Part of USS Hathaway: Episode 6: A Path Well Travelled and USS Hathaway: Season 1: The Santa Fe Chronicles

Leaving Fate to the Inquiry

Starbase 211, Alpha Quadrant
February 14th, 2400
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Wardroom Three on Starbase Two-One-One had been in use for most of the last week as the inquest into the events involving the starship Thesis took place. The station had been a hive of activity with starships from far and wide stopping by as senior officers from across the sector and from nearly a dozen different divisions had stopped by to partake in and listen to the evidence and testimony by all those involved. Perhaps the most important of all the guests involved were Vice Admiral Sitak, the deputy Starfleet Judge Advocate General and Rear Admiral Jamtod Kriheg, the Bajoran who was the recently appointed Director of Internal Affairs at Starfleet Command. It was, perhaps, the largest gathering of top level brass outside of the core worlds since the Dominion war, such was the level of significance the inquest held.

From the perspective of Captain Italia Ruas and the crew of the Thesis, the inquest had looked into the failure of the ships Multi Adaptive Refractive Shielding system and the ships subsequent involvement in the events that had led to Captain sh’Elas of the Santa Fe being ordered to relieve the Captain of her command. The fact that the Inquiry-class starship had not been lost meant there was no need for a court martial, but the suggestion of sabotage was cause enough for a more formal inquiry. Such a suggestion meant these proceedings had an even greater significance.

Gruelling was the only word that could be used to describe the investigations, the countless conversations and interrogations, and the invasions of privacy the crew of Thesis, and to a much lesser degree the Santa Fe, had had to endure. Today was judgement day.

Today was the day of the summing up; the time when the Judge Advocate General would offer her thoughts and opinions on the inquest and deliver her verdict and guidance for moving forward. The fact that the JAG was a Vulcan was seen as a positive – at least decisions would be made without the burden of emotion and based entirely on logic. Vice Admiral Sitak was highly regarded at Starfleet Command and had been seen as a candidate for Commander in Chief at several points in her career. Her promotion at the start of the Dominion War had catapulted the young Vulcan to fame. For now though, she sat behind a desk at the front of the wardroom, the eyes of everyone assembled in the room focused on her as she sat in deep contemplation

The entire crews of both starships were either present in the room, or watching on monitors from further afield, all on tenterhooks having finally been told of the dire straits their ships had been in. At a smaller table between the Vulcan and the audience, the two senior most officers, one from each of the two ships, sat anxiously waiting to hear from the Vulcan.

To the right, Captain Italia Ruas, the former commander of the Thesis, sat with her hands clasped together on the surface of the table, dressed in her fancy new dress uniform, as had been procedure throughout the inquest. To her left, the Andorian known as Captain sh’Elas, commander of the Santa Fe, who sat motionless, still.

Tharia felt numb. She was still reeling from recent events, especially learning that someone, potentially multiple people, had been involved in the sabotage and near destruction of the Thesis; she knew in everyone else’s eyes that she had disobeyed orders, but she stood by the fact that she had done what she felt right.

Reaching out at last, the Vulcan took ownership of a small wooden gavel and gently tapped it on the side of a silver bell three times to call the proceedings to order and silence the waiting crowd. Once the hushed conversations had died down, the Vulcan looked towards the two seated officers before her. “Captain Italia Ruas. Captain Tharia sh’Elas. Please rise,” she ordered politely, perhaps more politely than any other Vulcan would have.

Italia took a deep breath and pushed her chair back with the backs of her legs, her hands absentmindedly pulling on the bottom of her dress uniform jacket in order to smooth out any creases that had formed.

Tharia rose in a likewise fashion, and after straightening out her duty jacket she folded her hands behind her back. She looked up at the Admirals with just the tiniest hint of disgust on her face; she did not remotely approve of the way some of her colleagues had been treated, regardless of whatever the outcome today was going to bring.

“This inquest has heard the testimony and evidence of countless personnel from both starships and beyond. It is clear that there have been a catalogue of errors leading up to the events that transpired, errors that directly link all of the events that very nearly resulted in the destruction of the starship Thesis,” the Vulcan began as she looked out at the audience and then between the two officers on their feet before her.

“Captain Ruas; it is clear that, after looking at the evidence, the failure of the MARS system aboard the Thesis was precipitated by at least one act of sabotage that could not have been foreseen,” Sitak explained in her quiet, almost seductive voice.

Ruas gave the Admiral a curt nod of understanding whilst remaining silent. She clearly wasn’t finished though.

Sitak changed her focus now. “Captain sh’Elas. As the current and senior most representative of the USS Santa Fe, it is pertinent that I apologise to you on behalf of Starfleet Command. The crew of the Santa Fe were placed in an extremely volatile situation through no fault of your own. In the line of duty, you lost one of your own, Lieutenant Commander Javorian Travis,” the Vulcan spoke much to everyone’s surprise. Was she demonstrating empathy?! “It is evident from the discussions I have had with your personnel that Commander Travis was a deeply respected, highly efficient and incredibly diligent member of your crew. I am certain that his loss was, and still is, keenly felt by all members of your crew,” Sitak concluded, nodding respectfully at the Andorian.

