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Ben and Nathan: "Double Trouble"


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#1 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21904.15 @ 23:41 (11:41 PM)

== portions written with input and permission from Captain Crawford ==

 

*bewehop-beweohp*

 

One eye opened in the darkness, confused and unsure.

 

*bewehop-beweohp*

 

Another eye opened, and finally the figure sat up, the covering sheets sliding down off the torso.

 

*bewehop-beweohp*

 

“Okay, okay, I’m coming. Computer what time is it?”

 

[It is currently zero one hundred hours]

 

Wearily, Nathan shuffled over to his desk in stop and start motions, quite like a zombie. This was not his usual wake up time. On top of that, he had no idea why an incoming transmission was coming straight to his Quarters. If it was a regular message, it would just be held until he checked his console. If it were a regular message. That got him thinking, and warning bells went off in his head about what the call could be about. Cautiously, he pushed the console button, where it prompted him to enter his authorization.

 

That is odd… an encrypted transmission? For me?

 

“Ramius Whiskey Zero Five One Bravo Delta.”

 

A face appeared on the terminal, and Ramius’ first reaction was surprised, which turned into happiness, that then melted into concern.

 

“Ada…”

 

[Nathan, I’m sorry for waking you.]

 

“Oh, you didn’t wake me,” he yawned and ran a hand through his messed-up hair.

 

[Liar], there was just the hint of a grin in the corner of her mouth, but that didn’t hide the distress from the rest of her face.

 

[I got permission from my Commanding Officer to use a secured channel, so that this would transmit even if you were on a mission. It’s about Byron. He’s gone missing.]

 

“Missing? Well is that anything new? Ronnie is an investigative journalist Ada, he’s probably doing some undercover sort of stuff.”

 

[That is just the thing, he is, but he setup a schedule with his Editor, and now he has missed three check-ins in a row. They are incredibly easy too, just a tap on a handheld communicator and the Editor would know he is alright.]

 

“Well, that isn’t good news… but…”

 

[I know. I know. You are thinking, ‘why contact me?’]

 

“Yeah…”

 

[Byron was investigating the new Nausicaan Syndicate,] Nathan’s eyes narrowed, [on the planet Ponm. Problem is, Ponm is an independent planet and so the Federation won’t step in to help find him.]

 

“Well, that isn’t good either… but…”

 

[Yes Nathan, I get it, I know what you are thinking. But the police on Ponm won’t start an investigation unless it is clear that he is a missing person. They won’t do anything at the moment. And you are near Ponm right now, so I thought you’d be able to help find him.]

 

There was a loud sigh as the security officer sat back in his chair, staring at the pleading face of someone who was basically kin to him. He knew Ada wouldn’t have contacted him if she hadn’t already run out of options. Not that Ramius wasn’t first on her list, but she knew better than most what his duties on a starship entailed.

 

“If the Federation has already said no, then Star Fleet isn’t going to let me go there to investigate either.”

 

[Please Nathan, there has to be something you can do. Surely you can just get permission to take a few days leave, go to Ponm, and bring Byron back. Knowing you, and the fact that you know my brother so well, you’d be able to find him quick.]

 

“That’s just the thing Ada, there is no way my Cee-Oh is going to let me grab a shuttle and just waltz over to Ponm. One, we aren’t authorized to conduct missions on independent planets unless they ask us for help. In which case, Star Fleet would probably dispatch a ship, or even the Artemis. Two, I’m not exactly in the best position to be asking for favors, let alone being trusted to…”

 

Ada’s face on the screen was upset, and he could see the tears streaking down her face. Inside his chest, his heart hurt like it had been stabbed. It was obvious now that Nathan really was a ‘last resort’, and he knew she was terrified.

 

“Alright, listen. I will talk to Captain Crawford. I make no promises; I’ve been in the hotseat since the Getty, and I am not in anyone’s good graces. But I’ll make a case, and see if she’ll allow me to petition the local constabulary to start an investigation…”

 

[Okay…] she was still distraught, but there was a bit of hope there, [I love you, you big idiot.]

 

That made Nathan laugh a little, “I love you too Squeaker.”

 

The transmission terminated, the Artemis logo appearing along with the time the hail had ended. Another sigh escaped Ramius, except this one was very long.

 

At least I have a few hours to figure out what I’m going to say to the Captain…

 

 

 

== A few hours later… ==

 

“You might want to try that again and really re-think that request...”

 

Nathan cracked his neck in both directions, and extended the PADD that he prepared a full briefing on. The situation on Ponm was complicated, both for the fact that it was an independent world with all of the diplomatic hurdles that entailed, plus a complicated justice system that was different depending on which province one had to interact with.

 

“Believe me Captain, I know that I’m the person with the worst track record to be asking for any kind of favor…”

 

The corner of the redhead's lips pulled slightly as her nose crinkled in an attempt to suppress a snort while she read the PADD,

 

“…but I wouldn’t be asking if it wasn't incredibly important to me. Ada Miller is my sister – not by blood, but in bond, and so is her brother Byron. I’m not asking to do my own investigation…”

 

"Good because Hell would freeze over and the Borg would rise from the grave with offers of peace before anyone in their right mind would sign off on you doing anything alone, much less..."

 

“Not alone,” Nathan dared to interrupt her, “sorry, but, I was… I am going to ask for someone to accompany me. Someone I trust to watch my back and help me navigate the intricacies of Independent World politics. I was hoping you’d allow Ensign Benjamin Elias to accompany me. He has real experience in dealing with authorities from such places from his previous freighter experience.”

 

“So, I’m just supposed to let ya’ll, two incredibly green J-O's no less, take a shuttle and what?”

 

“Petition the local security force to start an investigation or missing person case. If not the local security force, then petition the provincial government. And then the federal government of Pomn, if need be. I doubt we’d be more than a few days at most.”

 

Taking a small step forward, his hands came up into a pleading position,

 

“Please, Captain. This is my family. Ada and Byron… the entire Miller clan was always there for me, and they would do anything for me. In fact, they have done a lot for me already. I know it is asking for a lot of trust when that cup is empty… but I know for a fact how highly regard family…”

 

“Stop before you dig your own grave. I can spot emotional toying from a couple hundred lightyears away. What's the timeframe?”

 

“Four. Six days max. One day to get there, a couple days to file paperwork and meet with an investigator or magistrate. Then straight back to the Artemis.”

 

Her blue eyes hardly seemed convinced as they drilled into him before the gaze was broken by a shake of the head. "You two will be the death of me. Do you know what term I would use to describe you if I were your COS? 'A **** magnet' and Elias will probably just multiple that trouble by at least ten."

 

“No trouble, I assure you Captain,” there was another snort, “it will be by-the-book.”

 

She rubbed a hand over her face before letting it drop heavily. Her posture was one of resignation. "If I say no, you'll just do it anyway and tank both of your careers -- it's what I'd do in your shoes.  You have six days -- take Shadow, if he agrees. If not, find another volunteer. You are not there as Starfleet officers, merely as concerned family members so you damn well better leave your official gear at home. I swear to God that if you go and throw your weight around in an official capacity on an independent world, you will wish a cartel had killed you when I get my hands on you." She paused and sighed, shaking her head again. "And please, when you end up knee deep, don't be an idiot and don't be a hero... call for back up."

 

“Understood, and thank you.”

 

She glanced at the chronometer, a seeming dismissal incoming. “Tick tock Midshipman…”

 

Nathan didn’t just hustle out of the Captain’s Ready Room, he sprinted.

 

 

 

 

== Engineering ==

 

I hope he is still in the main foyer like the Computer said he was…

 

The doors to the turbolift had barely opened as he pushed himself between the narrow opening, earning him more than a few irritated glances from a sprocket of engineers as he did so. Even then, he continued at his breakneck pace, making a beeline for the main area of Engineering. Sliding around a corner, he came to a skid-stop like a cartoon character as he glanced around, then spotted his quarry.

 

He straightened his jacket, and semi-calmly walked over to his friend and roommate. Apparently, he was conversing with a couple of the enlisted crew and one officer, something about a Premodulating Thermal Matrix. Nathan hung back just a bit, not wanting to interrupt Benjamin while he was performing his duties, but as several seconds ticked by, his feet unconsciously brought him closer and closer to the group. Before he knew it, his was standing with them in their small circle, just behind the right shoulder of Ensign Elias.

 

One of the crew, a Crewman Whitby, smiled when she noticed him trying to edge into the conversation. Most of Engineering knew Nathan, but Whitby often conversed with him at length when he made his rounds.

 

“Hello Nathan,” it was her normal, warm greeting.

 

“Kate,” he replied, before addressing the rest of the group, “sorry to interrupt, but I have to steal Ensign Elias away for a moment…”

 

“We were just finishing up,” Whitby nodded, before the lone Engineering Midshipman piped up in agreement. The small circle quickly dispersed after that, mostly with Kate herding a few that looked like they wanted to ask a few more questions – she seemed to know the gravity of Nathan’s request, though his demeanor was probably quite obvious to read.

 

Now, with just the two of them standing there, he apologized,

 

“I’m sorry for interrupting your duties. I really normally wouldn’t have but… I really need your help. It is quite a large favor that I’m going to ask you, and you can say no of course. I already have approval from Captain Crawford, so that should give you some idea of how heavy the situation is. You were the only person that I could think of, that knows the ins-and-outs of how to deal with officials from independent worlds… you have street smarts… and I trust you.”

 

There was a pause, before he finally said what needed saying,

 

“I need you to come to Ponm with me. My best-friend… my sister really; her brother Byron has gone missing while doing some investigative journalism on a new criminal group operating on the planet. They haven’t got a response from any of the officials they’ve contacted, and the Federation is staying out of it because it isn’t a member world. Crawford gave me six days to go and get things started as a family member only – nothing official. Of course, she wouldn’t let me go alone… and when I suggested that I wanted you to come along… well, she wasn’t impressed with that either.”

 

Another pause, his head dipping to the floor for just a split-second before bouncing back up,

 

“Anyway, like I said, you can say no… but… I’d really appreciate your help on this…”

 

== tag Ben! ==


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#2 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21904.16 @ 01:49 (01:49 AM)

==That morning, Casa Ramius y Elias==

 

Benjamin woke up just before his alarm went off and lay there as it blared on the far side of the room. He’d started setting it up over there long ago as a preventative measure, though by now he rarely needed it. Only on the bad nights, he thought with a sigh, and threw the covers off to march across the dark room.

 

He turned off the alarm, rubbed a hand over his face and muttered something that the computer interpreted as a command to turn the lights on half illumination. He quickly gathered up a towel and some clothes and started towards the bathroom. He noticed as he trudged through the common area that the usual activity he heard in Nathan’s room was absent this morning, but didn’t think much of it. At this point, he wasn’t thinking much at all.

 

A quick shower and shave later, he stepped back into the common room and actually noticed the quiet. He stepped over and was about to knock on Nathan’s door, but it slid open at his approach. The room was empty, and was a bit more disheveled than normal; he probably wouldn’t even have noticed it if they weren’t roommates, but still.

 

Wonder where he is, Benjamin thought. They had been up fairly late last night, talking and drinking. About family, oddly enough, which was often a touchy subject for him, but the alcohol helped.

 

He stepped back into his quarters and looked at the chronometer. He still had a decent amount of time before shift change, so he grabbed a couple of muffins and some orange juice from the replicator for breakfast and pulled up a chair to his desk. Maybe I can get the nacelles attached before I head in, he thought as he pulled the USS Gettysburg up to him. NCC-3890, not the CA-1863. He took a deep breath, and got to work on the old-style nacelles. Of course, since there were four of them on the old Constellation-class ship, he didn’t quite get them all done before he had to leave, and left one of them still in pieces on the workspace with another assembled but not attached.

 

He was still pulling on his uniform jacket as he got in the turbolift and mumbled something around the nearly-whole muffin he held between his teeth that the computer interpreted as a request to go to engineering. Fortunately, the computer had gotten as used to his routine as he had.

 

He finished off the last bites of the muffin as he walked into Engineering which, as always, as abuzz with activity. He stopped in the main foyer as was his habit, looking around at the various stations. Everything looked like it was running properly, and he nodded appreciatively. He did spy Whitby, Caorn, and Midshipman sh’Thanis in a fairly intense discussion, and made his way over to them.

 

“But we can’t work on it right now!” Caorn was saying. “It’s an integral part of the system, we can’t bring it offline to correct the issue safely.”

sh’Thanis nodded in agreement. “It pains me to say, but he’s right. Besides, the problem is minor; it can wait until we’re back in spacedock in a couple of weeks.”

 

“Sure, its minor now, but that can change in the blink of an eye,” Whitby countered.

 

“What’s the problem?” he asked as he broke into the circle.

 

Whitby smiled up at him. “Oh, sorry sir. I didn’t see you there.” She looked back at her colleagues with a huff. “I was just telling them that we need to do some work on the premodulating thermal matrix. The temperature has risen inside there over the past week or so, and I think there’s a problem.”

 

“How much?” he asked, holding up a hand to stop Caorn from butting his way in. The Tellarite was an exemplar of the species; he’d argue with the bulkhead if he thought it was wrong.

 

She sighed and looked a little sheepish. “Only by .01 degrees.”

 

“Well within safety margins!” Caorn interjected. Benjamin turned calmly to look at him silently, which seemed to deflate the man slightly.

 

“But it hasn’t gone back down like we would normally see if it was just a temporary fluctuation,” Whitby finished.

 

“I was going to add this to the shift report, sir,” sh’Thanis said. “I don’t think its a problem for now, but it's something to make sure the dock crew is aware of.”

 

“True,” Benjamin said, rubbing his hands slightly. His palms had started itching suddenly, which made him worried. “But it's something we need to stay aware of, too, just in case it gets out of hand. Make that note in the shift report, but also make sure that we are keeping an eye on it.” He turned to the two crewmen. “Whitby, you noticed it, so its your baby. Beginning and end of each shift, you run diagnostics on it, and get someone on the other shifts to do it as well. Mr Caorn, since you don’t think we can work on it right now, you get to try and figure out how we can.” He held up a hand and continued over the man’s protests. “Just because regulations say it won’t work doesn’t mean we can’t. Take a holodeck and get to work. I expect to see a progress report in the next couple of days.”

 

“Hello Nathan,” Whitby said with a smile and a small wave. Benjamin stopped short, his train of thought completely derailed by the statement.

 

“Kate,” his roommate replied from behind him. “Sorry to interrupt, but I have to steal Ensign Elias away for a moment.”

“We were just finishing up,” Whitby nodded, and sh’Thanis agreed.

 

“You all have your orders,” he said and dismissed them. Caorn, as was his wont, tried to stay and protest, but Whitby nearly dragged him away, which was doubly impressive with how much he outweighed the poor girl.

 

It would’ve been comical, if Nathan hadn’t seemed so gravely serious.

 

“I’m sorry for interrupting your duties. I really normally wouldn’t have but… I really need your help. It is quite a large favor that I’m going to ask you, and you can say no of course. I already have approval from Captain Crawford, so that should give you some idea of how heavy the situation is. You were the only person that I could think of, that knows the ins-and-outs of how to deal with officials from independent worlds… you have street smarts… and I trust you.”

 

What on earth is he talking about? Benjamin wondered as Nathan paused for a moment.

 

“I need you to come to Ponm with me. My best friend… my sister really; her brother Byron has gone missing while doing some investigative journalism on a new criminal group operating on the planet. They haven’t got a response from any of the officials they’ve contacted, and the Federation is staying out of it because it isn’t a member world. Crawford gave me six days to go and get things started as a family member only – nothing official. Of course, she wouldn’t let me go alone… and when I suggested that I wanted you to come along… well, she wasn’t impressed with that either.”

 

He paused again, his head dropping to his chest for a moment, just a moment, before he looked back up at Benjamin. “Anyway, like I said, you can say no… but… I’d really appreciate your help on this.”

 

Benjamin felt his stomach drop into his feet. Every single brain cell he had told him that this was a terrible idea. An independent planet with a Syndicate presence, going purely as civilians? It wasn’t the smartest of ideas, and he had followed through on some terrible ones in the past. He had had his own criminal entanglements over the years, and the biggest thing he had learned from them had been to stay away from them if at all possible. Even Captain Crawford thought it was a bad idea, doubly so since it was the two of them doing it.

 

But it was Nathan’s family. Even if they weren’t blood, they were family. And Nathan was right; he did have experience working on independent worlds, even if not Ponm specifically. He definitely knew how to handle himself there better than Nathan did.

 

In the end, he didn’t really have a choice.

 

“When do we leave?”

 

==Tag Nathan==


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#3 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21904.17 @ 02:38 (02:38 AM)

== Type-11 Shuttlecraft – en route to Ponm ==

 

“When do we leave?”

 

The star field turned to streaks as the shuttle ramped up to Warp Four, the engines purring as the craft stretched its legs. It was finally the moment where his mind stopped thinking about what needed to be done, and realized that all there was to do was wait until they arrived at their destination. Once there, the only plan was to make contact with the authorities. Anything else would have to be improvised. Ramius hoped there wouldn’t be much improvising, but the situation made it seem unlikely.  

 

“When do we leave?”

 

The only question that the Engineer had: simple, concise, and surprisingly assenting. Not that Nathan expected Ben to say no, but it was the fact that it had almost been reflex to say yes. It was a poignant moment, to have that kind of support from his friend and roommate; even more so that he was fine with the short answer Ramius gave (“right now”), and the minuscule dialogue that followed. Case in point, the security officer turned civilian for six days was fairly sure they hadn’t even really talked since Engineering. It was straight to business, getting prepped and ready for the trip. Now, he felt almost bad for not saying much.

 

“Thank you. I can’t believe I didn’t say that already,” he turned to face Benjamin.

 

“I apologize for not saying much either. My mind has been… occupied with all sorts of things. Now that we are finally underway, my brain is giving me some breathing space.”

 

Adjusting the brown long coat that he wore, Nathan let out a hefty sigh before cracking his neck to the left. There was still a sizeable amount of anxiety about the situation as a whole, plus his worry for Byron. Ronnie was a brilliant journalist, but not much of a fighter. Not for a lack of physicality, as he was a marathon runner, but he just didn’t have a taste for violence on any level – despite his love for confrontation.

 

Always able to dig deep enough to poke at buttons, even with his friends and family…

 

The thought took him back to a Christmas dinner, where Byron naturally had been grilling his father about something political. At first the table laughed most of it off, and so did his father. But he kept pushing for more and more answers, digging with a Socratic style that would peeve even the most stalwart of people. And once Ronnie found a contradiction, he doggedly pursued it. It was the only time Nathan had ever seen Ada’s dad so incredibly irate, which then caused her mom Julia to banish them from the table. Years after they’d laugh about it, but in the moment the tension hung in the air for the rest of the holidays.

 

Ramius gave a wide smile and shook his head at the memory, before it was tempered with bittersweet reality; which brought him back into the moment.

 

“I don’t suppose you could do some kind of miracle engineering work and get us Warp Five?” the question was more playful banter than real inquiry, though he supposed that it wouldn’t hurt to seriously ask.

 

“I really appreciate you agreeing to come with me. I’m sure you know there is a potential for danger, and I’m not naïve enough…”

 

…anymore…

 

“…to think that we won’t run into some hurdles. But, I’m hoping we don’t have to do anything… well, anything stupid. I’ve done a fair amount of research, but there really isn’t a whole lot of the puzzle visible. But, if you have questions, I’ll do my best to give you answers.”

 

There was a brief break, as he looked at the sensors and telemetry readouts, before returning his attention back to Benjamin.


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#4 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21904.18 @ 21:52 (09:52 PM)

==Shuttlecraft==

 

Benjamin had almost been astonished at the speed with which they had gotten under way. With the captain signing off on the mission - however reluctantly - the duty rosters had been rearranged to allow him the time off in short order. He'd always traveled light, so there wasn't much to put in his bag. The biggest problem was cleaning out the still to make sure that it wasn't causing problems while they were gone, and even that had only taken a few minutes to accomplish.

 

And suddenly, here they were. He stood for a moment at the back of the craft, stretching out his back while he had a chance. He'd grabbed a grey flight jacket devoid of any insignia for the trip, and felt odd to not be in uniform. It was familiar and wrong all at once. It reminded him too much of when his time on the Tzenketh run, and his hand reached for a bottle in reflex at the realization. Fortunately, there wasn't one there, though part of him was saddened at that.

 

He hadn't realized how much his uniform had become a crutch to separate him from all of that baggage. There's something I'll have to discuss with someone, he thought to himself, though it made some sense. He'd made the choice to turn his life around and the choice to join Starfleet at about the same time. Sure, he still drank, but never to such excess anymore, and maybe the thought of being a part of something more was a bigger reason for it than he had realized.

 

“I don’t suppose you could do some kind of miracle engineering work and get us Warp Five?” Nathan asked, and Benjamin could hear the jest in his voice. He chuckled in response, setting a hand on his roommate's shoulder before settling back in at the front of the ship.

 

"Not even if we got out and pushed," he said in response. "Ship's just too small to do much more than we're doing now."

 

Nathan kept going, and he could hear the jest fall away from him as he spoke. “I really appreciate you agreeing to come with me. I’m sure you know there is a potential for danger, and I’m not naïve enough to think that we won’t run into some hurdles. But, I’m hoping we don’t have to do anything… well, anything stupid. I’ve done a fair amount of research, but there really isn’t a whole lot of the puzzle visible. But, if you have questions, I’ll do my best to give you answers.”

 

Benjamin sighed, looking back out at the starfield as he thought. Nathan looked at the conn, double-checking the readouts and such, and for a moment Benjamin thought he was looking at his little brother. Not so little anymore, he corrected himself, remembering that he still needed to make arrangements to get to his wedding in a couple of months, but the point still stands. He remembered spending far too many nights trying to keep the young David out of trouble, trying to keep him from charging in where he shouldn't be sticking his neck. He'd tried to teach the younger Elias a bit of realism, as well; and while Nathan had run into enough trouble to have learned that lesson, it was one that bore reinforcing from time to time.

 

"There's a potential for danger in anything you do," he finally said. "You know that as well as I do, especially being in Starfleet. But I just want to make sure you know: Ponm won't be like a Federation world. I haven't been there personally, but I've been to planets like it, and even the nicest ones are more like the fringes of the Federation than to the core. And that's assuming that the Syndicate doesn't have that firm of a grip on the world, which from what little you've said doesn't sound like a good assumption. Just... don't take anything at face value. It may look like crystal spires and togas, but that just means you have to keep an even better eye out for the danger."

 

He took a deep breath before continuing on. "Which does bring me to my question: what was Byron doing out here? You've told me he's a journalist, but do we know what type of story he was chasing? Might give us an idea of where the police can start."


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#5 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21904.19 @ 03:46 (03:46 AM)

== Shuttlecraft – en route to Ponm ==

There was a large and long chuckle when Ben had suggested that there couldn’t be much done to get more juice from the engines; particularly funny was the idea of getting out and pushing the thing. In Nathan’s head, he could picture an old Earth cartoon he had seen once – the Flintstones – and imagined their two pairs of legs trying to speed the craft up. A snort was stifled.

He listened closely when Elias took a turn to speak however. Behind those eyes, there was a distinct wisdom and knowledge about the type of place they were travelling to. How to interact. Not stick out like a sore thumb. Hopefully how not to **** off the locals or the authorities either, without sacrificing what it was that they needed to get done. Nathan nodded and hummed an affirmation when it was mentioned that Ponm would not be like a Core world. It was a good reminder for the young man. He knew that it wouldn’t be a picnic, that it would be nothing like Earth or even Vulcan. Yet, it was still important for him to keep up his guard, to be wary, and not to take anything for granted.

"Which does bring me to my question: what was Byron doing out here? You've told me he's a journalist, but do we know what type of story he was chasing? Might give us an idea of where the police can start."

Nathan let out a deep sigh and shifted in his seat.

“Byron rarely lets anyone know exactly what he is doing at any given time, unfortunately,” a trait that was odd in the Miller family, as most of them were far more communicative, and trusting… at least of friends and family. For Byron, even family often didn’t know what he was up to.

“Thankfully his sister, and my best friend growing up, Ada forwarded a message to me from the Editor of The Atlas. As I understand it, The Atlas is a magazine that focuses on geopolitical, strategic, and economic news stories that have an impact on the Federation and her allies. Ronnie, er, Byron, went to Ponm to investigate a rumored newly-minted Nausicaan cartel or syndicate, or whatever the criminals call themselves,” both of Nathan’s brows pulled together, and his lips slight pursed when he spoke of the illicit elements.

Standing up from his chair, he walked over to his weathered taupe duffle bag and pulled a thermos out. As Ramius unscrewed the lid and poured some tea into it, he continued speaking,

“There are different ways he does this, but it always starts with some intelligence gathering first. Making local contacts, getting the ‘lay-of-the-land’, and an idea of the major players involved. That usually takes him a couple, or a few weeks, depending on whatever homework the magazine has done for him in advance.”

Hot tea swished into his mouth as he took a sip, a nice spicy Chai tea with some sweetener. It was the type of tea he’d have for comfort. And while he didn’t really need comfort at the moment, or that he realised, his brain was happier for it. Visibly, the drink washed away any negative expressions and reset him to neutral.

