|These are the Voyages...
||USS Hera Bridge
||MD1 - 0900
This was her ship again. Officially relaunched and reassigned. This was her bridge, her Captain's chair. This time, they had even replaced the chairs she had needed changed. Her ready room chair was now a proper Trill chair. The Captain's chair was modified to let her sit similarly. They had even replaced all the seating in her quarters with proper traditional Trill seating. Enalia was amazed they had gone that far for her.
They hadn't skimped on the rest of the ship, either. The tactical pod had been refit to use quantum torpedoes as well as photons and they had a small complement of them in storage. The replicators were updated with the latest programming. The computer core had even been physically polished.
Retrieving a spiced cider from her ready room replicator, Enalia stepped out onto the bridge. It was the same bridge thankfully. They had let her keep the retrofit Galaxy class bridge rather than putting the original Nebula bridge module back in place. Looking around, she headed towards her chair. It was strange seeing it there like that. It was possibly the only slightly out of place thing on the bridge. The leather was color matched. The stitching was matched to the other seats. It was just shaped a bit differently. Slipping into it, she had to stifle a purr, it fit her so perfectly. This was 'her' chair.
After a moment, she tapped a button on her console. "Attention all hands, This is Commander Telvan, Captain of the USS Hera. First off, I want to welcome you aboard. You're all part of my family now and if any of you need anything, I have an open door policy so please feel free to bother me. Our first mission is classified so after we undock at 1200 hours tomorrow, the command staff and all involved parties will be briefed. Again, welcome aboard - I look forward to serving with each and every one of you." Releasing the comm button, she leaned back in her chair and sipped at her cider, a satisfied grin on her face.
|To Catch a Thief
Nexi was ready for this job to be done… How long had she been chasing Nerol? Far too long, in her opinion. The Boslic trader had taken to running after he lost his ship to the Liquidators and Grek had sent Nexi after him. And for a man of his age, Nerol had been surprisingly quick to escape each of her attempts to capture him. This time, he had managed to stow away with some equipment that had been loaded on a Starfleet vessel in orbit of Faltan III. She gave a disgruntled sigh as she matched speed and velocity with the Hera to park her runabout between the ship’s nacelles. As if Starfleet had ever stopped her from completing her objective. She double checked that the signals she was sending out was properly jamming the Hera’s sensors. The cloaking device that hid her ship was old and malfunctioning, but she only used it on the off chance that someone looked out the window, the interference should have been more than enough to keep the Hera from finding her little ship, the Wandering Star.
Nexi set the ship’s autopilot and gathered her tools, then she activated the transporter to take her to the cargo bay. Even though she’d masked her transport through the cargo bay’s transporter system, she had no doubt the internal sensors would have detected the transport and her presence. She really wished her personal cloak was working to give her more time, but she had more than enough time to apprehend Nerol and get back to the ship. It was very important that she got them both back to her ship because then she was protected by the Ferengi Commerce Association. If they caught her while still aboard the Hera then she was at the mercy of the 'Fleeters. And given the small detail of her gaining access to the Hera by covert means, she would likely be in a shit-load of trouble. She grunted; like she’d never been in trouble before...
The tracker she’d managed to place on Nerol wasn’t very accurate on a ship this large, but the cargo bay was a logical location for him to hide out considering her transported over with the refit supplies. She homed in on the direction indicated on her PADD, the small Ferengi device leading her toward the errant trader hiding behind some cargo. She put the PADD away and retrieved her handcuffs. Once she put them on Nerol, they could only be removed with Grek’s thumbprint authorization. She approached the man carefully. He looked fit to run again. How far did he honestly think he could get?
“Alright, Nerol, you’ve run far enough. Did you really think you could escape from the Liquidators?” Nexi asked the man getting ready to run. She was almost close enough. If she could just touch him, that would be enough… The Boslic man ran and Nexi pursued. Dammit, he was going to draw attention to them! If they ran into any officers, it would all be over!
Then she heard it, the sound of an alarm. Shiiiiiiiit! She debated whether she should continue her pursuit or cut her losses and return to her ship. She decided she was tired of chasing this little bastard; she was getting these cuffs on him now! She lunged, tackling the man to the floor. A rush of energy surged through her and into Nerol, rendering him unconscious. Good riddance! She quickly cuffed him then started fiddling with the transport transponder band around her arm. If she could get back onto her ship, she would be good!
“Don’t move, stay where you are!” Nexi heard, accompanied by the chorus of boots over the bay floor. She looked up. Shit shit shit shit shit! Security! She calculated her options. With the position of her ship she could still beam out if they put up shields, but then she would be trapped inside the Hera's shields. And that’s assuming they hadn’t already boarded her ship and disabled the transporter. She eyed the Security officers aiming their phasers at her. She would do the smart thing:
Nexi raised her hands in supplication. She surrendered.
Commander Telvan had been heading to the cargo bays for some 'inspections' of her more sensitive items to be used for bartering if they needed it when she heard the intruder alarms. Tapping a wall console, she saw it was in the same cargo bay that had most of those 'commodities' and she was instantly worried. Running the rest of the way, she arrived just in time for a rather unsavory woman to raise her hands. An even more unsavory type was laying on her cargo deck.
A bit aghast that she already seemingly had pirates coming aboard before they had even left orbit of Faltan 3, Enalia walked a bit closer to the 2. "How did you get aboard my ship and what do you want?" she said in her most menacing voice as she motioned to one of the security crewmen to move in and disarm the woman.
The level of surprise she sensed in this woman indicated to Nexi that they hadn't found her ship. Damn, she could have gotten away! Perhaps she still could... She eyed the Security officer checking her over for weapons, of which an abundance of blades would be found. Nexi still had her hands raised in surrender as she calculated her options. "I got what I came for," she said, nodding her head towards the unconscious man beside her.
"You're a bounty hunter..." A realization hit Enalia and she had to act on it fast. "Telvan to the bridge, raise shields and bring main pod tachyon sensors online. Check our ventral sensor shadow for a cloaked ship." Not even waiting for a response, she took a step closer to the woman, addressing her again. "We can do this the easy way where you accept our hospitality or we can do this the hard way and you get shot and spend the next 20 years in a Federation prison."
"I didn't have to surrender," Nexi replied coldly as the security officer relieved her of blade after blade after blade, forming a rather impressive pile of cutlery off to the side. "And I'm a Collector for the Ferengi Commerce Association, I'm here on official business; Captain Nerol here tried to skip out on his debt when the Liquidators impounded his ship."
"Then perhaps we can speed you along if you'll help us out with our current mission. What's your name, anyway?" The gears were turning in Enalia's head now, a slow grin spreading across her face.
"You want my help?" Nexi scoffed. "I don't get involved with Starfleet, too many rules and regulations. Besides, the pay sucks, not to mention I'd lose my anonymity. No thanks, I'll take my chances on escaping later." And she could escape from this place with her bounty, she had no doubt of that!
Nodding at each point, Enalia walked over to a small case sitting to the side. Opening it, she pulled out two small bars of gold pressed latinum, tapping them together. "You just described our mission pretty well. Anonymity, breaking a couple rules and regulations as well as a few diplomatic agreements... And there's that..." She tapped the bars together again. "I'm told that's a rather nice sound, though it's just noise to me..."
Nexi narrowed her eyes at the woman. This nutter was serious, wasn't she? "What's the job?" Nexi asked. Her response wasn't a yes, but it wasn't a no either. Her curiosity was piqued at the very least. "Hey watch it!" she barked to the Security officer who was getting a bit too handsy for even Nexi's liking. "If you keep that up, you're buying me dinner," she told the officer firmly. Even still, the poor man hadn't found all the weapons concealed on her, though he gave it his best try.
Shaking her head, Enalia put the bars away and resealed the case. "Leave her be, crewman. You've pulled what... 50 blades off of her and you're still finding more? Forget it. Find her some quarters and post a guard. As for her friend, drag him to the brig for now."
Walking up to the well armed woman with a bit of a swagger, Enalia looked her over. "I'm Commander Enalia Telvan of the USS Hera. We weren't issued an infiltration specialist but we were told to rescue an operative and act on her data. If you're interested, I think I can make it worth your while, Miss..."
The Brekkian woman considered the Trill woman's offer carefully, weighing the options. "Nexi," she finally replied, "and I already have accommodations. Speaking of which, discontinue your search for my ship and destroy all evidence that I was here. That includes the internal sensor logs and the logs pertaining to the alert. This is non-negotiable. Any further attempts to find my ship and I'll take my chances, I'll take my prisoner and go."
Heading to a wall panel, Enalia brought up the status of the search for her ship. "It seems we found 2 ships... Both are in tractor beams. A Ferengi shuttle and an old runabout." Turning to look at Nexi, she smirked a bit. "I don't suppose one is yours?"
"My ship ain't that old," Nexi replied with a scowl. "Now cut her loose or I do things my way." Although finding out there was a Ferengi shuttle as well was somewhat troubling...
With a few keypresses, the runabout was released from the tractor beam and Enalia had sent orders to have the Ferengi vessel investigated. "And the other one? Friends of yours maybe? Two Ferengi life signs."
"I don't have friends," Nexi answered honestly. "They ain't working with me. I'd say string them up by their ears, but that's just me." She started to collect her things, thinking about how things were unfolding. "I'll work from my ship, you can hold my prisoner as collateral until the job is done. Outside of that, I want no evidence that I've been here or that we've had any interaction. I'll contact you on a secure channel for more details."
"Fair enough." Turning the panel off, Enalia turned back to Nexi. "Consider it done. Will you at least consider docking though? We plan on leaving here at high warp."
"I'll contact you for more detail," Nexi repeated, then she activated the transporter controls on her armband, her transporter activating and whisking her back to her ship, leaving Commander Telvan no choice but to trust that Nexi wouldn't do something stupid.
As soon as Nexi had dematerialized, Enalia turned to the security crewman still trying to sort through all those knives. "Just put them in a cargo container. I'm sure she'll want them back. Telvan to the bridge, I want transporters locked onto that runabout constantly. If they try to leave without my express permission, I want the occupant beamed straight to the brig and the ship towed into the main docking bay. As for the Ferengi vessel that delivered our 'commodities', please send them my deepest apologies for the scare. They're free to go if they promise to be a bit more discrete."
"Yes Captain." That was all the reply Enalia needed before heading out of the cargo bay.
|Is This a Staff Meeting?
||Captain's Ready Room
Was this really how she wanted to conduct her first official 'Staff Meeting'? Without even holding one? It was a different approach, and it's not like anything would change. They weren't even officially in orbit of Faltan 3, though anyone with sensors could see that. As far as anyone knew, the Hera was just going to be puttering along the border at warp 5, maybe 6, scanning the borders for signs of trouble starting in 2 weeks time. Never mind the planned rescue mission and scheduling to leave the system the next morning at warp 9 once the last of the supplies were beamed aboard. They technically didn't even have a full complement, missing at least 40 people as well as most of their intel and diplomatic divisions.
This was how it had to be, though. Starfleet Intelligence was leaning on her pretty heavily to do this as covertly as possible, and that meant no records of any kind as well as dual reports. Hence how she found herself recording a mission briefing to the command crew for them to watch at their leisure rather than holding a proper staff meeting. In it, she included the orders and personal data she was given, as well as a little speculation on things herself.
They had brought aboard a lot of unusual espionage gear, including a set of prototype holo-disguises pre-programmed with several different bio-signs for the area. The thing that worried her was that Remans were included in that array. And why did Intel decide they needed to carry so much of that gold pressed latinum? Was she supposed to bribe people with it? It wasn't even part of the official cargo manifest. The cases were scattered about and marked as flu vaccinations. What vaccinations needed her thumbprint to get to, she would never know, but she included that information in the briefing as well. It was best that at least her senior staff be aware of what was on board.
She did leave out the part about Nexi, though. She'd have to remain discrete in her dealings with the civilian, no matter how useful she may be. Once they were underway, she'd have to have a more personal meeting with a select few people, but for now that wasn't something they needed to know.
Finishing her 10 minute long speech and sending the whole package to the terminals of her senior staff, Enalia clicked off the screen and leaned back in her chair. Something about this whole thing bothered her. Something was very wrong. She hoped it was just a feeling, but her guts had been prone to predicting unkind twists of fate since she had gotten the symbiote and she knew there was a lot more to this mission than anyone knew.
Unbeknownst to her, six decks below, a strange device was blinking away, monitoring the Hera's every movement. It was even secretly relaying the ship's sensor data to whomever owned the strange device.
||Faltan Station - USS Hera
||MD1, Early Morning
Jennifer stood looking up from a courtyard on the planet surface of Faltan Station. She had her duffel bags with her belongings in it. She walked out of a briefing room of the task force command building of the colony. She had just finished a deep brief from Rear Admiral Ryan Evans, the Deputy Director Starfleet Intelligence for Operations and also a friend of Jennifer, and a few other lead Intelligence personnel in the sector.
She walked out of the building and walked down the mains steps to a large courtyard. She walked around to the landing and departure pad for shuttles and runabouts. She entered a type 9 shuttle and prepped for take off.
Quickly, the shuttle was off and in orbit. She flew the shuttle in closer to the USS Hera and began docking procedures. She took the shuttle into the open bay. Officially the Hera was still at Utopia Planitia, however Starfleet Intelligence had different ideas for the Hera.
She exited the shuttle and stepped onto the Shuttlebay. She held two duffel bags over both of her shoulders. She was in uniform, which was strange from her as she had just came back from field work in the Romulan Star Empire. As she walked along the shuttlebay she subtly looked around at everyone in the room, she wasn't used to seeing so many humans around her.
Jennifer walked along for a few sections of the deck until she went to a turbolift that was close to her quarters. She entered the turbolift and traveled up a few decks. She exited and walked along past a few corners until she arrived at her quarters.
She entered the room and dropped her bags at the entrance. She took a look around to get a feel for the size and the rooms. She had a more...luxurious life during her operation serving Romulan politician's mistress, however this would do. She brought her bags to her quarters and unpacked her belongings.
|Welcome to Sickbay
||USS Hera - Sickbay, Deck 12
||MD1 - 1015
"Welcome to Sickbay. How can I help you?"
The airy, ethereal voice that had spoken came from an impossibly-thin, female alien humanoid that stood at the center of the expansive infirmary. The alien was tall, with a disproportionately large head, and big, glassy black eyes. The alien's chalk-grey skin looked glossy to the touch, and was completely hairless. Upon her too-slender, feminine frame, she wore the teal-accented uniform of a Starfleet sciences division officer.
"Hello," answered the newcomer, in a deep, rumbling voice. "My name's Christopher Cage, miss. I'm the new Ship's Doctor."
The alien woman nodded her head, her otherworldly face showing nothing but a serene expression. If she was at all startled or confused by Cage's unusual appearance, she didn't show it. "Welcome again, Lieutenant," she said, her voice light and hollow. "I am Nurse Mahina Mayari. I was told to expect your arrival. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance." Mayari held out a stick-thin, three-fingered hand to the Chief Medical Officer, and the large, scruffy man stepped forward to take it. Her skin was smooth and cool to the touch, and her grip slight and delicate. The contrast between her dainty hand and his big, beefy one was not lost on Cage, and for a moment, he feared that he might accidentally hurt her if he returned her handshake too heartily.
"Pleased to meet you, love," Cage said with an easy smile.
"Come," Mayari beckoned, gently. "Allow me to show you around the Hera's Sickbay." Cage hoisted the duffel bag he carried up higher on his back and followed after the strange, skinny alien nurse.
"This is the Emergency Response Unit," said Nurse Mayari, waving a thin, chalk-grey hand at their immediate surroundings. "As you can see, we are, thankfully, not very busy at the moment. Over here is our Emergency Triage Suite, with its Casualty Intake Area and Resuscitation Area. There is our Trauma Surgical Suite. Off to the side, you can see the Emergency Response Team Dispatcher's Desk, and beyond that, the Sickbay's Emergency Medical Transporter Hub. That is from where we coordinate our paramedics, who are always waiting on-standby."
Cage nodded to the ERT Dispatcher and the two Medics who sat around the smooth contoured desk by the Transporter Hub. The three medical officers paused their animated conversation to return the new doctor's silent greeting with polite smiles, then went back to their conversation. Cage followed Mayari as she glided slowly forward, and headed toward the central area of the expansive Sickbay. Here, Cage observed, were 4 biobeds, arranged in each of the four corners of this central area. Around each bed was a circular field generation grid, that glowed with soft white light. At the center of the room was another contoured desk, from which all of the biobeds could be monitored. The nature of the doors was such that one could quickly move from the Emergency Response Unit, through here, to the three other areas located to the left and to the right of them.
"This," continued Mayari in her soft, hollow voice, "is our Intensive Care Unit. This area operates as a 'Nightingale Ward', as it were, giving the attending nurses at the center of the room a full view of all ICU patients in their beds. Over here is our Biohazard Support Suite. Up there, you can see our Quarantine Suite, with its Decontamination Chamber. This over here is our Isolation Suite, equipped with a Null-Gravity Chamber. And we have designated that area there, with its Bio-Stasis and Cryostorage Chambers, as the Morgue. Hopefully, we will never have to use it."
Mayari extended a willowy arm to her left and announced, "If you go through the archway on your left, you will enter our Primary Care Unit. There, you will find our In-Patient Recovery Bay with its 12 beds, where we place most of the patients that require extended, non-life-threat care. The Primary Care Unit is also where we stage our Post-Operative Recovery Suite, and Physical Therapy Suite." Holding out another slender arm to her right, the strange, grey alien said, "Through the archway on the right, you will enter our Medical Operations Unit. There is where you will find your personal office: the Chief Medical Officer's Study. Sharing that office with you are your Assistant Chief Medical Officers, each with their own desks: the Desk of the Chief of Surgery, the Desk of the Chief of Medicine, and the Desk of the Chief of Nursing. In the Medical Operations Unit, you will also find the On-Call Lounge, where most of our on-duty doctors and surgeons relax when waiting for a call. The MedOpU also houses our Medical Records Archive & Library, the Medical Storage Bay, where all of our equipment is stocked, and last but not least, our Medical Laboratory & Pharmacy."
Cage felt something jitter inside him at the mention of the Sickbay's Pharmacy, a jitter that the large, scruffy doctor wanted desperately to pretend did not exist. Here he was, back to working again in a real medical facility -- without supervision -- and that was great ... but it also meant exposing himself to all the temptations that having unrestrained access to a well-stocked pharmacy, offered to a recovering chemical addict. Cage quickly turned his back on the archway that led to the Medical Operations Unit, and tried his best to smile and act like nothing was wrong. Cage did not know if Nurse Mahina Mayari knew about his past and his demons. If she did, he wanted to prove that he'd overcome those dreadful urges. If she didn't, he definitely did not want to make her suspicious.
"I'm really, very impressed," answered Cage in a gravelly voice, his hand scratching at the stubble on his face. "This looks like a really great facility, you've got here."
"A great facility that you've got here," corrected Mayari, her voice soft, sincere and encouraging. "This Sickbay -- this entire Medical Department -- belongs to you, now, Lieutenant."
Cage shook his head with a smile. "Please, love. None of that 'lieutenant' business. Just call me 'Doc'."
|Coffee and a Donut
||Captain's Ready Room
||MD1 - 0800
The Commanding Officer was in her ready room, looking over some last minute assignment paperwork as she munched on some breakfast. This initial mission needed a lot of specialists and yet she was given very few if any of them. She couldn't even pull strings since she wasn't even supposed to be launching yet. That might give things away. Taking a bite of her pastry, she wondered if she would even get anyone that knew anything about infiltrating a prison.
She didn't get far though - the door chime sounded, interrupting her from her pondering. Clearing her mouth, she called to whomever was on the other side of the door to enter.
Charon was in a happy mood. He had not expected to be granted the position of first officer right after his year long absence from Starfleet. He had been cleared for duty months ago but had felt the need to spend more time with his brother, to work out the after effects of the rough and troubling captivity he had lived through. Now he felt more like himself than he had in a very long time. He was ready for this.
His new captain seemed to be a capable woman from what he could take from her personnel file. The fact that she was already a commander and captain of a starship impressed him. She was a young Trill and he was hoping the age difference would not be too big of a problem. The mere fact that she was joined did put him somewhat at ease. They would see how the first few days and weeks would work out and go on from there.
For now he was on his way to the captains ready room and a bit nervous. This wasn't just any new assignment. He was to be the first officer, that was a big chunk of responsibility he was entrusted with. It would be very interesting to see how this new assignment turned out. He was a bit anxious when he reached the captains ready room but after a brief moment he activated the door chime and was called in only a short moment later. He stepped through the door after the two halves of it had vanished sideways into the bulkhead. Standing in front of his new superior he straightened himself and introduced himself.
“Lieutenant Commander Edomar reporting for Duty, Sir!”
Charon said with a slight smile on his face. His posture was confident and open. It was easy to see that he was full of pleasant anticipation.
For a moment, Enalia almost balked at the man due to his formality. She recovered quickly though, standing and motioning to the chair on the other side of her desk. "Please, at ease, sit... I prefer Ma'am if you need something. Welcome aboard and congrats on your assignment." Sitting back down, she looked her new XO over. She had run across his records by pure accident and she was glad she had. He wasn't part of the normal XO selection process, so she had had to make a few promises to get him. She just wondered if he was up to their first mission. "Your first task is coordinating the plans for breaking into a Romulan prison camp. Our goal is only a single operative. I hope that won't be an issue."
Charon gave the captain a nod. “Yes, Ma'am, and thank you.” He said and sat down in the offered chair. While he had thought they would engage in some chitchat she went straight down to business. He was a bit taken aback when he heard the word Romulan prison camp. His smile faded rather quickly.
He cleared his throat and looked her in the eyes with a very serious expression on his face. “Well I wouldn't go as far as to say that is going to be an easy mission.” He began. “Romulan prison camps are not known for being easily broken into.” To be honest he didn't like the idea at all. And all this for a single operative? Charon could not help but feel a sense of resentfulness. So some people were worth endangering the lives of a crew measuring in the six hundreds. He just didn't count as one of those people. He was going to remember that for future reference.
