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Thread: Star Trek RPG - Mission #6: "Marala"

  1. #2201
    Elephant SidonianGal's avatar
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    Nia turns and stares at Booker.

    Has this plan been in his mind all along? Part of her wants to be proud of him. Part of her realizes that he's distancing himself from her, probably about to pretend she had nothing to do with this.

    But that won't wash. People saw me and Marala together in the chapel. I sent her a message there...

    She keeps her face even. How is she going to play this? He's thrown her into this and... truth be told, she might even be wrong, maybe it's not a ruse, maybe he was just letting her stew until they found someone to marry 'em quickly on the ship. Any superior officer over a Lieutenant could do it.

    Does that sound at all like Booker?

    No. But even if it's true, he's leaving out some important problems with the story. After reining in her racing thoughts, Nia decides on a tactic.

    Carefully controlled hurt, a bit of anger, a lot of pragmatism.

    "So that's it, then." Her voice is resigned, annoyed. "I knew you weren't honest with me. But I'm glad to hear you admit it."

    Nia turns sharply to Vargas. "Sir. Book--Lt. Graham's telling the truth. Now, anyway," she can't help but add; one more dollop of bitterness. "Mrs. Gromov and he were together when they were young. Then they moved on, they got married to other people. But those people... died. They were heartbroken, each with a kid but no partner. I guess it was inevitable they'd find each other again. Of course, for some time I thought that he and I--"

    She stops herself, looks away from Vargas for a second, then returns after a deep inhale. "I don't know if you heard the gossip. Engies are the worst gossipers on any ship, but Security ain't far off. I'm sure they know that Lt. Graham and I have been... seeing each other."

    Okay, that part's covered. "But, well. I get it. Any port in a storm, I suppose. He'd already vaguely told me his history, but that's what I thought it was; history. I thought our feelings ran pretty deep. Until Booker--damn it, Lt. Graham--told me after going down to the planet that he'd seen her again." Her fingers curl into bitter air quotes.

    "This was before the emergency began, even, so he can't even say it was some kinda impulse thing." She glances back at Booker. "Stop trying to spare me. All noble and sacrificial. Part of why I like you so much. But this wasn't spur of the moment. You wanted Marala Gromov, not me."

    Back to Vargas. "He knew they'd be together, he's been in love with her for ages. Which--anyway, it doesn't matter. You don't care about the melodrama. Point is. He told me once he was back onboard that they were all but engaged.

    "I had a freakout but in the end, I'm not exactly the pair-bonding type. That gossip I'm sure you know. So after a fit I accepted it. More pride than anything else. Plus, once we found out about the star... they were desperate. I'm not gonna prevent people who've lost so much once they've found each other again.

    "No," she continues in a more confident tone. "I did more than accept it. Before he takes responsibility for Mrs. Gromov being in the chapel--that was me, my idea. I told Marala that she should wait there. Where better to get married, right? I told her if anyone spotted her she should claim Sanctuary. I don't even know if that's a thing anymore, but I thought it'd buy them some time."

    Nia blinks as if hiding tears--which she doesn't really produce much of, given her race--and rushes on. "As for marrying--I hope they go through with it. They should. You can do it yourself, sir. And they'll both have a complete family again." Her throat is suddenly tight. She probably would cry if she could. "Second chances for happiness... They don't come around very often."

    After composing herself, she finishes quietly. "So, I hope you'll understand why they--we--did everything possible to get Mrs. Gromov and her son off the planet. It wasn't right given the whole lottery system, we deserve whatever punishment you give us. But I hope you'll help them--the three of them, they're family in everything but official documents--stay together."

    Nia lets her shoulders slump slightly as she sighs. What if this doesn't work?

    A sudden knot of dread forms in the pit of her stomach, along with a selfish, jealous question: What if this does succeed?
    Last edited by SidonianGal; 25 Jul 2020 at 08:53 PM.

  2. #2202
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    Vargas looks skeptical, to say the least. He says, "So you did this, having been specifically ordered to bring back nothing but the painting? Having been told repeatedly how overstretched the ship's life support systems will be by this mass evacuation, and of the Captain's decision, agreed to by the elected government of the colony, that a lottery was the least-bad option - the only way to fairly determine who would be evacuated?"

  3. #2203
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    Rangin looks and Science chief and nods sadly. "I knew this would happen, sir," he muses, "we just didn't have a correct set of population data to confirm this kind of thing happening and I would be amazed if this is the only occurrence."

    Rangin thinks over what he can do in such a short space of time: confirm the Maat's beliefs on family and then confirm if he can with the colony if any change of status was registered.

    "No real questions, sir. I'll see what I can find as to it's validity. Just saying something is, doesn't make it so, but I'll see what I can find." His heart sinks knowing how quick he will have to be. "I'll report in the next 15 minutes. Any longer than that and the problem will take care of itself," he comments wryly.

    "Actually sir, where is he located? He can at least give the details on who he considers his new family members, unless you have them already?" Rangin waits for Roble's response before he plans his next action.

  4. #2204
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    Roble says, "He's been given living quarters on Deck 6." He gives you the compartment number.

  5. #2205
    Elephant SidonianGal's avatar
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    Every ounce of will power Nia possesses is busy slamming a door against her need to look at Booker. She has no idea how he wants to answer, and one quick glance into his eyes might help...

    Will power wins. So instead she watches Vargas while remaining outwardly calm and sincere. Glibness--her usual reaction to stress--can't possibly help: in fact it's absolutely the wrong strategy.

    ...But stalling never hurts, and doing so by being as careful as possible to answer only the actual questions put to her seems like the best strategy. Imagine you're already facing a Captain's Mast. Or a court-martial if it comes to that.

    "Can you clarify, sir?" Nia's voice is deferential, avoiding the trap of sounding obsequious. "Who are you asking about this judgment call? The mission commander and your ACoS, or the shuttle's pilot and ranking officer?"

  6. #2206
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    Vargas slams his palm down on his desk with a crash, a show of temper neither of you have ever seen from him before. The sound is shocking in the small room. "Goddammit, don't play coy with me, Lieutenant. You're both here, aren't you? Either of you, start talking, and you'd better make it good, because from where I sit you're both this close," he says, holding up two fingers and leaning towards you, "to being brought up on charges."
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 31 Jul 2020 at 01:47 PM.

  7. #2207
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    Nia tries not to show the alarm surging through her, but she's betrayed by the prickle of some of her scales appearing--as if in response to a physical threat. Frankly she'd rather face that type of foe.

    "Then my short answer to your question is yes. If you want a longer answer with the calculus behind that choice, I'll give it to you.

    "As to the resources, I was and am confident that one sixty-five pound boy won't stretch our l/s system more than it could bear. I've already expressed my intention to cut the oxygen and anything but bare-bones heating in my quarters--a cabin big enough for two people. This would help offset whatever resources both of the Gromovs require. And they can have my food rations, for that matter. I've done without for longer than that.

