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NDak

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About NDak

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  1. It had been a little over a month since the Elarion had been suddenly redirected to the Neutral Zone in what had obviously been a show-the-flag move by command, and then even more suddenly withdrawn from the Neutral Zone. Destorie had anticipated being sent back on patrol of the border worlds near what the Federation called the Pampiont sector. “Enarrain,” Tyras’ voice had chimed over the comms in his chambers. “Incoming priority message from Galae Command. Routing to your station.” Destorie had come to greatly appreciate Tyras’ efficiency, and he activated the viewer. He had expected Admiral Lakel’e Hvaern and his icy glower to replace the spinning t’Liss, but was instead greeted by an unfamiliar face -- a Vice-Admiral Jaeln Krelav. He was young, maybe even close to Destorie’s age. “Good afternoon,” he said before Destorie could assess him further. “You will be receiving new orders via secure comms by the time we finish our conversation. The Elarion is to leave the Neutral Zone and head for the Parisn sector at best possible speed. You’ll receive additional instructions once you arrive.” Destorie’s brows shot up. He tried and failed to recall anything of note about that particular sector of Romulan space before Krelav continued. This is a priority mission. I expect you to get underway immediately. Your orders should be arriving now. Krelav out.” The abruptness had left Destorie stunned. As the Elarion sped towards Parisn, he was still taken aback. Tyras and Lhaelev had been diving through the archives to find anything about the sector with very little success. “It’s a backwater nowhere,” Tryas said over coffee the next morning. “A few scattered settlements and mining operations. The Galae barely has a presence there -- just a few older cruisers and one aging outpost on Golan IV.” “Anything recently?” Destorie asked. “No, not on record anyway.” But they had barely arrived in the Parisn sector when they were once again called back to the Neutral Zone. Destorie could barely contain his annoyance when Krelav delivered the news. “What now?” He let a hint of discontent through. Oblivious, Krelav continued without giving any rise. “A Federation science team has gone missing in the Outmarches. While they have yet to ask for our assistance, we want you to head to the sector anyway.” “A science team?” Krelav nodded. Destorie had done some digging after their first encounter and was shocked to learn that Krelav was indeed close to his own age and even less time as a commanding officer, but so far as Destorie could tell no obvious patron or nepotistic tie to explain his rapid ascent. That made the Elarions’ commanding officer even more suspicious. “It was originally supposed to be a joint team of Romulan and Federation scientists, but the Romulan side of the expedition was canceled. We did, however, grant permission for the Federation to continue. I am sending you a full brief over secure channel now.” Destorie frowned again. “I see. I thought the Parsin mission was priority?” “It was. Now it’s not.” A slightly younger Destorie would have almost certainly responded with an expletive, but time--and experience--had tempered him just enough to suppress the urge. “Ahh -- so what exactly are our orders then?” “You are to proceed to the Outmarches and the coordinates indicated in the enclosed secure file, undercloak and observe. If, at such time as the Federation requests our assistance, you will be given orders to do so” Having finished the briefing, Destorie contemplated hurling something against his wall, but a chime at the door interrupted. “Enter.” It was Khaena. “Enarrain,” she said crisply. “I was told you wished to speak to me?” Her formality was slightly alarming, and on the heels of his conversation with Krelav he had to force himself to remain calm. “I just wanted to check in on you. Tyras told me you missed the staff briefing this morning. That isn’t like you.” “I sent an aide. As far as I knew, that was acceptable. Unless something has changed? I was very busy this morning with a patient -- Erein Nakeln has an acute case of Gemarintitis.” “Of course, that’s perfectly fine. But you’ve also been avoiding me. I just --” Khaena crossed her arms cooly. “Have I?” He nodded. “You missed the reception, and you haven’t came to nag me about brooding over our new orders. I just -- is everything okay?” “Well, as I said, I’ve been busy seeing to my duties. I am not your mother.” The words were delivered with such sting that Destorie couldn’t help be be taken back. “Khaena -- what -- I ---” “As I said, I am very busy. If all you needed was a status update, next time I suggest simply asking me directly instead of calling me to your office,” she said, still standing just inside the door way. “If there’s nothing else, I do have a department to run.” “What in Elements name has gotten into you Khaena.” Khaena’s demeanor darkened and she felt her heart jump into her throat. She’d been trying to put this confrontation off, but she should have known Destorie would press the issue. “Permission to speak freely, Enarrain.” The edge to her voice cut through the air and Destorie blinked in stunned silence before shaking his head. “You’ve never asked for permission before speaking your mind to me before, why now?” She sighed. “Two weeks ago I received a coded transmission from an associate of Gaen’s. I guess all of my poking around for you into whatever scheme the Tal’Shiar are upto caught his attention. Destorie tipped his head but let her continue. “I suppose it’s obvious why you wouldn’t have told me about how intimately your family was involved with the operation Gaen was investigating when he dis-- was murdered. And no I am not angry about that. You are not your sister or even your father. You’re many things, but you’re not them and I don’t hold you responsible for their actions--” She shook her head. “Don’t apologize, either. I suppose I wanted to believe that you -- you know it doesn’t matter what I wanted to believe that. I wanted -- never mind.” Standing straighter she took a deep breath. “He confirmed some of what you’ve been fearing. The shipments are illicit and they’re connected to what Gaen was investigating.” It was, Destorie understood, confirmation that Gaen really was dead, and that in all likelyhood, his sister had been the instrument of his demise. He let the moment and Khaena breath before clearing his throat. “Finally some good news, but I am afraid we won’t be able to act on it. We’re headed back to the Outmarches.” Khaena frowned. “Again?” Destorie related their new orders, as well as his thoughts on the Vice-Admiral. When he’d finished, Khaena, who by now was sitting across from him and seemed much more at ease, scrunched her nose. She really should have retired when she had the chance, she thought to herself, but after a moment, she sighed. “I’ll send you the information,” she said, “but if you don’t mind, I’d like to focus on my duties aboard the ship.” He understood of course and said it wasn’t a problem. Standing, Khaena headed for the door. “Should I send Tyras in with a warning?” “Please do.” She nodded, pausing once more before leaving. “Enar--Destorie,” she said. “Thank you for everything. I suppose none of this has been easy for you either.”
  2. The Hyspert system was located just inside the Oralis Nebula which stretched lazily across the Federation border and into the no-man’s land that had separated it from the Romulan Empire for over two centuries. Technically, Romulan ships -- as well as Starleet -- were supposed to remain out of the Neutral Zone, unless both sides mutually agreed to their presence, but in reality, the Neutral Zone was more or less Romulan space -- Galae warships routinely patrolled it, and they had, over the years, established numerous covert bases and listening posts. The nature of the nebula, however, rendered the famed Romulan cloaking device inoperable, meaning Starfleet would likely detect the Elarion and her fleet mates. The provocative intent was rather obvious. Destorie frowned, looking out at the near barren star system from his ship’s observation deck. Three cold, icy rocks that could only nominally be called planets circled the system’s primary, a dull, yellow main-sequence star. The only notable feature of the entire system was brilliant, blue-green gas giant at the system’s edge. The Elarion’s science compliment -- such as it was -- had asked if they could conduct a survey of the planet while they waited for whatever it was Galae wanted them to do next. Tyras thought it would give them something to do, “idle hands,” he’d said bemusedly when he brought the suggestion to his commanding officer. Destorie approved, though he reminded them the system had been catalogued before, though he decided not to mention it had been his own ship, the Talon, that had completed that particular survey. His frown deepened. It had been over a decade since the Talon had been at Hyspert conducting a survey of the system. Everything seemed simpler then -- he only had his own expectations to live up too and few of his current worries or cares. His brooding, however, was interrupted by his first officer. “Enarrain,” Tyras said politely. “Thaetix and Fulmic are entering the system and have requested further instructions. Shall I have them take up standard patrol posture?” Destorie nodded. “That would be good. Send my compliments to their Commanders. Maybe we should have them over for dinner, what do you think?” “I think you want to show off,” Tyras said with a sly grin. “Too which I approve of... sir.” Returning the sly grin, Destorie turned back to look out the window. “Good, have the galley arrange everything. Say 1800 hours. I think just command staff at this point. We can discuss our orders more freely.” “Prudent.” Tyras stood at a lazy attention. Their relationship had warmed, but he was still his commander and a degree of respect was due. “Was there anything else?” Tyras cleared his throat. “The Itarn reports they’re continuing to monitor the Baruv. It appears our former guests have tried to mask their warp signature, but the homing device we planted is continuing to function. They’re remaining on course to Cete III, and should arrive in the system early tomorrow.” “Interesting.” “It’s just all very... unusual, sir. Why wouldn’t the Tal’Shiar have given them a cloaking device? And why send three lackeys unless you wanted them to get caught -- and then when they did, you ride to the rescue?” Destorie shrugged, turning to face his executive officer again. “I don’t know, but nothing about it sits right with me, but for now we have our own mission to focus on.” “Why do you think they picked us?” “I can’t be sure. The Khre’Riov, said it was because of my experience in dealing with the Lloann’na, but there any number of more senior commanders with extensive experience in dealing with them.” “You sound skeptical.” “It’s just a feeling. After what happened in the Gamma Quadrant --” Destorie trailed off, looking to the windows again. Tyras’ brow lifted slightly -- Destorie had spoke little of his last assignment as senior military liason in the Gamma Quadrant. As far as Tyras knew, that position had ended when the Allies had agreed to withdraw due to the instability of the Dominion. If there was something more to it though. “Oh?” “It’s a long story -- but suffice to say that there are those who favor Sihhus Lakhraem who do not exactly trust my loyalty.” “Then why give you such an assign--” A frown formed on Tyras’ face, deepening as the realization took hold. “A test?” “Or a trap. Either way, I am concerned.” “What do you know about the other commanders then?” “Not much, I’ve only ever served with Gaenor’s t’Laen and then only briefly. She’s old school and past her prime, but we can trust her I think. “Riov tr’Glhen of the Fulmic was at the Retor a few years ahead of me. He’s a capable commander. Not very political as far as I know. His family are outworlders.” “And tr’Hvler?” Destorie’s ever deepening frown didn’t waiver as he turned again. “Younger than you or me. His family is from one of the core worlds -- ch’Naeha? And if I remember correctly, his father is some sort of administrator or something.” “An opportunist?” “Mhmm” Destorie said, not unaware of how someone might describe him. “We should be cautious towards him. Command may simply have thought I was the best suited to lead the task force, but I have my doubts.” “With respect, Enarrain, you shouldn’t be so modest. You earned your rank.” “I like to think so,” Destorie said. “But I can’t help but question command’s motives.” Tyras nodded. “If there was nothing else then, sir. I should see to the preparations for tonight.” “Of course.” Arrain Esael tr’Dael leaned back in his chair. The Oira had finally quieted down now that the command staff of the four warbirds had completed their tour of the Elarion and the third shift had taken over. As Chief of Sciences, he could easily be sleeping, but he was taking the relative period of quiet to monopolize the primary sensor array and scan the fourth planet of the Hyspert system. Esael had actually been rather surprised that the Enarrain had blessed his proposal to complete a survey. Nothing about the brooding, bald commanding officer had suggested he had the slightest interest in science. Perhaps he’d judged him too quickly? He shrugged. It wasn’t exactly an uncommon view for a Galae commander to take. Warbirds weren’t Federation cruise ships with whole decks dedicated to science laboratories and a small army of science officers. Instead most Galae vessels were only equipped with very basic laboratories and only a handful of personnel dedicated to research. “Never look a gift horse in the mouth,” the medical officer had told him after their staff meeting when he’d expressed his surprise. Esael wasn’t entirely sure what a horse was, or why it would be giving him a gift, but he could appreciate the sentiment. He glanced back to data being fed to him by a class II probe circling in the icy giant. It was relatively straight forward. High concentrations of methane, ammonia and nitrogen, likely with some sort of solid core. It had nearly a dozen moons. Most of which were barren rocks not dissimilar from three terrestrial inner planets of the system. One however, caught his eye -- Hyspert 4G. A previous survey of the system had identified it as worthy of a follow up at a later date, but apparently that had never happened. It was, unlike most satellites in the outer edges of a solar system, comprised mostly of silicate rock surrounding a molten iron-sulfide core. Volcanic activity marred its surface. There was, from his initial scans, a thin, barely breathable atmosphere. Esael made a comment in the file and directed the probe to continue its work. The Elarion could spend a full week or more surveying the system, but he assumed they wouldn’t get that. The Enarrain hadn’t been entirely forthing coming about why the small task force had been assembled or what exactly their mission entailed. Like most, the science officer assumed the less he knew better. Still he couldn’t help but wonder. The third shift officers clearly shared his sentiment. Maelc, as usual, was riding heard on them, but the events of the last few days had left them all a bit unsettled. “I don’t like it,” Maelc said lowly to Kaev, as he paced the bridge. “Being this deep in the Outmarches.” Kaev shrugged. There was little they could about it, even if he shared the sentiment. “Best keep those thoughts to yourself,” he said making a gesture. “The Enarrain has his orders.” Frowning, Maelc resumed pacing. Below them, dinner was continuing apace. The orderlies had cleared the table from the main course and were preparing to bring out dessert. At the head of the oblong table, Destorie sat quietly sipping a glass of bubbling champagne. The conversation had been polite and so far, nonpolitical. Ayea Laen as the most senior of the commanders sat opposite of him. Though getting on in her years, she cast a handsome figure and her long, greying hair added a touch of distinction. Dhavin Glhen sat to Destorie’s right, beside of Tyras. He was a bit older than Destorie, but was still quite fit. The youngest of the riovs Rhen Hvler sat to Destorie’s left. He was short, thin, and nearly impossible to read. “I must compliment you, Enarrain,” Ayea said, putting her glass of brown, bubbly liquid down. “Their are Enriovs whose serve poorer food, and this champagne is excellent.” “Thank you,” Destorie tried earnestly at modesty. “It is a particularly good year.” “Is it from your family vinyards?” Dhavin asked. Destorie nodded. “Historically we only produced ales -- particularly sparkling ale -- but my grandfather expanded the operation to produce wine, port, and champagne.” “So,” Rhen said as dessert was brought out. “Why exactly are we here, in the Outmarches.” The question hung in the air. Neither Ayea or Dhavin ventured to resolve it, leaving Destorie to sigh reluctantly. Finally, when it became obvious a response was required, he took a deep breath and cleared his throat. “I am sure you’re aware of the developments regarding the sale of warships by the Elasians to the Cardassians, Riov.” He nodded, and Destorie continued. “The Federation has informed the Praetor that, despite their own reservations, and formal protests by our government and the other members of the Bajoran Accords, they’re allowing the sales to go forward.” “That’s not unexpected,” Jaehv Mamil, Ayea’s first officer interjected. “What does it have to do with us?” Ayea gave Jaehv a warning glance, but offered no further reproach. Destorie exhaled. “It’s okay, Riov,” he said, directing it to her, “It’s a valid question. Galae Command has been tasked with sending a message to the Federation.” “So that’s it then, we’re just here to show the flag?” “For now,” Destorie said, leaning back into his chair. “Praetor Gaher is scheduled to have a call with the new Federation president, I am told, early tomorrow to again ask him to at least delay the sale.” Dhavin frowned. “And if they don’t?” “Then we may be ordered to intercept them in Neutral Space.” “Intercept them?” Ayea’s concern was obvious. “We’re not talking about using force against our allies are we?” “The Elasians aren’t our allies,” Rhen said, glancing briefly to Ayea. “And they’re helping to rearm the same people who killed your son. Surely you, of all people, can see why we cannot allow this.” Ayea’s eyes darted to Rhen. If they had been disruptors, Desotire noted wryly to himself, the young Riov would have been vaporized. Tyras eyes were wide and he looked to Destorie to see his response. Perhaps more calmly than Tyras expected, Destorie cleared his throat. “Please,” he said, “enjoy the flan. We can talk more about the implications later. There is still a chance the Federation will accede to reason.” Dinner ended more or less without another incident. As the others left, Destorie found himself alone with Rhen. His uniform fit snugly around a muscled torso. Perhaps too snugly, Destorie considered. He had dark, dispassionate eyes that were sunk into, for a Romulan, a waxen face that made his eyes and hair seem even darker. “Forgive my... lack of tact earlier,” he said, with a slight tip of his head. “I spoke out of turn..” Destorie forced a smile. There was something vexing about Rhen, but Destorie couldn’t entirely pinpoint the origin of the feeling. “It was nothing, I am sure that Riov Laen has already forgotten.” “Still, thank you for... your diversion. I suppose you’re used to that.” Without thinking, Destorie lifted a brow. “To what?” “Oh,” Rhen said with a flare. “Just that I must imagine in a family, such as yours, heated political arguments are common, especially given the differences of opinion between your parents.” Destorie felt a ball forming in his stomach and working its way up to his chest. He forced a smile even though the words “such as yours” blazed through him like a fire hitting pure oxygen. Tyras had been casually evesdropping on the conversation while pretending to listen to the first officer of the Fulmic. At the mention of the House of N’Dak, however, Tyras politely excused himself and headed towards the two commanders. He was surprised, however, to see Destorie smiling. “Well you know what they say,” Destorie said, every fiber of his being twitching with the urge to cut the little brat down to size. “Life burns, politics burn, ale burns --” “But dull are life with without them.” Tyras interjected. “Isn’t that the truth.” Destorie nodded politely to Tyras, mentally making a note to thank him later. “Enarrain,” Tyras continued. “I believe Centurion Lhaelev was looking for you just now.” “Ah, of course yes. He had a report for me on some adjustments to the communications array. I really must be going, Riov. I hope you have enjoyed your evening. Shaoi ben, tr’Hvlar.” Before the Riov could respond, Destorie slipped off, leaving Tyras to hide his bemusement at Destorie’s use of honorifics to remind Rhen of his junior status.