“I guess we are not going for a full frontal attack.” Charon surmised and scratched the side of his head where a humans temple would be. Doing so helped him think and their orders would require some creative thinking. “How much are we allowed to tell the crew?” he asked, trying to steer clear of to much talk about Romulan prison camps.
"Sorry for the scare. I'm sure you'd rather have nothing to do with any of this, but your unique background should come in quite handy." Sighing heavily, Enalia almost looked to have aged quite a bit in the span of a few seconds as she slumped into her chair. She had obviously lost some sleep over this mission, though she did her best to hide it. "This mission doesn't officially exist, so most of the crew don't need to know much if anything about it. The senior staff will be apprised of the situation later today, but for now..."
Picking up a PaDD with the operative's info and what little she had on this mission, she looked over it for a few moments before handing it across the desk. "We only need the one operative so as long as she's alive, I don't officially care whom else you rescue. She has information about a new bio-weapon that could potentially kill hundreds of millions so she has to take priority. Unofficially, try to get as many people out as you can without risking the mission."
Upon her last statement Charon managed to smile a little but it didn't last too long. Still, the fact that she had thought to give him this order had just earned her a bunch of respect with her new XO. His face now all serious again, he looked down at the PaDD she had handed him and skimmed over the information that it contained. “I won't lie.” he said after looking up from his PaDD. He had to pause for a second and gather himself. “This does not sound like the kind of mission where everything goes to plan. We can certainly count on loosing crew members in this undertaking. And that is something I really don't like.” He was more anxious about his new assignment now. While his bridge officer examination was a few years back that did not change the fact that he was a physician first. The loss of life, any life, was a affront to him. Lets try and bring as many of these fine people home again, he thought to himself.
“So are there any plans yet as on how to approach this? Or are we starting from scratch?” He said, returning to the topic at hand. It wouldn't be easy to do this all by themselves. So any help they could get was highly appreciated. And he seriously hoped that Starfleet had supplied them with some kind of information that would make their job a bit easier.
Enalia shook her head no at the question. "We're understaffed, undergeared, and undertrained. We have the coordinates for the prison, but in essence that's it. So far, I'm planning on heading there at warp 9, stop near a pulsar just out of their known sensor range, and use our enhanced scanners to assess the situation. The actual team will likely have to take a runabout the rest of the way."
With a grin, Enalia continued. "I'd like to lead the team, but I'm a diplomat and a pilot. I wouldn't be too handy on the ground."
Charon was delighted. They were supposed to carry out a mission without being properly equipped for it. The plan Captain Telvan had come up with seemed like a good place to start at. But the way things were looking everything they did was the best they possibly could. “I guess well have to fill out the missing parts of the plan on our way to Romulan territory.” He mused. It would not be so easy as to simply take a runabout to their destination. He had not gone through the extensive training that a tactical officer had for situations like this but common sense and his knowledge told him that they would need everything they apparently did not have. He could feel a headache building. “Well as your first officer and because it makes sense due to my ...” - he paused - “... intimate knowledge about Romulan prison facilities it seems I just volunteered to go on this mission.” It wasn't something he was looking forward to. His last time using a phaser had been a while back. He would have to visit the firing range to brush up on his skills. Charon already knew that he was going to be a liability on this mission but he was not going to rub that in the Captain's face.
"I can't ask you to do that." Enalia said, shaking her head. "Your intimate knowledge of such facilities, especially this one, make you perfectly suited to planning the rescue but I can't in good conscience allow you to go on the mission without good reason."
Pausing a moment, Enalia switched the conversation to lighter subjects. "Sorry for dumping all that on you before anything else. I've had nothing but that on my mind for days. Would you like a drink? How was your trip out here?"
Charon did not object to what Telvan said. There was no point in arguing about it not but keeping him safe was not what this decision was resting on. As a Starfleet officer he knew the risks and dangers of serving on a starship. In time it would work itself out. The circumstances would dictate weather he would join in on the prison raid or not and leave them little choice in the end.
For now it seemed Captain Telvan was through with the whole topic of their clandestine mission. It was fine with Charon for he had had enough for now. The time he had spent recovering from his ordeal had been long and it had been a rocky road back to his old self. He was alright now but the past was gnawing at him. The headache he was beginning to sport now was a sign of that.
“It is alright Captain. I understand pretty well how the mind can be held captive by something.”
He shifted in his chair and looked at the captain with a somewhat lightened mood. “Nothing for me, thank you.” He said regarding the Captains offer of a drink. He fell silent for a moment and continued after taking a deep breath. “I arrived just about half an hour ago. I didn't want to waste any time and came straight to your office. There isn't anything to tell really. As far as shuttle flights go it was smooth as Tholian silk.”
"Excellent." Enalia said somewhat happily. "I haven't been on a shuttle in years, but I'd like to think the Hera has as good of a ride, if not better. What do you think of her so far? She tops out at warp 9.68 in the trials and the sensor pod can see halfway back to Earth if the reports are to be believed." It seemed she had made the right choice for her first officer so far. Hopefully he'd be able to handle the stress well enough as they got closer to the prison.
“I do hope so Captain, I would hate be thrown out of my bed in the middle of the night due to a malfunctioning internal compensator or wake up floating due to faulty grav-plating.” Charon said in an attempt to make a joke and lighten the mood. Sadly enough he had lived through both situations shortly before the Tikuman had been destroyed. He distinctly remembered waking up and floating in his cabin before the bulkhead had closed in at high speed and the force of the impact had knocked him out cold. He had woken some time later to the not so tender ministrations of Romulan prison guards.
“The Nebula class is a very fulfilling design I think, capable of being adapted to suit almost any mission parameter if I recall correctly. I don't think we will have a boring time, Captain.” Charon wasn't an engineer so his appreciation for details like raw speed or warp reactor power output were lacking. But there were other things he could appreciate. “I do however plan to pay Sickbay an extended visit later. In case there is ever an emergency I want to at least know my way around the place.”
"A good idea. Try to keep an eye on our new Chief Medical Officer too. He's fresh from prison himself and though I do trust him, I still worry." Sipping at her almost forgotten coffee, Enalia remembered something else. "I almost forgot... You're Ullian, right? Is there any chance you're one of the telepathic ones?" She wasn't sure she hoped he was or wasn't, but she knew he was likely very resistant to other telepaths, either way. That was something she may have to count on in the future.
Charon froze. He knew that the fact that he was a telepath was not only in his file but there were numerous scientific articles about Ullian telepathy in the Starfleet database. Some of them had even been put there by him way back during his time in the academy to ease the access to documents about Ullian telepathic conduct and the related laws his species did abide by. Still the mere mention of his telepathic abilities had him feeling dizzy every time it had come up since he had been freed from captivity.
With his eyes fixed on the Captain's he slowly got up. His steady and controlled movements were those of a person carrying something very dangerous. His face mirroring the strain that this topic put him under.
“I am.” he forced out. His voice was calm but cold. While the temperature in the room had not changed Charon was freezing all of a sudden. “And that is the extend to which I am willing - and or obliged - to discuss that matter, Captain Telvan.” He spoke with a businesslike tone that made it clear he had switched from a simple private chat to an on duty conversation. “If there is nothing else.” He said. It was hard to miss that he was asking for permission to leave.
"I'm sorry for bringing it up, then. Dismissed." Making a mental note of his reaction, Enalia nodded and leaned forward, turning her desk computer back on.
When the captain dismissed him Charon's nod was so slight it was hard to tell he even did nod. He turned around with some urgency and only stopped when he was in the turbolift. There he had to keep himself steady with one hand against the interior wall of the personnel cab and the other firmly placed against his temple. Murmuring meditative phrases he and his brother had developed he fought to regain his composure.
|Conditions of Parole
||USS Hera - Security Office, Deck 11
||MD1 - 1030
The double doors to Hera's Security Office swished open to let Doctor Christopher Cage step across the threshhold. It became quickly apparent to Cage that Security HQ was busier that morning than Sick Bay had been, as a tandem of enlisted servicemen with gold-accented uniforms power-walked in front him, while a third security officer entered the HQ from behind him and, with an apologetic nod, hurriedly brushed past him. The anxiety that had evaporated during his meeting with the ship's CO, Commander Enalia Telvan, suddenly began to return as Cage stepped forward and approached a reception desk behind which sat a beefy young warrant officer, who eyed Cage suspiciously as he approached.
"Morning," offered Cage, scratching the coarse, 5 o'clock shadow cast upon his rugged features. "I'm Christopher Cage, the new Ship's Doctor. I'm here to meet with the Ship's Chief of Security."
"She's busy," the warrant officer responded curtly.
"Not that busy!" Angelica yelled from inside her office, where she had the door propped open. "Doctor Cage has an appointment. You can let him in."
"Door's on the left," the warrant officer offered with a weak smile. "Go right in."
Cage nodded his thanks to the warrant officer, wondering if the junior officer's abrupt manner was because he had already decided he didn't like the ex-convict. Cage passed through the door on the left and managed a smile for the attractive brunette officer that met his gaze. He found himself openly appreciating the way her crisp, immaculate uniform hugged her athletic frame. His moist brown eyes met her cool grey ones, and for a moment, the disheveled doctor had almost forgotten the reason for his visit.
"Keep staring and you might lose an eye." Whether the doctor was merely leering or having a true appreciative moment, Angelica's time was precious in these hours before launch. Too soon they would be leaving, and sorting out the doctor's terms for serving on the Hera was only one in a long list of projects to complete. To preserve his privacy on the matter, she released the door and let it slide shut before casually leaning on the edge of her desk. "Tell me what you already know about the arrangement, and we'll move on from there."
Cage barely suppressed a smile at the way she bristled under his gaze before producing the pad that carried his credentials and commission orders.
"I was told to make sure all of the necessary personnel aboard the Hera had copies of these documents," began Cage, stepping forward to offer the data PADD to the Security Chief. "They are copies of my civilian criminal record, the conditions of my parole, and my commission orders. Basically, they state that, as the Chief of Security on this vessel, it is up to you to determine the parameters of my parole. Whether or not I am to be allowed to walk around the vessel unescorted ... what actions you feel would constitute a violation of my parole and merit its being revoked ... security clearance levels ... I understand that it is going to be up to you to decide these conditions for me."
Because clearly I don't have enough work to do already. Angelica took the offered PADD and skimmed over it, re-familiarizing herself with the case. "From what I understand, your crimes basically amount to practicing medicine in a way the Federation doesn't like." For all its talk about tolerance and free will, the Federation had such stringent rules. Rules Angelica was expected to enforce, no matter how she might feel about it. "Well. Your sickbay isn't set up for genetic modifications, and there's no medical black market here. So... on ship I see little reason for an escort, as long as you're checking in at the start and end of each shift. Off ship... one escort, minimally armed and in whatever clothing matches yours. You can pick the gender of your off ship escort, but I can't guarantee you'll get along with them."
Cage nodded as Lieutenant Fairchild finished -- surprised, yet pleased that the woman seemed to be cutting him quite a bit of slack. "And here I was, thinking you might want to keep me on a short leash," teased the scruffy surgeon, attempting to pour on the charm with his most mischievous smile yet. "You've got a bit of the rebel in you, haven't you?"
You have no idea. Angelica smiled, just a bit. "Let's just say that the Federation's stance on 'black market' medicine doesn't make sense to me."
"You and me, both," agreed Cage, clapping his hands together after a brief contemplative pause. "Well, then. Thank you for taking time out of your busy morning, love. Maybe when you have some free time, you can show me a little more of that rebellious streak?"
Angelica smirked a little. Even as upfront as he was about liking her - infatuation or otherwise - she kind of liked Cage. "I'll think about it. But call me 'love' again and I'll stun you."
"I call everybody 'love'," Cage shrugged with a smile. "All the girls are 'love', and all the boys are 'mate' ... although there have been a few boys that I did end up calling 'love', too ... but that's a story for another day." Cage gave the Security Chief a roguish wink and turned to leave her office. "I'll see you around, Lieutenant ...?" Cage realized that he hadn't yet caught the brunette's name.
"Fairchild. Angelica off duty. Or 'love' if you continue to insist." She didn't even let people call her 'Angel', but no amount of threatening or scolding could change Cage's habit. At least it was a pleasant nickname.
"Angelica Fairchild," nodded the doctor. "I'm Christopher. 'Doc' to my mates. I also wind up getting called 'Bastard' quite often, although I can never understand why ..." With a laugh, Cage waved goodbye. "See you around, love."
"Couldn't be because you are one." Angelica snickered and waved as Cage left. She hadn't counted on making friends quite that fast, but at least she was off to a good start.
|Honor Among Thieves
||Enalia's Ready Room
Sitting in her ready room, Enalia was looking over what little she had on the captured operative. She had been given little more than a name, picture, and identifying information, but hopefully it was enough. It wasn’t going to be an easy mission and though she now had likely cooperation from a civilian, she still worried about their first mission. Find this woman, retrieve her, and act upon her data. Nothing about other prisoners… Nothing about what they were going to do after, other than a set of heavily encrypted coordinates. What ever it was, it was certainly going to be interesting.
Suddenly, the desk terminal no longer held information regarding the operative, but rather the face of a rather angry looking Brekkian woman. Nexi scowled fiercely at the Trill Commander she was now working with. “I thought I said no evidence of my presence on your ship,” Nexi scolded sternly. “Kinda hard to scrub the evidence when you’ve got a transporter lock on me.”
“Sorry about that - I like taking precautions. I did erase the records though. Just like I did for the Ferengi shuttle delivering our trade goods. That won’t hurt our working relations, will it?” Enalia had become a rather conniving woman during the refit of the Hera and it was starting to show.
“My demands were for your benefit, not mine,” Nexi said, pausing to carefully chose her next words. “You need something that I can provide, but what you need can’t be done within the confines of your rules and regulations, which means our working relationship doesn’t exist. It’s called plausible deniability, and for that there can be no connection between us before shit hits the ceiling. I was never on your ship, do you understand that?”
Leaning in towards the monitor, Enalia had a rather serious look on her face. “I got the same speech from Intel. We don’t officially launch from the Utopia Planitia Fleetyards for 2 more weeks. Officially, the Hera is still being refit. That means we’re a ghost ship and last I checked, ghost ships don’t keep logs of visitors they never had. Now would you like some more information on the mission we’re not embarking on?’
“Your ship is much too noticeable to be a ghost ship,” Nexi muttered as she futzed about with her console for a moment. “And if you want this job done, then some information would be nice.”
Smiling wryly, Enalia punched a few keys to send a copy of the operative’s profile to Nexi. “Well, they wanted a ship that can detect cloaks, so we’re it. We’re going to a small moon to break our operative out of jail. It’s supposedly a standard Romulan penal colony, though I have my doubts. We’ll be dropping out of warp on the edge of our sensor range, well outside of theirs, to make sure. once we have our operative, we’re to act on her information. Whatever it is…”
“Yeah, we’ll see about that…” Nexi mumbled as she received the file and began to gloss over its details. Breaking a prisoner out of a Romulan penal colony? What a joke! “I can tell you right now, you’re probably severely underestimating their sensor range.”
“And you may be underestimating ours. Word of advice - Don’t be near the tactical pod when long range sensors are at full. You’ll know they are by the glow.” Enalia quipped back.
“And that’s how they’ll find you,” Nexi retorted. “Have you ever done a breakout before? because I have. Trust me, there are ways of doing this…” Her words trailed off as she came across the operative’s personal information. Before, she had been focused on the information regarding the location, but now she was absorbing information she wished she had never seen. She glanced up to Enalia, then back to the file, then back to Enalia, shifting uncomfortably in her seat. “Are you… never mind… I want to talk to whoever you have running Intel on your ship. I need to verify some information.”
“What information we have, you now have too. If you want to confirm that with Commander Stanson, that’s fine, but I doubt you’ll get anything more. Something bothers you?” Enalia queried.
“It’s nothing,” Nexi replied uneasily. “Now you said your ship was a ghost, you ain’t keeping logs. If I dock, can I… Can I trust you?”
“We’ve given each other little reason to trust the other. You know I’m a Starfleet captain and I need your help, so you can trust in that. I have a reputation to uphold, you know.” Enalia said with a grin. “Besides, I was hoping you would join me for a meal.”
“You know one of the downfalls of being as good as I am at the things I do? No reputation. I am a ghost, only a select few can recognize my handiwork and even then…” Nexi felt strangely numb, a hollow feeling settling into her chest. “Open your shuttle bay, I’m coming aboard.”
Pressing her comm badge, Enalia called out her orders. “Bridge, open the doors for hangar bay 3 and standby for our new friend to dock.” Tapping her badge again, she smiled at Nexi. “Would you like me to meet you there?”
“I don’t care, do whatever you want,” Nexi replied ambivalently as she changed her heading to navigate her ship to the hangar bay.
“Then meet with me at your leisure. I’ll likely either be on the bridge or in my quarters. I’ll have someone meet you to show you to our guest quarters.” Enalia replied.
“Fine, I’ll see you shortly,” Nexi replied as she brought her ship about, though she had no intentions of staying in any quarters they provided. She shut off the connection to Enalia's desk terminal to focus on landing her ship. This job was taking turns in directions she had never expected. There was no way she could have foreseen that she would be asked to rescue her own sister...
|2 Dangerous Porcupines
||CO's Ready Room
A stowaway. And she'd missed him... and the little bounty hunter too! Mad as she was, Angelica had to admit to herself that they'd likely be stunned or dead if she'd found them, but that didn't make her feel any better about it. So she stalked to the captain's ready room... and then waited outside for several minutes. Pacing. Wondering what the captain would say. Planning miserable 'work to pay off your crime' assignments for both interlopers. And trying to figure out what her real boss would say. Finally, she rang the doorchime, requesting entry.
The door again? It was a busy day for the captain and her ship wasn't even going anywhere yet. "Enter." she called to the door. As it opened and she saw the clearly upset Lieutenant, Enalia wondered for a moment if she had stepped on any toes earlier. "Sorry about the incident with the civilian earlier. Is there anything I can help you with?"
"Tell me how either of them got on board without me hearing about it." Frustrated and mildly angry, Angelica didn't sit down, though she was sure it would have been okay to do so. "You should have called. Ma'am."
"Please sit." Enalia calmly looked the angry woman over for a few seconds before continuing. "If I wasn't in the area, I'm sure the security guards that were there would have called you. As it was, I saw a valuable opportunity and I took it. I assume you got my report on the incident. How would you have handled the situation differently?"
"You want the 'by-the-book' answer or the truth?" Angelica didn't know Enalia at all yet, but she had a feeling that the truth wouldn't go over well. Upset as she was, she knew sitting still would be difficult, but she sat down anyway.
"Both and why there's a difference." Enalia wasn't upset or angry or anything... she just had a serious and possibly deadly calm about her as she spoke.
"By the book, you did everything right. Contain, detain, question. So on and so forth." Angelica sighed a little. "But in that situation the book is wrong. Safety of the crew takes priority. Allowing the choice of surrendering compromises that safety, which is not something I will ever be willing to do. I'd have stunned them both, if they were lucky."
Nodding silently at the response, Enalia was silent for a moment before speaking finally. "If one of them hadn't been stunned and bound and the other surrendered, I would have been the first to agree with that. In fact, I was close to stunning her ass myself and having her dragged off anyway just on the principle of it all. They were in the area where our special cargo had just been delivered."
Angelica stared at her for a moment, suddenly trying not to laugh. "Well then. Have to say you're the first skipper I've had who was willing to admit that sometimes the book needs improving."
Flashing a bit of a lopsided grin, Enalia relaxed a bit. "I don't want to change the book, though. I'm just a pilot and a diplomat, but it seems to work most of the time. This mission isn't going to fall into that category though. There's no book on what we're going to do, or how we do it with what we have. That's why I asked a total stranger to help us. She has no ties to us, we have no ties to her, and by the time she gets the chance to tell anyone not involved it'll be all over."
"Suppose that's fair. Doesn't mean I like it." Angelica didn't comment on whether the book worked or not, but she'd often found that the book's approach failed in matters of security, as if the rule writers hadn't considered enough possibilities. "I want them both guarded at all times. We don't know anything about either of them beyond what she told us, and we don't even know if that was true."
"Considering one is in the brig, I don't think he'll be an issue. Nexi, though... Make sure she uses her assigned quarters. Our Intel Chief is also going to be keeping an eye on her so I would coordinate with her on surveillance." Enalia Leaned back in her chair, relaxing a bit. This conversation was going better than she had hoped. "Is there anything else?"
"At the moment... no." Oh there was plenty to talk about but nothing Angelica felt like sharing. The ship's secret mission was enticing, but poor Enalia had no idea what they were getting into.
Enalia looked the other woman over a bit suspiciously at her reply. At the moment? What was that supposed to mean? "In that case, if you feel like sharing anything at a later moment, please feel free. Dismissed."
"I'll do that." Her smile a bit cryptic, Angelica got up and quietly slipped out the door, leaving Enalia alone to ponder just what secrets the security chief might be hiding.
|The New Doctor
||USS Hera - Various Locations
||MD1 - 1000
Airlock, Deck 5, USS Hera
"Greetings, Lieu- ... Lieutenant?"
The pretty, redheaded security officer's face was awash with uncertainty, as she laid eyes on the chocolate-complexioned man who had appeared in the Airlock. For one thing, the man was not wearing a Starfleet uniform. Instead of the customary blue-accented garment worn by the service's scientists and medical professionals, this man was garbed in what looked like sky-blue surgical scrubs. The man's eyes looked glassy, and his rugged, masculine face sported a significant amount of stubble. As the man lumbered forward, the security officer noticed that, emblazoned on the duffel bag he toted, was the logo of the infamous Tantalus IV Penal Colony. The redhead frowned, and a pale, slender hand moved up to the hand phaser she wore on her hip. Before she could say another word, however, the disheveled stranger produced a data PADD, and held it out to her.
"Lieutenant Christopher Cage, M.D.," mumbled the man, in a rich, gravelly voice. "I'm the new doctor, love."
The redheaded security officer eyed Cage suspiciously for a long moment, then cautiously took the proffered PADD from his large, strong hand. The PADD blinked to life under her fingers, and after a few taps, the woman could see that the document was legit -- identification, credentials and commission orders for one Lt. Christopher Cage, M.D.
