Obsidian Command

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Refractions: Nuance

Posted on 05 Jul 2024 @ 11:38am by Commander Calliope Zahn & Senior Deputy Marshal: Sven-Erik Lofthammer - FMS

Mission: M4 - Falling Out
Location: Pathfinder - en route to the station
2043 words - 4.1 OF Standard Post Measure

In the Chief of Security’s Office, the Marshal broke open a first aid kit, handing Zahn the regenerator while continuing to the wall unit and grabbing himself a glass of ice water from the replicator. When it materialized he promptly held it up against his sore cheek. It stung freshly on contact and he resettled it against his skin again until the numbness set in.

Turning, he found Calliope unwinding the strip of elastic hair band from her hand and flexing her fingers. She had a padd out and was scrolling through her own shorthand from the interview.

“There’s so much, so much,” she kept repeating. “It all has to be cross checked, corroborated…” But if it were true, this was like Christmas for her case.

Sven paused to watch her, still not having picked up the regenerator from its case. “How’s your hand?”

“It’ll be fine.” Calliope said through grit teeth, not really wanting to talk about how they’d managed to loosen Tergosa’s tongue. But hitting Sven a second time for the insult of the first probably wasn’t an option. “How’s your face?” She asked, off-handedly.

Sven pulled the cold tumbler off his face so he could check it in a reflection. It was angry red on that side of his face, but if he didn’t look at anyone head on, they probably couldn’t have told the difference between the one side and the other, mistaking it for a rosy cheek. “Hoping it doesn’t leave a mark on my face.” He muttered. “A shame it’s going to make a mark on your record though.”

At that Calliope looked up from her new jackpot of information.

“The junior brig officer on duty. She saw everything. She’d be negligent not to include what she witnessed.”

Mouth half agape, Calliope slowly shook her head. Sven had instigated the whole thing, and she was going to take it on her record? Her protest got stuck in her throat behind a huff of indignation.

Sven motioned with one hand in a ‘whoa’ signal. “I plan to make a report that concurs. But, rest assured, I’ll make it clear I had antagonized you, Ma’am. Should implicate us both fairly enough.”


“I did antagonize you, upset you so as you struck me. As seen in the record, and reported on by the junior officer–” he motioned with one index finger as he saw the look on her face. “Because if someone, say a defendant’s lawyer, gets the wrong idea and misinterprets the whole thing as staged, the defense could argue to dismiss any findings produced in that room as evidence in a case, on account of his supposing the interview to have been leading in nature.”

He watched Commander Zahn’s lip snarl as she unzipped the top of her uniform collar. “Damn it, Sven!” She got up from her seat and paced the half circle of carpet that wasn’t taken up by furniture in the office. What they had now might be enough to launch multiple investigative teams when she returned to the station, supposing she could talk DeHavilland into assigning them to her. But she was also going to have to admit to hitting an officer.

“I have to take the hit for you taking the hit?”

Sven couldn’t help but smirk at the boiled down version. “That’s about the size of it.”

She waved in his direction. “What are you? The kind of Fed that plants evidence on suspects?”

Sven pursed his lips and looked thoughtful. “Well, you wouldn’t be the first to make the accusation, but it’s never stuck in court.”

“This is a joke to you?”

“I mean, it’s kind of funny, Commander.”

Exasperated, Zahn turned around again to look at him, momentarily wondering if Lofthammer and Steiner were somehow cut from the same cloth, as Steiner had had the same kind of nonchalant attitude when she had confronted him in the turbolift about his going off on his own and ignoring her direction to return with her on the Runabout.

“I apologize, ma’am,” Sven said simply, trying not to get her any more worked up than she already looked to be. “I do my best to follow all the procedures and regulations. And,” he added with something of a twinkle in his blue eyes, “I’ve always heard it said I have an honest face.”

“Are we lying?” She pressed, coming back directly under his nose to demand up at him. “To make this work?”

“How so? I angered you. You hit me. Is there something else to tell?”

Now he was demonstrating another similarity with Steiner, who had been willing to commit lies of omission in his reports. Calliope’s eyes flitted back to her padd of notes and her imagination returned again to the promise they now held of new leads about the organizers of the attack on Obsidian Command. She could explain this situation as being staged and save herself the additional black smudge on her career’s face; even if none of it was upheld as evidence in court against Tergosa and the rest, it didn’t make it unactionable for her investigation. On the other hand, it would still be best getting the most out of the sentencing of all the prisoners she had aboard. Tergosa and Sh’azikress had both gotten off the hook last time and, after participating in the death of three hauler crewers, shouldn’t be allowed to go again. Tergosa had been giving up dirt on all his friends. She had it all right there.

Was it so bad to take one for the team here, for everyone’s best interests and to make the space lanes just a little bit safer? And besides, she was sick and tired of explaining herself, especially to Corvus, who was tired of hearing it. Best to stick to a straightforward explanation anyway.

