Nikki faces her first challenge as Empress when a warbird returns from scouting the Tal Shiar research cell having experienced a series of murders on board. The Imperial Navy must stop this mysterious assassin before they can threaten the rest of the fleet, and perhaps even the new Empress herself...
Romulan@annpc#557 | IRW VIAHRANEN Romulan@annpc#557 | T'VARO CLASS IMPERIAL WARBIRD Romulan@annpc#557 | D'SURREN SYSTEM Romulan@annpc#557 | On the bridge of the small warbird, the crew are hard at work, tapping at their consoles. A Romulan Commander sits in the central chair, dressed in the red livery of an Imperial Navy command - Romulan@annpc#557 - officer. He taps his hand on the armrest of his chair as he quietly stares into the viewscreen Romulan@annpc#557 | Suddenly, one of the Romulan bridge crew exclaims, "Picking up tachyon readings from the fourth planet, Commander!" Romulan@annpc#557 | Commander: "That's where the Tal Shiar scientists we've come to scout out are said to be. Monitor that reading closely." Romulan@annpc#557 | Science Officer: "The tachyon readings are starting to expand outwards from the planet." Romulan@annpc#557 | Ops Officer: "An anti-cloaking scan?" Romulan@annpc#557 | Tactical Officer: "Unlikely. We couldn't see their hideout- there's no point in giving away their location by performing anti-cloaking scans if they themselves are well-hidden." Romulan@annpc#557 | Science Officer: "She's right. I'm seeing tetryon signatures emerging. Must be some kind of experiment they're conducting." Romulan@annpc#557 | Tactical Officer: "Subspace weaponry?" Romulan@annpc#557 | Science Officer: "I don't see anything so far to indicate any of this could be weaponized, but the tachyon wave /is/ moving towards us." Romulan@annpc#557 | Commander: "Will it affect our cloak?" Romulan@annpc#557 | Ops Officer: "No, our cloaking technology is far too advanced to be affected by a sweep of tachyon particles." Romulan@annpc#557 | Commander: "Get us out of the way, for good measure." Romulan@annpc#557 | Science Officer: "I'm not sure that's an option. A spatial rupture has formed above the planet. Tachyon and tetryon particles are growing exponentially." Romulan@annpc#557 | On the viewscreen, a large wave of bluish energy begins to become visible Romulan@annpc#557 | Commander: "Can we go to warp?" Romulan@annpc#557 | Ops Officer: "I wouldn't recommend it if the scientists are toying with subspace in this system." Romulan@annpc#557 | Commander: "Put all available power into the cloak and sit still, then." Romulan@annpc#557 | Ops Officer: "Yes Commander." Romulan@annpc#557 | The blue wave comes closer and closer to the viewscreen. It washes over the warbird and everyone inside holds tense for a moment, but nothing happens Romulan@annpc#557 | Commander: "Status." Romulan@annpc#557 | Ops Officer: "Cloak is still operating at optimal levels." Romulan@annpc#557 | Science Officer: "A graviton beam is striking the rift from the surface. It's closing, Commander." Romulan@annpc#557 | Commander: "What were they trying to do...bring in the Solanae?" Romulan@annpc#557 | Tactical Officer: "Wouldn't put it past a Tal Shiar cell." Romulan@annpc#557 | Science Officer: "The rift has closed fully. I've taken the opportunity to track the graviton beam to its source." Romulan@annpc#557 | The Commander stands with a smile, "Excellent, Centurion." He steps over towards the science officer's console. "Have you found any trace of their base?" Romulan@annpc#557 | The Centurion points at his console, "It's very well-concealed, but I believe this subterranean system here is it. Any tech signatures are hidden and the minerals in the area block our scans, - Romulan@annpc#557 - but there's no mistaking it- the graviton beam came from there." Romulan@annpc#557 | The Commander nods, "No need to risk sending down a scouting party. Only Tal Shiar researchers would conduct an experiment like that. This will be proof enough for the Admiral. Take us out - Romulan@annpc#557 - at impulse first, in case there's any lingering effects on subspace." Romulan@annpc#557 | Pilot: "Yes Commander." Romulan@annpc#557 | The warbird begins turning away from the planet slowly. As they do, the camera draws back from the bridge, passing through the few decks of the small T'Varo. It settles in the lowest - Romulan@annpc#557 - level, in a compartment filled with mechanical components. All is quiet for a moment, then there is a blur as something moves across the screen, but we don't get a close look at it... --- Romulan@annpc#557 | ONE WEEK LATER... Romulan@annpc#557 | The camera pans over the large Dhailkhina-class warbird as it sits, docked with the salvage station for repairs Romulan@annpc#557 | IRW KAISHAASI Romulan@annpc#557 | FLAGSHIP OF THE IMPERIAL NAVY LOYALISTS Romulan@annpc#557 | The camera zooms in through the bridge, where Admiral Imaella stands next to the central chair as Nikki arrives on the bridge after being called for Nikki@crystyl wanders over, "Admiral, you have news?" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella gives Nikki a slight bow as she steps over, "Yes, Empress. The IRW Viahranen is due to return soon from their scouting mission into the D'Surren system. Their initial report suggests - Romulan@annpc#557 - that Haelhen t'Hakhoallieu was not lying about the presence of a Tal Shiar research cell hiding there. A day later, we received a report that the First Officer and Chief of Operations was - Romulan@annpc#557 - found dead in his quarters. Likely a power struggle or a personal feud, but they've been very quiet since then. We didn't receive an ETA from them, but they have just shown up on long-range - Romulan@annpc#557 - sensors and will be entering the system soon." Nikki@crystyl sits as she listens, "One found dead from a feud is unfortunate but not unrealistic. Two of them though, and senior staff at that? Now they appear quietly, this has a stench of something rotten" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella nods, "That's why I called you here. Something is happening on that ship, and I don't like it." Nikki@crystyl:"If they are compromised, it could be dangerous to let them approach the planet" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella: "I have ships standing by to intercept them if necessary." Romulan@annpc#557 | Comms Officer: "The Viahranen have just entered communications range." Nikki@crystyl:"From what you've said, I think it may be prudent. Get them moving for now while we attempt to establish contact" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella nods to the tactical officer. A few seconds later, the comm officer announces, "I have communications with them. Shall I put it onscreen now?" Nikki@crystyl nods, "By all means" leaning back ready to hear a - no doubt - interesting report Romulan@annpc#557 | The bridge of the Viahranen appears on the viewscreen. In the command chair sits not the Commander we saw earlier, but the Centurion science officer. His uniform is not damage but all askew, - Romulan@annpc#557 - as if he had put it on in a rush Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella: "Where is Commander Vemeth?" Romulan@annpc#557 | Centurion: "He's gone. Dead. You have to help us, Admiral. Someone on the ship is trying to kill us. Must have been turned by Vitellius or something, I don't know why." Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella: "Are you the highest-ranking officer remaining on the ship?" Romulan@annpc#557 | The Centurion nods, "For now. They got Subcommander Mirrstul last night, and she was in command before me. It won't be long until they come for me." Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella: "This assassin is going exclusively for the senior crew?" Romulan@annpc#557 | Centurion: "Not exclusively. They've killed lower ranking crew, probably ones who just happened to get in their way. We're on a small ship and we're almost down to half our crew complement now." Nikki@crystyl:"And they've just been on a killing spree? No sabotage or indication of intent other than killing the crew?â€ Romulan@annpc#557 | Centurion: "None that I've seen. They seem to prioritize senior crew but that's the only pattern there is so far." Nikki@crystyl frowns, "There is no sense in such action" noting to Imaella, "A small warbird is not a significant enough target to hit like this, and doing so with such a brazen pattern only makes their presence- Nikki@crystyl:- known to everyone, further hampering their capacity to do any significant damage..." Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella: "My thoughts precisely. Whoever this is, we cannot let them leave the Viahranen." She nods to the tactical officer, "Have the warbird quarantined. No one goes on or off that ship." Romulan@annpc#557 | Centurion: "No, wait! They're going to come for me next. You have to send someone on board, help us find the assassin!" Nikki@crystyl refocuses on the viewscreen, "Stay focused Centurion, I know it's not the help you need but we can't risk this assassin escaping, lest they go unpunished for the deaths of your loyal crew. We are - Nikki@crystyl:- not just going abandon you, but we need to be smart here" Romulan@annpc#557 | The Centurion takes a breath and nods, "I'll watch my back, we'll keep trying to catch the killer, but the few security personnel we had on board are all dead now. We haven't had any luck so - Romulan@annpc#557 - far. There's only so many places to hide on a T'Varo, and if it's one of the crew we should have figured it out by now." Nikki@crystyl:"So you believe it's a stowaway?" Romulan@annpc#557 | Centurion: "I don't know. Like I said we should've found them by now if it was a stowaway, but all the non-senior crew deaths could've just been everyone who found them and were killed for - Romulan@annpc#557 - that. We really can't say; with so many of us killed we've only got fragments of information to work with." Nikki@crystyl:"I really hope this is a silly question, but what about your internal sensors...?" Romulan@annpc#557 | Centurion: "First things we checked. No sign of anyone else on board other than us. That's why we think it might be one of the crew, but it's looking less likely with the more people they - Romulan@annpc#557 - kill. Sensors never registered anyone else in close proximity of the victims around the times of their death, and no crewmembers have mysteriously vanished from sensors so we know no one is - Romulan@annpc#557 - sneaking off after concealing their own lifesigns." Nikki@crystyl looks to Imaella, "Some form of personal cloaking technology maybe? Could be the sort of thing to come out of a Tal Shiar R&D project. So if the ship was detected, it is not a stretch of the - Nikki@crystyl:- imagination" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella nods, "It's possible, but it doesn't explain the killing spree. The Tal Shiar are ruthless, but not mindless. They kill for a reason, and eliminating the senior crew of a single T'Varo - Romulan@annpc#557 - is a foolish move when that T'Varo could lead them to an entire fleet of targets if they just stayed hidden during the journey." Nikki@crystyl:"And if they wanted to eliminate the ship because they found the facility, there are far easier ways of doing so..." she nods, "This is quite the predicament" Romulan@annpc#557 | Centurion: "When we were in the system, they were performing some experiment. We were hit with a tachyon wave; our cloak did not fail, but I suppose it's not impossible that we were detected. - Romulan@annpc#557 - You're right, though. If they wished to destroy us, they could have done any number of things with an operative on board and there's no sign of sabotage." Nikki@crystyl:"A tachyon wave?" Romulan@annpc#557 | The Centurion nods, "I don't believe it was for the purposes of cloak penetration, though. It was likely a byproduct of the experiment they were conducting. They may be trying to develop - Romulan@annpc#557 - a form of subspace FTL travel, or subspace weaponry, or trying to contact the Solanae. We don't know enough to tell." Nikki@crystyl:"Could this wave have somehow delivered someone onto the ship - intentionally or otherwise?" Romulan@annpc#557 | Centurion: "That's...a possibility, yes. I will have to study the phenomenon more closely, but it still doesn't explain why they're killing us all. We've ruled out a Tal Shiar agent, and if - Romulan@annpc#557 - it's a Solanae, the assassinations don't fit their modus operandi either. They capture people for experimentation, not kill them indiscriminately." Nikki@crystyl:"True, but if this wave did interfere with subspace there are many more layers than that which the Solanae call home. I wouldn't rule out the possibility that you have a cornered rat on board. That - Nikki@crystyl:- could explain the bizarre nature of the killings; someone snapped away to a place they don't belong, trapped frightened and on the defensive" Romulan@annpc#557 | Centurion: "They seem to be primarily targeting the higher ranking members of our crew. That doesn't sound frightened and defensive to me. But you are right, it may be any number of beings we - Romulan@annpc#557 - are unfamiliar with." Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella: "Send us all the data you have on the killings. Scans and autopsies of the victims, the environment of their deaths, all you have concerning the assassinations. We will look it over - Romulan@annpc#557 - and determine a course of action against the killer as soon as we are able." Nikki@crystyl:"All of your data on the experiment you detected as well, just in case there is anything linking it to your intruder" Romulan@annpc#557 | The Centurion nods, "I'm sending it over now." Nikki@crystyl:"Ok, let's get this figured out" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella nods and motions for Nikki to follow, "Come. Let us see what Faedani thinks of it." --- T'Lana@anncaris | Meanwhile, Mischa is in her ready room when her combadge chirps Mischa@crystyl puts down her PADD and taps, "Leveson-Scott" T'Lana@anncaris <C - Glyph> "Commander. We have communications from the Loki." Mischa@crystyl:"Thank you Glyph, I'll take it in here" she moves to her desk T'Lana@anncaris | A few seconds after settling at her desk, T'Lana's visage appears on her console Mischa@crystyl smiles, "Hello Lana" T'Lana@anncaris:"Hello Mischa. How is the Romulan situation? I see from your recent reports that you have finally managed to maneuver Nikee towards the Empress role?" Mischa@crystyl beams, "She was bound to see things my way eventually" T'Lana@anncaris:"And the sudden arrival of Vitellius has been an excellent catalyst. Now all we have to do is ensure his defeat." Mischa@crystyl:"It would be no fun without a little challenge. Our new Empress has done remarkably well so far considering we started with nothing but her and a few pointy eared prosthetics" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "Indeed. If this pattern continues, she will have enough forces to overcome Vitellius and his allies." Mischa@crystyl:"A distraction from our initial objective here, but I remain hopeful that a stabilized Romulan Empire will bring new assets into the fold - and with them, new leads and answers. How about you, still- Mischa@crystyl:- enjoying the change of scenery?" T'Lana@anncaris:"Former Horde space is quite uneventful for the most part, though the Drenn have been rather interesting subjects of observation. They could be problematic in the future, but with their current - T'Lana@anncaris - numbers, not a serious threat to the Coalition. There is a more urgent concern though, one tied to your mission here." Mischa@crystyl leans in, "Intriguing. And here I thought you were calling just because you missed us" she teases with a smirk T'Lana@anncaris:"Well, Horde territory can be dull sometimes." She taps on the console she is speaking to Mischa through. "I am sending you the latest reports from the Valley Forge and the Aethon." Mischa@crystyl:"More bedtime reading? What has Keelah been up to now..." T'Lana@anncaris:"Quite the number of things in the last few weeks. Most interestingly and relevant to your situation, they have encountered another one of those temporal vessels." Mischa@crystyl:"Them again..." T'Lana@anncaris nods, "They were manipulating the Kratt to expand outwards. The Aethon crew managed to free the Kratt from their control and learned something fascinating in the process." Mischa@crystyl:"That being?" T'Lana@anncaris:"Much of their vessel gave off the same quantum signature as the alternate universe where the Constitution-class Enterprise was the vessel to discover the Horde and create the Coalition. Prior to - T'Lana@anncaris - this discovery, the Constitution-class Defiant bearing that quantum signature was also recovered by the Valley Forge, and it is likely they were intended by the crew of the temporal vessel to - T'Lana@anncaris - find their version of the Defiant." Mischa@crystyl:"Quite the turn of events. But to what end I wonder" T'Lana@anncaris:"We are still quite clueless as to the goals of these temporal vessels. From Ensign Ralde's recollection of her communication with them, it seems they do not wish for the Coalition's resettlement - T'Lana@anncaris - plans to proceed and were using the Kratt to dissuade the Coalition from spreading into Horde space. The alternate reality Defiant apparently held logs relating to a similar Kratt expansion in - T'Lana@anncaris - their own universe and may have been intended as an attempt to convince the Valley Forge that this was an inevitable step in history rather than the manipulation of some outside force, but - T'Lana@anncaris - that is only my speculation." Mischa@crystyl:"It does seem a lot of trouble just to send a message" T'Lana@anncaris:"If they are members of the Coalition of that universe in the future, as the information we have to date seems to suggest, it may also be possible that they desire the story of their lost Defiant - T'Lana@anncaris:- to be remembered here. But if they are the Coalition, it does not explain why they are working against our Coalition here." Mischa@crystyl:"The only thing we know still is that we don't know enough. Is the Loki continuing to investigate this increased interference?" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "We are proceeding towards Kratt territory now, but it is difficult to investigate with the advanced stealth systems these ships possess, along with their transwarp capabilities. We can - T'Lana@anncaris - do little more than study the aftermath of their work." Mischa@crystyl:"A frustrating situation, but not an uncommon one. As long as we keep talking, we will prevail" T'Lana@anncaris:"I am also surprised we have not received assistance from other temporal factions with similar levels of technology who would be interested in protecting this timeline from manipulation. It would - T'Lana@anncaris - certainly make the situation more fair. Though it is possible they are simply working beneath our notice." Mischa@crystyl:"That is their way. The one occasion we did encounter them, they were very explicit in their pretense of not interfering. Which if nothing else, suggests that we are on track to securing the future- Mischa@crystyl:- of our timeline" T'Lana@anncaris raises a brow, "Fascinating. Did they imply that what we are encountering now is meant to occur?" Mischa@crystyl:"They never imply anything with certainty, but that is certainly my take on it" T'Lana@anncaris:"If that is indeed the case, then perhaps my working theory may have merit." Mischa@crystyl:"Your working theories always merit Lana, that is why I have learned to trust in them" T'Lana@anncaris:"When I was reading through the reports- check the third page of Lieutenant Tierno's. There, Ensign Ralde states that the temporal ship claimed they steered galactic events for an unknown period of - T'Lana@anncaris - time." Mischa@crystyl:"So you think they are more than simply a future temporal faction? T'Lana@anncaris nods, "Having seen that statement and then the universe they originated from, I was reminded of Commander Spock's theory from that universe. If you recall, Spock speculated that our timeline may - T'Lana@anncaris - have been created by people from theirs to delay our encounter with the Horde. Their Federation did not war with the Klingons in the mid-23rd century and never formed a Neutral Zone on that - T'Lana@anncaris - side of their border. It was because of our Neutral Zone that our Enterprise managed to circumvent any contact with the Horde during their journey to the galactic barrier, and Spock believed - T'Lana@anncaris - there was a distinct possibility that this was not a coincidence, but someone had engineered our history." Mischa@crystyl:"It certainly fits what we know" T'Lana@anncaris:"With the knowledge that ships from their universe are indeed present in our own, it is likely that Spock's theory was correct. That means these temporal vessels we are dealing with are not simply - T'Lana@anncaris - another faction from the future seeking to shape our timeline for their purposes. They have /already/ shaped it. Our timeline may be a product of their manipulations, which would explain why - T'Lana@anncaris:- their actions now are being permitted. They are still a temporal faction, but they also belong here, as we may not be where we are now without their interference." Mischa@crystyl:"According to this testimony from Ensign Ralde, that would certainly seem to be the case. But I'll need significantly more before choosing to roll over and let them do what they please with our lives.â€ T'Lana@anncaris:"I do not mean to suggest that we should simply allow them to continue manipulating us as they see fit. At the very least, we must discover their ultimate goals and motivations, if not disband - T'Lana@anncaris - their operation entirely. Knowing you, it is either that, or convince them to accept you into their ranks." Mischa@crystyl:"Oh please, like I would settle for simply following some shadow government. No, convincing /them/ to follow /me/... now that sounds much more appealing" she gives a playful smirk T'Lana@anncaris:"Always the ambitious one, Commander," she gives a slight hint of a smirk. "While you are still going against them- be careful. If my theory is correct, and I am inclined to believe it is, not due - T'Lana@anncaris - to self-confidence but confidence in the logical capabilities of one as proven as Commander Spock. But assuming we are on the right trail, this faction has been pulling the strings of our - T'Lana@anncaris - galaxy since at least the 2250s. With the capability to not only start a war between the Federation and Klingons, but to affect the outcome of negotiations to establish so precise a Neutral - T'Lana@anncaris - Zone, they must have moles throughout the quadrant. Enough to maneuver the Federation and Klingon Empire however they like." Mischa@crystyl:"And likely many more powers as well" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "We can only trust those whom we are absolutely certain of. Even members of Starfleet, perhaps members of our own crews, could be involved with them." T'Lana@anncaris | Mischa's combadge sounds again Mischa@crystyl:"On that I am also certain- ah, it would seem time is up for now. Excuse me Lana, stay in touch" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "Good luck with your endeavours in Romulan space, Mischa. Live long and prosper." T'Lana@anncaris FX | The comm ends Mischa@crystyl taps her combadge, "Leveson-Scott" T'Lana@anncaris <C - Glyph> "Apologies for the interruption, Commander. It seems there is a situation on board the IRW Viahranen, the warbird which was dispatched to scout the D'Surren system." Mischa@crystyl:"A situation? Gather the senior staff in conference one for review" T'Lana@anncaris <C - Glyph> "Understood, Commander." --- Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella and Nikki enter the intel centre of the Kaishaasi, where Faedani awaits them, hovering in front of her console in her hoverchair Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella: "Found anything so far, sister?" Romulan@annpc#557 | Faedani: "Come, have a look. I was just examining the victims of this mysterious assassin." Nikki@crystyl steps over, "Find anything that can help us track this assassin down?" Romulan@annpc#557 | Faedani: "Not track down, but I have found something which may be of interest when we apprehend this assassin." Romulan@annpc#557 | Faedani taps her console, bringing up multiple images of dead Romulan officers, "All of them were killed with a close quarters bladed weapon, but the method of killing was not always the same. - Romulan@annpc#557 - Some have multiple wounds and seem to have attempted to fight back or escape," she points to several of the images. "Others were assassinated when they were unaware," she brings up an image - Romulan@annpc#557 - of a body slumped over a chair. "Throat slit while seated," then a different image of a body on a bed, "Blade through the back penetrating the heart while sleeping," and yet another picture of - Romulan@annpc#557 - a severed head on a bed, "Beheaded while asleep." Nikki@crystyl:"That's a serious bladed weapon if it can do all of that on the quiet. One of Vitelius' people maybe?". Romulan@annpc#557 | Faedani: "Perhaps. The crew of the Viahranen examined the bodies closely. There was no trace of the attacker's DNA on any of the ones who were killed when they were aware. No one seems to have - Romulan@annpc#557 - even gotten close to the killer. But there is something else more interesting in these victims." Nikki@crystyl:"I was hoping you would say that" Romulan@annpc#557 | Faedani brings up several images of dead Romulans in hallways and rooms. Many of them have disruptors visible in the pictures, lying close to their bodies if not right by their hands Romulan@annpc#557 | Faedani: "As you can see, a number of victims were not only aware of their attacker, but clearly had time to draw their weapons. Yet there is not a single scorch mark at any of the scenes. The - Romulan@annpc#557 - ship's internal sensors detected no weapons fire. The Viahranen crew even thought to check the disruptors themselves, which confirms they had not been fired at the time of their users' deaths." Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella: "Out of all these victims who were alert when killed, not one of them managed to get off a single shot?" Nikki@crystyl:"Perhaps they were simply arming themselves as precautions after the first deaths, but still got caught unawares" Romulan@annpc#557 | Faedani: "Unlikely given the wounds on the bodies and the blood on the scene. Many of them took several hits or fled a good distance before succumbing to their wounds. Someone would have - Romulan@annpc#557 - managed to fire back at the attacker at some point. They would likely have missed given their injuries and the assassin's skill, but we have all seen combat here at some point in our lives. - Romulan@annpc#557 - Panic fire is very common. The fact that no shots were ever fired leads me to suspect that sensors are not the only technology they are able to nullify." Nikki@crystyl:"So it would seem. Have you seen anything like this combination of technologies before with the Tal Shiar?" Romulan@annpc#557 | Faedani: "I am aware of personal stealth devices that allow one to conceal lifesigns and movement from scans. Damping fields are often employed to render energy weapons unusable, but so far I - Romulan@annpc#557 - have not come across any portable variant. Most are quite cumbersome to carry and are typically set in place. If someone has managed to create a miniaturized damping field, it could be capable - Romulan@annpc#557 - of disabling energy weapons around a user." Nikki@crystyl:"All good to consider for a potential confrontation. But we still have the slight issue of trying to locate them" Romulan@annpc#557 | Faedani nods, "I'm searching through the sensor data to see if there's anything at all we can use. Every cloaking device has some exploitable flaw, even the ones we use today, and personal - Romulan@annpc#557 - stealth technology tends to be less effective due to restrictions of size. There will be something I'm sure, I just need to find what to look for." Nikki@crystyl:"Well for a first glance you've already pulled some useful insight. So if anyone can dig out more, I'm sure you can" Romulan@annpc#557 | Faedani smiles, "Thank you for your faith in me, Empress. I shall not fail you. You will be informed the moment I find something." Nikki@crystyl smiles, turning to Imaella, "Meanwhile, we need a plan of action to contain this situation" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella nods, "Our ships are ensuring that no one is leaving the Viahranen. I will inform both the Viahranen crew and the ships surrounding it of this potential energy weapon damping - Romulan@annpc#557 - capability and recommend that they replicate close-quarters weaponry." Nikki@crystyl:"That stops them moving on, but