The spacious studio apartment, where their father had temporarily lived on Mars, looked almost bare. The three Burton men all stood, almost in the centre of it all, gazing around, trying to comprehend this piece of the puzzle. Their mother had shared how their father had purchased the apartment while he had apparently been engaging with an exchange programme with a nearby educational institute; the Ares City College. Ares City was the nearest settlement to Utopia and was Mars’ capital city. Instinctively, Lloyd had tried to determine why his father had not stayed in Ares City, especially as it meant that every day, he would have to travel for almost over an hour to get to his work. He could have easily purchased a similar property in the capital, but he didn’t.
Lloyd remained still as Roman and Seth started to look around the opened planned home that their father had created. At one end of it was a kitchen that was of a reasonable size. It was separated from the rest of the flat with a breakfast bar that had stalls around it. Besides this was an oval shaped dining table, which had six seats around it but looked as if it hadn’t been touched. In the centre of the apartment was the living area with three black leather sofas all placed in an arch shape along with two armchairs of a similar colour. Against the far wall at the opposite end of the apartment was a king size bed which had cabinets either side of it. The bed itself was made with dark navy sheets covering it. Near to the bed was a chest of draws and a two-door wardrobe, all made from pine. Roman was now standing by the wardrobe and had reached out to open it. Inside were clothes that obviously were owned by their father. Seth on the other hand had found their father’s glass desk. The apartment itself had three walls which were obviously made of cement and brick, while the fourth was an arched set of bay windows that had a small centred door that went out onto a balcony. Their father had purchased a top floor place, obviously he liked the view of the settlement as he had placed his desk and work area facing the view. Looking out at the colony of various interconnecting structures, Lloyd could see why his father had invested in such a place. A bulk of the Utopia Colony was based around the designs of the Millennium Gate, Earth‘s first self-sustaining civic environment. The Millennium Gate, which was located in the United States, had served as a model for the first colony on Mars. Ever since its inception and construction on the red planet, different variations had been designed and built to sustain human life on Mars. The apartment was located in the south-eastern block of the super-structure. Thankfully none of them had to wear pressure suits as they were able to use the internal transportation facilities within the colony to move around. Lloyd stopped gazing and returned his focus on what he needed to do. They had to find some answers or their trip to the fourth planet from the Sun would be for nothing.
Seth had sat on the black leather chair that was by the desk and had switched the small desktop computer console on. Lloyd wandered over to him and stood behind Seth. He was drawn to the only picture they had seen in the flat so far. It was in a silver frame and was sitting on the desk. In the picture was Lloyd and his siblings all sat back in their living room back in Portsmouth on Earth. Lloyd knew it had been taken when he was about seventeen and couldn’t believe how young they all looked in it. He had picked the picture up, stared at it for a bit before putting it back down. During this time Seth had been able to gain access to the files on the computer.
“Found anything interesting?” Lloyd asked his younger brother.
Seth shook his head, “Nothing yet, it might be worth Roman taking a look. He’s the computer genius compared to all of us.” He tapped away at the keyboard and then stopped. “This looks interesting.”
“What is it?” Lloyd asked.
Drumming away at the keys, Seth pulled something up on the screen before them. “Dad had a private server installed on this. One that was not connected to the rest of the planetary network and it looks like it’s got nothing to do with the university either. To top it all, it’s encrypted.”
Lloyd beckoned Roman over, who took over from Seth to see if they could access what was on this private server. Roman told them it was going to take him some time, as such Lloyd and Seth resumed their search of their father’s property.
A few moments later, while Lloyd was going through his father’s wardrobe, Seth spoke up. “That’s weird.”
Lloyd looked over to where his younger brother was. He was sat on the red, white and grey patterned rug going through a nearby sideboard that had contained various documents. Seth had the different papers, books and folders all dotted around him. “What’s wrong Seth?” Lloyd asked.
Holding up the folder he was currently reading, Seth answered. “None of these records contain anything to do with dad’s work at the college. They’re all research notes from his time at Cambridge.”
They didn’t make sense, Lloyd pondered, there must have been some reference to his time working with the Ares City College. “Really? Nothing at all related to the college?”
Seth shook his head in confirmation. “I cannot find anything in any of them that links him to it.” The younger man paused as he considered what this may have meant. “How do we know for certain dad actually worked with the college?”
“Well, mum mentioned it.” Lloyd answered.
“And how does she know he definitely worked there?” Seth asked.
Roman interrupted his brothers’ conversation. “Guys, you need to come over and take a look at this.”
Seth stood up from the rug and walked over with Lloyd towards Roman.
“You found something?” Lloyd questioned.
