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Kalina Zett, Danielle Atarah, Aldus Smit | When life gives you lemons... You take over the Lemonade

Posted on 241804.17 @ 1:10am by Danielle Atarah

Mission: Non-Plot Log
Timeline: Immediately after Vindicator log "Bearing Gifts"

“Stokes, get us to our safe zone, I want to be out from under Starfleet’s nose as soon as the Bristol can carry us,” Zett ordered as she walked out of her room, purposefully, her expression and tone leaving no room for the banter that existed just an hour previously on the bridge. The young man on the operation console nodded wordlessly and tapped his console, passing the orders around to the helm.

“When was Dani’s check-in scheduled?”

“She checked in with Smith an hour ago. All clear according to plans.”

“Of course they think that,” Zett muttered, and rounded the space behind the Captain’s chair, her arm caressing the leather, “send her the urgent abort message, and have her back here,” she looked at the chair for a moment, considering, and then, as if rethinking her immediate decision, turned towards the office again. “Let me know when we’re safely tucked in that nebula, Jason.”

“Yes, Zett.” The man nodded, and looked at the Trill carefully before returning his attention to his tasks. Something, clearly, was up; something urgent and important enough to not only change plans unexpectedly, but to recall Dani back. This was serious.

* * *

The shuttle landed softly, and the doors opened, spitting out the rugged dark shapes of Smith and Dani, as they both jumped off the small ledge, letting the Bristol’s crew pick up two duffle bags from the shuttle. The conversation they were involved in -- something silly, from the looks of Smith’s expression -- died off almost instantly as Dani saw Zett, and, promptly, sped her steps to meet her.

“I missed you,” Zett noted after they’ve greeted each other with a welcoming kiss. Dani smiled back, and touched her ring. “I know. I missed you too.” Zett brushed two rogue strands of hair off the smaller woman’s forehead, and then frowned, flinching.

“What… is that…” The tone was concerned, but the look that followed didn’t stay on Dani; it shifted beyond her, to Smith, who stood by, waiting to be acknowledged. He was about to respond, but Dani cut him off. “Smith beat me up.”

Zett’s eyes narrowed, for a split moment, a dangerous icey cloud swam through them. She’s ordered people dead for less. She’s killed people, for less… but this was Aldus Smith. She looked up at him, questioningly, the ice melting as fast as it had appeared. He didn’t seem fazed at all.

“Atarah, if I had beaten you up, a black eye would have been the least of your troubles,” he noted, and shook his head at Zett. “We were sparring. She needed some training.”

“Hey,” Dani wheeled to point at the man, a light hearted accusation in her eyes, “I gave as good as I got, Smith. We just can’t see your bruises.”

Smith flinched, almost imperceptibly, but Zett caught the involuntary reaction and snorted, grinning at him. He sighed, and shook his head, acquiescing. “She has potential.”

“Ha.” Dani shot back, satisfied, her bugs-bunny grin filling her face as she turned to walk towards the inner parts of the ship. “Why thank you, Mr. Smith. And you do too… though you do need to work on your spacial awareness, if you want to master pickpocketing.”

Smith gave Zett a meaningful look and followed along, trailing slightly behind. “There’s nothing wrong with my awareness, Atarah. I did catch you trying to steal my knife earlier.”

“You did,” Dani admitted, smirking, and Zett knew that smile well; a winning one. She had to bite her tongue to prevent a chuckle from escaping her lips, expecting what's coming.

“... And that would’ve been great, if your knife was my actual target.” Dani finished, tossing Smith his watch. The man caught it mid-stride and stopped, abruptly, to stare at it. “How in the fuck--”

“Spacial awareness, Smith,” Dani winked at Zett and turned the corner towards the lift. “You have potential… But it ain't great.”

Zett laughed, holding the doors for the man behind them, who finally snapped out of his confused anger to quicken his pace and join them. Those two were going to either become best of friends, or kill one another.

Zett wasn’t worried.

* * *

“Are you sure about this, Kal? This doesn’t sound like Ivanova...” Dani’s eyes furrowed in concern, leaning into her bowl of pasta thoughtfully. They sat in the Bristol’s Captain’s office, the three of them, eating a meal while Zett filled the two of them in about the latest news from Ivanova and the Vindicator.

“She’s at the end of her rope,” Zett noted gravely, leaning back with a cup of coffee. “I recognized that aura on a person immediately. She’s not to be fucked with.”

“Well, no, generally I wouldn’t screw with Rochelle Ivanova,” Dani nodded, but her eyes were still filled with concern, “but all out furious destruction…”

“Did we overplay our hand by giving them the coordinates?” Smith asked, plucking a small piece of potato from his plate, examining it thoughtfully before putting it in his mouth.

