The clanging of the boots is almost hypnotic as Ranma, Larson, and Rei step in unison down the corridor of deck sixteen on the U.S.S. Salvation towards the brig. All three of them had been waiting for this moment for over an hour, but each agreed to go together, and each had been busy up until now.
Once they finally reached the room, Ranma pushed a buzzer to alert the officer inside of their presence. Once the guard saw them on the monitor, he opened the door, and the trio again began their synchronized marching past several empty cells to D-4.
Outside of it stood two security officers, both armed with rifles, and one guard in the control room keeping an eye on things. Ranma nodded to the guard in the control room, who acknowledged the silent order and lowered the force field.
Inside of D-4, the Salvation's lone prisoner, Salek, opened his eyes from his meditation and allowed a smug grin to creep across his face.
“Admiral Larson,” he mused. “So, this is where you've been keeping yourself?”
“Salek,” Larson dryly replied.
Salek turned to Ranma. Again, with the same smug grin, he taunted. “Captain again, eh?”
“Yes,” Ranma glared. “You killed the one you replaced me with.”
“Hm,” Salek pondered. “I am not sure what you mean by that. I've not killed anyone. I'm merely an... what's the Earth term? Office cat?”
Ranma shuddered. Larson spat. “Cut the crap, Salek. You and I know very well that you're the one who ordered the attack on the ships sent to rescue the Sisko. You ordered the attack on the LDF base. You ordered the attack on the Defiant.”
“I have no such authority to do any of those things,” Salek retorted. “I think you likely have that war criminal onboard your ship if I'm not mistaken. Likely in much more hospitable accommodations than I am in.”
“Who is your contact in the Federation?” Larson asked.
“I am a Vulcan minister,” Salek replied. “I was in contact with many people within your government.”
Larson shook his head and turned to Ranma. “Come on.”
Ranma nodded to the control room, silently ordering the guard to raise the force field. As the group walked out of the brig, both Ranma and Rei had a tough time keeping up with Larson.
“We need to do a full interrogation of him,” Larson instructed.
Ranma nodded. “Got it. Commander, get to it.”
“Aye,” Rei replied, beginning to turn.
“Belay that,” Larson interjected, stopping.
Both Rei and Ranma stopped as well. “Sir?” they both asked.
“I want Commander Gosnell to do it.”
“Makoto?” Rei asked.
Ranma shook his head. “With all due respect sir, I have to object.”
“Ranma, she has knowledge and experience in using advanced interrogation techniques that are effective and efficient,” Larson explained.
Ranma nodded. “And that is exactly why I am objecting.”
“Time is not something we have a lot of here, Captain,” Larson noted.
Ranma did not care for it when Larson used his rank to address him, as it meant he was not pleased with him. However, Ranma had every intention of standing his ground on this issue.
“Admiral, before Commander Gosnell came aboard my ship, she used her 'advanced interrogation techniques' on my first officer. Shampoo was nearly killed. The physical damage took weeks to heal and only Shampoo can tell you if the psychological damage has ever healed.
“I want that bastard to talk as much as the next guy. He's harmed me in more ways than one and for some reason has made it his life's work to destroy mine. But I will not stand by and allow Federation ideals and principles to be destroyed in an attempt to save it.”
Ranma and Larson stared at each other for a good minute before Larson finally relented and sighed. “With no offense to Commander Hino, she is still a better interrogator.”
“Then they can both do it,” Ranma smiled and turned to Rei. “On the job training.”
Rei avoided saying something she would later regret and nodded. “Aye, sir.”
Rei did not like this room one bit. She knew exactly what the Romulans used this room for. Exactly what Makoto and Larson were planning on using it for. Luckily, Captain Saotome talked them out of it.
Or so she thought.
The rear door to the room slid open and a blindfolded Salek was led in by two security officers, followed by Makoto.
“I'll call for you when we're done,” Makoto told them.
The pair walked out, and the door slid shut. Makoto sat Salek down on the and restrained his hands and his feet.
“This should be interesting,” Salek said.
“It's only to make sure you don't run away,” Makoto stated.
“Where would I go?” Salek asked.
“Out an airlock,” Makoto replied. “If you die, then we'll never find out who you're working with.”
“If I was going to kill myself, don't you think it would have been logical for me to have done it already?”