Nodding once, Roman replied. “I don’t think dad ever did work with the college.”
“How can you be certain?” Seth enquired.
Roman stopped pressing the keys on their father’s computer and turned the seat round to look up at his brothers. “Because I recognise the configuration of the operating system for this private server.” He turned back around and pressed a few buttons to reveal his discovery. “It’s the one used by Starfleet.”
Lloyd wanted to be shocked, but his mother had pre-warned him that she had a feeling her husband had been working for Starfleet again. “Why am I not surprised?” He muttered.
“That may explain why Starfleet Security were involved with investigating his death.” Seth suggested. “It still doesn’t explain what he was doing on Mars.”
“I’ve started to hack my way past the security lockout and firewall, I should be able to access some of dad’s files, but I need a bit more time.” Roman stated.
“Good work Roman.” Lloyd said, patting his brother on his shoulders. “Glad we decided to bring you with us.”
Roman smirked at the compliment from his big brother as he continued with his work.
“I’m going to get in touch with Madison to see how her appointment with Commander Hanson went.” Lloyd said as he took out his communicator.
Starfleet Security, San Francisco, California, United States of America, Earth
The building that held the main offices for Starfleet Security were connected to Starfleet Headquarters, as a result of this Madison had not been bothered about walking among the grounds with Oliver in his pushchair. She had received a few strange looks; it may have been because she was wearing her uniform and it must have been a rare sight to see a captain pushing a buggy around Starfleet Headquarters.
She pushed her son’s buggy up to the main glass doors, which opened automatically after detecting her, and entered the small building. Automatically she approached the front desk, shared with the receptionist her credentials and was allowed to proceed further into the building. Oliver was sitting gurgling away with one of his toys in his hands. It was midday by now and he would soon naturally sleep, well that’s what Madison hoped.
Entering a lift, she took it up to the third floor and exited the cart. The receptionist had given her directions to Commander Hanson’s office. As she approached the fifth door on the left of the corridor, she noticed a small sign on the side stating the commander’s name. Pressing the door buzzer, Madison waited for permission to enter. A low female voice replied for her to enter. The doors opened soon after and Madison turned the pushchair into the room.
“Captain Burton.” The same voice came from earlier.
Looking up, Madison noticed she was in a small office, it was almost as spacious as her quarters on Voyager. Two small windows were on the opposite wall from the door. The room itself was painted in a mint colour while the carpet was a dark grey. The voice that had greeted her came from the direction of a desk that was pushed up against the right-hand wall. Madison looked at the woman who was now standing and offering a handshake to her.
Madison parked Oliver besides the armchair she was going to sit in and went over to meet who she knew was Hanson. She looked almost exactly like the picture from her record that Lloyd had got his hands on. She had black hair that was cut to shoulder length. Along with this she was a petite woman, but as her brother had stated her grey eyes carried a sense of strength and intimidation. “Commander Hanson, thank you for seeing me.”
“It’s a pleasure ma’am.” Hanson responded, offering for Burton to take a seat in the armchair. “I’m assuming you wanted to see me about your father’s death?”
Almost surprised with Hanson’s directness, Madison kept her posture. “Something like that commander.” She said, “My mother shared with me that you were one that investigated his death and in fact you were the one that had the burden to tell her of his death. Firstly, on behalf of my family, I wanted to thank you personally on how sensitively you dealt with that matter. My mother was extremely grateful with your approach and how thorough you were in sharing all of the details with her.”
Hanson smiled slightly at the compliment. “Thank you, ma’am.”
Continuing, Madison knew she had to find out more information. “The only thing that concerns me is my mother couldn’t quite remember all of the facts. I’ve taken a look at the report on the accident and I would appreciate your thoughts on it for my own closure on the matter.”
“Of course, ma’am, I would be happy to help as best as I can.” Hanson said as she extended her left hand to close down her computer terminal. As she did that, Madison wondered if there was something on her display that she didn’t want her to see.
“Well, one of the issues I cannot understand is that if my father’s transport had only recently undergone its routine service and maintenance, how come something went wrong? I feel the report on this appears to be vague.”
Hanson cleared her throat as she answered. “From what I can recall ma’am, our engineers believed that a plasma relay hadn’t been installed correctly. This was one of the factors that led to your father’s death. It contributed to the explosion and we were unable to determine if this was computer error in not registering the faulty hardware during diagnostics or human error for not recognising the need for it to be replaced with a new one.”
“I don’t find either of those reasons to be comforting Commander Hanson.” Madison hit back with. “To hear that it was an error for my dad to be dead and one of his colleagues to be injured is inadequate in my opinion.”
