The central, identifying concept of space was that it was quiet. Space, after all, was a vacuum. With no air to carry sound, you’d never hear an atomic bomb going off directly behind you. Still, in Lieutenant Rautert’s time in space, she had never found that kind of quiet. Space was loud, filled with voices screaming commands, consoles exploding at the slightest provocation, endless beeps and whistles from endless readouts – it was why she had moved away from active duty on a starship, and joined Starfleet Intelligence when the opportunity was presented to her. Numbers, facts, analysis – she was more comfortable with those concepts than the loudness of space.
Now, for the first time, as the boots of her environment suit clicked across the metal gantry, space was quiet at last. Certainly, her surroundings couldn’t be considered ideal. The lights were flickering in a way that made it most difficult to concentrate, and there were occasional bursts of sparks from a console that still had a bit of electricity from a dying battery. But it was blessedly quiet, and Rautert had stopped caring about occasional discomforts when she had signed on with Section 31.
On the surface, of course, she was still Starfleet Intelligence, through and through. She was technically on vacation right now from that job. Franklin Drake approached her two years ago with a better offer. Stay true to the ideals of the Federation, without all the bureaucracy holding her back. Do the right thing, the right way, for once. He needed her on the inside of Starfleet Intelligence, reporting everything she found back to him. It hadn’t taken her five minutes to accept his offer, but she suspected Drake already knew she would.
Her commanders had always told Rautert that her biggest weakness was getting too absorbed in the work, not paying attention to everything around her. She thought of it as an asset. She had a deskmate, an Orion named Jamok something-or-other, who was always chatting with everyone around her, and trying to get Rautert to engage in small talk. It infuriated her. What she wanted, more than anything, was to prove herself worthy of a better position in Section 31, far away from the desk jockeys of Starfleet. When the reports on Yard 39 had crossed her desk, and all of those ships of the 2250’s had started being restored and studied, she dug deeper into the data. It turned out some of those ships had files buried deep in their computer cores, and they pointed to a very intriguing mystery.
The eruption on TL-9139, which had caused Yard 39 to be abandoned so quickly, had left a lot of technology behind, ready to be claimed. And while Starfleet wouldn’t have risked the ships or the lives of their crews to obtain it, Section 31 was all too willing. In the manifests and logs of these abandoned ships, she discovered that, not two weeks after the eruption flooded Yard 39 with baryonic radiation, the 23rd century vessels that had caused such a stir at Utopia Planitia had been scanned by the very distinct profile of Section 31 technology.
But none of that data existed within Section 31 archives – even the ones her superiors didn’t know she knew about. So what had happened to the Section 31 ship that made those scans? What became of the crew of that vessel, obviously sent to investigate and salvage the losses at Yard 39? These mysteries, now known only to her, tugged at her mind.
But how to find this ship? It hadn’t been in Yard 39, or she would know. The warp trails were far too degraded to track, centuries later. But Section 31 ships had a unique communications channel, one the captain of this mystery ship might have used to send a distress signal, or to try and report their findings to their superiors. When she’d first had the idea, she immediately put in for some long-overdue leave from Starfleet Intelligence and headed to the area in what passers-by would believe was a simple family transport. She also didn’t mention the trip to her Section 31 superiors. Doing this on the books didn’t feel wise – if the keepers of secrets buried this mystery, it was something big… and something they wanted to stay buried. That fact alone compelled her to continue her investigation.
It took a week to find a weak ping on her craft’s sensors, and within two days, hidden in the depths of a comet’s tail, she found the Samedi. Even if the ship had been fully powered, it would have been difficult to spot. The ancient ruin she was standing in now? She almost missed it. Unlike the ships at Yard 39, the Samedi hadn’t been preserved by sitting untouched for two centuries. It had been battered by ice, and dragged around god knows how many systems, through how many storms, and nebula – she was amazed there was anything left of it at all. But all she needed was one single piece to still be there.
