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Deciding His Own Direction

Posted on Jun 02, 2017 @ 4:32am by Marie-Claire Martine & Xana Bonviva
Edited on on Jun 02, 2017 @ 4:33am

Mission: Aftermath

“Deciding His Own Direction”
(Continued from “Do Photonics Dream of Holographic Sheep?”)

=/\=

"Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction."
-John F. Kennedy

=/\=
Location: VULCAN
Scene: Bonviva Home

In the midst of a mindless deep sleep, Xana Bonviva woke up to a deep ringing. Looking up at the chrono to see that it was 0401 and belated to see the bedside computer flash INCOMING MESSAGE FROM USS PHOENIX, she rolled over to slap it on and after giving her codes she said, “Iphie, what did you do now and what jail am I about to bail you out of?”

The visage of Iphie Bonviva, her chef’s jacket open to show a tank top with the words “What if everyone wasn’t kung fu fighting?” and her rainbow hair in pigtails. Raising up a glass of amber liquid she propped up her legs on the table that the comm was on and said, {{Funny, I was calling to see what jail I was going to bail *you* out of.}}

Xana looked around seeing she was still in bed she turned back to the screen. “Nope still in bed. You’re still calling me ridiculously early because you can’t tell time. What in the name of 99 hells is going on?”

Iphie took a sip of the amber liquid, clearly savoring the moment. {{So I was talking to Horatio,}} she said referring to their brother. {{And we think you’re slipping into self-destructive patterns. Again.}}

Xana blinked at that. Her brother was a Starfleet doctor with a minor in Counseling and she knew he said that along with many other words. “Those are Horatio’s words, cause no way you ever said that.”

{{Yeah,}} Iphie agreed. {{Look I appreciate it when my trying-to-be-perfect sister decides to go rogue but when you go off the deep end you totally go for it. So now I’m just the one who has to figure out to hide the literature that came to me from from a shady organization.}}

The elder sister raised an eyebrow at that, her mind racing at what her sister was talking about. “You got a solicitation for donations for a politician I take it?”

{{Funny, I know what to do with those,}} Iphie smirked. {{No I got a form from Pangeos Pathways along a lovely brochure of the services they offer.}} When Xana said nothing, the chef/bartender continued on, {{Makes sense really. I mean when Gene died, you tried to start a war. Daisy went missing you tried to tear up the GATEWAY. Now Jake and you do the big “D” so why not turn to organized crime or whatever they call themselves nowadays. What are we calling Pangeos Pathways?}} When Xana said nothing Iphie sighed dramatically, causing a rainbow hair to dance, {{Do you know how many bacon sandwiches I’m going to have to send to the Bridge to get Cap’n Homie to overlook this?}}

“Forty-two,” Xana yawned.

{{How do you know that?}} Iphie asked.

“It’s the answer to everything, you know that,” Xana said.

{{Well riddle me this,}} the younger sister said, {{another person from your past showed up on the ship.}}

Xana blinked at that as she snuggled on her pillow. “Seriously you need to narrow it down.”

{{I think you told me you danced with him once before.}}

“Metaphorically or literally? Either way it doesn’t limit it down,” the elder sister yawned.

{{Vukovic,}} Iphie replied.

“I think I knew that,” Xana nodded. “Serve him a cappuccino for a regular drink, or an espresso if he’s on the go. Tell him to contact his goddaughter.”

The chef/bartender raised an eyebrow, {{Anything else?}}

It was on the tip of Xana’s tongue to say something about waltzing...Lancelot...to thank him for finding her when she needed him most….trojan horses… “Nonna liked him,” she finally said, referring to their late Italian grandmother.

{{So he’s been putting up with us for 3 generations. Well that’s depressing,}} Iphie grinned. Looking over to beyond the comm before looking back to her sister, {{Better things than you are here so I’m going to go. Love you.}}

“Joy as always to talk to you. Love you too,” Xana smiled. Unable to go to back to sleep, the azure woman propped herself and began to read. Traveling had left with her a long list of memos and briefings to go through. However, before she settled down to work she went through her family’s needs.

