Reprieve

Jude Murphy materializes and looks around, his eyebrows lifting even before he is completely corporeal. A private residence. When he is solid he is led inside by the female who guards him, and he makes a beeline for the fireplace, then turns his back to it, assuming a stand of military parade rest. "Greetings, Fleet Captain." his voice rumbles. "I do hope you are feeling better." she probably notices that he's walked in and placed his back to the wall, not any of the doors or windows. Old habits die hard, for sure.

Poison.Toocool paces the carpet in front of her fireplace, slowly, waiting for them to beam the prisoner, Jade Murphy, to her residence. She had debated whether to visit him in the brig (seemed cold), have him in her ready room or briefing room (sterile) or have him here. He had been in custody for nearly two weeks, working on his defense for the charges against him. She had not seen him alone until this point. Nor had she told Souleymane his dear friend and adopted father was even on Astra. She continues to pace. She had decided to bring him here, so she could be out of uniform, and so they could speak away from the station. He materializes and moves to the fireplace. Her home is secured with force fields and there are security personnel patrolling the grounds. She turns to look at him, "Good day, Mr Murphy," she says. "I am better, thank you. Are they treating you well up there," she gestures to the sky. "Thank you for agreeing to this meeting," she adds, "it is not official, per se. But of course anything you tell me will be remembered." She felt it wise to caution him not to prejudice his defense in speaking with her privately. "If you wish to have your legal representative here, that would be agreeable," she nods her head.

Jude Murphy takes the place in .. light and bright and ... he sighs and listens to her. "I am fed three times a day and left alone otherwise, unless Babu or Buni bring me my tea or wish to speak to me." he gives her half a grin. "I'm loving every second of it." he nods. "I will tell Babu what he needs to know. We will both remember, I am sure." he waves it away and keeps out of any light streaming in the openings.

Poison.Toocool remains standing, looking to Jude. Last time they had met she had been unwell. She has only really seen him twice before. But this is the first time she has actually had time to observe him completely. He is tall, and his face is terribly scarred. She can only imagine the pain he must have suffered. He declines to have his counsel present and she smiles softly, pleased. "We really haven't had a chance to meet properly. Of course you know I am Colony Commander, but here, in my home, out of uniform, I am just Po. For this meeting, if you will permit, we will use first names?" She moves to the table behind her, gesturing, "I have here some tea and fresh rolls, fruit. All locally made, no replicators. It is the kind of breakfast I have every day. Please help yourself if you would like something." In her experience of humans, hospitality was a common thread, and she wished him to feel comfortable.

Jude Murphy listens to the words and nods. "You are the colony commander, the Fleet Captain but also you are the love Souleymane's life." he states. "Alright then, I will call you Po and you call me Jude. Which is better than being called Lieutenant Commander. I haven't been called that in decades. LONG before Cardassia." he moves to the table, giving the sunbeams a wide berth. He looks at the foods, all locally made but opts for the now for a cup of coffee. "Did Idrissa make these?" he wonders. "If I live through this I want to meet her. If it comes to that, please consider it my last wish. To see the Senghor twins." he drinks deeply, seemingly considering the food carefully.

Poison.Toocool felt somewhat awkward, although her demeanor probably did not show it. But she poured herself a cup of Earl Grey, and moved back to the sitting area, giving him space to help himself to whatever he wishes, thoughtfully gazing out the window. "Idrissa has a cafe here, she delivers me a box each morning now," she says softly, and she turns, "They have not been informed as to your presence here, as yet. First for security reasons, and secondly to give you time to build your defense. It was felt by... certain parties, that a deserter should be given no privileges." She's had two arguments with Minx about it.

Jude Murphy nods and drinks the coffee. He reaches for a pastry and eats it. "I suspected all of that." he says when he swallows. "And I agree completely .. with all of it." he chuckles very softly. "And if Souleymane gives you a hard time about it, please tell him so. I am a deserter so, naturally, I was well aware that I would be confined." he makes it a statement, as if the action were natural and right. "I make no requests for special treatment. Part of me has been waiting for you ... meaning Starfleet, of course, to find me, try and and execute me." again a simple statement. "I'm afraid I simply do not have it in me to commit suicide. Some of us fail to do so when it is best." he sighs .. it was in his opinion his worst dereliction of duty, although he has lately told himself he is doing it for Souleymane and Idrissa .. and the little girl .. all the family he has remaining now.

Poison.Toocool sips her tea, still standing, looking to him as he speaks. It was becoming more difficult for her as time went on, each day that passes would be another nail in her coffin when Souley found out that Jude was on Astra and had been for so long. In a way she was grateful work had kept her from visiting Souleymane at his home for a couple of days. She is pleased to hear that Jude understands and will help Souley see things logically as well. "We might not have found you at all, if it were not for Souley," she says. "But... perhaps I am wrong as Slate Talc was killed by drugs you sold, and then there are the weapons... sooner or later you would have been on our radar." She shakes her head, "I am afraid I don't understand your words about suicide. Surely that was neither required or expected?" Everything in her resists the idea that Starfleet would ask someone to take their own life.

Jude Murphy winces. "He won't like that." he sighs. "I've warned him against Starfleet in general but Section 31 ... About Starfleet Intelligence ... for years. He knows well the punishment I could face." he arches a brow and pours another cup of coffee. "Slate Talc? Ohhhhhhh" the light dawns. "That pretty boy in the civvies I sold the silk pearls to. Of course." he shrugs. "I warned him, just like I warned your men to only take one at a time. He didn't listen ... or someone slipped him a double dose. Either way ... and the weapons." again he shrugs. "Well, all of that will come out at trial, or in the plea bargain. But I agree. I would have been found sooner or later." when she mentions not understanding about the suicide, he looks at her for a long time, then shrugs and moves closer to her. "That's classified, and even if you hve the authorization codes, I will not tell you. And you don't want to know." he pauses. "Souleymane has told me some about you. He loves you. You have this .. fresh hope and vision. I will not be the man to .... destroy that."

Poison.Toocool "I was sorry to be the one to tell you about your family," she says softly. "I could see that was a surprise to you. If there is any information you would like to have about them, or if there is anyone else?" she looks to his face, "please let me know we will check our records." She sighs, "I am not a fan of execution either." Looking to him, "Do not imagine that I am less than fully aware of many terrible and heartwrenching things. Yes, I have hope that we can rise above these things." She thinks for a moment. "When you deserted, or rather, were captured, life was different. Fourty years is nearly two generations of humans. Much has changed." She bows her head to him, gently: "Thank you for your view of me. I confess these days the strain does sometimes cause me to lose optimism in my worst moments. But what of you, now you are 'out', you have been 'found', if you were free, what would you do, return to Earth?" she puts her empty cup down on a side table.

Jude Murphy considers her request. "I .... considered asking you if I'd become a grandfather, but ... what difference would it make? My wife and I were estranged. My vanishing was probably the best I could have done for her in her opinion. And she was the type to turn a child against their father because he loved his job more than his woman." he sighs and swallows the bitterness hed caught in his own voice. "Souleymane needs your kind of hope. I'm afraid as positive of thought as I understand Idrissa is ... for Souleymane it will not be enough. Not after what his father and brothers did to him. To both of them, but for Souleymane it was much much worse." he inhales deeply. "But now ... if you do not execute me ... I will remain on N'doto." he tells her. "Earth belonged to the human Jude Murphy. That man died at the hands of the Cardassians." he puts his own empty cup down. "Which reminds me ... you asked what assurances you could have that I would keep Black Dew for my own use. Frankly ... none .. none that I would expect you to believe, with my history of ... covert operations and dirty black ops. But ... I still have enough human in me, I wouldn't do this to another being .... I can't even go outside here ...." he steps towards a sunbeam, filtered by the window and sticks his arm in it. The arm begins to smoke and after a while, he pulls it back. There is a scorch mark, which begins to heal before their eyes. "The sun here is too powerful. Sure I could heal but ... none of it is pleasant. I will not do that to anyone. That much of my oath to Starfleet I will keep. Protecting the universe from that particular danger."

Poison.Toocool "Souleymane has shared with me some of his past. You may not know this," her voice is softer than ever, "but I have no family at all. I was raised alone, on a distant planet, with only a ... foster mother to care for me. When she died, I was lost. I managed to escape from there on a patrol ship, and ended on a world filled with cities and machines... I had to learn language, and how people really lived. Until I found Starfleet I had no structure or philosophy or way of being that made sense. So... Souley may feel I am a 'stick in the mud' when it comes to regulations and the Starfleet way of doing things, but without that foundation I would not have become who you see now. Ten years since I joined," she adds it all up, five years in Academy and almost five years at Astraios. She paces across the rug once, turning back to look at him, "I understand what you are saying about the Black Dew. You are the only one left who is... imprisoned by it? Do you think," she looks thoughtful, "is there any possibility that we might find a way to free you from it? We found a way to help some Jem'Hadar..."

