Posted on June 23rd, 2021 by Kathryn Harper and Hannah Ziredac
Less than an hour after her hasty exit from the celebration of the ship’s launch anniversary in the holodeck, Captain Kathryn Harper stood in the transporter room waiting expectantly. Her early departure had been necessitated by the abduction of a guest on the Atlantis, Hannah Ziredac, whose ship had been undergoing repairs in the shuttlebay, and who had come to her asking for shelter from her brother, Captain Jason Ziredac of the USS Meridian. It had not taken her staff long to trace Hannah’s transport back to the Meridian and, after contacting that ship to demand Hannah’s return, Harper had been somewhat surprised to find that Captain Ziredac had been relieved of duty by his crew. She had instead spoken with Meridian’s executive officer, Commander Deria Molloy, who immediately agreed to personally return Hannah to Atlantis. Kate had quickly changed clothes from her casual party dress into a uniform, but there had been no time to put her red hair up into its usual captainly updo, so it remained partially braided and down past her shoulders, and she anxiously preened at it while waiting for Molloy’s arrival.
Three shapes shimmered onto the transporter pad. Commander Molloy, a tall woman with short dark hair, stepped off the pad first, followed close by Hannah Ziredac—who, despite the erroneousness of her detention, looked as if she still needed to pick some canary feathers out of her teeth. The third man was a middle-aged officer in a yellow uniform shirt, whose immediate energy read as muted excitement as his eyes darted around the transporter room.
“Captain Harper,” the woman said. “I’m acting Captain Deria Molloy. This is my Chief Engineer and acting first officer, Lieutenant Commander Jack Leirone.”
Leirone, with a friendly smile and nod, said, “Captain.”
“I’d like to formally offer my deepest apologies in person, Captain,” Molloy said, stepping forward. “What Captain Ziredac did was impulsive, disrespectful, and completely unbefitting of a Starfleet captain.”
“Or an adult human being,” Hannah said, “but who’s counting.” At an over-the-shoulder glance from Commander Molloy, Hannah added, “Shutting up now.”
“Welcome aboard the Atlantis, and thank you for your prompt attention to this matter,” Harper said, nodding to Leirone before turning her attention to Molloy after a quick relieved glance at Hannah. She didn’t even really know this woman at all, with the entirety of their interactions having been a rather short conversation in her ready room when Hannah had asked for help with her brother, but the request had raised red alert sirens in Kate’s mind signalling a victim of abuse, so she felt it to be her duty to offer protection. Captain Harper never imagined that a fellow Starfleet Captain would resort to actually abducting a passenger from another ship in the fleet, and that would seem to reinforce her suspicions of abusive behavior, but at least Hannah was now safely back aboard, hopefully not having suffered from the experience. Kate looked back to Hannah and asked, with her concern evident in her voice, “Are you alright?”
“If looks could kill, absolutely not, but…” Hannah shrugged. “For what you’re asking, though, yeah. I’m fine.”
Molloy cleared her throat. “Before we conclude this meeting, there’s an uncomfortable situation we should discuss, Captain.” She turned then to Hannah and said, “You don’t need to be here for this part. If you’d rather step into the corridor…”
“Nah, I prefer to have people talk about me where I can hear em, if it’s all the same to you. You know, the whole defending myself thing.”
“Very well.” Molloy sniffed, cleared her throat again. “Captain, I trust that your crew did their due diligence with regards to Ms. Ziredac’s background, and found nothing noteworthy on record. She may not have a record now, but she sure as hell used to. Many people saw her record, and read it extensively—myself included. All our department heads, most top officers of our Sec team, even Vice Admiral Wyle.”
Leirone nodded. “I can confirm they once existed.”
Molloy continued: “So we find ourselves in an ethical and legal quandary, Captain. Whatever Ms. Ziredac did to remove her files from all possible databases is so thorough that no one can prove anything was even tampered with. It’s almost as if we’re all suddenly living in an alternate timeline where Hannah Ziredac truly hasn’t done anything wrong.”
“For the record,” Leirone said, “I’ve advised the commander that alternate timelines are nothing to joke about, even for a metaphor.”
“Nevertheless,” Molloy said, “nobody can legally hold her. Ethically, though… To speak plainly, Captain Harper, I can not let Hannah go free and consider myself ethically sound. I know what she’s capable of, and it would be reckless to turn a blind eye just because we lack the paperwork. So, I have an idea I’d like to propose.”
“Alright,” Harper nodded after a quick check on Hannah to get a sense of her reaction to these accusations, forcibly setting aside, for a moment, her instinct to protect a woman who she admittedly did not know. Molloy was also standing on her ship claiming ethical concerns while having delivered Hannah in good faith, so she could at least hear the commander out. “What is your proposal?”
“Full disclosure is that this is originally Captain Ziredac’s idea, but one we all cosigned. It would combine the concepts of letting her go free and keeping her squarely where we can see her. In short: it entails keeping her onboard a Starfleet vessel as, essentially, a third-party contractor. The original idea was to have her be on the Meridian, but with the family dynamic now laid bare, we feel that would be inappropriate. How would you feel about keeping an eye on her onboard the Atlantis?”
