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Lt. Sienelis, Lt. Marshall, PO Johns & Lt. JG Josett (Parts VIII - XIV)


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Lt. Marshall & Lt. JG Josett - Road Trip (Part VIII)

((Bridge, USS Azetbur))

Yawning into midair, Chris wandered through the open door onto the bridge, his hand stuck in the back of his growing hair already sticking up at all angles like some confused starfish, and a countenance like someone who rolled out of bed only mere moments before. Sitting there, feet up on the bridge console, nursing a steaming cup was who he expected, but judging by the look on the blond's face, Chris was not.

O. Marshall: You're not Lena.

Johns: Not today. 

Diverting himself to the replicator at the rear of the bridge, Chris input the command in for the strongest of coffees the galaxy knew that wouldn't set his kidneys aflame and crossed his arms as it materialised on the pad. He sighed deeply, fingers delving into the corners of his eyes where the deposits of sleep had taken residence, and when the replicator announced the completion of the request, slid his fingers through the mug's handle. 

When he dropped into the copilot chair with all the weight of an anchor into the ocean, Marshall looked his way with a gruff frown, beard moving like he was trying hard to dislodge words stuck between his teeth. 

O. Marshall: What was it this time? Canasta? Cardassian pinochle?

Amusement flared in hazel eyes as Chris swallowed his mouthful of coffee and placed it on the console. His eyes widened with acceptance of his fate and he shrugged a shoulder, his fingers drumming a ballet beat.  

Johns: Rag-sen with the round cards. 

O. Marshall: You shouldn't let her choose the game, you know. Pick something you're good at. 

The dancer looked up from watching his ankle roll and calf muscle tense to the profile of the intelligence officer, querying the lack of bristling attitude. Chris settled back into the chair and scratched the underside of his chin where the stubble had grown through.  

Johns: That would involve me being good at cards, and Lena not cheating. 

O. Marshall: When she's got marks like you, why would she?

Turning toward the ops console, Chris gave the sensors a cursory check over, if only to make sure they weren't about to fly headlong into an unexpected planetoid. Satisfied their longevity was safe for the time being, he glanced to Marshall. 

Johns: You get six hours of uninterrupted wife time, I get extra bridge duty while Vee sleeps. Who really wins here?

O. Marshall: Sounds like Vee to me. 

Chris huffed a laugh with the flicker of an eye roll as his fingers slipped through the handle of his mug, while Marshall patted the arms of his chair, as though he would move at any moment, leaving Chris to his own devices for six hours of extended boredom. 

The bearded blond sat there for a long minute, dragging out his leaving a little more than necessary. Chris nearly prompted him, wondering if the man had forgotten to do something important. Only when the cerulean gaze, usually so armour piercing, darted briefly to the closed door leading to the rest of the ship and found its way to the dancer did Chris realise what was about to happen. 

O. Marshall: You're not a stupid man, Chris. 

Hazel eyes narrowed at the sentence, not quite expecting it. 

Johns: Thank… you?

O. Marshall: I mean it. You're an idiot sometimes, but you're far from stupid. 

Again, Chris' eyes narrowed as he looked sidelong at Marshall. They had never seen eye to eye; Operations with the two of them was a hotbed of powerful silence and derision at any given moment, especially in the run-up before Valesha and Marshall had escaped from the Gorkon's brig cell following her arrest for a string of alleged offences against the Federation. Murder ranking not inconsiderably among them. 

Eventually, it had worked out, the Admiral worked in Valesha's favour to secure dismissed charges, the Orion Syndicate stopped breathing down the neck of the blond sitting beside him, and she'd come back, albeit with a nasty case of the touching death with her fingertips. 

It was that look in blue eyes Chris remembered, when Orson had carried his Romulan from the shuttlepod to the waiting medical team, and it echoed along similar lines now. 

O. Marshall: She loves you. 

Johns: Valesha? ::He frowned, unsure.:: I know she does, I—

Orson held up his hand and shook his head, forestalling the rest of Chris' declaration mid-word. 

O. Marshall: If you hadn't made it clear in the Brig, it's been crystal since. ::He took a breath, exhaling curtly like it was a full stop on that train of thought.:: No, just... just listen for a minute. There are very few people left alive that she does.

Chris sat there silently, holding his mug, his hand fixed around the ceramic-like a vice. Like a sledgehammer in his sternum it struck hard, wrapped piano wire around his heart and pulled down toward the deck. 

O. Marshall: You'll be dead and gone in a hundred years, if you're lucky. If you have kids, she'll likely outlive them, if not come very close to it. Her brother might not even be on Ketar V. ::His gaze moved from Chris to the viewscreen and space hurtling outside.:: So, you really need to consider what you're asking her to do. What kind of life are you asking her to live? She's suffered enough, don't you think?

He had considered it; he'd gone through those motions time and time again, and they'd done so together, talking it through over and over until there was little else left to say other than the remaining feeling that this was what they wanted. Death was inevitable. Everything ends. 

Chris diverted his gaze to the console as his jaw tightened, his elbow stuck in the arm of the copilot chair, forefinger and thumb pulling at his lower lip. 

Johns: I don't see what this has to do with you. What any part of our life has to do with you.

Voice calm and collected, and internally vibrating, Chris looked up to Marshall as the man stood up, ready to make his exit off the bridge and leave the young dancer to stew with the words. 

O. Marshall: I saw how broken she was when we left. I had to convince her to come back. For whatever reason, the thought of losing you hit her hard. Imagine building a family just to lose them again in a few short decades.

Chris watched him slide the empty coffee mug onto the pad of the replicator, watched in silence as it disintegrated, pulled apart at the atom framework and then ceased to exist in a matter of seconds. When he looked up to Marshall, the door was already closing behind him. 

