Only a little over a week ago it had been Sidda sleeping on the biobed and Revin waiting on her, now the roles were reversed.
Bones had said the effects of the Blood Dilithium on Revin, R’tin and T’Ael were reversing, with a speed she didn’t quite understand. Because of that, she wasn’t hastening recovery from the medically induced comas she’d put both R’tin and Revin, letting them come around naturally. “They’ve got enough stress going on, I’m not going to add to it,” the woman had said when she explained it to Sidda.
At some point she had laid her head down beside Revin, arms folded under her, just to rest for a moment, nothing more. Just a short little rest she’d told herself, but apparently, sleep had snuck up on her and cudgelled her without warning.
It was the gentle stroking of her ear, soft and repetitive that had slowly brought her around from sleep. Not a jolt, no alarm, no one calling her name, just a gentle repeated action that slowly woke her up. Eyes still so heavy, she forced them open and saw Revin there, a couple of pillows behind her, the bed raised slightly, with a sleepy but content smile on her face.
“Hello sleepy,” Revin said, her usually lyrical voice a touch rough. Hearing herself speak she reached for a bottle of water beside the bed. “Did we win?”
“And then some,” Sidda said, struggling to sit up. She took a moment to kiss Revin’s hand as she moved just out of reach. One, two kisses, then a third just above the ring on Revin’s finger. “Got everyone out, rescued a bunch of prisoners from the Devore, blew up an island.”
“Are we not toppling regimes today then?” Revin teased; a sip of water having done wonders for her voice.
“I draw my line at planets love. I’d need a lot more than just one ship of lunatics to take on something like the Devore Imperium.” Sidda scooted her chair sideways, closer to Revin so that she could reach her lover’s hair as well, loving strokes to sort out stray hairs, tucking something behind pointed ears.
“But what a crew of lunatics though,” Revin said. “They’d follow you; you know that right?”
“I know,” Sidda said, but she knew there would be dissent if she ever did something that stupid. “But first, maybe I should lead them on a raid of Casperia Prime?”
“Let Gaeda lead them in raiding the bars. You promised me an introduction with your mother.”
The defeated sigh, the head collapsing to the bed beside Revin once more, was all dramatics, but the laughter from the younger woman was exactly what Sidda needed to hear herself. She still had her Revin. “Kill me now,” she said, muffled by the bedding.
“Oh no love, this is torture I want to see.”
“I’m not a fan,” Gaeda said as he stood just inside the door of the ready room with Orelia at his side. It had been a few days and the luxury of a sonic shower, then an actual hot water shower, a shave, and a handful of solid meals where Kevak tried to make the Thorn’s crew die of overindulgence had all resulted in a much tidier looking Gaeda Ruiz then what had beamed up a few days before. His Beard was trimmed, decent clothes replicated and a replacement holster on his left thigh, sans weapon currently, put him right back where he felt comfortable style-wise at least.
“Neither am I, but I’m not the boss,” Orelia replied. “She wanted modern Orion chic, so she got it.”
“But a low table? Cushions?” He stepped into the room, arms crossed, examining the furnishings for what they were. “Desk is nice though.” The grumble from Orelia was hint enough. “Revin’s input? What’s your problem with Revin anyway?”
“Sidda could do better.”
“Ha!” Gaeda laughed, then brought it under control under a withering gaze. “What, you?”
“Hells no!” Orelia shot back. “I’m a cousin.”
“Like ten times removed,” he challenged. He had worked his way around the desk and considered the floor cushion before admitting defeat and sitting himself down on it, a wave of his hand just the invitation Orelia needed to sit herself down, with a pointing hand to show Gaeda where a secret compartment had been well hidden, the liqueur inside soon freed.
“Five times,” she corrected him. “My family owes her family a debt.”
“Complicated Orion family debts and honour that would take me a lifetime to understand?” he asked while pouring, the nod of her head answer enough. “Okay, I’ll take your word for it. But who then? Some Orion princeling, or princessling? Vondem is a part of the Federation and a democracy.”
