Comes A Frost

continued from THE LONG GOODBYE: "The Blood-Dimmed Tide"

And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With old odd ends, stol’n forth of holy writ;
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.
William Shakespeare, King Richard III


The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening


If a man hasn't discovered something he will die for, he isn't fit to live.
Martin Luther King, Jr.


Mars - Edgar Rice Burrough’s Province
Krystal Place - The Home of Alden Pierce Ryan
March 17, 2381

Harry, phaser drawn, was moving through the shadowy house. He’d left Seth, bleeding, under the antique stairs and was following the cackling old fart through the rear of the mansion. “Give it up, Ryan,” he called out, making himself a target but then, if the gun was pointed his way it wasn’t going to be on Esther. “Your grandson isn’t worth a murder rap and no way can you just explain away the deaths of three Starfleet personnel…”

“But you’re not Starfleet personnel, are you?” the cagey old man corrected. “You came to my home under false pretenses.”

Harry adjusted his course and followed the voice, realized he could hear Carson’s small, quick breaths. She was scared… hell why wouldn’t she be? The ancient projectile weapon had made in impressive hole in Anderson…

“So you think it’ll be easier to cover up the murder of three holo-vid makers?” He slipped past two open doors, checking each room but they were empty. There was only one left. Finn paused, waiting.

“I had all the excuse I needed when you lied to get in here,” Alden Pierce Ryan gloated, not experienced enough in wet work to not give away his position. “Three con artists… three thieves… you entered my home, threatened me… what could an old man do but defend himself?”

And raise a shield over the property, scrambling coms and preventing any kind of extraction, the JAG officer thought, moving closer to the last door.

Apparently Shaun Ryan Acker’s grandfather wasn’t comfortable with silence, “Where are you?”

Harry didn’t answer.

“I asked you a question,” the man hissed, “better answer or I’ll put a hole in the little girl.”

A short gasp sounded and Finn imagined Carson’s hair being yanked back. “I’m here,” he responded, tightly.

“Show yourself… but, lose the weapon, first.”

Someone had been watching too many cop vids. “Fine,” Harry dropped the phaser to the floor, kicked it so it angled into the room where Ryan had holed up. At the same time, he drew his clutch piece from the small of his back, palming the miniature phaser. “Here I come,” he said.

“We can hardly wait,” the cocky response was all Finn needed to confirm location.

Without hesitation, the lieutenant dove in low and sideways, firing into the back right corner of the office to which the old man had dragged Carson. Both Ryan and Esther went down, stunned, but it beat anyone else getting perforated.

Harry retrieved his phaser, pulled Esther out of harm’s way and, once he’d secured Ryan’s wrists with a pair of restraints, went back to check on Seth.

After he’d stabilized his partner and shut down Ryan’s shield emitter, Harry returned to the prisoner but by then, Alden Pierce Ryan was no more. He’d apparently suffered heart attack, brought on by the phaser blast.

Watching the medical team digging the bullet out of Seth and seeing Esther, shaking in Sara’s arms, Harry felt a remarkable absence of remorse.

Originally Posted 7-6-2008 by Harry Finn

White Sector
Outside the Temple of the Prophets
15:39 Hours

Xer, covered in the holographic image of Harry Finn, nervously approached the holy place used by the local Bajorans. He was having trouble walking, not because he could see any reflections of himself but because everyone kept making eye contact about thirty centimeters higher than his actual eyes. It was downright disconcerting.

Almost as disconcerting as the brief encounter with Ms. Daka, the proprietress of the Wizard of Ahs and, according to Finn, a member of the local intelligence community. She was also, he noted wistfully, exceedingly beautiful.

And more than a little surprised at his delivery.

"Finn wanted you to have this information," Xer had explained, once he'd been led to the privacy of the store's office.

Daka had taken the pack of data chips, "Do you know what this information is?" she'd asked, not unkindly but with a hint of suspicion.

"Not specifically, no," Xer explained. "He did tell me to tell you that it wasn't as much as he'd hoped but that you should find," he closed his eyes, wanting to get this bit right, "you should find the Circle you've been looking for and, having that, maybe you could get one of your own into position." He opened his eyes, "He also said to tell you that Jill the Ripper was out of the picture, and Jack would be following soon. Then he offered his apologies that he couldn't give you more."

Reading between the lines was a specialty of Daka's, "Is he dead?"

"Not yet."

"Dammit!" the woman swore before turning to her communications console, "Leeta, contact Slater, I need to talk to him." She waited for confirmation and turned back, but by then, Xer had left the room.

Now, looking up at the graceful lines of the temple, Xer offered up his own confused prayer: for Dr. Kerrin; for Hallows, and, because Xer thought he needed it most of all, for Harry. Taking up his courage, the replicated Finn crossed the open plaza to enter the place of worship. As he caught sight of the watchers tracking his movements, tossed up a quick request on his own behalf, as well.

Featuring NPC's Daka of the FDoJ and Xer
Originally Posted 7-7-2008 by Harry Finn

15:46 Hours

He'd gotten in without a hitch… the pass Hoshi had supplied worked like a charm… and soon Harry was far enough into the business zone to remove the holonet image of Carrabas and use the much simpler disguise of eye shades and a hooded coat, replete with pockets. Moving purposefully through the mix of species populating the hidden city within a city, he felt a strange sort of irony at his own presence. Stearns had turned out most of the muscle on the island to find Harry Finn and yet, here he was, the man of the hour, strolling through the Bermuda Triangle of crime with nary a sideways glance thrown his way.

It was, he had to admit, too easy.

Fine, I'll take it, as long as it stays easy until 17:00…

Walking the narrow streets as if he'd been raised on them, Finn made discreet visits to several buildings which, in his earlier tour with Hoshi, he'd marked as being largely unpopulated storage areas. Mist, weapons, currencies, merchandise that just 'fell off a shuttle,' it was all here, in the technologically created cataract of Starfleet's eye.

By the time he’d finished, it was 15:30; half an hour until he was due to report to Dukath… fifteen minutes until he intended to be there. Hallows was likely passing through the border right now so Harry, buried in the hooded coat, ducked into a convenient alcove to activate the holonet and in minutes Victor de Carrabas was at the designated address. He stared at the building a moment. It was a normal enough looking office space. He supposed it was normal enough… it was what it contained that made it special.

He put his hand over the door panel but was halted by a familiar voice.

“He didn’t wait.”

Harry froze, then turned to see Jessyn Breeshandra, stepping out of the shadows. “Booth,” she explained, quietly, her haunted eyes coursing over the rough aspect of his cover, “he no longer cares if Finn gives himself up or not, so ten minutes ago, right after… you… were seen walking into the Temple of the Prophets, Gavin went to Kerrin."

Featuring NPC Jessyn Breeshandra
Originally Posted -8-2008 by Harry Finn

The Border
15:39 Hours

Lariss eyed the newcomer with interest. He'd been granted a pass, only this morning, according to the time stamp on the data card but it hadn't cleared the scan. Victor de Carrabas, she reflected, was rumored to be… exceptionally good at what he did. "You'll need to step this way," she told him coolly, hand on her weapon but fascinated by the man's approach. Lanky and scarred and possessed of only one of his original eyes he nonetheless had the bearing of a man who never had to beg a woman's attentions. "Look into the scanner, please," she all but purred. What was with this male? He was distracting on far too many levels.

It was quite a comment on Jason's current state of mind that he could barely register they way the Cygnian was looking him over, he was not so far gone to not have noticed quite how the curve of her ass was outlined by the very tight pants she was wearing, but too much of him was internally cursing Harry Finn to do more than notice. Damn him. Letting his body brush against hers (all in the name of getting through the checkpoint, of course) Jason leaned in to be scanned. If I am being set up by that asshole I will kill him…and if I die, I am sure as hell coming back to haunt him.

"You must want that bounty very much," the woman said with a smile, "On Harry Finn." When de Carrabas glanced up, startled, her smile froze, "Ahh, but with you it's personal. Word of advice," she leaned in, offering the confidence and an intriguing view of her cleavage, "don't let it be personal. Too many of the higher-ups have a prior claim on Finn's body."

Taking a moment to enjoy the view, Jason smiled…feeling the 'scar' pull at his lip. ugh. "Oh I don't so much care who takes care of him…as long as he is taken care of. If I take the prize, that much better for me." He then leaned down to whisper in her ear. "And I am always willing to share."

Mmmm Lariss did not know just what it was about this man, but she knew how to enjoy it. "Well then, I hope when you are done you will pass by here again."

Jason then bent over her hand in an ages old tactic that never got stale. "How could I resist?" Holding his breath, he stepped through the checkpoint, waiting….just waiting for something else to go wrong. Wait til I get my hands on that asshole.

Featuring NPC Jason Hallows
Originally Posted 7-8-2008 by T'Shaini

The longer Kerrin waited in the dark the more she was sure that Harry was not coming. Why would he? Well, she knew that he would go to great lengths to interfere if someone he thought was under his watch needed protecting, but she was beginning to seriously doubt that this was going to happen in her case. She pressed her feet into the floor to push her back harder against the wall. The dark was getting to her and the more contact with tangible surfaces the better. And if she were honest with herself Kerrin wasn't sure she wanted him to come. She wanted out of course, but could she really live with herself if he had to trade himself for her? "No." Her hand clapped over her mouth. Shit, now I am talking out loud…well not that I don't talk out loud to myself in the lab, but that is something completely different.

"Lights to full," the quiet command preceded the entrance of Gavin Booth, or all that was left of him after he'd killed his brother. Dropping his case by the door, Booth approached the woman, where she curled against the wall, blinded by the sudden glare.

"God." Hand up in front of her eyes, Kerrin squinted up and even though she could barely see, she registered enough to wish that she could press her way through the wall to the other side. And this is how it ends.

"I just got word that Finn arrived at the rendezvous," he said, towering over her, covering her with his shadow. "You were wrong, he did come."

Kerrin shot to her feet, heart in her throat.

"Yeah," Booth's head tilted to the side and everything about him was so relaxed, so loose, there was no way Kerrin could be prepared when he spun her around and threw her into the wall, "Thing is," he said, pressing against her back, his voice as dead as his eyes, "he took something… shit, he took everything from me and now," he brought his face closer to hers, inhaled the naked fear, "now it's only fair that I return the favor." She was hurting, already bruised but there would be more… there would be so much more before he was done… he slipped the restraints over her unresisting wrists and turned her once more towards him. He wanted to watch her face.

"I'll be sure he sees you, though… before the end… so he can know what he did."

Featuring NPC's Kerrin Schaeffer (T'Shaini) and Gavin Booth (Finn)
Originally Posted 7-9-2008 by T'Shaini

15:52 Hours

Harry didn't ask how Jessyn knew it was him beneath the visage of de Carrabas. He went straight to the important question: "What are you going to do?" He had a hand on his sidearm and little doubt that he could outdraw her but there were others near enough to notice a disturbance of any sort.

