USS VINDEX - NCC-2474-A
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With a Capital P

Posted on Sun May 21st, 2017 @ 6:03am by Commander Akiva ben-Avram & Lieutenant Kazyah Linn

Mission: S2E1 - Secrets
Location: D15 Bar
Timeline: MD 85; 19:25

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Kaz asked as he and Akiva stood in the shadow of the corridor, peering through the window at the bar within. He saw the man they were looking for, the shuttle pilot who recently lost his wings. There was also a rumor that he saved the away mission almost single-handedly, but Kaz was never one to believe every rumor he heard.

Kaz looked back at Akiva, "I'm not exactly in the habit of spilling secrets to people," he said, giving the Commander a look as if he should know what he meant. "Other than you, of course. We shouldn't divulge any more information than we absolutely have to." He took a step closer, "And I'll be the judge of what information we share."

"I'll tell you what," Akiva said. "I'll go in first and take an empty seat nearby. While I nurse a drink, you play it your way. I won't step in unless the situation warrants it. What do you think?"

Kaz looked at the man as he considered what he said, then nodded.

With that decided, Akiva stepped through the entrance to D15 and made his way to an open bar stool near the pool table. It wasn't close enough for him to overhear much, but he'd be able to measure their body language and intervene if necessary.

"Double Scotch, high and dry," Akiva said to the barkeep as he scanned the room.

Slow night so far, and many averted his glance. Ryland looked him dead in the eye and smiled in greeting. Akiva nodded in acknowledgement and turned back to the barkeep who'd just served his drink.

"What's with the stick?" Kaz asked as he walked up behind the man, taking advantage of his distraction from the XO.

"'Evening," Ryland said after taking the shot he'd lined up. "This here is a cue stick, used to play many a cuesport--billiards, pool, you name it."

Ryland set the cut on the floor, handle down. "Are you up for a game, or you sniffin' for something else?"

Kazyah raised an eyebrow, quite unsure of what that "something else" might be. He reached out and took the cue stick from the pilot and held it in his hands. "I've not played any of the games you mentioned, before." He looked down at the table and gently ran his fingers over the green felt, "Quite an odd playing arena."

"It's traditionally known as a table," Ryland said. "Not too informed for an Intel officer, are you?"

"My position with Starfleet Intelligence didn't include meaningless human pastimes and sporting events," Kaz replied. He laid the cue stick on the side of the table and tried to imitate Ryland's earlier shot. He shoved the wooden instrument forward and completely missed the white ball, striking a solid black ball instead.

"Scratch." Ryland chuckled as he reached under the table. "Let's try something a little different." He put the black triangle around the balls in the center and gathered the rest from the pockets.

"The game is 9 Ball. We start at 1 and go up to 9. Sink the 9-ball before any of the others, and you lose. Whoever sinks the last one wins." Ryland withdrew the triangle and looked straight at Kaz. "Loser spills his guts. You game?"

Kaz looked from the shuttle pilot, down to the table, then back to the man. "How do we know which ball is which?" he asked.

"Are you blind? They're all numbered."

Kaz's eye went wide with surprise, glancing over towards Akiva for a split second before he looked back at the pilot. "Until recently, I was," he said, his tone getting firm.

"No shit? Good for you, brother." Ryland walked around to the other side of the table. "I'll break."

The cue ball clacked against the 9 others and scattered them across the table. Not one of them found a pocket. At least the cue ball was half way across the table from the 1-ball.

"You're up, chief. Sink that 1-ball if you can."

Kaz raised yet another eyebrow at the man's colorful nicknames. "Do I have to use the white ball or can I pick any of them?" he asked as he walked around the table.

"No, see, that's the point. Any idiot can push a ball into a hole. You have to sink it using the cue ball. That would be the white one," Ryland added with a condescending bite.

Rolling his eyes, Kaz bent over and rested the cue on the table. With one hand, he thrusted and hit the cueball, though it bounced on a path he wasn't expecting, hitting none of the other balls.

"Another scratch," Ryland said. "That's impressive. One more outta' you and I win by default."

He chalked his cue while pacing the table to determine the best shot. "You've got to think ahead," he explained, leaning forward to shoot. "The shot in front of you isn't as important as the next one. Corner pocket."

The 1-ball disappeared as predicted. Ryland rounded the corner and leaned into his next shot. "That's the difference between winning and losing when you're up against a pro. Side pocket."

The 2-ball went the way of the first.

"And once you really get everything set up, things start poppin'. Corner, corner, side."

In one shot, Ryland struck the 3-ball into the corner pocket, then watched the cue ball ricochet into the 4-ball and send it to the opposite corner pocket, and then again with the 5-ball, sending it to the side pocket.

"But I don't have to tell a spook like you about that. Side pocket." Ryland didn't even look as he shot. He gave Kaz a cocky stare as he sunk the 6-ball.