Anyone could be Chief of Staff, and in fact there was a pile of resumes in office of people who had sent in their credentials unsolicited, and were probably more qualified than Xana. Somedays Xana wanted to bring them into the office, hand over her portfolio, salute them and say, “There but for the grace of the gods,” and be on her way.

Her own wavering on her job aside there was one truth that she knew; she was her children’s only parent, at least their only daily parent. So she went through all the daily items that were needed for her children first -- school forms, homework, and the ever dreaded report cards. For the most part she was pleased with her children’s progress in the new school but there was one section in Benito’s report card that stood out. Benito is a young boy of passing intelligence and hyperactivity but has expressed during Student Counseling class an interest in deciding his own direction. Given the volatility in his life due to the frequent moves over short life, the instability in his home life due to the dissolution of his parents’ marriage, and exposure to greater than average violence (not directed at him but at others it should be noted) this is not an unreasonable request.

Exhaling Xana leaned back on her pillows as she re-read that several times. That was an uncomfortable, if insightful, look at her youngest child and one she could not have come up with on her own.

“Heya Mom.”

Looking up she saw Benito dashing in as he lept onto the bed. The only one of her children who naturally got up with the sun (no matter where they were), Benito often used the early mornings to spend with Xana before the others got up. “Can I watch the vid with you?” he asked.

“Hold off on that,” Xana said. Holding up a PADD she said, “I’m reading through your report card.”

Ben flopped down dramatically on the pillows. “O-M-G,” he groaned. Sitting up he said, “I can totally explain--”

“You didn’t do that bad,” Xana continued on, trying not to roll her eyes at Benito’s dramatics.

Benito darted his pale blue eyes around as if looking for a trap. “I knew that,” he finally declared.

So they talked about school -- what he thought of his classes, his teachers, the few kids he was finally considering to be his friends. Nothing he was saying was particularly shocking to Xana. He liked math and reading, while he passed science, languages and art he didn’t like it either (mostly she suspected because his sisters did well in those subjects) and loved phys ed. Finally she got to the heart of her questioning. “Student Counseling?”

The young boy paused as he suddenly found the blanket on his mother’s bed fascinating. “It’s the class you figure out your destiny.”

That sounded distinctly un-Vulcan, Xana thought to herself. “Did they tell you that?”

“Nah, that’s how I think of it,” her son explained.

Xana looked at her youngest, watching him as he was doing a great job of pulling out the strings from her blanket. “So...Benito, what is your destiny?”

“I want to be a space adventurer and fight off bad guys and get all the cool loot like in my comic books,” he told his mother in a “Well Duh” voice. “Or my backup job is to make vid games.”

“Oh gods you’re living with me until *you’re* 40,” Xana muttered, then felt her heart twist as she realized she probably wouldn’t be around until he was 17 let alone 40. Shoving aside that painful thought she held up a hand she said, “Let’s start with something simpler. What do you want to do now? You have to go to school but aside from that -- what would make you happier?”

Ben frowned and looked up at the ceiling seemingly counting the cracks before looking at his mom. “I want to be with you.”

=/\=
Scene: Xana’s Office
TI: Afternoon

“Mooom, this is *not* what I meant.” When Xana gave him a look, Ben slung his backpack off his back and flung himself on the small sofa in his mother’s office.

“Really cause I heard you today when you said you wanted to be with me so I figured that meant you wanted to spend more time with me,” the azure woman said. “Now everyday after school the shuttle will drop you off here at my office and you will get *hours* with me before we go home for dinner. How is this not being with me?”

“Doing *cool* things, mom. Come on! Spending time in your office while I do homework and you work is *not* cool,” Ben groaned. Taking the drink and snacks his mother offered as she sat in the chair opposite him, he glared at her as she stared back. Exhaling dramatically he pulled out his homework PADDs and began his work.

Ben watched as a variety of people came in and out at different times. At one point he moved from the couch to the chair behind his mom’s desk because that was bigger and cooler; he figured his mom would’ve said something about *that*. But instead she simply offered a bland “clean up your mess” and went back to work.

