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Chickening Out

Posted on Mon May 31st, 2021 @ 12:32am by Subcommander Kaiae t'Lien & Sublieutenant Renee Hernandez

Mission: Chapter IV: Unravelling the Mystery
Location: Kitchen, IRW Ourainavassa

Kaiae couldn't linger in the empty mess hall for long without that seeming suspicious in and of itself perhaps; but a few moments of surveilling the scene--and making sure the space was otherwise empty--went by before she made her way back towards the kitchen itself, one hand reaching slightly under her tunic to flick the switch on the small jamming device she was carrying as she did so. Coming to the edge of the kitchen, she stopped just before crossing the threshold uninvited; thinking back to what Hatham had said he used as an introduction code for his first interactions with the chef. "...I was hoping you perhaps might have some leftover chicken. Hatham recommended it as a good snack."

Renee smirked at the reference as she peeked her head out, "Subcommander. I was wondering when you and I would be able to talk. It wouldnt exactly be routine for a chef to visit someone with your position. How can I help you? While you're here though... there's a pot of stew over there, do you mind handing that to me?"

Kaiae very deliberately flipped up the corner of her tunic to Renee's line of sight, giving her a flash of the jamming device she was carrying; and then paused for a moment at the request, moving reticently to pass the pot in question. "It's not....the same stew, is it?" She seemed to have survived eating the stew crafted by Rogers' alternate; but it wasn't wise to tempt fate--some poisons, after all, were only lethal with repeated exposure.

Renee gave Kaiae a knowing nod, "Full disclosure, this kitchen is also equipped with jamming capabilities... after all, what happens in chef's kitchen should be kept secret." She grabbed the pot that she was handed, "Yes, this is the Commander's stew.... a shame because it is my recipe and it was not poisoned. However, I am packing it up to be sent to the Amelia as a gift. You're welcome to have more, since you were one of the few to have some earlier. However I understand if you want a fresh batch whenever I make it again. So... Hatham sent you?"

"Of a sort. He mentioned in our discussions that you appeared to have contacts with resources, especially of the transportation sort, that might be willing to assist in our efforts to relocate the families of the Romulan officers and crew aboard."

Renee nodded, "I do. You've actually met some of them. T'ango and Gunnar are old friends of mine... and Major Rogers if you are more inclined to trust her rather than me." The petty part of Renee wanted to say that she wasn't sure why anyone would trust Ash.... but she held back. "I'm assuming you've done a full background check on all of us?" she added nonchalantly as she packed the pot of stew for transport.

One of Kaiae's eyebrows crept up ever-so-slightly and sardonically, in a "is that even in question?" way. "To the degree possible." She might now theoretically be a subcommander; but her resources and contacts were limited mainly to those of the lieutenant she had been two months before. "I assume he has explained to you the details of the mission in question; and the issues at play."

"He has. I can only wish we can do more. But I'm sure having a rag tag group of outsiders assist is already not particularly palatable for you," Renee said as she washed the newly empty pot. She wasn't going to send her good cookware to the Terrans. "Are there any issues in particular you are concerned about?"

"Well. The main one is actually being able to move that many people without the authorities taking notice. Within that...the exact nature of the problems vary. Actually getting a ship in and out of the space in question is a paramount one, of course. Beyond many cases, the primary issue is arranging for people to be able to undertake internal movement within the Empire to arrange for their presence at a pick up point. Acquiring or forging the appropriate permissions and such. In a few, however, the issue is less of permission to travel, and more of avoiding notice."

"Fortunately, supply ships can somewhat get in and out without too much scrutiny, but I'm sure it will get progressively harder. We will need to move sooner rather than later. I understand you're working a parallel effort to secure internal passage for the evacuees we are targeting?" Renee asked while she was putting away everything from the gathering. "I don't have many contacts in the Empire anymore... so I'm not much help there. Granted, if all else fails, we can just do it by force. Get everyone in the same general area... and then fly like hell out of there."

"We are arranging things, yes." Well. They were trying to. Unrecorded movements, false papers...they were things rather outside of the realm of most of Kaiae and Hatham's contacts; and had her reaching out to ever-more-tenuous connections and riskier options to approach. "As for doing anything by sheer force...Trust me when I say you stand no chance to do so near the heart of the Empire. To execute that option would require gathering somewhere further from the homeworld. Which presents it's own challenges as to securing appropriate permissions to travel. How many people can your ship hold? Ideally we would extract all or nearly all at one time; to avoid any notice taken of the event preventing the exit of anyone who remains."

"I believe T'Ango's ship can do 70 well hidden refugees and 120 tightly crammed in... but it's not like we are inundated with options either. Short of swooping the Ourainavassa in...." Renee shrugged. "I can maybe call in a favor from my father, who still seems to be well connected for a man in hiding..." She shook her head, "No matter how we do it, this is borderline insane, you do realize this, right?"

