Part of USS Century: 1. Videre Invisibilium

Seed of Deception, Kernel of Truth

USS Century
2401
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Captain Gar’rath stepped onto the Bridge following his sojourn down to the Century’s sickbay to gather what information he could using his rather unique visage as a potent psychological weapon. As he approached his usual position in the compartment, he turned his head toward the communications console. “Ensign, send a message to the outpost’s administrative office. Inform them we have a lead on their missing transports,” the Gorn ordered before sliding down into his chair.

“Only a lead?” Commander Peters asked, turning her chair toward her commander.

“I’ll explain later…” Gar’rath muttered in a voice low enough for only his XO to hear. His response prompted the woman to nod and return her attention to the front, watching the screen with anticipation. The silence that followed was tense, the outpost had yet to respond formally to any attempts at contact with the Century, and the responses they had received had only been in text form and devoid of any real substance. 

“We’re receiving a hail, sir,” the Ensign at the comms station reported.

“On screen,” the Captain said, rising to his feet and striding forward just a step. The image of the planet below blinked away, replaced quickly by the face of a surly looking Bolian in what looked to be a dimly lit room with sparse decoration. The barely control sneer on his face upon finding the Gorn on his screen did not go unnoticed.

“I’ve been told you have a lead on our cargo, Captain,” the man on screen launched straight into questions, skipping over any semblance of pleasantries.

“We have, Mister…?” Gar’rath paused pointedly, waiting for the introduction the man had decided to skip.

“Vol…” the Bolian muttered impatiently in response to the prompting.

“Mister Vol,” the Captain repeated, “In answer to your question, we have discovered the possible location of your missing cargo haulers, but we’re picking up strange readings from the surface. We wanted to be certain that your people were not in the area we intended to search and mistakenly apprehend colonists conducting legitimate operations.”

“So you have not gone down to the surface then?” Vol asked, his eyebrow lifting just slightly.

The Gorn shook his head as he stepped down from the platform and walked to stand next to Lieutenant Commander Sorreth, “We have only begun to conduct scans of the surface, and we have discovered an area that is giving us some interesting readings. Would you be willing to look them over and share with us anything you might know about the area in question?”

“Of course, Captain. I am eager to see our goods returned to us, so if you believe I can be of some assistance…” a smile tugged at the Bolian’s lips.

Gar’rath reached down and tapped at the readout of sensor scans they had previously conducted near their landing coordinates. Rather than select the actual area the away team had investigated, he selected a part of the ravine nearly 20 kilometers away. Once he had designated the spot he wanted the Vulcan to transmit, Sorreth nodded and initiated the transfer. Vol’s head lowered on the screen, his eyes darting side to side several times before looking back up.

“Yes… that area is notorious for producing erroneous sensors scans, Captain. Our scientists had difficulty with it when they were doing the initial surveys. It should be safe to assume that whatever you picked up down there is not what it appears. Better to save you the effort of a fruitless expedition that my people have already embarked on,” the Bolian explained, his smile a bit sharper than before.

“Well then, I’m sorry to have disturbed you with a false finding, Mister Vol. We will contact the outpost again should we find something more concrete. Century out.”

The screen reverted back to the view of the desert landscape below them. Gar’rath turned to find Cmdr. Peters giving him a rather puzzled look. “You are curious why I approached it in that manner, I take it.”

“That’s a word for it, yes,” Abigail nodded. 

“One of our ‘guests’ in sickbay informed me that they had a contact at the outpost that was feeding them information on the composition of the shipments. Because he couldn’t give me a name, even with Dr. Odaim’s help, I decided to feed just enough information to see who might answer. Since our last attempt ended in a roadblock, it seemed likely that someone was intercepting out communications fearing they might be discovered. Mister Vol is likely an accessory to the theft, if not a major player since he went out of his way to reach out and attempt to divert our attention from the site you recently investigated. The fact that he didn’t already know we have sent a landing craft down and discovered the operation means their ability to surveil the area is either substandard or nonexistent. Now we merely need to monitor any traffic leaving the outpost to see if he attempts to warn these unknown contacts they share of our presence here,” the Captain explained his methodology as he climbed back up the platform to his chair.

“Interesting,” Lt. Cmdr. Sorreth commented from his station, “By feeding him information that, while not being correct it was also not a complete fabrication, you gauged his involvement in the thefts and evaluated his trustworthiness without providing actionable intelligence to someone who might reveal themselves to be in opposition of our goals here.”

“It was a tactic I learned from my mentor when I first became a security officer. ‘Just because a security officer looks for the truth in every investigation, that doesn’t mean we have to be equally truthful to a suspect to get an honest response from them’ is what he would say every time I confronted him over using deception as a method of interrogation. And there were a number of years afterward that I thought the practice to be abhorrent… until doing so saved my life. Since then, I have always sought to weave a lie or two into an interrogation when I felt I had the upper hand,” the Gorn remarked from his chair.

“And here I thought that kind of thing only happened in bad holo-novels…” Peters commented with a chuckle.

“What holo-novels are you using?” Lieutenant Khar asked from his position.

“Me?” Peters motioned to herself, “I don’t actually care for them. I had a roommate on a previous ship who adored them though, and would constantly drag me to the holodeck to play along in her little fantasy worlds. Had this… fanatical obsession with gangster dramas from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century on Earth. I ended up having nightmares because of how terrible those things were. But the ‘coppers’ in those stories would always lie about what they knew and who told them what to wring confessions out of people.”

