NOT QUITE DEAD YET!

Also: previous chapters have been edited for higher quality and more feels.

Part 3:

Alenko:

Seventeen marines crammed into the hospital's number four surgery lab. Twelve were the armory corporals, who had stripped down to their trousers and tank tops and stood in the center of the room. The other five were Alenko, Venko, Ingrams, Belsinki, and McTane, who were in full combat gear and loosely cradling submachine guns in their arms, though in the two meters of space they had between them and the corporals, Alenko wasn't sure they could get them up fast enough to counter a rush. The room stank of sweat and was filled with heavy, panicked breathing.

The door swung open with a squeal and Veris slipped inside. He handed Alenko a folded sheet of paper. "The results of the corruption test, Sergeant" he said, and slipped back out. Alenko held his submachine gun in one hand and raised the paper over his head with the other. Every set of eyes in the room went to it.

"This is going to tell us who was stealing weapons from the armory. Before I read it, I am going to give you a chance to confess. Stealing weapons from fleet stores is a second degree offence that carries a penalty of fifteen years in prison. If you tell me now, I can get that sentence bumped down. Since Huxton has agreed to let the Colonel handle this case, I can do that." He unfolded the paper, and held it ink to the low ceiling. "Last chance."

A shaking hand rose from the center of the cluster of bodies and a marine stepped forwards; Corporal Sam Jacobsen. He was a good two meters tall and had the pasty white skin they were all developing from the lack of sunlight. His head was clean-shaven and round-jawed, and his blue eyes were bloodshot and running badly. "I did it," he said. Alenko fixed him with a glare and opened the paper. Nine marines were clear. Tarley and Coleman had both tested positive for chamalia usage. Jacobsen alone had failed the lie detector and tested positive for green sand; a drug they'd found on the gangers.

Alenko pushed open the door and kicked the jam. "Everyone but my squad and Jacobsen, you are free to go. Pick up your gear and return to duty, thank you for your devotion to duty." Eleven marines sighed with relief as one, and quickly filed out. Several punched Jacobsen's shoulder as they passed. Alenko closed the door. "Jacobsen, tell me everything, before this is beyond my control."

"I've been taking green sand for over a year now. These two men caught me using the last of my supply. They offered me more in return for access to the armory. I didn't want to go through withdrawal, so I took their offer. I didn't ask what they were using the guns for, I just didn't want to die." He was pitiful. Now that he knew what to look for, Alenko easily recognized the condition of his eyes as an early withdrawal sign. In the tiny Sagittaron enclave Alenko had grown up in, many of the men in the village had smoked chamalia and the much more potent green sand to wipe away their long hours of working in the fields. When a particularly harsh winter had sealed the enclave in its little valley, they had run out. First their eye discharge had changed to blood, then they had curled up and died as their intestines melted. It was almost sad to see Jacobsen in this state. He was the regimental NCO, Jacobsen was his responsibility. He felt a fatherly affection for all his marines, but that didn't blunt his anger.

"I'm disappointed in you, Sam. I remember when you were first deployed here, three years ago. You were one of the best. All you've done now is dishonored the regiment and endangered the fleet for a tin of drugs from a couple of criminals. I will push to reduce your offense to misappropriation of supplies because you confessed, but you will still be punished." He knocked on the door, and Veris appeared. "Take Sam and treat him for green sand withdrawal. Keep this off your records, I owe you a big one." He motioned for Belsinki to escort them. Once the trio left, Alenko led the rest of his squad out. "The rest of you can go and enjoy Colonial day, I'll speak to the higher-ups."

McTane pulled Alenko aside. "Sarge, requesting permission to speak freely."

"Go ahead."

"What's going to happen to Sam?" McTane and Jacobsen were close friends and hailed from the same town on Picon.

Alenko's answer was grim, but he tried to soften it. "Don't worry Rich, he'll be alright. Given our lack of replacements, he'll probably be bumped down to private and put in for a year. It's a lot, but-"

"But he could have gotten a full fifteen and a discharge, eh?" McTane tried to smile. His craggy face and thin lips only made him appear more worried.

