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Posted on Sunday, 28 June 2020 - 5:41pm by Lieutenant Alex Kingsley & Lieutenant Raith Kolani

Mission: Operation: Iktomi
Location: Lt Kolani’s quarters
Timeline: MD6

Raith was in his quarters taking some well-earned rest after a busy night in Operations. He knew that T'Lanna was on duty and he was glad that he had a little time to himself to work on some things as he went to the replicator and ordered a fresh lemon water. He'd picked up a lot about the idea of bonding from the conversation they had with Soral and Alex after dinner and he was certain now that it was what he wanted to follow through on this commitment with T'Lanna as well.

But it was still a lot to take in. He took a sip of his drink as he sat down at his desk. Despite the long shift he smiled as he sat at his desk and saw the picture of his parents that he kept on there. He missed them, terribly and he still wanted to find answers as to why they were killed in the attack on Utopia Planitia...why the synths had turned rogue on their masters and why the move for this to happen in the first place ever took place.

He felt a tear slide down his cheek, a common occurrence. Whilst his sister was away on the Charon, he still missed her. She was his only link to his own family whilst T'Lanna offered a chance to Raith to have a family of his own. He sat back as he pulled up the results and data on his investigation.

After a quick stop for lunch, Alex was halfway back to her labs when she decided on a detour. After the dinner party, she had meant to speak with Lt. Raith. Privately. For she understood first hand how overwhelmed you could feel when you were faced with so many new customs and traditions and especially so when it was around something as intimate as bonding.

To Soral it was so natural, part of what made him who he was. Yet it was still very new to her. Even so, she wanted him to know she was there if he needed someone to speak to. It was just that ever time she had intended to seek him out, something invariably had happened to stop her from doing so or finding the right time to raise it.

Approaching his quarters she hesitated for a second before pressing the door chime. Waiting for the lieutenant to respond, she stepped inside. "Sorry to intrude," she began as she entered, "I just wanted to make sure your head hadn't imploded after all the talk of Vulcans and bonding and such after dinner."

Raith smiled as he stood up to greet Alex and wiped away the tear he was shedding. He was glad that she'd popped over and was happy that she recognised that they had covered a lot of ground when speaking after dinner.

"Hey, please come in," he said. "My head hasn't imploded yet but we covered a lot of ground last night and I'm still trying to process some of it. It was an... interesting conversation," he admitted.

Alex grinned, "you have a talent for understatement. I just wanted to make sure you knew that I was around if you needed to bend an ear. I can't really tell you the ins and outs or the whys but I can listen."

"I appreciate that thank you, that means a lot," he admitted. "There were times the bonding seemed to be an almost life and death situation...I just know I love T'Lanna and I want to be with her...and I think I'm ready to commit to bonding with her...I think." He still looked a little unsure though and for a moment glanced back at the photo on the desk.

"Both T'Lanna and Soral seemed confident you had time to consider your options," Alex offered, "so you don't have to rush... is that your family?"

Her innate curiosity got the better of her when she saw him look at the photograph, the question escaping her lips before she could silence it. It really was none of her business either way, but once a scientist, always a scientist.

"Yes, that's true. I'll be giving it a lot of thought," he answered before picking up on Alex noticing the photo on his desk of his parents and his sister from a time they were all on Mars.

"Yes that's them, Mum and Dad and my sister Aria," he explained. "That was about 2 months before Aria left for her assignment on the USS Charon...and it was the last time that we were all together before..." he paused, trying to keep his emotions under control as once again he realized that it was the last time he'd seen his parents alive.

" was the last time we were together at Utopia Planitia," he finally managed to say.

She could hear the pain in his voice, just saying the words. "I'm so sorry," she offered, knowing they were meaningless words. There was a long silence before she confided, "my father was stationed there. He had planned to come to Earth but some project needed his attention so he said he'd be just a few days later coming to meet us. Mars was my home. And we could only sit and watch it burn. I miss all of them, every single day. But especially him."

Raith turned to look at Alex as she explained the situation with her father and her family and how she ad been affected by what happened. He suddenly realized that they both had something in common....something dreadful in common.

"For what its worth, I am sorry for your loss as well," he said gently. "I know it probably won't mean a lot but I am sorry that you have suffered the way you have as well. That day was a horrific day for both of us and many others too." Whilst it was still a raw subject to him, Raith felt a level of calm come over him as he realized that maybe...just maybe, they could help each other through this.