"Apologies, Sir," said the young redhead at last, her hand still on the phaser. "I expected you to look ... different." Now it makes sense, she thought to herself, as she handed the PADD back to Cage. Since when do they send security details to escort new arrivals from the Airlock? "I am Petty Officer 1st Class McBride," the redhead announced aloud, standing at attention. "I've been ordered to escort you directly to the Commander as soon as you came aboard."
Cage rubbed a hand across the stubble on his face, and winked at the cute security officer. "Now why doesn't that surprise me?" he asked, admiring the way her gold-accented uniform hugged her petite, slender frame. "Go on, then, sweetheart. Lead on."
CO's Ready Room, Deck 1, USS Hera
Less than a minute later, Cage found himself standing outside the CO's Ready Room on Deck One. Petty Officer McBride pressed her small, feminine hand to the biometric plate on the doorframe, causing the door chime to sound inside. Cage winked at the pretty security officer as he waited to be let inside.
Looking up from her desk computer at the chime, Enalia clicked it off and stood. With a smile at wondering who it could be, she spoke to the door. "Come in." The person on the other side wasn't exactly who she was hoping for, but she wasn't too disappointed. Her new Doctor was another person she wanted to meet immediately for ... various reasons...
Cage lumbered past the redheaded petty officer and entered Telvan's Ready Room. "Good morning, love," came the scruffy surgeon's gravelly voice, as he walked up to the attractive younger Trill woman and placed the PADD with his credentials upon her desk. "Doctor Christopher Cage. I, um ..." Cage cast a mischievous glance back at the pretty young goldshirt who stood at attention in the Ready Room's doorway. "I believe I'm meant to be your new Chief Medical Officer?"
Motioning to the chair across from her, Enalia picked up the PaDD and looked over it as she sat back down. "Please, have a seat. I'm Commander Telvan, and yes as you've guessed you are assigned as the ship's Chief Medical Officer contrary, I'm sure, to many people's wishes. Do you know why you're here?" The PaDD had nothing new to tell her, but it was a bit scary actually having him here and knowing he'd be the one that had to keep them all alive in an emergency.
Cage took a deep breath and shrugged. "Why I'm here as in 'out on parole'? I guess ... somebody decided I was worth giving a second chance to. Why I'm here as in 'on your ship'? ... I'm afraid I haven't a clue." Had his commission to the Hera been forced upon the attractive young Trill commander? She couldn't have actually requested that he be posted to her ship, could she? Cage scratched at his stubble as he searched Commander Telvan's face for the answer.
Enalia did her best to not reveal anything, stoically looking into the man's eyes. She was searching for something, but she didn't exactly know what. "What do you know about biological weapons and countermeasures?" she asked bluntly. He came highly recommended, though now she was wondering if she shouldn't have agreed to the recommendation.
Cage arched a single eyebrow for a moment in genuine surprise, before his expression slowly dissolved into disaffection, almost disappointment.
"Far too much, love -- I'm sorry to say," answered the doctor, crossing his arms in front of his chest. "Why do you ask?"
"You came highly recommended for that reason. I'm not saying you're going to have to cure several incurable diseases, but it's suspected that bio-weapons will be involved." Sliding a PaDD across her desk, Enalia let a little emotion back into her features with a hint of a mildly entertained smile. "Here's the current known state of Romulan and Reman research. You'll note they're known to have samples of quite a few questionable research items."
Hesitantly, Cage reached out and took the offered PaDD. His eyes slowly began to narrow as he scanned the details on the device -- first off-handedly, then with ever-increasing interest. After a long moment, Cage glanced back up at Commander Telvan. His once-cavalier attitude was gone, and in its place, an emotional numbness. "Well, this is depressing," the scruffy surgeon said at last. "If what it shows on this PaDD is true, then it looks like the Romulans and Remans may be close to manufacturing the perfect metagenic bioweapon." Cage came over and absent-mindedly took a seat on the corner of Enalia's desk while he wiped away the disbelief of what he'd just seen from his eyes. "What is it you're expecting out of me, love?" he asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.
"Simply put, find a way to destroy it before they use it. We won't have specifics on what's in it or where it is until we rescue our operative, so do what you can until then. If we can't destroy it, you'll have to find a way to cure or disable it, possibly while it's being deployed." Enalia explained, ignoring that he sat on her desk. She obviously had the right man on board for this, though she did have to wonder what he would do with the full information once he got it.
Cage gave a long, steady sigh and looked up at the ceiling, the wheels in his head already turning. Without realizing it, the disheveled doctor was slipping back into an old, familiar role: that of The Clinician. The Problem Solver. Enalia had just handed him one hell of a medical problem to solve. The real question was: was he up to the task?
"I'll need full access to any new information you get when you get it, love," Cage responded, casting another glance at the PaDD she had just given him. "What you're asking me to do will be hard enough. Asking me to do it in the dark will be next to impossible."
"You'll get it once we get our operative. If I remember right, Science Lab 3 has specialized equipment that might come in handy." Enalia replied with. "Is there anything else you might need that we might be able to get before we leave tomorrow?"
"I'll have a list drawn up and sent to you within the hour," replied Cage after a moment's thought. It might be difficult, even if they were docked near a major planet. It would take some doing to get some of the more specialized equipment & resources that immediately sprang to mind. "Just as soon as I've had a look see at what we already have to work with." Cage stood up from Enalia's desk and picked up the PaDD she had given him. "Well ... I should probably get started," he said, looking for the right words. "I just wanted to say ... thank you. I know you must have your misgivings about ... well, about someone like me, with my past. I want you to know that I intend on giving it my best."
Enalia spoke a bit softer now. "Any misgivings aside, though I do ultimately determine whether Starfleet lets you stay on board, I want you to know that the success or failure of this mission will in no way determine my decision if or when the question of your parole comes up. Your best is all I ask and I know you're up to the responsibility Starfleet has allowed me to grant you. You wouldn't be here otherwise. I just have one request..." Pausing for dramatic effect, Enalia burst into a big smile as she continued. "Please, for the love of all that is good, try to be clean shaven next time. Your face reminds me of a tribble like that."
Cage laughed, and brought a hand up to his face, defensively. "I thought most people saw tribbles as cute?" he protested, with mock wounded pride.
"The last time I saw a tribble, it was lunch for a lizard." Enalia countered with a smile.
"That's terrible," Cage laughed. "Although, if the lizard was particularly attractive, I might not really mind being on the menu."
Enalia could only shake her head and chuckle at that. He wasn't the first to flirt with her like that and he wouldn't be the last. They'll figure it out soon enough though. "Dismissed Doctor. Dismissed."
|Meeting of the Wolves
||USS Hera - First Officer's Office
Charon was sitting in his office and was going over the crew roster. He would have to get used to assign duty shifts and crew rotation. For now id didn't seem to be more complicated or difficult than triage. So he was confident he would get a handle on the large number of people he was in charge of organizing.
After he had looked at the time he put down the PADD he was using to create his first draft of the duty shifts. He asked the computer where Lieutenant Fairchild was currently at and energetically activated his combadge after the computer had given him a location an the human woman. “This is Lieutenant Commander Edomar to Lieutenant Fairchild. Please meet me in the first officer's office.“
He was looking forward to meeting the rest of the senior staff and he made a point to get in a bit of conversation before they had their first meeting to discuss the mission they had ahead of them.
Now? Angelica thought rather crossly, having just started Bravo team on their qualification range. Higher ranking officers always seemed to have a knack for interrupting things! Forcing a smile and carefully smoothing all traces of agitation from her voice, she tapped her combadge to reply, signaling for another qualified officer to take over the range. "Of course, sir. I'll be there once the range has reset to take input from my assistant."
Charon let out a very drawn out breath. This day had not started off well and it seemed his mood just plummeted further down with every item on his self imposed schedule he approached.
“Make it quick, Lieutenant.” he snapped over the established comlink. The fact that he cut it directly after was attributed to his mood steadily moving to a all time low. There were few things as frustrating as a mission that none of the participants were properly trained and or equipped for and where almost no useful information had been given as to how they were to approach this mission. The fact that they had been dealt a bad hand to play in a high stakes game of Tongo was already making him feel very uneasy.
"What a jerk," a young ensign said, and Angelica walloped him in the back of his head, just hard enough to get his attention. He turned around and stared at her, disbelief written on his face.
"Jerk or not, he's the first officer and you will show him respect," Angelica said firmly, manually resetting the range instead of waiting for the computer. She didn't think Charon had been very nice either, but no sense in breeding dissent so early in their mission.
Once the range was taking orders from her assistant, she quickly left the area and made her way up to Charon's office, where she rang the doorchime and waited politely for an answer.
“Come!” the single word spoken by the first officer seemed to reverberate and hover in the room for an agonizingly long moment. Charon's mood was poor. There was no mistaking it. He got up from his chair and leaned slightly forward with his hands steadying him on the table. That way his size was displayed to full effect. Just a little something he had learned during his time as a Counselor.
That tone of voice was a bad sign, and Angelica groaned inwardly despite the genuine appearance of her smile. Great. Still, she wasted no time in entering, taking a moment to study Charon's posture. It seemed he meant to be intimidating, but the man had nothing on Franklin Drake... and she wasn't even afraid of Drake. Regardless, it was a poor way to greet people into his office, and she wasn't sure she liked that sort of attitude in her boss. "I do apologize for the delay, but you called as I was setting up the firing range." She paused, carefully watching for signs of a flaring temper. "I did make the schedule available to all the senior staff."
"And we will have to throw that schedule overboard Lieutenant," Charon said with a much calmer voice. He took a moment and his face seemed to clear up. The foul mood was banished for now. “I don't know how much you have already been told about our upcoming mission by the captain and fairly it is not my place to brief you.” he explained. “But, for the next few days I have a whole lot of things to do for you.” He reached for a PADD which was lying distinctly separate at the edge of his desk. He picked it up and held it out for her to take. “On this are the orders to conduct a thorough examination of your security personnel. I want them fully evaluated. You are going to work closely with doctor Cage, the ship's counselor and me in establishing a ranking of all crew members under your care.” He sighed. “Please sit down Lieutenant.” He did so himself and pointed towards the replicator. “Feel free to get yourself something to drink.” His hands, now both at his temples, were busy trying to massage away the headache that was now flaring up with a vengeance. The neural suppressant was wearing off.
"And leave us not knowing who on the security teams can actually shoot and who needs more practice? I have to respectfully disagree." Easily spotting the signs of a headache brought on by too much mental strain, Angelica kept her voice low, with an even pitch. "The safety of this crew is my responsibility, and I am not comfortable with the idea of discontinuing Security's training schedule. As for the evaluation, that was already in progress before you ever asked for it." Sitting down as she'd been bidden, she took the offered PADD and set it back down on the edge of Charon's desk. "You'll need my teams in top fighting condition, I know that much. But I can't get them there if I don't keep them on schedule."
“Noted, Lietenant.” he said and pulled his hands away from his head. He put them down on the table in front of him and let them rest there. There was an awkward silence for a moment. “How many of your men have seen death? How many will falter in the face of imminent danger?” Charon asked. Out of the blue he squeezed his eyes shut and took a deep breath. His left hand shot back to his temple.
Sadly their crew complement was lacking the kind of veteran material and specialists Charon would have liked for the mission ahead of them. And he had looked at all available crew members. The pile of PADDs with personnel files in front of him gave tribute to that. So his concerns were not at all misplaced. On top of that he really did not like to loose people. Not as a doctor and not as a first officer.
“I can feel the anticipation amongst the crew. They are not ready.” He let out slowly and under his breath. It sounded like he was hesitant to even admit it. Still the combined presence of hundreds of beings tested even his mental defences. He forced his eyes open and it seamed like he had to put up a real fight to be able to open them at all. After steadying himself he continued. “I have seen strong willed and courageous people reduced to whimpering, empty shells by what they have lived through in battle, Lieutenant. I don't want someone to go out there who is not ready for it. Be it physically, mentally or training wise.” He took a break from his rant and after a sip from his now cold tee he continued with a more empathetic voice. “I am not here to tell you how to do your job, Lieutenant. Far from that. I am here to tell you that what ever you think is enough is going to be barely adequate when push comes to shove.” He didn't seem to happy with how that had come out but he left it at that.
"None of them, which is why I have to keep them on schedule. The right response must be reflex or they die on their first away mission. This isn't my first rodeo, Commander." For once, Angelica actually wanted to tell someone what work she really did, but her cover was much too valuable to risk. "As for myself, I've watched men and women die, some at my own hand. It's a moment when training and reflex is all you have left... I don't want these boys to kill. But when the time comes, they will be ready, and they'll do their job... even if it means taking a life. Or giving their own. It's part of the job and they knew that when they signed up."
"And I expect nothing less.“ Said the first officer with a reassuring smile on his face. He didn't doubt her. She was a capable officer from what he could read out of her personnel file and from what her previous superiors had written about her. But that was not all he was concerned about. This mission was not looking to go very well. He sure as hell did not want her to develop any kind of self-doubt over the course of this mission. He was certain she would do her best and if he asked it of her she would probably go beyond that. But he could not let her doubt herself even for a minute. Determination was a powerful driving force. It could be contagious. If she could inspire a few of the crew members she was in charge of all the better. She didn't even have to be aware of it. “I want you to push not only the people under your command but yourself as well. Your service record is quite a read and I wish to see more of that.” He stood up and held out his hand for Angelica. “I expect nothing short of perfection from you Lieutenant. Don't make me doubt the high opinion that others clearly have of you.”
"Perfection?" Angelica couldn't help laughing a little at that. "I think I can manage that. I'll certainly do my best." Grinning, she got up and shook Charon's hand. "If there's nothing else, sir, I have a lot of officers left to assess."
After shaking and releasing her hand he was ready to dismiss her. “Nothing more, Lieutenant.” Charon said now a lot more at ease and almost jovial. “Exept, ...” he began and paused for a long moment. “... if you ever have something to contribute on the bridge or off it, I want to hear it. I don't know the captains policy, but that's mine. Never hold anything back that might be of use to the ship.” He pointed towards the door and nodded. “For the time being I want daily reports on your progress, Lieutenant. Keep up the good work.” And with that he send her off. Returning to his own work and his other responsibilities.
|Buttered Scones are Listening
Enalia knew better than to be wandering into the intel offices unannounced, but that's exactly what she was doing. She only hoped Commander Stanson wasn't too busy to talk about their new civilian crewmember, what with the imminent launch. Pressing the door chime, She waited for a response.
Jennifer sat behind her desk, her monitor was open to an Intelligence report given to her by the Rear Admiral. As the chime rang she quickly put the monitor to rest as she was not sure who was at the door. "Enter." she said to whoever was at the door.
Opening the door and stepping through, Enalia looked around the office before sitting in the chair across from the other woman. "You're settling in well enough, I hope. We've got a lot of work planned for you."
Jennifer smiled as she saw her new Commanding Officer enter the room. "It sure seems so." she told Commander Telvan. "I've been fully briefed by Starfleet Intelligence and I have even more information coming to me as we speak."
"Excellent. Maybe we'll get something useful." Sitting in one of the chairs, Enalia settled into it uncomfortably. "I've enlisted the aid of a civilian. I need you to look up what you can on a Nexi with the Ferengi Trade Alliance."
"A civilian...." Jennifer mumbled. "Why the Ferengi Alliance.....?" she asked. "To be honest, I am shocked and a bit disturbed that a civilian, whom I know nothing about, will be entrusted with the information pertaining to our mission. She will most likely sell that information to the highest bidder if given the chance."
Nodding at the objections, Enalia did her best to counter them. "Which is where you come in. Keep a close eye on her. If there's any sign of duplicity or trouble, I want her in the brig and the doctor's surgery preparing for a memory wipe. In the mean time, we don't have an infiltration specialist and if we hadn't been watching the man she was after as well as taking on some illicit cargo, i doubt we would have caught her in the act. She's a viable asset that was likely expected by someone deeper in your line of work and I plan to make use of her."
"Fine," Jennifer said, "But if I have to babysit then I want her to only have access to need to know information, what she needs to know will be up to me. Once we leave orbit all outgoing communication will be restricted and will have to go through both of us."
"Agreed." Enalia was going to make sure that happened anyway, but now was as good a time as any. "I gave her the basic briefing as well as a bit of info on the operative. She looked rather shocked when she saw that and agreed to finally dock. I want to know why."
"I'll find out." Jennifer told her Captain. "I would like to meet Nexi, where are her quarters?" she asked, she wanted to keep this civilian close to make sure she wasn't poking her nose where is doesn't belong.
"Guest quarters 3, the ones with the extra internal sensors." Enalia replied. "After you speak with her, let me know your thoughts on if she's as good as I think she is."
"Aye." Jennifer said nodding to Enalia. "Was there anything else you wished to speak to me about?" she asked most eager to speak to this new addition to her department. She did have her doubts about this mercenary especially since Jennifer would be the one to take care her.
"No, that's it today. Be sure to keep Lt Fairchild in the loop. She knows the security of the ship better than possibly even me." Enalia said with a bit of a smile. "You look busy enough without me getting in your way so I'll leave you to it. Good luck!" she called as she stood and walked out of the office.
Jennifer re opened the report that she was reading before and began thinking about the what the future has in store for their mission.
|Meeting a New Friend
||USS Hera - Officer's Mess Hall, Deck 9
||MD1 - 1230
Doctor Christopher Cage sat at a table in the Officer's Mess on Deck 9, and picked at a tangled mass of aromatic stringy pink noodles that sat in a porcelain bowl in front of him with a pair of Kriosian chopsticks. It promised to be a long and busy shift, and Cage now realized with some frustration that his late arrival to the USS Hera just a day before her launch had left little time to review the Sick's Bay's equipment stores and ensure that they had everything aboard that he needed. Deep down, he understood that with all of the resources available aboard a Nebula-class starship, his worries were likely unjustified. However, that understanding had not kept the 40 year-old Chief Medical Officer from envisioning a new worst-case scenario every hour since he awoke.
It was a given that a mass casualty incident was possible because of the potential military threats that Hera could face. However, injuries suffered during ship-to-ship combat were just the start of the list of medical emergencies that could pop up. Starfleet's missions were more often humanitarian than military in nature. What if Hera was dispatched to provide assistance a disaster-stricken colony? Or what if they were called upon to aid evacuees who had suddenly been stricken by some unknown plague? Or what if an unknown spatial anomaly exposed the crew and passengers to some unforeseen environmental hazard?
Or what if ... ?
Cage sighed as he pushed away the plate of fragrant pink noodles, and took a sip of a steaming hot dark-purple beverage from a small Kriosian-style porcelain teacup. So engrossed was the scruffy surgeon in his ruminations, that he did not see when the Ship's Chief Intelligence Officer, Lieutenant Commander Jennifer Stanson, came in.
As Jennifer walked into the fairly large mess hall of the Nebula Class starship she looked around at the people in the room. She quickly examined each one as she walked over to the replicator. She ordered her lunch then walked over to the one person in the room who caught her eye. She walked over to Lieutenant Christopher Cage, the ship's Chief Medical Officer, and sat down. "Hello, Lieutenant." she said as she began to prepare her salad and sandwich to eat.
"Hello," answered Cage, grateful for the unexpected distraction of meeting someone new. "I'm sorry, love," smiled the handsome doctor, glancing at the grey accents on the blonde commander's uniform collar. "I know it's been a while since I've seen a Starfleet uniform ... but which branch of the service does the color grey represent, again?"
"Love...? Never call me love." Jennifer told the doctor sternly. "Grey represents Intelligence Operations." she said as she began to eat. She didn't really like this doctor so far and was beginning to regret her choice to sit next to him.
Cage arched his eyebrows, genuinely surprised. "Intelligence? Bloody hell," the doctor could help but give a gravelly chuckle. "What a difference 18 years makes. Alright then," said the doctor, leaning back in his chair and producing a pack of stimspice sticks from the breast pocket of his sky-blue hospital scrubs. "So what are the duties of a Chief Intelligence Officer, exactly?" Cage slipped a single white stick out of the pack and held it between two fingers like an old-fashioned cigarette, before placing the slim cylinder of powdered stimulants between his lips. "You a spy or something?"
Jennifer ignored all questions except for the last, "Or something." she said as she continued to eat. She took a sip of her drink which was far less whimsical than what the Medical Officer was drinking. She examined what the officer put between his lips, she wondered why he would want to or need to take stimulants.
Cage noticed the blonde intelligence officer's interest in his stimstick and held up the pack, rattling it for effect. "Would you like to try one?" he mumbled around the stem in his mouth.
"No, I do not need nor do I wish to use stimulants." Jennifer told the doctor. She took another sip of her drink. "So, Doctor, what was your last assignment?" she asked, "I mean before the court martial and your imprisonment in the Rehabilitative Penal Colony on Tantalus IV." she said smiling at the good Doctor.
Cage laughed and gave a roguish smile. "Well done," he conceded with a nod of his head. "Wouldn't be much of an intelligence officer if you didn't at least know that much about me, now would you?" Cage paused a moment for another sip of his purple tea. "My last Starfleet assignment was aboard the USS Mercy ... over 18 years ago." Cage leaned forward, his gaze locking onto Stanson's. "But then, I'm sure you already knew that. What else do you know about me, I wonder?"
Jennifer leaned in closer to Doctor Cage and whispered, "Everything." she had a smug smile on her face as she sat back to her previous position and continued to eat. "For example, I know that the Mercy was a hospital ship along the Cardassian DMZ where you met your wife Nair Rina. During the occupation your wife was exposed to atrocigenic gas. Your wife died on the operating table just before your baby girl, who did not survive past a couple of days. That's when your life all fell apart. You began providing cheap care to street people, which some may consider heroic. Skip forward a bit and you're tied up with the Orion syndicate. Need I go on?" she asked as she picked up her glass and took a sip.
"Someone's done their homework," teased the doctor, clearly enjoying this as well. "But that's stuff anyone with the right security clearance can read about." Cage slowly slid his chair around until he was sitting closer to the acerbic blonde. "But what about the really juicy stuff?" he asked, his deep gravelly voice now barely above a whisper. "You know ... the kinds of naughty things they don't put in official reports. The kinds of things that only an 'Or Something' has the guts to uncover?" He cast an appreciate gaze over Stanson's curvy figure before locking eyes with her again, his gaze challenging.
