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Out Of Thin Air

Posted on Thu Oct 28th, 2021 @ 4:21pm by Subcommander Kaiae t'Lien & Freya Mannerheim

Mission: Chapter V: The Calm Before The Storm
Location: Commander's Ready Room, Ourainavassa
Timeline: 238703.04

Freya took a deep breath as she arrived in the transporter room on the Ourainavassa. This morning, instead of pouncing like she had done the day before, she had chosen the more diplomatic route, contacting the ship beforehand and requesting a meeting with its commanding officer. Commander Rogers' investigation the previous day had delivered results - the late Ellie Greaves had indeed sent a message to Raven, just before her death, which was then delivered once the Amelia returned to this time. As was routine, the communications logs had been copied over to the new ship, and thus the message was successfully delivered, likely the reason for the Colonel's sudden departure.

As she walked through the warbird, the Captain noticed a lot of activity around the ship. Especially the former Galae crew seemed to be in quite a bit of a hurry. Some of them even showed signs of stress, something she had never seen a Romulan openly display. The news about the drastically shortened timeline for the evacuation of their families must finally have broken, Freya assumed. That was another thing she would need to speak to the Subcommander about.

The bridge, meanwhile, seemed quiet - as was to be expected for a ship in dock. Only a handful of junior crew were monitoring the stations, and she noticed an Orion technician was buried to her shoulders inside the tactical console. Here, at least, it seemed to be business as usual. Just as Freya approached the door to the ready room, the Orion pulled herself out of the console and approached her.

"Captain Mannerheim, yes?", the Orion asked. "Engineer Sari. Do you have a moment?"

Freya recognised the girl as the one that young Miles Lynn was courting, and smiled. "Pleasure to meet you, engineer. I do have a meeting with the Subcommander, but I can spare a minute or two. What can I do for you?"

Sari clapped her hands. "A minute is all I need. I was wondering, as advanced as the Ourainavassa is, your ship must be far more capable. After all, it is several centuries newer. Do you have any technology, any schematics, anything you can share with us that would help us upgrade things around here?"

The Captain scratched her chin. "Most of our technology will be incompatible, I am afraid, but I can speak to our chief engineer and see if there is anything we can share without risking too much contamination of the timeline."

"Perfect! Thanks so much, Cap." Sari beamed with excitement, not unlike a child that was just promised new toys. "I'll let you get to your meeting, sorry for keeping you."

Freya nodded, and walked up to the ready room, pressing the buzzer. "Captain Mannerheim to see Subcommander Kaiae."

Kaiae took a last look around the officer at the sound--it had been scanned and physically searched and swept to the best efforts and abilities aboard; but still. She gulped down the last of her tea, and touched her hand to a few points on her body, assuring herself of the presence of various weapons--more than she normally carried, but there would be no backup for her in the room now, if things turned deadly. Appearance of weakness before the Terrans nonwithstanding, she couldn't justify risking anyone to stand in with her; not when their survival might be critical to the plans now in motion. She tugged her tunic into the most inspection-worthy alignment she could achieve, then hit the panel to open the door.

As soon as she entered, the Captain noticed how tense Kaiae was. "Subcommander. There are a few things we need to talk about." Smiling, she unhooked her dagger from her belt, and placed it on the low table by the sofa. "I am not your enemy. Quite the opposite. I believe we can help each other, and that is why I am here."

One eyebrow rose at the setting aide of the weapon: Only a fool would assume that setting aside a single weapon meant that the bearer was now unarmed. In fact, the safer assumption was otherwise.

"In what such ways then, Captain?" Kaiae paused, calculating in her head the sort of courtesy expected here versus the possible awkwardness of following through on it, and decided against any refreshments or offers thereof.

Freya smirked. "Simple. Our crews continue to work together as they have. And I may well be able to provide you with advice and assistance."

Without waiting for an invitation, she sat on the sofa in the corner. "And I have some information for you. As you will be well aware, the vessel the Colonel used was originally one of the shuttles of our sister ship, Discovery. We went through our sensor logs and attempted to trace its trajectory, which I am sure you will have done as well. When the vessel disappeared from sensors, a quantum displacement was detected, indicating that it had crossed over into an alternate timeline. And thanks to the Heisenberg Principle, as applied to time travel, and indeed that between timelines, we can only know either when her destination was, or where. We analysed the data, and determined she made a straight jump to what is here commonly known as the Mirror Universe, with no temporal displacement."