Some of the tension in Tharia’s face finally began to melt away, as she nodded in acknowledgement of the Admiral’s words. “Thank you, ma’am,” Tharia said humbly.

“The catalogue of errors and the detected sabotage of the systems aboard Thesis directly led to her near destruction. If it had not been for the timely intervention of yourself and the Santa Fe crew, for a second time, then I am certain we would be participating in a very different inquiry today,” Sitak declared in a rather public rebuke apparently aimed at the captain of the Thesis?

Both command officers remained stoic and still, respectfully silent as they listened to the Vulcan’s statements.

“The incident in question is a failure of many people, including some in this room,” Sitak assured the two officers ahead of her, in an uncharacteristic dig at others in the room, before leaning forward in her seat and placing her hands clasped together on the table top again. “Had it not been for the exceptional diagnostic abilities of Lieutenant’s Linn Mora, Udal, and Prida Rala, then it is very possible that the fate of both starships, and perhaps others, could have been very different. However, as commanding officer of your starship, Captain Ruas, it is your responsibility to ensure your crew is not placed in a position of risk unless absolutely necessary,” Sitak addressed the Trill in particular now. “Despite your own, documented misgivings, you failed to act in a responsible or reasonable manner. You neglected your own concerns, and the concerns of your crew, and went ahead with the MARS testing, even in the face of the failed test at Sathea IV,” the Admiral informed sternly, a harsh lesson in command to be sure.

“At this time, I feel it important to break with convention somewhat and disclose some information that has, until now, been classified. With the permission of the Director of Starfleet Intelligence, and no doubt to the annoyance of Admiral Kriheg, I must inform everyone that Starfleet Intelligence did, in fact, have concerns of sabotage as far back as the construction of the Thesis. Evidence of foreign involvement tied to the House Mo’Kai has been documented for many months and was ignored,” that was a phrase that resulted in a few murmurs around the room as officers in attendance found it astounding that any member of Starfleet Command, least of all one of the most respected Vulcan’s to ever serve, would so openly criticise others in command. “Until this inquiry, it had been kept a closely guarded secret that Starfleet Intelligence believed agents of Mo’Kai were, in fact, serving in Starfleet. One such agent specifically worked on the MARS project at Sathea, and later on the installation of the systems aboard the Thesis,” the Vulcan revealed, to a sea of audible gasps and shocked faces from those around the room. The aforementioned Rear Admiral swiftly vacated the room, no doubt to lodge a complaint with Sitak’s superiors about her disclosure and the fact that it was becoming increasingly likely there would be no repercussions for anyone involved.

This revelation nearly broke Italia, and she took a measured breath to maintain her composure. She had been openly chastised, she had been rebuked, but she had also been misled and even lied to. Swallowing past the lump in her throat, Italia nodded in acceptance of this truth, urging the Admiral to continue.

Tharia stood beside her colleague and had to resist the strong urge to place a comforting hand on the woman’s shoulder. She was getting a hammering that, in fairness, she only partially deserved. But it was clear that Starfleet Intelligence was to blame here.

A composed Admiral Sitak sat bolt upright as she prepared to deliver her final words. “It is pleasing to see that actions to remove all traces of the compromised systems are already underway. Captain Ruas,” she declared loudly, “it is my judgement that you made several questionable decisions in your command of the Thesis. You put your ship and crew at risk and should have exercised better judgement, but that is where my condemnation ends. You and your crew should forever be grateful for the assistance of Captain sh’Elas and the crew of the Santa Fe, for without them, this situation could have been incredibly different.”

There was a mixture of shock, and relief around the room as discussions broke out between the audience.

“This inquest is hereby adjourned,” the Vulcan called out over the cacophony of noise as she drew attention back to herself one final time, almost with an air of pride in her voice as she again lifted the wooden gavel and tapped it against the bell three times to signal the end of proceedings before swiftly departing the room, followed by several aides.

Tharia looked across at Italia, a meek smile on her face, a huge sense of relief to know that neither of them were under any further scrutiny.

Italia’s expression had changed somewhat, and she simply glared at the captain beside her, before storming off and out of the room, her senior staff joining her swiftly.

Tharia watched in disbelief as a number of her own team huddled around her.

“That’s nice,” Lieutenant Commander Zinn spoke as he watched the Thesis crew leave, “We save her ship and crew, twice, and she can’t be bothered to even say thank you,” the bald headed Deltan frowned.

“It can’t have been easy for her to be so openly criticised,” Tharia hadn’t moved, her gaze on the door that had closed behind the Captain and her entourage. “I’d probably have reacted the same had I been told to be thankful for someone else and their crew.

