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You've Got To Be Kidding Me...

Posted on Sun Feb 4th, 2018 @ 4:59am by Lieutenant Cailus Griffin & Lieutenant Kalin 'Shae' Brennan PhD

Mission: Into The Wild
Location: Ready Room/Airlock 5-Alpha
Timeline: After “A Damned Borg”

It was the silence before the storm. All of the pieces had been laid out, the board set, and now there was little to do but wait for the first move. The incursion team led by Captain Temple were now onboard the Carnage, while the Pandora was waiting nearby, preparing for the inevitable battle. The pirates had now broken through the Killing Fields, leaving the smaller Federation starship as Salvaxe's last line of defence, but the Carnage had hesitated while it took aboard the Raider.

Onboard the Bridge of the Pandora, it was quiet. Wanting everyone to be well rested, and knowing that any combat with the Carnage was a minimum of twenty minutes away given the distances involved, Cailus had ordered Ensign Fick and Chief Frost to leave the Bridge for a few minutes to eat and take a break. Unable to take his own advice, Cailus stayed on the Bridge, trying not to look uncomfortable in the Chair, and thus was grateful of the excuse to stand when the officer at Ops piped up.

"Lieutenant," the Andorian woman reported, "the shuttlecraft Beagle is on approach and is requesting permission to dock."

Cailus frowned as he stepped up to the Ops console, then tapped a button on it. =/\=Pandora to Beagle.=/\=

=/\="This is shuttlecraft Beagle,"=/\= came the sound of Shae's voice over the comm. =/\="Uhh, anybody want to open the shuttlebay doors to let me in? That big Ravager ship is looking awfully menacing out there..."=/\=

The frown deepened, but Cailus nevertheless nodded at the Andorian ensign, indicating that she should clear the Beagle for docking. =/\=Are Commander Nash and the rest of the team with you?=/\=

=/\="Negative, the recall was only for myself, and no one opted to return with me,"=/\= Shae replied.

Thoroughly confused, Cailus nevertheless shook it off. =/\=Very well. Report to the Bridge immediately after you land. Pandora out.=/\=

With the shuttlebay doors now opening, Shae wasted no time bringing the shuttle in and landing. As soon as she handed the shuttle off to the bay engineers, she proceeded straight to the turbolift and then to the Bridge. As the lift doors opened to reveal the Bridge, Shae's eyes sought out Cailus; why was he standing watch on the Bridge? Where was Nyx?

"Where's the Captain?" Shae asked as she made her way across the Bridge to the Command deck.

Still standing, Cailus gestured at the viewscreen, which showed the menacing image of the Carnage. The Ravager ship was much further away than the image seemed, a full twenty minutes at full impulse, but it was an intimidating sight nevertheless.

"There," Cailus said very quietly, bearing his usual frown. "We captured the Ravager Raider that escaped, and the Captain decided to lead an incursion team to sabotage the enemy from within. He's there with Lieutenant Smith, Ensign T’Kemi and Tisar Zemel, and he left me in command." That sparked a thought, and he glanced at Shae with an unreadable expression, his voice dropping in volume in further so that the rest of the Bridge crew couldn't hear. "Unless you're here to relieve me. You're the ranking officer onboard besides Mindo, and you've been in Starfleet longer than Mindo and I combined."

"Gee, thanks for reminding a girl about her age..." Shae said with a dull, flat expression, then she sighed. Mostly, she was annoyed that she had been recalled with no clear reason, she shouldn't take it out on Cailus. "The Captain didn't say anything about relieving you; if he was going to do that, he could have called for Commander Nash, but he called for me, said my skills might be required, but I don't see where an Astrophysicist could be useful right now." Of course, she had an itch at the back of her mind that Nyx wasn't referring to her PhD in Astrophysics but rather her other skill set; no, Nyx wouldn't ask for something like that, he knew she was trying to put that part of her life behind her! "So he's really on the Ravager ship?"

"Yes," Cailus replied with a sigh, and for once, the concern showed in his eyes as he looked at the image of the Carnage. He was intensely worried about Nyx and the others, just four people against an entire battleship of killers, and he clasped his hands behind his back out of old habit. "They used the Raider to slip aboard and pose undercover as Ravagers, but we haven't had any contact since they were taken aboard. If that ship moves against Salvaxe, we'll need to attack."

"How long has it been since they went silent?" Shae asked, the itch in the back of her mind growing.

"Twenty minutes," Cailus answered quietly, not taking his eyes off the screen. "According to the plan, we should get a signal when they access the Ravager's computers, but nothing yet."

Another sigh escaped Shae. "I think I know why the Captain recalled me," she said with a grim expression, then moved over to an unoccupied Science console to begin review available sensor data on the Ravager ship. "And you're not going to like what I'm about to suggest..."

Indeed Cailus recognised the sorrowful look in Shae's eyes, and he resisted the urge to facepalm. "Ready room," he said curtly, then turned to the ensign at Tactical. "Mister Jin, you have the conn. Notify me of any changes."

