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Ben and Nathan: "Double Trouble"


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#1 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21904.15 @ 23:41 (11:41 PM)

== portions written with input and permission from Captain Crawford ==

 

*bewehop-beweohp*

 

One eye opened in the darkness, confused and unsure.

 

*bewehop-beweohp*

 

Another eye opened, and finally the figure sat up, the covering sheets sliding down off the torso.

 

*bewehop-beweohp*

 

“Okay, okay, I’m coming. Computer what time is it?”

 

[It is currently zero one hundred hours]

 

Wearily, Nathan shuffled over to his desk in stop and start motions, quite like a zombie. This was not his usual wake up time. On top of that, he had no idea why an incoming transmission was coming straight to his Quarters. If it was a regular message, it would just be held until he checked his console. If it were a regular message. That got him thinking, and warning bells went off in his head about what the call could be about. Cautiously, he pushed the console button, where it prompted him to enter his authorization.

 

That is odd… an encrypted transmission? For me?

 

“Ramius Whiskey Zero Five One Bravo Delta.”

 

A face appeared on the terminal, and Ramius’ first reaction was surprised, which turned into happiness, that then melted into concern.

 

“Ada…”

 

[Nathan, I’m sorry for waking you.]

 

“Oh, you didn’t wake me,” he yawned and ran a hand through his messed-up hair.

 

[Liar], there was just the hint of a grin in the corner of her mouth, but that didn’t hide the distress from the rest of her face.

 

[I got permission from my Commanding Officer to use a secured channel, so that this would transmit even if you were on a mission. It’s about Byron. He’s gone missing.]

 

“Missing? Well is that anything new? Ronnie is an investigative journalist Ada, he’s probably doing some undercover sort of stuff.”

 

[That is just the thing, he is, but he setup a schedule with his Editor, and now he has missed three check-ins in a row. They are incredibly easy too, just a tap on a handheld communicator and the Editor would know he is alright.]

 

“Well, that isn’t good news… but…”

 

[I know. I know. You are thinking, ‘why contact me?’]

 

“Yeah…”

 

[Byron was investigating the new Nausicaan Syndicate,] Nathan’s eyes narrowed, [on the planet Ponm. Problem is, Ponm is an independent planet and so the Federation won’t step in to help find him.]

 

“Well, that isn’t good either… but…”

 

[Yes Nathan, I get it, I know what you are thinking. But the police on Ponm won’t start an investigation unless it is clear that he is a missing person. They won’t do anything at the moment. And you are near Ponm right now, so I thought you’d be able to help find him.]

 

There was a loud sigh as the security officer sat back in his chair, staring at the pleading face of someone who was basically kin to him. He knew Ada wouldn’t have contacted him if she hadn’t already run out of options. Not that Ramius wasn’t first on her list, but she knew better than most what his duties on a starship entailed.

 

“If the Federation has already said no, then Star Fleet isn’t going to let me go there to investigate either.”

 

[Please Nathan, there has to be something you can do. Surely you can just get permission to take a few days leave, go to Ponm, and bring Byron back. Knowing you, and the fact that you know my brother so well, you’d be able to find him quick.]

 

“That’s just the thing Ada, there is no way my Cee-Oh is going to let me grab a shuttle and just waltz over to Ponm. One, we aren’t authorized to conduct missions on independent planets unless they ask us for help. In which case, Star Fleet would probably dispatch a ship, or even the Artemis. Two, I’m not exactly in the best position to be asking for favors, let alone being trusted to…”

 

Ada’s face on the screen was upset, and he could see the tears streaking down her face. Inside his chest, his heart hurt like it had been stabbed. It was obvious now that Nathan really was a ‘last resort’, and he knew she was terrified.

 

“Alright, listen. I will talk to Captain Crawford. I make no promises; I’ve been in the hotseat since the Getty, and I am not in anyone’s good graces. But I’ll make a case, and see if she’ll allow me to petition the local constabulary to start an investigation…”

 

[Okay…] she was still distraught, but there was a bit of hope there, [I love you, you big idiot.]

 

That made Nathan laugh a little, “I love you too Squeaker.”