The young boy split his time between doing Vulcan verb conjugation and watching the flurry of activity in the office. People he was vaguely familiar with came in and out, asking to speak to his mother, asking for her opinion, for her to sign off on things and doing whatever it was she did. At times he got bored and watched the vid but it had people talking. “Hey Mom! That guy is at your podium!”

Xana, who had been talking with Marie-Claire Martine on something else, turned around and said, “Benito, that’s Gideon. He’s the Councilman’s Press Secretary.” When Ben looked at her blankly she clarified, “It’s not *my* podium. It’s the people’s podium we all use and Gideon probably uses the most.”

“Oh,” Ben said his mouth forming an “O”.

Xana looked over at her son and said, “Did you send a message to your father this week?”

Ben waved her off as he ate some crackers the crumbs of which dribbled down his black shirt, “I’ll get to it.”

Marie-Claire waited to see if Benito was going to say anything else but the boy seemed to go back to his snack and watch the vid. “What brought this on?” she asked quietly nodding her head towards the boy.

“We need some quality time,” Xana said. Turning her attention back towards their previous conversation she asked, “So if I needed to meet with someone from the fourth estate, you think you have someone?”

Marie-Claire nodded. “Are you sure you don’t want someone from the office--”

Xana waved her hands in a dismissive motion, “I’m just laying the groundwork for our next bill.”

The Senior Advisor looked skeptical but kept her questions to herself. “The person I have in mind is more serious than Kiki which is what you said you wanted.”

The Chief of Staff nodded. “I like Kiki but we’ve been very cozy with her and she’s too--where in the hells is Benito?”

The two women looked around the office for the young boy until they heard from the vid:

{{Ask not what the Federation can do for you but what you can do for the Federation in ridding them of cooties--}}

“I’m going to kill him,” Xana warned as she walked out towards the press room.

Marie-Claire smiled as she followed behind, “You know I never thought about what we should be doing for the War on Cooties.”

=/\=
Scene: Federation Press Room

Gideon Bosley, the Press Secretary for Hussein Karimi, met them in a nearly empty Press Room. Holding up his hands he said, “Relax, I found the kid and he wanted to see the podium to become famous. His words, not mine. Only the internal feed is on, all press has been chased off, so I figured it was safe to let him have fun,” he said to calm down his boss.

Xana stood along the side of the Press Room and watched as her son stood at the podium and gestured as he grinned wildly lecturing about the War on Cooties. Feeling her face break out into a grin for the first time in a long time, she walked back to Gideon and made a small personal request and then waited as he handed her a small device. Then she sat down to enjoy her son give a performance.

“Let everyone understand, bad guys and good guys, there are new Federationers proud of who we are—and we will not stand for Cooties,” Ben grinned as he waved his fist in the air.

While Ben rambled on about the threat of cooties, Marie-Claire leaned into Gideon. “What do you think of Amanda Lane?”

The Press Secretary thought about that. “The investigative reporter? She’s good,” he admitted. “We’re not really her gig. Lane is looking to get her next award, which means she wants to dig up another scandal. She’d have to have a hell of a scoop to come here. Why?”

“Xana wants to meet with her,” Marie-Claire said.

Gideon tried not to look as concerned as he was feeling. “Again -- why?”

The former Secretary of Starfleet shook her head slightly. “That she wouldn’t tell me. She did say it was about the bill but it wasn’t that.”

Meanwhile Xana watched her son went on a for another minute or two before jumping off the platform. “How did I do?” he asked.

Xana hit a button, attached a file, and typed out a short message. Jake - Thought you’d like to see what Benito is up to. Here’s his report card as well. X After hitting the “Send” button she said, “Your father is going to love it,” she grinned mischievously.

=/\=

Location: VULCAN
Scene: Outside the Offices of Hussein Karimi
Time Index: That evening

“You know you could be on the six o’clock news if you wanted, Sug,” Daryle Povenmire said to the woman sitting in the passenger seat of the FedComm news van. It was a loaner vehicle from the remote newsroom that had been assembled when the government moved to VULCAN months earlier, one which they really didn’t need, except for the fact that she had wanted Daryle to come with her for support.

