Looking for Answers - Part 2 "Motivations"
Episode 3.5 - Welcome to Paradise
Location: USS Arcadia, Beta Antares Ship Yards
[Previously in Looking For Answers - Part 1 "Briefing"]
. . . . . .
Turning his attention back to the rest of his senior staff, the ship's commanding officer said, "Having said that, I do want some answers to at least some of the questions raised by the kidnapping attempt. Now, officially Starfleet Security is handling the case, and we were ordered to proceed with our original mission of exploring the yet unexplored Seshir Sector. But I was able to first convince Ms. Raena, governor of the Huizi III colony, that she needed some emergency supplies delivered and then Admiral Wells from Materiel Supply Command that the Arcadia would be the best choice to deliver those supplies.
"So we will now make a detour to the Huizi System before resuming our course to the Seshir Sector. And as we pass by the Silent Triangle after leaving Huizi III, we will have the opportunity to survey the local space." He paused briefly before adding with a small smirk. "All for science, of course."
. . . . . .
As most of the senior staff stood up and began to make their way to the exit, Oliver noticed that Ryley remained in her seat. He waited for everyone else to leave the room before asking, "Lieutenant Kincaid, is there anything I can help you with?"
Kincaid nodded. "I'd like to speak with you privately, sir, if you have a moment."
"Of course." Oliver nodded.
As she waited for everyone to file out the briefing room, Ryley took a few moments to consider how she wanted to approach this conversation with Lee. Although they had both been professional thus far, she also knew they both understood they hadn't exactly gotten off to the most cordial start. In truth, Ryley continued to struggle to form a proper assessment of him, but she knew she didn't like his cavalier approach to their missions. Kincaid had genuine concerns about how he handled certain things, but she also readily acknowledged he had never been unwilling to hear her out, and on at least one occasion now, he had taken her direct assessment of his behavior on the chin.
All of her concerns aside, however, Ryley was not without a sense of compassion and genuine caring, and no matter how the man was behaving, he had been shot in his own office. No one would expect that kind of event, and she couldn't rule out that some of his bravado at the moment was potentially his attempt to cover up whatever feelings of vulnerability that experience had elicited.
When they were alone, she met his curious gaze with a simple question. "How are you? Skip the glibness or the pleasantries and answer me honestly."
Her tone of voice made it clear that the Ryley was serious, but Oliver just couldn't help himself but respond with a small smirk, "But I like pleasantries. They are, well, pleasant." An unamused look from the counselor later, he gave in. "I'm doing fine." He answered tersely, wondering what she had in mind. Did he say something that raised a flag for her? Psychiatrists, you couldn't always tell what they were thinking. In any case, they had a tendency of overanalyzing things.
"I wouldn't be," Ryley offered with a shrug. "Not after being shot in my own ready room where I have a reasonable expectation of safety."
"The unexpected happens all the time on our line of work, Counselor." Said Oliver as he stood up and walked over to the replicator. "I assure you I have fully recovered from the initial shock and dismay. The only thing that still bothers me is what happened to the Kandor." Having arrived at the replicator, he asked, "Can I get you anything?"
"No, but thank you," Ryley responded. "I'm concerned, sir. In the short time I've been here, this is the second time I've noted you decided to withhold information to accomplish your own goals. The first time, you chose to use deception to cheat to win the battle exercise, and now you've decided to withhold your intentions from command." Kincaid held up a hand to forestall the inevitable protest. "Yes, the information is classified, but let's not pretend that's the primary reason you are withholding information."
Before responding to the counselor, Oliver said, "Chrysanthemum tea, iced." After his order had materialized on the pad, he took the glass and walked back to his seat at the head of the conference table. Sitting back down, he retorted, but without raising his voice, "I thought I made it clear in the briefing, Counselor, that we are doing this for the Kandor and her crew. Or do you think we should just go on our merry way and forget about what happened to Commander Nirak and Lieutenant McGuire while they were under our watch?" He hoped he didn't come off as too testy, but neither would he leave his decision to investigate the Kandor's disappearance undefended.