    "As to the 'painting only' order, we explained our reasons when we were in contact with the Yorktown. We received permission. The mob was imminent and either violence or a hostage situation--or both--were extremely likely. We had to go and I wasn't gonna leave any of the civilians out there at the mercy of a desperate crowd.

    "Even before we saw the mob, I dismissed the idea of calling for a beam-up to get the at-risk people out of the way. Our transporters are currently performing a massive evacuation and asking them to interrupt that process when we had the Kaku right there seemed counterproductive and wasteful."

    Nia's gaze doesn't waver, though the way Vargas is looking at her makes her reptilian side want to scuttle or slither to some hiding place. She's aware she's been talking a lot, and has plenty more to say besides. Normally she'd ask for permission to continue, but she's afraid to pause and give Booker the opportunity to fuck up her story and shouldering all the blame.

    "As to the Gromovs' not having been chosen by the 'fair' lottery... well, I'm not gonna insult the Captain by saying what I think about its fairness. Point is, if we'd arrived one week earlier, Lt. Graham and Mrs. Gromov would be married by now, making them the family unit that's so sacred to the Governor."

    She purses her lips in involuntary distaste before continuing.

    "I saw what Lt. Graham was going through at the thought of losing them. He's a dear friend and a colleague and an extraordinary officer. Someone who means a lot to me. I didn't want this man to suffer any more grief. He's already had his share."

    Hoarse, she clears her throat. "So, yes. Once his future wife and child weren't picked for the lottery, I--we--no, I'll let Lt. Graham speak for himself--I considered everything, including calculating my ability to give up my l/s needs temporarily--and helped them.

    "I didn't do this lightly, sir. I respect the Captain too much to casually or impulsively disregard her decisions. But in an emergency like this, once I knew the truth about what Marala means to Booker, and their plans... I'm sorry, sir. I believed I had no humane choice other than to keep them together."

    Restraining her desire to fold her arms across her chest in defiant anger, Nia clasps her hands. Not as satisfying but way the hell safer.

    "I have one more important factor to add, sir, as well as my apologies. But before I do, I'd like to ask permission to speak freely, sir."
    Last edited by SidonianGal; 31 Jul 2020 at 04:56 PM.

  8. #2208
    Ape must not kill ape! general_urko's avatar
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    Graham clears his throat before Nia or Vargas can respond, still trying to catch up on the rapid fire conversation...and Nia, for that matter throwing herself right into the flames.

    "Lieutenant..." he blurts it out louder than he intends to. "With all due respect," his tone moderates, and despite Vargas' presence he feels like the ache in his heart he feels for Nia as much (or maybe more) than anyone else right now might be leaking through. He turns just slightly toward her. "And thanks to the...kindness you've expressed." His voice is soft. "I was mission commander. Who went where was on me."

    Then he turns back toward Vargas. "I understand your frustration, sir." He shakes his head slightly. "This is a damned Kobiyashi Maru for all of us. I But--whatever my plans, had been, I want to state for the record that I concluded in the moment that those present by the shuttle were in danger from the approaching mob. And--"

    He pauses.

    "My wife died because I put career ahead of family. I would just ask the courtesy of knowing what is to--happen--to Ms. Gro- Marala and Nikolai." He pauses again. "I will not contest any charges brought against me for acting in their interest, sir."

    Which might include everything I've done so far being "you ain't seen nothing yet, chief."

  9. #2209
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    Vargas glances at Graham and shakes his head curtly before turning back to Onn. He says, "Anytime anyone asks for permission to speak freely, Lieutenant, I can almost guarantee I'm going to disagree with whatever they have to say. A long career in Starfleet has taught me that, if nothing else. That was usually my reaction when shipmates made such a request to our superiors as I was going up through the ranks, and that has almost invariably been my reaction from my current vantage point." He sighs. "But what the hell, go ahead."

  10. #2210
    Elephant SidonianGal's avatar
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    Nia doesn't want to get emotional, but when Booker looks at her that way... and then brings up the loss of his wife... She reins in her impulse to reach for his hand. All she can do is nod gently in recognition before returning her focus to Vargas.

    His words about ''speaking freely" are pretty accurate, and Nia acknowledges his warning with a brief, wry smile. "Thank you, sir. You're... not wrong. You probably won't agree. Or maybe you will, but can't do so officially. Anyway I'll get the worst part over with."

    She unclasps her hands and leans forward, inhaling deeply. "The governor's rules about the lottery results haven't been as rigidly adhered-to in all cases. It sure seemed less important when it came to bringing Paul Hutchinson aboard. His current name wasn't on the list. Then suddenly he admits to his true identity, and snap, he gets to live. Why? Because that investigator wants him as a trophy? A fugitive gets spared just so she can close a case and put his ass in prison?"

    Nia's jaw clenches for a second before it relaxes enough for her to continue, after she takes in another lungful of air. "Commander. I absolutely know that it's your prerogative to make such decisions, not one random subordinate. And I know the choice to take him with us was about justice. I care about justice too. It's just that to me, true justice says that if we can make room for a goddamn murderer who killed his family, we can save the prospective family of Booker Graham. Your loyal ACoS and in my estimation one of the best officers on this or any other ship." She grips the sides of the chair as if needing it to hang onto in zero gravity.

    "Well. Lt. Graham takes the blame as mission commander. I appreciate that. I've led enough missions and understand the need for accountability. I just... I have to take responsibility too, Booker. I do." The glance she throws him is warm and regretful, but doesn't last long. "I was the effective captain of the Kaku. No one was getting on or off without my say-so."

    Another deep breath. Why is she breathing so heavily? Right now she's particularly aware of the air, the ultimate insufficiency of the ship's M-planet atmosphere to satisfy her biological needs. But why? What time is it? This isn't even one of her Bilitrium-recharging nights. The answer comes swiftly: Stress.

    Unconsciously Nia's right hand releases its grip on the chair and touches the chain of her inhaler, hidden beneath her uniform's neckline. It's habit, a tic, to reassure her that she's safe. When she realizes she's doing it, she drops her hand immediately and hurries to continue.

    "Cmdr. Vargas, I accept responsibility and whatever charges that land on me. More personally, from me to you and the Captain, I sincerely apologize for disobeying orders about the shuttle. And not following the letter of the Novy Rostov law on the lottery results. Although that wasn't exactly an order that applied to us, at least as far as I can recall. A lot's happened today, so... I could very well have forgotten that. Nevertheless, I'm sorry. I knew what was intended."

    She finally glances away from Vargas, staring at his desk before taking another deep breath and returning to the First Officer. "Most of all I'm sorry for not bringing this whole mess to you, or the Captain if possible. I should have trusted you to make the decision yourselves. Booker could've asked, but he didn't. I don't think he's capable of asking for special favors like that. As I said... that's his personal code of honor and nobility, duty and sacrifice. Marala's, too. Neither of them wanted to disobey the law or the Captain's wishes." Her voice softens. "They really do belong together."

