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Late to the Party

Posted on Fri Jul 15th, 2022 @ 11:26pm by Lieutenant Mila Lynn & Freya Mannerheim & Subcommander Kaiae t'Lien & Lieutenant Hatham tr'Krotash & Lieutenant T'Ango & Gunnar Arnason
Edited on on Sat Jul 16th, 2022 @ 8:56am

Mission: Chapter VI: Racing the Storm
Location: Ourainavassa, Conference Room
Timeline: 238704.19

T'Ango and Gunnar made their way back to the Cat Dancing II, leaning against each other just bit to mask a slight deficit of coordination after several drinks.

"Am I late?"

Both turned at the familiar voice. "Divash!" Any thought of stumbling was thrown aside as they dashed to envelope her in a three-way embrace.

"Right on time," Gunnar said. "We were getting worried with the timelines moving up so much. I assume you got the ship?"

"Of course." She smiled widely. "A D'deridex Retrofit Battle Cruiser - she's cloaked and parked just off the station."

T'Ango returned the smile, ears and whiskers perking. "Our Romulan friends are going to be so relieved. The 'tomorrow we may die' crew party just broke up, but we can probably..." Her voice trailed off into a purr as Divash caressed along outer ear and jaw just so.

Turning her face to Gunnar, a quick doctor's assessment of his eyes told her all she needed to know of how much he'd partaken at that party. "Maybe it would be best to let everyone sober up." The Orion reached up and kissed him, smiling at the taste of ale on his lips. "Then we can have a private reunion party."

"Yes..." It came out almost as much purr as T'Ango's. He cleared his throat. "Probably best tomorrow, when everyone's clear-headed."

The next morning, though not so early, the trio entered a conference room on the Ourainavassa, followed by a petite Romulan and a hulking Orion nearly as large as Hatham, and on sighting each other there was an initial moment as the two reflexively sized each other up.

Divash had no such moment. Sighting the other physician present, she opened her hands, smiling. "Nancy! Gunnar said had joined the cause."

"Not all of us can do work-behind-the-scenes," Gable replied, grabbing a hand and then pulling her old colleague into a brief hug. "It's good to see you. I hope you armed the crap out of that ship you stole."

"Please," Divash pulled a moue, "'stole' is such a harsh term. Besides, we paid a good price for an old impounded ship. Not my fault if there was a 'clerical error' and we received this one," she replied with a wink.

"Yeah pretty sure whenever they discover it; it'll end up being called my fault." muttered the diminutive Romulan in civilian clothes who'd come with Divash and company, rolling her eyes human-style.

The door to the conference room opened, and Mila entered, clutching a large coffee and looking an absolute mess. Her hair was all over the place, her shirt buttoned up wrongly, and she hadn't even bothered to put on her by now usual tie, or her mother's uniform jacket. "She stifled a yawn. "Sorry, I ended up pulling an all-nighter working on the cloak modifications for the Cat. And then applying the same mods to this ship as well." She looked at Divash. "So I assume you're responsible for that giant gravity signature that showed up next to the station?"

"Yes, I am." Divash answered, lips pressed against an amused smile at what was apparently a female version of Burnie. "It's a retrofit D'deridex, the IRW Mnaae Dhael. The cloak is original with a slight upgrade," she glanced briefly to the Romulan woman besides her, "But Gunnar and Tango have been telling me about what you've added to their ship, so if you have a way to reduce that gravity signature, we'd love to hear it."

Mila rolled her eyes. "I am an analytic physicist specialising in the theories of time travel and alternate universes and trying to find proof those exist," she replied indignantly, before glancing out of the window, where I.S.S. Amelia was visible holding position near the station and the captured ex-Federation hospital ship, the James Bedford. "Ugh, who am I kidding," she added. "Proof of that is right outside. Fine, send me over the specs and I'll see what I can come up with."

"I'll get you my mother's notes on it, sure." Said the petite Romulan next to Divash with the flared-sleeve tunic and silver-black leggings.

Mila simply nodded. Normally, she'd immediately ask about how the Romulan's mother factored into the whole thing, but she was just too tired.

Meanwhile, the door opened again, this time admitting Kaiae, late as usual these days from juggling competing demands that tried to put her in eight places at once. She took stock of the room and its occupants, eyebrow rising in spite of itself at the little Romulan near the Orion woman, and slid into the empty seat next to Hatham and gave the table as a whole a fractional nod.