"Oh what, like you taking sexual favors for some of your treatments?" Jennifer said as she took another bite of her meal and almost finishing it. "Quite frankly, Mister Cage, I do not think you deserve to be back in Starfleet. It was much more than generous despite whatever skill you may have." she said as she took a sip of her drink.
"I know," grumbled Cage, with a feral grin. "I'm absolutely deplorable. Depraved, even." Cage shrugged and adopted a sad expression. "Unfortunately," he sighed, "you'll never know just how depraved. It's a pity, too. I have a feeling you could use a little more depravity in your life." Cage clapped his hands together and stood up. "Well," he said with a smile and a wink, "if you'll excuse me -- those illegal medical procedures aren't going to perform themselves, are they? I hope to see you around, Lieutenant Commander 'Or Something'."
Jennifer said nothing as the medical officer left. She simply finished off the last bits of her meal then stood up and placed her tray in the replicator. She then exited the mess hall thinking how strange of an assignment this will be.
|Appointment with the Doctor
||USS Hera - Sickbay
||MD1 - 0900
A short trip to his quarters later Charon seemed to be at ease again. The small dose of neural suppressant he had injected himself with was keeping him steady. It was a low dose because he feared to become to dependent on a drug. With the numbing effect that it had though it was a lot easier to exert the needed mental control. The slight tremor in his hands was a side effect but nothing he couldn't deal with. For now he was going about his duties as if nothing was wrong.
This duty now lead him to the Hera's sickbay. Not only was he genuinely interested in the equipment they had available here but also did he want to meet the chief medical officer on board. Reading the man's personnel file had made it clear that he would have his hands full with the good doctor. The conditions that had been issued for Lieutenant Cage's reinstatement and subsequent posting on board of a starship were quite severe. But given the past of the Lieutenant, Charon was willing to not have those events form an unfounded opinion of the man. He would try to enter the sickbay and start off without bias towards the CMO.
When he stepped through the door he put up his formal smile and looked around.
"Welcome to Sickbay, sir," said a light ethereal voice at seeing the lieutenant commander walk in through the Sickbay's doors. Up to the red-shirted blonde man glided a tall willowy alien woman with smooth, hairless, chalk-white skin and large, glassy black eyes. "I am Nurse Mayari," said the too-slender alien. "How may I help you?"
From his seat on the corner of his desk in the Sickbay's Chief Medical Officer's Study, Doctor Christopher Cage looked up at the sound of his Selenite nurse's unmistakable voice. Curious as to whom she was talking to, Cage leaned over to peek out from behind his study's doorway to see who it was. Standing there in front of the willowy Selenite was a blonde man -- either Cairn, Ullian, or some other telepathic species, by the looks of the hairless bulges that protruded from either of his temples. The blonde telepath wore a Starfleet uniform, and the pips of a lieutenant commander glinted on his red-accented collar.
When someone reacted to him Charon was glad he didn't have to clear his throat or something equally ridiculous. After taking in the almost fragile looking alien woman in front of him for a brief moment he bowed his head in greeting. “Thank you nurse Mayari, that is verry kind of you. I am Doctor Edomar. You can help me by pointing me in the direction of Lieutenant Cage.” He said and did not bother to explain anything beyond that. The idea of choosing his title instead of his rank was spontaneous and he wasn't quite sure what had made him do it.
"No one really calls me 'Lieutenant', Dr. Edomar," announced the scruffy surgeon, exiting his office and lumbering out onto the Sickbay floor towards where the blonde telepath stood. "It sounds far too respectable." Cage held out a hand in greeting. "Doctor Christopher Cage, mate. Nice to meet you."
Charon had been called many things in his time but 'mate' was not one of them. Definitively not by a Starfleet officer under his command. “In your office, Lieutenant!” Charon said with all the calm in the world. Still the stress on the doctor's rank left no room for interpretation. This was an order. Holding out his arm he indicated Cage to go first. It was his office after all and there was no reason for Charon to be rude.
Cage let his hand fall slowly as he stood there and regarded the blonde lieutenant commander for a moment. There was something off about the telepath. That much was clear. The disheveled doctor had seen enough psychological disorders, chemical addictions and illness-induced behaviors to know, even having never met the man before. Doc's glassy brown eyes caught the almost imperceptible tremor in the blonde Ullian's outstretched hand, the hint of turbulence that lay beneath those cool, placid blue eyes of his, and the hairs on the haggard Human's neck suddenly began to stand on end. Cage crossed his arms and shifted his weight slightly, readying himself to move quickly in case things got ... physical.
"I think we'd both be more comfortable out here, actually," replied Cage, his forced smile trying to mask his suspicions. "I've got to tell you, it's rare that I meet someone who snaps at me within five seconds of meeting me. I've usually got to make an unwelcome pass at them first ..."
Charon's expression never wavered. He stepped past the nurse and towards the office. “Very well.” He said. “If I have not made myself clear enough doctor, that was an order.” Charon stepped into the doctors office and stood in front of the desk, waiting for Cage to follow suit. Who was Cage trying to kid? They weren't going to discuss the terms of his parole in front of the medical staff.
"Mm-hmm," answered Cage, making sure to keep his distance as Edomar moved towards the office. The idea of being stuck in close quarters with someone who might be emotionally disturbed was not something that the doctor was looking forward to. A stray thought went his old office at the Mercy Clinic back on Farius Prime, and the black-market Romulan disruptor that he had kept strapped beneath the desk for this exact situation. "After you, then," said the doctor, the forced smile still present upon his rugged features. The scruffy surgeon kept an eye on the Ullian's hands, and noticed the tremor again. He followed Edomar into his office, taking care to keep the door behind him and the telepath in front of him. As they both came to stand in front of his desk, Cage smoothly picked up the medical tricorder that he had left there. Cage folded his arms again, his eyes remaining fixed upon the blonde lieutenant commander as his fingers deftly activated the tricorder and initiated a baseline vital sign scan. "Now then," said Cage, taking care to keep his voice calm and soothing. "How can I help you, mate?"
Charon looked the Doctor up and down. Did that man really think his behaviour fooled anyone? He shook his head. “Firstly, Doctor, I am the first officer and you are going to call me by either my rank or an appropriate substitute while we are within earshot of any non senior officers. Secondly, I am here to inform you that I will be participating in your continuous evaluation. For your information your current evaluation began when I entered sickbay just about a minute ago. So far there is room for improvement.” Charon noticed the defensive stance the doctor had taken up but he didn't care. He had things to say and the doctor would have to listen for now. “To be honest after reading your file I expected more of you. You were a damn fine doctor and if you can manage to act like a Starfleet officer again if only for the time you are on this ship then we are going to get along just fine.” He stepped a bit closer to the doctor and fixed his gaze on the man's dark-brown eyes. “I am not the cold-hearted bastard that I must be sounding like right now Cage. I respect you as a colleague and I am aware of your difficult history but I am not willing to cut you any slack because of it. At the first sign of trouble I want you to contact me without delay. That is indeed not an order but a honest offer.”
He stepped back and turned. After walking a step and turning back around he continued his impromptu speech. “I scheduled regular sessions with the ships counselor for you and I am going to conduct irregular drug screenings until I feel that I can trust you to not do something you would regret later.”
After a long moments pause, Cage took a deep breath and finally stepped forward, slowly holding his hand out to the blonde lieutenant commander. "You're going to shake my hand now," said Cage, his dark brown eyes noticeably less glassy, more focused. "I offered it to you only a few seconds ago, in greeting and friendship, and you chose to respond by barking orders at me." Cage steeled his eyes and gave the Ullian a tight smile. "Rude and unprofessional, I know, but what can I say? I believe in second chances." Cage moved closer, his hand still extended towards Edomar. "And I don't believe in judging books by their covers. So ... you are either going to show your true character, and shake my hand ... or you are going to show your true character, and refuse."
Charon saw the man open up but it seemed like an act to him. Forced and somehow off. But he guessed that he would have to make due with what he got from the doctor. This was going to be one long mission Charon feared. “You are indeed!” He said when he accepted the offered handshake. “But then we all posess the ability to change don't we?” He added and let go of Cage's hand. “And as far as my … 'true character' is concerned doctor, you do not want to meet me on one of my bad days.” 'And neither do I.' He added in his head.
With that the little get together was over for him and really he had gotten a better idea of what he would have to deal with than he had hoped for. “The Captain is planing a meeting of the senior staff later. You will be informed soon enough. Be on time doctor. And by all that is holy to you get in a regulation uniform for it. That is if you still remember how to replicate one. We are after all on a a starship and not in your living room.” He addressed the issue of Cage running around in scrubs looked a lot like he was wearing pyjamas. Cage had even visited the captain in those from what Charon had heard. He had to smile in the end but also had to shake his head on so much brazenness from someone who was on parole.
|A Shorter Staff Meeting
||Bridge Conference Room
||MD2 - 0900
Waiting for the computer to signal that everyone was assembled in the conference room, Enalia was sitting in her ready room looking over her notes one last time. None of her briefings from Intel and other divisions had made much sense at all, but their mission was clear enough.
Find the operative, act on her data, and erase all traces of the event.
She didn't like that last part and didn't feel like telling the rest of her senior staff about it. Yes, she was authorized to vaporize the prison after the rescue, but that didn't seem necessary yet. Besides that, their weapons signatures would give them away and they'd never get the Hera close enough. The team had to go in on a runabout...
Interrupting her thoughts, the computer chimed at her. It seemed everyone was finally present. Collecting a few PaDDs, she headed out of her ready room almost directly into the conference room. "Good morning everyone. I hope you're all well rested. In 20 minutes we break orbit and leave the system at warp 6 on a heading of 327-mark-215. After 15 minutes we will correct our course for the Romulan prison at warp 9. We will need to maintain that speed for almost 2 days."
"Once we get close, we'll drop out of warp behind a nearby pulsar. Reports say that their sensors are weak in that area so the Hera will park there, scan the prison from afar, and the rescue team will leave on the runabout Selune. She's been painted in a stealth paint and her engines were retuned to be invisible to the naked eye rather than the normal blue glow. She's as close to stealth as we've got, so let's make good use of her."
"As for the team itself, I can't allow more than 4 people to go. Any more and the biosigns inside the stealth paint will be a dead giveaway, I'm told." Enalia was slightly out of breath from that speech, but at least she got it all out. Finally sitting down, she looked across the table taking everyone in and meeting each of their eyes. "Are there any questions so far?"
"Just one," Angelica remarked calmly. "Who's going?"
"Nexi needs to be on the team. Other than that, I'd prefer the other 3 positions be volunteer. People with combat experience. I also want a full security team on standby on the Hera just in case." Enalia replied.
"I'll go." Jennifer told Enalia, "I have experience in this sort of thing and plus my skills could prove useful to you." she said as she looked at her captain. She was almost positive that the captain would allow her to be on the team.
"Thank you." Enalia spoke with a warm smile. "Commander Edomar is planning the actual mission so get with him for preparations."
"Most of my boys are green, but I'll put our best on the standby team. And the away team is not leaving this ship without someone from security. You can have me or whoever my next best shot turns out to be." Angelica knew she had no business making demands, but she was not letting this Nexi woman lead anyone into a trap.
"I'll consider you volunteered for now then. Thank you." Enalia replied.
Ensign Rhett Beaumont had arrived to the meeting on time. He was almost always punctual. However, polite was not always in his vocabulary. It was like Rhett to speak his mind. Even before he graduated from Starfleer Academy, Rhett, even as a Cadet was never afraid to speak his mind, give his own two cents and argue with someone more superior to him.
"Speaking of green..." interjected Rhett with a small smirk on his face.
Charon was watching and listening intently. He hadn't made any injections jet. Mainly though because there was little need to. He wasn't the expert here. Others were. So paying attention to the people who were currently around him was possibly going to give him some insights into the minds of tactical officers. Since his return from imprisonment observation was his means of gaining information about the people around him.
When Fairchild and the Stanson woman from Intelligence had given their input he leaned forward in his chair and piped in himself. “My familiarity with Romulan prisons might be an asset. I am going to keep myself as an option as the fourth member of the away team.” He explained. His gaze wandered to the Captain and stayed there for a second. He nodded. He would be able to hold it together. Contrary to how his outburst earlier, during their first meeting, might have indicated otherwise.
Enalia wished she was at least empathic right now since her first officer had said that. She wanted to know what he was thinking and if he was really going to be ok. Instead, she had to rely on her own senses, looking deep into his eyes for any sign at all. This man was difficult to read, but she was pretty sure of what she saw. Nodding back, she spoke quietly - a sharp contrast to her earlier voice. "Ok. If anyone else volunteers though, they go and you stay but just in case, I want you to do MACO training programs 1 and 7 on the holodeck."
“I'll work it into my schedule somehow.” Charon said in a agreeing tone and went on to write it down on his PADD. This was going to put some strain on his already tight timetable but he would manage it somehow.
Ensign Rhett Beaumont, Chief Engineer, cleared his throat to draw attention to himself. "I do have technological expertise. I volunteer myself should I be of any value to this team" added the young Chief Engineer.
"Thank you Chief. I'll want you doing those simulations too. Number One, it looks like you're already off the roster. I have other things for you, anyway." Enalia said mysteriously.
Charon nodded in agreement and typed on his PADD. He gave the young Chief of Engineering a short once over. Under other circumstances he would have contacted the former direct superior of the Ensign to get some information on him. Sadly that wasn't really possible right now.
Looking across the table, Enalia wondered how many would die on this mission. Somberly, she spoke. "This isn't going to be an easy job. Odds are we're going to lose people. I have full faith in everyone aboard the Hera though, so I know the mission will succeed. If there's nothing else, I'll be on the bridge. Dismissed." Standing, she walked out of the conference room as if the weight of the whole ship were on her shoulders.
We're not going to lose a damn person if this is done right thought the Chief Engineer as he let the Captain's words sink in. She had stood up and departed from the room, leaving Rhett and the others in the room.
"Thank you, Captain Debbie Downer" scoffed Rhett. The Ensign shook his head and sighed. "I need a drink after one."
While getting up Charon only looked up from his PADD for a brief moment. „Keep these kind of opinions to yourself, Ensign.“ He said with a sharp voice and made his way towards the door. He had a lot to do still and no time to properly deal with the disrespectful Chief Engineer.
Having kept quiet during the staff meeting, the mysterious visitor Nexi watched from the far end of the briefing room the exchange between the crew, taking in the details and personalities she would have to work with. They seemed to have a plan, but being so accustomed to working alone, Nexi had ideas of her own that she would bring up with the Captain later. For now, she had seen enough. Without a word, she slipped out of the briefing room to return to her ship where she would begin formulating her own plans. Given what was at stake, she was leaving nothing to chance...
||Jefferies Tube 7, Junction Baker
It was common knowledge around the ship that Engineering was a bit understaffed lately. There had been a bad case of a flu going around. This had allowed Rhett to opportunity to burrow some extra hands from around the Hera. However, one his selections was quite personal and personally driven.
As he climbed and crawled about the insides of the starship, the young baby face Chief Engineer came to junction Baker in Jefferies Tube 7 where he arrived as planned. It was where Nexi, whom he had personally asked to replace an electrical conduit that had recently short circuited.
The Ensign found the woman at work albeit begrudgingly. "Oh you look as though you are thoroughly enjoying yourself" joked the Chief Engineer as he crawled towards the woman. "I'd apologize for pulling you away from whatever the hell it is that you do... but I'm not sorry. It is entertaining watching you get all hot and sweaty in here with me."
"You do realize you have actual engineers to do this sort of thing," Nexi said as she haphazardly removed the shorted conduit with no regard for safety procedures. Even though she did most of her ship's maintenance herself, it would be charitable to call her a mechanic. She could take something apart, maybe rig or sabotage equipment, but putting it all back together was something else entirely. "So, you just gonna work your trap or are you gonna help me?" she asked.
"I'm the Chief Engineer of this starship" said Rhett with a playful tone. "I watch others work and run my trap. Yes, I do have plenty of engineers but a good chunk of them are out sick and I am short handed. Also, I was hoping to get to know you better."
"Get in line," Nexi said with a grunt as she tossed the faulty conduit aside and tried to fit the replacement into place.
"I don't do lines" countered Ensign Beaumont with a sigh. "I do not wait. Back home, I could do anything I wanted and whenever I wanted. No lines and no waiting. I had status in the Orion Sydicate and our family wealth could get us anything we ever needed" boasted Rhett. "I overheard the Captain and First Officer on the Bridge. You are not Starfleet... they are paying you. Why? Who are you? What are they paying you, Nexi?"
If the Orion man thought boasting about his status with the Syndicate would impress Nexi, then he was sorely mistaken. Looking at him, Nexi saw him as a spoiled little rich kid who got whatever he wanted because his daddy was in a seat of power and Nexi had no interest at all in someone like that. "How do you know I'm not Starfleet," Nexi said, just to mess with him. "How do you know I ain't deep undercover?"
"Because, a Starfleet officer intelligence or otherwise, undercover or not would not be caught dead looking like you" replied Rhett with a smirk. "Your hair is scruffy and is just a mess. No offense, but there is no way you are Starfleet. The Captain said something about you being a bounty hunter or something... So, what's the deal?"
"Maybe I am, maybe I'm not..." Nexi said with a lopsided grin. "But do you really think I would tell someone like you just what it is that I do?"
"Nope" he said swiftly. "I did not anticipate you to be that stupid. That is also why I know that you are not Starfleet. I've noticed that many of them are rather stupid, myself of course not included" added Rhett. "You don't have to tell me anything. All you have to do is give me a moment of your time. I would like to outbid your current employer... the Captain of whoever is handling your payment."
"Ain't happening, kid," Nexi said as she finished installing the new conduit and closed up the access panel. the repair probably wasn't up to Starfleet standards, but she wasn't getting paid for her engineering skills. "I've never taken a higher bid before and I don't intend to start now. Doing that kind of shit, I'd be asking for trouble." Anyway, there was no way she would endanger this mission with something as stupid as switching loyalties. Besides, she and the captain hadn't even hashed out any form of payment yet. Nexi was more or less doing this job for free until she could talk to Enalia about her fees.
Rhett shrugged "Can't blame an Orion for trying" he said as he looked over her work. "Hey, not bad.... not bad at all. You may make a good Engineer's mate" joked the Chief Engineer. "If you do not want to take a higher bid, that's fine. However, my offer still stands. You can walk away now but if you ever come back to the table, I'll bring the money."
Nexi leaned against the bulkhead of the Jefferies junction and fixed him with a strange gaze. "What is it you want exactly?" she asked him suspiciously. "You don't know what it is I'm doing, why I'm here, who I'm working for outside of the Captain... If you're trying to outbid my price, what is it you hope to achieve by doing this?"
The Chief Engineer rolled his eyes and let out a small sigh. "The Hera as you know is part of Task Force 93. I have a personal investment with the operations of the Task Force. The normal area of operations for the Task Force often flirts with two regions of space known as Pirate's Heaven and Smuggler's Cove..." began Rhett.
He did not want to give his life's story or say too much. He was careful about how much he told her. "My father was recently killed during a Starfleet Intelligence operation. Needless to say, I inherited everything as his male heir. This includes all my father's business affairs. If I could get my hands on 93 intel beforehand... it would help me protect my family's wealth."
"Forget trying to outbid me, it ain't gonna work," Nexi told him flat out. "But that don't mean I can't pick up extra contracts on the side. Get what information you have available ready for me, I'll meet you at your quarters to discuss price." Not like Nexi was going to turn down a decent paying job. So long as there was no conflict of interest, what was the harm?
"No" said Rhett flatly. "Sorry, but the last thing I want is to been seen associating with you. I'll get whatever information I have and my offer of payment. I will ensure that you receive said information in a timely manner through an uninformed third party. I do not want any trail."
"So you do know how this works..." Nexi mused with a crooked smile. "Do your homework well on this third party, I won't risk my reputation on some pretty 'Fleeter who ain't gonna do this right."
Rhett scoffed. "Don't worry about it. When I said uniformed, I meant it. They will be one my crewmen from Engineering. They won't ask questions if I tell them to take a PADD to you. In fact, they most likely will just think that I am a posh, lazy, spoiled asshole who does not do anything for himself.... and they would be correct."
"You're a piece of work, you know that," Nexi said with a laugh. If nothing else, he amused her. "The tractor beam used on my ship fried my cloaking device and shorted out some conduits. Not to mention, 'Star is well overdue for some regular maintenance. I'll put in a request for some repairs, that will give you a valid reason to be sending me a PADD, you're just updating me on the status of repairs. It also gives the information a cover in case your lackey accidentally looks at it."
"I'll know if they look at it" countered the Chief Engineer. "I will ensure that the file is sealed. If anyone other than myself or you attempts to open it, the data will scramble and become a bunch of nonsense" explained Rhett Beaumont. "Something that I learned from the Romulans" added Rhett.
He liked her cover idea. "Actually, I would not mind taking a look at your ship myself anyways."
Nexi shrugged. Her ship was just a decommissioned runabout, but it was Starfleet make, an Orion-class well suited for stealthy one-man missions, and Starfleet hadn't produced many in that model. After the War was over, there wasn't an abundance of need for them like there had before. "Go ahead, look around, but I'll know if you touch something you shouldn't, so watch where you and your people go. I don't often let people into my home." And that was the reason she did most of the maintenance on her ship herself, it was necessity because she didn't like strangers on her ship. It was her home, her sanctuary.
"I asked nicely, be grateful that I have done that much" said Ensign Rhett Beaumont. "You know as well as I do that you are obviously not trusted. Your every move aboard this starship is being watched... Security and Intelligence are no doubt ensuring that you do not have anything up your sleeves" added Rhett sharply.
He looked at her and shook his head. "I asked for you to let me check out your ship. Regardless of what you want, I will take a look at it. The choice you have is whether or not you will comply and generously permit me to examine it inside and out or... I could simply report to the Security Chief or Chief Intelligence Officer that I want to ensure that there is no threat to the Hera and gain access to your ship by those means."
