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Hidden Lives

Posted on Jan 26, 2017 @ 5:48am by Marie-Claire Martine & Xana Bonviva
Edited on on Jan 26, 2017 @ 5:48am

Mission: Aftermath

“Hidden Lives”

(Continued from “Strange Maze”)

=/\=

Location: VULCAN

Scene: Xana Bonviva’s home

SD: [2.17] 0125.2325

Tonight was the meeting; as she was cleaning up her home she wondered what was going to happen. This was going to be an informal meeting amongst the Senior Staff to discuss the oppo files (or files that opposition research would have).

“Mooom, why are people coming over again?” Ben groaned as he helped clean up.

“Some of the folks who work in my office,” Xana explained. “They’re coming for a dinner meeting.”

Erika suddenly perked up as she shared a glance with Dahlia. “People in your office? Which people?” Nudging Dahlia she whispered something and the younger Human/Bajoran/Bolian girl suddenly flushed a deep blue.

As the doorbell rang, Erika went running and Dahlia went running after her in a sudden burst of energy. “Hiiiii,” they said in unison to the three people standing at the door but mostly to Gideon and Leitas.

“Gods save me from hormones,” Xana muttered as she walked over to the door. Seeing all 3 of the Senior Staff stand there she guided everyone in and towards the table for dinner.

Finally after the dinner and dessert had been consumed, the kids realizing that there was not going to be anything fun discussed moseyed to their rooms and the adults made themselves comfortable in Xana’s living room. “Let’s get down to it. Who wants to go first?”

Hearing the silence she said, “Right I guess this is where I go?” Waving her hands she asked, “What did you find?”

There was a moment of near mental telepathy amongst the other 3 staffers before Gideon Bodley said, “So Xana you know the worst kept secret in politics is that before you were married you were um...well...we’re going to say popular.”

Xana sat on her sofa, leaning on her arm, as she studied the awkward team. “I liked to have a good time. I was young and single, there was nothing wrong with that.”

Gideon sighed and passed the first PADD. “Does the name Harper Ranta mean anything to you?”

Xana nodded; Gideon continued on. “There are rumors -- unsubstantiated rumors -- that you became the Commanding Officer of the GATEWAY STATION - 2 because you slept with Admiral Ranta.”

“First of all he was a Commodore then,” Xana explained as she shifted, causing the maroon tunic to shift as well.

Marie-Claire gave her a look. “Really that’s what you’re going with?”

Xana rolled her violet eyes. “I’m just trying to be specific.” When the others gave her a look she said, “Yes Harper and I had a relationship prior to my becoming CO. Yes he was in Command. No, I didn’t receive my Command position because of that.”

Leitas who was curled up in a chair in the corner looked back and forth at the others before saying, “I’m not sure others will see it that way. You were relatively young when you got Command, you had a relationship with someone in power, and then there’s the next point.”

Xana nodded. “Go ahead.”

Leitas picked up from where Bosley had left off. “Beginning with the GATEWAY, you began creating policies and looked for positions of power.”

Marie-Claire gave her a look. “That’s how you came onto my radar. Commanding Officers aren’t supposed to create policies.”

“Yeah I got in trouble for creating GATEWAY Pax and then after that with the diplomatic missions,” Xana sighed. Shrugging unapologetically she said, “I created opportunities where there was none.”

Martine gave a look. “You took advantage of vacuums and took power.”

Gideon held up a hand. “Thanks to the conflicts in the Gamma I had a hard time finding the news reports. What was GATEWAY Pax? And these other “opportunities?”

The Bolian/Human woman tucked her legs under her as she sipped her tea. “I came into my position after there was some conflict and peace had been declared before I was named CO. There was an option, we could pursue conflict or peace.”

She sipped her tea. “Let me put it another way. On Earth, there was an ancient civilization called the Romans--”

Marie-Claire and Leitas groaned slightly and Gideon was pretty sure he heard Martine mutter, “Get comfy.”

Xana shot the other woman a look. “A Roman citizen,” she continued on with a sharp glance at the woman, “could walk across the known Earth and say “Civis Romanus” which meant “I am a Roman citizen” because people understood that Rome protected its own. Rome was this beacon of light and intelligence but it also took care of its own. The GATEWAY was the lone beacon of the Federation in the Gamma Quadrant and we wanted to pursue peace but we also had to protect our own.”

Martine gave her a long look. “And you wonder why you started appearing on Command’s radar.”

“I didn’t wonder,” Xana said. Looking at Gideon she said, “To sum up: Command did what they always did. They stuck us in the middle of nowhere with no support but with a bullseye and then said, “Good luck!”. Someone had to decide a direction.”

Marie-Claire gave a sharp glance. “It wasn’t your decision.”

“No one else was making it,” Xana shrugged.

“What about the Second Dominion War?” Leitas asked.

Xana shrugged. “I was a Diplomat. During any diplomatic missing you’re given an end milestone you have to meet. That milestone was too...oh we’ll say mild.” When the other three stared at her she sighed, “We had a chance at peace and I took it.” Before Martine could say anything Xana held up a hand, “It was the best possible answer.”

“Not yours to make,” Marie-Claire pointed out.

Xana sighed as she gestured at the PADDs that so inadequately summed up her public life. “So...to sum up what others will say: I slept my way to the top and in my spare time I go from place to place looking for new ways to take over.” Looking around she said, “I need a drink.” As she grabbed her drink she said, “May I say something?” Grabbing a PADD she pointed out, “I don’t see how it helps anyone if there is an ineffective or worse yet no policy in place. Isn’t it better when we have people who are passionate about their work to do something?”