  3. A low hum prevailed across the oira of the Elarion. At the center of the room, a single, solitary chair overlooked the pit containing the helm and navigation stations. Daise’Erei’Riov Tyras Vlaen ran his hands along the smooth upholstery. He paused for a moment, considering the supple, grey leather. It was, he decided, actual leather and recently done. A rarity among smaller ships in the fleet. They had been in space less than a week and so far ship and crew were functioning well. Their mission took them to the frontier of the Romulan Empire where they were to patrol the border worlds -- a place where many ships seemed to be sent these days, he noted. Tyras had spent little time in the Outlands, as they were often called. Whispers of insurgency among the border worlds had become common among the elite of the home worlds. He hoped that they were overstated. He ran his hands along the upholstery again. Just how did an older patrol craft get such a premium command chair? His thoughts trailed in the direction of double doors to his left -- the commander’s chambers. Though none of the other senior officers had been brave enough to voice them in his presence, Tyras knew they too had questions about their new commanding officer. It wasn’t just that he was relatively young or that he came from a somewhat infamous bloodline, but that in addition to all of that he carried the rank of Enarrain in place of the usual Riov. Which, like the plush chair, was out of place on such an unremarkable vessel as the Elarion. A human translator might not have noticed the difference -- they both loosely translated as ‘Commander’-- but Enarrain carried privileges and seniority that Riov did not. Tyras had his own ideas on the subject, but knew better search too deeply for the truth. He trained his thoughts elsewhere as the lift doors slid open. The lythe, greying figure of the ship’s chief medical officer emerged. She was, as far as Tyras knew, one of the few aboard who knew much of the Enarrain outside of his public reputation or official record, having previously served with him on another assignment. “Jolan tru,” she said, breezily making her way across the oira. “I assume the riov is in his chambers, brooding, ie?” Tyras shifted uncomfortably. “The Enarrain is reviewing personnel assignments, as is his purview.” It was a mild corrective, but one Tyras felt compelled to give though if she noticed it, she didn’t react. Instead she simply nodded and continued toward the double doors, a distant hann’yyo following as she disappeared, leaving Tyras once again to contemplate the situation. Brooding was, however, the correct word to describe the mental state of the Elarion’s commanding officer. He had been in his chambers for much of their journey towards the Outlands, rarely interacting with any of the senior staff. Today was little different. He glanced upwards at the chime. “Come.” “Rehkkai,” the smooth voice of the maenak came, intruding into whatever thoughts were holding him. “I see you have changed little since the Talon.” Destorie N’Dak turned from the window to face her. a small smile creeping across his face. “Nor have you -- Khaena,” he replied. “What can I do for you? I trust all is well in your fiefdom and that you’re having no issues with tr’Vlaen?” “Not at all. He seems competent and fair. All qualities desirable in someone of his rank and station. He even seemed rather uncomfortable with my suggestion, rhae the oria, that you were in here ‘brooding’ He made a point of mentioning you were working on personnel reports or something.” Chuckling lowly, Destorie placed an ISD on the desk in front of him. “Did he? This is his first assignment as Daise’Erei’Riov so I suppose his enthusiasm shouldn’t unexpected.” “Or perhaps he fears the wrath of the Enarain,” Khaena teased lightly, but only just so. “At any rate, that is not what brought me here.” Leaning back into his chair, Destorie sighed. The Elarion had hardly been his choice of assignments and due to certain political concerns his ability to choose a senior staff had been somewhat limited. Still, he was pleased that he had managed to secure the appointment of Khaena to his crew. She had served with him for many years as one of the nightshift doctors aboard the Talon, and he trusted her far more than anyone else aboard his new command. “Oh?” “I have been looking into the matter that we discussed before we left dock.” Khaena had found her way into one of the rather plush -- perhaps too plush, she considered -- chairs that flanked the oblong desk at the center of the room. “The medical supply shipments to the border world?” She nodded. “And?” “Nothing suspicious, so far as I could find through the normal channels. It is a bit odd I admit. Such a large number of advanced medical devices being shipped to a far flung colony that lacks a major medical center. Even stranger that the world is, primarily, non-Rihans -- laborers mostly.” A frown crept across his face, though Khaena wasn’t sure if was from frustration. “I see,” he said crossing his arms. “But,” she offered, shifting in the chair, the mirth fading from her voice. “I do still have some contacts in the Tal’Dian -- friends of Gaen’s. They could look a little bit closer into the matter. If you’re still unsettled by it.” “I would not ask if I did not think it important,” he said, “something about this disquettes me.” She nodded, standing and straightening her uniform. “Speaking of which,” she said, the airness returning to her voice. “You have yet to report to medical for your examination! What sort of an example are you setting for the rest of your crew?” Before Destorie could reply, she saluted crisply and headed back onto the Oira where Tyras remained vigilant. She considered his features for a moment, stopping to study him. He was not, by her estimation, overly handsome nor particularly displeasing to look upon. He kept his hair tightly cropped in the overly regimental style the Galae had become infamous for throughout the galaxy (she kept her own greying hair in a neat braid). And though House Vlaen might not have had the prestige of their commanding officer’s house (or the infamy), it generally was removed from the meager ranks of most of the other crew members, herself included. She had looked at his service record as well -- a graduate of the Imperial Retor in the capital. He had proven himself to be an able officer. She hoped that was how he’d came about his position, anyway. Letting her eyes linger only so long, she continued once more. “Maenek,” Tyras said as she was almost to the lift. “Were you planning on joining the other officers tonight for dinner? I understand that tr’Lhaelev has some new holovid he wants to play afterwards ... if you’re interested, of course.” She wasn’t particularly, but she would survive.. “It would be a good opportunity to get to know my fellow officers,” she said with a smile that she hoped didn’t seem overly forced. “I look forward to seeing you,” Tyras added. “Till tonight then.” It was late afternoon — not that you could notice such things aboard a starship dancing through space—and the medical bay was relatively quiet. Khaena glanced briefly up as she heard the footsteps of her assistant approach. “Are you still here?” Hjaeli said, her arms crossed disapprovingly. “Go home!” “I thought I gave the orders.” “It’s quiet and besides, you have that officer’s dinner to prepare yourself for and we only have tr’Maek to deal with — I think I am more than capable of handling a lone erein with a case of space sickness.” Khaena furrowed her brows. “Oh, sorry. Deep Space Introgastrionial Aphasiac Syndrome.” Exhaling, Khaena smirked despite herself. “Is that what they’re calling it now? Never mind, don’t tell me. I am happier not knowing. I suppose you’re right — it is quiet and you have things well in hand. Just try not to make a habit of giving me orders, hmm?” Hjaeli grinned. “Of course. H’nah, be gone with you.” Her quarters were only a short lift ride away. Entirely unremarkable, they were sparsely furnished and most of her personal effects remain packed away in a series of small boxes in the corner. She’d debated about even bringing them along, but it wasn’t as if she had any other place to put them. After Gaen had passed away, she’d sold their small house on ch’Rihan. She’d considered buying something in the capitol for when she was on leave, but it seemed a waste to pay for a townhouse or condo that she’d spend a few days or weeks a year occupying. “But you could rent it out!” Hjaeli had suggested when she’d mentioned it. “People are always looking for places to stay for a few days or weeks in the city.” “How would I manage that? I work on a starship!” “Oh they have an app for that! You just sign up as a host and the company takes care of the renting, keeping your place up, everything. It’s so easy.” “Then why don’t you do it?” “Oh I don’t make enough money to have a place — not on the pay for an assistant medical officer without any real years of service. Unlike you.” Khaena had let that one slide, but mentally made a note of it for some future transgression. She was glad though, to have the young, slightly impetuous doctor aboard. She had interned aboard the Talon, and proven herself to be capable, qualified officer. It had come as something of a surprise, then, when she was on the list of available officers for the Elarion. She glanced at the old-fashioned chrono hanging from the wall -- one of the few things she’d unpacked --there was still time for a shower and change of clothing before dinner. Officer’s dinners were low on her list of preferred activities, particularly with a crew of mostly young, ambitious male officers all jockeying for recognition and promotion. Still, she needed to learn more about them and who she could trust. Sighing, she headed to the sonic, slipping out of her uniform along the way. One thing she did appreciate about older model ships, like the Elarion was that their sonic showers were configured to a lower pitch than newer models. Though she knew it made little difference in function, she always felt more relaxed by the low, thrombing pulses. Finished with her shower, she changed into a clean uniform and tied back her hair. Skipping a mirror or makeup, she pulled on freshly polished boots and headed for the officer’s mess a few decks up. Most of the others had already gathered by the time she arrived and were mulling around the oblong table at the center of the sparsely decorated room, sipping ale. “Jolan tru,” Tyras said, waving her over. “I am glad you decided to join us.” She nodded politely and took an offered glass of ale. It was of relatively decent stock, and she believed, originated in the Verete region of homeworld, though she couldn’t be entirely certain and didn’t care enough to ask. Ale nerds were, in her mind, tedious. Once the last of the senior staff, minus the Ennarain of course, had arrived they took their seats. She looked them over, appraisingly. Tyras sat at the head of the table, naturally. He carried himself with a certain stiffness she found common in young officers in their first position of real authority. Next to him sat the ship’s security chief on his left, and to his right their chief science officer. Neither was particularly green, but were still young to her. Though the security chief seemed to be going a bit grey prematurely. Perhaps a genetic issue? Khaena scolded herself mentally for the diagnosis. They were also joined by the ship’s senior helm officer and the operations chief. Both of whom reminded her of rambunctious teenagers. Then there was the chief engineer. Aside from herself and perhaps Destorie, Marim tr’Feava was the most experienced of the senior officers. He had been aboard the Elarion for over a decade and was now on his third commanding officer. A veteran of the Dominion Wars, he was brusque and prickly and a bit overprotective of the ship -- not that she’d met an engineer who wasn’t in love with their flying pieces of metal. And people accused maeneks of being protective of sickbay? She smirked to herself as enlisted personnel brought out broth and crusty bread. Apparently, one of the positions Destorie had been keen on filling personally had been the chef. It was a welcome relief from the sort of cuisine that she’d come to expect on smaller, unimportant ships like this one. Most of the senior staff agreed. “One thing I will say for our riov,” Lhaelev, the operations officer, said raising his ale, “he certainly found a good chef.” There was general agreement as the waiters brought a second course of roasted vegetables and lightly fried noodles in a cream sauce. Except, of course, from Marim who grumbled lowly. “I didn’t sign up for the Galae for haute cuisine, give me a ration and a stiff ale anyday.” “Then why did you have seconds last night?” Tyras teased lightly. The engineer frowned crossly. “I was hungry and the portions were small. Keeping this old girl running is hard work, especially with all the neophytes we got this time. One of them new ones didn’t know the difference between a recoil spanner and a disruptor. What are they teaching at the Retor these days anyway.” Khaena smirked. She empathized. Several of her orderlies were fresh out of training and had needed some additional instruction. “One of mine,” she offered between bites of the pasta, “almost injected an erein with vivensel instead of etherin.” Only Lhaelev seemed to understand the implications and giggled before explaining the effects of vivensel, which elicited a chuckle from everyone, even Marin. “We were all new officers once,” Tyras interjected. “I am sure each of us did a few silly things when we were fresh out of the retor.” Thael tr’Ghilv, the security officer had said little to this point, but now he turned his attention to Khaena. “What about the Enarrain,” he said, resting his elbows on the table and steeping his fingers. “What was he like as an erein, you knew him then, didn’t you?” The room collectively turned its attention to Khaena and she sighed, wiping clean her mouth and placing her napkin on the table. She’d wondered how long it would take before that particular subject came up. Hjaeli had bet her an evening shift it would be before the main course. Khaena had hoped it would wait until at least desert. She considered if she’d tell Hjaeli the truth or not. “Not entirely,” she said, “He was an erein when he first joined the Talon, but it was na his first assignment.” “Still,” Thael pressed. “A diplomatic posting on Qo’Nos hardly counts.” “I wouldn’t say that,” she said, taking a long drink of ale between sentences. “But at any rate, he was much as you’d expect from any young officer. Overeager, ambitious, brash... all of those would apply.” She glanced over to Tyras. He shifted somewhat uncomfortably in his chair. He had to have also known the topic would come up. Still, his unease answered a question for her. “But he was a d’heno and I was a nightshift maenek. It wasn’t as if were crossed paths regularly.” That was somewhat of a lie, but unless they’d gotten access to his medical records, they’d never know. The enlisted brought out their main course, thankfully saving her from further interrogation and the subject of her relationship with Destorie did not come up again for the rest of the meal. Afterwards, she found herself talking once more to Tyras as the others settled in to watch the holovid Lhaelev acquired. It was some pulp action routine that she found incredibly tedious and boring, but had stayed for appearances sake. Tyras apparently found it tedious as well. “They’re so formulaic,” he’d said offering her a bite of his popped eael. “I don’t really get the appeal.” She smirked and declined to offer her own personal theory for why men enjoyed them “You weren’t exactly truthful at dinner,” he said lowly. Glancing over, she lifted a brow. “About?” “Your relationship with the Ennarrain.” She frowned, uneasily. “I am not sure what you mean.” He smirked and looked towards the holovid, tossing back a few bites of the eael. “I don’t particularly blame you for demuring to elaborate, but I know that he personally requested your assignment.” “He was often in the maneken bay when he was first assigned to the Talon, as I said a bit brash and overeager. He was my patient more than a few times,” she paused, “that is it. He wanted a friendly face aboard, someone he knew...” “And trusted?” She tipped her head. “I suppose. It’s not as if that’s unusual.” Tyras looked back for a second. “Fair. It’s not as if he has any particular reason to trust me, but...” He trailed off. Feeling her unease subside, Khaena offered a smile. “Destorie... the Enarrain,” she said, “He does not trust easily. He’s always been that way, but he respects those under his command who do their duty. And he does not like sycophants. “Do your best and serve the ship well and you will gain his trust, in time.” When the evening ended, Khaena found herself back in her quarters holding a holoimage in her hands. It had been nearly three years since Gaen had died of a heart attack while they vacationed in the fashionable resort town of Se-Ret. At least, that was the official story. She frowned and looked away. Gaen had served in the Tal’Dian, the Galae’s intelligence service, for nearly thirty years. He had been on assignment. She always hated when he was on some covert assignment. He would go weeks, sometimes months without being able to contact her. Then, suddenly, out of the ether he would rematerialize in their living room, or in her quarters at whatever assignment she was currently on, acquiped with Teryian white roses and a bottle of good ale. He also knew how to mollify her. She looked back to the holovid. She could still remember the evening she’d learned of his death. She dealt with death all the time as a meanek, and she was no stranger to it in her own life, having buried both of her parents and an elder sister. Still, nothing completely prepared one for it. The evening shift had just taken over and Khaena had settled into her office to complete some reports -- she often worked late. The starbase was relatively quiet and the disherens were busying themselves with cleaning and calibrations, least Khaena find worse for them to do. She was enjoying a cup of Sumae tea -- it had once been a favorite --and listening to some soft jazz when a young man arrived in medical, looking for her. Overhearing her name, she popped her head out, half-expecting an overeager erein coming for a physical. Instead she found a young ne’arrain wearing the dark grey sash that indicated he was on special assignment. “I am Khaena t’Yhven,” she interjected. “How can I help you, ne’arrain?” He looked over, gravely. “Maenken,” he said. “It would be best if we spoke in private.” The disheren’s lifted their brows, but said little as she nodded and motioned the ne’arrain into her office, closing the doors behind her. “I am afraid that I must bring you some unfortunate news,” he said fumbling for an ISD. “It’s about your bondmate.” From there she didn’t recall all of the precise details. Only that little in her life had been the same afterwards. The trip to Se-Ret had felt surreal. Gaen had never liked that sort of thing and she thought it was a