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Part of SS Vondem Rose: Killing Strangers

Killing Strangers – 18

SS Vondem Rose
April 2401
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Calling the old Thorn crew together in the conference room was Sidda’s first order upon returning to the Vondem Rose. The second order was given immediately, delaying the first by thirty minutes – she and everyone who had gone planetside needed a shower. And a decent meal if they could convince, cajole or con Kevak into giving them one.

Which would be made worse by having invited Kevak to the meeting as well. She could hear his complaints now – why should he make something for someone to eat when he has places to be? Never mind that he had two, no three, apprentice chefs. Of course, the third wouldn’t be available for helping anyone sneak in a meal before the meeting since she was presently busy.

“So, you’re going to tell everyone the truth?” Revin asked from the door to the en suite.

Klingon ships, particularly warships, weren’t renowned for their creature comforts or amenities, but press one into ‘civilian’ service with an Orion captain flush with funds from exciting adventures and it was surprising how much things could change. Better sound insulation, a training room becoming a holodeck, replicators for quick drinks and snacks (though curiously nowhere near the mess hall) and mostly importantly hot and cold running water for a vast majority of quarters.

“The truth they need to hear,” Sidda answered back from under the hot water. The water, the heat, the humidity – all were so different to the climes of Ayer’s Rock. It was a luxury she relished in, having stood in the near-torrent now for five minutes after the business of washing the dust and dirt off of herself. “And deserve,” she continued.

“Orelia looked pissed,” Revin said. “Near murderous even.”

“She has no love for Starfleet. Probably thinks that my grandmother and I have been lying to her.” With an effort of will she nearly failed at, Sidda brought herself to turning off the shower and reaching out for her towel and finding nothing. Eyes opened, she looked at where it was supposed to be, then to the door, finding Revin standing there, a grin on her lips and towel in hand. “Please?”

“I want to know what your plans are,” Revin stated. “This revelation is going to change everything.”

She stalked out of the shower, dripping water as she went, and closed on Revin, taking hold of the towel but finding the smaller woman unrelenting in her hold on it. A gentle tug had been resisted, a more assertive one turned into a slight struggle which she let Revin win as she let go. First with a sigh, then a drawing in of breath to centre herself, she explained herself. “I’m going back to Kyban and surrendering myself to Starfleet Operations. I’m going to explain everything Higgins wanted us to do in the Romulan border regions following Starfleet’s withdrawal from the evacuation efforts and his hanging us to dry. And then give them as much information as I can on the various pirate and black-market groups that I can just for kicks.”

“Why?” Revin asked, finally surrendering the towel, but not until after being very obvious about looking Sidda over, a smirk on her lips.

“T’Rev’s people are going to release what information they have, which is going to ruin me as a pirate -”

“Which you aren’t,” Revin interrupted.

“Which I am,” she countered, earning a raised eyebrow that said ‘uh huh’ in almost every culture she was aware of. “So if I’m fucked, might as well burn as many of the bastards as I can on the way out the door since I won’t get a chance to do it personally.” She finished with her hair, still a wet and heavy mess, and dried herself briefly before wrapping the towel around herself and closed on Revin, a kiss on her forehead as she pushed past into the bedroom and the wardrobe beyond. “And I want to burn Higgins for instigating everything in the first place. Fucking manipulative bastard.”

“So, faced with a potential career-ending revelation, your intent is to get in front of it and bring down as many people as possible with you.” Revin hadn’t moved from her spot save to turn on her heels to face her. “How very Old Romulan of you.”

“What can I say, misery loves company,” Sidda said, selecting a few items and making the motions of getting ready to face her people. “Worst comes to worst, I’m also going to take the entire blame for everything the Rose has done that Starfleet and the Federation are going to try and throw at me and put Gaeda and Orelia in charge. The crew are largely good people, they should be allowed to keep doing what they’re doing.”

“And you’ve set up a decent enough mechanism to let them keep doing what they’re doing,” Revin said. “What about me?”

“What about you?” Sidda asked as she turned on her fiancée.

“Where do I fit in all of this?” Revin continued. “You could be facing prison time at worst, a marred reputation and an impediment to your company at best. Where do I go? What do I do?”

