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Lt Zola & LtJG Barnes - "Walk Now..."

Posted on 2017-06-25 20:46 by Lieutenant Zola & Lieutenant JG Catalina Barnes

Mission: Cup O Noodle

Zola made her way down the grey corridor quietly with a PADD tucked under her arm, loose green wrap pants, edged with floral embroidery, swishing softly as she walked. Her eyes skimmed the label next to each door until she found the one she wanted — I-165. She pressed the chime and waited.

"Come in," Catalina called from the other side of the door as she deactivated the lock.

Zola quickly moved inside as the door opened, letting it slide shut before she pulled out her ever present tricorder from the folds of her pants.

The young human laid on the bed that served as the living room for the tiny quarters for officers on the go. She wore a pair of black sweatpants, a black sleeveless top and was flipping a copper coin in the air and catching it to see if it was head or tails. "Hey Z," she said with a smile as she sat up. "What's up?"

"How are you feeling? The nurse wouldn't tell me anything when I went to look for you in the recovery ward, just that you'd been released." Zola let the tricorder passively scan the room without paying much mind to it, directing a smile at Catalina.

"Bored," Catalina said. "They won't let me do anything more strenuous than ordering from the replicator and the head. Are you here to spring me?"

"I was hoping to get your help with something," Zola answered, closing the tricorder; it had given the sub-audible chime that indicated everything was clear. "If I need to pull a jailbreak to get your help, I'm sure we can arrange that."

Catalina got up from the bed after one last toss of the coin. "I'm not technically being held," she said. "I'm just on restricted duty with orders not to do anything that will get me back in Medical. Where are we going?"

Zola considered a long moment as she tucked the tricorder away. "Do you like sushi?"

"Not in particular, but I'm game if it gets me out of here," Catalina responded as she slipped the coin into a pocket and moved to get her shoes on.

"Other option is a café, they do a wide range of things but I hear their burgers are good, and they carry a selection of Ferengi grubs. Both the café and the sushi place are down at the wharf, a short walk." Zola looked around the room, her gaze coming to a stop on the window taking up much of the small wall of the room. "At least you got lucky and got assigned a room on the edge of the building, the view's nice."

"I thought about going out it more than once," Catalina said as she got her shoes on and went to the closet. There she pulled out a baseball cap that said "Lead, Follow or Get Out of My Way" on it, put her long hair in a pony tail and shoved it through the adjustable strap hole in the back and put it on. Finally, she picked up one of the Intel combadge earrings and clipped it on. "I'm ready to go when you are."

"Let me make you some sort of hang glider cape before you go jumping out windows, okay? I saw something like that when digging through Commander Caine's comic books, I can probably come up with a material that'll work," Zola insisted as she touched the controls and opened the door.

"As long as it's not a cat suit," Catalina said. "I was dressed up as someone from one of his comics called Catwoman and it was very tight. I do parkour and need more flexibility, so I prefer loose fitting clothes for freedom of movement."

"It'll probably end up being designed for the stealth suit anyways, it certainly could come in handy in the field." Zola shrugged as they walked to the lift.

It wasn't long before the two women exited the lobby of the building and headed off the Starfleet HQ grounds. The midday breeze had a bit of a salt water tang to it, and the sun was shining down on them as they walked. The surrounding crowd started to fill in the closer and closer they got to Fisherman's Wharf and the various tourist attractions that waited there.

"So, café or sushi place?" Zola finally asked as they came to a stop at a corner, waiting for the walk sign to indicate it was the pedestrians' turn to cross the scramble.

Catalina easily kept pace with Zola as they walked, enjoying the salty breeze as they walked. When they arrived at the crosswalk, she looked at the mess of crossings and then at Zola. "Here's my question for something like this," she started. "Why not put transporter pads at all the corners instead of turning into a wreck like this?"

"Because there's not much vehicle traffic through this intersection, mostly just GGTA cabs, so the energy to run the transporters can be routed to other things," Zola answered with a shrug. "Besides, can you imagine how long it would be before tourists started crossing the street instead of waiting in line for the transporters anyways? Easier this way." The light turned, and people filled the intersection. Zola lead them diagonally across.

"You have a good point and it would just be lazy, but you'd still think that they could get it better organized than this. Or have crosswalks going over the intersection so they wouldn't interfere with the cabs," Catalina suggested.

Zola shrugged. Catalina's lack of answer, paired with the exchange before they left, caused Zola to head onto the pier for the café. "I think the cabs mostly avoid that intersection when they can help it. Their network is aware of how the light operates anyways."

"It certainly makes things interesting." Catalina walked beside of her as they headed for the pier. "So what have we got going on?" she asked her Ferengi friend, more secure in having a conversation with a lot of people around them than in a room they didn't know was secured.

