STF

Mundai Colony - A need to get away

Posted March 2, 2021, midnight by Lieutenant Commander Max Wynter (Chief Engineer / 2nd Officer) (David Shotton)

Posted by Lieutenant Commander Max Wynter (Chief Engineer / 2nd Officer) in Mundai Colony - A need to get away

Posted by Lieutenant Jasmine Wynter (Chief Medical Officer) in Mundai Colony - A need to get away
Snip

Ella let the man knock as long as she could. She hated these community evaluations as it was termed. At first the idea was to supplement the local law officers. Then it became a partnership. Now these chats no longer dealt with helping out domestic issues or someone in trouble but to seek out people that did not walk lock step with the moral majority as the Devout liked to claim publicly.

Opening the door the man held his fist up ready to move from a knock to a pounding. “Officiant,” she let the word roll off her tongue waiting for him to supply the detail past his honorific. The title Officiant was meant not to instill fear but respect. It was so close to official but also revealed they had the power to do something more than just show up at your door. His uniform was a bizarre mix of what was reminiscent of a clergy’s black robes and an officer of some military organization. The emblem of the Authority was twisted in a was around the symbol of the devout to make a grotesque image of something conjoined that could never be separated. If you fell in step with the blather spilling from the lips of the high priest and priestess you would see this emblem as revered. If not you were someone the Authority and Devout liked to talk to

Darienqueyuel,” he responded crisply and took a step forward into the door not caring that she was in the way nor that she hadn’t invited him in. “You may get me a refreshment,” he moved into the room looking around. As he scanned the room slowly, he began to remove the leather gloves that clad his hands. “Make it something warm. There is a nip to the air,” he pulled back her curtain watching a group of people the Authority officers were leading out of the building and into the waiting vehicle.

Ella tried to remain calm. She would give the Officiant anything he wanted as long as it kept him from searching her small apartment. “I have covine and te,” she offered. “Do you have a preference?” Turning to face him with a cup in her hand Ella held her breath slightly as she watched the man open her hall closet and peer inside.

“That people would no longer participate in activities that keep me from a warm bed,” he breathed the words letting his eyes trace Ella from her face down to her bare feet. A long pause filled the air between them before he replied, “covine…please. There is no reason to hurry this.” Taking a seat in one of her chairs, he let his eyes drop to the couch. “Do you have company,” he asked Ella staring at her as she brought the coffee to him. People always had tells when they were lying. Averting their eyes when speaking, clasping their hands, covering their chest with crossed arms: Some people did all three.

Why Darienqueyuel was asking this made Ella pause. She struggled not to look at the bedroom as Ella handed the officiant a cup of covine. “Why do you ask,” she tugged at the ends of her robe’s belt-tightening it against her body. It was silly but suddenly, Ella felt a wash of coldness flood her body as the man stared at her from across the room sipping her coffee.

“Your couch pillows are not where they should be,” he gestured with the cup. As her eyes darted to the couch, the throw pillows all women seemed to collect like shoes, lay skewed on the cushions. It was a simple act, moving a pillow out from behind you when you sat down, like when Max has sat down. The pillows on the other end were on the floor, where Ella dropped them when she sat next to Max and explained life here on Mundai. Ella’s heart raced along with her thoughts. How was she to help Max if the Authority found him cowering in a closet? There was no other place in her bedroom. The apartment was sparse with few places to store things away.

Ella opened her mouth a few times trying to find the words that were escaping her. Swallowing hard, she could almost hear the pounding of her heartbeat in her own ears. If she doubted for a second that the Authority has a role in his missing wife, it had ended with the man now sitting on her couch.

Ella

The man watched Ella, her body language and the way her face twitched like she was trying to say something and couldn’t quite get the right words out. The woman was hiding something, he knew it. He had seen too many people act this way, too many people make an excuse when there was no other logical answer than yes, I have company. Pursing his lips in disappointment that he had found yet another citizen in need of re-education, he tapped his knee with his fingers and stood up.