    Get a grip. That's not important, and anyway we're just roleplaying. Aren't we?. "Me, sure, I can sacrifice stuff. I guess in a way I'm doing so now." Nia can't help another glance toward Booker, just his chest, not his eyes. That's the best she can do before returning to Vargas's gaze. "But I just couldn't let them give up. After my own experiences--I mean, the life I led on Sidonia--" She freezes, not wanting to use her past as an excuse.

    "I just mean... keeping a family together is sacred to me. In the end, that's the only code that mattered. I hope we won't send Marala and Nikolai to a certain death because I screwed up. I will sleep in a frigid, airless storage area if it means they can stay onboard."

    With a little helpless shrug and a deep breath, Nia leans back so she's no longer on the edge of her chair.

    As she keeps a wary watch on Vargas, an unbidden thought pops into her head: Well, so much for that Chief-of-Flight-Ops promotion I wanted. She fights a grim smile at having both cratered her own ambitions, and even remembered them at such a time.

    Promotion. Yeah, right. Given all this she'll probably lose her hard-won Lieutenant stripe, and that's disregarding the increasing likelihood of a court-martial.

    "That's all, sir," she concludes. "I did this and I accept the consequences."

    But fuck it. I'd do it again.
    Last edited by SidonianGal; 01 Aug 2020 at 01:04 AM.

  11. #2211
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    Rangin picks up his datapad and heads to his desk quickly, to get the beliefs of the Maat noted down, however brief they may be. Once he has it, he starts heading for Deck 6, while checking the data he has been carrying around for the last few hours. He is looking for Xinle Bek and any registered family members in either his own set or in Vargas' set of data, especially as they gave differing results for the lottery predictions.

    He really hopes that both sets say Bek is a sole person, because if Rangin's original data set says that Bek has family and Vargas' set, which is used for the lottery, says Bek doesn't, then Rangin can categorically say someone fucked up between the Colony registrar and the USS Yorktown.

    Hopefully by the time Rangin finds who he is looking for, he might have some of the answers, even if Roble couldn't give him the names of the people that could possibly be saved, in this instance.

  12. #2212
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    A bosun's whistle sounds. You recognize Thalen's voice: "Bridge to Cmdr. Vargas."

    He taps a comm switch. "Vargas here."

    "Sir, the Captain asked that I inform you that the Sarafina is now fully loaded, and is about to break orbit and head out-system."

    "Understood. Thank you, Mr. Thalen. Vargas out."

    He leans back in his chair and rubs his chin, looking from one to the other of you speculatively. Then he touches another switch and the door opens. "Ens. Li," he says to the shorter of the two Security guards who enter and stand at attention, "take these two to their respective quarters, please. The usual disciplinary-confinement restrictions. Collect any and all of their communicators."

    "Aye, sir," the young Chinese man says.

    "Dismissed," the First Officer says, turning to his Library Computer terminal.



    Rangin confirms what Lt. Cmdr. Roble said about Maat cultural and family practices. The Federation xenosociology records on the species are relatively sparse, however. Xinle Bek had no family members listed in either NR colonial records or the Yorktown's. Rangin makes his way through the teeming ship's corridors to the quarters assigned to the alien miner on Deck 6.



    After leaving the Shuttlebay, Dr. Nathaniel Bennett finds Sickbay more crowded and noisy than he's ever seen it.

    Every chair and diagnostic bed is filled. Dr. Villa and her staff are dealing with a number of evacuees, many upset or complaining, some with chronic medical conditions, and one who has just had a heart attack, probably stress-related. Several children around the main ward are crying, and a man in miner's coveralls is loudly sobbing in a chair, being comforted by Dr. Bucci.

    After greeting him, the CMO distractedly says, "See to Mrs. Kostoyev, please, Dr. Bennett." He remembers that she's the pregnant wife of the leader of the new contingent of miners which the Yorktown brought to Novy Rostov, still in isolation due to her highly contagious case of Canopian flu. "She wanted to talk to a doctor and we're just swamped, as you can see."

    "Yes, ma'am." The physician goes down an access corridor and speaks to his patient through a small viewscreen mounted beside the isolation room's gastight door. "Hello again, Mrs. Kostoyev," he says. "How are you feeling?"

    She looks a little better than when he last saw her, but her expression is very serious. "I'd like to be discharged immediately, please, Doctor."

    "I'm sorry, I can't do that, ma'am," he says, shaking his head. "You have to remain in quarantine until your flu runs its course."

    "I want to rejoin my family. I want to beam down to the colony."

    He stares at her. "But... you heard about what's going to happen? About the star, and the radiation burst?"

    "Yes," Nina Kostoyev says with quiet determination. "And I want to be with my family when it happens."
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 04 Aug 2020 at 12:13 AM.

  13. #2213
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    All as expected really, thinks Rangin as he makes his way through the corridors of deck 6. There is little to no evidence of any familial relationship in the records even if the Maat says so.

    Once Rangin has located him, his questions are going to be pretty simple. Who are the people he claims to be family and what proof does he have? Not to mention, why had this change of status not been officially registered with the authorities.

    One extra question does occur though which could be even more annoying, is if the miners Xinle Ben mentions also have further relations on the colony. The last thing Rangin wants is to find one person becoming six or seven needing to be rescued. Time to find out the truth.

  14. #2214
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    Rangin is now standing outside Xinle Bek's quarters.

  15. #2215
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    Graham can't help but break form and glance at Nia, reflexively, as she talks. He's professionally embarrassed by that, but that's the least of what's roiling his mind, heart, and soul at the moment.

    And no answer from Vargas on Marala and Nikolai's fate.

    Do you dare to have hope, Booker?

    When you didn't deserve Jane.

    You didn't deserve Lizzy.

    You don't deserve Nia.

    And you're proving you don't deserve Nikolai's admiration, or Marala, either...


    He tries to concentrate and recall what, if anything, he knows about Ens. Li.

  16. #2216
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    Rangin rings the door chime and asks to see Xinle Bek as a matter of urgency.

  17. #2217
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    For the first few heartbeats, all Nia can do is stare stupidly at the ship's second-in-command. She's not sure she heard him correctly. Into confinement? Okay, maybe she heard correctly about her, she's not exactly essential. But Booker? Out of duty? During a friggin' emergency with a thousand strangers, likely hysterical and possibly angry, clogging the ship?

    Ships, she remembers. Plural; the ship she helped wrest away from that greedy little bastard. Shit. And the second-best pilot is captaining it. So that leaves... who, exactly, at our own helm?

    At last she turns to Booker, waiting for him to explode. Or explain. Or make a firm resolute stand. Or say a single word.

    He seems paralyzed. Stunned by a phaser full of... what? Bleakness? Hopelessness? Resignation? Booker Graham? He can't be, he cannot just walk out of here in the custody of one of his fellow crewmen. Worse than that. It's his own. Fucking. Subordinate.

    Nia's had to restrain herself a few times today, and has done so with difficulty--and failed more than once. Now she's struggling against her desire to lunge toward Booker, grab his shoulders and shake him. Say something! Do something! You're not accepting this, are you? Fight, damn it! Or better yet, ask for help. Stop trying to save the galaxy's problems on your own!