 

The transmission terminated, the Artemis logo appearing along with the time the hail had ended. Another sigh escaped Ramius, except this one was very long.

 

At least I have a few hours to figure out what I’m going to say to the Captain…

 

 

 

== A few hours later… ==

 

“You might want to try that again and really re-think that request...”

 

Nathan cracked his neck in both directions, and extended the PADD that he prepared a full briefing on. The situation on Ponm was complicated, both for the fact that it was an independent world with all of the diplomatic hurdles that entailed, plus a complicated justice system that was different depending on which province one had to interact with.

 

“Believe me Captain, I know that I’m the person with the worst track record to be asking for any kind of favor…”

 

The corner of the redhead's lips pulled slightly as her nose crinkled in an attempt to suppress a snort while she read the PADD,

 

“…but I wouldn’t be asking if it wasn't incredibly important to me. Ada Miller is my sister – not by blood, but in bond, and so is her brother Byron. I’m not asking to do my own investigation…”

 

"Good because Hell would freeze over and the Borg would rise from the grave with offers of peace before anyone in their right mind would sign off on you doing anything alone, much less..."

 

“Not alone,” Nathan dared to interrupt her, “sorry, but, I was… I am going to ask for someone to accompany me. Someone I trust to watch my back and help me navigate the intricacies of Independent World politics. I was hoping you’d allow Ensign Benjamin Elias to accompany me. He has real experience in dealing with authorities from such places from his previous freighter experience.”

 

“So, I’m just supposed to let ya’ll, two incredibly green J-O's no less, take a shuttle and what?”

 

“Petition the local security force to start an investigation or missing person case. If not the local security force, then petition the provincial government. And then the federal government of Pomn, if need be. I doubt we’d be more than a few days at most.”

 

Taking a small step forward, his hands came up into a pleading position,

 

“Please, Captain. This is my family. Ada and Byron… the entire Miller clan was always there for me, and they would do anything for me. In fact, they have done a lot for me already. I know it is asking for a lot of trust when that cup is empty… but I know for a fact how highly regard family…”

 

“Stop before you dig your own grave. I can spot emotional toying from a couple hundred lightyears away. What's the timeframe?”

 

“Four. Six days max. One day to get there, a couple days to file paperwork and meet with an investigator or magistrate. Then straight back to the Artemis.”

 

Her blue eyes hardly seemed convinced as they drilled into him before the gaze was broken by a shake of the head. "You two will be the death of me. Do you know what term I would use to describe you if I were your COS? 'A **** magnet' and Elias will probably just multiple that trouble by at least ten."

 

“No trouble, I assure you Captain,” there was another snort, “it will be by-the-book.”

 

She rubbed a hand over her face before letting it drop heavily. Her posture was one of resignation. "If I say no, you'll just do it anyway and tank both of your careers -- it's what I'd do in your shoes.  You have six days -- take Shadow, if he agrees. If not, find another volunteer. You are not there as Starfleet officers, merely as concerned family members so you damn well better leave your official gear at home. I swear to God that if you go and throw your weight around in an official capacity on an independent world, you will wish a cartel had killed you when I get my hands on you." She paused and sighed, shaking her head again. "And please, when you end up knee deep, don't be an idiot and don't be a hero... call for back up."

 

“Understood, and thank you.”

 

She glanced at the chronometer, a seeming dismissal incoming. “Tick tock Midshipman…”

 

Nathan didn’t just hustle out of the Captain’s Ready Room, he sprinted.

 

 

 

 

== Engineering ==

 

I hope he is still in the main foyer like the Computer said he was…

 

The doors to the turbolift had barely opened as he pushed himself between the narrow opening, earning him more than a few irritated glances from a sprocket of engineers as he did so. Even then, he continued at his breakneck pace, making a beeline for the main area of Engineering. Sliding around a corner, he came to a skid-stop like a cartoon character as he glanced around, then spotted his quarry.