"I need your help placing some data," Zola returned quietly. They reached the front doors of a café with a wooden sign painted red and white with crabs and slab serif title carved into it. The host greeted them as they moved in the door, and Zola quietly passed him a slip of latinum as she shook his hand while requesting a booth. He lead them to the back corner of the restaurant. The lights were low and the booth benches had tall backs and a lamp hanging only a couple feed above their table. He set the menus down and excused himself with a polite nod. "I love that even though the Federation isn't a monetary driven society, a well place strip of latinum is still a universal signal in some areas."

"I once heard of an old Earth saying," Catalina said as she headed to the back with Zola. "Money talks and bullshit walks, whatever that means. What kind of data do you need placed, when do you need it done, and where do you want it done?"

Zola set the PADD down on the table in front of Catalina, and then picked up the menu. "Waterhouse means to make a play to get Caine back," she explained.

Catalina took the PADD and looked at it as she accessed the data, then gave a low whistle. "This is going to stir the pot big time," she said. "Where do you want it to go?"

"We need it in the intelligence databases so it looks legit, something buried in enough security clearances and red tape that it shouldn't get attention of anyone who's actually going to try and step in to reassign it away from us, but should still get the attention of these shadowy individuals. I think Waterhouse indicated her recommen—" Zola looked up as she heard someone approaching. "Menu, waiter arriving," she said softly, knowing Catalina's artificially enhance hearing would pick it up.

Catalina deactivated the PADD and looked up at the approaching waiter and gave him a warm smile. "I'll have the house special and a Icoberry shake" she said before she looked at Zola.

"Water, and Ferengi grubs," Zola ordered.

"I will be back with the shake and water in a couple minutes," he said as he collected the menus, and quietly retreated.

After he was gone, Catalina turned her head from side to side as she listened to the other conversations in the restaurant before she turned her attention back to Zola. "That's a pretty big request," she said. "Inserting it into an enemy database is one thing, but doing it here? I'm going to have to be so sneaky that even I won't know how I did it and hope that my right hand doesn't tell my left hand what it's doing while they're doing it."

"Unless you have another suggestion? The goal is to get Waterhouse a face to face meeting with the guy in charge. I haven't even talked to her directly about it, she transmitted the contents of the PADD to me, so I know about as much as you do."

Catalina frowned and bit her bottom lip, then shook her head. "It can be done, but it would also mean that my usefulness to the crew and ship will come to an end," she said quietly. "Something like this is beyond career ending, Z. This will put me in a place that there's no coming back from if I slip up and don't cover my tracks good enough. By good enough, I mean make them think that the information was there the entire time and they were too stupid to realize it."

"If you don't want to do it, you don't have to. This isn't official by any means. Waterhouse can find something else, I'm sure."

"Nothing we do is ever official, Z," Catalina said. "I'll do it, but after that, it would probably be best if I distanced myself from the crew for a while. I don't want anyone else taking the hit for it."

"There's Official-Unofficial, and then there's volunteer. This is very much the latter. Besides, I'm pretty sure that Waterhouse won't let you go down the river over this—" Zola paused as she heard the footfalls of their waiter returning. She noted that he seemed to be intentionally walking heavier on the approach, and figured the host had conveyed to him the desire for privacy.

He set down the drinks in the middle of the table. "If you need anything before your food is ready, just tap the drink menu interface here," he said, and indicated the corner of the display labeled 'page' on the screen that sat silently at the back of the table. "Is there anything else you need while I'm here?"

"No, thank you," Zola insisted with a wide smile.

"No, thanks," Catalina told the waiter and sipped her shake until he was out of range again. "Z, official, unofficial...voluntary. When it comes to this, it really doesn't matter. If I get caught, I'll only wish I was in Commander Caine's shoes. I'll do it, but I'll need to lay low and see if I have shadows coming alive around me."

Zola took the PADD back. "You don't do this alone. If you don't realize and accept that, I can't let you go ahead. And I know Waterhouse won't let you take the blame for something she asked of you. That's not how she works."

"Do you know another Cryptographer on the ship that's capable of doing it?" Catalina asked quietly. "Z, I can do it, but you know as well as I do that the risk involved is great. I understood what I was doing when I gave my oath and had culpable deniability drilled into my head and heard the unsung songs that echo in the back corridors that are never seen. Who else can do it if I can't?"

"That's not the point, this is personal." Zola set the PADD down in the middle of the table, and tapped at it with her pointer finger to emphasize her point. "Waterhouse took their taking Caine as a personal attack, she doesn't ask for you to do this as a member of her Starfleet intelligence crew, she asks you to help with this as a personal favor. Which means you do not face the fall out alone. That is the point. It's a clause in the spoken contract: you agree to help, you agree that you don't face any of it alone."

Catalina was silent for a long moment, one finger tapping unconsciously on the table before she finally looked at Zola. "it can be done as a team, but I'm going to need you and the best surgeon that we have," she said. "I've heard of implants that allow for direct neural interface which will let me get in, do the job and get out in a fraction of the time the neural headband did. However, the interface will have to be implanted in my brain stem. It would also have to be removed immediately after the job is done and my body will have to be cared for while I'm doing it."

