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Maxwell Traenor

PNPCs Ensign Manius & N'rila, "Raising the stakes."

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((Deep Space 6, Deck 18, Nebula Bar))

:: Todd had received the dreaded message, the summons he had been waiting on. He looked like a dead man walking as he slouched his way through the crowd, making his way to the Nebula bar. The tell-tale signs of the second annual shuttle race were everywhere. He’d already spotted some of his competitors from last year, seen the posters, listened to excitable whisperings and tried to ignore the FNS report blaring from the large view screen in the middle of the Nebula Bar as he weaved his way between tables. Predictably N’rila was exactly where she said she would be. Forcing his expression into one of intense boredom and neutrality he sat down. Beneath the surface his pulse raced, his stomach knotted and his anxiety was rising in an exponential way. ::

Manius: Hello N’rila. How have you been?

::His voice was devoid of emotion,which was probably an increase in friendliness since last year. Since he was expecting this to be extremely bad news for him he didn’t want to antagonise her and being friendly had just as much risk, if not more of doing that as she’d probably think him smarmy. ::

::The Orion woman looked far from impressed. This little weasel had seen fit to try to disappear on her without a trace the year before, after majorly letting her down on an extra-legal job she had instructed him to do. Fortunately for him, she was a patient person. Otherwise he would have wound up watching a special news report letting all of his primary-coloured collar wearing friends know just exactly what kind of a man he was.::


N’rila: I’m surprised you can sit down, Manius, being as I have such a tight hold on your balls. Good call deciding to actually show your face this time.

Manius: Well you know what life in Starfleet is like but like a boomerang I always come back, eventually. ::With a wry smile::

:: He wasn’t really trying to make light of things and knew there was going to be a steep price for what he’d done. There was just no way he’d been willing to right one wrong but making an even bigger one though. What she’d wanted him to steal, there was no way he could live with himself had he done it knowing full well the uses of that stuff. It was illegal to even attempt to try and acquire it for very good reason! ::

N’rila: Funny. If only I’d known you had such a flair for comedy, I would have put you on the stage. Then maybe we would have raised enough cash to actually enter the race last year. Your little disappearing act cost us that, so I’m here to tell you what you owe.

::She blamed herself for being soft on him, to a degree. They had been friends once, but he had taken the decision to turn his back on her and the team without even so much as a word.::

:: That’s what he was expecting and hopefully it wasn’t something as unreasonable as last time. They could only do this dance so long before she finally snapped and turned him in to the authorities. More and more he began to think she would never let him out of her grasp. Every crime he committed would add to the evidence she had against him. Even after a year he hadn’t figured a satisfactory way out of this hell and it was a considerable burden and stress point for him every day of his miserable life. ::

Manius: Okay. What do you want?

N’rila: I want a shuttle, Todd. I want to enter the race this year. At the moment, I got nothin’, and you’re going to make it happen for me.

::She folded her arms and leaned back in her chair. She didn’t really care so much how he got the job done, but she wasn’t letting him off the hook this time.::

:: Todd thought about it. The task he could complete through legal means. It wouldn’t be easy because if it was then they wouldn’t need him to do it. They would already have one. This was going to be a huge drain on his time and his resources. He would have to be cunning and probably pull in some favours but he could do it.::

:: Last year he had been less willing to help and he’d ended up getting worse and worse tasks. She hadn’t asked him to pilot it – yet. He really would be happier if he never had to fly a shuttle again, whether in space or underwater (as he’d done last year on the planet of Asav). However since he’d seen the sort of lengths she would be willing to go and to push him to for success this would be an easier pill to swallow. ::

Manius: Fine. I’ll get you a shuttle.

::She laughed and waved a finger at him.::

N’rila: Oh, no, no, no… I know you too well. You’re like a Deltan eel. Slippery, and with a vague hint of fish.

::She leaned in a little closer, her previously mirthful features contorting into a snarl.::

N’rila: I don’t just want some old bucket that you scraped together your pocket money to buy. I intend to win this race, Todd Manius. So choose something you can fly us to victory inside. I don’t care how you get it, you can go to a little auction and ask for something flashy to be delivered to us through those precious ‘above board’ channels that you seem to love so much, but one way or the other we will be standing on the top of that podium as a team. Do you understand what I’m asking you to do?