TBC

----

Lt. Sienelis & PO Johns - Road Trip (Part IX)

((Bridge, USS Azetbur))

The door opened again a few hours later, this time to admit a sleep-tousled Romulan. Padding across the carpet in bare feet, Valesha spared a moment to wryly observe that she seemed to spend as much time on the bridge in the shorts and vest she slept in as she did her uniform. She yawned into her palm and ignored the replicator for now, coming to a stop beside the pilot's chair. There, she slipped an arm around Chris' shoulders and bent to press a kiss to the crown of his head, his growing mop of dark hair tickling her nose.

Sienelis: Lena?

Johns: No doubt snoozing soundly, revelling in her victory. 

Wrapping his arm around Valesha's waist, Chris leaned into her constant thrum of warmth. In the hours between Marshall leaving and fiancee arriving, his heart had twisted in spirals and drilled holes. Left alone with nothing but the endless stretch of space in front of them, and Orson's commentary on their life, sent drumming ceaseless worries on a cavalcade of gloom around his innards, and were hard to ignore. However, he grinned when he noticed the condition of her dress and those legs which sent his pulse rocketing. 

Johns: Trouble sleeping, or reminding me what I'm missing by playing cards with a sharp?

Sienelis: When we were on the Scream, I thought I'd be clever and play her at the most obscure Romulan game I could think of. Something no one else I've met has even heard of, let alone played. ::She sighed.:: Still ended up owing her a week's worth of foot massages. So let's call it solidarity.

Johns: And to think, you didn't know how to do it like a dancer then, either. ::He grinned, with no small amount of enjoyment in that particular fact.:: She let me off easy. Cover her shift and we're square, until the next time. 

Being officers of a different kind in Starfleet, the two rarely found themselves on the bridge together, and when they had spent a considerable time in a small space controlling a ship, it was the Skarbek. An unsteady inhale accompanied as Chris recalled the events of the last time they were there — a night to remember, tension they could slice with a bat'leth, the soft clink of a Cardassian grenade — and he summoned a smile to get rid of those lingering ghosts, tugging Valesha down into the copilot chair with him. 

Sienelis: She must have been feeling generous.

With a twist of a grin, she pressed a kiss to his cheek and settled in his lap. The truth of it was that she'd woken from a restless sleep to a lonely bed, and months after their Q-induced second outing to the Skarbek, that was still something that left her hollowed out and uneasy. A reminder that the inevitable could always come too soon.

But at least this time she didn't have to grimace and bear it, leaving the feeling simmering under the surface to poison her mood. One quick trip up empty corridors to the bridge, and here was her antidote.

Sienelis: Everything all right?

Johns: Yeah. ::The response was a bit too quick, a bit too unsure of himself.:: Yeah, fine. Contemplating, ::he raised a hand to the viewscreen and dropped it down,:: space. Time. Life. All with coffee and what routine I can put you through in the morning. 

She leaned back to look at him, a small frown creasing above her nose, scepticism clear. The swiftness of his reply, the tenor he had spoken in; neither had gone unnoticed. Years in the Skarbek and their time together afterwards made a woman who knew him well enough to spot the tells. Given the situation, the cause seemed obvious.

Sienelis: Bear again?

Johns: No, it's… 

As hazel eyes and emerald met, as though she'd caught him in that split second decision between omitting the truth and not, Chris felt the weight on it on his chest. Putting into words how accurate a shot Marshall had levelled his way took him a moment, and the young dancer shifted his attention to the curve of Valesha's knee, following the bumps of the muscle and bone with his thumb. 

Johns: He made me think, that's all. ::He marshaled a smile, albeit a thin one, and traced her kneecap with his fingertip.:: He thinks a lot about you. 

A frown lifted into raised eyebrows, the rest of her face creasing into something between surprised, perturbed and bewildered. Of all the people to occupy Bear's thoughts, she'd never assumed she was near the top of the list. Then again, now that she considered it, he was in hers more often that she cared to admit. Mutual affection wrapped in jibes and sarcasm, a genuine care easily hidden under glares and rapid-fire retorts. 

Sienelis: That's a dubious honour. ::Her gaze flicked across his face, down to the finger drawing across olive skin, and then back.:: Do I want to know why?

The question fired in his mind before he could think about it; was he asking too much of her? It was not the main event dwelling since their conversation, but the one that cut the deepest. She told him of her trepidation in coming back, that there might not be something to come back to, but that their joint decision to wrap their lives around one another until his is over has a significant bearing on hers. 

Johns: Probably not. ::He smiled with an exhale and felt his arms hold her a little tighter.:: Concerned I'm treating you right and not subjecting you to rigorous ballet regimes. 

Sienelis: He's worried about my practice schedule. ::The prosaic intonation, the corner of her mouth tugged upward, a dark eyebrow arched; all evidenced her disbelief.:: If you don't want to talk about it, you can just say.

His lips twitched with a smile at how easily Valesha read him, with little effort involved at all. As gossamer as a force field, not with everything, and it wasn't always the case, but a convincing liar Chris wasn't. He let his forehead touch to her temple, felt the grip of it around his ribs like it was hooked into them. 

Johns: Later, when I've slept on it. When you're snoring and I can tell it to your shoulders. 

She nodded, squeezing his shoulder, and leaned into him. That feeling she'd had in the Gorkon's Ready Room — that something wasn't quite right, their little universe shifting off-axis — pooled again, knotting lead weights inside her belly. The Romulan fought a quiet war inside her head, a battle over whether to push him for more. 

But he'd said later and she knew she had little patience for people prodding answers she wasn't yet ready to give.

Sienelis: What secrets have those shoulders heard, I wonder.

He kissed her olive-skinned cheek as the questions seeded inside, cultivated with earth and grew sprigs of greenery smaller than a thumbnail. It occurred it was likely meant with some kind of good intentions, but Chris thrummed between dejected and angry, knowing the sentiments held truth in them, and finding himself unable to admit it quite yet. 

