Green Ice

By Lady Rainbow

Rating: PG

Genres: adventure au

Keywords:

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Chapter 1

Disclaimer: Don’t own ‘em, don’t make money off ‘em.

Rating: PG

Archive: Let me know first! Thanks!

Author’s Notes/Summary: Here’s the first chapter of Green Ice, a story set in the same AU as Captain Sato’s Enterprise. This sets up the stage for what’s going to happen next...And I’d like to thank the folks over at the Rhiannsu Encyclopedia site (http://pfrpg.org/RH/) for the info on Rhiannsu names and culture. Fascinating stuff for a linguist like me! LOL!

And thanks to Rigil Kent for ideas on “The Seventh”. Although this isn’t the same thing, I borrowed elements to “rewrite” the episode.

 


 

One

Zora Prime hadn’t changed much in fifteen years. The stench of transport exhaust clung to one’s clothing like an itchy skin. Industrial factories belched clouds of noxious smoke into the air and blotted out the sun. High-rise buildings rose towards the sky like thick ropes of gray tentacles. Far below, the inhabitants hurried along the sidewalks, their oxygen masks in place, hoping they had enough air to reach their destinations safely. After all, it cost a pretty penny to recharge their breathers; oxygen was a commodity, just like everything else.

A transport appeared on the horizon and settled into a docking berth with hardly a bump. The glow from its engines had hardly cooled when the loading ramp lowered to the ground and a lone figure strode out. The dockmaster hurried out to greet the newcomer, with one hand on his oxygen mask and the other on a datapad.

“Be welcome, be welcome,” the dockmaster croaked with a slight bob of his head. “What do you bring to Zora Prime and how can we expedite your stay, Trader?”

The trader was barely as tall as the dockmaster, but he saw the cold amber-dark eyes within the mask. The gaze pierced him to the spot; he found he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the steady glare. His own eyes widened and his hands went slack; the trader plucked the datapadd from his hand and gave it a contemptuous expression. Without a word, he (or was it she? The dockmaster couldn’t tell) tapped some commands into the padd and handed it back to him.

“I will require fuel and provisions,” came the flat, electronic voice. The dockmaster realized that the other’s mask was fitted with an electronic modulator, so the trader’s identity remained hidden. “My employers on the planet surface expect my cargo to be delivered on time. Please do not delay; I am in no mood to be humored.”

“Uh...of course, Master—uh, what is your name?”

“I am Mnheia i-Latasalaem t’Khnialmnae,” the trader said. “My ship is the Aegis.” The dockmaster gave her a low bow. “Of course, Mistress. I will oversee the replenishment and resupply personally. Shall I also install the necessary climate controls for your ship as well? Zora Prime’s in the middle of their winter season, and the surface is inhospitable for your kind.”

Mnheia did not smile, though her voice carried a note of grim humor. “No need, Dockmaster, my ship has the equipment to withstand planetary conditions.”

“Understood. I would usually charge double for a ship’s resupply at such short notice, but for a member of House t’Khnialmnae...I will adjust the fee accordingly.”

Mnheia nodded and replied, “My gratitude, Dockmaster. Now, I do not have to relay the usual warnings and threats to your safety if there is as much as a scratch on my ship, do I?”

He gulped visibly at the unspoken malice in her voice. Control your breathing, you fool, you’re wasting precious oxygen! “Your ship will be in the same pristine condition as how you left it, my lady.”

“Good.” Mnheia nodded imperiously at him, then said, “I will return in three hours. Be finished by then.” Then she turned and strode down the receiving dock and disappeared into the reception building.

He stared after her for a long minute, then tapped the comlink which connected him to his docking team. It was going to be a busy three hours.

 

**********

Down on the surface of Zora Prime, a cold gust of air stirred the flame of the meditation candle. T’Pol sat cross-legged on the thin mat, dressed in a thin, insulated suit that regulated her body temperature. Zora Prime was the exact opposite of Vulcan: an ice-covered, snow-ravaged hell, with bitter winds and abominable temperatures. She had vowed never to set foot here again, but vows had a strange way of changing themselves.

