Posted Jan. 25, 2022, 9:12 p.m. by Lieutenant Commander Natasha Knight (Chief Medical Officer) (Kate O'Neill)
Posted by Captain Dante Knight (Commanding Officer) in Starfleet Academy - First Cadet mission
Posted by Lieutenant Commander Natasha Knight (Chief Medical Officer) in Starfleet Academy - First Cadet mission
Posted by Captain Dante Knight (Commanding Officer) in Starfleet Academy - First Cadet mission
Posted by… suppressed (35) by the Post Ghost! 👻
“Oh my god I am so bored,” Kelly messaged Dante via the PaDD. With the senior officers sitting around them that they had to transport to their destination, it was not like anyone could speak freely. It had to be all professional and on the up an up. “Maybe we could fly right through a star or bounce a little close to a supernova. That would show them how great we can fly wouldn’t it?” Kelly was only half joking. This trip was so dull and uneventful. Their better halves were in the back pretending to do work while Kelly and Dante were stuck actually having to remain on task. The last time she checked, Ric was cleaning and calibrating the weapons. Since the man could literally do this in his sleep he was sleeping. At times she hated her boyfriend. Daye was reviewing medical charts which meant she used the excuse of needing a private and secluded area to work. This translated to her doing those lame quizzes she loved. The reason Kelly knew that was every ten minutes she was getting pinged to answer a question. Ethan was the closest to doing actual work but for the life of Kelly she could not figure out exactly what that was when she glanced back.
Ethan noted Kelly’s glances out of the corner of his eye, but ignored them. He had no doubt the Star Pupils of the Academy had found a way to shirk doing actual work once again, likely plotting more ways to get out of putting in real effort and actually learning something that might save lives later on. Both of them had the devil’s luck, a way to make the most unlikely and idiotic of plans actually work. Ethan wasn’t going to take that chance though, his Tactical Station was alive with charts and information about the space ahead of them, marauder reports on pirates and bandits operating in the area, anomalies recently charted and even the merchant shipping lane schedule was open. With the VIP’s on board someone had to be doing something to keep everyone alive.
A soft ping on the PaDD beside her caused to Kelly to scowl. “There Are Only Six Types Of People In The World And You’re One Of Them. Why is she having time to do this and we are not?” The annoyance in Kelly’s voice was plain. Still that did not stop her from continuing the quiz. “I am supposed to look at 20 photos and react to each of them on a scale from negative to positive.”
“Is that all you got?” Dante said, looking over at Kelly’s screen like he was trying to cheat. “I have to do What Type of Cheese am I, I think that even Natasha is starting to get bored down there. What type of cheese am I? There has never been a feta time to find out.” He read the words out loud, but only loud enough for Kelly to hear, then made a face. “Yeah she’s scraping the bottom of the barrel on this one.”
Kelly poked and stabbed at the screen clicking each image as she groaned about how this trip was not exactly what she had hoped it would be until finally announcing, “I got the builder. It says personal fulfillment, for me, comes from being creative. If you’re doing work that doesn’t flex that creative muscle, you’re bored to death and practically useless. And satisfaction doesn’t come easily as you hold yourself to an incredibly high standard. When you’re supposed to be basking in the glow of a completed project, you’re constantly wondering how you could’ve made it better. It’s both a gift and a curse; it’s how you’re able to constantly raise the bar and improve over time. But it can also be paralyzing and cause you to miss deadlines. Sometimes, you just need to set the bird free.”
“This is nothing like me,” she looked over at Dante and rolled her eyes.
Cadet Natasha Knight (aka Kate O’Neill who this assessment is exactly like :rofl: )
“Noooooo, nothing at all,” Dante shook his head, and snickered. “Well maybe it is a bit, but you know those things are like horoscopes right? They make them sound fancy but really it’s just what everyone wants to hear about themselves. See what would have made that one better for you, is if it mentioned how you rejoice in victory over another group once you have completed your project, and even break out in little dances,” Dante shrugged, “well you do.”
Hitting buttons on his own screen, his face curled up more than once. “Who comes up with these things? Describe the cheese that comes in little plastic square packets? Does Cheese go with fish? DoI like Blue Cheese? Pick a musical instrument, now what’s my favourite drink?” Shaking his head, Dante still plugged away his answers even as an impatient beep came from Natasha asking what the answer was.
“I’m Halloumi,” Dante announced. “You’re an interesting one! You’re one of the only cheeses that can be fried and grilled and doesn’t melt. You’re salty and delicious, and probably magical in some way too. Who knows?” He read to Kelly as well then looked at her and frowned. “I am not salty!”
Behind them, Ethan sniffed loudly as if he was holding back a cough or a gurgle or something, but kept his head down and bashed his own buttons. His own console pinged, and a message from Natasha appeared on his screen. Opening it, he frowned and read aloud. “There are Nine Personality Types, Which Disney Princess Are You?”
He blinked and looked up, meeting Kelly’s eyes, then sighed. “I’m Elsa,” he said, and then read out loud, You’re a Reformer like Elsa! You’re purposeful, driven, and well-organized. Elsa’s key motivation is making things “right” and taking care of her loved ones, so she’s def a Reformer! Like you, it’s hard for Elsa to accept help from others and she puts lots of pressure on herself to do everything correctly.” Ethan looked up and frowned, “That isn’t me at all.”
Cadet Knight and Cadet Nash
“Let it go. Let it go,” Kelly broke out in sang laughing. Nat’s fascination with the online quizzes at times did make one crazy but always led to levity. “You don’t care…what they are going to say....because”. Before Kelly could finish she badly sung rendition to Nash her console lit up like a Christmas tree with a blinking message.
Snapping to attention she began inputting numbers to accept the message. “Sir putting message through,” Kelly reported to Dante. The honorific sir always indicated to him Kelly was no longer his friend but his subordinate.
“Cadet First Class Knight here,” Dante answered looking into the screen, like Kelly, his tone had become completely business.
The rank and urgency of the message made Kelly groan. Giving Dante a side glance she spun slightly to face him. “If this person starts his second sentence with Let’s unpack this I am not going to be responsible for my actions or reaction.” Unpack this was Kelly’s newest annoyance which she could feel already bubbling just below the surface.
“Cadet First class Knight,” a face whose neck bore the rank of captain appeared on the screen.
