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Aron Kells & Cmdr. Arden Cain: The Seeker

Sedrin Belasi

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(( Walter Schirra Interior ))

:: Well, it wasn't the best plan, but it was all he had and it had seemed to make sense in the moment. The Mercury crew would be fine, after all, under the wing of a Galaxy-class, and there was nothing more that he could do -- or, indeed, wanted to do -- other than get out as quickly as possible.

Of course, then the question really did become where he was going. He answered that in spirit easily enough -- so easily, in fact, that he wondered if he hadn't known the answer before he left: He was going to join his grandfather. Whether or not he was going to assist him, he didn't know, but it was the most logical starting point. But how to find him? Wanted war criminals didn't exactly hang their locations on the public nets, so Aron was left to wander in the Schirra, searching the most likely locations, starting (to his intense displeasure) with 83 Leonis, cycling through the places where he'd seen his grandfather, and generally wending back toward Federation space. The difficulty there was that there was definitely a risk of running into Federation starships, and operating from a stolen shuttle -- while it might have been accepted by his former crew back in the Corridor -- wasn't likely to endear him to many other officers. So far, he'd been lucky, but that only lasted so long, and when the Schirra's proximity alert rang out, he knew he'd come to it at last. ::

KELLS: Computer, can you get a fix on the approaching ship?

COMPUTER: Miranda-class starship, bearing 45 mark 10.8. Warp 8.5.

:: Well, that was truly unlucky as it was much more than the Schirra could do except in emergencies. What to do? He could try what the Mercury had done at Nygel and try outmaneuvering it, but they would come out of warp in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but space to twist around. Still, if there was no running, no eluding, and no fighting, he might as well talk. He could do that well enough by now. ::

KELLS: Bring us out of warp, and as soon as the ship's out, too, hail them.

:: He'd certainly be an odd sight: An old man in a Starfleet uniform, without a comm badge or rank insignia, alone in a shuttle and far from any parent ship. ::

COMPUTER: Hail successful. Channel opens now....

:: A small screen in the [...]pit clicked on, and Aron froze. He liked to think that very few things could surprise him any more, but the Architect had pulled a fast one this time. ::

KELLS: Arden? Arden Cain?!

((Bridge, USS Altamira))

:: Arden and his crew had spent the last three days conducting trails on the aging warp drive of the USS Altamira not to mention several other key onboard systems. That was, of course, until Arden's Chief Tactical and Security officer informed him that a stolen shuttle was within sensor range. Figuring that it would be killing two, or more, birds with one stone Arden ordered an intercept course. As the minutes ticked by and the Altamira got ever closer Arden was paying closer attention to the various engineering system monitors then he was on the pursuit. The Altamira might be getting old to the point that many would call it obsolete but the crew that manned it were nothing short of the best. Or at least that was how Arden saw it in all honesty. The simple fact was that newer technology did not equate to better results in the case of the Altamira so a little outside the box thinking was required.::

THELEK: The stolen shuttle is dropping out of warp Commander, your orders?

MARTINEZ: Whoever it is, is also hailing us Sir.

CAIN: Ok, approach from it's aft and close within tractor distance. Arm phasers and ready the tractor beam. With that done, lets hear what they have to say.

::Returning to his chair from the aft engineering station Arden sat down and faced the view screen which gave a decent look of the stolen shuttle that appeared to be of "Federation" design. Once Lt. Martinez, Arden's hot shot helm officer, had maneuvered the Altamira into position the view screen changed from the view of the shuttle exterior to the shuttle's interior.

Inside Arden could quickly see an elderly man wearing a Star Fleet uniform without a comm badge or rank insignia. Arden could think of any number of reasons for the man's appearance so as strange as that was for Arden to see, what was stranger was the way the man seemed to recognize Arden. It was only then that Arden seemed to piece some of the details together. Knowing that Lieutenant Commander Thelek, who was dutifully manning tactical, wouldn't fire unless provoked Arden decided to take at least a moment to see if he could find out more from a man that resembled his former CO and friend. As much as he tried to keep up with the adventures of the USS Mercury, there were some things that mission reports couldn't quite convey. Appearantly this was one of them.::

KELLS: Arden? Arden Cain?!

CAIN: You seem to be a fair way from the Menthar Corridor Captain Kells. Not to mention, the last person I expected to see today Sir.

KELLS: The same goes for me, I'm sure. I had no idea I had strayed into the Altamira's mission sphere.

:: In truth, Aron had no idea where the Altamira was operating these days; it could very easily be much different from the theater of operations he remembered. ::

CAIN: I suppose it has been a while so perhaps a good place to start would be why you're in a stolen shuttle?

