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Sundered Wings

Starbase Bravo is host to a diplomatic crisis summit during the midst of a budding refugee crisis, as the Romulan Star Empire collapses.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (Briefing)

Starbase Bravo - Executive Conference Room 27C
May 2400

One of the many benefits of being the duty station for a fleet admiral–and often more than one–was that some of the tiresome aspects of protocol related to arrivals and departures at Starbase 4 were observed in the breach rather than the observance. Even full ambassadors were only rarely treated to the actual red carpet, honor guard, and Starfleet band extravaganza that protocol would demand for them on a less important starbase. 

By Vice Admiral Belvedere’s count, the crisis meeting that he was rushing to had no less than ten stars worth of flag officers, consular officials, and ministers. If each of them had been given their due ruffles and flourishes, bosun’s call, and assorted pomp and circumstance, the crisis would have been long over before the meeting itself.

“Commander, are you sure that there is no way you couldn’t deputize for me just this once?” Belvedere asked as he and his new aide walked down the hall from his office suite to one of the smaller conference rooms. It was a meeting of just twelve, so there was no need to reserve one of the large briefing halls. “I think I’d rather let the dust settle and read the after-action report.”

“I’m afraid not, Sir. Vice Admiral Dahlgren insisted on principals and aides for this one,” the young man replied, shaking his head. “Are you expecting fireworks?”

Belvedere chuckled gravely. “Given the topic of the meeting? Absolutely.”

The conference table had been expanded to its full size, with additional leaves sliding into place through an elaborate system built into the floor that allowed the table to seat anywhere from four to twelve. Thankfully, holographic nameplates had been activated; Belvedere considered his own ability to keep an ear to the ground on the political situation to be up there with the best, but he would be hard pressed to remember the name of the Fourth Fleet’s Assistant Deputy Commander for Administration, let alone the lieutenant assisting him. 

Dahlgren was the last to arrive, with his own aide in tow. Young for a three-star admiral at just 52, the Deputy Commander of the Fourth Fleet was charismatic, ambitious, and whip-smart. For Belvedere, his presence was also one of the downsides of Starbase 4 playing host to the Fourth Fleet. While his predecessor, Fleet Admiral Wolf, had been content to leave Belvedere to his own devices, this one was much more “hands-on” in a way that irked him. 

“Let’s get right down to it,” he said, slipping into the seat opposite Belvedere and pulling up a map of Romulan space on the holographic viewer. “In eighteen hours, this base is going to be the host of a crisis summit. Representatives from the Romulan Free State and the Romulan Republic, two purported representatives of the collapsing Romulan Star Empire, and representatives from half a dozen Romulan splinter factions. The Velorum sector block wants out, and no one’s particularly excited to support that idea,” the admiral explained.

Dahlgren’s aide cleared his throat. “Klingons,” Belvedere heard him whisper.

“Yes, thank you, Park. The Klingons are also sending a delegation, and we’ve received a report that the Kzinti may just drop by as well,” Dahlgren said. “Now, on the surface, I don’t think twenty or thirty parties at a conference is all that challenging, but it’s up to us to ensure that their retinues don’t end up killing each other–let alone the ambassadors.”

“Perhaps my head of security would be better suited for this meeting?” Belvedere suggested.

“I’m sure you can handle briefing your own staff, Admiral Belvedere. I’d rather this not appear to be an all-hands-on-deck situation, even if it turns into one,” Dahlgren clarified. “Along with the diplomatic situation, we are expecting another wave of refugees from Romulan space.”

Governor Tarsi Valinora shared a look with her aide, which Belvedere assumed was to express a telepathic burst of outrage at the idea of more refugees pouring into the Mellstoxx system.

“We are still finding homes and supplies for those who have ended up on our colony’s doorstep since the Century Storm, Admiral. I hope you mean to say that they will remain aboard the station,” the governor said sternly.

“I can’t predict the future, Governor. I hope you don’t mean to say that Mellstoxx III won’t honor her obligations, though. The Federation Charter is very clear in this regard,” Dahlgren chided. “The Corps of Engineers will be sending multiple teams to assist with any necessary construction.”

“Of course not… I’m just concerned that we continue to be the front door to the Federation when there are so many other worlds in the region that could also handle more refugees,” Valinora replied.

“And they will be, Governor.”

“I’ll prepare our medical facilities to expect incoming with injuries, psychological trauma, and malnutrition,” Rear Admiral Linda Stanton-Knox chimed in; she was the Fourth Fleet’s Surgeon-General, and her presence at the meeting suddenly made sense for Belvedere.

Belvedere rapped his fingers on the table for a moment. “I believe it would be prudent to employ as many cadets as are available to help support engineering and medical support tasks. The starbase crew will have their hands full with the summit and any other arrivals,” he noted.

Dahlgren nodded. “Whatever you think is best,” he replied; his quick assent somehow managed to annoy Belvedere more than pushback might have. “Let’s get to work, people.”

To the Line

Central Hospital 1
May 10, 2400

Longfellow’s Quarters – 0500

“It’s heartbreaking, Hen.”  Thea Longfellow filled the screen in his living room as he went about the process of getting ready for the day.  Both of them stood in the breach of the galactic disaster.  He was scheduled for the Central Hospital and she was assigned to a medical mission to offer aid to ships fleeing the situation in Romulan space.

“I know, T.  It’s hard to think about the difference in our worlds just a year ago, you know?”  He left the viewscreen and slipped on his uniform top, slipping the duty belt on as he stepped back into view, “They’re hurting…and so many of them are running from so much.  There are days being a doctor is the hardest thing.”

Thea leaned into her console, “It’s no easier out here.  We’re worried about being able to properly care for everyone we run into…they’re still organizing the fleets into a cohesive operation.  So much happened so quickly…as much as we thought we knew about this…this was a hard surprise.”  She leaned back, “There’s talk of us coming to Bravo at some point during all this.”

He looked up from tying his shoes, “That would be the greatest, T.  I mean, this situation is horrifying…but we’d be able to see each other.”  He shrugged through the guilt of being excited to see his wife in the backdrop of the darkness that was roiling the galaxy.

Thea chuckled softly, “My captain thinks I should apply to be transferred to Bravo down the road.”

Henry stood and gathered his PADDs in his messenger bag, “He’s not happy with you?”

Shaking her head she spoke, “No, he’s thrilled with me given how bad the guy was before me.  His wife serves on the other side of the sector and he told me he didn’t want anyone else to have to deal with it.”  She paused, “They’ve been doing it for two years…and he’s thinking of retiring.  Lots happened in the last few years in this galaxy.”

Longfellow sat back on the couch and sipped at his freshly brewed coffee, “He sounds tired.  I feel for him.”

His wife nodded at the screen, “He’s 65.  He says he’s been in space too long…needs to feel the earth beneath him.”  She thought for a moment, “You still think what we did was a good idea?”

A shrug from Longfellow, “I’ve found a purpose here…and good people to work with.  In the end, it’s about helping those that need the help and giving your best every day.”  Another shrug, “My hands are for healing…and there’s been plenty of that to go around…and more to come.  I miss you, mind you.”

She blushed and he did too.  A moment of quiet passed between them before she spoke, “I love you, H.  I miss you.”  Suddenly a klaxon rang out on her end and she groaned, “That sounds like a triage alert.  Another ship probably limping through space.  I’ll see you tomorrow.  Love you.”  

“Love you too, T.”  She blew him a kiss and the screen went blank.  He sat in the silence, the echo of the klaxon ringing in his ears.  He looked down at his hands.  “Time to get to these things to work, I think,” he whispered to himself.

Central Hospital 1- 0545

“Good morning, everyone.”  Longfellow stood in the main area of the Central Hospital.  He’d recently been promoted to Staff Physician and his rank polished up to a full lieutenant.  He had been keeping Infirmary 4 running smoothly with his nurse Asato, but that had all changed in the last 48 hours.  News had spread quickly after departments were briefed and the news reports began to be shared and read across the station.  The Romulan Star Empire was no longer and the chaos that follows the fall of a galactic government had not taken long to be felt from one end of the galaxy to the other.  

He’d been informed his new shift started at 0515 in the Central Hospital as the waves of refugees, survivors, and everyone seeking safety were coming to Starbase Bravo.  This was why he stood, surrounded by the medical staff on the day’s first shift.  They needed to be ready.  He pulled up his PADD, “Thank you for getting here a little early.  We’ve activated all of six infirmary units in anticipation of the incoming traffic.”  He gave a nod to the departing engineering and operations crew in the corridor, “We’ve also opened and staffed the Central Hospital 2 as we don’t have a good idea on numbers of folks coming to us, but it is approximated to be a great number and we want to be ready to help them get aboard, get triaged and have as smooth a transition as possible.”  He gestured to the check-in desk and then beyond, “The communications and operations department has been helpful in working with us – they’ll be handling, in tandem with our folks, any kind of dispatch, calls for care, transfer orders, codes – the whole lot.”  He turned to Asato.

Hiro had taken on the charge nurse role temporarily and had several PADDs in her hands, “Nursing staff will be supporting, reporting, triaging, and working to make sure everyone’s got either a tag or identification information.  Our goal is to make them feel welcome and warmly embraced given the various situations that are fleeing.  You’ve been through several of these training exercises this month, so it’s just a matter of kicking in that muscle memory.  Your assignments, nursing staffing, orderly information, and other assorted support staff can be found on your PADDs.  We’ve already got a number of ships lining up for offload at the docking ports.  We’re going active and receiving at 0600.”  She returned her attention to Longfellow.

Henry gave a nod as he spoke, “We have a unique job ahead of us, folks.  Let’s treat them well, and help them find strength and comfort in the midst of all this.  You have your assignments…let’s get to it.”  The gathered group quickly broke apart and moved with haste to their stations.  Longfellow followed Hiro to their section assignment.  She quickly activated the console at the charge nurse station as he checked in with the various officers and crewmembers who were assisting them.  He returned to Asato with a quiet look, “We’re as ready as we’re going to be, Hiro-san.”

She returned the look, “We work with incredible medical professionals, Sensai.  I have rarely seen the kind of coming together as I have seen in the last two days.  We accept the things we can change, and the lives we can impact…the rest is for the gods, fate, or whoever is in control.”

Her former teacher chuckled quietly, “You’re very philosophical very early in the morning.”  He shook his head, still smiling, “Coffee is what gets me functional and moving.”

A roll of her eyes was her response, “Sensai, you have your ways of keeping your practices, I have mine.”

“Fair enough, Hiro-san.”  They returned to preparing for the arrivals in silence.

Path of Ț’Ril

Trillius Prime
5+ Years Ago

Four years prior to Heriah’s joining with the Rex symbiont…

The Alle’Ke’Zonda’er monk opened the door before Heriah and said, “The High Priest will see you now.”

It had been a month of intense study and reading and philosophy and religious teaching and living the life of the Alle’Ke’Zonda’er before Heriah was given her few moments to speak with the High Priest.

The Alle’Ke’Zonda’er were, in fact, Trill. The vast majority of them were a subspecies of the Trill, spotless and with a pronounced brow line on the forehead. Still, they were Trill all the same. They had originally taken the ancient name Ț’Ril, but seeing that as being the name of their goddess deity, they went with the, much harder to pronounce, Alle’Ke’Zonda’er.

Heriah Khatain went there on a field study trip for her socio-philosophical studies class at a university on Trillius Prime. She wanted to better understand that religion surrounding Ț’Ril and what better way to get answers than to speak with the High Priest, but there was no better way to speak to him without spending a month of diving into the faith.

Finally, Heriah’s moment had come and, though she was filled with religious knowledge, she had even more questions then than she had ever had before.

“Heriah Khatain,” announced one of the monks as she entered. The doors were closed behind her, their closing echoed off the tall walls and the high ceiling. The room was dark, save for five lit areas, four of which monks were kneeling in the light. The fifth was occupied by the High Priest, likewise kneeling. In the middle was another lit spot along the floor, meant for the one seeking answers; Heriah.

“Come, young one,” said the High Priest. “Join us.”

Heriah arrived at her location and knelt down.

“Please sit comfortably if you desire. We do not judge here.”

Heriah remained in a kneeling position, both knees pressed upon the floor. “This is how I desire,” her voice echoed and she nearly wanted to withdraw. There was no hiding her voice. Even a mere whisper could be clearly heard by the other five.

“So be it,” said the High Priest. “You come to us with questions.”

“I do. I…”

“…am from the university. Here on a class assignment. You arrived with a list of questions you wanted answers to, but now…”

“…but now,” she repeated. “Now, I have different questions. More questions.”

“Without the time to learn the answers to them all,” he finished.

“It is written, in the Codex of Ț’Ril, that it can take a lifetime or more to learn.”

The High Priest smiled. “And the next verse?”

“It can also take a lifetime or more to learn that it did not need to take a lifetime or more to learn.”

“But merely a moment,” he finished. “Only one moment of clear understanding.”

“What is it,” she began, “that will take a lifetime or more to know that it did not have to take a lifetime or more to know?”

“You seek the identity of the final secret of the Alle’Ke’Zonda’er. That knowledge is not for you to have right now, young one. Perhaps, in a lifetime or more, you will come to understand. You will realize you knew it already and all along.”

Heriah almost gave a singular chuckle as she asked, “Can I have a hint?”

The High Priest did find that funny but answered, “No, I cannot provide you with a hint to what you most likely already know.” The High Priest sat there, kneeling, with his eyes closed and head back as though in a deep meditation. “I do have something for you however. It seems Ț’Ril wants me to tell you that there is something hidden from you.”

“Hidden?” Heriah looked around at the other four monks who showed no response. They were only observing and learning themselves.

“Yes,” returned the High Priest. “Hidden information that defines who you are. Hidden from you by someone close to you.”

Heriah mentally listed off those she counted as close to her. The list was long. “Can I figure out who and…”

“Only when you declothe yourself will you be aware of this knowledge.”

Heriah pondered his words a brief second. Already thinking she had interpreted his word incorrectly, she reached for her shirt. “You mean…?”

“Oh no!” said the High Priest and he laughed at the misinterpretation. He even stretched out a hand to ensure Heriah did not actually declothe herself before them. “Ț’Ril means for you to be declothed of what you armor yourself with.”

“Armor? I…”

“The armor of knowledge and education. That which you know to be true and fact. You defend yourself against anyone who would naysay against something you know to be true, right?”

“Well sometimes people need to be corrected.”

The High Priest was shaking his head. “Do not do that. Instead, declothe yourself of what your armor yourself with. Rid yourself of your knowledge and education. Remove what hinders you from complete understanding and the knowledge that defines who you are, Heriah Khatain, will avail itself.”

Yes, she had gotten that idea many times in her reading of the codex. But to hear it repeated to her aloud, and by the High Priest, it took on another level of meaning and importance. “I…do not know how to do that.”

“No, you do not,” he replied. “But…oh what is it that Earth religion says?”

“There are many Earth religions,” returned a monk. Heriah turned to see who.

The High Priest shrugged and pointed about the other monks. “Someone help me out. It says that…oh yeah…This will come like a thief in the night.”

“A…thief…in the…”

“You will not be prepared, young one,” the High Priest spoke up. “And Ț’Ril also wants you to know that there will be great suffering, a terrible trial and tribulation. Only those that you surround yourself with who know and love you will be able to help you survive what is to come.”

“You’re joking, right?” she asked, wondering if there was to be a life-threatening event in her life. “Ț’Ril is really telling you all that?” Heriah’s voice took on a somber yet unbelieving tone. Even the other four monks stirred slightly at her outburst. “You are telling me that I need to keep people around me at all times who know and love me, because, without them, I will be in grave danger?”

“No,” the High Priest smiled. “Ț’Ril is saying that, without them, you are completely safe.”

In the past month, Heriah had been exposed to many riddles and much scripture that seemed impossible to understand, yet elementary at the same time. In this case, she gathered that reclusing herself would keep her safe but the defining knowledge she sought would never come to her and that surrounding herself with people who would know and love her would be paramount to her survival when the knowledge came to her like a thief in the night.

Though Heriah felt she understood his meaning, she also felt that, “I do not fully understand your meaning.”

“Such is life,” he said.

“And you call yourselves Alle’Ke’Zonda’er,” to which the High Priest nodded, “which means…please bear with me…They who have been made completely righteous by their own doing, right here and now and forevermore.”

The High Priest nodded with a somber smile.

“And are you completely righteous,” she asked him.

The High Priest looked upon her and finally gave words to his glare. “Ask your inquiry in another way.”

“High Priest,” Heriah began, “are you Alle’Ke’Zonda’er?”

The High Priest looked to his left. “Yiran,” he called out, “are you Alle’Ke’Zonda’er?”

“I try, High Priest,” was the response.

“Landor,” to this right, “are you Alle’Ke’Zonda’er?”

“I try, High Priest,” was the response.

The High Priest looked back at Heriah, nodded and motioned with his hands.

Heriah understood his desire for her to repeat her question. “High Priest, are you…”

“’I try’ is the only answer you should ever receive. For if someone who has not tasted death were to say they are Alle’Ke’Zonda’er, know that they cannot know this. They are deluding themselves. Trying to be Alle’Ke’Zonda’er is the best we can do.”

“I understand High Priest.”

“And I doubt that.” The chamber grew quiet as he and Heriah shared a stare. “I understand you seek military service.”

Heriah did mention that a few times during the previous month. She did not know what the significance of him bringing it up was. Still, “Yes, but Starfleet. Not the military of Trillius Prime. I wish to be far away if…” and she figured he already knew the next part as well so, “…if I cannot be joined with a symbiont.”

“Our kind joining with a symbiont is not something you should actively seek and fight for. Nor is it something you should run from if the decision is not in your favor. Joining simply is…or is not.”

Being joined with a symbiont had been Heriah’s dream for so many years and many had been in favor while so many more, mainly her own family, being against the idea. And, for the first time, Heriah felt a degree of selfishness if she had spoken up about it again.

“Our time has reached it conclusion young one,” came the voice of the High Priest.

“But, High Priest, I have more questions.”

“And not the time to ask them. Answers will come.”

“In a lifetime or more,” she said with a disappointing tone to her voice.

“Your defining revelation will come far sooner,” he prophesied. “Just keep, around you, those who know and love you.”

“And if I do not.”

“Then your defining revelation will not come far sooner. Perhaps it will be a lifetime or more. Perhaps never.”

A monk appeared beside Heriah holding a hand out to help her up.

“High Priest, I do not understand.”

“That, I do not doubt. There are other students who came with you, yes?”

“Yes, but…”

“And we have only so many hours in the day and they deserve their time to ask questions.”

The monk was practically pulling Heriah up from her kneeling position. “But I need to know…”

“…and you will…in time,” he said. “Do not rush knowledge. Do not rush wisdom. Only fools do that.”

Heriah was standing and the monk was gently trying to pull her away. She yanked her hand free from his grip and faced the High Priest. Finally, there came some form of realization. She was about to act foolish.

“Forgive me, High Priest,” she gave a bow. “And thank you for your time.”

“There is nothing to forgive. And you are welcome to return to us, anytime.”

Heriah was certain it would take another month of study, reading, meditating and waiting to see him again. But he was right, knowledge did not need to be rushed and she came to the realization that most answers did not need his wisdom, that his wisdom came from the Codex of Ț’Ril. Reading the codex and learning its messages perhaps would not provide the same wisdom as it was simply the beginning of wisdom. Than again, all things had a beginning. Heriah would have to start somewhere.

Open the Gates

Civilian In-Processing
2400

Heriah took a breath.

Desks were set up, computer terminals were up and running, PADDs were ready for processing information and other equipment was on and ready to be used in any event. Medical personnel were spread about the area. Junior officers from Command were also present as well as plenty of civilian volunteers and enlisted on top of a quartermaster and his team. Heriah was given a team of a few counselors and enlisted counseling assistants and they too were spread about the area. Colorful felt ropes were put in place to help the flow of the foot traffic that was about to come down upon them all. There were some Ops personnel but she did not spot Cynndle just yet.

‘Could be busy elsewhere.’

The bay doors from the civilian docking area slid open and already a near stampede of people exploded inward. Though there were ‘Quiet Please’ signs all over the walls, everyone speaking all at once caused the decibels to increase dramatically and the voices to merge into one constant and thunderous rumble. And, of course there was escalation. As two people who were talking, suddenly realized they could not hear each other, they raised their voices. As did the rest of the herd of multitudinous races and species comprising civilians, those arriving for the Crisis Summit, travelers, refugees, adults, children, races who appeared to be lions, some as tigers, a few as bears.

“Oh my,” said Heriah.

Immediately Bravo personnel burst into action, shouting and pointing, helping people find where they needed to go. Medical personnel were on the spot with their medical tricorders and first aid kits to help anyone who was injured. Counseling was there for mental health, to help reunite children with their parents or to get them all together in areas for their parents to find them later.

It did not take long for a small hand to grab at Heriah’s. She instinctively took it and looked down to see a Romulan child sucking his thumb and looking at her with these large puppy eyes. He had yellow-greenish subdermal splotches for bruises. His hair was a mess and he said nothing at all. Heriah quickly scooped him up, shielded him, and shouldered her way to the child collection area. It was really an area of storage rooms filled with toys and food for the children and to keep some separate from others in the event violence was to ensue among them.

Heriah saw that violence was probably not going to ensue as she saw the varied volunteers already herding children clearly not being accompanied by parents or guardians. Many of the female volunteers were Qowat Milat nuns. As they generally fought for lost causes, and as they felt them finding the parents of all the children was going to be a lost cause, they openly offered their skills, sans their weapons of course.

She handed the Romulan child off to a human worker who immediately consoled the child and took him to a play area with other Romulans. None of the Qowat Milat moved. They simply stared out and kept guard. Should any strange adult come forward without a picture or a name or no recognition from the other children, that would be when the Qowat Milat would move and not to the benefit of the strange adult either.

Heriah ventured back into the slow stampede. She called out her profession, shouted for Romulans to go toward one direction, Bolians that way, humans another way, and on and on. She answered questions quickly, pointed adults toward where the children were if they were looking for the children, toward the quartermaster if they were looking for billets, customs if they were looking to stay a while, security for asylum, engineering if they had damaged tech. Command staff were busy likewise herding people this way and that, taking notes and stock and other information for station census records.

Heriah came upon an obese Romulan who quickly spat out his name and title to the first Starfleet uniform he came across. And that uniform was Heriah.

“I am here for the crisis summit,” he shouted over the other shouting voices. “I have a grievance…” and the commotion increased drowning out his words.

It did not really matter though, as Heriah did not have the time to really care about who he was or what he was doing. She was already pointing him toward the Romulan checkpoint as he did not seem to be in need of any counseling. From deep within her memory, streaming from the Rex symbiont, Heriah recalled an old Romulan war cry, typically shouted by one who was attacking, one who expected to die in the attack as he was willing to give over his very life to accomplish his goal. And this war cry was actually audible in Heriah’s ears. Despite the chaotic sounds of everyone talking and shoving and moving this way and that, Heriah heard the war cry. There came a small opening to her side, behind the obese Romulan and that opening was quickly filled by another Romulan, fire in his eyes, gritting his teeth and balling his fists. Those fiery eyes were set upon the back of the head of the obese Romulan. Heriah quickly pushed him forward, stepped into the way of the attacker and, just as Refkin would have done, she posited her thenar webspace into his throat, ran an arm under his own arm, grabbing his shoulder blade, tripped him and flung him to the floor.

“Go. Sir.” She pointed at the obese Romulan. “Go. That way. Now.”

As he scampered off, Heriah lifted the attacking Romulan to his feet. He did not provide much help as he was coughing profusely and holding his throat, temporarily unable to speak. An enlisted security personnel arrived and Heriah handed the attacker off to him. She did not care what the situation was, though it was most likely squabbling among Romulan factions as the empire was in shambles. Again, she paid it no further mind.

What Heriah did pay mind to was the opening of a door in the distance. For this event, it was meant for Starfleet and other authorized personnel only and, as a Starfleet uniform stepped through, out of the corridor and into this madhouse, Heriah caught sight of a ponytail fluttering about and going into the corridor as the oblivious Starfleet personnel was stepping away. She lost him in the fray but shouted and shouldered her way to that door and went through.

With the rumble of the madhouse continuing but muffled to a great and agreeable degree, Heriah looked forward and saw no one else in the corridor; no little person with a ponytail.

“Little girl,” Heriah called out assuming it was a little girl. She stepped forward and came upon an intersection. “Little girl!” Looking in each direction to include from where she came, Heriah saw no one. She picked a direction and started off in a light jog. “Little girl.”

Up ahead, Heriah heard what sounded like the work of an engineer. A wall panel was removed and then quickly replaced. “Hey,” she called out, but upon rounding the next intersection in the direction of the sound, Heriah saw no one. She turned and thought she saw the final glimpse of the little girl disappear down the next intersection.

‘Just like those old Earth movies,’ and she started in a jog toward that location but again was met with an empty corridor as she arrived.

“Little girl!” she called out again but was already expecting no response.

Heriah did spot something out of the ordinary though. Recalling the removal and replacement of a wall panel she heard earlier, she saw what looked to be an awkwardly replace wall panel. One corner was sticking out as though someone replaced it in a hurry and scurried off. Grabbing the panel, Heriah removed it. Placing it to the side, she looked in at what the panel was protecting and saw some cut wires and what she recognized as a nonfunctional power relay.

She looked in all directions and still there was no little girl. Also, there was no suspect. Heriah only hoped the two were not the same person and that some sign, fingerprints or the like, were left behind for someone to find.

Sighing, she slapped at her commbadge. “Rex to Oin’sun. Better grab Lihran. I found another power junction tampered with. And avoid standard turbolifts as you approach docking. It’s a madhouse down here. Better take a maintenance lift instead.”

Candy from a Pakled

Civilian In-Processing
2400

Runaite held fast to her right arm up near the shoulder. Removing it only to again review the wet smear of verdant on her palm, she replaced it. A singular green bead had escaped the opening in her arm and ventured toward her elbow.

“I need a doctor,” she said, but her words were barely audible in the mass of people, all shouting and pushing and moving and pointing and, “I need a doctor.” Her words were about as noticeable as her sub five foot height in a crowd of people mostly taller than she.

Runaite rather enjoyed her short stature, though it was not to last long once she reach her teenage years. For now though, being only 9 years of age, the less she was noticed and the less people attended to her, the better.

“I need a doctor,” she said again and a blue uniformed Starfleet type appeared ahead as the crowd parted just a bit. Runaite shouldered and elbowed her way to the uniform’s location. All the while doing her best to press her hand against the cut on her shoulder. “Are you a doctor,” she called out to him as she arrived.

The uniform nodded, noticed the situation and pulled a portable dermal regenerator.

“Here,” he said as he knelt down to her height, “Let me see.” The uniform gently pulled her hand away from her shoulder to reveal the cut. He was quick with the dermal regenerator as she scanned it over her injury.

Runaite flicked her eyes back and forth between the uniform and her wound but was more closely studying the dermal regenerator. She felt the cut close and the pain wane away. In just a few short seconds, the cut was completely gone and only a verdant smear gave any indication that she had even been injured. The uniform pulled a rag from his pocket but it was too late as Runaite was already wiping her hand on her own shirt. She did take the rag though.

As planned, one of the older kids showed and ‘accidentally’ bumped into the knelt down uniform. Runaite placed her foot behind the foot the uniform balanced most of his weight on and gave him a hard push. A flail of his arms proved no use as he was sent sprawling about on the floor. The gaggle of people around had to watch their footing for that short moment and, during that short moment, Runaite planted a knee on the uniform’s arm and grabbed at the dermal regenerator. Snatching it, she shot up and started away. The uniform called out but Runaite had already disappeared into the crowd. Her short stature shielding her from discovery. Another bit of armor was that simply describing her as a ‘female Romulan child’ accurately described about half of the Romulan children there already. ‘A female Romulan child with a Starfleet issued dermal regenerator’ was a better descriptor so Runaite knew she had to offload it fast.

Runaite made her way away from the mass conglomeration of multitudinous persons that the Starfleet uniforms were having to deal with and to sort, bolted through a door, down a corridor, rounding and intersection, down another corridor, into an open hatch someone referred to as Jefferies, down an length of latter, out another hatch, into and through another civilian area, through another door, navigating yet another system of corridors and into an old storage room and current headquarters.

Runaite held out the dermal regenerator and even tossed it up, allowing it to flip in the air before catching it a few times as she strolled up to the alpha, another girl, maybe 13 years old and half Cardassian half something else, but she did not really know. Nor did she care all that much. It did not really matter either. She was the alpha.

Runaite arrived at her location and handed over the dermal regenerator.

“You got it,” said the alpha, rather surprised.

“Like taking candy from a Pakled,” Runaite replied.

“Looks like we may make a Space Girl out of you yet.”

The Babysitters’ Club

Cadet Management Offices, Starbase Bravo
May 2400

“You want us to do what?” Callahan said before he could stop himself, and the closest to salvaging the situation was to add an inadequately-apologetic, “Sir.”

Lieutenant Rykeen, one of the supervisors from the Mellstoxx campus assigned to oversee the cadets living and working on the starbase, gave a tired raise of the eyebrow. “It’s a routine training mission. We have a selection of cadets who, after their last simulated exercise, would benefit from a live situation where they might be less inclined to play, shall we say, fast-and-loose. A simple survey operation by runabout should give them some low-stakes responsibility.”

“But not too much responsibility,” Callahan pressed on, “because you want Ensign Connolly and me there.”

Rykeen clasped his hands on the desk and gave Callahan and Connolly both an insincere smile. “You’ve been considered a good fit,” he said, and declined to explain if this was a sign of their superiors’ trust in them, or a suggestion they, too, needed to prove their mettle. “As I said. It’s a simple survey operation. Get them some hands-on experience managing the runabout’s systems, give them a long rein in planning and deciding the surveying. You have the star charts and headings and protocols. Any questions?”

Yeah, why me? That was the first thought that occurred to Connolly, but he immediately pushed it down. Callahan’s attitude had already placed them on thin ice with the Lieutenant, more attitude from Connolly would only make things worse and as the most junior officer in the room, he’d be first to feel a boot in his ass. “None from me, sir.” Connolly’s resigned tone probably didn’t do him any favours but he couldn’t mask it.

“Then you have your mission plan and your orders.” Rykeen smiled like he was doing them a favour, and the favour was a box of snakes. “Dismissed.”

They were out in the corridor before Callahan spoke again, throwing his hands in the air. “Who’d we piss off?” While the question was rhetorical, a look of slow-dawning horror crept across his expression, and he gave Connolly a quick look. “You didn’t do something that’s got back to Captain Horin, did you? Good or bad?” It wasn’t beyond imagination that this was some staff member’s idea of a reward.

“No.” Connolly replied indignantly, which was immediately replaced by self-doubt. “At least, I don’t think so.” How eyes narrowed when a thought struck him. “How do we know this has anything to do with me? Maybe you’re the reason we’re here, though I don’t understand how we’ve been tied together on this. We don’t have much interaction in the course of our day-to-day duties.”

“None of these kids are really Security,” Callahan agreed, studying his PADD. “So I really don’t know why I’m here. Rank? Maybe I really annoyed the Old Man and he decided to teach me a lesson. But he wouldn’t be coy.” He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “We must have got ourselves into this mess separately. Damn. So more important, how do we get out of it? I don’t mean land ourselves in Sickbay so we can’t, but I’m kind of open to ideas…”

Connolly wasn’t sure which idea he hated more; supervising the cadets or an injury painful enough to land them in Sickbay. “We could get you drunk.” The tactical officer offered. “They can’t send us off to supervise cadets if you can’t stand up unaided.” He would have suggested they both get drunk but he decided that was too big a risk for him.

“Why do I have to be the one who gets into hot water? And if that goes wrong, you end up supervising them alone,” Callahan pointed out, and made a face. “I think the only thing worse than doing this, is doing this without backup.” He sighed. “Maybe we can use this to let you show off your leadership acumen, or something. They have to think you got something in you to sign us up for babysitting four cadets.”

The thought of supervising the cadets without support sent a chill down Connolly’s spine, causing him to visibly shudder. “Y’know what? Your right. Let’s not look at this as a punishment but as an opportunity. We’ll take these cadets out on their little excursion, make a good impression and maybe some higher up will look favourably upon us.”

Despite committing to the mission being his idea, Callahan laughed and clapped Connolly on the back. “That’s what I like about you, Aiden. You’re the perennial optimist.” Chuckling, he shook his head, and his gaze turned a shade more sincere. “Nah, seriously. We’re taking some cadets on a routine survey mission so they can feel like they’re wearing grown-up shoes doing something mundane. How bad can it get?”

No longer a cadet.. part 1

Starbase Bravo
4 June 2400

Hard to believe that 24 hours ago I was a cadet and now I’m an Ensign.

 S’Atilen thinks to himself as he watches the approaching star base grow in size through the shuttles view screens. 48 Hours ago I left this very same star base as a cadet and today I return realizing that in truth, again, I’m starting over.

Nodding  his head and absently correcting the lay of his new yellow tunic across his shoulders and chest.. Looking down at his PADD again reading though his orders.

(Reading to himself in a slightly lower than normal tone) Hmmm operations officer, well gotta start somewhere I guess, though to tell the truth I would rather have this assignment than the linguist slot that was my number two choiceI’m hoping to get into intelligence or even communication roles where my linguistic skills would better fit the needs of the fleet than being some stuffed shirt assigned to protocol. (Shivers at the thought).

S’Atilen notices the blinking new message icon on his PADD.. What does Kr’Antren want now? He just saw me yesterday after the graduation. He could have waited another 20 minutes to rub it in that he is two years my senior and I have to call him sir now, even though technically I’m older than him even if it is by an hour.

Taps on the message to open it.

Ensign S’Atilen,

Make sure you report to the officer of the deck when your shuttle lands, don’t wander off thinking just because you were a cadet 48 hours ago on the station that you think you know where your going and what you are doing..

haaa, got that part out of the way .. Told mom and dad this morning I would get one in on you.

I am leaving this morning, probably about the time you are due to arrive for my new assignment. I’m hoping to get assigned  as a helmsman on something bigger than the Runabout though I gained a lot of experience flying that little ship.  As such I won’t be there to meet you upon your arrival as we had planned. Rest assured though I called in a favor or two and made sure your crates would be in your new quarters including that hunk of rock that mom and dad sent. Remember as dad always told us “find your senior Noncom and learn from them, they are the ones whom really run everything.” I have found this to be true and it greatly helped me with learning what it meant to be in the real star fleet versus being in the academy and learning it all from books and sims. Well gotta run.

Your brother,

Ensign Kr’Antren

S’Atilen reads through it quickly a second time , with a slight purring chuckle. Well so much for that morning cup of espresso he promised me..

“Ensigns (the helms man announces through the intercom) we will be finished docking in about 1 minute if you would like to proceed to the main door, let me be the first to welcome you to Star Base Bravo home of the Fourth Fleet. Live long and prosper.”

S’Atilen stands up give himself a quick once over, shoulders his duffel, grabs his PADD and makes his way to the main door.

New Beginnings and All That Sort of Thing

Various: Alberna Colony, Mellstoxx system
January 2390 / May 2400

Ten years ago: Tassemir System, Alberna Colony

“They hate me. I ruined everything for them.”

“I doubt that very much, on either count.”

Two women, one with flame-red hair barely out of her teens, the other with long dark locs that flowed across her shoulders and age-wrinkles around her eyes, sat beneath a flowering Qyidda tree. 

Alberna Colony smelled like peaches and candy this time of year, when the Qyidda fruit ripened and the harvesters were all working furiously to process, store, and ship the fresh fruit. The younger woman, Muninn Musgrave, glanced up from the twig she was methodically breaking between her thumbs. She wondered, not for the first time, if somewhere out among the stars Adeyemi had a family of her own. The older woman never talked about her past, despite that she listened endlessly to Muninn.

“You don’t know them,” Muninn said after a time. “They wanted me to make something of myself. I think… they wanted to prove that all the risks they took were worth it. Oh, I don’t know…” she tossed the bits of stick away.

“Well, perhaps that is all the case,” Adeyemi said. She smiled at the horizon, where the big red sun slouched slowly toward evening. “But what about you? Would you like to finish what you started? Join Starfleet? See the galaxy?”

“I see plenty of the galaxy as it is.”

Adeyemi laughed, a wonderful bray of good humor that bounced around the Qyidda orchard like music. “Spending all your time on little colony worlds, listening to an old neo-zennite ramble on about consciousness and enlightenment?”

“I like the karate, too.”

“Ah, well, in that case…” Adeyemi winked. But then her face grew serious once more. “No, attend when I say this, please. If you leave this thing unfinished, if you don’t go and challenge your own failures, they will have mastery over you. This moment in time will be your companion, your dark bedfellow, forever.”

“You make it sound so dramatic. So serious.”

“Well, it is.” Adeyemi shrugged. “A matter of life and death, in fact. Live with the knowledge that you chose not to go down that path, maybe die regretting it. We’re all just summations of our choices. Trees forever branching in the direction of the sky. And besides… I know that this haunts you. Your parents may have pushed you toward the dream of Starfleet, but it became your dream as well. You could do good work there.”

Muninn thought on this for a time, and as always Adeyemi seemed pleased to let the silence linger. 

Returning home. That was the big question, or part of it. She could not quite disentangle returning home and attending the Academy, as if one bled into the other, like watercolors spread on wet paper. But either choice would mean facing up to her parents, as well as facing up to her own failures and fears. She caught Adeyemi watching her.

“You know I’m right,” Adeyemi said, brown eyes warm.

“Yeah,” Muninn said after a moment, “I know.”

They sat there together in silence until the sun finally went down behind the trees, and the haze of the golden hour spread throughout the orchard. And, as she sat, Muninn began to plan. 

Ten Years Later, Present Day: Mellstoxx System, en route to Starbase Bravo

 

“Entering Mellstoxx system now, please prepare your belongings for departure.” The musically feminine computer voice standard across Starfleet floated from the ambient speakers in the wall and ceiling of Muninn Musgrave’s small berth. She sat up on the edge of the bunk and stretched, feeling a growing tingle of excitement and impatience.

After six days at mid-warp, she had finally arrived. 

The SS Albatross did personnel runs through half the sector and had the routine down to a level of efficiency that would make a Vulcan’s heart go pitter-patter. Muninn glanced at her two bags of personal possessions, double-checking her earlier packing and mentally categorizing everything they contained. Keepsakes from her travels, a few framed photos, her diploma and various degree plaques, and clothes. Like most everyone in the 25th century, her uniforms and much of the simpler clothing she wore came direct from the matter-energy replicators standard across the galaxy. But what computers could do perfectly, sentient skill and artistic effort could always do better. Most of the clothes she owned, that weren’t simply nostalgic (like her old Captain Proton T-shirt), were hand-tailored designs modeled after antiques from Earth’s distant past. 

“Computer, would you open a viewscreen, please?” 

The computer answered her husky Mezzo with a bright chime. A moment later, a holographic screen materialized in the air before her, pre-centered on the distant shape of Starbase Bravo. Muninn exhaled a quiet “Wow” as she took it in. It reminded her vaguely of a mushroom, with the same shield-crown as the older Spacedock-Class starbases. But Bravo’s trunk was thicker by far, and at the trunk’s mid-section a mass of disc-shaped modules and protruding docking bays gave her design a certain bulk that the more streamlined Spacedock lacked. 

Between her two years of solo-travel across Federation space a decade earlier, and her extended time at Starfleet Academy, Muninn did not feel like a stranger to space travel or the impressive vacuum constructs fielded by the many species and governments of the galaxy. A fair number of the century-and-a-half-old Spacedock starbases were still in operation, like the one in Earth orbit, and they were impressive gargantua on their own. But this new Guardian-class starbase was something different. Eschewing sleek and elegant for sheer weight and power, she clearly represented Starfleet’s desire to marry the diplomatic and scientific design philosophies of the past with the strategic and military necessities of the chaotic present. A marriage which could not fail to impress.

Muninn briefly thought about the old Regula-class starbase above Alberna Colony, and of her final goodbye to Adeyemi there all those years ago. She made a mental note to compose a letter to her old friend and mentor as soon as she settled in aboard her new post; it had been almost two months since their last exchange. 

A chime sounded again, and the computer’s ambient voice spoke throughout the transport. “Docking with Starbase Bravo, Sector India-Navy in five minutes. Please remain in your quarters until the captain gives the all-clear.”

“Here we go,” Muninn said to herself as she hoisted her bag over her shoulder. “New beginnings and all that. What-ho.” She grinned as the familiar excitement of a new post tingled across her shoulders. Somehow, this felt like the step she’d been waiting for. 

No longer a cadet.. part 2

Starbase Bravo
5 June 2400

Exiting the shuttle S’Atilen looks around ears twitching as he listens to the guidance of the various dock workers around him pointing him towards the turbo lifts while also looking for the Deck Officers he knows should be around here waiting on the new arrivals such as him and the others he came up with.. Ladies and Gents, I believe the deck officers are over that way by those turbo lifts on the left hand side.

S’Atilen shrugs the duffel on his shoulder into a spot where it will not be bumped into by others in the dock and makes his way towards the deck officers..

”englyDuvaD jatlh ghllghameS“ as he proceeds to to the deck officer in front of him noticing that the ensign is Klingon.. 

(deck officer looks up from his PADD, noticing the ensign in front of him) Not bad Klingon there ensign, PADD please.. ahh yes, Ensign S’Atilen your assigned to the operations department. A couple days early from the looks of it but I’m sure they wouldn’t mind you reporting in early with all the crises summit issues going on. I’ve marked your assigned quarters on your PADD. Welcome to Starbase Bravo..

several minutes later S’Atilen arrives at his assigned quarters, double checks the name plate to make sure he is at the correct ones.. upon entering he realizes that his suite mate has not arrived yet.. He drops his duffel in the shared area and walk into his personal space.. noticing the crates he can’t but help to let out a slight chuckle at what favors Kr’Antren had to call in in order to get those to his room already.. oh well his loss is my gain..

