Posted by Civilian Rex Ariki (Resident) in Camp Tsisteel Day 187
Seven days, nine hours, sixteen minutes and about thirty two seconds. Give or take that had been how long Mashku had left to return to her husband and children. But who was counting? Rex stood in front of the roughly sawed counter top and watched the elderly Benzite male cut a large transparent bar into smaller ones, taking care to make even cuts and pieces. Colourful dried leaves could be seen frozen inside carefully and exactly portioned. Behind the man, two more Benzite’s, one male and one female, both considerably younger, added ingredients to a black cauldron sitting atop and open firepit. Jozdoz, the older male looked up and smiled at Rex before handing her two slices. Gratefully accepting his offer, Rex nodded and quickly put both in the pockets of her coveralls. As generous as Jozdoz was, he was even more fair. As far as she knew, the Benzite only gave Rex two shares of handmade bars of soap. He knew she took more baths than was allowed and said nothing. In return, she brought him an extra half dozen poultry eggs. This was how trading and bartering was done in Camp Tsisteel. The Benzite family, father, daughter and son in law, were the only Benzites Rex had ever meet that had taken advantage of the federations offer to receive medical corrective surgery that allowed the family to breathe on a class M planet without any breathing apparatus. Combined with the fact Dinren and Qaxe were not only married but also procreating together, made the Benzite family all the more odd anywhere else but Camp Tsisteel. Qaxe laid her hand across her stomach and smiled at Rex. Giving a quick wave before heading back to her tent, Rex thought Qaxe’s daughter might be born tonight from the size of her abdomen.
Passing through the rows of large communal tents, Rex finally arrived back to her “door” and pushed aside the canvas flap. Supplies had arrived earlier in the morning. Soon constructions on more permanent housing would begin in earnest. Children would need more secure dwellings and families needed more privacy. She only hoped the soundproofing would be sufficient. Rex eased herself onto the single bed and picked up a PaDD from the stack laying on the small table. Her home was modest, consisting really only the bed, bedside table, small chair and desk and a trunk with a few clothing items, most of which were coveralls for work. Only her father’s purerehua and the strange necklace she had dug up a week ago, sat in the drawer of the desk. Nothing else in the universe slowed her down.
Laying on her back, elbows propped onto pillows, she held the Padd, studying it closely, frowning, she tossed it aside and picked up the next one, only to report the pattern three more times before returning to the first. For the last month, she had been constantly repairing or replacing the same five energy packs to the relay tower. All of them should have been maintenance free for at least five years. More mysteriously, none of them had been on the same circuits. Scratching her head, Rex sat up with her legs crossed under her and spread the six tablets out in a line. Shuffling them around, she re arranged the tablets until they were all lined up in operating order. Tilting her head nearly to her shoulder, Rex blinked and straightened up quickly as she watched the circuits flickering in a pattern. Rubbing her eyes and then temples, she looked again at the PaDDs. No. Definitely not an overactive imagination. That was a name and one she was not familiar with from the camp. Who the hell was Billie?
Rex Ariki, Engineer
Rex was only weeks away from having enough credits to pay for passage to Earth. Maori spirit ascended as her chest inflated and cheeks puffed out. Traveling from star system to star system for nearly ten years, the thought of joy finally meeting her birth family standing on the shores of New Zealand was nearly within her grasp. No one except the engineer should have been accessing the control station. If the relays failed due to sabotage, her bones would turn to dust on this godless rock far from her whānau and without a tangihanga sadness would remain and no spirits would be called for her to join her mother and father and all their mothers mothers and fathers fathers. For a moment, Rex recalled Elehaa and wondered if her spirit lived with the Maori or with the Illyria. Or would the ghost of Rex be torn in half, one to live with her whānau and the other hoa wairua. Outliving love did not diminish capacity to love, yet somehow increased flowing through her veins and lived on in hope.
Hoping off the bed, Rex tossed the PaDDs into a duffle bag and quickly put on her work uniform and grabbed her tool kit. Whoever had been messing with the packs would have been seen on cctv. How they managed to work around the other security measures was another mystery. All of those answers were far from here in the relay station. Shenohl would not be pleased to find his precious ground vehicle missing. Throwing back the canvas flap once again, Rex made her way quickly through the rows of tents and to the far side of the camp closest to the entrance. Luckily, the Andorian was still occupied with his mating partner from the previous evening. Pressing her blue tattooed lips tightly, Rex reached for the access door to the drivers side, lifted it silently, sat down and closed the door behind her. Taking a look around, satisfied no one had seen or at least cared, she waved her hands across the control panel, held her breath as lights came alive. Grinning, she took the steering device , pressed the pedal and moved slowly away from the camp.
