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Office Space

Posted on Sat Nov 6th, 2021 @ 2:10am by Subcommander Kaiae t'Lien & Major Ashley Rogers

Mission: Chapter V: The Calm Before The Storm
Location: Ourainavassa, Commander's Office
Timeline: 238703.067

The last few days, Kaiae had taken to keeping a jamming device on at all times while working in the office, even once she'd once again had the ship - and the office - swept for threats and listening devices. It was probably something she was going to continue doing for the foreseeable future in fact, given the terrifying demonstrating the other day of just how deeply the Tal'Shiar had woven their craft and themselves into the very heart of the place. She had work ongoing trying to excise such, but wasn't even sure even if they thought they had whether she could be sure they had truly succeeded; as such she had also--quietly--ordered creation and installation of an "override" of sorts of her own: A device and set of coding independent of the main core and designed to interrupt the power supply to the main core in the event anyone attempted to use that override again.

Yes, if it was tripped, it would leave Ourainavassa dead in space, on the most minimal of emergency power for singularity containment and a couple of lights, without even the ability to run life support; on borrowed time of a few human hours till her air ran out unless the issue was resolved and the connections physically restored at the site. It was still better than the alternative: She would, all things considered, rather suffocate to death than be taken into custody by the Tal'Shiar; or let anyone--the Zhat Vash, the Vulture, the Terrans and their unseen, bizarre time-travel allies--take the ship by such means and use it for a purpose against the interests of the Romulan people. Unlike the general efforts to write an override or block of the overrides and erase them from the systems, that effort she had kept to only herself, Hatham, and a single engineer. Even then, the old human phrase she'd heard bandied about once or twice during the war about how three could keep a secret only if all of them were dead whispered unsettlingly in her mind, unhappy that even that many people were aware.

There was a general lack of some of the expected 'traditional' paperwork, given their situation at the moment, but plenty of other things to make up the difference: Continued reports on the status of the Tal'Shiar flagged merchant ship she'd gotten from the Terrans; given both the origin of the ship and the source of its acquisition, she'd had security, engineering, and anyone else she could think of pouring over the thing the last few days, looking for anything either party had left behind to surprise them. A PADD full of the specs for the thing had found it's way to Renee and her allies, as well; giving them the good news that they'd found a ship, the bad news that she needed the ex-31 agent to check it with a fine-tuned eye, and the simply factual news that now they still needed cover IDs for a few people to crew the thing when the time came, that ideally should match the ship in question well.

Kaiae had taken that briefing opportunity when she managed to snatch a medkit from the kitchen to heal her hand the other day, avoiding awkward questions from the medical staff entirely. It hadn't been a serious wound to begin with; now, nothing remained of it at all save a twinge when she flexed it that she knew was more psychological than anything else. Cleaning up her quarters afterwards had been...Well. An embarrassment, but thankfully a private one.

Point of fact, she could see, looking back at the last few weeks, if in some sense the last few months, how it had come to pass to reach that point. She had been neglecting nearly any and all things that one might normally engage in to assist in maintaining their control: Minimal sleep; minimal meals; no visits to the zhal makh chambers aboard; minimal combat practice beyond the essential, depriving herself of the centering one might achieve through martial arts. For that matter, she could count on one hand the number of times in the last several of the human's weeks that she had even simply been to the gym. All dismissed as things she simply did not have time to waste on, given the demands before them. Perhaps it had been a miscalculation: She would have to watch that tendency she supposed, going forward; it would do no one any good if she was available at all hours and theoretically making progress in their objectives, but so off balance she crossed from an asset to a liability to anything she was a part of. For the moment at least, though, having smashed half the objects in her quarters had served a similar purpose in releasing tension and refining focus...If an embarrassingly juvenile incarnation of such.

The chime at the door made her look up from the supplies list and star charts she was pouring over; flip the off on the jamming device long enough to palm a scanner - she could have used the one built into the commander's desk, but she wasn't sure how far she trusted it at the moment now, like all other equipment aboard networked with the main computer - and take a reading on the visitor, before stowing the scanner again and flipping the other device back on and pressing the button to admit the visitor.