Gideon cleared his throat. “There was also a few other engagements and relationships--”

Xana held up a hand. “When I was young and single--”

“We’ll get that tattooed on you,” Gideon grinned. Giving her a look he asked hopefully. “You’re married now?”

“Being married isn’t the same thing as a chastity belt. But I’ve always been faithful. However I’m separated. And I’m not looking for anyone else,” the Bolian/Human woman explained with a wry smile skipping over the very obvious broken heartedness that she felt whenever she thought of Jake.

*****

Eventually the tables turned and it was Marie-Claire’s turn to go under the metaphorical spotlight.

“I noticed you joined the Advanced Command Training program as an instructor, but you left your position less than 3 years later. You filled a position on the Gateway yourself, but left less than 18 months later. You were the Dean of SFA, but were gone within 4 years. How do you explain that?”

“I go where I’m needed,” she smiled. “Call me a journeywoman.”

"Yes. But none of these 'opportunities' provided a distinct level-up from a career standpoint."

“I had already reached the rank of Commodore. Where was I supposed to have gone from there?”

“Um, Admiral?” Leitas added.

“I know my place. I know my strengths and weaknesses.”

While the others seemed satisfied, Xana jotted down a few notes for later.

*****

Gideon and Leitas partook in the sadistic ritual of baring of their souls and history. That left one more PADD on the low wooden coffee table…

“Gods, do we not want to touch that,” Xana mused.

Leitas sighed. “Well it’s not salacious. It’s actually fairly...boring after everything we heard tonight.”

“Definitely no sex,” Gideon agreed. When they all looked at him, he shrugged, “I swear the man is very discreet or fifth gender.”

Martine frowned at the PADD. “The man did everything very even. Nothing too high, nothing too low. It’s a bunch of deals. We still need to vet them but--”

“We’re not talking about anything crazy here,” Xana sighed.

“It’s what you get when you dedicate your life to your job,” Leitas agreed. Holding up a hand. “There is one job that stands out.” Scrolling through she said, “It was a *civilian* deal.” When the others looked at her she explained, “A lifetime of doing negotiations for the Federation, only acting on the Federation’s behalf and he steps out to do a small civilian job?”

“Pangeos Pathways. Does that mean anything to anyone?” Martine asked. Seeing the blank looks she said, “Karimi negotiated a very lucrative deal for a trading company.” Reading through it again she said, “And it’s not even Terran.”

Leitas frowned slightly as she began typing away on a console, “Can you give any more specifics?”

“Intergalatic registration; filed appropriate registrations with Federation. Interestingly enough filed separately with Klingon, Romulan, Ferengi and other entities as well. Owned by...Pangeos Pathways Limited. There’s a long list of items they trade. If there’s a commonality, I can’t see if from a first glance,” Marie-Claire admitted.

“We’re digging,” Xana announced.

Everyone started researching any thread they could find to Pangeos Pathways. “Does Karimi even know we’re doing this?” Gideon asked.

“Afraid of losing your job?” Leitas asked.

“Some of us don’t have side jobs with the Ferengi,” the Press Secretary pointed out.

“It wasn’t a side job Mr. “The Orion Slave Girls love Me”.” the Legislative aide snapped.

“Children,” Xana warned. When the room got quiet she said, “Yes, I’m fairly certain he knows we’re doing this. Even if not, I’ll take the heat on this. We need to be prepared for whatever comes our way. Because if we don’t know this someone else already does. Now go.”

The team worked quickly and when given the same goal efficiently.

“Pangeos is from Tellar Prime,” Marie-Claire pointed out. “Look at its route filings. Almost every route either begins and/or ends there. I’d go dig up anything with local authorities, press from there.”

“There’s a reason why they’ve been filing registrations with every entity though,” Leitas pointed out. “They are carrying gray market items.”

“Gray market. I feel like I should know that term but I can’t recall it,” Xana admitted.

“So everyone knows what a black market it is -- that’s when things are illegal,” Leitas explained. “Every day though we have our non-offensive items. Gray market is then your items that fall in the middle. Basically it’s when you trade, or profit, in someway that was never meant to be.”

Gideon raised an eyebrow. “That sounds like an awful lot of work to make a living.”

Leitas shook her head. “Actually it’s very easy.” Putting down her PADD she leaned in for a moment, “Take medications.”

“Who’s going to stop medication from going where it’s needed?” Xana pointed out.

The Andorian woman held up a hand. “Are you a doctor? I’m not. Is anyone here?” Seeing blank looks she said, “There are billions of people out there and there’s not always the right information out there on who should take what medicines when. Gray market allows you to sell medication across lines *anyway* you want without the fear of enforcing regulations. Then what happens? What if someone took that medicine who shouldn’t have? Where do they go? Who is wrong in that situation? The person who did the trading? Or the person who took a cure but didn’t ask enough questions?”

“Why is anyone wrong?” Gideon asked. “People make mistakes everyday.”

Leitas’ heart was in her eyes. “The only difference between the Ferengi and the Federation, sometimes I think, is that the Ferengi are honest about their desire to let profit drive their intentions. The Federation states that the person who looks for the cure in my example before is more culpable than the person who traded.”

“Why?” Marie-Claire asked quietly.

“Because they should have known better, asked more questions. Now tell me, if you were looking for a cure, would you have done that?” Leitas asked. “And all along the traders go along, registered here--there--and everywhere, making what they can.”

Xana who had been sitting there quietly asked, “So what does Hussein Karimi get out of making a deal for Pangeos Pathways and...ACAMAR III?” Looking around she said, “Cause we know he didn’t do it out of the goodness of his heart.”