 

He straightened his jacket, and semi-calmly walked over to his friend and roommate. Apparently, he was conversing with a couple of the enlisted crew and one officer, something about a Premodulating Thermal Matrix. Nathan hung back just a bit, not wanting to interrupt Benjamin while he was performing his duties, but as several seconds ticked by, his feet unconsciously brought him closer and closer to the group. Before he knew it, his was standing with them in their small circle, just behind the right shoulder of Ensign Elias.

 

One of the crew, a Crewman Whitby, smiled when she noticed him trying to edge into the conversation. Most of Engineering knew Nathan, but Whitby often conversed with him at length when he made his rounds.

 

“Hello Nathan,” it was her normal, warm greeting.

 

“Kate,” he replied, before addressing the rest of the group, “sorry to interrupt, but I have to steal Ensign Elias away for a moment…”

 

“We were just finishing up,” Whitby nodded, before the lone Engineering Midshipman piped up in agreement. The small circle quickly dispersed after that, mostly with Kate herding a few that looked like they wanted to ask a few more questions – she seemed to know the gravity of Nathan’s request, though his demeanor was probably quite obvious to read.

 

Now, with just the two of them standing there, he apologized,

 

“I’m sorry for interrupting your duties. I really normally wouldn’t have but… I really need your help. It is quite a large favor that I’m going to ask you, and you can say no of course. I already have approval from Captain Crawford, so that should give you some idea of how heavy the situation is. You were the only person that I could think of, that knows the ins-and-outs of how to deal with officials from independent worlds… you have street smarts… and I trust you.”

 

There was a pause, before he finally said what needed saying,

 

“I need you to come to Ponm with me. My best-friend… my sister really; her brother Byron has gone missing while doing some investigative journalism on a new criminal group operating on the planet. They haven’t got a response from any of the officials they’ve contacted, and the Federation is staying out of it because it isn’t a member world. Crawford gave me six days to go and get things started as a family member only – nothing official. Of course, she wouldn’t let me go alone… and when I suggested that I wanted you to come along… well, she wasn’t impressed with that either.”

 

Another pause, his head dipping to the floor for just a split-second before bouncing back up,

 

“Anyway, like I said, you can say no… but… I’d really appreciate your help on this…”

 

== tag Ben! ==


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#2 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21904.16 @ 01:49 (01:49 AM)

==That morning, Casa Ramius y Elias==

 

Benjamin woke up just before his alarm went off and lay there as it blared on the far side of the room. He’d started setting it up over there long ago as a preventative measure, though by now he rarely needed it. Only on the bad nights, he thought with a sigh, and threw the covers off to march across the dark room.

 

He turned off the alarm, rubbed a hand over his face and muttered something that the computer interpreted as a command to turn the lights on half illumination. He quickly gathered up a towel and some clothes and started towards the bathroom. He noticed as he trudged through the common area that the usual activity he heard in Nathan’s room was absent this morning, but didn’t think much of it. At this point, he wasn’t thinking much at all.

 

A quick shower and shave later, he stepped back into the common room and actually noticed the quiet. He stepped over and was about to knock on Nathan’s door, but it slid open at his approach. The room was empty, and was a bit more disheveled than normal; he probably wouldn’t even have noticed it if they weren’t roommates, but still.

 

Wonder where he is, Benjamin thought. They had been up fairly late last night, talking and drinking. About family, oddly enough, which was often a touchy subject for him, but the alcohol helped.

 

He stepped back into his quarters and looked at the chronometer. He still had a decent amount of time before shift change, so he grabbed a couple of muffins and some orange juice from the replicator for breakfast and pulled up a chair to his desk. Maybe I can get the nacelles attached before I head in, he thought as he pulled the USS Gettysburg up to him. NCC-3890, not the CA-1863. He took a deep breath, and got to work on the old-style nacelles. Of course, since there were four of them on the old Constellation-class ship, he didn’t quite get them all done before he had to leave, and left one of them still in pieces on the workspace with another assembled but not attached.

 

He was still pulling on his uniform jacket as he got in the turbolift and mumbled something around the nearly-whole muffin he held between his teeth that the computer interpreted as a request to go to engineering. Fortunately, the computer had gotten as used to his routine as he had.