The first crate that he opens is one of three from Star Fleet Academy – Earth.. opening it he let out a slight purr seeing the loving care it was packed probably by his mom. he takes out the unassembled table and looks down at the 3/5 scale copy of the Earthen stone known as the Rosetta Stone.. looking around his room and noticing corner of the room that his desk sits he decides that would be a good spot for it.

S’Atilen  spends the next few hours unpacking his crates and his duffel putting everything away in some sort of an order where he hopefully doesn’t forget where he put it all..

We’ll I guess I can walk around the promenades see if there is anything else I may need for the quarters, pick it up now before some emergency hits that we may need the items.. Besides stopping my Cosmo coffee and getting a cup of the real stuff sounds nice right about now before dinner time.. as he steps through the door to his new quarters nodding to few folks he knows and a few that he doesn’t but can only assume that they are his new neighbors..

He Ain’t Got Nobody to Listen To

MellStoxx System, Starbase Bravo, Sector India-Navy
May 2400

The SS Albatross slid into its assigned docking bay only a few minutes later than expected. Impressive, Muninn thought, considering the sheer business of the spacelanes in the area. Traffic control must be a massive pain to organize for a station of this size and complexity.

As soon as the computer gave the all-clear, Muninn hoisted her luggage and exited her room, careful to leave it as clean as she had found it. Little actions like that, she found, bled back into the universe in surprising ways. Besides, the small ship’s crew were a friendly and overworked bunch. If she could make life easier on them, she was happy to do so. 

She departed the little ship through the access port a minute later, and got her first look at her new home. If the traffic outside the station had seemed hectic, it was nothing compared to the traffic inside. 

She knew from reading the starbase specifications that a Guardian-class usually held a compliment of a hundred-thousand or so souls, but as she left the docking bay she felt as if all hundred-thousand were standing on her head. The noise was like the background crash of the ocean on the San Francisco coast, with as much movement as driftwood in a storm. Yet, the cavernous ceiling above, stretched with walkways and ringed by two higher levels to accommodate the massive number of civilian docking bays, seemed to absorb the roar and dull it, giving Muninn the impression of being lost inside hollow mountain.

As she stood there in awe, she was buffeted by the flow of the crowd. Some “Excuse me’s” and a few “Watch where you’re going’s” were thrown her direction as she hauled her bag out of the flow of traffic. Normally, her height and muscle made her feel like the odd one out in a crowd, but here there were just too many people, from too many races, and all seemed to have somewhere they desperately needed to be. After the quiet atmosphere of the SS Albatross and the strict routine of the USS Hastings, it all came as a bit of a culture shock.

Away from the docking areas, over the heads of the majority of the crowd, she spotted what looked like a concourse with eateries and rest areas for harried travelers. She made toward this bastion with all good haste, trying not to slam into anyone coming the other direction.

Before taking more than a dozen steps, however, a loud baritone broke through the noise.

“Lieutenant! Lieutenant Musgrave?”

Muninn turned to see a big, round-bellied Bolian in the teal-shouldered uniform of medical or science, waving to her from the other side of a flow of outgoing traffic. She made her way over, and he smiled at her, his heavy blue face clearly matching the racial stereotype of friendly and outgoing.

“You, ah, are Lieutenant Musgrave, Junior-Grade?” he asked once she reached him.

“That’s me,” she said. “Reporting for temporary assignment to Bravo Station. Good lord…” two teenage girls crashed by her as she stood there, rushing off across the busy concourse. Muninn stared after them. “Is it always this busy here?”

“About to get moreso, I’m afraid. But this is a bit more hectic than normal, quite so. The situation with the peace talks has everyone on edge, and half the civilian docks are overloaded with this new wave of refugees. Romulan and Reman, mostly. Oh, forgive me…” he held out a large blue hand. “I’m Lish. Lieutenant Lish Dinalin.”

She shook his hand, matching his smile. “Well, it’s more than I’m used to, sir. But I’m sure I’ll settle in quickly.”

“Quite so! And good timing, too, counseling is always short-staffed even at the best of times, but with all these refugees coming in the stress could fracture a hull. You must be exhausted after the trip here, though?”

“Oh, it’s fine. She was a bit cramped, but I needed to read up on the posting anyway. Small places give me time to think.”

“Ha!” Lish chortled. “Small places make me claustrophobic. But you’ll appreciate the size of the officers’ quarters here, I’m sure. More than you’d get just about anywhere else, and private, too! Why don’t I show you there, and we can talk about your first day as we go?”

“Sure thing,” Muninn said, not disguising the relief she felt at not having to figure out where things were on her own. “Do you do this for all the new arrivals?” 

They started pushing their way toward the far side of the wide open docking area. A row of turbolift doors filled the brushed chrome wall ahead, constantly opening and closing with the ebb and flow of people coming and going.

“No, but I try to make time whenever possible.” Lish glanced at her and shrugged. “And we really have been short-staffed in counseling. We’ve got a few other full-timers, and two relatively new additions besides yourself, but we’re overworked. There’s been some talk of getting medical-track Academy students in to fulfill some of their mandatory clinic hours, but that requires supervision.”

“That’s right, there’s a whole Academy division in this system, isn’t there. I would have thought that counselors would be easy to come by.”

“Well, like I said, it’s a matter of supervision and proper training.” They weaved their way through the crowd, past a bawling child and her harried parents, and past a stall selling snacks from ten different worlds. Lish continued, unabated, “The Mellstoxx IIII academy is on a Betazoid colony, did you know? Well, there’s a bit of a gravitation toward the counseling and medical tracks as you’d expect, but we haven’t set up a proper integration with Starbase Bravo personnel. I’ve been speaking about this with everyone I can find who will listen for the last two years, but so far, I’ve been ignored! Can you believe that?”Muninn suppressed a chuckle. She found the Bolian proclivity toward oversharing mildly endearing, but knew that not everyone shared her opinion. It certainly seemed likely that, after a while, Lish might become one of those background noises that you sort of tuned out, if you weren’t already interested in what he was saying.

“Where are they going, then? The students, I mean.”

“Ships, mostly, for field training. But the Betazoids like keeping things planetside. One of their funny customs, I suppose. Or maybe it’s just some overzealous admin holding on to the reins. I cannot fathom anyone making a mistake like this through anything but deliberate means. After all, clinic hours have to be accrued somehow, and cadets are already aboard Bravo for work in other departments as a matter of mandatory training!”

“But not counseling?”

“No! Voluntary assignment requests only. I ah…” Lish glanced at her as they reached the turbolift area and waited for one of the lifts to clear. “…well, I was wondering if you might be interested in helping me with this little project. The other new arrivals I mentioned have already been pulled off on other assignments, or are dealing with triaging the refugees. All important, of course, but I feel that if we could just get a little more done with regard to getting a proper cadet rotation…”

“Sure, I’d be happy to help.” So, not an accident that he met me after all. Muninn silently wondered just how long Lish had been hoping to find someone to help out with his little project. Not that she minded overmuch, it seemed like a good way to get introduced to the station.

“Well!” Lish clapped his hands. His grin shone like a lighthouse beacon. “That will be fine, then! Of course, it’s all in the planning stages now, and this is just a side-assignment, I don’t know where the system will have you placed for normal duty hours, and then there’s the issue of clearing it past the Chief Medical Officer, she’s a bit of an iceberg, that one…”

They stepped into a just-emptied turbolift and the doors closed out the docking area with Lish still rattling away cheerfully all his plans and ideas in one incredibly unbroken patter.

Commencement

USS Fantail en route to Starbase Bravo
June 2400

“All I’m saying is, why do two Romulans need to take over the entire lower deck and relegate all of us up here for the return to Bravo?” Katlyn kept her voice low and quiet while she aimed her question at Nia, the two of them at the controls of the New Atlantis-class runabout USS Fantail. Not because she was afraid of their rather unexpected guests hearing them, but because of their supervisors for the aborted survival training exercise they had been in the form of Lieutenant Callahan and Ensign Connolly. “And isn’t it odd we got sent on a survival exercise so far from the station, then redirected to intercept a courier and bring Romulans, actual Star Empire Romulans back to the station?”

Her mind was in two places, conversing with her fellow cadet but also on flying the Fantail. There was nothing at all wrong with how she’d handled the runabout when she’d been required to, her flying precise and technical to a fault, but while the craft was just lopping along at warp, there was no need for her to continually check and recheck, but she did it anyway. Mistakes she couldn’t tolerate or accept in front of others. The slightest deviation was corrected well before any alert would have raised a query with the two cadets at the controls.

Walking into the cockpit with a tray of hot drinks, including a mug of hot chocolate for himself, Tate stifled a yawn. Though she was trying to be quiet, Tate could hear from the edge of the cockpit. “Katlyn, are you still trying to convince Nia that there’s some conspiracy going on here?” He went over and handed them their drinks before he took a seat at the port station. Bringing up the latest readings of the runabout’s status as well as the recent sensor sweeps, he could see that there was nothing of interest. 

“No,” Katlyn answered back. “Maybe,” she corrected herself immediately. “Just, it’s odd. Normally we’d be closer to base or just use a shuttle. Not sent so far out, or in this,” she waved a hand to indicate the whole runabout. “And now we’re all stuck up here while they get the whole lower deck.” 

“I just think if you think too much into it then you’ll find yourself looking for answers that either you don’t need to know or answers that aren’t true or helpful,” Tate remarked as he took a sip from his drink. “Obviously, we were the nearest vessel to help and there’s a reason why our guests need their privacy.”

“I’m trying to stay away from this line of thinking,” Nia grumbled. “Parze’s got me wondering if anything and everything is a test or a secret drill or something. For all we know, those Romulans could be holograms or impostors or something, and all of this is about how well we behave in a mysterious situation with nobody explaining orders.” For the umpteenth time, she double-checked their navigational feed. “Or we’re supposed to demonstrate our independent thinking and give the officers a hard time.” This last was said with far too-sweet innocence.

Settled at the starboard-side console, behind the others, Cadet Lyrakkiton Parze had been content to pretend she couldn’t hear the whispering.  The Saurian’s claws clicked on the control panel, tabbing through menus containing the subtle vagaries of the runabout’s environmental systems.  However, at the mention of holograms and imposters, Parze chimed in to say, “Nah, the production values feel too real to me.  This time.  I can’t explain the long division of it, but I don’t think they would risk Romulans on mind games and double-bluffs?  Especially when it’s not the Romulans the Federation likes.”

A sudden series of beeps, of the angry sort, emanated from Katlyn’s panel and she brought up the report straight away. “Starboard warp power coupling fluctuation?” she asked out loud, before bringing up the computer’s recommended actions list to read out. “Reduce speed to warp four or lower to conduct automated diagnostic.” Easy enough to start with, her hands going to the throttle controls, which beeped at her angrily in response to her command. “Uh…no response to throttle. Nia, can you try?”

“Uh…” Nia jabbed impatiently at her controls as she tried to wrest command of the disobedient thrusters. “I can adjust our heading but otherwise, I got nothing. Guys?” She raised her voice as she only glanced over her shoulder at the other two. “What’s going on with our systems? Nav control’s intact but I’m getting no response from the warp core. Is this a connection issue?”

Moving his fingers across the console at almost transwarp speeds, Horin checked his readings swiftly. “No, there’s an issue with the-” He didn’t get a chance to finish his sentence when the next emergency arrived. 

Barely were the stabs at explanation out before the next klaxon came on, and this was from overhead rather than one console. “Warning,” said the computer in its somehow inadequately urgent tone, “Warp field stability failing. Recalibrate antimatter flow or disperse field.

“Oh,” Nia muttered, jaw tight. “That’s gonna bring the officers running.”

Horin, who had been at the engineering controls, had pulled up the holographic interface to see what was going on. “I’m attempting to pull up the recalibration subroutine, but it’s not responding. I’m diverting emergency power to the containment system; it should give us a bit more time.” The runabout started to shake and Horin’s temper at the system not responding to him increased. “Damn it, the calibration controls aren’t working. We may have to eject the core!”

Swiveling her chair to face the others, Parze enthused, “If you have to do it, do it.  We don’t want a repeat of the Exeter.”  Gone was Parze’s typical sing-song of perfectionism and pondering.  The words came out clipped with no second-guessing.  No hesitation.  As far as Parze’s vote was concerned, she said, “If you can’t fix it, eject the damn warp core.”

It was perhaps a mixed blessing that this was the point Callahan and Connolly appeared in the cockpit, summoned by either the alert klaxon or the screaming. Neither looked like it left the two young officers with much idea of what was going on, despite Callahan’s somewhat shaky bark of, “Report!” as he burst in.

Nia made the executive decision at that point. “Report is that we’re ditching the core.” And gave no more time to argue before her hand shot out to hammer the control.

The Fantail went spinning out of warp speed as its beating heart was burst from its chest. But though the rollercoaster would slow, though the spinning would halt, though the battered and bruised and startled crew aboard could bring the runabout back in-rein, it was all about to get a lot worse.

A Scheduled Follow-up

Starbase Bravo
May 2400

Cynndle sighed as he stepped off the turbo lift after a long day overseeing the station intake of refugees from the star empire. “Who would have thought the collapsed of an interstellar empire would have such a knock-on effect…” he said as he think how comfortable his bed in his quarters would be right now but it was not meant to be. After several weeks of cross-training on the doctor’s orders, he was seeing Heriah again for another session.

‘Should be an interesting session, have to admit the first one went well. Can not really count the holodeck or the random coffee as a session but got to know her more so that’s good. Seems like a good person…but there is something more there…not sure what though…’ he thinks as he walks down the corridor walking past several other officers and civilians. Turning the corner he spots her door and walks up hitting the buzzer.

“No one’s in there,” Heriah said as she stepped up. She had been, in the previous several seconds combatting the urge to sneak up from behind and scared him, but, though the thought was funny, she was just not up to doing that. “I’m not late, am I? Just got done with another shift of making impromptu house calls among the refugees.”

Cynndle smiles as he sees Heriah approach. “Well, maybe a few minutes” he responds with a slight laugh clearly pulling her leg. He takes a step back to let her access her quarter, “How are the house calls going? I know they have been through a lot, seeing them when they come off the transports really puts things in perspective.”

“It certainly does,” she replied. “Just hearing what these people have gone through, sometimes just to get here, it staggering. I hear a lot of the same thing and…”

‘It is rather quite numbing, hearing these freeloaders…’

“…and I cannot help but to want to do all I can. Figuring out what that is though…” and Heriah could only shake her head. “But they are here and they are safe. For now, that is what matters.”

She stepped into proximity of her door and it slid open. Heriah stepped to the side with, “you first.”

“Thanks,” he says with a quick nod and steps inside and quickly surveys the room.

Inside, Heriah’s quarters were not exactly squared away but it was not a mess either. The pair of Thai Dhas, normally hanging over her bed were resting upon the table where her black and red Trill lilacs resided in their twin vase. A well used Starfleet issued PT uniform was splayed out on her bed. And the bed was not even properly made, as per Starfleet Basic Training standards that is.

“Why Ensign! Do you always leave your quarters in such a disorganized state” Cynndle says with mock shock.

“Oh,” she said with a laugh, “I would like to see your quarters.” Heriah quickly decided to add, “after you have pulled long shifts, with an enormous workload…that is.”

“You got me there” he responses with a laugh.

“So, not sure how the second session is meant to go Heriah. Shall I take a seat?” He says as he moves over to the tables and examines the Trill lilacs; “You know I didn’t take the time to smell these before, they are very nice. I see why you have them as a centrepiece.”

She watched as he bent down to sniff at the lilacs. “It is a tradition for Joined Trills to pick two lilacs of different colors and scents. It is symbolical of the union between host and symbiont. You see, the Trill lilac grows in many different colors and each has a different scent. They can also be interbred to form new and custom colors and scents.” Heriah chose red and black as the colors to represent her and Rex. “Together they can be seen as their separate colors but the scents of each merge into something unique.”

“Not every day you learn something new about botany, the possibilities within their pairing must be substantial. So which one is for Heriah and for Rex? And is the black natural? It’s not a colour often seen on flowers, at least ones I am familiar with.” Cynndle says without turning away from the flowers.

“The black lilac is a double-hybrid of the blue and red lilacs. Of course that produces a purple lilac. ‘Double-hybrid’ means you keep hybridizing; adding reds and blues to the cross pollination process until it eventually grows black. That one,” she lightly touched the black lilac, “symbolizes Rex as he has seen and is the product of many hosts…”

‘…and my heart is black. My thoughts…’

“And this one,” she touched the red, “grows naturally and without hybridity. It symbolizes me.”

‘…and is also the color of blood.’

“The black lilac puts out a scent that many would claim brings forth an array of emotions and feelings, mostly because it smells like many different things. The red, however, has a specifically sweet smell that is said to balance out the chaotic sensations of the prior.”

Cocking his head slightly to the side Cynndle thinks on that for a second. “I can see that. The smell of the black reminded me of events that got my adrenaline going…both the good and bad were almost overpowering though the red as you said is sweet, relaxing almost.” Pausing for a moment he walks around the table slowly looking at the flowers and the pair of Thai Dhas. “I guess I can understand the Black for Rex. All those lives and experiences I can only imagine that it could be chaotic if one chooses to describe it in such a way…” stoping he realizes that he was asking things that might be a bit personal and that this might not be the right setting. “Sorry if that was a bit too personal I know that the relationship with the symbiont and host isn’t really talked about much and this is a counselling session…”

“Outside of our sessions, I would be happy to talk about that. As you surmise, it is oftentimes personal but I do not mind sharing that with acquaintances.” Heriah motioned toward the chair nearest him, “Please sit,” as it looked as though he had been standing for the bulk of the day. “Or stand. You can slowly pace about the room if you prefer. As I said before, I am here for you. You are here for you. We are all here for you.”

‘Can you please come up with a new phrase?’

“Our meeting can play out however you like.”

“I am glad to have the options I guess,” he says with a shrug before sitting down in the chair and leans back, “Mine as well sit, I have been on my feet for hours.”

“Yes, I’ve heard a little bit about some damaged power relays,” Heriah said as she claimed a chair across from him, “disabled conduits and the like. Still having issues with someone being naughty?”

With that Cynndle let out an exasperated sigh, “Honestly it is being a real headache. I am 95% sure now that it is a gang of kids, well, teenagers who are doing it to mess around but every time I get close to ID’ing a pattern several outliers appear which throws it all off. It is concerning as I am pretty sure they were involved, either directly with it or told someone how to mess with the power and circuitry thus scrambling the internal sensors when Longfellow was attacked. Just really need to get to the bottom of it. But I am closing in. That’s it in a nutshell really.”

Heriah thought shortly on it. Rex’s memories from his time with Luftine provided her with a few theories; a coincidental happenstance where destructive teenagers are acting alongside a real criminal, teenagers being coerced by said criminal in an attempt to cover his own tracks or a an industrious criminal with various MOs to throw off investigation.

Heriah grabbed her PADD and called up Cynndle’s file. “I see you have been cross training. How is that working out for you?”

Nodding at the comment, “Yeah, I have done rotations in the dockyards, security, engineer and maintenance. It has been helpful to get a different perspective on the work within the station and to also met the staff. I know there is no instant fix but I am definitely feeling like my old self. I also properly unpacked my quarters right after our last session. Figured that would help me settle in.”

“Do know this,” she said, punctuating a little sincerity in her voice, “once you work into a routine, and yes you can work into a cross training routine, as the work comes more naturally, you may find your mind focusing back on what it is you have been struggling with. It is perfectly natural and do not attempt to resist unless your work demands your full attention. As you have been able to free yourself of this burden for some time, as it returns, and as your thoughts and memories have had a chance to settle, you will better see that you did all you could, that all, those that survived as well as those who were lost, would want you to carry on and continue being the best version of yourself. The loss will never go away, but the pain…the pain will be greatly lessened.

“I appreciate that, when I think back to the Dawnbringer and my colleagues the pain of their loss is still there. I will admit I try not to think on it and still am keeping myself busy but I am trying to make time for myself and such.”

“Well, these are things that you do need to think on,” she said, “in the stead of avoid the thoughts. Yes, you should keep your work before you and your priorities in order. Try not to dwell on these thoughts when they crop up at inopportune times. Do try to make time for these thoughts however. It is like making time for friends and company. Only this company will all be in your head. Gut reactions,” she said with a small laugh, “say this is kind of crazy but this is actually very natural and very healthy.”

Cynndle looks at her, his hands together and chin resting on his outstretched pointer fingers. “A part of me does think that sounds a bit, well nuts, they are gone….but I get what you are saying I think. I have to process the loss and the associated feelings. Not thinking about it or dwelling on it running from them, did I get that right?”

Heriah gave a nod and a reassuring smile.

“It’s not that I don’t want to address this, it’s just, well difficult.  I have never been over great at processing my feelings, so I have been told by several people…” he pauses leaving that hanging for a few moments as he leans back in the chair and looks at the ceilings… ”a fault apparently I have.”

“Humans do not have the zhian’tara.” Heriah shrugged awkwardly. “It’s a Trill practice. What I mean by this is…for you to process feelings and to deal with memories…you have to force yourself, you have to call the memories forth. It is through sheer force of will that you do this thing. For the Trill…and the zhian’tara…we start a ritual and everything happens, but not through will. That is an advantage I think humans have on us Trill.”

“There is a book I would like for you to read,” the idea suddenly exploded in Heriah’s mind. “My counselor at the Academy,” she said without thought but decided to explain no further, “yes, I had a counselor. It was mandatory for the course,” was all the explanation she decided to offer. “He wanted me to read Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut. It is a story about a guy dealing with the memory of an event from something called World War II. All the other events in his life he is transported, through time, to and has to deal with them because he is forced to. The final event though, he does not transport to. He thinks deeply about, calls the memory forth, and follows its natural course to completion. The book was an eye opener for me and I think it could prove beneficial to you.”

“I believe I have heard of that book. My father was a bit of a historian by hobby and was really interested in the historical conflicts on Earth and I think he may have mentioned it once long ago. I will download a copy and have a read through, as you said it could be of use.” he says with a nod.

“And, I want you to attempt something,” Heriah continued, “and this does take practice as all things do. Tonight or when you have the time, I want you to meditate. Light a candle if that helps or play music at low volume if that helps. Whatever helps you meditate, do it. But do not try to clear your mind. Silencing your mind and your thoughts is not the goal here. Controlling your thoughts is. Dwell on a thought and hold on to it and work it out to its logical conclusion. If you struggle with whether or not one of your lost comrades would be cross with you for letting him die, recall his character, your interactions with him, have that conversation, play the thought out to its conclusion and see.”

“I can definitely give it a go. I have meditated in the past and found that it has helped to focus my thoughts and to centre myself though I haven’t done it for a while. This would be the first time where I don’t try to clear my head.”  He remarks.

“Because, clearing your head…” she thought shortly on an analogy, “…think of it like a religious exorcism.”

‘Yeah, like the end of the zhian’tara.’

“The evil forces will not go away unless you call on them by name.”

‘So, we’re evil forces now.’

‘Stop it.’

“This is not to say that your memories are evil forces, no. But you do have to briefly think about said memory in your attempt to send it away and clear your mind.” She was shaking her head. “No. In this case, you are not clearing your mind. You are simply giving the thought you want to dwell upon a louder voice.

‘REFKIN!’

Heriah looked over at her nightstand and the hypospray with a dosage of benzocyatizine.

‘Oh there it is. You want it, don’t you?’

“All the other thoughts,” she returned her attention back to Cynndle immediately and carried on, “are drowned out and you meditate on that. So, no, not clearing your mind.”

Thinking about what she said he purses his lips as he processes it. He noticed her glance to the nightstand and couldn’t help but glance himself seeing the hypospray there.

“I will see about giving it a go tonight and focus on not clearing my head of these thoughts and see where it takes me. Hopefully, next time you see me I won’t be a raving madman haunted by the spectres of my past…” He says with a jest before deflating slight, “Possibility a poor time to joke, eh?”

“No, um…not at all.”

‘Now wait until people see you as a raving mad-woman haunted by the specters of OUR past.’

“Just, more for me to put in my notes,” and she tapped away at her PADD. “And I am making it a point that you meant that as a joke,” she finished tapping.

“Oh,” Heriah had one more thing, “I know your homework is already reading a book and meditating, but this next thing is far simpler.” She thought back to his details from their last session, the notes she had in his file. “During our last session you mentioned wanting to ask a girl out to a dance but never did, mostly through the fear of rejection. The next time you find yourself wanting to ask someone to a dance, a movie, dinner, date, what have you…I know you would rather avoid rejection but it is clear that never knowing is a far worse fate than rejection…just ask that question. I think you will find a pleasant surprise awaiting you.”

A confused look briefly flashes across Cynndle’s face followed by a quick blush as he straightens up in the chair. “Oh, well. I’m, thanks Heriah. I hadn’t really been thinking about that” he says breaking eye contact and looking down momentarily before looking back to Heriah. “I will, ah, I guess keep that in mind.”

“Good,” she taps at her PADD to send it to standby and sets it down. “In the meantime, you should continue cross training but I do think your time in Ops may, at times, end up taking priority…with the crisis summit going on and all.”

“I guess I have a lot to think on…. tonight” he continues.

“As time allows,” Heriah interjected. “We can speed up physical healing with dermal regenerators but it is the mental and emotional healing that we cannot seem to speed up. So, don’t try to tackle it all tonight. Give yourself a day or take up only one to kick things off.”

“That makes sense. Meditation, a new book and tracking down and date all in one night after a long and, well, exhausting, day would be a fair amount.”  He tilts his head back to the ceiling for several long moments before looking back and smiling. “Maybe the book. Easy enough to read. Think I need to be a little bit more clear-headed for this meditation. Will see how I am feeling tomorrow. Another long day I suspect, not that I need to tell you.”

“No you do not,” she said as she stood with him. As they slowly made their way to her door, “I suspect this Crisis Summit on top of the influx of civilians and refugees will have both our plates full for a while to come.” They approached the door and it slid open. “Just find a time when you are free and schedule another session. I will certainly try to clear that block. After duty hours if need be.”

Heriah and Cynndle exchanged the usual pleasantries and goodbyes. Seeing the first indication that he was turning to start away, Heriah was quick to turn, even before the door had slid to a close, and started toward her bed reaching for the hypospray on her nightstand.

Cynndle starts to turn to leave but pauses realizing he had one final question and turns back to Heriah but sees her already back by her nightstand reaching for the hypospray just as the door finishes closing.

Having been taking daily doses of the benzocyatizine on the regular, Heriah had forgotten to put it away this time. Alone, in her quarters, with the door closed sealing her from the rest of the starbase, she sat on her bed; did not even move the PT uniform. Snatching up the hypospray, and after pressing it to her arm and releasing a dosage into her system, she looked at it, pressed a few buttons and pressed it against her arm again sending forth a second dose.

‘Wonder that is about – Hope she is ok; she seemed a bit off at points’ he thinks to himself before shaking his head ‘and what would I know of her being “off”, I have only spoken to her a couple of times outside of these sessions….’ 

Personal Log – GOT YOU, YOU PETAQ!

Starbase Bravo - Cynndle's Quarters
May 2400

The screen turns on showing a very tired-looking young man with dark patches under his eyes and several days’ worth of bread growth on his face beyond what is within the regulations. His hair is clearly dishevelled and his uniform jacket is undone showing a grey shirt underneath. 

“Personal Log – Stardate…Damn, who knows. Computer, adds stardate to the title of the recording.”

“I need to remember to do these when things come up; help to keep my thoughts in order with everything going on.”

He barely stifles a yawn and reaches for a nearby glass with an amber liquid in it.

“So where to begin. The collapse of the star empire has had us running at our wit’s end for the last few weeks. The sheer number of vessels and refugees that are flooding the station is staggering. Since it started we have had thousands of refugees pass through the station and hundreds of ships coming through the station’s control zone.”

“Needless to say double shifts, and long shifts seem to be the norm at the moment. I think this is the first time I have been in my quarters in 40 hours…But it is helping people who are in dire straights so a few sleepless nights on our end is the least we can do here on Bravo. I can only imagine what it is like for the rest of the fourth fleeth in Romulan space.”

“Anyways I digress, this log is about other things.”

“First off, the station for the last month or so has been plague…not plagued that is too harsh a word. Troubled by power issues which have been causing erratic issues with our internal sensors and overloading the Bio-neural circuitry. Working with Lihran; that is another thing…we found a growing number of power junctions that had evidence of tampering and even cut wiring. We have been able to fix this and have been able to set measures to prevent this but it is a big station and it is taking time. Security is involved but the glitches are so minor it is of low importance with everything going on.

He runs his hands through his hair before taking another sip of the drink and doesn’t try to hide a yawn.

“I am convinced it is one of the gangs of teenagers messing about. Most of the cases, 80%, seem to have a pattern and I am close to getting it and catching them in the act but the outliers make no sense and mess with the data. It is concerning as I am pretty sure they were involved, either directly or told someone how to mess with the power and circuitry thus scrambling the internal sensors when Longfellow was attacked. Just really need to get to the bottom of it. But I am closing in, I have set up an alarm that will notify me the moment a junction is accessed within the primary areas. I can then get there and catch the bastards. Stop this act of sabotage. Get a lead for Longfellow. Enough is ENOUGH!”

He says this last bit with extra heat in his voice, clear frustration, almost anger. Then rapidly deflates with a sigh.

“And then there is the other thing. Again seems to be the lower end of priorities with everything going on. Ensign Lihran who has been instrumental in helping me with this is gone. I have no idea where. His CO doesn’t know. The computer reports that he was last in the holodeck but then gone. There are no records of transporter signals but security did a sweep and found evidence of blood and it was confirmed to be his. It is currently being treated as MIA but what if it is more than that? Security is looking into it but they have their hands full.”

“Did he get further in the investigation than I knew and identified who was behind the attack on Longfellow or the power and sensor issues? What if they then attacked him to cover it up? We had thought maybe there was Romulan involvement, he thought it was possible. Could this have something to do with the current troubles? He never really talked about his past to me, I know he was alot older than me, Romulan longevity and all, though I didn’t ask..…could it be that?”

He trails off as a new thought crosses his mind….

“What if he was involved…a ROMULAN AGENT SENT TO WORK OPENLY AS A ROMULAN IN STARFLEET!? No…that would not be the case he believed, believes in the fleet, the federation you could see it in how he talked. There is no love or caring for the Star Empire there….I think.”

“I need to look into this more, something is off for sure.”

He goes to continue when the console beeps rapidly causing him to jump up.

“GOT YOU, YOU PETAQ! COMPUTER INITIATE SITE TO SITE TRANSPORT CYNNDLE OMEGA-27-DELTA-5! SHIT COMPUTER END LO….!”

The Log ends just as he grabs a phaser from his desk that was out of the shot before and the transporter activates leaving an empty room and the log timer still counting.

 

Face on the Panel

Starbase Bravo - Heriah's Quarters
2400

Strobing lights bring a flitter to the eye

before you realized they are but only

corridor lights as you pass them all by.

 

This way and that, every which way you look

you have no knowledge of bearing or direction

As though page after page in a wordless book.

 

But there is the desire to venture forth

to find that one place you must destroy

and prove to everyone your lack of worth.

 

Finally a familiar face in a panel you are seeing

and you ignore its continued requests as it asks

“Rex, what are you doing?”

 

Pulling and pulling the face resists no more

revealing an area hidden behind filled with wires,

flashing lights, conduits, the brain, the core.

 

Pulling, tapping, reconnecting at random

there is only one end result in mind here

and that is a mind of nothing but bedlam.

 

“Rex, no. Doing this you cannot.”

but the face in the panel offers no more

you simply look at it and say, “Why not?”

 

Stop! There is another just off to the right

and you look only to see one small green-blooded

pointy-eared youngling standing in the light.

 

“Ssshhhhhh,” to your lips you press your finger

letting the little one only assume that to tell

another soul would bring about the gravest of danger.

 

Back at your work, you finish and are done

grabbing at the face on the panel

you replace it as you found it and are gone.

 

Again the passing lights, corridor after corridor

they all spin and blur and waft like a mist

to the point that you want to fall to the floor.

 

The usual hissing sounds and echoes in the head

as the lights fade dim and eventually go dark

leaving you with but a want to be back in bed.

 

Eternal darkness returns instead

That and a job well done

     Heriah shot up in her bed. Her covers falling off of her as her hair fell upon her face and entered her mouth as she breathed heavily. Her palms proved sweaty and further investigation proved the rest of her in a similar state.

She stood from her bed and stopped herself before starting away. She reached down and grabbed her hypospray and then marched her way across her quarters to the lavatory. Something felt weird and off and she could only verbally express the feeling as being ‘out of sorts.’

In the lavatory she located her mono-corder, her tricorder-like device designed for one thing. It fit on her index finger and registered her isoboramine level. The thing immediately flashed red the second she put it on. Snatching it off, she gave it a quick reset and replaced in on her finger. It flashed red.

Snatching it from her finger again, Heriah aimlessly tossed it behind her and violently grabbed at her hypospray. A few button pressings later and she was sending forth a dose of the benzocyatizine into her arm. She looked at herself in the mirror, messy hair, bags under her eyes, somewhat reddened spots and they did feel a little like icy fire.

She took a deep breath, held it and closed her eyes. Releasing it, she looked at her reflection once again.

“What…just what…is wrong with me? Frell it,” she said as she pressed the same sequence of buttons on the hypospray. Pressing it to her arm again, she let loose another dose.

It took a moment but the icy fire of her spots waned, the sweaty sensation lessened. That did nothing for her hair or bags under her eyes but there did come a squirm from within her torso. She felt a symbiontic awakening and the thoughts of Rex fully becoming hers as well. Her isoboramine was back up.

“Now that,” she said to her reflection, “was a weird dream.”

“Agreed.”

 

For a Heart to Touch the Void

Starbase Bravo, Sector Kilo-Indigo, Muninn's Quarters
Late May, 2400

I remember the crooked world /From the edge of the atmosphere /And how it made me feel /When I looked into your eyes… /Like a voyager… (like a voy-a-ger) / /…I’m becoming real in your arms… / /

Muninn danced to the upbeat chords of Ion Storm. The lead female vocal, synth modulated around the edges, backed by synth and a snappy electric base and snare, made for the perfect work song. When the Fully electric violins kicked in, she could just about feel goosebumps rise across her skin. Her new apartment—and it really was an apartment—thrummed with the sound, and she wondered vaguely how good the noise cancellation was. Well, it was the middle of the day, anyway, so her neighbors could deal with it. Right now, the apartment was entirely bare and smelled vaguely of cleaning products, but it was hers. She grinned and executed a particularly snazzy disco move across the open floor, both enjoying and laughing at her own silliness.

Aboard the USS Leaky, the walls of her room could almost be touched if she stretched out her arms all the way, and that was when she held the position of CMO. The USS Hastings was about the same with her Assistant Chief Counselor role, but even the captain of the Hastings didn’t have a suite like this. A sitting room, a private bedroom, a private restroom with its own large shower, and two big closets for storage. 

I’m going to need to get more stuff, she thought rather gleefully as she considered all her new personal space. Then a more sobering thought struck. 

How long would she be there to enjoy her new space?

“Computer, lower volume.”

A chirp sounded, followed by a significant reduction in the ambient synth soundscape as the computer interpreted her order. Muninn sighed and leaned against the wall. 

Her initial plan, after the Hastings, had been to seek an assignment aboard a deep-space ship. Something truly geared toward the exploratory. A five-year mission, perhaps, that would see her working alongside people who really believed in Starfleet’s true goals. The Hastings was basically a patrol route, and before her, the USS Leaky mostly did follow-up survey runs and low-risk diplomatic check-ups. She wanted more than that. She wanted to feel like what she did in the Fleet mattered.

Aboard Starbase Bravo she would be just another fly on the wall, just one more cog in a vast and, frankly, overwhelming machine. And yet, something did seem alluring about this place. Something unexpected in these walls. The luxury of space was nice after two years aboard cramped starships, but the feeling in her heart seemed greater than animal comfort. Something about the possibilities here excited her, an unknown frontier of its own, in a way. Would she move on, eventually, make her way back toward the future she imagined when she first left the Academy? Or would something new and unexpected open before her, pull her in, and change the way she saw the world?

“When a counselor needs counseling,” she muttered to herself. 

That was one thing she missed: having a CO she could go to when times were hard or confusing. Captain Corrado played that role for his whole bridge crew, and his openness made the USS Leaky feel more like a home than an assignment. But, since leaving the Leaky, Muninn was starting to suspect that Corrado’s laid-back style did not extend as a norm in any way to other commanders in the Fleet. Which made sense, she supposed. Starfleet would never get anything done if all their officers were as relaxed as Corrado. Still, she missed the man and his insights, as well as his superb cooking.

Thinking of him now solidified an intention in her mind. It had been a couple of months since her last letter, not since she first settled on leaving Hastings and applying for a position elsewhere in the Fleet. 

“Computer, begin message composition, please.”

“Ready,” said the computer’s musical feminine tone.

“To Captain Corrado, USS Leaky. Hey boss, it’s been a while. I meant to send something along before now, but the trip from Hastings was all research. You were right about the Hastings, by the way. She gave me a good look at how things are normally done. I can’t say I liked it all that much, but you must have gathered that from the last time I wrote. I didn’t get the deep space assignment I’d been hoping for, landed on Starbase Bravo, Fourth Fleet. At least for now. But Bravo is different, anyway. It’s huge for one thing. These Guardian-Class stations are a sight to behold. It’s like someone squished a city into a metal mushroom,” she laughed aloud at her terrible description of the vast and majestic space construction. “Look, I know it’s probably silly of me, but next time the Leaky happens to be in the sector, I’d love to treat you to dinner on the Promenade here. I miss our talks. Got a lot on my mind when it comes to career, and I always appreciated your insights. Anyway, hope everyone’s well. Tell… tell them I miss them next time you all do dinner.”

She confirmed the message contents and destination, then sent it off. It felt a little better, just reaching out into the void.

Muninn turned her attention back to the empty apartment and the imagined furnishings that populated it. Sometimes you just needed to know that someone out there would hear you, even if they were light years away. That was more than half her job, after all: people came to her because they needed someone who would listen.

“Antique chairs,” she said aloud. “Right there.” And she smiled as she imagined the home she could create here, given time.

And so it Begins..

Starbase Bravo
7 June 2400

S’Atilen couldn’t help but notice the cluster of ships around certain docks as he was running his morning laps. Ahhh, those must be the refugee ships that everyone is talking about from the Romulan crises going on. (He thinks to himself as he sprints to the next goal laid out in his mind, upon reaching it he slowed down to a good jogging pace) Wonder if I’ll language be assigned in that area or in support of it, could be a good fit with my language skills. DING! Well, there is my 60 mins of cardio complete. Time to go get a shower and report in. S’atilen makes his way to his quarters to prepare for his first real day as an Ensign.

 

(Enjoying a cup of coffee at Cosmo coffee with a hazelnut scone) At least mom and dad had the right idea in not sticking to typical Caitian cuisine, to many planets and regions have to many good foods once you get used to the taste. Noticing the up tik in the amount of star fleet uniforms going towards the work stations. Guess it is about time for me to report in and see what my fist duty assignment will be.

(After making his way to the Operations Command area)

Morning Petty Officer, I’m here to report in.

PADD please

Here you go.

Ahh you’re a day early, no bother, the Lieutenant Commander should be in a moment, have a seat sir and I’ll let her know that you are here.

(a few minutes later a young-looking Lieutenant Commander walks in briskly carrying a cup of coffee and reading from her PADD) morning petty officer, how was duty last night? I see all of the requestions from the refugee ships were filled and looks like transporter room one Chief Mathews is going to sick call. Other than that, anything new?

Ma’am, Ensign S’Atilen is here to report in.

Ahh the new linguist, finally they assigned us one. Only been asking for a few weeks. Protocol always gets them first.

Well follow me ensign let’s get you situated.

Yes ma’am (mouths protocol and give a slight shake of his head towards the Petty Officer)

A slight chuckle from the petty officer.

 

Please close the door behind you Ensign (the lieutenant commander sits down behind her desk places the coffee and the PADD on her desk) Welcome to Starbase Bravo Ensign S’Atilen and welcome to the operations office. As I am sure you have heard we have a lot going on right now with the Romulan situation and the influx of refugees from those systems coming. Reading your dossier and I’m not going to go through the usual dos and don’ts right now as it looks like you have a good head on your shoulders and your parents are in star fleet so I would hope you would know how to act.

Yes Ma’am

I’m going to assign you to the communication section as I see you have a bit of training in that area and you have graded quite highly in many of the more “common” (using the air quote hand gesture) star fleet languages.

Yes Ma’am

I’ll send a message to Lt. Al’Bin to expect you there tomorrow morning. But for today, hmmmm… how well do you know transporter operations?

Just what I learnt when I did my cadet rotations ma’am.

Well, no matter, even though you will be assigned to the communications section and will spend most of your time there you will be moving around between the different sections to get a feel for the entirety of operations and get a general knowledge of the operations department various roles.

So, for today why don’t you go down to transporter room four and report in to Senior Chief Valin. (Taps her comm badge) Senior Chief Valin, be expecting Ensign S’Atilen in a few minutes. He is yours for the day, show him the ropes and do be nice don’t want another Ensign in my office sobbing about how you treated them again.

Yes ma’am, ma’am it’s not my fault that they almost sent someone through that storm with out taking into account those variances.

Ensign S’Atilen, any questions for now?

