From the Shadowdancer... "The Hidden Clause" by Shane Taggart with Trey Onadan Special Guest Writer: Jennifer Black as Taella Chendrel The Shadowdancer was quiet. It was nice for a change; too often lately had the clattering of broken conduits hitting the floor or the sound of what could be construed as a potential warp core breach echoed softly in the small vessel. It was true what they said: silence is golden. Shane sat in the big chair on the bridge, having relaxed into his perpetual duty of running the night shift. Trey was at the helm not doing much of anything, autopilot was a wonderful invention. Trey was a good pilot, or at least he had shown that in simulations, but maneuvering a vessel in real life as opposed to the safety of the holodeck was a lot different. The kid tried, though, and that was enough for Shane. Whether or not it would work in the boy's future, that was still uncertain. He tapped a PADD, reading up on the latest happenings in the 'Fleet. The Dominion War didn't look to be going well for either side, but as long as he didn't have to be in the thick of it he was happy. The Romulans had entered the war. Joy. It was a benefit to the Federation and their allies, it was obvious, but Shane had mixed feelings about it. When he was a Romulan, and he still shuddered to reminisce to such a time, he wouldn't have helped a member of lloann'na if they had captured him and had threatened to remove his still-beating heart. Oh, those were good times. "Shane," Trey started, having looked up from his own PADD to the communications console. He tapped the surface frantically as if he had no idea what to do, then swivelled in his seat. "We're getting a transmission from No Hope Station for you. I don't know why, or who, but it has explicit direction for you. It could - " "Get some sleep Trey." Shane said before the boy could finish. He shrugged off Trey's bewildered expression. "I'll take the rest of the watch." "But, the message..." "Trey, I got it. I'll handle it. Just... Just get some sleep, okay?" "I want to know..." "Trey." His words deadened, their tone serious and authoritarian-like. "I'm not going to tell you again." Looking a bit lost and almost hurt, Trey nodded absently and trudged to the turbolift. Muttering under his breath was one of Trey's strong suits and it brought a smile to Shane's face as he did so. The kid was finally learning how to pick and choose his battles. It had only taken him about two years, but he was catching on. "'Dancer, activate the message from No Hope and direct it to the main viewer." The green face of a familiar Orion came upon the screen, a small hint of a smile pulling at her lips. "Hello there. Still alive despite yourself, I see," she commented drily. "Are you out of your fucking mind? What part of 'covert' did you not understand? If I wasn't the one watching the bridge who knows what kind of shit I would've had to put up with." He wasn't worried about the repercussions of Nate and Dan finding out about his ploy to scout ahead, hell, they should be grateful at his ability to see logical strategy. "Private communique next time, got it?" Taella became very interested in the condition of her dark nail polish, examining the fingertips of one hand while half waving him off with the other. "Private, public; prying eyes see what they want to. Why bother encrypting when you'll end up with the same results either way?" "It's the thought that counts." Shane said sarcastically, eyeing her carefully. "No one ever accused me of being thoughtful." "Not a surprise." She lifted an eyebrow, looking down her nose at him. "Insults? My dear man, you disappoint me. Especially after all of the hard work I've been doing for you." Shane smirked, "Can we not talk about the other night? I'd much rather talk about the job you've been doing on No Hope, if you don't mind." His own brilliance was remarkable to him, but he would just chalk it up to one of his many endearing qualities. Right up there with unrelenting wit, clean assassinations, and a flawless appearance. Okay, and his modesty was renown too. She sat back, smiling innocently. "Of course. No Hope is, after all, your typical station in that it has scoundrels and would-be scoundrels, like yourself, aplenty. No one's accounting for all of them. But major crime organizations? Big trouble? Sorry, darling, but you're not going to run into much fun with your crew. And I know how much you clearly adore trouble." "You would know, wouldn't you?" Shane stared at her suggestively. "So, as of now, there is no big bad? I don't have to worry about the Syndicate or Dominion forces? Nothing that's going to pop up and take out half of our already-ragtag crew?" "Nope. You're safe from everyone except me. And then only unsafe if you want to be." Chendral grinned at him ferociously. He nodded absently as the arrival procedures ran through his head. "Okay. So, as of now, I don't want any further contact with you until we arrive unless it's dire. Understand? No calling, no saying 'hello', and no forwarded calls. I'll meet you at Clive's Cantina, second level, when we arrive. Okay?" "No contact. And don't be slow getting to the cantina. I hate people who keep me waiting." Shane perked an eyebrow, smiling, "You didn't have that complaint the other night." She dismissed him idly, a hint of a smirk on her face. "That's different. And assuming our relationship stays on that same 'businesslike' level that it did the other night... I am sure we can continue solidifying... professional relations for the future." "Indeed," he agreed coyly. "We should arrive within 24 hours. I'll see you then. Shane out." The channel clicked closed. Shane's face disappeared from the monitor. A hand reached over the top and deactivated from Taella's side. There was a sinister smile followed by an even more insidious chuckle. "There," the evil voice said, looking at her, "That wasn't so difficult. And, it'll be worth it in the long run, I'm sure. And, next time, I'm only going to have to ask you once. Isn't that right? For your followers' sake, it better be." The man motioned to the floor, where a downtrodden body lay in a pool of its own blood. He had had to ask her twice. He didn't like to have to ask people for something twice. And, because of that, he made sure that his words got across the first time. The only time. "I didn't want any part of this. And I still don't," she said, crossing her arms defiantly. "I make no guarantees." The man tilted his head, sighing as he did so. Why did they always have to be so fucking difficult? It was a simple yes or no question, a simple yes or no answer would've done quite nicely. "Perhaps you didn't hear me." He raised his phaser and blasted a hole the size of a shuttlecraft into another one of her followers' sternum. The man staggered backwards, a look of shock and bewilderment covering his face. The same face that slowly drained of color. He slumped to his knees, pain tainting every labored movement, and he crashed to the floor lifeless. Another sadistic smile spread over her captor's face. "One time I ask. Understood?" She met his eyes, swallowing hard. "Crystal clear." "You say that this ship is crippled and under-manned. Is this correct?" "I think so." Her mouth dry, she licked her own pursed lips. "If he's telling the truth." "No worry." His hand folded behind his back. "When they arrive, he'll invite you aboard, and if he doesn't, you'll ask. Scout it out and get back to me. Otherwise the rest of your crew is going to have a rather nasty accident. I can see it now." His eyes went to the wall, his hand tracing the outline of the vision, "Well, all I see is blood, but you get the picture." "I don't have much of a choice, now do I? I'll scout whatever you want. But leave your filthy paws off of the rest of my colleagues. And off of him." He smiled again with vicious intent, "Oh. Sounds like you and him are close. Or is it in a relationship where the main business is just dancing - the horizontal mumbo. Regardless, as long as you do as I ask I'll let the rest of them live." A man walked in briskly, eyed Taella briefly, and then leaned in to whisper something into the ear of his boss. "If you'll excuse me, pet," He said to his hostage sweetly (with the tongue of a snake), "I have some business to attend to. Since it'll be a day before your new mark arrives, I suggest you get some rest. Oh, and I'll have my people bring in some things for you to clean the floor with. Blood has a habit of staining practically everything." He chortled again as the door to her cell sealed behind him. --------------------------------- Access over 1 million songs - Yahoo! Music Unlimited.