    But he's silent. And still. A statue of stoicism. Nia's hands clench into fists and she jerks her head back to Vargas again.

    "Commander," she says, knowing she'll have to talk fast to make anything happen other than Vargas personally tossing her out. "Please. I understand confining me. I'm not unique--except for being the best person to speed the Yorktown way the fu-- the hell outta here, especially with Kendin on the other ship." She regrets blurting that out. It's true, and Captain Singh seems to agree. But she shouldn't have said it. Still, like everything else she's screwed up, she's done it and it's in the past. Inhaling, she relaxes her fingers to look less aggressive.

    "But Lt. Graham..." She gestures with a now-open palm at Booker. "He's vital. This ship's doubled its occupants, the vast majority strangers who are scared and sad and mad and who knows what other chaos they'll bring. And your best man's gonna be sidelined? Don't we need every single security officer on deck--both of 'em? Especially your own ACoS?" Nia's head makes tiny shaking motions. "Sir, please. Maybe talk with him privately, have the conversation you two probably should've had before, if there'd been time. Unfortunately, there wasn't. I know you're furious, I seriously do, but--but--"

    She's spluttering and tries to get a hold of herself. "But if you take Lt. Graham outta commission now out of anger, that'd be... I mean, Booker and I already acted impulsively, for a good reason but still, not well-thought out. That's not like you, sir. Please. Can't you--can't you punish him once we're safe, instead of.. instead of cutting off the Yorktown's nose to--to--"

    Her brain supplies no more words, much less the idiom she suddenly can't recall. Nia glances at the portrait on his desk, the two elderly people. "I'm sorry, sir," she says, dragging her gaze back up to him. "I'm incoherent. Obviously you'll do what you think's best. But--regardless of whatever punishment we get--can you please say whether the Gromovs will be allowed to stay?" Nia swallows. "At least give Lt. Graham that much?"

  18. #2218
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    There is no response to Rangin's call.

    Vargas says coolly, "I decide nothing out of anger, Mr. Onn. I will have to discuss this and other matters with the Captain. No one on this ship is irreplaceable, even in a crisis - not me, and certainly not either of you. My orders stand. Mr. Li?"

    "This way, please, sir," the Security man says, gesturing towards the door.

  19. #2219
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    Rangin sighs and wonders at the waste of time in trying to find Xinle Bek. If he can't locate him, then there is no way that Rangin can make any kind of report to Lt. Cmdr Roble. So he does the only thing he can do is report it in, he doesn't use the main com panel because they are going to be used a lot, so he drops a message to Roble directly instead.

    But with that away, he wonders what to do next. Actually, the one thing he hasn't found out yet is who he will be sharing quarters with, at least he can't remember if he has been told with everything going on. While waiting for another sighting of Maat, Rangin decides to head back to deck seven and his quarters, maybe see what is going on with Kylah at the same time. Although he is loathe to break any restrictions that Vargas will have put in place.

  20. #2220
    Ape must not kill ape! general_urko's avatar
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    Things couldn't get worse--until they do.

    I need a drink.

    It's like someone else talking in Graham's own head

    Cajoling. Consoling.

    You need a drink, Booker.

    Nia's spirited defense of him is, at one level, every bit of fierce courage he loves about her.

    At another it's feeding the whispers.

    You know she shouldn't waste her time--or hopes--with you. Like Jane. Like Marala.

    Ironically it's Vargas dickishness that helps pull him back.

    Going to get nothing about Marala and Nikolai from him. Not here, not now.

    "I think we're done here, Lieutenant," Graham says almost gently, peering at Vargas and glancing toward Li, but his concern is all for Nia--and getting both of them out of a no-win situation standing in Vargas' office while time ticks by.

    Mostly gently. A little veiled lethality slips in to his tone, and his posture, toward the end.

    Because nothing is off the table, at this point, he concedes mentally. But nothing, he also notes, looks particularly promising either.

    With some effort, he makes a "ladies first" gesture to Nia, in the same direction Li has. He briefly tries to catch her eyes--and makes a slight tilt of his head.

    He can't feel determined about any course of action that will lead to success---but he is 100 percent certain that standing in Vargas' office is a dead end, and that is firmly in mind.

  21. #2221
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    Astounded. Nia is flat-out astounded. She wouldn't have thought it possible that someone, even a cold, miserable hardass like Cmdr. Vargas, could deny a man the knowledge of whether his loved ones are to live or die.

    'Cause he's never had loved ones. Or anyone who loves him. Is that right, Vargas? Is that why you're a spiteful old piece of--

    She nearly says the words aloud until Booker speaks. Basically, warning her to shut up. Her face burns with the shame of defeat as she turns to him--and once again her hands have clenched into fists.

    Translating Book's meaning--what he said, what he's thinking--is easy enough. He's telling her to back off. Of course, he has every right to. It's his fight, after all. I shouldn't have gotten involved. Maybe I've fucked things up even worse.

    With one last sharp glance at Vargas--not hate-filled, not even angry, just sizing him up with emotionless eyes and infinitesimal nod of recognition. I shouldn't have expected anything better from you.

    She snaps around in a near-military 90-degree turn and heads to follow Ensign Li. If Book wants to hang back, if he wants to join her and curse out Vargas, or Nia herself for that matter, she'll deal with it out of Vargas's sight.

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    Rangin makes his way through the crowded, noisy corridors to Deck 7. He is almost surprised to soon find himself outside of Kylah's quarters.

    Outside Vargas's office, Li takes the lead and the other Security guard falls in behind Graham and Onn, walking towards the turbolift not far away.
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 12 Aug 2020 at 04:41 PM.

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    A happy consequence of so many people on deck , Rangin muses to himself that he is outside Kylah's quarters before his own from the diversions he is making around the groups of refugees.

    "Oh Kylah, what did you get yourself mixed up in?" he thinks to himself concerned over everything he saw less than an hour ago, never mind the colony's imminent destruction.

    He looks round to see if anyone’s keeping watch here, remembering the auto-reply he received when trying to reach her by communicator. If so, he'll ask what the current situation is. But if there is no one there, he will press the intercom for the door.

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    At this point, Graham doesn't much care about being brought up on charges.

    Nia's furious.

    He's failed Marala...and Nikolai.


    And the problem at hand being he can't see any feasible way to turn that around.

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    There is no one standing guard at Kylah's door. Rangin can just barely hear the chime sound inside after he presses the button.

    Graham, Onn and the two guards make their way by turbolift and through the crowded corridors and reach Graham's quarters first. Li stops by the door, gestures and says to Graham, "If you please, sir...?"

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    When the door chimes, Kylah jerks her head up from her folded arms, still sitting at her desk since an unsuccessful attempt to compose a message to Aldaan.

    "Come in!" The words are automatic. But of course, the door will not react to her command. She is allowed no visitors. Except--perhaps it is someone from Security? To escort her... somewhere, probably even worse? In which case the door likely will slide open.

    It does not. Then... who else would bother with her?