“There is no point making excuses,” he told her and placed the cup she had given him on the table. That same hand reached into his belt and drew out a stick about a foot long. The end glowed with a sinister blue light that everybody on Mundai knew. That stick would render a person stunned but compliant with an Officiants orders. It was used to move those they took from their homes to their cars and camps without fuss or noise and was almost more feared than the Officiant themselves. “I will see this person, now.”

He took the few steps towards the door of her bedroom as if he knew every inch of her room, and in truth, he did. On Mundai the apartments were all built to the same design. This meant that the Officiants needed waste no time searching rooms and closets they had to find. Every apartment was the same design, every house made to the same pattern. The only people allowed a choice between designs were the proven Devout. All the rest lived in the same apartment or house. It made the work of an Officiant so much easier.

Pausing at the door, he looked at Ella. The pause seemed to be for dramatic effect, or maybe a silent warning that he was ready in case she wanted to cause trouble or warn the person inside the room. His thumb pushed the switch on the shaft and the blue light suddenly flared, ready to be simply pushed against the unbeliever she was hiding. His other hand touched the control and the door slid open, what he saw made him pause again but this time it was in surprise. Once again he looked at Ella, but now his eyebrow was raised in a silent question.

Ella struggled to keep her expression neutral and not an abject shock as she took in the room with Max in it. Luckily the blush rising to her cheeks fit her being embarrassed with the officiant at seeing her guest in this manner and how much she was enjoying seeing her guest in this manner. Max’s slightly disheveled hair gave him a roguish look and as compared to the perfectly coiffed officiant, and supported the idea of what extracurricular activities had just been occurring. It was hard to not take in however Max’s perfectly toned chest. Her eyes traveled slowly, ever so slowly up from the crisp white linen sheet that cut across his lower body. Ella’s mind wandered for a split second to what was below that sheet causing the slight pink to turn more crimson.

“Hey, you never said you were bringing a friend,” Max said from Ella’s bed. Rolling over he pushed himself up on one elbow, his hand under the pillow like he had been sleeping, or maybe waiting. The single sheet that was left on the bed only covered him up to his waist, his chest was bare and very clear that he was well toned and trim, but that his physique was gained through honest work and not in any gym. The sheet clung to his lower half, making it very clear that the man in Ella’s bed was not wearing pants, in fact those were half hanging off the end of her bed along with most of his other clothes and a pillow discarded half way across the room. Max’s grey green eyes searched the man in the doorway for a moment and then moved back to Ella. “He’s not your boyfriend is he, you didn’t say anything about a boyfriend.”

“No Geron,” Ella tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “As I stated during dinner I am single but…hope to not be by morning.” Flirting with Max was easy. Too easy in fact with the words in her mind spilling from her lips like water over the lip of a damn. She had an ease with the stranger lying in her bed that spoke of years together and not hours.

Despite the man standing in the doorway, a slow but very intentional smile spread across Max’s lips as his eyes locked onto Ella. His chin rose so that his head was high, clearly he had nothing to hide. Not that he could, he was naked and covered by only a light sheet anyway but that small action made the man in Ella’s bed seem far more confident and in control than a naked man in front of an officiant should have ever been if they had the slightest hint of guilt about them.

His eyes travelled obviously over Ella’s curves under her robe and he slowly let his teeth run over his bottom lip. “Good, we got off to such a good start, dinner was amazing and I have a really good feeling about the rest of the night,” he flirted back with her and sat up, leaning back so that his arms supported his weight, his knee moving wider to one side and allowing the sheet to fall between his legs further, outlining his hidden weapon beneath it. It was a shameless and brazen move on his part, drawing attention to himself far more than anyone trying to hide would.

“So you had dinner and ....dessert,” the officiant’s eyes took in every aspect of the room scanning it with an eerie proficiency. He was trained to memorize everything he saw to use as possible evidence in any proceeding that may arise.

“First course of dessert,” Max bantered lightly. “When you have a woman like Ella you savour every bite, nothing, goes to waste.”

