capto

Chapter Eight

 
Previously: Chapter Seven

Ensign Gaya Morana's personal log; stardate...whatever.

Ohhhh, what a tangled web we weave.

Youth is a fickle thing. We're also so convinced we know what we want and we're doing, when the fact is, we don't know anything at all. Take Sillia, for example. She doesn't actually want a romance with Pranay. She wants to be Pranay.

It's crazy, all the things we want. Even me. As time goes on, I realize there's so much I want. I want to stay in Starfleet, though I still don't know what for. In the quiet moments, when I lay on my bed and stare at the gray ceilings of this Cardassian monument to slave labor, I admit that I am really angry. I'm angry at everyone. I'm angry all the time.

And I want revenge. I just don't know whom against.

***

When the Borg Queen was tense, all the ensigns felt it. They didn't dare move; they didn't let so much as a hair fall out of place.

"Due to a series of emergency staff meetings," Lt. Sohini Ghoshal announced, "your normally scheduled activities have been replaced by a temporary schedule until the Ketara Mission.

"Ensign Ohn, since you've earned the informal title of 'Digital Whisperer'. Chief O'Brien requests your presence in Engineering. Ensign Marlowe, at 1230 hours, envoys from Ketara II will transport onboard to discuss potential trade missions with Major Kira and Commander Sisko.  It will be the first round of preliminary meetings to follow over of the next week. You will attend as a silent observer."

Sohini actually took a step forward, and rasped when she spoke next.

"I don't think I need to remind you of what will happen if I find out you so much as made a sound."

Drelle actually gulped.

"Ensign Willoughby," Sohini continued, her voice back to its using imposing tone, "you will report to science lab 6. The survey teams are doing test runs on samples from Ketara V's moon.  And as for you two," she turned to Sillia and Morana, "you two are going to learn to ingratiate yourself in with your shipmates.  It just so happens that Lt. Tria's been meaning to sit you down and discuss where you'd best fit in." For some reason, her eyes zeroed in on Morana.

And right then and there, the Bajoran knew something was up.

There was a new tension on the ship; she'd noticed this morning how the faces of the senior officers had deeply hardened overnight. She'd caught a glimpse of the bridge crew at the replimat earlier this morning; Major Kira in particular looked like she'd gotten her ass properly chewed the night before. Morana resisted the urge to laugh aloud at the thought of Commander Sisko going off on his staff behind closed doors; apparently, his yelling was a thing of legend.

Ah, the Federation, Morana mused, even as her lips twitched to keep from smirking. So deceptively bubbly and cloying.

***

Ensign Gaya Mylanti's personal log; supplemental.

To satisfy Lt. Tria, Cillia and I have agreed to join Lt. Cmdr. Damian Silent River's cooking club.  Apparently he's decided to start one, and for reasons no one quite understands, he got approval from Riker himself.

Our first meeting is scheduled in Holodeck 2 after the Ketara Mission.  Apparently it's mandatory all club members attend something called Chopped.

***

Transmission #J1451A8584ADEF4JUJK541212 *chicken* 2AD5FA4613251YUJHK5MH132 *rice* 251524JJIUYPWE.

- They know I'm here.

It'll be over when you reach Ketara.

If I reach Ketara. That meddling Chief Engineer found my transmission.

Where are you transmitting from now?

- Quarters. I piggy-backed off the routine transmissions of the food replicator.

You were always good with replicators.  I don't think you ever met one you couldn't persuade.

- You're as humorous as ever.  What's the plan for Ketara?

Why are you in such a hurry?  No one knows it's you.  No one would ever suspect you.

- That's thing about being Maquis.  
Everyone's an automatic suspect.

You sound more tense than usual.

- This whole ship is more tense than usual. They know, remember?  Already the Mouth is starting to look at me sideways.

Who?

- Not important. What's the plan for Ketara?

Expect to be transported off the moon's surface by 0330 hours, Ketara time.

- Then they'll know!

But you'll be gone by then, so it won't matter.


***

USS Defiant
Stardate 
41022.49
Approximate Time: 2249 hours

Damian was surprised to see Pranay Bhatnagar in his quarters so late the night before an important mission, and without announcement. The man typically notified him a week in advance, unless expressly invited. But like most of the officers on the ship, he clearly had something on his mind.

"I have something to tell you," Pranay announced in his soft voice.

Damian's heart leaped in his chest. They've found the Maquis infiltrator. He'd heard horror stories about the Maquis on other ships, about the shock, and all the broken relationships that left devastated crewmates behind. He wasn't looking forward to this.

