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Entrance Test

Posted on Sat Nov 6th, 2021 @ 7:04pm by Chief Comms Angel Ferris & Captain Rueben Gregnol & Jeassaho Kea (*)

Mission: Holoworld
Location: Freecloud
Timeline: Immediately Prior to MD1
3742 words - 7.5 OF Standard Post Measure

"When?" Angel asked, her voice weak.

"Just now," Razor confirmed with a self-satisfied smirk.

"How?"

Across the table from her, in the small booth that they shared, that smarmy smirk of his grew even wider. He purposefully cast his glaze downward and she followed his eye line to where it settled on the table in front of her. Her empty glass.

She shook her head, incredulous. "Why? I did everything you asked."

The next song suddenly kicked in. This one had enough bass to shake her sternum. Razor had to raise his voice to be heard. "Because you're good. You cracked codes I was told couldn't be cracked. So now I'm recruiting you. Congratulations. But first you need to pass our entrance test."

"I don't want to join your group," Angel shot back. And she didn't. Her goal all along had been the Fenris Rangers, not some petty gang of unknown credit thieves. She had spent nearly two months on Freecloud poking away at odd jobs as an independent contractor, trying to build a reputation for herself, TRYING to attract the Rangers attention. Instead, what she had to show for her tireless weeks of effort was a meager handful of alien currencies and a belly full of poison.

"Here's what's going to happen," Razor continued on. "Liana is about to inject someone in here. Once that happens, their body will produce the antidote. In the saliva." He kissed his pinched fingers lovingly to emphasize the point. "I suggest you keep your eye on who she chooses."

Angel jumped up from the booth directing her gaze across the dance floor to easily find Liana as the woman twisted her way through a thick crowd of patrons.

"Liana believes you're not a good fit for us. So I'm thinking she's not going to make this easy on you." He pressed his thumb to a control surface on the table, clearing their tab. "Drinks are on me, Ms. Ferris. I'll see you outside in an hour, either on your feet or loaded into a medical transport for disposal. Pencils down in 1 hour."

Gregnol and Jeassaho were in the same club, the Captain had not wanted to go out but his wife had convinced him to go clubbing for old times sake and to have a little fun. The small betazoid danced against him, swaying and moving in time to the music whilst the human tried to keep up. He had never been able to before so he was sure this time would be no different but it was beautiful to watch the woman he loved dance and move to the beat. They had not had a night to themselves out and about since they had met Liha and Burnie, he just had to hope and pray it did not turn into Jeassaho hoping a bar to foil a plot with someone skimping on the booze.

Those thoughts were painfully interrupted as a nearby patron, Liana, crashed into the couple. The Bandi woman took hold of the pair to better steady herself, gripping each of their shoulders. “I am so sorry,” she said through her embarrassment. “I think my feet got a little away from me.”

Gregnol smiled at the woman and shrugged at his wife. "No harm no foul." He assured speaking standard loudly so she would understand.

"Nice of you to say that you did not have a 6'5 solid human crash into you," Jeassaho said wrapping an arm around his neck smiling at only him. The tone was teasing and light from the betazoid.

Liana left the couple, heading in a straight line for the dimly lit exit. She paused briefly, looking over her shoulder at Angel with an evil smirk. She held up a single finger for a moment, before using it to wave a final goodbye.

Which one had she injected with the antidote?!

She looked backed to the couple that Liana had collided into. Her heart hammered painfully against her breast. How in the three hells was she going to approach them? She quickly considered several possible approaches but just as quickly concluded that they would think her either some kind of sex worker, or a con-artist with an overly bizarre angle.

Angel brushed her doubts aside. She had less than an hour before the poison would do its work. Steeling her courage, she crossed the dance floor and approached the couple. “Hi there!” she called over the music. “I’m sorry about my friend. She’s had a little too much, you know? Long week. Please, can I buy you two a drink, make it up to you on her behalf?”

Jeassaho sighed. Were they going to get one song to themselves to dance? Jeassaho had brought them there for the purpose of dancing and letting loose, something that Reuben never did with the crew around. "Um... sure," Jeassaho said unwrapping herself from dancing against the Captain. He narrowed his eyes but could not see any of the lie markers around her face.