“And then, after that, is when he usually gets himself into trouble. He’ll either embed himself in the organization, or set himself up as a business contact, or something like that. I’ve heard that Byron has posed as a trader, smuggler, businessman, politician, and even royalty once. There is no doubt in my mind he might even try to pose as a low-level minion in order to get into the organization. The man is tenacious and doesn’t mind getting his hands a bit dirty, so long as it doesn’t involve violence – or as much as possible. That isn’t his style,” he took another sip of his tea and walked back over to the chair next to Ben to sit.

“Tyson Hawken, the editor, explained in the message that they think this cartel formed out of several smaller elements doing small-time work on Pomn. Now, they’ve moved their operations up to smuggling and sentient trafficking. Apparently, they focus their work in the business districts of Tri-Va, a mega-city that is often described as the ‘gem’ of the Eastern Province. It isn’t known how they get the people or goods on and off-world. There is a heavy orbital patrol presence. Yet they apparently move incredibly fast and get top dollar for their shipments. The Provincial Administration denies any criminal activities in their area; though one contact that Byron uncovered early, a high-ranking civil servant, said that is just a disinformation campaign until they can track the leaders down and make arrests.

Problem is, there is a division of policing… Local, County, Provincial, and Federal. There are a very strict laws regarding jurisdiction, and some overlap too. Apparently, the contact suggested that Local Police believe that Provincial Police are being bribed, and vice versa. And Byron already revealed a fair amount of corruption of the municipal government and politicians of Tri-Va, so that doesn’t bode well.

Last Hawken had heard, Byron was looking to get work or deals in a club that allegedly has ties to the cartel. The Red Room, or Red Lounge depending on the Klingon translation you use… anyway, that was a few days ago now. Initially the police refused to investigate or open a missing person case, because they argue he isn’t missing. When local authorities were asked for more information, neither Tyson or Ada get any messages back, and the Province refers them back to the Municipality.”

Draining the last of his tea, Nathan cleaned out the cup-lid with a handkerchief pulled from one of the inner pockets of his long coat. Another, more anxious sigh, escaped him before he put the lid back onto the thermos.

“It should have been easy,” he stared past Benjamin now, “for Byron to contact Hawken. He has both a communicator and an alert device embedded into his hand. One press between his finger and thumb on his left hand lets Tyson know he is good. Two presses for help. But, they haven’t got any communication at all since he explored the club.”

Oh Ronnie, you dummy. What have you gotten yourself into now?

Edited by Mid Nathan Ramius, Star Date 21904.19 @ 03:58 (03:58 AM).

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#6 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21904.21 @ 21:00 (09:00 PM)

Benjamin leaned back in his chair as Nathan laid out the facts as he knew them. And the facts weren't good. "Problem is, there is a division of policing," he continued. "Local, County, Provincial, and Federal. There are a very strict laws regarding jurisdiction, and some overlap too. Apparently, the contact suggested that Local Police believe that Provincial Police are being bribed, and vice versa. And Byron already revealed a fair amount of corruption of the municipal government and politicians of Tri-Va, so that doesn’t bode well.

 

Last Hawken had heard, Byron was looking to get work or deals in a club that allegedly has ties to the cartel. The Red Room, or Red Lounge depending on the Klingon translation you use… anyway, that was a few days ago now. Initially the police refused to investigate or open a missing person case, because they argue he isn’t missing. When local authorities were asked for more information, neither Tyson or Ada get any messages back, and the Province refers them back to the Municipality.”

 

He sighed again as he finished off the tea he'd gotten out of his bag. "It should have been easy for Byron to contact Hawken. He has both a communicator and an alert device embedded in his hand. One press between his finger and thumb on his left hand lets Tyson know he is good. Two presses for help. But they haven't got any communication at all since he explored the club."

 

For just a moment, Benjamin regretted coming. Sentient trafficking? Is this really what we want to get mixed up in? Because he had no illusions that they would be able to avoid it. From the sound of the law enforcement they were going to be less than helpful, and Nathan wasn't the type to let things go.

 

But then, neither was he. And you've got the drinking problem to prove it, he chided himself. But still, they were committed, and besides it was a good thing they were heading out to do.

 

"Alright. We'll start off with the city police," he said. "They're closest to the situation and hopefully they'll be able to help us if we get in their face and keep asking." He sighed and stood up, pacing a bit. "You can try and get in touch with his editor, see if we can get the frequency that alert thing in his hand operates on. If we're lucky, it's still there and we can trace it if we get close." He didn't mention what it would mean if Byron wasn't lucky. "Either way, we stay away from the Red Room. I'm not going to be the one explaining to the Captain how we got mixed up with the Nausicaans."

 

He chuckled a bit with that last statement, trying and failing to lighten the mood. He put a hand on the worried Nathan's shoulder. "Look, it'll be okay. We'll do what we can do, and if we're lucky we'll get Byron back. But don't kid yourself: these criminals are professionals at this. Our best may not be good enough." He dropped his head for a moment, sorry that he let the words come out. "But that doesn't mean it's not worth trying. We'll do everything we can, but we won't do Byron any favors if we get ourselves captured or killed in the attempt. And even if we can't find him, maybe we can find out enough to bring some of them down with him."

 

Suddenly, Benjamin wished he had had a chance to get a bottle together after all.

 

"We've got a couple hours still before we get there," he said, trying to salvage the conversation as best he could. "Why don't you go ahead and contact his editor, see what you can find out?" He stood and went to the back of the shuttle. "Meanwhile, how about I get us a bit of lunch? Anything in particular?"


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#7 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21904.23 @ 20:09 (08:09 PM)

"Alright. We'll start off with the city police…”

 

Nathan nodded, as it was a sensible place to start, and one that he himself was planning on suggesting if Benjamin didn’t proffer any advice on where to begin. The option to contact the Editor was also a good idea. Ramius wasn’t knowledgeable on such things, and thought that it was genuinely brilliant to try and track Byron down with the frequency from the transponder, or whatever it was that the device used. It wasn’t something he would have thought to do on his own. Another reason why Nathan felt he made the right choice.

 

"Either way, we stay away from the Red Room. I'm not going to be the one explaining to the Captain how we got mixed up with the Nausicaans."

 

Another nod came from the young man, but slightly more reserved than his first. While there was no need to go there to start, if it came down to it, Nathan didn’t want to leave any stone unturned. More than Ben, he certainly didn’t want to have to explain anything to Tyra that wasn’t already expressly agreed upon. But that didn't mean he wasn't willing to have to explain a few things if need be.

 

Even if my *** is still on the grinding stone…

 

“Look, it'll be okay. We'll do what we can do, and if we're lucky we'll get Byron back. But don't kid yourself: these criminals are professionals at this. Our best may not be good enough…"

 

The words nearly caused Nathan’s mouth to drop, but outwardly the only visible reaction was the security officer holding his breath.

 

“…But that doesn't mean it's not worth trying. We'll do everything we can, but we won't do Byron any favors if we get ourselves captured or killed in the attempt. And even if we can't find him, maybe we can find out enough to bring some of them down with him."

 

Again, the words were simply stunning.

 

Our best may not be good enough? Bring some of them down with him?

 

Never, in the whole time that Nathan had known Benjamin, had the man ever been as pessimistic as that. Not once. Hell, Ramius was very nearly on the edge of being tossed back in to civvie-life and Elias had more fight and gumption than what was on display now. It left Ramius speechless. Even after being asked what he wanted for lunch, he simply sat there, nonplussed.

 

“I’m not hungry,” he finally said after several long seconds, and turned back to the console in front of him.

 

Thinking the worst of Byron wasn’t even close to an option yet for Nathan. They hadn’t even made it to the planet yet, and it was already being brought up. A wild set of emotions stirred within him, and he used those to see if he could get somewhere with the Editor angle before he took them out on Benjamin.

 

After a few minutes of being tossed back and forth through several subspace channels, he finally managed to get into contact with Byron’s boss.

 

[Hawken.]

 

“Hello Mr. Hawken, I’m contacting you in regards to Byron Miller.”

 

[Are you his abductor? What do you want? If you’ve hurt him I swear we’ll publish everything we have so far…]

 

“No, no no no. I’m Nathan Ramius, I’m a s… sort of familial relation. Ada, Byron’s sister, contacted me and I’m making a trip to Ponm to initiate an investigation on behalf of the Miller family.”

 

[Are you kidding me?! I told that woman not to breathe a word about this to anyone, and you aren’t even family?!]

 

I am family, and the best chance Byron has for getting out of this thing. Now, I have some questions…”

 

[I don’t suppose you are giving me an option not to answer?]

 

“Are you deliberately withholding information that could lead to the death of one of your employees?”

 

Hawken’s eyes narrowed for a moment as he stared hard through the monitor.

 

[Who did you say you worked for again?]

 

“I didn’t, and that doesn’t matter.”

 

[You know I run an investigative news service, right Mr. Ramius?]

 

“Do you know what frequency the ‘lifeline’ chip in Byron’s hand operates on? Or any technical knowledge about the thing that a scanner might pick up on?”

 

[You’re Federation aren’t you?]

 

“Listen, even if we were, which I’m not saying we are, but if we were, this little trip wouldn’t be anything official. I grew up with Ada and Byron, and I spent just about every important holiday with their family like it was my own. I just want to see Ronnie come back safely.”

 

Hawken’s expression changed as he leaned back into his chair, nodding as his hand came up to his chin.

 

[Yeah. There is a bunch of technical information that I’ll send you. Listen, if you are going to Ponm, don’t trust anyone down there. The only people who seem even remotely clean are the Feds, and even then, that is because I haven’t got anyone to confirm they ain’t corrupt like the rest of them are.]

 

There was a short pause,

 

[I hope you find him. Not just because he is the best journalist I have, but because he is your family. The last lead Byron told me about was a Klingon at the Red Room called K’kegh. Claimed he could get anyone off Ponm without a Federal Identity check, for the right price. Byron was supposed to meet him at a booth near the back with leather seating and purple velvet tufting for the backing. Code word was le’mIS.]

 

“Escape?”

 

[Yeah… escape. Good luck Nathan Ramius. Let me know if I can be of more help in your ‘unofficial’ work.]

 

Black with the UFP symbol. That was what the console looked like when the transmission terminated. But it was the black that really settled into Nathan’s brain. A hefty sigh caused his body to buoy back up, as he leaned forward and tucked the bridge of his nose into his hand.

 

“Am I the only one who thinks, or hopes, that Ronnie is okay? Or am I delusional…”


Edited by Mid Nathan Ramius, Star Date 21904.23 @ 20:13 (08:13 PM).

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#8 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21904.24 @ 03:35 (03:35 AM)

The longer that it took Nathan to respond to the simple question, the more that Benjamin knew he had made a mistake. By the time his friend had said he simply didn't want any lunch, he wished he could take back what he'd said. But it needed to be said, he thought. Just maybe not quite so bluntly.

 

Benjamin just nodded, though, and went to the back replicator. Anything else he would say right now would just be too much, and quite possibly would push the young officer over an edge he didn't need to cross just yet. "Gimme a ham on wheat, provolone cheese on it, an apple, and a glass of water," he told the replicator, and took his lunch once it was delivered. He sat next to the cabin door while he ate, silently going back over what he had said and wondering how he could've done it differently. He kept drawing a blank, though. He needed to confront the facts, he told himself. Dealing with an organization like the Syndicate, failure was much more likely than success. Better to stay realistic than to give way to idealism. Much less likely to get yourself killed that way.

 

But hope was important, too. And maybe he'd been wrong to put paid to that hope so soon. You're supposed to be his friend, he thought. You're supposed to lift his spirits, not crush them. Another bite of apple drowned out his thoughts for a moment behind the crunching in his mouth. He swallowed, and could hear Nathan arguing with the editor over subspace from the front of the cabin. Clearly the man didn't want to part with his secrets, but eventually was persuaded that he needed to. He also heard the young man ask himself if he was the only one who cared.

 

The knife twisted a bit more in Benjamin's gut. The rest of his sandwich glared at him from the tray on his lap, and suddenly he wasn't that hungry anymore.

 

Depositing his tray in the replicator, he walked back out to the copilot's chair and sat down, putting a hand on Nathan's shoulder. "I'm sorry," he said. "I was out of line, and way too harsh. We'll do everything we can, and if there's a chance to get him back, we'll find it. I just... I've been around on that side of things before. I know what they're like, and to be frank, this scares the **** out of me. But I'm with you, Nathan, and we'll do everything we can. Trust me on that, at least." He smiled, and leaned back into the chair as the shuttle slipped on through the stars.

 

Eventually, they came to Ponm itself. It wasn't the most beautiful of planets he'd ever seen from space, but it wasn't bad. The emerald seas were numerous, and the glittering of the night-side lights was spectacular. The continents, though, were a muddy brownish color, as was the sky itself. Ponm had long been a center of industry, and the cities had sprawled to the point where it was sometimes tough to find unsettled ground outside of the mountain ranges. A constellation of ships and stations hovered in orbit, as well, a glittering necklace of light about the planet, reflecting the blue-white of Ponm's primary.

 

As they approached, they were dutifully hailed. [Approaching shuttlecraft this is Ponm Control, state your identity,] came a nasally voice.

 

"Ponm Control, this is the shuttlecraft Moonsilver, requesting a docking vector," Benjamin replied as Nathan worked the conn. "Looking to spend a few days in system."

 

[Business or pleasure?] the voice asked.

 

"Pleasure," he replied smoothly. "Heard some good things about Ponm, and wanted to come and take a look for ourselves while we had some free time."

 

There was a slight hesitation, but eventually the voice replied [Maneuver to course 223 mark 18, docking pad C. Please prepare to receive customs officials upon arrival. Enjoy your stay.] The channel closed, and Nathan maneuvered to the requested course.

 

"This will be fun," Benjamin said to no one in particular as they drew nearer to the central spaceport, and found the designated pad lighted up and ready for them. The station was giant, though nowhere near as clean as Earth Spacedock was. As they approached, he saw people watching from windows all along the station's exterior, children pointing excitedly as the ships sailed past while adults tried to hurry them along to whatever it was they needed to be doing. He smiled as the ship landed smoothly, and he saw a harried-looking Ferengi heading towards them, a small padd being worked between his fingers as he stalked across the open hangar. "Let me handle this," he told Nathan. "I've seen his type before."

 

He went to the rear hatch, hit a few buttons, and opened the door for the man. He bowed slightly, pressing the heels of his hands together, palms up, as the customs official stepped up the rear door. "Welcome to our ship," he told the man. "Our ship is our ship..." he continued, leaving the ending dangling.

 

The Ferengi eyed him cautiously before returning the gesture and finishing, "... as are its contents." The man scratched an ear before continuing, "This is just a preliminary statement; a second official will be by to conduct your official entry to our system. I have paperwork, though, and must ask some questions. Names and occupations?"

 

"I"m Ben, and this is Nathan. We're on leave from a ship in the sector, and heard some great things about Ponm, particularly about its bars and casinos," Benjamin said. At the mention of casinos, he saw the Ferengi's eyes widen just a bit, and just for a moment, and he knew he'd guessed right. "You wouldn't happen to have any suggestions on that score, would you? We've got a list we want to visit, but hearing from a local is never a bad idea."

 

The Ferengi was still entering data, but slowly. "Yes, I thought you might. Perhaps you've heard of the Orion Dream in Eailo? Duration of stay?"

 

"6 days," Benjamin replied. "No, we hadn't heard of that one. Perhaps we can add it to the list of places to go." He leaned back easily against the door frame, looking at Nathan for a moment. "Though, to be fair, we have already got half a dozen or so on that list. Maybe we'll have time for it, though. How long do you think it'll take for that other customs agent to get here?"

 

The Ferengi stopped typing for a moment, before starting again more quickly. "Oh, I'm sure we could arrange something. After all, it's not like you would be smugglers, not using a Federation shuttle."

 

Benjamin laughed, and the Ferengi joined in. "Of course not. Surely there's an expedited entry we could use."

 

"Of course," the Ferengi smiled broadly. "Carries a fee of 100 slips of latinum, though."

 

Benjamin let a stony look hit his face that wasn't entirely feigned. That's nearly all the latinum I was able to get from the bursar, he thought. "That's a little high, isn't it? Fee that high, and we won't have any latinum left to sped at the... Gemini Night, was it?"

 

"Orion Dream," the Ferengi corrected smoothly. "Maybe we could come to some sort of... arrangement for payment, then. 75 slips."

 

Benjamin shook his head slightly. "Call it 60 slips, and we can move the Orion Dream to the top of our list."

 

The Ferengi chewed at the end of his finger before pulling out a second padd from the pocket on his hip. He tapped a few buttons and handed it to Benjamin. He looked it over and saw it for what it was: a standard bribe receipt as proscribed by the Ferengi Commerce Authority. In return for expedited customs, they were paying Brok here 60 slips of latinum and agreeing to a minimum 4 night stay at the Orion Dream Casino and Resort in Eailo. Considering that they hadn't yet been able to make reservations, and that Eailo was in the Eastern Province, and not terribly far from the Tri-Va district that Byron had disappeared from, it seemed like a good choice. He pressed his thumb to the padd's scanner and passed it back before pulling the appropriate coins out of his pocket to hand to the Ferengi.

 

Brok made the palms-up gesture again, and Benjamin returned it. "It's been a pleasure doing business with you. Please make sure your vehicle is powered down and locked before you leave, gentlemen. Ponm Central Spaceport Authority is not responsible for any damage or property theft that occurs while you are parked here, though insurance can be purchased at a modest fee from the broker on Promenade 3, stall 227. Enjoy your stay at the Orion Dream." And with that, he turned and left.

 

Benjamin closed the hatch and hit a few more buttons by the door before sighing and leaning back. "I hate Ferengi," he said, and scratched furiously at his eye. It had itched the entire time, but luckily he'd schooled himself from scratching at it in front of the customs agent. "We should at least wait a few minutes in the cockpit before we leave, make sure the clearances come across correctly. They should, but better to be safe than sorry."

 

He sat back down in the copilot's seat. "Sorry I didn't tell you about all that before I did it, but I wasn't sure we'd get a Ferengi. If I didn't try to bribe him, he'd have been more suspicious of us, and this way we can get down to the planet faster with accommodations waiting for us at that resort. We'll have to spend some time on the casino floor, but it shouldn't be too much, and I can take care of that part if you're not up to it. Plus, we won't stick out as much if any of the Syndicate people start looking at us, as Brok there will make our paperwork look as ordinary as possible to cover his own ***." He reached a hand down to his pocket again, but again found the flask wasn't there. In light of how he was able to get them through customs, leaving his bottle behind suddenly seemed like a terrible idea, though of course he had had no way to know what would happen when they were leaving the Artemis so quickly.

 

He just hoped that they would be able to find Byron, and quickly, before Benjamin had to use any more of his old skills.


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#9 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21904.29 @ 00:55 (12:55 AM)

"I'm sorry," Benjamin’s words were sincere, just in the tone of voice that he used. Listening, Nathan could tell that he genuinely felt bad about the way he had put things regarding Byron. Plus, the admission of being scared brought understanding about where Elias was at mentally with this ‘mission’, if it could be called that.

 

“Thank you. I appreciate the honesty,” Nathan returned Ben’s grin with a nodding half-smile of his own,

 

"I am too, by the way. Scared that is.”

 

It was a lie. The young security officer felt either too dumb, or too naïve, because he wasn’t scared; or at least, he didn’t feel scared. The only thing he felt right at that moment was anxious, wanting to be at Ponm already, to start the search, and to find Byron. Every moment spent not doing anything felt like wasted time. If there had been a way for them to beam straight to the planet, he would have asked for just that. It even crossed his mind to ask for the Artemis to make a detour with the Slipstream Drive. But, he felt that his luck was already being pushed just asking to go, on top of borrowing a shuttle, on top of suggesting Ben – another junior officer – to come with him. If there was any luck left in the tank, they’d need it to find Ronnie.

 

Silence crept over the pair as they sat back into their seats and watched the stars go by. It never failed to mesmerize Nathan, each and every time.

 

I hope Ada is holding up alright. As soon as we have confirmation that Byron is okay, I’ve got to get a message back to her. I can’t imagine that she has broken the news to Mr. and Mrs. Miller… he chuckled to himself, still calling Ada’s parents Mr. and Mrs. after all this time.

 

Ethan and Megan will want to know too, though I’ll leave that for Ada to sort out.

 

However long it actually took for the shuttle to arrive, it felt like hours to Ramius. So, when they finally dropped out of warp, he very nearly cheered. Benjamin spoke as Nathan piloted. He was grateful for that, as Elias was good at smoothly speaking to the port authority. Not only that, but he lied far more convincingly than the security officer would have. No ‘ummms’ and ‘ahhhs’, just the ‘facts’ and that was it.

 

Moonsilver glided easily through the traffic in the system, as Nathan banked the craft to make the turn towards the noted docking pad – which came up on the console once authorization was given.

 

"This will be fun,” Elias said, and Nathan simply snorted.

 

Maneuvering through the incoming and outgoing traffic was a relative breeze compared to what Nathan had worked with before. The traffic controllers giving vectors were surely professionals, he thought, considering how much room there was. Everyone was given a fairly wide berth, with obvious inbound and outbound corridors. A frigate passed close by to them at one point, the only ship not follow a designated route. The initial thought was that it didn’t seem all that formidable, until Nathan reminded himself that they weren’t on the Artemis and only in a shuttlecraft.

 

Finally, he guided them to the docking pad that was lit up, and the console beeped in confirmation. When Nathan saw a Ferengi approaching the ship, his brows furrowed.

 

What the hell am I going to say?

 

"Let me handle this," Ben told Nathan. "I've seen his type before."

 

“Go for it,” the words dripped with relief.

 

Then he got to watch the master work his magic. Chummy, friendly, smart, and discreet: all words that Nathan would use to easily describe Benjamin as he worked over the Ferengi with a low-key charm that hit all the right notes. It was astonishing. Ramius had never heard Ben speak like that before, and in such an easy going way that seemed like second nature to him. On board the Artemis, and the Getty, the man always spoke well, and often had a way with words, but this was different. He certainly was in his element dealing with the custom’s officer.

 

“…it's not like you would be smugglers…” the statement caused a flash of surprise cross Nathan’s face. But then Elias laughed, and the Ferengi laughed, and Ramius nervously chuckled to himself.

 

The two continued on, bartering or bribing. Whatever it was, it was nothing the security officer wanted to be a part of, and he was damn glad that it was Benjamin signing off on everything.

 

Though, it isn’t like you have a perfect record yourself…

 

Then, as fast as it had started, it seemed to be over as the Ferengi concluded with a gesture and the standard ‘don’t leave valuables out in the open’ speech. Whatever Benjamin had done, it had been fast. Also, with the added benefit that almost no real questions as to the actual nature of their business were asked. The first hurdle had been leapt.

 

**** me he is smooth.

 

After the door closed, Ben returned to his seat. These unspoken rules that he now spoke of, Nathan had no clue about, and honestly it made the opposite sort of sense to him, trying to bribe an officer in such an open way. It was obvious that Elias was the right person to bring with on this trip, because Nathan might have already been being interrogated before a search even began.

 

There was just one thing that the young man noted about his friend, but he didn’t linger on it.

 

“No, no problem at all. Honestly, I would have mucked it all up if it were me. I’ll also make sure to get you those slips of latinum back too – and don’t say don’t worry about it, because Ada will ask and I can’t lie to her. She’s paying for the trip and all expenses, unless we gamble of course. Well, unless we gamble and don’t win,” he winked at the last part, a smile crawling across his face now that they had finally arrived.

 

After waiting the requisite period of time that made Benjamin feel comfortable, they left the shuttle. Strolling through the concourse, the spaceport seemed incredibly busy. Throngs of people milled and moved, hustling and yelling, while small patrols of Federal Police walked by fairly frequently. It was true, what had been said about the security… save for the Ferengi being so easily bribed. Nathan noted that there seemed to be a lot of Ferengi about on the station, along with an assortment of other species: Orions, Yridians, Markalians, Humans, Boslics, Kressari, and Zibalian traders.

 

A great deal of freight and goods were also moving on the sub-levels, and could be seen from open areas of the concourse. The more curious part of Nathan’s mind wondered if that was how things were being smuggled on-and-off world by the Nausicaan group. Out of the eye of the public, and more easily disguised? Or would it simply be easier to walk some of their quarry through the packed venues and stalls of the spaceport? It wasn’t something he could linger on as they approached their transport shuttle to the surface.

 

The ride down oddly seemed longer than the hours long shuttle trip to Ponm, but it did give Nathan time to admire the scenery of the world below. The colorful spires of corporate structures contrasted with the large shipping and industrial areas. It was obvious where the money was; the closer to the trade areas were more shanty than actual housing, whereas the business districts of Tri-Va had some actual green spaces.

 

“The Molan Ward?” Nathan asked the pilot of the shuttle.

 

“We’ll be touching down close to there. Probably about five or six blocks.”

 

Now, Nathan turned his attention to Benjamin and leaned in conspiratorially, with a low voice,

 

“The Molan Ward is where the Detachment is; the one that is handling requests regarding Ronnie. It is right on the cusp of the nicer part of town and the… well, the less nicer part of town. Otherwise, we can go to a transporter terminal not far from here too, and go straight to the resort. I’m itching to get straight into things… but this is emotional for me, and I’ve been known to… well, anyway. You make the call. Either we go to the resort first, drop our gear off, and chat. Or we head straight to business. Or, we do something I haven't thought of, because I'm on a one track mind...”