Nodding to the man in acknowledgement, his face stayed dead straight but words came out without even his lips moving. It was a skill learned over numerous tasks done with Kelly and while the camera wasn’t focused on her, she had a habit of narrating her thoughts. This way, Dante was able to reply without making it obvious to the person watching. His ventriloquism teacher had been most impressed at how fast he had picked up the skill. “Kelly, stop. This isn’t the time.” The slightly muffled and accented Italian left no doubt it was Dante speaking, although he looked like he was paying full attention to the Captain on the screen.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to unpack this ‘cause I am pretty sure he is gonna unpack this,” she could feel the urge to click off the comment and claim some errant ion storm was wreaking havoc with the comms but that would only prompt a return call and not solve the problem.
“Your current mission is going to require a detour. I need you and your medical officer to take the shuttle from the runabout and proceed to course 00.847 to the planet Lonestra III. They are having a situation. Let’s unpack this for a moment,” the voice continued.
With a deep sigh, Dante waited. It had begun.
“There it is,” Kelly said after muting the call on their end. She wore the same still formal expression but it was burning just under the anger growing inside her . Kelly hated the catchphrase and even though Dante was well aware of it, he was again going to hear why again for what had to be the twentieth time this week. “Why did he have to go there? Huh…huh,” her tone was testy but her spoke through just a small space in her mouth to have it appear she was silent.
“You know it’s the latest catchphrase, it’s trendy in upper circles, I bet you that you will use it one day,” he told her, again with the lips not moving.
“God this guy looks so familiar,” she mused statin at the face. The close set eyes and thin lipped mouth was pretty standard for those in the upper echelons of starfleet ranks but he didn’t have anything special about him to spark her recognition.
“Lonestra III is a newly encountered planetary system that is applying for Federation membership. I am not sure you need the history but,”
“But you are giving it and unpack it,” she spoke over the man as he gave useless fact. “The problem I have with unpacking this is the metaphor. I mean all it means is to analyze something into a greater detail. So why the catchy preamble? I am here. I am a captive audience. If I could run from our lecture I would but I can’t because you are the professor or ranking officer and that means I have to just sit here and listen.”
“Now what you might not know is that Lonsestra III has a unique mineral with properties in the scientific and medical fields,” the voice droned on.
“See right there. You know we could so Bang or Gaggle that. It is not like we are first-year cadets that have never read a mission briefing or prepared for what we are about to do on duty. This guy as not imparting knowledge. He just wanted to hear himself talk. Why can’t people be more like Hornsby? Knight…Shultz,” she imitated the security officer. “Get your asses to Lonsestra and report back ASAP.” Kelly was on a role. There was no stopping her. “Short sweet and to the point.”
“Oh my god,” Nash groaned at the Tactical console behind them. “Can we gag her? Hit her with a stun shot? Please? How about we get that Engineer buddy of yours up here and get him to stick something in her mouth. That might at least give her something else to hyperfocus on and something she might enjoy unpacking.
Kelly ignored Nash for now. He would get his payback…only when he least expected it.
In reply, Dante didn’t even blink. Was he considering it?
“You need to evaluate what is occurring and report back to command ASAP. Cadet First Class Shultz you are to assume the rest of this mission dropping off the cargo and then report to Lonestra III”
“See he just wasted ten minutes of my life that I am never getting back and what did he exactly unpack for us. Go to the planet and report to the ground officer who I can bet knows far more than this guy,” she said reaching forward to activate the comm system again. “Yes Sir. Understood.”
“Yes Sir, the CMO and I will depart immediately.” As the screen went blank, Dante pushed himself to his feet. =/\= Nat, it’s Dante. We have a new mission from Starfleet Command, just you and I. Pack light, we are taking a shuttle to Lonestra III. =/\=
Kelly gave Dante a side glance. She hated when they split missions like this. The general perception was she and Dante flew on a wing and a prayer. The truth was ever detail was painstakingly gone over by them, even if it was drinking a pitcher of beer and eating wings. This did not sit well with her.
“Look on the bright side, Cadet First Class Shultz,” Dante said with an evil smirk. You have the Bridge and the Captaincy of this ship. “Cadet First Class Nash,” he said, looking up to the Tactical Console, “Take the Executive Officers Seat.”
“Thanks Knight,” she said over her shoulder as Dante moved out of the cockpit. Silently counting in her head she waited until Nash moved to take his seat. It was then Kelly threw the shuttle into a hard right forcing anyone standing to be tossed into the left side bulkhead. Kelly’s target was Dante and Ethan since they should be the only ones standing. If anyone else got tossed as collateral damage that was their fault for not remaining seated.
As the doors had closed behind him, Dante had counted down in his head and then a moment before he hit one, paused and leaned casually against the left hand bulkhead. Thus when the ship was thrown into a sharp turn to the right, he was already braced against the wall and just rode it comfortably until the ship righted itself again. It wasn’t exactly a 50/50 call on his part. Most people would throw the ship into a left hand turn as that was the most natural direction for most pilots to turn in, but Kelly was a schemer and more crafty than most.... but… Dante smirked… she was his XO, not the other way around. He knew she would go right, she had to make a point and do the unexpected. There was a reason the two of them were a deadly team.
“What the hell was that for?” Nash snapped as his hand appeared above the console under which he was lying from Kelly’s turn, groping for a handhold to pull himself up.
Once Nash took his seat and the shuttle let the roundabout, Kelly looked at Nash as he set in the new course. “So we got four hours until we reach the Outpost. Tell me about that redhead who’s obviously totally in love with you.” A smiled slid across her face as she pretended to look forward. “Isn’t she the one that led the symposium on increasing the gestational rate of wheat , rye, and corn in low light and low gravity environments?”
As Natasha and Dante descended from the thin wispy clouds of the atmosphere the blue, white, and green planet began to appear less idyllic and more sterilized. Large fences and partition walls could be seen from the atmosphere marking off sections of the land. On one side of the partition, it was easy to see a sparkling gleaming metropolis that was the poster child of Federation cities. The areas outside of the partitions were less so.
Natasha cast an uneasy glance at Dante. “These people have applied for Federation status,” she asked as they flew over what could only be termed a slum on route to the landing zone.
“Why would they need us to investigate this issue of theirs?” He replied, looking out the window at the lands below them. “I guess we had better find this ground contact and see what we have to evaluate and report back on.”
