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Part of SS Vondem Rose: Killing Strangers

Killing Strangers – 4

Banksy City, Kyban
May 2385; February 2401
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Early May 2385

“Sidda Sadovu, provisionally commissioned as a junior grade lieutenant in Starfleet after transferring over from the Vondem Republic Guard.” The man sitting opposite her in the bare room was the definition of bland. Average height and build, light brown hair, dark brown eyes, somewhere in the range of mid-thirties to forties. Yellow-shouldered uniform placed him most likely within the near all-encompassing sphere of Operations. No features that jumped out she could use if she had to describe the man. Probably ideal features for an interrogator sense his features would slip from her mind with time.

“A position in the guard which was secured by your grandmother, Senator Treka Sadovu, at your request and at a young age.” She’d gotten used to most people covering those details with a tone of contempt at the idea of naked nepotism. “But surprised your instructors with dedication and commitment to your task and studies, graduating forth in your class and being assigned to the guard ship Matron of the Stars.”

“Assigned to the USS Sarubaya as a helm officer upon your transfer and selected for the alpha shift by Captain Ortega in short order.” He was reading from a padd before him, idly flicking at it to progress the information though she suspected it was more to remind him of information he’d read already, or prompting him to bring up points in hopes of getting a response.

“Two commendations on record for meritorious service.” The man finished and then set the padd down in his lap, folding his hands one over the other on top of the padd. “A promising start to a career ruined by going along with your commanding officer’s decision to ignore orders issued by Command.”

“Sorry Commander, I missed your name when you entered.” It was a polite fiction she made up, placing the lack of an introduction on her and not on his simply walking into the room, sitting down, taking a minute of silence while looking at his padd before starting to talk. It was how she’d been taught by her grandmother, to be polite, and let others be the ‘better’ people in a conversation.

“No, you didn’t.” He wasn’t having any of it and that was his way of saying so. “Please don’t fabricate statements with me Lieutenant. And speak plainly and honestly.”

“Then how should I address you, sir?”

He hummed briefly; lips pressed flat in thought for a moment as he considered his answer. “Commander Carter Lynch.”

“And is there a question you’d like to ask me Commander Lynch, or further readings from my personnel jacket you’d like to read aloud for me?” She couldn’t help but smile as she crossed one knee over the other and set her hands down on her knee.

“Why did you go along with Captain Ortega’s plan to defy orders to return to Federation space?”

“It was the right thing to do,” she answered.

“The right thing to do was to return Surabaya to the right side of the border.”

“We had a convoy only a few hours short of shipping out. And then they needed help at their destination. We couldn’t just abandon them when they needed us.” She stopped to take a calming breath. No point spouting the fiction of engine issues, then sensor issues so deciding to go with the convoy to let them guide Surabaya. By now all the logs had been read anyway.

“You had orders.” He hadn’t changed his tone at all. She might as well have been speaking with a computer for all the emotions he displayed.

“We had principles.” That got a response from Lynch – an eyebrow raising a fraction.

“Interesting.”


After a few more days, a few more interrogations in featureless rooms with featureless individuals and eventually Sidda found herself reunited with fellow officers. At least those who had gone along with the captain’s plan without objection. Captain Ortega, Commander Gavalore, Doctor Shreln and Commander Duncan were all present, even given the honour of still wearing their uniform, sans a commbadge.

“Lieutenant, good to see you,” Ortega said at her admission through the room’s only door, standing to shake her hand. “Don’t suppose you know anything more about this meeting?”

“Wish I did sir,” she answered and took one of the two remaining seats when she could, Shreln offering her a smile as she sat down next to the Andorian woman. “Last few interviews were exceedingly random as well.”

“Nothing, Lieutenant Junior Grade Sadovu,” a new voice announced as the door opened to let in a grandfatherly man, his voice however crisp and clear, “is truly random within the walls of this facility.” The man walked as best as his age allowed him and sat himself down in the last seat in the room. “My people ask questions because they serve a purpose.”

“Starfleet Intelligence,” Captain Ortega grumbled. “Confirming we aren’t Romulan spies sent to bring down the Federation from within? Or that we hadn’t gone bush and sympathised with the ancient enemy?”

“But you and your senior officer had Captain,” the old man said with a smile. “Now, now, I don’t blame you. People in need, dire circumstances, the ability to help and the stereotypical Starfleet mindset of ‘do what we can where we can and then a little bit more’ meant the retreat order was always going to have problems. But the Council were thinking of the greater good of the Federation in light of recent events.”

“What do you want?” Gavalore asked. Blunt as always.

“I want to help a band of patriots keep doing what they want to do.” The old man’s smile was a weapon and from the looks something he’d perfected no doubt with a gaggle of grandchildren. He managed to radiate that helpful, friendly energy Sidda had only ever seen from her grandmother when she was busy manipulating someone into doing something they didn’t want to do.

“What are the conditions?” Doctor Shreln asked. Both of her antennae had flattened backwards against her skull.

“We have a list of assets and sources within the Star Empire still needing extraction. The cancellation of the evacuation by the Federation Council has hindered operations, but your situation presents me with an opportunity to rectify the problem and honour agreements Intelligence made in years past.”

“You want us to run extraction operations for you?” Shreln continued.

“I want you to run freelance, independent aid relief missions into the Star Empire and extract individuals of interest. Starfleet and the Federation ministries have all pulled back, but there will be efforts to help nonetheless. Medecins Sans Frontieres is already organising ships out of Kyban. A dozen other groups are springing up.” The old man then looked at Sidda. “I understand the Orion Syndicate have already run the border too.”