 

 


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#10 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21905.01 @ 02:40 (02:40 AM)

== Byron Miller ==

=== Unknown Location ===

 

Ears ringing. Eyes spinning. Sweat dripping. Then there was the dry mouth, the pain, and the overwhelming confusion. A hard slap nearly knocked him senseless again, and through the tinnitus Byron assumed he could hear deep guttural laughter.

 

“Where… where am I?”

 

The room laughed again, and the sound of a powering painstik caused the journalist to flinch instinctively. He assumed they had been at this with him for awhile, for such conditioning to occur. Finally, as his eyes slowed and began to focus, a pair of harshly hot lights kept him from seeing the room clearly. To his right was his tormentor; a six-foot eight Klingon with a missing nose.

 

ghaH naDevvo' ghaH!” the large brute pointed at Byron’s groin, while the room erupted once more. The black pants he wore showed little. However, he could feel there was a general wetness, which, after waking up from unconsciousness probably meant that his bladder had given out. There were some other things that he discovered, but he closed his eyes and wished to be somewhere else.

 

Earth, Risa, Bajor, the Wormhole…

 

A thunderous sound accompanied by screeching metal made the room fall silent, and just to the left of the lights, he could make out what seemed to be a doorway. It was an old hatchway, like on an ancient seafaring ship. From the portal came four silhouettes, and some shouting in a language he didn’t understand. The ogre with the missing nose protested some, but eventually retired from the torture, and the entire room seemed to clear.

 

With another grinding squeal, the door slammed shut, and the sound of it being sealed could be heard. Then silence, or mostly silence, except for the ringing that seemed to persist in Byron’s ears.

 

“Hello?!” he called out. Then he shifted in the chair. He tried to move it, to move himself. Byron immediately shoved his weight around, seeing if perhaps he could get the chair to tilt or fall. His arms wiggled and wormed, while his wrists pulled at the straps that held them tightly to the structure of the chair itself. There was no room. Not an inch. Still, he couldn’t… no, wouldn’t stop, until he had completely tired himself if there was even a chance.

 

“It won’t do,” the voice scared Byron, and his head snapped towards the direction it emanated from, “it’s bolted to the floor."

 

“Who’s there? Why are you doing this to me? You haven’t even asked me any questions except for my name! I’m Jonathan Wright, a business associate of…”
 

“We know who you are,” the sound was calm, collected, and robust – as if speaking was this person’s profession.

 

“I haven’t done anything wrong, I swear the deal is legitimate. If you’d let me go I can show you…”

 

“I’m sorry, for the way they’ve treated you,” a form finally appeared from behind the bedazzling lights, which finally shut off. The whole room seemed to go dark for Byron, as his eyes adjusted.

 

“This would not be how I would go about information retrieval. It is a poor, nasty, brutish, and all too short a way to go about garnering reliable, actionable, intelligence.”

 

Was that a paraphrase of Leviathan?

 

“You know Hobbes?”

 

There was some light laughter,

 

“I know of him, yes. Philosophy is something of a hobby of mine.”

 

A criminal with philosophy as a hobby?

 

Then there was the sound of some movement, before a metal chair was placed near to Byron, and the figure who carried it coming into view. Not overly tall, perhaps six foot and a bit. The frame of the man was burly for a human, but toned for a… well, the real features that stood out on the man’s face…

 

“Nausicaan?” Byron’s guess was supposed to be in his head, but his filter was no longer operating.

 

“Half actually. A little human, a little nausicaan, and all a terrible mixture of breeding for the fringes of claimed space. Childhood was rough,” a chuckle, “but it made me into the man I am today. But, we aren’t here to talk about me. We are here to talk about you.”

 

“Oh… good… finally! Someone who will hear me out. My name is…”

 

“Byron Miller,” the man reached down to his hip and pulled up a rather large canteen, which he began to open as he continued speaking,

 

“Brother to Ada Miller, and sibling to a whole mess of others. You have an Aunt, who serves in Starfleet… a Science Officer on Pioneer I think.”

 

None of this information was on Byron at all. No one, except his Editor, would have known his real details. Even if someone did a search for him, The Atlas had made arrangements to have a fake profile, ID, everything come up as Jonathan Wright.

 

“Noooo,” Byron shook his head, “you’ve got the wrong guy then. My name is Jonathan…”

 

“Please, stop. You grew up on Earth, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. You went to school at Graham and Parks School, like Ada would. In High School you excelled at English and even journalism – becoming the head writer for your school newspaper… thirsty?” the man offered up the flask, and Miller recoiled, unsure of what was inside.

 

“It is just water, I assure you. I don’t poison people.”

 

“But you do kill them?”

 

The man shrugged, and then shook the canteen. Finally, Byron nodded, and was gently treated to several sips of water.

 

“So, are you going to stop pretending to be someone else? Or do I need to continue going through your entire life?”

 

Loudly, Byron James Miller sighed. Never, in his entire career, had he ever been caught. Sure, some people had their suspicions about him, but he could always, always smooth those sorts of things over. This time though, the game was thoroughly up. He was caught. There would be no weaseling his way out of this. Not only that, but the last thing he wanted was for the Klingon to come back…

 

“Yes. My name is… my name, is Byron Miller. I’m a journalist from The Atlas.”

 

“Ah,” the grin of the man seemed too human, and off-putting, “good. Well met Byron, I’m Zovenok. Now that we have introductions out of the way, I’d like to ask you a few other questions. I hope you don’t mind; I know you are the journalist here but, I’m afraid that I have to insist.”

 

== TBC ==

 

 


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#11 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21905.01 @ 02:53 (02:53 AM)

“No, no problem at all. Honestly, I would have mucked it all up if it were me. I’ll also make sure to get you those slips of latinum back too – and don’t say don’t worry about it, because Ada will ask and I can’t lie to her. She’s paying for the trip and all expenses, unless we gamble of course. Well, unless we gamble and don’t win,” Nathan replied with a wink, letting a smile cross his face.

 

They made a little bit of small talk as he waited for the correct clearances to show up, which they swiftly did. As predicted, the forms were all filled out appropriately, even if the details were a little scant. It hadn't been a big gamble for either him or Brok, after all; Benjamin and Nathan were clearly Federation people on leave, and the Ferengi believed generally that Federation types were all goody two-shoes. Brok was just as obviously a lower-tier functionary trying to claw his way up through the ranks of one organization or another, and his adherence to the Rules of Acquisition was probably reflex at this point. It boiled down to a simple risk-reward analysis for him; the two Federation types weren't much of a risk, and the money he could make from Benjamin combined with the kickback he was going to get from the Orion Dream's owners was enough to make it worth it.

 

He kept scrolling through the forms to double check, and realized they were likely fairly standardized, meaning he hadn't even had to expend much effort to fake them for the Moonsilver. Nodding, he waved Nathan on out the back; they grabbed their bags and headed on out through the concourse, walking by dozens of species just in the short walk. The standard independent lot were well represented: Yridian brokers, Orions hawking wares, Boslics, Zibalians, Kresari. It was almost metropolitan enough to be a Federation hub, if not for the lack of typical Federation species.

 

Finally, they were on the shuttle down planetside, and Benjamin admired the view out the window. The spires of the business sector were impressive, with balconies and concourses given over to greenery as much as a show of power and wealth as for any aesthetic reason, while closer to the actual industrial and commercial sectors, the quality was more... lacking. The disparity between the haves and the have-nots was on display for any to see, almost as if this were a truly Ferengi world. Though there's nowhere near enough rain for that.

 

Nathan leaned in and whispered, "The Molan ward is where the Detachment is, the one that is handling requests regarding Ronnie. It's right on the cusp of the nicer part of town and the... well, the less nice part of town. Otherwise, we can go to a transporter terminal not far from here too, and go straight to the resort. I'm itching to get straight into things... but this is emotional for me, and I've been known to..." He trailed off, not having to finish the thought. "Well, anyway. You make the call. Either we go to the resort first, drop our gear off and chat. Or we head straight to business. Or, we do something I haven't thought of, because I'm on a one-track mind."

 

Benjamin considered for a moment. "We should probably head to the resort first, at least to drop our bags off and freshen up. Like you said, we can hit a transporter terminal to the resort, so we can get back just as easily." He looked at the chronometer on the wall and nodded to himself. "It's around noon local time where we'll be landing, so odds are the people we'll need to talk to are out anyway. So we won't be losing much in the way of time anyway." They agreed as the shuttle touched down, and the pair of them filed out onto the tarmac.

 

As he had said, there was a line of transporter platforms just off to one side, opposite of the exits out into the ward itself. There were barkers standing around offering their services, everything from dining of various qualities to rooms to cybernetics and everything in between. Eventually, though, they found a map station, and they were able to quickly find the right transporter to take to the Orion Dream. This was aided by the (clearly paid for) large flashing indicators on the sign that indicated that it was Transporter Terminal 17, Just Ahead On Your Left!

 

At this point, Benjamin began to question the wisdom of finding accommodations at a Ferengi casino. Of course, it was far too late for that; they stepped onto the transporter pad and arrived in what looked like someone had taken the gaudiest, most ostentatious idea anyone had ever had for an entryway, and then applied the color wheel to it at random. As they were ushered off of the pad, Benjamin leaned over to Nathan and said quietly, "And this is considered high fashion on Ferenginar."

 

Eventually they made their way over to the counter, where Benjamin smiled and made the wrists-together, palms-up gesture once again to the man behind the desk. "We'd like a room for a few nights," he said, trying his best to be cordial. "A Mr. Brok told us this was the best place in the district."

 

At the mention of the customs clerk's name, the Ferengi's face lit up. "Oh, yes, Mr Brok. A good friend of ours, and of yours, apparently," he said as he tapped a few keys. "We have your room available now, if you'll just thumbprint here, here, and here." He held out a padd, which Benjamin took and promptly read, much to the desk clerk's chagrin. "It's just a standard room agreement," he said, "nothing to worry about."

 

Benjamin kept reading. "Yes, but isn't one of your rules of acquisition 'small print leads to large risk'?"

 

"Rule Eight," the Ferengi replied on reflex. He was sullen for a moment, but let Benjamin finish reading. The man had been right, it was all pretty standard. The rates were a tad high, but there were also some rebates offered for those who make good use of the casino floor. He put his thumbprint at the appropriate places and passed it back, taking the offered room key and heading back to the lifts. 

 

Fortunately for Benjamin's sanity, the room they were given was much more modestly decorated, mostly in muted oranges and browns and reds. Still hideous, but at least he didn't feel like he needed to poke his eyes out just from looking at it. "Alright, then," he said once they were inside. "Just remember: the replicator is metered, so we'll have to pay past a certain allowance per day. That allowance goes up the more we spend in the casino, though, and our price per night drops some, as well. Not enough to do more than the minimum, mind, but enough that I think your 'sister' would appreciate us doing so. But that can be done tonight."

 

He set his bags down and started to unpack. "For now, though, I think a shower's a good idea. At least for me," he said. "Don't want to look like we just came in off the road; desperation is the last thing you want them to read on you." Getting cleaned up didn't take either one of them long, though, and they were soon out the door, heading back towards the transporters. "Just remember," he said as they walked down the corridor, "be calm and steady. Getting worked up won't help anyone."

 

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#12 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21905.03 @ 02:33 (02:33 AM)

Logic dictated that Nathan readily agree with Benjamin. After all, they probably should wash up and appear less like travelers he supposed. The emotional part of Nathan rebelled at the idea. It thought they shouldn’t waste any time at all, as the longer they waited, the colder the trail would get, or so the thinking went. Ramius knew better though. It was far outside the seventy-two-hour window most organizations considered the crucial timeframe in finding someone – though in the age of intergalactic travel, some suggested that be changed. Most missing persons were still found in the first twenty-four though, usually not getting too far off the beaten path.

 

Keeping a wary eye out, he wondered how much they stood out, if they did at all. There were a lot of humans on Ponm, but a lot of non-Terrans as well. For the most part, they probably blended in a fair bit, looking like some of the spacers that were obviously looking for ground time. Even more so as they headed to Terminal 17 – the pavement lit by bright colors, some neon, of the glitzy signage. Once they arrived at the casino, it became even worse. For a moment Nathan though he was going to be sick at the smattering of colors and the way they clashed with one another.

 

"And this is considered high fashion on Ferenginar."

 

“Pfffft,” Nathan replied, rolling his eyes while doing so.

 

The rest of the journey through the Orion Dream was relatively painless, with Ben handling another Ferengi clerk like he had the customs officer. It just wasn’t something that Nathan knew how to do, he realized. Sure, he could talk to them. He might even be able to fake the same easy affability. But there was knowledge that Ramius hadn’t learned that backed up the demeanor that Elias put on display. All the way to their room, it was something that the young man wondered if he shouldn’t learn. Who knew when that kind of genial disposition could come in handy?

 

"Alright, then… Just remember: the replicator is metered, so we'll have to pay past a certain allowance per day. That allowance goes up the more we spend in the casino, though, and our price per night drops some, as well. Not enough to do more than the minimum, mind, but enough that I think your 'sister' would appreciate us doing so. But that can be done tonight."

 

“Sounds good. I’m not much for gambling normally, but I’d rather fit in as much as possible than stand out. The more we fit in, the better. The savings is just an added benefit.”

 

As Benjamin unpacked and suggested cleaning up, Nathan nodded. He let Ben go first, and spent most of his time trying to keep himself on the level. Thinking too much would only be a determent in this situation, as they would need to improvise a lot on the fly. A plan only would serve them until the first point of contact with someone, and then it could all change. Instead, he sat on the bed for a few minutes and meditated. Of course, he only got that few minutes, before getting the chance to wash up himself.

 

Everything in between them leaving the room, and heading to the detachment, was mostly a blur. What Nathan did remember was the disparity one city block could make. On their left-hand side, beautiful gardens, fencing, and large houses. To the right, hastily constructed shelters, some pre-fabricated, while the streets were obviously grungier, and the people looked harder. It wasn’t something that Ramius was used to. It felt wrong. It made him itch. Just the fact that there was such a difference between the haves and the have-nots seemed so foreign to him. On Earth, basic needs were easily fulfilled, and all that left was exploring wants. Yet just a turn of the head here on Ponm was the difference between living and surviving.

 

How could administrators let it get like this?

 

As they came upon K11 Detachment, it looked brand new. Yet there was no sign of obvious construction having taken place. Instead, it was simply pristine by upkeep alone, or at least that is what it seemed like. That felt incredibly off to Nathan. Not only that, but the building was bright, and built of what looked to be a stone much like marble. It wasn’t your everyday police department, and the fact that less than a stone’s throw would land you into territory that would make you want to scrub from the feet up in blistering hot water… well, it reeked of corruption.

 

Nathan was now on his game, keeping a wary eye as they approached the gold trimmed and unspoiled glass doors. Automatically they swished open, a cool breeze seeping out from the modified and cleaned air from within.

 

Fancy as ****…

 

Inside, it was even more extravagant. The main desk, elevated from ground level, seemed to be made of polished wood with stone accents. Sitting behind it was a human desk sergeant, who looked like a tank on stilts…

 

Or one of those Galactic’s Strongest Beings people...

 

With an eyebrow raised, Ramius took in the rest of the building as he approached. Possibly granite railings, opulent desks, and what Nathan assumed were upmarket phaser pistols that even he didn’t know the make of. There was no comparison to know if this was usual for Ponm, but anywhere else this would certainly be far too ornamental for police use.

 

“Can I help you?” the deep voice of the sergeant brought his wandering eye back to business.

 

“Looking for whoever deals with Missing Persons?”

 

“Are you from Ponm?” the muscled man flexed a pec; the movement apparent even from underneath his duty uniform.

 

“Ahh, no. We are looking for someone of interest.”

 

“Off-worlders looking for ‘someone of interest’ on Ponm. Don’t suppose you’d want to tell me who or why?”

 

“Name is Nathan,” he reached a hand out which was clasped, and Ramius tried his best to give a good squeeze against the mammoth. Instead, he struggled not to make a face as his poor fingers were crushed. The ogre grinned at that, but Nathan was fine with that. In fact, it worked for them.

 

“More or less we have a lead that someone that we,” Nathan gestured to Ben, “need to find for our client.”

 

“Ohhh, bounty hunters?”

 

“Not really…”

 

C’mon Nathan…

 

“Hmm. Well, you aren’t going to… let’s say, hurt, this person when you find them will you?”

 

“No, no. Nothing like that. We are more like private investigators… listen, I have a off-topic question to ask you. You are ripped like no-one I’ve seen on Ponm, or in this quadrant – does…”

 

Ramius took a look around to make sure no one else was listening, and waited as a constable strode past the desk. Then he leaned up and in towards the beasty,

 

“Does, ahh.. can you get… Omega-Xtreme on Ponm?”

 

The desk sergeant raised a brow, and his initial expression seemed unimpressed.

 

“What are you saying?” his words were low, and growly.

 

“Well, I mean, you look like you could win Mister Universe. And me… well, you felt my handshake. You can’t get… Oh-Ex most other places.”

 

Now the other man grinned again, and sat up rather loosely.

 

“Well, it isn’t illegal here unlike most other places. Where are you staying?”

 

“The Orion Dream.”

 

“No accounting for taste,” there was a guttural laugh before the man leaned forward, “I can get some sent to the concierge there for your pickup. One-hundred slips?”

 

“Really? Are you sure?”

 

“Of course, anything to help out someone else that knows what temple to worship at – the body! You obviously work out, you probably just need that little boost, right?”

 

This felt more like a bribe than it did a purchase, but if it got the man on their side, then it would be worth it. Fishing out the requisite amount of slips, he reached up and shook the man’s hand again. This time was far gentler, as the currency was easily exchanged.

 

“Thank you, that is incredibly generous of you,” Nathan faked a huge smile, making sure that it reached up to his eyes.

 

“No worries, oh, and ah, Detective V’olk handles Missing Persons. Second Floor, Unit B. Can’t miss him, he’s the only Retellian on staff and is… ornery.”

 

“Appreciate the warning,” with a nod, he smiled once more.

 

Then, with flick of his head to Benjamin, headed to the large staircase that lead up to the next level. Again, it seemed so out of place to scale the wood steps covered in gorgeously thick purple carpeting with gold braiding at the edges. Once they were well out of earshot of anyone, Nathan let out a breath that he didn’t realize that he had been holding.

 

With a quiet voice, he spoke to Ben,

 

“This place is so obvious it hurts. The rest of the detachments on Ponm can’t be this nice. It’d be good to know whom, or who, they are getting paid by. You’d think they wouldn’t show it off quite like this…”

 

Climbing the staircase, he shook his head, thinking back to what they had seen on the way here. Shanty towns to one side, and a municipal department that was as rich as this on the other. It just made no sense at all, considering that even Provincial authorities should readily be able to see the disproportion of it all; unless they were getting kick-backs too.

 

“Want to do rock-paper-scissors to see who deals with V’olk?” there was a playful grin on Nathan’s face, though the statement was actually serious. He was pretty sure he was lucky when it came to the interaction with the Desk Sergeant, and he wondered if that luck would hold out.

 

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#13 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21905.04 @ 00:02 (12:02 AM)

Eventually, they left the Orion Dream and headed to the local police detachment, and Benjamin was, if not shocked, then at least surprised. He had seen worlds where poverty had taken hold, and the working classes were living in the shadows of their 'betters', though not recently, and never quite so literally as here on Ponm. One side of the street was mini-mansions with manicured lawns and gardens, while the other was made up of pre-fab shelters if the owner was lucky. It was sad to see, and Benjamin wondered just why people would want to stay.

 

The answer, though, was obvious: the ones who didn't want to stay couldn't get out. No wonder the Syndicate got a hold here.

 

Eventually, though, they came up to the K11 Detachment house. At first glance, the place looked brand new. Closer inspection, though, saw several signs of wear and tear that put paid to that idea. Whatever they were using to clean it evidently was very potent considering their proximity to the shanty-town of the district, or else it was being applied nigh-constantly. It spoke of either a dedication to image, or else it reeked of corruption. From all that he had seen thus far, both were plausible explanations.

 

They walked through the gold-trimmed, highly polished glass doors, and were greeted by a cool, clean breeze from inside. The front desk raised up from the ground, all polished wood and inlaid stone. Corruption moved a little further up the scale of likelihood. The desk sergeant didn't do any favors in making that estimation change, having all the soft gentleness of a tritanium hull plate, and just about the same girth.

 

"Can I help you?" the man asked with all the resonance of that same hull plate. Nathan continued to talk to him, though Benjamin worried about him when the gorilla shook his friend's hand, but he got the hand back without incident. The man wasn't cooperative, unfortunately. At least, he wasn't at first.

 

Eventually, Nathan lowered his voice to the point Benjamin couldn't hear them despite standing nearby. It wasn't until he fished into his pocket and pulled out several coins and slipping them discreetly into the man's palms that Benjamin realized what was going on. The captain is going to kill me, he thought. Bad enough he's on probation, now I've taught him how to bribe officials.

 

"Thank you, that is incredibly generous of you," Nathan said with a huge smile that was plastered on his eyes, though the hull plate with legs didn't seem to notice.

 

"No worries, oh, and ah," the sergeant replied, "Detective V'olk handles Missing Persons. Second floor, Unit B. Can't miss him, he's the only Retellian on staff and is... ornery."

 

"Appreciate the warning," Nathan replied, and smiled again, gesturing to Benjamin to follow as they headed to the stairs. He smiled at the ape behind the desk as he walked by and followed closely. The wooden stairs were covered in a thick purple carpet that again seemed just too luxurious to be in a place like this. Eventually, Nathan let out a breath, and Benjamin did the same. 

 

"This place is so obvious it hurts," he said quietly once they were quite alone. "The rest of the detachments on Ponm can't be this nice. It'd be good to know whom, or who, they are getting paid by. You'd think they wouldn't show it off quite like this..."

 

"I know what you mean," Benjamin replied as they kept going up the stairs. "Someone is definitely paying the bills, and it's not the government."

 

"Want to do rock-paper-scissors to see who deals with V'olk?" Nathan said with a grin that lacked much in the way of mirth.

 

"No way," Benjamin replied. "Security types are definitely your bailiwick, though I'd be sure to treat him with a bit more care than you did the sergeant. You read him right, fortunately, but seriously, what were you thinking!" He grabbed Nathan's shoulder, stopping him on the landing before they entered the floor proper. He continued quietly, "Bribing a policeman in the middle of the precinct? If you were wrong, we would both have wound up in the cells and kicked off the planet before we even started."

 

He sighed, letting go of his friend and closing his eyes for just a second before refocusing. "I know that you've seen me bribe two people already since we got here, but realize, they were Ferengi. It's in their DNA. The customs official was risky, and I would've backed off at the first sign that he was more straight-laced, but at least we were on home territory. I recorded the entire conversation just for insurance. But seriously, Nathan: you're not corrupt enough to try that too much, and that's a good thing. Hell, I wouldn't even try it, not here, and especially not with this V'olk character. He's likely high enough that either he's too good at his job to be bribed, or he's in someone else's pocket deep enough that if we tried to bribe him, he'd hand us over to them without a second thought.

 

"So be careful. I'm here with you if you get in a jam, but just... let's get in there and get the ball rolling, okay? No fancy business." He nodded to the door, taking advantage of the movement to scratch at his eye. "After you."

 

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#14 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21905.11 @ 02:06 (02:06 AM)

== sorry for the wait my friend! ==

 

"No way. Security types are definitely your bailiwick, though I'd be sure to treat him with a bit more care than you did the sergeant. You read him right, fortunately, but seriously, what were you thinking!" when Benjamin grabbed him by the shoulder, Nathan rounded on him with his eyes furrowed together, though not tightly.

 

"Bribing a policeman in the middle of the precinct? If you were wrong, we would both have wound up in the cells and kicked off the planet before we even started."

 

About to reply, his friend and roommate released him and continued speaking. Nathan listened intently, his head slightly tilting to the side at the mention of him not being corrupt. It was a good thing. But that didn’t mean that Ramius was going to smile about it while Ben went further, iterating that V’olk was likely above the rest of the lot in the detachment. That was yet to be seen, considering the state of things in K11. Still, it was good advice. Solid advice. Yet it wasn’t really needed.

 

"After you."

 

“I’m glad you have my back, but what happened back there, that wasn’t bribery. That was a business transaction…”

 

Which, that sounds an awful lot like what a Ferengi might call a bribe…

 

“…the guy is a juicer, a ‘steamout’, and probably takes OX three times daily as a meal supplement. Anywhere in the Federation, yeah, what I just pulled would have been illegal. But here on Ponm, OX is legal, and purchasing it from him cost me about the same as it would have on the white market here. Am I going to use it? No. It’ll go to waste. But, it gave me a connect, a moment to analyze, and finally got us a name and location.

 

I appreciate that you are looking out for me, and it probably looked bad. Hell, I felt a little bad doing it because it did feel like a bribe, even if it wasn’t. It was a little test, and the outcome wasn’t good. Don’t worry, I’ll be careful with V’olk. I promise that I am in control, and sure of what I’m doing.”

 

With that, he nodded to his friend and entered.

 

The second floor was as nice as the first, and looked nothing like a usual station; desks were spacious, most were private offices, and some even had secretaries with their own expansive areas in front of them. There were a few that didn’t have their own walled off space, but it wasn’t like they were stuck in a five by five shoulder height cubicle; each had their own floor to near ceiling partitions, and were basically mini-offices in their own right. Many of the officers were either sitting in their rooms, smiling at consoles, or were chatting with others – the occasional eye landing on the pair of intruders.