Leirone chimed in: “Investigations are already underway as to how she deleted her records. You’d only be…well, let’s call it ‘hosting’ her until the FSA reaches a conclusion. However long that’ll take.”
“And unless something changed mid-transport,” Molloy said, again turning over her shoulder at Hannah, “Ms. Ziredac has agreed to these terms.”
“Well, Cap,” Hannah said, “wanna play babysitter to a lady who’s done absolutely nothing wrong?” She smirked, whispered, “That’s the self-defense thing.”
Captain Harper took a deep breath, buying a moment to think before answering. For a moment, she wondered if she was being naive and allowing her goodwill to be taken advantage of by a career criminal. Regardless, with no proof of Ziredac’s past, she had no choice but to stay the course, as long as this consent was informed. “Hannah… this ship will, very shortly, be engaged in what could end up being the first battle of a war. You apparently handled yourself well in the defense of Refuge before our arrival, even earning a personal request from Lady Venya Kashar asking that you be treated as an honored guest, but I cannot even guarantee that Atlantis will survive the days to come, much less the Skylark, should you agree to help us.”
Harper’s gaze tracked across Leirone and Molloy as she continued, “There is no legal justification for me to detain you aboard Atlantis, regardless of their claims against you. Due process of law is a principle fundamental to the values of the Federation and those who wear the uniform to serve it.” Her green eyes returned to meet Hannah’s before she concluded, “I cannot force you to stay. But, if you want to freely volunteer your services to Atlantis, knowing what the immediate future here may hold, I will accept them. We need every advantage that we can get.”
“The Skylark’s an advantage alright,” Hannah said. “And with your crack team backing me up, I won’t find myself dead in the water next time.”
Commander Molloy cleared her throat a final time. “With all due respect, Captain, our idea for keeping Hannah aboard a Starfleet vessel is not detention, and we would not ask anyone to define it as such. That said, I’ve always believed that Starfleet’s best principle is that it balances the legal and the ethical, and promotes to its highest offices those who can be trusted to make the distinction. Hannah, if you’ll step out for a moment?”
Leirone cut her off with, “Without the repartee.”
Hannah scoffed, then made for the door into the corridor. “Literally no one is doing a good job convincing me that Starfleet aren’t just a buncha wet blankets.”
When she was gone, Molloy moved another step closer, and with an urgent hushed voice said, “Captain Harper, we are in no position to lobby for trust. I have Jason Ziredac to thank for that. But if you have any sense, trust me when I say that Hannah Ziredac is not innocent. No matter what, never let her convince you otherwise.”
“I appreciate the warning, Commander, and what you say may yet prove to be true.” Kate relaxed somewhat and lowered her voice, lessening its authoritative tone in hopes of conveying her understanding of Molloy’s message. “I agree with the need to balance ethics and the law,” she began as a quick flash of a relatively recent episode flashed through her mind where she had been forced to do just that, with that incident only being the latest of several. “But understand that right now, with no evidence but your word, I lack both legal and ethical authority over a civilian who has not been lawfully arrested or charged with a crime. That said, I like to think that I am no fool, so rest assured that I will take your advice and watch her.”
Commander Molloy nodded, first to Captain Harper, then to Commander Leirone. “That’s more than we could ask. We’ll head back to the Meridian now, unless you have anything left to discuss?”
“No, Commander. While it is regrettable that this had to transpire the way it did, thank you for what you have done.”
“Of course. Perhaps next time we meet, it’ll be under better circumstances, but if we’ll be flying off to war with the Xovul, I don’t imagine our next meeting will be too cheerful either.”
“But here’s hoping,” Leirone added with a smirk.
Molloy and Leirone stepped onto the transporter pad, and in a moment shimmered away. Once they were gone, Kate stepped out into the corridor to find Hannah waiting, wearing an expression of cocky expectancy. “Welcome back aboard, Ms. Ziredac,” the Captain offered as the door closed behind her.
“Thanks, Cap. Guess I’m hangin out here for a while, huh?”
“If you wish. As I said, I lack the authority to compel you to provide your services here, but they are welcomed if you offer them.”
Hannah shrugged: the picture of insouciance for such a perilous arrangement. “Sure. So you don’t buy into Molloy’s legality-slash-ethics stuff? You’re not gonna put me on a leash, however slack and informal?”
“I do buy into it, Hannah,” Kate began, making sure that their eyes met — if only she could know the lengths Captain Harper had personally gone to in the service of that ‘stuff,’ but that would be a long conversation. “But that is precisely why, with the evidence at hand, I must conclude that I have no power to bind you.” After a moment’s pause, she continued in a softer voice, “Hannah… I wanted to help you in the situation with your brother, and I still do, but please… do not repay my compassion by showing me to be a hopelessly naive fool.”
“I won’t,” Hannah said. Her eyes took on a shine that betrayed a few dozen follow-ups that she chose not to say.