"Seems to me," Ryland said as he lined up his shot against the 7-ball, "that we both have cards held to our chests. Corner pocket." He sent the 7-ball to its final home.

"Two balls left," Ryland said. He whacked the cue ball with the butt end of his cue stick. "Oops. Your shot. What's it going to be, Spyboy?"

"I have no intentions of telling you anything," Kaz said. He also chalked his cue stick, following what the other man did, even if he wasn't sure why. He leaned over the table, closing one eye to line up a shot. He hit the cue ball and it collided almost perfectly with the black 8-ball. The dark orb flew over the table, hitting several walls before it slowly came to a halt in the middle of the table. Kaz hadn't sunk a single ball.

"This game is silly," he said, taking a deep breath to calm his frustration.

"Psh. That's loser talk." Ryland circled around the table. "You'll be givin' away your deepest, darkest secrets at that rate." He leaned in and sunk the 8-ball with a resounding thud. "Whups. Forgot to call my shot. You're up."

"Oh, you're supposed to say what you're doing?" Kaz asked as he tried not to look embarrassed. "Alright, the nine ball in..." he used the cue stick to point to one of the side pockets, "In there." He leaned forward, laying half his body on the table, as he tried to line up the shot.

As he thrust, the cue stick connecting with the cueball, sending it hurling towards it's target. As it hit the nine ball with a loud clack, the ball careened towards its target. But as the ball moved, the spin threw a curve into its trajectory and it missed the desired hole, bouncing from wall to wall until it came to a slow stop in the middle of the table.

Kaz sighed, throwing the cue stick on the ground. "This is stupid." He crossed his arms as he stared at the man. "Let's play again, double or nothing. Winner gets to ask questions about what the loser reveals. Deal?"

"Deal." Ryland racked the balls and set up the 9-ball pattern once more. "Loser's break. Think you can handle that, chief?"

With a nod, Kaz took his place at the end of the table and lined up the shot. He hit the cueball, but without enough force, and it slowly rolled towards the set of balls. As it made contact with the forward sphere, the ripple barely registered and the other balls inched away from each other for a few moments before stopping not far from each other.

"At least I'm getting better," he said with a shrug and a look that was obvious hiding disappointment.

"You didn't scratch." Ryland applauded with just the fingertips of both hands. "I still wouldn't start puttin' any money down."

Ryland circled the table three times like a vulture zoning in on a carcass.

"You did a real number on this one, Spookmaster." Ryland hefted the cue stick up in the air and twirled it around his back before sitting on the corner ledge. "Gonna' take a miracle."

Ryland eased into a gentle shot. "Corner pocket."

Before the cue connected, a busty waitress walked past and snagged his attention. The cue nearly missed the cueball entirely. But the white ball moved a quarter inch.

"Dammit!"

"You should pay better attention," Kaz said as he stepped to the table. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. "Side pocket," he said as he bent over, placing the cue stick between two knuckles. He hit the cueball with precision and it sent his target, the one-ball, into the specified pocket.

He opened his eyes and gave Ryland a sly look. "You're not very observant at all, are you," he said as he walked to the other side of the table. Again, closing his eyes, he leaned forward with his cue stick between two fingers.

"Corner pocket," he said. This time, his cue stick hit towards the bottom of the white sphere, sending it flying into the air a few inches, over the black 8-ball and connecting with number 2 ball, sending it to the desired location with ease.

It didn't take long for the game to end. Without giving the pilot another chance, Kaz had sunk every ball expertly. He took a deep breath and smiled at the man as he leaned on his cue stick. "Good game," he said.

"Son of a bitch." Ryland clicked his tongue. "I guess now you'll be callin' over the nervous XO who's been sitting at the bar pretending not to watch our every move, and we can get around to the real reason for your visit."

Ryland took a seat at a nearby table, put his feet up on the opposite chair, and held up his hand to signal another drink from the bar.

With a nod of his head, Kaz called Akiva over and the two officers joined the man at the table.

Akiva deliberated for a moment on whether or not he would acknowledge the men. This whole thing wasn't exactly subtle.

"Was I that obvious?" Akiva asked Ryland.

The flyboy shrugged, but said nothing more than a grunt through his cocky smirk.

"Well, Lieutenant, we're here because we have some concerns," Akiva said as he sat at the small table next to Ryland. "As you know, we lost our newly christened Chief of Intel after she opened fire on you."

"Dumb bitch." Ryland took a swig from the bottle the passing waiter handed off to him. "Got what she deserved."

"The investigation into the incident escalated above Vindex Security," Akiva said. "Far above. We were wondering if you had any idea why that might have been."

"What did Cat find when she started digging into your past, Lieutenant?" Kaz asked, leaning forward on the table to keep his voice down.

Ryland twirled the neck of the bottle in his hand, letting the bottom run a small circle around the table.