 

After making it almost to the back of the building, they turned right down a nearly barren corridor unlike the rest of the setup.  There were a few doors to the right as they moved through, but most of the offices were far less opulent than the ones that came before. At the very end of the hall, a door that read, ‘Detective V’olk’ was found.

 

I’m already fairly sure where this is going, but might as well play the game…

 

Nathan rapped his knuckle on the door to some old tune, and a gravel-washed voice emanated,

 

“What?”

 

Pushing through the portal, Nathan regarded the six foot eight Retellian sitting at a desk that seemed just a little too small for his stature. The room smelled of fish and dust, and the walls were colored a depressing shade of grey. Whatever the space lacked compared to his contemporaries, it did have an en-suite attached, along with a cot and some blankets that were rolled up into a corner. The man was gaunt, looking to be in his fifties, and looked the part of over-the-hill, tired, cantankerous cop.

 

Long nights with little success…

 

“Detective V’olk…” Ramius started but was immediately interrupted.

 

“Keep it short, I’m incredibly busy and don’t have time for bounty hunters.”

 

Nathan scoffed noisily as he shook his head, stepping further into the office. There were a few PADDs strewn about, with some on the desk, another two near the cot, and even a couple that looked to have been recently used as a doorstop.

 

“Private investigators, not bounty hunters…”

 

“Credentials?” V’olk had interrupted again, and that was the one thing Nathan was hoping the man wouldn’t ask for.

 

Alright, plan B…

 

“…we are looking for…”

 

“I don’t care who you are looking for,” V’olk stood up and rounded the side of his desk, sprier than he had given him credit for, and came up just shy of Nathan’s personal bubble, “unless you are going to show me credentials.”

 

“Bryon Miller, ring a bell?”

 

“You are one persistent mother****** I’ll give you that. Who are you?”

 

“Nathan Ramius, and my colleague is Benjamin Elias.”

 

V’olk stared at Nathan for a moment, who held the gaze. Then the detective’s eyes shifted over to Ben, before turning back to his desk and began typing furiously into his console.

 

“When you find out who we are…”

 

“…Starfleet?...” V’olk said incredulously under his breath.

 

“…I have to advise you that we are here as private citizens and not as representatives of the Federation or her organizations.”

 

“Close the ****ing door already,” he barked at Elias before looking back at Nathan, “were you two stupid enough to give your names to the Desk Sergeant?”

 

“No,” Ramius shook his head and took a seat across from V’olk, despite not being offered one, “but I figured he might be a ‘steamout’, and made friends with him.”

 

Dumb, but not stupid…” V’olk regarded the pair a final time before letting out a deep sigh and covering his face with both of his palms.

 

“I’m too old, too tired, and too overworked to deal with bull****,” the Retellian released himself from the double facepalm,  “so let’s just cut the crap and get straight to the ****ing point. You two ****s are here looking for that meathead of a journalist Byron Miller because you were sent by his equally…”

 

“Watch your mouth when you talk about Ada,” it was Nathan’s turn to interject, and the voice that he used wasn’t just commanding, it sounded threatening.

 

On top of that, his body language instantly read ready for a fight, as he sat upright on the edge of the chair, “blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.”

 

V’olk let out a snort, while Ramius’ features hardened, but the detective brought it back down.

 

“Fine, fine. Ada as I recall,” he scoured through a few of the PADDs before picking one up and activating it.

 

“Byron Miller. Thirty-seven-year-old human, a journalist. Last seen at the Red Room, and hasn’t left.”

 

“Yes, that is just the problem. That is why we want to file a missing person’s report, have an officer take a look inside the premises…”

 

“No, no. I don’t think you understand me,” V’olk leaned forward now, and an intrigued expression oozed out, “he isn’t missing…”

 

“He is missing! You just said so! He hasn’t left!”

 

“…when I said he isn’t missing, I was going to add that he has been seen there, every night, for the past week. What he does in there, I have no clue. But he comes out, vaporizes something with a group of people, then goes back inside. From what I’ve seen on the body cams, he is being treated like a VIP; a girl on each arm, laughing, cavorting, and either drinking or getting high.”

 

“That can’t be…” Nathan’s shoulders sunk, and his previous attitude had completely vanished.

 

“Sorry, I hate to say it, but he is having the time of his life by the looks of things. We had a plainclothes officer approach him, and discreetly ask if he was okay. Then he told the officer to **** off before his cover got blown.”

 

“Sounds like something Byron might say, but,” there was a sigh and Nathan’s hand started absentmindedly stroking his beard, “I’m almost certain he would have given a verbal code to the officer.”

 

“Unless ‘**** off' is the secret phrase, then that is it.”

 

“You said there was body cam footage?”

 

“Not from the plainclothes perspective, but yeah, one of the constables had an active cam going. I can show you the playback, just need to download it into the PADD,” V’olk put a PADD down in front of Ramius, before he turned to his console and started typing.

 

With the detective busy, Nathan got up from his chair to move to Benjamin, whispering as quietly as he could,

 

“Okay, hear me out. I know you said it was a bad idea to go to the Red Room. But if that is where Byron is at, then we have to check it out,” there was a short breath before he continued, as if anticipating a response from Elias,

 

“We don’t have to go inside. All we gotta do is wait near to where he usually comes out for his… for his whatever breaks. Once Byron sees me, he’ll give me a signal, and I’ll know he is okay…”

 

There was a desperation in his voice, with a slathering of concern, and one dash of puppy dog eyes. That was the one place he knew Benjamin didn’t even want to get near, but if it meant confirming Ronnie was okay, Nathan felt like it was a calculated risk.

 

== tag ==

 

 

 

 


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#15 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21905.12 @ 17:42 (05:42 PM)

Benjamin was surprised at the anger he felt coming from his friend in reply. He really shouldn't have been. "I appreciate you are looking out for me, and it probably looked bad. Hell, I felt a little bad doing it because it did feel like a bribe, even if it wasn't,Nathan was saying. "It was a little test, and the outcome wasn't good. Don't worry, I'll be careful with V'olk. I promise that I am in control, and sure of what I'm doing." And with that, he turned and stepped through the door to the second floor proper.

 

Well, don't I feel like an ***, he thought as he followed the security officer. As well he should. You're treating him like a child, he thought, and you can't do that out here. He remembered their conversation back on the Getty, and how he had felt there. Nathan reminded him too much of his brother, and it just brought out the long-buried protective instincts he had for him. He just had to remember that Nathan was a well-trained Starfleet officer, and a security officer to boot. He knew what he was doing, and Benjamin just needed to trust him.

 

Besides, out here, you can't baby him. They had to work together through this, and they had to be on the same page. He took a deep breath and kept walking. We're alone here, he reminded himself. All we have is each other.

 

He followed Nathan through the floor, down the hallways that were again just too high-class for a police station. Fortunately, most of the officers appeared to have their own offices or at least good partition walls, so there weren't many people paying attention to the pair of intruders walking through their territory. Finally, they came up to the right door, and Nathan knocked and entered.

 

Benjamin hadn't actually met a Retellian before, and so was surprised at just how tall he was. The impression wasn't helped by the desk that was just a bit too small for him, making him look even taller. It was evident that he wasn't high in the good graces of whoever ran this precinct, given the state of his office, but he was dedicated to his job if the cot and blankets in the corner were any indication.

 

It wasn't long before V'olk proved himself a good detective and surmised that the pair were Starfleet. "Close the ****ing door already," he barked at Benjamin. Startled into action, he immediately stepped further in and closed the door behind him, still trying to stay out of the way as Nathan kept going. His friend took the seat in front of the desk, but Benjamin leaned against the wall, leaving the two to their talks.

 

The conversation took a strange turn fairly quickly, though. "I was going to add that he has been seen there, every night, for the past week," V'olk said, putting paid to their 'missing person' report. "From what I've seen on the body cams, he is being treated like a VIP, a girl on each arm laughing, cavorting, and either drinking or getting high."

 

That can't be right, Benjamin thought as Nathan breathed a similar sentiment. "We had a plainclothes officer approach him," V'olk continued, "and discreetly ask if he was okay. Then he told the officer to **** off before his cover got blown."

 

It didn't feel right to Benjamin. From what Nathan had told him about Ada and Byron, he felt like if this were a case of Ada wanting someone to go and get Byron out of a bad situation, she wouldn't have lied and said that he was missing. She would've told him flat-out what this was about. And if Byron was really there, either by choice or through coercion, he would have signaled his editor either an all-clear or a distress signal. He wouldn't have just... gone silent.

 

Nathan got up and came over to him, whispering as V'olk worked with a padd. "Okay, hear me out," he said. "I know you said it was a bad idea to go to the Red Room, but if that is where Byron is at, then we have to check it out."

 

"I agree," Benjamin said as Nathan took a breath.

 

"We don't have to go inside," Nathan continued without actually hearing Benjamin's assent. "All we gotta do is wait near to where he usually comes out for his... for his whatever breaks. Once Byron sees me, he'll give me a signal, and I'll know he is okay..." He could hear the concern bordering on desperation in Nathan's voice.

 

"Sounds like a plan," Benjamin said. "If he's actually there and okay, then we can wrap this up quickly and go home. If that's not actually him, then we can find that out, too, and get the ball rolling. Either way... I don't see another option, given what V'olk told us. We can go and meet him outside, and hopefully we won't have to actually go in. But with a lead like that, we can't just ignore it. If you think that's the best option, we'll go tonight."

 

==Tag Nathan==


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#16 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21905.14 @ 00:20 (12:20 AM)

== Byron Miller – Location Unknown ==

 

Pace yourself

 

Hungrily shoveling the food into his mouth, Byron paused only to take large swigs of water from a comically large jug. Likely it had once held blood wine, as the jug looked Klingon in fashion, but it certainly held a great deal of fluid.

 

For some reason Zovenok had taken a liking to him. Allowed a doctor (a human) to take a look at his hand where the ‘distress’ implant had been discovered and ripped out along with a good chunk of his flesh. The one-eyed troll who had done it cauterized the wound with a bat’leth, it’s tip red hot. Byron could still hear the chucking. Yet this doctor was kind, and gentle. As they got to talking, it became evident that the doctor lost his license to practice in the Federation. Apparently, he had been giving unauthorized treatment to colonists. While it worked, it hadn’t been the first time the man had crossed the medical ethics boards. Practically banished from Federation space, he worked on the fringes doing what he could, until he met Zovenok. Until then Dr. Edgar Wilms had been barely surviving, but used what he had to help the less fortunate. The half-Nausicaan offered him a chance to help those in need on a much larger scale – and Edgar had accepted. Now, he was the most loyal (and trusted) physician in the organization. When Byron asked about the killing, the slaving, and criminal elements, Wilms simply shrugged and said,

 

“I’ve helped millions because of Zovenok. Criminals kill criminals.”

 

That bit stuck out the most to Bryon, as he continued eating his hamburgers and fries that were replicated for him. Just about everyone he talked to, at least who would talk with him, had some connection with how the organization had helped them. Either giving them hope, a purpose, raising them up from poverty, and even petty vengeance. Whatever those people needed most in that moment, Zovenok and his gang were there for them. It was brilliant. Darkly brilliant, but brilliant nonetheless.

 

“Enjoying the food?”

 

“Yes, erm…” Byron swallowed the bit he had in his mouth, before looking up at Zovenok “apologies. Yes, thank you.”

 

“One of my favorite dishes. Juiciest hamburger ever. The recipe is from a chef on Risa, of all places. Brilliant woman, knew exactly how to bring out even the most subtle of flavors.”

 

“Well it is delicious. And thank you for letting Edgar take a look at my hand.”

 

“Of course, of course. Such savagery in the first place, I apologize for that. I would have preferred Dr. Wilms remove that implant with precision, and local anesthetics, instead of digging it out with a d'k tahg… still, it got the job done I suppose. I’ll have to have a talk with K’ner about how he greets my guests.”

 

“Guest?” Byron stopped eating for a moment, both brows popping up high towards his hairline, “that connotates…”

 

“Temporary, impermanence, ‘just visiting’, yes,” the man laughed lightly, a frequent occurrence, at least around Byron.

 

“So, you are letting me go?”

 

If I can get my hands on the right equipment, yes. We… sorry, Dr. Wilms will attempt to perform a memory wipe…”

 

“A wipe…” the sound of trepidation rose like a gale in Bryon’s voice.

 

“Don’t worry, please. Dr. Wilms assures me that we can wipe just the memories of your investigation so far. No more, no less.”

 

Miller, ever the journalist, managed to push past his fear and wonder why Zovenok would go through so much trouble.

 

Feeding me. Treating my wounds. Wiping my memory to just before my investigation started? Surely, he knows that I would continue my investigation again, and that could lead me right back to this chair. He has thought of that, he must have. The man isn’t stupid, not by a longshot. I just have no idea why he’d even consider releasing me – not that I’m not grateful considering the alternative would be to put a disruptor round in my chest.

 

It’s just incredibly odd. It has to be to his benefit. Maybe he’ll plant evidence, change how I started down this path? A red herring or something while he wraps up his operations on Ponm? Then I’d have nothing, and there would be no article… I just don’t get it…

 

[Zovenok,] a static filled communication came over the room’s comm system.

 

"What? I told you I wasn’t to be disturbed," that was the first time he had seen the half-human be so commanding and perhaps even perturbed.

 

[Unless one of our bugs picked up a lingua-heuristic detection for a Byron Miller.]

 

"Go ahead," Zovenok smiled as he turned to face Bryon now.

 

[A Nathan Ramius and Benjamin Elias, from Starfleet, went to the K11 detachment. V’olk's office. They discussed seeing Bryon at the Red Room.]

 

At the Red Room? Now? I was there. Or am I still there?, he hadn't seen outside, and wasn't even sure where he was being held. Perhaps he was still on Ponm, and they had him in some sort of factory. Even a warehouse...

 

"Thank you. Protocol eleven-bravo. Zovenok out," there was a frown on the face of his captor, and it scared Byron immediately.

 

“Nathan Ramius and Benjamin Elias, tell me about them. Remember, I’ll know if you are lying…”

 

== TBC ==


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#17 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21905.15 @ 00:57 (12:57 AM)

Walking to the Entertainment district hadn’t taken that long. It had only been seven city blocks, and Nathan was glad for the exercise. Being cooped up hadn’t helped his stress levels. He was still using his routine as a stress reliever, just not as intensely as he once had. Problem was, being on the shuttle, coming straight to the planet, heading to the detachment – it wasn’t exactly his normal program.

 

When they arrived, the Red Club looked exactly as it did on the body cam footage. At the base of a huge skyscraper, the club took up three levels, and he was told there was a basement underneath it all too. And, of course, it was colored in reds. There was prime real estate on the other three corners to watch the entrance from. One was a pub, which Ramius steered clear of. The other was a ‘gentleman’s club’, which he also decided against. So outdoor cafe it was. Honestly, it was the better of all the choices, as Nathan certainly felt fatigued, and hoped that the caffeine might give him a little boost while they waited for Byron to make an appearance.

 

“I never really realized how hard it was to maintain a long-distance relationship,” the comment came out of nowhere, considering they were just making small talk minutes before.

 

“Like, to be honest, I’ve never really been in a relationship like this… with Michelle. In terms of distance or… in connection really. I dunno. It just sort of clicked, right from the start. I’ve never had that happen before. Sending her gifts, messaging back and forth, its all nice but its also so hard. Sometimes I stare out at the stars in the Observation Lounge and wonder if she’s looking out too.”

 

Nathan took another sip before chuckling,

 

“Whoa, sorry, hahaha. I ah, this coffee was really needed. Didn’t realize it would make me sentimental though,” he swirled the over-priced cup of sweet brain boosting nectar.

 

“I don’t suppose you have any advice? On how to handle things? I mean, no one ever tells you how to deal with this stuff. I guess there are books about relationships and stuff… not that I’d know or anything…” another sip, hiding the guilt behind the cup. It was his nature, to learn about a subject as much as he could. So yes, he had read a couple of books on relationships during downtime. Most of them didn’t give specific advice though. Just sort of general, common sense type stuff. Or, if you were lucky, something that was actually counter-intuitive.

 

While he waited for Ben’s reply, he continued to look out onto the street, keeping a careful eye on the doors of the Red Room. Not by staring straight at them, but casually as he people watched. This area certainly was trendy, and fashion seemed to be big for the residents of the upper side of Ponm. Some were wearing the one shoulder spring dresses that could be seen on the front of magazines, or advertised in holovids. Others were in very stylish four button business suits, which had really caught the attention of Nathan; not because he liked it, but because he couldn’t understand how anyone would like the look of a four-button suit. Still, that was fashion. Not everyone loved everything that was trending all the time… except for designers possibly.

 

Them again…

 

Two faces, a Klingon and a Nausicaan, popped up within the crowd for a third time. The first time was as they were heading to the back entrance of one of the clubs. The second was when they came out and lingered at a food-stand. Now they were strolling through the plaza again, stealing glances in the direction of both Ben and him. Now Nathan had to decide if it was the desk sergeant, or V’olk, who sold them out.

 

“Don’t look,” he said quietly into his cup, as he pretended to take a sip, “but that Klingon and Nausicaan to your four o’clock have checked us three times now. Walking from your four to the West. Someone knows we are looking for Byron.”

 

== tag ==


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#18 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21905.16 @ 21:55 (09:55 PM)

Walking to the Entertainment district was easy, and actually fairly relaxing. The sights and sounds of the city were interesting, especially as they went further from the slums, and the air was crisp as the day slid on towards evening. Benjamin hadn't realized how keyed up he'd gotten over the course of the day, and taking a moment to relax and stretch was definitely needed.

 

Once they arrived at the Red Club, it was basically exactly as described: it was a club, and it was red. This is what happens when you let a Klingon name your business, he thought. He was reminded briefly of a competitor he had seen when he was working freight, a ship called simply Cargo, also run by a Klingon. He ran a simple and efficient service, but they were somewhat... lacking... when it came to customer service. Nathan led him towards a small outdoor cafe across a small square from the club itself.

 

They sat for a moment, waiting. According to the bodycam footage and testimony of the various officers, it shouldn't be too long before "Byron" came out of the club, so they were keeping an eye out, but took advantage of the fact that it was a cafe and ordered some coffee. Benjamin sat and simply inhaled the smell of it for a moment, letting the caffeine mist go directly to his brain for a moment before he took a sip.

 

"I never really realized how hard it was to maintain a long-distance relationship," Nathan said out of nowhere. Benjamin stopped for a moment, surprised, before swallowing his coffee. “Like, to be honest, I’ve never really been in a relationship like this… with Michelle," Nathan continued. "In terms of distance or… in connection really. I dunno. It just sort of clicked, right from the start. I’ve never had that happen before. Sending her gifts, messaging back and forth, its all nice but its also so hard. Sometimes I stare out at the stars in the Observation Lounge and wonder if she’s looking out too.”

 

He took another sip, chuckling after. "Whoa, sorry," he laughed. "I ah, this coffee was really needed. Didn't realize it would make me sentimental though."

 

"I get it it," Benjamin said. "It's been a long day." He raised his own cup to his lips, taking a drink of the cooling beverage.

 

"I don't suppose you have any advice?" Nathan kept going. "On how to handle things? I mean, no one ever tells you about this stuff."

 

Once Benjamin had recovered from his coughing fit, he took a deep breath or two, waving away the help the waitress was trying to offer before thinking better of it. "Bring a bottle of whiskey, if you can." She nodded and turned to walk off. "Something tells me this conversation is about to need something more than coffee."

 

"Nathan, you're seriously asking me for advice on long-distance relationships?" Benjamin said with a chuckle. Of all the things he had anticipated talking about on this trip, this was... well, it was nowhere on the list. He was trying his best to get past Iris, but it seemed like no matter what he did, she kept coming up.

 

The waitress came back and set down the bottle and two glasses before smiling and walking off. It sat there for a moment, taunting him as if to remind him exactly how he had tried before, but he fought down the demons. I'm the one in control here, he told them. And besides, he and Nathan were busy at the moment; being drunk wouldn't help matters.

 

He picked up the bottle - a decent brand, he noted, though not high-end in the slightest - and poured some into a glass before setting the bottle int he middle of the table. He assumed Nathan wouldn't want any right now, but left it there as a silent offer. He took a deep drink before setting the glass back down.

 

"I wish I could give you some good advice on how to make a long-distance relationship work," he finally said to his friend. "I did everything I could to make mine work, and it did for a while. Regular contact, communication, those are key. Make sure she knows you love her, and would do anything for her. That kind of thing." He sighed, and refilled his glass but didn't drink yet. "It's the stuff you can't control that can kill it in a heartbeat. Suspicion, guilt, anger. Whispered lies, rumors: stories you can't disprove because they're based on absolutely nothing." He finally gave in and drank from the glass. "That's what you have to watch out for."

 

He sighed and leaned back in the chair, holding the glass in both hands. "Never assume that things are okay. Make sure you talk, and I mean actually talk, about things. If you hear someone saying things, go and talk to her about it. I don't mean confront her, I mean just simply go and talk. If you love her, and trust her, and she feels the same towards you, then you should be okay. But don't let things fester and get in between you. Face it head-on, together." He put the glass up to his lips and stopped before taking the drink, finally noticing that Nathan wasn't entirely paying attention.

 

He set the glass back down. "What's wrong?"

 

"Don't look," Nathan said quietly into his coffee cup as he pretended to take a sip, "but that Klingon and Nausicaan to your four o'clock have checked us three times now. Walking from your four to the west. Someone knows we are looking for Byron."

 

Benjamin, having not been through the training Nathan had, managed to arrest his head from turning to look, though not before it jerked a couple of degrees to his right. Dammit! he scolded himself, and hoped that the two were less observant than Nathan thought. He schooled himself back to calm and picked up his whiskey slowly, putting it to his lips. "Sorry," he apologized. "Do we stay here? Or should we try and escape?" If the two brutes knew who they were, it was probable they already knew where they were staying, so going back to the resort wasn't exactly an option, but escape was still possible. "You're the expert here; call the play."

 

==Tag Nathan. Time to dance?==


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#19 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21905.20 @ 08:06 (08:06 AM)

== Byron Miller – Location Unknown ==

 

“…and that is all of the pertinent information that I have on Nathan. As for this Benjamin Elias character, I only know of him, but I have never met him,” as Byron finished, his captor only seemed to nod.

 

“No quirks that Mr. Ramius might have talked about during a message? Perhaps information on Benjamin’s life before Star Fleet? Strengths? Weaknesses…”

 

“No, no I can’t say he ever said anything. I guess he did mention that Elias was a great Engineer and deserved the promotion he had got recently. Beyond that, Nathan rarely speaks ill of his friends.”

 

“Interesting,” Zovenok stood up from the chair that he had been sitting at, and pulled out a communicator from a pant pocket.

 

“Syhu, get me everything you can from the network on one Benjamin Elias. Go back as far as you have to, and don’t leave out any databases. I want this information immediately.”

 

[Understood,] with that, the half-Nausicaan looked at Byron with a cornucopia of expressions mixed on his face. It chilled Byron to the bone, knowing full well that one of those manifestations held some malice, as the journalist had likely served his purpose. It didn’t bode well.

 

“Turn off the holoemitters,” with the wave of a hand, the room dematerialized. Instead, they were in a cramped cargo area, with containers of various sizes constricting the space further. Of the room he thought he had been in, only the two chairs remained; even Bryon’s restraints were removed. Around them was a group of about five crew, fiddling with the emitters.

 

“A ship?” bewilderment set in.

 

“Indeed. A Klingon Bird of Prey in fact. It is a bit older, but it does what we need it to do; specifically, it still cloaks, along with the rest of its tactical elements. Come,” Zovenok’s head beckoned Byron, “walk with me.”

 

Bryon stood up, and immediately sat back down, as he nearly passed out. Taking in a few breaths, he stood again. This time with more success, though his ears rang, his back burned, while his feet and legs tormented him with a thousand needle-like sensations. The man, interrogator, or Captain – whoever he was, had waited for him.

 

“How did you get your hands on a Bird of Prey?”

 

“Not easily,” there was Zovenok’s signature light laugh again, “As common sense would dictate, keeping the actions of our organization as covert as possible is a strategic necessity. This ship fulfills that role in spades…”

 

In spades? That’s a Terran idiom. Was he born on Earth? Or perhaps a human colony?

 

“…and shields us from various authorities who find our presence, unabideable.”

 

Moving through the cargo bay, they reached a corridor, and it became more apparent that they were, indeed, on a Klingon vessel. The aesthetics were just like what Byron had read about; to call them spartan would be generous, though the occasional drops of blood livened the place up. It did start to worry Byron, that he was being shown so much. There was no way that Zovenok could ever let him leave now; not with all he knew and all that he had seen. If word ever got out that this group, this organization, had something as powerful as this ship…

 

Speaking of, I don’t think I ever heard what they are calling themselves…

 

“This organization that you speak of,” there was a hesitant pause as they passed the Klingon who tortured him,  “I… I… I don’t suppose it has a name.”

 

“Such a journalistic question,” a light laugh crushed the tension as they continued walking, “most people in your shoes would worry the information you’ve already gleaned would lead to a summary execution…”

 

Still worried really…

 

“…but yet you ask for more details. That is what I like about you Byron: focused on the long game.”