:: Yep. There it was just as he suspected. She never liked to make her demands all at once. He hadn’t raced in years. He was going to have to hit the simulators hard because while some teams were putting shuttles together and seemed happy to take part, there were some serious teams out for the megabucks prize. All the trouble of getting a good shuttle would be for naught if he didn’t win and he knew she would not accept anything less. Todd Manius didn’t look like a man catching up with an old friend but he as trying harder than ever not to let her get under his skin. He wanted to see if they were on the same page about where this nonsense was to end. ::

Manius: Yes. You want the best shuttle and you want to win. I do that for you and we’re done right? This whole problem disappears?

::The Orion shook her head. She was wearing a look that was smug enough to melt the bar.::

N’rila: Ahhh, that would be a no. Your little stunt last year cost me big, and I’m afraid that translates into costing you big. You get this shuttle and we win this race? That puts us back to where we were this time last year. Until then, your debt isn’t anywhere close to being repaid.

:: The smug look she was wearing made him want to flip out with rage but at the same time he really didn’t want to give her the satisfaction. He had known the price for deceiving her last year would be big but ultimately he wouldn’t change it. She was unscrupulous enough to sell biomimetic gel to those who would use it in the creation of biogenic weapons, organic explosives or be involved in illegal genetic and cloning experiments. He’d destroyed lives in his past and he’d spent the last nine years trying to contribute positively and give people back their lives. He felt he had done significantly more positive in life than the other way about. He felt sick to his stomach and for a while said nothing, nodding in silent acceptance. ::

Manius: I hear you. Anything else, or are we done for now?

::She grinned, enjoying seeing him squirm. She used to look up to him, but now he was nothing more than a pathetic worm on a hook, wriggling about until the inevitable moment came where it was all over.::

N’rila: Oh, I think we’re almost done. Before you go, though, I’d love for you to tell me how you plan to keep me updated with your progress. I mean, you’ll forgive me for not exactly trusting you, but I’d rather not get double-crossed like the last time.

Manius: I’ll check in around shifts, send pictures of my progress periodically.

N’rila: Pictures? With stardate stamps embedded in the code that I can use to verify the authentication? Sounds like a good start. I’ll expect you to send them at least twice a day.

::She didn’t trust him as far as she could throw him. Being as she was smaller than he was, that wasn’t very far at all.::

:: There was absolutely no way he was going to be doing twice daily updates and she could demand it just about as much as she wanted. In fact he could see several days in a row where she would get no updates whatsoever. Certainly if she pushed her luck too far he just wouldn’t bother with them at all. He was going to have to draw the line there. Frankly if she wanted him to do this then she was going to have to accept it. ::

:: The alternative was for her to make good on her threat and something told him she didn’t want to do that because then she would still be left without a shuttle and a pilot. If he was wrong and she did - well he had a contingency plan. It wasn’t a great plan, otherwise he would simply execute it rather than sit here trying to barter for a freedom that deep down he felt he would never truly have. ::

Manius: I’ll send updates as of when I have time.

::The Takaran nearly choked on her own laughter.::

N’rila: What, from the other side of the sector? ::She slammed her fist down on the bar. Several people turned their heads.:: Do you think I’m stupid, Todd? You’re the one who has made the poor life choices. You’re the one who keeps screwing everything up, and you think you can just keep behaving in a way that craps all over your former friends. Well if you want to grow a spine, fine, it’s about [...] time, but do not think for one second that I don’t have enough on you to really make you suffer before I finally take you down.

::She took in a slow deep breath through her nose.::

N’rila: There’s that … woman, for example. The scientist. It would be a terrible shame if anything were to happen to her.

:: It sounded to Todd as though N’rila had somehow found out about Ela and was now using her as leverage to get what she wanted. So enraged by this was he that he was certain any telepaths in the bar would be able to feel the radiating off him. He thought about breaking things off with her but first of all he didn’t want to do that and even if he did, he still didn’t want to see her come to harm. Cutting ties wouldn’t necessarily prevent it. ::

Manius: ::With deep hatred and loathing:: Excuse me?