"Bless you." Angel practically swooned with her relief. "Just hearing that I made it up to you will save her a ton of embarrassment tomorrow. She's very sensitive." Without missing a moment, she moved in quick steps toward the bar. With a frantic wave, she ushered one of the bartenders over to her. "Two of the most potent drinks you have that go down easy. And keep them coming."

The bartender raised an eyebrow at the order.

She gestured to the approaching couple. "For my friends and I."

"So you'll take three drinks, then?"

"Uh. Right. Three."

He set three glasses on the bar top and filled them from a bottle she did not recognize. Then again, she had little experience with exotic drinks. She'd certainly never placed an order quite like this one before.

“Arcadia vodka. Wow really making it up to us.” Jeassaho said looking at the class as the woman came back to herself and Gregnol. They had looked like they had been in deep conversation over something important.

“You really did not need to go to all of this,” Reuben said assured talking one of the glasses from her passing it to the Betazoid.

"Believe me, I do," Angel muttered under her breath. She gave each of them a bright smile, immediately changing gears with her sights set on the antidote. "Honestly? This is actually the first drink I've shared with anyone in the last two weeks that wasn't about business. It's a nice change of pace." Holding her glass to each in turn she asked, "Are you two here on business, or together...?"

"Together." They both assured before laughing looking at each other.

"We are married. I'm Reuben and this is Jeassaho. I have a ship and she is one of our engineers." The man said proudly taking a sip of the drink not even wincing at how strong it was. Jeasahho just smiled proudly at the man, they had come a long way since Starfleet.

"Happy to meet you both. Please, call me Angel." Married. The word echoed loudly in Angel's ears even as she struggled to keep her smile. She could feel a cold sweat on the back of her neck and wasn't sure if it was her nerves getting the better of her, or the poison beginning its quick work. Pushing past the building sensation of dread, she drew her finger along the lip of her glass, looking pointedly at them. "And before heading back out to the stars, the two of you decided to spend a night out on the town for a bit of excitement?"

"J likes dancing. Me not so so much." The man admitted looking at the woman with a patient smile.

"He has no rhythm whilst I do." The woman countered with a grin looping her arm through her husband. "Well he does but it's not the same as Betazoid rhythm but I try not to judge him." It was easy to see that there was a lot of mutual teasing and love between he pair.

"Oh, you're a Betazoid," Angel remarked with false delight. She found herself putting the back of her hand to her head. Her body temperature was rising fast. The poison. Using the situation as best she could, she dug deep into the building feelings of anxiety and the physical intensity of her flush skin, and she willfully channeled it all into an intense sexual desire. She didn't know how the Betazoid woman would react to the emanating sensations, but she knew this was a much safer bet than an outright verbal overture. "That must make your connection to each other quite intense. I can't even imagine how much intimacy you must experience. I'm jealous."

Gregnol shared a look with Jeasshao for a moment and something passed between them oblivious to the world around them. "We have been together a long time so I like to think we are happy. What about yourself?" Gregnol said taking in the blush on her cheeks with interest. Maybe it was embarrassment of how touchee feeling they were or something, Jeasaho had not commented but he highly suspected that she was not searching the room just focusing on him.

The bartender refilled their empty glasses, and Angel decided to take her shot. One way or another, she was going to get closure on her problems and on the prognosis of her current life threatening prediciment. "I've always thought of myself as a bit of a free spirit. I try to keep myself open to new possibilities. New experiences." She bit her lip then, and turned her eyes to each of them. "After so much time together, do the two of you still enjoy... new experiences?" Her focused attention to each of them in turn left little doubt to the real proposition she was making.

Gregnol for a long moment just stared at the woman before brustinf into a low laughter whilst Jeassaho downed her drink trying to not laugh and offend the woman. “We do and we are not looking for anything or anyone else.” Jeassaho assured quickly smiling. “Sorry kid but we are not looking for that tonight. But you’d really looking for something aren’t you?”

Angel found herself biting her own lip in frustration. If this were a pair of Cardassians before her she'd have no trouble getting the job done. Ironically these people, much closer to her own genetic makeup, seemed so much more alien to her.

“We can help?” Reuben offered.