Johns: You'd have to ask them, though I don't think they're so forthcoming. They only communicate in shrugs and drops. ::He touched between her shoulder blades and dropped his voice in her ear.:: Though, when here hears secrets, your hips m—

A warning trill from the tactical computer sounded, breaking through the quiet with a thunderous roll of chirps similar to the bridge of their Sovereign class home. A second ticked by as disbelief high-kicked through the bridge like a chorus song of tango dancers, until the alert flashed up onto the viewscreen in front of them. When Chris spoke, it was with some measure of incredulity threading through.

Johns: Two incoming signals showing on their sensor data and they're heading right for us. 

Valesha stared at the warning for the space of a few heartbeats. Then in an explosion of movement she scrambled out of his lap and threw herself into the seat accompanying the nearby tactical station. Slender fingers grazed over the controls, the wail of the ship's red alert answering her command. Power surged into the Azetbur's shields and phaser banks, micro-torpedoes loaded into the tubes, armed and ready to fire.  

Sienelis: =/\= Bear, put Lena down and both of you get up to the bridge. And before you ask, this isn't revenge, it's real. =/\= ::She glanced over toward her partner, heart in her throat, the situation an uncomfortable mirror to an illusion they'd once lived.:: Have they tried to hail us? Any active transponders?

Likewise, on the other side, Chris quickly scanned the targeting information coming through their sensors, breaking the ship out of their already limited warp speed to give some breathing space before the inevitable interception, however the two vessels were coming up faster than he anticipated, cutting through the limited speed in the Shoals like a scythe through grass. He looked to Valesha as she asked, heart ticking up a few notches on the fibrillation scale. 

Johns: Orion ships, Wanderer-class. Two of the old style blockade runners heading right for us. ::His head tilted with the additional information as his fingers ran over the console.:: Serial numbers filed off though. 

TBC

----

Lt. Sienelis, PO Johns, Lt. Marshall & Lt. JG Josett - Road Trip (Part X)

 

((Bridge, USS Azetbur))

The communications chirped, lighting up the small bridge with the ragged breathlessness of the eldest Marshall sibling, however instead of the biting retort Chris expected from the disturbed, it was a short and clipped message. 

O. Marshall: =/\= On our way. =/\=

The Romulan nodded, glad that the pair would be on the bridge sooner rather than later. She didn't know the Shoals, she hadn't the faintest idea of how the ships were closing on them so fast, and she didn't know what they were capable of once they did. All she could say was that the two ships were more than twice the size of the Azetbur and running with their shields up and weapons charged.

Sienelis: We're in the middle of nowhere. Either they've just been waiting for a likely target to pass, or they've been following us for a while. ::She frowned.:: They haven't tried to hail us?

Johns: Not yet, communications can't stretch that far, they need to be closer. ::Said while checking the channels to be on the safe side, as if the reclining Marshall could've knocked them out.:: They'll be on top of us before they'll be able to transmit at Federation frequencies without th—

Orion Ship: =/\= Federation starship, you are in violation of the territory belonging to Le Seau Rouillés. Surrender now and we will not open fire. =/\=

The clear booming voice of an Orion on the other end echoed through the bridge while Chris felt his stomach sink. Bringing up the tactical situation map on the display to the left of the viewscreen, their position showed with the small silhouette of the Azetbur in the centre of the indicator, the two Orion vessels closing in.

Johns: They must've got hold of some of our communications equipment and hooking into the frequencies. ::He spat out a Russian expletive Valesha could translate easily following years together, and slammed the heel of his palm into the console display.:: Can we outrun them?

Sienelis: Maybe? In open space we could jump to warp nine, no problem. But we're not supposed to go past six on the Mother Road.

Johns: And that's not getting a ticket consequences, it's rip the ship apart consequences.

She breathed a small sound of agreement and her Russian looked across the small space between the two chairs to his Romulan. Space was their problem and this section of space, regardless of the size of it, wasn't their stomping ground either. They didn't know what capabilities the blockade runners had, only their intentions. The door behind swished open and Lena appeared, the blond in tow. He didn't look impressed, but Chris could count on no fingers how much he cared.

O. Marshall: I leave you alone for two hours and you find pirates? Have you got a homing beacon shoved up your—

Sienelis: No, we went looking for some specifically to annoy you.

An amused chortle formed Lena's contribution to the conversation, and she loped up to the pilot's chair wearing a t-shirt so oversized it hung off one shoulder and functioned as a (mini) dress. Skin flushed and glowing, she grinned at Chris and patted his shoulder, her intentions to take over the flight of the Starfleet yacht clear.

Josett: Budge up, handsome.

As instructed, Chris shifted out of the pilot seat, happy to vacate said responsibility for someone with exceedingly more skill in helm. Shifting to the communications console beside, he flipped through the systems for some more information on their incoming aggressors, but coming up short. Whoever they were, they kept tight reins on their signatures and patterns. Across the short bridge, Bear dropped into the seat beside Valesha and continued their conversation. 

O. Marshall: You know, somehow I'd believe it. ::Refocusing his attention on the task at hand, his eyebrow [...]ed.:: What've we got weapons wise?

Sienelis: Five Type-Five arrays, two micro-torpedo launchers... that's it, unless you count the tractor beam as well.

Johns: Maybe avoid flinging an asteroid at anyone. 

Seeing as it had gone so well last time someone had tried to do that, setting a chain reaction off in an asteroid field so massive, it caused the destruction of the Ascent Vine and Vorin still hadn't quite forgiven Valesha, despite it having nothing to do with her. Chris felt the drop in his stomach as the thought flared and focused on the comms, missing the tense hunch of his partner's shoulders at the mention of those events.