No ma’am

Good, good (takes a sip of her coffee) make sure you get the In processing check list done within the next few days, remind the Lt you need to get that stuff done, she has a tendency to forget about the stuff like that.

Oh, before I forget, Ensign tell your mom and dad that Samantha says hi and that she has not forgotten about that blind date they set her up with.

Yes ma’am (ears perk up and a slight chuckle/purr comes out when he hears that) oh your mom’s roommate from the academy and your first assignment. Got it I’ll let them know tonight when I give them a call. I’ll have to get that story sometime, should be one to hear if it concerns their academy days. 

Well Ensign S’Atilen I wouldn’t keep Senior chief waiting to long she is likely to send the rookie transporter crewman out to find you.

Yes Ma’am

Exits the Lt Commanders office, shutting the door behind him.

So where is she putting you sir?

Communications as of tomorrow but for today Transporter room 4.

(Gives a slight shiver) Chief Valin, Good luck with that sir, (slight chuckle) watch out for

Storms, yes, I heard.

S’Atilen exits operations and heads towards the turbo lift. 

The Edge of Home

Starbase Bravo, Sector Kilo-Indigo, Muninn's Quarters
Late May, 2400

Directly following “For a Heart to Touch the Void

***

On the PADD screen, a recording of an FNS broadcast played beneath Muninn’s gaze. She watched as the gray-haired man on the screen, still handsome despite his age, spoke from a comfortable blue armchair situated to one side of a studio stage. In the middle, seated similarly, was blond-haired Delenor Rose, host of the Rose-Colored Glasses talk show. And on her other side sat a suave, annoyed-looking man in his middle years, clean-cut and sleek with a high-collared jacket giving him a mildly militaristic appearance.

“…and that’s where the true difference lies,” the gray-haired man was saying, “between those who basically evolved from the failed ideology of Terra Prime.”Muninn smiled. “Get him, Dad.”

The suave man’s glare could have curdled milk as he spat, “Now who’s treating other perspectives unfairly? My bloc represents a growing contingent of concerned Federation citizens, from all backgrounds, who see inherent risks in Starfleet’s expansionist attitude–”

“Your bloc are regressionists, Mr. Liam,” shot Muninn’s father. “I can’t call you xenophobic in the same way that Terra Prime claimed, true enough. It’s not specific aliens you’ve chosen to hate, Mr. Liam, but rather sentients of any disadvantaged social class. You are fundamentally antagonistic toward a society based on mutual care. And that’s the whole point of the Federation. Your bloc would see the same results as traditional xenophobia because that’s what your policies have always done throughout history.” He pounded the air with a tight fist for emphasis. “You can not support increasing harmful and arbitrary border policies, let alone the expansion of outmoded free market ideologies stolen straight from the Ferangi, and end up with anything that looks like the Federation we are a part of today.”

“Woo!” Muninn grinned. Rose-Colored Glasses was a good bet for a win for father, but Roman Musgrave could have cut through the opposition anywhere. He oozed charisma, and his voice could cut through the bluster of an opponent like a specialist at a Tameshigiri competition sliced bamboo.

The interview ended shortly thereafter, with the cheerful Delenor Rose somewhat obviously taking Roman Musgrave’s side. The so-called Federation Stability Party that Orville Liam represented a pathetically small voting bloc. Vocal far beyond their size, they were frequent targets for exactly this sort of set-up interview. Muninn’s father said it was good that they were given the chance to speak out like this, so they could be publicly discredited, though.

Muninn switched from the FNS page and pulled up a message composition page on her PADD and selected her father’s contact icon, feeling a little guilty at how long it had been since she last sent something his way.

“Hi, Dad, it’s me. I just wanted to check in. I just saw that interview you did last week, you really ripped that Stability guy a new one. I know everyone’s on edge these days, but I don’t think I’ll ever understand the instinct to be selfish like that. Call it ‘conservative thinking’ if you want, but at the end of the day… I don’t know. Didn’t we learn enough going through a nuclear world war? 

 

“Anyway, I’m proud of you. I… I also got your note about Mom. How’s she doing after her surgery? Please — let her know I’m thinking about her. I’ll send her something when I get a chance. I really wish that things went differently the last time I was home… things haven’t felt right since then. I get the feeling she’s still angry with me. Just tell her I miss her, okay?”

She stared at her message for a moment, then signed it “Love you, MM” and sent it into the electronic ether. For several moments, she just sat in the middle of her empty apartment, staring at the “Message sent” confirmation page. Strange how quickly a year could go by. Just like that, another year gone, and how many more did she really have? You could live a long time these days, but her parents were getting on in years. If she kept seeing them only once a year, she might not see them more than thirty more times in her life. The thought made her feel very small and very alone.

With a long exhalation, Muninn forced herself to stand up and stretch. She looked around the empty living room of her new apartment-sized quarters. “Right. Time to get some furniture in here,” she said to the silence. She’d sat down in the first place to look at designs available in the station’s replicator database, only to get sidetracked by her piled-up inbox of personal messages. She needed to get something done — now. As her training told her, clearly, you fought back against overwhelm and fear in the same way: getting something done.

Something has Survived

Central Hospital 1
May 10, 2400

Central Hospital 1 – Ward 3 Room 3 – 0700

“Thank you, Doctor.”  Longfellow gave the man a nod as he gathered his things and was escorted to his treatment by an orderly.

He turned to Asato, “I think we’re doing pretty well.”  She gave him a look and gestured to the expansive Central Hospital 1 that was full of refugees from all parts of the Romulan Star Empire That Wasn’t – she had taken to calling it that because it made sense to her.

“We’re doing well because everyone’s doing their job well and keeping folks in motion to where they need to go, Sensai.”

Suddenly Longfellow’s communication badge, chirped, =^=Dispatch to Lieutenant Longfellow, you have a priority one message coming in from a USS Lorenza.=^=  Henry felt a frown immediately as he muttered, meeting Asato’s eyes, “That’s Thea’s ship.”  He stepped over to an alcove and signed into the console, activating the communications channel and the face of his wife appeared, ragged and unkempt.  “Thea…”

She shook her head, “This isn’t a social call Henry and we need Bravo’s help.  We picked up a group of about 250 refugees from a settlement just on the border of the Velorum sector.  The Romulan Star Navy left their mark.  We have injured…”

He interrupted her, “You can transport them to the Central Hospital 1 and we can take them from there.  Triage is ready…”

Thea Longfellow shook her head, “That’s not the trouble, husband.  That’s not the least of it.  Someone in the Romulan government got a hold of a sample or somehow got The Teplan Blight into their labs.”  Henry frowned further as he listened, “They’ve genetically modified it to attack Romulans from the colonies, out worlds – the ones they knew would flee or fight.  It hits Vulcans to…”, she sighed, “Whoever this crackpot scientist is, they added an additional layer.  It can infect humans upon exposure to an infected patient…it moves slower through the human physiology…but it still moves.”  There was a long silence as Henry stared at his wife, her eyes filled with resignation and fear…and fury.  He’d seen that look rarely before, and he knew the Lorenza was in trouble.

“What’s your current situation?”  He was aware of Asato watching and listening and a few of the orderlies had drifted over.

“Our captain, a Vulcan, is in intensive care in cryogenic freeze.  The impact on Vulcans is damned fast.  Whoever designed this didn’t want those who would run to help to survive.  Out of the 250 patients, 100 are in serious condition.  50 are showing symptoms, and the remaining 100 are being held in a different part of the ship in hopes we’ve saved them.”  She shook her head, “And before you ask how we humans are doing, not well.  Symptoms are starting to show and we”ve had to cannibalize some areas of the ship to triage care.  I’m not well, Henry.  I need you to know that.  We don’t lie to each other.”

He gave a nod as his throat threatened to swallow him whole and his stomach did a few casual flips.  “How far are you?”

She sighed, coughing roughly, “We’re one hour away.  Your dispatch team suggested I ask you where to go given our situation.”

Henry felt himself wince with each cough and wrestled his emotional control to the floor of his soul and held it in a tight grip.  “We have a dock that we can seal and create a transfer zone.  I’ll have to task some from operations, security, engineering…and whoever else we can scrounge up to make this work.  Who’s in command of your ship?”

She smiled wryly, “Would it surprise you that it’s me?  Our first officer is in intensive care and we don’t have an XO.  Everybody voted me as acting captain and I wasn’t about to argue given how things are here.”  She coughed again and grumbled, “We’re an hour away.  We’re going to get ready on our end to secure our docking…send us what you have as soon as you have it.”  She paused and touched the screen, “I love you, H.  I am glad it’s you.”

Longfellow touched the screen as well, “I love you, T.  I’m glad it was me…but glad it’s Bravo.  We’ve got good people here.”  They stared at each other for a moment longer, afraid of saying too much or too little…or anything at all that might betray that fear both were wrestling with in their hearts.  Henry gave her a nod, “Get here.  We’ll take care of the rest.”  She answered with a nod, and a cough as the channel closed.  He turned to Asato, “We need someone from operations, security, engineering – anybody who can help us secure that docking clamp from this side.  We’re going to have to build a positive pressure system for both sides…and hell, we’re going to have to ensure nothing from that ship comes over here…we’ll need portable equipment that stays onboard the ship, we’ll need biohazard protection suits – a whole bunch, a decontamination area on our side…send the message to those departments.”  Asato took off running with a PADD, tapping away as she did.

Longfellow turned to the ward and sighed, “Transfer all ward 3 personnel to the docking area. Start moving mobile equipment, instruments, mobile biobeds – the works.”  They stared at him for a moment, wide-eyed before he nearly shouted at them, “Time is ticking…we know how to do this.  Move!” And they did.

Auxillary Operations Control – 0710

Cynndle sat at an empty console reviewing reports from the night shift before he officially started his shift. With the increase in the number of vessels docking at the station and the influx of passengers due to the while Romulan debacle, it was keeping him and the other officers in station operations running around like mad. Muttering to himself as he flicked through reports on the vessels and number of people being offloaded he couldn’t help but think what this would have been like if he was still on board a ship instead of a station. He would likely be out somewhere in Romulan territory right now. He was just about to get up and get a coffee when the senior deck officer, a Lieutenant Commander he had not met yet came out of the office seeing him there. “Lieutenant; Perfect just who I needed. Join me will you?” Cynndle nods with a quick “sir”.

Walking into the small office Cynndle stands at ease, “We have a rapidly developing situation onboard the  USS Lorenza. I don’t have much information but what I was told is that there is an outbreak of a disease on board. They are less than an hour out and need aid. I want you to lead things on this side from an operations standpoint but follow the lead of the medical staff. This has come down front the Chief. Get to Central Hospital 1 docking bay and speak to Dr. Longfellow. Oh and keep us updated.”

With a nod Cynndle turns to leave, troubled thoughts racing through his head, ‘an outbreak…shit…ok need to get a full report of the situation, should they dock or keep them isolated…need to speak to medical…’.

Muttering to himself he looks around and sees the transport pad. “Speed is of the essence…” he says as he steps onto the pad. “Computer Docking bay at Central Hospital 1; energise.”

Central Hospital 1 – Docking Bay – Ward 1 – 0715

Reappearing in the docking bay Cynndle sees medical staff moving medical equipment into the area. Recognizing Dr. Longfellow he approaches. “Hey Doc, what is the situation? I was told to report her by the Chief of Operations, I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes if things are already being done.”

Longfellow glanced up and found the operations officer the source of the voice, “Welcome to ground zero, Lieutenant Oin’sun.”  He handed him a PADD with the report so far, “We have the New Orleans class USS Lorenza inbound with an infection of The Teplan Blight genetically modified to impact Romulans, Vulcans, and…humans.  It’s all there in the report.  We’re going to need operations to manage the power supply, connections, and everything that comes with running a lab and more – you’ll be working with engineering as they…,” he glanced as a figure stepped into the area with a toolbox.  He called the officer over.

Settling her toolkit strap better on her shoulder & tucking the PADD under her arm, she smiled at the doctor.  “Lieutenant Nevanthi Cordon, sir. What can I do for you?”

“Good to meet you, Lieutenant Cordon.  You’re our engineer.  You’re going to need to work with Lieutenant Oin’sun here from operations to construct a positive pressure adaptation to the default docking space there,” he gestured to the normal-looking docking bay in ward 1.  “We’re also going to need to hook all of this equipment into the power grid.”  He glanced at his PADD and nodded to the operations officer, “Another thing – we’re going to need biohazard suits – as many as we can find or replicate with enough battery power on chargers standing by – there’s a lot of people on that ship that are going to need a lot of help…and we have to keep them and the infection there and not here.”

Neva nods to them both, gears turning in her head on logistics & equipment needed. She sized up the docking bay & turned to Oin’sun with a grin. “This doesn’t look too hard to me. I don’t think it’ll take much to refit this. A cargo bay is close & has a lot of what’s needed. I’ll get a couple of other engineers with me & we’ll get on it.”

“Nice to meet your Lieutenant Cordon, that sounds good to me. From what I recall on the specs the designers of this docking bay and airlock had this sort of thing in mind. I will contact Ops to ensure that the power conduits to the bay are primed for the extra power drain and to start getting an inventory of all biohazard suits on the station before we start replicating more. Give me 5 minutes to get that started then we can head to the cargo bay and get this started.” Cynndle says.

“Doctor Longfellow,” came Heriah’s voice. She stepped up to the conversing group, regarding Cynndle and Nevanthi with nods respectively. “The computer said I would find you here. This will take one second,” she held up an apologetic hand hoping that would excuse any intrusion she had committed. “The refugee influx has calmed for the time being. But I am told a few transports are some days out and they have injured. Number unknown. What medics they have are doing their best but the transports’ supplies are running thin.”

Neva’s eyes widened at the sight of the Counselor. Her drinking companion…in a Medical capacity no less. Hmmm…

Longfellow turned at the voice of his most recent patient and gave her a quiet nod, “We can slot them for arrival in Ward 2.  Your best bet is to arrange the arrivals with our dispatch team – we’ve got ourselves a bit of a situation here in Ward 1 that’s going to take my attention.”  Before he was able to finish the conversation with the counselor, the engineering officer spoke up.

Neva turned her attention back to the conversation at hand. “It would be possible to use transporters to isolate the” gulp “infected…” Neva took a steadying breath as a few tears slid down her cheeks. ”into the other Sickbays & converted cargo bays. I know Engineering can do the conversions & upgrades fairly quickly.”

Heriah remained silent but was looking back and forth between the speakers with just her eyes.

‘Infected? Situation? Transport?’

Henry stared at the engineering officer for a moment, “No, do not do that, Lieutenant.  Under no circumstances are any patients from the USS Lorenza to be brought onboard the station.”  He handed Neva a PADD with the details of the last report his wife had sent him, “The Teplan Blight at its base was incredibly transmissible and dangerous.  We still don’t have a full workup on the modified version that’s contaminated most of that ship.”  He paused, pinching his nose and letting out a sigh, “I’m sorry, Lieutenant…your idea was sound and your suggestions were welcomed.”  He gave the engineer a nod, “Please accept my apologies.”

Neva’s own eyes widened at the doctor’s admonition. “Oh wow! It’s gotten THAT bad? I apologize for my OWN flippancy, Doctor.” Neva frowned a little, but her ready smile returned. “Ok…with that new information, the refits needed will STILL be fairly easy. The only glitch is some of the parts are cumbersome, making the refit a little slower.  I’ll talk to my Commander & get more people to do this in each of the docking bays.” Her fingers fluttered over the PADD. Looking back up she asked, “Do you need us to wear biohazard suits or space suits just in case, Doctor, or is that going too far?”

The doctor contemplated, “The only time you would need to wear a biohazard suit is if you go over to the Lorenza or whatever ship is here.  Until they arrive, our precautions are minimal when it comes to getting the dock ready for them.  I appreciate the question.  I leave you to your task.”

She saw Oin’sun was available and excused herself to continue her mission. With a smile, she matched her stride to his & was off again. Never a dull moment…

“Doctor Longfellow,” Heriah raised her hand again. Understanding combat readiness, something Refkin was superiorly fond of, the memories and knowledge came flooding back. So what if this was not against a sentient enemy? This was a disease they were apparently talking about. Still, combat readiness was combat readiness. Heriah did not need to know the details, just the situation, and the situation was this; “…the transports coming this way, all of them have refugees coming from who knows where. Might I suggest…as counselor…and in order to keep this from turning into a maniacal rampage…we send these transport vessels a scanning matrix. It will let us know the level of injuries the medical staff should prepare for prior to their arrival. This matrix will also scan for…this blight…you mentioned. If anyone aboard these transports have it…”

Henry considered Heriah’s idea and smiled quietly, “That is one helluva idea, ensign.  Consider yourself assigned to Ward 1 with me and the rag tag group we’ve got working.”  He handed her a PADD, “The details on The Teplan Blight and its modified version are included.  I would also include any other generic infections such as respiratory infections and the like.  We can get an inoculation team or antibiotic treatment assembly line ready for their arrival.  I’ll leave the application of that to you, Heriah.”  The counselor nodded and drifted off to start the process, leaving Longfellow to take a moment to breath.  His wife, and her crew were in serious danger.  They were the only hope.

He hoped they were enough.

A Most Welcome Interruption

Sector India-Navy, The Gate Inn
May 30th, 2400: 1230 hours

Muninn just about cried the first time she spotted The Gate Inn. Since arriving, the constant flow of Station life had begun to get under her skin. There were nice areas, good places to relax, greenery in surprising abundance in the public sectors, and more than enough holosuites to service the needs of the crew. But, for all that it offered, Starbase Bravo felt like a city squished into a bubble. A hundred-thousand people constantly in flux, always with somewhere to go and something to do. For Muninn, after two years serving aboard small starships, it all crashed in upon her like a surprise white-cap on the ocean. If not for the need to concentrate on her job and the couple of acquaintances she had been able to make thus-far, she felt certain she would have capsized.

But then she found The Gate.

It seemed like most of the other junior officers hung around a little place called Downtime. There were tons of bars and restaurants to choose from, of course, but Downtime had the pedigree of the proper Starfleet drinking dive. Muninn hated it. She wanted someplace to nurse a tea or a coffee, or perhaps one of her favorite mocktails, and maybe read a book. The second day on Bravo, she had tried to do just that at Downtime, and no less than three somewhat greasy Ensigns had hit on her before she made it through the first page of Shattered Lines: A Space Opera.

She had forsaken public spaces since then, being almost too busy to think about relaxing anyway. But then, accidentally turning the wrong way on one of the Promenades, she came face-to-face with polished wood and sparkling glasses. It looked like something right out of a British street, transplanted into space. In reality, she supposed, there was a certain cheapness about the place if you looked hard enough—it was clearly a faux-novelty atop the same duranium base as everything else. But the tables and chairs were real wood, the glasses were made from glass and not plastic, and you could sit at a table by yourself and read. And the bartender, known only as ‘Terry’, offered a mean selection of non-alcoholic beers.

And so, for the last three days, Muninn had tucked herself behind a table for an hour of afternoon solitude and a hearty pub-styled lunch. But today, a glitch in her nascent routine presented itself: Lish Dinalin.

The talkative Bolian had sought her out on her lunch break and was studiously breaking down all the local gossip in his usual hearty patter. She liked Lish, and was grateful for his friendship, but just then she found that she had about as much patience for him as she would for a puppy that wouldn’t stop chewing its new squeaky toy.

“…and then there’s the new policy for walk-ins,” Lish was saying, “did you know that the system has assigned slots for the whole staff automatically? You’ll probably start getting them next week, after you’ve gotten up to speed with your main cases, and let me tell you: you hardly have time to think. Why we couldn’t have more dedicated civilian therapists brought up from the planet is beyond me! It’s not like I majored in Romulan psychology, and most of the walk-ins are just that, refugees coming in from the deteriorating territories…”

Muninn closed her eyes and tried to let the blue man’s words wash over her. Resigned, she closed her book, hardly touched, and slipped it back into her bag. Maybe, oh maybe, something would come along and interrupt the man.

Heriah, too, was looking for a nice and quiet place to sit and relax a bit. After hours on her feet and hearing the woes of the refugees down below, not that she minded, she needed a break. Hearing a particular voice, she somehow knew said relaxation was not going to happen if she stayed here. She turned to leave but the counselor in her kicked in and she thought on the mental fortitude of whoever was the recipient of this voice.

His name was Lish, a Bolian, and a former patient of Heriah’s. They had only one session. One where her notes were plenty, her words were few, and his words were endless. She surmised that he had no issues at all save for his awkward and talkative nature. Though her advice to him was to talk to people…and let them speak as well, it certainly looked like he was taking the prior to the extreme.

Heriah put on her gameface and stepped forward.

“Lish,” she said, arriving at their location. She could see the female recipient almost at her wits end.

“Oh hi, Heri…”

But Heriah did not let him get in another syllable. “I just came from refugee processing and some Bolians just got off a transport. I didn’t speak to them myself but could have sworn I heard them saying they were looking for Lish. So, I figured…”

“That could be me.”

“Better go have a look.” And, as he was up and stepping away, “that was about 15 minutes ago. They could be anywhere and…” Lish was already out of the restaurant, “…he cannot hear me now anyway,” she finished. “Wait,” Heriah looked at the woman before her intently, “you’re the incoming counselor LT…Nusgrafe?”

Muninn watched the retreating Bolian and snorted with laughter. “That’s right. Musgrave. Muninn Musgrave, LT junior-grade.” She nodded in the direction of Lish’s departure. “You’re my hero, you know. I sat down forty minutes ago, and it’s been one long, incredibly unbroken, sentence since then.”

“It’s the lung capacity. I’m sure you’ve noticed that Bolian’s are blue-toned. It’s their ability to hold air internally for long periods before being absorbed into their blood. That can also make them long-winded. You’ve heard the saying, ‘talking until you are blue in the face.’ Well…” she gestured to the absent Bolian.

“I never put two and two together on that one,” Muninn said with a laugh. “Would you like to join me?” She gestured at the now-free wooden chair opposite. “You’ve got to order from the bar, but I like it here. Good vibes. I’ve got a shift in twenty, but I haven’t had a chance to meet that many other people from the department, aside from Lish. I’d welcome the company.”

Heriah claimed the chair that Lish had warmed for her. “I am due back below in 30. Just taking a break is all. The influx of refugees is almost staggering. I doubt you will be thrown into that just yet. Oh,” Heriah realized, “my manners. Ensign Heriah Rex,” she waved gleefully, “also counselor. Been here a month and some change.” She thought a short second. “Lieutenant Junior-Grade, huh? I guess that makes you my superior officer…ma’am,” she added.

“I suppose it does at that,” Muninn glanced at the pips on the other woman’s collar. “But that’s a benefit of our job. Not much need for hierarchy in the counseling department. Anyway, you’ve been here longer than me,” she raised her synthale and a salute. “I have the feeling that you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the place better than I do.”

‘And if I could find it, I would cease that pulse.’

Heriah ignored the intruding thought, yet brushed a few strands of hair over her right ear as a way to shoo away Rex’s ill-temperedness.

A pulse maybe, and far from the heart of the place,” she said.

“You mentioned the refugees…what’s that been like, working with them right out of the gate like that. I can’t imagine what they must be going through, having to leave families and homes.”

“It is a bit unnerving…to see so much loss and misery even in this century. You would think that planets and space is big enough for everyone. The worse part of it all is the children. At least here we can provide rest and a chance for them to regroup and build a new future. Being down there in the fray…” she thought a longer second than she intended, “…well you need to keep your training and education before you at all times.”

Muninn listened, nodding once or twice. It sounded like what she knew of that type of work, but raw. More exhausting, perhaps, than the trauma training could really encapsulate.

“So you do imaginal exposure? Getting them to imagine the trauma and describe it?”

Heriah was immediately shaking her head. “I have not attempted that.”

‘Yeah the last time someone tried that…broken nose.’

“I feel they have seen enough to want to re-see it. I have recommended lucid dreaming, though. Still waiting to see how that went.”

‘Yeah. Where is Lihran?’

Heriah set the thought aside.

“I’d be interested in picking your brain sometime about the different strategies you’ve found that work best.” Muninn tapped her black-eyed rank pip. “My doctorate was mixed with a physician’s assistant degree for bridge service, hence the rank boost. But I missed out on a lot of the more specialized training I could have gotten if I’d stayed fully immersed in the psych degree. Severe trauma counseling feels like something I don’t want to walk into unprepared.”

‘Oh she’ll be unprepared in meeting the real Rex.’

“No, I…”

‘Oh, it will be fun. Tell her you would love an impromptu psycho-analysis. I want to see the terror in those…’

“…I, actually would enjoy…um…detailing my strategies. We can always learn from each other. Seeing that you are a…” and she motioned toward those pips, “…doctor, I am certain you have some strategies I have not even thought about trying. And I would love to see a session where you perform this imaginal exposure.”

Muninn could not have known the conflict occurring in the other woman’s mind, the millisecond interaction between host and symbiont filled with emotion and meaning, but she did register something happen on Heriah’s face. A brief and unexplained flicker, a slight hesitation in her eyes and voice. Then it was gone, so quickly that it slipped right past Muninn’s attention and deep into her subconscious, where it would ferment slowly over the coming days and weeks.

“I’d love to talk strategy,” she said, and grinned. “Since we can’t share client information… direct study would be a bit tough, but maybe we could meet up when things aren’t quite so busy and figure something out? I bet I could get the computer to create a convincing holo-patient for us to work on.”

“We could also see if a patient would not mind an outside observer…for educational purposes. Alternatively, a holo-patient…” she thought briefly about it, “is worth a shot.”

“Wonderful,” Muninn said. “I haven’t done anything with lucid dreaming, for instance. Though, in Dr. Micholm’s class at the Academy, we did read this study where a dose of galantamine enhanced acetylcholine levels in the brain to induce lucid dreaming. If I remember correctly, it was something about creating two-way communication between the unconscious sleeping mind and the outside world.” She shrugged, “Anyway, I’d love to see it in action. Does it help with nightmares, specifically, or do you use it more for general mindfulness purposes?”

“General mindfulness…mostly. It is supposed to also help with nightmares, trauma, long lost memories and such. I admit to not having tried administering galantimine. My technique is, I know it sounds archaic but, headphones. Except these headphones play two different musical tracks but both have to be the same pitch, volume and frequency. That helps calm the mind for sleeping and dreaming but the two different tracks entering the ears keeps the mind conscious, though asleep. That way, the dreamer has the ability to maintain full control of their thoughts…control of the dream.”

Though she tried to reign in it, Muninn’s could not hide the nerd inside. Elbow on the table, she sipped at her synthale and happily listened, measuring the shortening time before she needed to leave for her shift by the fast approach of the foamy dregs.

“But listen to us,” Heriah said, “talking business when we’re both on break. When you probably want a little alone time before work. Trust me, I know the feeling.”

“You can take the work away from the psych, but can’t take the psych away from the work,” Muninn said with a grin. “But I suppose I should make sure I’m not late.”

Heriah started to move to get up. “I should start back down anyway. We have refugees flowing in constantly right now. Oh,” she stopped herself half way between sitting and standing, “when dealing with a long-winded Bolian, ask him about the Moropa, and appear genuinely interested in the topic. He won’t stick around long.”

“Oh? A Moropa, huh?” Muninn caught the gleam of humor in Heriah’s eye and snorted. “Thanks for the tip, I think I’ll probably need it. Good guy, Lish… but I have the feeling he misses some of the more human social cues.”

Muninn followed Heriah out The Gate’s antiquarian styled faux-wood doors and into the noise and bustle of the Promenade. She flashed a smile and jerked her thumb in the direction of her new office. “This way’s me. If you’re game for it, though, I’d love to set up that research date in the holodeck. Maybe later in the week, if you’re not completely exhausted by then?”

“Let’s see if this influx tapers off a bit, but that sounds great. And,” she looked in the direction Muninn was pointing, “that would be me as well if I were heading to the office. For now though,” she took a step back toward the maintenance lifts, “…this way is the easiest to get back down there. I’ll be in the office later.”

“It’s a plan,” Muninn said and waved as the other woman headed off toward the lifts.

Her path back to her office proved considerably less busy than her would-be break had been. Good luck and bad luck are basically the same, as Adeyemi liked to say. All in all, Munin thought as she settled into her chair and awaited her next client, a much better way to spend a break in the day. 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember and Do Not Stand Still

Starbase Bravo, Sector Hotel-Turquoise, Muninn’s Office
June 02, 15:30 hours

When the office smelled softly of her favorite lavender incense, Muninn extinguished the bright hot end of the stick and let the room’s ambient air filtration clean away the smoke. Not everyone who walked through her door would be comfortable breathing in particulate-laden air. The smoke quickly cleared away, leaving nothing but the fresh organic scent behind. 

It had taken her a few days to really get things in order here, all while juggling her initial list of pre-assigned patients. But she finally felt like she had her finger on the pulse of the tone. 

Creating a good atmosphere for therapy required time, and skill, and (in cultures and times of the past) money. Here, it just took a whole month’s allotment of personal replicator credits. Every one of which was a worthwhile expenditure to Muninn’s mind. 

This office would be the way that her clients got to know her from the outset. It needed to reflect the best of her, but it also needed to provide a boundary of safety for those who entered.

“Computer, lower the neutral lighting setting for the room by five percent.”

The chime sounded, and the lights lowered. Muninn smiled. Yes, that felt better. With the subtle difference in lighting, everything looked so much softer, and this way, the small mood lights placed throughout the office would stand out better. 

There were three of them: a green-canopied lamp in an old-fashioned style, its base and neck gold and curving. This one sat on her roll-top desk, which occupied the center of the wall directly on the left as you entered the room. 

Another lamp sat in the far right-hand corner, past the paisley and leather couch. Simple, its white shade blending it with the wall behind, it cast a soft warm glow.

The third and final light-source, not generated by the room’s ambient system, was a bit of a cheat. On the far-right wall, as you entered, she had constructed an elaborate facade of French doors looking out onto a woodland glade. Carefully-modeled artificial sunlight could either be allowed to stream in, or could be hidden away behind thick velvet curtains. Her own initial experience with life on the station suggested that the duranium bubble could quickly become oppressive, and not everyone felt awe when looking out upon the vacuum’s star field. She wanted people who came into her space to feel safe, to experience an altered sense of place and being while they sat and talked with her. 

She felt quite proud of the hologram behind the doors, cleverly designed to add depth and fool the eye of almost any standard Federation species across a wide visible spectrum. It was, she fancied, some of her best work.

Muninn glanced at the antique wristwatch she always wore while on duty (there were also three different clocks placed along various sight-lines in the space, to help both Muninn and her clients maintain a sense of how long their session would last). “Time,” she said aloud, and took a steadying breath.

She had weathered her first round of ‘regulars’ well enough. Those were all Starfleet officers with various social and stress issues they needed to work on. The proverbial meat and potatoes of her day-to-day career. 

But, with the influx of refugees, Starfleet wanted to provide counseling services to anyone who needed it. Muninn supposed that, since most of the people fleeing the collapse of the Romulan Empire were, in fact, Romulans, that she would soon be meeting her very first Romulan. And launching directly into offering to support their mental health.

Somehow, she did not feel prepared for that, no matter how much studying she did. Sure, modern psychology looked for the commonalities between species, but there were also always thousands of little cues and hidden subtexts that were unique to an individual or a family, let alone another culture, another species.“You just need to listen,” she reminded herself and took another breath.

A moment later, there was a dull chime that sounded more brassy and metallic than the standard (and therefore less startling). Straightening her uniform jacket, Muninn answered in her husky mezzo voice:

“Come in, please, it’s open.”

Dark hair, bowl-cut, over sharply pointed ears. A severe brow, more pronounced than a human or even Vulcan’s. Deep brown eyes in a surprisingly delicate oval face. An overall impression of youth, anxiety, and… grief? Fear? Muninn tried to gauge the age of the young woman standing there. A teenager, surely, even if Romulans did live longer than ordinary humans. On the younger side, at that. And, a teenager without a guardian present, if Muninn’s subtle glance past the girl’s shoulder’s into the comfortable waiting room was any indication. 

“Counselor Musgrave?” said the girl, her voice sturdy and serious.

“That’s me,” Muninn said with a smile. You can call me Muninn, if you like. Or Counselor. Whatever feels comfortable. Come in, close the door.”The girl did as she was told, and Muninn spotted the hidden glances at the corners of the room, the slight hesitation as she pressed the door control, as if she were checking to make sure the room behind her held no surprises. Well, this is going to be interesting.

Aside from the couch to the right of the door, there was a chaise lounge, another smaller couch, and the dark rolling chair that Muninn herself preferred. The rolling chair was soft dark leather and simple. The couches and chaise featured matching summer-tone paisley cushions, dark leather siding, and a wooden skeleton that showed itself in elegantly carved fronting on the couches arms and feet. 

The girl stood where she was and stared around the room as if she were standing on the surface of an alien world.

All the possible seating options were facing a shin-height wooden table of gorgeous antique design, polished on the top and stacked with coasters, two empty ceramic cups, and a wooden box with tissues plumed out the top.

“Would you like something hot to drink?” Muninn asked. The girl’s eyes had lingered on the elegant cups for a longer time. “Or cold, for that matter. I’ve got a nice selection pre-programmed.”

Still, the girl did not move, though she did eye the replicator, cleverly ensconced inside a faux-cabinet next to Muninn’s roll-top desk. She carried herself like someone ready to run at any moment, and an increasing urgency filtered through Muninn’s mind. I’ve got this all wrong, she thought. A moment of clarity seemed to come to her, a mix of instinct and her intensive studying the last few days. She called up her memory of the PADD screen as it had been the night before, the still-unfamiliar language displayed there.

A resolve filled her, a feeling that she must not let this girl down.

“Shaoi ben, heieu. Jolan’tru.”

The Rihan language felt a little stiff on Muninn’s tongue, but the bright shock in the girl’s eyes seemed proof that her bet had come through.

Shaoi kon,” the girl said, so fast that it had to be hammered-in protocol. More proof that Muninn had gotten things right. Then, as if shaking herself out of a haze, the girl blinked and said, “Daie, irho descaey.”

“Alright,” Muninn smiled and picked up the two mugs, careful to move with calm precision. “What kind?”

The girl watched her walk to the replicator, then said softly, “Chocolate.”

Muninn glanced back, but did not hesitate as she put the mug into the replicator. “Right you are. Computer, hot chocolate please.”

The computer bleeped and a moment later steam flowed up from the fresh contents of the mug. “These new replicators are a wonder,” Muninn said. “Here.” She held out the steaming mug, its contents making the air thick with the woody smell of cacao. 

The girl hesitated a moment, then stepped forward and grabbed the mug in both hands.

“Go on, Muninn said, “Find yourself any seat you like.”

She kept her back turned as she placed her own mug, programmed chamomile tea, and let the computer do its work. When she turned back, she suppressed a laugh. 

The Romulan girl was sitting in Muninn’s swivel chair, her elbows on the arm rests, the mug held in both hands before her like a priceless artifact.

“Well,” Muninn said, “you caught me by surprise. About the last thing in the galaxy I expected you to ask for was hot chocolate.”

“You speak Rihan,” the girl said. Her voice had softened a little, but still kept its formality. She seemed to have accepted that this was a safe place, but perhaps not for long. She did carry herself like someone used to running. 

“I do,” Muninn said. She’d started teaching herself a few days earlier, when she realized just how many refugees would be coming aboard, and how many of those were Romulan. “Not much yet, but I’m a quick study. Do you feel comfortable with English? I can ask the computer to turn on the Translator…”

“No,” the girl said. “It’s okay. I know English.” She sipped her chocolate as if there could not possibly be anything more to say on the subject.

“Good?” Muninn asked. She took a seat on the long couch opposite the chair, where she usually seated her clients. She found herself pleased to see that the room looked good from this angle, with someone in the chair. 

“Yes. Nnearh, khnai’ru rhissiuy.”

“You’re welcome.”

“What are you…” the girl nodded in Muninn’s direction, her dark brown eyes locked on her mug.

“…Drinking? Chamomile tea. It’s this plant native to Earth, where I’m from. Specifically, this is Matricaria chamomilla, or German chamomile.” She let herself ramble a little, talking for the sake of talking, to give the girl space to breathe. “It’s relaxing, and there is a range of evidence for its use as a gentle medicinal remedy. Stomach cramps, inflammation, anxiety… it’s a hearty little plant.”

The girl considered this. “German?”

Muninn smiled. “A country on Earth. I don’t know why it’s called that, though. My guess is that it grew there, so people called it that. But, I do know the meaning of the word chamomile.”

She held the silence, still smiling, and took a slow sip. 

The girl said nothing for the longest time, but then, “What is it?”

Inside, Muninn did a little dance. “Earth-apple.”

“That’s a weird name,” the girl said with a wrinkled nose.

“It is, isn’t it?” Muninn hesitated, then said. “Would you like to tell me your name?”

The change was instantaneous. A sort of iron gate fell across the girl’s face, and her eyes were dark. 

Muninn said nothing for a long moment, just held the girl’s gaze. “You don’t have to. You never have to do anything in this room that you don’t want to do, or that makes you uncomfortable in any way.” The girl’s face remained unchanged. “Do you see this?” Muninn tapped the collar of her uniform, where her rank pips were pinned. “These, and my uniform, mean that I am a Starfleet officer. I’m also a doctor,” her gaze flicked to the diplomas on the wall behind where the girl was sitting, “the kind that’s there to help people.”

Bingo. The girl’s iron mask cracked a little. “I know about Starfleet,” she said. Was it just imagination, or could Muninn detect the slightest hint of exasperation in those brown eyes? After a moment more of silence and a few contemplative sips of her chocolate, the first breakthrough came.

“Arrhae i-Srathem e’Anderson t’Asenth.” The words were spoken with deep formality, and the girl’s gaze held Muninn’s like a slipping climber grabs hold of their rope. An intense electricity seemed to settle in the air.

Ah, thought Muninn. Well.

“Thank you, Arrhae Asenth. Arhem ssuaj. I understand. My name is Muninn Mabinogion Musgrave.” The rarity of ever saying her middle name, a private reminder of her parent’s shared love of history and myth, struck her now in the face of the girl’s trust. Asenth had not come here by chance, that much Muninn felt certain of. The girl wanted something, needed something, and now Muninn understood why a Romulan teenager had gone to find help from a Starfleet counselor.

“I was assigned a room,” Asenth said. She looked like she wanted to say more, but could not quite fathom the words.

“With other Romulans?”

“Mostly. Others like me.”

Damn any culture that makes orphans feel like lesser beings! Muninn grappled with her temper. The office was no place for that sort of personal thing. Even if she could strangle that Romulan forefathers for their idiocy. “How do you feel about that?

Asenth shrugged. “It’s all girls there. Some of them have friends I don’t like.”

“People can be mean.”

“Yes.” The word came, soft and hard as a blade between the ribs.

Time for a risk. The more direct approach. “Asenth… what would you like from me?”

A shrug. Then, “I missed…” she trailed off.

“Your family?” Muninn hazarded.

“My mom.” And then those brown eyes flashed. An anger that Muninn suspected had been bubbling for far longer than their session surrendered to the moment and burst forth. “She’s dead. She died. My father died. My mother died. My little brother died.” Her slight chest was heaving with pent-up emotion, her sharp brow even narrower with the force of her rage. “It was the Remans,” she said after a moment, though Muninn had not asked. “The Remens came in the middle of the night, and they killed everyone. We were never doing anything to them.”

“Your mother, was she… human?” 

“She was in Starfleet.”

Muninn settled back into the couch and nodded, her face calm, her heart constricted with pain she would need to unpack later, on her own time. “I’m so sorry, Asenth. Can you tell me how it hurts?”

Asenth looked away, her face tight. Her eyes were wet around the edges. She pulled up her knees to her chest, held the mug of cooling chocolate in front of her as the chair squeaked. “It’s like I’m being crushed.” The words were barely a whisper. “I saw it all. I saw everything.”

***

The session ran over her allotted limit twice, and when she did finally close the door after Asenth’s departure, Muninn felt wrung out like a rag for washing. She had listened, mostly, after their initial dialog formed an opening. Before Asenth left, she had penciled the girl in as a regular, making a point to explain that future sessions would only be an hour.

But can I hold myself to that professional limit? Muninn stared blankly into space for a long time. She had done everything and nothing right at the same time. Held the space even as she opened her heart. The look in the young Romulan’s eyes had been staggering. And all for what?

Muninn could picture it: subjugated people, breaking free for the first time and attacking their oppressors, attacking anyone who looked like their oppressors. The privileged, sound in the knowledge that such a thing could never happen to them, were taken unawares. A slaughter of innocent and slaveholder alike. Or could any be innocent, in a society that subjugated another sentient species as completely as the Romulans had done to the Remans? Could the people in chains be blamed for murdering their oppressors? 

The words of a poem came to her mind, and she spoke them aloud to the empty room as if they were a prayer. “The unscrupulous power that makes of you the hungry, wretched thing you are today…” Life is the same everywhere, she thought. No matter how many light years between Earth I go, it never ceases to amaze. The roots of sentience are bathed in shadow and disease.

Muninn put away the cups in the replicator, used the cleaning function to remove any particulate matter foreign to the original pattern, and then placed them carefully back on the table in the middle of the room. She stood for a moment, looking down at them, hands on hips, thinking. She could not remove from her mind the look in Asenth’s eyes. 

Starfleet. Her mother was in Starfleet.

“Computer, search for any Starfleet officer by the name of Anderson, current or retired, living in the Velorum Sector in the last five years. Other key terms: Romulan-Human marriage, Romulan child, Reman uprising, massacre.”

“Searching…” the computer’s voice floated seemingly out of the air. “…local database query non-responsive. Extending search to Starfleet database. Estimated time to completion, three hours.”