Jessyn looked up at the innocuous building behind her, then back to Harry, "You'd better hurry," was all her answer before she turned away, stepping into the street which led back to the border.

"Wait," he called out and she stopped but didn't look back, "is there anything waiting up there that I need to know about?"

"There's one on the door, the Klingon, Dukath," the Cygnian reported, "and one at the corridor entrance but Gavin is alone in the room with her." Jessyn started off again, then stopped herself, shaking her head once. "You'd better hurry," she repeated, over her shoulder "I, too, have a duty to perform."

He was inside and in the 'lift within seconds of her last warning, hoping that her duty didn't include ratting him out when the conveyance reached the fifth floor and the holonet began to flicker ominously and the image of Victor de Carrabas fizzled into the ether.

It had just stopped being too easy.

Featuring NPC Jessyn Breeshandra
Originally Posted 7-9-2008 by Harry Finn

White Sector
Temple of the Prophets
15:58 Hours

He'd removed the holonet and donned the robe, as planned but the watchers were quick and at least one of them had followed close enough to see Xer… Finn but, really Xer… enter the fifth prayer chamber and there was only the one door. Desperately, the small man cast about for an escape as he heard the ominous tattoo of footsteps closing in on his location. It was still too early for him to hope for a retrieval… Harry's contact aboard Hawking wasn't due to be at the transporter for another 35 minutes. It was the only way they could guarantee a pickup for the group coming out of Center Point…

With no better options, he dropped down to the floor, thinking maybe he could hide under the tiny bench and… glory be, the Prophets must have been looking out for him, after all because there was, ohhh yes, a ventilation shaft. Small but for a man of Xer's stature, the perfect answer.

Forty seconds later the curtain whisked open and a rough voice began to swear, ignoring the looks of the Kai on duty. Striding from the temple, the Andorian raised his com, =/\=This is C'thon, inform the boss he needs to belay the woman's release; this was a decoy. Finn's still at large.=/\=

In the strip of space between the Temple and the great library, Xer slipped out of the air duct, quickly replacing the vent cover and brushing off his robes. Once he was fairly certain he wouldn't irreparably damage the reputation of the Bajoran religious functionaries, the little man raised the garment's hood and made his carefully sedate way out to the streets, to await his extraction in anonymity.

Featuring NPC Xer
Originally Posted 7-10-2008 by Harry Finn

15:58 Hours

Looking down at Finn's woman, Gavin could still taste the panic… still enjoy her desperate struggles to escape as he'd taken the time to enjoy their first kiss. She'd fought; even with her hands cuffed behind her back she'd fought, biting his lip until it bled. His laugh at that had frozen her, though, and his quick backhand sent her back to the floor, where she now waited, wide-eyed, for what would come next.

Well, hell, Gavin thought, flicking open his blade and crouching down, may as well show her…

The gleam of the blade frightening her far more than his unearthly laugh (which was saying quite a bit) Kerrin picked herself up off the floor and tried to control her shaking. The memory of what was left of Dana Grissom after Acker was through with her was still fresh in her mind. No where to go, she pressed further against the wall as the knife came closer to her face. Some stupid sense of pride kept her from turning her head to the wall, no matter how much she wanted to so she saw exactly when the tip of the blade turned from her eye. Then with a movement too quick for her to track his hand grabbed her hair and yanked back. Before Kerrin had a chance to cry out he had hacked a handful of her hair and let her go. Tears sprung to her eyes as she watched him pocket his prize. Odd how something so trivial can mean so much, if I am going to die what difference will that hair make?

"I'll keep this next to Sara's," he told her, patting his pocket. Then he reached out and caught the tear on the tip of his blade as it coursed down her cheek. Contemplating the briny drop he shook his head "you don't need to worry about the knife," he assured her, "I'm not gonna cut you," he flipped the blade closed and turned towards his case, "I always save that for last."

The tears started to come faster as the realization that she really was going to die started to settle in, and not only was she going to die but she had no hope of it being quick or painless.

Harry dropped the still-sparking holonet on top of Dukath's prone body and then ditched the hypo which had quietly put down both the Klingon and the Denobulan who'd been guarding the turbolift. He took one more look at the vid on the cell: Booth's back was to the door and he was kneeling next to Kerrin. Though the only thing visible was her legs, curled up towards her chest, he could see she was trembling.

Using the code Hoshi had given him, Harry entered the brightly-lit room. His long stride covered the small space in a breath and then he was directly behind the freak; just in time to see him raise a slender metal rod which, with the flick of a small switch, burst into a thin, blue flame.

"I left orders not to be disturbed," Booth snarled, not looking back, not caring about anything else but the imminent fall into a woman's screams. "Get out… now."

Being too stubborn to turn away suddenly paid off, Kerrin saw Gavin's eyes register someone else in the room. Hoping the vague distraction would be enough and if I am going to be in pain he damn well can be too she leaned back just enough to snap a kick at his groin. The satisfying crunch she felt under her foot was enough to bring a smile to her face.

"Wow, that had to hurt."

Through the crippling agony of Kerrin's assault Booth heard the familiar, hated voice. Struggling to rise, he was stilled by an iron grip yanking his head back. He never learns, Gavin thought and, sneering through the pain, he raised the torch he still held and calmly applied it to Harry's hand, where it was holding fast to Booth's chin.

But Finn barely noticed the scalding stench of his own flesh as the flame pierced his skin; his thoughts were too full of Kerrin, beaten and Sara, tortured to madness and all the other unfortunate, unknown and uncounted women Booth had ended… ended because Starfleet, the Federation and all their laws and regulations, had been unable to stop him.

But I can.

"Don't worry," Harry said to the perversion of life in his hands, "this will only hurt a bit," and giving a quick, sharp twist up and sideways, he felt the sickening snap of Booth's neck all the way through to his gut. "Only a bit," he whispered, allowing Gavin's body to slide softly to the floor as it parted company with its life.

"Oh…oh god." Kerrin's whole world flipped upside down. He came for me. Relief and joy warring with shock, then mingled in was the horror at how casually he could take a life. No matter how deserved and no matter how much she knew that this sort of thing was part of his job…now suddenly she knew. Even though now it was over she kept shaking no matter how hard she tried to stop it. "Sorry, sorry…I…sorry." Was all Kerrin could say over and over.

"It's okay," he said, "it'll be okay." Quickly, he searched Gavin's jacket and came up with the key to the restraints. He knelt next to Kerrin and, gods, all he wanted to do was hold her, to hang on tight and never let go but there was no time. Even as he freed her hands he saw the slender torch, which had fallen from Booth's limp fingers, roll across the room to stop at a pair of booted feet, where the untended flame sputtered out.

Featuring NPC's Gavin Booth (Finn) and Kerrin Schaeffer (T'Shaini)
Originally Posted 7-11-2008 by Harry Finn

Jason was, for probably the first time in his life, completely speechless. The dead body on the floor, the battered sight that was Kerrin and Finn looking as unconcerned as if he had just been for a walk in the park. He kicked the torch off to the side and the sound had Kerrin looking up, and after a confused moment her face cleared. "Jason…how did you?" Her voice was muffled from the swelling he could see rising on her jaw. God, I am so over my head here. Falling back on habit he cracked a smile. "Nice to know no matter what I 'wear' you have no problem telling it is me."

"It's the ego, it radiates through anything." Her voice belied the turmoil inside, she wasn't even sure why but it was hard to make herself look at Harry. Even though all her attention was focused on Jason, Kerrin leaned as hard as she could against the solidness that was Harry, why won't he hold me?

Whipping off his coat, Finn rose, offering Kerrin a hand up, "You need to put this on," he told her, raising the hood as she was enveloped in the fabric. He didn't allow himself to think of the ease she so obviously felt with Hallows. None of that mattered. It couldn't matter, to him. As she fastened the coat over her clothing his hand reached out to tuck her hair back behind the hood but he stopped himself. Instead, he dug into his pocket and withdrew the detonator which would set off the charges he'd spent the afternoon planting throughout Center Point. If there were enough of a distraction, the three of them could get to the other side of the border… if there weren't…

He looked at Jason, which was weird, since he'd gotten so used to seeing himself in that get up, "You ready?" he asked.

Jason looked to Kerrin first. "You ready?"

"To get out of here?" Kerrin rolled her eyes. "Yes."

"Right," Harry led the way to the corridor, checking both directions. All clear, with Dukath snoring away at their feet. The opposite wall was a series of windows which looked out over the quiet little burg. Harry grit his teeth and entered the code.


"Boom?" Jason's confusion began to turn to amusement. "I am guessing that wasn't supposed to happen that way."

Harry shook his head, then held up a hand at the other two. A feeling was growing in the pit of his stomach… walking up to the nearest window he took a quick look out.

"Okay," he said, turning back, "okay." He kept his voice as neutral as possible, hoping his expression matched, "It's, ah, it's time for plan B."

"Plan B?" I hate Plan B. Kerrin thought.

"Here," Harry offered her the phaser holstered at his back then looked at Hallows, "time to do some acting," he told him, "props included." So saying, Finn reached under Jason's arm to draw the disruptor, slapping it into the younger man's hand before he had a chance to protest.

"And just what am I supposed to do with this?" Jason was getting a bad feeling about this.

Harry glanced back at the window, through which he'd seen that, yes, Jessyn Breeshandra did indeed have a duty to perform, and she'd brought a dozen of the Organization's fittest looking soldiers along to help. "You, Victor de Carrabas, and your associate," he tried to smile at Kerrin, barely visible beneath the hooded coat, "are going to turn me in."

JP with Harry Finn, featuring T'Shaini's NPC's Kerrin Schaeffer and Jason Hallows
Originally Posted 7-11-2008 by T'Shaini

"NO!" The word was out of her mouth before it had even formed in Kerrin's head. "No, there has to be something else…what is Plan C?"

"This was always a possibility," Harry said, gently taking her by the arms… even that was too much, given where he was going. "Always," he repeated, looking into her eyes. For a moment, just one brief interruption of time, there was only her, Kerrin, with her sea green eyes and stormy soul to match. And because there was only her, this was how it had to be. "Hallows," he said, though his eyes didn't leave hers, "once we're down there, I'll go out first, you two just… try to look the parts…"

"No…" Now, now he would hold her? So she would behave? Kerrin pulled away from Harry then shoved. "Dammit Harry, this is not fair, you can't ask me to trade you for me. I…" Shit shit shit The tears started to flow again. "Jason…"

"Jason," Harry echoed, jerking his head towards the 'lift. Time was not their friend and just to get things moving, Finn started down the corridor, leaving the others no choice but to follow. As they did, Kerrin with gentle prompting from Hallows, he sighed and hit the call button. "It's past a trade, by now," he told her, like it was gonna make this any easier. "Where we are now is, either I stay and you both get out, or no one does." The turbolift arrived and Harry dove in.

Well at least the fact that Harry went first ensured that Kerrin would get on the lift. Half guiding, half carrying her Jason whispered in her ear. "Come on honey, you know he has at least one more card up his sleeve, lets just go." The hopeful look she shot him just about brought him to his knees. That asshole had better survive, there is no way I can compete with a martyr.