“Family still means something. And Vondem isn’t the only Orion world you know. The Twelfth Empire never really stopped,” she said, taking her glass, waiting for Gaeda to finish pouring his own and offering a short toast. “To hair-brained schemes.”
“To dilithium explosions covering our tracks,” he replied, the down the glass and only just winched at the burn. “Jesús, what is this?”
“Fucked if I know, but Sidda likes it.” She set her glass down, a handwave to refuse anymore. “But yes, she could be so, so much more than just some pirate or vigilante or whatever we are these days.”
“She could be so much more, as long as she let parts of her life be dictated by the expectations of others, rules of society and the trappings of station,” Gaeda countered. “She wants to live her own life, not some stuffy Orion aristocrat. And hell, we’re doing good things, more so than when I was in the fleet. Hell, Sidda has enough trouble with authority, why do you think she got kicked out of the Academy?”
“Sidda never went to Starfleet Academy.”
“Oh yes she did,” Gaeda smiled wickedly. He knew something that Orelia didn’t about the woman she was apparently charged with keeping safe. “Made it a week before she got put on report, made it only one more before she cursed out a lecturer and I’m still not sure if she was drummed out or walked out, but I do know she only lasted a week.”
“No,” Orelia said. “Sidda ran away from her father when she came of age, joined a tramp freighter and then fell in with pirates. She never went to the Academy.”
Gaeda eyed Orelia intently for a moment, poured himself a second shot and then wordlessly insisted on pouring her one as well. “Fucking mystery woman, she is. All right, you tell me what you think happened, I’ll tell you what I think happen, then we go beat the truth out of her?”
“Let’s get Kevak’s version as well,” Orelia said as she accepted the drink. “All right, so, what I know is that…”
“Nope, no, not happening, don’t believe it out,” Trid exclaimed as she walked onto the bridge to the sight of Lewis Chin sitting in the command seat doing slow rotations while reading from a padd.
“Believe it,” he said without looking up. “Good to have you back by the way. But without the Thorn guess we won’t be swapping again.”
“Yeah, guess not.” She had walked past ops and tactical, only the former manned at this time, to prop herself against the front of the ops console. “Everyone on this boat must be mad if they let you be a shift leader.”
“They must be mad to let Gavrint at the helm,” he said, a thumb over his shoulder at the small, bright orange-skinned man at the helm who was wearing enough layers to be mistaken for a pile of laundry if not for his head and hands being visible.
“Piss off Lewis,” was the only reply. “Good to have you back Trid.”
“Nice to be back Gavrint,” she said to the man. “Still the best pilot Lewis, so I’ll be taking that chief helmsperson title off of you.”
“Oh no, not that easy.” He rose to his feet and took the two steps needed to then offer her the padd he had been reading. “We fight for it.”
She read the padd, or at least the title of it in quick order. “Small, medium and large-scale starship piloting challenges.” She handed it back without bothering to read the rest. “Where’re the challenges around organising and running a department?”
“You know, the things a proper chief helmsperson has to do.” She shook her head from side to side, tutting at him. “Maybe your right, maybe it’s best you keep the job.”
“Hey now,” he said quickly. “Maybe…maybe we co-lead this department for a while yeah?”
“I want Alpha shift.”
“Beta,” he counter-offered. “Sidda takes Beta more often, being an afternoon person.”
“All right, Beta. But we spend three hours a day getting helm and navigation sorted into a proper department now that it is more than just you and me.”
“Be grateful you aren’t in Starfleet. I hear some of their really good pilots don’t even get to sleep, doing all that paperwork.”
Lewis’ anguish was perfect and enjoyable. She only savoured it briefly though. “Now, tell me, where are we headed?”
“Markonian Outpost. Some sort of freeport. We can dump all those telepaths and other prisoners off there. Even a Starfleet office there, so we can make their life hell when we get there.”
“How far?” she asked.
“Three more days. We’re still at warp seven with the cloak running just to make sure we don’t get any more Devore attention, but we’ll crank it up to warp eight in about another hour. By the time anyone can figure out what that weird intermittent sensor blob in their screens is, we’ll be long gone.”