O. Marshall: Have they said anything else? Given terms? 

Johns: Just to surrender. ::He scratched his beard and frowned at the wavering issues.:: They're not attempting to keep the channel open and the link keeps dropping, so they're not used to using the technology they've acquired. I still say we try and outrun them. 

Josett: I can do it. ::She grinned.:: But I can't guarantee the nacelles won't shear off in the attempt.

On her opposite side, Chris shook his head with a growing grin on his face. She might not have been with them in their Skarbek dreamworld, but Lena was just as Maquis in her delivery.

Sienelis: I don't think we can fight them off, can we?

O. Marshall: Not with those peashooters. ::The tactical assessment of the runners flashed onto the display console beside the viewscreen.:: They're built to be fast and hard as nails. One good hit might take them out but you're talking…

Bear trailed off, unable or unwilling to commit the mental effort to the probability arithmetic there and then. Instead, he started delving into what tactical information he could get from the computer, and anything sensors picked up they could shoot at. 

Johns: What if we sent a few knocks to their engines? ::He looked over to his partner and his heart gave a painful throb.:: Is it possible to stretch the sensors to get us subsystem information through this mud field?

Slim olive fingers danced across multicoloured controls, her console singing — and occasionally blowing raspberries — in response. Her brow wrinkled in concentration, trying to pull the pieces of a puzzle together, Starfleet technology and training versus the shifting, unstable tachyon fields of the Shoals. 

Sienelis: I think so, but they'll need to be closer. ::She shook her head.:: The tachyons are chewing up the data and spitting it out again.

Stay and fight, hope to win or at least get a few pot shots in to slow them down so the Azetbur could make the escape, or put the pedal to the metal and gun it. The choice wasn't an easy one. Fleeing exposed their engines, their nacelles open season for a torpedo to come on hurtling on the warpath.

Johns: They're hailing us again, it's coming through. 

Orion Ship: =/\= Federation starship, you are in violation of the territory belonging to Le Seau Rouillés. Surrender now and we will not open fire. =/\=

Johns: Yeah, you said that already. ::He grumbled and hit the control with the palm of his hand to shut down the channel, then he frowned.:: Was it just me, or did that sound exactly the same as the last time?

O. Marshall: You've had that before? ::The man snapped back, eyes flaring to the dancer across the bridge.:: And now was a good time to mention it?

Johns: We've got Orions incoming, it wasn't the first thing on my mind when they can fly faster than us!

Sienelis: Will you two stop it! ::She exhaled through thinned lips, not taking her eyes off her console.:: It did sound the same. What does that even mean?

Josett: It means they're full of pled

The hybrid grinned as the Cardassian curse rolled off her tongue, amused by either the situation, the antics inside the bridge, or perhaps both. Her deft fingers performed a familiar dance with the ship's control systems, pushing and pulling, dragging them along with what she wanted. Redirecting power away from life support, bringing inertial dampeners down to the bare minimum, even stealing power from spare capacity in the nacelles, speed-limited as they were. She shunted it into the shields and structural integrity, preparing the yacht for a rough flight.

Josett: They're closer; check their profile again.

TBC

----

Lt. Sienelis, PO Johns, Lt. Marshall & Lt. JG Josett - Road Trip (Part XI)

 

((Bridge, USS Azetbur))

Bear took that task, their tactical sensors straining to get a read on the two vessels on a collision course. In the middle of the Shoals soup, it seemed their technological capacity amounted to eight eyeballs and tactical projections of a flight path of the incoming ships relative to their position… but only for one vessel. 

O. Marshall: There's only one of them, not two. One and a probe it's bouncing a signal off. 

Johns: That's a Starfleet probe. ::He interjected, the realisation acting like a lightbulb flash for the comms specialist who dove back into his console.:: I'm sending a diagnostic routine to it, chances are they won't know how to break it. 

O. Marshall: You do that and the other will open fire. ::Grunting his exhale, he looked to Valesha.:: What were they expecting you to do? Stop and let them board? Take all the best china? 

A retort on the tip of her tongue — something about letting them take him — was forgotten. The question slammed into the forefront of her mind, what were they expecting you to do? What else was a little Starfleet ship going to do, when outnumbered, outmanned and outgunned? 

Sienelis: You think they're trying to make us run? Herd us somewhere?

Johns: Filter us into a place where their reinforcements are, or somewhere we can't get out of. Beam aboard, take the ship, be gone before we know it. ::The dancer tongued his cheek as he sat back in the chair, looking over to his wife to be.:: It is a pretty slick business strategy. 

A fancy prize, if only for the bragging rights it'd bring along with it. Captain's yachts usually had Captains on board, meaning a substantial ransom if they played their cards right and a hefty dose of honour among thieves to carve up the ship. It was easy to forget that this wasn't their stomping ground, and as Bear ran his hand over his face to wake himself up, he remembered the more things changed out there in the Shoals, the more they stayed the same. 

O. Marshall: How often is a Starfleet Captain's yacht spotted in the Shoals? They're after who they think we've got on board. ::He [...]ed an eyebrow to Lena.:: Unless you've got a pirate homing signal. 

Josett: Not this week. ::She flung an amused grin his way, enjoying the thrill of the chase.:: The pirates here usually have better maps of the fields than anyone else. My money would be on them trying to drive us into a tetryon pocket and disable our warp drive. 

Sienelis: So... we change course? Head off the Mother Road in some random direction and try to shake them off?

O. Marshall: They'll figure that out in no time. One wrong move out here and we'll find ourselves ripped apart at the rivets and seams. ::He ran a hand into his short crop of still damp hair and exhaled tersely through his nose.:: I'm not about to get blown up our first five minutes in here, so we need a plan and we need one quickly. 