    She rises from her chair and clasps her hands together. "I--I am here," she calls out, miserable, "But I cannot let anyone in. Please do not go."

    A few hesitant steps take her nearer to the door. Unable to contain her curiosity and wariness--the possibility that it is Lt. Ferguson has just flashed in her mind--she closes her eyes to concentrate in hopes of getting some mental glimpse of the visitor's mood as she adds, "Who is--"

    The question ends in a gasp. Though she has barely even begun reaching out, her mind is flooded with mixed emotions: frustration. Irritation. Anxiety. But most of all... concern.

    Even without such strong feelings, or the obvious empathic receptiveness this person possesses, Kylah has been so intimately connected with him--at least, on her side--that Kylah would have recognized him regardless.

    "Velir?" she half-whispers, staring wonderingly at the silver door separating them. Then, shaking her head, she raises her voice. "Velir? Is that you?"

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    Booker could be a wraith beside Nia, so distant and silent as they've walked from Vargas's office. She's counted to one hundred twice, waiting in vain for him to speak.

    Now they're about to be physically separated, instead of just emotionally, and she's close to flying off the handle herself. "Just a minute," she snaps out to Ensign Li, unfairly angry with him--and, knowing it, she softens her tone. "Please?"

    Her gaze darts back to Booker and she blurts: "Damn it, I'm sorry. I know I screwed up. I'm sorry I was even in there with you. Vargas and I are--" Oil and water? Fire and ice? Nia can't think of an apt description so she just brushes it away with a hand. "It's complicated. The thing is, you might've had a chance if you'd been alone with him. I don't understand why you didn't..."

    Aware that this is not the place, and especially not the audience, for too much honesty, Nia reframes her sentence. "If you'd gone to him and told him about you and Marala, he might've understood. He still might." She hesitates, then reaches out to his hand, giving a I'm not making any trouble look to the other security officers. Then she lowers her voice to a near-hiss.

    "He's cruel as fuck, not telling you immediately. But I don't believe he's capable of doing what--what you're afraid of. More than that, I especially don't think the Captain's capable of it. I really don't, Book." She leans into him and whispers, "And listen. If they require you to marry her officially, do it. No half-measures."

    Searching his eyes for some sense of understanding, some kind of connection, Nia squeezes his hand. "Okay?"

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    After a moment's hesitation, Ens. Li nods to the other redshirt, Ens. Asrar Degheidy, a stolid middle-aged Egyptian woman, and both back up a couple of steps. They watch Onn and Graham, and pay little attention to the evacuees and other Yorktown crew passing in the corridor.

  29. #2229
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    Graham blinks and swallows repeatedly, listening carefully to Nia.

    Just the sound of her voice alone, independent of the words, is like a polar opposite star, its gravity pulling him away from a black hole of despair.

    He returns the squeeze of her hand. "Nothing about this is on you, Nia," he says softly. "Other than the kindness I don't deserve--" he squeezes her hand and forces a small smile. "Don't argue about it, I'll accept it, I'm grateful for it."

    He closes his eyes and shakes his head. Then: "we'll see...thank you, whatever happens."

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    Nia parts her lips, intending to argue. Then she pauses.

    Either Booker has such a deep and dark scheme that he doesn't want to share with Nia--due to perceived danger or even a lack of trust--or he's truly as numb and resigned as he seems.

    If it's the latter, Nia can't think of a damn thing left to say to drag him from the pit he's in. If the former... whether he's willing to share or not, she'll find out in time.

    As for his saying that he's somehow undeserving of her help... she can't even begin to address that craziness in the few seconds remaining until the redshirts cut things off.

    She lifts her hands in a helpless shrug, then drops them. "You're welcome." The words seem absurdly polite and restrained. Not Nia's strong points. But again, she's got no real choice. "I'd say I'll be in touch, but... that'll depend on Vargas. Take care of yourself."

    She looks back at the two Ensigns, nodding in gratitude for their tactful retreat. "Well," she says, after clearing her tightening throat. "Sorry to keep you waiting. Whichever one of you's assigned to keep watch on me, let's get going."

  31. #2231
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    "No apology necessary, ma'am," Li says. He opens the door, lets Graham in, and locks it behind him. His cabinmate Mahmoud is not there; their quarters are much as Graham left them, seemingly months ago.

    The two redshirts accompany Onn through the crowded corridors towards her own cabin.

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    Rangin relaxes slightly with relief that at least he knows where Kylah is as her voice comes through the door. He wasn't sure if she would be there or if she had been moved, given the lack of guard on the door.

    But he can also feel more than his own emotions as others seem to rush through him: despair, anguish, misery and yet also a sliver of overwhelming relief greater than his own.

    "Are you ok, Kylah?" he calls through the door while trying to studiously ignore those around him. "I shouldn't be here, but I thought I should check after..." Rangin is not sure how to mention the response text concerning her incarceration. "What happened Kylah?" he asks openly waiting for some reply, any reply, to echo through the door.

    * * *

    Kylah shudders, her muscles weak from exhaustion, gratitude and shame. He sounds kind. It is more than she could have hoped, much less expected. “They--Cmdr. Vargas--he brought me in after I disregarded orders, and I told him I was not well, so he sent me to Sickbay but then the security officer led me here to be confined. And he forced me to surrender my communicator!”

    The last word is a near-sob, and she increasingly trips over her racing thoughts: “I begged him not to take it from me. You must know how I feel about that, after Anubis and whatever happened with Darren, I cannot bear to have no way to reach out. But it was no use. I am locked in, trapped. Oh, I am so grateful you are here!”

    The verbal tidal wave is halted only by her need to breathe. Dizzy and frightened, she cannot even remember what she has said, if it was even semi-coherent.

    ***

    Reach out. Rangin thinks, but that was the last thing you were going to do when we last talked. Besides, Rangin had been the one reaching out to find her on Anubis, and he had no idea what had gone on between her and Zweller. Maybe later he would ask, assuming Kylah had a later in Starfleet.

    "Grateful," he questions with a touch of irony, "You weren't that grateful to see me last time, and it was not as if you were totally honest with me, were you? I knew you were up to something but you didn't want to tell me and there is little I can do to help now."

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    Graham frowns, takes a deep breath, and takes stock of what computer, comms access, and egress from his room he may be able to finagle.

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    Graham can access the ship's Library Computer, but not communicate with anyone, and not leave his quarters.

  35. #2235
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    Locked in with an ample supply of whiskey.


    Graham rubs his face with both hands, trying not to believe that Marala and Nikolai may be on their way back planet-side.

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    Kylah bows her head, resting it against the cold metal door. “I am sorry I tried to hide this from you, Velir,” she says, her voice echoing back to her. “I did tell you, in the end. I must help people connected to my family. I cannot tell you more, it would do more harm than good.” Her ragged exhale is nearly a moan. “There is so much at stake, lives for which I am responsible. I cannot think. What will happen to me? To them? What does Cmdr. Vargas actually know? It must be more than he has told me. Would he truly take me in custody and relieve me of duty for merely missing one mission?