The group was silent but the feeling amongst them was clear -- whatever it was, their candidate/representative had done something terribly wrong and they couldn’t figure it out.

*****

“Marie-Claire, would you mind staying for a few minutes?”

“Not at all. Sure.”

Leitas and Bosley had barely let the door shut behind them when Xana spoke next as she walked back into the living room. “‘I go where I’m needed’? That is the biggest load of crap I have ever heard.”

Martine feigned indignance. “At least I kept my pants zipped for the majority of my career.”

Xana paused for a split second because M-C didn’t say ‘entire career’ but she was too pissed off to go down that trail right now. “That was completely uncalled for.” The Bolian/Human woman refreshed her drink and this time around, Martine poured one as well. “Frankly I’d expected better work out of Mister Bosley. The actions themselves aren’t suspect- until you see the reasons for those actions. And I was able to do that during our meeting. So, you can drop the act.”

Marie-Claire felt guilty at the mention of Gideon. It wasn’t his fault that they had drawn closer together over the past few days, to a point where his astute mind wasn’t completely paying attention to the inner workings of her history. And it wasn’t her fault she hadn’t experienced anything like this since Von. That was something the Press Secretary *didn’t* know- yet. “I assure you, I am here of my own choosing. Until such time as my service is no longer needed. Are you telling me you are through with me, Ms. Bonviva?”

“No. I’m telling you I am through with the deception and the lies.” She glanced down at Martine’s file. “What happened two months before you left ACT?”

“I began to feel pulled in a different direction.”

“Bullshit. We can do this the easy way… or we can do it the hard way. But I *will* find out what you’re hiding. I’d prefer to hear it from you, but you know i’m more than capable of getting this intel myself in a hot minute-”

Marie-Claire sighed, setting the highball glass down and sinking onto the couch. “A progress report came back from the field regarding a class of students that had passed through Advanced Command Training under my watch several months earlier.” She picked up the drink and nursed it again before returning it to the table. “One of them had been dishonorably discharged and committed to a mental hospital due to possible PTSD and schizophrenia. Another had been killed, along with his entire away team, and it had been determined he was at fault. Two more had been brought up on charges of conduct unbecoming an officer.”

“Were you asked to explain yourself? Were you reprimanded? Castigato?”

The Canadienne frowned. “No. I was offered a smooth transition out of the program.”

‘You didn’t fight the allegations?” Truthfully, it wasn’t pretty, but blaming personnel instability on one training program out of four years at the Academy could have all sorts of holes blown in it.

Martine was silent. Xana leaned forward. “I guess the answer is ‘no’, then. Did the same thing happen at the Station, or at the Academy?”

“No. I forbade it.”

Xana almost smiled. “You abandon your job at ACT and *then* you decide to grow a backbone?”

All the color had drained from the older woman’s face. “No, I stayed a certain amount of time, and right after I had a clear success, no matter how small, I would chalk it up as a ‘win’ and look for the next thing. I am many things, Xana, but strong is not one of them. I am what happens when you try like hell to avoid failure- you never truly succeed.”

The azure skinned woman felt some of her anger ebb, the smallest particle of sympathy taking its place. Not that she was going to give that satisfaction to Marie-Claire. “You were retired- why make the decision to come back and offer your services as Secretary of Starfleet?”

Martine crossed her arms, her eyes lit in what might have passed for amusement.“I blame you,” she said. “It’s your fault.”

Xana glared. “How so?”

“I watched you for a long time... longer than I admitted to a little while ago. But I didn’t follow your career because I thought you were a bitch, despite my critique earlier.”

“We’re trying to get a culo di cavallo elected at a time when humans are about as popular as dysentery. Whether or not I’m a bitch, that’s the least of my problems.”

“See? That’s the attitude I like. That’s why I followed your exploits. It’s because you weren’t afraid to try and make a difference. You weren’t as concerned with what people thought of you, if people could do better and *be* better because you got rid of some red tape or ensured some modicum of rights for those who had less… or had none. I thought that maybe it wasn’t too late. That I could change.”

“And did you?”

M-C shrugged. “You saw what happened. Does it really matter?”

Xana slammed her empty glass on the table forcefully enough that it made Martine flinch. “A thousand Hells, yes. It damn well matters!”

Marie-Claire threw her hands up. “Okay, then, I changed, je suppose. But the world didn’t. It wasn’t like some miracle came down from Heaven to show me I had done right. But that never happens, does it?”

Xana pointed at her. “Now you’re catching on.”

“And so the student dutifully comes to the teacher, though in an indirect journey. Which brings me to a question: What’s next, Xana?”

The Bolian/Human hybrid tapped her fingers on the arm of the chair. “Name three things you did differently.” Bonviva was met with a look of skepticism. ”*Come on*, I know you can. You wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t.”

“Under some very shrewd advisement and persuasion, I moved the Phoenix Project up. Getting that ship and those people out of Edgerton’s grasp was more important than anyone realized.”

Jake’s face flashed in Xana’s mind again. She sighed. “That’s one.”

“I tried to seduce Richard Edgerton.”

Xana laughed. “I didn’t know you were a comedienne.” Her teasing was met with an uncomfortable and stony silence. “No! I thought you were-”

“Way too much of a prude? Yes. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t take the bait. Never again will I wear a skirt and pumps for an asshat.”

“Power makes you do funny things. There’s two.”

“I told Sardak what I really felt about him and his mandate to remove Earth from the permanent Council. I wasn’t nice, I didn’t apologize. And it probably got me fired.”

“There’s no *probably* about that. But you know something?”

“What?”

