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Hunter Matheson

Rock and a Hard Place

Rock and a Hard Place

Initiate Record. Mark Confidential. Text only. Standard Encrypt.
Personal Log Stardate 0123.2016
Gunnery Sergeant Hunter Matheson
Helm Officer, USS Excalibur

Admiral came. Admiral went. Skipper's not happy. Ex Oh’s on edge. Answers to questions are short, missing a lot of specs, and ending with a “that's all you need to know.” Not a good sign. Whenever flag officer brass comes and goes like that, it's never good. When the flag is Admiral Abronvinvich? Hell, yeah, it’s bound to be a major cluster frag.

We’re headed deep into Dominion territory, going after a quad covert ops team that’s missed two windows. Their handler is with ‘em. Yeah, that’s right. The main guy, the one who’s supposed to stay put outside the fishbowl, direct the team, and get ‘em home.... is with ‘em. That’s bad, by any stretch of the imagination.

You see, when it comes to security in the Federation—whether it’s government, military, or other—there’s a rank of levels according to importance. Lowest to highest, it’s Confidential, Secret, then Top Secret. Inside Top Secret is one that not many know about because it’s just something you don’t talk about. We call it SCI: Sensitive Compartmentalized Information. That’s the one we’re dealing with here.

Confidential intel means you really shouldn’t tell just anybody. A lot of things fall into that category. Simply put, it’s when someone above your pay grade leans over and says “I never told you this” and you answer “told me what, sir?” that’s Confidential, between the two of us.

Next comes Secret, meaning that if you pass it around, it could cause serious damage to Federation security. Then we get to Top Secret, meaning “unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause grave damage to Federation security.” That’s the textbook version, and that’s where the general knowledge terminology usually stops.

But there’s more. It’s seldom talked about because it’s usually used in the realm of Covert Special Operations, covert meaning that you go in, blend with the locals, do your job, and no one’s the wiser. In fact, they might place the blame for what happened on someone else. Covert is a step above clandestine ops. In Clandestine you don’t blend with the locals. You go in geared up, stay low, do the job, and no one sees you—except when you blow it and/or you’re captured.

To keep it quiet, Covert Ops uses Sensitive Compartmentalized Information. The teams are small and tight. All information is dispensed in a need to know framework, meaning that if you don’t need to know it, you don’t get told. Each one in the team has a mission, but they don’t see the big picture—only the handler does. Come to think of it, sometimes even he doesn’t know all of it, and sometimes no one knows all of it. Nice, right? Anyway, when the commander said, “That’s all you need to know,” I knew immediately what we were dealing with.

Anyway, there’s a reason the handler’s not with any team. Sensitive Compartmentalized Information is some serious sh*t. The handler stays outside, away from the team, and keeps in contact in a predetermined manner at predetermined windows, which could be anything from once every 30 minutes to once a day. Miss one window, a red flag goes up. Miss two, and the handler gets dicey. Miss three and you send in someone for rescue—usually a QRF—or you wash your hands of the team and let ‘em die. The handler knows who they are, where they are, and—most important—he knows the security questions for positive ID. If the handler is with the team, no one else has that information. It all goes out the window, and we might as well kiss their keisters goodbye.

So today the skipper didn’t look too happy. He says we’re going on a rescue mission to Atrian IV, deep inside Dominion space. A Starfleet team on a “classified” (SCI) mission missed "a few" windows, and we gotta find ‘em. My job is to get us there and keep us out of harm’s way “as much as possible.” And that’s all we get. Skipper leaves the bridge.

Ex Oh still doesn’t look happy. When I ask, she says we don’t know their condition, they’ve been out 4 weeks, they’re 2 weeks overdue—meaning they’ve lost two windows, and the 3rd one’s the charm—their handler is with ‘em, and oh, yeah... what we’re doing is illegal as hell.

But I’ve been around the barn enough times to know that SOP is often the same as FUBAR. Just another day in paradise. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.


Edited by Hunter Matheson

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