She activated the holographic PADD in her tricom badge. "We also found this message, sent by Ellie Greaves to the Colonel, about two minutes before she was killed. In it, she states that she has found out what happened to the Colonel's mother, and that she would attach a file with all the information she had gathered. We were, however, not able to restore the attached file from the archives transferred from the old Amelia. I believe that this message is the reason she left so suddenly. She must have received it yesterday morning."

What?!? Kaiae could not begrudge someone coming to the aid of their kin, in general; nor attempting to discover their fate; but in this particular case....To leave so abruptly and haphazardly, and at such a critical juncture with so much at stake, and for someone who likely abandoned you...It made little sense to her. If this had been fabricated by the Terrans as an excuse, it was a bizarre one; and if it was instead the truth, it was just as bizarre and outright infuriating, honestly. The one thing actually making her consider that it might, in fact, be true was was that it fit with the sort of....flighty, adolescent energy and lack of control she had seen peek through at times in her own interactions with Raven.

"....For the sake of playing out the options, then." Kaiae kept the fury and confusion she was feeling at the moment off her face. "Let's say we decide we believe this, and you; at least as far as continued collaboration at the moment." She cocked her head to the side slightly. "My focus for the immediate future must be on extracting as many of our people as possible in the time available; and longer term, perhaps, on recovering more of those originally given to our charge, from the Vulture. What would be your next move?"

"Simple. Locating your commanding officer and finding out what the hell is going on. She could not have chosen a worse time for her disappearance. Time is of the essence at the moment. Our original plan, for right now, was to go and scout out potential avenues of attack on the base where Vulture is keeping the abducted refugees." The Captain sighed. "This makes all our lives unnecessarily more difficult. Of course, you could say, 'you guys have time travel, why don't you just stop her leaving in the first place, well, that would cause quite the nasty paradox. How familiar are you with temporal paradoxes, Subcommander?"

"Actually, that would not be my recommendation, no." Kaiae frowned; time travel as a concept struck her as a recipe mostly for headaches; though the Federation appeared to make its personnel take far more extensive training in the details...Which she suspected mostly involved even further headaches. "For better or for worse it is done; and other issues are more pressing than playing with such things."

Freya smiled. "You may be very young for a Romulan of your rank, but you certainly have the common sense many others of your standing, or of even higher standing, considering the current situation of your Empire, so severely lack. No, us going back to prevent this from happening in the first place would plunge us right into a causal loop. Never a good idea to mess with your own timeline."

She sighed. "Piece of advice, Subcommander. If you ever find yourself in a position where you can travel back in time, do not, under any circumstances, remove the reason for your travel. I am sure you will have wondered why, if we have all this technology, did we not prevent the installation at Hobus to be completed in the first place. Well, this is the reason. A perfect causal loop. Someone goes in time to prevent an event from occurring. Since the event they want to prevent never happened, they have no need to go back in time, so the event is never prevented, causing the traveler to go back in time to prevent it, and so on. Second-worst scenario to find yourself in. Worst case, killing your past self. Both of them equally difficult to resolve. There are other kinds of paradoxes, of course. Like that little badge you are wearing, that your brilliant Lieutenant Lynn reverse-engineered from future technology. An invention without an inventor. Many seemingly impossible technologies may well be results of such a bootstrap paradox."

The Captain shook her head. "Anyway, I did not come here to talk about paradoxes, as fascinating a subject as it may be. We will not go after the Colonel until Major Rogers returns. I believe it is best if she hears of the event from both perspectives. In the meantime, is there anything we can assist you with?"

Timeline manipulation was not at all necessary for the seeming stretching out of time itself as Kaiae weighed the perhaps extremely untrustworthy nature of the source against the equally extreme desperation they found themselves in, and the stakes being played for. During the war, she had once watched a human engineer on the DS9 promenade, struggling against some incompatibility of Cardassian design and no doubt trying to adhere to caution, finally seemingly snap and simply patch over the damaged area in a rather risky manner with the words "Ah, fuck it." At time, it had been a curious observation; now, she felt she grasped the end that the man's options and control alike had reached.

