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Aron Kells and Roshanara Rahman: The Life After

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"The responsibility for destiny rests squarely on our own shoulders."

Ra-ghoratreii, President of the United Federation of Planets, 2293

(( USS Pollux, 2404 ))

:: Aron Kells was a fleet captain, in general command of Starfleet Science's 17th fleet of research vessels heading coreward from the frontier of explored space in the Beta Quadrant, expanding upon his work with the Mercury in years previous -- and as a fleet captain, he was not used to traveling in vessels as small as the Pollux, even though it was an advanced argonaut, successor to the earlier runabouts.

He cruised at full impulse toward the sixth moon of the third gas giant around Epsilon Camelopardalis after having warped in a fair distance away; he preferred a slower approach so that he could think a bit as he got closer. He wasn't really sure what he was about to say, but he was certain that, even though he'd easily commanded captains and ships for a few years, confronting an old crewmate was not the easiest thing he'd ever done...

...and it was made even more difficult by the sudden ringing of the proximity alert. He scrambled toward the controls -- all he needed was to be blown apart by a Gorn Interceptor -- but as soon as he saw the ship's profile, he relaxed half a dozen hairs. What was a Cavell-class hospital ship doing out doing this far without an escort? His communication system began to ring at once, which at least meant that he was about to get some answers. He triggered the system and the holosystem displayed the face of an old friend. ::

KELLS: Commander del Vedova, it's been a while.

DEL VEDOVA: It has indeed. May I ask what you're doing so far from the 17th fleet, sir?

KELLS: You may not. My leave time is my own. Although I may ask what you and the Chebotaryova are doing so far from sector 775?

DEL VEDOVA: You know it all, sir, as always.

KELLS: Not at all; I merely pay attention to the comings and going of old friends. (beat) This situation is no different.

DEL VEDOVA: It is. She would not want you here. That time has passed.

KELLS: Maybe. Maybe not. I'm still going down there.

DEL VEDOVA: I can only ask you not to.

KELLS: And you've done so. Pollux, out.

:: He cut the channel and the hologram disappeared. The Chebotaryova cruised after him and Aron, who knew Del better than the commander thought -- or remembered -- knew he had just a moment before the hospital ship engaged its tractor beam. He triggered the Pollux's warp engines and, for several seconds, jumped to warp. He brought the Pollux out of warp just outside of the moon's atmosphere and began his descent immediately; even if the Chebotaryova followed him, which he didn't think Del would do, it wasn't rated for atmospheric flight and Del would not beam down after him.

He brought down the argonaut toward the sole transponder on the planet, though he realized as he descended that if she really didn't want to be found, it was unlikely that she would be there. As he skimmed low over the world ocean, he realized that the signal was not leading him toward one of the seamounts, but was bringing him to an area of ocean above a deep abyss. Was the community underwater?

No. He saw it as he crested the next horizon, and he slowed quickly from mach one down to a more appropriate speed. The island was not the technological marvel or flotilla that he'd first assumed it was, it was a collection of old oceangoing vessels welded and, in some cases, wedged and roped together. It was still a puzzling act of engineering genius, and this observation made Aron realize that he had been correct.

He brought the Pollux down at the landing pad beside the transponder, but before he could open the outer door, his comm unit began to ring again. He tabbed it on, expecting Del to give him another try; but it wasn't him, it was a being, humanoid probably but not entirely certain, with its face covered with a mask. Some sort of mask etiquette? Well, he couldn't have known, and now he could only hope that this individual would say what he or she had to say anyway. The computer relayed that the call was coming from on the floating conglomeration, and Aron felt his heart leap. What if this was her? ::

OVERSEER: You are unwelcome here.

:: No, unlikely: Even with the passage time, he couldn't see how her voice would sound like that. ::

KELLS: Excuse me. I am Fleet Captain Aron Kells of the Federation Starfleet's 17th fleet, and I am accustomed to an explanation before I receive a complete rebuff.

OVERSEER: You have no jurisdiction here. These are not your stars or your planets. Leave, now.

KELLS: No. (beat) I'm here to meet with someone. An old -- acquaintance. Roshanara Rahman.

:: The mask prevented his easy determination if the individual had recognized the name, but the brief pause before the being's reply suggested to him that either he was completely wrong, or she was here and this person didn't want him to know. ::

OVERSEER: Not here. Not here. You, leave, now.

