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From Romulus With Love, Part I

Posted on Jul 26, 2017 @ 4:16am by Finn Shackleton
Edited on on Jul 26, 2017 @ 4:53pm

Mission: Section 31

FINN SHACKLETON
in
"FROM ROMULUS WITH LOVE"


CHAPTER I
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Location: San Francisco, Earth
Stardate: [2.17]0725.2015
Scene: Section 31 Headquarters


The summer sunshine was sparkling on the waters of the bay when Finn Shackleton beamed into the headquarters of Section 31. He was wearing his Starfleet uniform - one of the new designs, black with a gray shoulder band, and a secondary gray band across the chest to denote an Intelligence officer - in order to better blend in among the hundreds of Starfleet personnel going about their business in the Presidio. The uniform hadn't been getting a lot of airing out lately, but whenever an agent met with Section 31's top brass, it was usually expected that the uniform be sported. Truth be told, the uniform was only ever likely to be used for ceremonial occasions in the future - it wasn't as if wearing one was conducive to accomplishing a mission with a bit of discretion.

It had been several weeks since the unpleasantness on Risa. Doctor Meyiou and his insane plan to irradiate that planet's ocean with thaleron had been stopped, and Shackleton had even managed to find a fulfilling diversion - at least for a few days - with the delectable Tiki Devine. Now Risa - and Tiki - were in the past, and if Shackleton didn't miss his guess, Selyara had summoned him to her office here in San Francisco in order to launch him on another mission.

As befitting the aesthetic tastes of the former Shadow Master, Selyara's office wasn't grand. No flashy signs or lights indicated the location of the Section 31 HQ, just a small pair of doors down one unobtrusive corridor. It used to be the central hub of the old Starfleet Intelligence, before that division got upped and moved to New Alexandria. Behind that small pair of doors lay a multi-story complex that housed Section 31's administration and information databases, as well as its own in-house research and design department. It was like an iceberg - you'd never think that so much lay behind what you could see, but that was Section 31's MO these days.

Finn Shackleton stepped through those doors and into Georgia Campbell's office. The statuesque black woman was at her desk, busily typing something out on her computer while simultaneously referring back and forth between several PADDs. She didn't even look up. "Keep moving, Emerald," she grated. "The Director is waiting for you inside."

Shackleton ignored her and sat down on the edge of her desk, making sure to plant his buttock near her typing hand. "Come on, Georgie," he smiled winningly, deliberately addressing her by the nickname that he knew she hated. "No chit-chat? No witty repartee? It's like you don't like me or something."

"I *don't* like you, Emerald, you make too much work for me. Property damage, enormous expense account to justify, the amount of clean-up that needs to be done in your wake. Not to mention the new intern we had to fire because she kept doodling 'Mrs Finn Shackleton' on her desk."

"There's no harm in having dreams, Georgie. It could be you if you play your cards right. Georgie Shackleton has a sweet ring."

"I'd rather use my own hand and talk dirty to it instead of you. You'd better get in there. This one's important." Georgia resumed her typing.

Shackleton rolled his eyes. "Aren't they all." He got up, took a moment to straighten out his uniform, and crossed the floor past the various computer banks up to the red-painted door that denoted the Director's office. It slid open, and he entered Selyara's office -

- except that she wasn't there. The office itself was small and functional, being dominated by an impressive walnut desk and plush chair. The chair was empty, and the desk was bare save for its computer terminal, a PADD, and a small holographic generator. The window was open, admitting a cool breeze and plenty of natural daylight.

The holographic generator powered up, a series of blinking lights appearing around its edges, and a hologram fizzed into existence beside the desk. It was a full-size real-time representation of Selyara, being transmitted from an external location and processed through the desktop device. The distance between here and its point of origin must have been considerable, because the image of the Director kept stuttering and shimmering like there was something interfering with the signal.

Selyara was dressed in a simple black one-piece jumpsuit and was standing rigidly with her arms behind her back. Taken aback, Shackleton stood still as the hologram began talking. {{Shackleton. There you are.}}

"Here I am. Where are you, Director?"

{{Not here, obviously, but this is a real-time communication, so I can see and hear you.}}

"Is that right?" Shackleton began to walk slowly around the hologram, wondering if he could take a look at it from behind, but his lecherous hopes were dashed when the image of Selyara began to move with him, presenting her front to him at all times.