"You are my closest friend and most loyal comrade," Pranay continued solemnly, "and I should have told you this much sooner."

Damian's brain whirled, torn between confusion and disbelief. Wait, wait, wait...Pranay's the Maquis infiltrator??? How did that happen? In which galaxy does it even make sense?

Wait a minute...he ran off and joined...but didn't even think to invite me???

"For a few nights now," Pranay confessed with a stoicism that would've easily impressed a Vulcan, "I've been sharing my bed with Ensign Rix."

For a moment, Damian was physically unable to move. Then suddenly, his body moved without thought or permission. His hand reached out for a chair at the dining table.  He pulled it out and sat down.

For this, he needed to sit down.

***

Shiu Sah, 3rd Moon of Ketara V
Stardate 41116.22
Approximate Time: 1622 hours


You are Maquis.

Ensign Gaya Morana's whole body ached. She'd managed to dive out of harm's way during the cave-in, but she'd accidentally knocked herself unconscious in the process. Her head was bleeding, her uniform was dirty and torn. The flesh on her left side stung horribly, as though she'd been burned somehow.

You are Maquis.

Morana wasn't sure how long she'd been out, but that wasn't what troubled her most. There were tiny gaps in her memory; she knew she'd survived a cave-in but she couldn't remember what caused it. She forced herself to move, to gauge her surroundings, and her very bones shrieked when she did.

And over and over again in her mind, she could hear own voice repeatedly stating, You are Maquis. She just couldn't remember why or to whom she was saying it.

But if she were to guess, they probably the same person who shot her and left her to die in a sealed cave.

***

USS Defiant
Previous Stardate
Approximate Time: 2253 hours


Damian Silent River lived up to his surname for a long while before he finally spoke. Though Pranay Bhatnagar never considered himself a nervous person, he was definitely nervous now. He was used to be in reverse positions, silent and sitting while Damian fidgeted and awaited judgment.

"You're sleeping with an Ensign," Damian said finally.

Pranay gave the most obvious reply. "Yes."

"You never sleep with ensigns."

"Not typically, no," Pranay admitted.

"Not typically ever," Damian blinked.

"Correct."

"You didn't even sleep with ensigns when you yourself were an ensign."

"No, I did not."

"As I recall, you specifically stated that sleeping with an Ensign is 'most unbecoming and undignified of any self-respecting humanoid.'"

"I did say."

"But now you tell me you're sleeping with an ensign."

"I am."

There was a strange pause; it reminded Pranay of the calm before a storm.  As it turned out, he was right.

"I can't believe you're screwing an Ensign!" Damian suddenly retorted, eyes flashing with irrational anger.

Pranay raised a puzzled brow.  "This upsets you?"

"Of course it upsets me!" his friend snapped, rising to his feet and pacing his quarters.  "This isn't like you, Pranay!"

"And Sillia is not like other ensigns."

But Damian wasn't hearing that part. All he was hearing was that Pranay Bhatnagar, Captain Moral Dignity, was sleeping with a subordinate.

"Sleeping with an ensign is precisely the irresponsible sort of thing I'm supposed to do," Damian wrung his hands.  "I tell you that I'm screwing an Ensign or a Lieutenant, and you talk me out of it. That's how this is supposed to work, Pranay."

Pranay's head rose and fell in patient understanding.

Damian paused. "Do you see a future with Sillia?"

Considering that in the very near future Sillian Rix could soon become Sillia Irydi, carrying the memories one of the most celebrated Trills in Vulcan history, Pranay definitely saw a potential future.

"Of course.  As I mentioned before, she's most unlike other ensigns."

"You know, the same could be said of Gaya Morana," Damian shrugged. "Sillia, Shondrelle...I can understand them. They're ensigns. But I'm not sure I even see a future for the Unreadable One. Girl's got issues, Pranay."

"She survived the Cardassian Occupation," Pranay reminded him. "By now I suspect she has more than mere 'issues', Damian. I would suppose she has volumes."

"Very amusing," Damian scowled.  "I just wish we knew what it was she's got buried so deep that it leaves her so...dead on the outside."

"Not all refugees are willing to share their horror stories," Pranay pointed out. "Morana's not an activist or famed diarist. She escaped and that's probably all that matters to her."

"Escaped," Damian murmured. He suddenly turned to his friend. "Calandra says there are no records of Morana or her mother after the age of ten, at least not on Bajor."

Pranay raised an eyebrow.  "Yes?"

"We've been asking the wrong questions," Damian realized. "We've been theorizing what she escaped, but not from where she escaped.  For all we know, Morana's issues might not even have anything to do with the Occupation."

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