Alenko nodded. "Dismissed." They split up. First Alenko debriefed Frost.

"One year in the brig and he is stripped of rank," Frost confirmed grimly. "I don't want him trusted with anything beyond taking cover and aiming his rifle again, make note." His aide, Staff Sergeant Cole Gribbins, typed the order up on his laptop. "Also, put my word in for that Detective Seidner, he seems like someone we can trust. You did good Sergeant."

Nessella:

Nessella sat on one side of the table in the brig's interrogation room, a marine leaning against the wall behind her. The two gangers were handcuffed into their chairs on the other side. Their red sweatervests and slacks had been replaced with orange jumpsuits. The smug expressions remained on their faces, like they still owned the world. "So, are you not going to talk?" she asked.

"We want lawyers," the one on the right said. He was a stubby man with a round face and a black goatee. His ID had labeled him as Maryn Sling. His tall and thin companion was Rotun Garvel. Both had the dark skin and brown eyes of Taurons, and were covered in brightly colored tattoos.

Nessella shook her head. "You have been detained by a military detachment for crimes against the colonial fleet and aiding and abetting the enemy. In accordance with article nine, section eleven of the articles of colonization, due to the current emergency your rights to attorney and freedom of expression have been suspended. You will answer my questions in full and to my satisfaction or I will be forced to use cruel and unusual punishment. At the conclusion of this interrogation your fate will be decided upon by the commander of this vessel." She didn't like the way the proceedings were going. While article nine section three did provide for emergency situations, it did not specify using cruel and unusual punishment (something the Ministry of Intelligence and Deathwatch commandoes had taken advantage of), and it stated that the accused should be 'tried by military tribunal.' Technically Huxton could compose a tribunal, but it still felt wrong, no matter what the men before her were guilty of.

The two men stared at her for a minute. Nessella decided to begin. "How did you acquire the green sand you used to gain access to the armory?"

Rotun and Maryn smirked, but refused to answer. After several minutes, Nessella sighed and waved to the marine. "Private, get the water tub." Private Maller exited the room, leaving her alone with the two leering criminals. Despite that, their combined anger fell before her indifferent expression. She finally said "this is what is going to happen: If you don't start talking, the marines going to start drowning you. If that doesn't work, they will move on to something worse. I would advise you to start talking." The door opened, and Privates Maller and Santuro entered, hauling a tub of water between them.

"Like you have the stomach for that" Maryn asked.

"Shut up" Rotun hissed.

Nessella gave them a sad expression. "There are two Ministry of Intelligence agents onboard the Vindication. They wanted to see you first, but I argued that we should at least try to reason with you. If you won't listen to reason, I will call them in and they will do things to you that I couldn't even dream about. So I would advise that you listen to reason." It was a lie, but they didn't need to know that. The thought took several seconds to cross the pair's minds. Finally, Rotun spoke.

"We'll talk." They still looked confident though, something was up but she couldn't tell what.

"Okay, first question: How did you get access to the armory?"

She could see the gears churning in their minds. Something was up. Finally Maryn answered "We saw that one of your marines was suffering from green sand withdrawal, so we came to him and offered to give him his high back."

"Which marine?"

Maryn rolled his eyes. "Do you think I remember the name of every person I bribe? Fine then, I think he was Jacobs, or Jacobsen, something like that." That confirmed Alenko's findings at least.

"How did you get access to the armory?"

Maryn rolled his eyes. "How do you think? He told us when he was on duty, we went there, he unlocked, and we took. Easy as that." Nessella felt a seething hatred of both men, both for their deeds and their smug attitude.

"Why did you need two assault rifles, four pistols, and six submachine guns anyways?"

"We've got clients on the other ships. There's no cops left and everyone's scrambling to protect themselves and carve out their own little piece of real estate. It's a seller's market for guns and knives."

