LT Khet, Mossic
BRIEF Vice Admiral Minari Ashkeph is a wanted fugitive accused of violating the Prime Directive while serving as commanding officer of the 38th Fleet. She is also a hero of the Citali resistance to Terran occupation known by the alias “Justine,” famous for her bravery and resourcefulness. Ashkeph sustained serious injuries fighting the Terrans which were beyond the ability of the Citali to treat, so they called us in to help, not realizing the history we have with Justine. Under Federation medical care, Ashkeph has recovered and is no longer in a coma. Now it is necessary to decide what will happen to her next.
BACKGROUND In 2416, Ashkeph tricked her subordinate officers to enlist their aid in delivering a massive shipment of contraband to Echomet, a world we were already at odds with after a series of unfortunate, escalating incidents. The goods delivered included electrokinetic interface units developed during Echomet’s period of Federation membership application for the purpose of translating the sign-language of nonverbal demographic (called “Irreo”) into audible speech. These units were manufactured in large quantities, at Ashkeph’s direction, as part of a rushed fabrication process called “Project Roechalcagh”, and scheduled for delivery to Waydis III aboard the U.S.S. Vanguard. Ashkeph has declined to explain her reasoning for this elaborate deception or the unscheduled delivery to Echomet. Afterward, she fled Federation space and was not seen nor heard from again for two years.
In 2418, Ashkeph suddenly returned to DS13 under the alias “Justine” and surrendered to station security. Under interrogation by the station and fleet COs, Ashkeph confessed to the crimes described above and further to working for the Confederacy of Azed, then a hostile foreign power. However, she claimed to have been infiltrating the Confederacy to gather intelligence on behalf of the Federation – a claim the station CO, Captain Caspius, found implausible at the time. Ultimately the fleet CO, Vice Admiral Amiri, decided to grant Ashkeph’s terms and release her to spy for us.
Reports on Ashkeph’s activities from the period that follows, up to and including the Terran invasion of Azedi space, are (not surprisingly) hard to come by. However, the redacted records made available for this research indicate that Ashkeph held up her end of the bargain and provided routine updates until early 2419, when she suddenly went dark without explanation. Following the arrival of the Terrans, signals intelligence dispatches from Citali start to include references to “Justine” in 2421 as Ashkeph’s fame as a guerrilla fighter starts to grow. With the Terran withdrawal from Confederacy territory earlier this year, the references to her exploits reduce in frequency, replaced by concerns about her health. On 99480, Citali requested assistance from the Federation and several ships were dispatched including the U.S.S. Dragon, the U.S.S. October, and the R.R.W. Virin. Acting as liaison for the Federation Consulate, I accompanied this mission aboard the Dragon. Our Citali contact, Overseer Nirflim, requested our aid in treating the comatose “Justine” for severe injuries including a skull fracture. However, the mission was interrupted by the arrival of hostile forces making an attack against the planet’s surface. Acting without advance consent from the Citali, the Dragon beamed back its away team and Ashkeph, departing for DS13 where the patient could be treated more safely and thoroughly.
Ashkeph has since recovered from her injuries but remains in secure medical custody.
ANALYSIS This review of the documented materials made available for this report has identified several factors which must be weighed when considering whether Ashkeph should be returned to Citali. I have organized these factors into “pro” and “con” lists according to my take on whether they support or undermine the case for returning her, respectively.
- The rule of law is a foundational principle of the Federation and subverting the due process of Ashkeph’s trial, conviction, or punishment would violate that principle in a way that is not only unjust for this case, but a slippery slope for all others. Just getting this one out of the way up front.
- Ashkeph herself was not especially cooperative with this investigation and expressed no remorse or regret for any of the crimes she is credibly accused of.
- One of the few written character references available comes from Caspius, who was highly suspicious of her motives and adamantly opposed to using her as a spy. He makes clear in his report, in no uncertain terms, that she should be imprisoned and not be trusted.
- Ashkeph has a history of dishonest dealing and is difficult to take at face value no matter what she says. It’s hard to know what she will do if set free, but if it’s something that further destabilizes the situation in former Confederacy space, we will be responsible.
- The situation on Citali and throughout the former Confederacy is tenuous and nothing we do has any guaranteed positive outcomes. We might compromise our principles and set her loose, only for Ashkeph and her allies to be killed by an orbital bombardment next week, taking any good will we got for returning her with them.
- Whatever ethical compromise is involved in suspending legal consequences for Ashkeph’s actions, we’ve already crossed that bridge. Amiri made the call to let her go after she turned herself in, and she has done nothing since that time to make us reconsider.
- Citali entrusted us with Ashkeph’s care, and our custody of her is thanks to a dubious extradition under the pretense of a medical emergency. Putting her in prison now would be a serious breach of ethics, potentially illegal, and definitely damaging to our relationship with Citali.
- Returning “Justine” to Citali, on the other hand, seems likely to improve our standing with this world a lot and paves the way for further cooperation and diplomacy.
- Having a Citali folk hero who owes us a big favor could be useful at some point in the future. Even if her gratitude can’t be counted on, we have the leverage of her true identity which she would probably prefer not to explain. I include this factor only reluctantly, because I think using blackmail to influence Citali politics could backfire badly, but I include it for the sake of completeness.
RECOMMENDATION There are two major options before us, with better or worse ways of going about them. I’ll detail what I think is the best approach to each option here.
If we decide to pursue punishment against her, we should try to mitigate the diplomatic consequences as best we can. This option should involve open and transparent discussions with the Citali about who Ashkeph is and why we want her. We should consider returning her as a gesture of good faith, on the condition that she will be detained while our two nations can work out an extradition treaty. If we make every effort to work with Citali, we may strengthen our ties even as we pursue justice. Even if we cannot reach an agreement about Ashkeph and must act unilaterally, we will at least have exhausted every diplomatic avenue first, which may blunt the outraged response.
On the other hand, if we decide to release Ashkeph, we should attempt to resolve the legal ambiguity of her situation first. Her ongoing status as a wanted fugitive makes every future interaction we might have with her, as an influential figure in Citali politics, very risky. The wartime considerations that justified leaving her in legal limbo before don’t exist anymore, so we should clear the air before we send her back. Not only would this simplify things, it might help establish trust that we can call on later if things get tense. Real allies are better than grudging conscripts.