Max looked down beside him where a pair of Ella’s underwear rested, his hand moved and picked up the delicate piece of fabric, shoving it under the sheet as if he was protecting her modesty. The hint, of course, was that under Ella’s robe there was not a pair of delicate underwear that there might have been, and that their activities prior to the man’s arrival had been of a different kind of supplication.

Lt Cmdr Wynter, CE

“Yes, Sir,” Ella pulled at the edges of her robe to enclose her body a bit more snuggly. The girlish daydream fantasy was fading with each second as the officiant stood in her bedroom.

“His name was Gerone,” the man’s voice trailed off waiting for the young woman to fill in the blank.

“Is, Gerone,” Max answered, “Officiant.”

“Summerline. Gerone Summerline,” Ella filled in without an ounce of hesitation. “He is from Otalanth. He arrived to the welcome center at about quarter to five…just before the incident. Luckily I was getting off work and left before the traitors attacked. I was so shaken at almost being killed an hour before, Gerone offered to get a drink with me. We went to Bolotto’s. I have the receipt. Do you need it?” Ella’s story was seamless. If Max hadn’t spent the night with her, he would have no reason to doubt what she said.

“No, I can make proper inquiries. I shall leave you both to finish up. I can let myself out but,” he gestured to the bed. “How about I get the light for you? I have disturbed you both long enough.”

Max’s smile grew wider as the man spoke about getting the light for them, but it was all for show. As Ella passed in front of the Officiant, his eyes flashed with wariness and uncertainty, for just a moment. It was meant only for Ella to see, and was gone before she could blink. He didn’t understand why the man didn’t just leave, but in only a few heartbeats after Ella began to move towards the bed he understood. The Officiant was playing a game of chicken with them, seeing who would flinch first. In Max’s world he would have thrown the man out on his ass a long time before this, but this wasn’t Max’s world and he had to follow Ella’s lead. In Max’s world he would of never had to play this card in this charade in the first place and he wondered what the hell Jasmine had really gotten herself into.

Like some weird consummation ceremony, Ella knew this was just a test. Slowly moving to the side of the bed, her fingers nervously worked at the knot on her robe. This man was married. What if he didn’t play along. What if he suddenly decided that this was too much? Max Wynter had already shown he was not only headstrong but also unafraid of what could happen to him here. If he understood what real life was like on Mundai, he would not have ventured out or did whatever it was to bring the Officiant to her door in the middle of the night. Dropping the robe, she was now exposed to both men wearing nothing but her long silk nightgown which clung to her curves like a second skin. Her skin dimpled in gooseflesh from nerves but this was easily covered by the chill in the room. Slowly she reached for the covers half on and off of Max.

Lt. Jasmine Wynter MO

Max looked to the man at the doorway as Ella leaned in, and his eyes moved to the light switch, a smirk and eyebrow raise indicating a thanks that Max never really felt to the man. His hand gripped the thin sheet and threw it to one side, exposing him fully in the bed but at the same time his other hand reached up to Ella, taking her outstretched hand and pulling her towards him. He pulled her so that she fell over top of him but he turned her so that she landed on her back beside him. In the same movement, Max flung the sheet over their waists to hide anything of Ella’s the man might see, and rolled so that Max was leaning over her with his hand brushing the mess of hair over her face from the movement, away so that he could look into her eyes.

Max’s fingers brushed the last strand of her hair away and his breathing was deep, but steady. He wasn’t looking back but knew the man had not yet closed the door and obviously, not turned the light off. His eyes searched Ella’s, looking for a hint that she needed him to stop or that he was going too far with the man behind them. Max had no fear about himself, if they took him he would deal with it. If they took Ella because of him, Max wouldn’t be able to live with himself.

The time seemed to move into slow motion as he looked down at her, seeming to lose himself in her eyes as she looked back at him. Still the light didn’t turn off. Max let his fingers slide lightly from her cheek to the strap of her nightgown at her shoulder, a thin strap of material which slid smoothly between his fingers, and he slid it to one side off her shoulder at the same time as he let his head drop and his lips brushed Ella’s.

