Part of USS Denver: Mission 4: Can’t Come Home Again Part: 3 and USS Denver: Mission 4: Can’t Come Home Again

Uncertain Motivations

Barren Planet
July 15, 2374
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Órlaith approached the camp she and her brother were sharing with a defeated expression on her face.  She sat down on a log next to her brother who was feeding a stick into the fire.

“Nothing?” Ian asked looking up from his ration pack that Órlaith had provided.

“No so much as a cave painting let alone a sub-space transmitter,” Órlaith replied.  “There’s water and some edible plants about 3 kilometers to the northeast.  There’s some indication of animals so I think we can survive, but I don’t think there’s any way off this planet.”

Ian set the ration aside and let out a long sigh, “So rather than kill us quickly he shows mercy and kills us slowly?”

“Well,” she said with a shrug. “We can survive, but it won’t be easy.”

Her brother scowled,  “I’d rather be dead.”

Órlaith didn’t respond.  What was there to say?  She was happy to be free of the cell, and she certainly didn’t want to die, but, a life here… Well, that was a bleak thought.

When the Vindicator suddenly warped away, leaving two pairs of life signs on the planet, Seong’s eyes widened. Vausees, who sat behind her in the cockpit, caught her gaze.

“You saw it right,” Seong told her companion.

“I did,” said Vausees. “Bring us down.”

Seong cocked her chin to the side. Vausees noticed the movement and explained that this was not justice but a death sentence, which was not what she had agreed to. Her motivation became clear at that point, and Seong nodded.

“I’m keeping the fighter cloaked as we circle,” Seong said as she descended into the planet’s atmosphere.

As soon as the fighter broke through the atmosphere, Seong switched the engines to silent mode, ensuring that they remained silent even in the breathable planet’s atmosphere as they began to pilot toward the nearest life signs. At their current altitude, not even a contrail would have been visible as they passed by.

Órlaith tossed another stick on the fire sending sparks skyward in a plume of black smoke. Opening a ration pouch she removed the water and slowly sipped it. Noting Ian had ripped open a second ration and started eating it with gusto.

“We need to be conservative with those.”

“Why? We’re dead. What does it matter if it’s tomorrow or a month from now?” Ian demanded. 

“We aren’t dead yet. It’s not ideal, but, if we’re smart, we can live here indefinitely.”

‘On this rock? I’d rather die.”

“I don’t care what you want.  We’re moving camp tomorrow.”

Ian scowled at her, “fine.”

“We’ll have plenty of water. We will have to build a shelter.,”

“And I suppose you know how to do that?”

“No, but we’ll figure it out together.”

~~~

Meanwhile, as Órlaith and Ian are discussing what is going on with their current situation, miles above them flying in total silence and cloaked, Seong and Vausees have locked onto their location. 

“Circle around the campsite before landing,” Vausees said as she brought up the topography of the area around the campsite.

“Way ahead of you,” Seong replied as she gently banked the craft to the left, beginning her circle of the area.

Looking to her right, out of the cockpit, Seong notices a clearing just inside a wooded area. She motions toward it with her head, “That looks concealed enough for us,” she informs Vausees, who looks toward the clearing.

“Yeah that will suit our purpose and it’s close enough to the campsite.”

Making one more pass over the camp and its plume of smoke, Seong banks toward the clearing and begins the process of landing, doing her best to ensure that barely any signal is given that they are there. As the craft touches down she looks over her shoulder.

“I think nightfall should be the best time to make our move. What do you think?”

Vausees nods, “Agree,” she replies as she checks the chronometer. “We have about an hour or so left of daylight, so we should make our move shortly after.”

Seong nods as she checks over her gear.

 

~~~

Órlaith woke.  The night was silent and the stars with their unfamiliar constellations twinkled brightly overhead.  There was no moon. Whether that was because this planet didn’t have a satellite or it was in a phase that had it in the shadow of the planet she didn’t know.

Something had woken her and she didn’t know what.  Then something clicked in her brain.  It was quiet.  Too quiet.  The night sounds were gone. Just the sound of a gentle breeze moving through the vegetation. 

Jeter had left them no weapons aside from their Imperial daggers. Órlaith had fashioned her blade into a spear secured tightly to a fairly straight pole tied with strips of cloth torn from her trousers braided and tied.  It was this spear her fingers wrapped around concealed under the mylar blanket she was using for warmth. She remained motionless but ready to spring into action.

Seong moved quickly behind Órlaith, surprising Vausees, who had already neutralized Ian as he slept a few feet away. As the blade sheathed in her boot came up under Órlaith throat, Seong leaned in and said, coldly, “If you plan to use that crude weapon, you had better move faster,” as the point of the blade pointed up at Órlaith’s vital jugular.

Seong’s usual chocolate brown eyes appeared to be nothing more than a well of darkness surrounded by the bright white sclera, though the majority of it was hidden by the glare she was giving Órlaith.

A deep growl came from behind Seong, and she knew without looking that Ian was awake. “I am not here to kill either of you, but if you give me no choice,” she stated again in the same tone. As she spoke, her gaze never left Órlaith.