“I do not take kindly to insults,” she replied to him.

“Ah yes, you’re a Vondem Orion, I apologise.” He didn’t sound like he was. It was an intentional jab. “The offer also comes with a few perks to assist in your work. Your Starfleet dossiers will be scrubbed or made irrelevant as circumstances allow so you won’t run afoul of border patrols more so than anyone else running the border will. Unless you run into someone who actually recognises you that is. You’ll be granted a vessel and as much medical relief cargo as you can carry each run.”

He stood, with some effort, but still smiling. “No prison. No court-martial. You’ll be allowed to help people who truly need it, both the people that I want helped as well as those in proximity to them as you deliver aid supplies to refugee camps or however you deem fit.”

The room went quiet for a moment, then another, the officers of the Surabaya all staring each other down but not saying a word out loud. “How about I let you think about this offer and I’ll come back in a few hours. Any preferences for dinner perhaps?”


February 2401

“Wait, how old were you then?” Revin asked. She had sat herself down in Revin’s lap when the storytelling had started, keeping the bright red uniform in hand. Her eyes had closed, and she was listening, but her fingers had worked over the fabric, taking in the texture as she went.

“You know that different species mature at different rates, love. We’re not all the same.” Sidda had admitted defeat when Revin sat down, leaning the chair back just enough to kick one foot up on the table, then wrapped an arm around her lover’s waist. “But I was twenty-two standard years old.”

“And that was sixteen years ago,” the Romulan woman said aloud before turning her head to face Sidda, eyes open barely. “And your birthday…thirty-seven.”

“Yes, dear.”

“Don’t look a day over thirty.”

“Genetics, dear. And I’m sucking the youth out of a gorgeous younger woman.”

“Promises.” Revin squealed at the pinch to her thigh but was then faced with silence, which she waited out and then spoke just over a minute later. “So, you were in Starfleet.”

“Provisionally. It was a trial period if you will. Was a single review away from making it permanent. My mother never found out. Then Old Man Higgins purged my records. Mother knows I was in the Guard, then left. Grandmama won’t spill the beans either. She’s pissed at both of us for not going into the family business and trying to run off into Starfleet.”

“And what’s the family business?” Revin’s question was genuine, with no prejudgement, or asking with an idea already in mind as to the answer.

“Politics. Mercantile business is what we have people for on Vondem. And how mother and father were introduced to each other. Grandmama arranged the marriage in order to secure father’s rather extensive business under her umbrella and tie it all together with me. Vondem might be a democracy, but oh boy are there power players pulling strings all the time.” She sighed, then dropped her foot off the table and gave Revin a gentle push to tell her to get up. “We need to go see Ardot. I need him to put some feelers out.”

“Manfried? Are you going to try and deal with him before he deals with you?” Revin asked as she started to pack the crate up, taking care with each article though with Sidda’s old uniform set aside, not packed first like it would have been the last time the crate was opened.

“No. Manfried’s a beast. Honestly seen him die more times than I care to think about. More times than me even!” She smiled at Revin’s shocked look. “I’m kidding. About me at least. No, I need Ardot to do some digging. We need to find Brett Gavalore and I need to settle things with that two-timing, backstabbing bastard and get some long-overdue vengeance. And this,” she pointed at the uniform, “is T’Rev’s way of telling me Gavalore pissed him off too.”

“Stabbing with a sword or shooting him with your disruptor?” Revin asked, finally lifting the red tunic off the table and starting to fold it.

“I’ll see how I feel when I find him,” Sidda answered. “Goddesses, those uniforms were so bright.”

“Why does Starfleet have so many uniforms?”

“Keeping fashion designers employed. Also, I heard a great theory from some lower-deckers once – it’s for the time travellers. They can tell where they are pretty quickly by what everyone is wearing. If they’re fashion historians at least. Those uniforms were common on California and Parliament-class starships in the early to mid-80s. Honestly think the newer ones are better if a bit dark.”

“I like the high-cut tunic some officers are wearing.” Revin set the uniform on top of the crate’s contents and then closed the lid. “Think you’d look good in one, to be honest.” She smiled, lopsided as her lips pursed to one side and that mischievous glint came to her eyes. “Maybe later?”

“We’d need to steal one. Or a replicator pattern for one.”

“You stole a captain’s chair from a supply depot without getting caught, love. You can steal some computer codes.” Revin checked the latches one last time, then turned around and reached out gently for Sidda, arms slipping under the taller woman’s jacket. “Of course, there is always a uniform waiting for you,” she continued with a glance at the crate. “We should get that back to the ship and secure it first, shouldn’t we?”

“Yeah. Then we can see Ardot. And yes, we’ll get dumplings, as long as it’s not targ meat again. Honestly, I don’t know what people see in targ meat.”

“It was tasty!”

“It was disgusting,” Sidda said, taking one side of the crate and waiting for Revin to grab the other handle. “But if you want targ dumplings you go right ahead. I’m just hoping he’s doing those magnificent chicken and pork ones.”

“Think I can get Ardot to give me the recipe?”

“Love, with a smile from you I’m sure you could convince Ardot to give you his restaurant.” She then turned to face Revin who was smiling ear to ear. “No.”

“But what if I really want to?” she asked as they walked out of the conference room.

“No.”

“But like really, really want to?”

“No.”