Back In The Day

Offices of the Judge Advocate General
Starfleet Command - Earth
September 20, 2370

“Tenanji, Usher, Cadet,” Anderson tossed the PADD onto the table. The non-comm’s complete disregard for the utilitarian tech made the newly transferred Lieutenant Finn wince.

“What’s the story?” the younger man asked his, in theory, subordinate. In the privacy of his own thoughts, Harry figured Anderson felt otherwise and, with the eight years of experience in ‘Fleet investigations Seth Anderson could claim, it would be hard to force the issue. Picking up the abused piece of tech, he began to pace the conference room.

Petty Officer Anderson crossed his arms over his barrel chest and observed the lanky Finn as he circled the table. He was still taking the measure of this latest in a series of officers to which he’d been assigned. So far, the jury was out. “There’ve been some bumps in standard transmissions coming from the Nimaine,” he said, “nothing too odd, taken singularly but one of the bright boys in Ops at Command notices it once, takes an interest and it seems that the spikes are a cypher, probably being intercepted en route to Earth. No one’s broken the code, yet,” he answered the question before Finn could ask, “but these transmissions have all been sent when young Tenanji has been on the clock.”

Harry scanned the PADD, noted that the cadet in question was in Security which only made the situation murkier. “So someone’s selling something, or someone has a cause.” He considered the truncated biography of the suspect officer then pulled up the specs on the Nimaine. “Kind of young to turn,” he commented, “though that could explain why the codes were so easy to catch,” he looked up to see a mildly surprised expression on Anderson’s face. “Come on, even a newbie like me would have to notice… [i]every[/i] time he’s on duty? He’s either too wet to know better or there’s someone in the shadows, setting the kid up,” he paused before adding, “Or he’s just good enough to make himself look like a fall guy.”

Seth grinned at the near echo of his own thoughts, “So, which scenario are you putting your money on?” he asked, curious as to how Finn ticked.

Harry offered his own, tight smile at that, “I never bet at a shady table,” he waved the PADD at the other man, “and this one looks dimmer than a Dabo wheel on a Ferengi freighter.”


USS Anat
Transporter room 1
Stardate 47771.24 (October 9, 2370)

The two men looked each other over as they waited for transport to the research station where the USS Nimaine was expected to dock within the next day or so. It was their first assignment as a team and Finn knew, because Anderson had made it very clear, that ranking officer or not, the Petty Officer would be his judge and jury. Screw up this job and he could kiss the JAG offices good-bye.

“I don’t get it,” Anderson commented, idly noting that red wasn’t a favorable color for the younger officer, who looked like he already knew it, “why are we going under the wire? We have a suspect in Tenanji, even if he’s a patsy, it’s a legit place to start the investigation.”

Harry tugged at the collar of the unfamiliar uniform, which chafed almost as much as his cover. Still, it was solid: no one ever really looked at the bean counters from Command. “Because whoever’s doing the as-yet-unknown deed isn’t legit.” He thought back to the research on the Nimaine and her crew he’d been pouring over since the pair of investigators had left Earth. “There’s a crime, here but I don’t think it has anything to do with the piggy-backed codes… I think we’re supposed to look at the codes while something else is going on.

“Meanwhile, the perp will be waiting for a nice, open, loud internal investigation and I’m willing to bet they’re prepped to deal with just that.” He dropped his hand from the collar and bounced up and down on the balls of his feet, anxious to get moving. Looking around, he lowered his voice before adding, “We need to look further into the shadows, take the sideways approach, think bent… think like the perp.” He looked over his current partner-in-anti-crime, who was incongruous in civilian grey. “How are you on the alias?”

“Alfred Statler…”

“No, I’m Statler, you’re Waldorf.”

“I hate Waldorf, why do I have to be Waldorf?”

“You just… look more like a Waldorf,” Finn said.

Seth/Alfred grumbled something unintelligible before the transporter chief called them to the pad, “Fine, but next time I get to pick the aliases.”

Leaning over to snag the duffle he’d be traveling with, Harry bit down on the smile at the comment: it was the first indication he’d gotten from the edgy non-comm that there would even be a next time.


