“I’ll never get used to there not being a door.” Grigor thought as he rounded the corner into the Erigone‘s control center. Pushing down yet again his innate paranoia at not having something to secure access to the area, he walked up behind the man at the main command console. “Verify POSCON.”
Clayton Powell rotated a few degrees in his seat and punched several controls. The main screen changed to a side-by-side view of the ship, accompanied by several scrolling lists, and a complex view of local space. “We left Federation space two hours ago and are on course to stop in Khitomer and Narendra on our way to Ruhoka. Transponder codes were rotated appropriately and Eeru and Zinn are nearly done with the hull modifications. By the time we hit Khitomer, nobody’ll be able to tell us from a surplus trader.”
“Good. God willing, we’ll pick up a few genuine passengers on the way.” The scrolling lines of text and the map occupied Grigor’s attention for the better part of a minute before he spoke again. “Any word on Mo’kai raids?”
“None reported in the last few days. Some suggestions that the Orion Syndicate has been harassing ships in the area, though.” Several more control presses and the main screen reverted to the streaked starfield ahead.
Grigor clapped a hand on Clayton’s shoulder. “We’ll want to keep an eye on that. Good work. All-hands in the lounge at 1330. No uniforms from here on in.”
His hands trembled ever so slightly as he placed the uniform in the replicator and watched it dissolve into nothingness. An old habit that bordered on ritual at this point. Performance anxiety, he could hear an old crewmate tease. Whatever had happened to all those old colleagues? Some of them he knew. Captains had become admirals, department heads had become captains, a few had died, a few had resigned, and a few had remained where they were. Twenty-five years of Starfleet service had left quite a list of names that he attached some form of fondness to. Many of them he would and had lent help to over the years, as they had to him. But only one name had the power to send him volunteering to run into the Triangle chasing after rumors. A thin and rueful smile moved Grigor’s lips as he ordered and collected a light meal from the replicator.
“Someone wants me out here. You or someone who knows your name is a lure. Perhaps not for me, but I’m the one who got the assignment.” There were others for whom this name would be a lure as well. As far as he knew, however, none of them were attached to the mission. Truthfully, it didn’t mean that much, they could still be going to the region as quietly as he was and just not letting him know. But some long-honed sense told him that wasn’t the case. It was him and his crew alone that would retrieve this old friend or spring the trap of an old foe.
Grigor ate quietly, letting his mind wander to other topics. By the time he was leaving the room and heading for the lounge, his hands no longer trembled.
Eleven people sat around the conference table in the lounge, with Grigor at the head. All were dressed in civilian clothes and ranged in demeanor from casually lounging with a leg over a chair arm to cadet-style rigid attention. To the outside observer it would appear to be a standard crew of traders from within Federation space. He had worked with all of them before and had hand-picked them for this assignment.
There was T’press, his XO for the mission, and Skaan, both Vulcan cultural experts on Romulans and skilled infiltrators. Navigators Clayton Powell, human, and Fanvuth, Vulcan, who were as skilled pilots as Grigor had seen, and both of whom he would trust to get their small ship out of danger if it arose. The trio of engineers, Zinn, Eeru Ruyri, and Angelina Martelli, sat in a cluster at the end of the table, the Bolian, Bajoran, and Human working out some detail of the modifications to the ship. Litra Beyr, Bajoran, and Dukena, Saurian, were the other tactical specialists on this mission. Litra’s focus was on ground combat and Dukena’s on atmospheric rounded out Grigor’s knowledge of ship combat well. And lastly, Martha Halley and Sirrin, the Human and Vulcan pair of science officers and primary medical team. With any luck, they wouldn’t have much to do on this assignment, though Grigor was well aware of how rarely luck actually factored into thing.
Rising from his seat, Grigor called the meeting to order and called attention to the wall at the far end of the table where a red-haired Betazoid woman’s portrait was displayed along with a scrolling service record, much of the middle of it redacted.
“This is Commander Linshara Thannis. Academy class of ‘72, service record is classified from ’78 until ‘88, when she was assigned as Strategic Operations Officer for the Ashland Initiative in the Orion Borderlands. Listed MIA in ’94 while on assignment in the Hromi Cluster. And before any of you ask, no, it wasn’t a cover. She actually went missing. Civilian freighter found debris later that year and she was formally listed as Presumed Lost. “
Fanvuth arched an eyebrow and interjected. “Tal Shiar?” Her eyesight had always been excellent, even for a Vulcan, and Grigor shrugged.
“Don’t know. Prior to that, she had a run-in with a Tal Shiar operative that was gunning for her specifically. Blew up an educational facility on Ruhoka to try and discredit her. So… maybe.” Advancing to the next image, Grigor pointed to an out of focus image of a similar-looking woman in a Romulan marketplace, flanked by two Romulans with dour expressions. “A local contact sent this image to Starfleet Security about a month ago. Image enhancement and analysis says it’s a match, which is why we’re here. Either she’s been off the grid for seven years, on her own or grabbed, or someone’s trying to lure out former associates and people like us.”
Dukena hissed. “If it is a Tal Shiar trap, we’re putting a lot of valuable assets within reach. But if not…”
“We have to find out what happened to her and why she’s been out of contact. Turned or captive.” Litra finished and sighed. “High stakes indeed. With recent events, now’s the perfect time for some old grudges to re-surface. I’d say we treat it as a trap either way. You don’t flash an asset like that in public unless you want it to be seen.”
“My thought exactly. We have to assume it’s a trap and that Thannis is either a look-alike or working with them until proven otherwise. When we get to Ruhoka, T’press, Skaan, you’ll lead the initial team down. Beyr, Ang, and Dukena, you’ll go with them. We’ll want to get eyes on the market, see if she or her handlers pop up again, gather what intelligence we can before making a move. Everyone should spend time in the holodeck familiarizing yourself with the city and brush up on Romulan tech while you’re at it. Lot of fun new toys in circulation since we were last in the area.” With a grin, Grigor switched the display back to an overview of the Triangle with their ship’s course outlined on it.
“New to you,” Halley quipped with a grin and a wink. Her gaze lingered on Grigor after the wink, a flicker of concern visible in her expression. She’d picked up on his unconscious tension when speaking about Thannis, as had most of the table in all likelihood, but was the only one to openly express towards him that she had noticed.
A conversation to be had before long. If the team believed he was personally compromised with this mission, they’d start to work on contingencies that didn’t include him. Perhaps go so far as to leave him behind at one of their stops if the concern was great enough. But that’s why he’d picked them. Because he knew them and they knew him and everyone would keep everyone else in check.
Truthfully, he was emotionally invested in this mission. It was why he had volunteered. But he knew he could keep his emotions in check. He’d done it last time he thought she’d been compromised, he could do it now. But if not… Well, that’s what the rest of the team was for.