Five floors went quick and then they were in the lobby and then they were in front of the door. It felt like there should be something he could say, right now… something that would make a difference but the truth was, there was no guarantee this flimsily tossed together charade was even going to work. All that was left was prayer, and Harry had always considered prayer to be as effective as spitting in the wind. He looked at Hallows, who had at least managed to point his weapon in the correct direction. Kerrin's was still down… stubborn woman. He smiled, "I love you," he said, then turned away before he could see anything he was going to regret. Placing his hands on top of his head in a posture of surrender, he approached the door: it slid open and he nodded back at 'Carrabas'. "Showtime," was all he said, before stepping through to meet the enemy.

Jason saw Harry turn toward one woman, he assumed that would be who he was to be surrendered to. But really what did he know? Unlikely that this persona of Harry's was at all flamboyant, but hell, why not go out with a bang. Jason/Carrabas gestured extravagantly with the arm not currently occupied with keeping Harry on guard. "Ladies and gentlemen, may I present…Harry Finn."

Jessyn nodded, "Thank you, Mr. de Carrabas," she said, though her eyes never left Finn's. Stepping closer to the prisoner, but not too close, "The bombs were clever."

"Not clever enough," Harry replied as, at her gesture, he carefully lowered his arms. There were a dozen weapons of various shapes and sizes pointing directly at him. It was obvious that Harry Finn wasn't going anywhere.

"No," she agreed. "Tell me, where is your woman? The one you are planning to die for?" Her eyes glanced over Carrabas and the other, hooded mercenary with him.

"Gone," he bit the word off, didn't try to hide the pain.

Kerrin slid further into her cloak, now that it was done hiding was all she had to offer.

Jessyn nodded, accepting. "And Booth?" now her voice was low, not intended to carry to the audience.

Understanding, Harry responded in kind. "Dead."

"Thank you for that," Jessyn Breeshandra, who had loved Sims Al-Kar, whispered. Then, "de Carrabas!"

"Yes?" Thank god Jason's mouth was working without his brain attached, his first instinct was to look at Harry.

"You've done very well, succeeding where so many have failed," Jessyn stepped away from Finn and looked the scarred mercenary in the eye. "You and your associate…" she looked expectantly at Kerrin…

Jason stepped in, having no idea what Kerrin would be likely to say at this point. "Have some credits coming to us? I was beginning to think you had forgotten."

"Never," Jessyn replied, glancing back at Finn, "You have earned your reward. Go to The Needle and wait for the courier," she told Hallows then added, more pointedly, "There is no need for you to remain here."

Nodding curtly, Jason took Kerrin by the arm and left…hopefully in the direction of the aforesaid Needle. Not that he gave a Rat's Ass about the credits, but he just wanted out, and if he walked the wrong way someone was likely to stop them. About 40 meters out Jason had to grab Kerrin and drag her the rest of the way, the sound of a laser blast had spun her around and she was already running by the time he caught her. "Come on, I am still betting he gets out of this." If only to continue to make my life a living hell.

By the time they reached the border, Hallows was practically carrying her but they didn't have much farther to go. Ignoring the looks as they passed the last of the guards, the two crossed the invisible line between plenty and want and, ten steps into the despair known as Bust Out, a transporter beam locked onto the transmitter Jason had activated, pulling them both to the safety of the Hawking.

JP with T'Shaini's NPC's Kerrin Schaeffer and Jason Hallows
Originally Posted 7-11-2008 by Harry Finn

A Fine and Private Place

Harry’s eyes opened, which came as a bit of a surprise, until his brain caught up with his eyelids and he remembered who had shot him, and why. Jessyn Breeshandra, doing her duty, bringing in the enemy, as ordered. Alive, as ordered.

She’d apologized for that, he now recalled.

”I would spare you the future,” Jessyn said, as Harry forced himself to not watch Kerrin walking away. “But I have my orders and that is something I believe you understand.”

He had, once upon a time. Before he’d walked away from Starfleet… before he’d gone chasing the boogymen… before he’d decided the law wasn’t enough and had broken Gavin Booth’s neck…

But she was watching him and probably, he realized, more than watching him. “Let’s just get this over wi…”

So she’d fired, and he’d been, for a time, free.

Not anymore, he knew. More parts were waking up, sluggishly and with the attendant aches of having been transported by folks who might have taken advantage of the opportunity to put the boot in a few times.

Not being dead, he supposed it was probably time to assess the suck.

"You look like you could use a drink," a distantly familiar voice shredded the last of the fog.

Originally Posted 7-13-2008 by Harry Finn

Unknown Cell
Brown Sector

It was always educational for him, the way people woke up in his room. Mostly when someone came back to the world, here, they were afraid. They knew that they’d been brought for a reason… unpaid debts or they had slept with the wrong woman or their employer discovered they’d been selling secrets… everyone who woke up here knew this was where they were meant to be.

This one didn’t seem overtly afraid, though he certainly knew he belonged here. As the subject began a careful self-assessment, he judged it time to make the introductions.

“You look like you could use drink.”

At that the prisoner’s eyes came into focus and, interestingly, skipped over the fact that he was currently secured to the room’s functional cot and locked onto himself.

“Holy shit!”

“I beg your pardon?”

Harry tried to sit up, then realized that, ah, of course, he was cuffed to the bed, “Sorry,” he managed, “I just wasn’t expecting… you.”

The other man smiled, relaxed in his chair, “I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage,” he said, “I don’t recall us ever meeting before just now.”

Grimacing, both at the sick absurdity of his situation and the fairly horrific memories associate with his keeper, Harry Finn shook his head, “Not in this world, no but, let me guess… your name is Lammas Ren?”

“It is,” interesting… and problematic?. “Are you of a telepathic bent or is there a file on me…”

“Neither. We met, I met, a version of you through a guy called Q.”

At that Ren let out a pleased guffaw, “I’ve heard about the Q,” he admitted, chortling happily, “but never met anyone who’d encountered one of their number.” He leaned forward, eyes avidly curious, “Tell me, what was our relationship, when you met this other Lammas?”

Harry grinned back, “We were like this,” Finn crossed his fingers, where his hands were locked down at his sides, “Best buddies, lifelong pals… good times,” he added, in a reminiscent tone, “good times.”

Ren leaned back, crossed his arms over his chest, “I think you’re lying,”

“Well, yeah,” In fact, Harry had thrown Ren and his lackey into an airlock which had turned out to be sort of a fatal error. “We really hated each other’s guts.”

“Fortunately, that is not the case for us in this world,” Lammas, who Harry was weirdly fascinated to see had the Moe Howard hair in reality as well as in Q’s twisted hell, rose to fetch a metal brief. Laying it on the table which was currently pushed against the far wall of the room, he snapped it open. “In this world, I am merely an intermediary for another person who… really hates your guts.”

Harry kept his eyes on Ren, not the briefcase, “Yeah, about that… where is he, anyway? I mean,” he flopped his head back onto the cot, “Stearns went to a shitload of trouble to get me and now, what? He doesn’t even want to come to the party?”

“No worries,” Lammas decided that it would probably be smart to enhance the experience so he selected a hypo containing a specially mixed sensitizer. “The Chancellor is watching… he will be watching everything.”

Figured, “He is? Well, then,” Harry gave the invisible audience a one-fingered salute. New body or no, it was the typical Acker profile… always letting someone else get their hands dirty. The puppetmaster mentality never, “Wait… Chancellor? Chancellor of what?”

“Oh, now, don’t trouble yourself,” Ren walked back to the cot, administered a sensible dose of neurohyrdine and returned to his case, “it’s all politics and, frankly,” he withdrew a… ah, slim metal wand which looked stunningly familiar, “politics bore the crap out of me.” Ren pressed a switch at one end and, sure enough, a pinpoint of blue flame shot out of the top.

Harry caught Ren’s eyes, “You wouldn’t happen to be related to a guy named Booth, would you?”

“We’ve met,” Lammas, a hybrid of Acamarian, Coridinite and Romulan stock walked over to where Harry waited, expectant, tense, and rather annoyed, it seemed. “Booth is, or was, at best, a talented amateur, interested only in his own, prurient satisfactions.” Ren pointed out, carefully rolling up Finn’s sleeves (he liked to start with extremeties), “But you won’t have to worry about that sort of thing with me,” he selected a spot on the inner arm, “I’m a professional.”

Great, Harry thought as this world’s Lammas Ren, who it turned out was just as bent as the false one, brought the torch to bear. It was the last remotely coherent thought Finn had, for quite some time.

Elsewhere, many levels above the utilitarian cell to which Harry had been brought, Chancellor Stearns did, indeed, watch. And while his external features remained cool, even remote, deep inside, Shaun Ryan Acker was laughing.

Originally Posted 7-13-2008 by Harry Finn

From above, he watched.

Stearns had had the channel piped through to his office so, when the urge struck, he could signal Ren to get back to work.

He didn’t call on the pain doctor now, though. For now he just watched as Harry, unfettered and mostly healed from the last round of torments, woke up alone in the cell. Alone but for the bottle of very expensive, very real Scotch, direct from Earth… with glass.

Harry, waking again, cursing the waking, again, rolled to a sitting position, his back to the wall… the cot was gone, along with the table. Ren liked to redecorate the space as much as his victim’s internal organs. Then, with slightly more skill than all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, Ren would put Harry together, again.

”Why…?” the croaked word was all he had, as he realized that Ren was repairing all the damage he’s just spent hours inflicting.

“In the contract,” Lammas had replied smoothly. “You are to live until the client… well, until he gets bored, I suppose.”

So now, he woke, phantom pain chasing across his limbs, through his guts and knowing that sometime while he was out, he’d been loaded with nutrients and hydrated because, well, Ren had to keep the subject healthy…

And realized he was staring at a bottle.

He was still staring at it, hours later, when Lammas returned with his, hah, orderlies, who wasted no time fastening Harry to the chair they brought in with them.

“The Chancellor was disappointed you didn’t accept his gift,” Ren said, still all that was diplomatic. “He told me that he must, in fact, insist that you share a drink with him.” And nodding to the Nausicaan who got hold of Finn’s head, carefully poured out three fingers worth of whiskey, which he then, just as carefully, poured down Harry’s throat.

Far above, at home, now, with Mylla watching from the doorway, Shaun Ryan Acker raised his own glass at the image of Finn, choking down the liquor. “Here’s to you, Granther,” he saluted the long-dead Alden Pierce Ryan, then, =/\=three more=/\= he informed Ren, by way of comlink. And as the alcoholic loser was forced to swallow three more glasses of single malt, toasts were made to Sims Al-Kar, Neishi Fabria and Gavin Booth, respectively.

Originally Posted 7-14-2008 by Harry Finn

:: Earth ::
:: San Francisco ::

~ Two Weeks Ago ~

“Harry Finn,” Lt. Commander Callan Vail said for fourth time running. Reviewing the PADD once more he replaced it on his desk and keyed his desktop console. “Green, do we have any transports heading out to DS9 today?”

