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Posted on Thu Oct 14th, 2021 @ 3:53am by Subcommander Kaiae t'Lien & Major Ashley Rogers & Lieutenant Hatham tr'Krotash & Freya Mannerheim

Mission: Chapter V: The Calm Before The Storm
Location: Commander's Ready Room, I.R.W. Ourainavassa
Timeline: 238703.03

It had been a quiet morning on the I.S.S. Amelia. The ship had remained in orbit around Drozana while Major Rogers and the Lynn twins were off to Earth, to find Perez. But it was not to stay a quiet morning for long.

After her breakfast, Captain Freya Mannerheim had headed to her ready room, to see if she had received any messages during the night. The message she found was not one she had expected.

"Captain Mannerheim. I am going to have to leave for a while on some urgent personal business. Major Rogers will be in charge of matters on the Ourainavassa once she returns from Earth. But I am going to leave operational command in your hands. Subcommander Kaiae and Lieutenant Hatham will need all help they can get with their evacuation efforts. Do for them whatever you can."

Freya hit the table with her fist in frustration. First Perez goes AWOL, now Raven herself disappears? Whatever happened to focussing on the job at hand? Well, whatever had called Raven away must have been important, else she would not have left her crew like this, the Captain mused. Nevertheless, the moment could not have been worse. The Major, whom Raven had wanted left in command, had not yet returned. She had had word that Perez and the twins were on their way back, and would probably arrive at some point in the next 24 hours. The Major would hopefully not be far behind, once she finished dealing with family matters back home. Still, as of right now, the Ourainavassa was left in the hands of the 2XO, who was likely unaware of the situation, while all the command codes were with the Captain. And that would simply not work. With a sigh, Freya headed to the transporter room.

It felt strange, being sat behind someone else's desk, on someone else's ship. But, as it turned out, Raven had transferred all her command codes to Captain Mannerheim, and all of the ship's systems - bar the Colonel's personal logs - were open to her. And there was no sign that this sudden departure had been planned in advance, or that Raven's usual workflow had in any way changed. Yesterday's end-of-shift reports had all been reviewed and signed off, the week's duty rosters had been posted, and Raven had even approved a request for shore leave from some engineers late in the evening. There were no signs of preparing for an absence from the ship. Whatever had happened to call her away must have been on extremely short notice.

Freya cursed. This was truly the last thing she needed. With the command codes transferred to her, she quickly tied her tricom badge into the ship's intercom network, and then sent out a message. "Commander Rogers, Subcommander Kaiae, and Lieutenant Hatham, please report to the ready room at once." There was going to be a lot of explaining to do.

Hatham had been somewhat surprised to get the summons to Raven's ready room from Mannerheim, but his brows rose when he arrived and saw only her sitting behind Raven's desk. This felt wrong, and on multiple levels. He straightened to attention - it was a normal response when standing before a higher ranked officer, even one not in your chain of command, but the slight motion also provided a quick check of hard points from the placement off the various weapons concealed about his person. "Captain," he said curtly, inclining his head a formal degree. He did not voice the obvious question; he had too much Galae background to be that direct, especially with someone only marginally more trustworthy than a Tal'Shiar officer.

Freya nodded a greeting. "Good morning, Lieutenant." She immediately noticed the apprehension of the Romulan, and she could not blame him. If she was in his position, she would feel the same way. "I'm sure you are confused why I was the one calling you here, and not the Colonel. And indeed wondering where the Colonel is. Believe me, I am just as confused as you are. I will explain once the Commander and the Subcommander arrive."

Kaiae had a rather similar response and thoughts to Hatham's when she came through the door a minute or two later; albeit with a carefully curated pose that was less of coming to attention before a superior, and more an extension of the placement she had treated Mannerheim with in their last meeting; one considered to be an approximate equal. Since technically a Federation captain was the rank equivalent of a full commander; doing was if anything a powerplay in the opposite direction of Hatham's, just a very subtle one, pushing the envelope early as to their status. She came to rest at a spot she calculated would give the pair of them a decent coverage of the room and it's entrance and exit point without being overly blatant in that, rather than a spot directly to the side of the hulking security officer; and one that would likely force Rogers, when she arrived, to take a space in between them, which would give the other Terran a striking vantage at either of them, true; but would also give them both a clear one at both Rogers and Mannerheim.

