It had taken some finagling but Ming had arranged for time to contact Benson's family. His mother and father were still alive and living at their last known address in Edmonton, Canada on Earth. It was late in the Ronin's day/night cycle, but Ming wanted to ensure that the Bensons were home.
Ming, Ciara, and Benson were in Ming's office for the transmission. Rob Benson waited outside, dressed in his dress uniform. Ming wanted him to make a good impression. "I hope this works out," Ming said. "Suppose they really are estranged, or this information isn't correct?"
"I wouldn't worry about that," Ciara said, patting him on the shoulder. "Trust me. This will work out!"
The screen flicked on to reveal an older couple. Ming noted immediately that the woman--Benson's mother--bore a strong resemblance to the man standing outside.
[Can we help you? We really don't know anyone from Starfleet,] she said.
"Mr. and Mrs. Benson, I'm Lieutenant Ming Wang. With me is Lieutenant Ciara Tierro. We have information regarding your son."
"Our son--you mean Edward?" the man asked. "I knew that boy would get into trouble!" he said angrily.
They've had another child. "No, sir. I have information regarding Robert."
[Don't joke with us, Lieutenant. We haven't heard from Robert in years. We gave him up for dead a long time ago,] the woman replied.
"This is no joke. Your son is alive and well and has been serving in the Marines for the past seventeen years. Come on in, Rob."
Rob Benson entered the office, resplendent in Marine dress blues. His numerous decorations belied his very low rank for a man his age, but that didn't much matter. The look of recognition on his parents' faces was almost instantaneous.
Benson immediately smiled with joy and almost broke into tears. "Mom! Dad!"
[Robbie! It is you!] his father said. [My God! I would never have thought...] he continued, almost breaking down in tears.
[How...how is this possible!? We knew he had problems from the beginning; we did everything we could but nothing seemed to work. When he ran away we didn't know what came of him,] Benson's mother said.
"It would seem that your son has been prevented from contacting you," Ciara explained. "He's attempted several times to forward a message through his command structure but apparently he's been prevented from contacting you. Right now he's on assignment to this vessel, the USS Ronin. The command structure here is somewhat more understanding in these matters."
[We're extremely grateful to you. Did you say research?] Benson's father asked.
"Yes. Rob, would you step outside for a moment, please?" Ming asked. "You'll get an hour for yourself to talk to your parents when we're done."
"Okay," Rob said as he stepped out of the office. The door closed behind him.
"Your son has not been treated well in his previous commands," Ming said. "I discovered him during another research project and requested he be transferred to this vessel. Where he's not been ridiculed or used as cannon fodder, he's been exploited mercilessly. I want to change that, but I need to ask you some questions."
[Oh, God, I knew this would catch up to us...]
[Margaret, don't say a thing until we contact our attorney!]
"Mr. and Mrs. Benson, I want to make you aware that under legal precedent established after Federation v. Bashir, you will be held immune in exchange for any testimony you give regarding illegal genetic experimentation," Ming said. "You've nothing to fear."
[I suppose it had better come out now,] Benson's father said, activating the 'record' function on their viewscreen.
[When Robbie was only two years old, we noticed he was having difficulties. He hadn't started speaking or even trying to walk yet, and he seemed very non-responsive. In the old days I'm told this was called Down's Syndrome and I've heard horror stories about it. We didn't know what to do; none of the usual treatments were working. So when a clinical trial was advertised, we enrolled our boy.]
[He said he'd set Robbie to rights, and make him normal in all respects. At first, it seemed to work--he began to speak, and walk, and he wanted to play more. We put him in school but he began having trouble from the start. He was still much slower than the other children. As he got older, he became more aggressive, and he began to eat more--a lot more! By the time he was a teenager he could barely control himself!] Benson's mother--Margaret--continued.
[When he was sixteen we had our other boy, Edward,] Benson's father said. [That seemed to calm Robbie down, but he became increasingly hostile to Eddie as Eddie got older. We were scared--he's so big and temperamental, and Eddie was only two years old...some words were said, and by now you know how touchy Robbie can be. He left just a week after his eighteenth birthday. We kept expecting to find him dead in an alley someplace, or doing manual labor in a mining colony. We never imagined he'd be involved with Starfleet!]