we still have people on that ship and sooner or later we're going to have find a way on to it, or to get everyone else off at least" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella: "We can't risk allowing transports, in case the assassin transports off the ship. So far, the Viahranen is being kept out of transporter range of the planet and all ships surrounding - Romulan@annpc#557 - it have shields raised. I'll begin work on an evacuation plan using shuttlecraft to get them off the ship but keep them in space. If the assassin sneaks on board one of the shuttles, at worst - Romulan@annpc#557 - we may have to sacrifice a single shuttle and the people on it. It is better than the entire crew, but hopefully we will have some means of detecting the killer before then." Nikki@crystyl:"Alright, sounds good to me" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella nods, "I shall make arrangements for the shuttles. Keep your teral'n close by, Empress. In the case we are dealing with some subspace being and not a Romulan assassin, they may not be - Romulan@annpc#557 - as contained as we hope they are." Nikki@crystyl nods, "A wise precaution" --- Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | A short while later, Nikki is back in her quarters on the Kaishaasi when the doorbell sounds Nikki@crystyl:"Enter" Nikki@crystyl stands looking out of the window, deep in thought Goto Yuzuki@anncaris steps into the room, "Hello Nikki. Busy mulling over this latest situation?" Nikki@crystyl turns, "As a lifelong intelligence operative, the unknown is something I can not abide. I'm sure you can appreciate that" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris nods, taking a seat, "I've been picking up what information I can, and it certainly doesn't sound like anything I'm familiar with either." Nikki@crystyl sits, "I suppose something like this was bound to happen sooner or later. We have been throwing a lot of Vitelius' plans of course since we started this campaign" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris glances around the room, "May we speak freely?" Nikki@crystyl taps a button under the desk and nods, "Yes Commander, we are secure" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris smiles, "Thank you. I hear that the Tal Shiar researchers were conducting an experiment of some sort when the Viahranen scouted the system, and they were hit by a tachyon wave?" Nikki@crystyl:"That is my understanding of it, yes. You have a theory?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Not yet, but I have a suspicion. I assume you've obtained the Viahranen's scans of this experiment?" Nikki@crystyl:"Yes, our people are analyzing them all at the moment. Let's see..." she taps on her console before spinning it around, "Here it is" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris leans in, examining the data, "A spatial rift with large amounts of tachyon and tetryon particles emerging from it. It seems like the Tal Shiar were trying to open a gateway to subspace. The - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - Viahranen's cloak doesn't seem to have been affected by the wave, but I have a feeling whoever boarded them found the warbird then. The killings started not long after, right?" Nikki@crystyl:"That's my understanding of it" she nods Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"It sounds like whoever or whatever got on the ship could have travelled through subspace, either intentionally or unintentionally." Nikki@crystyl smiles, "Glad to see we think the same. I made the exact same observation myself" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris smiles back, "If you don't mind, I'll make a copy of the scan data and get it back to the Latenter. I'm sure your people here are very capable, but there's no one better than Starfleet to solve - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - a scientific mystery. And the faster we can track down this assassin, the more Romulans we can save." Nikki@crystyl:"Of course" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris takes out an isolinear chip, plugging it into the console and making a copy, "I noticed many of the crew are starting to carry melee weapons, and all the victims of the killer were stabbed or - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - cut. I assume there's some correlation there too?" Nikki@crystyl:"Yes, after observing the consistent pattern in the murders we issued a directive for the crew to re-arm with melee weapons" she calls up some of the pictures from last time, "See here, many of the - Nikki@crystyl:- victims were armed with disruptors, but there are no scorch marks and no discharges recorded on internal sensors. we suspect the assassin not only has some form of personal cloak but is also - Nikki@crystyl:- utilizing a means of energy dampening to nullify our weapons" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Interesting..." she taps her PADD, making a note. "This is a cell of Tal Shiar researchers, so that's certainly a possibility. I wonder what other capabilities the assassin might have which we - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - haven't learned about through the aftermath of their actions." Nikki@crystyl:"This does seem like the sort of adversary with plenty of tricks up their sleeve" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris nods and stands, "I'll get this information to the Latenter. Be careful, Nikki." Nikki@crystyl:"Always" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris heads out the room, leaving Nikki on her own. A few uneventful minutes pass by... Goto Yuzuki@anncaris ...then suddenly the intruder alarm sounds Nikki@crystyl looks around and stands, grabbing her weapon and opening a comm to Imaella, "Admiral, what is going on?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris <C - Imaella> "Empress, there has been another murder, here on the Kaishaasi this time." Nikki@crystyl:"How did the assassin get on board?!!" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris <C - Imaella> "We do not yet know. I am still gathering details. The deceased seems to be an Uhlan, killed in one of the halls by a bladed weapon." Nikki@crystyl:"Alright, what's our next move?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris <C - Imaella> "The body is being moved to medical as we speak for examination. I'm releasing the Arachnians. They will patrol the halls and provide an additional layer of security. Hopefully, - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - that will be enough until we have a way to track the killer." Nikki@crystyl:"Very good. Where are you now? I'll head over to you and assist in the search" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris <C - Imaella> "I'm on the scene of the murder. Deck 14." Nikki@crystyl:"I'll see you there shortly then" --- NPC@annpc#557 | Meanwhile, the senior staff of the Latenter are gathered in the conference room. Victoria stands by the console, tapping on it to scroll through several pages of data NPC@annpc#557 | Victoria: "This is the information we've received from Commander Goto, including the firsthand scans of the spatial rift encountered by the scout warbird." Mischa@crystyl:"Let's start with that. What can we tell about the experiment from their scans?" NPC@annpc#557 | Victoria: "Judging by the tetryons emerging from the rift, I'd say they were trying to create a gateway into subspace." NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee: "I concur. I have compared the rift to other known phenomena, and there is similarity between this rift and the ones utilized by the Solanae to access our universe." Mischa@crystyl:"Nothing too shocking in that, given who we're dealing with. Are there any specifics that tie this down further, or specific inconsistencies?" NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee: "It is the same type of rift as those utilized by the Solanae, but the subspace reading received from the rift, as well as the concentration of tachyons, tetryons and other radiation - NPC@annpc#557 - which passed through from the other side is different. I do not believe it leads to the Solanae's habitat. This was either a failure to contact the Solanae, or an intentional variation to - NPC@annpc#557 - contact someone else residing within subspace." Mischa@crystyl:"The assassin the Romulans are now trying to locate, maybe?" NPC@annpc#557 | Victoria nods, "That's a possibility. I've never heard of subspace beings working as assassins for hire, but many of the Solanae and Elachi do serve the Iconians and worked with the Tal Shiar - NPC@annpc#557 - for a while. It's not a stretch to think there might be other subspace life out there which may have struck a similar agreement." NPC@annpc#557 | Hassan: "What about the victims themselves? Anything on them to hint at the assassin's identity?" Mischa@crystyl:"A few hints on method and capability, but that's about it I believe so far" NPC@annpc#557 | Victoria nods, "They were all killed with a bladed weapon and it seems none of them fired back at their attacker, even though some of them clearly had a chance to draw their disruptors. No - NPC@annpc#557 - unique signatures on the bodies or the surrounding area, though." NPC@annpc#557 | T'Fel shares a look with T'Bee before asking, "The warbird on which the murders occured is a T'Varo class, correct?" Mischa@crystyl nods, "I know that look ladies. What are you thinking?" NPC@annpc#557 | T'Fel: "The nullifier cores of Romulan warbirds emit versitrons in order to conceal the readings of the singularity core while the ship is cloaked. On larger vessels, residual versitron - NPC@annpc#557 - readings are common throughout the engineering sections of the ship while it is at cloak. On a smaller warbird such as a T'Varo, almost all areas of the ship will have versitron traces." NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee: "And tetryon is highly unstable outside subspace, especially if they come into contact with matter from our universe. Which means there /could/ be traces- we simply cannot distinguish - NPC@annpc#557 - them from the environment the victims were discovered in. Excellent thinking, T'Fel." She looks to Mischa, "I believe I have a theory, Commander." Mischa@crystyl smiles, "I do love it when we get a twin theory" NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee: "Tetryons have random momentum and cannot be tracked by sensors. A large enough surge of tetryons often have the effect of not only blinding sensor readings, but also disabling energy - NPC@annpc#557 - weaponry. Tetryons as they exist in subspace, without being stabilized or contained, are highly unstable and most frequently degrade into versitrons when left in our universe." NPC@annpc#557 | Hassan: "So if they don't get to the victims pretty much immediately, there's no way to tell the traces of the attack from the traces being produced by the warbird at stealth." NPC@annpc#557 | T'Fel: "Precisely." Mischa@crystyl:"How much of a window of time are we talking here?" NPC@annpc#557 | T'Fel: "It depends on the specific conditions. In a vacuum, tetryon traces can remain for much longer. In an atmospheric environment, several hours, but the presence of versitrons will - NPC@annpc#557 - accelerate the process down to one hour or less." NPC@annpc#557 | Buena adds, "And even if they get to the body within an hour, many of the tetryons will already have begun to degrade. They'll have to know to specifically search for the tetryon, or it's very - NPC@annpc#557 - easy to miss." Mischa@crystyl:"So assuming we can get an active scan of the interior of the ship - shields permitting of course - we could... catch a glimpse, or could we find something akin to a degrading warp trail to follow?" NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee: "Due to the nature of tetryons, that will be very difficult to do, especially from here in the Latenter. I will work on internal sensor modifications I may be able to pass on to - NPC@annpc#557:- Commander Goto for the Romulans to utilize. Ideally however, we will wish to identify some other particle which may be present in the assassin to track, but that is unlikely if we cannot - NPC@annpc#557 - find the assassin to begin with. I am afraid the tetryons may only explain their capabilities and prove ineffective for finding them." Mischa@crystyl:"Well it's better than nothing. Let's do what we can to prepare, as there is no telling how long we have until they attack again" NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee nods, "Understood, Commander. I shall make do with the information we currently possess." --- Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Nikki makes her way down to the crime scene. Imaella is already present, along with multiple guards armed with melee weapons. At first glance, the body is still present on the ground, but as - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - she gets closer, the flickering of a holoprojection becomes apparent. The blood stains, however, are very much real Nikki@crystyl approaches, "What do we know?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella: "The victim clearly had time to draw his weapon," she gestures to a blade on the ground beside the body. "But he was quickly cut down after that. It was a precise, clean kill." Nikki@crystyl:"Given the skill level we've seen so far from this assassin, I am not surprised. But I want to know how they got on board" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella: "As do I. We have the Viahranen surrounded, and there's been no transports from that ship." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Another officer steps into the hall, "I have the answer to that, Admiral." Nikki@crystyl:"What about evidence of subspace activity? This does all link back to the experiment they witnessed" she turns, eager to hear the news Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella: "Report, Subcommander." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Subcommander: "Centurion Avras was just found dead, and the Viahranen's systems detected an airlock opening on the ship." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella: "So the assassin jumped ship, and since we can't detect them on sensors..." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Subcommander: "Curiously, the Viahranen systems never registered any of the EV suits being accessed. It's possible the assassin came with their own. Perhaps their stealth capabilities are - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - built into their suit." Nikki@crystyl:"Something like the Regulator suits maybe..." she muses Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Subcommander: "The...Regulator suits?" Nikki@crystyl:"The Regulators are a species I encountered out at the Heart of Wa-, sorry, Heart of Unity as they call it now. They are members of the Coalition out there with the Republic and Starfleet. They - Nikki@crystyl:- utilize some advanced technology including personal combat suits with capabilities on par with this" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella nods, "Yes, an advanced suit could explain these capabilities." Nikki@crystyl:"This is all just more speculation though. we are still no closer to being able to track this assassin" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | One of the guards taps his earpiece before looking over, "Admiral. There's been another attack. One deck above." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella waves for the guards to follow, "Let's move." Nikki@crystyl hustles along with them Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | The group takes the lift up a deck and soon come across the scene of the second crime. Two Arachnians lie dead, curled up in the centre of the hall Nikki@crystyl:"Even they were unable to slow this one down..." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella: "An Arachnian is usually more than a match for a typical Romulan soldier in close quarters. But I can't say I'm surprised our mysterious assassin was able to dispatch two of them, - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - given the abilities they've displayed so far." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | The Admiral steps over, prying the dead aliens' armoured limbs apart to examine the wounds, "They struck the weaker points between the exoskeleton plating of the Arachnians. A tremendous - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - amount of skill would be required for such precise attacks." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Subcommander: "And a very good blade." Nikki@crystyl:"This only just happened so they should still be close by. What about pulling a full lockdown of all emergency force fields in the area?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella: "They tried that on the Viahranen halfway through their journey. The assassin found their way through the service areas and all the force fields did was cut the crew off from one - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - another to be easy targets. We might get lucky and trap them in an area where there aren't any service access points, but it could also backfire. I don't recommend using force fields until we - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - actually have a fix on the assassin's position." Nikki@crystyl:"Fair point. So how do we get that fix? We can't keep going like this always one step behind" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris steps into view, with a pair of shorter Romulan blades on her belt. She gives Nikki and the Admiral a nod, but stays out of the way, letting them converse Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella: "We need some way to track them," She taps her communicator, "Faedani, tell me you have something." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris <C - Faedani> "I do, actually. Our sensors detected a lifesign which was present at the time of the Uhlan's death. That same lifesign has moved up one deck and was also in the area of the - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - dead Arachnian patrol." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella: "Wait...we can see them now?" Nikki@crystyl looks over with surprise Goto Yuzuki@anncaris <C - Faedani> "I have no explanation for it either, but it would seem so. Maybe their stealth device malfunctioned? It seems to be a Romulan, and the same lifesign is currently another deck - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - above you. They are approaching one Sublieutenant Thuvisa." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella: "Transport the Sublieutenant out of there." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris <C - Faedani> "I've just lost the Sublieutenant's lifesign." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella: "Fvadt. Is the assassin still on the move?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris <C - Faedani> "Affirmative." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella: "Activate force fields where they can't reach any service access points. Pen them in. We're on our way." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella quickly gestures for the guards to follow as she continues on Nikki@crystyl quickly follows as well Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Proceeding up a deck, they pass by the body of a Romulan woman in uniform, likely the Sublieutenant they heard about earlier. She too has a sword lying by her lifeless hand. One of the guards - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - taps her earpiece, calling for the body to be moved for examination while they pass by Goto Yuzuki@anncaris <C - Faedani> "I have the assassin trapped on Deck 12, Section 5C." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella turns, immediately leading the team towards the section. Before long, they reach a section of hallway blocked off by a force field... oto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella: "Stay behind us, Empress." She gestures to two of the guards, "Watch her back, just in case the assassin has some technology to break through the force field." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | The two guards nod and stick close to Nikki while Imaella approaches with two other guards. Yuzuki follows as well Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella draws her sword, tapping on the force field, "You're trapped. There's nowhere for you to go. We can fill the section's atmosphere with poison. Beam in some explosives. Probably - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - overwhelm you with the sheer numbers if nothing else. But before we do any of that, I would like to know why you've been killing my people." Serenity@crystyl kneels on the floor in a meditative pose, "They did not choose wisely" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Great. She speaks in riddles as well." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella: "What choice did they have? They died serving their duty, and their duty was to protect the ship from the likes of you." Serenity@crystyl:"Great, another ignorant Imperial. I'd better not say anything though, sounds like one to be easily offended" she mutters to herself, quite audibly, before gasping and clamping a wide blue sleeve of- Serenity@crystyl:- her robe across her mouth, "I spoke my mind again..." Serenity@crystyl stands and turns to face Imaella, "They were given the choice to live or die. They did not choose to live" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella narrows her eyes, "I recognize that phrasing. And judging from your robes...you are of the Order of the Qowat Milat?" Serenity@crystyl peers past her, "Regal decoration, added protection, this must be the Empress. I probably shouldn't reveal that I know that quite yet though and say something..." looking to Imaella and smiling, - Serenity@crystyl:- clasping her hands together and parting them in the traditional greeting of the Order, "You are indeed wise Admiral" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella smiles, "I am not as ignorant as you assume me to be. I've never met one of your order before, but I know of you. Those who are truly ignorant think you are assassins, but you live by - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - a code of honesty, do you not?" Serenity@crystyl curses herself again, with the sleeve sheepishly over her mouth, "I guess I really did say that out loud. I really must stop doing that" correcting herself to respond, "You are correct Admiral, - Serenity@crystyl:- absolute honesty is our way" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella nods, "I can see why you killed two of my crew as they were defending the ship, but the assassinations on the Viahranen? A blade through the back, slitting someone's throat while they - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - are asleep? That sounds more like Tal Shiar than Qowat Milat to me." Serenity@crystyl:"That does indeed sound like Tal Shiar, and if you say have such an assassin then my arrival could not be more timely" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris shares a glance with the Admiral before looking back to the force field, "Are you saying you're not the one responsible for the deaths on the Viahranen?" Serenity@crystyl:"I have no knowledge of this Viahranen or any deaths there" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris looks to the Admiral again, "Is there such a thing as a member of the Qowat Milat leaving the order? Going rogue, abandoning these ways of honesty and embracing lies and deception?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella: "Not that I have heard of." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"An impersonator?" Serenity@crystyl:"That is more likely than it being one of my sisters. But whoever this assassin of yours is, they are still out there somewhere as they are not me. Release this force field and allow me to fulfill my- Serenity@crystyl:- purpose here" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella: "What /is/ your purpose here?" Serenity@crystyl whips out her sword, flourishes it and jabs it into the deck before her, kneeling with one hand remaining on the grip Serenity@crystyl:"Empress t'Rllaillieu, my sword is yours" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris glances between her and Nikki, "You're...pledging your allegiance to her?" Serenity@crystyl | Nikki: "You're pledging your allegiance to me?" Serenity@crystyl sighs, "It is like there is an echo in here. I do hope I am not resigning myself to work with amateurs here. Better say something before they get more confused..." she looks up and nods, "I am, - Serenity@crystyl:- Empress" Serenity@crystyl | Nikki: "Well... I guess, if she wants to go and hunt this mystery assassin for us, we're not exactly losing out by sending her in are we?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Subcommander: "Can we trust that she isn't this mystery assassin simply deceiving us?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella: "If she truly is Qowat Milat, deceiving is against her ways." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"And she doesn't seem to exhibit the stealth technology of the other assassin. I don't think she'd give it up just to play this deception, if they were the same person." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella nods, "I agree," she motions to her two other guards, "Keep an eye on her though, just in case." Serenity@crystyl:"Oh I do hope they decide my fate soon, dignified as it is, kneeling for the pledge is so uncomfortable..." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"I can do that, Admiral. If she is some rogue or impostor Qowat Milat, I have the best chance of keeping her at bay," she glances at the guards. "I'm sure you're both capable soldiers, but close - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - quarters combat with blades probably wasn't a major part of your training." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella nods, "Very well." She steps over, turning off the force field Serenity@crystyl stands, looking Yuzu up and down, "This one certainly seems capable, I'm glad she overruled the guards. Shouldn't say anything though, they might take offense" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris chuckles, "Stay close to me. Or do you only take orders from the Empress now?" Serenity@crystyl steps over, "I will do as the Empress commands. On this occasion, that means following you" Serenity@crystyl mutters to herself indiscreetly once more, "Yes, good, a little ego stroking should help keep this one on side" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris smirks, "Well, we're off to a good start I see." Serenity@crystyl again flushes and clasps a blue sleeve across her mouth, "I did it again didn't I..." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris chuckles, "Yes, yes you did." She looks to Imaella again, "If she isn't our mystery assassin, then we still need some way to track them down." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Imaella sighs, "Back to the beginning, then." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"I'll leave you to your search. I have some sources to check back on," she glances back to the Qowat Milat. "I suppose you're with me." Serenity@crystyl:"It is clear this is a formidable opponent who has evaded you all for far too long. It would be prudent for me to learn all you know of them so far" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris nods, "I'll bring you up to speed as I continue the investigation on my side. Speaking of which, please follow /beside/ me and not behind." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris gestures for her to follow as she walks off Serenity@crystyl smiles, "Very good" --- Goto Yuzuki@anncaris leads Serenity through the halls of the Kaishaasi, "Do you have a name, or should I just call you Qowat Milat?" Serenity@crystyl:"Oh right, I never introduced myself. I should probably do that now she's asking...". looks to Yuzu, "You may call me Serenity. And you are?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Serenity. That's a nice name. You may call me Lyirru." Serenity@crystyl:"Lyirru, very well. So what is your connection to everything here? You seem very protective of the Empress" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris smiles, "That's correct. I have been at the Empress' side since before she was Empress. That is my connection to everything here. I hold no rank in the Imperial Navy, nor formal citizenship in - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - the Star Empire." Serenity@crystyl:"So you were in the Republic with her then?