" do you find a way to make it through each day? I know I focus on my work and of late, T'Lanna has been a welcome distraction...but it's hard," he asked her.

"I didn't, to start with," Alex admitted, sitting down on the edge of the nearby seat. "I couldn't even tell you what happened in those first days and weeks. I remember being angry, and then guilty, all the while being barely able to breathe. I had thought leaving Mars to go to university was hard, even though we spoke every single day... and then there was just this void.

"I acted out. A lot. One day, I realised I was making it so much harder on my mum. She was heartbroken and grieving too and I just added to it. I made a promise to him that day to look after her and be a good daughter and threw myself into my studies. I lived in books and research archives and lecture halls. I buried myself in distractions, just like you. Soral has... turned my world upside down. I haven't shared much about Mars with him. I guess, I know how it felt and I don't want him to feel that kind of agony."

Raith nodded as he seemed to understand the actions and decisions that Alex had decided to take to try and cope with what she had also and experienced.

"I buried myself in work...It seemed to be the only thing I wanted to do. I pushed myself to do the best job possible. Yet when I came home...or what felt like home before, I didn't want to be there. It's amazing the number of times I just kept working even off shift until the day came when I collapsed with exhaustion," he explained.

"Doctors ordered me to rest and put me on medication, they also made sure I spoke with a counselor...but I didn't want to. Ho could they know or understand what I went through? How could I make them understand? I had enough when I kept being told that everything would be ok," he finished. It seems like they felt and shared a common theme.

"I punched the first counsellor who said that to me," Alex confided with a sheepish smile. "He sat there in his stuffy office, surrounded by books to show his cleverness, not a day over twenty telling me that everything would be okay. To be honest, I'm amazed they let me in the Academy at all. Guilt I suppose?"

Raith smiled when she explained what she'd done. "I would say you took the chance to express exactly how you felt at the time, thanks to your surroundings and the counselor sat before you," he agreed. "Although to be honest, he probably deserved if it he was that young, experienced or not. I really don't get along with them, but I still find it easy to put an act on sometimes, especially when having had a bad day."

He did pause for a moment. "Alex, is there anyone you can talk to about this? because I'm happy to be a listening board or an ear bender for you if you seems to be that we've both suffered from the same event but in different ways," Raith offered.

"Talk to?" Alex considered it and shrugged, "not really. My mother is back on Earth but we don't get to talk much. And Soral… when he thinks of Mars … he sees what happened afterwards. Sees it as the trigger for the Federation abandoning the evacuation of Romulans. And it was! But to me - and to you and to so many - it's more than that.

So... yeah. I'd like that. A lot," she finished, offering him a grateful smile. "And you too. If you feel like you need someone to talk to. I promise not to throw any punches."

"I'll hold you to that, the last thing I need is to have T'Lanna asking me questions about why I'm getting bruises out of nowhere," he said as they agreed to be able to listen to each other. Looking over at his desk, he picked up the photo of his family and moved it slightly to give clear access to the work panel.

"There's something I want to share with you...Something I've been working on for some time," he said. He pulled up the file codenamed "Holmes" and opened it up on a secure server.

"I've been investigating the whole incident myself, in between shifts and when on leave whilst on different assignments. It makes no sense to suddenly have an attack take place on one of Starfleet's most important posts... it makes no sense for the androids to turn on their masters..." Raith explained and he opened up all of the evidence he held. He moved over to show Alex.

Alex stood, inching closer. Not entirely sure she was ready to see the efforts of his labours. "The alternative though..." she said softly, unable to even think it. Time and again it had been attributed to a glitch, to something the designers had missed in the rush to create the Synths.

Raith could see that Alex was apprehensive as he worked his way through presenting what evidence and conclusions he had from his investigations. "I can stop this is if you want me too? I don't want to cause any pain... Some of what I found out has been disturbing and eye-opening to say the least," he explained.

"Quite simply, I don't believe that this was a glitch in the synth programming," he began. "I believe that they were programmed deliberately to rebel on their masters and attack the base on first Contact day..." Raith sat back for a moment.

"Why?" she breathed, feeling as if someone had punched her and knocked the air from her lungs. "Who would do that? All those people..!"

