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War and Peace

Posted on Sat Jul 11th, 2015 @ 3:08pm by Lieutenant Commander Vanora Stele & Commander Mercia Kavi
Edited on on Wed Oct 21st, 2015 @ 7:45am

Mission: Heart of Stele
Location: Brig, USS Gladiator
Timeline: After "Someone's Looking For You"

ON:

"Commander," Kanoa greeted Mercia as she and Vanora entered the Brig, though the bounty hunter did not appear to move. He was still in the same position Mercia had left him in, seemingly lounging on the cell bench, eyes covered by a muscular, tattooed arm to block out the Brig's lights. "And I see you brought a friend. Greetings, Starfleet," he said to Vanora. "I don't suppose you are here to release me and let me return to my ship?"

"Hawkins is the man who authorizes that. I can however authorize a visitor. This is my best friend, Lt. Commander Vanora Stele." She said folding her arms. She turned to look at the guard, "Go take a break." she said. The young man nodded and got up before leaving the room.

"How nice for a commander to have a lieutenant commander best friend. It's like having an understudy." Kanoa laughed humorlessly before swinging himself upright and staring hard at the lieutenant commander. "Vanora Stele. Two familiar names but in the wrong places. 'Vanora,' that's an Elasian name if I ever heard one. Am I wrong?"

"You're not," Vanora admitted. "I'm Elasian. And you, Kanoa Tiamet, are Molai."

"And here I am, sitting in a cell, and there you are, standing free. It is enough to make one homesick. Do you miss this, Vanora?"

"I'm Starfleet," Vanora said, standing her ground defiantly. "This is my home now."

"Oh, yes, Starfleet. Because there were never Starfleet Marines helping put down the Molai," the man spat out sarcastically. "Why did you come down here, Lieutenant Commander Elasian? Is there something you want to say to me from behind the safety of a force field? Come to let me know that I am your inferior and you are my better?"

"Hey!" Mercia jumped in. "Don't be such an ass!" She said. "She came to see you, not to disrespect you. You're behind the force field because you decided it was better to violate the security of my ship rather than hail us and talk to us. That's on you, not her or any perceived superiority complex. This is the Gladiator, not New Elas."

"Daem'rehv," Kanoa said, grimacing.

Mercia folded her arms as she narrowed her eyes, "Excuse me?"

"It's what the Molai call New Elas," Vanora explained.

"It is the true name of the sanctuary that gave refuge to the Molai, to the Polynesians, the Trae'molai before them, and to the Tie'h--the First," Kanoa corrected her, speaking proudly.

"My apologies," Vanora said, her sincerity clear. "As Mercia said, I'm not here to insult you or taunt you. I have no quarrel with the Molai, and I understand your anger at Elasians. For what it is worth, I left Elas years ago, in large part because I could not participate in what they... in what we did to your people."

Kanoa laughed. "Would you like a trophy for your morals, Lieutenant Commander? Shall I do a traditional dance or spin fire to entertain you as payment for your sacrifices? You joined Starfleet. In case you've only read propaganda since you left home, Starfleet is not an innocent bystander in what Elas does to the Molai and to Daem'rehv. Does," he repeated with emphasis, "not past tense."

"Again, my apologies, but I really am not here to insult you, and this isn't Daem'rehv, or Elas, or the Tellun or Dohlmanus systems. We're in a different Quadrant altogether now."

"It matters not the stage if the roles remain the same. Here we have a Molai, Elasian, and Starfleet." Kanoa began pacing in his cell. It was the least calm he appeared since arriving in the Brig. "Speak then, Vanora of Starfleet. Make your demands."

"I just wanted to know what you're doing here," Vanora replied. "Not in that cell; Mercia explained that part to me. I mean, what are you doing this from from home? Isn't that unusual for a Molai?"

"War makes man less than his usual self. You won the war. You know that already. You and Starfleet's Marines bombed the asteroid belt a thousand times until finally the KDM was dust. I left before that happened, and I did not wish to live a political prisoner, either back in the domes or in an Elasian prison. They are the same, actually. They are both Elasian prisons."

Mercia looked at Vanora, "Are their people still prisoners just because of their blood?" she asked.

"This was a mistake, maybe," Vanora mumbled to Mercia, turning slightly as if she were going to leave.