“I’ll check…”

“While you’re checking see what we have that’s hitting the GQ directly. Something towards that Outpost we have running on the Kendrassi world if possible.” The El Aurian picked up the PADD once more. So much of this report had grabbed his attention at the outset. But now, as things seemed to be heating up, the situation required attention. Though something with a soft hand was in order. A rogue agent was one thing, but Acker’s involvement and apparent growing influence drew the eye of more than one Strat Op analyst. “But it’s Stearns now, isn’t it…” Vail let the words slide off his tongue and prompt further thought.

“Commander, with the Regatta in full swing there isn’t much in the way of transport all the way out there. But the USS Lakota is making a milk run to DS9. I show four potential transports out from there that could get you to Outpost Jericho-Samaria.”

“Thank you, Green. Contact the Lakota’s CO and let them know they have one extra passenger. Book me on one of those transports out of DS9 as well… Doesn’t matter which.”

“Aye, sir.” The channel went dead.

The reports were sketchy and though Finn had been tracked to the Outpost, he’d since fallen off the grid. The whole thing spelled vendetta and Vail didn’t like it. With political tensions escalating the whole mess needed to come to a conclusion sooner than later. The longer they could keep things above board, the better.

Vail gathered what meager things he’d need from his office and headed out the door. As he passed Green sitting just outside in the foyer he said, “Forward my calls please… I’ll be away a while…”

“Godspeed, sir,” Green said. He never asked for details. They wouldn’t be forthcoming anyway. After all, this was just another day at Starfleet Intelligence.

Introducing NPC Callan Vail
Originally Posted 7-14-2008 by Torrik Nils

USS Hawking
Conference Room C - Deck 14

Jason leaned casually against the frame of the viewport, if you didn't pay much attention he was looking out at the stars…but in reality he was unobtrusively watching the drooping form of Kerrin Schaeffer…at least she has stopped crying. He had no idea what to do, she didn't want comfort, she didn't want to listen to reason, she didn't want anything, so he left her alone. They were waiting for a security officer so that they could 'explain' their presence. Only Jason really had no idea what they were going to tell him, he was pretty muddy about the details of the last 48 hours as it was, how was he supposed to explain it to someone else?

Usher Tenanji swept into the room, having just debriefed (if one could call it that) Ensign Alex Gorsky. "Dr. Schaeffer," he greeted the Hawking's archeologist, first, "I am sorry to have kept you waiting but there have been a… number of crises related to the race which needed attention. Now, if you'd be so kind," he nodded towards the two men… well, one man, the shorter fellow at the table could have come from any number of species, he supposed, "Mr. Gorsky explained, as much as he was able, the breech in protocol that brought you aboard but I'm afraid I need somewhat more information…"

Kerrin pushed herself back in the chair, wiping dried tears from her face. "What information do you need. I was held hostage for some sicko to get to Harry, and because of Harry I am free and he is gone." Her tone was flat and emotionless, but the tears began to swim in her eyes once again.

Taking a seat a respectful distance from the traumatized woman, Usher contemplated the cut and dry report. She had confirmed what little Gorsky had been able to provide, that Finn was involved and, more importantly, that he'd used his friendship with Alex Gorsky to pull Dr. Schaeffer out of a bad situation. Still, "I'm afraid I need more information than that. Finn's involvement… in any dealings on planet are currently… under investigation."

The three looked at one another before Xer raised his hand, "I think… I might have some useful information?" And at Usher's short nod the little man launched into a rundown of Harry's actions, which Finn had laid out in as much detail as feasible, right before the two had parted company. From trying to stop Gavin Booth's killing spree to looking for any connections between Charles Stearns and the local crime lords, everything Harry had set in motion. "I think," Xer finished, carefully avoiding Dr. Kerrin's eyes, "that he expected this outcome and wanted," he shrugged, "he wanted an accurate record."

"We can't just sit here and let him die." Kerrin exploded out of her chair. "All these 'reports' and 'investigations' don't mean anything. What I want to know is, what are we going to do about it?"

Not a one of the three men present said what they were all so clearly thinking: that he may well already be dead.

"Kerrin…" Jason reached out to calm her down only to have his hand slapped away.

"No, no more placating, no more reassuring…I want someone to do something.

"And what something would you have me attempt?" Tenanji responded quietly, "He is no longer a member of this crew… I have no legitimate grounds to mount a search and even if I did… he is but one Human amongst hundreds on the Outpost and no combadge to identify him." He rose, placed his hands behind his back and paced to the port, taking in the view, taking in the nagging sense of responsibility that Schaeffer was placing upon him… and that which he placed upon himself, on young Anderson's behalf. She, as yet, had no idea of any of this broil… no idea that her godfather was under sanction by Spec Ops or that Acker seemed, finally, to have gotten what he wanted.

Usher froze and stared out at the stars and the not-so-distant Kendrassi. Acker, who was Stearns, had gotten what he wanted.

"We know though…we saw who took him." Kerrin looked pleadingly at Xer. "We saw…surely she can be identified."

"Ahh," Xer, who had spent a fair portion of his life working in the underworld, felt quite helpless, "that's not… I don't believe that's… that's not a good idea… even if we could find a name to go with her face…" And he felt, quite strongly that finding a name would be the same as signing a death sentence.

"Who took him is irrelevent," Usher said, still staring out, "who now has him, however…" What was he thinking? The officer realized he was actually contemplating getting involved in this madness. Why? For Finn? A man declared rogue, who seemed bent on creating an intergalactic incident? "Assuming he's alive," he turned back to Kerrin, "whoever has him, and I think we all know who has him, is the place to start looking."

"Yes, yes.." Kerrin started toward Tenanji, then put on the brakes not wanting to push her luck. "We do know who has him, right?" She looked around for backup, but Jason was just confused and Xer so clearly wanted out. "He got away with doing what he did to Dana, to Hawthorn," Her voice thickened with tears. "we can't let him have Harry too."

Ignoring his better instincts, Tenanji returned to the table, "I can promise nothing," he began, "but let us be clear, if I find anything of value, I will be the one to decide how to use that information. For now you three will remain safe," and out of the way, "aboard Hawking."

Kerrin nodded, there was nothing she could do by herself, the fact that the hidebound Tenanji was willing to bend as far as he had was more than she had any right to expect. "Thank you." She whispered.

Jason stepped forward to shake the Lieutenant's hand. "Thank you, sir." Turning back to Kerrin he noted that she finally had some color in cheeks. Good. Reaching out his hand to help Kerrin to her feet he smiled down at her. "Come on you pushy broad, since you got me on board you can at least show me where the bar is."

Featuring a convocation of NPCs voice by Harry Finn and T'Shaini
Originally Posted 7-16-2008 by T'Shaini

It was an itch… the yearning for a drink, a real drink… a pervasive, low-grade burn which had kept up residence at the back of his throat for over two years and he’d only barely scratched it twice, in all that time.

Until now. Until Ren had forced over half a bottle of whiskey down his throat and the Scotch had taken to scratching the itch and all Harry wanted was for it to keep scratching. He wanted it to scratch and scratch and scratch at that itch until it became an open wound, bleeding away his life…

“Time to wake up,” the gratingly mellifluous voice broke in.

Harry blinked away the crud in his eyes as he struggled sit up straight, to face the monster like a man or at least to put some distance between himself and the disturbingly sticky floor, probably he didn’t want to think too hard about that. It hadn’t been long since the last visit, he knew… he was still reeling from the whiskey.

Reeling until Lammas administered a hypo which had an immediate and unfortunately sobering effect. He then stepped away to observe while his functionaries returned Finn to the chair.

“What would it take,” Harry heard himself asking quietly as his wrists and ankles were once again secured, “to arrange an accident? Something permanent?” His eyes tracked up to meet Ren’s, knowing the question made him pathetic but way past caring, “Something that can’t be fixed…?”

“Ah, now, Harry,” Ren said with a grin, “there’s just not enough cash in the galaxy.” He shrugged and went to the table and, once again, opened his case. “The contract is very specific… you’re to last until the client says otherwise and this client,” his hand fluttered over the contents, as if he was having trouble deciding on which toy to play with, “let’s just say he’s not someone who takes well to being screwed with.” Finally he made a selection and withdrew something, something shiny and slim and hooked at one end, “As I’m sure you’re learning…”

But Harry wasn’t listening. He was back to thinking about the itch and how that shiny something in Lammas Ren’s hand could probably give it a really good scratch…

Originally Posted 7-16-2008 by Harry Finn

USS Hawking

“Lieutenant jg Fehr reporting for watch,” the Elasian stated formally.

Tenanji glanced up from the program he’d set to run contiguously with Hawking’s standard sensor sweeps, “Very good,” he said calmly, no, nothing at all odd going on, here. As Fehr joined him and began to enter his operating codes, prior to Usher signing out, the acting Comsecops let out a small breath, “You will notice that I’ve set an additional sensor scan,” he said as casually as possible. “I want it to remain in place, recording all communications activities to and from the two locations specified,” he didn’t look up to see if there was any curiosity in the other man’s eyes. “Every four hours, no, every two hours, I want the recorded information piped to my office.”

“Understood,” Fehr replied, “my codes have been accepted, may I take the watch?”

Tenanji logged himself off the system, “The watch is yours,” he replied. He had just turned to leave the bridge under the watchful eye of Master Chief Jackson when…

“Is this surveillance related to the recent bombing on Kendrassi?” Fehr asked quietly, referring to the disastrous reception on planet.

“Possibly,” Tenanji replied. In fact, he was almost certain that Charles Champe Stearns had nothing to do with the race or its accompanying disasters but, “no stone unturned,” he added, moving towards the ‘lift. “Every two hours,” he repeated, “and make a note in the duty log for your replacement, as well.”

“Aye to that.”

Once he was in the turbolift and on his way back to the relative quiet of the office, Usher closed his eyes and wondered, for the one hundred and eleventh time, what he was doing. Suppose the watch on Stearns’ home and business revealed a possible location for Finn… what would he do, then? Going in phasers blazing wouldn’t do… calling local Security was out of the question… they were over-burdened as it was and, more than likely, would only arrest Finn the moment he was out of Stearns’ grasp.

As the ‘lift paused on deck 14, he shook off the doubts and moved into the corridor. What came after must not be his concern. For now, it would have to be enough to learn if the man were still alive. After that…

… well, he would worry about after that when it happened.

Featuring NPC's Fehr and Usher Tenanji
Originally Posted 7-17-2008 by Harry Finn

Harry found himself, quite surprisingly, on the cot, again. Well, that wasn’t really surprising but what was surprising was waking up to the memory of not actually finding out what damage Ren was going to inflict with his little hooky-doo. Just as the freak had been approaching, a com had come through. Harry hadn’t heard what was said but around the same time there had been a power surge and the room’s lights had temporarily dimmed and there was an ominous humming throughout the the place which indicated a widespread event.