“Bloody hell.” Muninn sighed and flopped into her swivel chair, mentally and physically exhausted. “It’s times like these I wish I could drink.”

“I’m sorry,” the computer helpfully chimed back, “could you repeat that command?”

Of Marmite and Murder

Starbase Bravo, Sector Kilo-Indigo, Muninn's quarters
June 3rd, 0700 hours

The morning dawned bright and early as the ambient lighting filled Muninn’s room with false starlight, but it did not wake her. The last five hours of work were spread about her where she sat upon her new apartment floor: seventeen pieces of replicated plexi filled with dates and details. Three PADDs as well, each part of the way through a different avenue of research. Romulan dialects and history, Reman cultural norms, and, finally, the result’s of the computer’s deep dive into Starfleet personnel movements.

Three stainless-steel cups lay carelessly within the semicircle of this pile of research, giving off the slightly stale aroma of dried coffee. Strictly speaking, Muninn did not need the caffeine to stay awake, but the added stimulation came as a welcome boost. 

As the lights turned to full intensity, Muninn blinked. For a moment, the room seemed impossibly bright, glaring, and she scrunched up her face against the shine.

“Oh frell.” The lights meant that her duty shift was due in a little over an hour. Walk-in time in the public clinic, then computer-assigned appointments for the rest of the day. She mentally checked them off. Five Starfleet officers with various stress-related and relational problems, and another three slots for ‘walk-ins’ like Asenth. The system seemed to believe that her matriculation period for the posting was over. Time for her to start pulling her weight. 

By all rights, she should have stayed up late working on the breadth of her main assignments, not diving deep into the life history of one lost Romulan orphan. But last night, when she lay down to sleep, a face appeared in every one of her dreams. A face with hurt brown eyes looking out from beneath a dark bowl-cut, pleading. 

She stared at the pieces of her research, then picked up one of the blank plexis and her stylus and started jotting down brief notes from the others. Then she hopped up, tied her hair into a messy bun, and hurried from her room with her plastic sheet of notes clutched firmly in her hand.This was too much for her to handle alone.

***

“Muninn!” Lish beamed when he opened the door. “You’re up early, I was just having breakfast. Sausages, Terran eggs… would you like to join me?” Muninn was about to say no, but then her stomach rumbled, reminding her of the last time she accidentally skipped a meal. Some things did not bear repeating, as she had learned painfully over the years in a great many areas when it came to her unique needs. So she nodded, and the happy lieutenant ushered her inside.

Lish’s quarters were an identical layout to her own, but his tastes were almost as colorful as his personality. Bright paintings hung on the walls, alongside various framed photos of people Muninn assumed were his family. His Starfleet diploma hung up above  a glass display cabinet featuring an impressive collection of apparently antique coins. There were a number of plants, too, palms with large spiny fronds, and plump trailing tendrils of ivy sprouting little red flowers that hung from hooks on the ceiling.

At a small table near the replicator, Lish hurriedly pulled out a second chair for her. His own meal, barely touched, sat on a plate next to an active PADD.

“Adatith suasage?” Lish said as he went to the replicator. “Best recipe on Bolias, trust me! Pairs well with marmite on toast.”

“Uh, sure.”

Muninn seated herself while Lish happily programmed in her plate and brought it, steaming, back to the table. The sausages were plump, large, and extremely pungent. But, Muninn reasoned, couldn’t be any stranger than a number of Earth delicacies she’d sampled over the years.

“Thanks.”

“Nothing of it! It’s a pleasure to have someone over. You know, I don’t often get the chance to entertain guests, what with one thing or another. It makes everything in here feel so much larger when I do.” He made a show of turning off the PADD screen and flipping it over as a matter of courtesy. Then stabbed one of his own sausages on the tines of his fork and started munching happily.

Muninn followed suit. To her surprise, and relief, the meat tasted far better than it smelled, and it did go well alongside the marmite-topped toast.

“I have the feeling,” Lish said after she took a few bites, “that you have something on your mind? I must say, I expected this eventually.”

Muninn looked at him curiously. “You did?”

“Oh yes. It happens to everyone. The first week is all settling in and getting used to routine, but the second week is when the panic sets in. Especially for officers who served on smaller ships before coming here. I served for two years aboard a Saber-class starship. Let me tell you, those things are cramped, don’t let the brochure fool you! So, when I transferred from that to one of the refitted Galaxy-class, well, it was a bit of a shock to the senses. And then, coming here! I have to admit, I still sometimes find the promenade overwhelming during a busy period.” He finally paused for a breath and smiled.

“Ah,” Muninn said, now feeling somewhat awkward. “It’s not that so much as…”

“Yes?” Lish looked at her expectantly.

“It’s one of my new patients.”

“Shop talk!” Lish waved his fork over the table. “Excellent. Of course, I’m glad you came to me. I am, as goes the English saying, ‘all ears’, though I suppose that would make more sense if I were a Ferangi,” he chortled at his own humor.

Muninn slipped the plexi out of her pocket and handed it over to the lieutenant, then bit into a piece of her toast. She watched Lish carefully as he scanned her handwritten notes, a line of concentration forming on his brow.

“This is fascinating,” he said after a moment. His gaze moved from the plexi to her face. It was the first time Muninn had seen him take something completely seriously since they met, to sobering effect. “One question. Why write it down? Why not send it to me?”

“For one thing, I think best when I write by hand. And for another…” she hesitated. It would not have been difficult to have the computer transcribe her writing, which was her usual procedure. “I wanted your advice on what I should do.”

“Is this case urgent?”

“I believe it may be so, yes. For the girl, certainly. But what do you think about her story?”

Lish placed his eggs and a bit of sausage on top of a toast triangle and bit into it thoughtfully. “Well,” he said after swallowing, “it’s an interesting problem. Did you have the computer run a check into Starfleet personnel in the sector?”

“I did, and there was one match. But the record was sealed. I don’t have security clearance.”

“Odd, you should have clearance for just about anything through your medical license.”

“That’s what I thought.”

Lish picked his PADD up again. “Computer, access file PA-N977s8V. Helen Anderson, Starfleet.”

The computer’s response was prompt and curt. “Access to that file is restricted to Starfleet Intelligence personnel, rank lieutenant commander or above.”

Lish and Muninn exchanged a glance over the table, and Lish said, “Bugger that. Computer, override lockout. Official Starfleet medical emergency access. Not to be used lightly,” he added to Muninn as the computer process his command. “But sometimes valuable.”

“Override accepted,” said the computer. “Helen Anderson, Age forty-two. Lieutenant with Starfleet Intelligence. Assigned to unlisted covert operation fifteen years ago. Listed as Missing In Action. File sealed and closed.”

Lish let out a little whistle. “That’s in interesting development. ‘Missing in action’ was she… And how old did you say your patient was?”

“Probably about thirteen, maybe fourteen at the outside. Can’t we pull anything else from Anderson’s file?”

“Not without a court order or someone with command privilege. But I’m willing to bet that this is the same Anderson related to your patient.” He crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair, frowning slightly. “It seems that we have a bit of a conundrum on our hands. A missing Starfleet officer is a matter of some concern, and your notes about this Romulan teenager are equally alarming.” He glanced at the notes again. “She said saw her parents killed by Remans?”

“It took a while to get all the details. Apparently, Reman soldiers entered their home, where her family and some of their friends were having dinner. And, when she went in afterward to look, her parents and her little brother were dead.”

Lish rubbed at his bald blue head. “That’s a horrible thing. And quite within the realm of possibility, I’m afraid. It seems that a number of the ex-Reman mining colonies were sites of rather brutal disciplinary methods by the Romulans, especially after the local governors were given direct control over their territories. That’s one of the reasons why the diplomatic talks are so important with this Resak fellow. He’s got Romulan and Reman support behind him, and the potential to turn this entire sector into a stable bastion of law and order.”

“And something like this could throw mud in the face of everything he’s building,” Muninn said. A knot nested inside her stomach as she considered the implications. “A messy massacre is the last thing that Starfleet’s going to want to poke its nose into.”

“Possibly. Possibly not.” Lish handed back the plexi, his expression thoughtful. “Mind if I look into this for you? I have the feeling that there’s something interesting at the other end.”

“Be my guest. Just… let me know what you find out?”

Lish’s smile returned. “You’ll be the first to know.”

Paying a bet

Starbase Bravo
10 June 2400

Stepping out of the sonic shower in his room S’Atilen was quite surprised when he heard a familiar voice coming from the shared area of the quarters

Tazzeth is that you I hear out there?

(chuckling) Can’t get must past a caitian can you, that hearing of yours.

Give me a minute and I’ll come out and give you a hand? When did you arrive?

I got in about an hour ago or so, I decided to stay on the planet for an extra couple days to get some R&R in before reporting in. 

(S’Atilen walks into the shared area of the quarters) I have done much out here as I didn’t know who I would be rooming with and I didn’t want to be stepping on any toes figured it would be better to be safe than sorry.

See’s Tazzeth duck into his personal space and follows him to the doorway. There not much but definitely better than we had at the academy. Enough room for what a e person needs. See’s the PADD on the side table by the door. I see you got assigned to the planetology labs, that’s where you wanted to get assigned If I remember correctly.

Tazzeth takes a big breath inhaling the fumes from the attached breathing adapter in front of his mouth and nose. Yes, yes, I got the department I wanted should be a good place to start in the field as this star base gets a lot of information coming through it as the assigned Task Forces and ships send everything back through here.

Taking another breath. Is it true I heard that Kr’Antren got a Raven and a first command, good for him? Do you think he will select you to join him? Got to be weird be selected for command as an Ensign, though I guess it would be about time for him to be promoted.

(S’Atilen chuckles) Yaaaa, not sure how he pulled that one off, I’ll have to get the full story from him some time. Which reminds me I have to go get him a certain brandy for winning the bet between the two of us on who would get a command first. And no, I don’t think he will. He knows I have a particular posting and position I would like to achieve first.

Ahhh yes, the intelligence area, do you think you will be able to get in.

I’m not to sure they put me in communications, that being said it is a good stepping stone that fits my particular skills which could open doors into that area. Guess we will have to wait and see.

Well, I’m going to finished getting dressed and head off to the promenade to find a merchant whom hopefully has a good bottle of the brandy and doesn’t try to gauge me on the price.

A couple hours later S’Atilen returns to his room with two finely crafted wooden boxes that according to the merchant make excellent display pieces which hold not only the bottle of liqueur but also a set of four glasses that are the preferred drinking glass for the type of liqueur inside. He also has a bottle of each with glasses but no display box just a simple box that the items normally come in. 

Computer let us finish our conversation on Vulcan History, set a one-hour time limit and let us discuss it in Saurian tonight. Also please keep track from now on which languages we have already used and let me know if we use the same one more than once every three weeks.

****** The next day*******

The next day after work shifts are completed, S’Atilen walks into the shared quarters finding Tazzeth running around the shared space and his personal space quickly trying to repack his bags that he had only just unpacked less than 16 hours ago.

Whoa what’s the issue? Slow down Tazzeth, breath.

S’Atilen I’ve been reassigned, I barely reported in this morning and they LT called me into the office and informed that I have been reassigned to the USS Rhyndacus. S’Atilen that is your brothers ship, I’ve been assigned to the Science Bridge slot on Kr’Antren’s ship. Did you have something to do with this? Did you recommend me?

It wasn’t me Tazzeth, I have talked to Kr’Antren since he left to the Devron Fleet yards. I only heard that he got the ship through the same channels you did. I’m still quite surprised that he got it as an Ensign to tell you the truth. Maybe he recognized your name from knowing that we where friends at the academy.

That must be it, though I wonder why me versus someone with more experience? Unless some one else gave him some recommendations or was my name offered just because I’m the newest officer in the science department. Takes a deep breath from his breathing adapter. Well, I guess you will have to wait a bit longer to get a new roommate. 

(chuckles) True, but it is what it is. When do you report? 

Now, like as soon as possible. They have been docked since early this morning and are preparing to depart early tomorrow morning for our first mission. So, I need to get moving. Hmm docking bay Zulu 114. Ugh that’s way on the other side.

Well, here let me help you and we will go together. Besides I have a couple things to take to Kr’Antren (looks over at the two display boxes). 

Several minutes later Tazzeth with his Duffel slung over his shoulder and S’Atilen carrying a wooden box in each arm arrive at Docking port Zulu 114. Notices the group of folks making their way on to the ship. Several in Red shirts.

Hmmm Tazzeth that’s a few command types right there, wonder what is going on.

One of the people turn around and give S’ATilen a once over, nods their head and turns back to some of the folks in front of him, saying something that S’Atilen can’t quite make out with the other conversations going on around the busy docking port rings. One of them holds up their hand and turns around to S’Atilen.

It’s Ensign S’Atilen isn’t it? Hmmm yes, yes, I think you would do well to be here for this.

Yes sir, that is correct I’m Ensign S’Atilen. If I may ask sir? What is this about? Did my brother do something already that he is in trouble for?

(chuckles) No, no, let’s just say mum is the word for right now, we don’t want him finding out beforehand no would we.

The person beside the Commander, a Lt, gives S’Atilen a quick wink and flashes a little black felt covered box that he is holding in his hand.

Ahhh yes sir, Got it. 

As Tazzeth is about to enter the docking ring and a red shirt acting as the RhynDacus deck officer asks for his PADD.

Ahhh yes, I’m ensign Tazzeth reporting for Duty.

Ahh yes sir, you’re the last of the crew to check in. (Looking at down at his PADD) Looks like quarters 3R is the only one available sir. I was also reminded to inform you that their will be an all hands meeting at 0800 tomorrow morning in the captain’s ready room.

Thank you, petty officer, quarters 3R

S’Atilen and Tazzeth make their way onto the USS Rhyndacus, Tazzeth towards his new quarters and S’Atilen follows the small command group towards the bridge.

Surly Bonds of Earth

USS Fantail, Somewhere
June 2400

The deck still gently hummed underneath as Callahan picked himself up in the gloom of the powerless cockpit. His head ached, but when he put a hand to his temple there was no indication of impact. Being turned head over heels as inertial dampeners stopped him from turning to jam or being rammed against a bulkhead had likely done its own number on him.

“Report?” he tried again, hopeful he’d get more notice of something going wrong than last time. His voice rasped in his throat.

From somewhere in the gloom, the rather shaky voice of Cadet Hargreaves came back. “I don’t know,” she said first. “I – we had to eject the warp core, we…”

“That was then. This is now,” decided Callahan, because it had been a long time since he’d had to think about warp cores. “What’s our status?”

“Uh…” A few unsure bleeps. “Power’s low. Internal or external sensors, sir?”

“Internal. Get me our situation,” he decided after a moment, and didn’t say, let’s first find out if we’re about to blow up.

“Main power is gone,” Katlyn said, though that was rather obvious. “Fusion reactors have shut down as well.” The panel before her was dim and only half of it was displaying anything at all. Low power mode apparently had some rather interesting setting choices about what would and wouldn’t work. “Looks like a safety tripped when the shockwave hit. Batteries are good for now. Parze or Horin, can you…” she cut herself off as rising into view, filling the dim cockpit with light was the unmistakable crescent of a planet. Its apparent motion was a good indicator of the end over end spin that Fantail was in now. “Uh…that could be a problem.”

For a heart-wrenching frozen moment, Cadet Parze watched the dizzying spin through the forward viewport.  Scrambling to her feet from the deck, Parze’s scaly snout gawped open in dismay.  “Oh no, Katlyn, I should have taken more piloting lessons from–”  But her console shrilled at her, as LCARS menu options begged for manual interventions as the environmental systems fully switched to the battery power.  After reviewing the options and striking commands into the panel, Parze reported, “Primary life support is functional but —that’s weird— the secondary atmospheric processing unit isn’t responding to diagnostics.  Reserve utilities are in the green.  Ach, one of the gravity generators has gone dark!  I’m compensating with the other.”

“Trying to get impulse engines back online, or at least maneouvring thrusters,” Hargreaves said with audible anxiety as her hands flew across the controls. “Even if all we can do is fall into an orbit, that’s better than, uh, falling…”

“That’s our priority,” Callahan decided, perhaps more easily-led than the most obvious problem than a strict assessment of their situation. He looked about the cadets, considered the limited reading he’d done on them. “Horin, go take a look at our fusion reactors, try to get us something that’s not reserve power,” he decided, sending the young Betazoid below decks. “Parze, figure out what went wrong, but only in terms of how we can fix it; theories and stellar phenomena come later. Mianaai, Hargreaves, get flight systems back online and level us out.” Still unsteady on his feet, he turned to Connolly and dropped his voice. This last part he did not want the cadets to hear, in case the answers would only make them more shaky. “Get to sensor control, short and long-range. Find out if anyone’s out there. This might not have been an accident.”

“How bad can it get?” Connolly grumbled as he made his way through the runabout to sensor control. That was the question Callahan had asked him when they’d been handed this assignment. “Turns out it could get pretty damn bad.” He added as he kneeled down and pulled a hatch off the bulkhead, exposing the sensor controls.

Shaking his head to refocus on what was happening, including trying to block out how everyone was feeling right now from his mind, Horin replied with a simple “aye sir” as he got out of his chair, holding onto some of the hand rails as he moved from the cockpit towards the aft section to access one of the jeffery tubes to go and access the fusion reactors.

A handful of frantic key presses, complaints from the computer summarily addressed and either ignored or resolved, Katlyn brought up the shuttles RCS controls in a rather horrible manual config screen. It looked like an after thought from a programmer who figured it would never be needed, but was there nonetheless, likely for testing purposes. “How old is this?” she asked no one in particular as she selected two of the thruster packages and started firing them cautiously, watching another emergency display which showed the runabouts gyros. “Should have our spin cancelled out in a moment. But if we don’t get impulse back, we’re going to get a lesson on lithobraking. Heck, just the sub space driver coil would help out, but I don’t think it’ll be enough.” She turned look at Nia. “This thing flies like a brick.”

Seated at her console the row back from Katlyn and Nia, Cadet Parze reconfigured her console to add more access to the engineering console within her immediate grasp.  The LCARS interface remained sluggish.  Every third swipe of her fingertips across the black polymer surface offered no response from the computer.  Parze hit the panel harder until heard the satisfying LCARS telltare beeps in reply.  “I don’t get it,” Parze said.  For the Saurian over-achiever, admitting she didn’t know something sounded like blasphemy out of her mouth, even if engineering wasn’t her specialty.  She explained, “The logs look good.  The warp core’s self-diagnostics found no hint of any problems– oh.  At least, not until ninety seconds before the piloting controls starting acting up.  The power transfer conduits to the warp nacelles slipped out of alignment.”  Parze scrolled further through the logs hurriedly.  “Internal sensor logs aren’t enough to tell me if it was a hardware or software failing.  The starboard plasma injector firings dropped to 40 Hz, but the port injector dropped to 25 Hz.  With that kind of shear stress, we could have lost one of the nacelles, if we hadn’t ejected the warp core!”

Glancing over her shoulder at Katlyn, Parze continued, “That shouldn’t effect the fuel supply for the impulse engines…”  Parze rearranged the displays on her console again, shifting focus to the impulse engines.  “I studied this after the Exeter simulation– if you’re not getting enough from the fusion reactor, we… could try injecting a minute amount of antimatter into the impulse reaction chamber?  …In an emergency.”

In the back compartment of the Fantail, Horin had rushed to open the tube’s hatch and had almost lurched himself through the tunnel as he climbed in. Crawling into the small space, he had pulled out an engineering kit with him on his sprint to the compartment. Making his way through the tunnel, he eventually came to the next hatch and it didn’t automatically open for him. Cursing under his breath, he pulled his tricorder out to see what the problem was. Straight away, what he had guessed was wrong, was confirmed from the scans. The hatch sensor was offline due to burnt-out circuitry. Grabbing the nearby emergency hand actuator, Horin slammed it onto the hard metal surface to override the door’s magnetic locks. Pushing the actuator to the left after pulling its lever up, he was able to push the door open wide enough for him to see through to the small chamber he was hoping to get to. However instantly he fell backwards after feeling the strong sense of heat coming in his direction. Looking back before him he saw flames all around the fusion reactor chamber.

Tapping his combadge, he called up to the cockpit.  “Horin to the cockpit, we have a fire near to fusion reactor control.” He looked around and saw that the emergency suppression system was offline. “Fire suppression system is out too.” He pulled out the extinguisher from his kit and began to douse the flames. Crawling further through he eventually dropped into the small chamber and coughed at the amount of smoke that was in the room. The heat was unbearable but he continued dealing with what was going on around him. Eventually, he took out most of the fire allowing him to access the controls. Tapping away he was able to bring up the status of the fusion reactors. Seeing that three power conduits were offline, he automatically ordered the computer to by-pass them and within seconds of him doing this two of the fusion reactors came online. Again coughing as he tapped his combadge, he called up to the cockpit to report the fusion reactors were back on.

The sensors were dead. It didn’t matter what Connolly tried; he couldn’t bring them back to life. Even if he rerouted every scrap of power the Fantail had left to the sensors, they would still be dead. Frustrated, the young ensign thumped his fist on the control panel several times. He hadn’t expected this to have any effect, but the sensor control panel suddenly sprang to life. Connolly stared at the panel in surprise for a moment, unable to figure out how that had worked, but he didn’t have time to question it. The Fantail didn’t have full power available but enough that he could get the sensors working again. Their range was minimal, but they could see again.

“Let’s see what’s out there,” Connolly muttered as he started scanning the area. The planet ahead of them was class-M, which was a relief, but that wasn’t what Callahan asked him. There was nothing out there, at least nothing that he could see within the limited range of the sensors. There was an odd reading right at the edge of their range, but he couldn’t tell if that was another ship or a sensor ghost caused by the damage suffered by the runabout. Connelly slapped his right hand on his communicator, “Connolly to Callahan. The range is minimal but we have sensors again.”

“Uh, Lieutenant,” Katlyn said, her tone verging on panic, “that planet came up a lot faster than we thought.” The window of the cockpit was already starting to be licked by the orange-red of plasma, tinged slightly with green and blue, as the Fantail‘s bulbous nose pushed through the wispy upper layers of the planet’s atmosphere. If she had more time she’d try and work out the atmospheric composition that would have given those green and blue streaks, but the need to fly the runabout, essentially a prisoner of physics right now, was all-consuming. “Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap.” Her hand went for the ship-wide comm on the flight console, rarely used and possibly not evening working. 

“All hands brace for impact!” she shouted.

Hypothetical Comfort Food

Sector November-Magenta, Deck 710 Operations Office
June 2400

As the doorway to the auxiliary operations office opened for Elegy, he found himself momentarily impassive at the aperture.  Watching the sea of gold-shouldered Starfleet officers working at various LCARS panels across the large compartment, Lieutenant Junior Grade Elegy Weld felt out of place in his teal-highlighted uniform.  He tended to spend his duty shifts relatively alone in his office, engaging in one-on-one conversations with members of the crew.  Once he strode into the office, Elegy only hoped no one would fear the psychiatrist had come to make an unexpected house call.

Elegy meandered in between a few of the workstation, looking for the identifier markings on each terminal as he searched for the one he’d been instructed to find.  Only when Elegy came to stand in front of Lieutenant Junior Grade Cynndle Oin’sun did Elegy stop to say, “Ah ha!  Lieutenant Oin’sun, hullo.  The Logistics Deputy Director said you may be able to assist me…”

Cynndle sat at his LCARS terminal monitoring the heavy traffic flow around the station due to the current circumstances in the Star Empire. Not seeing anything out of the ordinary but clocking that a couple of ships had been in a holding pattern for longer than expected he switched to the summary report he was making for the next shift highlighting this and several other items for them to keep an eye on. Focused on what he was doing he didn’t notice the officer with the teal highlighted uniform come to a stop before him. Hearing his name he looked up from his terminal and leaned back in his chair. “Hey, Lieutenant…what is it that I can help you with?” 

“I’m Elegy,” the Trill said by way of introductions.  He lay the flat on his palm on his chest, and he said a traditional Trill greeting that the universal translator mangled into, “How do you do?”  Elegy’s affable smile turned into a far more sheepish expression.  He glanced down at his boots before looking up again.  Elegy said, “I work in sickbay as one of the staff psychiatrists.  Because of doctor-patient confidentiality, I need your help with something of a… hypothetical problem.  It’s going to sound foolish, but I need to find an obscure replicator pattern.”

“Nice to meet you Lieutenant Elegy.” Cynndle says, “I am doing well, this whole Romulan situation though is keeping us on our toes. How about yourself?”

“Ah, about the same, and my toes are starting to get sore,” Elegy replied with a sympathetic nod.  Wryly, Elegy added, “If you find yourself in a turbolift with him, I’d suggest not asking that question of Lieutenant Dinalin, or he might need an hour to opine all the ways the counselling department is staffed the support the starbase‘s crew and residents.  He never thought we’d see two populations of refugees passing through our office doors.  (But you didn’t hear that from me.)”  Elegy all but winked at that last statement.  After clearing his throat, he explained, “One of my hypothetical Romulan refugee patients, all she can talk about is a dish her grandmother used to cook for her.  It would mean the world to her if she could be comforted by a steaming bowl.”

Nodding Cynndle continues, ”It shouldn’t be too hard to pull up a replicator pattern. Do you know the name or names of the item and roughly when it was first uploaded?” Pausing for a moment he continues, “Also a brief description of what it is will help me narrow it down.”

Elegy shrugged, saying, “From my initial search, I could see no clues to suggest such a replicator pattern has ever been saved to the Starbase Bravo computer core.  Stewed Hlai’vnau is a recipe that originated on Romulus and it has dozens of regional variants.  The Vulan-Romulan fusion restaurant on the promenade uses the spice blend from the Rel’enak region and they’ve replaced the Hlai with a Vulcan fowl.  I’ve put in queries to the Federation database on Earth and they don’t have a pattern for this dish either.”

Frowning slightly Cynndle runs his hand along his chin, “Ok, that will complicate things a bit but if we have a variation on the station already…Rel’enak, is one of the Romulan regions, correct?” he says as he quickly pulls up the information, “Yes….oh, it was very beautiful there. Pity…..Ok. so. Doesn’t appear that the restaurant replicates it but if they cook it we should then be able to get the computer to reverse engineer in, deconstruct it per see. Just need the Hlai, that will be tricky….”

Stopping himself he looks up… “Sorry I can think out loud sometimes. Have you tried the dish? We could head down and get it, then work backwards with the computer?”

Chuckling briefly, Elegy remarked, “Thinking out loud is how I do my best work,” to make the easy mental health joke.  After that, Elegy took a sizeably deep breath and he said, “This is where it gets interesting.  The Rel’enak restaurant on the promenade only gets us halfway there.  My hypothetical patient’s grandmother was raised in the Tel’Garch region and I’m told the flavour profiles are different.  The cooking method may even be different” –Elegy squinted in consternation– “but my patient has never actually cooked it herself.”

Sighing deeply Cynndle shakes his head slightly. “Well, I would say that halfway is an overestimation. That is like saying a stew recipe from North America is halfway there for one from Africa back home. Different spices, ingredients and cooking methods.” Pausing and leaning back in his chair he puts his hands on his head. “Ok – so not an easy find. Does the fusion restaurant or any other have spices from the Tel’Garch region? Could we ask amount the number of refugees here; I am sure someone will have an idea or the recipe if we are lucky?”

“I like the sentiment,” Elegy said, but the narrowing of his eyes and the downturn of his lips suggested otherwise.  “I believe the answer must lie among someone aboard the starbase today…”  In a defeated mien, Elegy shrugged though.  “But I’m not sure your, nor my, departments have the workforce available to manually canvas the refugees during the worst hours of their lives.”  Putting on a faux-smile, Elegy concluded, “That’s why I was hoping for computer magic and the synergy of teamwork to do the heavy lifting for us… while we otherwise attend to our other priorities.”

“Well….” Cynndle starts before pausing. “The computer should be able to do most of it. It may come down to manpower in the end but as all refugees come aboard we log their details – date of birth, location of birth and where they lived these include full system information right down to the region on each planet as well as professions. Not sure why I didn’t think of this earlier…maybe I just wanted to try that restaurant once you got me thinking about food…” he says with a bit of a laugh as he starts working on the console, “I can set up a search for individuals who were from that region on Romulus and cross-reference that with their professions. On top of that, if we search that database for other dishes from that region we might get lucky. It is possible that we may find a Romulan Chef who was from that region and with the help of something in the replicator database we may have some of the spices already on file.” Turning back to Elegy “Is that the sort of heavy lifting you had in mind?”

Clapping his hands together, Elegy shouted a quick, “Yes!”  In a far more reasonable tone of voice, if still exuberant, Elegy said, “Thank you, yes.  That’s precisely the brand of miracle work I was hoping to find.  Now, I’m not sure what I can do for you from the hospital, but I’m going to owe you a big, big favour after this.”

At that Cynndle lets out a laugh. “One can never have too many favours owed to them I feel.” He says before looking back down at the screen. “It looks like this will take a bit of time, ugh, 12 hours. With all the new ships arriving it will be adding them to the queue. I also have it set up to scan the databases of all docked ships, with their permission, in case there is some information there that might help. Do you want me to call you once this is done with the results? I will pick it up on my next shift. We may then need to go find some people.”

Enthusiastically, Elegy remarked, “That would be fantastic; thank you, lieutenant.”  He nodded his affirmation for the suggestion and took a self-conscious half-step back as if he’d already taken too much of Cynddle’s time.  “I can’t ask you to cut the queue on this.  We have to meet the essential needs of all the refugees before a passion project like this one,” Elegy said.  “But if we can sort this, you will have made one hypothetical Romulan far more relieved and comfortable in her stay at Starbase Bravo.”

Leaning back in his chair Cynndle stretches and puts his hands behind his head. “Well, baring any unforeseen catastrophe I don’t see why I cannot have a quick run-through of the results and see if I can narrow it down a bit. We can then go from there. The search has started so not much that can be done with it now. Hope about I message you tomorrow with an update? My shift is ending soon and need to get this handover report wrapped up.”

“I appreciate it,” Elegy said, taking further steps back.  “I’ll see you tomorrow.  For now, you can wrap up and get to your own comfort food, lieutenant!”

Something has Survived – Part 2

Starbase Bravo - Cargo Bay
May 10, 2400

Central Hospital 1 – Docking Bay – Ward 1 – 0720

Cynndle stood and took one final look at the airlock and docking bay in central hospital 1 running a few thoughts through his head, ‘What do we need? How best to assemble it? – leave that to the engineering team – could we utilize a rapid walk-through transporter system? Right into an enclosed decontamination bay? Portable shield generators?  How do we then stop the infected from leaving? Security in sealed EVA suits?…’

Turning to Neva, “I have a few ideas but need to run it by ops…” taping his combadge he turns and takes a few steps away. “Lieutenant Oin’sun to Ops…I am going to need to route extra power to Central hospital 1 docking bay ASAP. We also need all the biohazard gear on the station sent here right away and the replicators primed to produce more right away.”

Nodding as he gets a quick reply. He walks back to Neva, “Shall we head to the cargo bay; you lead the way. I have a few ideas on what we can do.”

“What do you suggest, sir?”Neva looked down at her PADD, fingers fluttering over it. Looking back up at the lieutenant, she added. “I just tapped 2 engineers who are close by to meet us in the bay. They can get some of the parts we need on their way. From the manifest I have, the rest are already in there.” She pointed to the right where the entry to the bay they needed. “Here it is. Hmph!” She gruffly blurted out. “This cargo bay was closer than I thought!” Without losing a step, she swooped past Oin’sun & into the bay. 

Cargo Bay 34 – 0730

Neva waved over the 2 engineers who were waiting for them. “Where’d you put the stuff?” she called out.  One signalled where the parts were & jogged over to them, smiling. “Got it all together, Cordon. Including the rest that Bailey’s got on a hover table for us.” Neva nodded again, then turned to her companion. “Do you need to get any equipment on your end of things, Oin’sun?”

Looking around Cynndle contemplates what will be needed, “To be honest Lieutenant Cordon, I am not sure. What have you got pulled together here? A part of me feels that even with a positive pressure system there is still a risk, there always is.” Tapping his combadge “Oin’sun to Longfellow”

=^=Longfellow here, Lieutenant.  Go ahead.=^=

“I had a thought; I don’t think it will slow down direct entry to the ship as we will still need the full decontamination set up but could we keep the USS Lorenza out of space dock and set up the Decon site around one for the transporter pads. This would allow the biofilters to clear any contagions from the surface of the suits and we can then send the teams so that they can still go through the full decontamination procedure. We don’t even need to use a pad, we could set it up in the airlock as planned and transport the teams back and forth from there? Would that work?”

There was a pause on the other end as Longfellow thought through the proposal.  It wasn’t the worst idea, he decided, =^=I think the second option is the one to pursue – setting up in the airlock as extra precautions instead of running the risk with a transporter pad that wasn’t onsite.  The fewer surfaces or areas or places the better – keeps the process centralized and focused.  You have my permission to pursue and set it up, Lieutenant.  Good thinking.  Longfellow out.=^=

Looking over at Neva he smiles. “Just a thought. Either way, we will need everything you have there.”

Neva nodded, head tilting to the side to think…Dog Look number 5…

“Yeah, that works. We’ll need different parts, though.” She turned and looked at the other two engineers. “as you heard, we’ve got a slightly different approach to this project. We’ll need..” Neva started to confer with the 2 engineers and Oin’sun about parts, ops connections, getting the other airlocks retrofitted as rapidly as possible, and if they should tap other personnel that aren’t engineers to complete this endeavor.

“Let me send a priority message to the Cheif, they should be notified of the change as it will require alot of use from the transporters. They may also have an idea of what is needed to improve the transporter to be used directly from the airlock.” Stopping for a moment Cynndle looks around and then smiles, “There, grant those as well” he says as he points towards a large rectangular box. “The systems won’t have an issue keeping a lock on our teams when they are aboard ship and in theory, and practice, shouldn’t have any issues locking on to people in the airlock but we could always use pattern enchanters set up around the edge of the airlock to make it easier. What do you think?”

He says this as he quickly types away on his PADD sending a short message with the update and query to the Cheif and his duty officer. 

A moment later he looks up at Neva, “What do you think? This could really reduce the risk of infection. Did you mention different equipment? What are your thoughts? We still need to set up a full decontamination centre outside the airlock right? Do you think a second could work?”

“Yeah…that should work admirably. What do you mean about a second airlock? I think that’d be redundant, really. We’d just need a changing station for the decon and hazmat suits, I think. As for the airlock & different parts, it’d be connecting to the shuttle more firmly with the station. Would we have to have a crewman from the ship bring the infected here? Or do we get pilots here & double suited up to be fully safe?” As she spoke, Bailey came over. “Excuse me for butting in, but retrofitting the parts would take a little longer for us. With Ops replicating suits & that, will WE have enough power to replicate what we need?”

Neva nodded, “That’s a concern I was about to ask. So thank you.” She looked at Oin’sun and raised an eyebrow. “What do we do on this? I’m legitimately stumped.”

“I was thinking of a second decontamination/changing station for the medical staff when they go over to the ship in case we run into issues with the first. But I think the first priority is getting the main one set up.” Cynndle says as he begins to move several boxes off of the pattern enhancers so he can reach them. “We won’t need to worry about pilots or the shuttles if this works. We will beam the medical teams directly from the sealed airlock to the ship with their equipment. When the medical teams return we will be able to materialize them right in the sealed airlock; sadly the all crew on the ship from my understanding will have to remain there until we have a better idea of the transmission patterns of the virus.” he continues as he moves another box, “In theory, the biofilters should remove the viral agents from the biohazard suits but we should set up a full UZ screen and decontamination spray for the airlock which will activate once the teams have materialized so we are doubly sure that both the personnel and the airlock are clean.” Finally getting to the Pattern enhancers he opens up the box to have a quick look and nods in approval. “These look good; let’s add them to the pile.”

Turning towards Bailey, he shrugs. “This station kicks out a huge amount of power so we can replicate the number we need for this. I am waiting on a report from Ops to confirm the number of suits we have. They may have reached out to Longfellow already…if not I will chase them on it and we can get more made.”

Neva looked at the assembled group. “Ok, let’s remember as we do this, people’s lives depend on what we’re rigging up. Time’s of the essence.” She looked specifically at Oin’sun. “Confirm with Longfellow to see if anything is needed on your end.” She gave an encouraging smile. “Well boys, let’s get to work!” She and the other engineers walked off with the hover table, leaving Oin’sun to do what he needed.

Watching the engineering team depart Cynndle taps his Combadge, “Oin’sun to Longfellow, the engineering team is on their way to you. I will be there shortly. Just need to sort a couple of items.” Not waiting for or expecting a response he pulls out his PADD to check for an update on the hazmat suits but before he could it beeped and a new message appeared from an Ensign S’Atilen.

 

We want to call home

Starbase bravo
2400

S’Atilen realizes that it has already been a busy morning and he hasn’t even started work yet, making a quick stop at Cosmo Coffee for a to go cup from there he quickly makes his way to the communication center and the start of his day.

“Good morning petty officer, how was the duty last night? Anything interesting come in.”

“Not much sir,” handing the morning briefing PADD to the Ensign. “Was a quite night overall only thing we had where a bunch of requests again from the medical situation asking for communication time for the refugees to reach out to their families. But as you know sir, we put a communication black out on that area so that no outgoing messages could be transmitted and possibly leading to a panic on the base and in the Romulan held territories.”

Walks over to his cubicle area and drinks his coffee as he goes through the morning reports so he can brief the LT upon her arrival.

“Hey petty officer, isn’t there an operation support person assigned to that issue / slash area.”

“Yes, sir I do believe there is. Give me one second to look it up,” we hear a quick sequence of keys being tapped on as information is pulled up and looked through “Ahh yes it’s Lt Cynndle sir, an operations officer from the auxiliary ops center. Looks like they are the go-to point of contact for our side of the house.”

“Thank you Petty officer, I’ll make a note of that in case it comes up when I brief the LT.”

S’Atilen spent the next 45 mins or so going through the duty logs and then the duty schedules and the work schedules for the various communication sections that the comm center oversees. Slowly sipping on his cup of coffee as he makes sure he has all of his ducks in a row. This will be his second day working in the communication center and his first briefing the LT on his own.

Other than those requests it looks like the message traffic has been pretty normal, “I’m not seeing any patterns of anything in particular to note. Hmmm, I see the USS Edinburgh has arrived at their location. hmm what’s this the USS Ulysses has met up with the USS Temeraire. Wonder what is going on there last I heard the USS Ulysses was going through a major retrofit and upgrade.”

S’Atilen looks up as he hears the main comm center doors open, there she is right on time.

“Ensign S’Atilen do you have the overnight reports?”

“Yes ma’am”

“Ok then, my office 5 minutes for the brief.”

“Yes ma’am”

A few minutes later, S’atilen enters the LT’s office and goes through the morning brief with her along with the schedule for the day.

“Ma’am one last note, there is a Lt. Cynndle from operations that has been assigned to the medical issue. Maybe we can try getting him on comms and pass the message about the communication requests, see if they can work something out on that side.”

“That’s a good idea S’Atilen, reach out to the LT when we are finished here. Also, I just got a message from the Lt. Cmdr. you must have done something to impress Senior Chief Valin. Operations has decided to make you the temporary OIC for transporter room 4 and cargo transporter room 5, as you know they work in the same transporter section. This is just temporary due to the mass of staffing changes due to the Romulan crises and having to staff new ships for the fleet. This does not excuse you from your duties with the Communication center. With that being said I expect that you will not fall behind in your duties in either location, for a schedule, I believe a half-day with us and a half-day in the transporter rooms for three days a week with one full day assigned to the comm center and a full day in the transporter rooms. Those rooms are normally run by at least a LTjg or a LT, so do a good job and it could lead to good things for you ensign.”

S’Atilen thinks to himself. ‘Great that’s what I get for asking too many questions and actually looking like I wanted to know how everything’s runs in the transporter rooms. Well, what is that old saying my father uses with the cadets, ahh yes “What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.”’

“Yes, Ma’am that will work. I’ll spend the first half here and the second half there unless you need me to switch that around for any reason.”

“That will work ensign. Make sure you met with the Senior Chief when you go down there today so you can go over schedules and any requests or reports that need to be completed.”

“Yes Ma’am”

“Well, I think that pretty much-covered everything for last night and so far, this morning. Keep me in the loop if anything else comes up this morning and let me know before you head out to the transporter rooms. Dismissed.”

“Yes ma’am.”

S’atilen exited the Lt’s office and stops by the duty desk to make sure nothing came up while they were in the meeting then makes his way to his cubicle. Types in his code for the console to unlock and asks the computer on the updated reports for his newly assigned additional duty and reads through the overnight reports for those. Then taps to open the communication link to Lt. Cynndle.

“Lt. Cynndle this is Ensign S’Atilen from the communication ops center. We have been getting numerous requests over the last few hours for communications outlets from the folks in Docking Bay – Ward 1. Seems like they all want to call home and let friends and family know what is going on. I’m sure you are aware the Bravo operations has put a black out on outgoing communications from that area so as not to let others get wind of what is going on. No need to start a panic or possible galaxy-wide relations issue before we know for sure what is going on.”

“As a side note if I can help in any way possible please let me know besides working in the communication center I have also just taken over transporter room 4 and cargo transporter room 5 as the OIC temporarily, which I believe are the two transporter rooms closest to that docking bay.”