“I was mad at you,” she said truthfully.

Lofthammer shifted his jaw in its sockets. “You had some good heat in that swipe.”

“I don’t like, you know…” She exhaled, still finding herself bitter about it. “I don’t like being reduced to physical attributes. It’s infuriating.”

“Commander. If you don’t mind me saying so, you didn’t hesitate handpicking me for your little side bar with Revana Nazar owing primarily to,” He rolled back his shoulders to emphasize his broad chest. “...my physical attributes.”

“That’s different.”

“Is it?”

“Yeah. It’s different. If you have to make good on your flex, then it’s knives out. Maybe that’s gonna get you or someone else hurt. But it doesn’t make you feel sick inside, like a traitor to yourself… it’s not the same.”

Lofthammer was quiet. It was hard to argue with that. It was difficult not to profile the Orion woman with the rest of her kind and he’d expected her to fall into the role without really thinking about what that felt like for her. Probably dirty. He was used to getting into the criminal psyche, or even going undercover as one to stage a bust. But Zahn was Space Navy Operations— bright eyed, spit-and-polish, honorable, stiff-necked folk who saluted upward on the chain. Leveraging scummy lowlife motivations wasn’t part of her training spread.

“Still,” he finally said, scratching an eyebrow while looking at the floor. “We got results.”

Her shoulders fell and she hugged herself in a sort of subconscious consolation. “We did get results.”

“He’s likely to keep talking to you. So long as you can stand being referred to as ‘Mistress’, which, as far as he means it, is showing respect.” And then he ventured again into the light hearted, trying to lift the tension. “You gonna make up a fancy title too?”

“No. I’m done with titles. Still waiting for the divorce to come through so I’m not a Lady of any British houses,” she snarked. “Why, do you have any suggestions?”

“Not right off the bat, but I can work on some and get back to you. Or, hey!” He chuckled. “We could find out if you already have any titles. Orion ones. You never know. I need to do your look up anyway.”

“My look up? Don’t you have my service file?”

“Sure. But in order to get into the Federation Registries and FMS databases and other correlated data compilations outside of the Federation in places like Orion territories, I have to have permission to query your bio markers and records. Privacy laws.” He went into the side drawer of the desk where he’d put a few of his own items while Saaba was out and collected a small authentication device he’d prepared, passing it to Calliope. “We can get the ball rolling, with your permission. Although, I admit, usually I have to go through a whole warrant process.”

“Registries, cross searches… what do you need all of that for? ”

“To work on your mother’s protection case.” It was a half truth, delivered convincingly thanks to the relaxed stoicism inherent in Sven’s honest face. But unspoken was the fact that the full search would be just as much, if not more, to help him build his protection case around Commander Zahn. The one he wasn’t really harping on around her. “I just have to confirm whether or not Revana Nazar’s claim about being blood relations with you is serious. Some of the Nazars have arrest records, so it should be something we can corroborate with genetic evidence on file.”

For a long while Commander Zahn paced six steps one direction and six in the other, biting on the side of a fingernail and actually reading the fine print in the terms on the handheld security grade biometrics scanner. He had to wonder what she was nervous about exactly. But then he guessed if she had avoided looking into her Father’s side of the family her whole life, then this was just a big decision for her.

Accustomed to the long waits involved in bodyguard details and stake outs, Sven remained standing the entire time without speaking, only occasionally sipping from the melting ice in his glass which he was still applying to his face.

When she stopped at the desk and he thought she was about to enter her finger print, verify her DNA, and supply her iris scan, instead she started a holographic GUI and began typing into the air graphic.

“What… are you…”

“I’m adjusting the terms,” she explained. “You’re the only one in the FMS I’m approving to search my ID base, and there’s only a single copy to be made. I’m also imposing an expiry on the copy.”

And with that done to her satisfaction, she winked and presented her open eye to the scanner, then pressed a finger to the top of the device where it took a print as well as a tiny sample of her DNA drawn into an inner compartment via a miniature medical hypo.

Sven took the device back in hand. “I’ll let you know the results as soon as I have them.”

Calliope’s lips twisted as she looked up at him. She wanted to tell him she didn’t want to know the results. But this wasn’t just about her. She had to protect her mother.

So she just nodded. “Do it after you catch a few hours of sleep. We’ve been going at this too long.”

“Yes ma’am.” He acknowledged.

As soon as the door closed behind her, he settled into the chair behind the desk and drew up the FMS comms link on the subspace transceiver, entering a long string of credentials and pulling up the access panel.

Crunching a few ice cubes in his teeth, he set the condensating glass down.

“Best to get the ball moving first, though,” he continued as a caveat to the absent Commander Zahn, his voice muffled behind a hand scrubbing his own face.


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