She was here to repay a debt and to stop a madwoman.

T’Pol took a deep breath and allowed herself to drift back nearly fifteen years into the past. She saw herself with a cold observer’s eye, in the silver-gray and scarlet uniform of the Vulcan Security Ministry. Her hair was cut short, framing her jaw in harsh angles. She recalled the dark, twisted labyrinths beneath the planet’s surface, the iridescent glow of the search lights...

Control your body...the cold does not affect you. Distraction is deadly. Focus on the mission. Her heartbeat sped up, her breathing became more harsh, despite her best efforts. The icy walls towered over her and glowed blue and purple in the dim light. Deep cracks spread across them; every time she glanced at her reflection, her stern features were disjointed, broken into pieces.

Is that me? Did I look like...that? Who was this twisted stranger within these walls? This was not the T’Pol of the present, whose soul sang through spaceflight. This was a grounded woman, angry and bitter, trained in a profession that she abhorred with all her heart.

Focus on the mission. Do not think, do not feel. Her mind analyzed the information coming through her senses. Hurried footsteps seven point three meters ahead. Temperature dropping another two point one degrees Celsius. The smell of Vulcan and Orion blood mixed with the iron-saturated tang of Human. T’Pol’s nose twitched, but she ruthlessly suppressed the gorge that rose within her throat.

Major T’Lydya raised her hand in a silent command. Immediately, the members of her squad dropped to the ground in a low crouch, weapons at the ready. Time seemed to slow, each second taking an eternity. T’Pol watched as T’Lydya glanced over her shoulder at T’Phena, the squad’s sensory officer. T’Phena’s eyes were glued to her silent scanner, intent on the flickering lights on its screen.

Then, she saw T’Lydya glance behind at T’Phena, who nodded. The squad raised their weapons and prepared to ambush their quarry. In true Vulcan fashion, T’Pol expected a quick and satisfying resolution to their hunt...

Time blinked. What happened? One moment, they were in a tight, proper formation, as they’d been trained to do; T’Pol and T’Lyu at the rearguard position, T’Risi at the left, T’Maera at the right, and T’Lydya and T’Phena at point. Then T’Phena screamed something at the top of her lungs and...

A bright flash exploded in front of her eyes. T’Pol found herself sprawled upon her meditation mat, flat on her back, staring at the shadows on the ceiling. She saw enemies there, and she quickly rolled back to her knees. She dove towards the case under her bed and her fingers quickly unlatched it open. With smooth, practiced movements, she assembled the laser pistol and slammed the power pack into its slot.

Trip would approve of such swift action. The thought brought her up short. Why had those words popped into her mind? Lieutenant Commander Tucker—Trip—was light years away from here, recovering from injuries caused by a fall...thanks to---

T’Phena. She knows how you feel about him and she used him to bring you out into the open. T’Pol felt a surge of shame, but she ruthlessly tamped it down. She would have found another means to make you come to her. If not Trip, then another, like Doctor Reed, or Captain Sato. In any case, it was her duty, her debt, to capture T’Phena once and for all. She owed T’Lydya, she who had been her mentor, and T’Lyu, T’Risi and T’Maera. Her hands trembled as they held the laser pistol. She owed Trip and other countless innocents over the past fifteen years...

Emotion. Emotion. You are letting emotion dictate your actions. Have a care, Cousin. Soval’s stern voice echoed within her mind. She gripped the laser pistol until her knuckles turned white from the effort. I am the only one left, T’Pol reminded herself. The dead cannot defend themselves. It is my responsibility.

Calm logic began to reassert itself, but she allowed herself a ghost of a smile. Then a tickle stirred deep within her brain. She is coming. She is here. Quickly, she sat up, and pulled on her boots and her parka. She had felt it...felt her.