After a short reply to the com, the hybrid had nodded to the Nausicaan and that fine fellow had clocked Harry upside the head, which had led to a blissfully unaware period, followed by, once again, waking up. He took a quick inventory and found he still had all his parts… his feet were shackled but not attached to the bed, same with his hands, cuffed in front. Mistake he thought.

“Good morning.”

“Jeez!” Harry flipped over to see, yes, Lammas Ren, sitting at the nearby table, calmly reading a newspadd and drinking coffee.

And there was a second cup, along with a second chair.

“Coffee?” Ren offered, pleasantly.

Morning… had it been night before? “How long…” but Harry stopped himself. He really didn’t want to know how long he’d been down here… what if it were only a few hours? Man, that’d be depressing. Not so depressing that he didn’t test the tension on the cuffs, or measure the distance to the table.

“This room is monitored at all times,” Lammas pointed out, still reading his padd, “if you make any unwise moves, you’ll be stunned in seconds and the next session will be a great deal less pleasant.”

“I find that hard to believe,” Harry said, sitting up.

Ren looked up briefly, “Don’t,” he advised. “Meanwhile,” he returned to his reading, “I’ve noticed you have quite the collection of scars.” Before Harry could point out the obvious, he added, “And none from me… I always keep things clean… until I’m told not to. So,” he glanced back up at Finn, still seated on the cot, “why? I mean, I’m sure you’ve had quite the active career but it’s a relatively simple procedure to…”

Subconsciously Harry’s hands went to the long curve over his collarbone, “Look, is this little heart to heart part of the torture? ‘Cause, honestly…”

“No,” Ren waved the thought off, picking up his coffee, “not at all it’s just, I’m curious and very off-shift at the moment due to a, ah, kerfuffle at the Regatta reception.”

Harry blinked. “Kerfuffle?”

Ren grinned, “I have an inordinate fondness for Terran colloquialisms,” he confessed. “It seems there was a rather dreadful explosion at the party,” he continued explaining, “and all the higher functionaries in the government are working OT on aid and repairs and the like.”

Which probably explained the power surge and emergency com. Skipping over the implication that Stearns had anything to do with the government, Harry focused on the torturer, “And, what, you had nowhere better to be?”

“Not really, no. I’m shy of subjects at present.”

Harry, figuring what the hell, stood up and shuffled to the chair. He felt, he had to admit, pretty damn good, considering, and that kind of sucked because he also knew that, sometime soon, the happy and relaxed figure at the table would make sure he stopped feeling pretty damn good.

Still, sometime soon wasn’t now and there was coffee on the table. Seating himself he reached for the mug with his cuffed hands and after taking a careful sip (yup, just coffee), he looked up at his keeper, who was taking a drink, himself. “Well, hell, Ren,” Harry dove into the moment, “we got nothing better to do, let’s break out the cards, call in the whores and have ourselves a party!”

The spit-take that declaration earned was of epic proportions and followed by an appreciatively raucous laugh, “I do like you Harry,” Ren confessed, chuckling, “I’m sure I’ll be quite sorry when… well… you know.”

“Yeah,” Harry took another drink, “Thanks. That’s really… no, actually it’s kind of f**ked up but…” he shrugged and put the cup down. “So, okay, probably a ‘no’ on the whores… do you at least have a pack of cards?”

Lammas grinned and opened the dreaded case, which was never far from his side, “As a matter of fact…”

“You’re kidding.”

“Professional,” Lammas reminded his victim du jour, producing a well-worn deck.

Which made absolutely no sense to Harry but he gave the table a ‘hit me’ tap, anyway. “What’s your game?”

The death merchant started to shuffle with the skill of any Risian dealer, “How about a little Romulan Hold’em?”

All in all, Harry thought, accepting his hand, it beat the hell out of playing chess.

Originally Posted 7-17-2008 by Harry Finn

Yellow 10 Alpha
Mylla’s Suite
~ 8:00:50 A.M. (Federataion Standard Time) ~

Things could always get worse, Charles Stearns agreed.

Better? Let’s see… .He smirked contentedly, retrieving the local news PADD from the center of the breakfast nook counter. The smirk intensified as he re-read the column in the THE BUZZ! section… .

by Gary Cowling
Good readers, as everyone knows, Mist has become an absolute plague on Jericho-Samaria, the Federation’s most distant House.

Is it because, so isolated from the strength of the Alpha Quadrant, we are easily preyed upon? Is it because our isolation makes us yearn for something, anything, which will fill the void between Kendrassi Prime and the civilizations from which our multi-specie'd populace is created? Are we, in some way, asking for this assault?

And, in the end, does it matter? What use is the why if, by some gift of the gods, a way to end the madness were to present itself? I ask this because, dear, dear citizens, word has filtered out from certain very high levels of the diplomatic community that there may be a way to end the stranglehold of Mist upon our settlement… there may, in fact, be a cure for Mist addiction.

A cure.

If that word is true, if the rumor which has trickled to this humble reporter’s desk is born of truth, how much, then, would we, as a population, owe the purveyor of such a beneficence?

I can, as yet, name no names, nor can I guess at a delivery date for what would amount to a miracle but I do believe that the miracle can… no that it will, happen. Yes, even this jaded journalist has faith in the whispers. I believe the word and more, I believe that whosoever brings this cure to our people will be deserving of the Federation’s highest regard.

Things were coming together nicely. Nicer than he had a right to expect, as a matter of fact. Personally… .? In the short span of a few months he had (a) come back from the dead…or at least the brink of death (b) he’d met, and become bonded to the woman who, as it now stood, held the title (and the power) of Boss of All Bosses for conglomerated crime cartel that would eventually claim the whole of the Gamma Quadrant as it sovereign domain (c) he himself had been given the position of Chancellor of Interstellar & Political Affairs—-pretty much Assistant Boss of All Bosses…húsbóndi af allur húsbóndi, in the Cygnian tongue (d) he…they, “The Organization”, had the Federation and the Outpost Powers That Be over the proverbial barrel with rumors about the alleged cure for Mist spreading like Earth’s first outbreak of the Black Plague (e) and…on that associated score…his long lost (and found) bosom buddy Curt Beadle and the scientific wunderkind Owsley had a gargantuan batch of Mist Black (ten times more potent and twice as addictive as its predecessors) in the Kalaga System, just waiting for the green light to begin shipment to the multitudes of addicted Gamma Quadrant worlds their sample batches had produced.

There had, indeed, been a number of bumps on the path. His, for lack of a more accurate term, mother-in-law, Fayla Qazad Szado (the humanoid equivalent of a flock of circling vultures), who’d like nothing more than to slit his throat, hang him upside-down, and watch him bleed like a slaughtered lamb…The arrival of a certain pain-in-the-ass from his past…The deaths of his associates, Gavin Booth, Sims Al-Kar, and Neishi Fabria…and, just yesterday, the affair involving the discovery of several explosive devices…the detonation of one of them, in Outpost Jericho-Samaria. But things had taken a turn for the better. Much better regarding the aforementioned ‘pain-in-the-ass from the past’.

So… .in answer to his own query…could things get any better?

“I would say…most assuredly, Yes,” Mylla (obviously eavesdropping telepathically) said, smiling ear-to-ear as she entered the room.

Charles placed the news-PADD on the breakfast nook countertop and swiveled to fully meet her open armed advance. Strange…and wonderful how this woman affected him. Her arms around him prompted a rush beyond the effect caused by any drug. If this is what love feels like, he told himself, why in hell did I avoid it for so damn long?

Featuring NPC's Charles Champe Stearns (AKA Shaun Ryan Acker) and Mylla Szado
Originally Posted 7-17-2008 by Toryn Kaz

USS Hawking
Office ComSecOps - Deck 14

Usher considered the young officer before him, "Have you spoken to T'Shaini at all?"

"Not yet," Crewman Jenny Anderson felt her gaze moving up and to the right, "It's been busy."

"Indeed," the lieutenant sighed, glanced at the latest report from the bridge on his surveillance of Stearns and then back to the young woman. It was her godfather he was trying to find and yet… she'd already been through hell, would it benefit her to know he might be…

The door to the office slid open, offering a welcome interruption to his dour thoughts. Immediately, Tenanji rose as a superior entered the room. "Sir?" he addressed the unknown man before him.

"No need to stand," Lt. Commander Callan Vail said as he entered the room stiffly. He was treading on someone else's 'turf' and he knew it. No need to complicate things with unnecessary theatrics. "I'm looking for Lt. Tenanji, Security Division."

"You have found him," Usher said, calmly enough through the frisson of worry which skittered up his spine. How many regulations had he trampled over the course of the race… never mind what he was doing now. "That will be all, Anderson," he addressed Jenny quickly, wanting her out of the way ASAP, "I'm afraid you're still provisional until you've been cleared by Lieutenant T'Shaini… I will be checking in with her, as appropriate."

"Yes, sir," to her credit, Jenny accepted the judgment quickly and without obvious dismay, "Sirs," she nodded to her superiors, her eyes resting with brief curiosity on the newcomer and left the room.

As soon as the doors were closed, Tenanji turned back to his visitor, "And how may I assist you, Commander….?"

"Anderson? Seth Anderson's daughter," Vail said, with a smile in his eye. "She's rather grown up already…" A very brief moment of silent contemplation passed before the newly arrived officer switched into gear. "Lt. Tenanji, I'm here at the behest of Starfleet Intelligence. This is not a black op, nor is it fully official, but it involves your former Chief of Securty Harry Finn." Vail stepped a little closer and ran a finger along the desk as he continued. "I'd intended on asking you if you had had any opportunity to follow up on Mister Finn's situation, but I notice you've got at least one iron in the fire, eh?"

A full ten count passed. "I notice that you have yet to offer up a name… sir," Tenanji, who had now far more experience with ghost operations, saboteurs and aliases than he'd ever have thought possible, was unwilling to take anyone at face value. The fact that the mysterious stranger seemed to know Anderson, or of her, didn't count in his favor. "Before we discuss any… irons… or Mister Finn I'd like some assurances that I am in fact speaking to a member of the 'Fleet."

Vail smiled. "Of course. My apologies…" His hand reached out as he said, "I'm Lt. Commander Callan Vail. It's not an alias or a code name," he added trying to appear as innocuous as possible.

Smooth, unthreatening, almost bland. This was clearly a very dangerous person. Still, "Commander Vail, please take a seat," Usher offered, dropping into his own chair. "I could go so far as to run a check on you… would it do me any good?"

"A great deal of good! At least you may assume so at first," Callan sat down before continuing. "But you'd soon discover that my records are sealed here and classified there… It's all a bunch of fleet bureaucracy really. Ultimately, however, it would waste what I consider to be valuable time. Tell me… What have you discovered in your, shall we say, less than authorized investigations?"