As soon as the doors had closed behind Kaiae, they opened once again, and Captain Mannerheim - this time in full uniform - entered. "Morning all, sorry I'm a little late. Just had a very, very lengty call with the admiralty. At least I can confirm that everything is going ahead as planned, the schedule hasn't changed, and they haven't openly called me out for my treason just yet." She dropped herself in a chair opposite Kaiae. "So what's this meeting about?"

"The third ship." Kaiae said; halfway in answer and halfway expectantly; and her mind was racing at how they might make this work in their advantage perhaps - sheer distance had called for another ship to supplement the Cat and the purloined Tal'Shiar vessel they were taking to the homeworld, but a D'deridex was a much larger ship than she'd expected to show up, and it at all possible she intended to see it filled with as many 'extra' passengers as they could manage, after they'd picked up the original list allocated to it.

Freya nodded. "Fifth. Don't forget the Nygardians also showed up. So, we have their ship, the Tal Shiar transport, the Cat, the James Bedford, and whatever the new arrivals brought, right?"

"A D'deridex," Divash supplied, adding with a glance at Kali, "with a few upgrades. Allow me to introduce myself, Dr. Divash. I'd served with Dr. Gable and Gunnar. My XO is Kali t'Leiya, and Hubin," she nodded toward the big Orion man with them, "is running security for us."

Kaiae tried to parse the new parties—so; an Orion officer of the Federation fleet, and…well she hadn’t mentioned the big Orion male having served with Gable too so possibly he was an Orion contact that had somehow gotten pulled into all this? Then there was the petite Romulan, who had her blinking at that name. “Like the senator?” One of Kaiae’s eyebrows rose; the house-name given matched one of the short list of senators and officials she’d referenced being a short list to T’Ango and Gunnar the other day; of those willing to speak out and/or attempt to take action on the rest of the body’s dereliction or attempt to make some efforts to save at least those in their own districts. It was beginning to go badly for more of them, though; the last rumor Kaiae had heard on the topic had insinuated at least a few of them were now or had been referred to the Continuing Committee, the only people who might charge a sitting senator, for charges and trial. But this woman just, in some subtle way Kaiae couldn’t put her finger on, too.

“Technically yeah; but in my case the question you should be linking it up to is about fifty years old and is less ‘like the senator’ and more ‘like the defector’.” The little Romulan said dryly.

The unexpected answer sent Kaiae’s brain back further into political scandals from before her own birth until landing on the one about a certain younger member of the house in question managing to slip out of the Empire near the height of isolation and settle, the rumor said, in the Federation with her mate. Other, quieter versions of the same rumor implied the pair had left behind a scathing note to the Senate about the growing imbalance of power with the Tal’Shiar; but Kaiae had always thought that if that version of it were true, it was a stupid move - all it had probably done is make life more difficult for any remaining members of the house in question or their political allies. The woman next to Divash was too young to be either of the idiots in question, but she could be their offspring, perhaps…Though Kaiae decided to handle that line of inquiry after the main meeting; and instead focused on a more forefront point:

“How fully do you expect she can be loaded; compared to standard?” Kaiae glanced back and forth at the three newcomers; the Empire tried very hard not to let their technology and especially whole entire ships get out of their grasp; but the nature of some losses during the war with the Dominion, for starters, had left a variety of vessels adrift and damaged in such ways that their commanders had been unable to even destroy them. That battle with the Breen and their energy sapping weapon alone had been a disaster that way. She’d been on at least one mission since where there was an attempt to hunt down a pirate who’d adopted such a ship, but he wasn’t the only one by far; and if at some point this ship had been a pirate’s plaything before it had ended up in whatever Federation impound lot or intelligence stash they’d…liberated…it from, Kaiae didn’t feel she could assume it could support a full life support capacity without asking—some pirates played fast and loose with maintenance and the like, after all. Whatever upgrades it had been given in terms of the cloak or otherwise, that passenger capacity level would be critical to know.

Freya nodded. "The Subcommander makes a good point. Depending on where you acquired the vessel, she might not be in any condition to load nearly as many people as she could in theory. Now, we all know how huge those things are. I've battled against them on a few occasions as well, they are incredibly difficult to destroy unless you know their exact weak points. Which, of course, the Tal Shiar do. The other ships have the distinct advantage of not being the kind of design that raises suspicion. Olympic-class ships that have been decommissioned from Starfleet service are known to be used by traders for their cargo hauling capacities. Both the Cat Dancing and Skidbladnir are civilian designs to begin with. A D'Deridex does not have that advantage."