"Do that and you risk compromising my cooperation in this operation. I could make the op go sideways so fast and then you would all be shit out of luck. You can go onto my ship to do what you need to do, all I'm asking is that you don't poke around unnecessarily. Anyway, if you hope to go snooping and find something incriminating, you won't, there's nothing to find. I don't keep records or logs on my ship and the only internal sensor logs are those pertaining to the functionality of my ship." Nexi collected her tools and rose to leave. The repair was done and their business was more or less concluded, it would draw suspicion if either of them stayed here any longer. "Mind yourself and your crew on my ship. For all intents and purposes, I'm still a guest and I expect to be treated as such."
"Do whatever the hell you want on the mission" said Rhett with a small chuckle. "By all means, please do. It would be in my best interest if this mission had a few hiccups and mishaps."
"And it's in my best interest to inform my employer, your Captain, of your less that favorable views," Nexi replied. "But I won't, not at this time anyway. Get the information, I'll be waiting for your offer."
Rhett looked at Nexi and smirked. "Nexi, my views are always favorable... just not to everyone. You will have my offer soon enough."
||MD2 0100 Hours
The starship Hera was ahush. All around the starship, power was decreased and the Bridge, like many of the corridors was vaguely illuminated. The Senior Staff were asleep except for the one poor soul who had watch on the Bridge. Ensign Rhett Beaumont, however, was not that poor soul nor was he in his quarters sound asleep where he was supposed to be.
Main Engineering, unlike the rest of Hera, was hoping. It was at full illumination and abuzz with life. Engineering personnel both on and off duty were crammed in Main Engineering, all gathered around a long work station as they watched a half naked Risan woman, Petty Officer Spinelli walking up and down across the work station with a bunch male engineers and some females hooting and hollering as the young engineer's mate put on a show.
Spinelli was tonight's victim of Ensign Beaumont's crooked card sharking skills at poker. Because she had lost, Spinelli was forced into embarrassing herself by using the elongated work station as a catwalk as she stripped away articles of closing, flinging them at her fellow engineers.
"I'll be damned, Spinelli... Never knew you'd be such a sight to look at!" shouted Rhett, his eyes wide and mouth ajar. The show, however, was about to come to a very abrupt end.
Enalia had wanted to see her engines one more time before they launched so she was headed to main engineering expecting it to be calm and quiet. Instead, she found a strip joint laid out across her deck. Not even bothering to walk in, she headed towards the nearest weapons locker and grabbed a phaser pistol, calling a security team on her way.
By the time they got there, she was back at the main door to engineering and nodding to the guards, walked back inside as she set her phaser to heavy stun. Taking aim at an overhead catwalk, she fired an extended burst to get everyone's attention and to let them know she was pissed.
Enalia's voice was filled with rage as she yelled into the crowd. "Spinelli, put your clothes back on. Whoever is responsible for this, you'd better step forward now. I don't have enough room in the brig for all of you so make it easy on yourselves."
"Ahhh SHIT" muttered Rhett as he backed away from the 'catwalk' as sparks came showering down on him and the rest of the engineers. He quickly reached up ad pulled Spinelli down from the table. "What in the hell do you think you are doing? Spinelli, do as the Captain told you. All of you... you should be ashamed of yourselves! This is a Federation starship, not a Ferengi Nightclub!"
Shaking his head and stepping forward to meet the Captain, the young Ensign looked over his shoulder and gave the engineers a steely glare. Don't any of you utter a word he thought with his glare. He quickly turned his head, and looked at the Captain.
"CAPTAIN," said Rhett clearly and loudly. He looked genuinely distraught about what had occurred and in a way he was... in the way that it had been interrupted by the Captain herself. "Ma'am I have no idea what the hell was going on down here but I promise that I will see to it that this disgusting behavior is dealt with."
Enalia was fuming by the time he was done speaking. He was lying blatantly to her face and she knew it. What's worse was that he thought he could get away with it. "So you're in charge of this then. You're spending the rest of the night in the brig. If you ever pull something or lie to me like that again, you'll find yourself floating home, is that understood Ensign?"
"Yes, Captain" replied Ensign Beaumont though her could not shake he bitterness in his mouth. He was not making a good impression on her and though for the most part he did not care, it was advantageous for him to rectify that. "Before I go, Captain, I wish to explain myself and my actions. You walked in here on something that was indeed improper and it certainly should not have taken place here. However, my intentions may have not come across properly. Given the upcoming mission and the potential that not everyone will be coming back... I wanted to boost the morale of the men and women under my Departmental command. I understand that I went about things the wrong way and that my actions cannot be excused. I just thought I owed you an explanation of why I did what I did."
Glaring at the young man through his explanation, Enalia's rage was slowly building further. When she spoke, her words were quiet and had a deadly edge to them. "I don't care why you did it. It was the wrong thing to do and if you ever pull something like this again, I am very serious about you being thrown out an airlock. You want to act like an ignoble pirate rather than a Federation officer, I'll treat you like one."
"Understood, Captain" replied the Chief Engineer. "It won't happen again" added Rhett as he prepared to be escorted to the Brig.
"See that it doesn't." Enalia muttered, walking past Beaumont as security escorted him to the brig. She had spent a lot of time in this engine room, staring into the reactor. She had found it soothing and comforting. Now, though... Now she saw the half naked Spinelli dancing in front of it. She was a beautiful woman, but this wasn't the time or the place even if she was willing and judging by the look on her face as she danced, it was likely she wasn't entirely willing. She'd have to have people watching her Chief Engineer as well now, too. She had enough to worry about than some Orion starting a slave den on her ship.
||MD2 - 0930
The room was dark and vacant as Nexi slipped into the room, using her own means of gaining access to the Captain's quarters. She knew the Captain was in her office and could have quite easily have met her there, but where was the fun in that? It was much more fun to strip off her clothing and hop into the Captain's shower, aside from being a sonic shower also use water which was amazing considering that Nexi's shower on her ship barely worked anymore.
Nexi smiled as she indulged in the hot water cascading over her. It was rare she had access to these kinds of amenities. Sure, she could have just as easily taken a nice sonic shower in the guest quarters provided for her, but this was by far much more fun. And there was hot water! Hot water! The water reclamation system on her ship didn't even have this kind of capacity! Maybe she should request an upgrade while she was docked with the Hera...
Having received an alert from her quarters that someone was there other than her, Enalia punched the message clear and stood up from her ready room chair, heading down a deck to her quarters. She was thinking of all the things she could do to her guest, but instead she just walked into her room, grabbed a chair, and entered the restroom, sitting in that chair.
Sitting as elegantly as she could, she watched and waited, an appreciative smile on her face. She wasn't about to interrupt Nexi's shower, but neither was she going to pass up the opportunity to mess with her a bit.
Nexi knew right away that she was no longer alone. Even though she couldn't see through the cloud of steam she was creating with the shower, she just knew, she could feel someone watching her, or at the very least waiting for her. And she didn't need to be a telepath to feel it either, it was just that 'healthy' paranoia and attention to her surrounding that she had developed after years of doing her job. And she was damned good at her job!
"You know, Captain, you could join me if you're bored," Nexi offered in a sultry tone.
"When we get to know and trust each other a bit more, I'll gladly take you up on that offer but for now I'll enjoy myself from here, thanks." Enalia said with a bit of a smirk. What she could make out of the fiery haired woman was very pleasing. She assumed they were here for business, though.
"Mmmm, this feels so nice," Nexi sighed in genuine enjoyment. "Do you have any idea how long it's been since I've had a real shower?" she asked her 'employer' with a soft moan. It had been ages since she'd had access to this kind of luxury! Nexi closed her eyes and let the steamy water flow over her, her hair streaming over her face. Enalia had drawn the line, so Nexi wasn't try to tempt her any further, but this did feel so good...
And Enalia was sorely tempted. She knew better though. Crossing her legs tightly, she grinned almost lecherously. "I assume it's been so long you forgot what it's like. Press the far left clamshell if you haven't already. It lowers the grav plating here in the restroom to half." Chuckling a bit, she switched subjects. "So what do you think of our mission so far, anyway?"
Maybe she would play with the gravity in here later, but for now she was done. Now, it was time to talk business. Nexi shut off the water and wrung the water out of her hair, stepping out of the shower without even a hint of shame or pretense of modesty. She grabbed a towel and began to tousle her hair dry. "To be perfectly honest, I'd prefer to do this job alone, it's how I operate. But I can be a team player when I need to be. As for the mission itself... with what details of the facility that I have been provided with, I don't see where extraction of the operative would be any problem. The details I need to know are if this is a no kill mission or do you want me to ensure there are no survivors. Also, do we need to wipe any evidence? It may seem out of line, but trust me when I say those are standard questions in my line of work, so I have to ask."
Enjoying the view, Enalia kept her guard up as Nexi all but pranced around in front of her in her birthday suit. "All good questions and ones I would want to know as well. Officially, we need to leave as little evidence as possible and only rescue the one operative at any costs. I've been authorized the use of 4 tricobalt torpedoes if things go south. That should be enough to turn the whole colony into a crater of dust. Unofficially, try to get out as many of the Federation prisoners as possible without compromising the safety of the operative. You can get nearly 30 people on that runabout so feel free to bring anyone else back but keep in mind, the more lifesigns aboard, the easier it will be to track."
Well, that rules out her next question, if she could use her own ship for this operation. Wandering Star definitely didn't have that kind of capacity! "30? I was under the impression we were going in to retrieve one operative and one only. The more we retrieve the greater risk. Are you sure that's wise?" Nexi asked as she wrapped the towel around her body then hopped up onto the bathroom counter, sitting neatly on the ledge as she found a comb and began to untangle her unruly tresses.
"That's the primary objective. My Starfleet morals say to try to rescue others, though not at the risk of the operative. And yeah, the Arrow class runabout is pretty nice in how easy it is to modify. The Selune is built for tactical insertion and extraction and that means the possibility of delivering 25 marines and command crew, none of which are yet aboard." Pausing a moment, Enalia considered how to bring up the next topic. "What's your stake in this? Why did you agree to come aboard and help us?"
"I'm not sure you would like the answer if I told you, but all I'm prepared to tell you at this time is that there is a personal connection," Nexi replied. "Are you prepared to talk compensation now or should we hold off for another meeting? Maybe you'd like to have your Security or Intel people look into me first?"
Satisfied for the moment with that answer, Enalia pressed forward. "I'd like to think I'm a fairly good judge of character. For now, I'm trusting you. In fact, as a sign of goodwill, I'll have a repair team go over your ship and install a proper shower if you like. I'm sure there are some systems upgrades you're missing too. As for compensation afterwards, I'd like to keep that open for how well you do on the mission, but if you'd like to discuss it now, we can."
"I usually don't accept a job without some form of formal contract to ensure proper compensation, but given the personal element to this, and because I'm such a good judge of character-" Nexi teased with a smirk, "I'll withhold negotiations for payment until later. I'm doing something I've never done before, I'm trusting you not to screw me over on this deal." Added bonus, she wouldn't have to ask for repairs on her ship to facilitate her little side job with Rhett.
"Understandable. I can promise you I won't throw you in the brig for no good reason, but if you do anything to compromise my ship, my crew, or this mission, I'll seriously consider it as a matter of Starfleet policy. Other than that, I'm sure you'll be happy with the rewards. Like I said before, the things we have to barter with are junk to me but the Ferengi Alliance says they're worth a lot." Standing and stretching, Enalia yawned as she carried the chair back to the main room. "Will you join me for some lunch since you're here?" she called back to Nexi.
"How could I refuse," Nexi said as she hopped off the counter and gathered her clothes to run them through the recycler, they were overdue a good cleaning. "My replicators broke down, I've been living off of emergency rations for months." Starfleet certainly takes care of their officers from what she could see... "And I've never once done anything to compromise a mission. My prices are high, but for good reason; I'm good at what I do, I preserve the anonymity of my clients and deals, and I don't double cross them or botch the jobs. And there is my personal interest in this, I have every reason to see the mission succeed."
Punching up an assortment of pasta dishes, Enalia moved them to the table as they were replicated. "I hope you enjoy Earth Italian, then. It's most of what I've got programmed on speed dial. I think we'll get along well, given the circumstances, but if you have any issues or qualms, please let me know."
"Yeah, keep that Orion in Engineering away from me," Nexi said as she settled herself at the table, still wearing nothing but a towel and a smile. "The prick had the nerve to call me down to help his staff with repairs because he's short-handed, then he cornered me in the Jefferies junction to buy my, well, services. I've done my fair share of whoring, but even I have standards. I can take care of myself, but I'd be happy to never see him again." Rhett may have attempted to acquire her services, just not those services, but half-truths would help hide the lies and provide a buffer between them and any dealings they may have.
"If he's not careful he won't make it to the brig..." Enalia muttered, not offering any further explanation on that matter. "He came 'highly recommended' as an engineer, and his former CO was almost too happy to see him leave."
"Oh, I've seen those kinds of transactions!" Nexi responded with a laugh. "Sounds like you got the short end of the stick. I can take care of him for you if you want. Free of charge, I'd do him in just for the fun of it."
Sitting and scooping some pastas onto her plate, Enalia shook her head. "No, I'd rather deal with him myself. Thanks for the offer, though."
"Too bad. If you do kill him, can I have his nuts as a trophy? Or maybe he doesn't need to be dead for that..." Nexi could speak from experience on that. How many men had she de-nutted over the years? Not that she collected them or anything, but she wouldn't mind having Rhett's family jewels bronzed and gold plated. It would make quite the conversation piece! "This is really good, what is it?" Nexi said as she devoured some linguine with shrimp and alfredo sauce. She'd never really sampled Earth fare before. Helluva lot better than rations. Or grubs. Ferengi and their grubs, ew... Although wasn't shrimp technically a bug? Mmm, good sea bug...
"That is Shrimp linguine with white sauce. One of my favorites next to the garden lasagna and the pesto chicken florentine." Enalia said as she pointed out the dishes. "I don't plan on killing him, though he'll wish he was dead. What happens to his nuts is no concern of mine as long as it doesn't inconvenience the medical staff."
"Fair enough," Nexi said as she resumed eating. "If the repair team fixes my replicator, have them put some these patterns in there. I don't get stuff like this. You know you 'Fleeters are spoiled on all this, right?"
"I couldn't agree more. That's why a lot of my command staff are 'misfits' of a sort. That way they know how good they have it." Enalia commented. "Though I don't expect all of them to appreciate it any more or less than the average person back on Earth."
Nexi nodded, eating in silence. She could see where that kind of thinking would make sense. Most people didn't know what they had until they lost it, or maybe it would be more accurate to say they never thought they would lose it in the first place. But that was most 'Fleeters. This crew? If they were truly misfits as Enalia claimed, they would understand the value of the life they lived and what they were protecting for others who had never gone without.
"You know, misfits or not..." Nexi said as she took a sip of the wine Enalia had served with the pasta, "I never expect Starfleet to send in a crew so green to do this sort of work. It's almost insulting."
Sipping at her own wine, Enalia nodded in agreement. "I'm forced to agree. There aren't enough experienced crew on this ship to run a shuttle, let alone a starship this size trying to rescue some operative that got caught. We at least have a few people that have a little experience. I'm probably not one of them, but I'm used to fleet politics and some underhandedness."
"Pft, politics... Yeah, I'll leave all that to you," Nexi said frankly. She hated politics, which is why she stayed as far away as she could from political jobs, they always got messy. For as dark and underhanded as people in her line of work could be, there were certain measures of trust there, but she wouldn't trust a politician at all. There was a dark irony there, but that was a story to tell at a later time... "Training was mentioned during the staff meeting. Once your officers have done what preparations they deem necessary, I'd like to run them through a few drills of my own."
"Agreed. Have them consider it an order from me. When we arrive, there'll be about half an hour wait here while the runabout gets there. We'll feed you our sensor data as long as we can, but don't expect much help once you leave." Grinning mischievously, a thought entered Enalia's head. "I might get to pilot the Hera myself if you run into trouble."
"Why do you seem so pleased with that thought?" Nexi teased with a crooked grin. But she could relate. She loved piloting her ship, she didn't know if she could let some strange pilot fly the Wandering Star for her.
"Because I'm a level 5 pilot and I never get to fly anything anymore." Enalia said with a glint in her eye. "If I get the chance, I'm taking it. In fact, if I thought I could get away with it, I'd be piloting the Selune for you."
"Then what the hell are you doing here running this gig? Why ain't you doing what you love? If I had the freedom to do what I love... Well, it would help if I had something that inspires that much passion..." For a moment, Nexi almost sounded jealous of Enalia.
"Simply put, I was promoted out of it in the Trill defense force and Starfleet offered me a sweeter deal. They have all the best toys and I guess I'm hoping to play with them some." Setting her fork down, Enalia considered Nexi's words further. "You have nothing that you're passionate about? Why not stay aboard then? Become a regular part of the crew. You might find something... or someone... worth fighting for."
"You're inviting me to stay on this boat after the job is done?" Nexi asked, more than a little surprised. Oh, if only it were that simple, Grek would never let her... "I would get bored so fast," Nexi dismissed with a crooked smile. "And how could you or the crew trust me? I could betray you at any time," she teased.
Noticing the slight pause and shift in Nexi's eye activity, Enalia smiled crookedly back. "For one, I'm pretty sure that's the first time you've actually lied to me. Your employer wouldn't be too happy, would they?"
"This is the first lie you've caught," Nexi replied honestly. She savored another sip of her wine before continuing. "At this moment, you are my employer. But there is someone else I answer to, and you're right, he wouldn't be too happy."
Leaning back in her chair and thinking over her conversations with Nexi, Enalia sipped at her wine. "You've avoided the truth, told less than the truth, skipped over the truth... Twice now I've seen an unexpected response from you. The first time was when you looked over the mission data in your ship and based on further information, the operative we're going after is close to you in some way. Judging by age and appearance, I'd say a relative of some sort, a cousin or maybe even sister. This time, it's in relation to your employer. I assume they're Ferengi based on your claimed affiliations, and knowing how much they love to collar and enslave women, I'm guessing he has a pretty tight hold on you as well."Pausing, she sipped at her wine again. "Only guessing, though. I don't have the background information I requested from Commander Stanson yet."
"Grek," Nexi said, sitting back in her chair as she mulled over exactly how much to tell her new employer. "He's a high level Liquidator of the Ferengi Commerce Association. I am on record as being his property, I have been since as long as I can remember. When he wasn't using me for sexual gratification, I helped him keep his books until a client of his learned I would better serve him Collecting, which he allows me to do to try to buy my freedom." this was nothing that wouldn't be revealed when her background check came through. How much more to tell Enalia? "Off the record, I do take other work on the side; smuggling, heists, information theft, planting false information, kidnap and ransom, murder, torture... I could go on, but I think you get the idea."
After another sip of wine, Nexi leaned forward, clasping her hands on the table as she fixed Enalia with a cold, lifeless gaze. Speaking of Grek always did that to her, but more than that she wanted Enalia to see that Nexi was only revealing of herself exactly what she wanted Enalia to see. "The first slip was genuine, I hadn't expected to see my sister's name in that file. And my response to Grek, well... I think even you could guess why taking about him makes me uncomfortable. As to the rest, I've let you see the edges of truth and lies because you 'Fleeters need to feel in control, and if spotting the holes in my stories makes you more comfortable with where we stand then I'll let you. But don't think for a second that you've got me figured out, Boss-lady."
Leaning forward, Enalia's eyes narrowed a bit as she stared unblinkingly into Nexi's. "Then I think I have a new goal after this mission is over. I'll have to meet this Grek and see what he's like. As for figuring you out, I only care enough to know how far I can trust you for now. I don't care what semblance of control you think you have or what you think you're giving me. Right now, I only care about what I can get out of you and how much space junk it'll cost. I'm not some deep philosophical diplomat like other captains. I'm not a warrior, either. I'm also not a viper like some. I'm a slug. I keep moving forward until I get what I want then let it go once I pass by. My offer of letting you stay is genuine and your decision will have no bearing on anything to do with the mission. That I guarantee."
"If you value your freedom, do not get yourself entangled with Grek," Nexi warned seriously. "And I would prefer he don't find out about this arrangement. He don't like working with Starfleet and if he finds out then he'll revoke my arrangement to earn my freedom. If you can trust nothing else about me, trust that I wouldn't do anything to jeopardize my chance at freedom. For that matter, I wouldn't do anything to put my sister's life at risk, either. Use me and move on, I'm good with that. Once Aewia is safe and I'm paid, I'll move on and you'll never hear from me again." And that was how she liked her business, professional and detached. Adding in personal matters made things complicated.
"We'll see about that." Leaning back a bit, Enalia refocused on her lunch. "How's your wine, by the way? The replicator does a fair imitation, though I think it lacks real substance."
"But that's all it is, an imitation." Just like Nexi. She wasn't a person, just a poor imitation of one. "It tasted alright with the meal, I guess." She relaxed back in her seat, pondering the things she had told Enalia. She had never told anyone this much about herself. Not even Merrit, her mentor, had seen Nexi be so open about herself. If anything, he had been the one to teach her to close herself off, to protect herself by hiding away deep in the recesses of her mind. Nexi gave herself over to the madness she lived, reveled in the chaos she created, but it was slowly killing her, choking off the will to live buried deep inside. For the first time in years, she wanted something other than personal gain for herself and it was waking the conscience she had long since discarded. Had Enalia's offer really meant that much? Or was it this drive to preserve her familial ties? Or maybe it was all a calculated vulnerability, Nexi went in so many directions that she couldn't tell what she was doing anymore.
"Aewia, she don't know who I am," Nexi said uneasily as she took a leap of faith that Enalia wouldn't betray her. "Our father don't even know I exist. I was an accident and it would be best for everyone involved if they don't find out who I am. Grek don't even know and if he finds out, he'll try to profit off of the secret... My connection to this case stays between us, Boss-lady."
"So your sister is an agent of SI division 6 and you think she doesn't know. Interesting. I've heard of an android that escaped her Ferengi owner and made it to the Federation. She serves as a Diplomat or counselor or something, I think. Food for thought, either way." Enalia spoke as she set her plate back in the replicator.