Nessella cocked an eyebrow. "And you decided to sell guns on the colonial flagship, and then carry them to the sale in blatant bags that would have drawn any marine's attention? I can see how good you were at your job."

Meryn went silent. "We're new here, just a couple of door salesmen looking into a new market" Rotun said.

"So you know nothing of a similar theft that happened on the Aeolus?"

"Nothing."

Nessella studied him. He was an imposing figure, his long arms and neck swelling with muscles. The extremities of several tattoos crept up his neck and shoulders. "Right, just door to door salesmen." She smiled sweetly and stood up. "Then, tell me why you both have the oath tattoo, which you must receive among entering the Ha'La'Tha. And furthermore, why you each have a scar on your left wrist, the scar given to a Ha'La'Than when he is promoted to the position of Eagle?"* She had grown up in downtown Tauron City, and had had a favorite uncle in the Ha'La'Tha. She knew what she was talking about. Their jaws slackened just enough for her to notice. She leaned forwards and rested her palms on the table. She had them.

"We like tattoos, so?" Meryn said. Rotun gave him a look that said 'you've got to be kidding me.'

"Okay, we lied, we're Eagles. That isn't a crime in itself, how are you going to persecute us for that?"

"This is a military court. You are Eagles, meaning you have whacked at least two people. I will persecute you for those two murders. That's twenty for each, what say you?" She cocked an eyebrow again. Their expressions darkened.

"You can't legally persecute without solid proof, you do know that?" Rotun said.

Nessella's stomach clenched, but her smile remained. "This isn't the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, this is the brig of the battlestar Vindication in the Colonial Remnant. We are going all into the deeps here," she said, using the popular Tauron phrase. "Now, there is a way for you both to avoid spending forty years or until this ship's destruction in the brig: answer my questions."

"Okay, we're listening" Rotun said.

"Did you steal the weapons from the Aelous?"

"Yes" Meryn admitted quickly.

"Did you bribe anyone to do it?"

"Yeah, this Sergeant Whittaker I think, he needed some cubits, and we gave him some, despite money you know not being worth anything." Another member of the Colonial Fleet who'd frakked up; she was upset.

"That's quite a bit for the two of you to pull off, isn't it?"

Rotun smiled sheepishly. "We hired ourselves a crew, paid them in food and a place to sleep. Most of them were already guilty of something. A couple of them went to the Aeolus." The rest of the interrogation went that way, with the tension gradually lifting and conversation becoming less hostile.

Huxton:

It wasn't the anger, or the disgust that bothered him. It was the unease; the feeling that something was off and he was vulnerable, and that foul stench of political dealing. Huxton hated politics. He had grown up being told by his lower class foster parents that politicians didn't care about him beyond the amount of money his business could make for their sponsors and his vote on Election Day. In the fleet, he'd seen how internal fleet politics and external civilian politics could erode the fleet's combat capabilities and jam its efficient war machine. The only person in public office he'd ever supported had been Richard Adar, and it had taken a doubling of the fleet's budget, a successful rebuilding of the colonies following the civil war, and a tightening of the presidency's grip on the quorum to earn his (at the time very influential) endorsement.

Now he stood in his bedroom, adjusting his uniform in front of the floor to ceiling mirror on the door. He couldn't stand Johnathan Travere, but he still was going to look nice. His buttons had been clumsily polished for the first time in years, and the formal golden commander's tassel hung from his breast. The hidden addition to his attire was the ceramic plating vest he was wearing between his shirt and undershirt, the same vest worn by standard marines and security personnel. He'd taken the extra precaution in case Travere tried to have him assassinated and replaced with the more malleable Mirra.

Huxton decided he was suitably formal looking and exited his quarters. Marine Corporals Tarrantal Vager and Sorrin Illoris met him at the door. They wore their dress greys, but still hadceramic vests underneath and carried submachine guns. "Gentlemen, shall we?" Huxton asked. They followed him down to the number one starboard airlock, maintaining pace a few steps behind and to either side of him.