KELLS: If necessary, I can scan this complex easily, find her, and beam to her location. I'm respecting your autonomy by not doing so, but--

OVERSEER: You cannot.

:: It was said too quickly, too easily to be a full lie, so Aron ran a quick and surreptitious scan. The speaker was correct: Aron's sensors couldn't penetrate the floating island; there was some sort of powerful dampener in effect. Again, he took this as confirmation that she was there. Who else could have done it? ::

KELLS: Then I'll search by foot.

OVERSEER: You will not. We will not let you.

:: But Aron was losing his patience. ::

KELLS: A phaser on its maximum setting could blow a hole straight through one of these rusting barges and founder this whole [...] scumtrap. Understood?

:: There was a slight growl from the other party before he or she switched off the monitor temporarily before turning it back on again. ::

OVERSEER: You may stay for one hour. We do not guarantee she will see you. Regardless, you will leave in one hour, or we will call for the Gorn. They are not such gracious hosts as we.

KELLS: One hour will be more than sufficient. Out.

:: Aron snapped off the projector, and the masked man was gone. He pulled the weapon he'd promised from the storage locker and, even though the interference was still going strong, pulled out a tricorder and a couple of other sensing devices. Better to be prepared either way.

The stink of this overly salinated sea, the rusting barges, and the excrement of the indigenous animal life (one bird of which kept circling his head, making a sound like a wildebeest during childbirth) kept him from forming even the slightest desire to be there more than a second more than he had to -- but he also knew that he wasn't about to back off now. He just tried not to breathe too deeply as he searched around.

Thankfully, he began to run into a few individuals, all of whom wore masks, but also, now that they were more than just holograms, he could identify positively as Dopterians. What they were doing out here, and with some kind of bizarre mask etiquette, though, he couldn't say. Religious? Cultural? Sect-social? Studying the cultural practices of sentients was not at all his field, and so he had very little to offer them -- as they did him, as all his requests for information fell on deaf ears. Maybe literally? Was it possible that the Dopterians were all deaf? He shrugged to himself.

The few "buildings" he saw were rough and constructed of metal sheets, not engineering marvels at all, but after he saw one Dopterian emerge from a hidden section of the hull, his heart sank. He could count the buildings he saw on two hands, but if he had to enter some kind of sub-labyrinth and search, there was no way he'd do that in an hour.

Thankfully, he at last ran into a Dopterian who indulged his request for information about a Kriosian female by pointing to the very last building on the floating mistake, so close to the bow's edge that it continually caught the spray and, maybe, he thought, sounded like it was raining inside. Not such a bad place to live. However, when he knocked, he found nothing inside except a device he didn't recognize about the size of his head.

It was humming slightly and lit up in shades of green-blue every few seconds -- and, according to his suddenly completely useless tricorder, was the source of the jamming. He took aim with his phaser and blew it up, one fluid motion, almost without thinking. With the signal gone, the tricorder found her in less than five seconds.

He exited the small building and headed aft, toward a large cargo container grafted onto its similar neighbors. Unlike the other buildings, all of which tended to face inward towards some sort of mockery of "town," this one, like its fellow on the bow, faced out toward the sea. Aron took the stairs two at a time and met there three masked Dopterians, one of whom he recognized (he thought) as the one he'd spoken to in the argonaut.

The overseer beckoned to him and then continued climbing, up toward the building's very top. As they climbed (more slowly now that Aron wasn't charging ahead), Aron realized that this building was built very much like a lighthouse: And perched there at the top was a small dwelling. *This*, he thought, this would be it.

Correct! But they didn't have to knock or go looking or anything, because there she was, standing outside, waiting. The overseer stepped toward her and Aron, despite every act of bravado up through that point, shrunk back. ::

OVERSEER: Excuse me, Roshanara. You have a visitor.

:: He looked over at Aron. ::

OVERSEER: He was most insistent.

:: Now Rahman's eyes found him, but he couldn't meet them. From what he could see, though, there was no emotion there. A big … nothing. ::

RAHMAN: I know.

KELLS: Rah-- Lieu-- (beat) Roshanara. I've come a long way. Will you talk with me?

:: But she ignored him, didn't answer, and turned to the Dopterians. ::

RAHMAN: It's all right. You may leave us.

