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Falling Apart At The Seams

Posted on Mon Apr 11th, 2022 @ 3:34am by Subcommander Kaiae t'Lien & Lieutenant Hatham tr'Krotash

1,958 words; about a 10 minute read

Mission: Chapter V: The Calm Before The Storm
Location: Ourainavassa, Gym

Returning to the ship to pass on to Hatham, Renee, Arnason, and T'Ango the information that their remaining 7 weeks appeared to have narrowed again to more like 4 (and set in motion the processes of providing it to an even wider range of parties) had felt to Kaiae rather like she assumed walking to ones own execution must feel like, if one was actually ashamed of whatever crime had led to it.

Her first instinct was to follow it by going back to the office to work, or further consider potential ways to counter the enemy about to once more be posted on their bridge; but forced herself to head to the gym, instead. The other week's juvenile display of ripping her apart her own quarters like a four year old with much better reach and strength had impressed upon her that some things might not be as optional as she'd been treating them. She caught the first full glimpse of her own reflection she'd had since that incident (and the demise of the mirror in her own quarters in it) while changing into her workout clothes, noting the dark shadows under her eyes no amount of sleep seemed to cure any more, and the gaunt look no amount of forcing herself to eat seemed to fix. What started reasonably enough - warm up, lift some weights, move on to some basic moves with a punching and boxing bag - turned fairly quickly into beating the bag into such a condition that it would need replacement, with an eerily singular focus and drive, and her latest move, a high kick with her left leg, left a long split in the side that had sand pouring out onto the deck.

Hatham shook his head, suppressing a quiet if somewhat bitter chuckle - he knew exactly what had prompted that level of intensity. "That's why I slam weights. They're a lot harder to break."

Kaiae whirled around at the sound; realizing just how out of it she’d been to have missed him entering, relaxing slightly at confirmation of who had, then arched one eyebrow and revising upward again ‘just how out of it she’d been’; because a variety of weights were indeed strewn around near him, and a couple of…suspicious…dents were in one of the nearby, less sturdy inner partition walls. She’d feel embarrassed by being so focused in her rage to miss something like that happening; but if he was now only now noticing the level of…creative destruction…she’d been employing either; odds were he’d been in a similar place.

“At this rate—“ Kaiae reached a hand inside her tunic and threw the switch on her little jamming device, just in case “—the thing at risk of breaking…” Rather than finish the sentence, though, old caution still made her voice trail off and counted on him to simply fill in the implied end, that the thing at risk of breaking was themselves, or any chance of success of their plans, or both.

"More like exploding," Hatham replied nodding to the ruptured bag with a mix jest and gallows humor. In his case it was less a matter of himself breaking under pressure than exploding from it and breaking others. Better to channel that. "Me, I'm practicing. If we're caught, I intend to go out fighting, even if that means picking up a Tal'Shiar's body and using it as cudgel."

"Pity you are unlikely to be able to beat a senator to death with it at that point." Kaiae said rather bitterly herself. "Though, if this latest has not been shared widely, many of them may miscalculate the timing of any planned exit." There was a smile on her face for a fleeting moment, but it was not the pleasant visage of someone enjoying or admiring, but rather the vindictive satisfaction of someone dealing or observing a fitting end to an enemy; and some part of her noted in an eerily detached observation that she was now definitely leaning in to the 'treason' charge of late.

Hatham's smile at the suggestion of those senators and their Tal'Shiar sehlets being caught in the conflagration to which they so readily were consigning others was not fleeting. It was vindictive and almost darkly gleeful, in the sense of what humans would call schadenfreude (though the term translated poorly since there was only one human word that corresponded to the dozens of Rihannsu terms, each expressing varying degrees and causes for pleasure at another's misfortune). It occurred to him that as long she was becoming for comfortable with leaning into 'treason' there was no reason not to share a very private holoprogram he had been using for 'stress relief'. "I am sadly unlikely to beat the most deserving senator with his own Tal'Shiar minder," he said, and his smile widened just a little; a look that might give anyone not on such good terms with him serious pause. "But I have practiced the scenario. If you'd like to try it, holograms don't have to be repaired if you kick them too hard."