Outside the Offices of the Judge Advocate General
Starfleet Command - San Francisco
Earth
January 13, 2371

Exiting the building, Usher Tenanji descended the pristine steps towards the street and waited for the surge of joy that his release should bring.

Ten minutes later, staring back at the architecture of his own personal nightmare, he was still waiting.

“Don’t you have someplace better to be?”

The dry tones brought Usher out of his despondency by means of sparking a rage he’d held firmly down for these past two months. “Sadly, no,” he practically spat, his own richly accented voice tainted with bitterness. “You and your partner saw to that, when you dragged me off the Nimaine in restraints.”

Harry Finn glanced at the young man, who at least looked more alive, now that he was furious. “Regulations require…”

“Damn your regulations, Finn… and damn you,” Usher brought his eyes back to the edifice from which he’d just attained his freedom, “and damn the ‘Fleet, as well.”

“You don’t mean that last.”

Eyes snapping back to the older officer, Tenanji fought down the urge to beat the man bloody where he stood. “What would you know of me?” he asked between clenched teeth, “you… you thought I was dirty.”

“No,” Harry shook his head slowly, never letting his eyes leave Usher’s, “I never thought you were dirty.”

“Then it must have been someone else you took into custody and had incarcerated, pending court-martial…”

“The evidence was compelling and I had a job to do. I did it.” Finn didn’t add that, if he hadn’t done his job by arresting a man he knew to be innocent, the real perpetrator, an agent of the Tal Shiar, would likely never have been found, would never have gotten cocky enough to try and pass her stolen intelligence to Harry’s plant on Outpost Sierra V.

Sometimes it really sucked, thinking like the enemy.

Tenanji looked away from the steady blue gaze of the taller man, fought against the hate that blossomed beneath the perceived indifference. “And what am I to do, now?” he asked the heedless structure.

“Go back,” Finn said. “Go back and be the officer that you were always meant to.”

“How?” Usher swallowed the shame at his own plaintive question. He’d done nothing wrong, [i]nothing[/i] and yet his name was blackened, tainted by the mere acquaintance of espionage. “What captain will want me on his vessel, now?”

“This one,” Finn commented, holding out a sealed chip to Tenanji. “The Hephaestus is going on a long-haul research mission and they need a strong security force… my people have spoken to Captain Shan’kyr…”

Usher just stared at him, not accepting the orders. “Who are you, Finn, to step in and make decisions about my future? You’re the one who stole it…”

Finn didn’t deny to the accusation: it was true, more or less. “I’d like you to ask yourself something,” he said, instead, “Why you?” he stared down at Usher, “Why, of all the officers on the Nimaine, did the agent decide to frame you?

“Maybe,” he continued, answering his own question, “it’s because you are exactly the kind of officer the Tal Shiar can do without. Focused, intelligent, uncorruptable… anyone could have taken the fall but, while you’re at it, why not take out someone who could become a real thorn for your organization? Weed out the strongest the Federation has to offer?” Harry watched as a small flame kindled in the almost black eyes.

“So, the way I see it, you can take your lumps, become a citizen and pretend you never gave a crap about the ‘Fleet or what it stands for and against, or…” he held out the chip, once more, “you can go back, do the job, and give the Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order and the Orion Brotherhood and all the others who’d take the Federation down, the kind of hell they meant for you.”

Seconds passed… glaciers moved… stars went nova but, finally…

Harry’s expression didn’t change when Cadet Tenanji reached out to take the chip. Nor when the Starfleet officer walked away, once again filled with something like the purpose he’d known before his arrest.

Not even when Seth Anderson joined him on the steps, watching the world go by. “He’s not going to thank you,” the non-comm said.

“He doesn’t have to,” Finn replied before turning back towards the building, began climbing the steps with his partner. “So, what’s next?”


Unnamed Asteroid - .13 LY out of Starbase Xendi 9
Xendi Sabu System
Stardate 50798.8 (19 October, 2373)

The warehouse was like any other warehouse in the known galaxy: dark, dingy and lowering with crates piled far too high with nowhere near enough visible support. One of the four men, - two in the uniform of Starfleet, two not - who’d chosen to meet in this inauspicious environment cast a wary eye towards the top of the nearest stack of merchandise.

