DISCLAIMER: I don't own startrek or anything trek
related. I am not making any profit just having fun
Many thanks to Bethany and Meagan for their beta work.
In the next three years, Ella learned more then she had dreamed possible, including how to read and write. Under Roy's, the ship's sole engineer after his colleague died, tutelage she became a qualified engineer. Something that did her self esteem no end of good.
She liked her life aboard the Carintia. For the first time in her life she made some real friends. Including the female crewmember she had seen that first day in Engineering. Donja Erics was one of the ship's pilots and a good foot shorter then her new friend but had managed to surprise the hell out of the then still mechanic.
Erics had invited Ella to accompany her to the small gym the ship had one evening. Several exercise machines lined the walls and in the middle of the room, on the floor, lay a thick mat. Ella had never worked with apparatus like this and was uncertain about what to do. These devices did not need fixing.
Donja explained how to use several machines and watched as Ella decided which machine she wanted to try. Finally satisfied that her new friend knew what to do, she walked to the centre of the room onto the mat. There, after stretching, she started working through her katas.
When Ella noticed this, she stopped her own exercising and watched in fascination.
Finally, the pilot stopped as she noticed the younger woman looking at her.
"What were you doing?" Ella asked curiously.
"Jukate." As if that explained everything, but then continued. "It is a very old form of self defence."
Donja motioned for Ella to join her at the mat. "I am qualified to teach, if you are interested."
"Eh, no thanks. I mean, it looks really interesting but I doubt I need all those fancy moves."
"Let me guess, you prefer a good solid punch with the elbow to, eh, simply knock your opponent down, right?" smiled Donja.
Ella smiled in return, "Well, it has always worked for me."
"Okay then, you've just seen me work, now let me see you in action. Take a swing at me."
"You heard me, take a swing at me." Challenged the Jukate expert.
Ella shrugged, by now she was starting to get to know the older woman a bit. She would not stop asking until Ella did as she was asked. Nodding her acquiescence, she threw a half strength punch at Donja , and suddenly found herself lying on the floor on her back.
The pilot did not bother to hide her amusement at the look of consternation on the younger woman's face. As she turned around to leave she said over her shoulder. "Like I said I am qualified to teach if you are interested."
Ella became a very apt student.
The only downside to living on board the Carintia was the ship's senior navigator, Olan. He seemed to have taken a big interest in the ship's newest crewmember, following her around whenever he got the chance. No matter where she went or what she did, the guy always seemed to be lurking just around a corner. It became worse after Ella bluntly rejected his request for a night together one time when they were on shore leave.
The engineer had politely tried to refuse him but he kept insisting. As he continued pestering her, she finally gave him a big piece of her mind. It had seemed to penetrate his dense skull because he then left.
After this, he kept his distance from her for a while until all of a sudden little accidents started to happen around the young woman. Little anonymous insulting messages kept appearing on Ella's personal data card only to erase themselves completely once they had been accessed.
Similar things kept happening, never big enough to cause actual harm. And because the man managed to hide his tricks so well she could never prove a thing. Her first impulse was to simply confront him, but since that could very well be what he wanted, to make her look like a spiteful trouble seeker, she managed to keep herself in check.
She told Donja about it, but made her promise not to tell anyone else. She was new to the crew and did not want to earn a reputation of tattling. Her friend treid to convince her that life onboard was not like on her homeplanet, and that the Captain would take her very seriues. Old habits died hard and Donja had finally allowed herself to be persuaded to make the promise Ella had requested. However she did so with her fingers crossed behind her back.
It appeared Olan was up to his old tricks again. It was not the first time, at least that was her guess, that the navigator had behaved this way. She suspected that he was the reason Rosian had left the Carintia about a year earlier. However, since she had denied Olan had anything to do with that, she was gone and the irritating pig was still on board.
Time to get the Captain involved.
Atay was a man of few words. He called his navigator into his office the next day and coldly informed him that just one more complaint against him and guilty or not he would be left behind on the first habitable mud ball they would come across.
Olan was no fool. He knew his Captain didn't make idle threats. The little brat must have ratted on him. Nothing he could do about that now, but he would get her back for putting him in this position.
Ella did not understand why Olan's annoying behaviour suddenly stopped, but was glad of it anyhow.
She only had one more unpleasant encounter with him, as they passed each other in the corridor he had said, or rather hissed at her, "My time will come."
Putting it down to his childish behaviour she thought nothing more of it until years later when it was almost too late.