"Do you think he is going to try anything, sir?" Vager asked.

"I believe there's a fifty-fifty chance of it" Huxton replied. They reached the airlock, to find a technician from the Logos fiddling with the controls.

"The President's shuttle just landed, he'll be coming aboard shortly," the technician hastily said. Huxton clasped his hands before him and glared at the airlock until a docking tube from the Logos extended to mate with it with Travere alone inside. The President now wore a black suit jacket and tan trousers. His dark brown skin was creased with worry lines and blurred by stubble. The airlock door opened, and he stepped out. "Slice him apart" a small voice whispered.

Travere:

Travere saw Huxton's glare. The airlock opened and he stepped across the threshold. Instantly he felt a faint thrum beneath his feet and smelt the oily stench of viper fuel. Despite the battlestar leaching off the Largos' reactors and having all its operations moved to the Serpentia, it still felt alive. Travere took his mind off the ship and put it on Huxton, who was faintly glaring at him. He extended his hand and walked forwards. "Hello Commander Huxton."

"Hello Mr. Travere" Huxton said, and shook it. The glare remaining locked onto him the whole time. "Allow me to welcome you to the Vindication. He gestured up and down the airlock deck.

Travere nodded. "It is a pleasure. I wish to tour her once she returns to service. For now, I have a few matters I would like to discuss, and happy Colonial Day." The space between them remained icy.

"Happy Colonial Day too. Lets take our discussion to the conference room, if you don't mind."

"Of course, show me the way." They walked back up to the conference room. On the way, Travere took in all he could about the ship. He noted the brightly colored flags hanging from the walls and the crimson banner across the axial corridor that read 'happy Colonial Day,' and how they contrasted with the grey and olive drab tarps that had been strung up to form makeshift rooms and tents. He also noted that the civilians intermingled with the crew, especially the children playing around, or sometimes playing with the enlisted crew. The ship reminded him more of a claustrophobic refugee camp than the colonial flagship.

They took seats on opposite sides of the conference table. There weren't any drinks or food served between them. "So, Mr. Travere, what do you have to discuss?" Huxton was in control of the conversation. Travere was there on his permission, and speaking because he requested it. He decided to leave it that way. It was better to just work with Huxton than cause a fight.

"A few major inquiries and requests, and a list of smaller issues I would like to discuss. The biggest concern we have right now is how long until you can come up with a food supply. Several of our smaller ships are already needing resupply, and those hydroponics labs the Aquarians are setting up won't be producing in time."

"As long as it takes." Huxton said that like it was a serious answer.

"Do you have any kind of timeframe?"

"Less than three months. We have to locate a food supply, or multiple food supplies large enough to feed ninety thousand people for six months. We have to locate these sites with very little existing records and scout them out without tipping off the cylons what we're doing, then verify that the food hasn't been spoiled. It is going to take a while."

"I trust you will notify me when you've found a supply."

"I'll let you know. I'll need some of the civilian cargo haulers to pull the extraction."

"You have them. Beyond that, like I said, myself and some of the more militarily minded quorum members would like to tour the Vindication sometime after she returns to service."

Huxton's glare lightened. "I'll consider it. There will be heavy security even if I give you the go-ahead."

Travere smiled insincerely. "That would be alright. Also, can we arrange a time for a weekly meeting to discuss policy?"

Huxton considered it. "Yes, I'll see what I can do."

"I also am putting in a request for you to close the draft boards."

"Denied, you can answer that for yourself."

"This wasn't from me, the quorum voted for this request thirteen to nine in favor of."

"Well then tell them to start using their brains. The answer is always no." Travere winced.

"There's one more major issue I think we need to go over: I understand that you captured a cylon at Aquaria." Huxton nodded. Travere's stomach began to tingle when he thought of his next request. "I wish to visit him."

"No."

"Why not? I am the president of the twelve colonies, and he is a colonial prisoner of war, I have a right to see him."

