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Bread And Syntaxes

Posted on Mar 30, 2015 @ 7:46pm by Captain Kassandra Thytos & Selyara Chen

Mission: Limbo

"Bread and Syntaxes"

(Cont. Thomas and the Gigglebrigade II)


SCENE: Corridor

STARDATE: 2.15.0330.1513

Jake Crichton had taken a moment to look in on the kids, then decided to head for Engineering. Kane had ordered Jake and Russ to their quarters to get some rest, since they'd each been awake for over 24 hours. But Jake still felt too keyed up to sit still. He thought of laying in bed, tossing and turning and trying to get comfortable while thinking about the WHISPERHAWK, his wife, whether or not Lt. Rochemonte was keeping an eye on the static build-up around the warp core (recent events having given him cause to worry about that kind of thing), and any number of other nagging concerns.

The thought didn't appeal to him, so Jake decided to engage in some light dereliction of duty and ignore Kane's order to rest. After all, Jake reasoned, it wasn't as if they could threaten him with a court martial anymore. Jake had a feeling they'd all bypassed that particular aspect of the judicial process and had been upgraded right to public execution. With something like *that* hanging over his head, Jake figured he could get away with staying up past bedtime.

The turbolift doors slid open as Jake approached. Inside the lift was Dr. Cade Foster. He'd been standing right up against the doors inside the lift, and Jake nearly crashed into him as the old man fixed him with a predatory grin and shouted "BOO!" Jake jumped backwards and cried out involuntarily, as Foster smiled with petty satisfaction.

"Have you just been waiting in there for me?" Jake frowned.

"One upside of living on a ship that's nearly empty: not a lot of neighbors to get in the way of practical jokes," Foster said, stepping to the side and gesturing for Jake to join him on the turbolift. Jake stepped aboard, against his better judgment.

"What about when other people call the lift?" he asked.

"Oh, is that what that blinking red light was?" Foster asked, eyes shining with faux innocence. "Boy, I hope nobody had an emergency."

"Engineering," Jake said. The computer chirped in acknowledgement and the turbolift started to move. Foster and Jake stood side-by-side, both men facing the lift doors, but Jake could tell that Foster was watching him closely in his peripheral vision.

"Just ask me," Jake sighed. Foster's face lit up, and her turned to face Jake full on.

"The rumor is we're sitting on a *fortune*," Foster said.

"Here we go," Jake said.

"All that time on GATEWAY, you never told me you were a criminal mastermind," said Foster. "I'm actually a little hurt."

"No comment," Jake said.

"That's what the captain said," Foster said. "And I think BaShen's doorbell must be broken, because I rang it for twenty minutes and he never answered."

"We're not supposed to talk about it," Jake said.

"Well I'm just saying, you're the chief engineering, so you're really the one responsible for keeping all the doorbells functional," Foster shrugged.

"That's not--" Jake started, then sighed again. "Look, if Kane's not talking, then neither am I. Our position here is too delicate for us to start letting word get around about what we're up to. Maybe when we're *not* surrounded by a thousand pirate ships waiting for an excuse to blast us out of the sky?"

"Loose lips sink ships," Foster said, nodding and pantomiming zipping his mouth shut. They stood in silence for another moment, before Foster looked over again. "Seriously, how much did you steal? Because I'm thinking, we could get the PHOENIX gold plated--"

The turbolift slid to a stop, and the doors had hardly opened before Jake exited, leaving Foster behind to continuing scheming to himself.


LOCATION: LIMBO - Oblivion District

SCENE: Aella's Apartment

Rax didn't think he would sleep, but his eyes slipped closed and the next thing he knew it was five hours later. It was long enough that Harad-Sar had probably discovered what they'd done, which meant there was at least half a chance that a squad of Orion hitmen were on their way now to put a couple of smoking holes in Raxl and Aella's heads. He'd mentioned that possibility before they'd pulled their scam, and Aella hadn't seemed worried at the time, and Rax had gone along with her against his better judgment.