 

“Thank you, I think?”

 

“Take the compliment, I rarely dispense them.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“We call ourselves The Fold. A multi-faceted organization that has been operating in the three quadrants for,” a brief pause gave way to a subtle sigh from Zovenok, “well, this would be our ten-year anniversary.”

 

“A decade?” Byron’s jaw dropped, “Are you sure? I mean, wait, not to question your memory or anything but… well, all of the research I did and the anecdotes all pointed to a very young organization. Maybe a year or two old. How have you gone unnoticed for so long?”

 

A nefariously impish grin was flashed to Byron when the man turned back to look at him for a moment, and another round of shivers chased a bead of sweat down the journalist’s back.

 

Ten years. They’ve been doing this for ten years and up until now haven’t been noticed. That seems… impossible. Or is that how they operate? Make it seem like their operations are small. Or they work in cells? Multiple, smaller parcels of their group report back to another cell, until eventually it comes back to a central authority like Zovenok or someone? Maybe each unit works a singular system or region, to make it seem so unimposing and unnoteworthy. If one gets caught, they don’t know enough to point their fingers at anyone or anything. But if they know the name… ‘The Fold’, surely someone would have said so somewhere. Or are they really that discreet?

 

Bryon’s thoughts must have taken longer than he could discern, as they were already on the Bridge of the ship. A large, muscular, and hard looking Klingon stood next to the Captain’s chair, exuding every bit a leader’s authority just from his gaze. But he wasn’t the Captain of this ship. When Zovenok walked into the room, it wasn’t that strict fighter whom everyone looked to for affirmation. It wasn’t even Zovenok himself. Instead it was a warrior in purple accents that was hunched over a console, who then stood straight up and greeted the half-human with a traditionally grotesque Klingon smile.

 

“Zovenok,” the Klingon woman’s smile turned into an icy cold gaze that stunned Bryon, freezing him in place, “you’ve brought your guest with you.”

 

“Apologies Captain, but his information will prove invaluable to my operations. Byron Miller, meet Captain ‘asHov of House Dorath.”

“A pleasure to meet you,” Byron said politely, which caused ‘asHov to scowl before marching over to him.

 

Grasping him by a tuft of his hair, he could feel her breath and teeth on the nape of his neck.

 

This is how I die!! A Klingon bites a piece of my neck out down to the artery and laughs in Klingon while I bleed out!

 

Is it a pleasure?! I do not know you. Nor has this meeting given me opportunity to know you. You look like a pujwI’, and I fear I would break you before I derived any pleasure from you or your flesh.”

 

The bridge erupted in guttural laughter, causing Byron to chortle nervously with his eyes shut. It took every ounce of strength that he had left not to wet himself, or fall to the floor in a heap of tears. After what felt like an eternity, she released her grip and the sound of her boots signaled that she had left the poor soul alone. A din of discussion erupted shortly after, the voices seemingly snarling sounds severely as they spoke. It wasn’t until Zovenok piped up, that Byron finally opened his eyes,

 

“Better than most introductions. Usually ‘asHov will dominate men that she meets, twisting arms, or breaking fingers until they kneel before her. She might actually like you…”

 

“Ohhhh… ohhh, good. That’s good. So very good…” Byron felt faint as a Bajoran walked onto the Bridge, handing a PADD to the chuckling human-nausicaan.

 

“Everything you asked for on Benjamin Elias. Looks like we weren’t the only interested party looking for information on him.”

 

With a couple of taps, Zovenok engrossed himself in the intelligence before him, speed reading through a trove of information compiled from an exhaustive list of databases. Even for Byron, a journalist with a vast network of information sources, their work on Benjamin was stellar. It included background information such as education, employment history, mentions in media of any sort, intercepted messages, and even dossiers that were confidential in nature.

 

“How very interesting…” there was yet another light laugh from Zovenok as he hovered over a specific section, “…you can physically escape your past, and submerge the memories under a well of ethanol. Yet sometimes, that past claws its way up the walled darkness to pull you back to the murk. Get in contact with his old captain; we wouldn’t want to keep the knowledge of how well Mr. Elias is doing from a good friend now would we?” the words seemed earnest, but the tone and smirk was conniving.

 

== TBC ==


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#20 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21905.21 @ 23:46 (11:46 PM)

Oh **** I’ve killed him…

 

There was a moment where he considered getting up and clapping his friend’s back, but it was apparent that the coffee had simply been inhaled, no doubt by Nathan’s line of questioning. When he asked for the bottle of whisky, it brought a momentary scowl to Ramius’ face.

 

"Something tells me this conversation is about to need something more than coffee. Nathan, you're seriously asking me for advice on long-distance relationships?"

 

“Well… yeah, I guess I am. I’m aware of your…” a pause lingered,

 

“…marital status. But even negative experience is still experience.”

 

There was some silence as Benjamin poured himself a drink, and Nathan watched his friend transfer what would be described for Elias as a modest amount of alcohol. There was a thought, as the young security officer waved off the unspoken offer, about what kind of control this substance had over his friend. It was alluring. Nathan knew first hand. It numbed things, and eased the trepidations that came with memories that would not be easily dismissed. Yet it was controlling, compelling. An unrelenting gravity sucked Benjamin in sometimes and it worried Ramius, even though it seemed like the engineer had everything under control.

 

Leaning back in his chair, sipping quietly on his coffee, he both listened and thought at the same time. It was good advice, though it certainly sounded more revelatory for how his relationship with Iris had gone; particularly the theme of distrust. Then, as Benjamin talked about love, well Nathan couldn’t help but blush. That four-letter word. He hadn’t known Michelle long enough to use it, but others made passing remarks when he talked about her to them. Even just thinking her name brought a smile to his face.

 

The reminiscing didn’t last, as that was when he noticed the thuggish pair, yet again. Despite Nathan’s request not to look, Ben still gave a good twitch in the direction of their tails, but instead of chastising his friend, he continued to watch to see if there was a reaction.

 

"Sorry," they turned, moving towards the café.

 

“Don’t worry, this was inevitable I think,” he tried to allay Ben’s guilt using a very real truth. Had they passed by once or twice, disinterested, they probably were just going to follow. But that wasn’t the case; each time Nathan had spotted them it was because they had stopped, watched, then moved on again. They strategizing during that time likely. The jumpy reaction simply gave them impetus to move in.

 

"Do we stay here? Or should we try and escape? You're the expert here; call the play."

 

Being a bit later, the café was busy, with patrons still lined up for drinks. On top of that, the area in general was quite busy with pedestrian traffic, so there were lots of witnesses if something were to happen. Nathan tried to consider if they would try something. Sure, they might have most (if not all) of the police for the area bought and paid for, but they certainly couldn’t keep this large of a group quiet from the media. Unless, they had them bought too…

 

“Stay here, remain calm. But be ready for a fight. If we run, they’ll only chase us down to a quieter spot, where they can use more… overt means against us.”

 

Overt as in phaser or disruptors, he left that part out for Ben’s sake.

 

Their physical location was good, as Nathan had a wall to his back, so at least he wouldn’t be snuck up on. Also, the outdoor sitting was perfect, as they had multiple escape routes if things really got dicey. That being said, there really wasn’t a lot of room to maneuver, as the tables and chairs were pretty close together. The security side of Nathan worried about bystanders too, as at least four of the eight tables surrounding them were full of people that could get injured during a fight.

 

Forcing his way past people, the Nausicaan had no compunctions about bystanders, knocking people into their drinks, and almost body checking one person to the ground. When the people looked to see the rather large thug, they didn’t say a word in response. In fact, they simply went back to what they were doing, or fled quietly.

 

Damn.

 

“We are going to have to fight. This is normal for these people. Our pursuers won’t hesitate to act in violence,” he spoke to Benjamin out of the side of his mouth, not quite a whisper, but not too loud to be heard by the approaching goons.

 

The Klingon took a different angle. He avoided the packed table area, circling around to sparser pastures before diving in towards their seats. As they both approached, Nathan poured some whiskey into the second glass on the table, and stood up from his seat. Both Klingon and Nausicaan visibly flinched, but Ramius tried a ruse, putting a huge smile on his face.

 

“Hey! Friends of Byron I assume? C’mon, have a seat with us. Here, would you like a glass of whiskey? We’ll get the waitress to bring a couple more glasses…”

 

There was a bit of confusion between the two, but the Nausicaan came closer to the security officer, while the Klingon took a step towards the engineer.

 

Just a little closer… he extended his arm just slightly, as if offering the glass to the larger (and uglier) of the two. Nathan did not fail to notice that many of the customers had left the immediate area, and people passing by didn’t even dare to look in their direction. ‘Cowards’ was a word that came to mind. But then he had to remember that this kind of intimidation, if it occurred frequently enough, probably had desensitized them. Avoiding conflict lead to survival. So, they did nothing.

 

“My name is Nathan, this here is Ben. You two are a sight for sore eyes. Just beamed in? We were hoping to have a quick coffee before going into the club. C’mon, sit down, have a few laughs…”

 

Finally, the Nausicaan had closed the distance and was standing right-in-front of Nathan. So close, that his chest touched the outer knuckles of the hand that grasped the drink. That kind of over confidence could be useful. In fact, it gave Nathan an idea.

 

“You talk too much,” the breath was fetid, “I’m going to knock your teeth out.”

 

“You smell like a Targ’s ***,” Nathan’s initial smile turned into a hugely insolent and goading **** eating grin. That and the insult was more than enough to bait the first punch to be thrown.

 

It was a wild left haymaker, easily dodged. With Nathan’s left hand, he punched the Nausicaan’s throat. Then splashed the whiskey in his eyes. Opponent recoiling away, Ramius took the moment to whip the empty glass hard at the Klingon. The sound of glass shattering made him smile. Another wild right hook swooped over Nathan’s head as he bobbed. Already low, he launched flurry of strikes to the body of the Nausicaan. That dropped the arms. Then an incredibly solid right hook from the security officer landed, and he could see it did some damage.

 

The Nausicaan was burly and strong, and began a solid counter attack. A series of straight punches. Nathan weaved. Then a glancing hook made the young man stumble for a moment. Taking the bait, the Nausicaan threw a powerful right hook. Nathan stepped in and turned, pulling the arm of his foe over his shoulder. His hip then provided the fulcrum to lift the body of the brute. As the ogre-ish thug flew in the air, Ramius arrested his movement and twisted the enemy’s arm while pulling back on it. The sound of a shoulder popping matched well with the sensation of tendons ripping. Surprisingly, the table didn’t break. So Nathan began throwing powerful shots to the unprotected head before him. Left, right, left, right, right, right, and then an elbow drop. He felt the cartilage in the nose of the Nausicaan break.

 

Sparing just a moment, he looked to see how Benjamin fared.

 

== dance it is! Tag ==

 

 


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#21 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21905.22 @ 21:22 (09:22 PM)

There was only a moment's hesitation before Nathan made the call. “Stay here, remain calm," he said. "But be ready for a fight. If we run, they’ll only chase us down to a quieter spot, where they can use more… overt means against us.”

 

Benjamin nodded, taking a small sip of his whiskey before setting it back down on the table. He couldn't really see what was going on, but heard a commotion over his right shoulder as the Nausicaan came through the crowd towards them. He could see the Klingon circling for a clearer route - or the most likely escape route - before heading for their table. Nathan confirmed his suspicions rather quickly, and Benjamin tried to prepare himself for the fight.

 

Nathan poured some whiskey in the second glass, and stood up to smile warmly at the Nausicaan. What are you doing?! Benjamin thought, but held himself still as Nathan played out his ruse, trying to be friendly to the creature. The Klingon had come up on the other side of the table, and between the two of them and the wall, there wasn't much in the way of room to work. Fortunately, close quarters seemed to be Nathan's plan. A quick throat punch and some whiskey to the Nausicaan's eyes later, the fight was on.

 

The empty glass sailed across the table and shattered on the Klingon's forehead, staggering him. Benjamin was already moving, though. He had passed his Starfleet Self-Defense courses, of course, though he hadn't done particularly well, and hadn't kept up his training. Fortunately, this wasn't really the place for many of the techniques he had learned there.

 

This was a bar fight, and he had more experience at those.

 

He grabbed the bottle of whiskey by it's neck like a knife, and swung it at the Klingon's head. Glass bottles are a good bit sturdier than you see in holonovels or the like, though they still won't stand up to the bony protrusions of a Klingon forehead. Which is why he aimed at the man's jaw instead. The strike didn't have as much power as Benjamin wanted, as he was still trying to stand up as he swung, but it still staggered the man over, and he staggered back the other way as he brought the bottle back, this time impacting on his temple and shattering the bottle.

 

He squared off in the narrow aisle, other patrons having started to flee just to avoid the flying glass, still holding on to the neck of the shattered bottle. As the Klingon recovered and rounded on him, he briefly considered trying to use it as a knife to counter the one in his opponent's hand, but quickly decided against the notion. He was never very good with knives, and the Klingon was a good head taller than Nathan was. He'd get stabbed before he could get there. So instead, he started to backpedal and threw the bottle's remains at the brute, who got an arm up to shield against it and charged into the fight.

 

Just as Benjamin had figured he would. He brought his other hand up from where he'd snaked it beneath the tray at the end of the aisle, which was stacked with dirty cups and dishes, flinging it at the Klingon. His aim wasn't great, but at this range it didn't have to be. The Klingon staggered back as the plates and glasses shattered and soiled his clothes, covering him in shards of glass, stale coffee, and half-eaten scones.

 

Ben knew that he wasn't that good of a fighter; he was always one to avoid fights when possible, but had been taught one very good rule for when he absolutely had to fight: win fast. A fair fight can drag on, and a better opponent will make that work in his favor, so don't fight fair. Use whatever you have at your disposal and win the fight before they can even get oriented. With the Klingon on the ropes, Benjamin tried to do just that, and closed with the thug to try and take him out of the fight now that he was disoriented.

 

Unfortunately, Klingons are a lot more durable than many aliens, much less the humans that Benjamin had actually fought. In the middle of his charge, when the opponent should have still been reeling from the tray of dishes, the Klingon braced for him and was already bringing up a hand. The knife hand.

 

Benjamin cried out as the knife went through his shoulder, unable to stop or even alter his trajectory. The Klingon grabbed him by the throat and, using the knife as leverage, flipped him over onto the ground. The pain was overwhelming, and he looked up at the Klingon with some detachment. He saw that his jaw looked almost dislocated from the strikes it had taken, and he was bleeding from his mouth and head. At least I was somewhat useful, he thought as the Klingon let go of the knife, drew back his fist, and slammed it into the side of Benjamin's head.

 

==Have fun, Nathan!==


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#22 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21905.23 @ 02:43 (02:43 AM)

Slow motion and fluid, the world came to a crawl as he watched Benjamin get stabbed by the Klingon. There was an intense heat that rose up from within. Blood pumping in his ears like a Taiko drum. Then his vision narrowed, like a red tunnel focusing just on the bleeding Klingon who flipped Elias to the ground before knocking the engineer unconscious.

 

“You dishonorable petaQ!

 

Somehow, Ramius had closed the gap and unknowingly grabbed a chair in the time it took to shout the vulgar epithet. The moment the Klingon turned, a seething grimace on its face, Nathan slammed the chair onto its head. Two steps back and stunned, there was mere seconds before another chair came slamming down, though this time the thug got his arms up.

 

bIHnuch! taHqeq jay’!!!

 

With the Klingon’s vision blocked, a surge of speed came from the security officer. Faster than a sprint, he closed any remaining gap left before launching himself in the air, striking the scumbag in the chin with a flying knee strike. Somehow, the Klingon was still conscious as he fell backwards. That didn’t stop Nathan. A flurry of fists, hammer strikes, elbows, and once they landed on the ground, Ramius even headbutted his foe between the eyes. One elbow elicited a sickening crunch from the now broken jaw of the Klingon. Purple blood seeped from nose, eyes, and mouth, while the toDSaH made an awful snoring sound. Rising up from the unconscious body, Nathan turned around and grabbed a splintered leg from one of the broken chairs; its form like a sharpened stake. Calmly, he walked back over to the helpless opponent and pierced the same shoulder that the Klingon had stabbed Benjamin in.

 

“Eye for an eye…”

 

A sweaty arm and bicep lifted Nathan right off the ground, choking him as his legs dangled.

 

****, the Nausicaan!

 

Twisting and pulling at the arm, the security officer tried to push off from various objects with his legs. A table did give some leverage, but the Nausicaan only tightened the headlock, and the world was starting to lose color. Bringing his heel up as hard as he could, Nathan sacked the troll. The brute yelled in pain, arm loosening enough for Ramius to get a quick breath. Better yet, he was lowered substantially. Though he couldn’t see, he felt around on a nearby table for something he could use.

 

A cup? Mug? grabbing it by the handle, he slammed it down on the table, breaking the majority of it off into a sharp porcelain handle knife.

 

Arm and bicep contracting even tighter than the first time, Nathan knew he had a moment before his blood supply would be cutoff. Reaching up, he slammed the sharp part of the mug up and into the face of the Nausicaan. The limb instantly gave out the moment Ramius felt the tip of the impromptu dagger delved deeply into something softly squishy; reverberating off of the buildings was the highest pitch scream-like sound Nathan ever heard a sentient being make.

 

Choking and gasping for air on the ground, Nathan pushed himself to move out of way of a reprisal from the Nausicaan. When one did not come, he finally realized he could take a look back; the broken mug was firmly lodged, deep within the left eye.

 

“No, that is an eye for an eye,” haggardly said, Ramius rubbed his throat some while the Nausicaan attempted to tentatively pull the object out of its eye.

 

That, is when Nathan walked up and used a palm strike on the elbow of the arm attempting the removal. Another high pitch scream erupted, and the fiend did a sort of ‘dab’ as it fell to the ground.

 

Burnt skin? a thought crossed his mind, as the smell wafted into his nostrils.

 

Turning, he still hadn’t realized he had been hit with a low power disruptor shot, the adrenaline keeping him up. Only for a moment did he get to see eight other gang members walking from the Red Room, before another shot struck in the other shoulder.

 

baQa',” he managed to blurt, before the world went dark.

 

 

== sending you a quick message on this tag ;) lol ==


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#23 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21905.23 @ 22:03 (10:03 PM)

==Five years ago==

 

Ben couldn’t help but smile as he walked up the steps to his home. He reached for the handle and it faltered for just a moment, but he went on through. “Iris!” he called, and set his duffel on the floor just inside. “I’m home, babe!”

 

Silence greeted him. He closed the door and walked on through. The first thing he noticed was that the curtains were drawn, which wasn’t usual. Iris loved the sun, and Feanil’s primary was still high in the sky. “Iris?” Her shop was closed today, he knew, so she wasn’t there. He walked through to the kitchen, and noticed dishes in the sink and on the counter. Something was wrong.

 

“Iris?” he called again, a little more urgently. Finally, he came to the stairs and saw her sitting at the top of them. She was wearing a blue dress he knew she liked, but it was wrinkled, stains on the straps where she had wiped her eyes. They were puffy, and he knew she’d been crying. Was still crying, he amended as he heard her sniffle upon seeing him.

 

“The hell are you doing here?” she asked, venom in her voice. He stopped halfway up the stairs, confused. “Shouldn’t you be with her?”

 

“With who?” he asked, taking another step up. She recoiled back, standing up and away from him. Ben stopped on the stairs. “Why would I go anywhere but home? Been a long couple of weeks without you.”

 

“I’m not stupid!” she cried. “That ***** running security! I know all about you two!”

 

Now it was Ben’s turn to back away, sinking down a step and holding on to the railing for dear life. “What?” was about all he could say for a moment. “How could you… why? I love you--” he stammered.

 

“Then why aren’t you here!” she cried, throwing a box of tissues at him. He managed to deflect them in time, but slipped down another step as he did. “I should’ve listened to them! ‘They get a girl in every port’, they told me, only you don’t even need that!”

 

“What are you talking about!” Ben yelled back, finally getting himself together and back up the stairs. Iris had retreated to their bedroom, and he followed her in. “I could never want anyone else. I love you!”

 

“Then why aren’t you with me?” she asked. “Then why aren’t you here? You say you want a family, want to make me happy, and yet you leave for weeks at a time!”

 

Ben felt his anger rising, and tried to tamp it down. “We’ve talked about this,” he said, “a dozen times. This is a good job, and it keeps this roof over our heads.” She threw her arms up in the air and turned away from him. “When your business picks up, maybe then I can quit--”
 

“No, you won’t,” she interjected. “Your head’s in the stars, Ben. It always has been.”

 

“But my heart is here,” he said, both hands on the bed and looking Iris square in the eye. “Wherever you go, I go; where you stay, I stay. Wasn’t that the deal? Wasn’t that what we promised?”

 

“Then why do you fly off every time I turn around?”

 

Ben hung his head. He’d hoped that things would be different when he got back, not that he’d had a choice in leaving. The captain had refused his leave request - “A ship can’t be without its engineer” he’d said - despite the problems he’d been having with Iris.

 

For months, the time apart had been getting to her. They had wanted to start a family, and when the Aces’ Wild was running a route close to home, it looked like it could happen. Then their contract changed, and they were gone for weeks between visits home. Iris had grown more and more angry and despondent. And now, she thought he was cheating on her.

 

Ben felt tears well up on his cheeks, dripping down onto the blanket. They weren’t the only tear stains there.

 

“Just go,” she said softly, almost low enough he couldn’t hear. Almost. He felt something in his heart and mind snap with the weight of the words. The final straw on their life together.

 

He stopped and looked up at her. He didn’t know what she read on his face - fear, pain, sorrow - but she turned away quickly. “Leave, and don’t come back. I’ll send your things down to the docks.”

 

“Iris--” he started, but she cut him off with an icy stare. Tears flowed freely now, and she simply pointed at the door.

 

He didn’t have a choice. He turned and he left, leadenly going down the stairs before going out the front door. He didn’t remember picking up his duffel, but the weight in his hands as he went down the front step said it must be there.

 

He looked up and down the street, unsure where to go. He went back towards the docks; he could bunk on the ship. Somehow, before he got there, he turned into a bar and sat down at the end of it. The bartender looked at him and didn’t say a word, simply handing him a glass and pouring some whiskey into it.

Staring into it for a moment, Benjamin threw back the drink, swallowing it hard as it burned down his throat. “Just leave the bottle,” he said after a moment. Maybe there’s an answer in it somewhere.


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#24 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21905.27 @ 21:20 (09:20 PM)

== B’elaa – Klingon Guard – Holding Cells beneath the Red Room ==

 

Twirling her modified stun baton, the young Klingon woman was in a foul mood. So far, she had only been entrusted to look after the cattle of Ponm, who were gathered up in the many levels below the giant skyscraper. When she had joined The Fold, she had been promised action, adventure; honor. Instead her she was tending to the sheep. Those too weak to protect themselves, who fell too easily for traps, and were barely worth snatching up to sell to the highest bidder. There was no honor to be found here, B’elaa felt.

 

Gah, so why am I still here?

 

Pressing a button on the hilt of the baton, it extended upwards an arm length and a half, which she then pushed into one of the creatures lying too close to the outer edge of a cell. A gurgling sound of pain came out of the thing, as it attempted to writhe. The baton was half stun rod, half pain stick, and made an excellent deterrent for unwelcomed behavior. Not only did it waken nerve endings to exquisite pain, but it contracted the major muscle groups, making it impossible to escape. It brought a momentary smile to B’elaa’s face. Yet, it was boring.

 

“Do not sleep inside the paint!” she withdrew the device from the creature, who immediately crawled back into the center of the holding pen.

 

For an organization as savvy as The Fold was, they used incredibly low-tech methods to hold these ingrates. Large cages were built out of diburnium-osmium alloys, and then were furnished with little more than a hygiene station. On this level, most were packed past capacity with various species, making the entire floor reek of body odor, sweat, and defecation. After awhile, it wasn’t noticeable unless one consciously thought about it. Which B’elaa just had, and cursed herself for it.

 

“Disgusting Minn’hor…”

 

[B’elaa,] the voice was that of a sneaky Lissepian who coordinated the guards and their rounds. Ever since she had burned him in a card game for a substantial amount of latinum, she had been stuck looking after fodder.

 

At least it isn’t Processing…

 

“Go ahead,” she spoke into a handheld communicator.

 

[You are needed at sub-level five. Nosah didn’t show up for his shift, again, so this will be your new rotation.]

 

B’elaa grinned at the news, as it seemed her luck was finally changing.

 

“Understood,” she whipped around and headed straight for the turbolift. Level five is where they held the important captives. Not like the filth on the level she presently was on, no. Up there were professionals, business types, even CEOs who were being held for ransom. And, if gossip during Mess was true, two new arrivals who had severely injured their ‘retrievers’.

 

Gekq, the Klingon of the pair, would eventually recover physically. However, the beating might leave the warrior to question his abilities. That also took into consideration that they removed all the glass shards from his face and splinters of wood from his shoulder; B’elaa hoped he would accept real medical treatment instead of being an ignorant idiot like some of her race. Wood would fester, and Gekq had too pretty of a face to be wrecked by tiny scars: it would be far better to have something large and gaping instead.

 

It was Titim, the Nausicaan, whom most worried about. They eye was gone, and the cranial nerve had been severed. A dislocated shoulder and torn muscles, tendons, and ligaments meant quite a bit of work. However, the real damage was in Titim’s head, where not only did he suffer from a severe concussion, but there was a bleed. By the time they had realized the extent of the damage, intercranial pressure had likely caused some permanent damage, even though he had been whisked away to a paid-for neurosurgeon at one of Ponm’s fancy hospitals. The prognosis was not good.

