NCC - 81102
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Cards on the Table

Posted on Wed May 18th, 2022 @ 2:51am by Commander Tavis Inahri & Commander Magnus Hawkins

Mission: Mission 2: Chemicals React
Location: Main Lounge - USS Odyssey
Timeline: Mission Day 1 - 2242 hours

The day had been long, and mostly uneventful. The Odyssey's systems were slowly coming back online after their planned sabotage and soon the ship would be running at peak capabilities. The tracking signal was still alive and waiting for them to follow. It only waited for Tavis' order to begin pursuit of their target.

And yet, a topic still hung over Tavis' head like a noose waiting to catch him. He needed to speak with his XO about the conversation he'd had with Admiral Tau the day prior, and he'd been avoiding it every time they spoke with each other. But he couldn't avoid it any longer.

As Tavis stepped into the lounge, he found Commander Hawkins exactly where the Computer knew he was. Sitting at the bar, having a drink by himself.

The room was mostly empty, aside from two crewmembers sitting by the window enjoying a conversation. They looked up to see who had entered and when he locked eyes with them, he gestured towards the door with a nod. They clearly understood the silent order as they quickly stood and left the room. Now it was just him, his XO and the holographic bartender that stood behind the large mahogany bar.

"Computer, deactivate bartender," Tavis said as he walked closer to his target. He slid up onto the stool next to Magnus and set down a bottle of clear liquid he had brought with him. "Fancy a drink? It's real."

"That's why I'm here," Hawk said. Actually he'd come here to think, which is why he had not ordered yet. Drinking came after thinking. However, if Tavis wanted to talk, then a drink might help. "Something on your mind?"

Reaching around the bar, Tavis pulled out two small glasses and set them down. He slowly poured some liquid in each, sliding a glass towards Hawk. "I spoke with the Admiral yesterday. He seemed quite displeased with our report, but he seems to have bought it."

Hawk shrugged. "As good as we could've hoped for, I guess." The general demeanor from Tavis was still troubling nonetheless. "Is there a catch?"

"I wouldn't exactly call it a catch..." Tavis said as he took a sip of his drink. "Apparently the Admiral is concerned about us. You and I."

"Uh huh..." Hawk frowned at the revelation, but then took a gulp from the proffered glass. "Must be bad for you to keep me in such suspense."

Tavis nodded. "It's not good for either of us. He's forcing me to make a choice. Apparently he feels that you and I being of the same rank is causing an issue for the mission and the crew. And us. So I have until tomorrow morning to decide whether I take a bogus promotion to Captain, or demote you down to Lieutenant Commander."

"Ah." Hawk closed his eyes and let his head bob with multiple shallow nods of understanding. "Our fabricated story was tight enough he couldn't poke holes in it, so he's probing, looking for discrepancies and weak spots to leverage." He sighed. "I swear if that man isn't the Director or part of whatever secret network we're sworn to root out, then he is the biggest dick ever to put on a uniform." Finishing his drink and setting the glass down with a satisfying clink, he looked at Tavis. "So what are you going to do?"

With a sigh, Tavis poured Hawk another glass of the clear liquor. "Well, on one hand, I could demote you." As he said it, Tavis tossed back his own drink before pouring himself another. "This would damage your reputation, your career and possibly your future in Starfleet." Tavis wasted no time in tossing back his second glass. "On the other, I give myself a promotion that is empty and devoid of any celebration. Wear a heavy fourth pip without earning it, tarnishing my own self-image in the process."

Tavis finally looked over at Hawk. "And yet, isn't the job of a Commanding Officer to take the hit? Be the one to stand in the gap between his crew and the harm that can come to them? While this isn't a physical threat in front of us, the damage I would do to you would be devastating. And long lasting."

"Let's be real, Inahri. The odds of any of us coming through this any better than Cassie or Linn right now are slim." Hawk drilled him with an intense look. "We're probably going to end up dead or on the run from a lifetime prison sentence. Whatever can better those odds is what needs to happen." He helped himself to another heavy pour. "As far as I'm concerned, we flushed our careers down the pisser when we decided your buddy wasn't the bad guy. You're the strategist. What's the smart play? That's the one to make."

"The smart play is to promote myself," Tavis said. "Putting me as high in rank as possible will only benefit us when dealing with other people. Also, demoting you would send a really bad message to the crew and morale." Tavis looked at Hawk, "Not that my bogus promotion would do any better."

Hawk nodded pensively. "You're right. There is a tactical advantage to that decision with a morale disadvantage to the other..." Looking Tavis in the eye and without asking to speak freely, he added, "...except for yourself. If you take a promotion you feel you didn't earn, are you going to be able to keep a cool head? We finally cleared the air between us, and ego makes for a thick fog of war."

Tavis kept the eye contact, "I have a great XO who will help make sure that we stay on the right path, here. Who will keep me honest and keep my head in the right place."

"So in other words I'm gonna make you earn that fourth pip one way or another." Hawk let out a grin. "I can do that."

Returning the smile, Tavis raised his glass before taking a drink.

"You should know the transponder on Kaz's freighter went silent," Hawk said, changing the subject. "So far as I know, we didn't even tell him. Your friend won't go down easy. But Admiral Tau still expects us to show progress of some kind, and now we've lost our only 'lead' so to speak. What now?"

Tavis smirked, "He certainly is..." he said. "If the signal has gone dark, I don't see much of a point in following him. Not like we actually care where he is right now. We could use this as an excuse to find out more information about this Director or their plans."

"Based on the original mission profile, the only place Kazyah Linn spent any length of time was Dalia Station." Hawk bit his lip as he thought through the options but he came up empty. "It's really the only confirmed AO [Area of Operations] we have for this Director and his bastard network. Chances are slim we'll scare up any leads, but unless Kaz left us some clue on where to start looking for evidence of this conspiracy, I think we're back to square one here."

With a nod, Tavis sipped his drink. "It does appear that way, doesn't it," he said. "Let's head back through the wormhole. We're going to pick up a few new crewmembers at Deep Space 9. From there, we can head straight to Dalia..."

A pit grew in Tavis' stomach. "Which reminds me, we need to discuss a lovely phone call I received today. It seems that we now have a bounty on our head from good ol' Max. There's an ambush waiting for us at the mouth of the wormhole."

"That tracks," Hawk said sardonically. "Murphy can't ever be wrong just once? And I suppose it's too much to ask for Gamma Command to do anything about it. Patrols on this side of the wormhole only accompany trade vessels. Unless you have any bright ideas, I suppose we'll just have to take each problem as it comes."

"Honestly, it's probably best we leave Gamma Command out of this one. We're going to pull a Picard Maneuver into the wormhole, and then run like hell." Tavis' hand went to his chest, touching the rod that hung around his neck under his shirt.


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