Jude Murphy nods and smiles very softly. "So you are so Starfleet because Starfleet is you." his voice sounds gentle and understanding. "He thinks you are .... Starfleet." he grins. "But he loves you, so he will adjust himself to make the relationship thrive. I hope you understand that, if he didn't love you, he would not be here even trying to make it work." he stops and sighs very deeply. "Everyone else addicted to the Dew is dead. I know because in the end, I killed the last remaining men myself. They were dying ... Cardassia Prime was being destroyed ... I did the right thing." he is unashamed as he confesses to murder. "The Gati have tried and ... no ... besides ... I am the only addict left. I will live until I die ... but at the rate I am aging ...." he shrugs. "Let me die my natural death, or beheading, which I think is the only way I can be killed ... well maybe a phaser set to kill, of course.....". But once I die, have the Gati destroy the drug. They will ... they and I reached that agreement long ago. But do not let anyone BUT Gati touch it."

Poison.Toocool nods, "I do know that. And I hope that Souleymane understands I am for him, even in the face of criticism or doubt from others who do not know him as I do. His family created him and gave him a way of being that is contrary to who he would naturally be. I think he is happier now he is... as the humans say, 'settled' with a home and an adopted family. His beloved sister, the little girl Shenshi, and... me. Idrissa has her Cafe and she has," her voice drops even lower, "Hars." She listens carefully as he explains about the Dew. "Perhaps we were wrong to bring you here, and expose others to the potential of the Dew," she says. "If you were permitted to visit Souleymane, what of the young child that lives with him?" She cannot help but be concerned, although Souleymane had a house on Gati and even stayed with Jude after his escape from Treman, wounded and needing help." She takes a deep breath, "No matter what anyone else things, I feel that you should not be punished for what occurred when you disappeared. It seems to me that you have suffered enough, and continue to suffer, because of what occured. It would be wrong of me, and wrong of Starfleet, to attempt to obtain 'revenge' for your desertion when it clearly was not your choice. Have Babu present his arguments to me in writing on that charge, and I will render my decision." She speaks again as the brisk Colony Commander.

Jude Murphy nods, pleased she seems to have such insight to Souleymane. "I would so what I can to not scare her out of a decades growth." he promises. "But ... if she has seen half as much as I have HEARD she's seen ..... my face could not be the worse she has ever seen." he sighs again. "And .... well ... She has met Onyx while you were on N'Doto .... she is a Gati in the shape of a child ..." he shrugs. "I missed my daughter so much at one point, the Gati commissioned Onyx for me. She is not a child, obviously. She is older than Souleymane, but for a Gati she is a baby." he looks at her slightly shocked. "I ... will pass that on to Babu ...." he speaks slowly. "Thank you ....." he sounds surprized that the charges might be dropped. He expected to simply be executed .... maybe times HAVE changed.

Poison.Toocool has made up her mind, Jude will be given a court martial but will not suffer any penalty except the loss of his pay during the desertion period. "I will have to check the legal precedence but if you will agree to it, there will be no recompense for the income you would have received during the years of your absence, in return for our clemency, but, if you wish it, I could see if there could be a pension based on your active years of service. Before you say no," she holds up a hand, "think. It would give you some security, and it is something you might be able to pass along to a next of kin. An adopted son, for example," she smiles gently. "Souleymane is my mate, and that makes you, a kind of father to me as well," she says, surprised at her own emotions as she says this, her eyes grow moist, "I never had a father."

Jude Murphy listens to her and is indeed about to refuse when she points out his family to him. He only lost his BIOLOGICAL family and so .... . "When you put it like that .... how an I refuse...?" he looks mildly shocked to see her refer to HERSELF as mate .... He clears his throat, sounding almost like the thunder before a spring storm. "Well ... now you do." he considers. "And perhaps ... daughter mine .... we should begin our relationship by teaming up against my son ..." he chuckles. "If you will allow me ... I would like to be the one to explain all of this to Souleymane. It will get you 'off the hook' with him, so to speak." he chuckles. "A family...." he shakes his head, amazed and clearly pleased.

Poison.Toocool nods to him, "For the moment we have to continue as we are, until we can get you officially released. But if Babu has done his work, it should only be a few days at most." Her combadge beeps and she taps it twice to shut it off. "That's a reminder of my next meeting. I am sorry to send you back to the brig, but I am glad we have finally truly met," she smiles to him, "I will be in touch soon."

=^=

Kat & the Chameloid

Kat Anjar walks out of the Hospital. She is essentially still off work because of injuries sustained in the explosion that occurred here. There were reports that the incident was the result of a bomb placed by the same person who had sabotaged SS Astraios, the USS Argonaut had given chase to a stolen shuttle that was unfortunately destroyed just outside the Takaar Nebula. Where it was going no one could say. Some said Treman, some said Takaar, some said perhaps it was The Apeiros making hay as the sun shines. They at least had sabotaged the USS Prophetic while it was just a hull at the shipyards. And then there was the Beryl Fire, no word on what had caused that but now nearly 50 people had been killed in the three incidents, and there where many more injured. It was not a good state of affairs, everyone was on edge. Gossip was ripe wherever she went, but no one had any real information.

The MCH was now surrounded by scaffolding and personnel scrambled up and down ladders, reconstructing the external shell now the frame of the building had been secured again. She turned and walked between the Hospital and the Science building, heading towards the Colony Commander's residence. Astra was beautiful this time of year, and she was looking forward to a stroll through the Fleet Captain's gardens before presenting herself. She was curious to know why she had been summoned.

Po Toocool nodded to the Steward, who had carefully tidied away all signs of this morning's meeting, a bleak meeting if ever she'd had one, nary a smile among them. She was glad they had gone ahead wih the Ball even after the explosions had occurred, people needed something light hearted after all that had been going on. She certainly did. She sighed, the Steward left, and she was alone with her thoughts again. Last night Souleymane had been understanding and supportive, he had surprised her. She'd expected a confrontation, instead he gave her compassion and consideration and even acceptance. She had agreed to his suggestion that she consult medical with regard to her health, and liked his idea of contacting Kat Anjar. Souley had offered his home for this, but Po had decided she would see Kat after the breakfast briefing that was held in her residence. She felt... she needed to be in control of the environment, and that she would need time to come to terms with anything the doctor might say. She would not exclude Souley, just make him wait a little while to hear the results. She stepped into her bedroom, unsure whether she should change or not... but then she recalled the Caitian appeared slightly nervous in her presence.

She takes out a simple yellow shirt and pants, and slips out of her uniform, hanging it up after disengaging the combadge and pinning it onto the blouse she has put on. She brushed her hair and pinned it up, once satisfied she stepped into the reception area. It was a pleasant day out, she had informed her Yeoman that she would be taking the day off. Her vice would attend the Council meeting. She would rest at home and was not to be contacted unless there was something truly urgent that required her to be present or make a decision. They all had their instructions. She had spoken with the head of the Astraionian Civilian Authority, discussing the possibility of raising the planetary shield on a permanent basis. He was to take the idea to Council. Glancing out the door, she observes Kat showing her credentials to Security. Suddenly she feels rather reluctant, wishing she had not told Souley she would do this.

Kat passes the security checkpoint and moves along the path through the fragrant garden, enjoying being out in the sun and air. She refuses to let her worries take her from the present moment, and pauses to look at the new blooms, and watch the butterflies flit around, and listen to the birds singing. She takes a deep breath. She does not want to be nervous in front of the Colony Commander!

Finally she reaches the cottage... which is surprising in itself. Many in such a high position would choose a mansion to broadcast their prestige, but not Poison Toocool. She lives in a simple cottage surrounded by gardens, and spends her free time outside, where she grows some of the fruits and vegetables she eats. Kat had seen the cottage from afar when visiting out patients at the House of Healing the Fleet Captain had created on her land. A perfect place for people to get well. As Kat thinks about that, she realizes that perhaps Poison is not so scary after all. She reaches her hand to knock then jumps when Poison appears soundlessly in front of her.

She walks through the door into a charming room, a small fire banked in the fireplace, comfortable chairs around it; a long table to the right which is used for briefings, and to the left an exit to what she presumed was the bedroom. Everything was light and airy, there were several exits to a porch that wrapped around the entire cottage, and green could be seen from every door and window.

"How beautiful," she exclaimed.

Before the Caitian could knock, Poison stepped into the doorway and gestured, indicating Kat should come inside. Her reluctance to have this... examination was increasing by the minute.

"Please make yourself comfortable," she says politely although her teeth are gritted. "May I offer you some tea?"

Kat places her medical bag on the floor next to one of the couches, turning to Poison: "Ma'am, I would gladly have tea but perhaps we should first check you over?" She senses that Poison is not too enthusiastic about this. "Would you like to sit here?" Kat knows that a biobed would make the collection of information about Poison's condition that much easier, but respects the fact that the Fleet Captain did not wish to be seen in the sickbay, especially right now with so many people trying to repair the Hospital or visit relatives.

