Admiral Leeta and her entourage of Starfleet security personnel waited in the windowless conference room with only their distorted reflections in the black wall paneling to keep them company. She smiled to Lt. Carpenter again, and again he did not return it. She enjoyed this game. Long minutes had passed before Commander DeSoto and five Section 31 agents entered the room. They moved like an oil slick to the opposite side of the table and, with the click-clack of DeSoto's datapad being set onto the table, took their seats.
DeSoto's eyes shifted to rest on Leeta's boots, which were propped up on the edge of the conference desk. She met his gaze, considering challenging his objection to her pursuit for comfort, but opted not to die on that hill. With a shrug she sat up and swung her feet off of the table, but chose to stand rather than sit, seizing some measure of control in the room back to her side of the table. DeSoto and the agents leaned back to look up at Leeta who now placed a hand on the table and leaned, her fingers drumming out a steady rhythm as silence threatened to engulf the room.
DeSoto finally spoke, standing as he did so to regain some measure of command over the room. "So far your story is checking out, Admiral. Though there are some... in my company that believe this to all be a grand deception." Leeta glanced from DeSoto to his agents, and back again. She could not discover which of them might be responsible for such beliefs. She was mildly impressed at their Tongo-faces.
DeSoto continued, "As indicated in your after-action report over Pahvo, the Terran Inquisitor revealed to you that they had a plan before they departed from the interior of the Other while Emperor Crusher was still merging with it. It seems that this outlandish claim has some truth to it."
His hand moved to a wall console, the LCARs display blinking into existence at his touch and his fingers moved rapidly between the buttons, though not too swiftly for her to follow the sequence. A video image appeared on the screen. A recording of a communication between a Federation starship and the Terran Inquisitor.
The Inquisitor's synthetically augmented voice began. Leeta felt a chill roll down her spine at the sound of it. "I have a message for your Starfleet Command and defector Admiral Leeta who is in their custody. And Captain, do not attempt to adjust your sensors to locate me. The Defiant's cloaking device is more than capable of countering any sensor adjustments your science officers or engineers can cook up in the time I have allotted for this conversation."
The starship's captain responded, after a time, no doubt visually confirming with one of their bridge officers that the Inquisitor's claims were, indeed, defeating their ship's sensors. "Well then, Terran. I will gladly pass this message along as it appears you have no interest in firing upon my vessel. Unless that changes I see no reason not to be cordial with one another."
The Inquisitor continued, "As promised I have formulated a plan for our mutual benefit in regards to the Other. I am sending over schematics and a detailed operational plan now. I have refrained from including necessary rendezvous coordinates to ensure that Admiral Leeta is consulted on this plan as per her agreement with me. Without her input the information I have provided you, and your Section 31, will, most likely, be worthless."
The Starfleet captain chimed in, "I will pass on this information, but surely you must realize that all this subterfuge is detrimental to your case, assuming you are pursuing our assistance on the matter."
The Inquisitor responded, "Understand this, captain. I am the Inquisitor of the Terran Empire. I serve the Terran Empire. We are not allies. This is an aberration of events that has forced us into cooperation. The alternative is annihilation. The subterfuge is necessary. Your Section 31 will understand and respect it as I do them. Pass on the information, undergo whatever scrutiny you deem necessary. But know this; If this operation fails the fault will not be lain at my feet. I have done much to give us the best chance at survival. I expect you to do your part."
Long seconds passed before a response was given, "I will deliver your message, Inquisitor." A brief pause, "I would like to conclude this meeting with a thought, nay, a hope. That our two peoples may, through times of turmoil such as these, realize that our differences are vastly outnumbered by our similarities, and that through recognizing ourselves in one another, we might come to peace, rather than war in the future."
The Inquisitor's response was brief before their image winked out, "Hope is the last defense of the weak against the strong. And our enemy is very strong."
DeSoto toggled the view screen off. He hadn't watched a moment of the recording and had instead studied Leeta the entire time. He pushed the datapad across the table to her. "We've analyzed those plans and need your input."
Leeta picked up the datapad. The first line told her everything she needed to know. It simply read "The Bird Cage". Her response was genuine.
Can you overcome the defenses of the Terran Empire's most notorious prison complex and rescue a VIP of upmost importance, or will you end up one of its denizens and live out your days in an agonizer cell?
The Bird Cage is the lovingly nicknamed super-max security complex that the Terran Empire uses to hold people of strategic value but who need to disappear. In here the agonizer cell is the least of your concerns as the warden has taken liberties with the prisoners to continue his augmented gene-splicing research in an effort to produce the next generation of Terran soldiers. Expect this dangerous mission on PC very soon.
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