"Major." Kaiae gave a polite dip of the head to Rogers as the doors to the office closed again behind her, the sort of gesture of relative equals. Of all the humans around, Rogers probably came closest to having earned a level of trust; through time and actions directly, yes, but also through having seemingly earned some level of such from some others Kaiae had begun to grant such to, as well, like Hatham (she had granted him rather more of it far more quickly than usual, for that matter; the corner they found themselves backed into together while they worked to save so many of their kin--and the mutual knowledge that betrayal would doom them both--sometimes making it seem as if they had served together for far longer than the stunning brief time it added up to when she stopped to count). Still. The woman's recent decision to not seemingly enact any serious punishment for the crewman she'd had to literally chase down to another planet was baffling beyond all reason.

"Subcommander," Ash nodded in return and then walked around the room, seemingly looking for something. She smirked at Kaiae, "Old habits... I hope you've gotten to know Renee and our friends... they're a good bunch." She raised an eyebrow, asking the silent question of if it was safe to talk freely.

Kaiae flipped up a corner of her tunic, exposing a flash of the active jamming device to the other woman's line of sight before letting it fall out of sight once more. "Yes; we may have a workable plan if things go well." She smirked slightly and gestured to the desk. "I assume you would like the office back?" The smirk faded to a weary scowl. "And that you have heard the brief version of what happened in your absence?"

Ash rubbed the bridge of her nose and sighed, "This isn't my office...we're going to find Raven and get her back here. But yes, I think I caught the gist of what's going on. I can only assume you have more details that I need to be aware of?" Ash had zero intentions of being the commanding officer of this crew...this was not what she signed up for when she agreed to join up with Raven. But she owed it to everyone on board to be the leader her position required her to be, especially as she is talking with the person that probably would be better suited to be in charge.

"Well. For starters, if we assume what we were told by the Terrans, and what other sources and records we could find, are accurate; she left of her own accord at the worst possible time--" Kaiae's voice was almost the verbal embodiment of a scowl "--per information from, according to the Terrans at least, a call from her ex about her mother." At this last the voice slipped into near-exasperation; Greaves was still not in Kaiae's opinion that trustworthy of a source to begin with, and given Raven's background as effectively an orphan, Kaiae was exasperate indeed that Raven would seemingly run off to seek her mother--who abandoned her--out at such a delicate point. To place your kin first was one thing; to place those who had forsaken you first was something entirely different, and quite insane. Unless of course the Terrans had provided such information to try and turn the rest of them against their absent commander; but if so it would likely have limited impact beyond herself and the other Romulans; most of crew Raven herself had brought to the operation she doubted would be swayed by it regardless of its veracity or not.

"Also--" Here, the scowl became visible on Kaiae's face outright. "--the captain of the Amelia apparently possesses an override code to our systems and entire ship, which seems to have provided to her by Raven, but if so, for reasons unknown. I have people working on shoring up secondary codes to address the issue." No mention was made of the backup plan she was also pursuing; but three people was already far too many to know about that plan; making it four would have been folly.

Ash ran her hand through her air and sighed again, "I'll drag her back kicking and screaming if I had to.... but the override codes part is disconcerting." She looked at the Romulan, "But I'm sure you have contingency plans on top of backup plans to resolve this little issue. So, what can I do for you?"

Kaiae's brows shrugged up and down. "You were her executive officer. The Romulan crew aboard look to me, but the others will be looking to you, now. There have been a number of....incidents...over the past week. Clashes between our crew and the Terran crewmen, or various parties aboard Drozana, yes; but at least one incident between one of my men and a member of the former Claw's crew, as well. I am concerned that in our present state, we would fare extremely poorly if, indeed, those using the Zhat Vash name are in fact the organization of myth and legend. We would likely fare poorly against regular Tal'Shiar for that matter. Our level of discipline is slipping, badly; the presence of that--" She waved a hand slightly in the general direction of the station "--does not help matters. I intend to re-institute official group physical training and combat practice for my personnel, daily, and would like you to ensure the participation of the rest of the ship's crew." Hatham, she thought, had provided a plan for such a thing to Rogers recently, in fact, per his mentions to her during their recent planning sessions; but she doubted the Major had had a chance to review it yet given the other issues that had come up.