The slums seemed to thin out the closer to the landing zone of the metropolis they got, and once over the wall that appeared to divide the area’s they were quite literally flying over a completely different world. Lush green forests and blue lakes spread out around them teeming with wildlife, leading like a shining example of perfect natural harmony all the way to the glimmering metropolis of the city.
“Well now, this place looks kind of, perfect.” Dante observed as he glanced at Nat. “We’re approaching the landing zone.”
“Too perfect,” she wrinkled up her nose. Already something felt off but they hadn’t landed and Nat had no proof except her gut and Russian distrust for anything unknown.
As the ship landed, the pair was created by a man in a mask and perfectly tailored suit. “Please stop,” he held up his hand motioning for Natasha and Dante to not leave the landing ramp. “We just need to disinfect you. Just a precaution,” he said in a friendly tone.
“What? I’m clean, I swear, I showered this morning. So did she,” Dante said, with his head indicating Natasha, revealing only the slightest of grins.
Nat eyed the men approaching them wearing far more protective gear than the man sent to greet them. The four men divided into pairs: one stood by Dante and the other Nat.
“Hands up and held out please,” they asked as a thin mist spilled from the small canisters they carried and enveloped Nat and Dante.
“Oh look, the national greeting here is a game of patty cake,” Dante said out the side of his mouth, but he did as they asked and held his hands up and out. “What’s the deal Tasia, what do they mean disinfect?”
She sniffed the air getting a strong stench of disinfectant and bleach from the air. “It’s a standard decomm mist for pathogen control,” Nat replied to Dante never taking her eyes off the man in the suit and mask. “Bacterial or viral,” Nat asked him. Clearly there was something biological happening here or the planet’s Inhabitants were complete germaphobes.
“Well that is what you are here to tell us Cadet Daye. Suddenly the man broke out in a series of chuckles. “Knight and Daye,” he said looking between them. “Okay that is the most clever combination of a partners names I have heard in a long time. Only thing that would make it better would be if you two were dating,” he said jovially. The man was a civilian and probably had no idea dating another officer was frowned upon. As strange as the situation was she and Dante just landed into, The man who was greeting them seemed to have no malice or anger in his words. It was just a man trying to lighten the conversation in an awkward moment.
“I know, wild right. It’s like we are secret agents or something and those are code names. Can you imagine the confusion on the poor concierges face when he announces that a table or room is ready for Knight and Daye? Worst Spy names ever.” Dante replied in his own light hearted way, it wasn’t unusual to have people comment on their names when they were together, but it also wasn’t unusual to see people recognize the oddity and not say anything in favour of trying to work it out for themselves.
“Vut are you sazin’” she let her accent slide out far more pronounced. “Being a dock tor could be my most cover.”
Dante snort laughed. “Oh right, cause sounding like a Holonovel Assassin is clearly not going to give away our spy game.”
“They are clear sir,” one of the men whose was disinfecting then reported
“Oh that’s a relief, looks like we don’t have Klingon Herpes after all, Natasha, see and you were worried for nothing.” Wiping his hands on his tunic to get rid of the moist of the mist, he looked at Natasha to see if she was taking in the info she needed while he tried to draw attention to himself by his statements.
“What,” she hit him with the back of her hand purely out of reflex. They would need to work on the professional part of them in the future but it was so damn hard when he looked at good as he did.
“Excellent,” the suit replied peeling off his mask as he now stepped forward to shake Dante’s hand. “If you would please follow me and I can take you to the liaison from the Federation. This way,” he motioned with a sweeping gesture in the direction he wanted them to go
Natasha Daye. CMO
“Thank you,” Dante replied, subduing a strong desire to fake sneeze as he shook the man’s hand. A curse of Starfleet training, he was young enough to know the humor that would bring him yet instilled with a strong enough sense of proper diplomatic behavior from his training to know that it wasn’t the right time.
Walking beside Natasha as they followed the man, Dante looked around him. Despite their concern about bugs and germs, the spaceport was pristine clean and clearly just as modern as the rest of the city inside the walls. “So, what has been going on here? You have an outbreak of some disease among the population? Is that why you have a wall around your city?” Maybe that was the best way to ask the question, anybody coming down could see the night and day difference between the slums and the city, but why when they clearly weren’t lacking resources were people living like that outside the walls?
“We are not concerned about the virus because we deal with the virus,” a man said from the left drawing everyone’s attention. A man in a crisp white suit emerged from an office. He was tall as Dante but far more skinny boarding on gaunt. “We have numerous precautions and procedures in place to ensure the citizens are safe and well cared for.” Stepping back he gestured towards the room.
“Hey, you know that Russian Assassin stuff?” Dante whispered to Nat, “Does that white suit not look like the quintessential bad guy suit on Skeletor there? Tell me I’m wrong, I dare you.” He however smiled and nodded to the man curtly as he followed the gesture. “This better not be a gas chamber, you have that appointment with the masseuse on Thursday, I paid good money for that.” Still whispering to Nat, he made a show of pausing at the door before going in.
“For the hundredth time it is not a gas chamber but a decontamination suite,” she elbowed him in the side fighting the urge to smile at his hint of their personal relationship. Few people saw the playful, silly side under Knight’s more serious exterior. It did show, however, like the time Dante came in and got trapped in the decom chamber. His acting would not win an academy award as he pretended to fight his way to get free but he did win her heart as he slid down the glass and drew a huge heart with his finger in the fogged up glass that said DK + ND 4 ever. The sentiment was so middle school and silly, Natasha could not help but laugh. Leaning down that day she pressed her lips to the glass kissing him on the other side. If anyone in medical had any suspicions they were an item, it vanished that day as fast as the disinfecting gas out of the release valve as Nat set him free.
“Oh honey I am not missing Brandon. That man has hands that do things to me which keep me coming back for more,” she teased with a wink. Dante didn’t enjoy a massage as much as Daye except for the part where they had ten minutes to prepare for the massage in the couple sessions she had tried to book. It was probably because both times, she and Dante had spent fifteen minutes working out the tension before the massage. While that activity was most enjoyable and relaxed her, Dante tended to enjoy the part more where he could roll over and nap for the next hour without having to focus on the niceties like cuddling and chatting as he often had to in their dorm rooms. Both times they had the couples massage, Nat had to yell twice that he was snoring and it was detracting from the soft music, dimmed lights, and soft aromatherapy drifting in the air. She would press him again for more couples time at the spa but she wasn’t sure it would happen.
