STF

Mundai Colony - A need to get away

Posted Sept. 30, 2022, 6:09 a.m. 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 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
Posted by… suppressed (1) by the Post Ghost! 👻
Snip

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.”

Ella and Stanton exchanged a silent glance between them. They weren’t covert about the exchange between them yet it seemed to slightly diffuse the tension in Stanton. “So how do you know she is not dead,” the man asked Max simply. “If you said they had a body....”. Stanton let his voice trail off. Ella was right and maybe had just done more for their organization than she realized. People here did not care about those they did not see or deemed unworthy. Taking this off worlders wife and a Federation officer at that, might cause more problems than the government would want. The flip side was the government might just kill this guys wife to cover things up.

“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.”

“Of course we haven’t done a damn thing according to you because you are only concerned with one person. We,” Stanton snarled back, “are concerned with the good of the whole. You would just storm in, safe your wife, and roll back out damning everyone you left behind including Ella.” Pulling his knit hat off his head, the man yanked at it clearly trying to expel his anger on the fabric instead of Max. “I get it. You love your wife but are you willing to sacrifice Ella for your wife. Do you care about protecting her or is that just me.”

“You want to protect Ella?” Max laughed in the man’s 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, emphasizing 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

“You buying all this,” Stanton turned his attention to Ella completely ignoring Max. There was a familiarity in his stare at Ella, a past history. Whether this past history was good, bad, or reciprocal was unclear and hard to interpret.

Ella shifted her feet to buy time. Both Max and Stanton would want a reply to Stanton’s question. If she agreed with Max, Ella had no idea how Stanton would react. If she sided with Stanton, the only result would be to throw Max out and on his own. Neither response would solve the situation they were currently in.

A heavy pounding on the door gave Ella the escape she needed from the conversation. “Miss Rogan.” The pounding on the door was supposed to be akin to a knock only it has harder, insistent, and with hostile intent. “Ella Rogan it is Officiant Darienqueyuel. You are to open your door for spiritual inspection.”

“Oh you’ll get to inspect something Spiritually alright,” Max muttered, raising the Phaser slightly and looking at the door. “Times up Stanton. No more hiding in shadows pretending to be worried about the good of the whole. This place is rotten. I’m going to find my wife and find out what is going on here, I’m going to protect Ella, and then I am going to bring a goddamn Federation fleet in and wipe out the rot. Now, what is the fastest way out?”

=============
Medical facility
=============

“He is not part of this,” Jasmine yelled looking at the man strapped to the table. She strained at the two arms holding her in a seated position as she looked down from the observation platform high about the operating room.

In the center of the room, a man was lying on the cold hard slab of metal. It was clear why he was laying there which added to the terror and tension in the space. His eyes were wide with fear and held the look of a cage animal. The only movement to show the desperation in the man’s body was the splaying of his fingers in his hands as if he was trying to fight his way out of the situation. The rest of his body was held down by thick straps placed carefully to allow access to certain body parts. A muffled scream continued to erupt over and over in the room attempting to drown out all other conversations formed from the gag in the man’s mouth.

“And yet you had his electronic correspondence codes. “Max I do not know where I,” Rag screamed in her face making Jasmine close her eyes. The hot stink of the Fernengi’s breath enveloped her in a fog choking her ability to breathe. “When did Barton help you? When did you two plot to undermine my ability to earn a living.” The anger in the Ferengi’s voice rose above the cries of the man on the table below.

“I do not know Barton,” Jasmine yelled back feeling her throat burn as the force of the words left her mouth. “The computer was unlocked. I sent a message.” Her eyes held a wild look just like the man on the table below her.

“A message that could have cost me my business. Stole the food from my children’s mouths....the roof from the head....the clothes off their back…” A loud crack filled the room as Rag sharply backhanded Jasmine across the cheek. A burning sensation filled her lip as the Ferengi’s hand left a mark on her cheek. “How can you steal from children. You are a selfish…selfish hooman. Now you will be taught a lesson to never do it again. Fortunately for you…you will survive our little discussion however talk is loss of profits.. He will pay for the profits I lost this morning with his own flesh and blood.” A loud scream echoed in the room. Jasmine closed her eyes and tried to block out the events around her by focusing on one thought. Barton may be losing his life and she might be the cause but a message did get out. Max had to have found it. She had to think about how Max was on his way to save her from this hell.

At the table beside Barton, Cade clenched his jaw and tightened his fist. There was no reason for what was happening on the table to be happening, only to fill the Ferengi’s need for power and authority, and to fill that sadistic anger. Barton had tried to help and was paying for it not just with his life, but the wild expression in the man’s eyes told of a pain touching the man’s soul. Mundai may trade in harvested organs from his species, who could grow and regrow them and were medically compatible with many species, but Barton was Human. His organs were going to be basically worthless unless Rag had an immediate and ready buyer. Picking up the hypo while Rag was distracted with the backhand on Jasmine, Cade looked at the man and pressed the buttons that would increase the dosage. Nobody would be surprised that a sudden heart attack would kill the man quickly despite Rag’s efforts to keep him alive.

===============
Ella’s apartment
===============
“The roof,” Stanton said looking at Max. The apartment was small with only a small balcony on the front. It would take both of them to help Ella scale the distance between each floor but that was the only option they had. Moving to the window, Stanton yanked down the curtains. There was only one way out of the apartment. There was no purpose to hiding their escape route.

“You lead, I’ll follow.” Max told him looking back as the pounding on the door continued.

Throwing open the door, the wind rushed in from the small three-foot by three-foot Juliet balcony. Hoping up on the rail, Stanton grabbed the bottom rung of the balcony above him pulling himself up. The pounding on the door gave the trio a sense of urgency.

“Max,” a hand emerged from the balcony above reaching down. “Help me with her.”

Jasmine Wynter CMO

OOC: Sorry for the wait, RL bites

IC: “Come here,” Max said to Ella. “Get out of here and I’ll be right behind you. I need to do something.”

“Promise,” she stopped looking into Max’s eyes. There was a hard almost unsettling edge to his stare and yet deeper in that was a look at made you feel like nothing in the world could hurt you when Max was around. The look he gave her now was the same one he gave her back on the landing platform. Max was holding something back just under the surface.

“Of course I do,” he told her softly, putting his hand on her shoulder gently. Max was a married man but he would have been lying to himself if he denied he felt something for Ella. She had helped him when others hadn’t dared. Risked herself for him and was going to keep risking herself. He had to find Jasmine, and quickly, and get her off this forsaken world, but he had to keep Ella safe at the same time and make sure she stayed safe. That was a problem he was going to have to solve when he got to that point and he didn’t trust this Stanton enough.

“Ella move it. I am not going to just sit here and get caught,” Stanton screamed from outside the window. The pounding on the door and the urgency in Stanton’s voice increased Ella’s fear and trepidation ten fold.

Taking her hand, he led her to the window and looked up at Stanton for a moment, then pulled back in and looked at Ella. “Can you trust him? People like him would turn you in to save themselves, for the good of the people. Tell me, can you trust him?”

“Yes,” she said firmly. “At least to get us to safety.”

“Go,” Max said, and knelt down, cupping his hand to let Ella place her foot in there to boost her up to Stanton.

“You promise your right behind us,” she pressed the point pausing with her hand on Max’s shoulder before stepping up to grab Stanton’s outstretched hand.

“Right behind you, I’ll only be a moment. I promise.” Once Stanton had her and had helped her up, Max turned back to the door. Leaving the window open, he gritted his teeth and started walking towards it.