“Well, I’m sorry you feel that way ma’am,” Hanson began. “And I understand that there is nothing I can say that will make your loss any easier. I wish I was able to give you the answers you want.”
“I would like to know for certain that this was not done on purpose and that none of this was part of some elaborate plot to have my father, one of Earth’s leading physicists, killed.” Burton stated.
Hanson shook her head. “In my professional opinion, I do not believe there was any plan to have your father or Doctor Lockhart murdered because of their positions in the scientific community. I am unaware of any motive on any party wanting to undertake such an act. I even interviewed Doctor Lockhart when she was cleared from the hospital. She had no suspicions that this was anything more than an accident.” She paused. “Ma’am it’s my belief that it was that; a simple accident. I do not know what else to say.”
In that moment Madison realised there was nothing else she could do to get any more information from Hanson. “Very well.” She now stood from her chair. Thank you for your time Commander Hanson.”
“You’re welcome ma’am and I am truly sorry for your loss.” Hanson said as she stood up from her chair and made her way over to the door to see Madison out.
As Madison went through the doorway while pushing her son’s buggy she stopped. “There is one question you could answer for me though.” She remarked looking at the smaller woman.
“Why was Starfleet involved in the investigation?” Madison asked. “The London Metropolitan Police should have carried it out as it happened on their turf, it involved two civilians and a private transport. But that wasn’t the case as they were ordered by you to step aside and allow Starfleet Security to take over. So, I ask again, commander, why?”
Hanson went silent before finally answering. She appeared as if she was considering her words carefully. “As you said ma’am, your father was a high-profile member of the scientific community.”
“Even so, Starfleet still didn’t have authority in the matter. Unless my father or Doctor Lockhart worked for Starfleet?” Madison enquired. At this point she felt like she needed to push the commander.
Again, the Starfleet security commander said nothing at first as she considered her words. “I’m afraid I cannot comment on that ma’am. I was ordered to take over the investigation.”
“By whom?” Madison challenged.
Hanson swallowed before answering. “By my superior ma’am.”
“And who’s that?”
“Gardner?” Madison echoed. She was confused, why was the director of Starfleet Operations so involved with Starfleet Security? She was expecting her to say Admiral Black’s name as he was the director of Starfleet Security.
Hanson just nodded once. She then pulled out one of her desk’s draws, looking into it she extended her right hand in and took out a small device. Immediately Madison recognised it. It looked like a silver pen, however instead of a nib at one end a magenta light flashed from either end of it. The device was a sound scrambler. Madison had never seen one before but knew what it was based on what Lloyd had described to her as Admiral Hathaway had used one with him when she had briefed him on her suspicions regarding their father’s death. Hanson continued to talk when she was satisfied that scrambler was working correctly. “Ma’am, I believe you and I are investigating the same thing.”
“Clarify.” Madison said, still feeling weary about the security officer.
Hanson appeared to roll her eyes. “Ma’am, I know you and your brothers are investigating your father’s suspicious death off the record. In fact, your brothers are on their way to Mars, if not they’re already there.”
Madison looked at the commander with a slight wince in her eyes. “Very well Commander Hanson, please continue with your theory.”
Hanson went on to explain to Madison that Admiral Gardner had ordered her to take over the investigation of the shuttle accident and to make sure that the London Metropolitan Police did not get any access to evidence. She also explained how quickly he wanted her to finalise her report and classify it as an accident. “Unfortunately for the admiral I do a thorough job of any assignment I am given, along with that this isn’t the first case I have been given since joining Starfleet that doesn’t appear right.”
A sense of dread went over Madison as she shuffled slightly in her chair. “Commander, before we go on, I’m going to ask you, is this something we should really be discussing here?” She mentioned, hinting at the room and building they were in.
Smiling with a sense of power and pride, Hanson continued. “Ma’am, I’m a former member of the CIA, British Intelligence and the FBI. As a result of that I know how to discuss private matters in possible hostile locations.” She then indicated to the sound scrambler on her desk. “That device isn’t a Starfleet issue and is highly effective.”
Madison nodded with approval, starting to show some sort of trust with Hanson.
Continuing, Hanson went on to share with her what she was talking about. “I was originally brought into Starfleet Security by Fleet Admiral Hathaway as she believed there was a division within it that was working against the principles of Starfleet. She and a couple of other high-ranking officers had noticed too many suspicious activities that had taken place since its formation, but they couldn’t put any strong evidence against anything to determine what was happening.”
“That sounds very vague, Commander Hanson.” Madison said, surprised at what Hanson was now sharing with her.
“I appreciate that ma’am, but I hope by not sharing everything that I know it will keep you and your family from any more danger.”
