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[2009: SEP-OCT] Darkening skies


Estantia
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It had been meant to be a simple boarding exercise. The Captain and First Officer commanding the retired USS Waltz, the rest of the USS Persephone’s crew tasked to capture it within an hour.

But then less than five minutes after they had transferred over the dilapidated ship exploded, it was only to be expected really, it had been chosen for target practice for a reason, taking Captain Yan Min and Lieutenant Commander Briar Olsworth with it.

The crew gathered around the largest tree in the arboretum, grass gently rippling under their feet as two more names were added to the plaque by Second Officer Tunsley. However he kept looking to the person most affected by this, who was technically the highest ranked person on the ship.

Those important people knew that Lieutenant Commander Kali Salih had always regarded those two in particular as her family, the only reason she had transferred back to the ship less than a week before. Now she was silent, head bowed, face shut, not even speaking, eyes dark and troubled.

Tunsley worried about her, and thus he wasn’t really surprised when she approached him after the ceremony, handing him a PADD that said all she couldn’t.

“You’ve resigned?”

A nod, “I have lost too many people.”

He frowned, “You cannot be persuaded? You are an outstanding officer.”

She shook her head, “Happy travels, Commander.”

++++

The woman had shut her door quietly before the first voice spoke, “It’s done?”

“Yes,” she turned around to face the Terrans, taking off her com badge and setting it on the desk with more than a touch of reluctance, “I am no longer a starfleet officer. May I have a change of clothes?”

The dark blonde man chucked a t-shirt and pair of trousers at her that he had been lying on in the storage crate, “Not regretting this?”

“A little,” she commented as she caught the clothes and moved to the bathroom, “but I know as well as you do that we need to get out of here.” Dark hair swished behind her as she closed the bathroom door, leaving Briar with a wry grin.

“I’m glad she’s on our side, you’d never thought one little transfer would make this much of a difference, would you?”

Yan chuckled, “Maybe they sent out the assassination order for the wrong person.”

Both men fell silent as they thought about the events led them here, hiding among tables and clothes, preparing to leave the ship that had been their home.

++++

As the transporter faded, putting him and Olsworth on the USS Waltz, a familiar voice chimed in.

“Captain, I hope you transported safely across.”

“Commander, yes. We'll be ready for your mock attack in a few hours.”

“I’m sorry Captain, I have my orders. FIRE!”

Coherent light flashed down, slashing holes through the smaller ship, followed moments later by the detonation of quantum torpedoes. The Captain of the ship backed away from the console with his arms thrown up to cover his face as the screen exploded, closing his eyes against the light.

When he opened them he was surprised to find both himself and his FO in the CSO’s office facing the Indian smiling slightly cheekily at them over the desk that used to be hers.

“You owe me.”

“I thought you couldn’t read a terminal?” the FO asked in surprise.

“Last night I meant to read up on the minimum requirements for research to be valid and found the file blocked, I thought it was just that my science codes hadn’t been cleared and so I worked around it.. It seems I’d missed the keys and typed Min instead. My eyesight cleared up abruptly around the time I read ‘terminate’.”

“You set up an auto-transport for if the Waltz fell apart,” Yan said slowly, “Tell me you covered your tracks?”

“Of course, you can’t be a CSO and not pick up a few things,” she pointed out, “program, edit logs, transporter signal and edit logs deleted. If they get anything it will lead them here, to Tunsley’s own terminal.”

“I can’t believe it,” Olsworth muttered in disbelief, “why are there orders out to kill us?”

“They’re not the only ones,” Yan replied glumly, “there are a few things which have been bothering me, the Phoenix’s disappearance, the neatness of the DS17 bombing, a few other things.”

“A conspiracy?” the FO asked quietly.

The Captain nodded, “A high up one too. It all goes back to the Gorn War, who knows enough about what’s happened here or anyone trying to look too closely at what’s happening.”

There was a silence as they all looked at each other, the gazes ending up at the woman who had served as long as they had. She was silent for a moment before looking up, eyes calm.

“Then the answer is simple. We need to vanish.”

++++

“So your cousins are our information net inside Starfleet,” Yan said a few hours later once the shuttle was well away from DS17 and they had thought it safe to emerge, now in replicated off-duty clothes, “How are we going to get information?”

“Travel round? Talk to people?” Briar suggested from the pilot seat.

“We need to get you two less recognisable first,” Kali pointed out, “and as for the travelling, I have an idea from a book I read when I was small. There was a group of minstrels that travelled between the north and south of a country that were at war and they passed messages from families that were separated by it, doing everything loudly and openly but acting as spies the entire time.”

“So you’re suggesting we become intergalactic minstrels?”

“I admit I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic,” the other winked, “and Kali’s a good dancer.”

“We’ll need more people,”

“We can find them, this is too big not to have touched others,” the Indian pointed out.

“And then we train and wait for them to do whatever they’re planning,” Yan added solemnly, “the calm before the storm.”

“They’re not ready to move yet,” Olsworth pointed out with a frown, “Sure, they’re getting stronger otherwise they wouldn’t try to bump us off, but they’re still being quiet about it, they’re still gathering support for whatever they’re planning, and that means it will get worse.”

“Then we’ll gather our strength too,” the woman said in a dangerously calm voice, “They chose the wrong enemies when they threatened my family.”

“Agreed.”

“Agreed.”

They would be ready when the storm broke.

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