Vausees placed a booted foot on Ian’s chest and gave him the look that said, ‘try it, and you’re dead’.

Órlaith returned Seong’s glare. Her spear was still concealed under the blanket, and she had no idea how the other woman knew about it.  Not relinquishing her grip she stared back daring Seong to make the next move.  “What do you want? It’s not to kill us or you would have already tried that by now.”

“And you would have been dead before you moved to grab the spear under your mylar blanket,” Vausees stated as she pointed at Órlaith and the single red dot on her, that was coming from the fighter that was hidden in the forest. “Granted I would have sacrificed my agent in the process but at least you wouldn’t have to suffer any longer, now would you?”

Seong didn’t even bat an eyelash at the comment coming from her mentor. After all, she knew that sooner or later her time would come when she would either have to once again fake her own death to get out of the deal she had placed herself in or die doing so. She wasn’t afraid to die, not in the slightest bit, however, she had unfinished business, “I was going to save your former boss’s ass but after seeing what he has done to the both of you…” she pauses as she removes the blade from Órlaith throat, “I think you two deserve a chance to go after him yourselves. However, I won’t make it easy since the three of you are still my boss’s targets but we have both come to an agreement that you two should have a shot at him first.”

Seong eased herself off of Órlaith, but never took her eyes off of the woman.

Órlaith sat up keeping a cautious eye on their visitors. “I’m no assassin. I believe him when he says that he just wanted freedom.” She shrugged, “I have no desire to track him down. In truth in a way I admire him. He succeeded in gaining his independence and didn’t do so in a blood bath. That level of cleverness is… commendable.” Climbing to her feet leaving the spear where it lay. “Do what you have to, and get it over with. I let my guard down thinking there was no one here. I should have had a watch set up. I was careless and deserve the consequences of that carelessness.”

Vausees removed her foot from Ian, “Stand up and join your sister,” she ordered

Seong moved over next to Vausees as she watched Ian.

“By the authority granted to me by the Terran Empire. I am placing you both under arrest for violation of section 42b subsection 3. Unauthorized sanction of inter-universal travel,” Vausees states as she unholsters a phaser and levels it toward them both.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Ian grumbled, both at the absurdity of the situation and the theatrics. 

“You’re her child aren’t you? The princess before mama took control of the Empire?” Órlaith asked. “I am not nor have I ever been to your reality.  I wasn’t even conceived in this one.  How can I violate a law that doesn’t exist in my reality?”

Seong remained emotionless as Órlaith spoke to her. She knew better than to speak about her past, but this woman was correct. She was the missing Princess from the Terran Empire. 

“Do you have a problem, sir?” Vausees asked as she trained the phaser more toward him. “And as for the how. You can thank your mother for that,” she replies to Órlaith, “because her genes run in your hyper-growth bodies. Which makes you part of her reality, and subject of the Terran Empire’s policies and laws.”

Ian simply scowled.  His murderous eyes show hate and contempt for both Vausees and Seong.

“I will not be a prisoner. Just shoot me now and get it over with,” Órlaith said nearly as frustrated with the theatrics as her brother. 

Later…

Stars streaked by the ship as they were putting distance between that barren planet.  Seong and Vausees were discussing the prisoners when Torin returned to the command deck.  The Trill gave both women a rueful look as he dropped into the seat behind the helm.

Seong had noticed the helmsman walk onto the bridge, out of the corner of her eye, but paid no mind to what he was doing. She didn’t care much for this ship, as she had run from it in the past, even though she wasn’t a target for Vausees anymore she still hated to see this ship.

Torin half listened to the women as he worked his way through the navigational checks,  followed by system checks of the engines, deflectors, and nav sensors.  “You are going about it wrong,” he said suddenly.

Vausees held up a hand and turned to her Helmsman. She raised an eyebrow at his outburst. “Something on your mind, Ensign?”

Torin turned to Seong,  “You want Bellitor.  You don’t know where Bellitor is, but you do have her children. Let the kids go; like cockroaches, they will lead you back to the nest.”

Seong shrugged, “I could give a damn about this Bellitor,” she admitted. “I am after a man named Jeter.”

Torin gave them a look and returned to his work.  “And Jeter is part… or was part of that particular cockroach colony. Something tells me Bellitor won’t take the betrayal and theft of her ship lying down.  She might find Jeter for you. Or,” he shrugged,  “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Seong nodded to Vausees, “I think I will take my leave,” she stated as she had had enough of this man and exited the bridge.

Vausees returns the nod and looks at the Ensign, “The next time you have something to say keep it to yourself,” she orders. She looks to her fiance and nods and departs for the Brig.

Torin shrugged unconcernedly with the threat.

Brig…

Órlaith stood with her brother when the doors to the brig slid open. Brother and sister gave each other glances.

Vausees stood there contemplating her promotion if she kept them on board. She closed her eyes as she considered the most likely outcome and the charges that would be leveled against her once they returned to her universe and time.