 

He finished off the last bites of the muffin as he walked into Engineering which, as always, as abuzz with activity. He stopped in the main foyer as was his habit, looking around at the various stations. Everything looked like it was running properly, and he nodded appreciatively. He did spy Whitby, Caorn, and Midshipman sh’Thanis in a fairly intense discussion, and made his way over to them.

 

“But we can’t work on it right now!” Caorn was saying. “It’s an integral part of the system, we can’t bring it offline to correct the issue safely.”

sh’Thanis nodded in agreement. “It pains me to say, but he’s right. Besides, the problem is minor; it can wait until we’re back in spacedock in a couple of weeks.”

 

“Sure, its minor now, but that can change in the blink of an eye,” Whitby countered.

 

“What’s the problem?” he asked as he broke into the circle.

 

Whitby smiled up at him. “Oh, sorry sir. I didn’t see you there.” She looked back at her colleagues with a huff. “I was just telling them that we need to do some work on the premodulating thermal matrix. The temperature has risen inside there over the past week or so, and I think there’s a problem.”

 

“How much?” he asked, holding up a hand to stop Caorn from butting his way in. The Tellarite was an exemplar of the species; he’d argue with the bulkhead if he thought it was wrong.

 

She sighed and looked a little sheepish. “Only by .01 degrees.”

 

“Well within safety margins!” Caorn interjected. Benjamin turned calmly to look at him silently, which seemed to deflate the man slightly.

 

“But it hasn’t gone back down like we would normally see if it was just a temporary fluctuation,” Whitby finished.

 

“I was going to add this to the shift report, sir,” sh’Thanis said. “I don’t think its a problem for now, but it's something to make sure the dock crew is aware of.”

 

“True,” Benjamin said, rubbing his hands slightly. His palms had started itching suddenly, which made him worried. “But it's something we need to stay aware of, too, just in case it gets out of hand. Make that note in the shift report, but also make sure that we are keeping an eye on it.” He turned to the two crewmen. “Whitby, you noticed it, so its your baby. Beginning and end of each shift, you run diagnostics on it, and get someone on the other shifts to do it as well. Mr Caorn, since you don’t think we can work on it right now, you get to try and figure out how we can.” He held up a hand and continued over the man’s protests. “Just because regulations say it won’t work doesn’t mean we can’t. Take a holodeck and get to work. I expect to see a progress report in the next couple of days.”

 

“Hello Nathan,” Whitby said with a smile and a small wave. Benjamin stopped short, his train of thought completely derailed by the statement.

 

“Kate,” his roommate replied from behind him. “Sorry to interrupt, but I have to steal Ensign Elias away for a moment.”

“We were just finishing up,” Whitby nodded, and sh’Thanis agreed.

 

“You all have your orders,” he said and dismissed them. Caorn, as was his wont, tried to stay and protest, but Whitby nearly dragged him away, which was doubly impressive with how much he outweighed the poor girl.

 

It would’ve been comical, if Nathan hadn’t seemed so gravely serious.

 

“I’m sorry for interrupting your duties. I really normally wouldn’t have but… I really need your help. It is quite a large favor that I’m going to ask you, and you can say no of course. I already have approval from Captain Crawford, so that should give you some idea of how heavy the situation is. You were the only person that I could think of, that knows the ins-and-outs of how to deal with officials from independent worlds… you have street smarts… and I trust you.”

 

What on earth is he talking about? Benjamin wondered as Nathan paused for a moment.

 

“I need you to come to Ponm with me. My best friend… my sister really; her brother Byron has gone missing while doing some investigative journalism on a new criminal group operating on the planet. They haven’t got a response from any of the officials they’ve contacted, and the Federation is staying out of it because it isn’t a member world. Crawford gave me six days to go and get things started as a family member only – nothing official. Of course, she wouldn’t let me go alone… and when I suggested that I wanted you to come along… well, she wasn’t impressed with that either.”

 

He paused again, his head dropping to his chest for a moment, just a moment, before he looked back up at Benjamin. “Anyway, like I said, you can say no… but… I’d really appreciate your help on this.”