“That’s the best reason to get fired. For standing up for your beliefs. We have number three.” Xana took the two empty glasses back to the counter and refilled them, bringing Martine’s back to her.

“Then why do I still feel like crap?”

“Saluti.” Xana gestured for them to clink their glasses together and Marie-Claire followed suit. “Because we’re trying to get the wrong guy elected for all the right reasons.”


=/\=

Scene: Main Hall

Time Index: A few days later (Election Day)

Xana frowned. She had stopped in the center of the archway leading to the hub of the election, where schmoozing and spin were de rigueur. This caused the rest of the team to stop short behind her. “What’s wrong?” Leitas asked, as she tried to wrangle the wheeled cart carrying precious campaign waging supplies.

“Looks like oatmeal in there.”

“It’s breakfast time. What’s wrong with oatmeal?” Bosley joked.

“I asked for blue swagging, or green if they couldn’t obtain blue. Instead we have…beige.” Xana gestured to the color scheme of the large room. Large drapes of the bland fabric swayed from the ceiling, but the stone walls provided little contrast or visual interest.

“We can’t do much about the décor at this late date,” Marie-Claire reasoned.

“Oh but we *can* and *will*,” Ms. Bonviva asserted. “One of these cases has royal blue tablecloths that we can deck Karimi’s booth in. I had a funny feeling my request would be overlooked.”

“Ach, no wonder this is so heavy. Where’s our locus?”

Xana pointed to the farthest corner opposite the entrance and once more began to move forward. “Yonder lies the Karimi Camp.”

“Speaking of which, where is the guest of honor?” Gideon asked.

The campaign manager checked the chronometer on the large eastern facing wall. “He will arrive in about... an hour, with guards meeting him at the entrance and escorting him to us.” Like any other candidate, Hussein Karimi had a small security contingent.

“Why aren’t they here helping *us*?” Leitas complained.

“No, mustn’t have that, my dear,” Martine scolded the Andorian. “They need to keep their hands clean for the more precious cargo of our candidate.”

“Okay boss, remind me again why we’re in the nosebleed section?”

“Isn’t it obvious? It’s strategic,” Xana explained. “We can clearly survey the entire room from that vantage point. We’ll know if someone’s coming over to chat or get a sound bite before they do.”

Gideon Bosley grinned. “A method to the madness. Okay Chief, let’s do this.”

Leitas blew a few strands of white hair off her face as she moved her cart ahead. “Next time i’m renting an anti-grav dolly.”

They worked for a short time before Xana’s communicator went off. “Bonviva here.”

[[Ma’am,]] came the voice from Karimi’s office, [[you’ve received a message from Weh-neik Shi’oren. It’s about your youngest child, Benito Bonviva-Crichton. You need to go pick him up.]]

Rubbing her head, Xana nodded. “Ok, can you please tell the school I’m on my way. And this time I want to speak to his teacher and the Headmistress as well. Bonviva out.”

Xana looked up at her staff, to see her staff looking back at her. “Ben?” Leitas asked quietly.

“Tell him if he’s ok he can use my podium again,” Bosley grinned. The press secretary’s podium was a source of great amusement for the young boy.

“Is he really sick?” Marie-Claire asked.

Xana gave a look that spoke *volumes* about what she thought about that question. “I’m on my way to pick up my son, we’ll be back soon like we are every other time. Reach out out if something happens but you all have this.”

=/\=

Scene: Weh-neik Shi’oren (Translated from Vulcan: Lower School) -- Infirmary

TI: Day of the Election/Concurrent with above

Ben Bonviva-Crichton was sitting in the Infirmary Office. In many ways it looked like a smaller sickbay, but with less activity. Today, Ben was the only patient, which was fine with him. He sat on a biobed and read a PADD.

The Nurse came over to him. “Master Bonviva-Crichton, I would say ‘Welcome Back’ but it is not auspicious to come to the Infirmary,” he said.

“What’s auspicious?” Ben asked.

Nurse Pylik was well used to Ben and his many questions, and decided to pursue his chart instead. “What brings you to the Infirmary?”

Ben clutched his stomach. “Lunch was terrible.”

Nurse Pylik gave a glance at Ben.

“I think I’m gonna throw up,” Ben nodded.

Pylik looked unconvinced.

“Ehh-ehh,” Ben tried as he worked out his best gag.

Pylik sighed. “We have contacted your familial unit. We will see who arrives,” he said as he turned around. Once his back was to Ben, the boy picked up his PADD and resumed his reading.

=/\=

Scene: Main Hall

Time Index: Three hours later

The Vulcan waiter, who was neither Vulcan nor a waiter, made his way through the throngs of people speculating and waiting for the end of the formal vote and the determination of the Council seat. He carried a tray of pastries, looking for his mark.

He didn’t see the blue-covered tables at first due to the crowd of people gathered in that corner. But, they seemed to part as they saw an earnest waiter just trying to deliver his goods. He presented the assortment of croissants, eclairs, cream puffs, and mini cheesecakes with a flourish.

“Compliments of the kitchen, Candidate Karimi.”

Karimi nodded in his general direction, his interest being easily more absorbed by the earpiece and monitor he was engrossed in.

“Many thanks,” a just past middle-aged woman acknowledged with a slight accent he couldn’t place. She was wearing a black pantsuit with an indigo blouse. He guessed she was the second in command based on the files he had studied before leaving for Vulcan.

He made a slight bow, then retreated to the kitchen area. He stopped short of entering the serving station and paused, looking to make sure nobody was paying attention. He then ducked down a side corridor that led to the mezzanine stairs.