"A D'deridex has other advantages." Kaiae countered. "And not being foreign civilian ships somewhat is its advantage. You can get away with those in some of the other systems, with convincing papers at least, a lot easier than you can justify their presence near the homeworld, or any planet in the same system like Remus. Trust me when I say you are unlikely to shoot your way out of that one. Not getting flagged for notice in the first place--or clearing it quickly and convincingly if you are--will be key there." She flicked a knowing glance at Hatham, the other man at the table who'd been in and out of the system multiple times himself; nodded at Freya; then looked expectantly back at Divash, seemingly the leader of the newcomers, for an answer on the life support capacity retention of the ship. In the back of her head, she made an urgent mental note to take Divash to speak to Renee; whoever the unholy contact of her fathers who had done up the false identities for the crew that would board their stolen Tal'Shiar ship, hopefully they could put in similar false papers for the D'deridex; perhaps as a privateer in the service of same.

Mila had been going over some files on her PADD, and looked up. "You know, that's a good point. The other ships we've got won't be much use going to the Romulus system at all. And as common as a civilian Olympic might be, taking that ship into Romulan space is probably not a good idea at all. And I'm fully on board with not shooting our way out. All that's going to do is raise even more suspicion."

"T'Ango and I have gotten people off Romulus," Gunnar put in. "But that way only works when we have months to spend taking small numbers at widely dispersed visits. For what we need to do now, that's not an option. But the Cat at least can still go in." He glanced toward T'Ango, who nodded with a cat-digesting-canary smile.

"With our new cloaks, if we stick in the D'deridex shadow we should be able to make it through Romulus' border control undetected," the felinoid explained. "After that, we slip down among all the orbit to surface traffic."

"With some work we might be able to use the Tal'Shiar transport too," Gunnar added. "Then we could dedicate that one to Remus, instead of hoping there are no complications in hopping from there to Romulus."

Divash tipped her head, mentally reorganizing plans and contingencies. "But it won't be essential. To answer the question on capacity, the ship is 80% habitable, but we've...borrowed...enough EV suits to pack people into the dead spaces if necessary."

"Yes. Between all of us, we should be able to take on more than just those on our list," T'Ango said with a pleased smile. "And after we make our last run for families on an outer planet in the danger zone, we'll be able to concentrate on the home system."

“Alright I’ll work on getting papers for the D’deridex through the channels that handled some of our other items; though a whole ship might be harder to—“ Kaiae started to say, only to be cut off by the petite uncanny valley sitting next to Divash.

“Actually might already have those; just waiting for confirmation.” Kali said; and she sounded…off, again; like as pleased as she was with that fact; she wasn’t sure how to feel about something tied up in it all. She shoved a Federation style PADD over towards Kaiae and Hatham; and Kaiae’s eyebrow went up again.

“An entirely new IFF beacon ID for the ship. A genuine one; from the 17th Warbird Wing. Exactly where are you getting that?” Kaiae skewered the little one with a penetrating stare; that was a dangerous thing to try to fake well; and how in the universe you’d get a real, active one was perplexing.

“From a ship in the 17th Warbird Wing, that’ll be doing without it for a bit.” Kali shrugged human style with a half-smug, half lost and lackluster expression. “Courtesy of Vice Admiral V’Lan and his wife.”

Kaiae’s eyebrow climbed for a moment if anything even higher and she have a flick of a glance at Hatham, still parsing all this and having to simultaneously sort through both the list and web of senior-ish Galae personnel she'd memorized as a warbird comms officer and the list of senators, noble house heads, and political players of note that her grandparents had made her study as a child; but what wasn’t said there spoke about as loudly as what had been: Vice Admiral V’Lan was the husband of Caithlin t’Leiya, who was seemingly a relative of the woman in front of her; and who was herself the eldest remaining child and heir to Senator Amarik, one of the men referred for trial before the Committee the week before. It was a fitting revenge, really, and a solid ID if they could pull it off and avoid getting challenged and inspected. But once they’d filled the ship to the gills with passengers the only hope of not getting caught would be not getting inspected in the first place. And the Tal’Shiar ship would be perfect for the Remus run, actually; no one was likely to question them loading up a bunch of Remans. “We’ll need to put at least a decent looking crew on her bridge then, with proper uniforms, to try and sell that if you get hailed. Some of you—“ Kaiae flicked a glance at Divash and Hubin, “—might need a disguise for it. Gable can probably help with that.”

