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The Truth Will Set You Free

Posted on Thu Mar 3rd, 2022 @ 11:34am by Lieutenant Aiko Kato

Mission: The Orion Syndicate
Location: Holodeck 3
Timeline: Prior to Arrival in Orion Space

Previously on Star Trek: Washington

Everything that she read however brought her to the fundamental question of why...why had she been a target in the first place?

Although this was where the information became restricted, coming in drips due to it being classified, she did gather it involved the Orion Syndicate, but she was not even sure how reliable this information was. If it was the Orion Syndicate, it raised even more questions than answers.

Aiko had prior to New Krakow, had minimal dealings with the Syndicate. Sure, they would run into them every now and then when she was on patrol duty on the USS Scylax but there was never anything significant to warrant the Syndicate coming after her.

Even on New Krakow where the argument could be made that she had helped foil a network hub of slavery thus dealing a huge blow to the Syndicate, her role was minimal. She was one of several personnel from the Washington that had been part of that mission. So why had the Syndicate picked her out?

It was a question that did not have an obvious answer and that was what terrified her the most...

And now the continuation

Aiko stopped outside of holodeck three and accessed the control panel, keying in her personal access code for her holodeck booking. She entered the code for the program she wanted to run and then watched the display that noted that the program was ready.

She stood by the door to take a deep breath letting out slowly before she stepped through the doors and was instantly transferred from the monotonous- almost sterile- environment of a military starship to the stunningly beautiful scenery of a planet. She looked back only long enough to see the exit doors close, erasing the last vestiges of the USS Washington.

She barely had time to set the basket she carried in one hand down on the grass when a humanoid form materialized behind her. She spun around and smiled. "I'm glad you came," she said quietly. "I thought you might end up changing your mind."

"I came close," answered the human male. He stood a head taller than her, his jet black hair sleeked back and the edges trimmed so precisely and evenly that there was no stray hair strand to be seen. His brown eyes settled upon her even as his full lips curved upwards in a smile.

"In the end, I just couldn't resist you and I suspect you knew that as well." Before Aiko could speak, he stepped forward and past her walking deeper into the scenery in front of them. "So whereabouts are we?" he asked glancing from the scenery to face her.

The warm breeze of the environment danced around them, spreading the scent of lavender through the air. Aiko smiled as she held her arms out in the near darkness. "This..." she started speaking softly and gesturing all around her, "is my favourite place to come to relax and is part of the town my family home in Osaka, Japan is located."

They walked across a bed of soft green grass, clearly atop a mountain, surrounded by darkness that was faintly illuminated by the millions of stars sparkling around them and a brilliant crescent moon. "When I'm up here, it's easy to feel like I'm the only person in the universe and all of this is for my benefit."

Aiko watched as John Parks took a sweeping look at the landscape. From their elevated position, they could see for miles and miles ahead the rolling plains of green grass, shrubs, occasional tress. It seemed to stretch on forever in all directions into the star-lit horizon.

She watched him turn his gaze upwards to the stars and she followed suit. She wondered what he felt looking up at the stars. For her, it almost instantly felt like being a kid again wondering what wonders awaited in each of the star system.

"As a kid," John started, "I would always climb to the rooftop and simply lie there starring at the stars, getting lost in their splendor."

Aiko smiled, knowing that her choice in holodeck program had been perfect after all. Gracefully she sank to the ground and pulled off her boots, wriggling her bare toes in the grass. "I think that's something that has been done by children, and adults alike, since the beginning of time," she replied quietly. "We're just the lucky ones I suppose, because we get to be out here amongst them." Her words referred to the space beyond the ship, not just the holodeck program they were playing.

"Care to join me?" she asked with a smile as she patted on the spot in front of her.

Why not?" he responded, though she understood this to be a rhetorical question. He copied her movements, seating onto the grass and removing his boots. He had moved closer to her than she had anticipated and she felt his knees brush against hers, sending a tingling sensation up her spine. As artificial as she knew this environment and the visage of the man in front of her were, she truly felt as if the real John Parks was seating in front of her.

In a way, he was...only what she was looking at and interacting with was his holographic projection. The real John Parks was likely in a far away part of space. For a moment she was tempted to ask where he was, but she knew he would simply lie. Such was the nature of his job...and one of the reasons they were no longer together.

" asked about Cait," John said after clearing his throat to ease the tension of the uncomfortable silence that had settled upon them.

Aiko snapped out of her reminisce. For a while there, she had been lost to memories of the past and of the brief and passionate moments she had shared with John. They had both been younger then, subject to the whims of emotions rather than reasoning. She may have said the words, but she knew she had not loved him then. Looking back now, Aiko knew enough to know she had liked him well enough to now regret that she had not been willing to fight to keep their relationship, rather than ending it abruptly.