 

Benjamin felt his stomach drop into his feet. Every single brain cell he had told him that this was a terrible idea. An independent planet with a Syndicate presence, going purely as civilians? It wasn’t the smartest of ideas, and he had followed through on some terrible ones in the past. He had had his own criminal entanglements over the years, and the biggest thing he had learned from them had been to stay away from them if at all possible. Even Captain Crawford thought it was a bad idea, doubly so since it was the two of them doing it.

 

But it was Nathan’s family. Even if they weren’t blood, they were family. And Nathan was right; he did have experience working on independent worlds, even if not Ponm specifically. He definitely knew how to handle himself there better than Nathan did.

 

In the end, he didn’t really have a choice.

 

“When do we leave?”

 

==Tag Nathan==


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#3 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21904.17 @ 02:38 (02:38 AM)

== Type-11 Shuttlecraft – en route to Ponm ==

 

“When do we leave?”

 

The star field turned to streaks as the shuttle ramped up to Warp Four, the engines purring as the craft stretched its legs. It was finally the moment where his mind stopped thinking about what needed to be done, and realized that all there was to do was wait until they arrived at their destination. Once there, the only plan was to make contact with the authorities. Anything else would have to be improvised. Ramius hoped there wouldn’t be much improvising, but the situation made it seem unlikely.  

 

“When do we leave?”

 

The only question that the Engineer had: simple, concise, and surprisingly assenting. Not that Nathan expected Ben to say no, but it was the fact that it had almost been reflex to say yes. It was a poignant moment, to have that kind of support from his friend and roommate; even more so that he was fine with the short answer Ramius gave (“right now”), and the minuscule dialogue that followed. Case in point, the security officer turned civilian for six days was fairly sure they hadn’t even really talked since Engineering. It was straight to business, getting prepped and ready for the trip. Now, he felt almost bad for not saying much.

 

“Thank you. I can’t believe I didn’t say that already,” he turned to face Benjamin.

 

“I apologize for not saying much either. My mind has been… occupied with all sorts of things. Now that we are finally underway, my brain is giving me some breathing space.”

 

Adjusting the brown long coat that he wore, Nathan let out a hefty sigh before cracking his neck to the left. There was still a sizeable amount of anxiety about the situation as a whole, plus his worry for Byron. Ronnie was a brilliant journalist, but not much of a fighter. Not for a lack of physicality, as he was a marathon runner, but he just didn’t have a taste for violence on any level – despite his love for confrontation.

 

Always able to dig deep enough to poke at buttons, even with his friends and family…

 

The thought took him back to a Christmas dinner, where Byron naturally had been grilling his father about something political. At first the table laughed most of it off, and so did his father. But he kept pushing for more and more answers, digging with a Socratic style that would peeve even the most stalwart of people. And once Ronnie found a contradiction, he doggedly pursued it. It was the only time Nathan had ever seen Ada’s dad so incredibly irate, which then caused her mom Julia to banish them from the table. Years after they’d laugh about it, but in the moment the tension hung in the air for the rest of the holidays.

 

Ramius gave a wide smile and shook his head at the memory, before it was tempered with bittersweet reality; which brought him back into the moment.

 

“I don’t suppose you could do some kind of miracle engineering work and get us Warp Five?” the question was more playful banter than real inquiry, though he supposed that it wouldn’t hurt to seriously ask.

 

“I really appreciate you agreeing to come with me. I’m sure you know there is a potential for danger, and I’m not naïve enough…”

 

…anymore…

 

“…to think that we won’t run into some hurdles. But, I’m hoping we don’t have to do anything… well, anything stupid. I’ve done a fair amount of research, but there really isn’t a whole lot of the puzzle visible. But, if you have questions, I’ll do my best to give you answers.”

 

There was a brief break, as he looked at the sensors and telemetry readouts, before returning his attention back to Benjamin.


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#4 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21904.18 @ 21:52 (09:52 PM)

==Shuttlecraft==

 

Benjamin had almost been astonished at the speed with which they had gotten under way. With the captain signing off on the mission - however reluctantly - the duty rosters had been rearranged to allow him the time off in short order. He'd always traveled light, so there wasn't much to put in his bag. The biggest problem was cleaning out the still to make sure that it wasn't causing problems while they were gone, and even that had only taken a few minutes to accomplish.