silly cover story, but she was in little position to argue. Even once she did arrive and the whole planned cover played out, none of it felt real. Nor had she gotten any real clue to what had actually happened to her husband. Neither the ne’arrain, who she never saw again, or the handler who arranged everything for her before, during and shortly after the funeral had been willing or able to divulge. It had vexed her. They rarely talked about work, but Gaen hadn’t indicated that his work at the time was particularly dangerous. There was always danger involved of course, but the Tal’Dian was hardly the Tal’Shiar and deaths of those in their employ were relatively rare. Finally, after weeks of trying and failing to learn more about how her husband had died, it had been an unexpected call from Destorie N’Dak that had brought clarity and a degree of closure. She replaced the holopic on the nightstand and laid back down on the bed. Maybe she’d been better off not knowing the truth. Part of her wished she’d never answered that call. It would have been easier, in the long run, to not know the truth, right? She sighed and closed her eyes. That was the easy lie people told themselves. It was an unseasonably cold day in the capital region of homeworld. On virtually any other late spring day, the ihren course would be bustling with activity. Today, however, only a few committed players braved the weather. From his balcony overlooking the seventh hole, Destorie took a break from the stack of ISD’s on a table to watch. He’d never cared for ihren. It was an old person’s sport in his mind. Boring as sin, and it required far too much work to be good at it. Not that most of the people who frequented the ihren course in question were any good, far from it. It had actually surprised his father when Destorie had asked upon his return from the Gamma Quadrant if he could move into the family home on the outskirts of the capitol. Destorie had always had a certain fondness for the home, though. It was stately, without being overly ostentatious, was relatively private, and mostly importantly was rarely frequented by any of his relations. “Do you still brood over decisions like when you were a child?” Destorie felt the hair on the nape of his neck stand up. He hadn’t heard that voice since the incident. Instinctively, his hand went to his belt for his absent disruptor. “Still the d’heno I see,” his sister’s voice followed the action, a certain mirth to her voice that annoyed him even more “But don’t worry, I am not here to kill you or anything. This is strictly a personal visit.” “You’ll forgive me if I don’t exactly trust you, Rasa.” “And they say you’re not very clever.” “I don’t really care what your associates in the Tal’Shiar say about me.” “Oh you should, you really should, dear Sheuiji.” “Don’t call me that,” Destorie spun on heel to face his sister. “As far as I am concerned you are no longer a member of my house.” Rasa was sitting on his desk, looking over the scattered ISDs. She seemed uninterested in her brother’s sudden bolero. Her hair was longer than he remembered. As always, she was impeccably dressed in the latest fashions of the capital’s trendy Uraemu district. Finally, she paused her snooping and glanced up at her brother. While her twin sister Savu had inherited their mother’s warm amber eyes and soft features, Rasa had the same sharp features -- high, tight cheekbones and dark, foreboding eyes that pierced like knives -- of her elder brother and father. “Well fortunately for you, I don’t feel the same way.” “What is that supposed to mean?” “I see you’re selecting a first officer for the... Elerion, yes? Rather unfortunate name for a ship, but I suppose you take what you can get in your position.” “Elarion.” Destorie glowered. “What about it.” “Oh,” she said, returning her attention to the ISD’s. “I just thought you might want some help. Afterall it is a big decision you’re making. A first officer needs to be extremely trustworthy.” He crossed his arms. “Then why in the element’s name would I want your help selecting one.” “Well,” she said, “for starters I know which of these options they gave you are Tal’Shiar plants or loyalists. But I suppose you do have a bit more experience with this. How is that lovely woman who was your first officer on the Talon doing anyway -- Laehval or something like that? I bet you miss her. You were so, close, after all.” “Why would any of them be a Tal’Shiar plant. The Elarion is a patrol ship.” Rasa noted, somewhat disappointedly, that he didn’t fall for her baiting on t’Temarr, and sighed inwardly. “Well it’s true they don’t care about your mouldering old patrol ship and its mission to the Outlands, but you have to know they are keeping a close eye on you, Sheuiji. Especially after the debacle in the Gamma Quadrant with our brother. Where is he anyway? I’d hoped to pay him a visit while I was in the capital, but no one seemed to know. Not even my colleagues in the Tal’Shiar.” Destorie’s jaw tightened at the mention of Issaha. “He’s safe.” “Good.” He was taken aback by the seeming sincerity. “You should have done a better job of keeping him out of trouble.” “Me?” Destorie spat, almost letting his temper get the better of him. “He wouldn’t have been in trouble if you hadn’t set him up with that position in the first place.” Rasa glanced over again. “That wasn’t my doing and I assure you the person responsible has been, disciplined.” “I never knew you were so protective of Issaha.” “There’s a lot about me you don’t know Sheuiji. Anyway, I didn’t come here to argue, I came to offer you advice on your personnel decisions. “ “Why do you care? It’s not like I have anything to hide from the Tal’Shiar anyway.” Rasa pushed off the desk and made her way over to him. She stood slightly taller due to her high-heeled boots. Something that seemed to please her for a moment before the mirth vanished, replaced by coldness. “There are concerns about your loyalties.” “My loyalties?” “Yes. Are you loyal to the Empire, or to the Galae.” “I wasn’t aware those were separate; and that’s certainly a charge coming from the Tal’Shiar.” “Don’t play me for the fool, Sheuiji. We both know that things are changing. Very soon you -- and father -- are going to have to make your loyalties clear.” “I know why you’d want to protect father --” “Isn’t it obvious? If you’re caught up in this, his loyalties will be questioned and it would hurt the family. It’s bad enough mother is a bleeding heart Enuar supporter.” “I am shocked you care about what happens to the family. It would certainly be a first.” “Like I said, there’s a lot about me you don’t know. Now, you can either accept my offer or pick blindly, not knowing which of these” she motioned to the ISD’s behind her, “are Tal’Shiar operatives. Your choice.” The oira had been taken over by the overnight shift. The Elarion continued to cruise at warp 6.5 towards the Outlands, the stretch of space along the Neutral Zone that had separated the Federation and the Romulan Empire for over 200 years. Typically, an assignment here was uneventful, particularly in the years following the Dominion War when the permeance of the barrier between the two empires had seemed to wane. Of course, that had begun to change again in the last few months. A string of terrorist attacks among the border worlds had put the region on edge. Debate in the Senate had focused on “outside agitators” and the failure of the Galae to reign them in, but they’d been mostly small in scale and no one had been seriously hurt, yet. The overnight officer of the watch was a young erein named Kaev. He was short, stout and largely forgettable. He’d only joined the Galae because he had few other options outside of following his father and brother in the family trade. He’d been unremarkable in his studies at the regional Retor he’d attended, and was wholly unsurprised to receive an assignment aboard the Elarion. What had surprised him, however, was finding his name on atop the duty assignment as officer of the watch. He’d never shown any initiative nor desire for such a position -- typically a young officer’s first opportunity to show potential for further promotion. Kaev sighed deeply. Why had the Sub-Commander given him the position? Surely tr’Maelc, the over eager erein from d’heno currently manning the tactical console would have been more appropriate? Still, there had been little use in complaining about it. It was, after all, only one shift a week. The others he could quietly pretend to press buttons at the communications station while the system largely ran on automation. The lift doors slid open suddenly, startling Kaev. He glanced over and suddenly felt a wave of terror wash across him as Destorie N’Dak strode out. What in the elements name was the Enarrain doing on the oira at this time of night? “erein,” Destorie said, pausing at the railing that separated the command area from the rest of the room. Kaev blinked, feeling the collective eyes of the overnight crew focus on him -- he wasn’t sure if they actually were or not, but he thought they were. He’d only even met the Enarrain twice, and he’d never dared speak to him. “Rekhhai,” he managed. “Ca-can I be of assistance.” Destorie smiled, a rare sight, remembering his own first time in the center chair. That seemed like a lifetime ago. “No,” he replied. “Just going to my chambers to do some work. I assume all is quiet?” “Ie, nothing to report.” “Mehnka. Vhri’mehnka.” Destorie smiled again -- which was somehow more terrifying to Kaev -- before disappearing into his chambers. When the doors had slid closed, Kaev sighed and slumped into the chair. “Do you need to change your underwear,” Maelc chimed in. Kaev sat back up, casting a glower. “Na, I am quite dry. Thank you. Don’t you have sensors to be realigning?” Maelc grinned, pleased himself. “It is strange, though, isn’t it? The Enarrain just popping up to his chambers at 0218 to do some ‘work’?” “He’s the riov,” Kaev said without looking towards Maelc. “He can do as he pleases. It’s not for us to question.” “I am just saying -- it’s interesting.” “I would suggest,” came the sudden interjection from the direction of the secondary lift, “you listen to erein tr’Hjan, erein tr’Maelc and work on your sensor alignments.” They both looked over to see the visage of Lhaelev lingering. “Centurion,” Maelc snapped, “I meant no --” “I am sure you didn’t, but I would advise doing as tr’Hjian wisely suggested.” Maelc swallowed hard and looked back to his station, suddenly feeling every eye on the oira trained upon him, including those of Kaev. Lhaelev glanced to Kaev briefly before heading towards Destorie’s chambers and after a brief delay disappearing. Kaev considered asking Maelc if he needed to change his underwear now, but decided against it. Graceful in victory, he’d always been taught. Still it was peculiar for the operations officer to mysteriously join the Enarrain in his chambers at such an odd hour. Kaev pushed the thought to the back of his mind. The subtle off-white lighting of the corridors struck at Destorie as the doors to his quarters hissed open. He held a hand up to shield his eyes. “It’s so dark in here,” Khaena said, perhaps a bit more chipper than usual. “I was surprised when you weren’t on the oira.” “Elements must you talk so loudly.” Holding back a giggle Khaena mercifully let the door slide shut behind her. “I see your dinner with the Governor went well, eh?” Destorie was still in bed. It was nearly 1030 hours. He a waste receptacle nearby and a half-empty thermos of water on the stand by his bed. His clothes littered the floor. He thought they were his clothing anyway. He hoped they were. Yes, they were. They had to have been. “You should be lucky I didn’t make you come along.” Destorie sat up. His head throbbed. “I imagine Tyras is in even worse shape.” She held back another giggle. “Ie,” she added, “he stopped by the medical bay this morning and asked for hydration pills. Though I am curious about the mark, rhae his neck. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was a hickey.” “A what?” “Au know... a hi...” she sighed She decided she might sleep better at night if she didn’t pursue that line of thought any further. “Anyway, how was the meeting?” “The Governor was quite gracious,” Destorie said. It took him a moment longer than he would have liked to get his bearings. “Turns out he served with my grandfather Nkedre in some... some battle -- Naranda or something I don’t remember to be honest with you. “But the moment he found out who my mother was, he demanded we have a drink of some local whiskey and then one thing led to the next and well..” he paused, waving a hand to the air. “I feel relatively certain we acquitted the ship well.” Smirking, Khaena made her way over to the replicator. “Jalla, hot -- two creams.” “I never drink jalla hot, or in the morning.” “Maybe you should try it. It’s wonderful for a hangover. Better than haeln or whatever that Klingon drink is you’re so fond of, rakata... whatever.” “Raktajeno, and is that a prescription?” “Ie.” He took the offered mug and put it to his lips, “Far be it for me to ignore my doctor’s advice then.” “Ha! When have you ever listened to a word a maenek told you? Hmm.” Destorie smirked feigning innocence as he drank more of the jalla. He had to admit it had already calmed his stomach. “Anyway what did au learn?” “Not much to be honest. Ever since the government tightened the visa restrictions he said things have been slow here in the outlands.” “And the medical shipments?” “He didn’t know anything about them. Not surprising, but he did say he’d look into it as a favor on account of my grandfather.” Khaena chuckled. “Well I suppose you have something to be thankful about then.” “I am not sure it was worth the headache.” “What is that human phrase -- never look a gift something in the mouth? Now, I am going to let you work off your hang over in peace and see to my duties in the medical bay. How long do you think we’ll be in orbit?” “A few more days at least, unless something pressing comes up. tr’Feva has been harping on Tyras to let him realign the plasma manifolds.” “Good, you should let the crew take leave then.” Destorie pulled his beeding about him as he glanced over his cup. “Prescribing for the whole crew now are we? I thought you were going to let me recuperate in peace, don’t you have work to be doing?” Khaena replied only with a smirk and headed out of the room, leaving Destorie alone. Though his stomach now felt some better, he could still feel the plasma grid pulsating behind his bed with every thump. It was a reminder why he rarely drank heavily. That had always been Issaha’s province anyway. His thoughts lingered a moment on his younger brother. Issaha had always been his shadow, tagging along on all of his big brother’s adventures. He was always in the way; but now he was off on his own adventure. Somehow, despite himself, Destorie almost missed his shadow. Especially now. Why had she warned him? It had been nearly two months, and it still didn’t make any sense. Kaev fiddled with the controls on the command chair. Why did it have to be during his shift. “No response to our hails,” Maelc said with a grimace. Kaev frowned and glanced back to the tactical console and shook his head. “No flight plan on record, no registry on file? It’s an older model runabout.” “Three lifesigns aboard,” Aleaht Geleir, the NCO manning the operations console chimed in. “No sign they’ve detected us.” Chewing on his lip, Kaev considered. “Helm, stand by to intercept.” Maelc lifted a brow. “This is highly irregular.” “Why is it always when I am in the center seat. Thirty-minutes more and this would be someone else’s problem.” “The elements must love you.” Kaev glowered silently for a moment before turning back to the viewscreen. His duty shift had nearly ended when Maelc had detected the warp signature of an errant runabout. Kaev had hoped it would simply be a routine matter, and had considered ignoring the issue. As he punched up the communications array on his chair to wake the Sub-Commander, he wished he had. “Sub-Commander,” he intoned gently, unsure if Tyras was sleeping or not. “I hate to disturb you, but there is a situation on the Oira that I believe merits your attention.” Tyras grumbled, but said he’d be up in a minute. Maelc was trying to hide a smirk. “Better you than me.” “Wasn’t this supposed to be your shift anyway?” “No! You traded for it fair and square.” Kaev glowered again. “Can we get a detailed scan of the runabout?” “No without dropping the cloak,” Gelehir said flatly, as if Kaev should have known that. She was a far more seasoned officer than any of the green ereins manning the graveyard shift, a fact she routinely groused over. The lift doors slid open, drawing Kaev’s attention away. “Sub-commander.” “As you were,” Tyras said. He was still pulling his outer tunic into place as he made his way to the center seat. “So what’s the situation?” Despite his nerves, Kaev calmly updated his superior officer of the situation. When he’d finished Tyras stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Interesting. No flight plan on record and they don’t appear to be in any distress.” Kaev nodded. “Ie.” “Helm, lay in an intercept course. Set alert status 2. Senior officers to the Oira.” A low fluorescence permeated the Elarion’s interrogation chamber. The room, really more of a large broom closet, was cold and smelled of old cleaning supplies. Three figures were restrained in metal chairs. Destorie paced evenly before stopping in front of the youngest of the three. “You may have some promise. What is your name?” The calmness of their new interlocutor seemed to catch the three men in ‘Galae’ uniforms off guard. “Don’t answer this bastard,” one of them said, spitting bloodily at Destorie. Destorie smirked, watching as the green-white projectile landed on his freshly polished boots with a splat. “Do you realize how expensive these boots are?” The spitter didn’t respond; another prisoner did, however. Destorie had wondered what to make of the grizzled, middle-aged officer. In the time they’d been held, he’d said almost nothing, and had barely reacted when the Elarion d’Heno officers got a bit rough with them. “They’re standard issue,” he said calmly. “Nothing special about them, other than you made some poor disheren polish the out of them. Trying to impress someone?” “You have a discerning eye,” Destorie said thoughtfully. “Boots are boots.” “True, though some boots are better than others.” The middle-aged prisoner grunted as Destorie turned his attention to the younger prisoner once more. “So, tell me, what is your name.” “I told you, leave him alone. He’s just a kid, and you --” “Aurel,” the boy said, his voice was hoarse and shaking, “My name is Aurel--” “Damnit! I told you not to...” Destorie circled again, chuckling mirthlessly. “Warrant Officer, Second Degree, Aurel s’Lehan. Warrant Officer, Private, Haej ei-Aemek and Chief Warrant Officer...” “Mhve tr’Udfev.” “Mhve...” “He already knows who we are, and he’s likely already decided to execute us. What’s the point.” “Some might say you are traitors.” “We’re not traitors!” Haej -- the spitter -- protested, straining at the straps holding him