Cynndle stood in Cargo bay 34 watching the engineering team leave the bay for the docking bay in Central hospital 1 and pulled out his PADD just before it chimed and a message appeared from Ensign S’Atilen. Pausing for a moment he read the message and smiled, “Well, this is perfect. The universe has a way of helping out sometimes it would seem. Saves me having to hand the transporters”

Tapping the record button on his PADD he began to speak, “Ensign S’Atilen, I just read your message. The timing of this is perfect. I was about to request access to both those transporters for solo use transporting medical teams to and from the USS Lorenza as it is experiencing a medical emergency, as you are aware. Can you meet me and Lieutenant Longfellow at the docking bay in Central Hospital 1 to discuss our next steps?”

He relistened to the message and scanned the text that was generated; happy with what he heard and saw before clicking send. “Best go check on the status of those Hazmat suits and determine if we need more.” Taping his combadge he began to make some calls as he headed back to central hospital 1.

 

An Unexpected Message

Starbase Bravo
June 2400

Cynndle sat down for the first time in what felt like forever at a small Klingon coffee shop a few minute’s walk from the main docking ring. Looking around let out a deep breath amazed that he was even able to find a set here. With the number of people feeling the now imploding Star Empire the station was packed and the involvement of Klingons in the matter only worsened the situation. Leading back into the chair he closed his eyes as he looked at tiled his head back before lifting it quickly and shaking it. “Should have known better” he muttered to himself as he picked up the raktajino and took a rather large sip, “Oh, that is good,” he says softly. For the last month and a bit, he and so many others were working double and triple shifts it seemed. The second he stopped moving and dared to close his eyes the weight of his eyelids became almost too much to overcome and his thoughts would slow, lose focus and drift as sleep tried to grab hold of him. Feeling the heat from the drink helped him to stave off the ever-encroaching exhaustion; ‘Not yet; still have to muc…much to do.’ He thought to himself as he straightened in the seat and watched yet another group of refugees wander past en route to one of the temporary accommodations before they were then moved off the station. 

Seeing them reminds him that he still has no idea what happened to Ensign Lihran. With all the others going on security was stretching pretty tight and they had not been able to dig up any leads as to his whereabouts. ‘Really hope he is ok, and now part of this somehow, he wouldn’t be though…I think…’  he thinks before pushing the thought aside.

As he watched the refugees fo past he could only imagine what they had been through. Even the ones who looked to be in the best shape were worn down, both physically and mentally. The exhaustion that seemed to radiate from them was bone-deep. ‘What the hell is the Romulan Navy and now the Klingons thinking; these people don’t deserve any of this – wish I was back on the Dawn, could at least be out there protecting these ships as they try to flee.’ he thinks to himself but before he could continue his PADD chimed. Looking down he frowned; the alert showed one new text message from an unknown sender. “That’s odd, cannot remember the last time I got one like that,” he says as he taps the message.

Lifting the raktajno to take another sip his hand freezes as his eyes scan the message, one, two, three times…

Cyn, I’ve been kidnapped and held against my will on a Romulan ship. Don’t send anyone. I’d be forced to fight with a disruptor to my head. I’m working on a plan to get back. Captain Thevius on the USS Thyanis is closest to me, either me or him will update from there if I get out or die.

-Lihran

“Well shit!” he says far too loud for where he is causing a number of heads to turn and stare at him. Looking up Cynndle smiles and waves his hand slightly, “Sorry about that everyone…” before he turns back to the PADD “Guess that answers that question though I now have a hundred more.” 

Finishing his raktajino he quickly gets up and heads back to his quarters. Once there he turns on his console and starts pulling up the records of the USS Thyanis, Captain Thevius and Lihran. “How the hell did he get onto a Romulan ship and HOW IS A RAVEN the closest ship? Given what has been happening I would think any Romulan ship would happily reduce the Thyanis to space dust…something doesn’t seem to be adding up. How and why are the Thyanis and Thevius involved?”

After having spent 30 minutes going through the records of both Lihran, Thevius and the USS Thyanis he couldn’t find any obvious connection between them though he would be the first to admit that this was not his area of speciality. Shaking his head he opened a com channel to security.

“Lieutenant Oin’sun to security.”

“Go for security.”

“I received a message regarding the disappearance of Ensign Lihran, I am forwarding it to you know.  If it is really him it is good to know he is alive but raises alot more questions. I have looked into the ship and its captain but I do not see any direct link to Lihran. I know you have some officers investigating this and the leads had gone cold. Maybe this will help and they will find some connections that I have not?”

The Lieutenant Commander on the screen glanced down, reading the message when it popped up on their screen and frowned. “I see what you meant Lieutenant. I will pass this on to the officers in charge. Thank you for sharing this…Oh. They may have some questions for you.”

“Thanks, Lieutenant Commander, happy to answer any questions.”

With that, the call ended. Turning off the console he stood up and looked around his quarters and the mess that had accumulated in them over the last month due to the lack of time he had to organize them. “Not much to do until my next shift in 10 hours. Mine as well get a head start on cleaning this room.”

 

Another Journey to the Center of the Mind

Heriah's Quarters
2400

Heriah had the Amboy Dukes original version of <I>Journey to the Center of the Mind</i> playing at low volume and on repeat. A Vulcan ceremonial meditation candle burned on a table in the center of her quarters. She sat in her nightgown at her computer terminal. This was not going to be an attempt at meditation in the gym, punching the bag. This was not shadow boxing alone in her quarters. And this was not going to be a kneel in silence, watching behind closed eyes, style meditation.

One of the methods Rikata mentioned to her once was art. She did that once already making a replicated painting that hung on the wall in her quarters. Heriah refused to even attempt music then decided that perhaps it could be in her future. This meditative session however was being spent on writing poetry.

After a day of hearing many people talk about their varied issues, having to deal with her boss’s questions…or the questions she envisioned him asking over and over again…after a day of constant arguments with Rex and putting forth a front to keep her inner struggle simply that…inner. After all that, Heriah felt the necessity of meditation.

She had the music, the lighting, the candle, she had herself settled at her computer and had the screen filled with blankness and a flashing cursor at the top left of the screen.

“Oh what do I write?” She looked up hoping an answer would come from somewhere.

‘Severing an arm I…’

“Stop it Rex,” shouted into the air. “Why always so violent. Just…for once…”

Randomly drumming her fingers and nervously tapping her heels, she decided to get something down and work from there.

“Roses are red, violets…Forget that.”

Delete. Delete. Delete.

“I sever my mind from the local spaces…What does that even mean?”

Delete. Delete. Delete.

“Deep dark dank depths…Reads like the beginnings of a suicide note.”

Delete. Delete. Delete.

Heriah thought about nothing and recognized the constant whirring ever going in the back of her mind. <I>Journey to the Center of the Mind</i> faded back in.

There came a vast void of inner thought. An empty space she needed to fill. It reminded her of the day of her Joining. The day Heriah Khatain was no more. She was so excited on that day and felt only hours from being complete in life. It was truly an honor. Though Trills never felt the emptiness, they were all taught of the nerve cluster the symbiont would attach to, but they could never feel it.

It was not until Heriah was laid out on a table, cut open, until Rex was squirming into her belly, writhing back and forth working away at the membrane covering that nerve cluster. As it was being wiped away, Heriah started to understand the vastness of the mind, the emptiness of space, just how incomplete she was, how nothing had mattered nor would ever matter. That nerve cluster, without a membrane and without something attached to it, would driver her mad.

And in that stretch of eternity between the removal of that membrane and the attachment with her symbiont, madness started seeping in. Though her eyes registered her surroundings, in her mind, the real world was nothing, nothing at all. Just a vast emptiness without air to breath or ground to walk upon or sights to see or sounds to hear. Madness was a void, a void of all things, a world where any and all things that could be sensed was replaced with nothing.

After such a short span of eternity, did another presence clamp down upon that emptiness; Rex. The symbiont, Rex, bit down and attached to that nerve cluster filling Heriah with life, the lives of all previous hosts, their emotions, choices, doings, mistakes, and another form of madness.

Heriah had seen the video recorded of her Joining and could only stand there covering her mouth watching herself scream and curse, watching as she appeared like a child possessed in those old Earth movies.

Heriah returned from her inner voyage, heard the song start over again, opened her eyes and saw a few lines of text written out. She corrected some of the spelling and wording. What was there made little sense then it came together. The imagery seemed to mesh with her thoughts. The words flowed like water pouring out the hearts of both Heriah and Rex.

The poem, as it took shape, seemed to be something amazing yet dark at the same time, as though the reader would fully understand her entire Joined life and the lives of hosts previous. All the feelings and emotions and fears and loves and losses all contained within something most beautiful. And that is how she ended her poem.

“…residing inside the most beautiful.”

Save

Back Where I Belong

May 2400

“Iziraa!”

 

Izi stopped and smiled at the sound of the familiar voice. Turning to her left, the young Andorian security officer walked to the kiosk.

 

“Iziraa, I missed you. It’s good to see you again.”

 

“You warm my heart, Gren.” Izi smiled, her antennae leaning slightly toward the Ferengi.

 

“So where were you? With so many people being transferred to the new Ravens, I thought you were one of them.”

 

Izi chuckled. “Gren, you know more about what’s happening on the promenade than anyone I know. Besides, I couldn’t leave without saying good-bye first.”

 

“You’re right,” said Gren. “You were temporarily assigned to a different level to fill in for another officer that was transferred to the Sitacus. I’m just surprised they didn’t offer it to you.”

 

“What makes you think they didn’t?” said Izi.

 

“You turned it down? Why?”

 

“I like it here,” said Izi.

 

“But it’s a ship. A small one, but it could lead to something better.”

 

“I know, but for now, this is where I’m supposed to be,” said Izi.

 

Gren shrugged his shoulders and sighed. “To each his own. So, do you need an update on what you missed? Twenty percent off my usual fee for the next five minutes.”

 

“Why so generous?” said Izi. She was curious, as Gren always had a reason for everything he did.

 

“It’s a welcome back gift for my Iziraa.”

 

Izi patted Gren on the arm. “Maybe next time.”

 

“Hmph,” said Gren.

 

Izi was about to say something, but she heard what sounded like an argument. Even through the din of the activity on the promenade, it was easy to hear the booming voice of a Klingon.

 

“That’s Klagh,” said Gren. “His Bird of Prey arrived while you were gone. With the Romulan situation, things have been tense sometimes.”

 

Klagh was easily eight inches taller and one hundred pounds heavier than Izi. All she had with her to deal with him was a phaser on her right hip and a stun baton on her left. Hand cuffs were clipped to the back of her belt.

 

“Excuse me, sir, but you need to tone it down,” said Izi.

 

Klagh, who was loudly arguing with two Bolians about so many Romulans coming to the station, was initially surprised that someone dared interrupt him. When he saw who it was, he scoffed and turned back to the Bolians.

 

“Sir, I’m talking to you,” said Izi in a firm tone. Her antennae were pointing towards the Klingon.

 

“Go away, little girl, before I squash you,” said Klagh.

 

“You will behave appropriately or I’ll arrest you for disorderly conduct.”

 

At this, Klagh fully faced Izi, a scowl on his face. Bystanders scurried away.

 

Before Klagh could speak, Izi held up her right hand, her index finger pointing upwards. “I’m a fully trained and experienced Starfleet security officer. I know nineteen ways to kill you with this finger.” Her eyes were fixed on him.

 

For several tense seconds that seemed longer, there was a stare down. Izi was ready, but she didn’t expect what happened next.

 

Klagh let loose with a huge and hearty laugh. “You have ghojmoH, little girl.” Still laughing, he walked away.

 

“Sorry we took so long. Are you okay?”

 

Two other security officers had arrived.

 

Izi chuckled. “Yes, thanks.”

 

“That was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen since I came here,” said Gren once Izi had rejoined him. “I thought he was going to break you in half.”

 

“Nah, I had it under control the whole time. Thanks for calling for back up.”

 

Gren nodded. “It wouldn’t be the same without you.”

 

Knots to Untangle

Starbase Bravo, Sector India-Navy, The Gate Inn
June 4th, 2400; 1230 hours

The Velorum sector, long a strategic focal point for the Romulan Empire, carried old wounds. Not the least of these were felt by the Reman workers who slaved in the dilithium and mineral mines of the region’s rocky planets and planetoids. But even Romulans did not always fare well in Velorum. There were prison colonies out here, and hopeful-colonies turned sour, and just plain old stifled expression leading to a sort of spiritual depression among the masses. But, in the wake of the Great Disaster (a fitting term, considering the nature of the event that brought the Empire low), the Velorum sector had fallen to new depths.

Muninn sat at her usual table at The Gate, her glass filled by Terry, who had taken to spending a few moments each afternoon chatting her up in the pleasant sort of way that told her he now considered her a regular at his establishment. The air smelled of fried food and fresh beer, and the treble of conversation from the other lunch-goers laid a safe blanket over her mood. She still felt a pang at the conditions the report on the Velorum sector painted: so much hardship, and more still to come. And yet, the misery oddly did not infect her soul today, did not linger in the shadowy corners of her mind. Perhaps because another tenant already squatted there, occupying her thoughts. 

She picked up a piece of fried cod, the batter done with synthale and taken to a delightful golden color, like the setting sun from the San Francisco hills, and munched it down. She’d been liberal with the malt vinegar today, and the tang awoke her taste-buds, singing notes of acid sweetness in her cheeks.

Back home, and throughout most of the Federation territories, this sort of thing just didn’t happen anymore. Member worlds were required to maintain standards, and were further prompted to exceed the minimum through a complex array of diplomatic efforts. There were plenty of breakaway colonies, of course. Space was big, and many people set out in the desire of going it alone. But there were enough horror stories, like Turkana IV, that fewer and fewer took that route willingly. To be part of the Federation meant shedding all those conservative notions about the morality of work, as well as any antiquated nonsense about the selfish “nature” of sentient life. You learned, quickly, that the reason the other great Empires feared the Federation so was that its massive system of socialized welfare worked. Indeed, it worked so well that it formed an extremely complex and redundant system of interwoven strengths. Proof that working for the betterment of others, and standing up for the system as a cradle for the individual, took sentient life farther than all the self-interested pseudoscience that once had ruled supreme on dear old Earth. 

I’m starting to sound like Dad, Muninn thought, smiling to herself. But, out here, things are different.

The Romulan Empire’s way of doing things, rigid and conservative as could be, and built upon the backs of a slave species to-boot, could not withstand the sudden shift in fortune that the destruction of their home system had brought. 

Out here, people suffered the kind of suffering that had not been seen on a core Federation world since Earth’s twenty-first century. For Muninn, it formed a sort of fascinating portal into another place and time. Harrowing and awful, yet also intriguing to her psychologist’s mind. A not insubstantial part of her longed to be out there, exploring the sector, meeting those people face to face, and perhaps finding ways to spread ripples of good in those craggy pools where hope might still stand a chance of prospering. Here, on Starbase Bravo, she already felt stifled between paperwork and the absolute mind-numbing normalcy of the problems brought her way.

Only Asenth, the young Romulan girl, gave her real pause. In that teenage girl’s eyes, Muninn fancied she had seen something potent and vibrant. Subdued, yes. There were veils of horror between Asenth and any future she might have… but Muninn felt in her heart of hearts that those veils could, in fact, be lifted. And, if they were to be lifted, what then?

Anything she wanted, Muninn thought to herself. 

Asenth possessed the sort of mind and curiosity that could take her places, and could change the lives she encountered. But the work that would need to be done to get the girl there might never be allowed to start, the way things were going. Unless some sort of true closure could be gained, some measure of deeper understanding earned, it seemed likely to Muninn that Asenth would wither like fruit on the vine.

She glanced up at the sound of the door opening and saw a familiar blue face peering over the heads of the various lunch-goers. Lish, his eyes lighting up when he spotted her, made his way across the room with a hasty excitement in his stride. He plopped down in the free chair across from her and slapped a PADD down on the table-top.

“There,” he said with a great note of triumph.

“There what?” Muninn said, picking up the device with more care than he had thrown it down.

“That’s the colony your girl is from. The Romulan, I mean. It took more than some fair bit of doing, let me tell you, but I surprised myself with my ability to get to the root of things. There were a dozen or so different options to track down, but I picked the most likely and ran with it.”

Muninn scanned the screen. The Oumoren System. “And what was that?” she asked, glancing up at the Bolian.

“Why would Starfleet Intelligence seal a file like that? Few good reasons, am I wrong? Well, obviously, I let all of the more conspiratorial options float away on the tide because those are simply too unlikely or too daft to be plausible, and that’s when I hit upon the solution. Helen Anderson of Starfleet Intelligence was… working undercover. ”That made Muninn sit up a little. “Really? Undercover, inside a Romulan colony?”

“Quite so! That’s the part that caught me, though. The file, you see, bore two sealing dates. The original, from sixteen years ago, and a more recent one, just twelve years old. And I asked myself, ‘Why would there be two different orders to seal an undercover officer’s file?’”

He grinned expectantly.

“I don’t know, Muninn said, fighting not to roll her eyes. “Why?”

“Because only one of them was for her job. The other was when she went AWOL.”

“Away without leave? But… the seal stated that she was missing in action.”

“Quite. Only, she’s not. Never was, really. Just purged out of all the normally accessible places and that MIA tag slapped on over the original data. But I have friends who work in Intelligence—“

I’ll bet, Muninn thought with a small smile.

“—and they agreed to poke through some of the less-secure archives, the ones that might not get purged in a routine cover-up. As it turns out, there were two hearings on the matter of one Lieutenant Helen Anderson, and it was after the second that her case was updated to MIA. Only, there’s no record of the second hearing taking place. None of the normal breadcrumbs. And, what’s more, there were deleted communication logs from Helen Anderson up to a whole month after the last seal got placed on her file.”

“She was still trying to check in?”

“Oh yes, indeed! And sending messages to people in Starfleet, messages that never arrived. A deeper interdiction took place sometime then, and for the next two months her communications were intentionally blocked by a firewall. After that, the pings stopped coming in. She must have given up.”

Muninn pushed her plate, occupied now by just a few crumbs and a couple of leftover fries, away from her. She took a sip of synthale while Lish watched, his round face glowing with his success. 

“Who was she trying to reach?”

“There’s the really interesting part. The Judge Advocate’s office! She wanted legal representation.”

“And her own department locked her out?”

Lish nodded. “Mmmhmm. And, what’s more, I know why. Or, at least partly why. See, there was a very odd file stored away in an archived storage backup. My friend found it and sent it to me, and I think it cleared everything up. Scroll down.” He pointed to the PADD.

Muninn did as he said, and whistled when she came to the next section. “A pre-natal scan? She was pregnant?”

“Yes!” Lish clapped his hands together like an excited kid. “And I think that changed things for her. I think that she was assigned as an undercover officer on some case for Intelligence. Deep cover inside Romulan territory. And then something changed. She met someone, or somehow found herself with child, and refused to do her job anymore.”

Muninn speed-read the report. It mentioned a synthetic component in the DNA blend of human and Romulan, the same sort of blend one might find in a Vulcan-human pregnancy. Intentional pregnancy, that much we can at least infer. But what more than that? “But… why would they mark her as MIA after the second hearing? Why not allow her to return home?”

“Because,” and here Lish paused, clearly for effect. “That wasn’t what she wanted.”

“She wanted to stay with her Romulan lover?”

“No… and, I mean, this is just my best guess… I think she wanted to bring her Romulan lover and her new child here, to live in the Federation. Now, I don’t have all the details past this point, but my suspicion is that things soured between her and her superior officer on this particular point. He’s the only one who could have sealed things up with so neat a bow.”

Muninn took this in with a mounting understanding, and horror at what it was she thought she understood. “Intentional. You mean that this was intentional.”

“Of course! Starfleet wouldn’t have been happy about her choices, but they never would have cut someone off like that. Or, at least, not unless she truly turned traitor. But why send proof like this in, why try so hard to contact legal representation? Unless you wanted to come back to your home?”

“So… what? This made her boss in Intelligence look bad, and he decided to cut her off for it?”

Here, Lish shook his head. “I wish I could say. Anything deeper in Helen Anderson’s files is classified beyond what my friend was willing to stick his neck out for. But why dig through files anyway when we can just go there for ourselves and ask the woman directly?”

Muninn looked at him blankly. “Because she’s dead. Her daughter said she saw her killed.”

“Ahh,” Lish held up a finger, wagging it annoyingly across the table. “She told you that she found her parents dead, correct?”

“Yes. She saw Reman revolutionaries go into her home and found her parents bodies afterward. And her little brother.”

Some of Lish’s smugness faded at that, but he drove on. “Well, I looked into the most recent reports from our new Reman friends. It seems that the colony on Oumoren V did stage a coup against its Romulan governor. But it seems that a number of prisoners were taken, and among them was a human. Now, what are the odds that another human would be so far out there in Romulan space? And, add to that, what are the odds that a terrified and grief-stricken girl would make sure to thoroughly check if her just-brutalized parents were really well and truly dead before she went running off?”

“Or was carried off…” Muninn said, remembering something from her extended conversation with Asenth.

“Pardon?”

“She told me that she got pulled away by friends of her parents, who threw her onto one of the Romulan refugee barges that was escaping the fighting. That’s how she ended up here.”

“So she might not have even had a chance to check if her parents survived!” Lish grinned at her. And that seems to me to be the sort of thing worthy of a closer look, wouldn’t you say?”

Muninn let a little whistle past her lips as she absorbed all the new information. If there was any chance that Asenth’s parents were still alive, could she in good conscience ignore it? “Why not just send away through proper channels? Have the Reman authorities look into it?”

Lish made a scoffing noise. “They’re not a government yet, or even that unified. Certainly, Resak has given them all a common goal to shoot for, and a structure to work from, but the rebellion on Oumoren V came more like a wildfire than a planned event. There really was a massacre there. It’s not like we can just ask their local constabulary to look into things.”

“Yeah, but it’s not like two counselors from Starfleet can just hitch a ride over there either… Sir.”

But Lish gave her a large wink. “Ah, live and learn. I talked this over with a friend of mine who just so happens to have reason to be near Oumoren V. A resupply run for a small listening outpost. He’s willing to pick us up here when he comes to take on the supplies, and drop us off on the colony while he fulfills his mission. We’ll check things out, and then we’ll catch a lift as he swings back on the return journey.”

Clearly, something had come to life in the middle-aged Bolian. Lish’s eyes were wide with the sort of excitement Muninn normally assumed only existed in fresh-faced cadets. Whether it was just the thrill of the mystery, or if he had been on the starbase long enough to start going a little stir-crazy, or some other private reason all his own, she had the feeling that he was going to be heading to Oumoren V with or without her at the very next opportunity.

He seemed to understand something of her thinking, however, because he gave her a reasonable smile and said, “It’s not an order, Lieutenant. There is something here that needs untangling, but I can’t make you come with me on this one. It’s shaky evidence and supposition holding this together. But there’s little risk in it, for us. And a lot to gain for that patient of yours. Perhaps for Starfleet, too, if one of our own is out there and needs our help.”

For a moment more, Muninn hesitated, caught between conflicting needs. The safety of the routine she was building in this place, her new home. And the need that she had recognized earlier that day, a sudden itch for the life she had grown accustomed to the last two years: life aboard ship, always at the edge of some new discovery. She gazed into her superior’s eyes and felt his own magnetic excitement pulling her, swaying her decision, even as she knew that there were too many unknowns ahead to make any decision in good and clear conscience.

“Your friend,” she said, “when does he arrive?”

Lish’s face positively glowed. “Six hours. He’s captain of the USS Mogrus. It’s one of the new Raven-class ships that the fleet has all over the place these days. Allen, that’s him, said that he’ll be beaming the supplies he needs aboard at eighteen-thirty hours. If we want to go aboard, we should make our way to Storage A991 and come aboard with the rest of the materials destined for the listening outpost.”

“The USS Mogrus, hmm?” Muninn stood and stretched, and Lish, still grinning, did the same. “Alright,” she said. “I’ll pack and meet you there. A Raven-class, you said? Probably won’t be pushing high warp for something like this.”

“It’ll be about four days there and another four back, with at least one in the middle while Allen offloads at the outpost. More than enough time to make the inquiries we need.”

“Right,” Muninn said. And she felt a little thrill go down her spine and land somewhere deep in her solar plexus. “Right. I’ll meet you there.”

***

The Gate Inn had many small tables, as well as a few tiny booths where groups or couples could sit and relax in the assumption of greater privacy. From inside one such booth, near to where Muninn and Lish had been sitting, a face peered out at their retreating backs. 

A dark bowl-cut of hair, pointed ears, and a severe brow. 

Asenth watched the two officers departing and considered everything that she had just overheard. 

Brave New World

USS Fantail Crash Site
June 2400

It was just as well the canopy was designed to resist the strains and stresses of spaceflight, or the cockpit would have been filled with trees. That was good on two fronts, Nia thought as she stirred weakly in the safety webbing of her seat. She hadn’t been impaled by a tree branch, and there was some sort of life, probably a breathable atmosphere, on this moon. Light slid between the crush of leaves and sticks that cast jagged shadows across the canopy, and she could see the silhouettes of her comrades likewise moving.

That was of a higher concern than the state of outside. What was the state of inside?

With a groan, she leaned forward and tried to level out the spinning of her head enough to examine the controls. She did not need much strength of mind to assess the simple fact that they were dead, the power was completely gone, and she did not have the capacity to do anything about it right then.

From behind her, deeper towards the door of the cockpit, there was a low groan that still travelled. “Hey,” she creaked weakly. “Everyone okay?” While the quickest of glances assessed that the sound was none of her fellow cadets, her hands fumbled with the clasp and she almost fell out of the chair as she tried to get to her feet. It was not a particularly heroic check-in.

“No,” came Katlyn’s response. Her safety webbing hadn’t deployed properly and now she was bound up in it, unable to reach the release. The runabout’s tilt to starboard and her chair having rotated so she was looking that way as well wasn’t helping. There was no net meant to spread forces across her body, but a mere handful of thick strands she was hanging against, the first stages of the webbing at least having worked. “I feel like I’ve been kicked by a Gaen,” she uttered, short of breath.

“I think I’m in one piece,” chimed in Cadet Parze, although she didn’t sound terribly certain of that fact.  Alternating hands, she was patting her limbs, checking to see if everything was still there.  Finding no blood on her scaly palms, Parze continued the self-pat-down, looking for the release clasp for her own seat’s webbing.  Knowing that it would drive her crazy without a computer at hand to search for the answer, Parze asked, “What’s a Gaen?”

Pushing his way past several broken and burnt-out systems and a fallen bulkhead, Horin made his way back to the cockpit. He could feel the massive cut he had received from the moment the ship had crashlanded which had sent him flying off his feet and smacking directly onto the deck below him. As he had attempted to escape from the small access way he had crawled in, he had ended up ripping most of his jacket, so once he had found his freedom out of the hatch he had yanked his jacket off, now he just wore his undershirt along with his trousers (which were also torn apart in places). Instantly he was confronted with a number of bruises up and down his hands and arms along with a few cuts. They didn’t bother him as much as the massive headache he was experiencing. Touching his forehead he felt the blood that was there and just smeared it upwards against his dishevelled hair with the back of his dirty hands. He could smell the smoke from the fires he had put out earlier emanating from him. As he stepped carefully to get back to the cockpit he found a nearby medkit on the floor. He picked it up before heading to another equipment locker that was open and pulled out a phaser. Strapping it to his side, along with his tricorder he clambered his way up to the cockpit to see his fellow cadets all appearing alive for now. 

“Anyone need a hand?” He asked between breaths. 

“I’m not too proud to ask for one,” Kaylyn said from her perch. “Stupid thing had to deploy funny and trap me didn’t it?” She shook her head, then winced, realising she probably shouldn’t have done that. “And a Gaen is a giant rock person. Crash landing, getting kicked by one, same thing right?” She gave a slight cough and looked about. “Anyone seen the officers?”

Nia staggered over to Katlyn, unsteady on her feet. “No,” she said, clearly not up to more than one problem at a time. Her fingers shook as she tried to untangle the webbing to get to the clasp to release her fellow cadet. “No, I don’t – oh, this damn thing -” She fumbled, struggled – then she found the release, pressing it a couple of times before it could unbind Katlyn in a truly undignified manner.

Only then she did turn back to where Horin had appeared from, peering into the shrouded gloom of the briefing room behind the cockpit. She drew a shuddering breath. “Lieutenant! Ensign!”

And only then was there a faint response from deeper into the runabout than Horin had passed, a hoarse, “Here,” that sounded like it had taken far too much of Callahan’s energy to say even that.

Staggering towards the aft showed an unpleasant sight. Not all of the hull had withstood the impact perfectly, metal buckling and warping. This had brought a large section of a wall console down, tumbling atop where Lieutenant Callahan had been thrown in the crash, tossed about before he could strap himself in properly. From the cockpit door they could see him only if they squinted, visible from the waist up. But from above the right knee, all that could be seen was heavy metal equipment crushing down on his leg. If he hadn’t spoken, it would have been easy to think him unconscious.

Upon releasing her own webbing, Parze tumbled out of her chair, while keeping a grip on her darkened console to keep from completely loosing her footing.  She grounded her boots against the deck and slid along the bulkhead towards the aft of the cockpit.  Steadying herself at the edge of the hatch, Parze took a long look at Callahan, wedged beneath the warped bulkhead.  “Is this one of those… uh, don’t move him situations,” Parze asked the group, hoping not rhetorically, “or a move him quickly situation?  I’ve only read about spinal damage in texts.”

“It’s not my spine,” Callahan croaked. He was flat on his back, staring at the opposite bulkhead, skin ghoulishly pale and skin waxy from a sheen of sweat. “I don’t think. Can I pass out yet?” It sounded like the sort of calm had swept through him that was either through grim acceptance of pain and the situation – or, possibly the onset of hypovolaemic shock.

“Uh, you -” It was unclear if Nia was gesticulating to help get the words out, or just flapping because she needed something to do with her hands. “If it’s just crushing his leg, we either definitely move it or we don’t, it depends on how long it’s been pinning him down.” She paused only a beat. “I don’t remember if it’s like, five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen – Lieutenant, how long have you been pinned?”

“Didn’t count it out, Hargreaves.”

Taking the medkit he had in his hands, Horin approached the others where the lieutenant was. Pulling the medical tricorder out he wiped his forehead one more time with the back of his hand and started to scan the lieutenant. “Hold on sir,”  Horin remarked as he hovered the scanner just above his superior. The scanner started to malfunction so Horin just hit it slightly trying to get it to work again. Finally, it responded the way he wanted it to. “Sir, you’ve got a concussion, but you’re bleeding out heavily.” Horin looked up at Hargreaves and Parze. “We need to get that rubbish off of him to find out where he is bleeding the most. Help me, but do it carefully.”

Scampering into the damaged section of corridor, Parze followed Horin to crowd around where Callahan had fallen.  “Aye,” she said automatically.  Parze reached out to the protrusions from the twisted hunk of metal that was pinning Callahan to the deck.  She gave the metal a gentle wiggle to see where it was  most likely to shift and where it was impassive.  As she found her grip on one section in particular, Parze squatted halfway to the deck and positioned her body close to the slagged bulkhead, posturing herself to deadlift it.  Looking around, Parze asked, “Ready?”

Dropping the medical tricorder on the floor to help Parze, Horin jumped up as the cadets got hold of the broken bulkhead and together they moved it off the lieutenant. Like a flash of lightning, Horin zipped back over to where he was before and continued to take scans of the lieutenant’s condition. Now he had more of better view of his condition, the cadet was able to see what the damage was. Looking down at the lieutenant, Horin spoke. “Sir, this isn’t looking good. My scans show your leg is broken in multiple locations, I can use a dermal regenerator to stop the bleeding and give you something for the pain but I’m not sure what else we can do.”

“Wasn’t expecting a lot more,” Callahan groaned. He’d screamed as the bulkhead came up, and now was even more out of it, head back, eyes half-closed. “I’ll settle for ‘not dying’ right now, Cadet.”

“Stupid question here for anyone really,” Horin asked as he took out the hypospray and injected it into Callahan’s neck,  “but did this runabout come equipped with an EMH?”   

Nia had hung back from too much of the medical attention, trying without success to get anything out of any of the panels. “I don’t know,” she admitted, “but if it did, it’d be a massive power hog when we’re struggling to even open doors. I wouldn’t bet on us being able to get it active.”

The first thing Connolly was aware of when he came to was a dull thudding in his head. The second was a throbbing in his right wrist. Using his left hand, Connolly pushed himself into a sitting position. Natural light streamed in through a nearby viewport. He cursed before getting to his feet, careful not to jostle his sore wrist. It felt more like a sprain than a break but he couldn’t be sure and it was best not to test the theory. Connolly carefully made his way forward, eventually coming upon the sight of an injured Callahan being treated by some of the cadets. “What’s our situation?” He asked no-one in particular.

”Broken, battered and bruised,“ Katlyn helpfully replied, staying back from Callahan and the mass of others. Too many cadets spoil the first aid after all. “Power is gone, hull breaches in multiple places.” That was obvious from the light streaming in from a few places it most certainly shouldn’t have. “We haven’t gone below yet to check on our guests yet, sir.” The stairs down led into a black hole after a few steps. “And the emergency subspace radio is down there anyway.”

“Oh God.” Nia scooted over to the semi-briefing of the ranking officer who could actually stand. “Should it be a cadet who checks up on the Romulans? Shouldn’t it be an officer? What if they’re dead?” She didn’t outright sound like she was panicking, so much as externalising her thoughts. Then she paused, and drew a deep breath. “I should, uh, get a tricorder and either see if I can use it to get our sensors working or just check out our immediate area, shouldn’t I.” She plainly looked to Connolly for guidance.

“I’ll go,” Katlyn offered as she stared down into darkness, eyes never moving away from the stairs. “A torch, or a padd with a working screen will do.” A deep breath in, slowly out. “Check on our passengers, get them up here if possible, find the emergency radio and bring it out as well, yah?” She blinked a few times and turned to Connolly. “Always been good in dark conditions, sir. Shouldn’t be a problem.”

Connolly hesitated. This was supposed to be a simple training mission but now he was in charge of a group of cadets and some Romulans while Callahan was injured. It felt like the water was up to his neck.  “Um, yeah. Mianaai, you go and check on our Romulan guests.” He thought for a moment. “If, uh, if they’re in one piece, bring them up here. It’ll be easier if we’re all in one place.” Connolly turned to Nia. “Hargreaves, see if you can do something about our sensors. It would be nice to get to know about our new temporary home.”  

And with a mixture of awkward nods and the fleeting confidence which came from necessity, the pack of cadets and junior officers set to work. The initial damage was assessed. But the true extent of danger remained a gaping chasm of the unknown.

The Discovery of Muninn Musgrave

An unaffiliated colony outside Federation space
2389

Zui-Gan called out to himself every day, “Master.”

Then he answered himself, “Yes, sir.”

And then he added, “Become sober.”

Again he answered, “Yes, sir.”

“And after that,” he continued, “do not be deceived by others.”

“Yes, sir; yes, sir,” he replied.

—Mu-Mon-Kwan

Eleven years ago

An unaffiliated colony outside Federation space

There could not have been a less-likely place to seek enlightenment — even if such a place had been carefully devised by the most atheistic and cantankerous minds in the whole continuum of sentient existence — than Kershel’s “XXX” Club and Bar. There were stains everywhere, but in such number, and beneath such terrible lighting, that they formed a sort of intentional patina, as if the whole bar were actually the clever masterpiece of some daring avant-garde decorator who had long since become the talk of the galactic social elite. Within those amorphous shadow-soaked walls, the thrum of synthetic jazz rolled through the air at frequencies long and deep enough to pierce a mountain’s roots, while women and men and anything in-between undulated and bared themselves upon the stage.

The crowd that frequented this place bore every resemblance to such crowds anywhere in time and space, in such that any individual who entered it became part of it, assimilated into its collective as surely as any Borg. In light of this, the two figures who did sit apart, at one of the many private booths secreted around the main room, were an anomaly, though none could have known this but themselves.

The younger of the two, fair-skinned with a short-cut shock of flame-red hair, made every outward appearance of not being uncomfortable with the locale. This created the effect, to her companion’s more mature and steady eye, of being so entirely consumed with anxiety and discomfort as to have her fairly vibrating through the material of the floor. This appraisal could not have been more correct from Muninn Musgrave’s own perspective, though she would have been loath to admit it under any threat or coercion.

Dark-skinned, with faintly graying hair made into shoulder-length locs, Neva Adeyemi eyed the younger woman for a long while over her tall glass of Bermillian Vodka and Lime. The glass in front of Adeyemi perspired. The girl did not, though she gave the impression of someone who very much should have been perspiring by the bucket. She did not meet the older woman’s eye.

For her part, Muninn nursed a simple soda water, the bland salt of which served her upset stomach well. She did not want to be there just then, and would have been perfectly fine having never set foot in such a place. And yet, she also wanted nothing more than to be, just then, the sort of person who absolutely adored going out to the dark and dingy corners of the galaxy in search of carnal pleasures and… as some of her friends in high school had put it… ‘A good time.’ She glanced through the sheer curtain that separated the booth from the rest of the bar, and her eye lingered for a moment on the form of one of the dancing women on stage, just nearing the end of her act and in the process of ‘bearing it all’ to a whooping front row. She knew she lingered, and knew that Adeyemi would know, and when she quickly looked away she knew that this, too, would be observed. She had known the older woman for no time at all — barely three months — but it seemed as if Neva Adeyemi’s eyes could see through to the very core of whomever she looked at, piercing sharp as arrows through paper walls.

“So, why don’t you drink?” Adeyemi said. Her voice, more musical and soft than sonorous, drifted just above the rolling thrum of the synth, and between the reverberations of the electronic saxophone.

Muninn glanced at her soda as if surprised to find such a thing in front of her. Then her gaze roved to Adeyemi’s glass. “I just don’t,” she said a moment later.

“Did your mother beat you? Your father?”

The absurdity of the question knocked Muninn back apace, and she looked up, meeting the older woman’s eyes. “No! No, of course not. Hell. Why would you ask that?”

“Trauma creates a very clear response in some children of alcoholics,” Adeyemi said. “The vast majority succumb to the pressures of their family system, and play their own unconscious part in it. But others, often just as unconsciously, reject the apparent cause of their childhood suffering with the same devout passion that Vulcans cling to their logical religion.” The smile Adeyemi gave her was not unpleasant, merely unsympathetic. “I’ve been wondering about you, Muninn Musgrave. About why you came to Roshi Haggar’s group. Robert’s not a bad man, but he’s a terrible closet alcoholic. Literally, that’s where he keeps all his wine.”

“No,” Muninn repeated, somewhat less vehemently. “No, my parents didn’t beat me.” She held silence for a moment, then said, “I came to the group because… I don’t know. Oh, why does anyone go someplace like that?”

“You tell me.”

Muninn snorted, looked away. “Anyway, I don’t think I’ll be going back. It’s been three months now, and I think I’ve seen all I need to see. They’re all a bit…” but she held herself back, casting a quick glance at her companion as if worried that she might somehow upset her.

Adeyemi grinned and gave a little inviting nod.

Muninn’s gaze roved back to the silky partition between them and the crowd, who were all whistling at a trio of gender-fluid dancers now strutting onto the stage. “They’re all a bit like this. Like these people, I mean. It probably sounds horribly egotistical of me, but they are just like this. And I’m up to here—” she raised a flat hand to her chin “—with people who think they’re ‘all that’ and can’t get outside their heads, or their crotches, long enough to see the world for what it really is.” She glanced at her companion again, but the woman said nothing and appeared for all the world as if she wanted nothing more than to continue listening.

“I left home because I suddenly saw how pointless it was all becoming, right? We’re supposed to be better than we were centuries ago, but we still play all the same games with one-another and with ourselves. Only, we’re all so damned certain of everything, so much more so than we ever were. As a species, I mean, or a… a culture, or whatever. It’s like we’ve managed to create this perfect canvas on which everyone gets to paint, but as soon as the universe starts poking holes in our theories, we instantly run back to our most awful and pathetic roots. It’s like all this stuff that’s happening with Romulus right now, or in the middle of the Dominion War. Did you know—not everyone does—did you know that some admiral tried to have a coup and take over Starfleet in the middle of the War? Hell, what the Founders must have thought of that. They must have been dancing… or whatever it is sentient puddles do. And through it all, what do we do? Just keep voting in more conservative voices, keep changing the rules so that Starfleet looks less and less like what it’s supposed to be, and more like some warped self-congratulatory military outfit. Which is really the thing. I mean, we’re all so damned certain that we’ve got the best possible state of things right here in front of us, but we aren’t doing enough to actually use it!”

She snapped her mouth shut then and glared at the tabletop as if blaming it for everything wrong in the universe.

“Why did you want to join Starfleet, then?” Adeyemi asked after a moment. “If you detest what it’s becoming?”

Muninn looked up a fraction too quickly, unable to pull back the reigns on her surprise. “How did you…? I haven’t told anyone that I was trying to join up.”

Adeyemi snorted. “A nice girl like you, full of smarts and ideas, with a Californian accent? That’s basically a template for the Fleet right there. But it takes someone really, really let-down by an establishment to stab at it with quite that sort of vigor.”

“Yeah? Well…” Muninn shrugged. “I guess I did want to join up. But, I wanted to join, so I could make a difference. Or try to, I guess.”

“What happened?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Adeyemi accepted this with such absolute grace that Muninn found herself annoyed. Someone shouldn’t be so damned insightful, shouldn’t get to probe you like that, and then just back off when you asked them nicely.

After a heated moment, she said, “I froze, alright? I got to the entrance exam and… I just froze.” She flushed at the memory. “I’m not supposed to do that.” This last sentence might have gone entirely unheeded if Adeyemi’s hearing had not been terribly acute, for Muninn said it in a whisper, like an angry prayer.

“Why not?”

Muninn tapped her fingers on the table. She considered, briefly, that she could leave any time she wanted. She could get right up, go out of this bar that the older woman had invited her to, and get the hell away. She knew, as soon as she thought of it, that she would do no such thing. 

