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From Romulus With Love, Part III

Posted on Nov 04, 2017 @ 10:55pm by Finn Shackleton

Mission: Section 31

FINN SHACKLETON
in
"FROM ROMULUS WITH LOVE"

CHAPTER THREE

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Location: The Manat Imperial Hotel, Escalla Daura, Limbo
Stardate: [2.17]1104.1500
Scene: Shackleton's suite


Finn Shackleton entered his suite at the Manat Imperial and felt himself begin to relax. It had been a long day, but he was making progress, and now he was ready to take a shower and get some sleep. Ever since he had been dispatched here to Limbo, things had been one-step-at-a-time, and today's stepping was done. He put his black attache case down on the bed and unzipped his black jumpsuit. The mission was going well enough.

Several weeks ago, Selaka, a Romulan girl working in the new imperial consulate on Limbo had surreptitiously contacted Section 31, offering to defect if she could be picked up personally by Shackleton. To make her offer sweeter, she also promised that she would smuggle out a Tal Shiar HARP encoding device - a Hyper Advanced Rebus Protocol - that Starfleet Intelligence had been anxious to get a hold of. It was probably a trap, but Director Selyara had made it clear that Shackleton's life was worth the risk of gaining access to a HARP.

After taking a passenger liner to Limbo, Shackleton had made contact with Demir, a Yridian Starfleet Intelligence operative living on the station, and the two of them had conducted a quick surveillance operation on the Romulan imperial consulate, getting their first glance of Selaka. The consulate, little more than a front for a Tal Shiar cell, was up in arms, as one of their agents had been murdered shortly before Shackleton's arrival, and blame had fallen upon the Federation. There were no Federation citizens resident on Limbo since their mass expulsion in 2429, but Federation citizens could still come and go on business, and it was under this guise - an export agent named Martin Lockheed - that Shackleton had come aboard the ancient station. Now, tired after his day's work, he peeled off his clothes and stepped into the shower.

His suite was Latinum Class, of course. His expense account was bottomless, and Shackleton thought it quite fitting that, in return for risking his life on every goddam mission they sent him on, he should be permitted to enjoy the finer things in life. Latinum Class suites in the Manat Imperial came with water showers, and Shackleton turned it on, let the water heat up, and got in.

The hot water cascaded down over his muscular, rugged body, and Shackleton preened himself, flexing his guns and admiring the shape of his masculine thews. He was a damn good-looking man, and was it any wonder that Selaka had creamed her Romulan underwear (whatever it was they wore) when she saw a holograph of him? Once you went Shackleton, you never went back to 'em - 'em being whatever species/gender/sexual orientation you were.

He thought about dialling the concierge and asking for an extra pillow, knowing that the concierge would likely recognise the codewords for a playmate for the night. The Manat Imperial didn't seem like that kind of hotel, but that only meant that they hid it well. After all, Shackleton's account was bottomless, and everyone had their price -

- he turned off the water. He had heard a noise in his room. He stood there for a moment, dripping water, wondering if he had really heard it, then stepped out of the shower. There was nothing to hand he could use as a weapon except a bar of soap, so he balled his fists and sidled up to the ajar door and peeked out.

From his limited view, the room was empty. He could see the door, and it was closed. He could see the edge of the large, satin-sheeted bed, and it seemed undisturbed, but Shackleton's internal proximity alarm was blaring. He gently pushed the door open and moved into the room, immediately seeing who had come in.

The was a young Romulan woman lying in his bed. She was just drawing the sheets up to her throat, but Shackleton got a snapshot of nude yellow-green shoulders. Her hands were small and delicate, but it was her face that he homed in on. She had penetrating dark eyes and dark hair cut into a Vulcanoid bob, and her face was thin. She wasn't pretty like Human girls were pretty, but non-Human girls had their own special charm - besides, he couldn't remember the last time he'd made it with a Romulan before. If ever.

There was no danger here. Shackleton stood naked in front of her, getting aroused by the sight of her watching him. He locked the bedroom door, trying not to look creepy doing it, and moved to the bedside, sitting down next to her. He already knew her name from the holograph she sent to Section 31 all those weeks ago.

"Well, now," he said softly. "You must be Selaka."

"And you're Finn Shackleton," she smiled. It was a practiced thing - a crease of the lips, a suggestive widening of the eyes, designed to appear both inviting and coy at the same time.