 

B’elaa smiled even more as the turbolift stopped, and she stepped out. Oh, how she had wanted to see the creatures that had done this. Likely they were Klingons, though she sincerely hoped it wasn’t anyone she knew. That would be awkward and unpleasant for them, as she would have to quickly assert herself.

 

This level was much nicer, and though it still looked incredibly low-tech, there were some upgrades. For instance, the same cages were used, though there were partitions between them, so that prisoners had some privacy. There were also cots inside, with some blankets and a single pillow per person. However, there were multiple phaser emitters setup, so that any attempt to escape could be rapidly foiled.

 

“Here, don’t lose this or the phasers will target you,” the captain-of-the-watch handed her a small bracelet which contained a chip. Sensors would track her, and the phasers wouldn’t target her so long as she wore it.

 

“Where are they?” she asked, her eyes widened with excitement.

 

“At the end,” the human laughed, “they are both still unconscious though. Congratulations on making it up to level five B’elaa.”

 

“Thank you,” she purred, and then opened the lone security door with her bracelet.

 

The sound of her boots echoed off the partitions, and the creatures here were far more demure and well behaved than the lower levels. Many averted their eyes as she walked past, her trusty baton still in hand. Doctors, scientists, pop culture superstars… all of them tucked up in their cages until the next transporter cycle would take place; that is, if there was room for them on the ships.

 

Coming to the end of the facility, she took a deep breath before she passed the final partition to see what was laid out before her. What she discovered took that breath away, but not for good reason.

 

“Humans?” it was like a curse word, and it was spat out like rotten Gagh.

 

Medical facilities were limited, and were mostly staffed by Klingon first-aiders. These two had more work done on them than the average person so deposited into their care. One had large bandages on the front and back of his torso; B’elaa’s eyebrow raised and lips smoothed as she took in his muscled form. The other was also shirtless, but the staples in his shoulder were likely from a stab wound. He seemed plainer than the other, shorter, but had broad shoulders.

 

I hope he keeps the scar on his shoulder. He would look much better with it...

 

It was the smaller one that seemed to stir a bit. Holding up her baton, she considered giving him a quick poke to wake him up; she had questions. After all, gossip was as valuable as latinum in this facility, and a good story made for distracted opponents at card games.

 

== tag Ben, with a little – ‘prod’ – from B’elaa ;) ==

 

 


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#25 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21905.29 @ 00:09 (12:09 AM)

==Five years ago (?)==

 

Benjamin eventually found the bottom of the bottle. He tried to get another but the bartender cut him off before he could. He thought for a moment that he should feel something at that - anger? gratitude? something like that - but was just too tired. He stood up and turned around and walked up the stairs in front of his house with Iris. Were those always there? he thought, but was too drunk to care. He opened the door and stepped inside, stopping suddenly at what he saw.

 

"Harkens?" he said in shock. Or tried to say. It came out in more of a slur. The man standing before him definitely shouldn't be there, some part of him screamed, but Benjamin never heard it. Seeing his former drug-running captain standing in his - or, more appropriately, Iris' - living room kept him from paying attention.

 

"Lovely home," the man said with a sneer. He was exactly like he was last time Benjamin saw him, before the Tzenkethi captured or killed everyone: long unkempt hair, dark leather coat nearly dragging the floor, gun belt showing just one of the weapons he knew Harkens habitually carried, even in the relative safety of his own ship. "It's about time you showed it to me."

 

"You..." Benjamin started, that screaming part of his brain finally getting through, "you shouldn't be here."

 

"And why not?" the criminal said. "Afraid of what'll happen to her?"

 

Suddenly, Iris was there, being held by the neck from behind by a Nausicaan, while a Klingon stood beside him just laughing. He knew them, but couldn't... he just couldn't seem to remember. Maybe he was too drunk. Benjamin stumbled forward a step and as if a switch had been flipped, the Klingon was silently holding a disruptor leveled at Benjamin's chest. "I wouldn't," Harkens said through a grin. Benjamin stopped.

 

"I owe you," he continued, "for leavin' me and mine behind. Maybe I'll just take a bit from you for that." Harkens began to raise a pistol in slow motion. Or maybe everything was moving in slow motion.

 

Benjamin lept forward, screaming "Iris!!" as he did so. A disruptor blast met him halfway. There was so much pain, he flopped onto the floor for a moment before he realized that something was wrong. There was carpet, some distant part of his mind thought, though it didn't register through the pain. A lifetime later he finally got some air into his lungs, and the red haze dissipated, and everything was wrong.

 

"Iris?" a woman's voice cackled. Benjamin noticed boots standing near his head, and tried to jerk away from them. He didn't make it far, hitting a cold metal wall before he had even gotten half a meter away. He worked his way up to a seated position, noticing for the first time a throbbing pain in his shoulder, bringing memories of a knife back vividly. "Is that your mother you are calling for? Or perhaps someone that we haven't found yet?"

 

The Klingon woman bent over and stared him in the face, running the handle of what had to be a painstick down the side of his face. "Are you the one that killed Titim?" she asked, as if he knew who that was. "Stabbed him like you were once before, perhaps?" She pushed the handle at his right temple, indicating his eye. He flinched, his eye twitching as he looked away. She chuckled darkly at that. "And poor Gekq. If you were going to do all of that damage to him, you could have left him with a better scar."

 

Benjamin tried to get himself together, but was shivering. It wasn't exactly warm in this... this dungeon, and his shirt was missing. He looked around, trying to take stock, and was glad to see Nathan was here, though he didn't exactly look like he was in good shape, either.  What fresh hell is this place, he asked silently, but didn't get a moment to think.

 

The woman turned the painstick around and jabbed him in the belly with the functioning end. He convulsed for a moment, but was able to remain seated this time. "Did you not hear me?" she asked. "I wasn't told you had hearing difficulties."

 

"I..." Benjamin started once he got his breath back. "No, I heard you," he said. "I was just trying to figure out who you were talking about. I didn't exactly get your friend's names." He stood up bit by bit, trying to get his equilibrium back. "And I didn't really decide what type of scars to give them; just did what I had to do to win." He stopped for a moment before giving a shrug, grimacing when it pulled at the stitches in his shoulder, and finally got standing. He was slightly peeved to note he was a good head shorter than her, too. "Guess I didn't exactly do enough."

 

He tried to look her in the eye and set his jaw, fighting to keep his eye from twitching as he did so. "Was there something you needed, miss? Or can I try and see about my friend here?"

 

==Tag B'elaa==


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#26 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21905.29 @ 22:31 (10:31 PM)

== B’elaa – Klingon Guard – the cell for Things One and Two ==

 

Hearing him having to fight for breath, shivering, while bewildered, made the impromptu interrogation all the more satisfying to B’elaa. She wondered silently if it was fear that the small man exuded, or if it was something else. The tone in which he spoke was still a little confrontational for her tastes, but it was part of the statement that he made that let her know she wasn’t dealing with the person who had maimed her colleagues,

 

"…And I didn't really decide what type of scars to give them; just did what I had to do to win.”

 

The green-eyed creature’s face contorted in pain, setting a fresh grin on B’elaa’s lips. It was the stitches, she was sure, considering the movement and body language that he had made thereafter.

 

These humans do not know true pain? They must be from core worlds, where every street has a clean clinic filled with pain relievers and dermal regenerators. Weak. Though they fight well, or one of them does. Hmmm…

 

"Guess I didn't exactly do enough."

 

Then there was a contemptuous, almost defiant look as he finished standing; having to tilt his head up as he did so in order to match her towering gaze. B’elaa nearly belly laughed as his artificial eye twitched this way and that. That amusement was quickly put into abeyance when the content and tone of his next words carried insolence in their wake.

 

"Was there something you needed, miss? Or can I try and see about my friend here?"

 

With the flick of her thumb, she raised the setting on her gadget from Low to Medium, and jammed it into his stomach twice in instant succession.

 

petaQ! You will speak with a civil tongue to me, or I will cut it out and feed it to your friend.”

 

[B’elaa,] her communicator chirped, and she let out a frustrated huff.

 

“Yes?” the words were dripping with rage and derision.

 

[This is not like the lower levels; don’t torture the ‘guests’. These two are scheduled to be sent to see Zovenok during the next transporter cycle. I don’t have to explain to you how he likes his guests to be treated…]

 

ghay'cha'” she first said under her breath before actually responding,

 

“Understood,” there was still a seething tone to her voice as she glared at the short one.

 

Being sent to see Zovenok… But why? What is special about these piles of forshak?

 

“B’elaa to Dorvnik. That favor you owe me; you can fulfill your obligation now. Distract the captain-of-the-guard for awhile.”

 

[Really? Now?] a whiny voice responded to her, only riling her up further.

 

“Yes now! Or are you going back on your word?”

 

[No, no. Of course not, of course not B’elaa. I’ll start right now. Don’t worry. I’ll say there is something wrong with the waste recycler or something.]

 

“Good. Keep him busy for as long as possible,” the last syllable was drawn out as a smile returned to her face.

 

B’elaa walked over to a small security cabinet, and keyed in a code, before withdrawing a PADD. It was a prop for a ruse, in order to make things move along more quickly. There wouldn’t be much time, and so she hoped this distraction would help.

 

“It will be just us for the next little while,” an evilly sardonic cackle erupted from B’elaa, surprising even herself. With her free hand she grabbed a solitary chair from beside the cabinet. Normally this wouldn’t be where they would do interrogations, for the sake of the other ‘guests’. Now, however, she had committed and needed to move forward.

 

Dragging the chair in front of the cell containing the two strangers, she made a few strokes on the PADD and brought up a set of programs they normally would use for lie detection. Then they were set to diagnostic mode, so that it looked like readings were coming in.

 

“Now, tell me everything. Your names. Why you are here. I will know if you are lying,” she turned the PADD around to show a myriad of computer programs running for lie detection, “and there will be punishment for dishonesty. I want to know why you two are so special.”

 

== tag Elias ==

 

 


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#27 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21905.30 @ 14:46 (02:46 PM)

I really should have seen that coming, Benjamin thought as the guard shouted at him and jammed the pain stick into his stomach. He also hadn't realized that it had multiple intensity settings. Fortunately, with the adrenaline already in his system from the previous hits, he managed to stay on his feet from the hit, though his back slid a bit down the wall.

 

When she hit him the second time, he fell to the floor, back still against the wall. He felt detached - the pain was still there, and intense, but it was as if it were happening a ways away, somewhere besides right here. His brain fought through the pain, trying to latch on to any other sensation; his eyes were locked shut, keeping him from seeing anything but the occasional burst of static from his artificial eye, so he reached out for other stimuli. The metal was cool against his back, helping offset the fire radiating out from his belly; he felt his jaw locking around a cry, only letting it leak out weakly around the edges. His hands tensed, trying to grip onto the edges of the floor stones, pulling at his fingernails.

 

No! that detached part screamed in his head. He would not give her the satisfaction. He would not give up like this. He didn't come all this way just to lie down in the corner of a dank cell and be sold off to the highest bidder. He remembered all the times when he was younger, helping his brother and sister stand up to their bullies in school and in the town. This was no different; this Klingon enjoyed indulging her power over others. That's all there was to it.

 

The captain trusted us to stay out of trouble, he thought, trying to pull himself together. How would Iris feel if she found out what had become of him? How would Eliana feel if they never came back to the ship? How would Cera feel?

 

Part of him wanted to latch on to that last thought and explore it further, but another part was listening, and heard a communicator chirp as he fought through the pain. It was a struggle to hear what was being said, the blood pulsing through his ears drowning out most of the content, but the frustration and rage in his torturer's voice was evident as she answered, as was the calm authority coming over the comm. [...don't have to explain to you how he likes his guests to be treated...] Benjamin managed to catch as he fought to get his hands and mouth back under control, finally relaxing his jaw, straightening his fingers.

 

Guests? he thought, trying to get his breathing under control and mostly failing. He could hear her close the communicator in frustration before reopening it and walking away from him. His eye twitched, but eventually he was able to open them and look around. "Yes now!" he heard her hiss in frustration from the hall. He had an idea, but knew he didn't have much time.

 

Thanking the lord that their cell wasn't large, Benjamin leaned over and pushed at his friend. "Nathan!" he hissed. He shook him again until he heard him stir. "Wake up, but lie still," he whispered, and heard the ***** walking back towards them dragging a chair.

 

"It will just be us for the next little while," she said with an over-the-top evil cackle as she came towards them. He leaned back against the wall, knees bent as if he was still trying to shake the effects of the painstick. Which, to be fair, wasn't hard to do, since it was the truth. His head spun a bit from the exertion of trying to get Nathan awake, and he closed his eyes against a wave of dizziness, instead listening as she slammed the chair down in front of their cell and did something else, producing a few electronic beeps.

 

He looked up, which caught her eye. She turned the padd she was holding towards him, showing him the displays running on it. "Now, tell me everything," she said. "Your names. Why you are here. I will know if you are lying, and there will be punishment for dishonesty." Of course there will be, he thought sarcastically to himself. She didn't seem like the type to pass up an opportunity to deliver pain when she and a chance. "I want to know why you two are so special."

 

Using the wall as a brace, Benjamin pushed himself up taller though he didn't try to stand on his own. "Well, I'm Benjamin, this is Nathan. We're here looking for a friend, and we were told he was around here somewhere." He chuckled for just a moment. "No idea why, though. This place is a dump." He pushed off the wall, staggering a bit before he sat down on the edge of his own cot, just a couple of paces across from Nathan's. He turned his head to look at his 'interrogator' before continuing, "All things considered, I'd much rather stay in one of those Ferengi monstrosities than here."

 

He rubbed a hand across his belly, trying to ease the lingering pain there. "But I have no idea why we're special," he said, answering her last question. Truthfully, actually: if the Syndicate was just trying to keep them off the trail of Byron, selling them off or just killing them would be the easiest course. There was no reason to treat them differently. "Surely if you were supposed to know, someone would've told you something," he added. He smiled chuckled deeply, letting it roll despite the pain in his abdominal muscles. "Maybe we're just more important than you are."

 

==Oh, I'm gonna get it this time==


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#28 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21905.31 @ 01:39 (01:39 AM)

== B’elaa ==

 

A curling grin that was something akin to a cartoonish villain spread on B’elaa’s face. This wasn’t interrogation. No, that would insinuate that this was work of some kind. Instead, this was a passion of hers, because she enjoyed every single moment that she got to watch her prey fall to the end of her pain stick. Perhaps she was sick, or just different, but it didn’t really matter when the rush hit her. It was like a drug really. A strong drug.

 

When he fell to the floor, her chin raised up and her eyes closed just for a moment, before she looked back to the so called ‘man’ before her. Then there was the softest, faintest sound that came from him. The way he clenched, it was obviously pain, but perhaps there was just the slightest hint of defeat there. Oh, and how he battled against it. It made B’elaa so happy that he hadn’t given in to her prodding. That would be too easy, and so much less fun.

 

"Well, I'm Benjamin, this is Nathan. We're here looking for a friend, and we were told he was around here somewhere.”

 

Then the tiny human k’pekt had the audacity to joke at his present situation,

 

"No idea why, though. This place is a dump... All things considered, I'd much rather stay in one of those Ferengi monstrosities than here."

 

B’elaa continued smiling through his rudeness, letting his words feed her malicious side. After all, he was trying to bait her, she knew. It wasn’t the first time it was tried, nor would it ever be the last. The righteous often did so. Some responded to it, often hastily and in violence. Those were the situations where you could find yourself in trouble, and B’elaa had seen it occur all to often working for The Fold. Big brutes who thought that something small and scrawny couldn’t do damage to them, but it was those with nothing left to lose who fought the hardest. They often saw their lives as forfeit, so why not go out fighting? She could respect that. But she wouldn’t get caught in it.

 

Should I play into the game of this Qa’Hom? To toy with him more?

 

Letting out an awful hiss, she stood from her chair as she placed the PADD on the floor. Her now free hand absentmindedly caressed the baton, while her eyes glared.

 

"But I have no idea why we're special. Surely if you were supposed to know, someone would've told you something," a patronizing grin crossed his mouth while a laugh escaped deep from his gut; B’elaa’s hands were near fists.

 

"Maybe we're just more important than you are."

 

QI’yaH! I should cut your tongue out right now yIntagh! Feed it to your boyfriend here, and then force you to eat his!”

 

On the shaft of the baton, her thumb flicked the level up higher, past High to Extreme. It had been a long, long time since she had used that level. It was rumored to be able to bring people out of comas, and even resurrect the recently deceased like some resuscitation device. There was the chance it could cause cardiac arrest in the little baktag, but she could easily get away with it. This, ‘Benjamin’ reached through the cage, tried to wrestle the pain stick device from her. No. Worse. He somehow knew about her bracelet, and tried to steal that.

 

“Oh little Ben,” she said in a faked, sweet voice bereft of the previous rage , “if only you knew the power of this device. I will enjoy watching you scream and squirm. When you wet yourself I will laugh. You’ll cry, I promise, and I will taste your tears. Before it is all over, you’ll be saying Iris’ name over and over like a prayer. When you think it has stopped, or that there couldn’t be any more pain, I will hit you again, and you will wail like a Ha'DIbaH. It will be like a symphony to my ears.”

 

Standing near the cage now, there was a slight tilt to her head, and a lilt in her voice,

 

“You think you’ve set a clever ruse here? By what, stoking my anger with your pitiful words?” B’elaa spit on him, then laughed loudly.

 

“Your friend here won’t save you, and all that you have coaxed from me is a world of pain…”

 

A sidelong glance at the other, Nathan, confirmed that he was still unconscious. The body was limp, and the breathing rhythmic as if in a deep sleep. Not one twitch nor movement had occurred since she had arrived. The man didn’t even react when she had first hit his friend with the pain stick. Satisfied, she turned and stared Benjamin in the eyes before driving her baton into his chest. To her surprise, through the immense pain he must have been suffering, he tried to hold onto her wrist.

 

“Enjoy it Benjamin! Feel it course through your body! Pain lets you know that you are alive!”

 

Out of the corner of her eye, she detected sudden and rapid motion; confusion immediately set in.

 

maw’tok…”

 

“Yeah,” the one known as Nathan said, “surprise *****.”

 

The last thing B’ella saw, was her body being pulled towards the metal bars, and her face slamming into them.

 

Then, pleasant darkness.

 

 


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#29 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21906.01 @ 03:53 (03:53 AM)

Benjamin wasn't sure when he blacked out, but as he came to, he realized that he had made some very bad assumptions with his plan. First, he had assumed that she wasn't all that bright. The fact that she saw through his ruse so easily put the lie to that, though he was also sure he wasn't the best liar she'd ever seen. Hell, he probably wasn't even the best liar she had seen today. Still, she did seem to actually get angry like he had wanted, and that always provoked bad judgement, which was essential for his plan to work.

 

Secondly, he'd assumed that she would come into the cell to torture him, that she'd want to enjoy it from close up like she had before. Unfortunately, she had seen fit not to cooperate with that portion of the plan, though he had still tried to grab at her. He hadn't had much choice in that; he didn't know how many tries he'd get, and this seemed like the best - if not only - opportunity he was likely to have. He had fortunately been able to snag the wrist that she was wielding the painstick with and hold on for dear life, assuming that 'fortunate' was the right word.

 

Which leads to faulty assumption number three: that the painstick only had two settings. At minimum, it had three.

 

Benjamin tried to take stock of his situation. He started small, trying to wiggle his fingers and toes, which was successful. He put his hands palm-down on the ground beneath him, noting the cold sensation as a good thing, and tried to push himself up to a sitting position. This was less successful, though he still made it. He felt hands on him helping him sit up. Ah, he thought. Nathan must be okay. He felt a cup pressed in his hands and put the water to his lips, taking a long drink. It helped him get his bearings, enough to realize Nathan had been talking some, though he had no idea what he'd said.

 

He finally opened his eyes. At some point, the guard had been dragged into the cell - the door was pushed to, but it didn't appear to be locked anymore - and restrained. She was bleeding from cuts on her head and her nose appeared to be broken. Somehow... it didn't quite seem like enough.

 

He took another sip of the water and finally said, "I'm okay." It wasn't exactly true - he was getting occasional bursts of static from his eye, and even breathing was enough movement to be painful - but he was functional, and didn't seem to have any lasting problems from the painstick. Just long, rambly thoughts.

 

"I guess now is the time to escape, right?" he said, and started to get up. "Only question is, where are we, and how can we get out?" He stepped over to their erstwhile guard and remembered something. She seemed surprised when I grabbed at that bracelet, he thought, and removed it from her arm. The only reason he'd grabbed at it was as a convenient hand-hold, but her reaction hinted at something more.

 

A suspicion that was validated when he turned it over and noted the circuitry on the underside. It wasn't much - it definitely wasn't a control mechanism, and didn't have anything by way of sensors or computing power - but it was definitely interesting. "Hmm..." he mused. "Looks like some kind of tag, an identifier. Could be for getting through doors or using a terminal. Could be some kind of friend-or-foe identifier." He turned it over and showed Nathan. "For all I know, it could be both."

 

Benjamin noted the other devices Nathan had already taken from the guard. Her painstick, padd, and communicator were all sitting on his cot, waiting for someone to use. He picked up the padd and saw the lie detector software was still running, and was in diagnostic mode rather than an active scan. That *****, he thought, and tossed the padd back down on the bed. It didn't contain much else. "With a little luck, I can probably reach the shuttle with the communicator and try to beam us out of here. It'll take a few minutes to work with it, get it to talk to Starfleet systems, though." He sighed, and added silently, But that doesn't help Byron.

 

"Maybe..." he started, unsure, before continuing on, "maybe there's a guard post on this level that might have some info. Think you could find it while I work on this?"

 

==Tag Nathan==


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#30 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21906.02 @ 22:29 (10:29 PM)

This is the nightmare scenario…

 

Having to hear that agonizing squeal out of his roommate would haunt Nathan for many sleeps to come, but it was the only way he was sure that the Klingon was not looking at him. Laying as still as he could, keeping his breathing regular, was more luck than skill. It was just him waiting for an opportunity to subdue their captor. No, their torturer.

 

When he had heard Benjamin yelp, that is when Nathan moved as fast as he possibly could. Every muscle where he had been hit by the stunning disruptor bolts screamed out in agony as he did so, but he did so. Grabbing onto to her arm, and pulling her into the metal of the cage multiple times seemed to render her unconscious in a rather quick fashion. And maybe he might have done it a couple extra times, as insurance and payback.

 

Somehow, in all of the fray, the door to their cell had come ajar. Considering the low-tech holding area that they were in, Nathan wondered if it wasn’t also shoddily built too. For the moment, that wasn’t something to give a lot of consideration to. He simply thanked whatever luck that had made it happen, and pulled the tall Klingon woman, with her pain implement, into their cell. Ramius then searched her, hoping to find a disruptor weapon, though she had been smart enough not to bring that with her. A communicator, PADD, some rapid-deploy restraints, and a wrist band of some type were all the he found.

 

Smart, but not smart enough.

 

Unceremoniously, he dumped her to the floor face down, and bound her with the restraints, before moving the pain stick well away from her. With the immediate threat taken care of, he returned to his attention to what his first impulse had been; the welfare of his brave companion.

 

Thankfully his friend had slid into unconsciousness, though his face still was scrunched up in as if in terrible pain. As he checked on Ben, there was a strong pulse and he was breathing, if a little shallow. Nathan moved his roommate into a recovery position, both so that his heart didn’t have to work as hard, and also so that if he retched, he wouldn’t aspirate on his own vomitus.

 

“Sorry Ben,” he said, gently tucking one of the engineer’s arms underneath his head.

 

With everything temporarily sorted, the pain started to seep back into his conscious thought. There were bandages over his front and rear right shoulder areas, and it didn’t seem like they had used a dermal regenerator on him.

 

For a well-organized - or supposedly so - group, they sure don’t splurge on niceties.

 

Rising from the floor, Nathan took the time to study their surroundings. First their holding area, which seemed to have a refresher station, some cots, and pillows; he assumed that blankets were purchasable at a premium price. Whatever the bars were made out of, they seemed quite durable, a good quality metal-alloy of some type. He wouldn’t be surprised if they contained some amount of diburnium, so they could stun the prisoners without damaging the structure.

 

Outside of the cell, the setup seemed rather strange for a prison. Partitions for privacy. Multiple cells. And then the odd protrusions in the ceiling, spaced out evenly, that covered every cell entrance and then some. He opened the door to the cell, and took a step towards the threshold, but paused suddenly.

 

This doesn’t feel right. No other guards. No watch posts or centralized area to monitor their guests… looking back up, his mind starting making an argument for assuming that the things on the ceiling were either sensors, or phaser emitters.

 

The sounds of pain and agony echoed off the partitions into each of Nathan’s ears like stereo sound. Whipping around, he saw that Elias had come to.

 

“Try not to move too much Ben. You’re going to be lightheaded for awhile,” he quickly moved over to the refresher station and filled up a bio-degradable paper cup with water. Running back over to his friend, he kneeled and helped the engineer to sit up.

 

“Here, drink this,” gently, he helped place the cup into Ben’s hands, and even kept the hold on the cup until he was sure that the man had a firm grasp.

