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Illusive Reality

Posted on Sun Jul 29th, 2018 @ 5:54am by Captain Charybdis MacGregor & Lieutenant Velth Andurean
Edited on on Sun Jul 29th, 2018 @ 5:55am

Mission: Present Tense
Location: USS Victory, Deck 1, Captain's Lab
Timeline: 2285

Andurean walked into her ready room without so much as a knock, a chirp or anything. The door slid open, he stepped inside, then it closed behind him in the face of a line of yeomen that had been standing there waiting for the signoffs to start the morning. He set down a carafe of coffee, real cream and sugar and produced a bag of pastries that had been sprinkled with shaved chocolate and dusted with powdered sugar.

As soon as he entered she sat bolt upright and blinked a few times owlishly.

The captain had been asleep, passed out with her upper body sprawled on her workbench, which was littered with spare parts and a device that looked rather like a particularly large and ugly lamp from two decades prior. Beneath her were a great number of files open that were visible in the liquid crystal displays, including schematics, reports, and in particular an image of a woman that looked rather strikingly like the captain herself, but older.

He pointed to the small tray everything was on. "Compliments of the Chief Medical Officer." He didn't smile when he said it. "You don't get any of this," he indicated the tray, "until you get through this," he held up two padds.

At that she stood up, tugged at her uniform jacket, attempted to smooth her unruly bangs that were still fighting her new hairstyle and moved to the doorway. She took a deep breath, opened the door, and spent five minutes dealing with the flock of yeoman. When they had been dispersed, she returned to the workbench that apparently served as her desk, checked the dozen simulations that were all reporting failure, closed them all, then she turned to Andurean and smiled politely as she eased herself down into one of the simple chairs.

"The door was locked for a reason, Mister Andurean." She saw a look on his face she'd never seen before, but she'd heard about. It was the look of "frown" and it was a look that promised painful mayhem upon whomever got in his way. Coincidentally enough, she was wearing one of her own.

"Locks have never been an obstacle for me captain," he replied seriously, the comment serious but at the same time light, as if he was joking and stating a fact simultaneously. "And you only lock your door to discourage those without the ability to get to you," he used his shoulder to indicate the yeomen waiting outside lined up, "and I couldn't trust this to anyone else."

"Fair point, and taken as such. I believe I have a number of senior staff onboard who are capable of bypassing what constitutes a locked door around here, and you would be on that short list. Otherwise I am attempting to maintain an open door policy. But grant me my dignity to wipe the drool puddle before you stroll in when I do ask for it in the future, please?"

"If you prefer," Andurean nodded once but his manner and his comment communicated to her that he understood and would never have raised an eyebrow at it, which somehow made her smile wryly.

Long legs scissored between one another to shift from being crossed one way to another. Despite the modern uniforms that allowed for female officers to make the sane and functional choice of wearing pants, Charybdis was stubbornly clinging to her outdated skirts, which somehow seemed longer on every other woman on board.

"We know one another about as well as I know Proot and Priit, Andurean. I know that you went into suspension with Siivas... which is a rather spectacular show of devotion to him, which I applaud. I have no illusions that I was a part of that decision. All that I really know of you is that you are a frozen lake... what is seen on the surface belies and protects what lies beneath... and I respect that. The important fact," she cocked her head slightly and rested it in her fingertips as her elbow rested on the arm of the chair, "is that you seem to make Siivas happy."

"And of course that you are good at your job." She turned her wrist with a flourish and held out her hand to receive the PDD he had for her.

"Victory's supplies and logistics ledgers since just prior to refit," he handed her a padd with a huge list of parts, pieces and people that had apparently been requisitioned or set aside for Victory. Once he had insured she had scanned it once and understood the enormity of what was on there, he held out the second padd and said simply, "This is where they went."

At high speed she scanned the forms and sighed slightly. In the ongoing battle to bring the Victory together, she should have anticipated this... after all, the two Engineering ensigns who were not bright enough to be Academy washouts who had accidentally visited her quarters via bulkhead crawl last night were nothing if not a subtle message from her Chief Engineer that his staffing was being sabotaged in addition to their numerous other problems. She shook her head sadly, then looked at the second PDD and her eyebrows rose.

"Curious and curiouser... I assume that you have a theory?"

"Several," he took back the first padd, pulled the screen aside and then handed her his tracking information, meticulously having backtracked every single requisition and every single reroute. "Herod is on every one of these. So either he's been trying to sabotage the ship's launch, which would have at least been a career-bump and probably would have gotten his retirement a discommendation."

"Or," he cocked his head, "he was being used by others who wished to sabotage the launch. There are a half dozen parties I can think of that might be interested but eighty percent of them disappear if you consider the time index this began and compare that to the time index the decision was made to give you this ship. My... resources... advised me that the Victory was headed for this mission prior to our appointment to it." He paused and watched her face, scrutinizing her, "So. This isn't personal, it becomes political and perhaps, treasonous."