"Miss Spook found a veritable cluster-fornication of corrupt mission reports and disciplinary briefings," he said at length. "None of which were true. We had an agreement where we'd keep our eyes and ears open on behalf of one another."

"So why did she fire on you?" Akiva asked.

"I'm sure you've seen the report," Ryland said.

"My transfer back to Intelligence is temporary," Kaz said. "My access isn't high enough to see the report. I'd like a copy, though." He said back, glancing at Akiva before he looked back to the pilot. "So what happened that evening? What caused her to shoot you?"

Ryland scoffed. "My evening plans that night went south, so I thought to entertain her instead. She tried to tell me off, like I give a shit what she thinks. Somehow she gets this crazy notion that she can just up and haul me off to the brig at phaser-point. I refused to go, and I told her to get the hell out of my quarters. The crazy bitch shot me and when I came to, I was in the brig."

The man rolled his eyes to the side and took a swig. "As for why Starfleet Intel sent her up the river? No idea. At first I was worried she'd knocked over my old bees nest, but everything she thought she had on me was bullshit."

He looked at Kaz.

"Maybe your boys back on Earth don't take kindly to psychopaths among their ranks."

Kaz smirked, he had to admit, Catalina wasn't his favorite person. But she didn't appear to be psycho. At least until these recent events. "This story isn't adding up," he said, looking Ryland squarely in the eyes. "You need to understand our position. Intel was highly involved in the past few months, and suddenly a ranking officer shoots you and you have no idea why? And then she's courtmartialed for it. Seems like an overreaction to such a situation."

"Surprised the hell out of me too," Ryland said. "Look, I'm no stranger to sneaky business and what-not, but the last time I got mixed up in another man's secrets I lost my wings. Now, I done told you everything I know about Miss Spook. Do you need something else or are we done?"

"Tell me about what happened when you lost your wings," Kaz said, his tone demanding.

Ryland flinched in repressed anger. His first impulse was to give Kaz the finger before leaving. But he'd given his word.

"I don't know for sure," Ryland said. "All I know is what happened on my end. I led my wing in a combat run that started like any other. One of my junior pilots was a cocky admiral's son. When we went up against a small flotilla of Orion frigates, he broke formation and went lone wolf. My deputy wing commander took chase and tried to reel him in, but he wound up taking a torpedo that was meant for the rookie."

Ryland paused to spit on the floor.

"At the end of the day, the admiral's boy was hailed a hero and received a bullshit commendation for his 'act of valor.' I got told to play along. The rest of the wing knew what happened, but they said nothin'. Probably got told the same thing I did. When I pushed it, they threatened my Starfleet career. Didn't help that I got caught with the admiral's yeoman and daughter though."

His eyes glistened in fond recollection above a lazy grin.

"Maybe she never saw a man challenge her daddy before. Or maybe she just liked the way my hair looked in the office that day. Either way, the old man walked in and found us on his desk. Once he pulled his eyes back inside his skull, he said my career was done. I hadn't done anything that justified losing my commission, but there are worse things than courtmartials. I took the first transfer out of his command that I could find. And here I am."

Kaz idly drummed his fingers on the table as he considered the story. Nothing overtly pointed towards Starfleet Intelligence, but from experience, Kaz never trusted things at face value. "What is in this report that you mentioned," he asked.

"Hell if I know. I didn't get to read it." Ryland swung the bottom up to his beer, gulped, and then set it down. His eyes told Kaz his patience was wearing thin.

A displeased groan reverberated in Kaz's throat. He waved his hand towards the man, indicating that he wanted him to leave.

"This is my table," Ryland said. "Go find your own."

Akiva stepped forward. "Lieutenant... perhaps you have had enough for one evening."

"That ain't right," Ryland shot back. He pointed the neck of his bottle at Akiva. "You know that ain't right, Commander."

Akiva merely gave the man a blank stare.

"Fine. I didn't need this noise anyhow." Ryland left his empty where it sat and stormed out of the bar.

Kaz sighed as he tipped over the bottle. His eyes lazily watched it roll towards the edge of the table and fall to the floor with a loud clank. "This is some shit," he said, half to himself, half to Akiva. "I swear, nothing makes sense anymore."

"I don't know if I believe his story," Akiva said.

"Of course not. He knows more than he's letting on. But I can't exactly force him to tell me." Kaz's eyes slid towards Akiva with a questioning look, "Unless I can?"

"Assuming he's more than he seems," Akiva said, "I've already lost one ally who went too deep into his past. I don't know if it's worth the risk."

Kaz stood. "I'm going to head home. How about we talk tomorrow about what we can do to find out more about his past. Sound like a plan?"

Akiva nodded. "Yes. I'll have little to do but reports."

Both men went their separate ways, each to their own thoughts and pondering.

 

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