She looked him in the eyes, studying him while she weighed her options. An idea jumped at her. A classic tactic: plead to their greed. "Okay. You got me. I made a bet with someone that I could get the two of you to kiss me," she lied. "It pays 2 bars of latinum. I'd be willing to give you all of it just to save my reputation." She swallowed an uncomfortable lump in her throat. Normally she'd have kept her poker face at a time like this, but the poison was making it impossible to concentrate. "Come on. Easy money. What do you say?"

Gregnol laughed again and shook his head. “Afraid not kid,” Gregnol said as he caught Jeassaho looking around intrigued before looking back at the woman.

“Who is the someone?” She demanded downing the rest of the drink.

Angel jumped on the opening, eager to stick her foot in the door that Jeassaho was allowing to creak open. She leaned forward, whispering in a conspiratorial tones as she mixed her truth and lies. "The woman that bumped into you on the dance floor. That was all a ploy. She's an old...friend. We used to work together in communications," Angel explained. She grit her teeth before continuing. "She always puts one over on me every chance she gets. She goaded me into this stupid bet in front of all of our colleagues. And now she's just dying to rub yet another failure in my face. Yet. Again."

"Well seeing she is not around I think you have won and I get to be the only woman who kisses my husband," Jeassaho said innocently not at all thinking that it was what it seemed. Something was not adding up but unless she broke her own rules and delved into the woman mind without her permission she would not find the answers she needed. Gregnol raised an eyebrow at the small woman who he had an arm looped around intrigued at what was going on but unless she told him he was going to be blissfully unaware and just follow her lead.

Angel could see the end looming before her. Until that moment she had thought that perhaps she could stop herself from drowning, desperately fighting to have her words find purchase on some small outcroping of illicit interest from the couple and use that to wedge her way into a solution. But as she watched the way that Gregnol held his lover, and the way that Jeassaho leaned into him, she knew that it was time for one of the most desperate manouvers possible. The truth.

"Damn you happy couples," she half-laughed to herself with ominous self-defeat. "She knew exactly what she was doing when she chose you." Another wave of nausea hit her from the building effects of poison, and she felt herself swooning in her seat. She placed a hand to her sweaty forehead. A cold sweat. "I don't have a lot of time, so I'm just going to level with you. I know this is going to be impossible believe, but I've been poisoned. And one - - or both of you - - has the antitode."

Gregnol looked at Jeassaho and she nodded. It was the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It could not be denied now that they watched the woman. Gregnol just sighed and almost picked the woman up and pushed her through the club knowing that Jeassaho would follow them. It was not until they got our outside that the man rounded on the fading woman. “What do you need?” He demanded.

Angel found herself blinking as it suddenly registered that she she was not at the bar anymore. "Where are we?" she asked foolishly. Her vision blurred. She shook her head in vein attempt to clear her eyes. Her mind. "I thought it was the Fenris Rangers at first," she admitted, hearing her own voice strangely echoing in her ears. Deep inside she felt a sense of panic that she would say too much, that she would give all of her secrets away, but she couldn't keep herself from speaking. "But the rangers wouldn't do something like this to me, would they?"

“No they would not.” Jeassaho said gently as he husband demanding tone did not seem to get through to the woman. “What do you need if we have the cure.” Jeassaho said touching the woman’s neck feeling her pulse slow under her next.

Angel took the woman's arm and looked at her in the eyes, struggling to focus on them. She spoke slowly and purposefully. "Listen. This is important. I need to kiss you. Each of you."

“You need a kiss? Why you were asking for a kiss?” Gregnol demanded unable to keep his temper. It sounded like a cartel trick to initiate new members.

"They told me that they spiked my drink," Angel found heard herself say before she could consider the wisdom of speaking plainly. "And that they were going to inject someone in the club with the antidote. That's why that woman crashed into you. You two are my antidote." She nearly collapsed, saved only by Jeassaho holding her steady.

“I am not kissing you.” Gregnol said stubbornly as Jeassaho set the woman down on the floor and stomped up to her husband. The silent communication that had been so obvious earlier was not apparent in the mannerisms and the way the pair looked at each other. Jeassaho finally grabbed the man down to her in a deep kiss that any other place and time would have led to something more but for now it was to mix them enough for Jeassaho to save a life.

Angel's eyes narrowed, utterly confused about the sudden turn things were taking. In her delirium, had she somehow explained the dire situation so badly as to lead them to believe that this was going to be helpful? She snapped back to attention again as Jeassaho turned back to her.