The chime and chirp of the console in front of Chris set to life as the diagnostic routine on the projection probe finished, feeding back data at a rate of knots. Even through the muddy soup of the Shoals on the Mother Road, the readings were coming through just fine for him to reinterpret. Only the flash of inspired thought kicking around in his brain needed more than his communication knowhow. 

No sooner had it burst through the brick walls of his brain, the ship rocked from side to side beneath them, sending a cascade of churn across their exterior hull. Like a ripple effect, the hammer blow sent a grinding metal sound their way and the added bonus of a damage report. The Russian's heart gave a thick thump behind his sternum as he sent his probe data through to Valesha and jumped out of his seat to lean onto the console beside her. 

Johns: Can we set up a sensor mask on the probe? Enough to feed them back duff data of where we are? If we take that out entirely, they might abandon the chase on us. 

Green eyes flicked up toward him, not daring to linger on his features for too long, even as her heart pounded low in her chest. Her brow pinched in concentration, she filtered and assessed the probe data and its onboard sensors. Much like the ship it was slaved to, the probe wasn't the newest off the production line, the protocols it was using were just a little out of date.

Sienelis: I think so. ::She nodded, still manipulating and page through the reams of information from the probe.:: It won't be an immediate change, it'll be a cumulative error, their read of our position will drift. 

Johns: Clever. Makes it seem like a natural problem rather than a manufactured one. 

Despite the pressing situation, Chris smiled in preemptive triumph; the last time they'd done this had felt entirely different, and a year later, Valesha was in sleeping shorts on the bridge of a Starfleet ship and they were a them. A strange thought to have in the middle of a crisis, but the young couple never were for convention. As though sensing the switch in mood from desperate to plan, Bear's authoritative bass drummed. 

O. Marshall: Better than the whole lot of nothing we've got now. ::He huffed and ran his hand over his beard. The yacht wasn't a peashooter, but one word from the Orion ship and who knew what would come running.:: Get it done. Lena, don't let them gain an inch on us. Can you keep up the pace while it works?

While Valesha allowed herself a quick roll of the eyes and a small shake of her head, Lena just chuckled. Her curls bounced with her nod, hands moving quickly and easily across the flight controls of the yacht. The small ship shuddered again, indicators on her console flicking from green to amber — some holding there, others flicking back as the ship's automated systems compensated — and the hybrid's pulse beat a little faster, her grin widening. 

Josett: It's going to be a rough ride. 

Sienelis: Why does this always happen when I'm in a ship with you?

Josett: I lead a charmed life. ::Another soft chuckle,:: Or a cursed one, depending on your point of view.

Johns: Charmed. ::Said with a quick grin to Valesha as he moved back to his seat.:: Most definitely charmed.

Space stretched out in front of them, taking them faster on their tunnel through the Mother Road, though whether that was the Orion's plan was another thing. If anything, they were adding time to their journey in how easy they'd have to take it later, and that annoyed the blond one no end. Mines, that's what this small ship needed. Mines they could shove out the back ramp. 

Orion Ship: =/\= Federation starship, you are in violation of the territory belonging to Le Seau Rouillés. Surrender now and we will not open fire. =/\=

O. Marshall: =/\= On behalf of this Federation starship, bite our shiny, metal nacelle. =/\= ::His fist slammed down hard on the cut off command controls, ceasing the hailing frequency and channel the Orion ship used.:: Their hull would look a whole lot better with a torpedo-shaped hole in it. 

No sooner had the words left his mouth, the familiar lance of a forward phaser blast grazed their outer hull, rocking the yacht to the port side and the occupants along with it. Valesha cursed under her breath, catching hold of her console to steady herself, and quickly returned to the business of trying to interfere with the probe's inner workings.

Josett: Seems the feeling's mutual.

Sienelis: I'm almost done. ::Her teeth dug into the corner of her lip,:: If you are going to fire back, just remember they might spot the weapons aren't coming from where they think the shuttle is. 

O.Marshall: Then we'll not risk it. Give them no reason to think we're anywhere but where the sensors say we are. How's that phaser blast looking?

Chris blew out a steady sigh as he compensated for Lena's compensating, throwing some of the power around into the shields and bolstering up their flank. It didn't need it; the blast was a glancing blow at best but a few more of them and the cracks would start. 

Johns: Superficial damage sustained, nothing major. ::Glancing to Lena, he sat back in the Ops chair and chuckled.:: Try and steer us away from the incoming fire trying to shave off a nacelle. 

Josett: It's fine, we've got two.

She grinned back at the Russian, amber eyes sparkling, attitude as irreverent as ever. Still, when her gaze returned to the console in front of her, that Cardassian brow pulled together in concentration. Reduced power to the inertial dampeners translated into coordinated lurch of stomachs, an abrupt deceleration as she banked into a hard turn. More manoeuvrable than the heavier starship in pursuit, she led them into overshooting and forced a time-consuming course correction.

TBC

----

Lt. Sienelis, PO Johns, Lt. Marshall & Lt. JG Josett - Road Trip (Part XII)

 

((Bridge, USS Azetbur))

Blasts from Orion phaser banks scattered across their hull, glancing off rather than searing through, and Bear could only imagine the cursing the Orions must be doing when faced with a pilot giving them a run for their money in the quite literal sense. They shot past them on the monitor, overshooting their mark for turning by a wide margin, Lena forcing them into a wider arc to regain ground and following once more. However, their angle was off, heading toward their bearing but at a twenty-degree angle away. 

O. Marshall: Whatever you're doing, keep doing it. It's working. 

The trill of another alert sounded from the ops console and Chris looked to it, moving his left hand over the controls as his right silenced the incoming communication from the Orion ship again. Information coming through from their operational sensors brought a cavalcade of feeling into his stomach and up through his chest. 

Johns: We've got a second incoming, considerably larger than our Orion friend and no signature yet. 