"Absolutely nothing, thus far," Tenanji admitted. "The surveillance has been unable to isolate any communications of value from Mr. Stearns' residence or his office. It is entirely likely that Finn is dead, already. Given the information available by news reports and… some other sources… he was involved in the deaths of three lieutenant's in what amounts to Stearns private army and we know that Finn turned himself in to that very army." He glanced over at the screen, which had yet to produce a new report, "I had thought that, if Shaun Ryan Acker is truly Charles Stearns, and Finn were still alive, he would show us the way…"

"Do you have anyone on the ground? Perhaps a more old fashioned approach - following breadcrumbs as it were - may yeild more information." Vail, not one for beating around the bush leaned forward and listened, as his people were known to do.

Usher also leaned forward and held the other man's eyes, "I'm sure you can appreciate that my first priority is the safety of this vessel and while I would like to find Harry Finn, it is not, technically, part of my job to bring him home so Spec Ops can sanction him." Internally Usher cursed as he realized he'd said too much. "Besides, the current lockdown on the island prevents me from putting a team planetside."

"I can appreciate your priorities, Mister Tenanji. Just having served on a Starship once before… Let's say I have an understanding for what crew memebers may or may not do to insure the return of one of their own." Not one to give up, Vail pressed on. "Without saying too much I can offer you means to get planetside - if you're so inclined. I realize, however, there is probably much to be done as you resettle aboard Hawking. I am here merely to gather some facts from people in the know," he finished a smile coloring his complexion content.

Inside Usher's brain, thoughts were spinning, bouncing off one another and then diving back into the mix. Out of the maelstrom a question he'd not even been aware of sprang out, "How do you know Seth Anderson, or his daughter?"

"Only by reputation and in passing," Vail answered without missing a beat. "On one occasion I supplied information to him in regards to a case he was working. That was before the young Miss Anderson, of course. But we held a healthy regard for each other's position. At least I think we did." Callan let that hang between them for a moment, "I know Seth and Harry were close. And I'm not unfamiliar with Mister Finn's record. I want you to know that it is not my intention to bring him home in chains. I'm Intel…not security. I believe the human phrase is, 'I've got bigger fish to fry.' Plus… My interests are mildly personal." The Lt Commander leaned back in his chair and steepled his forefingers. "No, you may not ask," he followed up with a smile.

"Very well," Usher gave in, following his instincts. "As it happens, I and several of my team are overdue for shore leave. It might be that we would enjoy spending some quality time in the Habitat of Jericho-Samaria." He leaned back in his own chair and, by force of habit, checked the viewscreen for the latest update. It had arrived and, this time, there was one line of data which made him sit up straighter.

Callan cast a glance at the viewscreen before Tenanji. He couldn't see it from his vantage, so continued observing the Security Officer's body language. This one was impressive. "I think that it will be entirely possible. And a bit of shore leave sounds spot on… Something catching your attention, Mister Tenanji," he tagged absently.

Usher looked up and while he wasn't one for smiling, it's just possible his face relaxed by about two degrees, "I think I may have found our first breadcrumb," he said, turning the screen towards the Intelligence officer. "Not a complete connection… too much local interference but our man Stearns is looking in on something… or someone… several levels down."

"I'd say that anything that Mister Stearns is looking in on bears looking in on ourselves," the El Aurian said, his eyes narrowing. "How soon can you have a team together?"

"Give me an hour," that should just give him time to juggle the shift covers and convince Lieutenant Torrik that this was a good idea. "And, Commander," he paused a moment, "Crewman Anderson knows nothing of Finn's current, situation. I'd prefer if that remain the case… until we know."

Vail shot Tenanji one more smile. "I think I can keep the secret." Vail rose and without farewell stepped towards the door. "Perhaps I can speak to your First Officer about temporary quarters so that I might freshen up. He's a chipper one, isn't he?" With a wry smirk cast over his shoulder Callan left the room.

Watching the Intelligence officer exit, Usher thought he might have to add on another fifteen minutes to the 'convincing Torrik' portion of his prep.

NPCpalooza with Harry & Nils voicing:Usher & Callan
Originally Posted 7-18-2008 by Torrik Nils

Unknown Cell
Brown Sector
~ Morning ~

Fayla Qazad Szado never ceased to be marveled by the male of the species. Of any species, for that matter. They were so simple…so predictable… prosaic, cliché…so klisja. Those whom her daughter—-correction: her daughter’s (and it pained her even to think the term) mate—-chose to use as hermaður…soldiers, even more so. It was truly laughable. Ridiculous!

Ridiculously easy…even without the full use of her telepathic abilities…to learn the location of the man who had given the, so-called, Chancellor so much trouble. In fact, all she’d really had to do was clothe her body in a fashion the average Orion mella…floozie would pay not to be caught dead in, smile and batt her eyes. The fábjáni couldn’t tell her enough.

Of course it took a bit more once she reached said location. Charles had taken the precaution (mistaken though it was) of assigning guards who were of species known to be resistant to telepathic incursion. A trio, in fact—-Ferengi, Deltan, and a Dopterian. Resistant to Betazoids, Vulcans, and most other telepaths, maybe, but not to a mature Cygnian. And most assuredly not to her.

The fools. They believed themselves to be so complex. Not one of them ever realized just how the senses were dependent upon their thought process…the mind. For Fayla, it was child’s play to break through both their cogenital barriers and those placed there by their pathetically impotent modes of training…To locate those memories which impacted on their centers of security and pleasure and stimulate them…manipulate them. For the Ferengi it was seeing the Dabo girl from his favorite Red Sector watering hole…the one with the talented fingers and a skill at oo-mox that brought tears to his eyes. The Dopterian (this one in particular) possessed an understandably closely guarded fear of Caitians and a strong aversion to Human cuisine—-especially hamburgers. Therefore the very sight of a Caitian holding a food tray which reeked of a burger and fries caused him to shrink away, both mentally and physically. The Vulcan…whose mind was infinitely more structured…saw a high ranking Cygnian female, whose credential…and very presence he dared not question. From that point on (as if there’d been any doubt whatsoever) it was smooth sailing.

She’d touched the mind of the hybrid…Finn’s torturer, through the cell’s reinforced duranium door, directing him to switch off the room’s video feed to Charles’ quarters, unlock the door, then curl up on the cell floor for a brief nap.

[[=]]° ° °[[/=]]

“I’ll see your thumbscrew and raise you…” Finn looked over the stash he’d collected from Ren over the course of the game… “the pack of long scary needles and the hooky-doo… ahhh…” his words trailed off as Lammas Ren rose from the table and moved to the bank of controls by the door. Looked like game time was over. Not that it wasn’t bound to happen sometime…

However the painmeister, after entering a couple commands in the control, proceeded to turn around three times before laying himself down then and there and taking to snoring like a grizzly in the middle of January.

“Well, shit,” waste not… Harry immediately rose and started searching through the briefcase from hell in hopes of finding the keys to his bindings.

He did indeed find one…or what appeared to be a key, of the electronic and/or laser signature variety. It occupied its own small pouch, with Velcro-tab seal, in the case’s bottom left-hand corner. Two things, however, occurred before he could claim it. The first was his hand’s inexplicable inability to navigate the scant few centimeters between the briefcase opening and the inner-pouch. And the second was the opening hiss of the cell door.

“Typical… .but understandable, under the circumstances,” Fayla smiled broadly as she casually entered the cell. “Unfortunately, this isn’t a rescue, Mr. Finn. Call it…a fact finding visit.”

It’s never f**king easy, the truism slapped him in the face as the woman entered. “And here I thought Ren had gone and called up some whores, after all,” he said, because, what the hell; it wasn’t like this minx could really make his life that much worse. “What facts were you interested in… how much blood a guy can lose and still keep respirating? Average pain threshold?” He gave up on the key, straightened and held her gaze which took work because this one had eyes that put even Booth’s to shame for sheer scary, “or do you just like to watch?”

Fayla paused where she stood for a long moment, eying Harry like a pet that had literally, and unexpectantly bitten the hand that fed it. And then she tossed her head back and laughed.

"Thanks, I'll be here all the… well, I guess I don't know how long I'll be here."

“Amusing…to say the least,” Fayla, still chuckling gently, ventured deeper…closer to the table at which Harry stood. Her proximity to the cell door (or rather the lack of it) caused it to immediately slide shut behind her. “Quite intriguing, as well…Despite the prior sessions of excruciating pain at the hands of”…she tossed a throwaway glance toward Lemmas’ snoring form…“that…and your distress at what is yet to come, you not only display humor…impudent bravado, but you do so even in the face of your impending death…”

“I admire that…I like that…In fact, I think I like you, Harry,” she added. “May I call you Harry?”

“You can call me Betty if you’ll just release the cuffs and stand aside,” he replied, though there was by now very little humor. “But that’s not going to happen, is it?” She was closer, now… not as close as the table; the table covered with cards and horrible, sharp objects… but that wasn’t going to happen, either. “What do you want?” The question was soft but his eyes far from it.

Fayla quirked an eyebrow, nodding gently. “To business…finally. And…another time and place; another person…and I would be the one asking that particular question. However, in this case, dear Harry…I know already what it is you want…Charles Champe Stearns. More accurately, Shaun Ryan Acker…His head on a platter…Which, by the way, is the exact-same fate he desires for you.”

“Old news,” Finn responded distantly, “and not really relevant, is it? He finally got what he wanted… or will once he gets bored with the pre-show.

“What do you want?” he repeated. “What’s this feud to you? Why,” daring, he moved closer to her, “why does a beautiful woman with too much knowledge visit the condemned man? Of did he hire you, too? Are you the velvet dagger?” Part of him hoped, because if she were at least… at least it would be

“On the contrary, dear Harry. Your own feud, as you put it, with Chancellor Stearns is, indeed, very relevant. And ‘old news’ is exactly what it is all about…News that I’m quite sure neither of you know… .” She took pause then, moving to the table’s opposite side where she extracted a scarf from her decidedly risqué (and flattering) costume and dusted the seat of the chair formerly occupied by Ren Lammas before dropping into it.

“Please…sit,” She inclined her head to indicate the remaining chair. “And I will only ask once.”

Harry sat, with a resignation that bordered on belligerence.

“You are neither an unintelligent or unobservant man,” Fayla resumed. “That much has been made obvious in the past several days. You’ve been operating in the Habitat long enough to have seen, and learned things…You know the skinny,” she stopped to chuckle again. “Forgive me, Harry…I have always been fond of the Human colloquialism. Your race has no idea just how…unique it makes you. Nor how much you take it for granted…”

“No matter….” Another pause, during which she shifted in the chair, crossing once sleek, shapely leg over the other…while noting Harry’s notice of the move with a knowing smirk. “Why thank you, Harry. To coin a phrase, you are not half bad yourself. It is easy to unsderstand why Sara was so taken with you…”

The smirk became a full fledged, and rather wolfish grin in response to Harry’s near-imperceptible reaction. “Yes…I know about Sara Laslow. About Seth Anderson. ..the Anarasi Maru… .Alden Pierce Ryan…And it appears I may have been mistaken in my earlier assessment, dear Harry. You don’t know the skinny…do you?

