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Posted on Wed Mar 10th, 2021 @ 9:55am by Captain Rhenora Kaylen & Commander Savar cha'Salik hei-Surak Talek-sen-deen

Mission: The Jungle
Location: Brig

Captain Kaylen Rhenora returned to the bridge after leaving sickbay, eager to see how the Liberty was coping with the aftermath. The ship hadn't been too badly damaged but she was concerned about the crew.

The doors parted before her, revealing Savar in the centre chair and the bridge crew working diligently. Approaching him she asked "What'd I miss?"

Savar swivelled in the center chair, holding up a stack of PaDDs in one hand. "Damage reports, injury reports. Fortunately the ship suffered relatively minor damage. The injury report shows mostly minor injuries suffered by the crew that were in the jungle. There were also some minor injuries suffered when the crew escaped from their holding facility." He did not mention any deaths.

Rhenora dropped into the left hand chair, mulling over the information and what had been withheld. She knew the had been deaths, but how many? The detail would be in the reports which could be caught up on later. She noted the plate of snacks and pot of tea on a small stand to Savar's right, "Ronson doing what he does best?" She quipped as she pulled up some of the reports.

"Indeed Captain. I recommended him for a promotion. He is a quiet pillar of strength and extremely loyal to you and your well being. I believe he takes it as a personal affront if you are not feeling well or injured."

" I agree with your recommendation - do the paperwork and I'll sign it off, I will leave it up to him if he wishes to remain in his current position or train for something else" Rhenora smiled, happy that Ronson had shown such strength of character.

"Brig to Captain - Ma'am Mr Haldeman is wanting to speak with you" The brig officer paged the Captain through the ships comm system.

Rhenora looked at her XO, having expected this moment. "Let him know I'll be there in 15 minutes" she replied to the comm-call. "Join me in my ready room? I need coffee, and something to eat before we face him"

"Of course Captain." Savar rising and waiting to follow Rhenora into her ready room and speak to her about the upcoming conversation with Haldeman.

She headed for the ready room, dropping by the replicator on the way though to grab a bite to eat and the universe's biggest coffee. Slipping behind her desk she sipped the delicious brew, savouring the flavour she had missed so much during The Game.

" I need your opinion" She started, taking another sip of coffee and picking at the food.

Savar slid into the chair in front of the desk. Raising an eyebrow at Rhenora's cup of coffee but keeping silent. "My opinion? Certainly Captain. Am I to guess it has to do with our upcoming talk with Captain Haldeman?"

" You guess correctly. I currently have him arrested on charges of treason against Starfleet. I have a feeling his is going to request clemency or leniency" The Captain popped some more morsels in her mouth and wondered how she have lived for so long on badly cooked meat.

"Treason Captain? Captain Haldeman can make the case he was as much a victim as we were." Savar countered but didn't press. "In what area do you need my opinion?" He asked.

" That's my dilemma how much was he the victim and how much did he play into their hands by inflicting it onto other crews?" Rhenora reclined in her chair, deep in thought.

"A perplexing dilemma to be sure Captain. Captain Haldeman was undoubtedly a victim of that there is no doubt. That he helped his captors also there is no doubt. How much he did to save his crew his the real question." Savar replied.

"And how much he resisted doing the same to other crews, was it about protecting his own at the expense of others, or did the fame go to his head?" Rhenora mused, taking another sip of coffee. " We should go and discuss this with him, I just wanted your perspective"

"You knew Captain Haldeman before this incident with the Manchester did you not Captain? What is your feeling on him?"

" He was a good man, a respected Captain even if he was a little on the vain side when I knew him" She mused as she rose and indicated for Savar to follow her. " I never would have thought he would hold his own crew above other lives though. But then again, 10 years on a hostile alien planet can do strange things to a person."

"Then if I may an observation Captain. I believe Captain Haldeman did what he had to do to keep his crew alive... just as you would. They were and are his family. As the Liberty crew is yours." Savar replied evenly.

"To what end though? How many others died in the jungle so that his crew could live?" Rhenora challenged, feeling the moral conflict building within her. She would protect her own crew with her life - but at what cost?

"Unknown Captain." Savar admitted "and it is a complex question to be sure. I would doubt even Captain Haldeman knows the answer."

" I guess we're about to find out" The Captain admitted as they entered the cold sterile walls of the brig. Most of the holding cells were dark and unoccupied, save for two. In one sat the Exec looking sullen, and in the other Haldeman paced like a caged tiger.

Haldeman stopped his pacing at the sight of Rhenora and Savar behind her. He was in a Starfleet uniform though there were no pips on his collar. "Hello Rhenora, glad you could spare the time to see me." His tone slightly sarcastic.