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Perhaps. That is what many here assume, so it's as close to an 'official' story as there is," she smirks Serenity@crystyl:"Elusive. To be expected" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"I like to keep my past mysterious, especially in places like here. The Imperials are very traditional, which means they're especially fond of secrets and deception. Helps to build up a mystique - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:- around here." Serenity@crystyl:"I'll keep that in mind" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"It must be difficult for you, with your ways of telling the truth and everything." Serenity@crystyl:"It is certainly... different. I have heard about Romulan ways of deception from the colonists who leave near the monastery. Honestly, I always found it a little suspect" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris chuckles, "I think the point is to be suspicious." Serenity@crystyl:"To what end? Surely it just makes things more confusing and so takes longer to achieve anything" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"So does telling the truth all the time, doesn't it? Sometimes it's easier to withhold information to make matters simpler. Information others don't need to know, but may complicate matters if they - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - did. Or simply lead to a discussion that goes nowhere, while springing directly to action would be much faster." Serenity@crystyl:"Damn, she makes a fair point..." Serenity@crystyl:"Interesting perspective. Though I am not yet convinced it is entirely fruitful, at least to the extent it seems to occur here" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris grins at her acknowledgement. "Perhaps not as the Imperials practice it, but you know what they say about extremes. After all, the best lies are rooted in truth, and your truth is only your - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - perception of things, shaped by your own experiences and biases. A good middle ground is often the best road to walk." Serenity@crystyl:"You suggest that truth is different to fact" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"In some cases, yes. The definition of truth is something that no one can ever quite agree on, but philosophy aside, truth to most people is simply what they believe to be true. It is the same for - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - your Order, or what I have heard about it. Your way of absolute candor requires you to have no filter between what you think and what you express. Is that right?" Serenity@crystyl:"In short, yes. That is at the core of how we conduct ourselves". Mutters into her sleeve, "Her knowledge is impressive for a non-Imperial..." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris smiles at her comment, "Your tenets forbid you to lie and deceive, but you are not forbidden from speaking falsehood. After all, if you believe that falsehood is true, whether because you're - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - just mistaken or have been deceived by someone else, you're not putting any barrier between your thoughts and expression. You're still telling /your/ truth and breaking no rules, but your - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - truth might not be factual." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris smirks, "After all, you just called me a non-Imperial. You only know I'm not Imperial because I told you so. But I could be lying, could I not?" Serenity@crystyl:"Damn, she heard that?" ... "I... hmm, the outside world is frustrating..." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris grins as she steps into her quarters, "You don't go out much, I take it?" Serenity@crystyl:"Actually 'never' would be more precise. This trip is my first time leaving the sanctuary of home since they first took me in as a child" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Really? That would explain your complete lack of filter between what you think and what you say. I imagine the more experienced of you might know better when not to say something?" Serenity@crystyl:"You noticed that, huh. The truth is, I have always been this way - more so than my sisters and... often to my detriment even with the sanctuary..." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris moves to the desk, "Interesting. So even your fellow Qowat Milat are not usually /that/ honest?" Serenity@crystyl:"We operate to the same beliefs and principles, of course. So brutal honesty is still there with the others. But most don't share my inability to differentiate between internal and external dialogue" Serenity@crystyl sits across from her, watching curiously as it becomes abundantly clear that is not exactly a first class specimen of her order, and seemingly out of her depth. A curious choice to be out here with- Serenity@crystyl:- Empress indeed Goto Yuzuki@anncaris taps on her console, keeping it out of Serenity's view while she does, "Why would you come out here to pledge your loyalty to an Empress-claimant of the Star Empire? That seems quite contrary to - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - what your Order stands for. After all, you don't approve of the ways of deception that the Star Empire practices." Serenity@crystyl sighs, "Pledging to the Empress is within my bounds as a qalankhkai. /If/ your 'truth' of her campaign is suitably aligned. But my truth is that she simply is the one to make this stand, and I - Serenity@crystyl:- would have made the same pledge to whoever else stood in her place against Vitellius" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"So Vitellius is your ultimate target," she nods. "That makes sense. He is a threat to all Romulans- Imperial, Republic or unaligned." Serenity@crystyl:"Yes, and he has already made an enemy of our order... of me. I am not the first of our order to stand against him, there was another who had pledged to Republic aid. She was with a squad who tried - Serenity@crystyl:- to stop Vitelius, but... well, there were no survivors" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Of course, the assassination attempt. He's made it into quite the piece of propaganda. The Sister he killed, I take it you knew her?" Serenity@crystyl:"Yes, she was... close" Serenity@crystyl mutters, "I don't know her well enough yet to admit that she was my mentor since childhood..." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"So much for not admitting that..." Serenity@crystyl flushes, using her sleeve shield again, "Dammit!" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris reaches up to her ear, taking out a tiny earpiece, "Hearing enhancers. I was born with weaker hearing than the average Romulan. I have these tuned up so my hearing can be further enhanced. It's - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - a useful tool to have when living among people who plot and scheme on a daily basis." Serenity@crystyl:"studies the sight before her, "Interesting. But... I'm pretty sure you don't need those to hear me putting my foot in my mouth" she smiles faintly Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Probably not. But I can tune them down, if it helps save you from embarrassment," she chuckles Goto Yuzuki@anncaris puts the device back in her ear, "In all seriousness, I'm sorry for your loss. We will make sure you have your revenge." Serenity@crystyl:"I do not wish to impose. If not with you, then I'll still do it with everyone else so... yeah. And thank you, I will not rest until he pays for this" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"We share the same target, and your skills will certainly be a benefit against a swordsman such as him. But we have to deal with this assassin first." She taps her console. "The Uhlan and the - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - Sublieutenant on this ship you killed, along with the two Arachnians, correct?" Serenity@crystyl:"If that's what you call those strange multi-legged creatures, then yes" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris nods, "There's no one else you killed while you were here?" Serenity@crystyl shakes her head, "No, I thought we had already established that I am not your mystery assassin" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"I'm just trying to make sure which bodies we don't have to examine closely. My sources suspect we might be able to find traces of tetryons in a victim if we get to them quickly enough." Serenity@crystyl:"Sources? You mean the crew here who are analyzing the situation I assume" Serenity@crystyl:"What is it with this one and embellishment anway...?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris grins, "Actually, I mean other 'sources.' I'll let you guess who they might be- Tal Shiar, Republic Intelligence, maybe some independent information brokers." Serenity@crystyl:"Ok, well whoever your 'sources' really are, they obviously have some insights into this assassin. But if they are so elusive, how can we even know they are on this ship?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"We don't. All we know is that they've probably left the ship we were trying to contain them on, seeing as there was an airlock access. Of course, even that could be a deception, but it makes - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - sense for the assassin to seek out new targets on a different ship now that they are here and close to the entire fleet. They could be anywhere- on the planet or any of the other ships." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"But if they are working for Vitellius, they're most likely going to try and come on board the Kaishaasi, since the Empress is here." Serenity@crystyl:"So basically we're killing time here while we wait for them strike again so we know where they are" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Well, not killing time exactly. My sources and the crew of this ship are working to find ways to track the assassin. But we have limited information to work with and progress is slow." Serenity@crystyl:"It still feels like waiting to me. I don't like it, I should be out there protecting the Empress at the very least" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"My sources have offered all they can at the moment. Let's-" Her wrist communicator chimes and flashes with a message and she taps it Goto Yuzuki@anncaris <C - Imaella> "Is the Qowat Milat still with you?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"She is, why?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris <C - Imaella> "There's been another victim- a technician killed on the salvage station, near the docking tunnel to the Kaishaasi. If she's been with you this whole time, then we can be - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - absolutely certain there is a separate, second assassin." Serenity@crystyl stands eagerly, "The docking tunnel, then they must be making their way on board" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Exactly. We have to be quick before they get to the Empress. Is the body being taken to medical for examination?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris <C - Imaella> "It's being transferred now." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris stands as well, "There's no point going to the scene of the crime. The killer won't linger there. Let's get to medical." Serenity@crystyl:"Right!" she begins heading out, pausing by the door, "Uh... which way is that now?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris chuckles, "I'll lead the way." --- Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | The two make their way to medical. The new body is placed in the central bed of the room, where a Romulan male in Imperial Navy uniform is examining him Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Doctor: "Lyirru. Who's the other one with you?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"A friendly assassin." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Doctor: "A...forget I asked." Serenity@crystyl:"You know we are not strictly assassins, that is a misconception. 'Friendly' is also a relative term, but I'll let that one slide" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris chuckles, "I was trying to be concise. What did I say about discussions that don't need to be had..." Serenity@crystyl:"And accuracy, simply stating that I am a Qowat Milat warrior would have given the same degree of information without the misconception. Don't worry, you'll get the hang of honesty" she smiles - Serenity@crystyl:victoriously Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Maybe..." she steps up to the doctor. "So, what do you have?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Doctor: "Everything seems consistent with the bodies found on the Viahranen, but the blade seems to be different than the one that killed the two crewmembers here." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris glances back to Serenity, "That's probably because it was her blade that killed them." Serenity@crystyl smiles and waves, maintaining the friendly pretense Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | The doctor narrows his eyes at Serenity before looking back to Yuzuki, "They're both very good blades, but there's enough differences in the damage to tell they're two different weapons. Other - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - than that, both attackers are very skilled close-quarters combatants." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Check the body closely for traces of tetryon particles." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | The doctor nods, picking up his scanner and getting to work, "Any reason you think we might find some in the victim?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"We suspect the killer might've arrived on the Viahranen through subspace, and their ability to counter our sensors and energy weapons could be a result of tetryons rather than conventional stealth - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - technology." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Doctor: "You would seem to be right. I'm detecting a small amount of tetryons in the body." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Well that's a start. It confirms some of our theories." Serenity@crystyl:"So what now, we use these tetryon things to track the assassin?