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Remnants of Anchorage, Part III

Posted on Thursday November 10th, 2016 @ 5:59pm by Major Zeleny Novacek

Mission: Enemies Closer
Location: Starship Invidious, Somewhere in the Delta Quadrant…
Timeline: MD 3, 2115 Hours

Zeleny Novacek stood at the fore of the observation deck, staring blankly at the panoramic view of light stretched out into its composite spectrum from warp speed. His heart weighed down by multitudinous concerns. Least of which, what they would find at Anchorage.

Zeleny informed Jaxcen and Midori about what he’d learned from Meyers. Midori had suggested abandoning the mission and returning to rejoin the fleet as soon as possible, they would undoubtedly need all the help they could get.

Jaxcen, surprisingly, disagreed. They knew some unknown force was working to undermine the Federation’s efforts in this quadrant. If Starfleet had any chance of surviving, that conspiracy needed to be exposed. That was their mission, they had to stay the course.

Zeleny understood both positions. He felt the need for both courses of action. Ultimately his decision was based on what course could yield the greatest benefit. Sure, the fleet could use a few more officers, but how big of a difference could 3 officers make? On the other hand, knowing who their enemies were, would affect fleet policy and strategy, and allow for the fleet to make better informed decisions, and improve their chances to survive long enough to find a new way home.

And somehow, the fact that both Zeleny and Jaxcen agreed on something reassured Midori and Shakira and there was no further discussion on the subject. Zeleny wanted to give everyone something to do, to focus on, instead of dwell on the shock of what happened. He asked Shakira to trawl the subspace networks and try to find as much information about the attack as possible. Midori was to analyze that data and form a comprehensive view of the current situation. Jaxcen continued to manage the general crew.

He gave everyone something to do except himself. He tried to anticipate what they might fight at Anchorage, tried to plain their available options when they arrived. Odds were they’d find nothing at all. Then what?

“Looks like you could use one,” Zert said, drawing Zeleny out of his reverie. The ferengi held a tall, slender glass of some orange beverage out for Zeleny. Zeleny took the glass and glanced back over his shoulder where Zert had managed to succeed in getting his lounge bar partially assembled, a few of the hired crew were already taking advantage of the diversion.

“Do I even want to ask what your pricing is like?”

“Very reasonable!” Zert said baring a toothy grin. “The first one is on the house though.” The ferengi leaned in conspiratorially towards Zeleny. “Scuttlebutt says the Borg attacked the gateway.”

Zeleny nodded and took a healthy quaff of the drink. It had a mild citrus flavor and tartness with a rather strong alcoholic kick.

Zert sighed and leaned forward on the railing. “I guess that means I won’t be seeing Ferenginar again.”

“Yeah,” Zeleny said.

“Not exactly how I envisioned my life unfolding,” Zert said absently. “I came out to the Delta Quadrant to seek my fortune. Stable passage meant reliable trade, if I got here quick enough I could corner the market on an exotic good or two, build a trade empire, buy my own moon! Retire wealthy beyond my wildest dreams. And look where I am now.”

Zeleny looked askance at Zert. “What do you mean?”

The ferengi perked up. “I meant no offense! Really! I just didn’t have the lobes to make good on my plans, out of desperation I got caught up with some rather unscrupulous folks. You pulled me out of that mess, and I’d much rather be here than stuck back there.

“But even if I had succeeded, that wouldn’t have stopped this attack. My empire would have crumbled without trade with the Alpha Quadrant. And I’d still wouldn’t be able to see Ferenginar again. I actually miss the rain.” Zert was quiet for a moment. “Miss Earth?”

Zeleny took a final gulp of his drink and grimaced at the alcoholic burn. “I’m not from Earth.”

“You seem like the Earth-type,” Zert quipped then leaned in again. “It’s pretty obvious that you, Midori, and Jaxcen are former Starfleet. I don’t know what drove the lot of you to come out here and play privateer, but you’re still Starfleet in your cores. The way you carry yourselves, how you adhere to chain of command, protocol, how you always aim to disable first.” Zert pantomimed firing a phaser off into space.

Zeleny pushed the glass back into Zert’s hand, suddenly upset at the ferengi. “You have a point?”

“Only that he was just leaving,” Shakira Zidal said walking up from behind them.

Zert turned and gazed at her from head to toe and leered greedily towards her. “Leaving, when such a beautiful female has only just arrived? That would be the height of rudeness!”