The light turned off. Max heard the door close behind them but he didn’t pull his lips away from hers. Her lips were soft, gentle but he felt her breathe escaping between them and his hand moved down her side to her thigh, under her knee and he lifted her leg so that it covered his waist as he let his lips slip down her jaw to her shoulder. He couldn’t explain why he did it, but something inside him told him not to stop.

The door behind them opened once more, the man was back. Now Max did lift his head after a moment, letting the man at the door see they had not stopped their activity after the door had been closed and the lights gone out, and he looked back at the Officiant with a clear question on his face. The man was studying them, his eyes looking for details that things should not be as they seemed. “I am going to leave my card on your table,” the Officiant told them finally. “I may have more questions tomorrow, about the attack, and about your movements and people you saw tonight. I will lock the door behind me.” The door clicked shut again, and Max looked down at Ella in the half light thrown by the window and night sky outside. Sweat had formed between them where they touched, his heart was beating hard and she was warm and soft against him.

His hand gently brushed her cheek, and he lowered himself so that his head was beside hers but they could look at each other. He made no move to separate himself from her, he didn’t trust that the man had truly gone and if he was honest with himself, the contact with her was something of a release of the tension and stress he felt of the last few days.

Lt Cmdr Wynter, CE

Somewhere in Mundai

Jasmine stood at the sink letting the water slip through her fingers. It was as if she were a statue. Time seemed to slow and drag almost to a standstill. Her body might still be locked away in the recesses of a laboratory deep underground but her mind was somewhere else.

Images of Max and the sound of his voice was the only thing she could hold onto here. Nothing was familiar or friendly. “You are going to get out of this. Stay safe. I’m coming for you,” Max said as his hands slipped through her hair pulling her face to his. The kiss was long and deep letting Jasmine focus on him ignoring all her surroundings. Everything she had done was for mine purpose: to find him and return to the life she created in the Manhattan that was safe and secure.

How long had it been since she had spoken to him. Days? Weeks? It could not have been a month. That time span she would know. A loud bang pulled her from her day dream. Opening her eyes she realized she had imagined it all. His voice and touch were just wisps of an active imagination. Turning off the water, Jasmine wiped the back of her hands on her pants. The action did not dry them but simply pulled the large drips of water from the surface.

Moving to her small cot, she slipped beneath the covers not even undressing. There was no point. Operations occurred when they were needed. There was no rhyme or reason. She had no choice. Do them or the patient died. Rag only cared about the bottom line. She was too expensive to harm but people were expendable. Closing her eyes as she laid her head in the pillow her lashes began to grow wet. This wasn’t the first night nor would it be the last where she woke to wet cheeks and damp hair from crying herself to sleep.

Rag had threatened her a few days back that there would be consequences if she tried to ruin his enterprise. Jasmine foolishly thought it was a bluff. What more could he do to her? She had seen the cloned form of her body. It did not take a genius to know that a few cells from her cheek created the husk the galaxy would accept as her body in whatever form Rag delivered to it. What was unexpected was how Rag retaliated when Jasmine refused to perform another organ harvest.

Pressing the heels of her palms hard into her eye sockets to ebb the flow of her tears did not however wipe the memory from her mind. Even with her eyes tightly closed, she still witnessed in her mind the consequences of her actions.

Taking a shaky breath, Jasmine forced herself to calm down. Falling into hysterics here would only cost more loved. Removing her hands from her face, Jasmine saw a single drop of blood she had missed when she tried to wipe away the evidence of the night. She had never killed someone before yet the quote rang true that the needs of the me at out weighed the needs of the few… or the one.

As she closed her eyes and tried to focus on Max and any part of him she could find in her mind, the events of the past hour fought for prominence. The plan had been simple. She would ask to check in the patients sprawled out in the main floor of the gym like space below the illicit surgical center. That part had been easy. Any viral threat could wipe out all of the Ferengis investments.