"....That depends. I am seeking a Romulan vessel with an active registry; ideally an active Tal'Shiar registry. You would not happen to have one available....?" She would leave the cover IDs to Renee's father or his contacts, regardless; cover for a person could be touchier than for a vessel; and with more complex ways for one to be provided a false version that would deliberately fail, for that matter. But the ship...Those could not be conjured from whole cloth and thin air; and no stone could be left unturned if there was even a small chance one might be found beneath it.

Freya scratched her chin. "A Tal'Shiar vessel currently in service, now that is something that would be rather difficult to acquire, wouldn't it. I do not need to ask what you need it for, it is pretty obvious that you need to circumvent the security measures around Romulus. But, of course, the Tal'Shiar would know pretty much immediately if one of their ships was captured. Of course, if there was a way to prevent them from gaining this knowledge, it would almost guarantee success." She opened up her holographic PADD again, and glanced over a few files. For a brief second, a file that appeared to be a service record appeared, with Kaiae's own portrait - but where the emblem of the Imperial Fleet should have appeared, a different badge was seen. After a few moments, she found the file she was looking for - a list of ships.

"Benefits of having data from the future, as well as from alternate timelines," the Captain explained. "This is a roster of all Tal'Shiar vessels on active duty, dated... three days from today. Any vessel in particular strike your fancy?"

Kaiae's eyebrow rose at the brief glimpse of her own face, but forcefully directed her attention solely to the current list, sweeping her eyes through it and mentally counting the number of people left to place versus the size of each ship...Then adjusting upwards: If she could make available extra space to save additional people...It was with a good deal of regret that she forced herself to write off the largest vessels on the list, in fact; she might have fit the most people aboard one, but they would also draw far more notice, period; and notice was the death of an operation such as this. "That one." She indicated an otherwise unassuming ship on the upper end of mid-sized; outfit as if it were a merchant vessel, as some of the Tal'Shiar's assets were, especially those that occasionally operated in foreign space. Such a ship would, she knew, come with two transponders, both, as far as the Empire was concerned, legitimate--its Tal'Shiar ID, for use within Romulan space; and a perfectly standard merchant ID that would in fact also be properly registered with the appropriate regulators of commercial shipping. It would be an ideal flexibility, for a use such as the one they had in mind.

"Ah, I see what you are going for, Subcommander. Now, to finding that vessel." Freya walked over to the Colonel's desk, and, as expected, found her command codes locked out. She chuckled. "Very thorough. Not thorough enough, unfortunately. Did you forget that this is a Tal'Shiar ship?" Quickly, the Captain entered General Varis' override code, and immediately, access was restored. "Now, with this level of access, I should be able to.... bingo. The locations of all currently active Tal'Shiar vessels." She entered the ship's identifier, and a map appeared, with a bright marker right on top of Romulus. "Well, that throws a spanner in the works, as they say. It seems your target vessel is currently on the homeworld, and not scheduled to depart again for another three weeks. Maintenance and refit, it says here."

Kaiae's hand went to the blade under her tunic as the lockouts they'd added were overridden like a knife through fresh cream; only the truly dire stakes potentially in the process of being solved and the rapid speed at which the encounter was progressing, the seemingly innocuous next words and move, that kept her from simply following through immediately. It stayed there nonetheless, neither completing the draw nor backing off of it, until the immediate moment of danger seemed to have passed....and then for a few breaths more beyond that. That would have to be worked on again immediately after this; the danger of anyone, even a current ally, even for that matter their own crew; having access to an override like that...Well. Allies were not always friends; nor were they always permanent. Even if the Terrans were somehow sincere in this moment and endeavor, she couldn't risk have anyone having that ability. Not to mention the clear and perhaps primary danger, going forward, of the ship's original owners potentially also retaining such abilities, being able to override their defenses or their functionality period, even in the heat of combat.

The next words, though, about the status of their target, was met with a variety of tongue twisting curses under Kaiae's breath in response, and a weary sigh. "Fine. We write that one off, then. I'm not directing a collection of civilians to attempt to hijack a Tal'Shiar ship on the homeworld, that would doom them, and the operation overall. Pull up the next most similar ship on the list."