{{Enough, Shackleton. Listen to me - something's come up. Have you ever heard of a Tal Shiar agent named Selaka?}}

Shackleton shook his head. "No."

{{Are you sure? She's not one of your contacts? An informant, perhaps? Someone you've fraternised with in the past, maybe?}} Selyara's voice was laced heavy with sarcasm.

"No, Director. I don't know any Romulans."

Selyara's eyes narrowed, but then she shrugged. {{Very well. Let me explain. Yesterday morning, one of our automated Neutral Zone listening posts received a message from the Romulan homeworld using an outdated Federation intelligence code, which naturally piqued our interest. The message originated from a freeport space station in the Triangle named Limbo.}}

Shackleton frowned. "I've heard of Limbo. Some sort of ancient station that was repopulated by Federation colonists a couple of centuries ago, but the colony failed."

Selyara nodded. {{Right. Two years ago the starship Phoenix visited Limbo while it was in the midst of a power struggle between several rival criminal factions. The message that we received originated there. You can see the text of the message on the desktop PADD.}}

Shackleton retrieved the PADD and opened it while Selyara continued talking. {{The message takes the form of a letter addressed to you, by name, from a Tal Shiar agent named Selaka. In her letter, Selaka claims to want to defect to the Federation, and claims to have in her possession one of the Romulans' most secret encoding machines - a HARP.}}

Shackleton looked up. The Romulan HARP - Hyper Advanced Rebus Protocol - was one of the Tal Shiar's most impressive pieces of technology. HARPs were machines that encoded subspace radio messages into a series of pictograms and symbols that made absolutely no sense except to another HARP machine. Starfleet Intelligence had intercepted dozens, maybe hundreds, of Tal Shiar subspace messages over the past number of years, but no amount of cryptography, not even by the brightest minds in the Federation, was sufficient to break the Tal Shiar code. A HARP machine in the hands of the Federation would paralyse the ability of the Tal Shiar to effectively communicate with their various agents around the quadrant. "I take it that we're agreeing to her request, Director?"

Selyara held up a hand. {{Not so fast. You see, Selaka attaches one condition to the transfer of the HARP device. It's ridiculous, but she will only agree to come to Earth if you personally escort her off of Limbo. In her letter, she claims to have fallen in love with you, apparently from a file holograph that the Tal Shiar have."

"It must be quite a picture."

{{Assuming the offer is genuine, of course.}} Selyara put her hands behind her back again. {{I think you and I can agree that this is more likely to be a trap than something genuine. The bait, of course, is the HARP device - believe me when I say that Starfleet Intelligence has been actively trying to get its hands on one for several years. You understand that, even if this is a trap, placed in order to capture or kill you, we have to respond to it?}}

Shackleton nodded slowly. "Yes, Director." He scrolled down on the PADD's screen until he found the end of the letter. Selaka had signed it 'From Romulus, With Love' and included a picture of herself - a ravishing, shapely Vulcanoid woman with black hair cut into an energetic-looking bob, pale skin and dark eyes. "She's quite attractive."

{{Your weakness for women is, in all likelihood, part of the trap, Shackleton. Think with the head on your shoulders for one moment. If there is a chance of getting our hands on a HARP, we must take it. You're going to Limbo in the morning. Your contact there is a Yridian trader named Demir, who has a small food stall in the Forum. Demir is a sleeper informant only - he receives a small monthly payment from Starfleet Intelligence to keep his eyes and ears open for us on Limbo - but he is not expecting to do anything except be a mole. Use him for information - he has lived on Limbo for many years and knows the station better than anyone.}}

Shackleton nodded. "Demir. Forum. Information."

{{You must make contact with Selaka as soon as you can, firstly to discover if her offer is genuine, but also to in order to gather from her any information regarding the HARP and where it might be kept. If she has it on her, so much the better, but that's unlikely. You should use whatever methods are at your disposal to win her confidence and get your hands on that HARP.}}

Shackleton ran his eyes down the image of Selaka, taking special notice of her curves. "I'll be certain to pump her for information," he said, deadpan. "Suppose that, when we meet, I don't, shall we say, live up to expectations?"