"Want to hear one of my secrets? My files say I'm joined. That's no secret. What they don't mention is that this is my... I'm it's first host. I don't have the hundreds of years of experience like most people think." Enalia said, slipping up yet again on which one she was supposed to be, symbiote or host.
"I can assure you, they don't know I exist and I want to keep it that way," Nexi said, slipping back into her cool, professional demeanor. Enalia was just a client, she didn't matter, just what she could do for Nexi, just like all the rest, a means for profit. Enalia was nothing special, even by her own admission. "And sometimes one lifetime of experience is more than enough..." She rose from her seat so she could go get dressed. "Thank you for dinner, it was lovely."
"Any time. We'll have to have our chef prepare some real food for you next time." Enalia said with a polite smile. She wouldn't expect Nexi to take her up on that offer willingly, but her 'spoiled fleeter' side demanded she at least make the offer.
"I look forward to it," Nexi said as she dropped the towel to give Enalia one last glance of her naked form before disappearing back into the bathroom.
Chuckling a bit, Enalia's smile widened as she looked Nexi over some more. "Keep that up and I might not be able to ever let you go." she muttered. Shaking her head, she started clearing the table, setting everything back into the replicator to be recycled.
||MD2 - 1800
"Hello?' The young Crewman Takethen nervously called out. She had been ordered by the Captain herself to conduct repairs and upgrades on the visitor's ship so she had a cart full of supplies ready for that. She wasn't too confident in some of her work, but she'd do her best. She just needed to find the owner...
Nexi popped her head out of the rear access hatch of the Wandering Star, looking for whoever was calling out. "You another Engineer come to do repairs?" she asked as she walked down the ramp to the bay, looking at the woman and the supplies she had with her.
Another? Had someone else been by without putting it in the maintenance logs? It didn't matter at the time though. Snapping to attention, Amelia introduced herself. "Yes, Ma'am. Crewman Amelia Takethen here at the Captain's order. I'm to repair your replicator, install a proper shower with recycler, and see if there's anything else you might need." As she rattled all that off, she held out a work order PaDD for Nexi to look at.
Nexi took the PaDD and, without looking at any of the information it contained, deleted the work order and handed it back to the Crewman. "Fine, get to work," Nexi said sharply.
Looking at the now blank PaDD slightly aghast, she just set it on the pile of hardware and started carrying in equipment. That was unusual and rather frustrating. Carrying the last of the equipment in, she popped open her tricorder and started scanning the replicator. "This Runabout doesn't look to have seen proper maintenance in a long time. What is it you do?"
"That information is on a need to know basis," Nexi said as she headed for her workbench to star fabricating new blades to replace the ones confiscated earlier, "and you don't need to know."
"And we're not keeping logs of things, either... Right? Probably why that case wasn't listed in the manifest... She wanted me to deliver that to you as well." Amelia pointed at a smaller case that had rattled as she carried it in.
"Something like that..." Nexi said in a non-committal tone. She leaned over from where she was working to take the base from the cart of supplies. "What's this?" she asked as she opened the case and peered inside.
Glancing into the case, Amelia gasped a little at the contents. "So I'm a weapons delivery service too now? Seriously... I don't like any of this at all..." Indeed the whole case was full of blades.
"Nice!" Nexi seemed pleased as punch that her weapons had been returned to her. "Don't worry, kid, you were just returning what was already mine," Nexi informed the Andorian woman. Most of the blades were designed for throwing and picked them out one by one, flipping them in her hands to test their balance in case they were improperly stored and thus warped. "If it bothers you so much, I'll tell the Captain to not send you if she needs to deliver questionable content to me."
"Oh no, I wouldn't dream of complaining." Amelia said sarcastically as she ripped out a few fried replicator parts, looking them over and wondering what kind of power surge caused so much damage. "There'd be no record of it, now would there?"
"No, there's wouldn't," Nexi said in agreement as she began to clean her blades and put them away. "But you would know, and so would I. I'll tell the Captain if it bothers you."
Sighing heavily, Amelia paused in her work. "After seeing what these electronics have been through? It would bother me more not knowing if they were fixed right. If i asked you what you tried to do with this replicator, I doubt you would tell me, but I'd still like to know. I might be able to fortify it a bit better."
"Um, I tried to replace the some parts after it stopped working. I got it working for a while, but the food never tasted right, then it just quit altogether," Nexi said distractedly as she gave her beloved blades most of her attention. "Oh, and I replaced all the ship's interfaces with Ferengi interfaces, so that mighta caused some problems somewhere along the line..."
Amelia could only facepalm at that. "Yes. Yes it would..." It seemed she had her work cut out for her. Ferengi parts didn't mix well with Federation parts without a proper converter and the plastic melted remains of one told her that this one, and likely the rest, aren't proper. "I might need some help fixing things..."
"Go ahead and get help if you need it," Nexi said with an annoyed sigh. More people? Dammit. "I've had people coming and going since I got here, so what's a few more hands..."
"Actually, since it's your ship, I was hoping you could help me out if you don't mind. Your systems converters were poorly made and little more than plastic so I'd like to at least see that all of them are replaced with real ones." Snapping a few new parts into the replicator, Amelia grabbed her PaDD and from it sent a command for a cool glass of water to the replicator systems themselves. The resulting glass materialized as expected.
"If you say so," Nexi said as she set her weapons aside and joined Amelia by the replicator. "What do you need me to do?" she asked.
Tapping some more on her PaDD, Amelia watched as a small module slowly materialized. Grabbing it, she looked it over, then handed it to Nexi. "Install one of these in place of the converters you're using. I'd start with the panels that don't work right. I'll make a few more, then finish the repairs on the replicator interface. Thankfully, it was just the core parts that were fried and not the power conduits or resolution matrix."
"More, lots more..." Nexi said with a grin as she took the one converter that Amelia gave her. Grabbing her own box of tools, she moved some crates around near her workbench to open up a floor panel. With a ship so small, it didn't have a dedicated engineering section like many runabouts, so she was accessing one of the primary interfaces that controlled her warp assembly under the deck plating. "I'll need several for the cockpit. My navigational display has been acting wonky."
"Then let's see if we can do 10 at a time..." Punching some more up, Amelia watched 9 and a half materialize. Picking up the 10th one and looking it over, it appeared the platform had run out of usable space. "Ok nine at a time it is." Clearing them to the side, she installed one into the replicator system real quick, powering on the controls. Everything seemed to be working properly here now so she tried replicating 9 more. They came out looking just fine and her tricorder confirmed it. "Replicator works now."
"And so does the warp assembly interface," Nexi said as she finished swapping out the converter. "Ha! So that's why my cloaking device fried! Maybe we can actually fix it now," she said with a bit of glee as she removed the ancient device of Klingon origin. If asked, she would never tell how she got her hands on the device, it had been acquired through less than legal means but the device was rightfully hers. She handed it off to Amelia. "Here's a treat. See if you can fix that."
"Oh my..." Looking over the antiquated piece of technology, she felt like she was stepping back in time a bit. "This is an old Klingon shuttle cloak, isn't it? Very nice." She didn't really want to know where it came from - she was just in awe that she had one in her hands and had the chance to work with it. Scanning it with her tricorder, she immediately found the problem. "There's no feedback coupler in your interface, is there? I'll have to repolarize it and rebuild your interface, but yeah I can get this baby working again." At this point she was almost drooling over the piece of tech.
"Do it," Nexi said with a smile. "While you're working on this, I'll be in the cockpit working on my navigational display," she added, grabbing more of the converter units to take to the cockpit.
"Yes, Ma'am." Finally opening her tool kit, Amelia grabbed a tool and started repolarizing the array, one tiny bit at a time. It would take a while, but it was work she could enjoy. "I don't suppose you run this with a Cardassian power coupler, do you?"
"Cardassian? I don't think so. They guy I bought it from said it was Tellarite, but then again what do I know about ship parts," Nexi admitted. She did feel bad that she didn't know that much about how her ship worked or that her ship was in such bad condition, but it couldn't really be helped. "Why? is that a problem?"
"Tellarite? Figures... If you can, replace it with a Cardassian one. They tie into Federation power systems wonderfully well and they're built strong enough to handle three times this baby's power requirements." Amelia explained as she worked.
"Yeah?" Nexi knew where she could get a Cardassian power coupler at a decent price. "I'll do that," she continued, making a mental note. "If you have any other suggestions for replacement parts, let me know and I'll look into it." Of course it would probably be best if all the parts were Federation make since this was originally a Federation runabout, but she would take what she could get.
Finished repolarizing the cloak, she headed to the coupler with a few more tools. "Well, primary systems, I'd stick with Federation. If you need something to handle a lot of something with no backups, go Cardassian. Everything else... Hope you have a pattern for a good converter. Your torpedo launcher is easily swapped out for a small Romulan plasma launcher if you ever want to do that. It would just need a power converter for proper recharge time - the control interfaces are compatible with your Ferengi displays." Amelia rattled off, already familiar with a lot of the shuttle's design. Looking over the spot for the cloak to plug into, she paused in her recitations. "I'm a matter/energy specialist, by the way. During training I got to tear apart and rebuild a similar shuttle with various parts from around the quadrant. I tried to replace the reactor with a Romulan singularity core and all but melted the engines. The sim said it had a chance of doubling output and speed, but I never got a chance to test that."
"No weapons," Nexi called from the cockpit where she was working. "All weapon systems were stripped out when she was decommission and I never saw a reason to install anything when I bought her, but she's still got shields and transporters, though I've done some work on both." She made notes about Amelia's recommended replacement parts. She would definitely start keeping a stock of back-up parts. "And if you handle propulsion, maybe you can help with a problem I've been having lately. 'Star is rated for up to warp 9, but she starts shaking as I approach warp 7.5. I haven't figured out if it's something to do with the engines or the structural integrity field." Or hell, for all she knew the deflector dish was out of alignment. Nexi wasn't an Engineer, what the hell did she know!
"There's an old trick to that. Your engines are technically built for warp 6 or so. Going over produces energy feedback and if you shunt that feedback into shields and structural integrity, she'll smooth out." Finishing her work on the cloak systems, Amelia plugged it back in and powered up the interface. "That should be working fine again. If you want, I think I can get the equipment replicator to make a few of the original phaser banks."
"Are you sure about that? About the engines?" Nexi asked, coming out of the cockpit to find Amelia. "I know most shuttles of this size are only designed for a max of warp six, but the fleet yard engineer that sold her to me said the Orion class was designed to achieve warp 9. She should be able to keep up with most full-sized ships." But she was making more mental notes, taking in everything this woman was telling her. Didn't matter what some fleet yard salesman told her, she had every reason to believe Amelia, the woman seemed to know her way around an engine. "And if you're done, think we could run some tests on the cloak?"
Waving her hand dismissively at the mention of a fleetyard salesman, Amelia scoffed and waved her antennae in an amused manner. "Whatever they told you is a lie. The official Starfleet specs are a lie as well. That trick I told you has been in use since the NX-01 first left Earth and made contact with my people. If your injectors are solid and you keep your intermix chamber cool, it'll get you up faster than the Hera can go." Shaking her head, she just walked out of the ship and looked over the hull, waiting for Nexi to activate the cloak.
Nexi accepted what the Andorian woman said as truth. It made sense and she did seem to know what she was talking about. she returned to the cockpit and activated the cloaking device. She patched into the Hera's comm system to ask the young Crewman, "How's she look?"
Smiling at how well the ship vanished, Amelia started scanning for anything with her tricorder. It read that there wasn't even air inside the cloak - just empty space. "Don't see a thing. It even cloaked a bit of the deck plating."
"Amelia, you have just made my day," Nexi said over the comm with a smile, then lowered the cloak. She'd want to do more extensive tests to see if the cloak could adequately conceal her ship's energy signature while in motion, as well as a myriad of other things she's had learned to work around with her years of dealing with it in its faulty state, but for now she was just so glad it was working! The extra tests could wait for later. For now, they still had more repairs to do!
Closing up her tricorder, Amelia headed back inside the ship. "Anything else before I install the new shower?" she asked as she started opening the crates for the portable unit.
"There's always something that needs fixing on my 'Star, but I guess we're done for now," Nexi said as she helped Amelia unload the crates. "Whoa, you weren't kidding you said you were gonna fix my shower," Nexi commented when she saw all the equipment for the self recycling water system that would eventually go into the small bathroom. "You sure all this junk is gone fit in there?"
"It should. I've seen it in smaller areas. It's modular so most of it can be routed into the crawlway overhead." Amelia said as she unpacked the boxes.
"If you say so," Nexi replied dubiously. she would believe it when she saw it.
Carrying the main unit and a plasma torch to the restroom, Amelia opened the ceiling access and hefted the empty tank and recycler through it. Deftly, she jumped up and pulled herself through the hole, pushing the unit out of the way. "Perfect. Plenty of room and even space to get by it when we're done." Using the plasma torch, she started cutting access ports for the hoses above the shower.
"When I'm done with my job here, I'm paying a certain fleet yard Engineer a visit. He said I couldn't do none of this stuff," Nexi said as she helped get everything situated.
"I wouldn't be too hard on them. Fleetyards are full of book engineers. They can tell you part numbers and circuit flow, but if you want to know which way to plug something in without blowing something up, you need a field or bench engineer." Amelia said as she finished cutting the holes. Locking the module in place, she connected the external power feed to the EPS tap right next to it. As soon as power was applied, everything came online just fine and it started replicating water on its own. "Want to start feeding the hoses up through the holes, Ma'am?"
"Yeah, sure," Nexi replied and start unwinding the hoses to feed them to Amelia. "See this is why I ain't an engineer. Way too complicated for me." But ask her how to peel someone's skin off without killing them and she was all over that!
"That may be so, but whatever it is you do, I'm sure I'd be horrible at it. This sort of thing is my passion and I grew up doing it." Amelia called down from the ceiling.
"Fair enough," Nexi said with a chuckle. And she wouldn't wish her childhood on anyone here.
|Ready, Steady, Go
||USS Hera Bridge
||MD2 - 0900
Everything seemed as ready as possible and the last crew and cargo had been beamed aboard just minutes ago. Enalia was on the bridge in her customized chair and she had had the engine room prepped and ready to go an hour ago. This was it though. Once more they were heading underway into an unknown path. "Helm, take us out. Set course for heading 327-mark-215 at warp 6. Engage when ready and plot in the course correction to the Romulan prison colony for 15 minutes from now at warp 9."
Turning to her First Officer, Enalia sized him up once more. She was already noticing severe signs of stress in him and was starting to worry that he would be able to handle this first mission. If this didn't break him he'd make a fine XO. Would it be too much for him, though? She had already discovered his outright refusal to use his telepathic powers so she was looking through the rest of the crew manifest for another possible candidate should she require the use of telepathy in the future.
"Number One, what's the status of the rescue team's training?" Enalia asked simply, the concern in her eyes obvious to anyone.
Charon had been standing close to the OPS console, talking in a quiet voice to the Ensign manning it. When the Captain addressed him his head turned and his body followed. He made his way towards the captains chair and stood next to it, clenching his jaw muscles in an effort to ease the pressure he could feel growing in his head. Knowing all too well, that it would do nothing to ease his migraine.
Ensign Rhett Beaumont had quietly snuck onto the Bridge though his presence had probably not gone unnoticed. He had Spinelli down in Engineering taking charge and ensuring that everything was running efficiently. Rhett had exited the lift, and slithered around some bridge and support personnel and found himself plopping down at the empty aft Environmental station.
Charon raised his PADD and started giving his assessment. “Their physical checks out. And we did the best we could in the time we had. With Stanson and Fairchild on the team I believe we do have a chance of pulling this of. Both are very well trained.” Charon said and covered one half of the away team. “As for Ensign Beaumont I am not sure but I think he will manage. While he is pretty young his engineering qualification might serve as an asset.” He could not help but smile at the slight irony of a half-Orion being protect by the two women. After all Orion culture was matriarchal. His eyes darted to the Ensign for a second. “If the Lieutenant and the Commander manage to keep him alive.” The smile on his face did not last too long though when he moved on to the fourth and last member of the away team. “I don't know how to asses the wild card we have to deal with. That Nexy woman, what do we know about her?” Charon asked.
The young Chief Engineer soured his facial expressions as the First Officer made some comments about him that did not sit well with the Ensign. I'm safer with them than I would be with you though Rhett rolling his eyes.
Right in that moment a thought crossed his mind. It was vile and evil. He had to struggle to not act upon it. He could taste acid spreading over the back of his tounge. He had to swallow hard to get rid of it. Charon turned away from the Captain and fixed his eyes on the main viewer. He couldn't look at her now. Not after what he had just thought about doing.
Motioning to the chair on her right that her XO seemed reluctant to sit in, Enalia spoke a bit quieter. "Why don't you sit down so I don't have to yell? Nexi is a sort of bounty hunter for the Ferengi and she's agreed to help us as an infiltration specialist. I've offered to pay her so as long as she doesn't think we'll stiff her on the bill, I trust her for the most part. Beyond that, Commander Stanson is keeping a close eye on her."
Rhett wanted to hear what the two were saying. However, he only caught small bit of the whole. It was about this Nexi woman and payment for services. They were watching her. I wonder if they watch me too? the Chief Engineer pondered.
When Telvan spoke again Charon twitched. He closed his eyes and reigned himself in. This was not the time to loose it. And he had sworn to himself that he wouldn't. After turning around he slowly made his way towards the chair next to the Captain which was going to be his from now on. After he sat down didn't seem to comfortable. Indeed he had trouble finding a position that was not somehow awkward. He would definitely have to get someone from engineering to fix this damn thing. “Who is with Starfleet Intelligence.” Charon almost spat out. It was the reason why he had not yet met with the woman. He had a deeply seated hatred for people in her line of work. “I only hope Fairchild has a healthy scepticism.” He still feared that there was more to this mission than they had been told about. And when engaging in business with agents from any secret service that was usually the case. He believed Stanson to be no different. He wondered if he should talk to Beaumont and Fairchild again before they left on the refitted runabout with the two other members of the away team.
Angelica had been minding her own business and pretending not to hear their conversation... until Charon commented on his hope for her skepticism. Hearing that, she frowned slightly and paused in her setup of her console behind them, leaning forward over it and lowering her voice. "All due respect, sir, but perhaps it would be better to discuss crew members in a location where we can't overhear what's being said."
Charon turned his head and looked Fairchild dead in the eye. “Did you think about the possibility that you were indeed meant to hear this?” He asked with a quizzical look on his face. Personally he thought that this bunch of people that had so recently been put on a starship together weren't even remotely close to ready for a mission like this. They lacked in trust and familiarity. Both took time to develop and build. So his doubts, he thought, were justified. “The mind is a peculiar thing, Lieutenant. Sometimes the strangest comment can get people thinking.” He said and smiled a knowing smile.
"Oh, I did think of that. But frankly, it's not a discussion you should have on the bridge. Comments like that delay the formation of good relationships among the crew." As she spoke, Angelica finished her station setup, dedicating nearly a quarter of the console to monitoring their two guests. "More to the point, if Commander Stanson hears that tone of dislike in your voice, you could permanently damage your working relationship with her."
“Your disagreement is noted.” Charon muttered but it didn't sound too much like he cared about what she had said. That was partially because the tingling behind his brow was intensifying. The crew was nervous. The anxiousness of more than seven hundred people was weighing down on his defences. Having spent much time away from any type of crowd this size it would take him some time to get used to this sort of constant background noise once again. “Captain, if you don't need me on the bridge there are a few things I still have to take care of.” He had not slept since meeting the captain the day before and being told about their dangerous mission. His much needed mental focus was beginning to slip. And maybe the Lieutenant was right. His comment earlier might not have been the best idea. But what the hell, Stanson might as well know about his feellings towards SI.
Charon stood up and looked at his pad. His schedule was full indeed. A quick visit to his quarters, taking a shower and a steaming cup of Ullian green leaf tea would allow him to stay on his feet for a while longer.
Enalia had monitored the exchange, feining disinterest while she kept her eyes on the main screen. They were finally at warp - the starlines on the huge monitor before her reflecting that. "Distaste aside, it's SI that's giving us our orders from now on. If you don't think you can handle that, let me know. For now, we have just under 2 days to build that camaraderie and trust before the first runabout launches. I want every effort made to see that it happens. That goes for every crewman aboard, as well as my senior officers. The 523 people on board are now family in my eyes." Turning to look Charon in the eyes, Enalia continued. "We're on the same side with hopefully the same overall goals, right Number One?" With a further nod of her head, her intent was hopefully clear that he was free to leave of his own free will. She wasn't trying to berate anyone or anything. She just wanted her position on the matter heard publically.
Charon got up and straightened his uniform with a discreet move. Instead of moving straight to the turbolift though he passed by the CONN and the OPS station. In a hush tone he gave orders the crew members manning the stations. He left after and made his way to his quarters.
Enalia didn't make any noticeable movements regarding her first officer's secretive orders to the helm and conn officers, instead she just busied herself with her status console. This crew was feeling more and more like she was going to have a mutiny on her hands at any time. It may have just been her building paranoia, but she couldn't help but feel like it was something more. Her senior staff were almost all disturbed and disturbing individuals with clashing personalities to say the least. At least the away team had some people she could trust. her intel officer and tactical officer may be hiding a lot, but she knew they would do what was best for the mission in the end. In fact, between those two and Nexi, she had to wonder if her chief engineer would even come back alive.
Checking the time, she sent the real coordinates to the helm. "Helm, change course to those coordinates, warp 9." watching her status readout, the ship came about as expected, almost doing a power slide at warp speed as the heading changed. Good - that would disrupt their warp trail just enough to disguise their actual path for a few minutes if someone was following them. She didn't like jumping into unknown situations at all, but when she didn't even have her full 780 assigned crew members, including the 25 marines she was promised, things looked bleak. She just had to put her faith in what crew she had and hope for the best.
Ensign Rhett Beaumont turned in his seat and stood up, descending the ramp down into the Command pit. "I know that I needn't remind you, Ma'am. However, with recent upgrades to our engines, the Hera can safely push Warp 9.6 for twelve hours if necessary" announced the Chief Engineer. "I would like to add that I may be able to get you warp 9.7 should we need to haul ass."