“Which is why you essentially acted like we were carrying the plague the second the shuttle doors opened,” Natasha replied following Dante into the room. The soft swish of the air in the room indicated they were entering a negative air space which alarmed Natasha slightly. This place was too pristine
“Can I get you some refreshments,” the man asked moving behind the desk and gesturing for the pair to take a seat.
“Coffee, for both of us.” Dante replied. Walking to the chairs and looking around. This place was small, fairly bare and while it seemed to be an office, it would have also passed well as an interrogation room. He hadn’t noticed the air pressure at all.
“We are to meet with our Federation liaison, I take it that is you?” Dante stood behind the chairs but made no move to sit down, instead he stood above the man and looked down on him, using his height and bulk to try and convey a little bit of authority and confidence in a situation that he was slowly getting confused by.
The sound of the door opening again pulled Natasha’s attention off their host and onto the person bringing in the refreshments. A knot formed in her belly seeing the beverages arriving covered with a thin, plastic, sterile film covering the cups. Condensation had formed from the steam obscuring the dark liquid under the lid. The presentation of the coffee cups spoke volumes to Nat. Clearly, the people that greeted them were worried about air-born infection. The negative airflow room, the decontamination gas when they were outside and still six feet away after exiting the shuttle, and the covered beverages meant these people were taking no chances on possible exposure scenarios. Natasha watched her give the man his drink first before offering them to her and Dante. “Thank you,” Natasha said as the woman handed her a cup. Testing out a hypothesis, Nat made sure her finger brushed the woman’s hand as she took the beverage. The look of abject horror on the assistant’s face gave Natasha chills.
“Thank you Palis,” the man that ushered them in said to the terrified woman. “You are free to go. Report to station two before returning to your duties.”
“But I,” she said ignoring Nat and Dante completely and moving a step towards the man behind the desk. “She,” the woman pointed a finger at Natasha with pure fury in her eyes.
“She and the gentleman she arrived with are our guests. Please remember that fact.” The man’s hand slipped under the desk and half a heartbeat later the door reopened with two armed men standing at the door. Palis glanced back at them before defeat spread across her face replacing the flash of anger previously there. The room was still except for the sound of her footsteps echoing against the surfaces in the room reminding Daye of how sound reacted in a cave or cavern.
Looking from the door, to Nat and back to the man, Dante raised an eyebrow at what had just happened.
“I am so sorry for that outburst,” the man gestured for Dante to take a seat in the chair that was open across from him. Sitting down himself he pulled the film off the coffee and took a tentative sip. “Careful…it tends to be hotter than I usually expect. To answer your earlier question no I am not your Federation liaison. That is why you are here. He has taken ill but rest assured he have him resting and isolated
Nodding to Natasha, Dante took his seat and leaned forward, brow furrowed. “Would you mind telling us what exactly is going on here? You have a plague on this planet?” Dante tilted his head toward the door in an indication of the woman’s performance, then to the cups of coffee with film over the top.
“Why the precaution? The greeting and hose down at the space port, the hazard suits, sealed buildings and all of this?” Dante leaned back and looked to Natasha, “Why the aggression towards Dr Daye from that lady? We are here to help and assess, what exactly are we assessing?”
“We are just making sure everyone stays safe and healthy,” the man smiled trying to appear good natured. “Certain…protocols are in place to contain the illness. Palis will be fine. We will run the daily scan and she will be back to work. Lickety split…as they say in the Federation…correct.”
Natasha looked at Dante slightly suspect of the friendly response as compared with the reactions of a few moments ago.
“Something along those lines,” Dante said, but he didn’t sound convinced. “It just seems, excessive for something that seems to be not very serious, is all.”
“0h come now,” he said smoothly. “Do you not take health precautions? We just want our people healthy and safe.”
Clasping his hands he blew off their suspicions and immediately began with why they were here. “We have a medical situation and here. It’s not that serious but we were hoping to negotiate about getting some supplies from your local Starbase. They haven’t arrived yet and I was wondering if you knew why?” The mans voice was colder with a hint of threat to his words as he looked at the young senior cadet.
“Not exactly,” Dante sat up and his tone immediately went from curious to businesslike. There was a reason he and Kelly were considered the top Cadets of their year, if not in grades compared to some others, than in their ability to get a job done in ways that others didn’t consider.
“However the task of myself and Cadet Daye here is to liase with and assist the Federation contact in his initial assessment of the suitability of your world for entrance into the Federation as you have requested. Our work is only the preemptive work for a full team to come in after of course, it’s hardly like we as Cadets have any influence on any decision but,” and here Dante paused and looked at Natasha before looking back to the man at the desk, “we are also here to investigate this outbreak as well as make a report on whether the medical goods requested are to be used for what the have been requested for.” Dante spread his hands now, “reports say that the amount of medical supplies requested was very specific, and wouldn’t bring relief to most of the population in a medical emergency. We need to make sure our medical supplies are not being leveraged for a purpose other than helping the people. Once we can report on this, I’m sure they will be released quickly.”
Natasha’s gaze left the man across the table and settled on Dante. She loved when he was all business like, well except when he lost his mind and tried to act like he was in command of her. That was never fun for either of them but this was different.
“Well not everyone has the same need,” the man bristled at Dante’s comment. “Yes everyone will get treatment but you can’t deny that police, doctors, and other infrastructure personnel need to get it first….so we can get it to the masses. Don’t you agree doctor?”
His fishy, cold smile took all the warmth from Nat’s daydream as she frowned and reluctantly agreed with a small head nod
“What a lovely little theory,” Dante’s words had comer out barely before Nat had finished her head nod. “Except it doesn’t work when those personnel are the only ones going to get any medical treatment because the amount you requested simply won’t go any further than those people. The Federation has and is able to provide medical supplies enough to treat the entire population, yet you only requested enough to help perhaps barely a third of your population. There are no other requests for more.”
“Well, we do not want to appear as if we are not self-sufficient now, do we. Everyone needs a little help from time to time and that is all we are requesting. A little help,” he spoke in a slippery tone.
“Doctor Daye and I are here to assess that request as assistants to the Federation Liaison, like I said,” Dante continued, “In his absence, I believe we must continue that assessment ourselves with your blessing of course. I can guarantee you that our assessment will be thorough and fair, and take into account your cultural and legal requirements within the mandate of the Federations Prime Directive, considering your application to become a member,” Dante was running out of words, and desperately trying to link important sounding phrases from lectures he had both attended and assisted in together to make it at least sound like he knew something about what he and Nat were doing.