"I'm not buying into such a false choice," Ryley replied patiently. "Just because we don't investigate what happened doesn't mean we have to forget about it and take no action. You're a Starfleet captain with classified information, but you are not the only senior officer in all of Starfleet who is capable of having access to this information or investigating what's going on. In fact, given your connection to the people involved, as I pointed out, you're not nearly objective. You could have died, and the one thing we do know is you were targeted, which means any further involvement by you puts you further into danger and takes us with you. I get you want answers, but the very reason you want answers is the same reason you shouldn't get involved. I don't understand why you insist on withholding information and taking this on all on your own."
Oliver's brows tightened as the counselor spoke, and when her last sentence came out, he nearly smashed his glass on the table. "Because you can't trust anyone, not when your family is at stake." He retorted, or rather blurted out, his voice more bitter than angry. Then seemingly caught off guard by his own words, he quickly added, "Lieutenant McGuire's family, that is."
Then he paused momentarily, as if to compose himself.
"Starfleet Security investigated the Kandor's disappearance for about a month and then just closed the case and declared the ship lost. One month, Counselor, only one month." Shaking his head, he continued, "They are not going to put in any more effort than they did last time. Whatever the Kandor was doing here in the Silent Triangle, it was beyond top secret. But top secret or not, don't you think Lieutenant McGuire's six year old son deserves more than just a formulaic condolence letter from Command? Don't you, Counselor?"
"Let's not continue to confuse the issue," the counselor replied evenly. "That little boy could still get a formulaic condolence letter from the brass even if they discover what really happened. Lots of loved ones receive condolence letters from the brass that don't seem to make up for the losses they have suffered in comparison. Even when loved ones know exactly when and exactly how the people they care about have been lost, nothing Starfleet could possibly offer makes that loss OK. I don't think your primary motivation is to get answers for that little boy because if that were true, you would do whatever you needed to to make sure answers were found without there being any potential for distractions or emotional compromise. If this were all about getting answers for that little boy, I would think the last thing you would want to do is make yourself a target and risk the potential of losing sight of what it's really all about, right? Sir, I don't doubt to some extent, your heart is in the right place. I'm just not sure where your head is right now."
"No," Oliver shook his head. "nothing can make up for the loss of a parent, not even the truth of what happened, but truth brings solace, Doctor. It brings closure. Is that really too much to ask? Is it?! Do you know how meaningless it is to be told that someone is sorry for your loss after they have refused to put in the effort to find out the truth of what happened? Do you?!" His eyes drifted away and his voice again turned bitter. "They didn't even try."
A deep breath.
Standing up from his chair, he straighten his uniform jacket with a more forceful than usual tug at its bottom rim. He walked over to the windows and looked out into the ship yards.
"I know you are skeptical, Doctor." he said, "and it's within your purview as the ship's chief counselor to inform Command of your concerns, but I ask that you allow me the benefit of the doubt. I need to do this for Lieutenant McGuire's son." he turned around. "Please."
Ryley could see how important this particular mission was, and at the very least, she could see it wasn't just because of his ego or his desire to get one over on his superiors. Of course, that didn't mean she believed he was any more objective about things, and if anything, his urgency just confirmed there was more behind this decision then even she knew. "I will always support you, sir, but as you know, that doesn't mean I'm not going to check in with you when I'm concerned. I appreciate you hearing me out, sir. To be quite honest, I'm still concerned about your objectivity and how you will be affected if you aren't successful, but as long as don't ignore me throughout this process and will respect my point of view if certain decisions become necessary, that's all I can ask."
Oliver nodded. "Thank you, Doctor."
The truth was, he didn't know what, if anything, he would find in the Silent Triangle - most likely nothing - but he would not be able to forgive himself if he didn't at least give it a try. It's terrible for a child to lose his parents, but not knowing what happened was even worse. Far worse. Even if there was only a slim chance that he could spare Lieutenant McGuire's son of that frightful uncertainty, he had to try. No one deserved to bear it for the rest of their lives. No one.
Ryley suppressed a sigh as she turned to leave. Her gut told her there was a lot more motivating the Captain's behavior, but for now, she was comforted that he was at least willing to hear her out. That would have to do for now, but she knew in time, all would be revealed.
Captain Oliver A. Lee
USS Arcadia NCC-89015
Lieutenant Ryley Kincaid, M.D.
USS Arcadia NCC-89015