The pounding on the door stopped for a moment, and a sudden thump announced a boot was now knocking on the door. A second thump led to the door being kicked inwards and the Officiant stepped through, followed by two other men wearing the same clothes. “Ella Rogan! Surrender yourself for Spiritual inspection!” Darienqueyuel demanded as he walked towards the woman standing beside the window, the two men spreading out to either side of him, eyes locked on the woman.

“What for?” Ella said to them, taking a step back and looking scared. “For harb.......” Darienqueyuel started to say, but the door behind them had already begun to swing shut, revealing Max who had been standing behind it when it opened. The Phaser fired three times in quick succession, and the three men collapsed to the ground.

“Oh my god! You shot them!” Ella said to Max in shock. “You savage! That was a little extreme don’t you think?”

“No,” Max said simply, placing the Phaser in his belt and kicking Darienqueyuel over onto his back, kneeling down and searching the man’s tunic as he glanced up at Ella, who transformed back into the holographic image of Bob. “They are only stunned, we will be long gone when they wake up but I need this.” Max took out the man’s communicator and and identification chip. It took about ten seconds for Max to remove the tracking device inside it, then he was on his feet and heading to the window. “You have issues! we need to talk about this!” Bob called after him, then placed his hands on his hips and faded away.

Jumping up to the ledge above, Max began to climb up to where Stanton and Ella were.

Max Wynter, CE

“Ella they are not stupid. There is only one way out. You heard the shots. We have to go now,” Stanton yelled grabbing Ella by the elbow. A flicker of sadness flashed in Stanton’s mind over Max but the Authority did not miss when it aimed its gun at you

“We Can not leave him,” She pulled back on her elbow trying to free herself.

“Ella we have about ten seconds to jumó to the next roof and make our way to the safe house before the Authority locks down this building, then the block. You know the drill. He is gone. Is he worth dying over?”

“He is not dead,” Ella said with a pure conviction in her tone.

“And I can’t take losing you or having us fall into the Officiant’s hand. Think Ella…think,” Stanton moved in from of her. “Look I know you are just trying to make a difference but so are a lot of other people. We can’t just lay everything on the line for one man and one woman. We haven’t in the past and we can’t now.” His tone was softer as if trying to make her understand what was at stake. This route was much more gentle compared to the path that led her and him to the confession rooms. No one came out of the confession rooms which was why Stanton had the resolve to do whatever it took to make sure he nor Ella ended up in one.

“Hey, you want to keep your voice down a little? I thought we were trying to be inconspicuous,” came the sound of Max’s voice from where moments ago both Stanton and Ella had climbed up from the railing. It didn’t sound admonishing or serious however being directed at Stanton’s raised voice, it sounded like it had more of a teasing tone to it.

As if on cue, Max’s head appeared over the ledge of the building roof. Stanton did not waste a second running over to help hoist the man up. It was not that Stanton thought Max needed help but more every second right now counted and they needed every second. The sound of a shrill high pitched siren erupted in the alley below as officiant’s began pouring out of the building and spreading out on the streets.

“You really tee’ed them off didn’t you,” Stanton slapped Max on his back in the closest thing to friendly since the two had met. “I’d love to hear how but we need to go now.” Taking off at a full sprint over the roof tops, Stanton led the way for Max and Ella to follow dodging various pipes and poles from the apartments below creating an almost jungle gym effect. Stopping at an access panel, Stanton slammed two o the corners with his fist popping it off. Below was a long dark chute. “In you go,” he said to Ella holding out his hand. When you get to the bottom go right and then left. The others should be there,” he said.

Ella nodded and crawled into the chute letting it take her down the narrow spaces between the floors and apartments of the building. “Air in take chutes. What engineer ever thought that it would be intaking us instead of air when they build it,” Stanton shrugged off the comment before climbing in after Ella. The strong engineer would follow or not. Either way, Stanton had gotten Ella out and that was all he cared about.

Jasmine Wynter

Placing a hand on Stanton’s shoulder to stop him dropping down straight away behind Ella, Max tilted his head towards an imaginary point below them. “Who are these people waiting? Isn’t disappearing going to be more difficult in a larger group with this place being locked down?”

Stanton looked at Max and let out a deep breath scanning the surroundings. While there had been tension between the two men at the onset of their introductions, Stanton trusted Max far more than he showed. “We have friends.” He wanted to tell the officer more but right now they did not have the time. Whatever Max had done did not last long as the officiants began climbing out of the window the three exited early on the pursuit for the occupants of the apartment. “I will explain everything… just after.” Moving to the chute, Stanton slid down the pipe knowing at least the first part of thier escape plan was successful.

==================
Secret medical facility
==================

Jasmine placed a hand over Barton’s and squeezed it softly. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. Her actions caused the death of this man. Years ago in an ethics class they debated on the concept of innocence. By the very definition, this man was innocent. He had not knowingly aided her. He did not deserve to die but did that make him truly innocent? Barton worked in the communications area of the medical facility. He could not feign that he was ignorant of the suffering that when on here. The smell of disinfectant and the muffled, echoes of screams gave the building a haunted feel even though on his level it was white, pristine, and looked like a hospital. Barton was the one who tried to stop her from sending the message. While he might not be involved in the daily death of this place, his turning a blind eye and taking a paycheck from them was almost as morally bad. Jasmine would not mourn Barton but she did spare him a moment of compassion thinking of those that did love him and how it would feel for them to know he wasn’t coming back.

“Max where are you baby,” she whispered in a low tone as she released Barton’s hand to pull the sheet over the empty husk of a body.

“On the roof. Oh my god I found you,” a familiar voice rang out as it patted its body with a stunned expression. To Cade in the corner of the room, the immediate arrival of someone out of the blue acting as shocked at he did caused a flurry of anxiety to wash over him.

“Bob,” Jasmine yelled crossing the room in two steps to embrace the man. “How..howw are you here,” she asked feeling a million more questions pop up. She knew Bob could show anywhere due to the EMH beacon on her wrist. The surprise war that it had taken him so long. Quickly releasing him, Jasmine took a step back. “Where is Max? Is he here?”

“Well I could answer that if I knew where here was,” Bob flickered slightly. “I can’t get a solid link which means we are just outside the 20 mile radius my device works but at least we found you?” He shrugged taking a minute to look around. Bob knew how Max would react. After hearing Jasmine was safe, he would want details about the location. Since Bob was just the EMH, the knobs and levers held no value to him but maybe it would to Max. “What can you tell me about where here is?”

“I don’t know where I am. I think I am underground or at least in a warehouse or bunker. I woke up here and, “Jasmine felt her throat tighten and her eyes begin to fill. “I want to go home. Tell Max I am sorry,” she felt the first tear slide down her cheek. There was a sense of relief and euphoria knowing he didn’t buy the story her captors tried to sell. “I am so soo sorry he had to go…through,” her voice caught in her throat and Jasmine ran the back of her hand under her nose as the tears fell more freely.

“Hey, hey,” Bob pulled her in for an embrace. “It is okay. You just need to know we are on our way.” Several long seconds later, Bob began to flicker.

Jasmine Wynter

Cade pushed himself to his feet and walked over to where Jasmine and the flickering Bob were standing. His mouth open in a clear sign that he had no idea what was going on or where this man had come from, he nevertheless had heard the two of them talking. “You are with her husband?” Cade asked him, blinking as the flickering began to happen more frequently.

“All the time,” Bob said, then appeared to check his nails for imperfections. “You could say, we are joined at the hip. Or wrist, to get technical but who cares about details, right?”

“Her husband does, or he wouldn’t still be looking for her after the clone.” Cade answered and looked at the door worriedly. The sound of doors closing beyond it and footsteps down the cold sterile hall behind the door could be heard. “Look you need to go. Tell him to look for the University of the Faithful. There is a medical research lab under it, or what they call the medical research lab. It’s guarded....”

