Shuttle Ride Prep
Location: Shuttle, En Route to Alpha Centauri
Timeline: Mid-Late Shore Leave
The shuttle rocked slightly as it traveled at warp. It was a slight motion, not something to indicate the incredible speed the small vehicle was traveling at. It was things like this that occasionally surprised Charlotte. Little details which highlighted the amazing nature of their voyages...but which are shrugged off as the most insignificant nuisance now.
The shuttle had fallen silent for a few minutes. Her fault of course. She'd essentially dropped out of the conversation and was sitting looking at the reports on her padd, detailing her father's investigation into Alina, and by extension her. She'd found a place halfway back in the shuttle fuselage. The other two inhabitants of the vehicle were still upfront in the cockpit. After a few more minutes, the silence crossed from comfortable to strangely oppressive, and she spoke up. "Ya know, I can't say reading through all this is improving my mood."
After her relative silence, and lack of participation in the chatter the sound of Charlotte's voice actually made Dante jerk a bit in fright. "I thought you'd fallen asleep, honestly.", he said, with a slight smile. "But, if it isn't helping, or if it is upsetting you, maybe a break is in order?", he asked.
"Yeah, I think you might be on to something," she said, setting the device aside. She stood, stretching as she did so. These shuttle rides were brutal on posture. She'd decided to go without uniform for the voyage, adopting a jacket, green shirt, and jeans look. She'd be dressed up enough soon. "Sorry to duck out on the conversation. I miss anything interesting?"
"Not from me, but I think we've established already I'm a pretty routine, possibly even boring kind of guy. But I'm a damn good pilot, and humble too, so it balances out.", Dante replied with a cheeky grin. "This guy, though, he's an interesting one.", he added, jerking his thumb towards his copilot for the trip.
Maralen gave a slight smirk. "Me? I'm just your average felinoid." He was far more than that, and everyone in this shuttle knew that to some degree, but he couldn't resist getting in on some of the light-heartedness given where they were headed. It was going to get very serious soon enough. Standing, he stretched his long legs and then his tail... out to its full length. Then after that moment, he wound it around his waist again and smiled at Charlotte. "I do like that look on you." he complimented, indicating her clothing. "We in Starfleet spend so much time in uniforms of one breed or another that it's nice to see you in something more comfortable once in a while." Even if the circumstances were not something he would have wished on her. He was trying not to address those, though, as he suspected she had quite enough of that for now and could use a break from it.
"It's nice to go casual every once in a while," Charlotte said with a chuckle, before patting the small crate that was resting on the floor. Just before they left, she'd picked up the package from the quartermaster. Brand new dress uniforms, in vibrant department colors too. The uniforms themselves weren't a brand new style, as they were designed after the duty uniforms from about a decade ago, with some alterations. But it was a massive improvement over the grey ones they'd had for the last 5 years or so. "Do have to admit, I'm much more interested in putting this dress uniform on than the old greys. Either of you try yours on yet?"
Maralen frowned slightly at the crate, but it wasn't a deep frown of complete displeasure. It was his typical response to being required to wear something that matted down his fur. But as always, it vanished nearly instantly as he looked back to Charlotte. "I did. I have to say they fit a bit better too." he commented. "I'm not terribly fond of having to wear a second set of fur" he joked lightly "but at least it isn't drab and overly tight." he finished with a smile. "Did you try yours on yet?"
The woman nodded. "Brings back memories honestly. I was a brand new officer when the uniforms felt like that. But you're right. They fit substantially better than the greys. Those won't be missed. Honestly, I don't think I could have put those back on after the whole Arcadia incident."
Maralen paused for a moment, the look in his eyes shifting for the briefest of moments. The curse of an eidetic memory was that he would never lose the details of the memory; it would not become fuzzy with time. "I have to say I completely agree." he said softly. "It would never... feel... the same."
Wanting to steer the conversation back to a bit more cogent a topic Dante cleared his throat. "So, have you given any thought to what we might be facing once we get to our destination? I'm usually a seat of the pants kinda guy, but in this situation I think I'd much rather know what's going on...", He said.
Charlotte pursed her lips, considering how to present it. "Well, the two of you shouldn't have anything to worry about personally. But essentially, we're heading into the sentencing hearing for my former XO Alina Soyka. My estranged father is leading the prosecution likely in an attempt to make this about me somehow. So I want to be ready. As her former CO, I can assume control of her defense. I just need to come up with something to do with that platform."
Still facing the console before him, not wanting to take his attention from the task at hand, Dante nodded. "That's understandable. Do you have any ideas? Maybe you could bounce them off us and we could give you some feedback. I'm not well versed in legal matters, but it couldn't hurt.", he offered.
Charlotte considered it for a second. "I guess that's the question. We're in a rough spot. Alina is guilty and it happened under my watch. So...can't really refute the facts there. And I'm not really looking to get her out of a sentence. I have no interest in that. But...I'd really like to hit back. And I feel like there's a way to do it. My father has been going out of his way to make this about me. I'd love to turn that back on him."
"I can definitely understand that.", Dante replied. After a few moments thought he added, "What angle is he going for on pulling you in on all this? He's not going for the cliche is he? The old commanding officer is ultimately responsible crap?"
