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Part of USS Nestus: An Alternate Way

Amongst the Weeds (Pt.2)

The home of Zaya Tomal, Ciman II - In the Former Demilitarized Zone
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The spices of a dozen different worlds still drifted through the corridors of Zaya’s spacious homestead; long after the sun had set over the verdant horizon and the cattle had been brought into barns, laughter and light still leaked from the oval windows of the home. Around a carved wooden table, whose sturdy base was stylised into a tree trunk that wound its way seamlessly into the wooden floor boards, Maine sat, emptying a small tumbler of black liquid. Savouring the liquorice taste of the viscous drink his attention returned to a discussion happening across the table.

“…that’s why you never see the Ferengi round here. There isn’t anything or anyone to take advantage off.” A tall, muscular human began to spread a smile across his weathered face. “Though there was that one who came through a few years ago selling a miracle plant fertilizer. What was his name?” He paused, running his large hands over the short patch of hair that looked to Maine like it had visibly receded even over the course of the evening.

“Agnog.” A woman offered from across the room, as she slipped her tan jacket over her slim shoulders.

“Agnog!” A Bolian man cried from the other side of the table. “Spent weeks trying to sell Yridian Yak manure for its ‘agricultural benefits’.” he said, rising his bright azure fingers into mock air quotes, a surprisingly human affectation Maine noticed.

“Didn’t stop you from buying 50 metric tonnes did it Gorm?” The human male interjected, his large hands turning into an accusatory point.

“Gave me the best marrows I’ve had in over a decade.” Gorm said, defensively. “You’re just jealous that your crop wasn’t as impressive that year.”

“We both know that wasn’t because of the Yak manure.” the human sniped, an awkward silence descended on the room. As with all the conversation that evening Maine had noticed the delicate veneer of joviality and comradery floated over a deep undercurrent of anger and frustration felt by all the colonists. They never spoke of the heart of the matter, not in his presence, but Maine suspected they rarely spoke to each other about it either.

Thankfully the woman, now clad in her worn duster jacket and canvas bag slung over her shoulder broke the silence. “Gorm would you walk with me? I’ve got those erm…” she stumbled over the words, looking for a good excuse. “…holonovels you wanted to borrow.” The Bolian’s already deep blue skin deepened to a sapphire, jumping up he made his excuses and rushed to the door, joining the white lie as they hurried out the door together.

The door had barely whispered shut as the human turned to Maine, a wide toothy grin spreading across his face. “They think they’re being so subtle and secretive about it, like anyone would bat an eyelid if they were shouting it form the rooftops. Holonovels, pah! I hear Gorm’s hardly in his own home enough to watch them.”

“Oh hush Reggar, it’s the adventure of young love.” Zaya admonished, smiling as they appeared from the small portal to the kitchen, wringing their hands on a towel as they crossed the room to open and well used liquor cabinet. “Don’t you remember the excitement of sneaking around after dark, holding hands in the shadows and stealing kisses in the moonlight.” She motioned to Maine with a delicate bottle of more liquor, he refused with a loose shake of the head. “I think it’s lovely. I haven’t seen Amina this happy since…” their voice tailed off.

Picking up on the silence Maine spoke. “Did she loose someone?”

Reggar sighed, receiving another drink from Zaya as they sat down at the empty seat next to Maine. “Her husband Lycal was handy with a wrench, was always fixing things here and there. During the war he had mighty ideas about helping the little folk so volunteered with the auxiliary as an engineer. He was on a freighter, Cold Caller when the Dominion decided to start throwing out all the rules. Saved 35 lives keeping the life support going until help arrived.” There was a heavy pause, Maine knew what was coming but it didn’t soften the pang of regret in his heart from the all-to-familiar phrase. “He didn’t make it out.”

The silence sat upon the room, thick as a fog, masking any route to take away from the subject and to clearer, fairer conversation.

“Did you serve during the war?” Reggar asked, his large blue eyes fixed on the commander’s neck, where three small pips nestled, barely visible beneath Maine’s open collar. “Earn them there did you?”