Rautert tried very hard not to look up. She was clamped to the Samedi’s interior - such as it was - with her suit’s magnetic boots, and that gave her a sense of being upright. But if she looked up, the ship’s slow spinning played hell with her motion sickness. If her tricorder was accurate, she was currently standing in a hallway that connected a bank of turbolifts, one of which led to the ship’s bridge. And the bridge was where her prize would be. She moved carefully, keeping an eye out for sudden hazards. Without the benefit of hearing, she might not notice a bit of floating space debris before it careened into her and ruptured her suit.
Ahead of her, a set of doors stood partially ajar, leaned in awkward directions. The doors had been depowered too long, and a simple push wasn’t going to open them, so Rautert reached into her pouch and pulled out a stem bolt clamp. She placed it between the doors, and slowly and steadily worked the handle in a counterclockwise motion, spreading the clamps apart instead of tightening them. It was agonizingly slow, but eventually she freed up enough space to step through, into the turboshaft, and from there, eventually, she stepped onto the bridge itself.
Here was another surprise. She had expected to find bodies all over the ship. When she hadn’t found any, she assumed there would at least be a well-preserved corpse or two in the sealed bridge. But even that was devoid of death. Perhaps the crew had evacuated? If so, why had this ship sat here for a hundred and fifty years and change? Section 31 would never have left its precious tech adrift – not without a really good reason.
Thankfully, the bridge was remarkably intact. Quick consultation with her tricorder data led her through the dark area to her destination - the Samedi’s command console.
Underneath it was a small mechanical switch. Nothing powered here – this area had to be accessible in all cases, even full power failure. This was the moment of truth. If the prize she sought was still on board, it would be here. She pulled and twisted the level, and popped out an almost invisible drawer.
Inside was a circular, disk-like shape, about the size of a communicator. It sat in an indented housing, untouched for over a hundred years. Her breath caught in her throat. This was it, the ship’s data backup. Whatever had happened to the Samedi, her captain had not followed protocol. They should’ve done one of two things – take the device with them prior to abandoning ship, or destroy it outright. They had done neither, and thus, the prize remained. A prize that contained every piece of information on the Samedi’s central computer, everything it had ever encountered and downloaded. Everything, even the things selectively omitted from official logs, scans, and the like by the crew. Countless secrets of the past, long thought lost, would soon belong to her.
And Section 31, of course.
She pulled out her tricorder, connected it to the device, and initiated a data transfer. The backup’s storage was laughably small for 2410, but must have seemed endless in its time period. A quick scan of its files brought up some technical specifications, and she flipped through them.
It… didn’t make any sense.
According to the files, Section 31 had access to tech in the mid-23rd century that wouldn’t appear in the mainstream Federation for 80 years. Badge-based communication devices. Multiple Operational Modes. They were even using the LCARS interface system, long before Starfleet had officially made the switch.
If Section 31 had been that far ahead, that long ago, why didn’t she know about it? And how far ahead were they now?
There was more – plans for a type of tractor beam that used anchors on an enemy ship for more precise control. A centralized AI uplink that didn’t seem to connect to anything, now. The full technical readout and specifications of this very ship. And pages and pages of data on the state of the Federation, the Klingons, and more. Who knew what long-dead secrets she might uncover if she took the time to study the backup completely?
“Hi,” A voice said behind her.
So. There was enough atmosphere in here to carry sound, after all. Rautert began to turn around, and heard the distinctive sound of a phaser charging.
“No, no thank you,” the voice – female, Rautert thought – continued, “Stay facing that way. And hands up, if you please.”
Rautert complied, slowly standing with her hands raised. “Is this a robbery?”
“Said the woman looting a Starfleet vessel,” The mystery woman laughed. “This was a robbery – yours – and it’s now an arrest - mine. I’m going to need you to remove all of the weapons on your person, Lieutenant. One at a time, and slowly, if you please.”
Again, she complied. She put down the phaser on her belt, the one hidden in her boot, the knives in each elbow, and the shock grenade on her belt.
