“Spies can spend anywhere from months to years in the field perfecting a cover only to have it snatched away from them at the last minute during an operation. You can meticulously plan for every circumstance, design elaborate back stories, and bury yourself under layers of bureaucracy, yet nothing will prepare you for the unforeseen chaos brought on by a random element. While normally a useful tool in a pinch, chaos is a double-edged blade that can break your cloak of subterfuge and leave you scrambling for a plan B. If that happens, make absolutely certain you have plan C ready to go…“
- LTCR Doug Forrest
(Extract from an intelligence summary report from the Orias III incident of 2371)
The thatched roof of the outdoor patio was an even weave of palm leaves and water reeds held aloft by a superstructure of bamboo crossbeams supported by a border of stone arches. Underneath the austere canopy, the murmur of conversation was mixed with the evening background chatter of crickets and tropical nightbirds, complimented by the crackle from a wood fire hearth that bathed the veranda in a soft orange glow. A scattered collection of tables and chairs hosted a mix of aliens and humanoids enjoying their evening meal, which had been served from the adjoining kitchen where the scent of boiled seafood still permeated the air. Two of the guests had completed their meal and contented themselves with drinks and discussion.
“I'm telling you,” a clean-shaven Saal Yezbeck explained. “Carter and Cromwell thought Roth had lost it.”
“So, you and Bashir basically faked Hawk's death just to ferret out the Syndicate?” The man previously known as Doug Forrest sat across from the retired surgeon, looking dismissive yet interested.
“Well, it wasn't OUR idea,” Saal continued. “Roth knew that something was going to happen to him eventually. Your using Hawk's location on Republic as a bargaining chip with Ramius only made it happen sooner rather than later. Faro and his goons would have found him one way or another.”
“I'll bet Faro never even saw it coming.”
“Beats me,” the doctor finished off his third ale. “I was off looking for YOU when Republic took Hawk to trial. All I know is that Roth had somehow convinced Carter and Cromwell that the operation was a good idea.”
“You didn't think it was?” the former intel operative asked.
“What I thought at the time didn't matter,” he explained. “I had my orders, and I followed them. Cromwell was mad as hell. Carter was actually the one who kept his cool about it.”
“Carter?” pshawed Forrest-ex. “He's the one I would have expected to be the most angry!”
“Well, he wasn't.” Saal dropped a PADD on the table. “Read his log entry yourself.”
“You keep an archive of the Republic's old log entries?”
“Well, I have whatever I had in my own medical logs before I left, which includes most of the crew's medical records. Carter's log entry about Hawk's re-animation is attached to his file.”
The erstwhile spy considered the PADD before sliding it back towards Saal. “Not very orthodox, Shadow,” he commented. “Do you always keep other peoples' medical files when you leave a ship?”
“Hey,” the doctor replied defensively. “I had a few open cases when I left the ship. Besides, I keep the records encrypted under level-three protocols. I've been thinking about writing a book one day about life aboard Republic just before the Remnant attacks.”
“I'm sure it'll earn the Carrington award in literature,” he remarked with sarcasm.
At about that time, a commotion towards the entry steps to the veranda caught their attention. Two Starfleet security guards accompanied by a field officer had entered the establishment. They were interrupting seated patrons by asking questions, then gruffly forcing them to press their fingers against the blunt end of a peculiar wand-device that Saal guessed was a modified protein scanner of some order. After considering the readout, the ranking officer nodded his head, and the trio moved on to the next table, repeating the ritual.
The man formerly known as Doug Forrest tensed up, believing that the guards were looking for someone in particular.
Saal also became overwrought, and he searched the porch area for a means for them to escape. To one side, a steep precipice overlooked the sea where sharp rocks littered the shoreline one-hundred feet below. The hearth was behind them, blocking any escape to the south, and due to their location in the corner, could not reach any other exit without being noticed by the guards.
“What do we do?” ex-Forrest whispered, as the security entourage reached the table one-over from them.
The doctor's mind raced. He overheard the officers at the next table as they forced yet another restaurant patron to push a finger into the wand-device. A computer voice returned after a few seconds, acknowledging the identity of the seated individual.
“Genetic scan confirmed. Identification: Harold Brisby. Homeworld: Risa. Status: Registered Federation citizen.”