"He isn't secured at this time."

"It's been two weeks since Aquaria, how long does it take to secure one toaster?"

"Mr. Travere, so far infiltrator model cylons have shown the ability to tear through two centimeters of solid titanium, interface with computers via cables growing from their wrists, and excel in whatever their model's chosen profession is. There may be more features that we cannot detect with our medical technology. Until we know for sure their full capabilities, that cylon is dangerous, even if it's behind six meters of tungsten."

Travere stuck out his chin. "I still wish to see him. Danger does not stop me."

"No, but I do. End of story."

Travere decided to stop before he provoked Huxton. Under his breathe, he muttered, "a government should be elected in the best interests of its people, not run by a tyrant." It was a line he'd picked up from one of his books. Huxton shrugged his shoulders.

"Desperate times call for desperate measures." Travere felt his cheeks redden slightly.

"I have a number of minor issues I wish to discuss."

"Lets hear them."

Travere's remaining concerns were about individual problems, like that of a crewman from the Kratos who'd beaten up a civilian on the Tylaria. Huxton quickly promised he would receive a lengthy stay in the brig for violating his oath. There was another concern about the Athenian needing an extra FTL spool, which was readily provided. The only issue that caused disagreement was Travere's desire to create a police force.

"I am not arming civilians. You have a bunch of mercenaries and part time ship security officers. They will be nervous, poorly trained, and armed. One itchy trigger finger, that's all it takes" Huxton protested.

"Then can I get your marines as fleetwide security?"

Huxton shook his head. "That will be just as bad. An army fights the enemies of a nation, when they are put in charge of policework, the civilians tend to become the enemy."

"Nice quote, where'd you get it from?" Travere conceded.

"I spent a few dinners discussing philosophy with Commodore William Adama."

"Besides that, how am I supposed to deal with crime? My office is inundated with calls."

"Use nonlethal means. I'm not a police chief, I'm a battlestar commander." Travere banged his open palm on the desk.

"So I should tell my police force to run around with billy clubs when they are attacked with shotguns?

"If firearms get involved I will dispatch marines to deal with it."

The meeting concluded shortly afterwards, and Huxton chose to walk with Travere back to the hangar pod. They walked in cold silence, causing anyone passing them in the corridors to suddenly feel an urge to run the opposite direction.

Cage:

When he first entered the royal Leonan liner Adonis' grand auditorium, Cage had stood at the center of the stage, and slowly spun around, admiring every little detail. The auditorium was shaped like a classical orchestra concert hall and two balconies high, with several private boxes lining the walls even higher up. Its seats and railings were gold trimmed and its floor was covered in a thick scarlet carpet. The walls had been painted in a single, immense mural depicting the crowning of King Ducin the first, the founder of the recently extinguished Leonan royal family fourteen hundred years ago. The ceiling had been decorated with a golden cross that separated it into four separate pieces, each of which depicted the massive Leonan lion in a different pose. Hanging from the center of the cross was a spectacular crystal chandelier that slowly spun on its axis and cast the auditorium in golden light.

Cage had been painting murals on the walls of Gemonese temples since he was twelve years old, and he had learned to appreciate artwork. The auditorium was a masterpiece, though none of its intended royal recipients or their attendants were still alive to appreciate it. The eighty-year-old liner had been decommissioned and was sitting in the Sagittaron scrapyard when the cylons hit. The scrap crew had packed it with civilians and fled once the cylons appeared at the jump shelf.

"You look like you're in awe," an elderly female voice said. He looked down to see Amiryl Addisa, the concertmaster of the Caprica City Philharmonic looking up at him with an amused smile. They were standing directly behind the conductor's podium. The musicians were slowly arriving and setting up while a group of technicians from the Vindication wired microphones to their stands. Disjointed practice melodies and electronic beeps emanated across the auditorium.

"Yes-yes I am. I'm a painter myself, and this is amazing! I dream about painting something like this."