Valesha met the news with a sharp exhale, a flash of a memory from an unreal world where she sat on a bridge with Chris and another tall, broad blond. Outnumbered and outgunned, trying to avoid capture — and failing. She pushed the tension out of her shoulders, heart ricocheting off her ribs, her focus shifting from the probe to the new guest at their unwanted party.

Sienelis: I'll see if I can pull something up.

Josett: Who are they heading for, us or the Orions?

Johns: Trajectory looks like it's… ::Consulting the computer rendering of the space available on their sensors, Chris frowned.:: In between us and them. Are they expecting us to launch a broadside or what?

Bear leaned over, his hand running across the back of Valesha's chair as he peered at the operational targeting display, giving the outline of the ship in question. While it looked like another blockade runner, there was something distinctly Starfleet about it. Groaning, he palmed his face.

O. Marshall: It's a cutter. Knowing our luck, it's the f— 

Cutter: =/\= USS Azetbur, this is CMC Cassowary. ::A tenor voice as cool as a cucumber rode the communication waves like a surfer.:: Welcome to the Shoals. Can we lend you a hand here? =/\=

O. Marshall: —king Cassowary.

Sienelis: Friends of yours?

O. Marshall: Would you believe me if I said no?

Johns: Easily. 

The blond scowled across the bridge toward the Russian, who looked to his side and grinned to Lena with a flicker of his eyebrows. Unfortunately for the blond, his wife was entirely on the side of whatever was most amusing, and grinned along with the dancer. Bear exhaled a gruff noise of frustration as he turned to Valesha with what could only be described as a measure of pleading in his eyes. 

O. Marshall: Just don't mention me. 

CMC Cassowary: =/\= Azetbur, is everything alright over there? Do you need assistance? =/\=

Sienelis: What's it worth?

A peal of laughter erupted from the pilot, still flying as though the legions of multiple hells were biting at their heels. Valesha grinned, just a little, and raised her eyebrows toward the blond. She hadn't expected her question to meet with Lena's approval, but having spent some time with the woman, the Romulan realised she really should have.

Josett: I'm so proud of you right now.

O. Marshall: This is an absolute betrayal, you realise.

Johns: I don't think she cares all that much somehow. 

Rolling his lips in on themselves didn't stop the laughter shaking at Chris' shoulders as he tried, so damn hard, not to crease up. On the other side of the Russian's wife to be, Bear looked as though he might just pop a blood vessel in his temple, considered how much of a pain it would be to finish the journey to Ketar V with Romulan and Russian confined to torpedo casings, and relented.

O. Marshall: Fine. What do you want?

Valesha grinned at him, almost feeling sorry for the outnumbered blond. Almost. With mirth glittering in emerald eyes, she offered him a lackadaisical shrug and a careless answer. It was entirely the wrong time to be having a conversation like this, inappropriate to delay a distress call to negotiate terms with a fellow officer, and yet there she was — and being egged on by Chris and Lena, no less.

Sienelis: Oh, let's just call it a favour for now.

CMC Cassowary: =/\= Azetbur, this is the CMC Cassowary. Do you need assistance? Failure to communicate will result in intervention. =/\=

The screens beneath Chris' fingertips lit up and he bent back in his chair to look over at the blond and his Romulan staring one another down over less than metre. Blue and green in a battle for the win, while their communications and sensors glared with the obvious transmission.

Johns: While Lena's driving it like she stole it, ::said with a quick flash of a cheeky grin to the pirate, receiving an equally cheeky one in return,:: the cutter is powering up weapons as we speak. They're targeting our shield generators. 

O. Marshall: I see our time spent on the Scream had some affect. ::He tongued his cheek, not surprised, and considering who he'd married, not entirely unamused by it either.:: Fine. A favour it is. 

With a quiet snicker, she shooed him out of sight of the communication screen. Once clear, Valesha opened the channel with a tap of a finger, while Chris sat back to watch, the thrill of the chase in his heart, quite enamoured with his wife to be baiting the Bear, as it were. 

Sienelis: =/\= Cassowary, this is Lieutenant Sienelis of the Azetbur, we could use the assist. =/\=

A moment of silence came from the other end as the Marshal did a double take to the screen, then looked down at the display screen beneath his hands. Dressed in the gear of the CMC, with the badge to go with and gold lapels shining, the dusty-haired older Trill officer looked back up at the screen, raising a questioning eyebrow and the Shoals twang to his accent. 

CMC Cassowary: =/\= Lieutenant, has Starfleet uniform standards changed recently, or am I just behind the times with what you crazy kids are wearing these days? =/\=

Valesha squinted at the man, then looked down at herself, an olive flush rushing across her cheeks as she remembered she was sitting there in her pyjamas. She resisted the temptation to pull her robe across her vest, and instead ran a hand through tousled dark hair, smoothing it out.

Sienelis: ::Flatly,:: =/\= Pirates have no respect for sleeping schedules, it seems. =/\=

CMC Cassowary: =/\= That they do not, ma'am. ::He made some adjustments off screen and nodded to his co-pilot.:: Lieutenant Valesha Sienelis, assigned to the USS Gorkon. ::He paused for a second before frowning to her.:: You've got authorization to use this craft? =/\=

Johns: Sure we do. ::Her Russian arched an eyebrow over to her, a smile curving on his lips.:: This time. 

Valesha's expression had pulled into confusion at the Marshal's question. Realisation broke, and then with a downturn to her lips, a sigh and slump of her shoulders, she nodded. Loose threads of her reputation had made their way out as far as the Shoals, it seemed. Maybe one day she'd shake them off.