=/\=

Scene: Weh-neik Shi’oren (Translated from Vulcan: Lower School) -- Infirmary


Ben was in the middle of reading the latest adventures of Gojok -- the great adventurer/superhero of the Delta quadrant when he heard clicking coming down the hall. It was quickly followed by multiple footsteps. That probably was his mom, he figured. Gavi picked him up once or twice, which had been the best because Gavi took him out around town for awhile. Erika picked him up once, and she was only able to do that because it was close to school dismissal. But most of the time it was his mom. That meant Ben had to turn on his baby boy act, as Dahlia like to put it.

[[Ten times in the last seven weeks my son has been sick. Ten times either myself or someone from my family has had to pick up Benito. What in the name of 99 hells is going on in this school?!]]

Ben quickly buried his Adventures of Gojok PADD in his bookbag and flopped down on the biobed. Maybe now would not be a good time for him to be reading. Although his mother did say she wanted him to be reading more...so maybe he should take it out? He hated questions like this…

[[Ms. Bonviva, your son keeps saying he’s sick. And as you know the needs of the many--]]

With that the doors *wooshed*, and opened; with that not only did Ben’s mother walked in but Ben’s teacher, Savensu Fovack, but also Headmistress T’herri. “If I hear that one more time,” Xana Bonviva warned with a hand raised. Walking over to her son’s biobed she engaged in a time honored tradition of mothers everywhere. She put her lips on his forehead.

“He has no fever. He’s not flush. He does not appear to be bleeding nor have any broken bones. Just like the other ten times,” she said while straightening up to look at the school authorities.

“Mom--” Ben muttered, now becoming really embarrassed. If there had been a blanket, he would have been under it and covered up to his white hair like his mother’s hair.

But his mother ignored him. “And I’m sure if I ask, there will be no bumps, bruises, or rashes. So please explain to me why Ben is complaining and asking to go home early.”

Headmistress T’herri glared at Xana. “Your son said he was sick. Vulcan school children do not engage in deception; we presume that all our children, no matter their origin, are held to this high standard. If we are to treat Mr. Bonviva-Crichton to a *lower* standard then perhaps you should find another school.”

Xana Bonviva folded her arms and never broke eye contact with the Headmistress. “All my children are honest. Benito and I will get to the bottom of this.”

Suddenly Ben really did feel very sick to his stomach.

=/\=

Scene: Mezzanine

The man crouched and moved behind a stone wall at the edge of an opening, letting his form be obscured by the yards of flowing neutral material that had been unfurled to add elegance to the day’s proceedings.

He pulled two pieces of metallic technology from his pocket. By themselves they didn’t look like much or attract attention, except for the eye-catching finish of gleaming gold touched by a hint of blue. However, when he snapped them together he had a fully functional weapon. The energy beams cast by it were known to literally dissolve enemies from within.

The target, as he had confirmed a few minutes earlier, was wearing a dark brown suit, underneath it a crisp white shirt with a rich blue banded collar. He was now standing between two of his female aides, with his Press Secretary about ten feet away, speaking to a member of the media. He scanned the scene again. The tall woman who was his manager was nowhere to be found. His employers had wanted her to bear witness to the assassination, but the time window for the hit was growing short.

There was a beep and a hit of static in his ear. The implant had been a little uncomfortable at first, but now he forgot it was there. Until someone used it and pissed him off. [[Is it done?]]

“It will be,” he whispered coldly. The targeting on the disruptor blipped each time he had a clear line of sight, and those blips were rife with opportunity.

He held his body taught, stopped breathing- and fired.

A cylindrical thread of blue-melding-into-green light, maybe two inches in diameter, criss-crossed the election floor, moving so fast that if someone blinked, they would have missed it.

Karimi turned to say something to Marie-Claire Martine, and the banned weapon’s fire glanced his side in a pinkish red light and aggressive expulsion of tissue and bodily fluids. If he had still been facing forward, he would have been dead.

Leitas shrieked as blood splattered on both she and Martine, and the older woman found herself stuck in place for a second as Karimi’s body dropped to the tiled floor, staining the marble crimson. He was convulsing, a wound in his right hip seemingly dissolving from within, turning muscle, bone, and flesh into something disgustingly inert.

The guards reacted as quickly as they could, but time slowed to a crawl as Karimi went into shock. One raced towards where they thought the shot came from, while another opened up a tiny medikit and used a hypospray designed to stabilize the wounded man, jabbing it carelessly against his shoulder. Martine kneeled, raising Karimi’s head up as he labored to breathe, a fine mist of blood droplets aspirating with each exhalation.

Gideon Bosley pushed away the reporter and saw their last, best hope for a Council seat bleeding out rapidly. “We need an emergency vehicle! STAT! Mister Karimi has been shot!”

=/\=

Scene: L-langon Mountains

Ben had sat in quiet in the sand cruiser while his mother piloted. Finally he noticed, when he looked out the small window, they weren’t going home. They were going beyond the city limits and up into the mountains he had seen from the windows. Finally the sand cruiser settled down and his mom popped open the top.

“Come on, let’s go for a walk,” she said.

Ben frowned, and after unbuckling himself he said, “Are you sure?”

“Let’s be honest,” Xana Bonviva sighed, “you’re not sick, Benito.” As Ben got out of the sand cruiser she asked, “So what was it?”

Ben shrugged.

“Benito, we’re not getting off this mountain until we talk.”

“Come on!”

Xana shrugged at that.

Ben gave her a look. “Don’t you have to go back to work?’

“Si,” Xana nodded. “And at some point I should go home to make dinner since Gavi is going out tonight. Plus it’s the election, so you know kinda big deal. But nope, it’s all on you now.” When Ben said nothing, she tried another track. “What happened before you went to the Infirmary?”