"No... Hold on." Mercia said catching her arm. "Look, we're not going to play the roles, we're not on that stage, and that is not who we are. We would much rather find common ground here. So you left Daem'rehv.." giving him the respect of using his name for his world. "Did you cut yourself off so much that you know nothing of what has happened there? With the amnesty?"

For the first time, Kanoa appeared to lose his bravado. "I left the KDM," he said. "Neither of you will understand, growing up in the safety and plenty of the Federation utopia. But there are in some places struggles to survive so brutal, and fights for a belief so strongly held, that no dissent can be had, not the slightest. Imagine, then, what leaving means. I have no doubt that those few of my former comrades who survived view me as a deserter and traitor. And knowing their tactics and ethics as I do, I also know what they would do would they see my face again one day."

Mercia folded her arms, "You just might be surprised how keenly I do understand somethings along those lines." she said. "I was a slave's daughter on a world just out of Federation reach, an orphan at five, A Black Widow by the age 11. I escaped as a teenager and I know what its like to live always looking for a familiar unfriendly face in the crowd...."

The bounty hunter looked slightly surprised for a moment, then nodded solemnly. "My apologies, Commander. You know what it is, then, to be both free and not free in the here and now. Not everyone has what you have," he finished, casting a long look, almost a glare, at Vanora.

"But the KDM, the ones who escaped, I thought they were all in Klingon space now. You could go home, if you wanted to," Vanora said, thankful for Mercia's friendly hand on her arm. She was not one who ever lacked courage, and the feeling of doubt was new and horrible.

Kanoa looked at her as if she had just called a starship a tribble. "That is not how it works." He left it at that. "Perhaps you understand this as well," he said as he looked deeply into Mercia's eyes.

"He'd still be seen like a traitor, and if not a traitor than still someone of a lower class. He is still more free out here, the amnesty is freedom to him." Mercia looked at Vanora, "What is Lady of the Lake without Tang? Its not home any more, it may be familiar, and you might get by but its not really home. Right?"

Vanora opened her mouth to respond, but Kanoa cut her off. "I know this name. Tang. And I know now why your non-Elasian name was also familiar to me. Tang Stele. You are of blood or marriage to this Human?"

The Chief Ops' face dropped, and she felt like her stomach and heart had just switched places. "He was my husband." She stared so hard at Kanoa that it seemed as though her gaze might puncture the force field. "How did you know Tang? Where did you see him last? When was that?" She feared that all that would come of this was another round of mourning, as always happened when she met someone who had known Tang before she met him. An old Marine buddy, another ship's captain. But still, that despised glimmer of hope began to grow like a cancer in the front of her mind.

"You wield the past tense like one of your Elasian knives," Kanoa said carefully. "And thus I am confused: you state that the Human was your husband, being that he is no longer bound to you, yet still you carry his name. Strange enough for any Elasian woman alone, and stranger still for one who has broken the bonds of matrimony."

"Tell me what you know. Now." Vanora spoke through clenched teeth, moving automatically toward the force field, trying to pull her arm from Mercia's grip.

"Ah." Kanoa smiled again, this time as a wolf seeing his prey finally exposed in the open. His teeth were very white. "How unexpected, that an Elasian would be the one over whom I hold a precious bargaining chip. I will tell you all, Elasian. Once you release me, that is."

Mercia looked at Vanora, she could see the look on the woman's face as she did her best to hang on to her. "We need to talk to Hawkins about that." she needed to get Vanora away from this man now before she lost it. It was entirely possible he was playing her. He seemed genuine, but he was a deal maker and David had not given clearance to release him just yet. "But it occurs to me that all you have done is played upon facts you may have already known. What sort of proof have we that you are not just playing upon her heart to manipulate her?" she demanded.

"A sharp catch. You would make an excellent bounty hunter," Kanoa observed of Mercia. He looked back to Vanora. "The Human with whom I crossed paths that was called Tang Stele had tatau," he said, tapping the ink etched into his own arm. "I know not whether the markings were acquired prior to your parting of paths with the man, Elasian. But if perchance the drawing was done whence you knew him, or earlier, I will describe it to you in detail."

"Vee..." Mercia said warningly.

Kanoa shrugged. "I claim not to have been of fraternal or otherwise close bonds with the Elasian's spouse. My information is what I have to offer in trade, and I cannot and will not fabricate more evidence of my veracity than I actually possess. What say you, Elasian?"

"He had a tattoo," Vanora said, jaw still clenched. "Tell me."