Makoto removed Salek's blindfold and shrugged. “Perhaps you didn't think we'd actually catch you since you thought we were still marooned halfway across the quadrant?”
“That whole thing was a tragedy,” Salek noted.
“Indeed,” Makoto replied. “I lost some good people. Did you know we landed in the middle of some planet's holy war?”
“I hadn't heard.”
“No, I guess not. I'll send my logs to the brig when we're done, so you have something to read,” Makoto smiled as she activated the recorder. “Salvation, Chief of Security interrogation log, Stardate... uh...” She looked to Rei.
Rei looked at her PADD. “61223.1.”
“61223.1,” Makoto repeated. “Subject, former Vulcan Intelligence Minister Salek.”
“Former?” Salek asked.
“Welp,” Makoto said, pulling up a chair and sitting in it, next to Salek. “Once you admit to masterminding all these murders and everything, I don't see you holding your position for very long. That is if they don't summarily execute you.”
“It would be illogical for me to admit to things I did not do.”
Makoto nodded. “Oh, I agree. And I encourage you not to lie to me. It will save us both time and grief.”
Makoto stood and walked over to a table. She picked up a couple of electrodes and attached one to Salek's head and one to his midsection. “These are just biomonitors. I'm just going to watch your vital signs as we chat, kay?”
“A lie detector?” Salek asked.
Makoto grinned. “You're a spy. And a Vulcan. What good would a lie detector do me?” Makoto walked back over to the table and picked up a towel. She then placed it over Salek's face.
“What are you doing?” Rei asked.
“Interrogating,” Makoto replied as she moved over to the room’s replicator. “Water, two cubic meters, two degrees.”
“Wait...” Rei said, standing.
The replicator complied and before Rei could do anything, Makoto had dropped the chair to where it was now positioned flat, at an angle with Salek's head downwards. Makoto took the bucket of water and poured it, slowly, on Salek.
The Vulcan coughed and squirmed. Rei ran over, but Makoto pushed her away. “WHO ORDERED THE ASSAULT ON THE LDF BASE?”
The monitors watching Salek's bio signs began to fluctuate rapidly. Makoto ignored them and continued to pour until the bucket was empty.
“WHO ORDERED THE SISKO'S ENGINES TAMPERED WITH?” she barked.
“Goddamn it Makoto!” Rei yelled, reaching past her, and ripping the towel from Salek's face, allowing him to breathe freely again.
Makoto looked to Rei and scowled. “What are you doing?”
“What the hell are you doing? The Captain specifically said no pain compliance.”
Makoto rolled her eyes. “Waterboarding doesn't 'hurt' it just simulates drowning.”
Rei threw her arms up in frustration. “Like hell it doesn't hurt. Look at him! Look at that!” She points to the biomonitors, which are showing all red.
“Do you want to stop a war or not?” Makoto snapped.
“Of course I do.”
“Then either help me or get the hell out of my way.”
Rei watched Makoto go back towards the table. Rei closed her eyes for a moment, confident she was making the right decision. “Makoto, please step away from the prisoner.”
Makoto turned from placing a new towel on Salek to find herself staring at the business end of Rei's phaser.
“You have to be kidding me.”
“Please step away from the prisoner,” Rei repeated.
“Rei do not do this,” Makoto said.
“Dammit, Makoto. I cannot let you keep doing what you're doing.”
“WE HAVE TO SAVE THE FEDERATION! AT ANY COST!”
“Even if that cost is destruction?” a voice called out.
Both women turned to see Shampoo standing at the rear door.
“Commander,” Rei acknowledged.
“Lower your weapon,” Shampoo ordered.
Rei nodded and lowered her phaser. Shampoo walked over and looked at the still coughing Salek. “Shampoo know what it like to be in that position,” she said as she looked up at Makoto. “You remember what you told me?”
Makoto did remember. “Yes.”
“You told me what you felt about Section 31 and what they did? All the things you did?”
Shampoo pulled the towel off Salek and tossed it to Makoto. “Then you tell Shampoo how you revert back into the monster they made? Why you let them do that to you?”
Makoto tossed the towel to the deck. “Because it's necessary.”
“Like it was necessary to do to Shampoo? To do to Usagi?” Shampoo asked.
