::The shuttle was silent, save for the few system chirps and beeps. The hum of the warp core reverberated through the craft, having almost sent her to sleep once or twice during time on duty, though her co-pilot had been mindful of this. Lieutenant Rairen Caide prodded her back to life, offering a hot cup of jibrore or engaging in mindless chatter.
::Following a ‘minor incident’ on Kidman I, they’d seen to his injuries, and the Trill had once again been cleared for duty. Although he
still had the occasional ache in his shoulders, he was in high spirits.
But their original aim—searching for Kehive na-Soldim, a
Starfleet Ranger that disappeared last year near the Tholian border—was
becoming increasingly futile as the days passed.
::Their search had taken the two officers on the long trip from Kidman I,
all the way back to Hawke system nearby Ketar. They’d found no sign of
the ranger, and no witnesses to the attack. she’d mused to
herself they’d sooner look in Tholian space than they would
find any evidence of Kehive’s existence here in the Shoals—Caide had
been very firm on his stance against that.
::Two people would not succeed in searching
approximately seven sectors of space for one person. It was neither workable, nor realistic. And while she applauded Caide’s never-ending
enthusiasm and certainty that they would locate Kehive, and as much as
she liked him, Lieutenant Commander Sky Blake was growing tired of it.::
Blake: Other than the Veritas in Ketar, scans report no Starfleet signature in this area of space.
::Caide dropped into the seat beside her, a harsh sigh escaping him. He
stretched his neck forward, easing a developing twinge, and pressed at
the controls of the console.::
Caide: We should contact the marshals.
Blake: With all due respect, the marshals will probably be even less helpful than these scanners. ::beat:: Caide, I don't want to give in, but we have to consider the possibility that maybe he *was* abducted.
Caide: I find that unlikely.
Blake: I know. But it's been months, without a trace of him. If he were still here in the Shoals, wouldn't he have tried to contact us? Contact *someone*?
::The other possibility was that Kehive was dead. She didn’t enjoy
entertaining that possibility as much as the next Starfleet officer, but Tholians nearly destroyed the Veritas. Tholians nearly destroyed Astrofori One. It made sense that a single Starfleet unit fell
victim to an attack they did not see coming.
::What frustrated her most was Jhalib Ekal had failed to mention anything
of note about Kehive—she imagined this to be something he would likely
have been well-versed of. But ever the cautious time traveler, he’d
taken himself out of the equation, successfully ‘jumping’ to a different
time so that no officer who had encountered him could ask about things
like this. “That would be cheating,” he’d said.::
::Blake shook her head. Her console drew her attention away from Caide when it chirped. A message.::
oO Crap. Oo
::She’d been away from Veritas since February to assist Caide with this
search, as he’d requested. They’d done other things during
that long expanse of time—Caide was new in the Shoals, and being that
he was now head of the Rangers for this area, he needed to know exactly
how the region operated and who he was dealing with. But this was never
meant to be her permanent posting.::
Blake: I've been recalled.
::It wasn’t as serious as that. In the short message from Rahman, it
was more that her assistance was requested, rather than required.::
Caide: You've news?
Blake: Another Starfleet officer has been killed. Armin Illanos.
::Not a name she recognised--a sentiment Caide shared, evidently.::
Caide: Not one of ours.
::She turned to him, eyes uncertain.::
Blake: Veritas has been called in to investigate. Captain Rahman wants me to join them.
::The Trill nodded.::
Caide: I can handle the search here in the Ketar system.
Blake: That's not the issue. I'm not certain when I'll be back.
::Caide cracked a smile, and leaned in towards her slightly.::
Caide: I think I can handle your absence.
Blake: Last time you "handled" something yourself, you were dragged fifty metres along the ground by a horse, so . . . not exactly inspiring my never-ending faith in your abilities.
::This time, he laughed.::
Caide: I'm sure I'll manage.
Blake: In that case, ::she input console commands.:: Setting course for Ketar V.
Tbc . . .
LtCmdr Sky Blake