Shackleton gently pulled back the covers and got a good, long look at his first nude Romulan. He leaned forward. "Well, now that we've been properly introduced - "

The kiss was every bit as erotic as he'd hoped. She responded to it passionately, draping her arms around him. As he moved to her cheek, her throat, her neck, she breathed heavily, and he breathed with her.

Nothing if not professional, he thought. "Is it here?" he whispered, as his hands roved over her body.

"Is what here?" she sighed.

"The HARP," he murmured. "Is it in the imperial consulate?" He put a hand between her legs, and they yawned open.

"Yes," she moaned. "Yes, it is."

Shackleton took his lips off her and sat up straight, releasing his grip. "You can help me get hold of it, Selaka. I'm going to infiltrate the place tomorrow. I'll create a diversion, get inside and meet you. You'll have the HARP and we'll get out."

"Where will we go?" she said.

"Earth. It's what you wanted, isn't it?" Shackleton gently took her wrists and pinned her to the bed. "But we can talk more in the morning."

As he made love to her, the wireless micro-camera she had installed on the headboard of the bed watched everything.

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Scene: Demir's Market Stall
Time Index: Next day, afternoon


Shackleton went over his equipment in the attache case again - sniper rifle, throwing knife, latinum strips - and closed and locked it. The case came with an interesting security feature, too - according to Section 31'a quartermaster, the handle had a built-in sensor palette that was programmed to recognise the genetic patterns present in his left hand. That was the hand he was supposed to carry the case in. Anyone else holding the case in their right hand would trigger the flash-heat plasma emitter built-in to the handle, melting their arm off up to the elbow. The left and right thing was all to do with playing the numbers - apparently, more humanoids were right-handed than left-handed. The case also had an inbuilt holo-projector to thwart any attempts at an internal sensor scan by generating images of clothes and personal effects. Director Selyara and Quartermaster Gonzalez said the technology was state of the art. Shackleton didn't really care. They gave him tools and he used them.

Demir, his Yridian contact on Limbo who knew him by another name, was particularly fawning this morning, especially since Shackleton had given him another strip of latinum. "Is pleasure to work with Starfleet, yes!" the rat-faced alien was saying as he busied himself pulling on stinking clothes. "Today we strike a blow against the Romulans, yes!"

"I'm only interested in the HARP, Demir," grated Shackleton. "Once I'm inside the consulate, it'll be up to you to create the diversion."

Demir reached under his rickety wooden bed and pulled out a small metallic cube, no more than three inches in diameter. He ran his gnarled, hairy fingers over it, cooing like a child with a new toy. "Have just the thing, yes!"

Shackleton nodded. Demir was holding a triceron chemical explosive device. The thing was deadly at close range, but was useful when attempting to limit damage to a structure or personnel beyond its blast radius. Once the molecular decay detonator had been set, the explosion would frag everything with a couple of feet, but there was almost no flash heat from the triceron, limiting burn and shockwave injuries against anyone luckless enough to be nearby. The Yridian was right - it was a good choice to plant in the access tunnel that ran beneath the Romulan imperial consulate.

"Good." Shackleton checked himself in Demir's filthy mirror. He was dressed in a bespoke charcoal-grey business suit, jacket and trousers, over a crisp, new white shirt and a muted dark matte blue tie, chosen because it matched his eye colour. Impeccable faux-leather shoes completed his look - for all the world, he appeared to be some sort of Human corporate rep entering the Romulan imperial consulate in a neutral freeport. He moved to the door, somewhat anxious to get away from Demir and begin his work. "If all goes well, I'll be on an Astral Lines passenger liner in an hour. Meet me at the spaceport. Your life on Limbo is over. Once we reach Earth, you'll be paid."

Demir bowed and licked his lips. "Steal HARP, get girl, escape, yes?"

For a moment, Shackleton recalled how good it felt to making love to Selaka, but he quickly quashed the memory. There was no guarantee that this wasn't a trap with a HARP and a pretty girl as bait, and there might very well be nothing in his future except capture, torture and execution. The HARP was the priority, he reminded himself - not the emotions of some Romulan girl.

He shrugged. "Two of three would be fine with me. See you later, Demir."

He left the Yridian behind, moving onward and upward through the ancient space station.

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Scene: Consulate of the Senate and People of Romulus, Escalla Daura, Limbo


In the upper reaches of Limbo, the inequality between the haves and have-nots of the ancient space station was all the more visible. The Escalla Daura was where the fabulously rich lived in their mansions, their arboretums, their five-star hotels and restaurants and shops. It was also the location of many embassies and consulates - the New Ferengi Alliance was here, as were the Orions, the Tzenkethi, and the Romulans.