The Carintia had been docked at Cordoba, the largest space station orbiting the newly colonised planet, Walon. The crew had been enjoying shore leave for about a week and were now preparing for another transport run. Ella and Donja had spent the greater part of their leave exploring the vast wilderness Walon sported. Never before having experienced nature of any type, the scenery had left Ella in awe of so much beauty, and not a little envious of the colonists habituating this planet. If only Kertra had been a bit more like this, the engineer was certain the people there would not have been so desolate about life then.
The colonist she met on the planets the Carintia docked at were generally friendly, caring people, happy with their lives. Quite unlike her own people, and Ella included herself among those. She was rarely able to let people close or able to let down her distrust of others. She even kept most of her fellow crewmembers on the Carintia at arm's length, even though she did like most of them and trusted them professionally. Only a few people ever got to know the real her.
That morning was the last day of shore leave for most of the crew. But since Roy had suddenly decided to stay behind on Walon, leaving his captain without the opportunity to look for a replacement, Ella had to start work a day earlier. Atay had apologised but had no choice in this.
Even though Donja had the luxury of another day she had decided to join her friend for breakfast. They were sitting at one of the four tables in the ship's small mess hall, when the captain entered. The man made his way directly to them.
This was not a rare occurrence as Atay was a social guy, often socialising with his crew. He always wanted to know how they were doing or just share a joke with them.
After serving under him for nearly four years, however, Ella could tell that their Captain had business on his mind. By his relaxed manner it was nothing urgent though. Curiously both she and Donja looked up at him.
As he grabbed a chair he said, "Donja I need a bit of a favour from you."
The pilot looked expectantly at him. "What can I do for you sir?"
"The owner of Way Industries is currently on planet. She was supposed to have left for some important meeting on Dillbachs three days ago but her personal yacht is having problems of some sort. Since Dillbachs is our next port of call she and a couple of her associates will be travelling with us.
He stopped for a moment, and Erics looked uncertainly at him. It did not happen often but occasionally they did have passengers. She did not understand what that had to do with her though. When they accepted passenger they always made it clear that this was a cargo vessel and they did not have much in the way of entertainment.
"Lady Way, the owner and basically our employer, informed me that she and her associates will be going over a lot of business during our voyage. I've given them my office."
"And you need a favour from me for.?" Donja interrupted him with an amused glint in her eye. Occasionally when Atay got on a roll he tended to give speeches and instead of getting the point across the people he was speaking with were left puzzled. Luckily this only happened when he was very relaxed, never when it mattered.
Charles honoured his nickname and chuckled.
"Anyway Lady Way's foster child, Anniek Hansen, is also accompanying her. She is rumoured to be accompanying Lady Way in order to get a feel for the family business. However Lady Way refuses to let her sit in on all the business yet. Instead she would like her daughter to socialise a bit more. Apparently she is a very solitary person and focuses almost solely on business matters."
By now Ella had a pretty good idea of where her Captain was heading. There was just something about Donja that made you want to befriend her.
"Now I realise this ship is hardly the social central of the galaxy, but if you could take her under your wing when you are off duty, I would appreciate it."
"I'd be happy to sir. And I am positive El here will help as well."
Even though neither Atay nor Tor responded to this verbally, two pairs of brown eyes regarded her dubiously.
"So what do you think she'll be like?" Donja asked the engineer, whom she had quite literally dragged with her to meet their guests.
"I have no idea," mumbled Ella absently. Even though her friend had managed to, sort of, persuade her to come and meet their guests, her mind was someplace else entirely.
Something was wrong with the engines. Wrong was too strong a word for it, something was not quite right. She should still be in the engine room trying to figure out what it was.
It was irritating, for someone who was used to having technical answers come to her at the speed of light, not to be able to solve this right away. On the other hand, although life onboard the Carintia was nice and comfortable, it rarely, if ever, gave her a challenge. Now she had one, she shouldn't complain.
Donja Erics rolled her eyes, why had she even bothered to take the engineer away from her precious engines when she was in this kind of a mood? She rolled her eyes again when Ella took out her palmtop and quickly started inputting commands. As the captain joined them at the top of the entry ramp he lifted enquiring eyebrows in Ella's direction.
Donja could only shrug, as their guests arrived at that very moment. A fellow crewmember, Alduek guided the party on board, and Charles Atay stepped forward to greet his passengers with his trademark warm smile.
"L.J., how have you been?" He grabbed the hands of the small redheaded woman who was walking in front of four other people who made up the remainder of the party.
"Charles, it is so good to see you. Thank you for having us." The redhead responded equally warmly.
After exchanging some more small talk, Lady Jane Way withdrew her hands and started introductions, firstly pointing to the two men who were patiently waiting directly behind her. One was Kastra, a vice- president of Way Industries, the other Mereldos, her P.A. and advisor. The third man of the party was simply introduced as Hanigan, he needed no further description as his entire stance simply screamed bodyguard.
