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Part of SS Vondem Rose: Killing Strangers

Killing Strangers – 19

Starfleet Tower, Ayer's Rock
April 2401
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Either someone somewhere had screwed up, or careful meteorological forecasts had dictated that today of all days would be a rainy day in Banksy City on Kyban. Sidda wasn’t an expert on weather control systems, just an avid experiencer of their works, but she did know that occasionally it just had to rain. Whether that was because the weather systems needed to release pent-up fury before something truly horrendous happened, or because someone in city planning realised that rain was the easiest and most cost-effective way to water all the plants across the city, she would never know.

And frankly, didn’t care. If the weather report said it was going to be sunny, then it would be. And that was all she needed to know really. There was no guessing, no probability of rain or clouds or sun on any given day on a world like Kyban. Rain was scheduled. The perfect amount of cloud cover for sunbathing on the beaches was guaranteed.

Weather was a service.

So, the fact that it was raining as she, Jenu Trid and Revin marched across Federation Plaza, across the flagstones from hundreds of different worlds, meant that either it was scheduled, or someone had screwed up.

While she and Trid both looked the part, that of pirates turns vigilantes, Revin had opted for a far classier look with a nice dress and jacket and most importantly an umbrella that she wasn’t sharing with Trid, and not her fiancée.

“Hats,” Revin had said, eyeing Sidda’s most recent sartorial acquisition, “are just personal umbrellas.” And that had been the end of that conversation.

The concourse in front of Starfleet Tower was busier than any other around the plaza, exempt from the rain by virtue of a forefield some tens of meters above the ground, diverting rain into thicker curtains on either side and into water features. No one there gave any notice to the party as they crossed and entered the vast lobby.

“Security is higher than normal,” Trid remarked.

“Considering what happened just a few days ago,” Sidda said, “I’m not surprised.”

On their return from Ayer’s Rock they’d caught up on the goings on across the Federation. The attack on Earth during Frontier Day, the devastation caused by the Borg signal across the Federation. Starfleet’s losses, be it directly in ships and manpower, or indirectly in trauma that would manifest for decades to come. It was, to say the least, an utter mess.

“Last chance to turn around,” Trid spoke up as they crossed the Starfleet crest laid out in the atrium’s floor, ten meters across and gleaming in light coming from somewhere indistinct. “Head back to the ship, keep doing what you’re doing.”

“And you?” Revin asked.

“Report in, probably not come back. Just walking in with you probably has handlers worried I’m compromised.” Trid shrugged and smiled at that. “Honestly, stick with you much longer boss and I’ll probably go AWOL. You’ve been out there fighting the good fight. If…unorthodox and outside the regs.”

“Pretty sure killing pirates and slavers still counts as murder.” Sidda stared at the large semi-circular desk ahead of them, of the smiling and friendly-looking receptionists behind it, obviously waiting for people to approach before greeting them. “But nasty intel chiefs are just as bad, if not worse. Higgins left the Surabaya crew out to dry. Guess I have to keep doing Starfleet’s homework by pointing out the rot in the house.”

“Why certainly Captain Sidda,” the cheery receptionist answered after they had approached and asked to speak with someone from Operations, specifically Internal Affairs. They’d even gotten her preferred name right, which hinted at a few things, namely that someone was likely watching and had advised the receptionist on just how to greet her. “If you’d like to wait just over there,” they indicated a collection of couches and low tables, “someone will be with you shortly.”

Shortly turned out to be barely two minutes before six individuals, all looking capable of manhandling anyone in her little party by themselves, approached parting to allow a seventh less imposing figure to approach. The woman was between Sidda and Revin’s own height, matronly looking and while not physically imposing, looked like just a look from her would cause any of the walking slabs of muscle around her to wither and die. “Lieutenant Jenu, Captain Sadovu,” she greeted them rather harshly. “Madam th’Ven,” she said to Revin, with a degree of civility clearly practised with greeting foreign representatives. “If you’ll come with me, and promptly.”

A glance to Trid, an affirming nod of the head, and they were encircled and on their way to a turbolift bank. Doors opened, they poured inside and as they turned, the doors closing, across from them they could see another set of doors opening, an equal number of physically imposing figures and one elderly gentleman in front.

Higgins.

Sidda couldn’t help but wave at him as the doors closed, savouring the recognition on his face. He had been old when she last saw him fifteen years ago. Time had not been any kinder to him. Wrinkles lent themselves to his expression though and she couldn’t help but smile as realization gripped him as to what his possible futures could be.

“Don’t think for a moment Lieutenant Sadovu that we’re going to be gentler on you than Starfleet Intelligence would have been,” the woman who had collected them warned. “But we will at least be fairer. And ensure what you have to say will be listened to.”

“As long as that bastard gets his, I think I’ll be happy.”