in place hard enough to alarm the d’heno at the back of the room. “We were only following our orders. And besides, aren’t we due rights of statement and proper trials.” Destorie cleared his throat. “tr’Udfev, it would behoove you to silence your disheren before I have him incapacitated.” “Coward...” “Shut the hell up you idiot.” Haej recoiled and Destorie smiled appreciatively towards Mhev. “So why should we cooperate? What is the supposed benefit for us?” Mhve said, shifting a bit uncomfortably. The restraints were too tight to realistically try to get loose, but his mind kept him fidgeting with them anyway. “Convince me your lives are worth sparing.” Destorie had known it was really only a matter of time before one of them broke. His money had been on the younger one of course; but it had been refreshingly the elder officer who had saved them from the executioner’s block. His sense of duty as their superior officer had won out over his own pride, Destorie supposed. “We didn’t know what was in the boxes, I swear to you. Just that they were to be delivered to Gaen II. Nothing more.” “Interesting, continue.” “The three of us, we worked cargo. Some guy in fleet uniform approached us with our riov. Told us he had a special job for us , and once it was completed would. -- well it would greatly benefit each of us.” “Benefit you how?” Destorie said, lifting a brow. “Mhev...” “No, he might as well know Haej...” Mhev sighed. “He picked the three of us, I suppose, because we were easy enough targets to buy off and low enough priority no one would notice if we failed or went missing. “I owe money to the wrong people. I am not proud of it, but it’s the truth. My bondmate, she... well she needed an operation a few years ago ... look I am sure you don’t care that much, but that’s my story. Haej here, well...” Haej frowned, “My family does not have a name of our own. I wanted to go to the Retor, to become a real officer... but...” “Mmm,” Destorie said. “I see, and whether you believe it or not, I understand. And the boy?” Looking away, Aurel couldn’t hide his blushing. “He was working for some rich back on homeworld when the heir of the house took a liking to Aurel. The rich didn’t like it, made Aurel enlist or threatened to have him jailed. Then he made sure Aurel got shipped off to the ass end of the Empire. They promised him a transfer back home.” He almost felt sorry for them; they were too low born though to have dreamed up such a scheme on their own, and the story seemed convincing. His train of thought, however, was interrupted by the pulsing vibrations of his t’Liss. He frowned and turned towards the lurking d’heno. “Transfer them to the br’tehh. See that they are fed and looked after by the maeneken. And,” he paused for a second, “get them fresh uniforms.” Before the prisoners could respond, Destorie strode out of the room. He hit his t’Liss. “Go ahead.” “Enarrain,” it was Tyras. “A vessel just decloaked. Their Riov wishes to speak to you --” “I’ll take it in my quarters.” Tyras’ voice wavered. “He’s waiting for you in your chambers.” Destorie lifted a brow, but acknowledged and took the nearest lift to the Oira. He paused briefly as he passed by the command chair. Tyras looked unsettled. “He beamed over as soon as they closed communications.” Taking a deep breath, Destorie forced back the expletive fighting to come out of his mouth. “I see. Do we have a registry on our new visitor then?” “The Taebrle.” Lifting his eyebrow in the fashion of a Vulcan, Destorie shook his head. “Never heard of it. See what you can dig up while I meet with...my guest.” Tyras nodded, somewhat relieved Destorie had shown such restraint. “I was just about to head down to the shuttle bay.” Destorie nodded his approval and took one last deep breath before he entered his chambers. Though smaller and lacking a macabre collection of Cardassian “spoons,” Destorie had found them to be far more suitable than those he’d had aboard the Talon. Of course, he noted, those had never been his chambers. His train of thought, however, derailed as the doors slid shut. “Ah, riov,” came a smooth greeting. “Shaoi kon. Please forgive the intrusion, but I thought I’d make myself at home.” Destorie felt the hair on the nape of his neck stand up. Sitting on his desk was a slender male Romulan in maybe his early fifties. He wore his hair neatly cropped and pulled back from his face in such a way that it made him look almost like a bird. More distressing, however, was his dark charcoal uniform signifying his service to the Tal’Shiar. “I am Colonel tr’Sehibe, of the Internal Affairs division of the Tal’Shiar.” “Colonel,” Destorie said, forcing a polite tone. “Welcome aboard the Elarion. Can I get you something, water, tea perhaps?” “No, thank you Riov. I don’t plan on staying long.” “I see.” “I am afraid there’s been some sort of misunderstanding. Your sub-commander indicated that you had brought the crew of the runabout Baruv aboard and placed them in your br’tehh.” “That is standard procedure,” Destorie said making his way to desk. “We were about to question them on why they didn’t respond to our hails or have a registered flightplan.” Pushing off the desk, Sehibe smiled. “Ah, well then. I’ll save you sometime. I am afraid that you’ve accidentally, through no fault of your own, stumbled into a Tal’Shiar operation. So, if you could just return them to their ship and let them be on their way we can all pretend this little incident never happened.” For a moment Destorie pretended to think that over, before leaning back in his chair. “Nah.” Sehibe recoiled. “Excuse me, Riov. You did hear me say this was a Tal’Shiar operation, and that I am a colonel in the Tal’Shiar, yes?” Destorie grinned. “Yes.” “Then,” Sehibe tried to contain his exasperation. “I am sure you understand the weight my request carries? I would hate to have to bring it to the attention of your superior officers that you were interfering with an official Tal’Shiar operation.” Nodding, Destorie agained feigned consideration. “Well, I’d guess you’d hate that almost as much as your superiors would enjoy an inquest into this ... what did you call it incident? I somehow doubt they’d very much like the Senate poking around in such matters.” “Really, Riov? Such idle threats don’t become a Galae commander. As I said this is a Tal’Shiar operation. So, we can either do this the easy way or I...” “It wasn’t an idle threat, Colonel.” Smiling, tightly, Sehibe once more suppressed his annoyance. “Riov --” “You know I think I forgot to formally introduce myself earlier, how rude of me.” “Riov, not to put too fine a point on the matter but--” “Well not to put too fine of a point on it as you say, but I am not actually a Riov.” Sehibe’s expression shifted uneasily as he examined Destorie’s rank sash for the first time. “As I said, I forgot to formally introduce myself. I am Enarrain Destorie N’Dak, son of Dlvon N’Dak. You may have heard of him. He actually used to serve in the Tal’Shiar -- though I was never entirely clear on what his ‘rank’ was, you people are always so strange about that.” Wrinkling his nose, Sehibe exhaled heavily. “I see, Enarrain.” “Anyway, as I was saying, I doubt that either of our superiors would appreciate the other’s looking into this little incident. So why don’t we just skip ahead to the part where you tell me what is going on here and then, if I am satisfied with your answer, I’ll let them go.” The Baruv blinked away. In darkness in his chambers, Destorie watched as it broke the subspace barrier, the flash glinting in his eyes. “The Taebrle seems to be waiting for us to go to warp.” Destorie nodded. “Yes. I doubt the Colonel entirely trusts me. Have helm resume our patrol.” “You don’t buy that story he told you do you? Not really?” Turning to face his first officer, Destorie shook his head. “Of course not. The Tal’Shiar never tell the whole truth.” Tyras nodded in agreement. While he’d had few enough dealings with them, he knew others who hadn’t been as fortunate. Entire families could be ruined by the Tal’Shiar for even the mildest of transgressions, and the rise of Procounsel Llhvae had only emboldened them. He glanced to Destorie for a moment. He hadn’t known what to think of him even a few weeks ago. “Part of me wishes we could simply wash our hands of this whole mess,” Tyras said quietly. “Don’t get me wrong, sir. I understand your decision and I support it, but it’s just...” “You don’t need to apologize, Tyras,” Destorie tone was genuinely sympathetic. He understood, fully, the sentiment of his executive officer, perhaps even more than Tyras could imagine. He bit his lip, wondering what a younger version of himself might have thought of the idea of aligning himself and his house with a bunch of liberal outworlders and aliens. He remembered dismissing the Enuar only a few years before, even. But these were unusual times, and that made for, as the Lloann’na would say, strange bedfellows. Finally, Destorie returned to his desk. “Once we’re out of sensor range, cloak and lay in an intercept course for the runabout.” Tyras nodded. “Do you plan on bringing the senior staff in on this? Some of them are already asking questions.” “Not yet, but we may need to -- can we trust them?” “I don’t know.” “Then find out.” Tyras nodded. “Is there anything else?” “No.” Bowing his head respectfully, Tryas turned on heel and headed back to the Oira. He disliked keeping the senior staff, at least, in the dark but it wasn’t his call to make. He sighed and took his seat. “Helm, resume standard patrol. Stand down from alert status.” There was a collective relief at that from the entire oria crew, though Tryas still sensed lingering apprehension. As the helm officer began maneuvering the Elarion away from the other warbird, Tyras tried to push the uncomfortable question posited by Destorie to the back of his mind. Can we trust them? He glanced over to Lhaelev. The operations officer glanced up as well, feeling Tyras’ gaze. Destorie trusted Lhaelev, apparently. That much Tyras knew, and also Khaena. But other than that? Tyras shook his head. “Centurion,” he said, “Keep an eye on the Taebrle.” “Aye.” Khaena shifted uncomfortably in her chair. The webinar on on new procedures for quarantines was decidedly boring, and extremely racist. “Aliens,” the presenter droned, “are unclean and carry with them a host of infectious diseases. Especially among our non-Rihan populations -- the Lloann’as loose morality and feral nature has caused numerous outbreaks of sexually transmitted disease.” “Loose morality,” she said outloud. “Where do they find these people?” “Extra precautions must be taken when dealing with any foreign-born individual visiting the Romulan Empire. Galae officers should be warned against fraternization of any kind.” Khaena belly laughed. “Fraternization! I can’t wait to hear what he has to say about the Klingons.” Why she had to endure these things remained a mystery to her. This certainly wasn’t a very valuable use of her time. She knew well enough how to implement a quarantine; and even patrolling the Outlands, the chances of anyone running across a Lloann’an to fraternize with were fairly low, especially since border crossings had, once again, became extremely restricted following the passage of the Preserver Acts a few months ago. She wrinkled her nose as the presenter began a particular racially charged screed against one of the alien races that populated several border worlds. While xenophobic bigotry was hardly a new feature of Romulan social life, it had always been somewhat more muted in more formal settings, particularly among the medical community. That it was now not only being trafficked in, but official party line was worrisome. “What a waste of time! We’d barely started treating them--” “I know, but you know how it is.” Khaena lifted her brow and muted the presentation. “And we’re not supposed to keep any records?” “That’s what the Sub-Commander said.” “Elements.” Piqued, Khaena poked her head into the medbay. “Hmm?” Hjaeli was surprised to see Khaena and pulled back briefly before relaxing with a heavy sigh. “I thought you were taking the afternoon off.” “Na,” Khaena said, almost defensively. “There was a webinar on some dumb thing I was supposed to attend. What is going on?” Smirking Hjaeli made her way over to a console and began calling up information. “You know that runabout that we ran across?” Khaena nodded. “What of it?” “Well the d’heno had roughed up the three crewmembers a bit and command called us in to have a look at them. Nothing serious.” “D’heno,” the disheren who’d accompanied Hjaeli said. “Are they all so brutish.” “Yes,” Hjaeli and Khaena said almost in unison before giggling. “So?” “Well as we were treating them, Sub-commander Vlaen rolled in to tell us they were being released, immediately and that we were to delete all medical records pertaining to them, per the Enarrain’s orders. “Apparently, some warbird showed up and their riov met with the Enarrain and now we’re just letting them go and erasing records we had them aboard.” Khaena felt an ulcer coming on. “I see,” she said tightly. “Well see to that.” Hjaeli frowned, but didn’t question Khaena, knowing that tone. Returning to her office, Khaena turned back on the webinar in time for another racial invective laced section, this time on the dangers of something called “root beer,” but her mind was elsewhere. What was Destorie thinking? Her communications panel chirped. She paused the webinar for a second time and looked down to see who was calling. She felt a tingle run down her spine. Rhevid tr’Laen. “Elements,” she cursed beneath her breath, closing the door separating her office from the medbay. “How can that be.” Rhevid tr’Laen. She hadn’t thought about that name for some time; it was an alias Gaen used to contact her when he was undercover. She refused to allow herself to believe that he was really still alive. And if he was, she might simply kill him out of principle. Still, the encryption code verified. She took a deep breath and braced herself as the spinning bird of prey on her screen faded. The message was text only, the system informed her. She wrinkled her nose. She didn’t know if that was relieving or not. She punched in her own verification code and waited again as the message loaded. Destorie had been sure, she told herself. He had documents detailing everything. Still in the back of her mind, she had always held out some small sliver of hope. It felt like an eternity had passed when the message finally loaded. Aurel shifted uncomfortably in the co-pilot seat of the Barauv. Sensors indicated the Elarion had jumped to warp, moving away from them. The Taebrle, however, had not. He looked over to Mhaev in the pilot seat. The old man, as they’d called him back starbase, looked more surly than usual.There had been barely more than a few words exchanged between all three of them since the Elarion’s dase’erei’riov had arrived in the br’tehh to announce their release. He had thought they were going to die aboard that ship. But now? He wondered if it was too late to simply run away. He could make it the escape pod before Haej or Mhaev could react, and they were close enough to several inhabited worlds. He frowned and looked back to his console. “I still don’t know why they just let us go,” Haej finally broke the silence as he came back to the main compartment eating a ration. “Isn’t it obvious,” Aurel said, “the Tal’Shiar didn’t leave them any choice.” Mhaev frowned. “I am not sure what that means for us.” The younger Romulans looked over to him, expectantly but he simply shook his head and adjusted their course. “What do you mean?” Haej prodded. “We’re still alive and we can still complete the mission. They didn’t open any of the containers.” Aurel turned around. “Can you be sure? They seemed to have a pretty good idea what was in them.” “I checked them myself.” Haej said between spoonfuls of flavored protein supplements that smelled and looked more like pet food. “All the seals were still in place. They have been able to scan them, but they didn’t open any of them.” Mhaev was still silent. “The Taebrle is moving off now.” “What’s their heading?” Aurel double checked himself. “Vector 27 by 36 by 10. They’re cloaking.” Relaxing, but only just so Mhaev nodded. “Incoming transmission, audio only -- from the The Taebrle” He tensed again, but took a deep breath and activated the communications array. “This is Colonel tr’Sehibe . It would be advisable, if you were to take additional precautions to mask your warp signature. Do not endanger the mission again.” The comm cut out abruptly, leaving the three men staring at each other. Aurel looked towards the escape pods again, but noted that Haej was in his way now and sighed deeply. Mhaev grumbled lowly as he made another adjustment to their course. “Haej, you and Aurel go work on masking our warp signature further.” Haej frowned poking at the remains of his ration pack. “They could have just given us a cloaking device and solved that problem.” “Well they didn’t, so get going. It’s another four days till we reach Cete and I’d be willing to bet that bastard riov on the Elarion isn’t done with us yet.” “I don’t even know what we can try,” Haej said as they made their way to what passed for engineering aboard the aging runabout. “I am not a real engineer.” “Didn’t you train as one?” Aurel asked, settling next to Haej. They hadn’t really known each other very well before the mission. Haej worked in engineering aboard the starbase, doing whatever the enlisted officers didn’t want to do themselves, while Aurel lived the glamorous life of a serviceman assigned to the cargobay. Sometimes, when he was particularly lucky, he worked in laundry and dry cleaning. Their paths rarely crossed other than the occasional hello. “Look, I can clean a plasma injector or rewire fusy food dispenser.” Haej said with a grimace, “but masking our warp signature is a little above my paygrade.” Aurel tipped his head, considering Haej again. He was lean and gangly, and his uniform had never fit entirely correctly. His greyish-brown hair refused any attempt at taming, which Aurel found rather cute. That was mostly all he found attractive about the engineer’s mate, however. His nose was out of proportion to the rest of his face, and he had a weak chin. Which was to say nothing of his personality, which bordered on crude and often slipped into the downright unpleasant. Still, despite the roughness, he’d been friendly enough to the shy, mildly effeminate Aurel. “I am afraid I am not much help on that front either,” Aurel added glumly. “I only barely know how warp engines work.” Haej smirked. “Now if it were a spot on my dress uniform, I suppose you’d have some tricks up your sleeve.” “What do you think will happen to us?” “What do you mean.” “When this is all over. Do you think -- do you think they’ll let us just go back to our old lives maybe?” “Why would you want to do that? Do you want to spend the rest of your life just cleaning uniforms?” Aurel sighed. It had its merits. “Not really, it’s just --” “It’s just what?” “I get the feeling that... you know never mind. I am just being silly.” Haej slid out from under the console with a frown. “Look, there’s no use