Last Mission for a Liars Promise

Lance boardred the Dragons Fire, the compact design was intriguing and it reminded him of the shuttles and things of his past. The ship was landed at one of the exterior pads of the station, bathed in sunlight. As he entered the ship looked pitch black for a moment while his eyes adjusted, noticing the hum of internal power was just starting up. The hologram of the ships master AI, Alice, appeared. “Good evening Admiral, I have taken the liberty of priming the fusion reactors and preparing the matter/antimatter reactor to start.”

Lance just nods, “Do a final systems check and disconnect us from Nimbus as soon as it is confirmed we are fully fueled and operational.” He heads around to his quarters and tosses his go-back on the bed. It’s a small room, but then it is a small ship. Alice vanishes and two Astromech units appear, having beamed from the engineering deck and busy themselves checking systems and after a few moments head down the ramp to disconnect the ship.

Meanwhile Lance heads to the bridge. He looks around and then says, “Rearact side seating please.” The computer then compiles and the seats for the side-consoles neatly fold themselves into their base and retract under the consoles, “Alice, there will not be a full complement joining us, lets repurpose the bunk rooms for now.” Her voice simply comes over the speakers confirming, “Aye Admiral.” A few moments later the droids return to the ship and Lance sits down at the helm.

Alice then appears again, “Admiral all systems are operational and we have disconnected from the station. I have contacted the control tower, do we have a flight plan to file?”

He shakes his head, “No, open a channel to the control tower.” She gave him a nod that the channel was open, “Control tower, this is the STV Dragons Fire, requesting permission to depart immediately.”

“Dragons Fire, we do not have a flight plan for you today, what is your destination so we may coordinate traffic.”

Lance responds with a particularly odd statement… "Just a quick ring around the system. Have to pull the curtain back every so often and shoot from the hip, period.”

It takes a moment, then the control tower confirms, “Aye sir, sending your outgoing flight vector now, please standby until the sky is clear.” Subsequently the tower orders nearby craft to standby if they have not launched yet, landing craft are allowed to land, but other craft in the area are ordered to divert. Lance just nods and the hull markings vanish from the ship and changes the transponder code to a generic civilian variant. He can see the activity on his screen and waits until he’s got the departure vector to himself and then takes off. Thrusters push the ship off the pad and he retracts the landing gear and heads into orbit.

As the Dragons Fire departs all records of the departure are erased. Of course other ships might see the vessel depart, but the transponder code fits to a generic civilian craft, one that would be difficult to track down. The Dragons Fire heads for the Jump Gate where Lance enters a private code into his console, the gate opens, and he’s gone through it into Hyperspace.

The red swirls of hyperspace were always a bit unsettling to Lance. The flashes that seemed to come from nowhere, endless red, ever changing, like a storm raging around a person but always being too far away to make out any details. He turned off the main viewer and programmed the ship to listen for a very particular tachyon beacon on a special coded frequency, it would only appear if one knew exactly how to configure the receiver for it.

Lance remembered the first time he was in hyperspace, it was a fledgling technology back then and only a few Jump Gates existed. His mind wandered around this for a moment. He got up from the helm, “Alice, when we lock on to the beacon, head right for it. The gate should open automatically as soon as we are in range.”

She appears then and nods, “Yes Admiral, I will inform you as soon as the gate opens, should I go through immediately or wait for you Sir?”

He just smiles, “Go through, but cloak the ship as soon as we are clear of the vortex and move us away from the gate, make it hard for us to find, then come to a full stop.”

She nods again, “Yes Admiral.” With that she sits in the command chair, a silly thing for a hologram to do perhaps, but when she was actually running the ship she preferred to be visible.

Lance left the bridge and headed to his quarters to think. It was hard not to think in more detail about that first time he was in Hyperspace; as Lady J explained to him at the time it was impossible to track a ship through hyperspace, the eddies and currents even made it impossible to rescue a lost ship. The thought of being lost in Hyperspace in that endless sea of red made him almost nauseous to this day. Being lost was one thing but even in deep space it was possible to be found. He shuddered involuntarily as he unzipped his back and unpacked the basics.

He could see her face, stern but also sardonic, “You don’t ever want to lose a lock on at least one beacon, or you’ll end up floating around to the end of time and no one will ever find you.” He then smiled at how her face was always a little amused at the darker things in life. He heard her voice in his head continuing a bit later in the conversation, “If there is no warp trail or ion trail, then you weren’t there. People can think whatever they want to, but if you can’t prove it you can’t use it. At least not legally.”

