Theory versus Practice

Lieutenant Commander Jeanne Lacroix, Master Sergeant Alex Ryan and Lieutenant Commander Tom Brooks
Delta Team Lead's Office on mission day 1 at 1300 hours

With most of the plan seemingly going as planned they still had to work out how exactly they were going to push ahead once they did make it to Sentek. Jeanne had already made her team study Breen design and systems a lot more in depth but they needed to be prepared for everything. Deciding that now might as well be as good a time as any to coordinate she tapped her combadge. “Lacroix to Ryan and Brooks. If you have the time please meet me in my office so we can work out how to proceed once we get to Sentek.”

“Be up in a few minutes.” Alex pressed the comm button on the nearby panel, as he stepped from the shower. His commbadge was tucked away in his locker with his duty uniform. He took his times to workout or practice his skills when he could. “Just finished a training session.”

Dr. Brooks, for his sake, sat in his office, pouring not over details about Sentek, for they were slim, but rather after-action reports from past temporal incursions that he’d never had access to before coming to the Activity. Something was nagging at him about this mission. The beep from his combadge pulled him from his thoughts. “On my way,” he replied before setting his PADD down and heading for the door.

Five minutes later…

Dr. Brooks stepped up to Lieutenant Commander Lacroix’ office, a chime alerting her to his arrival.

Once Jeanne heard the chime she walked to the door and pressed a door to open it. “Commander Brooks” She said, acknowledging the man. “Please come in, Master Sergeant Ryan will be with us in a few minutes.”

“The Master Sergeant is here actually.” Alex said as he came around the corner from the nearest turbolift. While he was in proper duty uniform, his hair was still damp from the shower. “Ready to get this show on the road?”

“Excellent,” Jeanne responded dryly before turning around and walking back to her desk. “So, I imagined it might be best to start early on what do once we reach Sentek. I imagine we will be facing quite some Cardassian resistance as well as remaining Breen security measures”

Dr. Brooks didn’t have much to offer in the way of a tactical engagement. The scientist had almost flunked the first year physical education class at the Academy, and his marks in Tactical weren’t much better. But the shooters seemed to be a bit off mark. But in his eyes, here the shooters were missing the mark right from the get-go: “Before we decide how we’re going to go kill a planet full of Breen and Cardassians, might I suggest we start with the question of what exactly our objective on the planet is?” His tone was somewhere between ivory tower academic and overly pushy parent.

“I think the Skipper made that pretty clear during the meeting. Get in, find out how the hell the local commander knew things weren’t going to go well for his kid, and find a way to fix it, or at least where and what IT is so there are no further breaches of the timeline. Then get the hell back out again, and if necessary on to the next location to find whatever the it is.” Alex said with a shrug as he took a seat for himself. Overly simplified perhaps, but these types of operations hinged on the KISS principle. Keep It Stupidly Simple, or Simple Stupid depending on which way you thought it sounded better or who was making the plan. “With that being the case, objective number one is getting in without letting the neighbors know we’re visiting. And coming up with a few response scenarios when they inevitably do figure out we’re there.”

“So how do we find the Governor?” asked Dr. Brooks, caught a bit off guard by the simpleton thinking of the Marine sergeant, but really, he should have expected that from a marine, he reminded himself. “And what makes you think, even if we do find him, that he’ll be willing to share with us something he was willing to let his own people – except his son – die for?”

“You worry about the science of fixing the timeline Doc. Leave the intelligence gathering to the professionals,” Alex said, catching wind of the snobbish tone to the mans thoughts. Arrogant windbag… All they had to do was get in, get the governor and hand him off to Hall. She’d get him to talk, and if not, then he’d just have to give her some assistance. “There’s a reason we keep things simple in planning these operations. The more complex the plan, the more shit that can go wrong with it. KISS is the name of the covert ops game. Keep. It. Stupidly. Simple. Simple and flexible to adapt to conditions on the ground. Governor shouldn’t be too hard to find, they were just occupied, he’s gonna have more guards as a prisoner than usual no doubt. We do a scan and look for signs that match up to that scenario or similar. Make a covert insertion of the target location, snatch and grab, and extract. Turn him over to Lieutenant Hall for interrogation. Or Hall goes in with us, and we field interrogate.”