[We tried so hard because we loved him so much...] Margaret said as she broke down in tears. [We just wanted the best for our little boy!]
"You're not to blame here," Ciara said. "No matter what happened, you're not to blame. "We've discovered two more people who have been...altered in the same way Rob was. We're trying to help Rob and the others, but we need your help. We need you to tell us who conducted this trial, and we need your permission to do our own research."
"I will remind you that our research will be in accordance with the 20th century Nuremberg accords and the most current ethical guidelines from the Federation Surgeon General's Office. Those guidelines demand that we get consent for any experimentation we intend to perform on a human or other sentient subject. Since your son is not legally considered competent to offer such consent, we come to you. The captain of this vessel, Captain Ryan Evans; his commanding officer, Rear Admiral Robert Pike; and Father Roberto Delveccio, also serving aboard this vessel, constitute our institutional review board," Ming said, sending information on the three men.
Rob's father nodded and stepped away. [Do whatever you need to do. You're the first people we've encountered anywhere who even give a damn! We'll help you in any way we can. I'm just glad to see that our Robbie's safe!] Margaret said.
"What happened to your son was
unconscionable. We will see to it that whoever did this is held accountable."
Ming said as he tapped some controls. "I'm sending you a transporter pass.
If you're willing, I'd like you to go to Hong Kong and meet my father. He's
a retired Starfleet captain with extensive media connections. If you'll make
a statement to him, he'll
ensure that it reaches the proper authorities." And, Ming thought, make sure that nothing untimely happens to you.
[That Wang fellow who's running for Senate? You're his boy? I'll be damned!] Benson's father said as he returned with a PADD. [Here's the information from that trial. The man's name was Dr. Bakar Mikori, and I'll be forever in your debt if you hang that unholy bastard by his toenails!] he said, transmitting the contents of the PADD to Ming.
"Thank you. I'm in your debt,
sir. I've secured this comm channel for another hour, so you and your son can
catch up," Ming said. "I wish it could be longer, and I wish I could
bring him home to you, but we're about 10,000 light years from Earth right now.
You can continue to send him messages in care of me; I'll see to it that he
gets them. But this is
probably the last real-time conversation we can swing for some time," Ming said.
[Of course! Now that we know where he is we'll make sure to keep writing!] Margaret replied.
"And now, your son. Come on back in, Rob!"
Rob all but knocked Ming and Ciara down as he rushed back into the office. Ming and Ciara stepped out, closing the door behind them. "Care for coffee?" Ming said.
"Oh, I'd love some! But I need to stop by my quarters first. Meet you in the mess hall?"
Ciara went one way, Ming went the other.
Ming continued for about three minutes before Shara stopped him. Oh, terrific! Ming thought as he rolled his eyes.
"You're going to pay for humiliating me," Shara said. "Now that your pet moron and your little bitch aren't here to protect you, you'll get what you deserve!"
"Oh? And who are you to promote me to Captain?" Ming said, trying to joke his way out of the situation.
Shara launched herself at him, but Ming was prepared and caught her square in the chest with a side thrust kick. Shara's transferred momentum knocked Ming down but sent Shara down to the ground, stunned.
As Shara got up, Ming assumed a ready stance. "It's not so easy when someone's ready for you, is it?" Ming said.
Shara hissed and got up again, attempting to strike at Ming with both hands. Ming ducked down and did a leg sweep. Shara jumped up and out of the way. Ming bounced back up to his feet and grabbed Shara's arm as she struck at him again. With all of his strength, Ming twisted Shara's arm around and behind her. Planting a knee in her back, he pinned Shara to the deck.
"I'll say this one more time: Leave Me Alone!" Ming said. "I don't want anything more to do with you than I have to. And if you persist in behaving like this I will press charges!"
Shara sprung up, knocking Ming down. "You got lucky this time, Wang. You won't be lucky all the time!" she hissed as she ran off before Ming could contact Security.
Ming got up, dusted himself off, and headed once again to the mess hall. Ciara was waiting for him.
"Sorry I'm late; I was unexpectedly delayed," Ming said.
"Oh, really?" Ciara asked, smiling as she handed Ming his cup of raktajino.
"Yes, just a minor personnel matter. Nothing important," Ming said.
Ciara laughed as she read his mind,
learning exactly what transpired.