Sienelis: =/\= Yes. =/\= 

He nodded on the other end, satisfied with the answer and if he could shuffle papers, or ruffle his moustache he would do. The Marshal nodded to the copilot and leaned into the arm of his chair, epaulettes gleaming under the lights in gold, and Bear huffed a chuckle that the only one of them wearing a uniform - four Starfleet officers notwithstanding - was a Shoals Marshal.

TBC

----

Lt. Sienelis, PO Johns, Lt. Marshall & Lt. JG Josett - Road Trip (Part XIII)

 

((Bridge, USS Azetbur))

CMC Cassowary: =/\= You can tell your pilot to move away, we'll take this from here. Where are you heading to? =/\=

Johns: Along the Mother Road to the outpost past Meridian. From there, we're deviating through the Shoals to Ketar V. That's the course we were on before they showed up.

Valesha glanced toward Lena, who grinned back, finding the whole situation (as ever) amusing. The stomach-lurching shifts of the Azetbur smoothed out, evasive manoeuvres settling into a more stable flight path. The Romulan gestured toward her partner, his answer a neat summary of their intentions without excessive details.

Sienelis: =/\= Did you catch that? =/\=

CMC Cassowary: =/\= Fully acknowledged, Azetbur, thanks for the update. If you send us your signature, we'll make a note on our logs and transmit it to the CMC. They should keep an eye on you from here on out. Make sure you report to the post on Ketar V when you get there. =/\=

Visibly fed up with the line of questions, Bear groaned audibly and wiped his hand across his face, gripping his blond beard at his chin as the thought of being face to face with the law enforcement of the Shoals sent spirals through his spine. On the other side, Chris shook his head at the impatient blond, and transmitted their signature information over to the Marshal service as he flicked an eyebrow to Lena.

Johns: And there I was, starting to get used to the g-force keeping me in the chair.

Josett: I'd offer to do something else to keep you pinned to your chair, but there are members of the audience who might take exception.

She grinned at the Russian, while Valesha's emerald gaze flicked skyward, Bear's frustration and annoyance echoing through her — albeit for different reasons. Looking back toward Marshal Shiny Shoulders on screen, she ran her hand a hand through her hair and suppressed a sigh. Meanwhile, Chris flicked an eyebrow to the hybrid pirate with an amused grin, receiving an equally unamused glare from the bearded blond. How the tables turned.

Sienelis: =/\= If that's all, we'll sign off. Thanks for the help, Cassowary. =/\=

CMC Cassowary: =/\= Keep your nose clean, Azetbur. Cassowary out. =/\= 

The communication line ceased as the former Starfleet ship drifted off their starboard bow, heading for the Orion ship and probe deviating away from them at a steep angle. Valesha grumbled to herself and Chris slumped back into his chair as his hand wrestled through growing tresses, quite relieved their derriere remained unmolested by Orion torpedoes. 

Across the small bridge, Bear rocked up out of his with a gruff exhale. It was only then Chris realised the blond wasn't wearing a shirt. 

Johns: That, ::he shot a finger bullet at his beautiful Romulan,:: was a close call. 

O. Marshall: Too close. 

The blond found his hips beneath all the layers of manliness, clear definition between pectoral muscles showing with a little too much flair to be anything other than a dominance tactic and Chris looked over at Valesha in her nightclothes, the Russian's eyebrow escaping toward his scruffy hairline.

Johns: I think this is perfect swap over time, don't y—

O. Marshall: Over my dead body. 

Sienelis: ::Mildly,:: Don't you owe me a favour?

Bear stared at her incredulously for a second, eyebrow tilting upwards. Valesha graced him with a smug, lazy smile, her eyebrows performing a victory twitch. In the background, Chris rolled his lips between his teeth to stop from chuckling. Lena was not so circumspect and chortled to herself — whatever the outcome of their negotiation, she was going back to bed.

O. Marshall: Of all the things you could ask for, of all the favours I could grant, this is what you want to spend it on?

Sienelis: A few hours in bed with my Russian and the bonus of irritating you. Sounds like a win-win scenario to me. ::She paused, just long enough to seem like she was intent on that course of action, then grinned.:: Go on, get lost. Let the universe imprint on, ::she circled her palm toward his bare chest, echoing words last spoken on the Labyrinth's Scream,:: your canvas. Remember this day, when Valesha ir-Jhianhre t'Sienelis was merciful.

O. Marshall: Thank you, kindest of Romulan empresses. ::Hard as he tried, he couldn't be angry with the woman and a brief tick of a smile crested one side of his lips. He wasn't even sure if Romulans had emperors. Glaring blue eyes pinned on Chris.:: Try not to [...] it up. 

The Russian saluted from his forehead, dramatically over the top, accompanied by the grin he'd failed to suppress at Valesha's antics as he settled back into the chair. Once they were back on course from Lena's creative flying mechanics, it'd be coffee and kicking back again. 

Johns: Understood, Captain. 

Bear pointed two fingers at his eyes then toward Valesha as he scowled through barely contained amusement, before he bent down beside Lena's ear, whispered something probably scandalous with a pressed kiss to her hybrid cheek, and left. 

TBC

----

Lt. Sienelis, PO Johns & Lt. JG Josett - Road Trip (Part XIV)

 

((Bridge, USS Azetbur))

The doors hissed shut behind him and with a lingering grin, the Romulan slumped back in her chair. She spun around to face Chris, poking him in the knee with an outstretched foot. He grinned at her, his hand dropping from messing up the scruff of his growing hair.

Sienelis: Nothing ever goes smoothly, does it?

Johns: Honestly, I'd be concerned if it did for once. 

Snagging her foot in his hand, her ballerino applied pressure to the points across her dancer's arch and ankle, turning enough in his chair to balance said ankle on his thigh. Skin soft and light as always, the thrum of green blood coursing through her veins, visible on the top of her foot; skin he ran his fingertips over gently as his thumbs pushed and massaged into muscle and sinew. His head rolled to the side and he looked at Lena in the pilot's seat, making her adjustments and doing whatever it was pilots of small craft did. 

