Chapter 37 - Hospitality



With all that was happening, erei’arrain Lannar i-Baratan t’Vora was finding it very difficult to keep up. While relieved to leave that accursed planet behind him, the flight to the lloann’na battle cruiser was harrowing, to say the least, because the planet’s drone defenses had responded in force, making him think that whatever mysterious force drove the drones had resorted to some sort of desperate measures to destroy anything that was on, or leaving, the planet.


As he disembarked into the cavernous, and pristine, shuttle deck, Lannar remained visibly shaken, which simply indicated that he was a technical services officer, and not a front-line combat officer. He would very much have preferred to have one of that sort, keeping up morale and focus in the team, yet they were stuck with what they had.


As was her way, Khaire t’Sae followed along, as she was immensely curious about the lloann’na, and wished to learn what they knew about the nanites. Erei’arrain t’Vora didn’t appear to object, which was hardly surprising, as she was fairly certain that he was a touch enamored, and she would definitely take advantage of the opportunities that resulted. She was also inclined to return his attention, yet secretly was insistent that he make the first move. It was important, to her, that he be bold enough to engage, probably as that would be indicative of the strength of his interest.


Iskander ducked his head slightly as he made his way through the passages, seeking out the cleanest route to the Shuttlebay from too many years’ experience. His mind still played over his conversation with Yearling, the details he wanted him to try and glean, and found himself departing just why the man felt he needed to know. Yes, it made sense from an intelligence purview to have all the information possible at hand, but he still had his doubts about Yearling as an individual, little faith in his true motives, and no way of proving his suspicions at this point.


Coming around a corner, he pushed into the Shuttlebay proper and prepared to begin the post mission debrief seconds before catching himself. That was not his purpose here, that was Jenny’s task and she deserved the chance to accomplish it in her time. Instead, he stood to the side as medical worked to assess injuries and either provide for transport or physical removal as needed to Sickbay.  


His attention was drawn to the pair of Romulans who had stepped out with the rest of the crew, followed by Briar and her team, and made his way forward.


Briar wasted no time queuing up to step down the off ramp and feel the solid deck plates of Hiroshima under her feet. Every time she got back she swore the place felt more and more like home. More solid than a planet to ground to. That much of the transferred crew from Hiroshima-A had trouble fully accepting the new ship as home was not lost to herself, ever the counselor she had begun service on the Hiroshima-A as, but she hadn’t quite had the same sorrow of loss, and she knew it was because she had been away and not had the trauma of the experience directly. She felt like she should have felt the loss of her old ship, and yet honestly couldn’t begin to compare her simple disappointment to their seat in the front row of that experience. Jenny, among the most seemingly hurt. She tried to gauge the pilot’s demeanor as she shut down the shuttle, but the adrenaline of having just outrun and overcome a massive swarm of nanite-composed attack drones seemed to be the only thing coursing through Jenny presently, so she couldn’t gauge between that enough to tell if Jenny found the deckplates as welcome as she did, herself.


It was clear to her that the Romulans looking around were not feeling at home in the architecture of the bulkheads around them, and so she jogged a little ahead to try to make sure they had a proper host. Even as she did there were deck crews outfitted in hazmat suits and rushing gear on hover carts into place. A series of large fields were shimmering, cordoning off their landing zone from the rest of the bay.


“Medical Isolation and Decontamination protocol,” Briar said, recognizing the system being unpacked. Four personnel in medical bunny suits were unfolding a short corridor of emitters which glowed in an almost unreal ultraviolet as they switched it on. As she looked beyond the medical equipment, she noticed Iskander waiting for them on the other side. Briar took a deep breath, preparing herself to introduce the Romulans to their Chief of Intelligence and wondering how that would strike them.

Briar moved ahead to go first, raising her arms and turning around fully once to allow lights to trace evenly all over her as the emitters scrubbed for nanites.


The emitter gave a positive tone, and Briar stepped out to the other side of all but the final isolation field. Another medical officer was waiting with a tricorder and gave her a final scan before waving her through. 


Briar waited patiently for Lannar to pass through the decontamination fields.


As protocols went, erei’arrain Lannar felt a sense of similarity in process with the decontamination processes that were in use by the lloann’na. He wouldn’t exactly consider himself at ease, yet the familiarity in methods gave a sense that he wasn’t as much the outsider as he imagined he might feel. Among his people, however, it was almost unheard of for anyone to encounter other forces, and to mingle with them was nearly unthinkable. For that reason, and the fact that he was extremely junior to be on his own in this situation, he was quite nervous.


On a vessel of the Rihannsu Galae, armed guards would meet and interrogate the uninvited guests. Here, however, they seemed largely uninterested in the Rihannsu presence on their decks. It was said that the lloann’na were too open to outsiders, and far too careless about their influences: both sayings seemed evident.