“Love the decor,” he said, dragging his attention back to the table and the deal going down, “What do you call it, Early Fust?” He stuffed his fists into his trouser pockets, throwing a baleful glance at his companion who looked perfectly at ease in a tailored suit, brief in hand and metaphoric cards on the literal table.

“You take the deal, it’ll be a lot less claustrophobic,” one of the uniforms pointed out, flicking some of the aforementioned ‘fust’ off of his sleeve, “well, here, anyway.” Warrant Officer Sims Al-Kar threw a winning smile at the grumpy one, Sam Spade, before raising an expectant brow at the taller partner, who went by the name of Marlowe.

Marlowe’s answering smile was tight, not quite reaching the eyes, but he did place the brief on the table. “I have the client’s codes and I can make the transfers to accounts of your choosing,” his gaze flicked to the simmering lear that seemed to hover over Lieutenant Booth’s face at all times, “but I’ll want the shield modification specs in my hand before I make the payment.”

There was a breathless moment as all four waited for the cracking sound of a broken deal but, “As well you should,” Al-Kar nodded to Booth, who hauled out a brief of his own. Keying the combination, the case snapped open with a hiss and there was another slightly asthmatic space during which Spade and Marlowe waited to see just what was going to come out of that box.

Gavin grinned knowingly, and handed over a PADD, which Marlowe accepted with a dead steady hand.

“Thanks,” the tall civilian handed the tech over to his partner for confirmation then, at Sam’s nod, popped the top of the attache he’d been carrying. “In that case, Sims Al-Kar and Gavin Booth, you win…” Harry Finn, AKA Philip Marlowe, withdrew two phasers, one of which he tossed to ‘Spade’, “… a trip to the Xendi Station brig where you will remain under arrest pending Court-martial…”

Seth Anderson caught the phaser, dropped the lame-ass alias and pointed the weapon at Al-Kar who was still, strangely, smiling.

“Uh, Harry?”

Finn, who’d kept his piece firmly on Booth, was feeling the same sense of ‘something is not kosher’ that was evident in Anderson’s tone, “Yeah?”

“They don’t look all that… arrested.”

“No, they don’t,” Finn had to agree. He also had to try it… Harry pressed the trigger.

Aaaand, nothing.

At that, Booth started to laugh. Full out and filled with the kind of glee Harry imagined the bent officer had experienced when pulling the wings off insects as a child.

The laughter eased somewhat as the arms-dealer raised his own phaser from the depths of the same case which had held the PADD.

“That’s because we’re not,” Al-Kar, ever the voice of reason, pointed out. “Your weapons are useless… you had to walk through an EM field to get here, so…”

He didn’t get to finish the gloat because Harry used that key moment of exposition to kick the table straight into Al-Kar’s gut while Seth grabbed the nearest metal case and threw it into Booth’s face. Booth beat the missile away but dropped the phaser as he did so. Gavin didn’t bother to retrieve it; he just took off, into the stacks.

“Watch him!” Harry grabbed the functional phaser and left Seth to deal with the gasping Sims while he raced after Gavin.

“It’s never easy,” he muttered, sweeping through the maze of overloaded pallets, “why can it never be easy?”


Unnamed Asteroid - .13 LY out of Starbase Xendi 9
Xendi Sabu System
Stardate 50798.8 (19 October, 2373)

The warehouse was turning out to be larger than Harry had first thought. Al-Kar and Booth had hollowed out a significant portion of the asteroid from which they worked their clandestine trade. Which spoke to an operation which was also much larger than Harry, or anyone in either JAG or FDJ had first thought.

Great.

He ducked down another too-dark, too-narrow crevasse, trying not to hunch away from the over-stacked crates that ‘DestructionRUs’ had shoved helter-skelter throughout their storage area. It was a rat’s maze and every shadow was a potential hiding place for the fugitive Booth.

As the narrow corridor divided into three new paths, Finn paused and stilled his breathing, the better to allow his ears to do the walking. There, to the right, was that the scuff of a boot?