As if a spark went off in his mind, Saal Yezbeck shifted his eyes back and forth, then reached into his beach bag on the floor where he produced a hypospray. Without revealing it above the table, he activated the the injector's uplink receiver with his left thumb, then reached above the table with his right hand to press a button on the PADD in front of him.
“Give me your hand!” whispered Saal to his comrade.
“What?” he whispered back in confusion.
“Under the table!” the doctor urged on. “Give me your hand!”
As the security guards finished up with the table next to them, Saal pressed the hypospray to his friend's thumb under the table, then quickly dropped the hypospray back into his beach bag as the security trio turned their attention to them.
“Hand please,” the ranking lieutenant asked the doctor firmly. Saal was genuinely confused but complied without protest. After a few moments, the hum of the wand-scanner ceased, and registered its result.
“Genetic scan confirmed. Identification: Saal Yezbeck. Homeworld: Earth. Status: Starfleet retired.”
In militaristic fashion, the Starfleet security trio turned to the man formerly known as Doug Forrest. “Hand please.”
The ex-intelligence officer felt his heart race, and used every ounce of his will to suppress his anxiety. They were about to scan his DNA, and there was no record of him in the Federation citizenry database. The result would be arrest and confinement, then a trip to a penal colony or refugee processing center where he would likely be picked up by Starfleet Intelligence, eventually to be tried as a foreign spy. Reluctantly, he lifted his hand to accept his fate, hesitating as he moved closer to the wand-device. Sensing his trepidation, the security lieutenant grasped the wrist of the ex-spy, brusquely pushing the instrument into one of his fingers.
“Genetic scan confirmed. Identification: Johnathan Theloneous Carter. Homeworld: Mars. Status: Starfleet deceased.”
A surge of adrenaline washed over the former intel agent, creating a fleeting yet surreal sense of euphoria at the sudden turn of events. Saal had obviously used an active genetic transcriptor to mask his own DNA with that of another. Apparently, the most convenient DNA record Saal had available was open on the PADD in front of him, which happened to be that of John Carter. The method he used was an old Section 31 trick that he had read about, but never actually used until now.
“Deceased?” the security officer looked at the instrument in surprise before turning towards the fugitive spy. “You look alive to me.” It was plainly obvious he was awaiting explanation.
Without missing a beat, the man formerly known as Doug Forrest slipped into his routine of subterfuge. “It happens a lot,” he fibbed masterfully. “I'm actually retired Starfleet, but headquarters keeps mixing up my record with another John Theloneous Carter in Starfleet who died a while ago. I still get flowers delivered to me on occasion.”
Saal, who could read his friend like a book, stepped in to back him up. “Aren't you on your fourth request for a records-correction, Theo?” He did everything he could to hide a smile at finally finding a replacement name for his deposed and formerly-nameless intelligence cohort.
“Fifth,” the recently-reborn John 'Theo' Carter lied again, trying not to glare at Saal despite the chagrin regarding his new name. “And apparently, they still haven't fixed it yet.”
“What's this all about, anyway?” Saal asked. “On who's authority are you screening our DNA?”
Realizing that the two were former Starfleet, the lieutenant felt no reason to withhold the information. “Vice Admiral Leyton,” he answered. “Director of Population Security.”
“Director of WHAT?” exclaimed Saal
“Don't you gentlemen ever watch the news?” the young lieutenant commented. “President Kostya established a new Cabinet-level position within Starfleet. We're from the Office of Population Security. Admiral Leyton has ordered regular security sweeps on all Federation homeworlds.”
“For what reason?” Theo Carter asked.
“You want to be safe, don't you?” the officer asked in return in a well-rehearsed speech he had given many times before. “The only way to do that is to make sure that people within the borders of the Federation are lawfully allowed to be here.”
“Isn't that a little Draconian?” Saal replied. “I thought Federation space was free and open to any law-abiding individual.”
“Do YOU want someone who's not in the Federation database able to come knocking on your door at any moment? Or perhaps even the door of someone your family when you're not home?”
Saal and Theo were too busy working their cover story to continue with the conversation.
“Whatever you need to do, lieutenant,” Saal concluded with the slightest touch of disdain. Without another word, the security officers moved on to the next table, and the two former Republic crewmembers sat silently until they left the restaurant.
Afterward, the ex-spy stared at Saal with astonishment.
Saal could only smile and shrug in penitence.
(Moderator Story Post)