**Been doing that a lot since you met her,** Rax thought to himself as he sat on the edge of the bed, staring ahead at nothing in particular. **Going to have to watch that.**

Rax hadn't survived this long in the bounty hunting business by taking risks he didn't fully understand. But Aella kept pushing him, kept reassuring him that everything would be fine if he only followed her lead, and Rax had gone along with it. True, Aella's plans had all seemed to work so far, but that didn't make Rax feel much better. She was a beautiful, sure, and smart, capable... but Rax had known lots of women like that over the years, and none of them had ever gotten his head so twisted up.

"Mid-life crisis?" he asked himself quietly. Maybe, but he didn't find that answer satisfying. That nagging sense that he'd overlooked something very important still tickled the back of his brain.

Rax stood. He went to the fresher and splashed a couple handfuls of water onto his face. He felt better for the nap, and decided that if he was to face death today, he might as well do it on a full stomach. He exited Aella's guest room and walked down the hall to her kitchen. He ordered coffee and a Denver omelette from the replicator and sat at the table.

Aella came down the hall a moment later. She was wearing the same clothes and didn't look like she'd slept. She still had the poise, the control, the carefully maintained neutral expression, but Rax could see in her eyes how tired she was.

**She's exhausted and stressed,** Rax thought. **Is this Seth guy really so dangerous? From what I've seen, she can handle herself.**

"Good morning, darlin'," Rax smiled, holding up his cup of coffee in a friendly salute. Aella gave him a slight smile and joined him at the table. "Want something to eat?"

"Thank you, no," Aella said. "But don't let me stop you."

Rax nodded and wasted no time digging in to the omlette. It wasn't that good- cheap replicators in this part of LIMBO, he guessed- but he was hungry enough that the taste didn't slow him down. Aella turned her attention to a PADD she'd brought from her room.

"You didn't sleep," Rax said as he sipped his coffee.

"No," Aella said, without looking up.

"You need to be alert just as much as me," Rax said.

"I'm not worried about *my* state of readiness," Aella said, and it sounded like it came out a little more curtly than she'd intended. Rax thought he saw a shadow of frustration pass over her Romulan's features and thought he might have just witnessed a rare chink in Aella's icy demeanor. Of course, it was gone in an instant, and when she finally looked up at him, she was once again herself: cold, controlled, severely beautiful Aella.

"Sorry I brought it up," Rax said, feeling a little sheepish.

"It's quite alright," Aella smiled. "You're concerned for your own safety as much as mine. I understand."

“So, what’s up? Has Harad-Sar noticed our little data theft?” He asked as she continued to pour over her PADD.

“No, I told you not to worry about that. A network backdoor is installed, among other things, to allow the secure system designer access to the network data without being noticed,” she said absently, her fingers tapping a repetitive tattoo on the tabletop. “I had that backdoor straight from the horse’s mouth, so it worked perfectly. In fact, we have even been invited to attend LIMBO’s main event in his private box at the Pits, this evening.”

“The Pits?” Raxl shook his head. “Sorry, but I’m gonna have to back out. I’ve spent way more time than I care to think about on the wrong side of the ring there, I’ve no real desire to go back to watch the crowds baying for blood.”

“After all the fuss we put up about Harad-Sar protecting you in exchange for the information on the Shadow Master you can hardly refuse to show up,” she pointed out, her voice still giving the impression that she was only half listening to him. “And besides, one, this is a very special fight, two, Rawyvin Seth will be there, and three, the fight is also the location of the next Shadow Market, you can sell the information you got from Harad-Sar’s computers to the Shadow Master for whatever you want, money, space ships, women.”

“Wasn’t I going to go back to DaiMon-” Raxl started, but she interrupted him by setting down a small holoprojector into his hand and pressing the button.

Immediately the room was filled with ominous sounding music, and a menacing holograph of a redheaded human woman dressed in dark UFP Marine Corps combat armor appeared, her dark blue eyes glaring out at the world from a smoke and gore stained face. “REMEMBER BARBOSSA!” appeared in flashy text at the woman’s feet. A couple of seconds of grainy archival footage followed, showing the Marine executing a young Barbossan woman in a town courtyard, then rows and rows of remains in body bags in the same plaza.