Poison sighs and sits on the couch, rolling her shoulders back and shutting her eyes for a moment. "Nurse Anjar," she says softly, "What is your security clearance, please." Even though kat has left Starfleet her oath to never reveal top secret information would carry through to her death and beyond. She may not disclose any personal information about a patient anyway.

Kat takes a chair from the dining table and brings it over and puts it directly in front of her patient, and sits down, placing the med kit on the small coffee table, she opens it and takes out the medical tricorder.

"Level six, Stigma nine, Ma'am." Due to her work with the Caitain ambassador, and her personal attendance on other delegates or representatives at the Astaionian Council, Kat's security clearance was higher than most. Cait was a long time Federation member world and Caitians were a well respected species.

Poison shakes her head. Six was high, but not high enough. She doubts any clearance level would make her feel safe. The possibility of top secret information getting into the wrong hands was just too great. However the Stigma nine comforts her. "Anything you observe, examine or discuss with me from this point on is Classfied Top Secret and may not be revealed to anyone. You may not keep a log. You must remove all data from your devices," Poison points to the tricoder, "Do I make myself clear?"

"Understood, Ma'am," Kat says softly, bringing the tricorder to the position where it could read her patient's condition most effectively. As she reads the output her whiskers tremble. She wonders what this is all about.

An hour later, after the exam, tea and a chat are over, Kat steps back out onto the pathway and walks towards the Hospital.

Poison shivers. Despite the warmth of the spring morning, she feels chilled. She sits on a chair close to the hearth, some minutes pass while she thinks over what has just occurred. Finally, she closes her eyes, letting her mind go. In a moment, all that remains of her is the uniform on the floor, its combadge glinting in the light of the fire. The Wolf moves to an open doorway and slips out, heading for the forest and the mountain behind it.

=^=

'Endangered'

Poison.Toocool materializes outside of Souleymane's house. She is wearing a brand new medium combat uniform, obtained via the replicator in her ready room after Adum left her alone to dress. Her mind was a whirl. She has never felt so out of control. Although she has returned to her base form, her skin has a sheen to it and her eyes are golden. She stands for a moment outside the house, almost dreading going in and yet yearning to go in. She takes a deep breath or two, finally she opens the door quietly. Peeking around the corner of the hallway, she sees no one there. Perhaps he is upstairs. She steps back and goes into the little office that is hers, and sits down, leaning her head on her hands, wondering what the hell is going on with her.

Souleymane Senghor finishes cleaning out the bathroom upstairs and returns to his own bedroom. Who would have thought that cleaning could relieve so much frustration? Not that the house was a mess ... it wasn't. But the already neat as a pin house was now immaculate. Fukujuso and Aki were out exploring again. At this rate they would know every blade of grass within a thousand meters of home. He hears the front door open downstairs. That means either Fuku, Driss or Poison, as they are the only three with leave to enter without knocking. He begins to head downstairs and by the time he gets there he notes it isn't the child or his sister. He moves into Poison's office and sees her, head in hands. Stepping to the desk, he looks at her, his plans to have a stern talk with her vanishing in his concern. "Poison...." he rumbles, softly.

Poison.Toocool starts from her deep reverie, as Souleymane's deep but gentle voice sounds in the room. She looks up to him. The change to the wolf has helped to some degree, but since she fought it for so long, she has stressed her body. She feels weak and tired. So much so when she moves her hands down to the desk her fingers tremble. She says, "Hello," with a small smile, "I thought maybe you were sleeping." She could say a million things, tell him about all the different duties and conversations she's had, not to mention that Jude and Buni and Babu are on Astraios, but when she looks at his face it all disappears, she has no words, her mind is seized by an explosion of images and thoughts, finally she just says, "Oh Souley."

Souleymane Senghor didn't learn how to read people from a neatly uniformed Startleet Instructor. He'd learned from his father and his brother and a hundred devils he'd done business with in his young life. He notes the shaking hands. "I was cleaning." he tells her. "It's a great way to ...." and he cuts himself off when she speaks her name. He moves around the desk and kneels in front of her. A submissive posture, but ... he chose that rile in their relationship by choice and he doesn't DISlike it ... not with his Poison. From below her now, he will straighten slightly and embrace her if she allows it. "You lost it, didn't you?" he guesses, noting her golden eyes. He holds her, wondering if he's too late and its all come to a messy head already.

Poison.Toocool sighs with relief as he comes to her. She is not the type to use vacillation as a means to avoid the truth. She considers herself as someone who says what she means, diplomatically, with compassion. "I did," she says. Looking back, she can hardly believe what had occurred. The emotional outburst with Hars had brought her to the brink of a black hole that drew her in, she had fought tooth and nail to have the meeting with the Gaitians and Jude go well. She didn't want Souley to think that she didn't try to help Jude. She was doing so to the best of her ability and here he was, kneeling in front of her, showing her love and compassion, and she was holding back things that he should know. Was it a security risk? Perhaps, but he would never harm her or Jude by revealing it. And the... situation, with Hars, even she was in a tangled mess of confusion about it. She accepts Souley's touch even as she feels like a hypocrite that he trusts her so much while she is holding back.

Souleymane Senghor holds her. He has no idea what she is holding back from him, but he DOES know that he walked into the relationship with his eyes wide open. He knew what she as - Starfleet. And that meant they did not have the luxury of being as open, sweet, sugary and ... honest with each other as his twin and Hars. Even Soueymane holds back. HE has stopped being a smuggler .. but he still knows and utilizes plenty of them. Keeps his costs down as a legitimate businessman. He'd dealt with enough Ferengi to know, appreciate and USE their business philosophies when it suited him. "Do you want to talk about it?" he asks. "CAN you talk about it? I'm here ...." he reminds her. As he always has been thus far.

Poison.Toocool nods slowly, "I have some things to tell you." She decided that she has to tell him everything, no matter what the consequences might be for their relationship. He might be angry, he might understand, he may think she is more trouble than she is worth. She sits back to look at him: "Can we go into the kitchen? I'm hungry and... we can talk there."

Souleymane Senghor nods himself. "Sure. I'll make you something .. " he is a little concerned. 'I have to tell you something' was never good news in his life experience, but ... he will take the chance. He straightens and heads into the kitchen. He ALMOST says that Hars was there only a few hours ago, but opts against it. Theres enough going on. He gets a bowl and begins to whip up a wheat and oat pancake batter ... the oat cakes Driss made aren't suitable as she used eggs and milk and other things against Po's strict diet. He's learning. As he finishes stirring and begins to pour batter, he asks, casually. "What's on your mind, lover?"

Poison.Toocool sits down at the kitchen table, as Souley goes over to the stove to start to make something. She begins to say she'd be happy with a piece of fruit and a glass of water, but stops herself. If his hands are busy, it's a good thing... it's calming to have things to do, for most humanoids. Her mind is focusing on inane things while Souleymane is waiting. She looks at him. but doesn't really see him, as her mind is playing back the images from earlier in the day, and feeling again some of the emotions that she experienced. "I don't really know where to begin," she says in a small voice, "but I suppose I should start with Hars. He... came to see me today," she sighs, "Because I hadn't been talking to him or answering his messages, he was confused. He saw 'me' at the masked ball, and I smiled and clapped and applauded when he announced his engagement. But then I didn't respond to his messages and he wondered what I was doing." Her fingers curl into fists as she begins the story.

Souleymane Senghor is cooking for exactly the reasons she thinks he is cooking for. To have something to do. He'd promised himself .. no more broken dishes. At her confession about Hars, he doesn't glance over his shoulder. He reaches for a small dish of purple berries and drops them in the cakes before he flips them. "I know." he replies to her. "He came here right afterwards." he opts not to get into details. "Driss loved your gift, by the way." he pats at the cakes. "She thinks the world of you, you know. Probably at least as much as Fuku does." he moves to get a plate and goes back to put the now cooked cakes in a pile on it. As he brings the food, utensils and some Gatian sap to the table, he finishes with. "But not as much as I do." he winks and sets the food in front of her. "What else?" he wonders, as he knows the Hars stuff won't vanish overnight.

Poison.Toocool "Thank you," she looks at the food but her mouth is dry and she is almost too tired to eat. "I had... I don't know... I suppose humans would call it a kind of a breakdown. He tried to ask me what I was doing, why I was ignoring him, angry with him over Driss. I am. Angry. Hurt. I shouldn't be. It doesn't make sense. He was... someone I held on to, not physically," she adds quickly, "but he became to me like a talisman, a lucky charm, this place I could go and be myself and explain myself and my concerns, and have a sounding board... in some ways like a brother," she smiles slightly thinking of him and Driss, "and in other ways like an adopted father. I never had a father," her voice is quiet but there is a slight tremor, "I was unaccountably jealous, and you would be right to be angry and confused as to why. I never spoke to you about it, I never talked to anyone about it, there's few people I could talk to about something so personal, without appearing.. weaker in my role. I was furious with him, so much so that I wanted to hurt him, and through that I hurt Driss, and I hurt you. Logically I can't explain it. He isn't 'for me'. He never was." She sighs. "I think I imprinted on him, like a puppy might imprint on its mother. When he was 'leaving me' I... couldn't cope with the abandonment I felt. I had felt that once before and..." she says this very softly, looking at her plate, "I almost died."