“Are you threatening me?” Madison said, placing a hand on Oliver’s pushchair.
Quickly, Hanson shook her hands to dismiss the captain’s question. “No, no ma’am. I swear that’s not what I meant. Since I took on this position, the evidence I have compiled has made me consider the admiral’s speculation to appear to have some truth. However, none of it can be truly linked together as concrete evidence.”
“It sounds like you’re describing a conspiracy theory.” Madison remarked.
“I know how crazy it sounds, but if you knew what I knew then you would see where I am coming from.” Hanson took a moment before carrying on. “Captain, I’m a professionally trained investigator. My years of experience have never prepared me to understand some of the things I have discovered in these last two years. I’m also concerned that if I shared this with anyone else, especially with what’s going on with the war with the Romulans, then it may cause serious ramifications for Starfleet.”
Madison got up from her chair and paced the small office as she considered everything. She looked at the young commander a couple of times, no longer was she the almost intimidating woman that she had met when she first walked in. “Okay, I’m not sure how much I can help you with this bigger investigation, however if you can help me find out more about my father’s death than anything else we come across that helps you then I will ensure no-one else finds out about it.”
“That sounds reasonable.” Hanson replied.
Madison sat back down in her chair. “First off, how do you know so much about what my brothers and I are up to? We’ve kept almost everything within a tight circle.”
Hanson smirked at that. “Besides accessing my personnel file which required sigma level clearance.”
Madison still couldn’t work out how Hanson knew so much. “That still doesn’t answer my question.”
“Put it this way ma’am, working in the intelligence and investigative communities for as long as I have, I have learnt certain tricks and ways of finding out who is trying to find out about me.” Hanson stated. “I was alerted the moment Commander Callahan downloaded it. Once I worked out why one of my colleagues, especially one who I teach alongside, would need to see it the rest as they say was easy to determine. Please don’t be discouraged, your brother Captain Lloyd Burton, did an excellent job in trying to find an alternative way of gaining access to information he shouldn’t have his hands on. I was highly impressed, however if I was any other officer in Starfleet Security, he may have got away with it being noticed. Unfortunately for him the notification system I have setup within the main Starfleet database around files linked to me have certain fail-safes in them.”
“I’ll make sure to share your notes with Lloyd.” Madison commented.
“Along with that, your request to meet with me within a matter of days was enough for me to conclude what you could be up to. I was able to find out from a few friends in the private sector that your brothers left recently for Mars to. The rest is history.” Hanson concluded.
“Well, bravo Commander Hanson. I’m sure if there was a Sherlock award for great detective work then I’d be sure to nominate you.” Madison sarcastically said, although she was impressed with the woman’s ability. However, she hated the fact that her husband, Stephen, had been right about her and her brothers trying to be so secretive and almost failing in their attempts to do so. She then looked behind Hanson at the wall and noticed she was the recipient of a number of awards from the FBI, CIA and British intelligence. Madison only smirked and laughed slightly at it all. “I’m sorry commander, I didn’t mean anything by that.”
Hanson, who was also smiling, shook her head. “No offence taken ma’am. I’d be sure to suggest to the admiralty about creating a Sherlock medal for us security officers.”
“Okay, enough chat. We need to get down to work. Where would you suggest we start?” Madison asked.
“Ma’am I find it interesting that your brothers are heading to Mars as at some point as I was planning to do the same thing.” Hanson answered. She took out a small computer tablet and handed it over to Madison after unlocking it. “The transport that your father was using was registered to a private company from Mars.”
“So’s there something going on Mars?” Madison wondered as she looked at the details on the tablet’s screen. Hanson had done a thorough job on finding out as much as she could about this particular company.
Hanson continued their exchange, “I believe so, but what I find more interesting ma’am is the company itself has been involved in other incidents which have affected other high-profile members of Starfleet or those associated with it. The company is called Trentuno Galactica.”
“Yes, my father used them all the time. What do you mean about their other involvements?” Madison asked.
“Last year Admiral Maxwell, the former head of Starfleet Operations, used a private transport from Trentuno Galactica for half of his trip to Vulcan which led to his death. The transport met up with a Vulcan cruiser prior to the admiral’s arrival. Then there was the kidnapping of Enterprise’s chief medical officer, Doctor Phlox.”
Madison held up her hand. “Wait a minute, we all know that Doctor Phlox was kidnapped by Rigelians for the Klingons. It was shared across hundreds of media outlets.”
Nodding in agreement, Hanson added more detail. “But again, the freighter that undertook that action transferred supplies with a transport from Trentuno Galactica before entering the Sol system.”
“I’m starting to see what you mean by evidence that can’t be truly linked to each other.” Madison stated.
