Shouting At the Mountains To Move

Posted on Sun Jun 6th, 2021 @ 10:41am by Captain Nycolas Temple

Mission: The Gauntlet
Location: Deck 17 - Brig


It was cold and quiet in the Brig; as it had been for the past few weeks. The former Admiral Thac, once masquerading as the CO of Pithos Research Facility, had been hauled up in his cell since Hesiod Green fell. There had been one initial attempt to interrogate him in the past, where Thac had been his usual smug and coy self. But for the most part, he had spent his time alone and unvisited.

That was until this late evening when the Captain entered the Brig. He calmly walked up to the cell and stood in front of it. Thac was lying on his back staring at the ceiling - with no books to read or any entertainment, all he could do to pass the time was stare above him. He had been so lost in thought that he hadn't initially heard anyone approach until Temple spoke.

"Section. Thirty. One." Nyx stated plainly, arms folded across his chest, a look of dour disapproval across his face.

"Come again?" Thac asked, raising his head to look at the man.

"Pithos Research Facility. It wasn't just some maniacal power-hungry Admiral looking for a promotion, it was Section 31." Nyx replied. "They built the facility, they put you in charge of it, but they were calling the shots."

Thac sighed, "You have no idea what you are talking about." He retorted, lying back down again dismissively.

At this, the tone in Temple's voice raised to a simmering anger. "You know!" He shouted. "Spare me the denials, Thac, you know Section 31 are responsible for Pithos and the damage it caused to Hesiod. The last time we spoke, you said that we were missing one very important detail - that was it, wasn't it? It wasn't just yours and Vincent's project. You were working on behalf of 31."

"Clearly you know already, so what good would it do to admit it?" Thac questioned lightly, still staring upwards. "You've got it all figured out."

"Not everything." Nyx seethed. "I want to know why."

Thac dared to laugh, "Why? You already know! The ability to create dynamic shielding that would render all attacks against us as a little more than a puff of wind? We would have been able to control the Expanse in a matter of weeks, and the Alrakis Pact would be banished back to their quarters." He shrugged, "Then... who knows? Perhaps the Borg need a lesson on boundaries? The Romulans need controlling? We could have done it all."

"Who is 'we'?" Nyx pointedly asked. "The Federation or 31?"

"Same thing, Nycolas." Thac smiled. He lifted himself up off the bed and stood to see his adversary face to face. "Our goals are only ever for the Federation's benefit. Whether they see it that way or not." He shrugged, "Of course, such technology couldn't be easily replicated; it would need to be regulated and installed only on ships that could handle it. The ships that we chose and piloted. Section 31 would have to handled the logistics, to spare us from any problems. You know how clumsy Starfleet can be at times, right? And 31 would have to control the technology, to prevent its misuse."

"So it was only ever for 31's benefit." Nyx sneered. "You would control the tech completely, effectively forcing the Federation to ask 31 to help protect them?"

"We put in the work, Captain, we deserve to control the project." Thac said plainly, as if this was a common expectation. "And anyone who uses it."

"That's a coup, Thac." Nyx retorted. "You're talking about 31 taking over the remit of Starfleet's operations through coercion. How do you not see that?"

"Oh I see it." Thac smirked. "I just don't see it as a bad thing. It's a necessity."

Nyx took a moment to stare at him, eyes withered into daggers. Thac remained calm and outwardly non-plussed by the Captain's obvious fury.

"Be that as it may. That's not the 'why' I wanted the answer to." Nyx finally said.

"Oh?" Thac replied.

"I want to know why 31 continues to operate like this." Nyx asked. "The lies, the illegal operations, the shadowy organisation. Once again, Section 31 is acting like they know what's best for the Federation in order to justify acting against all Federation principles, putting people's lives at risk for their own ridiculous agendas!"

Thac started to shake his head, "Section 31 is an organisation - "

"Of CRIMINALS!" Nyx shouted, bashing his hand against the force field. The electric pulse stung him in return but he did not notice. "That's what you are, criminals! You treat people as disposable tools, you care little for the damage you cause, and you do it with this delusional self-aggrandising belief that it is for the Federation's own good. But you are not! You are murderers and you are cowards!"