“So I was at lunch--”

And with that Xana and Ben went on a walk around the mountains. It took some time, but finally Ben explained that during lunch, he managed to eat 2 servings of kleetana, Rilian teabury melon and some other things that she lost track of. Finally sitting down against a rock, getting dust all over her, the azure woman looked dumbfounded at her youngest child. “Benito...I’m getting sick just listening to you. And you did this all in half an hour? Why did you stuff your face?”

“It was a dare,” Ben shrugged as he kept standing, kicking the dirt. When he saw the dirt fly up, causing his mother to cough and her eyes to water, he felt bad. Going over to her he wrapped his arms around her, “Sorry, Mom.”

Patting him on the back, she said, “It’s ok.” Looking at Ben’s face, which was a younger, bluer, version of Jake’s, she asked, “Did you do this every time you went to the infirmary?”

“No,” Ben said shaking his head. “Just today.”

Xana gave a look to her son. “Ok, that’s one time out of ten. Why do you keep going to the Infirmary?”

Ben shrugged at that. “It’s nice,” he finally said after a long time. When his mother just looked at him he said, “I get to sit there and read. I kinda like it.”

“They just leave you alone and let you read until someone gets you,” Xana murmured. Brushing back her son’s hair that was in desperate need of a haircut she thought for awhile, letting silence settled around them.

Ben settled on the ground next to Xana, crisscrossing his legs. “Didya ever notice that Infirmaries or Sickbays never change, Mom?”

Xana paused for a moment thinking back on that and the point that Ben was trying to make. “You’re right, most Infirmaries and Sickbays are pretty much the same.” Sensing she was on something important to Benito she asked quietly, “I think that’s the point, to keep things the same to help people feel better quicker.”

Ben nodded. “I think so too,” he nodded.

The mother sat there for a long time just watching her son. “Do you like the Infirmary?”

“No,” Ben frowned. “It’s not fun.”

“Maybe like is too strong a word,” Xana agreed. “But it stays the same. And it’s a nice place to read. Like maybe your PADD about--”

“Gojok! Mom it’s the coolest thing EVER,” Ben grinned. Then he spent the next several minutes explaining about the adventures of the Saurian adventurer that he was currently obsessed with. Finally he flopped down on the ground and sighed, “It’s just sooo cool.”

Xana smiled. “That does sound cool. But that’s not why--”

“I’m in school. I *know*,” Ben groaned. Shrugging he said, “School’s ok. Infirmary is better.”

The azure woman sighed crisscrossed her own legs, resting her chin on her right hand. “I don’t get this. Your grades are fine, your teacher said when you’re in class that you’re doing well. What’s the obsession with Infirmary?” Ben began drawing random doodles in the dirt as Xana thought about it for awhile until finally she realized it. “Ben...I haven’t heard much about your friends in school.”

Ben sighed. “I kinda made friends with Pyn,” he said. Xana nodded she remembered hearing that boy’s name. “But his family moved.”

“Ah,” Xana nodded.

“Nothing ever stays the same,” he muttered. When his mother gave him a look Ben muttered, “Gavi told me he’s leaving.”

Xana rubbed her face. Yes, her oldest son, at 20, finally decided to move out. A mixture of pride and sadness filled her; Gavi had told her about his plans a few nights ago but asked her not to say anything until he could tell the others. “How much do you know about Gavi’s background?” When Ben shook his head, Xana shifted and explained, “When Gavi was a little older than you he lost his Mom and Dad.”

“I know. And you and Erika’s Mom adopted him,” Ben replied.

Xana held up a hand. “Yes. But Gavi lost more than just his family, which would have been bad enough. He was known as a refugee...he lost almost everyone he ever knew.”

“I didn’t know that. He didn’t tell *me*. I’m his brother,” Ben said sounding a mixture of hurt and offended. “But he has us now!”

Xana patted his arm. “It’s hard for Gavi to talk about.” It was hard for her eldest to talk about; back when Daisy adopted him and then even later when Xana adopted him, nightmares haunted Gavi, not to mention developmental problems. It took many years of going to Sickbay and Counseling for treatments before Gavi was well enough for anyone to realize that he was “normal”, whatever that was. “And you’re right, he does have us now, but...it’s always going to hurt Gavi to know that he’s lost his family, all the people he knew. Even if we’re his family too.”

“Has he found his people? The ones he lost?” Ben asked, his young voice hopeful.

The azure woman shook her head. “No,” she said sadly. When her son’s head drooped she said, “But there are other refugees, because of all the fighting. And Gavi realizes what it’s like to be in that position...now he wants to help.”

It was going to take some time, but Xana knew that sometime soon, Gavi Bonviva was going to board a shuttle to help out in the refugee camps, and it was going to break her heart as proud as she was of him. Judging from Ben’s face, it was going to break his little heart as well.

“What else, Benito?” Xana asked quietly.

“I don’t --”

“We’re not getting off this mountain,” Xana warned.

“I want Dad here.” Ben looked at his mom with his father's pale blue eyes, “I don't get it. We're here and Dad isn't.” He paused for a moment before said quietly, “And he’ll never be with us when you will be, will he?”

Xana wondered how long it would was going to take Benito to get to this point. Dahlia had been outwardly angry about the separation but it seemed that Ben had bottled it up. Opening up her arms she waited until Ben crawled into her lap. “Benito,” she whispered into his ear, “I’m going to tell you a secret. But you can’t tell anyone.”

Ben leaned back and nodded. “I promise, Mama. I won’t tell anyone.”