Makoto shook her head. “Those were different times, different circumstances... I was a different person.”
Shampoo pointed to Salek. “It look same to Shampoo.”
Makoto sighed in frustration. “Commander, people can and will die if we don't get information.”
“Sometimes death is the price for honor and integrity,” Shampoo countered. “You say you wish to save the Federation?”
“Do you wish to live in a Federation that accepts this?” Shampoo once again pointed at Salek. “There reason Section 31 lives in shadows. If they come into light, we all be sick from seeing how ugly we really are.”
Shampoo turned and headed back to the door.
“Commander,” Makoto called out. Shampoo stopped but did not turn around. “Desperate times call for desperate measures.”
“Desperation for weak,” Shampoo replied as she walked out the door.
Rei turned to Makoto. “Well?”
Makoto shook her head. “You do it,” Makoto grumbled as she stormed over to a chair and sat down. Rei sighed as she reconfigured the chair back into ‘chair’ mode.
“Why exactly have the first twenty minutes of the interrogation been deleted?” Ranma asked.
Rei looked to Makoto, then back to Ranma. “That's my fault, sir. We switched and I was trying to start my logging and I accidentally deleted her log instead of making a continuation.”
Ranma nodded. “Okay. Good official reason. And the real reason would be?”
“Sir?” Rei asked.
Ranma leaned back in his office chair and sighed. “I have no intention of believing that all of Commander Gosnell's interrogation time just 'happened' to 'accidentally' get deleted.”
Ranma stood and walked over to the two women. “The less you lie to me, the less angry I will be when I have a forensics team pull the log off the computer core and watch it.”
Makoto sighed. “I was instructed by Admiral Larson to disregard your order and use...”
“That's enough,” Ranma interrupted. “Commander Hino, please wait outside.”
Rei nodded. “Aye.” Rei quickly scurried out the door.
Makoto turned to Ranma. “Captain, if I may-”
“Nope,” Ranma replied, moving towards his desk. He pulled out a PADD and began to type some things on it.
Ranma shook his head and put his finger on his lip to shush Makoto. She remained silent till Ranma finished, at which point he slid the PADD across the desk, allowing it to stop in front of her.
“Commander, I am the captain of this ship. Admiral Larson is not. Furthermore, so long as you serve as my chief tactical officer and head of security you work for me and not Section 31. However, it seems that you may not be aware of, or at least not care for that.”
Makoto picked up the PADD and began to look at it. “This is...”
Ranma nodded. “Yup. Make your choice. Work for me or get the hell off my ship.”
Makoto was silent for a moment before she finally spoke. “Captain...”
Ranma nodded, finally allowing her to say her peace.
“Captain, of course I want to stay with this crew. I thought what I was doing was right, but I realize you are her captain, and I am sorry I disobeyed you.”
Ranma nodded, accepting her apology. “Very well. Understand though, I am very tired of things going on behind my back and if I learn that any more of my orders are disobeyed, not only will you no longer be a member of my crew, but you will also be spending the rest of our time in space in the brig. Is that understood, Commander?”
“Yes sir,” Makoto nodded, with a frown. Almost two years of trust, gone in an instant. Makoto had not felt this heartbroken in a long, long time.
“Dismissed,” Ranma stated, turning towards his computer.
Makoto spun around and walked out of Ranma's office. She looked to Rei for a moment. “Yup. I fucked up good,” she said as she headed towards the tactical station.
Shampoo looked on from the captain's chair as Rei walked into Ranma's office. Larson, who was monitoring communications from Kaii's still commandeered station, slowly crept over to Makoto's station.
“What did he say to you?” Larson quietly asked.
“I'd rather not discuss it,” Makoto replied.
Lt. Jansen, from the security station, quickly messaged Shampoo of the exchange going on behind her. She in turn sent Ranma a message.
“I'd rather you did,” Larson prodded.
“Sir, please,” Makoto pleaded.
Ranma stormed out of his office and onto the bridge. “Admiral, is there something you needed?”
Larson, rather put off by Ranma's attitude towards him, shook his head. “No, Captain. I was just speaking to the Commander here.”
“Is there something security or tactical related that I should know about?” Ranma asked.
If you could measure tension in gigawatts, right now you could send a DeLorean back to 1985. The entire bridge crew was glued to the exchange, wondering which officer would attack the other one first.