“No,” Zett didn’t even take a moment to consider. “We did what we came here to do.”

“We came here to outbid and win the auction, so no one gets hurt,” Dani muttered, her concern replaced by anger.

“Plans change.” Smith noted, glancing up at Zett. The Trill sat quietly, examining her cup with interest. There were implications to this new change, and most meant a much greater danger to the people who were directly involved. There was a lot more at stake now for collaborating with the Federation if the end result was the complete destruction of one of this sector’s most bustling black market stations.

A lot of people are going to be angry. A lot of people are going to look for someone to blame.

“There are innocent people on the station, Smith.” Dani shot back, snapping Zett out of her reverie. “This isn’t just a place where a random one-time auction happens. Did you tell her?” She looked at Zett, and the woman returned the gaze, except hers was not the accusatory, worried, angry one that Dani’s eyes emitted. Hers was measured. Calm.

“I did. I don’t think Starfleet makes very good assessments of innocence about the type of people who are on so-called ‘criminal’ enterprises, Dani. They aren’t going to make these distinctions when they send their fire and brimstone over there.”

“That’s outrageous,” Dani tossed her fork into her plate, frustrated. “That’s… that’s fucking outrageous, Z. We need to do something.”

“And what do you recommend we do, Atarah?” Smith’s tone, like Zett’s, was calm and measured. “Do you propose we fight the Federation now?”

“No, of course not,” Dani sighed, still angry, frustration dripping from her aching muscles. Zett could see it surrounding the smaller woman, floating around her as if it was a tangible cloud.

“We do have options.” Zett took a sip, looking from Dani to Smith, meaningfully. The man nodded at her, swallowing a piece of meat. “Whatever the reasons that Starfleet is using to sleep better at night, they are going to destroy that station, and with it, a fairly large portion of the groups that control the movement of goods in this area. This won’t be enough to actually destroy any of the groups around here, but…”

“It will cause significant damage,” Smith nodded, wiping his mouth with a napkin. “They will be much more apprehensive to operate the same way they have before. They will retreat into themselves first, calculating the risks of encountering Starfleet again. They will change the way they work, communicate… there will likely be a series of… resignations.” The man finished, attempting to be diplomatic, seemingly for the sake of Dani, who stared between the two of them in disbelief.

“You… you want to take advantage of this.”

“Yes.” Zett nodded.

“Kal, we’re barely set up on our own system. You’re talking about expanding here?? A fucking quadrant away?”

“Not expanding, no.” The trill said, looking at Smith. He seemed to be sharing her thoughts, as the thin line of his lips curved, slightly, upwards.

“We could frame this to our advantage,” Smith noted, voicing Zett’s thoughts out loud.

“What advantage is that, exactly? It’s going to be hard to hide the fact we were in contact with Starfleet to begin with. If we stay here, the Orion Syndicate is going to come after us, if not the other zillion smaller fucking ventures in this sector.”

“The groups in the area will be hit hard by the actions of Starfleet,” Smith continued as Zett took another careful sip from her coffee, allowing him to voice her own thoughts on the matter. “It will serve as a warning to them that they are not safe to operate. That they need to think twice before meddling in Starfleet’s business, if nothing else, which is exactly what Commodore Ivanova and the rest of the ones who are involved are intending. They will get that, as a first reaction.”

“Yeah, in the best scenario, there’s going to be a fight over who’s covering the vacuum that will be left. In the worst scenario, a fucking all out turf war.” Dani exclaimed, frustrated that neither of the two seemed to grasp the severity of this. “And whatever happens, we’re dealing with people who will look for vengeance wherever they can find it. They can’t go directly against Starfleet, so who do you think they’ll come after?”

“They’ll go after whoever sold them out, of course,” Smith smiled dryly, giving Zett a knowing look. Zett’s lips twisted upwards in a cold smile as well, but she remained silent, watching the exchange carefully.

“That’s us, Smith.”

“Is it?” Smith shot back, his own smile growing slightly. “Atarah, you of all people know that perception defines reality. We are in the perfect position to define it as we see fit. We know what’s coming; we know Starfleet’s plan, we know when it will happen, and for the most part, how. We can set our own fall guys up. We can take measures to get the valuable assets out of that damned station, and then use them to our advantage. We can set up our own narrative, Atarah, to set our own point of influence. In this sector, and, by proxy, back in the alpha quadrant. Back home.”

Zett nodded again, her eyes, still too icy for Dani’s taste, finally morphing with a touch of winning, knowing, amusement.

