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LtCmdrs Merlin & Ethel Baul | "On A Hot Tin Roof", part 1

Posted on Wed Feb 27th, 2019 @ 7:05pm by Commander Evan Merlin & Commodore Rochelle Ivanova

Mission: Lacuna
Location: Cold Station Theta
Timeline: SD 241902.27

A few hours later he was back in Central Ops, nursing a Tarkellian tea and trying to focus on one of the never-ending padds in front of him. His mind refused to cooperate, though, instead it continued to return to the mystery of the enlarged escape pod. Who would want to grab an escape pod and enlarge its interior, and why? Spacefolder tech was far from standard within the Federation. Indeed, it was a safe bet that most engineers had never even heard of it. Who would not only be able to, but crazy enough to actually do it?

He drummed his long fingers on the padd as he thought. Certainly Thelin could do it, he reflected, but doing something this crazy without telling anyone didn't seem to be the large Andorian's style. Another name sprang to mind, 'Supergirl' Danielle Atarah, the engineer he'd met just before and during the masked ball. According to the computer, though, she was on Earth, weeks away from .

He shrugged and made a note to ask Commander th'Zarath about it. Maybe he could shed some light on the mystery.

Hanging out in OPs had never been her thing - too many eyes, too many minds, too many chances for her to run into that... thing that had sussed and smoked her out once before. The station as a whole wasn't exactly her most favorite place in space - then again neither was the Vindicator. Choices choices... And hers was quickly made for her with a summoning by a god forsaken Fleet Admiral wanting an over all report given about crew welfare during Vindicator's most recent trip to Ascendancy space.

Of course it took ten years to get to Ops and that entire time was spent with fingers drumming along the curve of her own thigh and a mind filled with at least twenty scenarios on how this could pan out for her - almost all of them requiring that she beat a hasty retreat and leave the Admiral blowing bubbles through a gaping hole in her throat. Records had indicated that she'd sustained just such an injury once before, as had Ivanova. A mental note flashed up questioning whether it was a family predisposition to such treatment by rogues and terrorists. It quickly went away the moment the lift ground garishly to a halt and freed her from it's crypt like hold. Out of the frying pan and into the fire - and of course the first one she laid eyes on was the wild haired mutant. "Fuck my life." She muttered under her breath and tugged the hem of her uniform down.

"It can hardly be as bad as that, can it?" the XO asked. He tossed the PADD he'd been trying to read aside, happy for the distraction. He quickly took in the new appearance. Not a familiar face. About as tall as Commodore Ivanova, dark blond hair, eyes hidden behind glasses – how quaint, to see glasses at this day and age! She looked around nervously.

She didn't look like anyone on the roster, nor as someone who was supposed to be reporting in. The only Starfleet officer he had seen on the 'soon to be assigned to this station' was a new Tactical/Security officer, and the picture on that man's file looked nothing like the person he saw here.

He jumped up from the chair and walked over. "Hi. I'm Evan Merlin. How can I help you?"

If she could have cut his ears off, or poured sealant in them, Ethel would have - but instead she played the part she knew she needed to and offered him a polite smile and her hand for a shake, "Ethel Baul, I'm the counselor on the Vindicator," Her thumb was hiked as she threw the gesture over her shoulder in some innocuous direction that may or may not have been where the behemoth of a ship had docked, "Admiral Red called me up here, first time, actually... Y'know if she's in?" Behind those glasses, her eyes were wide - huge really - and blinking in feigned wonder. Playing the role of a freshman shrink was easy enough and the station wasn't exactly the most sought after post or often traveled place in space. It worked. For now.

"Not at the moment." There was a momentary feeling of wrongness, but his day had been so odd up till now that he had no idea where one weirdness ended and the other began. "She's not in at the moment, I mean," he added. "Not that I don't know if she's in. She's out doing fleet stuff." Probably with the very Commodore of the Vindicator. "So you're free to wait here until she returns, or just take a stroll around. I'm sure she'll be back after twelve – unless something else comes around to throw her schedule off." He smiled, but unlike him, it didn't linger. "That happens with surprising frequency." Absentmindedly, as he talked, he picked up a few PADDs from a nearby desk and started to juggle them.

The odd nature of his speech - to say nothing of his juggling routine - brought about a subtle wrinkle in the woman's brows. They furrowed for the briefest of seconds, silently scrutinizing his behavior in wonder of the man's exact game. Nothing much could be found about him, tr'Bak had referenced his vague origins with such a sense of boredom she herself hadn't exactly been riveted to the store he wove. Found in a pod. Drifting in space. Maybe he'd sustained some sort of oxygen starvation or maybe his species were just that... Bizarre. The fact the Empress of the Ascendancy had taken a shine to him was without a doubt the most baffling part of the whole arrangement. "Ah... I had thought the order was urgent so um..." She produced a single PADD and offered it to him, "Maybe it would be best to just set this on her desk, let her have a looksie, and if she needs me she can just... You know... Call me." Oh, how Ethel loathed the lap dog routine.