“Do you have a problem, Captain?” Larson asked.
“Yes,” Ranma nodded. “I do. I have an Admiral on board who seems to forget that he's no longer a Section 31 operative and that I am this crew's captain, and my orders are final, not his.”
Everyone had to do their best to restrain themselves from gasping. Larson began to steam. “Captain, let's speak in private.”
“That's not necessary, sir,” Ranma replied. “Just leave my crew alone and we'll speak at the next briefing.”
Ranma turned to walk back into his office.
“No, we won't,” Larson growled. “Captain, you are relieved from duty.” Larson turned to Shampoo. “Commander, you have the ship, Commander Gosnell, have the Captain escorted to his quarters.”
Everyone except Ranma.
“No need to relieve me, I quit.” He pulled off his communicator and tossed it at Larson. “And I can find my own quarters.”
Shampoo nodded, pulled off her communicator and tossed it to Larson, and followed Ranma into the turbolift.
Rei followed suit, followed by Jansen, Minako, Ikuhara the helmsman, Kaii, Usagi, the two security officers on the bridge, and finally Makoto. Once the turbolift doors closed, Larson found himself alone on the bridge with eleven communicators in his hands.
It did not take long. Within an hour, Larson found his mailbox full of 391 letters of resignation. One for every member of the Salvation crew that did not throw their communicator at Larson on the bridge an hour ago.
Larson was lucky the Infinity was there to send security down to secure the prisoners on the planet, otherwise, he was unsure what he would have done.
The gray-haired admiral, who felt his hair getting grayer by the moment was now the lone Starfleet officer on the Romulan warship. Ranma and his crew had all transported down to the planet, taking over some of the Vulcan's habitation modules as their own.
He had a plan, but first, he was going to have to discuss it with his counterpart.
He knew that was going to be hard.
Especially convincing him to stay, and not join the rest.
Larson sighed and brought up the communications system. “Genma.”
“Scott,” Genma replied. “What's going on? Why did we need to send security down? Is there a problem?”
Larson laughed. “You could say that.”
Genma cocked his head slightly. “I am not following...”
“There has been a reverse mutiny of sorts over here,” Larson sighed.
“A 'reverse mutiny’?” Genma blinked. “What the hell is a reverse mutiny?”
“Everyone quit,” Larson barked.
“Everyone?!” Genma exclaimed.
Larson nodded. “With the exception of Saanik and his girlfriend and Salek down in the brig, I am alone on this ship.”
“Good God, Scott, what happened?”
Larson bit his lip. This was going to be the tough part. Genma was an excellent admiral and a valued Starfleet officer, but he had a sinking feeling that first and foremost, he was a father.
“I attempted to remove Captain Saotome from command.”
There was a moment of silence while Genma thought about that statement. “I see,” he finally responded. “Why?”
Larson chose his words carefully from this point forwards. “I believed he was being insubordinate.”
Genma nodded. “Was he?”
Larson sighed. “He was disrespectful, blatantly undermining me in front of the-”
“Scott, he's always looked up to you,” Genma interrupted. “I have a hard time believing that he would be disrespectful to you in any way...” Genma trailed off for a moment. “But...”
“But?” Larson asked, a less than cordial tone surfacing in his voice.
“Admiral,” Genma began. Larson leaned back, realizing that Genma was falling into serious business mode if the two friends had fallen from first names to ranks. “Ranma can be quite, eh, blunt,” Genma acknowledged.
“His 'bluntness' as you put it included him disregarding my instructions.”
“Oh?” Genma asked, growing concerned.
Larson nodded. “I gave specific instructions to Commander Kino-Gosnell regarding the interrogation of Salek and he-”
Genma again interjected. “You were micromanaging his crew? No wonder he was upset.”
Larson shook his head. “The interrogation of the prisoner falls out of his pay grade.”
“He has several officers trained for field interrogations.”
“Not the way 'I' wanted him interrogated,” Larson admitted.
Genma sighed. “I really don't want to know any more about that.”
Larson shook his head. “The point is that I am in charge of this mission, and I don't need him undermining my decisions.”
“Admiral, our job is to set a goal for our captains to complete. How the complete it is up to them, but as long as they get it done, in the time we give them, then it's not really our place to interfere,” Genma said, rubbing his head.
