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Former Days and Promises Made

Posted on Mon Jan 24th, 2022 @ 3:26pm by Commander John Collins & Commander Garran Suliborn

Mission: Ab Hinc
Location: USS Solaria, deck 9: Aft Lounge
Timeline: Before "Changing Faces"

The old piano that sat to one end of the lounge hadn't been used properly in quite some time. Oh every now and then a bored crewmember had played chopsticks on it, or attempted to, but eversolong had the poor, slightly out of tune instrument, sat unloved.

Until now.

The ship's oldest and largest officer sat behind it, the stool creaking under his weight, as hefty and large clawed hands spanning wide brushed the ebony and ivory, evoking notes that rang through the lounge, hushing the other sounds.

When Garran was done, light applause happened from those listening. As the conversations picked up, the XO approached, a stein of beer in one hand and a grin on his face.

"Now that someone's using the piano actually, I'll make a note to get it tuned at our next starbase. Impressive, 21st century prog metal on a classical piano."

"Prog, death, Opeth is known by many genre definitions," Garran mused, smiling. "I find the dark and evocative, staccato tones fascinating. Unlike music on my home world, which tends to tend more towards the legato. It's nice to find a fellow music aficionado."

Collins grinned. "Thanks; Not as much as I used to be, but that's getting older for you. When I was a kid, my parents got me to learn how to sing decently; the instant my voice dropped during puberty, though? My singing ability just plain died." With that, he changed the subject. "Got a note from a mutual acquaintance of the happily retired sort. If you remember Captain Lawton, retired about, ehhh, five years ago as chief of ops directorate's training branch? He was looking for you. I haven't sent anything back because I wasn't sure how widely your assignment here was known, or if you wanted to get in touch with him." Lawton was not quite a contemporary of either Garran or Collins in SFI, sort of from an in-between generation. He'd left Intel on good terms generally, but only after it had been made clear to him that Captain was as high as he'd go - he'd been on the wrong side of too many internal squabbles to make flag rank, it was decided by the intel rumor mill.

"Lawton?" Garran flicked an ear, instantly interested. "Yeah I remember him. Controversial figure," then a low chuckle "Not that I'm not mind you, I'm just a bit more subtle about it," he offered, resting a heavy hand on Collins' shoulder briefly. "What do you s'pose he wants with me? Did he say anything about that?" the big man asked.

"I think he wants to just catch up, but there might be other things on his mind. Last I heard, he was working in the Iconia sector, doing risk assessment for corporate types," Collins replied.

Garran flicked an ear. "You know our type," he spoke, deadpan. "We don't do social calls. There's always some motive or another. Iconia, huh - I'll have to look in to that. What did you tell him?"

"Nothing yet. Think he's specifically on Freecloud. What should I tell him, is my question?" Collins noted.

"That if he wants me, he knows where to find me," Garran flashed a toothy grin. "And what kind of booze I like."

Collins grinned. "He specifically said you had, and I quote, 'seemingly dropped off the radar'. So I'm not sure about the first statement. Did say that I should tell you this isn't an operational call. Rather, he's been enlisted to pass on messages to you from 'friends from a past life'. It's a text message, so I got nothing more than that." A thought seems to hit him, but he glanced around and decided that, evidently, the lounge wasn't the place.

"Well, I did retire for a few years. Only came back because I was bored and this seemed like a nice, cushy job," Garran flicked an ear, picking up on Collins' hesitance. "Walk with me," he mused, motioning out of the lounge. The 'friends from a past life' had his curiosity piqued.

Collins followed, staying relatively quiet until the pair reached the intel spaces on Deck 14. Once they were behind the first set of locks and armed guards, he spoke. "SCIF." He gestured to the high-security conference room near Garran's office, and led the way in. Once they were there, Collins spoke again.

"My first question is going to be unusually direct for our line of work. Did you ever work Romulan space? Granted, you retired decades ago, but you and I both know that doesn't mean too much given Romulan lifespans."

