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From Romulus With Love, Part II

Posted on Jul 30, 2017 @ 1:23am by Finn Shackleton
Edited on on Jul 30, 2017 @ 1:23am

Mission: Section 31

FINN SHACKLETON
in
"FROM ROMULUS WITH LOVE"


CHAPTER TWO

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Dearest Finn,

Ever since the first time I saw your holograph I knew my heart was won over. Now you are all that I think about. Day and night I dream of meeting you and caressing you. You are all that I have ever wanted in a man. Do Humans know passion the way Romulans do?

I can take this torture no more. I write to you to tell you that I seriously and sincerely desire to defect to the United Federation of Planets, so that we can be together as we should. I know that it will not be easy to arrange, but I can offer special equipment that your government wants - an encoding machine named a HARP. Perhaps you have heard of it.

Come to Limbo straight away, my love. I will find a way to contact you when you have arrived. Perhaps we can share a pleasant moment or two before you escort me back to Terra.

I hunger for you. Please come soon.

Selaka.

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Location: Limbo, The Triangle
Stardate: [2.17]0729.1720
Scene: Arrival Terminal Airlock


Finn Shackleton shuffled off the shuttle along with the half-dozen other passengers. After a gruelling journey lasting several days, he'd finally made it to the Triangle, to the ancient space station known as Limbo. He was tired - his berth on the privateer shuttle that had brought him here had been small and cramped, and had been shared with two other passengers, one of whom was a Ferengi who had snored incessantly.

After leaving Earth, Shackleton had requisitioned a Starfleet warpshuttle - the USS Loire - and travelled to Starbase 234, where he had finalised his itinerary. Posing as a Human arms dealer named Martin Lockheed, he had booked a room in one of Limbo's upscale hotels, then taken passage to TX-01 V-A, the moon of the fifth planet in the TX-01 system. Commonly known as 'the Bazaar', Shackleton had made discreet enquiries among the drinking dens and weapons vendors, both to find passage to Limbo and to keep up the pretence that he was looking to buy some weapons. He had eventually secured passage on an Orion ship, the captain of which called himself a 'private entrepreneur', but who was really little more than a mercenary. Five strips of gold-pressed latinum from his attache case had been enough to secure passage to Limbo.

As the Orion ship entered the Hammaker system and approached the ancient, crumbling space station, Shackleton went over when he knew of the place. The Romulans had been the ones to discover Limbo - then a ramshackle old space station that had been deserted for centuries - but had not colonised it. That had been the result of efforts by idealistic Federation citizens who, in 2265, had moved to Limbo in the hopes of a cultural exchance program with the Romulans. Instead, the place went to seed as the original colonists died off, and twenty-two years ago Limbo was taken over by a renegade Romulan and her mercenary army.

Two years ago, the starship Phoenix visited Limbo as its first port of call following its hijack and launch. At the time, other powerful factions in Limbo were jockeying for power and influence, but Tella Yavin quickly asserted her dominance by having her rivals all murdered and having all Federation citizens expelled. Since then, Tella Yavin and the Black Stars had ruled Limbo like it was their own private fiefdom, running it like a protection racket and aggrandising themselves to the hilt.

Somewhere on this station was the Romulan Tal Shiar agent Selaka and her supposed HARP. In all likelihood this was a trap, engineered to have him captured or assassinated, but Shackleton kept his thoughts focused as he moved through the arrival terminal under the watchful eyes of several Black Star mercenaries. Death was part of the risk as a Section 31 agent - whether it came in the night from behind or to his face in broad daylight mattered little. Occasionally, he wondered about what life might had been like had he not joined Starfleet and been recruited into the new Section 31, but those thoughts were few and far between.

The terminal opened into the Atria, the enormous staircase/turbolift shaft that stretched up hundreds of floors, from the glittering heights of the Escalla Daura penthouses at the top, all the way down to the Dungheap at the very bottom of the station. The Atria's shaft was deep and black, and nobody really knew where it ended up, which made it the perfect place for the dumping of all kinds of things.

There were thousands of aliens thronging the Atria on every floor. The arrivals terminal was situated on the lower half of the station, and Shackleton waited in line with dozens of creatures from all over the galaxy. None of them batted an eyelid to see a Human, but there were some aliens moving around here that Shackleton had never seen before, let alone knew what they were.

A large transparisteel elevator slid to a stop near him, the word FORUM flashing in garish neon lights above its doors. He stepped inside, breathing in a heady mixture of alien smells. Although packed in here, nobody made any trouble - there was a security camera in the roof monitoring the interior. Anyone who caused trouble would be met at the next stop by a dozen Black Star pulse rifles and summarily put to death.

The alien - he thought it was a Chalnoth - standing in front of Shackleton farted audibly, and the awful stench cloyed the air inside the elevator. The Chalnoth ignored the disgusted looks from its fellow passengers. Shackleton held his breath long enough to make his eyes water until finally, the elevator slid to a halt in the forum.