Souleymane Senghor listens to her as he pours her some juice from a pitcher on the table. "Love hurts." he intones, as he sets the pitcher down. "All I can do is tell you that you haven't lost Hars, you just have to share him. Maybe like I have to share you with the Federation. And as for abandonment ...." he strokes his chin, freshly shaved after Hars and Driss left, as part of the cleaning ritual. "I know abandonment. I know guilt. And I know you still have issues from that last relationship. Of being abandoned." he tries to catch her eyes and look into them. "Why do you think I am doing all of this?" he doesnt motion but she probably understands he means everything. "New business. New house. New personality ... well.. almost. Why do you think I didn't have a fucking fit when you restricted me to the planet? Because I don't want to leave it while YOU are on it. Nothing but death will keep me from you, Poison Toolcool." he's never put it so bluntly before.

Poison.Toocool shakes her head. "Something in me doesn't like the phrase, "Still have issues from that last relationship. Maybe it seems that way to you, you've had more than one. But... my kind, we only are given one chance. One time, we give ourselves completely, one time, we have one child. We are entirely monogamist. Like some life forms on Earth, who mate for life and if one loses one's mate, remain alone until death. Why it is like that I don't know. Perhaps the... changing limits our capacity to mate or have younglings. I don't know, because we are so rare we are considered an endangered species and our whereabouts are top secret, even I, with all my security clearances, have to access to this information, I don't even know if it exists." She also acknowledges what he has said, "Nothing but death, will keep me from you either, Souleymane. I am for you, as much as I can be for anyone, ever, even more than I was with... Jam," she says the name hesitantly, disliking even to say it because she just wants the name and the man to be forever gone.

Souleymane Senghor listens to her words and his jaw slacks, if only for a moment when it hits him that she can never have another child. Only then does it hit him that he even wanted children with her. He shoves it away to deal with later. "Yea .. well ... if Jam and I ever meet." he shrugs. "But I can tell you this much. You fought me tooth and nail ... you din;t want to be of me or for me or even WITH me, remember? Now look at us." he suddenly laughs. "The only thing we're missing is a minister and a couple wedding rings and I don't need none of that to tell me who I belong to. YOU. And you belong to me .. so ... if I remember my schooling .. that makes us mates, Fleet Captain. Just cause you don't live here all the time .. shit this is only a house. None of that matters. So ... maybe you missed something .. or maybe you're unique. Whatever. I'm YOUR mate, even if you wanna keep on saying I'm not yours."

Poison.Toocool looks at him in surprise. She had been so busy just coping with all the changes in her life and the multiple issues with the Colony that she had forgotten he was human enough to want the traditional things she saw other humanoids doing. Or maybe he was motivated by Hars and Driss. "I told you from the start I didn't want to play happy families. I still don't," she says. "I don't want to be conventional. I am too conventional at work. At home I just want to be us. We don't need these possessions that others have to try to prove they belong to each other. We don't need some... person who claims to know something they read in a book gives them the right to make us a couple. We don't need a Starfleet captain to join us together as husband and wife. We are mated because we choose to be so, and no piece of paper, no oath, no ring, are going to make that a stronger bond, or give us ownership of each other. I come to you freely, knowing who you are and what you have done, and I give myself to you completely. I can't tell you everything that happens at my work for reasons I know you comprehend. But we are partners in every other way," her face is damp with sweat and her eyes glow slightly as she tells him.

Souleymane Senghor nods. "Thats what I MEANT, Poison." he tries to explain. "So stop telling me you can only give yourself ONCE ... because you got a second chance at this." he reaches out to her face as her eyes begin to glow. "Steady love." he'll cup and caress her face if she'll allow. "If nothing else is stable in your life .. I am ... well ... for what THATS worth." he quips. She's so on edge ... out of control.

Poison.Toocool "I had a meeting after Hars... a work meeting... I was so upset I started to change in the briefing. I had to fight it, hard. So hard I hurt myself. I just couldn't let myself change in front of... those people." She can hardly explain how it felt. "That is twice now, Souleyman, twice in less than what, two months? I never change without control, not since I was a youngling. I ALWAYS instigate it myself. But first with you, and then again today, I could not stop it." Her eyes are serious and troubled. "And I don't understand the depth of emotion I have felt about Hars and Driss. I don't want to feel it. That's why I gave her that gift, I wanted her to know... it's not like me to be... hateful like that."

Souleymane Senghor nods. "You've been acting ... more out of control lately. With me, I think it was finally giving in to our emotions .. that was ALSO the first time we made love." he reminds her. "I don't know about your meeting but .. since the first time we made love you've .... come close quite a few times in MY presence. It CAN'T be JUST this stuff with Hars. Driss ... hell Driss understood more than me or Hars did. Maybe because shes female ... I don't know .. but she knows you aren't hateful because you love me." he pauses again. "You can't have any kind of exam, can you. To make sure you're actually alright and don't have .... " he stammers a bit. "Some .. disease of .. a cold .. or whatever."

Poison.Toocool looks to him, "An exam? I don't know. I don't like medical exams. It's... difficult. I had to have one when I entered Academy," she remembers Jam had to come with her and hold her hand, and the Doctor, although quite understanding, had probably thought she was cracked. "There isn't a doctor here I would allow to examine me now that Genny has moved on to command."

Souleymane Senghor nods his understanding. "Well.. what about that Catian nurse... um ... Kitty or something." he remembers her. "She took care of me when I had scratches and all and you now how *I* am with doctors. I mean I have a dermal regenerator now so I don't see her anymore but .... you like her, right?"

Poison.Toocool nods slowly, she remembers Kat Anjar, a gentle soul who had left SS Astraios to work at the Caitian embassy, and was also practicing at the MCH. "Maybe, but I wouldn't want to go to the Hospital for it, they are so busy with the rebuild and there are many people there working, and SS Astraios is still being repaired."

Souleymane Senghor shrugs. "So have it here." he suggests. "Your home away from home. I'll even keep Aki out of the house for her. I kinda like the kid." he admits.

=^=

'The Wolf in Command'

Fleet Captain Toocool moves slowly towards Ensign Adum Brate, stiffly, almost robotically, and gives in a weak voice a command, "Jude Murphy may stay here with his counsel for fifteen minutes, see to it they are not disturbed and then... attend me in my ready room," the door swishes and she is outside the room, but still in view of the security guards who snap to attention, she ignores them entirely, stepping into the turbolift, falling against the side, managing to squeak out, "command 2"... moments later the turbolift arrives on the top level of the station. The doors swish open and a wild looking black wolf appears. It sniffs the air, whining, and snuffs at a ready room door, which opens to admit it.

Adum catches the message... something is happening. He smiles and says in a lovely female voice. "Yes, sir."

Jude Murphy and his entourage confer for a few minutes and then Jude is ready to go back to the brig and the Gati are ready to be shown their temporary quarters. None of them seem concerned.

In sixteen minutes, Adum is in front of the ready room door, entering, walking in and closing the door behind him.  As he walks in and looks around, he secures the door behind himself.  Then he spots the wolf.  He stops and considers, moving forward slowly, as anyone would when approaching a strange animal who doesn't know them.  This is a large animal and as he steps forward he takes his own measures to protect himself.  Slowly his chest flattens and the womanly curves harden into a male shape.  Within ten seconds, he is a sight to behold ... the female skin in a body as large as he could think of off the top of his head ...  Jude Murphy's

She shuffles, moving back and forth, eyes on the Being in front of her. The scent is unknown. But mixed with it is a familiar one, one She knows, one that seems to say 'safe'. She knows this odd cave too, She has been here before, not often, but several times, always alone, and never able to leave.

The Other grows in size, standing before her in what She takes to be an aggressive posture, rising, spreading, like an ursus arctos She met once in a forest she has never seen again. The smell is strange though. Human, yet not Human, not Animal, her nostrils flare as She examines it. Male?

There is shining behind her, the sky is open, as the Other moves its paws toward her, She turns and tries to leap over a fence towards the light, but meets something that stops her, with a small yelp She tumbles to the floor, and tries again, and fails. She cannot see anything but a barrier is there, and She is not able to be free. She whirls, snapping, snarling, warning the Other not to approach.

The rocks in the cave around her are queerly shaped into squares, rectangles. She goes beneath one of them, into the underbrush that grows up not much higher than her head, stopped by a long stone. The legs of the Other are still seen. Her growl grows deeper.

She thrusts her nose out into the open, glaring to the Other, hackles raised, her yellowed eyes alert, snout lowered, muscles flexing, ready to defend, ready to attack. Her growl is ominously low.