It was an old Type F Shuttle Craft, as soon as she noticed the view ports were always up she figured out why and told him to look at it. She knew it gave him the creeps, made him look out into the endless void and cope with his anxiety. That was always her wait, find a point of pressure and exploit it. In this case, exploit it so that someone else couldn’t. He remembered not being able to sleep for a long while after that first time, 3 hours in Hyperspace and when they got to the end of that night all he could see behind his eyelids was endless red swirls.

Bringing himself back to reality, he started to gather information, see what news articles or other reports might be referring to Lady J or her aliases. See what there was to see while he was en route.

The last Lance knew, Lady J was working out of Embers Station in the Capetian Star System. This was definitely a strange scenario, this is also where the message originated. She was never one to not have creature comforts, shopping, night life, she was very metropolitan in nature. She couldn’t imagine her choosing to live in such a remote place. It was unaffiliated space, the only access to the rest of the galaxy was either through the Jump Gate or via conventional warp drive.

Perhaps he should have looked into things more, when she was alive. They’d spent so much time together that it was weird after everything happened with creating Solas Tempus. He’d offered her a post, she was angry though. She thought he was betraying her and when he left they did not part on good terms. A few communications here and there over the years, but nothing substantial. Through his research he had traced her through the Dominion War as working with Starfleet Intelligence still, a back-door path to the Romulan Empire. Then she drops off of Federation records, so what happened?

How did she end up in the middle of nowhere like a ghost. He was sitting at the small desk and leaned back in the seat, or tried to. Frowning he realized the seat didn’t lean back. He got up and stretched, it had been hours now, they must be somewhere near the gate now? Getting up he headed to the bridge.

After a short stop-off to answer some questions from Mike-037 he was back on his way. It had been days and he’d seen his good friend Kaito and though the man didn’t tell him what he should do he felt more certain than before that he should go and find out what had happened. The conflict inside was a low rumble, a tidy little mess in the back of his mind. He went to the bridge and told Commander Wensley that they should get back into Hyperspace. The command laid in the coordinates and opened a jump point, heading into Hyperspace again.

As an AI, Alice was accustomed to being left do tend to things over a long period of time. She didn’t need sleep and the only thing she minded about the job was that it tended to be boring. Fact was she was kind of made for this particular position. She’d heard of The Admiral as he was sometimes referred to. Some people were afraid of him and some people admired him and she kind of thought he was a bit meh. All of the talk going on and she figured he’d be a bit larger than life but he stopped to talk to a friend for a while and now wanted to go back to the mission. He left her alone though and that she appreciated. The ship was now in Hyperspace and she stared at the empty Red. It didn’t bother her in the least. She could stare out at that endless void no matter what color it was. Protocol dictated that they rely on the eyes as much as sensors and thus, she looked ahead.

Meanwhile Lance had returned to his room. He felt the ship go into Hyperspace and looked out the window again. He finally closed it, having sated that part of himself. He was thinking about before he had met Candy as he sat down. It was true, Candy Poole had stolen his heart but before her it was just the Lady J and himself. He’d go on missions and return to base and she’d be there with things for him to do. His mind then flooded with Candy’s death… A devastating blow, it was difficult to really think about her without thinking of all the pain they had shared. He recalled how lost he was after her death, she’d had been his friend, his wife, his commanding officer, and finally his friend for so long he had no idea what life was supposed to be like without her. All he had to do was open a channel and she’d be there, day or night.

He sighed then, saying to no one in particular, “At first I thought that if you were to be gone that my days would be filled with song. So much anger I had in my heart for you, then when you were I realize that you were the song though my through the pounding of my own heart and the blood of anger in my ears, I refused to hear it.” His eyes welled with tears as they often did thinking about her and how wrong they had gone. How truly wrong they had gone and how big a part he had played in it. Closing his eyes a few tears fell gently to the deck. Then he just whispered, “I miss you still yet I keep going because you’d have settled for nothing less.”

An uneasy sleep had befallen Lance Thomas finally. The red stain of hyperspace was in the back of his head all night along with mixed memories of a turbulent past that were all too crystal clear for his taste. He tossed and turned in the night and wished that his wife was there with him. Not that he had seen much of her, then his time in captivity had changed things. He had the uneasy feeling that she had moved on without him a long time ago. Perhaps he had just been fooling himself when getting married again, it didn’t work out the first time, what made him think it would work out this time?