::The angrier Todd got, the angrier N’rila got. She was sick of this weasel trying to screw around. He had a debt, he’d already reneged on it once and he was for [...] sure going to pay it this time.::

N’rila: Oh, you heard. You’re not the only one who can raise the stakes, Mr. Manius. So I’ll look forward to those twice daily updates, even if they say you’re still working on making progress. You might like to think you’re in control of this, but you gave that up a very, very long time ago. Now do we have a deal?

Manius: No. We don’t. What you ask is unreasonable. I may be used in an away team or the Darwin may lose communications, heck I might get injured or killed - that is the nature of Starfleet life. There may be times it’s physically impossible to provide those updates. So threaten all you want I’m not about to agree to something I can’t do.

:: This whole stressful business had been hanging over him for a year now and he was absolutely sick of it. He wasn’t sure how much more of this he could deal. Frustratingly, he never had been able to recall anything from that sickening night when his whole world had been shattered. He understood all too well his debt but he wasn’t going to repay it by committing even more grave offenses or making impossible deals. ::

N’rila: “Computer, send notification to my contact that I have been called for away team duty.” How long did that take, Todd?

::She stared through him, full of contempt. Then her expression softened, as realisation dawned on her.::

N’rila: You know what, no… that would be far to easy, wouldn’t it. Sign yourself off on away team duty and drop off the radar. Can’t be having that.

::She took in a deep breath. There was a way that she could really keep tabs on him, without having to rely on him taking any action. Let’s face it, she was just setting herself up to be betrayed again if she did. This would need her to speak to one of her contacts and incur a little expense, but it would be worth it in the long run.::

N’rila: Forget the updates. Forget the calls. Forget you getting chances to have any say in this. You don’t want any responsibility? Fine. I’ll take charge. You will meet me here 48 hours from the time of our initial rendezvous and I’ll give you a transponder. You put it in your quarters. It sends me an encoded databurst at random intervals, containing a timestamp and your distance from it. If you’re out of range of it for more than three days, you can kiss your woman goodbye.

:: Todd shrugged, feigning disinterest when really his heart was hammering so hard in his heart he feared it might break through his ribcage. He was angry as much at himself as he was N’rila for dragging Ela into this. If she hurt Ela then she would be the one who ended up most sorry out of this whole thing because he would absolutely take her down even if he took himself out in the progress. The woman meant more to him than anything or anyone else and he wasn’t going to allow this unscrupulous, nasty piece of work get in the way. ::

Manius: What’s the range on it?

::N’rila smirked. She’d got the rebellious little scumbag back right where she wanted him.::

N’rila: Oh, it should be enough to cover the length and breadth of the Darwin… maybe a little further. Let’s hope there are no blind spots.

:: Todd wondered how long it would take security to pick up an outgoing signal from his transponder and grow curious about it. More than that he imagined that if they discovered it, they might feel it posed a security threat and shut it down altogether. He knew she wouldn’t care a fig about his legitimate concerns and would see them as weaselling excuses. ::

:: If the transponder malfunctioned or was shut off by security he was likely to have Ela’s untimely demise on his conscience his entire life that was an unbearable thought. N’rila could certainly forget about her shuttle in which case as Ela was one of the few things worth sticking around for. If that transponder was stopped broadcasting for any reason the first thing he would do is appeal to Ela to get the heck off Deep Space 6 as quickly as possible, through whatever means. He’d also stop working on that shuttle altogether because as far as he could see that situation would render it a fruitless exercise. ::

Manius: ::Standing up and glowering down at her:: See you later

N’rila: Yes, Todd. Yes you will.

::She turned her back on him and returned to her drink. She would enter that shuttle race come hell or high water, and Todd Manius was going to get her over the finish line in first place if it was the last thing he ever did.::


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Commander Renos - Commanding Officer, USS Darwin NCC-99312-A

And

PNPC N’Rila - Subspace Scimtars manager
Simmed by: Iy - USS Darwin NCC-99312-A

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