The XO tossed one of the PADDs up, caught it and continued with his juggling, his hands seemingly moving on their own. "It probably was. Or is. But the ways of Boxed-in-pips people are mysterious. I'm happy enough if I can follow those of Commanders or Captains, but everything above that is puzzling. If you like, you can give me the PADD and I'll put it on her desk…" Now he did grin, briefly, as he tossed the PADDs up one by one, and they seemed to disappear in mid-air.

Ethel's eyes followed the PADDs, ignorant of the way her eyebrows inched higher as each one vanished as if by magic. That would certainly be included in her report when it came time for tr'Bak to sit back for his latest bedtime story, disappearing acts were worthy of note - in fact it made her wonder what all else he could perform such a task with. A hand reached to rub the spot at the base of her skull where the Romulan son of a bitch had implanted an incendiary 'control' device. He'd called it his insurance policy. It made her want to puke, "Yeah... I'll do that, but on one condition," the hand left her neck and held a single finger up, "You don't make it go bye bye. My ass would be on the line and it doesn't exactly enjoy being chewed on. Pretty sure you can be a bit sympathetic to that sentiment... Maybe even empathetic." The smile was back, sweet as southern sugar pie.

"Oh, don't worry about that. Like all PADDwork, it always comes back." He reached behind her when his hand came back, he was holding the three PADDs again. "PADDs going bye bye always is a pain in the neck, indeed." He tossed them casually on the desk. "Have you been to before?" he asked.

The edge of one of the PADDs brushed the barest bit of her hair and Ethel caught herself before she could shy away - instead throwing a great deal of side-eye in the direction of the man's retreating hand. Strange son of a bitch that he was. "Then it doesn't go bye bye and I'll leave it in your care." She nodded, offering the aforementioned device out to him as if it were some sort of prize. Maybe it was. It wasn't for her to decide. "Briefly. Once. It was more of a drop off and run to meet the Vindicator because she was getting ready to head to Apsha. I won't even bother asking about your involvement with the station. This place is your playground." Of course it was, it was a place for most misbegotten souls - stowed away from the rest of the Federation and a perfect place to play hide and seek and peek-a-boo with fate. Ivanova was out there to hide, no doubt. He was out there because he came from somewhere out in that great big yawning chasm of space. Ethel was no less of a freak to be held in the 25th century's answer to P.T. Barnum's original circus... The one before it burnt to the ground and he decided to travel with a tent... At least she recognized it.

"Playground…" the XO mused, twirling another PADD on one finger. "Yes, I suppose you could call it that. I think that's a good description." He shrugged, looked at the PADD with a faintly puzzled expression, as if wondering how it got there. "Anyway. Want to see a bit more of the station? I think it's about time for breakfast. Or lunch. One of those, anyway. So, would you like to have some breakfast or lunch?"

"I uh..." There could have been an excuse about needing to see patients, but it would be about as transparent and thin as the air they breathed. If she was standing there it meant her schedule had been cleared in response to the Admiral's beckon call - and with her hands free of the PADD she'd been carrying, she was left relatively 'defenseless' when it came to breaking away from an invitation from one of Starfleet's 'esteemed' command officers. "Yeah... It's somewhere in between breakfast and lunch so... Brunch? Might as well take a quick tour from the XO seeing as the Vindicator calls this place home base." She shrugged, nonchalant as ever, though she got the distinct sense that the gears in the man's head were turning, trying to place who she was more than anything else. Caught twice by the same weirdo, she'd be left with no choice but to end him and space the evidence, plant the thought that he'd run off to be with the Empress and had been picked up by one of the marauding lawless nut jobs circulating through this part of space. Easy. As. Pie.

It was a good thing that the XO wasn't reading thoughts – he probably would have laughed out loud at that one. Would he have been flattered? Shocked? Impossible to say – he had a kind of telepathy, but it was a weird one (like so much about him) and impredictable at times. Besides, peeking was always a headache – well, nearly always.

So, blissfully unaware of 'Ethel's murderous thoughts, only vaguely aware of some kind of wrongness but not knowing where that feeling came from, he guided her out of Central Ops. A brief stop in the CO's readyroom, just long enough to drop Ethel's PADD on the Admiral's desk (such a clean desk, only this PADD marred its smooth surface, quite unlike the controlled chaos which was his own office), and down they went. "I hope you don't mind our turbo lifts, they're a bit eccentric," he said as the doors closed behind them.

LtCmdr. Evan 'Weirdo' Merlin
Executive Officer, Cold Station Theta


Lt Commander Ethel Baul
Rochelle Ivanova (MU)
Tal Shiar Agent


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