The uneasy sleep produced uneasy dreams, uneasy dreams turned into nightmares. Nightmares warping memories into different stories of blood and failure…

He saw Drem covered in blood with dead eyes looking off into the distance, part of her head missing. Then he saw the cybernetic inside of Siv, the woman tries to drag herself forward on one hand before the android body fails and shorts out her program. In his mind’s eyes it was a battlefield on some forgotten planet, a war, the Solas Tempus banner hanging tattered held by a dead soldier leaning against a rock, he became aware of the smoke and smell of brimstone. Looking around the battle field was filled with versions of the uniform, closer to him he saw Sal looking at Candy’s corpse and turning him to him, “Lance, why? How could all of this be worth it? Where have you lead us?”

The sound of th COM was salvation as Alice’s voice came over, “Admiral, we are about to exit hyperspace. The gate has accepted your access codes.”

“Thank you Commander, I will be there shortly.” he said before closing the link. He didn’t have much time to get up there, going into the bathroom he splashed cold water on his face and cleaned himself up as best he could in a short amount of time. Sighing he looked in the mirror and even as the contents of the nightmare faded from his mind the feeling lingered. He sighed again as he slipped into his uniform, old practiced movements had himself ready for the bridge soon enough.

He walked onto the bridge, Alice was sitting at the console, Lance sat in the command chair just as the jump point opened. Soon enough the ship was back in real space and the barest hint of relief flowed over his mind. Alice spoke then, “Capetian Star System, Admiral.”

“Move us away from the gate and —” Lance is cut off then.

Alice’s voice was entirely business without even the hint that something might be wrong, “Admiral, signal coming from Embers Hold.”

Lance nodded, “Move us away from the gate and head for Antionette, open a channel.”

Alice nods, and does exactly that. The view screen is that filled with the sight of a rather unfortunately scarred man, looked like he’d been through the wars. Romulan-Human by the looks of it, two massive scars running down his face. They both meet at his right cheek which appears to have had some major reconstruction happen, though done poorly. “I am Supervisor Lemata, you are a long way from home and you used a very old code to get here. Who are you and state your business.”

Lance just answers clearly, “I am here to see to the last wishes of a friend of mine who died, I trust that I don’t have to tell you the value of discretion.”

“I don’t like surprises, Sir, especially ones that I can’t put a name to. Don’t give me any and make sure I don’t think of any questions that might need answers.” The screen closed. Lance looks at Alice who seems to be taking this whole thing in stride, he was grateful. After a moment he says, “Standard orbital approach, then observe passive stealth protocol, minimal power, minimal sensor signature, keep the warp core offline. Then scan the surface, for this…” He pauses as he enters some information into his console. A specific kind of energy signature comes up, he doesn’t explain it. She just nods, “Aye sir.”

Getting up Lance says, “Radio silence, once the sweep is done, passive sensors only. I’m going to get ready to head down to the surface.”

Finally Alice says, “Admiral, on orders of Admiral D’Amico, no flag officer shall beam down to a potentially unsafe situation without armed escort, I will accompany you.”

She said it so matter-of-factly that while Lance almost just agreed then he said, “You will stay on board the ship, this is not the safest place to leave a ship with time travel capabilities in, Commander, that’s an order.” If Alice was frustrated she didn’t show it, and just nodded going back to the console and performing a sensor sweep.

Lance was finally able to take a shower. As the water rinsed off the sweat he was trying to think of anything but his nightmare when another bad memory entered his mind. He hadn’t been in training long when Lady J ended up with 3 children of varied ages in her care. Their father was someone of some importance to her, though the details of it were lost on Lance at the moment. He remembered the kids though, Ashley, Brittany, and Jace. The trio were siblings, Ashley was the oldest and had essentially been raising the other 2. He recalled their mother was a woman off ill repute and someone who would sell her soul for drugs.

The underbelly of many places was filled with such people. Lance figured that Lady J was just going to dump the kids into the system and leave it at that. He was never sure why but she didn’t, she made arrangements to take care of them herself. His training took a different turn, less toward the spy-work and more toward assassinations and such, Lady J herself was absent from the program. One day he got a call on the way back from a mission, an urgent call. He remembered it clearly, he could still hear the terrible panic in Lady J’s voice. Anything that could panic her had to be worthy of it, he diverted the ship immediately and came to her aid.

Seems the Cardassian Government had paid the children’s mother and the kids were a bargaining chip. The woman, Michelle, had agreed that if they got her kids back she would tell them whatever the wanted to know. To this day Lance wasn’t sure what the Cardassians wanted so badly that this woman had. She was a broken down old druggie who couldn’t hold down a job let-alone take care of her kids. Cardassian soldiers had fought through the guards provided by Section 31 and stolen the children. Lance was going to pursue them himself but word came down from above that the kids had been killed in some kind of an accident, along with the mother.