Selyara rolled her eyes and fixed him with a deadly stare. {{Just see that you do. Before you leave, I've had the quartermaster prepare some equipment for you.}} She spoke into the air. {{You can come in now, Miss Gonzalez.}}

The red door opened, and Finn Shackleton got his first look at Section 31's new Quartermaster. She was petite, but not short, and had dark hair and eyes. She was wearing a pair of unflattering mustard-coloured overalls, and had a pair of thick eye-goggles resting on her forehead. She was kind of pretty, Shackleton decided. Six out of ten, maybe six-and-a-half.

She was carrying a black attache case, and she put it up on the desk before looking at him. "Hello, Emerald. I'm Gabrielle Gonzalez, the quartermaster."

Shackleton gave her a winning smile. "You're a pretty little thing, aren't you? I'm going to call you Gigi."

Gabrielle and Selyara shared a look between them. Shackleton felt a little nervous. He gestured to the table. "What's in the case?"

Gabrielle hefted it up so it was standing vertically. "It's a field kit. We're trying to issue them to all agents. Now, pay attention, Emerald. An ordinary black leather case, with inbuilt holo-projector. If it's scanned, the projector will activate, interfacing with the invading sensors and projecting images of clothes, personal effects, and the like." She tapped the narrow underside, indicating that it was hollow. "Hidden down here - a monofilament throwing knife, balanced for weight. Tap the corner to access the compartment, but be careful - monofilament blades are whittled down to the sharpest of points."

Shackleton tapped the corner of the case with his forefinger - there was a clunk from somewhere within, and the hilt of the throwing knife popped out. He drew the knife out - the business end of it was only about six inches long.

Selyara looked on.

Gabrielle turned the case down flat and opened it. "Now, inside we have a sniper rifle. Carbon-fibre tritanium polymer construction, internal disruptor power pack."

"Not phased energy?" Shackleton frowned.

"We compromised power for accuracy. Three parts to the rifle - the butt here, which holds the barrel and power pack. You attach the barrel to the butt by slotting it here - that action automatically activates the power pack. Flip up the sights on top of the barrel, good to two hundred and fifty metres guaranteed. The sights are voice-activated and change between image magnification, thermal vision, and infra-red vision depending on what you need."

Shackleton looked it over. The rifle wasn't especially powerful, but it was small, compact, and very portable. Whereas a phaser might reduce its target to ash, a disruptor bolt pulverised anything it hit, breaking up the target's molecular cohesion and splattering it to the four winds. A crude but effective weapon.

Gabrielle indicated two straps on the case's interior, underneath the handle. "If you pull out these straps, you'll find fifty strips of gold-pressed latinum, twenty-five on either side."

Shackleton nodded.

"Finally, the case has an important security feature." Gabrielle snapped the case shut. There were no locks or keyholes anywhere on the exterior. "In order to open the case, you grasp the handle with your *left* hand, and pull open using your *right* hand. The handle has a built-in sensor palette. Now, hold up your left hand."

Shackleton held it up. Quick as a flash, Gabrielle pulled a lancet from her pocket and stabbed him in the palm with it. The pain flared, but Gabrielle spoke in a soothing voice, and there was no blood. "I injected you with the subcutaneous transponder that interfaces with the case's sensor palette. Lift with left hand, open with right."

Shackleton grumpily rubbed his palm. It still stung a little. "What happens if someone does the opposite?"

Gabrielle eyed him. "The handle also contains a flash-heat plasma emitter. Anyone picking up this case who is not you will get their arm melted off up to the elbow."

Shackleton raised an eyebrow. "I'd better not pack anything valuable."

Gabrielle stuck her finger in his face. "Left hand. Remember."

"Got it."

"Good." Gabrielle looked at Selyara. "Will that be all, Director?"

The holographic image of Selyara nodded, and Gabrielle crossed the floor to the red door, exiting the room. Shackleton picked up the attache case with his left hand. "Limbo here I come."

{{Be careful, Shackleton. Limbo is going to be crawling with Tal Shiar agents. If it looks like you might be captured - }}

Shackleton nodded grimly. "I know, Director." With his case in one hand and the PADD containing Selaka's love letter in the other, Finn Shackleton walked back out of Section 31 and into a new adventure.

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NRPG: This is the first chapter of Finn Shackleton's adventure on Limbo, with tongue firmly planted in cheek ;)


Jerome McKee
the Soul of Finn Shackleton
Agent
Section 31

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