" The pleasure is as always mine" She replied with an icy tone that equally matched his sarcasm " I hope your needs are being met by my security staff here and that you are comfortable"

"Oh, for sure. Other than being locked up like a criminal. I'm just peachy." Haldeman replied.

" How does it feel to not have control? To have your basic needs restricted and even removed without your consent?" She was the one who began pacing outside his cell.

Haldeman watched no he observed her. Watched her pace with restless energy. "What do you expect me to say Rhenora? I don't like it. Not one damn bit." His voice even and controlled.

" You knew how hard it was in the jungle, no... you made sure no-one would ever win freedom. How many died by your hand?" She stopped pacing for a moment and glared at him.

He stared at her, "You can't be serious! No wait you are. Yes I know how hard it was but I had no control over the game conditions and no one died by my hand. I was just the face to the game because I did win and saved my crew,: He finished defiantly.

" And what of everyone else's who followed? A Starfleet Captain would not willingly subject innocent people to death to protect their own hides" Her voice was raised, filled with emotion.

"Oh Rhenora, spare me the classroom discussion that sounds wonderful in theory but in the real world it's baloney. A Starfleet Captain will do anything to save his crew. His family and you know it."

" Not at the expense of other lives" Her tone was cold, despite knowing that there was a glimmer of truth in the words. A Captain does protect their crew at what cost - but the morality of doing so was the piece up for discussion. " You killed 15 members of my crew"

He lowered his head at hearing fifteen members of the Liberty died. "I am truly sorry Rhenora. Yet how many lived? And I killed no one. The hunters in this case the alpha hunters not members of the Manchester's crew but stooges for him." He said jerking a finger at the other cell.

" Every else made it. Most who entered the Jungle with injuries. Those in the holding cells were mostly unharmed" She spoke her truth quietly. " And of course, how many of you lost?"

"As you know, the Manchester was classified as a frigate with a crew of 190. Due to the combination of the game and those who died when were first taken and illness there are 116 crew members still alive." Haldeman replied softly losing some of his bravado.

"We will get them back for you" She promised and fully intended to keep said promise. Running a full bioscan of the planet and beaming up those that matched the crew of the Manchester wouldn't be overly difficult but would be the highest priority.

"Thank you Rhenora. I truly appreciate it." He answered. "I'm not asking for forgiveness Rhenora but I am asking for understanding."

She calmed a little, remaining stationary but still slightly trembling with emotion. " Commander, please see to it that the Manchester crew are recovered with the highest priority"

"Immediately Captain." Savar replied then looked at Haldeman, "Your remaining crew will be aboard shortly Captain Haldeman. Now if you'll excuse me, I should see about locating and beaming them aboard." He turned to leave, stopped and looked back at Haldeman. "One question sir, did you and do you feel any remorse?"

Kaylen looked at him with a glimmer in her eye, he knew how to ask the hard questions when she was struggling to, she made a mental note to thank him for it later.

Haldeman flinched slightly at the question but met Savar's gaze head on. "Every day Commander. I see the faces of my crew and the others who died."

There was an emotion there that Rhenora hadn't expected. She had expected a brassy and ballsy man who didn't care and did what he had to to keep his crew alive.

" Was it just your crew's lives that kept you in that job - or did they threaten you with something else as well?" She asked carefully - still weighing the decision regarding clemency.

" What kept me in the job was them threatening my crew and my family with death. But does it matter now Rhenora?" He asked quietly and when he looked at her, his eyes are haunted.

Her face softened at his words. "It does matter" she said quietly, she pulled herself together for a moment, swallowing her feelings of guilt. "How many ships were there?"

"The Manchester was the first and then they improved the game made it even deadlier." He paused as he thought on the other crews subjected to the game. "Pakleds were next then Cardassians followed by Klingons a Ferengi freighter and finally your ship Rhenora." Haldeman answered his voice low but steady.

She paused, considering the implications of his words " And every time it got harder, more impossible for then to actually beat the game"

"Yes." Haldeman agreed. "Weaknesses, flaws were removed, the game could still be beaten but it got harder all the time as it went through its different stages."

" And this was done for... consumer approval? A broadcasted event that people could 'watch' for entertainment not realising the true version of events" She shook her head sadly. So many lives lost for entertainment.

"Keep the public happy, take their mind off the problems out in the world and what better way to do it than through a game? They had no idea just how deadly it was." Haldeman answered.

The Captain remained quiet, pondering the words "A diversion, something that was sponsered by the government? Or condoned even?" She chose her words carefully.

"The game had the support of the government. I can tell you that. There were always message coming down saying how pleased they were with the game." Haldeman acknowledged.