Johns: That was some fancy flying, pirate. ::An exhaled chuckle lifted through him as he grinned.:: Drawing out that conversation with the Cassowary any longer and they'd have thought we stole it.

With intentional flair, Lena entered the last of the commands on her console and stood up. A stretch rippling through her from head to toe, as though she were some big cat finally finished basking in the sun. She grinned at the pair, amber eyes sparkling, and put her hands on her hips in a fashion not entirely unlike a certain tall blond, minutes ago.

Josett: Got the blood flowing, didn't it? ::She chuckled, a mischievous twist to her smile.:: I'll leave you two alone. Don't do anything I wouldn't do.

The hybrid made for the door, curls bouncing, bare feet padding across the bridge carpet, the healing bruise on her thigh peeping out from under the hem of her (or more likely, Bear's) t-shirt as she walked. A scrape with piracy and peril and her mood wasn't the least bit dimmed, cheerful and irreverent as always. Valesha wondered how she managed it — if the woman genuinely took all the twists and turns of life in her stride, or if she used her cheerfulness as armour. Either way, the Romulan rolled her eyes, calling over her shoulder.

Sienelis: That doesn't eliminate much.

Spinning her heel and completing her journey off the bridge in reverse, Lena grinned at the pair as she passed through the doors, arms wide.

Josett: Such is the wonder that is me. 

And then she was gone, leaving Chris and Valesha alone, just as they had been before the untimely arrival of pirates and colonial marshals. The Romulan sank down a little further in her chair, exhaling a long breath and wiggling her toes under her partner's ministrations. Taking that as a sign, Chris threaded his fingers between said Romulan toes and flexed the upper part of her foot back and forth, amusement and affection clear on his features beneath the scruff of his beard. 

Johns: I can't believe you answered a Marshal communication in your pyjamas. 

Sienelis: The things I do for that man. ::She breathed out a quiet groan, though it was unclear whether it was her own inner monologue or the foot massage that prompted it.:: What are the odds when we get to Ketar V I'll already be "The Romulan in PJs"?

Johns: Considering he says he's filing a report, I wouldn't be surprised. ::His thumb moved in circles along her arch as he kicked up his feet onto the console, crossing one leg over the other.:: Starfleet does like to do the uniform shuffle every so often. Maybe they'll think they're reverting back to those heady days of skants. 

Valesha's dark eyebrows lifted and she tilted her head to the side, mossy eyes travelling along the full length of his outstretched legs from toes to hip. She exhaled a sound of contentment, grinned, and her gaze flicked back up to meet his. 

Sienelis: I could live with that.

Chris' hazel eyes sparked as he grinned in response. A rare blush sparked from beneath his sternum and crept up around his throat as he looked at her, followed the line of her leg, dropped his head to the headrest of the chair and felt those striking matches. Being under her gaze shot a thrill through his spine and kicked his heart around inside his ribs.

Johns: Are you objectifying a subordinate, Lieutenant?

Sienelis: Every day.

Johns: Is that so? ::His eyebrow curved and Chris ran his fingers underneath her foot. Her leg twitched, and she breathed a laugh.:: Is it Peek? He has incredible thighs. 

Sienelis: It's his thighs you look at, is it?

Johns: Have you seen them? ::He made a shape with his hands like that of a side of ham.:: That foundation support there for his lifts, for his jetes and pirouettes. I could train him. 

His tongue poked into his cheek as he thought about it — Rob would definitely make for a more astute student than the Betazoid, at least he'd listen — then what Valesha said clicked with him and eyes brimming with [...] suspicion slid to her.

Johns: Why, what do you look at?

Sienelis: I only have eyes for you, my sahe'lagge.

Hand over her heart, she delivered the statement with just the right touch of Romulan haughtiness and affectionate sincerity. The only thing ruining it was the stubborn, impish grin she couldn't quite banish, pulling at the corner of her lips and creasing the corners of her eyes. 

Johns: Well saved, h'levreinnye.

A flick of the eyebrow at the term of endearment, a flutter in his belly like the beating of butterfly wings, and her betrothed echoed her grin with the ever strengthening pronunciation of his Romulan vocabulary. Running his fingers up the back of her ankle, Chris nodded to the console with Russian devilry.

Johns: Autopilot is on.

Valesha held his gaze, her grin slowly returning as mischief sparkled in emerald. Her gaze flicked toward the bridge door, back to him, and then she pushed herself out of her chair to join him in his. Arms around his shoulders, back in his lap, she stole a lingering kiss, heat spreading over her shoulders and curling down her spine in defiance of the ship's cool air.

Sienelis: Shall we lock the door?

Johns: Wiser words never spoken. 

As he drew her in for another kiss, the spark ignited like fireworks shooting into a dark sky. His hands ran over her hips, one up her back beneath her vest touching warm Romulan skin, the other reaching blindly for the console controls. The door latched into place, a tiny alert sounding as the light colour changed, not that either of them noticed as the Azetbur slipped through space and stars, lost as they were in one another. 

fin

----

 

Lieutenant Valesha Sienelis
Science Officer
USS Gorkon
T238401QR0

&

Lieutenant Orson Marshall
Intelligence Officer
USS Gorkon
G239304JM0

&

PO First-Class Christopher Johns
Operations Officer
USS Gorkon
G239304JM0

&

Lieutenant (JG) Lena Josett
Intelligence Officer
USS Gorkon
T238401QR0

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@Quinn Reynolds & @Jo Marshall - Bravo you two.  You managed to make a roadtrip in the family minivan into a nuanced, complex and emotional narrative that works for a lot of reasons.  It's well paced, beautifully invoked and has a great balance of humor and heart.  Well done :) 

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