“Thought of everything have you?”
“Nah, Tavol suggested most of it,” Lewis said. “Clever guy he is.”
She smiled at him, having heard some bad rumours already and decided not to spread them but just seek confirmation straight from one of the parties involved. “Tavol? Our resident Vulcan? Whispers are you and he…”
“Watch your fingers,” the large, barrel-chested Klingon cook said as he brushed past Sidda with an exceedingly hot dish in hand. Roasted meat was occupying the pan, freshly removed from an oven and the scent of it was absolutely heavenly with the preparations that Kevak had dressed it with.
The kitchen was running full tilt producing hearty, soul-filling food. And with Revin still groggy Kevak had deputised a few of the other galley crew from their normal jobs to help in the kitchen, then shanghaied other staff into those now vacant roles. Serving meals and manning stations was like damage control, or engineering, or operating a transporter, right? They had nearly fifteen hundred extra mouths to feed, some of them who hadn’t eaten anything more than Devore prison rations for years, decades in a handful of cases, and were consuming the offerings from the Rose’s kitchens with gusto.
Gusto that Kevak wasn’t denying at all.
“They aren’t fighters or warriors but they fought a harsh and cruel enemy, each day they refused to die another glorious victory. Sto’vo’kor will hear their tales one day,” Kevak had explained it to her a few days back.
And she could kind of agree with his sentiment. She just viewed it as an oppressed people being too spiteful to let their oppressor win. The same thing really, right?
“Thought I’d come down here and tell you we’re a day out, General.” She was smiling when he turned on her at the use of a rank.
The roast dish was set down, mitts carefully removed and tucked into his apron’s pocket as he stalked towards her, looming large, closing well within personal distance so he could look down at her and just held her gaze for a handful of seconds. “Princess,” he growled at her, just loud enough that no one else would hear over the hustle and bustle.
“That’s Revin,” she replied.
“No, that’s you,” he countered. “Princess Sidda.” Then his voice lowered even quieter. “I gave up my rank to protect others. Never call me that again.”
“Yes, Chef Kevak,” she answered, getting a smile out of the Klingon. “And never, ever call me princess again.”
“At least until you marry that woman of yours,” he said, then turned away to return to his job. “Now, there are three hundred mouths to feed out there.” He picked up a large set of prongs and a long serrated cutting knife. “Get to work.”
“Oh no, I’m not a kitchen hand.”
“You’re in my kitchen, so yes you are.” The way Kevak said it, it wasn’t a command but a statement of universal fact. He gave voice to the concept and so it was.
Knowing she wasn’t going to be able to get away she accepted her punishment for exploring the piece of knowledge Revin had passed to her about Kevak, took the offered tools and got to work cutting up the large roast.
Turned out that preparing meals and seeing the faces of the refugees filling themselves on Kevak’s cooking was good for her own soul too. Especially when Kevak insisted she tell tales of her glorious fight with the Devore. After all, what kind of Klingon mean didn’t have a story to go with it?
“Delusions about working on live power systems?” Bones asked.
“Just the inside of the warp reactor,” R’tin answered, then sighed under the glare. “No ma’am.”
She hummed a bit more while he lay on the bio-bed, the scanner unit running back and forth just over his head, taking intense scans of his brain. The machine was silent aside from a slight electrical hum as it did its work, the benefits of paying for the high-end equipment that Na’roq had acquired.
“Scans look good, you’re back to your usual self,” she announced, the scanner then moving to its rest position at the head of the bed, letting R’tin sit up without hitting it. “But I’m going to insist you wear this scanner for the next few days,” she continued, showing him the cortical scanner, then popping it into place when he turned his head slightly.
“Why me? I know T’Ael and Revin aren’t wearing one.”
“They both didn’t try to kill themselves by being idiots.” Bones fitted the scanner, turned it on and then spent a few moments confirming its link with the ship’s computers. “Two days, but you’re cleared for work now.”