Sidda stopped, half-dressed and just stared at Revin before taking the other woman’s hands in her own. “I’m not letting you go. I said I’d keep you safe. I’ve said I want to spend my life with you. We’ll figure something out. Just…just need to see what options I have in front of me after the dust settles.”

“Could open a cafe somewhere,” Revin said with a smile. “Get Ardot’s recipes, move far away from the Archanis Sector.”

“I don’t know,” Sidda said. “The quiet life? Me?”

“Think about it,” Revin said before planting a kiss on Sidda’s cheek. “Now get dressed or you’ll be late to your own meeting.”

In the end, she was late for her own meeting. Late enough that the old gang were all settled in their seats and conversation had died a sharp and sudden death upon her entry into the room with Revin at her side. Everyone looked at her, some expectant, others angry. Orelia didn’t wait for Sidda to start talking, to try and explain herself. She threw the old commbadge, Sidda’s old commbadge to be precise, onto the table. It landed just in front of Sidda’s spot, the point directly at her like an arrowhead.

“Answers,” Orelia growled. “Now.”

“I never lied to you,” Sidda said directly to Orelia. “I just…was economical with the full truth.”

There was no retort, just that glare.

“Perhaps boss, you should start from the beginning,” Gaeda said, his tone far softer than Orelia’s. In fact, it sounded downright pleasant. “Because it sounds like you’ve got one hell of a story to tell and more than a few rumours and myths to dispel.”

“Hey, not my fault people came up with ideas in the absence of information.” Sidda sat herself down finally, then purposefully made a show of pulling Revin down to sit across her lap. This wasn’t the bridge, this wasn’t any of the hordes of newer crew members. This was the old gang from the Rose, where privacy had been a premium and everyone knew she and Revin were a couple.

It ultimately took her a few times to start the story, to be fully honest about her origins and pathway to this current lifestyle. Her youth on Vondem in her father’s and then grandmother’s household as her mother gallivanted across the stars in Starfleet. Her admiration for that seeming freedom in the face of her grandmother’s machinations for political and cultural power. Sweet talking her way into the planetary guard, playing the role everyone expected at first to get her foot in the door before stunning everyone with competency and capability before playing that into a transfer into Starfleet.

She explained her short and sweet career, interim though it may have been. That feeling of ‘doing the right thing’ during the height of the evacuation effort, then the sudden dash as the attack on Mars broke the Federation’s resolve to help their old enemy and leave them to their fate. That determination to keep going despite the cowardice of command before being brought to heel.

She was not pleased, while during her storytelling, to see Bones and Kevak exchanging actual hard currency as she relayed her past. But Revin’s close presence kept her calm and after a few exchanges Revin was even updating her on the total each time it happened. The momentary wonder of how her formerly blind lover was even keeping track answered with a wink, drawing attention to those subtly and magnificent prostheses.

And then she started on the downward spiral paved with good intentions. The desire to do right by the common Romulan people, the officers of the Surabaya who took Higgins’ offer and did his little retrieval jobs for support while running supplies and materials across the border, helping relocate people as and where they could. How the support started to be cut back, so deals were made with less than reputable parties to get what they needed. Captain Ortega’s death, Gavalore’s running their operation further and further into debt to parties with unsavoury intent.

And then Gavalore’s supposed murder of T’Halla Shreln and his near attempt on her own life. Being rescued by smugglers and her own self-imposed exile for having failed at things so badly. She didn’t want to go back to the palace life on Vondem, her grandmother’s intent to marry her off to some family or another to secure political ties for their lineage. She couldn’t go back to Starfleet. So she just fell into the smuggling and then pirate life. Eventually, she reached out, her father helping her secure a ship of her own (another exchange between Bones and Kevak) from people he knew. And the rest, from there, they all knew.

Years working together, straddling the law, breaking it from time to time, working it in the shadows. But with a clear and set code of their own. She still believed in those ideals and morals that had set her on the path towards Starfleet in the first place, but the Federation had failed them after Mars. So someone else had to take charge, right?