“Unlike my husband I do not count kissing as cheating or anything.” Jeassaho said pulling the woman to her.

Their kiss was hardly passionate, but Angel held the woman's cheeks nonetheless. If there was any chance that this would save her, could make the pounding in her head and her gut subside, then she would take it.

Gregnol frowned as the kiss went on a lot longer than he was comfortable with but he rolled his eyes at Jeassaho and her teasing. The engineer finally pulled back as she felt woman’s mind become more clear.

When their kiss broke, Angel felt her head loll forward. But her breathing was steady now and already the swirling pools of darkness at the corners of her vision began to fade. "I can't believe it," she said incredulously. "All this just because they thought I could help them work a radio. They were willing to let me die as part of some sick test." Even as she spoke the truth of her disbelief, her mental fortitude began to return. And with that, her need for caution. "To hell with them. If they're willing to do this to me, what are willing to do to their enemies?"

Jeassaho squeezed the woman and rose off the floor. “Looks like your kisses restore fire to anyone.” Gregnol said dryly to the both woman before sighing. “Did you say radio?” He asked back tracking.

"Yeah," Angel said, rubbing at her temples with the heels of her hands. She continued to blink her vision clear. "I used to work in communication oversight and relay as part of the Cardassian rebirth project." This was a fragment she knew to include in any cover story. It would far too easy for people to learn about her Cardassian past, and to try and hide it would be too risky a gamble. "Not to brag, but on top of kissing strangers, I'm also pretty decent with codes and comm signals. I thought I'd do as much good as I could with that, which is what brought me here." She sighed. "Didn't exactly work out the way I had hoped."

“Or maybe right time, right place but wrong people you got involved with.” Gregnol murmured thoughtfully. Time would tell if this was another stray dog he had picked up but there seemed to be no harm if she was as good as she said she was. “I have a ship who needs a communicator operator.” It was something he liked as Starfleet did not have communicators anymore but he needed one with a very basic translator.

Angel felt her heat quicken at the tentative suggestion. She had first come to Freecloud thinking that she was going to leverage a combination of Cardassian upbringing and structured training in undercover news reporting to easily break into the Fenris Rangers and crack the story on the group wide open. But it hadn't taken long for reality to bring down the shields on those plans. There were too many people this far out that extended a welcoming hand, while their other hand gripped a blade. As best as she could see, these two were the first people who might actually let her find a way into the rangers with both her life and morals intact. "Are you...with the Rangers?"

“Now that would be telling. And I do not tell my secrets after one kiss.” Jeassaho commented with a secretive smile. It was tempting and flirty despite the man stood rolling his eyes next to him. He knew she was teasing and playing her games, he hated sometimes being so sure and comfortable with her that he knew it meant nothing. Sometimes he missed that possessiveness. “You will never know unless you come and fine out though? But I do have a question. What is the obsession with the rangers?"

Angel was taken aback by the question. It's the poison, she told herself. And these people. And this woman, in particular. She was letting her guard down around the two of them much too easily. "Maybe I'm naïve," Angel ventured, "but they seem like people that actually want to help -- despite what a bunch of politicians have to say about it. If that's true, then it's something I want to be a part of. Call it karmic debt for the people that once helped me and my world." She looked at Jeassaho, and felt herself glow under the woman's gaze. She truly was disarming in her warmth and her raw physical beauty. Angel knew she would have to be particularly careful not to let secrets slip around her. "What do you think? Am I just being naïve? Or are there people still like that?"

“Oh there are people like that out in the universe and the rangers for the most part are like that in my opinion.” Reuben spoke up. It was why he was looking at becoming a Fenris Ranger so he could understand the woman’s idolise for them. He could just imagine the reaction she would have to Indigo and Taev.

"And what are you like for the most part?" she asked.

“The type of people who allow their wife to kiss people to save them.” Gregnol commented.

She wasn't certain if these people actually were from the Rangers and carefully guarding their secret from a stranger, or if they were simply a cut above the other groups that made Freecloud a base of operations. Either way, this couple was a far cry better than any other leads she had come across lately. In the last several weeks spent on Freecloud all she had to show for herself was a number of low paying jobs and a dramatic near death experience. Angel gave each of them a considered look and easily made up her mind. "So, then. What's YOUR entrance test like?"

 

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