“That security is a problem Sergeant,” cautioned Brooks. “A temporal incursion caused what is likely a divergence, but did it occur to you that your actions based on that incursion may further that divergence?” The doctor paused for a second. “In laymen’s terms, the universe is governed by a temporal wave form, and the reality we experience is the probabilistic convergence of that function. When an incursion happens, reverberations ripple across the wave form, but the less the amplitude of those reverberations, the higher the probability of it reestablishing its original norm.”

“Spew all the mumbo jumbo you want Doc. My job is to get the information so you can fix this mess. You missed a key word though, covert.” Alex said forcing himself to remain calm. He really wanted to knock the smug bastard down a peg or three. “In other words we don’t go in heavy handed, guns blazing. That shit only works in the holovids, which is obviously where you’re drawing your conclusions from.”

“Do I have a point with this?” mused the Doctor, ignoring the Sergeant’s jab at him. His conclusions weren’t based off of vids though, but the way the marine seemed to talk and the uniform he wore. “Not really. I just want you to understand the risks, Sergeant. And know that, the greater the impact of how you do your job, the harder you’ll make it for me to do mine.”

“Believe me Doctor, I am much more well versed in the risks of these missions than you can ever dream of being. The temporal aspect is completely secondary until we get the Governor’s information. In an ideal situation, we don’t even have to make an insertion. We just quietly get the ship in position and beam his ass right up. That is however not likely, but possible…” He said and looked over to Lacroix, “Where can the guy run to even if he was beamed out of the cell he’s in? The planet’s occupied and a hostile task force of ships in orbit and the near vicinity. They might not even bother with transporter inhibitors if they believe they’ve got a firm grip on the situation.”

Jeanne quite enjoyed seeing the men in front of her get closer and closer to outright fighting, it was the primary reason she had opted to remain silent so far and just enjoy the show. “Okay boys, have you all got your testosterone out of the way? Good. While our primary objective is to secure the governor, we cannot lose perspective on the second part either. If anything our unit was designed to think about the greater picture rather than singular events. The Cardassians are likely to take advantage of existing Breen designs, the Breen are notorious for reinforcing their facilities against all types of threats so any operation without insertion seems unlikely. The governor is likely kept close to the Cardassian Commander, Cardassians as prideful as they are will have taken the most prestigious building on the planet as a command centre. Once we identify this facility we establish the most secure location within it where they are likely keeping the governor. If we then cause some kind of distraction on the other side of the building we can infiltrate the building and take out any resistance quietly. If we do this well we will have grabbed the Governor and extracted him before they even know what is going on,” she said, strongly believing that despite some of the flaws in it that it was the best approach to get the job done with the least impact on any temporal effects and the least chance of getting caught.

The scientist didn’t like it. Every action they took that altered the timeline further was just something further that would have to be cleaned up later. If only the Office would have connected them up with the asset they already had on the ground, the one that had confirmed several things for them. That would have made this a lot easier. But without it, he had little to do but go along with it: “I’ll defer to your judgement here. I’m just cautious about the impact even a small action of ours may have on the timeline – let alone the very major one of if a Federation species is spotted by anyone at all on Sentek.”

“Might work, but it’s going to require a lot of scanning before we execute. Identify the building, identify probable locations for the Governor, weak points for us to infiltrate the building,” Alex said, turning his attention back to Lacroix. “Think we could pump neurazine into the ventilation once we’ve infiltrated? Knock out everyone in the building, like what happened to Lewis, Hall, and I when we were interrogating the burner. Noone can see us if they’re all unconscious. No resistance, no firefights. Clean in and out.” He looked at the scientist. “No additional distortions to clean up later.”