Larson brushed his hand through his beard and sighed. “I need crew from the Infinity to take over this ship.”
“Sir, you need Ranma.”
“Genma, I know he's your son and you want to see him succeed, but I need to know I have someone who will execute my orders.”
Genma shook his head. “This has nothing to do with him being my son, Admiral. And has he not executed your orders to a tee? Do we not have Saanik? Do we not have Salek? Are we not growing closer and closer to ripping this conspiracy apart?”
Larson did not respond.
“Scott, I will try and get as many crew as I can from this ship for you, but to do so, I will have to tell Ukyo what happened. I can assure you she will join Ranma on the planet. Her senior staff will likely go with her. You will end up with two ships staffed by mid-level officers flying into God knows what.”
Genma looked at the planet on the Infinity's viewscreen. “And quite frankly, you will only have one admiral with you as well.”
Larson sighed. “You think I should just let him question everything I say or do?”
“That's part of his job,” Genma nodded. “And it's part of yours to snap him back into line and remind him of the goal.”
Larson looked at the planet on the Salvation's viewscreen. “Well, what do I do about that?”
“I'll go talk to him,” Genma said.
Larson shook his head. “No, I will. But if you wouldn't mind coming over here so I don't get locked out.”
Genma smiled and nodded.
Ranma leaned back and sighed deeply as he thought about the decision that not only he, but every single member of his ship, had ended up making. A decision that apparently left them, at least for now, marooned again on a hostile world.
Ranma took some solace that at least this time he did not have any technology that the natives would want to steal.
The Salvation crew had commandeered one of the few actual mining complexes on the planet, the NEO forces having driven out the Vulcan miners before the group transported down.
Because of the inhospitable nature of the planet, there were several habitation modules attached to the complex giving the crew a place to live until they were confident that the warships overhead were gone.
At that point they planned to steal the Vulcan mining transports and make way to nearby Ferengi space, and from there, charter transportation to their individual homes.
The plan seemed simple enough, assuming they did not get shot down by Vulcans who realized who they were, or by a still angry Admiral Larson.
Akane walked up to Ranma and smiled at him. Ranma returned the smile. Akane's smile had developed the power to pull Ranma from the farthest reaches of depression, rage, and sadness.
“I am still so very confused,” Ranma admitted.
“What about?” Akane asked, setting down a plate of some weird Vulcan food in front of Ranma before sitting across from him with her own plate.
Ranma poked at it for a moment before looking at Akane again. “Just that I could have ever considered you 'uncute'.”
Akane chuckled. “You were a lot stupider then.”
Ranma took a bite of the dish. He did not hate it. That is not to say he liked it, but he could eat it. “Obviously, I was,” he agreed.
The pair ate a moment before there was a knock on the door. Akane began to stand before Ranma waved her off. “I'll get it,” he smiled.
Akane nodded and continued to eat, slowly with a look of disgust on her face. She obviously was a little less forgiving of the Vulcan dish than Ranma was.
The former captain walked to the door. He peaked out the window into the dimly lit passageway to see one of the security officers, Shampoo, and him.
“Larson?” Ranma asked no one.
Ranma opened the door. Ranma acknowledged the security officer and Shampoo before turning to the admiral. “Admiral Larson.”
“Hello,” Larson smiled. “May I speak with you?”
Ranma nodded and invited Larson in. Shampoo followed him in a bit before Larson turned to her.
“Commander, I would like to speak to Captain Saotome alone, if you don't mind.”
Shampoo looked to Ranma for support but got very little. “Just give us a moment, please,” Ranma instructed her.
Shampoo sighed. “Shampoo be with Akane.” She snarled. Akane blinked in surprise as Shampoo walked over and sat down across from her, beginning to eat from Ranma's dish, despite not liking it much more than Akane did.
Ranma shook his head and lead Larson into another room.
“Nice place you found.” Larson acknowledged.
Ranma shrugged. “I suppose if you're a miner.”
The pair walked to a table and sat down. Larson hemmed and hawed for a minute or two, frustrating Ranma quite a bit before finally saying any full words.
“Yeah, Ranma...” Larson stammered. “I am sorry.”
Ranma was caught off guard by this. “You are?”