"I don't think the implants have that much of an advantage over Fleegman's device, and malfunctioning simulation aside, his tech is a lot less invasive. I don't think Amelia would agree to allocate resources to install an implant in your brain stem, and what little I know of that technology, you can't just yank it back out after you put it in. Besides, Fleegman's device had a direct connection to somewhere, and based on what Waterhouse has found working on deciphering the data you spoke before you collapsed on Erebus, it's quite probably the same rogue organization that took Rik. Streeh is trying to look up who these people are right now, as I understand it."

"We need to have a meeting with her," Catalina said. "Especially since you insist that I be part of the team. Nothing else has been working so far to get Commander Caine back, find out who these shadows are, or anything else. Even if it can't be taken out, it'll give me an edge that will be needed in the future."

"Actually doing whatever you're going to do alone or with a team is a matter of preference, but I'm saying that Waterhouse won't let you take the consequences alone. But if you think we need more help than I'm able to give you myself, then meeting with Waterhouse before we get started may not be a bad idea." Zola tapped at her water glass with her fingernails, trying to decide if there was an ideal way to put what she needed to say. "I really can't get behind installing the jack though, even in a healthy mind that's stressful and delicate surgery, and I wouldn't expect you to be able to use it right after install. And you're still recovering from the bad experience in the training scenario."

"I'll be fine, Z," Catalina said as she glanced around. "I know you're concerned and all, but it's part of the job. I knew that when I went into Intelligence. Now let's go see the Commander and run it up her flagpole to see if she salutes. If nothing else, I'll try out the device that almost fried my brain and turned me into an AI. I'm sure it's much safer."

"We still have food coming. Let's at least enjoy that before we go see Waterhouse?" Zola shook her head, choosing not to continue to argue about it. It was clear that Catalina wouldn't let it go unless Waterhouse herself told her to.

"You're right," Catalina said. "All of this is giving me a serious case of paranoia beyond what's normally required for the job. I want these shadow spooks off our ass and out of our missions."

"I agree. Even when we aren't doing anything they should care about, they're still getting in the way," Zola agree, thinking of Fleegman. "Do you think Fleegman really is one of theirs? His neural link seems to point at them."

"If he is, I'll link to his brain and drain it until he forgets how to breathe," Catalina growled. "Then I'll take his body out of the Pacific, strap a bomb to it and go fishing."

"Wouldn't the oceanographers object? He'd be considered pollution—" Zola stopped herself as she heard the waiter's footsteps again.

"I really don't think I'd care," Catalina said as she picked up her shake and took a drink of it when she saw the waiter. "The one with the black hair, though. I tell you...I never thought my webbed toes would tingle until I met him."

"Grubs for you, ma'am," the waiter said, setting a bowl of the Ferengi delicacy in front of Zola, "And Tempura Calamari for you, ma'am," he continued as he set a plate filled with tempura breaded rings in front of Catalina. "Is there anything else you need before I leave you to enjoy your meal?"

"Thank you," Catalina said with a smile. "I'm good for now." She looked at Zola. "How about you?"

"This look as good as what my moogie used to make," Zola said with a wide grin at the waiter. "Though if you wanted to trade a taste," Zola gestured between the plates as the waiter inclined his head and excused himself.

"Nah," Catalina said as she picked up one of the rings. "I never did acquire a taste for anything moving in my mouth. You'd have better luck with Liebenswert in that department."

"I suspect I'll want to turn off my universal translator before I ask, who knows what Klingon curses she'll respond with at the implication that gagh and grubs are anything alike," Zola returned with a laugh.

Now Catalina laughed before she took a bite of her calamari. "I have a feeling that she'd debate the issue with you and force you to see her viewpoint," she said. "Do you ever eat human foods?"

"Some, but not much. Most of it is so different from what I grew up on. There are a few cultures that eat various bugs and the like, but mostly they cook them which changes the texture. I have found a few things I like; there's a supplement called Soylent, a remnant of the early 21st century tech boom, that's basically a nutrient shake and named for an old earth movie, and I like a few types of sushi."

"About the only things I won't touch are things that are still moving, no offense," Catalina said. "And Romulan giant mollusk. In fact, if someone were to torture me with a Romulan giant mollusk, I'd find a way to break my own neck before I ate it."

"That seems a little extreme," Zola insisted, giving Catalina a skeptical look.

"You've obviously never been subjected to one," Catalina said as she reached for another piece of calamari. "You should try it one time if you've got the courage."

"I'll look it up later, and consider it. I mean, I doubt Romulans would eat it if it's too horrific. They don't typically resort to food as a torture method, after all."

"If they knew how much other species loathed it, it would become a Tal Shiar technique," Catalina said as she popped another piece of her meal in her mouth.

=/\= End Log =/\=

Lieutenant Zola
R & D Specialist
USS Joshua Norton

Lieutenant JG Catalina Barnes
USS Joshua Norton


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