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On the Cusp, Part 1

Posted on Mon Oct 26th, 2015 @ 1:52pm by Lieutenant Commander Vanora Stele

Mission: Heart of Stele
Location: Tellun System
Timeline: After "Babel, Part 2"

The cloaked Razor Interceptor was headed for Elas at full impulse. It would be only minutes before their arrival.

Aleixo and Cassandra had jumped to the controls as soon as they were aboard, without asking for permission. Coordination was easier now, and everyone was more appreciative of their universal translators than they had ever been. Aleixo reported that the Nausicaan and Tzekenthi prisoners were dead, and then immediately pushed the ship full speed away from the Troyian moon. Cassandra had sent off several messages to Starfleet, and it was now only a matter of time before all those who were involved with Beta Base were brought to justice. Every single person now in the interceptor was going to make sure of that.

The others all gave Vanora and Tang space, as much as they could within the now-cramped vessel. They were curious about their rescuer, of course, but all could see from the interaction between the couple that the two required some privacy. Vanora tended to Tangs wounds as well as she could given the limited medical supplies on Kanoa's ship, but she wasn't going to be able to repair his fractured legs. A proper Sickbay would be needed for that operation. Vanora sat on the floor against the aft bulkhead, with Tang's head cradled in her lap.

For his part, Tang put on his usual calm, brave face and did his own best to tend to Vanora's shattered heart, speaking to her softly and reassuring her. He already seemed less gaunt than in the prison. "It is not your fault," he repeated in a gentle voice as he looked up at her. "It is not your fault."

Vanora's feelings swung wildly between guilt, amazement, and anger. Currently, she was settled on wrath. "My mother?" she said in disbelief. She gritted her teeth. "Tell me everything."

"We only have a few minutes..."

"The short version then."

Tang sighed. "I would rather speak of happier things, my Heart, for as long as we have been apart I have missed you every moment, but I understand the need for clarity, especially given what happens next. There are questions that must be answered, and some answers that I do not have. But I will do my best."

He took a deep breath before beginning. "That night, when we came under attack, the Ferengi Raiders disabled our shields and began boarding us. I assumed they were after the cargo, that it was a double-cross."

Vanora nodded. "So did I. Deck 2, Sections 6 and 7." This part of the story was familiar. She knew it was about to become less so.

"The Ferengi and their mercenaries did beam into the cargo bay, and our security team engaged them there. Only, it was a distraction. As were the Ferengi ships. There was a third ship there that we never detected."

"That's impossible." Vanora had spent months scouring the scene of the attack. There were no signs of any ships but the two Raiders. A cloaked ship was one of the first things she had looked for signs of. She said as much to Tang.

"Despite what you may have seen in that prison, there are elements of the Timariot that are very well trained. Elite units, including in their secret intelligence division. I did not know at the time the exact nature of how they pulled it off, but they did. I was very surprised when, on my way to link up with the rest of the security team, Elasians beamed directly around me. It was me and Andryea."

Vanora shook her head sadly, remembering. Andryea was a very young and new crew member when the attack happened, and Tang had taken her under his wing to learn the ropes of security. Her DNA residue was one of the first that had been identified in the aftermath; a Ferengi disruptor on maximum had disintegrated her completely.

Tang continued. "I think I was so shocked to see Elasians that I delayed. It was my hesitation that cost Andryea her life, and got me captured. I was knocked unconscious, and when I awoke, I was bound and gagged in the brig of a Timariot stealth ship."

"You said that you didn't know at the time how they pulled it off," Vanora wondered aloud. "But now you do know?"

"Thanks to Lieutenant Cassandra Melik," he said. Vanora looked up at the Starfleet Intelligence officer, who had herself turned upon hearing her name; Vanora noted to herself that the woman must have had extraordinary hearing. Vanora smiled and Cassandra smiled back before turning back to the controls. "Aleixo told you that he helped us communicate. I don't mean to make you jealous, but she tried to rescue me first." Tang's eyes twinkled mischievously.

Vanora smiled reflexively at seeing her husband's eyes sparkle, but asked immediately, "Why would she have come to rescue you?"

Tang looked serious. "I know we promised each other when we married: no secrets. I did not intend to hide this from you, my Heart. When I was a Marine, I was stationed on the Neutral Zone front. There was some concern that there was a mole in my brigade, someone feeding the Romulans intel. I was recruited as an asset by Starfleet Intelligence, to root out the mole. I believed, when the spy was uncovered, that my participation with the division was over. But..."

"...but once an asset, always an asset." Vanora did feel badly that Tang had never spoken to her about this part of his life. It was surprising. The couple had always been completely honest with one another. Yet, at the same time she could see how he would have wanted to forget such an incident, one where he had to betray another marine who had betrayed the Corps. "You must have still been active then, when you were abducted. Otherwise they would not have come for you."

Tang nodded. "I was not active when I met you, or for any of our time together. It was only for that final run that Intel had enlisted my assistance. Cassandra's unit was tasked with investigating reports of a crime loop: Federation technology and R&D sold on the black market, with the profits financing purchase of arms. All happening within Federation borders. The Ferengi we were carrying cargo for on that run, they had been the last link on one line of the investigation. Cassandra was my handler; she contacted me right after you took the job and briefed me. The assumption was that the controlled tech was hidden within their legitimate cargo. I was to observe only once we reached our destination and made the delivery, and then signal Cassandra to make the raid."

Aleixo's voice interrupted Tang's retelling. "Two minutes to orbit; dropping to half-impulse for final approach."

"Then I will summarize the remainder, with haste, as this is essential for you to know as you return to Elas," Tang told Vanora, holding her hand. "It was a setup. The Ferengi were paid to be a cover; the job was always meant for the Lady of the Lake. The mission was to destroy the ship and capture me."

TO BE CONTINUED:

 

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