The night before, in the bathtub, she had imagined all the ways she might kill herself if she tried hard enough, and found them all horribly unconvincing, and — against the great tide of anger and angst that summoned up those thoughts — being here in this awful bar, across from this strange insightful woman seemed absolutely, perfectly right. She would not leave, no. Because beyond the bar was just the rest of existence, and it looked no better than the smelly hot room to her inner eye.

“I guess it doesn’t matter now,” she said to the air, as if trying to convince a ghost hovering behind her shoulder. “It’s not like I’m trying to get in again anyway. So, hell with it. I’m not supposed to fail at stupid things like an entrance exam because I wasn’t made to fail at them, do you follow me?” She pinched the flesh of her forearm between two fingers, just violently enough to really hurt. “I’m augmented, completely and wholly augmented down to the last recessive gene. I’m smarter, faster, stronger, and more resilient than any other damned human being in this place… better than everyone in that stupid examination hall….”

She trailed off into a silence that Adeyemi allowed to linger for some time before interrupting. The music changed tempo and the crowd roared as some extremely untoward ‘dancing’ began between the trio of entertainers. Barely a step below pornography, and Muninn fought the urge to look over at it again.

“But you did fail,” Adeyemi finally said. “And, from what it sounds like, you failed before you even had the chance to show them what your augmented brain could really do. That must smart. Knowing how superior you are to the rest of us and yet being unable to show it off in the way you’re supposed to.”

Muninn gasped at the violence in the words. Not brutality, for Adeyemi spoke without rancor of any kind. And yet, her words were more cutting, more violent, than even the most outlandish rage could manage. She felt, beneath Adeyemi’s unblinking and dispassionate gaze, like some sort of worm that makes its living by crawling through other animals’ skin. All she could manage was a spluttered, “No!” and even that felt like it somehow served to vindicate the woman’s stark appraisal. Muninn felt tears well up in her eyes.

“Am I wrong? At least a little?” Adeyemi said. Then she sighed, took a dainty sip from her glass with puckered lips. “You can’t augment out the experience of life, Muninn.” The ice in her glass clinked as she set it back down. “Do you know why I asked you to come here?”

Muninn shook her head with some effort. Her neck felt stiff as stone.

“Because I’ve spent a long span of years watching men and women go into places of high spirituality in search of answers, and, before that, I spent an equally long time doing much the same in the ivory tower of academia. And what I learned as I watched all those bright, promising, miserable souls traipse by, was that we are all of us quite completely desperate to be saved. We want someone to swoop in and take control of our lives, to be our Roshi,” she said the word like a curse, “our moral and physical educator. We never quite outgrow the childhood desire to have a parent guide us through the world. And, because our real parents are always inexorably flawed, we’re stuck searching for something out there that is perfect, that can come along and make everything make sense. And people have gotten quite good at it. The Klingons all have their psychedelic blood trances and make-believe gods. The Vulcan’s have their logic wrapped around the neurotic heart of their belief in ‘souls’ transferred through neuro-electric looping. And humanity, fragile, shattered, terrified humanity… we have the scattered shreds of whatever survived our greatest World War.”

Adeyemi swirled her drink in the glass absently, while looking across the table at Muninn’s face. 

“You don’t have to go back to Robert Haggar’s tired excuse for Zen Buddhism to find yourself in the same sort of room again. Plenty of earnest, kind people there, sure. But plenty who have spite flowing through their veins. And the real truth is, you’ll leave Robert’s psudo-enlightened claptrap behind only to end up somewhere else that’s equally depressing, until one day you find yourself completely jaded to the point of suicide, or else subsumed by someone who’s learned how to pretend themselves into belief better than you.”

Muninn wiped at her face, now quite wet, and blew her nose into her napkin. “Who the hell are you?” She felt numbed. When did I start crying? She couldn’t remember. But the tears were real. They were there. 

Adeyemi shrugged. “I don’t know that any more than you do, kiddo. But, I’m not done — yet. Listen to me a moment longer… because I owe you the answer to why I invited you here, I really do.” She paused for a moment, perhaps gathering her thoughts, perhaps just waiting for the latest song to end and slide into a cooler number, one more conducive to conversation. “You asked a question, your first day in the group. You asked Robert why we needed teachers at all. Do you remember? Yes? Well, that struck me as the sort of thing that not everyone asks, at least, not for the reasons you had. You hit upon something there, something that few end up figuring out. Something Robert’s own ego is too bound up to admit. The truth that he’s perfunctory to the real experience he’s trying to sell whoever walks through his door.”

Suddenly, Adeyemi slammed her flat palm onto the table with such force that their glasses jumped, and she spoke an intonation that sounded like an incantation from some ancient and barbaric play. “‘Gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā!’ Gone, gone, into the gone beyond. Forever, into the gone beyond. Enlightenment, at last!” She grinned, all white teeth shining in the dim bar light. “You want ‘Zen’? That’s it, right there. And Christianity, and all the rest of humanity’s great religions, too. It springs up from inside, not outside, and it can’t be directed to arise or depart when we’d will it so. What I know is that some people have a greater chance of doing good in the universe than they give themselves credit for, and most of them burn out long before they get the chance. It’s my calling to try and reach them before they do. Not to preach, or convert, or lead… but to listen, and to be there while they figure their own crap out. Because that’s what all sentient life needs, ultimately: someone there to walk alongside while we feel our way into the skin of our lives. I asked you here because I sussed you out early. I’ve met a fair few people like you in my time, and most were just as lost and confused as you. And I’ve been able to help a few of them, thought not nearly as many as I’d like. You’re not the first augmented person to come looking for help in spirituality, Muninn.”

Adeyemi stopped there, almost as if she had forgotten what it was she next wanted to say. And Muninn grabbed the space between them gratefully, using it to pull herself back to some semblance of normal breathing and feeling and thought. In the last few minutes, it seemed as if the relative stranger across from her, a woman she had seen and talked to just twice a week for just a few months at the Zen evenings, had taken on a sort of all-encompassing glow.

“I don’t know what to do,” Muninn said, and in those six words were every bit of pain and fear and rage that had followed her for years. 

It seemed to Muninn, at that moment, that she could suddenly see a great cone of tension pointing back through her life when she was three, to the year spent away at the illegal Illyrian clinic where the great tormenting pain had finally been taken away. No more disease, no more pain. But now, it seemed to her that, really, one sort of pain had just replaced the other. Physical pain transformed into an early existential awareness of the separateness of self, a grown-up’s fractured mind inside the body of a child. No wonder there were so few in-vitro human augments who could survive and grow up sane. To be aware of the extreme loneliness of the human condition, to be Awake that early, would be a horrible source of suffering.

Adeyemi considered her for a while, then said, “For now, let’s leave.” She nodded at the stage. “It’s not a very good show. But tomorrow, if you want to, you can come with me when I go.”

“Where are you going to?”

“That,” Adeyemi said with a small laugh, “is something I like to rarely know.”

Helping Hands

Promenade
2400

Izi was casually leaning on the counter at Gren’s kiosk.  The two had been chatting, but were now watching the people as they went about their daily affairs.

“I’ve been here three years and it’s never been this busy,” said Izi.

“it’s been five for me and I agree with you,” said Gren.  “I don’t mind, because it’s good for business.”

Izi studied Gren’s face.  In the course of her duties, she had become adept at reading people, but she never could do that with Gren.

“Business,” chuckled Izi.  “It’s just you and your kiosk in the middle of the walkway.”

Gren shrugged.  “What can I say?  I’m good at what I do.”

“Mm hmm,” said Izi.  She noticed Gren looking at something.  “What is it?”  She followed his gaze.

Three men Izi recognized as shopkeepers, were chasing a woman.  Grabbing her, they were treating her roughly.  Hurrying away, Izi weaved through the crowd.

“What’s going on?”  The men looked at Izi.  “Well?”

“She stole this from my shop.”  The man showed Izi a package of food.  “It’s not the first time she’s been sneaking around.  She’s stolen from other places, too.”

Izi looked at the woman.  She was about twenty, short, with tussled brown hair, rumpled clothes, and a bruise on her cheek.  “Is this true?”

The woman looked away and didn’t answer.

“Did you need to smack her around?”

“She wouldn’t stop,” said the owner.

The day was going well enough for Henry.  The shift in the infirmary had been busy enough and he’d decided to wander the promenade during his lunch break and eat while he walked around, enjoying the mixing of people and officers.  He’d been worried that he might never venture out after his attack, but this time hadn’t given him anxiety and he was thankful to be at peace, at least for now.  There was a commotion ahead and Longfellow spotted a Starfleet security officer in the mix.  He stepped into view as someone said, “She wouldn’t stop.”

“Good afternoon.  Dr. Henry Longfellow, Lieutenant.  May I?”

“Lieutenant Iziraa.  Please.”  Izi motioned for the doctor to look at the young woman.

Henry slipped off his medical tricorder and handed his meal to the startled and staring owner.  He slowly leaned down to the woman, “Blue means medical… so you don’t have to worry much about me.”  She stared at him before relaxing slightly as he scanned the bruise, taking his time.  He slipped the tricorder back in his belt and retrieved his meal from the still staring owner, “I’ll need to see her in the infirmary just down the way…”, he pulled out his card and handed it to the man, “Charge the meal to me.”  He turned to face the security officer, “I could use your guidance when we get to the infirmary.”  He gestured to the men, “You need them for anything else?”

“Do you want to press charges?” said Izi.

The store owner looked at Izi, followed by the doctor, the woman, and back to Izi.  “No charges.  Just make sure you do something about her.  If she’s caught again, she’s going to jail.”

“We’re going with the doctor to the infirmary to make sure you’re all right,” said Izi addressing the woman.  “You’re not under arrest, but I’m detaining you in my custody.  Do you understand what that means?”

The woman nodded, still not talking.

“Okay.  Let’s go.  Lead on, Doctor,” said Izi

Longfellow gave the three men each a look and then led the security officer through the crowd, around a corner, and into the small medical facility.  He gestured to one of the two side areas with a bed and equipment.  He helped the young woman up on the table, “Welcome to our first-aid facility.”  He slipped the medical tricorder out and scanned her once more, “Those men seem to think you’ve got a track record.”  Henry examined the readings and went to the equipment shelf, “What’s your story… better yet… a name might be helpful.”  He pointed to himself, “Henry works just fine – or Doctor Longfellow if you’re feeling like throwing a title in front of it.”

The woman watched Izi as though she had never seen an Andorian.  “I’m Ashley,” she whispered.

“You can call me Izi.”

Longfellow chuckled as the young woman stared at the Andorian, “Andorians are pretty fantastic – never met one I didn’t like…well, there was the bartender in Bozeman…but I don’t think he liked anybody.”  He slipped a dermal regenerator into his hand and ran it over the bruise, “Ashley, you gotta watch out there – those guys will be looking for you from now on….”, he checked the device and gave a look at her face.  The skin was returning to normal and the injury was fading, “There are better places and better people who’d probably take you on for work.”  He glanced at Izi.

When Doctor Longfellow mentioned finding someone to take her on for work, Izi saw Ashley clearly shudder.  Her antennae wiggled, a bad feeling in her stomach.  “Ashley, tell me what’s happening.”

There was a long and tense silence.

“Ashley, you can trust me.”  Izi could see there was a huge internal struggle.

“It’s better if I leave.” Ashley bounded off the bed, pushing Izi….

Longfellow tapped the controls for the door to the clinic and secured it.  He had the security officer in his arms and gave her a smirk, “Funny running into you in a place like this.”

Izi growled a thank you, angry that she let Ashley get the jump on her.  She was eager to help, but she didn’t know anything about her.  Izi needed to be careful and alert.

He stepped a few steps out of the open exam room and leaned against the wall, watching Ashley, “I ain’t gonna chase you, Ashley.  I’m also not going to come after you right now.”  He pointed at the Andorian security officer, “I forgot to mention Andorians can sense things – not like mind readers…but those antennae are a thing to behold when they’re listening to the ground.  She picked something up…I was a little late to the party there.”  He lowered himself to a sitting position, “I’m pretty sure there’s stuff you’ve seen that set you off when I asked about you picking up some work,” he sighed, “We got a lotta folks from a lotta places on Bravo…and some of those people are running from something…my only job as a doctor is to keep them safe and protected from whatever had them running in the first place.”  He nodded towards Ashley, “So….what are you running from?”

Realizing she was locked in, Ashley slid down the wall, wrapping her arms around herself.  Her eyes were closed and she rocked back and forth.

“Doctor Longfellow,” said Izi in a hushed tone.  “She’s clearly been through something traumatic.  Medicine is your specialty.  What should we do?”

Henry sighed, “Let’s unlock the door.  See what she does.”  He tapped the controls and the door’s lock clicked off.

At the sound of the door sliding open, Ashley stopped rocking and became rigid.  She looked at the promenade outside.

“Ashley, we’re not going to force you to stay,” said Izi, “but if you want whatever is happening to end, we’re here for you.”

Seconds ticked by, one after another after another, until there was a silence so thick, it felt like something tangible, filled the room.  Izi held her breath, her antennae moving in slow circles.  When Ashley looked at her, Izi saw the saddest, most desperate eyes she had ever seen.

Ashley reached out with both hands.  “Help me.  Please.”

 

The Function of a Junction

Starbase Bravo
May 2400

Cynndle materialised on deck 253 sector Tango-4. Looking around he pulled out his tricorder and confirmed he was on the correct deck but three sectors away from where the notification came from. He hadn’t been able to set up sit-to-site transports to every power junction. That would have been an impossible task, but he had been able to set them up to get with a few sectors of most junctions he suspected would be targeted. And it paid off.

Taking off at a run down the corridor he realized that his uniform jacket was undone. Briefly debating if he should fix it he decided against it, getting to the power junction as it was being tampered with was more important. ‘Come on, faster faster faster’ he thought trying to push himself to go quicker the tired haze that had been settling over him when he was making his log…’Shit…I think the log is still going. Oops.’ …had vanished as adrenaline pumped into his system. This was the closest he had gotten to catching these people red-handed.

Realising he handed notified anyone yet he tabled his combadge, “Lieutenant Oin’sun to Security”

“Go for Security”, came a voice from his badge.

“I am approaching a power junction on deck 253 sector Tango-1 that has reported an unauthorized access. Can you get anyone here?” Cynndle responds.

After a long pause, he rounds a corner getting close as the voice returns. “Lieutenant, I will have a Tema there as fast as we can but we are stretched very thin, ETA 20 minutes. I won’t tell you to wait. Do what you need to. Security out.”

“Roger that. Will report when able.” He says while cursing internally. ‘HoS lI’ Dalo’Ha’chu’!’ 

Slowing to a stop as he approaches the final corner he peers around and sees the junction about 10 meters away In front of it appears to be a child, nine, maybe ten years old. Shaking his head he removes his hand on the hilt of his phaser, ‘No need to draw this, it’s just a kid. Likely messing around…better go tell them off.’

Stepping around the corner he stands up straight and walks forward. The child seems oblivious to him until he is only a meter or two behind them. “What is it that you think you are doing? You are not meant to touch these”. He says with a stern voice.

Runaite shot around in a start, complete with a near scream that she immediately did her best to cover up. Off-balance, she fell back against the wall and maintained her footing. That falling against the wall, though, was all that was needed to knock the panel that she was pulling at loose. It stayed in place, however.

After giving the now loose panel a quick survey, her little legs twitched as though she was about to run off to the right. No, maybe left. The Starfleet type before her moved slightly as well like he might offer pursuit should she run.

Runaite forced the startled look from her face, pursed her lips and furrowed her brow. She tried pushing herself off the wall, but she only managed to force herself to not appear scared. Runaite remained against the wall as further retreat was not possible at the moment. “Just trying to get what is mine is all. I’m a Romulan,” she added some umph to ‘Romulan’, “and you would be wise to not mess with me.”

There was something she wanted, that much was certain. It was also certain that the little girl was willing to fight for it, no matter how big her opponent proved.

Unsure what to make of the situation as this is now what he had expected to find Cynndle just stared down at her for a moment after she spoke. “And what is it you feel is yours behind that panel?” he says with a slight gesture of his hand. “I am just very curious as to how you got it open and what you are after as what is behind there can be very dangerous.”

Taking a quick look up and down the corridor he doesn’t see anyone else, “Where are your parents? Did you arrive on one of the refugee ships?”

Runaite looked at him as though sizing him up when, in truth, she was only weighing her options in trusting him or not. “My parents are not here yet. I arrived aboard…why do you care? I have to save Vrulmur. I order you to help me save Vrulmur.” Runaite looked back at the panel. Though it had finally been knocked loose she did not reach for it. Instead, she kept looking back at the uniform, wondering if he was going to draw his phaser should she try.

A flash of sorrow crossed Cynndle’s face when he realized that the child’s parents had not arrived with her and maybe would not be arriving. “I am sorry to hear they haven’t arrived yet. I am sure they will be here as soon as they can,”  he says as he crouches down realizing that his height and the phaser at his side might be a bit intimidating. “What or who is Vrulmer? Is Vrulmer in the panel? Why would he be in there?”

“Vrulmur is my nei’ɽrh,” she said as though that was supposed to make perfect sense to Cynndle. “He’s been missing for a long time and he’s stuck behind here.” She glared back at the uniform. “Help me save him or else.”

Holding up his hands to show his palms Cynndles smiles in agreement. “Ok, I needed to look in there anyway. That is why I came here,” he remarks as he gestures for her to step to the side. “You know, I don’t know your name. I’m Cynndle Oin’sun. I work in Operations here. What’s Yours?”

“Runaite,” she blurted. Stepping to the side, she kept her eyes fixed on him. “My friends call me Runa,” but she had not really any friends yet here. “You’re not my friend. You call me Runaite.”

“It is nice to meet you Runaite.” He says as he starts to remove the panel. “Have you tried getting into any of these before by chance?”

“Only when they hide Vrulmur from me. I came here because one of them finally told me where he is.”

Raising an eyebrow quizzically Cynndle frowns. “And who would ‘they’ be?”

“‘They’ are the Bravo Boys…duh. Always taking my stuff.”

Cynndle removes the panel covering the power junction, sliding it to the wall beside him. Looking inside, he shakes his head and curses under his breath before realizing there is a child present. Several of the wires within the junction have been cut and or unplugged along with several of the connectors for the bio-neural circuitry. As he continues to examine the handy work of whoever did this he sees a small patch of fur tucked and stuffed down inside. Worming his hand down, he touched it and realized it was artificial. He was surprised to find a stuffed animal; a child’s toy. It proved not very big as he gently pulled it free. It was similar in size to the teddy bears he recalled from Earth. This stuffed nei’ɽrh was more like a bird, however.

“Vrulmur!” Runaite exclaimed but those words only echoed in Cynndle’s ears.

‘Why on earth would someone put a stuffed town into here? It has to be connected somehow, no way did someone play a prank on her, hide this and then that junction just so happen to be sabotaged.” he thinks to himself before an idea occurs to him. Maybe there are traces left on the toy. Pulling out his tricorder he begins to scan the nei’ɽrh for any trace samples, main DNA, which could point him towards the suspect.

Runaite was on edge; about to attempt to snatch Vrulmur from the uniform.

Turning back to Runaite he holds up the stuffed animal, “Is this Vrulmur? You are going to have to explain how he got there. It is very important.” he says as he tries to hide the edge in his voice. “Do you know who put it there? Did you see them?”

“The Bravo Boys I said,” she reached to grab it from him but he held it a bit too high. “They keep taking my things and hiding them. They took Vrulmur a few days ago…three, four…I don’t know. One of them finally told me,” and she jumped in another attempt to grab Vrulmur but could only manage to brush her fingers against his fur, “to look behind a loose panel up here somewhere.

Giving up her attempt to snatch Vrulmur from the uniform, Runaite simply stood there with her hand out. “Give it.”

Looking down at the child Cynndle frowns in disappointment. “It isn’t nice to lie to people, especially those who have helped you Runaite. I saw that the panel was closed when you started trying to open it.” Turning his hand so that Vrulmur was looking at him he sighs. “Now how about you tell me how he really got in there and what you were doing?”

“Hrmph,” she crossed her arms, “Vulcans tell more lies than we do. I was trying to get Vrulmur back I said. The panel was loose when I got here. Only…someone else got here and started working. I waited until they were done but they put the panel back. It was not loose anymore.”

“Really, so you arrived and the panel was loose but you saw someone go their first and start to work in it? Can you describe this person? It is really important.” Cynndle says crouching down to face her. As he does he taps his tricorder to record the description.

Runaite stood there, staring at the uniform still in possession of Vrulmur. Though he crouched down to her putting Vrulmur into a more easily reached position, she only held her hand out. “Hand him over first.”

Cynndle looked at Vrulmur and smiled, “Of course, after all, I am sure that he has missed you since he was taken, eh?” he says as he extends his left hand with the stuffed animal to Runaite who quickly grabs it and hugs it close. “Now, who did you see?”

“Looked like a girl to me…grown up. But in her nighties. Like she got out of bed to do some work but didn’t put on work clothes. She had this tattoo on her forehead and going down the sides of her face. Couldn’t really see it. I was standing over there,” Runaite pointed behind her, “and her hair was a mess. Whatever she was doing, it was quick. Closed the panel and was gone.”

Frowning at what he heard Cynndle glances past Runaite to where she was pointing. “Tattoos on her forehead and down her face you say?” his mind instantly jumping to think of Heriah, not as a suspect but trill spots are hard to not think about… ”Can you describe her in more detail? It is important as whoever is doing this may be trying to hurt the station. Could you tell the colour of her hair by chance, what sort of clothes she was wearing?” he continues. “Can you describe the tattoo? What did it look like exactly?”

Runaite withdrew slightly at the barrage of questions. “Look, I was only wanting to get Vrulmur. I did not pay that much attention to her. Her hair was blond-ish, a little yellow maybe…I don’t know. Her clothes were her nighties I said. Like something you would wear to bed. Well, not you maybe. The tattoo…as I said, her hair was a mess. I could not really see it. Did not look like writing or anything like that.” Runaite relaxed her hold on Vrulmur somewhat, seeing that the uniform was most likely not going to snatch him away from her. “Besides don’t you have sensors to pick up things like that?”

Standing up and taking a step back from Runaite Cynndle laughs a little. “I wish this…” holding up his tricorder, “…could tell me those things when the person wasn’t there. But it can tell me lots of information. By using that and what you have told me I should be able to get what I need.” He says as he takes a step to where she had pointed scanning for residual DNA traces or a thing else that he could use.

Looking back at Runaite he frowns slight, “You have been very helpful Runaite, were are you staying? Do you want me to contact someone or take you to one of the shelters?” He says but the tricorder beeps and he looks back down at it his frown deepens. “Well, that is interesting…”

Cynndle’s tricorder picked up some readings to back up Runaite’s story. The locking mechanism for the panel was certainly old and damaged in a way that only careful replacement of the panel would result in a secure fitting. Otherwise, it might pop loose. Flakes of skin, fingerprints, and old and dried drops of sweat indicated that several have been inside this panel over, at least, the past several weeks, possibly and most likely for short-term storage, smuggling and the like. The list of races included, Romulan, Bolian, Cardassian, Klingon, human, and even a Trill or two. DNA scans as well as fingerprints, including partials, provided an expansive array of possible perpetrators. The most complete, and possibly most recent, fingerprints, however, were of a design specific to the Trill.

The rewiring of the junction was only very recent, so it did not seem anyone who had been inside this panel as of late meant any real sabotage. On top of that, the rewiring and apparent sabotage were not specifically to overload or short out any of the systems supported nearby. Power redistribution was not going to cause any cascading outages, an explosion, nor a fire anywhere. The rewiring appeared more communication oriented than anything else. Computational matrices, algorithms, and computer requests for all locally supported systems were either being rerouted back to the end user, to another system, or information from the local computer core was being sent back to the computer. All in all, this rewiring seemed to have been a deliberate attempt put computational analyses, requests, etc into a cyclic pattern causing a rotation of computations and an exponential increase in memory usage to make up for exploding results.

One of the readings showed that the computer was on an endless cycle for some infinitely large number. So far, the computer was at ‘2^82589933-1’. If Cynndle had to guess, it would have taken a long time, weeks even, for the relays in this junction to succumb to the cyclic redundancies and burn out. And the local computer users might have only shrugged in the face of a few glitches and minor quirks only to move on as though nothing was too much out of the ordinary.

This was certainly not a deliberate attempt to burn out this or a nearby junction nor was this meant to cause immediate sensor outages. This was also not some ill-experienced thug cutting and rewiring at random. This was, however, another modus operandi, throwing yet another wrench into Cynndle’s deduction process.

“Would you be able to keep him safe?” Runaite asked.

Lost in thought for a moment Cynndle didn’t respond. This was a step above what had happened with the other power junctions that had been hit. ‘Most recently accessed by a Trill…I wonder how many Trill could be on board. Need to speak to the Cheif and security, this is the closes lead we have…but is this something different? The method used was not the same…a Trill…really?’ ’He snapped out of it when Runaite stomped her food and asked again. “Keep who safe?” he asked looking back at her.

“Vrulmur.” She sighed, understanding that she was going to have to repeat herself. “I only want to keep him safe. I’m OK with the other children in the shelter, but Vrulmur is not. They keep taking him and hiding him. Vrulmur is the last thing my parents gave me before we were separated. I only want to keep him safe, hide him somewhere only I know. Any ideas? Can you help me keep him safe?”

“Oh, yeah, sure. I am sure we can find someplace safe for him and yourself,” he said as he looked back at the panel. “Look, I need to fix this. Will only take a couple of minutes. Then how about we go speak to the security office. It is the safest place on the station. I know they can keep Vrulmur safe and you can then visit whenever you want. We can then let them know about the woman who was messing around here, the boys who keep stealing Vrulmur from you and some food. How does ice cream sound? Have you ever had that before?”

Runaite nodded. “They had plenty of that when my ship arrived.” She squeezed Vrulmur. “Are you sure those uniforms in security can keep Vrulmur safe? Me, I can take care of myself. Just ask the Bravo Boy with the black eye. I just need to keep Vrulmur safe.”

“It is their job so I am sure that if anyone can do it they can,” Cynndle responded “I need to give them a heads up that we are on our way ok.”

Tapping his combadge, “Lieutenant Oin’sun to Security” he said as he looked down at Runaite and smiled before turning to face the junction.

“Go for Security”, came a voice from his badge.

“I wanted to report in, I am at the power junction in question on deck 253 sector Tango-1 that I message about earlier. I found a young girl who was trying to get in but it doesn’t seem like she was responsible as some other kids hid her stuffed animal in there earlier today. She did witnesses the person I believe was responsible. I will come by shortly with her once I repair the damage here, will only take a couple of minutes.” he said glancing back at Runaite.

“Thanks for the update Lieutenant; we will have someone other in the next couple of minutes anyways so will see you shortly after that.” the disembodied voice responded

Turning back, “I will just need a couple of minutes here; one of my colleagues will be here soon to double-check the area then we can go and get Vrulmur someplace safe ok,” he said as he crouched down and became to undo the rewiring. It was not an overly complicated job addressing the damage that the unknown perpetrator caused to the system. As he looked at it he couldn’t help but think that there was something clearly different about this one. The previous issues were simple things, a cure wire or a bio-neural circuit plugged in the wrong place; this though showed a greater understanding of the systems.

Runaite took a few steps back to allow the uniform to do his work. All the while, she kept glancing at the tricorder he used frequently. That was one of the things the alpha Space Girl wanted in addition to the dermal regenerator. Runaite was already playing out just how she might get it from this one.

After a couple of minutes, Cynndle sat back and smiled, “All sorted” he said looking around. “Guess they arent hear yet. Let me close this up and then we can go. The security station is only a couple of minutes’ walk from here. “You all set?”

Runaite stood there, her arms crossed over her torso holding Vrulmur tight. She took her eyes off of the tricorder and connected with the uniform. She nodded. “All set.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Nice Game of Kal-toh

Heriah's Quarters
2400

What better way to calm the raging seas of the mind and its thoughts than to organize a cantankerous and chaotic mass into something beautiful. Intersections, vertices, geometric shapes, ordered angles, all merging themselves into a three-dimensional object of order and solace. For the moment though, it was only half beauty and half calamity. A hovering hand wanted to touch it, to mold it more beautiful but winced as the thought exploded within that doing so would only mean several steps backward. Finally removing something unsightly and placing it elsewhere gave rise to a more complete and more beautiful form giving it all a more complete structure with still yet areas of uncleanliness and disarray. Seconds seemed to stretch into hours as the hovering hand moved about and winced about attempting to decide what next to do to bring order to the mass just as the player sought to bring calm to the tumultuous thoughts firing within the mind. An unraveling memory caused the shaky hand to make a move resulting in a less ordered mass. One step back. But, in making that step back, a more secure foundation revealed itself thus proving once again that sometimes a little more chaos is needed to bring about sanity. Happy now, the hovering hand moves again with the end result of greater form. More vertices interlocking thus forming shapes more grand and the goal as a whole growing ever closer. A funny thing; logic and order. Even in the face of mass chaos, one stray element is sometimes providence to make visible the path to take for the desired endgame yet treacherous and precarious said path may still be. Sweaty palm and twitchy fingers, the hovering hand continues to move and craft and mold and bring continued harmony and the seeds of order to the ever perfecting sphere. Almost there. The taste of victory lingering in the mind with a jittering joy about to explode as the key to unlocking the ultimate answer seems only a movement or two yet out of reach. Chaos be gone yet some confusion remains as the hovering hand seeks what to do next. At last, two pieces. Both seemingly holding the ordered structure steady yet both meet at an odd angle and an odd vertex, working against each other. Only one does not belong. The other does. And the movement of what does not belong will bring final order making the victory complete and not just a lingering drop of flavor in the back of the mind. The jittering joy reaching critical mass as the hovering hand reaches for one then the other; back to the first. Picking one and removing it…

‘Perfection.’

The spherical mass dissolves into a chaotic clump of interwoven rods returning itself back to the unordered cantankerous state it was originally found.

‘See? Perfection.’

Heriah did not even take a second look at the kal-toh stand as she closed her eyes and allowed herself to fall backward and into a nearby seat. Pressing her palms to her head, she allowed the critical mass of the jittering joy to stabilize and evaporate away.

‘I wonder if that thing has an undo button.’

I wonder if the Joining Commission can provide me with an undo button.’

‘Hey, no promises you cannot keep.’

“Just shut up,” she said as she stood and stepped away toward the lavatory.

Kal-toh was introduced to her by Rikata Mol whilst she attended the Academy. Given the unique situation Heriah was in, with her joining with Rex and all, Rikata felt her playing and figuring out Kal-toh was a fantastic way for her to calm herself, order her thoughts, and, in the long run, assist in rehabilitating Rex from his mania.

All Rex seemed to want however was destruction and chaos. Heriah thought she had felt a twinge of knowledge to go after the other Kal-toh rod to complete the puzzle but felt an overwhelming urge to go after the one she had picked. Ultimately, it return Kal-toh back to its original state. The overwhelming urge?

‘Oh it has to be me doesn’t it?’

The monocorder on her finger flashed green indicating adequate levels of isoboramine. There was more than enough to keep the minds of the symbiont and host from separating.

‘Which begs the question. Are you arguing with me or really with yourself?’

Heriah looked herself over in the mirror and also peered at the jumbled mess of rods atop the Kal-toh stand over the shoulder of her reflection.

“Surround yourself with those who know and love you,” she said to her reflection.

“Yeah. Who will be willing to do that, seeing the jumbled mess that is me.”

Heriah went to put her uniform on. Though it was after hours, she had nothing else to do, save for returning to the refugee processing area and continue hearing the same tales of woe all over again. At least it kept her away from and from thinking about the Kal-toh rods of her mind and thoughts.

Report to the Boss

Starbase Bravo, Sector Hotel-Turquoise, Deck 375 Counseling Office B
June 2400

In her office, Heriah finalized some of the reports LT Weld needed before he sent them on up the chain of command. She touched on the progress she was making with LTJG Oin’sun and that she recommended him to continue with his cross training when time allowed, her first and, so far, only session with Cadet Ford along with recommendations for further sessions as she continued to assess Ford’s needs, and lastly, Heriah’s meeting with Ensign Lihran.

Heriah’s report did not offer much in the way of details of their respective issues, just that progress was being made, that they continued to operate optimally and that they did not appear to be a threat to themselves or anyone around them.

Additionally, Heriah’s report contained a tally of her meetings with refugees arriving daily, who needed further counseling and who Security should have BOLO’s for. The report also contained Heriah’s in-office sessions, scheduled meetings as well as walk-ins.

Basically, it was all that Bravo Command needed to know. They needed to know that their lower ranking personnel were all soldiering along and getting the job done, meeting demands as they cropped up and putting out the fires that would sprout up here and there.

Heriah even added the additional hours she put in after her normal duty shifts to continue with helping out with the civilians and refugees as well as the various meetings in her own quarters.

She wrote it up quite exceptionally, making herself sound a bit…indispensable, as she once said to LT Weld. Hopefully he would find the report optimal and without the need to edit or add his own flair to it before sending it up.

Tapping away at her PADD, Heriah saved the report and sent her PADD to standby after sending the reports to the in-office PADD. Heriah’s PADD was Heriah’s PADD and none other’s. Grabbing the in-office one, she stood and marched out of her office. Going through the lobby she heard the soft music playing and did a quick survey of some of the people waiting to be seen which equated to only the amount she could count on one hand. Counseling cadets and others attending the Academy on Mellstoxx III were seeing to them as she passed.

Heriah arrived at her boss’s door and pressed the chime.

From within the office, Elegy Weld responded, “Come,” to unlock the doors.  As the doors slid apart, a clear view of Elegy weld was obscured through seven overlapping holographic computer panes.  Each pane was mostly translucent, but the overlapping cluster of data acted as dazzle camouflage for the Trill resident psychiatrist.  With his legs draped over the back and his head and shoulders hanging off the seat, Elegy’s lanky frame was, essentially, sitting upside down in one of the armchairs.  He swiped a hand through the air to manipulate the location of the overlapping holographic LCARS frames, sorting through Starfleet anthropological articles on Romulan family trees, households, and marriages.  Half of the data on the screens blatantly contradicted each other, and the nature of Romulan culture meant it was impossible to know if the contradictions were due to bad research or due to intentional deception.

Once Elegy made eye-contact with his visitor, he murmured, “Ah, Heriah, hullo!”  He gracefully tumbled himself down from the armchair and rose to his feet.  Elegy scooped up his uniform jacket from off the back of his chair and shrugged it on over his undershirt.  “How is the day treating you?” he asked.

“Um, it has been well, sir. I mean Elegy.” Heriah slowly stepped inside. The door slid to a close behind her. “I don’t mean to interrupt anything. If this is a bad time…was that a form of inversion therapy?” she finally asked, referring to his seated posture as she had entered. The gym had inversion tables and, though Heriah had never tried one herself, she had seen others using it.

Elegy squinted at Heriah’s question and looked back to the chair he’d been draped over.  “No, nothing like that.  I was– I guess I was comfortable?  I don’t know.  I was engrossed in the reading,” Elegy explained absent-mindedly, although he sounded like he was re-examining his own feelings on the matter as each word came out.  He closed his uniform jacket down the front, and he enthused, “I almost feel like I understand how Romulan society is supposed to work?  And I almost feel like I understand how Romulan society works in practice.  But I can’t quite reconcile the two.”  He breathed out a huff of idle frustration and wiped a hand through the holographic projections, which switched off the LCARS panes.

Heriah listened to his words and understood his dilemma the best she could. Taking a seat, she placed her PADD on standby as the delivery of these reports was suddenly not as important for the moment.

“Perhaps you should get into the mind of the Romulans to better understand them. They are a proud and powerful race. Yet, they were once driven from their ancestral homeworld of Vulcan. Theorists suggest they were later driven from Earth. They survived empty and cold space until they found what would become Romulus. Now that is gone. The people have always been followers of the most powerful. It did not matter if the person in charge was brutal and silenced adversaries, he was strong and put forth a terrifying image of Romulus to the rest of the galaxy. Romulan justice was mostly guilty until proven innocent. And this worked. For the average Romulan working an average day, as long as they stayed in line and kept their trust in the man in charge, all was well. Now that a natural disaster has taken all that away, a Romulan future looks like a civil war of at least three factions, a crumbling empire, various Praetors who all put forth the same strong Romulan face even if they oppose the other strong Romulan faces.”

“How is it supposed to work?” and she continued without really expecting an answer, “One strong leader leading the rest in a charge against adversity. How does it work in practice? Average people held underfoot so long that they have only the option of supporting that one leader. How does Romulan society work now? Multiple feet attempting to keep the population underfoot. These feet oftentimes kicking each other, some growing tired, some dying, some attempting to sweep away those that refuse to fall in line. The Romulans have no one person to look to now. There is no singular direction for them to go. Power vacuums are cropping up constantly and your average Romulan is discovering that they are the true strong face of the Romulan people; not some Praetor. While others,” and she motioned behind her, out there and toward the refugee population that continued to grow, “they have been held underfoot so long, they do not know what to do.”

Heriah finished her little speech, with a little help from Rex though she felt he was more attempting to show off. Also fearing she had spoken too at length or out of turn, she silenced herself and looked at Elegy, processing her words.

Taking his time to digest what Heriah had said, Elegy had nodded at each of Heriah’s points and then he stayed silent for a time.  He reached for his tumbler and he sipped at his ice coffee, and then he put it aside.  Sitting himself upright in the armchair, Elegy knowingly remarked, “I suppose we don’t have to look too far into our own history to imagine a government that kept extensive secrets from the galaxy at large, or put the lives of a minority above the majority.”  His expression tightened into a wan smile.

Heriah had her own second meaning to Elegy’s words. There were things those who oversaw Heriah’s joining were keeping from the ‘galaxy at large’ and she was also beginning to suspect there were things being kept secret from even her.

“No, we don’t,” she replied. “How something looks written out is oftentimes vastly different than how that same something is practiced. Therefore, they cannot be reconciled. There is always a politician attempting to make things look better for himself. And now, considering this crisis, all the truths and past hidden events of the old Romulan Empire is beginning to out.”

Taking in a breath through his nose, Elegy said, “I suppose even if I can’t conceive of it, I can still help my patients come to terms with their new situations.”  Lost in thought, he considered it for a moment more, and nodded a couple more times as he considered what that would mean to him.  Suddenly shifting his posture in the chair self-consciously, Elegy clapped his hands together when he said, “I don’t suppose you came to visit me to talk politics.  What can I help you with today instead?”

“Oh…uh…” Heriah recalled the reason for her visit.

‘Delivery reports. Get out.’

“I was simply bringing you the reports you need before they are sent up to higher.” Heriah had the PADD in hand and placed it on the nearby table for Elegy to take. “I hope you like my reporting technique and writing style.” But before he was able to comment, “And might I add…El-Aurians. They may not be counselors but they are great listeners I hear. They too had their homeworld taken from them. We could learn a lot about how to help our Romulan brethren and sisteren from the El-Aurians. Could even see about an El-Aurian counselor if we can find one.”

Although Heriah brushed past the topic, Elegy reached out for the PADD on the table as soon as she mentioned it.  It was like an itch at the back of his mind he couldn’t quite ignore.  As Heriah made a suggestion about El-Aurian counselors, Elegy absently scrolled through the report on the screen, half-reading it, while he listened to what Heriah was saying.  As before, he made little effort to stand on ceremony with her.  “I can’t say I’ve ever met an El-Aurian… I don’t think?” he replied.  Elegy looked up from the report momentarily and then continued his scrolling.  “Have you?”

“I have. Well…my symbiont has. I, myself, have not. Then again, you may not even know the truth since they appear very human. Most cannot tell an El-Aurian apart from a human.” Heriah sat a brief moment and watched as he skimmed her reports. “If I may, sir, in helping these people come to terms with their new situations, might I suggest you spend time down below in refugee processing. It is one thing to meet people one on one. It is quite another to meet them in mass and hearing their multiple cries.” Heriah did not wish to step over any boundaries. She also felt the ever growing itch from within to be done with this and away from this psychiatrist.

Looking up at that, Elegy put the PADD down in his lap and folded his hands over the device’s display.  “I’m hearing you’ve found a different experience in supporting refugee process and it sounds like it was a meaningful experience for you,” Elegy said, in acknowledgement of what Heriah had proposed to him.  He nodded and didn’t say anything more at first, visibly lost in though.  Elegy admitted, “During the first week of the Century Storm, I offered my services as an emergency medic in refugee processing, more than anything in the realm of mental health.  I’m curious about what it has meant to you to take part in such early interventions?”

‘Different verse to the same song. To me, this means…’

“…that your home can be taken away in an instant and with little to no warning. All that you would have left then is hope. Hope that you will find a place, whether temporary or permanent, that will accept you. Hope…that help will come along sooner rather than later. That is where I see myself stepping in; providing help as soon as I can manage.”

All this time and no one has stepped in to provide me with any real hope.’

‘Rex.’

Heriah crossed her arms over her torso. “To me, this means that I am a bridge, so to speak, between hopelessness and hopefulness. I am a springboard to help get them to a level higher than then slump they find themselves in. I am a punching bag even for those who need to vent. To me, this is the pinnacle of what it means to be a counselor.”

Elegy nodded twice at Heriah’s summation.  He gazed off into the middle distance for another couple of heartbeats, and then he asked Heriah another question.  “If that is the pinnacle of being a counselor,” Elegy asked, “do people have to suffer to give your life meaning?”

“Um…” she said, “well…”

‘Rex?’

‘Oh now you want my help.’

“In my experience, Elegy, life is pain. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.”