[[The Butcher, agent of the Federation never faced justice for the massacre on Barbossa, until now!]] A deep booming voice narrated. [[Tonight, for one night only, The Butcher will fight for her life in the Pits, facing off Kalenda the Black, and one very lucky challenger TO THE DEATH! Get your tickets, see your bookie today, or come to the Pits today for a chance to be the one to give the Butcher what she’s owed!]]

“Yikes,” Raxl blinked, thoroughly distracted. “That’s a new low even for Alket Daheel. The whole Pit is going to have it in for her, baying for her blood. It's hard enough to fight there, but the psychological whammy of knowing everyone there wants to watch you, specifically, die? Hope she has nerves of steel."

He peered closer at the image of the woman, she looked familiar. He forwarded to the archival footage and scrutinized what he could see of her face.

“Hey, wait, I recognize her! The Red Menace, but her name is, uhhh… let me see.. Kassandra Thytos,” he said snapping his fingers. Their squads had done a few operations together, and he recalled having spent more than one night sharing a sleep pod with her. Nothing serious, if he was a womanizer, then she was a party girl, who probably would have run for the hills if anything resembling commitment was demanded of her. Good times, someone reliable to watch your back, and a daredevil pilot to pull your ass out of the fire, that was all she was willing to promise.

"Yeah, Kass Thytos, that's it. We did a few ops together back in the day. Wouldn't have pegged her for a mass murderer."

"By did a few ops, you no doubt mean you had a fling." Aella said with dry amusement. That sent something wiggling in Raxl's mind- something about the way Aella spoke was very important, but he couldn't for the life of him remember what it was.



SCENE: Holding Area

Kassandra stared at the recording, her face frozen and white.

"Are you alright, Major?" Aerdan asked softly. She'd been agitated since their meeting with Alket Daheel had taken the unexpected turn, and had seemed to be at a loss for words. He hadn't pressed, sensing that it was a subject she had to broach at her own pace, but now she seemed at a loss, cast adrift on an overwhelming sea of emotion.

"That. Son. Of. A. Bitch," his question seemed to have re-anchored her in reality and the paleness was being replaced by an angry, blotchy pink tinge that crept up and turned her ears bright red. "I'mgoingtofuckingkillthatpieceofshit."

She stood rapidly and began to head towards the door. Aerdan barred her way with one lanky arm.

"Major, you vent your frustration at Alket Daheel with your fists as you clearly intend, and then what? You fight the entirety of his guards and anyone else here to get out? Calm down and talk to me instead."

"I could fight my way out if I wanted to," Kass said sullenly, but she relaxed and re-entered the room. Aerdan crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow at her. "Kane didn't tell you about my past, I take it."

"No, he merely mentioned that you had a very high threshold for what you consider acceptable collateral damage."

"Huh. I would have thought he would have outed me. But that was the understatement of the year," Kassandra gestured to the still of her that was being used to promote the fight. "Yes, I did what they say I did. I'm not proud of it, and I wish I hadn't done it, but at the same time, I stand by what I did. I stopped a civil war, I saved my men years of combat and god knows how many losses. I sacrificed the few to save the many. That's what everyone else involved saw too, that's why I was never tried. That footage is supposed to be gone."

"So we go back to the ship, forget this. Russ BaShen and Crichton have enough latinum to buy the Shadow Market's location and any information we need."

"Too late, sir. I've been doxxed. I show my face anywhere outside the pits and I'm fair game. I make it to the ship then all of you are fair game for protectin' me. That's what that fuckin' asshole did by releasin' this, takin' away our ability to decide whether or not to take his offer. So I'm fightin' tonight, whether or not I wanna."

“We have a mission to complete,” Aerdan said. “One that extends beyond our troubles here. This vendetta can’t compromise--”

“It ain’t a vendetta,” Kass said. “It’s just how it has to be. It’s this or we get run off the station. Can’t complete our mission if that happens.”