He was distracted by a squeak, and then the presence of T’Sae pushing close to him. Turning his head, he was quite surprised to find that a klivam was wearing the Starfleet uniform and was, apparently, one of the medics operating the decontamination scanners. “Pashae,” he corrected, though not terribly unkindly, as her experiences with the warlike allies of the lloann’na were terrible. It was quite unsettling for him to be near one, yet he could hardly begin to imagine her feelings about the matter.


The last time Khaire T’Sae had seen a Klingon, it had been as a child in the Outmarches. She didn’t know why they had come to raid that particular world, as it had little to offer, yet come they had. There was so much mayhem and bloodshed that she’d been traumatized and, as such, unfit for front-line military service. She still remembered thinking she was going to be killed, but the monster that found her was more amused to slash her from cheekbone to nose, and then laugh as she screamed. Regeneration had erased the scars, yet her fingers were tracing where they once had been.


“This is Lieutenant Iskander Al Khalid.” Briar decided to leave off his role, looking to see how Iskander would handle his own further explanation to their guests.


The omission was not missed; Zander nodded to Briar before turning to the pair. “Greetings.”


Unlike many of their names, al-Kha-Leed was very natural to the rihanha tongue. “Jolan Tru’,” Lannar greeted him, while giving T’Sae’s shoulder a squeeze to assist her in recovering her composure. It was probably obvious that the Klingon presence had set her off, but she was trying to re-become her optimistic self. “I am erei’arrain Lannar.” He didn’t offer the name of his vessel, because, honestly, he was unsure if he was authorized to do so. “And this is Lead Technician T’Sae.” He rather hoped that the gentleman would be impressed by her title, probably because he, himself, was smitten.


“Their team took losses to the drones on the surface.” Briar said with gravity before explaining further. “Four souls, as I understand it. And they showed us to temporary safety, until the shuttle was able to arrive.” 


“I am sorry for what brought you to our vessel, but I am glad to see you both safe with the rest of our crew. I was hoping you would join me in my office once Medical has confirmed all is well.”


Evan entered the shuttlebay. He had watched via a live feed as the Shizunai had landed and its occupants had disembarked. It must’ve been an uncomfortable trip back from the surface. The Shizunai wasn’t the Hiroshima’s largest shuttle.  The two full Starfleet teams as well as the handful of Romulans his people had managed to rescue must’ve been cheek by jowl all the way up.


Not that he imagined they would’ve been anything but thankful for the discomfort. As he approached the shuttle, he saw the scoring across its aft hull and the telltale warping of the shield panels. The Shizunai had taken a pounding. As for its phasers … He didn’t have a tricorder with him, but unless he missed his guess, then multiple emitters had been blown up. If he looked underneath the outer assemblies, he wouldn’t be surprised if he found their power couplings were burned to nothing. Boosting the shuttle’s power to fend off its attackers had been a stroke of genius, but things like that often came with a structural cost. Can’t imagine Davies-Muir will be happy, he thought.


A number of people were still waiting to undergo scans by the Medical staff in attendance, but most of the ones Evan wanted to speak to had exited the isolation field, apparently given the all clear. The risk of nanite infection was a frightening one – he’d been infected once himself and had no desire to repeat the experience – but at least they knew what they were looking for now.


“Commander, Lieutenant,” Evan said, greeting his officers first. To the one most of the other Romulans had been deferring to on the live feed, he said, “I’m Captain Evan Yearling of the USS Hiroshima. Welcome aboard.”


Words failed him. The looann’na equivalent of a Riov was speaking to him, directly, which was borderline insane. A nudge from T’Sae, while horribly impertinent, saved him by jump-starting his cognitive functions. “I… we thank you.” Not the most eloquent of first words, yet they had now been spoken and there was no way to go back.


“I understand I have you to thank for bringing my people to safety,” Evan said. “We were lucky you were there to help.”


“We…” He wasn’t sure how to interpret all that had happened, even now. They could have been as surprised as he had been, once they landed and encountered the dangers of the planet, or it could still have been a catastrophe of their making. It was impossible to tell which. “We could not leave your people to their fate,” he managed.


“We appreciate it,” Evan said. “Please, accept our hospitality in return. You can remain aboard until it’s safe to return to the surface or we’re able to reunite you with your people.”


This last invitation helped put Lannar better at ease, as it was infinitely more difficult to mask nefarious intentions if the other party was able to maintain a presence. The officer, Elin, had promised to be open, despite being inexplicably able to interface with the alien network, yet nothing else was awry. “Your offer is appreciated. Jolan’tru’.”


“If you’ll excuse us for a moment, I must speak with Commander Elin.” With a departing nod to the Romulan leader and Iskander, Evan stepped away from the group, Briar following.


Once they were far enough away from the hubbub of the busy shuttlebay to obscure their conversation, Evan turned to his Second Officer. He took in her appearance. “You look like you’ve been in the wars, Commander.”


“Oh, I—” Briar looked down at herself, plucking at her duty jacket. It was scuffed and even surface shorn from where she’d crawled along behind cover. She realized she still carried the smell of smoke and fire. A hand went to her hair and realized it was coming undone from the pins. She pushed back the loose bits, but they just ended up falling again. She gave a half grimace. “So I do.”