The ensign barely had time to acknowledge before Cailus got to the Ready Room. He didn't go behind the captain's desk, instead simply standing in front of it with his arms crossed as Shae entered, his expression quite plainly that of a man bracing for the worst. "Alright, let's hear it."

"I think Nyx called me back as a backup plan. He knows what I used to do, and if their plan was compromised, I'd be their best chance for retrieval," Shae said as soon as the doors closed behind her. "So I need to figure out how to get onto that ship; transporters are a no go and we don't exactly have another Ravager shuttle... I think you might need to shoot me at the Carnage."

Cailus waited a beat, as if expecting a punchline. "When you say 'shoot'..."

"I mean, I put on an EVA suit, you line up the airlock with the Carnage, open the airlock, and the decompression will propel me towards the ship, easy peasy," Shae said as though this was a completely normal thing to do. At his unamused glare, Shae shrugged. "What's the big deal, I've done it before."

Shaking his head in disbelief, Cailus growled, a barely-audible noise as he glared at her. "That is the single most insane plan I have ever heard. A thousand things can go wrong. The Ravager ship could maneuver while you're out there, you could be detected, they could open fire at us and you could get caught in the crossifre, you could completely miss them and just end up completely ballistic in space..."

"Seriously, I've done this plenty of times; it isn't without it's risks, but I'm capable of dealing with them," Shae said. "Though admittedly, I've never done this with the shields up, but I think I have a workaround for that! Come look," Shae continued, then gestured for him to come around the desk with her as she accessed the desk terminal, pulling up the scans of the Carnage. "Look at some of those bits sticking out of the hull at strange angles; some of the spikes are extending through the shield, and if I can land on one and match the polarization of the hull with my suit, then I can pass through at one of these weak points." In hindsight, she wasn't making her argument any easier to take considering that instead of firing her at a whole ship, they had to aim the airlock on one of the tips of the spikes barely protruding through the shields.

"it's still risky," Cailuis protested, although as he looked over her shoulder, he had to admit that it was theoretically possible. Indeed, he had examined those same protusions as potential weak spots for photon torpedoes...but there wasn't a chance in hell that he was going to let Shae, of all people, do something so mind blowingly dangerous. "Shae, even if you pull this stunt off, you're one woman against hundreds of Ravagers, and you won't have any idea where the captain and the others are. I wouldn't try boarding that thing with anything less than thirty security officers at my back. This is insane."

"Lieutenant Griffin," Shae said, facing him and crossing her arms over her chest. "How would you get a team of thirty Officers aboard that ship? It may seem insane, but this is what I used to do. Now, I may be the ranking Officer, but you are the one the Captain left in charge and you have not yet been relieved; do I have your approval or not?" she said in a firm tone, trying to preserve the line between who they were as Officers and who they were as lovers. Although, it was hard of her to ask, she didn't want to take this risk, she had a family to think of, and she wanted Cailus to be selfish and ask her to stay, but that didn't make it right; Nyx had called for her and this was how she had to respond to that call.

Cailus was silent for a long, long moment, looking straight back at her, reading her eyes. Blast it all to hell, he wanted to say no, and the damnable thing was that he could do it. Professionally, he had every right to refuse...but he also knew Shae. She wasn't some wild-eyed baby-faced ensign, wanting to make some suicidally stupid risk. She was absolutely, stone-cold sure that she could pull it off. He recognised that certainty all too well, since it was the same clarity of purpose that he possessed in combat, the reason why he'd fought that Ravager on Salvaxe with such cold confidence. It was there, in Shae's eyes, and he couldn't ignore it.

"Permission granted," he finally relented, forcing the words out. Cailus closed his eyes briefly, feeling an awful shiver in his spine at the thought that he might just have sent Shae to death, but he forced that thought deep down. "My original battleplan had us making hit-and-run attacks on the Carnage as it moved on Salvaxe, but now we'll go to Plan B. We'll maneuver as close we can, hail them, and keep them talking as long as possible so you can make your transit. After that, the fighting is almost certainly going to start. We'll try to evade them and buy you and the others time to sabotage them from within, but eventually we will need to stand and fight."

"The hit and run tactics should be fine once I'm on board; I'll send you a signal once I'm inside, but if they strike first then don't hesitate to defend the Pandora," Shae replied. "I'll review the data on the Carnage once more to chose the optimal location to make entry, then I'll go down to the airlock to get ready." There was so much she wanted to say to him, but it didn't feel like the right time; but if they said nothing now, when would they?

Cailus nodded, taking refuge in that cold part of him that focused only on the mission, not trusting himself to be sentimental, not now. "Very good." He paused, feeling damned awkward when he wanted to just take Shae into his arms and keep her with him, safe, but there was nothing for it. This was their life, the life they both chosen...for better or for worse.