:: His three companions turned almost at once to go, leaving the two alone much more quickly than Aron had expected. He opened his mouth to speak, but she beat him to it. She was still quite expressionless. ::

RAHMAN: I'm not leaving with you. If that's why you're here or if Del sent you.

KELLS: It isn't. At least, not exactly. If you wanted to go, I *would* take you. (beat) But, no. What I really want to do is talk.

RAHMAN: Your determination was evident from the moment you landed.

KELLS: You knew-- Never mind. Of course you knew.

:: She nodded and beckoned him into her little dwelling. Inside, he found that he'd been right, or at least partially: The walls were rounded and mostly transparent, though he doubted there was a light. She'd have an excellent view. Except for the smell, the company, and the likelihood that the whole thing would sink at any moment, it was almost nice. ::

RAHMAN: Fine, then. You can tell me why you're here over a cup of coffee. The Dopterians don't share my fondness for caffeine.

KELLS: I can't say I do much, either, these days, but all right.

:: Inside, "decorating" the place were various strange contraptions and monitoring devices for the structural integrity of the community. There were half-assembled pumps and other pieces of equipment laid out on a workbench and on the floor. Clearly, the little studio served both as her quarters and her workshop.

She had him sit down on a chair between the curving window and a bookshelf paired with another chair. Strange, really, since it was clear she didn't receive visitors often. The chair Aron sat in felt barely used at all compared to the worn out seat across from him. She poured him a cup of coffee and sat down herself. ::

RAHMAN: Forgive Mister Hahtal. He is rather paternal over his people.

KELLS: Oh, I can understand that. (beat) But are *you* one of his people?

:: It was meant as a rhetorical question, but there was a hint of a true question to it, as well. Was she? If she'd already decided that she was, then maybe there wasn't much he could do or say. ::

RAHMAN: I suppose. Is that why you're here?

KELLS: I'm not here to call you back to Starfleet or assemble the old gang for one last hurrah or anything like that, if that's what you think. (beat) Nor am I here to otherwise engage you in some kind of outdated power relationship.

RAHMAN: I didn't think so. It's all right. I already have a father.

:: She smiled, though not at him, as she stirred cinnamon into her coffee. ::

RAHMAN: And a Dopterian who'd like to think of himself that way.

KELLS: I-- what? No, that's not what I mean, not at all! I'm here to *apologize*.

:: Well, there it was, spoken plainly. He didn't even need to say what for, because her knowing look was a little too knowledgeable, her stirring a little too mechanical, her face a little too devoid of any care to prove that she didn't *really* care. ::

RAHMAN: It's all right, captain. You did what you needed to do. For your ship. For our ship.

KELLS: Maybe. But that doesn't make your dismissal right. It's always been my goal to work *with* my crew, not against them. Maybe the books do say that you should have been discharged. I should have said to hell with them! I shouldn't have -- you know, listened.

:: If she agreed with him, she didn't reassure him with a nod or other sign of approval. Instead, she looked off into the distance, out to the rolling waters that lay beyond the windows. ::

RAHMAN: It was a difficult time after I left the Mercury. Frustrating, disheartening... and frightening above all else. At least during my first rehabilitation after the Tempest, I still felt... like myself. But after you discharged me... it was as if a piece of me disappeared every day, until I didn't recognize myself at all.

:: She then turned back to him, her green eyes reflecting his. ::

RAHMAN: That is... until I realized I just needed to get away.

KELLS: But that's what I'm telling you: You didn't have to. You still don't, not if you want to leave this place and come back. I know I said I wasn't here to bring you back, but I'm here and *if* you want to come back....

:: But he could see her frown already forming. ::

KELLS: You don't have to answer immediately. Think about it. There are alternatives--

:: She put her cup down to interject, although her voice remained calm. ::

RAHMAN: No, there's no other way. At least not for me...

:: She held her breath for a moment, obviously expecting him to fill something in. He looked at her quizzically. ::

RAHMAN: Or didn't he tell you?

KELLS: Tell me-- tell me what?

:: And who was "he"? The Dopterian overseer? ::

RAHMAN: Hmmph... I had just assumed...

:: Another grin formed, teasing him. ::

RAHMAN: ...since I figured he told you everything else eventually.

:: Not at all, or at least that didn't make sense with her response. Then it clicked, the only person she could be talking about. Indeed, the only person for whom that particular, almost joking smile made sense. ::

RAHMAN: "Recommended for medical isolation." That was Del's final report. Not quite a quarantine since I don't have a disease per se... but basically, I've been diagnosed as incapable of living as a functional member of society.

