a traitor to the Firebird on the ship right now. It had grown silent for a bit and Jackson realized the dock worker had stopped talking was waiting on him to reply. Jackson had no idea what the question was, "Ummm...No." Jackson hoped that was the appropriate response

The customs agent tapped her PADD for several minutes. Finally, she lowered it to her side and started walking towards the next landing bay. “Thank you, Mr. Mortenson, you may—” Her PADD bleeped suddenly, and she froze still in her boots like an ancient dockworker of Pompei. “Agh, targ breath.” She huffed. Turning back, she finally looked up at Jackson. Her plain face was neither ugly nor attractive. She might have been a 30, 40, or even 50 year old human. An easily forgotten, easily overlooked appearance. Counter to her grudging voice and posture, her dark eyes sparkled with amusement. “This vessel has been randomly flagged for an on board inspection.”

Jackson was nodding his head and not really paying attention to what the dockworker was saying, "Sure, sure." Then the words started to sink in, he was going to be inspected? "Wait! What?" He turned to face the dockworker. It was then that he saw the sparkle in her eyes and knew that he had been played. Yumi was truly amazing and Jackson definitely had much to learn. He swallowed his embarrassment quickly and gained more control over his persona, "You have got to be kidding me! This is going to cost me vasts amount of latinum." He shook his head in exasperation, looked pleadingly at the "dockworker". Seeing no quarter given, "Fine, let's get this over with." Jackson opened the back hatch and motioned for the her to enter. Once they had entered, Jackson refrained from spilling out all the information as quickly as he could. He knew he was borderline being unprofessional and being within Yumi's presence again had grounded him. He hadn't realized until this point, how much he missed having her aboard the Firebird. Once the hatch had fully shut behind them Jackson said, "I have definitely missed having you aboard the Firebird."

Yumi stifled a grin until they were inside Jackson’s shuttle. The pressure seal hissed when the hatch closed with a thunk. “I’ve missed you and the Firebird, too.” She had much more to say but swallowed it behind a tight smile. He wasn’t there to reminisce. He was in trouble. “You’re looking fit, lieutenant, and your reports are… I can tell you’d rather be out in the field. You get to the point, and I like that. Saves me time, too.”

She scratched her jawline at the seam of her disguise, and searched his mask for clues of a familiar face beneath the scars and grizzle. It left a twist in her gut, and she made a backburner plan to invite him to the station another time to catch up face to real face.

“What have you found that Starfleet can’t be openly trusted on?”

With his mentor here, Jackson's facade faded. His body relaxed a bit. Even with his close friends, Jackson could not show his inner self. He looked at Yumi and despite the disguise he could see her support, he knew she would always be there for him. For a brief moment, the light that usually shined from his eyes faded and Yumi could see the strain that his missions had placed on him. She could nearly see all the questionable choices that Jackson had to make, the lives he had to take. While Jackson wanted to enjoy the reunion with his mentor, he knew that they needed to get to business. His eyes hardened, his resolve turned to steel. "The Romulans, possibly a group called the Jade Circle, are interested in the Firebird. I have concerns that I have not transmitted to SFI. Our security chief, she has been keeping secrets. My contacts have seen her working the underground on Empok Nor, even done some underground fighting. Since she is Romulan, she is likely involved, either directly or indirectly. She either knows something, or worse, she is a traitor." Jackson placed a hand on the solid bulkhead, steadying himself. Saying the words out loud, hit him in the gut, much worse than he thought they would. His hand pressed hard against the cold steel, he gained strength from the familiar touch of the shuttle.

Yumi’s eyebrows lifted in shock and collapsed into a scowl like debris thrown up in an explosion. Chief t’Aegis. Yumi had raked through her background a dozen times when she replaced JJ, the Firebird’s first security chief. Working with a Romulan expatriate had set Yumi’s hair on end while she was serving with her, but treason?



“The Jade Circle…” Yumi lifted a hand to her chin in thought. Then she dropped her hand and met Jackson’s heavy gaze, all humor gone. “Many Romulan factions have been active in the Cardassian sector lately. Imperial rhetoric is on the rise in every Romulan refugee community and resettlement. They joined the Federation in desperation, not really by choice, and many of them have still not joined ideologically. The embers of resentment are easy to stoke into flames. Resentment for what was taken from them.

“It’s been a campaign for Romulan hearts and minds, so far. The Jade Circle are expert information artists. Several conspiracies that we can link to their propaganda arm blame Starfleet for Romulus’ destruction. Secret Federation research destabilized their sun. Things like that, but the Jade Circle are experts at direct aggression, too, when they need to be.” Yumi’s composure crumbled at the edges and her eyes tightened. Rhiana had seemed different from the embittered Romulan imperialists that SFI agents reported on every day. Rhiana was reticent with other Starfleet personnel but as a quirk of personality, not out of scorn. Or had Yumi read her all wrong?

Yumi’s gut sank with guilt like the wax of a slowly melting candle had spilled over. Opportunities to get closer to Rhiana as a crewmate and fellow officer were long past. If only she’d taken them, maybe she would have noticed something off.

“What has Commander t’Aegis been up to on Empok Nor? Can you link her directly to a Jade Circle agent or operation?”