    “But how would he have found out the truth? The only other person who knows is--well--someone who has nearly as much to lose as I. At least, it would reflect badly on him. I doubt it would destroy his life the way it will my own.” Kylah hesitates and straightens, a dreadful suspicion dawning on her. “But no...I am wrong. Of course, it was not just him. You--you said you would report me to Lt. Graham. Oh Velir, you did not give me away, did you?”

    ***

    Rangin sighs outside the door as he turns and leans against it, knowing it is not going to open. "No, Kylah, all I said to Graham was that you were returning to your quarters and that you would be about ten minutes. I don't know what Lt. Graham did next."

    Rangin thinks back to the previous ships he was on and perhaps realises Kylah is missing something. "Kylah, if Vargas is any kind of Security chief, he will know when something is going on. Probably not exactly what, but enough to look in the right areas."

    Rangin looks up and down the corridor doing his best to just blend in and not be noticed. "So what next?"

    ***

    Velir’s voice sounds so far away, even though he is physically quite close. Kylah lifts her palm and touches the door. “I do not know. I cannot control what punishment I receive. I only care that--that I have fulfilled my duty to my House. And you cannot help me, even if you wanted to. Unless…”

    She squeezes her eyes shut, wishing as hard as she can. “Please… might you be willing to do one thing for me? Would you… can you please find out if Lt. Ferguson is still on duty and not in confinement? He was in Transporter Room 6. Although I suppose he might be off-duty once the beam-ups end.”

    Afraid of his reaction, she rushes on. “I do not want you to be involved in this, to do anything you find unethical. You need not say a word to him. But since you already know he is--he is part of this, I do not think I am revealing too much. It is just… if he is there, or at least not confined as I am, I may still have some hope. They cannot know what I have done if they do not yet know how.

    ***

    Ferguson?? Transporter room? Kylah did, didn't she.

    "Oh you, idiot!" Rangin mutters quietly under his breath. All that had to happen now was for a call to go out about some extra people found who are unaccounted for. Maybe.

    Rangin flicks open his datapad for the lottery results. "Ok, I'll go check, but first what are their names? I just want to know it is worth it."

    * * *

    Relief turns into an icy shower of dread, freezing Kylah in place. Worth it. “I do not understand. What do you mean by ‘worth it’? They are people and they are at risk of death. I would have imagined…assumed...that you would find that reason enough. Or even my having told you how important they are to me and my family. None of that matters?

    “And besides keeping my promise to hide them, I am afraid to pull you in further by making you actively complicit. If you do not know, you do not have to lie.” Kylah hesitates and then blurts, “After we leave, and their--my--our fate has been determined one way or another, I promise I will tell you. As much as I can. Maybe then you will understand... “

    The frightening thing--of an increasingly long list of frightening things Kylah is facing--is that she does not believe Velir will understand. She closes her eyes. “I know you have no reason to trust me, not anymore. I thank you for your offer, but the price you ask… that is too much. The cost of this whole venture is already high. I will be--I am already paying dearly.” Her face burns again at the devil’s bargain she made earlier, and she rests her cheek on the cool metal of the door.

    “Please,” she ends in a whisper. “All I am asking is for you to find Lt. Ferguson. It puts you at no risk. These people matter to me. They are afraid for their lives. I am afraid for my own, and I--I do not just mean my career in Starfleet. Will you truly not help me unless I break my vow?”

  37. #2237
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    Nia keeps her pace as slow as possible while thoughts gallop through her mind like crazed runaway horses. She scans the length of each corridor in hopes of finding someone, anyone, likely to help her out. Double-T would work, he'd be happy to do her a solid. Ajay even more so. Oh holy Seht'dar, yes, Ajay! C'mon Aje, please show up, I know there's no reason you would 'cause you're busy as hell but please, please...

    Attempts to conjure an ally are likely futile. Still... what's that saying she's heard from humans now and then? Something about mountains and a deity named Mohammed...

    "Hey, question for you guys," she says to the security officers as she places a hand on her belly. "I've been working without a break since morning--like everyone--everything from handling a confrontation with another ship in the Captain's absence to shuttling to and from the planet. And I am really freakin' hungry. Any chance we can stop by a replicator, or even better the mess? Y'know, so I can get a meal to take back with me. Please?" She shrugs and adds with a touch of humor, "I mean, I'm supposed to be confined, not starved, right?"

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    Ens. Li frowns and says, "We'll take you to your quarters, ma'am, as ordered, and then bring you something. I don't think Cmdr. Vargas would want us stopping for a meal."

    Ens. Degheidy says nothing but seems to agree.

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    Welp. So much for that. But you can't win if you don't try.

    Nia releases her held breath in a nearly silent huff. "Understood, Ensign. I didn't even think of asking you to act like a waiter. Not when there's surely more important tasks elsewhere."

    Of course, Vargas is fine with sidelining his ACoS, so apparently a fully manned security complement isn't a priority despite the ship heaving with 1200 strangers on board.

    Her mouth tightens for a few silent paces and then she adds, "But since you offered, I'm grateful, and I'll take you up on it. My stomach's so empty it feels stuck to my spine. I'll eat anything, so surprise me. Pick your own favorite meal."

    Even as she talks to Ens. Li--and the silent Ens. Degheidy--she keeps her eyes peeled for anyone she might be able to rope in for a favor.

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    Rangin grinds his teeth in frustration at the tone in his words and Kylah's completely misunderstanding what he means. And it’s not like everyone in the colony wasn't also at risk of death. And she is the one being obtuse, and...and...Rangin takes a deep breath and starts again.

    “Kylah, what I mean is, did the people, and I dread to ask just how many people, have their names come up in the lottery. I’ll point out that if I had known their names in advance, I could probably have had them come up in the lottery with no-one the wiser, but you have your own methods, which as I understand, have been successful. So, do you know if this is the case?”

    He shakes his head not knowing just how deep he is going in, “And I will go looking for Ferguson and see if I can find him, but if the people are supposed to be on board anyway, then does it matter?”

    ***

    At first, all Kylah hears is that Velir is willing to search for Lt. Ferguson, and again a rush of gratitude floods her chest. “Thank you,” she says almost prayerfully.

    Then the rest of his comments bleed through, turning pleasure to indignation. “Of course neither of them made the list. Do you think I would not have checked?” She sighs. “And though it was kind of you to say you could probably have affected the lottery, could and probably were not reliable options I had the luxury of considering. You do not seem to comprehend…”

    No, he does not comprehend the stakes. Perhaps he thinks she is melodramatic, flighty and self-entitled. But he has some measure of empathic or other psi-related phenomenon: can he not sense the truth? Or how deadly serious this situation is to her?

    Not as dire as for the colonists, certainly. But depending on what Aldaan has planned should she fail, her future could be literally torturous. Perhaps Velir is not even trying. He has his cool rational calculations and seems only to upbraid her, not sympathize.