Maine’s back instantly tightened, he’d worked on these colony worlds several times and met plenty of people, civilian and service alike, who blamed Starfleet for the loss of thier loved one. He looked toward Zaya for rescue but their attention seemed lost in the swirling blue liquid in their glass.

“I did serve.” Maine uttered, he had to be careful. Many of his missions during the war were still considered classified and he had drunk enough of the liquorice liquid to ease his tongue a dangerous amount.

“And I bet you always followed your orders didn’t you? Go here, blow up that, claim that planet, destroy that target. Screw the little guys down below as long as Starfleet was winning!” Reggar’s ire was clearly rising and still Zaya seemed unaffected or unwilling to intervene. His voice was swelling with every word and Maine felt his heart begin to quicken in response.

“I followed the orders I thought were right.” Maine said, attempting to defuse Reggar’s anger. “I never wanted anyone to get hurt.” The last part wasn’t entirely true, more than once he had found himself struggling with a sense of perverse pleasure at the thought of his enemy suffering. Particularly following the deaths of several academy friends at Chin’toka.

It was at this half-truth that Zaya was awakened from their gaze into the middle distance.

“But the Federation doesn’t always know best. Starfleet isn’t always right.” They said, still swirling the blue liquid into a small storm within the glass. “Like at Talkin Station?”

Maine’s breath froze, how could Zaya know anything about that? His pulse was racing now, it had been the incident that almost cost him his career, had it not been so soon after the war, with Starfleet desperate for experienced agents, he would have been relegated to one of the Federations less enjoyable penal colonies.

“They wanted you to abandon those civilians and pursue the True Way. But you didn’t, did you Maine?”

His blood ran cold. Talkin Station had been a small Federation trading post near where Cardassian, Federation and Tzenkethi space met. Starfleet had wanted to use it as an operating post for their security agents and the station management had agreed, hoping that it would bring with it some Starfleet protection.

“Starfleet is a big organisation, with big priorities. Particularly during the war.” Maine responded steadily. “I followed my orders. Once the civilians were safe.”

His pulse continued to pound in his head as he remembered the Starfleet Admiral instructing him to ‘Forget the civilians and chase down the Cardassian asset’. A strike team had assaulted the station and managed to collect a significant amount of data regarding Starfleet’s current clandestine operations; targets, agents, plans for the next 3 months. As they fled they had blown apart the engineering section, inflicting massive damage to power and life support.

“You even convinced others to ignore the orders. No small feat for a lowly Lieutenant.” Zaya whispered, their eyes now lifting to meet Maine’s.

The Miranda class Earl of Wessex had been assigned to the base as support, Maine has managed to convince it’s captain to remain at the base and evacuate the survivors aboard the station rather than pursue the Cardassian rebels. By the time the last civilians were abord the Wessex all trace of the strike team was gone. His handlers at Starfleet Security had been furious, he was shelved for a long time whilst Starfleet’s strategic plans were redrawn and assets recalled. Maine had always feared that his choice to save those aboard the station would have inevitably cost some of his fellow agents their lives.

“It takes a certain type of person to do the right thing Maine. To see what’s really important.” Ruggar said, his anger seemingly vanishing as quickly as it had appeared.

“I need to know if I can trust you to do the right thing again my friend?” Zaya said softly.

A breeze shot through the house, now cramped with worry and tension. The soft scent of warming spices that earlier in the evening suffused the air along with laughter and light were banished as a chill wind whipped through the open front door. A tall figure emerged from the open doorway, features hard to distinguish beneath the large hood amongst the low light of lamps scattered through the house.

The simple cloak was drawn back as the figure stepped foward, reavealing a black shining uniform broken up with a scaled design. It peaked into the centre of the chest, exposing long ridged collarbones; the hood fell away to reveal the face of a tall Cardassian, his wide jaw and deep set eyes fixed in a stern expression.

“May I introduce Gul Monan, of the Prokeen” Zaya paused as they crossed to the newcomer, Reggar moved to flank them, cutting off Maine’s possible exit.

“He has an offer from the True Way.”

  • Maine

    Former Team Leader - Tactical specialist

  • Zaya

    Cardassian Union Liason