Finally she introduced the last member of the group. The girl, who up until then had been partly shielded from view by Kastra and Mereldos, was pulled to the front as Lady Way put her left arm around her waist and proudly stated:
"This is my daughter, Anniek" Both Atay and Erics could not help but admire the beautiful woman standing in front of them. Tall, blonde and proud, she was downright gorgeous.
Anniek did her best to stifle a sigh. She had noticed these reactions a million times before and it still irritated the hell out of her. By now, however, she had learned not to show it.
She was well aware of her own beauty and intelligence. What irritated her was that most people assumed, initially, that with her looks she would not have a brain worth mentioning. And whenever she gave people a taste of her intelligence they were usually intimidated by it.
She hoped that they would be shown to their quarters soon so that she could be left to her own devices. Anniek almost missed the introductions the captain of the Carintia made.
Apparently Donja was to be their hostess for the duration of their stay, as far as her shifts allowed. Why the engineer was present, eluded the blonde. Suddenly the fact that the engineer had barely acknowledged her presence sank into her consciousness. The woman was intently working her palmtop and did not seem aware of anything around her. This type of behaviour was not unfamiliar to Anniek, as she had the ability to lose herself in her work as well. Still, she was not used to being ignored.
The woman was not as tall as she, olive skinned, with dark shoulder length hair, and she absentmindedly followed the rest of the party as they were shown to their cabins.
As they came upon a juncture in the corridors, Anniek heard the engineer whisper to the pilot that she was off to Engineering. Not giving the other woman a chance to reply, she was gone. For some inexplicable reason, Anniek was actually disappointed to see her go and stared after her for a moment. Giving herself a shake, she tried to fathom where that reaction had come from but, as it was not important, she quickly forgot about it.
With everyone settled into their assigned cabins, Lady Jane Way and Captain Atay were having a drink together. As unlikely as it seemed on the surface, the two of them were old friends.
In the midst of catching up on their mutual lives, Lady Way suddenly asked. "Tell me more about that engineer of yours, Ella Tor."
Atay blinked, where had that question come from? "Why, are you interested in her?"
Jane chuckled, "No, at least not for me. Today, for the first time ever, someone responded to my daughter with only the barest hint of interest. I don't think she realised it, but that threw her a bit of balance. If I know my girl, which I think I do as well as any person, she will be drawn to your engineer without realising it."
Still not quite understanding what the redhead had in mind, but quite willing to humour his old friend, Atay responded.
"She is an uncut gem and by far the best engineer I've ever worked with. She does not let people close easily so I don't know what you have in mind but." His voice trailed off.
Lady Jane contemplated this for a few seconds and asked some more questions, finally concluding.
"She sounds like my daughter. Anniek had gone through a lot before I adopted her. As a result she has closed in on herself, forever working and with no friends to speak of. Today I caught her staring after a woman she has never met before with such a look of fascination like I haven't seen on her face in almost a decade. Now I realise the reason for this interest is probably due to your engineer not so much as looking at her, which simply does not happen to Anniek, but I am going to exploit this. And you are going to help me."
Charles did not protest, actually he was amused and his only thoughts were, `Poor El, the subject of one of L.J.'s famous plots. This could be interesting.'
Ella looked up in irritation, what was the matter with this fucked up sorry excuse for an engine! For the first time in four years she was ready to kick the usually reliable propulsion system. They'd had a complete overhaul only four months ago, everything should be in tip- top working order. Once again she ran a diagnostic programme, this time changing tactics and concentrating on one section of the system at a time. Studying each part intently for possible discrepancies, she did not notice when Donja walked into engineering followed by three of the Carintia's current passengers.
"This, as you can see, is engineering, perhaps we should let the expert answer any question you might have."
Ella became aware of the fact that she was no longer alone in engineering but did not turn around to see who were there. She'd just spotted a possible discrepancy in the power distribution centre and tried to ignore the intruders of her domain. Maybe they would just go away.
As her friend seemed disinclined to acknowledge their presence on her own, Donja put a hand on Ella's shoulder.
And so Ella had to turn around to face her visitors. Busy as she was, she knew she had to treat this particular group with some courtesy. Especially as she recalled the warm greetings with which the Captain had received this party. The Captain would not stand for her ignoring these highly placed people. She had been paying some attention last night.
So, politely, she turned her complete attention to the small party. Lady Jane she recognised easily enough but the name of the others eluded her for the moment.