As she walked over to the console and deactivated their cells’ force field, she sighed. Before approaching Órlaith and handing her two phasers.

“Go to deck 12 and take pod 3. Oh, and you should probably talk to Seong before too long.  I get a feeling you have some information she needs to know,” Vausees said.

She then stepped out of the brig. 

Órlaith glanced at Ian, “Let’s get the hell out of here before they change their minds.”

“This doesn’t make sense. Why arrest us and them just let us go, and what do this Seong want?” Ian asked.

Órlaith nodded, “Yeah, I thought it strange too, and we certainly don’t know anything she could possibly want. This is probably a trap, but we can’t do anything in the brig.”

Ian nodded, “Agreed.”

The pair peeked out of the brig to see an empty corridor.  Hanging to the left in the opposite direction Vausees, they ran down the empty halls to the end where a turbolift waited for them.  As the doors slid open Órlaith paused. 

“What is it?” Ian asked.

“It’s a good way to get trapped,”

“So are the maintenance tubes,” Ian added, “and this is faster. I would think getting to the shuttle bay as fast as possible would be the best course of action.”

Órlaith nodded, “You are correct.” Entering the turbolift with Ian right behind her she ordered the lift to deck 12. When the lift slowed to a stop she peeked out leading with her phaser.  This corridor was empty as well.  “This is suspicious. Where is the crew?”

“Because this is a trap,” Ian replied.

“Or Vausees cleared our route for us, but yeah defiantly could be a trap.”

The duo moved down the corridor and entered the shuttle bay. Without hesitation Órlaith aimed and stunned the duty officer who had turned to face them as they entered.  She fell to the deck with a heavy thump. “Sorry,” Órlaith said with sympathy, “But I can’t let you warn the rest”

“Over here,” Ian shouted. “Pod 3.”

Órlaith glanced at it and shook her head, “No, I don’t intend to make it that easy for them.  That runabout.” She pressed the button on the side of the airlock frame and the doors slid apart with a hiss, Órlaith squeezed between the parting doors not even waiting for them to fully open.

She was already running the prestart sequences as Ian slid into the co-pilot’s seat and started working through the checklists. “Let’s wait to power the weapons until we are ready to get out of here.”

“You planning on blowing a hole through the bay doors?” Órlaith asked with a smirk.

“Yeah, how else?”

“Let’s try opening them remotely, but yeah have them ready in case they change their minds.” His fingers danced over the controls, “I’m ready to power engines.”

“Sealing airlock,” Ian responded.  “Pre-start checklist is complete.  Navigational computer… check. Shields… check.  Structural integrity field… check.”

Órlaith glanced at Ian and nodded, “Any red flags?”

Ian shook his head, “Everything is green on my end.”

The cockpit was suddenly filled with the sounds of the engines shutting down.

“You should have listened to the captain’s advice about pod 3,” a voice from behind them said, as Seong appeared from the shadows of the cargo bay. As she stood there, a remote was pointed at them. Her eyes narrowed as she looked at both of them, finally settling on Órlaith.

“A little birdy told me that you have some information about my mother,” Seong explained as she lowered the remote and slipped it into a pocket that vanished as soon as her fingers left it.

Órlaith dropped face first on the console in defeat and frustration.   Resisting the urge to just scream she let out a long sigh.  After a long moment to collect herself she sat up. “Look lady, I don’t know anything important about your mom. I wasn’t there. I only know what my mother has said, and it is to gloat about how she defeated her. I assume it means killed,  but who the hell knows?  Maybe she exiled her for all I know. I didn’t ask, and honestly, it seemed unimportant.”

“It is most important,” Seong stated as she stood there at the entrance of the cockpit, the only exit that existed for the two of them. “Then again I could just send you both on a fool’s errand to find out what happened,” a smirk crossed her lips. “Unless you prefer to be captured.”

Órlaith didn’t respond and simply sat head buried in her arms on the console. She was tired of the scheming, the plotting,  and this damned cat-and-mouse game these people were playing on her at her expense. And most of all, she was tired of being in the middle of the fallout of her mother’s evil choices.

“We do not,” Ian spoke for her.  “You want us to ask our mother what happened to yours?  We can do that.”

Seong looked at Ian for a moment and stepped away, but before she exited she stopped. “Get it done and I will consider this matter closed and let my mentor know that you both perished trying to get the information.”

Ian shrugged. Their compound was the safest place in the galaxy.  Not only was the entrance nearly impossible to locate, the clone troops, and Imperial Guard held the compound from intruders.  Would he tell her?  A malevolent smile crossed his lips at that thought.  Of course, he would.  Knowing his mother she wasn’t one to do things in half-measures, and she would handle it as expeditiously and practically as possible.  Her mother was dead, and there was no body to recover.  That was just how Bellitor operated.   This news would certainly bring only pain, and that tickled Ian’s fancy.   He only wished he had pulled the trigger himself.   The anguish that would bring was just too good to contemplate. 

“You have a deal. And I gladly agree to it,” he said giving her a smile that was just as disingenuous as he was.