Cade never had time to finish his sentence before Bob flickered heavily, then seemed to lose cohesion and disappear completely.

“Bob…Bob,” Jasmine moved forward to the spot that once held the hologram as if it would suddenly make the man appear.

Looking at Jasmine, Cade stepped closer to her and put his and on her shoulder. “He is coming, stay strong. If he has tracked you this far, he will find you.” Cade didn’t add that he doubted the man would survive getting into the University. It was heavily guarded and along with Rag’s mercenaries, the government had their own interest in protecting their investments. Cade’s own wife was alive because of Jasmine though, and as much as he hoped the woman would get rescued from this hell he doubted his wife would survive for long without her. He was very much torn between helping Jasmine and making sure his wife stayed alive, but what sort of life was this for any of them?

Just then, the door to the room was flung open and the intimidating but diminutive presence of Rag half filled the doorway. “I heard voices,” he admonished them, “that means your work harvesting this man’s organs must be done, right? No time for talk, time is money!” Stepping into the room he looked at the two of them and clapped his hands. “There is work to be done! The next batch of donors is about to arrive. Get that rubbish out of the way and make room,” he said pointing at Barton’s corpse, then turning his leering grin on Jasmine.

Seeing Bob and knowing Max was on the way did more to Jasmine’s mood than Rag could realize. The Jasmine from two hours ago no longer existed. She had never doubted Max but knowing he was as close to finding her as he was spurned a side of her Jasmine didn’t realize she had. Moving towards Barton’s body, she picked up a surgical scapel. The leering grin on Rag’s face was about to disappear.

“Bring the hooman,” Rag snapped directing one of his mercs to approach Jasmine from behind. While the Ferengi controlled the situation, he relied too much on predictable patterns and routines. Jasmine let the man wrap his arm around her bicep and tug her slightly to get her moving as his boss directed. As usual, Jasmine complied walking towards the door only this time she did not go quietly even if it did appear to be willingly.

“So we are receiving requests for more kidneys. If we are able to harvest twenty percent more, the Ministry of Health has projected that they can eliminate over fifty-nine percent of new renal complications. It will save them millions of credits and are willing to cut you into a portion of the profits they will make over the agreed upon,” the assistant to Rag chattered away giving Jasmine the perfect opportunity to act and the perfect target.

Being a surgeon, Jasmine knew exactly where and how far to act. Fisting the scalpel, she turned and plunged it into the Ferengi’s side. The area of the body was devoid of bone which allowed the scalpel to sink almost effortlessly into the skin, tissue, and finally soft brown organ. The shrill sound of Rag’s scream erupted throughout the space as the Ferengi dropped to his knees with the scalpel still buried in his lower back. Looking at the man lying on the ground with the dark pool of blood slowly spreading across this back, soaking his clothes, Jasmine knelt down. “Kidney pain is the worst. Makes you feel like you are going to huh,” she said looking at the Ferengi writhing on the floor.

“Shoot her!” Rag screamed at his guards while he held his hands to his side and curled up into a ball to try and lessen the pain. “She stabbed me! Shoot her now!”

Jasmine doubted her action for half a second and no longer. Killing Rag would not solve this problem. She had no delusions about that however, it would slow things down. If they had their own supply of doctors to do this on the planet, they would not have abducted her. At least it was a working theory on why she was here and not someone local. Still, Max was on the planet. He was coming for her. If she did not survive this Max would put an end to it or at least stop any further possible negotiations with the Federation and the Mundai Colony. In the end, it would stop some of the suffering occurring, even if for a bit. With medical, time was the one thing one always needed, and buying it might help these people.

The guards had been momentarily shocked by what Jasmine had done, but on Rag’s command they both raised their weapons’ at Jasmine only to find Cade step between them with his arms held out. “Don’t shoot!” He said urgently, “She’s the only one here who can do anything to help him. Shoot her and you burn your paycheck,” he told the mercenaries. Looking at each other, they lowered their weapons slightly confused as Rag kept yelling at them.

“You are going to need surgery. You have a puncture of your left renal artery. This means the abdominal aorta is going to keep pumping blood until you bleed out. If you don’t have it repaired in the next three minutes you will die so tell me Rag....how much money is worth your time now?” Standing up, Jasmine pulled her arm away from the merc as she made her way to the surgical suite next door. It was not clean or sanitary but it was good enough for the poor souls so it would be fine for Rag. She knew he would be behind her. One day soon the slimey little man would get his comeuppance even if it wasn’t today.

Jasmine Wynter

“Bring him, quickly,” he pointed to Rag and looked at the guards, then hurried after Jasmine. “What the hell are you doing? He’s going to kill you about ten seconds after you repair that stab wound!” Cade shot the question hurriedly to Jasmine but it didn’t stop him from prepping to assist her.

Jasmine looked at Cade and put a hand on his arm. Her actions could have put his wife in the view for retribution but everyone in the massive hangar below them was someone’s wife or daughter or sister. SHe would not be able to explain why. She just hoped her brash action would not end up with more than her dead in the end.

======================
Rooftops
======================

Max watched Stantons head drop down the chute in front of him and waited for ten seconds, then began to climb into the chute behind him. Pushing himself further in he sensed something beside him and looked back, just in time to see the flickering image of Bob standing outside the chute. He seemed to be saying something, but no sound came out as the image of Bob flickered heavily and then disappeared. Frowning, Max paused for a moment to see if he returned. He didn’t, so he pushed himself down into the chute and began to climb down.

Following the directions Stanton had given Ella, Max shortly came to a panel that had been opened in the ducting and glanced outside to see legs standing on the other side and heard voices, although he couldn’t make out what was being said. Sliding the Phaser out of it’s holster, he pushed himself head first out of the panel and rolled, landing in a crouch with the Phaser out and held low, his eyes moving over people he didn’t recognize.

“Where is Ella?” he asked them.

Max Wynter, CE

“I’m here,” Ella said handing him a black officiant’s uniform. It wasn’t all of it but enough that they should be able to walk out among the men searching for them without any trouble.

“What’s this? We joining the Brethren now?” Max asked as he took the uniform and looked at Ella, making sure she was ok.

“Max this is Officiant Oberhustan Prefect Dar,” Stanton introduced the Starfleet chief to a man that did not fit Stanton’s or Ella’s temperament. It was clear this Officiant was playing for the other team however since he was not calling in reinforcements, there had to be some subterfuge occurring.

“An officiant? A real one? What the hell is going on here Ella?” Max asked her, making no move towards his Phaser but at the same time feeling the weight of it on his hip.

“Commander,” Dar clasped his hands together bowing slightly in the customary greeting of the Faithful elite. “I am sorry this has happened to you. Mundai is a paradise. We are just trying to make it a paradise for all.”

“I’m not sure I can agree with you on that, Dar,” Max replied coldly. “So far I have a missing wife, public bombings and something like a fanatical religious order on my timeline. I’m not sure I could call that a paradise.

“I did not have time to arrange for a more surreptitious exit but I think with enough prayers to the almighty this rouse may work. If not we will all go down together,” Dar looked at Stanton and then smiled at Ella. “When we exit we are going to need to split into two groups. You take Ella,” he motioned to Stanton, “and I will get Max to the contact point.”

Adjusting his collar, Stanton glanced at Max wondering how well he was going to take to walking out of the basement with a member of the group looking for him.