The sort of taught, frenetic grin that those with nothing left to lose - or perhaps with one last thing left to lose, and a singular drive to protect it - formed on Kaiae's face. "I am the descendant of those who made a journey historians have called far worse than 'borderline insane'. But yes, I am aware of the difficulty. Please consult available options for a possible second ship; as getting in and out twice would likely be even more difficult than getting two vessels in and out in synchronization. There are many who have been saving for private passage should it somehow become available; if the need is for a second ship and we have an available pilot already, it may be possible to finance the purchase of one. But it would need to be done as carefully and quietly as the actual journey itself, to avoid tipping the authorities hands."

"I'll reach out to my father. Full disclosure, not that it would make you feel any better... he has shady contacts but you can trust him. He's the one that apparently helped our Ash in getting the Ourainavassa. Are you comfortable with that?" Renee asked.

"No; I have been comfortable with little that has occurred for several of your years now. I authorize it, however."

"I'll reach out. So, how many of your family are we rescuing, if you don't mind me asking?" Renee asked. "I understand if it's too personal and it wouldn't change how much effort I'll put into this. It's just.... after everything I've done, it's nice to know that something I'm doing is for a net positive."

"At least one person - generally more - for nearly every Romulan aboard this ship." Kaiae considered her next words carefully; but there would be no opportunity to avoid the subject with those involved this intimately in the efforts. "As for mine, personally? Between three and eight, most likely. Most of whom will have to be among the last to move out of position, to avoid any notice of that fact."

Renee nodded, "Seems appropriate. I don't presume to know you or your family, but it just seems like you're following in your family business. We'll get them out... I have faith in my contacts and the sheer stubbornness of people like T'Ango and Ash."

One of Kaiae's eyebrows climbed ever so slightly at this latest set of statements: Technically speaking, she supposed service to the Empire and the Romulan people was, in fact, her "family business" in a sense, if she was interpreting the human concept correctly. But in reality, little more than in name; she was branches off of branches away from those of her house with any real power; distant cousins even her mother had met no more than once, if even. People who in turning a blind eye to the coming disaster, with the rest of their leaders, were seriously remiss in their duties.

"Thank you. As always, discretion remains paramount; the fewer people are aware, the better." Kaiae glanced one more time at the container of stew and smiled slightly. "You will have to try making that again sometime, perhaps. Without the...assistance. I believe the rest of my people would find it quite palatable, otherwise."

"Of course," Renee nodded. "Discretion is something I know plenty about. And perhaps I should have been more discrete about who helped make the stew. I'll have to give it enough time for the crew to not suspect I'm serving this batch again. Your people are quite... astute."

"They are adults." Kaiae grinned with just a touch of an edge to it this time and a quick wiggle of her eyebrows almost like a shrug; a seemingly unbothered implication that if they had survived this long, they were indeed probably astute.

Renee grinned, "Adults, eh? What about Kaol? He's not like any Romulan I've ever met.... and quite frankly, I think I can convince him to eat the rest of this..."

"Possibly he was raised by a pack of wild fvai. Or dropped on his head repeatedly as an infant. Regardless, our resources are limited at the moment, as are our allies." What was not said was, as was often the case, the critical part; the implication that if this were not the case, she would perhaps not suffer his presence in their ranks further. Honestly she was shocked his record wasn't just a collection of repeated transfers; his superiors at the central medical facilities on the homeworld must have likely figured keeping him there at least kept him away from a warbird, where he would be relied on more due to the much smaller number of physicians. At headquarters, he was one among so many his...impact...was more easily diminished or maneuvered.

Renee couldn't help but chuckle at Kaiae's interpretation of Kaol, "The man grew up as an orphan... and you're right, it's not like we have the pick of the best and brightest that the galaxy offers. But he needs guidance." She then smirked at the Romulan, "Probably from someone like you..."

Kaiae laughed for a moment; considering the possible risks of the disclosure vs the benefits of the necessary work of easing the non-Romulans on the ship into a better understanding of them. "Not from someone like me. I am barely more than 40 of your years. Hardly an experienced mentor or steady guiding hand--at such a young age, more like barely fit to operate without one to guide ourselves."

"If not you, he's taken to the Terrans... their Gunnar Arnason and Ashley Rogers seem to have developed a rapport with him," Renee pointed out. "Quite frankly, I don't trust any of them... despite their best efforts to endear themselves to us," she continued as she nodded at the containers of stew.

"That fact is likely a reason to trust them less. Perhaps I should review his comm logs and systems access...he is just the sort to haphazardly provide a backdoor to the enemy." Kaiae grimaced; this was the sort of thing that an entire team of personnel should have been responsible for ensuring; but as it was, she was uncertain that anyone was on a regular basis. Possibly it had been one of Gedak's duties, for that matter; Ferengi were surprisingly astute guardians of information, perhaps instinctively understanding it's value.

Renee started wiping down the counter in front of her, "Well, I'll be sure to pass along anything I come across. You'd be amazed how much people talk when their bellies are full and their wine glasses are empty..."

"Thank you. And I would not be, actually:" Kaiae grinned. "I was a warbird comms officer. Among other duties, this means I served as a communications censor. While not strictly a listed part of the job, it is generally an accepted and expected additional duty that one will not only review messages; but will keep an eye out for and...redirect...colleagues who have perhaps begun speaking too openly in the wrong places or company."

Renee raised an eyebrow at Kaiae, "I'll keep that mind... and I'll keep my messages boring and mundane."


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