KELLS: And you, you saw that as some sort of betrayal, because you-- you're--

RAHMAN: No, captain. I agree completely with that assessment.

:: She laughed then. ::

RAHMAN: Yet ironically, I can't even check into an actual asylum for such isolation. Too much stimulus... and so, I decided to do what an engineer would do if she had a faulty component in a system: take it out.

KELLS: And replace it with what? You aren't a power converter to be produced by a replicator en masse when you burn out, all right? You -- you're a person. With a-- a problem, maybe. But not *faulty*, not *broken*. All right?

:: It was important to him that she understood this, and when she failed to do anything but maintain her benign expression, he rose from the chair, his anger overwhelming. He stared out at the sea. ::

RAHMAN: It was supposed to be temporary. Del tried to be a saint-- no, he *was* a saint. He worked tirelessly for several more years on his own, long after the rest of the medical teams had shifted onto other newer, more interesting, and more promising cases. In fact, before you, he was the only other person who sat in that chair to join me for a cup of tea.

:: She picked up her cup again. ::

RAHMAN: Hmmph, he doesn't really like my coffee, either.

KELLS: (softly) So that's why he left. Where he went.

RAHMAN: But eventually, I told him he needed to stop coming here. He needed to move on with his own career.

:: Oh, Aron remembered that well: How Del had been so devoted to his career after the end of his engagement back in 2389, how he'd made it through lieutenant commander and chief medical officer and had then plateaued. No, worse than: He'd given up. Sunk back down in the department, had been in danger of demotion, and had taken leaves that often went a few days past when they were supposed to end. He'd told Aron once, in the darkest corner of a moment, that he was considering leaving Starfleet, and when Aron had asked why, Del had told him it was for an old friend. Not that he'd thought much of that then, but now-- ::

KELLS: It worked. He did. He moved on with a lot of things. (beat) He's a commanding officer now, of a small hospital ship. He had to be talked into the commission, but Command was insistent, what with the war and whatnot.

:: With his back turned to her, he didn't see how the news caused her face to light up with joy. It was her first genuine reaction of their conversation. ::

RAHMAN: I'm glad to hear that. He was rather argumentative about the whole thing when he was last here -- I'm sure that's hard to believe.

:: Aron allowed his smile to flicker back as he turned around. ::

KELLS: I think I can trust that it's true.

RAHMAN: ::shaking her head:: And he had promised he would keep where he hid me a secret... for real this time.

KELLS: He did.

:: He shook his head at her polite incredulity. ::

KELLS: He didn't tell me anything. I found you all on my own. (beat) He did try to stop me, once he knew what I was doing. I mean, once he sort of knew what I was doing. I don't know that he was at all certain what I would do when I got here. (beat) Nor was I. (beat) But you-- you, here and now. I sort of understand, or I think I do, that what you really need is to be left alone. (beat) Yes.

:: She smiled again before taking a sip of her coffee. ::

RAHMAN: Well, good. Better late than never.

:: What more was there to say? Oh, there were the usual polite goodbyes, but the end of the conversation had come and they both knew it. Aron's trip back to the argonaut was quick -- the Dopterians were polite now, but it was clear that they wanted him to leave. He wanted to, as well; he found that in that moment he had never wanted anything more. But, again, once he was above the water moon, he found that he didn't jump immediately to warp. To be at warp was to admit the momentum of the situation, and that he wouldn't do. He stayed at impulse as he passed two outer planets, and only was shaken out of his reverie by the ringing of the comms system. He activated it, and there was Del's head waiting for him. ::

DEL VEDOVA: She's gone.

:: His voice was almost and carefully devoid of feeling, but Aron knew him better than that: Del was seething. ::

DEL VEDOVA: The colony is in an uproar! They think "her visitor" kidnapped her somehow. She's left no trace, nothing even for me to follow. It really does look like-- (beat) I can only assume that wasn't you.

KELLS: Oh, no. I did visit her. But she isn't with me. She must've....

:: He didn't finish the thought. Instead, he smiled. ::


KELLS: Nothing. Nothing at all.

Fleet Captain Aron Kells

Commander, 17th Fleet, Starfleet Science


Roshanara Rahman

Patient Reference Number 912-804-117

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