As she was escorted to the main floor by the pair of guards assigned to her a fight broke out. It was then she realized the guard still standing after attacking his partner was her contact. Hesitantly she followed her new founds friend advice on the ride in the turbo. The guard did not stop on the level she needed but one higher. As the doors of the turbo slid back, Jasmine saw a small room which after being married to the CE she really recognized as a communications office

The comm off was small and very sparsely decorated but jasmine was not here for a renovation. She was here to get a message out to Max.

Shoving the chair out of the way, it bounced against the wall as Jasmine began to try and bring up any program that looked familiar. She had to find a way to get a message out. There was no way she was going to make it far with a physical escape yet there might be a way for an electronic one. On the Manhattan all communications were monitored by the crew preventing what she was about to do however, there was one type of communication the Manhattan didn’t monitor: Gaggle. There was no way the ship could monitor the sheer quantities of Gaggle accounts but since it was a private civilian program if anyone on the Manhattan had a desire to spy a first-year cadet could do it with their eyes closed given the Manny’s equipment. Jasmine hoped this place was the same.

Tapping several buttons a variety of windows began to open. Jasmine had no idea what any of them were. The symbols were not familiar so this was taking far more time to find a program she was hunting for than she had. Doubt began to creep into her belly as she debated if she had made the wrong decision about trying to get a message out instead of trying to physically escape. “Come on,” she yelled hitting the screen with the palm of her hand. Her yell was greeted by a banging on the door to her room. Jasmine didn’t need to hear the muffled voices clearly to understand that whatever they were talking about was bad for her.

Looking back at the comm a sense of relief flooded her. She had no idea what the program was, but she had seen enough communication programs to know how to work this one. Furiously typing, Jasmine beat out the keys trying to get a message out.

To: Lt.Commander Wynter,Maxwell@Starfleet.fed
From: Barton, Rhett@galacom.mundai.gov.

Max I don’t know where I

The message was never finished as hand wrapped around her waist pulling her away for the console. Struggling, she was only able to do not thing before the ripped her from the room. Clawing at the screen, she pressed send hoping her message would find its way to Max.

Lt jasmine Wynter. Cmo

It was morning, and Max stood at the window of Ella’s apartment looking out through the half pulled curtains of the days early light. Wearing only his trousers, the day was already warm and the slightly opened window allowed for the gentle breeze to goosebump his skin as he sat and watched the street, coffee in hand. Ella was still sleeping in her room, but Max had made enough of the coffee type drink, or what seemed to pass for it here, so that when she woke she would have a fresh cup waiting for her.

Mundai was becoming complicated, things Max had never accounted for were raising their head and creating obstacles to his finding Jasmine. He was frustrated, absolutely but largely he was feeling helpless. He had learned enough of what was happening on Mundai by now to make an educated guess that somehow, Jasmine was being held and put to work for whatever skills they needed from her. Why it was Jasmine, and not a doctor that was local and willing Max couldn’t guess. The thought that Jasmine might herself be a willing participant had gone through his mind, but he pushed it aside. Thinking about it too much was only going to create bitterness that wouldn’t help Max find her.

There was a trail and Max was going to break it down and find her, before these Mundai authorities found out what he was trying to do. He was no super spy, no secret agent. This wasn’t going to be a fairytale story of gadgets, secret rooms and suave one liners, but Max could set any number of Mundai power stations and transmitters to self destruct if things didn’t go his way. He would make Mundai burn if they hurt a hair on Jasmines head, the words Wynter is Coming would go down as a phrase that would strike fear into the heart of any Mundainian for generations if they kept him from her much longer.

Sipping his drink, he let the breeze drift over him and let the smell of the planet soak into him. Turning his head slightly, he looked over the console that Ella had in her home, and his eyes moved back to her bedroom door. She would be stirring soon, and Max was going to have to decide on his next steps.

Lt Cmdr Wynter, CE

A faint rustling sound could be heard from the bedroom as Ella woke. As her eyes adjusted to the light her hand reached out to the other side of the bed looking for its occupant. The area was cool to the touch and the covers were pulled up indicating whoever had been sleeping there was gone.