Lady Jane Way was very astute at reading people. In her position that was almost a necessity. She noticed that Tor was trying very hard to be polite when she would obviously rather just go on with her work. She also noticed that her daughter was watching the woman again.
A stranger would not have been able to tell but today was one of those rare occasions that Anniek's face lost some of its sternness. What she found even more encouraging was that Anniek had not even wanted to join this tour of the vessel until she'd learned Engineering would also be a stop.
Anniek had her own reasons for visiting Engineering, and they had little to do with the ship's engineer. Completely unaware of Anniek's plans, Lady Jane was trying to figure out a way to start a conversation between her daughter and the brunette without being too obvious.
"Charles informed me," this to Ella, "how lucky he is to have an engineer of your ability working for him."
Never knowing how to respond to a compliment, Ella murmured something noncommittally, fervently wishing these people would just go away. And anyway - the captain had discussed her with this aristocrat?
Anniek noticed the discomfort of the engineer, recognising the trait in herself. She too would rather work than deal with interfering guests. She quickly decided to put her own plan in motion before the woman became totally irritated with them. So to Jane Way's secret delight, for the first time since the tour had begun, she spoke.
"What are you currently working on?"
Lady Jane saw her chance. "Oh, no you don't Anniek, I know from Captain Landal," this was the captain of her own yacht, "how Engineering seems to be your latest interest."
This comment startled the blonde, she had not known her adoptive mother was aware of her studies, believing she had been inconspicuous. She had been spending quite a bit of time in the yacht's engine room. On the other hand she really shouldn't be surprised, Jane was always interested in her daughter. Still, she would have to be more careful. At least this time her habits of always seeking to learn new things nicely explained her behaviour.
".I know how you get when you go all technical on me. You get completely caught up in it and forget about the rest of us mere mortals. And I have the sneaking suspicion the Chief here is made of the same metal. Now since this was one of the last stops anyhow, and we have several meetings scheduled with Kastra," this to her assistant, "why don't you stay here and discuss whatever it is you want to discuss. That is of course if Ms. Tor here agrees."
`Oh great, just what I need, some rich bitch under foot.' Thought a disgruntled engineer.
Everyone was looking at her expectantly and, for the first time, Ella took a good look at the slightly younger woman. It certainly did not escape her attention how beautiful the woman was. However it was the keen intelligence she saw in the blonde's startlingly blue eyes that made her give the woman a chance, where she would have dismissed most other people.
"Sure, why not, but if I think you are underfoot and tell you to leave, you will." She finally said as gracefully as she could manage.
Anniek nodded, "Acceptable."
"Good, that is settled then," Jane said, secretly very pleased at how easy this had proven to be. "We will leave you to it then. Anniek, I will see you later, enjoy yourself."
Donja, who had expected her friend to try and wriggle out of this when first asked, cast her friend an approving look. She directed their high ranked guest and assistant out of the engine room, leaving Ella and Anniek together.
Ella was uncertain where to start now she had company, but Anniek simply restated her earlier question.
"What are you currently working on?"
Collecting her thoughts Ella answered, "Uhm, we've been having trouble with the power output of the propulsion engines. Not a big problem but still something that should not be possible. I have been running diagnostics of every section and I think I have found the problem. Here take a look. See this?"
The younger woman nodded as she looked where Ella was pointing. "It would appear there is a fracture in the lower distribution conduit. You should replace it."
Surprised, Ella looked at the other woman. "I see you know a bit about propulsion systems all ready. Care to give me a hand?"
A terse nod was her reply.
The day progressed quickly and by the time they had finished replacing the faulty part, Ella was ready to call it a day. For some reason Anniek was reluctant to part ways with the engineer. However, lacking an excuse to stay, she was about to go when the engineer surprised her.
"Why don't you join me for diner?"
Pleasantly surprised, Anniek turned back towards the olive skinned woman.
`Now why did I say that?' Ella thought, but she could not very well retract the invitation now. "I mean, you really helped me out here today. The least I can do is point out the edible and inedible stuff our chef turns out."
"I would appreciate that." Anniek did not even hesitate in accepting the invitation. After all it would give her more opportunities to ask questions and learn about engineering.
The evening passed nicely. Both women opening up to each other without either of them realising it. Particularly Anniek felt relaxed for the first time in months. Ella was not pressuring her for anything, the engineer seemed to accept and respect the unspoken boundaries she had set on the conversation, almost instinctively knowing which subjects were open for discussion and which subjects to avoid.
There were many advantages growing up as the adopted daughter of one of the richest and most influential persons of the Empire. Lady Jane Way was the granddaughter of one of the most powerful nobles in the Empire; the Great Duke of Salvirron. She also happened to be the owner of one of the largest enterprises in the same Empire. There were few things she did not have any influence on, either directly or indirectly.