Mila and Freya both opened their mouths at the same time, wanting to speak. After a quick exchange of glances, the Captain nodded, and let the young scientist go first. "We might not need to go as far as that, actually. I mean, like you said, avoiding inspection is the way to go. There's a few tricks we can use to help us with that, like disguising life signs, and messing with the image produced by the communications system." She turned to Freya. "I reckon that was what you were going to say, Captain?"

"Indeed, Lieutenant." The Terran nodded. "Disguising life signs is a classic trick, commonly used when you want to lure enemies into boarding your ship, or letting you board theirs, without them knowing just how many people you have. We could use that and simply make the passengers and non-Romulans appear as the expected crew on scanners. Modifying the viewscreen wouldn't be too difficult either, I'm sure."

"I was going to say..." Divash chuckled. "Though we've heard the Tal'Shiar can detect video mods, so we have another option to use if necessary." Pressing a device on her belt, the Orion suddenly transformed in a Romulan officer. "Personal holographic imager."

Gunnar blinked, staring a moment at the Romulan version of Divash. "That's ...impressive. And useful. Would've saved me a lot of time in fake ears."

"I can get you one," she replied, and grinned at him. "Though I think you look much better human. Also it's limited. Like with adaptive camo armor, you can't move too fast and the device only has power to last a little over an hour."

Mila smiled and held out her hand. "Give me one of those and I bet I can get it to last three."

"Great. I've asked for a current crew list along with the beacon, which should be arriving in the next few days; so that should come with all the image data and other info you'll need to spoof the images of the correct officers to match the ship ID, and hopefully also with enough background to bluff someone if you had to." Kali nodded at Mila and Divash. "With any luck at least one of them will be within 10 centimeters or so of my height; that sorta system has a harder time keeping up the bigger the size discrepancy between the target image and the base subject."

Personally, Kaiae thought her odds were fairly low there; the woman wasn't entirely out of the range of height for their species, but she was definitely a rarer example of it; she'd only ever met a few people around the same. It wasn't the sort of thing to say to someone about to hand you a warbird, though; so she kept her mouth shut and instead glanced over at Hatham again. "We missing anything here you can think of?"

"I think we have several crew who would volunteer to join theirs," the big Romulan said. It almost went without saying since a number could be assumed to want to be there to ensure their own families made it out. "That should solve any issues with fitting physical size to images since they all have Galae experience and speak unaccented Rihannsu." Left unsaid was that the pint sized Romulan might have pedigree, and there was touch of uppercrust in her accent, but she had also clearly spent most of her life among humans so to his ear 'uncanny valley' extended beyond mere appearance.

Kali fixed Hatham with a brief sardonic grin mixed with a slight eyebrow rise and a human-style sheepish expression, all mixed together at once, and chuckled softly for a moment, clearly still able to read the undercurrent, or the gist of it at least, in his last statements. "You're not wrong. All my slang terms and word usage are about a half century out of date, for starters." Fifty years was nearly just the blink of an eye to a Romulan and so nothing changed quite as fast as it did among, say, the languages spoken humans; but even among humans some things could change in just ten years, so likewise some things had changed in fifty years of Rihannsu usage.

"Someone familiar with Galae manner and protocols might be more likely to pull off a bluff if it becomes necessary," Gunnar suggested diplomatically. A trained observer, he'd spent enough time now around native born Romulans to note a multitude of ways Kali was not quite fit to the mold and knew that the Romulans in the room were probably picking up even more. However, he knew how much being neither fish nor fowl with respect to the divergence between heritage and upbringing pained her, so while the importance of the mission argued for her to keep to the background, he wasn't going to point out more than what would've applied to humans as well: military organizations had their own culture and idioms, so people who served in Starfleet could generally spot someone faking it.

"Alright, I think that's it then, unless anyone has anything else?" Kaiae asked. Since she'd already queried Hatham, this time she looked at Freya and Divash, hoping to tie up this very useful but thoroughly and unexpectedly mind-bending meeting.

The Captain shook her head. "No further questions from my side. Keep me in the loop on any further developments." She sighed. "And please, next time you expect visitors, let me know in advance. A cloaked D'Deridex suddenly appearing made some of my more paranoid officers go into overdrive, and remember, I'm trying to stop them from making your lives even more difficult at the moment."

Kaiae simply sidestepped Freya's statement for now; avoiding getting into the fact that keeping information from getting back to those same officers was an argument also for keeping such information limited; and gave a dispatching little nod of her head to the table at large. "Dismissed, then."


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