in worrying about what’s going to happen to us. There’s nothing more we can do about it, so don’t get any weird ideas. We’re in this together, you hear?” “Thanks -- yeah. I guess we are, aren’t we.” Haej nodded and resumed tinkering. “Haej,” Auriel said, “Before... back on the ship. I am sorry if let you down by telling that man my name. It was just..” “Don’t worry about it kid, you were just trying to do what you thought would help us. Now, go get me a type 4 spanner. It’s the one that looks like a hammer.” Destorie strolled onto the oira with a cup of rakatjeno in his left hand, and an ISD in the other. He was early, Maelc observed, happy that he’d vacated the command chair a few minutes before. “Report,” Destorie said, stopping by Maelc’s station. “What is our status erein?” For a change, it was Kaev that got to grin at someone else's misfortune. Maelc took a deep breath and double checked the status monitor before replying. “Situation is normal, sir. We are proceeding on our original patrol route. Nothing else to report.” “And the runabout?” Maelc bit his lip. “Still on sensors. They did appear to be trying to mask their warp signature.” “I see. Mehnka. Vhri’mehnka.” Destorie tapped the console lightly and smiled. “Vhri’mehnka.” He took the center seat and resumed looking at the ISD. Maelc shot Kaev a dirty look but resumed his work until the first shift crew arrived to relieve them. They left together on the auxiliary lift. Their barracks were on the same deck, and neither was particularly hungry. The doors hissed closed. “I thought you were going to pee yourself when the Enarrain spoke to you.” “Shut up,” Maelc said with a glower. “He’s talked to me before plenty. You’re the one who can’t ever talk to anyone above Erein without getting weak in the knees.” “Remind me why I tolerate you.” “Because you like the way I kiss.” “No wonder you’re single.” Back on the Oira, Destorie had finished the rakatjeno and dropped in the recycler. Part of him considered telling the operations officer to stop tracking the runabout and simply wash his hands of the whole mess. It would be easier that way, afterall. Very little good could from antagonizing the Tal’Shiar. Still he needed to know exactly what they were up to, even if that meant risking entanglement. “Rehkkai,” Lhaelev said. “The runabout appears to be adjusting course, heading towards ch’Ganei.” There could be no letting them go now. “Interesting. Continue to monitor them. Helm, adjust our course to bring us closer to ch’Gan...” “Sir I have an incoming transmission for you from high command. It's on the restricted channels. “ Destorie glanced to Lhaelev again, this time with an even deeper frown. “I’ll take in my chambers.” The spinning t’Liss of the Romulan Imperial Navy Command was already displayed on his viewers by the time he settled into his desk. He quickly confirmed his authorization codes and retinal scan and the t’Liss dissolved into darkness before being replaced by Admiral Lakel’e Hvaern. Hvaern was infamous for his perpetually icy glower. His deep set eyes revealed little. Destorie wondered, for a moment, if this was in response to his encounter with Colonel Seihbe, but he would have thought the admonishment would have come from his direct superior, Rear Admiral Yyven Laxal. It would have also surprised him if Seihbe had escalated the situation any further. Still, he held his breath pensively as Lakel’e began speaking in a gruff, gravelly tone that accentuated his outworlder accent. “Enarrain N’Dak,” he said. “I hope all is well with you aboard the Elarion. I know it can’t have been the assignment you were hoping for, but we must all do as the Empire needs.” Before Destorie could respond, Lakel’e had moved on. “There is a situation developing and Command believes that your extensive experience in dealing with the Lloann’na could be useful.” That was certainly one way to describe Destorie’s (mis)adventures in dealing with the Lloann’na over the years. Still, he was intrigued. What had transpired with the Lloann’na and why would command send him of all people to deal with the problem? “I see,” he said, stroking at clean-shaven chin, “What is the mission?” “The Elarion is to end your patrol and head to the Hyspert system, on the edges of the Outmarches. There you will rendezvous with the Gaenor, the Thaetix, and the Fulmic.” Four warbirds on the edges of the Outmarches? “To what end?” “I am afraid I can’t tell you that, just yet Ennarain.” He held up a hand, anticipating the protest. “Once you’ve arrived at the coordinates, you will take command of the task force. Additional orders will be issued at that time as the situation develops. I wish I could tell you more, but you know how it is. The Tal’Shiar guard their secrets more zealously than the Ferrengi covet Latnium, I swear.” Nose wrinkled like a Bajoran, Destorie leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms. He knew better than to argue the point, and given his recent run in with the Tal’Shiar it was perhaps best not to ask anyway. Still in the recesses of his mind, his final conversation with his sister before he left for the Elarion began clawing its way into his conscious mind. “Be careful, Sheuiji,” she had said turning to leave the study. “I am the least of your worries in the Tal’Shiar. You have made powerful enemies. For the sake of our house, do not give them any excuses to act.” The words lingered as he thanked Lakel’e for the courtesy of telling him where the secrecy originated. Lakel’e nodded. “The formal orders are arriving via encrypted communique now. How quickly can you be underway to Hyspert?” Destorie glanced to the second monitor where communique awaited his security clearance. “By this evening. My engineer wanted to make some adjustments to our field coils, and I agreed. You know how engineers can be if you reschedule things on them.” Lakel’e’s icy visage finally cracked and he chuckled. “Don’t I ever. Very well. I’ll notify the commanders of the rest of your task force. The Gaenor is a bit closer than you, but the Thaetix and Fulmic are coming from the Rylan sector.” They exchanged formal goodbyes leaving Destorie to stare at a spinning t’Liss once more. He frowned and pulled up the encrypted orders. “To Ennarain Destorie N’Dak, Commanding Officer RES Elarion,” he read the first few sentences aloud before trailing off. Finishing, he punched them through the computer to verify they were legitimate. When the computer had returned the authentication, he took a final deep breath before heading out onto the Oira. Tyras had joined the oira crew by that point. Lithe and slender, Tyras was far taller than Destorie. He had sharp, blue-green eyes that almost sparkled in the soft oira lighting. Destorie found him attractive, but he has long since sequestered those emotions. Still, there were moments where he couldn’t help but admire Tryas’ sharp jaw and angular, Romulan cheekbones. “Ennarain,” Tyras said, breaking the spell. Destorie gathered himself quickly. “How long would it take tr’Faeva to realign the plasma coils.” Blinking Tyras, furrowed his brows. “Several hours at least... but...” “Good, have him begin realigning them. I feel like had mentioned they’re were out of alignment in our staff meeting yesterday.” They hadn’t had a staff meeting yesterday. After a few moments, his commanding officer’s intent dawned on him and he nodded. “Of course, right. I forgot. Yes, I’ll have him get started right away. We’ll have to drop to impulse of course.” “Very well. You the conn.” Destorie disappeared into his chambers once more, leaving Tyras to deal with the somewhat bewildered oira crew.
  4. Enarrain Destorie N’Dak looked over from his ISD towards the door of his small stateroom aboard the Norexen-class warbird Blazoned Wing as the subtle chimes interrupted his thoughts. “Enter,” he said looking back to the information. “Jolan tru,” came the voice of the ships master, Enarrain Tarken Jaelok. “I apologize for na being present when au came aboard…” Destorie put the ISD down on the small desk that took up the corner of his stateroom – Romulan vessels had little need for elaborate guest quarters – and smile disarmingly. “Na need to apologize,” he said. “I am sure au had more pressing matters to attend to.” Tarken nodded and moved towards the desk, taking a seat after Destorie motioned. “I hope au find au quarters satisfactory. I am sure they are much smaller than those au were used to aboard the Talon.” For a moment, Destorie’s thoughts drifted away from his new assignment and to his old life. It had been months since he had been aboard the Talon and yet, it still very much felt like his home -- a home he would likely never be aboard again. Waving a hand, he pushed the thoughts aside. “They are more than adequate, hann’yyo. And also for the information au have provided me rhae the status of our operations in the Gamma Quadrant.” “It was na trouble,” Tarken said, “anything to assist the new Chief of Staff for the Gamma Quadrant Command.” A sly grin escaped Destorie before he reined it back in. “I think au overestimate my ability to advance au career, Enarrain.” Slightly built with soft-features, Tarken could hardly be considered imposing, yet Destorie got the distinct feeling that his physical features belied his cunning or ability. Leaning back in his chair, Destorie resisted the urge to yawn and instead picked back up the ISD he’d been reading when the Blanzoned Wing’s captain joined him. “So,” he said finally, “tell me about Camelot. What are the Lloann’na there like?” After some careful consideration, Tarken cleared his throat. “It is an … interesting situation. The Lloann’na continue to be somewhat divided, I think, on why they are there and what to do about the continued deterioration of the Dominion. Their commander Abronvonvich,” he said, somewhat mangling the name – though he certainly could have cared less about doing so, “seems capable from what I have seen and heard from him. The Khre’Riov had a grudging respect for him – as au can see from her reports. I know that before her, Khre’Riov tr’Shaelon also respected him.” “He has a strong record,” Destorie mused. “Clearly the Lloann’na continues to place a much higher priority on this venture than our own government.” Tarken lifted an eye brow. He had not expected such a self-deprecating comment, however veiled, from N’Dak – it certainly didn’t fit the character of the man he’d heard rumors of being an ‘overly-ambitious brat with a penchant for self-aggrandizement.’ Making a mental note to keep an even closer eye on the young N’Dak, Tarken nodded in relative agreement. “This latest round of cutbacks,” Destorie said with a flourish. “Only underscores our lack of interest.” He sighed and put the ISD back down. “I suppose it is to be expected – the Sihhus Lakhraem barely tolerates our continued involvement in – what did the Proconsul call it—alien misadventures?” “Ie,” Tarken said coolly. Homesun politics were, as usual, complicated. “And with the unrest among the frontier worlds, I am surprised that they were willing, at all, to maintain the presence we have.” Destorie frowned. Unrest among the frontier worlds had grown, significantly. The frontier colonies had been the leading force behind the Enuar movement earlier in the decade, which had seen the Romulan Empire shift leftwards toward a more open and free society. They had also been the spawning grounds for several terrorist and separatist movements that Destorie had the rather unfortunate opportunity to deal with first hand. Those actions had given the radical, conservative Sihhus Lakhraem all the ammunition they had needed to push through a series of ‘reforms’ aimed at rolling back the liberal efforts of the Enuar and to further tighten the grip of the empire on the outworlds. Tarken glanced towards Destorie, measuring him. He had learned from others back in the alpha quadrant that a number of mid-level Galae command officials were being replaced, often by individuals like the young N’Dak across from him. “Well, there is little we can do about it,” he finally offered. “I will leave you to your studies. Let me know if you require anything further. We should arrive at Deep Space 9 later tomorrow. It’s roughly another week onto Camelot Station from there.” Destorie nodded and looked back to his work as Tarken quietly excused himself.
  5. The warm summer rays of the homesun basked the solarium of the Rhaen t’Lai Medical Facility where Destorie N’Dak sat quietly in a power chair with a silver cane across his lap and worn, leather-bound book in hand. The title had long since disappeared from the cover, and the edges were frayed. The solarium was still in the late afternoon. “What are au reading, h’nah?” Destorie looked up from his book to find his father leaning against the floor to ceiling windows of the solarium. He wondered how long he’d been there, but smiled. “A diary of io of the sundered,” he said putting the book down on his lap. “Mother gave it to me.” “A message no doubt.” His father said with an easy smile. “It is good to see you well. Au were in bed when I stopped by earlier in the week. A fever they said.” The young N’Dak looked little of himself. Gaunt and distant. He simply nodded. His ‘recovery’ from what was officially being classified as an assault and not an assassination attempt had been far slower than his doctors had anticipated, and he continued to struggle with walking, as of late, seemed to develop a host maladies every time he seemed to be on the up swing. “Ie,” he said. “Though I am better now. The nurses told me au came.” The elder N’Dak seemed troubled. Broad shouldered, stout with the high cheek bones and granite jawline of his house, D’Lvon nodded. “Au mother and sister send their jol,” he said. Both had kept vigil earlier in his recovery, but he had pushed them away as it drug on, telling each in turn to resume their lives. Neither had gone willingly, but had eventually acquiesced to his demands. His father’s visit had been more of a surprise. Their relationship had always been complicated. “Hann’yyo,” Destorie said quietly. “I am sure they are both less than pleased with me for sending them away.” “That is putting it mildly, Sheuji.” Destorie sighed at the use of his fourth name. “In time they will understand, and if not...” “And if not, au can continue to wallow in au own self-pity, ie?” D’Lvon had never been one to hide his feelings or opinion, and his tone was matter of fact. “That’s not what this is about. And if au...” “Oh spare me, will au? Au have been under the care of the best maenek and khiensa rhae the Empire and none of them can say why au struggle so much with the use of au leggs. Well that’s not entirely accurate. Na na, do au know what they say?” “They say it is in my mind,” Destorie spat out his response. “Ie, ie. I have heard them say it.” “And do au doubt them?” There was a long silence in the room. It was rather true. There was no physical explanation for why it had taken him so long to regain full use of his legs. True there had been some damage done as a result of blood loss, but the doctors had assured him and his family that all of that had been repaired. Nor could they physically explain the recurrent pain he felt in his chest, or his nightmares. The khiensa said it was simple trauma, and that, in time, he would recover given proper treatment. He wondered what else they said about him, but did shook his head. “Na,” he said. “As the khiensa say it is all in my head.” “Then be done with this. Au are an N’Dak, and we do not sucumb to self-pitty.” “Perhaps I am not the son au would have wished,” Destorie said bitterly. “Perhaps I am not as strong as au, or au father, or au father’s father.” “Oh for elements sake.” D’Lvon decidedly lacked the somewhat softer touch of his mother or sister, who’d both had this very same conversation only to give up in frustration. Say what you would about Destorie N’Dak he was resolute, even in disparity. “Qu’ii au life au have compared au self to others. To au namesake. I suppose I am as much to blame for that, naming au in such a fashion was a bit cruel.” Destorie looked at his father sidelong. This was the most lucid conversation with the man he could remember. “Why are au wasting au time? We both know that I am lost. Is this about au pride, old man? Are au so worried about au status that au cannot bear to tell au dear friends in the Dehuit that au son is a broken man?” The words stung, but D’Lovn’s jaw remained unflinched. “That is enough. I did not come to argue with au. I came to see how au were doing and I had hoped perhaps au would stop au moping, au sulking. I see h’nah that was a mistake.” Rolling his eyes, Destorie turned his power chair and began to leave the solarium. “Well then, au have seen me. You can go back to your scheming and plotting rhae the capitol.” “Running away, h’nah? Are au going to wheel auself off to au room and cry like a child?” “Taunting a cripple seems beneath au father, though I suppose not considering.” “A cripple?” D’Lvon laughed mirthlessly. “Try a spoiled brat of a Rihannsu whose pouting and sulking over elements knows what demeans all the hard work and effort he has put into his career. Au know, I was wrong to name au as I did, Sheuji. At least au great-grandfather had the honor, the bravery, to take his own life, rather than wallow in his self-pity.” The younger N’Dak stopped in his rolling. His voice was low, immeasurably tense and tinged with roiling anger. “If au were na my father, I would yy’a au. It’s almost a shame someone hasn’t after all these years. Elements knows you deserve it.” D’Lvon laughed again. “Oh really,” he said sardonically. “And just how would au yy’a me? Would au run me over with au chair? If so, then don’t let my paternity stop au. Be rid of me, right now. There’s na io here to stop au.” For a moment, there was silence. How could Destorie possibly respond to that? He couldn’t. Finally when the silence had become uncomfortable for both men, Destorie exhaled. “Forgive me father, I do na wish to see au yy’a.” D’Lvon nodded and made his way over to his son, putting a strong hand on his shoulder. “Au don’t have to lie,” he said. “I am sure there are time au do, I do na hold it against au. It’s not as if I have always been, what would the Lloann’na call it? Father of the year? Ie. “Listen, I came because I do care for au. I do not wish, nor want, to see au waste auself like this. The maeneks have said there is na reason for au to not be able to return to au duties. Perhaps na on the Talon, or na active duty right away -- but there are other ships, other duties, other commands. I have many friends still, and au have managed, despite auself, to impress a few key individuals as well. Gharan Jaeoln continues to ask of au. He has a new command in mind for au.” Despite himself, Destorie perked. “Ie?” “Ie,” D’Lvon said. “Though I do na know the details. I know he has been placed over several of our foreign assignments.” A bit less cheerful at that bit of news, Destorie sighed. “Oh,” he said quietly. “If au speak to him, tell him I look forward to seeing him again.” “So au plan on recovering then afterall?” “Well,” he said, “Au were correct earlier. It would be awfully hard to yy’a from this chair.”