"Yes...I know this puts you in a precarious position John, but as I said in my message, I'm losing my mind not knowing why I am...was...being targeted by the Orion Syndicate. I know Starfleet Intelligence is involved, but no one is telling me anything. I j-"

John pressed a finger to her lips and hugged her. The action caught her off guard, but she was even more surprised by how overcome with emotion she was to feel the warmth of his upper body pressed against hers and to feel the strength underneath the broad shoulder. Her body seemingly melted into his and her head naturally rested on his shoulder. Although she tried to fight it, she eventually began to sob.

His unexpected hug caused the pent up worry and anxiety about the precariousness of her situation to resurface and her wall of discipline buckled. There was also confusing feelings of intimacy with John that was proving difficult to navigate.

"I can't say I fully know what you are going through Aiko, but I can certainly appreciate how difficult it must be to not know if you are in danger and why it appears the Syndicate is targeting you," John stated. He rubbed the back of her head and down her back. "I wish I could be there with you."

Aiko squeezed him tightly for a second or two before she broke the embrace. She managed to recompose herself, wiping the tears away from her eyes.

She wanted desperately to ask him if they should reconsider rekindling their relationship. After all, they were now both older and presumably wiser...but she could not quite bring herself to say the words for fear that he may have already moved on, or worse reject her advance.

John had remained quiet no doubt sensing she wanted to say something but when it was clear nothing was forthcoming, he began to speak. "I'm not at liberty to say much but I can let you know the actions of the Orion Syndicate towards you is not as random as it may appear to some."

Aiko sat up straighter at that news.

"I'm already treading dangerously close to breaking some regs even by being here Aiko..." John said, pausing. She knew him well enough to know he had more to say but was holding back, no doubt doing the mental calculations to weigh the risks against the gains.

"I did everything you asked me...this program is one I frequently run and the privacy setting has been increased. Anything further will draw too much attention."

John nodded. "I know Aiko. Captain Shran and the crew of the Washington are nothing if not diligent. But, even still, I dunno...I think it's best to let sleeping dogs lie as they say."

"John please...I know as a Starfleet Intelligence officer you can't tell me everything, but at least throw me a bone. It's hard worrying if and when the next attack from the Syndicate is going to come."

John paused as if in deep thought again. "At this point I think you've probably caused more problem for the Syndicate than they bargained for. Quite frankly, they have more problems to worry about now and they know it. I don't believe you are at any further risk."

"Your personal assessment or official information you have?"

John paused before answering, "It's hard to say I can neither confirm or deny that statement."

Aiko nodded and felt a measure of comfort. By necessity, John had to be obtuse and delicate in his answers, but she now knew based on how he answered that he had intel to suggest she was not in immediate danger and although they may no longer be together, she trusted John implicitly with her life.

"What about the why?" she asked. She knew she was pressing her luck but it truly was maddening not knowing why she was a target in the first place.

There was another long pause before John answered. "Sometimes I wonder what happened to us Aiko...we were so good together."

Aiko blinked, surprised for the second time during this conversation. She was going to speak but John pressed his finger to her lips again. It was a habit of his whenever he was teasing or comforting her. She recalled that she had found it equally as annoying as she found it adorable.

"I guess we'll always have New Sydney."

Aiko glanced at John confused at the statement. They had never been to New Sydney together. In fact, Aiko had never been on New Sydney...

She paused mid-thought as realization dawned on her.

She had never been to New Sydney in her life, but she did recall that planet being at the centre of an interdiction investigation she had been pulled into while serving on the Scylax. Incidentally, it was the first time she had met John. They had not gone to New Sydney...but they had shuttered a forward operating base of the Syndicate that was rumoured to be receiving drug supplies from someone on New Sydney.

Gosh you doofus... Aiko thought to herself. All this time wrangling my head for the connection to the Syndicate, and it is THAT operation...that seemingly inconsequential operation. That's the connection?!

John smiled, no doubt understanding that she now understood his obscure message. "Like I said, sometimes better to let sleeping dogs lie. I have to go Aiko. It was good to catch up and..." he paused before adding, "reminisce."

Aiko turned to him and smiled warmly. "Thank you so much John." She hugged him warmly and kept him in her embrace for a second or two longer than she had intended. She strongly resisted the urge to kiss him.

"Maybe we can grab a coffee and catch up in person next time I'm in your neck of the woods."

"I would like that very much," Aiko replied, surprised by how strongly she meant those words. "Stay safe John."

"Always," he replied with a boyish grin before his form vanished. Aiko was left to the ambience of the simulated night filled with a bejewelled dark sky adorned with stars and the slow but steady rustling of the wind.

She closed her eyes to better take in the moment. For the first time since Cait, she felt truly at peace.

What was that saying? she mused.

The truth will set you free...


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