Silently cursing the lack of light, Harry followed the phaser down the rightmost corridor, stopping frequently to listen.

There was a scraping sound, this time from above. Shit! He risked a quick glance up. No one up there, couldn’t be - the entire house of cards would collapse - but that one look was enough for Booth to slide up behind Finn, who caught the shadow of the falling garrotte and got a hand up just in time. Ignoring the wire slicing through his palm he threw himself backwards, turning the phaser he still held but Gavin had a hand free, now and twisted Finn’s wrist, hard.

The weapon skittered one way and the men, linked by the deadly strand around Harry’s neck, tumbled another and in the mix Finn kicked forward at the nearest stack of crates, using the leverage to shove Booth back into the identical heap behind.

Gavin only pulled the loop tighter and, though Harry couldn’t see it, began to grin when he caught the scent of his victim’s blood, felt the thrill of the sharp edge of pain exploding in his own shoulder as the struggle escalated.

Gods, the guy is like a frigging barnacle! Harry got an elbow into the enemy’s side, ignored the sick chortle the blow produced and slammed himself, and therefore Booth, backwards with everything he had, hoping that murderous officer would give before the mountain of ordnance….

A deep-seated creaking made both men pause, the struggle for death and life halted as a larger force made its presence known.

“Party’s over,” Booth hissed, giving Finn a vicious shove, headfirst, into the shaking tower.

Stunned, bloody and gasping for breath, Harry crumpled. His right hand was still bound by the wire around his neck and his vision had gone blurry. But not so blurry he couldn’t see the man-shaped shadow darting past. Finn scissored his leg around and swept Booth’s feet from beneath him just as the entire stack of crates lost their cohesion and began to fall.

Harry thought it a real pity that his eyesight should clear up just in time to see the massive container, clearly lettered VARIABLE GEOMETRY DETONATORS, as it descended from on high.

It was then that the familiar and oh-so-welcome wash of a transporter beam pulled the two away from an unpromising future as stains on the decking.

In a moment, Harry was rolling to his feet, disentangling himself from both the biting garrotte and the USS Mistral’s security force. Nodding towards Anderson who was also clearing the transport pad, “See you got the com’s working,” he greeted his partner.

“Just in time, looks like,” Petty Officer Anderson replied, noting the mess of the younger man’s hand along with the thin scoring around his neck. “Nice,” was all he said, knowing from experience that Harry wouldn’t take kindly to ‘fussing’.

Commander T’Rel, the Mistral’s Chief of Security, looked away from Booth and the glowering Al-Kar, “I would suggest you make use of the sick bay,” she advised, “My team will secure the prisoners.”

Harry offered a vague wave in response, “Aye to that. Just keep ‘em healthy,” he started out of the transporter room, “We have a lot to talk about.”

“Hey, Marlowe!” Harry stopped, turned, saw Booth, almost as battered as himself, smiling that weird-ass smile of his, “What’s your real name?” the dirty Lieutenant asked, “So I know what to put on the epitaph,” he added.

Seth hissed and one of the Security crewman looked like he wanted to do more than that but Harry just shook his head, “It’s Finn,” he said, all that was polite, “Harry, Lieutenant and,” he stepped closer, “that’s Finn with two n’s.” Then he leaned in to the black-haired, black-hearted freak, “But don’t go ordering the headstone, yet, Booth. Once your employers hear you’ve dropped the grenade, well… might be you who needs the memorial.”

Booth’s smile faded and Harry, satisfied, left the room, Anderson at his side. Time for another visit to the doctors and boy, wouldn’t that be fun.


Xendi Space Station 9
Stardate 50818.2 (October 26, 2373)
1320 Hours

“It’s an asteroid! How… how… HOW could it be LOST?”

Anderson worked to keep his expression neutral, in direct opposition to his CO/partner who looked about ready to chew the unfortunate messenger from Ops to small, unidentifiable pieces.

“Sir,” the ensign attempted to break in.

“Was there an explosion?” Finn spun on the kid who actually jumped back. If there’d been an explosion, they’d at least have the evidence of the evidence….

“Sir, no, sir. It just… disappeared.”