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Scene: The Forum -> Demir's Store


Limbo's vast marketplace - the Forum - was always open, all the time, and always thronged. Several hovering 3-D holographic maps showed prospective shoppers where they were, and it didn't take long Shackleton to figure out where he needed to go to find Demir, his contact on Limbo. Several Black Stars made their way through the crowds - Tella Yavin took a cut of every transaction conducted in the Forum, and it seemed possible to buy almost anything here, from luxury Spican flamegems to rat-meat pastries.

Demir's carpet stall stood outside his miserable-looking house. The Yridian was standing there picking his teeth with a long fingernail, watching the disinterested crowd for someone who looked bored or stupid enough to buy one of the cheap rugs that were draped all over his stall. His skin was pockmarked with small sores, and a sheen of scabrous down covered his rat-like features.

Shackleton approached him. "Mister Demir?"

The Yridian hawked up a glob of yellow phlegm and spat on the nearby wall. It ran down to the floor, joining a little pool of the stuff. "A customer, yes! Welcome! My rugs are very clean, yes! I check for fleas always, yes! You buy now!" He gestured to the stinking pieces of cloth. "Choose! Choose!"

Shackleton shook his head. "My name is Martin Lockheed, and I'm not here for that. I've come from your other employers - the ones on Earth."

All the colour drained from Demir's face, and the downy hair on his face stuck out like he'd had a live wire stuck up his arse. He shrank back behind his booth. "No, no! You have wrong man, yes! I am simple rug-seller, yes!"

Shackleton sighed. "I'm not in the mood for this, Demir. You're an informant for Starfleet Intelligence. Perhaps I should go and ask the Black Stars if they know about you? You don't want that kind of attention, and all I'm here for is information. Just information, yes?"

Demir looked uncomfortable, but took a moment to think about it before shrugging his assent. "Yes. Information. Come, come." He turned around and entered his home, beckoning Shackleton to follow.

Shackleton hefted his attache case and stepped inside Demir's house - a filthy hovel with a grimy oven and a dirty worktop covered with squares of coloured cloth. A stained mattress lay haphazardly on the floor, and there was a strong smell of sweat in the air.

Demir looked around. "Sit on bed, yes?"

Shackleton shook his head, opening his case and withdrawing a strip of gold-pressed latinum. He held it up so that it caught what light there was. "I'll stand. Demir, I have questions."

The Yridian fawned, eyes fixed on the latinum. "Yes, yes! I help, Mister Lockheed!"

Shackleton nodded. "There is a HARP device somewhere on board this station, in the hands of a Romulan Tal Shiar agent named Selaka. I need to find both her and the HARP."

Demir looked puzzled, and he scratched his nose. "Tal Shiar bring HARP here? Such valuable equipment for them, always being kept under tightest security! Strange for one to be here, yes?"

"We think it might be a trap. Selaka wants to - or says she wants to - defect to the Federation. Even though she said she'd find a way to contact me, I want to be proactive and find her first."

"Yes, a trap! Hmm." Demir stroked his chin with a scabrous hand - a curiously Human gesture. "No Federation citizens permitted on Limbo any more, yes, but Romulans are. Not many here, but some working as traders or in small consulate. Romulan girl likely there, in consulate, yes. Tella Yavin watch them carefully though, yes."

Shackleton frowned. "We didn't know that there is a Romulan consulate aboard Limbo these days."

Demir waved his hands in contempt. "Is small. Maybe ten Romulans, yes? They say is for helping Romulans with papers for moving cargo, but probably Tal Shiar agents there. HARP too, maybe, yes."

"Where is this Romulan consulate?"

Demir gestured towards the ceiling. "Up in Escalla Daura. Near the Sanctum - place where Tella Yavin rules from. But there is problem!"

"What problem?"

Demir looked around as if he was afraid of being overheard. "Big security now at Romulan consulate, I hear. One of officials there murdered this morning, I hear, strangled and dumped in Dungheap, yes."

"Great," Shackleton muttered. "That's all I need. Could the dead Romulan be Selaka?"

"No, no. Is man, yes. Say he was clerk there, yes. You want I take you there now?"

Shackleton shook his head. "No, I want to relax and get some sleep first." He flipped the strip at latinum at Demir, and the Yridian caught it, expertly secreting it somewhere in his clothes. "I'm going to call back here tomorrow morning and we'll talk some more. I will also bring more latinum, do you understand?"

Demir bowed at Shackleton like he was a king. "Yes, Mister Lockheed! I be here, yes! You rest, then come back, yes!"

Shackleton looked around once more, wondering how the ratlike Yridian could live in such a hole, before turning on his heel and walking out, back into the crowd, turning these new developments over in his mind.