“Good then It’s settled. I have transportation,” the man began.
“Lead the way,” Dante said coming to his feet, and holding out his hand to help Nat to hers but also to make some contact between them that was more than just giving official looks at the right time. Notably, Dante hadn’t touched his coffee. “I’m eager to get this started and see if we can visit our Liaison, with the proper precautions taken of course. It might be prudent to give us a run down of the kind of safety precautions you have in operation so we aren’t caught by surprise. Anything to add, Doctor Daye?”
“Not at this time Cadet Knight,” she said with a terse smile. Already she was doing what she did best.
“Excellent if you would just wait here until we are ready for you,” the man said moving to the door and waving a hand. “My people do not move with the speed of those in the service such as you. I would hate for you to not be comfortable as you wait so please have a seat and we will be back for you shortly.” The official did not pause or even break his stride as he approached the door. As if on cue it opened and immediately closed behind him.”
“Okay that wasn’t odd at all,” Natasha said looking at the doors. “You however were hot as hell,” she gave him a small smile. “I mean that command tone....it does things for me.” She could not help but flirt with Dante now that they were alone. “I mean where did you learn all the liaison this and protocol that. Is it a class you take that the rest of us non-command types aren’t privy to?” As she talked she walked to the door the man exited out of and wrapped her knuckles on the heavy wood. “Get ready to use it again. We might need it,” she said before the door opened stalling any response from Dante.
“If you would be so kind I need to use the facilities,” she smiled at the young guard at the door. Glancing at his patrol mate he shrugged and motioned her forward out of the office. “You should come too,” she said to Dante. “Might be a long trip to wherever we are going.” The conversation might have appeared odd but Nat had a plan. It did no go to separate from Dante so he was going to have to play along until she could tell him what they were about to do.
Natasha Daye, cadet
“Probably a good idea, your right” he answered, not really considering any ulterior motive because in the excitement of the landing for their first official away mission, he had forgotten to use the facilities on the shuttle and after being sprayed with disinfectant, and assaulted with coffee odor, he needed to go just a wee bit.
Walking to the door he noted the guards gaze following the feisty and pretty little Russian, and couldn’t help but give them a smirk and a wink. “Try being assigned a day long shuttle ride in a cramped shuttle with her,” he murmured as he walked past them. “It doesn’t get boring, lemme tell you.” The guards both looked at each other, then grinned catching on to what Dante had implied. It didn’t make them relax though as one of them began to follow the pair of Cadets down the hall towards the facilities. Clearly, they weren’t comfortable or had orders not to let them wander too far.
“Didn’t you go before we landed?” He said to her, “You didn’t put away that much coffee before we set down.”
“Stop talking about my baby sized bladder,” she punched him in the shoulder. It was far harder than Dante would expect but gave her the chance to mouth be ready before she pealed off and entered the room marked women.
Dante frowned slightly but had no time to reply before she disappeared into the Ladies. “Ow” he rubbed his arm and glanced at the guard who was slowing to a wait outside the door Nat had gone into, but in view of the door Dante would take. The guard was still smirking.
Inside the bathroom Natasha looked around taking in the room. It was a standard public facilities room with several stalls. It would work nicely. Moving to the sink she put her hands under the soap dispenser and waved them back and forth several times until a pool of white filled them. Moving to the front of the door, she judged how far it would take for someone to be in the room and have the door close behind them. Bending down she began to rub the sudsy mess into the tiled floor. Lucky for her both the tiles and the soap were white making it perfectly camouflaged. After several trips back and forth to the sink, Nat figured her job was done. Lucky for her this place seemed to be a germaphobes paradise with an endless supply of soap and sanitizer. Washing her hands she them moved into one of the stalls and closed the door. She hoped the walls were thick enough that Dante did not hear her.
“Help. Help me,” she yelled out knowing the guard was just outside the door. “Fire,” she yelled knowing people always came when they heard fire and not so much when they just heard help. As predicted the door opened and Nat heard the guard call out ma’am. “Damn I am so sorry I thought I could grab a smoke here,” she continued to talk throwing out the first thing that came to her mind. Smoking was not common but not uncommon. People always had their vices in one form or another and tobacco was just one thing the human race had carried with them since they crawled out of a cave, started a fire, and felt relaxed burning the weird leaves in the fire. Whether or not the man believed her lie didn’t matter. Her ploy worked. His footfalls only echoed twice before it was briefly replaced by a slurry of expletives and the sound of a skull impacting the hard tile. Sticking her head out of the stall she winced slightly seeing the man sprawled out on the tile. Grabbing the shoulders of the man’s uniform she pulled and tugged moving him from in front of the door to the back of the room. Pretty soon Dante or the other guard was going to come looking for her and she needed to have the trap ready again. laying the man out on the floor, Natasha began to unbutton the man’s shirt and unbuckling the man’s belt.
Outside the ladies room after about ten minutes, the guard back at the hallway door looked at Dante who was standing in the hall also looking at the ladies room. “Did she fall in,” he asked letting out a small laugh as he walked towards Dante. He never would have made that comment with a woman around but the knew the guest beside him would find humor in the universal joke of what the hell causes women to take so long in the bathroom.
“It’s possible, you saw how tiny she is right? I mean for some weird reason the bowls on this planet are enormous, I hope your Phasers are set on wide beam cause your aim must be terrible.” Dante grinned at the tease and looked at the door, then blinked slightly and looked up the hall to where he had come from out of the Mens. Where was the second guard?
It was then the man realized his partner was not around. Reaching up to his comm he clicked it calling out a name.
=/\= Herbert, this is Scott. Where did you get to? =/\= “Oh my god his name is Herbert?” Dante put a hand over his mouth to stop the laugh that was about to burst out. “That poor man, was he raised by his Aunt or something?”
“It’s a family name, apparently,” The guard explained, also showing a slight grin at his lips.
Inside the ladies room Nat’s eyes grew wide. She hadn’t planned for the two men to be talking. Reaching down to the comm she clicked it responding “uh uh yeah” in a deep voice that clearly was not a man but a woman pretending to be a man.