KELLS: Well, I'm -- on the run, I suppose. That's the official term. What I'm doing, really, is searching.

CAIN: This sounds like a conservation better held in private. Would you consent to being beamed to my Ready Room?

:: Aron graced his former XO with a wan smile. ::

KELLS: A tempting invitation, but as you've just pointed out, you know this shuttle voyage is not exactly condoned by Starfleet. You may prefer to arrest me and impound the Schirra, hm?

CAIN: You know me, I am not going to just throw you, of all people, in my brig especially if there is a reason for all this. But I will need some answers, Starfleet is a bit antsy at the moment about stolen vessels.

KELLS: I suppose they are -- and I also would rather speak with you than with a bureaucrat I don't know. Very well. I'll beam aboard. But, Commander -- one request.

CAIN: I am glad to hear that. And your request would be?

KELLS: Beam me directly to your ready room. I'd rather not be paraded around right now.

CAIN: My thoughts exactly, stand by for transport.

::With that Arden watched as the comm channel closed. Turning to Lieutenant Commander Thelek, Arden didn't have to verbalise the order as the Andorian was already several steps ahead. With that Arden then left the Bridge through the aft door and took the quick walk to his Ready Room.::

(( CRR, USS Altamira ))

:: Aron's first assessment of the room was that it was pleasant, functional, but definitely cramped. Well, no more than he expected, really; he'd been in the captain's ready room of the Drake plenty of times in his days, though he did remember that being larger, which could have easily been a function of his youth. But wasn't he smaller these days...? ::

KELLS: I do appreciate your decision to meet with me, Arden, and not arrest me on principle. I know that you're bound by the rules of Starfleet and the Federation. (beat) As I no longer am.

CAIN: ::Giving a small smile:: It is the least I could do and I'm not too concerned with those rules, at least not yet. Unlike my XO I learned early on that rules aren't the be all and end all. Whether that is because of all the time I spent in uncharted space or a number of role models, I don't know. Now that we're in private though, would you be able to tell me what's going on?

KELLS: I'll explain a bit more in a moment, but first, may I ask: Have you heard anything recently about the war criminal known as the Infernal?

::Arden paused to think, he and his crew had had an eventful few months and missions involving more then a couple notorious figures but Arden had never heard of anyone by the name of the Infernal. Arden quickly came to the conclusion though that he didn't really want to come face to face with a man who described himself as an infernal.::

CAIN: Of the couple of war criminals I have tangled with since leaving the Mercury, I haven't come across anyone by that name. Why do you ask?

KELLS: When I said I was searching, well -- he's the one I'm searching for. You know: My grandfather.

CAIN: Oh yes, I seem to recall you mentioning something about him. Certainly seems like an age ago now. Just so we're clear, your grandfather is still considered to be a wanted war criminal?

KELLS: By the Federation, yes. I know that he's--

:: "Innocent" was certainly the wrong word; the actions as they were presented -- that the man known as the Infernal was responsible for the genocide of a sentient species -- were correct in letter if not in spirit. Aron's eyes, as he searched briefly for the word he wanted, were blazing. ::

KELLS: --he's more complicated than I had expected, as is his case.

CAIN: As far as I am concerned, there is nothing wrong with wanting to reconnect with family. As much as I try very hard not to. And the only thing that officially needs answering to is the shuttle because you haven't found your grandfather yet.

:: Aron looked sharply over at Arden -- much easier done now than with the screen separating them. ::

KELLS: Yes, I suppose that's true.

CAIN: I'm sure that I'm not doing anything you wouldn't have done if the roles were reversed. ::Pausing for a moment:: If I thought for a second that things had changed that much, we wouldn't be having this exact conversation, let alone having it in private.

KELLS: No. (beat) No.

CAIN: Did you want something to drink before you get into it all?

KELLS: Yes, please. Anything substantial to eat. And I mean anything. The shuttle has a replicator, but, well, I've been trying to conserve it. No idea how long I might be out there, or where I could stop.

CAIN: ::Giving a bit more of a smile:: Anything coming right up.

::Arden quickly moved from his side of the desk to the replicator where Arden ordered a cup of tea, glass of juice and a bowl of Earth styled Irish stew. It took a couple of moments for the replicator which looked as if it was one of the few original parts still installed on the Altamira to process the order but it did eventually producing the three items on a plastic carry tray. With the tray in hand it was a simple matter of returning to the desk and distributing the items to their intended consumer.::

:: Aron waited as Arden moved to the replicator and then back again. In truth, he did wonder if perhaps -- except for the size and the systems -- he wasn't a little better off in the shuttle; Arden's ship looked like it might fall apart at any moment. Yet, maybe that was desirable: If Aron Kells was on the run, then it was better, wasn't it, to be captured by a ship that was coming apart and not a brand new Sovereign-class or some such.