Adum finishes his transformation and watches the wolf. He'd almost missed the uniform on the floor but had brought it with him. Now he tosses it onto the couch and continues to approach. "It's alright." he says in the voice they had taught him to use with those they wished to calm. "I'm not going to hurt you."

The wolf leaps for the window, but of course bounces off. An office is no place for a wolf. He doesn't know exactly what is going on, but he knows one thing ... his comfort around the Fleet Captain was due to a kindred spirit. So he sort of follows, on his knees at the animals own level, continuing to speak kindly.

"Wow ... an animal." he marvels, conversationally. "I can't do animals. Things either. So I'm really impressed." the wolf winds up under a desk, looking out growling as if completely unimpressed. "Maybe I'm too big. let me see .... Let me try Klingon bones .. they're strong .. but a smaller body...." he begins to shrink. "I know the Fleet Captain wouldn't hurt me, but you're no puppy." he shrinks his body now and reinforces the bones in it. "I think I could stand it if you got mad now." he muses. "I mean .. don't test me on that one. But I don't bleed like others like this. I think no real blood might be an advantage." he cants his head and rolls on his back, putting his arms and legs in the air as hes seen village dogs do to show submission. "See .... I'm harmless."

The Other makes noises. She growls again, long and low, the reverberation a heavy vibration that rings in the cave despite its soft coverings. She has many memories. Forests, hills, rivers, rabbits, howling at the silver orb in the sky, tongue lolling, eyes glinting. Danger, and the hunt. Those who smell sweetly pungent walked on two paws, and carried fire sticks that could maim or kill any one of the pack. This one had that smell but it was somehow different. She dances slightly, a shuffling movement that could mean restlessness, that could mean alarm, that could mean She readies to leap. She looks out the bushes to It. It makes more noises, but changes its posture, down closer to the ground, its scent morphing. Her eyes narrow, suspicious. The Other now rolls submissively to her. She sniffs, doubting It, staying under cover, eyes ever alert.

Adum stays on his back, neck craned to look under the desk. He's been attacked by dogs before. Not all farmers on Astra were kind, and when he had panhandled, even in a female form, he had often been sent away or worse, had dogs set on him. He'd had little choice but to run to a place where he could assume a stronger form to fend the dog off and he never tried to harm them. Now he wondered, how could he calm this canine down. It was his Fleet Captain ... he knew that. Another secret he could keep, but he would keep it, as she was a fellow shape-shifter as well as his commanding officer. Considering his options, he rolled back on all fours and reached under the desk, mostly trying to lure it out into the openness of the office floor. Why, he did not know. He expected that stress had triggered this change and so he assumed that calming her down might get her to return to her usual shape. Glancing at his arm, he realized the initial change to Murphy's shape had been too much for his uniform and it was rags. Choosing the smaller shape had helped a bit, but it was still a mess. It looked as if he had ... well ... been attacked by a dog.

She backed away as the Other came towards her, the odor of It filling her nostrils until she sneezed, moving until her tail was against the wood that fenced her in. There was a kind of a trail between the wood and the flat stone held up by small trees, she turned and followed it, going to the door which had opened to let her in, she snuffed at it but this time it did not move. Further there were some soft rocks. She jumped up on them, looking towards the Other, whining, inside it felt like something was squeezing her, twisting her vitals. She had no sense of past or future, but She had memory. Her paws sank into the rocks, there was some kind of covering on them that caught her nails, and it stank of the two legs, but also there was that scent She knew, that one that was not just familiar but.. like her. The light still glinted, but She ignored it, intelligent enough to know it lied, there was no space where there appeared to be space, also it looked huge to her, which was odd because She was used to seeing it hanging on trees and here it was, close, bright, silver. She glanced to it, and back to the Other. What would It do now? She growled again, warning It to stay away even as the pain inside increased.

Adum licked his lips as the wolf backed itself into a wall. That could make it more dangerous, not less. But then it moves to the door, which does not open, as he had secured it. Last thing anyone needed was a wolf running around the station. His guess was few had seen the Fleet Commander in this state, and he felt it his duty to keep it that way. Tackling her might subdue her, but it would also provoke a fight. He crawls on all fours to the middle of the ready room and sits prone; on his bottom, his legs straight out and spread. Dangerous position but ... he wanted to appear as non threatening as he could. He leans forward and pats the floor with his hands flat. "Come on, Fleet Captain." he calls to her as if she was the cutest little puppy he'd ever seen ... which she is not. But he makes his voice playful. "It's OK, I just want to pet you, is all." he tells her. He steals a glance at the replicator .. but he knows Toocool follows a strict non meat diet, yet he cannot imagine this animal eating flour. "It's alright, honest." he says and peeks around the office for anything the animal might want to play with. Nothing. The Fleet Captain had a few decorations in her ready room, but a disappointing lack of dog toys .....

She whined again, collapsing to the soft stone, panting heavily, shivers of pain traveling through her, She trembled. Looking towards It as it made sounds with its paws on the ground, as It barked to her in short notes that rose and fell. She snapped at It even though It was a few feet away. She growled even more fiercely lest the pain show as weakness. The cave echoed the sound of her gritty rattle. She would give It no advantage. It seemed like a young wolf, wanting to play, but It did not look or smell like any cub She had ever known. A streak of hot, sharp pain knifed through her. Her eyes morphed into golden orbs. Her legs elongated, trimmed with fur but curving into feet instead of paws. A strangled yelp escaped her.

Adum watches the canine. Even though it snapped, he wasn't convinced it could or even would follow up on the threat. It seemed half hearted. Schooching forward, using his butt and hands, he comes closer. Then the creatures eyes begin to glow and another change seems to begin. He moves ever closer .... in an attempt to touch one of the feet, ever so gently ....

The skin on her lips pulls up. Her ears are laid tight against her head. Her sharp teeth are revealed as She snarls to the Other. The paw he reaches to her is rejected. Twisting, she hurls herself at It, raging, looking for the jugular vein, front paws raking while her rear legs drag behind her, long and useless. Even as She reaches to rip Its neck open, She changes. In a moment, She is Poison Toocool, dropping with an 'oomph' on the chest of the other humanoid in the room, pain still racking her body, which is sheening with sweat, emitting a silver aura, and entirely nude.

Adum begins to change even as the wolf begins to hurl. Cardassian skin will have to do as he's never tried to be a Gati and has not yet considered the upsides to taking their form. She comes within a millimeter of closing teeth on his throat when she changes. Naked, she falls on top of him and he lays still, looking up at her. But he can only imagine what she is thinking as her eyes look a little lost and disconnected. That being said, he must look a mess. The skin is that of the Ensign he'd been in the meeting, but under that is the obvious Cardassian musculature .. especially the neck and neck and shoulder ridges. Overall his body is that of a medium sized human male. But his uniform is in tatters and even though she is completely naked, which he knew when he picked up her torn uniform, he looks like a shipwreck survivor .. he went from a small human female to a large male to a medium sized male and the uniform had not been able to take the adjustments. But he does not blush. Nudity doesn't embarrass him. But he knows she may be uncomfortable, so he tries to put her at ease. Using the voice she'd met him under .. that of a female, he smiles softly. "Ensign Adum Brate, reported as ordered, sir."

She slowly regains her conscious mind. A shudder runs through her, a familiar sensation that means she has returned from another form. Since she has no memory of it, she knows it was the She-Wolf. The pain begins to subside. Her humanoid senses return. The hum of the station surrounds her. Ready room? The smell is familiar, yes. But. There is a mix of bone, muscle and skin supporting her weight. The scent tells her immediately it is not Souleymane. She lifts her head and sees a chunky female face... Adum? "Eyes closed," she orders, rolling off, and crawling away until she is behind her desk, grabbing a scrap of torn uniform cloth as she goes. She sits on the carpet, back to the desk, on the opposite side to Adum. Her skin is flushed, her eyes gold-bright. Weakly: "Dismissed."

=^=

Black Dew

The landing bay of the station seemed to be expecting them - the soft ones had been right about that. A uniformed soft one led them both from their craft and down hallways and turbolifts to yet another set of doors. It was hard for either of them to know what the soft ones thought … but one wanted to look in the box Buni carried, and she simply looked at him. Babu stood beside her and said not a word. “Your Fleet Captain Poison Toocool expects us, if I understand right.” Buni said and looked again at the door as if expecting the young officer to open it and let them have their meeting.

The young Ensign lead the two Gaitians to the massive lobby of the spacestation, and into a special turbo lift that rose to command deck. As instructed, she took the two aliens to the Sector Briefing Room. Opening the door, she ushered them in. It was a large room, with a long table and several chairs, and a sideboard with a replicator and other refreshments. "Please help yourself," the officer said, "I will inform the Colony Commander that you have arrived." The door swished as she left. Two uniformed security guards took their places in the hall, on other side of the door.