It took nearly an hour, fielding the odd question from here and there as she went as specifics and clarifications were sought. But it was mostly just her telling the story of her life, of explaining herself and dispelling the stories that had arisen in her silence about her own history. And when she finished, silence had settled over the conference room, everyone glancing around the table for a bit, waiting to see who would break the silence first.

Of course it would be Orelia.

She stood, glared at Sidda, and then huffed out a pent-up breath. “I’m not angry at you,” she said quietly, clearly a mask for raging emotions. “But your grandmother is a manipulative, lying, two-timing bitch. She could have given me some fucking warning.” And with that, she was marching towards the exit.

“No argument here,” Sidda said, causing Orelia to pause at the door. “And for what it’s worth cousin, I’m sorry.”

“I never asked,” came the response and then Orelia was gone. Someone, somewhere was about to have a bad day when she finally boiled over.

“I’ve got more questions,” Gaeda said, now the silence was broken. “But I’ll bring a bottle of whiskey and we’ll talk it out. Respect though boss.” He concluded with a single firm nod to her. He too had left the fleet over the decision to quit helping the Romulans in the wake of Mars. Turns out a lot of people had seemingly.

“What are you planning to do now?” Kevak asked, having sat himself down at the far end of the table, opposite Sidda. He had been there when she arrived and she doubted anyone, even Telin, had argued with the Klingon when he had sat himself there.

“We’re on our way to Kyban now. I’m going to have words with Na’roq about securing the future of the business and then I’m going to have a word with Starfleet Operations and see about torpedoing as many pirates and slavers as I can by giving Starfleet as much dirt and intel as I can.”

Kevak merely nodded a few times. “Not Starfleet Intelligence?”

“Not on Kyban. I want to drag Higgins down for the bullshit he pulled. Call it a personal slight I want righted. Going to Intel on Kyban will get nothing done. Operations is the way to go.” She looked to Trid, who at first gave her the ‘who me?’ look, then shrugged after a silent interrogation of a few seconds.

“Yeah, that’s the way to go. Operations and Intel have their pissing contest, so surrendering to Operations is the way to go. They’ll get the JAG involved and Higgins will find his life getting damn interesting.” Trid looked over the faces of everyone now staring at her. “Guess I should come clean too. Lieutenant Jenu, Starfleet Operations.”

“Fucking dammit,” Bones hissed as she fished out coins from a pocket and dropped them into Kevak’s outstretched hand. “You weren’t supposed to be the spy,” she said directly to Trid. “Was supposed to be the twins.” Both T’Ael and R’tin looked a little shocked at that. So did Trid to be fair.

Silence settled back over the room in an uneasy fashion. It grew awkward in quick succession.

“Pah!” Kevak roared as he stood. “It is your life and you’ve lived it so far with honour as far as I’ve seen.” He stomped down the length of the table and stared Sidda down as he did. “When they inevitably lock you away for doing the right thing, just tell us where. I shall lead the rescue myself.” His gaze then went to Orin and Telin, who both nodded in agreement. And then he was, complaining about needing to prepare something for dinner.

It was joined soon by echoing statements from all but Bones, who just looked up from her perpetual cup of coffee. “What? Someone has to stay behind and patch you all up afterwards.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Sidda finally said. “We should hit Kyban orbit in six hours. Trid, get your door-kicking boots on.”

“Right you are boss,” Trid answered. “Cuffs or no cuffs?”

“Oh cuffs please,” Revin answered before Sidda could even think about it. “Bring them by as soon as you can.”

Trid’s stammering and blush were, to be fair, priceless.

“Let’s go with no cuffs.” Sidda’s attention then turned to the twins. “I need one of you to start removing the captain’s chair when he hit Kyban as well and pack it for shipping.”

“Oh come on now,” Gaeda complained. “I’m not going back to the horrible Klingon monstrosity.”

“Well have to free up space for the new custom chair I ordered last time we were here,” she answered, getting Gaeda’s full attention. “Same company that made all of these chairs.” She tapped the arm of her conference chair. “With all the functionality you can want and more.”

“Where we sending the Starfleet chair then?” R’tin asked.

“I don’t know just yet.” Sidda scrunched her face in thought for a moment. “I hear there’s a new Endeavour. Maybe they’ll want it for some shipboard museum or something.”