As she opened her eyes, Ella saw not only was Max gone but the bed on his side was made. She tried not to feel sad. Max was not hers. The fact he had even been in her bed was a fluke. He was too much the gentleman to participate in the thoughts swirling about her mind. Guilt tugged at her core slightly as Ella let her mind drift to private thoughts. Why did the ones she was attracted to have to belong to someone else?

For a long time, Ella pondered why every man she had an interest in was taken. Her governmental assigned therapist had said it was because this man was safe. The taken man could not break her heart. The married man would not leave his wife for her. Ella agreed to an extent these reasons were valid but she knew the truth. It was because they were kind. Men like Max didn’t put on airs or try to get from first to home in six even steps. The look their time because they had already found dddfcdloved the woman they wa.

Translated.....(found dddfcdloved the woman they wa. ) -= the woman they loved. And yes the phone tumbled from my hand.

=======
To: Lt.Commander Wynter,Maxwell@Starfleet.fed
From: Barton, Rhett@galacom.mundai.gov.

Max I don’t know where I

Lt. Jasmine Wynter CMO

OOC: Did you, uh, fall asleep posting again huh! Haha!

IC: The console pinged as his email that he had signed into recieved a message, and he blinked as he watched the address pop up on screen, pausing as his drink was half touching his lips. Frowning, he reached out to open the message. Why was a Mundai government worker emailing him?

The message popped up and he frowned again. Max I don’t know where I sat on the screen as his eyes tried to make sense of it. He didn’t know any Rhett Barton, much less as to why one would email him that he didn’t know where he was and cut off half way..... Max spat out his coffee. It covered the console and dripped from the screen as realization struck him like back alley thug on the back of the neck.

“Galacom, Rhett Barton. I’m going to find you and you are going to do some talking,” Max said in a tone that was hot enough to dry the coffee covering the console. Hitting delete on the message so that it wouldn’t be found by anyone checking Ella’s system, he switched off the device and sprang from his chair, still shirtless, and ran to Ella’s room. Throwing the door open he rushed inside seeing Ella was awake and moving to the bed to sit beside her. “Hey, good morning,” he said softly, but with a tone of urgency even while he smiled at her. She was beautiful, he couldn’t understand how a woman like Ella was waking up alone without someone to hold her in their arms. If Max hadn’t been with Jasmine, Ella would have been someone he could see himself spending a lot of time with.

“Good morning,” Ella sat up tucking the covers under her arms. Max no longer spoke but reached forward with his hands placing them firmly behind her head, pulling her close. Ella closed her eyes melting back into the soft sheets. She had wanted this moment since the second she had met Max. His easy smile along with the way he looked at her made Ella trust him implicitly. Leaning her head back, she felt the weight of his body pressing down next to her. It was too early to utter intimate words. They barely knew each other yet there were words that could be used. Need, want, yes, more, and don’t stop were permissible in this moment given the parameters of the situation. Clearing her mind, Ella imagined other words, future words that would come from Max’s mouth. His hands found all the places that needed to be explored causing Ella to moan, inhale sharply, and hold her breath.

The moments dragged on as they forgot about everyone but themselves. The way her fingertips traced the curves of his back and his lips found hers spoke of a familiarity that spanned years and not hours. Max, she spoke his name in a heady whisper encircling his bicep with her hand. Max. Her voice held more urgency as he pressure on his arm increased. Max! it reached a crescendo filling the room.

“I made coffee,” Max said, hoping it would help spur her out of her sleepy, dream like state.

Snapping out of her daydream, Ella returned Max’s smile. Her brief foray into her imagination had been steamy and way too easy. As much as she wished the moment above had happened, Max was here in her apartment only to find his wife. She needed to get her mind on something else. “Hello. Oh you found the coffee? I can make you something for breakfast if you want. I wasn’t expecting company but I know I got enough eggs and,”

“I got a message from Jasmine, in my extra-net mail,” he explained. “She sent it from someone’s email address in the Mundai Government, but it cut off half way and it looks like they found her mid message. Ella I need to find someone called Rhett Barton, from Galacom, and I need you to come with me. If they tracked that email it isn’t safe for you here, they will be coming. We’re going to be safer together, you know Mundai and I am not without resources. I need you.”