Ash nodded, "I agree. I think Hatham mentioned something like that, I'll take a look and approve it. We may be rag tag group of mercenaries, but we will be well trained ones." She shook her head, "You may judge me harshly, Subcommander...but I'm going to be honest with you. I'm not command material. I've operated alone for the bulk of my life. The crew looks to me and I will do all that I can for them, but....it's not exactly how I envisioned this happening. I see my Terran counterpart and I'm a little in awe of how comfortable she is in her own skin and there is little doubt that she will command the room and whatever else around her. I don't want to lose the respect of the crew by being weak."

Out of sight under the desk for a moment, Kaiae's hands clenched and twisted, considering the statement, and also the source; debating her next move and her next words; the merits and downsides of revealing what she knew some of her own could likely see already. "I did not operate alone, myself. But nonetheless I also did not expect to find myself as things have become. Half one of your years ago, I was a lieutenant who chose to follow her commander in the cause of trying to save as many of our people as possible."

She wracked her brain for how she might get across certain concepts that she knew would never really fully translate; the relationship between not only a commander and their protegee; but the daughter of a great house as patron and guide of the daughter of a rather more minor noble line. She did not simply lack Arreinye's rank, experience, or connections within the fleet and the command structure; she lacked the level of skill, experience, and connections in social maneuvering and political capital, and a fair bit more.

"I expected to follow her lead still." Kaiae sighed slightly. "Instead there is--" She pulled up a copy of the wanted posts and charge sheets for herself and her crew, with her own name at the head of it. "--this." She shook her head. "The nature of the sequence of events under which she arranged for me a most unusual promotion before that disappearance leads me to believe she expected trouble. The sort of trouble one does not often return from."

Kaiae decided to keep her herself for the moment any attempt to get Rogers to understand the command skill disadvantage she was under by having gone from lieutenant to subcommander abruptly; the ways in which she would have honed and refined the necessary methods and practices as a centurion. There was no need for the human to know exactly how adrift she perhaps was. Instead, she gave Rogers a weary, ironic grin. "As far as I am aware, you have yet to appear as the ranking member of charges of treason and conspiracy that most of your members of the crew are also indicted in. So...you may be ahead somewhat, regardless."

The human chuckled at the Romulan, "Been there. Done that. Treason and conspiracy, I can handle. I seem to specialize in that. There's an entire crew on board. Those Terrans over there. The fate of your planet. And also Vulture is somewhere out and about. No small ask for a failure of a former Starfleet officer to take on...."

Ash walked over to the replicator, "Coffee, black." She looked at Kaiae, "Do you want anything?"

"Tea." Curious, she had sampled human "coffee" the month before, but was not quite sure what to make of it. The humans seemed quite fond of it, though; perhaps even dependent on it for some critical biochemical process? at the rate they seemed to down the stuff, and Kaiae wondered for a moment again exactly how it was that the dark liquid interacted with human biology.

Ash sipped her coffee, "I know you're probably uncomfortable listening to your new commanding officer express doubt, but if we are to work together...trust has to be a part of the equation. I'd rather be honest with you about what my limitations are. The Romulans on board trust you. And if are willing to trust me, we can make this work. And you can keep me from making an ass of myself."

Kaiae's eyebrow climbed a bit. "I am aware of the meaning of the term, from the war. The translator, however, appears to be implying you intend to transform into a farm animal. We may...have to make some adjustments to it." She put it on her seemingly never-ending mental list of tasks. "So, then. What are your thoughts on our next move?" Her next moves were very much focused on the efforts to prepare to extract her kin, and the kin of those who followed her or who had now died under her charge. The situation with the Vulture and the refugees, however, was somewhat wider in breadth of involvement, and would require the ship and crew as a whole.