“At the end of this,” Smith continued, looking at Dani with satisfied understanding in his eyes, “we can be the ones who provide the new solutions to the way the groups in this sector trade, move, or communicate with one another.”

“Narrative,” Dani echoed, not quite convinced, staring at Smith, then moving her gaze to Zett, then back. “That’s not going to be easy.”

“No,” Smith conceded, finally relaxing enough to pick up his own cup and lean back in his chair. “We’ll need to get a team here, set up shop, figure out the details. We will probably need to stick around for a few months afterwards, cement our influence, then leave a permanent representative that will be under our control.”

Dani continued staring, the doubt in her eyes shining through. She was going to say something, but was unsure of how to say it, so she closed her mouth, and thought it through. Zett gave her a moment, and then looked at Smith.

“I need you to take point on this, Aldus. You have my -- and Dani’s -- full support. Anything you need; people, funds, ships. You build our influence. You set the ground. You make sure it lasts. You pick the person to head the effort after you’re done setting it up.”

“Kalina, you need me by your side.” The man’s head tilted, his eyes narrowing.

“No, I need you here. I need someone I trust implicitly, that can do this quietly, masterfully, knowing how to move about without raising the attention of either Starfleet or the Orion Syndicate. I need this done delicately. We need it set up to work so we can call on this when we need to, remotely, back home. I need you here, Aldus.”

Smith clenched his jaw, thinking. I. I need you here. Not we, not the organization, I. This was more than just a mission. It was an outright promotion, even with the man already being Kalina Zett’s number-one-man -- and he was Zett’s man, even if Dani was her partner now, or ever. This meant he was trusted enough to be the Zett of this sector. To be the head of this offshoot, to not only head it, but plan it, execute it, run it. They trusted him with the resources to set up an operation that could, had he been untrustworthy, have ended up undermining them all. But he wouldn’t. Ever. She knew that. They both knew that. He deserved this trust, in more than one way.

“We’re stable back home,” Dani finally pitched in, seemingly digesting what was happening around her. “The security concerns are no longer immediate on Earth, or in Sol in general.” She looked at him, joining Zett’s nod. “If we are going through with this insane plan… you’re the only one who can do it.”

Smith had trouble hiding his surprise at that. It was obvious Dani trusted him, but it was always his feeling that it was to an extent. And that was mutual. He was Zett’s man, not hers, and no matter how close those two are, were, or will be, he will never be Dani’s. Not really. They both knew that, and while they got along, mostly, there was also an undercurrent of jealousy, and a small cloud of mistrust between the two of them; the two people who shared Zett’s trust and love, even if different flavors of it.

And yet here she was, supporting this decision, giving him credit -- and, even more than that, giving her approval for his transformation from ‘merely’ the head of security for the entire of their organization -- not a small position to begin with -- to a doer, a leader, a boss of his own little section.

Under Zett and Dani, of course… but still his own to build. To manage. And, in a few months, to control, remotely and personally, with his own trusted people.

This wasn’t a small decision on either of the women’s parts, especially in their line of work.

“Alright,” he nodded. “I’ll start working on an action plan immediately.”

“Involve only people you trust impeccably, Smith. At least for the start,” Zett looked at him, and Smith nodded.

“One more thing,” Dani stated, reaching for the fork she threw into her plate, fishing it out of the sauce, “I want you to look at the people and assets in the station, and give me a list. We’re saving the valuables, but,” she looked at Zett seriously, and the Trill blinked slowly in acknowledgement, knowing what was coming, agreeing to it with a wordless smile, “we’re also saving the innocent. At least, we’re giving it a good try.”

Smith considered, glanced at Zett, and nodded. “I don’t know how much of it is doable if Starfleet has bloodlust in their eyes, but we can certainly prioritize the weak just below the valuables.”

Dani flinched, but Smith preempted her speaking with a laugh, tapping her lightly on her shoulder. “You’re so easy to piss off, Atarah, it’s barely even fun anymore.”

Dani shook her head, “yeah, well, as long as I have… ‘potential’.” She smiled, and used her clean fork to steal a piece of potato off of Smith’s plate, the tension in the room dissolving, though not quite vanishing.

They had a plan now. A risky plan, a plan that would get them into much thicker entanglements with the elements in this sector -- but a plan that could, quite possibly, be worthwhile in the long run. For influence, for connections, for money… and… it wouldn’t hurt having her own little spidey-spies in the corners of the galaxy that her friends travel.

It wouldn’t hurt at all.


Kalina Zett & Danielle Atarah
Heads of the Zetarah Corporation

Aldus Smith
Head of Security for the Zetarah Corporation


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