Lt Cmdr Max Wynter, CE

“Of course. Let me get dressed. You should too,” she nodded to his shirt still lying half on and half of the chair. The smile was the only thing that was getting her through the moment. Ella debated if she could get a cold shower before they started the day but odds were she wasn’t going to be able to. A loud pounding echoed through the room from her front door. Her eyes grew large as she sprung from the bed. “The officiant is back,” her voice was calm but tense. “Get dressed. Go sit at the table.”

“What? Why the heck is he back?” Max said, but the question wasn’t really meant to be answered. Standing, he grabbed his shirt and began to pull it on. Out of the two of them he already looked far more awake and had already ‘washed’ earlier while making coffee, but without a shirt on that hardly mattered.

Not caring about explaining more, Ella flew from the bed throwing on pants, a shirt, and running her fingers through her hair to make herself as presentable as possible. Glancing once over her shoulder she checked on Max before exiting the bedroom.

Following her out, Max walked straight to the table and slid into a chair, striking a relaxed pose an instant before Ella opened the door.

The pounding continued as Ella made her way across the living room to the door. She didn’t check to make sure Max was ready. Ella knew he would be. Opening the door, her face changed seeing who was behind it.

“Stanton.” Ella looked back at Max with a surprised look on her face before quickly ushering the man into the room.

“What are you doing,” he looked at her with disbelief before settling his gaze on Max. There was a protectiveness only a man would notice in Stanton’s eyes as they settled on Max.

“What I needed to,” she said rapidly allowing the man to enter. Quickly looking out into the hall before she pulled her head back in Ella took a deep breath. “You shouldn’t have come. They swept the building last night. I am not sure who they took.” Seeing Max at the table, clearly set Ella on edge. “You should have called first.”

Stanton stared at Max glaring at him as if he wanted to tear the man apart. Long slow seconds passed like dead air in a vacuum with no one in the trio speaking.

Max returned the look, cold and judging. If Stanton’s look held a protective glare for Ella then Max’s eyes held no less of a protective focus. They may well have been for different reasons, but Ella’s safety was Max’s responsibility and if this Stanton was so protective, where had he been when she needed him? The thought flashed through Max’s mind, followed by suspicion. Was it too close on the tail of the officiant to be a coincidence?

“I think we are going to need some coffee for that story,” she looked down the hall once both ways before closing and locking it. Ella made her way to the kitchen as Stanton moved towards Max. His posture wasn’t threatening but it also wasn’t friendly.

Ella

“Friend of yours Ella?” Max asked casually. He didn’t stop his relaxed posture, but his wiry frame was tensed enough to spring into action in an instant if this man was to try anything. His eyes hadn’t moved away from him, his look hadn’t changed, but Max had already noted every object in the room that could be used in an emergency. With Jasmine missing, Max was beginning to see why Ella seemed to fear almost everyone on this planet. There were layers of mistrust and betrayal, lies and self serving people out for themselves. Someone like Ella had far too much of a good heart to survive long in this world, but survive she had.

Lt Cmdr Wynter, CE

“I would have called if you answered your communicator,” Stanton fired off angrily grabbing a purse in a chair and rapidly going through it. Tossing the items out at first, Stanton resorted to dumping the contents out in the chair before finding it bounce on a cushion. “Dammit Ella,” he threw the phone at her.

Ella jumped and let out a small yelp as the device bounced off her. Her hand clutched the mug not wanting to drop it and add to the mess. She knew Stanton was going to be livid but not this mad.

“How stupid are you? You were carrying it? On your person?” The anger in the man’s voice was laced every word. As the communicator shattered on the floor, bits of glass and plastic splayed everywhere. Stanton stood glaring at her waiting for whatever lame response she was going to give. It was a mistake ever involving her. She was not only going to get someone killed but also herself.