Jasmine Wynter

“Like hell you will,” Max glared at them all. “What goddamn contact point, with who?” At that point, Max drew his phaser and pointed it between Dar and Stanton, stepping back from them. “I’m going to find my wife,” His other hand raised the communicator and ID card he had taken from the man he had shot in Ella’s room.

Dar raised his hand and looked at Max with a calm face. “We have known about your wife’s abduction as long as you have. The mercenary’s pool of doctors is extremely limited. Often they target tourists, plan an accident, and no one ever blinks an eye but as you can do the math, it is not like the correct candidates come along every day. Our contact is a man that is trying to change all of this. As with most…sensitive situations,” Dar paused knowing no word would fit perfectly to describe what was occurring, “few people actually know, and those that do control everything to keep it that way. Unfortunately, your wife’s employer was not known when they abducted her. The fact that your government accepted the ruse and progressed with the story is exactly what we need to add credence to our cause. Our people may not believe us initially but the Federation is respected even here in the Delta quadrant. When you return with her and the story comes out, the integrity of the Federation will stop this.” Dar looked at Max hoping the man could see how important for their group to rescue Jasmine as it was for Max to find her.

Ella moved forward to touch Max’s arm. “Max I couldn’t think of any other way to help you. They will take you to your wife. I will be at the contact point. If you don’t trust him trust me,” she squeezed his arm slightly, “like I trust you.”

“Okay we don’t have time for this,” Stanton growled in a low voice coming up to Max. “Go. Stay. Shoot, I don’t care but I do care about her,” he jabbed a finger at Ella. “Ella should not have gotten involved but she did. She is not ever going to stay out of things so the only thing I can do is keep her safe. You are not helping with the situation.”

“Because I am part of the problem,” she spat angrily at Stanton.

“Ella not now. Not here,” Stanton gave her and angry glare.

“Please,” Dar stepped forward addressing Max with a slight urgency to his voice. “Please come. I will take you to your wife and explain all your questions. Come,” he gestured. The sounds of the police canvassing the area was getting louder as the house to house search for them intensified. The sound of weapons fire would be heard along with people shouting. The shouts were both from the police giving directions and people resisting them.

Max gave Stanton one last glare, then looked at Ella a long moment and nodded. His jaw worked slightly as if to say something but he didn’t, he just slid the phaser back inside the tunic he wore and slid the Officiant jacket over what he was wearing already. Then turning to Dar, tilted his head to the door and began to walk.

Moving towards the door, Dar raised a hand indicating for Stanton and Ella to wait. Nodding at the two, the man led Max out into the street. The site outside was hard to imagine. Men in black jackets mulled around every corner like black ghosts each seeking a victim. Groups of twenty to thirty people stood in the street among other men Max had not seen yet. They wore robes similar the Officiants but in a deep purple that at times appeared ebony. Those pulled from their residences were not held there by force but seemed to be praying in small groups with the purple-robed priests. Only a few residents were being taken and placed in vehicles. The sounds of the prayers almost drowning out the sounds of the protests between the two groups. The noise had an eerie effect like that of a horror movie before the death and destruction began. It was like a low bass vibrating into one’s bones setting you on edge. From the door of one building, a monstrosity only witnessed in a child’s nightmares poked its head out and began to cross the space towards a group of officiants. It had the shape of a large canine but was metallic. It moved with a slightly robotic jerk yet also had a floating like quality that spoke to its agility at times.

Pausing for a moment, Max looked at the machine with an Engineers curiosity. It wasn’t hard to see how the joints fitted together, how it moved and to guess that were anyone to run, they would never outrun it despite the slightly awkward walk. There had to be more to it but Max had no time to stop and pull it apart. Noises from the people around him broke him out of his thoughts and his eyes moved among them, but he had to force himself not to turn and look back the way he had come. If he was posing as an Officiant, he had no reason to look back to where he had been.

A vehicle pulled up and Dar moved towards the door knowing it was for them. Ducking inside he knew Max would follow.

Jasmine

======================
Medical Facility
======================

The two guards carried the whimpering and crying Rag into the surgery room and laid him on the table that Cade pointed to. In front of him, he had a selection of tools and hypo sprays to hand Jasmine when she needed them. One Hypo, in particular, he picked up and checked the dosage on. It was enough anesthetic to put a man to sleep for hours. “You know if he dies, they will purge this place and everyone associated with it, right?” he asked Jasmine.

“No, I didn’t,” Jasmine looked at Cade feeling the weight of her decision more now than ever. It was not that she was scared for her own safety but more of that for Cade and his wife.

Moving to Rag, he slid the monitoring bar over the Ferengi and began to load up the system. Rag reached out and grabbed Cade’s hand. “Fix me,” he told Cade, “don’t let her cut me again, she will kill me!” Cade pulled his hand away and kept working. “I’m no surgeon, I can’t do that. If she wanted you dead you would be.”

Rag looked at the guards and his eyes began to droop. “If I die, kill them both!” Rag yelled at the guards, who looked at each other and then at Jasmine, not knowing exactly what to do. Rag was the one that payed them. If he died, no pay. They didn’t care if the slimy little Ferengi lived or died in the greater scheme of things and certainly, if he died they had no reason to follow those orders anyway.

Max Wynter

Jasmine picked up the scalpel and began to complete the surgery to repair what she inflicted. “He won’t die but he will wish he had. Before I start lets be clear. This is going to require a lot of pain killers which is going to make him lethargic,” she explained as she repaired the injury. “Now I can cut back on the pain killer but you don’t have to have a medical degree to know that he is going to be highly uncomfortable. I can treat him as we do the subjects,” she said knowing the room would understand the sanitized version of the people they operated on, “but I can one hundred percent assure you he is going to be less than his normal chipper self.” The injury was not as severe as it seemed to most of the people in the room. She has only lacerated the top lobe of the kidney and not punctured it as one saw in a true shanking or war injury. Rag would have been triaged to the back of the line in an emergency situation but it did not hurt for the people to see it as far more deadly. Max was coming. All she needed to do was stall until he arrived. This little stunt would buy her twenty four hours. After that, she would make it up as she went along.

Jasmine Wynter CMO

------------------- Officiant Vehicle-----------------------

“So, where to now exactly?” Max asked Dar as he watched the houses and buildings go past out of the side window of the car. “I know I need to get to the Hospital, that’s where she is being held, I already worked that much out. Ae we heading straight to the contact or are you taking me somewhere else?” The suspicion in Max’s voice was clear, but it lacked no confidence and held no fear.

Max Wynter

“She is not at the hospital but a hospital,” Dar clarified but in a semi-elusive tone. “If you show up at the hospital demanding your wife, you will be arrested and then imprisoned. That will not help her.” His tone was not angry or provoking. It was more matter-of-fact and neutral. “You can’t be angry at us, however. It is not like we planned any of this. At times things just happen and evolve out of necessity. Tell me Mr. Wynter, have you ever done something out of necessity that might be frowned upon by others?”

Dar (officiant)

“You mean, like taking a sudden leave of absence to come and find my wife who had taken a sudden unexpected leave of absence to go ‘shopping’ without telling me? Like killing the two Ferengi that shot her and abducted her, the second after getting what information I needed out of him? Like taking that Ferengi’s ship and changing the Command Codes and registry so it appears to be mine at a cursory glance? Like following the trail to a non-Federation world and breaking the Prime Directive without giving a damn by meddling in their internal affairs to rescue her? Like shooting two Mundai Officiants on stun and stealing their identity and communications devices? Like ignoring a recall order from Starfleet to return home and grieve over my wifes’ dead clone built to throw me and the Federation off her trail and think she died in an accident and now I’m getting told to not be angry at us?” Max’s voice had gone from soft to hard, to angry and fierce by the end of his little monologue, and he looked at Dar and raised an eyebrow. “No, not really.” His voice had gone from angry to sarcastic in an instant.