 

And suddenly, here they were. He stood for a moment at the back of the craft, stretching out his back while he had a chance. He'd grabbed a grey flight jacket devoid of any insignia for the trip, and felt odd to not be in uniform. It was familiar and wrong all at once. It reminded him too much of when his time on the Tzenketh run, and his hand reached for a bottle in reflex at the realization. Fortunately, there wasn't one there, though part of him was saddened at that.

 

He hadn't realized how much his uniform had become a crutch to separate him from all of that baggage. There's something I'll have to discuss with someone, he thought to himself, though it made some sense. He'd made the choice to turn his life around and the choice to join Starfleet at about the same time. Sure, he still drank, but never to such excess anymore, and maybe the thought of being a part of something more was a bigger reason for it than he had realized.

 

“I don’t suppose you could do some kind of miracle engineering work and get us Warp Five?” Nathan asked, and Benjamin could hear the jest in his voice. He chuckled in response, setting a hand on his roommate's shoulder before settling back in at the front of the ship.

 

"Not even if we got out and pushed," he said in response. "Ship's just too small to do much more than we're doing now."

 

Nathan kept going, and he could hear the jest fall away from him as he spoke. “I really appreciate you agreeing to come with me. I’m sure you know there is a potential for danger, and I’m not naïve enough to think that we won’t run into some hurdles. But, I’m hoping we don’t have to do anything… well, anything stupid. I’ve done a fair amount of research, but there really isn’t a whole lot of the puzzle visible. But, if you have questions, I’ll do my best to give you answers.”

 

Benjamin sighed, looking back out at the starfield as he thought. Nathan looked at the conn, double-checking the readouts and such, and for a moment Benjamin thought he was looking at his little brother. Not so little anymore, he corrected himself, remembering that he still needed to make arrangements to get to his wedding in a couple of months, but the point still stands. He remembered spending far too many nights trying to keep the young David out of trouble, trying to keep him from charging in where he shouldn't be sticking his neck. He'd tried to teach the younger Elias a bit of realism, as well; and while Nathan had run into enough trouble to have learned that lesson, it was one that bore reinforcing from time to time.

 

"There's a potential for danger in anything you do," he finally said. "You know that as well as I do, especially being in Starfleet. But I just want to make sure you know: Ponm won't be like a Federation world. I haven't been there personally, but I've been to planets like it, and even the nicest ones are more like the fringes of the Federation than to the core. And that's assuming that the Syndicate doesn't have that firm of a grip on the world, which from what little you've said doesn't sound like a good assumption. Just... don't take anything at face value. It may look like crystal spires and togas, but that just means you have to keep an even better eye out for the danger."

 

He took a deep breath before continuing on. "Which does bring me to my question: what was Byron doing out here? You've told me he's a journalist, but do we know what type of story he was chasing? Might give us an idea of where the police can start."


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#5 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21904.19 @ 03:46 (03:46 AM)

== Shuttlecraft – en route to Ponm ==

There was a large and long chuckle when Ben had suggested that there couldn’t be much done to get more juice from the engines; particularly funny was the idea of getting out and pushing the thing. In Nathan’s head, he could picture an old Earth cartoon he had seen once – the Flintstones – and imagined their two pairs of legs trying to speed the craft up. A snort was stifled.

He listened closely when Elias took a turn to speak however. Behind those eyes, there was a distinct wisdom and knowledge about the type of place they were travelling to. How to interact. Not stick out like a sore thumb. Hopefully how not to **** off the locals or the authorities either, without sacrificing what it was that they needed to get done. Nathan nodded and hummed an affirmation when it was mentioned that Ponm would not be like a Core world. It was a good reminder for the young man. He knew that it wouldn’t be a picnic, that it would be nothing like Earth or even Vulcan. Yet, it was still important for him to keep up his guard, to be wary, and not to take anything for granted.

"Which does bring me to my question: what was Byron doing out here? You've told me he's a journalist, but do we know what type of story he was chasing? Might give us an idea of where the police can start."