Freya immediately knew what the Romulans were doing. They were, of course, positioning themselves in a way where it would be easy for them to overpower the Terran, if they deemed this to be necessary. Smirking at the realisation, she stood. "Please, no need to prepare to attack me. I did not come here with any hostile intent." To prove her point, she carefully removed the dagger, complete with sheath, from her belt, and placed it on the desk, before stepping around into clear view of the two Romulan officers. Two things were immediately apparent - firstly, she was not carrying any visible weapons. Secondly, she had foregone to wear the usual black leggings under her uniform skirt, which, coupled with the fact that she was wearing much shorter boots than usual, revealed an intricate pattern of tattoos on the side of her right leg - and the fact that her left leg, from the knee down, was a prosthetic.

Commander Rogers arrived to see two Romulans and her Captain in Raven's Ready Room. She was surprised to see Mannerheim behind the desk with Hatham and Kaiae in front of it.

Smiling, the Captain adjusted her glasses. "Fake leg clearly on display, actually wearing my eyeglasses, not carrying any weapons. I don't think I could be any more vulnerable, don't you think? Subcommander, Lieutenant, I am not here to take over your ship. If I wanted to do that, I would not have come here alone, and unarmed. I would have come here with an armed squad of soldiers. Tell me, have either of you received a strange message from the Colonel this morning, or noticed that the little timeship fighter you call Munin has disappeared from the hangar?"

The Commander shook her head, "Seems like I missed quite a lot since being told to go back to the Amelia."

To say the least Hatham thought, but refrained from voicing it. He was honestly considering all the ways a fake leg could be weaponized and eyeglasses used to enhance targeting. Even if they were only what they appeared to be, there were quite a lot of ways she could be more vulnerable so he wasn't letting his guard down, especially since he was well aware that the best way to take this ship was to co-opt it, not come in with a squad of soldiers. Half his crew were veteran Galae and in a fight with Terrans, he liked their odds.

"It seems we did as well," he replied neutrally. "I received no message from the Colonel, nor had I been informed that the timeship fighter was missing until now." He cast a brief glance at Kaiae, hoping that perhaps she had been informed on either of those points, as otherwise this was looking much like an attempted takeover via decapitation strike.

"I have received no such message." It was unlikely even a seasoned Tal Shiar agent like Raven's father could have read anything definitive into Kaiae's voice or body language--the response of an in turn seasoned Galae comms officer (or former one now); used to playing for their life or for causes beyond it that might be championed by their commander, while caught between those adept at such things. Reveal nothing. Commit to nothing. Inside her head however, things accelerated rapidly with Hatham's denial, and she was uncomfortably aware of the fact that it was the pair of them in an enclosed space with a pair who, to her knowledge, shared not a drop of Romulan or Vulcan blood. A perfect setup if one wished to use, for example, an airborne toxin specific to or exempting certain species.

Freya nodded slowly. "Interesting. This console here shows that two messages were sent out in the early hours of the morning, just before Munin's departure. One to myself, and one to Major Rogers, who is currently absent. In her message to myself, the Colonel tasked me with operational oversight, while leaving direct command of this ship to the Major, as per the chain of command. As I understand it, with the Major not being here either, that leaves you as acting commanding officer, Subcommander."

"Then I believe you are behind my desk, in that case." Kaiae moved to make the early, forceful statement; if this was somehow (though she doubted it) a poorly executed coincidence, or perhaps a situation where the timing of a strike was open to negotiation, then she needed to gain control of the situation quickly, delay any such a move if possible until if nothing else it came against her and left Hatham elsewhere to survive beyond it to enact their plans. Preferably after they had a chance to shore those plans up a bit more, for that matter. Throwing the Terrans off balance might just do that, if they were lucky.