“If I could, I’d bring your father here now. I know you and Dahlia miss him. But I can’t. It’s not anyone’s fault. It’s just the way it is. And sometimes I want to hide too, but I can’t,” Xana admitted.

Xana and Ben leaned against each other for a moment before they heard a beeping. “Mom, that’s your shuttle.”

“Yeah, I left my communicator in there,” she sighed. Knowing it was probably important if people were taking the time to track her down, she stood up, dusted herself up, and gestured for her son to do the same. The walked back to the shuttle, chatting about what they wanted for dinner, plans for the next for days, and generally were pretty relaxed.

As Ben buckled himself in the shuttle, he couldn’t help but overhear the message, even though Mr. Bosley, the funny guy in his mom’s office was talking fast. “MOM! Mr. Bosley is saying that someone got shot! Is there a war again?”

“No Benito, but there is a something *very* wrong and we need to help,” Xana explained. Seeing her son’s young face go between nervous and determined, she felt her heart twist that he knew more about shootings at 6 than she did at his age. Sighing she buckled herself in and said, “Plans are changing, we’re picking up your siblings and then we’re going to the hospital to see what we can do.”

=/\=

Scene: Bolian Consul’s Office



Councilman Drass was sitting at his desk, FNN playing in the background.

[[Once again we’re live at Shi’Has ShiKahr where Hussein Karimi has been sent in for surgery. We’re hearing unsubstantiated reports that he’s in critical condition. What chances this will have on tomorrow’s election is unknown--.]]

The Bolian man sighed and went looking around for a drink but there wasn’t enough Bolian tonic water to calm him down. “Computer, get me...Pangeos Pathways. Secure line.”

The computer took its sweet time before it beeped several times connecting Drass to his recipient. Giving a glare at the console the bald, blue, bifuricated man said, “Well this is a fuck up of the highest order.”

[[Says you.]]

The Bolian man waved at the FNN reporter who was still prattling on in the background. “FNN, FedComm, and everyone is rattling on that Karimi is going to live. I told you we should have wrapped up loose ends long ago.”

The voice on the other end was seemingly unconcerned. [[It’s too soon to tell. Humans bleed easily. Very fragile race.]]

Drass gave a look. “You have something else planned?”

[[Shi’Has ShiKahr is not an intended target. They’re going to lockdown Karimi, there’s too much attention,]] the voice explained. [[Besides if you did *your* job. The *one* job you had, then we wouldn’t be here now would we?]]

Drass sighed as he shifted in his chair. “I warned you that putting all the shifting around in the Save Bolarus Fund was going to be a mess. It was bound to leave a trail.”

[[By someone in Karimi’s office? By his *Chief of Staff*?]]

Drass leaned back in his chair and looked up. “Karimi is a shit politician but he’s not *stupid*. Either he figured it out or he knew to hire smart people who did.” The Bolian looked at the screen again, “You better hope he dies on the table.”

[[Why?]]

“Because anything from a coma on insures that he gets elected. And his team knows that. Congratulations you went from trying to knock out Karimi and EARTH to guaranteeing them a spot on the Council.”

=/\=

Scene: Shi’Has ShiKahr -- waiting room

Xana was sitting in the hospital waiting room with Marie-Claire, Leitas and Gideon. All of Xana’s kids had been brought in were situated in the adjacent waiting room, ostensibly doing their homework, while the Senior Staff convened trying to figure out next steps while Karimi was in surgery.

“Gideon, where do we stand with a statement?” Xana asked.

“I made one when he first went in,” Gideon Bosley sighed. Pulling up his PADD he said, “Standard stuff, gives the basics. Deferred any questions on the incident to Federation Security; said all medical questions would eventually be handled by Shi’Has ShiKahr medical personnel.” After Xana nodded, Gideon leaned in, “But I have to tell you, I’m already getting asked -- strictly background -- what will happen if Karimi dies? Or is incapacitated? What’s next?”

“Don’t answer that,” Xana instructed. “We’re not going down that wormhole.”

Marie-Claire gave the Chief of Staff. “Here in this room, no reporters. What happens?”

Karimi’s Chief of Staff looked around as she got up to pace, thinking it through. “Assuming that there was a death, that’s a bit more clear cut. Incapacitation is harder to figure out. But either way the head of United EARTH, Minister Araceli Fitz,” she said referring to United EARTH’s top minister, “would be within her rights to nominate a replacement until we had a chance to go through an election...again.”

There was a long silence in the waiting room as the Senior Staffers considered that. “We serve at the pleasure of EARTH,” Xana sighed. “Sitting around a hospital room isn’t helping us.”

Turning back around she said, “Alright this is what we’re doing. Marie-Claire and Leitas, you’re going back up to the Council. Drum up every bit of support you can. We’re doing a sympathy campaign, Karimi nearly died for the Council, don’t leave a Councilmember until they’re repeating that. Gideon, you’re staying here with me. You and I are going to blast that to every news outlet before the evening is done. By the time is election comes up, if the Council members don’t realize that then I want every person watching every show from here to Alpha Centuri to Delta Prime to some backwards rock to know that we just had someone from EARTH be assassinated -- or nearly so -- for the Federation on Federation business.”

Leitas raised a silver eyebrow. “The Council members were less than impressed by Karimi.”

“We’re not electing the man now, we’re electing the image. His blood is on their hands,” Xana pointed out.

Marie-Claire nearly winced at that. “Harsh, don’t you think?”

“Does that image stick with you? Does that for one minute make you stop thinking about something negative about EARTH?” Xana pointed out. Looking at Gideon she asked, “Well?”