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Tetryons are exceptionally difficult for sensors to track. My sources are working on something, but if there is tetryon, there might be other subspace materials present. If you can find something - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - else that doesn't belong, that will help greatly with the search." Serenity@crystyl nods firmly, "I'm on it!" looking around, "So, uh... what exactly do these things look like? I'm picturing blue dust. It's blue dust isn't it" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | The doctor chuckles, "They're subatomic. I don't think you'll be able to see them." Serenity@crystyl:"Right, I knew that... So can't you just set your sensors to detect them then? Or rather some specific trait about them that doesn't belong here so you can find the other subspace elements?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Doctor: "I'm checking now," He taps his tricorder a few times. "Wait..." he sets the tricorder down, moving to a nearby console to type Goto Yuzuki@anncaris glances after him, "Found something?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Doctor: "Nothing native to subspace, but there's a higher than normal level of silicon in some of the blood around the wound. A level that isn't seen in the blood of the victim's body." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"What does that mean?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Doctor: "The Viahranen crew detected the same in some of their victims' blood, but also had no idea how that fit into the puzzle. But now that we know tetryons are involved...there's a - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - material native to subspace we call Istvaenen. It degrades quite quickly outside the presence of tetryons and..." He taps on his console. "As I remembered. If it reacts with our copper-based - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - blood, it forms silicon." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"So you think the victims' blood came into contact with this Istvaenen that the assassin may have brought along?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Doctor: "It would explain the silicon. Istvaenen shows up as very similar to carbon-based compounds common in our atmosphere such as carbon dioxide. The internal sensors wouldn't have flagged - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - it as unusual, but I believe we should be able to modify our sensors to search for that compound more effectively than tetryon at least." Serenity@crystyl:"Great! Let's do it and find our assassin then" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | The doctor nods, "I'm informing the science personnel to make the necessary adjustments immediately." He continues tapping on the console Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | A few minutes later, the console flashes and the doctor announces, "We have something! Traces of Istvaenen moving through Deck Seven." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"They must be heading for the Empress' quarters. Get Operations to trap it in with force fields," she looks to Serenity, "Come on." Serenity@crystyl nods and hurries out --- Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | The pair moves through the ship towards Deck Seven. As they are in a turbolift, Yuzuki's wrist communicator chimes again and she taps it Goto Yuzuki@anncaris <C - Faedani> "We have the Istvaenen reading trapped on Deck Seven, Section 3A." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"I don't suppose you can get a transporter lock?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris <C - Faedani> "I'm afraid not, but Imaella's dispatched troops to both sides of the force field." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Guess we'll have to deal with them manually, then. We're on our way." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris looks to Serenity as the lift opens, "Good thing we've got a skilled swordswoman like you here." Serenity@crystyl:"It is my purpose" she nods Goto Yuzuki@anncaris steps out of the lift, making her way down the hall. Before long, they come across the force field, where four soldiers armed with swords are already standing Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Have you seen the assassin yet?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | The soldiers shake their heads Goto Yuzuki@anncaris steps up to the force field, "There's nowhere for you to go. Show yourself." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | No response... Serenity@crystyl:"You are quite certain they are within..." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris taps her communicator, "Is the Istvaenen signature still in the area?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris <C - Faedani> "Yes, somewhere within that stretch of hall." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"No maintenance access in the area?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris <C - Faedani> "None, but there are four rooms in that stretch of hallway. If you do not have visual, it must be hiding somewhere within. I can't pinpoint its exact location, distinguishing - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - Istvaenen from carbon compounds is already very difficult. I can only tell that it's moving within that area of the ship." Serenity@crystyl:"Likely searching for an escape route now you have them trapped" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris nods, gesturing to two of the soldiers, "You two, with us. The rest of you, watch the exit. If you see anyone other than us, shut the force field immediately." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Soldier 1: "Should we be taking orders from her? She's not an Imperial officer." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Soldier 2: "The Empress trusts her. Let's do as she asks." Serenity@crystyl:"Be glad she thinks you worth taking along at all. I would prefer to leave you here out of the way" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | The two soldiers nods and fall into line while the other two stand guard Goto Yuzuki@anncaris opens the force field, drawing her short twin blades and stepping in... Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | The four of them move through the hallway carefully and towards one room, which is locked. One of the soldiers override the lock and they step into a presently unoccupied officer's quarters Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | The soldiers fan out and begin to search immediately, prodding under the desks and bed with their swords, but find nothing Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Soldier 2: "All clear." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris nods, "Next room." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | The team exits and continues down the hall a little before stepping into the next room. It seems to be a completely unused set of quarters, with the door unlocked and not requiring an override - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - from anyone. As soon as they step inside, something drops down from the ceiling and onto one of the soldiers, tackling him onto the ground before he has a chance to react. The two roll across - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - the room, and by the time their momentum stops, the soldier already appears to be dead. The attacker looks up from atop the soldier's body... Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Soldier 2: "What in the Elements is that?!" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | The creature, as there's no better way to describe it, perched atop the dead soldier has the look of a true monstrosity. A pale blue, almost translucent skin covers its body, giving it an - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - eerie, otherworldly appearance. It is roughly bipedal and unclothed, but display no characteristics of biological sex. As its head snaps around to face the rest of the group, it reveals a - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris hideous face. The pointed ears and V-shaped ridges of a Romulan can be distinguished, except in the case of the ridges, they extend into two small horns that protrude from the forehead. Its eyes - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - glow yellow and seem strangely reminiscent of those of Glyph, Acey and Soong-type androids. Both the creature's forearms are embedded inside the chest of the soldier it had killed, and as it - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - pulls them out, it becomes clear that the creature doesn't have hands; the entirety of both forearms are blades. Its feet, however, seem to have hands instead Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Creature: "I...am...treachery. I am...deception. I am...paranoia. I...I am...Rihannsu." Serenity@crystyl draws her blade and stands ready, "You are wrong, plain and simple. This ends here, choose to live" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Creature: "I live...because...you live. I am...as you are. A reflection...of...what you are. You live...so I...live." Serenity@crystyl:"So you are trying to kill yourself by killing these people" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Creature: "I do as...as you do. Before, I was...nothing. I touched your minds...when I entered your realm. You are treachery. You are deception. You are paranoia. Now...I am as you are. I do...- Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - as you do. You kill other Rihannsu. Out of...ambition. Jealousy. Anger." Serenity@crystyl:"I am none of these things, nor do I do any of these things. Your perception is based on a narrow sampling and not true of all Rihannsu, let alone all in this galaxy" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Creature: "I am...of the mind I touch first. Perhaps...not all Rihannsu are of the same mind. But it is...too late. I am already what I am. I must kill. Your Empress. Your Admiral. Your - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - Commanders. You." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | The creature leaps towards Yuzuki at incredible speed. She barely manages to move out of the way in time, dodging one of its blade-arms and turning aside another Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Before she has a chance to counter attack, the creature has already rapidly switched targets to Serenity Serenity@crystyl jumps in to engage, swinging with comparable speed to meet it before it turns on her Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | The creature parries surprisingly adeptly, its two blades swinging in a flurry of rapid and chaotic blows which are exceptionally difficult to anticipate. Yuzuki and the remaining soldier - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - close in from behind, trying to flank it, but it spins around, managing to turn aside a blow from the soldier before landing a kick on his chest and sending him flying back Serenity@crystyl grips her sword with both hands, holding it high and looking ready to swing heavily. But as her hands move, the blade splits into two - one in each hand - which she then flourishes for momentum - Serenity@crystyl:- before swinging in, using one to counter and parry the rapid blade-arms while the other swings and vulnerable openings, promptly switching back and forth with each strike and counter Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | The creature spins back around at inhuman speed, parrying Serenity's blows. Yuzuki continues to press the attack as well, and despite its speed and unpredictability, it is clearly being - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - overwhelmed by the four pairs of blades and pushed on the defensive. It retreats a few steps back, and soon Serenity manages to exploit an opening, slashing it across the chest Serenity@crystyl doesn't let up, pushing harder if anything and aiming for a quick ending by removing it's head Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | The creature stumbles back, finding itself right next to the soldier it knocked back, who is getting up and had just grabbed his sword as well. But before either Serenity or the soldier can - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - land a killing blow, the monstrosity suddenly lets out an ear-piercing scream, one so sharp that it actually causes agony to their Romulan ears, rooting them in place and making them unable to - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - press the attack. Even Yuzuki is disorientated by this. The soldier drops his sword completely, grabbing his ears, and the creature spins around, taking the opportunity to plunge one of its - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - blade arms straight through his heart Serenity@crystyl looks to Yuzu, clamping her ears, "Your... hearing aids..." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris quickly taps her wrist, setting her hearing enhancers to nullify sound instead. While the creature still has one blade impaled in the soldier, she charges it, now unaffected by the scream. It - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - swings its other blade at her, but she manages to turn it aside with one of her short swords before swiping the other at its neck. Before she can land the blow however, the monstrosity swings - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - its other arm with the soldier still impaled on it, slamming the Romulan into her and knocking her aside. Her sword still manages to connect with its neck, but not as deeply as she intended. - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - It cuts a slash across its throat, which seems to put a stop to the scream, but the creature still stands Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Meanwhile, Yuzuki is knocked across the room hard by the weight of the rather large Romulan corpse. As Serenity recovers from the effects of the scream, the creature also quickly pulls out its - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - blade-arm from the body, tossing the dead soldier aside Serenity@crystyl immediately recovers, lunging in to finish the job with her two blades clamping together to drive hard through the back of it's head, and likely protrude to embed the floor very close to the side - Serenity@crystyl:of Yuzu's head if she lands the hit Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Serenity manages to finish off the creature before it has time to turn to her, pinning its head to the floor. Yuzuki quickly rolls aside before slowly getting back to her feet, looking at - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - Serenity and the creature, "That was a little closer than I would've liked..." Serenity@crystyl:"There was a sufficient margin of error to minimize the chance of damaging you. An optimal trajectory was more important to ensure the creature was ended" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris picks up her blades as she stands up fully, "Right. It /was/ an excellent finishing blow." Serenity@crystyl stands over the creature, "What exactly... was that thing?