The retort both upset Larson and Ranma. That was not what Ranma should have, or wanted to say to him, but it was the (as his father said) blunt reaction Ranma was known for.
Larson shook it off though and continued to speak. “Yes. While your disrespect for me and my position is not appreciated or welcome, I realized that I also disrespected you and your position.”
Larson pulled Ranma's communicator out of his pocket, rubbed his thumb across it slowly, and set it on the table. “I guess it just took something like this,” he paused and chuckled a bit, “Times four-oh-one, to realize how much.”
Ranma looked down at his communicator, then slowly back to Larson. “A ship cannot have two captains.”
“No, it cannot,” Larson acknowledged. “If you retract your resignation,” Larson smiled a bit, “and hopefully convince your crew to follow, I will continue my supervision of the mission from the Infinity, just to prove that I can stay out of your hair. She's better suited for that role anyway – I think Lt. Kaii was ready to stab me as well.”
Ranma smirked as Larson stood and smiled. “You will get a bonus out of it as well. Your father will move over to the Salvation.”
Ranma laughed derisively. “Bonus?”
Larson chuckled as well. “Well, bonus for him, at least. He's missed you.”
Ranma inhaled deeply before picking his communicator off the table and holding it in his hand. Finally, he nodded at Larson.
“I don't like leaving a task unfinished.”
Larson smiled. The pair walked out of the room to find Shampoo and Akane hastily eating, doing an unbelievably bad impersonation of two people who were not just eavesdropping.
Ranma shook his head and smiled. “Shampoo, inform the crew. We're going back to work.”
“Aye, Captain,” she beamed.
True to his word, Larson did indeed move his operations to the Infinity. This was, unfortunately, proving to backfire on Ranma slightly as Larson was unwilling to discuss anything over ship to ship for fear of being monitored or located.
So Ranma, Makoto, and Rei made their way over to the Infinity after the two women spent another several hours with Salek.
“So, have we learned anything, or is he still in denial?” Larson asked.
Ranma looked at Makoto who shook her head.
“He's more than willing to yap and yap about his mundane day-to-day activities as Minister of Intelligence,” Makoto groaned. “For the life of me I don't have a goddamned clue why anyone would want that boring-ass job.”
Rei stifled a laughed before taking over. “He did acknowledge that he's gone to Earth a couple of times, which we didn't know if that was the norm for him or not.”
Larson shook his head. “Not normally.”
Ranma looked at Larson. “He was there for my court-martial.”
Larson nodded. “Yes, but that was a...” Larson groaned, “special occasion for him. The Vulcan Intelligence Office normally handled things regarding threats to Vulcan proper and its outlying colonies and stations.”
Larson brought up some information on the SitCon terminal. “Did he mention why?”
“Business,” both women replied.
Larson read some information before replying. “He apparently destroyed the MoI's mainframe before fleeing Vulcan.”
“Crashed the computer?” Ranma asked.
Larson shook his head. “No. Fragged it. Blew up nearly the entire top level of the building.”
“Hm,” Ranma replied.
“We don't have time to keep listening to his autobiography,” Larson said turning to Ranma.
Ranma shook his head. Rei stepped forward, wanting to avoid where she feared this conversation was headed. “Sir, we can assume that this facility would have most if not all of the same information that the main MoI office had.”
Larson turned to her. “You got to him in time?”
Rei shrugged. “Well, the place wasn't blown apart.”
Larson nodded and turned to Ranma. “You don't have enough people trained to pull all the records.”
“I do,” Ukyo called from her seat at the CONN.
Larson smiled. “Excellent. Assemble a combined forensics team and rip that place to shreds. Anything that can give us a clue of who Salek's contact on Earth is, even if it's just a bus pass.”
“Aye,” both Ranma and Ukyo replied as they scurried off to get to work. Makoto stayed with Larson for a moment, while Rei waited by the turbolift. Larson turned to her.
“What I did was wrong, sir,” she stated.
“Which part?” Larson asked her.
“All of it. Especially the part where I enlisted in 31. Please don't ask me to do anything else. Please.”
Larson looked at her for a moment, then nodded. “Okay.”
Makoto nodded quickly, then walked off to the turbolift with Rei.
Larson sighed as his eyes followed her. “If only it was that simple,” he quietly whispered to himself.