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.

=^=