“Really,” she confirmed. “Just, keep it light, will you?”
“Will do,” he said as he hopped off the bed. “Hey doc, I know I was in a coma and all, which I totally understand, but uh, what’s the scientific consensus on feeling or remembering anything from time in a coma?”
She mulled the question over for a moment. “I don’t know what it’s like for Romulans to be honest. Haven’t read that deeply into it. Why?”
“Well, I just,” he stopped for a moment. “I just have this weird recollection of sadness and happiness at the same time while I was asleep.” He moved from one foot to another a couple of times. “Overwhelming anger and a desire to hurt someone, then absolute joy, explosive joy even, at the deed done, then sadness that it really didn’t fill the hole.”
“And after that?”
“Resignation?” he answered, testing the word. “Tiredness.” He was quiet for a few more moments. “Then I woke up.”
“Sounds like you need to speak to a counsellor, but seeing as we don’t have one, I’d suggest either myself or Kevak.” She stuffed her hands into her lab coat pockets, then closed on the young Romulan man. “I mean it.”
“I…yeah, I’ll do that Doc.” He shrugged, as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders, then just dropped, forgotten with a simple shrug. “Thanks again.”
“You’re welcome. Now get!” She shooed him out of her sickbay then returned to her office. “Ward to Tavol, pop by when you can and bring those sensor scans of that explosion with you. I’ve got a hypothesis for you.”
The Vondem Rose that arrived at the Markonian Outpost wasn’t the pristine and mostly pure ship that had arrived in the Delta Quadrant nearly a month ago. This ship bore a couple of new patches of carbon scoring along some aspects, and nearly her entire dorsal aspect was discoloured from just the bright light of an explosion that had forever changed the surface of a world. Purple paint had blistered and bubbled, exposing the grey-green of the ship’s birth colour for all to see, even the KDF emblem on the port wing was peeking out from under purple.
She had arrived in proximity to the station under cloak, well outside of anyone’s weapon ranges, her arrival heralded by the twisted screaming and horrendous discordant beats and notes of Fight for Paradise/Kick ‘em before they Stand, one of Kolar Blight’s very few political songs that was edging on thirty years old, blaring over subspace before the ship decloaked, finishing her journey at a sedate quarter impulse.
They had only managed to make it to the first chorus, which was just a series of shouted foul-mouthed rhymes with the name Layton in a dozen Federation languages, before the avalanche of demands to cease and desist came through from those ships with powerful enough transceivers to overpower the Rose’s own. And not wanting to annoy the natives, or the reforming gaggle of Starfleet ships around the station awaiting the chance to go home, the Vondem Rose complied.
After letting the chorus play out of course.
It took nearly a day to unload all the passengers they’d brought with them, station authorities wanting to stagger their arrival, process them and help people get at least some form of identification. But with refugees from the Devore Imperium’s brutal oppression offloaded, with a generous donation from Sidda personally at the end, the Rose had no need, or desire to remain in the Delta Quadrant.
“Trid,” Sidda said as she strode onto the bridge, Gaeda on her heels from seeing the last Brenari family off the ship, “clear all moorings and push off from the station.”
“Barzan Wormhole. We’ll go play sentry there until the wormhole opens. Go to warp once you’ve got clearance.”
“Aye, Barzan Wormhole,” the Bajoran woman replied, going through the motions of clearing the Vondem Rose and getting her underway.
“Gaeda, Orelia,” she turned to face the two of them. “Figured out which of you is my XO for now?”
“He is,” Orelia got out before Gaeda could even speak. “I’m happy being second officer for now. But the next ship we steal is mine.”
“Dammit,” he muttered, the smile giving the joke away though.
“Excellent. Gaeda, why don’t you find someone in Operations, say, the head of perhaps,” as she smiled at Orelia, “and work out a shore leave roster? Two weeks, no, three weeks off for everyone.”
“Where we going?” he asked, the question perking everyone’s ears.
“Casperia Prime.” Sidda turned to face the viewscreen once more just as the Rose jumped to warp. “I need a beach.”