Amanda Lane smiled. Thanks to help from Aleksey Nikitin and Daryle, she’d gotten quite the scoop on Edgerton from his very own estranged mother. What she assumed was going to be certain death to her career and possibly an assault on her personal safety ended up sparking a professional renaissance, in light of the successful overthrow attempt of his isolationist military government. “It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the offer. But you know I’m a reporter. It’s the chase I like. Not the teleprompter.”

“Then why aren’t you chassez-l’histoire then?” he teased, his creole accent coming out.

She looked at the chronometer. “I don’t want to appear to be too eager.”

Daryle chuckled. “But you are, you know.”

The pert blonde ignored her friend’s subtle jab. “I still wonder why Ms. Bonviva requested me. She could have readily given her story to one of the personnel on staff rather than send for someone from EARTH.”

“You know there’s only one way to find that out, chère,” he said, squeezing her shoulder.

“Yeah, I know,” she said ruefully, getting out of the shuttle.

=/\=
Scene: Xana’s Office

Xana Bonviva smiled congenially at the newswoman she’d invited, trying to keep things light and easygoing. “Thank you for coming, Miss Lane. Won’t you have a seat?”

The reporter quickly chose the chair nearest the desk, spending a few precious seconds giving the once-over to the woman largely responsible for Karimi’s election. The ivory suit she was wearing still looked crisp, but there was a fatigue in the Bolian hybrid woman’s face that Amanda attributed to long hours and a demanding work schedule. Her desk was in disarray; PADDs and computer media shared a space with what looked like a child’s drawings of- “Are those some kind of bugs?”

Xana laughed. “Yes. Cooties to be exact.”

“It must have been an interesting afternoon,” Amanda quipped, lightly tossing her honey blonde hair. The silky strands instantly fell back into place a few inches above her shoulders.

“My youngest son said he wanted to spend some time with me,” Xana explained. “But at least he did all his homework first.”

Amanda grinned. “Is he getting to the age where cooties are a concern?”

“I think we’ve been at Defcon three for at least a couple of years now.” She went to the replicator to get some green tea with lemon. It seemed to soothe her on these thought-filled days. “Would you like anything, Miss Lane?”

“No. And it’s Amanda, please.”

Xana set the beverage carefully on her desk before she continued. Her hands had been a bit shaky today and the last thing she wanted was spilled tea. “Amanda, I suspect you’re guessing why I asked you here.”

“There *are* plenty of fish in the sea,” she replied. “Or in this case, enough press staff on hand.”

“You’ve demonstrated the desire to see things through. And I am currently in need of someone who will persevere to find the answers I haven’t been able to.”

Amanda tried to process the underpinnings of what was being said. She put down the PADD and stylus she had brought with her, and shoved her hands into the pockets of her cropped jacket, in the hopes that she wouldn’t look so fidgety. “Answers for what? I thought we would be discussing the next Bill you’re presenting on behalf of Councilman Karimi.”

“Not exactly.” Xana presented her with a dossier. “This contains all the materials you will need to craft an article about the bill in question.”

Amanda’s blue eyes looked troubled, then angry. “Ms. Bonviva, you called me all this way to have me either plagiarize, or worse, be spoon fed an article? I don’t understand. You know I’m fully able to write my own copy.”
Xana drank a few sips of tea and rubbed her forehead. “Yes, I’m well aware. But the bill is only a front for your visit.”

“Chief of Staff Bonviva, are you saying you have a hidden agenda? I assumed Karimi did, but I wasn’t expecting anyone else.”

“Okay. First, call me Xana. Titles come and go much too quickly to lean on them. And, second, come on Amanda, you don’t have to humor me. This is politics. *Everyone* has a hidden agenda. But you have to trust me when I say mine is a good one, meaning I want only the best possible good to come of what I’ve found out.” The platinum-haired mother of four looked serious. The weight of what she knew pulled at her, despite her best attempts to deflect it.

The younger woman leaned back in the chair and crossed her arms. “You’ve got kind of a reputation for taking charge in nearly every situation or position you find yourself in, even if you shouldn’t have. Why do you need help now?”