Thac took a step back, shaking his head at the verbal lashing. "Wow. A little harsh, Captain."

"You've gone beyond your original stated purpose." Temple warned, "Article 14 in the Charter was meant to protect the Federation in times of extreme threat. But you are creating the threat!"

"Do you think the Alrakis Pact was going to wait around forever for us to make a mistake?" Thac shook his head. "They were buying their time until they controlled the Expanse completely and then they were going to push their boundaries into Federation and other Alpha Quadrant territories! It is entirely in our scope to see the extreme threats before they occur and act on it. That's why we launched the Pithos program - to stop a war before it began."

"You may have just caused that war." Nyx immediately replied. "By destroying Hesiod and acting illegally, you've given the Pact exactly the excuse they needed to attack us."

Thac turned around and sighed. "Pithos failed. But if it had succeeded, you would have been lauding my accomplishments."

"The Hesians would disagree." Nyx shot back. "The Prime Directive would disagree."

Thac shrugged, "A regrettable casualty against the possibility of massive, unending bloodshed, Captain."

"Criminal." Nyx merely repeated.

Thac turned back to look at Temple - he was going to admonish the Captain for his emotional outburst - a man shouting at the mountains to move - but Thac remembered something in that moment and he smiled. A wicked, calculating smile. He took a moment before responding, his voiced lowered to a smug reply.

"It wasn't so long ago that you wanted to be one of us, was it?" Thac asked.

Nyx's blood turned cold and the scower on his face was deadly. "How dare you."

"It's true though, isn't it? The Wolf, that was your name, right?" Thac shrugged, "I looked you up. You were recruited from SI into 31 on a few missions after the Dominion war. Tasked with finding former Cardassian commanders and eliminating them to prevent a resurgence of their military abilities for the next decade. You did quite well, I believe. Had a few notches on your belt."

Through gritted teeth, Nyx seethed. "I did."

"You weren't ashamed to wear the black uniform then. You weren't a criminal then." Thac smugly continued. "So don't you lecture me, Agent Wolf."

Nyx stepped forward again, face almost against the shield. "I lost my home because of that. Lucis V, the colony that had become my whole world, it was burnt to the ground by the Cardassians in retribution for my actions. Innocent people died, including my father in law." His voice dropped, getting soft. "I almost lost my wife and unborn child."

"And yet Cardassia still remains a wounded lion sulking in its den. Rudderless and impotent to be any legitimate threat to the Federation." Thac remarked. "How many more lives have been saved because of that?"

Nyx shook his head, "I don't see the universe so coldly as you do, Thac."

"Because you're the Captain now?" Thac retorted. "The Pandora wipes all of that clean?"

"That's what I was told!" Nyx shouted again. "After I was done with 31, I got to choose my command, choose the service, the crew, the ship. So that we could fulfil Starfleet's true purpose and do good for the Federation."

"My friend, you can't be serious." Thac laughed. "You think this is a clean ship? With the Changeling? The Butcher of Menelax? The Fesarian? Just to name a few! This ship has been stacked with Section 31's former children and dirty souls, and no matter how high and mighty you claim to be now, you can't just wipe all of that away."

Nyx stepped back, taking in the information like a sucker punch to his gut. He turned his back on Thac and placed his hands to his forehead.

"Why do you think I chose you?" Came Thac's dulcet tone from inside the cell. "When Commander Rothgan sounded the alarm on Pithos, I knew I needed a ship that would be able to understand the purpose of our mission, and help me to continue our goals."

Nyx slowly turned to look at the former Admiral, eyes full of disgust. "What?"

"Because I knew, deep down, the Pandora's crew came from the shadows. Like me." Thac said. "You would come to understand, as you once did in the past, that sometimes the ends justifies the means. That's why you're not going to hand me over to the Federation, Captain Temple. Because you don't believe in them any more than I do."