Anniek had been adopted by Lady Way when she was seven years old. Her parents had been members of a survey team trying to determine if a planet was suitable for colonisation. Anniek, as well as the children of other scientists, had been part of that group.
One day, out of the blue, pirates had attacked the camp, killing every man, woman and child they could find. The only reason the little girl had survived was because she got buried beneath the walls of the school she and a few other children were attending. The onslaught off weapons fire left none of the camps buildings erect.
Perhaps it had been a small mercy for the child that she had already been unconscious when she was hit by one of the phaser shots the pirates had fired.
Later Anniek had learned that one of the scientists had managed to send out a May Day and that approximately twenty-four hours later help had arrived. Only just in time to save the life of Anniek and one other survivor. Of all the others nothing was found except for some obscure DNA traces. It was assumed that the people had been completely obliterated, and the only reason there were any survivors at all was because they had been buried beneath the debris.
The little girl had awoken in a strange room on the large estate of Lady Jane Way several months later. Her right arm and left eye had been replaced by cybernetic implants and a large proportion of her skin had to be regrown before the doctors would allow her to regain consciousness.
The planet on which the assault had taken place had been surveyed by order of Way Industries. When Lady Jane finally learned of this incident she immediately took charge of the matter personally.
Firstly she arranged for the survivors to have the best medical care money could buy. She also looked for relatives for young Anniek Hansens who might be willing to take care of her. However, the few relatives, scattered through the Empire, her people were able to locate did not want to be saddled with the orphan.
After visiting the comatose young girl, and being captivated by the innocent face lying so still on the pillow, almost on impulse, Jane decided to adopt the youngster herself.
The pirates had proven to be elusive. Despite all the effort Way put into locating them and bringing them to justice, as well as similar efforts by the Empire's judicial forces, they were never found. The only conclusion the investigators could come to was that the culprits operated from a base beyond the Empire's borders. Expeditions were launched to search for them but the area was too large, the possibilities too vast to keep on looking. After two years the investigation was finally called off.
For the first two years, Anniek seemed to work through her ordeal as well as could be expected. With the help of some of the best therapists available, and Lady Way herself, the girl slowly learned to adjust to her new life. Everything appeared fine and after four years it was deemed she no longer need counselling.
Jane Way absolutely worshipped her new daughter. No one was more surprised than she, since she had never believed herself the motherly type. It had certainly given her a new perspective on many things.
All was well until Anniek turned fifteen. Slowly the adolescent started to draw more and more into herself.
At first everyone associated it with puberty. However, slowly it grew worse as she got older until finally she even distanced herself from her adoptive mother. The only thing she displayed an interest in were her studies, at which she had always excelled. By the age of twenty- one she held three University degrees; Chemistry, Law and Business economics. Added to this she was a black belt in Karate and Jujitsu.
What no one but her teachers knew was that she had also become a qualified deep space pilot and navigator. As well as quite a few other things she did not want anyone to know about. All of this to reach one goal in her life.
One part of her life that Anniek never become comfortable with was the social demands that were made of her. As Lady Jane's daughter it was a duty she could not always avoid, and this less and less as she grew older.
Because of her position, enviable to billions, fortune seekers always sought her out, hoping to better themselves through the young woman. Others became entranced by her beauty and few sought her out because of a genuine desire to get to know the person Anniek.
Anniek's response was to throw herself deeper and deeper into her various studies and future plans. Soon she had obtained a reputation as an introverted, studious person who was interested in little else. At least this boring reputation stopped some fortune seekers, but only a few.
Only Lady Jane and her assistant Mereldos ever got to see a different side to her but, with their busy schedules, this was not as often as either of them wanted.
And now all of a sudden, a freighter engineer was fast becoming friends with the reclusive young genius.
Anniek was not aware of this yet; otherwise she would have quickly put an end to it. Friends did not fit in with her carefully made plans.
Over the next few days Anniek rarely left Ella's side. Having expressed a desire to learn as much about practical engineering as she could, the younger woman continually bombarded the engineer with questions. Ella enjoyed the company and marvelled at the speed with which Aniek absorbed the information.
After a few days, Anniek finally realised she actually enjoyed the brunette's company. She would honestly miss her when they reached Dillbachs.
With a pang of regret Anniek dismissed her feelings. Nothing would stand in the way of her attaining her goals. Nothing.
Fate however still had a funny way of disregarding the intentions of mere humans. A few day later events would occur that would once again push the lives of both Ella and Anniek in different directions from the ones they expected.