 

"I'm okay."

 

“Liar,” Nathan said with a chuckle.

 

"I guess now is the time to escape, right?"

 

“Whoa whoa whoa, slow down. You’ve just been pain stick tazed and knifed in the span of a couple of hours. Take it easy on the heroics.”

 

"Only question is, where are we, and how can we get out?"

 

Nathan could only sigh as Ben went right back to work, not taking his health into consideration. It was admirable, and probably exactly what Ramius would do, so he didn’t bother to press it further. It didn’t seem unusual for Elias to make a bee-line for the Klingon. What was surprising is that he didn’t bother to give her a good boot, and instead went straight for the bracelet on her arm, which he removed and inspected.

 

"Hmm... looks like some kind of tag, an identifier. Could be for getting through doors or using a terminal. Could be some kind of friend-or-foe identifier,” Ben offered Nathan a chance to inspect it too, “for all I know, it could be both."

 

“Eff-oh-eff… that would make sense. There are, what I think are, phaser emitters on the ceiling. This could be used to track the guards so they don’t get stunned in case there was a breakout attempt.”

 

“With a little luck, I can probably reach the shuttle with the communicator and try to beam us out of here. It'll take a few minutes to work with it, get it to talk to Starfleet systems, though. Maybe..." he started, unsure, before continuing on, "maybe there's a guard post on this level that might have some info. Think you could find it while I work on this?"

 

“Sure, but don’t beam us out just yet. If you can get a connection with the shuttle, maybe you could send a message to the cavalry; Eliana, or Michelle Price… or both honestly. I'd say the Captain, but... considering my track record, I'd rather leave Crawford as a 'last resort'. Plus, we can’t leave just yet…”

 

Mentioning Byron wasn’t needed, as he was sure that Benjamin could easily read the long pause he left at the end of his request. But it wasn’t just about Byron either. If this facility housed prisoners, then it might house others captured or otherwise abducted by this organization. If so, they we ethically and morally bound to help them.

 

“Be right back,” Nathan said as he strapped the bracelet on.

 

Again, he stood at the threshold of their cell, took in a deep breath, and then stepped out with his eyes wincing. Nothing bad came of it, and so he let out a long thankful exhalation. With some urgency, he took in his surroundings, and moved toward a security door. There were others in the cells that lined the pathway he strode along, but none of them bothered to look up. They were well and truly submissive, the primary reason probably hanging out with Benjamin at the moment.

 

The door was sturdy, built right into the wall. Unlike the rest of the facility so far, this was a high-security bit of business. It looked to be the thickness of a blast door, with four of those emitters in the immediate vicinity, along with a pair of what he assumed were sensors. When he ran the bracelet before the console of the door, a green bar came up, while a red one remained.

 

“Damn,” there was no other way to input information into the console that he could see, other than a touch-screen button that looked like it was for initiating comms.

 

I’d rather not at the moment.

 

Nathan hoped to pry the console out, but like the door, it was built right into the wall, with nowhere to get any leverage on the screen area. At least, not without a tool to pry with. He took a few more minutes to study the door, and then to reconnoiter the rest of the area, before walking back to his cell.

 

“Security door at the end, with phaser emitters everywhere, and especially there. Looks like the bracelet is part of the access requirements, but I can’t get through without some other input. I’m thinking they have sensors that can pickup individual life signs of the guards for a fail-safe.

 

Did you have any luck with the communicator?”

 

== tag! ==


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#31 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21906.03 @ 03:43 (03:43 AM)

“Sure, but don’t beam us out just yet," Nathan replied. "If you can get a connection with the shuttle, maybe you could send a message to the cavalry; Eliana, or Michelle Price… or both honestly. I'd say the Captain, but... considering my track record, I'd rather leave Crawford as a 'last resort'. Plus, we can’t leave just yet…”

 

Benjamin nodded slowly, not so much with solemnity as trying to avoid hurting his head. There was still Byron to find, after all. He wasn't sure how much Eliana could help, much less Nathan's girlfriend. He didn't even know if she was in the sector, much less in a position to help out. As for Captain Crawford... he wasn't sure how they were going to explain all of this when they got back (he refused to believe they wouldn't get back). Trying to explain their situation right now didn't seem like a winning move, either. And then there's her reputation, he thought. She wasn't exactly the most... subtle... of people. Dedicated, loyal, and efficient, yes, but not so subtle.

 

Eventually, Nathan took the wristband, put it on, and headed to the cell door. "Be right back," he said, and headed down the hallway. Benjamin listened for a moment, paranoid, but he didn't hear anything and so bent to the communicator.

 

It was a fairly typical civilian model, really. It had been hardened against external threats, and was definitely a heavy-duty model - ruggedized exterior, simple interface to keep down on potential problems, that kind of thing - but it wasn't really much of anything special. And was, in fact, very similar to devices he had worked with before. Almost on instinct, he turned it over and popped the back of the device off, exposing the circuitry.

 

They spend so much time hardening these things against external attacks, he thought, but there's not much you can do to stop someone that actually has it in their hands. If he was trying to hack into it remotely, about all he could do would be to change the volume of the speaker. But since he could actually get to the circuit, he could do pretty much whatever he wanted.

 

In this instance, he was able to move a couple of jumpers on the circuit board, and alter the frequency that the device operated on. It wasn't exactly right, but it was going to be detectable by the shuttle, assuming it had range. They had parked on a geosynchronous station, so he should. He hoped.

 

He hit the button on the communicator and whispered, "Elias to Shuttlecraft Moonsilver. Computer, respond." He crossed his fingers. Or tried to - it still hurt.

 

[Nonstandard frequency detected,] the computer replied. [Please state your access code.]

 

He sighed with relief. "Elias Three Three Null-Seven Alpha Nine."

 

[Code confirmed. Standing by.]

 

"Computer, can you get a transporter lock on myself and Midshipman Ramius?"

 

[Negative,] the computer replied. [Cannot isolate biosigns for Ramius. Please reduce his distance to the communicator.]

 

He sighed again, this time in frustration. So we'll have to be together in order to escape, he thought. Not the biggest problem, but it definitely limited their options, since they couldn't split up and still escape.

 

"Okay, computer," he said again, continuing to whisper. "Record a message and send it to Lieutenant Hobritz on the Artemis. Begin recording.

 

"Eli, this is Benjamin. Nathan and I are in a bit of trouble. We came to Pomn to try and find Nathan's brother. Family friend? Basically brother. Anyway. We got jumped by a couple of goons, and were captured. We're trying to escape now, but backup would definitely be appreciated.

 

"End recording. Computer, send that as soon as possible." He heard Nathan coming back down the hallway, and wrapped things up. "Keep a lock on the communicator until otherwise instructed." The computer beeped an acknowledgement, and Benjamin closed the channel.

 

Nathan came back into the cell looking a bit frustrated. "Security door at the end, with phaser emitters everywhere and especially there. Looks like the bracelet is part of the access requirements, but I can't get through without some other input. I'm thinking they have sensors that can pick up individual life signs of the guards for a fail safe. Did you have any luck with the communicator?"

 

He nodded. "I did, actually. Got a link to the shuttle. It can lock onto us, but only if we stay near the communicator. Must be something in the building keeping the targeting sensors from penetrating easily; it can find us using the communicator as a reference point, but not on their own. Also sent a message to Eli, but even if she were to get it in the next few minutes, she can't be here for more than half a day. We're on our own."

 

He sighed, wondering what to do. If the guard room is locked off, there's got to be a way in. "Maybe you could carry her down to the door with you? Keep her close, and hopefully the weapons won't target her. With her biosigns there, maybe the door will open." He shrugged a bit, wincing as the stiches on his shoulder pulled slightly. "And if the weapons do target her, you should find that out pretty quickly and can get back in the cell and out of the way."

 

==Tag!==


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#32 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21906.03 @ 22:12 (10:12 PM)

"I did, actually. Got a link to the shuttle. It can lock onto us, but only if we stay near the communicator. Must be something in the building keeping the targeting sensors from penetrating easily; it can find us using the communicator as a reference point, but not on their own. Also sent a message to Eli, but even if she were to get it in the next few minutes, she can't be here for more than half a day. We're on our own."

 

Nathan nodded, the information didn’t add to the growing tension he was feeling in his stomach about things. When he did his reconnoiter, he did check the other cells. The people in them seemed healthy enough, save for averting gazes. Though not one of them looked like Byron. Ramius could only hope that Ada's brother - his brother - was being held somewhere else in the facility.

 

"Maybe you could carry her down to the door with you? Keep her close, and hopefully the weapons won't target her. With her biosigns there, maybe the door will open."

 

“Great minds…” a slight chuckle escaped the security officer.

 

"And if the weapons do target her, you should find that out pretty quickly and can get back in the cell and out of the way."

 

“Heh,” another chuckle, a little more malicious this time, “I wouldn’t mind seeing that. I’m glad we are on the same page though, regarding the phaser emitters. If we are both thinking the same thing, I’m fairly confident we might be right. Except, the plan won’t involve me.”

 

A breath in, a breath out. Then, he looked straight at Ben.

 

“I’d rather- it should- unfortunately, it has to be you. Even if I knew the systems they were using for security, I’m no hacker. I know that you aren’t either, but at least you can open things up and poke in the internals.

 

Yes, it’s going to have to be you,” he started removing the wrist band, “either drag the ***** or carry her, but you are going to have to take her with you. I don’t think the phasers will target you or her; the guards have to have some way of moving prisoners back and forth. There has to be some calibration, protocol, or algorithm that allows them to do that without dodging phaser fire. As long as you have her in close proximity with the band on, you’ll likely be safe.”

 

Handing the band to Benjamin, he gave a sympathetic smile, before picking up the stun baton. he made sure to collapse it back to a manageable size and changed the settings for high stun, though he wasn’t sure if that meant high pain too.

 

Who cares, these criminals deserve a little pain!

 

“Take this, taze, beat, stab and otherwise go ham on anyone that is in that security area. If you can, disable the emitters and sensors, and then use internal comms to let me know things are safe. What do ya’ say?”

 

== godspeed! ==


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#33 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21906.04 @ 21:58 (09:58 PM)

The longer Nathan talked, the further Benjamin's stomach dropped. By the time he finished and handed him the painstick, he was sure that his stomach was located somewhere around this forsaken planet's core, and could generate a ton of geothermal power if only it weren't a metaphor.

 

He sat there for a minute and thought about it, though, and came to the conclusion - God help him - that Nathan was right. In a fight, Nathan was what they needed, but if there was anything technical to be done, then it was going to be up to him. What the hell did I get into, he thought as he took the stick from his friend and stood up. He started mentally cursing Byron for getting caught, Ada - Ava? He couldn't quite remember - for pulling Nathan in, and proceeding down the list of everyone involved in getting him stuck here, but just nodding to Nathan as he put the bracelet on his wrist.

 

"Help me get her up," he said, and they were able to get the guard settled, with his uninjured side supporting her weight. He started dragging her down the hall - it hadn't seemed nearly this long from inside his cell - and started the list back over again. The stupid Starfleet bureaucrat who assigned him to the Gettysburg, the blighted Academy person who had sent Nathan to the Gettysburg, whoever assigned them quarters together - though that may have been Commander Braggins, so he rescinded his curses just in case.

 

Finally, he reached the door. It was well built and set deep in the wall, as was the control panel, likely as a security precaution. He waved the bracelet at it and one light turned green, while the other remained stubbornly red. "Here goes nothing," he gritted, straining under the Klingon's weight and the awkwardness of trying to drag someone that much taller than he was, and he took her hand and waved it in front of the control panel as well.

 

Nothing happened for a moment, but finally the light turned green and the door clicked open. He gratefully pushed it open and dumped the guard just inside the door as he looked around. The guard post was deserted, but the consoles were locked down. A bank of monitors took up most of the far wall, showing what looked like views of all the cells on this level. There was another smaller set on the right, with four monitors that were rotating. From the codes displayed on each, it looked like they were secondary surveillance on other levels of the complex. He hoped that other areas didn't have a similar setup, or at least that they weren't paying attention.

 

He stepped up to one of the consoles and woke it up. It, of course, asked for a passcode. That's my luck, he thought, and got down on the floor, ready to pry into the guts of the machine. It wasn't anything terribly complex; an older generation isolinear system, likely bought second or third hand from the Klingons when they finally began upgrading. A quick survey of the components told him most of what he needed to know, and he just had to hope that he wasn't going to trigger alarms by doing so.

 

He pulled out a pair of chips and put the left one where the right had been. Then, he took the painstick and turned the settings all the way down - he'd have preferred a phaser, or even better some proper ****ing tools, but just had to hope that this would work - and activated it in the empty socket, before quickly dropping the remaining chip into the still-sparking hole. He backed up quickly and looked at the console, which wavered for a moment before flashing off and then back on. It was still asking for a passcode.

 

He bent to the interface and typed in a single word and hit enter. [Access granted], it flashed, and the bank of consoles activated. "Great Bird of the Galaxy, it worked," he breathed, a smile crossing his face as he dropped into the chair. He hadn't been sure he'd be able to flash the security settings back to default, but it had worked.

 

No time to rest, he chided himself, and pulled up to the console. He had to move between a few screens before he finally found the intruder countermeasure programs. How in the nine hells do I get Nathan in here? he thought before coming up with an idea. It was, all things considered, a terrible idea, but it was the only one he had. And besides, terrible has worked so far.

 

He got into the file system and performed a few manipulations, moving system files around for a few minutes before he was satisfied. He closed the countermeasure program, and then bent back below the console. He removed a single chip and, going back to the console, pulled the countermeasures back up.

 

[System error], it proclaimed. [Target data not found. System in standby, awaiting input.] He turned to activate the communicator and let Nathan know when the system continued. [Searching for target data; alarm will sound in one minute if not located.]

 

He hit the switch. "Nathan, get your *** down here. It safe for now, but not for long."

 

==Tag Nathan==


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#34 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21906.05 @ 02:19 (02:19 AM)

hus·tle

verb

1. force (someone) to move hurriedly or unceremoniously in a specified direction.

 

 

 

Nathan was already in full sprint the moment he heard Benjamin’s voice. Not only was he a trained security officer, but his body was a temple. A finely tuned machine. A work of art. Chiseled from only the most gorgeous of stone – no, correction: marble. Carrara marble to be exact. Italian marble! And sculpted by the most amazing of artisans, like Antonio Corradini. Nathan Ramius was a Rococo treasure.

 

What he didn’t count on was hitting his knee on the metal bar as he exited their cell. The pain was immediate. His eyesight dwindled, becoming a tunnel and nearly collapsing as he lay on the floor making odd sounds while nursing the knee with both of his hands. The sudden move to grab the knee only inflamed the injuries where he had been shot.'

 

AHHhhhh!” he cried out, followed by a long string of uncommon expletives that would have made a Klingon blush.

 

“I…AM…SO…STUPID…” despite yelling the words, they didn’t get far as they had to escape through his gritted teeth.

 

How?! HOW?! I am a top-notch Star Fleet officer, and I run my knee into a stationary, metal bar? Damnit Nathan!

 

Finally coming to his senses, he peeled himself up off the floor, and stood up for a moment. It was just a moment. His knee buckled as soon as he put pressure on it.

 

Oh wait… this my bad knee isn’t it?

 

Knowing he had to get going, lest something bad happen… like phasers *pew pew*ing him… he forced himself into a hunched stance.

 

 

 

hob·ble

verb

1. walk in an awkward way, typically because of pain from an injury.

 

 

 

There was something to be thankful for, Nathan knew in that moment. At least no one he knew was watching him, or had seen his little accident. There were more than enough things in his life that he had already mucked up, and running into something during a dangerous situation was not something he needed to haunt him. There were sensors though. There was the possibility that someone saw. As long as it wasn’t Ben who saw, he didn’t care. Well, he did care, but not in that moment.

 

“C’mon Quasimodo, you’ve got some bells to ring,” despite huffing and puffing, not because of exertion but from the pain, he still had time to be a smart ***. It didn’t last long though.

 

Nathan wondered if he had passed out, or if he really had taken too long, as it looked like the emitters were starting to come to life. Previously, they had just been grayscale. Now, each one he passed had a little green light, which then turned to red. The emitter itself then turned a hue of yellow-orange.

 

I gotta bad feeling about this…

 

“CUT THE POWER!” he yelled.

 

“TURN THEM OFF BEN!”

 

TURN OFF ALL THE PHASER EMITTERS ON THIS LEVEL!

 

== tag ==


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#35 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21906.05 @ 02:57 (02:57 AM)

[Target data not found. Alarm sounding in thirty seconds.]

 

Where the **** are you? Benjamin thought. It didn't take thirty seconds to sprint from their cell to this door. Nathan should have already arrived.

 

[Target data not found. Alarm sounding in fifteen seconds.]

 

He realized he'd been watching the door, and turned to look at the monitors, only to see Nathan hobbling down the hallway, barely going faster than a snail. He said something in Ferengi about Nathan's finances - one of the viler curses in the language, though it was merely amusing the Benjamin - and turned back to the console. He didn't have a choice. And here you thought that your worst plan of the day involved you getting hit by a painstick.

 

He reached under the console and put the control chip back into place. [Target data found,] the console said pleasantly. [Reacquiring target locks.]

 

Of course, Benjamin wasn't there to listen. He had gotten out the door as soon as the chip locked into place.

 

He skidded to a stop beside Nathan, who was screaming for him to turn off the now-powering up phaser arrays he had his eyes locked on. Fortunately, as soon as Benjamin got next to Nathan and grabbed his arm, the phasers recognized the F-O-F signal and powered down, just as they had ignore the Klingon guard while he held - dragged - her down the hall.

 

"Of all the half-brained, idiotic, no-good..." he muttered, trying to rein himself in, "you pick now as the best time to bang up your knee?!" He put one of Nathan's arms over his shoulder and started walking with him down the hallway towards the guard's room.

 

They rounded the corner, and Ben was glad he had taken the half second or so to throw the still-unconscious Klingon guard into the doorway. It had tried to close, but had instead caught on her chest, though it looked like it had smacked her in her injured nose first. And I can't say I feel sorry for her, he thought uncharitably.

 

Finally, though, he maneuvered them inside and settled Nathan into a chair before going back and picking the woman up so he could close the door back. "I'm sorry, I couldn't reprogram the countermeasures. I had removed the target data, but it's got a failsafe that kept me from leaving it out for very long. I was hoping you'd be able to work with the program itself, maybe reset it somehow, but then you had to go and cripple yourself on me." He smiled as he tried to catch his breath, trying to show he was kidding, at least somewhat. "Consoles are unlocked, so whatever you need to do, give it a shot."

 

==Tag Nathan==


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#36 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21906.06 @ 18:55 (06:55 PM)

Maneuvering into the security room, Nathan couldn’t help by notice Benjamin’s shrewd use of a Klingon doorstop. It made him chuckle quite loudly, while simultaneously making small mewling noises because of his knee.

 

“Clever.”

 

Once they were inside though, with Ramius in a comfy chair, Ben went on to explain what had happened – chiding Nathan for hurting his knee. The security officer simply nodded and agreed, despite Elias' joking. It hadn’t been part of the plan, but it was what it was. Thankfully, Elias’ quick thinking saved the day – or, at least, saved Nathan’s rump from more energy blasts.

 

Like I need more of those in my life right now, the bandaged areas where the disruptor fire had hit him ached just thinking about it.

 

“Ahhh, veqlargh!” the exclamation came as Ramius turned and saw the security system.

 

“I know this system! It’s called ‘The Monster’ to the Klingons. Well, the direct translation is ‘demon’… anyway, we used this during a training simulation back at the Academy. I know this thing inside and out,” he hesitated before sheepishly looking at Ben,

 

“I, ah, you probably didn’t need to be the one to make the trip here had I known that.”

 

With that being said, Nathan didn’t wait for a reaction from his roommate, and instead went straight to work. Pulling up different aspects of the security system, he had control over a great deal of things: individual doors, phaser emitters, targeting, sensors - just about anything someone would ever want for a jail break.

 

“I can’t believe they’d leave this station unguarded. Maybe they’ve become complacent? I have access to just about everything. I can make changes so that the emitters target RFID holders instead of prisoners. Change the access protocols so that anyone who has their DNA in the database can’t open doors. Everything.”

 

Now, what to do with it all?

 

Taking a look through the sensors, along with live feeds from audio/visual elements, he could see that the lower levels were packed with abductees. Thankfully, the number of guards was few, though with the ability to target them with the phasers, that wouldn’t be an issue anyway. Searching through various feeds, it looked like the majority of personnel were at lunch, as there was a congregation of them in one of the Mess Halls.

 

“Locking them down won’t be an issue,” he said in between console strokes, “most of them seem to be…” there was a significant pause as he looked at Ben out of the corner of his eye, “out to lunch.”

 

He waited for a laugh from Elias, but then thought better of joking at a time like this.

 

“Right, anyway. I’ve set it up so that all of them will be locked out, and the emitters will target RFID holders. I have also given us access, via that communicator that you have, for voice commands to the computer. When we are ready to go, all I have to do is push this button,” he motioned.

 

Now, he focused on the prisoners. The easiest way would be to open the cells, and then open pathways to the exits. There were emergency stairwells that leaded to the surface, and hopefully to safety. However, opening those doors would trigger an alarm; even from the security console. It was hardwired that way.

 

Hopefully the ‘Red Room’ doesn’t have a contingent in the club…

 

With just about everything ready for an escape, he finally focused on their primary task. After a couple of minutes, Nathan’s frustration started coming to the surface.

 

“I can’t find Byron,” even looking through the feeds, it was tough to see individual faces. And, other than the local security force, no one else was listed in the database.

 

“Maybe I can…” he started talking to himself as he rather through some search algorithms, attempting to input Byron’s height, weight, hair color and other features for the computer to scan current detainees.

 

“This might take a few minutes,” he looked back to Ben, “the computer is going to conduct a visual and sensor search for Byron, but this underground complex has thirteen levels and includes initial processing areas, holding bays, and even transporter sites.”

 

Turning his attention back to the computer, he attempted to see if there was anyway he could hurry the thing along.

 

“We are also working with an older system too, so that isn’t helpi…”

 

The sound of the door opening cut his words off, as the captain-of-the-watch had finally returned to his post.

 

== more fun for Ben! Tag! ==


Edited by Mid Nathan Ramius, Star Date 21906.06 @ 19:00 (07:00 PM).

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#37 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21906.08 @ 02:18 (02:18 AM)

For a few minutes, Benjamin couldn't even think. You know this system? he thought. He didn't have to do that scramble down the hall with the **** Klingon guard, he didn't actually have to try and rewire the system, and - best of all - the scramble down the hallway to grab Nathan before the phaser emplacements powered up was completely unnecessary.

 

Now, the rational part of Benjamin's brain knew that there was no way to know that. They hadn't seen the system before he go them in here. It was still the right call to send someone who at least knew the basics of how the computer systems would be wired rather than sending the security officer. It was logical. But do I look like a Vulcan? another part of him asked.

 

Eventually, though, he noted that Nathan was looking at him, a stupid grin on his face. "Locking them down won't be an issue. Most of them seem to be... out to lunch."

 

The groan he let out was audible, and his head hung down to his chest, head in hand. You could hit him with the painstick, the least rational part of him grumbled, and nobody would ever know. He ignored himself, though he did tighten his grip on the weapon in his hand. Fortunately, Nathan quickly thought better of his jokes, and laid out everything he'd been able to accomplish. It was a very substantial list; they basically had complete control of the system at this point.

 

"Well, that's something, at least," he said. "You think they have a database of some kind?" Nathan turned and bent to it, having had the same thought. If they could find Byron, maybe they could get him out and be on their way before anyone missed them.

 

Unfortunately, it seems like they weren't that lucky. "I can't find Byron," he said. Nathan kept working, setting up a few search algorithms in case they didn't have him in by name. "This might take a few minutes. The computer is going to conduct a visual and sensor search for Byron, but this underground complex has thirteen levels and includes initial processing areas, holding bays, and even transporter sites." The disappointment in his voice was palpable, though he still sounded hopeful. "We are also working with an older system, so that isn't helpi--"

 

He was cut off by the one sound that neither one of them wanted to hear: the door opening. Benjamin spun quickly, eyes wide with panic as the door slid open to reveal another human, obviously one of the guards. If anything, he was more surprised than the two of them were. "Who the **** are you?!" he said, and reached for his weapon - an actual firearm, he noted, rather than a painstick or truncheon. I guess he's more important.

 

Normally, something like this, he'd leave it to Nathan. After all, he was more experienced in close combat, he was better trained for it, and it was, after all, his job. Unfortunately, Benjamin was closer, and they didn't have time to waste. He saw his one chance, and went for it.

 

Benjamin shook the painstick, extending it to its full length and making the weapon tip crackle, and moved quickly towards the door, approaching from his left and making to use the door itself as an obstruction. The guard saw it and moved to get out of the way, stepping inside and keeping his eyes on Benjamin as he raised the disruptor.

 

With his eyes locked on the threat, though, he missed the fact that the Klingon woman was still unconscious in the floor just inside the door. He stepped on her leg, lost his footing, and fell over. His arms went out wide on reflex, the disruptor pointing at nothing, and Benjamin leapt at him, jamming the painstick into his attacker.