Jackson took in what Yumi was saying, trying his best to see where each of these pieces began to fit within the puzzle. He was definitely missing something big, cause nothing seemed to fit together. His mind raced through multiple possibilities, but he was coming up with nothing. "For the most part she has been her job, but there are two main things that are unusual. First off, a couple missions ago, she took on a Romulan dependent, his name is Xavi. The second, she has started working with the underground on Empok Nor. Strangely she has taken up underground fighting. At first, I thought it might be for personal reasons, but now I have to consider some more nefarious reasons. Perhaps it is a cover for her contacts? With whom I cannot say at this point, I have not found anything directly linking her to the Jade Circle." Jackson knew it was important and timely to come to Yumi, but he also wished he had more time to give her better information. She was his mentor, and he would have loved to be able to give her every piece of the puzzle, but sadly, he felt like he was just at the beginning of this puzzle, looking at finding all the edge pieces, which was even more difficult cause he had no idea what the final picture was supposed to look like. His heart felt heavy at all of this. Doing intelligence for the greater fleet and SFI was one thing, but when it was his friends and family that depended on him to get things right, the weight of it all was wearing on him.

Xavi. Yumi remembered him vaguely and frowned. When she left the Firebird, he was supposed to be enrolled in the Federation program to reunite Romulan refugee minors with their nearest kin. Children separated from their families were at high risk for trafficking or recruitment by organized crime. The civil program must not have found any living relations for Rhiana to assume legal guardianship. She made a mental note to look up his case when she got back to her office on the station.

Xavi. Yumi remembered him vaguely and frowned. When she left the Firebird, he was supposed to be enrolled in the Federation program to reunite Romulan refugee minors with their nearest kin. Children separated from their families were at high risk for trafficking or recruitment by organized crime. The civil program must not have found any living relations for Rhiana to assume legal guardianship. She made a mental note to look up his case when she got back to her office on the station.

“You know me better than any other field agent, Jackson. So, I think, you know what I’m going to say. Trust but verify. We need to know what Commander t’Aegis is doing on Empok Nor in her off hours and why, not just suspect them. Is there evidence that she has done anything illegal?” Yumi pinched her lips in a flat line, resisting a frown. [(OOC Sarah: Please, include the snippet after this parenthetical only if it makes sense in the universe. Even if there were “good reasons,” for Rhiana to break laws, I don’t think such activity would or should be overlooked in a Starfleet Chief of Security. SFI “pardoned” Jackson only by conscripting him. Rees was locked out from any future promotions but he is ops, not security.) Fight clubs were frowned upon by the Federation but not illegal on Empok Nor. They were traditional, if uncommon, in Cardassian culture and too profitable for the station’s economy to be outlawed.] “You may need to dust your knuckles to get to the bottom of this, but Starfleet’s hands are tied without proof. I can get you any resources you need for an investigation.”

Jackson nodded, "Yeah, I know. Let's just hope when I verify, I find out her extracurricular activities are strictly for personal reasons. I don't know if the Firebird can handle dealing with another traitor among us" Jackson sighed heavily, "Thanks for any help. Let me know if you find anything worrisome about the Jade Circle or Xavi. I will continue looking into the commander." He looked at his mentor, "We definitely miss you."

Yumi smiled wistfully. “I miss you and the Firebird crew, too. All the little conversations in lifts and hallways don’t happen when we’re lightyears apart.” DS9 was like a whole different station now that she was working in Ackboard’s former office instead of in the repurposed closet he had stowed her in when she first returned to the fleet. Her son actually had dinner with her once in a while between the local shoots for his holonovella. HALP bounced between identities like a searching adolescent, keeping the bits that suited her before trying on another. One day black-clad and sullen, the next playing pick-up springball from dawn to dusk. The stability of the station environment allowed for more instability in HALP’s avatars. Still, Yumi missed roaming the stars. Rising each day not knowing what discoveries lay ahead.

She took a deep breath and straightened a slump out of her shoulders. “I’ll forward anything I find about your investigation right away. Good luck, lieutenant. Stop by Quark’s around 1700 the next time you’re in port. You might see a more familiar face than this one—” she pointed to her bland disguise, “—sipping a bourbon in some corner booth.


"Definitely." Jackson turned to start the preparations for flight. "I look for..."Jackson turned back to see that Yumi was no longer standing there. He shook his head slightly, one day he has got to get her to teach him that skill. For now, though, his priority was getting back to the Firebird. Jackson slid into the pilot's seat and continued the preflight launch sequence.

[Off]

Lieutenant Jackson Smith
Chief Intelligence Officer
USS Firebird NCC-88298



 

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Comments (4)

By Captain Malcom Llwyedd on Fri Jul 17th, 2020 @ 8:03am

It is good to see Jackson in his element. This was also a great JP because we got to see Yumi in a cameo! I am hoping to see other Firebird alumni make cameos from time to time.

By Lieutenant JG Owen Woodhouse on Fri Jul 17th, 2020 @ 4:16pm

So wonderful to hear Yumi's voice again! Love all the intel stories and this one is no exception. Kudos! -Liam

By Commander Hansel (Hans) Friedrech on Sun Jul 26th, 2020 @ 2:26pm

So great to see Yumi again. Compelling post puts me right in the world of a spy. Way to go guys.

By Chief Petty Officer Charles Stephens JR on Fri Jul 31st, 2020 @ 8:58am

This was an amazing post!! Great action, and character Development topped off by an awesome cameo