Hearing the sound of Nat’s voice when she was in husky mode, Dante shook his head and his hand moved from his mouth to cover his eyes. What the hell is she doing now?
The guard instantly raised his weapon and moved into the bathroom. His eyes widened seeing his partner half-naked and the woman half his size standing over him trying to pull off his boots. “Freeze,” he yelled pausing Natasha in her strip search of the man. “Don’t move,” he yelled taking one step then a second step forward.
Following the guard, Dante saw what the man in front of him saw and his eyebrows went up. “Oh I doubt Herbert wants her to stop moving, I can’t leave you alone for a minute can I?” Dante teased, but his eyes saw what the guard had probably missed, the guard on the floor had his eyes rolled into the back of his head and not with ecstasy.
With Dante behind him and not aware there was a thick layer of soap ready to take down the first person that stepped on it Nat held up her hands and said “Dante don’t move.”
“Me? He’s talking to you honey, I’m allowed to move see,” as Dante’s voice spoke suddenly more urgently behind him, the conscious guard turned his head to see what Dante was doing and stepped forward to put space between them. He turned his head just in time to see Dante’s raised hand descending on the back of his neck in a judo chop, at the same time his foot came down on the suds. Dante’s aim was off, hitting bone instead of nerves but the suds gave way as he tried to plant his foot and turn to face him, and slid out from under him. With no footing and a good shunt from the man behind him this guard went down hard as well, head hitting the floor in the same way as poor Herbert and he was out for the count.
“Damn, I am good,” Dante congratulated himself, and then waved his hand like it was burning, “But damn that Huuurts, baby I think I pulled muscle in my hand. What are you doing? How did you knock the guard out and why the hell is he half naked? Did you knock him out before or after you got his pants off? You haven’t got your hypo’s so I’m guessing after? What the hell Tasia?” Dante stepped forward to walk up to her.
“No No No,” she said moving forward on her knees with her hands held up trying to point out Dante should not move farther forward.
His foot slid on the suds as he kept waving his hand, and his eyes went wide as he felt his balance falling away totally unexpectedly. “Oh Fu..” he managed to get out before he went down hard, this time landing on the second guard who had begun to groan, dazed but not knocked out. Dante’s flailing elbow hit him straight in the temple and with the weight of the taller man landing on his at the same time, went totally limp under him.
“I told you not to come forward,” she lecutred him. “What the hell am I going to do if you knock yourself out,” she said as if this was a well-rehearsed plan and not something she yanked out her south forty on a whim.
“Oh,” Dante mouthed, realizing what Natasha had done. “Well done baby, I like the way you think. Now, why are we knocking out and stripping the guards?”
“Because something weird is going on and we need to find out what it is. They aren’t obviously going to tell us so I thought we would prop them up on a stall, wear their uniforms, and go have a look-see. We are using the ladies room because no one will come looking for them in her first and second if they do no one,” she took on an extremely serious look, “and I mean no one will yell what are you doing to a pair of shoes in a woman’s stall. I mean…you just don’t do that,” she said as if she had a bad taste in her mouth or was uttering a curse. Standing up she pulled on the man’s shirt over her uniform and began to button it up. “Take his pants off for me,” she directed pulling her hair into a ponytail to fit under the hat of the uniform.
“Shoes?” Dante asked with a frown as he rolled to his feet and then stood over the unconscious guard. A moment later, understanding crossed his face. “Oh, so it’s like when you are in the Mens and a guy is each side of you, and you do not look down and sideways, eyes front only and if you absolutely have to turn your head, the eyes stay above shoulder height.”
About to bend down, Dante suddenly paused and looked at Nat. “Why do I have to take his pants off? You know that’s another taboo thing right. I’m taking another mans pants off in a bathroom. This is all sorts of wrong Nat, you don’t take of another guys pants in a bathroom unless, well, you just don’t.” The fact they had just assaulted and knocked out two security guards in a bathroom didn’t seem to worry Dante that much, clearly.
“Because I am dating you,” she looked at him with an annoyed and confused expression. “Why would I be taking a man’s pants off if I am dating you,” she said raising an eyebrow.
“Why would I be taking a mans pants off at all,” he muttered, and began unbuckling the mans belt, turning his head away and peeking with one eye only to make sure he didn’t see or touch anything he shouldn’t. “You were fine with the shoes, always the shoes,” he kept muttering as he pulled the trousers off the guard, then handed them to Natasha before turning to the other guard. “Right, your turn, lets do this.”
Once she and Dante were dressed, Daye let out a small chuckle. Her borrowed uniform was three sizes too big making her have to cuff the sleeves and pants. Dante had the other problem. “You look like you had a laundry mishap,” she could not stop laughing. While Natasha had material to spare, Dante’s cuff and pants were each about three inches too short. “You worried about a flood,” she teased him.
“You would think these guys would be able to make self adjusting uniforms by now,” He held out his arms and looked at his legs. “Seriously, why are their security guards so tiny? Who would these guys threaten in a fight?”
“Oh stop complaining you have sexy ankles,” she threw out over her shoulder as she moved to the ladies’ room door and moved out. Standing in the hall, Nat and Dante saw no commotion which meant no one was looking for them. This was good news because with any luck they could get back and make up some story about the redressed guards and their unfortunate encounter with a faulty soap dispenser.
“Does my ass look big in this?” Dante whispered, “It’s not the ankles I care about, or what people are going to be looking at.” The trousers were tight all around, not just the fabric in the legs. Both his rear end and his package were prominent bulges in a uniform that clearly did not fit. Dante was also constantly adjusting the sleeves and the bottom of his shirt, every time he breathed in, both of them rode up. Eyeing Natasha, he reached out and tried to look at the tag inside her collar. “Did you get the bigger shirt?
Taking a right, Natasha moved down the hall towards an exit in the opposite direction they had come. The farther they came from the entrance room they met the chancellor, the more people they encountered. Luckily though everyone seemed to want to avoid others so their progression through the halls and corridors were unhampered.
“I am not sure what I am looking for,” Natasha said, “but I know I will know it when I see it.” As if her words were an omen, Natasha stopped fast directly in front of Dante. Before them was a lab with people in lab coats milling about. “Think the security people patrol labs like they do on starships,” she asked Dante.
Natasha Daye cadet
“Security on ships usually walk past, take a look in and then get as far away from those weird places as possible,” looking around, he noted a door on the far wall of the Lab leading to another corridor.