Xana took a deep breath. There were a litany of reasons why, most of which were none of Amanda Lane’s business, or even germane to her participation in this. “The less I tell you the better, but suffice it to say the people that appear to be getting too close to this matter are ending up dead.”

The reporter looked at Xana, then stood up. “I need some water… or something,” she fussed, and after a half a minute at the replicator she came back with something that looked like a mocha latte. She alternated staring at the woman who had invited her with sips of the fortified coffee until her cup was half gone. “Am I supposed to be thanking you or cursing you?”

The former Secretary of Starfleet recognized gaining Amanda’s trust wasn’t going to be done in the course of one discussion. But she had to hope that her need to be the one to tell the story would exceed any doubts she had. “That’s entirely up to you,’ Xana replied. “You can leave right now and I wouldn’t blame you. But I’m not going to stop looking for someone to take the reins on this.”

The FedComm employee sat there, no longer restless, but also no longer sure of her reasons for being here, or even if she should stay. She’d been completely blindsided. “Oh,” she eventually said, obviously pained.

“Amanda, what is it? What’s wrong?”

She grabbed the screen and stylus left behind from Benito’s artistic pursuits and hastily scrawled a message on it, pushing it over to Xana’s side of the desk, jabbing it with the red stylus for emphasis. Little red dots marked the paper on which the words were written, *Is this room secure?*

Xana Bonviva had thought of many things that afternoon. But the privacy of her own office wasn’t one of them. She couldn’t reliably answer the question. She didn’t *know*. It was a rookie mistake, and it had been a long time since she had thought of herself that way. The whole thing incensed her. “Porca vacca!” she exclaimed, sitting down wearily.

Another scribbled note. *Where can we meet?*

Xana rolled her eyes and gave Amanda a look. “Fottermi,” she muttered, trying to think as quickly on her feet as she used to and failing miserably. She drummed her fingers on the desk. Home was out of the question. So was a public place that they would be seen together. There weren’t exactly any back alleys on VULCAN. After what felt like forever, but was in fact only a minute, Xana had a “eureka” moment and opened her top desk drawer, feeling sheepish. She’d made arrangements for Karimi’s safety above her own. He probably didn’t even remember or care, and for once she was grateful for his nonchalance and disinterest.

The keycards belonged to a private bungalow at a “logic retreat” that she had made an extended reservation on under an assumed name. It was admittedly a tourist trap; Vulcan acolytes more serious in their pursuits could find much higher quality places to meditate. But the Chief of Staff had specifically chosen it, as non-natives would blend in a lot more seamlessly. She presented one of the cards to Amanda.

The reporter nodded, took it, and tucked it into her pocket. She then took a couple of deep breaths and a couple of steps back. She hoped to God the room wasn’t bugged, but she gave a performance as if it was. “What’s wrong? What’s wrong is that I can’t participate in this little sham. Forget you ever called me, Ms. Bonviva,” she said in a huff, turning tail and only pausing long enough to allow the automatic door to open so she could leave.


=/\=
Scene: Shambhala Retreat, Unit 17
Time Index: 30 minutes later.

The half Bolian woman sat in the bungalow, enjoying the still silence. She’d made a quick stop to get something to scan the place, not wanting to make the same mistake twice, and grab some refreshments. Other than Benito wanting her to stay and eat dessert with him, the rest of her family was decidedly meh about her being out this late.

Xana only been sitting there a few minutes when she heard the computerized click of the door unlocking. Miss Lane entered the main living space, which had an open floor plan, sharing a living area, kitchen, and dining area. She’d made a hasty attempt to alter her appearance. Her jacket had been replaced by a man’s windbreaker with the sleeves rolled up, and her hair was tucked behind her ears under a gray tweed flat cap that was a little too large for her and obscured her eyes. “Well?”

“We can speak freely.” Xana held up a modified tricorder. “I’d say this location is more like what I should have aimed for in the first place,” she said with satisfaction. She was seated at the dining table, a carafe of red wine and two glasses filled and ready.