“Still… respect is earned and you’ve done more than enough to warrant a pat on the back from her…” Lieutenant Dante Rawlings interjected as he caught a glimpse of several Admirals in deep discussion at the back of the room. “Wonder what’s going on over there?” he queried as he nodded in their direction.

“I have no idea, but I now have the sudden urge to go get a drink once we’re out of here,” Tharia blurted out, then flinched, an action that caused a number of the team to chuckle. Until they realised one member of the aforementioned Admiralty group heading their way.

Counsellor Chiera took her leave, and intimated that the rest of the team should follow her, leaving the Captain to her discussion with the Admiral, whoever he was.

“Captain sh’Elas?” the grey-haired Terran asked as he came to a halt and offered a hand, “Admiral Tobias Hawthorne, Starfleet Operations.” As introductions went, it was short and sweet. “I’d appreciate it if you accompanied me on a little jolly, Captain,” the man requested with a devilish grin, eliciting a cautious nod of agreement from the Andorian.

“Excellent,” he clapped his hands together and then reached up to tap the commbadge upon his breast. “Transporter bay,” he spoke out, “as discussed please.”

Looking rather confused, Tharia was about to speak when the materialisation process began and swept both the Captain and the elder companion away from the wardroom to a location that, to begin with, seemed to be just some random corner of the Starbase, but when she turned around, she saw the massive windows overseeing the Starbase’s internal docking arena. Packed to the rafters with starships she had never seen before, the Captain could just make out the familiar lines of the Thesis, new and sleeker than a lot of the older vessels in the bay. Then there was Santa Fe of cour…

“What the hell are they doing to my ship?!” she bellowed, marching to the windows and pawing at them like a child at a toy shop window. Far beyond the protective windows, dozens of workerbee craft buzzed around the aging vessel. And if she wasn’t mistaken, it almost looked like they were dismantling her baby.

“It’s part of the decommissioning process,” Hawthorne told, watching the woman intently, gauging her reaction to the sudden news. “Santa Fe is over forty years old and she just can’t handle the upgrades needed to keep her on the frontlines. The resources we would need to put in to keep her ticking over can be better used elsewhere,” he told, stepping up to the window beside her, before nodding in the direction of another ship, “the Thesis over there for example.”

Tharia swivelled on the balls of her feet and looked at the Admiral, more of a glare than a look in truth. “Admiral, I think the last several months have proven how capable the Santa Fe still is. With the right crew replacements, we can keep her running for a considerable amount of time. We don’t even need the new techno…”

But it was no use. Hawthorne held his hands up and stopped her in her tracks. “It’s already done. But, you aren’t finished yet,” he smiled. “Take another look out there,” he gestured in the direction of the only other familiar starship. “We’d like you to take command of the Thesis, Captain,” he told her as, together, their gazes settled on the Inquiry-class vessel.

Undergoing her own refits and repairs following the incidents of late, Thesis had a number of workerbees buzzing around her, too. She looked in a far worse state than the Santa Fe, yet she was the one being salvaged. Obviously she could understand why, if she was being objective, but the Santa Fe was her command. She had only just stepped out of Sebastian’s shadow and made the ship her own, yet now she was being told to surrender her. She was giving the proposition some thought. Some serious thought at that, but there was one burning question on her lips. “What about Captain Ruas?” she inquired, the elephant in the room needed to be addressed after all.

“Ruas is out,” Hawthorne told bluntly. “She made one too many mistakes and paid the price. She’ll have a nice little desk job for a while I’m sure, but that’s not for you to worry about.” The Admiral was brutal in his response, but somehow, the Andorian could feel a warmth from him. “Thesis is being assigned to a new sector, and needs a new Captain. You can take anyone with you that you wish, just say the word. But I need to know now.”

It wasn’t much of a choice really. She’d spent her time as an executive officer, paid her dues and earnt her promotion. She wasn’t going to give that up and take a step back because she had said no to commanding what was quite possibly one of the finest vessels to be constructed in some time. “Alright Admiral,” she nodded, “I’m in.”

“Excellent! Then do what you need. I want an update on your status as soon as possible,” the Admiral told as he started to walk away. “Oh,” he turned back and walked up to her again. “We’ve decided to rename her. Thesis… well, let’s just say she’s got a bad reputation, and an even worse track record right now. We think a change of name, alongside a new commanding officer, might just change her fortunes.” With that, the strange man departed. “Don’t worry! You’ll get the hang of it!”

Tharia watched as the man left, convinced that for a split second she had seen a slight skip in his step. The last few minutes had sort of blurred together, and it was only when she was left alone at last that it occurred to her exactly what the man had just said. Thesis was no longer Thesis. But what the hell was she? Returning to the window, she gazed out at the ship again and tried to make out the new moniker.

“Tema… Temer… Temeraire…” she whispered to herself. “What the hell is a Temeraire?”