She looked at the two Romulans and her XO. "I know you don't trust me. And I can understand why you may be suspicious of this newest development. But I assure you, I have no intention of taking over this vessel. Why would I, when my own ship is more than capable of holding its own? Think about it. Why would I commandeer a vessel I am entirely unfamiliar with, when its commanding officer and I have agreed to cooperate? Would it not be strategically far more sound to leave this ship in the hands of those who know its strengths and weaknesses?"

What is strategically sound depends on what ones’ aim is, Kaiae responded silently in her own mind. If one cared not about their own longer term survival, she could think of several scenarios immediately in which the strategically sound move would in fact be to move against them, regardless of who might be more familiar with the vessel. Not to mention that the time difference Mannerheim had once more pointed out in their prior meeting might well mean at least half of that unfamiliarity was nothing more than a feint.

"Their chef is better," the Commander pointed out trying to lighten the situation.

Freya chuckled. "I notice you didn't say anything about the food, Commander." She sighed. "Subcommander, Lieutenant. What can I do to assure you that I have no ill intentions towards you?"

How do you prove a negative? Hatham didn't even have to give it much thought to know there was no answer, or at least no answer she would like. Romulans learned from childhood not to trust easily and those who had served through wars and coups knew to never trust any claim of 'no ill intent'. The only possible proof of that was years of friendship and loyalty through grave adversity. And even then you didn't assume that it would always be so. He had thought Terran might understand that better than Federation humans though, which made the very question seem disingenuous...

"We have too little time to discuss such proofs," he stated bluntly, deciding the priority was to end what might be a costly confrontation. The hopes of too many rested with him and Kaiae - at least one of them had to leave this room safely and with freedom to act. Given that Kaiae was higher ranked, it made sense that it be her. Besides, he had the better chance of being able to take on both Freya and Rogers if it came to that. "The Colonel is gone and the clock is ticking. If you wish to discuss Romulan concepts of trust, I will remain, but the Subcommander needs to meet with our excellent chef," he tip his head ever so fractionally to Rogers, "and her friends who pledged to assist us."

For all that she had been considering a similar move to remove him from the room, Kaiae had no hesitation in immediately accepting the out provided to her. It served the needs of the mission just as well; that at least one of them would live at least long enough to set their plans into further motion. If it looked odd to the Terrans, perhaps, for a ships theoretical acting commander to exit a meeting such as this so rapidly…Well. So be it. Once again, after all; they only had to make it work just long enough. Keep any threat at bay and off balance just long enough. Some part of her loathed leaving the Terran captain still behind the desk and thereby seemingly claiming Ravens’ office despite the words that did not match those actions; but pride was a petty concern against any others in play.

“Indeed.” Kaiae gave a brisk nod to the room at large and those in it, and began to move towards the door. Now would be the moment of truth; or at least a moment of truth; as to whether the Terrans would let either of then exit the room alive. “I will leave you to work out any remaining details here, Lieutenant.” This last was directed specifically at Hatham--a human officer might have combined this with locking eyes with their subordinate one perhaps-last time, attempted to convey in that gaze that they appreciated the sacrifice. To a Romulan commander attempting to exit a potential nest of vipers, however, such a move would have been reckless; a potential tell to any watching enemy and a waste of that very sacrifice. The assumption was simply made that all parties involved knew the lay of the land as to appropriate respect for performing ones duties well. “He can brief me later.” Another brisk little nod, this one to the Terrans, specifically to Freya, and Kaiae’s steps towards the door quickened to what degree they could without seeming panicked or off.

"One moment, before you go, please, Subcommander," Freya called out. "As the most senior officer currently part of the crew of this vessel, you are the acting commanding officer. Which is why I called this meeting to begin with. The Amelia should be able to track the craft the Colonel used to depart. we will try to do exactly that. Once Major Rogers returns, we will need to have another meeting to discuss further action. Until that time, I suppose this office is yours. I've checked the systems, your command codes have been activated accordingly. If either of you need anything, you know where to find me. Commander Rogers, meet me in my ready room as soon as you are able."

Without as much as waiting for a reply, she tapped her badge twice, activating the transport beacon and beaming out.