"Well, what are you doing onboard a battlestar? That doesn't seem like a good position for an artist."

Cage shrugged. "I joined the fleet to pay for art school. Then my girlfriend got pregnant with twins and I had to shotgun the wedding. Afterwards I realized that a part time artistry job wasn't enough to support a family of four, and it turned out that leadership was something else I was good at. So I stayed."

"Haha, now that's an interesting story, Major. Do all of your officers have stories that good?" Cage wondered if she meant 'fake' by interesting, but decided that she was taking him seriously.

"A few of them. After the civil war Commander Huxton went out of his way to find the best, so the Vinny has an unusually large amount of them."

"I should like to hear them all in time. Tell me Major, do you paint epic murals?"

"I did one once" Cage said excitedly. "I was with the Hephaestus volunteer corps, we were painting an entire apartment block in downtown Helgis. We did the creation, from the creation of the titans all the way until humanity settled Kobol. It was forty meters long and took us three weeks to do, in full watercolors too. The mayor came to watch us and we even got help from some of the children whose school we were painting over, I wish I could do something like that again." He remembered that he had an audience not composed of Huxton or art majors. "So yes, I have."

"Good, do you think you could do another?"

"Of course! What for?"

She gestured around her. "Well someone is going to have to immortalize our story. I was thinking when this is all over you could find a suitably large wall and start painting."

Cage laughed, flattered at the proposal. "I'll see what I can do. Will you immortalize us in song?"

She nodded confidently. "I can do that."

A shout rang out across the stage "can I get some help over here?" Cage spun towards its source and saw a fleet technician struggling with a stack of speakers. "Excuse me" he said, and sprinted off to assist.

Aelia:

The communications room had been abuzz for most of the afternoon. Marlay had spent three hours on actual instruction, then left abruptly, to return with a plate of cookies. "If anyone above the rank of ensign asks where the plate in the officer's lounge went, tell them a marine took it," she'd said, and then passed them out to the delight of her students. Now with fleet traffic primary being shifted to the Serpentia the class had broken up. Marlay was deep in fashion discussion with several other conscripts. A few of the others were on their own playing games or taking turns standing watch. A circle had gathered around the center table, where Lieutenant Traye was beating Mathieson, Cooper, and Rennly in triad.

Aelia was sitting on the edge of the circle curled up in her chair and leafing through Marlay's book. She had her headset half on and was absentmindedly listening to the fleet's radio traffic. When she heard someone call "Vindication-control, you have the comms" it drew her attention. She saw Marlay was standing at her station, a headset and microphone in her hands. Quickly Aelia moved to join her.

"What're you doin' Ma'm?" she asked. Marlay smiled when she saw her.

"I'm just making a pre-celebration announcement on the intercom."

"About what?"

"Just a basic PSA." She took up the microphone. "Attention please, all crew and civilian inhabitants, this is Vindication-control. Before the celebration starts I have a few reminders. The official party will be hosted in the main mess hall in sub-sector eleven-b. There will be food, drinks, and a broadcast of the concert, followed by a showing of the film The Skies of Gemenon. Remember that excessive drinking and disorderly conduct will result in detainment by security. Also, alcohol will not be served to any civilian under the age of eighteen. Anyone wishing to hold their own gathering may do so, but disorderly conduct will again result in detainment. If anyone has a security concern, they can report to the security checkpoints in subsectors twenty-three a, eighteen-b, twelve-d, eight-g, and two-d, or consult any on duty marine. That is all. Enjoy the show and have an incredible Colonial Day." She hung up the mic. "Any further questions?"

"Yeah, we still have an hour, are we going to go decode the cylon transmission without reading it? I can go back to my bunk and get my scarf to use as a blindfold." Marlay laughed. It sounded beautiful to Aelia.

"Not at all, me and you have today off."

"Sounds good to me!"

Marlay took Aelia by the shoulder. "You like fashion, no?"

"Yes."

"Good, come join us." Aelia was positively delighted to be led over to her little conversation.

