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  Lt. Commander N'Tazzia, Captain Michael Holden, Commander Zarian Lobren, SD
 
Untangling the Threads (JDL)
 
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Untangling the Threads

JDL: Captain Michael Holden, Commander Zarian Lobren and Counselor N'Tazzia with Captain Haward & Jainza of the S.S. Starpool (as portrayed by Captain Holden) plus a special appearance by Deputy Maverick

Captain Michael Holden realized he couldn't simply leave the crew of the Starpool stranded out here in the middle of nowhere.  It would take a ship almost eighteen hours from the nearest starbase to come out and tow them back, so Holden invited them aboard the Excelsior.  He had Lt. Commander Wolfe work with the two engineers from the Starpool to try and get it up and running again. While sitting and doing nothing with Malinda missing, Holden also knew they need a direction to go in, which they were lacking at the moment.

The Starpool crew had been beamed aboard then escorted to Briefing Room 1, where  food and hot beverages had been prepared for them, as they had spent quite a bit of time without any heat aboard their ship.

The captain, and Counselor N'Tazzia, walked toward the briefing room.  "Try not to jump on them," Michael cautioned his wife. "We will probably get more out of them if they feel comfortable."

Taz was on edge and nearly frantic with worry about her daughter's well-being and whereabouts.  The stress was weighing as heavily on her as the baby she was carrying and she knew that it was largely because of Michael's steadying presence that she hadn't collapsed from the pressure.   Many of the same strengths which made him an excellent captain and Starfleet officer transferred to being an exceptional husband and partner.

~~I'll be okay my love.~~  She whispered telepathically. ~~I'm lucky to be your wife. And yes, Mikey is doing fine.~~

"I am curious about what Captain Haward is going to say regarding his decision to ferry an unaccompanied child halfway across the quadrant."  She added out loud as the briefing room door slid open.

Walking into the room, the captain and counselor saw that Commander Lobren already had Captain Haward off to one side of the room.  The liner captain looked as if he were expecting the Brikar to crush every bone in his body.

"Whaddya mean ya didn' know she was a kid?" Lobren asked.  Even though it was clear to those who knew him that he was controlling his temper, you would not have been able to convince the Starpool  crew of that.  The Brikar glanced over to the entrance as he heard the doors. "Now ya gotta explain that to her mom," he told Haward.

"Captain Haward," Holden greeted. "I trust you and your crew are being taken good care of."

"Um.. " Haward glanced sideways to Lobren then back to the captain. "Yes... Yes, Captain. We are. Thank you."

The tall pink-skinned woman who had entered with the captain bore a resemblance to the Starpool's former passenger.

"I'm going to serve myself a few of those Bularian canapes and get a cup of tea. Then I am most interested in your answer to Commander Lobren's question Captain Haward." Taz said as she put a few of the snacks on a plate, grabbed some tea then sat at the conference table.

Jainza studied the pink-skinned woman. She couldn't help but notice the Starfleet officer was with child as well.  Jainza dared come up alongside Taz.  "I'm so sorry about your daughter," she said, genuinely apologetic.  "She wanted us to get her back to you."

Taz's eyes closed briefly, it was easy to see that the Orion was sincere.  "Thank you. Thank you for caring about her.  Please have a seat." She gestured to the empty chair to her left.   "I'm afraid I didn't get your name." Taz said politely.

Captain Haward stuttered again, then looked from Holden to Lobren. "I...I... She was convincing! You never know with people from Vulcan! She was convincing! I swear that I never knew how young she was!" 

Taz gave Haward a dubious look. "A seven year old got you to believe she was adult enough to charter a ship?"  She was about to add a scathing accusation but stopped.

If Malinda had manipulated his thoughts, it really wouldn't be his fault at all. I'd like to think my girl knows better, but in her desperation to leave Vulcan, she may have resorted to an extreme measure and it would be nearly impossible to tell if she had..  Besides, none of these people are feeling even a hint of malice toward Malinda. 

"I can tell you are being truthful or at the very least you believe what you're saying." She told Haward and then turned to Holden and Lobren.  "I don't think they had any clue that some one would take Malinda."

"We'd never," Jainza immediately protested. "Ran ain't the smartest of liner captains I ever met, but he is an honest man. Sometimes he's too desperate for the fare, but he'd never go for something that would jeopardize the welfare of anyone, let alone a child."

Haward looked at Jainza.  It was uncertain if he was grateful for her protecting him or wounded for the "not too smart" comment.