Through a fog of red dirt, the ground vehicle raced along the path, taking hard bounces from one dune sailing to the next with no tread at times touching the earthen road beneath. Faster she flew, bouncing from side to side like an old bag of bones. Long course white braids from her head slapped hard across her face and she didn’t care , but laughed with happiness and glee crushing any sense of reason and caution, pushing the vehicle to its upper limits and beyond. If only it had wings she would jump the next pile of sand, launch straight into orbit and leave this hell hole once and for all. Soon, the relay station came into sight, she slammed on the brakes, skidding the vehicle sideways and just missed the entrance before coming to a jolted stop.
After shutting the vehicle down and collecting her gear, Rex made her way to the entrance and waved her hand for access. The door swished open, followed by blinding light and the familiar stale air. Tossing her bags next to the console, Rex took a seat and rubbed her eyes. All the control panels light up automatically, waiting her commands. Setting the perimeters for all the cameras and access to the station for the last two months, Rex sat impatiently for the results of her quire to whoever was sabotaging the energy packs. Drumming her fingers on the panel, Rex breathed in and exhaled sharply. Punching the panel with her forefingers, she tried the same perimeters again. And again. And again. Whoever had accessed the station had covered his or her or their tracks well and had security ability beyond her own. Only Rex’s entrees and departures had been recorded. At a loss on how to proceed, the engineer was deep in thought when the door behind her swished opened, flooding the computer room with harsh sunlight. Shielding her eyes with her forearm, Rex could only make out a dark silhouette against the light.
“Hey Shenohl, I was going to bring it straight back, I swear. Not a scratch on it,” Rex called out still unable to see the figure. How the Andorian managed to open the access door had just crossed her mind as soon as the last syllable left her tongue.
As the doors closed behind the figure, sealing out the natural light, the figure of a human male in a gold Starfleet uniform began to take shape. Rex studied his features and his uniform carefully. Neither handsome or unattractive, he appeared to be as unremarkable as any human could possibly present. If asked, Rex would have difficulty describing how he looked even after several seconds of intently studying him. Far from an expert on anything Starfleet, his uniform was not one she recognized or had recalled having seen anywhere. But then, there were lots of different organization in Starfleet as had been explained during her training with.....never mind that for now. Rex watched the officer as he slowly entered the room.
“Can I help you....ah, Lieutenant?” Rex asked hesitantly. She wasn’t sure if she had a reason to be afraid of the man or not, but his sudden appearance was unnerving at the least. What would Starfleet be doing all the way out here for a minor relay station and a terraforming camp of minimal importance? Still watching closely at his every movement, Rex tensed up her shoulders as her uneasiness grew.
“You have been restless your whole life. Torn in battle, flinging yourself from one strand of incarnation of immortality to the next. On this quest for a woman who loved you for five minutes while you have loved her for an eternity. So many times I have stopped you and yet here you are again,” The man took a step closer and someone managed to lessen the gap to be standing just inches from Rex. “What must I do to make you give up Captain?”
Sweet smell of honeysuckle floated through the air with each word, his voice still dripped in the air, landing in her ears. Yet it just sounded like crazy talk of a mad man. Not wanting to invoke anger, Rex replied softly and with an even tone, “Hey mate, I think you got me mixed up with someone else. I am just an engineer. A decent one, but not Starfleet material. Let alone a captain.”
Eyes, blue or brown, Rex wasn’t sure, shone behind a flawless face that neither seemed angry or happy. His lips were equally inexpressive and with what seemed an impossible neutral tone, he responded patiently, “No. It has taken me awhile to track you down. If you had just stayed put in prison and Dr. Zeanar had not interfered, I would not have to resort to this last measure. Or maybe, had just followed orders in the first place and not have made contact with Cosgrove. We couldn’t risk you telling her about what was in that cylinder. Only now, you have manged to give it to Zeanar and I can’t find her.”
Rex shifted her weight in the chair, looking passed the man to the exit. No way could she make it out the door and into the ground vehicle before he grabbed her. Given he was younger, stronger and a trained Starfleet officer, she had zero chance of fighting him. Getting him to see reason and logic was her best options. “Right. What if I promise to stay away from Cosgrove? Shouldn’t be too hard because I have no clue where in the entire aorangi she is right now. And then maybe I can help you find Dr. Zeanar and get you that tube back I took that I probably should not have done. Sorry about that. Sorry about all of that.....stuff. I mean, I am a Starfleet captain, I guess. So I should have followed my orders. So, how about you and I go back to camp, get something to eat and then we go find Zeanar and stay the hell away from Cosgrove. She sounds like trouble anyway.”
“It’s a bit late for any of that now Captain Rodriquez. I am afraid you are going to have to try another way,” the man frowned slightly, the only change in expression he had displayed. With one quick movement, he closed the gap between the pair and pressed a hypo to Rex’s neck, catching her as she slid from the chair. With one hand, he grasped the necklace, breaking the chain and tossing it onto the floor.
Rex Ariki/ Billie Rodriquez
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