Amanda ditched the clothes she had commandeered from Daryle, and reached for the vino, taking a hefty, much needed swig. “I’m still not sure about your taste in reporters, but your taste in wine is impeccable.”

“Sorry about the mess in my office. I mean, I think I can trust my workplace, but suddenly I wasn’t sure I wanted to bet on that.”

Amanda pulled a chair out and sat down. “I don’t think you would have contacted me unless trust was in short supply. So is this about power, or money?”

“Both, but it all began with the ‘Save BOLARUS Fund’.”

Amanda nodded as she took out a PADD. “A unanimous decision to help the war-torn planet and overall gesture of goodwill, in light of another huge faux pas from a crazy Human mad with power,” she supplied while jotting down some notes.

“Oh, you’ve heard of it, then?” Xana mused. “That’s good. One less thing to explain.”

“I’m getting the feeling that despite Council assurances, BOLARUS IX has not been saved?”

“Give the woman an award,” the azure woman said while taking a long sip of wine. Pouring herself another glass she continued on, “The money’s all gone.”

“Gone? How did you find out?”

“I was there during the war and after. I made friends. I made contacts. They let me know something was wrong. Besides, it’s my home. And I wanted to see it rebuilt. But someone else saw a massive slush fund they could manipulate.”

“Do you know who?”

“Councilman Gavaar of TELLAR PRIME.”

Amanda let out a low whistle after downing a sip of wine. “That’s a pretty big accusation, even for someone as determined as you. What proof do you have?”

Xana looked wistful and a little pissed off. “An unofficial visit with him secured my suspicions. But he does not see me as a threat. And he pretty much told me that.”

“So suspicions, but no outright proof, and you accused him to his face? You’ve got bigger balls than most of the Fleet Admirals out there.”

The azure woman laughed. “I suppose that means if he wanted me dead he would have already had it done. But he did warn me at involving myself any further. He strongly hinted that consequences are sure to follow in some way. And I have much closer things to worry about.” Her children's’ faces easily filled her mind.

Amanda stopped her scribbles and gave a look at the politician who was nursing her next glass. “We have dotted lines linking the missing funds to Gavaar, but no outright proof. And you want to put me to work filling in those connections.”

“More or less. I think this goes deeper but I’m too close to the issue,” she said expansively. As she set the glass down on the table, Xana moved her arms in a sweeping motion, “When this breaks wide open, and I hope it will eventually, I’d like to keep my distance if that’s possible. But I can relay information to you. I want to be your Deep Throat.”

The story of Deep Throat was an old one, part of Journalism 101. It was the pseudonym for a man who helped the Washington Post, a newspaper of the twentieth century on EARTH, by providing information as an anonymous informant which brought down the players in a scandal that would become known as Watergate. The President of the United States was forced to resign as a result of the investigation. “I didn’t know you were a history buff.”

“I’d prefer to think of myself as a future buff. I want a future for my people, and a future for the Federation.”

“You’ve already mentioned Gavaar. How far do you think this goes?”

“I know it goes as far as Pangeos Pathways goes,” Xana said cryptically as she poured more wine. “You tell me their routes that will tell me, and everyone else, how far it goes.”

“What’s Pangeos Pathways?”

“It’s a merchant trading company. But more importantly, it seems to be a cover for all of Gavaar’s schemes. My theory is that they weren’t making money, just shuffling it from place to place to give the appearance of wealth and success. That’s where the fund disappeared to. To support the unsteady pyramid they built for themselves.”

“Do you have bank records that prove that?” Amanda asked.

“Well, no not really. But I have this.” The PDA was small and slender, in a case embossed with Bolian letters.

“And this is?”

“It’s from the Bank of Bolias. It contains all their policies and procedures, including instructions on how to bank remotely.”

“What does it prove?” Miss Lane asked, reaching out to touch the case.

“What does it prove?!” Xana shot back, picking the item up for emphasis. “It took me *days* to get that brochure. I think the person who gave it to me was trying to hint that what I could do, Gavaar could do. Maybe it means he had someone on the inside helping him. That he didn’t have to be there to orchestrate the plundering.”