“Very well…allow me to educate you. I…to varying degrees, am responsible for Shaun Ryan Acker’s escape…botched badly though it was…his healing treatment and surgical metamorphosis…his installation in this quadrant of space…and, sadly enough, his current status in Jericho-Beta. To answer your questions: velvet dagger? Not exactly…Sympathetic, I may be, Harry, but let us make one thing perfectly clear…I am not a friend. In fact, by literal definition, I am indeed your adversary…

“Did Charles hire me?” The question twitched the corners of her mouth into a flashing grin. “He has no idea that I am here… Quote-unquote: Why does a beautiful woman with too much knowledge visit the condemned man?” She rose from the chair then, sliding around the table. She knelt a foot or so away from her chair, her dark eyes boring into his.

“This may hurt a bit…emotionally,” she said. “The memory is a deep seated one…Most childhood memories associated with trauma are…But I do what I must.”

Post with Harry Finn and NPC Fayla Q'Azad Szado
Originally Posted 7-19-2008 by Toryn Kaz

“The Cell”
Brown Sector
~ Sometime in the A.M. ~

Harry had a tough time getting to the Northwest section… it was late afternoon on a rainy fall day and the leaves, already going to mulch, were slippery beneath the boy’s feet. But the spicy smell of the season and inborn curiosity pulled him onwards, on to the creek which was the border to the Northwest corridor….

… he got soaked when he slipped down to the creek and that made the climb up the next slope even harder but something told him that Dad was near. He’d gone out mid-morning, should have been back by lunch… it was close to 4 by now…

Not that Harry was worried or anything. Jack Finn often got ‘lost’ in his trees. Communing with the sprits, Mom said which, as far as Harry could figure, was a fancy word for daydreaming…

Just ahead, he thought, just past this freaking huge boulder…

Coming up to level ground, he was hit by the smell… something new and metallic and sick-making… the kind of smell that says ‘stay back’ but he couldn’t, not now, not when he knewknewknew that someone had to go see and, nine-years-old or not, he was the only one here so it had to be him.

So he went.


Some part of Harry knew he was shaking… the child in the body of the man, cold and ill and facing it for the first time, again…

Couldn’t see much, now. Dark and the rain washed the forest until it was no more than a brown-red impressionistic rendition of itself. But in the midst of the old-blood foliage was what Harry sought.

Lifting his dad’s old hat from where it lay, on the open plateau, he had to swallow the fear and the sudden urge to puke at the now-overpowering scent which was pushing at him to run away now, Harry crept closer. Less a cave than an indentation, the granite-framed darkness pulled at him like his own personal event horizon. “Dad?” Hands tangling in the soft fabric of the fedora, he came closer and closer to the prone form that wore his father’s clothes.

And then he was there and so was Dad but it wasn’t Dad anymore. Making a noise that probably shouldn’t ever come out of the mouth of a human boy, Harry felt his knees give way and the hat fall from his hands and then they were reaching out to grab the deep-blue flannel sleeve that wasn’t blue anymore either because it had gone purple and sticky and he pulled at the arm in that sleeve and it was heavy, too heavy, and it was cold and he had to yank really hard and when that worked it was worse because then he could see.

He could see what was left of his father.

Still shaking, still holding down the nausea and most of all, still feeling the weight of a dead man in his hands, Harry’s eyes focused on the here and now and the one who’d thrown him back in time as casually as she probably threw out the garbage. “So, I guess I was right; you do like to watch.”

“I took no pleasure in forcing you to relive that episode. As I stated…I do what I must.”

“And I take it I don't get to know why.”

“You disappoint me, Harry,” Fayla said. “Shouldn’t it be obvious that I have not gone to all this trouble without a definite purpose…You, dear Harry, being the most important element in that purpose… .” She allowed a few seconds to elapse before continuing.

“Still, you are partially correct. It does indeed involve a situation which I will greatly enjoy witnessing. This thing between yourself and Charles…it’s Fate…Irony…a Cosmic Reckoning, if you will. And I have a very strong feeling that you are far from defeated, Harry Finn. The final act in the play set in motion years ago will be played out. Call this little visit and demonstration…a preview of coming attractions.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, lady but… no, wait, feel completely free to take it the wrong way… you can take your ‘purpose’ and your 'cosmic reckoning and shove them up that finely toned ass you like to show off. I have had it with being played. Digging your claws into what a nine year old kid suffered isn’t gonna make me hate Acker more and even if it did, right now there’s a slight chance I’d leave him breathing just to f**k with you. You don’t think I’m defeated? Maybe not but I’m sure as shit done.” He rose, towering over the woman, “Now if you don’t mind, I have an appointment to have my spleen extracted.”

And in the next instant Harry found himself on the floor, curled up in the fetal position with an army of burning hornets having a mass epileptic seizure in his head and innards.

“I am the last person in this world you want to…piss off, dear dear Harry,” A slight nod at his twitching form and the hornets calmed themselves. Harry relaxed, somewhat…rolling onto his back. “Wake up…You have been played, as you call it, from Day One…The Orions, myself, Starfleet, Nechayev, Acker…they’ve played you like the legendary cheap fiddle, Harry Finn. Do yourself a favor. When the time comes…and it will, I’m sure…if you’ve truly had it with being played…stop allowing yourself to be and start being the one who plays. Believe me, when you are finally face to face with Charles, you had better be smart and strong…because he is.”

It wasn’t until Lammas Ren’s helmet head appeared above him, confused but also, as he explained complacently, back on the clock, that Harry realized the wicked bitch was gone.

Maybe… maybe it had all been a dream… a bad trip brought on by booze and recurrent pain. Or maybe, he thought, as he was shifted to a better working position for Ren’s current tools of choice, maybe he really would get to see Acker… Acker who was watching every drop of blood that fell to the floor right now… maybe Harry would finally get to face Shaun.

Maybe he’d finally get to end him.

JP with Fayla Q'azad Szado of "The Sisterhood" (authored by Toryn Kaz)
Originally Posted 7-20-2008 by Harry Finn

:: Delta Flyer Class Runabout, Yemen ::
:: Outpost Jericho-Samaria, On approach ::

The gentle hum of the runabout’s engines calmed Callan’s nerves. It didn’t take much. The El Aurian maintained a steady control of his emotions most of the time. His even keel personality required quite a ‘fiasco’ as he called it, to become even remotely unbalanced. This situation, however, did have him taking a few deep breaths.

Although, Callan held authorization to land, that authorization had been dealt rather unofficially. He’d done his best so far to slip around, and under as many sensor webs as he could, but he knew that the runabout was no stealth vessel. He’d arranged to pick it up at DS9, and then mothballed it for transport in the cargo hold of the Bolian freighter. Silently, he second guessed his choice to forego a ship modified with stealth technology – which Starfleet didn’t officially have anyway.

“Only a few more moments,” he said casually, adjusting the navigational controls. They were just entering the atmosphere.

“Should I hail the port authority,” B’Naath said from behind Callan and slightly to port.

“Let’s not,” the elder gentleman replied. He reached into his pocket and tossed a data rod to the dexterous Caitian. “If you run into any trouble, transmit that…”

“Hmmmm….” The sound vaguely resembled a purr from the feline security officer. “Well then shall I let our crew know we are on approach.”

“I think that would be acceptable. Let Tenanji know I’m setting down about twenty kilometers from the island. We can beam in from there.” Lt. Tenanji, the Klingon twins, and Zal Govan were in the runabout’s small passenger compartment in the aft of the ship. Vail assumed they were prepping for the mission…whatever that mission turned out to be.

As he listened to B’Naath relay his suggestion over the comm, his mind wandered. This wasn’t truly the most daring thing he’d ever attempted. The lockdown of the Outpost following the attack on Ops was both routine and beginning to ease up. Authorized Starfleet vessels were already resuming normal traffic. But something about it nagged at him. Years of experience - more than he cared to calculate at present - were tugging at his caution senses. Whatever nest they were delving into would not be filled with Mulduvian Chicks. The Outpost was dangerous, and the criminal element was active. The reports were clear. Whatever Harry Finn had stuck his nose into had probably tried to bite it off. He hoped Finn had the sense to snatch back his nose before he lost it.

As Callan considered possible courses of action and multiple means of gathering Intel, he settled their ship gently onto the ground. Soon enough they may all be snatching back body parts before they were bitten off…

Featuring B'Naath and Callan Vail
Originally Posted 7-22-2008 by Torrik Nils

The Cell
Brown Sector
Late Afternoon

Sitting in the Homicide division of the Buck’s County PD, Harry’s dirty hands, still with traces of blood on them, turned the hat round and round and round as he answered the questions, yet again. Finally, as the detective paused to enter Harry’s by-now rote responses into his desktop, it was time for the boy to ask a question.

“Did they ever find it?”

“Find what?”

Blue eyes narrowed at the deliberate evasion, “His eye,” Harry said, his voice cold and clear and much too old. “Did anyone find it?”

The tired man’s face turned back to him, reluctantly but, “No,” he admitted. “No one’s found it, or the weapon…” or a single damned clue… A man is murdered on his own property, throat slit, left eye removed post-mortem and then the mutilated body left where his kid can stumble over it. In a pretty fked up line of business, even Bobby Ryan had to admit this was supremely fked up.

“I’ll do it,” Harry said, still calm though not, Detective Sergeant Ryan had to admit, with any of the blankness of trauma.

“Uh, sorry?”

“I’ll find him. Whoever did it.” At nine, there’s no such thing as an impossible promise. “I’ll find him.”

I’ll find him.

Harry blinked away the memory… the promise he’d made. There had been more promises, since then. There had been so many more: to Seth and Sara, Tim, Esther and now to Vanona and Dana and Ajani.

But that had been the first. To his father… I’ll find him.

Only he wouldn’t keep that promise, would he? Not if he remained here, being broken over and over for Acker’s viewing pleasure. ”When the time comes…and it will, I’m sure…if you’ve truly had it with being played…stop allowing yourself to be and start being the one who plays.”

Yeah, he'd get right on that…

Lammas Ren considered his subject. It wasn’t as if one could, in the moment, really get right down and quantify the degrees of agony being inflicted (well, there were biobeds and tricorders and brainwave charts but that was too cold, too… distant). There were just too many notes of sensation and while Ren was a maestro of the art of suffering, able to play a sonata on one finger, if he chose, the only true measure he had was the instrument's response to his attentions.

He’d gone that route, today, with Harry’s right hand. Oh he’d finished up with the gratuitous crescendo of the flogging, because the client liked the drama but before that, he’d been compelled to try something different, something more subtle. So he had, with the delicate touch of the artist he felt himself to be, played the hand and each tiny snap was a pianissimo homage to pain.

And yet, in both cases, it seemed as if Harry weren’t quite… in it.