Raith sat forward. "That's the part I can't figure out, but I have a theory... There we are, Starfleet building all of those Nightingale Class ships to ferry out the Romulans from the potential blast radius of the Hobus star and suddenly our own synths turn on us and start attacking and destroying our biggest shipyard before attacking the colonies and settlements on Mars itself..." he explained.

"My only theory is that the Romulans somehow turned the Synths on us... If you think about it, there have been many occasions when the Romulans have turned a situation to their advantage by making another power look just as suspicious as they do in their what of they did this to make the Federation and Starfleet look weak..." Raith took a breath, fighting his natural instinct to cry out and not let the years roll down his face as he thought about who might be responsible for the death of his parents and Alex's father.

"It sounds crazy, but I'm sure I'm on the right path, I'm sure its those green-blooded bastards that were behind this whole thing," he said as he lost the battle to stop himself from crying again.

"The Romulans? But we were helping them! Even when they didn't really want us to be, we helped them. Even when they were lying to themselves and everyone else about how bad it was, we sent in ships. Picard basically destroyed the Neutral Zone - The shipyards, yes but Mars itself?!"

She realised she was probably making no sense, her mind trying to make sense of it, when a sudden calmness came to her. She closed her eyes, feeling Soral's worry and his strength. She focused, swiping angrily at her eyes as she stared outside for a long time. She had to think logically, just like her husband would do. Could the Romulans have done this? Murdered men, women and children just to try and weaken Starfleet. To try and show what they were capable of?

"Surely someone would have known - they had investigation after investigation, all of them seemed to say the same thing! How could Starfleet let them get away with this?"

Raith leaned closer to Alex before he made his next statement. "I believe...and it's just a hunch, a gut feeling...that someone in Starfleet knew..." he said quietly, whispering into Alex's ear. As he pulled back and she made eye contact with him, Raith put his finger to his lips in a shushing motion, seeing the same wild look in her eyes as he had when he had found evidence that led him to that conclusion.

"They ran investigation after investigation on this. A Flag Officer resigned his commission...and the Chief of Operations on the project was stood down. Normal working process for when a Starfleet Project of this size is destroyed in this manner..." Raith took a breath as he tried to come to terms with what he had found.

Alex realises she had no words. The idea that someone in Starfleet knew? It was unthinkable. “All this time, you’ve been working on this? Alone? How did you even get some of this data?” She was stabbing in the dark for more solid ground. Not sure it was possible. She moved to the workstation and saw he even had work orders for that day for all the Utopia Planitia staff. “May I?”

"Yeah, I've been working on this for a while...please take a look...but you may not like what you see," Raith warned. "It still turns my stomach some days when I look at it..."

She asked it even though she knew it was a bad idea. At Raith’s nod, she accessed the files and quickly found entries for the R&D unit, where her father worked with Commander McKenzie and around a dozen others. She saw his name and had to quickly turn off the screen before she could read any of the detail. “I’m sorry. I’m not sure I’m ready to look at any of this...”

"It's ok, I'm sorry. It's my fault," Raith apologised as he shut down the secure server. "I thought...I thought that meeting someone else who has been through this...they might understand but I suppose this all looks like I'm some kind of conspiracy nut," he admitted. Standing up form the work desk, he stepped away for a moment.

"I'm not by the way...I'm completely sane...I just don't like what I've managed to unearth up until now," he finished. He still wondered at times how he managed to put on uniform knowing all of this. Some days it was a struggle.

“Of course you aren’t,” Alex said quickly. “I didn’t think that. At all. It’s just so much and I never imagined...” she fell silent sure she would make it worse. She felt awful that he felt the need to defend himself.

"What this does show is that there seems to be more to this than the official reports and investigations out there. And I would love to know why so much has been hidden away," Raith offered.

“How can we find out for sure?” Alex asked. “All the synths were destroyed. And nobody is just gonna come out and confess to being a traitor? And Mars is still burning...”

Raith nodded as Alex made some good points and raised some good questions. "The answers right now as... I simply don't know. But I intend to find out all I can. And where possible, if you are interested, share it with you," he said. Having exposed her to his private investigations, Raith now felt he could trust Alex.

"If you're interested in working on this with me outside of shift hours? Maybe even taking the odd trip now and then where necessary for some answers or information?" Raith offered to her.

She nodded, knowing she would have to know now that the seeds of doubt had been planted. Not just for her father but for everyone who had perished that day. "I'll help any way I can," she promised.



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