‘Everyone suffers.’

“Everyone suffers but this suffering is always to varying degrees.”

‘Some simply cannot take it…’

“Some simply cannot withhold it any longer and they have to tell someone.”

‘Well I was going to say end it all.’

“So…in a sense…yes. People have to suffer to give my professional life meaning. People who do not suffer at all have no need of a counselor. As for my personal life, no they do not need to suffer to give me meaning. Just…”

‘Go ahead. Say it.’

“…I don’t have any personal relationships.” She broke eye contact. “No one cares…I mean…I do not have anyone close to me. Being a counselor also brings the stigma that any close friends must have a need of a counselor, so they typically stay away.”

Heriah reconnected with his eyes and shrugged. “A counselor’s life is oftentimes a lonely one.”

‘Insanely lonely when joined with you.’

Elegy rubbed his chin with the edge of his index finger and his eyes softened at Heriah in concern.  Given how cheeky his question had been, and Heriah’s past manner with him, he certainly hadn’t expected her to be this vulnerable with him.  “I don’t know that I agree with your entire premise,” Elegy said in uncertain preamble, “but I can’t universally disprove it either.”  He shrugged.  “Maybe if you slow down your path to becoming indispensable, you’ll have a few minutes to become friends with me?  There’s an ease about being able to talk shop to a peer, without translating everything for the laypersons.”

‘You came here to deliver reports and to get out. You delivered the reports. Now get out.’

Heriah started in a slow nod.

‘He’s a shrink. Your boss no less.’

“I think I would like that,” she said. “Afterall…”

‘…the High Priest did tell me to surround myself with those who know and love me.’

‘Crap spouted by a religious fanatic.’

“…afterall, I do need to make friends and know those whom I work with, right?”

Shrugging impishly, Elegy said, “In my humble experience, I’d say it’s worth a try, at least.  What do you have to lose?”

Shipments to Nowhere

Starbase Bravo, Sector India-Navy, Promenade
Early July 2400

Sipping at her coffee, Cadet Lyrakkiton Parze was seated at one of the cafe tables at Brew that looked out at the wide passageways and bustling activity of Starbase Bravo’s promenade.  Her eyes scanned from side to side; it was only when the fishy smell of her special-order coffee-drink wafted towards her that she would take a sip from the mug.  The Saurian had the mug clasped between both of her scaly hands and nearly spit out the sip of coffee when she said, “Oh!” Parze downed the rest of her drink and jumped to her feet a moment later.

Breaking into a sprint, Parze called out, “Lieutenant!” as she ran towards the woman she had spotted. Parze tore across the promenade, towards a familiar woman in a security uniform. She asked, “Lieutenant Thompson, is that you?”

Sonja had been running later than usual this morning, after a restless night sleep. She had slept through her alarm, which caused the rush to be worse than usual. She hurriedly got ready and rushed out of her quarters heading to her office. When she heard the familiar and excited voice of Cadet Parze. She spun around and nodded “What’s wrong, Cadet? You seem a bit frazzled.” She said trying to calm the Cadet down.

“Lieutenant, have you ever seen something, but you weren’t sure what you’d seen,” Parze asked, at length, “and so you starting to think maybe you had only imagined it, except then you couldn’t forget about it, even though you couldn’t remember exactly what you had seen, only that you had seen something, that something had happened, but you didn’t want to seem stupid for saying anything?”  After that run-on sentence, Parze took a deep, deep breath.  Then she winced and she tacked on a, “Hypothetically, of course.”

Sonja held up her hands “Calm down, Cadet. Let’s go to my office where we can sit down and talk in private. Get you calmed down a bit because I can tell you’re frazzled.” She walked with Parze the short distance to her office, where she shut the door and sat Parze down. She grabbed a water for the Cadet and sat it in front of her. She say back down at her desk and folded her hands “Alright, now slowly from the top what is going on?”

Parze sipped at the water and she took a deep breath.  Her eyes darted left and ride, belying her internal conflicts about what she wanted to say, what she thought she was supposed to say, and what she knew to be right.  “Sir, I’ve been assigned a couple of shifts in the logistics department, as part of my Squadron Bravo cross-training.  In all of my assignments, I’ve been intently observing my environment, like we talked about on the promenade a few weeks ago,” Parze said, speaking slowly, as if she was afraid to actually get to the point, or be misunderstood.  

Parze went on: “I noticed something yesterday.  At least, I think I did?  There’s an officer on the desk beside mine, who prepares and distributes courier cases.  My eyes are drawn to the movement when he hands them off.  Those Starfleet briefcases are so shiny, it must trigger an ancient hunter instinct in me?  …Anyway, I think I noticed something?  A pattern?  One out of every ten or twelve cases has no distribution plate on it when he hands them off.  It’s like he’s sending them to nowhere!”

Sonja rose an eye “So your saying that one case is being picked up, but has no destination on it?” She began writing things down at this point regardless of what could be the case this would need to be looked into. “Do you know who this officer is?” She asked stopping for a response.

Nodding abruptly, Parze said, “Yes, whenever Ensign Camillo Belarius hands off briefcases, they have destination codes on them.”  She winced a puzzled expression and she took another sip of water.  “Except for the ones that don’t.”

Sonja immediately took notes of the officer who the Cadet mentioned and began to determine that something was off. It wasn’t normal for a Starfleet officer to be reported for suspicious activity like this. “Ok, so how long have you been seeing this activity take place? Do you know the ratio of the cases that do not have the destination codes on them? And who grabs the cases after Ensign Belarius hands them off?”

“No, I… I…” Parze tried to answer, but her mouth hung agape, and she squinted, as if that effort would help her to remember better.  She shook her head, saying, “I don’t remember, exactly.  I haven’t been in that department long enough to recognize all the faces yet.  I’m sorry, lieutenant.  I don’t mean to fail you.  With all of the Romulans and Remans on board, it has to mean something, no?  Whatever it takes, I’ll help you find out more.”

Over-excited, Parze declared, “I’ll go undercover, if I have to!”

 

Living in Mansions

Starbase Bravo, Sector Hotel-Turquoise, Observation Lounge 3
June 2400

Four and a half days aboard Starbase Bravo were barely scratching the surface of life aboard the massive space station, and Muninn was starting to suspect that one never became completely used to it. All the officers seemed stressed and harried, the ordinary crew were too busy to show much interest in a newly arrived officer, and the civilian population wanted to go about its business uninterrupted, thank-you-very-much. Lieutenant Lish’s company proved a source of some cheer, at least at first, but however well she got on with the jovial Bolian it didn’t mean she could stand to listen to him continually natter on about this personal projects. And even Lish was busy, having taken on three new cases in addition to his light mentoring duties. And then there were her own cases, the first five of which were scheduled to begin the very next day. She felt almost as nervous as a fresh-faced trainee still after her hours. 

Observation lounge three featured nice windows, at least. Muninn sat in the lounge’s foyer on a big plush armchair, a PADD on her lap. The sleek white walls and comfortable blue-plush armchairs giving the space a larger-than-reality quality in the mind. The room itself, basically a large oval with one side consisting mostly of windows looking out onto the vast deep of open space, offered an informal waiting area for those normally signed up for appointments. At this hour, none were scheduled, so she had the place to herself. The last of her personal touches (various simple artifacts fabricated that afternoon at the replimat) were being installed in her small office at that very moment by a mild-mannered operations officer down the hall. For some reason, Muninn wanted nothing to do with that room yet, at least not until it was really hers. She would be spending a lot of time in it, over the next few months at least, and it seemed somehow important that her first real impression of it should be as something hers and hers alone. It would be, after all, the space she held for others throughout the day.

She scanned the list of names on the PADD she held. The little chrome-edged tablet blinked as she pressed one of the names, and a profile appeared of Mike Henderson. Short man, brown hair, nice smile. Crippling fear of being alone for life and a predisposition to controlled substances. Oh, and trouble sleeping. “Right there with you, Mike,” Munnin groaned, rubbing at her forehead where a mild migraine was just starting to set in.

“Actually, my name is Elegy,” replied a voice from behind Munin, entering the observation lounge from the corridor.  There was a hint of a nudge and a wink in his timbre.

Muninn started more than she would have, under normal circumstances, and looked around at the source of the voice. Slim, and athletic, with a face that she instantly thought of as ‘pretty’. And the pips of a LTJG.

“Oh gods, sorry, did I say that out loud?” She waved the offending PADD. “Think I’ve been trying to take in too much information the last few days. Always another bit of paperwork, eh?”

“You’re in luck,” Elegy teased, as he rounded one of the overstuffed armchairs for himself.  “In the twenty-fifth century, talking to yourself is no longer a diagnostic criteria for any known mental illness,” Elegy said in hushed tones.  It was a joke the resident psychiatrist would only ever share with another counselor.  Lowering himself into the chair, Elegy wasn’t too proud to slouch and stretch his legs out.  Not at this hour, nor after the number of walk-in Romulan patients he’d seen on this day.  The number of Romulan refugees Starbase Bravo was receiving, given the fall of the Star Empire’s senate and the further splintering of Romulan space, was starting to feel like it could overtake the chaos of the Century Storm earlier in the year.  Elegy admitted to Muninn, “I’m having a similar check-in with myself: Can I take another walk-in patient, can I manage to sit in the dark and write reports, or is it time for bed?”

“It’s funny, isn’t it, how the more humanity eliminates deprivation and sets our sights on self-betterment, the more we discover how many problems are just fundamental to, well, being human?” Muninn’s mezzo hummed with laughter. In all of ten seconds, she already knew she liked the man. Anyone with that subtle a sense of good humor had to be worth knowing. 

“Though, I suppose one crisis after another will ladle on the stress, too. Muninn Musgrave, just assigned here last week.” Remaining seated, she stretched forward and held out her hand.

In an awkward struggle to remain off his feet too, Elegy rolled onto his side in the chair to reach out a hand that just about clasped with the one proffered to him.  “Thrilled to meet you, Muninn,” he said and he shook her hand.  Elegy settled himself back into a comfortable position in the chair, as he said, “I’m Elegy Weld.  This is about my sixth month posted to Starbase Bravo.  I can’t believe it’s been that long already.”

“It’s nice to meet someone else from the team. Lieutenant Lish is the only other counselor I’ve talked to so-far, what with all my assignments getting fed in through the computer.” She waggled the PADD that she had been reading. “I guess I’m used to a more… crowded work environment. Not really like a starship at all, is it?”

Shrugging sheepishly, Elegy admitted, “I’m afraid I can’t say.  Bravo is my first posting out of medical school.  Mind, I was practically raised by starship crews, but” –he took on a silly deadpan to say– “I was much smaller back then.”  Shaking it off, he remarked, “Starships felt like massive labyrinths to me, growing up.  Classrooms on starships were never very crowded.”

“Oh, I’m envious. I wanted to be you, growing up—I would have done anything to spend my childhood on a starship.” Muninn smiled at the memory, despite the sadness that surrounded it. No going back, she reminded herself. Memories are part of who we are, but they are not the present. She could almost hear Adeyemi’s voice speaking these words in her ear.

She nodded toward the huge window looking out on the stars. The observation room’s gleaming white walls framed the deep black, drawing the eye toward the speckled brilliance of the stars. “Last ship I served on was an Akira-class, and they don’t go in for windows much. Something about better defensive integrity, I’m sure. But, I missed this. My cabin on the USS Leakey might have been small, but it had a nice big window.”

Suddenly self-conscious of meandering, she placed her PADD face down on the arm of her chair and refocused her attention on Weld. “So, you’ve been here half a year… You must have come aboard around the same time as the Century Storm? I bet that was a wild time to be starting fresh on a new job.”

“Wild doesn’t describe the half of it,” Elegy said.  His intonation, and the smirk on his lips, belied that he was building to a punchline.  “I was assigned to Starbase Bravo as a counselor, but I beamed aboard as a patient.  My runabout was damaged in one of the ion storms; I shredded this leg.”  He patted his thigh affectionately, all patched up due to the wonders of 25th century medicine.  “I was only cleared for duty as fast as I was because I wasn’t a security officer.” 

Stars,” whispered Muninn, “that’s a hell of a way to start off.” Muninn considered Elegy’s entry into Fleet life against her own. The first month aboard the USS Leakey had been reports, paperwork, sprains from over-zealous holodeck sports enthusiasts… she wondered how she would have held up if she had gone straight from the safety of the Academy into an active emergency.

She settled further into her chair, drawing up her knees and tucking her legs underneath her. “Has the rest of your time been as interesting as that?”

His green eyes lighting up with mischief, when Elegy said, “By the trailing end of the Century Storm, I had recovered enough to run around the promenade, breaking up fist-fights brought on by Zanthi Fever…”  He put on a gurning expression of yeesh-you’re-going-to-regret-this-posting for a long five seconds, but then he laughed it off.  “However, I promise, it’s been routine since then.  I see my patients, I offer psych consults in the hospital.   I wish I had a little more time for research or a boyfriend.  Even with the Romulan refugees” –Elegy shrugged– “the work is the work, regardless of the patients.”

“Lieutenant Lish seems to think that we’re in for a steady flow of refugees for the foreseeable future,” Muninn said after a moment. “And the pessimist in me says he’s right. I mean, hundreds of systems and planets, millions and millions of people who are being either displaced or are doubling-down for a fight.” She shrugged. “I’m glad that the Remans have reached out to us, helping stabilize a region is one of the founding points behind the Fleet. But I can’t imagine that all the old Imperial territories are going to be as, ha, simple as this one.” She made a face as she said it, knowing nothing was easy about how things were unfolding. Nevertheless, she couldn’t help feeling that the continual destabilization of the Romulan sectors could not help but spread. How long before the Klingons, or someone else, took advantage on a more massive front?

Slouched down in his armchair, Elegy rolled his head back to stare out the upper curve of the viewport.  “I’m not ashamed to admit, I’m struggling to wrap my head around it all.  Every star system in Velorum has a different story to tell.  I tried to make sense of it for a few days, but…”  Trailing off, Elegy just shook his head vaguely and he sighed.  “If I close my eyes, I can barely even imagine what one million Remans looks like.  Then if I try to imagine five million Remans… what does that difference look like?  How much volume does a million people take up, how much do a million people weigh?  How loud are a million thoughts, all overlapping?”  He tilted his head in Muninn’s direction, asking, “Sorry, does that make any sense?”

“Say this city has ten million souls, Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes…” Muninn smiled, but the expression held no light. She felt suddenly claustrophobic sitting there, while an untidy portion of the galaxy slipped into chaos just beyond (it seemed) the door.

Elegy pursed his lips in mild consternation and then he leaned over the arm of his chair.  Looking to Muninn, his eyes looked equal parts entertained and perplexed.  “I was confusing myself to begin with,” Elegy said, plainly sheepish in his manner.  Raising his eyebrows, Elegy asked, “What does that mean?”

“You reminded me of it just now, that poem. Our home was filled with bookshelves, whole collections of poetry from the best of the last five-hundred years.” Muninn sighed. “If I imagine too hard, it’s like a splinter in my mind, you know? What can I do here, trapped inside a static role? Helping people with relationships, or any of the thousand petty human fears each and every single person shares?”

“Oof,” Elegy vocalized in faux-injury, as if her words had been an uppercut.  Teasingly, he said, “That’s one way to feel helpless…”

“I’m sorry, I don’t even know you,” she laughed, this time with some genuine humor returned. “If your company brings out thoughts from your patients half as well as it does from your colleagues, your practice must be the most efficient in the sector.”

Shrugging off the compliment, Elegy remarked, “I am comfortable with a silence, and I try to let the patients do most of the talking.”  Cheekily, he added, “I haven’t figured out if that’s cheating or not?”

“Cheating?” She shook her head, still smiling. “No, it’s a good habit. I’ve never found much luck in changing people. We psychologists can’t sit in the room with a patient and make them think or feel differently than they do. But we can listen, and then highlight those areas of thought that they themselves bring up.” She tilted her head to one side.

“What do you think of, exactly, when you consider all the Remans? The life they’ve led beneath the Romulan Empire? What do you think will happen, now that they’re clawing their way to freedom?”

Elegy put a hand over his mouth, but his upturned eyebrows and a mischievous glint to his eyes betrayed he had nothing good to say.  “I’m having trouble hoping for much, honestly,” Elegy said and he dropped his hand.  Whatever pained wince may have marred his face slipped into a distracted, thoughtful expression.  “I would have thought the Remans would have snatched their freedom under a pro-Reman Praetor twenty years ago, or when the Star Empire first came apart at the seams after the supernova.  I’m having trouble believing this time will be any different…”

“They never have asked for Federation help, though,” Muninn countered, tossing in a smile of her own. “That’s got to count for something. Not that they ever had the chance to, before, but still.”

His posture changing, Elegy sat up a little more in the cushy arm chair.  His gaze shot to the overhead, while he incorporated that consideration into his cloud of assumptions.  “That– I hadn’t considered that,” Elegy said, warmed by Muninn’s suggestion.  “Asking for help… changes everything.  Maybe it will lead to a different outcome this time.”

She shrugged. “We can hope so. Have you met any Remans out here, yourself? Treated any? I spent a few hours going through the records Starfleet has on them, but aside from the usual top-level stuff, there’s not much to go on. Though the theories that they’re descended from telepathic Vulcans is pretty wild…” Everything in the computer on the Remans, in fact, seemed to be a contradiction. Were they native to the system colonized by the Romulans, or were they truly some form of hybrid species? It seemed most likely to Muninn that the former would be the case, with the similarities between the species being only superficial, but who could really say? It occurred to her as well that, should Elegy have encountered them in practice, he might have some suggestions about what the mental health of such a little-understood species looked like.

Elegy’s brow furrowed when he shook his head.  “I’ve never met a Reman myself,” Elegy said, uncertain if there was some deeper meaning in that.  “Certainly never treated one.  For all my vaunted experience on Starbase Bravo, I’ve spent most of my Starfleet career as a student, with more hours spent writing scholarly articles than treating patients.”

Muninn’s mind, occupied by thoughts of Reman psychology and sociology, almost missed the uncertain note in her companion’s voice. Almost, but not quite. Elegy seemed the thoughtful sort, quiet, unassuming in a way, but someone who took to heart those new experiences foisted on his life by the Universe-at-large. 

“There’s no shame in that,” she said, lightening her tone with a small laugh. “For one thing, we’re all students at one point or another, with nothing to back us up by theory. But, it’s more than that. People forget that being a student never really stops, you know? Growing, as an individual, a member of our communal society, never stops being a complex state of interaction and evolution.” Here, her lips quirked. “Even more-so for those of us in this profession. Sentient nature is our course of study, and that means we’re stuck in the middle of the need to better ourselves, perhaps more than anyone else alive. Sorry if I’m talking your ear off, by the way.” She laughed again. “I think being up past my bedtime has made me philosophical.”

“It doesn’t have to be late-night for me.  There’s nothing I love more than a philosophical debate,” Elegy replied.  He straightened his posture in the chair again and he perched himself on the edge of the seat-pan.  After clapping his palms on his thighs, Elegy said, “I should let you rest, though.  I think I’m going to give in to the siren call of my bunk.  I don’t have any more patient care left in me tonight and there will be plenty of need tomorrow too.”

“Well then, perhaps we’ll have the chance for a debate during normal-person hours one of these days,” Muninn said as she followed suit and unfolded from her chair. “It’s been a pleasure, though.” She meant it, too. Something about the quietly energized young man spoke to her, revitalized her sense of self. It had been a good while since the last time she felt the muscle of philosophy fire, and she found herself genuinely looking forward to more such conversations in the future.

By the Raven’s Beak

Starbase Bravo
June 2400

Cynndle sat back on the sofa in his quarters after another long day in operations with an extra four hours assisting with managing the refugees coming aboard that left the station. The involvement of the Klingons has complicated an already messy situation worse as they seemed to be happy targeting the refugee ships as well as the federation escorts when they were present. 

Picking up the PADD beside him he accessed the entertainment programmes onboard and began scrolling through historical shows from the early 21st century. “Bound to be something interesting in here…” before he could get far into his search the PADD chimed and a notification would show up indicating that he had an incoming transmission.

“Odd, wonder who that this could be.” Standing up he quickly went to his desk and transferred the transmission to the console there and accepted it.

A rather tired looking and almost haggard looking Vulcan Captain appeared on the display. His uniform jacket was undone and he didn’t seem to care that his undershirt was showing. He had dark circles under his eyes and his hair was a bit messed up. He spoke, “Greetings, I am to assume you are Lieutenant Oin’sun stationed on Starbase Bravo? I am Captain Thevius currently on the USS Thyanis. I am reaching out to you about a mutual friend of ours and the… situation he appears to be stuck in. I was informed he reached out to you as well as me about it. Due to the nature of the situation, I do not think he was the most revealing. I was hoping to reach out to you so that at least someone knows what happened before things start to turn for the inevitable worse.” He did not directly say it, but his tone and words indicated he did not believe they would come out of this alive.

“Captain Thevius, you are correct, I am Lieutenant Oin’sun.  I had tried to reach out to you before after Lihran messaged me but I was unable to connect to the Thyanis.” Cynndle said as he sized up the Vulcan on the screen. When he had received the message from Lihran he had been unsure what he could do but had been digging into both the records of Lihran and Thevius. There was nothing directly connecting them but he was convinced that Thevius was involved in the kidnapping but had no way to prove it.

‘I need to get as much information from this guy as possible but need to be careful, he is a Captain…’ he thought before he continued. “The message I received was very short, I assume due to the limited ability he had when he sent it. I have questions but before I get into them I have passed on the information to our security team here as they have been investigating his disappearance. The KIDNAPPING he mentioned was very concerning to hear so any information you can provide would be appreciated. What is going on?” he says while trying to meet the Vulcans eyes.

Thevius regarded Cynndle for a long moment, mulling over his words. The Captain didn’t quite seem as Vulcan as he appeared in this moment. He chose his next words very carefully, “He was beamed aboard a D’Deridex for an intelligence mission. Due to his background, he was the prime agent to do so, being able to blend in inconspicuously amongst the other Romulans. However…” He paused and sighed, “His ex spouse happens to be the captain of the Ridaere, the ship he is on. We lost contact with him after Klingons attacked the D’Deridex. I can see you have questions. Please, ask them.”

Cynndle leaned back as Thevius responded clearly avoiding certain topics. ‘Guess I will have to spell it out for this Vulcan…bit of an old Vulcan…’ he thought before responding. “Given his background, I can understand he would make the perfect agent for this work but the presence of his ex spouse is concerning. You are correct, I do have a number of questions. First off; how did he get there, this was not an authorized transfer. Station security damn near tore this place apart looking for him. Second; what is your plan to get him off of the warbird and could you have used the attack as a distraction to get him off? I assume you are somehow hiding the Raven you are on…”

Thevius nodded slowly, “He, amongst others have turned their back on the Empire after the supernova.” He pressed his lips into a thin line, thinking, ‘This human is about as crafty as a Romulan, I swear.’

Thevius met Cynndle’s eyes, “The transfer was not authorized, you are correct. An unfortunate miscommunication between me and one of my officers when I requested he gets transferred over. According to said officer, he was knocked unconscious in a holodeck and beamed out. As for how to get him…” Thevius’s face flickered and showed a shocking amount of emotion for a Vulcan; exaspteration. He continued, “I am not sure. He mentioned causing a mutiny and beaming out in the chaos but we lost contact with him. I will beam aboard disguised myself and retreive him”

Thevius fell silent for a moment, starting, “Yes we are staying hidden. I beg for your confidentiality in this answer. I’ve been a member of the Federation longer than he has and do not want his citizenship revoked. He built us a makeshift cloaking device. We are currently idling, cloaked underneath the D’Deridex. I’ve known Lihran far too long to throw him under like that.”

Cynndle stared at the screen for a moment while he considered everything that Thevius had said, “I appreciate your honesty on this matter Captain Thevius. Though I am concerned that a Starfleet officer would abduct another, miscommunication or not. Let us hope that he is able to cause enough of a distraction so he can transport off that ship. If it would help I can figure out which Starfleet vessels are closest to lend aid if needed though the call would need to come from you. As for the cloaking device, one might consider that as the empire it was signed with is no more does the Treaty of Algeron still stand?”

Stretch his neck Cynndle pauses before continuing. “There is nothing I can do to assist from here but I appreciate you providing me with an update on the matter. I will of course have to pass this information along to security here regarding his abduction as it is an open case but I will leave the bit about the cloaking device out. Drastic times sort of thing….”

Thevius dipped his head, replying, “It is gravely concerning, I would agree. I would appreciate that, Lieutenant. I would appreciate any help, even the smallest bit. I will see to getting him off the ship before doing such, however. You provide a good point about the Treaty, and I agree with such.” He took a pause for a moment, leaning back, “I will be honest; I cannot guarantee Lihran’s safety or mine, or any of ours at this exact moment. If we get out alive, that is. I appreciate you taking the time to listen. Even if we don’t make it out of here alive, I hope to have provided some answers about what happened to us. If that is all, Lieutenant, I have a Romulan to re-kidnap.”

“I am glad that you reach out regarding this. Lihran is a good officer and I trust you will do everything you can to get him out of there. I will see what ships are close and send you their details. They may be able to provide some assistance. Please keep me updated on any developments on your end. Cynndle out.”

All passengers not accounted for

USS Fantail Crash Site
June 2400

The inky depths of the Fantail‘s lower deck just sucked in what meagre light was brought to bear against it. There was a shaft of light down the ladder from above, but it wasn’t terribly bright to start with and a couple of cadets in the way worked as a decent obstacle to any more light attempting to make its way down. What reflected light there was illuminated dislodged furniture, containers straining against their restraints or which had moved in unrestrained fashion, creating an interesting jungle of obstacles for anyone attempting to move aft through the ship.

“Hello?” Katlyn asked into the dark, shining a torch aft, illuminating a tangle of debris blocking the hallway that led aft and to the more extensive accommodation given over to the Romulan visitors. “Everyone okay down here?”

An ageless and haughty voice of Romulan bearing came from the darkness, beyond the debris.  “I think not,” Noreel said.  His voice was muffled by some form of discomfort, but that no lessened his condescension.  He added, “I’ll live, but I expect I would have received better treatment if I’d remained on Rator, as a victim of the coup.”

Following Katlyn down the ladder, Cadet Parze added the light of her palm beacon to cut through the inky haze.  Between the dark and the debris obstructions, even Parze couldn’t see the Romulans, not even with her enhanced Saurian vision.  “We’re coming to rescue you!” Parze declared, in what she assumed would be a confident timbre.

“Yah, sorry about that,” Katlyn added quietly, her muttering perhaps just a tad too loud to not carry. She moved forward under the guidance of Parze’s light towards the obstruction and found a gap she could look through, but wasn’t about to make out anyone in the limited field of view, even with her own light. “Gap looks big enough for my torch at least,” she said, this time loud enough on purpose. “I’m going to send it through so you’ve at least got a light.”

A flick of a button, a twist and the torch extended slightly to form a passable lantern. Another twist to secure it and Katlyn then reached through the gap as far as she could before dropping the device. “What’s it look like on your side?” she asked as she pulled her arm back, then herself to examine the obstructions and search for a starting point to try clearing the furniture and consoles that formed the barrier.

Through the darkness, the sound of military boots on deck plating approached until the angle and direction of Katlyn’s torch rose from the floor and swept back in the direction of the runabout’s habitat module.  Noreel grasped the torch in such a way to keep himself out of the path of the lightbeam the whole time.  “It looks like your ostentatious display of comfort is little more than a facade,” Noreel said, as the light passed over more overturned and crushed furniture, glassware and art.  “Your starship construction looks better.  I see no hull breaches.”  Very suddenly, Noreel asked, “Were we attacked?”

“Uh…” she stammered, wanting to answer the question, but equally not wanting to. Her grandfather had taught her to be polite and answer questions, her training told her that right now revealing anything might not be for the best. “I’ll let one of the officers explain once we get you and your companion out of there.” She stepped towards the obstacles once more, climbing across some to get at a chair at the top that looked like it could move with some effort. “Actually, can you see your companion? First aid kits should be easy to find if you need one.”

Ignoring Katlyn’s question, Noreel aimed the torch at her face.  He held the torch away from himself, largely remaining out of its pool of illumination.  As Parze yanked away a couple of the chairs that were blocking Noreel in, Noreel swept the light of the torch down to examine the asymmetrical lines of the cadets’ uniforms.  “The officers,” Noreel said, echoing what he’d heard.  “Are you not officers?  What are you?  This ship’s cleaners?”

“We are now,” Katlyn quipped, before stopping herself from going any further. Yah, that wasn’t going to go well was it? “Cadet Mianaai, Cadet Parze,” she indicated to Parze. “Our ship was the closest when you needed a ride and we go where we’re told.” She too was helping clear the debris, waiting for Parze to turn back so they could both shift a particularly bulky piece – a cabinet that had come loose and thrown itself across the room. They didn’t need to move it far, just enough to help clear a big enough path after all.

Noreel took four steps back and swept the light of the torch back in the habitat compartment.  “I can see no sign of my… companion,” Noreel said, careful to use the same language Katlyn had used.  Noreel swung the torch back in the direction of the two cadets and now the light cast by the torch revealed the disruptor in his other hand.  “What have you done with him?!” Noreel demanded.

“Hey hey, no need for that!” Katlyn was quick with her hands in the hair, not moving otherwise. “We haven’t done anything with him, honest! We came down here to make sure everyone was alright, make sure everyone was safe.” She gulped, looking at the disruptor. “You, uh, can point that somewhere else perhaps? Look at us, we’re unarmed cadets for Pete’s sake.” Then she winced. Would the universal translator handle that euphemism or just spit out garbage to both Noreel and Parze?

Parze was stood frozen, by Katlyn’s side, with her hands up and her palms out.  She had accidentally tossed her palm beacon into a bulkhead at first sight of the disruptor.  She further stifled a whimper anytime Noreel’s grip on the disrupter shifted in her direction.  Her assessment of the situation was perhaps not quite as rational as Katlyn’s, because Parze asked of Noreel, “Are you– are you hungry?”

“What?” Noreel snapped back in plain puzzlement, and then he answered with a sharp, “No!”  Without saying anything more, he snapped his arm down in response to Katlyn’s request.  “It’s not like I can steal your ship at this point,” he said in what might have been an angry-jocular manner.  With his disruptor emitter pointed down at the angled deck, Noreel pivoted on his heel.  He stalked back into the compartment where he’d been staying and began searching every corner with the torchlight.

After snatching up her palm beacon and clipping it onto her shoulder, Cadet Parze returned her attention to the cabinet Katlyn had gestured towards a moment earlier.  She took hold of one end of it with both hands and braced herself to lift.  Parze breathed out a, “hup hup,” when she was ready, and they shifted the cabinet further down the corridor.  Upon displacing the cabinet, there was enough of an opening in the debris barricade for them to pass through to the residential compartment – single file at least.

“He was here when we crashed!” Noreel shouted at the overhead.  With the torchlight, he pointed at one of the bunks.  “He was right here.”

“Well, he can’t have gotten too far, unless there’s a breach down here somewhere we haven’t seen yet,” Katlyn said with a shrug, searching around for any sign of the missing Romulan. “Hey Parze, got a tricorder handy? We could just run a scan and right?” She’d moved past, heading for the door to the runabout’s rear equipment compartment, which was half opened and faint light spilling through. “Maybe he’s back…oh shit.” Back against one part of the door, hands on the other, she forced it fully open, revealing the forward half of the compartment, then the jagged edges from where it had ripped clean off the back of the runabout.

Before the cadets, stretching for kilometers, was a swathe of downed trees and small fires from where Fantail had ploughed through the pristine and untouched wilderness of this particular world in its plummet from space, at some point the after compartment having been ripped right off the ship. “Well…any landing you can walk away from, right?”

Returning Home

Starbase Bravo
June 2400

The USS Thyanis has docked at Starbase Bravo. Lihran had spent the journey working on dismantling the bootleg cloaking device and scattering the parts around the ship. The ship docks for repairs and the crew disembark. Lihran strode off the shuttle, relief flooding through him. He hesitated a moment before tapping his combadge, “Ensign Lihran to Lieutenant Oin’sun? I have returned. Did you receive the message I sent?”

Cynndle’s shift was almost finished, but he had handed off to one of the ensigns as he had to check in with security regarding a particular Romulan child and a strange teddy bear and to follow up with them on those tricorder readings. He had just walked out of the Operations Office on deck 710 and rolled his shoulders when his combadge chimed; “Ensign Lihran to Lieutenant Oin’sun? I have returned. Did you receive the message I sent?”

With a snorting laugh and smile, he tapped his combadge, “So Mr I GOT KIDNAPPED has returned safe and sound; I did get your message by the way; Thanks. I should be done here in 30 minutes if you want to grab a drink? I am sure you have a story to tell.”

Lihran snorted and chuckled, “Safe and sound, mostly. Barely. Good, I wasn’t even sure if sending it would even work! Sure! Would love that, where at? And boy, do I ever.”

“Great, how about we meet at Downtime in an hour? Gives me a chance to wrap up and deal with any loose ends”

“Sounds good to me! See you there!” Lihran closed the line and headed to his quarters to get into off duty clothes and clean up a little before heading towards Downtime.

—  

Cynndle walked into Downtime and looked around taking in the smooth metals and functional furnishings. The bar was moderately full as was often the case. Between the number of residents and the influx of Romulan refugees meant every restaurant and bar always had a decent number of patrons at any given time. Without seeing Lihran he wandered to the bar and ordered a beer, nodding to the Tellarite bartender and turned to take a seat.

Lihran spotted Cynndle from across the room and approached where he sat with his whiskey in hand. He was dressed incredibly casually, in jeans and a tshirt from some metal band on Earth, a strikingly casual look for a Romulan. Lihran smiled, “It’s good to be back!”

“I bet it is,” Cynndle said looking around for an empty table. Spotting one in the back corner, ‘Why is there always an empty table in the back corner of these places…’ nodded in its direction. “Shall we grab a seat, I am curious to hear how you survived. That Vulcan friend of yours seemed to think there was no hope,” he said as he headed towards the table.

Lihran followed Cynndle to the table and settled down in the chair closest to the wall, “He contacted you? Hmm… And yeah, it was an incredibly close call. Between my ex being the captain of the ship and the Klingon attack…”

“Yeah, we had a chat, not long after I received your message. Honestly, he didn’t say much, something seemed a bit off with the whole call. Was an overly emotional Vulcan from what I could see…” Cynndle said before pausing to take a sip of his drink, “…not that it’s a bad thing some of the time I would say. So your ex was the Captain and you were attacked by Klingons? Do tell? The most excitement I had was when I thought I figured out who was messing around with the power junctions and it turned out to be a kid who had her teddy bear stolen, well not a bear but a nei’ɽrh.”

Lihran sipped his whiskey with a nod, “Well, Thevius isn’t fully Vulcan. We grew up on Romulus together, my parents were friends with his mother. Might explain a lot. This whole situation hit quite close to home for both of us.”

Lihran leaned back slightly. When he leaned back, a greenish hued bruise would be more visible on his face. He said, “He and I both got calls about the death of loved ones during that coup. Ah, yeah. We had no idea who the captain of the Ridaere was. Turned out to be Covel, my ex.” Lihran made a face and sipped his drink again. “He spotted me and of course, wanted his spouse back. Think he knew I was with Starfleet. Klingons attacked and managed to board us when I was on his ship, one got me good and I was incapacitated for a bit.”

With a snort Cynndle puts down his pint before taking another sip. “Incapacitated by Klingons, thought you would be able to handle a couple of them?” he says in a clearly mocking tone before a bit of concern creep into his voice, “You were ok I take it?”

Lihran smirked, “To be fair, I was only armed with a hyperspanner till I took one of their bat’leth’s.” He lifted his hand, gently touching the back of his head, “I got hit from behind and spent a day or two in medical. I’m quite alright now though.”

“So what happened next?

Lihran laughed a little and leaned back, “We got off the ship… Barely. Took a few friends and defectors with us. Now, that sounds absolutely rivetting with the child you mentioned.”

“I feel ‘We got off the ship’ leave a lot of it out. What has happened to the defectors? Starfleet Intelligence debriefing them I assume?” Cynndle asked.

Lihran nodded, “It really does. I intentionally ticked off my ex spouse and we provoked a mutiny against him to start a mutinous brawl. We were able to get off in that chaos.” He paused to sip his whiskey before nodding, “Yeah, they are being screened and questioned right now. One is barely an adult, so young. The other was my apprentice many years ago now.” A flicker of emotion crossed his face, “Provoked him enough to lay his hands on me in front of the crew instead of in private.” He gestured to the bruise on his cheek, then quickly said, “The kids!”

“The kid, well not too much to say; I had set up some alarms on junctions I thought might be targeted so it would notify it they were accessed. By the time I got to one, I found a Romulan kid opening it. Apparently, a group of boys had been stealing her teddy and hiding it around the station. She was told by one where it was. Sure enough, they had hidden it behind the panel. The odd this was that she didn’t trip the alarm, someone else had accessed the panel and tampered with it. An adult non-Romulan… I am looking into it now….I was able to sort it but they knew what they were doing. The individual set it up so that it put computational analyses, requests, etc into a cyclic pattern causing a rotation of computations and an exponential increase in memory usage. If left unchecked it could have caused some serious issues down the line.”

Lihran leaned forward and furrowed his brow as he listened, “I’m glad you caught that. Poor kid, sounds like how Thevius used to pick on me growing up.” He nodded, “Was about to say, a child isn’t careful or knowledgeable enough to snip certain wires or do certain damage.”

“Yeah, I have follow-up up with her a couple of times, she is staying in one of the displacement centres and has some ‘friends’, she goes to security regularly to check up on her stuffed animal as it is safe from the other kids so they are also keeping an eye on her to make sure she is ok,” Cynndle said with a sigh. “I just hope they can find her parents soon; though I am not sure they will sadly.”

“As for the damage, well the earlier damage we saw and you helped fix could easily have been some of the other kids. But this newer stuff is something else. They know our systems and that is concerning. Have some things in place to not prevent it but notify me of any issues so hopefully will get to the bottom of it soon. Security is also more involved now so that is helping.”

Lihran’s face softened as he mulled over Cyn’s words about the child. He took another sip of whiskey, “If you need help taking care of a Romulan child, I do not mind assisting or even taking her in. Not many of us in Starfleet, let alone on the base here on this side of this crisis.”

Cynndle leaned back and took a long drink of his beer as he thought about what Lihran had said. “Hmm. Well, that is something you would need to speak to her about. She is very independent-minded from what I saw.” he said with a shrug.

“So what has your CO had to say about your impromptu reassignment? Are you in the dog house? Proverbially speaking?”

Lihran says in the most deadpan expression, “Woof.” His face splits into a grin, then shook his head, “Not as far as I know. I didn’t exactly consent to being knocked out with a bronze shield and pulled away. Not as much hot water for me at least. Havent spoken to my CO yet. Just docked actually.”

“Well, I guess that is a fair point. Though as a Star Fleet officer one must always be prepared for the unexpected the bizarre and the strange…” Cynndle said with a bit of a laugh. “So I was the first person you contacted when you go back. Appreciate that.”

Picking up his drink and finishing it off Cynndle leaned back and stifled a yawn. “So, you happy to be back? I know those Raven class ships don’t have much space on them.”

Lihran’s cheeks flushed a very slight green, “Of course you were. It’s a lot more exciting than the Tal Shiar, thats for sure.” He threw back the rest of his whiskey with a slight grimace, having let it sit for too long. He nodded, laughing, “Nice to have personal space once more.” 

He emitted a soft sigh and stood up, “I should go speak to my CO. I’ll catch you around. If this situation taught me anything, it’s not to take friends for granted. NEver know when you may not see them again.” He gaves a rather genuine smile and gave Cyn’s shoulder a friendly pat before turning to head out.

 

 

 

Home Away from… Where?

SB Bravo
June 2400

The door slid open and Izi stepped into the room.

“Computer, lights.”  As the darkness melted away, Izi looked at Ashley who was standing nervously in the corridor.  “It's okay.  Come inside.”

Sighing, Ashley joined Izi, the door closing behind her.

“It's not much, but you'll be safe here,” said Izi.  “It's not the top-of-the-line section of the civilian quarter, but you'll be comfortable.”

Ashley looked around, a furtive expression on her face.

“You have a replicator and a sonic shower.  There's enough credits to eat modestly, so don't have a feast.”  Izi chuckled.  “I put everything on my account, so no one knows you're here.  When I finish my shift, I'll be back with some new clothes.”

Ashley still hadn't said anything.

“Don't worry about those merchants.  Doctor Longfellow paid for what you took and I made sure there won't be charges filed.”

Several long seconds passed.

“Thank you,” said Ashley.

“You're welcome.”  Izi smiled.  “Don't open the door for anyone until I come back.  No sense in taking any chances.  I promise I'll do everything I can to help.”

PROMENADE

“Do you have the information I requested?”

“You know, Iziraa, if I'm going to be the one doing your job for you, I should be wearing those pips,” said Gren.

“Then I don't need to pay you.”

“Never mind.”  Gren scowled.

“Well?”  Izi's antennae leaned slightly towards the Ferengi.

“You're kidding, right?” said Gren.  “You've seen how busy it's been here.  ”You can't expect me to find out who that woman is in just a few hours.  These things take time."

Izi knew Gren was right, but she needed to know Ashley's story as soon as possible.  If she was on the run or someone was trying to harm her, Izi had to help.

“Why can't you find her in some Federation database?” said Gren.

“I don't know her full name or if the name she gave me was real.  Besides, if her prints or DNA aren't on file or she's not from a Federation world, she wouldn't register.  I'm doing what I can from my end, but I could still use your resources.”