“I see…” the Klingon muttered, “Perhaps I should look into some of these holo-novels.”

Abby shrugged, swiveling back forward, “Might be right up your alley, Mister Khar.”

“Captain,” the Ensign at the comms station interrupted the banter, “I’ve detected a signal being directed toward the away team’s landing site. It is operating on the same frequency we detected earlier.”

“Can you intercept the transmission without alerting them to our intrusion?” Gar’rath asked.

The Ensign tapped a few commands before nodding, “Yes, we can monitor the transmission passively.”

“On screen,” the Gorn ordered.

“It’s audio only,” the Ensign stated before filtering it through the Bridge’s audio transmitters.

“Tarmer… Tarmer… do you read?” a distorted voice called out, “Respond, dammit!” A long silence filled with intermittent static ensued before the audio cut out.

“They’ve terminated the transmission.”

“Can you trace where that transmission came from?” the XO asked.

“There appears to be a relay station nestled in the third Lagrange point around the planet,” Lt. Cmdr. Sorreth reported, “Prior to it transmitting a signal, the relay merely showed up on scans as a small rocky object that seemed to have settled there naturally.”

“Quite the methodical set-up…” Abby grunted, “How far back can you trace the signal? Did it originate at the outpost?”

“Unknown,” the Vulcan remarked after a moment of searching, “It would appear that the device acted as a relay, converting one frequency type into another. It does not appear to be capable of receiving any subspace messages, which will make it difficult to narrow down a point of origin until we can ascertain the exact frequency it received before the conversion.”

“Sir, I am detecting a vessel approaching the planet,” Khar called out only a few seconds later.

“Identify,” Gar’rath said. 

Lt. Khar ran the vessel profile against known vessels in the database before answering, “It appears to be a conglomeration of three different vessels.”

“Tactical analysis,” the Captain followed up.

“The vessel has two torpedo launchers…” Khar paused as the computer finished up the more in-depth scan, “And four disruptor style pulse cannons, all forward mounted.”

“Red alert,” the Gorn ordered in a low tone, “Arm phaser arrays and load torpedo tubes, standby to fire on my order.”

“They are conducting a scan of the area the away team recently visited,” Sorreth informed the Bridge.

Cmdr. Peters frowned, “Looks like the mole worked quickly…”

“Shall I attempt to hail them, Captain?” the communications officer inquired.

“Likely futile, but try anyway,” came the dispassionate response.

If not for the low buzz of the alert klaxon, the Bridge would have been completely silent as they waited for the unidentified craft to make whatever moves it intended to make. Tense seconds grew ballooned into minutes as the craft hung ominously quiet in the center of the view screen, the happenings within a mystery to the crew as they monitored their respective displays in anticipation of having to react. 

“Sir, they are powering up their weapons,” Khar reported, followed almost immediately by the communications officer announcing, “We are being hailed.”

“On screen,” Gar’rath ordered as he rose to his feet.

“It would appear you have some people who belong to us, Starfleet. I’d appreciate it if you handed them over… and our cargo…” a gnarled looking Human demanded.

Gar’rath grunted at the request, “I do not believe we do, perhaps you are mistaken.”

“Don’t lie, lizard. We’ve already scanned the camp, none of our people are there,” the man hissed angrily.

“Interesting… there was a camp on the surface that you were able to scan for so easily? Our sensors should be far more sensitive than what you’ve managed to scrape together…” the Captain commented, purposely ignoring the man’s ire.

“Hand over the goods and our people, or we’ll drag them off your ship after we’ve had a bit of target practice with your ship,” the man threatened.

The Gorn lowered his head in a display of disappointment, “It would seem that negotiations have failed. Mister Khar, if you would kindly show our friends here what the Century is capable of?”

“Gladly, Captain,” the Klingon smiled viciously as he set to work picking out weak points in the hostile vessel’s shields and hull. A few seconds later, the transmission from the ship wobbled violently, several of the men standing at various stations in the background getting thrown unceremoniously around the compartment in response to the punishing assault from the Constitution-III class vessel. 

“What do you think you’re doing?!” the man on the screen hollered in rage.

Gar’rath shrugged in an almost comical fashion, “Target practice?”

The transmission from the ship cut out, returning the view screen to that of the vessel itself floating in space. Several portions of the hull were now glowing white hot after having be sliced by the Century’s phaser array. Several bolts of green disruptor energy leaped away from the front of the craft, slamming into but failing to penetrate the ship’s shields.

“Shields down to ninety-three percent,” Khar reported.

“Target their propulsion systems with a torpedo volley,” Gar’rath said before issuing the order, “Fire.”

Several torpedoes entered view from behind the view screens sight line and curved around toward the back of the craft. The first impact tore a gaping hole in the vessel’s aft shields, while the two follow-up torpedoes collided with and blasted large chunks of the propulsion system protruding from the rear of the craft. Several of the glowing lights from view ports along the forward hull blinked out, indicating that the strike had caused a considerable disruption to the craft’s power distribution.

“Their warp drive has been rendered inoperable, Captain.”

“Good, Mister Khar. Hold your fire, I would like to see what their next course of action will be.”

“Captain, incoming transmission,” the communications officer called out suddenly.

“Is it the vessel?” Gar’rath asked.

“Negative, it’s coming from the outpost…”