“You made some new friends.” Evan glanced over his shoulder at where Iskander was speaking with Lannar. “I take it they’re still claiming they’re just an ordinary science team?”


Briar looked uncertain about his phrasing. Had Commander Mez given him a different impression than she had gotten of them? “That’s who they say they are. I haven’t had a reason to question it…” She said carefully. “Although I might have given them a reason to doubt the veracity of our claims in just having arrived here to investigate,” Briar admitted, biting her lip with concern.


And then some. “Commander Mez said you were able to access the facility’s systems,” he said, letting the question hang in the air. “I take it we don’t have your Operations training to thank for that?”


She shook her head. “I just saw the sequence to access the system logs. It was like a memory and I was following it through, accessing it as if I were in a dream. When I snapped out of it… Of course it looked suspicious to Lannar for someone to just dial into the alien computer like that. I had to do something to try to convince him. He has the data upload on my tricorder.”


Despite desperately wanting to know more, Evan didn’t press her. Iskander would make his inquiries. Perhaps he’d glean something useful. “Handing the data over to them was quick thinking,” he said. 


“Maybe. I couldn’t think of anything else in the moment to offer, and I’m not sure Commander Lannar was entirely convinced. Just… didn’t have any other choice that wasn’t escalation. Tensions were high. In the interest of maintaining a working partnership, I’d prefer we let Lannar decide how much of it to share with us, if any.” 


“If it’s any consolation, I’m not sure how much they would’ve believed us anyway,” Evan said. “Our search and rescue mission might seem reasonable to us, but to them, it probably looks like Starfleet just sent a top-of-the-line starship to a site of interest next door to their space on the pretext of finding a ship that’s not only been missing for nearly two weeks, but is now known to have been destroyed.”


“Let’s try not to repeat my mistake and make more sudden moves.”


Evan doubted anyone could hear, but he kept his voice low anyway. “Let’s hope whoever’s commanding that cloaked ship we have for company up here feels the same way,” he said. “Now that we’ve rescued some of their people, they might see we’ve no ill intentions towards them and reveal themselves. We could use their help with that interference field.”


“I should hope it would help to show a little good faith. THe field seems to have gotten much worse since we arrived. Readings on the return ride were off the charts. But I noticed there was a break, like an anion thinning overhead, as we gained altitude. Was that you?”


“We tried to cut through the interference using our deflector, but it failed and we suffered minor damage,” Evan explained. “Lieutenant Xarbe suggested that, if the opportunity presented itself, we make use of the Romulan ship’s deflector. We estimate that we’d be successful with the extra output.”


“The more the merrier. Although I’m not sure we want to mount a return down there. It seems like the drones will let you land, but aren’t as keen on anyone leaving. I wish I could remember what it was I was accessing from the system on the surface. In lieu of Lannar sharing the data upload with us, I suppose I can try some meditation techniques and see if anything comes back to me. ”


“In the meantime,” Evan said, turning so that he could see the Romulans. “I’ve asked Iskander to speak with them. I want to get a sense of who they are and what they might know about this planet that brought them all the way out here. I don’t find it likely that they just happened to be here when the Lorrenz vanished.”

“As near as I could gather, Lannar’s team had only arrived a couple of hours before we did. If the Romulans know more, I don’t think they told their science team.” 


“I don’t suppose they mentioned why they thought they were there?”


Briar shook her head. “It seemed like they were just taking orders to explore the planet and look into the distress signal. A Federation ship in this area of space naturally would elicit a reaction. I didn’t inquire especially into it with Lannar. Maybe Commander Mez picked up on more.”


Evan kept his eyes on the Romulans. Briar might’ve been right – it was hardly unusual for the Romulan military to restrict the information it provided to its own people – but he found it difficult to believe that Lannar at the very least was oblivious to their reasons for being in this system. The Lorrenz was no prize, its technology too old to be of interest. The thought of retrieving what remained of it would hardly have drawn the Romulans all this way. But the thing that had destroyed the Lorrenz … now, that was a different story.


“Iskander will see if their story adds up.” And Mez might have some information to add, although Evan had yet to see her emerge from the shuttle. He looked back to Briar, and very nearly didn’t continue. “I’ve also asked him to check in with you about events on the planet as well. In the facility specifically. When you’re feeling up to it, I’d like you to speak to him.”


“Oh.” Briar tried not to overreact. She’d gotten accustomed to a new freedom without being an intel asset curiosity for some months. She liked Iskander well enough, but to be asked to make a report to him…. She held her knee jerk response until she came to the other side of the feeling and nodded at the sense in it. Iskander was of course to have a departmental interest into the events surrounding the Lorrenz and the sensitive situations with the Romulans. It had nothing to do with her own past. “Yes, of course. I’ll check in with him.”


JP by:


Lannar and T’sae (NPCed by Hanmore)


LT Iskander al Khalid, Chief Intelligence Officer


Lt Cmdr Briar Elin, Chief of Operations


Capt. Evan Yearling, Commanding Officer