Demir had told Shackleton that the Romulan imperial consulate also acted as a front for the Tal Shiar - if that was true, then he was walking into danger. If Selaka knew what Shackleton looked like from a file that the Tal Shiar had on him, then it followed that the Tal Shiar as a whole had managed to blow his cover and knew what he looked like. That wasn't necessarily a dangerous thing in the shadows - after all, both Starfleet Intelligence and Tal Shiar expended a lot of resources in simply identifying each others' operatives, with no follow-up action ever taking place - but all rules of propriety were likely to be thrown out the window if the Tal Shiar came after him looking to recover the HARP he was looking for. Shackleton knew that he'd be better off dead than falling into the hands of the Tal Shiar - one of the psychological standards he had to pass in order to be admitted into Section 31 was a willingness to commit suicide, by whatever means necessary, if capture appeared likely - and here he was, walking into their headquarters in Limbo.

The double doors into the consulate were dominated by an overhanging sculpture of the Romulan eagle with wings spread, reaching out to grasp entire planets in its talons. In the lobby was a portrait of the current Romulan praetor - a woman, the first in their history - and a scanning both manned by suspicious guards. Their hackles went up as soon as they saw he was a Human, but Shackleton ignored their barbed stares and put his case through their scanner. The inbuilt holo-projector worked exactly as intended, detecting the security scan and covering up the contents with images of clothes and personal effects. Grudgingly, the guards waved him through. The wall chronometer read fourteen-fifty-eight hours.

There was a large security door leading into the rest of the building. Shackleton walked up to the receptionist, an older male Romulan with graying hair sitting at a desk. The Romulan eyeballed him, but Shackleton smiled winningly. "Trading permit, please."

The Romulan reached into an alcove in his desk and pulled out a PADD. "Fill this out," he said.

"Alright," said Shackleton nonchalantly. "Your chronometer - is it correct?"

The Romulan receptionist's lip curled in disdain. "Of course."

Shackleton went to a nearby seat and sat down, activating the PADD as the chronometer signalled fifteen-hundred with a beep. The PADD was an application for a trading permit within the borders of the Empire and required lots of answers to administrative questions. There was a whole separate section for citizens of the United Federation of Planets, requiring the submission of multiple forms of identification. Shackleton skimmed down through them, pretending to look interested.

The chronometer ticked over to fifteen-oh-one.

Shackleton got up and walked back to the receptionist. "Excuse me," he said smoothly, "you did say that your clock was correct?"

The Romulan receptionist turned to look at the timepiece, then back at Shackleton, the sneer never leaving his face. "Romulan chronometers are always on ti - "

In the tunnel beneath the consulate, Demir's triceron bomb detonated with a thump, shattering the floor of the consulate lobby and bringing the wall with the security door collapsing down. Romulan guards fled in all directions as chunks of plasteel and tritanium blasted everywhere, the shockwave knocking everyone off their feet.

Everyone who wasn't ready for it, that was.

Shackleton stepped over the dazed receptionist, who was lying on the floor, shaking his head to try to clear it, and moved into the consulate proper. Just as Selaka had told him last night, the layout was familiar. He followed her directions quickly, thankful that there were no more than a dozen Romulans in the building, and most of them near or in the lobby.

First right, first left. Past the turbolift. Turn right at the end of the hall, and first door on the left.

The door parted to reveal a small office with a desk, a chair and a computer terminal. Selaka was standing there, pointing a disruptor pistol at him. On the desk was a small box, about the size of a tin of cookies, covered with Romulan markings and control panels.

Shackleton paused a moment, wondering what she was going to do, but Selaka lowered the pistol, and he stepped forward. He gestured to the cookie tin. "Is that the HARP?"

"Yes," she nodded, stuffing the disruptor into her belt. "You must hurry, Finn! It will not take the guards long to find us!"

Shackleton opened his case - hold with left hand, open with right, just like he'd been taught - and put the HARP inside it. For a second, he considered punching Selaka in the face and leaving to her fate, but the girl might prove useful yet. Besides, there were many days of travel still ahead of them. "Hold my hand."

She held on to him as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a site-to-site transport beacon, hearing booted feet and Romulan voices approaching quickly from down the hall. As the first Romulan guard burst into the room, Shackleton pressed the activation stud.

In a flash of white light, he, Selaka and the HARP were instantly teleported away from the scene. Now all he had to do was make it home.

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NRPG: This is the third 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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