Aerdan clearly didn’t like it, and didn’t look like he’d given up searching for alternatives, but for the moment he was out of objections. Kass was right- if she didn’t show for the fight, some angry mob would come looking for her, and then she’d be as likely to be hung from one of the upper tiers in the marketplace as she would to be dragged back to the Pits. There was also no telling what they might do to any members of the PHOENIX crew dumb enough to stand up for her. At least this way, Kass had a fighting chance.

And at least they wouldn’t lose their chance to locate Selyara.



SCENE: Main Entrance

TIME INDEX: A few hours later

Aella lead the way, but she needn’t have bothered. Raxl Dreyton had made his own way to this section of LIMBO more times than he cared to remember. It had the same familiar smell- a sickly sweet mixture of the refreshments sold, mostly cheap sugary confections served on sticks, that didn’t quite overshadow the low odor of blood and smoke wafting up from the Pits. Rax tensed up reflexively as that smell filled his nostrils, bringing with it memories of things he had done, and that had been done to him, when he’d been unfortunate enough to find himself in this Pit and at the mercy of Alket Daheel.

Looking around, Rax saw that little had changed. The Pit mostly appealed to that special sort of rich and powerful: people who’d made their money less than honestly, had clawed their way over more than a few bodies on their climb to the top, and somewhere along the way had acquired a taste for blood. It didn’t matter what species they were; cruelty was one of those rare things that seemed to unite all races, creeds, and cultures.

The people not inspecting fight statistic readouts on the large screens that lined the upper level of the entrance area- the ones not there to place bets, in other words- were either bodyguards or vendors, selling homemade fight souvenirs or some of the fried sugary treats that Rax had smelled earlier. Experience had also taught him that more than a few would be pickpocekts, there to turn a profit on any gambler stupid enough to have shown up with real money in their pockets. Rax guessed Ferengi made for popular targets.

“You have been here before,” Aella said, interrupting Raxl’s trip down memory lane. Rax turned to see that the Romulan was looking at him, her face as unreadable as it ever was.

“Yeah,” Rax nodded. “A long time ago. I was hoping never to come back, but I guess life takes you to strange places.”

“Again and again, it would seem,” Aella said.

“Right,” Rax nodded. He was still thinking about something Aella had said to him earlier, back in her apartment. Something about the way she spoke bothered him, but he couldn’t say precisely why.

“The Shadow Market isn’t likely to start until the fights are in full swing,” Aella said. “The roar of the crowds must provide good cover from any prying eyes.”

“Where’s it going to be?” Rax asked, looking around. “I mean, they can’t just have it in the stands, could they?”

“I doubt it,” Aella said. “The Shadow Master is too careful.”

“So what do we do?” Rax asked. “The fights aren’t starting for more than an hour.”

“I thought you might like to buy me a drink, Mr. Dreyton,” Aella said. She was using the playful tone again, and she had that almost-smile playing at one corner of her mouth, but somehow Rax wasn’t buying it this time.

“Might have to lend me some money,” Rax said. “Got this weird problem recently where I keep taking new jobs before getting paid for the last one.”

“Don’t worry,” Aella said, smiling at him. “I don’t mind if we go dutch.”

Aella moved through the crowd towards one of the refreshment areas. Rax didn’t follow immediately. He only stood, staring after her, eyes wide. An idea had blossomed in his mind, one built out of every weird feeling and lingering doubt that had plagued him ever since he’d met her back in Snek’s office. Something Aella had said this morning had gotten his attention, but he hadn’t been able to figure out why. At last he did.

**Had a fling,** Rax thought. **She said I had a fling. She said we can go dutch. She’s good at using Earth phrases, for a Romulan.**

**For a Romulan.**

Rax blinked, and shook his head. It wasn’t possible. He didn’t *want* to accept the idea. But each time he pushed it from his mind, it shoved its way right back in.

**For a Romulan,** Rax thought again. **Unless maybe she’s not…**

After another moment, Raxl Dreyton followed her.


A Joint Post by:

Raxl Dreyton/Jake Crichton
Plotters and scallywags all


Selyara/Kass Thytos
Women who probably should quit while they're ahead.


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