Ensign Cullen then froze under the JAG Lieutenant’s basilisk glare. Seth whistled out a breath of sympathy. Either the fuzz-faced officer had drawn the short straw or he’d recently pissed off his CO in a big way.

“And where was the Mistral while the asteroid” because he didn’t feel that point could be stressed enough, “ just… disappeared?”

“Ah.. I…”

Finn kept his cold blue gaze locked on the kid’s as he spoke to Anderson, “Seth, go through the station’s LCARS, make sure we still have the digital records.” The Petty Officer left to comply and Harry dismissed the quavering Cullen with a snarl.

Alone in the borrowed office, Harry paced the limited floor space as the last conversation he’d had with Sims Al-Kar, one of his two prime suspects, echoed mockingly through his conscience.


Don’t suppose you’re going to tell me anything about your employers?” Finn asked, leaning against the wall of the interrogation room.

Al-Kar, handsome, charming, annoyingly relaxed, smiled at Finn, “I’d be happy to,” he began, “The United Federation of Planets originated on Earth…”

“Oh, ouch, a comedian,” Harry interrupted the history lesson. “So I’ll just take that as a ‘no’.”

“Lieutenant Finn,” the young man, no longer wearing the uniform of his station, shook his head, “there really is nothing to tell. Obviously Gav and I, well, perhaps we used poor judgment but I assure you our intentions were not …”

Harry held up one hand, “Let me stop you right there because, believe it or not, I don’t need your feeble explanations and I really don’t care if you rat out your masters,” ahh, that put a bit of hardness in the eyes, didn’t it?
No one likes to think they’re on a leash but, one thing Finn knew: at some point, every living being had to answer to someone else.

In this case, he was pretty sure he knew who’s whistle Al-Kar obeyed “All I care is that they think you’re telling tales. Meanwhile, I’ve got you and Booth in the bag for trying to sell enough Starfleet munitions to start a mid-sized war, which is enough to keep the folks with all the braid on their sleeves happy.

“But you know what’s going to make me happy?” he asked, keeping what looked to be a casual eye on the perp, “I get to put your sadistic freak of a partner in a cage…”

“He’s not sadistic freak…” Sims began.

Finn straightened, “I have some fairly compelling evidence to the contrary,” he said. “The last young woman Booth involved himself with… Lianne?” Finn’s own eyes went hard with the memory, “Let’s just say she was lucky to have a conscientious boss, liked to keep track of his employees.”

“He can’t help it,” and to Harry’s surprise, Al-Kar rose from his seat, his voice holding an almost-pleading note, “it’s the way he was raised. So he finds… professionals… in that area. He has never been involved in anything non-consensual.” If there were a prize for sincerity, Al-Kar would have been making his thank you speech right then and there.

Finn crossed the room in two steps so the two men were eye to eye, opposite sides of the table, “Don’t try to play me. I saw what he did to that girl and pro or not he went way beyond any contractual agreements. And while we’re being so open and sharing, let’s admit that we both know she wasn’t the only; just the most recent. Which begs the question, how many others? And why didn’t they ever bring a complaint?”

A flicker behind the irises… so fast, so subtle it would have been hard to see if you weren’t looking but Finn was always looking.

“But you know why, don’t you?” he challenged. “Because you’re the one who made sure everyone stayed quiet. You and Booth, you’re closer than partners, aren’t you?” Then Finn reached out, snagged Al-Kar’s right hand, turned it to show the minute scar on the inside wrist, “Brothers, more like… and what do brothers do? They watch each other’s backs; clean up each other’s messes.” Finn tossed the hand away. “How’d ya do it? Buy ‘em off; scare ‘em off? Or did you just make them disappear?”

Sims wasn’t stupid. He didn’t say a word, didn’t flick an eyelash, just took his seat, folding his hands on the table as if to indicate he was done with this lame-ass conversation.


Which had made two of them. Harry had left the prisoner in the custody of station security, wondering how in seven hells Booth and Al-Kar could have stayed in uniform as long as they had. Starfleet really needed to take a look at their psych evals..

He’d returned to his temporary office, where he'd been greeted by the tale of how an entire asteroid, filled to the brim with Starfleet ordnance, plans and security codes had vanished.