  6. Destorie N’Dak had been wounded before, many times in fact. He had, to his count, nearly died four times, and been somewhat close to the verge several more. His body bore the scars a soldier, and of a traitor. Yet, as he lay in the hospital bed of his corner room in the Rhaen t’Lai Medical Facility on the outskirts of the capitol, he could not remember a time during any of those previous injuries where he’d felt so helpless. Though the maeneks assured him that he would begin to recover strength in his legs, simply to be patient, he found little solace in their words. It had been several weeks since he’d been brought out of what he’d been told had been a medically induced coma. Part of him wished to return to the dreamless sleep he’d lived in for the last months. He was unaccustomed to this life. Even when he’d been injured before on Talon, he had still be expected to return to duty as soon as he was well. His days were now filled with endless sessions with maeneken, poking and prodding him, conducting treatment regimens on his legs. And then there were the unending sessions with the Kheinsa. He hated them, he really did. They were supposed to help au deal with the trauma and the stress that io had been through, yet he always finished their appointments somehow more angry and frustrated than he had started them. “Tell me again,” they would say, “what is it about the voice au dream of that makes au think au knew the attacker?” Elements. How did io describe that? And why would the response have changed since the last time he had been asked? Though that was hardly the most obnoxious question a Kheinsa had asked him lately. “So, Destorie,” the Kheinsa with the long, black hair had said, sitting next to his biobed, “Have au thought about what au will do if au cannot recover? Have au considered au life outside of the Galae? I have found that many people in au position struggle to adapt to a new life, especially when they did not choose such a path.” “Oh ie, ie,” Destorie muttered out loud as he thumbed through a book his sister had brought him. “I just have a list ready of ‘things to do when I get stabbed and have to leave the Galae.’” Actually, on second thought, it might not be a bad list to have, given his luck. He frowned and made a note to work on that list so that he could rattle off a list of ideas the next time a pesky Kheinsa asked him that. He sighed and put down his book. If there was a ‘benefit’ to this recovery, it was that he had gotten a chance to finally connect with his other sister and her children. Of the four children of his parents, she had been the only one to actually settle down and start her own family. She was very different from her siblings, in more than that way though. Quiet, reserved, and genial, she stood back from what she called their ‘petty squabbles.’ She eschewed a military career, choosing instead to serve as an advisor to a wealthy, but somewhat demure house.There, she had met her bondmate -- the son of the scion of the house. Together they had bore three children, two sons and one daughter. In some ways, Destorie was envious of her. She had, seemingly, achieved her goals without compromising herself, without giving into her more baser emotions. He had not and now found himself paying for those unbridled ambitions. He sighed. Perhaps the other Kheinsa, the io who’d just left had been right. Perhaps he did spend entirely too much time dwelling on the past, on the things he could na longer change. He took back up the book his sister had brought him on her last visit and examined it more closely. Was she, too, trying to tell him something? The book in question was na just any tabloid, in fact it was an actual paper and ink printing, bound in soft, blue leather with stylized gold imprint on the cover. It was a title he’d never read before, though he was familiar with the author -- granted what educated Rihannsu was na? It was an old tale, a serialization of the trials of a young man growing up aboard the far travel ships during the Sundering. “I hoped you would like it,” he heard his sister’s voice call from the doorway. He smiled and laid the book down on his lap again. “Jolan tru,” he said warmly, sitting up in his bed. “I had wondered if you au were coming today.” Rasa t’Kealan returned a warm smile. Though she carried the striking, sharp looks of her father’s house, her manners and ways were of her mother’s. “Oh dear Shuj,” she said, calling him by the childhood name she had given him. “I have came to see you every day, why would today be any different?” “Oh,” he said slyly, “I did na know if au would continue to waste au time coming to see the family cripple.” Rasa cast a disapproving look at her elder brother, one not unlike the many their mother had given him over the years, he noted, and made her way to the lounger next to his bed. “Au are na cripple. In fact, the nurse tells me au walked on au own this morning.” Destorie frowned. “I would na call it walking so much as stumbling.” “Au are worse than my son,” she said referencing the youngest of her brood. “At least his excuse for whining is he’s teething.” Definitely his mother’s daughter. “Besides,” she continued. “Au doctors have said that despite au rather foul, and what did the khensia call it -- gloomy? Ie, gloomy disposition, that they are very encouraged by au progress.” “Ie, ie,” he said with a huff. “Soon I may be able to walk to the bathroom unaided!” “Io of these days,” she said, the same disapproving look on her face. “Au will stop au wallowing and realize how fortunate au have been, and that as bad as au make it out to be, it could be worse.” “Oh,” he said, “I know it can always be worse. In fact I usually think of how it can be worse, and then it usually gets worse than that.” She rolled her eyes. “Elements, na wonder someone stabbed au.” “Am I really that bad,” he said lowly. Rasa lifted her brows. She na ever known her brother to take jests so seriously, but perhaps he had changed. Realizing that she had perhaps struck deeper than intended, she softened. “Na,” she said. “Au may have au faults, but au did na deserve this.” Destorie smiled, despite himself. “Have we heard any word from Issaha?” Happy to change the subject, she nodded. “We got a communique a few days ago,” she said. “It was dated a few weeks ago, but all was well. He could na say much, obviously, but he seemed well.” “Mehnka,” Destorie said. “I worry about it him, being out there alone.” Rasa smirked. Perhaps there was some of their mother in Destorie as well. “He will be fine. Au have mentored him well. It is time that he learn to stand on his own, and au know it.” “Ie,” he said. “But the irony has na escaped me, that it was to be me on this dangerous mission, and him safely somewhere else, somewhere off Talon.” “Funny how the elements have a way of working themselves out, despite our best intentions.” Bitterly, Destorie looked at his sister. “What do au know that?” Accustomed to his rather brusque ways, Rasa shrugged off any indignation and continued to speak in a soft, even tone. “I never planned to bond, to have a family -- to settle down and put my career second. Mother never did, so why should I? “Yet,” she said. “I have learned that what we intend and what destiny intends for us are often very different. The elements have blessed me with three wonderful children, a loving bondmate, and a secure position in his father’s house as a chief advisor.” Resigned, Destorie sighed and leaned back into the pillows. “I received a communique from Gharan Jaeoln.” Taking out her knitting, Rasa lifted a brow. “Jaelon,” she said, placing the name mentally. “Oh, ie. The Enriov, ie? Hmm how do au know him?” “We met last year,” Destorie said, “just before I was promoted to Enarrain. He had offered me a command of my own under him, but I had decided to stay with Talon.” Sensing that her brother regretted that decision, she nodded. He needed to talk more than anything, and this was the most open he’d ever been. “And what did his communique impart?” “He wished me well, of course. He said he was most pleased to learn that I was beginning my recovery.” “How very thoughtful,” she said neutrally. “Au must have made quite the impression on him then.” “Ie,” Destorie said. “He also wanted me to know that when I was feeling better, and able, to come see him. He would like to speak with me.” “Hmm,” Rasa said, as her knitting needles clicked together. “Perhaps he wishes to offer au another command?” Destorie frowned. He had considered and dismissed such hopes already and did not wish to further entertain such a notion. “I would be surprised,” he said. “Besides, it will be sometime, if ever, before I am capable of holding a command position again.” Rasa laid her knitting down. For the first time, her voice gained an edge. “There au go again,” she said. “Discarding au dreams so easily. Elements, Sheuji, qu’ii au have ever wanted is to gain power and prestige if na for auself then for our House. Au have gone through so much already, yet au have endured. And h’nah, as au face yet another trial, au are willing to discard those ambitions so willingly? Do na forget that while au are also an N’Dak, au are also of house N’Kedre, and we find our true strength in adversity.”
  7. “Exile is a dream of a glorious return. Exile is a vision of revolution: Elba, not St Helena. It is an endless paradox: looking forward by always looking back. The exile is a ball hurled high into the air. ” - Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses Ihen’Gal stirred to life as the homesun began its long arc across the horizon, splashing against the gentle purple waters of the ocean. The sleepy town along the southern ocean had never been much more than a hamlet, tucked into the Haere’au Bay. Even in the long-since-passed days before the Rihannsu had returned to the stars, and they remained bound the land, it was just one of dozens of villages along the coast, where fishermen made small but honorable livings selling the fruits of the seas. The countryside surrounding the small town was dotted with small family farms and old estates. Here and there a wealthier family from one of the larger cities to the north or south had their summer home, or perhaps a hunting cottage. Laying just off the main road, and nestled into a quiet grove of Ethae trees, the summer home of Chaelon tr’Neirth rose just above the treeline. A brick and mortar structure in the old provincial style, it had long been in the family of the House s’Neirth as a getaway home, now however, it served a rather different purpose. Leading along a neatly kept stone path from the back door and down towards a narrow pond, a small garden was already being tended. Kaelia t’Laenin frowned as she stopped to inspect the leaves of an aluani plant that had been continually terrorized by a small variety of beetle that had been brought to the planet aboard a passing freighter. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on the point of view, the latest round of insecticide she had applied seemed to have warded the vermin off and her aluani were beginning to recover. Satisfied, she wiped sweat from her brow and took a breath, looking around her as the morning sun reflected off the dew. Kaelia had never considered herself much of a horticulturist, until she’d taken up residence in Ihen’Gal, but had since found it a somewhat relaxing respite, and as a bonus prevented her from having to make more numerous trips to the town market where she’d have to continually maintain the facade of a mild-mannered widow who sold her estates in the city of Morina and moved here for a quieter life. Resuming her work, Kaelia considered how silly that sounded, but it was the cover story that she had been given, and she had always prided herself on her ability to stick with whatever she was given. Of course, this was different. This wasn’t an assignment. She wasn’t doing this out of a sense of duty, but out of necessity. How long would she have to stay here? It had been some time since she’d heard any news from her contacts in and out of the Tal’Shiar, and she wouldn’t risk contacting tr’Nerith. Her brother had survived, apparently; though he was still recovering. Such a shame, she thought. After all of this, it would have been less frustrating if she had managed to at least rid herself of Sheuji. Sheuji. The name left a bitter, acrid taste in her mouth. So predictable. She paused in her gardening once more. The rivalry between them had existed as long as either could remember. Of the four children spawned by their parents (at least the legitimate ones, she considered), they alone had developed any real semblance of antipathy. Perhaps it was because they were more alike that either would openly admit. They were both headstrong, stubborn, and prideful. Ambitious went without say, of course, they were of the House of N’Dak. And that, as much as anything, had left a legacy for them both to live up to and under. From their earliest days they had competed with each other. In the beginning it had been just that, healthy competition between siblings, but as they had grown older the rivalry had turned personal. For her, she had never understood why her father favored Sheuji. Her mothers favoritism towards him had always made sense. He was far more like her than he would ever admit, though perhaps not as much as their younger brother. Still she could understand it, but her father? “Elements.” She finally said aloud, digging her trowel into the dirt a bit harder than she intended. She had followed her father’s footsteps, entering the Tal’Shiar. She had risen through the ranks, and in many ways even exceeded her father’s own accomplishments. Yet still, he favored the elder son, despite his many weaknesses. A thought, dark and sinister, had begun to slowly manifest in her mind. Perhaps all this time she had been taking the wrong target. While removing Destorie would certainly alleviate some of the issues, the real problem, the real obstacle was that of her parents. A thin smile crossed her face. She wouldn’t be here forever.
  8. As the Talon hunted for the captured t’Vatrix, worlds away, Destorie N’Dak began to stir. His eyes fluttered open. At first everything was hazy, shrouded in a blur of lights and sound. His lips were dry, and his throat felt of sand paper. Where was he? His last coherent memory had been … what had it been? As he took in air slowly, surely, his view began to clear, and the sounds around him began to take form. “Sheuiji,” he heard for the first time, “can you hear us?” It was the gentle voice of his mother. He had heard it in his dreams, calling to him, softly, reassuringly. “Ie,” he managed through parched lips, in a raspy voice. “Ie, ri’nanov” Taking him into her arms, Sevik embraced her eldest son. Kissing him lightly on the forehead, she smiled. “Welcome back, my son.” Behind her, Destorie had begun to make out the shapes of the figures. His father stood at the foot of the bed, a look of great relief upon his face. To the left, his sister Savu stood holding her eldest son Meyen; but where were the other two? “What, what happened?” “You were injured,” D’Lvon said calmly, as Sevik broke her embrace to look back. “There was an attack.” Destorie’s thoughts swirled. The last thing he remembered was he was... chasing someone... at t’Ksa’s wedding. “How … how long have I been here?” He had been injured enough times to know when he was in a medical facility. D’Lvon hesitated, looking to Sevik. Turning to her soon, she ran a hand through his hair. “It has been several months, Sheuiji. The injuries were significant, and there were complications.” Trying to set up further, he found the task more difficult than he anticipated, muscle atrophy he considered before settling back down. “What happened?” “The investigation is still underway,” Rasa said, “but...” D’Lvon cut her off. “But the authorities are doing everything possible to find out who was behind the attack.” Destorie shook his head. “I was... I was chasing someone... I do not remember who... or why...” “Ie. Au had gone to look for t’Ksa, they found au stabbed,” his father said. “Au nearly bleed to yy’a before they were able to get au to this facility.” “Where am I then?” “The Narein Imperial Medical Facility.” Destorie grimaced again as he felt a surge of pain as he tried to move his legs. “Don’t try to move too much,” his mother said. “Where is Kaelin?” he said invoking his brother’s fourth name. Looking to each other, his mother finally spoke for the family. “He is on assignment, rhae the Talon.” For a long moment Destorie said nothing. He had never considered that Issaha would be the io to put duty before emotion. Or perhaps he hadn’t? Whatever the case, Destorie was proud of his brother. Relieved, his mother stroked his forehead gently. “H’nah au should rest. The maeneken say au still have a long road before au.” “My legs,” he said as he tried to move them again. “They feel so heavy.” “Ie,” she said. “Muscle atrophy and...” “And?” “Au were without oxygen to au brain for several minutes...” “I was yy’a?” “Technically, ie...” she said. “They believe that there was some damage to the part of au brain that controls movements.” He frowned. Unsure how to feel about the revelation. His father continued for his mother. “Au will have to go through physical therapy to relearn some of au finer motor skills. It will na be easy.” Nodding, he leaned back in his bed. “Ie,” he said. “Then I have much work ahead of me.” “Ie,” his mother said. Closing his eyes, Destorie let his thoughts wander once again. His mind was a jumble of memories and fragments of memories. It was going to be a long time before any of this made sense.