Now that his shower was done he tried to pull his mind away from that awful memory. Lady J and he had become far closer during this and the aftermath, she was never the same. He could see her constant struggle to keep going and admired it. She had been so powerful that he never thought for a moment she’d fall. The thought came quickly after the memories were put back in their bottle… He was wrong, she had fallen. All he could do was sigh again as he headed to the bridge.

“Admiral, I have located the signature, it is right around 2 meters underground about 5 km outside of the only settlement on the planet.” Alice reported in an even and dispassionate tone

He nodded and didn’t have to be told that it was a grave, “Set coordinates for beam down, I’ll notify you when I’m ready to beam back up.” She nodded and he headed for the transporter.

Lance had been on the world for some time. So far no one had bothered him. He did get a message from Sal on Nimbus that troubled him greatly; someone from Section 31 was nosing around and made a comment about something in the distant past which could not have been him but was him. Still he had work to do here and the more he looked into things the less they made sense. The small farming community not far away from where her body was buried had known her. In fact, she had a house there, a nice one even if small.

Walking in for the first time he thought that he was going to find some small hovel, she wasn’t a loving woman. She wasn’t a sentimental woman. Yet a found a home there, her home. Not the wanderers bed chamber, filled with nothing. He could reach out and touch the life force left behind, groaning for her absence as it faded. It was just a small two bedroom home, single story. Rustic of course and built by hand. When he first got there, the town greeted him warmly and told him that he had been expected. She had talked about him; the most honorable son of a bitch she had ever known.

He sat there not long after, on the front porch that had been hers. An old man was walking by and stopped. From the street the old man said, “She said you would look like this.”

Lance couldn’t help but smile, “Oh? Like what?” He got up and started to walk to the edge of the yard.

“Confused, pensive, sad, and a bit lost.” The old man seemed kindly, “I believe that she said you’d look like a cross between a lost puppy and someone who didn’t remember losing the puppy.”

Lance. tilted his head slightly, “That’s a very odd description. Did you know her?”

“We all did. She trained our horses for us. Even set up a show.” The kind old man was stopped at the edge of the yard.

Lance smiled then and smiled with a nod before he answered, “Tell me about that, would you?”

“Jenny treated the place like we were some big horse show. She even recorded it as if it was going to be broadcast.” The old man laughed in a bit of a wistful tone, “Treated us like we were important, went to some of our heads. Enjoyed every bit of it she did though.” At first Lance was going to respond that it didn’t sound like Lady J at all. Then he just had to grin because it did a bit, the idea that she would have settled down into a life like this though? That was what he couldn’t comprehend. There was something he was missing, but he kept talking to the old man for a while before they had to part ways and Lance went back into the house.

“What do you make of all this Candy?” He asked as if she could hear him and perhaps she could. Perhaps she could hear his questions but couldn’t answer. He had seen so much in his life that pointed to the possibility. So much he couldn’t deny but it still hurt. The idea that she could hear him but couldn’t or refused to respond hurt. It was easier to think of her as just gone now. Not for the first time, or even the hundredth time, he wanted to take his ship back and talk to her again. Just via subspace of course. That was a hard no though, that could not happen. He wished he could ask her about all of this though.

It was time to do what he did best though, well what he did well at least. He started to look around and explore the home she left behind. Lady J was a methodical person, she knew every inch of any space she occupied, down to the smallest detail. Lance simply had the strong feeling that there was something here for him, something he needed to find. Something she wanted him to find. The question kept going on in his head, what could possibly make Lady J settle down in some unknown corner of the universe. At least now he had the question. The answers would perhaps come easier now that he had a proper question.

A thorough and complete search took days, Lance found false panels and hidden compartments everywhere. One would lead to another, to another, and this continued until Lance realized that it was meant to suck up time. He had yet to find anything of consequence, though one hidden compartment had a rather delightful sounding recipe for Blueberry Muffins. He laughed at the joke smiling at it. While he kept working Lance was thinking about where she’d really put something she didn’t want found. The body itself was too obvious. The home was a wild goose chase, so where?

Striking out from the house Lance headed out to the barn where the horses used to be, the ones she had been training. She had said something once, in passing, something about a house being a disaster but where you worked being pristine and it tickled in the back of his brain. Heading out he found a lot of things he didn’t expect, so much horse tack that he couldn’t possibly fathom how she had so much. A part of her life that he knew nothing about, where had Lady J learned to ride? Learned to train a horse? lance himself had to do a lot of things over the years, had to learn a lot of things that is.

It was in the barn that he found it. Behind a panel just under some old cedar shavings he found a book. Old school, a hand written book. As soon as he touched it he knew, this held the answers he was looking for.

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