Jeanne considered the proposal for a second. It would definitely make things a lot cleaner. Not to say safer for her operators. “It’s a good plan though an entire building going down might be a distortion in itself. If we can somehow deploy the gas in a more targeted fashion we can eliminate resistance on our route and attract less attention.” Brooks was pleased to see his argument had netted some caution, at least.

“With a hint of luck we can infiltrate on the same floor as the Governor is being held. Knock out just that floor, lock down the lifts and or stairwells. Grab him, and get out again.”

“That would work. We could take an Engineer along to rig the systems on the deck to show the Cardassians and Breen were knocked out by a malfunction in environmental controls. That way, apart from the prisoner being in our custody there would be no trace we were ever there in the first place,” Jeanne said. There was something poetic about using the environmental controls against their foe just after those same controls had been used against them on Starbase 141.

“And when they realize the Governor is gone, they’ll be looking at his people for getting him out of custody. No reason to even consider Starfleet being involved,” Alex said with a smile.

“The thing that’s bothering me,” Lieutenant Commander Brooks offered, switching gears a bit now that the immediate tactical plan had been worked out, “is why uptime hasn’t been involved. Either it didn’t impact uptime in a way that requires their intervention, or there’s no uptime to correct the divergence – or that wants to correct the divergence.”

The doctor projected a complex network graph up on the wall screen.

“A while back, a paper was published exploring what sort of temporal intervention might have changed the outcome of the Dominion War,” explained Dr. Brooks. “The researchers found that, if General Martok’s ship had been destroyed before he argued his case to Gowron to get the Klingons involved to retake Deep Space 9, the Dominion would have won the entire war.” This point was made clear as he altered one node in the network graph and the whole graph changed. “But how, if we knew Martok’s ship shouldn’t have been destroyed, would we know what to change to ensure the Klingons still entered the war? This is the problem we face here. The Breen have already been defeated at Sentek. What do we do to reverse the tampering?”

“I am well aware of the butterfly effect and all. However, it is very much likely that the governor saving his son has such a minimal impact on the timeline that uptime sees more harm in intervention due to the risk of timeline contamination rather than just letting things proceed as they are. That’s not even considering the option that they may opt for an intervention in our future to restore the balance and cause the death of his son in some other way.” Jeanne replied, while she didn’t have a science background some of the past experiments on the Frumentarii had made her quite familiar with the mechanics behind time travel. They still gave her headaches but at least she could comprehend them.

The scientist shook his head. “The ability to act based on future knowledge is something uptime does not tolerate in our era,” Dr. Brooks stated emphatically. “And as opposed to us, who react based on knowledge, they can address issues before they occur.” Dr. Brooks had once been on the wrong end of that before. Given the Bellona’s clearances, which extended to include some files he’d never before seen from the Department of Temporal Investigations, he now understood far better what had happened back in 2381. They’d taken his device because of something he was going to do with it, same as they should have intervened before the Breen governor gained access to that uptime information. “We don’t know for sure, of course, but what if the Breen were not supposed to loose Sentek? Or if the Cardassian Advance itself is a play by some uptime actor? If you are familiar with temporal basics, I assume you’re also familiar with the notion that temporal incursions coalesce around nexuses in the wave form? We must operate as though we’re at one of those nexuses. If we’re not, then our caution is for naught, but if we are, then our caution is essential.”

“Perhaps, Commander. On the other hand, under our own standing regulations, we have to correct the timeline as we believe it should be in cases where we detect tampering. If uptime has different plans, they will intervene to stop us. If they do not, we clearly are acting within their parameters,” Jeanne replied. These discussions would always go on in cycles with no real answer ever becoming clear. In her experience just going with it and sticking to one’s own regulations usually ended up with the best results.

“We shall see.”