Her door chimed, Po Toocool looked up from her computer console, "Come." A security officer entered, "Ma'am, the Gaitians are in the briefing room as instructed."

Crisply, Toocool ended her browser session and stood up to leave. She'd read all she could about Jude Murphy. She tugged at her uniform jacket and ran a hand over her hair. "Stand by to transport the other party if so ordered." She had decided to see the Gaitians alone, to begin with. If she had Souley, or Jude himself there, the answers to her questions might be tempered or influenced.

She had certainly seen Gaitians and even spoken to them the brief times she had visited Souley on Gati... but she really didn't know any of them. Her impression was that they were intelligent and stalwart beings, and perhaps deceptively calm. Decades ago they had overcome the miners who had enslaved them, and taken the moon N'Doto to be their home. "This should be interesting," she said as she stepped through her ready room door and moved to the turbo lift to take it down one deck to the command reception rooms.

The officer followed her, but did not enter the room. She waited, as ordered, on the other side of the door, checking via communicator to be sure that the prisoner, Jude Murphy, was ready for transport.

They had not sat. Instead, they both stood at the window, looking at the space outside of the window. They heard her walk in and turned as one. Babu took a step forward. "Hello Fleet Captain Poison Toocool." his voice sounding a bit like an avalanche. "It is good to see you again." his tone is ... mostly inflectionless. He lifted his arm to indicate the female with him. "This is Buni Chuku. She and I are carved from the same stone. Her role here is to tend to Jude Murphy's health. Mine is to speak to you about all other business that you have with N'Doto." Buni turns then, the box still in her rock hand.

"A pleasure to finally truly meet you, Fleet Captain Poison Toocool." her voice was a bit softer ... more like pebbles going down a hill. "How is Jude Murphy? I expect he is beginning to tense." eh lifts the box. "This will help him. I will prepare it and give it to him. Then perhaps we can visit with Souleymane Senghor, as I do not think he knows we are here. Unless you told him."

Poison entered, seeing the two Gaitians by the window she quickens her stride to reach them. She is unsure of the proper civility. Humans liked to shake hands, she always felt uncomfortable doing so. The touch of another being would often send electric sparks through her system. She would get a snapshot of their state of being. It was nothing tangible, just a momentary sense of their energy. Their hands would often be moist and warm, perhaps from nerves. She could be strict, demanding, but she hoped she was always fair.. still it was natural, she supposed that her authority and bearing would cause some humans to be hesitant in her presence. But now, in the Sector Briefing room, she pauses for a moment, then bows her head to the Gaitians respectfully. "I greet you Babu and Buni. Welcome to Astra, and to Astraios Colony. I hope your journey was short and your arrival pleasant." She considers for a moment what Babu has said, "Does Jude Murphy have a health problem?" She had restricted access to the security brig to just Minx and Brate. Neither one had reported any health issues. She frowns slightly, looking at the box Buni holds, "I think you better tell me what this is all about. But first... may I offer you some refreshment?" She has no idea if they eat or drink like other beings, although she had seen a Gaitian serve drinks in an establishment on Gati, she had not seen one consuming any.

Both Babu and Buni watched the Fleet Commander come in and greet them. he bowed head interested them, but not overly much. Various soft beings had various ways to greet each other besides their voices. Her greeting causes them to simply do the same, willing to mimic whatever the soft one greeting them is comfortable with. But then she asks about Jude and his health problem and offer refreshments. Buni replies, as this is why she has come. "Our dietary needs are few." she tells her. "We drink of that from which we are made." she explains in her gravely voice. It suggests that they consume their dead and that is not far off, as they replace the minerals they are made of with minerals. Or it could simply mean they eat and drink rocks. "So thank you very much for your offer, Fleet Captain Poison Toocool, but we must decline." she does not look at the box in her hands as she now moves onto it. "Jude Murphy knew that this day would come, although he said he would have put it off for another century." she pauses. "The story of why he must have this tea..." alluding that the box is full of tea. "Is not mine to tell. But I will tell you that if he does not drink this tea, that he will die what would probably be a painful death. I must give it to him, as any soft one who comes in contact with this for too long will become addicted as Jude Murphy was forced to. We will not because we are not porous as you soft ones are. He does not want that." and that is when Babu speaks. "It is true that he does not want that. And that will be part of my defense against the charge of desertion that he is sure you will charge him with." without a shrug of the shoulders, a twitch of the lips ... "Black Dew must never be consumed. If it is your decision to execute him, once that is done, we will destroy all of the Black Dew that had been in Jude Murphy's possession." his voice shows no emotion, which can make it sound as if he does not care one way or another if Jude Murphy is executed or not.

Po is still reeling inside after her emotional outburst with Hars. She'd tried to settle down by reading more about Jude Murphy, sitting quietly with a cup of her favourite Earl Grey. She felt... like she was standing on shifting tides of sand that threatened to engulf her. Starfleet had given a structure to her life that she had found at first to be stifling and then, later, a godsend. She learned to measure things in days and hours, to take satisfaction in writing reports and analyzing data. The one thing that wasn't constant were the humanoids she had to deal with. Some were as steady as a rock, these she learned she could rely on... like Genny Markus or David Bravin. Others said one thing and did another, or would use those around them to get what they wanted, like authority, or title, or money. Starfleet's training was supposed to weed out those who were not to be trusted, but even though the rigorous years in Academy accomplished a great deal, she was aware that not every graduate really had 'the right stuff'. Not everyone was a warrior or a scientist, though. Some were meant to work on warp drives and leave the angst of diplomacy to others.

Although they have declined refreshments Poison crosses to the table to get a glass of cold water. She lifts it to her lips, her hand trembling slightly. "It seems then, that I must allow you to give Jude Murphy this 'tea'." She turns to look at them, "Is it dangerous if I am in the same room?" She puts the glass down, feeling again a sense of distance, as though she is half waking, in a dream. "I must ask you not to speak of desertion to anyone other than myself. At present, the only charge is that of selling weapons without the proper license, required now under Starfleet Regulations Sector G-Zero Zero Nine D: Four Five Five Alpha Magma. My Yeoman can give you the reference material. But first," she turns and goes to the door. As it swishes open, she speaks to the young female officer. "Ensign, please bring Jude Murphy to this room." She steps back and turns again, moving back to the table she had just left, and leaning on it, looks to them. "A charge of desertion might be forthcoming. That will depend on what Lieutenant Commander Murphy has to say, along with any evidence." They had asked to see Souley, she left that matter until later. She had not told Souley that Jude was on Astra. Yet.

The Gatians watched and listened. Babu again fell silent and still, while Buni spoke up. "We cannot force you to do anything, Fleet Captain Poison Toocool." she rumbles. "Or, I should say that you may deny us access. But that action would have consequences for Jude Murphy." They were not the type that would fight their way through the station to find and administer. Even after their liberation of themselves, that had not changed very much. Black Dew is only dangerous if ingested, but it can be ingested through the skin." she explains. When the Fleet Captain mentions the charges, Babu 'comes to life'. "I would like to read them, thank you." he watches as the Ensign comes in, receives her orders and leaves again. "Then we will see what Jude Murphy has to say." he becomes still again, with Buni asking, "May I have a glass of water for Jude Murphy please?" she asks and, if she gets it, she will move to the table with the glass and her box, open the box, which will contain what looks like some kind of dark green powder. She will take a pinch of the powder and add it to the liquid, which will go from clear to the powders dark green to pitch black as she stirs it with her stony finger.

Jude Murphy feels himself remateralizing, the hand of a female ensign lightly on his arm, as if to remind him that he is in custody. He sees the room, the Fleet Captain, Babu and Buni. He also sees a glass of pitch black liquid. Black Dew. As he is not yet suffering from any bad withdrawal, he remains casual as the Ensign steps back, towards the door. She stands there, her face impassive. Just blending into the background. Inhaling deeply, he nods in the direction of all three of them. "Fleet Captain Toocool." he says, acknowledging her presence. He almost speaks again, but decides against it. But his eyes move again to the Black Dew. It's been a couple of days and, even if he doesn't show any anxiety yet, he is well aware he needs the drug. However, he opts not to move, standing at something like parade rest; feet spread, back straight, his hands lightly clasped behind his back. With Buni and Babu here, an the glass ready, she obviously knows he needs the liquid. Now he simply waits to see if she will offer it to him, order him to take it, or wait and see if he will make a move towards it. A false move and he knows the Ensign will make her own move to protect the Fleet Captain.