"...I would actually, yes." Kaiae's head moved just-so for a moment in thanks for the access, then stared over at to the nearby storage crate for some of the gym equipment where her uniform lay folded equally just-so on top (where she could keep an eye on it; another long-trained reflex whose value might be questionable at the moment...though with the Terran Rogers aboard, perhaps might still have value indeed). Maintaining it, for herself and the officers and crew who followed her here, was about the only trick she had left to maintain discipline, with mercenaries and the chaos of Drozana all around them, but every day lately it felt more and more wrong donning it.

"Beyond the logistics of this endeavor; once this is over…I don't...really know where to go from here. Or how." The obvious caveat ‘if we live’ went unspoken; known without saying, and the rest of it was a dangerous admission, but since the pair of them were bound together in an even more dangerous endeavor at the moment, hardly a fatal one.

It was another spot where some things might have translated poorly to most humans, that it was only now Kaiae felt bereft of a social script to follow: She had been, after all, technically in open rebellion and the commission of treason since the night she had sworn herself to the original plan when Areinnye had approached her in her quarters on the Dominus. But that had not been without precedent or tradition: An officer following the cause and orders of her commander and mentor; a junior-ranked daughter of the far-flung branch of a minor noble house following the banner of the daughter of a far more highly ranked one. Rebellion, yes, treason, yes; but in such a manner that perhaps the closest (though still a poor fit translation) human term might have been 'the loyal opposition'. (Perhaps the part of the archetype that would have had the hardest time translating culturally was the part where one could find the perpetrator and their actions at that point both honorable and understandable, yet also view their execution for those actions as appropriate.) The sort of action with, still, a defined precedent and role honored within the social transcript. But this...Now, the original plan was in tatters, there was no one left to follow but herself, and there was nothing left to tell her who or what she was meant to do or be, no example of history or myth or convention.

"One step at a time," Hatham said, not unsympathetically. He was well past any conflicted loyalties where the Empire was concerned. In his own mind, he remained loyal - but to the people; the noble houses in his opinion deserved no more loyalty than they gave. And having been betrayed by them, he had set out on his own, free of social place and expectations. He might still feel bitter over it, but he was past feeling conflicted or adrift. "The humans have a saying: sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Sometimes you just have to get through the evil in front of you and not worry about the next thing after it. If my family is settled safely somewhere, I'll die content. If I live, I'll work out if it's better to join them or take up some position to protect or provide for them."

"Sensible. Though, if I live, I am not certain I will have that choice." Kaiae moved away from the tatters of the bag and the pile of sand to some of the weights that lay on the deck in odd places where Hatham had thrown them and started picking some of them up, doing a few sets with each pair before placing them back where they belonged, the oddity of a senior ranking officer technically cleaning up the mess made by a subordinate set aside in favor of the fact that she still felt full of restless, frenetic energy she needed to burn off without damaging anything else. "Unless I settle my family outside our space amongst aliens; as I expect to unwelcome in...whatever remains. Those charges will either follow me to the grave, or be the cause of it." She shrugged her eyebrows, making it clear she still didn't regret in the slightest the actions she had taken, or planned to take, that had led her to such.

"Or those charges will come to be seen as a badge of honor, just as refusing Surak's 'logic' was for S'Task. It may not keep any remnants of Tal'Shiar from coming after us." There was slight emphasis on the last word. He might not be formally named at present but had little doubt that when all was said and done, he'd be numbered among those the Tal'Shair named traitors. "And I doubt settling among aliens would stop them, if that is, there are enough of them without much more pressing issues - like the rest of us hunting them down in revenge."

If the first pieces of Hatham's reply had Kaiae considering carefully the merits and potential of a point of view she had not yet conceived of (and a bit of reeling shock and confusion in her mind at even a tangential comparison of herself to S'Task), the last of his words put a wistful smile on her face for a moment. "Now that would be enjoyable." She set the last pair of weights back on the rack, and walked over to her folded uniform, fingering it, then glancing down at her gym clothes. "Suppose I'll have to pick up something from the station to replace this, then, unless I want to walk around in workout gear." She grimaced in a way somewhat similar to a human rolling their eyes. "Hate to give the greedy overgrown sets of ears there any money, but...." Her voice trailed off and her eyes flicked across Hatham's own clothes and gear set aside. "...Where do you get yours? Anyone I should avoid sourcing from?"

"No reason to abandon the uniform - you are serving the people of the Empire, which gives you more right than those interdicting the folks trying to escape, in my opinion," he replied earnestly. "But if you want some civvie gear, there's a Bolian tailor who does good work." His lips quirked in an almost grin. "As you might guess, I can rarely buy standard size anything."


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