If Mannerheim had hoped that their exit in such a manner would assuage any suspicions or fears on the part of the Romulans...Well. There was a bit of relief on Kaiae's face for a split second, only a footfall or two from the exit; but it was not the sort that implied trust, merely the sort with which one might react to having secured a brief stay of execution; and was just as rapidly shifted into a spike of an entirely new set of fears. Her first step before anything more was to pull out a scanner and do a brief sweep of the room, flip the switch on a jamming device from inside her tunic, and then let loose a string of some of the more pungent curse words in her vocabulary, and now she locked eyes with Hatham.

Either Ourainavassa was running with her shields up, or with her cloak up. It was as a general rule the only two operating statuses for a warbird, except for those moments when an active transport was ordered. The Terrans should not have been able to do what they had just demonstrated; that they had was a terrifying reminder of just how lopsided the technical advantages might be to the other ship, with it's tricks from the future, and Kaiae tacked on yet a few more curses to her response.

"....I want the ship swept immediately for anything they might have left behind, hardware and software alike. And get someone from engineering on countering...that." She waved a hand at the places where Freya and Rogers had been standing and now were not.

Hatham gave a sharp nod. "I'll see to it. But first you should use your command codes to check what Raven has or has not sent prior to her...departure."

Kaiae's face flushed a bit duskier olive than usual; perhaps embarrassed by not having thought of that herself; but bent to the task immediately without a word. A few minutes stretched out before she raised her head again; and rather than even saying anything, decided to impress the point by gesturing Hatham over to the screen to also view directly what she had found. Nearby, on a second screen, her fingers were already flying, trying to begin to add a secondary level of codes and challenges to the system before he had even finished reading. Ourainavassa had a system setup and even operating software incredibly different from any warbird she'd ever worked on before, though; all one could accomplish rapidly was just a patch job that would require further effort to shore up as soon as possible.

As soon as he saw the screen Hatham bit back a string of florid curses, confining them to his head in the presence of a superior officer even if he imagined that very similar language was running through her own mind. The idea that Mannerheim had had command code access spiked his already high level of alarm and paranoia. Flighty as Raven sometimes seemed, he found it very hard to believe that she'd give those to the Terran - at least not under duress. "I'll send the engineer up immediately, along with our comms officer," he told her tightly. It bordered on criticism, but no one could doubt that engineer and comms were the specialties best suited for creating very secure encryption.

“Afraid I’ve been out of that chair too long, myself?” Kaiae’s left eyebrow rose in irony; but the tone in her voice was much closer to a teasing one than a genuine challenge; and shifted into a subtle grimace at the end. “…May actually be true. The way this thing is laid out…Hardware and software are both unlike any warbird I’ve ever worked with. I can only assume we have the Tal Shiar to thank for that.” Her fingers twitched. “How trustworthy do you think either of them are for that matter?” The comms officer wasn’t even a Romulan; and was a telepath; and that she was pleasant to look at did not mean she could be trusted - on the contrary it was a well known tactic sometimes, for those with ulterior motives. As for the engineer…Well. Engineers were odd. It was a near certainty with almost all of them she’d ever met, to one degree or another.

"I did some checking and the telepath used to work Federation black ops so I'm sure she has the skills. Can we we trust her?" Hatham's brows moved up and down in Romulan shrug. "More than the Terrans I think, especially since their kind aren't friendly to Betazoids. As to the engineer, she's loyal to Raven so if they're responsible for Raven's disappearance, we can trust her. At least against to ally against them."

“That last part is about all we can ask for given the short timelines.” Kaiae responded with a brow shrug of her own. “And certainly from anyone who doesn’t also have kin at risk in this operation.” Another shrug. “Sometimes all you can manage is to make sure your enemies all would like to kill each other more than they’d like to off you.” She looked around the room once more - they really would be late for the meeting with the chef if they didn’t leave soon. “If security clears this place we can use it for the next meeting. For now, cancel the conference room for this one till we’ve had it swept. I feel more confident anyone would have had a harder time bugging the kitchen itself; at least without getting stabbed with a chef’s knife. We’ll just meet there directly.”


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