The statements hung in the air like pockets of dense clouds, swarming around Nyx as he realised the full extent of Thac's intentions. He really thought the Pandora would be on his side; that they would shirk regulations and the right thing to do because they once were compromised. Nyx could feel his heart beating in his chest, sending thundering waves through his body. He took some time to focus on his breathing, which came in short and sharp breaths.

Nyx lowered his head as he walked back towards the force field, and Thac's smile widened on his thin, villainous lips.

"That's what you think is going to happen?" Temple asked, staring at him to see some signs of dishonesty or trickery. There was none.

"I know it." Thac smiled. "I mean, why else hasn't your Chief of Security been around to question me? Why hasn't the Chief Science Officer asked me about the dark matter experiments? Or the Chief Engineer to discuss the Pithos structure. You're keeping them from me, Temple. Because you know one of them - or maybe all of them - would align themselves with Section 31 and come to see the universe as we do."

To Nyx the statement was preposterous and showed how little Thac really understood this crew. But he was going to play along for now.

"And how do you see the universe?" Nyx whispered.

Thac stepped forward, face close the force field as well but mere inches away from Temple's. He replied, "Amendable."

Nyx took in a deep breath and released it slowly.

"Yes, my friend." Thac whispered with a smile. "Let me out and we can discuss this as partners."

"Partners?" Nyx scoffed at this. He stepped away from the cell with a sneer. "I am not your partner."

Thac squinted a little but he didn't feel like giving up just yet. "Even if you don't see it, you need me as much as I need you."

"How so?" Nyx shot back. "After dragging my ship in to rescue you, you activated a signal that would prevent us from getting back to safety. 'Stop the Pandora' came from YOU!" He stabbed his finger in the air on that last word, "It has caused us enormous risk, put us in terrible danger. Why would I help you after that?"

"To show that you needed me." Thac answered immediately. "Agree to help me now and I will deactivate the 'Stop the Pandora' signal myself."

"But why create it in the first place?" Nyx demanded to know.

"I didn't." Thac shrugged. "It was already there, lying dormant in an abandoned craft somewhere in the Expanse."

Nyx laughed out loud, "You expect me to believe that?"

Thac started to respond then shrugged. "I guess not. But it doesn't matter. I am in control of it now and I can turn it off whenever I want."

"Oh it has caused us some headaches." Nyx admitted, "But we're getting through it. It's just another hurdle for us to cross and so far, we've done just fine on our own, thank you."

"So then we're back to square one." Thac shrugged, "Even without the signal, there's still the very real possibility that the Pithos experiments could lead the Federation into a tremendous, strong future. If you personally can't see it, one of your crew still might."

Nyx paused and he shook his head, "You're forgetting one thing, Thac. Who we once were could never define who are now." He tilted his head, a smile forming. "We may have been agents, murderers, and compliant to Section 31 before. But now that we are together on this ship?" He looked Thac deep in the eyes and laughed. "We're the Pandora. And we are not your partner."

Thac took a step back, the frustration showing on his face. "Then you're making a mistake. The minute I am back in Federation space, they will come rescue me and you will have ZERO leverage! Fleet Admiral Vincent will bury you, Temple. He will make it look like you were responsible for destroying Hesiod. And do you think the Federation is going to be impressed that you ruined our chance at impervious armour?! Violation of the Prime Directive? Committing acts of war against the Alrakis Pact?! You have signed your own court martial, Captain. And I will be there to deliver it to you."

"Wow." Nyx breathed out, stunned.

Thac was also breathing heavily, an ugly snarl on his lips as he did. And then, Nyx started clapping. Slow at first then faster and more enthusiastically.

"What?" Thac hissed. "Are you doing?"

"I'm impressed." Nyx laughed, "I thought it would take longer to get you to spill everything to me. But that was... easy. You really just let it all out there, didn't ya?"

Thac stepped forward waving his finger at the Captain. "You have nothing!"

Nyx started to walk away, laughing, "No, I think you've told me everything I needed to know."

"Temple!" Thac growled, the warning in his tone growing. "Don't you walk out of here!"

"Goodbye Thac." Temple said airily. "Thanks for playing."

"TEMPLE!" Thac screamed, bashing his hands against the force field uselessly.