Poison obtains a glass of water for Buni, and places it on the table, moving away herself with a gesture to say that Buni could go ahead. She had intended to have the Yeoman brief Babu, but thinks better of it. Going to the briefing table, she takes one of the generic PADDs left there to hold agenda's and allow access to records. She deletes the links to those from memory, then obtains access to Starfleet LCARS and the document in question. She also sets it up that Babu can access any further generally accessible legal documents and records of past trials. She then moves to him, "This will assist you to read up on Starfleet regulations, if you need assistance to access anything on the list or if you have trouble with the PADD, please contact Yeoman Ross, I have put him as well as myself on the contact list." She had not included Souleymane. He might be a witness on Jude's behalf, but she preferred to wait until a request was made. "Will we need to destroy the glass after the tea has been consumed?" She asks Buni. A glow to her right quickly changes into Jude and the female Ensign. Po's eyes follow the officer's movements as the Ensign moves to stand in front of the door. "Lieutenant Commander Jude Murphy," she replies, "we have permitted access to your person by Buni Chunku for medical reasons. Babu Chunku?" she falters slightly, as Babu had not said his full name but had indicated Buni was his sister. Po was a stickler for detail and had approved their travel here. She blinks as she realizes she cannot remember his full name, "is here to provide legal counsel for you. He has been apprised of the charges and has access to our regulations and past court history in order to prepare your defence." She at least had enough grasp of the present moment to articulate required information in a reasonable form.

Buni watches as Babu takes the PADD with a hand and gently begins to tap at its screen, gathering information. She looks at the Fleet Captain. "Yes. The glass will need to be destroyed if it cannot be thoroughly washed. If it is a soft thing, they must wear protective gloves. If this can be done here, I will be happy to do it." when Jude appears she watches him and, when he does not move for the glass, she takes it to him, internally amused at this thing called pride in so many of the soft ones, even him. "Drink." she commands, hoping it will cover some for him. They are very fond of Jude, even if their physical selves cannot show that very well.

Jude takes the glass from Buni with a softly murmured "Thank you." and then hears his rank and his name spoken from the Fleet Commander. It's been a very long time since he was addressed by his rank, it feels as if he should look around for this man. "Thank you, Fleet Commander Toocool." he rumbles, politely. He lifts the glass and brings it to his lips. It takes three swallows to empty and by the time he is done and slowly lowers the hand with the glass, his eyes are closed. He can feel the Dew working its way down and giving him what he needs. It is almost a solid minute before he opens his eyes. "Yes. Buni and Babu Chuku." he rumbles, softly. "Carved from the same rock. What we would consider twins." he turns to look at her, his storm grey eyes taking in every detail. "And what ARE those charges?" he asks. "Selling weapons without a license, of course. Am I also being charged with desertion?" he wonders. "It HAS been over forty years since my last report." he seems relaxed, almost casual. Whether it is from the drug or from the days in confinement, it is hard to say.

Po watches as Jude Murphy is given his 'tea'. Looking to Buni afterwards, she says, "Best you destroy the glass, that way we can be sure no one here will be harmed." She considered Jude's question. "At present you are being charged with selling weapons without a license. Your representative has the specific regulations." She nods to Babu. "As to the other... before I can make that determination, I need to hear from you, exactly what happened." In looking over the records, she was sure many details were missing. "You are in the presence of the Colony Commander, your legal representative, his twin sister. Do you wish to speak openly now?" Inside, she could feel the silver energy morphing into something else. She was unsure if she was affected by the stress of her emotions, an aftermath of the meeting with Hars, the presence of the Black Dew, or if she was ill. She refused to follow the impulse to change, something that rarely occurred, but now this would be twice in the space of weeks. Souleymane, Hars, the Treman coup, the fire on Beryl, the explosion on SS Astraios, the sabotage at the Hospital, and here she had to deal with someone she knew Souley loved, but was in custody and faced serious charges. Her skin took on a luminous sheen as she struggled to calm. Her eyes went to the female Ensign, who was Adum Brate in another form.

Jude does not move as the Fleet Captain speaks. Exactly what happened? He looks around the room. At the Colony Commander, his legal representative and his twin sister acting in her capacity as his nurse. In many ways, this was the opportunity he had been waiting for … for decades. The chance to tell what had happened to him OFFICIALLY. He can't read Toocool's face, nor the face of the Ensign by the door. They may as well be Gati, he thought. Finally, he turns and stands in a position where he can look Toocool in the eye. “I do.” he answers her. Then he is quiet a moment … “In twenty three seventy one, I was sent on a mission under deep cover to infiltrate the Maquis.” that may have been the simplest part of his story. “During that mission, I made friends and, of course, enemies.” he purses his lips and sighs. “I stayed with them for a couple of years. My reports were few and far between and after a year I didn't DARE send any more. It was too dangerous. But … that was part of the job. Get the information and get out, because no one from Starfleet is going to GET you out.” there was no real emotion in his voice, even as he emphasized words. “In my branch of Starfleet Intelligence … we were very much expendable.” he paused. “ Early in twenty three seventy three, I got in a fight with one of my so-called friends. He hit me with a tranquilizer dart, tied me up and sold me to Cardassian scientists. To this day, I don't know how much money he got for me. I was barely conscious for the deal.” he licks his lips, remembering. “Cardassians .. at the time anyway … liked to dabble in DNA research. And one of the things they wanted to do was to create a super solider. But whatever they were doing … it was killing Cardassians … and besides, they wanted this weapon to be used against the Federation or the Founders … or both … it's hard to say which side of the street they were going to stay on from one week to the next back then. Anyway, the scientist assigned to me was working on a drug that would improve the users strength, stamina, eyesight, hearing. They decided that human beings might be better suited to the … augmentation that the drug causes.” only now does he stop looking at the Colony Commander and looks at the box that Buni had on the table. “Black Dew.” he whispers and then looks back. “I became taller. Stronger. My eyesight and hearing improved. But my body temperature plummeted. And I became very sensitive to sunlight. My overall mass became greater.” he inhaled and exhales slowly. “But it came with some … growing pains ...” he nods slowly to himself. “It was like someone had removes the marrow from my bones and inserted ground glass. Same with the other humans they experimented on. After two years I was the only survivor. The others … died during the genetic augmentation the tea caused, went insane from the pain and committed suicide … or, once they realized I was the strongest of what was left … were denied the Dew.” he tenses his jaw and Toocool may hear it crack a bit. “You see, when denied Dew after becoming addicted to it, the body attempts to revert to the state it was at before addiction. Very painful. And always fatal.” he swallows. “Well .. I went in with my own special Starfleet training. I guess that's why I lasted the longest. But also .. I listened to EVERYTHING … watched EVERYTHING … and I learned what Black Dew was, how to grow it, how to cultivate it .. everything there was to know about it, I learned. And STILL almost died in twenty three seventy five, when Cardassia fell. I killed the lead scientist myself. Stole a small ship and got off the planet. It was not easy, either. But I did it.” he straightens in pride. “For a while I hid on moons or wherever I could. I have very good survival instinct. Sometimes it was close. I have to take Dew on a daily basis. Back then I couldn't go a week without the pains of my body trying to revert to it's original state. Anyway, I eventually made it through the wormhole, past Deep Space Nine to this quadrant. And I found Gati.” he looks at Babu and Buni before again looking at the Fleet Captain. “N'Doto is cold, foggy … it's brightest day doesn't hurt my skin very much, but I still keep covered. It's also INSIDE the Takaar nebula. So no communications. That's why it is so beloved by pirates, smugglers and fugitives.” he pauses. “Or it was until Starfleet found it.” he pronounces. He takes in a deep breath. “But you want t know why I didn't report in. I'd only been gone a couple of years. Why not just report myself to Starfleet Command?” he inhales again. “Because I had no intention of being autopsied so that the Science devision could find out what Dew does and then apply it to others. And yes, I believed then and believe now that could happen.” he blows out a breath. “So why not, commit suicide? Because I'm too strong wiled and too … well trained. And even I am curious to see how long I can live on the Dew.” he shrugs, finally. “I only turned eighty years old a little bit ago.” he tells her. “And, the scars notwithstanding, I still look the way I did when my augmentations began. So I expect that as long as I keep taking the Dew and am not summarily executed … I can live indefinitely.” He pauses, still watching the Colony Commander, who seems to be … glowing .. as he speaks.

Adum watches the colony commander as Jude Murphy speaks, disguised as a guard and in female form no less. He tenses, almost in-perceptively, wondering what was happening to her.

"In twenty three seventy one you went in deep undercover, and the reports on file are few and far between until the last one, in twenty three seventy three," Poison confirms what he has said. There was little else on record besides his vital statistics. After his disappearance there should have been an investigation of some kind, relatives contacted to inform them he was missing in action somewhere in the Alpha Quadrant. "You left behind a wife and child, both of whom have passed away from unrelated causes in the years since your... loss. We could not find any other records for you."

She raises a hand to her forehead, brushing back tendrils of hair, "I am concerned about Black Dew, the fact that you are able make it, consume it and possibly distribute it. What assurances can you give that you make it for your use only?" She felt a pity for him despite her internal struggles, she tried to focus on him, his needs, his status, his actions, and quell the queasy urges sending unseen tremors through her body. "When you escaped, you made no attempt to contact Starfleet?" She shook her head, "I find it difficult to believe they would have killed you," but she could be wrong, perhaps they would have seen him as a danger. She feels his eyes on her, but she is looking at Adum, as though willing the young woman to give her strength, or perhaps sending a warning.