She did not remove the phaser hidden up her sleeve.
“Kick them to the side. One at a time.” Again, Rautert did as she was asked.
“May I turn around now?” She asked, hands still in the air.
“Yes, but slowly.”
And so, slowly, she did. It wasn’t a big surprise to see a figure in a Starfleet EV suit staring back at her. The face inside the helmet? That was a big surprise.
“Jamok?” Her deskmate’s green complexion was unmistakable through the transparent faceplate of her helmet.
“Yes, hello, hi,” the Orion replied. “I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this, Michelle. I’ve been assigned to keep an eye on you ever since Franklin Drake made contact, apparently with good reason. No, no, please keep those hands up.”
Well, at least Jamok thought she was dangerous, that was a plus.
“Surely this is unnecessary. I’m just doing a little spelunking on vacation,” It was a terrible lie, but Rautert just wanted to keep Jamok talking. Talking and distracted, and not noticing her right hand slowly closing towards the button that would release her phaser.
“Spelunking happens in caves. What you’re doing is more along the lines of tomb raiding,” Jamok said. “Vacation’s over. I need the disc now, please.” Jamok seemed nervous. Was she out here alone? Why?
“What disk?” Just a little further. She almost had her finger on the button.
“Misdirection isn’t your strong suit, Michelle. The backup. It’s on the console behind you.”
“Ah. That. Well, I’ll have to turn around again to get it…”
Jamok sighed, and took a step forward. “You come to me, and we’ll switch places. Then I’ll grab the disk, and escort you back to a Starfleet holding facility.”
Something in the way she said “Starfleet” stuck in Rautert’s brain. She moved towards Jamok, as instructed. “Starfleet doesn’t know you’re here, do they?”
Jamok stopped. “Nonsense. Why would I be here if they didn’t send me?”
“Alone? No, if you were working for Starfleet right now, I’d be surrounded. I’d have never gotten this far – maybe never gotten out of the building in San Francisco,” Rautert smirked at the Orion. “Section 31, on the other hand, would have no problem sending a lone operative out here.”
Jamok said nothing, just began moving forward again. But now, Rautert’s hand was on the button.
The button clicked. The phaser flew out of her sleeve. At the last moment, she set it to stun. Blue energy lanced, Jamok cried out once, and it was over.
Standing over the unconscious form of the Orion agent, Rautert took a moment to take stock. Her deskmate suddenly showing up like this was another mystery. She loved solving those. After collecting her hard-earned prize and weapons, she grabbed Jamok under the arms and carried the agent back to her waiting ship.
Jamok’s shuttle was docked right next to hers – convenient. She’s the kind of arrogant that appeals to certain elements in S31. After she threw the still-unconscious Orion into the brig of her ship, Rautert went over to Jamok’s shuttle to see what she could find.
It didn’t take long. There was a message that had been played at least once a day, every day. It contained two things – pictures of an Orion family playing in the parks of San Francisco, and the words, “Find her. Recover the disk, arrest her, and bring her in for questioning.”
Those words were spoken by Franklin Drake.
So. Drake was onto her. Somehow, he’d known about this data, and he’d known she was going to use it for her own benefit first. Not to mention, something on the disk concerned Drake enough that he was willing to burn an agent as useful as Rautert.
That meant there was something on this disk he wanted very badly. Well, there was one way to make sure he never got it, and to make sure she was properly rewarded for her find. She chuckled to herself, thinking of the look on his face when he discovered her final play.
A few moments later, on her own transport, she sent out a hail, to Earth.
“Sammy’s Self-Sealing Stem Bolts, what can I do you for?”
“Echo Niner 5 5 3 6 Delta 2.” Rautert said, calmly.
“Just a moment.”
There was static on the line, and then a female Trill with short, dark hair appeared on the screen. “All right. Who are you, and how did you get this number?”
“Lt. Commander VanZyl! This is Lieutenant Rautert of Starfleet Intelligence, and, I suppose, formerly of Section 31. How would you like a cache of secrets?”
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