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | As they stand over it, its glowing yellow eyes quickly dim to pale yellow, then they go completely blank, with no visible difference between the iris and the rest of the eye. As this happens, - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - the horns, Romulan ridges and pointed ears seem to fade away as well. The entire creature starts to get more and more transparent, and they soon are able to see through it to the floor beneath Goto Yuzuki@anncaris quickly takes out a tricorder, scanning Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Istvaenen and other subspace-native molecules, sustained by stabilized tetryon. I'm not a xenobiologist, but I'm pretty sure this was a subspace lifeform." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | Before long, the creature fades out entirely into a cloud of bluish mist that begins to disperse through the room Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Well, there's your blue dust..." Serenity@crystyl:"Aha! Blue dust, I knew it! I appear to be quite the astrophysicist, who knew..." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris chuckles, "It would seem so! I'll send these readings to my sources and see what they think of it. From what it said, my best guess is that it was a being native to subspace with some level of - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:- psionic ability whose mind was warped by contact with an Imperial Romulan." Serenity@crystyl:"That seems an intuitive understanding of it" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Whether it was brought onto the scout warbird unintentionally by that experiment or someone wanted it to cause trouble for us...well, that's probably a question for another day." Serenity@crystyl:"The ship that brought it here must have encountered something regardless. Perhaps they have sensor records to track where it came from and how" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris nods, "They've given us their records. We'll look it over closely, but we'll probably have to pay the Tal Shiar research cell responsible for this a visit in either case. We /were/ hoping to - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - recruit them, and that might still be an option if this was an accident, but we may also have to destroy them if they did this on purpose." Serenity@crystyl:"So we already know who is responsible. Then let's go pay them a visit and determine their intentions" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris shakes her head, "Not right away. If they do this again, they could send another one of these things onto our ship. Or more than one, and a single one caused us plenty of trouble already. We - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - need to study the scan data our scout brought back first. We might be able to use that to modify our shields so if they open another spatial rift, they can't transport more of them on board." Serenity@crystyl:"So you do believe this was an intentional attack?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Hard to say from the information we have, but we need to be prepared for the possibility." Serenity@crystyl:"A wise precaution" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris smiles, "In any case, this proves beyond a doubt that you can be trusted." She eyes Serenity's swords. "And twin blades? I wasn't expecting that." Serenity@crystyl smiles, "My own take on the traditional" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"I approve," she pats her own short swords. "As you can probably tell." Serenity@crystyl:"As the years of growing up learning all the different techniques, I too was eventually asked to choose a preference to focus on for advanced training. I did not want to choose, as there are merits - Serenity@crystyl:- to all of the different combat stances. And so, I forged my own weapon which would allow me to switch more readily to optimise myself in combat as the situation evolves" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris nods, "Versatility is always good to have. I don't think we would've been able to keep up with the subspace being's two blades if we both only had a single blade each." Serenity@crystyl:"Exactly why I chose this path" she smiles, "If only-..." quickly fading into despair as she hangs her head, "...she would have appreciated seeing it bare fruition..." Goto Yuzuki@anncaris gives Serenity a pat on the shoulder, "I'm sure she'll be proud of you. Especially once you make use of it to avenge her." Serenity@crystyl gives a firm nod, "I will not rest until Vitelius is gone" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Come on. Let's report our success here to the Admiral and Empress and start making preparations to pay these Tal Shiar a visit. But I promise, we'll get to Vitellius soon. Just one step at a time, - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - we don't want to rush it and waste all our efforts." Serenity@crystyl:"Of course" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris turns and begins heading out of the room --- Romulan@annpc#557 | A few hours after Serenity and Yuzuki faced off with the subspace being, the intruder alert has been cancelled and Nikki is in her quarters when the doorbell rings Nikki@crystyl looks up from her desk, "Enter" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella steps into the room, "Empress. We have conducted several detailed scans and believe that the ship is secure. That creature, whatever it was, appears to have been alone." Nikki@crystyl:"Thank the stars. One of those things was more than enough for my tastes" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella nods, "Agreed." She takes a seat, "But there is a possibility that more may be present in the D'Surren system." Nikki@crystyl:"Does your sister have any insights into what kind of experiment they could be running there?" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella: "Her speculation is that it was an attempt to contact the Solanae gone awry. They opened the door to a different layer of subspace and allowed these creatures to come through. As the - Romulan@annpc#557 - Viahranen witnessed, the rift was shut, so we will hopefully not need to worry about a continued influx of them into our universe. However, the ones that have already come through are - Romulan@annpc#557 - a problem we will want to deal with before they have a chance to spread." Nikki@crystyl:"If this was an accident, it is possible that the researchers are also caught with them. If so, we should make every effort to expedite our arrival and assist them" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella: "I have our science teams studying the scans of the rift we have. Lyirru recommends that we have some defense against more of them transporting on board when we visit the system, in - Romulan@annpc#557 - the chance that another rift is opened. We cannot discount the possibility that the researchers brought them through on purpose. The creature also seemed intelligent and able to operate our - Romulan@annpc#557 - technology to a limited capacity, such as opening airlocks. There's also a chance they may learn how to reopen the rift." Nikki@crystyl:"Yes, I read Lyirru's report that stated they even communicated with the creature. As I understand it, these beings seem to take on the extreme traits of the first sentient life in this galactic - Nikki@crystyl:- plane that they come into contact with" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella nods, "I cannot say for certain if these implants you have given us to protect against telepathy can stop us from imprinting on these creatures, but only the senior officers of the - Romulan@annpc#557:- Viahranen were equipped with them by the time they reached the D'Surren system. I will ensure our entire crew has them before our arrival as a precaution. The science personnel meanwhile are - Romulan@annpc#557 - working on shield modifications to stop them from arriving on our ship if there is another rift." Nikki@crystyl:"Sounds like everything is in hand, I would expect nothing less" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella: "Faedani and I have also spoken with Haelhen t'Hakhoallieu. She assures us that if the researchers did intentionally bring these creatures through into our universe, she had no - Romulan@annpc#557 - knowledge of it. She believes there is no way Vitellius could have made them an offer and recruited the cell to his aid before us. Only House Hakhoallieu knows of its existence and hiding - Romulan@annpc#557 - place and they had not shared it with Vitellius. I do not think she is lying. Her House may have allied themselves with Vitellius, but they had very much set the trap at Agrama on their own - Romulan@annpc#557 - to prove their skill and loyalty. There does not seem to have been an opportunity for sharing assets between the two." Nikki@crystyl:"Seems plausible" she nods Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella: "That does not mean the researchers could not have brought the creatures through intentionally, but we were likely not the target. I believe the Viahranen was simply unfortunate - Romulan@annpc#557 - enough to have been in range when the rift was opened. We will continue our original objective of trying to recruit them once we arrive at the system and are able to make contact with them." Nikki@crystyl:"Do we have an estimate for how long the preparations will take yet?" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella: "All our officers are already equipped with the implants. We should be able to equip the rest of the crew with them in a few days. The shield modifications are more difficult to - Romulan@annpc#557 - say at this stage, but I have picked several specialists from across the fleet to help and Faedani has enlisted the help of several civilian scientists on the surface as well. With their - Romulan@annpc#557 - combined efforts, I expect it will not take longer than the implants." Nikki@crystyl:"Excellent. I am eager to get underway and put all of this matter behind us" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella: "As am I. We still have Vitellius and his fleet to deal with, after all." She stands, "Ah yes, and one more thing, Empress." Nikki@crystyl:"Admiral?" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella taps her wrist. The door opens and a uniformed Romulan man steps in, holding a rifle of some description in his arms. His palms are both held upwards with the weapon lying horizontally - Romulan@annpc#557 - across them, clearly meant in a manner to present the weapon rather than holding it in any threatening manner. He steps up in front of the table and kneels down, holding the rifle out to Nikki Romulan@annpc#557 | Now before her, she gets a closer look at the rifle, a very primitive weapon Romulan@annpc#557 FX | https://i.imgur.com/MHxseFl.jpg Nikki@crystyl passes a curious glance between the soldier, the weapon, and Imaella Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella: "Lyirru tells me she has been training you to utilize the teral'n, but melee weaponry is not your forte. I commissioned this weapon from one of our engineers, based on our records of - Romulan@annpc#557 - technology from the time of the Sundering. It will not be affected by either tetryons or energy damping fields. I thought you may wish to have one on hand, should another one of these - Romulan@annpc#557 - creatures manage to board us when we investigate D'Surren." Nikki@crystyl takes the rifle from the soldier, standing to survey it she smiles, "Impressive workmanship. Such things are something of a lost art these days with the convenience of replicators" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella: "Indeed. This is more of a historical replica than it is a weapon, but it seems we must rely on older tools when it comes to this particular foe." The soldier meanwhile takes out two - Romulan@annpc#557 - small boxes, setting them on the table Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella opens one of the boxes, a case filled with ammo, "You will need this ammunition for the rifle- I'm afraid this is replicated, but it is meant to be spent on use anyways. Not the most - Romulan@annpc#557 - effective of weapons, especially if compared to a modern disruptor, but as these creatures wear no armour, you will have little difficulty harming them with these as long as you land a hit." Nikki@crystyl:"The ammunition I assume, thank you" she smiles to the soldier, "Do not be so quick to judge older style projectile weapons. They may lack the destructive power of modern energy weapons, but believe - Nikki@crystyl:- me when I tell you these are highly effective tools. You know, I actually used something similar when I was child" she smiles Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella dismisses the soldier after he sets down the boxes before looking back to Nikki, "Is that so? I have seen your records and how you grew up on a remote hunting lodge, but I thought you - Romulan@annpc#557 - would have hunted with stun weapons, similar to those Federation phasers. Or perhaps that was just my family." Nikki@crystyl:"Yes, my adoptive parents were very traditional after the exodus from Romulus. Our home was built entirely by hand from felled logs, and when we hunted game we use manual rifles like this. Sometimes- Nikki@crystyl:- even homemade bows, it was all about the survival technique and the one-ness with the world around us. At least that's what the old man always said" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella: "Very interesting. I am glad I commissioned something you are quite familiar with. I hope you will not