Charlie Hargraves sat in his office, trying to make headway with Starfleet Diplomatic Services. It had taken on most of last night and had occupied most of his morning so that as the lunch hour inched closer, he was in no better position at making headway at resolving his overall concern – Junoor III was going to need additional support beyond the Mackenzie Squadron. His hails had gone unanswered, and the replies to his inquiries via text had initially been puzzling. ‘Carry on as best as you can’ had been replaced by ‘You have your orders.’ He was entering frustration territory. He had sent out messages to his Fourth Fleet colleagues in hopes of getting some answers. It would take them some time to reply. He sat back in his chair. And jumped up when Captain Wren Walton strolled into the lobby and stalked straight for him. “Captain Wal…”
She silenced him, “Clear the office. I need to speak to you privately.” He reflexively frowned but did as she asked. There was something in the look she’d given him. It was something he hadn’t seen before with her. Was it fear? Or was it something else? He gave his small group of officers an early lunch and gestured to the elongated couch that served as one of his meeting areas for his staff.
She leaned forward in her seat, “We’ve made a discovery on the Thomas Jefferson. What I’m about to share will be classified within our squadron as top secret. I’m reading you into this because you’re my only link to Starfleet that may have some swing.” He scoffed and earned a frown of her own. He explained what had been happening over the last twenty-four hours and his last-ditch attempt to reach ships in their fleet. A new wrinkle in her frown appeared, “That’s another piece of the puzzle that doesn’t quite fit.”
He was confused when she stood, pulled out a hypospray, and stabbed him in the arm before pulling it away. He was infuriated, “What the hell Wren?” She ignored him and slipped the blood sample into a waiting tricorder, where it beeped and whirred. He stared at the device as if seeing Walton for the first time, “What are you looking for? There are not many tests you can run like that that aren’t…holy shit.” Charlie fell back into the couch, his hands to his head where a headache was starting, “You can’t be serious.”
Wren checked the reading and slipped both hypospray and tricorder away while she sat back down, “Captain Basta found and killed a Changeling.” She explained the further details to him, his eyes growing wider with each revelation, “Doctor Dread is working on examining it further to see what else we can find. For now, only a tissue sample can give us the answer. If you’re not getting good answers from Diplo, that’s a worrying sign.”
He put his hands up as he desperately tried to process the Galaxy Class-sized information that had just been thrown at him, “It’s not unusual for them not to respond right away. I mean, I’m pretty low on the deck numbers when it comes to priority.” He shook his head, “But…it’s not been this…confusing.” Charlie leaned forward, matching the captain’s stance, “This is a lot of shit to take in, Wren.”
She let a dry chuckle escape before her face returned to the stone front she’d walked in with, “I think the amount of shit is only going to get bigger, Charlie. It could just be the one on the Jefferson…but the Founders are a ballsy bunch – they like to go big with whatever they do.”
Hargraves grumbled, “Even if they don’t actually have balls.” He stood and looked around his office, “I’ll keep this confidential, captain. We’re going to need to keep our eyes and ears open to anything odd, peculiar, or even slightly off. Changelings are a tough bunch to spot.”
She also stood, “I’m putting you on that job, commander. Partner with our chief counselor, Juliet. I read her in a half hour ago. We need to run as silently as possible,” She used his rank for the first time, and he realized the antagonistic relationship they had enjoyed had shifted aside momentarily. “Good luck, commander.” She shook his hand, another first, and left. Charlie slowly sat down on the couch. The Dominion. Changelings. The universe couldn’t sit still for just one minute, could it?