Location: Deck 1 - Ready Room
With the senior staff meeting completed, Nyx still had one more issue to discuss with a certain group of crew members. Thac had been very specific in his mentioning of key individuals onboard the Pandora as part of his belief that these crew would side with Section 31 against Starfleet. In the interest of full disclosure, Nyx wanted to gather those Thac had mentioned to discuss the possible ramifications with them as a group. He believed they had a right to know their names had been included.
So, Nyx had asked Nash, Mindo, and Brennan to stay in the room, while Griffin and Francis were called to meet them after the briefing was done.
When Cailus was called to the conference lounge, it was completely out of the blue. He was on the holodeck with the children and Rebekah as Eva was reintroduced to physical therapy, Eva happily splashing in the small pool as Rebekah patiently held her, coaching her along. Physically Eva was even weaker than Aoife had been at the beginning, but mentally she was, as one doctor on Starbase 242 had amusingly put it, "full of beans". Being watched by her father and little brother only seemed to spur Eva to try harder, much to the exasperation of Rebekah, and Eva was rather disappointed that they had to leave.
After leaving Eoin with Emilie (the two families having come to an arrangement for such matters), Cailus, with some curiosity, headed up to the conference lounge. Once there, as he was about to tap the chime, he was even more perplexed to see a man in an admiral's uniform strolling down in the other direction. They'd never met, but Cailus knew who he was, regardless.
"Admiral Francis?" Cailus said, frowning. "Do you know what's going on, Admiral?"
"I'm not sure," Francis replied as he approached the door. "It better be good, I was reading a novel."
With that, Cailus tapped the chime, and the two men entered. Cailus took the measure of the room and who was there, then looked at Nyx. "You wanted to see us, Captain?"
Having stayed in the room with the rest of the senior staff and crew to go through the briefing, Owen was curious as to what was going on and why he was involved when it came to Thac, although, as he'd come to learn under Nyx's Captaincy, always expect the unexpected.
Seeing both Cailus and the Admiral arrive in the room, Owen nodded to them both. "Cailus, Admiral, good to see you both again," he said before heading over to the replicator to grab another raktajino and return to his seat.
Admiral Francis followed Owen and replicated himself a cup of black coffee. Normally an Admiral would have been there to interrogate a prisoner, but Francis had made it clear weeks ago that he was on leave until the return to Earth, and was relieved when Nyx understood. Since then, Captain Temple had more than earned Francis' confidence. But now it looked like business was catching up.
As he sat down, Francis nodded to Nyx. "Go ahead and fill us in."
"Take a seat," Nyx nodded to the chair. "I wanted to brief you all on something Thac said when I interviewed him. He specifically mentioned Shae, Mindo, Cailus, and myself in his little tirade. He believes this ship is not clean because of us."
Sitting down next to Shae, Cailus snorted derisively. "This coming from the idiot who violated the Prime Directive and nearly destroyed an entire civilisation with his greed? I'm fairly sure there's a mirror in the Brig. Thac should consider using it, if he has enough working brain cells to form such a thought."
"He wouldn't have said it if he didn't mean it." Nyx replied, "He was Vincent's puppet, but he had plans of his own. He had a specific reason for mentioning it."
"Vincent was a puppet himself," Francis said. "I worked closely with the man. He couldn't think on his own to save him. But I believe his 'suicide' is a load of hooey. He was not the type to take his own life. Someone ordered Vincent dead, and they'll probably stop at nothing to see Tbac killed too. It's a wonder I'm not dead. Your Ontarion crewman wasn't always in Engineering. Or didn't you know that?"
Mindo spoke up. "Greep never worked for Section 31. His position in Intelligence was in a different department."
Francis shook his head. "For two years he was one of Brad Chase's goons. But you are right, Lieutenant Mindo. Greep was never a part of 31. While he may not have been a factor in this mess, but he's the only Ontarion in Starfleet. It's hard to imagine Thac would be unaware of him."
Nyx's eyebrow was suitable raised up high. "Greep has been on this ship for a significant amount of time; he's part of the crew." Frowning, he looked to Mindo, "You can trust, completely, that he's not 31?"
Mindo struggled to answer. Admiral Francis spoke up. "Greep is not S31," he said. "Of that I'm positive."
Leaning back in his chair, Nyx took in a breath. "I suppose this is what Thac wanted. For me to start questioning who we can trust on the ship. He specifically wanted to know why no one else had been to visit him."