"So it was bigger than the broadcast company, it was bigger than the audience..." Rhenora mulled. Thankfully the planet was red listed, that zone could be expanded.

"It was a planetary conspiracy Rhenora and it almost worked if not for your help and your crews." Haldeman observed.

"Hrmmmmmmm" She resumed pacing, 5 steps, slow pivot, 5 steps. "This places me and by default you in a difficult position"

He nodded, "I suppose it does Rhenora." He agreed. "What are your thoughts on the matter?"

" I'm still contemplating that exact question" Rhenora replied carefully, not giving any indication of what she was thinking. She could drop the major charges, but leave some of the minor ones, feeling as though there should be SOME kind of reprimand.

"Well, let me help you." Haldeman replied. "Your wondering if you should keep me in here, press charges or let me out. That's about it isn't it?"

"Something like that. I understand that the external pressures were extreme, and I'm concerned about the effects that has had on your personality over such an extended period of time " The Captain admitted. step step step pivot. The constant movement soothed her worried heart and mind.

"You think I'm a killer? A crazed dog? Rhenora." Haldeman asked bluntly. "If your so concerned about me. Have one of your counselors come and see me. I don't appear to be going anywhere."

" I am trying to understand what psychological effects such a long term imprisonment can have. I'm sure you've heard of stockholm syndrome." She regarded him carefully, him getting angry was good - it showed he was telling his truth.

"Of course I have Rhenora! It's where a captive in this case me has certain feelings of trust for their captor. Which I don't." Haldeman replied forcefully. "So don't even go there."

" And how am I supposed to judge that when you threw me and my crew into the Jungle, whilst acting as though you were the ringmaster in the circus? You can't tell me it was entirely for show!" She retorted with an equal measure of emotion.

"What would you have me do Rhenora? Tell you, "Oh look, this is all for show. Don't be surprise by my position. I'm a captive just like you are. If I had done that, we wouldn't be having this conversation now."

She quietened, hearing the unspoken plea in his voice to believe him. Surely there was a shred of the dignified hoourable man she knew in there somewhere.

" Just tell me you didn't get any joy out of it...." She said with a dangerous tone.

He stared at her, anger clouding his features. He strode right to the forcefield separating him from her. "How dare you!" He finally exploded. "Did I get any joy! You must think me a perverse monster. It made me sick to watch and be a part of."

"But yet not sick enough to do anything about it? Damnit Haldeman I almost died in there! You NOTHING to help" She threw it back in his face, watching for the reaction. His next words would be crucial to her decision.

"Did nothing? Who got you in your team out? Who got you past the guards and to the stockades? Who got you weapons to stage the coup? You sure have a short and selective memory Kaylen!"

"How far would you have left it? How many more would have had to die before you took action? Were things not going as fast as you would have liked? People getting bored with watching a boring crew just get slaughtered?" She turned her attention to include the Exec who at this point had been very very silent.

"It's very easy for you to be rightous isn't Rhenora. Your on a nice, solid functioning ship. Mine is in pieces on an alien world! Fifteen of your crew died and again I am very sorry! Over seventy of mine died! Where were you? Where was Starfleet? Ten years I get my crew alive! No thanks to you!" He slammed his hand into the forcefield and the shock threw back into the cell.

"Captain Haldeman. Getting angry does not help your situation." Savar spoke calmly. "Captain Kaylen is merely trying to ascertain your state of mind as well as your feelings."

Haldeman glared at Savar, "Well, she's doing a piss poor job of it." He fired off.

" Every ship that came looking for you disappeared...this region is red-listed for that exact reason" Rhenora's words here measured and her tone even before the emotion attempted to peak through. "They tried for years to find you, you were declared missing in action and celebrated for your achievements. I even went to your damned memorial service!"

"Then I'm sorry to disappoint you by being alive and keeping my crew alive!"

For a few moments she had no words, Haldeman's last sentence stung like a physical slap to the face. " I will send our counsellor to assess your psychological condition before I make a decision as to your future" She stated evenly, giving Savar a look.

"I concur Captain." Savar answered evenly. The questioning had degraded to the point where emotions were getting in the way of the truth.

Haldeman nodded, "You do that." Bitterness in his tone.

"I look forward to reading her report" she turned and headed towards the door, the struggle to maintain her composure almost too much. She would contact Aurora to organise an assessment, but for now she had certain things on her mind. He was definately coerced into his part in the game, but Rhenora was convinced there was a small element of Stockholm Syndrome going on as well, despite his protests. She needed to clear her head before she wrote the report.

"Please organise the retrieval of the Manchester crew and provide Me Haldeman of their names" she instructed "we will decide his fate after Aurora speaks to him." She took a deep breath, and accompanied her XO back to the bridge.


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