"My intentions, as they have been since I've been out here, even before I joined this crew was to do my best to help those in need. You and your people need help. I know you've been working with Renee, T'Ango, and Gunnar...how is that progressing?" Ash asked.

"Probably as well as can be expected given the abruptly shortened deadlines." Kaiae's fingers drummed on the underside of the desk quietly for a moment, once again considering the risks and rewards of involving another party (and this specific one) in the preparation of the extra ship. "How's your skill at sussing out booby traps, especially Tal'Shiar ones?"

"One doesn't last as long as I did in my old career without some skill in sussing out booby traps..." Ash responded. "In the field or during operations, I'm your person. But strategically, Renee is the best. Don't let her fool you, she was very good at what she did. Her only fault was that she didn't have the heart for it. But perhaps that's not a fault...." She sipped her coffee again. "So, if we divert from that mission to go after Raven or go after Vulture, am I going to lose the crew?"

Here, Kaiae felt there could be no ambiguity...Or for that matter, misunderstandings. "You would lose far more than merely that." The implication, she hoped, would be as clear to a human: Anyone who chose to take such actions and forfeit the lives of her people would be formfitting their own life as well. She looked Rogers directly in the eyes, human style, fixing her with an intense stare...And then suddenly dialed it back ever so slightly, on the realization that no, the woman in the room when the urgency of the matter was shortened once more had been that damnable double. This one probably did not know the clock they were racing was nearly at its end; did not know in making such a statement that such a thing would doom their kin to death. "Read it. We do not have even that time which we had thought we had."

Concern filled Ash's face...less time? They didn't have much to start with, "How much do we have? Nevermind...no matter what you tell me, it won't be enough. No.We will get your families off that planet. Even if we have to fly the Ourainavassa into the heart of the Empire...we will get your families out. You have my word."

The intensity was back on Kaiae's face for a moment, but it didn't seem hostile per se, just...penetrating and questioning; perhaps recalling other words given that were not kept. "I will hold you to that."

Matching Kaiae's stare, "I will stake my life on it, Subcommander. My inaction once cost countless lives, I can't let that happen again...ever. So, what needs to be done? If Renee hasn't already, her father is a good resource...albeit one of last resort."

Kaiae decided it would be redundant to point out to the human that she had, in fact, just staked her life on it. "Oh, that door has already been opened; or soon will be. And if you are the more skilled operator among the pair of you for immediate issues, then I should wish you to sweep the Tal'Shiar merchant vessel I acquired from the Terrans for use alongside the Dosadi ship, for anything unpleasant or unexpected that either left behind." By this point she would then have had enough people look over the thing to be reasonably certain not only of having caught any issues, but also that the various parties would serve as a crosscheck to one another, making it difficult for any one source or man to plant of sabotage anything under the guise of preventing such.

Ash smiled, a genuine smile for the first time since they started talking, "Now you're talking my language. I'll take a look at the ship." She then paused at raised an eyebrow at Kaiae, "However, if this is a double cross for you to get rid of me to take command of the Ourainavassa, I'm not that easy to kill...And you'll regret even trying."

Bizarrely perhaps to most human sensibilities, it was this that seemed to put a touch of mirth back into play on Kaiae's face as well, and brief soft laugh and an ever-so-slight easing of tension in her shoulders back towards how they had been nearer the start of the meeting. "You may be assured that is mutual. What is it one of your planets' historical figures once said...at least assuming it was not misquoted by the drunk lieutenant I heard it from one night at Quark's? Ah: 'We must hang together or we shall assuredly all hang separately'." The classic Romulan grin was back on Kaiae's face for a fleeting moment, despite the dire situation overall.

Ash raised her coffee mug towards Kaiae, "To trusting that we're all in this together..."

Kaiae was still fairly sure the human use of the word and the concept wasn't at all similar for the most part; but in this instance it might come closer, she thought, than most; and she raised the tea mug back slightly just-so.

 

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