"Oh is he lonely?" Francis said without any lack of sarcasm. "Shoot, I could read him a story. Or maybe we could play cards... poor ol' boy with no one to play with!"
Mindo spoke up. "Captain, I know the reason I'm here, and I understand why Admiral Francis is here. But what does Thac want with Cailus and Shae?" Mindo looked at his two friends, knowing very little of their involvement with Admiral Thac. "Does it have something to do with Aoife or Eva?"
Nyx shrugged and spoke first, "He mentioned them. Well, to be more accurate, he mentioned the Changeling and the Butcher of Menelax." Nyx frowned, knowing those phrases were potentially hurtful to his friends. "I didn't get the sense that he knew any of you personally, or was involved with your situations. He didn't know that you both had left the ship to reclaim your daughter, so I believe he was just mentioning you to show off." Nyx frowned, "But it was in the context of who was on the Pandora and why we weren't clean because of it. So that got me thinking, is it possible that Chase had the ability to put all of us together on the Pandora?"
Owen had listened carefully to the conversation so far and was curious to osee where this was going. If Thac had wanted Nyx to start questioning everyone, then it was already working, but Owen was already aware that Nyx also had to know where he stood and who he could trust, despite the amount of time the crew had spent together.
Looking around the room, Owen knew he was sat with family, people he trusted, including the Admiral. "So if that's the case, why am I here?" Owen asked. "I don't recall any involvement in my career with Section 31...however as far as I'm concerned, I trust everyone in this room and always have done...I see no reason that should change."
Cailus glanced at Shae, communicating wordlessly, his eyes betraying his unease. "This all makes far too much sense," he said in a serious tone, turning to the others, his mind working fast. "Strategically, it makes sense for Section 31 to concentrate S31 operatives, or at least officers amenable to S31's corruption, on a single starship. The Khitomer conspirators did the same thing in '93, after Praxis blew. The Enterprise, Independence and a half dozen ships were involved in that mess because Admiral Cartwright and his allies pulled some strings with reassignments. They nearly started a war with the Klingons just by putting the right people in critical positions."
Cailus leaned back in his chair, frowning. "We've seen two Federation installations near here, both of which were operated by S31; one here in the Expanse, one just inside the Federation border. The Hesiod base was violating the Prime Directive and endangering an inhabited world. The base we rescued Eva from was committing atrocities that not even the Tal Shiar would do. Carnwennan is the largest Federation starbase in this region of space, and Shae and I saw how completely compromised they were by S31. Then we have the Pandora, the primary exploration vessel for the Expanse. Several officers have S31 connections of one sort or another."
With a sigh, Cailus looked at Owen. "You might not even be aware of your connection. These people are infiltrators and liars who have been operating an illegal secret organisation with Starfleet for who knows how long. Given that anyone working for S31 could be convicted of treason, they have to be good at obsfuscation to have stayed covert." He looked at Nyx. "There's more to this, more to S31's plans for this region, if they've invested so many resources here. There has to be if Thac is still so confident, given that he's facing a lifetime in prison."
"Captain," said Admiral Francis, who had been quiet for some time. "I know you and your whole crew are eager to leave the Expanse. The personal hardship shared by everyone here has been arduous, and all your work has been more than exemplary. You are Starfleet's best emissary to the Expanse, and its greatest weapon against Section 31. When we're back on Earth and justice has been done, I urge you to return and continue to spearhead Starfleet's mission here."
Nyx nodded, "I agree with you both. We won't know how deep their influence goes until we start to pull back the covers. We're not giving up on the Expanse; we have a responsibility to ensure it is protected from Section 31. But we can't do it alone; we need Starfleet and indeed the whole Federation to know what's happening too. And to do that, we need to get home in one piece. I want to ask each of you to be aware of Thac's claims and be on the look out for anyone showing disloyalty to the Pandora."
Rising to his feet and moving behind his chair, Nyx looked around the room. He paused, feeling the words coming forward with a warm but series tone, "Right now, the Pandora is all that stands between Section 31 and their plans for Expanse. They are trying their damndest to stop us. They placed the target on our back for the Alrakis Pact to hunt us; and now Thac intends to destroy us from the inside. They want to come for us? Fine. Let them come."
His face a steely gaze, Nyx shook his head. "They cannot stop the Pandora. Now, let's go show them why."