"And when it comes to treason, one tends to look less in one direction at the Crossroads, and more to the other. Sh'tooph!" she swore, then got up and began to pace as her mind worked. "No personal involvements save for a plant, someone in an unattached advisory role most likely, and only possible to track down if we managed to bring in every tertiary contact, which is unlikely. But we can deal with the immediate cell most likely, and I assume that you would not have brought this to me without a plan already in mind, Mister Andurean? Wait.. let me guess," she stopped pacing and held up a hand.

"Plausible deniablitlity? 'I can do what must be done, BUT'... am I getting there, Lieutenant?" she asked. There was no sarcasm inherent in her voice nor mannerisms... she was simply bringing her own mind online and attempting to range ahead of the problem.

"I require your unofficial approval to," he paused and considered, "to be what is under the ice," he finished and his eyes met hers.

The chin tilted slightly upward at that, and she took an appraising look. "No, Mister Andurean. You may not have my unofficial approval to do what needs to be done."

"You will, however have my official approval to use the means that you deem necessary to get to the bottom of this issue and resolve this situation." Her tone was even, but her eyes told the tale... she was rather determined on this point. "Starfleet command chose me for this job for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I came equipped with a mysterious crew who showed rather unusual loyalty toward me, considering I was newly appointed first officer of a minor starship twenty years ago. And one of those reasons is that it has to get past me to reach any of you."

"Dirty deeds, underhanded tactics, and the sort of things that Mom back in Nebraska shouldn't know that Starfleet does... I own. When you act in the interests of this command, you act on my authority Mister Andurean. I will not have you taking risks and leaving you hung out to dry, denying you should things go wrong. You act on my authority. You come to me, you present your proposals and I authorize them. If Starfleet has an issue with your deeds and methods, they come through me first, and they only get to you by removing me." She paused and held up a finger, "I know that it is not good career politics, and I realize that it is idealistic and foolish. But Starfleet is testing us.. not just me, but all of us. And let us not forget, we have a small degree of M.A.D. potential... so they would rather overlook our indiscretions if they get results."

"Understood, captain," he replied evenly. His eyes gave her respect to match his tone. Even the snake seemed to be measuring her with its eyes, grudgingly.

"Thank you, Lieutenant. I don't suppose in your travels you've encountered one of these devices, have you?" she asked jokingly.

Andurean eyed the contraption Charybdis had been working on, "You know that model won't work on a Starfleet vessel," he stated it, not a question. "You're going to create one and then retrofit it to the Victory's power systems, like the Klingons did."

She was somehow less than surprised that the man of mystery not only recognized the device, but had input into it. For a man who was supposedly from a primitive tribe of an ancient civilization he was most definitely... sophisticated.

"I'm trying to create one, yes. Or an approximation of it. Where we're going, being an open target is going to be rather a liability... and while I am working on being able to maintain shields, we are going to be vulnerable and at a tactical disadvantage. But there are components missing- how Scott got it to work even once is beyond me. You are familiar with the technology, I take it?"

"Kolari," he gestured to himself, "what the Federation arrogantly refers to as 'Orions', trade in cloaking devices when the Merchant Houses have the opportunity to do so. Unusually the Romulans trade for a very old version that no longer poses them a threat but they can be highly profitable to the Syndicate. The Syndicate, in turn, uses a variant of that technology on their ships so they can surprise vessels they wish to raid. They require enormous power to use and take down warp when deployed," he added, thoughtfully.

"Dampening fields... I've heard, but I am actually unfamiliar with the technology. I would love to see some technical specifications, if you might happen to know where we could lay our hands on them...?" She steepled her fingers together and smiled.

"I'll see what I can... dig up," he almost-smiled and nodded to her. He and the snake regarded her with the same reptilian intensity and then Andurean spoke, "Earlier you stated that you understood that I came into the future because of Siivas and that we knew one another as well as you know the Sulamid. I am... attached... to Siivas, yes."

"But I came into the future as I did to serve a captain I felt I could follow, one who would use me correctly. It was the logical choice, choosing honor and loyalty. I know a great deal about you; everything I have ever seen, experienced. Everything I could learn, everything your peers and friends have said about you, everything I could get from Starfleet's files. I feel I made the correct decision," he added and them smiled slightly, "and I am glad that I am here; you need my help."

That took her aback a bit, and after consideration, she spoke softly. "I was not a captain in the past... how did you know my fate?"

He turned his back to her as if to leave but spoke instead of moving. "A good duelist recognizes a good master," he replied with a flat tone of voice, "and I am a very good duelist." Considering that, the gesture of turning one's back, was clearly an acknowledgement.

"You are correct, Mister Andurean... I do need your help. And I am grateful to have it. To have all of you here." She rose from her seat, and touched his shoulder gently. "I am deeply flattered by your trust in me. I will continue to strive to be worthy of it."

"Sally forth, Lieutenant. And should you find yourself in need of backup, do not hesitate to call... we will bring as much force to bear as is necessary for one of our own, up to and including," and at that, she gestured, arms wide, indicating the entirety of the Victory.

"Be careful what you ask for, Captain," he looked back over his shoulder, smiling roguishly and flicked his eyes to her project, "I just may."

Then then he was through the door and out to do mayhem... and find a traitor.

 

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