[Ventral docking airlock]

This was where Shae had chosen to make her jump; to use one of the maintenance hatches would force the Pandora to be at an awkward angle to make the shot and that might throw up suspicions with the Ravagers, but since this airlock was used for docking, it didn't have the privacy of the EVA suit storage rooms for her to prepare in. So there she was in the corridor outside the airlock donning the EVA suit she had brought up. This thing was dreadfully uncomfortable, not at all what she was used to working in, but it would get the job done, and making her even more uncomfortable she had assumed her human guise since the ears and tail weren't well suited for the suit, but even without the big ears she still heard boots on the deck plating turning a corner to approach the airlock. Shae looked up to that it was Cailus. Shae wanted to smile at him, but she had already adopted the mindset for the task at hand, and her eyes looked cold and hard for it; Cailus had seen Shae go feral, now he could see the Agent she had once been.

"Lieutenant," she said in acknowledgement as he grew closer. Then she tucked her long dark braid into the back of her EVA suit to prepare to put on the helmet; Shae never braided her hair! "I've sent the optimal point of contact to the helm, and the angles necessary to achieve it. I chose the spike on the lower port side; it would be nice if the shield strength around it was a little lower like some of the other spikes, but this one gives me greater access to points of entry, shuttle bays, maintenance hatches and the like," she said, rational and without emotion. Although, there was the tiniest hint of nervousness in the way she kept talking, but she was just trying her hardest to hold herself together; she wanted to be emotional, to break down and not go on this crazy mission, but she knew she had to, so cold and steely was what she became.

Watching Shae carefully as she donned the suit, Cailus recognised her all too well yet again. The way she was acting, pushing down all emotion, that cold, brutally logical frame of mind...he saw it, knew it, and hated it. He hated that she had to risk her life, hated that she had to shun her true self for the sake of the mission, even hated that she had to shapeshift just to fit in the damned EVA suit. At the very least, the corridor was deserted with the yellow lighting indicating that ship was at yellow alert, so Shae could prepare in a modicum of privacy.

"I'll make sure that Ensign Vecon is on the ball," Cailus said, bending down to pick up the helmet off the deck. He had to stay professional, to stay strong, just as she was. "We'll give you as much time as we can."

This was foolish! They were both holding in everything they wanted to say, she could see it in his eyes that he hated this cold professionalism between them! Shae's expression softened somewhat as she took the helmet, only to set it back down on the ground. Then she put her arms around him, or as best she could in the bulky EVA suit. "Tell me to stay," she said softly. "Tell me you don't want me to go, that you want me here where it's safe... Tell me I don't have to revive this piece of my past, that I can just let it go."

”Damn it, I want to,” Cailus murmured, struggling mightily as he looked down at her. His own professional veneer was cracking instantly at her words, much as it had ever since they’d first met. “I want you safe, with me, far away from that damned ship...” He took a breath, forcing the words out. “But Nyx and the others are counting on you. I know that you don’t have to do this, and I understand why you will do it. In this, we’re the same.”

Cailus reached out and stroked Shae’s brow, his eyes fixed on hers. “Do what you have to do, love, then come home safe. I’ll be waiting.”

He was right and she knew he was, that didn't mean she had to like it. "I- I have complete faith in my ability to pull this off, but... just in case things don't turn out well, I-" Shae hesitated, trying to swallow past the lump in her throat.

Watching Shae fret, Cailus sighed, then before he knew it he was kissing her passionately, his lips working against hers with a desperate energy, one hand cradling her cheek, all their repressed feelings let out in that powerful joint act. They kissed for what seemed like an eternity before Cailus finally, reluctantly let her go. He mused that it was a damned good thing the corridor was deserted.

“Better?” he asked wryly.

"Huh, what were we talking about?" Shae replied with a lazy love-drunk smile. Then she remembered she was in a bulky EVA suit next to an airlock. "Oh, right..." she said with a blush, then stooped to pick up her helmet again. "Time for me to do something insanely crazy!" she stated daringly, emboldened by their kiss.

“Kick some ass,” Cailus said with that little half-smile that was all hers. “That’s an order.”

"Yes sir!" Shae said with a mock salute, then put on the helmet and locked it in place. She opened the first of the airlock doors, resisting the urge to look back and invite that doubt back in, then she took a deep breath and slowly let it out, letting the cool, composed Agent slip back in before touching the panel to close the door behind her. Once she was ready, she opened the exterior door before her, and there was space in all its glory; the atmospheric shield shimmered as it was activated, holding the air in until it was time to be released. "I'm ready when you are, fire at will!" she said, the comm in her helmet automatically patching her through to Cailus in the hall.

“Acknowledged,” Cailus said quietly, watching Shae through the airlock’s window. He wanted to stay with her until she was thrown, but just as Shae had her job to do, he had his, and so he forced himself to turn around and head for the turbolift. It took less than a minute to reach the Bridge, but it felt like far, far longer.

Meanwhile the Carnage got closer and closer to its prey, the Federation starship now only a few minutes away from reaching weapons’ range with the Ravager warship. Battle was imminent.

 

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