Nessella:

"Enjoy the show and have an incredible Colonial Day." The loudspeakers cut off in static.

"Well this certainly isn't the first time I've spent it in a cell" Rotu said. Nessella chuckled.

"If we keep talking it'll be my second."

"Really, now that is interesting" Meryn said. His face clouded in thought. Someone knocked on the door, and Private Maller went to answer it. "You've been naughty, Colonel?"

"Nah, I was just visiting my uncle."

"Oh, well then, here's to two." The handcuffs dropped free from his wrists and he vaulted the table with his hands stretched towards her throat. She didn't have enough time to block him. He slammed into her and they toppled backwards out of her chair. Her head slammed into the steel floor, stunning her long enough for him to get his knees firmly planted on her chest. Nessella grabbed his wrists just before they closed on her windpipe, and began to roll. He let out a curse as he was thrown off. They rolled away and leapt up. Nessella looked quickly towards Maller, to find him pinned to a wall by the larger Rotun and struggling to get his sidearm free.

Seeing his opening, Meryn darted forwards and swung a left hook at her face. She blocked it and they exchanged a flurry of blows. Several connected with her face and chest, leaving bruises. He was faster and a decade younger than her, and drove her back towards the wall, a smirk growing on his face as her defense fell. Then he took a second too long with a haymaker and she grabbed his wrist and used his momentum to pull him forwards. His free hand snapped up to her throat and squeezed. She gagged and tried to breathe, within seconds her lungs were burning.

"Easy sweetheart, relax and it will hurt less" Meryn mocked her. She remembered an old move she'd learned in hand to hand training. Her hand came up around the back of his head, and she yanked him forward and headbutted.

"Ugh!" her head exploded and stars flashed before her eyes, but her lungs resumed pumping sweet fresh air. When they cleared she saw him stumbling back, a hand over the bottom of his forehead. Before he could recover she kicked his legs out from under him, then slugged him in the jaw as he felt. His face twisted to one side with a spray of blood. He hit the ground and coughed up several broken teeth. She stomped down on his chest to the wet crunch of breaking ribs.

Maller screamed, and she looked over just in time to see him collapse with an explosion of blood from his left knee. Rotun dropped the bloody trench knife and aimed his pistol at her. "Stop fidgeting sweetheart." Where was the marine watching the cameras? Nessella went for her sidearm. He leapt forwards and smashed her across her head.

When her vision returned Rotun was cradle-carrying her down the hallway towards the brig while Meryn pointed a gun at her head. She was limp, her brain still mostly offline after the blow had shut it down. "Hey sweetheart" he said. There was a yell of surprise.

"Freeze!" Santuro yelled and aimed his rifle at them. Corporal Parr ran around the corner and joined him. Johm leapt up and grabbed an ornamental vase off the table he'd been sitting at.

"You move and your Colonel gets it" Meryn said, then wheezed. Santuro froze.

Nessella raised her head as far as she could. "Private, open fire" she said.

"Drop the rifle." Had it been a normal day in the fleet, Santuro would have pulled the trigger. However, he was aware that she was irreplaceable. So he lowered his rifle. Navarez followed suite. "Very good. Now Marines, give us a pair of gas masks, don't bother hitting any alarms if you you're your Colonel." The marines removed them from the closet in the office and handed one to each. The Ha'La'Thans put them on. Meryn immediately coughed blood into his.

"We should still kill that bitch."

Rotun shook his head and whispered "gunfire creates noise, and the marines might object to us strangling her." Nessella's feet twitched. Rotun dropped her to the ground and Meryn stepped on her chest.

"Don't move sweetheart."

Rotun went into the office and out of sight. Several seconds later, there was a hiss as he activated the sleeping gas dispenser in the air conduits. Nessella grabbed at Meryn's foot to no avail. Her vision began to cloud. Within seconds, it had gone black, and she felt herself falling…

*-Eagle=Ha'La'Tha made man