Natasha elbowed him in the gut hard enough for him to feel it. “Labs are not weird places and you spent plenty of time in the science labs when you were dating that red headed demon, what was her name again? Alice Madeline,” Natasha purposely butcher the woman’s name. “Not that you ever came to my lab on patrol. Why is that?” Nat wasn’t sure why she was suddenly jealous over something almost two years ago in Dante’s past. She turned and looked at him.
“Ashley Madison was her name,” Dante replied, “and I never spent much time in your lab because you always intercepted me in the changing room before I got there,” he reminded her. “Are we doing this now? Really?”
“Yes we are doing this now,” she looked up at him pushing the bill of the security guard cap back farther so she could look up at his face.
“Well stop,” Dante snapped quietly while he looked into the lab. “I’m not doing it, you can put a pin in that.” Dante pushed the bill of the cap back down over her face.
Natasha reached up batting his hand away from her bill. She only hated Dante being a foot taller than her in these situations or when they used to spar and he would hold her in place at arms distance with his palm on her head.
“Is there a problem,” a scientist asked seeing the two guards having words. She looked tenses but mostly it was because usually when to officers were having words it was over following some order.
There might be,” she responded not caring about the need for stealth. Stealth was for security. Doctors didn’t just sneak about so this was rather new to her but the excitement was wearing off.
“Might be,” the woman looked at Dante.
“None at all,” Dante’s head snapped around at the unexpected voice. “Just discussing something Security related.”
“He hates labs,” Natasha said off hand addressing the woman who then gave Dante a quizzical look.
“I just said they are weird, not that I hate them.” He spread his hands defensively.
“Well then don’t go in,” she looked skeptically at Dante and then back at Natasha.
“Right, good plan.” Dante smiled and gave her a thumbs up.
Natasha watched the woman walk away far faster then she probably should have. “Of course we have to go in to find out what they are doing but we are back to how to make sure no one else,” she stressed the word else.
“Only one way to find out though, right?” He said, and then noted everyone in the lab was wearing masks. Pulling a Mask out of his uniform pocket, he showed it to Nat. “Might help if we wear these, cover our faces. Even if someone stops us and asks us what we are doing, nobody will be able to identify or recognize us.”
Slipping the mask over his face, Dante looked up and down the hallway they were in and then turned to Nat. “Okay, game plan, coach. What are we looking for, if we have a purpose that will make how long we have to be in here shorter. If anyone asks, our patrol route has changed due to visitors from off-world and the new route is temporary.”
She nodded and entered the room. “We need to palm some tissue samples. Even if they are not successful at trying to treat it or avoiding treating it they will be studying it,” she said flinging her hand back and hitting him in the stomach indicating the need for him to stop. After the impact, she raised her hand and made the universal sign for stop by closing her fist.
Natasha’s hand had hit Dante in the stomach unexpectedly, making him double over and gasp for breath suddenly, winded. It was at just the right height now for her fist to stop, balled up in the ‘stop’ signal, right in front of his face. He said nothing because he simply couldn’t as he gasped for a breath through the mask, he just looked at her with a raised eyebrow.
“We need to get in there,” she pointed to the most active spot in the room. “That is probably the most promising spot to start. Weird and creepy labs tend to keep things in the freezer.” Her comment about weird labs showed she had not gotten off the topic from a few minutes earlier. “Not that you would know that or would you? I mean was Analise Mason’s lab creepy because you had the lights off or,” she let her voice trail again edging the perimeter of a fight.
“No, it was creepy cause every time I looked through the window in the weeks before Ashley and I broke up, I’m sure I saw a pair of green eyes looking back at me even though that window was three stories high.” Dante teased her as he stood up straight again and managed to breathe properly again. “Besides, I wasn’t in any lab to look in the freezer, my biology classes were much more hands on.”
“That was Dexter’s drone and we weren’t spying. We just needed an open space to fly it and the lab was next to the quad,” she shrugged it off. It was a lie but at least a plausible one.
“You stop,” she pointed a finger back at him. “Now how are we going to get in there,” she pointed to the opposite end of the room.
“We could do something totally unexpected, like walk through the door.” His tone was dry, as if he didn’t think they would or should try any other way.
“We need stealth,” she returned the dry comment. “You said be discreet. Isn’t this covered in one of those Security and Me: How to break in places text books you are always pretending to read in the library.”
There were all kinds of people milling about the exact spot they needed to be in. It was not going to be easy to find a way to patrol that section of the area and Natasha did not have to be a security officer to figure that out.
“Oh oh oh what about a seizure,” she suddenly came up with an idea waving her head excitedly about. “Just start flailing about. Kick your legs out. Flop on the floor like a fish. You know drooling is not overrated in a situation like this,” she looked up at him. WHat would surprise Dante most was how serious she actually seemed when he married her words with her expression.
“Are you out of your ever loving mind?” Dante stared at her. “We’re trying to lay low, you know that right? Instead you want me to flail about like I’m having a seizure and draw everyone’s attention to me? That’s the total opposite of what we are trying to achieve. They would scan me, try and identify me, find out I am not one of them and probably stick things in me where things shouldn’t be stuck. No, I am not having a seizure honey, not even for you.”
“Just take a deep breath and let it happen,” she advised him about the possible probings he was hinting at. “And the seizure is a great idea. Just suddenly recover before they stick you with anything. Really Dante is it a great plan and I can be quick.”
He walked to the door and then stepped aside, folding his arms across his chest and looking at her. “Why don’t we just walk in, grab a couple of clipboards and start looking at things? I’ll ask someone why some jar has it’s lid off and when they rush over to look you can poke your head in that freezer. I thought we would want data though, not samples? Where are you going to use those samples, it’s not like you can just lick it and find out what it is.”
“No, but I am going to assume the lab has security. If I had brought Dexter I am sure he would have been able to hack the system.” Natasha knew it was a dig. She never dated Dexter but he was the only one she could toss at him when she was feisty over Ms. Madison.
“If you brought Dexter, he would still be staring at your chest and stuttering,” Dante fired back. “Besides you know he preferred the cat girls, they looked closer to that Japanese style art he kept in that folder on his PaDD that he didn’t think we saw him looking at in lectures.” Walking back to her, Dante leaned in close to her ear and whispered, “You made the right choice with me, and I’m glad I ditched Madison. You are more than I deserve and I am the luckiest guy on campus to have you on my arm.” Dante didn’t stop walking though and in a moment was on the other side of her, his hand on her back. “No seizure, lets go.”