"The conditions of your capture, torture and the experimentation forced upon you may mitigate the circumstances of your desertion. I will have to discuss this with JAG to find out." She moves slowly towards Adum as she speaks this last sentence, stiffly, almost robotically, and gives in a weak voice a command, "Jude Murphy may stay here with his counsel for fifteen minutes, see to it they are not disturbed and then... attend me in my ready room," the door swishes and she is outside the room, but still in view of the security guards who snap to attention, she ignores them entirely, stepping into the turbolift, falling against the side, managing to squeak out, "command 2"... moments later the turbolift arrives on the top level of the station. The doors swish open and a wild looking black wolf appears. It sniffs the air, whining, and snuffs at a ready room door, which opens to admit it.

Jude Murphy barely remembered much after Toocool spoke the words "You left behind a wife and child, both of whom have passed away from unrelated causes in the years since your... loss. We could not find any other records for you.". She mentioned Black Dew and then JAG … and then Babu asking him if he wanted to talk. He told the Gatian that he wanted to be alone … and he did. If Babu replied, he missed it.

Now back in his cell, he absorbs the information Toocool had given him, and his reaction to it. He had not expected his wife to stick around anyway … their marriage was a rocky one, held together more by their daughter than anything else. And in his years 'away' he had only truly missed his daughter. So much he had commissioned Onyx from the Gati thirty years ago. The statue was nothing like his daughter, of course, but she gave him more comfort than anyone realized. The stone being was one of the few who could claim that they helped Jude hold onto the little humanity that he had left.

He lay back on his bunk and stared at the ceiling again. It was a position from which he could meditate … and center himself. And absorb the information that he truly had no more living blood relatives.

=^=

'You were not there'

Poison Toocool hears the door chime. She hesitates. She's been dreading this interview with Hars after all they've been through. He hurt her badly, as illogical as it sounds, when he began a relationship with Idrissa. She's not anymore prepared to deal with it now than she was when she first found out, weeks ago. She frowns as the door chimes again. She turns to the door, straightening. Her hands are fisted at her sides, she deliberately relaxes them and puts them behind her back. Her voice is low and taunt as she calls, "Enter."

Hars Darax enters the ready room. He had been here many times before, but not recently. His relationship with Po had changed radically. He used to be her confidant, he would always be waiting for her when she returned from a deployment or a long day at work, usually with a chilled drink and a salad on the patio of her home, or a tea here, in this room, where they would discuss the politics of the day, issues she had, his thoughts on Astra and the Sector. But now he was out of the loop, and got his news from the media like many others did. He supposed that change was inevitable now that he was involved with Idrissa. The thought of her, the image of her, is always in his mind. It is for her he has come today. "Thank you for seeing me," he says in his gritty voice, "I know you must be busy." He had been about to call her Fleet Captain but stopped. He'd always called her Poison or Po, unless they were in company.

Poison fixed her eyes on Hars, standing almost at attention, every inch the commander of the colony and this very vessel on which they stood. It was her pride and joy in many ways. She remembered the early days when there was nothing at the Colony but an old nondescript building that had fallen into disrepair. How much work had to be done to build even a shadow of what they had now. And the station! Many parts brought from Pinastri via freighter, labouriously put together piece by piece until it was finally ready to go into service. Those memories brought another image to her mind, and her face blanched. She took a breath and said, "You requested a meeting. I know you have something to say that is important or you would not have contacted me during my duty shift."

His eyes searched her face. He'd seen her wince a moment ago. Was he the reason? He hated to think so. She looked so imperial, but he knew her heart. He moved towards her hesitantly, "I... I needed to talk to you, Poison. It's been far too long, it isna healthy, this... distance between us." He stood only a couple of feet from her but it felt like a huge chasm was between them, one he could not leap even if he had two good legs. He'd been a bit sneaky, he admitted. He figured if he tried to see her at home, she would avoid it. But since he had gone through her Yeoman, and made an appointment to see her, it was somewhat of an official request.

She felt, rather than saw, him move towards her. The energy of other beings was something she often sensed. It allowed her to know if they were hurt or troubled or calm. Not always. She could be fooled, and badly. But she had been open to him due to their long association, and she had always trusted him. Until Driss. Her thoughts were so conflicting she spoke almost without knowing whether the words were taking up space outside of her. She shivered slightly, "I had to ... protect myself." 

Hars looks to her intently, his face puzzled. She was a mystery to him sometimes. Like now, when she spoke so cryptically. "Protect yourself?" he asks, almost under his breath, unable to fathom why a small change in their relationship would make her feel she was somehow in danger. "I don't understand," he feels impotent, she clearly was not going to allow him to comfort her with a hug or a kiss, so he stands rather lamely, thrusting his hands, slightly dusty from the garden, into his pockets. In one he finds a small stone he had kept for Fuku because it was an agate, pretty and pink. He fingers it as the silence falls between them. He wished suddenly she would laugh at something he said like the old days.

Po let out a long slow breath. How could he understand? Who could. She was... what she was, and she felt things a certain way. She had no idea how others like her behaved or managed or lived. She was alone in a crowd of millions who could never really know her. She had very nearly died in the first months she had been on Astra. From grief. She'd lost two parts of herself, her youngling and her husband, and between the death of her one and only child and the desertion of her many-promised partner, she had only a thread to cling to. Her work. She took over the reins of the Colony then, and the long days, nights, endless discussions, plans and paperwork kept her busy and eventually, after a couple of years had passed, she had begun to feel whole again. Then she met Hars. First just officially as he was Captain of the flagship that had travelled for months to get here. Afterwards, as someone who had nearly died after the Spouwwqna had taken over his ship... she had sat in sick bay with him for many hours. A friendship had grown between them and he had become part of her life. "I looked for you when I came home, and you were not there."

He frowns again, almost ready to ask when this had happened but then he realizes... she means that since Driss came into his life, he had stopped his practice of always being around when Po came back from whatever duty or deployment she had been on. He turns and looks out the window at the moon, shining on the station. "I'm sorry," he says softly. "I didn't know what to do. I couldn't leave Driss alone everytime you came home. And then... I knew about Souley, from Driss," because Po had never told him, not really, "and I thought I would be in the way." He turns back to look at her, so stiff and official, "We didna promise each other anything, Poison. In all our times together, we were friends, great friends, and I do love you as my best friend. I've missed you," he wants to reach for her and make her understand.

Po looks to him. Her heart is like a stone. She cannot really even put into words the desolation she felt when she heard that Hars was with Driss. Even though she'd had a budding relationship with Souley, that was all mixed up too. But underneath it all is a black anger that scares her. "I thought you would be .. there for me forever," she says bitterly, unable to quell the depths of darkness that threatens. In the deep night of her mind, a distant memory materializes. She had been betrayed before. "Never mind," she waves her hands in front of her, "go away and leave me alone, Hars." She turns away, "I can't explain it. I can't tell you why. I only know this is how I feel." Her luminous eyes brim with tears.

"I don't understand, A leanbh. I didna want to hurt you. I didna want you to feel betrayed by me. I thought you... well... maybe in time you would be a little happy for me. Or did you expect me to stay alone for the rest of my life?" He's serious. She had never even hinted that they could be together, not once. 

A choked sob escapes her as she shakes her head, "I wanted you to fill a void in me," she confesses so quietly it may not be heard. "So much of you is what I wanted in a companion, what I thought I had once before... but I could not trust it, because I was afraid. I am still afraid." She turns to look at him, her face wet with tears, "I was afraid with you, and I am afraid with Souley." In case he was going to speak again she said, "I need time. For you these past months seem like enough. For me, I could live a century and still need more time to heal. Maybe I never will. Maybe this wound, this one deep wound, will never be able to truly disappear." She sighed again and moved away, fingering something she had on her desk. Then she turned to him, holding out her hand. "Please give this to Idrissa for me." If he will allow, she will take his hand and let the item fall into his palm.

He accepts her touch and looks in his hand to see a small silver charm. It is a scottish piper. He looks to Poison in surprise. "Thank you. I am sure she would be thrilled to have this. Would... would you no like to give it her yourself?"

She shakes her head, "I would like her to have it now. Perhaps it will help her to feel... more comfortable, to know that I accept her as your... mate." The door chimes then, and she turns, wiping her cheeks with her hands, calling, "Come."

Yeoman Ross steps inside the door, "Excuse me Sir," he glances to the man with her, "Captain," he nods, he knows Hars Darax well, then back to Po with some urgency in his voice, "Fleet Captain, there is a communique Security would like you to see right away." 

Hars puts the charm in his pocket, "I should go. Thank you, thanks Po.. Fleet Captain." He moves away.

"Put it through to my PADD," Po tells the Yeoman, glancing at Hars back as he leaves. Somehow, she feels... lighter.

=^=