“It's always a pleasure to take your money, er, be of help.”  Gren bowed.

Don't know what I'd do without you," said Izi, “Though sometimes I'd like to try.”

“You wouldn't know what to do with yourself,” said Gren.

Izi genuinely liked Gren, and their verbal repartee was often one of the best parts of the day, but she knew she could trust him only so far.  There were rumors of a gang called Friends of Ferenginar and it was likely Gren was part of it.  He was a valuable commodity, but she had to be careful.

“I need to get going,” said Izi.  “If I spend too much time here, people will talk.”

“How do you know they don't already?” said Gren with a sly smile.

“What?”  Izi's antennae stood erect, like a letter V.  “Gren, I swear, if you're telling people something is happening between us, I'll cut off your ears.”  She was steaming.

“Oh, relax.  It's so easy to mess with you.”  Gren chuckled.  “Stop being so serious all the time.”

“Get me that information!”  In a huff, Izi stormed off.

 

Something has survived part 3

Starbase Bravo
May 10, 2400

He received a reply from Lt. Cynndle as he got ready to check in with Chief Valin, he also received the updated reports from the transporter rooms that he now found himself in charge of.

“Well ok, like the LT said things do happen in mysterious ways. Hopefully, they wait till we get there before they power that transporter up.”

He sent a quick message to Chief Valin “Senior Chief, the medical emergency in Docking Bay Medical Ward One asked for transporter help. LT. Cynddle is the operations point of contact. Head over and check everything out? Assign a couple of crew to oversee the transporter operations, and make sure that all shifts are covered. Once the communication center lieutenant is informed I’ll head down.

Sent another message to LT. Cynndle and Dr. Longfellow “Lieutenant, received your reply. On the way as soon as these last couple of communication reports are cleared up. Instructed Senior Chief Valin to go down and help set things up. We assigned transporter crewmen to the area giving around-the-clock coverage. Dr. Longfellow, as for the medical issues, is there anything else we could help with? Any needed equipment to be put in place as far as the transporter is concerned?

He put down his PADD and looked over the comms console on his desk to make sure that everything was being analyzed by the comm center crews and that nothing new or pressing had come through the center that needed lieutenants immediate attention.

He knocked on the lieutenant’s office door, hearing the acknowledgement he opened the door and entered. “Ma’am, I reached out to LT. Cynndle in the docking bay medical ward, he is the operations point of contact for the emergency. He stated that they have looked at and are in the process of setting up a transporter array to help get medical crews and equipment to the affected ship. LT Cynndle and Dr. Longfellow has requested that I come down so we can put our heads together on the issue, concerning transporter operations in a situation like this one. I sent a message to Chief Valin to head that way and that I’ll be on my way. Everything looks good up here, nothing new or pressing has come through the various channels. I have asked the various sections to send their reports to me via my PADD“

“Very well Ensign, let me know if there is anything We can do to help.”

“Will do ma’am”

He left  the office, closed the door behind him and stopped at the duty desk on his way out. “Chief, I’m heading down to docking bay medical ward one. If anything comes up that needs my attention, have it forwarded to my PADD.”

“Yes sir”

He headed out of the Communications Center and made his way to the turbo lift. “Medical ward one, docking bay

Central Hospital 1 – Docking Bay – Ward 1 – 0800

He exited the turbo lifts and couldn’t help but notice what could only be called control chaos of an ongoing medical emergency. He Looked around medical ward one and noticed an officer in teal. “Well gotta ask someone and they look like they are part of this so might as well start with him.”

Longfellow looked up to find S’Atilen headed his way.

He walked up to the officer in teal “Excuse me sir, I know you guys are quite busy down here but a Lt. Cynndle said I should meet him and a Doctor Longfellow to discuss transporter operations and how we can help. I sent my chief down here a few minutes ago. Could you point me in the direction of the transporter array that is being set up or tell me where I could find either Doctor Longfellow or Lt. Cynndle.” A tail of blond and white coloration flashed behind him as it flicked this way and that way, obviously trying to not get stepped on, ears twitched as they responded to the sounds around him hoping to detect a name or a voice that he recognized

Henry chuckled quietly, “You’ve found Dr. Longfellow.”  He gestured to himself and then nodded to the officer, “You are Ensign S’Atilen.”  He pointed towards the area by the docking bay, “They’re making progress on getting a unit set up to assist in decon when our folks come off the ship.”  He frowned, “You may need to track down Lieutenant Cynndle – I haven’t seen him in a hot minute.”

S’Atilen reached out a hand. “Yes sir, Ensign S’Atilen. Currently, I am wearing two hats. I’m the temporary officer in charge of transporter room four and cargo transporter room five and I’m also working in my primary field which is communications. I had my transporter room Chief come down, hopefully, he has already made his way to the transporter array. Doc, I do have one thought though. Have you tried the bio filter in the transporter to see if that removed the contaminate?”

Longfellow shook his head, “We worked that scenario out – the danger is in the bio filter becoming contaminated itself – we would need to engage biohazard processes on each transport to ensure the filter is changed on each person.  We’re also not fully clear on how the infection works – the danger is too great to tempt fate.  It’s a solid idea…and it would make things far easier than they are…but I’m not willing to take the risk unless we have 100% confirmation it’s going to work without any kind of issue.”

Outside the doorway leading to the docking bay – Medical Ward 1 Transporter Array – 0815

Chief Valin had just approached the door to the docking bay medical ward one transporter array and was getting ready to hit the chime when the door opened and a young female LTJG came flying out. “ Excuse me, ma’am, I was just going to ring. I’m Senior Chief Valin from transporter room 4 and cargo transporter room 5. My OIC sent me down here to take a look at the array that was set up for the medical emergency. Is this where it is located?” Took a quick look in the door “Yes, this seems to be the place. Thank you, ma’am.”

Neva wiped her forehead with her sleeve and heaved a long sigh. Progress on the refit was going well, her mad engineer skills helped only so much. Ahh, how she would’ve given her left arm to know ANY of Captain Scotty’s “tricks” to make this go faster!  ‘Please, Captain Scott! I channel you NOW!’  she thought, shaking her head, as she looked around for Doctor Longfellow and Lt. Cyndelle. Finding the doctor, she made her way toward him.

Longfellow looked up and found Neva walking up to him. “What’s the latest?”  Neva gave him the latest update and they both discussed the next steps.

Corridor outside Central Hospital 1 – Docking Bay Ward 1 – 0845

Cynndle walked down the hall towards Central Hospital 1 as he finished speaking to several operations officers. In general, it was good news. The stations would have more than enough Hazmat suits for what was needed. They easily have 200 on hand spread around the station in various emergency lockers. The bad news was that 150 of those were needed where they were, just because there was one emergency didn’t mean there couldn’t and wouldn’t be more. This was a sentiment he fully understood. As of now the remaining 50 suits were being pulled out of storage and assessed to ensure their integrity was intake. He had instructed the engineering team in charge of the multiple industrial replicators to make at least another 50 with a possible need for many more. Turning into the hospital he stopped and look at all of the commotion taking place around him. “Best go tell Longfellow about the suits, catch up with Neva and find S’Atlien,” he said out loud as he entered the fray.

Longfellow looked up to find Cynndle walking into Ward 1.

Seeing Longfellow before him, Cynndle nodded in recognition and walked over to him. “Doctor, how are things going here? I trust that Neva has made it back with her Engineering team to begin work on the decontamination area outside the airlock?” Without waiting for a response Cynndle continued as he looked around the ward. “So I have been able to secure 50 hazmat suits which should, in theory, give full protection to the teams, there are others but they need to remain in their emergency locations but the team at the industrial replicators are making a further 50. Will this be sufficient?”

Henry sighed quietly, “Ain’t that something.  We’re going to have to do what we can do with what we have.” 

“That is true enough Doc,” Cynndle said with a sigh. “The suits should be read in the next hour or two. Some of the crew are currently assessing them to ensure their integrity. They will be brought here when ready. Anything I can help you with? If not I will go catch Neva.” Cynndle turned to leave before pausing, “Ensign S’Atilenm…I assume he is checked in with you he messaged me and I sent him your way?”

Longfellow looked around, “He’s working on the transport part of things I believe.”

“Great. I will catch up with him soon. I’ll go check with Neva to see if she needs a hand on the decontamination area before I check in with Ops.”

Into the Breach

Starbase Bravo / USS Lorenza
May 10, 2400 @ 1000 Hours

Longfellow checked his chrono. 1000 hours.  Beside him stood Lieutenant JG Cynndle Oin’sun.  They were finishing the sealing of the biohazard suits and having the medical team do a triple check from top to bottom.

Cynndle stood still as a medical tech systematically checked each of the joints and seals of the biohazard suit for what seemed like the millionth time to make sure everything was in order. He closed his eyes and focused inwardly to calm himself. He had no issue with being in the biohazard suits or spacesuits which some people found claustrophobic but beaming over to a ship with a high infectious and virulent pathogen on board would give most people pause.

The medical tech popped up in from of his face display and give him a double thumbs up, “All good to go Lieutenant; all seals are reading in the green and your air supply is fully checked out; you have 8 hours.” came the crewman’s voice over the small speakers in the helm.

“Thank crewman. Appreciate the assistance with this.” Cynndle said with a quick nod as the crewman left the preparation area. Turning around Cynndle could see the rest of the medical team getting suited up. They would beam over after the initial assessment by Longfellow and Cynndle. “You ready for this Doctor?”

Longfellow wondered about the answer to that question.  Was he ready?  Was he ready to deal with the impossible?  Or the unstoppable?  “I don’t think anyone is truly ready to do this work…you just have to find a way through it.

Picking up the box with the scanning equipment and sampling tools Cynndle stepped into the decontamination room and looked past it into the airlock and the USS Lorenza that was clearly visible through the window and muttered under his breath.

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;Or close the wall up with our English dead.In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man As modest stillness and humility:

But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the tiger. …”

Longfellow waited for the Lieutenant to process through the decon room.  It took a moment, but then it was his turn.  He focused his mind on the matters at hand.  They needed to find out the status of the infected.  They needed to find out the extent of the infection.  And they needed to find a way to stop it.  It was simple but complex at the same time.  The all-clear tone sounded in his ears as he stepped forward.  The decontamination room door closed behind them as the airlock cycled through its opening process.  Longfellow spoke to Cynndle through the suit headsets, “Lieutenant – be ready to see some things that are going to upset you.  Your emotional reaction to it isn’t wrong…but what you do with it…that’s going to make the difference as we work through the ship.”

Cynndle looked over at Longfellow and nodded, “I understand. How I react and what I project will be critical to the crew aboard.” He said before pausing and continued, “I will admit I am not looking forward to what I expect to see. Though I have tried to familiarize myself with the condition and its stages to not be caught unaware ”

Henry waited until the airlock had shuddered open and stepped forward, leading the lieutenant.  The medical team was in the decontamination room and would spread across the ship shortly.  Longfellow had one place to go.  Sickbay.  They used a turbo-lift and a corridor to get there, but they walked in and stopped.

Cynndle followed him into Sickbay, his plan was to drop off the large medical kit he had slung over his shoulders, but drew up short beside Longfellow and stared for a moment. Sickbay was packed with officers and crew occupying all the beds as well as temporary cots that had been set up leaving only narrow walkways between them. “I,…I didn’t expect it to have progressed so much…” he muttered under his breath but the microphone in the suit picked it up clearly so Longfellow could hear on their private channel. 

Taking a deep breath he pulls out his tricorder and began to move towards the central console. Stopping to scan individuals he passed he reassured those who were still awake and aware. “It’s ok, your close to Bravo, medical teams are coming on board. We will do everything we can..” again and again he repeated similar reassurance before he reached the console.

Stepping up to the console removed the medical kit from his shoulder and set it on the table beside it. Opening the console he tried to pull up information on the crew’s whereabouts and the detailed logs but was unable to access them from there.

Longfellow sighed as he pulled out his tricorder, “They’re barely alive, most of them.”  He shifted down the way until he found the bed he was looking for and shook his head as he moved to the side of his wife, Thea Longfellow.  “Thea…can you hear me?”  He quickly scanned her and loaded up a hypospray.  He did the math in his head as he slipped the various containers into the unit. “This is going to hurt for a second or two…,” he put the hypospray against her pale neck and she groaned in pain as the drugs took effect.  She clenched her teeth and fists as the pain roiled her body…and then settled.  She opened her eyes and smiled weakly, “Dr. Henry Longfellow, I presume?”

He stroked her cheek with his glove, “I’m here my dear.”  

She coughed, hard, for a moment but regained control, “It’s accelerated since we last talked.  It’s taking out our older population sooner than we expected.  You need to figure out a way to save the young ones, Henry.”

He shook his head, “We’re going to save as many as we can, Thea.  I’ll make sure of it.”

It was her turn to shake her head, “You can’t…not this time.”  She pushed herself up on the bed, wincing from the pain, “I know you…and I know what you’re thinking…but dear husband…you have to save the ones you can in the time you have left.”  She fell back into the bed, “The PADD on the table has everything we’ve been working on in the time it took us to get here.”

“I cannot get through to the systems I need here, not sure why…” he said as he turned back to look for Longfellow before stopping when he saw him only two beds over beside a woman who Cynndle could only assume was his wife as she lay back down and he took hold of a PADD. Stepping up to Longfellow he put his hand on his shoulder. “Henry. Are you ok?”

Longfellow sighed quietly, “Ok is a relative term, Lieutenant.  It appears we have our work cut out for us.  I’ll work on triaging what I can here.”

“Ok, I have dropped the supply kit on the table if you need it,” Cynndle said with a wave of his hand in that direction. “I need to get to the bridge and maybe engineering to see if I can get a clear reading on everyone in the ship as well as the logs. Need to figure out how this got on the ship.” He smiled at Longfellow and began to turn as the next medical team rounded the corridor into Sickbay and just as Cynndle and Longfellow had, stopped and stared for a moment before getting to work. “Message me if you need anything Doc.”

Longfellow gave the man a wave, “Same here, Lieutenant.”  With that, Cynddle was on his way.  Henry returned his attention to his wife as the medical team spread out in the room.  “We’re going to save you, Thea.”

Who Counsels the Counselor

Starbase Bravo
June 2400

Cynndle glanced over at the display on the wall and cursed inwardly when he noticed the time. Turning around he walked quickly to the turbolift but after a few strides, he slowed back to his regular pace, his mind wandering back to what the Romulan child had told him and to the call he had with Captain Thevius regarding Lihran.

After what seemed like only a few moments he realized he was standing in front of Heriah’s door. Looking around slightly confused for a second he shrugged, “Damn my mind has been drifting, keep thinking about that…” his eyes drifted across her name on the control console “…no, won’t be an officer…”

He reached out and tapped the door control so that it would chime notifying her that he was here. “Time to see the counsellor” he muttered under his breath.

Heriah had only been in her quarters for a few minutes. It had been another day of dealing with refugees though thankfully the influx was greatly reduced and many had been relocated to an established camp on Mellstoxx III. Still, seeing patient after patient, hearing story of woe after story of woe, giving advice and more advice, that little antagonistic voice started growing ever louder.

The second she had marched into her quarters, she was already setting her hypospray to deliver a dose and, once that dose has been delivered, she put the monocorder on her finger.

It was then that the chime at her door sounded. Heriah immediately started toward the door and, not even looking at the monocorder, she set another dose with the hypospray. Heriah did not even need to look at the monocorder as she felt out of sorts. And when Heriah was out of sorts, only one thing did the trick; benzocyatizine.

Pulling her hair to one side, she pressed the hypospray to her neck as she entered the proximity of her door. “Enter,” she said as she sent forth the second dose.

The door slid open invitingly as she pulled the hypospray away from her neck. “Cynndle,” she said in near surprise. She gave a wave and noticed the monocorder was still on her finger. It was glowing a steady green and she snatched it off, pocketing it immediately.

“Sorry. Do come in.”

Nodding to Heriah he walked in and had a look around. The quarters were as he remembered with the same familiar scent of the Trill sabrebeast perfume in the air. He began to wander towards the chair he had sat in during his last two visits when he noticed a book sitting on the table beside the twin lilacs, as he stepped past it noticed the title ‘Codex of Ț’Ril’ before sitting down in his chair. Leaning back he crossed his right ankle over his other knee and sighed. “So Heriah, how are things? It’s been a while since we spoke.”

“Yes, it has,” she said as she stepped toward the lavatory. She was only in there for the second to put the monocorder away. Back in the main quarters, she fiddled with the hypospray in her hand. “Things have been stressful.” She noticed Cynndle did not make any mention of the hypospray but his eyes went to it twice now. It had suddenly become the grand sabrebeast in the room. She put it down on the table next to the ‘Codex of Ț’Ril and took her seat. “But getting better. The crisis summit is over and Starfleet seems to have started construction of a refugee camp on the planet below. Maybe life aboard Bravo can return to some form of normalcy. You? Things going well for you I hope.”

Trying hard not to look at the hypospray he nodded as Heriah spoke, “Stressful is fairly accurate I would say though I can only imagine the extra pressures on you and the counselling teams with the refugees…” he said before pausing and his eye unconsciously drifting to the table… “Things on my end are what they are. Overseeing the refugee influx from the operations side has meant a lot of extra shifts but it has started to ease up and return to normal. Fairly routine now…for the most part…still trying to sort out the issues with the power junctions. You were right, by the way, some kids have been involved, in part. I have a couple of ensigns in security running it down now and hope to speak to them soon.” he said before stopping and gesturing to the replicator. “Mind if I get a drink? You want anything?”

“No. Thank you,” she said. “I am satisfied at the moment. Do help yourself.”

“Thanks.” He said as he stood and walked to the replicator, as he did he continued. “But the interesting part is I don’t think they are doing it alone.” Reaching the replicator he said “Oolong Tea, hot.” before continuing to be turned to face Heriah and leaned back on the wall while the replicator produced the drink. “The other day I came across a young Romulan child who was opening a panel. Some boys hid her teddy bear, well nei’ɽrh, in it. But the interesting part is that she saw someone tampering with the panel before she got there. They, well she, did some interesting work on it.” He picked up the drink and headed back to the chair. “Honestly just gave me more questions.”

“Answers to questions generally breed more questions,” she said watching him take his seat. “There will come a time when you may have to forego learning some answers in favour of what is more important.” Heriah thought briefly. “You mentioned a Romulan child with her ‘teddy bear.’ Not sure what that is, but I assume you are referring to a stuffed animal of sorts.” Heriah nodded as she continued, “I assume you met Runaite. Good kid. Her parents are nowhere to be found and she seems to want to belong somewhere. Hence why she joined the Space Girls I guess. Keep an eye on that one. Security has been alerted that she may be a pick-pocket.”

“And I must apologize by the way,” Heriah immediately continued. “I personally fought for unaccompanied children to remain aboard Bravo while the refugees are being relocated to Mellstoxx III. This means the gangs are still here. The camp down there does not have any security measures in place yet. At least here, we can keep an eye on the kids and perhaps get them on better life paths. If they are involved in this sabotage, their involvement may not go away just yet.”

“It makes sense, there need to be the appropriate systems on the ground to oversee the children. I assume that is a high priority for the teams down there. As for the gangs, they have always been here, doesn’t need to be unaccompanied children, after all, if they are involved it would explain why it was happening before the Romulan incident.” Cynndle said with a shrug.

“Again, I apologize. It is good to see you keeping busy though. It seems you have been working in Ops a lot more as opposed to cross-training. Makes sense. The refugees, Dr. Longfellow’s investigation, I hear you are helping with that, it is all good work and for a good cause. Keep telling yourself that. The benefits will always outweight whatever losses we incur. To get to that end, always seek answers, but seek the answers to the important questions. Seek and you will find. Ask and you will be informed. Sometimes, the answer is sitting right before you. You’ve only the need to ask.”

That second dose of benzocyatizine did the trick. Heriah felt great. Both in being fully united with Rex and for being back in her regular counseling schedule again. Working with the refugees was good but tiresome and chaotic. Here, things were much more under control.

Taking a sip of the tea while he listened Cynndle shorted in amusement. “I assume that isn’t literal and you aren’t the answer,” he said before continuing “There are a lot of questions and we are doing all we can to get to the bottom of it. I have set up some subroutines which will notify me the moment any errors appear similar to what we found before so they can be quickly fixed. Security is also stepping up a bit more now so shouldn’t be long before I, we should have the answers we need. Especially if whoever did it was contracted by those Vulcans to attack Longfellow all those weeks back.”

Speaking of the doctor, Heriah made a mental note to see him. Since that attack on him and with his wife’s command being quarantined because of the blight he was investigating, she needed to check in on him.

“Yes,” she said, “there is that. Best of luck in your investigation. When you find whoever is doing this, I would certain like to speak to him; find out why he is doing this. “Now,” she comforted herself more in her chair. Heriah wanted to get this session underway regarding Cynndle and the struggles that originally landed him at her door, but her eyes went to the codex resting upon the table. She had noticed Cynndle glancing at it a time or two.

‘Surround yourself with those who know and love you,’ echoed the memory from the Alle’Ke’Zonda’er High Priest those years ago. Heriah felt ‘love’ was a tall order, but ‘know’? There was always a beginning.

Normally, Heriah would feel an overwhelming sense to not speak to this. Of course that overwhelming sense was always stemming from Rex. This time, however, she only felt the twinge of a thought to not speak on it. That, and a bit of a nervous reaction over letting someone in. She tried her best to hide it, but did feel a slight cold and burning sensation about her spots. Her decision was made.

“Cynndle,” she leaned forward, resting her elbows upon her knees. Heriah broke eye contact and looked downward a bit. “I feel that…you and I…have…worked together enough, seen each other enough. And we are only going to keep working together. So…I feel that…you…deserve to know something…about me.” She swallowed. A quick glance at the replicator made her wish to head that way and get something to drink, but gave that up to the thought in the back of her mind to stop talking. She sat there and continued. “Rex…my symbiont…has a traumatic past. I knew this when my time came for joining. Knowing what Rex went through, knowing the risks, I…decided to proceed with joining with him. Um…” she sat up, sat back, returned to resting her elbows on her knees. “My joining was…not normal. But joining did take. I…I have my struggles too. Hence the,” and she picked up the hypospray and showed it to him. “Benzocyatizine. It’s a medication that helps stabilize and even boost isoboramine levels. All Trills have isoboramine, but it is largely redundant to the unjoined. It is highly important to the joined, however. And mine…” she looked at the hypospray shortly then to Cynndle, “my levels do not always remain stable.”

She managed to get that much out. The desire to stop talking was growing within. “So, in case you were wondering about the hypospray…that is why. I…felt you deserve to know.”

The tingling sensation of her spots was still there, nervous about his reaction and response.

Cynndle looked at her calmly while she spoke. “Sorry to hear that you, that Rex, you are now part of Rex, sorry I will admit I am never quite sure of the correct way to think of that. It’s why I call you Heriah…. Sorry to hear that there was a traumatic past and the, well your struggles, I know those things can leave a mark on someone.” With a smile, he then shrugged, “I will admit I was curious about the hypo, not in the sense I was concerned. Just that, you know, you see something and your eyes are drawn to it as it presents a question….” he said then paused. “Sorry I was rambling a bit. I am glad the Benzocyatizine is helping to stabilize your levels. Thank you for telling me this. I am sure it was difficult. If you ever want to chat I am but a combadge away.”

“Thanks,” she said with a near laugh of relief. The slight burning sensation of her spots mitigated. They still felt a bit cold though. “I admit to not always being keen on opening up like this.” She put her hands together, holding one in the other, both resting in her lap. “What kind of counselor would I be if people knew of my own struggles? I mean, what…kind of counselor would I be if all I did was bottle them up? Um,” Heriah realized she was start to ramble herself. “I mean, we all have struggles right? And, we are typically drawn to a profession in what we deal with day in and day out.” She did not have the help of that other voice in her head that she had grown accustomed to. As antagonistic as Rex oftentimes was, he was also helpful. “At the Academy I had someone help me through my troubles, so, I figured, I would enjoy helping others through theirs.” She smiled at Cynndle as she finished.

Then Heriah realized something. “Listen to me, carrying on. This session should be all about you. How are you doing, Cynndle? Things going well for you I hope,” she asked completely forgetting she had already asked that question.

Taking a long sip of his tea Cynndle listened to Heriah as she opened up to him before responding. “Everyone has struggles as you have said and as for what kind of counsellor it would make you if people knew? I would think a good one. You are only human after all; well Trill, if you pardon the phrase.”

Heriah nodded her understanding.

“As for me, well I guess I didn’t answer, did I? I haven’t done much cross-training due to the refugee situation though the work was officially with Ops I did spend a fair amount of time working with the engineering teams and medical as the Operations liaison for various things if that counts?” he said with a shrug. “Honestly though, the last couple of months I have been feeling like myself again. I know and well knew that everything on the Dawn wasn’t my fault…” he paused and stared out the viewport for a moment, “…but I would be lying if I don’t dream of it at times. Not that the dreams make me think it is my fault but it was a stressful event and they linger with you I guess.”

“Troubling thoughts do have a way of lingering,” she said. “In fact, hurt and hate is always are far more easily felt state than solace and love.” Heriah glanced at the codex. “I was once informed, and this was years ago…well before my joining with Rex…but I was told to surround myself with people who know and lo…um…are familiar…with me. Do that…and I will survive what is coming. Some cryptic rhetoric there but you understand the meaning. I am certain that advice would apply to you as well.”

Heriah could almost hear the High Priest’s voice echoing in her mind as she spoke. “Only those that you surround yourself with who know and,” something in her made her alter the next word, “are familiar with you will be able to help you survive what is to come.”

Heriah paused a brief moment. “In other words, you are not alone. Let people in. Let someone know your deepest and darkest secrets, even those that you attempt to shield yourself from.” Heriah started to think about an event from her past, Rex’s past to be exact. And the instant she started to think on it, there came an equally powerful desire to not think on it, to push it way down, to forget about it. “Do that, and you will have all the support you need.”

Cynndle leaned back and smiled slightly as he nodded in agreement. “I do agree, hate is easy to feel and left alone it can run rampant though can’t say I hate anyone per se. The events were traumatic and I expect they will be with me, such as these dreams for a long time to come.”

“What you say though about who you keep around you is true, friends help support you through the rough patches…” he continued before he trailed off, staring without focus into the distance, “…even the loss of such friends.” His focus snapped back and he let out a single chuckle under his breath. “That is one of the reasons I struggled when I got here, tried to push through it alone, right. But there are several people here who I have met and work with, yourself included,” he said with a slight smile, “that have helped, a lot. I also really do appreciate that you felt comfortable enough to open up to me.”

“The sharing of one’s deepest and darkest secrets, well, that really shows a level of trust that can be hard to find and takes time to build. Though I guess it depends on the type of secret, or what a secret is?” Cynndle said with a shrug before picking up his mug and looking down at it, making a slightly disappointed face before finishing it off. “Though it depends on the individuals involved as well from my experience, the holder of the secret and the recipient.”

“I agree, and thank you, by the way. I am glad to help. Similarly, several I have met here and work with here, including you, have helped me. I…do not…always take my own advice.” But she was wanting to do that now. “Trust is something that takes time and is something that needs a foundation before it can be pursued. Trust foundations though can be slowly built upon or you can slam one down and trust yourself to believe it is sturdy. For instance,” and Heriah sat back thinking briefly. Again there came an overwhelming thought to not speak on a particular thing. She went with a not-so-dark event in her past. Not so dark, but painful all the same.

“At the Joining Commission, when I was called in, there were many other Trill all hoping to be the one walking out as newly joined. They all had their families and/or friends. Many were happy and confident. Others, nervous and anxious. I was the latter and I also had no one there to comfort me. No friends and no family. My sisters were far away working the family business. They also succumb to my mother’s thumb. She’s a magnate, my mother, and owner of the business. I slid out from under that thumb. All I dreamed about was becoming joined. When that dream started looking more like a pipe dream, I turned to Starfleet. That dream did come true,” she looked down at her torso, “obviously. But, I am still cut off from my family if my mother has anything to say about it. That and…it would have been nice if someone showed that day at the Joining Commission.”

There was a lot more to it than that, but Heriah felt she had spoken enough. “I’m not asking you to detail anything to me. I just wanted to put down an example of a trust foundation. It’s all true, what I said.” Heriah smiled. She felt good in getting that out. Still, there was no retaliation or comments from Rex. It left Heriah curious as to why Rex was always so resistant to opening up. Letting things out seemed to unburden the conscience.

Cynndle sat back in his chair and looked at Heriah and gave her a sad smile, “I am really sorry to hear that about your family. I can only imagine how difficult it would have been to go through something as life-changing as the joining.” Letting out a sigh he continued, “May not be family but you have people here who value you, and your friendship, care about you…when you need them.”

Heriah felt a profound sense of relief in hearing that. It meant that she was doing what she needed to fulfill what the High Priest had said to her; to surround herself with those who know and love her. It also meant that, as long as this continued, there would come a great trial that she needed to survive. That thought alone made her, a small bit, terrified. Taken that the High Priest actually knew what he was talking about.

“I will admit, I don’t have anything of equivalent to share really, beyond what we have already discussed and my well embarrassing lack do action with that girl all those years back.” Waving a hand dismissively he continued, “not that it is even a remotely comparable event. But I can say this…I do trust you Heriah Rex.”

“And I hope to never damage that trust,” she said. “Nothing would prove more dishonorable for me to do so.” She had a sudden thought and spoke up immediately. “Speaking of that girl all those years back…have you found yourself in a similar situation yet? Now that the crisis summit is over, I hear that Bravo’s command staff is planning an event. There is still no word on what or where…or when for that matter. They are just in the planning stages. With all your cross-training and all the women in Ops, I find it doubtful you have not met anyone that has caught your eye.”

“Glad to hear that, I hope the same, I would hate to damage any trust that we have built between us.” Cynndle leaned back and shrugged. “Hmm…Honestly, I haven’t given it any thought what with everything going on. I had heard about a planned soirée but, well, sort of left it at that.”

“Same,” she said. “Heard about it but have not given it much thought.” But, as station counselor, Heriah knew she needed to at least make an appearance.

He shifted slightly in his chair and a nervous smile crossed his face, “If it wouldn’t be inappropriate, would you like to join me?” Before Heriah had a chance to respond he added, “As friends.”

Heriah opened her mouth and appeared to speak a few incoherent syllables but nothing audible reported from her mouth. There was, of course, a line she was not able to cross. By definition, she was the doctor and he was the patient, but Cynndle’s ‘friends’ addendum made that line real fuzzy. There did not seem to be anyone else that could offer approval or denial. Surprisingly, there was still nothing from Rex.

Heriah finally rediscovered how to use her vocal chords. “That…sounds acceptable. That sounds great. Let’s…let’s do it.” But the whole putting words into sentences thing proved a bit lacking.

“Yeah,” she, again, gave an approval and followed that up with an awkward yet approving smile.

Cynndle nodded, “Great..” but paused for a moment and pursed his lips in thought as he guessed what was going through through Heriah’s head“…if that is an issue with the whole doctor patient thing I understand and wouldn’t want you to get in trouble but figure friends can always go to events.”

“Oh, of course. No. No issue at all,” she said, “…that I know of. Hey,” an idea came to her, “if either of our superiors have anything to say, we are going as friends…as acquaintances. If they shove regulation in our faces, what is the worse they can do?” She asked rhetorically, not expecting an answer.

“So, um…,” he started to say, “I realize I may not have been 100% honest before…when I said I hadn’t thought about a relationship with someone. I have in the vague sense of a ‘relationship’ just not the who…if that makes sense.”

“It does…make sense that is…in a sense.” She took a breath and decided to make better sense with her words. “I understand what you are saying. Being honest is paramount for growth and healing. But being honest is always two-fold as you need to be honest with others as well as yourself.”

Just then, Heriah realized something, a possible reason as to all the silence from Rex. She looked to the hypospray lying next to the codex. When she hit herself with it just before inviting Cynndle in, Heriah was suddenly becoming worried that was actually a third dose of the benzocyatizine and not a second.

‘I could be overdosing on the Benzo.’

She looked up at Cynndle. “I think we should wrap this session up. I have another appointment that I need to prepare for,” though Heriah was not even sure of the time.

Cynndle looked at her for a moment after having seen her look at the hypospray. “Ok, always nice to talk to you Heriah.” He stood up and walked towards the door before stopping and turning. “If you ever need to chat about anything, or an ear to listen while you work through something you know where to find me,” he said.

Heriah was stepping up with him. “That’s my line,” she said with a smile. “And I do look forward to accompanying you to…well…whatever the command staff has in mind.”

Cynndle let out a short laugh and smiled at that; “As do I; whatever they have planned I sure we will make the most of it” he said with a wicked smile before his look grew distant for a moment. “I would like to think that even if I hadn’t needed these counsellor sessions we would have still crossed paths and gotten to know each other. It is always nice to catch up Heriah.”

Heriah was nodded and saying, “Yes, it is. And,” she got within the proximity for the door to open, “in any universe, regardless of our stations, even as enemies,” she half laughed at that, “I too like to think our paths would cross. I will see you next time.”

They exchanged pleasantries and their goodbyes, thankfully before Cynndle could catch on to Heriah’s lie about another appointment. As Heriah was alone in her quarters, she turned and rushed back to the sitting area snatching the hypospray up from the table and marched into the lavatory. Grabbing the monocorder, she immediately placed it on her finger and, to her surprise, the light started flashing blue. “Blue? What the frell does that even mean? Computer.”

Bleep bleep.

“Monocorder for recording fluid, element and compound levels in the blood. What does a flashing blue light indicate?”

=^=”Flashing blue light on the monocorder for indicating fluid, element and compound levels in the circulatory system is an indication of oversaturation of the fluid, element, compound, mixture or other substance that is the subject of the scan.”=^=

And Heriah’s monocorder scanned for only isoboramine. This meant she was oversaturated with the stuff. Fiddling with the hypospray, she examined the small screen for dosage levels and the like, brought up the dosage history and saw that she did, in fact, hit herself with it three times within the past 30 minutes.

Placing everything down, Heriah peered at herself in the mirror. “You stupid, stupid girl. What did you do?” She looked herself in the eyes. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Her spots also did not seem to have changed their complexion at all. They did not feel as though on fire nor cold. Nor was there any tingling sensation. Heriah felt herself over and her skin did not feel any different. Opening her mouth and sticking out her tongue, which she felt was unnecessary, showed nothing out of the ordinary.

Heriah continued her self-diagnostic. All the silence from Rex, something she was unaccustomed to, was all due to the triple dose of benzocyatizine. “Is this how normal joinings are supposed to be?”

After a short nervous bout with herself over thinking if she had somehow permanently damaged herself or Rex, Heriah calmed herself with the thought that if anything had been overdone, she would be showing clear side-effects. This was simply a slight miscalculation, a slight overdose. All would be well shortly. “Yeah, all will be well.”

Heriah turned to leave the lavatory. “Rex is sure going to be cross with me later.”

Into the Woods

Near Crash Site of USS Fairbanks, Planet Unknown
June 2400

“This could have been worse!” Hargreaves tried to sound perky as they ducked into the sea of greenery beyond the wrecked runabout. Trees boughs leaned down from above, sunlight twisting between the leaves to criss-cross patterns of shadows over them. In the distance came the tweeting of birds, faintly indignant as they returned from where the crash must have startled them away. But the woodland was thick, the air humid, and they struggled to see more than twenty metres beyond the crash site before the greenery became too dense.

“I mean, we could have not crashed here,” she continued, flipping the tricorder open and beginning to scan. “But the atmosphere’s breathable, there’s life out here, and it’s not ugly to look at.” She glanced at Horin. “What do you think, take a quick look to make sure the area’s secure? Though for all we know, this planet could be home to a swarm of humanoid-eating lizards as big as shuttles and they’re headed this way.”

“It could be much worse; we could be trapped on the Northern Wastes on Andoria,” Horin remarked back as he closed his tricorder. “I’d prefer an unknown forest to the freezing cold.” Looking around, he tried to see if he could sense anything. “Besides some small local wildlife, I’m not sensing anything else; heading back to the runabout wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

“Maybe.” Hargreaves clicked her tongue as she read the tricorder. “But there’s a lot of wildlife, even if it is all looking small. Kind of an unusual amount. Underground, too…”

“I hate to sound suspicious, but you don’t think all of this is some module around survival training? Perhaps some last-ditch effort to test us.” Horin suggested. The humidity of the planet felt thick in the air, so he was mildly pleased he wasn’t wearing his full-blown uniform jacket. “That said, I’m not sure our instructors will be happy with us with the state of the runabout.”

“Yeah, I wondered that, but at this point I think our instructors would be giving us a complex. If this turns out to be fake, I’m reporting to the counsellors so they can help me distinguish between illusion and reality.” Her frown deepened. “Okay, so not to go all biology nerd in the middle of a crisis, but these readings are kind of wild. Look.” She turned so he could see the tricorder. “There’s the biosigns of the wildlife you mentioned, but also weaker readings stretching underground, up in the trees… kind of like plant-life, but different? Is this one of those… more-than-just-plants, living ecosystems?”

Peering around them, Horin tried to sense if the plants around them were ‘alive’ in the manner Hargreaves was considering. “If it is, then I’m not having any luck in connecting it on a telepathic level.” 

“I don’t want to get eaten by a living shrub, but it’s really weak lifesigns. I think this might just be neat.” She turned to him, a stubborn tilt to her chin. “More importantly, it’s so thick we can’t really see much. So I think we want high ground to at least get an idea of the few miles around us, and to see if there’s a water supply. Survival 101 there. Which means I’m gonna climb that tree over there and hope I don’t offend it.” Hargreaves jerked a thumb over her shoulder.

“I’m all for a bit of site-seeing, Nia, but I’m not sure how much you’ll see if you do get to the top beside a canopy of tree-tops,” Horin remarked. Sensing she wouldn’t pay much attention to his concerns, he shrugged his shoulders. “That said, you may get the chance to be the first cadet of the twenty-fifth century to make first contact with a tree!” 

“It’s a big tree,” she protested, and he was very plainly right; this tree was going to be climbed whether it was sensible or not. “Now give me a boost so I can go where no one has gone before.”

Helping her up, by holding his hands together under the tree, Horin pushed Hargreaves up onto the nearest branch. “I’d imagine this isn’t quite the normal team bonding activity that Starfleet plans for its cadets.”

“I think team bonding should include much less risk of death,” Hargreaves called as she scrambled up. At the very least, the adventure seemed to be cheering her up, or possibly pretending she was doing something useful. But she was still capable, and very soon disappeared from immediate view through the lower branches – but she could be heard, and was plain enough to Horin’s senses.

Perhaps it was the distraction of Hargreaves. Perhaps it was the density of life in the immediate area, or the stress, or something else entirely, but barely a moment after Horin, stood waiting at the foot of the tree, sensed a different presence, a voice rang out from behind him.

“Hold it right there, Cadet.”

The Romulan – the other Romulan – did not look in the best condition. He’d clearly taken the landing hard, and stood leaning against a tree. Possibly his left arm was injured, and green blood was smeared across his forehead from a shallow cut. But he also held a small, hold-out disruptor pistol that was levelled straight at Horin. “Did that whelp Noreel finally put two-and-two together?” he croaked.

Slowly turning around, Horin faced the Romulan and raised his arms up slowly to show he was not going to fight the Romulan. Squinting his eyes at the injured soul, he wondered if he could make a dash for it and disarm him. Sensing the mixed level of anxiety and aggression forming underneath the man who held a weapon at him, he decided not to do anything for now. “What do you mean? And why are you holding a weapon at me? We were sent to ferry you to safety.”

“You weren’t meant to be in this region of space at all; a damned training ship full of children…” The Romulan spat this out with more indignation at the inconvenience than outright aggression. “I can’t have you getting that ship airborne and slinking away with Noreel.”

While the Romulan spoke, Horin attempted to send some sort of telepathic warning to Hargreaves. It was a long shot, but sometimes Betazoids had been known to share a brief sensation/feeling/though with a non-telepath. Trying to warn her about the danger, he didn’t know if she was aware of it. He carried on chatting to the Romulan. “I’m not going to harm you, so drop your weapon. We’re not getting off this planet anytime soon, so can we try and find some middle ground and workout what your issue is?” He pleaded. 

“My colleagues in Imperial Naval Intelligence will be along soon to find us, and that traitor,” the Romulan warned. “As was originally -”

Stop worrying, I’m not gonna fall!” came the distant yell from above. “I can hear your brain freaking out from up -”

Bzzt. Startled but not reckless, the Romulan heard Hargreaves’s shout from above and snapped a blast into the treeline. It was not exactly at from where the shout had originated, a warning blast, but it was enough to singe trees and get a yelp from above.

“Get down from there, Cadet,” the Romulan called briskly. “Or my next shot will not miss.”

It took a moment of scrambling and breaking branches, and down Hargreaves came, much less smoothly than she’d gone up. A twig was in her hair, and her eyes were as big as dinnerplates as she stared at the Romulan and the disruptor. “Oh, no,” she breathed. “I really hoped you weren’t going to be one of those lying Romulans.”

Keeping his hands up, Horin gave an assuring look at Hargreaves, making sure she was okay. Turning back to the man that held them at gunpoint, Horin turned back to him. “If you’re planning on leaving this planet, why don’t you just leave us be? We’re no harm to you. We’re just cadets.”

The disruptor flicked between the two cadets, but the Romulan was poised, calm, despite his injuries. “The last thing I needed was you stumbling across me when I wasn’t ready. And the last thing I need is for a Starfleet ship to show up and rescue you. I don’t know if you’ve called for help, but if you have and it arrives before the intelligence team does, I will need… leverage.” The disruptor came up half an inch to focus on Horin. “So, for now, we wait.”