And now Seth was back, entering the room where Harry was pacing, thinking, making contingency plans. So they’d lost an asteroid, so what? They had the bank accounts, the money trail and, if he got really desperate, the abused woman might be convinced to testify.

“Harry.”

Finn looked up from his musings, saw that Anderson wasn’t alone. “Captain Kadeem,” he greeted the station commander, noted the expressions on both men’s faces, “This can’t be good news,” he observed.

The captain sighed, accepted that it fell to him to deliver the next blow, “It’s not. I’m sorry to say our system has been compromised. We’ve been scrubbed.”

Of course.

“Not just the data related to your case,” Kadeem added, “Someone cut a wide swath. Personnel, medical, tactical,” and that was a bitter pill, “significant chunks of data have been wiped from every department. And they did it without raising a single alarm.”

“But we transmitted…”

“No go, Harry,” Seth had crossed his arms over his chest, more to keep from pounding the walls than anything, “I checked and nothing arrived at ‘Fleet.”

“Who are these people?” Finn asked, because no way this was just the Orion’s… they didn’t have the resources for this kind of action. He was moving again, thinking… “We can still hold Booth on assault with a deadly… times two.”

“You can press charges,” Kadeem confirmed, nodding, “of course, he’ll claim he didn’t know you were a Starfleet officer at the time… but Lianne…”

“What? What about Lianne?”

“She’s gone, too,” Anderson’s own fury bled into the words. “No records of her leaving the station, no pops on the sensors. She’s just…”

A moment while all three men tasted the failure, the loss of an innocent they’d failed to protect.

“F**k!” Unlike his partner, Finn had no problem pounding on the odd wall. Once he’d gotten that out of his system, “Okay, fine, so I drop the charges, let them go… we follow them, trace their moves, find out who in the…”

“We can’t. Follow them, that is.”

Harry froze at the tone in Anderson’s voice, waited for the other shoe.

“We’re being re-assed… JAG… the investigation… it’s not a priority, anymore.”

Looking at the faces of the other two men, Harry felt a subtle shift that signaled the changing of an entire galaxy. “It’s official?”

Captain Kadeem nodded, held out a PADD he’d been carrying. “These are your orders. You’ve been assigned to the USS Anasazi, in the 7th Fleet.”

Harry accepted the orders, looked at Seth, who shook his head, “I pulled the Steadfast,” he said, “Earth defense.”

Finn nodded, “You’ll be near Jenny, then,” he said, referring to Anderson’s daughter. He didn’t mention Meg. The divorce was still too fresh.

“Yeah… there is that.”

Kadeem cleared his throat, “I have transports arranged already… I’m losing some personnel, myself. Anderson, you’re due to ship out at 0230,” he looked at Finn, “You’ll be taking the Mistral to rendezvous with the fleet… be prepared to go in an hour.”

“Sir,” Harry acknowledged and Kadeem took his leave, grateful to at least have no more bad news to deliver.

“So,” Seth looked up at his friend, “this is it.”

Harry tapped the PADD in his hand, “We knew it was coming.”

“Yeah, but you can’t help hoping…”

“I know.” Harry looked at his friend, “You’ll watch your back? Last thing I need is to come racing back to Earth so your kid can snot up my uniform…”

Anderson snorted out a laugh, “Yeah, that’ll happen,” he grew serious, then, “You’re the one who needs to stay alert… the 7th Fleet? Shit, Harry… they always take the heat…”

“Well, you know, I was getting kind of bored. Might do me some good, to get my ass shot at once in a while…” and then he trailed off because war was war and this really could be the last time they spoke to each other.

“I have to go,” Lieutenant Finn finally said. “Say hi to Jen for me.” One more look, a last handshake and he was out the door, making for his quarters and the Mistral and then, the uncertainty of life on the line.

But as Harry walked, he remembered. Remembered two men who’d bartered away Starfleet like it was so much carnival swag. He thought of the one who thrilled in making women bleed and the other, who mopped up after.

Booth and Al-Kar.

He wouldn’t forget.


Harry Finn - A History of Violence

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