“You have a sense of humor,” the officiant said with a hint of a smile before his face took on the characteristic dour they all seemed to wear. “Good. I never trust someone without a sense of humor.” Driving down the streets, the image was very industrial but exceedingly clean. Almost as if the concrete streets had just been poured and the marble blocked buildings just constructed. The area had an old feel with its architecture but still modern with the robotic machines moving about and holographic signs on each street. “There is so much you don’t know,” he started.

“I know she is being held in a bunker under the hospital, not the hospital itself and I know enough to understand that nobody at the hospital probably has any idea what’s going on,” Max continued, “I’m an Engineer, a Starfleet Engineer. I know that bunker has to have access points of varying degrees, exhaust vents for old air and gases and intakes for fresh air most likely built to look like or even into the Hospitals own vents. I know that it has to have a way to get people inside, and out again without looking obvious, so probably an entrance away from the hospital likely in an unused building with vehicle access so that people and equipment can move in and out without questions being asked about where they came from. I know that Security will be heavy and any attempt to force a way inside will fail and cause an immediate lockdown and response from probably para-military units and mercenaries if Ferengi are involved. It requires stealth and a bit of cleverness,” He held up the Officiants access card, “and I am not totally without means. I’m wondering how you can help me actually. This seems more like a case of how I can help you with something you haven’t been able to deal with for a long time.”

Max Wynter, CE

“There is much you don’t know,” the officiant replied looking forward. “It might be best if I start at the beginning. One hundred years ago we were at the cusp most technological society face. A hedonistic lifestyle had our population plagued with medical problems. Technology became our crutch and we limped along on it until we met another species in the quadrant. We created a symbiotic relationship with them. Their world was about to be destroyed by a supernova. We saved about 100,000 of them but their civilization perished. They became refugees. Unfortunately, as with most refugees, they did not easily slide into our society. They had no skills, no way to benefit the growth of either their culture or ours until one day the Gods smiled and showed us the path for both of our society’s to become one.” The officiant clasped his hands intertwining his fingers making one single hand. The image, while seeming to look like a fist suddenly had a new meaning. Looking out of the window, Max would notice this symbol on the middle of governmental flags. While slightly different from the more prayer-like clasping of hands, it was similar enough for someone to make the connection given the history lesson.

Dar, Officiant

“So how exactly did the gods smile and show you the way to, join, your societies?” Max asked, clasping his hands in a similar fashion although it seemed to look nothing like what Dar was doing.

Max

“A child became sick. Our doctors could not help. It was devastating for the parents as you might expect. Do you have children of your own Mr. Wynter,” Dar began trying to move the conversation to something his companion might relate to. The truth of their society would be frowned on by those that did not understand is to a commonality seemed the only way for people not to be revolted by the soon to shared confession. Once they accepted the truth, however, they saw the potential for the forced symbiotic relationship here on Mundai. Dar had no false expectations Max would accept anything but it might be enough to control the man even slightly.

Dar.

“No. we don’t.” Max’s answer was short and to the point. “We talked about it soon after we got married and our parents are of the opinion a baby is long since overdue, but Jasmine and I have been focused on other things since we got married.” Max didn’t elaborate any more, but the two of them had focused on other people more than they had themselves, due of course to their positions of Chief Engineer of a Starship for him, and that Starships Chief Medical Officer for Jasmine. Their own plans of having a family had long since been put on hold.

“Look,” Max continued, “I’m sure the story is heart wrenching and tragic and all of that, Dar, but I just don’t give a damn. I want my wife back. After that, we will see what happens. If it was up to me I’d burn the rot out of this forsaken place and be done with it, and if I don’t get my wife back, it might just be an option on the table.” Max’s voice was cold, steady. He had a wealth of knowledge when it came to engineering, power systems and the like. If anything happened to Jasmine, Starfleet be damned, he would make those responsible on this planet never forget the error of their ways.

Max Wynter, CE

“And I too wish that Mr. Wynter but I do feel the need to be completely transparent with you.” Dar’s voice was neutral without a hint of sadness or emotion. “There is a good chance your wife may never be found. I do hope she is found but there is a chance you must be prepared for that she will not be found. That is a way of life here on Mundai. She is incredibly skillful and from what I have heard she still retains an emotional element to what she has been doing for the past month. In fact, I have heard she does not see the clients as clients but patients. That is remarkable. Most of the doctors recruited for an assignment like hers do not last more than six months and they go willingly seeing the position as a duty.”

“Well that’s where you have a breakdown in your information,” Max replied bluntly. “She was never recruited, she was abducted and is being forced to do whatever it is she is doing. I’m still not sure what that is because no-one has told me yet but as a doctor she cares about her patients more than anything. There has been discussion about your different groups here, brief discussion around the faithful and other, an authority of some sort. To be completely transparent with you, I don’t care about that. I do care about Ella, she helped me when she didn’t have to and I need to repay the favor somehow but until I find my Wife and I will, Dar, Mundai needs to get out of my way. She is alive, the fake dead clone of her with the shuttle accident was proof enough that they need her for something. If she is alive, she will be found.”

“I do have a question for you though,” Dar asked as the car sped through the streets. “Tell me how was it your wife was able to be abducted so easily by the Hunters off a Federation ship?”

Dar

“She wasn’t on a Federation ship,” Max turned to look at Dar. “She was on short-notice leave visiting a nearby planet when she was abducted. I followed her and tried to catch up but I was too late. I turned the corner as two Ferengi shot her and I thought she had been disintegrated.” Max’s eyes turned cold now, as if they hadn’t been cold before, now they held the look of a man who would do what he needed to do.

“And what was her business on this short-term leave you had to follow her for which resulted in your wife being abducted?” Dar looked at Max with a questioning look. “Most Federation officers do not take shore leave on such an interesting location where Ferengi thugs can snatch up someone with a reputation as impeccable as your wife.”

“Most Federation Officers are boring,” Max said simply, “and Jasmines business was her business, not yours.” Max really still didn’t have a clue what Jasmines business had been, the Ferengi hadn’t known or cared but it was something Max intended to discuss with Jasmine after he found her and they returned to the Manhattan.

“There you are wrong. It is clearly my business or I would not be in a car helping you plan her escape,” Dar countered before looking out the window again at the scenario passing by.

“Then you have an overexaggerated idea of what your business is and you currently aren’t helping me plan crap except for vague references to things that are none of my business,” Max snapped at the man. “Currently you are as much use as a prick in a suit so let me tell you about those Ferengi so you have an idea of how many craps I give about Mundainian pricks.”

“I had a discussion with those Ferengi, one died before we began talking, so the other one knew to answer my questions quickly and truthfully. Turns out, they didn’t kill her, they shot her with a transport marker made to look like a weapon and she was beamed to a waiting Ferengi ship in orbit, and brought here. The Ferengi that I was speaking to was kind enough to let me take his ship and identification chit, told me she was in this city but couldn’t tell me where or who wanted her. He was just a middle man. I still have his ship at the spaceport, getting clearance to land with his ID was simple. What Jasmines business was means nothing until she got here, because those Ferengi didn’t care either. Their job was to bring her here, her business up till that point is moot. So, my question now, is where is she. Under the hospital, yes we know that, so how do I get in? How do we get in if you are coming with me?”

Max Wynter, CE

“Oh, I am not coming with you, Mr. Wynter. I live here. This is my home. I am only giving you the opportunity and chance that you might be able to locate her if you are resourceful enough.”