T’Phena was near and T’Pol must be ready for her.

 

**********

“Oh, for God’s sake! Just pay the man the credits and get it over with!”

“Not until I get what I deserve for my services!”

Trip Tucker sighed and rolled his eyes. He reclined back on the wooden trestle table, his feet propped up on a stool. The Trader’s Hall rang with offers, counter-offers, accusations and insults directed at one’s ancestors. Trip took a swig of the warm cider and thought, Sheesh, Travis was right. Who needs an entertainment vid when you can watch all the excitement right here?

The Boomer had used his contacts to get Trip access to Zora Prime’s Trader’s Hall. Trip assumed the part of a security guard looking for a job on a cargo ship. He’d already had several offers, but not the right one. So he watched and waited. The past four days had been quite educational; he quickly learned who were the top dogs here and who was at the bottom of the barrel. Thanks to Travis, he was somewhere in the middle.

This was the only complex on Zora Prime’s barren, snow-covered surface. So this was the most logical place for T’Pol to be. Trip hadn’t located her yet, though he’d heard rumors of individual Vulcans recently arrived here. He guessed that this T’Phena was among those Vulcans, and T’Pol was in hot pursuit.

She never struck me as someone who’d go on a vendetta. Trip winced; then again, T’Pol had been part of the Vulcan Security Ministry for eighteen months, and she’d been the one who’d agreed to a campaign of misinformation to mislead Koss and the Vulcan High Command. Yes, even a Vulcan was capable of negative emotion, even if they denied it to their very soul.

The double wooden doors creaked open and snow swirled inside as a slim figure slipped inside the Hall. Trip couldn’t tell whether the newcomer was a male or a female under all the heavy wrappings, but the smooth, graceful movements reminded him of a stalking jaguar. All eyes in the Hall were drawn to the person like moths to a flame.

One of the Hall Protectors hurried to the person’s side and asked a series of questions. Trip pretended to be interested in the depths of his mug as he listened. Strange. It’s not Vulcan, but the intonations, the rhythms are similar...damn, this is one of those times when I wish Hoshi was here! I’d love to know what they’re sayin’.

The newcomer answered in a harsh croak. Either the person had been breathing smoke for forty-odd years, or he or she was using some kind of voice modulator. The second, Trip decided. Those sounds could never come naturally from a humanoid throat.

Saria, the bar wench, ambled over to Trip and sat close to him, so close that he could smell her perfume. “So, my strong, handsome one. Shall I get you something stronger?”

“Nah, this’s fine,” he replied. “What’s on the menu today?”

“Roast churra with sauce, with a side of mashed porrag. I can throw in a few rass tubers for no extra charge,“ she reached over and ran two fingers on the livid “scar” on the left side of Trip’s face, the one running from just under his eye to his chin, “If you tell me the story of how you got that.”

He grinned nastily. “You really wanna hear it? I don’t want to offend your delicate sensibilities.”

“I can take a few rough tales, my friend,” Saria said with a roll of her eyes.

“You get me an order of the churra and I’ll tell you the story.”

Saria smiled and nodded, then moved off the kitchens to assemble his order. Trip turned his attention back to the mysterious visitor. The person had moved to table near him and was talking to an Andorian female. This time, the words were familiar: Andorian, but Trip couldn’t understand what was said. He yawned and scratched his ear, activating the small universal translator Malcolm Reed had implanted there. Even if Trip was forced to turn his attention elsewhere, he’d still be able to hear and understand the conversation.

“...enough to take the risk,” the Andorian said. “The Imperial Guard’s instituted searches of all cargo transports in their airspace. They don’t seem to care about what the Trader’s Guild thinks about it...it’s for security reasons.”

“They’ve always been paranoid,” the cloaked figure replied in a mild tone. “Will this interfere with your operation?”

“No. My cargo doesn’t deal with tangible objects, remember.”