    ***

    Rangin wonders how much more information Kylah is holding on to and if he will ever ask a question that will not be misunderstood

    "Kylah, I only found out the results while I was on the shuttle. How could I know if you had seen the lottery results before you were confined to quarters." He shakes his head slightly as he watches around him, "and you're right, I don't think I comprehend because I have no idea what I am getting into."

    He stands and leans his head back against the door, weary of the missteps, "Ok, I'll go and you can tell me later, if there is a later." He wonders if she feels the same or if this is just another game to her.

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    Kylah’s exhaustion rolls over her in waves as she tries to maintain an even keel. Velir sounds even closer, but still he does not trust her--his doubt is easier to sense; he must be very close to the door.

    She looks at her hand, its pale, almost blue fingers lightly touching the metal. Can Velir’s new psi abilities give him any insight to her sincerity? Each time their hands have touched since he exhibited these powers, the impact was like an invasion.

    Because he is not used to them, she realizes. Of course he does not yet have Kylah’s control--what little she possesses. Their mutual emotional insights must be creating some sort of feedback loop, with Kylah’s own feelings reflected and amplified back to her.

    But this is not skin on skin. She bites her lip before daring to speak again. “Velir. Your new… mental abilities. You remember how they affected me before. I do not know what you personally felt,” she lies, “but perhaps… can you try, now, to sense what I am feeling?” Nervous perspiration beads on her forehead--she has never, ever welcomed this sort of vulnerability. “My palm rests here,” she says, patting the door so he can hear. “Will you meet it?”

    +++

    Slightly surprised by her change in tone and hearing the gentle tapping on the door, he puts his hand over where he thinks it is located. He can't tell if it is the warmth of his hand placed on the surface or something else deeper, but as he closes his eyes he can picture Kylah on the other side of the door.

    The last few times they have touched, something strange has happened. But in the corridors standing apart, there was nothing. This time, he's not even sure what he is meant to be feeling or understanding or being shocked by.

    No, there is nothing this time, no visions, no diving into her senses. Rangin feels nervous about this situation, almost terrified with what is going on. His mission is complete but it feels like there is still something left to do, some terrible price still yet to be paid for what is happening. As if he cannot ever free himself from the situation he finds himself in...

    ...this isn't him. He doesn't have any stake in the colony other than to make sure it's done fairly. Which obviously it has not, but that's beside the point. Is it coming from Kylah, maybe, perhaps she still has something left to do. But he has no idea what it is?

    "So what is the problem, isn't your problem solved?"

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    Down the crowded corridor, Onn spots the familiar face of Ens. Horst Leventhal, one of the relief helmsmen. He looks annoyed as he makes his way through the swarm of Novy Rostov evacuees.

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    Kylah’s shoulders relax just a bit. Velir's tone has changed. It is not accusatory--at least, not as accusatory as before. He sounds confused, uncertain. Genuinely curious. From what she senses of him, he… he is beginning to understand how daunting this situation is.

    “My problem is that while Ms.--my friends were on board, I have no idea whether that is still the case. It has been nearly an hour since I knew of their whereabouts. I have no communicator, and only limited access to my comms account through my terminal. Obviously I cannot visit them. So seeking Lt. Ferguson out is the only option, short of breaking my vow and telling you where they--”

    Her eyes widen as a fresh horror dawns on her. If Velir has returned from the mission, so has the rest of the party--including Lt. Onn. If the other woman returns to her quarters, as of course she must at some point…

    Kylah stares at the door, barely controlling the instinct to scratch and claw at this barrier to her freedom. “I have to get out,” she groans in desperation. “How can I get out of here?!”

    ***

    “You can’t,” is Rangin's short answer to her question. “Unless you can think of some reason as to why you should not be in those quarters...and don’t set light to something, just in case that thought crosses your mind.”

    There is an empty sinking feeling of a need to find something and being held back, but he doesn’t know what it is. “If you want these doors open, you probably need one of your colleagues to come and open it for you by accident. After all, if they can open the door then you can walk out of it.” Rangin knows it is a longshot and the chances are Vargas has already informed everyone who has access to these quarters about the current situation.

    He knows it is a foolish decision and only going to get himself into more trouble but he has to ask. “Ok, what else do you need me to do.”

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    A little jolt of recognition catches Nia's breath--only for a second. Leventhal... she doesn't know him well, other than as a very capable young helmsman. Earlier today he got them to the Sarafina and back. And that's basically it. Plus, he looks like he's being forced to eat an unpleasant meal.

    She tests the waters by calling out to him, even before they're at normal conversation range. "Leventhal, everything all right? Where're you headed?"

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    Leventhal looks up at the sound of his name, and his expression lightens a little. "Hello, Lieutenant. Uh... just trying to get back to my quarters." A NR evacuee steps on his toe and keeps going; he winces but doesn't say anything to her.

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    The Library Computer terminal on Graham's desk glows to life with an incoming call. "Singh to Graham," he hears, as the Captain appears on the screen.

    Gratitude toward the universe is the last thing on Graham's mind at the moment, but he does feel some just then for the fact that he's not seriously goddamned drunk out of his mind. The Captain's hail is unexpected. It takes a second, a long blink, and a deep breath for Graham to assume parade rest after tapping the controls.

    "Graham here, Captain," he replies.

    She looks at him and says, "The First Officer has told me what happened with Mrs. Gromov and her son. Is there anything you'd like to add to his account?"

    Graham takes a deep breath. "I'm sure Cmdr. Vargas reported my statements accurately," he says quietly. "I'm..." "Happy" isn't quite the right word. "Ah...at your disposal to answer any questions, Captain."

    "Very well, then. How do you happen to know this woman, Mr. Graham?" Her tone is polite even though her question is pointed.

    And unexpected. Graham reacts by being taken where the evocation of past memories takes him. He fidgets slightly and looks away. "A long time..." He turns back, realizing that wasn't the question. "Marala was...I guess you'd say she was my first love."

    He breaks parade rest unconsciously to rub his chin. "But more than that--I'm not sure...I don't think I would have made it out of adolescence without her--at least, not...not well, not right."

    She nods. "I see... or I think I do. I don't mean or wish to pry into your personal life, Mr. Graham, and ordinarily I would never ask these questions, but this is no ordinary time. Do you still have feelings for her? Did you actually intend to marry her, or, to be blunt, would that just be a sham in order to save her life and that of her son?"

    "I--" Graham's brow furrows. This question, too, comes as a surprise. But should it be? And in any event, it's hard to answer.... "I - if you mean, when I first met her planet-side, did I think 'Well, what a surprise, I think I should propose,' no, Captain. There was no time for that, it wasn't the right moment - for a lot of reasons - and...."

    He takes a deep breath, steeling himself and gathering his thoughts. He looks down and then up, making sure to hold the Captain's eyes. "The only woman I've ever loved as much as Marala--as much as I still love Marala... was my wife, Jane..."

    Way to throw Nia under the bus, Booker...you do love Nia, right? Except, score one for legalism, you haven't said that to anyone yet, including Nia...and in your defense, could you really sort out how you feel about Nia versus Marala right now in real time, in front of the Captain? Nope...