Dar

“Locate her, and extract her and in so doing shed light on what is happening on Mundai and bringing it to the Federations’s attention, and the attention of all inhabited planets in this sector of space. That would put massive pressure on your Government to scale back or halt the practice if they want Federation membership or support, or any hope of trade for our tech. Other non-aligned planets that have laws against exploiting their people may cease to trade, further pressuring Mundai to change it’s policies.” Max shook his head and looked out the window. “It’s a dream, Dar. Your Government is rotten and no amount of outside pressure will make then give away their privilege’s or power. Change has to come from within.”

Max Wynter

Dar let out a small laugh. “You think we need or want your support? We have all the support we need from our own allies. In fact who wouldn’t want to trade with us when our sole commodity is life. Eternal youth in a sense,” he let the words hang between them in the cab of the vehicle. “You don’t think your Federation will come to us with open arms when then find out we can literally keep you young for the entire length of your life?” Dar let out a deep sigh.

“You are an idiot in a suit,” Max answered but his voice sounded sad. Tired. “Your allies have no idea you take a species you pretended to save and subjugate them for medical experimentation and harvesting of organs for your own peoples use, and for trade. They think Mundai has cloning technology that uses machines to grow the organs, not that you have farms of indentured slaves that are your growing pots. Once that gets out, your Allies who all want to be part of the Federation, by the way, will drop your agreements and treaties. Your goods will be forced into the black market through criminal cabals and smuggling, and prices will skyrocket causing your own people to have to pay outrageous prices for the care you now provide, and they will blame your government.” Max shook his head and continued, “You believe you are the first or the most righteous to dangle eternal life as a reason to ignore the costs?”

“No Mr. Wynter your Federation will come and they will look the other way until they no longer need what we have to offer. Then they will take their self-righteous stand about morals and principles. They will talk down on our methods but,” he held up a hand, “without us, they would not have what we possess. Your Federation is good for that. Pretending they do not need others and yet when there is a crisis, they suddenly are back taking and taking all the while bad-mouthing the people that are giving them what they need.”

“You have no idea about the Federation, clearly. The end doesn’t justify the means. We already have what you posses, we have cloning technology. Ours is not as cheap or as pure as yours but the reason for that, is that it doesn’t come at the cost of another life. That is an unforgiveable cost we refuse to pay.” Max sounded disgusted just talking about it, he couldn’t imagine Jasmine working willingly for these people and the fact they had faked her death, meant they knew what they were doing would never be accepted, even among their own people who they must hide most of this from if they couldn’t find qualified volunteers they could trust.

The car pulled to a stop at a checkpoint and the driver spoke with the man at the gate before it slid open. Driving down the road, a large and luxurious hospital shown in the background. It’s white pillars and marble steps let it shine in the sun like some ancient temple. The green grass, fountains, and extensive gardens gave it a heavenly feel. Only Dar and Max knew the hell it contained below the main building. As the car circled the front of the complex, Dar turned to Max. “I will get you in and provide a way for you to slip away. Your uniform will give you some mobility around the complex but you need to find your wife as quickly as possible. It will not stall people for long and we don’t have much jurisdiction when you get to the lower levels.”

“Once you make the distraction, get yourself out of this place. I can handle the extraction,” Max patted the transport pistol inside his jacket pocket. “You have to promise me something though, if I don’t see you or her again, look after Ella. Get her out of here. I owe her my life.”

“I can do only so much but I will do what I am able,” Dar looked at Mason with a neutral expression. “She is not the only one that needs protection at times.”

Opening the doors, Dar stepped out of the car and waited for Max to start up the stairs with him. The visual of their black uniforms against the white marble and tile was as stark as a contrast between what was right and what was wrong going on the Mundai Colony.

Dar

As the two men climbed the steps Max couldn’t help but notice every person passing them gave them a wide berth and respectful nod, or even changed direction entirely if they were far enough away to make it seem natural. “It must be lonely being one of these guys,” Max commented, looking at the black uniform, “everybody secretly hates and fears you for the power you wield to destroy their lives.”

Reaching the steps, Max nodded at the two security guards at the door, both of whom immediately stepped aside to allow them into the Hospital. Walking through the doors like Max owned the building he paused and looked at a wall map of the facility, looking for possible points to head down to the lower levels and more importantly, a way back and out if he needed to.

Adjusting his cuffs and collar Max made sure the uniform was unmistakable and crisp, then looked at the main reception desk. “Where to from here?”

Max Wynter

“Hello,” the perky receptionist said before looking up and seeing Max in the officiant black coat and suit. “Sir, what can I do for you?” Her smile faded slightly and she looked down busying herself waiting for his reply. The smile she wore before seeing Max was not alone faded fully as she moved papers and adjusted pens.

“My friend here needs an access pass…Missssss,” he let the prefix hang in the air far longer than normally necessary. The way he held it and the way the woman reacted showed it was purely to indicate threat and coercion.

The woman fumbled at her desk finding a pass and after knocking over several things from her desk handed over a blue card. Not looking up she grabbed a file and left the desk.

Dar tapped it on the counter several times before turning to look at Max. “This will get you where you need to go. No one will ask questions until they do. By that time I am sure you will have come up with an extraction plan.” Extending the card he looked at Mason. “I will have car waiting for you in the south parking lot. If and when you retrieve your wife tell them to take you to the spaceport. I will have travel papers prepared.”

Dar

“If anything goes down, tell them not to wait,” Max said as he took the card. “I have a travel plan already and I can make my own papers,” the smile that Max gave the man was anything but pleasant. “I’m not stupid, Dar. If I retrieve my wife and get the hell out of here, life as you know it will change. Your world will be embroiled in scandal enough that it might lead to civil war, and I know already who has the weapons and the will to do whatever is necessary, and it isn’t people like Stanton and his dreamers. That being the case, I know which side you will be on. The winning one.” Now max turned and looked at the woman who was departing the desk and back to Dar, and raised the card making it clear what he was referring to. “Thank you for helping me this far, and I appreciate you want better for your world, but it starts with you, and you disgust me. I will do whatever I need to, to get my wife out of here safe. That doesn’t include getting into a car with your agents only to be gunned down the moment things go bad.”

With that Max turned and headed towards the closest turbo lift, sliding the pass into his pocket and checking the Phaser and the pistol he had taken from the Ferengi.

Max Wynter

Dar watched the man leave and made a note to give him some distance if Jasmine was not in the last condition Max saw her. Turning on his heel, he walked out of the hospital

Dar

At the same moment Dar stepped out of the door of the Hospital, Max stepped out of the elevator that had taken him down as far as it went. His guess had been an educated one. If he was going to put a secret medical facility under a General Hospital and guard it with trained killers, where would he put it? In the depths of Hell had been his thought and the guard station that greeted him with armed soldiers, metal barricades and force fields had confirmed his hunch.

“Stop! Identify Yourself!” Came a barked order from the men ahead of him, bright spotlights almost blinding him as he stepped forward but he kept his face passive and unimpressed. “Dammit, look at the uniform!” Max heard the whispered words come from another man behind the lights, but it was quickly hushed by a third. A fourth seemed to step back, as if trying to stand behind the first three and become less noticed.

“I am Officiant Wynter,” Max’s voice was cold and emotionless. For a moment he paused in speaking, the sound of his voice even surprising him. That pause however gave a far more sinister impression to him as it let the title sink in further as he looked over the men and weapons in front of him as if they didn’t matter to him. “I am here on orders of the Authority to make an inspection and evaluate the people working here,” taking out the pass he had taken from Dar at the front desk, he dropped it on the security station then looked intently at each one of the Officers in turn, without a word. “I will start inside the facility, then return here when I am satisfied with the answers I find inside.”