"Well...not quite," Charlotte said, her brow furrowing slightly. "I think he's trying to argue I knew somehow and let her go. You see, the situation is complicated a bit by the fact that she and I were...involved."
A sudden dawning of understanding passed over Dante's face, making his eyebrows raise. "Oh, hell.", He replied. "That's liable to get sticky real fast. Now I see why you are so interested in turning it around on him. That's a hell of a way to hit below the belt.", He said, speaking of using the romantic entanglement as a weapon.
“Yeah,” she replied, her voice a bit more muted. “It was a mistake on my part. One that jeopardized my career, and potentially still does. I knew the risks of fraternizing, but it began before I became her CO. I should have broken it off once I did. I think there’s truth to his accusation that I should have caught it. But I promise you, I didn’t know about her criminal dealings. I found out the day he arrested her.”
Mar wanted to offer something that would help her, but what could he say really? "Well, that truth can be read in two ways, Charlotte." he said finally. "He will, of course, read it that you either were culpable or that you were not watchful. However, it can also be read as she was that good at hiding her activities. Those who figured her out were outside of her ability to cloak them from, at a distance that afforded them a better view." The old forest for the trees idea but taken in a different direction. "But whatever that situation was, what do you know that could potentially be used to turn the situation around on your father?"
"That's the problem. I don't really know how to get at him. He's been running this investigation from the start. Hasn't given me much opportunity to get at him. I'd essentially need to question the investigation itself," Charlotte said. She didn't feel overly confident in that idea. Questioning what was, for all intents and purposes, a legitimate JAG investigation into criminal activity by a Starfleet Officer wouldn't look good. And it wasn't something she wanted to do. "That's also part of the reason I brought the two of you. I am obviously very personally tied to this situation, and unable to separate myself from it. I need some objectivity."
She decided to lay out the case. "Alina Soyka and I initiated our relationship in late 2261. At the time, I was XO and she was the Zheng He's Intelligence Officer. At some point in early to mid 2262, Alina began to run a covert smuggling ring, corresponding with numerous crime syndicates and making dead-drops when needed. Later that year, our Captain was killed in a Nausican attack and I became CO. I made Alina, who was admittedly the next ranking officer, my XO. And she continued to run her smuggling ring, now with the sway of a Starfleet XO."
The woman sighed. "Then last year in 2263, the Klingon War breaks out. We're were running relief missions. At some point during this, a JAG investigation is initiated and uncovers that Alina has been involved in the smuggling ring. I don't know the exact time, because I wasn't informed. The first time I found out, my father's ship, the USS Tempest, had intercepted the Zheng He and arrested Lt. Commander Soyka and took her into the Tempest's bridge. All before I even woke up. Apparently, he'd ordered my crew not to alert me. I've only spoken to her once since, back when we were on Arcadia. And she took the opportunity to alert me that he was still coming after me."
Mar had heard this before, but gave no sign of it now. He considered instead. So the investigation began beforehand. That complicated things. Still...
"My expertise is not in legal strategy, but it occurs to me that he has a conflict of interest." he stated. "With his daughter involved in the case, he should... I'm not certain what the term is but remove himself from the case as he technically has a vested interest in its outcome." Of course, normally, that would mean that the officer in question would want to protect their child; but in this case, it meant just the opposite. He was also trying to keep the focus off of her personal life, even though it was part of the case, and on the case itself.
"Conflict of interest," Charlotte repeated. She probably should have seen that earlier. Her father's actions certainly seemed to qualify. Making the case wouldn't be too hard, but it might not be enough. "I could move to have him removed from the case potentially?"
"He should already have recused himself. Honestly, and this is just my opinion, I'd move to have him removed from the case, and ask that an investigation be initiated. It's disturbing that a Starfleet Admiral has allowed himself to even consider this course of action, much less actually start acting on it.", Dante said, and then looked up, suddenly aware of just how incredibly inappropriate that comment might have been.
Turning to face his commanding officer he actually blushed slightly, "I am so sorry, I can't believe I just said that...", he said, wide eyed.
Yes, recused! That was the word! "Appropriate or not -- and I'm not speaking to it either way -- Mr. Rawlins' statements are quite true. The choice of this course of action demonstrates not only a vested interest in the outcome of the investigation but a tendency toward allowing his emotions to guide his judgment, not a good thing in a higher officer." he added. His tone was calm and level. There was no hostility evident in either it or his manner. He was speaking facts as he comprehended them and analyzing the situation based upon those facts. He also had a vested interest in the outcome of this case, or rather on how that outcome affected Charlotte, but he kept all of that to himself, hidden beneath that calm neutrality. "You could indeed move to have him removed from the investigation on grounds of personal involvement with one of the parties involved in it, i.e. you. He brought you into this; now you can use that to remove him from it."
“Indeed,” Charlotte said simply, nodding her head. Her eyes were far away in thought. He wouldn’t recuse himself. That’s much she was sure of. But they two officers were absolutely right that he’d left himself open here. She’d need to word it correctly, if that’s the path she planned to take. “Thank you both, that gives me a lot to think about. If it’s alright, I’m going to dive back into it.”
She felt bad, not waiting for a reply. But she wanted to start hitting notes while the thoughts were fresh in her mind.