She had planned for a couple of days of interrogations, uncomfortable questions and fierce grilling. She thought she had mentally prepared herself for it. But after five days it was starting to grate on her. She’d been kept here, ‘for your own safety’ they had insisted, while they questioned her. Reassured Revin was safe, and even allowed to talk to her briefly a few times. No harm, outside of bland company and repeated questions.

Pirate and smuggler locations across the entire Archanis sector, beyond even if she knew. Names, ships, what sort of business people were in. They knew she was keeping details to herself, not lying but omitting details. The Betazoid they brought to a few of their ‘debriefings’ as they insisted the interrogations were called had confirmed as such.

Some of the smugglers she’d met weren’t bad people, just ones who saw certain laws as stupid. Or did actual good work getting things where they actually needed to be. They didn’t need to suffer. But she knew all sorts of folks who did. Folks she hadn’t been able to round up herself and either end or hand over to Starfleet after the Century Storm. Those she detailed extensively.

And then came the questions about Higgins. She answered everything. Told them what he had set them up to do. How he’d never recalled them or formally ended things, just made it harder and harder, like he was setting them up to fail.

It was around lunch on the sixth day, food having been brought into the bland interrogation room, that she got to see Revin and Trid again. Trid looked emotionally and mentally exhausted like she’d been answering questions non-stop as she had. Revin, as always, looked a marvel of beauty and a picture of relaxation. Just seeing her gave Sidda some more energy and a smile on her face.

She couldn’t help it. Revin just did that to her.

But seeing those she had entered the building with was just a setup before another face entered the room. A single person this time, no team of interviewers. A Fleet Captain, if the pips and bar on her uniform meant the same thing that Sidda was familiar with. “Please, sit,” the woman stated, her tone calm and controlled, if not too precise.

“You here to tell me when I’m finally getting out of here?” Sidda asked, not sitting. “And that Higgins is under arrest perhaps?”

“Captain Higgins is currently being detained pending a full investigation of his activities,” the Fleet Captain answered as she took one of the empty seats the interviewers had used, setting down a small satchel bag with her beside her chair. It wasn’t a large bag – enough for a few padds, a water bottle, and maybe a few other items. “With the information you have provided and the assistance of his staff, his career prospects do not look promising.”

That tonal control, that lack of emotion in her voice, grated with Sidda. She was looking at a Vulcan. Or someone who aspired to be one. It was like talking with a computer.

“Who are you?” she asked the newcomer.

The woman indicated for Sidda to sit, refusing to speak more until she’d had her way. Standing off for nearly a minute, Sidda finally sat down, Revin reaching out and taking her hand, which she allowed, giving a slight squeeze as Revin locked fingers.

“Thank you,” the woman said with a nod. “I am Fleet Captain Alexandra Sudari-Kravchik,” she answered the question posed to her finally. “Deputy Director, Fourth Fleet Intelligence.” She paused long enough to let Sidda roll her eyes, sigh loudly and get reprimanded by Revin non-verbally. “I have read the statements you have provided to Internal Affairs and the Judge Advocate General’s office. I would like to hear what you have to say on the subject of Doctor T’Halla Shreln directly however.”

“Why?” Sidda asked.

“I prefer primary sources versus secondary and tertiary sources.” Sudari-Kravchik didn’t flinch, move, or any other social twitch that might give something away. She was in control of herself. But a few seconds from Sidda conveyed the non-verbal ‘And?’ well enough. “Your debriefing, mentioning Doctor Shreln as it did, set off a few alarms. Reviewing recent information, I have confirmed that Doctor Shreln was recently spotted travelling across the Cardassian border.” She produced a padd and handed it over. “I would prefer we bring Doctor Shreln in alive if possible, before she engages in some other act of terror.”

It took Sidda a few minutes to review what she’d been given, then hand the padd over to Trid to review when she was done. Then, and only then did she look to Revin, studying those eyes. Sure, they were prosthetics, but it was the person behind them she was seeing. She just stared into Revin’s eyes for a few moments, or an eternity, it didn’t really matter – it was long enough to decide her course of action.

“I have conditions,” she finally said.

“I am certain you do,” Sudari-Kravchik answered. “As do I.” She reached into the bag at her side once more, producing a second padd and a small black box. The latter set on the former, she handed it over to Sidda.

Box handed to Revin for a moment, she activated the padd and read it, mouth dropping as she read the short note on it, then turned to Revin, who was holding the box open, displaying the modern and entirely new commbadge within as well as the three silver pips directly underneath it.

“Fuck,” Trid whispered as she saw the boxes contents.

“Liberally interpreting your exploits since starting work for Captain Higgins as a Starfleet Intelligence operation, time in grade would have gotten you this far at least.” Sudari-Kravchik broke the silent tension that had settled as Trid, Revin and Sidda all stared at the commbadge and pips. “Shall we discuss our conditions?”