Nathan let out a deep sigh and shifted in his seat.

“Byron rarely lets anyone know exactly what he is doing at any given time, unfortunately,” a trait that was odd in the Miller family, as most of them were far more communicative, and trusting… at least of friends and family. For Byron, even family often didn’t know what he was up to.

“Thankfully his sister, and my best friend growing up, Ada forwarded a message to me from the Editor of The Atlas. As I understand it, The Atlas is a magazine that focuses on geopolitical, strategic, and economic news stories that have an impact on the Federation and her allies. Ronnie, er, Byron, went to Ponm to investigate a rumored newly-minted Nausicaan cartel or syndicate, or whatever the criminals call themselves,” both of Nathan’s brows pulled together, and his lips slight pursed when he spoke of the illicit elements.

Standing up from his chair, he walked over to his weathered taupe duffle bag and pulled a thermos out. As Ramius unscrewed the lid and poured some tea into it, he continued speaking,

“There are different ways he does this, but it always starts with some intelligence gathering first. Making local contacts, getting the ‘lay-of-the-land’, and an idea of the major players involved. That usually takes him a couple, or a few weeks, depending on whatever homework the magazine has done for him in advance.”

Hot tea swished into his mouth as he took a sip, a nice spicy Chai tea with some sweetener. It was the type of tea he’d have for comfort. And while he didn’t really need comfort at the moment, or that he realised, his brain was happier for it. Visibly, the drink washed away any negative expressions and reset him to neutral.

“And then, after that, is when he usually gets himself into trouble. He’ll either embed himself in the organization, or set himself up as a business contact, or something like that. I’ve heard that Byron has posed as a trader, smuggler, businessman, politician, and even royalty once. There is no doubt in my mind he might even try to pose as a low-level minion in order to get into the organization. The man is tenacious and doesn’t mind getting his hands a bit dirty, so long as it doesn’t involve violence – or as much as possible. That isn’t his style,” he took another sip of his tea and walked back over to the chair next to Ben to sit.

“Tyson Hawken, the editor, explained in the message that they think this cartel formed out of several smaller elements doing small-time work on Pomn. Now, they’ve moved their operations up to smuggling and sentient trafficking. Apparently, they focus their work in the business districts of Tri-Va, a mega-city that is often described as the ‘gem’ of the Eastern Province. It isn’t known how they get the people or goods on and off-world. There is a heavy orbital patrol presence. Yet they apparently move incredibly fast and get top dollar for their shipments. The Provincial Administration denies any criminal activities in their area; though one contact that Byron uncovered early, a high-ranking civil servant, said that is just a disinformation campaign until they can track the leaders down and make arrests.

Problem is, there is a division of policing… Local, County, Provincial, and Federal. There are a very strict laws regarding jurisdiction, and some overlap too. Apparently, the contact suggested that Local Police believe that Provincial Police are being bribed, and vice versa. And Byron already revealed a fair amount of corruption of the municipal government and politicians of Tri-Va, so that doesn’t bode well.

Last Hawken had heard, Byron was looking to get work or deals in a club that allegedly has ties to the cartel. The Red Room, or Red Lounge depending on the Klingon translation you use… anyway, that was a few days ago now. Initially the police refused to investigate or open a missing person case, because they argue he isn’t missing. When local authorities were asked for more information, neither Tyson or Ada get any messages back, and the Province refers them back to the Municipality.”

Draining the last of his tea, Nathan cleaned out the cup-lid with a handkerchief pulled from one of the inner pockets of his long coat. Another, more anxious sigh, escaped him before he put the lid back onto the thermos.

“It should have been easy,” he stared past Benjamin now, “for Byron to contact Hawken. He has both a communicator and an alert device embedded into his hand. One press between his finger and thumb on his left hand lets Tyson know he is good. Two presses for help. But, they haven’t got any communication at all since he explored the club.”

Oh Ronnie, you dummy. What have you gotten yourself into now?

Edited by Mid Nathan Ramius, Star Date 21904.19 @ 03:58 (03:58 AM).

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