Maybe, maybe the nerve stimulator, then. Calling in one of the guards to help him move Harry back to the chair, Ren returned to the case and withdrew a hypo. The Dopterian entered, leaving the door unlocked, and freed the prisoner from the overhead hook. He’d been maneuvering Finn around like a mannequin for the better part of three days, now and was working on automatic.

”… when you are finally face to face with Charles, you had better be smart and strong…”

But ‘Charles’ would make sure they were never face to face.

But you have promises to keep.

Finn hissed as the guard released the cuffs, jostling the swollen, black and blue mass of his right hand. He had to release Harry briefly, in order to cuff him to the chair. At the same moment, Ren, in his own little happy place, administered the hypo he’d retrieved from his briefcase o’ tricks.

Only thing is, Lammas hadn’t grabbed the neurohydrine.

He’d grabbed a dose of epinephrine.

Harry had been staring at the chair, I hate that chair, when the surge of pure adrenaline hit and when it hit he didn’t think, he didn’t plan, he just moved.

In moments the Dopterian was down with a broken nose, Ren was on the floor contemplating the loss of his heirs and, entering, the Deltan from the monitor got a face full of that selfsame hated chair.

The Ferengi was lucky. He just got stunned.

Less then ten minutes after that, Harry, right hand buried in the pocket of the Deltan’s longcoat, armed with a phaser, a long-bladed dagger and a slug of whiskey from what remained of the original bottle, limped out of the building (a generic enough apartment complex… the soundproofing must be top-of-the-line) in a pair of shoes that were a size-and-a-half too small. He had no idea where he was, but he knew where he was going.

I have promises to keep.

Elsewhere, Fayla Q'azad Szado would surely have been pleased to know Harry had made such good use of the suggestions she'd planted in each of his keepers' subconscious.

Originally Posted 7-23-2008 by Harry Finn

This post takes place prior to Harry's

Yellow 12 Epsilon
Cascade Towers
35th Floor
Ambassadorial Townhouse
~ 9:45 A.M. (Federataion Standard Time) ~

Fayla exited the townhouse’s private turbo-lift with her long Cygnian limbs at full stride…just short of jogging…decidedly less amused than usual at the way her home grown male servants, and her aide, Eineen, all but disengaged flesh from skeletal structures when she entered. All converged on her, from four separate directions (…and with the exception of her aide…), as if the Dark Goddess of Evil herself was scant centimeters behind them.

“You and you…” She jabbed a slender finger at the closest servants, “Bath and wardrobe. And you”…she leveled the finger on Servant #3… “Out of my face.” Then, immediately recalling the servants’ lack of experience outside the environment of the Cygnian homeworlds, she repeated her commands in the native tongue.

Eineen held back, giving the servants room to stampede away before stepping forward. “Your arrival is most timely, Mistress…”

“Do tell…” Fayla barely glanced at her aide as she rid herself of her revealing attire and tossed it aside.

“There is a transmission for you from the Bajoran outpost, Deep Space 9…Your daughter.”

“Very good. Have it put through to my personal quarters.” She took a step or two in the direction of her room and immediately stopped. “Oh. . Eineen…..?”

“Yes, Mistress?”

“Contact Homeworld. Have my things packed and my servants make arrangements to be…relocated, here to Kendrassa Prime. Things are about to change…profoundly.”

“It will be done, Mistress.”

° ° °

Fayla entered the codes necessary to de-encrypt, and to prevent outside monitoring of the in-coming transmission, smiling as the face of her second eldest offspring took form on her vid-screen.

Verrani…You are looking well.”

“The Goddess has shown you grace as well, my Mother,” Verrani responded, her tone noticeably both hesitant and piqued. “With respect…I have been waiting…several minutes, Mother. There are important matters which require my attention…”

Fayla laughed. “As the Earthers would say, cut the crap, sweetie. If they were that important you could have easily left me a message. So save the attitude for your underlings…What do you have for me?”

Grudgingly, Verrani began immediately. “It was as we were informed earlier. The Federation’s intelligence organization have been stirred to action concerning Harry Finn. Our spies at Starfleet Command managed to scan a few who are privy to certain information. An agent was dispatched…weeks ago…”

“Weeks? And you saw fit only now to inform me…”

“Those employed by the intelligence service have been mentally conditioned, Mother…Better trained than most. Our people only found out through one of the civilian secretaries, who herself heard of it via inter-departmental gossip. There aren’t many within the Sisterhood with the experience and…psionic discipline of…yourself, my Mother. They dare not attempt a deep scan for fear of detection.”

“Understood, my daughter,” Fayla bit back a grin at her offspring’s barely veiled dig.

“We have no idea of his…or her timetable, identity, or specific intentions,” Verrani went on. “Only that the name Finn was most prominently featured. Chances are…this agent is already at Jericho-Samaria. Or at least not far away.”

“Thank you, Good Daughter. I will be ready.”

Fayla paused a moment, then added, “No other business? Or inquiries as to the situation or well-being of your sister…Mylla?”

“I am sure Mylla is well,” Verrani replied, knowing full well that her mother’s mention of her younger sibling was a deliberate taunt. The rivalry between the siblings and blood kin with the House of Szado was a notoriously well-known fact. Most of all to the household head herself.

Fayla sensed the echo of the ‘but’ in her daughter’s mind and was ready for it.

“But…and with all respect, my Mother…I feel I must make my concerns known here. If you will…unlike the galaxy’s other cartels, the Sisterhood has managed to remain, to coin another Human phrase, underneath the radar of the Federations’ law and intellignce agencies since our inception. They know virtually nothing about us. Now—-”

“Thanks to Mylla’s efforts here on Kendrassa Prime,” Fayla anticipated. An argument she had, of course, heard before.

“I am not alone in my concerns, Mother. It is the central topic of conversation in the Matriarchy on Homeworld Prime, as well as the Sisterhood Council. Mylla’s initiative is a blasphemous break with Cygnian traditions…The acceptance of males as equals—-most especially her sáttmáli…her bond-mate, a man of…dangerous spiritual sensibilities…The trafficking in commerce of that…dreadful narcotic substance, which also risks calling attention to our presence …”

“Your concerns, and your protests are duly noted, my daughter,” Fayla said. “As for the Matriarchy…I can recall a time when, in their eyes, we were the, as you put it, blasphemers…the breakers of tradition. Complain as they may, neither the stiff-necked matrons on Homeworld Prime or their counterparts in the Council, turn up their sanctimoniously pious noses at the revenue the Sisterhood brings their way,” She took a quick breath and met her daughter’s gaze dead-on. “And Mylla…I suspect that what pains you most, my daughter, has little to do with her bond-mate’s spiritual sensibilities and more with the fact that she bonded before you…”

“Do not worry yourself over the security of the Sisterhood,” Fayla added. “Or the situation here…I have it under control. May the Goddess protect you…Daughter.” Fayla flashed an undeniably condescending smile before severing the vid connection.

Post with Fayla Q'Azad Szado
Originally Posted -23-2008 by Toryn Kaz

:: Outpost Jericho-Samaria ::
:: Blue Sector ::

Six nondescript gentlemen beamed into the commerce district. Their transport was unremarkable, as were their clothes. The day’s business already bubbled around them as the city went about its not-so-merry way. Even the holographic sky above their heads seemed humdrum, as if it too were taking part in these Starfleet Officer’s clandestine operations.

Callan quickly surveyed the area, casually marching out a very small perimeter around their assembled team. His steel blue eyes locked onto individuals that drew his attention, he examined them and he moved on. Being a member of the race of ‘listeners,’ he’d grown accustomed to reading the body languages of many difference races and species in the galaxy. At present, no threats seemed imminent. As they began speaking the men kept their voices low and casual.

“Alright,” Vail said, focusing his attention on Tenanji. “We’ve got two possible target locations. One priority and one circumstantial.”

“I think prudence demands that we ‘divide and conquer,’ as it were,” Lt Tenanji replied in his familiar yet intense monotone. “We know that the signal in question terminated in the Brown Sector and Stearns' office is here in the Blue.”

Callan nodded. “I question whether his office would turn up anything useful. His type generally keeps things ‘tidy’ at home. But it probably wouldn’t hurt to keep a pair of eyes on him.

“Brown sector is primarily occupied by a more militaristic lot. It will make for rough traveling.” Callan glanced back to Tenanji, deferring to the man’s judgment. These were the Lieutenant’s people after all, and their direct superior should be issuing the orders.

“Commander Vail and I will keep an eye on Stearns. The rest of you make your way to the terminus of that transmission. Report in every half hour,” Tenanji stated flatly.

Rak’h and Koll nodded curtly and slammed their fists to their chests as they barked a response in Klingon. Govan and B’Naath, clearly more in tune with the ‘quiet’ nature of their mission, nodded and moved off down the street. Callan was certain he saw the Cardassian roll his eyes at the Klingon brothers.

“You can always count on the Klingons to blend in, yes?” Vail commented slyly as their parties split up.

“They’ll do their job,” Tenanji said, clearly unamused. He spun on his heel and directed his attention to the civilian PADD they’d brought with them. “Stearns' building is this way.”

“Lead on,” Callan said humbly. He knew of course where Stearns’ building was, having committed the relevant Sectors’ layouts to memory. But braggarts were so unbecoming.

As the two men moved themselves into position, Usher broke the silence with an uncharacteristic personal question. “You told me not to ask, but I can’t help wondering what your interest in Finn really is. You don’t seem the type to take in strays.”

“On the contrary,” Callan retorted. “Strays are my specialty. But…to be perfectly honest, I don’t like the official response aimed towards Mister Finn. And my position allows me a fair amount of latitude in responding how I deem appropriate. Despite his history with Stearns…or more accurately with Acker, Finn’s personal mission is worthy of success, as ill advised as it may be. Anyone watching can see why he’s out here, doing what he’s doing. And everyone wins if Harry wins. Stearns’ involvement with the criminal network at the Outpost is detrimental to security here and throughout the sector. Ultimately that leads to less security in local Federation holdings and reverberates back to the Alpha Quadrant. If we lost Finn…or worse…if we took him out ourselves, then we’ve damaged a valuable asset in the Gamma Quadrant. He’s worth saving.” A smile crept at the sides of the elder man’s lips. “Plus… I like his style.”

“Interesting,” was Tenanji’s only reply before moving on. “We can take up positions on either side of the street here,” the Security Officer continued, pointing at opposite ends of the street. “If we make ourselves inconspicuous we can manage a few sweeps with the tricorder and determine the lay of the land before deciding how to proceed.”

“Ah…an old fashioned stake out,” Callan said, sounding mildly excited. “Who knew the Outpost would provide such entertainment…” He considered the fact that his jests may be wasted on the Tenanji’s hard line. But they amused him and that was the point.

“Let’s keep our eyes open,” Tenanji finished, ignoring the other man’s comments.

“It’s what I do, Mister Tenanji…” Callan smiled and casually slipped his tricorder from his jacket. “It’s what I do…”

With the mild verbal sparring of the NPCs: Callan Vail and Usher Tenanji
Originally Posted 7-24-2008 by Torrik Nils

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