Part of USS Al-Batani: 001 – Uncertainty at Alim and Roosevelt Station: 001 – The Hunt

12: The Brilliance of the Young

Lamek Manor - Back Lawn
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The back lawn of the Lamek manor was broad, dotted with trees, a small pond off to one side, the tall wall overlooking the whole of it in stark relief. Li Ling Ailiang an Hark an Jenner made her way across it, looking for somewhere quiet to think. In the time since they arrived, Lamek’s servants had gone from helpful to intrusive, leading her toward the inevitable conclusion that the man was hiding something.

Of course, he was a wealthy merchant. That alone meant he was hiding something. Men with nothing to hide didn’t become wealthy.

A flash of movement caught her eyes – a dress – and Ailiang turned to follow. Her implants adjusted, scanning in infrared, and she saw two figures hiding behind a bush. She moved to the bush, peeked behind it.

To her eyes, names appeared next to each of the teenagers. The girl was Cardassian, her eyes blue and her hair bleached blonde. Her name was Zaya Lamek, and she was Lamek’s daughter. The boy, about six months younger, was a Kolamite, his teeth the needlelike second set his people grew before their more robust final teeth came in during their late 20s, and his nose would have identified him as Drek’dak’s son even without the identifier Ailiang’s implants provided. His name was Klim.

Zaya moved quickly, placing herself between Ailiang and Klim, a challenging look in her eyes as she regarded Ailiang. “I don’t care what my father told you. You aren’t going to hurt him.”

Ailiang looked down at the girl. Brave, to stand up to an adult and a Starfleet officer. Brave, and either foolish or desperate. “I’m not here to hurt either of you, and your father hasn’t said anything about him.” She offered a hand. “I’m Ensign Li Ling. We’re here to help, Zaya.”

Zaya regarded Ailiang with suspicion. “I’ve heard that before. Central Command used to send people all the time to ask how they could help.

“I’m not from Central Command,” Ailiang said.

“Is Starfleet better?” The boy – Klim – asked. “Dad said they are, but… so far, everyone who’s come down from the sky but Zaya has wanted to push us around and take what our ancestors left us.”

“My people worried about that, too,” Ailiang said, sitting on the ground. A moment later, the others joined her there. “When Starfleet came, with its people from Earth… our memories of Earth were of war and a tyranny we fled from, that we’d spent decades asleep before falling through a hole in space to find our home. But they’d grown, just like we had, away from that. Starfleet wants to make sure everyone on this planet can live in peace and safety and freedom. My people wouldn’t have joined the Federation without that promise. I wouldn’t have joined Starfleet without it, and I’ve seen firsthand how true it is. And Captain Enigma is the best Starfleet has to offer… she lives what we believe.”

The two teenagers looked at each other, and Ailiang smiled slightly. What was in their eyes was unmistakable – the fondness and nervous attraction common in first serious crushes. Finally, Zaya replied. “You’re from Lagash, right? Your eyes…”

Ailiang nodded. “Jade Sky, on Lagash. Freedom is the right of all sentient beings. The name of the person from Earth who said that is lost to us – we lost it in our escape from Earth, and the people of Earth lost it some time in the century between our escape and the founding of the Federation. But that’s the idea we built our society around. People should be able to live the lives they want. Starfleet has the Prime Directive, which is a similar idea. We want to make sure you can live free.”

Klim looked at Zaya. “Za, we need to trust someone.”

Zaya tensed, then sighed. “Fine. I’ll trust you, Ensign Li Ling. Don’t make me regret it.” She closed her eyes. “My father is up to something. I’m not sure what, but whatever it is, it’ll hurt Klim’s people and probably Ambassador Berta too. He’s been making a lot of calls out of the house, into space. They’re encrypted, and I don’t know who he’s calling.”

Ailiang smiled. This is what Eden had me looking for. “Tell me what you can. I’ll make sure we look into it.”