“This facility is currently locked down, Officiant,” the first of the men told him, the one who had told him to stop as he stepped out of the turbo-lift. “We aren’t supposed to let anyone in during lockdown.”

“Perhaps I can start here then. See if what I am looking for is among you instead of among the people through those doors. I have information that not everyone here is in agreement with the Devout,” now Max paused again but he raised his chin as if the very thought was distasteful, internally thanking Ella for the time she had spent telling him about Mundai and the factions behind what was happening here. “My time is limited and I am required to bring at least one body back for further questioning. Maybe you?” Max’s eyes turned to look squarely at the fourth man who had stepped back. “I have a car waiting....” Max left the rest of the words unsaid, instead, his eyes fell on the doors beyond the Security Desk in a clear hint that he was being held up.

The reaction of the men around him was faster than he expected, but alongside the relief that the men didn’t thoroughly check him came the feeling of sickness in his stomach as he understood just how much the people, even the ones who could be considered safe and trusted, feared the uniform he wore and what it represented. Neither the pass nor his hastily thrown on Officiants uniform was checked properly, instead the guards dropped the force fields and opened the doors behind them. Without looking at them or looking back, Max forced the vile taste in his stomach to stay there as he stepped past the men. He heard the doors swing back into place and lock behind him and he paused. Slowly, he let the one hand that had been in his pocket the entire time unclench from the fist it had been making. It had been his way of keeping focused and keeping his nerves bundled into a tight ball of muscle. Unfortunately, as his fist relaxed so did the muscles in his stomach and the nerves made him look for a corner to leave a parting gift behind in.

---------------------------- Deeper in the Facility------------------------

That same feeling of sickness was held in place by a barely contained emotion of rage as Cade looked at his wife lying on the bed beside where he sat. For days he had watched his wife further degenerate past the point of her mind being able to recover from the shock of surgery after surgery as Jasmine harvested organs grown to serve the Authority and the Devout, and line the pocket of the Ferengi lying recovering from his injury guarded by his soldiers in the one room that was put aside for a proper operating room with full sanitation and medical equipment.

The rage inside him was pure hate. Not for Jasmine, really, even if she was the one cutting into his wife. After all, Cade was the one administering what little anesthetic they could spare beyond keeping her and his people in a barely conscious stupor to render them compliant and unable to change their mind about the contracts they had all signed to be organ donors.

When he and his wife had signed up for this, it was to provide for their family. The promise of a large sum of money at the end of their term was too good to pass on for a people who could grow organs that were medically compatible with virtually any species known. Too good for a people in poverty. Too good for a people who had been ‘rescued’ by the Devout only to find they were a burden on a system that didn’t care for them unless they could provide for themselves. Few of their people had any skills the Devout needed, so most lived in the slums. Until the Ferengi had discovered the medical marvel of his peoples ability to regrow organs quickly and without chemical assistance. The problem, was his people were never designed to be organ factories, but that was exactly what the Ferengi had set up with the full support and funding of the Authority.

That problem, meant his wife was about to die, and there was nothing he or Jasmine could do about it. Cade didn’t know until too late that the contracts meant nothing, that the husks of his peoples bodies were disposed of in the medical waste of the hospital above them like garbage, incinerated and forgotten. Replaced by another batch of hopefuls from the slums that thought they had found a way to help their families, never to be heard of again.

The tears began to roll down his cheeks as Cade watched his wife, his hand gently caressing her emaciated cheeks as her sightless eyes flickered as if in recognition of his touch. As his heart broke for the hundredth time that day and the tears quickened, his head turned to the room the Ferengi was being held in. Once his wife was gone, the reason Cade was here was also gone. There would be nothing left for him in this world, no reason to continue caring for his people here. They were all to suffer the same fate but only blind love had made Cade stay here this long and hope for something better to happen. Jasmine was pure of heart even with the deeds she was being forced to do, but Cade had long since passed hoping she would be the answer to his prayers.

Now, that answer lay in the room next door. Guarded by men who thought nothing of killing. Cade put them out of his mind and stood up. Leaning over the bed he gently kissed his wife, and his kiss held every ounce of love and hope that his heart had ever held for the woman that had loved him back. This was no fairytale like they had told to their brothers and sisters children, hoping one day for their own. There would be no happy ending here. His kiss held no magic that would wake her or save her, only the love that a man had for a woman that he could not save even with his own life as forfeit.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered to her, his tears leaving a trail on her cheek as they soaked the thin pillow her head rested on. A luxury that Jasmine had found for her when others had none. “I’m sorry I could never be the man you deserved, the man who could take you away from here and give you what you needed.” Cade’s words were choked with emotion, with tears that wouldn’t stop. “I love you.”

He stood up, and wiped the tears from his face as he breathed hard. Looking at the selection of medical hypo’s on the cart that lay beside him, the cart that Cade used to push beside every ‘patient’ in the underground warehouse and give them the medical cocktail that kept the sedated and their bodies using the minimal food given efficiently, he picked one up and fired it into his wrist. This one contained certain medications that would do what he needed them to, for long enough. Dropping it back on the tray he turned and walked to the room that the Ferengi, Rag, was sleeping in after Jasmines attack on him. Cade knew that Jasmine had done it out of desperation, time stalling to wait for her husband to find her. He never would, Cade knew that. He would be found and killed by the Authority. They had too much power, too many eyes and people were too scared to fight them.

“He needs his medication, it’s time,” Cade told the guards through the security window to the room. He was bluffing of course, but the men here knew nothing about medicine.

“He had that an hour ago, what do you mean it’s time?” One of the two guards asked him, frowning.

“That was the pain killer,” Cade told him, which wasn’t a lie. “He needs the anti-bacterial and the sedative now, to keep him relaxed and sleeping while he heals. If he wakes and his heart rate goes up, the kidney could burst again. Get Jasmine if you want, I’ll wait.” His pulse quickened now, that part was a lie and if they asked Jasmine he had no doubt she would cover for him, but it meant that she would die when they discovered what he had done. He didn’t want that, but everyone here was going to die anyway. He wanted Rag to be first.

“Look, make it quick and get out,” the guard told him as he opened the door. “This place gives me the creeps.”

Cade gave the man a quick smile as he stepped inside, then over to the computer in the room to record his visit as normal. Instead of opening the log-in panel though he opened the medical treatment interface and released anethestine gas into the air of the small, environmentally sealed room with the result that the two guards instantly dropped to the floor unconscious. Cade himself felt exhausted but the medical cocktail that he had taken would keep him awake long enough to carry on the next step. Dimly, he saw a red light flashing on the console as he stood and staggered to the bed beside Rag. It was an alarm, he knew, but it didn’t matter now. The room was sealed and locked, and Cade was the only one left standing.

He almost picked up one of the weapons the guard carried. He could just shoot the Ferengi, end it all now, but Rag deserved so much more than that. For the pain he had caused, the dreams shattered, families lost and futures destroyed, Rag deserved more than a quick end. Cade leaned heavily against the bed and picked up a hypo, checking the contents and then clipping a new canister into place. He bent over the sleeping form of the Ferengi and fired the hypo into his neck, instantly Rag’s eyes shot open, wide awake but he was unmoving.

“Hello, Rag.” Cade said slowly, his words slurring from the gas he had breathed in. “It’s time for your medicine, I’m going to give you, something special. For my wife. She’s about to die, but you will first, I promise.” Cade sat heavily on the bed beside Rag and looked him in the eyes. he knew full well that the Ferengi was wide awake but paralyzed from the drugs he had given him, mixed with the gas he had released.