"I b'lieve ya're on th' up an' up," Lobren interjected.  "Th' damage done ta yer ship was too severe ta have been a plan, an' jus' lissenin' ta Cap'n Haward an' of course, Taz's opinion."

"I, too, am convinced of your innocence in this," Holden added. "But mostly because of what our counselor feels. She has an uncanny sense about people. So that leaves us with 'who?'"

"There is nothing about this kidnapping that makes any sense to me. Malinda is seven, she doesn't have any enemies for goodness sake! The only battle that she has ever been an active part of was on Tesshua and that entity was returned in secure custody to face the judgement of his people.  And if this was only about money, it seems like we would have heard their demands before now." Taz looked around the room. "Do we have any leads at all?"

"Mebbe it ain't got anything ta do with anything against Malinda," Lobren suggested, the security officer in him kicking in, "but more 'bout revenge against Mick... or us."

Captain Holden nodded thoughtfully. "I think you're on to something there, Commander." He glanced over to Taz. "Could you sense if that entity had returned? His gaze went back to Lobren. "Or maybe Maverick?"

Lobren glanced over to the white wolf who lay quietly off to one side along an inner wall. The wolf simply wagged his tail at the Brikar's notice of him.

"I'm sure he could tell if that mook were back, Cap'n," Lobren replied. "An' I don' think he would keep it a secret either."

Jainza listened to the Starfleet officers. Her glance followed Lobren's to the creature laying by the well.  She was curious to know more about this magnificent looking creature.

"Yes, I believe I would be able to sense the entity." Taz added.  "Plus we have upgraded our defenses to keep that sort of being from being so easily able to cause havoc.  And as far as Peter goes, he certainly can generate...uh...strong feelings in the people with whom he comes in contact."  Taz acknowledged Lobren's suggestion.  "But someone who hates him enough to kidnap Malinda?  I can't think of anyone."  She searched her memory.  "There was that tragedy a while back when we lost 23 souls...Peter holds himself responsible for that incident, but I've counseled many of the surviving friends and relatives of those killed and they accept what happened as a risk of being in Starfleet.  Maybe the McMillian itself family has an enemy? Someone who's holding a grudge?"

"If you don't mind an outsider's perspective," Jainza started, with a look to Taz and Captain Holden. For some reason the Orion sensed the captain had as much stake in this as did Malinda's mother.  When Holden nodded, she continued.  "This all seems very personal. Our attackers knew what they were looking for and where to find her.  We only filed a flight plan with Vulcan Control, not a passenger roster." She glanced at Haward who simply looked down. "So, whomever took your daughter,..." She gave Taz and indication nod. "... again, knew exactly where to find her, so they knew our ship by the payment.  There can only be a very few who would be able to access that information."

Lobren nodded, impressed with the Orion woman. "Ya wanna join Starfleet Security," he asked her, then said, "I like th' way she thinks, Cap'n.  We should definitely focus on Mick's possible enemies in this an' get access ta the actual transaction and whose 'hands' it got inta."

Michael again nodded at his XO.  "I agree, Commander.  Go ahead and get started in that direction." He looked at Jainza.  "Thank you for your insight.  That definitely gives us a direction to go."

The Orion smiled warmly.  "Anything I can do to help Malinda, Captain." Again, her gaze fell to Taz. "She is such a sweet girl. We even made her a birthday cake." Tears started to well in her eyes.

Taz rested her hand on Jainza's. "I'm glad you could do that for her."  She acknowledged. 

Suddenly, Taz sprang up from her seat.

"Matthew Bradley!" Taz said excitedly.  "I should have thought of him before!  In the process of arranging for such a large transfer of money, Malinda would have triggered a special notice to Bradley's law firm.  Our idea wasn't to restrict their access, but to be aware of when they used more than a moderate amount -- in order to encourage Malinda and Malino to respect their trust funds.  Oh.  My. God."  Taz's voice trailed off as she dropped back into her chair.

"Malino.  What if it's not Peter the kidnappers are angry with?  What if it's Malino?  He and Aenaek have made more than a few enemies with their vocal advocacy of peace between Earth and the Rihannsu."

She turned to Holden, for a moment not a Starfleet officer addressing her Captain, but a mother speaking to the stepfather of their children.

"Michael, Malino and Aenaek could be in serious danger too!  We have to get a message to them right away!" 
 
TBC in Sim....



#MHolden#
&&Zarian, N'Tazzia&&
   
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