Even if that dilapidated ship's captain was his old friend. ::

KELLS: Where would you like me to begin?

CAIN: The beginning is always a good place to start but admittedly I am most eager to hear, at the moment, why you're no longer a Starfleet captain.

:: Aron smiled slightly, though the expression didn't touch his eyes. ::

KELLS: Of course you do. Arden, I'm here to prove myself to you, to prove that while the letter of the law might dictate one thing, the right thing to do is what I ask of you. That's what I have to do. Nothing more, nothing less.

CAIN: It is my general belief that doing what's right and following the law are the same thing.

KELLS: I did so, once, too. Then my understanding of those rules and the order they sought to enforce changed. Another incidence of genocide prompted that -- which brings us neatly back to my grandfather.

CAIN: I am not sure that I follow, could you explain that one to me?

KELLS: Ah, but where should I start? Why don't you tell me what you already know?

CAIN: Well I read the after action report submitted to Command after the 83 Leonis incident, or what I could find at my clearance level, so I am assuming that that was the genocide you speak of. Reading between the lines after that I assume there was some sort of trial given your absence from the Mercury at the start of that next mission.

KELLS: Yes, there was.

:: Aron was nodding slowly as he spoke, impressed as ever by his former first officer's deductive powers. Not that it should have been a surprise; the Prime Directive had been called into question, and that required a hearing. However, the official reports didn't include the specifics, and so Arden wouldn't have known the degree to which the Mercury crew had been involved; and so the deduction was still a good one. ::

KELLS: Although it would be a lie to say that was the only reason, though it may have been a catalyst. And how did you know so certainly, anyway?

CAIN: I like to stay as up to date with what's happening on the Mercury and the Menthar Corridor as much as possible. All in my spare time of course, it's a nice distraction. I also heard a rumour that Star Fleet assigned a new vessel to the Corridor.

KELLS: Did they? Well, that's news to me, though it's fine; with the Mercury out of commission for so long, Ross would've been CO for a few runabouts.

:: Still, Aron hadn't known that Starfleet had been ready to assign a new ship, nor that the Mercury would have been so crippled by its emergency maneuvers. Would he have run, then, if he had? ::

KELLS: It was time to go. Starfleet and I parted company a long time ago, I think, and certainly before this--

:: He pointed at his old face and the oldest of the personalities residing within. ::

KELLS: --but I spoke truly when I said that the trial was a catalyst. Certainly the Prime Directive was a concern, but the fact that the species there had been genetically tampered with -- well, that seemed, and still seems, to me more interesting.

CAIN: Sounds like you were made into the scapegoat and I can honestly say that I do not like the sound of that.

:: Aron looked over at him sharply. That was exactly what part of him wanted to believe, of course -- but it was too easy, too simple, too polarized. ::

KELLS: Maybe I was. But I think there was something larger going on; and with Starfleet unable or unwilling to look into it, I realized I would forever have my hands tied by administration until I left.

::This time it was Arden's turn to return the look that his former Captain gave him just a couple of seconds beforehand. A frown was also coming to Arden's face just as it usually did on a mission when a seemingly impossible situation just got worse. This time the look was owed to the realisation of the full meaning behind what Kells was trying to impress on Arden. Having to deal with bueacrates or other decietful individuals was nothing new to Arden but the sheer scope presented was new and certainly hard to comprehend. That said Arden didn't doubt for a second that the man opposite him was telling the truth, the pair had been through too much for Arden to think otherwise.::

CAIN: Star Fleet certainly is capable of keeping something like this buried if they wanted to. And if working with the likes of Commander Bale has taught me anything, it is that this wouldn't be the first secret Star Fleet has wanted to keep hidden either. The real question is though, what do you plan on doing now?

KELLS: To find out the truth: Who manipulated those people, who built that race? You see, I was afraid -- as an officer -- of the answers I might have found; because I know my grandfather now, and I know what he was ordered to do during the Dominion War.

::Arden paused for a moment to let out a breath that he hadn't realised that he had been holding. Before he spoke again he paused to make sure he worded his next statement correctly.::

CAIN: You're implying that there could be some connection between previous crimes committed by your grandfather and what is happening now. I know that genocide doesn't usually just happen but what makes you think the two events are linked?