Picking up another canister, he clipped it into place in full view of the Ferengi, then dialed the dosage up to maximum. This would release almost the entire canister into his system. “You know what’s great about anesthazine gas?” Cade asked him casually, his voice cold and emotionless in complete contrast to the hate he felt inside him. “It mixes with this little medicine here which is completely harmless, unless given in this quantity. When that happens, it creates hydronium acid if anesthazine gas is already in your lungs.” Cade looked at him and smiled, but the smile was cold.

“I wish you could scream or tell me how it feels to have your insides melt and burn away as you look at me,” he pressed the hypo into the mans neck and leaned over him, watching intently. “But you can’t, and that’s good. My wife can die in peace while you don’t.” Cade pressed the trigger and the Hypo released the gas into Rag’s neck, then he dropped the hypo to one side and leaned closer to the Ferengi, watching as the mans eye’s began to water as the body stiffened, trying to react against the instant pain and burning as the acid formed inside Rags lungs and began to eat away at the warm flesh inside his body. “Damn your money, and damn your Authority,” Cade said as he began to feel the gas he had breathed in take over his body. His wife’s face swam before his eyes as he leaned back, falling onto the floor. “I love you, I’m sorry.” He whispered seconds before he fell into unconsciousness.

Max Wynter

Jasmine stared at the lab equipment feeling a know growing in her belly. It sickened her to have gained this much knowledge in cloning but it also would help to expand the Federation’s knowledge of organ replacement by decades. Yes, the Federation could replicate simple organs like skin graphs and such but it was a long way to popping out a heart that was not mechanical. Until now Jasmine had not performed any organ replication surgeries. She had just removed them. In the week she had been here, Jasmine learned that a side effect of the procedure was that once the organ was fully grown, the host rejected it completely. If Jasmine was not there to remove it, the cloned organ would slowly poison and kill the host. The system was diabolically perfect. The host needed the organ to survive but once it was ready, it would force the host to reject it and therefore allow it to be harvested…before the host needed to be implanted with another.

Rolling the hypo vial slowly between her fingers, she wondered what the results of her secret experiment would produce. By removing an enzyme, the host would no longer reject the organ. At least this was her theory. What Jasmine could not do however was an experiment on the people that were brought into her clinic. The best she could hope for was to smuggle out the DNA sequences on the vial and let Federation medical have a jump start on how to help the people like Cade.

She was so lost in her own thoughts, Jasmine missed the arrival of the set of guards storming into her room. As the man fisted her hair, it did grab her attention, however. “Rag is in trouble.”

“No, no, no, no,” she began to repeat a single word as the man half carried and half dragged her from the room. Jasmine had no idea where they were dragging her off to but she was not going to make it an easy trip. Swinging her legs, Jasmine swiped the top of two trays and knocked over a chair as they pulled her from the room. The sound of her struggling echoed through the halls.

Jasmine Wynter CMO

The clattering sound of the trays and thump of the heavy chair knocking into a wall carried through the doors at the end of the underground warehouse, right as Max was trying to hotwire the door controls. “Plow me why the hell won’t you open!” He kicked the door in frustration, slamming the panel shut as the tenth attempt also resulted in a negative connection. No matter what he tried, the doors seemed like they wouldn’t be able to be opened from this side unless someone had a very specific keycard, which Max didn’t have despite having a pass allowing him into these lower areas. Swearing again as yet another crash sounded from the other side, he pulled out his Phaser and dialed up the power setting, fully intent on melting the door or simply using the weapon as an improvised explosive.

“Oh I wouldn’t try that if I were you,” A voice sounded behind Max, a very familiar voice that made Max freeze in place. “That would make a really, really big mess and the noise would bring everyone running.”

“Where the hell have you been?” Max asked without turning around, but his thumb kept dialing the phaser power higher.

“I was wondering that myself, then, poof! Your bracelet indicated extreme aggression, anxiety and stress, and I swung into action. Can’t we resolve this with rational discussion? What has she done now to make you want to blow up a Phaser?”

“Bob, shut up and do something useful.” Max swung around and pointed the phaser at the Mintaran Emergency Marriage Hologram. Not in a threatening way, just in a pointed way. “Jasmine was kidnapped and they staged her death, tried to make out that she was killed in shuttle accident. I tracked her here, and clearly I found her because you came back.” The sound of yet another crash from somewhere behind the door reached them both. “Dammit I need to open this!”

“Ohhhh,” Bob raised both eyebrows and nodded. “That’s clearly Jasmine alright, only she could get that reaction from people and you’re right, the two of you have to be within close proximity for the bracelets to link and allow me to appear. You should have said something, let me help.” Bob craned his neck left and right like he was about to commit an act of bravery and heroism, and spat in his palms, rubbing them together.

Then he walked through the door like it didn’t exist.

“You....,” Max muttered and wiped the back of his hand over his mouth. A second later, and the door slid open to reveal Bob standing there with his finger on a button marked ‘Open’. Max simply glared at him.

“How long were you watching me try to open the door?” He asked innocently, to which Bob shrugged. “First you tried the green wire, then the blue, then the red. Then you spliced the yellow and pink ones together....”

“Shut up. Just shut up.” Max said as he walked into the room, making a point to walk straight through the hologram of Bob.

“But I am helpful, am I not?” Bob asked with a tone that indicated butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.

“Jasmine!” Max shouted as his eyes landed on a woman being dragged by her hair towards a small room on the far side of the warehouse in which a red light flashed, some kind of alarm maybe. Between the two of them were rows and rows of small hospital style beds. Each was filled with a person who was clearly alien and not a native of Mundai, and each was emaciated and hooked up to drips and simple medical recording machines that seemed to be measuring their vitals. There were too many to count, but Max would later guess that there had to be a few hundred people in these beds alone and through other open doors on other walls, he could see wider facilities with still more people in more beds.

“Who are you!?” One of the guards called out, not the one dragging Jasmine but this man held an automatic style carbine in his hands that he spun and levelled at Max, then paused. “Oh crap, it’s the Authority.” The mans’ eyes travelled down Max, noting the uniform he wore that had been provided by Dar. That moment saved the mans life, as it also reminded Max that he was wearing it. That moment also reminded Max that there were rows and rows of people between them. One bad shot would kill someone.

Without replying, Max counted on the uniform to speak for him and he simply glared at the pair and began walking quickly towards them, picking the path of least obstruction and bodies. The other man dragging Jasmine having now stopped and turned around, prodded the first guard. “We need to get him out of here, if he sees what that stripey meatbag did to Rag, we will all be sent to the Authority Enlightenment Ministry!

“Let that woman go, under the Authority I need to question her.” Max demanded and suddenly realized that Bob was walking two steps behind him, now wearing the same Uniform that Max had on.

“Hold on,” the first guard held up a hand and raised his weapon, although somewhat uncertainly. “This is a private facility under contract to the Ferengi Medical Insurance Institute, agreed by the Authority. You can’t just walk in here and demand we do what you want.”

“Wrong answer,” Max’s words were short and clipped, and without pausing he raised his phaser and shot the man full in the chest. Max still had the power setting on a very high, almost dangerous level and instead of simply putting a hole in the man, dropping him to the ground, the particle beam disintegrated his body instantly. “So talking is off the schedule then?” Bob helpfully asked him from behind. “We really need to work on those anger issues.”

“Stop!” The second guard yelled, pulling Jasmine up in front of him as a shield and hitting a button on his chest. As the man raised his own weapon at Max, an audible alarm sounded that Jasmine would recognize as calling more guards. “Stop and drop your weapon, this facility is private!

Max Wynter

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