    He forces himself to concentrate on the Captain again. To focus. "She- " He has to pause and blink for a moment, then takes some small measure of psychological strength by ensuring that his return to parade rest is in perfect form. "Jane died because of me." He lets the damning fact sink in, tearing at him just as painfully as he deserves. Maybe not enough. Never enough, he can't help but think. "If there were a way to...if Marala could not die, because of me..." his voice almost trails off into a whisper, and his eyes are now tearing enough that he has to look away. "'Sham' would not be the right word, Captain," he says softly. "It wouldn't, I swear to you. Far from it."

    Singh thinks for a moment and then says, "Thank you, Mr. Graham. I think you'd better speak with Mrs. Gromov immediately. Stand by, and I'll see that you're taken to her. Singh out."
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 14 Sep 2020 at 10:57 PM. Reason: Graham's dialogue by general_urko; the Captain's by Elendil's Heir.

  47. #2247
    Elephant SidonianGal's avatar
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    "Hope you get there safely, Horst," Nia says wryly with a glance at her colleague's possibly injured foot. "Me, I'd give a couple thousand credits not to be heading to my cabin. We do what we gotta do."

    And ain't that the truth. Nia maintains a casual attitude, which (hopefully) makes her seem less like she's under arrest and more like she's merely walking with a pair of security officers. Her reputation, especially her predilections for redshirts, sure comes in handy at times like these. Yeah, one of the officers is female, but: again, given her rep, that's not unheard of either.

    Regardless of how she appears to passers by, Nia still feels caged in and useless and really in need of a miracle. And if she feels this way... Can't imagine what Book's going through. Or Marala...

  48. #2248
    Administrator choie's avatar
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    The idea of setting fire to something in her cabin most assuredly did not enter Kylah's head. Until now, with Velir's dry suggestion. Why did I not think of this? Dizzy with adrenaline, she swivels to search for anything that might--

    No. This is madness. Not only does Kylah lack a way to create a fire, her success would only result in more security officers surrounding her, not the freedom to run. Then she would not just be in dereliction of duty, she would be an arsonist as well.

    She returns to the door, searching with her fingertips for the spot where she senses Velir most keenly--where his fingers touch his side of the metal between them. A warm spark tells her she has found him, and the spark becomes warmer, all-encompassing, intoxicating. Though she wishes to, she does not test his emotions empathically. She can hear them in his voice, as he was just now: disappointed. Fatalistic. And still more: on the edges of his words, just barely shading them... was that affection? Is that even possible with what he knows about her unethical, reckless behavior?

    "No," she sighs, answering her own question as well as his. "I do not think there is anything else you can do, Velir. I wish there were. As you say, if my cabinmate were to arrive, it would be different. But she is likely on duty working, as I should be. There is no way I could... possibly..."

    She sucks her lips inward, her mouth a thin line as she contemplates the barrier between her and Velir.

    There is a way. An infinitesimal chance, and Kylah is likely not up to it.

    "Let me focus," she pleads softly. Both a request to Velir and a prayer that she can accomplish something significantly beyond her abilities, at least as far as she has used them until now.

    Then she bends forward, her head again resting against the door as her left hand follows suit and mirrors the right. Eyes squeezed shut, she does her best to calm herself with deep breaths, shutting out all the doubts tangling and trapping her mind like a spider's web.

    After a silent moment, she presses outward, her focus searching out one person, one specific person. She has never attempted this before and she does not know if it will work now. But she has never been as desperate. That must count for something.

    A swell of heat builds inside her, more beads of perspiration dampening her forehead. Knowing that Velir is standing directly in the way--and uncertain how to ask him to step back--Kylah whispers a silent I am sorry to him, before she lets loose her concentration in what might be considered a blast.

    She sees-and-senses the journey through Velir's mind. Nothing in detail--her awareness spreads too quickly to pick apart each thought or memory--but she is buffeted by snatches of words unspoken that want to be freed, hidden desires half-known even to their owner, dark chasms of horrifying pain dug in deep but not perfectly covered over, waiting for their victim to fall, lost forever in their depths.

    Kylah winces slightly through it all, pushing her way relentlessly forward like a small defenseless shuttle through an asteroid belt. But in seconds she is free and inside the ship's corridor, snaking around while searching virtually for a needle in a haystack. Kylah met Lt. JG Demei Xiang not long ago, and those immediate memories barely made an imprint at the time.

    She must match them nevertheless.

    Her fingertips press into the metal, white with effort while the rest of her is turning pink, then red. Mentally the corridors outside her door are black except for the brightness of other people's consciousnesses. She flits near each one like a hummingbird, hoping to recognize Lt. Xiang--and that she will know what to do when, if, her target is found.

    She will not be able to speak to the other woman's mind, not with any clarity. Distance and the lack of any emotional connection build too thin a bridge to cross, especially not given Kylah's already tenuous grasp on true telepathy. But she has placed thoughts or impulses into other people before. Only the vaguest ones will work. People know when they are being influenced by something outside themselves.

    Come back. Though she is only thinking the words, her lips form the shapes as if whispering to Velir. Return to the new cabin. Something important is here. Come back. Over and over again she pleads while doing all she can to maintain the strength of her empathic reach. For one millisecond she gasps and nearly draws back: pulled by Velir's presence, something he is thinking or feeling or saying.

    But he is too far behind now. She ignores those instincts and hunts on.

  49. #2249
    Stegodon Rangin's avatar
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    There is a cavalcade of images, emotions and feelings that scatter across Velir's mind. Naked fear and terror of the situation, not just what has happened, but also what will happen and a desperation to try and make something happen.

    But as he can feel Kylah pervading through his mind and beyond, he can almost feel himself on both sides of the door facing himself. The disorientation only continues as new memories keep surfacing. Old ones, buried deep returning even now to haunt him across the years.

    Then there is the face of someone whom he keeps buried deep inside. Smiling, beckoning to him, pleading with him to come back, to return. He struggles to fight against her honeyed pleading words, knowing the pain it will cause in the long run. No matter how important she thinks Rangin is to her, he knows that it is a situation he must avoid. But still he finds himself almost welded to the door, unable to lift his fingers.

    "Let me go," he whispers, "let me go" once again. But as several features blend together, he cannot tell who the woman is. Some aspects are well known, but some are unfamiliar to him and he cannot separate the past from the here and now.

    It's not until his legs give way slightly and he slumps down the door, that his mind begins to clear and images start to fade. After a few moments he rises again, not touching the door, to hesitantly ask, "Kylah, what just happened?"

  50. #2250
    Member Elendil's Heir's avatar
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    Rangin's communicator beeps. As he reaches for it, a young Chinese woman in Engineering red with the partial braid of a lieutenant JG on her sleeves comes up to the door. He vaguely remembers her name... Xing? Xiang? Yes, Xiang.

    "Hello, Mr. Rangin," she says, a little puzzled. "What are you doing here?"
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; Yesterday at 10:45 AM.

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