Shak smiled and gently caressed the edge of Zert’s lobe with her fingers. Zert was instantly distracted by the pleasing sensations. “I really think you should be going,” she said then immediately pinched Zert’s sensitive lobe hard with a twist. Zert squealed and Shak tugged the diminutive ferengi away from Zeleny before releasing him. Zert retreated back to his bar.

“We need to do something about him,” she said finally after making sure Zert wasn’t watching her anymore. “Midori thinks he’s starting to suspect something.”

“I agree, he’s figured out I’ve had Starfleet training and experience, and trying to learn more about my past. He learns anymore and he could upset the entire crew. When this job is over we’ll let him off somewhere.”

“So,” Shak said, changing subjects, “how are you holding up?”

“Fine.”

“That’s a lie.”

“I’m fine,” he growled.

“I don’t understand how you can be so stubborn sometimes,” she said and crossed her arms. “Everyone feels loss, everyone feels that pain sometime. I don’t much care for my home or my family, and I have no love for the Federation or Starfleet, so it’s not such a terrible loss for me, but for you--

“Drop it,” Zeleny demanded. “You don’t know anything about me.”

“When I was imprisoned in that Starfleet Intelligence dungeon, trapped in the dark and stillness, cut off from all contact for days - or maybe it was weeks - at a time, all I could think about was how you betrayed me, how much that hurt, and how much I was going to pay you back before killing you.”

Zeleny chose not to defend himself, he merely remained silent and let Shakira’s train of thought play out. She had to be going somewhere with this.

“After a while, that pain was all I had to hold on to, and after that I began to give in to despair.” She began wiping at her eyes. “Sometimes I wake up at night in my quarters, alone and in the dark, and I’m convinced I’m back in that cell. It scares the hell out of me every time. They broke me, Zeleny.”

This wasn’t what Zeleny wanted to hear from one of his officers. This crew responded the strength and authority. Admission of weakness undermined his authority. Shakira Zidal was one of the strongest women Zeleny had ever met. He needed to bring Shakira around somehow. He placed a hand on her shoulder, trying to reassure her. “You’re stronger than you know,” he said. “When I came to get you out of there, you still had enough fight in you to attack me on sight. They didn’t break you.”

She continued. “Despite everything you did to me, everything I endured because of you, how much I hated you, you still came back for me. You picked me up when my strength failed and carried me. You’re both my demon and my savior.” She laughed at the absurdity. “It’s kind of ridiculous really, but you’re the closest thing I have to a friend these days. And I care what happens to you. I’m actually afraid to see you hurt.”

So that was it. Everyone of his officers on this damned ship can’t help but concern themselves with his emotional wellbeing. They couldn’t just trust him. Zeleny sighed. If they were going to continue this mission, he had to prove himself of sound mind and body. Maybe then, they could focus more on the mission and less on him.

“I was born and raised on Solarion IV,” he finally said to her. He rarely talked about this to anyone. “Small colony, one of dozens in the sector. I was off planet, University of Minos Korva. I was on the comm with my family, celebrating my graduation. My mother and brother were so proud, my father - well, he was always kind of an ass. That’s when the channel was preempted by the colonial emergency broadcast system. Shortly after I learned Solarion IV had been destroyed. My family did not survive.”

Shakira turned back towards Zeleny, brushing her hair clear of her good eye. “You’ve never told me anything about your past before.”

“I don’t talk about it because people try to be polite and sensitive and jump on the pity bandwagon. But I’m telling you so that hopefully you can understand I do feel pain and loss like everyone else. I’ve learned to process it differently. Pain and hurt and loss come from attachments to people, places, and things. I choose to leave all that behind me.”

“That’s why you’re a cruel, ruthless bastard, Zeleny Novacek.” Shakira said, she pressed her hand against his chest as if to feel his heartbeat. “But I can feel your nobility here. I felt it when you carried me out of that hellhole. Strong, steady, unyielding.”

Zeleny wrapped his hand around hers and pulled it away from his chest. Her hand was surprisingly warm and soft. He wasn’t comfortable with this level of familiarity she was showing. It wasn’t professional. It was dangerous. It was… too close.

“It’s called discipline.” He said tersely.

She withdrew her hand from his. “Liar.”

Zeleny set his jaw and fixed Shakira with a menacing glare. "We'll be arriving in the morning, I'm turning in. Good night." He turned his back on her and left the observation deck for his quarters. Keeping Shakira at arms length was becoming increasingly difficult, sooner or later she would become a liability to him and he couldn't allow that. As usual however, he would focus on the mission at hand for now.

 

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