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Location: The Manat Imperial Hotel, Escalla Daura, Limbo
Scene: Shackleton's Suite


Shackleton idly threw his credstick on the bed, not looking at how much he'd just shelled out for the room. It didn't matter anyway- one of the benefits of having a bottomless credit account, all paid for the bean counters at Section 31. The image of Georgia Campbell seething at her desk while she added up all his bills crossed his mind, and he grinned to himself.

The Manat Imperial was one of the finest hotels on Limbo, one of many in the Escalla Daura. The inequality between rich and poor was marked on this space station - those haves lived at the top, and the have-nots lived at the bottom. Shackleton was one of the haves - his Section 31 credstick made him a rich man, but that was one of the perks of a job where you might end up dead on a regular basis.

Like the Romulan in their consulate. Shackleton stripped off and lay on the bed, thinking about it. It was difficult to find information on Limbo - there was no news service, and it wasn't like he could tip his hand to the Romulans by simply knocking on their door and asking them about it. It was possible that the dead Romulan had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and been the victim of a simple mugging, but that seemed very unlikely. The Escalla Daura was the upper tier of Limbo, where the rich lived. It was where Tella Yavin herself made her domain - how could someone be murdered up here? Worse, why would it be a Romulan from their consulate? It might be coincidence - maybe the killer didn't know that the Romulan wasn't from Limbo - but even so, it was bound to raise Romulan suspicions and tension.

Tomorrow would be interesting.

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Location: Under the Romulan Consulate, Escalla Daura, Limbo
Scene: A tunnel


Shackleton and Demir carefully made their way through the access tunnels that criss-crossed Limbo like veins and arteries. They served a number of different purposes, Demir had said, from air conditioning to smuggling things under the noses of the Black Stars. Using these tunnels, one could get close to various buildings in the Escalla Daura, closer than the front door which you might get turned away from.

Shackleton was dressed all in black, in a one-piece jumpsuit. He carried his attache case in his left hand, his other equipment clipped to his belt, while Demir moved ahead with a torch, splashing through puddled of condensation water and avoiding patches of mould that grew here and there in the tunnels. Shadows melted and flowed around them, and there was an incessant drip of water from somewhere nearby.

"Here, here, Mister Lockheed, yes," whispered the Yridian, stopping at a vent in the side of the tunnel. "Behind this wall is Romulan consulate, yes."

Shackleton took out his tricorder and ran a scan. The wall was made of a duranium-steel composite, and was old. Parts of it had rusted badly, and some of the interior of the wall had collapsed, but not enough to affect its structural integrity. Romulan lifesigns showed up on the tricorder scant feet away behind the wall.

Demir cautiously shone the torch around while Shackleton affixed a portable pattern enhancer to the wall and motioned for the Yridian to be quiet. The enhancer acted like a short-range sensor palette, capable of extrapolating the received data to display a small three-dimensional holographic picture on a screen of what it was scanning.

Demir fell silent as that picture appeared - one middle-aged male Romulans sitting on a couch together by the wall, and a second, younger male Romulan standing in front of him, in a stiff military posture. The sitting Romulan appeared to be yelling at the standing man - gesticulating wildly and slapping the arms of his seat for emphasis.

Shackleton manipulated the controls, trying to zoom in to their faces, but the range was limited. He narrowed the view down to the computerised features of the sitting Romulan, and Demir gasped. "Is Neketh, director of consulate, yes! He is angry, yes?"

Shackleton nodded. The standing male Romulan was definitely the target of Neketh's ire. "He's certainly letting the other Romulan have it," he murmured. "A shame we can't hear as well as see. I wonder if this Neketh fellow is angry at the death of one of his agents yesterday morning."

The holographic Neketh suddenly stopped yelling, and sat back in the seat. A third figure had entered the room, approaching from the right-hand side. It was a young female Romulan - as Shackleton manipulated the controls to zoom in on her features, he saw that it was Selaka.

"Finally," he muttered. He got a long hard look at her, but the holographic representation hardly did her justice. The image she had attached with her love letter was accurate, though.

"Is girl you seek, yes?" whispered Demir. "How she look to you?"

Shackleton raised an eyebrow as Selaka turned away from the sensors, giving him a great view of her holographic behind. "From this angle, things are shaping up nicely," he smiled. "I can't wait to see her in the flesh."

"We go now, yes?" Demir was still nervous.

Shackleton looked up from the pattern enhancer. "This device's range is limited. Do you think you could help me find some schematics of the Romulan consulate - a layout of the building?"

Demir looked at him as if he was mad. "You cannot infiltrate! Is impossible, yes!"

Shackleton started packing up his gear. "Nothing is impossible. Can you get me the schematics or not?"

Demir shrugged assent. "Will take time. Call back to my shop in morning, yes? Bring more - "

" - latinum, yes," finished Shackleton for him. "Don't worry, you'll be paid as long as you're helpful." At least I get the rest of the evening off, he thought, deciding to go back and make use of that bed in his suite.

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NRPG: This is the second 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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