Garran walked in silence, the relatively light patta patta of Collins' footsteps contrasting with the heavy Thud ... Thud ... Thud of his. Once in his office he activated a dampening field with a touch on a console, before Collins spoke. At his question though, Garran chuckled softly. "Now you know that's not a question I can answer. But, go ahead, I'm listening. We're secure," he motioned around in general, indicating the dampening field was on and even if someone had snuck in a recording device, it would now be suppressed.

Collins smiled. "Of course. Lawton's message coming in lines up with reports coming out of Romulus House," he referred to the organization within Starfleet Intelligence that consolidated operations and analysis regarding the states that had formerly been the Romulan Star Empire, both the Romulan Empire of the present day and the Romulan Free State, "of a massive counterintelligence push by the Tal Shiar. We don't have any indications our covcom protocols have been compromised, but we have multiple long-standing assets among the Senatorial class who've reached out to former intel officers in civilian life. D and Romulus House agree, they're indicating they suspect compromise of the usual networks and are requesting exfil."

"Hmph. That's a thing alright," Garran mused, folding massive arms over each other and leaning against his heavy oak desk. "Way you're saying this says you think I should be a leading element in this exfil. Also, I s'pose this is under the table and hush hush, not officially on the record. Wouldn't ask me of all people otherwise. Alright, what timeline we looking at and what resources do I have to work with?"

"Actually, this is on-book. SFI HQ, as opposed to Starfleet Command, sent me a message under sealed cover. A warning order that Solaria will, most likely, be tasked with infiltrating Romulan space to handle some of the exfiltrations. The official warning order and operations order from Starfleet Command will be sent by standard channels soon, but you, me, and Solaria's intel department are being warned in advance so that we can plan if that opord is tasked to us. Once Solaria receives the formal opord, then the clock will be ticking. I was told that so far as resources, personnel are stretched thin figuring out who actually needs to be, and can be, extracted and getting those done, so Solaria's crew is all we got, but we're to have a requisitions shopping list for materiel ready to go by the time we arrive at Starbase 718." Starbase 718 was near what used to be Romulus, and was still the center of Starfleet operations regarding the Romulans. "If it isn't on a personnel manifest, but rather a supply or equipment manifest, we can request it. They're also going to plonk a modified civilian craft in our shuttle bay for the op, too, details on that to follow."

"Right," Garran considered for a moment. "I can work with that. How long 'til we arrive at 718? I'll get to planning in the meanwhile. See what I can dig up, what we'll need in terms of personnel and equipment. Would've loved a spec sheet on the civilian craft, though. Don't like planning around uncertainties. but it is what it is."

"From current position? Figure 7 days at warp 8," Collins responded. "Read in whoever you need from your department, of course; Anyone outside of intel, let me know who and I'll handle the paperwork while you brief them."

"Alright. I'll get a team ready, plan set up, backup plan in case plan A goes south. Part of me missed this," Garran smiled a dark smile. "Anything else you want to add?"

"Not really? I mean, look at it from my perspective, Garran: I'm gonna be learning from you on this," Collins noted with a grin. "From my perspective, my job at the moment is to support your job as mission commander. You know the work to an extent nobody else on this crew, including me, does. One thing I will note is that while I'm leaving it up to you how hands on you get, HQ is waffling on whether they want to issue you and I, specifically, L pills." In other words, HQ was deciding whether to require both of them to be issued suicide pills in case of capture. "With me, it's being hinted I am demanded to stay on Solaria. With you? I think they're torn. Like, this is the first time in discussion missions that our informal heads up said 'security protocols to follow' that I can remember."

"Well, no sense waffling about the L pills until they've made their call on whether we get them or not. I've never had to make use of one, thank the migrator. Not planning to start now," Garran flicked an ear. "Well, if it's alright with you I'll get to my research and planning. I should have something to show you in a day or two."

Collins nodded. "Me neither, yeah. OK, we'll meet up again in 48 hours; I'll let you go brief your people and get started." With that, he unsealed the office and left.


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