have to use it," she glances around the room, "It will make for some nice decor - Romulan@annpc#557 - in the room, in any case," she smiles Nikki@crystyl chuckles, "I will make sure to find it a suitably prestigious home" Romulan@annpc#557 | Imaella bows her head, "May it serve you well Empress, in decoration or defense." Nikki@crystyl:"Thank you Admiral, a very thoughtful token indeed" --- NPC@annpc#557 | Back on the Latenter, T'Bee calls Mischa down to one of their few lab areas Mischa@crystyl strolls in a while later, looking around, "See, this always makes me nervous. If you're T'Bee, this could be interesting. But if you're Not T'Bee, I'm waiting for something to explode..." NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee turns to Mischa as she strolls in, "Worry not, Commander. This is the interesting type." Mischa@crystyl hrms suspiciously, "Exactly what the other one would say..." she chuckles, ending the game for now, "So what have you got?" NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee: "Commander Goto has sent us her readings of the mysterious subspace being that infiltrated the Romulan vessels. I have been examining the data and I believe I have found a match." Mischa@crystyl:"Really? Nice work. So what are we looking at?" she peers at the console NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee: "I shall explain from the beginning for context- if you have time, of course." Mischa@crystyl smiles and pulls up a stool, "I do so enjoy storytime" NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee: "In the mid-23rd century during the first Klingon War, forces of the House of Duras survived an encounter with a mysterious Starfleet vessel which they reported as utilizing an - NPC@annpc#557 - alternate form of FTL travel. This technology allowed them to seemingly appear on a battlefield without warning and retreat without a trace. I suspect this may have been the technology - NPC@annpc#557 - which led to Ensign Ralde's accident, though that is not particularly relevant here." Mischa@crystyl:"Sounds consistent" she nods NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee: "Following that encounter, several members of the House of Duras became obsessed with capturing this technology. After boarding multiple Starfleet vessels through the war and finding - NPC@annpc#557 - none of them equipped with it, they turned their focus to developing their own variant of the technology for the Empire. They rallied the scientific minds of their House and their vassals and - NPC@annpc#557 - hired multiple outsiders from groups such as the Orions to work on this project." NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee: "The Klingons of course knew nothing of the involvement of P. stellaviatori spores. The result of their experimentation was instead something like the Junayd wormhole technology, but a - NPC@annpc#557 - highly unstable version based on 23rd century technology. They were essentially trying to harness the wormholes that could be accidentally created by warp drive malfunctions by engineering a - NPC@annpc#557 - warp drive that would intentionally malfunction and then attempting to control the resulting wormhole." NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee: "This experimentation was all done in secret, of course, but we have long since obtained all the data on it and have a complete picture of what occurred." NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee: "This prototype drive was equipped on the IKS Tajnom, a D7-class cruiser. The Tajnom activated the drive and subsequently disappeared into a wormhole, losing all contact. The project - NPC@annpc#557 - continued on for several more years, but momentum quickly died down after the disastrous first experimental vessel." NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee taps on the console, bringing up several Klingon battle reports, "This is where it becomes interesting." NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee: "Over a decade later, the Tajnom resurfaced on the far side of Klingon space and began indiscriminately attacking Klingon colonies. After three birds of prey were lost and two colonies - NPC@annpc#557 - razed to the ground, the IKS Devisor under Captain Koloth was dispatched to investigate." NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee: "The Devisor tracked down and disabled the older D7. Interested in discerning why the ship had gone rogue, Koloth boarded the vessel to find it filled with strange creatures with - NPC@annpc#557 - translucent blue skin which bore a resemblence to Klingons. They were exceptionally dangerous combatants who did not register on sensors and had the ability to nullify energy weaponry. Koloth - NPC@annpc#557 - had initially intended to retake the Tajnom but after losing twenty-seven warriors in battle to the creatures, settled for capturing Engineering, where he scuttled the vessel." NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee scrolls through one of the reports, "Koloth believed these creatures to be the Fek'Ihri from Klingon mythology, but the Empire's scientists believed them to be a form of subspace - NPC@annpc#557 - life that simply mimicked the appearance of the Klingon crew after killing them. The scans made by Koloth's boarding parties of the corpses of these creatures shortly before they dissipated are - NPC@annpc#557 - an 81% match to Commander Goto's scans. The same subspace molecules and elements are present, only in differing quantities." Mischa@crystyl:"So it isn't the first time these beings have been encountered. Is it possible that the Tal Shiar learned of the Klingon's encounter and set out to find and weaponize these beings?" NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee nods, "That is a possibility. However, the method by which the Tal Shiar have come into contact with these beings are quite different. The Klingons theorized that the unstable wormhole - NPC@annpc#557 - trapped the Tajnom in subspace, where it was encountered and taken over by these beings. The Tal Shiar have opened a rift and allowed them to come through." NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee: "The rift is quite similar to those utilized by the Solanae, and it is possible that the Romulans and Klingons have made contact with these beings independently. It is also possible - NPC@annpc#557 - though that the Tal Shiar are simply using methods they are familiar with to draw in and weaponize these beings, knowing that travelling into their habitat would be too dangerous." Mischa@crystyl:"I certainly wouldn't put it past them to be trying to use these beings like that. But they are just as likely to be experimenting irresponsibly and brought them through by accident. Regardless, - Mischa@crystyl:- this is a good find T'Bee, nicely done" NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee: "Thank you, Commander. There is another point of interest in Captain Koloth's report. The being we encountered here was exceptionally adept at stealth. It was enhanced by its ability to - NPC@annpc#557 - stay hidden from sensor systems, but it also appears to prefer catching its victims unaware when possible. While the beings described by Koloth did make use of ambush tactics, they appear to - NPC@annpc#557 - conduct themselves very differently, engaging the Klingons in open combat through the Tajnom's halls. They are also described as taller than the average Klingon and possessing a heavy build, - NPC@annpc#557 - while the one encountered by Commander Goto was slightly shorter than the average Romulan and very lithe and agile, almost like a Horde Skirmisher thrall." Mischa@crystyl:"Just like in Yuzu's account of the creature, it said it took on the form of a Romulan - even called itself Rihannsu. So that would be consistent with the beings own testimony. I must admit, it - Mischa@crystyl:- would be quite enlightening to meet one of these beings who mimicked an enlightened and disciplined species so they would not favour violence and instead get to know us properly" NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee: "I was wondering that as well. These beings appear to take on the characteristics of the people they first encounter, psychologically as well as physiologically. Perhaps they would be - NPC@annpc#557 - less aggressive and more amenable to conversation if they made contact with us." Mischa@crystyl:"Perhaps, but Starfleet is a bigger lucky dip pot than any when it comes to mixed race crews. Human examples may be not better than Klingon or Romulan. A Vulcan would be a logical choice, but even - Mischa@crystyl:- then it is likely - I think - that such a creature would pick up on the physical attributes and strong emotional drives beneath the surface rather than the self-disciplined logical mindset" Mischa@crystyl:"And maybe that's the point, there is no species 'pure' enough to make a sufficient host for them" NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee nods, "A logical assumption, Commander. These beings do seem to take on the worst characteristics of those they encounter and exaggerate them. After all, Klingons are not violent and - NPC@annpc#557 - bloodthirsty every moment of their lives, and Romulans do not all practice deception and betrayal. The forms taken on by these beings almost appear to be caricatures of the species rather than - NPC@annpc#557 - a recreation of them." Mischa@crystyl chuckles, "Just when you thought the galaxy couldn't get any more obtuse; living caricatures!" NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee: "I am curious whether our implants would prevent them for accessing our minds. If they are not affected by the psyche of any being at all, perhaps that could be a means to commune with - NPC@annpc#557 - them. Not that we should take the risk by going out of our way to do so, of course." Mischa@crystyl:"Indeed, still it is always good to have contingencies" NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee: "Agreed. Commander Goto also reported that the Kaishaasi will be investigating the D'Surren system once they complete their preparations and have adequate defenses should they encounter - NPC@annpc#557 - more of the beings. Do you believe we should tail them in case they require further assistance, or remain with the fleet here?" Mischa@crystyl hrms, "I will see if Yuzu has any further insights or preference before settling, but it may be prudent for us to continue monitoring the bigger picture here in their absence" NPC@annpc#557 | T'Bee nods, "I shall continue studying the information we have on these beings. If I discover anything that could assist in their investigation, I shall relay it to Commander Goto." Mischa@crystyl stands, "Keep up the good work" --- Goto Yuzuki@anncaris | In her quarters, Mischa opens a channel to Yuzuki... Goto Yuzuki@anncaris appears on the screen in her Romulan disguise, "Hello Mischa. How's things going over on the Latenter?" Mischa@crystyl smiles, "Yuzuchan, looking sharp" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris smiles back, "Thanks. I'm starting to like this Romulan look." Mischa@crystyl:"Soon ready to ship out now then?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"We still have a few days while the Kaishaasi crew all get their implants, and the science teams need time to work out how to protect us from the rift as well. But hopefully sooner rather than - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - later. The Tal Shiar researchers might still be viable allies, and they could be in trouble." Mischa@crystyl:"If they are in trouble there, I would be impressed for them to hold out this long" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris nods, "Or they could've done this intentionally. Either way, the sooner we get to the bottom of this, the better." Mischa@crystyl:"Did you want us to come and watch your backs?" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"It would be nice to have the resourcefulness of Starfleet on hand, but the Kaishaasi's crew have impressed me so far. The doctor was able to identify the other subspace substance from the - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - relatively mundane silicon that remained and they were able to use it to track the being down surprisingly quickly. Admiral Imaella's bringing along some T'Varos which'll be waiting - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - nearby in case we need help, so I think we should have things covered. We've still got the bigger threat of Vitellius to worry about, too." Mischa@crystyl:"My thoughts exactly. With you out of range, I would like to stay here and keep an eye on things. It will be interesting to see how everyone behaves without their beloved Empress watching over them - Mischa@crystyl:- for a while. But I wasn't about to commit until I got your thoughts in case you did want us along" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris nods and smiles, "Thanks for checking in, Mischa. I think we can manage on our own, and it's good to make sure our new fleet doesn't turn in on itself as soon as their new leaders aren't keeping - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris - their eyes on them. Betrayal's all too common with Romulans." Mischa@crystyl:"Perhaps, but personally I plan using this quiet time to catch up on some holonovels as I'm sure they'll all be so well behaved we'll have nothing else to do" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris chuckles, "I sure hope so. Maybe I'll bring back some Romulan ones once this is finished. Their most popular stories are basically just what we've been doing so far, though, so I'm not sure how - Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:- much more of that you'd like," she laughs Mischa@crystyl:"Just don't start threatening me with Cardassian murder 'mysteries' or I might have to think twice about having you back" she laughs Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"Don't worry, Romulans are more into conspiracies. Every Romulan holo that starts with a murder almost always turns into a political scheme of some kind." Mischa@crystyl chuckles, "Maybe I'll try one if you find a good a example then" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris chuckles, "I'll be sure to make a list of recommendations!" Mischa@crystyl:"Well I won't keep you from your preparations" Goto Yuzuki@anncaris:"And don't let me keep you from your holos either!" she smiles and waves before ending the call