“It’s better than me going “No Comment” for the next hour,” he sighed.

=/\=

Scene: Shi’Has ShiKahr -- Hussein Karimi’s room

TI: Late at night

Pain. There was so much pain. Still Hussein opened up his dark brown eyes; at first his vision was cloudy but after a moment it cleared up. Darting his eyes around he vaguely recognized he was in a hospital room. Why? What happened?

Pain. Oh the pain. Yes now he remembered, in bits and fragments, it was coming back to him. He opened his mouth to say something, anything but he was surprised to find that his throat was parched, even when he tried to lick his lips a thought pierced his cloudy mind that even his tongue was dry so that small action was no good.

Karimi tried to sit up but having no energy that was not going to happen. A small huff came out of his nose as he leaned to the side of his bed and leaned on the bed rail, which activated the holo at the end of the room.

It was a press conference with Gideon Bosley at the podium with dozens of reporters shouting at him. {{Hey! Alright is this working for you? Now if you’ll ask your questions one at a time like we do every other time, maybe you’ll come away with something to write and I’ll still be talking to one or two of you. Okay? Now, Oda then Leighton.}}

A short green woman stood up, {{Do we have more information on the attack Mr. Karimi?}}

Gideon leaned in and explained, {{As I stated earlier, I can’t comment too much on the ongoing investigation into the unwarranted, horrific attack on Assemblyman Karimi’s life. What I can tell you is that today when Assemblyman Karimi was shot, it was with Varon-T disruptor. Now the Varon-T disruptor is not legal in the Federation, due to the incredibly horrible type of injuries that can occur. But it is legal on other worlds, so it is what is known as a gray market item.}}

The Press Secretary rubbed his face and straightened up for a moment. {{This is the fifth press briefing I’ve done since Assemblyman Karimi has been shot. Now there will be two stories that will dominate the Federation: this shooting and the election. But I want to take a moment to talk about something else. In the last 24 hours, there were 2400 known murders in Federation affiliated or non-official worlds, there were 20988 sexual assaults, and more aggravated assaults than could be counted before I could come back here. There are also intimidations to people on their civil liberties that often *don’t* get reported to authorities because either people don’t have the resources or because all too often people are too frightened of their authorities. Let me repeat that: there are people living out there who are just as afraid of their authorities as they are of their attackers. I know it’s easy to think that the only story is Assemblyman Karimi, or the election, but it’s not. There are so many more stories that will never be told, people who need to be represented. That is what the story really is. Finally, if you think anymore could have been done to prevent this...keep in mind, Assemblyman Karimi was protected by the best in Federation Security. Now back to your questions.}}

Karimi sat back, a small huff through his lips. Flipping the station he saw his Chief of Staff giving an interview pushing the same message: this election was bigger than him, this was about EARTH.

Another sigh escaped Karimi’s thin lips. This was not helpful at all. After several more minutes he circled back to Bosley’s press conference which was wrapping up. {{Not that it hasn’t been fun,}} Gideon smiled tiredly. Suddenly Leitas walked up to the podium and whispered something in his ear, which caused Gideon to hold up a hand to the press as if to ask them to wait a moment. After whispering something to Leitas which caused her to nod. Gideon then turned back to the podium, {{Aren’t you glad you stayed?}} he asked the press corps. {{I just got confirmation: EARTH won their spot again to the Council and has a permanent spot again.}}

As Gideon went into the specifics of the vote, a small smile graced Karimi’s dry lips as his dark eyes fluttered closed.

=/\=

NRPG:A lot happened here so here’s the summary (and *you’re welcome Jerome* ;) )

The Senior Staff did their own oppo research (opposition research) on each other and found out (amongst other things):

That Hussein Karimi (our totally self-absorbed doofus, good at his job bad at politicking) Assemblyman/hungry for the next step NPC negotiated a deal for Pangeos Pathways sometime back.

Pangeos Pathways (originally from TELLAR PRIME) deals in gray market items (not fully legal on other planets) and the deal was with ARCADIA III (brownie points if you remember when they were last mentioned).

Also gives background on Xana (if you never wrote with her in the Fleet), Martine and our NPCs in government ;)

A mysterious figure shoots Hussein Karimi at a campaign event!

The figure *appears* to be Vulcan (hint: probably isn’t Vulcan then)

Xana isn’t at the shooting. Is she the shooter? No because Ben (aka Adorable Moppet #4) has been playing sick in the Vulcan School Infirmary. Eventually they go for a talk on some mountains as you are wont to do when you have a ton of stuff to do but don’t feel like going back to work for an uninspirational dork.

There’s a mysterious call between Councilman Dress (Councilman from BOLARUS IX) and someone from Pangeos Pathways (duh-duh!) talking about the shooting of Karimi. There seems to be collusion afoot…

The Senior Staff reconvene at the hospital, change strategy. The goal with the election coming up is to pressure the Council to vote for *EARTH* and if need be make them feel guilty that Karimi nearly died at an event.

Karimi wakes up alone in a hospital, turns on a vid.

The press conference confirms that the weapon was a Varon-T disruptor (gray market item!).

Both Karimi’s press officer (Gideon Bosley) and Xana Bonviva (in a separate interview off-screen that Karimi watches) spin the coverage that the election is larger than Karimi but it’s about EARTH which annoys Karimi.

The strategy works -- EARTH regains its seat and its permanent.


=/\=

A Joint Post by:

Sarah Albertini-Bond

~writing for~

Xana Bonviva

and

Susan Ledbetter

~writing for~

Marie-Claire Martine

“All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret.”

― Gabriel García Márquez, Gabriel García Márquez: a Life

 

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