“Exactly, there aren’t many links to each of these incidents as Trentuno Galactica has a long-term contract with Starfleet in support of transport arrangements and is becoming one of the biggest competitors in freight with the Earth Cargo Service. However, the last incident I wish to share will make you raise your eyebrows.”
“Go on.” Madison encouraged.
“Earlier this year your brother Lloyd was promoted to the rank of captain.” Hanson specified.
“Yes, after Captain Karim’s death…” Madison hesitated. “Commander…” She paused again. “Are you saying Captain Karim’s death may be linked to this as well?”
Hanson nodded. “I led the investigation into Karim’s death and surprise, surprise, the other craft involved with the captain’s shuttlepod was registered with Trentuno Galactica.”
Madison didn’t know what to say. She leaned her head back slightly, she hated conspiracy theories or anything that was similar to them. “So, you believe on some level they’re involved with all of this mess?”
“My gut instinct is telling me yes, but my brain is telling me that it’s all circumstantial evidence that cannot be completely linked.” Hanson said.
“Can I ask why you haven’t gone to Admiral Hathaway with all of this?” Madison asked.
“I have.” Hanson responded.
Inwards Madison sighed, wondering if she was going to get any further with this. “And what did she say?”
“She said it needed to be looked at further and suggested I put a group of trusted officers to do it off the record.” Hanson uttered. “That was over four months ago.”
Some dots started to form in Madison’s mind now. “I think the admiral may have done that for you commander.”
“What do you mean?” Hanson said, now with a confused look across her face.
Madison sat up. “I believe Admiral Hathaway has put my brothers and I on a course to meet with you and to help you with this.”
Hanson shook her head. “I’m sorry ma’am, I don’t follow.”
For the next few minutes Madison went on to explain how Hathaway met with Lloyd at their father’s funeral, made similar remarks to him about her concerns with the investigation and encouraged him to look into it further. Somehow the Starfleet Commander-in-Chief knew that they would end up crossing paths with Hanson and knowing the admiral’s wishes in wanting all of this to be unofficial then it all made sense. “On some level, she wanted us to meet. If it wasn’t me sitting in this chair, then it would have been just my brother Lloyd. Commander that offer of us joining together to sort this all out is still there. Can I count on you to help us?”
Hanson stood up and extended her hand towards Madison. “Yes ma’am.”
“Then let’s get to work.” Madison said as she shook Hanson’s hand. “I think we need to follow my brothers to lend them a hand on Mars.”
“Agreed, but I would recommend we take separate journeys ma’am.” Hanson suggested. “The less we are seen in public the less aware others who may be involved in all of this will be of my involvement with you.”
“Sounds like a plan. Let’s make our own separate ways to Mars and meet at Utopia colony.” Madison said. She finished off making arrangements with Hanson and soon departed from her office.
As she left the building pushing her infant along, she wondered how she would get herself to Mars. Considering her options as she made her way towards the Golden Gate park, her trail of thought was interrupted by her communicator going off. She looked into the bag it was in and pulled it out. Straight away she recognised the caller I.D. as it belonged to her brother. “How goes the trip Lloyd?” She said into it as she carried on with her journey.
“We’ve arrived at dad’s apartment. We’re starting our work on sorting it out.” He said in a very ambiguous way. “How did your trip to San Francisco go?”
“It went well actually.” She replied, she too decided to remain careful in what she was saying. “Stephen and I were talking about perhaps coming out to help you guys. I feel bad about leaving you to do all of that work by yourselves.” She added.
It took for a moment for Lloyd to register what she was saying. “I understand what you’re saying Madison, but do you really want to put Oliver on a long journey?”
She looked down at her infant and instantly guilt washed over her. She didn’t want to leave him behind, but on the other hand she felt she needed to see all of this through with her brothers and discover exactly what the hell was happening. She owed her father that. “I’ll see if I can get Stephen or even mother to look after him while I’m with you guys.”
“That sounds like a good idea to me. Let me know when you’re on the way here and we’ll meet you at the port.” Lloyd said, still remaining calm.
“Understood. I’ll speak to you soon, little brother. Take care in the meantime and give my love to the other two.”
“Will do. Burton out.” Lloyd said, closing the channel at his end.
“Burton out.” She whispered as she put the communicator back away and headed to the nearest port to get her home to New York to see Stephen before visiting her mother in Portsmouth. She had made up her mind and knew what she needed to do. She wouldn’t allow her brothers to undertake all of this without her by their sides. They were family and this was a family matter that had to be sorted for them all to have closure. If it turned out to be nothing, then she didn’t feel that it would be time wasted. At least they would have the facts.