Kanoa answered before Mercia had a chance to protest. "The tatau spreads across his upper back. It was the Sphinx of ancient Earth, in six colors. A head drawn in jet black lines, the mane or crown in golden yellow. The lion's body is white, unusual for inking, and the paws finished with emerald green claws. Sky blue wings are partially extended as if preparing to launch into flight, enveloping the man's shoulder blades. And the sixth color," he said with a knowing look, "is the blood red 'V' centered on the Sphinx's chest and Tang Stele's spine."

Vanora hung on every word in the description of the tattoo. "That is exactly it," she said, exhaling her words. She shook off Mercia's hand and made her way to the side of the cell and began to type in the release code.

"Vanor stop!" Mercia said, leaping forward and grabbing her arm. "This is important Vee, but you're not authorized to release this man from the brig. We can go talk to Hawkins and ask for approval." she said moving in between Vanora and the panel, putting herself in a very dangerous position.

"And what happens when David says no?" Vanora asked her. "He already said no before, didn't he, when Kanoa claimed to have evidence that Sid had committed murder? Is he going to approve releasing someone who he thinks is dangerous just because the man says he knows something, something undefined and even less concrete than what he said about Sid, just because it's about my missing and presumed dead husband? Be honest with me, Mercia... can you give me a 100% guarantee that he will say yes? Because I am taking this man out of here and finding out what he knows. He has seen Tang, I know it, I know it in my heart."

Mercia refused to take the bait and decided to tip her head at Vanora. "David lost his fiancee, don't you think he'd understand what is going through your head? Hasn't he earned your trust? There is a right way and a wrong way to do this Vanora.. choose the right way." She said narrowing her eyes at her.

"Then David will understand why I have to do this, and will trust that I didn't mean to insult him. I'm sorry, Mercia. I don't know what Kanoa knows, but I'm not waiting to find out that I missed my chance. I'm going now, and if it costs me everything... I've already lost everything." Vanora met Mercia's gaze with one that was both pleading and insistent. "Either help me or get out of my way."

Mercia looked pained. "I can't." She said swollowing hard. "At least not without contacting David." She said. "Trust him, please. Don't do something that puts your career at risk. This man might not know anything." She said. "I'm protecting you Vee. Trust me."

"I trust you. And David. With my life," Vanora said softly as she began turning away. Before a second had passed, however, she had brought her leg back and upward, catching Mercia fully in the chin. "But it's not my life that is at stake here, not this time. I'm sorry, Mercia."

Mercia hadn't been expecting the reaction from Vanora, and her guard was down. Vanora was one of the very few people who knew Mercia's style well enough to know her reaction speeds. So when her foot moved for Mercias face, she reacted too slowly to not get knocked over. Vanoras kick hit her solidly and knocked her head in to the wall behind her. Mercia stumbled trying not to black out. She slapped at her chest trying to hit her comm badge as she fought to regain her balance. Knowing she was about to go black she used her momentum to aim at Vanora. "Kavi to Hawkins... brig..." she sputtered out as blood gushed from where she'd bit down on her lip and tongue. The black took over and Mercia crumpled.

"Computer, seal doors, override code Samsoe Stele Sigma One," the woman said. It wouldn't stop David, or Khelev for that matter, from getting in, but it would stop pretty much everyone else on the ship responding to Mercia's aborted distress call to Hawkins, including the guard waiting outside. Vanora drew her longest knife and then grabbed Mercia's comm badge, smashing it against the wall with the hilt of the knife. "I'm not even going to give you the chance to make a wrong move before I gut you," Vanora warned Kanoa as she quickly typed a release code into the cell's panel. "If I even have a bad feeling that's actually just heartburn, you're done. Understand?" Her finger hovered over the final button, waiting.

Kanoa looked from Vanora down to the crumpled XO and nodded. "I understand."

"Good." Vanora pressed the panel and the force field flickered off. She closed the distance between the two of them quickly, placing the business end of the dagger firmly against Kanoa's rib cage. "There," she said, motioning toward a console. "The coordinates of your ship. Input them," she ordered. "And we're transporting there together, so reconsider before you beam us into random space.

The large Molai nodded again and carefully inputted a set of coordinates. Vanora took over and with a series of practiced keystrokes, initiated a site-to-site transport, and she and the bounty hunter dematerialized from the room.

TO BE CONTINUED....

 

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