“It proves you’re good at getting marketing materials,” Amanda shot back as she put down the stylus and finally picked up her own wine glass.

The Chief of Staff rolled her violet eyes. “Do I have to paint a picture for you?” Huffing out a sigh Xana said, “Councilman Drass was a mediocre politician with an incredible portfolio. An incredible amount of influence. Why? Why give that to a man who is as useless as a vibrator without a battery?”

“I’m giving this wine to all my sources,” Amanda murmured. “So please, illuminate me,” she said dryly. “Why Drass?”

Xana shot a look to the reporter. “Drass was a mediocre politician for the Federation Council, but still had incredible sway for Bolarus IX. His family still holds the majority on the board for the Bank of Bolias. If you wanted your credits flipped to latinum without going through the normal conversion rate, he was your man.”

“And just like that a backwater politician -- let’s be honest that’s what Drass was -- suddenly developed a high profile not because of his talents but because of who he was. All he had to do was figure out the formula for alchemy,” the reporter sighed as she picked up her stylus again.

“He was a useless fuck,” Xana sighed. “But he knew the right people to get you money. And Gavaar knew that.”

Amanda took a drink and thought a little more. “You didn’t quite answer my question earlier. Do you think Karimi is involved? The entire Council?”

Xana held her glass and gently gestured in the other woman’s direction. “See, that’s why I picked you, You’re good. Karimi did have some dealings with Pangeos Pathways in the past and he was visited by Gavaar while he was recovering from the assassination attempt. I can’t speculate if they were putting through more backroom deals or if Gavaar was threatening him with more than only an attempt on his life.”

“Attempted murder too? Gavaar seems like a helluva guy.”

Xana almost choked on her wine a little. “I’m sure he’s got people for it. More than attempted, I think, but no way to prove that either. Councilman Drass, his Chief of Staff, Rafe Qafe, and Councilman Rennan recently ended up dead. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Drass himself seemed to want push me away from the fund and my concerns about it before… his death.”

Amanda looked down, contemplating. The shocking story was fresh in her mind, and now to see some of the motives that might have been behind it was beyond rational. “I’m sorry. He must have been a friend to you.”

“At many times he was. I’m not as sure about recently, though. Now, it’s too late.”

“Is there a timetable on this?”

“As quickly as you can *safely* gather the information. I’d like to keep the body count down… preferably to zero.”

Amanda took that into consideration. “When this is over, what do you want things to look like?”

Xana finished her second glass and was pondering a third. “I don’t think I get a say in that, do I? If crimes have been committed, I’m not the judge nor the jury.”

“There is more than one solution to a problem. What if we manage to trap Gavaar in his own dealings, and he offers to replace the money if we look the other way? Would you be able to accept that, or do you want justice to be served completely?”

Xana stared pointedly through her tired eyes at the journalist. “All of that seems so far away. Ask me again when he’s squirming under the pressure.”

“I should also warn you that things can move faster than either of us are ready for. We may be striving for a deal, but that option may be taken from us. It’s hard to bargain if someone is already incarcerated or killed in a standoff. Much like your unwilling participation in this matter, the story has a mind of its own once the facts are put together with the who, what, where, when, and why.”

“It’s already out of control.”

“I know the purpose of this little get-together was to get my help and my buy in to find out what happened to the Save Bolarus Fund and the degree of Gavaar’s corruption. But I have to ask you, Xana, do you still want to pull the trigger?”

The blue-skinned woman hesitated. Gavaar had given her the option of walking away. However, this meant he had the upper hand. Honor among thieves was not something that could be relied upon. Otherwise, Drass would still be alive. “Yes, I do.”

“I’ll drink to that,” the younger woman said, raising her glass in the air. Xana mirrored her movements, and their glasses met with a crisp clink.

“To vindication,” Karimi’s right-hand woman said with gusto.

“For good,” Amanda replied.


=/\=
A Joint Post by

Susan Ledbetter
Writing for
Marie-Claire Martine
and
Amanda Lane

=/\=

Sarah Albertini-Bond
~writing as~
Xana Bonviva

 

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