“Ugh don’t push me,” she groaned as she felt Dante’s hand on her back pushing her into the room. Walking into the room, Nat looked around her. Each step made her feel more anxious. She was not worried about her safety. She had Dante and her faith in him to get them out of this situation was absolute. What she was anxious about was all the medical machines in the room. The machines were not for testing and scanning but for manufacturing. As someone passed by Daye looked down at her clipboard pretending to read something. Unfortunately what she read was exactly the thing she was looking for.
“Dante,” she said flicking her finger to another screen. “They are infected with Mycobacterium leprae.” The expression on her face was serious. “A highly contagious form. We need to get out of here,” she looked up at him and back to the door.
“Mycobac.....leprae?” Dante echoed partly. “I feel like I know that name, why do I feel like I know that name?”
“Because,” she started to speak before noticing they were drawing attention.
Making a smooth turn around a small table beside them Dante led the two of them back out the door they had come in through. “Out first, then we find somewhere quiet.”
Walking back out the door he turned them both down the corridor away from the bathrooms and began to walk briskly. “See, and we didn’t even need a seizure, easy.” He joked lightheartedly but it was for show. Whatever Nat had seen had worried her immensely, especially for her to claim they had to get out of there. She was the germ expert, and he would follow her expertise on this one.
“I am about to have a myocardial infarct and need mouth to mouth and not in the fun way,” Natasha said dryly. In medical one did not have to run or hide to discuss things. While this mission started out fun, Nat was finding more and more reasons to let Dante do the security stuff and she stay in the creepy labs.
“Let it out honey, don’t keep it in. Infarts are bad for your gut, right? I’m not going to judge, I’ve heard you at night. You’re like a little firecracker sometimes and I still love you, but there is no way I’m giving you mouth to mouth while you fart. That’s Dexters kink.”
Natasha’s face screwed up into a look of frustration and confusion. Reaching out she swatted him several time with her open palm on the shoulder. “Women don’t do that. You know we would rather explode than fart,” she punctuated each word with a whack. “Are you really trying to make me kill you before this planet does? If so you are on right on course Dante Alighieri.” Using his middle name would make sure he knew Nat was serious.
Finding what looked to be a storeroom door he opened it and looked in. It was small but mostly empty, just having some cleaning materials and some storage racks for some room they hadn’t yet passed, so he pushed Nat inside and followed her in, then closed the door behind her and turned to face her, taking the mask off his face. “Okay Natasha, what the hell spooked you? Mycobractium Lepay or something?”
“How about the more common term of Leprosy,” she countered seeing the generic name trigger a reaction on Dante’s face. “And this strain....well it makes the biblical Leprosy towns look like resort towns. From what I can tell this is like leprosy on steroids’. It explains why they have the face masks, covered dishes they brought in, and the disinfectants. One sneeze of someone infected has the potency of snake venom. It won’t take a lot but can kill you on the spot without treatment.”
“Leprosy? I thought we wiped that out centuries ago!” Dante sounded shocked, and he underlined the point by snatching his hand away from the shelves he was leaning on and looking for somewhere to wipe it.
“We did,” she scanned the charts talking in that sing-song voice of hers indicating she was half listening to Dante.
Flipping through the chart she light-fingered, Natasha’s face took on a concerned expression. “What I can’t understand is why they are not treating it or haven’t contacted us for the treatment. It is curable but they are acting like it’s the Black Death. The shantytown outside the city wall now makes sense. They can dump anyone they want in it and the people are too sick once there to put up a resistance. The question is why would they do this?”
Natasha Daye Cadet.
Moving to the door, Dante opened it a crack and carefully looked out to see if anyone was looking for them. He could see nothing so he closed the door and turned back to Nat, keeping his back to the door and half listening to the sounds on the other side. “Could be a number of reasons, historically things like Class warfare, religious difference, Capitalism requiring people pay huge sums for treatment or even genocide of a particular group. Thing is Nat, any one of those would end up sending their application to the Federation to the shredder and binned faster than the first bottle of booze Kelly opens on a Friday night.”
“So how are you going to change it,” she asked in a completely sincere tone. Natasha was blind when it came to Dante. In her mind, there was not a single thing the man could not change, fix, or problem-solve. The idea that he was not ten foot tall and bulletproof never crossed her mind.
“If what is going on is ingrained into their culture or politics, they won’t just change it overnight. The benefits of being in the Federation probably make them think that whatever is happening they can keep quiet. So likely a small percentage of the population that is tucked away. Maybe they are too poor to pay to live in the city or maybe they are from an undesirable group. Maybe they are doing this on purpose to eradicate that undesirable group? You said this thing was like it was on steroids right? Do you think it could be engineered?”
“It’s looking like that at first glance. Whether it was accidental or on purpose I can be sure?” Natasha admitted.
“Either way, we aren’t safe. They will know we escaped any time now and then they will be looking for us. We are a threat to that application, Nat, do you understand what I am saying?” Moving forward, Dante cupped her cheek gently. “That board you have and your information is important proof. We need to get it to Command.”
“Yes but,” she started before he moved a single finger to her lips.
” But I think you are about to say we need to go and see what is happening in the shanty town, right?”
Natasha nodded still standing there with his finger on her lips. If he answered right she would find the action cute. If he didn’t produce the right response, he would need to clap a hand over her mouth to muffle the complaints.
“If we are wrong, we would be accusing an entire planet of genocide. That could end our careers before they start but if we are right, we have to prove it, and get help for those people. They can claim they couldn’t cure this virus and keep the people they want safe and treated behind the walls, and it could be nearly impossible to prove they are lying.”
Dante Knight, Cadet
“So we jump the wall, talk to a few of the townies, and get you a fat commendation,” she rose on her toes kissing him fast and hard on the lips before heading to the door.
“Well I don’t know how we do that but it’s not like it will be hard to find the wall,” she said in a tone indicating Dante’s logical questions were starting to annoy her. “We just go up and out a window…or something?” Nat cleared her throat realizing her idea was impulsive and stupid but that was okay. Opening the door to the closet they were hiding in, Nat took a right. By the time they needed a plan, Dante would have one and five years from now she would edit it so that it was a joint good plan instead of bad plan of hers.
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