“Which reminds me, Sherra...do you have the information I requested?”

“Yes, and an interesting read it is too.” Sherra slid a datadisk across the table to the mysterious visitor. “Once my superiors receive the same information, there is nothing to prevent them from demanding answers. It would be amusing to see how the others try to talk their way out of this.”

“Yes. Quite amusing.” The visitor swept the datadisk into his (her? Trip couldn’t tell) voluminous robes. “It will be the beginning of the end, and the dawn of a new era. My mistress will be pleased.”

Sherra sat back with a slight upturn to her lips. “And my payment?”

“Loading onto your ship as we speak. My mistress can be harsh, but she is fair.”

“It’s a pleasure doing business with you, then.” Sherra tipped back the rest of her drink, then stood and headed towards the doors. The visitor watched her as she put on her hood and went out into the storm raging on Zora Prime.

“Your churra,” Saria announced with a flourish. She carried a platter of thinly sliced, steaming meat, adorned with what looked like blue asparagus and covered with something thicker than biscuit gravy. She balanced a mug of hot cider and a dish of...green chocolate?

Trip smiled and replied, “Thanks, Saria.” She carefully arranged the food in front of him, then dropped carelessly on the trestle bench next to him. “I suppose you want to hear the story now?”

“You promised,” she said with a not-so-innocent pout.

“Fine.” So he spun a tale, borrowing elements he’d heard from Travis’s life as a Boomer and from Captain Matt Hayes’s rough time in Starfleet Security. Saria sat there, her face glowing with rapture, as he demonstrated the “knife fight” that had supposedly given him the scar. Trip noticed that Saria wasn’t the only one who listened; the cloaked visitor still sat at her table and didn’t say a word.

“My handsome hero,” Saria cooed. “So brave.”

“Just doing my job,” Trip demurred. “My father had a saying, ‘Even if you don’t start a fight, always end it’.”

“An honorable man indeed,” said the visitor. The shapeless form turned towards Trip. “And you sound like a man who follows honor.”

Trip inclined his head and decided to take a risk. “If one has no honor, what’s the point?”

“It seems that we both have something in common.” The visitor gazed at him from under the hood. “I have heard you are seeking employment? I may have a job available for you. I will be here on Zora Prime for a while yet; meet me here tomorrow morning at firstmeal, if you are interested.”

Trip nodded and replied, “I’ll be here.”

“Good. I did not recall hearing your name, warrior. I am called Vaeben.”

He grinned. “You can call me Freeman.”

Vaeben chuckled and tapped the hood that obscured his features. “What an interesting name. In my tongue, it is Nveid. Independent. It suits you. Until tomorrow, Nveid.”

“Tomorrow, Vaeben.” Trip nodded at Vaeben bowed his head, then glided out of the Hall and out the doors. As soon as the shadow was gone, Trip sobered and said aloud, “That was interesting.”

Saria shivered and put a hand on his arm. “Interesting is hardly the word for it, Freeman. He is trouble.”

End of Chapter One


Comments:

Dinah
You\'ve got a great start here. Lots of cloak and dagger. I just wish there weren\'t so many Vulcan names with a \"T.\" It doesn\'t take much to get me confused. You\'ve provided the reader with a lot of enticing questions. I\'m really looking forward to the next chapters.
Linda
Good beginning. I hope the next chapter comes soon so I can keep the complexities straight, LOL. Nice pace, exciting, enough detail to explain the environment and nature of the characters. I do appreciate that, LOL, because I am now editing a story where there is detail overload, or maybe it is detail confusion - jaring juxtaposition of over descriptive words. That story is mired down and stagnates. Anyway, Lady Rainbow's story has a nice balance of detail and movement forward in the story. I am looking forward to the next chapter!
Asso
Substantially another universe. Bewildering and involving. It makes me very curious.
Alelou
You definitely don't shrink from a complex plot with lots of new characters and exotic settings. I'm very eager to see what comes next.

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