The sound of a chair being pushed back scraped over the floor, breaking the momentary silence as Max came to his feet and took a step towards the man. “Check your mouth before I check it for you.” The words came out of Max like a low growl, a sound that Ella wouldn’t have heard before. The sound that wouldn’t, shouldn’t be associated with a Starfleet Officer. Mintaran men might take their wives names in marriage, but a person should never insult or threaten a woman close to a Mintaran man without understanding a simple cultural quirk. The Mintaran man would tear the threat limb from limb. Max’s wiry frame was now visibly tensed, like a coiled spring. Before his posture was relaxed, if wary. Now, the wiry engineer looked like he could take down a bear with bare hands.

Glancing at Max, Stanton pointed a finger at him. “Sit down buddy. I am warning you. This is between Ella and I.”

“Not anymore,” Max growled back, and took another step towards Stanton.

Seeing Max stand up, Ella moved between the two men tiptoeing over the shards of communicator littering the ground like a minefield between them. Looking up at Max she put a hand on his chest. “Max....Max give me a few minutes to explain why Stanton is so mad?” Why she was so worried about Max had Ella on edge. She had only known the man for less than twenty-four hours but somehow she felt attached to him.

“Why Stanton is mad,” her friend stated in disbelief moving into the living area ripping the hat off his head. “I can answer that. Stanton,” he used the third person sarcastically, “is mad because you brought a man home that is going to get the entire network arrested and placed before a firing squad.”

Watching him walk into the living area, Max stayed where he stood with Ella’s hand on his chest. He hadn’t relaxed at all, but he had listened to Ella, responded to her touch. Ella wasn’t his wife, but the woman who had risked her life for him clearly meant something to the Mintaran.

“He needed help,” Ella snapped jumping to Max’s defense. “And we do this all the time. It is why we do it.”

“Do what, exactly?” Max said with a frown. This part of the conversation had taken an unexpected turn.

“But not to someone as stupid as leaving a message they are going to trace back to our people. When you were sleeping he sent a message. I need to get you out,” Stanton said to Ella. “You…” he looked at Max…”you are on your own.”

Jasmine Wynter CMO

“Of course I sent a message,” Max replied, looking at both Stanton and Ella in turn. “My ship, the Manhattan, recovered the remains of my wife from a destroyed shuttlecraft. Remains that perfectly matched her DNA and medical profiles. I had to confirm that it wasn’t her, because I saw her get beamed away with my own eyes with technology that a simple fake shuttle explosion won’t cover.”

“The body they recovered was a clone,” Max revealed, “It wasn’t Jasmine. Someone went to great lengths, using medical Technology illegal in the Federation, to make it look like Jasmine was dead. Now who would have that technology? Why would the trace on this lead here to Mundai?” Max held up the weapon that had been used to shoot Jasmine… “A Transporter Energy Marker, was used to abduct a skilled and qualified doctor in this region of space, only to pretend to Starfleet that she was then dead, using advanced medical technology?” He glared at them both, but turned his full attention to Stanton.

“You talk about some kind of network,” Max spat at the man, and took a step forward past Ella’s hand holding him back, “but you haven’t done a damn thing.”

“You want to protect Ella?” Max laughed in the mans face, “How? She would have been taken at the space port if it wasn’t for me! Crushed underfoot or abducted, killed in whatever the hell that attack was! Where were you? Where was your concern and protection for her then? Did you care about her?”

“No you were nowhere to be seen. It was me that took her to safety, when your pointless, toothless network did nothing. She’s not stepping a foot outside that door with you when you have already failed to protect her.” Max’s voice had moved from the accusing tone to a protective growl now. “Ella is going to stay with me, where I know she will be safe and you,” Max’s wrist flicked to the side, emphazising that he was still holding the weapon, albeit pointed at the ground, “are going to tell me who on this forsaken world has the medical knowledge and ability to create perfect clones of people, including their internal organs, and where I can find them so I can rescue my wife. Your network better be useful for something, at least.”

Lt Cmdr Wynter, CE

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