  9. Kaelia ran her hand through her now shoulder length black hair. It had been nearly three months since she’d gone into hiding in the small port town of Ihen’Gal, and nearly as long since she’d spoken to anyone from her ‘former’ life. In some way, it seemed it had been even longer. She had, of course, spent longer in deep cover assignments, but this was decidedly different -- this was exile. Frowning in the mirror at her reflection, Kaelia picked up a silver hairbrush and began stroking. She’d never had long hair before and she sometimes found the routine soothing. It was strange to her, how such a simple, mindless task could distract her for even a few moments for her worries, doubts and frustrations. Yet in the end, it was only that. A distraction. And soon everything would come rushing back and she would remember... “I have bad news for you.” Savu N’Dak looked up to her friend, mentor and direct superior. Given just how turbulent, disappointing and frankly messed up the last several weeks had been, she wondered just how bad things could be that Chaelon tr’Naierth would address her in such somber tones. She steeled herself and took a deep breath. “What is it.” Chaelon grimaced. He had not wished to be the bearer of such news, even though he knew in the long run, the setback would be advantageous for the haughty young N’Dak. It might, he considered, even save her life. At the very least, it would teach her some humility. “You have been suspended from active duty, rhae the Tal’Shiar.” “Suspended?!” Her voice filled with fury, and her gaze iced. “On whose authority? And why? I de…” In a very even and measured tone, like a blacksmith tempering a red-hot iron, Chaelon held his hand before him. “It is only temporary, and on the authority of the Director himself.” Unsatisfied with his response, her rage continued unabated. “Unacceptable … unforgivable! I will not stand idly by and allow this! How can you?! You’ve betrayed me you… you...” She didn’t remember, later, that she started beating on his chest, or that she’d broken down in tears – though the pain in her fists told her that it was true. When she finally managed to regain a modicum of composure, and now even more embarrassed that she’d shown her feelings, she looked over to Chaelon. “I suppose I deserve this.” “You are an excellent agent,” he said reassuringly. “And you have always been loyal to the Tal’Shiar and our cause. However, you have severely compromised the mission. I suppose it’s as much my fault. I should have never let you go to the bonding. I should have just killed your brother myself.” Savu did not know how to even begin to respond. Her lips trembled with a mixture of fear, anger, and embarrassment. “And now we cannot even touch him.” “Ie, though he is the least of our worries h’nah.” “What shall become of me?” Chaelon placed a reassuring arm around Savu and squeezed her shoulder gently. In many ways, she had become his surrogate daughter, and he felt deeply sorry for her. “For h’nah, au must continue to lay low. The Director feels that because of the sensitive nature of this operation, au continued involvement would have only further jeopardize the mission and brought even more risk to the Tal’Shiar. When things have settled down, and when na so much attention is upon au family, au will be reassigned. In the interim au will continue to collect au duty pay. I have arranged for transportation for au to the city of Ihen’Gal. I have kept a small house there for many years, and au may consider it au home for h’nah.” “Hann’yyo,” she said sincerely. “Au have taken considerable risk to auself by not simply allowing me to be dishonored. If our positions were reversed, I am na sure I would do the same for au.” Chaelon nodded. “I know.” “And what of Issaha? He thinks he’s spying for me.” The elder Romulan pursed his lips. “We have decided to continue to utilize him -- so long as he doesn’t compromise our goals. With t’Vatrix back -- it will be more difficult to place agents rhae the ship.” She nodded. “I would ask that you not...” There was something in her voice that caused Chaelon a pause of his own. He had suspected that unlike the elder brother, she actually cared for the younger one. A pity. “So long as he does not get in the way of the operation,” he said, “he will na be in any real danger. The yy’a of another son would draw even more attention. Au father has begun to worry us. His loyalty was once unquestionable, but h’nah...” “Au think he suspects my involvement?” “I do na know,” Chaelon said honestly, “but he has been slowly distancing himself from his old associates, rhae the Tal’Shiar. There are rumors he may be looking to switch sides, as it were...” “That would be unfortunate … for him,” she added the last part quickly. “And my mother? She was always quick to speak out against...” “She has been surprisingly quiet. Perhaps because she has been at the hospital, but ie, she is not io to hold her tongue. We will continue to monitor her.” Savu nodded. She leaned back against her chair and exhaled, eyes shut. This entire operation had been a cluster from the beginning. She should have listened, should have let them do it their way; but she hadn’t and now she would pay the price for her pride. She was to be exiled. They could call it whatever they wanted, but that was what suspension in the Tal’Shiar amounted to and everyone knew it. “Vhri’mehnka,” she finally said. “I will gather my things. I take it you have prepared for me a cover in Ihen’Gal?” “Yes,” Chaelon said, handing her an ISD. “You will find everything you need there. Until things have calmed down, I would suggest not using any of your own funds. If your family becomes suspicious, they might begin looking into them.” Savu nodded as she scanned the document. “Kaelia t’Hseih,” she said her new name outloud. “Of course, though...” “Do na worry about money,” he said. “I have arranged for au to receive a stipend... it is all in the ISD.” Turning, she placed a hand on Chaelon’s shoulder and smiled, genuinely for what seemed the first time in ages. “Hann’yyo … for everything.” Kaelia tightened her grip on the hair brush and sat it down with a thud. She looked into the reflection and closed her eyes. Everything she’d ever wanted had been within her grasp, now here she was -- an exile. How long would she have to wait in the small, seaside town? How long would she have to keep her true name and nature hidden?
  10. A joint log by Laehval t'Temarr and Issaha N'Dak Issaha sat quietly in the lab, alone after Pexil had left him to attend to some other pressing issue that had arisen. Frankly, Issaha was relieved he was gone; while he didn’t have anything personal against the Daise’Engineer, he had found it awkward to work with him given that every five minutes Pexil brought up the stabbing in some fashion. The younger N’Dak closed his eyes and leaned back against his chair. He was going to have to get used to it, he supposed. Opening them, he looked back towards the analysis that Pexil had helped him program. They weren’t any closer h’nah to finding the origin than they’d been several hours before, every time they got relatively close to what seemed to be the origin -- there was na thing there. The nature of the signal itself did na seem to help either. Its short duration, combined with the fact it had only appeared twice, had made it very difficult to track. The Enarrain had given Laehval much to think on, but foremost in her mind was the ISD in her hand, with vital information that she knew Issaha could use. While the Daise’Science had done what he could to track the signal’s source, he’d been hampered by Galae’s security network. Now, with the codes that would give them access and open the way, she knew that he’d have a better chance of finding t’Ksa. Striding into the lab, her eyes drifted over the empty room until she found him, sitting alone with his work. A moment of sympathy crossed her face, thinking of his wounded brother, but she smoothed her features into an expression of neutrality as she approached him. They both had a job to do and lamenting Destorie’s demise would have done either of them very little good. She cleared her throat as she neared. “Daise, I have something that au will appreciate.” She waved the ISD for him to take. Issaha turned hearing her voice, startled at first. Unlike his brother, his paranoia was not such that he actively worried about someio creeping up on him, but perhaps it was habit that would suit him to adopt. Recovering quickly at the sight of Laehval, he tipped his head respectfully. “Rekkhai,” he said, “If I may, what is it?” “The answer to your present troubles,” she said cryptically. “The signal au have been tracking has na gone unnoticed by others within Galae. The Enarrain gave me these codes, authorized for our use in tracking t’Ksa. Hopefully we will be able to use them to track the signal further. Have a look.” He took the ISD and looked the information over cursorily. “Ie,” he said, “this will certainly aid our progress. I will na lie, it has been rather difficult.” Sitting the ISD down for a moment he glanced towards Laehval. It was so strange now to see her in what had been his brother’s position, and even stranger given what he’d heard. “Hann’yyo,” he added. “We will begin using these codes to try and further localize the signal.” “Au understand the implications of this signal, ie?” She wondered how much he’d been told and if t’Rexan had shared the rest with anyone else. Knowing that the ship’s Enarrain believed herself to be on a suicide mission was a difficult burden to bear. “We show that it was activated twice, but only in short bursts. It seems deliberate, does it na? t’Ksa attempting to signal, but unable to leave it for long for fear of discovery by her captors.” The thought had occurred to him. He knew why they were out here, and he was smart enough to be able to deduce why they’d be looking for a specific signal. “I believe I do, ie.” Though he wondered, silently, had it been his brother that had gone missing, if the Talon would have been mobilized so quickly. “Of course, I expect to be updated if au make any further developments.” She studied him for a moment, looking past the position to the man. Her voice softened a fraction. “Do au have everything au need? I know this position is na io au expected to assume. Recent changes have come as a surprise to us all.” Issaha felt himself suddenly very vulnerable. As his eyes met with those of Laehval, he had to consciously remind himself of his station. Swallowing back his emotions, he nodded. “Ie,” he said. “Though I have considered asking the quartermaster to assign me different quarters. The ones I have h’nah are awfully... big.” It was a rather silly request, he knew, especially couched in those terms, but he really didn’t want to say ‘Ie, ie, please get me out of my quarters so I am not constantly reminded of my near yy’a brother.’ Her brows knitted, but she nodded knowingly. “I will see to it. Do au have a preference as to where au wish to be moved? In these circumstances, au should be given a choice. Decide and send your request to me. In fact, if au need anything, departmental or otherwise, let me know. The science department has always been somewhat of a puzzle to me, so au are very much valued. There are few here that could do what au do.” Issaha tipped his head respectfully. “I am very thankful,” he said graciously. “I will send the formal request this evening once I have finished my work here. And also hann’yyo for au kind words, and for au support of the department. Science is not always valued in the Galae command structure, as au know.” He paused and looked towards her, wondering if she’d be so gracious under other circumstances. He put the thought away as soon as it formed. He’d known Laehval, or known of her rather, for as long as he’d been on Talon; and while she had a reputation of being a bit .. prickly, no one had ever accused her of being dishonest, either. Destorie certainly thought much of her, to be sure. “And,” he added, “if there is anything au require of me, I am of course at au disposal.” “The offer is most appreciated, if unnecessary. I am certain that au will do your duty to the best of your ability. I need na remind au that all of this rests solely upon your department for the moment. If au are unable to trace the signal, we have nothing to go on and our mission will fail before it ever begins. It seems a large burden to place upon your shoulders, but I have confidence in your abilities. House N’Dak has a certain reputation, as au well know. On the Talon, au have always been hidden within your brother’s shadow, but that time has now passed. This is your opportunity to show that au have something to offer.” It was the first outright mention of his brother’s name, though he felt they’d both been thinking of him for sometime, and it caught him his guard for a moment before he recovered. “Ie,” he said. “And I do not intend to fail. I am sure you may have heard of the motto of the House N’Dak, ie? ‘The Bold Endure.’ But I doubt au have ever heard the io of my mother’s family, House N’kedre?” Laehval shook her head. “Na, I know na of your mother’s family. Do au hold to their words as well?” “Ie,” he said, a tinge of pride welling in his voice. Of his mother’s four children, he had been the only io to hold much sentiment for them. While they were noble enough, they lacked the prestige and intrigue of the House N’Dak, he sometimes wondered if they were ashamed to have been from such a house. “The banners of her house bear the words ‘strength rejoices in adversity.’ I have always taken it as something of a personal motto myself.” She studied him thoughtfully. “I would say that those words fit au, especially now. Hold to them an au will have little trouble proving your worth.” Inclining her head, she offered the barest hint of a smile -- a rare show of emotion. “If there is nothing else that au require to aid au in tracking the signal, then it is time I return to the Oira.” “Of course,” he said, bowing his head respectfully. “Hann’yyo, again for everything.”
  11. "Your mother's dead, before long I'll be dead, and you, and your brother, and your sister and all of her children. All of us dead, all of us rotting in the ground. It's the family name that lives on. That's all that lives on. Not your personal glory, not your honor, but family. Do you understand?" ~ Game of Thrones As Destorie N’Dak lay in a medically induced stupor in the Galae Medical Center in the capitol city, the youngest of the family made his way through the gardens outside of their Senate complex home. The air was soft and filled with the early blooms of en’ha trees, and the sun was creeping ever downwards in the lazy afternoon; had his entire world not been thrust into flux, he would have rather enjoyed it. Issaha sighed as he made his way towards the three story Praetorian Age home that the House s’NDak had occupied as their residence in the capitol for nearly three hundred years. In many ways, for Issaha, it was much more of a home than the stately manor in Hein’Rhe, and he’d spent most of his youth finding ways to get in trouble in the surrounding grounds. Those days seemed so very far away now -- everything had changed. Once he’d never cared about politics, about the intrigue that seemed destined to follow his family and coil its way around them and ensnare them in plots of high drama. He’d been the playboy, the loveable fool that no one every worried about, that everyone dismissed – h’nah he was deeply entrenched in plots and schemes that were playing out at the highest levels of the Empire. Elements, he thought, this is na my province. Clearing through the security door on the side of the manor, which led directly into a small anteroom outside of an elaborate parlor, Issaha took off his boots and headed instead to a door on the opposite end of the anteroom and into a long corridor that wrapped around the house. Finally arriving in his suite in the corner of the house, he was unsurprised to see that he had a message on the terminal. Most of them, as expected, were messages of condolence and support from his friends and former shipmates; but one took him slightly off guard. The sender’s name was blank but the message told him all he needed to know about who had sent it. TELL NO ONE. I WILL CONTACT YOU ONCE I HAVE SEEN YOU HAVE RECEIVED THIS MESSAGE AND ARE ALONE. He took a very deep breath. He still wasn’t sure he could really go through with the plan, nor was he sure that if he did see her, that he could keep from throttling the life out of his sister. He paused and looked down at his hands. They were moist with sweat and he knew his blood pressure was racing. This is what we have become? At that moment, he heard a small chirp and then the sudden sound of photons being organized into a holographic image. “Jolan tru,” he said mustering every ounce of restraint. “Is that how au welcome au sister?” Continuing to look away, unable to face her he clinched his teeth and closed his eyes, taking a very long moment to respond. “I do na think au are io to speak of proper welcomes to au siblings. I suppose I should count myself lucky that au are only a holographic image and na the real thing, least I join Destorie rhae a hospital bed with a knife rhae my hear, na?” If she felt anything, she didn’t show it, even if Issaha had been looking at her, which he wasn’t. “I see au misplaced loyalty for au brother continues.” “Misplaced?!” He turned on heel, glaring with all the rage and fury that was bubbling bellow the surface. “How dare au…” “Oh please,” she said, almost enjoying it. “Destorie has done na thing for au but hold au back. Really Kaelin…” “That name,” Issaha said, trying hold back his anger but unable to completely cloak it, “is na for one such as au to speak.” Savu feigned injury. “What have I ever done to au? I have only ever been helpful to au. I, unlike au pathetic brother, have only ever wanted to see au flourish and succeed. He…” “Stop.” “The truth hurts, doesn’t it Issaha? Here au have been, all this time, worshiping the ground that veruul walks on, and what has he done for au? Kept au firmly under his finger! He had held au back for years, made au out to be some veruulish playboy unworthy of au proud name. Au should see that h’nah, h’nah that he has cast au aside so easily. I bet he did na even come to see au when au were injured, rhae au last mission.” The truth did hurt. The sharp, barbed words of his sister stung at him like a great swarm of bees and he could feel his resolve weakening. Fighting back tears, he looked directly at his sister in a look so serious, so intense that Savu found herself actually taken back. Had Issaha actually matured? “That is not why we are here. We are here,” he said emphatically, “because au have stained the honor of this entire house by trying to kill au elder brother – in cold blood.” She sighed deeply. “It is na that simple.” To be truthful, it really wasn’t. There was no denying that she wanted to see her brother dead, and that she wanted to personally do it – but on the other hand she didn’t want to be so … ignoble either. “Stop au lies.” “They are na lies. There are many forces in play. He was...” “Stop.” “Then why did au na simply turn me in?” It was a question she’d asked herself dozens of times since her brother had first contacted her, and the one foremost in her mind. “Because,” Issaha said, looking away, “au are still my sister.” Savu N’Dak smiled. “I see...” “Na,” Issaha said. “Au nearly yy’a’d au own blood. Na N’Dak has ever done such a vile deed. I did na think au truely capable of doing it, but I see I was wrong … we were all wrong.” Her smile faded and she looked away. Issaha felt his voice falter. “Athel,” he said trying his best to maintain what little remained of au composure. “Do na even think of lecturing me Issaha,” she said bitterly. “I am still the elder and au will respect that.” “Like au respected Destorie?” “I did my duty,” she said with more emotion than she intended. “He got in the way.” “I see.” “Issaha, au don’t understand.” “Then explain it to me.” “I don’t know exactly what is going on,” she said looking towards him, a strange vulnerability in her voice. “I was given orders by my superiors....” “To kill au own brother?!?” “If he interfered, ie.” “How could you... why...” Savu looked away from a moment before returning to meet Issaha’s glance. “You wouldn’t understand. When you swear allegiance to the Tal’Shiar...” “I see...” “I had no choice. But I swear to you I do na know what is going on, or who is really pulling the strings...” Issaha considered her for a moment. There was something about her tone, her softness now that he had never seen before in her -- though he had occasionally seen it in Destorie. “Perhaps,” he said, “there is a way for us to both find out.” Savu perked her brow. This was unexpected. “What?” “As I am sure au know, Destorie had me transferred off the Talon.” “Oh?” She feigned ignorance. “I had na heard.” He noted the lie, but said nothing of it, confirming what he was thinking. “Ie. However, the Talon has been put on alert, their officers recalled and the rumor is they will be sent on a mission to find out just what has happened to Morgana t’Ksa.” “The io who’s bonding it was, ie?” As if she did na know. “Ie.” “And so what can I do to help au, then?” “Get me back on the Talon.” Now that was an interesting thought. Issaha working for her … on the Talon? “And if such a thing could be arranged, why would I … and what possible benefit would it serve me?” Issaha’s eyes narrowed and the cold chill that his voice carried actually managed to surprise Savu, for the deadly intensity upon his lips bore more than a passing resemblance to that of their father or even Destorie himself. “Together we will find out who is behind this mess so that au can take revenge upon them for making you nearly yy’a au own blood,” he said. “And as for why...” From his jacket he produced the kalleh Savu had used to attack Destorie. “I think au know why. It would be a terrible shame for father or mother to find this. Or perhaps even the Galae. Right now I don’t think they suspect the Tal’Shiar but well...” Why, he was an N’Dak after all. “Very well,” she said. “I will arrange for au to be posted to the Talon as soon as possible. Such assignments are not easy these days, especially to a ship as … known as the Talon, but I will see what I can arrange.” “You’d better.” Savu nodded curtly, and suppressed a thought about reminding Issaha of his place. “Ie,” she said. “Expect the orders by this evening. However...” “I don’t think you’re in any position to make demands...” “Not a demand,” she said, “Just a bit of information you might find useful.” Issaha considered for a moment. “Go ahead.” “I have an agent aboard the Talon, I will send along some information about him. You will find him most helpful in passing along information to me about the status of your mission. I will have him also assigned to Science.” “How thoughtful.” Savu nodded again. “Well then, good luck little brother.” “Ie,” he said. The transmission cut out and Savu stood alone in the bedroom of the cabin that had served as her safehouse since the incident. Elements, how had she gotten into this? Chaelon tr’Naierth glanced over. “Very convincing,” he said. “You think he bought it?” “Ie,” she said honestly. “He did. “ “Very good,” Chaelon said. “I would hate for another of au brothers to need to be removed from the equation.”