"Thank you Chief, we'll need that when we leave. For now warp 9 will do - especially since we'll be at this speed for close to 46 hours." Enalia didn't even look up from her console as she spoke. She was clearly still upset about last night the way her shoulders tensed, but she did her best to not show it on her face. Looking up at him, she continued. "Besides, if we get there early we'll spoil the surprise."
Hell no thought the Ensign nearly biting his bottom lip. "Captain, no offense intended... I just recently joined this crew. So, I know that I do not have much pull here yet but even with our recent upgrades... Warp 9 for almost two days straight. Ma'am we would blow out a nacelle after a day and that's if we somehow managed that much" countered the Chief Engineer. "Our safety limit it twelve hours at 9.6. Even at the decreased speed of Warp 9, you are asking for serious damage to our engines."
"You might be surprised then. You weren't here for them, but we did the equivalent of warp 9.1 with no noticeable increase in strain or temperature for 3 days during the engine tests. I'm pretty sure she can handle it, otherwise we would have left yesterday to get to the coordinates at the right time."Enalia explained patiently.
"Impressive...and terrifying" replied Rhett with a shake of his head. "I will keep my fingers crossed for good luck just in case."
Enalia couldn't help but smile a bit at that. "Thankfully we're actually going somewhere right now rather than trying to rip out of a spacedock testing frame. Much smoother 'ride' for sure."
Noticing a new alert on her console, Enalia frowned a bit. "If you'll excuse me... LT Fairchild, you have the bridge." She said as she headed towards the nearest turbolift.
"Yes, ma'am." She couldn't do that job from her console, so Angelica quietly transferred the tactical controls to the console beside the command chair instead, moving down to take Enalia's place with little fanfare.
|The Flamelet And The Firestorm
||MD3 - 1300
Charons mood was not good. His aura, like a water balloon spread thin over too much water, seemingly ready to tip over at any second.
His feelings told him there was something wrong. Years before, shortly before the Tikuman had been destroyed in a Romulan attack, had he felt just he was feeling now. While back then he had still used his empathic abilities to asses the people around him he had not been able to predict the disaster they had blindly flown into. Now with the restriction of his powers he forced upon himself he was feeling even more helpless and his mind was full with dark foreboding. In his minds eye he saw the destruction of the Hera over and over again. It wasn't helping that the rest of the crew was anxious about the mission as well. It only served to make him worry even more. For now though, on his way through the corridors of the Nebula class starship, he was portraying a solid mask of assertiveness.
About the only person on this ship who was not a nervous tangle of anxious energy was Nexi. She stood out as a beacon of calm in all this tension, for surely this was all business as usual, so either she felt no tension at all or she kept it so tightly concealed that any random telepath would believe she felt nothing at all. Maybe it was a little of both; maybe Nexi had been in this business for so long now she had forgotten how to feel...
But Nexi didn't need to be half-Betazoid to know that something was off about Charon. As she approached him to pass him by in the hall, she could see the haunted look in his eyes, a look she had put into countless victims over the years. Something about seeing it in this man stirred a feeling of remorse, she couldn't figure out why. He was a stranger, a lackey of her client, why should she care what he might have been through? It was none of her business, best to just move along...
He had spotted her from afar. If her clothing hadn't give her away it was the way she behaved. She moved differently than the crew. Her bearing was confident and self-assured. He didn't like it one bit. When she was close enough for him to not have to raise his voice he looked at her. “You!” Charon's voice was quiet. “With me.” He ordered and somehow despite his matter-of-factly tone of voice and his obvious lack of physically threatening qualities it did not seem to be too good of an idea to not follow his order. A bit further ahead the door to the 10 forward lounge opened and a few crewmen walked out. They were talking and laughing in obviously restrained volume. When they saw Charon they simply nodded mouthed a quiet but respectful 'Sir!'and moved on, continuing their conversation only after they were out of earshot. “In there.” Charon said, his gaze directed at Nexi but his eyes clearly not focused on her. Then he walked on.
Nexi could guess what this was about, but remained silent as she followed Charon to Ten Forward. This had better be good, she had things to do! A stop by the replicator to get a cup of coffee, another luxury she had not had the pleasure of indulging in for some time, and she was ready to face whatever Charon would throw at her. "What's this all about-" she took a moment to glance at his rank pips, "-Commander?"
Moving through the small groups that were spread out in the lounge Charon returned greetings and nodded in response when someone addressed him by his rank or 'Sir'. He stepped over to the replicator and ordered his drink. “Ullian green leaf tea, hot, one brown sugar stick on the side.” After the steaming, light green beverage had swirled into existence Charon picked it up and moved towards an open table. Miraculously there was still one open right under the curvature of the large windows, offering an amazing view of the thin lines that were the stars at warp.
He sat down and after putting the sugar stick into the tea he closed his eyes, lightly rubbing them with his fingers for a moment. Meanwhile the tea was spreading his elusive, pepperminty aroma around. After a moment he looked at Nexi. It was now that he really looked at her. His blue-greys resting upon her black eyes. “So, … “ he began, but took a sip before he continued. “ … where are you from?” It sounded like a honest question and if it hadn't been for the circumstances it could have been one.
"Well, ain't that a loaded question," Nexi replied with a laugh. "Too many places, Commander, far too many," she answered honestly as she leaned back in her chair, rocking on the back legs of the chair. She was sorely tempted to put her feet up on the table, but this place was far too clean for that. "Somehow I doubt you want small talk, but assuming I gave you a truthful answer, what is it you really want to know?"
Charon was typing on his pad not really listening what she was saying. No doubt it was some rehearsed speech that she gave people when they asked questions she did not want to answer.
“Listen, its simple really, I want to know what is in this for you.” He said and took a sip from his glass cup. “And don't try and give me that crap about being our prisoner. I know what it takes to keep people with skills like yours prisoner and what we are doing falls way short of that.” Charon said. “Way short. So what is keeping you on board?” He didn't sound to be doing anything but idle talk up to this point. But his last sentence had a strange quality to it. The 'why are you here?' of the question seemed to have a physical quality to it.
So much indeed that the people in the room stopped talking for a second and looked around. Most of them looked at their XO and asked each other for the time. Several of the crew actually got up and asked around if they were late for duty. It took a few seconds for the strange energy in the room to dissipate and a few moments longer for everything to go back to normal.
Charon himself hadn't even noticed the strange occurrences around him and that was most probably a good thing. His eyes were again fixed at Nexi's black ones but now they seemed to crackle with energy. He wanted an answer. A honest one. Albeit he was certain he wouldn't get one.
Nexi had the gall to laugh. Yeah, if she was a prisoner, then they were failing miserably at keeping her contained. Not that she thought of herself as a prisoner. "Definitely not a prisoner," Nexi said as her laughter subsided. "Chance brought me here, that's the truth. I came here to track down a debtor that skipped out on the Liquidators, nothing more. But your Captain made me an offer that caught my attention, so I'm staying for a little while. Once the job is done, I'm gone and I'll take my capture back to Ferengi space and you'll never hear from me again." She hoped he would be satisfied with that answer because that's all he was getting. The Captain knew the real reason Nexi was staying, but the answer she gave Charon was true enough that it should appease him.
"But what has me curious," Nexi continued as she rocked in her chair before swinging forward to rest her elbows on the table, leaning on the table to get closer to Charon as if it somehow intensified the truths hidden in his smoky blue grey eyes, "why are you here?" She smiled slightly as all her senses focused on the Ullian man, looking for any cracks in his mental defenses where she might find some interesting tidbit of information. "Everyone on this ship is nervous and agitated, the anticipation for what is to come is almost... suffocating. Everyone is new to what lays ahead of us. But not you... You're something else... I dare say you're like me, broken beyond saving." Her smile faded and she tilted her head curiously. "You've been through the furnace, haven't you? What did your trials make you into?" she asked.
Charon took another sip. He looked around the room and for a long while kept quiet. “I am a Starfleet officer and a doctor. If there is a way to help people then I will go and try to.” He finally said but it sounded more like he was trying to convince himself of that fact than talking to Nexi. “It is called compassion. Try it sometime.” He advised. With that said he got up and picked up his now empty cup so he could bring it back to the replicator to be recycled.
Images of his time in Romulan captivity flashed through his mind. The mental strain it put on him was not noticeable from the outside. Even for someone half Betazoid. Charon knew though that he needed to get back to his quarters.
When he was just about next to Nexi he stopped. “The Captain, Fairchild and Stanson, you'll have to watch out for them, so they don't interfere with whatever you have planned ...” His head turned towards her, his voice calm and manner of factly. “... but me, me you should be afraid of.” He had the nagging feeling that somehow this mission would not go as planed and his fear was that his control would slip at some point. And for reasons he could not put into words he had the feeling Nexi would be in largely responsible for anything that went wrong. And he feared for what might happen if he had already assigned blame by now.
"You are making the erroneous assumption that I have something nefarious planned, but I don't. I will do what I'm paid to do. What do I have to gain by doing otherwise?" Nexi asked as she rose, reclaiming her mug of coffee and taking a heavy swig. This man... He was walking on a razor's edge and she actually felt a minuscule fraction of compassion and even concern for his plight. She knew what he was living with, even if she didn't know the situation that had caused this unbalanced state.
"If there is a rogue element in this plan, it's you. I know where I stand and I have a pretty good idea about everyone else, but you are... on the edge of chaos. I can feel how madness dances on the edges of your sanity. You have to learn how to use it or it will consume you and bring everything and everyone around you to ruin." And Nexi was speaking from experience. What her mentor had taught her about using the madness had saved her life. She had been on a destructive path before, but now she was stronger for it.
Charon would have chuckled if his sense of humour hadn't been out of commission right now. She thought she understood. How cute. “I am not one to trust people. It has served me well in the past. And I will not make the mistake to trust someone such as you.” He said and the insult it was intended to be carried in his voice. “According to Starfleet Medical I am fit for duty. And as long as the Doctor Cage does not declare me otherwise I will continue with doing my job.” The fact that he could easily have himself replace Cage as CMO at any point in time and for any time period he wanted to made that all but impossible though.
Charon's head cocked slightly sideways. “Whatever you think you are 'feeling', is exactly what I want you to 'feel'.” He said to set Nexi's idea of him straight. Although unbeknownst to him she was close to understanding part of his trouble. “It takes a much more powerful telepath than you to be able to read me. It would be a good idea to keep that in mind.”
With that he started walking towards the replicator.
Nexi followed him to the replicator to freshen her coffee and top off the mug. "Maybe I ain't as strong a telepath as you, but I'm doing more than reading you telepathically. And I don't even need to be a telepath to see that your control over yourself is tenuous at best." Nexi was highly amused by this exchange. She wondered how far she could push him before he pushed back... "I ain't asking you to trust me, you would be a fool if you did. All I'm asking is for you to listen. Are you 'Fleeters even capable of listening?"
The truth was, ... no, he couldn't even think it. He wouldn't let himself. It was way to dangerous. He had managed so far. He had struggled for this level of control and he would not allow for his work to be for naught.
He placed the cup in the replicator and pushed a button on the control panel. With a swirl of light it vanished. He turned towards Nexi and after slowly and audibly breathing in and out he resumed their conversation. “And what exactly do you think that is? That advice that you think you can give me. That great revelation that I have missed all this time.” He asked with no lack of condescending tone. His senses now screaming at him to return to his quarters.
"No great revelation," Nexi said as she led him out of the lounge. She couldn't quite sense his desire to return to his quarters, but there was a sense of urgency, so it was just a logical leap to get him out of the lounge and away from people. "Don't try to hold it in," she started once they were out of earshot of other officers. "If you just keep holding it in, it will eventually consume you. It becomes your whole world, it's all you ever think about... Eventually it becomes all you can feel until later you just become numb and you feel nothing." Nexi allowed a fraction of real emotion leak out, let him feel her numbness, how unaffected she was over... everything. She was dead inside, and by all rights she shouldn't have cared if Charon went down the same path as she, but somehow she did care.
"Use it," she continued once her mental barriers had shut him out. "Channel the madness into something useful. I'm almost certain you don't wanna know what I channel my madness into, but I'm pretty sure it ain't gonna work for you given your occupation as a 'Fleeter. Whatever it is, you've gotta find a way to let it out in controlled doses. You can trust me when I say I don't wanna see you end up like me."
Walkig allongside her Charon thought about what she had said. Some day, when they had some time alone, he would show her. But that day was not today.
He stopped in his tracks. Shut up! He thought to himself. Shut up, shut up, shut up! This wasn't supposed to go like this. He was supposed to be stable. A model officer. Get yourself together! Charon scolded himself.
“That is a really … bad idea.” He said out loud and something strange gleamed in his eyes for but a second. It was gone fast and he was back to the way he was. Trying not to slip up. With slower steps he moved on.
"Fine, don't listen to me, let it eat you up inside," Nexi said in a jaded tone, "but one day, you won't be able to keep it in and it's gonna come out at the worst possible moment. It ain't like you need to do something about it right this second, just think about it."
Charon looked at her for a long moment. This woman seemed to misunderstand his predicament. That much was clear to him by now. “I think it is time for us to part ways. I do have quite a lot to take care of.” He said politely.
"Yeah, like hassling innocent guests minding their own business..." Nexi muttered under her breath. And as far as she was concerned, that's exactly what he had done to her. It was all good though, she got him all worked up and irritated. What was that human term? Karma?
|A Hurried Arrival
Exiting his transport shuttle, Lieutenant Richard Lockheart pulled his backpack over one of his shoulders. The tired officer wiped a bead of sweat from his brow. "This has been one hell of a morning," he muttered to himself. And indeed it was.
Lockheart's day started only 40 minutes ago, at 8:30, a matter of fact. Checking the time on his watch upon awakening, Richard's eyes widened. The shuttle he was scheduled for had left an hour ago. Richard quickly pulled out a PADD and pulled up the shuttle schedule There was only 10 minutes until the last shuttle left for the USS Hera! Last night, when Richard arrived on the station, he set his guest room's alarm for seven o'clock. But no, it seemed that Richard was too heavy a sleeper for any alarm clock. So upon waking up, Richard started grabbing his belongings, and stuffing them into his backpack. Hoping he had packed everything he needed, Richard raced out into the hallway, pulling a PADD from a backpack pocket. He pinpointed the shuttle bay of the station, and started running down the hallway.
What a peculiar sight that would be for an observer; a stout, portly fellow with a backpack half slung over his shoulder, sweating profusely as he runs as fast as his out of shape legs can carry him. Finally, Richard reached the shuttle bay, just as his shuttle's doors were closing. He rushed over to the shuttle, and banged against the door, yelling "Let me on, I'm very important!" The shuttle doors opened, and Richard hopped on, and took a seat. The shuttle shot off into the atmosphere, and reached the Hera at 8:58, just as the ship started preparing to leave orbit.
And so, leaning against the shuttle bay wall, Richard pulled another PADD from his pack, and downloaded the Hera's map. In silence, Richard started scrolling through the map, trying to memorize the layout of the ship.
Finally, Richard started down the hallway, and onto a turbolift. "Deck 7," Richard announced, and the lift shot up through the ship. The lift stopped, and Richard stepped out. Richard walked down the hallway, until he stopped at a door. Looking down at his PADD to verify his location, Richard opened the door and stepped in.
Four people were sitting down at a table meant for eight, at the center of the room. A large chart was laid out on the table, and a large screen stood right behind the head of the table, on the left side of the room. Two doors stood in the back of the room. All four people glanced up at Richard, but quickly returned to their planning. Out of the left door, walked a female Vulcan, who looked at Richard and said "Who might you be?". Richard looked back at the woman, a quizzical look on his face. "Err... I'm Lieutenant Lockheart, the Chief Strategic Operations Officer here. A better question to ask would be, who are you?". The lady was a bit taken aback, but quickly regained her composure. "My most sincere apologies, sir. I didn't recognize you. I'm Ensign Frall, your assistant." She gestured towards the men at the table. "These are your Strategic Operations Officers. We also have a Strategist's Mate, who's working in the back."
"This is the conference room. This is where we meet to discuss department related matters. The left door leads to the work room, where we, errr... work. The right door leads to your personal office." Richard nodded to the Ensign, and gave her a weak smile. "Thank you, Ensign. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some work to do." Richard opened the door on the right, and took in the scene of his office.
In the center of the room, stood a desk with a computer on it. A chair lay on either side of the desk, the simple guest chair much less luxurious than Richard's fancy, leather rotating chair. Behind the desk, in the back, a large screen was built into the wall. On the left side of the room, there was a replicator. "Nice place," Richard muttered to himself. Placing down his backpack right next to his desk, Richard sat down. He pulled up some files from the quadrant strat ops database, and got to work. For the next hour, Richard stufied all of the files we to current military operations. He hadn't worked in that or even the quadrant before, and it would help him to get his bearings. At about 10:20, Richard realized he had something else to take care of. Getting up from his chair and moving around his desk, Richard turned and walked out of his office, and the conference room. "You keep up the good work," Richard said to his officers as he strolled out into the halls.
Now, Richard decided to go see his commanding officer. Richard wasn't looking forward to this, as he was extremely late, and almost didn't make it onto the ship before it left orbit. However, Richard needed to get his assignment, so he could start working. And so, a few minutes later, Richard was parked outside the captain's ready room. Richard rang the door chime, and waited nervously outside for an answer.
Enalia had just gotten back to her ready room and settled in to work on some reports when the door chime went off. Turning her computer off, she looked to the door and composed herself, not knowing who it could be. "Come in," she called, hoping wasn't more drama on the other side of the door. She had had her fill last night thanks to her Chief Engineer.
Richard opened the door, and stepped into the doorway. "Excuse me, Commander," Richard said, looking at her rank pips. "I'm Lieutenant Richard Lockheart, this ship's Chief Strategic Ops Officer. I arrived a bit late, and I'm hoping I could receive some information regarding our mission." Richard straightened his uniform. It wouldn't do him well to make a bad impression on his CO.
Leaning forward and motioning to the chair across from her, Enalia smiled at the Lieutenant. "Ah, my almost missing officer. I'm the Captain of this ship, Commander Telvan. Glad you could make it." Sliding a spare mission data PaDD across her desk, she continued. "There's as much information as we have for now. Basically, we're stopping behind a pulsar, a team of 4 are taking a stealth modified runabout to a Romulan prison colony, and we're retrieving an operative. Once we have the operative, we act on her data. We have reason to believe she has information on a new bio weapon of some sort that may kill millions if not more. That's the summary, anyway."
Richard took a seat in the offered chair, and read his PADD. He mulled over the information for a few seconds. This mission seemed to have very high stakes. "A Romulan prison, captain? Do we know if there are any ships guarding it? We may be walking into a trap, with cloaked Romulan vessels hidden in the prison vicinity. We can't fire any antiproton beams, or set up a tachyon net without alerting the prison. Well, Captain, the point I may be trying to get at here, is that we don't seem to have enough information." Richard tapped his PADD with is finger. "There's quite a few variables unaccounted for here."
"Oh yeah, tons of them. That's why we're scanning the place when we get there. Our sensors are technically the best in the fleet and supposedly far ahead of theirs. Either way, we can detect most of their cloaks using that new subspace tachyon array. This is an Intel ops mission. I don't expect it to go well or smoothly. I can only hope for success." Enalia said, leaning back in her chair. "maybe you can fill in some other variables for me though. What exactly does a Strategic Operations Officer do and how is it you have a full team when every other department is understaffed? We've been sent on this top secret mission with over 200 crew not even assigned, let alone aboard."
Richard chuckled a bit, but wasn't very surprised. Most didn't know what strategic operations was, so he didn't expect her to know very much. "What strategic operations does, is all of the behind the scenes planning for all of the military operations, and keeping the ship's crew informed of what's going on in the big picture. We advise flag officers on what ships go where, what enemy targets are the highest priority, and so on."
" And staff wise, strategic ops isn't a very large department. My department has only seven members, me included. It's not very hard to get a full department. The great things about strategic ops is that officers of all backgrounds can work for strategic operations. Since strategic ops is mostly planning, we need a diverse group of people. Anyone, with a bit of training, can be a half decent strat ops officer."
Thinking on what he had said, Enalia furrowed her brow in contemplation. "So you're saying anyone can plan a life or death mission in your department with a little training? I hope that training is really good. I already assigned Commander Edomar the task of planning this first part of our mission so I guess you'll have to work closely with him. Good luck though - he's a restless sort and I think he's pushing himself too hard."
Richard gave the commander a small smile. "That isn't exactly what I meant. I mean that it's relatively easy to transfer to Strategic Ops from another department. Since a well rounded advisory team is very important to planning, anyone with a good deal of knowledge in any department can be a helpful strategic operations officer, with some amount of training. Also, I think you may be able to help me fill in one of my unknown variables. You see, I've worked my whole career planet-side, at Starfleet HQ. I was caught unawares when I received my transfer to the Hera. Do you have any information onto why I, specifically, have been given this position? I figured that if anyone could help me with that question, it would be you."
"The same reason everyone else is here, I guess. You were seen as the best person for the mission set we've been assigned. Why you specifically? Odds are someone thought you would be a good match for all the rogues we've collected here. The practical experience would help your career as well. On top of that, I assume you were in a position where they could easily make you disappear like the rest of us at the very least." Enalia explained as best she could. These were only educated guesses she was throwing out, but they were the most sensible, she thought.
Richard nodded in agreement. "Indeed, those were some of the conclusions I reached, also. Well, I should probably get back to work, soon. Is there anything else you'd wish to discuss?"
"I can't think of anything. Welcome aboard." Enalia said with a warm smile.
"Thank you, Commander. I will do my best to assure that our mission succeeds." Richard smiled back, and got up from his chair. Giving the captain a crisp salute, Lieutenant Lockheart headed to the door.
|A Snake In The Grass?
The more Angelica thought about it, the less she trusted Nexi. Considering she'd started with zero trust at all, that was saying something. Still, she couldn't help but find the woman intriguing. Databases and newsfeed searches turned up nothing, so soon she resigned herself to actually socializing with the woman and went to track her down.
Nexi was sitting on the loading ramp of her ship cleaning parts to be refurbished for repairs. More than that, she was guarding the entrance to her home, not really trusting the Engineers coming and going to keep their noses out of her business. Enalia had been kind enough to offer repairs for the Wandering Star, and Nexi wasn't going to pass that up! But that didn't mean she had to like that strangers were invading her home.