The Captain noticed Kaiae's hand moving to a concealed weapon, and smiled. "Relax, Subcommander. I'm on your side, remember? And I think I know just how to prove it." She brought up the list of ships again, before shutting down the console. "Excuse me for a moment." She double-tapped her badge, and transported straight to the bridge of the Amelia, which instantly disappeared in a flitter of energy. Mere seconds later, the ship reappeared, and the Captain was back.

Freya dusted off her uniform jacket, and glanced at the chronometer. "Oh, wow. Four seconds. That's the most precise jump we've ever done. Look outside."

Just as the captain finished speaking, a slightly battered-looking ship dropped out of warp. "One transport ship with an active Tal'Shiar registry, as ordered."

"I....Thank you." Kaiae was careful with appropriate courtesy, or at least some demonstration of it, given the resources that had just been provided. Once again though, she slowly drew the hand away from where it had gone for a weapon again at the unexpected disappearance and most especially at the sudden reappearance. "...If you truly mean to be 'on our side' then, however, you should be aware that anyone would react as such to someone, to anyone who overrides command lockouts on a ship they neither command nor hold command over. The restraint is in fact that I did not complete the draw in a single motion and move to strike you the moment it occurred." There was not, in fact, hostility in Kaiae's tone so much as both seriousness and perhaps incredulousness that anyone could fail to grasp the concept.

Freya smiled. "Always be careful with these Romulans. When they reach for their weapon, but don't use it, that means they like you. If they don't go for their weapon, that is when you need to worry about what they might be up to.. I am sure you know who told me this. A certain Ferengi barkeep on a Starfleet station. Insufferable most of the time, but he did have his moments."

"Quark? His only non-insufferable quality was having actual alcohol, unlike the station replicators. Unfortunately he leveraged that fact to the most insufferable extent, however. If he decided we 'liked' him, it was because no one stabbed him or threatened to burn his ears off with a disruptor; I suspect he failed to process that this was almost solely due to Federation rules against such actions to those they claimed under their protection, Bajoran rules as to actions in their territory, and standing Galae orders to not, given the stakes in the war, antagonize other members of the alliance in a serious manner."

The Captain laughed. "I met him in your future, but I can assure you, he was pretty much exactly the same. Last time I saw him, before I was assigned to the task force, he was still running that bar on DS9. Married now to the station's commander, some Bajoran woman. Ambassador of Ferenginar to Bajor, too, apparently. He runs his embassy out of the bar, can you believe it?"

"Actually, yes." The idea of running an embassy out of a bar was exactly the sort of insane non-sequitur she associated with Ferengi. "....Does that have any personnel left alive on it we'll have to take care of; or the like?" Kaiae jerked her chin slightly towards the ship hanging outside now. As a Tal'Shiar flagged vessel, it undoubtedly had a variety of bugs and booby traps to clear out, still; but not having to hold a firefight to take it would be a plus, or if nothing else, knowing in advance to prepare for one.

Mannerheim shook her head. "No, only people on that ship at the moment is a skeleton crew from the Amelia that was assigned to get her here. We think we got rid of most of the listening devices, too, and modified the tracker to send out a falsified signal, making it look as if it's still on its original course. Still, you best check for any other surprises the Tal'Shiar might have left. Just in case. Otherwise, the ship is in excellent condition, you will find."

Kaiae made a strong mental note to make sure to shut down the false signal or tracking records when the time came to move in earnest - showing the ship on its original course while attempting to also use its credentials to clear local space would do nothing but raise suspicion. "If you will excuse me, then; I will wish to organize a team to inspect and secure it as soon as possible." Kaiae gestured fluidly towards the door, intending them to both exit through it. Not to mention get to work on a solution to that terrifying and seemingly self-resurrecting Tal'Shiar override. She left even more confused at the moment as the aims of the Terrans than before, but at least preliminarily, if the ship appeared to check out...Well. She was prepared to move them, much like the little Dosadi and the bizarre human accompanying her, into the "situational ally I can use to accomplish a mission" category--not to be trusted; but neither to be written off as a threat without use.

The Captain nodded, and followed the Subcommander through the doors. "I will let my people know to expect your people. Once the command codes have been transferred to you, they will leave the ship for you to do with as you need. If you need anything from me, you know where to find me." Freya smiled to herself. Despite her initial concerns, the Subcommander seemed to be handling herself well in her role as acting commander, she thought. Nevertheless, Major Rogers couldn't return soon enough.

 

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