  12. A joint log with Aethal tr'Hjan (as played by Destorie N'Dak) and El'Riov Lerak tr'Pexil Aethal looked over the... El’Riov and wondered just how desperate the Galae had gotten. Frowning, he took a deep breath and spoke. “So tell me again,” he said, “Au had been looking for the Enarrain to ask him about some crewmember? “And how do we know that au did na find him, na like the response he had, and stabbed him?” Pexil twisted his expression for a moment, a bit of anger rose. “How do au suppose any of that? But na, I did not get any response as I arrived after he had been stabbed. Though au won’t believe me on another point either I don’t carry a knife...and have not for a long time.” He finished thinking he’s answer might not have been the best move. Lifting a brow, Aethal wondered if he’d struck a nerve. “Au could have taken it off N’Dak himself.” Pexil gave a nervous smile, “I couldn’t have gotten around the cape he wears. Come to think of it I never did see the knife up close. But..if au ask someone like t’Shia you’d find out my hand-to-hand skills are less than stellar. I doubt I could have gotten a knife off of N’Dak if I tried.” With a dismissive look, Aethal considered the response. It was true that he doubted this Pexil could get a weapon off a trained D’Heno like the N’Dak-brat, but that didn’t mean that Pexil hadn’t been lying about carrying a knife. He put his hands behind his back and walked behind Pexil, his boots clicking against the floor. “So, who do au think would want to hurt the Enarrain then?” This was a question he had not considered before. io perk of working in the bowels of the Talon is isolation from the ship politics. Pexil really had na idea, but took some guesses. “Could have been any number of people I suppose. He’s from a well-known and powerful family. He’s commanded many missions, in fact our last mission to that dreadful mining world. To be honest I rarely spoke to N’Dak, nor have I been invited to tea at his family home.” As he stopped speaking he considered some of his own engineering people and the whispers in the corridors. “So au did na know him then after all? Yet au felt compelled to track him down at a formal event to ask him a trivial question about someone?” “She is not trivial to me,” he said with a look toward Aethal. “Besides, before returning to ch’Rihan he had already bypassed communication security to read subspace correspondence and told me classified information. The proverbial door had already been cracked open.” Just who was this person? “So au were asking about someone of importance to au and were angry that he had read au subspace communications?” Aethal stopped behind Pexil as he finished asking the question. To say he was intrigued would have been a bit of an understatement. It was hardly unheard of for an Enarrain to monitor communications from senior officers, nor was it unheard of for said senior officers to be annoyed by it. Relaxing a bit, “I believe io other may have been more angry than myself. While I was angry at N’Dak then I will simply be more careful with my communications in the future. The information he gave me was worth my fleeting personal grudge. My attempts to contact my fellow engineer met with failure. He was the only person who could tell me more. The last thing I would do is make an attempt on his life.” Pexil stared at the table in front of him for a moment, then at the pitcher of water. For a moment Aethal wondered if he’d wandered into the middle of a love triangle or rhae a bad HIC romance program. “I see. Who was this other person au believe to have been more angry than au?” “Khre’Riov t’Rexan, or t’Vatrix now, his former commander. She contacted me herself on a much more secure channel. Actually a refreshing surprise to hear back from her.” He wondered if she ever arrived at the bonding. Better that she had not arrived to see the carnage he tried to stop. Aethal blinked for a moment. “Khre'Riov L'haiy t'Vatrix?” He asked out of sheer surprise. “Ie. I don’t know what became of it, if she had spoken to him. Na io tells me these things.” “And au think she could have … could have planned this attack?” Aethal was genuinely shocked at this revelation. He had na served personally under the Khre’Riov, but he knew of her and knew of her reputation from the War, and despite what rumors he’d heard about her and her new found youth, he was having trouble pretending she could be a suspect, even though she was going to be in attendance with her bondmate. “She could plan my demise if she so chose,” he answered with a head shake. “I don’t think this incident of the communication would deserve such a response as N’Dak’s death. From what I do know of her after all of these years is she’d not disrupt a bonding.” “Oh? Was there other difficulties between them then?” “Elements if I know. Up until her subspace comm she and I rarely spoke. There were a few times I caught a glimpse of disagreement on the oria, but they seemed to keep it under check. This would be a question better suited for her.” After saying those words it struck the engineer t’Vatrix may be questioned as well, and perhaps learn of what Pexil had told Aehtal. He felt himself wanting to crawl into a very large hole and place a very large rock on top of it. Aehtal took a deep breath. H’nah he was sure there was something to this. He could tell from the way Pexil squirmed. He had seen the look before many times when he was in the Galae and served at a prison in the War. After Pexil had finished, Aethal came back around to face him. “I think that is it for h’nah,” he said. “However, au must stay rhae the homeworld so that if we require further information from au, that we can. I am obliged to warn au h’nah that if au have played any part in this plot, this is au final chance to come forward with relative impunity.” “I played na role other than an attempt to keep N’Dak alive. Remaining on the surface will be na problem. I plan to remain at my home or that of my parents. I’m sure the authorities know both locations.” He did not mention he wanted to get out his cycle and ride it as fast as he could. Aethal took a very somber tone and looked directly into the eyes of the El’Riov. “I will ask au only io more time, did au or do au know the identity of the attacker? If au are lying, we will find out and au will surely be yy’a for it. The House N’Dak will surely want the blood of the io who murdered their kin.” “Is he yy’a? The first I’ve heard of this news.” Pexil wondered if Aethal slipped up. “To answer your question, na, I do not know the identity of the io who struck N’Dak.” If N’Dak indeed had yy’a, Pexil’s situation is grave. Very grave.. Aethal demurred. “I do na know for certain, though with the rather crude medical attention au gave it will not be surprising if he is.” “Very well then. Au may go.”
  13. Her heart raced. She could feel it thudding in her chest, just bellow her lungs. Had she actually done it? Savu Aethal Ye’Sho N’Dak nearly collapsed as she slid into the waiting flitter and turned on the autopilot. She had considered how she might feel at this moment many times over her lifetime, but she couldn’t have imagined this was how it would feel. She looked down at her hands. They were covered in blood. His blood. Her blood. She had killed before, many times, yet nothing had prepared her for having her own brother’s blood upon her hands. After everything that had happened between them, this is what it had come to? She had to admit, part of her was almost disappointed it had been so impersonal. Sighing, she leaned back in her seat and closed her eyes. When she opened them, the flitter’s autopilot navigation program had taken her to a small field near a cottage in the southern hemisphere that she would be using as a safehouse. Taking a deep breath, she popped open the canopy and exited the flitter. The cool mountain air filled her lungs and she headed towards the cottage. Opening the door she was unsurprised to see her mentor and superior, Chaelon tr’Naierth sitting near the fireplace in a rocking chair. “Jolan tru.” “Jolan tru,” she responded, heading directly for the sink to wash her hands off. “I expected to find au waiting for me.” “Ie,” Chaelon said. “I wanted to make sure au were okay. Cold as au are towards him, it is never easy when au have to end the life of io of au own family members.” Savu didn’t glance over, though she was curious if Chaelon was just saying that or if he knew from personal experience. She pushed the thought to the back of her mind and began lathering her hands with soap and water. “Well,” he said. “I think it could have been a little more surgical, but the operation seems to have been a success.” “Mehnka,” she said, turning the water off and looking for a towel. “Veruul was about to ruin everything -- again. It was mehnka that I was there. How he managed to figure out what was going on this time … “ “He is au brother, after all.” Frowning, Savu finally made her way over to the fireplace and sat down across from the Chaelon. “Was my brother.” “With any luck.” Savu’s expression darkened. “What do au mean?” Without a word, Chaelon reached to an end table and retrieved a small device and activated a holoscreen where the fireplace had been. On it, the INS (Imperial News Service) played. Details are still coming in the anchor woman said but we can confirm reports of an incident involving a senior member of the House S’N’Dak. Early indications are that while attending the bonding of io of his senior staff members, Enarrain Destorie N’Dak, the son of Deihu D’Lvon N’Dak and Kiith Mrevhoqq'ghi hru'Llairhi Ori’Na N’Kedre, has been critically injured by an unknown assailant. The anchor woman paused as her director presumably fed her more details. He has been taken to a local hospital for treatment, however, his status is currently unknown. We’re going now to Halen t’Kaneo, INS local affiliate who has more on the situation. The screen flashed a second before switching to a young female Rihannsu standing outside the colonnade of the bonding hall. Behind her, local and Galae security were escorting people out of the area. Thank you Gaesel. I am just outside the hall now, as local and Galae security have quarantined the area off. For our viewers, Halen, can you give us a little bit of a background about what was happening Of course, Gaesel. Enarrain N’Dak had been attending the So’Droz of his Daise’Maenek when he was attacked by a hooded individual. Eyewitness reports were limited, but the figure was believed to be a man. Though authorities were hesitant to speculate, as the investigation is very early, they did say that they believed it was not a random act of violence, and were proceeding with the theory that this was a targeted attack on the Enarrain... Chaelon clicked the control again replacing the holoscreen with the fireplace once more and looked to Savu. “He did na see au, did he?” “Na,” she said. “He did na.” She did na think so anyway, but she wasn’t telling Chaelon that. “And the murder weapon?” Her mind instantly froze as he reached for her hip holster beneath the cloak. It was missing. “Au did think to dispose of it?” Chaelon said, detecting the look on her face. “Didn’t au?” “I... I .. elements!” Chaelon took a very deep breath. “Au at least had the good sense to wear gloves I hope.” “Ie … but...” “But what?” “I do na think they will have any trouble tracking who the kaleh belongs to if they find it. At least my family will na.” “Elements Savu. What were au thinking!” “I did na plan on leaving it!” She said defensively. “I was interrupted by the meddling engineer...” Chaelon frowned deeply and looked away before looking to Savu. “I do na need to tell au what possible damage au have done to this operation. H’nah they do na know she is missing, but how long do au think it will take before they realize t’Ksa has been abducted? There were already ios who suspected our involvement in this affair, h’nah au dagger rhae au brother’s heart it will na be hard to connect to the two events.” “Nonsense,” she said. “They will think it was a personal attack on him by me. My family will certainly think that. There is no shortage of bad blood between us.” Shaking his head, Chaelon sighed. “Au had best hope so. If the Tal’Shiar is directly implicated in the abduction, au will answer for it to the Directors auself. I will na risk my own career over au carelessness.” “I would na expect au to,” she said honestly. “It was my mistake. H’nah I will be responsible for it. Besides, we maybe able to persuade whoever finds the weapon to return it anyway.” Chaelon frowned even more deeply. “You want me to risk further exposure by using our resources to monitor the investigation.” “What better cover for selling this as a separate assassination plot?” He opened his mouth to protest, but decided she was likely correct. “Very well.” “Oh, and I more thing,” she said. “We should find someio to pin the attack on. The news report said the eyewitness described the attacker as a male.” “I am sure au have a few ideas for that.” “Ie... never forget the first rule of assassination.” “Yy’a the assassin.”
  14. Everything was going according to plan and Savu N’Dak was not entirely sure she liked it. She understood, of course, why her superiors had decided to allow the Othan veruuls handle the operation, but that didn’t mean she had to like the idea. After all, it was the Othan veruuls whose imprudence had already botched the operation once already, could they really be trusted to pull off something like this with such high stakes? That was a question she did na have an answer for, and it certainly made her less than settled. Frowning, she finished working on the report she’d been messing with and closed her et’rehh station before shrugging on a light jacket on her way out of her office. She was more than a little surprised, though, when she was greeted at the door by her director superior, Sub-Director Chaelon tr’Naierth. Caught off guards, she’d nearly reached for her kaleh, before exhaling much relieved. “Chaelon,” she said, “Au should na sneak up on ios.” Smirking, the elder Rihannsu shrugged. “Perhaps au should na be so paranoid.” “Ie,” she said, “and then, when I am yy’a...” Chaelon simply shook his head and handed her a thick, white envelope with decorative ribbons. “What is this?” She said, taking it in hand and inspecting it. “Open it.” Doing so, she lifted an eyebrow, both confused and reviled at the same moment. “An invitation to …” “Ie. I think au should be there.” Wrinkling her nose and frowning ever more deeply, Savu shook her head. “I thought we were leaving this to the Othan to complete.” “We are,” Chaelon said, intoning something that Savu only vaguely picked up on at first. “Oh... oh... I see. So au think I should go babysit them.” She said, tucking the invitation into her jacket. “I suppose it would be good for me to be there to supervise them. Do they know?” “Na,” he said. “I did na see any point in telling them it would be au who would be watching. I did tell them that I would send someio to observe in case...” “In case Destorie gets in the way?” Chaelon nodded. “Ie. The Deihu does na trust au to handle him.” Muttering a string of obscenities beneath her breath, she glowered at Chaelon, though it was clear to him who the look was directed towards and he sighed. “H’nah,” he said. “I trust au, which is all that matters.” Softening somewhat, and marginally mollified, she nodded. “Hann’yyo. If Destorie interferes, he will be dealt with and I appreciate au letting me handle this.” “Your welcome,” Chaelon said, wondering if he’d just made a mistake. “I do na think I have to tell au to use extreme caution.” Giving him a look, she rolled her eyes. “Please. I am na some …” she made a motion with her hands “novice.” Grinning, Chaelon nodded. “Mehnka. Then I suggest au get going. There is a filter outside waiting for au....”