"What can I do for you, Lieutenant?" Nexi asked as she noticed the officer in Operations yellow. At first glance, one could assume she was just another Engineer, but there was intent in the woman's stride that hadn't gone unnoticed by Nexi, nor had she missed the unease in her stance, details that set her apart from the other officers in yellow. Clearly, this woman didn't trust her. Fair enough, Nexi didn't trust any of them either.
"You can start by explaining why you came to this ship." Angelica crossed her arms, adopting a more steely posture.
"Just business," Nexi said dismissively. "If my target hadn't been such an ass, I could have apprehended him without tripping any alarms, you wouldn't have even known either of us were here. You can ask him why he decided to stow away on this boat, I wouldn't care to know."
"I'm not interested in him. I'm interested in you."
"You know what, you don't like the answer, then don't ask the question," Nexi shot back. "I really was just on the job. I followed my mark here, that's why I came here. Why I'm staying is a different matter, but that's not what you asked."
"One could assume that would be the natural progression to the next question." This right here was why Angelica didn't much care for 'normal' Intelligence types. Their love of answering questions in half-riddles was too damned infuriating. "So why are you still here? And don't say it's because the captain wants you to. We both know that's a load of crap."
"The Captain did ask me to stay," Nexi replied with a grin, know this small bit of honesty was going to irritate the Security Officer to no end. Nexi may have agreed to this venture for personal reasons, but she had been genuinely intrigued by the Captain's offer and that was why she had stayed initially. "She got me curious, it amused me," she continued as she leaned back against the hull of her little ship as she worked on the parts in hand.
Hearing Nexi's answer, Angelica couldn't help smiling just a little. "All right then. I can believe that." And at least there's one person here looking forward to this. "Let's get one thing straight though... this crew is mine to protect. Step out of line and I will shoot you to keep them safe. No second chances like the one you got from the skipper."
The amused smile quickly faded from Nexi's face to be replaced by a glare of lethal seriousness as she paused in her cleaning. "You're not the only one with something worth protecting," Nexi said coldly. "And just 'cause I ain't one of you hoity-toity 'Fleeters don't mean I ain't got standards on how I do things. In my line of work, 'stepping out of line' don't just get you a slap on the wrist, it gets you dead, and since I rather like breathing I don't do stupid shit like that. Maybe some other crews can get away with back-stabbing, but that ain't the way I operate."
Nexi's features relaxed fractionally as she resumed polishing her ship parts. "I'm contracted to do as your Captain commands. Questioning my motives past that won't amount to anything."
"Just making sure we're on the same page." Satisfied with Nexi's response, Angelica smirked a little, pulling a combadge from her pocket and tossing it into Nexi's work area. "Seems we speak the same language. Let's keep it that way."
Nexi caught the commbadge and turned it over in her hand a few times as she watched Angelica. "And what about you?" Nexi said suspiciously. The Security officer seemed to fold rather easily to Nexi logic... Well, maybe not, but Nexi didn't get to where she was by trusting everyone who crossed her path, so maybe it was perfectly normal paranoia poking the back of her mind. "How do I know you and yours won't sell me up the river once the job is done?" she asked.
"You don't." Angelica didn't expect Nexi to trust her, not now or ever. "But I'll have you know that while you're here you'll get the same protection as the crew, so long as you keep to your word about not doing anything stupid."
"Then we are on the same page..." Nexi said with a wicked grin. She affixed the commbadge to her leather jacket and resumed her work on her ship parts. "Although we might have to have a discussion about what we both define as stupid. Sometimes I'm willing to take risks you 'Fleeters might call stupid."
"I'm security. 'Risky' means 'fun' to us." Angelica smirked a little. "Long as there's a logical reason, risks are fine."
"Sounds good to me," Nexi said with an amused smile. Maybe she would get along with these people after all!
|Things Go Too Wrong Part 1
||USS Hera Bridge
||30 minutes after shuttle launch
The shuttle was almost to the colony and no flags or alerts had been raised by this point. It seemed they were going to get there completely undetected. Enalia had been monitoring their progress on her console, practically holding her breath. It seemed the whole bridge had a certain expectant silence to it, as if even the ship herself were waiting for something to go extremely wrong. They didn't have to wait any longer as a ship started decloaking right in front of them.
The operations officer running the scans saw it first and switched the screen to the antique Klingon bird of prey. "Captain, Scout class Bird of Prey decloaking dead ahead. Range 200 kilometers." Pausing a moment, he took a few more readings. "They're not powering weapons or shields."
Standing and taking a couple steps towards the viewscreen, Enalia glared at the familiar profile of the ship before them. "Stay at yellow alert and open a channel. This is Captain Telvan of the USS Hera. We are conducting a scientific study of the effects of this star on the nearby planets. Would you like to join us?" If they didn't know their real mission, she hoped that would discourage their curiosity in the Hera's presence here.
When the screen came to life with the image of the other captain, Enalia's heart sank. This person she knew. This bitch was the one that had sent the Hera back to drydock on her last maiden voyage under Telvan's command. The sinister grin on her face told Enalia that she know why the Hera was here and that their mission was likely about to come to an abrupt bad end.
"Hello again, Captain." She spit the title out like an insult. "As I assume you remember, I'm the Captain of the Raptor, Azrhianna. I assume you're here about the Romulan prison not far from here. I don't suppose I can talk you into calling off your rescue, can I?"
Enalia's fists were clenched tight as the cynical Orion woman spoke. She certainly did remember her but she wasn't going to give her the satisfaction of letting her know she was right. "I'm sorry, I don't know what you're talking about. We're here on a routine survey mission. As I said, the effects of this star are very interesting."
"You know, if you lie too much you'll get wrinkles. Your sensor array isn't even pointing at the sun or any of the planets. Your people are heading into a trap and one that will make my current mission that much more difficult. I propose a temporary truce and... what do you call it... teamwork?" Azrhianna said, her words dripping with insincerity and sarcasm.
"We'll consider your words. Viewscreen off." As the screen returned to the view of the antique ship, Enalia stood there glaring at it, wishing her eyes were phasers tearing that ship apart. Forcing her jaw to relax and opening her clenched fists, she returned to her chair and looked to her XO. "I need options. She blew a large chunk out of my ship last time we met and I don't want a repeat of that."
'This is the exact reason why you don't trust SI' Charon thought with no lack of disgust. It showed on his face too. He did not like this development. “How did they know we were even here? The corona of the star should have masked our presence.” He interjected after the screen had been turned off, acid burning in his every word. As far as their options went he was not aware they had any. “And how do they know we are on a rescue mission.” Charon was now standing and pointing at the ship that was shown on the main view screen. “What kind of act is all this supposed to be? 'Secret mission' ...” Charon snorted and swallowed the hateful rant he had been about to let loose. The sides of his head had lost their grey dull colouration and were now flushed and visibly pumping with blood. He was wide awake now.
Turning around to his Captain he looked at her. The doubt in his eyes was hard to miss. “Good question. We can't trust that woman, but we just as well can't ignore the fact that our mission is compromised. For all we know the shuttle is about to be intercepted and all aboard will either be killed or taken hostage.” Charon knew all to well the effectiveness of the Tal Shiar. If some Captain of an old Klingon Bird of Prey could find out about their mission so could they.
Since the captain had asked for ideas though Charon complied. “Scan for sources of tetryon or chroniton particles.” He said in the direction of the science station. “Have Astrometrics support your effort.” With a few steps he was at the tactical console next to the Ensign manning it. “Use passive sensors to get a better idea of what our surprise guests are capable of. Try to find weak spots in the hull that we can exploit in a fight.” He ordered the tactical officer. Looking back to the centre of the bridge he said. “Everybody who does not have anything to do should think about what they know about this type of ship and how best to disable it.” He was hell bent on capturing the Captain of the Bird of Prey and beating the answer to who told her about their mission out of the woman. “Get to it!” He ordered energetically.
He made his way back towards his seat and sat down. Once there he picked up a PaDD, typed something into it and started to mutter to himself.
As the crew bustled to the XO's orders, Enalia sat there quietly thinking things over. Prior tachyon scans had shown no cloaked vessels, but that didn't mean there weren't any. For all they knew, there could be a powered down and cloaked warbird on the surface of the planet their team was about to land on. "What's your plan you old pirate?" she muttered under her breath. Looking over the sensor data, they had confirmed the age and registry of the klingon ship. It had been built so long ago it still had the old trigger happy cloaking device. Azrhianna knew about that flaw though, so they couldn't make use of it.
As tempted as she was to just order the ship's destruction, she wanted something more from the Orion woman. Enalia wanted revenge. Enalia wanted to make her watch as her own ship and crew burned before her eyes. There was no way she was putting her into the brig again, though. Perhaps Nexi could do another job for her soon...
But this was getting them nowhere. She breathed deeply before steeling herself and turning the screen back to the pirate's sinister face. "I want to know how you know about our mission and why you want our cooperation."
Azrhianna nodded slowly at the question. "A fair question. Here's a fair answer. Someone I need is there and I've been sitting here for almost a week when you almost rammed my ship jumping out of warp that fast. Like I said, this whole prison colony is a trap. I suspected they want me, but since you're here I'm not sure now. Believe it or not, that's the truth."
Muting the outgoing comm signal, Enalia sighed. "Scan for warp trails, see if there's one for the Raptor made recently."
Lieutenant Lockheart sat at the emergency manual override console, turned around and looking at the the view screen. Strat Ops didn't have any designated seats on the bridge, so Richard just took the closest empty seat. Mulling the situation over in his head, Richard became more and more concerned. If the Klingon vessel revealed anything about their mission publicly, the consequences could be disastrous. The Federation was supposed to be helping the Romulans regain their former strength. This mission had the potential to be scandalous, and could severely sour Federation-Romulan relations.
Though, thinking about it, the Federation and Klingons had been getting along quite well since the Dominion War. The Klingon ship wasn't a new, very advanced model, and had no real reason to be cloaked, as far as Richard was concerned. The captain was a seedy character, and didn't seem to be trustworthy in the slightest. Richard hopped up from his seat, and walked over to where the captain was standing. "Captain, this ship... You seem to know quite about it, and the other captain. Who is she? I simply don't believe she's working with the Klingons, so who does she work for?"
Enalia still had that look in her eyes that she wanted to kill something when Lt Lockheart began speaking, but they soon softened when she realized she was likely the only one aboard that would remember who that Orion woman was. "She's a pirate and one I dare say is one of the smartest and most nefarious ones out there. She works for no one but herself as far as I know. If you check the database, we've had a run in with her before. She killed a number of my crew and crippled the Hera, sending her back to drydock. She shows up now and then, wreaks some havoc, then vanishes for some time. The fact that she's here means she's about to do something big - likely in Federation space."
Looking between Lockheart and Charon, Enalia continued. "If you have a chance to capture her, don't. She'll want to be captured. Kill her. Cripple her. Blow up her ship. Do what it takes to get rid of her but whatever you do, do NOT let her aboard this ship. Is that understood?"
Charon nodded. Kill her on sight. He typed a short order into the small console on his armrest to inform security. “Security has been informed to shoot her on sight and shoot to kill.” He relayed to the Captain. In his head though a tiny voice was making itself heard with a great deal of anticipation. ”Oh please try and board our ship. Please please please!” A mad chuckle followed and Charon had to force it out of his mind. Slowly the voice faded and Charon had to massage the side of his head with on e hand. Another migraine developing. “So how are we going to deal with her? And what are we going to do about the away team? They need to be made aware of this change in circumstance.”
He wasn't sure how much this actually changed anything. After all he was sure that they were heading for a trap.
"We needed to assume it's a trap from the beginning. If we contact them now, the Romulans will detect the signal and figure out where the team is. There's nothing we actually can do right now, other than possibly cause a distraction." Enalia said, finally calm enough to think rationally. "The next question is, is she telling the truth. She's not known to flat out lie, so I'm inclined to believe her..."
Charon did not know weather to believe the Orion woman's claims. While he was still looking at his PaDD and working on ways to take care of the Bird of Prey an Ensign in the back spoke up.
“Captain, I am detecting a very faint warp signature. It is consistent with that of a Klingon Bird of Prey. It is dispersed almost completely. I can't pinpoint when they arrived but it was not recently.”
Charon took note of the Ensign's words but did not look up. He was again typing on the small screen on his armrest. “Captain, I am sending you the orders I just issued.” Charon nudged his head in the direction of the captains chair and the small console next to it. On it was an encrypted message. Charon had ordered the Torpedo bay to ready a few photon torpedoes and increase their yield. Secruity was taking up posts in vital areas of the ship. Tactical had been instructed to fire the modified torpedoes in case the Orion's ship was going to activate its cloak without Azrhianna having the curtsey of telling them first. With a properly aimed spread they would simply blow up the whole spatial grid that the Bird of Prey could be in right after going into cloak. Even if by chance it did not destroy the bird of prey it would disable it and leave it heavily damaged. The fun part was that the Hera did not have to target the enemy ship and therefore Azrhianna would not be able to tell what was in store for her. “I figured that would agree with you.” He said with determination. Funny. He was supposed to be an explorer and a healer. Here he was, planing to blow up an enemy ship. Oh the joy of being first officer.
”Come one, go over there you pansy. You know you can end this without bloodshed!” The tiny voice in his head said, malice oozing out of every word. For some reason Charon did neither ignore nor push the voice away this time.
Nodding at her screen, Enalia thought it over for a moment. "A good idea. Let's just hope she's not prepared for it." Looking up into his eyes, she continued. "I would like to get her aid if possible and I think I have an idea but I'll need to use you as a bartering chip. How much do you trust me?"
He had to roll that sentence around his head for a few moments. How much did he trust her? She was his captain and therefore he was obligated to give her some trust in advance. But really had she earned any of it yet? No. Maybe this would be her chance to do so.
“How about I answer that question afterwards?” He said in a low voice so the rest of the bridge would not hear it. The humans and those with even worse hearing anyway. “Tell me what you got in mind.”
"There's no way we can recall the team at this point so they're pretty much on their own. I want you go over to their ship with a viridium patch hidden on you as a sort of liaison. Most likely she'll want you on some sort of mission team so with that patch we'll be able to beam you and anyone near you out of just about anything. We should also be able to track their cloak while you're aboard if necessary." Enalia explained in hushed tones. "They'll have to go in and try to get their person during or after our team does their thing but at least they should think they have a chance using our team as a distraction. It's a pretty shoddy plan, isn't it?"
A viridium patch. That was actually a good idea. If the enemy could be fooled that easily. But it was worth a try. “It is a plan.” He said to bring the whole thing down more realistic levels. It was quite the gamble the captain was proposing. “I suppose you believe that you know her well enough to make that assessment.” He was wary that the Captain herself was not too sure about the outcome of this mission. He did not like to see a plan like this rest on assumptions. “Can we really say what she is going to do? You said yourself that she is very cunning.”
"I know she wants our help and that her weapons and shields are down supports that. She waited until our team was minutes from landing to rush our decision. She knows we can't signal them now without alerting the prison. Based on those 3 facts, I'm betting she's expecting me to want someone on her ship and that I'll have a way to track them. If so, she'll want to put her wife on our bridge. She's an assassin so as unapealing as the prospect is, we'll still have a slight advantage having you on her ship." In her own mind her reasoning was sound, but Enalia couldn't help but feel she was missing something. "I'm not sure she's here by coincidence, nor am I convinced she wants someone from the prison. Because of that, I'm thinking that she's the trap rather than the prison and the best way to disable a trap is to spring that trap."
“So we'll walk into her trap, knowing we do, and at least keep that slim advantage.” Charon said thoughtfully scratching his chin. Then he got up. “Okay, lets do it.” He said with a strange cheerful anticipation. In his head the tiny voice got louder. Yes, yesss! A mad chuckle echoed through his head. I am going to have so much fun. Charon didn't even try to fight it. He knew it was wrong but somehow the dangerous situation ahead did manage to weaken his resolve. If he had been perfectly honest he was not fit for duty in his condition. Not by a long shot. But then he was not being honest.
Standing and stepping towards the viewscreen, Enalia smiled almost wickedly. "Excellent then. Let's get this over with before the madness of it wears off, shall we? Ensign viewscreen back on please." As the other captain came back up on the screen, Enalia smiled brighter. "We've decided to help you. We can't contact our team now, so I'd like my first officer to coordinate our efforts from your bridge if that's ok."
The sinister Orion woman nodded. "I'll concede to that if you'll allow one of my officers to do the same. You can even restrain her if you like. I recommend we get moving though. Your team should be landing in moments and they'll need you to provide a distraction and me to provide support. I assume those are the roles to which you feel we best are suited for?"
Enalia nodded back. Either she was starting to think like this woman or this woman was making her dance to an even bigger tune. Either way, they got what was needed for now. "Thank you. Please stand by for transport." Signalling for the channel to be closed, she turned back to Charon. "Good luck."
”Oh but we won't need luck.” The tiny voice in Charons head said with glee and giggled like a little girl. “Thank you.” Charon managed to respond and made his way towards the turbolift. He would have to make a short detour to get that viridium patch Telvan had been speaking about.
While he was moving up the ramp that lead to the raised aft part of the bridge he spoke to the captain over the shoulder. “I will report in as often as possible.” With that he was in the turbolift and on his way to the Klingon Bird of Prey.
|Saying Hello And Asking A Favor
||USS Hera - LtCdr. Stanson's Office
||MD3 - 0900
The door chime on Stanson's office went of. In front of the door stood the first officer, waiting for a response from inside. Charon was looking tired. While it weren't the same signs as they were with humans - he lacked the dark circles around the eyes that humans showed as a sign of an extended period without sufficient rest - the one distinctly visible part of him that did set him apart from humans, the sides of his head where a humans temples would be, were a sickly grey-white. He hadn't slept much since the mission had started and still there were so many things to do and take care of. For now he was looking to talk to one Jennifer Stanson.
Jennifer looked up from her computer's moniter as the chime to her officer rang. She had begun plotting simulations of all the scenarios that could happen during the mission. She wanted to be ready for whatever would be thrown at them. She was usually the one being extracted not the other way around, but she was fairly certain that she could handle it. Her team, however, was another story. "Enter" she said to the person standing on the other side of the door.
When he entered the office the strain he was under was visible. He was focussing very hard on something. Of course Stanson would be hard pressed to tell it apart from his exhausted state it had nothing to do with his recent lack of sleep. He needed to talk to Stanson about a serious matter. And for that he needed to focus.
“Commander.” He greeted her. His head bobbed up and down in a small nod. Before he told her anything he put a pad down in front of her. On the PaDD was an old nursery rhyme from earth called 'Cock Robin'. “Did you settle in yet?” Charon asked. Of course there was the question of what he wanted her to do with the rhyme but he felt that she would question him soon enough.
Jennifer looked up at the ship's XO who she had just briefly met the other day. "Ah, Commander, nice of you to stop by." she said warm and welcoming manner. "I have settled in quite nicely, thank you for asking." she said as she glanced down at the PADD that the tall man had placed on her desk. "What is this?" she asked as she subtlety gestured towards the PADD.
When she did ask Charon's eyes locked with hers. “I could have gone to Fairchild, but really I did not want to bother her with this. You are far more qualified for this kind of thing. And believe me when I tell you that from me that is not a compliment.” Only after that did he take a seat opposite of Stanson. “Please, read it.” He encouraged her, his voice now far more pleasant than before. Than he leaned back in his chair and seemed to relax quite a bit. This would take a great burden of his back. He asked himself if she understood what kind of responsibility he was thrusting upon her, and how much trust he was paying her forward on this.
Jennifer picked up the PADD and began to read the document. "It seems like a nursery rhyme, as strange as it is. I'm not sure what you need my help with." as she finished reading the poem. This was confusing Jennifer a bit, why would he want her to read it?
Once she had read the rhyme it took a great load of his mind. He instantly relaxed and even looked hopeful. “For now you are to learn this and memorize it by heart. Don't even bother asking why. The answer will be that for now it is none of your concern. Being with SI you know the drill. Recite the rhyme a couple of times during the day. Not out loud, just in your head. You can do it in random intervals. That really doesn't matter. Once you have it properly memorized make sure you always remember it.”
He had to stress the 'always' to convey the urgency of this strange order. He sighed. His hand went to his forehead and he started to slowly massage the bridge of his nose. For a while he sat in his chair just massaging away. Finally he spoke up. “I am putting a lot of trust in you on this, do not make me regret that.”
Jennifer raised an eyebrow at the Commander. "Is that an order, sir?" she asked not understanding why this was necessary. It seemed like a joke to her, but his tone was serious. "I dont see why this I need to memorize this poem. Will it be useful to us on our mission?" she asked growing curious of the Commander's intentions.
Charon looked at her with the same gravity which he had carried in his eyes since he had entered Stanson's office. “Telling you what its about would make it a moot point Commander. If you want you can look at it as a personal favour I am asking of you. If I have to make it an order though then I will make it one.” He knew that it would be hard to understand what he was trying to accomplish with this. For now she would have to just do as he said. She would understand in time. “See it as a, while undeniably strange, fancy new addition to your skill set. It might not be one that lands on your resume but it will serve its purpose some day and you will be glad that you listened to the ramblings of a seemingly confused superior.”
Jennifer sat quietly, still a bit confused, however she would follow the Commander's request. She nodded then looked at the XO, "I'll have it memorized in no time, sir." she said. She took another look at the PADD with the rhyme on it then looked back up at the Commander, "Anything else you needed, sir?" she asked.
Charon visibly relaxed. It seemed to mean a lot to him to know this particular task taken care of. He knew it was in capable hands. “Good.” He breathed out for a second and his stare seemed to go off into the distance. It lasted but a moment, then it was gone. ”What did you do?” asked a tiny voice in Charons head. “I will leave you to your work then. I am sure you have a lot to do for the upcoming mission.” Charon said after he had returned into the here and now. For him the meeting was over now. Having been raised to be a polite man though he waited a moment for any questions Stanson might still have.
As she did clearly not have any more questions Charon left her to her work. Now a lot more at ease. The knowledge that he would have her to fall back on if need be.