 

It wasn't enough to knock him out, but it was enough to stun him for a moment, which Benjamin used to adjust the settings on the weapon up to its highest setting and jam it into the guard's throat. He didn't make contact for long, but it was definitely long enough. Catching his breath, Benjamin closed the door back and set the lock this time before going back to check on the man. His throat was spasming, but seemed to be calming, and he was still breathing. 

 

Benjamin dropped into a chair, still trying to catch his breath. It hadn't been a long fight, but his adrenaline was still running high. "So," he said, "next time, you get to do the fighting."

 

==Tag Nathan!==


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#38 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21906.10 @ 02:25 (02:25 AM)

"Who the **** are you?!"

 

Whirling about in his chair, Nathan was ready for a fight the moment that he heard the door open. It wasn’t until he heard the *click* of the extendable baton that he knew his expertise wouldn’t be needed; though he still rose out of the chair to meet the danger, despite the pain to his knee. The guard haphazardly entered the room, and stumbled over the unconscious Klingon woman. Nathan couldn’t help but let out a chuckle, as the woman was increasing helpful to their cause – doorstop and floor trap could easily be added to her soon to be extensive resume.

 

Benjamin jabbed the would-be-defender not once, but twice. The second time wasn’t just for good measure, as the first had only jostled him, but when Elias tagged him in the throat, Nathan instinctively gulped along with guard.

 

“Hot damn Ben!” Ramius chortled, “That’s some vicious ****; I approve!”

 

“So, next time, you get to do the fighting.”

 

Shaking his head while still laughing, the security officer returned to the console, only to find an incredibly disheartening message appear,

 

[Subject matching user’s parameters not found. Update parameters and search again.]

 

****! He isn’t here,” there was a long sigh before he curled up his fists and nearly bashed them against the console.

 

“They’ve moved Byron, or they never held him here in the first place. Either way, we are right back to where we started and we have no leads.”

 

There was a stunning amount of anger that managed to surge through him just then; a mix of pain, frustration, anxiety, and hunger. Nathan had thought for sure that they had found him. That he would be there. Instead, it was just a dead-end along with a significant amount of agony for their troubles, more so for Elias than Ramius.  But then, there was a brief moment of clarity. It had been lost amongst the other emotions and physical distress, yet it popped into the forefront of his thoughts, as if thrust there by the brain itself.

 

“He was here, at some point. They saw him. Kept him long enough to scan his likeness and create a hologram or something like it…”

 

With that in mind, he opened up the security console and ran his search program again, but this time using archived footage from the last few days. Then, he went into access logs while the computer did its thing, to see if they moved someone from the club, to anywhere else except the Processing area of the facility.

 

There were several times that there had been access from the Red Room to the facility via a turbolift, that did not go down to the Processing level. Quickly, he updated his search to coincide with those timeframes. Seconds later, the computer found a match.

 

“AH HA!” he exclaimed and pulled up the footage.

 

“There is Byron, he was led to an interrogation room just a level below us. Look, they are setting up some equipment,” he pointed to the screen and watched as a bunch of thugs surrounded his near-brother with some kind of gear on tripods. Then an apparatus on each projected a horizontal light onto Byron, running up and down the length of him. Afterward a vertical light also reached out, doing much the same.

 

“Alright, alright, alright. Then where did you take him?” fast-forwarding the footage, the computer tracked the movements and showed the same thugs taking him straight to the transporter room.

 

“They beamed him out!”

 

Excitement unbridled, Nathan punched in a series of commands. Then punched in another series of commands. Then again. It happened a couple more times until excitement turned to frustration, then to anger, and then to rage.

 

“Their security system doesn’t track beamouts?! Are you kidding?!?! What kind of ****** up, **** for brains…” the expletives spewed forth in a torrent, along with spittle and a red face. Then, he stopped.

 

“Those transporters... those consoles... surely they have the logs…” he looked to Ben, a growing smile turning impish rapidly.

 

“If I can get you to the transporters, think you could pull the logs?”

 

Cheeks flushed, there was the hint of something in Nathan's eyes.

 

== tag Ben! ==


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#39 Ens Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21906.10 @ 20:13 (08:13 PM)

Nathan congratulated him on how he'd fought the guard, but Benjamin was too tired to do more than just acknowledge it. Fighting wasn't his thing, and he was just glad that it had gone quickly this time, and with a bit more success than the last one. He wasn't particularly proud of how vicious he had gotten there at the end, but still, it had gotten the job done.

 

He was only half listening when Nathan got upset, still facing the consoles. Evidently, Byron wasn't actually being held here which wasn't entirely surprising when confronted with the fact. After all, for an organization as big as the Syndicate was, and as big as the planet was, for him to actually still be at the last place he was seen was kind of a low odds game in the first place.

 

Benjamin rolled his shoulder some, wincing as the poorly-healed stab wound there pulled. He was sweating hard from the exertion of the past few minutes - carrying the not-so-light Klingon down here, dragging Nathan down the hallway, fighting the guard - and was suddenly getting cold since he didn't have a shirt anymore. And I liked that shirt, he thought a bit petulantly. It had been one he got in the Academy, from a bar there he'd frequented. Not really anything special, when it came down to it, but he'd had some good memories with that shirt.

 

Are you really getting torn up over a shirt? he asked himself as Nathan continued to talk, re-running some scans of some kind. He tried to take stock, and wondered if he was going into shock. He didn't think so, but he was definitely getting cold. He looked around, and found what he was looking for. He got up and went to the storage lockers in the back corner, opening one up fully to grab the jacket that was inside. It was a leather one, spikes on the shoulders, and about a size too large for him, but he put it on anyway. The sleeves came down to his knuckles, and he couldn't help but chuckle at the image as he set about rolling the sleeves up just a tad.

 

"AH HA!" Nathan exclaimed loudly, and Benjamin stopped suddenly and looked. "There is Byron," Nathan said as he pulled some footage up on the main screen, and Benjamin walked over behind him as he finished up rolling the sleeves. "He was led to an interrogation room just a level below us." He kept talking, describing what they were doing to him, and fast-forwarding to follow him to his next destination, a transporter room. Nathan excitedly typed in a series of commands, and another, and another. He could feel his friend's unbridled hope fading more and more each time, until finally he gave up in frustration and anger. "Their security system doesn't track beamouts?!?!" he cried out, before cursing the security crew, the system, the system's designers, and a few other people.

 

Then he stopped suddenly. "Those transporters.... those consoles... surely they have logs..." He turned and looked at Benjamin, an impish smile growing steadily across his face. "If I can get you to the transporters, think you could pull the logs?"

 

"Of course," he replied. "Assuming they haven't been wiped already, I should be able to. We'll just need the timecode from when he beamed out." He scrounged around for a moment before he found a spare isolinear chip, to which he copied all the relevant data for Byron, and then (for good measure) made a copy of several other interrogations and processing sessions, in case they wanted to pass that over to the authorities, for whatever good it would do. V'olk at least looked like he was both competent and not in someone's pockets too deep, he thought, though it was shortly after they went to see him that they were captured. One thing at a time. Then, he went over to the still-unconscious guards, and with Nathan's help tied them securely together and out of reach of anything they could use to escape, as well as relieving the new one of his communicator and firearm, which Nathan promptly took. A quick call in to the shuttle had it targeting both communicators to use in the event they needed to use it's transporters to escape, and Nathan activated his changes to the security system.

 

"Alright," he said once they had finally gotten ready, "let's go." Nathan led the way down the hall and stairs, getting them to the transporters with far less trouble than Benjamin had anticipated. I guess most of the guards really were at lunch, he thought with a grin as he held the painstick close and tried his best to look in every direction at once.

 

Once they arrived, Benjamin locked the door behind them and turned to look at the console. He felt his stomach hit the floor and finally come to rest about two levels down. "Oh, no," he said, and walked over to the curved console, activating the panels on it as he did so. "Dammit. They must be getting their tech from wherever they can salvage it, or whoever gives them the best deal at the time. This thing is Cardassian." He hit his fist into the console, clenching the useless isoliner chip in it.

 

Nathan looked at him, a questioning look on his face, and Benjamin just sighed. He stuck a finger in a hole near the top of the console. "Cardassians don't use isolinear chips for their data storage. They use rods. This system isn't compatible with the one upstairs, that's why the records weren't archived with the rest." He held up the chip he had for emphasis. "And we also can't get the data we just grabbed up there with this thing, either."

 

He sighed, stuffed the chip in the jacket's pocket, and leaned on the console. "At least they've got a translation matrix on this thing," he mused as he looked at the thing. No sense moping, he thought, and got to work. It was fairly simple to look up the transporter logs, and it looked like they were fairly complete. "Looks like they do a lot of beaming through here," he said aloud for Nathan's benefit. Everything looked pretty normal, until he looked over at the destination coordinates.

 

"That's odd," he said, and scrolled through the list. There were a few that didn't match, but the vast majority of them were to a single destination, but that didn't add up. Why would they be sending them... and then it clicked. A few choice expletives of his own later, Benjamin managed to say "I don't know which one in particular was Byron, but virtually everyone they beam out of here goes to one place: a ship in orbit. I really hope you remember that timecode, Nathan," he said, and waved him to the console.

 

==Tag Nathan!==


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#40 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21906.18 @ 02:28 (02:28 AM)

"Of course," Ben said quite self-assuredly, "Assuming they haven't been wiped already, I should be able to. We'll just need the timecode from when he beamed out."

 

really hope they haven’t wiped anything from the console then. We need a bit of luck, and a lead…

 

Before moving out, Nathan was sure to glance back at the security console and make a mental note of the timecode, as Elias had suggested. Then he helped secure their prisoners before looting them; uncovering a communicator and a disruptor pistol. Ramius gripped the pistol and had to stop himself from cackling like an evil witch. The firearm would be a welcome addition to their dwindling abilities, as Benjamin was clearly gassed and Nathan was unsure as to just how much more punishment his knee could take.

 

With everything gathered up, the last bit of business was finalizing the security system changes. Everything except opening up the cells and exits was activated, which meant the sound of phasers firing was immediate afterward. There wasn’t many shots though, as most were in the Mess Hall. In a way, Nathan kind of wished that they hadn’t been in the Mess Hall, that they were on their rounds – the monsters deserved to be stunned over and over again.

 

Despite his knee aching, he led the way, keeping the pistol in a close quarters combat stance just in case there were still people up. As they made their way through the stairwell, Ramius couldn’t help but wonder how long the group had been operating. The setup seemed improvised, but the guards were lackadaisical in their duties. Yet for all of that, the operation was well run, considering the feeds he had watched. Groups came in, were processed and separated according to importance. Then they were held on different levels based on their perceived value. When it came time to transport groups though, the system totally came alive, and they were quick, efficient, and skilled herders. In one instance, Nathan saw more than two hundred people cycled through the transporters in a fifteen-minute window.

 

"Oh, no," Nathan’s ruminations were interrupted by the two words he didn’t want to hear from Benjamin’s mouth at that moment.

 

Improvising with equipment seemed to be the flavor of the day for this group, as Elias explained the situation.

 

Cardassian tech? Klingon tech? What next, Romulan tech?

 

Ramius searched for a surface made of wood to remove the jinx he just put on them, but found none, silently cursing himself.

 

"That's odd,” the engineer said, going through the long list of logs.

 

“I don't know which one in particular was Byron, but virtually everyone they beam out of here goes to one place: a ship in orbit. I really hope you remember that timecode, Nathan.”

 

“A ship in orbit? But how? They’d get caught by the Federal ships if they were transporting sentient beings off planet in the numbers that they do. The only thing that would be acceptable in that scenario would be beaming up cargo…”

 

Beaming people straight to cargo ships? Maybe they pay off some of the Federal operators who track such things? If so, then they have their claws incredibly deep into the entirety of Ponm. This place if practically a pirate den.

 

“Sorry, yes,” Nathan gave Ben the timecode that he recalled seeing Byron being moved into the transporter room. The list shrank considerably, and showed seventeen transports that day, but only one that happened in off-peak hours from the rest.

 

“Right there, that has to be it. Byron wasn’t with any groups, and his was a singular beam-out, unlike the rest which were bunched up together…”

 

Now that we have the information…

 

“What do we do?” he thought out loud.

 

“We just can’t beam to the destination; we could be beaming ourselves right into another cell, or a ship more well guarded than here. If we tell the Feds, we will tip our hand. That, and we don’t know who to trust at all right now. Even V’olk could have been an informant for the group, considering how quickly we were picked up when we left the Detachment. ****.”

 

Think Nathan think…

 

As Ramius considered their options, a bank of lighting turned off above them. It didn’t flicker and fail like one light would, but it was a long row of lights that just completely shut off.

 

“That’s… odd…” a twist in his gut told him they needed to vamoose.

 

“We gotta go,” Nathan pulled his communicator out.

 

“Computer, initiate Omega protocol,” despite the dire circumstances, there was a grin on his face as he looked to Elias, “always wanted to say that.”

 

Immediately klaxons went off, while the lighting changed to a red hue – strobe lights flickered every few seconds as well.

 

“That’s the people taken care of, and the facility will still be targeting the guards. Should be enough time for them to make an escape. Hopefully they’ll be able to find somewhere to lay low for a bit. Speaking of which…”

 

“Elias to Moonsilver. Two to beam up…”

 

“Nice,” Nathan smiled.

 

“…Energize.”

 

== to infinity…==


Edited by Mid Nathan Ramius, Star Date 21906.18 @ 02:31 (02:31 AM).

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#41 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21906.20 @ 13:14 (01:14 PM)

== Byron – Location Unknown ==

 

“…they what?” the words were incredulous, and Zovenok appeared completely flabbergasted by the news.

 

“The facility has been turned against us, and the prisoners there released,” stated rather flatly, the Klingon was too apathetic, or just too stupid, to realize how frustrated the half-Nausicaan was.

 

Byron, however, simply smiled. It was quite the reversal of fate, as when he had heard that the pair had been captured, he was sure that they would be interrogated – likely to death. Yet somehow, they transmuted their fortune. Never before had he seen the direct effects of his brotherly friend’s handiwork in Star Fleet, but getting to witness it now inspired him. Plus, the Elias character he had taken with him was obviously a help too. According to everything that the journalist could understand, some five hundred and fifty people had just been freed from their underground prison; beings from all walks of life, most destined for a life of servitude.

 

“What of Ik’vor Raas? Did he escape? Are we tracking him?”

 

Of course he is gone,” ‘asHov turned in her Captain’s seat, “and he has already made contact with his private security forces. They will take him underground now before attempting to escape Ponm. You’ve ruined our mission here with your project,” the last words barely escaped her barred teeth.

 

Zovenok decidedly gave the Klingon Captain the iciest stare Bryon had ever seen from a man in his lifetime. Of course, Miller had been on the receiving end of such stares from women, but never quite so from a man. Yet it was also different. The glare had the typical inimical feeling, but carried with it a baleful dyspeptic quality too. Then it was further enhanced with Zovenok squaring off his body to ‘asHov, shoulders back, arms out, while continuing his contemptuous grimace.

 

“It is your people running the Red Room, your people who bungled the initial capture attempt, your failure at command and control of your operatives down there, that have allowed this to happen. This is your dishonor to bear, not mine.”

 

Almost immediately, one of the Klingons pulled a dagger from some hidden location and approached Zovenok with menacing intent.

 

“mev!” ‘asHov called out to her subordinate, but he continued to approach.

 

mevyap!!!!

 

Bryon was certain that he hadn’t blinked, but Zovenok had moved so fast it hardly seemed possible that the journalist hadn’t lost a moment somewhere. Just before the half-Nausicaan had shifted, Miller thought he had seen a curious surge of blue light emit from the arms of the leader. With some alacrity, the half-Human all at once picked up and body slammed the Klingon, the sound of the dagger bouncing off the metallic deck, breaking a sudden silence that befell the room. There wasn’t even time for the winded Klingon to fight for breath, as Zovenok hopped up onto the soldier’s shoulders with both feet, bent down, and forcibly pulled the skull away from his body. The sound was terrifying, as the Klingon squirmed, grabbing Zovenok’s ankles with both hands, kicking and kneeing, doing whatever he could to attempt to escape this odd tactic. Another surge of blue energy emanated in the forearms and biceps, and while hunched over the flailing fool, cracking and tearing sounds punctuated the screams. Byron looked away, before falling to the floor, retching on the cool metal.

 

*thirrrrrrrrruuuurrrrp*

 

Bryon retched again. And then again, before and while, hearing the decapitated head bounce and slide to the foot of the command chair. Resting for a moment, he dared to look. Zovenok’s tranquil demeanor complimented his serenely calm breathing, as though he hadn’t even had the slightest uptick in heartbeat, with not a drop of sweat or exertion upon him. Meanwhile, the entire Bridge looked horrified – even the uncouth ‘asHov seemed staggered.

 

“I need to wash my hands,” dispassionately said, the half-Nausicaan returned to an upright posture.

 

“Byron, come with me.”

 

The journalist hesitated, not knowing that his body was shaking.

 

“Bryon. It is over now. There will be no more rebellious hostilities today I am sure. Follow me.”

 

Still shaking, he tried to move but couldn’t. It was as if ever muscle fiber in his body all at once contracted, transfixing him.

 

Now,” Zovenok’s voice commanded him, and somehow cured the paralysis, as he immediately shot up and went to the killer’s side.

 

“Find Ik’vor Raas before I return. I don’t care how you do it, but I want Raas on this ship. And once we have him, I want Benjamin Elias and Nathan Ramius at my feet too. No more maneuvering or cajoling ‘asHov. Just get it done, or I’ll find someone else to Captain this vessel. yaj’a’?”

 

yaj…”

 

Qapla’,” Zovenok turned on his heel and marched from the Bridge with Byron in tow.

 

Most everything after was a bit of a blur to Byron Miller. They had gone somewhere, a set of Quarters he assumed, as the purple-blood-stained psychopath cleaned the gore from himself. If there had been words, he couldn’t recall. It wasn’t until they had reached another room, or section, that he managed to snap himself out of his protective disassociation. Wherever they had gone to, the room was moderately sized, with a singular desk placed in the middle. A small pad sat just before it, while the desk itself was raised up to something between stomach and chest height. As Zovenok approached it, a console turned on, showing an odd series of graphemes that looked like runes or glyphs more than letters of an alphabet.

 

“Your arms… they… they glowed before you killed that man.”

 

Zovenok looked over his shoulder at Bryon, a slight grin appearing before answering,

 

“You do not miss much. My arms... and my legs, are actually prostheses, not the original limbs. That is a story worth telling, but we don’t have the luxury of time that would require at the moment. I must report to my master.”

 

“Your ‘master’? But, I thought you were the leader of The Fold?”

 

Something from the statement tickled Zovenok, likely Byron’s naïve ignorance.

 

“I am a leader,” he chuckled lightly, “but not of The Fold. Quiet yourself now Byron.”

 

Zovenok stepped up onto the pad, and a brief splash of light washed over him, almost like the beginning of a transporter beam. The system the came online fully with a holographic projection just ahead of the desk, showing an alert that there was ‘no connection’.

 

“Priority call to the Primarch.”

 

[System initialized. Verify.]

 

“Lēgātus Zovenok, first form.”

 

[Welcome Lēgātus. Call proceeding.]

 

There was a pause, likely as the system tried to connect to whatever network they used for communication. Bryon found the whole thing fascinating, though wondered how it worked. If it was simply a subspace channel, then surely Star Fleet or other government entities could potentially intercept any missives. Eavesdropping on subspace communications was simple and surprisingly effective he knew. Even with encryption, the pure computational power available to most regimes, nefarious or not, that could be thrown at such security meant that time was the only necessary component in unravelling messages sent in secret. Whether such messages were worthwhile was another thing entirely.

 

“Low band subspace?”

 

“Curiosity killed the cat Byron,” Zovenok sighed, but relented moments after, “no, not subspace. Such channels are monitored too closely. We use a different method, both expensive and limited.”

 

“Limited how? Only one connection at a time? Are you using some form of quantum entanglement?”

 

“No and no. The technology and energy required is… substantial. These units are not doled out except to those that require them.”

 

[Current session localized. Connection established. The Primarch is currently unavailable.]

 

Shifting uncomfortably on the platform, Zovenok let out another sigh before speaking.

 

“Interrupt Epsilon One.”

 

[Confirm, Epsilon One protocol.]

 

“Confirm.”

 

[One moment, working.]

 

“Interrupting your boss doesn’t sound good.”

 

“It isn’t. Now please, Byron, shush.”

 

Bryon closed his mouth and watched. The holographic projection changed from subtitling the computer’s voice, to a depiction of a black void, with nothing filling it save for a bit of hazy protons from the emitters. Then a voice came through: female, distinguished, not old but not young either, confident and commanding, while still somehow breathy.

 

“…a way to infiltrate Shiar, as that has been, and will continue to be, a priority of mine. We cannot allow ourselves to become complacent with the successes and growth we have found. Now is the best time to utilize…” the pause was deafening, “…the momentum we have built. Apologies all, I am afraid I must cut our meeting short. You have your assignments. If you require further details, you know who to contact.”

 

Then a chorus of voices spoke out all at once, “Thank you Primarch” and “Thank you” before the line went silent again. The holographic projection shifted once more, showing a light-reflecting pale face, with raven black hair, and arresting green eyes.

 

“Zovenok! What an incredible surprise to see you today. You never contact me when on a mission, ever, how unlike you. Not that I mind, as I do so enjoy our talks. I’ve missed you a great deal these last few months.”

 

“As I have missed you, greatly, Primarch. My apologies for such silence but…”

 

“…but your focus must needs be on the mission, so on and so on. Really Zovenok, you sound – as you would say – like a broken record sometimes.”

 

“Apologies again my Primarch.”

 

“How formal and complementary you are today,” her face seemed to shift from real excitement and happiness to concern, “you also felt the need to interrupt a strategy session. Rare and rarer still. What is it, exactly, that could not wait?”

 

Zovenok took a deep breath in, his stoic confidence seemingly slipping away.

 

Is he fidgeting?! This man who just pulled a head from the shoulders, spine and all, of a Klingon is scared of this… I want to say lady, but I have no idea if she is lady-like at all!

 

“At a loss for words too? This isn’t good news is it?”

 

“No, it is not. ‘asHov’s band of maverick mercenaries lost control of our processing and holding facility on Ponm,” the half-Nausicaan shifted uncomfortably again.

 

“What is the status of Raas then?”

 

“He has eluded us as of now.”

 

 “Eluded? You mean, escaped? Fled? Absconded…

 

“Yes.”

 

“Ooooo, you are delightfully testy right now. I’m rather enjoying myself,” a feigned smile crossed the woman’s face, a hint of displeasure leaking from her eyes.

 

“I am sorry. I know how important Raas is to your plans…”

 

“Who is Ik’vor Raas?” Byron interrupted, causing Zovenok to whirl around with an astonished face, while the woman also seemed similarly incredulous.

 

“Is that…?”

 

“Byron Miller, my apologies Primarch. I’m afraid there was an… incident on the Bridge that necessitated Bryon accompany me for his own safety.”

 

“An incident?”

 

“’asHov’s First Officer lost his temper…”

 

“And his head,” Bryon interrupted again, though not willingly. Something had compelled him to say what he just said. Inside, he struggled against the feeling, not wanting to incur Zovenok’s wrath. Yet something made him say it.

 

“You killed K’A’Pk?!”

 

“He did,” Byron attempted to bite the inside of his cheek, to no avail, “pulling his skull from his shoulders, spine and all, before laying it at the feet of ‘asHov.”

 

“Oh my, how incredibly brutish of you Zovenok! Delicious. I don’t suppose this has anything to do with your side project?”

 

Zovenok returned to face his Primarch, but not before giving Bryon a hard glare.

 

“It is. A Nathan Ramius and Benjamin Elias are the architects in the breach of the Red Room.”

 

“You’ve since dealt with them?”

 

There was a pause, a long pause, before the woman sighed.

 

“Oh Zovenok, you haven’t cleaned up your mess either? This is so eminently extraordinary for you. In all the time we’ve known one another, never have you ever allowed a mission to go so awry. It is a disconcerting new trend.”

 

“One that I will rectify immediately, but felt I must report.”

 

“Rightfully so. I’m glad that you contacted me Lēgātus…” Zovenok’s body betrayed the wince his face no doubt showed, “…so that I can prepare for the potential of your failure. It goes without saying that Raas’ pharmaceutical and scientific empire is a… what would you call it?”

 

“…a lynchpin…”

 

“…yes, a lynchpin! Our plans for that sector necessitate Ik’vor’s submission to us. There is no contingency. I trusted you completely in this task. Furthermore, I granted you leniency in accomplishing it, as well as permission for your little project. My conviction wasn’t misplaced, was it?”

 

“No, Primarch. I will still succeed in our primary objective, and wrap up operations on Ponm expeditiously.”

 

“Good,” the woman very nearly purred the word, “I would hate for our next meeting to be anything less than pleasurable.”

 

“Understood. Thank you, Primarch.”

 

The transmission terminated, and Zovenok immediately turned on Bryon. He flew off of the pad like a diving bird, picking Bryon up by the scruff of his collar.

 

“We need to end this little game between Ramius, Elias, you, and myself, and it needs to end now. How do you suggest that happen?”

 

Bryon balked, but couldn’t escape the man’s grasp.

 

“Release me?” he blurted.

 

Then, Zovenok smiled.

 

== TBC ==


Edited by Mid Nathan Ramius, Star Date 21906.20 @ 13:20 (01:20 PM).

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