KELLS: He was ordered, by a very secret treaty between the Federation and the Romulan Empire, to develop a species bred for combat -- a kind of Jem'Hadar for the Alpha Quadrant. Very last ditch, you understand, and never to be used, unless. Well, that time never came, and a good thing, too, because the project failed. The species wasn't sufficiently controllable, not in the way the Jem'Hadar were. The project was terminated -- and I hope you take my meaning, because that's the reason my grandfather was labeled a war criminal, accused of genocide: He'd created life, but it had gone wrong, and so he's remembered for the death.

CAIN: I see. I can't say that I fully understand because I don't and this isn't the time to go into those details. ::Pausing briefly:: Perhaps its safer for everyone if we don't. But I certainly do see the connection to your grandfather. If anyone can help you get to the bottom of this current situation, he can.

KELLS: And now I'm going to find him.

:: Abruptly, Aron stood. ::

KELLS: It's time that I left, Arden. Which, of course, means that it's time for you to decide: Do I leave freely?

CAIN: ::Remains in his seat as he begins typing commands into his console.:: There is no choice there, of course you're going to leave freely, just not in that shuttle.

:: Aron raised his eyebrow fractionally. What was this? ::

KELLS: I'm listening.

CAIN: The next Starfleet vessel that spots you or that shuttle won't be so accommodating, I would imagine. Not to mention, and more importantly, you're not going to get very far in that tiny shuttle.

:: That was certainly true, Aron thought. The modifications Lieutenant Vistain had made were apparently partially responsible for the shuttle's good speed and its high stamina thus far -- or he was willing to spread the credit, anyway -- but it was true that he couldn't putter around the dark corners of the galaxy forever in the Schirra. ::

KELLS: No, I suppose not.

CAIN: I have a Ferengi runabout in my hangar bay that I have been tasked with returning to Ferengi space. An annoying side effect of those Iconian gateways reactivating. Don't ask, but the point is that you would be doing me a great favor in returning it when you get the chance, of course. As far as my crew is concerned, a former Starfleet captain can be trusted to do that, wouldn't you say?

KELLS: I would. Say, that is. (slight smile) Perhaps primarily because it benefits the former captain in question.

:: Still, one question twisted Aron's smile into a frown. ::

KELLS: But what about the shuttle?

CAIN: Already working on that. As the records show you came upon the shuttle in your travels and decided to be the good Samaritan you are, by returning it to the nearest starbase.

KELLS: Did I, now? What a good man I must be.

:: Again he smiled slightly, but not at his own wit; he understood that Arden was putting himself at risk, since if he returned the shuttle and Starfleet had decided to be angry with Aron, he was advertising his culpability. Still, it was the captain's purview to think through the actions of everyone around him; the lone operator didn't have that responsibility. ::

KELLS: You'll still have to return it, of course. They might question you.

CAIN: I have no illusions to that but this way gives you more time to get clear of prying eyes. The only other way out would be for you to fight your way clear of the Altamira. Needless to say that I would give anything to avoid that.

KELLS: Nor do I think I could, old friend.

::Entering the last instructions into his computer terminal, Arden also stood and waited for his former Captain to make up his mind. Arden wasn't a fool, he knew full well that Kells had probably already thought of fighting his way out. Arden knew that if the roles were reversed, he would have considered the option himself. In this case deception was the lesser of two evils because the other meant having to do Arden's best to arrest or possibly destroy a friend. Arden hoped that Aron saw that too.::

KELLS: I accept. Thank you.

:: Aron stood, and offered a hand that possessed neither the plasticity nor the dexterity it once had, but which fulfilled the task of shaking Arden's hand well enough. ::

::Arden took the man's hand without hesitation and shook it gently. The man before Arden might have aged physically almost beyond recognition since the last time Arden saw him but Arden knew that Aron Kells was still the same captain that Arden had grown to trust. And indeed come to call a friend which was a rarity in and of itself for Arden.::

CAIN: It's the least I could do.

::Arden found himself pausing to avoid saying anything that sounded to final. Unlike the last time that the two parted this time seemed as if it would be the last. Suffice to say that Arden didn't want to focus on that even if that was just his imagination playing tricks on him. Giving a small smile he continued on what he hoped was a brighter note.::

CAIN: Just do me a favor, make sure the runabout gets back to its owners when you're done with it. I mean, my latinum stash isn't sizable enough to appease a Ferengi wanting a replacement runabout.

KELLS: I will. (beat) You won't see me again for some time, so I say again: Thank you. And until then...


Aron Kells



Commander Arden Cain

CO, USS Altamira

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